Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

 Wishing all our friend and supporters a very happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

UK company EMFields criticizes MCPS Technology Office for incorrect and defamatory comments

EMFileds, a UK company which sells a device used to measure WiFi radiation levels at MCPS schools, has sent a letter to the Chief Technology Officer Sherwin Collette criticizing his Office for incorrect and defamatory comments about the device. The EMFileds Tech Director confirms that the readings taken by parents are similar to those in the official AECOM Report published by MCPS Technology Office. EMFields also identifies factual mistakes on the FAQ page of MCPS Tech Office.

WJLA TV: Dangerous levels of radon found in 28 MCPS schools

ROCKVILLE, Md. (ABC7) -- A substance linked to cancer has been detected in dangerous amounts inside dozens of Montgomery County classrooms.

According to a five-page report obtained by ABC7 News, 28 of MCPS' 205 schools have dangerous radon levels.

Read and watch the full story at:

Corruption conviction of disgraced ex-Chicago Public Schools CEO illustrates the potential dangers of no-bid contracts

...The corruption conviction of disgraced ex-Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett illustrates the potential dangers of no-bid contracts while highlighting another potential pitfall: The problems that can arise when school leaders consult on the side for for-profit educational companies...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Parents' Coalition tip that could save you hundreds of dollars of property taxes

Many homeowners in Montgomery County still have not completed the one-time verification form for the homestead credit. As homes start to appreciate in value, the homestead credit will automatically be applied, but ONLY TO PROPERTIES THAT HAVE A HOMESTEAD VERIFICATION FORM ON FILE WITH THE SDAT. IF THE FORM HAS NOT BEEN FILED, YOUR PROPERTY TAXES COULD GO UP BY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS IN 2016, 2017, and so forth.

The original deadline for submitting the homestead verification form was December 30, 2013. However, you can submit the form by December 31, 2015 and get the homestead credit starting in 2016. If you’ve already submitted the form, you don’t need to submit it again (unless you move to another home).

Submitting the homestead verification form is quick and easy. Frequently asked questions about the homestead credit and a link to the verification form can be found at:
The homestead credit is not issued to rental properties or "second homes", such as vacation homes. Each Maryland resident (or married couple) is allowed to claim only one property as their principal residence.

Also – don’t confuse the homestead credit with the “homeowner’s credit”. The homeowner’s credit is available only to low income homeowners and an application for the homeowner’s credit must be submitted each year. In contrast, the homestead credit is available to every owner-occupant, regardless of income.

Parents Calling For Wires With Their Chromebooks to Cut Radiation

Parents Are Raising Concerns That MCPS Chromebooks Emit Radio- Frequency Radiation

Did you know some children are being allowed to use a wire with their technology device at school to decrease the radiation? Parents requested it.

"We understand that MCPS schools are now allowing children to use a wire with their Chromebooks because parents have requested it. This way the child is not getting direct radiation from the laptop or tablet when it is being used in classes. However, most parents are unaware this option exists." 
See this video featuring MCPS schools and the Chromebook. It has maps showing Wi-Fi access point locations in several schools.

Monday, November 23, 2015

[Jay] Matthews receives a failing grade in this case for his inability to understand the needs of our children. .@washingtonpost

Below is a comment on The Washington Post article by Jay Mathews in today's paper.  
The column by Mr. Mathews is nothing more than click bait and we will not link to the original column.  The comment below is an excellent response to the Post's failure to research, investigate and present balanced reporting of public school education issues. 
Denise Marshall, COPAA Executive Director
9:52 AM EST
Mr. Matthews is shamefully misguided in his praise. Congratulations should be reserved for districts who do the right thing to assure students with disabilities can benefit from their educational program and learn at school, not those who employ a strategy which relies on tactics to harass and intimidate families. The issue is not the money spent on lawyers or placements, the issue is providing educational services for all students; some who are the most impacted children in the county. While Mr. Mathews article leaves the impression that the school system’s tactics are justified because of expensive placements, private placements are provided in a limited number of cases for those students who have the highest level of need and those aggressive tactics are utilized for the county in all types of cases, including those where the student wants to remain in their neighborhood schools. Families and school administrators may disagree about the appropriate services for a student, there should be, however, no disagreement that parents should be treated with respect and dignity when seeking school system services made available to all students. Mr. Matthews receives a failing grade in this case for his inability to understand the needs of our children.

