Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chevy Chase karate teacher wanted on child pornography charges - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Chevy Chase karate teacher wanted on child pornography charges - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG


CHEVY CHASE, Md. - A warrant has been issued for a Montgomery County karate teacher who faces child pornography charges, and police believe some of the students at his Chevy Chase studio may have been victims.

Montgomery County police say 26-year-old Alexander Soumbadze currently faces eight counts of possession of child pornography, but investigators believe he may have fled the country. Investigators are also attempting to find and speak with possible additional, unidentified victims, and say there may be additional charges filed once those people are located.

In December 2014, the Montgomery County Police-Child Exploitation Unit was alerted by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation that someone who possibly resided in Montgomery County was uploading child pornography via the internet. Detectives obtained information about that particular user, who was later identified as Soumbadze.

Then, on April 1, a search warrant was executed at Soumbadze's Bethesda home. He was interviewed, and admitted to trading and receiving child pornography. Investigators seized several of his electronic devices, and in reviewing their contents, the found eight videos containing child pornography.

Investigators also found videos of Soumbadze improperly touching and engaging in sexual acts with what appear to be adolescent boys and young adults. They say it appears the victims knew they were being videotaped.

Authorities say they were able to determine the videos were shot prior to October 2011 at a karate studio formerly known as DC Martial Arts, which was located at 6936 Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase. Soumbadze had been an instructor at that studio, and when the business changed ownership in October 2011, he became a partner in the business, which was then called On The Mat Sports International.

Investigators say Soumbadze has been affiliated with the karate studio since he was a young child and attended the studio as a student.

Police say Soumbadze fled the U.S. on or about April 3, and his possible final destination may have been the country of Georgia.  A warrant has been issued for his arrest, and the investigation into these additional seized videos continues.

Detectives would like to identify and speak to these victims captured on the videos to determine possible criminal acts that may have occurred. Victim information will be confidential and victims are strongly urged to call investigators.

Investigators are asking that anyone who believes he or she was a victim of inappropriate contact with Soumbadze to please call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5406.

Friday, April 17, 2015

L.A. school district demands iPad refund from Apple

From the LA Times, by reporter Howard Blume. For the complete story go here.
Contact info:  @HowardBlume

The Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking to recoup millions of dollars from technology giant Apple over a problem-plagued curriculum that was provided with iPads intended to be given to every student, teacher and administrator.

To press its case, the Board of Education on Tuesday authorized its attorneys in a closed-door meeting to explore possible litigation against Apple and Pearson, the company that developed the curriculum as a subcontractor to Apple.

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product,” said David Holmquist, general counsel for the nation’s second-largest school system. He said millions of dollars could be at stake.


 The $1.3-billion iPad effort was a signature program under then-Supt. John Deasy. But it faltered almost immediately during the fall 2013 rollout of the devices. Questions later arose about whether Apple and Pearson enjoyed an advantage in the bidding process; an FBI criminal investigation is ongoing.


Under the contract, Pearson was to provide English and math curriculum. The district selected Pearson based only on samples of curriculum — nothing more was available.

L.A. Unified made the deal anyway; it wanted to bundle the curriculum and the device into a single price. A three-year license to use the curriculum added about $200 to the $768 cost of each iPad. The entire purchase then was financed through school construction bonds, which can be used to purchase computers.

L.A. Unified bought 43,261 iPads with the Pearson curriculum. The district purchased another 77,175 iPads under the contract without the Pearson curriculum to be used initially for state standardized tests.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

L.A. School District Terminates iPad Program and Seeks Refund From Apple

From by reporter Lily Hay Newman, 4/16/15, 3:31pm

It's been an interesting ride, but the Los Angeles school iPad program is done. Between the rampant student hacking and the FBI probe, you can see how the focus kind of wandered away from education. But there are millions of dollars tied up in the project, so it's not just lunch money.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, the Unified School District Board of Education told its attorneys that they should consider litigation against Apple and Pearson. (Pearson developed the iPad curriculum as an Apple contractor.) District counsel David Holmquist said that Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product.” In a letter to Apple, the school district wrote that it won't continue to pay for the Pearson curriculum or services. And board members are calling for a refund.

