Thursday, December 31, 2009

Just released: County Report reveals nearly 30% failure rate in underage alcohol sales compliance


Just in time for the new year, the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control (DLC) has released a report showing a major increase in illegal sales of alcoholic beverages to their underage sales compliance testers.

According to the report, establishments illegally sold alcoholic beverage products to county enforcement team members 20.62% of the time in 2008. The noncompliance rate grew to 29.56% in 2009, a nearly 50% year-to-year increase.

From the report:
Each Under 21 Compliance Check team consists of at least one police officer, an Alcohol Inspector from the Department of Liquor Control and an underage volunteer or “UV”. UV’s are checked to ensure the only belongings on their person at the time of an attempted purchase is their own valid, underage ID, a cell phone for safety purposes and buy money provided by the Liquor Inspector. No age enhancements such as facial hair, provocative clothing, makeup or sun glasses are allowed at any time. UVs must interact directly with the seller/server and are not permitted engage in distracting behaviors such as talking on the phone. UVs take possession of the alcohol sold to them before an establishment is charged. UV’s attend an extensive training that includes detailed protocol as well as role playing.

All compliance checks follow this consistent procedure to ensure fairness and safety.
It's not clear whose safety is being ensured by the unrealistic test protocol, particularly since underage males commonly use the "don't shave for a day" tactic to buy alcohol.

Meanwhile, the DLC 2009 Annual Report released earlier this month states:
While a number of citizens chose to resume the legal sale of alcohol through licensed private sellers, 18 states and a several local jurisdictions opted for a different course — controlled distribution, where economic incentives for maximum sales were replaced with policies supporting moderate consumption. Seven decades later, those jurisdictions continue to use the control model, and such durability suggests that the wisdom of this method is sound.

Montgomery County is proud to be one of those control jurisdictions and believes that it has successfully achieved the delicate balance of—
■ providing high-quality products and service to customers;
■ improving the overall safety of communities through
education, regulation, and enforcement; and
■ generating revenue for transfer to the General Fund to
pay for important resident services.
The department continues to provide new and exciting products while offering comprehensive training to license holders, staff, and others involved in the industry and working within communities to address any special concerns.
The 30% failure rate means that an underage person who has no "age enhancements" can usually obtain alcoholic beverages by going to, at most, four stores. It can also be easily calculated that, on the average, an underage buyer would need to go to only two stores in an evening to purchase alcoholic products. And an underage buyer with "age enhancements" (such as not shaving for a day or two) would, in all likelihood, be able to make a purchase on the first attempt.

Just something for parents to think about this evening when their teens and 20 year-olds are out tonight - or any night.

Note:  Photo above is one of the hundreds of alcoholic beverage retailers in Montgomery County that failed a compliance check during FY 2008-2009.   Montgomery County is the only county in the nation that runs its own alcoholic beverage wholesale operation.  All alcoholic beverages sold in Montgomery County must be supplied through the Montgomery County government wholesale operation.

Update (01/06/10):  The Gazette covers the story here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"...legacy is routinely overblown."


Do students benefit from the exaggeration of the successes of a Superintendent?

The Washington Post, Education Secretary Arne Duncan's legacy as Chicago schools chief questioned

...But the new math scores signal that Chicago is nowhere near the head of the pack in urban school improvement, even though Duncan often cites the successes of his tenure as he crusades to fix public education...
In the interview, Duncan said he is careful not to exaggerate his record. Critics, however, say his legacy is routinely overblown.

"There's been this rhetoric about dramatic gains, dramatic success, that we have to replicate this model because of its dramatic success," said Julie Woestehoff of the advocacy group Parents United for Responsible Education. "And here in Chicago, we're looking at these schools and going, 'Uh . . . ' "

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Washington Post Letter: Special kids should not be denied access to valued preschool

Special kids should not be denied access to valued preschool


...Mr. Weast submitted a budget that would place 3-year-olds with delays and disabilities in public schools, an unwise plan that disability advocates and parents strongly oppose. Today, MPAC is meeting the needs of 73 students in two schools. Mr. Weast's proposal would disproportionately affect African American and Hispanic students, who make up 65 percent of MPAC's students...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Where has all the money gone?

Where has all the money gone?

As I begin to look at Jerry Weast’s proposed FY2011 Operating Budget, I must ask where has all the money gone. For 11 budget cycles Jerry has preached to the Montgomery County community about our need to invest in our children’s education, and lectured our elected leaders that to do anything other then give ½ our budget to the schools was immoral.

And like the lemmings, our Montogmery County community has marched in step with Jerry for a decade. But today I asked myself, again, where has all the money gone?

For starters: I see that next year's budget proposal allocates just 54 cents of each dollar to Instruction. The other 46 cents are for Overhead. Not necessarily meaningful, until we roll back the clock. As recently as 2002, 60 cents out of every dollar went to instruction. In terms of what Jerry proposed for next year this represents an extra $132 Million dollars of overhead that could have actually been invested in Instruction. Think of it: without another nickel of tax revenue or government aid, we could have been looking at an extra $132 million dollars to the classroom.

Reflected in another way, Non-Instructional Costs Per Pupil have risen by 102%, or doubled, since Jerry arrived in FY2000. Yet our investment in Instructional Costs Per Pupil has only increased by 70%. For comparative purposes, the Consumer Price Index only rose a cumulative 26% between 2000 and today, or around 2.7% per year. In other words, the community has dug deep into its pockets. But when overhead grows faster then the base there is good reason to question what it was spent on.

We can’t have what our Board of Education likes to call a “Courageous Conversation” about the MCPS budget without talking about Wages & Benefits. But that never happens. They won’t allow it to happen. Why are Labor negotiations not open to the public, or at least the media? And why are the Labor negotiations never completed until after the School Board's Public Hearings on the Budget? Who is protecting the public’s interest and where is our belief in open government?

The result has been that in Jerry’s decade he pushed and bullied the Board and County Council into approving wage scales for teachers that have grown at a compound rate of 7.4% per year for a decade. That is 2 ¾ times the rate of inflation. And when it looked like our political leaders might not go along, he deployed his $10M media empire and his fleet of buses to pack the hearing room.

On the Employee Benefit front, the situation is even more unsustainable for the taxpayers. Back in 2000 we had a budget allocation of 16 cents of every dollar funding employee benefits. Further, that rate had been stable dating back to at least 1994. But under Jerry and his “helium hand” Boards of Education, this allocation has risen steadily. So much so that next year's budget proposal commits over 23 cents of every school system dollar to just pay for employee and retiree benefits. That is a shift of $154 Million that could have, but does not, go to Instruction.

This data strongly suggests that despite the millions spent on spin and rhetoric, during Jerry’s decade, the real investment has favored protecting the bloated bureaucracy, oversized wage increases, and maintaining an extremely generous, but outdated system of employee benefits. As much as my comments may tick some off, the data suggests that these priorities have come first in line, and well before instructional services for children.

