Friday, December 31, 2010

MoCo Structural Deficit Discussion at the Civic Fed Jan 10th, 7:45pm

As we all know there is a 'structural deficit' in Montgomery County.  This past May the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) was tasked by the County Council with undertaking a detailed analysis of the County's structural budget deficit and to recommend ways to check and control the 'drivers' of the deficit.  The study, Achieving a Structurally Balanced Budget in Montgomery County, has now been completed and can be found here (Part I, Revenue and Expenditure Trends) and here (Part II, Options for Long-Term Fiscal Balance).  Executive summaries are here (Part I) and here (Part II).  Additional spreadsheets and backup are here.

On Monday evening, January 10th, 2011 the Montgomery County Civic Federation will present a discussion of the OLO report.  Karen Orlansky, the Director of the County Council's Office of Legislative Oversight, will present and discuss the report.  As usual, there will be plenty of time for questions.

The Structural Budget Deficit is going to define how Montgomery County taxpayers and citizens spend our money for the next few years in these difficult economic times.  Please attend and speak up. 

Now it's your turn!

DATE: January 10, 2011
TIME: 7:45 pm
LOCATION: 1st FL Auditorium, County Council Office Bldg., 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville

Paula Bienenfeld
Education Committee Chair, Montgomery County Civic Federation

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010: Montgomery County special education teacher charged with drug possession

Montgomery County special education teacher charged with drug possession

By Dan Morse
Washington Post Staff Writer 
Thursday, December 30, 2010; 10:44 PM 

A Montgomery County elementary school teacher was charged with possession of heroin after a traffic stop this week in Silver Spring, county officials said Thursday. 
Rebecca L. Amick, 25, who teaches special education at Woodlin Elementary School, has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the case, said Lesli Maxwell, a spokeswoman for Montgomery public schools. Amick has been released from custody, according to court records. 
Amick could not be reached for comment. It is unclear whether she has retained a lawyer. 
According to police accounts, Amick was one of three people in a 2002 Mercury Marquis traveling north on Georgia Avenue on Tuesday evening. A member of the Montgomery Police Community Action Team paced the Marquis going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone and pulled it over, said Lucille Baur, a police spokeswoman. The occupants gave the officer permission to search the car and to search them, Baur said. 

Amick had been sitting in a rear seat. Police found nine small plastic bags on her person, Baur said. Police said that an officer on the scene trained to recognize specific drugs determined their contents to be heroin but that the substance has yet to be tested in a forensics lab. 
Officers said they found four similar baggies, believed to hold heroin, as well as two used syringes and a spoon on another passenger, identified in court records as Faisal Abdullah, 25. Abdullah was released from custody, according to court records. He also could not be reached for comment. 
The driver was cited for speeding but was not charged in connection with drug offenses, Baur said. 

State is not backing away from teacher evaluation rule -

State is not backing away from teacher evaluation rule -

"Gov. Martin O'Malley has indicated that he will stand firm on the state's commitment to require student achievement to be 50 percent of principal and teacher evaluations despite significant opposition from teachers unions."

"Legislators, the state teachers union and state school officials could still negotiate some compromise, but whether discussions have been taking place behind closed doors was unclear."

Superintendent search data not representative of majority opinion

Vallejo school trustees scrutinize survey for superintendent search

By Lanz Christian Bañes / Times-Herald
Posted: 11/12/2010 06:37:40 AM PST
The next Vallejo superintendent should focus on improving student learning, reestablish trust and possess strong communication skills.
Those are necessary traits outlined by a superintendent search firm that presented a "leadership profile report" Wednesday to the Vallejo City Unified School District board.
The report, however, was criticized by several board members who questioned its validity, including concerns that only one student was interviewed in a survey.

Carolyn McKennan, a consultant with Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates Ltd., said the firm spent the last month or so interviewing and surveying faculty, administrators, board members, parents and one student about what they'd like to see in the next superintendent.
Interim Superintendent Floyd Gonella has been heading the district since former Superintendent Reynaldo Santa Cruz retired in June.
Board member Hazel Wilson expressed shock that only about 160 people were interviewed or surveyed.

"I'm concerned with (the report's) validity," Wilson said. "I don't want us putting an unnecessary amount of weight ... on something such as the statement concerning instructional (improvement)."

She was referring to a report section that ranked the superintendent's skills in instructional improvement as a low priority for focus groups.
Indeed, the report itself stated that "it should be emphasized that the data are not a scientific sampling, nor should they necessarily viewed as representing the majority opinion."
Board member Raymond Victor Mommsen agreed.
"I'm shocked there's only one student," Mommsen said.
McKennan acknowledged the low numbers in the data, but suggested the viewpoints were indicative of those particular groups rather than the majority of respondents.

