Thursday, June 22, 2017

MCPS Graduation Costs Slashed

The cost of holding MCPS graduation ceremonies has dropped dramatically since 2007.

In 2007, MCPS' rental fee for DAR Constitution Hall was $5,700 per school, and the UMD Comcast Center rental was $34,000 per school.

As of 2017, both of those rental fees have dropped.

DAR Constitution Hall is down to $2,963.72 per school.

UMD Xfinity Center is down to $10,000 per school.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

In 2013, MCPS COO Larry Bowers Defied State Board of Education Guidance and Left Teacher in Classroom with Multiple Reprimands

MCPS photo of  Larry Bowers
"In this case, the personnel record was filled with reprimands and directives which Mr. Picca did not follow.  It is as if each reprimand stood alone without reference to past directives.  It would be prudent for school systems to review their personnel records to be sure there are no cases, like this one, lurking in their schools."

Maryland State Board of Education Opinion 12-34, Daniel Picca v. Montgomery County Board of Education,

September 25, 2012

Those were the words of the Maryland State Board of Education to Montgomery County Public Schools in the 2012 case of Picca v. Montgomery County Board of Education.

Picca, a former MCPS teacher appealed Montgomery County Board of Education's decision to terminate him to the Maryland State Board of Education.  In the State BOE's decision, the public learned that MCPS had repeatedly reprimanded Mr. Picca to stop specific interactions with students.

The State BOE advised MCPS to review their personnel records to make sure no other cases like this one were lurking in Montgomery County schools.

But another case was lurking.

On June 6, 2017, another former MCPS teacher went on trail for the sexual abuse of MCPS students.  The charging documents show the dates of the incidents were from 2001-2002, and from 2013-2016.
The trial before a jury lasted four days.
There was no media coverage of the trial.
The Cloverly Elementary School teacher, John Vigna, was found guilty on 9 counts.

From the courtroom testimony of Cloverly Elementary School principal Melissa Brunson we learn that:

  • In 2008, Mr. Vigna received a letter of reprimand from Principal Brunson concerning incidents where students were seen sitting on Mr. Vigna's lap. 
  • In 2013, Mr. Vigna received another letter of reprimand.  This one was from MCPS Chief Operating Officer Larry Bowers.  This letter came as the result of an incident that resulted in Mr. Vigna being removed from the classroom for three weeks while the incident was investigated. Mr. Vigna was returned to the classroom.  Again, he was told to not have students sit on his lap.
  • The principal testified that she followed the MCPS protocol which was to report incidents to the MCPS Human Resources Department and have them direct her path. 
  • Due to her concerns, the principal moved Mr. Vigna's classroom from a portable to a room inside the building near the front office.
  • The principal testified that she did not have the power to fire or suspend a teacher.  
After being returned to the classroom with two letters of reprimand in his personnel file, Mr. Vigna was again removed from the classroom in February of 2016 due to new allegations of students sitting on his lap.

Why did MCPS Chief Operating Officer, and later MCPS Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers ignore the advice from the Maryland State Board of Education?

We now know that if Larry Bowers, and then Superintendent Joshua Starr, had followed the 2012 advice of the Maryland State Board of Education most of the victims in the June 6, 2017, trial would never have been victims at all.  Those MCPS children would not have to include giving testimony in a court of law in a sexual abuse case as part of their childhood.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Four board members in Maryland school system allege fraud in graduation rates

Four school board members in Prince George’s County have urged Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan to call for an investigation of what they allege is a systemic effort to fraudulently boost graduation rates in the school system.
The members, a minority bloc on the 14-member board, say that the state’s second-largest school system engaged in “widespread systemic corruption” that inflated graduation rates since 2014.
“Whistleblowers at almost every level in PGCPS have clear and convincing evidence that PGCPS has graduated hundreds of students who did not meet the Maryland State Department of Education graduation requirements,” the four said in a letter...


Saturday, June 17, 2017

ABC7: Montgomery Co. Police to announce arrests in double homicide of HS students

Sources tell ABC7's Kevin Lewis that the suspects are 25-year-old Jose Canales-Yanez, 19-year-old Roger Garcia, and 24-year-old Edgar Garcia.

