Thursday, May 29, 2014

FCPS vs. MCPS: Comparing their responses to a request for information

One state, two adjacent counties, each with their own school system.  Let's see how Frederick County Public Schools responds to a request for documents compared with Montgomery County Public Schools.

A local citizen sent FCPS a request for copies of leases for cell tower sites.  FCPS emailed the requested documents -- five very long leases -- as PDF files just three days after the request was submitted.  They charged the requester nothing at all.

Another citizen sent MCPS a request for copies of expense reports for two Board of Education members.  The response was issued 29 days later.  State law allows up to 30 days for an agency to respond to a public information request.  (Unlike the FCPS response, the MCPS response didn't state the date of the request, but our records confirm that the request was sent by email 29 days before the date of the response.)

In the past, Parents' Coalition reporters have used a hand-held scanner to quickly scan documents in the MCPS public information office.  This eliminated the $0.15 per page copying charge and eliminated the need for an MCPS staffer to make copies -- which saved time and money for everyone.

Times have changed and Superintendent Starr is now prohibiting members of the public from scanning, photographing, or copying public documents, as stated in the above letter.  (The above letter was written by Chief Communications Officer Brian K. Edwards on behalf of Superintendent Starr, and we have received confirmation that this is actually Starr's rule.) 

With the choices of either paying for copies of the documents or leaving empty-handed, parents chipped in and paid a considerable sum to purchase the copies from MCPS.   The MCPS documents were then shared with the media, which led to public disclosure of BOE member Chris Barclay's use of the MCPS American Express card for personal expenses, overnight stays at local hotels, purchase of a fancy cake, and other questionable purchases.

In contrast, as mentioned above, FCPS provided PDF files of the requested documents for free in just three days.

Please take time to read the letters.   Which letter would you prefer to receive?


  1. I'm surprised that MCPS was that gracious or forthcoming. Usually, it's just "No, you can't have it."

  2. I am running on a platform that includes transparency and accountability. Today in my opening at Leisure World I suggested that it was time for our Board of Education to actually stand up and collaborate with Dr. Starr (rather than waiting for him to make proposals and saying "yes," take responsibility, and represent the citizens of Montgomery County. I believe it's what our citizens expect from the people they elect to manage such a sizable part of our county's budget. Jill Ortman-Fouse also includes transparency and accountability in her campaign platform. She wants the school system to hire an Independent Auditor. I doubt she'd appreciate secret spending on the part of the Board of Education - public dollars belong in our classrooms. Ed Amatetti, who has experience doing budget audits for cities, would like to tear the school budget apart and look for ways to save money. I can't imagine him tolerating this kind of nonsense. If the current Board of Education doesn't want to do anything now, they should look at the candidates running for the At-Large seat and get ready.

    Merry Eisner-Heidorn

    1. Candidates web site URLs please.

  3. This is more of Starr's arrogance - throwing up barriers to protect himself and his cronies from providing the public information that MCPS is legally required to provide. This behavior will not stand. If Dr. Starr is unequal to the public obligations that he is paid to uphold, he should move on. He phones in his job, except when it comes to this type of petty nastiness. He's remarkably swift when it comes to throwing up the barriers to public obligations that he regards as nuisance.

  4. Candidate websites as requested (in alphabetical order):

    Edward Amatetti:
    Merry Eisner-Heidorn (ME):
    Jill Ortman-Fouse:


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