Monday, May 31, 2010

"A bunch of people just kept passing out"

Frost students melt during Montgomery bomb scare | Washington Examiner

"It was really, really, really hot," said Patrick Bernardo, a sixth grader at Frost.
"A bunch of people just kept passing out," he said. "There was a cart with people on it that they were taking somewhere."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Frost Middle School - What Was Dr. Jones Thinking?

Remember last Wednesday, May 26, 2010, when the temperature reached over 90 degrees?

Its a day that many Frost Middle School students will remember too.

According to a letter sent home to parents by Joey Jones, the school principal since 2002, the school received a bomb threat at 11 am, evacuated the students to the nearby athletic fields, and reentered the building at 1:35 pm.  Students were left outside, because officials in charge thought there was not enough time to walk to the designated shelter-in-place location, Wootton High School.

BombThreatFollow-up5 27 10 %283%29[1]

For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of the Wootton Schools, the two schools are adjacent to each other.  And its all downhill from Frost to Wootton, as any family with a sled can tell you - its a great place to hang out when schools are closed due to snow.  Frost MS's established emergency evacuation plan, as shared with parents and the community, has Frost MS students evacuating to Wootton HS.

But not this time. 

For some reason, the students and staff were kept outside and not sent over to Wootton.

For some other unknown reason, the kids were left on the fields without access to water or bathrooms.   Twenty four students were treated for dehydration - two percent of the student population, not an insignificant number.

Maybe Dr. Jones has never walked between the two schools. 

Parents want to know.  Why were the students kept out in the heat, with no water, for over 2 hours? 

Someone in charge of the plan needs to rethink the plan, or else someone in charge of the plan needs to be replaced.   I'd suggest both.

And given the proximity of Frost and Wootton, and the conveniently located Giant where many Wootton families shop, other schools may want to examine their emergency evacuation plans too.

After all, if a school as green and as flush with resources both in physical and financial assets can't safely evacuate its premises, what guarantees do we have that other school emergency plans in Montgomery County Maryland public schools have plans that work when needed?

Weather May 26 2010                                                            

Comment by June 1 on Cell Towers & Schools

ZTA-10-05 Montgomery County Maryland Cell Tower Siting Ordinance Proposed Amendments Would Limit Public Input.

Speak Out to Protect Our Neighborhoods From Harmful Cell Towers.

Submit comments to the County Council by June 1, 2010 by 5:00 p.m.
Attend the Monday, June 14th Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committee Work Session.  Check with the County Council for details on the Work Session.

For those of you who live here in Montgomery County, MD your public testimony is much needed.  The deadline is Tuesday, June 1st.  Please read my testimony for more details.  At the very least please write to insist that cell towers be kept away from schools and day care centers.  Please find my comments below. More talking points can be found at:

Please forward this to your contacts in Montgomery County.

Thank you,

~ Angela

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Angela Flynn
Wireless Radiation Alert Network
FAX 301-229-4752


...local government's version of a closely held secret...

The Washington Post, Local Opinions: In Montgomery, a wall speaks volumes about county government

By Steven L. Katz
Sunday, May 30, 2010

Only halfway through 2010, the award for "What Were They Thinking?" in Montgomery County has already been sewn up by the Montgomery County Public Schools, the Montgomery Board of Education and the Montgomery County Council. This dubious honor is for the Cabin John Middle School retaining wall -- unsafe, ugly and, until it was almost halfway built, local government's version of a closely held secret...
Walls are symbols. The Cabin John wall is a symbol of the dysfunctional relationship between the County Council and the school systems that The Post has written and editorialized about recently...
...You can't win this award for a lack of common sense alone, however; it helps to have compounded the error by trying to prevent the public from pointing it out. The school community and neighborhood (where I live) are rightly upset because no one appears to have known anything about the wall until it began going up. Not a single drawing, blueprint, photo, report or Web page available to the public depicted or described the wall until after residents called an emergency meeting. Near as anyone can determine, the first public admission by MCPS's school construction chief of plans for the wall came at an emergency community meeting on May 17...

