Tuesday, August 19, 2014

BOE Withholds Memo from Open Meetings Act Compliance Board

Open Meetings Act
This is the reply to the Board of Education's response to the Open Meetings Act complaint filed regarding the conduct of the Board of Education's credit card committee. 





July 11, 2014

Ann MacNeille
Assistant Attorney General
Counsel, Open Meetings Compliance Board
200 St. Paul Place
Baltimore, MD 21202


Re: Open Meetings Act Complaint - Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education

Dear Ms. MacNeille,

I am following up on the complaint I filed with your office on May 31, 2014 over an apparent
violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act by the Montgomery County Board of Education. After
receiving a reply from the Board of Education on July 5 I am seeking to offer a clarification regarding the work of the ad hoc committee that allegedly first met out of the public view on May 6.

According to the Montgomery County Public Information Officer, Dana Tofig, the ad hoc
committee was created by a memorandum dated April 25, 2014, from Board of Education President Phil Kauffman. It is a major omission on the part of the Board of Education that the April 25th memorandum was not included in the Board's response to the Open Meeting Act Compliance Board. The memorandum is not publicly available on the Board of Education website. That document is needed to fully understand how this committee was created and the purpose of the committee. The failure of the Board of Education to produce this memorandum hampers the ability of the Open Meetings Compliance Board to render an accurate opinion in this matter.

The Board of Education's response speaks to a "gathering" as if somehow by re-naming a
meeting of Board of Education members the Open Meeting Act can be ignored. The ad hoc committee
has been meeting to conduct Board business and refine Board policy. The minutes show that the Board
members have discussed the use, misuse and abuse of school system credit cards. The Board members
have been meeting to formulate Board policy for use of school system credit cards going forward.

The Board of Education notes that the Montgomery County Public Schools general counsel has
participated in this committee. It is important to note that the Montgomery County Public School
general counsel is not the general counsel for the Board of Education. The Board of Education has their
own, separate legal counsel. The presence of the school system's general counsel would seem to
indicate that this committee will be reviewing the credit card policy of not only the Board of Education, but of the entire school system.

The ad hoc committee created by Board of Education President Phil Kauffman:
  1. is engaged in an advisory function as it discusses the development of new policy for Board expenditures
  2. it discusses a matter that is of great concern to the public
  3. is scheduled to report and make its recommendations to the full Board of Education at a meeting on July 28
The actions of the Board of Education have so far demonstrated a clear intention to circumvent
the Open Meetings Act. The expectation from the public is that matters such as board expense policies
would be discussed publicly. I am submitting a copy of a Washington Post Editorial that I believe reflects the mood of the public on this issue.

The initial action to exclude the public was criticized by many Montgomery County elected
officials and attracted the attention of the State Prosecutor who is currently conducting a criminal
investigation into Board of Education expenditures.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Sincerely,

Danuta Wilson
Attachments (5)
Cc:Kristin M. Koger

Monday, August 18, 2014

BOE Response to Open Meetings Act Complaint

On May 31, 2014, a member of the Parents' Coalition filed an Open Meetings Act Complaint regarding the secret meetings of the Board of Education credit card committee. 

Below is the response from the Board of Education to this complaint.

Note that the Board used the Venable LLP law firm to write this response to the Open Meetings Act Compliance Board. That is the same law firm that later stated "outside counsel did not uncover evidence of intentional action to improperly use credit cards for personal expenses."

In the Board of Education's response they contend that the credit card committee is not subject to the Maryland Open Meetings Act requirements.  Yet, the Board of Education notes in the final paragraph of this response that meetings of the credit card committee have now been opened up to the public. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

MCPS: “The public would misuse the data.”

My Two Cents: Praise For Greater Government Transparency

...When on the telephone with Dr. Zuckerman, I mentioned that it seemed odd to me that MCPS — a modern and sophisticated public organization — wasn’t more open and transparent. Being such at has never been easier than right now. Beyond the MCPS Foundation books, I mentioned Schools at a Glance and asked, “Why is such a key, and public MCPS data file not available as a downloadable Excel file?”
His answer (not a direct word-for-word quote, but close enough): “The public would misuse the data.”
What?
...

