Friday, April 30, 2010

Gazette: Trachtenberg says school system must furlough workers or face cuts

MCPS is only county agency not going along

Entire article here.

Chevy Chase: Cash for Math?

Discussion on DC Urban Moms and Dads blog.

Join the discussion here.

Cell towers do fall over

Citizens and parents in the Cresthaven Elementary School neighborhood have expressed concerns about the pending installation of a cell phone tower within the "fall zone" of an elementary school. They are concerned that if the cell tower were to fall over it could hit the elementary school. 

Silly, right? Apparently not.

Last year in Wellesley, Massachusetts a cell phone tower caught fire and fell over within 25 minutes. Firefighters couldn't put the fire out because the power had not been cut to the tower. 

And here's a cell tower that caught fire on school grounds in Michigan.

So in addition to having students practice fire drills, the kids at Cresthaven will be practicing "cell tower falling" drills?

Weast's Denver Trip This Week

This week Superintendent Jerry Weast is in Denver, Colorado at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference. Here are some thoughts from one writer on the presentations at the Conference.

APR 27, 2010
Thoughts from the Council on Foundations Annual Conference

...What no one brought up is that the cost of a college education has risen dramatically in the last 20 years—and more importantly, the returns to a college education have fallen significantly. In some sense American teenagers are reacting quite rationally and rejecting a high cost, low return investment. So the question about why the returns to a college education are falling—and the quite possible answer that college educations no longer deliver the skills needed by students to succeed—never gets asked. I wonder how much help we’re giving the current generation of high school graduates by pushing very hard to get them expensive college degrees that may no longer be relevant today or in the future...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Seven Days of Opportunity to See The Cartel: Education + Politics = $

Our previous mention of The Cartel elicited comment from the filmmaker Bob Bowden (see comments for that blog post)

In case you didn't get a chance to catch it last time, starting tomorrow, April 30 (Friday) The Cartel has a 7 day run at E Street Cinema, 555 11th Street NW, Washington, DC 20004 (entrance on E Street between 10th and 11th Street). By map the cinema looks to be about 3 blocks from Metro Center.

Select from April 30 (Fri) to May 6 (Thurs) to find times (usually 4 shows/day) on the Advanced ticket sales page.

Here's a clip from The Cartel. After the short intro, listen to the answers on school system spending from the average man/woman on the street. Sound familiar?

The more you pay, the better you feel...

FBI looks at Promethean purchase in San Diego

Tucson, Arizona - Sarasota, Florida - Waterloo, Iowa - San Diego, California... Schools' Technology Choice Draws FBI Interest

Posted: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 3:51 pm | Updated: 4:15 pm, Wed Apr 28, 2010.

The way in which the San Diego Unified School District chose a specific brand of technological tools has drawn the interest of the FBI, according to a local businessman who sued the school district over it...
...Like the other school systems, San Diego chose to only allow the Promethean brand of whiteboards in its classrooms. That meant that companies vying to install the boards had to purchase and install Promethean, not any other brand on the market. Here and across the country, selecting a specific product has raised questions and stirred up debate about fair competition in awarding work in schools....
...Tucson schools also chose Promethean as their sole whiteboard brand and used a state contract to obtain the boards, something that San Diego did too. The Arizona attorney general found that the Tucson school district violated state laws when it bought boards without approval from the school board and skirted the need to competitively bid for some items...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

RM Boosters said NO to $9,000 artificial turf maintenance bill

The Richard Montgomery High School Booster Club rejected MCPS' attempt to bill them for artificial turf field maintenance. But Blair High School and Walter Johnson High School will be paying up!

On April 27, 2010, the Blair High School student newspaper Silver Chips broke the story that costs associated with the new artificial turf field at the school are being charged to the students (read parents/guardians). 

On March 10, 2009, outside MCPS consultant Joe Lavorgna (previously MCPS employee, retired and re-hired as consultant) represented to the MCPS Board of Education that the Richard Montgomery HS Booster Club would be paying for the maintenance of the new artificial turf field at that school. He made this representation in a discussion of the $9,000 a year that the WJ Booster Club will be paying to maintain the new artificial turf at that school.

But the Richard Montgomery High School Booster Club actually said no, see the RM Booster minutes at the bottom of this post. The RM Booster Club will not be footing the bill for maintenance of the artificial turf field. Watch the video of Mr. Lavorgna's presentation to the Board of Education and hear him say:
  • "The Booster Club at RM is paying the maintenance contract on the field at RM."
  • "We met with athletic director and principal and said Let's Be Clear..."
  • "We believe it is a reasonable expectation on the part of the school system to have the Booster Club participate in the use and payment of maintenance of the field."
  • "Is there a contract for them to sign in blood? No."

