Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Dear Mr. Barclay:"

A May 9th letter from Shannon Hamm to Christopher Barclay, President, Montgomery County Board of Education:

Dear Mr. Barclay:

I am writing you to express my concern about the lack of transparency and due process that the BOE participated in during your April 28th meeting to determine a site for a new middle school in Montgomery County. I am a long time resident of this county and have lived in Rock Creek Hills for 19 years.

You can only imagine the shock we all had regarding this decision, especially given that no one on the Rock Creek Hills Board was contacted. I, having not been the President of Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association since 2004, got a voice mail from a Mr. Bruce Cristo on April 13, stating that the MCPS had considered three sites for a new middle school and Rock Creek Hills was one of them, but was NOT chosen. I promptly let the current President, John Robinson know of the call and provided contact information. What is concerning about this is that lack of fact checking about who was the current President. We maintain a wonderful website and keep our Executive Board information up to date. It would not have been difficult for anyone on the MCPS Planning Office to have contacted the current Board at the beginning of the review process as opposed to contacting me at the end of the process. This is insulting to us as a community, as I understand from the Gazette article (by Sarah Gantz and Andrew Ujifusa) and a resident who did attend the April 28th meeting of the BOE that members from the other possibly impacted neighborhoods were prepared to present information and had had the privilege of being informed.

It is unacceptable that public officials can make decisions regarding the use of public funds without a transparent process. I would like you or one of the Board members to provide me with your process for making decisions, how you engage the public in that process, how you chose the sites for the proposed middle school, as well as what considerations you have conducted for the impact to the environment (the park land and recreational fields) as well as to the impact to the retirement home and all of the elderly residents that call the Kensington Park their home.

I will not dispute the fact that lower Montgomery County needs more schools, and am still reeling that the old Larchmont elementary school was sold to Grace Episcopal for a private school. What the BOE is showing publically, is not a transparent process for decision making, but the inability to conduct sound long term planning that does not result in an emergency and resentment by the county residents.

I moved here to send my children to our public schools, as I had heard how great MCPS was. While the teachers and many of the schools are wonderful, the bureaucracy that runs the schools is broken and needs fixing. That is the emergency, which does include making such important decisions with ZERO input from those impacted.

Finally, Rock Creek Hills is holding an emergency meeting on May 17th at North Chevy Chase Elementary school to discuss these issues. The meeting starts at 7 pm. I invite you and other BOE members to attend.


Shannon R. Hamm
9805 East Bexhill Drive
Kensington, MD 20895

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