Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Tired of the great sucking sound of your tax dollars being flushed down the toilet while educational outcomes decline?
Sick of what happened at Eastern Middle School?
Angry at the secretly formed Advisory Committees secretly chipping away your child's educational programs?
Outraged at Advisory Committees routinely flaunting the Open Meetings Act, the Maryland Public Information Act, etc?
Smoldering about the slash and burn of Special Education?
Not one of the one-size fits all proponents?
Unhappy about the taxation without proper representation of your views on education?
Can’t believe the way Carver shovels your money away into private pockets?
Think decision making should be a transparent, accountable process?
Angry that your voice wasn’t heard at the MCCPTA meeting?
Feel that Advisory Committee members don't listen to your voices?
Sick of the duplicity, threats, and intimidation?
Partial to non-violent, civilized protests in support of open, transparent, accountable, data-driven processes for a better educational future for OUR KIDS?
Join a protest of concerned parents.
WHEN: April 16, 2009 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
WHERE: At Montgomery County Public Schools' Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, Maryland in Conference Room 127
Spread the word: cross-post, shout from your roof tops, and bring in the crowds.
At the March 30th, Montgomery County Council Management and Fiscal Policy Committee meeting the discussion turned to the technology budget for the Montgomery County Public School system (MCPS). During the discussion, MCPS Chief Technology Officer, Sherwin Collette described the new "My MCPS" portal* that is in development. Councilmember Ervin interrupted his presentation to ask what the "savings" were for the implementation of this new technology initiative. In her statement, Councilmember Ervin brought up that a lot of money had been spent on Promethean Boards but that she was "not going to beat that horse to death".
Whoa! That horse isn't dead! That horse may be out of the barn but it is far from dead. In fact, it is running wild!
The 2,600 Promethean Boards that were purchased in the summer of 2008 through a lease signed by MCPS COO Larry Bowers** still have 3 payments of $3.3 million each to go! And the payment plan for Year 2 of the lease has already fallen through. There is still plenty of time to pull in the reigns on that expenditure!
And the public still has no idea how the other 700 Promethean Boards appeared in MCPS classrooms.
*If anyone can find reference in MCPS Board of Education minutes to this new "My MPCS" portal including social networking features initiative, please post in the comment section to this article. Thank you!
**The lease has a signature box on page 4 for the Board of Education as "lessee". COO Larry Bowers signature appears there instead.
Monday, March 30, 2009
Recently, the super sleuths at Parents’ Coalition “outed” another one of those secret “advisory” committees chosen by MCPS—the Mathematics Joint Work Group.
Dedicated to changing the educational policies that irrevocably alter the futures of our children for a decade or more, these committee members sell their souls to the devil by agreeing to a vow of secrecy. Don’t you forget that standard operating procedure (“SOP”) at the Kremlin is to ensure that there are no bona fide experts in the field sitting on these committees.
The fact that these committees are perfunctory rubber stamps to a predetermined course of action is no longer an ethereal construct of the misinformed of the disenfranchised. These committees apparently formed under, and acting at, the direction of the BOE, routinely flaunt applicable laws and regulations.
Here is an example of MCPS SOP.
On Wed, 11 Feb 2009 21:41:57 -0500, Martin Creel, Director, Enriched and Innovative Programs, wrote “[w]e will review the parent nominations … in the next few weeks, … and expect to have a decision in time for the March AEI Advisory meeting” (the email is attached on the second page).
Common sense will dictate that if the “we” was the AEI Advisory Committee, the minutes of meetings will reflect this important decision making.
Of course, you ask the powers-that-be, with suitable genuflecting and penance, for a copy of such minutes that may be disclosed under the law.
Okay, okay, you can go “hee, hee,” like a Tickle-me-Elmo doll.
In response, MCPS, in a letter dated March 25, copied to Marty Creel, Dr. Lacey, and Edwards, asserts “… Mr. Creel has never claimed that the Accelerated and Enriched Instruction Advisory Committee reviewed nominations for the committee.”
Aw shucks, maybe it was all a misinterpretation.
Wait, wait, take a look at the letter.
It asserts, I asked for “… copies of any and all documents pertaining to the meetings held by the AEI Advisory Committee.” The letter does not deny that these letters must be provided under the law. Yet, none were provided.
MCPS ethics for you.
Next step for MCPS: use all means to threaten and destroy the requester who caused so much embarrassment.
Gotta go hide.
Remember data driven change with transparency and accountability is the only defensible change.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
"For FY10 we plan to use e-Rate reimbursements to cover the entire $3.3 million obligation."However, the E-Rate rebates for FY10 aren't going to be $3.3 million. On Monday, March 30th, MCPS will tell the County Council's MFP Committee (see page 55 of the pdf document) that the E-Rate rebates for FY10 will only be only about half of that amount at $1,676,033.
That means that Superintendent Weast is going to be $1,623,967 short in his Promethean Board lease payment for FY10.
What will be cut in the MCPS budget in order to make this lease payment, or will 1,300 Promethean Boards be returned?
*Promethean Boards are a brand of interactive white boards. Cost of system is approximately $5,000 per classroom.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
If you have small children at home, pets, or kids that play on artificial turf fields, or even if you just breathe the air in Montgomery County, or eat crabs from the Bay, you may be interested in this too! And just as a reminder, your councilmembers said they KNEW about these health risks, but they were satisfied that the level of risk was ok. I am sure you will think so too after you read this. Or not.
