Friday, September 22, 2017

Hogan balks at education plan required by feds

Gov. Larry Hogan will not sign a state education plan required in order for Maryland to continue receiving federal education funding.
Hogan, in a letter Tuesday to Maryland State Board of Education President Andy Smarick, blamed passage of a bill he vetoed for his decision to not sign the plan.
“Unfortunately, due to the decision of the Maryland General Assembly to overturn my veto of the misleadingly-titled ‘Protect Our Schools Act,’ I cannot in good conscience sign the state plan,” Hogan wrote in a letter the governor released Thursday to reporters. “I strongly believe that this misguided legislation dramatically limited the ability of the board to include the type of educational reforms anticipated by the (Every Child Succeeds Act), and therefore, I do not believe it represents enough of a positive step forward for Maryland students.”...

Fremont: City sues company that sold it turf fields ‘certain to fail’

Fremont is suing a company it claims sold the city three artificial turf fields that were flawed and deteriorated faster than promised.
FieldTurf USA, Inc., a Florida corporation, “sold Fremont artificial turf fields it knew were defective and certain to fail,” according to the complaint filed Aug. 30 in U.S. District Court in Oakland.
Fremont joined other cities, counties and school districts that sued the same company contending they were similarly burned...

FYI from 2014: MoCo Board of Ed President's DC Charter School shut down

Leaders of Hospitality High, a D.C. charter school backed by some of the Washington area’s largest hotel companies, have decided to relinquish their charter to join the city’s traditional school system.
The unusual move — it is the first time a D.C. charter school has converted into a traditional school — allows Hospitality to avoid potential closure by the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which is responsible for approving new charters and closing those that underperform.
“Our choice to merge with D.C. Public Schools was in the best interest of our students and the commitment that we’ve made to the District of Columbia to expose them to the wonderful industry that is hospitality, which is the largest industry in the city,” said Hospitality board member Solomon Keene, president of the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C...
...Officials with the public school system said they have no concern about a conflict of interest since she is no longer directly involved in Hospitality. Hospitality’s board is now chaired by Durso’s cousin, Michael A. Durso, a longtime educator and president of the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Students’ request for screen-free time included in Cumberland schools’ new strategic plan

Students’ request for screen-free time included in Cumberland schools’ new strategic plan: CUMBERLAND – Cumberland High School students, tired of spending too much time looking at electronic screens, are asking for “screen-free days” in the future, and school officials say they’re inclined to oblige.The request from students is a key takeaway from a new three-year strategic plan unani

"There is something sneaky going on here."

There is a Community Meeting tonight from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm at Montgomery College in Germantown about Montgomery County and wireless companies’ controversial plans to install small cell antennas on utility poles in residential neighborhoods.
   There was another meeting last night in Silver Spring. Did you hear about it? Neither did the Germantown Pulse, which is odd. The Pulse receives hundreds of press releases from Montgomery County about various events, meetings, and happenings in the County. Admittedly, we don’t report on all of them. Our rule is that if it isn’t taking place in the Germantown/Clarksburg/ Up-County area, we don’t include it in our coverage unless there is an extenuating circumstance. While some Germantown residents may be interested in the Planning Board’s decision on the White Oak Project, we don’t believe it is Germantown news.
 However, a Community Meeting about a plan to put more than 45 cell towers in the Waters Landing neighborhood. That is news. We’d report that. Folks in Germantown, especially those in the Waters Landing neighborhood are going to want to know about it that meeting.
   Especially, when the last time the County and wireless companies held such a meeting, it was broadly contentious and very well attended. That meeting was held in October 2016 at Ridgeview Middle School in Gaithersburg. There were over a hundred people at that meeting. As one attendee of that meeting said, “Nobody wants it.”...

Chinese language programs link students to culture

POTOMAC, Md. — Ever since Beibei Sun moved to the United States to attend college, she knew she wanted to hold on to her Chinese roots.
Now that she has two children, she has found the best way to do that is by teaching them how to speak her first language.
Sun, who lives in Potomac, is one of many parents in the Montgomery County area who want their children to learn another language not only for future employment and travel opportunities, but also to keep their heritage alive.
“When you learn a new language, especially in Chinese, you have to learn where the words come from so you learn a lot about the Chinese culture,” Sun said.
Thirty-four percent of Montgomery County’s population is foreign-born. Of the seven districts that make up the county, two are more populated with Chinese-born people than any other nationality, according to a Capital News Service analysis...

