Summary of Rock Terrace School Investigation
July 18, 2013Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has completed its initial investigation into thehandling of money provided to students with disabilities at Rock Terrace School as part of atransition program designed to provide work experiences.
The Montgomery County State’sAttorney’s
Office is continuing an investigation into the matter, and MCPS is cooperating fully.The MCPS investigation, so far, has found that there appears to have been no attempt by Rock Terrace School staff to intentionally defraud students and their families of funds provided tostudents as part of their educational program. However, the investigation did find that the program at Rock Terrace School was poorly managed and that money was inappropriately usedto support the educational programs at the school.The investigation also revealed some policy and practice questions that MCPS must resolveregarding money that is provided to students as part of the work experience of their transition program.
Background and Findings
The work programs at Rock Terrace School
and other high schools
are designed to teachstudents the skills they will need to foster independence upon school completion. The programs provide students an opportunity to gain work experience in schools and with communityorganizations and businesses. These programs also enhance life skills by having students,generally 18-21 years old, participate in activities, such as using public transportation, shopping, banking, and recreational activities.Some students at Rock Terrace School received stipends for participating in the work programs.These stipends were provided as part of the education program so that the students could havereal-life experience in handling wages and using banks. Money for some of these stipends camefrom the MCPS Operating Budget.At Rock Terrace School, it was common for stipends to be deposited into accounts at theEducational Systems Federal Credit Union (formerly known as the Montgomery CountyTeachers Federal Credit Union). This is consistent with other work experience programs inMCPS high schools that provide stipends to students with disabilities.In general, these stipends are treated as funds that belong to the student. However, at Rock Terrace School, some of these funds
along with money donated by parents and other organizations
were used to support the educational program, such as community activities and programs and events at the school. The MCPS investigation, to date, has found that, while theintentions of staff appear to be good, the use of the funds in this manner was inappropriate.Additionally, some Rock Terrace parents were not informed about the stipends or about the bank
accounts set up in their child’s name.
This, too, was not appropriate and demonstrated poor management of the program.