Monday, December 22, 2014

Washington Post and Gazette fooled again by MCPS

Tofig admits that $25,000 stock trading fund never really existed at Gaithersburg High School

Stock Trading Room equipment mysteriously disappears

The MCPS announcement on November 26, 2006 was big news.   "Gaithersburg High School Celebrates Opening of First High School Stock Trading Room in Nation."  Funded by a $75,000 grant from the NASDAQ foundation, the school had received an electronic ticker board, a NASDAQ data board, and other equipment to support the Academy of Finance program.  This was a huge win for a school that had a high poverty rate, declining test scores and a seriously decaying building.

Adding even more excitement, MCPS claimed that "Students Have $25,000 Fund to Trade", donated by "a longtime supporter of the school system who wishes to remain anonymous."  And for good measure, according to the announcement, "the school will keep any profits in the account."

The Washington Post and The Gazette both picked up the story, devoting considerable coverage to the grand opening of the trading room.  

"The most intriguing part, financial educators say, is that students will invest real money," wrote Daniel de Vise of the Washington Post.  "You have to have real money involved in order to get the students to take it seriously," said Scott Hoover, adviser to the student investment club at Washington and Lee University. "If you can get the students to take it seriously, they can do wonders."

In the Gazette, reporter Jamie Ciavarra included a quote from Principal Darryl Williams:  "Any money the students make will go back to the school to fund additional programs, while the donor has agreed to absorb any losses."

It sounded almost too good to be true.   And in fact, it wasn't true, according to a letter obtained last week from MCPS Public Information Officer Dana Tofig.  The $25,000 "donation" never took place.  No investment profits have been contributed to the school.  The "real money" that was "needed to get the students take the program seriously" was as fictitious as the profits that were contributed to the school.  

Adding further insult to the integrity of the finance program at GHS, the electronic ticker board, the NASDAQ data board and other equipment obtained with the $75,000 NASDAQ grant have disappeared from the school.  
"No one knows what happened to it," said a GHS finance teacher at an onsite visit by a Parents' Coalition member. The only physical evidence that the NASDAQ-funded equipment ever existed are the screw holes in the wall where the large displays were mounted.  

As for evidence that the anonymous donation "never came to fruition" -- or even that there was an anonymous donor at all --  the Parents' Coalition has requested documentation showing that someone had planned to fund the trading account.   So far, however, MCPS has not come forth with anything, even with names redacted, that shows that anyone ever intended to create the stock trading fund.

(Photo of Superintendent Jerry Weast yucking it up on opening day is from The Gazette archives.)



  1. $75000 worth of electronic equipment is missing? Call the police.

  2. How is this different from plagiarism or cheating on a test?

  3. The school administration
    Released public information
    Regarding the donation
    For the stock market education
    That it was a clever orchestration
    A mere figment of the imagination.

  4. If I were part of the NASDAQ Foundation and found out our donation was squandered I'd want answers from the County not just the school. How can this be treated as an "oh well, lets move on"? If I donated to a school I'd want to know that it wasn't wasted and was being used as intended. Did the county/school fraudulently misrepresent the program? If I were a big donor why would I want to donate again if my donation isn't accounted for or managed properly? Then again if I donated and didn't see anything come of it by year 2 I'd be asking questions then. It's been what, 8 years now? If I were a Freshman parent in 2006, why wasn't there a raucous by 2010 when nothing came of it?

  5. Welcome to Montco; I meant the theater of the absurd.

  6. I assume someone will be contacting the NASDAQ foundation to follow up. Elected officials in Montgomery County -- or even in the state of Maryland -- may not be interested, but New York is a different story.


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