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School board official embroiled in credit card scandal loses union endorsements

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education (BOE).
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education (BOE).
Courtesy MCPS website.

According to news reports, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education (BOE) member Christopher Barclay suffered a setback in his bid for the highly coveted Montgomery County Council seat for District 5, when the SEIU Local 500 dropped its endorsement of his candidacy. The SEIU Local 500 bills itself as “one of the fastest growing most influential unions in the region, not because we write large checks to politicians, but because we hit the streets for our allies and because we hold them accountable for their promises,” and the loss of its endorsement may prove costly to Barclay. Yesterday, the Gazette reported that the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA), one of the largest local affiliates of the National Education Association, has also withdrawn its support for Barclay.

However, according to reports, the County Council President Craig L. Rice stands behind Barclay. According to the same reports, Rice wouldn’t change his support for the embattled BOE member “unless some Barclay’s actions were found to be criminal.” Rice is an alumnus of Montgomery Blair High School, Barclay has a child at the same school and is a frequent visitor to the school.

In a related development, the school board suspended credit card use while a committee reviewed the policy governing the use of taxpayer funded credit card use.

Barclay’s undoing comes at the hands of a scrappy band of parents known as the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County. The group is well-known for its persistence in shining a light on the operations of the multi-billion dollar school system via public information act requests.

Meanwhile, Joshua Starr, the superintendent of MCPS who also serves on the Board, has been silent on the controversy surrounding Barclay, who sits on the Board's Fiscal Management and Strategic Planning committees. Starr also saw his share of unfavorable publicity when news reports surfaced that U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and at least one other Education Department official “urged New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and his team not to choose Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr as the city’s next schools chancellor.” The souring of union support for a member of his BOE can’t be a good sign for Starr whose relationship with unions apparently worsened towards the end of his tenure as the Superintendent of Stamford Public Schools in Connecticut.