Tuesday, August 31, 2010

'Superman' Documentary Draws Praise, Controversy

Education Week: 'Superman' Documentary Draws Praise, Controversy

...Jonathan Schorr, a San Francisco-based partner of the NewSchools Venture Fund, said the documentary’s approach will draw people into the education reform conversation in a way a seminar wouldn’t.
“‘An Inconvenient Truth’ was an achievement in itself because climate change is really hard to touch and feel,” he said. “The experience of kids who are denied a good educational option is something anybody who has been a parent, or anyone who has gone to school, can directly relate to. I think this [film] will get a much wider viewership.”
Jeanne Allen, the president of the Center for Education Reform, agreed. “I think it has the huge potential to communicate with a huge crop of people who don’t know there’s an issue or problem,” she said.
Others, however, are not so convinced the film, and others on education due to be released this year, will make a big impact.
“I think it’s naive to imagine a single movie or book is going to change permanently what the public is concerned about or how it thinks about an issue,” said Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies for the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute...

Voice: School Snapshots in Summer

What is an Integrated Curriculum?

by Sue Katz Miller

The most engaging educational experience my children ever had was probably in preschool. The theme-based "integrated curriculum" focused multisensory learning on one theme each month. When they spent a month studying the Old West, the students churned butter out of cream, dressed in pioneer clothing, learned Native American songs and stories, and forded Sligo Creek with their handmade covered wagons. When they got to kindergarten, this type of multisensory, content-rich learning was largely abandoned to begin the long climb up a double helix composed of repeating units of reading and math, reading and math, reading and math.
Now, Montgomery County Public Schools have begun to phase in an "integrated curriculum" in the elementary schools. Some county kindergarten classrooms piloted the program this past year. Unfortunately, any discussion of the actual content of the curriculum has now been overshadowed by a debate over the process through which this curriculum is being developed and funded. The Board of Education voted in June to approve a deal between MCPS and an educational publishing company called Pearson, in order to speed up the development of the curriculum and market it to other school districts...

Monday, August 30, 2010

baltimoresun.com - MCPS won't get Race to the Top funds

Most Baltimore-area schools open amid influx of federal funds - baltimoresun.com

...The U.S. Department of Education announced last week that Maryland would get $250 million in Race to the Top funds. The money, which can be used over a four-year period, is aimed at innovations that the Obama administration has outlined in the past year.

Half of the Race to the Top money will be divided among 22 of the state's 24 school districts. Montgomery and Frederick County, which declined to sign the application for the competition, will not get any. Within the next three months, each of the 22 systems must develop a plan to spend its share in one of four areas: teacher quality, developing curriculum, data systems and improving the lowest performing schools...

Enrollment boom strains schools | Washington Examiner

Enrollment boom strains schools | Washington Examiner

MCPS Student Hasn't Heard of Weast

Now this is a little backwards isn't it? 

Shouldn't our students know who is running their school system before the rest of the country knows? 

Maybe all that out of state and overseas travel that Superintendent Weast has done and continues to do cuts into his time with MCPS students? 

The Washington Post:  Outgoing Montgomery Superintendent welcomes students back to school
..."It's great to see all my friends," said Tamaro Collins, 15, a sophomore. But, he said of Weast, "I haven't heard of him," nor did he expect a new superintendent to affect his daily life...

USNews on Weast's Smoke & Mirrors

A Model for Education Consensus Faces an Uncertain Future - John A. Farrell (usnews.com)

...Education is an issue that is best addressed by the kind of consensus-building that Weast was good at. He would sometimes employ smoke and mirrors to dazzle or divert--what great public official doesn't? But his great gift was making the haves see how the improved performance of the have-nots was in everyone's interest. A great public school system helps both rich and poor kids get into, and prosper at, fine colleges and universities at a time when post-secondary education is a crucial element in economic success...

MCPS' Steve Simon: "We absolutely are in conformance with state law. We are adamant that we are providing a free public education."

The above quote is what former MCPS spokesman Steve Simon said to The Baltimore Sun on August 27, 2008. 
So why did MCPS then eliminate 70% of the fees that parents and guardians were paying to send their children to MCPS classes after that statement? 
Why? Because the fees are illegal. 
In fact, the Curricular Fees your child is still being charged to attend Montgomery County Public Schools are in violation of the Maryland Constitution. 
But the MCPS Superintendent and current Board of Education don't want you to know that your child is entitled to attend MCPS classes for free. 
They especially don't want the students at Edison High School in Silver Spring to know that classes are free this year. 
For the 2010-11 school year Edison High School students are getting billed to attend public school classes from $6 to $265 per class. 
But that's OK with the MCPS Public Relations Department, Superintendent Jerry Weast, the current and past Board of Education members - including Councilmember Valerie Ervin and Councilmember Nancy Navarro, and all the other elected officials in Montgomery County. 
Sure, over at Whitman High School in Bethesda science and math classes are FREE. 
But at Edison High School where the students are taking vocational classes? 
Pay up. 

