Monday, August 29, 2016

Hogan, Franchot expected to make school-start announcement

Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot will hold a news conference Wednesday in Ocean City where the governor is expected to announce an executive order pushing back the start of Maryland schools until after Labor Day, possibly as soon as next year.
Sen. James Mathias, D-Eastern Shore, said he and Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan were invited to attend the event scheduled for 1 p.m. in front of the Lifesaving Museum on the Boardwalk.
“I know the subject of the event I just don’t know the substance,” said Mathias, who has sponsored bills pushing for a post-Labor Day start to the school year.
When asked if he expected the governor to announce an order to delay school starts in Maryland, Mathias said he did...

Stadium closed indefinitely; artificial turf deemed unplayable

Hut, hut … yikes!
Just three days away from the start of the high school football season, Turlock Unified School District has closed Joe Debely Stadium indefinitely because of an unplayable surface.

In separate compaction tests conducted by MondoTurf and district officials, the once cutting-edge artificial turf — part of a $3.6 million renovation of the community facility — was found to be too hard for activity and sport.

Turlock High athletic director Mike Brown said the issue is the rapid disintegration of the eco-friendly infill — the pellets that help soften impact. As the infill has broken down, the field has hardened to the point of Tuesday’s startling announcement...

...Brown said the issue came to light in April following a test by district officials, who placed a call for help to the global turf giant. Brown said it took nearly three months for MondoTurf to conduct its own test. Representatives returned Saturday with “the miracle worker,” Brown said, a machine that resembled a riding lawn mower. The machine “fluffed” the turf with a fork.
No miracle was performed.

Brown said the district is handcuffed by the warranty agreement, and the first-year athletic director fears this battle may play out in court. The turf is under warranty through 2018.
Brown said the infill was supposed to last “10 to 15 years before it would do anything. It didn’t even last six years.”
“Right now, we’re fighting with them,” he added. “We’re at their mercy. We can’t do anything because it would void the warranty. It’s frustrating.”...

And another artificial turf football field shut down for being too hard.

Read more here:

CAPA-MC: Board of Education Candidates Forum

Time: Oct. 7, 2016,Friday,7:00pm-9:30pm
Address: Herbert Hoover Middle School 

8810 Post Oak Rd, Potomac, MD 20854

Friday, August 26, 2016

Construction Crews Scrambling to Finish Julius West MS Renovations

The first day of school is Monday, August 29, 2016 and many are wondering if Julius West Middle School will really be ready.
On Wednesday morning, a Rose Hill resident, out for her morning walk, commented about the sudden last-minute construction on the driveways which she said, “Didn’t start in earnest until three weeks ago. They were even out on Sunday working.”

During this week of preparation she noticed teachers parking in her neighborhood. “I don’t blame them.” she said...

Md. county school board members call for leaders’ ouster after Head Start debacle

Five members of the Prince George’s County school board called for the resignation of the board’s top leaders this week after the county lost $6.4 million in federal funding for early childhood education because of allegations of child abuse in the local Head Start program.

The board members asked County Executive Rushern L. Baker III to seek the removal of board chair Segun C. Eubanks and vice chair Carolyn A. Boston, citing a lack of confidence in their leadership and failures in accountability, transparency and collaboration...

In nearby Montgomery County, parents who let their 6-year-old and 10-year-old children walk a mile home alone from local parks was investigated by Child Protective Services for neglect.

5-Year-Old Shouldn't Be Expected to Walk Mile to School, Maryland Father Says

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Breaking: Paint Branch HS Plastic Grass has G-Max Ratings in Acceptable Range #gmax #artificialturf

3/30/2016 Paint Branch HS artificial turf inspection report

The Parents' Coalition has obtained a copy of this year's G-Max (shock absorption) test results for Paint Branch High School's plastic grass football field.  Here's what the report says:
Observations/Recommendations: Continue established maintenance schedule, field appears to be very well maintained.  Regularly monitor infill depths of high wear areas (goals, creases, penalty kicks, center of field) and add rubber infill as needed.  Continue annual GMAX testing to ensure proper performance of field. 
The G-Max readings for the Paint Branch High School field put the field in the acceptable range for shock absorption according to most industry standards.  The chart below shows where the Paint Branch field falls with regard to most standards.