Bob Astrove
MCPS Operating Budget by Category

Thursday, December 24, 2009

With Apologies to Roger Angell



The holidays are here and the year’s almost over;
We start to look back on a year filled with clover.

Happy Holidays to members of the Parents Coalition,
Here’s hoping for a better year-- we’ll be wishin’.

A Merry Christmas to Nancy Floreen, who bested the MoCo political machine,
Best wishes to her on her new presidency,
We’re sure she’ll keep faith with her constituency.

To Valerie Ervin and to Phil Andrews, we hope that your stockings are filled only with glad news. No coals only good things, to repair infrastructure; we need those new watermains before they all rupture.

In the upcoming year we’ll need all hands on deck to fix mold, leaky ceilings and bathrooms awreck. Our children need clean air with much less particulate and shiny new textbooks to make them articulate.

Here’s hoping we have transparency and less malice
For that we can look to Al Carr up in Annapolis.

For Duchy Trachtenberg, on a whim we’ll
hope the dreidel comes up -- gimel.

At this winter solstice its hard to believe its been one whole year since we met; to those new and old on the PCMC net.

And to our exceptional eagle eyes on development,
Donna Baron and Jim Humphrey, should be in their element
with master plans coming up by the score,
We hope the New Year brings less and not more.

And all good wishes to our hard-working Council,
Here’s hoping November elections don’t trounce you.

To Shirley Brandman, Board president past,
From all your friends who are pains in the ass.

To Kumar and Janis and kudos to Lyda,
Who all work so hard to make things all right-a.

For Louis who writes FOIAs with his mighty pen,
we hope you’ll keep at it in two thousand ten.

Merry Christmas Tim Hwang,
The youngest board member, we hope—
you get the vote!

A sweet and delicious bûche de noël for all of the citizens who make living here so swell.

To Diana Conway and all those who twitter, let’s make this a New Year that is all aglitter.

And fond Christmas wishes to kids at Monocacy,
You kept your school open by behaving so raucously,

A very good Christmas and Chanukah too to those hard-working ecokids – the Piney Branch crew.

And let’s not forget the county exec, Isiah Leggett who makes everything tick.

For Judy Docca and of course to Phil Kauffman let’s hope next year’s ‘retreats’ come none to often.

To Miranda Spivack and to Jen Beasley, keep writing your stories…
we wish you success and more news on the mores …
Of Dr. J. Weast and Rollin Stanley -- so please keep your pens and your notebooks quite handy.

And to Brad Pearson who uncovers the truth, thanks for your work, you are quite the sleuth.

We can’t forget friends Kate Ryan and Ms. Fabel, we wish for more stories when you are able.

And to newcomer Nelson hello to the fray,
We read your stories day after day.

To all those who participate in our democracy,
Here’s wishing a better 2010 than its s’posed to be.

We come to the last of our end-of-year doggerel,
With hopeful eyes forward to the New Year’s inaugural.

Goodbye to the old year and in with the new,
The Parents Coalition wishes you all fair adieu.

Happy Holidays and a Good New Year in 2010 from the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County.

DC Metro Moms: What's Happening to MCPS?

DC Metro Moms: What's Happening to MCPS?

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"Weast's Plan is Wrong"

Today's blog post is by Guest author Mark Miller, and is reposted from his blog, Special Needs Truth 08.

Why Dr. Weast's Plan is Wrong for Our County and Wrong for Our Children

I have posted a memo from Superintendent Jerry Weast to the members of the Board of Education, trying to justify his proposal to displace preschoolers with special needs from a school that has been effectively serving children and families for 50 years. I intentionally reprinted his entire letter, to give him an opportunity to share his position, unfiltered, to people like you who care about this issue. Now that I've done that, I'd like to react to some of his claims.

WHAT HE SAYS:
The district will spend "no additional dollars." The recommendation is "budget-neutral for the next fiscal year." The plan "may be more cost-effective, but that was not a deciding factor in making this educational decision."

WHAT THIS MEANS:
We all know states and counties are facing budget challenges, and if Dr. Weast came out and said budget cuts are forcing him to eliminate good programs for children with special needs and reduce the quality and intensity of early-intervention programs for young children, that would be sad but a fact we'd need to address. But if this is NOT a cost-savings measure, why is he trying to force through a radical change to the way children are served as a small item in the budget? This is the wrong time and the wrong way to make such a major change that will affect so many children.

WHAT HE SAYS:
"MPAC has been − and remains − a valued partner with MCPS, and we believe that program has served our children well."

WHAT THIS MEANS:
In partnership with MPAC, the county is effectively meeting the needs of preschool children who require intensive early intervention. If he truly values MPAC and its leadership, why is he trying to force through this change without consulting with them? After providing these services for 50 years, and partnering with the county for 30 years, MPAC has the expertise, commitment, and resources to further improve services for our county's children. But the larger point is, if it's not broke (as Dr. Weast acknowledges), why fix it? Or, in this case, possibly break it?

WHAT HE SAYS:
"MPAC is concerned about the prospect that there could be fewer referrals to their program and they have engaged their stakeholders in an effort to aggressively advocate against the creation of a public option for our families." [emphasis added]

WHAT HE MEANS:
Dr. Weast is feeling the pressure from parents whose children will be affected by this plan, and he's trying to tell board members that this is just a lobbying campaign orchestrated by MPAC. He's wrong. MPAC officials are not professional advocates, lobbyists, lawyers, bloggers, or communicators. They teach and they dedicate their lives to supporting children who need extra help. From what I've heard, they are spending a lot of time these days answering questions from concerned parents --"What will this mean for my child?" "Does this mean MPAC won't be here for other children?" "Who's making this decision, and what can I do?" If Dr. Weast thinks it's inappropriate for MPAC to answer those questions from the people they serve, he couldn't be more wrong. And for the record, I am a board member of the Arc of Montgomery County, which I have mentioned before, but I care about this proposal as a parent of a child who attended MPAC for three years and received exceptional instruction that I couldn't have found anywhere else, public or private. No one has told me what to say, how to say it, or who to say it to. I'm looking forward to testifying at the board hearing on Jan. 13, and I'm sure I'll be joined by many parents who are just as passionate as me about preserving special needs programs that work.

WHAT HE SAYS:
Parents will be better off with schools closer to their homes, instead of going to MPAC in either Silver Spring or Gaithersburg.

WHAT THIS MEANS:
Dr. Weast is taking a "one-size-fits-all" approach with this point, saying that proximity equals better education. That's a stretch. Here's a question for parents (whether or not your child has special needs) -- would you rather send your child to the closest school or the best, most appropriate school for your child? Well, when your child has special needs, that choice is even more important. Making the wrong decision or the wrong placement when your child is 3 is pretty risky, considering his or her brain is still developing, and researchers know more clearly than ever how important those early years are in a child's development.