Archdiocese of Baltimore is still declining to make documents public related to the late priest at the center of “The Keepers” Netflix documentary.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is still declining to make documents public related to the late priest at the center of “The Keepers” Netflix documentary.
The Baltimore Sun reports the archdiocese has responded to the organizer of a petition, saying it took the request “very seriously.”
Archdiocese spokesman Sean Caine wrote the request wouldn’t provide the clarity and closure petitioners are seeking.
The petition requests records on A. Joseph Maskell, a chaplain and counselor at a high school during the 1960s and 1970s. Multiple people have accused him of sexual abuse...

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hogan Appointed State Board of Education Hires Controversial Former HoCo Superintendent

Renee Foose, who resigned in May as Howard County’s school superintendent after months of publicly feuding with members of a politically divided school board, was hired Tuesday by the Maryland State Department of Education...

...A power struggle between Foose and the school board erupted last spring after three new board members were elected on a platform opposing her. She was left her with a minority of the board’s support. Foose eventually sued the school board claiming, among other things, that they were trying to usurp her authority. Under a settlement reached with Howard County and signed May 2, Foose agreed to drop her lawsuit and both sides agreed to cease making disparaging comments about each other. The terms of the settlement were criticized by legislators and parents at the time as being excessive and a waste of taxpayer money. Her opponents had said she was dictatorial and ignored issues that were important to parents.
The hiring of Foose by the state education department angered state Del. Warren Miller, a Howard County Republican.
“She received well over a million dollars. Now we are rewarding her with a state job?” he said. “I think the biggest issue is that this is someone who sued the taxpayers of Howard County. We never found out in court what would have happened. ….I think this is a tremendous liability for the state taxpayers.”...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Montgomery Co. starts work on Md.’s largest high school

From today's WTOP. For the whole story go here. Reporter: Nick Ianelli.

The new high school, which is expected to open by the fall of 2020, will be the largest in the state in terms of its size.
“It will have space for 2,400 students,” said Jack Smith, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools. “It will help the Germantown-Clarksburg area because of the tremendous growth that exists.”
Enrollment at the current school is about 1,300.

“I look forward to watching this building grow up out of the ground, four stories tall and 440,000 square feet of teaching, learning and opportunity,” Smith said.

Dr. Kirwan To Education Commission: ‘We’ve Reached The Beginning Of The End’

The Maryland Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education held its most recent meeting today in Annapolis. Known as the Kirwan Commission because it is chaired by former University System Chancellor Brit Kirwan, the Commission is charged with reviewing and assessing current education financing formulas and accountability measures.
Dr. Kirwan opened the meeting with a message to the Commission, saying, “we’ve reached the beginning of the end and are beginning to end… Up until now, we’ve been at the 30 thousand foot level with our discussions, we have to come down to 15 thousand feet, then 10 thousand feet, then 5 thousand feet, and then hopefully have a smooth landing in December.”...
...The Commission’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, October 12, 2017; 9:30 am-5:30 pm, at 120 House Office Building (House Appropriations Committee Room), 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis, Maryland.
Click here to view today’s meeting materials.

Monday, September 18, 2017

County Prepares to Open Supervised Visitation and Children Exchange Center

County Prepares to Open Supervised Visitation and Children Exchange Center: Ex-partners with protective orders can safely hand over or visit their children at facility

