Baltimore County Schools Blackout: Zero Interviews For 18 Months
(WBFF) -- On camera interviews are vitally important. It’s how broadcast journalists hold public officials accountable to better inform taxpayers about how money is spent. With that said, over the past 18 months, no one from Baltimore County Public Schools administration has done an interview with Project Baltimore, even though Fox45 investigations have raised serious questions about County Schools.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” says Ann Miller, who has been on the Baltimore County Public School Board for nearly three years. Miller says one of the biggest problems she faces on the school board is transparency from district administrators at central office.
“We’ve been trying to increase transparency, and in some ways, I think we’ve made some strides there and in other ways I feel it’s been one step forward and two steps back,” says Miller.
The District employees that mostly control the flow of information are the Interim Superintendent, Chief of Staff and the Communications Department. Combined they make nearly $822,000 a year. It’s their jobs to talk to the media and address the concerns of parents, teachers and students. Yet, over the past 18 months, not one has done an interview with Project Baltimore. Occasionally, we receive statements. But on camera interviews are how we get answers for you.
-When we learned that County Schools has seen a recent spike in weapons, they declined an interview.
-When we had questions about a second-degree assault inside an elementary school, they declined an interview.
-When we exposed that County Schools has the most reported instances of bullying in Maryland, they declined an interview.
-When we wanted to know why four-year-old students are walking a mile to school, they declined an interview.
-When we reported that County Schools was charging tens of thousands of dollars for public records requests, they declined an interview.
-When we discovered that County Schools leads Maryland in federal investigations for discriminating against students with disabilities, they declined and interview.
-When we uncovered County Schools referred students to a church-exempt school now suspended for safety violations, they declined an interview.
-When we went to a school board meeting and tried to talk to the Interim Superintendent, she gestured that she’d be right back, but never returned.
-When we reached out to County Schools asking for an interview about this story, they declined.
“I’ve been frustrated myself. I fully understand,” says Miller. “I do believe they have the right to discuss with whom they chose. But I also believe that reflects on the culture of BCPS. IF they are being selective that raises issues with transparency.”
As mentioned, County Schools declined an interview to discuss this story. But, we did get a statement. “Baltimore County Public Schools administration routinely grants interviews, on camera and otherwise, to our local media partners. We are transparent and open in our communications. It is important to note we have granted interviews to WBFF reporters. When we find a media partner is not consistently complete in its reporting, we reserve the right to provide statements as a response, so we can document the totality of the answers we provide. We do not discuss student-specific or individual cases when we are able to communicate directly with the individual parent or families. We look forward to continuing to update the BCPS community directly in person, via our website, social media, phone notification system, and through communications from our school-based staff.”