WHAT HE SAYS:
This is about choice, and letting children attend preschool close to their homes.

WHAT THIS MEANS:
Where is the choice in eliminating a proven program that parents passionately support? Are current MPAC parents demanding public options closer to their homes? If they're happy with the program, I doubt it. Maybe in introducing this program in February, parents could be given a choice. The conversation may go something like this: "We know your child needs special services because of his or her delays/disability. We'll give you a choice. The first option is a program that has been effective for 50 years, with specialized teachers, therapists, and facilities, all in one building. You can talk to parents whose children have attended, to see if you think it might be a good fit for your child. The second option is a new preschool program the county is starting this year, and your child will go to a nearby elementary school. We've never done this before for children this age, and no teachers have been hired yet, and no training has been identified, but your child will be closer to home, and we're hopeful it will be a good program."

Yes, let's provide choice. Dr. Weast and the Board of Education should be MPAC's biggest champions, and more families (or at least the same number of families) should be able to choose to send their children to MPAC for the most specialized, intensive early intervention. Look into ways to expand preschool services for children in Montgomery County, but don't do anything that would threaten the viability of MPAC to provide the same level of service it has for 50 years.

***********

Superintendent Weast Responds about Plan to Displace Preschoolers with Special Needs

When I wrote to Superintendent Jerry Weast to express my concerns about his plan to displace preschoolers with special needs, I told him I would be happy to share his views if he would answer my questions. While he did not respond to me, I did receive this letter that he wrote to the Board of Education on Dec. 18. Here it is, in its entirety without editing or commentary. (I will post my response soon).

Office of the Superintendent of Schools
MONTGOMERY COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Rockville, Maryland

December 18, 2009

Members of the Board of Education Jerry D. Weast, Superintendent of Schools

Expanding Public Prekindergarten Options for Special Education Students

In my Fiscal Year 2011 Recommended Operating Budget, I have proposed that we increase our district’s capacity to deliver pre-school special education services to our students while spending no additional dollars. The proposal calls for six locations to open in school buildings around the county that will serve a total of up to 36 students. We plan to begin the program, which will serve 3-and 4-year-olds who have demonstrated significant developmental delays, at one school in February so that families can see the program in action. The six locations will be in the schools where we currently have School/Community-based programs for students with significant disabilities and will undoubtedly be closer to home for many families who will need to access these services.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has not had a public program to serve these students previously. Many of these students attended the Montgomery County Achievement Center (MPAC), a nonpublic school under the auspices of the Arc of Montgomery County. MPAC has been−and remains−a valued partner with MCPS and we believe that program has served our children well. However, we also believe that our families should have a public opportunity for placement of their young children with significant developmental delays. This recommendation is budget-neutral for the next fiscal year because it assumes the same cost per student regardless of whether students are served in MCPS or through MPAC. Ultimately, we believe a public option for these students may be more cost-effective, but that was not a deciding factor in making this educational decision.

Understandably, MPAC is concerned about the prospect that there could be fewer referrals to their program and they have engaged their stakeholders in an effort to aggressively advocate against the creation of a public option for our families. I certainly appreciate their perspective and understand that they believe their program may not be viable without continued referrals from MCPS. Having said that, I believe it is in the best interest of our families to provide them with more choices to access our high-quality programs in schools that are closer to their homes.

MPAC operates programs at two sites − in Gaithersburg and Silver Spring−while our proposed six sites would be dispersed across the county at Glen Haven, Wayside, Sherwood, Cashell, Germantown, and Luxmanor elementary schools. Families taking advantage of the public option would have access to the wealth of special education services that we already provide in our elementary schools. These classes, which will have a maximum of six students each, will be part of the MCPS Preschool Education Program, a well-established, high-quality program. In addition, our program will offer the opportunity for students to interact with their non-disabled peers, which is not an option through MPAC.

As you know, a student’s placement into one of our programs or a program like MPAC is determined through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) process. We will continue to work closely with our families at every step of the process to determine the most appropriate placement for their children. Thus, it is premature for MPAC to conclude that they would receive no referrals from MCPS to their program. It is important to note that we continue to see increases in the numbers of preschool students with special needs. We will continue to work with MPAC and other community partners to provide high-quality services to our students with special needs.

We are excited about this new option for our families and invite you to visit one of our pre- school special education programs in action. Questions about these plans may be referred to Ms. Chrisandra Richardson, acting associate superintendent for special education and student services, at 301-279-3604. I will continue to keep you informed.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2011 MCPS Transportation Budget Petition - The Petition Site

According to the information on this petition, this effort has been started by a 6th grader.

2011 MCPS Transportation Budget Petition - The Petition Site
Jerry Weast, Superintendent of Schools, proposed to cut off all transportation for out of local buses, forcing any IB or magnet program students to find their own way to school. Many students, including myself, can NOT find this kind of transportation. Please spread the news about this problem.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

$33,441 on Staff Appreciation at Churchill HS

On April 15, 2009 the Churchill PTSA presented public comment on the MCPS Operating Budget to the Montgomery County Council.  The Churchill PTSA advocated for more funding for the MCPS Operating Budget because of the elimination of illegal curricular fees.  The Churchill PTSA presentation included the following:
"We spend approximately $30,000+ per year to provide an on-going rigorous lab program to students. This equates to approximately $13.00 per student per year for science lab supplies. MCPS provides approximately $10,000 and student’s fees provide the remaining $20,000+."
Let's check that statement out. The last annual financial statement for Churchill High School as of the date of the PTSA comment was June 30, 2008. The Parents' Coalition has obtained the Churchill 2008 financial statement and it is shown below.  

For the year ending June 30, 2008, Churchill High School's Science Department had spent $14,522.93, not the $30,000+ that the PTSA claimed.  The Science Department had an ending balance in that account of $22,376.

If it is true that the MCPS Operating Budget allocated $10,000 to the Churchill Science Department, and the Science Department spent $14,522.93, then the actual gap between MCPS funding and what was spent was $4,522.93. It is impossible to tell from the financial statement how those funds were spent as there is no break down of disbursements. (A gap of more like $2.26 per student between MCPS funding and expenses.)

The PTSA math is also skewed as it states that Churchill High School spends $13 per student on science lab materials. If that were true the total spent on 2,000 students would be $26,000 (not $30,000+). If MCPS contributes $10,000 then the difference would be $16,000 if those numbers were accurate.  That would work out to an $8 per student gap. Yet, the PTSA states that Churchill High School is collecting between $10 to $25 per student.

Either way, the annual financial statement shows that Churchill High School was collecting more in student fees than were allegedly used for science materials. 

What is clear from the Churchill High School Independent Activity Fund (student funds) financial statement is where they have been spending $30,000+.  According to the June 30, 2008 financial statement, Churchill High School has been spending that kind of money on Staff Appreciation. 

