Thursday, March 31, 2011

Civic Fed Awards Gordon Clark 'Community Hero' Award

Please join the Montgomery County Civic Federation in awarding Gordon Clark, of Montgomery Victory Gardens, the Community Hero Award, at our April 11th meeting.

DATE: Monday, April 11, 2011
TIME: 7:45 p.m.
LOCATION: County Council Building - 1st Floor Auditorium, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Maryland
For directions, go here.

Program: Montgomery County Operating Budget for next fiscal year, FY2012 with Speakers: Alex Espinosa, Manager for Operating Budget, MC Office of Management and Budget Steve Farber, County Council Staff Director, and Community Hero Award presentation to Gordon Clark, Project Director of Montgomery Victory Gardens, for spearheading efforts to allow healthy gardens in our public schools and create community gardens in neighborhoods.

Paula Bienenfeld
Education Committee Chair, Montgomery County Civic Federation

Another Closed Session Today at 6:45 PM: Play Guess the Topic!

The Board of Education has been cited before for violating the Maryland Open Meetings Act on the grounds that the topic to be discussed was not disclosed in meeting announcements.  Below is today's Board of Education Closed Meeting announcement.

Here's what the Open Meetings Compliance Board said in 2009:
The Open Meetings Compliance Board cited the MCPS Board of Education for a violation of $10-508(d)(2)(ii) of the Open Meetings Act. The Open Meetings Board opinion states that in order to close a meeting of the MCPS Board of Education, the Board must, 
"not simply cite the statutory authority, but must disclose the topic of discussion in order to allow the public to access compliance by comparing the cited authority and report topic."..."Here the written statement provided the public no information except that the meeting was closed, among other reasons, for the County Board to receive legal advice. Thus, in closing the meeting of September 9, the County Board violated $10-508(d)(2)(ii)."
Here's today's Board of Education Closed Session Meeting announcement.
Do you think it complies with the Open Meetings Act?
march312011closed session

RIP: Silver Spring Trees

Thanks to Jerry Weast, Christopher Barclay, Shirley Brandman, Patricia O'Neill, Judy Docca, Phil Kauffman, Mike Durso and Laura Berthiaume, Silver Spring is saying good-bye to some very old trees in a significant forest.  These pictures were taken this week at the 60 year old McKenney Hills Elementary School site where the previous elementary school for under 500 students is being supersized to hold 700+ students.

Their lasting legacy to Silver Spring shown in pictures.  

Wheaton Patch: Neighbors, Parents' Coalition Fighting Proposed Cell Phone Pole on Sligo Middle School Property

T-Mobile special exception hearing was on Feb. 11th, will be discussed at PTA meeting on Mar. 8th.

By Taylor Kate Brown March 2, 2011
Residents near Sligo Middle School are hoping the special examiner will rule against MCPS’ and T-Mobile special exception request to put a 130-foot cell phone monopole on the property of the school.
The special exception hearing, held on Feb. 11th, garnered the attention of a number of residents in the areas north of the school. In addition to concerns that they were not properly notified, residents think the pole will lower property values, become a safety hazard to the nearby school and impact the open space near Sligo Creek Park...

Gazette: Board of Ed puts off final decision for Wheaton-Edison modernization

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nancy Grasmick to step down, June 30, 2011

Advocacy for School Media Specialists (Librarians) on the Web

Citizens in Montgomery County have taken their advocacy for public school Media Specialists (Librarians) to the web with their very own web page. Here is the main page of that site. Click on the title below to see the rest of their online advocacy. 

Montgomery County Public School students deserve fully staffed media centers
In an era of drastic budget cuts, schools are often prompted to "go back to basics."  In the 21st century, media literacy, multimedia instruction, appreciation for reading, and computer instruction are all fundamental to student success.  In Montgomery County Public Schools, these skills are taught by certified Media Specialists
Montgomery County Public Schools is breaking the trust with students, parents, and the community who entrusts children to its care each day.  These 21st century skills are the foundation for an educated, skilled, and informed community. 

Principals in the following elementary schools have elected to reduce the Media Specialists who teach their students to part time.  Students in Montgomery County face the very real likelihood that their access to quality materials and instruction may be severely curtailed as both public and school libraries cut hours and staff.
In additional to cutting the positions of media specialists to part time, Media Assistants, who provide invaluable support to media programs, have also been reduced to part time in many schools, leaving the very real possibility that students may be unable to use only library available to them. 
We have provided the names of schools and the contact information for principals of the schools whose Media Specialist positions have been reduced to part time and will update it as we receive new information.  Unfortunately, the reductions in hours of Media Assistants are so widespread that we have been unable to create a list as we have below for schools affected by cuts in Media Specialist hours.
 The list provides the names and supervisory assignments of the Community Superintendents.