August 19th: Lawrence Joynes Status Hearing

Docket Date:07/25/2014 Docket Number: 42
Docket Description:MOTION, POSTPONEMENT
Docket Type:Motion Filed By: Defendant Status: Granted
Docket Text:COURT REPRESENTS (QUIRK,J.) DEFENDANT'S ORAL MOTION TO POSTPONE MOTION PURSUANT TO MARYLAND RULE 4-252 & 4-253 (DE#22) AND STATUS HEARING - GRANTED. COURT POSTPONES DEFENDANT'S MOTION AND STATUS HEARING TO AUGUST 19, 2014 AT 9:00 A.M. (CODE:JJ).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Exclusive: E-mail from JWMS Principal "We're ready to go."

The Parents' Coalition has obtained MCPS e-mails concerning a proposal (again) to put a cell tower compound on the Julius West Middle School playground.  

The October 9, 2013, e-mail from the principal, Craig Stanton, to MCPS' Real Estate office shows that the principal does not understand the law that must be followed in order to construct a cell tower compound on the Julius West Middle School playground.  A community meeting to present the plans is not optional, it is mandatory.  The vote of a "PTA" is meaningless to the process that must legally be followed to construct a cell tower compound in a neighborhood. 

Now try and reconcile the e-mail from the JWMS principal below with the statement from MCPS in this August 6th Gazette article. Which version of the PTA response is the truth? 

If MCPS principals want to be in the cell tower construction business it's time for them to learn the law, and then follow it.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

City of Rockville Tricked

Take a look at this 2005 application for a special exception to build a cell tower on the Julius West Middle School playground.  The special exception application was filed by an employee of T-Mobile.

Julius West Middle School land is owned by the Montgomery County Board of Education.
The Board of Education is the legal owner of the land and is the party that would file for a special exception. Note the T-Mobile employee certifies that she has the authority to make this application.  What authority would that be?

Where was the Board of Education vote to approve this construction?  There wasn't one!

Under what authority can private companies file for special exceptions to build on public school land in Montgomery County?

Why did the City of Rockville spend any time processing this application when it wasn't signed by the property owner?

Ultimately, this application was withdrawn and the cell tower was never constructed, but what is to keep this from happening again? Can anyone file for a special exception to build on public school land in Montgomery County?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guest Post: Communication is a Human Right

2014 Syracuse University Conference Schedule
MCPS Director of Special Education Gwen Mason and parents from the Montgomery County autism pilot program spoke at Syracuse University (Douglas Biklen, leading researcher of Facilitated Communication and at this university) at their annual conference in July.  This university conference is solely about facilitated communication (FC).   As FC is of such great controversy, the newer terminology to avoid this is supported typing.  However, Syracuse is firm about keeping the FC name.   The Montgomery County Autism Pilot project does not use the name of FC to avoid this controversy, but did however, go to a conference on Facilitated Communication and presented their program there as a mode.

By way of history---- there was a tremendous amount of controversy in setting up the Montgomery County class-- the autism program under Kris Secan did NOT support or agree with it at all, and the parents of the 5 children were the ones that pushed to get the program. Their efforts including due process at the hearing levels, IEP meetings, and due process where MCPS rejected and would not enter psychological results completed by other leading professionals in the field that used facilitated typing into the IEPs, and labeled the data as invalid.  MCPS Director Gwen Mason and others worked to make it happen- not the Autism program under Kris Secan. Indeed, Kris Secan's staff are not involved ( or minimally involved) in it. 

The controversy on FC, (now usually called supported typing) continues within MCPS and the autism professionals that work there.  Many even refused to go the trainings that were held by staff from Syracuse University in MCPS.

In addition, there are speech pathologists in MCPS who have been trained privately in Texas and Syracuse in the methodology and are NOT ALLOWED to use them in MCPS  (unless they are in the Pilot program of course) .  All of them I know practice privately and deliver the supports in their practices. 

The problem of equal access to the program and even the strategies/technology in it  is significant. My hunch is that maybe there is a perception that kids who should have supportive typing technology available to them are ONLY those who are perceived as being more "high functioning" or  worse, have had to prove that they are!   

