Friday, September 21, 2018

Residents Appeal Lighted Artificial Turf Fields at Julius West Middle School

 July 11, 2018

Maryland State Board of Education
200 West Baltimore Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Re: Montgomery County Board of Education

To the Maryland State Board of Education:

This letter appeals the June 12, 2018, decision of the Montgomery County Board of Education (Local Board) to approve Agenda Item: Award of Contract – Installation of Artificial Turf Fields at Julius West Middle School and Albert Einstein High School. (Attachment A). The undersigned reside in Montgomery County, Maryland.

This appeal is made by Janis Zink Sartucci, Bonnie Clausen, Douglas Dull, Rosanne Hurwitz, Eileen Sherr, Carol L. Starr, Peter Lovell, and Jason Mitchell (Appellants) to the Maryland State Board of Education (State Board). The State Board has authority to hear this appeal pursuant to the Code of Maryland as outlined in Code Section 13A.01.05. The State Board can substitute its judgment for that of the County Board because this decision was arbitrary, unreasonable, and illegal. The decision was contrary to sound educational policy and is an abuse of discretionary powers. A reasonable mind could not have reasonably reached the decision reached by the Local Board.

Award of Contract – Installation of Artificial Turf Fields

The first “whereas” in the Local Board's Memorandum on this Action (Attachment A) states that this Action item is:

in accordance with the settlement agreement with Montgomery Soccer, Inc.;

The Local Board's Action did not include the “settlement agreement” nor any details as to what this document may detail.

The fourth “whereas” in the Local Board's Memorandum on this Action states:

WHEREAS, The scope of the project at Julius West Middle School includes the construction of two fields, one full-size field and an additional smaller field, as well as the installation of lights;

The Memorandum does not contain any additional information.

No documents detailing the “scope of the project,” actual size of the fields, or details about “lights” were presented in the Local Boards Action item.

This Action item appears to involve the Local Board turning over public school land to a private entity. The terms of this alleged agreement are unknown to the public.

The Julius West Middle School site is contiguous with two Maryland State roads (270 and 189). This Action item also appears to involve the construction of “lights” of unknown specifications next to these two State roads.

Alleged Settlement Agreement

Appellants do not have access or information as to what is contained in the alleged Settlement Agreement.

The Local Board Action item did not include a Settlement Agreement and did not detail what the alleged agreement may contain. Local Board members were not provided with any of this information for their public deliberation of this Action item.

This transfer of public school land to this private entity has not complied with Maryland or Local Board procurement requirements and has not complied with Maryland law with regard to the disposition of public school land.

Appellants are concerned that the alleged Settlement Agreement may contain agreements that violate Local Board and State procurement laws and regulations, as the alleged Settlement Agreement is being put forth to transfer public school land to one private entity (Montgomery Soccer, Inc.). The transfer of this land to one private entity has not complied with public school procurement laws or regulations and is a violation of the trust given to Local Board with regard to public school land.

Julius West Middle School fields

Local Board did not review or approve any “scope” of work documents for the Julius West Middle School fields referenced in this Action item. Appellants do not have any information as to the size, location, or details regarding the field work that the Local Board allegedly approved in this Action item.

Included in the Local Board's Action is a reference to “lights” for the Julius West Middle School field. No plan for “lights” has been presented to the Local Board and Appellants are unable to determine what these “lights” will entail. Appellants are concerned that any “lights” installed on the Julius West Middle School field will impact one or both of the Maryland State roads that run contiguous to the Julius West Middle School property. In addition, Appellants are concerned that any “lights” installed will impact homes surrounding the Julius West Middle School property.

The Maryland State Department of Transportation, Office of Traffic and Safety reports that they have not been contacted about the installation of lights next to these State roads and have not reviewed the proposal. Appellants have serious safety and health concerns regarding the placement of “lights” next to these State roads. If these “lights” will impact the movement of traffic on these State roads the impact of this Local Board action could put the Appellants and public at risk of harm when using these State roads. The “lights” could also seriously impact the neighbors to this property and could diminish property values.

