MCPS Responds to IG's Seven Locks ES Audit

February 21, 2006
ROCKVILLE, MD – Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast released a detailed report to the Board of Education Tuesday rejecting the findings of the Montgomery County Inspector General concerning the Seven Locks Elementary School replacement project at Kendale.

The Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) report spells out numerous details that were omitted from the inspector general’s report and points out that the inspector general failed to consider the full body of evidence concerning this complex project in preparing his audit.

“The report last week by the inspector general omits key facts concerning the replacement project for Seven Locks Elementary School, including several actions taken by the Board of Education and County Council in the months and years leading to decisions in 2004,” Superintendent Weast wrote in a memo to the Board of Education Tuesday. “The report distorts what is a fair and open process designed to serve the best interests of the children in Montgomery County. The report’s findings are not supported by the public record or accounts of the events by key members of the Council and Board who were involved at the time. The suggestion that they and their colleagues were misinformed about important aspects of this project is simply inaccurate.”

Included in the MCPS report are statements from four elected officials who were involved in the decision making process to build the replacement school at Kendale. The officials include Councilmember Steve Silverman, who was Council president when the decision was made in 2004, and Councilmember Michael Subin, who was and remains chair of the Council’s Education Committee. Both councilmembers have asserted that they were not misled by the school system and understood the range of options available and the rationale for selecting the Kendale site. In addition, Board President Charles Haughey and Vice President Sharon Cox, who was Board president in 2004, also released statements challenging the report’s critical assertions. Their statements contradict suggestions that viable options to the replacement project were somehow hidden in the midst of a very public and community-involved process of facilities planning and decision making.

Superintendent Weast writes that the plan to move the Seven Locks Elementary School to the Kendale location “was the correct decision in 2004 and remains so today” and that he supports moving ahead with the building of the new school at Kendale.

The Kendale site is the best option to meet the needs of the students in the Potomac and Seven Locks community because it will alleviate overcrowding at Potomac Elementary; provide a new, modern facility for the students; prevent the students from being moved to a holding school; and is about $2 million cheaper than modernizing the existing Seven Locks Elementary School and building an addition onto the school, Weast wrote in his memo.

The report to the board includes a detailed analysis by MCPS Chief Operating Officer Larry A. Bowers. Mr. Bowers’ analysis points out that the inspector general:

• Failed to consider the full body of evidence concerning this project;
• Ignored the fact that the Board of Education and County Council were fully briefed on the available options;
• Does not acknowledge that the rationale for building a replacement school on the Kendale site was based on an earlier decision by the County Council to move forward with capital projects at several elementary schools, including Seven Locks, and use a phased process that would complete additions to address capacity concerns several years before funding projects to modernize these same facilities;
• Did not consider the life-cycle cost analysis completed in Fall 2004 that was used to demonstrate the cost effectiveness of the replacement school for state funding;
• Distorts the review process for approval of state funding by the state’s Interagency Committee on Public School Construction (IAC), which provides significant oversight and accountability for all school construction projects;
• Ignored supporting documentation from County Council staff and first-hand observations of MCPS staff demonstrating that there was community support for the Kendale replacement option in February 2004;
• Does not acknowledge that MCPS complied with state statutes governing the selection of an architect for this project.
The full report is available at the link below.

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