County school Superintendent C. Berry Carter II should be fired or reinstated immediately, but apparent indecision on the part of the county school board must end, said Carolyn Roeding, president of the County Council of PTAs.
She was reacting to an inconclusive school board meeting Friday night -- a five-hour closed-door session from which the eight members emerged saying they had discussed "a personnel matter."
"This has gone beyond being a personnel matter," Mrs. Roeding said. "It involves sexual and physical abuse of children in schools and the public's trust and faith in the system. It goes beyond Ron Price, beyond Laurie Cook, beyond Charles Yocum and far beyond Berry Carter. It goes to the very core of the system and nTC whether this system can survive."
The Friday night meeting that had promised to begin a raucous debate over whether Mr. Carter should stay or go, ended with a fizzle when the school board president, Thomas Twombly, delivered an embarrassed "no comment" to reporters who had been guaranteed a statement.
Mr. Carter's lawyer, William W. Cahill Jr., and independent investigator Alan I. Baron, also entered and left the board's caucus room without comment.
Sources close to the board said that part of the problem may have been that Mr. Baron's report on the superintendent isn't complete. Mr. Baron met Wednesday with Mr. Carter, but on Friday several Board of Education staff members were still waiting to be interviewed by Mr. Baron's associate, Eleanor Carey, in connection with what had been discussed Wednesday, the sources said.
Mr. Carter has been on paid administrative leave since July 31. A state investigation released two days before that decision found that Mr. Carter had received a memo in 1987 containing allegations against Ronald Walter Price, a Northeast High School teacher.
Price was convicted this month on three counts of child sexual abuse, and two other teachers at the same school -- Ms. Cook and Mr. Yocum -- are awaiting trials on charges they each sexually abused a student.
"I realize there's a lot of curiousity and a lot of interest, but we're trying to be sensitive," board member Carlesa Finney said yesterday.
"We listened to Mr. Baron's update of the investigation, but we haven't had a chance to talk to Berry yet. Every person, including the superintendent, has the right -- just like a jewel thief -- to face the accusations and make their case," she said.
Maryland law contains a provision allowing the state school superintendent -- in this case Nancy S. Grasmick -- to fire a county school superintendent for one of five reasons: misconduct, willful neglect of duty, insubordination, immorality and incompetence.
The situation also could be resolved if Mr. Carter resigns, retires or asks that his contract -- which has three years remaining -- be bought out.
The county school board also could fire Mr. Carter on its own.