Baldridge thrown under a bus!
After an 11th budget recommendation to principals that resulted in a educational Sophie's Choice, principals were asked to choose to among the following staff to reduce to part time:  Guidance CounselorsMedia SpecialistsReading Specialists and Staff Development Teachers.  We have been unable to find a copy of that document, but hope to have it from either the Board of Education or Union representatives.  These recommendations had not been included in published recommendations sent out a week earlier, which is why so many stakeholders (students, parents, staff, and Media Specialists themselves) were caught flat-footed by the cuts.
Immediately following a week in which many staff were informed that their positions would be cut to part-time, Board of Education Member Patricia O'Neill sent a "Dear Colleagues" letter, in which she solicited donations to honor the work of Dr. Jerry Weast.  In this invitation, the donations are earmarked toward purchasing books for elementary school libraries so "we can provide our students with well-stocked libraries." Click here for a link to the invitation.

Board of Education Reverses Vote in Closed Session; Durso "we're not always transparent"

At the February 8, 2011, Board of Education meeting the Board voted to violate their own Policy on selecting a new school site.  The Board voted to spend $44,560 on a Feasibility Study to build a new school on the Waring Station elementary school site without ever following their Policy on site selection. 

Community members immediately appealed the Board vote to the State Board of Education.  

The Gazette is now reporting that the Board of Education is not waiting for the Opinion of the State Board of Education and has reversed their own decision to spend $44,560 without community input.  This vote was apparently taken in a Closed Session meeting because this has not been discussed at an Open Meeting. 

Gazette:  Officials to look beyond Germantown site for upcounty holding school
Feasibility study put on hold
More sites will now be studied for an elementary holding school in the upcounty... 
...Neighbors in the Woodlake subdivision and environmentalists raised concerns about the site and said the school system had not conducted a formal site selection process involving the community... 
...Alicia White, who has lived since 1998 on Summer Oak Court, which wraps around the site, submitted an appeal to the Maryland State Board of Education regarding the county board's decision to conduct the feasibility study.
White said she was concerned that the school system did not follow proper procedures.
"This isn't just about our community not wanting a school here," she said. "It's about process. There was no process followed. And they have to follow process — that's the law." 
...the school board decided last week to follow a more formal process, after hearing from community members who said they had not been sufficiently involved, said board member Michael A. Durso (Dist. 5) of Silver Spring.
"I think we're going to have to work a little bit more on giving communities a little more lead time and maybe a little more input," he said. "The perception is that we sometimes rush things through and are not, to use the cliché, we're not always transparent."

“Charging students illegal fees discriminates against lower-income children and violates their constitutional right to a free education,”

An elected official speaks out for public school children:
“Charging students illegal fees discriminates against lower-income children and violates their constitutional right to a free education,” said Assembly member Ricardo Lara. “Families are unable to afford these fees and their children’s education  suffers due to financial hardship.”

This is, of course, comes from a California elected official.  Read the entire Lassen County Times article here

No elected officials in Maryland will speak out for public school children. 

Congratulations to Assemblymember Richard Lara for having the guts to speak out for public school children. 

Board of Ed has 30 Days to Respond to Open Meetings Act Complaint

The Board of Education has 30 days to respond to the Open Meetings Act Complaint filed on March 4, 2011, with regard to "briefings" of the Board on the plan to turn 20 acres of public school land over to the County Executive.  

Did the Maryland Open Meetings Act require the Board of Education to hold these discussions at an open, public meeting of the Board? 
Stay tuned. 

March 28, 2011 OpenMeetingsComplianceBoard

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Would Rick Penix sing Superintendent Weast's tune today?

Superintendent Weast wants people to know that he is the 2005 recipient of the Maryland Music Educators Association Administrator of the Year awardThis award is listed as one of Dr. Weast's most significant honors and awards in his personal bio on the MCPS web site.

What isn't widely known is that Rick Penix, MCPS Coordinator of Fine Arts, is the gentleman who nominated Dr. Weast for the award. 

Recently, Dr. Weast proposed cutting the number of MCPS music teachers.  This would be in addition to cuts to music programs in previous years.

What would Mr. Penix have to say about Dr. Weast's support for fine arts today?

Charter School applications: "applicant did suffer real harm from what occurred"

Berthiaume Statement on Charter School application review process.