Tish Busselle, speaking on behalf of state administrator Richard Damelio, suggested the relationship between the superintendent and the state administrator be downplayed in the criteria, as the district hopes to regain full control within a year. Since a 2004 state takeover of the district, following a $60 million loan, all but financial control has been restored to the board.
Contact staff writer Lanz Christian Bañes at (707) 553-6833 or lbanes

"GreenKids" can''t grow a vegetable garden in MCPS

We know one thing MCPS students won't be doing with this grant money...
“GreenKids: Creating Maryland Green Schools” (Chevy Chase). With a $20,628 Innovation Grant, the Audubon Naturalist Society of the Central Atlantic States will
partner with Montgomery County Public Schools to expand its GreenKids program to
reach more students. In participating GreenKids schools, each class will receive lessons
on energy conservation, recycling, and watershed conservation as well as take part
schoolyard nature investigations. In addition, each school will receive a grant of $500 to
construct a piece of green infrastructure on their grounds (such as a nature trail or
schoolyard garden). This year, with TogetherGreen support, Montgomery County
streams will become learning laboratories where students can act as both scientists and
conservationists in learning how to test water quality and monitor stream health. At the
end of the year, participating GreenKids schools will be eligible to apply for Maryland
Green School certification. By working in close partnership with schools, GreenKids
gives students a voice in environmental stewardship, connects them to nature, and uses
the outdoors as a living classroom where they can explore and learn lessons that stay with
them into the future.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Trips to China Questioned by Auditor in Utah

See previous post on MCPS principals that participated in the same "trip to China" program in December 2010 here

Desert News
Bridge to China: Benefits of controversial program outweigh costs, proponents say

...The Hanban trip is hosted by the Chinese government twice a year, and administrators and teachers from around the country travel to China to learn about the culture, the people and the advantages of Chinese immersion programs.
This is where Finch, who was then the Alpine curriculum director, said he was sold on the importance of the teaching young children Chinese. When he became principal, he decided to implement it.
But the state auditors office wrote in the October audit of school district travel that, "School districts should consider foregoing the trips until school budgets improve."
Since 2008, 159 Utah educators from 11 Utah school districts have gone to the week-long program, according to the audit. Utahns account for about 10 percent of the U.S. delegates. In 2009 alone, 762 delegates went from 40 states, about 19 delegates per state. Utah sent 83.
School districts pay a $900 registration fee per delegate for the summer conference and $450 per delegate for the winter conference. But two-thirds of the trip — round-trip international airfare, travel costs in China, lodging, group meals, tour guides and admission tickets — is paid for by Hanban, the Chinese government agency coordinating the program.
Auditors estimated that the total cost for Utah school districts for the trips in 2009 was about $90,000...

5 Principals Travel During School Year

How important are principals to the day to day function of a Montgomery County public school? 

These 5 principals were able to travel to China during the school year. While their travel may (no public records exist to detail the cost of this trip to taxpayers) have been paid for by a private entity, 5 public schools lost the services of these 5 administrators for almost 2 weeks. 

Are full-time school administrators on travel during the school year a luxury that can be afforded in this economy? 

Patch: A World Away

MCPS Principals Travel to China, Tour Schools.

For nine days in early December, Williams along with four other MCPS principals, toured Chinese elementary, middle and high schools as well as several cultural landmarks. She was accompanied by MCPS Principals Karen Gregory of Maryvale ES, Susan Shenk of Travilah ES, Darlene Simmons of RICA and Paulette Smith of Cabin John MS.
The purpose of the trip was to observe how Chinese schools are conducted and to build a partnership between the two school administrations. Yunnan Province administrators hope to establish an exchange program with Montgomery County Public Schools.
MCPS has yet to take a stance on the offer, according to Williams.
"They feel the need to do a better job teaching science and thinking," said Williams. "They want to have their kids educated in the U.S..."

Patch: School Officials, Parents Concerned for Pedestrian Safety at Kingsview MS

Some parents and school officials of Kingsview Middle School said the lack of crosswalks and possible elimination of bus routes is feeding their concern for pedestrian safety.
Calvin Johnson fears for his 11-year-old son every day just walking to school.
To reach Kingsview Middle School, the boy has to cross at Father Hurley Boulevard and Dawson Farm Road, the intersection of two busy streets.
"I know the budget is tight but I think the county needs to prioritize protecting kids," Johnson said...

PTA, Promethean and Pepsi

PTA Watch: They still don’t get it: PTA, Promethean and Pepsi

I really don’t know who exactly makes these decisions, but I really wish Nationalm [PTA] would spend more time working on things that actually work for us local units and less time on partnerships that are so clearly useless to us and on bombarding us with Pepsi messages that aren’t working.
I just heard about this new program with Promethean that National is touting, and it’s hard to believe.  Have you read this at all: ?  I sure hope the check to National [PTA] was big, because this does nothing for local units.  The small print makes it even more clear.  This is basically National telling locals to jump through all kinds of hoops and fundraise more (something Natonal is always telling us not to do) all in order to get a discount on one very specific set of products.  How does that make sense?
As far as Pepsi goes, enough already. Please. I get the PTA emails and the PTA facebook postings and I’ve seen the huge spot on the PTA homepage.  In the last two months, I’ve received almost nothing except messages asking me to go click on a Pepsi thing to help National.  The worst part is that the “largest nonprofit focused on children” has spent all this time and energy promoting this contest and is still only in 119th place.  Last month, PTA wound up in about 80th place.  Only the top two get funded.
When Chuck was elected and Byron was hired, all we heard about was this new focus on serving local units, but all we’ve really seen is partnership after partnership that brings in dollars to National, do almost nothing for local units and then go away. Does anyone remember the movie night fundraiser with HP?
All PTA Watch wants is a National office that serves local units rather than a National office that serves the National office...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gazette: Maryland could look westward for inspiration on school fees policy

