Monday, June 29, 2009

Breaking News: MCPS Relents! Student Wins!

The Examiner reports on today's breaking news:

After two years of living in Montgomery County this teen, who was born in the USA and lives with his court appointed legal guardian in Montgomery County, will finally be enrolled in Montgomery County Public Schools! From The Examiner article:

Jeff Sukkasem's plight was first revealed in an April article in The Examiner, in which he and Rockville lawyer Pat Hoover described their legal battle with Montgomery County Public Schools.
Here is today's press release from the teen's attorney: MCPS Grants U.S. Citizen Permission to Attend High School

WTOP: Teen wins fight to attend school

Fox5: After 2 Years Boy Allowed in School

WJZ: 2 Years On, Montgomery Co. Lets Boy Go to School

Teacher Magazine: 2 Years on, Montgomery Co. lets boy go to school

Gazette: Bethesda student allowed to enroll in high school

Education Week: 2 years on, Montgomery Co. lets boy go to school

American School and University: Dispute over residency keeps student out of school for 2 years

Scholastic Administrator: Alexander Russo's This Week in Education

The Washington Post also reported on this news in their story, "School System Relents After Blocking Student's Admission." But don't look for that title on the article, The Washington Post has already changed it. Here is how the story was first titled by the Washington Post. Why the change?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Governor's office inquiry, why no school for teen?

On June 26, 2009, the Parents' Coalition was informed that Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's office has now begun inquiring as to why a 14 year old Montgomery County resident has been barred from school for the last two years.

The Governor's inquiry was first reported here by the blog Take a Third Option.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Homeless and the McKinney Vento Act

We are getting some inquiries concerning the rights of homeless students to receive a free public education in conjunction with our ongoing coverage of Dr. Weast's decision to not enroll a student who is a US Citizen, has a court appointed legal guardian, but whose birth parents currently reside in Thailand.

The law that protects students who are homeless is the McKinney Vento Act.

Here is a poster from the National Center for Homeless Education:

Another law MCPS chooses to ignore.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

State Board to MCPS: "...uninterrupted opportunity for public education..."

In 1979, the Maryland State Board of Education issued an opinion on the MCPS policy governing Enrollment and Tuition for Students Not Domiciled in Montgomery County. The MCPS policy was declared invalid.

The State Board had the following to say about the Catch 22 of kids being kept out of school during an appeal of a denial of enrollment (as is the practice of MCPS today) and of the value of uninterrupted education;
...the appeal process set forth in the policy appears overly complicated, and it is unclear to the Board if a student would be permitted to attend school during the pendency of any appeal. This aspect of the policy raises the distinct and unpleasant possibility that children who are eligible for free public education may be barred from schools for significant periods of time during appeals concerning their domicile...

In conclusion, we reiterate that it is the educational policy in Maryland, consistent with the constitutional and statutory provisions for free public education, that all children within the borders of this State who are bona fide residents, are entitled to free public school privileges. Only such a policy will assure in this age of great mobility that all children, regardless of the income of their families, will be provided an uninterrupted opportunity for public education.
Armour v. Board of Education of Montgomery County, MD

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bye bye to Middle School Electives

Here is a clip of last night's Board of Education discussion on the Strategic Plan.

When it comes time to discuss the Board's Strategic Plan, Dr. Weast states that MCPS has spent thousands of dollars and thousands of hours studying issues. He is done with the discussion.

Listen carefully - you will hear words never before uttered by Dr. Weast. "No more time, no more money, be honest." "No creativity." And my favorite: "Have it based on some factual matter."

At least when it comes to issues like middle school course electives and the possibility for creative scheduling or engaging our children. Dr. Weast isn't interested. The school day is limited, the money is limited.

You need to hear for yourself. Click here for a snip - the entire BOE meeting will be webcast in a few days on the MCPS website.

Do we have a world class school system or is world class limited to the Walter Johnson athletic field?

Love that MoCo Council and their Wonderful Oversight

Don't adjust the color settings on your PC - this post is green in honor of the Montgomery County Council and Walter Johnson High School. Green is the color of artificial turf and green is the color of money, and apparently, both are in abundant supply here in MoCo - or at least in Bethesda where the folks at Walter Johnson will get not one, but two brand new athletic fields.

Why you ask? Apparently, the good folks at Walter Johnson have been unable to use their home fields while construction expanded their school. Just like the folks at Richard Montgomery, a red zone school who were without athletic facilities for several years when their fields fell into a sinkhole and subsequent renovation. Richard Montgomery athletic teams were moved off site to Montgomery College and other fields around the City of Rockville, with transportation provided by MCPS. Richard Montgomery received one artificial turf field, which was open for use six months after students moved into their new building.

