Sunday, October 25, 2020

Coronavirus surge closes schools on Eastern Shore

Schools shuttered in rural Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore of Maryland this week amid a rise in coronavirus cases, more than a month after students began a gradual return to in-person classes.

The county is the first to retreat from classroom learning in Maryland since state officials began urging school systems in late August to reopen school buildings for the fall.

Dorchester County School Superintendent W. David Bromwell said about 20 percent of the school system’s 4,700 students were on campus part time — a number slated to more than double next week under a hybrid-learning plan for pre-K to grade 12...

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Opinion: At-large representation a tool to squelch minority voices

In the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Department of Justice (DOJ) ruled against at-large representation because it is a way to dilute and circumvent minority populations during voting.

In the 2018 Montgomery County election, isn’t it interesting that so many downcounty residents were elected to the County Council? Is it possible that by having four at-large candidates, minority voters and their votes were diluted, similar to what the DOJ has often ruled against?

Our constitution did not define a voting system. Many states initially tried the at-large method, then changed to district elections to ensure better representation...

COVID-19 spike among young in Mass. raising fresh alarms

BOSTON — Confirmed COVID-19 infections among Massachusetts residents younger than 20 are higher than they have been through the entire pandemic, prompting one leading expert to say the rising caseload is likely a reflection of increased testing and another to warn it could forecast a wave of transmission in older adults.

While some communities are backing away from in-person learning amid a statewide increase in cases, the infection rate among the state's youngest age group has grown more rapidly in the past two months than any other cohort. Officials have been consistently pointing to unsafe behavior among young adults as driving a significant portion of the uptick...

Friday, October 23, 2020

County Homeroom changes sparks outrage among students and teachers

...Multiple WJ teachers have expressed their frustrations through emails stating that they are already overwhelmed with the amount of work they are already required to accomplish. Science teacher Brock Eastman shared that administering both homeroom and regular class will be a burden to all teachers.

“If the issue is the need to have us engage with the student more, then why don’t we just increase the block times to an hour and fifteen minutes? I’ve needed that kind of time very much over the last few weeks to mix up the sessions, but instead I have to run off to test or a homeroom instead. And at least it’s not me adopting a curriculum that I am not knowledgeable in or qualified to administer,” Eastman said.

Overall, student and teacher opinions have come out against the county’s decision but the county remains unflinching in its efforts to administer required weekly homerooms..


It’s unclear what authority Montgomery County has to make broad school closures if COVID-19 conditions get worse, Emergency Management Director Dr. Earl Stoddard said at a county council meeting Tuesday. 

On July 31, Montgomery County was launched into a week-long back and forth with the state when County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles issued an order for private schools to remain virtual until at least Oct. 1. Gov. Larry Hogan strongly disapproved and issued an amended emergency order to make it clear that Montgomery County did not have the authority to make a blanket closure order for nonpublic schools.

In response to Hogan’s order, Gayles put out a second order reaffirming his first directive for private schools to stay virtual. The state health department came back with a statement saying it is policy that nonpublic schools can’t be closed in a blanket order. Finally, Gayles withdrew his directive one week later on Aug. 7.

At the council meeting Tuesday, Stoddard said Hogan’s order leaves the county in a challenging place...

...On Tuesday, Gayles said there are 32 active COVID-19 investigations involving school settings, and about 18 include a positive case or confirmed high risk of/close contact to a positive case...

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Student town hall addresses sexual assault allegations in Montgomery County

Over the summer, Montgomery County students came forward to report more than 350 allegations of sexual assault on social media. School leaders recently held a town hall with students to outline the resources available to them and what’s being done to prevent future incidents.

About 200 students attended the online meeting and were greeted by fellow students and County Superintendent of Schools Jack Smith...

"We would certainly appreciate a standing procedure," said Jack Smith, the superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools.


Maryland school leaders ask state for guidelines on COVID-19 vaccines, outbreak


Three staff members working at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Germantown have tested positive for COVID-19, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) said Monday. Oct. 15 was the last day one of the employees was at the school, MCPS said in a community message. Anyone who worked with the three staff members has been asked to get tested for coronavirus and quarantine for 14 days. MCPS said it is also sharing the information so anyone who was at the middle school before Oct. 15 can monitor themselves for symptoms. Although MCPS education is fully virtual so far this semester, some staff members are in schools. “We have staff in schools for a number of reasons including food distribution, facility management, staff teaching from their classrooms, ongoing tech and/or materials distribution, and other approved purposes,” Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala told MyMCMedia in an email...