So here goes: The latest study is from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-School of Public Health. This study found that, “when children or athletes ingest the tiny rubber granules in synthetic turf, it is likely that a significant portion of the lead in the granules will be absorbed by their bodies’ gastric fluids.”
Let’s parse that a little further, shall we?
This study was completed on the ‘new’ generation of artificial turf, the turf made of tire crumbs. The study was lead by Dr. Junfeng Zhang, associate dean and professor of environmental and occupational health at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health. The study examined lead levels in rubber granules from four parks in NYC, and simulated digestive tract absorption in two of the samples.
The result? Even though the samples had relatively low concentrations of lead in the rubber granules, substantial amounts of lead were absorbed into synthetic gastric juices. And, as you know, health professionals know that even the tiniest amount of lead in the system will affect the health and cognitive ability of children.
The findings appeared in the November/December 2008 issue of the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology.
So, when your older child brings home those tire crumbs, your younger children at home will be able to ingest them too.
Ok, I won’t go into the high zinc levels or the PAHs, the known carcinogens, in the study samples. We can save that for another posting. Just so you know though, zinc is especially harmful to pets.
But not to worry, folks. Clearly your councilmember knows more about pediatric health risks than these worrisome folks up in New Jersey. As the great philosopher Alfred E. Neuman used to say, What, me worry?
We utterly reject the belief that a select few are more knowledgeable than others.
We eschew the notion that parents should be led by the nose to feed at the trough of GT.
Instead, we have embraced data driven change.
We have demanded that Advisory Committee meetings should be “open,” and, as has been announced the April 16 meeting will be an open meeting.
We have initiated requests for and pursued release of the GT ID data.
We have insisted on the release of the proposed policy IOA being released to the public together with the overview.
We have irrevocably embraced state law as it applies to GT education.
We have demanded that all sides demonstrate the validity of their claims.
We do not believe that “GT lost” and we do not believe that people must be manipulated to embrace a view. We believe in the glaring sunlight and openness that must be part of a fair and impartial debate.
We believe the data shows that MCPS GT education has barely changed in thirty-years.
We believe that the philosophy of secret “Advisory Committees” of a chosen few must become a thing of the past.
We have and will continue to advocate for GT.
FieldTurfTarkett hired Van Fleet Associates, a lobbying firm in Alexandria, VA, to lobby the Consumer Products Safety Commission. What issue FieldTurfTarkett was so worried about? Why, lead levels in artificial turf, of course. In 2007 and 2008, according to records online, FieldTurfTarkett paid Van Fleet Associates $20,000 to meet with the CPSC. Records show that on May 12, 2008 CPSC Commissioner Thomas Moore and Michael Gougisha, Counselor to Commissioner Moore, met with a group of people representing the artificial turf industry. The group include Rick Doyle, the president of the Synthetic Turf Council; Joseph Motz, the chairman of the Synthetic Turf Council; Stanley Greene, the President and CEO of Sprinturf, and Walter Sanders, from said Van Fleet Associates. Jim Petrucelli, of FieldTurfTarkett, is on the Board of Directors for the Synthetic Turf Council; he was not in attendance at this meeting
Why did this group need to meet with CPSC? Coming up was H.R. 4040, An Act to establish consumer product safety standards and other safety requirements for children’s products and to reauthorize and modernize the Consumer Product Safety Commission. President Obama, then Senator Obama, was a sponsor of the bill. Part of the bill, later, law, discussed lead levels in ‘children’s products’ and requires the above-mentioned testing.
Mr. Sanders started off the discussion by stating that the purpose of the meeting was to correct any misperceptions about synthetic turf that might be the result of recent lead testing of artificial turf fields in New Jersey. Mr. Motz then added that the Synthetic Turf Council wanted to work with the CPSC to develop “a strategy for addressing any health concerns raised by lead levels in synthetic turf.”
Mr. Gougisha, the Counselor to Commissioner asked if synthetic turf as used in artificial turf sports fields would be considered a children’s product as defined by any legislation. Mr. Sanders said that it wouldn’t. Commissioner Moore then explained that was important because children’s products which contain lead above certain levels would be banned.
The meeting sounds like it was a good one for FieldTurfTarkett. A few days later, on May 15, 2008, we read a letter from Mr. Doyle to Commissioner Moore, which reads in part,
“We are particularly appreciative of your admonition to ensure that our product does not become categorized as a "children's product" within the meaning of eventual conference agreement on H.R. 4040. We have taken your comments to heart and are in the process of communicating our concerns to members of the conference committee.”
Why did the artificial turf industry work so hard to avoid being labeled a ‘children’s product?’
If artificial turf were to be classified as a ‘children’s product,’ lead levels would have to meet stringent standards. Turf samples would be required to be tested to verify that they met the standards. The testing would have to be conducted at independent CPSC-certified labs. Now that will not happen.
And the moral of the story is?? Sorry, don’t have a clever one tonight. Just remember the rules for playing on artificial turf: when your child gets off the field, have them take off their clothes and turn them inside out; and wash immediately. Oh, and don’t get any of that nasty tire crumb on your skin.
Friday, March 27, 2009
The tempest about gifted education has drowned out some of the historical realities that are intrinsic to this subset of educational interventions. With an abundance of caution, mindful that when we consciously ignore the past are condemned to repeat it, it behooves us to devote a moment to history.
