Monday, November 14, 2011

"... this is a breath of fresh air!" [Testimony at tonight's Board of Ed hearing]

Good evening. My name is Lynne Kaplan, and I want to express my thanks to Dr. Starr, Mr. Barclay, and to the Board for providing this opportunity to testify before you today. I also want to thank you, Dr. Starr, for taking action to “restart the process in a transparent and inclusive manner”; this is a breath of fresh air! I value and encourage support for your request by Board and County Council representatives. We are grateful that you have recognized many of the significant challenges attached to the selection of the Rock Creek Hills Park site.

I want to share just a few notes about my personal and professional expertise to provide some context for my thoughts:
  • I am a mother of two adult children who matriculated at public schools and speak now passionately about the value of learning in a diverse and welcoming environment.
  • I am a professional facilitator who works with organizations you all know to help them explore complex issues and identify workable solutions. Disney, Nike, the NCAA, and the NFL are just a few of the clients I have supported through my business.
  • I am a neighbor of the Rock Creek Hills community.

The decision to “restart the clock” on the BCC Middle School #2 site selection process is greatly appreciated.  The last process was flawed in both design and execution. Both the identification and the decision to select the Rock Creek Hills Park site were rushed and ignored many of the real restrictions that encumber the land.  The Feasibility Study team actually reinvented the term. Staff said their job was not to figure out if a school was feasible but how to make it fit. This yielded a recommendation for a school that will be too small from day one, too expensive because of the costs associated with preparing the site, and created a potential legal landmine for Montgomery County due to inherent facility inadequacies and lack of parity.

I believe a more transparent process is both possible and essential to address the needs of Montgomery County citizens. I support your recommendations outlined in the November 8 memorandum.  I also urge the team to look beyond the existing sites to identify viable options that will fit the identified criteria.

That said, I ask you to consider broadening your approach to develop a process that brings together qualified individuals to reexamine all the possible strategies for addressing the overcrowding of Downcounty schools.  Given the dynamics of population growth, are there other options that would meet the need and manage scare resources effectively?

Finally, I implore you to protect the Core Values and Best Practices that made Montgomery County a Malcolm Baldrige winner. The values you espouse demand that you take action to protect the racial and socio-economic balance of the BCC community. As a professional, one of my greatest pleasures is designing and facilitating leadership training for men and women who came from disadvantaged neighborhoods. For many of them, a quality public school education was one of the life lines that helped them break the cycle. All students need to learn in diverse environments so that they are prepared to live and flourish in our multicultural world.

I want to thank you again for your visionary leadership and want to confirm our community’s intent to be of service to find the best possible solution for the children of Montgomery County.

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