The Baltimore Sun's InsideEd: Montgomery County parents fight school fees
August 27, 2008
...Well, a group of Montgomery County parents is on the war path to stop these expenditures -- at least some of them.
They are angry over the school system's requirement that they pay some fees for things like workbooks, calculators and lab fees for science and photography. They say the state guarantees each student a free public education and that principals should not be charging these fees.
They asked Elizabeth Kameen, the Assistant Attorney General for the Maryland State Department of Education, about whether the county and specifically Magruder High School should be charging fees.
She wrote back, quoting a 1987 opinion that said: "We cannot say whether Maryland courts would go as far as courts in some states in categorizing the activities that must be offered without charge. But whatever the outer limits of Maryland's 'free public schools' guarantee we are safe in saying that anything directly related to a school's curriculum must be available to all without charge."
 Montgomery County school spokesman Steve Simon said, "We absolutely are in conformance with state law. We are adamant that we are providing a free public education."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sorry, there is no MCPS Ombudsman

This Gazette article mentions that a parent thinks she called the MCPS Ombudsman's office. Sadly, the current Board of Education members eliminated the position of Ombudsman. Now anyone who answers the phone at the Board of Education gets to be "Ombudsman for the Day!" Gone are the days when a parent or guardian could seek out a neutral party to investigate issues with MCPS administrators. 

Gazette: Gaithersburg parent seeks new school bus stop, finds dead end
East Deer Park mother wants safer spot for daughter

...Terilynne Butler wants a closer school bus stop for her daughter. The mother of six has lobbied Montgomery County Public Schools officials for a change for nearly two years, without success.
The school system does not keep records of how many requests it gets for bus route changes, or how often such requests are granted, said Dana Tofig, director of public information. Butler and other county parents say the process can be lengthy and frustrating.
Butler's request gained urgency in October 2009, when her then 12-year-old daughter, Amanda, was followed home from her stop by a group of men in a pickup truck. The Forest Oak Middle School student had separated from her friends a block earlier. She ran to a nearby house and pretended to go inside.
Then it happened again in the spring — different vehicle, different driver.
Butler looked at the bus route and realized that with no change to its afternoon run, the bus could stop closer to her house, at one of East Deer Park's two four-way stops. In the morning, the driver could travel one block further north without compromising the neighborhood's two existing bus stops.
She called the school system's transportation department with her idea.
In the months since, Butler said she has been bounced around the system without resolution. Her request was denied by the cluster transportation manager, so she sought help from the ombudsman's office. She then received a conference call telling her the proposal was denied again...

Parents protest outside Kemp Mill Elementary

Gazette: Climate at school in question; protesters call for principal's dismissal

...School system spokesman Dana Tofig declined to comment on the specific situation at Kemp Mill.
"Principals have very difficult jobs and part of their job is to deal with staffing issues," he said. "They need the support of the administration and the school community. ... Sometimes principals have to make unpopular decisions and people can't think they can scream loudly and that will get the person removed."
The protest consisted of roughly a half-dozen adults and a dozen children sporting signs with messages like: "Hey, honey, will you show Starnes the door?" and "KMES has a Weast infection."
Protesters chanted messages in support of Picca and against Starnes for two hours, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m...

MCPS' Contract for Artificial Turf at Paint Branch High School

Gazette.net: Debate rages on safety of man-made sports fields; schools tout practicality
...Faced with concerns from parents and environmentalists, a Montgomery County Council committee in July directed the county's public schools, parks and environmental protection departments to work together to weigh the costs, risks and benefits of replacing grass athletic fields with their synthetic counterparts before it enters a contract to build a fourth turf field at Paint Branch High School next year...

FYI: Board of Education Candidates

The General Election is Tuesday - November 2, 2010 - 7 A.M. to 8 P.M.
All Montgomery County voters can vote in all Board of Education races. 
The at-large or district designation only refers to the residence of the candidate.

At- Large:      

                      Shirley Brandman

                      Lisa Lloyd

District 1:        Judy Docca

                      Mike Ibanez


District 3:        Karen Smith

                     Patricia O'Neill (No website)

District 5:     

                     Mike Durso

                     Martha Schaerr


League of Women Voters Guide

Gazette.net 2010 Voters Guide   

* Designates members of the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland

News & Record: Jerry Weast's last hurrah

Remember Jerry Weast, the first superintendent of consolidated Guilford County Schools from 1993-99? 
He announced today he'll retire as chief of Montgomery County, Md., schools after the upcoming school year, the Washington Post reports. 
Sounds like rave reviews for his performance over 11 years. 
A lot of folks were happy to see him leave Guilford County, but we've got much higher standards here.

