Saturday, February 27, 2010

Board & Council Lunch caught on video

Watch the MCPS Board of Education and Montgomery County Council's lunch meeting on September 15, 2009 as they discuss:

0:00 Introduction of agenda - MCPS enrollment trends
1:55 Highland Elementary School
3:47 Weast on construction costs, stimulus money, cheapest interest rate on bonds, 34th year as superintendent, cheap construction,
5:56 MCPS' Bruce Crispbell on MCPS enrollment
10:22 Knapp on declining County revenue projections, Weast on why this is the time to build
22:00 Berliner question on White Flint sector plan school issue
26:00 Ervin on census
29:16 Leventhal on MCPS position that Smart Growth impacts school system needs. Does Smart Growth put school construction at risk?
31:00 Floreen "my pay grade is not up to being on Board of Education" and "confusion about who does what"
38:00 Berthiaume if we are going to do "Smart Growth" let's do it in a smart way
39:00 Leventhal on big construction projects for county, do they put school projects at risk?
44:24 Leventhal "...I have nothing but sympathy for the poor oppressed people of North Bethesda. I know how difficult it is when your kid gets to attend WJ..."
46:22 Andrews "what are trends in special education enrollment"
51:00 Weast hours based staffing, better staffing, higher expectations
52:12 Ervin on meeting with Weast and State's Attorney on truancy, as high as 5% of MCPS population is truant on any given school day
54:00 Leventhal on Latino Youth meeting, task force recommendations in about a year

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - Montgomery County Council and MCPS Board of Education meet for lunch in Council conference room.
Meeting is not televised by either elected body.
Video was obtained by a member of the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland attending the meeting and filming.
Meetings of these two bodies are open under the Maryland Open Meetings Act unless an exception is invoked under the Act.

"We welcome anything that will assist our students to access the curriculum"...Baker Middle School, Damascus

Gazette:  Service dog brings security and friendship
Canine can sense seizures in Gaithersburg girl

Michelle Brown was apprehensive when her parents talked to her about getting a canine assistant to help her in school. But Sylvia, a golden retriever and Labrador retriever mix, has changed her life, the 13-year-old said...

..."She has changed my life because it makes it easier for me to go to school — and know that everybody likes me a lot more and they don't pay attention to my disability as much," said Michelle...

...Dana Tofig, spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools, said he is not aware of any other service dogs being used one-on-one in the school system...

...Sylvia [service dog] is known among teachers and students at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus, where Michelle is an eighth-grader...
..."We welcome anything that will assist our students to access the curriculum," said Principal Louise Worthington...

Weast on school for White Flint sector plan

The following video clip is from a September 2009 lunch between the Montgomery County Council and the MCPS Board of Education. In this clip, Councilmember Roger Berliner asks about the school capacity issue for the White Flint sector plan. Later in this clip the upcoming census is discussed.

The Council and Board has been meeting for lunch (taxpayer supplied) for some time. However, these meetings were not listed on the MCPS Board of Education agenda until 2009, and only rarely on the County Council agenda.

Neither body records these meetings. This clip was taken by a member of the public in attendance at this meeting. By law, meetings of these elected officials are under the Maryland Open Meetings Act. The entire video of this lunch meeting is available here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

"Dr." Superintendent or "Mr." Superintendent?

Here is an article about a candidate for a superintendent job in Newton, Massachusetts. Interesting to see what he says about the use of the title "Dr." for a school superintendent.

Educator David Fleishman: 'I'm a pragmatist' - Newton - Your Town -
David Fleishman has a postgraduate degree from Harvard and a doctorate of education from Teachers College at Columbia University. But don’t call him ‘Doctor.’
‘‘That’s one thing I don’t like,’’ he said while speaking to the School Committee during Thursday’s round of meetings, classroom visits, and public forums. ‘‘It distances me from you, and that’s what I try to avoid.’’

Struggling student booted from Churchill HS, but State Board steps in...

MCPS' Chief Operating Officer Larry Bowers granted a student from Poolesville a transfer to Churchill High School in Potomac.

But when the student's grades fell and attendance dropped, the principal Joan Benz, MCPS COO Larry Bowers, Superintendent Weast and the Board of Education revoked the student's transfer.

However, MCPS hadn't notified the family that the transfer was contingent on performance at Churchill High School. The family appealed to the State Board of Education.

The State Board of Education found that the decision of the MCPS Board of Education to revoke the transfer, without notification to the family that the transfer was contingent on performance, to be:
"arbitrary and unreasonable".
Sheri T. v. Montgomery County Board of Education

"...administrators make the same mistake..."

Smart Board vs. Promethean - Dueling Electronic Whiteboards at NECC
...On the customer side we are seeing administrators make the same mistake of assuming that the technology in and of itself has some magical quality that will change and improve what happens in the classroom. In many cases this is driven by a hard nosed career calculus - in the early '90's one of the most visible statements a new Superintendent could make was putting computers in schools. It was expensive, visible, and doable within the 3 year average job tenure they had. IWBs [Interactive White Boards] fit the same bill.

Sadly what we learned was that technology without extensive professional development changed absolutely nothing. This was the real lesson those who want to learn from history should take away from this battle...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

''The Wilen Index"--a new high school ranking, sort of

The Washington Post: The Answer Sheet: "The Wilen Index"--a new high school ranking, sort of

and then Jay Mathews responds...

Welcoming a new school rating

The story of grade changing at one MCPS high school

An appeal to the Maryland State Board of Education details how grades were changed at one MCPS high school.

Read the decision of the Administrative Law Judge beginning on page 6 of this document for insight into how grades are calculated, input, and changed at MCPS high schools.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Discipline for Churchill student hackers kept private

Gazette:  Principal confirms eight youths changed grades
by Andre L. Taylor
Staff Writer

...Benz declined to release disciplinary details because the students are juveniles and instead urged parents to consult the student handbook for disciplinary protocols. But that explanation wasn't enough for the irate parents...
...As parents bickered with Benz for more than an hour about how the eight students connected to the breach are hurting the school's name, Laura Siegel sat quietly, front and center at the meeting. Siegel, the volunteer coordinator for the Churchill Cluster, said if other students knew what the consequences were, they could be deterred from repeating the act.

