Sunday, July 31, 2011

"They willingly accepted Hall’s story line of rebirth in an urban school system."

In February 2010, some of Atlanta’s top business leaders realized they had a problem.
State officials, though, were suggesting gains by Atlanta schools resulted from widespread cheating. Suddenly, the deal between Hall and the business community took on Faustian overtones. For a decade, they had aligned themselves with Beverly Hall, the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. They willingly accepted Hall’s story line of rebirth in an urban school system. They promoted and sometimes exaggerated Hall’s achievements — for her benefit and for their own...
...Hall’s efforts to engage business leaders succeeded. The education fund and the district collected millions of dollars in grants and donations, most notably $22 million for science education from the General Electric Foundation.GE’s vice chairman, John Rice, who was based in Atlanta, became one of Hall’s closest confidants. Her emails, obtained through the Georgia Open Records Act, show she frequently consulted Rice on matters large and small. He offered advice on managing stress, for instance, urging her to not read critical editorials.
Volunteering as chairman of the education fund, Rice worked with Hall to solicit corporate gifts. In April 2009, for instance, they appeared together at what the education fund billed as a “cultivation event” for potential donors...
Read entire AJC article here.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Montgomery schools officials reconsider site selection process | Lisa Gartner | Education | Washington Examiner

...The school board was heavily criticized when it chose Rock Creek Hills Park in Kensington as the future site of a middle school for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster. The park originally was the board's second choice to another park in Silver Spring.
That changed -- just hours before the 6-1 vote, shocking many.
"The process is broken," said Shannon Hamm, a 27-year county resident. "Citizens in the area need to be included in the selection process, not just afterward, because neighbors care about what happens in their neighborhood."
Planning board Chairwoman Francoise Carrie said she was "very distressed to learn second- or third-hand that the school system had identified one of our parks as a new school site."
"Parks are not vacant land and we don't consider them free," she said.
Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large, chided the school system, recalling a recent ruling that the school board violated open-meeting laws by voting behind closed doors to lease a former school site to the county for ball fields...

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Support Open Government

Thanks to the Sunlight Foundation!

WAMU: New School Site Selection Angering Many In Montgomery County

New School Site Selection Angering Many In Montgomery County

Montgomery schools officials reconsider site selection process | Lisa Gartner | Education | Washington Examiner

...Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large, chided the school system, recalling a recent ruling that the school board violated open-meeting laws by voting behind closed doors to lease a former school site to the county for ball fields.

"I'm among those who think there's a problem and you're going to have to deal with this," Elrich said. "You can't operate like this."

Video: How the Education Game Works

Another Wireless Generation No-Bid Education Deal
NY State Education Department intends to award no-bid deal to MCPS "partner"

Montgomery County Public Schools also has a no-bid "deal" with Wireless Generation. Want the details? They are only available here on the Parents' Coalition blog because we have filed Public Information Act requests for documents. We didn't get everything, but we got enough to show that the "investment" that Superintendent Jerry Weast made in this company didn't yield a profit for taxpayers. Not only did taxpayers not know their hard earned dollars were being invested in this company, they didn't know that MCPS had entered into a long term deal with this company that has amounted to payments of millions and millions of dollars. 

Here's a little video about Wireless Generation and the NY State Education Department...

NYC's former Chancellor, Joel Klein, now works for Murdoch, and has been put in charge of his "internal investigation" of this scandal. At the same time questions have been raised surrounding several no-bid contracts that the NY State Education Department and the NYC Department of Education intend to award Wireless Generation, the company that Murdoch bought immediately after Klein announced he would run Murdoch's new online learning division. --continue reading at

Glenallen Elementary School Forest Conservation Plan

NOTE: There will be no Planning Board sessions during month of August.