This is outrageous,  because communication is a human right, regardless of how "low or high functioning" someone is , and to deprive somewhat of the right to communicate in a way that might work for them is unethical and immoral.  It would be like not giving a kid with intellectual disabilities eye glasses when he needs them because he is perceived as "not smart enough"   Seeing is a human right, so is communicating.   Access to medical treatments for diseases are not withheld based on intellectual ability,  and neither should educational strategies be either.

Furthermore,  depriving someone of the opportunity to even see (have access to) if supported typing (or other technology) might help them communicate better at their level is even more wrong.  No matter where you stand on the FC/facilitated typing debate, the bottom line is that access to any technology or strategy should be non-discriminatory.  And, to determine if a strategy or technology is effective, there has to be a time period where it is tried and taught and practiced first.  Right now, most children with autism and other disabilities can't make it to the point where they get this opportunity.  I love research and follow it obsessively, but aIso believe that what counts is what works for what child at what time in their lives!

Many parents had the resources and supports to access and pay for facilitated typing training and are truly ground breakers in sharing this with MCPS and convincing them to start the project, and they may indeed change the face of autism instruction in MCPS in the future.  I hope their efforts will extend to advocating for all other children with autism (and with other disabilities) in MCPS to have this access, and make sure that levels or perceived levels of "intellectual ability" should not be anywhere in the criteria to access such technology and teaching strategies.

But MOST parents do not/did not have access or resources to such methodologies, and thus it is close to impossible to prove their child might benefit from them-- as there is no way to get data without giving the access to start with.  If you do not have private financial resources to help you, MCPS currently can not be counted on to give "equal access" and the "burden of proof" is on these families.    

We absolutely must support each other's children as well as our own in this endeavor. 
Sorry for the length of this post--- But these families--- in and not in the project- and this issue are dear to my heart.

By~
Montgomery County Advocate for students with special education needs.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wootton's Plastic Grass wasn't enough for some football players

...Worst hit was Wootton, where Spinner coached before resigning in January for reasons he and the school would not disclose. The resignation was “not by choice,” he told The Post at the time. 
Six Wootton players have followed Spinner to Avalon, led by four-star recruit Trevon Diggs, brother of Maryland standout Stefon Diggs. Trevon is a rising junior with offers to play football from Florida State, Maryland and Penn State, among other top schools...
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/highschools/avalon-footballs-rapid-build-rankles-some-montgomery-county-coaches/2014/08/07/19ac09f2-1da9-11e4-ab7b-696c295ddfd1_story.html

Maryland school district to start monitoring students' social media posts with new software | WJLA.com

Maryland school district to start monitoring students' social media posts with new software | WJLA.com

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Open Meeting Compliance Board Annual Meeting - All Welcome

The Open Meetings Compliance Board will hold its annual meeting at 10:00 a.m. on  August 20, 2014 at the Office of the Attorney General, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Md.   Before holding the annual meeting, the Board will meet at 9:15 to discuss organizational matters.  The public is invited to both sessions.

If you are interested in attending, please contact Ms. Deborah Spence at OpenGov@oag.state.md.us or 410-576-6327 so that we may make the necessary arrangements.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

WPost: Leggett, Hixson & Luedtke and Campaign Contributions from racetrack and casino affiliated companies

...
3. Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) $8,000
Donors: W.M. Rickman Construction Co., River Sandy Landing
...
8. Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Montgomery), chairwoman of Ways & Means Committee $2,750
Donors: Ocean Downs (racetrack), Cambridge Plaza, Rickman Travilah
9. Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery), chairman of Ways and Means subcommittee $2,500
Donors: Ocean Downs (racetrack), W.M. Rickman Construction Company

----
Delegate Luedtke is also a MCPS middle school teacher.
...One recipient, Del. Eric D. Lued­tke (D-Montgomery), was unsure of the legality of a $500 contribution he received last fall from Ocean Downs, the Rickman-controlled company that runs the racetrack where Rickman’s casino opened in January 2011
So Luedtke contacted the Maryland attorney general’s office for advice about whether he could accept the money. He was told that nothing in the 2012 law prohibited him from accepting the track’s contribution, and he decided to keep the money. In May, Luedtke, who chairs a Ways and Means Committee panel with jurisdiction over gaming issues, also received a $2,000 check from Rickman’s construction company. 
Luedtke said he’s not entirely comfortable with forbidding donations by specific industries. “Why just casinos? Why not banks?” he asked. “If we’re concerned that contributions can affect policy, then why not a broader ban?”...