11 D.C. Fields Fail Safety Test As A Local Debate Over Artificial Turf Begins To Heat Up #FieldTurf #GMAX

About 22 hours before D.C. Public Schools welcomed children back to the classroom, the principal at Janney Elementary School in Tenleytown sent an email to parents notifying them that the school's artificial turf field would be replaced "due to safety concerns around student injury."
After children played on the field all spring and summer, officials attached the sign to the field's fence on Aug. 19. Contact sports would be prohibited until the turf was replaced, the notice said, explaining that the field had failed a hardness test.
Neither the letter to parents nor the sign, however, detailed that more than four months had passed since the field first failed the safety test. It didn't explain why the field wasn't replaced before it crossed a critical safety threshold. Nor did the Department of General Services tell the community that ten other fields at local schools and parks had received dangerously out-of-compliance scores during a recent round of testing.
The test failures come as many of the city's fields are reaching the end of their lifespans, and as a larger debate in D.C. about the safety of crumb rubber and other artificial turf materials is brewing.
And amidst all that, city officials seem to be caught unaware that the maker of three-quarters of the city's artificial turf fields, including Janney's, has been named in more than a dozen fraud lawsuits in the United States and Canada...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

72 Hour Notice: Montgomery County Surprises Public with Two Small Cell Tower Meetings

Community Meeting Scheduled
Montgomery County Zoning Text Amendment on Small Cells
Community Meeting
September 18 and 19 7pm to 9pm

Neighborhood Street Lights Are To To Be Replaced With Mini Cell Towers
Montgomery County is Hosting Two Community Meetings

Monday September 18th
Silver Spring Civic Center
1 Veterans Plaza
Silver Spring MD 20910

Tuesday September 19th
Montgomery College- Germantown Campus
20200 Observation Dr.
Germantown MD 20876
7pm - 9pm

The Montgomery County County Council is considering a new Zoning Text Amendment on cell antennas in residential zones:
  • Neighborhood streetlights to be replaced with mini cell towers: All street lights in all Montgomery County neighborhoods can be  converted to mini cell towers called small cells- without notice & public hearing.
  • Eliminates setbacks to single family homes: The  300 -foot residential setback for small and large cell towers in residential zones is eliminated.
Eliminates public notice and due process:  mini cell towers can be built without giving notice to homeowners and without a hearing or due process for the community.

Click here to see Draft of the Montgomery County ZTA, 
Click here to see Montgomery County Summary
Click here to see Montgomery County Civic Association Analysis 

What can I do? 

  • Contact The Montgomery County Council NOW
  • Come to the community meeting next week. 
The County did not inform the public about this meeting. We - a coalition of Montgomery County citizens - informed you. Where is the transparency? 

We have written the County asking for proper public notice for this meeting. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Breaking News: JUDGE STRIKES SEX ABUSE CONVICTION OF FORMER MCPS TEACHER. As part of a civil lawsuit agreement, he paid the family approximately $30,000 from his teacher's pension.

A former Montgomery County Public Schools teacher who was convicted in 2014 of sexual abuse of a minor will no longer have to answer "Yes" when asked if he has ever been convicted of a crime. 
Circuit Court Judge David A. Boynton granted Richard Shemer, a former Albert Einstein High School social studies teacher, a "Probation Before Judgment" status last week when he appeared for a reconsideration case. 
Shemer's new legal disposition effectively strikes the sex abuse conviction from his records and opens the door for consideration of full exoneration, should he make the request...

Carroll County ‘Teacher of the Year’ Arrested on Child Sex Charges After Police Sting

A Carroll County middle school teacher who won a teacher of the year award was arrested Wednesday on child sex charges, police said.
Kenneth Brian Fischer, 39, of Westminster, Maryland, is charged in Virginia for four counts of solicitation of a minor, police said.
Fairfax County police say they identified Fischer through an online chat investigation that began Aug. 31. A detective posing as a 14-year-old boy used an unidentified phone app that pings people nearby to talk or socialize.
The suspect started a conversation with the detective and asked for sexual contact -- even though police said the suspect believed he was in contact with a minor. Fischer also allegedly sent explicit images to the detective. Police say the images presumably were pictures of Fischer.

