Tuesday, November 30, 2010

MCPS pay facts

The following information has been provided courtesy of the MCPS Public Information Office.
  • Number of MCPS employees who earn more than $100,000 per year: 2,465
  • Number of MCPS employees who earn more than $70,000 per year: 8,028
  • Highest paid school principal:  Michael Doran (Wootton High School):  $150,123
  • Total number of MCPS employees (includes part-time employees): 21,432

Council sells school land to private academy

The Washington Post: Montgomery to sell school building to private academy

...An intense lobbying effort, including the intercession of Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), helped seal the deal. Council members said they were flooded with e-mails, calls and letters on the issue, and the academy hired a Washington-based public relations firm to help it.
Council Vice President Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) told several people that Cardin had called him to urge him to vote for the sale, according to people with knowledge of the conversations. Cardin's office did not respond to repeated requests for comment...

Andrews: County Executive failed to notify school system or council

 Rockville Patch: All Signs Point to "Yes" to Peary Sale
Council committees give nod to $1.9 million purchase by Hebrew Academy; final vote expected Tuesday
..."Not at issue is that the academy has been an excellent tenant and neighbor. But that is not the issue that the council should vote on. The judgment is based on the long-term interest of the county," said Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg.
Andrews wants the county to retain the site to use as a temporary high school when other county high school sites undergo major renovations and modernizations.
He said he feels the deal was "rushed," saying he first learned of the academy's intention to buy the campus in late October. 
"The County Executive's office may have been working on this for months but it failed to notify our school system or this council," Andrews said. "This issue should not be taken up by a lame duck council that is no longer accountable to the voters."

Weast's Cell Tower Jungle Gym Update 2010

Remember the lucky students at Daly Elementary School in Germantown who got their very own cell tower smack in the middle of their playground? 

Below are some pictures of the Daly cell tower compound up close from October 2010. 

Once again we see that the cell tower compound is not being maintained and that the area around the base of the tower is overgrown. 

Meanwhile, MCPS continues to collect the lease payments for this structure. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Peary HS Deal: What Really Happened

At the Montgomery County (MD) Council Public Hearing on the proposed sale of Peary High School property (19-1/2 acres) to the private parochial Berman Academy, held on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 23rd, Mr. Drew Powell testified against the sale.  He was challenged by the councilmembers as to his testimony but not allowed time to respond.  That exchange was recorded in the RockvillePatch by reporter Sean Sedam, as follows:
"If you have evidence to the contrary I urge you to bring it forward. If you do not, I suggest that linking these very disparate situations in the manner in which you did does a disservice to this community and to yourself."
"I would like to respond," Powell said.
"There is no response," said County Council President Nancy M. Floreen..."

Here is Mr. Powell's response.

November 29, 2010
Montgomery County Council
100 Maryland Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850
Re: Requested response to Montgomery County Council regarding possible sale of MCPS property

Montgomery County Council,

Per Councilmember Berliner’s request, I respectfully wish to respond in writing, regarding the proposed sale of Peary High School and its relationship to the sale of Belt Junior High School as well as other similar transactions involving publicly owned Montgomery County School properties. I would have provided this information live at the November 23rd hearing, but after being asked to produce information on this subject, was silenced by County Council President, Nancy Floreen.

Before I begin, I would again wish to state that the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy is, by all accounts, an upstanding educational institution and a good neighbor in the Aspen Hill community. I am not aware of any
wrong doing on the part of the Academy, but am very concerned with the process that has bought the
Montgomery County Council to point of selling off county this school property. I am very supportive of the
Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy leasing Peary High School for the term of the lease (2023) and possibly
decades longer as provided by mutually agreed upon lease extensions.
confuse the Yeshiva Academy with the Hebrew Academy.” I can assure you that there is no confusion.
My journey on this matter started in 2002, when researching campaign contributions on behalf of the citizen based county watchdog group Neighbors for a Better Montgomery. At that time many citizens were concerned with the possible role of potential developer influence on land use decisions made by the Montgomery County Council. It was thought that some of this influence might present itself in the form of campaign contributions from developers and development related interests to county council candidates.
It came as a great shock to Montgomery County citizens, when it was found that in many cases more than half of many candidates’ political contributions came from development related interests. In some cases, as much as 70% or more came from these sources. Neighbors’ researchers continued to explore the sources of campaign contributions. As part of that investigation, a seemingly innocent contribution of $4,000 from, of all places, Guam, made to then County Executive Doug Duncan in 1999, caught our attention. As is well documented in three articles by the Washington Post, other contributions were discovered, which linked that money and donations from the Pacific island of Saipan to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff (Post-1, Post-2, Post-3). The Post articles then connected the dots regarding contributions from Abramoff and other Yeshiva board members, including Dennis Berman and Jeffrey Lee Cohen. According to the Post “The Saipan contributions occurred a month before Duncan signed a lease -- over community and school system opposition…” The Post articles delineated the role of then Duncan aid, Jerry Pasternak, in the engineering of the Belt Junior High School deal.