"Hacking into a big school system deserves expulsion," said Siegel, who has a son in his senior year at the school. "That's pretty serious."

Montgomery's budget woes set stage for school funding fight | Washington Examiner

Montgomery's budget woes set stage for school funding fight Washington Examiner

Court Rules that National Conference of Bar Examiners Must Provide Individualized Testing Accommodations to Blind... -- SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --

Court Rules that National Conference of Bar Examiners Must Provide Individualized Testing Accommodations to Blind... -- SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --

Andrews: No chance of full schools funding

Gazette:  Request for 7 percent higher spending plan ‘not affordable,' councilman says

by Marcus Moore
Staff Writer
...Councilman Philip M. Andrews, however, said this week that the fiscal 2011 spending request has "zero" chance of being fully funded, given the recession, which has devastated the housing market and cut deeply into tax revenues.

The system's spending request is 7 percent higher than the current fiscal year schools budget, and "that's not affordable," said Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, a member of the County Council's Education Committee.
"It would require us to savage county government programs," he said. "That is unacceptable and unreasonable."...

Win President Obama for Graduation!

Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge

Teacher input into budget

From Howard County:

It’s Worse: HCPS Budget Picture Darkens as Staff Decries Proposed Pay Cuts

...“When I get my white board and computer, I would rather have been asked if I was willing to fund them,” he said. “Our salary cuts are funding budget items we have no input on.”...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Parents' Coalition Prize, Innovation in Education: The 11th Annual National History Day Competition

The Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland is proud to sponsor a prize for the 11th Annual National History Day competition to be held March 10th at Richard Montgomery High School.

National History Day is organized here by the wonderful Montgomery County Historical Society, especially the remarkable Emily Correll.

This year the theme is: Innovation in History: Impact and Change. Find more information here, or go to and for local information, here, or go to

The Parents' Coalition Prize will be awarded for an entry with the theme of Innovation in Education.

Most of the high schools and middle schools in the county participate in this event. Your child's teachers will be able to work with them and advise them for this competition.

Schools can request waiver for up to five days -

Schools can request waiver for up to five days -

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The Educated Reporter: Prepare to define: “college-ready”

This article references MCPS' Seven Keys:
The Educated Reporter: Prepare to define: “college-ready”
The phrase of the moment! You know you should hyphenate it—but you, and the policymakers you love, are probably less clear on how to define it. You could make up your own definition, as this school system did (complete with jazzy videos), or you could look beyond courses taken and test scores to a more complex definition...

Council & Board to meet off camera - March 2nd

The Montgomery County Council and the MCPS Board of Education will meet for their quarterly lunch on March 2, 2010. These meetings are not televised and there are no minutes produced. If you want to see what goes on, you have to attend!

Meetings of these two public bodies are open to the public under the Maryland Open Meetings Act.

From the Council's Agenda - this doesn't appear on the Board of Education's agenda:

Mar 2, 2010
12:00 pm
Lunch Meeting with Board of Education

Who's buying lunch? Why you (the taxpayers) are, so drop in and see what is being discussed.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Whom do you trust?

The Washington Post today (February 22, 2010) issued a third editorial in its series about the influence of MCEA on county politics.

The Post raises a legitimate question. Given the finances associated with the Apple Ballot, what confidence can the public have that officeholders in Montgomery are "carefully weighing competing interests"?

Click HERE to read today's editorial.

Weast: Graduation Not Included

You might think that in Montgomery County Public Schools high school graduation ceremonies would be included at the end of a successful public school education.

Sure, MCPS has the highest per pupil spending in the State of Maryland.
Sure, the MCPS budget if over $2.3 billion.

But Superintendent Jerry Weast doesn't believe that students should be rewarded for earning a high school diploma with a graduation ceremony.

So Superintendent Weast doesn't fully fund graduation ceremonies. 

Many MCPS high schools use DAR Constitution Hall for their graduation ceremony. The rental of that facility is $5,700 per graduation.

Superintendent Weast has stopped paying the full rental cost for DAR.
On April 17, 2009, Superintendent Weast told the Montgomery County Council's Education Committee* that he wasn't going to fully fund the rental of DAR Constitution Hall for 2010 graduations.  He said he would only fund $5,000 of the $5,700 cost of the rental cost for 2010 graduations.
See "Program Reduction and Efficiencies" on Page 14 of the packet given to the Council's Education Committee.

And in January, Montgomery Blair's student newspaper Silver Chips reported that Superintendent Weast may cut even the partial $5,000 rental payment and only pay $3,400 of the rental costs for June 2010 graduations.
...Lafen estimated that graduating at DAR will cost Blair $6,000 beyond the $5,000 Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) allocates to reduce the burden of graduation expenses. Based on these figures, he predicted that seniors will have to contribute about $10 in senior dues in addition to money collected for cap and gowns. Lafen warned, however, that MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast has proposed budget cuts that could further increase senior dues. "Just in the last couple of days, Mr. Williams [Blair's principal] was given notice that MCPS may cut graduation funding by $1,600," he said...

How will MCPS high schools pay for the rental of DAR Constitution Hall this year?

Seniors will be taxed.

It's called "senior dues" and it is a fee at many high schools that is required for MCPS seniors to graduate.

The "senior graduation fee" isn't discussed or voted on by the Board of Education, and isn't authorized by the State Board of Education, or the Maryland legislature.

Is it legal? Doubt it. But if you want your child to have a graduation ceremony you better pay up.

Don't count on any elected officials to stand up for your child's right to a free public education including a graduation ceremony. Local and state officials have ignored the illegal curricular fees still being charged by MCPS, and remember that the County Council already approved Superintendent Weast's underfunding of the DAR/Constitution Hall rental fee for 2010 graduations.

*County Council's Education Committee:  Valerie Ervin, Chair, Mike Knapp and Phil Andrews.

