Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bowers Spending $11 Million Today on Unspecified Stuff #BowersPerks

At today's Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Larry Bowers has slipped in an $11 million dollar no bid item on the Consent Agenda.  The $11 million will buy "computers, associated hardware and services." 

Wonder what this $11,798,868 million will buy?  How many computers? What brand? What associated hardware? What services? What is meant by computers?  Promethean Boards? Chrome Books? What services?
Take a guess. The BOE has no idea, why should they care? 

We've seen this vague language many times before and the results of what Larry Bowers purchases are always a surprise! 

Is this how the Montgomery County Board of Education oversees the spending of $11 million dollars? 


It is unclear however, who would pay to maintain the artificial field.

Somerset Elementary Wants to Raise Funds for Artificial Turf

...The turf has an estimated cost of $550,000. The school’s PTA and Foundation have said it would take them about two years to raise that money, according to the memo.
It is unclear however, who would pay to maintain the artificial field.
The Somerset school has a student population of 575.

Will Montgomery Knolls Elem. School Get an Artificial Turf Playground? Look at the Dirt! (#BowersPerks aren't for Silver Spring.)

Will Montgomery Knolls Elementary School get an artificial turf playground due to all the dirt on their field?

Looks like a lot of dirt on the Montgomery Knolls Elementary School playground in Silver Spring.

Will Canon Road ES, Piney Branch ES, Sligo Creek ES, or Takoma Park ES Get $550,000 Playing Fields?

Piney Branch ES playing field. (Is that dirt we see?)

Of course not!

The reign of Superintendent Larry Bowers has begun.  Look for a year of perks for the neighborhoods who can afford to pay to turn their public school into a private school.

First up is Somerset Elementary.  Superintendent Bowers uses the excuse that the school sits on 3.71 acres as the reason why an artificial turf playing field is needed.  What Mr. Bowers neglects to mention is all of the other MCPS elementary schools that are on 5 acres or less.  Below is a list of all MCPS elementary schools with the sites that are 5 acres or less highlighted in yellow. 

Bowers Reign of Perks Begins! Chevy Chase Elem. School will have $550,000 Field, While Red Zone Kids Play on Dirt. #BowersPerks

Somerset Elementary School Hoping for Approval to Install Artificial Turf Field

Foundation at school plans to raise $550,000 to cover costs

... “The artificial turf on the playing field will provide safe playing conditions and benefit both the school and the community,” wrote Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers in his recommendation for approval.


Why hackers want kids’ personal information


This audit could answer long-held questions about Pr. George’s schools

Four years, two superintendents and one bruising state financial report after the Prince George’s County Council came up with the idea, officials are in the last stages of launching a comprehensive performance audit of the school system.
Council member Derrick Leon Davis (D-Mitchellville) sought an audit in 2011, under then-Superintendent William R. Hite Jr., after years of upheaval in school governance left many residents skeptical of how resources were being used.
“We knew that if we were going to make a more significant investment, we needed it,” he said of a systemwide audit, which has not been done since 1998. “It will tell us what we get for the money we spend.”
In seeking the audit, Davis was trying to address some of the same concerns — about transparency, trust and accountability — dominating the debate about County Executive Rushern L. Baker III’s plan to raise property taxes to generate additional dollars for the school system...


Friday, May 22, 2015

Maryland mom pulls daughter from school, says building makes her sick | WJLA.com

Maryland mom pulls daughter from school, says building makes her sick | WJLA.com

State's Attorney Did Not Interview Victims, Concludes No Crime

No crime found in Rock Terrance School incident 

No criminal conduct occurred when Rock Terrace School maintained accounts without parents’ knowledge for special-education students in transition-to-work programs, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office found.

The office investigated the management of money and the accounts after some parents in 2013 discovered the school had set up bank accounts for their children to receive work stipends but the children had not received the money. The State’s Attorney’s investigation confirmed the findings of Montgomery County Public Schools’ internal investigation of mismanagement but no criminal conduct.
Chief of the Special Prosecutions Division Bryan Roslund said he could not comment on mismanagement because the investigation was focused solely on potential criminal activity.
“No acts constituted a crime ... The broader question of what went on at the school and what was being done with programs is not really for us to answer,” Roslund said.
Roslund said the investigation looked at school records and letters or comments parents had sent to the school about the issue, but did not involve interviewing parents. Lyda Astrove, a local attorney and advocate for the parents and students, said that made it a “one-sided investigation.”...

