A citizen's request prompted the Prince George's County Council on Tuesday to send a letter to the School Board and Superintendent Edward J. Feeney requesting an immediate meeting to discuss the principal of Oxon Hill Junior High School.
George Price, an Oxon Hill resident, told the Council about parent and teacher efforts to have principal Karl F. Taschenberger transferred to another school because his "inconsistent handling of students" with discipline problems has created "a fearful and uncomfortable atmosphere" at the school.
"He can no longer be an effective administrator," Price said after detailing some of the community efforts to remove Taschenberger.
Twenty-four of the school's 47 teachers recently filed an administrative grievance with the superintendent calling for an improvement in disciplinary procedures or for Taschenberger's transfer, according to several teachers. In a school board meeting two weeks ago, parents and members of the Oxon Hill Parent-Teachers Association voiced their support of the teachers' request.
As a result, Price said, Taschenberger has been placed on a two-month probation but will be retained at the school. "It is a meaningless action," said Price. "Who is going to patrol him?
"This is not a union matter, not a racial matter, not a teacher matter," said Price at the Council meeting. "But in an effort to reduce suspensions, he offers no viable options for the teachers to discipline. Now (because of the grievance) those teachers are fearful of reprisals."
Kay Hoyle, president of the Oxon Hill Parent-Teachers Association who stressed she was speaking only as a private citizen, said, "We have witnessed a serious decline in teacher morale at the school. The students are being cheated when faced with the outrageous behavior of some of these students. A competent administrator can keep an atmosphere of calm. There doesn't have to be suspensions. Unruly students can be disciplined in other ways," she said.
Taschenberger has said his approach to discipline is on an individual basis. "If a student misbehaves, first the teacher must talk to him. If it happens again, the teacher should call the parent. If it happens a third time, then the office should be called."
Mary Ellen Shunk, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Prince George's County, said "Teachers evaluation forms were doctored, they were threatened by non-tensure or with reduced staff. Over one-half of the faculty literally had to lay their careers on the line over it."
The overall problem of discipline in the county public schools concerned many members of the Council. Samuel W. Bogley said he had heard complaints from many parents about discipline problems in schools all over the county.
"I want to see how the school board is going to handle these problems, not just Oxon Hill," he said. "We usually only get to see the school board at budget time. And I'm afraid you're going to see these matters only through increased expenditures for policing, special training and the like unless some policy on discipline is established."
Councilman Francis W. White stressed that the Council is in "a very sensitive area" when it becomes involved in school board matters.
"We have always operated on a hands-off policy toward the school board," White said. "We have heard that 50 per cent (of the parents and teachers) are in favor of the transfer, and 50 per cent are opposed."
The Council said it would like to meet with the school board before the summer recess begins next Tuesday.
In other Council action, more than 30 bills and resolutions were introduced and Council members heard public testimony on 15 others.
The Council also reappointed Raymond LaPlaca and Edwin H. Brown to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Johanna Norris to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.