For the entire story go here.

MCPS to Investigate Constructing a Cell Tower at Neelsville Middle School

...If the school and PTSA decide not to move forward at this point the cell tower would not be built. However, if they decide to continue the process, the process will have to go through the general public comment and meeting sessions as any other construction project in county. At that point a full open community meeting would be organized by the school.
   There are currently 11 Montgomery County Public Schools with cell towers, all but one are high schools, Capt. James Daly Elementary is the only exception.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Exlusive E-Mails Between Starr and BOE During Last 3 Months: Bell Times, Sexual Abuse, Blair Ewing School, Minority Scholars, Purple Line, Washington Post, Outdoor Ed

SMOB bill fails

In the final minutes of the Maryland legislative session on April 13, questions were raised in the senate about HB0086, Montgomery County Board of Education - Student Member - Voting MC 7-15.

At midnight, the 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly ended and the bill did not receive a final vote, and will therefore not become law.

HB0086 would have allowed the Student Member of the Montgomery County Board of Education to vote on budgetary matters.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bowers Putting Another Cell Tower Compound on Another Red Zone Playground - Meeting Tues. April 14th at 7 PM

PTSA Meeting
When: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Where: Neelsville Middle School Media Center, Germantown

Interim MCPS Superintendent Larry Bowers is allowing VERIZON to make a presentation at Neelsville Middle School on Tuesday, April 14th on his plans to permit another cell tower compound to be built on another Red Zone playground.
The next MCPS Red Zone school to get a cell tower compound will be Neeslville Middle School in Germantown. See the pink arrow on the map for the location of Neelsville Middle School.
Red Zone refers to schools that have a high rate of students receiving free and reduced priced meals. As you can see from this map, the vast majority of cell tower compounds on MCPS playgrounds have been placed on schools that are located in the Red Zone.  It has been documented that cell towers can reduce the property value of neighboring properties.

Yellow dots show MCPS school playgrounds that already have cell tower compounds.

MCPS And Planners Sparring Over Design Of New Bethesda-Chevy Chase School

Things have gotten testy between planners and MCPS officials who disagree about how to best protect trees at the site of a planned middle school in Kensington...

 ...A discussion at the March 26 Planning Board hearing also illustrated the apparent rift between planners and school officials when it comes to designing new schools on smaller-than-preferred school sites...

...Planning Department Director Gwen Wright claimed MCPS staff had contacted PTA representatives in the days before the hearing “and told them that Park and Planning is trying to delay the project and that they should speak up.”
 “That’s a very disappointing outcome to what started as a collaborative effort to solve a difficult problem to try to achieve a plan that would meet the law,” Wright said...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

@MCPS Releases Transition Work Group Report - Fallout from #RockTerrace Financial Mismanagement

When the Rock Terrace Scandal began to unfold, MCPS administrators fell all over themselves trying to explain that the purpose of paying the students was only for the purpose of teaching the "work-pay connection." The Board of Education even hired a multi-national law firm to write a memo (to the tune of $72,000) propounding that the money the students earned wasn't really "pay," and that the purpose of any money was only to teach the "work-pay connection."

There were, of course, many problems with this "explanation." First and foremost, the students at Rock Terrace School are smarter than both MCPS and their counsel give them credit for. These students are able to understand the "work-pay connection" without too much explanation. What is harder for MCPS to explain is just exactly how they were teaching the "work-pay connection" when (a) the students never actually saw the money, (b) never actually received any bank statements, and (c) the money that they did earn was stolen from them!

In light of what happened with the money the Rock Terrace students earned, MCPS convened a workgroup to evaluate the teaching of the "work-pay connection." Unsurprisingly, the recommendation is to disband the program where students earn money through work experiences and instead use those funds to help in school start-up businesses, like coffee shops, etc.

