Report from internal inquiry on county schools to be tardy

Public should receive updates, Krebs says

February 10, 2000|By David L. Greene | David L. Greene,SUN STAFF

Results of an aggressive inquiry into Carroll school construction problems, which made the system the subject of a grand jury investigation, will be delayed by at least a month, school officials said yesterday.

The Board of Education in November retained the Baltimore law firm of Miles & Stockbridge to conduct an internal review of construction documents. The firm was to focus on construction of Cranberry Station Elementary School, which opened more than $1 million over budget last fall, and construction of a Francis Scott Key High wastewater treatment plant, which was built without state permits.

School officials vowed to have a report in the hands of the public by early this month. However, the board announced yesterday the investigation would be delayed and a report would not be available until late next month.

School officials have said their investigation would be a service to the public because the findings of grand jury inquiries are not made public.

School board President C. Scott Stone said the board rejected an offer from the attorneys to give residents an update on the progress of the internal inquiry.

"I think the interests of the community are better served when the entire report is there, instead of pulling out sound bites and speculation," Stone said after the monthly board meeting yesterday.

No official vote was taken on the matter, but Stone said the board had discussed the issue and a majority of the five-member panel agreed with his position.

Board member Susan W. Krebs dissented.

She said she saw no reason why county residents could not be kept abreast of the investigation, even before a final document is written.

"The public should have an idea going into this what to expect," Krebs said.

The contractor who built Cranberry Station, James W. Ancel, filed a $45 million defamation suit against several school administrators. The lawsuit was settled in December, and the school system's insurance company agreed to pay Ancel $60,000.

At Key, several county residents filed a lawsuit after the school system built the treatment plant without obtaining necessary permits from the Maryland Department of the Environment. That suit is pending.

A county grand jury is investigating both projects, as well as whether other problems exist in the school system's construction department and elsewhere. The grand jury inquiry has been extended indefinitely at the request of its 23 members.

In other business yesterday, the board voted to use April 3 as a school day to make up for one of five days lost to bad weather. The school system had allotted four weather days in the calendar this year. Officials have canceled school five times: once because of Hurricane Floyd and four times for snow.

Carroll's policy is not to extend the school year if more days are needed, but to hold school on scheduled holidays or in-service days, or extend the school day to compensate for lost hours.

April 3 was supposed to be an in-service day for teachers. Students in grades one through 12 will attend class that day.

Kindergarten will not be held that day to allow parent-teacher conferences to remain on the schedule. June 13 will replace April 3 as an in-service day.

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