Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Press Release: Kensington Citizens Appeal Board of Ed’s Park Grab

Contact: David Kaplan
Email: SaveRCHP@gmail.com
Kensington Citizens Appeal Board of Ed’s Park Grab
Community cites violation of rules, lack of community input, arbitrary and irrational selection process in choosing park as site for Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster middle school

Kensington, Md. – The citizens of Kensington’s Rock Creek Hills community filed an appeal with the Maryland State Board of Education, to overturn the Montgomery County school board’s April 28 decision to build a middle school complex on the site of the neighborhood’s small park. The Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association (RCHCA) cited the County Board’s “abuse of discretion” and “imprudent” actions when the Board confiscated Rock Creek Hills Park as the site of a future middle school, without any community input, notice, or adequate factual support for doing so.

In its appeal, RCHCA emphasized concerns over “the potential impact on the retirement community that was funded in part by the Housing Opportunities Commission on public land, and particularly on its residents,” referring to the Kensington Park retirement community, which stands on much of the site of the former Kensington Junior High School, adjacent to Rock Creek Hills Park.

The appeal criticized the lack of transparency in the secretive selection process, and the absence of any Rock Creek Hills residents on the Site Selection Advisory Committee (SSAC). “From the outset, the site selection process was arbitrary and unfair. There was not a single community represented from the area north of East-West Highway or east of Connecticut Avenue, where the two sites that were ultimately given first and second ranking are located.” Board of Ed member Mike Durso noted the absence of community representation when he cast the lone vote against the site selection.

The SSAC’s March 8 report on which the recommendation of Rock Creek Hills Park is based contains numerous factual errors. Most sites were mischaracterized, and evaluation criteria were not clearly defined or consistently applied. Ms. Francoise Carrier, Chair of the Maryland National Park and Planning Commission, noted in an April 27 letter to the County Board: “Our representative has stated that he did not have the opportunity to present the cost and other data that would have made for a fairer comparison among all the sites under consideration, and that his objections to conversion of parkland were ignored.” The Parks Department also noted the use of Federal Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF), via Maryland’s Program Open Space (POS), to renovate and improve the site for use as a park. The State of Maryland would “have to be made whole” for the use of these funds, and a replacement park of equivalent size and amenities created in the vicinity of the existing park, per POS.

The County Board’s standard for a middle-school site is 20 acres, while the flat terrain at Rock Creek Hills Park is less than half of that. Rock Creek Hills Park has two regulation soccer fields; Board of Ed testimony states that a middle school built on the site of the park would have room for none.

Though the County Board described Rock Creek Hills Park as “vacant”, it is a thriving center of the Rock Creek Hills community and the BCC cluster. Its soccer fields host hundreds of athletes weekly, including the State champion B-CC High School girls soccer team.

Just hours prior to the site selection vote on April 28, the County Board changed its meeting agenda to include Rock Creek Hills Park. The County Board staff’s original recommendation of another park, the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Park, was dated March 8, 2011. From March 8 until the afternoon of April 28, 2011, the only site scheduled for County Board action was the Rosemary Hills/Lyttonsville Park site.

Also on April 28, Montgomery County Executive Isaiah Leggett wrote to the Local Board, requesting that “parcels used for park and recreation purposes be avoided,” and urging the Board “… to undertake an aggressive community and public input process to ensure that resident concerns are discussed and addressed before action is taken”. However, the Board disregarded Mr. Leggett’s prudent guidance when it voted only hours later to take Rock Creek Hills Park.

“The County Board’s one-day rush-to-judgment ignored many facts, was deficient in its reasoning, and failed to engage the residents who will be most impacted by its decision,” stated Mr. Sam Statland, RCHCA Vice President. “The RCHCA is requesting that the site selection decision at issue be halted immediately and be brought back to the County Board for further consideration and involvement of local communities and the Parks Department.”
Contact: David Kaplan
Email: SaveRCHP@gmail.com
Friends of Rock Creek Hills Park: http://SaveRockCreekHillsPark.org
Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association: http://rchca.org
Kensington Park retirement community: http://KensingtonRetirement.com

Press officer leaving Montgomery schools | Lisa Gartner | Capital Land | Washington Examiner

Press officer leaving Montgomery schools | Lisa Gartner | Capital Land | Washington Examiner

Leggett met with soccer group while pushing public school land grab

Leggett met with soccer group while pushing farm switchover | Lisa Gartner | Education | Washington Examiner

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett was meeting with a major local soccer group while he pushed the school system to lease the county land being used by an organic farm so it could be converted into ball fields -- years before outraged Potomac residents were given short notice of the move.