Maryland State Finance and Procurement Section 14-412 requires energy efficient outdoor lighting fixtures, but Appellants are unable to determine if this Local Board Action complies with this State requirement.


For the reasons stated above, Appellants requests that the State Board rule the Local Board's approval of this June 12, 2018, Action item to be null and void, and direct the Local Board to immediately halt the construction of artificial turf fields at Julius West Middle School and Albert Einstein High School.

Artificial Turf’s Next Home?

With Montgomery County Public Schools replacing the first of its artificial fields this summer, disposal of the old material has been called into question...

..."’Repurposing/reusing’ is purely a euphemism for dumping ... a mess of worn-out plastic carpet with literally tons of pulverized tire waste and sand spilling everywhere,” Michels wrote.
“There really aren’t two sides to this story,” Michels said. “Do you really want to do this, take 40,000 pounds of plastic and [the rubber crumbs] and put them in a landfill? At this step, MCPS should say we made a mistake, this is the first one [of the fields to be recycled], Walter Johnson’s next up. This is a harbinger of things to come.”
Montgomery County Public Schools did not respond to specific questions regarding this story. Derek Turner of MCPS Office of Communications responded by sending links to the statements by Zuckerman.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Cities’ Offers for Amazon Base Are Secrets Even to Many City Leaders

Jared Evans, a member of the Indianapolis City-County Council, is proud that the city is among 20 finalists for one of the most coveted prizes in the country: the planned second headquarters of Amazon.
He does, however, have one small question: What financial incentives did his city dangle in front of Amazon?
“What have I been told?” Mr. Evans said. “Absolutely nothing.”
Across the country, the search for HQ2, as the project has been nicknamed, is shrouded in secrecy. Even civic leaders can’t find out what sort of tax credits and other inducements have been promised to Amazon. And there is a growing legal push to find out, because taxpayers could get saddled with a huge bill and have little chance to stop it...
When officials in Montgomery County, Md., did respond to a request for information on their bid, they delivered, among other items, a 10-page document of incentives — with every line of text redacted...

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Former Md. gubernatorial hopeful hired to school post after backing county leader

Onetime Maryland gubernatorial candidate Valerie Ervin was hired into a six-figure job with the Prince George’s County school system less than three months after she dropped out of the governor’s race and threw her support behind the county’s top leader.
In the final stretch of the campaign, Ervin regularly stumped for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, who was in a heated battle for the Democratic nomination. Baker hinted publicly that if he were elected, Ervin would join his administration.
But Baker lost the June 26 primary. In August, Ervin was hired to a $133,200-a-year position as a special assistant in the school system’s Office of Employee and Labor Relations. Officials in the state’s second-largest school system said the job was created in August to improve communication with the labor unions representing the district’s 20,000 full-time employees.
At least one school board member, David Murray, raised questions about political favoritism...

Video: Elrich, Rice, Floreen, Katz, Navarro and Riemer Voting to Install Plastic Playground at Somerset ES

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


The FBI is encouraging public awareness of cyber threat concerns related to K-12 students. The US school systems’ rapid growth of education technologies (EdTech) and widespread collection of student data could have privacy and safety implications if compromised or exploited...

Monday, September 17, 2018

WJHS Football Field is Full of #CRAP

FYI: Artificial turf football fields are supposed to look green. They are not supposed to look black.  When they look black it means that far too many tons of crumb rubber have been dumped on the field to take the place of the plastic grass.

Tons of extra crumb rubber means the field has failed and the playing surface is not safe. 

The blades of plastic are no longer able to hold the required depth of crumb rubber in place to prevent athletes from killing themselves when they hit the ground stone surface beneath the plastic.  The playing surface is no longer uniform or stable.

The Walter Johnson High School football field is being used by two football teams this season and there are no plans or funding to replace this field this year.  Students from all over Montgomery County will be risking their lives on this surface.

7 On Your Side: Montgomery County sports field washing away in rain

#CRAP = Crumb Rubber Artificial Pitches

At the time of these offenses, Ridges was also a Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) paraeducator and a coach for Springbrook High School Boys Junior Varsity Basketball team.

