Erica L. Green
2:17 PM EST, December 7, 2012
Updated Dec. 7, 2012, 5:41 p.m.: Alonso released the following statement
“I have been gathering the facts. This is an important and sensitive issue and I do not want to react without understanding exactly what happened, both at the school and district level, since obviously balls were dropped. I plan to meet with central office staff on Monday if I am back and with principals on Thursday and Friday of next week."
He said he was out Thursday, the day of the parent meeting, for a family emergency.
Today, we wrote a story about an explosive meeting that took place Thursday at Hazelwood Elementary/Middle School, the first time parents faced school officials after a temporary employee arrested and charged last week with impregnating a 15-year-old was found to have posed as an multi-faceted administrator and child therapist at the school.
We've been covering the story extensively this week, which has revealed serious lapses in the school system's identity and credential verification process.
When school officials told parents that the meeting, the first time they had reached out to the community in the week since the incident made headlines, "wasn't a Q&A," tempers flared as parents heckled school leaders about the perceived lack of concern shown by the system.
More importantly, they said, they wanted to hear from the man in charge.
"Where is Dr. Alonso, why haven't we heard from him?" parent Vivian Lee asked, to a chorus of supportive grunting from the crowd. "He sent you all to clean up his mess. He don't care, he's still collecting a check."
Erica Hamlett-Nicholson, an outspoken parent--who has hammered North Avenue since the employee's Nov. 26 arrest for second-degree rape, sex abuse of a minor and second-degree assault of a Harford County teenager he was counseling-- said that the CEO's MIA status has made the situation worse.
"The first call I made was to Dr. Alonso, and I've made numerous phone calls since Thursday, after hearing the allegations," Hamlett-Nicholson said. "He did not attend the meeting, and has yet to make a statement regarding the matter. Guess he doesn't feel like our children are that important."
When the story broke Tuesday, school officials sent out a two-sentence statement, including an erroneous end date for the former employee, whose last day in the system was the day after his arrest.
This week, schools spokesman Michael Sarbanes answered most questions about how Nowlin was able to take on a series of professional profiles--everything from doctor to vice principal to PTA president--acknowledging that the system failed to check his credentials, and he was only hired to do "partnership coordination."
Verifying employee credentials has been a longstanding problem in city schools, officials acknowledged, and this is third high-profile case of employees' misreprenting their academic and professional credentials under Alonso's administration.
A recent state audit also found that the system also had a history of not verifying employees' basic information, like their name and social security numbers.
At the 5:00 p.m. meeting Thursday, Jonathan Brice, who oversees school networks, was sent to Hazelwood with other district officials to speak to the group of parents, who said they received notification about the meeting in a letter sent home on Thursday afternoon.
By the end of the meeting, parents and officials were arguing back and forth, and a school police officer had to intervene in a hostile exchange.
The Sun asked why Alonso had not addressed parents personally--the schools chief is known for sending"e-blasts" to promote events, update the public about his reforms, and address controversial issues like a scathing audit released this fall.
The Sun has yet to receive a response.
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