In August 1980, Drs. Sam Goodman and Joy Frechtling, of MCPS, published a study titled “The Minority/Majority Experiences Study, 1978-79: Gifted and Talented Services.”
The authors concluded, among other things, that their “… findings raise serious questions about the process used to select participants for gifted and talented programs.” This conclusion mirrors my own analysis performed in 2007 and published in this venue.
The March 23, 2009 acknowledgement by MCPS “… that GT implementation is inconsistent across our 200 schools” while welcome, begs the question if the matter is being competently and adequately addressed.
It has been thirty-years, yes, THIRTY-YEARS, since these findings were initially made and nothing seems to have changed.
Can a hand-picked advisory committee, meeting in secret, bereft of personnel qualified in gifted and talented personnel, be reasonably expected to competently address a problem, the solution to which has eluded us for thirty-years?
Ms. Mason stated plainly to those in attendance, including many parents and Board of Education member Phil Kauffman, that they could ask questions, and she would write them down, but she would not answer them. Ms. Mason went further to say that she had been advised to deploy this strategy. When challenged, Ms. Mason refused to identify who within the MCPS administration had provided that advice.
Ms. Mason went further to state that she had discussed this approach, relying only upon one way public communication, with the current President of the Board of Education, Shirley Brandman.
A member of the Advisory Committee spoke this morning to Ms. Brandman. Ms. Brandman claimed that Ms. Mason's conversation with her was only in passing while they were both at a conference. Furthermore, it was Ms. Brandman’s understanding that while Ms. Mason may be unable to answer some of the questions, Ms. Mason would attempt to be as responsive as possible.
Two years ago when the closure of this major special education program, the Secondary Learning Centers, was first approved by the Board of Education, there was a major negative public reaction, and legal action, specifically centered around the lack of public input concerning the decision.
Since that time the Board of Education has claimed to make improved communication with the Disability Community a focus area, and pledged to do better. Based upon Ms. Mason's performance last night, it is clear that there is a major disconnect between those wishes of the Board of Education and the School System Administration.
One cynic wonders whether Mason's action in refusing to answer questions about the Learning Center report is specifically to avoid talking about the rampant problems with the new model until after Spring IEP season is finished.
And of course, some of the first questions for Mason, when she decides she's good and ready to answer questions, are (1) "Why was the report 'sat on' for six months after it was finished before being released to the community?" and (2) "When BOE member Laura Berthiaume specifically asked for a copy of this report before the vote on the next year's budget, why wasn't it released to the public at that time?"
----complied by report from Bob Astrove
Thursday, March 26, 2009
shows heat islands, the red squares at left. What caused
them? The photo on the right shows the lower left to be
a building and rooftop. And to the right? You guessed it,
an artificial turf playing field.
Thanks to MCPS, the Montgomery County, Maryland Board of Education and your County Council members, ALL the natural sod playing fields in our high schools will be replaced with artificial turf.
So crank up the A/C folks, it’s going to be a long, hot summer. Tomorrow…chemicals in artificial turf...but they're safe, right?
"How could a payout package of public dollars not be public record?" he said. "People have a right to know where our money is going."Well said, Councilmember Knapp! Now when will that statement apply to the Montgomery County Public School system, the entity that spends 50% of the county budget?
When will the public know how the missing 700 Promethean Boards were procured, how much they cost and if they were financed or bought outright?
When will the public know what has happened to the money in Independent Activity Funds that has not been accounted for, or has been spent on non student purchases?
When will the public know how many IP Cameras MCPS has purchased and for how much?
When will the public see the E-Rate rebate funds brought to the County Council for appropriation?
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Testimony of Craig Michaels, Investigator
Re: Oversight--The Use of Artificial Turf in City Parks
Hearing Before the Council of the City of New York
Parks and Recreation Committee
December 13, 2007
Riverkeeper is a non-profit environmental organization that works to protect the Hudson River and the New York City drinking water supply. We are also part of the SWIM coalition (Storm Water Infrastructure Matters), a broad coalition of environmental groups working to promote better stormwater management throughout the City. In addition, we work closely with the growing number of environmental and civic groups around New York City studying the environmental and public health impacts of synthetic fields.
The use of artificial turf in New York City parks poses serious environmental and public health risks. Unfortunately, despite strong public support for local environmental policy initiatives, artificial turf continues to replace natural grass playing fields, moving New York in the opposite direction of becoming a sustainable city. Riverkeeper opposes further installation of artificial turf in New York City parks until a comprehensive study is conducted that addresses the concerns set forth below.
More than 27 billion gallons of raw sewage and polluted stormwater discharge out of 460 combined sewer overflows (CSOs) into New York Harbor each year. Although water quality in the Harbor has improved significantly over the last few decades, most of the waterfront and its beaches are still unsafe for recreation after it rains. New York City’s outmoded sewer system combines sewage from buildings with dirty stormwater from streets. As little as one-tenth of an inch of rain can overload the system, causing the raw sewage to overflow into the Harbor.
Unfortunately, artificial fields only compound the City’s CSO issues. The low water retention rate of artificial turf, which maximizes the recreational potential of such fields, is also a stormwater nightmare.
PlaNYC established an inter-agency Task Force that is currently examining how and where best
management practices (BMPs) can be implemented to reduce stormwater impacts throughout the City. BMPs are economically sound alternatives that can reduce the volume of stormwater entering the system. Examples of BMPs include: street trees, greenstreets (smaller vegetated areas on streets); green roofs to capture and/or detain run-off from buildings; tree pits designed to retain water for absorption by trees; and the use of porous pavement in area parking lots. Any excess stormwater that is not captured by source controls then enters the sewage system for eventual treatment.
