The Montgomery County School Board heard from hundreds of angry parents and citizens last night as the board convened to hear their views on school closings.
More than 20 representatives of different school communities spoke to the board, leveling accusations that faulty data and faulty judgments were used in some of the closing decisions.
While the board heard some harsh comments, several members defended the actions taken in the last month that will result in the closing of 28 schools by 1984.
Board member Marian L. Greenblatt, in a prepared statement, denied charges that have been made over the past few months that the board's decisions were politically motivated. Greenblatt has been under attack by some parents for votes she has taken involving her neighborhood school, Cresthaven Elementary. In her statement she said the "politically wise" thing for the board to have done would have been to close no schools and thereby "anger no one."
Greenblatt presented a detailed defense of the board's actions concerning minority students, and contended that the board's decisions will improve overall racial balance in the schools.
Greenblatt said the most angered communities were the most vocal and that "the public is not hearing from those people in the county who are glad we are being fiscally responsible and are glad we have made these hard decisions . . . . "
However, supporters of the board's actions appeared to be few in number at the meeting at Wheaton High School. At the outset, about 75 protesters from Takoma Park, led by Mayor Sam Abbott, marched through the auditorium chanting "We shall not be moved." The board has voted to close Takoma Park Junior High School.
The Takoma Park City Council recently voted to spend $5,000 to hire lawyers to challenge the board's vote on the junior high.
Greenblatt, in her statement, said savings incurred by closing schools would pay the salaries of 78 teachers.
She added that "race" is "the most recent buzzword for those dissatisfied with a decision to close (a) school."
"No amount of race-baiting is going to change the facts that this board has acted fairly and has used its best collective judgment," she said. She presented figures showing that eight of 28 schools closed had minority enrollments of over 40 percent and that almost the same number -- six -- had minority enrollments below the county average of 23.8 percent.
Board member Blair Ewing, a frequent critic of the board for its decisions on racial integration issues, reiterated in a prepared statement that the board had taken actions in cases in which high minority schools were involved that could be viewed as discriminatory and result in legal challenges.