Exclusive: Thousands of MCPS students exposed to high levels of radon

No retesting or remediation years later, in spite of EPA recommendations 

Radon test reports obtained last week by the Parents' Coalition reveal that radon levels in several schools have exceeded the "corrective action recommended" levels for years. Based on the date of the reports (November 3, 2015), it appears that MCPS has taken no action to correct the problems or has any long term testing underway.

Normal radon decay causes emission of ionizing radiation.  Scientists have long established that ionizing radiation is a significant cause of cancer.

Data from a few of the affected schools is below.   Although we asked for the entire test reports, MCPS provided only the summary data shown below, so we don't know which classrooms have the high levels.

The EPA recommends retesting and remediation when levels are above 4.0 pCi/L.


Parents and teachers should ask MCPS for the detailed reports and testing methodology for their schools.

The EPA recommends that testing be performed during normal classroom use because radon levels can vary depending on building ventilation and other factors.   The most accurate tests require long term sampling, typically lasting a few months.

Click here to go to the EPA Radon in Schools web site  

Click here to go to an NIH study about the relationship between radon and childhood leukemia

Sunday, November 22, 2015

“In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”

Dropping exams is a mistake
Regarding the Nov. 17 Metro article “It’s final — Montgomery to eliminate final exams”:
It appears that the Montgomery County Board of Education is more concerned with concealing failure rates than educating students. Roughly 15 years ago, activists uncovered wide variations in the required passing scores among the county’s high schools. The county school system was forced to establish the same passing grade countywide, and the high failure rates in some schools were revealed. Now, having failed to solve the failure rate problem, the district again is concealing it.

The article quoted a school board member quoting Albert Einstein, but I’ll quote Mark Twain: “In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards.”
Julie Lees, Silver Spring

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Schools are trying to curb obesity. Why are their sports leagues promoting fast food?

  ...Coaches, teachers and administrators promote the contest on Twitter, and the finalists are featured by local and national media sources. When Bethesda-Chevy Chase’s Patrick Cha was named a 2014 Heisman finalist, a Wendy’s spokesperson came to the Montgomery County school and recognized the senior tennis player with a surprise assembly. Wendy’s donated $5,000 to Bethesda-Chevy Chase in Cha’s name and gave out Frosty coupons to the students...
..."But where does it stop? What if a corporation offered to add a wing to a school? Those questions were posed by state Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), who proposed the Captive Audience/Stop Commercialism in Schools Act in 2001. The bill aimed to block contracts with vending machine companies and limit advertisements in public schools, and while it was supported by health advocates, it was ultimately rejected because of concerns from educators that it would reduce revenue.
“The fact is we should build our public schools on some ethos, and I think it shouldn’t be dependent on the private sector,” Pinsky said."...

Friday, November 20, 2015

Former MCEA President to chair Delegation Education Committee #appleballot #mcea

Montgomery County House Delegation Leadership Changes Announced 
Reinforcing Delegation Commitment to Education, Economic Development, Transportation and Regional Collaboration 
Delegation Leadership Announces Formation of a New Committee on Education and Restructuring of Existing Committees to Encourage Leadership Development in Second-Year Delegates. 

ROCKVILLE, MD, November 19, 2015 -- Today the Montgomery County House Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly announced the formation of a Committee on Education and the elevation of four first term Delegates to Vice-Chair of the Delegation Standing Committees. 