Although there may have been no wrong doing on the part of the Academy, its operatives or sympathetic elected officials, it appears that many of the same people involved with the Belt Junior High School transaction are now and have been involved with the Peary transaction. Additionally, many of the same methods and instruments used to guaranty the purchase of Belt have been employed in the efforts to secure Peary.

Foremost is Mr. Pasternak’s role. The Post was most explicit regarding Pasternak’s role in the Belt Junior High School sale. Concurrently, Mr. Pasternak vigorously promoted the lease and sale of Peary High School. I attended an MFP meeting in 2006, where Councilmembers Praisner, Denis and Andrews received lengthy, enthusiastic support for the sale of Peary High School from Mr. Pasternak. In his presentation, sitting next to a Berman Academy representative, Mr. Pasternak continued to refer to himself and the Academy as “we,” even though he was acting as the representative of the Montgomery County Executive and theoretically the citizens of Montgomery County. The sale was tabled at that time, partly because of prior Planning Board rejection of the sale, the Belt/Abramoff revelations and the recommendations of the ZHA report, which advised the county not to sell the property.

Also at issue is Mr. Pasternak’s seemingly unlimited access to the County Executive’s office and close working relationship with the County Executive’s Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, Diane Schwartz Jones. As a former county employee, Mr. Pasternak enjoyed numerous meetings and information exchanges with Schwartz Jones concerning the sale of Peary High School. Additional exchanges may have occurred with Schwartz Jones and the Academy’s representatives from Garson Claxton, LLC (law firm), Mr. Pasternak’s current employer.

Also keep in mind that the Peary lease predated the Belt Junior High School lease by a little more than two years. Both leases were approved and signed by then County Executive Doug Duncan, an elected official the Post cited for taking campaign contributions in return for selling county school land. Both leases are extremely similar in their language and lease/purchase terms. It has been stated by some that one or both leases were prepared by Garson Claxton, LLC, the “go to” law firm in the Washington, D.C. metro area regarding leases.

For future county land sales, it may be prudent to start with a county written “boilerplate” lease, making future leases more taxpayer friendly.  Sale of Montgomery County school property to the aforementioned parties is not limited to Peary High School and Belt Junior High School. Other properties include, Arcola Elementary School, Town and Country Day School and Montgomery Hills Middle School. In each of these transactions, many citizens were concerned with the low sales price and other related costs to the county. The Post documented County costs regarding Belt Junior High School in a 2006 article “Yeshiva Facility Deals Costly for Montgomery.” It is easy to see why many might ask if these are “cookie-cutter” deals at the expense of taxpayers.

It must also be noted that in addition to contributions to former County Councilmembers and the former County Executive, Berman Academy interests have donated more than $31,000 to current Montgomery County Councilmembers as well as the current County Executive since the first proposals were made to convert the Peary lease to a sale. Most notably are contributions to County Executive Leggett for more than $17,000 and Councilmember Leventhal for over $9,000 (provided upon request). These donations do not include contributions, which may be reported in January, 2011.

Troubling, too, in this process, the sponsor to sell Peary comes in the form a lame-duck councilmember, not to mention that the proposed sale will be voted on by a lame-duck council, immediately after an election.

Many have asked why a majority of the Montgomery County Council would go forward with the sale of school property for pennies on the dollar in these austere economic times, when the Montgomery County Board of Education and even your own staff (Montgomery County Council Staff) has strongly recommended against it.

There may not have been wrong doing, but the sale of this valuable and irreplaceable Montgomery County asset is a textbook example of special interest access and potential manipulation of local government. It is a sad day indeed in Montgomery County, when concerned citizens come before the County Council to express their apprehensions about the sale of public school property and are summarily booed, jeered and dismissed with the tacit approval of councilmembers. Which of you will stand up for taxpayers and ALL the county’s children?

Most sincerely,

Drew Powell

WJLA 7: MoCo Council committee OKs controversial school sale

What will be the State's Cut of the Peary High School Sale?

Tomorrow, November 30, 2010, the Montgomery County Council will vote to sell a 19.5 acre former public school site to a private entity for $1.9 million. That much is known for sure. Council members have stated their intentions and majority rules.

The deal has been called a win-win-win. But there's an oops that hasn't been discussed. 

