Wednesday, April 16, 2014

NBC4 Investigates Use of Classroom Trailers

...Montgomery County Public Schools use more than 430 portable classrooms, per state and district records obtained by the News4 I-Team. A row of nine portables, each of which is approximately the size of a trailer, covers an old blacktop playground at Summit Hall Elementary School in Gaithersburg. Principal Keith R. Jones said he installed security equipment, including surveillance cameras and tall fencing, outside the portable classrooms to protect the small buildings and ensure the safety of the fourth and fifth graders who must walk between the units and the main school. Jones said the cold winter was “very, very difficult for those students,” who must walk outdoors multiple times a day...

http://www.nbcwashington.com/investigations/Crowded-Classrooms-More-Students-Means-More-Portables-254618931.html

County Executive Candidates Forum Tonight!

A reminder: The Candidates Forum is tonight.

Please pass this information on to your neighborhood, school, and other listservs and friends.
 
Montgomery County Executive Candidates Forum
 
The Civic Fed, Montgomery County Taxpayers League, and the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County, MD, are co-sponsoring this Candidates Forum.  All four candidates have agreed to attend - Phil Andrews (D), Doug Duncan (D), Ike Leggett (D), and Jim Shalleck (R).  Andrea McCarren of WUSA*9 News has agreed to moderate.
 
DATE: Wednesday, April 16th
TIME: 6:30 pm meet-and-greet, 7-9 pm, Q&A
PLACE: Rockville Memorial Library, 21 Maryland Ave., Rockville
 
Please come and bring your questions!
 
And next week...

 
 
 
@hackMontgomery Hackathon Drop-in
 
We are holding the first of what we plan to be monthly Civic Hackathon drop-ins to work on our civic hackathon projects.  Please come and help us work on the 4 projects we began in February at the hackathon. 
 
DATE: Thursday, April 24th
TIME: 6:30 – 10 pm
PLACE: Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda
 
What is civic hacking? Here is an introduction, from Christopher Whitaker, from Code for America, Chicago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH6LnW_qjeI 
 
And here’s a write-up of our first civic hackathon back in February: http://new.sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2014/02/13/the-great-montgomery-hackathon/
 
Thanks, we hope to see you at both events!

 
Paula Bienenfeld
First Vice President and Education Committee Chair, Montgomery County Civic Federation
@MCCivicFed
@hackMontgomery

Detailed Wall Map of MCPS Boundaries


Click on link below to see detailed wall map of MCPS boundaries. http://gis.mcpsmd.org/gis/WallMap1314.pdf

Zoom in to see details of elementary, middle, high school and cluster boundaries

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Gazette: School system efforts ‘not working as intended’

Gazette:  County study: Montgomery high-poverty schools face bigger gaps

...one candidate, has accused a friend of Christopher Barclay, the other candidate, of entering and photographing his Annapolis office...

A confrontation in a Maryland delegate’s Annapolis office on the last day of the General Assembly session has links to two candidates running for the Montgomery County Council’s 5th District seat.
Del. Tom Hucker, one candidate, has accused a friend of Christopher Barclay, the other candidate, of entering and photographing his Annapolis office while he was on the House floor in the final hours of Maryland’s legislative session.
Hucker and Barclay are among five candidates running for the open council seat this June.
Exactly what transpired that evening is unclear, as three of the four men there that night offer varying accounts.
The only thing that is clear is that a man named Herbie Smith, who knows Barclay, was in Hucker’s office.
“I feel very violated, and I can’t imagine why I was targeted like this or what he was doing in my office,” Hucker (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring said. “I don’t know what to make of it. I hope it is not a sign of things to come.”
continues at link below
 http://www.gazette.net/article/20140411/NEWS/140419827/1124/annapolis-confrontation-adds-tension-to-montgomery-county-council-race%26template%3Dgazette&template=gazette

Exterminator suspects there is a termite infestation at Blair High School

After thousands of termites emerged in the arts hallway last Tuesday, an county exterminator has indicated the possibility of a termite infestation at Blair. The termites do not pose any immediate hazard, but the school may require treatment over the summer.