But over in Bethesda, folks aren't as patient. Walter Johnson HS teams will play on a brand new natural sod turf field, equipped with sprinklers, this fall, which will then be replaced by a new artificial turf field in November.

All this is fine with both the County Council and the Montgomery County Board of Education. Recession? Not in Bethesda. Remember, this is the county that removed American History from the curriculum because it is comprised of old law.

Last night (6/22), the Board of Education heard Mr. Lavorgna, a consultant, talk about how the sod and the irrigation system will be recycled and used at another county school. Some of you may be amused at the thought of Mr. L personally picking up the pipes and the sod grass, but here is what he didn't mention:

1. Whether this plan is feasible (hint - its not) or
2. What are the costs of implementation (hint - its not free either).
The Board of Education endorsed this fantasy of Mr. Lavorgna, and really, just wants to move on. Kids gotta play, gotta get those Bethesda Wildcats back on their fields.

Where is the oversight? Don't look for it anytime soon. The County Council agrees - gotta get Garran's guys back on the field, keep those boosters and the Bethesda soccer club happy. They have made their decision, and have no need to revisit the topic. Here is the letter sent out today by County Council President Phil Andrews:

County Council President Phil Andrews Turf Letter - June 23, 2009

Are the taxpayers of Montgomery County ever going to be told how much it really costs to install a new playing field at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda?

I don't know about you, but I'd much prefer that any excess funds we have in the county go back into the classroom - to replace those educational programs lost during the current fiscal squeeze. Or teachers salaries, textbooks, or . . . you can fill in the blank as easily as I can.

But two athletic fields at Walter Johnson is a piece of self-indulgence we cannot afford.

Washington Post: Court Favors Parents in Battle Over Special-Education Tuition

The Washington Post reports on the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the
Forest Grove School District case in Court Favors Parents in Battle Over Special-Education Tuition. From the article:

"I think it's good that the Supreme Court finally is paying attention to the rights of students with disabilities," said Lyda Astrove, a longtime Maryland special-education advocate. "I don't think there's going to be a tsunami of parents placing their kids unilaterally in private special-education schools," she added, because families must pay for the tuition up front and
then be reimbursed, and they may get caught in litigation over whether the private school services are necessary.

UPDATE 6/24/09: On the Record, A business and legal blog for Maryland quotes Lyda Astrove in the article, Attorney, advocate, mother praises special-ed ruling. From the article:

A Rockville special-education attorney, advocate and mother is lauding the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision Monday that parents may be reimbursed for sending their youngster to private school without first trying a public-school curriculum they believe would not meet their child’s special-ed needs.

“I hope school districts sit up and take notice” of the decision and ensure their special-ed programs meet the students’requirements, thus eliminating the desire of a number of parents to send their children to private school, said Lyda L. Astrove, a solo practitioner.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Washington Post: Artificial Turf

The Washington Post reports on artificial turf in their June 23, 2009 article: Artificial Turf gets a Foothold at Schools Across the Region.

Read about the brand new sod field (shown in photo at left) that has already been installed at Walter Johnson High School for the 2009 fall football season only here. The beautiful brand new sod field you see in the picture, with underground sprinkler system, will be ripped up in November when the construction begins on the artificial turf field. The cost of installation of a new sod field with underground sprinkler system? According to cost data supplied by Montgomery County Public Schools to the Montgomery County Council: $432,500.

And, for more information on the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition, read their press release here.

Breaking news: Overcrowding to increase at Bethesda Elementary

Proposed 'Woodmont Central' Residential Development Will Worsen Projected Overcrowding at Bethesda Elementary

by Jim Humphrey, Chair, Planning and Land Use Committee, Montgomery County Civic Federation

At a session of the Montgomery County Planning Board on June 8, the Board was presented with MCPS data showing that student enrollment on the elementary school level in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase (B-CC) High School Cluster, for the year starting August 2014, will be at 137% of cluster capacity. As a result, the Board agreed at that session to place a moratorium on approval of new residential development projects in the cluster area for the fiscal year that starts July 1 of this year.

By their own admission, Planning Department staff has raced to bring a residential project, planned for the Woodmont Triangle area of Bethesda, before the Board on June 25--to beat the July 1 effective date for imposition of the moratorium on new approvals.

The developer of the project, referred to as 'Woodmont Central,' is asking Board approval to build an 18-story residential building on the south side of Rugby Avenue, extending between Del Ray and Auburn Avenues, containing 457 dwelling units. According to MCPS student generation rates, this project will generate 19 elementary school students.

