- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 26, 2000

When Prince George's County, Md., educators and parents heard that Gerald Boarman's new school had won the Siemens Westinghouse Science and Technology Competition, held recently in the District of Columbia, they weren't surprised.

Prince George's Eleanor Roosevelt High School, after all, had won many similar awards during Mr. Boarman's 11-year tenure as principal of that school.

But the announcement that Mr. Boarman's North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics took top honors in a prestigious academic contest had many in Prince George's County wondering aloud why Roosevelt lost the award-winning administrator in the first place.

Mr. Boarman is one of a contingent of veteran principals who have left the Prince George's County school system after clashes with Superintendent Iris Metts.

Others who have left since Mrs. Metts' arrival in 1999 include Templeton Elementary School's Michael Castagnola and Northwestern High School's Kevin Maxwell and others may soon follow.

"Leaving is always at the back of my mind," said John Ceschini, principal of Rockledge Elementary, a Blue Ribbon school that saw funding for some of its programs slashed by 70 percent this year.

Mr. Ceschini, who has won several awards during his 27 years with the county school system, said things were "getting worse" in the county. "I love this community … but it gets harder to stay when you are battling for money all the time."

Since July, of the 190 principals in the county, seven have left their jobs, 14 have retired, and four were promoted to other positions, said Judy Miller, Prince George's County's assistant superintendent for human resources.

"Many of the principals are leaving because of Metts," said Robert Callahan, school board member from District 5. He added that he had heard the superintendent claim she had replaced 70 percent of the principals in the county. "She's very pleased she's done that," he said.

Doris Reed, executive director of the Association of Supervisory and Administrative School Personnel in Prince George's County, said: "Mr. Boarman is the kind of principal we have been losing on a regular basis because of the environment created by Dr. Metts. It has to be either her way or no way."

Mr. Boarman said he was lured away from Prince George's County by the offer of autonomy in running the North Carolina School for Technology and Mathematics, where he serves as executive director.

Besides, said Mr. Boarman, "I did not know which direction the [Prince George's] county was going."

"They [the new administration under Iris Metts] were reorganizing, revamping, putting new things into place. I wasn't sure I wanted to stay," he said.

"While Dr. Metts didn't bother me in my running of Roosevelt, it was clear they wanted all high schools to follow certain procedures set by the central office. And I couldn't run Roosevelt without my own schedule," he said.

The final factor in his decision came when the state of Maryland offered a retirement plan that allowed him to keep working while still receiving most of his retirement benefits.

Although Mr. Boarman stressed that Mrs. Metts never really interfered with the running of Roosevelt, others in the county point out that there were tensions between the two.

Ms. Reed cited a meeting in March this year where Mr. Boarman spoke up about Mrs. Metts' lack of respect for administrators in general.

"When he stopped talking, she stepped up. The way she talked to Mr. Boarman was really bad," Ms. Reed said.

Repeated requests for an interview with Mrs. Metts were denied by her office.

Mr. Boarman spent 30 years as an educator in Prince George's County public schools. He attended public schools in the county, and he earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Maryland.

While with the Prince George's County school system, where he began his teaching career in 1970, he won several notable awards, including the Milken National Educator Award in 1996 and the Outstanding Administrator Award given by the Educational Media Association in 1998.

Under his leadership, Roosevelt, which has 3,100 students, received two White House Blue Ribbons in 1991 and 1998. The school was chosen by the National Academy Foundation and White House for the National Technology Academy Pilot Program 2000, and for the New American High School Award given by the U.S. Department of Education in 1999.

In the four years he led Oxon Hill Middle School, he turned it into one of the county's best schools. Roosevelt, where he repeated the feat, had a passing rate in the upper 90s on Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) tests for the past several years.

The county average this year was 31 percent.

Impressed with Mr. Boarman's work, several parents and administrators in the county had last year urged him to try for the slot of schools superintendent in Prince George's County. However, he was never approached by school authorities for the position.

State Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Democrat from Prince George's County, taught with Mr. Boarman at Fairmont Heights High School at the start of their careers in Prince George's County. He remembered Mr. Boarman as being "very efficient … very clear in direction."

He added that Mr. Boarman had been a "good match" for Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the country's "topnotch schools."

He said he was "concerned about the schools" in the county where "both principals and teachers are underpaid and undervalued."

Some said what was most disheartening to them was the apathy over good principals leaving.

One parent said this was the response he got from a current school board member when he mentioned Mr. Boarman's school winning the award this week: "Jerry Boarman chose to leave. He's gone. I don't care."

Prince George's County did have something to cheer for in last week's science-award announcement: Two students from Bowie High School were runners-up in the contest.

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