Will Montgomery County get to keep any of the proceeds of this sale? 

What part of the proceeds of this sale will go to Montgomery County and what part will go to the State of Maryland? Public school land comes to each county through the State of Maryland and when the land is sold or leased the State can get their cut.

Remember last year's Maryland Reporter story on the Audit of the Board of Public Works Interagency Committee on School Construction that showed that Montgomery County OWED the State of Maryland $3.2 million in proceeds from school land transactions? Has that debt been settled yet? Will the State of Maryland be passing on any cut of the Peary High School transaction? 

And, why didn't the County Executive or County Council discuss the share owed to the State in any of their discussions of this win-win-win? 

Montgomery's school buildings should not be sold

The Washington Post: Letter to the Editor 
Regarding the Nov. 23 editorial "A fair school deal," on the proposed sale of the old Peary High School to theMelvin Berman Hebrew Academy:
My organization has a long-standing position opposing the sale of schools and future school sites owned by the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) because such sites constitute an irreplaceable form of public patrimony.
Many of these schools and future school sites have been offered by developers as the quid pro quo for getting approval for developments that significantly increase the number of students in county schools. They represent the high value that MCPS places on "community schools" - schools that provide free and excellent education to all children living within a given geographic area...
...We strongly believe, however, that this measure should never allow the permanent loss of a school. For our elected officials to sell off such a precious commodity shows a remarkable lack of foresight and vision.
Peggy Dennis, Potomac
The writer is president of the Montgomery County Civic Federation.

No Bid Artificial Turf for MCPS and MNCPPC

Why put a procurement out for bids when you know what you want? 

And the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) staff knows what they want. See the February 2009 memorandum below.  

MNCPPC only wants Field Turf brand artificial turf. 

And why not, that's the only artificial turf that Montgomery County Public Schools uses as the "standard" for school sites (see page 4).  
Who knew that? When was that deal cut? Where is the MCPS contract with Field Turf?

From this memo we learn that Field Turf artificial turf is the "standard" for Montgomery County Public Schools and is going to be the standard for MNCPPC in all installations in Montgomery County and Prince George's County for a period of 5 years. 

What if after year 3 this particular product is no longer "state of the art?" 
How long is the exclusive no bid arrangement with MCPS, forever? 

Is a 5 year exclusive no bid arrangement the best deal for two counties and a public school system? Clearly its a good deal for the vendor, but what about the taxpayers?

Field Turf Standardization

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Peary HS Sale - Windfall Profit for Berman Academy Potential

In the just released November 29, 2010 Montgomery County Council staff memorandum on County Executive Ike Leggett's proposal to sell 19.5 acres of public school land (former Peary High School site) to a private entity (Berman Academy) for $1.9 million the public learns that the sale could result in a "windfall profit" for the purchaser.
According to Montgomery County Council staff, here is how that would happen.
From Page 5 of the Memorandum:
The County would have 90 days to tender the price paid by the Academy, adjusted by the consumer price index, plus the lesser of the Academy's construction costs or the replacement costs of the Academy's improvements minus depreciation. Failure of the County to repurchase the Property would trigger a developer's right to remove the covenant regarding the use of the property.
From Page 7 of the Memorandum:
Under the Executive's recommendation, if the County does not repurchase the Property after the Property has been offered to a developer, the restriction to use the site as a private school would be removed. The result would be a windfall profit.

Council Staff says No to Peary High School Sale: Council Votes are Already Counted in Favor

"Given the current existing and projected school capacity deficits, as evidenced by the Board of Education, Council staff recommends that the 
Council should not approve a sale."

The Parents' Coalition has already learned that Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro, and Duchy Trachtenberg will all support the sale of this property. Those Council members had communicated their approval prior to the release of this Staff Memorandum. That's a majority of the Council. 

Council Meeting on Peary HS Sale: 19.5 acres for $1.9 million

Tomorrow morning, Monday, November 29th, at 9:30 am the Montgomery County Council (MD) Education and Management and Fiscal Policy committees will hold a joint discussion on the resolution before the County Council to sell the 19-1/2 acres of down county land to a private parochial school, the Berman Academy, for $1.9 million.(Memorandum for hearing here.) This is at a time when our schools are bursting at the seams, and our financial picture is grim.  Supporters once again plan to have hundreds of people show up to pack the room.

The Board of Education and MCCPTA oppose the sale.

At the Public Hearing last week, supporters of the sale turned out in force. They disrupted the hearing, clapping loudly and booing and hissing at those of us who are opposed to the sale during public testimony. The Board of Education and MCCPTA oppose the sale, as is the Montgomery County Civic Federation, on whose behalf I testified.