Posted by Doug Clark on Tuesday, August 24, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Saturday, August 28, 2010

WUSA9: Weast to Retire

WUSA9:  Superintendent Jerry Weast to Retire at End of School Year
(text version)

"One leader's achievements generally build on the accomplishments of those who have gone before."

The Washington Post: Letter to the Editor
The editorial commending Jerry D. Weast reflected unfairly on the superintendent's predecessors. To say "only certain students -- the white and prosperous -- benefited" before Mr. Weast's arrival is unjust. Admittedly, he built strongly on earlier efforts, but those programs cannot be ignored...
continues here.

No disrespect, but not Weast's idea

The Washington Post: Letter to the Editor 
Regarding the Aug. 25 editorial "Mr. Weast steps down," on Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Jerry D. Weast's plans to retire at the end of this school year:
No disrespect to Mr. Weast, as he has done an admirable job, but the editorial made it seem as though he had come up with the idea (in 1999!) of trying to narrow the achievement gap between higher- and lower-performing groups of students.
I began working for Fairfax County Public Schools in 1980, and within two years one of the major emphases of the system was closing the achievement gap. Then, as now, the major gaps looked at were those between white and non-white students...
continues here

Weast: The Tour Continues

Superintendent Jerry Weast announced his retirement from MCPS on Tuesday.  Two days later, he was back on the speaking circuit. No need to be in Montgomery County four days before the new school year starts...

...Dr. Jerry Weast, superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, said the Gallup poll is important for educational administrators, policymakers and others concerned with bringing about school reform.
He said he used Gallup methodology over a decade ago for a systemwide survey that found students felt largely disengaged and teachers felt largely unsupported.
Efforts were made to get better teachers and make the curriculum more engaging, Weast said, and today the Montgomery County Public Schools system has one of the highest high school graduation rates for Black and Latino males in the nation, as noted in a recent Schott Foundation report on the subject of public education and Black males.
“Listen to the Gallup Poll,” Weast said. “People are telling us they want their kids to go to college.”

Friday, August 27, 2010

Enrollment boom creates larger classes in Montgomery | Washington Examiner

Enrollment boom creates larger classes in Montgomery | Washington Examiner

More students will be stuffed inside Montgomery County classrooms when schools resume Monday, because of an enrollment explosion that surpasses county officials' enrollment estimates by about 800 students.

About 144,000 students will file into classrooms this year, up about 2,300 students from last fall. The school board projected a 1,500 increase, said Larry Bowers, chief operating officer for Montgomery County Public Schools, at a Friday school board meeting.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/Enrollment-boom-creates-larger-classes-in-Montgomery-608568-101610078.html#ixzz0xriSORVL

Examiner Local Editorial: Weast legacy: Doing less with more | Washington Examiner

Examiner Local Editorial: Weast legacy: Doing less with more | Washington Examiner
Doing less with more is a succinct summation of retiring Montgomery County School Superintendent Jerry Weast's tenure as head of the nation's 16th largest public school system. Education Week recently applauded MCPS for the highest graduation rate (83.1 percent) of the 50 largest school districts. But there's nothing to celebrate when nearly one out of five students attending a public school system touted as one of the best in the nation fails to earn a high school diploma. And of 24 school districts in Maryland, MCPS ranked seventh in the percentage of students achieving proficiency in reading and 12th in math on the 2010 Maryland State Assessments, even though Montgomery is by far the wealthiest county in the state.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/Weast-legacy_-Doing-less-with-more-603843-101584343.html#ixzz0xrJdV75o

Driver Education for Students with learning disabilities

Developmental Driver Education Information Session Thursday, September 2, 2010 from 5-6 PM.

Parents will learn how we’ve made driver education more accessible to students with learning disabilities.

Montgomery College WDCE - Developmental Driver Education Information Session

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010
5 PM to 6 PM

Gaithersburg Business Training Center
 12 South Summit Avenue
 Room 402
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

For more information, please contact:
Marcy Jackson, C.P.P.
Program Director, Transportation Safety Institute Specializing in Developmental Driver Education


Montgomery College Workforce Development & Continuing Education

Gaithersburg Business Training Center - GBTC
12 S. Summit Avenue, 4th floor
Gaithersburg, MD 20877
Phone: 240-567-2589    Fax: 240-567-1890

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Montgomery parents want schools' focus to go beyond tests | Washington Examiner

Montgomery parents want schools' focus to go beyond tests | Washington Examiner
...Louis Wilen, a leader of the Parents' Coalition who is running for the school board, prioritized a superintendent with a local focus. "I'm not looking for a superintendent who's a miracle worker -- what I do want is someone who's focused on supporting our school system, and not trying to be a national role model."

