Cyril Lang, the Montgomery County High School teacher suspended for teaching Aristotle and Machiavelli in his 10th-grade English classes, has been encouraged by Acting D.C. School Superintendent James T. Guines to apply for the job as principal of the city's new academic high school.
Calling Lang "a true scholar," Guines said yesterday he suggested that Lang apply for the job during a two-hour interview three weeks ago in the superintendent's office.
"In talking with the gentleman, I was sure he was committed to academic excellence," Guines said of Lang, who is serving a one-month suspension without pay for adding Machiavelli's "The Prince" and Aristotle's "Poetics" to the countys official 10th-grade curriculum.
Lang, who first met Guines when both were on a television show last winter, said he is interested in the job.
School administrators consider the position a plum, because the college preparatory school will have only about 500 students, including some of the system's best and brightest. The school will offer a more rigorous curriculum than other city high schools.
The progress of the academic school, scheduled to open in September, has been slow. School officials still have not chosen all the students or teacher.The board just last week approved Banneker Junior High School at 800 Euclid St. NW as the site. Still, Buines insists the school will open on time.
Guines' interest in Lang sparked widespread concern about why the acting superintendent went outside the District for a candidate.
"My only question is how could someone be brought in from the outside when we're talking about riffing teachers who are there now. I would not go outside the system unless there was no one else qualified for the job inside the system," said board member Linda W. Cropp (Ward 4).
"It's extremely inappropriate," board member Alaire B. Rieffel (Ward 2) said.
"They does not detract from the talent we have in the system," Guines insisted. "It just makes the competition keener . . . . It is my sincere belief that as we look for the best people for these jobs, we must forget things like race and where people live."
Land, 55, would have to move from Montgomery to the District if selected, because of the city's residency requirement for employes.
The proposal for the academic school says candidates for principal "must have a minimum of five years of satisfactory supervisory experience on the secondary level." Lang has never been an administrator.
School board rules require candidates for principal to be screened by a special panel comprising community and school officials. The school board, however, makes final decisions on such authority to appoint a principal on an acting basis, but does not intend to.
Guines' term as acting superintendent ends July 1, although he is under consideration for the superintendent's job.
Guines said he thought Lang would be good for the job because Guines believes the academic high school prinicpal should be in the tradition of a private-school headmaster -- "a person who is both a principal and a teacher."
Land said he would like to teach part time at the school if he were principal.
"It's a wonderful opportunity," Lang said. "I've got to prove something, and the teachers and the kids [in the new school] have to prove something. You can go into a poor area and you can find gold if the will, desire and motivation are there. The whole aim is to turn the kids' motors on, and when you do that, there's no speed limit."
Lang has appeared on several television shows and in several national magazines since he was charged with insubordination last fall. He has taught in Montgomery for 11 years, following a career as a teacher and encyclopedia salesman in New Jersey.
Lang is appealing his suspension to the Maryland State Board of Education, charging that officials violated his academic freedom.