Saturday, December 20, 2014

Zip Code Madness - Do You Pay More to Graduate from an MCPS High School Because of Where You Live?

Answer:  Probably.

Back in 2010, this blog did a survey of how much each high school charged for various fees related to walking down the aisle to pick up a diploma.   You can read the post here.

MCPS representatives were reported to state at a recent Taxpayers League meeting that these fees were approved by the Board of Education and consistent with MCPS policy,

Answer:  Wrong.

The state of Maryland Constitution guarantees a free public education, and the state constitution trumps MCPS policy.

You, your family, and your child cannot be charged a fee to attend the students graduation ceremony.

Yet, MCPS continues to claim this is legitimate.  We claim this is educational extortion.

We will send in for an official list of what's been "approved" so you can determine which zip codes get shaken down the most.  Last time we checked, the fees approved didn't quite match what the students were charged.

What to do if you get a bill?

Answer:  Don't pay.

What if you already sent in your money?

Answer:  Ask for a refund.  Blair HS's graduating class of 2010 got a refund because they were charged to cover the graduation speaker's honorarium.  Really.  And the speaker was the spouse of a Blair staff member.  Talk about a rip off.

And please, stay tuned to this website for more information.


Friday, December 19, 2014

MCPS to Launch New Data Portal with Budget Information


In an attempt to make public school data more user-friendly and available to the public, Montgomery County Public Schools announced last week it plans to launch a data portal where it will post a break-down of its operating budget and other information.
MCPS plans to launch the new website in January. The site will offer the superintendent’s recommended budget as well as enrollment data and school boundary information.
The move comes as officials and members of the public questioned why the MCPS budget was not included in a new online data portal launched by the county in July. That portal allows users to access county government budget data to see how much funding specific agencies receive and what they spend it on.
Dana Tofig, MCPS spokesman, said in an email Tuesday the county didn't invite the school system to participate in the portal until shortly before it first launched and that because its budget is very different than the county's they weren't able to make it fit into the categories used by the county portal...

http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/2014/MCPS-to-Launch-New-Data-Portal-with-Budget-Information/
 

School system wants more, Montgomery County has less

Montgomery County Public Schools wants about $127 million more from the county next year, but county officials say their options for going above state-mandated funding levels have been exhausted and revenue is dwindling.
“We don’t have any gimmicks or tricks to get us beyond that,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett...

School system evaluating abuse-reporting protocol after Pineda case

...“Recently, some of us have been shaken by multiple reports of possible abuse at public schools in Montgomery County. To heighten our concern, these incidents have spurred a larger discussion within the county as to how these incidents are handled and whether additional measures may need to be taken to ensure the safety and well-being of our students,” said ED committee chairman Councilmember Craig Rice (D-2)...

...Pineda’s work history shows MCPS employed him as a bus driver from 2000-2003 before employing him as a substitute teacher from 2003-2006. He did not work for MCPS from 2006-2013; police are trying to piece together Pineda’s work history during that time period. MCPS hired him as a substitute teacher in 2013 and he worked for 111 days during the 2013-2014 school year.
Police said Pineda taught a variety of subjects and grade levels, including kindergarten through fifth grade, middle school and high school. From November 2013 to September 2014, Pineda worked at Twinbrook Elementary School, Ridgeview Middle School, Earle B. Wood Middle School, Montgomery Blair High School, Seneca Valley High School, Gaithersburg High School, Rosa Parks Middle School, Watkins Mill High School, Gaithersburg Middle School, Forest Oak Middle School, Goshen Elementary School, Roberto W. Clemente Middle School, Maryvale Elementary School, Clopper Mill Elementary School, Julius West Middle School, Gaithersburg Elementary School, Parkland Magnet Middle School, Longview School and Rockville High School. He taught English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), English, math, science, biology, computer science, technology and special education classes.
Montgomery County Police are asking anyone who believes they are a victim of Pineda to contact police. 

 http://www.thesentinel.com/mont/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1426:school-system-evaluating-abuse-reporting-protocol-after-pineda-case&Itemid=766

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Residents cite conflict of interest in storage facility battle

