Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Breaking News: Starr was told about 2011 touching incident when he was Stamford Superintendent

...Documents obtained by The Advocate show one of the things the assistant principals questioned three years ago was why Valentine did not report to state authorities a student's claim that a teacher touched her inappropriately.
According to the documents, a ninth-grader told Stamford High administrators in early May 2011 that a male teacher had touched her breast, and the assistant principals were concerned that Valentine did not call Stamford police or the state Department of Children and Families, as state law requires.
In late May 2011 the assistant principals asked to meet with Starr to discuss Valentine, according to a report written by a private investigator later hired by the Board of Education to look into their claims...

...The assistant principals said they had pens and notebooks, according to the report, and that Starr "directed them to close their notebooks and to participate in a 'let's just all talk it out' type of meeting." The assistant principals "also reported that when each of them read aloud from their statements of concern, Dr. Starr made remarks and questions like, 'Do you really want to put that in writing?' " the report states.
The meeting was part of Starr's internal investigation. Starr concluded that the assistant principals' claims were unwarranted, and in mid-June 2011 he transferred three of them to other schools in the district. At the end of June 2011, Starr left for Maryland...

Upset with the findings of his investigation, the four assistant principals hired an attorney to bring their claims about Valentine to the school district.
On July 22, 2011, the attorney, Victoria de Toledo, of Casper & de Toledo in Stamford, wrote a letter to then-interim Superintendent Winifred Hamilton, then-school board President Polly Rauh and the former human resources director. De Toledo wrote that Starr told the assistant principals that complaining about the principal was "a career killer."

Peeping Hoover MS Janitor STILL Employed by MCPS! @mcpssuper

Convicted peeping Tom re-arrested for molesting family dog, still employed by MCPS

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Another $26,699 to the Venable law firm! #creditcards #expenseaccounts

...The Venable bill for July 2014 totaled $26,699. The largest amount was for policy matters ($20,205), the largest part of which related to expense review matters (18,477)..,

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

@mcpssuper To Speak at Special Education Advisory Committee Meeting: All Invited!

Bring your questions about everything related to special education! All are welcome (you don't need to have attended prior "SEAC" meetings before)!

Greenbelt City Council Votes to Oppose Cell Towers on Public School Land

At the November 24, 2014, meeting of the Greenbelt City Council, the Council voted to oppose the location of cell towers on public school sites within the City of Greenbelt.  
Below is the discussion of this agenda item and the Greenbelt City Council's unanimous vote.

Petition to Oppose Locating Cell Phone Towers on School Property Reference:       Articles

At the Council meeting of October 27, 2014, Theodora Scarato petitioned the Council to oppose the placement of cell phone towers on Prince George’s County Public School (PGCPS) property.  In 2011, PGCPS entered into an agreement to lease property to Milestone Communications for the possible location of cell phone towers.  According to news reports, over 70 schools have been identified as potential sites including Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Greenbelt Middle School, and Turning Point Academy.

Included in Council’s packet are a number of articles related to this topic including when parents opposed to the use of school property appeared before the School Board, an information piece on cell towers from Anne Arundel County Schools as well as information from an Anne Arundel County parents group opposed to cell phone towers on school property, and an article on the Federal Communications Commission view on cell phone towers.

According to the information, there is not conclusive proof that cell phone tower locations on school property are dangerous.  However, there clearly are parental and group concerns, including the Prince George’s County Chapter of the NAACP which has gone on record opposing the placement of cell phone towers on school property.

Council direction is sought.

Report: Leggett Asks County Council to be Cautious on Spending

...During a Tuesday meeting with MCPS officials, Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-District 15) asked school leaders to recognize that state representatives are working to obtain additional school construction funds from the state. The conversation was recorded by The Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County, a watchdog group that monitors school spending and controversies...