Gifted & Talented Association President Fred Stichnoth, who has a child at Springbrook High School in Silver Spring, wants the next superintendent to measure achievement based on the top students, rather than midlevel averages such as SAT scores of 1,650 (out of 2,400).

"I don't think it's a triumph to close the gap at 1,650. It will be a huge triumph when the top African-American students are scoring the same as the top white students"...

...County Councilman Phil Andrews, member of the education committee and the only council member for Weast's entire 11-year tenure, has an elementary-age son who has been in the system's special classrooms for students with Asperger's syndrome. But Andrews has decided to home-school him this year "because the school system can't meet his needs."

"There's been an almost exclusive focus on college preparation and readiness, and on college-bound students, but not on the many students who are not served by that approach," Andrews said...

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/Montgomery-parents-want-schools_-focus-to-go-beyond-tests-567465-101507839.html#ixzz0xlk2VlLE

Jerry Weast's Legacy - Denying children their constitutionally guaranteed free public education

An interesting Commentary in a La Jolla, California newspaper. When will the ACLU speak on behalf of Montgomery County, Maryland students?
When will ANY elected leaders or officials speak up for Montgomery County children's right to a free public education?

Opinon from LaJollaLight.com | EDUCATION MATTERS: ACLU weighs in on illegal fees in public education
...Public education cannot solve the chronic problems of poverty and discrimination in society. But it is the one hope, perhaps our last hope, to level the playing field for those kids who have never received the kinds of advantages the middle and upper classes in our country often take for granted...

...In addition, requiring students or parents to self-identify as poor or to force families to expose financial hardship is also illegal.

Even though the issue of illegal fees has received intense media attention this past year, the practice continues in many school districts in the county. And now, as a result of ignoring the law, school districts find themselves scrutinized by the American Civil Liberties Union which has been subjected to hateful criticism, just as Sally Smith has, for defending the constitutional rights of those who can't afford to pay up.

A free public education must allow every student - rich or poor, no matter their color or background - equal access to opportunity and a fair chance at success through hard work and determination. It's a fundamental principle of our democracy, and the scurrilous attacks against those individuals and organizations that attempt to protect that right are shameful.

Maryland to use Race to the Top $$ to revise Curriculum - But what about MCPS & Pearson Curriculum?

Isn't MCPS developing their own new Pre-K to 5th grade curriculum with Pearson Education, Inc? Will MCPS be developing a Pre-K to 5th grade curriculum at the exact same time that the Maryland State Department of Education is developing a new curriculum? Which curriculum will be used in MCPS classrooms?  

WBAL: Md. Awarded $250M 'Race To The Top' Grant
...The money will be spent over two years, and it must be earmarked for specific programs. In Maryland's case, it will be used to revise its pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade state curriculum and to build a statewide technology system to monitor and promote student achievement. The funds will also be used to create a new model to prepare, develop and retain teachers and principles and to develop new programs to improve the state's low-performing schools...

Gazette: Superintendent Weast criticized for RedGate letter supporting arena

Rockville officials say comments are premature

by Sean Patrick Norris | Staff Writer

Rockville Mayor Phyllis R. Marcuccio believes Montgomery County's school chief is out of bounds in recommending RedGate Municipal Golf Course be converted into a 6,500-seat sports arena.
On Aug. 3, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast sent a letter to the county school board asking the board to support an unsolicited proposal on the arena delivered by D&A Sports and Entertainment Group of Rockville to the Rockville City Council in June...
...The issue was scheduled to be discussed at the Aug. 26 school board meeting, but it is not listed on the Board of Education's agenda because it was withdrawn, county schools spokesman Dan Tofig said.
Weast declined to comment.
"There are plenty of things that get on our agenda that make people upset and we don't pull back for that reason," Tofig said. "There is no action for the board to take so that's why it's not being discussed."
Tofig said county schools staff met with D&A representatives but could not confirm that Weast had direct contact with the company.
RedGate Advisory Committee Chairman Joe Jordan said Weast's letter was premature.
"I'm not sure why the superintendent of schools is meddling in Rockville affairs," Jordan said. "These guys (D&A) have been peddling this for four years now. They are just wandering around looking for a place to put this thing."...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Race to the Top windfall for D.C., Md. schools | Washington Examiner

Race to the Top windfall for D.C., Md. schools | Washington Examiner

...Maryland was seen as an underdog in the competition, largely because of a charter school law regarded by many advocates as among the weakest in the nation. But the state scored $250 million on the strength of its proposed reforms to teacher training and evaluation, and because the application earned some union backing.
Outgoing Montgomery County Superintendent Jerry Weast, who was one of two Maryland superintendents to withhold his support for the funding, said he was "tickled to death" that the state won the money.
"Because now they can stop saying we kept them from being a winner," Weast said.
The county did not sign on to the application due to disagreements over the best way to evaluate teachers, Weast said.
Mike Petrilli, vice president of education think tank Thomas B. Fordham Institute, cited Maryland's victory as proof that the "lofty rhetoric of the Race to the Top has turned to farce."
"[N]obody in their right mind regards [Maryland] as an incubator of serious education reform," he wrote on his organization's Flypaper blog.
Maryland State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick disagreed, saying the funds will "bolster our data systems, improve instruction, and attract and maintain a stronger educational work force."

