Official's transfer agitates students

Harford board urged to let Battaglia stay

May 23, 2007|By Madison Park | Madison Park,Sun Reporter

A seemingly routine decision by the Harford County school superintendent to transfer a popular assistant principal has rankled parents and students at a Bel Air high school, sparking a petition drive and vows to fight the move.

Nearly 100 parents and students packed a county school board meeting Monday asking that Assistant Principal Christopher M. Battaglia be allowed to remain at C. Milton Wright High School. However, Superintendent Jacqueline Haas finalized Battaglia's transfer to Edgewood High for the 2007-2008 school year.

"I was aware he wanted to stay there [C. Milton Wright]," Haas said after the meeting. "Given the circumstances, I had to move him at this time."

Haas declined to elaborate on the reason for the transfer, saying the administration does not discuss personnel decisions.

Though irked at losing an accomplished administrator, many parents said they are equally agitated because they feel the school system disregarded their views.

"I respect the superintendent and the board, but I am very disappointed that the parents' concerns weren't adequately addressed," said Karen Waller, a parent. "There doesn't seem to be an avenue for parents to be heard."

Parents pledged to fight the decision by contacting county and state authorities. And students collected almost 900 signatures yesterday on a petition that calls for Battaglia to stay at Wright.

Battaglia has been acting principal since March at the 1,850-student school. Students call him "B-Tag" and describe him as an affable, easy-going administrator who has reached out to troubled kids and taken steps to better understand teenagers.

"He's the only administrator everyone truly respects," said Ethan Kaplan, a freshman at the school.

Battaglia initiated a mentorship program between seniors and freshmen to ease the transition for newcomers to high school. For a student-faculty talent show this spring, Battaglia dressed as Sandy and a student as Danny as they performed a dance sequence to Grease, students said.

Transfers are a common way for administrators to gain experience working in different student populations and communities, said Don Morrison, school system spokesman.

Haas received a number of e-mails from parents who wanted Battaglia to stay, but said she had to balance the needs of the schools.

"Their voices were heard and in some cases, you can't honor their request," she said.

Some parents were not placated. "Instead of a democracy of what we the people want, the Harford Board of Education is a dictatorship," said Debbie Baker, a parent. "What we feel doesn't count."

Board approval is not required for transferring an administrator.

Wright students wore school colors of light blue, white and black and filled the board room to capacity on Monday. They left a neon poster reading, "Keep Mr. Battaglia at C. Milton Wright" in Haas' chair during a break.

Battaglia was not available for comment yesterday, according to a secretary at the school.

Battaglia sat quietly through the board meeting, while his wife, Holly, sat at the opposite end of the room with their four children, who all wore C. Milton Wright Mustangs shirts.

After the meeting, students decorated Battaglia's lawn with white and blue streamers and posters. One of the signs read: "We are Wright. They are not."

madison.park@baltsun.com

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