From the Richard Montgomery High School Athletic Boosters July 2009 meeting minutes:
• Turf Maintenance: As a follow-up from the June 2 Booster meeting, the turf maintenance issue was revisited. Former RM Booster President Mike Froelich gave the members background information on how the approval for the turf field came about. He reported that former Principal Moreno Carasco had approached the school board directly, and the RM Booster Club was never contacted regarding an expectation that we would be responsible for paying for any maintenance contract on the field. Currently, the RM athletic department provides regular maintenance on the field which does not void our warranty.
A motion was made by Ryan Fleming to deny the request from MCPS for the RM Athletic Booster Club to fund a maintenance contract on the turf field. The motion was seconded and passed unanimously by the members present. The Booster Club will not pursue the issue with the county and will only respond if approached directly.

Blair $30K Debt with Artificial Turf - Weast Slashed Funds

Here is a Blair High School Silver Chips article on the down side of using fake cost data. 

The up side was, of course, that the Montgomery County Council was happy to fund artificial turf football fields because they are "similar" in cost to natural grass football fields. Well, that's what Superintendent Jerry Weast presented to the County Council on February 19, 2008.  The reality of the costs associated with artificial turf fields is quite different as Blair High School is now finding out.  

Athletic Department faces financial trouble
Extensive debt due in part to turf field and low gate receipts
by Ava Wallace, Staff Writer
...Miller speculates that the department could possibly owe Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) roughly $30,000 in total to by the end of this school year...
..."The new turf field cost a minimum of $20,000..."
...But the athletic department also lost $11,500 out of its allocated funds from MCPS because of the field. According to Miller, schools with turf receive less money from the county because theoretically, the schools should no longer have to pay to maintain the field. "They justify giving us less money by saying that the field doesn't need much maintenance," he said...

More on this issue from the Parents' Coalition blog:  What the Richard Montgomery High School Booster Club said about paying the annual maintenance fee on the artificial turf field at their school here

Culture of Narcissism

Gazette Letter to Editor: Narcissism at heart of Churchill scheme

The cause of this group crime ["Prosecutors investigating Winston Churchill hacking scheme," March 3] seems, at bottom, to be a culture of narcissism, from the principal to the students...

Paul Pinsky's Dual Role in Teacher Evaluations

Yesterday, The Baltimore Sun reported on the Maryland State School Board's move to strengthen teacher evaluations and today The Washington Post reported on the same topic.
Both articles contain quotes from State Senator Paul Pinsky. The articles state that he is chairman of the education subcommittee and is co-chair of the committee that will review the proposal before the State Board of Education. However, both articles leave out Mr. Pinsky's full-time job. 

In his full-time job Paul Pinsky works for the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA - the teacher's union). In his position with MCEA he works on the program areas of the Teacher Evaluation System Project and Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) Panel, Elected Faculty Rep Network.
In Mr. Pinsky's full-time job for MCEA he works on behalf of the teachers union on the very issues that he is dealing with as a State Senator representing the citizens of his district and as co-chair of the joint State panel that will review the State Board's proposal on teacher evaluations. 

Here is what The Washington Post's Editors said about Mr. Pinsky on April 18, 2010:
...Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George's), a union organizer for the Montgomery County Education Association, played a leading role in the conference that worked out the final bill, so it should be no surprise that the requirement that measurable student gains account for 50 percent of judging a teacher's performance was dropped...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Happy Meals ban in Santa Clara County -

Happy Meals ban in Santa Clara County -

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Grasmick asks school board to strengthen teacher evaluation rule -

Grasmick asks school board to strengthen teacher evaluation rule -

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Doug Prouty, president of the Montgomery County teachers union, said the 50 percent rule is "a big problem" because it would require the county to redo its existing teacher evaluation system, which he said was developed over many years and does consider student performance.

MC ESOL Classes: DO NOT TOUCH Promethean Boards!


At the April 26, 2010, Board of Education meeting students and a teacher from Montgomery College presented public comment to the Board to plead for access to the technology in their classrooms. The teacher and students were from English for Speakers of Other Languages classes. The students are taught in Montgomery County Public School classrooms with Promethean Boards glued to the middle of the blackboards.

But the Montgomery College teachers are forbidden from touching the Promethean Boards, and the Montgomery College teachers are prohibited from attending Promethean Board training classes. 