Source: Carroll County ‘Teacher of the Year’ Arrested on Child Sex Charges After Police Sting - NBC4 Washington
Follow us: @nbcwashington on Twitter | NBCWashington on Facebook

Thursday, September 14, 2017

More Turf Fields Across the District Are Being Replaced or Treated With Gallons of Glue

...Customers across the U.S. that purchased so-called top of the line FieldTurf fields have seen the fields quickly fall apart. Some received a line of FieldTurf turf called Duraspine that was known to be defective. Instead of withstanding a beating from athletes and the sun for eight years or more, the blades quickly become brittle and shed.
Other lines of FieldTurf turf — sometimes sold as premium “upgrades” to schools experiencing Duraspine failures — have also seen grass blades fall out easily. FieldTurf begun dumping 1,000 gallons of glue on those fields in recent years to make them stronger. Serra High, Patrick Henry High and Clairemont High had the glue treatment in 2015, district officials confirmed. Morse High, San Diego High and University City High got glued this year. Edison Elementary is next.
During the so-called “slip lock” glue treatment, rubber pellets that serve as infill cushioning between blades of fake grass are sucked up so gallons of glue can be poured on top of the surface, before the infill is put back. FieldTurf officials say the glue is safe.
Despite the problems, FieldTurf is still the only turf installed at schools districtwide...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

iPhone 7 fire at Westland Middle School

From: Alison Serino <>
Date: Tue, Sep 12, 2017 at 1:26 PM
Subject: A bit more info regarding our evacuation today

As a follow up to my previous communication about our evacuation I want to share an update.

A student removed his cell phone from his pocket while in the locker room with the intent of storing it in his locker. (Totally appropriate by the way according to our cell phone policy! ) He noticed it was on fire and a teacher instructed him to drop it.  Teachers radioed to the office for support and we activated the nearest fire alarm pull station to signal an evacuation.

The phone was an iPhone 7 and had an external apple battery charger in a case affixed to the back. 

Ms. Winick, PTA president, asked for me to address some questions that could be helpful to parents including...
1) Precautions to take when using battery packs
2) Top fire safety risks from cell phones according to MCFRS
3) Any warnings pre-fire
4) What students should do if a fire starts

Midday today I consulted with Ms. Mary Whalen, cluster security coordinator for BCC cluster schools.  She and I contacted Montgomery County Fire and Rescue and collaborated with Peter Park, team leader in MCPS systemwide safety programs.  While I do not have exact responses to #1 and #2, the best resources we can offer are from  the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on cell phone battery safety were a and a Consumer Reports article from Sept 2016 both linked below. 

Regarding question #3--any warnings pre-fire--the student reported nothing abnormal about his phone prior to removing it from his pocket.

Regarding question #4, if a student sees a fire s/he should report it immediately to the nearest adult or pull the nearest fire alarm box, lifting the clear plastic box and pulling down on the red pull station.  Then evacuate the area and report the location of the danger to the nearest adult.

Again, I am grateful for our students' and staff members' response today and to our fire/rescue partners.

Info from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) on cell phone battery safety at:
     Why Lithium-Ion Batteries Still Explode - Consumer Reports
As replacements to the recalled Samsung Galaxy Note7 arrive in stores, Consumer Reports investigates what's next in safety for lithium-ion batteries.

Alison L. Serino

Friday, September 8, 2017

New York City Offers Free Lunch for All Public School Students

From The New York Times, reporters Sean Piccoli and Elizabeth A. Harris, Sept 6, 2017. For the complete story go here.

Lunch at New York City public schools will be available free of charge to all 1.1 million students beginning this school year, Carmen Fariña, the schools chancellor, said on Wednesday in the basement cafeteria of a Hell’s Kitchen elementary school. The new school year begins on Thursday.
“This is about equity,” Ms. Fariña said. “All communities matter.”
This move has been long sought by food-policy advocates and many members of the New York City Council, who said that some students would prefer to go hungry rather than admit they cannot afford to pay for lunch. Nationally, the practice of “lunch shaming” — holding children publicly accountable for unpaid school lunch bills — has garnered attention.

Peer Tutoring: When is it Student Exploitation?

How much should children help each other learn? Peer tutoring, or peer-assisted learning, is trendy. Search the literature and it’s all over the place, although much of the research involves peer tutoring in higher education.
When does peer tutoring cross the line? How much tutoring should a child do, or get? Is the tutee (child being tutored) always well-assisted when a classmate tutors them? How does it help the tutor?
Tutoring in school is nothing new. Teachers have always put children in groups where they could work together (collaboration), or they have paired students in class...