* Item 1  -  Consent Agenda items include...
ADOPTION OF RESOLUTIONS (of past decisions)
-  Glenallen Elementary School Modernization Project Forest Conservation Plan
-  Srour Falls Lot 9, Block A Preliminary Plan Amendment
-  Winterset Preliminary Plan Amendment - modify Category 1 Conservation 
-  8711 Georgia Avenue Amendments to Project Plan, Preliminary Plan and Site 
-  Germantown Town Center Site Plan Amendment - Panera Bread
-  Batchellor's Forest Site Plan Amendment

-  GLENMONT, Poplar Run (formerly Indian Spring County Club), 40 lots and 5 
parcels in R-200 Zone at intersection of Poplar Run Dr. and Tivoli Lake Blvd.
-  CLARKSBURG, Clarksburg Town Center, 20 lots and 7 parcels in RMX Zone on 
southeast corner of Clarksburg Square Rd. and General Store Dr.
-  OLNEY, Townhouses at Small's Nursery, 19 lots and 5 parcels in RT-10 Zone on 
south side of Thistlebridge Dr. 700 ft. west of Georgia Ave.
-  NORTH BETHESDA, Garrett Park, 2 lots in R-90 Zone on east side of Waverly 
Ave. 300 ft. south of Montrose Ave.
-  BOYDS, Kilmarnock Farm, 3 lots in R-200 Zone on north side of Barnesville Rd. 
800 ft. west of Ganley Rd.
-  GERMANTOWN, Seneca Meadows Corporate Center, 2 lots and 1 parcel in TMX-2 
Zone on northwest corner of Observation Dr. and Seneca Meadows Pkwy.
-  SILVER SPRING CBD, R. Holt Easley's Subdivision - Silver Spring, 1 lot in 
CBD-1 Zone on north side of Sligo Ave. 250 ft. east of Fenton St.
-  CLARKSBURG, Clarksburg Village, 4 parcels in R-200/TDR Zone on south of 
Snowden Farm Pkwy. at intersection of Newcut Rd.

-  GREAT SENECA SCIENCE CORRIDOR, Shady Grove Life Science Center, Site Plan 
Amendment to remove a building, add parking, add and modify loading facilities, 
and enhance architectural, landscape and site details on 7.85 acres in LSC Zone 
on northeast corner of Medical Center Dr. and Medical Center Way
-  WHITE FLINT, North Bethesda Market, Site Plan Amendment to convert second 
floor retail to 14 dwelling units, adjust passive/active recreation space, 
public use space and cafe seating areas, and make minor site modifications on 
4.3 acres in CR Zone on Rockville Pk. 460 ft. south of Nicholson Ln.
-  Alvemar Woods Lot 17 Preliminary Plan Amendment Corrected Resolution
-  Mess Property Preliminary Plan Corrected Resolution
-  Mid-Pike Plaza Sketch Plan Corrected Resolution

APPROVAL OF MINUTES of June 30, 2011 meeting

Item 10 (addition)  -  Reconsideration Requests for Hilltop Farm Preliminary 

2  -  East County Science Center Master Plan Citizens Advisory Committee - 
appoint replacement member

6 (new time)  -  Montgomery Parks Foundation Proposed Park Naming Policy

3  -  KENSINGTON, Park Facility Plan for Warner Circle Special Park - to 
rehabilitate historic buildings, demolish non-contributing wings, construct new 
office/meeting/laboratory space, and refurbish the grounds to continue to serve 
as a public park

* 5  -  GREAT SENECA SCIENCE CORRIDOR, Human Genome Sciences (Traville Parcels M 
& N), review Limited Site Plan Amendment to construct Building D, revise 
approved Forest Conservation Plan, revise Approved Water Quality Plan, revise 
Stormwater facilities and utilities, delete temporary surface parking lot, add 
surface parking facility (327 spaces) in close proximity to Building D, and 
modify existing lighting and landscape plans on 46.26 acres in MXN Zone south of 
Darnestown Rd. and Great Seneca Hwy.

12:00 p.m.  LUNCH and...
Item 8 (addition)  -  CLOSED SESSION to comply with requirements that prevent 
public disclosure about a particular proceeding or matter

Item 9 (addition)  -  CLOSED SESSION to consult with counsel to obtain legal 

1:30 p.m.  PLANNING BOARD MEETING Continues
Item 4 (new time)  -  Kensington Sector Plan Draft Design Guidelines

7  -  Roundtable Discussion - Pace and Pattern of Growth; and Subdivision 
Staging Policy (formerly known as Growth Policy)
* Ex parte communication on these items is prohibited with any member of the 
Planning Board. Inquiries or communications will instead be redirected to the 
appropriate staff person.
Unless otherwise noted, public testimony allowed on individual items (except 
briefings and discussions).