The Education Committee will have jurisdiction over all local legislation and policy positions related to public education, including coordinating strategy for school construction funding. Chaired by one-time Special Education teacher and Montgomery County Education Association President Delegate Bonnie Cullison, this Committee is talent-rich in educational policy expertise. Committee members include House of Delegates Parliamentarian Delegate Bill Frick, former MCPS teacher Delegate Eric Luedtke, former Montgomery County Board of Education Member Ana Sol-Gutiérrez, and Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo. The Committee Vice-Chair will be Delegate Andrew Platt.
The establishment of an Education Committee with the legislative experts in this subject matter area will increase the Montgomery County Delegation's focus on this priority issue area for our constituents. "I look forward to working closely with this group of talented legislators on a policy area that  is so important to all the residents in Montgomery County,"  says new Education Committee Chair Bonnie Cullison. "We have such expertise and creativity within the Delegation on education issues.  Our efforts will not only focus support on our educational community, but will consider the benefit to the community at-large."
Other standing committees were restructured as well. 
Economic Development
Jurisdiction over improving the business climate, local business regulations and tax proposals, and alcohol laws.
Delegate Ariana Kelly, Chair
Delegate Maricé Morales, Vice-Chair
Delegate Sheila Hixson
Delegate Anne Kaiser
Delegate Kirill Reznik
Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher
Washington Metro Area Committee
Jurisdiction over WSSC, Park and Planning, and other regional interests shared with Prince George's County
Delegate Al Carr, Chair
Delegate Will Smith, Vice-Chair
Delegate Kumar Barve
Delegate Kathleen Dumais
Delegate Ben Kramer
Delegate Shane Robinson
Land Use, Transportation, and Public Safety
Jurisdiction over M-NCPPC bills which deal with land use issues as well as any legislation related to transportation and public safety issues.
Delegate Jim Gilchrist, Chair
Delegate Marc Korman, Vice-Chair
Delegate Charles Barkley
Delegate Aruna Miller
Delegate David Moon
Delegate Craig Zucker

Education Committee
Jurisdiction over educational policy and financing. 
Delegate Bonnie Cullison, Chair
Delegate Andrew Platt, Vice-Chair
Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo
Delegate Bill Frick
Delegate Eric Luedtke
Delegate Ana Sol-Gutiérrez
Local Bill hearings will be held on Monday, November 30, 2015 at 7:00 pm in the 3rd Floor Hearing Room, Stella Werner Council Office Bldg., 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850. 
A list of proposed local bills can be found here: 
Information on the Montgomery County Delegation can be found here:
#   #    #

Rales said “together, we’re going to drive a stake through the heart of the achievement gap.”

Montgomery County Wants to Address ‘Summer Slide’ With New Education Program


Franchot on Pearson: “I think it’s a lousy company. I regret our involvement with it.”

Franchot: “It’s a lousy company”
Those problems have not gone unnoticed in Maryland.
During an August meeting of the state’s Board of Public Works in Annapolis, Comptroller Peter Franchot teed off on NCS Pearson’s track record. He said: “Pearson developed tests that are inappropriate to the age group, ambiguously worded, self-contradictory and therefore are virtually impossible for a majority of grade school children to pass.”
He went on, in a rant: “I think it’s a lousy company. I regret our involvement with it.”
Franchot’s spokesman, Andrew Friedson, said the comptroller remained adamantly on guard.
Friedson said, in a statement: “Comptroller Franchot remains adamantly opposed to the state’s obsession with standardized tests, which detract from teachers’ ability to effectively teach and students’ ability to actually learn. He is particularly concerned with Pearson’s atrocious track record with testing products here and throughout the country and believes that it is impossible to overstate the damage this company and its academic testing products have done to the education of our kids.”

Facts about Organic Infill for Plastic Grass that MCPS Does Not Want to Talk About #fieldturf #artificialturf

...During the meeting, Kitching also noted some organic in-fill options, including the PureFill [FIELDTURF PRODUCT], which requires significant maintenance daily, and the Geo-Fill, which is an organic-coconut shell that would cost an additional $350,000 compared to the SBR in-fill, and also requires an additional pad installation and irrigation.

“There’s a lot more maintenance that is required in the Geo-Fill,” said Kitching. “We also have to maintain an irrigation system because it needs a lot of water.”...

