Thursday, May 25, 2017

Montgomery County School Principals, Administrators Set To See Salary Bump

Montgomery County School Principals, Administrators Set To See Salary Bump: Employees will shoulder higher medical, prescription copays as part of negotiated agreement

Montgomery County principals and administrators will see their salaries climb with a step increase and a 1 percent cost of living adjustment.
The county school board on Monday signed off on a three-year negotiated agreement with the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals....

Will Montgomery County Parks Join the Class Action Lawsuit?

...“The synthetic turf installed by FieldTurf in 2009 has been steadily breaking up for the past several years,” said Dr. Scott Penland, Cherokee Central Schools superintendent.  “It has an eight year warranty.  We asked them to come in a couple of years ago and address our concerns.  They did come and make some corrections, but did not attempt to fix the fibers that were breaking up.”
He added, “I found out that several other schools were suing FieldTurf because they knowingly installed a ‘faulty’ product at that time.”

Dr. Penland contacted attorneys involved in a larger class-action lawsuit who visited Cherokee.  “Once they saw it, they agreed to add us to the ‘class action’ lawsuit at no cost to Cherokee.  If successful with the case, the attorneys will get a percentage of the amount we are awarded.  It is a win-win for us.”...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Architect Presents Initial Drawings of New Tilden Middle, Rock Terrace School

Architect Presents Initial Drawings of New Tilden Middle, Rock Terrace School: Plans would put greenhouse, culinary arts space in 235,000-square-foot building

Audit: HOC of Montgomery Co. 405 housing quality standards violations, including 89 violations that needed to be corrected within 24 hours because they posed a serious threat to the safety of the tenants. HOC to Reimburse $44,887 to HUD

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Office of Inspector General audited the Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) of Montgomery County, Maryland in 2016.  Below are the findings of the HUD Inspector General and a link to the full audit. (Note: This audit came out one month after the Silver Spring explosion.)



Click the link below for the full audit report and the HOC of Montgomery County response.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

WUSA9: Cell Towers Could Be Built at Dozens of PG County Public Schools

USA9 Reports on the Milestone Communications Cell Tower Deal: Cell towers could be built at dozens of Prince George's Co. schools
GREENBELT, MD (WUSA9) - A cell phone tower developer is backing away from a proposal to put a tower at Greenbelt’s Eleanor Roosevelt High School. The decision comes as scrutiny is mounting over the company’s confidential lease with the Board of Education that allows tower development at 73 of the county’s 208 schools.
Milestone Communications has told Prince George’s County Public School’s CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell that it will withdraw its application to put a tower at Eleanor Roosevelt H.S. Maxwell criticized the company saying it has “not met our desired standards for transparency, communication and community engagement." Maxwell made his comments in a letter to Board of Education member Lupi Quinteros-Grady, who opposed tower development at Roosevelt.
Even so, the school system in 2016 renewed a lease with Milestone that gives the company rights to develop as many as two towers at dozens of county schools. At least six schools are already cell tower sites. 

Bullying and Depression Are Concerns Expressed by Students During Town Hall

Monday, May 22, 2017

Psychology Today: Growing Up in a False Reality

This guest post is by Cindy Eckard, a Maryland parent who has spearheaded legislation in her state (link is external) to create medically-sound safety guidelines for the use of digital devices in public schools. 
Many people are focused on reducing screen time for children; I'm one of those people. The health risks are enormous for our kids, in a variety of ways, from their vulnerable, undeveloped eyes to their growing bodies and minds. And while I am the first to advocate for schools and parents to limit the amount of time our children spend on digital devices, per se, I am also growing increasingly convinced that our emotive relationships with these machines - which correlates to screen time - needs more exploration. What psychological needs are these digital devices filling - and what price is being paid when they dominate our lives?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

How Google Took Over the Classroom

From The New York Times, reporter Natasha Singer. To read the full story go here.

How Google Took Over the Classroom: The tech giant is transforming public education with low-cost laptops and free apps. But schools may be giving Google more than they are getting.