Listen to live audio feed or view live video feed of Planning Board sessions 
over the internet with link on their website.  The Planning Board Viewer works 
best with use of Microsoft's Silverlight free plug-in.  Information on 
Silverlight (and link to free software download) available on this webpage:

To view entire Planning Board agenda, go to --in 
menu on left side of screen, click on "agenda".  The Board's agenda is now 
posted as an HTML document, which does not require Adobe Acrobat Reader to view.

Sign up online to testify on an item before the Planning Board, up to 10 days 
prior to the hearing, by going to 
, or call 301-495-4600 before 4:00 p.m. the day before the meeting.  On the day 
of the meeting, see the clerk in the auditorium to sign up.

NOTE--CHANGED PROCEDURES: Written comments must be received in the Chair's 
office at least 24 hours in advance of the hearing date (referencing the hearing 
date and item) to be reviewed by the Board and included in the official record 
of the hearing.  Written comments received within 24 hours before a hearing will 
be placed in the file, but will not be considered by the Board or included in 
the official record.  Copies of testimony presented orally or copies of 
correspondence will not be distributed at the hearing.

Staff reports for upcoming agenda items are posted online--ten days prior to 
meeting when Board will discuss--in PDF format, which requires Adobe Acrobat 
Reader to view.
-Excerpts compiled and distributed by Jim Humphrey

Primary Election April 3, 2012

Board of Education seats that are up for election in 2012:


District 2

Monday, July 25, 2011

Breaking News: State Board Denies Crossway Charter Waiver Request

Cross Way 1134

Pasternak is on MCPS Foundation too

MCPS EF Form 990 for 2010
Q.  What do the Crossway Montessori School (that wants the former Pleasant View Elementary School building for a charter school), MSI Soccer (that wants the 20 acre Brickyard Middle School site for a private soccer club) and the MCPS Educational Foundation (that just took in $11,000 from the United States Golf Association) have in common?

But you wouldn't know that by looking at the MCPS Educational Foundations website. The website doesn't disclose the complete list of foundation directors. The website only shows 11 Directors. 

For the complete list of the 16 Directors for the MCPS Foundation one has to go to IRS Form 990 shown below. On that list Jerry Pasternak's name is disclosed along with the names of directors Jerry Weast, Pat Baptiste, Barry Meyer, and Mitchell Paul.  According to the IRS Form 990 each Director spends an average of 2 hours per week on Foundation business. 

2 hours a week average? What's going on at the MCPS Foundation? 

MCPSEF 990 2010

Budget growth dominates Weast legacy

Gazette Letter to Editor: 
The uncritical article lauding Jerry Weast on the past 12 years [“Then and Now,” June 29] when he has been Montgomery County Schools superintendent, was a little much. According to the article and other recent ones, the Montgomery County graduation rate is down; most, but not all, SAT scores are up slightly; more Montgomery County schools are not meeting state standards, when the number of schools in the state meeting the state's standards has increased. All of this when the schools' operating budget almost doubled from $1.1 billion to $2.1 billion.
The budget increase is the most egregious change. During that 12-year period, inflation increased a total of about 34 percent, which would bring that $1.1 billion budget up to $1.474 billion; adding the growth in the number of students (10.77 percent) would get that number up to about $1.6 billion. The difference between the $2.1 billion and and the $1.6 billion is about $400 million a year. Yes, the number of students taking AP classes and tests is up, and that is great, but does that cost $400 million a year? I doubt it.
I certainly don't blame Weast for all of this. Aggressive teachers' unions up against a passive County Council and a mindset that says if we throw money at the schools, then everything will be great, all came into play. And ultimately, it is the responsibility of the voters of Montgomery County, who vote in the council members and county executive without paying attention to what they are doing, to make sure that our tax dollars are spent appropriately.
Eileen Iciek, Rockville

"Fantastic rises in achievement were accompanied by equally fantastic decreases in SAT participation"

How records are made
by Mike McCabe

...[MCPS] African American and Hispanic sub-groups led the decline in particpation...

Click here for the full report on MCPS SAT participation since 2006 as chronicled by a Montgomery County Public Schools teacher.  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Charter Update - Gazette: Proposal for geographic preference scrapped for charter school

Gazette:  Board to vote on Community Montessori plan Monday
by Andrew Ujifusa, Staff Writer

Plans to give students in certain areas priority to attend a proposed county charter school have been dropped...continue reading article here.