Man Charged with Inappropriate Touching and Sexual Exploitation of Juvenile Female
Posted on 09/17/2018

Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department – Special Victims Investigations Division (SVID) have arrested and charged Thomas Henry Ridges, age 38, of Chase Terrace in Beltsville, Maryland, with two counts of sexual abuse of a minor and a fourth-degree sexual offense related to his inappropriate touching of the juvenile female and his inappropriate sexual conversation with and proposition of the victim.

Ridges’ came into contact with the victim as his role as a Horizon Child Care, Inc. employee.  At the time of these offenses, Ridges was also a Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) paraeducator and a coach for Springbrook High School Boys Junior Varsity Basketball team.

On September 5, detectives received information regarding possible sexual abuse of a minor.  Investigators determined that on July 20, Ridges offered to drive the 16-year-old victim home from the Horizon facility in Silver Spring.  The victim accepted the ride.  Ridges did not drive toward the victim’s home.  He began to ask the victim if she remembered a time when she was 14 years old and was at a local pool as a camper at Horizon’s summer camp program.  Ridges told the victim that he had touched her in a private area and that it was purposeful.  The victim had previously believed the touching was accidental.

As Ridges continued driving around, he attempted to engage the victim in a sexual conversation and posed inappropriate questions to include asking her about her previous sexual encounters, asking her about drinking alcohol (as her parked in front of a liquor store), and asking her to send naked photographs of herself to him via cell phone.  Ridges also propositioned the victim to engage in sexual acts with him during the car ride.

On September 14, investigators obtained an arrest warrant for Ridges.  He was arrested on that day and transported to the Central Processing Unit. He has since been released on bond.

Detectives are requesting that parents of juveniles who attend Horizon Child Care, Inc. or who have had contact with Ridges to talk to their children about possible interactions with Ridges and contact SVID detectives at 240-773-5400 if they believe their child was victimized.

Thomas Henry Ridges

Montgomery County Councilmembers Reimbursement Reports #ExpenseReports

When It Comes To Special Ed, States Largely Deficient

Federal officials say that fewer than half of states are adequately meeting their obligations to serve students with disabilities under special education law.
Just 21 states received the “meets requirements” designation in an annual compliance review conducted by the U.S. Department of Education.
The remaining states were labeled “needs assistance” with the exception of Michigan and Washington, D.C. which were classified in the more dire category of “needs intervention.”
The results from the review released this month are based on how well states served students with disabilities ages 3 to 21 during the 2016-2017 school year.
The annual assessments are mandated under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. States are evaluated based on a number of factors including student performance, functional outcomes of students with disabilities and fulfilling IDEA’s procedural requirements...

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Generation Zapped -which was just screened at NIH Conference- is allowing for a full exclusive stream online for one week.

Interested in the issue of technology and  children's health? 
I have a great recommendation for a movie tonight - perfect for parents. 

The new film Generation Zapped  -which was just screened at NIH Conference- is allowing for a full exclusive stream online for one week. It also won best documentary at the DC Independent Film Fest. 

The movie is online streaming for free until September 21, 2018. (It is also available on itunes and Amazon if you want the extended version with full interviews with scientists). Generation ZAPPED is a solution-based documentary that investigates the health concerns raised about children and wireless technology. Interviews with 20 experts.

I  just presented on this issue at NIH Healthy Buildings Roundtable Conference with several experts working on the issue. This film was streamed throughout the entire conference at NIH for two days. .   

If you are interested in presenting the film with an expert Q an A at school or community center or civic association afterwards please let me know. Im glad to present anytime on practical solutions for health technology.  There is a lot we can do!  