ROCKVILLE – The ongoing storage facility saga in East Rockville continued this week, now with an accusation of conflict of interest.
The mayor and City Council discussed a proposed zoning text amendment (ZTA) that would prevent self-storage within 250 feet of a school, including an approved ezStorage site near Maryvale Elementary School for which Siena Corporation already bought the land. Community activist Drew Powell also asked Councilmember Tom Moore to recuse himself because of a past campaign contribution from the lawyer representing Siena.
According to campaign finance statements, Robert Dalrymple contributed $100 to Moore’s bid for County Council. Powell called for Moore’s recusal based on a proposed recusal policy the mayor and council placed on the agenda – but did not adopt – at the Nov. 10 meeting.
Although the Rockville City Code dictates when an official cannot participate because of a “gift” that might cause conflict of interest, the definition of “gift” exempts political contributions.
Moore said the current law is intentionally worded so someone cannot strategically contribute to force them to recuse themselves...

school system should bring in an outside expert to examine problems and “formulate a comprehensive plan, not to cobble together some changes.”

Montgomery County to probe handling of school abuse allegations


...Jennifer Alvaro, a Montgomery parent and advocate on sexual abuse issues who is part of a district-appointed work group, said the two cases reflect multiple flaws in how school officials handle allegations of abuse.
She said the school system should bring in an outside expert to examine problems and “formulate a comprehensive plan, not to cobble together some changes.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

School Board member supports proposed law to ban BOE credit cards

No, it's not an MCPS school board member who is publicly supporting State Delegate Alonzo Washington's bill that would ban taxpayer-funded credit cards for school board members.

In today's Prince George's County Sentinel:
“I think there’s some members who used their credit card in an appropriate manner,” said [Prince George's County] Board of Education member Edward Burroughs, who does not have a board-issued credit card. “I think there’s some members in the past who have not used it in an appropriate manner. Taxpayer dollars are so important it’s best for no one to have a card.”
Read the entire article at:

http://www.thesentinel.com/pgs/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1054:state-delegate-proposes-bill-calling-for-school-board-to-ban-credit-cards&Itemid=766

Sentinel: County Income Tax Revenue More Than Projected

No, not in Montgomery County, where income tax receipts were $96 million lower than projected, leading to a partial hiring and purchasing freeze.  We're talking about Prince George's County, where receipts were $4 million above projections.

Read the full story in the Prince George's County Sentinel at:

http://www.thesentinel.com/pgs/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1050:county-income-tax-revenue-more-than-projected&Itemid=766


Breaking News: Starr Forced to Reveal Secret Child Sexual Abuse Committee

Superintendent Joshua Starr has finally created a website to detail the secret task force that has been meeting since April. 

Yes, April of 2014. 

But, Starr won't tell the public that the task force started meeting in April in response to a request for a meeting with Starr from The Family Tree in Baltimore.
Starr refused to meet, The Family Tree staff was only able to meet with some MCPS staff.

Starr's brand new website to announce the task force only shows meetings in October and December

Here's the brand new link.  Take what you read here with a grain of salt, but do note the links to the decades old Board of Education policies! Yes, the policies are still out of date, 26 years and counting!

http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/studentservices/childabuse/index.aspx

Identical: Pearson & MCPS Curriculum Guides

Do Montgomery County parents and guardians get that their children are learning the exact same math, reading, science, social studies and writing curriculum being used across the country by Pearson?

MCPS no longer has a local curriculum or even a Maryland State curriculum, MCPS is using Pearson Education, Inc.'s curriculum.

Parents and guardians in other states have rallied against the Pearson curriculum and tests, but not here in Montgomery County.
 
In some jurisdictions Pearson testing has even been dropped, but not here in Montgomery County. 

For parents and guardians that don't understand that their children are receiving a Pearson Education, Inc. curriculum here in Montgomery County, here is a visual to help make the point.

At this link is the Pearson Grade 1 curriculum guide.

Below is the MCPS "Integrated Curriculum" Grade 1 curriculum guide.  The pink highlighting shows where the words and sentences used to describe the curriculum are identical to the words and sentences in the Pearson guide above.  Yet, the MCPS guide doesn't mention Pearson or the Pearson trademark anywhere on the document.

Note that Pearson does not do curriculum for art, music, health, physical education and information literacy in their guide.





Joshua Starr and Casey Anderson are meeting on a regular basis

Who knew? 

How does this work? Casey Anderson is one member of a public body, yet he is having meetings with the public schools' Superintendent to discuss collaboration and issues? 