Pr. William wins largest grant for school security | Washington Examiner

Pr. William wins largest grant for school security | Washington Examiner

...While Prince William landed $672,155 from the Department of Education on Thursday, the much larger Montgomery County school district received just $213,833, significantly less than requested.

Applicants could earn up to 100 points from a three-person review committee, which ranked the schools and assigned grants until the money ran out. Bradshaw confirmed that Montgomery County did not place high on the list.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Monday, December 27, 2010

Salaries of local government brass top Biden's, Cabinet secretaries' | Washington Examiner

Salaries of local government brass top Biden's, Cabinet secretaries' Washington Examiner

...Yet, that money is pocket change compared with the salaries of school superintendents and higher eduction officials lining the upper echelon of county and state payrolls. Outgoing Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast, for example, earned nearly $500,000 this year, including benefits...

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Friday, December 24, 2010

With Apologies to Roger Angell Redux

Mother Earth’s made her annual tour ’round the sun, so let’s crack the champagne and review what we’ve done.

A year has gone by and we look back with pride – the Parents Coalition continues its ride. We’ve reported the news and broken the stories, to cast light on dark corners and unveil the mores of councilmembers, staff, and the Board of Education. We hope the New Year will bring more edification.

Our Parents Coalition continues its mission and we’re proud to say we get lots of attention. With this blog and your hits we continue to thrive. Thank so much to you all, you’re what keep us alive. So send us your stories, your memos, and tips, we’ll publish them all – we’ll outdo Loose Lips.

We are known far and wide and get hits from California; from Texas and New York and even Livonia. So it’s time to raise drink to the friends of transparency, more openness and fairness and a lot less malarkey.

It’s that time of year to hoist up our glasses with a wish of good cheer to all laddies and lasses.

To Nancy Floreen, we bid fond adieu good luck in the New Year, good wishes to you and welcome to Valerie Ervin, our new Council prez, glad tidings to you as the old carol says.

And to Chris Barclay who’ll preside o’er the Board, in a year when our incomes most likely won’t soar. We wish for you issues that won’t tax our wallets, smaller classes, more teachers, get rid of those fees! and last but not least, choose a wise superintendent, we know its a tall order, somewhat shocking, yet we hope you find all of these things in your stocking.

Warm mittens and headgear in this cold winter weather for our Council staff as we gather together to say Happy New Year to Susan Buffone, who answers our questions in her cheery tone, and Dale Tibbets, Merry Christmas to you, we thank you sincerely, your hard work is noted quite clearly. To all those who work for us at the council, good cheer! We wish you the best in the coming New Year.

And under the mistletoe who do we find?

Here’s Peggy Dennis, of Civic Fed fame, we wish her the best, with a glass of champagne.

To the hard working teachers here in our county, we hope you enjoy this holiday’s bounty. Our children and we think you are the mostest! Good thoughts for you now during this Winter’s Solstice.

You teach them good manners, mathematics and physics, your good works and efforts confound all the critics.

And cheers to Phil Andrews who’s testing his mettle, his quote about fish really stirred up the kettle.

Farewell Peary High – it’s gone in a flash, $1.9million – maybe – is all of the cash.

This year we discovered the IAC - who knew government decisions were made so secretly.

And this was the summer of FieldTurfTarkett whose ground rubber tires were installed to our sorrow, we want real grass for the fields of tomorrow. That black gunk is now oozing right into the Bay, with heat islands that Santa sees from way up in his sleigh.

And then in the fall the board let it be known that the Pearson contract was ours to own. For a few million dollars we gave up our rights and the taxpayers embarked on a new adventure – now the curriculum we paid for is a for-profit venture. The MCPS logo we owned with such pride now belongs wholly to the Pearson side. So here’s to the staff at Arcola ES, they led the way and provided the test.

To new council members Hans Riemer and Rice, we hope that new faces will add some spice to the council; we need it – some straight talk and honesty would be so refreshing. We hope in the New Year the gears are all meshing.

And as for those school fees, unfair and illegal, we all know that pay-schools are just for the regal. If they’re charging a fee to provide education, then what is the need for all this taxation? We know that the County has flouted its rules. Do they think that the public are nothing but fools? Through the year on this issue we’d beg and entreat, in hopes that our school board would show less deceit. So now who will step up to save the day? Cause we’re at risk when some children can’t pay. We say schools should be free throughout the Free State, no reason our County should be second rate.