The policies of sustainability and green infrastructure espoused in PlaNYC are also embodied in three sustainable stormwater management bills (Int. No. 628, 629, 630, 321) currently pending before the City Council. But while support for these bills continue to gain momentum, and while the BMP Task Force continues to make progress, the Department of Parks and Recreation continues to propose replacing natural grass fields with artificial playing surfaces. Clearly, there is a disconnect here between policy and implementation.
If New York City is serious about becoming a greener, more livable city by employing responsible, costeffective, and environmentally sound stormwater management techniques, then the installation of artificial turf fields need to be significantly curbed, if not halted altogether.
According to a report issued by New Yorkers for Parks, summer temperatures in New York City are approximately 7 degrees warmer than surrounding areas. This urban heat island effect is created by the combination of a vast amount of impervious surfaces (asphalt, concrete, etc.) and the dramatically small amount of trees and green spaces that can absorb the summer heat. Installing synthetic fields, particularly in areas that were formerly grass fields, further exacerbates this serious problem.
According to a recent New York Times article, researchers at Columbia University’s Center for Climate Systems Research found that the temperature on the surface of synthetic turf fields could be as much as 60 degrees hotter than grass fields. Given the predictions from scientists around the globe that temperatures will continue to rise due to global warming, New York City should be actively looking for ways to reduce the urban heat island effect, which every summer traps heat inside New York City, leading to higher energy costs and increased heat-related health risks, among other problems. Unfortunately, synthetic fields, in many cases, do just the opposite by further increasing the urban heat island effect.
At least some preliminary studies suggest that the placement of PAH-emitting used tire particles on synthetic fields may pose a health risk to those who use the fields for recreation. As a member of a softball team who frequently plays on the formerly grass fields, but now artificial turf, of Riverside Park, I have observed first-hand how playing on artificial turf can cut, scrape, and scar individuals whose activities on a grass field would have simply led to superficial abrasions. Although further study is needed, it is intuitive that once a person’s skin is open and exposed to particles that emit PAHs, there may be a risk to human health.
Recently, two bills were introduced in the New York State Assembly (Bill A9503) and the New York State Senate (Bill S6531), both calling for a state-wide moratorium on the purchasing of artificial turf until a comprehensive study of the environmental and public health impacts is conducted. Not only is this a reasonable position, but it would be negligent to proceed any other way.
From an overall environmental perspective, any proposed installation of artificial turf should be subject to scrutiny under either the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) or the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) process.
The environmental and human health impacts of a single field are localized but surely measurable. In addition, the cumulative effect of the installation of over a hundred of these fields citywide in a short period of time certainly warrants proper environmental review.
Riverkeeper urges the City Council to mandate a moratorium on the development and installation of artificial turf fields until the Parks Department, working with other agencies and independent consultants as needed, has conducted a comprehensive study on the environmental and public health effects of artificial turf. Further, the Council should explore methods to convert synthetic fields back to natural grass fields.
Aside from the artificial color, there is nothing green about artificial turf. The Parks Department, Mayor’s Office, and City Council owe it to the concerned parents of children who play on these fields, and to all the residents of New York City, to conduct a proper environmental assessment that continues to include public participation and frequent consultation with physicians and other leading experts in the field. It is critical that the City Council continue to play a leading role in making this City more sustainable and Riverkeeper looks forward to working with the Council on this and other areas of environmental concern.
Riverkeeper is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Hudson River Estuary, New York City’s upstate drinking water reservoirs, and the rights of all New Yorkers to clean communities and a clean environment. Since 1965, we have brought hundreds of environmental lawbreakers to justice, forcing more than $1 billion in fines and remediation projects.
Here in Montgomery County, Maryland, numerous high schools have audits that reveal disappearing student activity funds, inappropriate expenditures, and other violations of standard accounting principles, all documented by our own internal auditors. What happens? Nothing, nada, see you next year, hope its fixed, but if its not, that's ok too. We'll just make our audit reports shorter and include more boilerplate code language. We're hoping no one would notice.
But if we lived in Tennessee, we'd see something much different. This week out of Whittle Springs Middle School, today's news reports a story about a former bookkeeper who has been indicted on a felony theft charge in connection to fund discrepancies at the school.
If we lived in Alabama, we'd also see different results. Yesterday's news carried a story about a principal who is on probation and lost his job after pleading guilty to felony theft of school property funds - after an investigation.
Don't worry folks, nothing happens in Montgomery County, Maryland. If anything, our administrators receive a promotion, and maybe even an award or two. Our school administrative staff is safe from oversight, so just keep on doing what you are doing - no one has oversight of the MCPS public schools.
Baltimore SunInside Ed: How many seniors at your school haven't met HSA requirements?