In a letter dated Nov. 10, 2009, Leggett recommended that the former Brickyard Middle School site be transformed into soccer fields, saying the 20-acre organic farm was "largely vacant and underutilized."

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/local/education/2011/05/leggett-met-soccer-group-while-pushing-farm-switchover-ball-fields?sms_ss=facebook&at_xt=4de45b09852d2b27%2C0#ixzz1Nw31gUkH

Could schools in Maryland be a model for Palm Beach County?

Could schools in Maryland be a model for Palm Beach County?

World traveler or Superintendent?

Published in the Iola Register on May 21, 2011.

Educator credits Kansas roots

Moran native a leader in learning

By SUSAN LYNN susan@iolaregister.com

Jerry Weast credits his Kansas roots for the success he is today.

“As a 4H-er, I learned how to set targets, maximize my crop yields, live within my means, and help my neighbor. Those traits are a ticket to success, no matter your field,” he said.

Weast, 63, is recognized as a worldwide leader in education.
After 42 years he’s retiring as a school administrator, having spent the last 12 years as superintendent of one of the largest school districts in the nation to accept a global role in promoting his educational model espoused in the book, “Leading for Equity,” which was based on the success of his district in Montgomery County, Md.

Weast worked to close gaps between incomes and race to raise school test scores.

Montgomery County has some of the wealthiest families in the country as well as some of the poorest as home to the nation’s Capitol.

It also is extremely diverse.

“We have students from 163 countries who speak 123 languages,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Those challenges made it all the more necessary to create a curriculum and team mindset that effectively reached a multitude of backgrounds, he said.
WEAST’S OWN background is humble. He grew up on a farm southeast of Moran, the son of Kenneth, a farmer, and Maude, a teacher. The Weasts had three sons, Larry, Jerry and David, and a daughter, Debra, who lives in Moran.

His graduating class in 1968 from Moran High School had 23 students including Debra Barnes, an eventual Miss America, and Larry Lust, a retired Major General with the U.S. Army, and with whom Weast keeps contact.

After high school Weast attended Iola Junior College  — “today’s ACCC all dressed up,” he said — before continuing at Pittsburg State University for his education degree and then onto Oklahoma State University where he earned a doctorate in education administration. A plaque commemorates Weast in the Oklahoma State U.  Hall of Fame in its college of education.
By 1972, Weast was promoted to principal of McCune High School. He was 24. By 28, he was named superintendent of schools in Uniontown and from there was superintendent of schools in several states, eventually landing in Maryland in 1999. The Montgomery district has 140,000 students.
His 12-year tenure at Montgomery County schools makes him one of longest serving school superintendents in the nation — a job that is subject to the whims of fickle school boards, especially in times of economic turmoil.
What has helped secure Weast’s position is his success at raising school test scores — a particularly tough challenge considering the district’s wide disparities among students where whites and Asians were on one trajectory and blacks and Hispanics on another.

Weast said he used the organizational model of government he learned in his Prairie Rose 4-H club to help shape his style of leadership. Being raised on a farm helped too, he said.

“If a storm was headed our way, all the neighbors worked together to get the crops out and the cows herded to safety,” he said. “The same goes for education. A district’s teachers and administrators should all have the same goal of success. And as far as the students, it shouldn’t make any difference what one’s race or background is.”

Weast said the funding of schools should also be equal.

“It’s so important the schools of Iola have the same access to funds of any town in the state,” he said.

“It isn’t about where you come from, but what you do with what you have. Every kid in this country should have the same opportunity to learn.”

WEAST CHALLENGED traditional educational models to get results, including rewarding teachers for good results and providing an exit plan for those who did not. Principals were also held accountable for test scores and given flexibility to implement their goals.

Weast’s goals were that students be “college ready,” by the time they left high school. To get there he set several key requirements, including:

* All-day kindergarten with the goal of seeing that every student would be able to read by “graduation;”
* Mastery of algebra in middle school;
* And by high school, students would succeed in Advanced Placement classes.