Thousands of termites emerged from a hole in the wall in Rm. 2 last Tuesday.Courtesy of Jamie Matthews
Thousands of termites emerged from a hole in the wall in Rm. 2 last Tuesday.
Students and teachers first noticed the termites in Rm. 2 during third period on Tuesday. Student teacher Michelle Steinberg had just finished teaching a demonstration when students saw the bugs at the perimeters of the room. "I noticed people weren't sitting down. The substitute teacher said there were bugs everywhere, so I went over to look. There were literally thousands on the floor, and they were coming out from a hole in the wall," Steinberg said...

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/12426

Monday, April 14, 2014

Andrews: Good government requires that elected officials ensure that communities are involved in a meaningful way in the decisions that affect them.

Potomac Almanac Letter to the Editor: In the Public’s Interest

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with representatives of the Coalition recently to discuss a wide range of issues affecting our county. I enjoyed the discussion.Good government requires that elected officials ensure that communities are involved in a meaningful way in the decisions that affect them. Public trust in government erodes when government leaders make deals behind closed doors, as the Brickyard community knows all too well. As a member of the County Council since 1998, I have worked openly and closely with many communities on a broad range of issues that affect them. I was one of the County Councilmembers who sent a letter publicly urging County Executive Leggett to work with the Coalition to find a mutually acceptable use of the Brickyard Road site...
 http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2014/apr/09/letter-editor-publics-interest/

Introduction: Child Protection Advocate

To all who are concerned about the safety of our children in ours schools....

I am a concerned parent and nurse advocate for the School Abuse victims in Montgomery County Public Schools.  I was motivated to take action when a close friend shared that her son was bullied over years at a County elementary school.  She later found out in a publicly posted letter to the Maryland State's Attorney office, that as a second grader he had been forcibly taken by the school's principal into a windowless closet ....her second grade son was alone in the closet with the principal....screaming, violently objecting.....for 30 minutes...this was witnessed by the school administrative secretary.

There was no response from MCPS administrators or the Board of Education.  My friend's son at age 13 is traumatized and unable to go to school.   Based on documents released to the public as part of litigation, her son was one of several closet victims at this school.  We believe that these other children's families were never notified that their children were alone with the principal in a closet despite teachers and other adults notifying Child Protective Services (CPS) on numerous occasions.

My friend and her son's mental health professionals all notified CPS with no response.  The Police were also repeatedly notified.  In this case no investigations or arrests were made despite heroic efforts by alarmed parents over a 2 year period. 

I have been trying to figure out a way for the families of the other closet victims to be notified via child advocacy centers...to no avail.  In addition to this situation I have become aware of the widespread school sexual abuse in the County...the media has reported on at least 8 separate arrests in school abuse cases of County personnel over an 18 month period from 2012-2013.  These are referenced on the Parents' Coalition site

Please email me at mcsaavs [at] gmail.com if you would like to become involved in school abuse prevention and/or providing support for school abuse victims/families.  As a trainer for the Maryland Enough Abuse Campaign I can also provide a one hour child sexual abuse prevention program for any of the PTA's in the County.   

Lets hope for a brighter, safer future for our children in Montgomery County!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Starr Follower Job Shopping Already

...In 2008, upon starting her doctorate coursework in Harvard's urban superintendents program, Schiavino-Narvaez said in an article published by the Penn State College of Education, her undergraduate alma mater, that her goal was to become a superintendent.
She joined the Springfield school system as a central office administrator in 2010, and for a time during her doctoral studies was an intern for then-Stamford superintendent Joshua Starr.
Starr left Connecticut in 2011 to become superintendent of Montgomery County public schools, and soon recruited Schiavino-Narvaez to join him as a community superintendent responsible for a cluster of 31 schools in the Maryland district. She was promoted to her deputy superintendent role two years ago.
"Beth has done an exceptional job in Montgomery County, especially in leading our school improvement efforts," Starr said in a statement Thursday evening. "Throughout her career, Beth has been a passionate advocate for children and is committed to making sure every student graduates with the skills necessary to be successful in college, in the work place and in life."
 http://www.courant.com/community/hartford/hc-hartford-superintendent-finalists-0412-20140410,0,6034655.story

Petition: Styrofoam is terrible for our environment and our kids, let's get it out of Montgomery County, MD cafeterias.