After the hearing I was accosted by supporters, who came up to me to call me an ‘anti-Semite’ and a ‘self-loathing Jew.’ I understand others were also similarly accosted.  Name calling and intimidation have no place in a true democracy.

I would strongly encourage anyone who is concerned about a democratic process in our county, and opposed to selling off irreplaceable publicly-owned property downcounty to attend the meeting tomorrow morningLocation: Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville.

Make sure also to email or call the council.  NOW. Telephone numbers and email addresses are below. The vote on the resolution is being rushed through the Council, with the vote on the very next day, November 30th, at 1:50 pm.

Thank you.
Paula Bienenfeld

All Councilmembers 240-777-7900 To e-mail all Councilmembers, click here,

Phil Andrews 240-777-7906 councilmember.andrews@montgomerycountymd.gov
Roger Berliner 240-777-7828 councilmember.berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov
Marc Elrich 240-777-7966 councilmember.elrich@montgomerycountymd.gov
Valerie Ervin 240-777-7960 councilmember.ervin@montgomerycountymd.gov
Nancy Floreen 240-777-7959 councilmember.floreen@montgomerycountymd.gov
Mike Knapp 240-777-7955 councilmember.knapp@montgomerycountymd.gov
George Leventhal 240-777-7811 councilmember.leventhal@montgomerycountymd.gov
Nancy Navarro 240-777-7968 councilmember.navarro@montgomerycountymd.gov
Duchy Trachtenberg 240-777-7964 councilmember.trachtenberg@montgomerycountymd.gov

Sen. Manno, Del. Kramer, Cullison & Arora Support After Thanksgiving Land Sale

It is that time of year, the After Thanksgiving Sales are everywhere!

This week only! 19.5 acres of county land on sale at the Montgomery County Council!
Grab 19.5 acres of County land at a super low price of just $1.9 million!  

And this super sale is supported by the entire District 19 delegation to the Maryland General Assembly:  Senator Roger Manno, Delegates Ben Kramer, Bonnie Cullison and Sam Arora.  

Maybe the District 19 Delegation should read this report? This may not be the best time to be selling a County asset at a bargain basement price?

Here's the last minute memo from the Planning Board that was made public after the Planning Board's vote. The Planning Board's staff had recommended that the sale not be approved by the Planning Board, but as the Planning Board hearing began a new recommendation was announced.  

Maryland state law actually has a procedure for disposing of public school land, has that procedure been followed in this fast-tracked sale? 

State Board Denies Appeal of Charter School

On October 26, 2010, the Maryland State Board of Education issued its opinion in the Academic Enrichment and Training Academy (AETA) v.  Montgomery County Board of Education appeal. 

The State Board found that the appellant, AETA, had not appealed the denial of their application to the local Board of Education before appealing to the State Board. Therefore, the appeal could not be reviewed at the State Board level.

From the State Board opinion:  
...Ms. Webb, the Executive Director to the Deputy Superintendent of Schools, issued a decision regarding the untimely filing of the charter school application. Presumably, Ms. Webb was the Superintendent's designee, thus an appeal of her decision should have been taken to the local board pursuant to Section 4-205 of the process. Only after the local board decides issues raised in an appeal, does the right to an appeal to the State Board arise...

Guest commentary on LEED certification for schools

On October 13, 2009, Superintendent Jerry Weast recognized Francis Scott Key Middle School for attaining Leed Gold Level Certification. However, is the certification really “gold” and what does it mean.

The following is a disclaimer published by the USGBC:
DisclaimerNone of the parties involved in the funding or creation of the LEED Rating System, including the USGBC, its members, its members, volunteers, or contractors, assume any liability or responsibility to the user or any third parties for the accuracy, completeness, or use of or reliance on any information contained in the LEED Rating System, or for any injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief ) arising from such use or reliance. Although the information contained in the LEED Rating System is believed to be reliable and accurate, all materials set forth within are provided without warranties of any kind, either express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of the accuracy or completeness of information or the suitability of the information for any particular purpose. As a condition of use, the user covenants not to sue and agrees to waive and release the U.S. Green Building Council, its members, volunteers, and contractors from any and all claims, demands, and causes of action for any injuries, losses, or damages (including, without limitation, equitable relief ) that the user may now or hereafter have a right to assert against such parties as a result of the use of, or reliance on, the LEED Rating System. U.S. Green Building Council 2101 L Street, NW Suite 500 Washington, DC 20037

Not only does the disclaimer say that the LEED Rating System is worthless, its use may invalidate warranties of other products and manufacturers.