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/despite-2012-law-casino-cash-finds-its-way-to-candidates-in-maryland/2014/08/04/db88aeaa-17f9-11e4-9e3b-7f2f110c6265_story.html

1/3 of MCPS students say they’ve been offered or sold illegal drugs on school property

About one-third of Montgomery County students say they’ve been offered or sold illegal drugs on school property in the past year, according to results from the 2013 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
The survey also asked them about cyberbullying, food and their weight.
While smaller samples of county students have taken the survey before, the 2013 results show for the first time data specific to Montgomery. County students have taken the survey in the past to contribute to statewide results.
A random sample of 12 high schools and 14 middle schoolsin Montgomery County Public Schools participated in the survey that took place in the spring of 2013 and allowed students to anonymously respond.
The state survey is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, according to a report from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on the 2013 results...
http://www.gazette.net/article/20140806/NEWS/140809544/1007/montgomery-county-student-survey-highlights-drugs-food-bullying&template=gazette

Gazette: Neighbors say no to cell tower at Rockville school

Group wants ban at Julius West Middle School

Exclusive: Confidential Starr Memo on Abuse of Students


The Parents' Coalition has obtained a Confidential June 11, 2013, Memorandum from Superintendent Joshua Starr to the Board of Education regarding the "Process to Monitor Allegations of Inappropriate Behavior."

Along with the confidential memorandum we also obtained an August 28, 2013, memorandum from the MCPS Chief Operating Officer, Larry Bowers, to Principals and Directors.  The Chief Operating Officer memo states:

...There are no changes to the mandated reporting procedure in cases of suspected abuse, neglect, and mental injury. The procedures for addressing those issues are outlined in the MCPS Regulation JHC-RA, Child Abuse and Neglect, which is available online at http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/policy/pdf/jhcra.pdf

And, as you have probably guessed by now, the link in the paragraph above goes to a Board of Education regulation that hasn't been updated since 1989.  

MCPS COO Larry Bowers tells administrators there are "no changes" to the mandatory reporting procedures, yet there have been many changes to this Maryland law since 1989. 

Note how on Page 1 of Attachment A of the Bowers memorandum shown below there is no mention of calling Montgomery County Police, and the flow chart is written as if contacting Child Protective Services is one of three options.  

Under current Maryland law, calling Child Protective Services or the Police is a required first step when child abuse is suspected. It is not an option to report the suspected abuse to one of these agencies, it is required.  MCPS teachers and administrators are not being trained using current Maryland law, they are being trained using MCPS' out of date policy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

More Out of Date BOE Policy on Child Abuse and Neglect

Part 2 of our look at the Board of Education's out-of-date Child Abuse and Neglect policy. 

Page 4 of the out of date BOE policy shows section 5-704.  Cross that out and see below for what the law actually looks like today.  

Give a copy to your child's teacher. 
They won't have seen current Maryland law in their MCPS training. 


FAMILY LAW  
TITLE 5.  CHILDREN  
SUBTITLE 7.  CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT

Md. FAMILY LAW Code Ann. § 5-704  (2014)

§ 5-704. Reporting of abuse or neglect -- By health practitioner, police officer, educator, or human service worker 


   (a) In general. -- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, including any law on privileged communications, each health practitioner, police officer, educator, or human service worker, acting in a professional capacity in this State:

   (1) who has reason to believe that a child has been subjected to abuse or neglect, shall notify the local department or the appropriate law enforcement agency; and

   (2) if acting as a staff member of a hospital, public health agency, child care institution, juvenile detention center, school, or similar institution, shall immediately notify and give all information required by this section to the head of the institution or the designee of the head.


(b) Oral and written reports; cooperation among departments and agencies. --

   (1) An individual who notifies the appropriate authorities under subsection (a) of this section shall make:

      (i) an oral report, by telephone or direct communication, as soon as possible to the local department or appropriate law enforcement agency; and

      (ii) a written report:

         1. to the local department not later than 48 hours after the contact, examination, attention, or treatment that caused the individual to believe that the child had been subjected to abuse or neglect; and

         2. with a copy to the local State's Attorney.