Jamie Oliver's TED Prize wish: Teach every child about food | Video on

TED Ideas worth spreading
Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world

Sunday, February 21, 2010

MCPS Cyber-Café saved from budget axe!

MCPS Board to save revolutionary Video Conferencing Center and Cyber-Café for Administrators from budget axe!
(But don't tell students, it's not for them.)

At the February 22, 2010, Board of Education meeting the Board will approve (it's already on the Consent Agenda) a lease of office space at
"$19.50 per square foot with escalations of 2.5% annually."
Odd, seems that lease information is missing a crucial detail, doesn't it?

How many square feet are being leased?  If you were a Board member wouldn't you want to know that basic piece of information before you approved the lease? Apparently, not.

But for readers of this blog, here is the answer: 14,000 square feet.

14,000 x $19.50 = $273,000 per year with 2.5% "escalations"

What is this space used for? 
It has 4 high tech labs, 2 ultramodern classrooms, a revolutionary video conferencing center and a Cyber-Café!
Wow. Think what students will get out of that facility!

But wait, it's not for students. Sorry, they are still in classroom trailers!

Just remember in this tight budget year that even though your students' classroom teacher may be cut, your students' bus transportation may be ended, or your school's media assistant may disappear, this "revolutionary" facility for administrators will be leased for another 5 years!

Here are the details on the space that is the subject of the Board action:

Click here for the webpage for the MCPS Center for Technology Innovation.

Weast moving 5 yr olds to Middle School

Superintendent Jerry Weast has decided to move kindergarteners from Oakland Terrace Elementary School to Sligo Middle School for the next two years.
His full decision is here.

(No mention in the decision of using the closer Stephen Knolls school facility as an overflow for Oakland Terrace ES.)

Fed Up: School Lunch Project

Blogger "Mrs. Q" is an Illinois school teacher who has pledged to eat "school lunch just like the kids every day in 2010".

Read her blog about her challenge for the year.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Closing the Achievement Gap: Part III

Closing the Achievement Gap: Part III

Jerry Weast on a VoiceAmerica radio show, February 19, 2010

Exposing the hidden costs of a free public education

San Diego News Network:  Exposing the hidden costs of a free public education
(Article cites curricular fee issue in Montgomery County Public Schools)
...The right of free access also prohibits mandated purchases of materials, supplies, equipment or uniforms associated with the activity, as well as the payment of security deposits for access, participation, materials or equipment. Finally, a process that allows for a waiver process for an otherwise mandatory fee, charge or deposit does not render it constitutionally permissible.”...
...Teachers’ syllabi regularly list required course supplies, including calculators for mathematics courses and cameras for photography classes. ASB and student stores have become clothing stores selling physical education uniforms which some schools require students to purchase.
In order to comply with the law, these practices will have to cease.
Other school districts nationwide – like this one in Gaithersburg, Maryland – are also confronting similar challenges...  

Global Garden Public Charter School - The Petition Site

Global Garden Public Charter School is the project of a group of parents, educators and community members who believe that public charter schools are an opportunity for Montgomery County to broaden its already exemplary provision for students.
Click link below to read rest of petition:

Global Garden Public Charter School - The Petition Site

Gazette:  Educators dream of starting county's first charter school

Time to Speak Up on Commercial/Residential (CR) Zone

We received the following in an email and pass it along for action by Monday February 22.  Meredith Wellington is a past member of the Montgomery County, MD Planning Board.

Dear Friends,

It is time to speak up again about the CR zone. The Full Council took it up yesterday, and is supposed to have its final vote next Tuesday, February 23rd in the afternoon. In a three and a half hour work session, it became clear that the CR zone is inferior to existing zones, and that it carries with it a serious set of problems, as explained in the attached memo. We ask that you send an email to Nancy Floreen, Council President ( should arrive no later than COB on Monday, February 22-- that includes some of the following ideas:

The CR zone should be rejected because it is untimely, untested, legally deficient, overly complex, and contrary to Montgomery County’s tradition of public participation. Further, it is a “one size fits all” zone when, in fact, one size does not fit all in communities as different as White Flint, Kensington, and Takoma/Langley. The imposition of the zone throughout the entire County will result in fewer significant public benefits throughout, and, in certain parts of the County, little, if any, benefits at all. Please reject this zone, and look to existing zones, like the TMX, that do not have the problems currently found in the CR zone.

Please feel free to forward this to other civic organizations.

Thanks very much,
Meredith Wellington

Meet some world-class teachers union shakedown artists

Meet some world-class teachers union shakedown artists

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fox Business News: School reform debate

Washington Teacher's Union President George Parker and Center for Education Reform President Jeanne Allen on school reform:

Flypaper: Who likes Jerry Weast the least?

August 2009

Who likes Jerry Weast the least?

I’m starting to think we should have a reader contest by that name. Last week I printed a letter from Joe Hawkins, a former Montgomery County official, explaining the underbelly of Weast’s tenure. Here’s another (thoughtful) critique, this time from Julie Greenberg, a former Montgomery County math teacher who now serves as Senior Policy Director at the National Council on Teacher Quality:
...continues here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

That was then: this is now

Montgomery County middle schools score poorly on tests | Washington Examiner

A blast from the not-so-distant past (August 09): in the few short years since the Montgomery County Board of Education voted to close the secondary Learning Centers (starting with Middle School), special needs students showed their worst performance on state tests yet. Many members of the current Board of Education share responsibility for this performance, as they were on the Board that voted to eliminate the Learning Centers. The Office of Shared Accountability issued a report detailing the numerous problems. The Deputy Superintendent apologized for the way MCPS went about hiding their plans from the disability community.

Now the Board of Education has voted to effectively eliminate the Montgomery Primary Achievement Center, a preschool program for children with disabilities. There was some hand-wringing at the Board table today about "building trust with the community" and "the need for better communication with the community" but they didn't let it get in the way of voting to eliminate another special education program.

But a couple of years from now, there won't be OSA reports or test scores to show that the parents and community members were right all along. These children are young, and don't take the state-mandated standardized tests. Is that perhaps why it was so easy for the BOE to eliminate the program? Because it has no relevance to the "Seven Keys to College Readiness?"

