- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2001

The Prince Georges County school system is investigating charges of grade inflation by some teachers and complaints that student misbehavior is creating an unsafe environment at one of the largest high schools in the county, The Washington Times has learned.
Largo High School staff and school board members are concerned about students setting off false fire alarms and smoking marijuana.
"I can sometimes smell pot when I walk into the school," said one staff member who asked not to be identified.
Another said, "It is incredible that in school there are children who are so raw and raunchy. How did they get like this? Nothing is going on in the building to rid them of this."
The Times obtained an April 24 memo from school board member Angie Como to other members and to Superintendent Iris T. Metts raising concerns on behalf of a citizen. "Students smoke pot at the school and are not prosecuted for the violation," Mrs. Como wrote. "In general, it is felt that the school is unsafe."
The memo also raises the issue of inflated grades.
"The individual alleges that students are not achieving, yet are being given As, Bs and Cs on their report cards," the memo states.
"The principal repeatedly states that he has a plan, but has not been able to implement his plan(s)," it adds.
Mrs. Como has demanded an investigation, but has declined to comment on the issue to The Times.
Principal Terence Taylor, who took over at Largo at the start of this academic year, denied he had asked teachers to inflate grades. He was hired by Mrs. Metts, who took over as county schools superintendent in 1999.
"That is not true — there is no grade inflation," Mr. Taylor said when asked about the charges.
But one source said, "Some of the children who graduate cant do math and their social skills are so horrible they cant hold a job.
"We have teachers who are passing children who fail because they are worried the administration will come down on them. Teachers lives could be [miserable] if they truly evaluate children on a standard that is appropriate."
Executive Regional Director Marcus Newsome did not return phone calls for comment, but a county schools spokeswoman said the administration is investigating the complaints.
"The regional office is responding to each allegation in the memo," said spokeswoman Athena Ware.
Doris Reed, chief of the union for county administrators, said vice principals at the school told her one of the main problems is that they are unable to discipline students because the principal has asked that the number of suspensions be limited.
She said she has heard that students are getting more aggressive without the fear of suspension.
Mr. Taylor said the school has a strong discliplinary program for major offenses and policies against marijuana use, and has suspended as many as 400 students this year alone.
"We have zero tolerance. There are surveillance cameras throughout the building, and we have had a number of arrests," said Mr. Taylor, who previously served as vice principal of a school in Prince William County in Virginia.
He added that the problems at Largo, which enrolls 2,500 students, are no different from those at other urban schools.
Some people became alarmed in October when a teen-ager was shot in front of the school.
"We have taken quite a few measures since then" to increase security, said Mr. Taylor, adding that the shooting was an isolated incident with no connection to the school.
Ken Johnson, chairman of the school board and the member overseeing Largo High School, said he has had several discussions with Mrs. Metts about the problems.
"I would like to give her the opportunity [two weeks] to take corrective action," said Mr. Johnson, who met with her as recently as a week ago. He said Mrs. Metts already had laid out some plans.
Anytime there is a new principal at a school, he said, there will be "some misunderstandings."
One person said Mr. Taylor "may not be source [of the problem,] but he certainly has been no solution to it."

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