A two-hour forum at Northeast High School last night showed that the Pasadena community is still deeply divided over a report about a teacher-student sex scandal there and its implications for the school's future.
About 200 people gathered in the school's auditorium for the forum sponsored by the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs. Most were connected with the school in some way -- teachers, students or former students, parents of students.
Some took Principal Joseph Carducci and teachers to task, demanding to know why they haven't been removed from their jobs; others praised him and school system administrators for their work in getting the school's students and teachers through what has been a tough year, and criticized an investigators' report of how the school system handled allegations that teachers sexually abused students at Northeast and other schools.
Ronald Walter Price, a social studies teacher, drama coach and softball coach at Northeast, was arrested and convicted of having sexual relations with three students. He said publicly that he had sexual relations with eight. Another Northeast teacher was acquitted of a similar charge, and a third Northeast teacher is awaiting trial next month.
The community has become divided over whether the now-embattled principal and others should remain at the school and over issues brought up in the report -- and even over last night's meeting.
PTSA President Linda Tetrault, a Carducci supporter, did not want the PTA umbrella group to have the meeting at the school and said so, putting PTA Council President Carolyn Roeding on the spot because Mrs. Roeding arranged the meeting.
Several times the meeting escalated into a war of words between the pro-Carducci camp and the PTA Council, especially after Interim Superintendent Carol S. Parham said she could not discuss personnel issues.
"This is the problem. We are a divided community," said Chris Kirby, a Northeast parent.
He said that the meeting, billed as an open forum to air concerns stemming from the report by lawyers Alan I. Baron and Eleanor Carey, was not a bad idea and that criticism of the meeting was misdirected. He urged those at the meeting to focus on the problems mentioned in the report.
Reached later in the evening, Mr. Baron -- who had not been invited to the meeting -- defended the report.
One parent said her daughter threatened to commit suicide over the way she was treated by a teacher at Northeast.
Another asked why personnel problems were not handled immediately if they were so severe.
So far, two assistant principals have been transferred from Northeast.
The school system has a year to act on the report's 30-plus recommendations, and Dr. Parham said that next month she will present a plan to the school board to implement them.