Do children with disabilities matter anymore to the current Board of Education? Or is special education just a vehicle to get federal stimulus money to spend on high-tech gadgets like Promethean Boards under the guise of "Universal Design for Learning?" (which in supreme irony, the BOE opposes being required to implement as an "unfunded mandate!)

Options, fallbacks, choices. Going going gone. The list of disappearing programs lengthens yearly. The number of children pushed into "above-grade-level" math, who are unprepared, correspondingly increases. The public relations budget gets larger and larger, the money spent fighting families of children with disabilities runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the Seven Keys are touted as the Educational Holy Grail.

But for those of us with kids that don't fit on the Seven Keys superhighway, we feel like the Board of Education tells us, over and over, that our kids don't matter. Our opinions don't matter. The Board of Education is "offended" by our advocacy.

Who in this county is willing to stand up for children with disabilities, or, alternatively, to sit down with families and listen to what they have to say, and then act on it?

Montgomery County spends $74K on navigating stimulus funding | Washington Examiner

No wonder the County elected officials don't blink an eye at the consultant fees paid by MCPS...

Montgomery County spends $74K on navigating stimulus funding Washington Examiner
...The county's inspector general, Tom Dagley, recently suggested in a report that the county needed to spend more stimulus money on oversight. The county plans on cutting funds to Dagley's office and its own Office of Internal Audit.

Families Say Schools Snoop in Their Homes With District-Issued Laptops & Webcams

Courthouse News Service: Big Brother Is Here: Families Say Schools Snoop in Their Homes With District-Issued Laptops & Webcams

Berthiaume & Brandman absent from budget vote

At the February 17, 2010, Board of Education meeting the major agenda item was a vote on the FY11 Operating Budget.

Absent from the Board table for this important vote were Board members Laura Berthiaume and Shirley Brandman.

Board members Berthiaume and Brandman missed a lengthy discussion about movement of pre-school students from the MPAC program to an as yet undeveloped MCPS program. The MCPS program was started prior to the Board of Education vote yesterday.

While news reports have said the MCPS FY11 Operating Budget passed unanimously, that statement only refers to those Board members present at the Board table for the vote.

This Board meeting was rescheduled from a previous date that was canceled because of snow.

Teacher doesn't always equal classroom

Here is an example from an online article about MCPS that details MCPS Operating budget funds that are paying teachers to be outside of the classrooms.

Consulting teachers and staff-development teachers do not have full-time classroom assignments. Note than when budget cuts are being discussed, cutting "teachers" does not necessarily mean impacting student classrooms. There are MCPS staff with the title of "teacher" that are not interacting with classroom students on a full-time basis.  

Education World ® Administrators Center: Making Teacher Evaluations Work

...Deploying a program such as the Professional Growth System calls for ample resources, which MCPS is providing. The total budget for the project is $10,209,559, which comes from the overall MCPS budget. The cost of the salaries of the consulting teachers alone is $906,965, and $6,171,610 is budgeted for staff-development teachers...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Graduation Fees - Class of 2010

Has your Montgomery County Public School High School senior asked for graduation fees yet?

Here is the Senior Class "Package" for Blair HS.

Two items of note.

1.  Students who have unpaid "obligations" at the end of the year will not receive their cap/gown.  But a cap/gown is mandatory for graduation, so students must pay the fees or risk not attending the ceremony.

2.  Despite selecting the lower cost DAR venue, Blair HS seniors still must pay $35 for a senior fee.  What comprises that fee?  Doesn't say in this communication.  Why does Blair HS need $21,000 (600 students x $35 per student) in fees?

Blair Graduation                                                            

Anyone see something funny about charging students $35 for graduation "fees" and not telling families what they get?

Note - Richard Montgomery also has senior fee of $70, but that defrays the cost of the senior class picnic at Smokey Glen and a senior shirt.    Blair just seems to charge the fee, without the shirt and barbeque chicken.

What is happening at the rest of the schools in MoCo?

In Education Vote, Politics Wins; Kids Lose.

From the Special Needs Truth '08 blog:
...Parents vocally expressed their opposition to this plan. Many pointed out that Superintendent Jerry Weast blatantly violated a Board of Education policy that new programs must be presented in time to be reviewed -- before showing up in a budget.
Today, the members of the Board of Education unanimously approved that budget.
Unanimously, they voted against a proven program that parents have relied on to give their children a chance to succeed.
Unanimously, they told parents of special-needs children that they do not value their opinions and experiences when making major changes to the services the county offers.

Unanimously, they told Dr. Weast that he can unilaterally create, change, or shut down any program he chooses -- and they will rubber stamp his decisions.
Unanimously, they threatened the future well-being of our county's youngest and most at-risk children.
The Parents' Coalition learned that even before today's vote at least one teacher had been hired to teach in the new MCPS pre-school program and at least one child had already been assigned to the new pre-school program, even before it had been approved by the Board of Education.

It doesn't appear that the Board of Education vote today had any meaning whatsoever as the new MCPS pre-school program was already being set up and assigned students. The MPAC program's fate was sealed before today.

The Board of Education is not in charge of Montgomery County Public Schools.

Montgomery County School Budget Request Approved

Montgomery County School Budget Request Approved

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Reflection based on "Leading for Equity"

Harvard Education Press has published a book titled "Leading for Equity" about MCPS by three authors, two from the Harvard Business School. What is not disclosed in the author summaries is that one of the authors, Stacey Childress, is also on the Board of Directors of a company that MCPS has invested in, Wireless Generation.

Below is one parent's review of the book "Leading for Equity".


The Answer Sheet: National Merit scores differ by state

The Washington Post - The Answer Sheet: Is this fair? National Merit qualifying scores differ by state
If you live in West Virginia, your child needs to score at least 203 on the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, which is used to screen for candidates for the National Merit Scholarship program. But if you live in Virginia, that score has to be at least 218, as it is in New York. The cutoff score for Washington D.C., Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey is 221...