Cell tower proposed to be built on Clemente grounds

...“Once the tower goes up Verizon needs to have 24/7 hour access to the school,” Johnson said, explaining that with recent allegations in the school system that was a concern among parents.
Last month, a contractor who provided maintenance to the school’s security camera systems was arrested on charges of groping a student at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus.
According to Johnson, the decision is in the hands of Barkley, but some people who attended the meeting thought that the decision shouldn’t be at the discretion of one person.
“Mrs. Barkley is not making this decision alone. She has all the members of the administration, she has the PTSA,” Johnson said. “She wants her parent community to support whatever decision is made.”
Some people at the meeting wanted to take a vote, but Johnson wouldn’t allow that step just yet because the meeting was informational rather than for a decision...

Former School Teacher Held on $150k Bond in Sex Abuse Case

Jose Pineda, a former substitute teacher who was recently arrested and charged with having inappropriate contact with several Montgomery County Public Schools students, will continue to be held on $150,000 bond after a bond hearing was held today in Montgomery County District Court.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Spokesman Ramon Korionoff said the former teacher remains in custody after the hearing Monday afternoon...

NewsTalk: Spivack "Schools don't know how to deal with bad news"

MCPS Slow to Report Abuse and Arrests

Journalist Miranda Spivack looked at the controversial changes to the school-holiday calendar in Montgomery County. Also, why it took so long for MCPS to disclose allegations of inappropriate touching by a substitute teacher.

Read more:
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What MCPS Administrators Say on the Conference Circuit

The MCPS Director of Transportation was in Kansas City, Missouri in November at a transportation conference and here's what he had to say about MCPS. (How much did this "vacation" cost taxpayers?)    
“In the period I’ve been at Montgomery County (since 1996), we’ve had zero fatalities on school buses, yet we’ve had several fatalities among student walkers. Different things have led to situations when kids have been injured or even killed. Often we’ve found students either walking with earphones or texting while walking,” Watkins told STN. “The reality is, if we could get students to act more safely when they walk, I think many of these (incidents) could be prevented, so that’s the target of the [YOLO] campaign.”
 Transportation Chief Turns Attention to Student Pedestrian Safety at NASDPTS 


Here's what MCPS students had to say about MCPS' YOLO Campaign.

Prince George’s school calendar opts for inclusive approach

Prince George’s County Public Schools has no plans to follow Montgomery County’s lead and remove the names of religious holidays from the school calendar, according to school officials.
On Nov. 11, the Montgomery County Public Schools school board voted to strike the names of all religious holidays from its school calendar, following a request by Muslim organizations to add the holy day of Eid al-Adha to its calendar.
The dates of the holidays are still listed as non-school days, only religious names such as “Christmas,” “Easter” and “Yom Kippur” were removed.
The PGCPS school calendar has included Muslim holidays since the 2007-2008 school year calendar, said spokeswoman Lynn McCawley, and the major Hindu holiday of Diwali has been added to the proposed 2015-2016 calendar.
In 2015, Diwali falls on Nov. 11, which is also set aside for parent/teacher conferences.
“When the administration sent the draft calendar back to the calendar committee, they requested the Hindu holiday be added to the calendar,” McCawley said...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Real Food for Montgomery County

From The Sentinel, Nov 6, 2014, by Karen DeVitt, Real Food for Kids-Montgomery.  For the whole story go here 

What do Montgomery County parents want for their children? Access to free water in the cafeteria; fewer highly-processed meal choices; more salad bars; healthier a la carte and vending machine options; more transparency and accountability; utilization of our county’s Agricultural Reserve for fresh, local produce; less sugar; and more respect for the latest research on the dangers of chemical food additives.
Now that the school year is in full swing, we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Real Food for Kids – Montgomery (RFKM), a grassroots parent and student advocacy group promoting healthier school food in MCPS. On October 1, RFKM celebrated its 2nd anniversary. We have much to be proud of and much work ahead of us. 