CHICAGO — The sixth graders at Newton Bateman, a public elementary school here with a classic red brick facade, know the Google drill.
In a social-science class last year, the students each grabbed a Google-powered laptop. They opened Google Classroom, an app where teachers make assignments. Then they clicked on Google Docs, a writing program, and began composing essays.
Looking up from her laptop, Masuma Khan, then 11 years old, said her essay explored how schooling in ancient Athens differed from her own. “Back then, they had wooden tablets and they had to take all of their notes on it,” she said. “Nowadays, we can just do it in Google Docs.”
Chicago Public Schools, the third-largest school district in the United States, with about 381,000 students, is at the forefront of a profound shift in American education: the Googlification of the classroom.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Baltimore County school board role, political ambitions clash for one member

The vice chair of the Baltimore County school board may have to choose between her role as a member of the Board of Education and her political activities.

Marisol Johnson, vice chair of the Baltimore County Board of Education, will likely have to choose between continuing in that position or giving up her seat on the Baltimore County Democratic Central Committee and an expected run for the county council.

Johnson’s current role and her political ambitions, which appear to include a run for the Baltimore County Council, conflict because of a 2014 law that establishes how members of the county’s board of education are selected. That law created a hybrid school board with seven of the 12 members being elected from the county’s council districts.

Johnson did not respond to calls or an email seeking comment.

School officials were also not immediately available for comment.

Robbie Leonard, past chair of the central committee, said he became aware of the legal conflict late last week after reviewing a 2014 law creating the county’s hybrid elected-appointed school board...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Whitman, Einstein slated for new artificial turf fields amid health, cost concerns

Montgomery County is inching forward on a $4.9 million project bringing artificial turf fields to Einstein, Whitman and Julius West Middle after the council approved funding Tuesday.
Montgomery Soccer, Inc. would cover installation costs as part of a public-private partnership yielding the youth sports organization about 1,000 of the estimated 2,400 hours in annual access per field for 10 years. The agreement stems from a legal settlement after MSI sued MCPS for using an unlawful process that granted fields to clubs serving “only a limited fraction — the wealthiest — of the County’s youth.”

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Breaking: Board of Ed. Puts Cell Tower on Northwest HS in Violation of Own Policy

At yesterday's Montgomery County Tower Committee meeting MCPS staff put forward an application for a cell antenna to go on the roof of Northwest High School. 

The application was put forward in direct violation of the MCPS regulations requiring PTSA/community approval of these applications.

On May 9, 2017, during the Public Comment portion of the Board of Education meeting the Northwest PTSA made the BOE aware of MCPS staff's attempt to put this cell tower up without following MCPS regulations. 

The Montgomery County Board of Education was clearly aware of the proposal to put a cell tower antenna on top of Northwest High School and let their staff proceed with bringing this application before the Montgomery County Tower Committee for approval.  With the seal of approval from the Board of Education, the application to put the cell tower antenna on the top of Northwest High School was approved.

This will be the first cell tower antenna to be constructed on a MCPS school building and the first cell tower construction project to ever move forward with the consent of the Montgomery County Board of Education.

All previous cell towers that were constructed on MCPS property were done when Jerry Weast was superintendent and were constructed without a public presentation to the Board of Education.

2017:  The year the Montgomery County Board of Education turns public schools in the county over to cell tower vendors for commercial use, and the year that the Board of Education makes it very clear that parents and guardians are not partners in their local public schools.

Here's who to congratulate on this ground breaking move:

Michael Durso
Judith Docca
Jeanette Dixon
Shebra Evans
Patricia O'Neill
Jill Ortman-Fouse
Rebecca Smondrowski
Eric Guerci

Forbes Mike Ozanian on Twitter: Here's a recent bad report on Field Turf field. #BlairHS @mocoboe

High School Student Parking Spills Onto Streets, Driveways in Montgomery County

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

County, Schools Arrive At Plan For Fully Funding Board of Education Budget

County, Schools Arrive At Plan For Fully Funding Board of Education Budget: Reimbursement from the state will help close .1 million funding gap

...The council’s decision on Monday wouldn’t increase the county contribution from the amount recommended by County Executive Ike Leggett. The $1.663 billion funding level suggested by the county executive is about $19 million above the state-required minimum, but it still left a roughly $2 million hole in the school board’s budget plan.

Officials addressed this shortfall with money from the state, which provided a one-time reimbursement for costs related to the county’s state pension contribution. MCPS received about $4.1 million in fiscal 2017 and was able to carry over about $2.1 million to next year’s budget, which goes into effect July 1, according to a staff report...