The existing as well as future capacity of Bethesda Elementary School is calculated at 367 students.

But, Bethesda Elementary is already projected to have 524 students in the school year starting August 2014--157 students (or 43%) over capacity.

If the 'Woodmont Central' project is approved, Bethesda Elementary would be projected to have 543 students in the school year starting August 2014--176 students (or 48%) over capacity.

MCPS has calculated a total capacity of 2617 students for all of the elementary schools in the B-CC High School Cluster, for the school year starting August 2014. The elementary school student enrollment in the B-CC Cluster for that school year is already projected at 3588 students--137% over capacity. If the 'Woodmont Central' project is approved by the Planning Board on June 25, the 19 elementary school students estimated to be generated by the project will push student enrollment on the elementary level in the B-CC Cluster up to 3607--or 138% over capacity.

It should concern all parents of Bethesda Elementary students that the Planning Board is rushing to consider approval of the 'Woodmont Central' project just days before the B-CC High School Cluster area will be placed in moratorium on July 1, disallowing approval of any more residential projects for at least the next year.

Since development approvals are considered 'ex parte' issues, it is not appropriate to contact the Planning Board prior to the public hearing on this project, which will be held starting at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 25. You can sign up to testify in person at this hearing by calling Planning staffer Arnita Jackson at (301) 495-4601. You should provide 10 copies of any written testimony you present to the Board. Or, you can email your comments to Joshua Sloan, lead staffer for the Bethesda area in the Development Review Division, at

Contact information for Jim Humphrey of the Civic Federation:

*Photographs show some of the classroom trailers currently in use at Bethesda Elementary School.

Operators Standing by to Take Your Calls

Did you know that the Montgomery County Office of Inspector General has established an independent toll-free hotline, using a third-party contractor to confidentially take calls from County government employees and contractors?

Purpose – The OIG is interested in receiving information confidentially from employees and contractors. Our responsibility is to receive and evaluate your concerns regarding fraud, waste, and abuse, and when appropriate, conduct an investigation. We report our conclusions to management for a decision on any corrective action and/or a prosecutor for potential criminal matters.

We define fraud, waste, and abuse as follows:


A dishonest and intentional course of action that results in obtaining money, property, or an advantage to which the individual committing the action would not normally be entitled.


The needless, careless, or extravagant expenditure of County funds, incurring of unnecessary expenses, or misuse of County resources or property.


The intentionally wrongful or improper use of County resources that can include the excessive or improper use of one’s position, in a manner contrary to its rightful or legally intended use.

When reporting information, be prepared to provide the following:

· The person(s) involved and title(s) · When the incident occurred

· Where · How

· How long · How often

· How the caller knows

· Is there documentation

· Others who have knowledge

· Any steps already taken

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Congratulations to Eastern MS . . .

The Eastern Middle School community in Silver Spring is ecstatic that they will receive a new $15,000 athletic field makeover from Kellogg - the folks that bring Frosted Flakes and other breakfast foods to families across the country.

Here is the text that went out to one of the lists I am on. Note that the writer asks that everyone pass along Eastern's great news.

Hello Eastern Middle School community and friends,

Late yesterday, I received an email from Kellogg's saying that Eastern Middle School -- got that drum roll going? -- has been selected as one of 30 fields in the country to receive field improvements/renovations! Yep, we did it! We went from a late night (and practically forgotten) nomination whim, to a semifinalist in practically last place out of 100 fields with only 24 votes in early May, to ninth place and 23,554 votes only three weeks later! Who would have guessed? Well, Ben Yeatts-Lonske certainly did, with his incredible and inspirational vote-by-vote tracking of the situation, and Aileen Hilliard and Judith Arbacher and Beth Sperber Ritchie and Susan Thomas and many many others who Ben cited in his June 2 wrap-up email as having sent out reminders, emails to other lists, etc. Congratulations everyone, and get ready to enjoy a brand new field! Kellogg's will probably organize a celebration once the renovation is done (and if they don't we will). But, let's organize something sooner at the field in the next week or so to celebrate this win. Any suggestions?

If you did contact any listservs and community or personal contacts, please spread the news that Eastern is among the winners! Also, because school is out for the summer, please share the news with any EMS families you are able to contact who might not be on this listserv or might not have a computer.

Let's keep this momentum going for making Eastern a stellar example of all things cooperative and scholastic, with parents, teachers, and students working together for the single purpose of providing the best education possible for our kids who, after all, is what this is all about.

Jim Laurenson
Numerous listserves across the county carried Eastern's plea for assistance - and yes, as stated by Mr. Laurenson, this is a stellar example of all things creative.