Churchill Audit Statements 063008

Monday, December 21, 2009

Maryland's Montgomery County Public School system faces more declining performance indicators

Maryland's Montgomery County Public School system faces more declining performance indicators

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2/3 of candidates for Milwaukee Sup job have MCPS connection

The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports on a current MCPS associate superintendent and a former MCPS deputy superintendent vying for the job of Milwaukee Public School superintendent.
The Milwaukee School Board has narrowed its list of candidates for Milwaukee Public Schools' next superintendent to three, the school district announced in a news release Thursday night.
The three finalists are:
• Robert Alfaro, area superintendent of the Clark County School District, Las Vegas, Nev.
Stacy Scott, associate superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, Md.

Gregory Thornton, superintendent, Chester Upland Public Schools, Chester, Pa.

And here is a Seattle Times article from 2007 when Gregory Thornton was also applying to be the Superintendent of the Seattle school system.   

The Philadelphia Inquirer revealed that Thornton was one of two district officials who signed off on a $926,000 no-bid contract with Plato Learning five months after the education-software company subsidized their trip to South Africa. According to the paper, the district acknowledged the ethics violation last year and promised disciplinary action against Thornton and the other official.


In an interview today, Philidelphia School District Chief Executive Paul Vallas said the district formally investigated the matter and found Thornton had already planned the Africa trip before taking the job with the Philidelphia district.
Read this article closely. It says that a trip to Africa that was partially paid for by an education vendor was planned before Mr. Thornton started at the Philadephia position.

In June of 2004, the month of the Africa trip that was partially paid for by an education vendor according to The Philadephia Inquirer, Mr. Thornton was still employed by MCPS (see bottom of page 23).

School on Tuesday Dec. 22?


Kids, do your homework.  Maybe its the Obama factor, and the school system doesn't want to look foolish after last winter's comments from the White House about school closings for a little bit of snow.  Or maybe because the kids in Rockville who would sing "No school tomorrow" and wear their PJs inside out to keep school closed have graduated. 

Despite the record snowfall in Montgomery County this weekend, looks like schools will open on Tuesday.  No official word from Carver yet, but here is what I see.   

Snowplows are out in MCPS school parking lots, in anticipation of kids returning to school on Tuesday after the BIG SNOW.   Snow plows were at Fallsmead ES at 10:30 am today (Dec. 21) and at Wootton HS a few minutes ago (12:30  p.m.)

I am impressed.  Remember all those years when MCPS just waited for the snow to melt?   Not this time. 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Schools are closed on Monday -- So what is the BOE doing?

Exclusive video of the Board of Education



Contributed by Blair Wilen, Magruder High School

Student database gives rise to student worries | Washington Examiner

Student database gives rise to student worries Washington Examiner

All posts on the new MyMCPS database & social networking system for teachers here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

oops....I did it again

During a 2 1/2-hour meeting between those in the school community
and members of the County Council on the council's education
subcommittee, Frieda Lacey, the deputy superintendent, apologized for
the manner in which the public had been excluded from making the call
on the sensitive budgetary matter.

"It was a huge mistake of the school system," she said of the fact
stakeholders have not been kept fully abreast of the proposal."


*****************
Remember that? It wasn't all that long ago that the Deputy Superintendent, Frieda Lacey, was apologizing to the County Council for failing to tell members of the disability community about changes planned to special education programs and services.

Now they've done it again. MCPS is planning a massive shift of special education preschoolers, ONCE AGAIN with no notice to, or consultation with, the disability community OR the affected stakeholders: parents of children receiving intensive special education preschool services at the Montgomery Primary Achievement Center.

Wonder what the Baldridge reviewers would have to say about this one? No notice to, or consultation with the community, no advance planning, and not even any notice whatsoever to the current service provider that this change was even a possibility. Just "head 'em up, and move 'em out." No documentation showing the real costs of moving the children vs. keeping them in an existing program, no conversations with the current service partner on how to coordinate a successful transition...and on and on.

With apologies to Britney Spears, some music is in order:


I think they did it again
They made me believe they care what we think
Oh, baby
It might seem like a rush
But it doesn't mean they'll deviate
'Cause to lose families' trust
That is just so typically MCPS
Oh, baby, baby

Friday, December 18, 2009

Weast Plans Displacement of Disabled Preschoolers

Hidden in Jerry Weast's budget documents is another blow to the special needs community.

The Montgomery Primary Achievement Center, which has provided quality early-intervention services for preschoolers with significant disabilities, including autism and mental retardation, is under attack by Jerry Weast. Last year, with no warning, the "Collaborative Autism Preschool Program" of MPAC was eliminated by Weast's budgetary slight of hand, and given the stamp of approval by Shirley Brandman and the Board of Education.

Now it is the main MPAC program slated for the chopping block. The MPAC program has served Montgomery County children well for over thirty years, and provided an important part of the continuum of special education programs and services for children whose needs exceed what can be met by a public school program.

CLICK HERE to see the You Tube video about what has been proposed.

Will the Board of Education allow this to happen?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Personal Use of MCPS Vehicles


Thursday, December 17th, 2009, was a busy shopping day at the Rio Center, in Gaithersburg. Parking lots were so full, some folks had to park behind the Dicks Sporting Goods store in order to finish up their holiday purchases. But even at 10:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning, MCPS employees had time to stop by the shopping center in between rounds of fixing bathrooms, HVAC systems, etc.

I wonder how long this MCPS employee had been waiting for his co-worker to return to the MCPS truck?

Weast orders 59 buses!

On December 9, 2009, Superintendent Jerry Weast released the MCPS proposed FY11 Operating Budget. Along with the release of the budget, Superintendent Weast released a list of Potential Budget Reductions. The list of Potential Budget Reductions showed what Superintendent Weast might cut if he doesn't receive the full Operating Budget funds that he has requested. 

Included in the "cut list" is this:



But have no fear! Superintendent Weast has just ordered 59 new buses to be delivered next summer!  So next year's order of new buses is already on its way.

MCPS students will have the new buses they need for the start of the FY11 school year!


So what are the "23 buses" at $250,000 that Superintendent Weast would cut from the FY11 budget? Would those be buses for the FY12 school year?

Note: School buses cost on average between $70,000 and $98,000 depending on the size and functions of the bus. What would Superintendent Weast's "cut" of $250,000 relate to for 23 buses?

The cost of 23 new buses would be more like $1.8 million.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spotlight on WHEATON High School

Highlights from the Report on Audit of Independent Activity Funds for the Period November 1, 2007 through March 31, 2009

"In accordance with the August 4, 2008, memorandum from the chief operating officer (COO), the expenditure of general funds to provide refreshments for staff meetings (IAF account 11) and appreciation (IAF account 20) is limited to $45 per staff full time equivalent per fiscal year. You have exceeded this allowable amount for fiscal year 2009 as of March 31, 2009. We also found instances in which expenditures for these items were incorrectly classified and recorded in various other accounts."