Theodora Scarato 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Rethinking What Gifted Education Means, and Whom It Should Serve

SILVER SPRING, Md. — It was a searing summer day before the start of the school year, but Julianni and Giselle Wyche, 10-year-old twins, were in a classroom, engineering mini rockets, writing in journals and learning words like “fluctuate” and “cognizant.”
The sisters were among 1,000 children chosen for an enrichment course intended in part to prepare them for accelerated and gifted programs in Montgomery County, Md. All of the students were from schools that serve large numbers of low-income families.
“It’s one of my favorite parts of summer,” Julianni said.
The program is one element in a suite of sweeping changes meant to address a decades-old problem in these Washington suburbs, and one that is troubling educators across the nation: the underrepresentation of black, Hispanic and low-income children in selective academic settings.
Amid deepening debate over the issue, sometimes referred to as “the excellence gap,” school officials across the country and at all educational levels are wrestling with possible remedies. Montgomery County is one of several districts that is successfully diversifying its gifted programs, in part by overhauling the admissions process and rethinking the fundamental mission of such programs. This 160,000-student school system, one of the nation’s highest performing and most diverse, has provided a potential model — but not without creating anxiety and skepticism among some parents who feel their children have been hurt by the changes...

Asbestos in a Crayon, Benzene in a Marker: A School Supply Study’s Toxic Results

New York Times, full story here. Reporter Niraj Chokshi

A public interest group said this week that it had found toxic substances in a number of school supplies, including asbestos in a Playskool crayon and another carcinogen, benzene, in a dry-erase marker.
The findings were detailed in a report published Tuesday by the group, the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, which had an independent laboratory test 27 back-to-school products. Four tested positive for dangerous chemicals. …
Of the crayons tested, one, a green Playskool crayon, tested positive for trace amounts of tremolite, a form of asbestos. The crayon was part of a set of 36 manufactured by Leap Year Publishing and purchased at a Dollar Tree store.
Benzene and related compounds
Four markers were sent to the laboratory, and two dry-erase ones tested positive for a group of compounds often found in petroleum products and known as B.T.E.X.: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene. …
In another set of tests, the public interest organization examined three three-ring binders for phthalates, a group of chemicals added to plastics to make them flexible, some of which may affect human reproduction or development.
Only one, a Jot-brand, 1-inch blue binder from Dollar Tree, tested positive. Binders sold under the Avery and Yoobi brands did not.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Environmental Waste Generated by Board of Education's Lust for Plastic Football Fields: The Turf Mountain

The Netherlands is a country of artificial turf. No country in the world has more artificial turf per capita. Last summer, over 200 artificial grass pitches were replaced in the Netherlands. No less than 1 million square metres of artificial turf had to be removed. All waste that cannot be dumped. What happens to the old pitches? What happens to all that plastic and all the polluting rubber in them? Processing companies promise to separate all the waste and recycle it. Municipalities pay top dollar for that. But what is the reality? Those involved call it 'the best kept secret in the market'. ZEMBLA follows the trail of a number of transports, and finds itself in a world of dealers, defrauding artificial turf processors, absent supervisors, and a growing artificial turf pile.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

2009: FieldTurf Guaranteed RMHS Field would be 100% Recycled and Would Not End Up in a Landfill

What actually happened to the RMHS plastic grass.
In 2009, FieldTurf produced the letter below stating that the Richard Montgomery High School (RMHS) plastic football field and 120 tons of ground up tires (crumb rubber) would be 100% recycled and would not end up in a landfill.

In 2018, the RMHS plastic football field was removed and sent to a landfill in Southern Virginia and to a paint ball field in Baltimore County.

The RMHS plastic grass football field was not "100% recycled" and did end up in a landfill.

Pictures of the removal and dumping of the RMHS plastic grass football field are at this link. (Scroll down for all posts.) 

The Montgomery County Board of Education failed to have the RMHS plastic grass replaced under warranty when the field failed.  Instead, they diverted MCPS Operating Budget funds meant for public school classrooms to pay for the replacement of the RMHS plastic grass football field.  

The Montgomery County Board of Education failed to have FieldTurf honor their commitment to 100% recycle the RMHS plastic grass field.   They are polluting Southern Virginia and Baltimore County.  

These are the Board of Education members that are continually endorsed by major organizations, unions, other elected officials, and news organizations and elected and re-elected into office.  

The dumping and pollution from the removal of the RMHS plastic grass is their actual record in office.  

This is what Montgomery County voters support. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

All are welcome to make anonymous reports to the Maryland Office of Education Accountability.