Montgomery County Public School Security Employee Charged with Sex Offense

Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department – Special Victims Investigations Division (SVID) have arrested Mike Anthony Lievano, age 21, of University Boulevard in Silver Spring, and have charged him with having inappropriate sexual contact with a 14-year-old Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School female student while he worked as a security employee at the school.  Montgomery County Public School administrators placed Lievano on administrative leave as soon as they learned of these allegations.
On Thursday, May 4, SVID detectives were notified of the allegations.  Detectives interviewed the victim who told investigators that she and Lievano communicated via text messages and started dating on March 29, 2017.  During that time, Lievano engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with the victim at her home and at his home.
On May 5, Lievano was interviewed by detectives and made admissions relating to the allegations.  Detectives continued to investigate and a warrant was obtained for Lievano’s arrest, charging him with sexual abuse of a minor, a third-degree sex offense, and fourth-degree sex offense.  Lievano turned himself in to investigators late last night and was transported to the Central Processing Unit.  He is being held on a $10,000 bond.
Anyone who believes that his/her child may have been victimized by Lievano in a similar way should call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5400.

Montgomery Co. Tower Committee Set to Rubber Stamp Cell Towers Today, Including Northwest High School Cell Tower

COMCOR 02.58E.01.06.c.3. provides for the Tower Committee to “review other relevant information” when it reviews TFCG applications. Due to the size of the agenda, my limited access to the records, and time constraints, I was only able to conduct a limited review of the records. However, I did identify a number of issues that are germane to the Tower Committee’s review. As a result, I am providing the following relevant information about applications that are on today’s agenda.

1)            Each of the following TFCG applications fails to meet the TFCG requirement of documenting all legal authorizations for its proposed attachments to be affixed to the structure and/or occupy the intended space, and is therefore deficient. In 2011, Mitsuko Herrera filed Reply Comments with the FCC, representing you, CIO/Director Emanuel, and herself. Page 19 of those Reply Comments discusses various reasons that the Tower Committee rejects TFCG applications. Reasons include when “the property owner has not agreed to the lease” or “approved the attachment.” See . The Tower Committee practice of rejecting applications that lack proper authorizations is consistent with the TFCG Regulations. It serves to minimize impacts upon citizens and surrounding areas. It also limits the impacts upon other County agencies, which can prevent administrative congestion, and thus, streamline the processing of deserving applications. Please reject the following applications for being deficient for lacking needed authorizations for attachment:
A.           agenda item 3. – application #201704-14
B.           agenda item 4.– application #201704-15
C.           agenda item 5.– application #204704-16
D.           agenda item 7.– application #204704-29
E.            agenda item 14.– application #204704-36
F.            agenda item 18.– application #204704-40
G.           agenda item 20.– application #204704-43
H.           agenda item 21.– application #201705-01
I.             agenda item 26.– application #201705-14
J.            agenda item 39.– application #201609-10
K.            agenda item 40.– application #201609-11
L.            agenda item 41.– application #201609-13
M.          agenda item 43.– application #201609-15
N.           agenda item 45.– application #201609-17
O.           agenda item 46.– application #201609-18
P.            agenda item 47.– application #201609-19
Q.           agenda item 48.– application #201609-22
R.           agenda item 50.– application #201609-24
S.            agenda item 51.– application #201609-25
T.            agenda item 54.– application #201609-28
U.           agenda item 57.– application #201611-05
V.           agenda item 59.– application #201704-17
W.          agenda item 60.– application #201704-19
X.            agenda item 61.– application #201704-20
Y.            agenda item 62.– application #201704-23
Z.            agenda item 63.– application #201704-26
AA.         agenda item 64.– application #201704-27
BB.         agenda item 65.– application #201704-28

2)            All of the Technology MD Network Co/Mobilitie applications that appear on the regular agenda, agenda items 39 through 57 are deficient. Each of these applications says, “see construction drawings,” to provide the reviewing agency with more complete information. However, in each application, the drawings that are attached are not construction drawings. The attached documents, by their own admission, are unreliable because, as noted, they are only drafts. The documents rely upon no structural analysis. Also, the depictions provide are misleading because they are not to scale, and notations on the drawings themselves indicate that the drawings should not be relied upon. In addition, these drawings are not signed or sealed, and in most cases, no attribution is even provided. Per Maryland Article-Business and Professions, §14-103(a), “drawings shall be signed, sealed, and dated by the professional engineer who prepared or approved the documents.” Please reject all of the Technology MD Network Co/Mobilitie applications that appear on the regular agenda, agenda items 39 through 57.