Check out this chart for the number and percentage of seniors at most high schools in the region who had not yet met High School Assessment requirements as of earlier this month. The numbers are constantly changing; since these figures were calculated, 1,759 projects have been submitted in the city alone.
and related story:
One of the primary principles of parliamentary law is regard for the rights of the minority... The means of protecting these rights in appropriate measure forms much of the substance of parliamentary law... Ultimately, it is the majority taking part in the assembly who decide the general will, but only following upon the opportunity for a deliberative process of full and free discussion. Only two thirds or more of those present and voting may deny a minority or any member the right of such discussion. (See Robert's Rules of Order 10th Edition XLVII)
That's what Robert's Rules of Order lays out as parliamentary law. But at the March 24, 2009, MCCPTA (Montgomery County Council of PTAs) meeting parliamentary law took a vacation. Delegates were silenced by invoking a motion to Limit Debate that was passed at a November meeting. The minority was not afforded an opportunity to speak.
Robert's Rules of Order would not permit a Limit Debate motion to be passed at one meeting and apply to all future meetings unless it has been voted on as a Special Rule of Order (See page 17 of RRO). A motion to Limit Debate is a subsidiary motion. In order to be passed as a Special Rule of Order the Limit Debate motion would have had to have been passed by either (a) previous notice and a two-thirds vote or (b) a vote of a majority of the entire membership. There is no evidence in the MCCPTA minutes of either of these things happening.
The motion that was used to silence debate at the March 24th meeting was not in keeping with Robert's Rules of Order. Robert's Rules of Order sets the time limit on debate at 10 minutes PER PERSON. One of the basic principles of Robert's Rules of Order is that all members are afforded an opportunity to speak once before any member can speak a second time. (RRO Page 375-377) The Chair is not to call on a member for a second time until all other members have had an opportunity to speak.
As written, the 10 minute time limit guarantees that one person can take up the entire debate on any issue, to the exclusion of all others, if it is applied to the total time for debate. In the alternative, the 10 minute time limit simply restates what is already in Robert's Rules of Order as the per person time limit. On March 24th the time limit was applied to the entire time for debate, and was used to end debate before all those that wished to speak could be heard.
To the MCCPTA members that attended the March 24th meeting, here's hoping that at a future meeting you get to see parliamentary law, as stated in Robert's Rules of Order, in action.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Aren't you curious as to whether this is standard in other jurisdictions?
Here is a link to an article about a NY State employee, a fairly well paid attorney in the state's Division of Human Rights, who lost his job over $530 in charges to a state credit card and use of his office computer for his outside employment.
A jurisdiction that actually enforces its ethics rules. In Maryland, we can only dream that someday our crab claws will start nibbling at ethics violations too.
In the Eastern Middle School memo to Board members, Superintendent Weast cautions not to advocate for a solution that would address the needs of the teachers and the students. Superintendent Weast says that a proposed solution would be "significantly more costly".
Suddenly, when it comes to educational services for students, Superintendent Weast is watching every penny? But he has stopped putting out Requests for Proposals (RFP), stopped taking competitive bids, stopped obtaining contracts, and stopped bringing procurements over $25,000 to the Board of Education table for approval on multi-million dollar purchases? He has not been bringing funds obtained from an outside source to the Board table or to the County Council for appropriation? The Board of Education is complicit in this lack of fiscal oversight as they no longer approve multi-million dollar purchases and do not ask for actual cost-benefit analysis on services for students. Who pays the price for this lack of fiscal oversight? The students.
"Significantly more costly" is not a number. In fact, nowhere in the March 23rd Eastern MS memo is any cost-benefit information on any of the possible configurations of the Eastern Middle School school schedule. Why did it take 13 days to prepare a memo that contains no financial analysis of the proposed change or proposed solutions?
Making one small schedule change, at one MCPS middle school would be, in Superintendent Weast's opinion,"significantly more costly". But failing to bring multi-million dollar purchases through the legally mandated procurement process has no fiscal impact?
What would be the savings if Superintendent Weast was following the MCPS Procurement Manual? What would then be the benefit that students could reap from those additional funds? We will never know as there is no Board oversight over the spending of the $2.1 billion MCPS budget, sorry kids.
The March 23rd Eastern Middle School memorandum was not made available on the MCPS website but has been obtained for the public to view here:
Monday, March 23, 2009
Sources indicate that over the last two years MCPS has purchased new IP security cameras to replace the security cameras that were purchased in 1999. But how many new IP security cameras have been purchased over the last two years? Board of Education minutes are silent on this question. For the last two years the Board of Education President has been Nancy Navarro.
Only press releases from vendors and security news services give a hint. The purchase was not documented in Board minutes and no contract was signed for this multi-million dollar procurement. Have 578, 1,900, 3000 or 3,775 IP security cameras been purchased by the Board of Education for installation in MCPS this year?
Here are some clues:
This press release from a Security Conference says that MCPS "expects to have more than 3,000 digital cameras installed in the school district by the end of the year and a total of 12,000 to 13,000 cameras by the end of the initiative."
This press release says that MCPS "middle schools, which on average are deploying 50 IQeye cameras." There are 35 MCPS middle schools. 50 X 38 would mean that 1,900 IQeye security cameras are already in MCPS middle schools alone.
This press release says that MCPS high schools are getting "about 70-80 cameras" and middle schools are getting "about 50 IQeye megapixel cameras per school." There are 25 high schools in MCPS. 25 x 75 would be 1,875 security cameras at the high schools. Adding the high school cameras to the middle school cameras would put the number of security cameras being installed in MCPS schools this year at about 3,775.
This March 19, 2009, web conference says that MCPS has "578 IP security cameras installed and hope to have 6,000 installed by the end of the project."
You be the detective and investigate how many new IP security cameras MCPS has installed, and has on order. Post your finding in the comment section to this blog article. Who knows, you may solve the mystery!