Algebra in Eighth Grade for All?

Washington Post, Letter to the Editor, July 24, 2011
Pre-algebra is the shallow end of the math pool, while Algebra I is the deep end. Who would want their kid thrown in the deep end to learn to swim? Mathematics is a process that can be followed to the PhD level if the student hasn’t been left behind by an accelerated curriculum instituted by the unknowing. Part of this push to have every kid in the eighth grade take Algebra I is for the glory of education administrators (though they will never admit it). The higher you go in the educational hierarchy, the less in touch those people seem to be with the reality of teaching. Having all eighth-graders take Algebra I is a stunningly good example of this.(...)

D.M., Fairfax Station

Talk Fast: Expedited Hearing on Expedited Curfew Bill

NOTE: Following July 26 session, the next regular session of Council will be 
September 13.


10:40 a.m.  ANNOUNCEMENTS - The Council public hearing on Spending Affordability 
Guidelines for FY13 Capital Budget and FY13-18 Capital Improvements Program 
(CIP) will be held September 20 at 1:30 p.m.

10:45 a.m.  CONSENT CALENDAR items include...
-  Introduction of $1,268,940 Supplemental Appropriation to FY12 Operating 
Budget for Departments of Health and Human Services, Police, Correction and 
Rehabilitation, and State's Attorney for Prince George's and Montgomery County 
Gang Initiative (source: Federal grant)

-  Action on Resolution to extend until November 4 the time for action on the 
Takoma/Langley Crossroads Sector Plan

-  Bill 19-11, Personnel - Collective Bargaining - Public Access
-  Bill 20-11, Personnel - Collective Bargaining - Public Accountability - 
Impasse Arbitration
(NOTE: Both of the above bills were introduced to implement recommendations of 
the Governmental Reform Commission, and the Council Government Operations 
Committee recommends disapproval of both)

11:30 a.m.  ACTION - Council comments on PlanMaryland (state plan for future 

12:00 p.m.  RECESS

-  Hearing and Action on Fourteen Corrective Map Amendments to correct technical 
errors in zoning boundaries and zoning classifications on the official zoning 
maps for certain properties located throughout the county
-  Hearing and Action on $10,000 Intra-Fund Transfer within Maryland-National 
Capital Park and Planning Commission's Administration Fund
-  Hearing on Expedited Bill 25-11, Offenses - Curfew - Established

SELECTED COMMITTEE MEETINGS - Week of July 25 through 29
-  7/25, 9:30 am, PHED Comm. on Status Report on implementation of M-NCPPC 
Central Administrative Services report, discussion of biotech tax credit, 
discussion of restructuring of the (new businesses) incubator program, and 
discussion of the Dept. of Economic Development marketing plan (to be televised 
live on county cable tv and internet--see General Note below)
-  7/25, 2 pm, PHED and ED Comm.s on school site selection process (to be 
televised live on county cable tv and internet--see General Note below)
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

Montgomery County school meals get passing grade for nutrition, with a caveat

The Washington Post

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's a secret!

Don't ask about Superintendent Starr's transition to Montgomery County. It's a secret.

Superintendent Starr's "transition" to MCPS will be discussed in a Closed Board of Education Session on July 25, 2011.

In fact, the whole Superintendent Starr Transition team is a secret. None of your business. Yes, you pay the bills. But please don't ask any questions or expect to know how your tax dollars are being spent!

Board to vote on Our Call to Action

Our Call to Action 2011-2016, on the Board of Education's agenda for Monday, July 25, 2011.  

Please look it over, and submit comments to the Board either by email ( or during the public comment period Monday early evening (

Here are a few things that catch my eye:
1.The performance targets for math are To Be Determined.  Math 6 in Grade 5 is completely up in the air.

2. There are a lot of "Gains in Student Performance." How does this jibe with the perception (mine anyway) that the red zone is not gaining fast enough?

3. Goal 1: MAP-R is added as a Data Point. We've wanted a focus on MAP-R for a long time.  But, will it be only a cut-point, to give early warning of lack of proficiency?  Will they actually send the results home and explain what they mean? (For more on MAP-R, see the April report

4.  Check out the Deputy Superintendent of Schools' Innovation Team.  What do they do?  "Dynamic discourse," "fresh perspectives on issues or problems that are complex and enduring." "Innovative thinking of staff in a setting that values inspired thinking and collective problem solving."  Wow!

