My name is Barb Krupiarz and I am the mother of 2 boys in Howard County Public Schools. I am also the Chair of the Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee which is chartered by state law to advise the school system on the needs of children with disabilities.
In June of 2014, HCPSS paid $300,000 for a sole source contract to audit special education.
The Superintendent talked about the preliminary report from this audit in a public Board of Education meeting. The previous Director of Special Ed stated in an email that “[t]he Superintendent, Linda Wise, Judy Pattik and I worked with the preliminary report.” The official HCPSS response to a MPIA for this report was “no such preliminary report exists”.
So, I filed a court complaint alleging violations of the Maryland Public Information Act for this instance as well as other documents I had requested that had not been produced. HCPSS then provided me a preliminary report – a report they said did not exist -- but 27 pages out of 34 were blank except for the word “redacted” on each page and is dated 4 months prior to their MPIA response saying it didn't exist.
This left me with little recourse besides a protracted legal fight against the nearly limitless legal funds of the Board of Education. I tried to settle the case four times, but the Board continued to litigate. In the first 3 months of this fiscal year, HCPSS has spent over $27,000 in legal fees just to fight Maryland Public Information Act requests.
This is why HCPSS needs to be singled out with more stringent requirements. Whether it is parents of special needs kids wanting to see an audit report or parents of children with mold allergies asking for mold test results, or a mother whose daughter committed suicide asking for records to prevent this happening to another child, not only are we denied public records, but there seems to be a pattern of covering up what they don’t want us to know. I find it hard to believe that any of these results are bad enough to warrant such a lack of transparency.
The Superintendent spoke about the large number of public information act requests. I suspect that is due to the lack of providing information up front and purposely keeping information from citizens.
I urge you to pass this bill to force HCPSS to follow a law they seem to totally disregard under the current system.
Special Education Audit information from FY2015
Type of Contract sole source competitively bid
Cost of Contract $300,000 $150,000
Enrollment 54,870 156,455
Final Report Pages 26 153
Who Reviewed Draft Superintendent Office of Special Ed
Deputy Super General Counsel
Special Ed Dir. MCPS Exec Leadership team
Special Ed Coord. Co-chairs of Special Education
Citizen's Advisory Committee
Representative of Montgomery County
Council of PTAs