The Montgomery College students and teacher advocated that allowing them access to the technology that was already in the classrooms would increase the effectiveness of their program without spending additional tax dollars.

Imagine that. Using the existing technology and increasing learning. Well, that can't happen!

The students and teachers have been told that they can only use classroom technology if they pay a fee to the Interagency Coordinator Board (ICB is run by county officials, Superintendent Jerry Weast, Board President Pat O'Neill, MCPS principals, Montgomery College President and citizens) for a supervisor to watch over their use of classroom technology. Funding for Promethean Board babysitters does not exist in their ESOL classroom budgets.

If the Promethean Boards are so "delicate" that they cannot be used by classroom teachers from Montgomery College maybe the Board of Education should have taken this into consideration when this purchase was made for public school classrooms that are also used by the community. Maybe the Board of Education should have taken a look at a competitor's product that provided more durability.

Oh, sorry. Forgot. The Board of Education never discussed or voted on the purchase of 3,300+ Promethean Boards. That decision was made by MCPS Chief Operating Officer Larry Bowers when he signed the 4 year "rent to own" payment documents.

Here's the WARNING!!! flyer put out by ICB:
Promethean Board Warning!!! Please note that Promethean Boards are not "also called Smart Boards." SMART Boards are the
product of a competitor that was not considered in this major MCPS procurement.

Congress looking at school lunch program

...The retired officers are saying that school lunches have helped make the nation's young people so fat that fewer of them can meet the military's physical fitness standards, and recruitment is in jeopardy.
A new report being released Tuesday says more than 9 million young adults, or 27 percent of all Americans ages 17 to 24, are too overweight to join the military. Now, the officers are advocating for passage of a wide-ranging nutrition bill that aims to make the nation's school lunches healthier...
...This isn't the first time the military has gotten involved in the debate over school lunches. During World War II, military leaders had the opposite problem, reporting that many recruits were rejected because of stunted growth and inadequate nutrition. After the war, military leaders pushed Congress to establish the national school lunch program so children would grow up healthier.
The program was established in 1946, "as a measure of national security," according to the original bill language.
Today, the group is urging Congress to eliminate junk food and high-calorie beverages from schools, put more money into the school lunch program and develop new strategies that help children develop healthier habits.
The school lunch bill, currently awaiting a Senate vote, would establish healthier options for all foods in schools, including vending machine items. The legislation would spend $4.5 billion more over 10 years for nutrition programs.

Monday, April 26, 2010

One less consequence for cutting class in Montgomery schools | Washington Examiner

One less consequence for cutting class in Montgomery schools | Washington Examiner

"It's another step back for rigor in Montgomery County," said Gary Frace, a 36-year social studies teacher at Silver Spring's Springbrook High School.
"There was a lot of cheering in my classroom, and kids saying 'Who's going to come to school?' " Frace said.

MontCo officials wary of Md.'s Race to the Top | Washington Examiner

MontCo officials wary of Md.'s Race to the Top | Washington Examiner

Sunday, April 25, 2010

State’s teachers praise national overhaul of standards -

State’s teachers praise national overhaul of standards -

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Electrifying quotes from the Baltimore Sun Article:
"New tests will replace the Maryland State Assessments and the High School Assessments as soon as 2013, according to state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick."

"Grasmick said the standards will be more rigorous. Algebra will have to be taught by eighth grade; while most suburban school systems already do so, a much smaller percentage of city students learn algebra then."

What does this mean for the "Seven Keys" and the "80 by 2010" oops, make that "80 by 2014?" Will the glossy brochures have to be re-written? The videos re-made?

Higher SAT scores, but fewer test takers, in MontCo | Washington Examiner

Higher SAT scores, but fewer test takers, in MontCo

By: Leah Fabel 
Examiner Staff Writer
April 25, 2010

The class of 2010 scored an average of 1,651 on the 2,400-point test, nearly 40 points above last year's average, according to a spreadsheet based on March data obtained by the Washington Examiner. Overall SAT participation fell to about 67 percent of seniors, down from nearly 74 percent in 2009.
The school system will release an official score report later this year. That report will not include the SAT scores of students who fail to graduate from MCPS, said Brian Edwards, spokesman for Superintendent Jerry Weast. Therefore, the official report likely will cite a higher average score and participation rate.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Maryland's Race to the Top reforms "resistance is futile"

