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School board official used official credit card for personal purchases

The Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education
The Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education
Courtesy MCPS website

According to news reports, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education member Christopher Barclay used his school system issued American Express card for personal purchases.

The bio posted on the Board of Education website states that “Mr. Christopher Barclay was elected to his second four-year term on November 6, 2012, after being appointed to the Board on December 9, 2006. Mr. Barclay has served as president of the Board in 2010 and 2013, as well as vice president in 2009 and 2012. He is a member of the Fiscal Management Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee. ”

Barclay’s explanation that it “was an honest mistake,” did not sit well with many in the community who pointed to his role on the Fiscal Management and Strategic Planning Committees.

In addition, Barclay is campaigning for the highly coveted Montgomery County Council seat for District 5. He has been endorsed by, among others, the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA). Former Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, whose seat Barclay seeks to fill, has also endorsed him.

The embarrassing disclosure comes at an inopportune time for the school system led by Superintendent Joshua Starr, an alumnus of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. A scathing report issued by the County Council Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO), took the school district to task, claiming “data points suggest a flight of middle-class students” from high schools with large concentrations of high poverty students. Barclay represents an area in which a large number of high schools cited in the OLO report are located.

Barclay is fond of regaling receptive audiences with stories of “middle class white women who thought they owned the system.” He credits his role in education to the motivation to show that his child is as “valuable as your child.” He also attended the first and seemingly last, State of the African American Student Address by Montgomery Blair High School Principal Renay Johnson, and asserted that he was participating as both a parent and a member of the BOE. Johnson has steadfastly refused to provide a copy of her presentation at that meeting.

Johnson's refusal is not surprising. The school system has a reputation for stubbornly resisting accountability measures. Wootton High School recently attempted to quietly place a cellphone tower on its property and was shot down by stiff and vociferous community opposition. A listing of cell tower sites available on the district’s website lists most, if not all, towers as being located in areas with large concentrations of high-poverty students. In addition, the system has financial relationships with various private entities, including education publishing giant Pearson with little or no accountability for the financial transactions.