Student principal let him teach

Teen taught three classes per day at Maritime, he says

January 08, 2008|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,Sun reporter

A parent complained to the city school system more than a year ago that Principal Marco T. Clark was permitting a 12th- grader at Maritime Industries Academy in West Baltimore to teach classes to younger students.

Clark resigned from the high school last month. The resignation came after school system officials looked into allegations that Clark permitted a student to teach junior ROTC classes and to graduate without the necessary credits. Clark's supervisor said she investigated the allegation about the classes last year but was unable to substantiate it.

During an interview yesterday, the student, 18-year-old Marcus Bernard, said he taught three classes a day for three months before the ROTC program was disbanded. He said the principal permitted him to stay home with his two young sons during the spring semester, and he returned to graduate in June. He contends that he had enough credits to graduate.

"Some of the things that he did were not correct," Bernard said of Clark, describing the principal as a father figure. "Now he's paying for it. He loves Maritime, and he loves his job. I don't believe it's correct that it should be taken from him."

William Cappe, a parent liaison for the Maryland State Department of Education, e-mailed Clark's supervisor, Sharon Kanter, on Jan. 29, outlining concerns he had heard from the mother of a Maritime student. The mother, Tonja Evans, said she contacted the state department after calls to the school system got no response.

"She states that presently, there are students in the 12th grade teaching classes," Cappe wrote in the e-mail, obtained by The Sun. "She wonders how this could [possibly] occur." The e-mail said a required technology course had no teacher and that students were being taught music instead.

As an "area academic officer," Kanter oversees several high schools, and Maritime was under her jurisdiction until recently.

Alan Silverberg, an attorney for Clark, said the school had to dismiss its regular ROTC instructor in the fall of 2006 because it did not have enough money to pay him. He said Bernard was permitted to lead drills, but a substitute or another adult was always present. And he said the allegation that the student was allowed to graduate without all the required credits is "absolutely, unequivocally false."

"The student graduated having taken all required curriculum," Silverberg said.

Silverberg said yesterday that Clark has rescinded his resignation and is demanding to be reinstated and to have a hearing before the school board. But a school system spokeswoman said Clark is no longer employed there.

Meanwhile, the staff of Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, asked system officials to verify several statistics about the school after realizing that Clark had provided inaccurate information on the school's graduation rate.

And system officials offered to pay to send the student whose mother reported the allegations against Clark to a high school in Baltimore County or Anne Arundel - because no other city high school has a naval ROTC program and the student's safety at Maritime is jeopardized. Classmates loyal to Clark have blamed the boy, Camerron Evans, for the principal's departure. Camerron is receiving instruction at home, which his mother says is unacceptable. He wants to finish high school in a naval ROTC program so he can apply to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Cummings, who has convened a board of maritime leaders to help govern the school, was touting the fact that the school had a 99 percent graduation rate last year - information contained in literature provided by Clark. The state's Web site reports that Maritime's 2007 graduation rate was 63 percent.

Silverberg said that 99 percent of last year's seniors at Maritime graduated. However, a graduation rate reflects how many freshmen graduate four years later. Because Maritime didn't open until 2004 - as one of four schools created by the breakup of Walbrook High - Silverberg said it is impossible to calculate a four-year graduation rate accurately.

Cummings is planning to proceed with plans to bring Navy Secretary Donald C. Winter to visit the school tomorrow. The congressman contemplated whether to cancel the visit, given the uproar over the departures of Clark and Assistant Principal Kevin Brooks, who was placed on administrative leave but reinstated last week. Several teachers did not show up for work on the last day before winter break and the first day back.

As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Cummings has made a pet project out of reforming the school to give it a maritime focus as its name indicates. During the summer, Cummings arranged for Maritime to be transferred out of Kanter's jurisdiction and instead overseen by the administrator who supervises charter and innovation schools.

sara.neufeld@baltsun.com

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