YouTube: Fight Against Revocation of MCPS Buses

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Newton MA reports MCPS Assoc Sup salary at $250,000

Three finalists vie for Newton superintendent job - Newton, Massachusetts - Newton TAB

...Scott [MCPS Associate Superintendent, Office of Shared Accountability] has been in his current job since March 2008, earning about $250,000 a year...
and Susan Marks, currently MCPS Associate Superintendent for Human Resources salary is also revealed:
...She’s held her current job since July 2006 and now earns about $200,000 a year...
According to MCPS salary information obtained by the DC Examiner in 2006, Susan Marks was listed as making $146,354.

In 2006, Associate Superintendents were paid $146,354. However, according to the information obtained by this Newton, MA news service, current MCPS Associate Superintendent Stacy Scott is paid $250,000.  

A peek into the admissions process for a MCPS magnet

An appeal to the Maryland State Board of Education from a MCPS Board of Education denial of admission to the Montgomery Blair High School Math & Science magnet program gives an inside look at the admissions process for this program.

Appeal of denial of admission to Blair Math & Science Magnet Program

MCPS' Susan Marks and Stacy Scott vie for MA Superintendent position

Two out of the three finalists for the position of Superintendent of Newton, Massachusetts schools are MCPS administrators. Readers of this blog may recall that Stacy Scott was also a recent finalist for the position of Superintendent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

3 finalists named to lead Newton schools - Newton - Your Town -
Three finalists to become Newton's next superintendent of schools were named by the search committee today. They are David Fleishman, superintendent of schools in Chappaqua, N.Y.; and Susan Marks and Stacy Scott, both associate superintendents for the Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville, Md...
...Consultants Debbie Raizes and John Connolly from the firm Hazard, Young and Attea assisted with the search...
...Dr. Susan Marks—Dr. Marks is currently the Associate Superintendent for Human Resources in the Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, MD. Before that, she was a Community Superintendent for five years in Montgomery County where she led the instructional programs in 30 schools. She has also served the Montgomery County Public Schools as Chief Information Officer, and as Principal of two elementary schools. Dr. Marks received her Ed.D from the University of Maryland. Dr. Marks will be visiting the district on February 24, 2010.

Dr. Stacy Scott—Dr. Scott is currently the Associate Superintendent for the Office of Shared Accountability in the Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, MD. Prior to that, he was the founder and President of the Center for Understanding Equity, an organization that coaches school districts on data management, accountability and equity. Earlier in his career, Dr. Scott was a middle school Math and Spanish teacher. Dr. Scott holds an Ed.D from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Dr. Scott will be visiting the district on February 23, 2010.
Each of the candidates will spend an entire day in Newton. The School Committee will convene in open session at 8:30 am on February 26th to deliberate on a finalist for the position. All sessions will be televised on NewTV and open to the public...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Montgomery Co. Parents Concerned With Icy Walkways to Portables| ABC 7 News

Montgomery Co. Parents Concerned With Icy Road Conditions ABC 7 News

..."The staff parking lot is cleared so the staff can park," noted Amber Khan, a parent. "But frankly when we have 30 to 40 percent of our kids are walkers,
it's going to be pretty treacherous."

But even once they get to school, parent Jim Hoskinson showed the potential problems at the portable classrooms. "They're going to have to walk across this sheet of ice and have to walk underneath this water dripping down and these icicles falling down on top of them," he said...

Dr. Grasmick Gets Snow Creative

Congrats to Dr. Grasmick for finally thinking about a solution to the lack of educational opportunities caused by the closing of schools for over one week.

Student Service Learning Hours!  What a novel idea.  Now kids can get SSL hours for shoveling out their own front sidewalks.

I wonder though, whether Dr. Grasmick is aware of the preapproval requirement and paperwork involved in getting approved SSL hours from an entity that is not on the pre-approved list.  According to MCPS's own website:
Approval of MCPS Form 560-50; Request for SSL Pre approval is required in advance of service with organizations and opportunities that are not listed at as MCPS SSL approved.
Also - SSL hours can only be done for a non-profit organization.  Its doubtful that neighbors, whether retired or otherwise, are considered non-profit organizations. 
SSL requires planning and documentation. It must be performed with a nonprofit, tax exempt organization and supervised by their representative. SSL includes the phases of preparation, action and reflection. Students may earn a maximum of 8 SSL hours within a 24-hour period. Students may not be compensated for their services.
Supervision, action, and reflection are also components of the SSL hours.

So, nice try Dr. Grasmick, its a little late, and its really not feasible.  Unless the neighbors are pre-approved, MoCo students can't get hours for shoveling out the neighborhood.  Achievement may matter most, but it certainly won't get students student service learning hours.

Students in MoCo - its still a great idea to help out your neighbors shovel out.  But do it because its the right thing to do, even if you don't qualify for student service learning hours.

For Immediate Release Contact:William Reinhard, 410-767-0486
Important news for the public NEWS RELEASE


Students earn service-learning hours by helping with natural disaster recovery
BALTIMORE, MD (February 12, 2010)

With Maryland’s record-setting snow storms, schools across the state have been closed for more than a week. But instead of staying cooped up in the house, many Maryland students have grabbed a shovel to help their neighbors dig out. 
“This past week, Maryland has experienced a truly historic event, and students should really feel like they are a part of that,” said Nancy S. Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools. “Every community is built on the people in it — the young to the old, the healthy to the sick. It is critical for everyone in the community to come together to support each other.”

As a result, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) is encouraging local school systems to allow students to turn his or her “snow aid” into service-learning credits, which are a Maryland High School Diploma requirement.

“We need to encourage that sense of community and compassion in students whenever we can,” said Dr. Grasmick. “Students can make a significant contribution to their community simply by helping those who can’t — by shoveling walkways, steps, porches, and alleys.”

A student interested in possibly earning service-learning credits for helping neighbors should contact the school’s service-learning coordinator once classes resume to see if they are eligible, and to find out what procedure they should follow. To make the connection between shoveling snow and service learning, schools can provide instruction on community interdependence; natural disaster recovery; the roles of government during emergencies; and how being an involved citizen is necessary and vital to recovery.