Weast has traveled to 30 countries espousing the importance of an equitable education. China and Ireland have been recent targets. In Northern Ireland, years of civil war pitting Protestants against Catholics have left the region in need of educational reforms, Weast said. For China, the massive influx of rural and immigrant populations to cities like Shanghai has created as startling a diversity of populations as anywhere in the U.S., he said.

For his own country, Weast said students in the United States are falling behind their world peers.

“We’re losing ground fast,” he said when it comes to educational goals. “We’re failing to lift up the next generation.”

As a career, “there’s none better than teaching,” Weast said. “It’s one of the most intrinsically rewarding careers there is.

“If you want to make a difference to this world — to really ‘touch’ a life — then there’s no better way than teaching.

“I’ve handed out more than 100,000 diplomas in my life,” he said. “And every one signified a personal success.”

What is the school system trying to hide?


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day

"...gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime...let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,-- the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."     

General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868n Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868                                                                           

Friday, May 27, 2011

Jerry Weast's Legacy

Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, page A20, Friday May 27, 2011

"...Far from being “challenged” to meet the higher standards, these students get frustrated, tune out, act up and just do not bother. This, of course, affects the rest of the class.

Montgomery County schools pay the fees for many of these students to take the AP tests. As someone who has served as a proctor at these tests, I can say that some students don’t show up on the test day or, worse, put their heads down on their desks after 20 minutes because they cannot do the work. But the school gets its desired result — the right to say that a high percentage of its students take the AP test and a ranking on the Challenge Index. ..."

V.H. (The writer is a retired Montgomery County high school teacher)

Barclay has been meeting behind the scenes with Ervin and Berliner on MCPS budget

Patch:  School Cuts Are a Big Part of County Budget Savings
...Ervin, council Vice President Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac and county school board President Christopher S. Barclay (Dist. 4) of Takoma Park have met over the past month to discuss the council's planned cuts and how to minimize the impact on students, Ervin said on Tuesday.
“[The school board has] agreed not to raise class size, for example, and not to do any harm inside the classroom,” she said. “We hope that by working together we will make sure that that occurs.”...

BCC Middle School #2 Design Meetings Begin June 8, 2011

Subject: Bethesda Chevy Chase Middle School # 2 – New School

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is about to conduct a  
Feasibility Study for a new middle school to be located at Rock Creek  
Hills Local Park, 3701 Saul Road, Kensington, MD 20895, a former  
school site.

The design is being conducted by a Facility Advisory Committee (FAC)  
that is chaired by the Westland Middle School Principal; Mr. Daniel J.  
Vogelman.  The FAC will include representatives of the schools, PTA,  
neighbors, government agencies, the design architects, Samaha  
Architects, and staff from MCPS Division of Construction.

The purpose of these meetings is to develop a preliminary design for  
the school project.  It is an evolving process whereby input from the  
previous meeting is incorporated into the ongoing proposed design.  
These meetings are to determine spatial relationships within the  
school’s interior, the pedestrian and traffic flow of the site and how  
the school will fit into the community at large.

As shown below, the FAC meeting/work sessions are scheduled in the  
afternoons and evenings to allow maximum community involvement.

FAC Work Session Meeting #1 Wednesday, June 8, 2011 7:00 pm BCC HS  
Choral Room

FAC Work Session Meeting #2 Wednesday, June 22 2011 2:00 pm BCC HS  
Choral Room

FAC Work Session Meeting #3 Wednesday, July 13, 2011 7:00 pm BCC HS  
Choral Room

FAC Work Session Meeting #4 Thursday, July 28, 2011 2:00 pm BCC HS  
Choral Room

FAC Work Session Meeting #5 Wednesday, August, 10, 2011 7:00 pm BCC HS  
Choral Room

FAC Work Session Meeting #6 Wednesday, August, 17, 2011 2:00 pm BCC HS  
Choral Room

FAC PTA/Community Presentation Thursday, September, 8, 2011 7:00 pm  
Westland MS

This letter is to inform you of the schedule for the design process  
and to encourage you to participate.  While all are invited, the  
community is encouraged to send representatives from their respective  
streets, areas, and community associations. Everyone present will hear  
about the design process, its timetable, and the plans for keeping  
people informed about the project.

