Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Google Accused of Illegally Mining the Data of Mississippi Public Schools Students

Reporter Justin Vicory, The Sun Herald, Jan. 18, 2017. For the full story go here.

(TNS) — State Attorney General Jim Hood’s office filed a lawsuit Friday accusing Google of illegally mining the data of Mississippi public-school students.
On Tuesday, Hood accused Google Inc. of collecting personal and search-history information from students in order “to advance its own business interests and increase its profit.” He said Google violated the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act.
He said students who have accounts with Google’s “G Suite For Education” may have been affected. The web-based tools were previously known as Google Apps for Education. They were marketed as a free, safe way for students and teachers to seamlessly collaborate and communicate across multiple internet-connected devices. The software tools include Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive and Google Docs.

Groups Representing 10,000 Bethesda-Area Homes Co-Sign Letter Objecting to Aspects of Downtown Plan

Groups Representing 10,000 Bethesda-Area Homes Co-Sign Letter Objecting to Aspects of Downtown Plan: Letter offers County Council members recommendations to limit school overcrowding, congestion

@MCPS partner Pearson plunges as digital switch forces new profit warning

Pearson lost almost a third of its market value on Wednesday after it ditched its profit and dividend forecasts in a battle to respond to a shift to digital that has already hit the music and newspaper industries.
Education group

The world's biggest education company, which traditionally makes most of its profit from textbooks and testing, is facing structural turmoil as customers turn to cheaper digital alternatives, or choose to rent instead of buy content.

The greatest change is being felt in North America, its biggest market, where a fall in college enrollment numbers due to an improving economy have compounded the digital switch.
Shares in the 173-year-old British company fell 30 percent on Wednesday, on course for their worst day ever and wiping off 1.9 billion pounds ($2.3 billion), after the group said it could no longer put a figure on its 2017 dividend, piling pressure on CEO John Fallon...

Victim of convicted Howard Co. child pornographer files federal suit

The parents of one of the victims of a Howard County substitute teacher serving a 16-year sentence for possession of child pornography is seeking statutory damages in federal court.
The victim, identified as Jane Doe, was one of Jeremy Sykes’ students at Folly Quarter Middle School where he was a substitute teacher. Sykes digitally altered pornographic images of both adults and children so they showed the faces of his stepdaughter and students at the school.
“It’s sensitive, of course, but at the same time there’s a desire to seek redress,” said Michael D. Herman, who represents the victim and her parents.
Herman represented one of Sykes’ victims in a lawsuit filed in Howard County Circuit Court, which settled last year. When another victim came forward, Herman said the decision was made to file the case in U.S. District Court; federal law allows victims of child pornography to recover damages of at least $150,000 if they have been personally injured.
Doe suffered and continues to suffer injury as a result of Sykes’ actions, the complaint alleges, and is entitled to compensatory and punitive damages...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hixson (D-Montgomery Co.) steps aside as chair of Ways and Means

The long-time chair of the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday afternoon said she is stepping away from the position she has held since 1993. 

Del. Sheila E. Hixson, D-Montgomery County, said in a statement that she will assume the role of “chairman emeritus effective Friday, January 20, 2017 to give me the opportunity to help transition the new chairman into the committee.”
Hixson, who turns 84 next month, does not give a reason for her decision. The statement does not indicate that she is resigning from the seat she has held since 1976...

Bill proposed for healthier vending machines in Maryland

An anti-obesity coalition is proposing a bill that would require healthier options in vending machines on state property.

WJZ-TV reports that Sugar Free Kids Maryland announced the Maryland Healthy Vending Choices Act on Thursday. The bill would require half of the snacks in vending machines on public property to meet certain standards regarding amounts of calories, sugar, salt and fat.
Nikki Highsmith Vernick, president of the health and wellness group Horizon Foundation, says the legislation would help combat the state’s “strikingly high” diabetes rates...

Monday, January 16, 2017

N.J. soccer club accuses top artificial turf company of fraud

The owner of a New Jersey soccer facility claims in a new class-action lawsuit the leading U.S. maker of artificial sports fields, FieldTurf, repeatedly brushed off complaints about his failing field and told him conditions would improve over time.

The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for New Jersey, is the third proposed class-action to be brought by customers in the state against FieldTurf in response to an NJ Advance Media investigation that detailed potential fraud.

The investigation found FieldTurf and its executives for years earned ballooning profits as sales of its popular turf, Duraspine, skyrocketed, all the while knowing fields were falling apart and would not live up to marketing and advertising claims.

Despite warnings and candid internal discussions, FieldTurf officials kept selling Duraspine to cities, towns, school districts and private companies across the country, and never changed their sales pitches. The turf was phased out in 2012...

Friday, January 13, 2017

"campaign contributions from developer-related and other special interests -- and that this contributes to excessive density and school overcrowding"

MCPS classroom trailers
A group of MoCo residents are concerned that candidates for County Council are too dependent on campaign contributions from developer-related and other special interests -- and that this contributes to excessive density and school overcrowding.  This grassroots groups of MoCo residents have formed

... and created its related Facebook page:

Please consider "liking" and, most importantly, widely "sharing" the Facebook page.  Anyone interested in participating with can contact them through their contact page:

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Breaking: Neelsville PTSA Says They Have No Position On Cell Tower, Contradicts MCPS Assertion to Tower Committee

Tower Committee Chair Stops Public from Speaking
On Wednesday, January 4, 2017, the Montgomery County Tower Committee approved a cell tower for the Neelsville Middle School playground based on MCPS staff's assertion that the proposal had been approved by the Neelsville PTSA. 

At the 12 minute mark in the video of the Tower Committee meeting you can watch as the Tower Committee Chair stops the public from speaking about the lack of community approval for this cell tower. 

Meanwhile, the Verizon representative is permitted to speak during the meeting without restriction. 

Below is today's Press Release from the Neelsville Middle School PTSA stating, in fact, they have not taken a position on this December 2016, Verizon application for a cell tower on the school's playground. 

Ho Co BOE Wants BOE Staff to Report to BOE and Internal Audit, So Superintendent Sued Them.

...The complaint states one of the first resolutions passed by the newly sworn-in board on Dec. 5 sought to " misappropriate the superintendent's lawful authority."
At that first meeting with the new board member, Delmont-Small and Ellis passed eight resolutions, including a move to give the board responsibility over school board staff, such as the board administrator, secretarial staff and internal auditor, to increase transparency.
This change, which was passed despite opposition from board members Christine O'Connor and Sandra French, states that staff will report directly to the board rather than the superintendent. The board would then handle any staff terminations.
Another passed motion, introduced by Delmont-Small, instructed and authorized the board's internal auditor to review operations of the transportation department and all current and existing sole-source contracts.
According to state law, the complaint read, the superintendent is responsible for school administration, including discipline and terminations; therefore, deeming the board's actions illegal...

Howard Co Public Schools superintendent files lawsuit against Board of Education

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. - Howard County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Renee Foose is pursuing legal action against the Board of Education for their “unlawful conduct” in preventing the superintendent from fulfilling her job responsibilities, according to a lawsuit.
In a lawsuit filed in Howard County Circuit Court on Wednesday, Dr. Foose filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment and Injunctive Relief asking that the Court keep the Board of Education from illegally interfering with her duties as superintendent.
The lawsuit alleges that almost immediately after taking office on December 5, 2016, the new Board took action to prevent Dr. Foose from doing her job of administering and managing HCPSS.
The examples provided include: Unlawfully directing the superintendent to not engage or communicate with legal counsel; directing the counsel to illegally begin inspecting HCPSS records, which include student and employee records; “usurping” the superintendent’s authority to hire and fire non-certificated employees; preventing the superintendent from attending board meetings she is legally required to attend; and unlawfully substituting the superintendent’s designee on the Howard County School Budget Review Committee.
The lawsuit alleges the Board’s “illegal actions are creating chaos and uncertainty in HCPSS and are jeopardizing the orderly administration of public education in Howard County.”
Dr. Foose has come under scrutiny from parents in the past for her handling of mold concerns at several Howard County public schools. Last year, a petition to deny Foose's contract renewal received more than 1,500 signatures...

Teenager Charged in Double Homicide at Wheaton Mall

Teenager Charged in Double Homicide at Wheaton Mall: Video surveillance footage catches fight, stabbing, police say

I Can’t Answer These Texas Standardized Test Questions About My Own Poems

When I realized I couldn’t answer the questions posed about two of my own poems on the Texas state assessment tests (STAAR Test), I had a flash of panic – oh, no! Not smart enough. Such a dunce. My eyes glazed over. I checked to see if anyone was looking. The questions began to swim on the page. Waves of insecurity. My brain in full spin.
The two poems in question are A REAL CASE, appearing on the 2014 Grade 7 STAAR Reading Test, and MIDNIGHT, appearing on the 2013 Grade 8 STAAR Reading Test. Both poems originally appeared in Walking on the Boundaries of Change, Boyds Mills Press, 1998.
Let me begin by confessing that A REAL CASE is my most neurotic poem. I have a pile of them to be sure, but this one is the sour cherry on top. The written evidence of my anxieties, those evil gremlins that ride around on tricycles in my mind shooting my self-confidence with water pistols. How in the name of all that’s moldy did this poem wind up on a proficiency test?
Dose of reality: test makers are for-profit organizations. My poems are a whole lot cheaper than Mary Oliver’s or Jane Kenyon’s, so there’s that. But how would your vulnerable, nervous, number two pencil-gripping seventh grade self have felt opening your test packet to analyze poetic lines such as this: I’m just down with a sniffly case/of sudden-self-loathing-syndrome…an unexpected extra serving/ of just-for-now-self-hate.
Seriously? Hundreds of my poems in print and they choose THAT one? Self-loathing and self-hate? Kids need an extra serving of those emotions on testing day?
I apologize to those kids. I apologize to their teachers. Boy howdy, I apologize to the entire state of Texas. I know the ‘90s were supposed to be some kind of golden age, but I had my bad days and, clearly, these words are the pan drippings of one of them. Did I have a purpose for writing it?...

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Rockville High’s 56-year-old Bagpipe Band Fights To Keep MCPS Sponsorship

Rockville High’s 56-year-old Bagpipe Band Fights To Keep MCPS Sponsorship: Booster club president says school system pulled funding, recognition ...For years, the school system has offered the band free practice space and paid the director’s stipend, he said. The student group has won widespread attention by playing each year for the Marine Corps Marathon, marching in parades and beating adult bands in piping and drumming contests. In the past year alone, the group claimed first place at the Colonial Highland Games in Fair Hill, Southern Maryland Celtic Festival and Central Virginia Celtic Festival...

@mocoboe Rejects Data-Driven Interventions for Struggling Students

Common Sense Data Collection on Early Interventions for Struggling Students OPPOSED by Montgomery County Board of Education

Washington Post, January 8, 2017, by Valerie Strauss

Katherine Spurlock is a former public school teacher who moved to Montgomery County, Md., from a tiny school district in New York and wanted to ensure that her daughter, who has dyslexia, received appropriate interventions and placement in school.

As she worked through the system, she discovered some things that shocked her, including this: The county did not have any data showing how much money was being spent on early academic or behavioral interventions for students who need them. Nor did any other county in Maryland and probably most public school districts in the country.


When Spurlock, who had been involved with a Maryland task force on dyslexia education, discovered this, she began to work toward a remedy, engaging with some state legislators. In August, state Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Baltimore) and Del. Marc Korman (D-District 16) sent a letter to Karen Salmon, superintendent of schools in Maryland, asking whether the State Department of Education had any data on early interventions. It doesn’t, William Reinhard, executive director of communications for the department, wrote in an email.

Both Conway and Korman are introducing legislation requiring boards of education to annually report data on specialized intervention services to the State Department of Education and the General Assembly. Conway’s bill calls for such data to be collected from K-12, while Korman’s seeks data from K-3.
(*To read the whole article, CLICK HERE)

Sounds great, right?

Not according to the Montgomery County Board of Education, which voted today to OPPOSE Senator Conway's bill.

Students who learn differently lose again.

School Board Comes Out Against State Bills Mandating Less Sugar in Student Meals

School Board Comes Out Against State Bills Mandating Less Sugar in Student Meals: County education officials oppose five school-related bills, stay neutral on another The Montgomery County Board of Education is opposing state bills that would allow school systems to buy used buses for the Head Start program and require them to crack down on students’ sugar intake. Elected leaders on Tuesday weighed in on six education-related proposals that state lawmakers will consider during the Maryland General Assembly session that begins Wednesday. The board came out against five of them and took no position on the sixth. Two of the proposals opposed by the board dealt with sugar in school meals. Both would mandate that local education officials craft a plan for reducing students’ sugar consumption, and one would also force counties to form workgroups to study the issue.

Leave Your Laptops at the Door to My Classroom

When I started teaching, I assumed my “fun” class, sexuality and the law, full of contemporary controversy, would prove gripping to the students. One day, I provoked them with a point against marriage equality, and the response was a slew of laptops staring back. The screens seemed to block our classroom connection. Then, observing a senior colleague’s contracts class, I spied one student shopping for half the class. Another was surfing Facebook. Both took notes when my colleague spoke, but resumed the rest of their lives instead of listening to classmates.
Laptops at best reduce education to the clackety-clack of transcribing lectures on shiny screens and, at worst, provide students with a constant escape from whatever is hard, challenging or uncomfortable about learning. And yet, education requires constant interaction in which professor and students are fully present for an exchange.
Students need two skills to succeed as lawyers and as professionals: listening and communicating. We must listen with care, which requires patience, focus, eye contact and managing moments of ennui productively — perhaps by double-checking one’s notes instead of a friend’s latest Instagram. Multitasking and the mediation of screens kill empathy.
Likewise, we must communicate — in writing or in speech — with clarity and precision. The student who speaks in class learns to convey his or her points effectively because everyone else is listening. Classmates will respond with their accord or dissent. Lawyers can acquire hallmark precision only through repeated exercises of concentration. It does happen on occasion that a client loses millions of dollars over a misplaced comma or period...

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

MCPS Legal Expenses, October 2016

MCPS Legal Expenses, October 2016

Special Education Legal Expenses

Special education legal fees for outside counsel for October 2016 totaled $4,597, all of which
was for Jeffery A. Krew. The year-to-date total of $38,295 is $681 (1.8 percent) more than
the same period in the previous year.

Non-special Education Legal Expenses

The total charges for non-special education legal expenses in October 2016 were $136,596.
The year-to-date total of $602,271 is $206,668 (52.2 percent) more than the same period
in the previous year. The non-Capital Improvements Program year-to-date portion totals $574,492.
This is $287,840 (100.4 percent) more than the same period in the previous year, primarily
due to ongoing litigation on a financial matter in which the Board recently received a favorable
ruling in the Circuit Court of Maryland.

The Carney Kelehan bill for October 2016 totaled $91,301. The largest amount, which was for
policy matters, totaled $46,591, the largest part of which related to Board policy development
($31,165). The next largest amount was for personnel matters ($40,986), the largest part of which
related to general personnel matters ($25,570). The amount for facilities matters, which is charged
to the capital budget, totaled $3,230. The amount for financial matters totaled $494.

The Hogan Lovells bill for October 2016 totaled $2,383, the largest part of which related to Board
policy consulting matters ($2,043).

The Venable bill for October 2016 totaled $4,320. The largest amount, which was for policy
matters, totaled $3,499. The next largest amount was for facilities matters, which is charged
to the capital budget ($821).

The DLA Piper bill for October 2016, totaled $34,792, all of which was related to financial matters.
Charges in October 2016 for court reporters, hearing officers, and other legal services totaled
$3,800, the largest part of which related to Board appeals ($3,375)

Coalition of Parents Commissions Expert Report on MCPS Language Programs

Coalition of Parents Commissions Expert Report on MCPS Language Programs: Analysis recommends that school officials expand two-way immersion, prioritize racial equity

Lawmakers want to make it easier to punish educators who sexually abuse students

State lawmakers and advocates in every New England state are pursuing legislation to make it easier to punish educators who sexually abuse students — and harder for them to get new jobs elsewhere working with children.