   (2) (i) An agency to which an oral report of suspected abuse or neglect is made under paragraph (1) of this subsection shall immediately notify the other agency.

      (ii) This paragraph does not prohibit a local department and an appropriate law enforcement agency from agreeing to cooperative arrangements.

(c) Contents of report. -- Insofar as is reasonably possible, an individual who makes a report under this section shall include in the report the following information:

   (1) the name, age, and home address of the child;

   (2) the name and home address of the child's parent or other person who is responsible for the child's care;

   (3) the whereabouts of the child;

   (4) the nature and extent of the abuse or neglect of the child, including any evidence or information available to the reporter concerning possible previous instances of abuse or neglect; and

   (5) any other information that would help to determine:

      (i) the cause of the suspected abuse or neglect; and

      (ii) the identity of any individual responsible for the abuse or neglect.

HISTORY: 1987, ch. 635, § 2; 1989, ch. 730, §§ 1, 2; 1997, chs. 367, 368; 1998, ch. 21, § 1; 2000, ch. 61, § 1; 2003, ch. 308; 2011, chs. 398, 399; 2013, ch. 380.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Breaking News: Board of Ed. Child Abuse Policy is 25 Years Out of Date

But, who cares?Seriously. Who cares? This is only about the safety and security of children when they are entrusted to our public school system. So who cares? Not the Montgomery County Board of EducationThe Board of Education has spent 4 meetings in the last 3 months discussing whether or not they can take themselves out to dinner and charge the MCPS budget and NO meetings in 25 years to update the school system's Child Abuse and Neglect Policy. 

Here is the link to the Board of Education's current Policy JCH-EA. Note the last update on page 7. Yes, that says November 1988. Take a look at the first section cited: 5-701 (Page 1). 

This section of Maryland law has been changed a dozen times since 1988.  

**Now, here is CURRENT Maryland Child Abuse and Neglect law section 5-701.**  

Note that sexual abuse now includes pornographic photography, films, poses or similar activity, but no teachers or administrators in MCPS would know that because they have been trained using a Board of Education Policy document that hasn't been updated in 25 years. 





FAMILY LAW  
TITLE 5.  CHILDREN  
SUBTITLE 7.  CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT

Md. FAMILY LAW Code Ann. § 5-701  (2014)

§ 5-701. Definitions.


   (a) In general. -- Except as otherwise provided in § 5-705.1 of this subtitle, in this subtitle the following words have the meanings indicated.

(b) Abuse. -- "Abuse" means:

   (1) the physical or mental injury of a child by any parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by any household or family member, under circumstances that indicate that the child's health or welfare is harmed or at substantial risk of being harmed; or

   (2) sexual abuse of a child, whether physical injuries are sustained or not.

(c) Administration. -- "Administration" means the Social Services Administration of the Department.

(d) Central registry. --

   (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2) of this subsection, "central registry" means any component of the Department's confidential computerized database that contains information regarding child abuse and neglect investigations.

   (2) "Central registry" does not include a local department case file.

(e) Child. -- "Child" means any individual under the age of 18 years.

(f) Court. -- Repealed by Acts 2005, ch. 464, § 2, effective January 1, 2006.

(g) Educator or human service worker. --

   (1) "Educator or human service worker" means any professional employee of any correctional, public, parochial or private educational, health, juvenile service, social or social service agency, institution, or licensed facility.

   (2) "Educator or human service worker" includes:

      (i) any teacher;

      (ii) any counselor;

      (iii) any social worker;

      (iv) any caseworker; and

      (v) any probation or parole officer.

(h) Family member. -- "Family member" means a relative by blood, adoption, or marriage of a child.

(i) Health practitioner. --

   (1) "Health practitioner" includes any person who is authorized to practice healing under the Health Occupations Article or § 13-516 of the Education Article.

   (2) "Health practitioner" does not include an emergency medical dispatcher.

(j) Household. -- "Household" means the location:

   (1) in which the child resides;

   (2) where the abuse or neglect is alleged to have taken place; or

   (3) where the person suspected of abuse or neglect resides.

(k) Household member. -- "Household member" means a person who lives with, or is a regular presence in, a home of a child at the time of the alleged abuse or neglect.

