I hope everyone has been enjoying a fun and peaceful Memorial Day weekend so far. And that, in the middle of the travel and catching sun, and cookouts and relaxation, everyone takes the time to remember the reason why Memorial Day is a national holiday. Please take time out to remember all those who have served our great nation, especially those who gave their lives in service to it.
Howard County Board of Education Chair Christine O'Connor took the Friday before the three-day holiday weekend to mysteriously send out widely the below message, in response to County Council Chair Calvin Ball's revealing that he is going to propose Council legislation to bring the HCPSS under stronger financial oversight, including establishing an HCPSS budget oversight committee of some sort. This decision was based in the frustration the Council felt in not having received one thin shred of cooperation and transparency from HCPSS Budget and Financial guru Beverly Davis, HCPSS Superintendent Renee Foose, and most of the board that COC chairs. This was not a decision made lightly, and not, I'm sure, before weighing all alternatives and possibilities.
And the Board of Education is scheduled to meet to vote on the HCPSS FY17 budget bright and early at 8am on Tuesday, May 31. Which, again, makes the below message all the more curious. Maybe COC didn't anticipate the three-day weekend. I'll tell y'all one thing I'm damn skippy sure she didn't anticipate, and that's my reposting her message below, complete with my patented Red Text O' Truth! (R)
Ladies and gentlemen, with my editorial comment, I bring you, the wisdom of Christine E. O'Connor:
May 27, 2016
HOWARD COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION CHAIRMAN RESPONDS
TO COUNTY COUNCIL CHAIRPERSON CALL FOR FINANCIAL AUDIT
Ellicott City, Maryland—In response to Howard County Council Chairperson Calvin Ball’s call for a financial audit of the school system’s budget, Howard County Board of Education Chairman Christine E. O’Connor issued the following statement: Was anyone waiting for a response? Was one even needed?
“I appreciate the County Council Chair’s commitment to transparency and fiscal responsibility. The school system shares this same commitment. However, it is an unnecessary conflict of interest for the County Auditor, who serves at the pleasure of the Council, to cast judgment on the school system’s finances when independent audits were established to ensure accountability. Um, auditors are, by their very nature, impartial. Therefore no conflict of interest. Auditors review use of resources and evaluate adherence to best practices. That's their job. This maneuver appears to be an attempt to undermine the independence disregard for transparency and lack of accountability of the Board and politicize education as never before in Howard County. The Board has done a fine job of that already. Never before has the top two elected officials in the State of Maryland weighed in on the affairs of the HCPSS. Before this Superintendent, this Board, this year.
"Just as the county undergoes a financial audit annually by an independent external audit firm, so does the school system. From whom? The firm Johnny Carson used to mention, the firm of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe? Where is this audit? This audit includes analysis of budgetary compliance with state and county laws and regulations. Such as? The school system’s annual audits are available online for public review (included in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports) and show how taxpayer dollars are invested to provide the level of compensation that attracts and retains outstanding educators in Howard County, and supports the growing enrollment in our outstanding schools. Hold up. That's a classic COC/BOE mistruth-- in other words, lie. The Council asked many specific questions that Ms. Davis and others could not or would not answer regarding where and how public money is spent by the HCPSS. Especially in terms of the famous "Fixed Charges" category, which to me, sounds like "Superintendent's/Board's discretionary funds". My Master's is in Finance and I've been working in Finance for 20 years in the public and private sector, so if you're going to bring it to me about this, bring it strong and correct. Not this mamby-pamby COC nonsense. They couldn't answer questions I would ask, much less the Council. And frankly, with all respect to the Council, I think my knowledge of public finance is deeper and broader.
"In addition to the audit performed by an independent external auditor, the school system also is audited by the Maryland State Department of Education, the Maryland Public School Construction Program and the State of Maryland Office of Legislative Audits. All of these audits provide the public with a non-biased assurance that the school system's funds are handled appropriately.” And every single one of those audits is 30,000-foot level-- very broad, very general. None of them delve into the level of specificity that the Council was seeking. The level of specificity that the HCPSS was able or willing to reveal. And to this observer, this means that people are hiding something. Wonder what things they're hiding?
That means the press release was over. Some of John White's best work, wasn't it? Where was wishing everyone a nice holiday or offering thanks for the troops? Does COC care about everyone's holiday? Does she care about the troops? I hope she does. We know she cares a great deal about herself and about covering up this corrupt HCPSS Administration. That much is certain.
This was an uncessary effort by COC, Mr. White and Company, and is example #512 of the Marie-Antoinette-like, pompous, holier-than-thou behavior we have all come to expect and loathe from what passes these days as HCPSS leadership.
I can't believe there's ten people in Howard County who believe any of the HCPSS press releases anymore. As this school year draws to a close, and families across the county are celebrating graduations and their children's passage into the next phase of their lives, trust in our local schools (which are outstanding, in spite of local school leadership) is at a historic low. I'm sure it hasn't be measured over the history of the county, but I'm willing to bet it's the worst it's ever been.
And so, while we take a minute to remember, let's also remember that the work started in April is not yet done. The Governor, Comptroller, County Executive and County Council have heard the people of Howard County, even when the HCPSS has remained tin of ear. Let's relieve the rest of those accountable parties of their responsibilities come November.
And let's be careful out there.
#HCPSS #hocoschools #hococouncil #hocopolitics