The Harford County Board of Education voted 5-2 in a late-night special meeting Thursday to appoint the new principals of Aberdeen, Fallston, and Joppatowne High Schools, two of them replacing administrators controversially ousted by Superintendent Robert Tomback last month.
Michael O’Brien, currently an instructional facilitator at Edgewood High School, will take over as principal of Aberdeen High School for the outgoing Tom Szerensits. Pamela Ziegler, formerly an assistant principal at C. Milton Wright High School, was named principal of Joppatowne High School, replacing Macon Tucker.
Click below to hear the audio recording of Dagger Education Editor Cindy Mumby discussing the naming of the new principals on WAMD 970AM[audio:http://www.daggerpress.com/wp-content/uploads/052611_CINDY_DAGGER.mp3|titles=052611_CINDY_DAGGER]
Richard Jester, currently the principal of the Western School of Technology and Environmental Science in Baltimore County was named the principal of Fallston High School. He replaces Joseph Schmitz, who was promoted to the position of Executive Director of High School Performance, replacing David Volrath, who earlier this month announced his retirement at the end of the school year.
The promotions and appointments are scheduled to take effect on July 1.
The naming of the new principals came several days after Tomback announced Monday that Szerensits would be transferred to the position of assistant principal of Bel Air High School and Tucker would be transferred to the same position at Patterson Mill High School.
The transfers were made at Tomback’s discretion. But Tomback opted to put a hold on those transfers after the board voted 4-3 at Monday’s meeting to table any action on promotions and appointments for the 2011-2012 school year which, unlike the transfers, require a board vote.
“Dr. Tomback has the discretion and authority to initiate transfers as per the needs of the schools,” Harford County Public Schools spokeswoman Teri Kranefeld said on Tuesday. “The promotions and appointments may affect transfer decisions, so full implementation of the transfers has been put on hold at this time. However, none of this takes effect until July 1.”
The transfers will proceed, following the board’s approval of the promotions and appointments. The two votes against the appointments were made by board members Don Osman and Bob Frisch.
Among those named to positions in the Harford County school system Thursday night was Kevin Ensor, who is currently the director of college counseling at Hereford High School in Baltimore County and will assume the position of supervisor of school counseling.
Ensor and Jester both depart the Baltimore County school system two years after Tomback, formerly an area superintendent in that system, was named superintendent of Harford schools.
The board met in closed session beginning at approximately 8:15 p.m. Thursday, and were scheduled to convene an open meeting at 9:15 p.m. However, the board did not leave the closed session until just after 10 p.m. and moved quickly to approve the promotions and appointments.
Comments by board Vice President Leonard Wheeler hinted at what went on behind closed doors, with discussion centered around the process by which employees are promoted, appointed, and transferred.
“We did have a very lengthy meeting discussing [the subject],” he said. “It was a very important meeting and a very fruitful meeting… I think this issue is of such importance that I wanted to clarify some issues . . . we talked about the treatment of our employees. We talked about a fair and equitable process. And we talked about why boards were created in the first place. They were created as a reaction to the mistreatment of professional people. As a response to that we created tenure laws. The superintendent has every right to make recommendations that he feels will carry on or help enable to carry on the goals and objectives of this board. The board has a responsibility to ask questions about these new appointments.”
“As a board member I would say to you that I believe there are some serious flaws in the process, in my perspective,” he added. “As a board member I can assure this community and staff that when corrections need to be made they will be made.”
Following the board’s vote, Frisch took the opportunity–without naming names–to make a series of comments on the topic of leadership.
“Leadership built on fear, or intimidation, or punishment is not leadership at all,” he said. “That type of leadership is nothing more than an exercise of power built on a foundation of quicksand. The most successful operations or organizations not only nurture, but expect their employees to push the status quo through intellectual debate, free from fear of retaliation.”
“In absence of the freedom to express differing opinions, organizations suffer a loss of creative thinking, sinking morale, and the departure of superior quality employees who recognize they have no future in that organization,” he added.
Additional reporting was contributed by Jeff Jarina and Cindy Mumby.
The full list of promotions and appointments, including the resumes of those named to the various positions, as well as the full list of transfers, follows: