Sunday, January 31, 2010

NBC4: Students may have changed grades for money

UPDATE Monday, February 1, 2010:  CHEATING AT CHURCHILL


Fallout continues over those students who allegedly changed grades in Churchill High School's computer system. Parents still can't believe how long this went on, and the investigation continues. The latest developments tonight on News4 at 5 and 6.
~~~

NBC4 reports that one student withdrew from Churchill High School on January 28, 2010.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/video.

During Dyson's two years at Churchill, he felt used...

Connecticut's Jerome Dyson is proud to be from Scotland
By Mark Giannotto
Saturday, January 9, 2010
...he was named one of 30 finalists for the John Wooden Award, given annually to college basketball's best player, and before his Hall of Fame coach compared him to Ray Allen and Richard Hamilton when he was just a freshman...
...During Dyson's two years at Churchill, he felt used, a student who was unfairly characterized because of the neighborhood he grew up in and only given guidance and help when his eligibility for the basketball team was concerned.  
"There was times where only during basketball season you felt like you were a part of the Churchill community," said Dyson, a 6-foot-4 senior guard and team captain at Connecticut. "Once basketball season was over, nobody really cared how good your grades were. Nobody stayed on top of me. I'm sad that I had to go away, but I think it made me a better person."
"If he had stayed here, he would not be where he is now," said Dyson's mother, Julie Harriday, who is a pastor at the Immanuel Church of God in Germantown and still lives in Scotland. "He would have gotten lost in the shuffle and looked at only as an athlete. A lot of athletes in the Scotland community . . . they get localized like, 'He's from Scotland.' Why not just from Potomac? It's been separated like that for so long. Now they see him in a different light, but Jerome is still the same incredible kid I always thought of him to be."...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Database: Cell Towers Approved for MCPS School Sites

The Parents' Coalition has made the list of all MCPS school sites that have been approved by Montgomery County for the installation of cell phone telecommunication towers available in one easy to use database shown below.

This information was obtained from the Montgomery County Transmission Facilities Coordinating Group

The database shows where installations have been approved, but does not show if the approved tower was actually installed.

The database includes all MCPS property that is governed by the County government but does not include MCPS property governed by city governments.

mcpstowersitesapproved

Loiederman, Sligo & Maryvale Petition for programs

A. Mario Loiederman Middle School Petition:

We, the students of A. Mario Loiederman School for the Creative and Performing Arts, and our parents, support our school. Our program is unique and unmatched anywhere else in the County, and continues to produce creative and innovative students. We ask your support for Loiederman, and the Middle School Magnet Consortium of Loiederman, Parkland and Argyle.

Full petition at link:
Loiederman Petition - The Petition Site

Sligo Elementary and Maryvale Elementary Schools' Petition:

We, the undersigned, call on the Montgomery County Council to fully fund Superintendent Weast's Recommended FY2011 Operating Budget for Montgomery County Public Schools so as to preserve funding for French immersion programs at Maryvale and Sligo Creek Elementary Schools as well as immersion programs at other county schools, and articulation into middle school immersion and high school language programs. Specifically, we request that:
1) Busing for magnet programs continue. If buses are cut, the programs will not be open to all students in the county, only those with parents who can arrange transportation.
2) Funding for on-site program coordinators be maintained at current levels. Language immersion program coordinators do more than their job title reflects. Among other things they currently provide stop-gap support to students in need and enable teachers to teach effectively in an environment of limited instructional materials and language resources.
Thank you for maintaining the language immersion programs provided by Montgomery County Public Schools by fully funding the FY2011 MCPS Operating Budget request

Full petition at link:
Support immersion programs in Montgomery County - The Petition Site

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gazette: Assistant Seneca Valley basketball coach arrested for having sex with student

Police: Woman, 24, and boy, 15, had sexual relationship last month

Gazette: State school board to withhold $23.4 million from Montgomery

State legislators have proposed a bill to exempt county from payment

Gazette: Churchill students hack school computer, change grades

MCPS investigating students who may have uncovered teachers' access codes, passwords
by Erin Donaghue Staff Writer

...Students used a device that records keystrokes to uncover the access codes and passwords of "at least three" teachers.

"The special device they were using was able to circumvent [the system], but it won't be able to do that anymore," Tofig said.

Principal Joan Benz was at an off-site meeting all day Friday and could not be reached for comment...

Is it as bad as it looks?

An e-mail sent to Superintendent Jerry Weast on January 29, 2010:

I was very concerned to read the following paragraph in this morning's Post story about grade hacking at Winston Churchill High School:

"Teachers were told to check grades for anomalies and correct them before first semester report cards are released Feb. 3, according to the sources. But
because teachers at the school no longer keep separate log books of their grades, it might be difficult to go back and find a student's original grade, the sources said."

If teachers' are not keeping a back-up record of their grades, this could happen at any MCPS school. Is this so? I worked as an internal auditor for two different banks for a decade, and this was the first question we asked when a department was considering adopting a new computer system: "How can we audit the integrity of the system?" All systems require an audit trail. We teach our children to back up their work. Are teachers being required to do the same when they record our children's hard-earned grades? And if not, why?

Please assure all parents and tax payers that a security breach such as that at Churchill can be remedied because proper controls are in place. Could what happen at Churchill happen at any Montgomery County high school without correction?

Thank you.

Parent of a MCPS high school student

Reprinted with permission of the author.

Is the data your public school might be collecting on your child safe?

Is the data your public school might be collecting on your child safe?

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Washington Post: 6 involved at Churchill, 30 students grades changed

About six Churchill students involved in grade-hacking incident, official says

By Michael Birnbaum and Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, January 29, 2010; 12:15 PM


...Tofig said school officials believe that software that tracked keystrokes was put on teacher's computers via a plug-in USB device in order to obtain their passwords to the online grading system. He said that grades from three teachers appeared to have been altered.
Grades were changed for at least 30 students, according to a source familiar with the situation who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Weast Bypasses Board, Moves Forward with New Program

Special Needs Truth '08 blog reports on the hiring of teachers to staff a program that hasn't been voted on by the Board of Education yet.
Here's an interesting (and disappointing) development with the Montgomery County scheme to shift preschoolers with special needs to a new experimental program in public elementary schools. I call it a "scheme" because emerging details suggest that the public hearings, meetings with board members, and letters and phone calls from parents may not have really mattered -- because the county is moving forward with the implementation of this program BEFORE IT HAS BEEN APPROVED.
Article continues here.

School Probes Possible Grade Hacking | ABC 7 News

UPDATE 1/29/2010: Fox5 Students Accused of Hacking System to Change Grades

NBC 4 High School Students Suspected of Hacking, Changing Grades

UPDATE 1/28/2010: The Washington PostStudents at Potomac school hack into computers; grades feared changed

School Probes Possible Grade Hacking ABC 7 News

The Washington Post: Breaking News Blog

Gambling with Tax Dollars v. A Certain Investment

Dear Delegate Brian Feldman and members of the Montgomery County Delegation;

Last year I came before you and spoke about the need for transparency in the expenditures made by Montgomery County Public Schools. Specifically, multi-million dollar procurements were not being brought before the Board of Education for discussion or votes. While a bill requiring MCPS to make an online database of procurements public was passed, the implementation of that database was delayed for two years. 