Governor Larry Hogan Announces School Accountability Initiatives

School Survey Form

We want to assure you that your responses are completely anonymous. Responses to this survey cannot be traced back to the respondent. No personally identifiable information is captured unless you voluntarily offer personal or contact information below as a means for us to reply to your comment. Additionally, your responses are combined with those of many others and summarized in a report to further protect your anonymity.

All are welcome to make anonymous reports to the Office of Accountability. Please note that records relating to these reports may be subject to disclosure under the Public Information Act or other applicable law.

If you are a public school employee, your report may waive certain whistleblower protections provided by applicable law and regulations, including the Public School Employee Whistleblower Protection Act.

"Predators aren't just strangers. They can be highly educated. They can be very well-respected in the community. It could be a family member, it could be a family friend." @Aly_Raisman via @60Minutes

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Maryland planning new state standardized tests to replace PARCC

Maryland officials are dropping the state’s standardized test — known by parents, teachers and students as simply PARCC — in favor of something shorter and they hope more popular.
Maryland is one of just a handful of states still giving the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests, once used in dozens of states, but criticized as too time-consuming and too disruptive to the school schedule. It’s also difficult — less than half of Maryland students can pass it.
The state is seeking bids from contractors to design a new assessment that requires less time to take and grade, but it will not be ready for use until the 2019-2020 school year. So the state will spend another $11 million to continue testing with PARCC this spring.
The impetus for change came from Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon and Gov. Larry Hogan, who said he got many complaints.
“Nearly everyone in Maryland — parents, teachers, students and the governor want these tests to end,” Hogan said at a Board of Public Works meeting last month...

Montgomery schools’ executive director for operations, said its enrollment projections are about 99 percent accurate at a county level.

...Essie McGuire, Montgomery schools’ executive director for operations, said its enrollment projections are about 99 percent accurate at a county level. But she said the countywide calculations have masked changes in individual neighborhoods. Statistically speaking, she said, it’s also more difficult to predict the future at a more detailed school level.
The school system recently hired a consulting group to help update its enrollment forecasting models and respond more quickly to rapid changes, particularly in high-growth areas...

Heat Causes Air Conditioning Outages at Some MCPS Schools

...The air conditioning at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda has been malfunctioning since the summer, Principal Robert Dodd said Thursday. Dodd said HVAC crews had repaired most of the school’s air conditioning by Thursday afternoon, but a few rooms remained to be fixed.
“One day a room is working and then the next day it’s not working,” he said. “The third floor of the building we’ve had issues, and then behind the building we have [the former] Whittier Woods Elementary where we use some classrooms, and that’s not been completely fixed.”
Dodd said assistant principals have been walking around the school to check the temperature in certain rooms throughout the week. He said classes have moved to better-cooled rooms when necessary, and he knows of only one student who has gone home sick because of the heat.
Turner said the only school that has had to dismiss early due to heat-related issues was Brookhaven Elementary School in Rockville, which closed early on Tuesday. Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Prince George’s County Public Schools have all dismissed at least some of their schools early this week due to extreme heat. Baltimore County schools do not have air conditioning, and Prince George’s schools do, but 40 schools were having problems with their systems, according to The Washington Post.
Unlike those other school systems, MCPS likely would not dismiss students systemwide in the event of extreme heat, Turner said. The protocol, he said, varies by school and by how widespread the lack of air conditioning is...

Franchot, Hogan melt down over air conditioning but blame different culprits

ANNAPOLIS — Two of Maryland’s top elected officials blasted two school systems for a lack of air conditioning in some classrooms that has resulted in heat-related early dismissals and school closings for the second time since classes resumed this week.
The heated words, or hot air to some critical of Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot, dominated much of Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting and is quickly becoming an issue in the 2018 campaign. Franchot fired back at some who say this is just an election-year issue, blaming members of his own party in the state legislature for freezing efforts to provide climate control in classrooms in Baltimore City and Baltimore County...
...Hogan blasted city school officials for breaking their word and not repairing or installing air conditioning at schools that were closed early this week after promising to do so.
“It’s not a false narrative,” said Hogan, who at one point held up transcripts of early board meetings. “They’re facts. They’re on the record in their own words.”...
...“One of the problems that is quite real is that the city, unfortunately, does not have the resources that Montgomery County or Baltimore County have to put into their share,” said Kopp. “That adds up and that makes a difference.”...

