The top administrator of a private Christian elementary and middle school in Indian Head has been fired for what officials called "a clear and undeniable pattern of un-Christlike character," according to a letter sent to parents.

The Potomac Heights Christian Academy's board of directors and pastors at the Baptist school declined to elaborate on why Peter R. Ferguson, the administrator for the last 17 months, was dismissed Nov. 6. Administrator is similar to the job of principal at public schools.

"What we have told parents is it's because of un-Christlike character. We have chosen not to try to discredit or defame Mr. Ferguson," said the Rev. Gary A. Willett, the senior pastor of Potomac Heights Baptist Church. He declined to comment further.

School sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said Ferguson had been verbally abusive to children, sometimes cursing at them and threatening them with bodily harm. On at least one occasion, parents of a child in the fourth grade complained to school officials, sources said.

Capt. Joseph C. Montminy of the Charles County sheriff's office said there are no pending investigations of Ferguson.

Attempts to reach Ferguson for comment were unsuccessful.

The letter to parents, signed by the board of directors and three pastors, said the decision to dismiss Ferguson came after "receiving numerous letters, phone calls and attending personal conferences with concerned parents, faculty, [church] pastors and others."

"Establishing and maintaining high Christian standards is the goal we expect from all associated with the Academy," the letter stated.

The academy has 204 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is managed by the administrator, and the pastors of the church help make decisions.

Ferguson's responsibilities, which included personnel issues, student discipline and budgetary matters, will be split among an assistant administrator and the pastors, the letter said. A search for a replacement is underway.