To:
Joshua Starr, Superintendent Montgomery County Public Schools
Montgomery County Public Schools, Montgomery County Board of Education
Marla Caplon, Food Services Director
Tonya Faulkner, Office of Procurement 
Stop using styrofoam trays in Montgomery County Public Schools.

Styrofoam is terrible for our environment and our kids, let's get it out of Montgomery County cafeterias.



An EPA report on solid waste named the polystyrene manufacturing process as the 5th largest creator of hazardous waste. The process of making polystyrene pollutes the air and creates large amounts of liquid and solid waste, including greenhouse gas and harmful to the ozone layer.


Toxic chemicals leach out of these products into the food that they contain (especially when heated in a microwave). These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems.


These products are made with petroleum, a non-sustainable and heavily polluting resource.

Read more here: http://soulobvious.com/foam-thought/

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Press Release: MD Legislators Eliminate Loophole in State Law Regarding School Staff and Teen Sexual Relationships

Two months ago the Parents' Coalition was contacted by advocates for Maryland children. These advocacy groups had been lobbying the Maryland General Assembly for 10 years to close loopholes in Maryland law that have allowed Persons in a Position of Authority to escape prosecution for sexual conduct with teenagers.  One such case occurred in Montgomery County in 2012.  

The Parents' Coalition is gratified to report that on April 7, 2014, the Maryland General Assembly finally passed a bill that begins to address the loopholes that have existed for over a decade in this Maryland law.  

Our Maryland legislators passed a bill that will amend current law to permit Persons in a Position of Authority who are employed or under contract with a public or private preschool, elementary school, or secondary school to be prosecuted for sexual contact with teens.  Part-time employment at a school will no longer be a bar to prosecution under this statute.

Loopholes still remain in Maryland law with regard to volunteers, coaches in programs outside schools, and recreational programs.  These loopholes give persons in positions of authority a free pass to sexually exploit teenagers.
  
The Parents' Coalition appreciated the opportunity to work with outstanding advocates for children including Ellen Mugmon, a long standing child advocate; Eileen King, Executive Director of Child Justice, Inc.; Dr. Wendy Lane, Chair, Child Maltreatment and Foster Care Committee, Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and, Ed Kilcullen, State Director, Maryland CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Association, to name just a few of the many advocates for children that have worked for over a decade to eliminate these loopholes in this Maryland statute.

We thank Delegate Luke Clippinger, Senator James Brochin, Senator Karen Montgomery, Senator Norman Stone, Delegate Sam Arora, and Delegate Kathleen Dumais, for communicating with the public as this bill made its way through the legislative process.

The Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland seeks to achieve the goals of coherent, content-rich curriculum standards; high expectations combined with timely remediation and acceleration; a wider range of educational options for parents and children; greater transparency and accountability; and meaningful community input.

E-mail: contact (at) parentscoalitionmc.com

Breaking: Council Report on Performance of MCPS High Schools Released Today

Some of the questions presented in this report:  
With regard to this study, the County Council is especially interested in understanding MCPS’ investments aimed at narrowing the achievement gap among the County’s high schools. Toward this end, OLO recommends the following questions for discussion with MCPS representatives:

• What strategies are underway to improve student performance among MCPS’ high-poverty
high schools, particularly among the measures reviewed in this report?
• To what extent has MCPS realigned existing resources to support improved performance in
high-poverty high schools? What realignments are proposed for the FY15 budget?
• What progress does MCPS anticipate in the short-term and the long-term in narrowing the high school achievement gap by school poverty based on current investments?
• How will MCPS use data and evaluation to determine the efficacy of its efforts to narrow the achievement gap among its high- and low-poverty high schools? 

Superintendent Joshua Starr's response to this report is at the end of this document. 

Who was looking out for Maryland children?