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weast taken to woodshed

The Washington Post: 

A tale of two counties

Sunday, May 30, 2010

...Take a snapshot of one year, 2006, when times were flush. In Fairfax, the county executive, an unelected technocrat, proposed a budget with a relatively robust spending increase of about 6 percent. In Montgomery, County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, a career politician then running in the Democratic primary for governor, pitched a gold-plated, pork-laden grab bag of political largess that drove county spending up by 11 percent...
...At the same time, Jerry D. Weast, Montgomery's schools superintendent, negotiated a contract that promised pay increases for most teachers of 26 to 29 percent over three years -- about twice the raise Fairfax teachers got -- plus health benefits virtually unmatched in the region. Montgomery County Council members, most of whom were hoping for union endorsements in the fall elections, rubber-stamped Mr. Duncan's contracts. The Board of Education, equally beholden to the teachers union, did the same for Mr. Weast.

...The results have been striking -- and strikingly unaffordable -- in a county where more than half of all spending goes to public schools. The average teacher salary in Montgomery today is $76,483, the highest in the region. Average pay for teachers is now almost 20 percent higher in Montgomery than in Fairfax and has increased much faster than in most local suburban school systems. Since 2000, salaries for Montgomery teachers, as for many other county employees, have nearly doubled, rising at almost triple the rate of inflation.
Teachers are pillars of any community, and Montgomery's are highly rated. But their compensation has outstripped the marketplace. Today, Montgomery schools spend about 20 percent more per pupil than Fairfax schools; they consume a greater share of the public spending than in any other locality in the region. The spending gap is not about classroom quality and student achievement; in those terms the two school systems are comparable. Rather, the difference is compensation, which accounts for 90 percent of Montgomery's education spending...

O'Neill & Weast stifle Board discussion

"What's Styrofoam?"

Below is a letter from Board of Education President Patricia O'Neill and Superintendent Jerry Weast to select County Councilmembers. The issue: Styrofoam trays (polystyrene trays) in the Piney Branch Elementary School lunchroom.

There are two things about this letter that are very interesting.

One, O'Neill and Weast attempt to speak for the Board of Education. The Board of Education has never discussed or voted on the pilot proposal from the Piney Branch Young Activists Club to install a dishwasher in their school's kitchen and eliminate Styrofoam trays. Why are O'Neill and Weast so anxious to override the Board of Education and prevent discussion? What are they afraid of?

Two, O'Neill and Weast proudly detail how Styrofoam trays from MCPS lunchrooms are burned in the County incinerator.

ONeill and Weast Response 4-15-10

Friday, May 28, 2010

Police union leader: "bloated bureaucracy at the school board"

From WTOP news:

Police upset at Montgomery County budget cuts

ROCKVILLE, Md, - Montgomery County Police feel that budget cuts hurt police more than anyone else in the county.

Walter Bader, with Police Union FOP Lodge #35, complains that police are having to do less with more, and will be furloughed while school employees will not.

"The school system's getting 57 percent of the money, and it's only because [Montgomery County School Superintendent] Jerry Weast is a better politician than any one of those nine people there [the Montgomery county Council] or [County Executive] Ike Leggett," says Bader.

"What we got was a lot of bad faith and a lot of our money being sent over to the bloated bureaucracy at the school board," he says. 

Full article here.

"A crippling blow to the only countywide high school art magnet program..."

Letter to MCPS Board of Education from supporters of the Einstein High School Visual Art Center program:

Dear Montgomery County Board of Education,

We appreciate how difficult this budget cycle has been, and we appreciate your careful attention to our testimony, in person and through emails, on the subject of the 50% cut to the Visual Art Center teaching staff at Einstein High School.

Now that the total schools budget amount is clear, the VAC parents, students, alumni and supporters below are requesting that you vote on the specific cut to the Visual Art Center. A crippling blow to the only countywide high school art magnet program is a policy issue. This issue was sidelined during the extended negotiation over the total schools budget.