From a review of the preceding disclaimer, it appears that the Francis Scott Key Middle School Leed Gold Level Certification is “Fool’s Gold.”

Saturday, November 27, 2010

You and Me: Montgomery County's Overdraft Protection Plan

I have read the executive summary and gone through the powerpoint presentation of the Montgomery County Office of Legislative Oversight's report on achieving a “Structurally Balanced Budget.”

Wow, are we, the citizens of Montgomery County, in big trouble. The rate of expenditure increase over the past decade and the projected rates of increase over the next five years for local government and school system employee wages, employee and retiree group insurance, retirement and pension plans and debt service have a strangle hold on our local government. I urge everyone to read this report!

Personally, I found the fiscal health examination particularly interesting in light of this week's public hearing on the sale of the old Peary High School site to the Berman Academy.

I'm not even arguing the merits of that sale. Consider the obvious.

All parties agree (even school officials) that Berman took a disgusting abandoned dump of a school building and turned it into a nice, perfectly serviceable, school for $9 Million dollars. That is about 1/10 of what MCPS currently spends to modernize a high school.

Such fact strongly suggests the school system and county government ought to take a hard look at our modernization program and reconsider renovation versus the current practice of “tear down and rebuild”.

The five year projections by our Office of Legislative Oversight show debt service increasing from $260M to $400M per year. Over half of that debt service expenditure is for the school system (but be aware that debt service is not in the school system's budget, County Government pays it for them). It appears quite obvious that our County can no longer afford to maintain its current school modernization practices. A new model is required, perhaps one that favors improved maintenance of what we own and partial renovation and expansion over the wrecking ball.

The report is loaded with many other eye-popping revelations about our county finances, and the give-aways of the past. Consider as a few examples:

Between 2002 and 2008 annual increases in local government spending were 7 to 9 % per year.

Between the decade 2002 – 2011 county budget grew 59% while the population grew just 12% and household income grew just 21%.

According to the report, County debt service has grown so much that it can now be considered the fifth county agency, in addition to Schools, County Government, the College, and Park & Planning. Debt service grew by 47% from 2002 to 2011. Further, it is targeted to grow by another 50% by 2016, by which time it will exceed the annual operating budget of the college and M-NCPPC combined.

2002 to 2011 personnel costs increased 64% while the number of workyears only increased by 10%. In MCPS, workyears increased by 14% while enrollment only increased by 6%.

In sum, the chickens have come home to roost in Montgomery County. Jerry Weast wrote checks that we can't cover. Time to see who in county government is a leader, and who is a follower.

Bob Astrove

Rockville Patch: Former Mayoral Candidate Draws Boos at Peary Hearing

The most contentious moment of Tuesday's County Council hearing in Rockville on the proposed sale of the former Robert E. Peary High School came in response to the testimony of Drew Powell.
Powell was a 2007 candidate for mayor of Rockville who served as executive director of the now-defunct political action committee Neighbors for a Better Montgomery.
Powell called the proposed $1.9 million sale of the Peary property to its current tenant, the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy, a "bad deal" for three groups: Taxpayers who he said would see county land "given away." County schoolchildren who he said "may suffer in overcrowded classrooms." And citizens who he said "yearn for fair and honest government..."

One of these Leases is not like the other

Sing along with Cookie Monster...One of these leases is not like the other...

In a previous post we provided readers with links to Montgomery County leases for Closed School sites.

One thing becomes immediately clear when reviewing those leases: one of those leases is very different from the rest. Take a few minutes and click down the list of leases.

One of those leases was not written using the standard Montgomery County lease form. Who wrote that lease?

One of those leases was signed by the County Executive (Doug Duncan) while the rest were signed by the County's Chief Administrative Officer.  Why?

Two of those leases give the lessee the option to buy the property. Why don't all of the lessees of Closed School sites have the option to buy the property they are using?  All of the lessees took over a closed school site and made the property useful when not needed as a school. Many of those lessees have improved the properties. Shouldn't they all have the option to buy? 

Is there any other lease on the list like the one for the Peary High School site? Please post if you can find a similar lease for another site. 

Why does one Closed School site Lease appear to be different from all the rest?  

Don't expect to get an answer to this question, the Montgomery County Council will vote to sell this property on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 before any essential questions can be answered and before important documentation like the 3 appraisals done on the property are made public.

Montgomery Co. Leases for Closed School Sites

For your information, here is the list of leases for public school sites in Montgomery County for properties that are held in the name of the County.  (This list does not include properties that are held in the name of MCPS.)

How many of these leases include an option to buy? 

How many of these leases are standard Montgomery County lease forms signed by Montgomery County staff and how many of these leases have a unique arrangement and are signed by the County Executive. 

