When the Carroll County Board of Education formed the Redistricting and School Closure Committee to involve school system staff, parents and community members to determine the best course forward for the school system’s facilities, it was in response, at least in part, to the community’s cries that the previous process to close schools was not transparent enough.

While RSCC meetings have been made open to the public to observe — although, sadly, not many residents have attended these meetings, despite a potential significant impact on their communities depending on its recommendations — one of the committee’s initial shortcomings was that the meetings were not recorded for the public to view at a later time.


On Thursday, the last meeting of the RSCC before it is set to present its final suggestions to the Board of Education next month, the committee’s paid facilitator David Lever refused to release the draft suggestions that were discussed at said meeting to the public, including the Times reporter who has been following the committee since its formation.

Without knowing exactly what those draft suggestions were, it would make following Thursday night’s discussion difficult to follow for any member of the public, since most of the committee’s work was directly related to the documents in front of them.

Officially, Carroll County Public Schools’ statement is that because this is a draft report and not the final report, it does not have to release them under discretionary exceptions in the Maryland Public Information Act laws, which state: “… a custodian may deny the right of inspection to certain records or parts of records, but only if disclosure would be contrary to the ‘public interest’ … .”

“The only things we are not releasing is the draft report until it is in its final version. This avoids multiple variations of the report being circulated and confusing the public,” the school system said in a statement to the Times. Superintendent Steven Lockard and Assistant Superintendent of Administration Jon O’Neal supported not releasing the draft report, according to a CCPS spokeswoman.

Most of the work being done at Thursday night’s meeting seemed to center around wordsmithing some of the suggestions, not a drastic overhaul. Moreover, the committee did not discuss meeting again publicly prior to presenting before the Board of Education Sept. 12 and will be making any additional changes electronically.

Wasn’t it emailed discussions regarding closure recommendations between Board of Education members that infuriated the community last time? What exactly is in these suggestions that disclosing them would be contrary to the public interest, as stated under the exception in PIA law?

In March, during the RSCC’s earliest meetings, Lever talked about how important the community’s trust and feedback was in the process to avoid the resentment from the last closure process, stating the committee must “bend over backwards” to achieve that.

In a phone interview with the Times following a listening session at Winters Mill High School in late April, Lever said the committee would go back to the public for feedback once it came up with possible recommendations. That, obviously, hasn’t happened and seems unlikely to, given the time constraints.

The most recent actions of Lever, the RSCC and the school system choosing not to release the draft report flies in the face of the stated goal of transparency. What really is contrary to the public interest is not releasing the RSCC’s suggestions for the public to digest prior to the Sept. 12 Board of Education meeting.

We implore CCPS officials and Lever to consider the message being sent to the public and, if there are no plans to release the draft report, then to schedule a time when the final suggestions are presented to the public prior to the Sept. 12 meeting.