Last week, you placed bill 18-10 on the Delegation's agenda.

The public hearing on the bill is tomorrow. The bill says it is for;

"a certain investment in a certain company".

Without a doubt that is more transparency than we have seen from MCPS, however, it certainly leaves a lot to the imagination of the public.
What investment? What company? How exactly can the public comment?

Not knowing what is contemplated by this vague legislation, I offer my own suggestion of "a certain investment in a certain company".

Taxpayers have already seen the results of Superintendent Weast's "certain investment in a certain company".  As best as the public can ascertain, Superintendent Weast made a $500,000 to $1,000,000 investment in a company called Wireless Generation around 2004. How does the public know that? The investment wasn't brought before the Board of Education for discussion or a vote. The investment was revealed in an article put out by the Harvard Business School.

Did the investment yield a profit for taxpayers? Apparently, not. While no accounting was made for this investment in Board of Education meetings, Maryland Public Information Act requests by members of the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County yielded some information in 2009. The results of our MPIA requests can be read here and here.  

And now the Montgomery County Delegation is looking to pass legislation to make "a certain investment in a certain company".
 
What is certain is that Montgomery County public school students are still being denied a free public education, our schools are left to decay, and our students are being charged to attend their own graduations.
 
If the Montgomery Delegation is looking for legislation to make a "certain investment," might I suggest legislation that reinforces the right of every child in Montgomery County to a free public education; legislation that reinforces the right of every child to attend their own high school graduation free of charge; or, legislation that requires the Board of Education to maintain school buildings at a minimum level (running water, flush toilets, working sinks, rats-free, safe drinking water, no wasting of valuable school space). 
 
At present, students are still being charged to attend public school classes, being charged to attend their own graduations, and there is no inspection of school restrooms for health violations or even any requirement that restrooms in a school be open.
 
Those are three good areas, ripe for legislation that would "invest" in the health, well-being, and rights of our students in our Montgomery County public schools.
 
A certain investment - free public education and functioning, safe, healthy school buildings; in a certain company - our students.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

BOE Policy Committee receives curricular fee update

In case you missed it, the BOE Policy Committee met yesterday, and one of items on the agenda was an update by Diane Mohr on Policy JNA, Curricular Expenses for Students (in other words, illegal course fees).

Although ten minutes had been set aside to hear from Ms. Mohr, her entire presentation lasted only about three minutes. The highlights were:
  • Schools are now in the process of submitting course fee waiver records to MCPS.
  • MCPS is going to tally the waived fees and produce a report about waived fees to the BOE. 
  • Parkland Middle School requested and received approval for an additional fee after the school year began.  The fee is for an aeronautical design class.  
  • One school is not charging any course fees this year, but the name of the school was not revealed during the meeting.
  • The 2010 - 2011 course bulletin is now being developed and it will include the fees for each course.
The BOE Policy Committee is comprised of Shirley Brandman (chair), Chris Barclay, Pat O’Neill, and Tim Hwang (SMOB).

Mrs. Brandman, Mr. Barclay, and Mrs. O'Neill were present for the entire meeting.

Mr. Hwang did not attend, even though the meeting was held outside of school hours.

Teaching to the test, 27 minutes a day at Eastern


In 2009, Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). A screenshot of the Eastern results are shown. Details of the MSA results for Eastern are here.

In light of the MSA results, the Eastern MS principal has decided to change the Eastern school schedule for the next 6 weeks to include 27 minutes a day of MSA test preparation for all students in the school. The MSA exams will be administered the middle two weeks of March.

Whole school MSA test preparation has been implemented at other MCPS schools around the county for the last few years.

Eastern is just one more example of this MCPS practice. Even though the data is available to enable administrators to target exactly which students are in need of academic support, all students in a school are required to prep for these standardized tests.

Below is the e-mail that was sent out by the Eastern MS principal addressing parent concerns on the focus of 27 minutes a day on MSA test preparation. 
___

January 24, 2010
Eastern Families,

I have read the many emails that have been sent directly to me or sent through this listserv over the past few days and I have spent a great deal of time carefully considering the feedback and suggestions that were included in these emails.


I do not disagree with any of the points that were made in these emails. The amount of energy and time that is dedicated to one single assessment - the MSA - can be extremely frustrating. It is the current state of public education in the US as mandated by NCLB that each state implement this type of test. The performance targets for these tests increase each year.


As you know, Eastern MS did not meet the targets for the 2009 MSA. It is my charge as principal to ensure that our instructional programs and MSA preparation and planning were reveiwed (sic) and modified in a effort to meet the 2010 targets. While some may feel that our the test preparations initiatives are not necessary for thier (sic) child I beleive (sic) that a whole school approach is appropriate for Eastern Middle School. The groupings and instructional strategies have been differentiated based on predicted MSA score and every effort will be made to make the time meaningful for every student.

I recognize that using any time for anything other than instruction may not be a desired state, however, there are activities, events, and opportunities that arise that require use of class time. These include guest speakers, field trips, required testing, and in this case MSA preparation.

There are students, humanities nad (sic) comprehensive, that have demonstrated advanced level academic ability. This being said I repeat that I beleive (sic) that a schoolwide MSA prep initiative is appropriate for EMS. Again, we are committed to making this MSA prep time beneficial for all.  I ask this of you and your students.... give us two weeks to implement this plan. We will monitor the effectiveness carefully. If there is evidence after this two weeks that a test prep group has demonstrated advanced level abilities on the prep items then we will consider alternative use of this time for these students. Evidence will include performance data and student feedback.


If you would like to discuss this further please feel free to call me at 301-650-6650 or email me. Additionally, parents are invited to meet with me on Thursday morning at 8:10AM in the media center or Feb 3rd at 7pm in the media center.


Casey Crouse
Proud Principal

Video: Weast at U.S. Senate


On January 21, 2010, Superintendent Jerry Weast appeared before the U.S. Senate's Labor-HHS Subcommittee hearing "How to Save and Create Jobs".  Weast's written submission is here.

Video of his statements to the Subcommittee can be seen here. Click on the Webcast for Jan. 21, 2010 Labor-HHS Hearing on Job Creation.

Superintendent Weast speaks at minute 81:27 through 90:00.

Weast comments on homeless students in MCPS at minute 100 through 104.

Weast comments on school construction & "going green" at minute 113 and
121.


Weast comments on balancing interests, poverty, and more on school construction at minute 123 through 128.

Weast comments on summer jobs at minute 139:40 through 140:30.

Weast comments on building new high schools at minute 144:50.

Instructions for the public to submit written testimony to this Subcommittee are here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We dispute that magnet & signature programs are "optional"

Dear Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education Members:

My name is Soma Datta and my husband’s name is Subhasis Datta. We reside in the Wootton High School cluster area and for over twelve years, we have worked on various MCPS boards, advisory committees and served on the PTA Executive Boards of our children’s schools. In addition, we have served as MCCPTA Delegates for a decade, cluster coordinators and on the School Improvement Teams at two MCPS schools. Currently, Mr. Datta serves on an advisory board to the Family and Community Partnerships program and I serve on numerous G/T and magnet school advisory groups and curriculum committees. In addition, we coordinate various PTA programs that benefit our students. We have two children both of whom are currently or have previously attended The Center for the Highly Gifted and MCPS Magnet Programs. We have been recognized for our contributions at various MCPS ceremonies and have been appointed to county-wide advisory boards by the County Executive.