Once again, Board member Laura Berthiaume gives the public an inside look at the working of the Board of Education from the perspective of a member. This piece is well worth taking the time to read. 

At the March 28, 2011, Montgomery County Board of Education meeting Board member Laura Berthiaume made a short statement in support of her vote to oppose the rejection of the Global Gardens Charter School application.  Due to the late hour, Ms. Berthiaume read only a part of her statement and submitted her full comments as part of the record.

Ms. Berthiaume's complete statement as submitted has been obtained by the Parents' Coalition and we are making it available to the public at the link below. 

March 28, 2011 Board member Laura Berthiaume Comments on Charter School Application

Leggett: Cell towers Adversely Affect Neighbors

Hear what County Executive Ike Leggett has to say when asked about a plan to put a 130 foot tall cell phone tower on a public school playground in Silver Spring. 

No Community Engagement or Transparency in Site Selection

Re: New BCC Cluster Middle School Site Selection
Date: March 28, 2011

Dear Montgomery County Board of Education,

I am submitting these comments for the record, as I am unable to attend tonight's meeting,* during which you will vote on the site of the new BCC cluster middle school. I respectfully ask that you please read and 
consider these comments before making a decision tonight.

I am a homeowner in the Lyttonsville/Rosemary Hills neighborhood as well as the mother of a XX grader at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. I own a townhouse located directly across the street from the Coffield Community Center, adjacent to Rosemary Hills Park.

Below are my immediate concerns about the selection of this park as the location for a new middle school:

1. There was no community engagement or transparency in the process of selecting this site. Our community maintains an active listserv, yet we just found out about this issue on Friday, three days ago, after the site was selected and Dr. Weast forwarded the recommendation to you for final approval tonight. The process was handled quickly and quietly without any involvement from members of the impacted community.

2. The land on which the park is located - the community of Lyttonsville and the Coffield Community Center - has a rich African-American history recognized by the Silver Spring Historic Society that should be taken into consideration before undertaking any major development. The very active Lyttonsville Civic Association should be consulted and have a vote in the site selection, given the historic importance of the land and the major impacts to our community.

3. This particular part of the Lyttonsville/Rosemary Hills community is already set to undergo a major development project when the County begins construction of the new purple line. My property is now situated between a beautiful nature trail on one side and a quiet park on the other side. Both will be replaced with an above-ground metro train and a school. It seems extremely unfair to heap these major development projects onto the community at once.

4. The site location is in Silver Spring, not Chevy Chase as the proposal states. It's odd to build the "Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School" in a Silver Spring community. It's disingenuous at best to call 
this area "Chevy Chase." At worst, it's further evidence that the selection committee did not engage the community or fully research and consider its historic significance.

5. Demographics and diversity of the two middle schools' new composition should be studied and considered before reaching a final decision to select this as the site of the new school. Lyttonsville/Rosemary Hills is predominantly a minority neighborhood with several apartment communities. The socio-economic structure is vastly different from the typical Bethesda or Chevy Chase community. There is mutual benefit from diversity infusion from this community into the larger BCC cluster before the children reach high school.

6. Many homeowners purchased in this neighborhood because of the quiet green space offered by the park, with its walking paths, fields, playgrounds and tennis courts. We would be so sorry to lose our park. 
While I realize there is need for a new school, it doesn't seem fair to take parkland away from one of the least advantaged communities in the cluster to make way for a school.

7. The selection committee based its decision on the following criteria: typology, traffic, location, ownership and site acreage. Aside from this, no additional details on the proposed school are available to 
the community. We need details - how would the school look? How would it be situated on the property? How would traffic be routed? How would school parking be accommodated? What would happen to the existing community center on the site? It's difficult to envision how a new school will change the landscape of the park and might otherwise adversely impact the community with congestion, noise, and frequent evening activity. I'm afraid it will cause over-development of this area. The park backs to homes on two sides, a large apartment complex on another, and the community center on the other.

You have a difficult decision in front of you, and I thank you immeasurably for taking time to consider my comments.

Respectfully submitted by Susan Buchanan

*UPDATE:  Shortly before the March 28, 2011, Board of Education meeting began Superintendent Jerry Weast withdrew this item from the Board's agenda. 

Weast still withholding materials of instruction?