Contrast the Paint Branch G-Max readings with the Walter Johnson High School readings that put the WJ field off this chart in to the caution/danger zones.

PB = Paint Branch G-Max results    WJ = Walter Johnson G-Max results

Here is what the Walter Johnson High School artificial turf inspection report said about the condition of the WJ field.  Contrast these observations and recommendations with the Paint Branch report above.

7/11/2016 Walter Johnson HS artificial turf inspection report

Public Invited: MD State BOE and Gaithersburg to Tour PG School that Cost 1/3 of what MCPS Spends

Notice to the general public is hereby given that members of the Gaithersburg City Council and City staff plan to meet with members of the Maryland Board of Education on Monday, August 29, 2016 at 10 a.m., to tour the Monarch Global Academy, 430 Brock Bridge Road, Laurel, Maryland 20724.

The tour will show an example of school construction whose costs were roughly 1/3 of what Montgomery County Public Schools are currently paying to construct similar sized schools.

The public is invited to attend, but we ask that attendees notify staff in advance as space is limited and transportation will not be provided. Please contact the Staff Liaison, if you have questions.

WJLA: Question: Should middle-schoolers be forced to walk up to 1.5 miles to school?

Officials say Field turf needs replacing earlier than expected

Meriden, CT

...When the turf was installed in mid-2008, it came with an 8-10 year warranty, though it started showing wear much sooner than that.
Nelson said within the first year the artificial grass blades started being pulled out in a higher volume than anticipated, and within 3-4 years, 25 tons of rubber pellets needed to be added in order to maintain the field’s shock-absorbency. In the ensuing years, large swaths of the turf were replaced where it was balding or getting otherwise damaged.
Additionally, each year the Friends of Falcon paid the Pennsylvania-based installer ProGrass for maintenance of the field, which included grooming and screening for foreign objects that could damage the field, such as metal hair pins. That yearly maintenance extended the warranty out an additional year each time. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

BCC Football to use Dangerous WJ Field. #gmax #concussions #WhoCares?

...The construction work means the B-CC Barons will lose their football field temporarily. This fall, home games will be played at Walter Johnson High School, about 5 miles away in Bethesda...

Construction at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Relocates Portables: Football team to play home games at Walter Johnson

Monday, August 22, 2016

Term Limits in Montgomery County

Dear Concerned Voter:
Thank you for signing the non-partisan term limits petition for Montgomery County.   
We did it!  You and nearly 18,000 registered voters in Montgomery County signed the term limits petition (only 10,000 signatures were required).  The signatures were submitted on August 8, which means you’ll be able to vote on the term limits question on the November 2016 general election ballot.   When passed -- and we need your vote to pass the measure -- it will limit County Council members and the County Executive to serving no more than three consecutive terms, or 12 years.
This Wednesday, August 24, you will have an opportunity to support term limits at a Montgomery County Charter Commission hearing.  Here is information about the hearing:  In order to testify, you must notify the commission in advance by e-mailing them at:  If you can't attend, but still want to convey your support for the term limits petition; email the commission at the same e-mail address in the previous sentence.   If you don’t want to speak out publicly on the 24th, please come to the hearing and stand with your neighbors in support of term limits for the County Council and County Executive
If you want to know how you can help or need more information, let us know. 
Thank you,
Montgomery County Citizens Group in support of Term Limits 

Montgomery Co Board of Ed Pays $71,846 in May to Outside Lawyer to Fight Families of Special Needs Children

Special Education Legal Expenses

Memo from Jack R Smith, Superintendent of Schools, August 25, 2016

Special education legal fees for outside counsel for May 2016 totaled $71,846. The year-to-date
total of $370,078 is $125,454 (51.3 percent) more than the same period in the previous year.
In addition, total year-to-date special education legal costs of $370,078 are $70,974 (16.1 percent)
less than the budgeted amount of $441,052 through this time period.
The Jeffrey A. Krew bill for May 2016 totaled $71,846.