Dorchester County, Maryland Closes Public Schools

Public Television stations to launch new learning channel

 In Michigan, folks. Of course taxpayers here in Montgomery County pay for the MCPS TV channel. So, how is it supporting our teachers and students? No idea.  Here's the story on the Michigan public TV stations, by reporter John Wisely, in the Detroit Free Press. Full story here.

The people who bring you Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger plan to bring a lot more educational programming, hoping to reverse some of the learning loss related to COVID-19.

Public Television stations across the state are launching the Michigan Learning Channel, a new way to feature real teachers and curriculum that is aligned to state standards, for kids at home.

"This will be teachers on television and on every platform imaginable," said Rich Homberg, president and CEO of Detroit Public Television. "The entire state has access to public television and the bandwidth of our channels. Today, we've got four channels and we've acquired the technology to create a fifth. So it's free over the air."

And here's what our MCPS TV channel has scheduled. Their annual budget appears to be approximately $1.8 million.

Former MCPS School Site Being Vacated. It can now be reclaimed for MCPS use.

Jack Smith released his recommendation, which includes scrapping the boundary study and starting a new one that includes Bethesda Elementary School.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The CDC Just Changed The Definition Of ‘Close Contact’ To Someone With Covid-19

...The change in CDC guidelines could lead to a reimagining of guidance on gatherings like schools, workplaces and restaurants, and a greater emphasis on the importance of social distancing and face masks...

-public health officials should consider transmission-risk implications of cumulative exposure time within such settings.-

Boston Public Schools Shift to All Remote Learning Due to Spike in COVID Cases

Monday, October 19, 2020

Maryland shortchanges taxpayers millions of dollars, according to state audit

Maryland has been shortchanging people millions of dollars on their tax returns according to a new state audit (State Department of Assessments and Taxation).

Auditors found the state has been miscalculating a tax credit for homeowners for years, and last year alone, just in Montgomery County, the error led to thousands of taxpayers losing out on a total of $4.4 million...

...Louis Wilen, a retired computer programmer from Montgomery County, discovered the problem four years ago. It’s not the first time he’s found a tax flaw in Maryland...

Friday, October 16, 2020



Montgomery County Public Schools announced that a staff member who works at a Glen Haven Elementary School meal distribution site in Wheaton has tested positive for the coronavirus...

As City of Gaithersburg Takes $1.5M +/- "Gift" from MoCo Board of Education, Who Sits on City Ethics Commission But a MoCo Board of Ed. member. #Ethics

The City of Gaithersburg has cut a deal with the Montgomery County Board of Education to allow the Board of Education to build an elementary school on a public City park that serves 5 communities.  

The Board of Education had put forth that the land was being given over at no cost, but the actual contract reveals that the Board of Education will be spending over $1.5 million dollars +/- to pay the City of Gaithersburg what can only be described as gifts since the contract does not detail the actual cost of these items. The gifts to the City are to be paid for by the Board of Education and will include an artificial turf football field (and costs for the future replacement of that field), bleachers, lighting and a tot lot.  

Clearly, the land is not being handed over to the Board of Education at "no cost."  But what is the exact cost to the Board of Education and the MCPS Operating Budget? That number can only be estimated as no exact cost was included in the contract.  

If any any point in time there are ever allegations of unethical actions by the City of Gaithersburg elected leaders or their staff, any such complaint would go before the City of Gaithersburg Ethics Commission

Montgomery County Board of Education member Rebecca Smondrowski is a member of the City of Gaithersburg Ethics Commission. 

From Board member Smondrowki's online MCPS bio:  

Mrs. Smondrowski was reappointed as a Commissioner for the City of Gaithersburg Ethics Commission in January 2015.

Messaging is consistent and clear within and between nations. If leaders are not consistent in their requests and advocacy, their people will be confused, perhaps frustrated. In that context the virus is unforgiving and may well spread massively.


By Dr David Nabarroa Special Envoy of the World Health Organization Director-General on COVID-19

There are new COVID challenges everywhere.  Tricky times for all leaders.  The virus has not changed and still has the potential to do lots of damage.  There is plenty of advice available, much of it is conflicting. 

Some commentators say ‘more restrictions needed now’. 

Others say ‘let the virus run wild and build up herd immunity’.   

A middle path is needed….  Too many restrictions damage people’s livelihoods and provoke resentment.  ‘Virus run wild’ will lead to lots of deaths as well as debilitating long-Covid among younger people. 

…with three interlinked emphases:

a) People are encouraged to adopt all precautions all the time...

