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BCPS needs full and independent audit

We trusted that the Baltimore County Board of Education would select a qualified superintendent. Instead, a special dispensation had to be given to allow Dallas Dance to serve as superintendent because he didn’t meet the set minimum standards.

We trusted that the superintendent would follow the Maryland State Department of Education’s mission and its overarching strategic plan of data-informed decisions and high quality resources. Instead, the superintendent gambled our children’s future on STAT — Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow, a for-profit digital takeover of education fueled mostly by untried, untested and unproven ed tech programs.

We trusted the superintendent’s plan to pilot STAT in select “Lighthouse Schools” that would be sufficient to evaluate efficacy and work out problems. Instead, STAT was rolled out quickly. We trusted that the superintendent would follow Rule 6002, “Evaluation and Selection of Instructional Materials,” which requires that selected materials be free of questions or activities that invade personal or family privacy by requiring students to reveal private, personal or family information. Instead, computer-based learning companies have been allowed to collect, store, and utilize student information without parental consent. We trusted that STAT would improve academic achievement. Instead, program evaluators from Johns Hopkins report little to no improvement linked directly to the digital initiative.

We trusted that Baltimore County Public Schools would implement the recommendation to amend its existing policies to require competitive procurement methods for all contracts for services. Instead, BCPS, through Rule 6002 which fosters such high-dollar no-bid contracts, continues to negotiate multi-million dollar no-bid contracts for unproven ed-tech programs and applications. We trusted that the school board, County Council and County Executive Kevin Kamenetz would exercise fiduciary and efficacy oversight. Instead, approval for the funding of no-bid contracts and questionable curricular materials were freely given.

We trusted that the health and safety of our children would be of paramount importance. Instead, students are exposed to an unregulated amount of screen time in school with more required for homework. We trusted that schools would be maintained and upgraded regularly. Instead, Baltimore County is home to the second oldest inventory of schools in the state, in disrepair, overcrowded, outdated, and even unsafe. We trusted that state and county tax dollars would be spent wisely. Instead, more than enough money to rebuild two new high schools is being spent on digitizing education.

And now that the curtain has been drawn back exposing a web of deceit, BCPS is asking us to trust it to conduct an audit, an audit that it has designed, an audit that is limited in scope (not the six years under the former superintendent), an audit that mostly cherry picks contracts that were bid out rather than focusing on the no-bid variety. This is tantamount to a fox auditing a hen house. No! Enough is enough. We need and deserve a full-fledged independent audit (“Dallas Dance’s guilty plea spurs renewed calls for Baltimore County school system audit,” March 8). So we trusted that the state legislature would step up and step in to conduct a Special Review Audit spanning Dallas Dance's tenure with the county school district. They declined on the eve when the Baltimore County Board of Education is set to vote for an expansion of the STAT program to the tune of an additional $140 million — the signature program of our disgraced former superintendent.

Government is not inherently bad, but bad governance is criminal.

Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong, Timonium

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