In the event that the Superintendent’s proposed operating budget is not fully approved, among the targeted cuts is the elimination of the transportation budget for magnet programs which are referred to as
“Transportation for optional regular education programs outside normal school attendance zones,including magnet, IB, immersion, high school consortia and other special programs” [page 18-section H].

As you are aware, the magnet and IB programs are located outside the “normal school attendance zones”. Those attended by our children are at the farthest distance across the county possible and require over an hour’s journey each way on the congested Beltway. Students are selected to enroll in these magnet programs based upon demonstrating exceptional grasp of specialized subject areas in a county-wide entrance examination for which parents pay a fee ($50.00).

Approximately, only one tenth of those taking the test demonstrate that they need this highly specialized instruction that is well beyond their chronological grade level and much more rigorous and deeper than the regular ‘one-size fits all’ MCPS curriculum at the local schools. Magnet students from any of a large number of local school clusters are mandated by MCPS to attend the magnet programs from across the county.

The estimated cost savings from eliminating this very necessary transportation is only $4.9 million out of a total of $2,226,134,843. Although this budget savings is relatively miniscule in the overall picture, it would deal an immediate death-blow to the student talent, composition and attendance of these highly able and gifted students at these programs. Similar cuts are proposed to magnet teaching staff and support staff that would ultimately lead to the elimination of the magnet programs altogether.

We dispute that these magnet and signature programs are “optional”. In recent testimony at the BOE budget hearings, we were reminded that Montgomery County Public Schools has promised in its policy IOA to educate every child in the way that meets their educational needs. The needs of exceptionally and highly “gifted and talented” students needing different kinds of accommodations (classes with other high ability peers, appropriately rigorous and challenging curriculum that allows them to actualize their exceptionally advanced abilities and interests on their level to keep them engaged and motivated, teachers trained to nurture highly gifted and able minds with challenging curricula) must be an MCPS high priority, not an option!

The Montgomery Blair Math, Science and Computer Science HS Magnet and the Richard Montgomery HS International Baccalaureate Diploma Program are the jewels in the Crown of MCPS. They are world-class magnet programs that attract the highest caliber of student and secure the place of MCPS among the nation’s most attractive school districts. One indicator among many are the high numbers of National Merit scholarship semifinalists that raise MCPS to a comparable standing with the best schools in Virginia and other high performing school districts. Other indicators of success are the finalists in the Intel Science and Tech.Competition, AP exam pass rates etc. etc.

Speaking personally, our children were bored and overlooked at their local schools. They underwent a noticeable transformation and flourished at The Center For the Highly Gifted, Eastern and Takoma Park Middle Schools. Not only did the advanced teaching and subjects allow them to demonstrate and hone their exceptional academic abilities and creativity but they gained leadership skills, critical thinking skills and high self-esteem that comes with the nurturing environment of peers and teachers that are all working toward the same goals. For our children and us, the sacrifice of waking two and a half hours earlier in the dark to board a bus at 6:20 AM in order to attend a magnet program and returning up to three hours later than the neighborhood children in order to take part in specialized after school programs has been demonstrably worth it.

The specialized magnet programs are the reason we chose to reside in Montgomery County and pay those onerous taxes! Elimination of the buses that allow access to these few and threatened programs would leave us with little motivation to remain in a school district whose only political mission is to close the achievement gap but not provide for the needs of the highly talented and gifted student.

When many comparative studies show consistently that the United States stacks up very poorly compared to other developed and developing countries on Science, Mathematics, Technology talent, History, Geography, Language ability and understanding of global context; the last thing MCPS should be sacrificing are the meager provisions it makes to transport these highly gifted and able students to very limited programs available to meet their educational and developmental needs. These proposed transportation cuts would be tantamount to cutting off MCPS’ nose to spite it’s face!

Instead, we propose that the BOE consider cuts to the bureaucracy and MCPS central office budget lines that have no direct benefit to student instruction or gains.

Specifically, MCPS should consider cutting the following:

1. Letters and communications to individuals and families by snail mail when families can opt in to the email system. Recently we have received three mailings notifying us of publications that are available on the MCPS website. This is a huge waste of money and trees.

2. More restrictive leave policy for teachers and MCPS employees that require substitutes routinely. As a substitute teacher with MCPS myself, many times I am asked to sit around and do nothing but babysit students because it is hard to pick up where a seasoned teacher has left off.

3. Superintendent’s travel and conference costs that do not benefit MCPS directly such as the recent trip to Ireland and previous trips to Singapore to ‘learn’ about a math system that was never implemented in MCPS schools.

4. Duplication of costs such as printed materials from Office of Communications and Family Outreach for Department of Management, Budget and Planning.

5. Miscellaneous large-scale purchases of dubious value such as unnecessary Promethean Boards in every classroom.

Many thanks for your careful consideration of our concerns. We thank you for the dedication you bring to our school system and the many hours of work that you devote to our students’ welfare. Godspeed in making the right decisions for our students in this budget process.

Yours sincerely,

Subhasis and Soma Datta

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weast to U.S. Senate: Send More Money!


On January 21, 2010, Superintendent Jerry Weast appeared before the Labor-HHS Subcommittee hearing "How to Save and Create Jobs". 

Superintendent Weast told the committee how he spent the federal stimulus funding for MCPS within a week of passage of the federal legislation! Weast neglected to mention that there was no opportunity for the public to comment on his surprise spending plan last year; and, that the Board voted on his plan at the same meeting where it was introduced, skipping the Board's requirement that new business lie on the table. His message this year, send more money! You can read his statement below.

Instructions for submitting written testimony to this Subcommittee are here.

Weast Senate Testimony 012110-Final

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Superintendent's reform plan for Md. schools criticized - baltimoresun.com

Superintendent's reform plan for Md. schools criticized - baltimoresun.com

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Weekend Roundup

So much news, so little time!  Here are three items that echo interests of readers of this blog.  First off, County Executive Leggett has proposed cutting funding to the internal audit program for the County.  Read about it here, in the article by Alan Suderman in today's Washington Examiner.  I don't know whether this is good or bad, really.  As there is no oversight anyway, would we taxpayers be saving money should this go through?  Tough call.  Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-District 5) of all people voted against the cut.  Yet when she was on the Board of Education she did not do the tough work of a fiscally responsible BOE, rather, she let the budget go through the roof with no oversight.  Similar for Councilmember Nancy Navarro (D-Developers) who also for some inexplicable reason voted against the cut.

Second item, this one regarding transparency.  Apparently the UK has launched an open data site, that, according to the article, by Marshall Kirkpatrick, puts our federal data.gov to shame.  Wonder how it compares to our Montgomery County "efforts" at transparency.  Read the article here, at ReadWriteWeb. Or see for yourself, at data.gov.uk.  Here's what the home page of this site says:
"We’re very aware that there are more people like you outside of government who have the skills and abilities to make wonderful things out of public data. These are our first steps in building a collaborative relationship with you."
...and by the way, they have a link to a wiki on their homepage, yes, the UK government website wants to hear from its citizens.

Finally, we see that WSSC once again wants to raise our rates, this time a whopping 9.5 percent.  This may be the most incredible article of all this weekend.  Read it here, in the Washington Examiner, and kudos again to Mr. Suderman for continuing to follow these 'breaking' stories.   WSSC is incapable of even the most basic monitoring of our dangerous watermains.  Many of these watermains were manufactured by Interpace, the company that was run out of business because it went bankrupt due to so many catastrophic failures of its PCCP pipes nationwide.  WSSC has stalled and seems unable to provide even the most basic data about these pipes.  WSSC still has not completed step one in a safety plan.  That would be compiling a map showing where all these mains are located.  The recent comprehensive article in Bethesda Magazine quoted one firefighter on the scene at the River Road failure, saying that he didn't know there was a watermain on that street.  The article also quoted WSSC officials who said in the case of a water pressure drop, the first action is to increase the flow, i.e., to raise the pressure.  Well, that explains a lot.  Is there a watermain running under the street at your school? It would be prudent to check.

Have a great end of the weekend!

Weast's Cell Tower Jungle Gym for Kids

What does the Daly Elementary School Cell Phone Tower look like up close?  Take a look at the pictures!

Remember this Cell Phone Tower Compound is located on a MCPS elementary school playground. You can see the overview here



Pictures taken summer 2009

Weast Puts Strangers on Playground

Imagine this is YOUR child's elementary school!

In Stranger Danger: Cell Towers on School Grounds, MCPS parent Jennifer Kerchaert wrote about the cell phone tower (shown at left) at Daly Elementary School in Germantown. But you really have to see the layout of the school grounds to fully appreciate her comments about the ability of strangers to enter school property and mingle with students outside their classroom, or on the playground.

In the Google map photo below you can see the dirt road that is used by the cell tower service workers. The dirt road goes right by the classroom trailers and right over to the playground.  No front desk to stop at, no "visitor management" system, just drive right up to the pole! 

We have Superintendent Jerry Weast to thank for the placement of this cell phone tower on an elementary school playground. This community voted against the placement of a cell tower at this site. But Superintendent Weast placed it there anyway!
It's all about the cash, not the kids.

Google Map View of Daly Elementary School, Germantown, Maryland
Montgomery County Public Schools

Yellow circle = Cell Phone Tower

Red arrows = Classroom trailers

Red circle= Blacktop play areas

Purple arrows = Dirt path used by Cell Phone Companies to service Cell Tower

Update:  See the Daly ES Cell Phone Tower Compound up close in photographs here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Stranger Danger: Cell Towers on School Grounds

In case you haven't noticed, Daly Elementary School currently has a T-mobile cell tower in the back of the school. (See photograph.) MCPS wants to add additional devices from Clearwire, onto the tower and within the fenced in area at the base of the tower. There are some facts you as community members, parents and tax payers need to know about.


While you read these facts, consider the following questions: What benefit is it doing to our children? What benefit does it bring to our community?Why are other schools benefiting from the cell tower in our backyard? How is this tower helping the value of our homes? When did a public school become a profit generating business?

1. Since the erection of the tower, Daly ES has received a total amount of $31,442.68, each year the amount increases based on the CPI (Consumer Price Index) not to exceed 5%.

2. The cell tower funds the school receives are not appropriated by the County Council and are separate from the approved MCPS budget. Daly ES basically has a slush fund that can be utilized, and not be penalized, for use as the principal wishes. This authority of funds of a non-elected official is, in my opinion, not in the best interest of the school, the community and tax-payers.

3. The majority of this money is still sitting in an account for Daly and has not been used for anything to help improve our school. What good is this money doing if still sitting in an account? There should be a process in place in implementing these funds into the school year that they are received that would benefit the whole school if not the community.

4. Daly currently receives a yearly third of the total amount of $24,000 from T-mobile, as stated in the contract (that is up for renegotiation in approximately a year). MCPS gets a third and then the schools within our cluster receive the other third. Why are school within our cluster benefiting? It is not in their backyard or neighborhood!

5. Clearwire wants to put additional communication devices onto the cell tower to the tune of $24,000 split three ways as stated above.

6. T-mobile frequently visits the cell tower site and until recently when a group of parents brought it to the attention of the school, were not checking into the school as required by their contract.

7. MCPS does not require the employees or subcontractors of T-mobile to have background checks. If anyone, like me, who has a child in the trailers with no barriers, this is a MAJOR concern!

8. Since the erection of the cell tower, the driveway has been an eyesore for the school and the community and needs to be installed properly.

We as parents and tax payers need to demand that the money being brought into our school is used appropriately and for all children.

MCPS and Daly want the PTA to vote on the additional Clearwire devices but at what cost to our school and especially for our children?

Do we want or need more communication devices on school property that will in turn allow more unchecked workers on school grounds?

In my opinion, No.

Jennifer Kerchaert
MCPS parent

"Prudent avoidance" of cell towers at schools

If you have concerns about the safety of the cell phone towers that MCPS has proposed installing at Whitman High School in Bethesda and at other MCPS schools, you may want to read two 1997 articles both titled Telecommunication Facilities: Are They Safe?

The articles are by Hillorie S. Morrison, who seems to be the same Hillorie S. Morrison who represented T-Mobile at the November 17, 2009, Whitman PTSA Meeting and who will again represent them at the January 26, 2010, meeting at Whitman. (I think she also represented the cell phone company in 2005 in an unsuccessful attempt to install a cell tower at Pyle Middle School.)

Both articles are from a 1997 American Bar Association newsletter and were written by Ms. Morrison when she was a senior planner with Baltimore County. Ms. Morrison frankly raises concerns that cell phone industry guidelines do not take into account possible harm from the nonthermal effects of long-term, low-level exposures.

Ms. Morrison thoroughly reviews the then-current scientific data and concludes that:
Even though the anticipated [health] effects fall within the levels of safe exposures according to industry guidelines, the standard is considered by some scientists to provide a false sense of security. (emphasis added). Of particular concern is the impact of long-term exposures, that is, intermittent
or continuous exposures to weak RF [radiofrequency] fields over a period of months to years.

Ms. Morrison reported that American scientists had conducted studies that concluded:
certain populations—including the very young, the very old, and the chronically ill—are more susceptible that the general population.

Ms. Morrison also reports that:
since biological effects are a function of the frequency and energy level of a particular form of electromagnetic energy and the characteristics of the affected organism (species, mass, affected tissue-types), it is difficult for scientists to determine “safe” levels. (Emphasis added.)

Ms. Morrison cites with apparent approval the fact that several school districts around the country had prohibited cell towers on school property, quoting one school board finding:
there was no clear health basis to proscribe [cell tower] sitings . . . [but] other than rental income, who would a public agency go out of its way to expose children to an agent which is not necessary for their education and was not thoroughly studied?

Because of these concerns, Ms. Morrison recommended a government policy of what she called “prudent avoidance” of placing cell towers at schools.

If this is the same Hillorie S. Morrison as will be representing T-Mobile on Wednesday, perhaps she can share with the Whitman community what scientific studies have been performed in the 13 years since she wrote the articles that make her now advocate for locating cell towers at schools.

