Charter school head ousted

Arundel officials give no reason for transfer

January 09, 2008|By Ruma Kumar | Ruma Kumar,Sun reporter

The principal of Anne Arundel County's lone charter school has been removed, a year after it escaped bankruptcy and closing, and rebounded with some of the district's highest test scores, a loyal following among parents and a long waiting list.

Fatih Kandil was suddenly reassigned Monday to a central-office desk job, the second principal of Chesapeake Science Point Charter School to be ousted in the school's 2 1/2 -year history.

County school officials, who oversee the Hanover charter school, declined yesterday to disclose why Kandil was moved or whether he will return, saying it is a confidential personnel matter.

The move stunned parents and staff members, who are anxiously awaiting results this week from a district audit of the school's financial and academic progress.

"What is so egregious about his behavior that made them replace him at such a critical juncture of CSP's future?" asked Jane Andraka, vice president of the school's Parent Teacher Organization. "He's a loving father, a soft-spoken leader who errs on the side of gentleness. I just don't know what he could have done for this to happen now. We're all in a daze."

Six months, ago, KIPP Harbor Academy in Edgewater closed after failing to find enough space to house its growing enrollment.

Chesapeake Science Point, the only charter school option left for Anne Arundel parents, serves 218 of the county's most talented students in grades six to nine and has more than 400 applications pending.

A letter from Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell that was sent home with students Monday informed parents of the move, stressing that the disciplinary measure against Kandil was "wholly separate" from the district's recent audit of the school.

"We were informed of a situation at the school and felt that removing him from the school while we investigate this is the best thing for everyone involved," schools spokesman Bob Mosier said. He said Kandil's transfer is temporary pending an investigation.

School officials held a meeting last night at the school to allay parents' concerns and introduce Joan Valentine, a veteran principal who will be Kandil's interim replacement.

Spear Lancaster, vice president of the charter school's board of directors, said he can only guess that Kandil was reassigned after making some students do push-ups.

Lancaster said he met with a "high-ranking school district official" Dec. 27 and that the official mentioned vague concerns about discipline at the school. Lancaster said he then asked Kandil about the matter and that Kandil wasn't sure what the concerns were but that he had asked some students to do "push-ups or sit-ups" after they misbehaved in class.

"That's the only thing I can think of that might have led to this; none of us know anything," Lancaster said. "It's like they tell you, `You're charged with theft,' but they don't tell you what you've stolen or when or why. This is not the right way to do things."

Kandil said in a brief interview that he was called to system headquarters in Annapolis about 2 p.m. Monday and was given a letter informing him of his removal. Asked why he had been moved, Kandil said, "I am not allowed to say anything about that."

Haunted by critical audits since it opened five days late in September 2005, the Hanover school has operated under a microscope for most of its life.

Amid allegations that he had mistreated teachers, the first principal, Jon Omural, was escorted out by police in March 2006.

The critical school system audits that followed have kept the school on probation since July 2006, when Anne Arundel County school officials threatened to close the school unless it improved.

The audits found that the school had kept inadequate records of special-education students' progress. Finances were also found to be shaky. The school was relying heavily on donations from parents -- $300,000 in 2006 and more than $135,000 last year -- to stay afloat. It was late paying rent for the office space it was leasing and struggled to pay its school bus bill of more than $50,000.

Under Kandil's leadership, Lancaster said, the school strengthened its work with special-education students, four of whom joined mainstream classes.

The school is also certifying teachers in the rigorous, college-preparatory International Baccalaureate curriculum and has found a new 47,000-square-foot space to accommodate its burgeoning enrollment.

After an audit in December, the school is preparing to make a presentation Jan. 23 to lobby the Anne Arundel County school board to lift the probation placed on the school for its past struggles.

ruma.kumar@baltsun.com

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