5.  Then there's "Developing Mathematical Proficiency for All Students." The Math Work Group in action. Too bad GT parents were/are excluded.  Look forward to "depth" (meaning slow).

6. Look at Goal 2, Milestone 2:  the Gifted and Talented stuff.  Does this Milestone, these Data Points, capture and drive Gifted and Talented education?

7. Then there's the Gifted and Talented discussion:  Continuum of Accelerated and Enriched Instruction, Honors/Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate and Advanced-level Courses. Is that Gifted and Talented?
Please weigh in.
Frederick Stitchnoth

Gazette: Montgomery lags behind Howard on science exams

Fifth- and eighth-graders improve on past performance

Friday, July 22, 2011

Breaking: Starr recommends Crossway Approval; Details to be worked out later

50 Resolution for Community Montessori Charter School Application

Board takes Crossway Decisions Behind Closed Doors

What decisions are being made in secret about the Crossway Montessori School application to become a Charter School? 

Doesn't the public have a right to know what decisions are being made about MCPS facilities and programs? 

From the Board of Education:

On July 7, 2011 the Board of Education met in Closed Session to discuss "...the use of a facility by the Community Montessori Charter School..."

On July 25, 2011 the Board of Education will discuss the Crossway charter school application behind closed doors prior to the start of the Board meeting and vote on the Crossway application. 

Converting a private school to a charter school

The Crossway Community Montessori School is licensed by the state of Maryland to run a kindergarten. Doesn't that make this charter application the conversion of a private school to a charter school? 

(3) A public chartering authority may not grant a charter under this title to:
(i) A private school;
(ii) A parochial school; or 
(iii) A home school. 

Here is the current listing of the Crossway Community Montessori School in Maryland State Board of Education records.

Nonpublic Educational Programs Approved  By The Maryland State Board Of Education

Montessori Schools Approved Under COMAR 13A.09.09

Crossway Community Montessori School

3015 Upton Drive
Kensington 20895
(301) 949-2505

What Crossway told the Board of Ed on June 27, 2011

Back on June 27, 2011, the Crossway charter application was about providing a charter school that would be open to all Montgomery County residents through a fair, open and transparent lottery admission process.

As of July 7, 2011, the Crossway applicants were changing their tune and looking for a waiver that would allow them to restrict the applicants to their proposed charter school. 

Here's what Crossway told the Board of Education on June 27, 2011 in response to questions from Board member Laura Berthiaume. 

Also, note that this charter school would admit students when they are 3 years old and expect them to stay through to 3rd grade when the program ends.  Therefore, a lottery to enter this public charter school would have to be held when students are 2 years old.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Oppressive" is how MCPS charter review panel described applicant information

Documentation from charter school applicants overwhelmed the MCPS charter review panel last year and so MCPS mandated that charter applicants this year could ONLY answer questions orally and with a time limit of 2 hours. 

If the charter school applicant couldn't answer all the questions from the panelists in 2 hours they were out of luck. 

Here's the discussion of the MCPS charter review process at the June 27, 2011 Board of Education meeting.

Berthiaume on charter lottery: "...a fair process with no thumbs on the scale..."

Here is the statement that Board of Education member Laura Berthiaume made at the July 7, 2011, Board meeting on the Crossway Montessori program application for a charter school in Montgomery County. 

Board member Berthiaume refers to the residential program that Crossway currently runs for the Housing Opportunities Commission.  Ms. Berthiaume expresses concerns about the possibility that a charter school could be opened by the Crossway program but that all of the current Crossway students might not be admitted to the school under an open lottery.  

Ms. Berthiaume is concerned that this charter school application could end up just "converting a private school."

Board member Berthiaume refers to Ms. Guinan in her statement. Kathleen Guinan is the current director of the Crossway Montessori program and the primary contact on the application for the Community Charter School.

Bronx Charter School Disciplined Over Admissions Methods

From The New York Times

Published: July 20, 2011

A South Bronx charter school has been put on probation for what city education officials called “serious violations” of state law mandating random admissions, including possibly testing or interviewing applicants before their enrollment.

The school, Academic Leadership Charter School, opened in 2009 and is the first New York City charter to be disciplined for violating the rules for random admissions.

