A guest Op-Ed by Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong
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 minimum standards, including enough time in the classroom.
We trusted that the superintendent would follow the Maryland State Department of Education’s mission whose overarching strategic plan includes 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, unproven, ed-tech programs.
We trusted the superintendent’s plan to pilot STAT in select “Lighthouse Schools,”for a time sufficient to evaluate efficacy and work out problems. Instead, STAT was rolled out quickly, despite no proven positive learning outcomes. We trusted that the superintendent would follow BCPS 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 BCPS 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 such contracts for unproven ed-tech programs and applications. We trusted that the Board of Education, County Council and County Executive would exercise fiduciary and efficacy oversight. Instead, approval for the funding of such sole-source 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 additional 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Baltimore County is home to the second oldest inventory of schools in the state, buildings in disrepair, overcrowded, outdated, and even unsafe.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 an apparent 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, nay, we deserve a full-fledged independent audit. So the little trust that we still have is now turning to our state representatives serving in the Office of Legislative Audits to stand up for the children of Baltimore County and conduct a Special Review Audit spanning Dallas Dance’s tenure with the county school district.
You have the power, and we have the vote.
Related: Dance’s breach of trust