Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sherwin Collette: Two days at a conference equals five days in London hotel at MCPS expense

Back in March 2009, MCPS reported that they paid for a two night hotel stay for Chief Technology Officer Sherwin Collette to attend the ITIE Symposium in London in October 2008.

Mr. Collette, you might recall, is one of the masterminds behind the Promethean Board project.

Conference documents show that Mr. Collette did two presentations at the ITIE Symposium, sponsored by Promethean, on October 6, 2008.

But documents obtained by the Parents' Coalition reveal that MCPS actually paid $1,422 for a five day, four night stay ($355 per night) at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in London so that Mr. Collette could attend the two day conference and present on one day. Airfare to London was another $947, also paid by MCPS.

Cost to taxpayers: $2,368.84

Plus meals and other incidentals that cost an undisclosed amount.

Collette Promethean Conference Expenses

Welcome Back to School MCPS Style 2009

Tomorrow, August 31, is the official start of school in Montgomery County Maryland (unless you are a sophomore, junior, or senior at Blair HS, in Silver Spring, where the rules don't apply).

We're looking forward to see what has changed and what is the same for this school year, and are eagerly waiting to see the questions and challenges facing MCPS parents and students.

What's the same? The Maryland Constitution guarantees a right to a free public education. See Maryland Constitution Article VIII, Section I.

What's new? See the MCPS Guidelines for Course Related Fees. From the webpage:

The new guidelines will reduce the number of course-related fees families are asked to pay while preserving the broad array of course offerings our students deserve. All students, regardless of their economic circumstances, will have full access to all courses.
For our friends at Blair HS - note that the infamous Blair towel fee is now history:

Physical Education Towel Fee—A towel fee may not be charged.
  • Schools are not required to provide towels.
  • A student may bring a towel if desired.
My favorite part is the waiver. Elementary and secondary school FAQs provide the same language:
How will schools know that the student is eligible for a waiver?

Response: No verification of hardship is required. However, schools must keep a record of waivers provided. Once a parent, student, or staff member requests a waiver for a student, the request is not questioned.

So, what is a parent to do if a child comes home with a request for a check for course related material? You have two choices:

1. Send your child's teacher a copy of the Parents Coalition Guide to Fees. Remind the teacher that he/she is to be a role model for students and obey the law - including the Maryland Constitution.

2. Ask for a waiver.

On behalf of the Parents Coalition, we want to wish all students and teachers across Montgomery County a safe, healthy, and productive school year.

For the upperclass students at Blair - enjoy your extra day of summer! See you on September 1.

Want to boost cognitive ability and health of teens?

Journal of Human Capital: The Effect of Breast Feeding on Educational Attainment: Evidence from Sibling Data (2009)

Summary of article:
Using data on sibling pairs drawn from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we estimate the effect of having been breast-fed on high school graduation, high school grades, and college attendance. Our results suggest that breast feeding is associated with substantial increases in high school grade point average and in the probability of college attendance. Adding measures of cognitive ability and adolescent health to our model explains more than one-half of the estimated effect of being breast-fed on high school grades and approximately one-fifth of the estimated effect on college attendance. We conclude that improvements in cognitive ability and adolescent health may be important pathways through which breast feeding affects long-term academic achievement.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Fox5: Faculty Wants MC President Fired

Fox5 & News Channel 8 report on the vote of no confidence in Montgomery College President Brian Johnson by Montgomery College faculty.

In part, the faculty is concerned with an issue that has also been raised with regard to Montgomery County Public School administrators; misuse of issued credit card.
"The most egregious [are] things like $900 limo rides while he's away at a conference," said Nicholson.
News Channel 8: Montgomery College Faculty Wants President to Resign

Professors say the president of their institution has submitted "unusual" expense account statements. Asked to cite examples, Joan Gough, the Chair of the Academic Assembly answered, "Travel expenses, expenses on limousines. There seems to be a lot of excessive eating out."
Washington Post: Montgomery College Votes "No Confidence" in President
The faculty members said in the letter that Johnson "has habitually failed to attend meetings" and ceremonial events, snubbing the likes of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and County Executive Isiah Leggett (D); that he sometimes leaves his office "for a day or several days" without explanation; and that he has spent excessive amounts on limousines, drivers, hotels and airfare.
Click here to see how MCPS administrators eat during the opening of a school year.

Gazette, Parents: Administrator's spending raises "red flag"

Click here to see a sample of credit card logs and records of MCPS administrators.

MCPS has issued over 1,400 credit cards to MCPS employees.

ScienceCity - More Research Needed

From our friends at Scale-it-Back concerning upcoming events relating to the Science City development at Belward Farm.

Scale It Back

Friday, August 28, 2009

No Child Left Behind Act leaves Gifted Children Behind

Today's NY Times (8/28) has an interesting Op-Ed piece from Tom Loveless and Michael Petrilli on the Federal No Child Left Behind Act and Gifted Education.

Loveless and Peterilli claim that by focusing on the high stakes testing, many educational systems are actually leaving many children out of the equation. Closing the gap is not enough. A better measure of whether education is improving is the National Assessment of Educational Process.

Here is my favorite part of the article:

We are closing the achievement gap between our top and bottom students! But is that our only national goal in education? What might happen if federal law encouraged educators to improve the performance of all students? Our analysis of the federal data identified tens of thousands of high achievers who are black, Hispanic or poor. They are excelling at their studies, often against great odds. Shouldn’t we be addressing their educational needs?
Perhaps we should make Drs. Loveless and Petrilli honorary members of our MoCo advocacy efforts?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Rewards of Hard Work & Perseverance

A few years ago, while awaiting the arrival of family at National Airport, I heard my name being called by a well-dressed African-American stranger. “Don’t you remember me?’ he asked “You encouraged me to take your physics course and promised me that if I worked hard I would succeed,” he said, identifying himself. I was thrilled to see one of my former students and offered to walk him to the departure gates. He hesitated, and almost embarrassedly admitted that he was flying via corporate jet. Our voices broke as we said good bye and I stood transfixed as I watched him stride away confidently. He had been a troubled kid who had walked into my office blaming racism for his ills. I had bought him lunch and convinced him, if he took my class, a requirement for graduation, and worked hard he would earn his just rewards. Forgive me, for saying I felt he was my own son in so many ways.