The Dagger:  School Board Scratchpad: Worth Racing To The Top In Harford?
A last minute addition to the agenda was a vote on whether the Harford school board would sign a memorandum of understanding to support Maryland’s application for the latest in federal largess, formally known as the Race to the Top (RTTT)...
...As added insurance, Maryland Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick has apparently said she will implement the reforms, some of which were recently codified into law, even if the state doesn’t get a dime from the feds. Translation: resistance is futile...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Montgomery County Public Schools and SunEdison Commemorate Earth Day by Celebrating the Activation of 8 Solar PV Systems at Montgomery County Public Schools

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, Montgomery County Public Schools and SunEdison Commemorate Earth Day by Celebrating the Activation of 8 Solar PV Systems at Montgomery County Public Schools

The solar power systems located on the rooftops of eight Montgomery County Schools were made possible through a solar power purchase agreement that requires no upfront costs from the school district. SunEdison (News - Alert) constructed, owns, operates and maintains these systems hosted by the school district. In return, the school system will purchase the energy produced to offset their demand from the grid at or below retail rates for twenty years.

(They never miss an opportunity to hold a media event, do they?)
(Perhaps some readers can comment on whether this is a "good deal" for the school system.)

Bullying Mystery

Why where could they be?
The MD Model Bullying policy clearly provides clear, specific protections for children who are bullied; but MCPS has just released its draft regulations, and those victim protections are mysteriously missing...continues here.

Note: What is being discussed on the No Bully Pulpit blog is a MCPS regulation on bullying. Regulations are written by the Superintendent and are not reviewed or voted on by the Board of Education. 

MCPS regulations do not afford parents the ability to appeal a decision based on a regulation to the State Board of Education, as is available with a Board of Education Policy. There may be other remedies available for a violation of a regulation, but a regulation is not as strong as a Board policy.  

Friday, April 23, 2010

Follow Leggett's Lead

Guest Post: Open Letter to Montgomery County Council and Chief of Police

April 21, 2010

Dear County Council Members & Chief:

Once again, the "Chicken Little" hysteria arises in MoCo whenever any type of change (whether it is in-budget or out of budget) is proposed for our bloated, $2.2B school system. The latest hysteria is about possible cuts to the MCPD budget regarding EFOs. Ike Leggett proposes to
cut the program by half. I applaud Ike's proposal. Here's why:

1. MCPS's budget is an obscene $2.2B. Let Jerry Weast absorb any and all costs associated with the EFO program. The EFO program is a silly overlay to an already bloated bureaucracy. MCPS already has at least 2 levels of bureaucracy in place to deal with discipline/criminal problems.

2. Jerry Weast 's first level of bureaucracy is the swollen ranks of overpaid administrators. He has arrogantly been increasing their numbers since 2005 while leaving the number of teachers at the same level for the past 5 years (~12K; He currently has an army of 750 administrators whose pay scales range from $100K-$150K/yr.

3. A significant number of these 750 administrators are Vice Principals. Vice Principals are hired to handle all discipline/criminal problems. That is their primary duty. In all MCPS high schools, there is your Principal, your Assistant Principle, and then your 4 Vice Principles each assigned to 1 grade or graduating class for 4 years. (The 4 VPs are assigned to a class from freshman year on so that they can get to know the students in that particular class; it is MCPS strategy to have these administrators stay with 1 class so that they can identify potential problems.) That makes 6 administrators at a minimal cost of $660K/yr dealing with discipline/criminal problems at each MCPS high school.

(I won't mention the countless guidance counselors in the MCPS system who are also supposed to be getting to know their students and identifying troubled individuals as well. Many of those administrators are paid over $100K/year. At my own children's high school, there are 12 staff members in the guidance office alone.)

Multiply that $600k/yr by ~26 high schools in the MCPS system and you find that our friend Jerry Weast is already spending ~$15.6M/yr just on high school discipline/criminal problems. Remember that there are also Principals, Assistant Principals and Vice Principals who make no less than $100K/yr for every middle school and elementary school in MCPS. I am sure you can do the rest of the math.

4. Jerry Weast's second level of bureaucracy is his Dept. of School Safety and Security. He has an army of security guards (many former police officers and/or military) deployed at all middle and high schools anchored by Hellmuth's headquarters staff of 18 at Hungerford. My children's middle school has 2 security guards, which is typical of all MCPS middle schools, and their high school has 6 security guards--also typical.

While I don't have the actual salary ranges for your average MCPS security guard or Hellmuth's salary, I think you can estimate the total cost already to the MoCo taxpayer of Jerry's Weast's bureaucracy meant to deal with discipline/criminal problems. At my children's high school, there are 12 staff members between principals & security guards on site every day dealing with disciplinary situations. If you add the 12 staff members from the guidance office, then the grand total of MCPS personnel on site daily monitoring student safety becomes 22. Cutting the EFO program should have a negligible impact if the current MCPS staff in place are doing their jobs.

