Ousted head accused of running teacher off road

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
UNITED STATES

Last August, Deborah Hall Williams was the seasoned educator Maryland school chiefs turned to in order to whip a troubled school into shape.

But early last week she was banned from setting foot inside Annapolis high following an alleged Hollywood-style car chase in which she has been accused of trying to run one of her former teachers off the road, the day after she was ousted as head following staff pressure.

Spanish teacher Milagros Cancel was driving by the education authority offices in Annapolis, near Washington DC, on March 18, when her ex-boss gave hot pursuit, Anne Arundel county district court heard.

Ms Williams "threw her car against my car causing me nearly a fatal collision", Ms Cancel alleged. Ms Williams later pulled "side by side and looked at me", then swerved into me and "tried to make me lose control of my car", she added.

Ms Cancel also alleged that Ms Williams "previously stalked me".

Slapping Williams with a peace order, temporarily barring her from Annapolis high, the judge did not rule on the validity of the charges. Bad blood flowed between the two from previous postings, Ms Cancel said. But the feud was just another ingredient in a heady cocktail of racial conflict, staff insurrection and student violence that finally boiled over with Ms Williams's exclusion and ended a rollercoaster eight-month tenure as head.

Ms Williams, an African American, was employed to close the chronic achievement gulf between white pupils and trailing black peers at the education authority's flagship school.

Students were ordered to carry transparent backpacks so weapons could not be concealed. But Ms Williams's methods were unpopular with some staff and parents. Several students donned mock prison costumes to protest at "draconian conditions", while some, mainly white, parents waged a campaign to oust her.

Black community leaders rallied behind Ms Williams, however.

A spokesman denied that education officials capitulated to racist pressure by removing her last month, calling it a "personnel decision" reached after an investigation into a daytime assault on a student stripped naked on a sports pitch raised "safety questions" about supervision at the school.

Ms Williams and Ms Cancel settled privately last Friday and the court order was cancelled.

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