Maryland is the first state, and only state, to have a service-learning graduation requirement. For more information about service-learning in Maryland, go to

No need for a waiver -- MCPS already has a plan

It seems that just about everyone is tossing around ideas about what MCPS might do to make up school days that have been missed as a result of the recent heavy snow.

Some people are suggesting that spring break might be shortened.

Others are suggesting that a waiver might be granted to allow some or all of the missed days to not have to be made up.

But as it turns out, MCPS already has a documented plan in case school has be closed for more than four days due to weather emergencies.

Missed School Days
The weather contingency plan adds instructional days to the end of the scheduled school year and from the planned spring break if schools are closed for more than four days due to excessive weather emergencies.

The MCPS calendar lays out the plan quite clearly.

School Contingency Calendar, 2009-2010
If the school year should be disrupted by emergencies and schools are closed, the school year will be extended.
If schools are closed... The school year will be extended by...
5 days one day to June 17, 2010
6 days two days to June 17 and 18, 2010
7 days three days to June 17, 18, and 21, 2010
8 days four days to June 17, 18, 21, and 22, 2010
9 days five days to June 17, 18, 21, 22 and 23, 2010
So there you have it. No need to speculate about waivers, changes to the spring break, extensions to the school day, or anything else. A plan is in place.

11:03 AM School to Open, but at 2:56 PM Two Hour Delay

At 11:03 AM today (Feb. 15th) Superintendent Weast was interviewed by WTOP's Kate Ryan and asked about school on Tuesday, February 16th. In that interview schools were ready to open.

Here is the 2:56 PM UPDATE:
Montgomery County Public Schools will open two hours late on Tuesday, February 16, due to emergency weather conditions. Bus service will be provided on a two-hour-delayed schedule. Morning prekindergarten, morning half-day Head Start, other morning half-day programs and field trips are canceled. Other activities and programs that begin at 10:30 a.m. or earlier are canceled. Administrative offices will be open on time. Day care programs in school buildings will remain open as scheduled.

WTOP interviews Jerry Weast "How Ready to Open are Montgomery Co. Schools?"

Click link to go to WTOP audio archives to hear WTOP's Kate Ryan's live interview with Superintendent Jerry Weast on Monday February 15th at 11:02 AM.

WTOP Radio Audio Archives

Play -  How Ready to Open Are Montgomery Co. Schools?

Jerry Weast, Montgomery Co. school superintendent

Posted Online: 02-15-10 11:02

Schools ask community to shovel out -

NEWS FLASH:  11:04 am February 15, 2010 - Dr. Jerry Weast announces on a live feed with WTOP that MCPS will open on Tuesday February 16.  Building inspectors and maintenance crews have inspected school facilities.

Schools ask community to shovel out -

Note that MCPS isn't included in the list of counties that are asking for community help to clear the schools.

Does that mean that MCPS is ready and able to open schools? Or have they already decided to stay closed on Tuesday Feb. 16?

Maybe MCPS is waiting for spring to open.

Senator Raskin to CPSC, "Rescind prior blanket approval of artificial turf as safe for children"

CPSC Letter Final

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How to Deal with Snow - Lessons from Baltimore Educational Elite

This blog previously reported that Nancy Grasmick, State Superintendent of Schools, plans to waive the 180 day requirement for the K-12 educational programs under her supervision. According to the Gazette, Dr. Grasmick says we need to be "sensitive to the weather." Really? Isn't that why snow days are built into school calendars?

What about concern for the education of the students? What about taxpayers who have paid to support their schools? Why is weather a big surprise?

Those of us who have been in MoCo know that our own Dr. Weast frequently cites Harvard as an example of educational excellence.

So - how does a university show that it is "sensitive to the weather?"

Here is an e-mail sent out to students at Johns Hopkins University. They too have been hit by record snows - and are still digging out much the same as we are in the DC suburbs.

Dear Homewood Students, Faculty and Staff:

Though we've now lost an entire week of classes to the historic back-to-back Blizzards of 2010, the university expects to resume its normal schedule on Monday. To ensure that our students have as complete and rich an academic experience as intended, we now are faced with the question of how to get the semester back on track and make up the lost time. We have consulted with faculty members in the Krieger and Whiting schools, with student leaders and with the various offices that would be affected by a change in the academic calendar. We have now come up with a plan.

We looked at canceling spring break. We looked at scheduling makeup classes in the evenings and on weekends. Both options would be, we feel, far too disruptive.

We have decided instead to extend the semester, compressing some activities so that we can add just a few days to the academic year and can continue with plans to hold Commencement on the long-scheduled date of May 27.

The original schedule for the Krieger and Whiting schools looked like this:

Monday, April 26-Friday, April 30: Last week of classes
Monday, May 3- Wednesday, May 5: Reading period
Thursday, May 6-Thursday, May 13: Examinations (Sunday, May 9, unscheduled =
for use as a "conflict resolution" day)
Thursday, May 27: Commencement

This revised schedule will recapture the lost week of classes:

Monday, May 3-Friday, May 7: Last week of classes
Saturday, May 8-Sunday, May 9: Reading period
Monday, May 10-Sunday, May 16: Examinations (no unscheduled day)
Thursday, May 27: Commencement

By compressing the reading and exam periods, we will delay the end of exams by only three days.

These changes will cause some inconvenience; they may require you to change travel or other arrangements that you thought just a week ago were locked in. But we believe our plan will cause the least possible disruption. Among a number of unappealing alternatives, this, we believe, is by far the most palatable for the most people.

Please note that the Registrar's Office will release a revised detailed examination schedule in the near future. Our thanks, in advance, go to all of you for making this amended academic calendar work in the best interest of our students.

It has been a trying week! Our deepest thanks to everyone who has worked so hard under extraordinary conditions to keep things going and to everyone working now to bring us back toward normal, a state that seemed unimaginable at the height of Wednesday's blizzard.