5. Finally, let us not forget the much touted
Memorandum of Understanding between MCPS, MC police department and the State's Attorney's Office. It is an agreement/protocol that defines every agency's role whenever there is violence or crime at any MCPS school.

Let us not waste precious police hours with the EFO program. Insist that Jerry Weast and the school system use the resources they already have in place (principals, APs, VPs, guidance counselors, and security guards) and for which we, the taxpayers of MoCo already pay for. Follow Ike Leggett's lead on this issue.

Thank you.

Bea Bragan
MoCo Taxpayer
Parent of MCPS Students
Registered Voter

MCPS PR Director moves to Houston

Another MCPS administrator leaving. Should MCPS find replacements for these positions or are classroom teachers more important in this fiscal climate?  Maybe these high priced administrative positions should be left vacant in favor of keeping teachers in classrooms? 

And MCPS needs a $10 million public relations department because...?


... In an effort to take district communications to the next level, board trustees today approved Aggie Alvez as HISD’s new Chief Communications Officer.
Ms. Alvez is currently the Director of Communications and Family Outreach at the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Rockville, Maryland...
... During her nearly sixteen years at MCPS, Ms. Alvez was responsible for the development of internal and external strategic communications, including crisis communications and coordination of media relations and parent and community outreach. She managed an office with eighty-nine employees, a ten million dollar budget and led the district to win more than ninety local, national and international awards during her tenure. She also elevated the use of video, social media and the web in key aspects of school system operations and conceptualized and managed multi-media campaigns to increase awareness of school system initiatives and generate community support...

Grier names new chief communications officer
...Alvez's salary was not available because the school board won't approve her contract until next week, said district spokesman Norm Uhl. Vela's $167,475 salary will be reduced in his new role, according to Grier.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Majority of Maryland school boards sign Race to the Top application -

Majority of Maryland school boards sign Race to the Top application -

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Md. falling behind in education reforms -

Md. falling behind in education reforms -

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MCPS & BoE funding PTA dinner?

Yes, it's a tight budget year! But, MCPS and the Board of Education love a good meal and here they are listed on the MCCPTA dinner invitation as two of the sponsors of the annual MCCPTA dinner.

MCPS and the Board of Education are listed as sponsors at the "Partner" level. Last year a "Partner" level donation (shown in image at left) was between $1,000 and $2,499. (Unknown what was required at this donation level this year.)

It looks as if MCCPTA is just one more organization that is being supported by MCPS and the Board of Education to give the appearance of grass roots support. Remember that Superintendent Weast has funded MCBRE to the tune of millions of dollars to make it appear that the business community was supportive of the school system.

Note that MCCPTA just sponsored a union rally to support the school system's budget.

If 50,000 PTA parents support the school system shouldn't their own advocacy and fundraising speak for itself? Should the school system be writing checks from taxpayer funds to support the county PTAs?

Presidents and Principals Dinner Invitation 2010

What we wanted in a Superintendent in 1999

MCPS Board of Education Minutes, February 24, 1999:


Mr. Sam Mikaelian reported the findings of the Leadership Profile Assessment conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd. for the Montgomery County Public Schools
(MCPS). Upon appointment of the firm as consultant to the Board in its search for a new
Superintendent, an assessment instrument was prepared to structure data collected by
interviews of Board-designated individuals and groups. Approximately 160 people were
interviewed by Charles Almo, Joan Levy and Sam Mikaelian. In addition to interviewing all
seven Board members, the consultants met with administrators, faculty members, parents,
students, support staff, former Board members, retired teachers, the County Executive and
the County Council President. Representatives from the business community and several
local organizations were also interviewed. A total of 40 residents attended the three
community forums on February 4 and twenty-one people attended the Saturday morning
forums. Over 750 completed questionnaires provided equally valuable information. MCPS
also distributed the questionnaires in Spanish, two of which were received and read by the
consultant. Local newspapers assisted in the effort to obtain a wide range of community
views by publishing the questionnaire which was either mailed or faxed to the office.

In developing the leadership profile, the consultants sought opinions, recommendations
and general comments with respect to preferred candidate traits and qualifications as well
as MCPS strengths, issues and concerns which could bear upon future leadership
requirements and influence the selection criteria for the next Superintendent of schools.