All three suspects live in MoCo. One in Germantown, one in Gaithersburg and the other in Silver Spring.

Live tweets from Kevin Lewis as he goes to the homes of suspects:

NBC4: Former Maryland Elementary School Teacher Convicted of Sex Abuse Charges

A former Montgomery County elementary school teacher has been convicted of sexual abuse charges after students came forward saying he touched them inappropriately. 
John Vigna, now 50, was teaching at Cloverly Elementary School in Silver Spring before he was arrested in June 2016 for allegedly touching two girls inappropriately. Three more victims later came forward. 
Vigna taught third, fourth, and fifth grade over a span of 20 years at the school. He also coached junior varsity baseball at Paint Branch High School.
Prosecutors announced Monday that Vigna has been convicted of four counts of sex abuse of a minor and five counts of third-degree sex offense, 

Source: Former Maryland Elementary School Teacher Convicted of Sex Abuse Charges | NBC4 Washington
Follow us: @nbcwashington on Twitter | NBCWashington on Facebook

Marylanders can now get naloxone at a pharmacy without a prescription. See Notice from DHMH (attached) for more info.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Murders of Northwest High students unsolved; police need help

WASHINGTON — Over a week after two teens were fatally shot in a Montgomery Village, Maryland, cul-de-sac, police are again appealing to the public for information that could provide a break in the case.
“You may think it’s insignificant, but you never know what it could lead to in the future,” said Rick Goodale, spokesman for the Montgomery County Police Department.
Goodale appeared Wednesday at the North Creek Community Center for a meeting between police and area residents...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

MCPS Teacher John Vigna Verdict Press Release from State's Attorney

June 12, 2017

For more information, contact:           John J. McCarthy, (240) 777-7390
                                        Ramon V. Korionoff, Public Affairs Director (240) 777-7397 
                                                                                                  Mobile (301) 300-6312


   John J. McCarthy, State's Attorney for Montgomery County, announced today that John Vigna, 50, of Silver Spring, was convicted of four counts of sex abuse of a minor and five counts of third degree sex offense. Vigna taught third, fourth, and fifth grade over a span of 20 years at Cloverly Elementary in Silver Spring. 

A jury returned a guilty verdict after about 9 hours of deliberation following a weeklong trial presided over by the Honorable Judge David A. Boynton. Vigna testified at trial and maintains that he never had intentional inappropriate contact with students.

Vigna was arrested in June of 2016 after five Cloverly students, both current and former, reported that they had been touched inappropriately while sitting in Vigna's lap during the school day. Victims came forward after taking a mandated body safety class that helped them to understand inappropriate contact.

Vigna will be sentenced in August where he could face 25 years in prison for each count of sex abuse of a minor and 10 years for each third degree sex offense.

"Body Safety Classes instituted by MCPS helped to expose this child sex offender.  We commend the jury for working hard through a Friday night to render this verdict.  It holds John Vigna accountable,"  said John McCarthy.


06/09/2017 Docket Number: 95
Docket Description: VERDICT
Docket Type: Docket Filed By: Court


Montgomery Co. police officer appeals denial of immunity in Legal Aid free speech lawsuit. [Judge] Grimm also found some of the county’s arguments on the subject “just plain silly,” accusing the government of unpersuasively attempting to distinguish their situation from case law.

A Montgomery County police officer facing a civil suit for issuing a no-trespass order to Legal Aid employees who attempted to visit migrant farmworkers at a local farm is appealing a federal judge’s denial of qualified immunity protection.
The county and officer also asked Friday for proceedings to be stayed until the appeal is resolved.
The lawsuit was filed last year by Nohora Rivero, a Legal Aid law graduate who attempted to visit employees of Lewis Orchards in Dickerson with a summer law clerk on Aug. 18, 2015 to inform the workers about their rights and refer them to legal and other social service providers.
Rivero alleges in the lawsuit the farm’s owners confronted them, ordered them to leave and called the county police, according to U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm’s memorandum opinion on the motion to dismiss, issued May 3. Officer Alexander Kettering responded and issued no-trespass warnings to the Legal Aid employees, barring them from returning to the property for one year...