Obviously the "new procedures" to review special education legal expenses that were touted by Board of Education member Jill Ortman-Fouse either (1) don't exist or (2) don't work. This amount of money, $71,846, does not even include the cost of maintaining the so-called "Resolution and Compliance" unit. Nor does it include the cost of the fleet of in-house lawyers to whom MCPS already pays salaries and benefits.

The Month of May 2016 represents the highest monthly total for outside special education attorney fees in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Can't blame new Superintendent Smith for this one, as it occurred before he was employed by MCPS. The special education community will be watching this and future Board meetings to see if Mr. Smith expresses any concern about what these payments represent. Let's hope he does.

Survey on MD Public Information Act. Our Say: You can help protect the public's right to know

If you've ever used the Maryland Public Information Act, there's [a] survey you should consider taking.
Journalists use this law as an important reporting tool, giving us access to important public records we feel our readers have a right to know.
The law was changed last year, creating an ombudsman to mediate disputes and a compliance board to review fees requested by the "custodians" of public records that total more than $350. The law also changed the rules for waiving fees and how reasons for denying a request under they law must be cited.
But also within the legislation was a requirement that Attorney General Brian Frosh prepare a report on the administration of law and the changes. A report being prepared by Assistant Attorney Adam Snyder will examine issues that include giving the board power to award damages in a dispute, whether fee waivers are appropriate, an analysis of denials and a look at requests for agencies considered outside government.
To do this, Snyder, with help from the Maryland, Delaware, DC Press Association, the Maryland Association of Counties, the Maryland Municipal League, Common Cause and others created a survey for people who both control the information and those who submit requests under the law. Here's a look at some examples for people who provided by the Snyder's office: ...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

.@mocoboe Discusses Choice Study in Closed Session: Who Knows What They Are Planning?

Report of Closed Session:

July 14, 2016, Closed Session Meeting

On July 14, 2016, the Board of Education voted unanimously, among those present,
to conduct a closed session, as permitted under the Education Article Section 4-107(d) and General
Provisions Article Section 3-305(b) et seq., of the Annotated Code of Maryland.

The Board of Education of Montgomery County met in closed session on July 14, 2016,
from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. in Room 127 of the Carver Educational Services Center,
850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, Maryland, and:

Board of Education members received legal advice regarding the Study of Choice and Special
Academic Programs
, as permitted under Section 3-305(b)(7) of the General Provisions Article;
and received information from the superintendent of schools related to the choice study,
which is an administrative function outside the purview of the Open Meetings Act.
In attendance at the closed session were Michael Durso, Judith Docca, Christopher Barclay,
Eric Guerci, Philip Kauffman, Patricia O’Neill, Jill Ortman-Fouse, Rebecca Smondroski
(via teleconference), Ikhide Roland Ikheloa, Joanne Causey, Suzann King, Patricia Swanson,
Jack R. Smith, Maria V. Navarro, Kimberly A. Statham, Andrew M. Zuckerman,
Henry R. Johnson, Joshua I. Civin, Meredith A. Casper, Jeannie H. Franklin, Erick J. Lang,
Lori-Christina Webb, and Stephanie P. Williams.

Board of Education Candidates Forum Sept 28, Kennedy High School

Sponsored by the Montgomery County League of Women Voters, MCCPTA, and the NAACP Parents' Council

WHEN:       Wednesday, September 28 - 6:30 - informal reception and candidate meet and greet, 7pm - 9pm candidate forum
WHERE:     Kennedy High School Auditorium -  1901 Randolph Road, Silver Spring
WHO:          All Board of Education candidates will attend:
At-Large:   Jeanette Dixon, Phil Kauffman
District 2: Brandon Rippeon, Rebecca Smondrowski
District 4: Shebra Evans, Anjali Reed Phukan
To find out which District you live in, go here.

Friday, August 19, 2016

AC fight heats up as students head back to class

...The topic is the still-sweltering summer temperatures and a newly-adopted heat closing policy that seeks to offer relief to students and staff in schools awaiting their turn to receive air conditioning.
Currently, at least 35 of 173 county public schools are without air conditioning, including eight in Dundalk (Battle Grove, Bear Creek, Berkshire, Charlesmont, Colgate, Dundalk and Grange elementary schools and Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts.)...

