Marshall Peterson has been reassigned to Homewood School as principal after spending nearly a decade at the helm of Oakland Mills High School, school officials announced Tuesday.
School Superintendent Sydney L. Cousin said Peterson requested the move last week because he is seeking "a new professional experience." It takes effect Monday. Homewood's current principal, Frank Eastham, will replace Peterson at Oakland Mills.
"This is late in the year to be making this move, but it's not that unusual," Cousin said. "It's based on the needs of the system."
Peterson's reassignment comes after a tumultuous year at Oakland Mills stemming from a grade-changing scandal last fall that cost the school its spot in the state football playoffs.
The school's football coach and athletic director, Ken Hovet, was put on administrative leave indefinitely by then-Superintendent John O'Rourke after a school system investigation found that Hovet was involved in altering a team member's grade to make him academically eligible to play. But last week, the school board said Hovet should be reinstated. Hovet will teach social studies at River Hill High School this year and receive back pay for time he was not paid.
A source familiar with the investigation who requested anonymity, citing privacy issues, said O'Rourke also recommended that Peterson be suspended for 30 days for his involvement with the grade change. Peterson's suspension has been on hold while he appeals the decision.
He has finished presenting his case to an independent hearing officer, who has 30 days to make a recommendation to the school board. The board then is expected to hear additional testimony and make a final decision. No date has been set for that hearing. School officials have declined to comment on any disciplinary actions, saying all personnel matters are private.
Some residents criticized the timing of the announcement of Peterson's move, which came less than three weeks before the start of school. Reassignments for other school administrators were made several months ago.
"Everybody was kind of thinking it was behind us, and working to start afresh and heal and move forward. And this is just, it's very sad," said June Cofield, vice president of the county PTA Council, whose two daughters attend Oakland Mills.
Peterson has worked for 32 years in the Howard school system, starting as a classroom teacher. He has been principal of Oakland Mills High the past nine years and was its assistant principal from 1983 to 1989. He was also principal of Hammond High and the former Gateway School, a school for troubled youths which evolved into Homewood.
Eastham was also principal of Gateway and has led Homewood since it opened in 2002. Before that, he was an assistant principal at Oakland Mills for three years.
Peterson could not be reached to comment on his reassignment. In an earlier interview, he declined to comment on his appeal, saying that privacy needed to be respected in all personnel matters.
"I am always ready to move forward," he said.