Monday, June 12, 2017

In 2012, State Board of Ed Warned MoCo Board of Ed to Clean Up their Act: State BOE 'shine a light on abusive conduct..of school staff toward children' Picca v. BOE

Click below to read the Maryland State Board of Education's statement to the Montgomery County Board of Education back in 2012.  The Montgomery County Board of Education completely ignored the advice from the State Board of Education.

How many children have been harmed by the failure of the Montgomery County Board of Education to act on the advice they were given in 2012?

Breaking News! State BOE 'shine a light on abusive conduct..of school staff toward children' Picca v. BOE: Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland

Vigna had been counseled on a number of occasions, beginning back in 2008, to halt the practice of having physical contact with students. That counseling reoccurred in 2013 and 2015.


 ROCKVILLE — A former Montgomery County Public Schools teacher was found guilty Friday of sexual abuse of students.

After nine hours of deliberation Friday night, a jury found John Vigna, 50, of Silver Spring, guilty of four counts of sex abuse of a minor and five counts of third-degree sex offense, according to Ramon Korionoff, spokesperson for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.
John McCarthy, state’s attorney for Montgomery County said Vigna was arrested in June of 2016 after five Cloverly students, both current and former, reported that they had been touched inappropriately while sitting in Vigna's lap during the school day. Victims came forward after taking a mandated body safety class which helped them understand inappropriate contact.
“Body safety classes instituted by MCPS helped expose this child sex offender,” said McCarthy. “We commend the jury for working hard through a Friday night to render this verdict. It holds John Vigna accountable.”
McCarthy said Vigna, who had been a teacher at Cloverly Elementary School for 20 years, taught third, fourth, and fifth grade. The children who were his victims all hailed from those grades. Vigna had been counseled on a number of occasions, beginning back in 2008, to halt the practice of having physical contact with students. That counseling reoccurred in 2013 and 2015. The most recent event, which actually gave rise to the charges in this case, occurred in February of 2016...

A veteran Montgomery County teacher has been convicted of nine counts of sexual abuse.

Montgomery Co. teacher convicted of child sex abuse

WASHINGTON — A veteran Montgomery County teacher has been convicted of nine counts of sexual abuse.
Fifty-year-old John Vigna, of Silver Spring, Maryland, taught at Cloverly Elementary School for more than 20 years, and it was a 2016 class on “body safety” that triggered the investigation that led to his arrest and conviction, said Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy.
McCarthy says that during the February 2016 class — in which children are taught how to identify sexual abuse — teachers noted the physical reaction of one student.
“The person teaching the body safety class watched the girl begin to shrink down, and put her head on the desk,” McCarthy said, adding the instructors talked to the student...

TODAY: Mont. Co. State's Attorney Press Conference on Verdicts in MCPS Teacher John Vigna Trial Planned for 1:45 PM

The Parents' Coalition received the following message from the State's Attorney's Office:  

We are planning to talk to the media at 1:45 in the Circuit Court lobby.
Ramón V. Korionoff
Public Affairs Director
Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office

MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith Unable to Count to 9, Covers Up Number of Guilty Verdicts in John Vigna Trial

Below is the "statement" that MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith has finally released 48 hours after the verdict came in on the trial of MCPS 3rd grade teacher John Vigna.

Note the following:

Mr. Smith does not refer to the VICTIMS of these horrific crimes. He references the "community" only.  

There has still been no statement or response from the Montgomery County Board of Education or any of the individual elected officials.

There has been no statement from the Montgomery County Council, including the members of the Education Committee.

There has been no statement from Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy.

The "statement" below does not report the actual verdict in this trial, but rather glosses over the verdict by stating Mr. Vigna was found guilty on "multiple counts."  The Parents' Coalition has learned that Mr. Vigna was found guilty by a jury on 9 out of 14 counts of sexual abuse of a minor and third degree sex offense.  As soon as we have confirmed the guilty verdicts, we will post the ACTUAL VERDICT, not a glossed over summary!