The Parents' Coalition has been forwarded the following note from a MCPS high school:
It has come to the attention of the PTSA that there is a need for TI83 calculators for students unable to purchase one in preparation for exams or completing assignments at home.  If you have an old TI 83 calculator or perhaps your student is upgrading to an newer model and you would like to donate the old one to other students in need it would be appreciated.  [XXXXX] in the Counseling Office is receiving these calculators.  Please drop them by the counseling office for her or have your student drop them by.  If you have any questions about this drive, feel free to contact me on [XXXXX] or contact [XXXXX] in the Counseling Office. Thank you in advance for your generous donation.

Here is the MCPS statement on graphing calculators from the MCPS website
If a student cannot purchase a graphing calculator, one will be loaned to the student for the duration of the course.

What's going on at this high school? Why aren't students being supplied with the tools necessary to be successful in their classes?  Why are materials of instruction being withheld while administrators continue to charge restaurant meals to the school system's budget? 

Here's hoping that the next Superintendent provides ALL Montgomery County Public School students with the necessary materials of instruction!  

All students are entitled to a free public education under the Maryland Constitution. 

MCPS administrators are not entitled to charge personal meals to the school system's operating budget.  That's not what the MCPS operating budget was set up to fund.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tues at 7 PM - Safe healthy Playing Fields Coalition Speaker at MCCPTA

The Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition wants to make sure you are aware of this program and invites you to come. Please support Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition volunteer Kathy Michels.

Montgomery County Council of PTAs
Tuesday, March 29th
7 PM
Carver Educational Services Center
850 Hungerford Drive
Rockville, Maryland 20850

Speaker:  Dr. Kathleen Michels, PhD Neurobiology, volunteer with the Safe, Healthy Playing Fields Coalition.
The Coalition has done extensive review of the issues and research on artificial turf.

Best wishes,

Anne Ambler, Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition member

Show Me the Data: Chicago, Miami-Dade, and New York City Show Their Data

by Joseph Hawkins

If you go to the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) public website and attempt to find Excel files—real data which can be “played” with—you will find nothing. All you will find are Portable Document Format files, commonly referred to as PDFs or Adobe files.

I have always advocated for access to real data. Why not? If taxpayers are supporting a data-driven school district—and this concept comes out of MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast’s mouth every 10 seconds—then surely we cannot be afraid of sharing data. Shouldn’t a useful document such as Schools at a Glance exists as an Excel file?  Click here to see Schools at a Glance:

But instead of focusing on why MCPS always says no to public requests for real data or informs the requester that it will cost a zillion dollars to create data, let’s visit three large public school districts’ public websites and see what real data they offer up to the public.

The Chicago Public Schools provides users with a rich variety of downloadable Excel files. My two favorite files—the Advanced Placement (AP) results file which provides rich details for all city high schools (including race/ethnicity information) and the National Student Clearinghouse results file. Isn’t Superintendent Weast out and about bragging on the MCPS Clearinghouse data? Why not share? Click here to see why Chicago is my kind of data town:

For each school in its system, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools provide in downloadable Excel files basic enrollment data, attendance and mobility rates, and graduation and dropout rates. Most of this information is the data found in the MCPS Schools at a Glance document. Miami-Dade also provides an Excel for on performance measures from 2003 through 2010. Click here to see what Miami provides:

The New York City Public Schools are not as data friendly as Chicago or Miami, but they provide access to some Excel files. If nothing else, they underscore the possibilities and the spirit behind being data friendly.  Click here to see what New York City provides:

When it comes to real data, PDFs are never the starting point but rather an end point. Data people know this!

A document like the MCPS Schools at a Glance clearly resides first as data, either as one huge Excel file or multiple Excel files or in some database that can create and export data formatted as Excel files. Regardless, the data in those files can be manipulated and “played” with—one is not able to play with information in PDFs without a lot of labor devoted to reformatting and reentering information.

It seems to me that MCPS could place on its public website Schools at a Glance—as well as other data files (e.g., AP results, National Student Clearinghouse results)—in file formats that are data-friendly. And when that happens, I promise I’ll stop asking Show me your data!

Weast's Legacy: More Silver Spring Trees Coming Down

From the Friends of Sligo Creek website we learn that Superintendent Jerry Weast's plan to build a cell tower compound on the Sligo Middle School/Oakland Terrace kindergarten playground will require the removal of established trees. 

More established trees coming down on a public school site in Silver Spring.

From the plans for the construction of the cell phone tower at Sligo Middle School we learn:
Forest clearing for this telecommunications facility is approximately 3,567 square feet...
This is not forest clearing to build a school, this is forest clearing so that a commercial for-profit company can use public school land. 