Let's hope no one is trying to circumvent the Maryland Open Meetings Act.


See bottom of Page 2 of this November 17, 2014, memorandum from Superintendent Joshua Starr to the Board of Education.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

"Mayor and Council are acting in good faith, are acting with the protection of students in mind"

Once again Siena Corporation attended the [City of Rockville] Mayor and Council meeting last night and threatened to pursue all legal means at their disposal in order to turn a profit for their investors.
At issue now is a proposed Zoning Text Amendment(ZTA) that would prohibit self-storage as a use in several zoning classifications in the city if it is within 250ft of a public School.

 http://keepourschoolsandneighborhoodssafe.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/siena-corporation-threatens-to-sue-the-city-again/

WBAL: Starr at MSEA Forum in Annapolis Today

Joshua Starr, "THE NEEDS IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY ARE SIMILAR TO EVERY OTHER JURISDICTION IN THE STATE. WE ARE GROWING -- ABOUT 2500 KIDS A YEAR -- WE HAVE MORE KIDS WITH MORE NEEDS THAN EVER BEFORE. THE STANDARDS ARE HIGHER. THE MONEY TO INNOVATE AND INVEST ARE NOT ALWAYS THERE AND A FORUM LIKE THIS BRINGS PEOPLE TOGETHER FROM ALL DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS AND IDEOLOGIES TO TALK ABOUT THE ISSUES WE ARE FACING."

 http://www.wbaltv.com/education/officials-talk-education-during-forum-in-annapolis/30242294

Will Joshua Starr seek another four-year term as superintendent?

...O’Neill said Dec. 10 that, in the upcoming year, she will lead the board as it addresses big issues such as the school system’s need for more school construction money and “the tremendous uncertainty of the operating budget process.”
The board will again take on the issue of possibly changing school bell times, after Superintendent Joshua P. Starr submits potential plans in January, O’Neill said.
Another task ahead, she said, is considering Starr’s contract renewal should he tell the board in February he plans to seek another four-year term as the school system leader. His contract expires in June 2015...

 http://www.gazette.net/article/20141215/NEWS/141219504/1022/o-x2019-neill-named-montgomery-school-board-president-again&template=gazette

Monday, December 15, 2014

Educators Worried About What Md. Budget Deficit Means For Schools « CBS Baltimore

Educators Worried About What Md. Budget Deficit Means For Schools « CBS Baltimore

Listen: Building the Future of Public Education: 2014 Education Policy Forum #MSEAforum14

Click link for audio of this forum: 
 http://www.marylandeducators.org/building-future-public-education-2014-education-policy-forum

9:00 a.m. - 9:05 a.m.—Introduction
9:05 a.m. - 10:25 a.m.—School Funding
  • Mary Gable, Assistant Superintendent for Academic Policy and Innovation, Maryland State Department of Education
  • Verjeana Jacobs, Maryland Association of Boards of Education President
  • Kevin Maxwell, Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO
  • Betty Weller, MSEA President

    Moderator: Tim Tooten, WBAL-TV
10:30 a.m. - 11:50 a.m.—Legislative Issues Preview
  • Delegate John Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s County)
  • Delegate Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery County)
  • Senator Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County)
  • Senator Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s County)

    Moderator: Len Lazarick, MarylandReporter.com
12:00 p.m. - 1:20 p.m.—Standards, Assessments, and Evaluations (Lunch)
  • Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University
  • Morgan Polikoff, Assistant Professor of Education, University of Southern California

    Moderator: Liz Bowie, Baltimore Sun
 1:30 p.m. - 2:50 p.m.—The Role of Teachers
  • Sean McComb, High School English Teacher in Baltimore County and 2014 National Teacher of the Year
  • Jose Vilson, Middle School Math Educator in New York City and author of This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and the Future of Education
  • Jody Zepp, High School Government and Psychology Teacher in Howard County and 2014-15 Maryland Teacher of the Year

    Moderator: Marc Steiner, WEAA 88.9
 2:55 p.m. - 4:15 p.m.—Connecting K-12 to Higher Ed and Business
  • Brit Kirwan, Chancellor, University System of Maryland
  • Martin Knott, Chair, Governor’s Workforce Investment Board
  • Bernard Sadusky, Maryland Association of Community Colleges Executive Director

