Teachers: Shades of Salem?
A Salem of the South? That's what Annapolis is about to become as the school board embarks on a second set of witch trials. The imprisonment of Ron Price hasn't been enough blood. He quit, thus depriving the Pumpkin Palace gang of the pleasure of firing him. So, in the board's meeting chamber, the gang is busy painting the ceiling blue and putting little stars on it. The gang chants: "If the courts clear 'em, we gotta smear 'em -- and fire 'em."
There are four cases besides Price. In the first three, Laurie S. Cook, Charles A. Yocum and Thomas A. Newman, trial juries acquitted the teachers of child sex abuse charges.
In the case of Brandt Schanberger, the fourth case, the evidence was so weak that it wasn't even presented to a grand jury for an indictment. Yet Superintendent Carol Parham recommends that the board fire Mr. Schanberger.
If Mr. Schanberger wasn't even indicted, what hope is there for Cook, Yocum, and Newman, who were indicted? The gang says Ms. Cook had "inappropriate relationships with students" and didn't report Price (though she knew no more than the rumors many others knew). Similar vague and weak accusations are likely to be trumped up on Mr. Yocum and Mr. Newman.
The board members might consider Samuel Sewell, one of the Salem judges in 1692. Though essentially a decent man and Harvard-educated, he succumbed to the hysteria. He later repented in a public meeting, being willing, as he said, "to take the blame and shame of it." But this occurred only after he had helped hang 19 people.
Four things will likely result from these smear-and-fire proceedings. First and worst, the authority of teachers will become zero. Any kid who gets a bad grade or is kept after school can accuse the teacher of child sex abuse and ruin his career and his life.
Second, the four teachers, having been cleared by the judicial system only to be convicted by the school system, will sue it for millions. The taxpayers will pay, schools will wait for roofs and computers and the media will feed like sharks.
Third, nobody will take a teacher job here. With physical assaults on teachers rising, Anne Arundel's rep will be: "If the kiddies don't get you, the school board will." . . .
J. A. Hoage
The June 23 editorial regarding Delegate John Gary's "irresponsible rhetoric" was on the mark, but Mr. Gary's latest geyser of firebrand regarding crime and isolationism should come as no surprise. After all, this is the same elected official who, in past editions of The Sun, referred to homosexuals as "queers," to a nominee for a judgeship as "a nasty bastard" and to his fellow Anne Arundel County legislators who disagreed with him on an issue as "idiots."
Anne Arundel Republicans have a great opportunity to make gains in the 1994 elections, but I am fearful that with Mr. Gary at the head of the ticket, other GOP candidates could be hurt and their chances for success jeopardized.
Mr. Gary has a history of intemperate, divisive language and his reputation for pandering to the hard right was well established long before this latest fiasco.
Jerome R. Sereboff
I was a delegate at the Anne Arundel County school board nominating convention and attended two of the three public hearings that preceded the convention.
At these hearings, Nancy Schrum demonstrated her grasp of the key issues facing Anne Arundel County's education system and showed she had a vision for working with board members to effect improvements.
As shown by the voting, she was the overwhelming choice of the delegates.
County Executive Bobby Neall's recommended choice, Thomas Florestano, is an interim member of the board. According to a Maryland Gazette article announcing his appointment, Dr. Florestano publicly stated that "he would reluctantly serve the remainder of Ms. Tollenger's term."
In a July 2 Gazette article, we are reminded that Dr. Florestano publicly stated that he would not seek reappointment for the full five-year term. By changing his mind at the last minute, he has escaped public scrutiny of his views.
In the July 2 article, Mr. Neall states he didn't recommend the convention winner because he has "misgivings about the convention process and the decline in the public's support of it."
The only evidence Mr. Neall presents is the declining number of delegates to the convention. He publicly states that Mrs. Schrum and the runner-up are "sincere and talented."
While Mr. Neall has the right to choose anyone for the position, I believe he shouldn't go against the convention's choice without sufficient cause. . . .
Alan L. Lang
It is no wonder that people don't trust our government. Our legislators make rules and laws for us to live by and then change them to suit themselves. . . .
I was very impressed with Nancy Schrum and not surprised when she was selected as a candidate for the school board. We needed someone of her caliber to regain the public trust and dignity we lost during the Northeast High School scandal. Nancy has exceptional organizational skills. As a parent, she can relate to our overcrowded school problems and the need to be more accessible to parents.
Many parents expressed concern over the fairness of the nominating convention method of selecting our school board, because the convention's top choice was not always selected.
Although I have the utmost respect and admiration for Dr. Thomas Florestano, the fact remains that Nancy Schrum was the overwhelming choice at the convention and I was very disappointed when County Executive Robert Neall bypassed her.
I can understand why many parents are recommending an elected school board.
A. Shirley Murphy
The writer is a candidate in the Third District for the Anne Arundel County Council.