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Despite pleas, Hickey won't halt teacher transfers


Despite impassioned pleas from parents, Howard County Superintendent Michael E. Hickey refused Thursday to rescind the transfers of three popular Glenwood Middle School teachers who are being sent involuntarily to other schools.

"The people can express their unhappiness, but it's not a vote," Hickey said before the meeting.

More than 100 people packed the Howard County Department of Education meeting to protest the transfers of Charles Ashcraft, who teaches social sciences; Kenneth Darryl Blickenstaff, science; and Art Lyons, mathematics.

District officials say the teachers are among 12 who are being transferred to improve the school district.

But the Howard County Education Association, which represents county teachers, says the three are being transferred without explanation.

The teachers were told they were being transferred because of "the needs of the system," said union president James R. Swab.

The union, which filed grievances on behalf of the teachers last week, contends its contract entitles members to a reason when an involuntary transfer is made.

Speakers described the three teachers as dedicated professionals who care deeply about their students.

"They were very outgoing," said Chris Whitaker, a Dayton resident who has two children who attended Glenwood. "They identified with the kids."

The teachers, who received satisfactory year-end evaluations, were also painted as upstanding role models.

"They not only teach kids in the classroom but they teach by example as well," said Lisbon resident Nan Kelly, whose four children have attended Glenwood. "They go to church every Sunday, they teach T-ball."

Although every speaker opposed the transfer of the three teachers, board member Karen B. Campbell told the audience that she had received calls in support of the changes.

"I just want you to know there's an equal number on either side of the issue," Campbell said.

But Catherine Kiefer, who said she is related to Lyons, retorted: "There's only one side to this issue, and that's the side you heard today."

Board Chairwoman Deborah D. Kendig, who limited the discussion to 30 minutes, banged her gavel several times throughout the raucous meeting to silence outbursts from the audience.

Speakers also accused district officials of mistreating the teachers, whose tenure at Glenwood ranges from four years to 18 years.

"Leave people where they belong," said Richard Kaelin, whose 27-year-old daughter was taught by Lyons. "If you have people where they're happy, why move them to locations where they're unhappy?"

Kaelin, a Mount Airy resident, said he recalls fond memories of Glenwood Middle School and Lyons, who instructed his daughter.

"She was having an awful lot of trouble in math, and he tutored her after school and in the summer," Kaelin said. "You felt like you were part of the school. The teachers bent over backward to help you."

After the meeting, some parents attributed the transfers to Glenwood Principal Vincent Catania, who was named head of the school last July.

"I feel he wants to run a military school," said Whitaker. "He's a dictator."

Catania was unavailable for comment.

Hickey said Catania has made some unpopular changes at the school. During a closed meeting June 17, the staff voted, 30-15, that they have no confidence in the school's administration.

The teachers union and Hickey met in June to discuss yearlong concerns at the middle school.

The transfers were announced June 12.

"It's not only been a shock to these people," Swab said of the teachers. "It's been a physical and mental blow to them as well." He said the teachers are suffering from high blood pressure, weight loss, and depression.

Swab said the union is also representing three elementary school teachers who had satisfactory year-end evaluations but are being involuntarily transferred to other schools.

In other business, the school board ratified a salary agreement with the Howard County Education Association that will give 2.5 percent raises to teachers, principals and supervisors, secretaries and instructional assistants, plus increments that average 3 percent. County teachers approved the agreement in May.

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