If you would like to participate, please contact me at 240-876-4586 or  
send an email to dennis_cross@mcpsmd.org.


Dennis F. Cross, AIA
Project Manager

Thursday, May 26, 2011

County Council approves property tax increase

Typical daily scene at the Shady Grove Waste Transfer Station. 

Gotta pay for these services somehow, folks!

WTOP: Montgomery Co. allowed to bypass state requirement for school budget

Kate Ryan, wtop.com 
ROCKVILLE, Md. - Montgomery County Schools have lost a legal challenge to a county council decision regarding the state's Maintenance of Effort funding.
A state board says Maryland counties have the ultimate authority over their budgets, including school budgets. The declaratory ruling by the Maryland State Board of Education is essentially a loss for the Montgomery County Board of Education, which had argued that the state's Maintenance of Effort Funding Formula was required, not optional.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Montgomery County Council had countered that budget pressures simply didn't allow the county to keep funding at the higher levels. Instead of asking the state for a waiver as it did last year, the County Council simply didn't include MOE in its budget for fiscal year 2012.
Montgomery County Council member Craig Rice, who also served as a delegate in the Maryland State Legislature in Annapolis, said the move was not an 'end-run'.
"There was no strategy, there was no 'We're trying to get over on the school system,' that's not what this is about," Rice says. "This is about us just saying that when times are tight, we should have the ability to make adjustments, just like we do for all of our other departments."
Story continues HERE.

Riemer: $31 Million Increase to MCPS

Budget update from Councilmember Hans Riemer:

$31 Million Increase to MCPS 
Tax-supported funding for our public schools will increase by $31 million, from $1.92 billion to $1.951 billion. As a result of this funding increase, class size will not increase even though enrollment is growing. As in past years, MCPS will receive more than half (56%) of all tax-supported spending for government agencies.  

State Board of Education Opinion: County has authority to reduce education budget

Montgomery County Board of Education not successful in legal action at State Board of Education. Opinion at link below.


Gazette: State education board rules against MCPS in funding flap

Weast thanks secret budget committee for "hundreds of hours" of work

In a May 23, 2011 memorandum to the Board of Education Superintendent Jerry Weast thanked the people that put together the MCPS budgets. 

No, he didn't thank the Board of Education, he thanked the people at the secret budget table. 

You know them, right? Oh, no? True, the meetings are secret and the public can't observe the discussions. The budget meetings are so secret even school staff don't know when their positions are on the chopping block.

Here's Superintendent Weast's statement:
From the beginning of the process, representatives of each of the employee associations (the Montgomery County Education Association, the Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500) and leaders of the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations (MCCPTA) participated in all of the budget development meetings. They spent hundreds of hours reviewing every proposal and alternative...Executive leadership and many other staff members also played an essential role in providing information and developing new ideas to advance the budget process. 

Gazette: Montgomery school board preserves class size

Employee benefits also reduced in tentative $2.1 billion budget
by Andrew Ujifusa | Staff Writer
Class sizes in Montgomery County Public Schools will not go up next year, but positions for academic support teachers and lunch-hour aides will be eliminated, as the Board of Education appears to have put the finishing touches on its 2012 budget.
The school board took preliminary action on next year's fiscal spending plan Monday night by tentatively approving a $2.086 billion budget for 2012. Acting on recommendations of Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast, the board preserved 168 classroom teacher positions that were on the chopping block earlier in the year. Had the jobs been cut, class size would have gone up an average of one student in elementary and middle schools and 0.4 students in high school....

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Econ 101 and the Budget

Lesson 1

Remember the guns and butter argument from your college days?

Economics 101 is alive and well in MoCo.

Last year's budget sacrifice was the "Kids Ride Free" transportation program.  For FY 2011, this program was cut, to the dismay of many parents and students across the county.

Guess what?  The program is back for FY 2012.

Does this mean that the county council found extra cash?  Probably not. 

I suspect that the council finally realized that other cuts could be made in our limited taxpayer base that would not have a great impact.

Lesson 2

Look for efficiencies in existing programs before seeking more revenue.

Here is hoping that the 2013 county budget can restore some additional programs without the need to raise taxes. 

After all, why raise taxes if you can spend more wisely?