15 Strange and Scary Goings-On Surrounding Covid-19, Schools, and Teaching

15 Strange and Scary Goings-On Surrounding Covid-19, Schools, and Teaching

Thursday, October 15, 2020

MCPS Board of Education Taking Down 55 Trees at Gaithersburg City Park

As a reminder, the Montgomery County Board of Education owns a dedicated, paid for, elementary school site right down the road from the City of Gaithersburg Kelley Park.  But, instead of using the land that they own, the Board of Education is going to build an elementary school on a City of Gaithersburg Park.  This plan has the Board of Education paying over $1.5 MILLION Operating Budget (teacher salary) dollars to the City of Gaithersburg for an artificial turf football field, bleachers, lights and a tot lot.  

The Board of Education could build a school on their own land and they wouldn't have to pay a thing to the City of Gaithersburg.  But this plan provides a way for the City of Gaithersburg to take in $1.5 MILLION dollars from the MCPS Operating Budget.  

And this Plan is going forward, even during a Global Pandemic where MCPS students are struggling to learn through virtual platforms.  The Board of Education does not have any problem handing over $1.5 MILLION to the City of Gaithersburg, even during a Global Pandemic.  


On Saturday, October 17, 2020, the residents of the Kelley Park neighborhoods will say good-bye to the 55 TREES that the Montgomery County Board of Education will be taking from the local park.  


We anticipate that MCPS will do whatever it takes to start construction in January, even despite our appeal. Save Kelley Park wants to help Gaithersburg residents appreciate the impact that the construction will have on just the trees in the park. Every tree within the 7.1 acres that composes the Level of Development is scheduled to be removed. We are working hard to prevent 55 trees from coming down, especially two amazing Bald Cypress tree located near the tot lot.

  • We invite you to RSVP and join us on October 17th (rain date October 18th) where you can “adopt” your tree.

  • You will be given a time slot.

  • Bring a love note to your tree or create a drawing.

  • We’ll help you safely place it on your tree

  • Have a picture taken with YOUR tree

  • Then take some time to visit the park….while we still have it.

This event is going to be conducted in accordance with current Montgomery County COVID-19 safety guidance. As a result, no more than 50 people can be on site at one time. You and your party will be given a time slot. You will be expected to wear a mask at all times, except during your picture with YOUR tree if you so choose. Your time slot allows time for you to make a drawing or write a letter to your tree--materials will be available, however we encourage you to prepare your item in advance and bring it with you. Should you have questions, please reach out to Lynn (202 236-6776) or Steve (240 671-5072). In the event of rain, we will send an email and post to our website

MCPS Students made more than 350 reports of sexual harassment, assault

The number of allegations of sexual assault and harassment made on social media this summer by Montgomery County Public Schools students now stands at more than 350, according to school district officials...

...Superintendent Jack Smith did not attend Tuesday night’s event but provided recorded remarks. He said “our entire community shares the responsibility in creating a culture of respect and maintaining a safe and welcoming learning environment” for students...

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

“He used his position of authority as a football coach to groom and sexually assault” the players, prosecutor Adrienne Ferrell said in court.

Former high school football coach in Montgomery is accused of sexually abusing 2 players

...Papadopoulos was first employed by Montgomery County Public Schools in 2016, according to the district. He is on administrative leave...

...Montgomery police said they were concerned that there might be additional victims. Court papers said the alleged abuse occurred at private residences. But in court on Tuesday, Ferrell said one incident occurred on school property.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Montgomery County: "only $600,000 out of $20 million has been given out to renters facing eviction and about half of the $10 million for food security has been distributed"



An emotional Montgomery County Council blasted the county staff, and specifically County Executive Marc Elrich, after receiving information that much of the federal money allocated to help residents and businesses during the global pandemic have yet to be distributed.

“The buck stops with him,” Council Vice President Tom Hucker said during a Oct. 13 council meeting. “This lies firmly in the County Executive’s lap,” said Councilman Craig Rice.

Montgomery County received $183,336,953 from the federal government through the CARES ACT. That money must be spent by the end of this December. But when County Chief Administrative Officer Richard Madaleno began explaining how little of the funds has been allocated to date, councilmembers became irate...

Letter to the Editor: We need to know when and where Trump got the coronavirus

Regarding the Oct. 8 news article “Refusing to ‘look backwards,’ aides spurn inquiries on Trump’s test results”:

Physician to the president Sean Conley needs to be honest with the media and the American public. The question of President Trump’s last negative coronavirus test is not irrelevant or subject to health privacy laws. The president waived any claim of privacy a long time ago when he went out in public, without a mask, and against the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. When and how was the president infected?..