We particularly want to acknowledge the amazing work of the university's
grounds and custodial crews, everyone in Residential Life, Housing and Dining, and Campus Security, all of whom have made herculean efforts to keep our students safe, secure and comfortable. Thanks also to the Eisenhower Library staff; they went the extra mile to keep the library open when they could and provided services online when there was no choice but to close.

Let us suggest that when you see any of these hard-working Johns Hopkins employees over the next few days, you add your own personal word of thanks to them. They deserve it!


Adam F. Falk
James B. Knapp Dean
Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

Nicholas P. Jones
Benjamin T. Rome Dean
Whiting School of Engineering

Read the email carefully. It's not just sensitivity to weather. JHU administrators are interested in delivering a "complete and rich" educational experience, even if the alternatives may be an inconvenience to some.

Funny, we have our own yardstick of educational excellence right in our own backyard. It's just up Charles Street from Dr. Gramick's office.  Aren't our youngest children also entitled to a complete and rich academic experience?   Let's not forget that a significant portion of MCPS kids are on free and reduced meals - and don't get fed every day school isn't open.   Or is the MSDE motto that "Achievement Matters Most" only limited to a pretty image on their webpage?

Weast's absence left starving school children

While Superintendent Jerry Weast was in sunny Arizona, the school children that depend on him for food were starving.

One MCPS employee stepped up on her own to make a difference, but she could only help a small fraction of the children in need of food this week. 

Bravo to Marla Caplon for her initiative in helping students in need while the Superintendent was in Arizona.

Associated Press: String of snow days deprives many students of food

...Caplon is a food services supervisor for Montgomery County Public Schools, where about 43,000 children are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. Some also get breakfast, dinner and bags of staple foods to take home for the weekend. The snow days meant children would get none of that until Tuesday, because schools are closed Monday for Presidents Day.
"We've been bothered by this all week," Caplon said.
So Caplon arranged for Manna Food Center, a local food bank whose board she chairs, to bring boxes of food Friday to two still-closed elementary schools...

...Manna's effort brought out smiles and expressions of gratitude. But the approximately 200 families who came to pick up provisions represent just a fraction of the need in Montgomery County, let alone the entire snow-battered region...

New York Times: Wi-Fi Turns Rowdy Bus Into Rolling Study Hall

Published: February 11, 2010

VAIL, Ariz. — Students endure hundreds of hours on yellow buses each year getting to and from school in this desert exurb of Tucson, and stir-crazy teenagers break the monotony by teasing, texting, flirting, shouting, climbing (over seats) and sometimes punching (seats or seatmates).

But on this chilly morning, as bus No. 92 rolls down a mountain highway just before dawn, high school students are quiet, typing on laptops.
Morning routines have been like this since the fall, when school officials mounted a mobile Internet router to bus No. 92’s sheet-metal frame, enabling students to surf the Web. The students call it the Internet Bus, and what began as a high-tech experiment has had an old-fashioned — and unexpected — result. Wi-Fi access has transformed what was often a boisterous bus ride into a rolling study hall, and behavioral problems have virtually disappeared.

Article continues here.

Gazette: County budget trim slashes after-school funds

Police watching for juvenile crime spike

by Andre L. Taylor
Staff Writer
..."The Sports Academy kept some students out of trouble," Cunningham said. "Now some of us just hang out in the halls after school to avoid getting in trouble."
After-school hours are peak hours for youth to get in trouble, said Montgomery County Police Capt. Thomas Didone, commander of the 5th District station in Germantown.
"The perceived impact is when students don't have structured after school activities, they're more prone to get into mischievous things," Didone said. "We appreciated the program at Seneca Valley and we hope it can return. That would support a critical need for after school activities."
Seneca Valley's program was the only Sports Academy to be cut, Albornoz said. The programs at Montgomery Blair, Springbrook, Wheaton, Paint Branch and Einstein were not affected, he said.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Do It Yourself . . . Snow Removal

Will Montgomery County Public School really open on February 16 after the long weekend?

I can't say for sure, the parking lot at my neighborhood high school looks as if it has seen some plowing. In contrast, the elementary school a few short block away doesn't appear to be ready for schools to open. This is in line with the MCPS emergency message saying that high schools are open for community use this weekend.

In the absence of Superintendent Jerry Weast who is sunning in Arizona and no where in the vicinity of snow, MCPS' Dana Tofig, newly arrived from the sunny south, is quoted in the Washington Post:

If Mother Nature cooperates, and if after tomorrow we don’t get another drop of snow, I feel pretty good that we can open on Tuesday .. . . . But Mr. Bowers will keep evaluating that over the weekend.

The Washington Post has another answer.  Its time for the parents to take action and help schools dig out.

The Washington Post has launched a snow cleanup page and it can be really helpful for schools trying to organize big dig-outs this weekend. . . .

We’ll have to see about that cooperation, but until then, the clean-up goes on.
Here’s the link to the page that will help organize a snow cleanup:

Once there:

Post your request for help using a title in this format: “School: Washington Elementary School” or “Church: Episcopal Church of Washington”

Make sure to specify clearly what your needs are in the body of your report (example: “We’ve got snow covering all our walkways, we need snowblowers and shovels”) and include your location in your report and using the map function. Also, clearly state when you need people to arrive for help this weekend (example: “we’re looking for 10 people from the neighborhood to come help at 10 a.m. on Saturday”).

After your report is approved by our team, you can use the link to your report to spread the word. We’ll do the same on Twitter (using the #72scu hashtag) and on our Facebook Fan page.

Keep checking the comments in your report, and encourage others to post their attendance in the comments of your report.

The Post will take the reports and highlight them on Twitter, Facebook, and the Web site.

Thanks Ms. Strauss and the Post.   Its good to see some adults in charge with great suggestions and organizational strategies leading to solutions while Dr. Weast is talking about the Seven Keys and MCPS out West.  

Maybe the eighth key in Dr.Weast's presentation should be a snow shovel. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Arizona: "Opportunity Gap" Session Cancelled

February 11: UPDATE: the session on "Closing the Opportunity Gap" has been CANCELLED.

