ROCKVILLE- After a two-month investigation, the Maryland State Prosecutor’s Office has cleared the Montgomery County Board of Education of any criminal misconduct in the credit card misuse controversy. In a letter to MCPS, state prosecutor Emmet Davitt officially closed the investigation, commending the BOE for changes to its reimbursement policy.
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“We appreciate that the Office of the State Prosecutor closed its investigation after conducting a thorough review,” said BOE President Phil Kauffman, who created the Ad Hoc Committee assembled in April in light of credit card misuse allegations.
In July, the BOE approved the elimination of county-funded credit cards for reimbursement. Board members will instead receive an allowance to be used at approved conferences. Several BOE members also created controversy when reimbursement reports and credit card statements showed monthly home internet charges. The committee recommended limiting home office expenses.
“This entire process did lead us to review and make significant changes to expense guidelines for board members and make improvements to our internal processes and procedures,” Kauffman said. “The changes we have made provide more structure and transparency with regard to our expenses, while ensuring board members still have the opportunity to engage their constituents and stay involved in local, state, and national conversations about education.”
The day the BOE received the news the investigation was closed, more than 150,000 students went back to school, an increase of more than 2,800 students. One number that hasn’t increased yet is the number of unaccompanied minors attending MCPS schools.
During the 2013-2014 school year MCPS enrolled 107 unaccompanied minors. According to MCPS spokesman Dana Tofig, 47 unaccompanied minors from Central America are currently enrolled in county schools. Tofig said that number may increase.
At the June 17 BOE meeting, several parents and students attended wearing pajamas and holding signs asking Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr to consider later start times for high school students. Under a previous recommendation from Starr, start times for high schools would be moved from 7:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.; the first bell for middle school would ring ten minutes later; and elementary school days would be extended by 30 minutes. The measure was withdrawn after a cost analysis showed an increase cost of at least $21 million. A recent petition on Move.org calling for later start times has received nearly 12,000 signatures.
“Scientific data shows that teenagers have shifted clocks relative to other age groups. Making them get up this early is counterproductive to the goal of learning, which should be the primary reason for the start time – not extracurricular activities, traffic or parents’ convenience,” said David Eisenmann, a supporter from Takoma Park.
Tofig said Starr is considering lower cost options.
“The BOE has asked Dr. Starr to bring lower cost options to the board for consideration. Those options should go to the board during budget season, which includes January and February,” Tofig said.