― Sam Pfeifle, Editor, Security Systems News
This webcast was broadcast live on Thursday, March 19, 2009. There is no record of an MCPS BOE meeting on that day.
(Related bad news is here.)
Hear it here:
The Essential Guide to Deploying HD Video Surveillance Webcast
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Archive of March 5, 2009 ~WAMU~ Kojo Nnamdi show.
Friday, March 20, 2009
On Friday, March 20th, Mr. Steve Simon, Director, MCPS Public Information office, confirmed via email that the taxpayers bore the cost of this junket:
Mr. Collette attended the Interactive Technology in Education Conference in London, England October 6 through October 7, 2008, as a representative of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). His airfare and two night stay at the conference were paid by MCPS.
The Parents Coalition wants to know: What was the purpose of this trip? To enlighten people overseas about what's happening in MCPS? or to help the sponsor of the conference sell more product? And how did Montgomery County Public Schools find the money to buy plane tickets and accommodations for a trip overseas, when there was supposed to be budget cutbacks, a travel freeze, and talk about the teachers' union foregoing their cost-of-living adjustment? Was it really so important to fly a representative of Montgomery County Public Schools to London, England?
Apparently there has been a change in plans. If you CLICK HERE to go to the revised conference website, the conference website now no longer shows Mr. Hellmuth listed as a panelist, and instead shows Mr. James Gompers, the security consultant to MCPS who selected the IQinVision system. (note: click HERE for an article on how MCPS selected, and financed, the purchase of the IQinVision system).
All MCPS secondary students will have the privilege to vote for the 2009-2010 student member of the Board of Education on April 29, 2009.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Unless, the Committee and the BOE publicly, and in writing, discloses reasons why the AEI Advisory Committee is not subject to the Act, I would respectfully request that the Committee proceedings conform to applicable law.
President Obama, in a memorandum to government agencies, stressed "Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government.” It is time we in Montgomery county heartily embraced this view.
In that decision, the State Board wrote:
Having found a violation of DBA, we look to the consequences of that action...In response to this decision from the Maryland State Board of Education, the MCPS Board of Education has moved to rescind Policy DBA. No one need worry about any future violations of this Policy, as it is being eliminated.
...While we recognize that the local board's violation of its own policy did not rise to a level of prejudice that would warrant this Board overturning the local board's decision, the local board's actions here in no way meet the spirit or intent of DBA. DBA's existence is rooted in concepts of full disclosure and opportunity for meaningful participation by the public. The compression of time that occurred in this instance is precisely what the DBA was intended to protect against. Although there was opportunity for public comment on the phasing out of the SLCs (Secondary Learning Centers), that compression of time resulted in a diminishment of the opportunity to comment, albeit insufficient to prejudice the Appellants. We believe that the local board should have respected the time frames established by the DBA, especially where the underlying matters at issue are of such a serious nature. We caution the local board to respect the procedural safeguards it has established to avoid future challenges of this nature. (emphasis added)
On March 10, 2009, Board of Education members attempted to preserve some of the procedural safeguards of Policy DBA by moving them to another Policy, but Superintendent Weast advised them not to put procedural safeguards in any Policy, as "this will do damage to children".
The MCPS Board of Education will meet on April 14, 2009, to decide the fate of these "procedural safeguards".
UPDATE: May 12, 2009 - Policy DBA DELETED by unanimous Board action.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
For those of you wondering what Dr. Weast meant when he referred to the actions of the Board of Education's Policy Committee as "seminal," you are not alone.
From the Random House Webster's College Dictionary (1999):
. . .
2. highly original and influencing the development of future events
Dr. Weast may want to consult a dictionary the next time he makes an impromtu appearance at a Board of Education Fiscal Management Committee Meeting.
Dr. Weast and Chris Barclay, the chair of the Committee, may also need to consult the description of the committee's charge as adopted by a prior Board of Education Resolution. If the goal of the committee is to review how the school system used public money in the past, and how external reviews evaluated their actions, creativity is clearly not in order.
Ten minutes into the beginning of the committee meeting Superintendent Weast walked into the room and sat down at the table. The Chair, BoE member Chris Barclay, completed his statement about being clear on the MCPS procurement process, and then noted that it was rare to have Superintendent Weast attend a Board committee meeting. He then turned the meeting over to Superintendent Weast and the agenda for the meeting was set aside.
Superintendent Weast spoke for about half an hour on his prediction that 2011 will be a worse budget year than 2010. He discussed the waiver of the maintenance of effort and whether that waiver request would come from the County Executive as a blanket waiver. He said that an individual waiver was preferable. He said that the Fiscal Management Committee "was now the seminal committee" because of budget concerns for FY 2011. Superintendent Weast then left the room and the committee returned to their original agenda.
The discussion of the State Audit of MCPS was abbreviated to say the least. There was little time for Board member questions as MCPS COO Larry Bowers read through the list of State Auditor recommendations and reiterated the MCPS position on each, as already stated in the Appendix to the Audit. While the surprise visit by Superintendent Weast was no doubt illuminating, a detailed discussion and implementation of some of the recommendations in the State Audit could go a long way to alleviating a financial crisis for MCPS.
