Monday, June 27, 2011

"Put the goal of a great middle school education out in front ..." [Testimony at tonight's Board of Ed meeting]

Good evening:

I am David Kaplan, I live in Kensington. I am in support of public education. I believe that you are seeking an increase our educational infrastructure for two reasons. First and foremost, we need to ensure that facilities throughout the County provide for an equitable educational experience that will prepare our children for the future; Westland is overcrowded and predictions are that our population will increase. Secondly, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, our economy and County development IS dependent having adequate classroom space available to meet the anticipated growth in Montgomery County. As citizens, we rely on the Montgomery County Board of Education (MCBOE) and its new Superintendent, Parks and Planning, the Council, the Executive to ensure that you are making good policy and administrative decisions to sustain academic excellence AND the quality of life we enjoy in Montgomery County.

I attended the MCBOE meeting when a budget was approved for the feasibility study based on a poorly conceived and improperly executed site selection process. A flawed feasibility process should be of concern to you as it is not seeking to address the root-question upon which the vote was based; will the study answer your question: “Can the Rock Creek Hills Park (RCHP) provide a feasible opportunity for a school that will meet the needs of our students at a reasonable cost?” Through my testimony, I recommend that the MCBOE provide additional oversight.

I would like to make a few suggestions for your consideration. Our shared reality is that both the educational system and county developers/planners are pressing for a CIP proposal for a middle school in. The stakes are high for the developers; however, educational needs can be met in a number of ways that have not surfaced, to the best of my knowledge. I have to ask myself; why do we have the fox watching the hen house in our feasibility study and why are we putting all of our eggs in one basket in moving forward with a narrowly focused CIP proposal?

I guess the answer is Tradition! The traditional MCBOE policy for school construction has been to identify a single site via a site selection report and thereafter to develop a feasibility study that is site- specific. Times have changed. I would like to suggest that the BOE revise its policy to consider additional options. Am I missing something here, is the outcome of the feasibility study predetermined?

Wouldn’t it make sense while conducting the feasibility study to consider focusing more on the requirements and costs for the BCC middle school-#2 and for alternatives.

The decision to select RCHP as the site for the new school was unduly pressured and the process was flawed; thus far we are seeing options presented in the feasibility study that will not provide for a school with parity at a reasonable cost. I would like to suggest that the MCBOE work with other branches of MC government and with the private sector to identify public/private partnerships where developers become part of the equation in the process; they have a fiduciary opportunity and responsibility that has not been realized. I also understand that the BOE will meet with the NCPP. I am hopeful that additional possible approaches will emerge.

Please consider taking a different approach; get a proposal into the CIP as a place holder if it is warranted. This is a significant investment of our taxpayer dollars and in our future. You can realize the outcome you desire by exercising some flexibility and creativity; modify your policy; restore public confidence in the MCBOE. Put the goal of a great middle school education out in front rather than allowing for the public misrepresentation of outcomes of a flawed feasibility process. RCHP cannot support the needs of our middle school students.

Thank you for your consideration.

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