‘There’s a lot coming at you’: Montgomery Co. Council members suggest need for a full-time school board

Expressing both frustration over the Montgomery County school system’s oversight of personnel issues and sympathy for the breadth of the Board of Education’s responsibilities, several county council members suggested there’s a need to go from a part-time to a full-time school board.

At Thursday’s county council hearing on the school system’s response to an Inspector General’s report, Council member Gabe Albornoz told Board of Education members that they get “what amounts to a stipend,” with salaries of $25,000 for the oversight of a school system that operates on a budget of $3.2 billion dollars.

Albornoz told board members the school system is dealing with the fallout from the pandemic, including “literacy scores and math scores that are catastrophically low.” He said schools are seeing behavioral health challenges among students, “and our kids are screaming for help.”

But, he continued, given the current school board structure and the wide array of issues they are expected to oversee, Albornoz said: “I just worry that we’re not built to be able to do that in a way that’s effective enough.”

Council member Evan Glass told school board members they have an incredibly difficult job.

“It is hard. There’s a lot coming at you,” but Glass said the current part-time nature of the board’s positions doesn’t create a situation where they can tackle the issues the school system faces.

Glass said a board of education compensation commission reported in 2019 that board members should get salaries commensurate with full-time positions. Glass said in its report, that committee recommended salaries of $60,000 a year.

“We could have a public conversation about it,” Glass said, referring to the salary recommendation, but he continued: “We need you to succeed. We need you to have the time and the staff to do your due diligence on a $3.2 billion dollar budget.”

Council member Marilyn Balcombe agreed with Albornoz and Glass about “expecting a part-time board to do a full-time task,” saying, “It’s an impossible task, to ask the board to oversee a budget as large as you do and then to oversee everything about the school system.”

The calls for a possible overhaul of the school board structure came during an at-times contentious hearing Thursday as county council members grilled school officials and school board members about issues outlined in an Inspector General’s report on long-standing failures by the school system to address the handling of allegations of employee misconduct across the system.

Board members and newly appointed Interim Superintendent of Schools Monique Felder told the board Thursday that they are committed to addressing the issues in the OIG’s report and implementing the IG’s recommendations.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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