It was agreed at the outset that the consultants would report the findings to the Board,
enabling it to use the data as it proceeds to define the qualifications sought in the next
Superintendent. At the interviews, group meetings and forum sessions the consultants
noted that the Board was seeking the views from the community and staff but that the
Board alone would determine the leadership characteristics and selection criteria to be
utilized in the search.

The assessment instrument that was used to solicit responses provides the framework for
reporting comments expressed to the consultant. To highlight broad themes within each
topic, data are aggregated into seven response groups. Under the category "consistent"
are comments which were frequently heard from most of the groups. Comments raised by
only one or two of the groups are listed under the respective group designated on the
Leadership Profile Assessment Form: Board, administrator, community, faculty, parents,
students and support staff. Under each of these groups, the comments expressed with
some regularity are listed alphabetically. It should be emphasized that the data are not a
scientific sampling, nor should they necessarily be viewed as representing the majority
opinion of a group. Items were included if, in the consultants' judgment, they were repeated
with sufficient regularity to warrant the Board's attention.

The information obtained from approximately 750 completed questionnaires, in addition
to individual or group interviews with more than 160 people, provided a significant amount
of agreement with respect to the Montgomery County Public Schools' (MCPS) strengths
and concerns. Respondents are proud of the MCPS national reputation for its high
academic standards, innovative programs, magnet schools, and its many gifted and
talented students. From all constituencies, the most consistently cited strengths of the
MCPS were: actively involved and supportive parents and community; highly motivated
students; competent, dedicated teachers and administrators; and a strong, comprehensive
instructional program. Also cited were the ethnic, racial and socioeconomic diversity of the
student body, and the strong financial support from a County Executive and County
Council that value educational excellence.

Underlying discussions with Board members, staff and administrators were expressions
of optimism concerning the positive impact of the new relationship between the union and
administrators outlined in the teachers' agreement, with all groups "dedicated to the
continuous improvement of the quality of education." A clear understanding of the
parameters within which the Quality Management Councils operate appears essential to
the success of the compact.

The two most frequently mentioned concerns were: the ability of MCPS to maintain its
academic excellence while meeting the special needs of its changing student population;
and the perception of major inequities between up-county and down-county schools in
allocation of resources, quality of education, special programs and rigor of student
performance expectations.

The depth of many of the concerns expressed depended upon the attendance area in
which the respondent lived. Issues raised included overcrowded buildings and classes,
student safety, futile efforts to discipline disruptive students, the need to upgrade
deteriorating older schools and the lack of updated technology. Almost all respondents felt
the decline in academic standards had to be reversed and that some teachers and
administrators were not being held accountable for their performance. Improving the
achievement of minority students and encouraging their parents to participate in the
education process were viewed by many as critical to achieving success for every student.

However, many felt it was also important to motivate students with high academic potential
to even stronger performance and that mainstreaming them with regular students was not
accomplishing that objective.

Many comments were made in regard to the unresponsiveness of the "bureaucracy tied
to the status quo." In a system with as many students, schools and square miles as MCPS,
such feelings toward a central office might be inevitable, but perhaps more effort could be
expended to personalize services and communicate more effectively with the constituent

Areas of special expertise desired in a new Superintendent were focused on the need for
someone with exceptional communication skills, experience in a large multicultural district,
success in improving the academic achievement of minority students while providing
academic challenges for high performing students and a strong commitment to continuous
improvement and shared decision making. Knowledge of sound fiscal management,
educational and administrative uses of technology, special education/inclusion issues,
human resource management and the dynamics of teaching and learning were also viewed
as important areas of expertise. Excellent public relations skills and political savvy were
deemed essential as the individual would be expected to work effectively with business
leaders and government officials at the county, state and national level.

The attributes repeatedly cited in regard to leadership style emphasized the desire for a
collaborative, accessible team builder with the self confidence to delegate and hold
subordinates accountable and with the courage to recommend change, take risks and
defend proposals offered in the best interests of all students. The individual must be a
thoughtful listener who seeks views from constituent groups, develops consensus when
practicable and makes a decision. As the ambassador for the MCPS, the new
Superintendent must be sensitive to the needs of minority residents and feel comfortable
interacting in a multicultural environment, whether under political pressure or responding
to demands by special interest groups. Throughout the interviews and written responses,
one message came through quite clearly; the citizens of MCPS care passionately about
the quality of their schools, academic standards and student performance and they are
willing to pay the taxes to return their schools to the forefront of educational innovation and
student achievement.