Post your results. A quick review of these documents shows that one of these leases stands out from all the rest. 

Closed Schools

1.Peary High School 
13300 Arctic Avenue
Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy

2. Aspen Hill Elementary School
4915 Aspen Hill Road
Sheppard Pratt Health Systems, Inc.

3. Alta Vista Elementary School
5615 Beech Avenue
Beth Country Day School

4. English Manor Elementary School
4511 Bestor Avenue
The Children's Learning Center
1st Amendment

5. Lower Parkside Elementary School
9504 Burnett Avenue
Acorn Hill School, Inc.

6. Forest Grove Elementary School
9805 Dameron Drive
Holy Cross Hospital

7. Dennis Avenue Health Center
2000 Dennis Avenue
Spanish Catholic Center, Inc.

8. Holiday Park Senior Center
3950 Ferrara Drive
Mental Health Association
1st Amendment

Holiday Park Senior Center
3950 Ferrara Drive

9. Lone Oak Center
1010 Grandin Avenue
Centers For The Handicapped Inc
1st Amendment

10. Fernwood Elementary School
6801 Greentree Road
The Woods Academy

11. Gude Drive Shelter
600 E Gude Drive
Mobile Medical Care, Inc.

12. Randolph Junior High School
11710 Hunters Lane
Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

13. Hillandale Elementary School
10501 New Hampshire Avenue
Centers For The Handicapped Inc

14. Colesville Elementary School
14015 New Hampshire Avenue
Maryland Child Services
1st Amendment 

Colesville Elementary School
14015 New Hampshire Avenue
Casa de Montessori

Colesville Elementary School
14015 New Hampshire Avenue
Kappa Alpha Psi

Colesville Elementary School
14015 New Hampshire Avenue
Colesville Council of Community Congregations, Inc.
1st Amendment 

Colesville Elementary School
14015 New Hampshire Avenue
Montgomery Volunteer Dental Clinic, Inc.
1st Amendment

Colesville Elementary School
14015 New Hampshire Avenue
Raising Hispanic Academic Achievement, Inc.

Colesville Elementary School
14015 New Hampshire Avenue
Bethah Associates

15. Clara Barton Community Center
7425 MacArthur Boulevard
Clara Barton Day Care Inc.
1st Amendment
2nd Amendment

16. Arylawn Elementary School
5650 Oakmont Avenue
1st Amendment
2nd Amendment

17. Georgetown Hills Elementary School
11614 Seven Locks Road
The Ivymount School
1st Amendment

18. MacDonald Knolls Elementary School
10611 Tenbrook Drive
Centers For The Handicapped Inc
1st Amendment 

19. Broome School
751 Twinbrook Parkway
Threshold Services, Inc.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Montgomery parents oppose sale of school land | Washington Examiner

Montgomery parents oppose sale of school land | Washington Examiner
The Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations will tell the county government Tuesday night that it opposes the sale of school land currently rented to a private academy, saying it would be "premature" to sell the land given schools overcrowding...

We believe it would be unwise to sell a prime asset like the Peary site without first obtaining a thorough evaluation of the future needs for middle and high schools in the midcounty area. The Council's 2006 analysis of a similar proposal concluded that it "was a sale of a rare asset probably well below market value with no guarantee that said asset would be available for repurchase should the County need to re-use it as a public school." (emphasis in original).

Before Charging School Bus Fees, Districts Must Know State Law

Before Charging School Bus Fees, Districts Must Know State Law

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Military families and autism: A battle on two fronts | Washington Times Communities

Military families and autism: A battle on two fronts | Washington Times Communities

SILVER SPRING, Md. (11/8/10) — The last time the U.S. Army informed Major Brandon Russell that it was time to move to a new assignment, he opted instead to choose a dangerous and unpopular deployment option so that his family wouldn't have to move from their current home in Boston for the 15 months he would be in training and in Iraq.
What would lead a family man to make such a decision? His 6-year-old daughter Rhema has autism and a seizure disorder and she attends a highly sought after school for children with special needs. Not wanting her to be uprooted, Russell chose to accept a spot in the army's Stability Transition Team, a job that includes incentives for those who take it—including getting to choose where your family lives...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rockville Central - Laura Berthiaume: Oppose Peary Site Sale