Meanwhile, over in Bethesda, Walter Johnson High School is in the process of installing a new turf field (estimated cost $400,000 +) that will be ripped out in November after one football season (and two months into the school year) and replaced by an artificial turf field at a cost of $1.2 million.

Great job, Walter Johnson, in advocating for your own community while middle schools in Montgomery County have to be creative and identify their own financing. Now, what is your community going to do to thank the other school communities across Montgomery County who are still waiting for their field of dreams?

I never realized that when Dr. Weast talks about the green and the red zone, he is also referring to the status of the athletic fields in the county.

Summer Reading: My List

In ‘reading’ about the summer reading issues as defined by the public school system in Montgomery County Maryland, I thought about my long, lazy summers and the books I read then.

Here are a few that I remember:

Nancy Drew. Need I say more?

The Bobbsey Twins. These are probably not even available anymore! Small adventures for little children.

Betsy and Tacy series. This series written by Maud Hart Lovelace, follows three girls at the turn of the 19th-20th century. I loved these books.

Lazy Liza Lizard. I read this book at the Detroit Public Library, where I grew up. I remember sitting in a corner on a padded bench reading these books. Again, I don’t even think these books are in the library anymore! Probably not in print, but if you see one, grab it!

The Secret Garden (well, here I guess you can tell I am such a girl!) I really fell for this book, by Francis Hodgson Burnett. I actually went on to read one of her other books, Little Lord Fauntleroy, but didn’t like it as much. As I recall, I didn’t like it much at all.

Nellie Bly. This was one of those scholastic books, as I recall, about real people, this time the famous investigative reporter, Elizabeth Jane Cochran Seaman, who worked for the New York World. Among her famous stories was an investigation of the horrific Women’s Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell’s Island, where she became an inmate to report from the inside; and her travels ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ in an attempt to beat the title of Jules Vernes’ book. She did, traveling around the world in 72 days. I don’t remember the author or the actual title of this book but assume there are plenty of biographies about her now.

A Child’s History of the World, and A Child’s Geography of the World. For some reason both of these books were enchanting to me. Again, probably out of print but look for it at a used book store, at the Library, or through Inter-library loan. Both by V.M. Hillyer.

Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn. The world of the pre- and post-Civil War Midwest. Ernest Hemngway's famous quote, of course: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."

At this time I also was reading a lot about the 19th century. I think some of these books may have been best-sellers or something, but I do remember reading about the infamous Andersonville Prison, located in Georgia, which held Union prisoners, and other books on the Civil War and the post-Civil War west. Well, this could date me so I will stop there.

Moby Dick (read this in college in my spare time). I was fascinated by the thick descriptions of the whalers and whaling that ran alongside the fictional plot. Herman Melville. ‘Call me Ishmael.’ Wow!

Emma Goldman, Living My Life. An autobiography of this fascinating anarchist. Again, read this one in college.

In college I also read books by B. Traven about Mexico. These are fascinating stories and the author is a mysterious man that no one knows much about. That was a fun part of reading these books. Who is B. Traven?

I will stop there. What are your children reading this summer? What would you recommend?

L.W. recommends A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle. Here are links:

If anyone would like to contribute please comment and we can certainly post to the blog. Or send an email to :

Friday, June 19, 2009

WJ High to get TWO football fields!

Good news Montgomery County! No budget crisis here! We have enough money to install two football fields at one high school in the same fiscal year!

Did you happen to catch the WJLA Channel 7 news report by Greta Kreuz on the new artificial turf field for the newly modernized Walter Johnson High School? Did you happen to notice that Greta was standing in front of a brand new GRASS football field at Walter Johnson High School (WJHS) in her report?

What? WJHS just got a new grass football field and the County Council just funded a new ARTIFICIAL turf football field for WJHS too?

You bet! Montgomery County is flush with funding for football fields!

In order to be ready for the August 2009 football season the newly modernized Walter Johnson High School is getting a NEW GRASS field installed right now!

And then, as soon as football season is over, the BRAND NEW $432,500* GRASS field will be RIPPED UP and replaced with a $1,200,000 artificial turf field.

That's right, the cost of a brand new sod field PLUS the cost of installing a brand new artificial turf field, and both projects in the same fiscal year! The Walter Johnson High School football field will have cost $1,632,500 in one year! And don't forget to add in the one year cost to water the grass field - $6,000!

*Source of cost data: February 15, 2008 County Council Education Committee packet, page 12 of PDF or page circle 9.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Voilà! Jay Mathews can get MCPS to add a teacher!

Extra Credit: Why Does the Mountain Have to Come to the Middle School?