Monday, September 10, 2018

Jack Smith Keeps Joshua Starr Consultant in MCPS Budget at $50,000

From the Board of Education Agenda for their upcoming meeting:

4408.1 Professional Services—Extension Responsible Office: Office of the Chief Financial Officer Awardee Katheryn W. Gemberling, Silver Spring, Maryland $ 50,000$file/Contracts%2025K%20or%20More%20180911.pdf
2011: Joshua Starr's transition team.

The Board of Education will approve this $50,000 payment to Kathryn Gemberling without any idea of what the money will be used for or why this expenditure is more important than a classroom teacher. 

Hogan calls for education watchdog; opponents call it a blame game

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — On the first day of school for most Maryland school districts, Gov. Larry Hogan repeated a call Tuesday for an education inspector general and signed an executive order establishing an Office of Educational Accountability.
Hogan has often criticized school districts for mismanaging the money the state sends to them in the form of school construction cash...

“Yes, in this type of weather, the [artificial] turf is going to be 20-25 degrees surface temperature hotter than if they were practicing in the grass,” John Marshall athletics director Robert Chavanek said.

37 band members in Marshall County overwhelmed by heat, taken to hospital

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Contractor Sues Glenstone Museum Foundation for $24 Million

From the New York Times by reporter Colin Moynihan. Full story here.

A month before the much anticipated unveiling of the revamped Glenstone Museum in Potomac, Md., a contracting firm that oversaw the ambitious expansion there has sued the foundation that runs the institution, seeking at least $24 million in damages. ...

The company, Hitt Contracting of Falls Church, Va., filed the suit at the end of August in Federal District Court in Maryland, accusing the foundation of breach of contract and mismanagement, adding that a “torrent of changes” the foundation had demanded repeatedly disrupted and delayed work.
Hitt listed millions of dollars in unpaid fees it says Glenstone owes and stated that those outstanding debts had left the company “exposed” to $14 million in claims by subcontractors.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

How is that Turf Working for You?

Artificial turf, or plastic grass, is fast becoming the standard for Montgomery County. Soon every high school - and some middle schools and elementary schools, will have the benefit of that ever so good looking green plastic adorning playing fields.

But - we keep asking, is this really good for our kids and others who play sports?

Our neighbors in DC are beginning to rethink artificial turf.

As reported in The Washington Post

On Tuesday, the city abruptly closed 15 of its 52 artificial turf fields, saying the rubberized surface was too hard for athletes to use them — with spots that were more like concrete than grass. The closures upended plans for D.C. Stoddert Soccer’s opening weekend and sidelined many of the nearly 6,000 children who play in the city’s largest league.
Fortunately for DC residents, eight of the 15 fields were repaired and reopened by Friday - just a mere three days later. Weather permitting, the rest will be open by Monday.

Do you think that we would get similar service in MoCo?

First - we wouldn't close our fields. Our kids would keep playing on them regardless of the heat, and how high the temperatures climb. 

Second - repairs? We don't do repairs in MoCo. Look at our schools, where are kids are require to receive an education. If the county doesn't repair the air conditioning and heating units in the schools, the county cannot be expected to repair athletic fields, for extracurricular activities.

Finally - work on a weekend? Be serious. Not happening in MoCo. Ever see a snowplow on a weekend when schools have been shut? 

So what's the harm if our kids continue to play on plastic grass that is hard. Again, from the Post article:
Signs posted at closed fields warned users that the surfaces had recently failed a “hardness test” and that “there is an increased risk of injury in the event of a fall on this field.” 
That means when a player falls, the ground absorbs less of the impact and their bodies absorb more, increasing the chance a player gets injured. One study estimated that about 15 percent of concussions in high school sports are due to players hitting their heads on rubberized turf.
So - when your MoCo athlete starts getting more injuries this year, remember - you can always move to DC, where the artificial turf is greener - and a bit softer than in MoCo. 