To Laura Berthiaume we hoist up our glass, your outspokenness and honesty make one rare lass.

To Lyda Astrove and to Louis Wilen, here’s hoping in 2012 you’ll be willin’ don’t stand in the wings and wait until then. And kudos to Agnes Trower and to Karen Smith, you both stand tall, your run for the Board of Ed inspired us all.

Christmas cheer and goodwill to Janis Sartucci in her pink fuzzy slippers; she deserves to wear Gucci. She keeps the wheels humming with sheer determination, her hard work and openness are an inspiration.

Good holidays all to Julie Parker and from The Examiner our own Lisa Gartner. And to Andrew Ujifusa and of course to Ms. Spivack, for your coverage of the County and education issues there is no lack.

Of course we’re still in an economic disaster, with cuts to the schools coming faster and faster. A $300 million gap needs to close, how will we do it? Right now no one knows. No more free rides for our kids in the summer. No more police in the school, what a bummer. Cuts here and cuts there on our nerves it’s so grating; the idea is to rescue our good Moody’s rating.

So out with the old and in with the new, a Happy and Healthy New Year to you.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a Healthy and Prosperous New Year from the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Petition for active recess

Many Montgomery County, MD., public schools keep elementary school children indoors when the temperature hits 32 degrees or snow is on the ground. Our children need to run around and be active.  The county has no official policy telling schools to provide children with ACTIVE recess time. It only "encourages" physical activity "for students, staff and community members before school, during the instructional day and after the instructional day."

Help convince the MCPS Board of Education to set a specific wellness policy requiring schools to give all county children 30 minutes of ACTIVE recess each day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pay to Graduate in MCPS

  • The Board of Education has never authorized local schools to charge students a fee to graduate.

  • The Maryland State Legislature has never authorized public schools to charge students a fee to graduate. 

  • The money collected through "senior dues/fees" doesn't go in to the MCPS Operating Budget.  

  • The "senior fees/dues" charged at MCPS schools varies from zero to over $100.  

What exactly are these dues/fees being used for? 

Please note the "late fee." That adds a sense of urgency to this unjustified charge. 

Senior Fees
Dear Senior Parents,
Thursday, December 23, 2010 is the last day to pay the senior fee at the low price of $45.00.  The price goes up after the winter break to $50.00.
Please submit your money or checks to XXXXX in the Media Center. 
Don't forget to write your students' name and ID number on the check. 
All checks should be made out to XXHS.
Have a great, happy and healthy holiday.
Thank you,
Senior Class Sponsor

Check out the cap & gown price at this MCPS school. Makes you wonder what the "low $45" price is at the school above.

Date: December 3, 2010
Re:  Senior Cap and Gown fee
Dear Parents…The time is upon us to start planning for graduation.  Your senior student should have already filled out a cap and gown form and turned it in to XXXXXX in the XXXXX office.  Please note that cost for purchasing the cap and gown is separate from the announcements and other graduation accessories available through Jostens.   XXHS will be responsible for ordering caps and gowns in bulk, saving you a couple dollars.  Students are permitted to re-use their sibling’s black cap and gown. 
If you have not already done so, please make a check payable to XXHS for $23.85 to purchase the cap and gown and turn it in to XXXXXXX, senior class advisor.  We would like to have all payments collected by December 21, 2010.  Please call XXXXXX at 301-XXX-XXXX if you have any questions. Thank you for your cooperation.

Budget Fact: No Board of Education in Budget Process

Board of Education member Laura Berthiaume has protested this FACT in the last two budget cycles and here it is in print one more time in this handy "Budget Fact Sheet - FY 2012."

Read this budget "Fact Sheet" to learn who does create the MCPS budget. 

The elected Board of Education is not even mentioned...


High remediation rates cast doubt on reforms

by Valerie Strauss

...The bubble burst in New York City this year when it was discovered that the tests used to measure student progress had gotten increasingly easy to pass.
But now there’s another factor that raises questions about just what is going on New York City’s schools: the remediation rate in city community colleges.
Newly released figures show that nearly 75 percent of city high students entering City University community colleges could not pass placement exams in reading, math and writing this year, requiring remediation.
That’s up from 71 percent in 2009 but down from 2002, when 82 percent needed remediation, according to the New York Daily News.
So after eight years of Klein reforms, the remediation rate has gone from 82 percent to nearly 75 percent.
Not exactly a record to be proud of...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gazette: State commission recommends shifting half of teacher pension costs to local governments

Panel asks for extension on its report until October

A state commission voted Monday to recommend that the governor and legislature begin shifting some costs of teacher pensions to local jurisdictions.
The recommendation by the Public Employees' and Retirees Benefit Sustainability Commission, which has been analyzing the state's pension liability since September, would split pension and Social Security costs evenly between the state and local governments. The panel also is recommending that the cost sharing be phased in over three years...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Montgomery College professor disputes Dr. Weast's claims about remedial class placement

I am a recently retired, long-time Montgomery College math faculty member.  Comments made by Dr. Weast [on the Kojo Nnamdi show on December 17] in response to a caller question about the high number of MCPS graduates who require remediation upon entry to MC are flat out inaccurate! It is absolutely NOT the case that students who score under 550 on the SATs are automatically placed into remedial classes. A 550 or higher only exempts such students from taking Accuplacer placement exams, making them eligible for college level, credit bearing courses in these areas. (This, by the way, is a standard practice and threshold score across the State.)  It is the student's score on this exam that then determines whether he/she requires a developmental level class.