Wootton HS: Former High School Football Coach Charged with Sexual Offenses Against Two Players; Possibility of Additional Victims a Concern

 Detectives from the Montgomery County Department of Police – Special Victims Investigations Division (SVID) have arrested and charged Christopher Papadopoulos, age 26, of Thorburn Place in Gaithersburg, with offenses related to his sexual abuse of two high school males.  Papadopoulous served as an assistant varsity coach for the Thomas S. Wootton High School football team from 2016 to 2020.  At the time of the offenses, the victims played football for the Thomas S. Wootton High School and Papadopoulos was one of the coaches.  The sexual interactions occurred after school hours and did not occur on school property.

On February 28, 2020, SVID detectives began an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse of the two victims by Papadopoulos.  Detectives learned that Papadopoulos sexually abused and exploited the first victim on multiple occasions.  Detectives also learned that Papadopoulos sexually abused and solicited the second victim.

Last night, October 12, Papadopoulos was served with an arrest warrant charging him with offenses to include sexual abuse of a minor.  He was transported to the Central Processing Unit and is being held on a no bond status.  He has bond review today.

Detectives are concerned there may be additional victims of Papadopoulos and are asking anyone who believes that he/she is a victim to call SVID detectives at 240-773-5400.

**Inquiries regarding Christopher Papadopoulos’ employment should be directed to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS).

Monday, October 12, 2020

Letter: Transparency in Resource and Staffing Allocations by Dustin Jeter, Social Studies Teacher at Springbrook H.S.

...We are very fortunate that in the State of Maryland and especially here at the Montgomery County level, we can benefit from the Maryland Open Meetings Act, which facilitates transparency. We benefit from hearing what decisions are being made, but we are also privy to the discussions that lead to those decisions. Unfortunately, the transparency that is afforded at the county level is non-existent at our local schools. Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has set up a system where school-level decisions are made without any input or discussion from staff or the community. The lack of transparency at the school level perpetuates inequality within our system. It disenfranchises many of the key stakeholders who must live with the school-based decisions that are made...

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Happy National Coming Out Day!


It's National Coming Out Day, so let's celebrate. This is for all our students, children, parents, guardians, teachers, aunts, uncles, and friends. Because everyone deserves to be respected for who they are. And because we love our kids.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Four Bradley Hills Elementary School staff members contract COVID-19; building temporarily closes [School is also a day care/virtual learning pod location]

The Bradley Hills Elementary School building will close for two weeks after four staff members tested positive for COVID-19, according to an email MCPS sent out to Bradley Hills families this afternoon.

The infected employees were last at the building on October 6, MCPS wrote in the email. MCPS reached out to staff members who were in proximity to the affected employees, encouraging them to quarantine for two weeks and get tested for the coronavirus...

Northwood HS Reports positive COVID-19 test for staff member.

October 9, 2020

Dear MCPS Community:

We are writing to share that a Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) food and nutrition services staff member working at the Northwood High School meal distribution site has reported a positive test of COVID-19. The last date the employee worked at the Northwood distribution site was Thursday, Oct. 8. Out of an abundance of caution, we have asked other employees who worked with the affected staff member to self-quarantine for 14 days since their last contact with the employee. In addition, we are sharing this so anyone who visited the school prior to or on Oct. 8 can self-monitor for symptoms. Based on discussions with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, we believe the risk level to students and families is low. The employee used masks and gloves—consistent with CDC guidance. MCPS has temporarily closed the school kitchen for cleaning and will use a mobile delivery truck through Oct. 14 to continue food distribution at Northwood High School, in accordance with CDC guidelines for physical distancing. We ask community members who use the Northwood food site to monitor for symptoms and to contact your health provider if you display symptoms or have any questions. 


Montgomery County Public Schools 

Maryland schools will have to report any coronavirus cases — but health officials don’t plan to publicize the data

Maryland health officials are refusing to release a complete list of schools where cases of COVID-19 have emerged, even as public school systems start making plans to bring select groups of students back to classrooms this fall.

The debate over the safety of returning children and staff to school buildings during a pandemic has crescendoed in communities throughout the region in recent weeks...

...“The release of COVID-19 data within the school districts would help parents make informed decisions,” Kane said. “There’s a lot of debate behind the scenes about whether or not to return to school, how to return to school. Not having those data points really limits the conversation.”..

R.I. buys 600,000 masks, thousands of thermometers and gowns to help schools reopen

 PROVIDENCE The state has acquired thousands of masks, thermometers and medical gloves to help schools struggling to stockpile their own personal protective equipment.