To date, the Board of Education has not discussed the memo (below) nor its recommendations. Why not? Perhaps because the State's Attorney for Montgomery County is still investigating whether anyone bears criminal liability for what happened at Rock Terrace. An announcement of the results of the State's Attorney's investigation is expected shortly.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Court reinstates verdict against Board of Education. Bd of Ed Breached Duty of Care in Placement of Bus Stop

ANNAPOLIS — A Maryland appeals court has reinstated a jury’s verdict — but not its $90.3 million damages award — for the parents of a 13-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a car six years ago while crossing a four-lane street trying to reach her school-bus stop in Temple Hills.
The Court of Special Appeals said the trial judge was wrong to toss out the jury’s verdict against the Prince George’s County Board of Education based on his erroneous finding that it owed no duty of care to the girl and that her negligent crossing of the street contributed to her death. In its 3-0 decision, the intermediate court said the board owed a duty to the girl under a regulation governing bus-stop locations and that a jury reasonably concluded she was not contributorily negligent.
“It was a very important ruling by the court,” said the family’s attorney, John F. X. Costello. “Because that regulation was not complied with, this little girl was forced to cross the street.”
The Court of Special Appeals, however, said state law calls for the award to be reduced to the school board’s insurance policy limit, but not to less than $100,000. The board has the defense of sovereign immunity from damages for amounts greater, the court said in remanding the case to Prince George’s County Circuit Court to determine the award...

 “Many of these governmental caps have not been adjusted in [many] years and are drawing the attention of the General Assembly,” said Maloney, of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake P.A. in Greenbelt.

...The Prince George’s County Circuit Court jury had found in April 2013 that the school board fatally breached its duty of care to Ashley Davis by not providing a school-bus stop on the same side of Brinkley Road as her home, thus requiring the freshman at Crossland High School in Temple Hills to cross the four-lane thoroughfare.
Ashley was killed while crossing Brinkley Road on Sept. 1, 2009. The driver admitted no liability in reaching a $20,000 settlement with the family.
The jury, in finding the school board liable, concluded that Ashely was not contributorily negligent...

...But the Court of Special Appeals reinstated the verdict, citing Maryland State Board of Education regulation 13A.06.07.13, which pertains to “Reporting and Operating Procedures.” Subsection C of the regulation states that “on four-lane highways, students shall be picked up and discharged on the side of the roadway where they reside.”
Subsection C is “designed to protect public-school students who ride county-provided buses to and from school from the risks associated with crossing a four-lane highway, including the risk of being hit by a car,” Judge Deborah S. Eyler wrote in the appellate court’s reported opinion filed Friday.
“As a public-school student living on a four-lane highway, in a school district in which the board had taken it upon itself to provide bus transportation to school, Ashley was within the specific class of people that [Subsection C] was designed to protect,” Eyler added. “And she suffered precisely the kind of injury that the regulation was intended to protect against. Accordingly, the board owed Ashley a legal duty of care to provide a bus stop on her side of Brinkley Road sufficient to support the duty element of a cause of action in negligence.”...

 ... Section 4-105 of the Maryland Education Article requires county school boards to have at least $100,000 in liability coverage. Section 5-518 of the Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, titled “Immunity – County boards of education” provides that the boards “may raise the defense of sovereign immunity to any amount claimed above the limit of its insurance policy….”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"It is unclear whether the students still attend Sherwood."

Two Montgomery County high school students have been charged as adults in a vicious gang-related beating of a 15-year-old boy outside a restaurant in Olney, according to documents filed in court Monday and last week.
The victim in the March 27 attack, which was caught on cellphone video, suffered cheekbone fractures, was knocked unconscious and was left with a severe concussion. “He’s doing better. He’s out of the hospital,” his father, a physician, said Monday, adding that it was unclear whether his son would suffer long-term effects from the concussion. “Who knows? We’re just crossing our fingers he gets better quickly.”...