Mr. Vigna is still a MCPS teacher.  He was only placed on administrative leave, he has not been removed from the school system.  

Statement from Superintendent Jack Smith 48 hours after jury verdict was returned in a Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has released the following statement from Superintendent Jack Smith in response to the guilty verdict in the trial of Cloverly Elementary School teacher John Vigna. Mr. Vigna, who was immediately placed on administrative leave after allegations were reported in February 2016, was convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor and third-degree sex offense.
 “Our thoughts are with the Cloverly Elementary School community. I recognize that this has been an extremely difficult time for many students, families and staff members. I express my deepest gratitude to the community for its patience and unwavering commitment to our students throughout this process. MCPS will continue to provide additional counselors and support personnel to the school for the remainder of the year."

“I thank our partners in law enforcement for their dedication to keeping the children of Montgomery County safe each and every day."

“MCPS remains committed to ensuring the safety and security of every student throughout the district.  In recent years, our school system has enhanced its policies and protocols forrecognizing, preventing and reporting child abuse or neglect.  We will continue to work with our partners in law enforcement and the community to ensure all students have a safe, welcoming place to learn.”

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Exclusive Breaking News: Jury Finds MCPS Teacher Guilty of Sexual Abuse of Children [No Statement from Board of Ed., State's Attorney and No Media Coverage. The MCPS Cover Up Continues].

Date: June 10, 2017 at 12:00:05 PM EDT
Dear Cloverly Community,
I am writing to provide an update on the court proceedings for Mr. John Vigna. The Montgomery County State’s Attorney's Office has informed me that at approximately 1:00 a.m.this morning, a jury has found him guilty on multiple counts of sexual abuse of a minor and third degree sex offense. As I have previously shared, Mr. Vigna was immediately placed on administrative leave in February 2016 after allegations were reported.
Dr. Melissa Brunson
Principal, Cloverly E.S.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Government agencies must conduct a “good faith” search for records requested under the Maryland Public Information Act

“An agency that receives a PIA request must conduct a search in good faith that is reasonably designed to capture all responsive records,” Judge Robert N. McDonald wrote for the Court of Appeals. “A public-records request is not an occasion for a game of hide and seek. For that reason, if possible, an agency should in good faith provide some reasonable assistance to the requestor in refining the request for the records the requestor seeks.”

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Roger Berliner Met with FieldTurf as Parks and MCPS Scrambled to Address Artificial Turf Safety Issues #GMAX #FieldTurf @RogerBerliner

In the Summer of 2016, an article on Forbes online detailed the dangerous condition of the Walter Johnson High School artificial turf field.  That article caused MCPS and Montgomery Parks to scramble to respond to questions about the safety of all of the artificial turf fields in the county.

By October of 2016, Montgomery Parks knew that their artificial turf field behind Blair High School had failed and needed to be replaced.  Quietly, Montgomery Parks allowed 3 artificial turf vendors to make presentations to their staff. FieldTurf, the no bid vendor that has supplied Montgomery Parks and MCPS with artificial turf fields since 2009 was one of the vendors permitted to make a presentation.

E-mails obtained by the Parents' Coalition detail that during the FieldTurf presentation to Montgomery Parks staff on November 14, 2016, FieldTurf stated that they had a "new product that they had recently showed to Council Member Roger Berliner."  

Why is a Montgomery County Councilmember meeting with a no bid vendor?

The Montgomery County Council funds artificial turf on MCPS and Parks fields, but does not actually contract for the construction projects.  Why would a Councilmember be meeting privately with a vendor, especially during a time when the safety of existing FieldTurf artificial turf fields was being scrutinized?

Remember that the law firm Roger Berliner worked for before coming to Montgomery County has been the NYC lobbyist for FieldTurf.

Here is the e-mail from Montgomery Parks that describes the FieldTurf presentation to Parks staff on November 14, 2016.

