Let performance audit begin

Carroll County: Joint committee should examine the troubled school construction operation first.

August 24, 1999

NOW THAT the Carroll County commissioners and the Board of Education have agreed on a joint committee to plan a comprehensive performance audit of the school system, the first department to examine should be the troubled, overbudget construction operation.

Members of the 10-person committee are qualified for the task, with a draft plan expected in January.

While Susan Krebs argued persuasively for including a board member, preferably herself, on the committee, other members objected saying that could be seen as political interference or posturing: Carroll's five school board members are popularly elected.

Rather than a school board member, three school administrators will sit on the committee. There's understandable concern that this could lead to a weaker set of recommendations, since the administration's performance could be among the targets of the sweeping audit. Some feel it is like assigning the proverbial fox to guard the hen house. But the three are a decided minority and represent valuable expertise that will be needed by the audit committee.

The school board brought no credit on itself by its reluctance to conduct an audit, despite an embarrassing series of construction gaffes. The county commissioners had to withhold $1 million from this year's school budget to force the board's assent to a systemic performance audit. That has not bolstered public trust in the school board.

Repeated missteps by the school administration in building Cranberry Elementary and the illegal construction of a sewage treatment plant at Francis Scott Key High have led to cost overruns and lawsuits. Planned sites for new schools have been found unsatisfactory.

With more new schools to be built, the need for an honest review of this program is sorely needed.

Correction

A Saturday editorial should have identified George Armwood as the victim of a 1933 Eastern Shore lynching. The Sun regrets the error.

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