Thursday, September 7, 2017

KUOW: 'They Need To Go': The Environmental And Health Costs Of Portable Classrooms

...Those short-term fixes can lead to chronic problems. They burden schools with high energy costs and frequent maintenance needs. They expose students and teachers to mold and mildew, poor ventilation and the potential for volatile gases from cheap building materials...

...“If you can smell the humanity and taste the humidity, you know you have a ventilation issue,” Blake says.
Next comes a device that resembles a remote control and detects carbon dioxide (CO2) levels.
He runs a wire through what looks like a windsock and holds one end to the CO2 monitor, the other to the ceiling vent. The tool, which Prill sewed for him from a lampshade, funnels air directly into the device for a better reading.
Blake uses carbon dioxide as an indicator of whether enough fresh air passes through a room or if students are breathing germs, allergens and chemicals that accumulate in stagnant air. All of these trigger asthma — one of the leading causes of both school absences and child hospitalizations, Blake says.
When Blake started this work in 1995, Bellingham opened its doors to him first. It was a courageous move, he says. For most schools throughout Oregon and Washington — and the rest of the country — there is no Dave Blake. There is no ghostbuster to call...

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

$15K raise given to Montgomery Co. Public Schools’ superintendent

...Dan McHugh, of Concerned Taxpayers of Montgomery County, criticized the salary increase, calling it an example of “out-of-control spending” by county elected officials.
The school’s budget, McHugh said, represents half of Montgomery County’s total budget, and that money ought to be spent in other areas, such as teacher salaries and reducing class size.
“We need smaller classroom sizes, not giving raises to the top-level employees and administrators. That doesn’t fix any of the real problems. It just goes to show it’s business as usual in Montgomery County when it comes to spending in Montgomery County Public Schools,” he said.

A Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judge affirmed a U.S. District Court judge’s decision that religion is not one of the educational needs that MCPS must meet by law.

MCPS not required to teach disabled child Orthodox Jewish faith

...Judge G. Steven Agee of the U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit said Monday under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, MCPS is providing a free and public education (FAPE) for the plaintiff’s child M.L., who was born with Down syndrome. The parents, Rabbi Akiva Leiman and Shani Leiman, had alleged that the proposed plan for M.L.’s education was inadequate because it did not include teaching practices observed in M.L.’s Orthodox Jewish community.
“MCPS provided M.L. with equal access to an education, on the same basis as it provides to all other students with disabilities,” Agee said in his opinion. “It does not provide religious and cultural instruction to its students with or without disabilities and has no duty under the IDEA to administer such instruction to M.L.”...

Monday, September 4, 2017

Tuesday: Former MCPS Teacher, who used "school system’s computers to send lurid requests" to a Teenage Girl, Hearing on Reconsideration of Sentence

Rockville Circuit Court Docket Information:

Event Date:09/05/2017 Event Time: 01:30 PM Judge: BOYNTON, DAVID A
Location:50 Maryland Avenue North Tower Courtroom 6a Courtroom: 6A


The Request for a Hearing is shown below.  The Washington Post article on the sentencing of this former MCPS (Einstein High School) teacher is at this link. From the article:
...Detectives spoke with the student, who confirmed that the e-mails had come from Shemer. She also said that she visited his classroom during her lunch hour and after school. The two spoke specifically about sex — and Shemer asked her if she would perform specific sexual acts, according to police.
“The defendant did ask her if she would dominate him,” prosecutor Tim Hagan said in court Thursday.
The conversations between Shemer and the student continued via e-mail. At one point, Hagan said, Shemer asked the student to use a different e-mail address to reach him. Shemer also asked her to provide him with a picture of a private part of her body, according to police...

The Parents' Coalition  obtained the audio from the sentencing hearing of MCPS teacher Richard Shemer on June 6, 2014
At that hearing Mr. Shemer's attorney revealed what he considered to be a "unique" situation in that the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education allowed Mr. Shemer to resign from his teaching position after they completed their internal investigation of the allegations against him.  
That is, Mr. Shemer was not fired from his MCPS teaching position
Mr. Shemer plead guilty to sex abuse of a minor and was sentenced on June 6th.