The violations go to the crux of the debate over charters, which are publicly financed but independently operated. Random admissions is a key tenet in most states, but critics have long contended that the schools surreptitiously weed out students who are unlikely to do well on standardized tests or are more difficult to educate.


At most city charter schools, students are selected at public meetings where applicants’ names are picked from a box. But city officials found that at Academic Leadership, which has about 200 children in kindergarten through second grade, hundreds of applicants were left out of this year’s drawing. The lottery was supervised not by an impartial observer, but by a member of the parent association, the letter said. And while students who applied after the lottery should have been added to the waiting list, scores of them were not, it said.


“A fair lottery system is at the heart of being a charter school,” Mr. Merriman wrote in an e-mail. “If it turns out the lottery wasn’t fair, especially if there was an attempt to select students, then it will be hard to justify this school staying open.”

To read more, go here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Food in our Schools

Here is the complete report by the Office of Legislative Oversight, 'Food in Montgomery County Public Schools.' We have written on this blog many times about healthy food that our children could be eating, as well as healthy school gardens. Public schools all over the country are helping their students to become healthy and active. Why not here in MoCo? Maybe this report will finally push the Board of Education to do something here. It's about time.

Food in Montgomery County Public Schools July 2012, Office of Legislative Oversight

Gazette: Report: County schools could serve healthier foods

In 2011, 7.3 percent more breakfasts and lunches served than in 2010 in Montgomery

...Anne Arundel County Public Schools, for example, serve all-you-can-eat portions of fruits and vegetables, and samples of new fruits and vegetables once per month.
Schools in Boulder, Colo. eliminated processed foods and flavored milk while introducing roasted chicken. District of Columbia Public Schools offered reimbursable meals from salad bars at 12 schools in fiscal 2011, and Chicago offers them in one-third of all schools. Baltimore city schools has used longer menu cycles to introduce and use more healthy foods...

Report: MCPS students, parents unsatisfied with school lunches | Rachel Baye | Local | Washington Examiner

Report: MCPS students, parents unsatisfied with school lunches | Rachel Baye | Local | Washington Examiner

Leggett ally loses law license | Brian Hughes | Local | Washington Examiner

Leggett ally loses law license | Brian Hughes | Local | Washington Examiner

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Send your comments yesterday! Wheaton - Edison Feasibility Study

What a great way to include the public: notify them after the comment period starts, in the middle of the summer, and only give them 18 days to get a copy of the plans, discuss and comment! Does the Board of Education hope that everyone is on vacation? 

----Original Message-----
From: Donnie Porter <>
Sent: Tue, Jul 19, 2011 7:41 am
Subject: Edison-Wheaton Feasibility Study

Dear FAC Members,
The draft of the feasibility study for the modernization of Wheaton High School and Thomas Edison High School of Technology is now available.  Due to the size of the brochure, it could not be sent via email; therefore, it is available on the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Division of Construction website and the Wheaton High School and Thomas Edison High School of Technology website.  FAC members, as well as the general public, will have from July 18, 2011 to August 5, 2011 to submit comments on the feasibility study.  All comments should be sent to Dennis Cross at The feasibility study for the modernization of Wheaton High School and Thomas Edison High School of Technology is scheduled as a discussion/action item at the Board of Education’s August 25, 2011 meeting.
Should you have any questions, please contact Mr. Cross at 240-314-1012.  Thank you.
Links to websites:
Don Porter, AIA
Vice President
11720 Beltsville Drive, Suite 600
Calverton, Maryland  20705
(301) 595-1000
(301) 595-0089 FAX
(240) 965-0713 (Direct)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reminder: New Sod Needs to be Watered!

It promises to be a scorcher this week! I hope one of our readers will get a temperature reading on the Richard Montgomery High School artificial turf field. (And I really hope that no kids will be playing on the artificial field in the 100 degree heat!)

Never fear: Richard Montgomery High School also has a grass "practice field." Up until this summer, it was basically a sand pit. But at some point recently, new sod was laid on part of the field, and it appears that part of the field was seeded as well. (You can see the delineation in the photos).

Nevertheless, some of the new sod is starting to wither and die. Hoses were on the field yesterday morning at 8:30. Let's hope someone watered earlier in the morning, and takes action to ensure that the new sod survives, and the seeded part sprouts.