 ...MCPS has reimbursed students in 71 payments adding up to about $34,400...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tech Industry Continues to Lobby for Relaxing Student Data Privacy Standards

Tech industry companies continue to lobby for relaxing the standards  for student data privacy, according to a report by Education Week. It cites loopholes in the recently adopted MD Bill HB 298 signed by Gov. Larry Hogan. According to J. Lupovitz, a student privacy advocate and VP of policy at the Common Sense Media, "One of the biggest issues with the new Maryland law is that it only covers education vendors that enter into contracts with districts, leaving a big loophole for other education technology providers" such as third party apps, websites and other services not covered by contracts.  


PARCC Cuts Total Test Time by 90 Minutes

Press Release: Maryland's State Assessment Program To Be Streamlined

PARCC to be Shorter, Use Single Testing Window

For Immediate Release                                               Contact: William Reinhard, 410-767-0486
Baltimore, MD (May 21, 2015)

Maryland students in grades 3-8 and high school will spend less time taking State assessments next year as a result of changes approved unanimously by the multi-state consortium governing the tests.
The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) yesterday voted to consolidate the PARCC assessment’s two testing windows into one and cut total test time by about 90 minutes overall beginning in the 2015-16 school year.  The changes were made in response to feedback from parents, students, and educators during the first year of testing and a careful review of test design.
“Next year’s PARCC tests will take less time away from lessons, and cause less disruption to school schedules, while still keeping students on track for college and careers,” said State Superintendent of School Lillian M. Lowery. “These changes will help us focus on what’s most important—ensuring that students are learning to think critically and master the skills they will need to graduate, ready for success.”
The revisions to PARCC will:
  • Combine the two English language arts and two math testing window to one 30-day window near the end of the semester or the school year.
  • Reduce the number of test units that students will take from 8 or 9, depending upon the grade level, to 7 or 6.
  • Cut the testing time for students by about 90 minutes overall depending on content and grade level.
The first full year of PARCC implementation in Maryland has gone smoothly for the most part, with more than 1.3 million tests administered and completed.  The new assessments, aligned to Maryland’s College and Career Ready Standards, replaced the Maryland School Assessment tests this year.  Additional details on the changes to the PARCC test is available here.


MCPS fails to find new superintendent, asks interim leader to stay on | WJLA.com

MCPS fails to find new superintendent, asks interim leader to stay on | WJLA.com

Today: After years of hiding, live webcast of BOE and Planning Board Meeting!

The Montgomery County Planning Board and the Board of Education have been meeting for years off camera and often without notice to the public.  The meetings were labeled as dinner meetings to give the impression that the events were purely social.  In fact, the meetings were packed with important discussions of public school planning issues.

The Parents' Coalition has attended some of these meetings and videotaped the meeting so that the public could observe the discussion and decision making of these two important public bodies. 

Finally, tonight's meeting will be held in the Montgomery County Planning Board meeting room and the meeting will be televised so that all citizens of Montgomery County can observe the discussions and deliberations as these two public bodies discuss public school planning.  Tune in at 5:30 PM this evening.  The meeting will be webcast by the Planning Board at the link below. 
The Agenda for this evenings meeting is also shown below. 

Past Meetings: 2011

Tonight:  Thursday, May 21, 2015
Montgomery County Planning Board Agenda

Joint meeting of the Montgomery County Planning Board and Montgomery County Board of Education (Meeting may be viewed live on our website, visit (www.montgomeryplanningboard.org)

Community members seek changes to Kensington school plan

Under a Montgomery County Public Schools plan, a new Kensington middle school would be squeezed on a site with inadequate space that will make the school inferior, some opponents of the plan say.
Adding underground parking to the plan, they say, could help fix some of the bigger problems they see.
A group of residents said they are concerned that the site plan, as it stands, would limit athletic and academic spaces and pose safety hazards for drivers and pedestrians. The result, they said, is a school that would fall below the district’s project guidelines and would be unequal to other county schools, particularly Westland Middle School in the same cluster.
However, a school district official said the middle school will be similar to existing middle schools. He added that the district already considered — and decided against — a parking structure.