In closing, Sam Mikaelian thanked the members of the staff for their cordiality during the
visits to MCPS and to all of the respondents whose concern for their schools and
commitment to educational excellence were evident as they provided us with the
perspective we were seeking.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Father wins long FOIA fight with school board |

Father wins long FOIA fight with school board |

He’s been battling for more than two years. Now Woodbridge resident Mark Hjelm will soon get to see high school visitor lists kept from him by the Prince William County School Board.
During a Wednesday writ of mandamus hearing, Prince William County District Court Judge Wenda Travers ruled the school board must release visitor information from Gar-Field High School, Woodbridge High School and Freedom High School from Dec. 3, 2007 to Dec. 7, 2007.
A writ of mandamus is a court ruling ordering court and government officers to correctly perform mandatory duties correctly...

Student Data in Teacher Evaluations: The Weast-Prouty Agreement

The agreement signed this week between Superintendent Jerry Weast and MCEA President Douglas Prouty says that "parent surveys" and "evidence of communication with parents" will factor into a teachers' evaluation.

Have any MCPS parents ever filled out a survey on a specific MCPS teacher?

Please note that this document does not have the weight of the MCEA Contract. The teachers' union (MCEA) contract is between the union and the Board of Education. This document is simply between Superintendent Weast and MCEA, and has not been discussed or voted on by the Board of Education.

MCPS & MCEA Using Student Data in Teacher Evaluations

Kennedy HS New Cell Tower Installations

The February 3, 2010 meeting minutes for the Transmission Facilities Coordinating Group shows the following entry:
Clearwire application to attach antennas on a 130' high monopole on JFK High School property, 1901 Randolph Road, Silver Spring (Application #200908-09). Condition: Submission of a structural analysis report to DPS and a copy to the Tower Coordinator that shows the antennas can be safely attached, and on Clearwire having a legal interest in the Public Schools property for attachment of these antennas
JFK High School would be John F. Kennedy High School. (Nice way to be transparent in the location!) According to these minutes this is for additional cell tower antennas to the Kennedy High School cell tower. Questions:

  • Are these additional antennas being discussed in the Kennedy High School community like they were in the Whitman High School community? 
  • Will the placement of these antennas get the media coverage like the Whitman cell tower issue?
  • How much income will these additional antennas generate for the local school principal's fund and the MCPS real estate office?
Here's the BIG question. The meeting minutes note that Clearwire is being asked to show that they have a legal interest in the public schools property. Does Clearwire have a legal interest in this public school property? Good question!

How can Clearwire have a legal interest in the Public Schools property when the Board of Education has never signed over any property rights for the installation of cell towers? As we know from Board minutes the Board of Education has never voted on the placement of a cell tower on public school property in Montgomery County.  From Maryland Public Information Act requests we know that Superintendent Jerry Weast has been signing cell tower leases.

We look forward to obtaining and making available to the public the result of this inquiry by the Transmission Facilities Coordinating Group. We'd like to know too!  

And by the way, Seven Locks Elementary - you are getting a new cell tower right across the street from the school

Fairfax uses MCPS for comparative purposes

How does FCPS compare to another similar school system?
Data for Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is provided for comparative purposes. The FY 1999 approved budget for MCPS was $1,032.6 million while the FY 2011 recommended budget for MCPS is $2,226.1 million; an average annual increase of 6.6 percent as compared to FCPS’ average annual increase of 5.5 percent. Data for MCPS was gathered from documents on the following website:
It should also be noted that FCPS educates approximately 20 percent more students than MCPS while FCPS’ budget is less than 2 percent greater than MCPS’.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"80 by 2010," Weast Proclaims

At the AASA Conference in 2008, Jerry Weast made a bold pronouncement:

80 by 2010.

Those are the digits used by Jerry Weast, superintendent of the Montgomery County, Md., Public Schools, to summarize his district’s goal for expanding student achievement.

Driven by the desire to help 80 percent of the suburban school district’s students to be college ready by 2010, Weast suggested his district’s goal could be captured succinctly in what he calls his “elevator speech.”

Weast was referring to his district’s efforts to improve student achievement through an innovative professional development program designed to build the capacity of school leadership teams, including principals, teachers, support staff and parents.
(The Conference Daily, Friday February 15, 2008, by Noelle Ellerson. To read the rest of the article, click HERE.)

But hold the phone! Didn't we just see Weast telling the New American Foundation that when he came to Montgomery County in 1999, he brought the unions in, and asked them "under what conditions can we get 80% of our kids college-ready by 2014?" (New America Foundation video, HERE, at minute 37:40). "We set a date. We set an amount. We set a timeframe," Weast told the audience on March 30, 2010.