Of note, was the fact that when Superintendent Weast spoke he mentioned sums of $24 million here and $80 million there as potential gaps in the MCPS budget. All the while ignoring that MCPS no longer brings major procurements to the Board of Education table for approval and, as an example, last summer went out and purchased over $13 million worth of Promethean Boards without so much as a hint of this expenditure at the Board table. How much of this type of unmonitored purchasing goes on in MCPS is not clear. But certainly bringing major procurements to the Board table for a vote would go a long way to regulating the spending of this $2.1 +/- billion school system and averting crisis.
Specifically, recommendation 18 in the Audit was that "MCPS should adopt formal policies governing long-term obligations and cash management". The Fiscal Management Committee did not discuss this recommendation. COO Bowers simply stated that they "are looking at a cash management policy". He also said with regard to long term obligations, they "need to formalize practices in place and bring them to the Board". There was no Board committee action on this recommendation. The committee then moved on to the next recommendation.
Some recommendations in the Audit will be brought back to the Fiscal Management Committee at a later meeting.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast's biography touts his award for "tech savvy superintendent." But the tech savvy superintendent fails to see that students with disabilities have access to assistive technology, as demonstrated both by my child's experience in public schools honors classes, and by the February report evaluating the phase out of school system's secondary learning centers that provide special education services to students with disabilities.For the entire article, click here.
A group of over 60 families (and growing fast) have united to oppose Eastern Middle School's (EMS) change from an 8 period to a 7 period schedule. To join, go to
Representatives from this group attended last week's MCPS Board of Education (BOE) meeting. Five parents spoke for an unusually large portion (a full third) of the public comments portion. The BOE appeared surprised by the outcry and is looking into the matter. To see the meeting, go to http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/meetings/archive/last-meeting.shtm
For those who want to start watching when the EMS parents start (each is allowed only two minutes):
-Three of the five EMS parents start at the 20 min. mark;
- A fourth EMS parent speaks at the 34 min. mark; and
- A fifth EMS parent speaks at the 41 min. mark. There's also a good followup question from the board after this speaker and a great answer. Toward the end of the meeting at the 6:40:40 mark hear Board of Education member Judy Docca note that "now Eastern is concerned" and that she would "like to (be able to) answer sensibly". (Dr. Docca is requesting more information from Superintendent Weast as to how decisions are made.)
This group also was featured last week in a story in the Gazette:
Followup activities are being organized, including contacting MCPS Board of Education members and Montgomery County Council members. So please help with many hands to make light work.
Let's not give up the fight, and let's keep in mind:
“The greatest obstacle to those who hope to reform American education is complacency.”
--Diane Ravitch (education historian, educational policy analyst, former United States Assistant Secretary of Education, research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Education)
EMS Schedule Decision Reversal Workgroup
Monday, March 16, 2009
|Mon., Mar. 16|| |
Verizon channel 30, or on the web here.
|Tue., Mar. 17|| |
|Wed., Mar. 18|| |
|Thur., Mar. 19|| |
|Fri., Mar. 20|| |
Public Safety Luncheon, North Bethesda, 11 a.m.
|Sat., Mar. 21|| |
Burning Tree and Georgian Forest elementary schools are participating in a pilot GT program. In these schools, “the multiple pieces of data collected during the global screening process are used solely to recommend appropriate accelerated and enriched instruction, and not to assign a label. All other schools use the multiple pieces of data collected during the global screening process both to recommend appropriate accelerated and enriched instruction and to assign a label. ”
These “pilot” programs are evaluated by “Advanced” MSA results in reading and in math; mathematics benchmarks such as the number of students enrolled in and successfully completing Grade 6 mathematics or above in Grade 5. Qualitative data from principals, teachers, and parents about any concerns are part of the evaluation as well .
Thus, the “pilot” programs use the existing global screening process to identify students for accelerated and enriched programming. The only difference is that, once identified, students are not assigned a label.
The Washington Post quoted, Marty Creel, who directs the school system's Department of Enriched and Innovative Programs, as saying that the aim of the pilot was "to get away from this idea of putting kids in boxes and saying, 'You're gifted, and you're not.' "
Children were identified using the global screening process. Parents received a letter recommending appropriate accelerated and enriched instruction. They just didn’t get the label.
The January 2009, Burning Tree Principal’s Newsletter, stated:
“There has been a great deal of interest regarding whether Montgomery County Public Schools should continue to label students as gifted and talented. Burning Tree is one of two MCPS schools that does not label its students. Our students go through the same “global screening” process as all second graders in MCPS, and we gather the same information regarding our students’ abilities as every other MCPS school. The only thing we do differently is we do not label our students. Instead, we use the global screening information to plan appropriate instruction and to identify hidden potential. Below is a summary of “how we do business” every day at Burning Tree and how we are meeting the academic needs of every student.
How does being a “no-label” school affect instruction?
Being a no-label pilot school really does not affect instruction at Burning Tree. It truly does not matter whether a student is labeled gifted or not; what really matters is that students receive access to advanced instruction when they are ready for it, or when we see that they have the potential for it. …”
Once the parents receive a letter recommending appropriate services, the perfunctory addition of a label is unnecessary. The label truly does not matter. The kids were assigned to “specific boxes” in the letter and any parent would know if their child was gifted.
The letter should be leverage for appropriate services, if any are provided.
Consequently, the only viable data point of the “pilots” is complaints by parents and/or staff. As MCPS informed me, this past fall, “principals, staff, and parent representatives from both schools voiced satisfaction with the no label process and felt no need to alter this approach.” Indeed, this would be the outcome one would reasonably expect.
