Principal's Side Business Raises Questions . . .

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By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 10, 2008

Montgomery school officials are looking into a consulting business run by the principal of Richard Montgomery High School after learning that the business was scheduled to have an event at the Rockville school.

Moreno Carrasco's home in Germantown is listed in corporate records as the address of Executive Coaching Services, a company he founded two years ago. The business offers workshops, Carrasco said, for principals who want to do their jobs more efficiently, improve achievement and spend more time in classrooms with teachers and students.

Most of the content on the company's Web site, http://www.savetheprincipal.com, was taken down last week after parent activists began questioning the ethics of Carrasco's firm. The site showed Breakthrough Principal Institutes scheduled on several dates when school is in session. One seminar was scheduled for April 29 at the Richard Montgomery campus during school hours. Registration fees range upward from $99, according to the site.

Brian Edwards, chief of staff to Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, said the business was brought to his attention Friday, when a reporter called to ask about it.

"We are conducting an investigation, and we will take appropriate actions as warranted," Edwards said. The school board's ethics policy "is clear," he said, "that you cannot have any outside employment that impinges on your duties as an employee . . . That doesn't mean that you cannot consult evenings, weekends, or take a day of leave."

Carrasco, 50, said he has followed that policy, taking leave time on the few occasions he has had consulting events on school days. He said that he has had events at his school, but that those were "coordinated through the central office" of the school system and offered free. He said the upcoming event at Richard Montgomery was to be free as well; the fee listed on the Internet site was incorrect.

"There have never been any seminars held for personal gains at our school," Carrasco said. He said he has declined invitations to train educators in distant locales, such as India, "because I care and respect my responsibilities as principal of Richard Montgomery High School."

An oft-decorated educator, Carrasco was named 2007 Principal of the Year for Maryland by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. He has been at Richard Montgomery since 2003. His school offers the premiere college-preparatory International Baccalaureate program.

Stephen Abrams, the school board member whose district includes Rockville, said the arrangement gives the appearance, at least, that Carrasco is engaging in private enterprise while drawing public pay.

"What's troubling to me is that it occurred during the time when the principal was suppose to be acting as principal," Abrams said.

The consulting business has been a topic of much discussion on the e-mail list of the political action committee Parents Coalition of Montgomery County, a clearinghouse for parental activism and outrage concerning the superintendent and school board.

Weast Taking Work Home

Some elected officials are questioning what went on in Superintendent Jerry D. Weast's home during a recent pair of meetings between the superintendent and labor leaders that included discussion of school board President Nancy Navarro's candidacy for the County Council.


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