As pointed out by the caller, it is true that a significant percentage of such students do demonstrate such a need, which then begs the question as to why MCPS graduates are unable to score sufficiently high on Accuplacer so as to not require enrollment in developmental classes. And assuming that Dr. Weast's response to this question would be that Accuplacer scores are also too high - again they're typical of what's used across the state for this purpose - then how would he explain the fact that the an inordinately high percentage of these students are, in fact, unable to pass their developmental classes?

Finally, Dr. Weast stated that the average MC student requires 5 to 7 years to graduate, comparing that to the shorter time-frame at Towson University.  In fact, I don't know what the average time to complete an AA degree at MC is, but I'm sure it's nothing close to 5 to 7 years for full-time students. Clearly, Dr. Weast is including the many part-time students who come to MC, students with an average credit load of 6 or 7 credits per semester, in his average time to graduation. Juuuust a bit misleading, don't you think?

I would certainly hope that you [Kojo Nnamdi] take a moment to correct these incredible misstatements about Montgomery College on the air -- good journalism demands no less.

Dr. Kenneth Weiner
Professor of Mathematics (retired), Montgomery College

Editor's note: Dr. Weiner recently retired from Montgomery College after 37 years on the math faculty.  He holds a Ph.D. in mathematical statistics from the University of Maryland.  Dr. Weiner is currently leading an initiative to reform the developmental math program at Montgomery College.

Superintendent makes incorrect claim about MC placement system

Another in a series of deceptive misstatements by Weast

In the Kojo Nnamdi show of December 17, the following exchange took place:


Thank you. I teach at Montgomery College. And a significant percentage of our students are, of course, from them Montgomery County Public School System. And a significant percentage of those students require developmental courses in reading, English and/or math and sometimes all three. These are students who have graduated from Montgomery County High School, and yet are very, very low on reading, writing and math. How does Mr. Weast explain that as part of his graduation rite?


I'd be happy to. I would love to explain that question. I've been dying to get an air question like that, so thank you, Judy. I don't know what you teach but I really like it. First of all, Montgomery College has an entry exam for these kids, that if you don't score 550 on the English, 550 on the math, 550 on the writing, you automatically are moved in to remediation in those classes. That is well above the national average. That's the 1650 that I'm talking about. The national average on the SAT test is 100 and some points less than that. So you're trying to, one, use a much higher bar. Two, let's take a look at the graduation rate from Montgomery College five to seven years.

Montgomery College admissions representative Bridgett tells us, however, that Dr. Weast doesn't know what he is talking about.  According to Bridgett, the only students who are required to take remedial classes are those who score below 90 (out of 120) on the English Accuplacer, and those who score below 62 (out of 120) on the Math Accuplacer.  (Students who score below 62 on the math Accuplacer are required to take a remedial class that is similar to Algebra II, according to Bridgett.)

Students who score 550 or above on the SAT English section are exempt from taking the English Accuplacer, and students who score 550 or above on the SAT math section are exempt from taking the math Accuplacer.

Weast: Quit thinking about how we spend it!

The following quote from Superintendent Jerry Weast is from the December 17, 2010, Kojo Nnamdi show transcript

This quote shows the Superintendent of our public school system advocating for the public to NOT understand how he is spending a $2.1 billion budget. 
So what's the point of a public education for all?

...And, you know, I'm getting people to quit thinking about all these little smoke and mirrors about how you spend it. I think that's important.

For citizens who would actually like to know a little bit about how the Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools is spending their tax dollars, here is a peek at payments of over $25,000 made to vendors in FY 10 by MCPS. 
Don't miss the $5.2 million credit card bill. 
Wonder what is being charged and who is getting all those American Express points?
Don't ask. The Superintendent wants you to quit thinking about how your tax dollars are spent. 

$60M or $82M (Jerry Weast Explains It All to Kojo)

Please CLICK HERE to read the transcript of Jerry Weast on the Kojo Nnamdi show last Friday, December 17th, on the Politics Hour on WAMU.