"In addition, our review revealed the following weaknesses in accountability for the trip to New Orleans:

***

MCPS form 280-41 indicated 10 students paid various amounts to go on the trip, but other information indicated that 19 students participated.

***

Although the completed MCPS form 210-4, Travel/Study Approval for Overnight and Extended Trips out of the Washington Metropolitan Area indicated "fundraising and grant funding" as a source of money for those students unable to pay, it did not appear that fund raising or grant revenues were recorded in the IAF, and trip expenses appear to have been paid directly by the non staff member or his corporation

****

We recognize that the New Orleans trip served a worthwhile educational purpose. The failure, however, to record all transactions associated with the trip in the IAF records weakens accounability and makes it impossible to determine if all fees paid by students were applied to the cost of the trip, or to determine the effectiveness of trip planning."

Whitman Black & White: MyMCPS should not be unrestricted for teachers

In an online Black & White opinion piece dated December 11, 2009, Walt Whitman High School (Bethesda) student Alana Neuman asserts that the new MyMCPS system allows broader access to student data than necessary.

From Ms. Neuman's article:
Any MCPS teacher can view a student’s data if that student attends or previously attended the school that they teach at; a teacher needn’t have taught that student themselves.

[...]

Even if the majority of teachers don’t monitor myMCPS, the mere fact that teachers have unrestricted access to this information demonstrates MCPS officials’ disregard for students’ privacy. Even if MCPS intends to facilitate students’ academic success with this program, SAT and ACT scores aren’t public information that should be distributed among MCPS employees. School administrators and teachers need to obtain consent from students before planning to make use of their standardized test scores.

Back in October 2009, BCC High School The Tattler reporter Tena Thau wrote about MyMCPS in her article titled myMCPS: Facebook for Teachers?.

From Ms. Thau's article:
Students, on the other hand, are not as enthused.  MyMCPS allows teachers and administrators unrestricted access to students’ report cards, transcripts, accommodations, disciplinary history, attendance records, and even SAT and ACT scores. As a result, many students feel that their teachers have formed judgments about them, before they have even stepped into class.

“I don’t like the idea of teachers being able to know everything about their students’ past with the click of a button,” junior Zoë Thorpe explains.  “I feel like students should be able to go into a new class with a clean slate.”

But thanks to myMCPS, no such tabula rasa will exist for students anymore.  Of course, not all students are objecting.  Unsurprisingly, one senior class valedictorian says that she does not mind teachers’ easy access to her flawless four-year record.
The student privacy issues brought forth by Ms. Neuman and Ms. Thau affect students throughout MCPS and would seem to be a topic that could be addressed by the Student Member of the Board (SMOB).

Student record privacy is governed at the federal level by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The "More" Child", And so it begins; Proposed Cuts to Hit GT Hard

And so it begins: Proposed Cuts to Hit GT Hard

December 12, 2009 by SwitchedOnMom


I don’t have to tell you how I feel about the proposed elimination of transportation for “special” programs. These cuts potentially spell the death knell for the middle school magnets, elementary Center Programs but especially for the countywide IB magnet at Richard Montgomery High School. This program, which over the years has achieved national and international recognition (99% pass rate on IB exams; highest in the U.S.), draws the most talented students from across the entire county. Take away the transportation and many, many top students simply will not be able to attend, eroding the program.
Of course Superintendent Jerry Weast is going to target GT programs for cuts, even when obvious cuts that wouldn't impact classrooms are staring him in the face.  He knows that GT parents are actively involved in their student's education and will protest to the County Council on his behalf. 

All Superintendent Weast really wants is more money to play with, he doesn't care how he gets it. GT parents are easy targets in this annual game. And to date, Superintendent Weast has always gotten an increase in the MCPS Operating Budget. Most parents do not realize that the MCPS Operating Budget has been increasing every year because they are constantly told of budget "cuts" at their local school. Where does the increase in the Operating Budget go every year?

We know where Operating Budget money went yesterday, it went to a catered breakfast and lunch, two consultants, and a book for each Board member (book $200 value - other costs unknown). Does that sound like a school system that is operating on a "bare bones" budget?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BOE members express satisfaction with retreat

For those who didn't get to see it (which is just about everyone), today's Board of Education Retreat appeared to go exactly according to plan.

Superintendent Weast and the Board members gathered in a conference room while two facilitators led the discussions.   (SMOB Tim Hwang was present until about 3:15 p.m. and left early to attend a student meeting.)  Deputy Superintendent Frieda Lacey and several BOE staff members also attended the retreat.

To prepare for the retreat, each Board member had been given a copy of The Essential School Board Book, published by the Harvard Education Press.  

Catering was provided by the Honey Baked Ham company.

Unlike most BOE meetings, the retreat was not televised, nor was a video recording made.  However, minutes were taken and should be available after they have been approved by the BOE.

In their closing comments, several BOE members indicated that they felt the event was a valuable exercise.

"You must remember that you are building an airplane while flying it," Superintendent Weast said to the Board members in his closing comments at the retreat.

Inside Ed: Fordham report on tracking provides surprise results


"The Fordham Foundation has once again provided a provocative report, this time on tracking in Massachusetts middle schools.

Tom Loveless, the researcher, looked at achievement in the middle schools and found that the schools that had more tracking had a higher percentage of high-level math students. But the tracks just aren't good the high achievers. The lower achievers also did better..." continues here with link to Fordham Foundation report.

Author, Author

This is a new one:

At the National Conference on Education, being held in 2010 in Arizona, Superintendent Jerry Weast is featured at a Book Signing for "Leading for Equity."

Saturday, February 13, 2010
Leading for Equity: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Montgomery County Public Schools
Jerry Weast
12:30 - 1:00 p.m.

But he's not one of the authors of the book.


Now that's chutzpah!

Silver Chips: Upstairs bathrooms reopened during lunches

Blair Principal confirms that locking bathrooms at Blair High School is not an unusual occurrence. Clearly, the practice is acceptable to Superintendent Jerry Weast.

Upstairs bathrooms reopened during lunches
Students punished for vandalizing restrooms

Lauren Kestner, Online News and Copy Editor and Mandy Xu, Staff Writer

The Blair administration and security team reopened bathrooms on the second and third floors during 5A and 5B lunches last week, according to Principal Darryl Williams. Security team leader Cedric Boatman instructed custodians to stop closing the bathrooms after building service workers completed maintenance projects to restore damaged property and the administration identified students responsible for vandalism in the restrooms.


Boatman insisted that he did not close the upstairs bathrooms to resolve security shortages as security guard Adrian Kelly said in a Dec. 1 Silver Chips Online article. "That has no bearing on the situation here," he said...
...Williams maintained that the temporary bathroom closures did not constitute a broad policy shift, citing past security decisions to close bathrooms when necessary. "We have closed restrooms a couple times since I've been here," he said...