Tonight - Public Forum: Countering the Heroin Challenge

Countering the Heroin Challenge 

A Free Public Forum 

When: 7:00 PM – Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Where: Bennigan’s - 23315 N Frederick Rd., Clarksburg 

Who: You, a friend, neighbor, and teens at parents’ discretion 

Speakers: Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy and Tara Handron, Caron Treatment Centers 

An increasing number of teens and young adults are becoming addicted to opiates, often committing crime as they try to finance a habit that can run into the hundreds of dollars a day – sometimes leading to overdose resulting in brain damage or death. Gaithersburg, Germantown and upper Montgomery County are being especially hard hit. 

Come hear the experts tell what’s being done to combat the heroin explosion in our communities … and what more needs to be done. 

Sponsored by the Upper Montgomery County Republican Women’s Club and The Republican Party of Legislative District 15 

This message is provided by Patty Winters, Coordinator, Brave and Bold Coalition braveandbold2011  AT

Crumb Rubber Still in Use at Richard Montgomery High School

Crumb rubber was added as needed to the Richard Montgomery High School artificial turf football field yesterday, despite the Montgomery County Council's vote to not use crumb rubber "going forward." 

Monday, April 6, 2015

3 Hour Contentious Planning Board Hearing Capped with Board Member Announcing Basketball Score #marchmadness #payingnoattention #bccmiddleschool

On March 26, 2015, the Montgomery County Planning Board held a hearing to decide if the Board of Education had satisfied the requirements of the Forest Conservation law for the site plan for the BCC Middle School #2 construction.

The hearing appears to go on for about 3 hours.

During the hearing the Planning Board staff made a presentation, MCPS made a presentation, and numerous neighbors and interested parties gave impassioned public comment about the MCPS site plans for this new middle school.

The public comment concerns included the forest that would be destroyed, student safety concerns, visual impact of massive retaining walls, and the detriment to the neighborhood of this school construction plan.  During the hearing, Planning Board members were quiet with only a few brief questions.  Some Planning Board members never spoke during the hearing.

The hearing was contentious as MCPS staff and Planning Board staff have apparently been arguing about the requirements of the Forest Conservation law as it applies to this site for the last 9 months.  At the end of the hearing, the Planning Board staff voted to throw the plans back to their staff with the guidance to work out the differences with MCPS and come up with a plan that will satisfy the Forest Conservation law.

Immediately after the Planning Board vote, Planning Board member Marye Wells-Harley announced, "My team is losing. 70 to 75..."

Friday, April 3, 2015

Save Blair Ewing

 The Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) proposes demolishing the Blair G. Ewing Center - formerly the Mark Twain School  (on Avery Road in Rockville) and redeveloping the site to accommodate the Shady Grove Transportation Depot. The Alternative Education Program (AEP) students would then be relocated to the former English Manor Elementary School (currently housing the School for Tomorrow), located at 4511 Bestor Drive in Aspen Hill.  As usual, no local communities or neighborhoods were contacted about these plans.

We received this from and are reprinting it here:

Apparently, the Board of Education staff are encouraging our callers to NOT leave phone messages and instead email a central email for all Board members.

As you know, the Board of Ed has refused to meet with us... and now they do not want to accept calls?

Consider politely refusing to email the central email and ask to leave a message for one Board Member.   Then, call back again (doesn't hurt to space out the calls a little) and leave a message for one more member....

We want to jam their phone lines.  That's the point...

We have less than a week to make sure English Manor is not chosen for a feasibility study for a potential Alternative Education Program (AEP) move.

April 7: We will learn if English Manor is the MCPS proposed location for a feasibility study.

April 14: Board of Ed will vote to approve a feasibility study.

Tell the Board:
1) Do NOT do a feasibility study on English Manor for the AEP.
2) Make English Manor a community elementary school to ease area overcrowding.
3)  Now that the County Council has given the Board more time to keep buses at Jeremiah Park, there is no need to rush AEP's move to build a bus depot at Blair Ewing.