Hear Jerry Weast talk about:

"60 is gonna cost them unfortunately 82"
"I have me a lot of teachers that have daycare, and so I'm talking to them all the time because they're talking to me about the cost of daycare. And I had a group the other day, and they were telling me their spending well over a thousand dollars a month in daycare costs, not hard."
"We're audited by everybody under the sun, including our Taxpayers League."
"And we have, you know, 16, 17,000 kids in special education. It creates a lot of extra load. "
"Now, that's a heavy load for teachers but, you know, special ed children are gonna be special and adults. And we need not label them now or later."
"And I don't think our union is over powerful."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What the rest of the State thinks about MoCo

Here is an excerpt from an editorial that ran in the Baltimore Sun on December 15th. (yellow highlights my own)

Maryland's ATM?

Our view: If Montgomery County is treated as a cash cow, it's only because that's where the “milk” is found

In the tony village of Potomac, one of Montgomery County’s most exclusive enclaves, the average home sells for about $1 million, but it's not hard to find properties that list for a great deal more money. People living there generally earn more than those who live elsewhere in the county, but they also pay much more in taxes, too.

Yet when Montgomery County was struggling to pay for government services during the recession that hit eight years ago and raised property taxes at a rate higher than that of inflation (where it's normally capped by the county’s charter), you didn’t hear Potomac residents claiming they’d been treated as an automated teller machine by middle-income Wheaton and Silver Spring. Those who live so close to the nation’s capital city are more sophisticated about government, economics and democracy than that.

So it was disappointing to hear Montgomery County Executive Isiah “Ike” Leggett tell Martin O’Malley at a breakfast meeting this week that the county that provided so many of the votes to re-elect him governor should not be regarded as the “ATM machine for the rest of Maryland.”

That Mr. Leggett doesn’t want state aid reduced next year and his own county budget woes worsened is understandable. But how disappointing for him to adopt the inflammatory language of a raging parochial. He's starting to sound like developer, political gadfly and community newspaper columnist Blair Lee IV who constantly derides the county for empathizing with the plight of Maryland's poor.

No doubt the county executive is most focused on a potential loss of teacher pension money. Right now, the state pays the full employer contribution to teacher pensions, a formula that greatly benefits Montgomery County, which not only has more teachers but pays them more money (and thus allows them to earn higher pensions) then other jurisdictions.

But here’s what happens if in closing a projected $1.6 billion budget shortfall next year, Mr. O’Malley and the state legislature look elsewhere for reductions: Poorer subdivisions will get hit harder. Is that really a better or fairer way to go?

It’s not clear whether Mr. Leggett’s remarks were directed at the governor or to placating critics like Mr. Lee. If there is a rising anger toward the governor and General Assembly for shortchanging Montgomery County, it certainly wasn’t reflected in the last election. Despite supporting the so-called “millionaire’s tax,” the temporary surcharge on high-income residents that was vigorously opposed by some in the county's delegation to Annapolis, Mr. O’Malley won re-election in the county with 68 percent of the vote. Mr. Leggett, a millionaire’s tax opponent, was re-elected with 65.5 percent.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Density, the CCT and Overcrowded Schools -- This is planning?

This latest report on the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) and the amazing density planned for Gaithersburg is here, from our friend Donna Baron, the Coordinator for The Gaithersburg-North Potomac-Rockville Coalition.  The density is unsustainable and will create even more overcrowding to our already stressed schools.  Thanks Donna!
Hi Everyone,

If you were able to attend the meeting about the Corridor Cities Transitway (CCT) last night you probably noticed three things:

The simulations of the CCT alignments looked oddly benign.
The residents of King Farm were there in full force.
There were three possible alignments that would avoid Belward Farm.

The simulations of the CCT alignments did not include wider roads or highway interchanges because the CCT does not require them. However, the staging requirements for the Gaithersburg West (Great Seneca Science Corridor) master plan predicate massive amounts of density on the construction of the CCT even though the County execs are fully aware that it will carry only a fraction of the additional people.

Implementation of the master plan will result in up to 50,000 additional people in the Shady Grove/Belward Farm area but the CCT will carry only 12% to 15% of them. The remaining 40,000 people will require six- and eight-lane highways with twelve- to sixteen-lane highway interchanges along Great Seneca. The County and the developers intentionally set it up this way. They are banking on support for transit to allow them to overdevelop our area.

The CCT simulations did not mention the horns or whistles that will blow at each intersection along the CCT route.

Also missing from the CCT simulations were the tracks and railroad gates that will be built across the entrances to the neighborhoods along the alignment including Washingtonian Woods, Mission Hills, Lakelands and Kentlands as well as Crown Farm and the Rio.

King Farm will have the whole package running through the middle of their community, within 20 feet of some of the condos...tracks, railroad gates, blocked streets and horns or whistles.

The over-flow crowd included 50 to 100 residents from King Farm who oppose the CCT alignment through their community. The residents gave very cogent and convincing testimony and they presented the state with a petition with 1000 names from residents requesting a change in the alignment avoiding their walkable community.

One resident said she has visited many cities with bus rapid transit or light rail but the transits did not run through or adjacent to suburban residential neighborhoods. They operated in urban, commercial or industrial areas which would mitigate some of the above issues.