I intervened in this young man’s life because I believe what my all time hero Elie Wiesel once said “…indifference can be tempting -- more than that, seductive. It is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person's pain and despair. Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbor are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the Other to an abstraction.”

To me, this young man embodied the promise of America. As I wrote sometime back, “The promise of America is not in lowering the standards to give the appearance of everyone succeeding. Instead, I believe, it is in giving everyone the opportunity and resources to succeed at the highest standards possible. The promise is not of sidewalks paved with gold. Rather, it is of hard work and perseverance having its just rewards.

No, I don’t seek to minimize the prejudices, the racism, the stereotypes, or the competition that permeates our society like it does any other. Instead, the promise of America is in leveraging the different thinking and visions that are necessarily part and parcel of this colorful mosaic people we call our nation

On July 22, 2009, at 9:00 AM, my wife and I met with Ms. Tamara Bishop at Luxmanor Elementary School - 6201 Tilden Lane, Rockville, Maryland 20852 for my daughter’s placement in middle school with all the documents requested by Ms. Bishop. My daughter was tested for appropriate math placement, her certificates of satisfactory grade 4 & 5 completion as well as residency information copied, and information entered into the MCPS information system in our presence. My daughter was personally congratulated and welcomed into CJMS. Ms. Bishops email of Wednesday, July 22, 2009 2:54 PM, specifically memorializes this event, stating “[my child’s name] will be a great addition to Cabin John Middle School this coming school year.” The school further confirmed my daughter’s placement by an email from Dr. Cora Neighbors, on Thu, 23 Jul 2009 12:31:02 -0400 and stated “[my daughter’s name]’s scores suggest that she should be in IM math (an 8th grade pre-algebra class).” In further confirmation of her acceptance to Cabin John Middle School, Dr. Neighbors emailed me a few minutes later, stating “By the way, please go to the Cabin John Middle School website and print out the reading and IM summer math assignments.” On Friday, July 24, 2009 11:09 AM, “the math resource teacher at Cabin John” emailed me to set up a phone call to encourage my daughter’s placement in Math IM.

My daughter had received the promise of America.

Then, out of the blue, just four days before orientation, on Monday, August 17, 2009, Ms. Bishop called my wife at work to insist that my daughter’s placement had been rescinded.

My daughter has suffered the indignities of MCPS welcoming her with open arms and pulling the rug out from under her at the eleventh hour. She has surmounted every hurdle that they have thrown in her path with quiet dignity. In second grade (chronologically), she showed that she could complete third grade MSAs at an advanced level beating district averages by a wide margin. She outperformed most MCPS students even in higher grades on the Map-R—again while she was a chronologically a second grader. Mr. Marty Creel, wrote to me yesterday at 6:20PM and said, “I believe [my child’s name] is an academically gifted child.”

Now MCPS is asking that she suffer the humiliation of being told that MCPS has changed its mind just days before school and well after she completed the summer assignments at their instruction.

Perhaps, hard work and perseverance having its just rewards, is not in her cards.

I look into her eyes and my heart aches as I watch her dangle in educational limbo. Please forgive me if I sound emotional.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Devastation to Disability Community

Statement by the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Coalition Regarding Maryland State Budget Cuts

For Immediate Release: August 26, 2009
Governor O'Malley's budget cuts may result in short-sighted savings but will have a long term devastating impact economically and on the lives of people with developmental disabilities, their families, and their low-wage staff. Adults and children with disabilities such as Autism, Down syndrome and Cerebral Palsy will suffer as a result of these cuts.

The Governor has announced approximately $24 Million in cuts to services that will impact directly upon thousands of people with developmental disabilities and their families. Among the cuts:

10% Cut to family support stipends and grants ($1 Million)
2% Cut in funding for Community Services Programs ($15 Million)
15% Cut to Service Coordination (approximately $5 Million)

The Coalition recognizes the current economic climate crisis in Maryland and nationally. However, the public and state officials must understand that these cuts disproportionally impact upon one of Maryland's most vulnerable populations.
Heather Ford, Media Liaison, 410-598-8256 OR
Laura Howell, Executive Director, Maryland Association of Community Services, 443-848-1384
Steve Pyles, President, The Arc of Maryland, (301) 643-4524 (cell)
Carol Beatty, Executive Director, The Arc of Howard County, 410-730-0638
Brian Cox, Executive Director - Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council, 410-446-6025
Cristine Marchand, Executive Director, The Arc of Maryland, 410-991-9309 (cell)
Ken Capone, People on the Go of Maryland, 410-974-6139
Family Support Grants (Rolling Access Funds) - $1 Million
The Governor's budget cuts include a 10% reduction to a state funding program for people with developmental disabilities (called Rolling Access Funds) that provides grants for desperately needed relief and assistance. These grants pay for emergency respite care when a parent is hospitalized, in-home assistance, special diets, diapers for teens, home modifications to keep a child at home instead of an institution and they enable families to continue providing care. These grants ultimately save the State money by enabling people with disabilities to remain at home with their families, rather than going into a high-cost state institution. "As a single parent whose 15-year old daughter has been on the DDA Waiting List for ten years, we are distressed to hear about these cuts," says Beth Munro of Rockville. "Due to a change in insurance, we were counting on Rolling Access funds to help pay for surgery scheduled in October related to Caroline's cerebral palsy. Our insurance through MHIP will only cover 40 percent of the usual and customary charges. A cut to Rolling Access funds will significantly impact our ability to pay for this needed surgery."

"These grants are the life line for families waiting for services," according to The Arc of Maryland Executive Director Cristine Marchand. "These families are caught up in the economic downturn plus the extra expenses and stress of caring for a family member with developmental disabilities. The Governor's cut to this program will impact over 1,000 families who struggle to care for their child at home."

2% Cut in Funding for Community Services - $15 Million

Budget cuts also include a 2% cut in funding for services to over 22,000 adults and children, in a system that is already facing a financial crisis. In Maryland, services for people with developmental disabilities are generally provided by non-profit organizations licensed by the State, and they have suffered years of inadequate funding.
With one in three DD Community service providers running a deficit; the announced cut of 2% will force agencies to reduce staffing levels, eliminate positions, and consider discharging people with higher needs due to the increase in uncompensated care. According to Laura Howell, Executive Director of the Maryland Association of Community Services, "These budget cuts represent the second cut to services for people with developmental disabilities in as many months. The safety net of services for many of our most vulnerable citizens is in jeopardy as a result."