Efforts to improve MCPS food go back decades. Children, parents and school board members all come and go, but the staff at Food and Nutrition Services (DFNS) remains the same, committed to doing more of the same, with only small incremental changes and more whole wheat. “Everything we serve is healthy and meets USDA guidelines” does not answer the ongoing frustration parents feel when faced with the reality in the school cafeterias. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 resulted in some positive changes such as more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; and the passage of the Smart Snacks rules, in effect this past July, improved some of the vending and a la carte options. But overall, MCPS lags behind other school districts that have made better school food a priority. 

We were pleased last year when MCPS agreed to eliminate strawberry-flavored milk. We were equally pleased when MCPS recently announced the elimination of certain chemical additives from school food. (A closer reading of this announcement revealed that this change will not take place any time soon, but only in future bids for contracts. And the most prevalent of all food dyes, Red Dye #40, is not slated for elimination.)     

Last year we got DFNS to acknowledge on the elementary school menu that it sells snacks in the cafeteria at lunch time, and that parents can block their child’s account from purchasing these snacks. This year, the blurb on the menu doesn’t mention the bit about blocking your child’s account. The piece of paper that goes home with elementary school kids when their lunch account needs re-filling states that parents may block their child’s account from purchasing snacks. However, most parents are still completely in the dark about the existence or nature of these snacks; school lunch menus at all levels do not mention the a la carte items sold (chips, Doritos, pretzels, ice cream, cookies, gummy candies, etc.).

Gazette Letter: School system misses target again

The school board assured us before the election that their No. 1 priority was closing the achievement gap. Now we learn the board approved spending upward of $1 million on a 15-month study of school choice and special programs, with no reference in the Oct. 22 RFP to closing the achievement gap.
The Taxpayers League has repeatedly called for an independent review of MCPS’ plans to close the gap. So far that review has not happened, and current plans do not include any concrete dates for closing the gap. Efforts to improve school choice without concrete dates for improving academic performance put the cart before the horse...

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she has said for years that Montgomery County Public Schools was incorrectly calculating school capacity

Rockville looks at changes to school rules

Rockville eyes changes to help get more money for schools

...The standards guide how the city determines whether potential development projects would overcrowd its schools.

But the standards have failed to either control school growth or draw funding from the county for school projects, Councilman Tom Moore said.

Moore wants the city to follow the county’s guidelines of allowing development that causes enrollment to hit 120 percent of a school’s programmed capacity, rather than Rockville’s standard of 110 percent.

The 110 percent threshold was designed to allow the city to request county money before a school’s enrollment hits 120 percent of capacity, with the money allocated to that school’s cluster more quickly, but it hasn’t worked, he said.

Moore suggested other changes. He wants developers to pay a fee for projects when a school’s enrollment reaches 105 percent to 120 percent of capacity. He wants the city to assess the average of all schools in a cluster rather than each school’s capacity. Also, the city should calculate a project’s impact on enrollment when a developer applies for approval, not when it’s approved, as is done now.

Older residents are moving out of Rockville and being replaced by younger families with schoolchildren, with 85 percent of the city’s enrollment growth coming from existing homes rather than new development, Moore said.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she has said for years that Montgomery County Public Schools was incorrectly calculating school capacity and that more students would come from existing homes.
But before any changes are made, officials must make sure parents and other stakeholders are aware of them before January’s public hearing...


Black & White Editorial: Behavior during male sexual assault assembly unacceptable

Staff Editorial: Behavior during male sexual assault assembly unacceptable

Saturday, November 22, 2014

More students allege sex abuse against former substitute teacher in Montgomery

A recent Montgomery County substitute teacher accused of inappropriately touching a 12-year-old girl was arrested on additional charges Friday involving three more victims, county police said.
Two of the alleged victims said they were inappropriately touched in 2013 at Ridgeview Middle School. A third said she was inappropriately touched in 2004 at Forest Oak Middle School, and her principal was notified of the incidents, according to arrest records.
The new charges come after several weeks of heightened concern among Montgomery parents over how the school system handles such allegations...