Taken With Webpage Screenshot

Monday, April 7, 2014

Legislature Passes Severely Amended Senate Bill 460, Rejects House Bill 781

We will post more on this legislation when the final documents are available. We know for sure the House version of this legislation was rejected.  
For now, here is the message we got this evening from Senator Bobby Zirkin. 


Taken With Webpage Screenshot

Coach loophole in MD law won't be closed unless Senate concurs with House bill #HB781 #SB460

Date: Mon, Apr 07, 2014
To: karen.montgomery@senate.state.md.us, anne.kaiser@house.state.md.us, eric.luedtke@house.state.md.us, craig.zucker@house.state.md.us, kathleen.dumais@house.state.md.us, arunamiller@gmail.com, brian.frosh@senate.state.md.us, susan.lee@house.state.md.us, jennie.forehand@senate.state.md.us, kumar.barve@house.state.md.us, jim.gilchrist@house.state.md.us, delegatesimmons@aol.com, richard.madaleno@senate.state.md.us, alfred.carr@house.state.md.us, ana.gutierrez@house.state.md.us, jeff.waldstreicher@house.state.md.us, roger.manno@senate.state.md.us, sam.arora@house.state.md.us, bonnie.cullison@house.state.md.us, benjamin.kramer@house.state.md.us, jamie.raskin@senate.state.md.us, sheila.hixson@house.state.md.us, brian.feldman@senate.state.md.us, david.fraser.hidalgo@house.state.md.us, bill.frick@house.state.md.us, ariana.kelly@house.state.md.us, tom.hucker@house.state.md.us, heather.mizeur@house.state.md.us, nancy.king@senate.state.md.us, charles.barkley@house.state.md.us, kirill.reznik@house.state.md.us, delegaterobinson@gmail.com

There have been hearings, votes and press coverage of the current loophole in Maryland law that permitted Montgomery County coach Scott Spear to escape prosecution for his relationship with a 16 year old.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/crime-scene/post/montgomery-teacher-scott-spear-resigns/2012/06/20/gJQA4bfUrV_blog.html

But, unless the Senate concurs with the House version of the bill today, the loophole won't be closed.  Coaches will still be able to escape prosecution for sexual relationships with 16 year olds.

If the Senate doesn't concur with the House version of this bill, Maryland law will continue to give persons in positions of authority a free pass to sexually exploit teenagers.

When this legislative session is over, could someone please identify the constituency in Maryland that has fought so long and so hard to keep this loophole in place? What Maryland parents are fighting to keep this loophole?

Clearly, they are the silent majority as there has not been any public comment in favor of keeping loopholes in this law, yet the loophole remains.

Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland                  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It's not about a guy in a bar... .@BobbyZirkin

There have been a number of attempts in the Maryland legislature to pass legislation to protect teens from sexual abuse by Persons in a Position of Authority over the years.  

When discussing legislation that concerns adults having sexual contact with teens, Senator Bobby Zirkin cites the case of the 23 year old man who met a 15 year old girl in a bar.  The audio below is from a Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing on March 7, 2012.  In that hearing Senator Zirkin recounted the story of the 23 year old man.  

We hope that when the Conference Committee that is set to meet on Monday, April 7th takes up Senate Bill 460 and House Bill 781 Senator Zirkin will not be citing this case.  

The legislation that is before the Maryland General Assembly right now involves Persons in a Position of Authority over children.  Those Persons KNOW they are the adults and KNOW they are in charge of children.  

It's not a surprise! 
It's not a bar! 

It is children in schools, on teams, and in recreational programs that will be protected by the proposed legislation passed by the House. 
Will the Conference Committee put the House version of this legislation before the full assembly for passage?

First speaker in audio is Assistant State's Attorney for Anne Arundel County.  Then Senator Brian Frosh speaks and turns the floor over to Senator Bobby Zirkin who tells the story of the 23 year old in a bar. 


Audio from March 7, 2012, Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Hearing
on Senate Bill 799 at approximately hour 3 of the audio.

Did Senator Bobby Zirkin delete Facebook postings asking about Legislation that will be decided Monday on Last Day of Session?

