Friday, October 9, 2009

Please sir, may I have some more?

This item from Robert Frost Middle School reminded me of Dickens character, Oliver Twist, with the students asking:

Please sir, I'd like some more. I am hungry for science education, and I just can't get what I need to succeed here.

MoCo's Promethean Procurement has kept many a Parents Coalition blogger busy writing about the proliferation of these funky techno-toys in schools throughout the county. Honestly, by now we thought that these boards were all over MoCo schools.

Imagine my surprise when I found the following on Frost's PTSA webpage.

Frost Donation

I know that math teachers and social studies teachers have Promethean boards at Frost - so why were the science teachers left out? Can't the teachers share?

More important - I wonder what the folks who are promoting "Science City" on the Belward Property will think when they find out labs in MCPS middle schools aren't state of the art. Shush, don't let them know that the high school labs at Wootton and Churchill are lacking in basics too - maybe they will rethink their plan for locating to a county that doesn't support K-12 science education.


  1. Please see:

    Once again, I believe there is valus in smart boards. There probably will never a time when it is "affordable", i.e. money not needed for other resources, etc. Key is training.

  2. Then I guess MCPS teachers are more than happy to have given up their pay increases for the outdated Promethean Boards. With a 7 year life span they will be breaking down right about the time everyone is up to speed on how to use them.

    Too bad MCPS didn't do a competitive bid and look at the white boards with a life-time warranty (Eno).

    No worries for Superintendent Weast, he'll be gone in 7 years anyway.

  3. Your point is well taken regarding lack of competitive bidding, if that was the case (although I thought the IT selection process involves coordination with other school systems for leverage). Laptop and desktop computers have an even shorter life span than promethean boards. Also in 7 years, I am sure that the technology will even be more highly interactive, if even more affordable. The question is - when do you go on board with the technology. I don't think giving up pay increases for the equipment is a fair argument. How much is Edline costing MCPS? Why don't we give that up as well as high speed internet and computers in schools so teachers can get their pay raises? To an extreme, why don't we give up on NASA research on astronomy and just spend them on teacher pay increases? I would go along with criticizing the process about how the technology was acquired, but strongly disagree on the benefits smart boards can ultimately provide.

  4. The "IT selection process"? Is that some process that can bypass State Law and the Board of Education? Apparently so, because that is what happened in the Promethean procurement. Board President Nancy Navarro didn't even sign the lease as required by law.

    So under your form of government, first one to spend the money wins! No public process, no bids, no Board of Education vote, just race out and spend the money.
    The reality is that in that kind of a "government" money runs out and teachers lose their pay raises.

  5. I think you are missing my point. Once again, I would go along with your argument that the process by which the smart boards were acquired need to be questioned. I would separate that, however, from the issue of whether or not smart boards should be used in the classroom. I see this as a disturbing pattern in reading some of the postings in this forum.

    Another issue, for example, is the misuse of extra-curricular fees. I strongly suggest separating the issue of questioning the process by which the fees are acquired, records are managed, and funds are misused, etc., with the original valid intent of the fees (field trips, etc). That is - the first issue: funds used for purposes other than why they were collected, or parents are overcharged. Second issue: should funds be collected for certain events (testing, field trips, etc). By focusing with one distinct issue (e.g. improving transparency in purchasing process, fund collecting record keeping), and not lumping together with others (are smart boards useful, should we pay for standardized testing), the problems can be tackled with clarity.

  6. Ah yes, disturbing pattern...That would be the failure of the Board of Education to approve $30 million dollar purchases, a violation of state law. Did you find the Board minutes where the PURCHASE of Promethean Boards for EVERY SINGLE classroom in MCPS was approved?

    Let's just focus on that one point right now for clarity. This is just one example of $20 - $30 million spent without authorization, there are more, and in the end teachers had to give up Cost of Living Adjustments of $89 million. There is a finite amount of money in the MPCS budget. When they run out, they run out.

    As to CURRICULAR fees, that one is very clear. They are illegal.

    This is not Zimbabwe ( where the government has stopped funding schools and parents are charged a fee to attend the public schools. This is the USA and the state of Maryland where a public education is free to all students.

    Another disturbing pattern is the use of misinformation by MCPS administrators to cover up actions that are part of the running of a public school system, and part of the public record.

    If MCPS administrators are following the law there should be no problem in making all procurement documents public as required. So why isn't that happening?

  7. Mr./Ms. Anonymous said:
    Once again, I would go along with your argument that the process by which the smart boards were acquired need to be questioned. I would separate that, however, from the issue of whether or not smart boards should be used in the classroom.
    The point is the MONEY. Would students' education be improved if we issued them all laptops? There are lots of good ideas in education but that doesn't mean we have to go out and have them RIGHT NOW, no matter what the cost. The Purchase of the Promethean Boards reminds me of a teenager who spent a lot of money on a luxury item, who can come up with a lot of very good reasons why he needed it, why it benefits him, etc....but the bottom line is that he spent too much money without asking first!

  8. Let me say it for the third time (I'll try to keep count). I agree perhaps that MCPS could have mismanaged the process of acquiring the smart boards (or artificial turf, or EXTRA-curricular fees, or CURRICULAR fees, or widget x, or gadget y, you name it). If the process was managed better, then maybe your opinion on whether the school system could afford widget x could have been heard and considered.

    But as to whether smart boards, artificial turf, widget x, gadget y, EXTRA-CURRICULAR fees, are good expenditures, these are TOTALLY separate issues from the issues on the acquisition process above.

    Do you see the distinction yet? Lyda's argument on whether or not smart boards are worth it is TOTALLY different from Janis' point about $20-$30 million spent without authorization. But I too frequently see these issues lumped together, even in the same sentence. It's when they are lumped together (because maybe a person has strong feelings for or against widget x) that the true problem of mismanaged process does not get the full attention it deserves.

  9. If the process was "managed better"? It is actually if the law was followed. If the law was followed the Board of Education would have been able to make an informed decision - teacher COLA's or Interactive White Boards. But since they didn't get to make a decision, MCPS COO Larry Bowers got to go out and commit county taxpayers to his choice of Interactive White Board - Promethean, and to his choice of how to spend $20 - $30 million dollars.

    Council member Mike Knapp has summed it up:

    "At a time when we have limited resources, the school system had locked us into certain expenditures we couldn't afford,"


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