From letter to Washington Post Education reporter Jay Mathews:
I am a former Montgomery County public schools employee, a parent of two in the system and a lifelong educator. An accelerated math program is presenting a unique challenge for the whole system...

...In the past couple of years, the few students who qualified for this level of acceleration were bused to a middle school, then returned to the elementary school for the remainder of their day. This year, so many students have been found eligible that parents have requested that instead of sending them to the middle school, a Math B teacher be brought to the elementary school to teach them. This would reduce disruption and be better for their development...

The issue was brought to the community superintendent's office, but still no resolution. In fact, they have contradicted themselves and insulted me in the process. I have followed all appropriate procedures but have not received correspondence from the community superintendent herself, only from the director of school performance. I have requested investigation into the fact that forcing accelerated students to repeat a class would violate policy. I was told my perception was not reality. Could you please check this out?
From Jay Mathews' response:
...It looks as though the people in charge have finally gotten your message and will make sure there is a Math B teacher at the elementary school...
Please note that these results apply to one school only! You will have to contact Jay Mathews about your specific school if you wish to see similar results.

And don't miss one of the comments to this article from Katherine Merseth, Director, Teacher Education Program at Harvard University. Here is an excerpt of what Dr. Merseth has to say:
...As a former math teacher and current faculty member at Harvard University I can attest that accelerating students is doing them no favors; they come to colleges like Harvard with little conceptual understanding of how math works, why it works they way it does, and only can apply memorized formulas. As a result of this fragile understanding of mathematics, students end up retaking content (usually calculus) they they supposedly already "had." is terrible education policy to rush kids through content.

Gazette: MCPS won't grant 14-year-old tuition waiver

When you enrolled your child in your neighborhood public school did you have to ask for a "tuition waiver"?

In Montgomery County public school isn't free despite what the Maryland Constitution says. In Montgomery County the Superintendent and Board of Education pick and choose which students they want to educate. It doesn't matter if you are a born in the U.S.A. county resident living here legally, in Montgomery County you can be denied an education!

The June 17, 2009 Gazette reports on the denial of an education to a county resident.

Read the Board of Education (President Nancy Navarro) and Superintendent Jerry Weast decisions denying an education for this county resident teen here.

Join the new Facebook group (now over 600 strong) in support of this teen's right to an education in Montgomery County, Maryland here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Poor Grades for U.S. Math Students : ScienceInsider

Is MCPS a world class school system? Here is another analysis of the TIMSS data.

Poor Grades for U.S. Math Students : ScienceInsider

Shared via AddThis

Video: County Council Approves Artificial Turf

Video (in two parts) of the discussion by the Montgomery County Council of the proposal to install artificial turf at a MCPS high school.
Part 1:

Part 2:

The video of the Council's Education Committee meeting right before this vote of the full Council is here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Council approves "no bid" artificial turf project

On Tuesday, June 16, 2009, the Montgomery County Council approved an appropriation to partially fund the installation of a $1.2 million artificial turf football field at Walter Johnson High School.

The appropriation was discussed and approved by the Council's Education Committee at 10:15 AM. At the meeting Chair Valerie Ervin called a representative from MCPS and a representative from FieldTurf to the table for an additional opportunity to comment on the proposal. No additional opportunity to speak was afforded the Montgomery County sod farmers or members of the community.

Councilmember Ervin stated that this matter had been "thoroughly vetted". However, the Committee never discussed the cost of this procurement in relation to other FieldTurf artificial turf high school fields as seen here ($770,000) and here ($795,000), nor did they discuss why this project was not put out for competitive bids as per state law on procurements over $25,000.


Exclusive video (in two parts) of the Education Committee's meeting:

The vote of the full Council on this appropriation came within 40 minutes of the conclusion of the Education Committee's meeting. Video of the vote of the full Council action on this appropriation is posted here.

Council Votes to Approve "Safe" Turf at Walter Johnson

Here is the newsclip from Channel 7 news showing the County Council unanimously approving the next artificial turf deal at a Montgomery County Public School.

Health hazards? Nope, our product is so new that no health hazards have been identified. We know, because Joe Lavorgna and Phil Andrews said so, and Valerie Ervin has been reviewing the material for ages.

If the video doesn't work, try watching it on ABC's website.

A real turf battle for Montgomery schools | Washington Examiner

A real turf battle for Montgomery schools | Washington Examiner

Shared via AddThis

Monday, June 15, 2009

Breaking news: Ed Committee calls Tues mtg on artificial turf

The Montgomery County Council was set to vote on June 16, 2009, on an appropriation for funding of an artificial turf field at a MCPS high school based on a behind closed doors recommendation of the Council's Education Committee.