This cut to existing services will negatively impact both people with disabilities, their families and their direct support staff they rely upon.

For example, many people with Down syndrome prematurely develop Alzheimer's disease, generally in their 40s or 50s. Older individuals with Down syndrome require an escalating cost of care as their needs become more significant. Often, the State funds do not cover this cost of care. As a result of the budget cuts, people with higher levels of need may face discharge, or may not be able to find quality community providers willing or able to meet their needs. Family caregivers in their 70s and 80s will suffer as well.

Low-wage workers provide daily assistance to people with disabilities, helping with everything from basic needs like bathing, grooming and eating, to job coaching and residential support. They are often responsible for ensuring that medications are taken properly, and are largely responsible for the safety and quality of life of people on a day-to-day basis. Direct support staff often work with people with complex medical and behavioral issues, and earn on average $10-$11, significantly below the starting wage of direct support staff in state institutions as well as direct care staff in other health care settings. The budget cuts will threaten the access these low-wage workers and their children have to employer-sponsored health insurance. Community providers facing sky-rocketing costs of health insurance benefits are considering cutting back or eliminating insurance coverage. This could force children of low-wage workers on to the Children's Health Insurance Program, at a far greater cost to state coffers.

Case Management/Service Coordination - Approximately $5 Million

Further cuts include a 15% reduction to case management services for people with developmental disabilities and layoffs for these staff. Case managers, known as resource coordinators, help people with developmental disabilities access services, act as ombudsmen to help ensure their safety and quality of life, and have been continuously monitoring people who recently transitioned from the now-closed Rosewood Center to community programs - a promise the Administration made to families as recently as three months ago when Rosewood was closed.
"Many people have no family member to help them negotiate the system and rely on experienced case managers to advocate for the specialized services they need, " says Nancy Pineles, Managing Attorney for Developmental Disabilities at Maryland Disability Law Center, adding, "Cuts to this service will increase the risk of harm to individuals who require skilled coordination of services." Pineles explains that DDA serves people with a wide range of abilities and very diverse and challenging disabilities that require individualized care. For example, DDA supports a young woman who was a child when she lost her parents in a car accident and was severely injured herself. Paralyzed from the neck down, she relies on a ventilator to breathe and staff to assist her with all daily tasks. She needs a case manager who understands how to plan and coordinate her needs.

For More Information on the End The Wait Now Campaign:

Michele Hill, Statewide Coordinator
End The Wait Now! Campaign
Be Aware. Find Out More. Get Involved
410-974-6895, x 109

The ETWN Campaign is coordinated by The Arc of Maryland
in collaboration with Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council

Got Questions? Get Answers!

WTOP is sponsoring an Education Summit this Friday, Aug. 28.

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast and two other local superintendents will be answering questions live, starting at 10 a.m.
You can email your questions now to WTOP by CLICKING HERE to fill out the form on WTOP's website.

Why is MCPS keeping my child out of school?

My daughter’s “backwardness in Kindergarten English,” her teacher informed me, speaking ever so slowly, was probably due to her limited proficiency. The teacher assured me it was “understandable” given my child’s “background” (hand pointing first at my wife and then me). The teacher then asked me if I understood the term “b-a-c-k-w-a-r-d.”

One learns to ignore these slights in the journey through life, and move forward.

A few minutes worth of research at the National Library of Medicine and evidence of the books my daughter was reading (she could explain the stories to me in detail), convinced me she was reading well above grade. Even though the research and evidence seemed to indicate otherwise, the teacher was unconvinced.

A few weeks later, after the obligatory testing, the teacher, with a straight face and normal speech, informed me that my child was reading at a fourth-grade level. The “good news,” she informed me, was that my child was probably reading at an “even higher level” because the test didn’t measure performance levels above fourth grade.
No apologies for conclusion based on stereotypes. I wondered, as every parent must, if the teacher had even thought about the emotional harm that my child might have suffered.

The teacher began to give me advice on “enrichment” because, as she kindly pointed out, public schools cannot “afford” to spend the time doing so. My daughter, she insisted, was “working above grade level” and “needed” the enrichment.

A meeting with the Principal led to the assurance that her philosophy was to place highest performing students in the same group as the lowest so that “both will be challenged.” Words like “bootstrap” and “challenged” littered our conversational landscape.

A placement test administered by a private school, with a MSDE approved curriculum, led to the advice that our child had mastered material beyond her chronological age level. They recommended a higher grade level for initial placement.

After a year under the supervision of an experienced teacher, I chose to overcome legal hurdles and have my daughter tested MCPS at her new grade level. The Principal would have none of it. Testing her with third-graders was all she would allow—after all it was still a grade higher than my child’s chronological placement.
After the Map-R test, the Principal at Seven Locks ES (SLES) was unable to “print” my daughter’s results or give me her score. The MSA results? Well, that too, it would turn out, would run into difficulties.

A FERPA request to MCPS and the Board of Education produced the missing results.
It must be acknowledged that Ms. Kay Williams, was the silver lining in these proceedings. On May 2, 2008, eight days after my child took the test, Ms. Williams was kind enough to obtain the detailed Map-R results and email it to me. The BOE faxed me my child’s MSA scores on September 3, 2008 at 2:21 PM, long after other kids received theirs.

My daughter tested at a higher grade level, outperformed MCPS norms on the MSAs. The Map-R score, in the words of a MCPS middle school English teacher, “was nothing short of impressive.” The score was within a few points of the highest scoring fourth-grader at SLES, and above the “national norm for gifted fourth graders.” This, by a child relegated by MCPS, to second grade.

Seven Locks ES would welcome my daughter to fourth grade, we were then told, and then suddenly, inexplicably the school reversed itself. After a brief battle, we received the reasons via an email with an attachment. The author of the letter is clearly identified.

How was Mr. Creel able to email letters containing my daughter’s personal information? Wasn’t it in violation of Dr. Frieda Lacey’s memorandum of February 16, 2007 (obtained from AND FERPA? What was his motivation for involvement?

This transpired in 2008 and what happened next was even more incredulous. More about that next.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gifted Need Not Apply

In today's DC Examiner, Barbara Hollingsworth writes about yet another instance of Montgomery County Public Schools' efforts to limit extraordinary achievement by one young girl.