~~~
This commentary submitted to the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland. The writer wishes to remain anonymous.

MCPS "Checkered pasts" uncovered by Milwaukee reporter


MPS finalists have checkered pasts
By Erin Richards of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Jan. 21, 2010
...Property records obtained by the Journal Sentinel show that Thornton, who is the superintendent of the 7,800-student Chester Upland School District in Chester, Pa., filed for individual bankruptcy in 1997 when he was living at a Silver Spring, Md., address....

...According to Maryland Circuit Court records, two federal tax liens were filed against Scott in July and October 2008, for $50,444 and $13,591, respectively...

...Scott is an associate superintendent for Montgomery County Public Schools and heads the district's Office of Shared Accountability...
...Maryland was criticized by the U.S. Department of Education for having one of the "worst overall records" in terms of compliance with federal special education mandates, according to a report that came out of Scott's office in 2009... 
Scott said his office is working to improve the situation.
1/22/2010 UPDATE: Checkered histories of superintendent finalists draw attention

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Living with Radio Frequency Radiation - Cell Towers & Wireless

The following report was forwarded to the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, MD by Angela Flynn, Public Health Advocate, for consideration by our readers. The meeting on the Whitman High School cell phone tower proposal is January 26, 2010 at 7 PM.

Cell Tower Rpt

Contractors say Balto. Co. school officials reject low bids - baltimoresun.com

Contractors say Balto. Co. school officials reject low bids - baltimoresun.com
..."The county schools administration is too rigid and unreasonable," Jolivet said. "They are disqualifying prime contractors for errors that are minor and could be waived."
Bidding is typically done on a deadline and mistakes can occur as contractors rush to fill out numerous forms.

"The county should be bending over backward to give to the lowest bidder, not looking for ways to take the work away from them," Huddles said. "Their emphasis is exactly the opposite of what the courts said it should be and it's costing everyone a lot of money."
Posted using ShareThis

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Millions for the Classroom

Testimony to the Montgomery County Board of Education, by Bob Astrove 1-20-10

I am here this evening to speak with you about closing the fiscal gap without further harming the educational gap. Let me begin by saying that I’m tired of all the political whining about no money. Your job is to deal with the realities of the current economic climate. It's time to stop crying, buckle down, and get the job done.

I have a few suggestions:

1. Seize all, non-restricted, outstanding balances in the Independent Activity Funds for application to next year's operating budget. Your audits are filled with abuses of these funds. Clear the slate, clean up the internal practices, and help fund next year’s operating budget. I suspect this would yield about $20 million.

2. For the past several years MCPS has gone hog wild leasing Capital equipment. Promethean Boards, Busses, and even Football Fields. This financing gimmick shifted Capital expenditures and implied debt service to the operating budget. It is time to reverse this trend. The County should borrow and convert these obligations to traditional debt financing. I think this might free up another $20 million in the operating budget for each of several years.

3. Why is the Office of Communications budget growing by over 3 percent? If our priority is really the classroom then why would the Superintendent propose increasing class size before cutting this overhead? I urge you to trim this $10 million office by $2.5 million.