However, the Parents' Coalition has now learned that the County Council's Education Committee has called a meeting for Tuesday, June 16th at 10:00 AM to discuss the appropriation of $335,000 to partially fund the installation of artificial turf at a MCPS high school. This public committee meeting will take place immediately before the full Council goes into session at 10:30 AM. At that time, the full Council will be voting on the artificial turf appropriation.

The June 12, 2009, packet on this action had previously stated that the Education Committee had made a recommendation on this proposal after being "polled" by Council staff. As reported on this blog, it appeared that this "polling" would have constituted councilmembers taking action outside the viewing of the public and in a possible violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

The newly scheduled Education Committee meeting set for June 16th at 10 AM will put the recommendation and vote of Councilmembers Valerie Ervin (Chair), Mike Knapp and President Phil Andrews in a public forum where their deliberations and actions can be observed by the public. From the Act:
It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic
society that, except in special and appropriate

(1) public business be performed in an open and
public manner; and

(2) citizens be allowed to observe:
(i) the performance of public officials; and
(ii) the deliberations and decisions that the
making of public policy involves.

§10-501(a) of the State Government Article

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Wootton Cluster Eliminates Summer Middle School Reading Assignments

Did you know that:
1. Rockville no longer has public libraries?
2. Rockville no longer has public transportation?
3. Students can only read books that they can purchase?
4. Schools in Rockville don't have enough books to support a summer reading program?

That's the message sent out by Dr. Joey Jones at Frost. This follows a similar message as reported on this blog earlier concerning the decision by Whitman High School to eliminate its summer reading program.

The newly revised MCPS policy on eliminating curricular fees forces Dr. Jones to eliminate summer reading. Note that the Wootton cluster of schools is considered the gem in the MCPS portfolio, with its high ratings in many measures of school performance.

You may read the letter from Dr. Jones at the end of this blog.

Have no fear, folks, the summer math packets are still available.
Frost 2009 Summer reading

Artificial Turf: Secret Votes

If you are afraid to have an open meeting and vote, do it in secret! Just call it 'polling' then its ok! At least, it's ok in Montgomery County, Maryland. That’s the approach the County Council of Montgomery County, MD has taken to approve the funding of the crumb rubber artificial turf fields at high schools in the county.

After the public testimony on the artificial turf funding, on June 9, 2009, for which many people took time off (conveniently scheduled in the middle of the afternoon, at 1:30 so anyone that wanted to testify was forced to miss an entire day of work) to appear and testify regarding public health and environmental risks of spreading hundreds of tons of ground rubber tires across the landscape, the County Council was ‘polled’ by Ms. Essie McGuire, at the direction of the Education Committee, which is composed of the representatives you so kindly voted into office. These people are: Phil Andrews, Council President; Valerie Ervin; and Mike Knapp. As everyone knows, Mike Knapp represents the sod farmers in our Agricultural Reserve. Way to go Mr. Knapp!

Here is the item that has appeared on the June 16 Consent Calendar:

F. Action - Special appropriation to the Montgomery County Public Schools’ FY09
Capital Budget - $335,000 for the Current Replacements/Modernizations project
(Walter Johnson HS) (Source: Contribution from the Bethesda Soccer Club) (McGuire)
ED Committee recommends approval.

And shortly afterwards, on June 16, the Council plans to do lunch with the Board of Education:

11:00 RECESS - 11:00 - Official Photo immediately following morning session (3CHR)
11:30 - Lunch Meeting with Board of Education (5CCR)

Remember, the ‘lunch meeting’ is a public meeting, so feel free to attend. If you go, please let us know what was discussed.

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Here is the schedule from the June 9 Council Meeting, which was held in public. The council generously gave the citizens of Montgomery County two whole days to submit comments, that is, until June 11, 2009.

(7) 1:30 PUBLIC HEARING - Special appropriation to the
Montgomery County Public Schools’ FY09 Capital Budget - $335,000
for the Current Replacements/Modernizations project (Walter Johnson
HS) (Source: Contribution from the Bethesda Soccer Club) (McGuire)
Action is tentatively scheduled for 6/16/09.

PH held; record open until COB 6/11/09

And here is the confirmation of the secret polling, from Ms. McGuire’s staff report:


The Education Committee considered this special appropriation on June 8. The Committee reiterated its support for the improved community ballfield access afforded by artificial turf, but expressed concern regarding health and environmental issues that have been raised. The Committee discussed correspondence received raising questions about environmental and health safety of the field materials and suggesting that monitoring and testing of the field should be implemented. The Committee did not make a recommendation at that time, preferring to wait to hear the public hearing testimony; the Committee requested that Council staff poll Committee members following the hearing to determine a recommendation.