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/Race-to-the-Top-windfall-for-D_C__-Md_-schools-558527-101430834.html#ixzz0xgAJccBS

Pearson, Wireless Generation & the other $$ behind the Common Core Initiative

A Deep Look at the Forces Behind Common Core 
By Damon Hargraves
...There is so much money being transferred that it is hard to follow who is doing what and how much money is going where. It can be easily said though that this is big business. Millions of dollars are being spent to promote the Common Core Initiative, and when you look to see what companies are promoting it, you find a common thread. Companies and organizations like ACT, College Board, MetaMetrics, ETS, Pearson, and others pop up again and again to support this project in different ways. The College Board is both a partner of the initiative and a sponsor to the other partners of the initiative. Companies are finding multiple ways to give lots of money to this project....
...It should also be noted that Common Core partners, ACT and the College Board, participate in NGA’s Corporate Fellows Program. Educational Testing Service (ETS), Pearson Education, Scholastic, MetaMetrics, and Wireless Generation also participate in the Corporate Fellows Program. (NGA, 2010c)...
...In 2009 CCSSO saw revenues of $25,993,387. As specified in their financial statement, $23,240,025 was brought in from contracts, grants, and sponsorships. (Goodman & Company, 2009 p. 3) To break it down even further, $4,357,383 was brought in by grants. (Goodman & Company, 2009 p. 17) This means that $18,882,642 or almost 73 percent of the entire CCSSO revenue for 2009 was brought in by sponsorships and contracts. This is both the largest amount and the largest percentage of revenue when compared to all other Common Core players. Corporate Partners who contributed this money include Educational Testing Service (ETS), McGraw Hill Education, Pearson, Pearson Evaluation Systems, Worldwide Interactive Network (WIN), Data Recognition Corporation, Measured Progress, Northwest Evaluation Association, Renaissance Learning, Evans Newton Inc. (ENI), MetaMetrics, Scantron, and Wireless Generation among others. Common Core partner, the College Board, is also a sponsor to CCSSO. (CCSSO, 2010, March 3)...

Mo.Co. Schools Superintendent Weast to step down - wtop.com

Mo.Co. Schools Superintendent Weast to step down - wtop.com

Montgomery's controversial schools chief to retire | Washington Examiner

Montgomery's controversial schools chief to retire | Washington Examiner

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

WPost Editorial on Weast leaving

The Washington Post: Montgomery County's Jerry Weast will be a hard act to follow

WPOST: Jerry Weast, superintendent of Montgomery schools, to retire in June

The Washington Post: Jerry Weast, superintendent of Montgomery schools, to retire in June

...Weast is not without critics. Some in the community contend that he often pretends to listen to others but ignores points of view that are not in line with where he wants to lead the schools.
"I've been disturbed that his focus has been on the national community instead of running the local schools," said Lyda Astrove, a frequent Weast critic and member of the watchdog group Parents' Coalition. Astrove, who is running for an at-large seat on the school board, has been dissatisfied in her interactions with the county in obtaining special education services for her child. She said that Weast had been quick to shut out people who disagreed with him. Two other members of the Parents' Coalition are running for school board seats, four of seven of which are up for election this year...

Weast to retire as MontCo schools superintendent | Washington Examiner

Weast to retire as MontCo schools superintendent | Washington Examiner

...Rancor found its way into other aspects of Weast’s leadership, however — most notably in his relationships with parents and the school board. While few discount his ability to push through his favored reforms, many turned sour on what they perceived as a bullying and behind-closed-doors style.

A June article in the Washington Examiner revealed that only one board member — President Pat O’Neill — would have preferred Weast stick around for another term.

That fact was not lost on Weast, who singled out O’Neill in his final round of thanks, offering a subtle snub to other board members.

“Finally, I want to thank you, Mrs. O’Neill, for your steadfast leadership and determination … You did not shy away from casting tough votes and making difficult decisions.”

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/blogs/capital-land/weast-to-retire-as-montco-schools-superintendent-101375599.html#ixzz0xXsKo1m2

WTOP - On Air Now - Jerry Weast - 8/24/10 from 10 AM to 11 AM

Superintendent Jerry Weast is on our air along with Superintendents from PG And DC...

He'll be on the Ask the show...with Mark Segraves 10am to 11am...