Title: Closing the Opportunity Gap: A Technology Tool for Student Achievement

Description: The Montgomery County Public Schools, the nation’s 16th largest district, utilizes its M-State© process to ensure a thorough analysis of relevant and critical data for lasting systemic change in which success is no longer predictable by race. a unique technology tool, HAPIT© (honors/ap identification tool), has increased participation in honors and advanced placement courses by identifying students who have the ability to participate in such rigorous courses. Hear about the unique strategies that MCPS has developed to support college-going success, particularly for african american and latino students, through the use of key benchmarks and assessments, including PSAT, SAT and ACT.
Presenters: Carol Blum, Director, High School Instruction and Achievement, Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, MD; Frank Stetson, Community Superintendent, Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, MD
Focus Zone: Student Achievement
Room: 127A

Proposed Maryland Open Government Act

I support the Maryland Open Government Act

Clicking on the above link takes you to a site to sign a petition to support the Maryland Open Government Act. This act would:

1. Allow the public free and total access to services provided on the General Assembly's website, including elimination of the $800 access fee charged for "up-to-the-minute" legislative tracking
2. Webcast General Assembly committee hearings and Board of Public Works meetings over the Internet
3. Post General Assembly committee hearing agendas at least one day in advance
4. Allow online sign-up for those wishing to testify before a General Assembly committee
5. Publish the votes of standing committees on the General Assembly's website
6. Post the Board of Public Works's proposed budget actions at least two weeks in advance
7. Allow for a public comment period in advance of Board of Public Works budget actions

Gazette: Grasmick wants to waive 180-day rule

‘We have to be sensitive to the weather,' state superintendent says
by Marcus Moore
Staff Writer

State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick is planning to request a waiver for some of the instructional days school systems would have to make up because of this past week's two snowstorms...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow removal at MCPS schools - Thursday PM

The 4 pictures in this post show school bus drop off lanes at 4 different MCPS schools as of Thursday afternoon, February 11, 2009.

Send pictures of your local schools snow removal progress via e-mail to contact @

Washington Post: In Montgomery County, scare tactics by teachers union are the norm

An editorial in today's Washington Post criticizes the tactics of the Montgomery County Education Association, a union that represents 11,000 MCPS teachers. (Union membership is optional, but even teachers who decline to join the union are required to pay dues.)

The editorial begins:
MONTGOMERY COUNTY schools are among the best in the nation, a point of pride for the community and a springboard for their students. The system's teachers -- well qualified, professional and highly committed -- are its driving engine. That's why the heavy-handed tactics and occasional political thuggery of the union that represents them do a disservice not only to the county and its much-admired school system but to the teachers themselves.

As we noted on this page last week, the union, known as the Montgomery County Education Association, which represents 11,000 teachers, has increasingly played the part of kingmaker in races for local state legislative seats. Starting in 2006, it embarked on a policy of soliciting "contributions" from the candidates it endorsed on its influential "Apple Ballot." These contributions, often up to the state limit of $6,000, are said to be voluntary, and are meant to defray the cost of the union's mailings and other campaign materials.

Some candidates told us the mailings were worth it. Others said they felt compelled to pay, for fear of incurring the union's wrath, and a few who ran, or thought about running, said the union sought to intimidate them in various ways. A number of officials, including some who paid the union and some who did not, told us they saw the "contributions" as shakedowns, pure and simple. "I felt it was creepy then, and I still feel that way now," said one person subjected to the union's aggressive bid for funds.
The entire editorial is available here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jack Dale stays home, while Weast abandons district

Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Dale was scheduled to present at the AASA Pre-Conference in Phoenix, Arizona today.

But he didn't show up.

Instead, a FCPS Assistant Superintendent gave the presentation.
...Dockery said Jack Dale, superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, who was not able to be at the session due to severe winter weather...
But, here in Montgomery County the weather wasn't so bad! Superintendent Jerry Weast decided he could leave his school district.

Apparently, it was more important to give a presentation on the creation of the Seven Keys in 1999 than stay in Montgomery County during the Blizzard of 2010.

Picture is of a MCPS elementary school parking lot as of Thursday afternoon, February 11, 2010.  More pictures here and here.

Selling the Seven Keys in Arizona

The Seven Keys to College Readiness initiative has "dramatically increased college attendance and graduation rates," according to a report published in the AASA Conference Daily Report by Rebecca Lish. (National Conference on Education, AASA, Phoenix, AZ, Wednesday, February 10, 2010)

Lish's report also states that "the initiative began in 1999."


Thought the "Seven Keys" rollout was last spring.

To read the whole report on this pre-conference session, click HERE.

Click HERE to view the Power Point presentation for the AASA National Conference on Education.

Can classroom trailer roofs hold this much snow?

Who's inspecting the roofs on the MCPS classroom trailers (portables) to insure that they are safe for students when school opens?

MCPS has 551 classroom trailers in use this year. Buildings have a "snow load" rating that determines how much snow the roof can safely hold.

 Montgomery County requires residences and commercial buildings to have a 30 PSF rating. (PSF = pounds per square foot)  The snow load for the classroom trailers in Montgomery County is unknown.  Research indicates that classroom trailer snow loads are typically designed to meet the local building codes.

Montgomery County now has over 2 feet of snow. MCPS is quite possibly approaching or already exceeding the snow load on the classroom trailer roofs.

1/29/2010 Durango Herald:
...Knowlton explained: One inch of snow weighs 1.3 pounds per square foot. So the 28 inches of snow on the roof of the senior center put 36.4 pounds on each square foot...

These photographs were taken on February 11, 2010 of MCPS classroom trailers at 3 different locations.

Here are some school roof issues that have already happened in the region:

2/10/2010 Delaware Online:  School roof one of several collapsing
Faced with unprecedented snow loads on flat roofs around the state and initial reports of some roof collapses already, the Delaware Emergency Management Agency recommends that building owners and residents of those buildings be aware of the weight loads that these back-to-back storms may be creating. Only qualified individuals should be sent to inspect roofs, and all appropriate safety measure must be followed.
2/9/2010  Manassas Public Schools Press Release:  Mayfield Intermediate Closed Due to Compromise in Roof from Heavy Snow