Parent-Teacher Associations from 15 soon-to-be-closed Montgomery County schools yesterday called on the state Board of Education to block any closings in Montgomery until it can investigate what the PTAs called the "arbitrary, inequitable and inconsistent" decisions of the county school board.
In a petition sent to the state board yesterday, the PTAs claim "significant procedural violations" occurred during the course of the Montgomery board's actions on school closings. The petition charges that "political deals" and conflict-of-interest allegations have tainted the school closing process.
The signers of the petition represent more than half of the 27 schools slated for closing by the board. Many of them say, like Connecticut Park Elementary PTA President George Papadopoulos, that they were not given sufficient warning to prepare arguments on why their school should remain open.
"In particular, our school was not in the preliminary recommendations, but was targeted in the final recommendations. We weren't given enough time to prepare an argument," Papadopoulos said. He said he does not object to the decision to close his school, but added: "We don't want the school board to have a free hand in doing things they should not do."
School board member Marian Greenblatt responded to the petition yesterday by saying it would be "wiser for the community to get on to other things. Rather than maintaining the antagonism and rivalries, let's get on with education."
Board member Elizabeth Spencer said she preferred to withhold comment until she could read the petition.
Specifically, the petition asks for a stay of the school closing process until a complete investigation and a public hearing are conducted by the state Board of Education. The petition also asks for a written statement of accountability from the county board that justifies each of its decisions.
The "adverse effects" of the school board's decisions "are irreversible and irreparable," the petition says. "The state Board of Education must take strong and immediate action to stay the process so that proper remedies may be sought."
"We feel that appeals in the past have taken a great deal of time to hear and most occur after the school has been closed," said Robert Sher of the Georgetown Hill Elementary PTA.