Since the schools are identifying students for accelerated and enriched instructions, the number of students thus identified must be available to MCPS. The failure to report this data, simply because the label was eliminated is cause for concern.
Eliminating the label will create the appearance of ending “tracking,” thereby appeasing some detractors.
Eliminating the GT ID data will eliminate a means of assessing a very embarrassing program and its shortcomings, not the least of which include “gaming,” lower than national standards, and non-uniform implementation. Using the “no labels pilot” as an excuse to suppress the GT ID data will also solve a host of potential legal problems.
Changing the language of the policy, in secret, will simply be the final nail in the coffin of GT education as a legally enforceable, publicly accountable, transparent educational option.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
The Maryland Office of Legislative Audits Fiscal Management Practices Performance Audit Report for MCPS was released January 23, 2009, and is chock full of cost saving recommendations! The Board approved the FY 2010 Budget without taking into consideration the results of this extensive State Audit of MCPS finances.
The State Audit reported in general terms about the financial practices of MCPS. But let's take a look at a specific example of how MCPS is spending our taxpayer dollars.
While most of the rest of us are out getting shoes, haircuts, and the "supply list" for the first week of school, Montgomery County Public Schools Central Office staff at 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville is busy too - eating! Let's look at one department's AMEX charge card records that have been attributed to "Executive Staff-Opening Week" 2007.
Date ordered: 8/24/07 Date Delivered: 8/27/07 $252.24 Chesapeake Catering. Executive Staff, Opening Week.
Date ordered: 8/24/07 Date Delivered: 8/29/07 $222.34 Chesapeake Catering. Executive Staff, Opening Week.
Date ordered: 8/28/07 Date Delivered: 8/28/07 $142.30 Gelico's. Executive Staff, Opening Week.
Date ordered: 9/5/07 Date Delivered:9/5/07 $160.00 Gelico's. Executive Staff, Opening Week.
Date ordered: 8/30/07 Date Delivered: 8/30/07 $211.86 Honey Baked Ham. Executive Staff, Opening Week.
Please note the MCPS Purchasing Card Users Guide does not permit the use of AMEX cards for restaurant purchases. So if you have the food catered is that an exception to the rule?
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Today's words of the day are brought to you by the letter "C."
I couldn't decide which word to choose, so I used a little bit of the logic my kids learned from Public Broadcasting, with a little bit of assistance from Newsweek and Bernie Madoff.
I should also add consequences.
How does this relate to MCPS?
Bernie Madoff is off to jail, for conducting the largest Ponzi scheme in recent history. A piece by Newsweek explores why folks like Bernie cheat, and asks, is cheating contagious?
According to a study done by researchers at Duke University, how others act influences whether someone is more likely to cheat and think he/she will be successful. The more a person is exposed to cheating and unethical behavior by others, the more likely that person will cheat. Thus, cheating can be contagious.
That's why its time for the residents of the county to ask Dr. Weast and MCPS to stop. Stop the procurements that don't follow the rules, stop acting in self-interest, cut the (honeybaked) ham and travel to showcase and endorse commercial products that put money into other accounts, at the expense of our kids, but most of all, stop spending money as if the citizens of Montgomery County have an endless supply of cash. We don't. What we want our school system to do is provide the free public education we expect for our kids, pay for their textbooks, and provide the type of quality education that our neighbors in Howard and Fairfax offer.
We expect our kids to obey the law, become well respected adults, and not cheat. Don't we have the same expectations of our leadership - even if these values aren't shared by the state government in Baltimore and Annapolis, and our local officials in Rockville who decline to provide oversight of our county school system.
Lets be glad someone finally put Mr. Madoff where he belongs. Those who abuse financial power and trust in our county should not be so cavalier to think they can continue to abuse our resources without consequences. Think about the role models you want for your children - because what they see around them will influence how they act as adults.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Montgomery County Public Schools: Utilizing Design Standards to Ensure the Right System
1:00PM - 2:00PM (Wednesday, April 01, 2009)
Click HERE to read a conference brochure description of this one-hour presentation!
- John Murdock, Jr. - Vice President (Security Division), Netcom Technologies, Inc.
- Robert Hellmuth - Director, Department of School Safety and Security, Montgomery County Public Schools
- Paul Bodell - Vice President Sales and Marketing, IQinVision
The Advisory Committee members vote on specific language changes/amendments--without the authority of their constituencies--creating, in my opinion, a personal Overview and Policy, not necessarily reflective of the view of the public.
It is only when the public can view the unvarnished document that a meaningful debate can take place. The Overview and the Policy are available to ALL Advisory Committee members. Some Committee members are proposing various motions and amendments related to these documents to be voted upon by their respective constituencies. Until the Policy and Overview are made public, the resolutions and amendments being proposed are, in my view, meaningless.
I believe that these Committee members have no right to withhold from the public view a document that they are apparently amending to conform to the view of their constituencies.
While the view that both the Overview and the Policy are embargoed by MCPS , i.e., they are secret, seems reasonable, I would posit that it is made possible by the Advisory Committee membership being complicit to the process. My question is to the whole Advisory Committee membership: On what justifiable grounds are you withholding the proposed the Overview and the Policy IOA from the public?
This question must be answered if Committee members are proposing that the public, i.e., their respective constituencies, support various motions and amendments based on this ephemeral Overview and Policy.
So, AEI Advisory Committee Members, where's the BEEF?