Rockville Central:  
Contributor Opinion By Laura Berthiaume: Oppose Peary Site Sale
...The Board of Education has already sent two letters firmly opposing the sale of this site.
The Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations has also voted to oppose the sale... 
...Anyone in the Rockville area who is concerned about school overcrowding should be paying attention tonight. It is particularly concerning that a lame duck County Council is rushing this process through. In fact, it appears there might have been a vote on this sale without even a hearing had County Council Member Valerie Ervin not required that tonight’s hearing be set. The vote will be taken by a lame duck Council, including two outgoing members, one of whom (Duchy Trachtenberg) has been the Council Member pushing to have this sale take place. The voters have spoken. A new Council will be sworn in come December. A step of this magnitude should not be taken by a lame duck Council, led by a lame duck Council Member who will not have to accept responsibility for the portables, the 1:30 lunch times, the classes taking place in hallways, or the lack of recess play areas because all the blacktop is unavailable — all because we already do not have enough classroom space.
Laura Berthiaume 
Montgomery County School Board

MCCPTA 2004: "Will we have land available if we need it?"

On March 3, 2004, the Montgomery County Board of Education held a hearing on the surprise revelation that 3 parcels of public school land (over 31 acres in total) was about to be declared surplus and turned over to the county for non-school uses. That night over 300 parents and community members from all over Montgomery county showed up at the Board of Education for the public hearing.

Here is the statement given that evening of then MCCPTA President Michele Yu on behalf of that organization. 

Bye-bye 19.5 acres of public school land

When the County Council votes next week to sell 19.5 acres of school land to a private entity the land will be gone forever.  

[Update: The Parents' Coalition has learned that Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro, and Duchy Trachtenberg will all support the sale of this property. That's a majority of the Council.]  

Like the many acres of public school land that went before it over the last 15 years, this piece of school land will never again be available for the use of public school children.  

Here's a few of the sites that have been "surplused" in the last 15 years: remember the 32.61 acre site for a future Olney High School,  the 16 acre site for the future Bradley Middle School, the 1.75 acres at Tilden Middle School (Woodward HS site), and the 8.3 acre future River Falls Elementary School site? 

Montgomery County will have less available space to place public schools in the future. Meanwhile, 495 classroom trailers are still in use through out the county, even in the area of the 19.5 acres of public school land that will be sold. 

The Board of Education wants a guarantee that they will be able to reclaim this 19.5 acre site in the future without litigation. Odds of the Board of Education being able to reclaim this land ever? Don't bet on it. 

Gazette: Montgomery Board of Education president wants no court battle over future claim to former high school
But religious academy slated for Aspen Hill site wants to retain legal right
Montgomery County's chief executive is being asked to settle a dispute between the Board of Education and a religious school over the future rights to the former Robert E. Peary High School in Aspen Hill.
In a letter Friday to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), Board of Education President Patricia B. O'Neill (Dist. 3) wrote that the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy should agree not to stop county government from exercising eminent domain and repurchasing the property for the school system's use, given steadily rising enrollment figures in county schools.
O'Neill said she was concerned that the agreement between the county and the Berman Academy left open the possibility that the academy could prevail in a lawsuit over the rights to the property.
But the same day O'Neill sent her letter, Behnam Dayanim, who is vice president of the Orthodox Jewish school's board of directors, said O'Neill's proposal was a non-starter.
"To say we're going to waive all our rights would not be responsible," Dayanim said in an interview with The Gazette on Friday...

Booing, hissing and name calling

We aren't talking about children on a playground. 
We are talking about members of the public at a County Council hearing. 

Being able to present public comment on issues before our elected leaders is one of jewels of our system of government: the ability to speak, and to be heard.

As part of the right of the public to be heard it is the responsibility to the presider of the public forums to make sure that all participants are given their opportunity to speak.  Many, many times we have seen the presider at public forums bang the gavel to remind the audience to respect the time of the speaker. Audience members are admonished to refrain from clapping, talking and loud comments. That did not appear to happen at last night's County Council hearing.  

We may not all agree on issues, but we should all agree to allow each person their chance to have the floor to speak.  And when audience members forget to respect the speaker's time, the presider of the meeting is the appropriate person to remind the audience.

Did County Council President Nancy Floreen ever remind the audience at last night's hearing to respect the speakers' time?  

TX School system receives Transparency Award

PSJA schools receive transparency award | receive, schools, transparency - Now - TheMonitor.com

...“We’re looking at whether taxpayers go in and see the budget and expenditures,” Texas Comptroller spokesman RJ DeSilva said.
Janet Robles, PSJA Assistant Superintendent for Finance, said that providing such information was key for a government entity.
“We’re in charge of funds, but it’s not our money,” she said...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gawker: News Corp Is In Your Child's School To Stay

Yesterday's announcement that News Corporation (the owner of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, the 27 station Fox TV Network, Wall Street Journal, and numerous other entertainment and information services) is acquiring a 90% stake in MCPS business partner Wireless Generation is big news in financial circles.  At the same time, some observers are concerned about what appears to be a corporate takeover of America's education systems.  Others question whether the acquisition makes financial sense for News Corporation.