Is there only one MCPS-approved way to educate children who are performing substantially above grade level?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Getting the History Right

by Joseph A. Hawkins

August 24, 2009

According to The Washington Post (“Over 10 Years, Montgomery’s Weast Aced Tough Tests,” 7/28/2009), the sun officially sets on the Jerry Weast MCPS superintendency on June 30, 2011. There are less than two years left. So, for those truly interested in setting the record straight it is time to roll up your sleeves and get busy.

Personally, I’m interested in setting the historical record straight on two fronts. On one front is the notion—almost a given now—that Weast was the first MCPS superintendent courageous enough to put race on the table. I assume this means others before him were scared to talk about race or never talked about it at all or both. The second front is the notion—also a given now—that Weast made it safe for MCEA—the teachers union—to come out of the dark and participate in decision-making.

Both of these notions are false.

In this posting, I would like to briefly deal with the history of MCPS putting race on the table. In a future posting, I will deal with MCEA—since I was an active member just prior to Weast’s arrival, I think I’m in a good position to set the historical record straight with regards to the teachers union.

Race was on the table during the 1970’s

I always remember when I began working for MCPS because the Washington, DC area experienced one of the worst snow storms ever. I was scheduled to start my new MCPS job in the Department of Educational Accountability the week of February 19, 1979. Unfortunately, the President’s Day Snowstorm of February 19, 1979, shut the region down for more than a week—postponing my introduction to life in MCPS.

My first research assignment for MCPS was documenting the impacts of a required in-service training course. The title of that course was HR (Human Relations) 18—Black Experience and Culture. In 1974, with its own recently established Minority Relations Monitoring Committee providing input, the Montgomery County Board of Education mandated that all MCPS employee complete this 45-hour course. The course content was created by a well-renowned Howard University history professor. For the most part the course was cognitive in nature; however, it was well understood by employees that the course also was to impact non-cognitive issues, including attitudes (and heck—conversations about race relations). My 1980 HR-18 evaluation report is online and can be downloaded via ERIC (a free U.S. Department of Education document storage database). The document can be found here.

It is critically important to point out that HR-18 did not exist in a vacuum. The course was one of many actions MCPS was taking to improve minority education achievement and race relations. Specifically, HR-18 was a mandate under what was then known as The Black Action Steps. There is no doubt about it—race was on the table more than 20 years before Weast arrived in Rockville, Maryland in 1999.

By the way, I officially ended my MCPS employment in 1998, more than a year before Weast arrived.

Black Actions Steps morph into Priority 2 but race is still on the table

In the early 1980’s, the Black Actions Steps of the 1970’s morphed into Priority 2. The switch in plans made sense given the county’s increasing Latino population. Priority 2 was officially known as the Minority Student Achievement Plan. And the plan came with its own “minority student czar.” In terms of goals, the plan was fairly comprehensive and for the first time, MCPS put down in black and white numeric goals—that if achieved—would narrow achievement gaps.

Regardless of having a plan, as a new decade approached, Priority 2 failed to produce concrete results. Achievement gaps did not narrow. With a vocal African American community taking shots at the plan, in 1989, the Board of Education turned to an outside black consultant, Yale professor Edmund Gordon, to assess the status of minority-student achievement in MCPS. In November 1990, Gordon delivered to the school board his report, A Study of Minority Student Achievement in Montgomery County Public Schools. Essentially, the Gordon report concluded that Priority 2 was a failure.

Even though Priority 2 was assessed a failure, and I still agree with the assessment, the initiative clearly had race on the table. And throughout the 1980’s, a host of individuals both inside and outside MCPS continued to push race as the number one issue facing our schools. Individuals like Blair Ewing, Roscoe Nix, Jim Robinson, Odessa Shannon, Sylvia Johnson, John Diggs, Trudy Johnson, John Smith, and many others courageously kept the dialogue on race moving forward. It is a serious misread of our history to say that Weast was the first county leader to start bold and courageous conversations about race in Montgomery County.

Note: Readers interested in reading more about the history of the 1970’s and 1980’s should read “Slipping Toward Segregation: Local Control and Eroding Desegregation in Montgomery County.” This 40-page chapter in the 1996 book Dismantling Desegregation, authored by Gary Orfield and Susan Eaton of the Harvard University Project on School Desegregation, is simply an outstanding summary of how MCPS dealt with race and schools from 1975 through the early 1990’s. And I must point out that along the way a fair number of people demonstrated a whole lot of courageous leadership when it came to confronting race.

Vance leads us through the 1990’s—race stayed on the table

If nothing else, the Gordon report (I think it would be nice to do another one of these—it has been nearly 20 years since there was a serious impartial outsider kicking the MCPS tires) forced MCPS to change direction. MCPS took its medicine and used the Gordon report to begin anew, creating another special initiative—Success for Every Student (SES)—to eliminate the achievement gaps. And as our Board of Education adopted SES it also appointed its first black superintendent, Paul Vance.

Vance served for nearly 10 years. I do not recall any Weast-like miracles taking place during his tenure (although Brian Porter, the former head of the Department of Information, might want to argue about this)—many achievement gaps remained when he retired. Some gaps, however, were narrowing. Yet I do recall that under his leadership MCPS created a precursor to the Weast red zone/green zone—referred to as educational load—and that load information was used to provide schools with extra resources. Clearly, Vance and MCPS did not provide the level of extras that MCPS now provides, but the county was moving in the right direction. I believe Weast and others (Weast is not the only person making key money and revenue decisions) get credit for their commitment to schools in the poorer sections of the county; however, Weast fortunately reigned over MCPS during the height of a booming real estate market that literally poured hundreds of millions of extra dollars into our schools. Money was plentiful and we grew the education budget pie like gang busters. Money may never be that plentiful again.

Personally, I have always thought that Vance, an African American, missed a lot of opportunities to talk about race. Still, under his tenure, there were lots of conversations that focused on race. For example, under Vance and the leadership of the county NAACP there was a system-wide move to “institutionalize” local NAACP parent councils at nearly all MCPS schools. This was a significant move to insure that black voices became more formally integrated into school-based decision making. One thing is clear—you cannot have courageous conversations about race if those most invested in those conversations are not at the table. That stage or table was set before 1999.