State school board to review effects of long-term suspensions, expulsions -- baltimoresun.com

State school board to review effects of long-term suspensions, expulsions -- baltimoresun.com

The Maryland state school board is beginning a major review of statewide policies on long-term suspensions and expulsions after concerns over a case involving a student who was suspended for nearly an entire school year without being given any access to public education...



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Washington Post: Living with their choices

Teenage sisters sought freedom in pregnancy, but one found confinement
...Angela, 17, who dropped out of Montgomery Blair High School even before she became pregnant, has put off taking classes toward a GED until her baby is older. Edelmira, a 16-year-old sophomore, says she is determined to graduate. But she missed so many days of school last year that she didn't get full credit, and this year she has already been absent 15 days...

...Edelmira never found schoolwork as excruciating as her sister did. But her attendance has long been sporadic. "It's not that I don't want to go. I like school," she says. "It's just we wake up too early. Sometimes I wake up, take a shower and, once it's time to leave, I'm like 'Nah, I'm just going to sleep.' "


When Edelmira does go to school, it's like a brief excursion to an exotic planet. At Montgomery Blair, the banks of gleaming Dell computers give many classrooms the look of Mission Control. Students who are into drama get to perform in "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and "The Mikado." Students in the science-oriented magnet program learn how to measure the molecular mass and pressure of various gases before the end of freshman year.
Yet as Edelmira wades through the packed halls, she is only dimly aware of these undercurrents. She doesn't belong to any after-school clubs. In her science class, she is just beginning to learn that matter can exist as a gas.
At home, she doesn't have a computer. She almost never opens a book. When she says she's doing well in a class, she means she's not failing it. She doesn't worry about how she'll do on the PSATs or SATs. She has no idea what the tests are for...

...When Edelmira started Silver Spring International Middle School already several months pregnant, one of the counselors made a point of alerting the teachers and making sure they worked with her to help her make up any lessons she might miss due to doctor's appointments. Similarly, Eastern Middle School, to which Edelmira switched halfway through the year, arranged for a private tutor to teach her at home for a month after she gave birth.
Edelmira credits the extra help with motivating her to stay in school. But, in many ways, doing so has only heightened her initial misgivings over having her daughter at such a young age...

CITIZEN JOURNALISM: Eating well at school - Washington Times

CITIZEN JOURNALISM: Eating well at school - Washington Times
...Two years ago, when she left her post as PTA president, she told the administration she would like to start a wellness committee. Not only that, she said she wanted to dive in head-first and tackle the very profitable snack program at the elementary school, which had a list of almost 50 snack items that were full of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
When Ms. Regnante asked for parents to join the committee, she ended up with a gold mine of volunteers who brought diverse experiences, perspectives and expertise. Among them is Ms. Sorak, whose family follows a conscientious vegan lifestyle, and Ms. Small, whose former work on Capitol Hill lends practical legislative knowledge to the battle over nutrition in public schools.

Today, the school is leading a wellness snack pilot program countywide. The program has introduced all-natural or organic snacks that have no more than 9 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat and 10 grams of sugar.
"It's a start," Ms. Regnante says. "If we can do this, people in other places could feel like they can do it, too."

They are. Prince George's County's public schools are seeing major shifts in the way health and nutrition are being presented in schools, in part because of a four-year, $1 million grant that was extended by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. The alliance is a joint venture with the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association aimed at combating childhood obesity in the United States through the Healthy Schools Program...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Slip Slidin' Away

Don't miss the Jay Matthews Class Struggles blog post on Jerry Weast's efforts to get Jay Matthews to find out why Montgomery County Public Schools had slipped out of the America's 100 Best Schools list published by US News and World Report.

Wonder if Jerry Weast will share with the Board of Education the response he gets from US News and World Report?

Kauffman & Berthiaume Dissent in Favor of Students

Student member of the Board of Education Timothy Hwang votes along with Board members Brandman, O'Neill, Docca and Durso in deciding against students' contractual right to participate in scheduling decision at Eastern Middle School.

In a rare dissent, Board of Education members Phil Kauffman and Laura Berthiaume break from the Board majority and detail why they believe a decision of the Superintendent should be reversed. The decision stems from an appeal of a group of Eastern Middle School stakeholders requesting that the Superintendent reverse the decision to eliminate the 8 period day at Eastern.

There are two glaring problems with the majority opinion in this decision. First and foremost, the Board majority does not know whose decision they are reviewing. The Board is given the authority to review decisions of the Superintendent, but in this majority decision the Board states they are reviewing a decision of the Chief Operating Officer, Larry Bowers. Did the Board majority forget the school system is run by a Superintendent who is the final decisionmaker?

Second, the majority opinion spends an inordinate amount of text attempting to refute the dissent of Board member Laura Berthiaume. Was this text inserted after the Board had already written the majority decision from which Berthiaume dissents? A well reasonsed majority opinion should be able to stand on its own analysis. The majority opinion and both dissents are being reproduced for the public to review.

Here are two key paragraphs from Board member Berthiaume's dissent (page 24 of document below). 


The full text of the majority opinion, and Kauffman and Berthiaume dissents are below in Scribd format.
Eastern Middle School Appeal Decision

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Board to Hide Off Camera to Revise Academic Priorities & Discuss Budget

If you attend only one Board of Education meeting all year, Tuesday, December 15, 2009 is the one to attend.  The Board meeting has a surprise Agenda that has just been released! 

The Board meeting won't be televised and won't be available via webcast.  The meeting will have only sparse minutes that, based on past practice, won't be released to the public without the filing of a Maryland Public Information Act request, followed by an Opinion from the Maryland Open Meetings Act Compliance Board. 

The only way to know what's going to be discussed
 and decided on Tuesday is to be there!

And what a meeting it will be! Take a look at the Agenda for this Board "retreat". As has been past practice the MCPS Board of Education uses the word "retreat" to go off camera and discuss the public's business out of the purview of the public.  Tuesday will be no different.


For the first half of the day the Board will be schooled in how to do their job!  That's right, they were elected to run the school system, but somehow they keep forgeting that Jerry "blur the lines" Weast doesn't really want them to have any role at all. He would prefer they simply exist as figure heads, wave and smile at the crowd. So the morning's Agenda includes a clear understanding of their role in "staying above the line".

Then the Board and MCPS staff in attendance will have lunch. Lunch and breakfast at retreats is typically paid for by you, the taxpayer.

For the afternoon, the Agenda gets even better. The Board will be discussing the Board's Academic Priorities.  This folks is the meat of the school system. This discussion will guide what stays in the budget and what gets cut for the next year.

In the past, these discussions at Board retreats have paved the way for major changes in how MCPS is run and how the public participates in Board meetings.  See past "draft minutes" obtained exclusively by the Parents' Coalition for clues to past discussions.

The just released Agenda gives the off-site location and time for this very important Board "retreat".  As with all open Board meetings, this meeting is open to the public.  Stop by and watch your Board in action!