The posts by Janis Sartucci shown below in the first image have now been deleted from Senator Zirkin's Facebook page.  

Senator Zirkin posted that he would be Tweeting updates during the last week of the Session.  On Monday, Senator Zirkin will be going into a Conference Committee to decide the fate of SB 460/HB 781 the legislation that could close loopholes in current Maryland law regarding sexual contact between teachers, coaches, volunteers and recreational program staff, and children. Senate Zirkin is the Chair of the Senate representatives on this 6 person committee.

This is what the Facebook page looked like yesterday.




Here's what the same Facebook posting looks like now.





Is it OK if a Coach has sex with your child?

On Monday, April 7th a Conference Committee of 6 Maryland legislators will meet behind closed doors to decide the fate of your child.  The question before them is should there be criminal laws in place that provide penalties for a variety of Persons in Positions of Authority if they have sexual contact with your child?

At issue is the definition of a Person in Position of Authority.  

Under current Maryland law only full-time teachers are covered by this law. 


Parents, are you comfortable with current law? Are you comfortable knowing that if your child is in the custody of a coach, volunteer, part-time teacher or recreational program staff person the Person in charge of your child can engage in sexual contact with your child? 

Here's who to contact about this bill now.  Remember, you only have 24 hours to have your opinion heard by the legislators that will decide what happens to this bill.
    christopher.shank@senate.state.md.us
    jim.brochin@senate.state.md.us
    michael.hough@house.state.md.us

Senator Bobby Zirkin says just 6 people will decide if Maryland children deserve protection from coach/volunteer sexual predators

The Maryland House unanimously voted to protect children from sexual predators when they are Persons in Positions of Authority as in teachers (part-time and full time) coaches, volunteers and recreational program staff.  But, Senator Zirkin and other Senators wouldn't agree to provide that protection to children and the proposed legislation is now headed to a Conference Committee on Monday, April 7th.  Monday is the very last day of the 2014 legislative session, and the very last day for Maryland children to obtain protection from sexual predators.  

Senator Zirkin says just 6 people will not decide the fate of Maryland children. Those 6 people will make this decision without the public watching.  What will happen in the Conference Committee on Monday? 

Are Senator Jamie Raskin and Senator Brian Frosh (running for MD Atty Gen) lobbying this committee for a strong bill, or have they washed their hands of this legislation?



...sexually explicit videos and images of children are often traded anonymously through online forums...

The FBI is asking for the public’s help to stop a child predator.  They say the man they're looking for is known only as John Doe 28, and video found online shows him engaging in sexually-explicit activities with a young boy.  

Read more: http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/25145595/fbi-asks-for-help-identifying-child-predator#ixzz2y6cMvTfY 
After you read this article, then read about the same thing happening to MCPS students in MCPS classrooms.  What has Superinendent Joshua Starr, the Board of Education, the County Council or the County Executive done to address the sexual abuse of MCPS students in their classrooms?   

Performance of Montgomery County Public Schools' High Schools - A FY 2014 Update

MEMORANDUM
April 4, 2014
TO: County Council
FROM: Elaine Bonner-Tompkins, Senior Legislative Analyst
Office of Legislative Oversight
~
SUBJECT: OLO Report 2014-7, Performance of Montgomery County Public
Schools' High Schools - A FY 2014 Update

The Council's agenda for April 8, 2014 includes the receipt and release of the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) report 2014-7. The purpose of this report is to improve the Council's understanding of changes in the demographics and performance of MCPS' high schools. Councilmembers received the report under separate cover.

After the report is released, members of the public can pick-up copies of OLO Report 2014-7 in Legislative Information Services on April 8, 2014. The report will also be available online at http://www.montgomerycountvmd.gov/olo/reports/2008.html .
An ED[ucation] Committee worksession on OLO Report 2014-7 will be scheduled for June or July 2014.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Guest Post: A 24 year- old volunteer basketball coach molested an adolescent after she took a position of a volunteer high school basketball coach in Montgomery County

We are concerned and disappointed that the Judicial Proceedings Committee, under the leadership of Senator Frosh, has refused to concur with House Judiciary's version of SB 460, Criminal Law -Person in Position - Sexual Offenses.  This means that protections for children will necessarily be weakened since the foremost opponent of the bill, Senator Bobby Zirkin, a defense attorney, has been assigned to be the chairman of the conference committee by Senator Frosh.  The other two Senate conferees are Senator Brochin who has previously supported Senator Zirkin's amendments last year regarding a similar bill and Senator Shank. 