At the public hearing, the Council heard from nine speakers regarding artificial turf. Of the speakers, five were opposed to artificial turf and four spoke in favor of the appropriation. During the discussion, Councilmembers agreed that further review of environmental and health aspects ofthe artificial turf material would be important. The Councilmembers expressed interest in further review, possibly in the fall, of issues such as: what monitoring and testing may be in place in other jurisdictions; what expert reviews and reports indicate regarding these issues; and what monitoring may be appropriate to implement in the County. This review is to encompass other public artificial turf fields in addition to those at schools.

Following the hearing, Council staff polled Committee members. The Education Committee recommendation is to approve this appropriation, with the understanding that the Council will conduct further review of environmental and health safety monitoring options that may be appropriate for artificial turf athletic fields.

Gee, I wonder how many more instances we can find where the County Council has decided it's way too tough to discuss an issue in public, so they hold secret ‘pollings.’

If you are curious too, please call the Council at 240-777-7900, or email them at

When you find out please email

UPDATE Monday, June 15, 2009: - Montgomery County Council's Education Committee schedules last minute meeting for Tuesday, June 16th at 10 AM for public discussion of appropriation for artificial turf for MCPS high school.

DCC Community Superintendent moving to Nevada

The Community Superintendent for the Downcounty Consortium, Heath Morrison has accepted a job in Nevada. Read about his move here and here.
Heath Morrison on MCPS, transcript here.

Heath Morrison expense reports obtained by Parents' Coalition:
Community Superintendent (See pages 9-14)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Health Effects of Artificial Turf - now Gone with the Wind. . .

Remember the last line from the movie classic, Gone with the Wind?

After all... tomorrow is another day.

Now think about the Montgomery County Council. This week, on June 9, 2009, at public hearings on the Walter Johnson Artificial Turf project, the Council appeared to have absolutely no prior knowledge about the potential adverse health effects of artificial turf, currently at Richard Montgomery High School, currently in the process of installation at Montgomery Blair High School, and subject to a financing measure on the Council's consent agenda on June 16, 2009.

All of this, despite assertions from Montgomery County Superintendent Dr. Weast, that Council President and Education Committee member Phil Andrews and the Montgomery County Council reviewed all the health and safety data in connection with the Richard Montgomery turf project and found the product to be safe. Forget all the scientific studies - they don't apply because we will have a newer and more safe product. And the new data? Doesn't apply to what we are getting in Montgomery County, because the contractor, Field Turf Tarkett, told us so. Here in MoCo, where we don't believe in competitive bidding, we have absolute faith that statements made by our business partners are true.

Do we really know that?

Those who testified at the Council hearing requested ongoing and periodic testing. The Council, in its infinite wisdom, and despite promises to those in attendance at the County Council meeting that the matter would go back to the Ed Committee prior to bringing forward this matter for approval, has instead decided this review isn't needed

Can we rely on the Council to
review the options for testing at a later time as promised in the approval packet under consideration?

No. Don't be fooled. Why can't we trust our elected officials?

Did the Ed Committee ever schedule a meeting to vote on this recommendation/modification as listed on their Calendar between June 9 and June 16? Please post in the comment if you can find one, I can't find anything that complies with the state's Open Meeting Law requirements.

Nor did the Council deliver on its promise to engage in a six month follow-up review of the Richard Montgomery project.

Its time for all parents and residents of the County to demand that the County Council address the safety of artificial turf now, before another field becomes part of the landscape.

We've heard promises before. We want the Council to protect our children and our citizens now. Unless of course, we want leaders who act like Scarlet O'Hara.

Fiddle-dee dee.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Wall Street Journal on MCPS cites Parents' Coalition

WSJ: Data-Driven Schools See Rising Scores
by John Hechinger
...But a group called the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County questions the millions of dollars spent on technology. The group says the system's emphasis on closing the achievement gap between whites and minorities has shortchanged gifted students and those with disabilities. The parents also complain that the frequent use of standardized tests, beginning in grade school, stifles creativity and is crowding out the arts.

Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, which has been a longtime critic of standardized assessments, echoes those concerns. He says school districts like Montgomery risk neglecting broader holistic measures of critical thinking that can't easily be tracked on a database. "Education is narrowed to little more than a test," he says...

...Some parents are angry about a plan that is phasing out special centers for students with disabilities. As part of a national movement known as mainstreaming, they are instead being taught in regular classes. Bob Astrove, parent of a son with a learning disability, says his child flourished in the separate centers -- and just finished his junior year in college. "He needed the small, controlled environment," says Mr. Astrove, who claims the district is shutting down the centers in part to shift money to its green-zone initiatives.