Artificial turf problems prompt lawsuits and early replacements

Schools and universities around the country are now taking a closer look at their artificial turf fields. Some of them say the fields are falling apart and not lasting as long as expected, prompting lawsuits and concerns nationwide.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WTHR) - When Indiana University’s football team begins its new season, it will be playing on new turf.
IU purchased its old synthetic playing surface from FieldTurf, the nation’s largest provider of artificial turf athletic fields, in 2008.
It came with an 8-year warranty, and university officials hoped it would last a decade. But this spring, contractors ripped the artificial grass out of Memorial Stadium months before the warranty expired.
Other colleges and universities have done the same thing.
“We met with the supplier, FieldTurf, and we determined it was in the best interest of both the university and FieldTurf to replace it sooner than later,” said Mark Burk, director of stadium and event services at the University of Utah, which decided last year to replace the turf at Rice-Eccles football stadium. The turf was seven years old.
Across the country, some high schools say their artificial turf fields started to wear out even sooner than that...

Verizon won't move Cell Tower for School Construction

Remember this when the Board of Education wants to put a cell tower on your local school's playground.  

This cautionary tale comes from a Wisconsin public school:

Thursday, August 18, 2016

RMHS’s Artificial Turf Warranty Expires Today

Local school districts and municipalities have spent millions in recent years installing synthetic turf football and soccer fields. Now many of these installed by FieldTurf have been proven to be defective and are failing prematurely.
In Montgomery County, the public school system contracted with FieldTurf to install artificial fields at the Richard Montgomery and Walter Johnson High Schools. The artificial turf at Blair High School was installed by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
FieldTurf has been repeatedly sued for breach of contract, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, and recovery for fields installed in 2007 and 2008. In California, the Bret Harte Union High School District, Chaffey Joint Union High School District, and the Crystal Springs Uplands School have filed lawsuits. Another example is the Middleton-Cross Plains School District in Wisconsin. Basically, these complainants argue that the problem lies with the FieldTurf Duraspine monofilament fibers, which they blame for the fields decaying faster than the terms promised under the warranty.

RMHS’s Artificial Turf Warranty Expires Today

WJHS story picked up by USA Today: Are the lack of standardized shock absorption rates in artificial turf leaving teens at risk of head trauma? #artificialturf

For years, the assumption was that artificial turf surfaces were better in every way for athletes. They allowed for better footing in adverse weather like extreme rain or wintry mix. They provided more cushioning in a drought than hard pack natural surfaces. What wasn’t to love?
Now there may be an answer to that question: The lack of standardized shock absorption rates may in fact leave a number of artificial turf surfaces at high schools far more dangerous than their counterparts in professional and collegiate settings.
This excellent investigative piece from Forbes‘ Mike Ozanian found that the G-MAX testing numbers — the standardized measure to test shock attenuation performance of both natural and artificial surfaces, as Forbes puts it...

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Do Not Fall on These Parts of WJHS Field #GMAX #Concussions #HandyPocketGuide

Handy Pocket Guide of Where Not to Fall on the Walter Johnson Artificial Turf Field. Download or Print & Save.

Yesterday, Forbes reported on the condition of the Walter Johnson High School artificial turf field.  Forbes released the G-Max Test and Field Inspection Report that showed that the WJHS artificial turf field is now dangerous to use.  A player falling on this field is no longer falling on a soft, bouncy surface.  A player on this field is now falling on a surface that is very hard and can cause severe injury or potentially even death.

But, we know that Montgomery County Public Schools will continue to use this field for another 14 years because the "plan" is that each artificial turf field must last for 20 years.  As that is the "plan," we have developed a handy pocket guide for student athletes using the WJHS artificial turf field. 

This handy pocket guide should be given to football, lacrosse and soccer players at WJHS and at all of the schools (public and private) that will play against WJHS on this field or use this field.  

We know the Board of Education can not be bothered to deal with student safety, they have a MABE Ocean City vacation coming up to pack for! So we are doing our part for MCPS student athletes.  Print out this handy pocket guide and tell your student athlete to enjoy their next game at WJHS, but to just not fall down on the parts of the field marked with a red X.  Those parts of the field are way beyond the recommended hardness of an artificial turf field.