Nevertheless, Senator Raskin predicted in the Gazette that a strong consensus for the bill will emerge from the conference committee.  However, a strong consensus is not the same as a strong bill for children and their parents.  Last session, Senator Zirkin,  sponsored an amendment on a similar bill that would have exempted part-time employees convicted of engaging in sexual contact, sexual act, or vaginal intercourse with students from the sex offender registry. He also sponsored an amendment requiring an eight year gap in age between victim and perpetrator  before a prosecution involving a position of trust could commence, and he created a new defense for perpetrators which had never before been in current law.  It is important for parents and others concerned with the safety of minors to let Senator Zirkin know that parents find these dangerous amendments unacceptable even in light of his threat to kill this important child protection measure.

Not only should we be alert to detrimental amendments that could be added to the bill at the last minute without a hearing on their merits, but parents should tell Senators Frosh, Zikin, Brochin  and Shank that they do not want them to reject reasonable and necessary  protections for children that have already passed the House Judiciary Committee unanimously.

Sports or recreational facilities, or programs are  magnets for sex offenders whether or not they obtain their positions of trust supervising youth as volunteers or paid employees. Access to children is what counts.   For example, a 24 year- old volunteer basketball coach molested an adolescent after she took a position of a volunteer high school basketball coach in Montgomery County.  Therefore,  volunteers should not be stripped from the bill.  Nor should individuals under contract with sports and recreation programs and schools.

Also in jeopardy is a provision which allows prosecutors to charge both child sexual abuse, a felony, and a violation of the position of authority statute, a misdemeanor. If that provision is deleted, a child molester who is a educator could not be charged with child sexual abuse, which occurs on campus, if, at the same time, the teacher was charged for engaging in the same behavior with the same child off- campus off- time. This is only one of many unfair protections in current law which need to finally be eliminated.

As one national expert on sexual abuse/assaults in institutions which serve children stated, there is a clear empathy gap in certain individuals when it comes to protecting child and adolescent victims of sexual assault/sexual abuse.  This empathy gap still obstructs humane legislation  in the 21st Century.

How many Sandusky scandals among others does it take to make certain legislators understand that certain coaches can pose serious threats to children that must not be ignored? The focus of public officials should be on welfare of vulnerable children and adolescents and holding accountable adults in positions of public trust who use them for their own sexual gratification.

Of course, the conferees could take a progressive step by raising the current penalty from imprisonment not exceeding 1 year or a fine not exceeding $1000 or both to the penalty that was originally drafted in the bill. That  penalty called for imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $1000.  It is hard to believe that this extremely modest penalty for what is in actuality child sexual abuse by a person in a position of public trust was rejected.  Egregious crimes should not be minimized by such disproportionate sentences.

We therefore need to immediately ask legislators on the conference committee and their respective chairmen to place children's interests first and foremost in their deliberations. That would be the right thing to do.  Killing the bill or weakening it any more would not be actions that are admirable or just.  If they weaken the bill or kill it we want to know why.


~Concerned Maryland Parents

And in this corner, standing up to protect children from sexual abuse...

The Maryland House of Delegates has refused to recede.

That is, they won't back down from the bill they passed to protect children from sexual abuse by teachers, part-time teachers, contract employees, coaches and recreational program staff.

The House has appointed their 3 representatives to the Conference Committee that will decide what happens to this bill.

For the House, Delegates Dumais, Arora and Hough have been appointed to the Conference Committee on this legislation.  (Dumais and Arora are from Montgomery County)

Will Maryland children win or lose when the Committee meets?


House4/5/20143/29/2014House Refuses to Recede65
Conference Committee Appointed65
Delegates Dumais, Arora, and Hough65