Rock Terrace principal search nears possible end -- Gazette.Net


This story was corrected and updated at 5 p.m. March 4, 2014. An explanation follows.

Four Rock Terrace School parents met with Montgomery County Public Schools officials on Feb. 26 to discuss the kind of person they want to become the school’s next permanent principal.

Katherine Lertora is the acting principal of the Rockville school, which is looking for a permanent leader after the retirement of former Principal Dianne G. Thornton in August.

In June, parents raised allegations that Rock Terrace staff mishandled money students earned while in a work-study program that went into bank accounts at the Education Systems Federal Credit Union.

The Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office is investigating how school staff handled the funds.

Rock Terrace serves about 86 students who are developmentally disabled, according to the school system’s Schools at a Glance report for the 2013-14 school year.

Associate Superintendent of High Schools Christopher Garran told the parents at the Feb. 26 meeting that candidates for the principal position will be interviewed Thursday.

Each parent filled out a form that listed multiple characteristics of a principal and selected the five they value the most. They also were able to write comments on the form.

“We’ve been through a shocker with the previous principal, so it’s kind of hard,” said Penny Mylonas, vice president of the school’s parent-teacher group, who has a 17-year-old son at the school. She spoke after seeing the characteristics to choose from.

Garran acknowledged that “it’s been a difficult year with what happened with the previous permanent principal.”

Parents who did not attend the meeting could submit comments by email, Garran said.

Answers from the forms — indicated by filling in bubbles — would be used to help formulate questions for the candidates, he said.

Parents also had the opportunity to sign up to be on a panel that will interview the candidates.

The panel will make a recommendation to Superintendent Joshua P. Starr, who will make his recommendation to the county school board on March 24, Garran said.

Garran told the parents he did not know how many people had applied for the position so far.

Lertora is eligible to be a candidate for the permanent position, he said, but would not say whether she has applied.

Vanessa Jones, a member of the parent-teacher group who has a 15-year-old son at the school, said she marked on her form that checks and balances are important when it comes to the principal position.

“Someone cannot be the lone island to control everything,” Jones said.

Eileen Pioli, president of the school’s parent-teacher group, said she wanted to see all of the characteristics on the form in the new permanent principal, but, in general, honesty is important for her.

“That’s kind of the basic of it,” she said.

She said she hoped to see more parents at the Feb. 26 meeting, but it’s tough for Rock Terrace parents who have children with disabilities to attend. The children cannot be left alone at home and require proper care, she said.

Pioli said that earlier notice of the meeting might have helped. She would like the school system to consider that Rock Terrace families come from all over the county.

The school sent a letter home with students Feb. 12 and a Connect Ed message on Feb. 25.

Pioli said she saw the letter Feb. 25 and that letters home often don’t make it out of the students’ backpacks.

She added, however, that she thinks the school system is trying to conduct a fair process.

Lyda Astrove, a Rockville lawyer and special-education advocate working with Rock Terrace parents, said, however, that she had spoken to parents who felt they were not given enough notice of the meeting.

Editor’s note: An earlier version incorrectly stated a letter was sent home to families Feb. 25.