Commentary from Valerie Strauss, author of The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post:
This didn't take long: Joel Klein announces Nov. 9 that at year’s end he will resign as York City’s Schools chancellor to become executive vice president at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Yesterday, the company announced that it was buying a technology company with big financial ties to the New York City school system.

Murdoch’s company, according to a story at businesswire.com, is acquiring 90 percent of Wireless Generation, a privately held Brooklyn-based education technology company, for approximately $360 million in cash. It will become a subsidiary of News Corp.


“When it comes to K through 12 education,” Murdoch said in a statement about the Wireless Generation purchase, “we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”

No doubt “great teaching” is what motivates Murdoch (whose News Corp. had, as of Sept. 30, 2010, total assets of approximately $56 billion and total annual revenues of approximately $33 billion).

The current wave of education reform based on “data” and “accountability” hasn’t done much to improve public schools, but it sure is helping improve the balance sheets of a lot of for-profit companies.

Commentary from Gawker.com:  
Get ready for News Corporation to become involved in the US education system in a big way—almost as big as Christians, and Palinites, and union-hating... well, all the same sh[**]. Anyhow, lots of money to be had, selling sh[**] to your crumbling schools.

Commentary from Rafael Corrales at Fortune Magazine online:
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (NWS) just purchased Wireless Generation for $360 million. Technically it's $360 million for 90% of the company, but either way it's a lot of money.


But so much of the above just doesn't make sense. Here's why:
  • A high revenue multiple for a business with tough sales cycles: As of this summer, Wireless Generation was on a $60 million revenue run rate. Given that the News Corp purchase essentially values the company around $400 million, that means News Corp bought the company at a +6.5x revenue multiple. That's crazy. Just one more point of context, Wireless Generation has been around roughly 10 years.
  • Where are the profits? Wireless Generation isn't a wildly profitable company. In 2007, the last year I have detailed financial data on them, they were not profitable and they had about 250 employees. Now they are up to about 400 folks, and perhaps they might be investing in people ahead of growth, but even then I'm not sure that a wildly profitable business will ever be there.

Older teachers lead Montgomery to spend more on pensions | Washington Examiner

Older teachers lead Montgomery to spend more on pensions | Washington Examiner

Charter school request fails - The Frederick News-Post Online

Charter school request fails - The Frederick News-Post Online

Alexandria Public Schools triples spending on consultants

Alexandria triples spending on consultants

By Paige Winfield Cunningham
The Alexandria public school district has nearly tripled the amount of money spent on consultants at a time it faces financial challenges.
But the issue isn’t just dollars and cents. Teachers say they are spending too much time away from their classrooms being lectured by high-price consultants.
Alexandria Superintendent Morton Sherman is at the center of this fiscal and educational controversy.
The year before Sherman took the reins at the Alexandria City Public Schools, ACPS spent $379,000 on staff development. Spending began to grow after he arrived in 2008, and totaled $940,000 during the last school year. Consultants range from individuals who have known Sherman for decades to larger firms from the northeast...
...Harvard professor Ron Ferguson, who’s involved in the T.C. Williams transformation, was paid $10,701 last year after lecturing at a district-sponsored community forum...

While Superintendent Jerry Weast won't release how many consultants are hired in a year by MCPS, the above article mentions the name of someone who has spoken at a MCPS conference. This may give a clue as to the fee that might have been charged for this speaker to appear here. 

Peary HS Sale Council Staff Report

Here is the Montgomery County (MD) Council staff report for the proposed resolution for the sale of Peary High School property to the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy.  The resolution is to sell 19.52 acres of down-county property in Rockville for $1,914,860.  The report was authored by Jeffrey Zyontz, Legislative Attorney, and Michael Faden, Senior Legislative Attorney for the Council.  You can also read the staff report here.  The actual resolution is on pages circle 66 and 67 of the report.  Also worth reading is the independent assessment that former Council Member Marilyn Praisner had completed in 2006.  That report is on pages circle 73-circle 87 and is worth a close reading.

Montgomery County MD Council Staff Report on Peary HS Sale Nov 19 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

News Corp to Buy Wireless Generation for $360 Million

ABC News/Money: News Corp to Buy Education Tech Co for $360 Mln

(Reuters) - News Corp said it will acquire 90 percent of Wireless Generation, a privately-held Brooklyn-based education technology firm, for about $360 million in cash to expand its presence into the education technology sector...