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Montgomery County Grappling With Spike in MS-13 Gang Activity

Elementary Students Evacuated From Bus after Coolant Leak on I-270 - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

Elementary Students Evacuated From Bus after Coolant Leak on I-270 - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

Governor’s Task Force on the Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program

If you live in Maryland and are the parent of a student with a reading difference like dyslexia, and your child has attended or now attends a Maryland public school, you are eligible to answer this survey.  Please forward and share this survey with other families.

We are writing to you on behalf of the Governor’s Task Force on the Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program.  The Task Force includes professionals in the field of education, legislators, and parents who have been asked to respond to the requirements of House Bill 278.

Please distribute this survey to your parent outreach lists and/or complete the survey if you meet the criteria listed above. 

The purpose of this questionnaire is to obtain data from parents of children with reading differences like dyslexia with regard to the identification and interventions for children with dyslexia and the educational services associated with such identification.

Responses to this questionnaire will help the Governor’s Task Force on the Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program make recommendations to Governor Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly that will potentially change the education practices for students with reading difficulties and/or dyslexia in Maryland.

Please respond by November 30, 2015.  We apologize for the short time frame but recommendations are required by December 30, 2015 and the Task Force would like to include important parent feedback in the recommendations to the Governor.

Thank you in advance for your willingness to complete the survey. 


Laura Schultz
Parent Task Force Member
Lisa Blottenberger
Decoding Dyslexia MD Task Force Member
Governor’s Task Force on the Implementation of a Dyslexia Education Program

No Mention of Early Termination Fee in $5 Million + Solar Panel Deal

On November 17, 2015, MCPS held the third and last meeting on their plan to turn 3 future middle school sites into solar power plants.  
During the first meeting, the public learned that the lease for these properties will include an early termination clause.  That means that if after say 6 years, the Board of Education wants to use one of these properties for the education of public children, the Board of Education will have to pay a fee to end the lease early.  To date, the early termination clause fee has not been announced by MCPS or the solar panel companies. 

Potomac Residents Decry School System Plan to Install Solar Panels at Former Organic Farm

...Sean Gallagher, assistant director of the school system’s Department of Facilities Management, told a crowd of about 70 people Tuesday night at Seven Locks Elementary School that together with proposed solar panel fields on future school sites in Gaithersburg and Rockville, MCPS could save about $2.5 million in electricity costs over the next 10 years...
...The solar panels at Brickyard would cover 12 acres of the site, cost about $5 million to build...

New report shows disconnection among black youths in Montgomery

...The report points to the difficult experiences black youths have in and out of school, and its analysis recommends a more comprehensive strategy in Montgomery — across the school system, county and community — to narrow persistent achievement gaps and improve the broader outlook for young African Americans.
It noted that the dropout rate for black students, though improving since 2010, was 9 percent in Montgomery in 2013, compared with less than 3 percent for white students...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Schools confront bullying of teachers, staff

...Legal documents show the policy on workplace bullying arrives nearly 2.5 years after three elementary school teachers and one staff member settled a lawsuit against their school principal.
“I think it’s just a way to help address the way, how we are creating the best workplace possible for our employees,” said Barclay.
Barclay said the regulations will determine how Montgomery County Public Schools staff will address bullying.
“The policy is going to be the aspiration,” he said. “It’s going to be the regulation that will matter in terms of what ultimately will be the practice, and we have to see what systems are put in place.”   
The case was filed for reasons including “negligence, gross negligence and intentionally seeking to inflict harm upon any subordinate who dared to question his unchecked authority.”
Plaintiffs alleged Starnes tried to sully their names by “falsifying the teachers’ personnel files.”
A plaintiff who asked not to be named, said bullying is a problem in Montgomery County.
“I’m very uncomfortable in this county,” the person said. “We were the teachers trying to protect the children from the principal.”

Starnes continued to act as principal for two years after the case was settled.

Barclay said he could not talk about whether or not the suit and the policy were related.
Joan Kaltreider, retired teacher elementary classroom teacher from Kemp Mill Elementary School and a plaintiff from the case, said she would support the policy.
“If it’s a policy to protect teachers, I’d be highly in favor of it, but I’d be highly skeptical that it would be enforced,” said Kaltreider.
According to the law documents, Kaltreider received a negative recommendation from Starnes, and was later put on probation, after she reported to her union representative her concerns about her principal.
Kaltrieder said the negative recommendation was retaliation for talking about her principal.
She reasoned while she received positive recommendations during her previous 30 years of teaching and when the principal first arrived, her teaching was being scrutinized.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Breaking: BOE Attorney says Public School Classes are Free!