The cut is being described as “fair” by MCPS staff, but we disagree. It appears that the total schools budget is down 1% from last year. We disagree that this necessitates a 50% cut to a program with only two teachers. There is no other countywide high school art magnet program, while we have multiple magnet programs for sciences and humanities. We do not believe there is another countywide magnet program being run by one teacher. And we do not believe that any other countywide magnet has lost 50% of their teaching staff.

This program closes the achievement gap, yields 100% pass rate on program AP tests, brings important distinction to Einstein High School, and brings millions of dollars in scholarship money and multiple prestigious awards to MCPS each year. The community has very clearly spoken out against this cut: parents, students, alumni, and countywide arts leadership including Busy Graham, Mark Jaster and Jose Dominguez.

We await your response.

Thank you for your service in representing the community.

Friends of the VAC

1. Sue Katz Miller
2. Paul Miller
3. Aimee Miller, VAC ‘12
4. Bob Drogin
5. Frankie Drogin
6. Maggy Sterner
7. Casey Drogin, VAC ‘10
8. Ruth Ilan
9. Jim Kuhn
10. Aaron Kuhn, VAC ‘10
11. Busy Graham
12. Stew Hickman
13. Molly Hickman
14. Mark Jaster
15. Wyatt Jackson Jaster, VAC ‘09
16. Betsy Keeler
17. Harvey Meyerson
18. Maggie Munoz
19. Michelle Jimenez, VAC ‘12
20. Ruy Teixeira
21. Lauren Teixeira, VAC ‘10
22. Robin Allen
23. Ian Teixeira
24. Marianna Previti
25. John Previti
26. Rosetta Previti, VAC ‘14
27. Max Shevitz
28. Betty Shevitz
29. Michael Shevitz, VAC ‘03
30. Tonda Taylor Bean
31. Mary B. Stevens
32. Miriam C. Stevens, VAC ‘10
33. Katie Dell Kaufman
34. Nancy Martin
35. Benjamin M. Rosenthal
36. Bob Holmcrans
37. Karen Holmcrans
38. Mary Holmcrans, VAC ‘13
39. David Hammer
40. Lauren Hammer
41. Deirdre N. Parker
42. Rosanne Skirble
43. Daniel Klein
44. Martin Swift, VAC ‘08
45. Jeffrey A Toretsky
46. Elizabeth Toretsky
47. Brenda Smoak
48. Jenna Fanning, VAC ‘08
49. Jennifer Woronow
50. Phyllis Goldfarb
51. James Fellows
52. Aaron Fellows, VAC ‘12
53. Diane Wendt
54. Rachel Milner
55. Richard Nowitz
56. Varda Nowitz
57. Mark Inglis Sorden
58. Danielle Ceneta, VAC ‘09
59. Sunny Keene
60. JoAnne Pierson
61. Jamie Newell
62. Alejandro Newell
63. Viviana Azar
64. Ryan Hartley Smith, VAC ‘02
65. Judy K. Reul
66. Linda Nemec
67. Chris Bort
68. Theresa Bort, VAC ‘10
69. Samuel F. Baldwin
70. Emory Luce Baldwin
71. Keith Donohue
72. Melanie Donohue
73. Ann P. Riley
74. Janette Patterson
75. Sandra Moore
76. Chas G. Poor
77. Joan B. Duncan
78. Lauren A. Poor, VAC ‘10
79. Nicole L. Poor
80. Mr. Yung Son Pak
81. Mrs. Young Chin Pak
82. George Smith
83. Diane Smith
84. Sara Falconett
85. Jerry Falconett
86. Dr. Nancy Nolan Sorden
87. Anna Lukacs, VAC ‘08
88. Roy W. Deppa
89. Shelley Waters Deppa
90. Ellen Bloom
91. Nina Corin
92. Ka Lai Lou, VAC ‘07
93. Tor Opsahl
94. Anja Opsahl
95. Meredith Meer
96. Helen Rea
97. Robert Sugar
98. Rebecca Sugar
99. Steven Sugar, VAC ‘08
100. Lisa Goldring
101. Eileen F. Heiss
102. Joseph M. Heiss
103. Lynn Crawford Cook
104. Madeline Marie Cook, VAC ‘09
105. Shira Medoff
106. Carin Gottlieb
107. Ilene Lundy
108. Michelle Trout
109. Harry Trout
110. Jack Chen, VAC ‘11
111. Zhao Chun Chen
112. Wei Wang
113. Terri Lundy
114. Don Lundy
115. Charles Ritchie
116. Jenny Ritchie
117. Samantha Ritchie, VAC ‘12
118. Linda Sapin
119. Jim Swyers
120. Naomi Manzella
121. Nora Manzella
122. Tom Hamburger
123. Ellie Hamburger
124. Ben Hamburger, VAC ‘06
125. Carl Elefante
126. Adriana B. Elefante
127. Stephen B. Elefante, VAC ‘09
128. Caroline Miller
129. Peter Miller
130. Elizabeth Luu
131. Ali Vallespin
132. Lorraine Duffin
133. Ellen Hornstein
134. Denis Cioffi
135. Adelle Banks
136. Alison Rutsch, VAC ‘08
137. William Rutsch
138. Linda Rutsch
139. Mark Butler
140. Hayden Butler, VAC ‘12
141. Isla Norwood
142. Esther DeVries
143. Johanna Janssens
144. Jeff Bartholet
145. Wei (Vivian) Cheng
146. Sara Bluestone
147. Lewis Cuffy
148. Katie Chung
149. Cynthia Wang
150. Kelvin Childs
151. Richard Payne
152. Bettie Payne
153. Susan Wood
154. Tracey Goldman
155. Andrew Strongin
156. Emma Strongin, VAC ‘14
157. Marika Partridge
158. Larry Ravitz
159. Heidi Landecker
160. Abraham Murrell, VAC ‘09