Here are images of the types of trees that will be taken down at Sligo Middle School to make way for this commercial use of public school land. 


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fairfax County to refund fees for Advanced Placement tests | Lisa Gartner | Education | Washington Examiner

Fairfax County to refund fees for Advanced Placement tests | Lisa Gartner | Education | Washington Examiner

Board of Ed Finds $358,890 for Winchester Homes, Inc.

Tight budget? 
Apparently not.

Instead of planting trees on existing public school land the Board of Education is paying a private company (Winchester Homes, Inc.) $358,890 this fiscal year to preserve trees on their land. See memos here and here and here and another $138,528 in 2008 here.  

This is just one more consequence of the overbuilding of public school sites: less trees around schools.

But the Board of Education has lots of land that isn't being used for schools right now. Take a look at the inventory.  And what about the unused Woodwards Road elementary school site (shown in image) that Superintendent Jerry Weast has used for "planting" lots of cell towers? Couldn't the Board  "plant" trees on that site or one of their many other sites instead of paying a private developer for trees? 

Where did the Board of Education "find" $358,890 while at the same time Media Specialists (Librarians) are being cut?
If there is surplus funding in the capital budget it can always be moved to the operating budget, as has been done in the past

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Delegate Jolene Ivey's Magic School Bus

A special Parents Coalition hats off to Delegate Jolene Ivey, a state representative from District 47 in PG county.   Del. Ivey is demonstrating that she is a true leader in the Maryland legislature, and a strong advocate on behalf of its children.

As readers of this blog know, MoCo and its sister counties across the state are faced with tough budget decisions this year.  PG County looked into charging bus fees for their students who attend special programs.

Guess what - its just as illegal to charge bus fees in PG as it is in all local jurisdictions in Maryland.  But instead of pushing legislation to get around those fees, like MoCo's own Sentator, Rich Madalano, Delegate Ivey did some research, got some answers from the state, and then shared the letter with her constituents.

You can read the memo to Del. Ivey here.

What a great job, Delegate Ivey, on behalf of PG County.

Charter Schools and Apple Ballot Endorsements

by Frederick Stichnoth

Gazette editorial on charters                                                                                            

Council to discuss MCPS legal action in closed session


9:50 a.m.  CONSENT CALENDAR items include...
-  INTRODUCTION of Resolution to approve FY12 Transportation Fees, Charges and 
Fares (public hearing scheduled for 4/26 at 7:30 pm)
-  ACTION on $1.29m Supplemental Appropriation to Department of Transportation 
FY11 Capital Budget for Snouffer School Road North (source: Interim Finance)
-  INTRODUCTION of $710,000 Supplemental Appropriation to Department of 
Recreation FY11 Capital Budget for Germantown Indoor Swim Center (source: 
General Obligation Bonds) (public hearing/action scheduled for 4/12 at 1:30 pm)

9:55 a.m.  BOARD OF HEALTH - INTRODUCTION of Resolution to adopt Board of Health 
Regulation prohibiting smoking in certain common areas of multi-family 
residential dwellings and certain playground areas, sponsored by Councilmember 
Leventhal (public hearing by HHS Committee scheduled for 5/5/11 at 7:30 pm)

-  ACTION on Amendment to Master Plan for Historic Preservation re Kensington 
-  ACTION on rewrite of Housing Element of General Plan
* -  ACTION on Development Plan Amendment for property located on Rothbury Dr. 
in Montgomery Village, between Arrowhead Rd. and Goshen Rd., southwest of 
intersection of Snouffers School Rd. and Goshen Rd.

10:30 a.m.  PROPOSED CLOSED SESSION to obtain legal advice. Topic: Centro 
Tepeyac v. Montgomery County, et al. (in 6th floor Conference Room)

11:15 a.m.  PROPOSED CLOSED SESSION to consult about pending litigation. Topic: 
MCPS petition to State Board of Education (in 6th floor Conference Room)

12:15 p.m.  RECESS

1:30 p.m.  PUBLIC HEARINGS on...
-  Amendment to Master Plan for Historic Preservation: Damascus-Goshen Historic 
Resources - to vacate the designation of 23815 Woodfield Road as an individual 
historic resource
-  Bill 6-11, Advisory Board for the Montgomery Cares Program - Membership
-  Expedited Bill 7-11, Stormwater Management - Revisions

1:55 p.m.  ADJOURN

2:00 p.m.  PROPOSED CLOSED SESSION - Topic: Inspector General interviews (in 6th 
floor Conference Room)

