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Teacher transfers spark call for principal's ouster


The PTA president at Havre de Grace Elementary School is calling for the ouster of the principal because of disputes between the school's administration and teachers.

Jerry Ashby, president of the school's Parent-Teacher Association, said he wants Principal Franklin Tull and his administrative staff transferred.

Five teachers say they are being moved from the school on Revolution Street against their will after disagreements with the principal about curriculum and the teaching process even though they were promised there would be no reprisals -- including transfers -- for speaking out.

"These teachers can't be all wrong. We have tried to work this out in good faith, but it's gotten to the point where he has just got to go," Mr. Ashby said.

"The school system is trying to sweep the problem under the rug," said Mr. Ashby, who once attended the school. Parents at the school, who met with school administrators early in the week, said they were shocked by the transfers.

Harford school officials declined to comment.

"I would comment if I could. But it's an internal, confidential matter being discussed," said Mr. Tull, who has been principal since 1989.

Jean R. Thomas, president of the teachers union, the Harford County Education Association, said that up to 20 teachers met with her in May to discuss their problems with the school.

One complaint, she said, concerned the preparation of kindergartners, some who entered first grade without being able to recite the alphabet.

Another complaint grew from criticism teachers received from Mr. Tull for classroom conduct -- such as sitting down while teaching and leaving students unattended.

Mr. Tull labeled those who criticized or questioned policies as "uncooperative" or "not team players," Mrs. Thomas said.

"This school system has stepped to a new low; this is the first time the administration has used the transfer process to punish teachers who had the nerve to speak out," she said.

Cindy Brittain, a parent and instructional assistant at the school, said teachers and parents had met with school officials repeatedly to find a compromise, even forming a "climate control committee" to improve school morale.

Mrs. Brittain, who has one child at the school, said she didn't want anyone to leave the school. She also said she had always worked well with Mr. Tull.

But she said she and other parents continue to fight the transfers, which were ordered by Superintendent Ray R. Keech.

"Good teachers are a gift from God, and these teachers were among the best," she said.

The five teachers being transferred involuntarily are:

Cathy Paragall, a first-grade teacher who has worked at Havre de Grace Elementary 28 years; Jackie Kendall, a third-grade teacher with 20 years' experience; Carolyn Narvell, a second-grade teacher with 16 years' experience; Darnell Stewart, a fifth-grade teacher with 16 years' experience; and Janet Craig, who works with emotionally disturbed children in kindergarten and first grade and has five years' experience.

"These teachers are scared to death," Mrs. Thomas said. At least 10 teachers who asked for transfers were doing it just to express frustration, she said, but now five are told they must complete the transfers even though they don't want them. The school system said it wanted to move six of the 10 teachers.

If teachers ask for voluntary transfers they are allowed to change their minds and stay in the same school if they notify the school in writing within 12 hours, said Donald R. Morrison, school system spokesman.

Mr. Morrison declined to say why teachers at Havre de Grace Elementary were not allowed to change their minds or if they had notified the school in writing.

Mrs. Thomas said the teachers thought they would not be transferred after meeting with school officials to discuss ways to lessen tensions at the school.

Mr. Morrison, who said it is against the school system's policy to discuss specific cases, said the school system can move teachers for many reasons, including personality conflicts.

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