Readers Respond

Baltimore County schools should be audited | READER COMMENTARY

Baltimore County Public Schools staffing manager Bradley Kouyoumjian hosts a recruitment event at Loch Raven High School. Aug. 4, 2022. (Kenneth K. Lam/Baltimore Sun).

Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. makes some very good points about the Baltimore County Board of Education’s spending tactics (”Baltimore County executive: School board budget supplement ‘unsustainable’ and ‘irresponsible,’” Aug. 11). He rightly points to the impossibility of funding the requests from Baltimore County Public Schools without new revenue sources.

I would suggest the school system — and perhaps the Baltimore County Council — look no further than the money that has been wasted in the aftermath of “the ransomware attack,” particularly where it affects the system’s 9,700 retirees.


For the past two years, BCPS has continued to deduct individual heath care, as well as life insurance, dental, cancer and vision in amounts that were not only incorrect, but resulted in hardships for those on fixed incomes. There were cases, some of which still have not been resolved, of surviving spouses continuing to have premiums for their deceased loved one deducted from their pensions.

Even when retirees became aware of the massive discrepancies and tried to rectify them by contacting the school system’s benefits office, they were given excuses for months. “We can’t do anything until the ransomware problem is fixed.” “We don’t have enough people in this office to answer all the calls.” “Leave a message and someone will call you back” (which seldom, if ever, happened). BCPS also continued to state, for months after the “attack,” that “we know of no one whose personal information was compromised.” Yet they offered a year’s worth of Experian protection to current employees and didn’t even notify retirees that their information had, in fact, been wiped out. A data expert was hired to retrieve that information, for $40,000 but the company botched mailings to retirees several times, and the information to be retrieved might have been obtained from the Maryland State Pension Board, which had all that info in its files.


Numerous other, costly mistakes were made including insurance information books printed and sent to retirees who were not Medicare enrollees, or pre-Medicare employees were sent Medicare retiree premium information. Incorrect information in letters was sent out, even as staff admitted they knew it was incorrect, but sent it anyway. Books were sent out that did not contain premium costs, so no one could make choices based on need or ability to pay.

Recently, the school board announced a raise for teachers, stating that “BCPS has a $29 million surplus.” As a school system retiree, I am definitely in favor of rewarding teachers for all the hard work they’ve put in, especially during COVID. My question is, where did that surplus come from? Isn’t it likely that the money erroneously held back from 9,700 retirees for the incorrect calculations of their health care and the interest it generated for BCPS over two years, is surely a generous share of that surplus?

It’s time for a forensic audit of Baltimore County Public Schools and its assets and an accounting to the retirees for why this “deduction debacle” was allowed to go unaddressed until retirees started saying, “Show me the money.”

— Cynthia North, Baltimore

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