Police: More sex abuse charges filed against Montgomery Co. subs - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Police: More sex abuse charges filed against Montgomery Co. subs - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG


NBC4: Maryland Substitute Teacher Jose Pineda Accused of Inappropriate Contact With Three More Girls

Congratulations to Tom Hearn! County puts athletic trainers in all schools

Years of advocacy at the local and state level by MCPS parent and Parents' Coalition member Tom Hearn have paid off!  

MCPS has finally agreed to put athletic trainers in all schools.  

Congratulations Tom and thank you for your extensive research and continued advocacy on this issue!

County puts athletic trainers in all schools

High school coaches within Montgomery County Public Schools no longer have to play doctor on the side. The county launched a pilot program for the 2014-15 school year that MCPS Athletics Specialist Jeff Sullivan said is an extension of last year’s addition of mandatory baseline concussion testing. All 25 high school athletic departments have their own nationally-certified trainer to help ensure student-athletes’ health and safety...

Video Shows Friction Between MCPS, State Delegation On School Construction Funding

Woman claims MCPS substitute teacher charged with sexually abusing students fondled her in 2004 |

Woman claims MCPS substitute teacher charged with sexually abusing students fondled her in 2004 |


Friday, November 21, 2014

Montgomery County substitute teacher charged with sexual abuse of three more students |

Montgomery County substitute teacher charged with sexual abuse of three more students |

Exclusive: State Delegation Tells BOE & Starr to "Cut It Out"

Exclusive video of the November 18, 2014, meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education and the Montgomery County State Delegation.

At minute 1:30 of this exclusive video Maryland Delegate Kathleen Dumais says the MCPS Press Release on the school construction budget is false.

There did not appear to be any reporters at this event.  This video was taken towards the end of the meeting.

November 17, 2014, Montgomery County Board of Education Press Release
...MCPS sought additional help from the state for school construction during the 2014 legislative session, but the funds were not approved. After the proposal fell through, the Montgomery County Council approved a $1.53 billion CIP for fiscal years (FY) 2015-2020, which was $214 million less than requested by the Board of Education. The Board’s requested amendments approved Monday would increase the six-year CIP to $1.75 billion.

“We deeply appreciate the partnership of our local elected officials and the significant investment our citizens make to meet the space needs of our students,” said Patricia O’Neill, vice president of the Board. “It is my hope that our state leaders will now step up to help provide our students with the learning spaces they need and deserve.”...

"I didn’t quite appreciate the people walking their kids to school"

ROCKVILLE – The Planning Commission re-approved a self-storage facility application in East Rockville with a 4-2 vote on Nov. 12, against the wishes of residents and the parents of students at a local elementary school...
 ...Commission Chair Don Hadley and Commissioner Charles Littlefield were the two dissenting votes and also voted against the project in September. Commissioner Dion Trahan, the third nay vote in September, was not present at the Nov. 12 meeting...
...Multiple residents of David Scull Courts talked about walking to and from bus stops or walking their children to school.
Sade’le, a mother who preferred only to give her first name, said she is worried about traffic and crime that could happen around the facility.
“There are fifth graders, fourth graders walking little kids because parents have to work to provide. We’re not as rich as the public storage unit people that have many locations and are gaining money for it,” she said. “We have one crossing guard that manages people coming from many directions.”
Littlefield said the testimony from David Scull Courts residents elevated his concerns about parents taking their children to Maryvale, which sits about two blocks from the storage site. Although he said overall traffic numbers would increase no matter what the site became, Littlefield voiced concern about people without experience driving trucks and vans dropping belongings at the storage unit.
“I don’t know that it would be a heavy flow of people, but it would exist and to me that just adds to the potential that, God forbid, a little child could get in an accident just because of the situation,” he said. “When we first considered this, I didn’t quite appreciate the people walking their kids to school from the direction of David Scull.”