Hyde offers report timetable; Carroll schools chief has few details of plan on construction woes


In the wake of an independent report highly critical of Carroll County school construction projects, the superintendent offered few details last night on his plan to correct a construction department described as chaotic, ill-experienced and unprepared.

Responding to the school board's call for an "action plan," William H. Hyde offered a timetable for reviewing the report prepared by a team of attorneys and former FBI agents and making changes.

Much of Hyde's 2 1/2-page timetable was copied from the introduction of the internal investigation report and his letter to employees. He said he viewed the report "as a learning experience. If there's a problem, we'll deal with it."

One parent at the meeting called for the resignations of top school administrators and board members unwilling to make changes.

Susan Holt, a Sykesville resident and a school board candidate in the November election, implored the board to act swiftly and decisively.

"I hope you don't think this cloud is going to blow over. I ask you to do what you should have done two weeks ago: come out and make changes," Holt said.

Holt asked the board to direct the superintendent to fire Vernon F. Smith Jr., who oversaw school construction through June 1998, when he was promoted to assistant superintendent of administration. Once Hyde has done that, she said, the board should ask for Hyde's resignation.

"If he won't do that, fire the superintendent," Holt said. "You have been caught up in this administrative nightmare for two years. You must make changes before we can move on. If you are unwilling to do this, then resign."

Hyde was appointed superintendent in 1998 after 11 years as Carroll's assistant superintendent of administration. Before that, he spent 21 years with the Maryland State Department of Education, leaving as director of administrative services.

Hyde said he had "absolutely no comment" on Holt's comments.

Holt and Jean Wasmer, president of the Carroll County Council of PTAs, juxtaposed the actions of the board and administration with the school system's year-old character education program, intended to teach children basic values and ethics.

Values and ethics "should first be demonstrated by the school system. When character education was implemented in Carroll County, respect and responsibility were the first traits to be featured," Wasmer said. "It's time that Carroll County public schools gain the respect it deserves and the Board of Education accepts responsibility."

Laura Rhodes, PTA president at Winfield Elementary School, said Hyde should not be involved in drafting solutions to the construction problems.

A local government professor who has followed the school system's troubles in the last year said any action plan from the superintendent would be "a symbolic gesture."

"It is time not to make some minor adjustments, but major changes," said Donald R. Jansiewicz, who teaches political science at Carroll Community College. "Too much has gone wrong to say we can fix a little of this and a little of that."

Jansiewicz said the county commissioners' recent decision to hire a construction consultant to supervise work at Century High School in Eldersburg -- and possibly at the new Westminster High School if it is approved -- demonstrates that the board and administrators have lost control of the school system.

"It's not just a little problem," he said. "We've got a huge, huge, huge problem."

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