Board Retreat 121509

Why Fair and Square Is Best

The Baltimore Sun reported on December 11 that a 15-year old homeschooled student in Howard County was arrested and charged with "making arson threats, telephone misuse, harassment, second-degree assault, making a false statement about a destructive device and disturbing school operations." According to a Howard County Schools spokesperson, the young man was enrolled at Oakland Mills High School earlier this year. A female, as yet to be identified, was also involved in the phone calls that were placed to the Board of Education and the student's former high school using spoofing software.

Members from my homeschooling community in the Baltimore area, normally quick to post links to homeschoolers' success stories, have remained conspicuously silent on this current event, which is not the kind of attention homeschoolers care about. Put that in the same category as Jerry Weast's defeat on the issue of attempting to close Monocacy ES. Or Jerry Weast's anguish at not having one MCPS school make the list of the 100 best high schools in the nation. Or the embarrassment at all the "toilet" stories that have leaked in the press. I could go on, but you get my drift.

So why do I bring up the arrest of a homeschooled student? Because I believe that fair and square is best. For about a year now, I have been asking, and asking, and asking that MCPS provide the kind of supervision that is described in the pertinent COMAR regulations. Not regulations that they invent. Not regulations that Nancy Grasmick creatively derives from the intent she contemplates [see Patricia's comment] and which has the funny effect of contradicting their stated purpose. Just regulations as they are written, plain and simple -- the purpose of which is to ensure that homeschooled students actually receive an education when their parents assume the legal responsibility for teaching them. End of story.

Using the DEBUG system [page 4] that school officials have perfected over years and years of practice, MCPS and MSDE officials respond to my letters. They just ignore the questions and arguments I raise in them, choosing instead to pursue their intimidation campaign.

Homeschoolers who opt for supervision from MSDE-approved umbrella groups do so for a variety of reasons. One frequently mentioned is the desire to have nothing to do with their public school system and thus avoid portfolio reviews with school personnel. Were MCPS and MSDE to treat homeschoolers in a reasonable and respectful manner, in accordance with the law and the core values described here, they would actually know more about the homeschooling community. Homeschoolers would benefit as well because they would stop being perceived as strange figures lurking in an underground culture. Then, when a homeschooled student makes the headline not because he has won the Spelling Bee, but because he is charged with despicable acts, all parties would agree that this incident is a freak occurrence, in no way representative of the homeschooling community. Fair and square is best.

Cut to adolescent treatment facility

Gazette, Letter to Editor:  Can't afford to lose adolescent facility
Eliminating adolescent psychiatric beds at the [John L. Gildner Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents] is a cost to society well over the $800,000 in projected savings during fiscal year 2010. JLG-RICA combines a model Department of Health and Mental Hygiene facility and a first class Montgomery County school. In addition the RICA Association, a 501(c)3, provides the patients with funding to learn independent living skills, scholarships for graduates and reinforcements to help with behavior modification. The children served by JLG-RICA have already failed out of numerous, less-intense programs. JLG-RICA is the last hope for helping these kids become productive members of society. Gov. Martin O'Malley, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot — do not sacrifice our children.

Ann Miller, Damascus

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weast Takes Toilets from Tots

If you have been around Montgomery County Public Schools for decades you would have noticed that the standard MCPS kindergarten classroom has changed under Superintendent Jerry Weast. 

Prior to Weast's arrival in MCPS, the specifications for kindergarten classrooms included a bathroom and water fountain within the room.  Educational specifications from 1993 for a MCPS kindgergarten classroom are shown to the left.

Makes sense doesn't it? A classroom with a bathroom and water fountain keeps the kindergarteners under the watchful eye of the teacher at all times.  Not only was there to be a bathroom in the classroom, but the fixtures were to be child sized with everything accessible to a small child.  


But that was the way things were before Jerry "blur the lines" Weast arrived. 

Now kindergarteners are no longer given learning environments that meet their needs, in fact, it is now fine to place them in a school built for middle school students with adult sized bathrooms down the hall. 

Well, it's fine with Superintendent Weast, but for parents, kindergarteners are still small children just starting out in public school. They still need guidance, and supervision, along with lower water fountains, lower toilets, lower sinks, lower soap dispensers and lower paper towel holders.  And don't forget the bathroom doors "easily accessible from the outside". There was a reason for that educational specification!

Just Up the Pike: Kindergarteners to go to Middle School in back room deal

At a November 11, 2009, Board of Education meeting two Oakland Terrace parents presented public comment about the state of the overcrowding at their school. Superintendent Jerry Weast responded that he would work on an arrangement for them. 

Board of Education President Shirley Brandman introduced a resolution on November 19th with regard to Oakland Terrace Elementary School, but as Board member Laura Berthiaume began to discuss and ask questions about the details of what was being contemplated, she was cut off by Board President Brandman. 

The blog Just Up the Pike reports on what the Oakland Terrace ES community is now learning about what was obviously planned last month.

Friday, December 11, 2009

kindergartners at overcrowded elementary could be sent to middle school
Call it an early promotion: kindergarteners at the notoriously-overcrowded Oakland Terrace Elementary School in Wheaton will soon be bused to empty classrooms at Sligo Middle School due to a lack of space. Both on and off the blog, I've heard from concerned parents who say Montgomery County Public Schools' latest proposal could put their kids at risk...

Blair students and parents may sweat over graduation venue

At Blair High School in Silver Spring, parents and staff are still working to finalize the location for the Class of 2010 graduation ceremony.   In a recent Blair PTSA newsletter, Blair PTSA co-president Pete Lafen questions the equity of allocating the same amount of money to each school for graduation even though class sizes vary greatly amongst schools.

Mr. Lafen writes:
It was pointed out that while MCPS pays for very little on a per-school basis, graduation is funded that way on the assumption that DAR works for all schools. Blair parents disagree. But by allocating $5,000 to each school for graduation, Poolesville gets $27 per graduating senior, and we get a little over $8.
At this point, it appears that Blair might use Cole Field House at the University of Maryland College Park campus for their graduation.  Cole Field House has no air-conditioning and in the heat and humidity of early June will almost certainly not be as comfortable as DAR Constitution Hall, where most MCPS high schools hold their commencement ceremonies.  Blair will need to raise $15,000 to fill the gap between what MCPS allocates for graduation and the cost of renting Cole Field House.

Graduation ceremonies last year for several of the largest MCPS schools, including Blair, were held at Comcast Center, but with no school willing to share the rental cost this year, Comcast Center is not within budget for this year's graduation.

MCPS spokesman says US News & World Report ranking method unreliable after schools drop from top 100

Two years ago
November 30, 2007 MCPS Press Release:

Three Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) high schools have been awarded gold medal status—placing them among the top 50 high schools in the nation—in a new U.S. News & World Report ranking of America’s best high schools.

Thomas S. Wootton High School was named 34th in the nation, Walt Whitman High School was ranked 40th , and Winston Churchill High School was ranked 42nd. They were the only three schools in Maryland to receive gold medal rankings.