WTOP 103.5 fm and www.wtop.com

Weast Press Conference - Noon Today

Dr. Weast will hold a media availability at noon on Tuesday, August 24, at the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville. Please email pio@mcpsmd.org if you plan on attending.

Weast to leave at end of school year

MCPS Press Release

Superintendent Jerry Weast to Retire at the End of the School Year
August 23, 2010
   Jerry D. Weast, one of the nation’s longest-serving large school district superintendents, informed the Montgomery County Board of Education that he intends to retire at the end of his current contract, on June 30, 2011.
   “This is a very bittersweet day for Montgomery County Public Schools,” said Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill. “Over the past 11 years, Dr. Weast has provided this district with unwavering leadership, vision and passion. Working collaboratively with the board, the community and our employees, he has guided us through one of the most comprehensive and successful school reform efforts in the nation, the results of which will have a positive impact for generations of children and adults.”
   In a memo to the Board of Education, Dr. Weast said he is confident that the culture of high expectations that has been the foundation of MCPS’ reform efforts will continue on after he retires.
   “I believe our successful processes are ingrained and our reforms are deeply rooted so that success can continue for years to come,” Dr. Weast wrote. “The success our students have achieved over the last 11 years is a testament to the leadership of the Board, the amazing dedication, talent and professionalism of our staff, the unyielding support of our parents and the hard work of our students who, each time we raised the bar, always met or exceeded our expectations.”
   Dr. Weast has been a superintendent for 35 years at school districts in Kansas, Montana, North Carolina and Maryland. He joined MCPS in July 1999, and had his contract renewed by the Montgomery County Board of Education in 2003 and 2007.  In 2003, he was named Maryland Superintendent of the Year and was one of four finalists for National Superintendent of the Year. Dr. Weast is one of only a few superintendents nationwide to win Superintendent of the Year in two states, having also received the honor in North Carolina in 1998.
   During his 11 years at MCPS, Dr. Weast has overseen a comprehensive, district-wide school reform strategy, guided by the district’s strategic plan: Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence. The district has also mapped out the pathway to college and career preparation with The 7 Keys to College Readiness. The 7 Keys provide parents with a series of benchmarks—from kindergarten through 12th grade—that indicate a student is on the path to being ready for post-secondary education and the workplace.
   Guided by these and other strategic efforts, MCPS students have continued to perform at the highest levels, even as Montgomery County has undergone dramatic demographic shifts.
   “We have the results to show what happens when you transform the mindset and culture of an organization and give it clear direction,” Dr. Weast wrote to the Board. Among the most recent highlights:
   - MCPS has the highest graduation rate of any large district in the nation, according Education Week;
   - The class of 2010 had the highest SAT score in the history of the district and earned more than $234 million in college scholarships, an all-time record;
   - MCPS students took 28,575 Advanced Placement exams in 2009, a new record, and 72 percent of those exams received a “college-ready” score. African American and Hispanic graduates at MCPS greatly exceeded the national participation and success rates on AP exams.
   - More than 90 percent of MCPS kindergartners have met or exceeded reading targets each of the past three years, essentially closing the achievement gap by race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status at this grade level.
   In April, MCPS was named one of five finalists for the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education, which honors large school districts that have raised student performance and significantly narrowed racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps. The winner of the Broad Prize—and $1 million in college scholarships—will be named in October.
   Dr. Weast is the second-longest serving Superintendent in MCPS history. Only Edwin W. Broome, who served for 36 years (1917-1953) had a longer tenure.
   In his letter to the board, Dr. Weast thanked President O’Neill, the leadership of MCPS’ employee associations and others. He offered special thanks to the employees of MCPS, who embraced and executed the vision of a world-class education for all students
   “Throughout this journey, all of our employees have given more to this system than I could have ever asked. They have risen to every challenge I have presented,” Dr. Weast wrote. “They have changed the lives of thousands of students for the better and in the process made the future brighter for this county.”

NOTE TO MEDIA: Dr. Weast will hold a media availability at noon on Tuesday, August 24, at the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville. Please email pio@mcpsmd.org if you plan on attending.

Dr. Weast's Letter to the Board of Education

$71.7 Million to MCPS in Stimulus $ as of Dec. 2009

A new website is tracking the Economic Stimulus funds being awarded to public schools. The site is called EDmoney.org and you can see the MCPS page here. EDmoney. org is a project of National Education Writers Association and funded by a two year grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Check back often to see how much funding MCPS is receiving. 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Weast Backs "5 Graduations a year Arena" @ $8,435 per Graduation

Despite the fact that there are 25 high schools in Montgomery County, Superintendent Weast is backing a plan to build an Arena in Rockville that will only allow 5 graduations to use the venue per year.  See the Superintendent's memo to the Board of Education below.