    Moderator: Jenna Johnson, Washington Post
 4:15 p.m. - 4:20 p.m.—Closing

Wed. 12/17: BOE Members Durso and Ortman-Fouse at Taxapayers League Meeting

Montgomery County Taxpayers League Meeting
             Check out our new website www.mctaxpayersleague.org
                                      Wednesday, December, 17, 2014  -  7:00 - 9:00 pm
                                    5th Floor Conference Room,  Council Office Building
                                             100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850
                                                                       
Topic:   "Montgomery County Public Schools - Perspectives from a Current and a New School Board Member"

Speakers: 


Mike Durso, Montgomery County School Board Member, District 5
Jill Ortman-Fouse, Montgomery County School Board Member, At-Large





Questions sent to the speakers in advance of the meeting:

1. Only 25% of county households have children in the public school system, yet 100% of households pay for the schools.  There is a quite widely held view that the Board and the Superintendent do not appear interested in answering questions from the public.  What will you do to increase communication between MCPS and the other 75% of households who foot the bill but have no students in the public school system? 

2.  The Maintenance of Effort (MoE) law while a boon to the school system provides no such favors to the rest of the County government.  With the recent dismal revenue projections for Montgomery County which will very likely result in a reduction to the County Government in FY 2016 while increasing funding to the school system at the mandated MoE level, what is your position on the MoE law and do you have any suggestions for its amendment?  

3.  Given the growing over-capacity of our school buildings and the proliferation of portables, the need for school construction funding is an issue with which we all agree.  Would you agree that reducing the cost of renovations, additions and new school construction would help reduce the backlog of schools on the waiting list.  What actions do you think the county can take to reduce costs such as changes in construction procedures, changes in siting procedures, moving to "design-build" in bidding out contracts, looking at pre-fabricated buildings, fighting for reduced regulation from Annapolis regarding "prevailing wages", etc.  Also what do you think the BoE can do to temper constituent expectations about building what some have described as "5-star hotel design" school  buildings so that scarce resources can be used for a greater number of school construction projects?

4. When reviewing the system's budget request for FY 2016, will you look at costs or outcomes, or both?  When outcomes are not supplied, how do you estimate them?  When baseline costs are not broken down by strategy how do you evaluate them?  Do you have a standard for non-instructional costs as a percentage of total costs? 

5. Is "equity" spending which directs more resources to schools that need them the most, a sufficient criterion for evaluating program alternatives?  How should achievement gap performance goals be factored into the study to improve "bang for the buck"?

6.  In the FY 2015 budget, the Career Lattice Program called for 250 exemplary teachers to be awarded extra compensation for serving as lead teachers in lower income schools.  Should this pilot program be expanded in FY16? What would it cost?  What are the criteria you would use for expansion?

7.  When the FY 2015 budget was formulated, oil and gas prices were at record highs.  What are the savings accrued from the plummet in prices?  Given that this decrease in prices is likely to continue, will the FY 2016 budget reflect the new scenario?

8.  Given the very high cost of union contracts, does it seem fair that the very same staff negotiating with the unions benefit from the outcome of these negotiations?  Do you see an inherent conflict of interest here?  Would an independent board lend credibility to the process?

Former principal doesn’t remember 2004 allegation against substitute teacher

A former principal of a Gaithersburg middle school where a substitute teacher is accused of groping a girl in 2004 said he has no recollection of investigating the allegation.
Charging documents filed last month indicate that the Forest Oak Middle School student, who is not named, told her mother in 2004 that the teacher touched her several times, including on her thighs and buttocks. Mother and daughter then drove back to the school, where Principal John Burley “was notified of the above events,” according to charging documents.
Burley, now retired, told The Gazette Friday that while he doesn’t recall talking to the alleged victim and her mother about the incident, he must not have perceived it as a case of abuse. Otherwise, he would have called police, he said.
Burley spent 17 years as principal of Forest Oak, ending in 2011.
The former Forest Oak student is one of four females to accuse Jose Pineda, 50, of the 9100 block of Bramble Bush Court in Gaithersburg, of touching them inappropriately in the classroom. The other three alleged incidents occurred in 2013 and 2014 — two at Ridgeview Middle School in Gaithersburg and one at Clemente Middle School in Germantown in September, after which Pineda was arrested.
Pineda is charged with four counts of third-degree sexual offense and four counts of sexual abuse of a minor. He was being held Friday in lieu of $150,000 bail.
Montgomery County police said Thursday that they had no record that law enforcement had been informed of the incident in 2004...