The Black & White: Administrators push for AP NSL students to take the Government HSA

Administrators required all U.S. Government students to take the Government High School Assessment May 22. In previous years, administrators expected only honors and on-level Government (NSL) students to take the HSA the same year they took the course, while AP students who scored below a three on the AP exam took the HSA the following year.
The number of last year’s AP students who took the HSA at the beginning of this school year because they received a one or two on the AP exam is unknown to social studies department head Suzy Johnson.
Administrators changed this requirement in order to prevent those who did not pass from having to take it next year, assistant principal Rainer Kulenkampff said.
“It would be more difficult to take the test later on because it would be a year after you took NSL, so it just gets harder,” Kulenkampff said. “We need to make sure that people get their graduation requirements, and we need to make sure that our students are successful.”
The Maryland State Department of Education requires that students either pass the Algebra 1, Biology, English 10 and U.S. Government HSAs or earn a sufficient combined score between all of them in order to graduate. But students who score a three or higher on the AP U.S. Government exam can receive an exemption from MCPS for the related HSA...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Board of Ed Targets Neelsville Middle Again for Cell Tower on Playground #RedZone #CellTower

The Montgomery County Board of Education has been targeting this one MCPS middle school for the placement of a cell tower on playground since 2013!  The parents keep saying no, and the BOE keeps bullying them.  

Would a school in the "green zone/low FARMS/low poverty" part of Montgomery County go through this continued bullying?  We know the answer is no.  Green zone schools say no and the cell towers go away.  

The next meeting to bully the Neelsville Middle School parents and community is Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 6:30 PM.  

Reunión informativa el día jueves, 8 de junio a las 6:30 p.m.

Asiste a la junta en junio e infórmate más sobre la propuesta para instalar una torre de telefonía celular.
Haz preguntas y obtén respuestas directo de Verizon, MCPS y otros.
Crees que debería haber una torre celular en la escuela? Representa un riesgo de salud para los estudiantes? Vale tomar el riesgo por dinero?

Toda la comunidad de Neelsville está invitada. Los miembros del PTSA, actuales y anteriores pueden votar para  apoyar o para oponerse a la instalación de la torre. No eres miembro del PTSA? Puedes asistir a la junta y votar, tu voto cuenta. La posición del PTSA, ya sea en apoyo o en oposición, tendrá un impacto significativo en caso de que la torre se instale en Neelsville.

Asiste a la reunión el día 8 de junio, también danos tu opinion en nuestra Página de Facebook.
Haz que tu voz se escuche!

Leggett Memo on Meeting with FCC and June 14th Community Meeting on Cell Towers

Save The Date: Wireless Telecommunications Community Meeting 
7 PM – 8:30 PM Community Meeting 
Executive Office Building Cafeteria, 101 Monroe Street, Rockville MD 20850 
Contact: Mitsuko Herrera 240-777-2928

Summary of the County Executive meeting with the FCC 
Click here for full memo

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Bethesda Man Charged with Sexual Offense Against Teenager

Detectives from the Montgomery County Police Department – Special Victims Investigations Division (SVID) have arrested and charged Howard Earl Alpert, age 73, of Adelaide Drive in Bethesda, with a fourth-degree sex offense and the sexual abuse of a teenage male.  Alpert was a teacher at a charter school in Washington, D.C.  The victim in this case was not a student at the school...

Friday, June 2, 2017

Almanac: Potomac Elementary School parents vote to oppose move to Radnor school during construction.

Members of the Potomac Elementary School PTA voted Monday night, May 15, to oppose the choice of Montgomery County Public Schools to transfer Potomac students to the Radnor holding center during construction of the new PES.
The change is scheduled to take place at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year and is expected to last until January of 2021.
Ahead of the formal vote, several PES parents testified at the May 9 meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education against the Radnor option. They also asked the board to review errors in communication between the MCPS and members of the school’s community.
“… Having been involved in the discussions pertaining to the PES modernization project, we are disheartened and disappointed with the lack of transparency and the misleading information that is being used to make fundamental decisions about the project,” Zahra Raney, mother of two PES students, said before the board.
Raney’s testimony continued with examples of what she considered questionable including distance and drive time from the current school location to Radnor, the option of keeping the current school operating during construction, cost estimates and design...