Pearson Blames 'Third Party' Attack for Disrupting Minnesota Online Tests

Minnesota halted its state assessments in science on Wednesday and Thursday due to a lack of confidence "that Pearson's system will operate smoothly," Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius announced.
For the second time this testing season, Minnesota's assessments were disrupted by a "distributed denial-of-service attack," and Pearson, the global education company that designed and is administering the state's tests, told state officials that this was a larger and more sophisticated attack than one that occurred on April 21.
"It is simply unacceptable and unfair to subject students and teachers to this kind of uncertainty in a high-stakes testing environment," Cassellius said in a statement"I have questions about Pearson's ability to follow through on their assurances." The company holds a three-year contract, valued at $33.8 million, to administer Minnesota's reading, math and science proficiency tests. 
Pearson also released a statement, saying the company had worked throughout the day on Wednesday to mitigate what it described as malicious third-party attacks, in an effort to "minimize the disruptions and return service to normal." The company also said it is actively working to "strengthen our defenses to fend off these attacks," and assured the state that student data was not targeted, or at risk.


MCPS 8th out of 10 Area Counties in Percent of ESOL Students

Below is the 2015 Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) Guide.  The WABE Guide compares data from 10 public school systems around Washington, D.C.  The WABE Guide compares enrollment, class sizes, staffing, revenue, salary and benefits information from each of the 10 counties.

It usually compares data from all 10 counties, except there was the year that MCPS refused to participate.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Breaking News: BOE Loses at State BOE with "Have Its Cake and Eat it Too" Legal Argument #msi #churchillhigh #artificial turf

MSI Soccer, Inc. filed an appeal with the Maryland State Board of Education concerning the Montgomery County Board of Education's decision to award the use of the Churchill High School football field to other clubs. 

At the same time, MSI filed a civil action in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

The Montgomery County Board of Education sought to have the appeal at the State Board dismissed.

In arguing for dismissal of the MSI action before the State BOE, the Montgomery County Board of Education's top outside lawyers argued the well known legal principle of "have it's cake and eat it too." (See opinion below.)  The Montgomery County Board of Education's argument was that MSI could not "have it's cake and eat it too" by pursuing an appeal in two different places at the same time. The Montgomery County Board of Education requested that the MSI appeal at the State Board be dismissed.

The Maryland State Board of Education didn't bite.

The Maryland State Board of Education did not dismiss MSI's appeal.  Instead, MSI prevailed in their request to have their appeal to the Maryland State Board of Education stayed until 60 days after the conclusion of their proceedings in civil court.

Tiger Parents

Are Montgomery County Public School parents too tough?

Did these parents force former superintendent Josh Starr to resign?  Did these same parents give Drew Houlihan the jitters?

Probably not.  If anything, our parents send their kids to school, make them sit for tests, sign them up for lots of AP and advanced testing, and even write checks whenever asked.

Not so in NY.  As in the state, not just the small enclave in Manhattan of uber expensive property.  

According to an article in today's NY Times, children across New York state are being encouraged to "opt out" of standardized testing.  

From the article:

At least 165,000 children, or one of every six eligible students, sat out at least one of the two standardized tests this year, more than double and possibly triple the number who did so in 2014, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
As the vanguard of an antitesting fervor that has spread across the country, New York’s opt-out movement already has become a political force. Just two months ago, lawmakers from both parties, at the behest of Gov.Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, increased the role of test scores in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions. Those same legislators are now tripping over one another to introduce bills that guarantee the right to refuse to take tests.

Only 30 of the 440 districts where data was available met the 95-percent test participation rate called for by federal requirements, a far cry from just two years ago, when almost every district complied. 
Can you picture something similar happening in MoCo?

Read the rest of the article here.

I would love to think that our group, or any other parent grassroots organization, could be as successful as the "opt out" movement in NY.  And certainly, don't believe that our local community has the power to scare away potential superintendent candidates.  Its all rhetoric.

Keep in mind - the biggest responsibility for the elected Board of Education in MoCo is to select a Superintendent of Schools.

