The Montgomery County School Board's decision to abolish its Minority Relations Monitoring Committee and create another that is less "confrontational" has infuriated black groups who say the board wants submissive members who won't disagree with its policies.
School board members strongly denied the charges as "absolutely false" yesterday, and said they have made a commitment to improve the educational status of black students and that they want a committee that will instill fresh ideas and consider the rights of all minorities, including Hispanics and Asians as well as religious groups.
But at a recent press conference in Rockville, leaders from seven black organizations reiterated their support of the old committee and said they will tell other blacks not to apply or serve on the new advisory group.
"The Board of Education has found it difficult to deal with the intellectual blacks on the old committee," said Dr. James Moon, civil rights activist in the county. "A raised voice, especially from blacks, is a no-no. They want a non-threatening group to deal with."
"That's absolutely false," countered Montgomery County School Board President Carol Wallace, who claimed the committee fostered an atmosphere of confrontation. "It's not what they said but how they said it. They were always antagonistic and not cooperative, muttering charges of 'racism' under their breath."
The fracas comes at a time when Montgomery County blacks are already concerned over what they perceive as a conservative drift by the school board and the school board's recent decisions on school closings which allow greater concentrations of blacks in schools with high minority enrollments.
The abolished committee, formed by the school board in 1975, was designed to monitor the school system's compliance of minority relations guidelines formed after various citizens complained about disparate conditions within the schools.
Revised and retitled "Black Relations Action Steps" in 1977-78, they were designed to "maintain an atmosphere in which black students will be respected, achieve academic success and benefit from all aspects of educational services."
The 22-member citizen committee, comprised of 11 blacks, monitored staffing, academic grouping, black studies, disciplinary procedures, relationships between black and white students, curricular and extracurricular activities, said committee member Donald Buckner.
Those findings were submitted to the board at an annual meeting, Buckner said.
But Buckner and other committee members charged that "our reports during these years have not been addressed."
Some of those claims are echoed by school board member Blair Ewing, a holdover from the more liberal board of the past. He opposed disbanding the committee.
"In the last two years, the board has been less willing to meet and discuss with the committee," he said. "The board has grown steadily less interested.
Board member Dr. Marian Greenblatt, however, said the old committee lacked "a genuine concern for education. I believe their motives have become political instead. The same sort of confrontation has existed between the committee and previous school boards."
The school board yesterday released a staff response to a recent committee report and figures on the California Aptitude Tests, standardized exams that rate educational achievement. They showed Montgomery County blacks scoring better or equal to national averages for white students.
"You can't say we aren't interested or concerned," Wallace said. "The test scores and report bear that out."
The rift between the board and the committee reached its peak last spring after school board members Greenblatt, Joseph Barse, Suzanne Peyser and Eleanor Zappone wrote a letter to the U.S Department of Education and President Reagan, asking them to stop civil rights probes of some Montgomery schools by the education department's Office of Civil Rights, Wallace said.
The committee promptly stormed out of the meeting. Soon after, the board abolished the committee.