Please see link to letter above for additional names. 

MCPS Annual cleaning budget: $58,263,320

Just a little budget fact from an article in American School & University magazine, MCPS' annual cleaning budget is over $58 million.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Balt. Sun: Montgomery County, The class dummy

The Baltimore Sun: The class dummy

Our view: Montgomery County's display of pique over tying teacher evaluations to test scores threatens Maryland's chance to win millions of dollars in federal school aid

...What they expect to accomplish is hard to fathom. Montgomery County may be the state's largest school system, but it's behaving like the schoolyard bully who makes life miserable for everyone else when he can't get his way. Its refusal to sign off on the state's plan for teacher evaluations won't make it exempt from the requirement. That's a state law, and it will have to obey it, like it or not. But because the state's application will be judged in large part on its ability to demonstrate all its major stakeholders are solidly behind reform, the naysayers are throwing a monkey wrench in the works that could make it much less likely Maryland will be granted an award...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Floreen: Council found money for 9 police officers for schools.

On this evening's call-in program with County Executive Ike Leggett and County Council President Nancy Floreen, Floreen announced that the Council has found funding to put 9 police officers in Montgomery County schools in the fall. (Previously 33 were in schools, plus 1 funded by the City of Gaithersburg and not part of the County funding.) She said the rest of the funding for these officers would have to come from MCPS.

Police officers in MCPS facilities are known as Educational Facilities Officers or EFO's.  This is the latest in the EFO chess game that has been going on as part of the FY11 budget discussions. 

Talk to Leggett and Floreen tonight!

Montgomery County Government Live Call In Show tonight with County Executive Ike Leggett and Council President Nancy Floreen. From 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., the officials will answer residents’ questions on any topics of local concern. Tune to County Cable Montgomery (Channel 6 for RCN and Comcast cable customers and Channel 30 for Verizon). Residents can call in to 240-777-6540 during the show, which can also be viewed live on the County’s website ( ) and click on County Cable 6.

"Apparently Mr. Weast believes beggars can be choosers."