(l) Identifying information. -- "Identifying information" means the name of:

   (1) the child who is alleged to have been abused or neglected;

   (2) a member of the household of the child;

   (3) a parent or legal guardian of the child; or

   (4) an individual suspected of being responsible for abuse or neglect of the child.

(m) Indicated. -- "Indicated" means a finding that there is credible evidence, which has not been satisfactorily refuted, that abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse did occur.

(n) Law enforcement agency. --

   (1) "Law enforcement agency" means a State, county, or municipal police department, bureau, or agency.

   (2) "Law enforcement agency" includes:

      (i) a State, county, or municipal police department or agency;

      (ii) a sheriff's office;

      (iii) a State's Attorney's office; and

      (iv) the Attorney General's office.

(o) Local department. -- Except as provided in §§ 5-705.1 and 5-714 of this subtitle, "local department" means the local department that has jurisdiction in the county:

   (1) where the allegedly abused or neglected child lives; or

   (2) if different, where the abuse or neglect is alleged to have taken place.

(p) Local department case file. -- "Local department case file" means that component of the Department's confidential computerized database that contains information regarding child abuse and neglect investigations to which access is limited to the local department staff responsible for the investigation.

(q) Local State's Attorney. -- "Local State's Attorney" means the State's Attorney for the county:

   (1) where the allegedly abused or neglected child lives; or

   (2) if different, where the abuse or neglect is alleged to have taken place.

(r) Mental injury. -- "Mental injury" means the observable, identifiable, and substantial impairment of a child's mental or psychological ability to function.

(s) Neglect. -- "Neglect" means the leaving of a child unattended or other failure to give proper care and attention to a child by any parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of the child under circumstances that indicate:

   (1) that the child's health or welfare is harmed or placed at substantial risk of harm; or

   (2) mental injury to the child or a substantial risk of mental injury.

(t) Police officer. -- "Police officer" means any State or local officer who is authorized to make arrests as part of the officer's official duty.

(u) Record. -- "Record" means the original or any copy of any documentary material, in any form, including a report of suspected child abuse or neglect, that is made by, received by, or received from the State, a county, or a municipal corporation in the State, or any subdivision or agency concerning a case of alleged child abuse or neglect.

(v) Report. -- "Report" means an allegation of abuse or neglect, made or received under this subtitle.

(w) Ruled out. -- "Ruled out" means a finding that abuse, neglect, or sexual abuse did not occur.

(x) Sexual abuse. --

   (1) "Sexual abuse" means any act that involves sexual molestation or exploitation of a child by a parent or other person who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of a child, or by any household or family member.

   (2) "Sexual abuse" includes:

      (i) allowing or encouraging a child to engage in:

         1. obscene photography, films, poses, or similar activity;

         2. pornographic photography, films, poses, or similar activity; or

         3. prostitution;

      (ii) human trafficking;

      (iii) incest;

      (iv) rape;

      (v) sexual offense in any degree;

      (vi) sodomy; and

      (vii) unnatural or perverted sexual practices.

(y) Unsubstantiated. -- "Unsubstantiated" means a finding that there is an insufficient amount of evidence to support a finding of indicated or ruled out.

HISTORY: 1987, ch. 635, § 2; 1989, ch. 395; ch. 730, §§ 1, 2; 1993, ch. 318, § 1; 1994, ch. 728; 1998, ch. 46; 1999, ch. 214; 2001, ch. 414; 2002, ch. 279; 2003, ch. 308; 2005, ch. 464, §§ 2, 3; 2006, ch. 44, § 6; 2012, chs. 342, 343.


Friday, August 1, 2014

The Sentinel: Council puts Churchill artificial turf field on hold

ROCKVILLE - A vote on the approval of the building of a $1.3 million stadium at Winston Churchill High School using private funds was canceled amid controversy over the approval of the stadium. Montgomery County Public Schools asked the County Council to remove the item from the July 29 council agenda.

“On the advice of counsel, (MCPS Superintendent) Dr. (Joshua) Starr asked the County Council to postpone final consideration of the supplemental appropriation request for the Churchill High School artificial turf project and the Council agreed. While we are under no obligation to do so, counsel believes it is prudent to hit the pause button given the pending litigation,”...
Full article continues at this link.