I also believe that Vance, along with Roscoe Nix and Owen Nickels (and others), forced our schools to shift how we viewed African American students. The creation of the annual African American Achievement Awards for the first time made us realize that it was important to discuss and celebrate positive outcomes for black kids. It is perhaps impossible to measure the true impact of this initiative; however, it is clear that for the first time, it was cool for black kids to achieve. I’m not going to connect a straight line to the record numbers of black kids now enrolling in Advanced Placement courses under Weast—such a straight line is giving too much credit to Vance, Nix and Nickels; however, the county began to alter its conversations and views of black kids long before Weast arrived. I think these conversations paid dividends into the current decade.

Why does history matter?

History matters because when we do not appreciate it or get it right, we end up disrespecting and discounting the blood, sweat, and tears of those who came before us. A whole lot of people—way before Weast’s arrival—are also responsible for where this county is today. The achievements of Weast are notable—I’m willing to give him his “props”—yet it is critically important to recognize that his achievements rest of the shoulders of those who came before him. So, as we get closer to July 31, 2010, let us all turn down the rhetoric a little and reframe from crowning Weast the king of school reform and achievement gap busting.

Finally, I also think history matters because when we get it wrong we get other important things wrong. We begin to let stuff slip. We get lazy and sloppy. We let Weast go unchallenged. A great example of this appeared in the 7/28/2009 Post article on Weast. In that article, Post reporter Daniel de Vise writes,
“The share of black students who graduate with a passing score on at least one Advanced Placement test has doubled since 2000; blacks in Montgomery now outperform whites in the country as whole.”
The latter part of this sentence is flat out wrong. MCPS blacks do not outperform white kids elsewhere in the nation. This is a simple fact that can be checked/googled in a matter of seconds. Yet I believe that this level of wrongness happens—occurs far too frequently—because it lines up with all of the Weast hype.

AP scores for blacks in Montgomery are not higher than whites nationally. For black MCPS kids the average AP score is 2.6 (and falling). The national white AP score mean is 2.95. On average, white MCPS kids score 3.5 (and their performance has remained rock solid). And given everything that MCPS writes about AP exams, consumers of this information will have a hard time even finding a recent report that actually reports mean scores (the MCPS means are from a 2006 report). MCPS should never issue any of these reports without also including actual mean performance, including variance numbers— simply reporting the percentage of kids scoring 3 or more is not sufficient. In fact, it is lazy reporting. Details about MCPS mean scores and the 2008 national scores appear in the links below.

MCPS Department of Shared Accountability: AP Exam Participation and Performance from 2002 to 2006 for Students Enrolled in the Montgomery County Public Schools and Public Schools in Maryland and the Nation

College Board: The 4th Annual AP Report to the Nation

Obviously, I care a lot about the history of what has happened in this county since the mid-1970’s. I care because it is important. I care because I witnessed a lot of this history. And, it is critically important to point out that I know I have missed or left out other important events that that focused on race and schools (e.g., A. Wade Boykin and Larry Johnson’s 1988 academic examination into why MCPS suspends so many black teens or Roscoe Nix’s 1989 year-long Task Force that examined why so few black males enrolled in college). My apologies up front to any person, event or initiative that I missed or failed to mention.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Our New CEO: Open the Dialogue

As our current ‘CEO’ gets ready to leave the position of Superintendent of Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools, the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County asks, what qualities do we want in the leader of our educational community?

For the past almost 10 years we have had a superintendent whose hallmark efforts have been devoted to turning our community of scholars into a multi-billion dollar business. As we have noted on these pages many times, of course, MCPS is slightly different from your average multi-billion dollar business: there is no oversight. The current ‘CEO’ model has gone so far as to not only award millions to questionable high-tech gadgets; but early on, was instrumental in forming the ‘Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education’ (MCBRE) In the end, unlike every other effort to form a partnership between the public schools, which usually need money; and the private sector, which usually donates the money; this one works in reverse. The taxpayers actually fund the private sector, so far did the “education as business’ model go.

So the question is, as we move on, what kind of person do we want to head our community of scholars?

Do we want another ‘CEO’ who funds business with our tax dollars, to the detriment of our children, our classrooms, our teachers and our civic life?

I would urge the citizens of Montgomery County to hire someone with some intellect, someone who believes that our children and our teachers participate in an intellectual community, a community of scholars.

I refer to the recent article, ‘Dehumanized,’ by Mark Slouka, in the current edition of Harper’s Magazine. Slouka’s thesis is that the Humanities have been so marginalized that even spokespeople for the disciplines are left to plead their case by writing of the value of the Humanities to the national economy.

Slouka asks, “Could there exist, buried under our assumptions, another system of value?

He goes on to write,

“Rain does not follow the plow. Political freedom, whatever the market evangelists may tell us, is not an automatic by-product of a growing economy; democratic institutions do not spring up, like flowers at the feet of the magi, in the tire tracks of commerce. They just don’t. They’re a different species. They require a different kind of tending.”

Slouka’s reference to our democratic institutions rings true especially in Montgomery County, where turnouts of less than 10 percent of the voters at election time are common in some areas. Public discourse is damped and at risk by the model of a ‘CEO,’ and a Board of Education that disdains public input and the civic life that results from a robust public education.

The discussion is open.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Greater Greater Washington blog on Push Poll

Hopkins lobbyist circulating "push poll" survey on Gaithersburg West

See previous Parents' Coalition Guest post for more on this issue as it relates to schools.

Washington Post: 3-Strikes Policy Gets Expelled

With Motivation in Mind, Fairfax Schools Drop Automatic Failure Rule
by Jenna Johnson

For years Fairfax County public schools have had one of the strictest attendance policies in the region: Miss three classes in a quarter without a legitimate excuse, get an automatic F.

But the three-strikes policy made it nearly impossible for students who skipped class a few times to change their ways; they had little motivation to show up for class because they had already failed.

"There's no hope for that grade at that point," said Teresa Zutter, director of intervention and prevention services. "The student says: 'Why should I try? I can't undo this mistake.' "

So schools officials decided to get rid of the policy starting this fall....

...In Montgomery County, high school students who accumulate five unexcused ("unlawful") absences in a semester generally receive a failing grade and lose course credit. But Betsy Brown, the school system's director of curriculum and instruction, said that the regulation is under review...

...Parents have complained about the policy for years, which can occasionally cause trouble for seniors who are trying to graduate, said Michele Menapace, president of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs. Menapace said she has never understood why school systems would link attendance to grades...