Also, warn your student athletes to make sure the field never gets to the GMAX level of 200. (Two areas of the WJHS field are already in the 190's.)
According to the chart below, OSHA says a GMAX of 200 "Will Cause Death."

Have a great game!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Breaking News - Forbes: Exposed Artificial Turf Documents Show [Walter Johnson] High School Football Players May Be At Risk

Just how safe is artificial turf? That question is a hot topic, with the U.S. women’s soccer team refusing to play on plastic grass, NBC doing a special report on the potential health risks of fake turf  and even the Feds looking into the matter.
But municipalities and grass roots groups can find it very difficult to get answers.

For months, an advocacy group (Safe Healthy Fields) has been asking Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Maryland via Public Information Act requests to release the maintenance logs and G-MAX testing (the shock-attenuation performance of sports surfaces–including synthetic and natural turf athletic fields) for their artificial turf fields. But MCPS has said it has no such records and such records are maintained by the field installers (Athletic Field Consultants and FieldTurf)....

Officials in Maryland's Montgomery County gave unionized workers — and themselves — big raises. Now they can't afford them.

Government-workforce politics have gotten very interesting in Maryland's Montgomery County, which includes a number of affluent Washington, D.C., suburbs. Unions are unhappy because their negotiated pay raises were unilaterally trimmed by the county council and because one council member has proposed changing the county's collective-bargaining laws in ways that don't sit well with labor. Meanwhile, homeowners are unhappy because of the biggest property-tax hike in seven years.
When you sort it all out, one-party government might just be a big part of the problem.
As chronicled in the Washington Post, the $5.3 billion budget the council approved in May included a nearly 9 percent property-tax hike that adds $326 annually to the average residential tax bill. The budget also increased a tax on recording real estate transactions that raises the cost of buying or selling a $500,000 house by $455....

Monday, August 15, 2016

Steamy Times at Blair High

Its August 15.  Most of us in Montgomery County are enjoying the last few days of a very hot summer before school begins.

Unless you play high school sports.

Yes, the sports teams are back - and we have the pictures!  Here is a picture of Blair's football team taken last Friday, August 12.

But, you may ask, isn't it hot on the fields?  How hot?  On Friday, Reagan National reported a high of 99 degrees and a low of 93 degrees between noon and 6 pm, with 50 percent humidity.

And on the artificial turf?  Here is a picture recorded of actual field temperatures.

Our not so very sophisticated weather gauge on the left indicated that at a little after 3 pm, the air temperature was 98 degrees, while the temp on the Blair artificial turf field was a sizzling 151 degrees.

How would our regular grass fields fare in the heat?

A few minutes later, our weather gauges recorded a more modest 84 degrees on the natural grass surrounding the Blair field.

What a difference (a few) chemicals can make.

MCPS supposedly is enforcing rules related to the heat on the fields.  According to the webpage:
Schools shall monitor prevailing weather conditions, including the current heat index, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and make appropriate practice and activity accommodations. The heat index on the Athletics webpage applies to the 20877 zip code, the most central site in Montgomery County.
And once the heat index is calculated, coaches are instructed to follow the following guidelines:
Temperature Guidelines
Heat IndexRestrictions  
0-90° F  Normal practice guidelines and restrictions
91–104° F  Exercise caution; observe players carefully; frequent water breaks;
  limit time in which players are wearing full equipment
105° F +  No outside activities; activities limited to air-conditioned school facilities
If you calculate the heat index from the rubric on the webpage, the heat index on Friday at Blair HS was an outstanding 113 degrees!  Factor in the artificial turf, and ouch - it was really hot on that field.

Did Blair's football coach really hold a practice OUTSIDE when the heat index was 113 degrees? And on a turf field that registered 151 degrees?

Blair HS is known for its brains, not its athletic abilities, but it seems as if neither is back from vacation just yet.

How hot is it on your MoCo football field?

Parents - Its not just football that is subject to the restrictions when temperatures go soaring. Pay attention, and let your coaches know you are monitoring the heat index over the next few weeks.

For those of you lucky/unlucky enough to have an artificial turf field - watch out or your student may find themselves burnt out before school begins.

And good luck to all the Blazers sports teams - assuming you don't wilt in the heat!