So - how well do you think the Board of Education is holding up to their promise to voters?

Breaking: Inspector General Investigation into MCPS Charter School Operator

In October, 2014, an individual contacted the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to lodge numerous allegations regarding the school and residency programs at Crossway Community, Inc. (Crossway). This individual expressed concern about alleged abuse of children in the day care program and that program participants who complained were retaliated against and/or kicked out of the school or residency programs.
Several other program participants subsequently expressed similar concerns to our office.

Inquiry and Outcome:
Mr. Nelson advised us that DHCA had been made aware of assertions that Crossway residents were threatened with the loss of their project-based Housing Choice Voucher Program subsidy if they did not complete the Crossway Family Learning Academy (FLA) program and enroll eligible children in the Crossway Community Montessori School childcare facility. HOC had previously advised the OIG that if true, this could be a violation of HUD rules.

Hogan Appoints Two from Fordham Institute to State Board of Education

Press Release: State Board Of Education Has Two New Members

The Maryland State Board of Education welcomed two new members today. Chester E. Finn, Jr., Ed.D. of Montgomery County and Andy Smarick of Queen Anne’s County were appointed by Governor Larry Hogan to fill two seats on the 12-member board vacated by the departures of Charlene M. Dukes, Ed.D. and Donna Hill Staton, Esq., whose terms ended in 2014...

Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Andy Smarick

$2,310,000,000 +/- MCPS Operating Budget for FY16 Set for Council Approval

MCPS, unions may revise contracts amid budget shortfalls

...“Union and district officials have been “scrubbing the budget” to look for potential savings, Prouty said. He said he doesn’t know where the contracts might stand at the end of the process.”...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Montgomery County (Md) schools interim superintendent Larry Bowers will be asked to remain on job another year, per source 1 retweet 0 favorites

You Have a Credit Score...and Your Child Now has a Google Tech Score .... And they are selling it.

We work our whole lives to have a good credit score so when we purchase our first car or our first home, the process is fair and equitable.
Imagine if your score included your behavior online, since you were 8 years old.  
No need to imagine anymore.  This is what is happening.  
The state of California, where all these 'tech' companies reside, have passed over 29 privacy laws to protect their kids.  The rest of the states have either passed 'weak' student privacy bills or none.  Maryland recently passed their Student Privacy Bill, but it was gutted of the protection the California Law has b/c the tech companies spent millions to lobby against the stronger language and won.  Parent outcry was needed but few voices were spoken.
If you think this is made up, then listen to the KoJo NPR show today.  These experts tell it like it is... tech companies are working with schools not to better our children but to create profiles that are so detailed, they are calling it:
[Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli.]
There’s no such thing as anonymous in today’s digitized world, when everything from web searches to clothing sizes are saved and quantified to create a digital you. Tech companies have become identity managers- collecting our personal data as we use their services, then selling that information to the highest bidder. Join us for a Tech Tuesday conversation about the data we leave behind while we go about our lives, and how that information is being sold and used.


  • Daniel Castro Vice President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Director, Center for Data Innovation.
  • Alvaro Bedoya Founding Executive Director, Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law
  • Jeff Chester Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy

Starr Inked No Bid/No BOE Vote $900,000 Contract with Gallup as Superintendent, Gets Job with Gallup Affiliate

The former superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools is set to become the next CEO of an international association of educators.
PDK International, based in Arlington, announced Tuesday that Joshua Starr will replace William Bushaw, who served as the organization’s CEO for the past 11 years....

...PDK also publishes Kappan, a magazine for educators, and an annual poll in partnership with Gallup about American public opinion on public schools...


Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers has already started MCPS restructuring.

When did Larry Bowers restructure MCPS administration? Any one have a clue? 

We know Mr. Bowers is a firm opponent of transparency and open government so we don't expect to see a memo or any budget details on what he has been up to in the last few months.  Mr. Bowers has a long history of major behind the scenes maneuvers with MCPS Operating Budget funds. 

By the way, what is Mr. Bowers paying himself these days? Perks? Car? Home office? Credit card? 
...Bowers proceeded to start an administrative restructuring even though he was only planning to stay for a few months before a planned retirement...