The planning documents for this Arena appear to show that each graduation will generate $8,435 in income for the Arena. If this is the cost of the venue to MCPS then this Arena will cost more to rent than DAR Constitution Hall. Superintendent Weast's memo is conspicuously silent as to the per graduation rental cost of this proposed Arena.

Superintendent Weast's memo says that this Arena will be discussed by the Board of Education at their August 26, 2010 meeting, but the Board Agenda does not show this topic as having been scheduled. 


WUSA9 - Principal Apologizes for Using "Terms of Endearment"

Silver Spring, Md. (WUSA) A controversial Montgomery County elementary school principal is apologizing for using what he calls "terms of endearment" that some staffers have claimed is part of a pattern of sexual harassment.
The apology, in a letter to parents from Kemp Mill Elementary School Principal Floyd Starnes, is the latest development in ongoing turmoil at the school after the firing of popular teacher Dan Picca and the filing of federal employment complaints by 10 staffers...continues here.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Press Release: The MCPS Two-Field Walter Johnson Project

In the summer of 2009, the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland discovered and made public that a beautiful new natural sod football field, with an underground sprinkler system, had been installed at Walter Johnson High School (located in Bethesda, MD).   At the exact same time as the installation of this natural sod football field, the MCPS Board of Education and the Montgomery County Council were discussing and voting on funding the installation of a $1.2 million artificial turf football field for the school.

The Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland stands by the facts as stated on our blog postings based on documents that have been made public by the Board of Education, Superintendent Jerry Weast, and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) staff.

Unfortunately, at this time the public documents and the statements of MCPS staff detailed below cannot be reconciled and the public is left with more questions than answers.

Here is the timeline for the events leading up to this week's ABC7 news report by Julie Parker:

June 8, 2008:  Superintendent Jerry Weast informs the MCPS Board of Education in a memo on artificial turf installations that, "The 10-year life-cycle cost to install artificial turf is approximately the same as the 10-year life-cycle cost to install and properly maintain a natural grass field."  MCPS staff informed the Montgomery County Council that the cost to sod a football field was $210,000 and the cost of an underground sprinkler system and irrigation was $55,000. In addition, lines for a grass football field were $7,500, one year of water was $6,000, and one year of maintenance was $40,000.

June 19, 2009: Thanks to the on scene reporting of  ABC7 reporter Greta Kreuz the public is made aware that a brand new natural sod football field with underground sprinkler system was in the process of being installed at Walter Johnson High School.

June 22, 2009: In response to the disclosure of the installed natural sod field and underground sprinkler system MCPS Director of Facilities Joe Lavorgna stated to the Board of Education (minute 10 of video):

"Last fall we sodded the field. Um...Anticipating that we had to meet the permit requirements, and had we not sodded the field and planted grass seed, it would have been washed away with the recent weather we have had. So we had to sod the field.  Um...We will... when the artificial turf goes in, remove the sod and re-use it in other fields that have to be rehabilitated.  There is a misconception about the cost of the field. The sod and the sprinkler system together are about $125,000. All of it will be reused or recycled in other athletic fields in the county."

January 5, 2010: The Parents' Coalition obtains photographs of the Walter Johnson High School natural sod field being excavated.

January 11, 2010: The Parents' Coalition obtains photographs of huge piles of dirt on top of the sod on the Walter Johnson High School football field.  Cars and trucks are seen in the photographs parked on the sod football field.

May 11, 2010: MCPS Director of Facilities James Song, when asked about the temporary grass football field at Walter Johnson High School, states to the Board of Education "We saved about 80% of the sod." Mr. Song also reveals, for the first time, that Wheaton High School (located in Wheaton, MD) was the recipient of the used Walter Johnson High School football field sod and the associated underground sprinkler system.

August 16, 2010: ABC 7's Julie Parker reports on the results of a Maryland Public Information Act request by the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland for the costs associated with removing and relocating the used Walter Johnson High School football field sod and sprinkler system. The story states, "Hearing that a grass field and irrigation system was torn out after five football games at a cost of $86,000 of taxpayer money isn't sitting well with some parents."

August 18, 2010: MCPS Public Relations Director Dana Tofig releases a Press Release stating:
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TEMPORARY FIELD: The sod and soil, and the sprinkler system, were removed from Walter Johnson High School this year and the artificial turf was installed. The sprinkler system and the top soil were moved to Wheaton High School, which was in need of a field renovation. MCPS stored the actual sod from the temporary field in a warehouse to use at Wheaton, but the long winter and wet spring delayed installation and in mid-May we learned that the grass did not survive. The renovation of the Wheaton High School field cost $86,493.50, including the transfer of the soil and sprinkler system from WJHS and the purchase and installation of other materials and new sod. A full field renovation normally costs in the neighborhood of $150,000. The Parents' Coalition claims “the "relocation" of the grass football field cost taxpayers $86,493.50.” This is false.
This statement from the MCPS Public Relations Department contradicts previous statements by MCPS staff as to the successful removal of the natural sod. This statement also brings into play a new cost, that of the warehousing of sod for the winter. The Parents' Coalition has not seen any public documentation of the cost of warehousing this sod. Today,a Maryland Public Information Act request was filed with MCPS for this information. We are hoping for a prompt and complete response from MCPS.

