A popular Severna Park High School English teacher could face dismissal for allegedly buying 1 1/2 pounds of marijuana from an undercover agent, but his arrest Wednesday hasn't shaken the confidence of many students at the school.
One senior described the arrest of teacher Anthony Edward Mongello on a felony drug charge as "ludicrous."
His schoolmates agreed, saying they hope parents will not prematurely judge Mongello, the teacher they have grown to respect.
Mongello, 38, of Annapolis, was arrested after a student at Anne Arundel Community College, where he also taught, claimed he had offered to raise a grade in exchange for marijuana, said Sgt. Joseph Bisesi, an Anne Arundel County police spokesman.
A county public school official said confidentiality rules prohibit him from discussing Mongello's current employment status. "In similar instances in the past, we have not permitted the teacher to return to school," deputy superintendent C. Berry Carter said.
Mongello told the school he could not work yesterday and today, said Oliver Wittig, Severna Park High School's principal.
The community college, which has 12,000 students taking credit classes, plans to put Mongello on administrative leave with pay until it has time to further consider the case, college spokeswoman Theone Relos said.
Mongello, who has worked as a part-time English teacher for the last five years, could face dismissal, she said.
Last spring, the Anne Arundel school system suspended without pay another teacher who was arrested on drug-distribution charges, Carter said.
Mongello allegedly paid an undercover detective $1,500 for about 1 1/2 pounds of marijuana, Bisesi said. He was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Police received the tip about Mongello from a community college student, whom police would not identify. The student claimed that his instructor had asked him several times during the last six months to find a supplier of marijuana for him, police said.
After the student earned an incomplete grade, he asked the teacher how he could finish the course. The teacher offered to give the student a "B" if he found a marijuana supplier, Bisesi said.
A detective posing as a major marijuana dealer arranged to meet the teacher at an undisclosed location in the Arnold area Wednesday night, police said. Mongello was arrested after that meeting and later released on personal recognizance. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.
Police said they have no evidence that the suspect was selling drugs to students at Severna Park High School or at the community college in Arnold.
Several Severna Park High School students have expressed support for Mongello, who has taught at the school for 15 years and serves as yearbook adviser. Wittig said Mongello is a very popular teacher.
Senior Karrie Bunch, a yearbook co-editor, said she feared parents would withdraw their trust of Mongello and their support of the yearbook.
Senior Jack Henley said Mongello had earned students' respect. "People value his opinion," Henley said. "He relates to us. He's a kid at heart."
"He's the best teacher in the school," said senior Tricia Gately, who wanted Mongello to write her a recommendation for college.
The Anne Arundel school system suspended Thomas Russell Rubins, 46, a seventh-grade math teacher at Magothy River Middle School in Arnold, who subsequently retired, last spring. He awaits trial next month for his alleged role in a drug ring that was operated by convicted dealer James Todd Hibler of Crofton.