Boyse F. Mosley, a media-savvy retired Baltimore City public school principal who openly criticized his superiors while stressing academics and safe classrooms, died of heart failure Oct. 2 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. The Mondawmin-area resident was 85.
"He clearly brought a lot of energy to the job of being a principal," said former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who is now president of the University of Baltimore. "He stirred the pot in a good way. He was always pleased to make us a little uncomfortable with the status quo. He thought it was his mission."
Mr. Mosley was a frequent guest on on local television and radio talk shows. He once made the statement "Public education, as we know it, is dead" and told a reporter that he had "lost faith" in Baltimore's schools. He also declared that "we can no longer fix the system."
Born in McDonald, Pa., he was the son of Oscar Mosley and Kathleen McCray. He was a 1950 graduate of McDonald High School and served in the Air Force in Korea during the Korean War. He left the military as a staff sergeant.
He earned a bachelor's degree in education at Lincoln University Missouri and a master's degree at the University of North Dakota. He later studied at California University of Pennsylvania and the Johns Hopkins University.
He taught English in Pittsburgh public schools before moving to Baltimore in 1961. He began as a social studies teacher at Fairmount Hill Junior-Senior High School.
While teaching, he met his future wife, fellow teacher Edna Dungee. He taught at Frederick Douglass Senior High School from 1961 to 1967 and was a special assistant and assistant principal at Edmondson Senior High School until 1970. He held the same post at Forest Park Senior High School until 1972.
That year, he was named principal at a new school, then one of the largest in the country. He had his secretaries answer the phone with the phrase "Good morning, magnificent Lake Clifton."
Mr. Mosley appeared on the cover of The Baltimore Sun Magazine in 1976 for a feature article, "Boyse Mosley, Principal of Lake Clifton: Tough but Compassionate."
"You see, the kids like me," he was quoted in the article. "They understand me, and I understand them. They know what I expect and where I'm coming from. They know I care about them."
He also said that he did not care about following a consensus. "The consensus! I don't want a consensus at this school. I get input. I evaluate the situation. Then I make the decision. I make it."
When his male teachers reacted against wearing ties — and said they didn't own any — he bought a supply and handed them out.
The article noted that he successfully desegregated the school, which had had an all-African-American student body, with the addition of several hundred white students.
"I will not tolerate coercion, bullying or threats on the part of students or teachers," he said in the article. "Teachers are here to teach, and it's my job to see that they do."
Mr. Mosley was promoted to Northeast Baltimore regional superintendent in 1976. He then began appearing on local talk television and radio programs, criticizing the school system and its officials. He lost his regional superintendent's position in a reorganization to save money as enrollments declined in the city school system and was offered the job of principal at two junior high schools.
According to a 1981 Evening Sun article, "Mosley said he saw both offers as a form of punishment for not falling line with the administration." The article also said he would have to take a $10,000 pay cut.
He stayed with the system and served as principal at Gwynns Falls Park Junior High School and then moved on to Northwestern Senior High School in 1982, where he served for a decade until retiring from the school system.
At Northwestern, he resumed his outspoken ways. A 1983 Sun editorial discussed his "hardline educational philosophy … students and teachers will have to dress up for classes. No more tennis shoes and T-shirts … there will be heavy doses of homework. Mr. Mosley believes in setting a tone and an example in the schools. He believes in demanding discipline and hard work from students."
In 1984, he set off a storm of protests by suggesting eliminating interscholastic sports at Northwestern and channeling those funds into improving student reading skills.
"In terms of the resources I have now, and my priorities, my proposal is legitimate," he said in a Sun article. He also said that Northwestern's parents did not make the demands of the schools and the school systems they should.
"Invoking God, the Constitution and Emily Post, about 76 persons, students and teachers, ripped into Northwestern High School Principal Boyse F. Mosley's controversial proposal to scrap sports for remedial reading and mathematics classes," according to a 1985 Sun article reporting on an open forum brought by the school's parents.
The article also noted, "Of those who spoke, all but five opposed Mosley."
He responded to his critics: "You give me a kid who comes to school every day, and a free hand, and I'll give you a youngster who can compete with anyone, anywhere."
A year later, he backed down from eliminating sports and told parents he was nonetheless succeeding in boosting reading levels at the school.
In 1988, he was photographed riding a crosstown MTA bus to keep the peace between black and white students who had been fighting on the vehicle.
In 1990, he said he was considering running for mayor, but he never mounted a campaign..
After his city schools retirement, Mr. Mosley became an official at Anne Arundel Community College, the Hickey School and Morning Star Youth Academy in Woolford in Dorchester County. He retired in 2006.
Mr. Mosley received the Baltimore Community Relations Commission's Intergroup Relations and Humanitarian Service Award in 1979. He was also given a Baltimore is Best award by Mayor William Donald Schaefer. Gov. Harry Hughes awarded him a Governor's Citation–Theodore McKeldin Award in 1980. The Johns Hopkins Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa gave him a special award in 1985, and the Maryland Association of Secondary School Principals honored him with a certificate of accomplishment in 1991.
Mr. Mosley was recalled for his tailored suits and sartorial flair. The Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Baltimore named his as one of its 10 Best-Dressed Men in 1988.
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In retirement, Mr. Mosley kept a large flower garden and collected art for his home.
"He went from suits and his tasteful outfits to wearing jeans, sweatshirts and a signature white cap," said a stepdaughter, Cheryl D. Lucas of Forest Hill.
In 1991, Sun columnist Gregory P. Kane wrote, "The school system needs more Boyse Mosleys, not fewer. … I admire him because his old-fashioned, tough, disciplinary approach to education reminds me of the teachers I had. I once referred to Northwestern as Stalag Mosley and to him as the George Patton of pedagogy, and it must be conceded that a George Patton is needed every now and again."
Mr. Mosley donated his body to science and asked that no funeral be held. A memorial service will be held in November. No date has been set.
He is also survived by his wife of 54 years; a stepson, Kirk Dungee of Baltimore; another stepdaughter, Yvonne Dungee of Baltimore; two sisters, Joan Smith and Shirley Daniels, both of Pennsylvania; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.