Massachusetts Senator Joan B. Lovely, Democrat of Salem, said she plans to introduce a comprehensive bill next month that will include a long list of changes, including making it illegal for high school teachers to have sex with their students, strengthening requirements to report abuse, and eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for cases involving sexual violations of children...

...In Connecticut, two state lawmakers said they want to extend what some call the “passing the trash” law to cover private schools. The law, approved in June, bars public schools from signing confidentiality agreements that cover up allegations of sexual misconduct. It also requires schools to share information when teachers accused of misconduct apply for new jobs. But the provisions do not apply to private schools.

“I think private schools should live up to the same standard as public schools,” said Senator Cathy Osten, Democrat of Sprague. Representative William Tong, Democrat of Stamford, said he also supports changing the law to cover private schools....

Monday, January 9, 2017

WJLA: Montgomery Village-based Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children (CSAAC) Caregiver abandons man with autism in transport vehicle while exercising at LA Fitness

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (ABC7) - A craving to burn calories and crank up cardio has a caregiver doing a lot explaining to police, his employer and the family of a disabled man.
Franck Tedlor, 26, of the 3300 block of Hewitt Avenue in Aspen Hill is now facing one criminal count of vulnerable adult abuse-custodian.
Around 6:30 p.m. on August 13, Tedlor drove his nearly non-verbal male patient with autism to the LA Fitness located along the 600 block of Quince Orchard Road in Gaithersburg. Tedlor allegedly parked the transport vehicle behind the fitness center, turned off the ignition, rolled down the windows and told his patient to behave and stay in the vehicle. It was 99 degrees outside at the time...

Balt. Sun: Maryland lawmakers face budget gap, political warfare in new session

Lawmakers left Annapolis last year with a modest budget surplus and talk of a bipartisan tax cut.
This year, they return to dismal financial prospects, readied for partisan warfare.
The surplus has evaporated, as have the calls for cooperation that heralded the start of the past two General Assembly sessions.

Leaders of both major parties fear policy debate could be overshadowed by political maneuvering that jump-starts the 2018 campaign season.

"The claws are coming out, and this isn't going to be pretty," said Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, a Baltimore County Republican.

The agenda Maryland lawmakers will consider in the annual 90-day session that begins Wednesday is sprawling and has implications for families and businesses across the state.
It includes budget cuts, forcing many businesses to offer paid sick leave, and addressing the escalating opioid epidemic. Lawmakers also plan to tackle inequity in the criminal justice system and the lack of diversity among licensed medical marijuana business owners. And they will wrestle over environmental policy, particularly a ban on the natural gas extraction method known as fracking...

...With state revenue falling short of projections, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and leading Democrats in the legislature must agree on $544 million worth of spending cuts for the next year — 3 percent of the state's $17.2 billion general fund. Those tough budget decisions will take place amid a potentially toxic political climate...

A roundtable discussion at UCLA shed some light on the current state of concussion research and how we can better educate people on the risks.

In 2015, a Sports Illustrated article profiled the deaths of 11 high school football players.

Five of the deaths were due to severe blows to the head. And as recently as November 2016, a 15-year-old Texas football player died after suffering a head injury while playing football.
"There are about 1.3 million high school and 2.8 million youth football players in this country. That's more than 4 million children and teenagers playing football," Ralph Nader and Kenneth Reed wrote in a Chicago Tribune op-ed. "Compare that number with the 1,700 or so adults playing football in the NFL. Yet, the nation's focus, when it comes to concussions, is on the NFL. That needs to be flipped."...

Friday, January 6, 2017

More arrests in alleged MS-13 murder of N.J. man lured to woods in Maryland

...“This is all MS-13 related,” Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Marybeth Ayres said during a court hearing Thursday for one suspect, Katerine Solorzano-Aparicio, 17, a student at Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg. She is charged as an adult in the case...

Sasha Bruce confronts the dark, painful reasons some kids run away from home

...I’ve interviewed several Sasha Bruce clients who — after saying, “I didn’t get along with my mom” — got quiet, blinked back tears and then said that they had been sexually abused in the home, abuse that their mother knew about and did nothing to stop....