7:30 p.m.  PUBLIC HEARINGS on...
-  Bill 2-11, to eliminate the Criminal Justice Coordinating Commission Director position
[currently the position is being filled by former County Councilmember Mike Subin]
-  Bill 3-11, to eliminate the Office of Community Use of Public Facilities and 
reassign functions [This office handles community use of public school properties.]
-  Bill 4-11, to eliminate the Office of Commission for Women and provide staff 
support to the Commission
-  Expedited 5-11, to modify the jurisdiction of the county Human Rights 

THURSDAY, MARCH 31 at 7:30 p.m.
PUBLIC HEARING on Bill 8-11, Taxation - Excise Tax - Disposable Carryout Bags
SELECTED COMMITTEE MEETINGS - Week of March 28 through April 1
-  3/28, 2 pm, T&E/GO Comm.s on Inspector General's Report on West Germantown 
Development District (to be televised live on county cable tv and internet--see 
General Note below)
-  3/28, 3 pm, T&E Comm. on Bill 6-10 Noise Control - Arts and Entertainment 
Activities (to be televised live on county cable tv and internet--see General 
Note below)
* Ex parte or off-the-record communications with any Councilmember regarding 
these matters is strictly prohibited by State and local law.
GENERAL NOTE: County Council sessions can be viewed over on County Cable 
television and via the internet (see instructions below for reaching that 
webpage).  Live Council sessions and archive tapes of past sessions can be 
viewed from the following webpage:

The new Council On-Demand Viewer requires Microsoft's Silverlight free plug-in.  
Information on Silverlight (and link to free software download) available on 
this webpage:

To view entire Council agenda, go to and click 
on County Council (in menu on left side), then on Council homepage click on 
Current Agenda.

The Council agenda and committee packets are PDF files that require Adobe 
Acrobat Reader to view.
-Excerpts compiled by Jim Humphrey

Friday, March 25, 2011

"School system: parent notification not necessary because no county students involved"

Gazette:  Montgomery school bus driver fired after being charged for child pornography
A former Montgomery County Public Schools bus driver continued working for several months after police seized his computer, which they say contained 85 images and videos of child pornography......Brian K. Edwards, chief of staff for Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast, said the last day Acker worked was Feb. 9, 2011, about 10 months after police seized his computer; Acker was not at work on Feb. 10 and Feb. 11. The school system was notified of Acker's arrest on Monday, Feb. 14, by Montgomery County Police, and Acker was relieved of his bus-driving duties the same day and put on administrative leave. He was fired Feb. 25.
Edwards said the school system did not notify parents about Acker's arrest because school officials were told that no students in county schools were involved in the crimes of which Acker is accused.
"The police did not indicate that the charge had anything to do with students at Montgomery County Public Schools," Edwards said.
Acker worked for the school system for more than four years as a bus driver out of the Clarksburg depot. Edwards said Acker most recently drove routes in the upcounty area but he was unsure of which exact routes...

Chevy Chase to Trade Park Land for Middle School

That's the plan.

On Monday the Board of Education will vote to approve a plan to turn a 17.1 acre park in Chevy Chase into a MCPS middle school. 

Superintendent Jerry Weast says the park and the middle school can "colocate."

Soccer on the roof? 

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire 100th Anniversary

I could not let this week go by without marking the 100th Anniversary of the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire which occurred March 25, 1911. The Triangle factory manufactured shirtwaist dresses, which were very popular during the turn-of-the-century. The shirtwaist dresses were sewn mostly by working class immigrant girls and women in sweatshops in New York City and other locations. Conditions in these buildings were abysmal. Low light, dangerous machines, locked doors and piles of cloth contributed in this case to this horrendous fire. The doors opened inward so that the girls could not escape. At least 146 women and girls lost their lives in this horrific event. The average age of these victims was 19. Some girls were as young as 12 years old. Escape was not possible. Doors were locked by the factory owners, and there were no usable fire escapes.  Fire department hoses reached only slightly higher than the 6th floor. As a result, many women were forced by the fire to jump out of the windows. My grandmother witnessed the fire and told us that girls were jumping out of windows, their long hair and dresses aflame.

When you open a door and it opens outward, remember, it is a little thing but 146 women lost their lives because of that one little thing.

In response to this tragedy, occupational safety laws were passed to include prohibitions against locked doors; requirements for fire extinguishers; and safe exits in case of fire. And, doors must open outward. The brave work of the unions, including the International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU), pushed to pass these safety laws without which working conditions would still remain so dangerous. So, look for the union label.

Paula Bienenfeld