“We are very proud of the students and staff at these three outstanding high schools,” said Superintendent Jerry D. Weast. “They are providing a learning environment that encourages all students to be successful and are examples of the high standards that are held by all of our high schools."


One year ago
December 5, 2008 MCPS News Release:

Three Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) high schools have been awarded gold medal status—placing them among the top 100 high schools in the nation—in a new U.S. News & World Report ranking of America’s best high schools. Walt Whitman High School was ranked 44th in the nation, Thomas S. Wootton High School was ranked 54th, and Winston Churchill High School was ranked 57th. They were the only three schools in Maryland to receive gold medal rankings.

[...]

"We have high expectations for our students and our schools, and are so proud of the way their success comes repeatedly when measured against national standards,” said Superintendent Jerry D. Weast. “Great principals, great teachers and staff, and high standards combine to help us align our efforts with one primary outcome in mind—getting our kids ready for college."


Today
No MCPS press release, but the Examiner reports:

... Montgomery County schools vanished from the pack, according to rankings published Thursday by U.S. News & World Report.

Rockville's Wootton High School, Bethesda's Walt Whitman and Potomac's Winston Churchill fell out of the top 100 schools in the nation, after ranking as high as 34th in 2007-08. Fairfax's Langley High School in McLean ranked 47th, making it the only other Virginia school to place in the top tier. No Maryland schools made the top 100.

[...]

Montgomery officials expressed some surprise about the results, said spokesman Dana Tofig. He expressed wariness over U.S. News' method that relies upon state test scores, "which have proven to be pretty unreliable measures," he said.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rethinking Middle School Education

Rethinking Middle School Education

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Fairfax, doing more with less? Comparing MCPS to regional school systems.

The Washington Area Boards of Education has released their annual guide comparing the public school systems in the Washington, D.C. region. 

In this guide you can find out that:
  • In FY09 MCPS had 139,276 students and Fairfax County Public Schools had 169,538 students (Page 14).
  • In MCPS there are 23,421 students listed for Special Education Membership compared to 43,680 for Fairfax County Public Schools (Page 20).
  • In MCPS the Cost per Pupil for FY 09 was $15,252 and for Fairfax it was $13,340 (Page 30).
  • Montgomery County is the only county of the 9 shown where Cost per Pupil rose from FY09 to FY10 (Page 31).
  • For FY10 Fairfax has 19 positions on its Leadership team, MCPS has 21(Pages 33-34).
  • For FY 10 Fairfax has 160 positions for Management, MCPS has 289.7 (Pages 33-34).
  • For FY 10 Fairfax has 135.5 Educational Specialists, MCPS has 196 (Pages 33-34).

Just comparing MCPS to Fairfax it appears that with more students, a higher percentage of ESOL students, and a larger Special Education population, Fairfax County Public Schools has less administration, higher SATs and smaller class sizes.

Take a look at the report for yourself, there is a lot more data to compare. 
    Washington Area Boards of Education - FY 2010 WABE Guide

    US News: Virginia High School Is Best in the Nation

    U.S. News ranks America's Best High Schools for third consecutive year


    By Kenneth Terrell
    Posted December 9, 2009

    Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., the top school in U.S. News & World Report's America's Best High Schools rankings, is designed to challenge students. A course load of offerings that include DNA science, neurology, and quantum physics would seem to be more than enough to meet that goal. But students and the faculty felt those classes weren't enough, so they decided to tackle another big question: What are the social responsibilities of educated people? Over the course of the school year, students are exploring social responsibility through projects of their own design, ranging from getting school supplies for students with cerebral palsy in Shanghai to persuading their classmates to use handkerchiefs to reduce paper waste. The One Question project demonstrates the way "TJ," as it's referred to by students and teachers, encourages the wide-ranging interests of its students...

    MCPS staff lobbying in Carroll County?

    A blog post from Carroll County, Maryland details the lobbying of two MCPS employees to Carroll County students as those students seek voting rights for their Student Board of Education member. 

    Note that Ms. Crawford has been described by the Carroll County news as a MCPS employee who "supervises" the MCPS Student Member of the Board.  Is it appropriate for a MCPS Board of Education member to be supervised by a MCPS employee? 

    ...Fourth, Karen Crawford, Montgomery County Department of Education's Coordinator of Student Affairs, was present at the SGA meeting and gave a lecture to the student body. She talked enthusiastically to the students about what Montgomery County is doing with their SGA; they have the vote and they also have student representation on every committee in the Dept of Ed, according to Ms Crawford. She gave the students advice on how to proceed on pushing the voting issue: letter writing (they did), show up en mass to the Board of Ed (they did), lobby their parents (they are). She was lobbying them. Ms Crawford also attended this week's Board of Ed meeting and advocated for their vote, as did another advisor from Montgomery County. Why are adults from outside of this county, with less than conservative outlooks, coaching our students and then expecting them to be viewed as having "informed student opinion"? This is influence, plain and simple, and an adult agenda...


    Wednesday, December 9, 2009

    Dr. Weast's FY 2011 Budget Proposal Ends MCPS's Reign as a World Class School System

    December may bring thoughts of holidays and snow, but here in Montgomery County Maryland, it's time again for the annual budget attack on the "special programs" in the public schools.
    In the Superintendent's newly released FY 2011 Operating Budget Proposal, Dr. Weast once again sends his spear to the heart of the special programs. Dr. Weast's FY 2011 Operating Budget puts the Blair Blazers back on the cutting block, cuts the ignition for RM's Rockets, and clips the wings off the Poolesville Falcons.
    Yes, the school system's special programs are in jeopardy again.
    Included in Dr. Weast's recommended cuts are the following:
    • 20 percent cut in teacing positions for in the immersion, IB, signature and other special program teachers
    • Elimination of transportation outside "normal" attendance zones for all special programs, including magnet, immersion, IB, high school consortia
    • Elimination of additional staffing to middle school consortia special course offerings at Loiederman, Argyle, and Parkland 
    • Elimination of extracurricular activities including athletics through a reduction in staff stipends.
    What's left?  Not much, and certainly not a "world class" school system.  
    Read about the budget on the school system's website and plan to participate. 

    Budget Calendar
    Dec. 23, 2009Sign-up begins for BOE Operating Budget hearings
    Jan. 13, 2010 7 p.m.BOE Operating Budget hearing
    Jan. 20, 2010 7 p.m.BOE Operating Budget hearing
    Jan. 27 & 28 2010 6 p.m.BOE Operating Budget work sessions
    Feb. 9, 2010BOE Operating Budget action/adoption
    March 1, 2010Presentation to the Montgomery County Executive and County Council
    April 2010County Council budget hearings (exact dates to be determined)
    May 20, 2010County Council approves Operating Budget
    June 8, 2010Final BOE action on the FY 2011 Operating Budget

    Get ready for liftoff.