Originally created 10/28/98

Berry to replace Terlizzi



AIKEN -- Since Richard Terlizzi stepped down last month as principal of North Augusta High School, parents demanded his replacement have experience at the high school level.

But that isn't what they'll get in Rosie Berry, who has been principal of Paul Knox Middle School, although she is a nationally recognized education leader.

She was named Tuesday as Mr. Terlizzi's successor during the Aiken County Board of Education meeting. Superintendent Linda Eldridge chose Mrs. Berry from three finalists, and her recommendation was accepted 8-1.

Board member Sheran Proctor opposed Mrs. Berry's promotion.

"Paul Knox has had four principals and one interim principal in the past 10 years. That school deserves the stability that Mrs. Berry has begun to achieve," Ms. Proctor said in a prepared statement. "... This candidate also has no secondary administrative experience. Our high school is among the largest in the state and is not the place for an administrator to acquire experience to further a career."

Mr. Terlizzi wanted his old job back, but he didn't survive the screening process. Twelve applicants applied, including finalists Mrs. Berry; Gene Robbins, recently retired assistant principal of North Augusta High School; and Doug Odom, assistant principal of Spring Valley High School in Columbia.

Mr. Terlizzi's resignation and subsequent arrest on embezzlement charges left the community reeling. He was credited for improving attendance, attitude and morale during his tenure. The criminal charge was the only blot on his record.

Mr. Terlizzi surrendered to authorities Sept. 23 and later was released on a $2,500 personal recognizance bond, charged with embezzling public money from the high school. Details and specifics of the case remain unclear.

An outside audit found the former principal twice received checks for $500 and deposited them without giving them to the bookkeeper, a procedure violation. Mr. Terlizzi admitted to twice removing cash from school deposits for personal use, said school board Chairman John Bradley.

"With unresolved charges outstanding against him -- charges that go to the heart of public trust -- it would seem to go without saying that Mr. Terlizzi could not be considered as a candidate ... for these very reasons," Dr. Bradley said.

Mr. Terlizzi could be ordered into a pretrial intervention program rather than facing a trial because of his record.

As one of four North Augusta High principals since the 1950s, Mr. Terlizzi's reign was the shortest -- 2 1/2 years.

Chasiti Kirkland can be reached at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.