The teachers were placed on administrative leave in mid-March after a probe conducted by the school’s safety and security department and aided by Richmond police, Johnson says.
Richmond schools spokeswoman Treeda Smith says that an investigation into the teachers’ alleged misconduct continues. Smith declined to elaborate further, citing city personnel policy.
George Wythe Principal Earl Pappy, the school’s fifth principal in six years, did not return Style’s calls by press time.
Neither Pollard, a math teacher, nor Langhorne, who taught parenting, nutrition and fashion, could be reached by Style. Langhorne has an unlisted phone number, according to directory assistance. A telephone message left at a listing for Cynthia Pollard was not returned.
Both teachers had been employed by Richmond Public Schools for less than two years and each earns annual salaries of about $34,000, according to School Board minutes.
Wythe, which had 1,229 students at the beginning of the school year, is the city’s largest public school. It has faced more than its fair share of difficulties.
On May 17, Richmond police arrested math teacher Tracy Ricardo Carter, charging him with two counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor while maintaining a custodial or supervisory relationship. Students say a custodian caught Carter and a male student after school hours having sexual relations in a hallway.
A preliminary hearing for Carter is set for May 28. Meanwhile, he has been suspended without pay, spokeswoman Smith says, routine school policy when criminal charges are filed against an employee. (No charges have been filed against the female teachers.)
Weeks before Carter’s arrest, rumor of scandal was beginning to upend a fragile environment at Wythe, one struggling to stabilize, Johnson says.
A tell-all may be to blame.
An anonymously written booklet called “The Secrets of George Wythe” began circulating throughout the school in November, according to School Board members and students. It details an array of purported indiscretions by faculty and students and contains at least three chapters and more than 40 pages. It’s explicit. It names names.
“Kids are brutally honest,” Johnson says. “The administration dismissed this book and there are things in there we need to pay attention to.” He adds, “It’s almost like Peyton Place. I keep waiting for the next thing to pop up.”
Earlier this spring the school system erroneously allowed two students who had been suspended for possessing knives at school to return. Weeks later, police charged Thomas Michael Green, a Bulldogs’ star basketball player, with felonious assault for an alleged attack using his hands. The incident occurred while Green was present during a gang-related shooting.
Last week, friends and family held a vigil for Army Pfc. Leslie D. Jackson, a popular 2003 Wythe graduate who was killed May 20 while serving in Baghdad.
Johnson emphasizes Wythe’s strength and the dedication of most of its teachers and students. He says that Wythe, especially its principal, doesn’t receive the support needed to move ahead from Superintendent Deborah Jewell-Sherman and her administration.
The School Board voted to not renew teacher Pollard’s contract, which ends in late summer, says Johnson, and Langhorne is expected to resign in 30 days.
There is “no policy in place” for the school system to deal publicly with the problem of inappropriate relationships between students and teachers, Johnson contends.
“If you’re not talking about it you’re condoning it,” Johnson says. What has happened at Wythe could serve as a wake-up call, he says: “The sad thing is, if you did some digging in other places at other schools, I think you’d find similar stuff going on.” — Brandon Walters
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