4. Total Administration, Central and Mid-Level, is about 8.5% of the budget. The same percentage it was 15 years ago. Therefore I conclude all of the talk about administration cuts have been nothing more than shuffles. Let’s just hold Administration to the same budget as this year, and save $6 million. Just a three percent cut would yield another $5 million.

5. And finally when are you going to talk about benefits? Next year’s budget includes a 15% increase and proposes spending 23% of the entire operating budget on benefits. By comparrison, Howard, Frederick, and Anne Arundel Counties each only spend between 17 and 19% of their operating budgets for employee benefits. The difference is an additional $100 million per year spent by MCPS.

In the real world people are having their benefit plans cut left and right. No, not pleasant, but reality. I ask you, can the taxpayer-families who are eating more and more of their own cost really afford to hold public employees immune from the same fiscal reality? Is that equity? And if not this year, when will you be addressing the benefits issues that strangle our ability to really invest in direct educational services for children?

That’s just a few ideas for raising millions of dollars that can be used to cut the operating budget and maintain the classroom.

Wasted school space - 10 years and counting

Imagine a 1,200 seat auditorium, 10,400 square feet of public school space left to rot.


That's exactly what happened in Montgomery County in 1999, the year that Blair High School moved to its new location in Silver Spring and Jerry Weast became MCPS' Superintendent. The old Blair High School was converted into two schools, but the 1,200 seat old Blair High School auditorium was shuttered and left to deteriorate.

Superintendent Jerry Weast and 10 years of Board of Education members have refused to make use of the space.  The cost? Originally it would have been closer to $1 million but now after years of neglect it would cost about the same as two artificial turf football fields.


It's easy to see what is a priority to Superintendent Weast and the Board of Education. You can read the 2006 Feasibility Report on the space, and take a look at the pictures from the report.

Remember that artificial turf is such a high priority to Superintendent Weast that MCPS is taking out a TEN YEAR LEASE to pay for the $1.2 million plastic grass at Walter Johnson High School.


But a 1,200 seat school auditorium for students? Not so much of a priority.

Here is today's update from the Gazette.

Gazette, Curtain Closing on Old Blair Auditorium Project

Parents organize to fight for prized programs | Washington Examiner

Parents organize to fight for prized programs Washington Examiner
..."It's very important for the council to think about who's not at the table, but who also has a lot at stake," Andrews said. "The people working three jobs,
for example, or groups that traditionally aren't organized because of a lack of resources, or time, or maybe because their interests are much more general."
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/Parents-organize-to-fight-for-prized-programs-82118877.html#ixzz0d9nmpfK4


Really Councilmember Andrews?
Where was your concern for the "others" when you sat back and approved the school system making tens of millions of dollars in purchases without bids or contracts?
What about the $133 million plus in leases that the school system has taken out to keep the county in debt for years? Didn't the State Audit cite concerns on this issue?
What about the funds that the school system takes in from outside sources but never brings to the Council for appropriation? Didn't you say this was a "serious mistake"?
What about the 1,400 credit cards floating around the public school system? How are they being used? Didn't the State Audit bring these cards up as a concern?  

Would these proposed cuts be necessary if the Council was exercising any oversight over the school system's budget?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fuzzy Math at its Best

Remember a few years ago when the big uproar in Montgomery County concerned "fuzzy math?"  Remember when our kids were taught that math questions had more than one answer? 

Fuzzy math is back.




In his January 8 2010 memo to the Board of Education, Dr. Weast confirms that MoCo residents now have a fuzzy budget made up of fuzzy math numbers.

Remember that big budget document Dr. Weast issued a few weeks back with his projections for how he will spend our taxpayer money and what will happen if he doesn't get everything?

Fooled you. 

That document was not based on data, numbers or studies.  Just read his January 8 memo, and you will see the following answers to questions:

Answer to Question 4:  There are no studies or other evaluations of the impact of academic intervention teachers.

Answer to Question 5:  There are no studies or other evaluations of the impact of elementary school regular education paraeducators. 

Answer to Question 7:  As with other potential budget reductions, no decisions on possible changes have yet been made.

Am I reading this correctly?  No data?  No decisions? 

What exactly is this school budget all about and why ask for public opinion if you don't know what is possible?

The folks of MoCo are making their decisions right now.  High school students are in the process of selecting courses for next year, students articulating from elementary to middle school and middle school from high school are making decisions about where to enroll.

Families need facts, not smoke and mirrors from behind the curtain. 

You are not in Kansas anymore, Dr. Weast.    Perhaps its time to locate that balloon.


Weast backs away from "cut" list


In December, Superintendent Jerry Weast released his proposed FY11 Operating Budget.  Along with that document he released a list of threatened cuts that could be made if his proposed budget was not fully funded.

The Parents' Coalition has obtained a January 8, 2010, memorandum from Superintendent Weast to the Board of Education. In this memo, Board members apparently (although none are named) ask "questions" about the proposed cuts.  Somehow, the details of these proposed cuts are all now very sketchy.

Let's have a courageous conversation about the MCPS budget. If cuts need to be made, let's see the details, the data, the figures and the facts.  Instead, what we get from this memo is statements like this one;
"the superintendent of schools has not made any proposals for reducing any positions or services, including central office..."
January 8, 2010 Weast memo to Board on proposed FY11 cuts

Support Immersion and Magnet Programs in Montgomery County! - The Petition Site

We, the undersigned, call on the Montgomery County Council to fully fund Superintendent Weast's Recommended FY2011 Operating Budget for Montgomery County Public Schools so as to preserve funding for magnet immersion programs at Rock Creek Forest Elementary School and other schools as well as Centers for the Highly Gifted, IB and other magnet programs. Specifically, we request that:

click link to read rest of petition...

Support Immersion and Magnet Programs in Montgomery County! - The Petition Site

Parent Alert - AP Test Registration

Montgomery County parents - get your checkbooks ready.  

From this month's MCPS Quicknotes:

Register for Upcoming Advanced Placement Exams

Registration for the Advanced Placement (AP) exams is going on now through March 15. Exams are scheduled for May 3–14; the cost of each AP test is $86. Students register for the exams through their high school. Funds are available for students who need assistance. For more information, students should contact their school counseling office or the school's AP coordinator.

Note - the fee is $86 per test.  Many schools tack on a "processing fee" but that's not required by the college board.  For those of you familiar with the Parents Coalition advocacy position, you should not be surprised to learn that we believe any surcharge is illegal.