Some of the CCT alignment charts showed three possible alignments that would avoid crossing Belward Farm and the Washingtonian Woods/Mission Hills intersection. That was a positive note.

There were two residents who testified in favor of the CCT but I’m wondering if they have thought about the trip down Great Seneca as the CCT is built, then the road is widened to six-lanes and then the twelve-lane, two-level interchange is built at Muddy Branch and the sixteen-lane three-level interchange is built at Sam Eig. Are they lost in the fantasy of hopping on the rail to go to their every destination or are they dealing with the reality of the impending debacle?

The CCT should not be funded until a comprehensive, accurate traffic analysis is completed and Montgomery County develops a rational approach to additional development that will protect existing neighborhoods and historic properties.

There is still time to write to the state officials to express your opinions.

Contact info:

Governor Martin O’Malley -
Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley -
Rick Kiegel, mail to:

Please forward this to your friends and neighbors. It seems that there are still many residents who are unaware of the implications of the master plan and the CCT. Testimony regarding the CCT can be found on the website,

Thanks and best regards,

Donna Baron
The Gaithersburg - North Potomac - Rockville Coalition

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gazette: Churchill High School principal wrongly dismisses school

Gazette: Some students leave early; school system investigating possible prank 
 by Cody Calamaio and Alex Ruoff | Staff Writers

Some Winston Churchill High School students left school several hours before the final bell Thursday following an erroneous early dismissal.
About 10:35 a.m., shortly after the county's first measurable snowfall of the year began, Principal Joan Benz announced over the public address system to the Potomac school that classes would end early, according to students and the school system.
Less than an hour later, Benz, a 35-year school system employee, again addressed the school, this time to retract the early dismissal...
...Yu said some underclassmen protested Benz's retraction of the early release by sitting down in the hallway. Security guards threatened to take away parking passes if the students didn't get up.
He said he students were disappointed in Benz's decision to make them stay after she told them they could leave.
"I feel like she tried to cover it up," Yu said. "Ms. Benz couldn't admit that she was wrong."

Dr. Weast and Kojo

Today on The Politics Hour, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast talked about the challenges of student assessment and the county's approach to teacher evaluation:

All videos from the Kojo Nnamdi Show are available on the KNS You Tube channel:

Its a radio broadcast, so we won't be able to tell whether or not Dr. Weast is crying on the inside - or the outside.

Early release mistake?

The Parents' Coalition has learned that yesterday one MCPS high school announced that they would be "closing early due to the weather" in error. 

After many students, and even some staff, had left the building the error was corrected. 

The students that had left did not return.  

What is the official procedure for closing schools early? How are principals notified of early closings?  

Thursday, December 16, 2010

County Council president: 'Bad news all around for Montgomery' | Washington Examiner

County Council president: 'Bad news all around for Montgomery' | Washington Examiner

MCPS top 100 earners

Top 100 "out of school" earners in MCPS as of November 2010.
(Does not include contractors, principals, or assistant principals)

A significant health care and retirement benefits package is also provided to all employees. 