Montgomery County Council Approves ‘Kids Ride Free’ on Local Buses for FY12

Release ID: 11-125

Release Date: 5/23/2011

Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939 240-777-7939 or Delphine Harriston240-777-7931 240-777-7931
From: Council Office

ROCKVILLE, Md., May 23, 2011—The Montgomery County Council on May 19 approved the reinstatement of the “Kids Ride Free” program in the Fiscal Year 2012 operating budget that will allow students to use Metrobus and the County’s Ride On bus service within Montgomery County for free on weekdays between 2 and 7 p.m. The Kids Ride Free program had been suspended in the FY11 operating budget.

Councilmember Nancy Navarro made reinstatement of the program one of her top priorities as the Council worked toward reaching a budget agreement. The Council will formally adopt the budget, which will include funding for Kids Ride Free, on Thursday, May 26.

Councilmember Navarro, who represents District 4 (East County), said it became evident to her that reestablishment of the program needed to be a priority after hearing from many students in her district and around the County regarding the program’s importance.

“I am thrilled I received the support of my colleagues for the reinstatement of Kids Ride Free,” said Councilmember Navarro. “Over the past year, many young people have expressed their disappointment about our decision to cut this critical program.”

While the County continues to offer “Youth Cruiser” passes at the low cost of $11 a month and $18 for the summer, those passes are valid only on Ride On—which operates only within the County. Approximately 30 percent of County ridership is on Metrobus, and that percentage is higher in east Montgomery County. Kids Ride Free gives students the flexibility to use both Ride On and Metrobus during the critical after-school hours.

“For thousands of students who don’t have cars and aren’t eligible for MCPS transportation, bus service is essential, and many of these students have difficulty affording Metrobus and Ride On rates,” said Councilmember Navarro. “Hopefully, the kids who take advantage of this program will become life-long transit users.”

The FY12 budget includes $376,000 for the Kids Ride Free program, including $276,000 in lost Ride On revenue and $100,000 in reimbursement costs to WMATA.

Gazette: Analysis: Winners and losers of the Montgomery County budget

Ervin, libraries are among those coming out ahead

Montgomery County Public Schools  When it became clear earlier this year that the County Council intended to cut funding for schools, elected members of the school board and Superintendent Jerry D. Weast warned that such cuts would harm students' education.
The council, however, took the bold step of cutting funding anyway by $45 million. The school system will receive $1.37 billion in county tax dollars in fiscal 2012.
Ervin said the school system will receive 56 percent of the county's tax-supported funding next year, 1 percent less than the current fiscal year.
On Monday the Montgomery County Board of Education approved a revised budget that keeps class sizes at their current levels, but eliminates 155 positions. Of those, none are classroom teachers.
"All you hear is how children are going to be harmed," Ervin said Tuesday of the school board's claims.
She said the board suggested to the community that any cut to the budget would harm students — "the sky is falling" and "schools are going to be destroyed."
That is not the case, however, Ervin said.

Patch: Rock Creek Hills Residents Blast New B-CC Middle School Site Selection Process

Patch: Residents appealed to the Board of Education to re-open the site selection process at a Monday meeting.

The Board of Education acknowledged Monday evening a “loss of trust” from the community following a site selection process for a new Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School that many have called flawed.
The board pointed to the need for more community involvement in future site selection processes, but nonetheless voted to move forward in appointing an architect that will lead a study to determine the feasibility of building the new school at the Rock Creek Hills Local Park in Kensington...

MontCo teachers saved in revised budget plan | Lisa Gartner | Education | Washington Examiner

MontCo teachers saved in revised budget plan | Lisa Gartner | Education | Washington Examiner

Montgomery County teachers have been spared from the budget ax this year, as Superintendent Jerry Weast retreated from a plan to cut 168 teaching positions and increase class sizes...

...But Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large, said the budget preserving class size proved that the school system can afford to trim its budget, "which is what we said all along."

We Need More Kids of Color Scoring 4s and 5s on AP Exams

Joseph Hawkins
Senior Study Director, Westat. Former evaluation specialist, MCPS.

