City schools at center of recent controversies get new leaders

Gilmor Elementary, IBE among those to receive new principals

August 24, 2010|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

Three Baltimore City principals who were involved in separate controversies will not return to their posts after the school board approved interim leaders Tuesday.

Janice Williams, the principal of the Institute of Business and Entrepreneurship, who was under investigation during the past school year for recruiting Filipino teachers to buy and resell Mary Kay beauty products, will not be returning.

Williams, who was an independent sales director for Mary Kay, stood to gain financially from going to teachers' classrooms to ask for their credit cards to purchase lipstick, perfume, foundation and eye makeup, according to three of the teachers, who said they never intended to use the products and were unable to resell most of them. Williams denied the allegations.

She remained at the school during the investigation, but a new interim principal, Lana Moore, was announced Tuesday.

The school system does not comment on personnel matters, so it is unclear whether Williams left the school after three years because of the Mary Kay scandal. But Jimmy Gittings, president of the city's administrator's union, said he supported Williams during the investigation, though "there were a number of issues that came up this year concerning Ms. Williams."

Ledonnis Hernandez, principal of Gilmor Elementary, where the mother of a third-grade student with cerebral palsy said her daughter attempted to jump out of a window and kill herself to escape chronic bullying, will also not return to the school this year after two years in the job. Charmaine Dixon was appointed interim principal of the school on Tuesday.

The third-grader's mother, Geneva Biggus, said she was relieved to hear that the school has new leadership. She said school officials ignored her pleas to help her daughter, who transferred after the incident. Administrators said that the girl only said she wanted to commit suicide.

"That's outstanding, and that's how I feel from the bottom of my heart," Biggus said Tuesday night. "She doesn't need to be a principal anywhere else."

Gittings said that Hernandez's departure from the school system "is no reflection on her, as far as how she handled the bullying situation in that building," and that "it is blatantly wrong to blame a principal or teachers, for the bad behavior of a few children."

The city's school board also approved the appointment of an interim principal at City College. Cindy Harcum was appointed to lead the school while a national search for a new principal begins.

City's former principal, Tim Dawson, stepped down from his position earlier this month after five years. Dawson said his resignation was a "collaborative decision" with schools CEO Andrés Alonso. Recent data show the school's achievement has been declining for at least three years, and a staff member employed by Dawson pleaded not guilty last week to sexually abusing a student.

The three new leaders at the schools hold the title of managing assistant principal, and the schools' communities and system officials will begin considering permanent candidates.

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