SOME TROUBLING questions have arisen about the integrity of the $250,000 study of Howard County's schools, which is due late next month. This may be much ado about nothing, but the charges are serious and require satisfactory answers.
A professional hired by the consultant, WCL Enterprises of Houston, claimed that while reviewing Howard County Public Schools, he was ordered to plagiarize from a report done for the Galveston, Texas, school system.
The professional, John Baldwin of Alternatives Unlimited, says he has a master's degree in education administration from Harvard University and a master's degree in American studies from the University of London. It must be noted that Mr. Baldwin apparently breached a confidentiality agreement by alleging improprieties in an e-mail to a Howard parent. And a Howard County councilman wondered whether he might be a disgruntled former employee.
In theory, moves by Baltimore and Howard counties seeking independent reviews of their entire school systems are good ideas. The Baltimore County Public Schools' report was released earlier this year and contained recommendations that led to a reorganization projected to save $1.5 million in the next fiscal year.
Howard school officials say they are confident that their report will be flawless. They say its credibility will be unquestioned when it's released.
Others aren't so sure.
It's imperative that the school system and county demand that the contractor provide tangible and indisputable assurances that the report will paint an honest, unblemished portrait of county school operations so that recommendations will carry full weight.