On Sunday, The Washington Post released its most recent Advanced Placement rankings for local high schools. For those of you who follow the rankings, Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School is the highest ranked Montgomery County public school (coming in at No. 2 out of 195 ranked local high schools), and Clarksburg High School is the lowest ranked Montgomery County public school (coming in at No. 103). If you missed the print version, click here to view the area rankings.
I really have little to say about the rankings. I’m not opposed to them. And if Jay Mathews—the father of the Index—had not started it someone else probably would have. Americans love rankings and ratings.
I do have one thing to point out here. On page 4 of Sunday’s Post Index insert the following was noted: “Research has found that even low-performing students who got only a 2 on an AP test did significantly better in college than similar students who did not take AP.”
In general, this statement is true; however, I think without any real numbers it misleads us down a path that might be a little too rosy for low-performing students.
Here are two specific reports that provide readers with some numbers:
  • This report
  •  was issued by the College Board in 2008.
  • This report
  •  was released by Montgomery County Public Schools in April.
Here is what the College Board uncovered when it looked at college graduation rates against AP scores. The college graduation rate for students with AP scores of 4s and 5s is roughly 50 percent. For those with 3s it is 44 percent; with 2s, 32 percent; and with 1s, 21 percent. The graduation rate is 12 percent for those with no AP course work and 24 percent for students enrolled in dual high school/college programs. (These are programs where students actually enrolled in real college courses.) When race is factored in, kids of color have the lowest graduation rates regardless of AP exam performance.
Here is what MCPS uncovered with it looked at college graduation rates against scores: Overall, 83 percent of graduates from the Class of 2003 with a score of 3 or higher on an AP exam graduated from college within six years (see page 56). In contrast, 41 percent of those with exam scores below a 3 graduated from college within six years.
Patch article continues here.

Patricia O'Neill & Viagra

During the expected criticism of the County Council's actions to the education budget at the May 23, 2011 Board of Education meeting, a board member (I think Mrs. O'Neill) questioned the council's priorities by funding $400,000 for Viagra for county employees instead of adding that $400,000 to the education budget. So a little research reveals that MCPS employees have prescription coverage from the CVS/Caremark prescription plan, and that plan covers six pills per month, unless MCPS has modified the plan somehow. That is the same coverage that the County Council has budgeted. Since MCPS has more employees, I would expect MCPS's cost (buried in the premiums) to exceed even $500,000.

So I wonder if MCPS covers Viagra, and if yes, what it costs MCPS. And if it does cost MCPS, would the board be willing to eliminate Viagra coverage and put the savings into something "that affects the classroom"? What are MCPS's priorities?

Just wondering.
Bob Ladden 

UPDATE:  Gazette: Ervin defends Montgomery council's decision on Viagra
School board member takes potshot at council  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Joshua Starr to have transition team of 12!

Just a little question...who is paying for this? Because you know a "transition team" is going to need supplies, expenses, and lunches for starters...

And, oh...who ELSE is on this "transition team"? Maybe the Stamford Times will report more on this! 

The Stamford Times: Norwalk school administrator to help transition of Stamford superintendent

STAMFORD -- The outgoing superintendent of Stamford Public Schools has recruited the superintendent of Norwalk Public Schools to help him transition this summer into his new job. 
After six years in this city, Joshua P. Starr announced last month he would resign to become the leader of Montgomery County Public Schools -- the same district where Susan Marks spent three decades before she moved to Norwalk last summer to lead city schools. 
"She has a unique knowledge of the system and has stepped away in the past year, so I am confident she would provide some really good insight into the teaching and learning environment, the culture and context and the operations," Starr said. 
His transition committee will be comprised of nearly 12 people, he said. No work has begun yet...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Did a MoCo Board Member Really Say "Muddling". . .

during a discussion of the Montogmery County Board of Education Budget?

Does this Board member know what the word means?

Is this a reflection on our elected officials?  An admission that the BOE doesn't know what is going on with our substantial educational budget?   Or just plain dumb?



Here is the definition from Dictionary.com

mud·dle   /ˈmʌdl/

verb, -dled, -dling, noun

–verb (used with object)

1. to mix up in a confused or bungling manner; jumble.

2. to cause to become mentally confused.

3. to cause to become confused or stupid with or as if with an intoxicating drink.

4. to make muddy or turbid, as water.

5. to mix or stir (a cocktail, chocolate, etc.).