The College Board doesn't have late fees and allows for exam cancellations and a refund of the test fee.   Here is what the College Board says about canceling an exam:

You may ask for a refund if you do not begin an exam for which you have paid. Local school policy determines the amount of the refund. You will probably be required to pay the $13 fee the school is charged for each unused exam. Once you begin an exam -- that is, write on an exam booklet or answer sheet -- you cannot receive a refund.


So, when your child comes home with a bill for more than $86 per test, or your school says that you can't get a refund if your child changes his or her mind, ask what happens to the fee.  The College Board already includes a $8 rebate that is returned to the school for each test, so why does any school need a surcharge?  Why does a school keep the $73 dollars if a student cancels? 



Cell Tower Meeting for Whitman HS

Dear Walt Whitman High School Neighbor:

You are invited to attend a Community Open House on Tuesday, January 26 to learn more about T-Mobile's plans to improve wireless broad band communications coverage in the area. T-Mobile is working with the Montgomery County School system to replace a baseball field light with a new lightpole. T-Mobile's antennas will be enclosed within the pole which will significantly improve wireless broadband communications in the community.

Following up on the November 17 meeting last fall, we want to give you the opportunity to learn more about our proposal in an informal setting where you can ask one-on-one questions.

The Community Open House will be held on Tuesday January 26 from 7 to 8:00 PM at Walt Whitman High School. T-Mobile and Montgomery County Public Schools representatives will be on- hand to share the plans and answer questions one-on-one in this informal gathering. Feel free to let your neighbors know about this meeting.

On January 10, 7:30 - 8:30 AM, T-Mobile launched a balloon at the site to test for visibility.. Photosimulations of the results will be available at the open house.

Should you have any further questions regarding this project please do not hesitate to contact me at 443-570-0014.

Sincerely,
Hillorie S. Morrison
Network Building & Consulting Agent for T-Mobile

Monday, January 18, 2010

Is It Right to Stereotype to Achieve a Noteworthy End?

by Joseph Hawkins

Is it right to stereotype an entire section of the county to achieve a noteworthy end? I know we engage in this behavior all the time; however, is it right? And given that today is Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday celebration it is a question worth thinking about.

Using Head Start—clearly a proven and noteworthy program that helps the development of poor children—let’s step outside of the county for a moment to illustrate what I mean. When arguing for its continued federal financial support, supporters frequently say something along the following lines. “If you don’t invest in these poor children of color, you will end paying later when they become criminals and you send them off to prison for 20 years.” In fact, when doing Head Start research contract work at the American Institutes for Research (AIR), I even heard Head Start supporters—off the record—say more direct things such as, “If you don’t support these children now they will end robbing you when they grow and turn into anger uneducated young adults.” There are other variations on this theme; however, the basic notion here is to use a negative stereotype about a group to frighten lawmakers and others into funding Head Start.

But in life not everyone uses the negative to motivate. Let’s step back into the county.

I have lived in Bethesda for more than 25 years. My own two children went through schools in the Whitman Cluster. In my Bethesda neighborhood parents using negative stereotype to achieve noteworthy ends is probably a rare thing. Personally, when my children were Head Start age it never crossed my mind that if I did not do something for one of my children—spend that preschool tuition money—it might cause them to end up in the criminal justice system later in life. Instead, I invested in my children because it was the morally right thing to do. And the neighbors that I knew did the same. And simply doing the morally right thing was sufficient. Okay, perhaps there was the neighbor who insisted on “just” the right preschool program because it meant a step up in the queue for the right private school which then provided an advantage to the right Ivy League college. But even then there were motives driven by something negative.

So, the other day when reading one of my regular bookmarked blogs I came across this academic paper written by Stacey Childress of Harvard University. The Childress paper was presented at a January 11th Washington D.C. conference, sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. Click here to view the conference agenda:
www.aei.org/event/100164#doc.

Click here to read the Childress paper:
www.aei.org/docLib/Investing%20in%20Improvement-%20Childress.pdf.

The Childress paper profiles several public schools districts’ spending efforts to support programs to eliminate the achievement gaps. The Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is one district profiled in the paper. Being curious about anything MCPS, I read the paper. This quote caught my attention,

But along with the big demographic shifts, board members and community leaders were faced with the troubling reality that, along with some of the best schools in the country, Montgomery County had many schools that performed at levels similar to some of the lowest performing urban schools in America.

Hum! So, are we suppose to believe that Montgomery County has Jonathan Kozol like urban schools—those are poor dysfunctional urban schools profiled in his 1991 book Savage Inequities? Obviously, this seems to be the point here. Heck, I know this is the point here. This Harvard researcher has been working with MCPS for years now and I have read other statements similar to this one. And I know our current MCPS superintendent—Jerry Weast—likes going around the country and world saying the exact thing.

Click here to see how Childress has been researching the achievement gap in MCPS:
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/10/in-pursuit-of-everyday-excellence/

I guess the problem I have with all of this is I fail to understand why it is necessary to “ghettoize” parts Montgomery County. And isn’t this ghettoizing—I’m sure I made this word up—basically stereotyping at its worst? Why is necessary to make us believe that parts of Silver Spring or Gaithersburg, for example, are just as bad as parts of inner city Philadelphia or Baltimore? And then of course if you ghettoize the geography don’t you also stereotype the people in those communities? And doesn’t that stereotyping cause some harm?

Unfortunately, my professional work has taken me into some of the worst urban ghettoes in America, as well as some of the worst dysfunctional urban schools in America—Kozol-like schools. Again, anyone who has read his book Salvage Inequities knows what this means. Frankly, nothing in this county begins to remotely come close to these settings. And keep in mind that I worked as a researcher for MCPS for 18 years, and I think I stepped foot in and visited nearly every MCPS school and community. And, no Montgomery County community’s scale of issues and problems matches anything Kozol-like. Nothing in this county is Harlem-like (New York City), Roxbury-like (Boston), or Compton (Los Angeles).

But I think I get it. Two reasons come to mind for ghettoizing our neighbors. First, it helps with the messaging that centers around the need to continue funding the extra stuff for the kids that need the extra stuff. I’m not suggesting here that we should debate the need for the extra stuff. The need for extra funding is well-documented. Yet those making the case for the extra stuff still continue to frame from the negative. Regardless of the progress made on narrowing achievement gaps, we still see our colored and poor neighbors as “others” who might turn on us if we do not continue to step up to the plate. Isn’t time we stopped the stereotyping?