Gifted students, say school officials, have plenty of challenges, through extra work in class. The district says it is now spending more on special education, not less, because students receive extra supports in regular classrooms. Administrators also say they get few complaints from parents of children who get double doses of academic subjects. The district tries, when possible, to preserve electives such as art and music classes using an extended-day program...

Read the full article here.

Takoma Voice: Proud to be a PIA

School Scene by Sue Katz Miller
June 2009
Proud to be a PIA
“Parent Insistently Advocating”
by Sue Katz Miller

As the year draws to a close, schools usually reward parents with mugs and luncheons and certificates to thank them for volunteering. This year, some parents felt they were also rewarded with a slap from the Board of Education for being too involved. At a school board meeting in May, board vice president Pat O’Neill insisted on the right of Principals to exclude “PIAs, the pain in the ass people” from the School Improvement Teams (SITs) composed of parents and staff in each school. Member Chris Barclay stated that “cooperative” and “respectful” parents may be more likely to get invited to the teams.

Article continues here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Gazette: Superintendent considers using illegal communications jammers in schools

Cell phone users beware: Tech-savvy Superintendent Weast is considering purchase of cell phone jamming devices for use in schools.

From an article in today's Gazette:
On Tuesday, Weast told board members that he might consider purchasing devices for the pilot schools to jam cell phone reception during class. During lunch, school officials would turn off the devices to allow students to use the phones.
Federal law prohibits sale or operation of devices that block or jam wireless communications. (US Government agencies are exempt from the law.) A violator can be fined up to $11,000 or be imprisoned for up to one year for the first offense.

Sale or use of jamming equipment is taken very seriously by the Federal Communications Commission. Whether MCPS will test the FCC's resolve is yet to be seen.

WTOP: Council feels "thrown under bus" by Weast's letter

June 10, 2009 - 5:03pm

Action Alert from Takoma Park StoptheProcess

Action Alert from Takoma Park StoptheProcess advocacy group:

On Wednesday, June 10, please e-mail (or call) the superintendent
*AFTER* 2:00 p.m., but before 4 p.m. (if possible; later is better than
not at all). Ask him to extend the Boundary Advisory Committee deadline
until September 10, and ensure that representatives are appointed from
every affected neighborhood.

Here is his contact information:

Jerry D. Weast, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools
Carver Educational Services Center, Rm. 122
850 Hungerford Dr., Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: 301-279-3381
Fax: 301-279-3205

Also, please "cc" the following addresses in his office:

MOST IMPORTANTLY, please "cc" me (Chuck) so that I know what's happening.

If you're really ambitious, please also "cc" -- or even compose a
modified message directly to -- School Board Member Barklay, at

If you're super-ambitious, all of the other school board members'
contact info is at


* If you are involved solely out of your concerns for the North Takoma
Ten (families that might be displaced to ESS elementary), please speak
your heart and mind. Talk about why Takoma Park is such a cherished
community for you, and how you will be affected or how you empathize
with the families that bought in our North Takoma neighborhood to go to
Takoma Park Elementary School (TPES). However . . .

* I encourage you to take a wider view of what's happening. Talk about
how the process has deprived the economically disadvantaged families
east of NH Avenue a seat at the table. (See message archives for details.)

* The issue -- at least right now -- is *not* that Takoma Park kids get
to go to Takoma Park schools. It is about neighborhood representation!
(FYI, the families in Takoma Park Ward 5 go to Rolling Terrace, and seem
to be happy with that.) The problem is that my neighborhood, and the
ESS neigborhood north of here, did not have a seat at the table. The
travesty is that the most disadvantaged people in Takoma Park also did
not have a say in whether or not their kids continue at the Sligo Creek
Math and Science Academy or get transferred into TPES.

* Please DO NOT take a position one way or the other on what happens to
the families east of NH Avenue ("SC5"). That's not for any of us to
say. They need a seat at the table to express their preference between
Sligo Creek and TPES. We need three more months to overcome the
language and cultural barriers to find out what those families actually

* If the larger economic and racial injustices of this process are what
is motivating you to get involved, please say so! That's extremely
important! (See my previous message for the support we're receiving to
"stop the process" from various communities of color.)

* If you have no time to do anything but e-mail Dr. Weast and simply
say, "Stop the Process," please do so. And remember to "cc" me.

Many thanks! At first I guessed that our chances were 50/50. Now I'm
thinking we might actually win this! Then all of the neighborhoods can
come together at the table, as part of the official process, to generate
a win-win solution for everyone!