Please call each Board member:
• Rebecca Smondrowski: 301-279-3617 click here if you called.
• Judith Docca: 301-670-3234 click here if you called.
• Jill Ortman-Fouse: 301-279-3617 click here if you called.
• Michael Durso: 301-924-3169 click here if you called.
• Patricia O'Neill: 301-320-7600 click here if you called.
• Philip Kauffman: 301-924-3133 click here if you called.
• Christopher Barclay: 301-279-3617 click here if you called.
• Dahlia Huh: 301-279-3617 click here if you called.

Please forward this email to friends and neighbors.  We need to DOUBLE our calling and flood Board members with calls.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Atlanta Educators Convicted in School Cheating Scandal

ATLANTA — In a dramatic conclusion to what has been described as the largest cheating scandal in the nation’s history, a jury here on Wednesday convicted 11 educators for their roles in a standardized test cheating scandal that tarnished a major school district’s reputation and raised broader questions about the role of high-stakes testing in American schools.
On their eighth day of deliberations, the jurors convicted 11 of the 12 defendants of racketeering, a felony that carries up to 20 years in prison. Many of the defendants — a mixture of Atlanta public school teachers, testing coordinators and administrators — were also convicted of other charges, such as making false statements, that could add years to their sentences.

Judge Jerry W. Baxter of Fulton County Superior Court ordered most of the educators jailed immediately, and they were led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Judge Baxter, who presided over a trial that began with opening statements more than six months ago, will begin sentencing hearings next week....

MCPS principal kept child sex abuse case quiet to avoid ‘scandal,’ prosecutors say

“The principal asked for the victim and the mother not to contact Child Protective Services or the police. He told them he did not want to make a big scandal or harm the reputation of the school,”

...“The principal asked for the victim and the mother not to contact Child Protective Services or the police. He told them he did not want to make a big scandal or harm the reputation of the school,” Hagan said in court. “He told them he would take care of it, so that the defendant would not teach there again. And both mother and daughter believed, as a result of that meeting, that the defendant would not teach in Montgomery County public schools again. No report of this crime was made to law enforcement at that time.”...

...Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said after the hearing that Hagan’s statements were based on conversations that law enforcement officers had with the victim, her mother and the guidance counselor who was serving as a translator for the mother.
“We stand by the statements that were made in court,” McCarthy said...

Clemente Middle School: "A student found a bullet in school."


April 1, 2015

Dear Parents:

I want to share with you information about an event that affected our school today and how it was handled by our staff.  A student found a bullet in school.  The bullet was confiscated from the student by MCPS staff. Police were notified and the incident is under investigation.

This is a very serious matter, and we ask that you to remind your children that weapons of any kind - even toy weapons-are not allowed on school property. If your child becomes aware that someone at the school has a weapon, remind them to tell a member of the staff immediately.

If you have further questions, please call the school at 301-601-0344.  We will make every effort to answer your questions as quickly as possible.


                                                                                    Khadija F. Barkley


Copy to:
 Dr. Williams, Community Superintendent

Board of Education Members Refuse to Meet with Community on Bus Depot Issue

From the Save Blair Ewing community group:

We represent several communities. Our issues involves millions of dollars, serious environmental impacts, traffic and safety issues, student needs and widespread school overcrowding. We have been demanding more openness and transparency, and better decision-making.

We have been instrumental in pushing for a delay in the declaration of "no further need" for the CSP East/Jeremiah Park property, where MCPS currently parks over 400 school buses... because MCPS clearly still needs that depot on Crabbs Branch Way.

And we have been asking to meet with the Board of Education members to discuss these issues. Their response? See below:

"Dear Mr. Smilowitz,
You recently contacted the Board office requesting meetings with individual Board members to discuss issues with the use of the English Manor property and overcrowding. I regret to inform you that Board members’ tight schedules currently make it a huge challenge to arrange face-to-face meetings. I suggest that you send the Board your thoughts via email correspondence. If you send it to, they will all receive your correspondence.
Again, I am sorry we cannot accommodate your request at this time.
Ikhide Roland Ikheloa
Chief of Staff-Ombudsman
Montgomery County Board of Education