Weast's goal: College in 6 years

Comments from Superintendent Jerry Weast during an August 18, 2009 Education Week Chat on Keys to Leadership Success:
Dr. Jerry Weast: ...There aren't a lot of changes in curriculum. We will continue to improve strategies to deliver our high quality curriculum. We have ample information that if you follow our Seven Keys to College Readiness, you will not only graduate from high school but that you will be prepared to earn your college degree within 6 years.

And this comment on working with an elected school board:
Dr. Jerry Weast: Honesty. Good strategic planning. Lots of professional development. Collaborative decisionmaking with all aspects of the operation. It takes a team to run the system and they are a member of the team. We blur the lines of governance and distribute the leadership throughout the organization.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

MCPS endorsement used in milk advertising - students too!

"All of our technology partners know they are not permitted to use MCPS testimonials in advertising. Superintendent Jerry Weast, January 7, 2009 in answer to Board of Education Question #9.
But, apparently the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association is free to use MCPS testimonials and MCPS students in their advertising campaigns! Here is the mission statement of the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association:

Mission Statement: Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association builds demand for milk and dairy products and enhances the image of the dairy industry on behalf of dairy farmers.
Sure enough! Just take a look at the video that the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association has produced in conjunction with MCPS' Nutrition Director Kathy Lazor, MCPS administrators, and made available on YouTube. Makes you want to run out and buy milk in a plastic container, doesn't it?

Once again we see MCPS being used to endorse a product. This blog has reported on previous incidents of MCPS being used to endorse products here, here, and here; and an incident where MCCPTA was used to endorse a product here.

In addition, in this commercial video we see rooms and rooms of MCPS students being used as well. Do you think MCPS got releases from all of the students shown in this commercial? Take a look at the video, maybe you will spot your child in it.

MCPS' Ethics Policy says that its purpose is:

To promote the highest level of ethical conduct on the part of all persons associated with MCPS; to ensure the highest public confidence in the impartiality and independent judgment of Board of Education members and school employees.

* * * * *
UPDATE: As of 2:30 PM August 19, 2009, the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association YouTube video (shown above) has been removed from YouTube. However, the video can still be seen here on the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association website.

2012 UPDATE:  The video has now been removed from the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association website too!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"The Enron of Special Education"

You read the most amazing things on the internet these days.

For instance, I came across the following paragraph in an article about the new "Leading for Equity" book. The article seems to have been written by one of the co-authors of the book, and the article contains this paragraph:

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Montgomery CO Superintendent Jerry Weast is the Churchill of school reform. (His uncharacteristically modest assertion that he was not the British lion, but only “privileged to utter the lion’s roar” does not obscure the fact that he was one of the great leaders of the 20th century. So too Weast.)
Great Leaders of the 20th Century? What I would say, instead, is that the writer didn't mention (nor does his "Leading for Equity" book, I suspect) all the damage that has been done to special education and children with disabilities during the 8 years Jerry Weast has been superintendent.

In these eight years, quality special education programs for students with disabilities have been ruined. What used to be a comprehensive program of supports and services, with a wide range of program placements and intensity of services, has been decimated. It is now a "one size fits all" model, and special education test scores have declined, parent dissatisfaction is through the roof, and the number of schools who fail to make "AYP" because of poor special education performance is increasing.

It's all well and good to "close the gap," but why does MCPS have to throw special education students under the bus to do so? Students with disabilities come from all socioeconomic levels, and all races and ethnicities.

Students with disabilities deserve better than they have gotten from Jerry Weast. The "Churchill of School Reform?" I think not. More like the "Enron of Special Education."

Groups push for later school start times -

Groups push for later school start times -

WTOP's Kate Ryan
reports on the Teen-Centric School Hours Petition

Listen to Part 1 of her report here.

Listen to Part 2 of her report here.

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UPDATE: WTOP's Chris Core Commentary and Poll

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cash for Clunkers (MCPS-Style)

American Express cards are the method of choice for Montgomery County Public Schools employees to treat themselves to taxpayer-financed restaurant lunches, dinners, and catered get-togethers.

The Parents Coalition has uncovered the fact that with every purchase made by MCPS employees using these cards, a rebate accrues.

Over the last two years, these rebates have amounted to tidy sums. According to a letter from Katherine D. Harrison, Acting Director of Public Information, for calendar year 2008, the rebate amount to MCPS was $15,784. For calendar year 2009, the rebate amount was $13,550. The total rebate for the two calendar years was $29,334.

Show me the money! I realize that almost thirty thousand dollars is chump change in MCPS-land...but where did it go? What did MCPS spend thirty thousand dollars on? Lemme guess: security cameras? payment on rent-to-own electronic whiteboards? litigation against special education children and families?

Doesn't the County Council have to appropriate rebates that come in to MCPS? Did MCPS report this "found money" to the County Council or did they just go ahead and spend it? Inquiring minds want to know.

In any event, the whole idea of letting public employees use publicly-financed credit cards to treat themselves to lunches and dinners is a CLUNKER. And the fact that MCPS gets "cash back" for these transactions that goes unreported, unaccounted for, and un-appropriated makes this "purchasing card program" even worse.

MCPS Students Petition for Sleep

To: The MCPS School Board

We, the parents, students, teachers, and administrators of Montgomery County Public Schools, are dedicated to removing all barriers between students and success. For this reason, we are concerned by endemic sleep deprivation in the student population.

The National Sleep Foundation reports the following facts regarding teenagers and sleep:

- In most adolescents, there is a biological tendency to fall asleep later and wake up later each day. This natural sleep pattern does not align with the typical school schedule.

- Adolescents should receive 9.25 hours of sleep per night in order to be well-rested during the day. On average, adolescent sleep 7.5 hours per night.

- As reported by their parents, 60% of children under the age of 18 complain of being tired during the day, and 15% claim to fall asleep at school during the year.

Also noted are links between sleep and the health and success of adolescents:

- It is estimated that up to 100,000 automobile crashes are related to drowsiness each year. According to one study, 55% of "fall asleep" crashes involved drivers 25 years old or younger.

- When teenagers enjoy sufficient sleep, they are at a lower risk for depression and obesity. They tend to receive better grades, and they are less likely to be absent or arrive tardy to school.

The National Sleep Foundation has tracked efforts nationwide to address the problem of adolescent sleep deprivation:

- Thus far, individual schools or districts in 19 states have delayed their start times, and over 100 school districts in an additional 17 states are considering such a shift.

