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Mediator to be hired for elementary school turmoil


School system officials won't comment on the fate of five Havre de Grace Elementary School teachers scheduled for transfers, but they apparently recognize the school's internal turmoil.

A mediator from outside the school system will be hired this summer to bring all sides of the controversy together, said Harford schools spokesman Donald R. Morrison.

The internal turmoil spilled over earlier this month when parents learned that the veteran teachers, one with 28 years' experience, would be transferred from the school this year.

The teachers have said they applied for the transfers to protest the school's management by Principal Franklin L. Tull and some of his administrators, said Jean R. Thomas, president of the Harford County Education Association, the teachers union.

The teachers never wanted to leave, she said, but wanted to draw attention to conflicts at the school.

"Three of the teachers would like to be able to return to the school, but do not feel they would be able to bear working there any longer," Ms. Thomas said.

She said another teacher is not opposed to the transfer, and a fifth is awaiting a final decision from Superintendent Ray R. Keech.

Teachers always have the option of turning down a transfer they have requested, Mr. Morrison said, but the superintendent also has the power to move them against their will. According to unwritten personnel procedures, teachers have one working day orally turn down a transfer they have requested, and should later follow up in writing, Mr. Morrison said.

"The issue is settled, as far as what's happening at Havre de Grace," Mr. Morrison said. But the mediator will be brought in to make sure there are "no leftover hard feelings" among teachers, administrators and parents.

Cindy Brittain, an instructional assistant whose son attends the school, welcomes an opportunity for all sides to come together to talk. She said "isolated confrontations" have hurt the school's climate.

At Monday's school board meeting, she urged board members to support the appointment of a mediator, criticizing Dr. Keech's handling of the matter. "Dr. Keech has been aware of trouble brewing," she said. But he did "way too little, and much, much too late."

School board President Ronald R. Eaton interrupted her, saying, "This board will not hear personnel matters in a public forum."

Other parents at the meeting spoke in support of both Mr. Tull and of teachers at Havre de Grace.

School board member Richard W. Daub, former president of the school's Parent-Teacher Association, asked parents to be patient as the mediator is brought in.

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