...Burley was told by police that, according to the victim, he said he would make sure Pineda didn’t teach at the school again. Pineda doesn’t appear to have returned as a substitute to Forest Oaks, he said.
“If such a report came to me, and if all of this happened, I would have reported it to the [MCPS] substitute [teacher] office,” Burley said, adding that he would have filed paperwork removing Pineda from the list of substitutes for Forest Oak and then left the matter in the hands of the MCPS central office. Since Pineda doesn’t appear to have taught at Forest Oak after the incident, Burley said that’s probably what he did...

 http://www.gazette.net/article/20141205/NEWS/141209367/1022/former-principal-doesn-x2019-t-remember-2004-allegation-against&template=gazette

Why we Need an Independent Inspector General for MCPS

Why we Need an Independent Inspector General for the Montgomery County School System — Joan Fidler, President, Montgomery County Taxpayers League  (Dec. 2, 2014)

The Montgomery County School system has an annual budget of $2.3 billion, student enrollment of 154,176 and a staff of 21,580. It is an organization that rivals many counties in the nation not only in the size of its budget but in the number of people it employs. Yet, despite that, it lacks an independent authority within the organization that has oversight over waste, fraud, abuse and just good management, in general. One wonders why. It does have an audit staff that reports to its Chief Financial Officer but not directly to the Board of Education.
Fairfax County Public Schools with an annual budget of $2.5 billion, student enrollment of 186,785, and a staff of 23,447 recently appointed an Audit Manager located within the Office of Internal Audit but reporting directly to the Board of Education. The Audit Manager is responsible for analyzing school operations and efficiency “through independent and objective analyses and evaluations.”
The 9 members of Montgomery County’s Board of Education work part time and have administrative/secretarial staff but none with financial or audit expertise. Yet the Board has oversight of a large school system with an enormous budget that must rely on the very bureaucrats that run the system to provide it with analyses. So the Board is totally dependent on the school system staff who must have the time, the energy and the motivation to respond to Board requests...

article continues at this link

Friday, December 12, 2014

WUSA9: Hearing postponed for accused Damascus middle school groper

5 PM on a Friday: Why do MCPS computers permit these sites to be viewed?

From: "KINGSVIEW MIDDLE SCHOOL"
Date: Dec 12, 2014 4:49 PM
Subject: December 12th Incident

A message from KINGSVIEW MIDDLE SCHOOL

Dear Parents and Guardians:

I am writing to inform you of an incident that occurred during school today. This morning multiple students reported that a substitute teacher had looked at inappropriate material on the computer while students were in class. The substitute teacher was covering Ms. XXXXXX's classes yesterday and today.

As a result of this report, we immediately removed the substitute teacher from the classroom, and we are working with the MCPS Office of Technology to investigate the situation. During the investigation, the substitute teacher will not be returning to Kingsview Middle School. I am very proud of the students who reported this information, and it underscores the importance of ensuring that our students know to tell a staff member immediately if they see or hear anything of concern.

Thank you for your continuing support. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at 301-601-4611.

Sincerely,

Jimmy D'Andrea
Principal

Acción frente a denuncias de abuso sexual en Maryland | El Tiempo Latino | Noticias de Washington DC

Acción frente a denuncias de abuso sexual en Maryland | El Tiempo Latino | Noticias de Washington DC

English translation

Gazette Editorial: "parents aren’t getting information they need about their children’s safety."

Fix the channels

School system’s recent record of communication about abuse allegations is weak
In bureaucracies, procedure sometimes trumps common sense.
We’re seeing evidence of this in Montgomery County Public Schools, as the district tries to clean up fuzzy, conflicting guidelines for handling sexual abuse allegations.
This murkiness is having real-world repercussions. Most notably, parents aren’t getting information they need about their children’s safety.
In October, a contractor at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus was arrested, accused of inappropriately touching a 12-year-old student.
Later that month, a substitute teacher at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown was arrested for a separate but similar offense and now faces charges connected to four students.
In both cases, principals dragged their feet in disseminating information...

 http://www.gazette.net/article/20141210/OPINION/141219771/1266/fix-the-channels&template=gazette