Data provided courtesy of MCPS Public Information Office

Weast Jerry         216,792.00
Superintendent of Schools (special benefits package not included in this figure)
Bowers Larry          202,540.00
Chief Operating Officer
Lacey Frieda       202,540.00
Deputy Superintendent of Schools
Leleck  Jo Ann       182,260.00
Special Advisor to the Deputy Superintendent
Stetson Frank       178,686.00
Chief School Performance Officer
Bulson Sean           162,623.00
Community Superintendent
Collette Sherwin        162,623.00
Chief Technology Officer
Foose  Renee          162,623.00
Associate Superintendent - Shared Accountability
Goodman Carole         162,623.00
Associate Superintendent - Human Resources
Hermann Ursula        162,623.00
Community Superintendent
Kimball LaVerne      162,623.00
Community Superintendent
Lang Erick        162,623.00
Associate Superintendent - Curriculum and Instruction
Liebes Sherry       162,623.00
Community Superintendent
Mills Bronda        162,623.00
Community Superintendent
Richardson Chrisandra     162,623.00
Associate Superintendent - Special Education and Student Services
Talley Adrian         162,623.00
Community Superintendent
Virga Jr  James          162,623.00
Consulting Principal
Edwards Brian           156,142.00
Chief of Staff
Ikheloa Ikhide        156,142.00
Chief of Staff
Brake Kathy         147,623.00
Director of School Performance
Confino Robin        147,623.00
Exec Director Chief Operating Office
Greene Denise        147,623.00
Director of School Performance
Greismann Zvi            147,623.00
Hollingshead Donna        147,623.00
Exec Director - Deputy Superintendent of Schools
Smith Myra         147,623.00
Director of School Performance
Spatz Marshall     147,623.00
Director of Management, Budget and Planning
Steinberg David         147,623.00
Director II
Webb Lori-Chris    147,623.00
Exec Director - Deputy Superintendent of Schools
Abrunzo Pat            146,623.00
Director of School Performance
Burke John         146,623.00
Director II
Carrasco Moreno        146,623.00
Director I - Secondary Leadership Training
Collins Betty          146,623.00
Director II - Instructional Leadership Support
Creel Martin       146,623.00
Director II - Enriched and Innovative Programs
DeGraba  Susanne      146,623.00
Chief Financial Officer
Ferrell Linda          146,623.00
Frappolli Raymond      146,623.00
Director, Human Resources and Development
Kline Carroll      146,623.00
Director II- School Improvement Initiatives - PLCI
Lazor Kathleen       146,623.00
Director II - Department of Materials Managemen
Martinez Jeffrey       146,623.00
Director II - Human Resources and Development 
Morrison Sylvia           146,623.00
Director II - Department of Instructional Programs
Strubel Eliz          146,623.00
Director of School Performance
Whigham Wayne          146,623.00
Director I - Appeals/Transfer Team
Zarchin Michael         146,623.00
Consulting Principal
Newsome Jr.   Edward        146,123.00
Director of School Performance
Brown  Elizabeth    145,123.00
Director II - Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Davis Eric         145,123.00
Director I - Department of Family and Community Partnerships
Heath Doreen       145,123.00
Director II - Department of Strategic Project Management and Planning 
Kuhar Cary           145,123.00
Director II - Department of Infrastructure and Operations 
Mason Gwendolyn    145,123.00
Director II - Department of Special Education Services
Pattik Judith      145,123.00
Song James        145,123.00
Director I - Department of Facilities Management
Watkins Todd         145,123.00
Director II - Transportation Central Administration
Stokes Elton        143,623.00
Director II - Department of Information and Application Services
Hellmuth Robert        140,940.00
Director - Department of School Safety and Security
Adams Jevoner        139,495.00
Supervisor - Student Services Appeals Unit
Allie Catherine     139,495.00
Director I - Skillful Teaching and Leading 
Beattie  William      139,495.00
Dir Systemwide Athletics
Howard Betty          139,495.00
Coordinator - Student Services Appeals Unit
Lanham Tarason Felicia      139,495.00
Director I - Title I 
Butler Jane              138,495.00
Staffing Coordinator, Secondary Team
Graves Donna        138,495.00
Director I - Equity Initiatives
Lavorgna Cheri        138,495.00
Director I - Technology, Reporting and Systems Support
Levine Gary         138,495.00
Administrator Special Assignment - Employee Services Administration
Montgomery Pamela        138,495.00
Director I - Systemwide Safety Programs
Schaefer Ellen          138,495.00
Coordinator - Montgomery County Infants and Toddlers Program
Silvio Jody          138,495.00
Coordinator - Curriculum and Instructional Programs
Thomas Michael      138,495.00
Principal Special Assgmnt
Bailey  Gail          137,995.00
Director, School Library Media Programs
Woodson Karen         137,995.00
Director - Division of ESOL/Bilingual Programs
Joseph Shawn         137,879.00
Director of School Performance
Bartels Brian         136,995.00
Director - Psychological Services
Cepaitis Theresa       136,995.00
Director I - Elementary Integrated Curriculum Team
Doody Robert       136,995.00
Hemphill Sharon        136,995.00
Director I - Staff Development Teacher Project Team
Higgins Roy            136,995.00
Director I - Division of Maintenance
Irvin Frances     136,995.00
Kevin John           136,995.00
Investment Officer
Lake-Parcan Lily         136,995.00
Director, Middle School Instruction & Achievement
Langford-Brown Ebony        136,995.00
Director, Elem. School Instruction and Achievement
McGaughey Philip         136,995.00
Director, Division of Procurement
Milwit Nicola       136,995.00
Exec Asst Chief Operating Office
Mohr Diane          136,995.00
Executive Assistant
Piacente Felicia        136,995.00
Director - Division of Prekindergarten Special Programs and Related Services 
Silverstein Roni          136,995.00
Director - Administrator Training and Support
Steinberg Laura         136,995.00
Staff Assistant, BOE
Salandy-Defour Ricardo      136,993.68
IT Systems Engineer
Felder Monique      136,495.00
Director I
King Suzann       136,495.00
Staff Assistant, BOE
Williams Stephanie    136,495.00
Director I - Department of Policy, Records and Reporting
Crispell Bruce        135,495.00
Director Div Long Range Planning
Cordova Berrios Nivea         134,549.00
Director I - Residency and International Admissions
Bell Gregory        133,104.00
Supervisor, Diversity Initiatives
Kolan Kathy             133,104.00
Supervisor, Transition Services Unit
Lipsky Dick          133,104.00
Supervisor, MCPS TV
Wilson Mary         133,104.00
Unable to determine
Neff Steven       133,049.00
Director I - Pupil Personnel Services
Bader Julie        132,104.00
Supervisor - Child Find/Early Childhood Disabilities Unit
Defosse Pamela       132,104.00
Supervisor - Speech and Language Services
Janus  Patricia      132,104.00
Supervisor - Physical disabilities programs