- At Edina High School in Minneapolis, 93% of the respondents to a parent survey claimed that they were pleased with the change from a start time of 7:15 a.m. to 8:40 a.m.

- Studies show that in school districts that have delayed start times by only one hour, students receive an average of 50 additional minutes of rest each night.

Petition continues here*.

See similar effort underway in Fairfax County, Virginia here.

Thanks to the Teen-Centric School Hours MCPS students for forwarding their video and petition to the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland.

*Please note the online Petition contains a typographical error that cannot be corrected. In the line "In most adolescents, there is a biological tendency to fall asleep later and wake up earlier (should read "later") each day. This natural sleep pattern does not align with the typical school schedule.

Update: 8/18/09 WTOP's Kate Ryan reports.

Update: 8/18/09 Montgomery students petition for a later school bell | Washington Examiner

8/19/09 Gazette Students want school system to reconsider later start times

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Artificial Turf: 167 degrees! We have a winner.

Folks, it looks like we have a winner! This measured temperature of 167.3 degrees was taken today, August 16, at the AT field at Montgomery Blair High School, Montgomery County Maryland at 2:30 PM EST. The air temperature in the full sun was 93 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thanks to our reporter Kathy Michels for this stunning photo. thanks also to our County Council, Board of Education and Planning Board who created this heat island in the middle of our county. Now that's what I they call planning!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Artificial Turf: Turf hits 140 degrees on August 15

Update! wonder if we can hit a record! If you are reading this from around the country, let us know your highest AT temp! We will post it. The winner will receive... not much right now -- but just remember you are doing the right thing.

Here is the latest photo from intrepid reporter Anne Ambler, member of the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition based in Montgomery County, Maryland. The photo was taken at around 2:30 PM EST at the Montgomery Blair High School playing fields in Montgomery County Maryland.

Artificial Turf: Turf hits 134 degrees on August 13

Montgomery Blair High School, Montgomery County Maryland.
Photo on left shows the temperature at the Artificial Turf: 134 degrees Fahrenheit.
Photo to the right shows the temperature at the natural sod turf: 91 degrees Fahrenheit.
'Nuff said.

Artificial Turf: California goes after FieldTurfTarkett

We see now that California leads the nation by enforcing their law, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986. This law was originally Proposition 65 when it was brought to the ballot by the Citizens of California. Under this law California actually regulates the toxins leached into the water. California has left Maryland and Montgomery County in the dust on this one. Or should I say, in the crumb rubber dust. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, California Attorney General Jerry Brown brought suit against artificial turf manufacturers including FieldTurfTarkett. Why? Lead. Here is the text from the suit documents, clear as day.

"Defendant's Turf Products contain lead. Persons who purchase, use,
and/or come into contact with thse products are exposed to lead."

Could anything be more simple? More plain? More clear?

The State of California brought suit against three artificial turf manufacturers: Astroturf; Beaulieu Group, and of course our old friend, FieldTurfTarkett.

And not just our friend. FieldTurfTarkett is best buddies with members of the Montgomery County Board of Education, which is charged with managing the multi-billion dollar industry known as the "Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)" in Maryland, and of course the Montgomery County Council who voted unanimously to approve the installation of FieldTurfTarkett crumb rubber sheeting across the County. Each and every member of the County Council is satisfied that crumb rubber artificial turf is safe. You heard ‘em folks. They couldn’t be more satisfied.

And here is the roll call of those councilmembers in case you forgot:

Council President Phil Andrews; Valerie Ervin; Marc Elrich; Council Vice President Roger Berliner; Mike Knapp; Duchy Trachtenberg; Nancy Floreen; Nancy Navarro; and George Leventhal. Yup, each and every one of these councilmembers voted not once, but TWICE to rip up the natural turf and install crumb rubber sheeting across our county. Some of them, those on the Education Committee, got to vote thrice; that would be Valerie Ervin, Phil Andrews, and Mike Knapp.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Flypaper: Jerry Weast and his many detractors

Jerry Weast and his many detractors
By Mike Petrilli
Often it’s hard as a writer to know if you are having any impact, in fact to know if anyone is even reading your stuff. Most weeks that I author a piece in the Gadfly I don’t hear a peep, and I just hope for the best.
Not this week! My article about the Montgomery County, Maryland schools under the leadership of superintendent Jerry Weast (and based on my reading of Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in Montgomery County Public Schools) led to the bombardment of my email box by angry local parents, teachers, and activists. To whom I am very grateful. Let the debate begin!
I am seeking permission from several of these folks to post their comments on this blog; one of the most incisive is below.
But before that, a thought. I’m struck at how the Montgomery County activists are so like many of the New York City activists. They both get steamed when the national education policy community holds their local districts up as exemplars, when they know the underbelly of those systems up close and personal. Maybe there’s a rule for reformers: The more you know about any particular district, the less you like it. (I’ll admit to knowing very little about Montgomery County, even though I live there—in the “Red Zone” no less!)
Now here’s another side to the Montgomery County story, thanks to Joseph Hawkins...
Read former MCPS employee Joe Hawkins' response and the full Flypaper article here.

Reno News & Review: Meet the new boss

Washoe County’s new school superintendent Heath Morrison* is young, experienced and excited, but can he turn around the district?

By D. Brian Burghart

From the article (reporter's questions in bold, Heath Morrison's reponses in blue):

...Top administrators tend to develop kind of an aloof attitude toward the frontline, on-the-ground, in-the-classroom teachers. What are you going to do to prevent or alleviate that in your administration?

The great thing about being married to a teacher, whether she’s actively teaching or pursuing her doctorate, is she’s always going to be a teacher at heart. And so I’m married to somebody who’s always going to remind me about how important teachers are and the important work that they do. A big part of it is to be in the schools and to be in the schools a lot. I’ve been in a school every day that I’ve been on the job. That’s something I want to try as best I can do to maintain. The principals I’ve met with already have really enjoyed the fact that I’ve come out to the school, that it hasn’t been a rushed visit, that I’ve sat down with them. As a matter of fact, I was at Silver Lake Elementary School today, and the principal said many times, “I really appreciate how much you listen.” And then spending time out visiting classes and speaking to teachers and support staff and to some parents were there [is also important]. The core business of what we do is teaching and learning, I’m actively involved in those decisions, and I’m out there where it’s happening. You can’t do this job at a distance. The only way that I know how to do this job is to be out in the schools, visiting, meeting, listening and asking how we can support. The one thing I know about this building we’re sitting in is it exists to support schools. And I’ve been speaking to my executive cabinet about the customer service that’s important that we give to our schools, our principals and our teachers. I’m going to be out in the school’s a lot.