The Baltimore Sun, Second Opinion:  Petulance hobbles Race to the Top

Montgomery County schools officials and teachers unions from several of Maryland’s large jurisdictions are mounting a rare display of self-defeating petulance in their refusal to sign on to Maryland’s application for the federal Race to the Top competition...
...Montgomery County may turn up its nose at the new standards, believing that its system is better than anything the state could possibly come up with, but what it’s objecting to really amounts to ceding control over 30 percent of the evaluation. And the price of venting its pique is steep -- $12 million for a system that, at the same state school board meeting in which Superintendent Jerry D. Weast voiced his objections, asked for and received a waiver from a $51 million state fine levied because the county did not meet its annual education funding requirements. Apparently Mr. Weast believes beggars can be choosers. But Maryland’s poorer districts – notably Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, which stand to gain the most from Race to the Top – can’t afford to indulge the tantrums of the state’s richest.

"It bounces off our brain why Montgomery County doesn't want to sign."

Unions won't sign Md.'s Race to the Top application -
Despite opposition from teachers unions and Maryland's largest school system, the state school board is poised to vote Wednesday to approve an application for as much as $250 million in federal funds...
...Montgomery's Weast told the board Tuesday that the county will not sign the application because it does not want to give up its own teacher evaluation system. In an interview, he said that the county believes its evaluation system is better than others and that the state has not fully thought through the process for many of the reforms.
"Bold is not a strategy," he said.
But Grasmick and state board members are clearly perplexed by the Montgomery decision, particularly because the county will have little choice in implementing many of the reforms that are now law and the cash-strapped county stands to gain $12 million in federal money.
In an interview, Grasmick said, "The law is the law. This is what I don't understand. …They will have to do it anyway."
Board members pressed Weast at the meeting Tuesday to explain the decision, particularly because he was there to ask them not to fine the county $51 million for failing to fully fund education as required under Maryland law. The board granted the county a waiver.
School board president James H. DeGraffenreidt Jr. said, "It bounces off our brain why Montgomery County doesn't want to sign."

Posted using ShareThis

Montgomery County schools get reprieve from fine | Washington Examiner

Montgomery County schools get reprieve from fine | Washington Examiner

Program Cut in Half Yields Award Winner

If a student in the Visual Art Center program at Einstein High School wins an award next year they will only be able to credit one teacher. 

One of these teachers won't be back in the program next year and only half as many students will be able to experience this unique learning environment.

While half of the teachers in this program are being cut for next school year, Superintendent Weast has promoted 7 administrators this month.  And, as the Board of Education responds when an administrator is hired or given a raise; "Clap, clap, clap."
Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County (AHCMC) announces that AARON KUHN, a senior at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, MD, is the 2010 recipient of the Ida F. Haimovicz Visual Arts Award. Mr. Kuhn will receive a $3,000 cash award on Tuesday, June 8 at 5:00 PM at the reception for his solo exhibition at the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation Arts Center, Montgomery College Takoma Park-Silver Spring Campus.
Aaron Kuhn, who works primarily with paint, credits Einstein’s visual arts magnet teachers, Mr. Michael Piechocinski and Ms. Jane Walsh, for helping him to think conceptually about his work and causing him to act as his own critic...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Two more administrator promotions...

Because you can never have too many non-school based MCPS administrators!

At the Monday, May 24, 2010, Board of Education meeting the Board promoted two more administrators to non-school based positions. That brings the total number of administrator promotions added by the Board of Education up to 7 for just the month of May.

Sean W. Bulson, currently acting community superintendent, Office of School Performance, as community superintendent, Office of School Performance

James P. Fliakas, currently acting supervisor, Pre-K–English Language Arts, Department of Curriculum and Instruction Programs, as supervisor, Pre-K–English Language Arts, Department of Curriculum and Instruction Programs

Monday, May 24, 2010

NewsChannel 8: "Scrutinize every line"

Parents to Fight Another Round of School Cuts|NewsChannel 8

...Parent Susan Katz Miller said, "The board really needs to get in there an scrutinize every line of cut that is going to be made and make sure that they're representing what the community is asking them to do."

...Miller said, "I believe there are things in the budget that can be cut that aren't programs, that aren't going to affect kids directly."