Friday, September 7, 2018

@MCPS Special Education Legal Fees Balloon Again

Special Education Legal Expenses

Special education legal expenses in May 2018 totaled $29,360. The year-to-date total of $315,485
is $162,930 (106.8 percent) more than the same period in the previous year.

The Carney Kelehan bill for May 2018 totaled $26,663.
The PK Law bill for May 2018 totaled $2,697.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Tell Montgomery County Council to Say NO to ZTA 18-11; say YES to CAP!

Yesterday began a new school year. Hopefully your child’s journey to/from is school safe. However, if Big Telecom has its way and Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 18-11 passes, expect safety to diminish.  ZTA 18-11 is about making regulations cheap and easy for the wireless industry; It’s not about protecting residents or neighborhoods.

Example One: The ZTA would allow large dangerous equipment cabinets along our streets and roads: equipment so large — 20 cubic feet in size (2 feet x 2 feet x 5 feet tall) — that it would risk obscuring children from traffic at bus stops or while walking between school and home. Many other communities, concerned about the safety of their residents and the quality of their neighborhoods, require large equipment along streets and roads to be vaulted underground. Concerned Montgomery County residents want the equipment in underground vaults in Montgomery County, too. Montgomery County government staff have told us that the County doesn’t want to require equipment underground in the ZTA because vaults would be too expensive for the wireless industry.

Vaults are the preferred method in the Comprehensive Antennas Proposal (CAP): regulations that fairly balance providing services with the needs for strong resident protections. Please sign up to testify at the Public Hearing on the evening of September 25th. And contact our County Council to let them know that ZTA 18-11 IS NOT SAFE OR APPROPRIATE FOR THE PEOPLE OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY. Join us in asking the County Council to Say NO to ZTA 18-11; say YES to CAP!

-- Sue Present

Middle, high schools can’t start earlier than 8:30 a.m. under newly approved California legislation

SACRAMENTO — California lawmakers want to bar middle school and high schools from starting before 8:30 a.m., but the final decision on when the first bell should ring will rest with Gov. Jerry Brown.
Following an intense debate over what has been a local school district decision, the Senate and Assembly approved SB328 by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge (Los Angeles County).
The bill would require all public middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., including charter schools, with supporters arguing that research shows teens natural sleep patterns keep them up late and lead to sleep deprivation when schools have early start times. Research shows teens do better in school, have lower rates of depression and anxiety and fewer car accidents when school start times start later...

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Authorities: Driver abused three more students on special-education route

A longtime Montgomery County bus driver already accused of fondling a 12-year-old special-needs student was indicted by a grand jury this week in connection with the alleged abuse of three more students, including a child and two victims described in court papers as “vulnerable adults.”
The alleged sex assaults occurred since late May, suggesting investigators looking into the suspect’s past may be limited by how long interior bus surveillance videos are kept.
In early August, Montgomery prosecutors said investigators were continuing to look at video footage from buses driven by Etienne K. Kabongo, 62, a bus operator for Montgomery schools for more than a decade. He mainly drove special-education students.
School officials said Friday that all four victims were allegedly abused while on Kabongo’s bus routes over a recent, two-month stretch. Two of the victims were 12, one was 18, and the other was 20 at the time of the incidents, according to the indictment. Two of the victims were allegedly abused the same day...
...A new, 14-count indictment alleges Kabongo fondled and molested another victim, 20 years old, on the same day, resulting in three criminal charges: second-degree rape, third-degree sex offense and sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult.
Earlier, according to the indictment, Kabongo abused an 18-year-old victim July 9 and 10. He faces five counts in connection with that victim, including sexual abuse of a vulnerable adult.
The other victim, according to court papers, was 12 when the sexual abuse allegedly occurred May 29 and June 13.
“It’s what everybody feared — that there were more victims,” said Lyda Astrove, a longtime activist on special-education issues whose son attended one of the schools Kabongo served. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. How can you not be frightened and horrified and worried for all the children out there, and even our adult children?”...