You were quoted on The Broad Superintendents Academy website as saying: “Public education has entered into an unprecedented era of accountability. We cannot continue to talk about ‘closing’ the achievement gap; we must be dedicated to eliminating the gap by raising the level of rigor for all children. As leaders, we must be steadfast in asking all stakeholders to think ‘how we can,’ not ‘why we can’t’ as we create the optimal conditions for teaching and learning.” What does that mean?

[Laughs.] Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

It’s great. It’s a great quote, but it’s dense.

...and later in the interview with Superintendent Morrison...

Now you’ve got interactive whiteboards, you have the ability to do things called Active Votes. So the teacher asks a question: “Is it A, B or C?” Kids have to vote. She can see that everybody voted. You’ve got 25 kids in the class; you’ve got 25 votes up here. She hits a button, and you see a bar graph. Twenty-five kids in the class, 20 answered A, A is the correct answer. Twenty kids got it, five kids answered B or C. They clearly didn’t get the material, so here’s what I’m going to do: The 20 of you that got A, I’m going to give you this other problem; this is the new concept. While the 20 kids are working on the new problem, the teacher can pull those five kids, and reteach that concept. She’s not delaying the learning of the 20, but she’s also not there just to meet the needs of the five. Technology can do a lot of that. It’ll never replace a teacher, but …

I’ve never seen that.

...and later in the interview...

I think a big part of what we’ve learned over the last five years about trying to help our students who don’t speak English as a primary language is that we used to do what we called “pullout.” We would take those students, we’d pull them out, and we’d give them their English-language instruction outside of regular classroom. And that made a lot of sense because in that way we could keep a small number of kids and a teacher, and we could try to meet that student’s needs outside of a classroom. But then I think people started to look and say, “What are we pulling them out of when we do that?” They were pulled out of math and reading and other things that they’re going to be held accountable for in the state tests. Now I think people are being much more thoughtful of what we’re doing; it’s called “plug-in.” The English-second-language-learner teacher comes into the classroom, partners with a regular teacher and addresses the needs of many students with a focus on the students who are not speaking primarily English.

Read the full article here.

*Heath Morrison: former MCPS Down County Consortium Community Superintendent

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Turf hits 152 degrees on August 10th

On Monday, August 10, 2009, at 2 PM the artificial turf football field at Montgomery Blair High School registered over 152 degrees Fahrenheit. The high temperature for Monday was 96 degrees.

MCPS football practices start on August 15th. MCPS does not have a policy in place for determining when it is too hot for students to practice on artificial turf fields. The Washington Post reports on this issue in "Heat-Related Illness a Chief Concern as Football Practice Opens"

This time and temperature announcement is brought to you by the Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition. To find out more about this group and their research visit their group site.

Trailer City - Coming Soon!


SEPTEMBER 15, 2009 at 7:00 PM


Please mark your calendars

The Master Plan, as proposed, would bring high-density, high-rise commercial development to our area along with six- and eight-lane highways and 10- to 12-lane multilevel highway interchanges to accommodate approximately 50,000 additional workers and residents.

We must attend the Public Hearing to show our Council members we are united in our opposition to the scale of the proposed plan. This is the most important meeting of the entire master plan process. The Council can approve the master plan or they can have it revised or re-written.
For additional information on the Gaithersburg West Master Plan, email addresses of our County Council members, or for directions and parking information for the Public Hearing, please see

Thank you,
Donna Baron
The Gaithersburg - North Potomac - Rockville Coalition

Education Week: Draft Content Standards Elicit Mixed Reviews

Education Week: Draft Content Standards Elicit Mixed Reviews

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gazette: Standards Needed for Weast, too

...Weast's ideas for educational reform are important, but his programs and projects should be fully debated by the entire education community. On the budget, he should be subject to the same fiscal discipline as every other county officeholder and asked to justify his expenditures of public money as prudent, reasonable and effective.

Most importantly, as Weast heads toward the midpoint of his term as superintendent, it is time for the school board to establish realistic benchmarks against which his performance will be evaluated. This community is putting out a lot of money to pay for Weast's solutions to long-term problems. We need to be able to judge how well the solutions are working.

Gazette editorial, February 23, 2001

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Educational Extortion - 2009 Edition

In August 2008, Parents Coalition members used the term "educational extortion" in reference to the Montgomery County Public Schools practice of charging parents for textbooks and school materials in violation of the Maryland State Constitution guarantee of a free public education.

What lessons did MCPS learn? In a tight budget, it's time to up the ante and find some new sources of funds.

This year's back to school surprise comes packaged with the large plastic bags, also known as the artificial turf fields that are populating athletic fields in high schools across the county. First, Richard Montgomery, then Walter Johnson and Montgomery Blair. Next stop - your neighborhood or mine.

All summer long, the Safe and Healthy Playing Fields Coalition has been talking about the maintenance costs that accompany installation of these fields. But who pays when the fields belong to the school system?

That's the $64,000 question. The Interagency Coordinating Board, the county entity responsible for establishing and collecting the fees charged as part of the community use of schools, says that the fees should cover the cost of the maintenance.

So - why is MCPS demanding payment from Richard Montgomery? According to the Richard Montgomery booster club
minutes (

The turf maintenance issue was revisited. [name deleted] gave the club a recap of his meeting with MCPS to discuss the expectation by MCPS that the Boosters will pay for the maintenance on the turf field. Again it was mentioned that the Boosters were not informed up-front of this expectation. The club discussed whether the Boosters should be responsible for maintenance of a county field and if we refuse to fund the maintenance, whether it voids the current warranty on the field. [name deleted] was asked to look into the warranty and report back at the next meeting his findings.

Sounds like? Extortion.

For those of you who are new to this issue, here is the definition of extortion from


–noun act or instance of extorting.
2.Law. the crime of obtaining money or some other thing of value by the abuse of one's office or authority.
3.oppressive or illegal exaction, as of excessive price or interest: the extortions of usurers.
4.anything extorted.

Can someone provide Dr. Weast with a dictionary - or maybe better legal counsel?