In addition to parents, students will also voice their concerns and make their case to the board of education for programs they hope can be saved.

"Students tend to get a lot of respect when they go and testify. It's definitely an effective technique for getting the board's attention," stated Miller.

One of the parents you just heard from has an idea to save some money in the school district. It involves the school lunch trays. Tonight at 10 on the Washington Report we'll take a closer look at the idea, hear how much she says it will save and explore why the school appears to be uninterested in her plan.

The Wall: A new movie by Superintendent Weast

Welcome to the urban middle school of the future!

Take a look at THE WALL, as seen from the street level, that Superintendent Jerry Weast is constructing at the Cabin John Middle School modernization site.

Attempts to find THE WALL on the construction plans for this school site submitted to the County have as yet been unsuccessful, but we will keep you updated on our search. In the meantime, take a look at THE WALL that is now next to the sidewalk on Gainsborough Road. This is how the school site will look from the street level and this is only the beginning of THE WALL...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wootton says No to Deaf Community

Superintendent Jerry Weast loves good publicity, and so in this week's MCPS Bulletin he highlights an American Sign Language program at Quince Orchard High School.

But when it comes to MCPS American Sign Language (ASL) students at Wootton High School, the signs are not so encouraging.

The letter below discusses the refusal of the Wootton High School administration to allow ASL students from the school to sign along with the chorus during their high school graduation. It isn't as if this is something new. ASL students accompanying graduation performances has been a part of Wootton High School graduations in the past, and is part of graduations at other MCPS high schools where ASL is taught. Below is a letter on this issue to the community from a parent.
Letter on ASL at Wootton Graduation

CODA = Children of Deaf Adults

How many PhDs’ children go to your urban public schools?

By  Linda Perstein
When finalists were announced for the 2010 Broad Prize for Urban Education, I did not give much thought to the inclusion of Montgomery County, Md. I did not give much thought to any of the finalists, really. But today I saw the video on the Montgomery County Public Schools website—I covered MCPS for the Post years ago and check in there from time to time—that highlighted the Broad visit and couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the officials at Julius West Middle School. Julius West is a couple of miles from one of the most affluent communities on earth. Heard of Potomac? Not what I would call “urban.”... 
article continues  here 
Comment on article:
You're right. Our urban district hired a superintendent who graduated from the Broad School. He acknowledged that his former district, Montgomery County, had per student expenditures of nearly 21/2 time our district. But he kept saying that Montgomery County had more poor students than our entire district. He never realized that the situation is different when more than 90% of students are poor, and the district has been poor for generations. Montgomery County, and other places, have an educational culture that may have taken more than a century to create. Our state has more than a century of anti-intellectualism, generational poverty, and oppression...
...By the way, that superintendent had the talent to have been truely great, but he ignored warnings that he wasn't in Montgomery County anymore, continued to spend in the ways he'd been accustomed, and was gone in six months, but leaving discord that still paralyzes much of our deliberations.

Cabin John Middle School Approvals

The Wall, how did this happen?  Read the Planning Board staff reports below, from the public hearing on February 26, 2009.  Make sure to read the section on 'Steep Slopes' on page 4. 

And, don't forget to check out Attachment 4, where you can see the location reserved for 'Future Portables.'  Looks like MCPS is already planning for what I count as 6 portables.

Oh, and folks, as it is still morning, please, please wake up and smell the coffee!

Cabin John Middle School ModernizationPlanningBoard20090212_Itemnumber9

And here is the Preliminary Forest Conservation Plan:

Cabin John Middle School Preliminary Forest Conservation Plan_Planning Board_20090226

MCPS Principal's Handbook


A. Opening of School

B. Organizational Information

C. Dates and Calendars

D. Allocations: Staffing and Funding

E. Grading, Reporting, and Testing

F. Human Resources/Personal Issues

G. Safety, Security, and Health

H. Student Enrollment, Records, and Concerns/Issues

I. Transportation

J. Technology

K. Programs/Process

L. Sample Letters