The above statement by MCPS also contradicts the MCPS documents provided in response to a public information request that was made for the removal and transfer costs of the Walter Johnson High School temporary sod field. Again, the documentation on this project is incomplete and these numbers cannot be reconciled with out additional cost data and a break down of the specific costs. The Parents' Coalition can only make public that which it receives from MCPS. If the Board of Education and MCPS believe clarification is necessary, we anxiously await the details.

In addition, the MCPS August 18, 2010 Press Release makes the following statement:
THE COST OF PUTTING GENERIC SOD ON WJHS’ FIELD: The site work and grading for the new WJHS field was performed before the 2009-2010 school year. A temporary field and sprinkler system were installed after the site work was done to prevent erosion and to allow the field to be used before the installation of the artificial turf. The cost for the sod, top soil and sprinkler system was $56,264. The Parents’ Coalition claims the temporary field for WJHS cost $432,500. This is false. They derived that figure from a report to the County Council on the estimated cost to develop a high-quality Bermuda turf field from scratch. That field was not built.
This statement is in direct contradiction to what MCPS' previous Director of Facilities, Joe Lavorgna told the Board of Education on June 22, 2009 (see video of statement at link) about the cost of the temporary sod field at Walter Johnson High School. At that time Mr. Lavorgna informed the Board of Education that the temporary sod field and underground sprinkler system had cost "about $125,000."

In sum, here is what the public now knows, or doesn't know:

  • Walter Johnson High School's football field was covered twice within approximately a one-year time period; once with natural sod and once with artificial turf.
  • MCPS installed a temporary natural sod football field with underground sprinkler system for one season of use at Walter Johnson High School.
  • The public does not know the total cost incurred by the installation of the temporary sod football field and underground sprinkler system.
  • MCPS has all of the relevant invoices and documents to provide the public with the total cost of the two-field project at Walter Johnson High School.
  • Wheaton High School was apparently the recipient of the used sod/soil and sprinkler system parts from Walter Johnson High School.
  • The Walter Johnson High School artificial turf project cost less than the budgeted $1.2 million. The public does not know how the surplus funds were spent.
If the Board of Education and MCPS have documents that will clarify the actual costs of the installation, maintenance, lining, watering, removal, storage and relocation or disposal of the temporary Walter Johnson High School natural sod football field, the Parents' Coalition requests that those documents be made public as soon as possible.

The Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland advocates for transparency and accountability in the $2.2 billion MCPS budget. MCPS is about to enter another budget cycle where belt tightening will be required. The Parents' Coalition stands ready to assist MCPS in these lean budget times.

Further, MCPS must revisit their sod storage policy and procedures as the winter storage of the Walter Johnson High School sod was not successful, which apparently resulted in the loss of sod worth many tens of thousands of dollars.

The Parents' Coalition hopes for a new day in Montgomery County Public Schools where public procurement documents are readily accessible to the public.

About The Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland: The Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland was formed in 2003. The group seeks to achieve the goals of coherent, content-rich curriculum standards; high expectations combined with timely remediation and acceleration; a wider range of educational options for parents and children; greater transparency and accountability; and meaningful community input.

In May of 2009, the Montgomery County Civic Federation awarded the Parents' Coalition the Gazette Award for Public Service. The Civic Federation's Gazette Award is given annually to an individual or group who demonstrates outstanding public service to the people of Montgomery County.

On June 4, 2009, The Washington Post had the following to say about the Parents' Coalition:

"The coalition might be the best-known parent advocacy group in the region. Its members represent several constituencies, including parents of special education and gifted education students and fiscal watchdogs. The group's defining victory came this school year when the school system scaled back the fees charged to families for course materials. Coalition leaders have drawn attention to the misuse of funds collected from students for activities, the broadcast of a commercial radio service on school buses and, with their "Weast Watch" blog, the travel habits of Weast and his lieutenants."

On June 15, 2009, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood wrote the following about the Parents' Coalition in comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC):

The Parents Coalition of Montgomery County (“PCMC”), a very active parent advocacy group and educational watchdog, was unaware for several months that BusRadio had been installed on a trial basis in fifty buses in Montgomery County. Incredibly, even Montgomery County Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast was unaware of his district’s arrangement with BusRadio. When PCMC members and other parents learned that BusRadio was being used in Montgomery County, they flooded the school board and superintendent with calls and letters and the service was ended within days.

Contact us at contact@parentscoalitionmc.com

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