I'm so confused! Did Jerry Weast decide, as he told AASA in 2008, that 80 percent of MCPS students needed to be college ready by 2010, and implemented the Professional Learning Communities Institute to "improve teaching and learning and closing the gap?"

Or did Jerry Weast decide when he came to Montgomery County, in 1999, that "all groups" wanted their child to be college ready, the North Star was set, and VOILA: the Seven Keys. "80 by 2014"

Remember Winston Smith in 1984? His job was essentially to go back and re-write history the way the Ministry of Truth declared it to be. "80 by 2014" is a laudable goal, therefore it has always been the goal.

Except when it wasn't.

Admin growth outpaces teachers in MontCo | Washington Examiner

Admin growth outpaces teachers in MontCo | Washington Examiner
...Even as the $2.2 billion school system has made significant cuts since fiscal 2009, including about $18 million from the central office, the number of administrators has grown significantly in the second half of the decade. Administrators are the highest-paid employees in the district.
Since 2005, the number of teachers in Montgomery schools has stayed roughly the same at just under 12,000, according to a staff statistical profile compiled by the district's Employee and Retiree Service Center. At the same time, the number of administrators has grown to 720 in 2010 from about 650 in 2005. The average teacher makes about $76,000, while administrators generally make between $100,000 and $150,000...

Hear Superintendent Weast in person

Here's your chance to attend one of Superintendent Weast's road shows right here in D.C. You can attend in person or sign up for the Webinar! Thanks to the PYD Report blog for this announcement and link to registration and webinar.

Today the U.S. Department of Education announced the panels of experts who be presenting at the Listening and Learning About Early Learning meetings.
Each of the four meetings will focus on one topic.  Below are dates, places, and names of panel members for the meetings, which will run from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm.
Understanding Preschool – Grade 3 Structures: Friday, April 23, 2010, at the LBJ Auditorium at the Department’s headquarter building in the Lyndon Baines Johnson Building, 400 Maryland Ave. S.W., Washington, D.C.
Debbie Leong, Professor of Psychology at Metropolitan State College of Denver
Jerry Weast, Superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools
Gail Connelly, Executive Director of National Association of Elementary School Principals
Ruby Takanishi,  President of the Foundation for Child Development

Weast credits Vance for success of MCPS graduates

The Next Social Contract for the Primary Years of Education

Transforming America's Education System to Embrace Early Learning

Superintendent Jerry Weast's presentation starts at minute 34. Hear what Superintendent Weast tells audiences when he is on the road.

  • Weast sent staff to Singpore and Italy to learn how to set up MCPS? That's what he says...Who went and what did they bring back? 
  • Weast explains why he likes trailers because he tells the audience, "Don't worry about the place."
  • Hear Weast talk about how "rich folks send their kids to summer camp". So Weast raffled bicyles to get kids to come to summer school. 
  • Hear what he learned from the "Italians". 
  • Someone went to New Zealand?
  • He was worried about "overwhelming ourselves with our own brilliance."
  • Math curriculum "horribly weak".
  • "Been there 11 years, I didn't get moved out."
  • "Don't chase butterflies and bunnies". 
  • At minute 49, Weast starts talking about the success of students who graduated from 2001-2004. Those students received the majority of their education in MCPS under Superintendent Paul Vance. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

Balt. Sun: Weast says Race to the Top $ not worth it

On March 9, 2010, Superintendent Jerry Weast announced at a MCPS Board of Education meeting that he was recommending that MCPS submit their OWN Race to the Top application. Weast was making it known that he was not supporting the State's application, even without seeing the State's submission.

Now, Superintendent Weast attempts to re-write history by writing in the Baltimore Sun that MCPS shouldn't have been chided for not "blindly" signing on to the State's application.

But Weast had already made it known over a month ago that he was not supporting the State's application. His intent to break from the State was clear long before the State's application was made public.

Here's Superintendent Weast's attempt to spin his position for The Baltimore Sun readers:

The Baltimore Sun: Montgomery rightfully wary of ‘Race to the Top’

County supports state’s goals but must safeguard the gains it has made
By Jerry D. Weast
April 19, 2010
...When the application was released, the Montgomery school system was immediately chided in a Baltimore Sun editorial for not being willing to blindly sign on to the state's plan before having a chance to review it....
...We are also not interested in simply racing after money: The state estimates MCPS would receive about $12 million if Maryland is awarded a Race to the Top grant. That's .5 percent of our budget, hardly worth unraveling years of successful reforms...