At today's Board of Education Policy Committee meeting, the Board of Education completely forgot that their own attorney has told them that any courses offered during the school year, for credit are available to all for FREE under the Maryland Constitution.


Instead, the BOE - Philip Kaufman, Rebecca Smondrowski, Patricia O'Neill and Eric Guerci - ignored the advice of their own attorney and told MCPS staff to continue charging students for classes given during the school year for credit.  

The BOE members listed above did not even make any changes to Policy JNA, even though their OWN WEBSITE SAYS THAT SCIENCE LAB FEES MAY NOT BE CHARGED.

Policy JNA

MCPS website

The MCPS website says that science lab fees may not be charged, but the Board of Education's Policy JNA says that lab fees may be charged. 

Confused? The Board of Education doesn't care. They will rip you off every chance they get. 

Tough luck parents and guardians. The rest of Maryland public schools offer free public school, but not here in Montgomery County.    

MCPS Office of Shared Accountability Director Gone

In 2013, Superintendent Joshua Starr brought in a new associate superintendent for the MCPS Office of Shared Accountability.

Mr. Sanderson is no longer shown as a MCPS employee, and he is not listed on the list of employees for the MCPS Office of Shared Accountability.

It turns out he went right back to Texas.

That means, that at this time there is no one in charge of this office:

The Office of Shared Accountability (OSA) provides information and analyses to support continuous improvement in the academic and operational services at Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS).

BCC Special Ed Teacher Had Pornographic 28,785 Photos/795 Videos of Children - Sentenced to 45 Months in Prison

A former Montgomery County teacher will spend more than three years in prison for storing tens of thousands of pornographic photos of children on his computer.
Peter Flynn taught special needs students at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School from 1979 until September 2014, when school officials learned he was under federal investigation.
Prosecutors have said that none of the 28,785 photos and 795 videos of children on his computers showed images of students that he taught.
Flynn pleaded guilty to storing the pornography in January and was sentenced to 45 months in prison Monday. He was also ordered by Judge George Hazel to pay a $12,500 fine.

Peter Franchot: MCPS has "enormous ways to do better"

On November 9, 2015, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot spoke at the Montgomery County Civic Federation meeting.

As part of his opening remarks, Comptroller Franchot called out Montgomery County Public Schools for spending almost twice per square foot what Alexandria spends to build school buildings.

Here is what Comptroller Franchot had to say: 

"...We're paying almost $500 a square foot to build schools in Montgomery County.  They just completed one that looks like the National Museum of Art, it's so beautiful, in Alexandria, for $250 a square foot.
I asked the folks well why are we building them so expensively?  And they said, well you don't understand. We have to build them to last for 100 years. What happens if the kids bang their heads against the walls in the hallway?  Quote, from the head of the construction, said what happens if the kids bang their heads, we have to build them, we have no choice. 

I said, what about the kids? What are we going to do for them? 
I mean it has become ludicrous, is what I am saying. There are enormous ways to do better ..."

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tonight's Fib to the BOE: MCPS Staff Leaving Out that Field Trip Fees were used to pay for Artificial Turf

November 12, 2015, response from MCPS administrators:$file/151112%20Follow-up%20Qs%20Work%20Session%20151105.pdf

And, here's the facts that we already know.  MCPS transfers cash from overcharging for field trip fees that parents and guardians pay to the artificial turf fund.  Interesting how this transfer of cash was not mentioned in the information given to the Board of Education this week.  Why not?

How about that math? At $40,000 a year from field rentals, how will that equal $5.8 million in 10 years? Remember that the "partnership agreements" have just paid for the initial installation of the plastic grass.  Where are those extra millions coming from?  

Here is the information on the transfer of field trip cash from 2013:  

Parents, Your Field Trip Fees to pay for Artificial Turf