Second, I believe we ghettoize our colored neighbors because in a really weird way when we succeed with them it makes us look good. If you convince the public that you have kids of color that are just as worse off than those in major American cities and you succeed academically with these kids than you obviously have achieved something that most school districts and communities never achieve. You sort of earn the right to be king of the gap closing hill. You become a freaky miracle-worker. And aren’t we actually engaged in such behavior? Isn’t that the point to the recent book Leading for Equity? Well, the book serves other points and purposes, but it has been used to frame a few some of us as morally right miracle workers. Which I think is another unfortunate stereotype for our colored neighbors. Have you even noticed that when individuals achieve things with the worse of the worse—those in the ghetto—they are proclaimed miracle workers? Geoffrey Canada and his work the Harlem Children’s Zone has earned such a label—although I do not think he views himself this way. And why is it a miracle when poor children learn to read? By the way, I would encourage folks in this county to read the recent book Whatever It Takes by Paul Tough. Great book. Even though it is clear from test score data that the Children’s Zone has a long ways to go.

Click here to view test score data:
http://gothamschools.org/2009/05/08/just-how-gullible-is-david-brooks.

But all of this still brings me back to my original question, is it okay to stereotype to achieve a noteworthy end? And further, is anyone harmed when we engage in this behavior? And is there a point in time, when we no longer must stereotype to do the right thing by all children—regardless of their skin color? I hope so, and I hope it is soon because I’m sort of sick of reading and hearing about how ghetto certain parts of Montgomery County are.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My Old Kentucky Home

Coming up soon: The 74th annual conference of the Kentucky School Boards Association, Jan. 22-24 at the Galt House in Louisville.

Guess who's scheduled as a keynote speaker on Saturday morning: Montgomery County (Md.) Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast on raising academic standards and narrowing the achievement gap.


Leading for Equity Begins with Preschool
Dr. Jerry D. Weast is superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools, the largest and most diverse school system in Maryland and the 16th largest district in the nation.


Learn about his ambitious comprehensive reform effort designed to raise academic standards and narrow the achievement gap — an effort that includes an investment in preschool education for both public and private providers. Hear how this effort has paid great dividends as the district’s most disadvantaged young children have demonstrated text-level reading skills comparable to those of their peers in wealthy suburbs and how your school board can play a critical role in quality preschool education in your district.

Investment in preschool education, huh? MPAC, please pick up the white courtesy phone. Someone forgot to tell you that Weast wants to shut down your program....

Rockville High School Orchestra up for Grammy Foundation award - wtop.com

Rockville High School Orchestra up for Grammy Foundation award - wtop.com

Fabulous!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

$32,782 coffee tab


Coffee or COLA?

With all due respect to coffee drinkers, is a $32,782 coffee contract required in a public school's "bare bones budget"?

Please note that the memorandum for this MCPS purchase shows it was a contract extension, no bids were taken.

This procurement was made in the summer of 2009, long after teachers had given up their COLAs and the school system was under various classroom related spending freezes.

If coffee is sold to students at lunch is MCPS recovering the cost, or is this purchase just for administrator and staff consumption? If you know, please comment.


Montgomery County grapples with school safety report - wtop.com

Montgomery County grapples with school safety report - wtop.com

"Certainly there is bullying that goes on," {County Council Member Phil} Andrews stated. "Why isn't it in this report?"

UPDATE: Board & Weast mute as parents choke back tears

UPDATED: 1/16/2010

The Parents' Coalition has learned that two members of the Board of Education contacted the Arc of Montgomery County, and asked them to relinquish Operating Budget public testimony slots obtained by members of the public speaking in support of the MPAC program. (See original post below.) 

This attempt by the Board of Education to stifle families of children with disabilities represents the WORST kind of censorship attempt imaginable.

From now on, will the Board of Education pick and choose which community members it wants to hear from? If so, what is the purpose of public testimony at all?

FOR SHAME.

* * * * *
Original Post of January 14, 2010:

From the Special Needs Truth '08 blog:

Video Highlights: Testimony Against Plan to Displace Special-Needs Preschoolers
Lyda Astrove: "A one-size-fits-all model will not work for children with disabilities....It is not too late to reverse this disastrous course that has been pushed on you by the superintendent. Listen to your teachers and parents, and bring back the full continuum of services for students with disabilities."

Lyda Astrove: Testimony on Special-Needs Preschool from Mark Miller on Vimeo.

Bob Allnutt: "Concept of inclusion is popular and politically correct, but the fact is many children are incapable of learning in a typical environment."

Bob Allnutt: Testimony on Special-Needs Preschool from Mark Miller on Vimeo.
More video of public comment given to a mute Board of Education and Superintendent on January 13, 2010 from the Special Needs Truth '08 blog here.

Could you sit through the comments from 23 parents (many of whom were choking back tears) and teachers and not respond? That's what the MCPS Board of Education and Superintendent Jerry Weast did last night.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Emergency purchases or knick-knacks from Wal-Mart?

What do Wal-Mart, Safeway, Amazon, and PayPal all have in common?

The answer: They all take American Express® --- and they've all taken the MCPS American Express credit card issued to Karen Crawford, the supervisor of the Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB).

Ms. Crawford doesn't use her MCPS credit card often, but when she does, it's usually at stores in Frederick County.   Repeat:  Frederick County, nowhere near her MCPS office.

Records show that Ms. Crawford has also used the MCPS credit card at Amazon.com and to make a purchase from Mark, who accepts PayPal.  (Merchant information partially redacted by MCPS.)


Fortunately, MCPS has rules in place that are intended to prevent credit card misuse. Purchase card holders are required to submit Card Member Transaction Logs (MCPS form 234-21) in any month that their card is used.

So we were curious. What items did the SMOB's supervisor need to purchase that weren't available from the immense MCPS Department of Materials Management?

The answer should have been easy to obtain by reviewing Ms. Crawford's Card Member Transaction Logs.

Except for one small problem.

Ms. Crawford did not submit any Card Member Transaction Logs for the nearly 14 month period shown in the above Cardmember Activity report, according to the MCPS public information office.  And somehow, the "approving official" assigned to review Ms. Crawford's credit card transactions every month never noticed that she had not turned in any logs.

We have nothing that indicates that Ms. Crawford made inappropriate purchases with her MCPS credit card from Wal-Mart and Safeway in Frederick County, Amazon.com (online) and a California merchant named "Mark" who takes PayPal.  But with no logs to show what was purchased, it's anybody's guess as to exactly how these taxpayer funds were spent.