Gazette: School board sued for alleged ‘flawed and unlawful process’

...According to Schuessler’s letter, the school system indicated in its request for proposals for each field that a selection committee would use a point system to determine which submission would be selected. The factors considered in the point system as shown in the letter included the organization’s vision, community benefits, references, personnel and financial offer.
Schuessler said his organization doesn’t think the selection committee used the point system.
A school official told Montgomery Soccer in a phone call in March that it had been awarded the agreement, but the group later received an email saying that it had not been selected, he said.
After Montgomery Soccer protested the decision, the organizations were given the chance to re-enter their submissions and Bethesda Soccer Club was selected a second time.
The letter said that school officials told the organization during a meeting that the school system had received another, better offer for the Churchill field and would not talk about Montgomery Soccer’s proposal...

BOE Staff Member Campaign Contributions - $250 to Christopher Barclay

Laura Steinberg on left 
Remember the post about the Board of Education staff member who took a picture of a member of the public who attended a BOE retreat?  

That staff member was Laura Steinberg and she is the Board of Educaton's Staff Assistant for Legislative and Inter-Governmental Relations.  

And then there was the interaction after the July 3, 2014, BOE credit card committee meeting where Ms. Steinberg was heard profusely apologizing to a member of the media. (Minute 1:29:00 of video at link. See image at left.) 

Ms. Steinberg also has a MCPS American Express credit card and some of her expense account records have now been made public. 

Here is the public record of Ms. Steinberg's Maryland campaign contributions.  

Note that on April 1, 2014, Ms. Steinberg gave $250 to Christopher Barclay's campaign.

Source:  Maryland Campaign Finance Database

Contribution Date Contributor Name Contributor Address Contribution Amount Receiving Committee Filing Period Office
4/1/2014 Steinberg Laura  -Baltimore Ave Takoma Park MD 20912-4135 $250 Barclay Christopher Friends Of 2014 Gubernatorial Pre-Primary1 Montgomery (County Council )
7/17/2006 Steinberg Laura M. -Baltimore Avenue Takoma Park MD 20912 $500 Ervin Valerie Friends Of 2006 Gubernatorial Pre-Primary
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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wash Post Editorial Board: Montgomery County school board needs a lesson in responsibility

July 31 at 7:45 PM:
THE STRICT new rules put in place by the Montgomery County school board to govern member spending are aimed at reassuring taxpayers that their money is being wisely spent. There’s no question there was a need for tighter controls, but it is disconcerting that officials responsible for the system’s $2 billion budget apparently can’t be trusted with credit cards. Let’s hope members learned from this controversy and exercise better judgment.

Entire article at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/montgomery-county-school-board-needs-a-lesson-in-responsibility/2014/07/31/6180c2ea-1822-11e4-9e3b-7f2f110c6265_story.html?hpid=z6

WPost: Potomac turf field vote postponed following legal action by Montgomery soccer group

...Superintendent Joshua P. Starr made the request Tuesday, following legal advice to hold off on the matter while a lawsuit is pending, said Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/potomac-turf-field-vote-postponed-following-legal-action-by-montgomery-soccer-group/2014/07/31/5ed0046a-175b-11e4-9349-84d4a85be981_story.html

Councilmember Branson: "The Montgomery County school system needs an inspector general"

Washington Post, letters to the Editor:

The recent controversy over credit card use by Montgomery County Board of Education members touches on something far more significant than a few unauthorized hotel expenses [“Montgomery board gives up its school system credit cards,” Metro, July 30]. When I began serving on the Montgomery County Council, I was surprised to learn that the public school system, which accounts for more than half of the county’s budget, employs no independent auditor. You would think that our schools would put extra emphasis on transparency and accountability. In fact, the opposite is true.
 [...]


Cherri Branson, Silver Spring
The writer, a Democrat, represents District 5 (Eastern County) on the Montgomery County Council.


Read the entire article at:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-montgomery-county-school-system-needs-an-inspector-general/2014/07/30/4897d052-17e1-11e4-88f7-96ed767bb747_story.html


Declare a Permanent Ban on the Use of JWMS as a Cell Tower Site

July 14, 2014, letter from neighbors of Julius West Middle School in Rockville to the Board of Education and Superintendent Joshua Starr.