3)            All of the Technology MD Network Co/Mobilitie applications that appear on the regular agenda, agenda items 39 through 57, indicate plans to attach signage to their sites that would be deceptive and represent the type of subterfuge that the media have reported Mobilitie as engaging in throughout the United States. The applications provide intent to mislead the public by identifying the owner as “Interstate Transport and Broadband.” Please reject all of the Technology MD Network Co/Mobilitie applications that appear on the regular agenda, agenda items 39 through 57.

4)            The following Technology MD Network Co/Mobilitie applications for having provided inaccurate or contradictory information about pole construction, which appear as agenda items 40, 41, 43, 44, 50, and 51. Please reject these applications.
A.           201609-10 – identified as steel, but appears to be bronze. (This application also appears to have misidentified the pole owner in the application.)
B.           201609-11 – identified as steel, but appears to be spun aluminum
C.           201609-13 – identified as steel and as concrete; appears to be spun aluminum
D.           201609-15 – identified as steel, but appears to be spun aluminum
E.            201609-16 – identified as both wood and steel
F.            201609-24 – identified as steel, but appears to be spun aluminum
G.           201609-25 – identified as both bronze and steel

5)            Several applications site facilities next to residential uses, even when there are alternatives for co-locations at the approximate locations that would not abut residential uses. Per COMCOR 02.58E.01.05, the Tower Coordinator’s Application Review must be based, in part, on “co-location options” and “potential impacts on the surrounding area.” And this regulation was adopted, among other reasons, to “minimize adverse impacts upon citizens.” Please table the following applications for their further modification and/or review or reject them.

A.           Agenda item 47. - 201609-19 –The applicant states that the utility pole is in the Montgomery County PROW. But this pole is behind the sidewalk, and it may be on the property owner’s land. The proposed location is a short distance between the main artery, New Hampshire Avenue, and Martin Luther King Park. Surely, Mobilitie could re-evaluate its co-location options and select another utility pole or other site that would not have such an adverse impact upon citizens.

B.           Agenda item 48. - 201609-22 – This attachment abuts a single family residence in an R-60 zone. On the opposite side of the street and very nearby the proposed pole, the Washington  Metropolitan Transit Authority is the owner of a parcel of property (District - 13 Account Number - 02064398) where there is also a Pepco pole. That nonresidential use is more a more appropriate property upon which to co-locate the small cell site, especially in this neighborhood of small, R-60 properties.

C.           Agenda item 60. - 201704-19, item 61. - 201704-20, and item 62. - 201704-23 – With a little effort, T-Mobile could diminish the effects of its DAS poles on this residential community. On Piney Branch, it could, for example, shift down a short way toward the gas station. On Arliss, for example, it could instead of replacing the pole in the sidewalk, in front of the apartments (which could increase barriers to persons with disabilities), it could replace the pole nearby, which is in front of the public library. And, for example, rather than replacing a pole abutting the apartments on Gilbert Place, a pole could instead be replaced at the commercial area that is in back of the apartments, which fronts on University Blvd, E.

6)            There are some typographical errors in the agenda and in the applications. Some of these typos are insignificant, such as misidentified location nodes, and misspelling “Derwood.” However in the case of agenda item 47, the application and agenda incorrectly identify the cross street as Kenwood, which is a street in Bethesda. And in the case of agenda item 63, there are two roads that have the name University Blvd: University Blvd E. and University Blvd W.; failing to specify is problematic and makes the address incomplete.

A.           201609-19 – The street coordinates were misidentified in the application and on the agenda. The correct streets are Jackson Rd. @ Kerwood Rd., Silver Spring.

B.           201704-26 – 925 University Blvd, Silver Spring – There are two University Blvd. Without specifying East or West, this address is incomplete.

7)  COMCOR 02.58E.01.05.b. Requires the Board of Education as the land-owning agency for Northwest High School, which is agenda item59, application 201704-17, to:
               1.   Review the site application in accordance with the agency's siting standards and policy.
                              2.   Receive and evaluate public input as part of the agency's decision process.
The Board of Education has not done this. Please reject this application.

Thank you for considering these issues.

