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School loses 2nd staff member

The Baltimore Sun

A popular physics teacher at an Anne Arundel County charter school has been temporarily transferred to a central office post, the same week the school lost its principal for undisclosed reasons.

Ali Tuna, 31, who had been teaching at the Hanover school since it opened in September 2005, was reassigned Thursday, said Spear Lancaster, the vice president of the Chesapeake Science Point Charter School board.

The school's principal, Fatih Kandil, was abruptly moved Monday to a desk job in another school system facility. The move came after the county Department of Social Services notified the system in a Dec. 21 letter of a complaint lodged against Kandil, schools spokesman Bob Mosier said.

The school system declined to disclose the nature of the complaints facing Kandil and Tuna, saying the investigations involve confidential personnel and student matters. However, during the past few days, Lancaster said, conversations he had with Kandil and other staff at the school led him to believe the principal is being investigated for making misbehaving students do push-ups and sit-ups.

Last week, Mosier confirmed that a staff member at the school had been reassigned, but would not say who or why. Officials at the school said it was Tuna.

Reached on his cell phone Saturday, Tuna said he is not allowed to discuss why he is being investigated or who is investigating him - the county Department of Social Services or the school system. However, he confirmed he had been temporarily transferred out of the school.

"The school officials told me normally the investigation takes longer, about two months, but they said mine should take a couple of weeks," he said.

Al Aksakalli, president of the charter school board and a co-founder of the school, said a county schools official told him that Tuna's and Kandil's investigations are "separate and unrelated." But he acknowledged that the personnel moves have caused upheaval at a school that is two weeks away from finding out whether schools officials will keep it under probation for past financial and student recordkeeping problems.

"It's just interesting to me that this is all happening just two weeks before we are supposed to have this big meeting with the school board," Aksakalli said.

Schools officials have maintained the timing of the reassignments and the board's probation review is coincidental. In a letter to parents, Superintendent Kevin M. Maxwell said the issues are "wholly separate."

Parent Valerie Vollmers said the tumult has upset her son.

"He's worried his school is falling apart," Vollmers said of seventh-grader Chase Otley. "Their favorite teacher is gone. Mr. Tuna was really popular. He ran enrichment programs after school, tutored on Saturdays. This has been a total shock. Every day you go in, you worry: Is another person going to vanish?"

Officials with the county Department of Social Services said that state regulations require the department to complete an inquiry within 60 days. If charges are substantiated, they are forwarded to the state attorney general's office, which decides whether to prosecute.

The removals are the latest controversy for the charter school, which has 218 students in grades six to nine and 400 names on a waiting list.

ruma.kumar@baltsun.com

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