The state this week purchased 3,000 thermometers, 600,000 masks and 10,000 gowns to provide to school districts before the planned mid-September school opening, Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday during her weekly COVID-19 press conference.

Although she said the districts will be expected to take the lead on procuring cleaning and safety equipment, Raimondo said, “I can assure you, no one will be left in the lurch. We have your back. We will continue to make sure that there is never a shortage,”..

...Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, the state’s health director, explained why there are different size limits for students and social gatherings: 15 in a social setting compared to 30 in a school setting.

Schools, she said, have a lot more rules: assigned seating, students sitting six feet apart, frequent testing and mandatory mask wearing...

Dying in a Leadership Vacuum

Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy...

Firings of therapists who alleged wrongdoing left abused children without treatment: A nonprofit group that is paid nearly $1 million a year by Montgomery County to provide counseling and medical care to abused children has been accused of inflating the number of patients it serves and failing to protect their personal information.

A nonprofit group that is paid nearly $1 million a year by Montgomery County to provide counseling and medical care to abused children has been accused of inflating the number of patients it serves and failing to protect their personal information.

Three psychologists and a social worker who raised concerns about the Rockville-based Tree House organization say they were abruptly fired soon afterward, leaving dozens of vulnerable children without the therapists they had grown to trust.

“It’s like walking away in the middle of surgery,” said Stephanie Wolf, a psychologist who was fired in August. “I don’t understand how an organization that is supposed to be caring for kids would do this.”

The Tree House is a public-private nonprofit that provides free mental health services, medical assessments and victim advocacy for children who are suspected to have been physically or sexually abused. It is the only accredited child advocacy organization in Montgomery County, a suburb of 1 million people just outside the District...

MCPS slowly resumes SAT and ACT administration - Masks were Required

...Aside from normal testing requirements, the College Board issued a series of additional coronavirus-related protocols that must be followed on test day. This includes requiring masks for the duration of testing, limiting testing rooms to 10 students, and asking that students arrive 15 to 30 minutes earlier than the normal 7:45 a.m. to 8 a.m. window. The early arrival request will allow time for test takers to complete a COVID-19 safety screening — a process where students verbally respond to a series of statements about potential exposure — before being permitted to enter the building...

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Maryland High School Teacher Had ‘Explicit Images' on Screen in Class: Principal

Parents in Montgomery County continue to push for answers about when kids will go back to school


 Montgomery County is investigating a COVID-19 outbreak linked to a youth soccer club that has now “spilled over” into a high school team, public health officials have confirmed.

Over the weekend, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) was notified of two initial positive cases tied to the Potomac Soccer Association. As a result of the contact tracing investigations, approximately 35 individuals have been placed on quarantine status due to potential exposure. Officials did not specify which high school has been affected or in what capacity.

Dr. Travis Gayles, Montgomery County Health Officer, confirmed that this incident has met the Maryland state criteria to be considered an outbreak...

Notre Dame’s President Faces an Angry Campus After Getting the Coronavirus

Students and faculty are furious that the Rev. John I. Jenkins failed to wear a mask at a White House ceremony and then later tested positive for the virus.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — As college leaders deliberated whether to bring students back to campus, none led the charge for reopening more forcefully than the president of the University of Notre Dame.

The Rev. John I. Jenkins, the university’s president and a 66-year-old Catholic priest with degrees in philosophy and divinity, was among the first to invite students back for dorm life, intercollegiate sports and face-to-face classes, arguing in a New York Times Op-Ed in May that the college had a moral obligation to not be crippled by fear. He also seemed humble about the challenge: When he forgot social distancing rules as he posed for pictures with students returning to campus in August, he issued a public apology.

But all the humility in the world might not have spared Father Jenkins from the storm of protest he now faces over the latest news from South Bend: that he not only violated his own health rules — appearing without a mask at a White House reception last month for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Supreme Court nominee and former Notre Dame Law School professor — but also is infected with the coronavirus himself.

Students have petitioned for his resignation, angry over what they consider his hypocrisy as well as the rising tide of infections on campus. Others have reported him to a coronavirus hotline for violating his own mask mandate. The student newspaper called the affair “embarrassing” in an editorial. And the faculty senate stopped one vote short on Tuesday night of considering a vote of no confidence in his leadership...

MCPS superintendent says it will take ‘tremendous amount of planning’ to open schools

There is still no date set for students in Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools to return to their classrooms, but the Board of Education did hear from the superintendent on the issue this week.

“Everyone understands that we’re not going to open the schools tomorrow,” Superintendent Jack Smith told the board Tuesday.

“It’s going to take a tremendous amount of planning and logistical building of systems and structures in order to open schools.”..