6. Ceramics . to smooth (clay) by rubbing it on glass.
–verb (used without object)

7. to behave, proceed, or think in a confused or aimless fashion or with an air of improvisation: Some people just muddle along, waiting for their big break.


8. the state or condition of being muddled, especially a confused mental state.

9. a confused, disordered, or embarrassing condition; mess.

—Verb phrase

10. muddle through, to achieve a certain degree of success but without much skill, polish, experience, or direction: None of us knew much about staging a variety show, so we just had to muddle through.

—Related forms

mud·dled·ness, mud·dle·ment, noun

mud·dling·ly, adverb

pre·mud·dle, noun, verb (used with object), -dled, -dling.

un·mud·dled, adjective


1. confuse, botch, bungle, spoil.

Dictionary.com Unabridged

Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2011.

muddling. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved May 23, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/muddling

Union benefits vs. Montgomery students’ needs

In a letter to the editor of the Washington Post, Joan Fidler, president of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League, writes:
In her May 16 letter, Kristin Trible, president of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs, implied that the fate of our schoolchildren is on the line in the debate over the county schools budget. She said that public discussion has focused unnecessarily on school employee health benefits and matters of “fairness,” and she asserted that “each child gets only one shot at a quality education,” a mantra that makes for a good sound bite.

However, Ms. Trible appeared to be unaware that increasing the school employees’ 5 to 10 percent share of health insurance premiums and aligning them with those of other county workers will get our schoolchildren exactly what she advocates: no cuts to classroom instruction and no reduction in the number of school teachers.

Does the Council of PTAs believe that the overly generous health benefits plans of union members are more important than the “quality education” of our schoolchildren?

NYT: Behind Grass-Roots School Advocacy, Bill Gates

...In some cases, Mr. Gates is creating entirely new advocacy groups. The foundation is also paying Harvard-trained data specialists to work inside school districts, not only to crunch numbers but also to change practices. It is bankrolling many of the Washington analysts who interpret education issues for journalists and giving grants to some media organizations.
“We’ve learned that school-level investments aren’t enough to drive systemic changes,” said Allan C. Golston, the president of the foundation’s United States program. “The importance of advocacy has gotten clearer and clearer.” 
The foundation spent $373 million on education in 2009, the latest year for which its tax returns are available, and devoted $78 million to advocacy — quadruple the amount spent on advocacy in 2005. Over the next five or six years, Mr. Golston said, the foundation expects to pour $3.5 billion more into education, up to 15 percent of it on advocacy. 
Given the scale and scope of the largess, some worry that the foundation’s assertive philanthropy is squelching independent thought, while others express concerns about transparency. Few policy makers, reporters or members of the public who encounter advocates like Teach Plus or pundits like Frederick M. Hess of the American Enterprise Institute realize they are underwritten by the foundation...
... Mr. Hess, a frequent blogger on education whose institute received $500,000 from the Gates foundation in 2009 “to influence the national education debates,” acknowledged that he and others sometimes felt constrained. “As researchers, we have a reasonable self-preservation instinct,” he said. “There can be an exquisite carefulness about how we’re going to say anything that could reflect badly on a foundation.” 
“Everybody’s implicated,” he added...
Full Article Here 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Minnesota Meeting

Aligning Pre-K to Grade 3 Practices into the K-12 System

Please save the date for an upcoming conference Thursday, June 23, 2011, at MDE featuring Dr. Jerry Weast, Superintendent of Montgomery County Schools, Maryland and Dr. Kristie Kauerz, Program Director, pre-K to grade 3, Harvard Graduate School of Education. This conference is an opportunity for superintendents, principals, directors of teaching and learning, early childhood coordinators and other school decision-makers to learn from these two top experts in the country on how to align and incorporate pre-K to grade 3 practices into the K-12 system. If you have questions, please contact Mike Brown at mike.p.brown@state.mn.us.
I have a question! Why did Montgomery County Public Schools go from being the tops in Maryland to second tier (based on those pesky MSA scores)? Do those folks in Minnesota want to learn about how our graduation rate has fallen? or how Jerry Weast has decimated instruction for both gifted students and special education students? Implemented a one-size-fits-all curriculum?