Third Annual Summer Reading List - Additions from our Senator

We received a kind letter from our Senator, Ben Cardin, responding to our request for favorite books he read as a child. Here is his response, below.

Letter From MD Senator Ben Cardin on Summer Reading June 24, 2011

Tell us what you have been reading this summer. Post here as a comment.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Greater Olney Civic Association Resolution on Busing Farquhar MS students

The Greater Olney Civic Association wrote the following letter to Superintendent Josh Starr, asking him to consider other options for the middle school-aged children in their community during the modernization of Farquhar Middle School.

Letter-To-Dr.-joshua-Starr From GOCA July 14 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Board of Education denies open meeting violations in B-CC middle school decision

Friday, July 15, 2011
Board of Education denies open meeting violations in B-CC middle school decision
Attorney defends process to select site for Bethesda-Chevy Chase middle school
by Sarah Gantz, Staff Writer

Montgomery County’s Board of Education has denied improperly conducting a site selection process for a new Bethesda-Chevy Chase middle school.

The board sent a letter July 6 to the Maryland Open Meeting Compliance Board in response to accusations filed in early June by a neighborhood association. The association claimed the board did not give sufficient notice about plans to select a Kensington park as the preferred site for a new middle school, among other violations.


"It is clear that the Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association was unhappy with the selection of the Rock Creek Hills [Local Park] as the site on which a feasibility study would be conducted for construction fo a second middle school in the B-CC area. As a result the Citizens Association has attacked the process that led to selection of the site by alleging violations of the [Open Meetings Act] and it has attacked the result by lodging an appeal to the Maryland State Board of Education,” Judith S. Bresler, an attorney for the board, wrote in the letter.

For the rest of the story go here.

Singin' to the BOE to Save a Park

Friday, July 15, 2011

An Open Letter to Dr. Starr on Public Information in Maryland

Dear Dr. Starr:

Welcome to Maryland.  It's been a little over two weeks since you have taken over the helm at Montgomery County Public Schools,  and I hope you are adjusting well to the Washington heat and humidity.   The good folks at Carver are probably showing you around town, and with that really super transition team, you should be up to speed in no time.

I don't know how things worked in Connecticut, or other places where you've been, but I have a feeling that you just may need some better advice on what the taxpayers expect.  Given that your staff and legal counsel have given advice on the Open Meetings Law that is just plain wrong, as evidenced by two separate opinions from the Open Meetings Compliance Board, I would hate for you to find yourself in similar difficulties with other Maryland law.  So, here is my introduction to the Maryland Public Information Act.

As you know, information in the files of the government belongs to the citizens.  This is basic, and goes back to the common law.  In Maryland, we have codifed this rule into a statute called the "Maryland Public Information Act."   You can find this law at Title 10, Subtitle 6, Part III of the State Government Article (“SG”);  our friendly attorney general, Mr. Gansler, has issued a manual with everything you need to know.

In Maryland, we have a right to access government records without unnecessary cost or delay.  You have the lucky honor as the custodian of the records to provide access to the records unless the records are within one of the exemptions listed in the statute.  Things like personnel records, student records,  and certain other records that the state has determined should not be released.  However, the presumption is on disclosure, and you need to be careful when you withhold records that the records really are exempt.  Also - if some parts of a record or document can be withheld from release, that doesn't give you permission to withhold the entire document.  You are required to release the portion of the document that is disclosable, and limit the amount of material withheld from public view.  Take a look at Mr. Gansler's manual for a much more detailed description of what should and should not be disclosed. And then there is the matter of time.  The MPIA requires that records responsive to requests should be produced immediately after receipt of a written request.  See SG §10-614(b)(2).  Yes, the manual does acknowledge that you can have a period not to exceed 30 days, but only if you need that time to locate the documents.  The Manual states:
A custodian should not wait the full 30 days to allow or deny access to a record if that amount of time is not needed to respond. If access is to be granted, the record should be produced for inspection and copying promptly after the written request is evaluated.
See the Manual, at page 53.  Recall, our prior Superintendent was given an award for being "Tech Savy" and spent a lot of money on technology, so our school system does have the ability to retrieve loads of information very quickly, contrary to what your public information office may tell you.