Sue Present

PGCPS Superintendent Kevin Maxwell Writes Letter About Milestone's "less than desired standards of transparency" #celltower

From Superintendent Kevin Maxwell's letter to Milestone Communications:

"I concur with you that Milestone Communications has not met our desired standards of transparency, communication and community engagement. Your displeasure with their process, which we share with you, has been clearly communicated to Milestone Communications.
In response, we have been notified by Milestone Communications of its decision to withdraw their application for the proposed telecommunication facility (cell tower) at Eleanor Roosevelt High School.
I greatly appreciate your continued advocacy for our students, our schools, and your constituents." 
Cell Towers Do Not Belong At My Child's School : PGCPS CEO Dr. Maxwell Writes Letter About Mileston...: Prince George's County CEO  Dr. Maxwell writes letter stating that: " I concur with you that Milestone Communications has not ...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Exclusive: County Parks that Lost Funding to Pay for the Replacement Blair HS Artificial Turf

The artificial turf football field at Blair High School in Silver Spring failed.  The Blair football field is on M-NCPPC (Montgomery Parks) property. 

The artificial turf surface at Blair High School failed while under warranty from FieldTurf.

But, Montgomery County Parks did not replace the field under the warranty.  Instead, they bought a new field from a different company. 

Where did Montgomery County Parks get the $725,117 from to pay for this new artificial turf football field?

Everyone must already know the answer to this question because we live in award winning, transparent Montgomery County, right? 

For those that do not already know how this replacement plastic field on top of stone was funded, here is the list of Montgomery County Park projects that were deemed "not politically sensitive" and the funding for these projects was deferred by Montgomery County Parks to pay for the new Blair High School plastic football field. 

Was there any public notice or opportunity to comment for these communities?

Infield renovations at South Germantown and Ridge Road, Germantown

Fencing replacement at Sundown Road Local Park fields 1 and 2, Laytonsville
and Johnsons Local Park, Gaithersburg

6 rectangular field renovations (unknown locations)

Ridge Road Recreational Park:  Bleacher and access improvement construction, Germantown

Northwest Branch Recreational Park - irrigation, Aspen Hill

Thanks to all those "not politically sensitive" communities, Blair High School has a brand new plastic football field!  You are welcome to use it anytime!  That is, anytime you pay the rental fee.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mothers' Day to all our moms! You are the best.
(Carol M. Highsmith, photographer, 1980)

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Blair High School needs new artificial surface field

Why didn't M-NCPPC know the Blair High School artificial turf field was unsafe?  The field was being tested annually.  Didn't M-NCPPC read the reports on the field?

March 2017
SILVER SPRING – Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission is having Montgomery Blair High School’s artificial turf field replaced after a retest showed the field was unsafe and within a year of the end of its useful life.
John Nissel, deputy director of operations, said the warrantee for the field managed by M-NCPPC is due to expire in August.
“It’s like if you buy a car and it wears out before the warrantee; it’s certainly not what you paid for,” said Nissel, referring to the field lasting seven years and four months.

He said M-NCPPC had planned to replace the field about 10 years after FieldTurf installed it.
The field is supposed to last eight years from the date of installation, according to the warrantee.

M-NCPPC hired Shaw Sports Turf to replace the field, including organic infill made from coconut to replace the crumb rubber, Nissel said.

He said M-NCPPC would not have known that the old field was unsafe for play if a parent hadn’t contacted the field company FieldTurf to say she saw excess black crumb rubber laying on the surface of the field. FieldTurf then met with the parent.

“The fibers start to break down, what you’re seeing is a lot of crumb rubber, so that raised an eyebrow with us,” Nissel said. “When they came out and did the test and we did the subsequent test, we felt that there was an issue.”...

...“Due to the excessive consistent fiber wear, compacted infill and surface infill, we do not recommend competition use of this surface until implementation of proper professional maintenance services to address the items noted within this report as well as improve the conditions of this athletic field,” Teeter said in his report from Oct. 14. “The severely worn fibers are not able to withstand proper routine maintenance by the owner due the fragile fibers shearing off the surface of the infill.”
M-NCPPC closed the field as soon as it received the report Oct. 18, Nissel said.

“Failing g-max is the biggest concern when you do a field test like that. When you fail a g-max test then you subject your players to a concussion (risk),” Nissel said...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Young adults with autism face many new expectations and challenges — with none of the support that is available during high school.

A giant wave of children diagnosed with autism in the 1990s are now reaching adulthood. Researchers estimate that about 50,000 young people with autism turn 18 every year. What’s clear is that this is a perilous phase for many of them, with at least three times the rate of social isolation and far higher rates of unemployment compared with people who have other disabilities. Whereas the majority of young people with language impairments or learning disabilities live independently, less than one-quarter of young adults with autism ever do so...