Civic Fed Program/Panel: Charter Schools 101: Let's Start the Conversation

Please join the Montgomery County Civic Federation for our June General Meeting.  The Program will be on Charter Schools.  See below for information on time and location.  All are welcome.  This is an open meeting with a discussion and time for questions and answers.  Please come and be part of an open conversation in our community.
Paula Bienenfeld
Education Committee Chair
Montgomery County Civic Federation

Maryland Charter Schools 101: Let’s Start the Conversation
David Borinsky, Chair, Board of the Maryland Charter School Network
Joseph A. Hawkins, Board Member, Global Garden Public Charter School
Darren Woodruff, Ph.D., Board Member, District of Columbia Public Charter School Board

DATE: Monday, June 13th, 2011
TIME: 7:45 pm
LOCATION: Montgomery County Council Office Building, 1st FL AUD, 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville (parking in structured parking garage in rear [south] of the building).  For Directions go here.

Crossway Community's Proposed Charter School

Last summer,in July 2010, I visited the Crossway Community in Kensington, MD. Prior to the Board of Education’s rejection of Crossway’s application for a charter school, I was unfamiliar with their work. A representative from Crossway took me on a tour of their spacious facility, and explained their existing program components: a residential program for young mothers seeking to turn their lives around, a Montessori preschool program that serves their children as well as children from the community, and a program to bring cultural and civic events to their facility, in order to foster intergenerational learning.

Crossway applied to form a charter school serving young, elementary age children, using a Montessori methodology. The BOE rejected their application, calling it "not ready for prime time." But the classrooms I visited were spacious, structured, and organized. The facility is large enough to accommodate increased numbers of children. My tour guide explained that children who originally may have come from a chaotic home environment were found to thrive in the order, exploration, and skills development inherent in the Montessori program. There was even an outdoor vegetable garden, where the children assist in growing tomatoes and peppers.

I walked away saddened that Shirley Brandman, Pat O'Neill, Mike Durso, Judy Docca, and the other Board members voted to deny the children of Montgomery County the chance to participate in this type of rich educational experience. It did not escape my notice that Crossway was a short distance away from Oakland Terrace Elementary School: a school that is so overcrowded that MCPS is sending kindergarten children to the basement of a middle school for their education. Families in Montgomery County who believe their children need a nurturing, developmentally based school program deserve the opportunity to choose this educational alternative.

Crossway Community's second charter school application is up for another MCPS review on May 23. Is the MCPS review team actually visiting Crossways? If not, why not? And as long as Josh Starr is in town, he should make a visit as well.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Union reps keep budget discussions from membership

Notes from a meeting of MCEA (Montgomery County Education Association) and SLMP (School Library Media Program): 
"Administrators have been advocating for flexibility in making many decisions for their buildings, including staffing decisions.  In this case, the decision to give elementary principals the flexibility to make cuts that included media specialist positions came approximately two weeks before that decision became public
knowledge.  Nothing was finalized at that time. Until decisions are final, they must remain confidential to minimize rumors and misinformation that can arise.
Therefore, MCEA representatives could not inform media specialists in advance."
Thus, Media Specialists had no opportunity to advocate for their positions before a final decision was made. That's how the MCPS Secret Budget Table works. Those select few at the table keep all budget discussions confidential to prevent any public discussions of decisions being made. 

Who's at the MCPS Secret Budget Table? Union reps, MCCPTA and MCPS staff is all we know. When does the group meet? No clue. Public minutes of meetings? None. Public input into budget discussions? Zero.

Final Notes April 7th MCEA SLMP

Council: MCPS Budget to Increase $31 Million for FY 12

Press Release:  Montgomery County Council Agrees to $4.4 Billion Total Operating Budget for FY12. All-Agencies Budget Has 2.2 Percent Increase

...The Council appropriated $1.951 billion in current tax-supported funds for Montgomery County Public Schools. That is $31 million, or 1.6 percent, more than was appropriated in tax-supported funds for FY11. The funding level is based on an assumption that MCPS will adjust its benefit package for employees as the Council changed benefits for FY12 for County Government employees. Even with those adjustments, MCPS employees will still receive more generous health and retirement benefits than most Federal, County and private sector employees...

Montgomery County Public Schools 
Approved $1,950,909,291 in tax-supported funding, an increase of $31 million (1.6 percent) over FY11 adopted budget. The overall MCPS budget will be $2,086,786,613.