You can charge certain fees for copying and locating the documents, but again, the Manual cautions that these fees should not be charged to deter the public from requesting documents or copies.  And, folks are entitled to request a waiver of the fees.  You are encouraged to grant the waiver, if the waiver is in the public interest.  According to the Manual:
To determine whether a waiver is in the public interest, the official custodian must consider not only the ability of the applicant to pay, but also other relevant factors. A waiver may be appropriate, for example, when a requester seeks information for a public purpose rather than a narrow personal or commercial interest.
See page 13.

I look forward to working with you during your stay in Maryland.  And remember, we've got a lot of information available at no cost on our state website, so if you do a little bit of reading on your own, you can probably reduce the cost of those high priced legal services that our Board of Education seems to enjoy.

Jerry Weast's Cell Tower Leases

When did the Board of Education vote to place all of these cell phone towers (and antennas) on public school playgrounds?

They didn't.

Here are just some of the Leases that Jerry Weast signed in the name of the Board of Education while superintendent.

Where does the money from these leases go? Anyone seen an accounting? Imagine how these funds ($700,000 +/-) could help after school athletic programs that have now been cut.

When are these funds taken to the County Council for appropriation? Oh, they aren't. Just another revenue stream with no oversight. 

And...have the taxes on these cell tower compounds been paid yet?

June 24, 2005 ~ Wheaton High School ~ Omnipoint Communications CAP Operations, LLC

June 24, 2005 ~ Einstein High School ~ Omnipoint Communications CAP Operations, LLC

May 26, 2006 ~ Magruder High School ~ T-Mobile Northeast, LLC 

June 6, 2008 ~ Springbrook High School ~ T-Mobile Northeast LLC

November 11, 2008 ~ Watkins Mill High School ~ T-Mobile Northeast LLC

June 19, 2009 ~ Wheaton High School ~ Cricket Communications, Inc. 

July 26, 2010 ~ Springbrook High School ~ Clear Wireless LLC

August 12, 2010 ~ Wheaton High School ~ Clear Wireless LLC

August 31, 2010 ~ Einstein High School ~ T-Mobile Northeast LLC

September 22, 2010 ~ Wheaton High School ~ T-Mobile Northeast LLC

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Carderock students sold out by MCPS in exchange for $11,000 payment

Proceeds diverted to fund overseen by Bowers, O'Neill, and Weast

Documents obtained by the Parents' Coalition reveal that MCPS Chief Operating Officer Larry Bowers agreed to lease several school parking lots to the United States Golf Association (USGA) during the recent US Open Golf Tournament in exchange for an $11,000 contribution to a foundation that Bowers oversees.

The documents, obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request, include a contract giving the USGA exclusive use of parking lots at Carderock Springs Elementary School, Walter Johnson High School, and Walt Whitman High School during much the US Open Golf Tournament. The contract also gives the USGA use of the parking lot at the Carver Educational Service Center while setting aside reserved parking spaces for Board of Education members, former Superintendent Jerry Weast, and other high-ranking MCPS personnel.

No approval of the parking lot contract could be found in Board of Education meeting minutes.

The contract that Bowers signed includes a handwritten note stating "$11,000 will go into MCPS Educational Foundation." Bowers is the Executive Director of the MCPS Educational Foundation, according to the foundation's web site.  Maryland law requires that income received by MCPS be forwarded to the County Council for appropriation.

Section of parking lot rental agreement exposing $11,000 diversion to fund run by Bowers, Weast, and O'Neill

In January, former Superintendent Weast announced that Carderock Springs Elementary school would be closed two days before the end of the school year, claiming that the early closure was needed because of the number of spectators expected and because of security concerns.  The Board of Education was not told that the parking lot would be leased to the USGA.

"As a result of the number of spectators anticipated and potential security concerns created by this event, I have authorized the last day of school for students at Carderock Springs Elementary School to be Tuesday, June 14, 2011.  The scheduled last day of school for all other MCPS students will remain Thursday, June 16, 2011," wrote Weast in his January 13, 2011 memo to the Board of Education.

Weast is a member of the MCPS Educational Foundation Board of Directors. Patricia O'Neill is a member of the Board of Education and also serves as a director of the MCPS Educational Foundation. 

Parking agreement between MCPS and USGA

Additional documentation from MCPS about parking lot use for golf tournament