Friday, September 30, 2011

MCPS - AYP Fact Check

In today's Gazette:
While the school system is concerned about HSA results, officials are more focused on a comprehensive picture of whether the students are ready for college and careers, said school system spokesman Dana Tofig.

“AYP has never been an end-all, be-all at MCPS,” he said.

Despite what Mr. Tofig told the Gazette today, on February 8, 2011, the Board of Education minutes of the budget worksession reflect the following:

Budget Review By Office (page 26)
K-12 Instruction and Office Of School Performance (Chapter 1)
1. Priorities include achieving Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in all subgroup,;
eliminating the achievement gap, and reducing variance among schools in student
achievement.

Gazette: Nearly half of Montgomery’s 25 public high schools fail to meet testing goals

Nearly half of Montgomery’s 25 public high schools fail to meet testing goals
Six miss targets for second consecutive year or third time in four years
by Andrew Ujifusa, Gazette Staff Writer

"Nearly half of Montgomery County’s public high schools did not meet the state’s targets for success on statewide tests this year.

In data released Friday by the state education department, 12 of the 25 high schools in Montgomery County Public Schools did not make Adequate Yearly Progress on the High school Assessments, which measure reading and math performance on standardized tests."


To read the complete Gazette story, click HERE.

Comptroller Franchot asks citizens to support financial literacy course

Maryland State Comptroller Peter Fanchot is spearheading an effort to require all high school students to complete a standalone course in financial literacy in order to graduate.

To support this effort, he is asking Maryland citizens to sign an online petition that will be presented to the Maryland General Assembly. Comptroller Fanchot's goal is to collect 10,000 signatures by the beginning of the 2012 legislative session.

You can sign the online petition by clicking here to access the Financial Literacy for Students website.

Who's buying at breakfast meeting of Board & Delegation?

Taxpayers!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011:  Montgomery County Delegation - Annual meeting with the Montgomery County Board of Education to discuss key issues facing our school system and community.
8:30 - 10:30 a.m. - Location to be determined

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pearson Junkets

From The New York Times:

On Education
When Free Trips Overlap With Commercial Purposes
By MICHAEL WINERIP
Published: September 18, 2011

In recent years, the Pearson Foundation has paid to send state education commissioners to meet with their international counterparts in London, Helsinki, Singapore and, just last week, Rio de Janeiro.

The commissioners stay in expensive hotels, like the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore. They spend several days meeting with educators in these places. They also meet with top executives from the commercial side of Pearson, which is one of the biggest education companies in the world, selling standardized tests, packaged curriculums and Prentice Hall textbooks.

Pearson would not say which state commissioners have gone on the trips, but of the 10 whom I was able to identify, at least seven oversee state education departments that have substantial contracts with Pearson. For example, Illinois — whose superintendent, Christopher A. Koch, went to Helsinki in 2009 and to Rio de Janeiro — is currently paying Pearson $138 million to develop and administer its tests.

At least one commissioner, Michael P. Flanagan of Michigan, who went to Helsinki, decided not to participate in future trips once he realized who was underwriting them.

“While he does not believe those trips are unethical, he did see that they could be perceived that way, and for that reason he chose not to attend,” said Mr. Flanagan’s spokesman, Martin Ackley.

and:

But Jack Jennings, president of the Center on Education Policy, a centrist group, compared the practice to pharmaceutical companies that run junkets for doctors or lobbyists who fly members of Congress to vacation getaways. “If we want that kind of corruption in education, we’re fools,” he said.

For more go the The New York Times article, here.

Council to fund $7.8 Million in No-Bid Artificial Turf Projects

Below is the Montgomery County Council's Press Release from Monday, September 26, 2011.  Note that even the Council's Press Office thought the Artificial Turf meeting was going to televised! 
But as we know now, Council Vice President Roger Berliner pulled the plug on televising the meeting. (Phone lines to listen in were also jammed.)

The preview of the meeting shows that the Council would not be discussing cost issues, but announces that 7 more artificial turf fields are coming to MCPS and M-NCPPC. That's an expenditure of over $7.8 million on a procurement that has never been put out for competitive bids - no bids on the artificial turf and no bids for the associated site work. 

Remember that when MCPS buys artificial turf they take out a lease. Add on the interest and fees associated with a lease transaction for the MCPS purchases. 


Council News - Press Releases & Statements

Montgomery Council Committees to Address Artificial Turf for School Fields, Recycling. Also for Monday, Sept. 26: Wheaton Sector Plan, Briefing on Property Assessments, Montgomery College Recruitment

Release ID: 11-191
Release Date: 9/26/2011
Contact: Neil Greenberger 240-777-7939 or Delphine Harriston240-777-7931
From: Council Office


ROCKVILLE, Md., September 26, 2011—...The Montgomery County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T and E) Committee and its Education Committee will meet jointly at 2 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 26, for a worksession to discuss a report from the County’s Artificial Turf Working Group. The group has been looking at the pros and cons of installing artificial turf fields to replace grass fields at County’s high schools and at County parks.

The T and E Committee, which is chaired by Council Vice President Roger Berliner and includes Councilmembers Nancy Floreen and Hans Riemer, and the Education Committee, which is chaired by Council President Valerie Ervin and includes Councilmembers Phil Andrews and Craig Rice, will meet in the Third Floor Council Hearing Room of the Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Ave. in Rockville. The meeting will be televised live by County Cable Montgomery (CCM—Cable Channel 6 on Comcast and RCN, Channel 30 on Verizon) and also will be available via streaming through the County Web site at www.montgomerycountymd.gov.

The working group studying artificial turf fields has issued a report called, “A Review of Benefits and Issues Associated with Natural Grass and Artificial Turf Rectangular Stadium Fields.” The Council has been discussing issues around installation of artificial turf fields for several years for high school stadium fields and for park fields. Advocates have pointed to the increased availability that the fields provide and more consistent playing conditions. Some opponents have raised concerns about the health and environmental impacts in comparison to natural grass.

There are currently seven artificial turn playing fields in the County, including those at Blair, Richard Montgomery and Walter Johnson high schools. Seven additional fields are planned over the next six years....

Results: Voters Reject Artificial Turf Plan

New Jersey Voters rejected the Board of Education's plan to use $990,000 in surplus funds to install a new field.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ervin's office says Berliner cut TV coverage of turf hearing

An aide to Montgomery County Council President Valerie Ervin is blaming the last minute decision to cut TV coverage of Monday's artificial turf hearing on Councilmember Roger Berliner.

The abrupt change to the Cable Channel Montgomery schedule was first reported by the Parents' Coalition Monday afternoon, after a replacement committee agenda appeared on the Montgomery County Council web site just minutes before the meeting started. The original agenda stated that the 2:00 PM T&E/ED meeting would be televised live on County Cable Montgomery.

"Councilmember Berliner made the decision to stop the TV coverage," said Ervin aide Beth Sylvester, in a phone interview yesterday.  "It was changed at the last minute."  In a followup interview today, Sylvester added that the TV programming change was "due to a misunderstanding," but did not elaborate on the details of the misunderstanding.

Neil Greenberger, Legislative Information Officer for the Montgomery County Council and liaison to Cable Channel Montgomery, confirmed that the committee meeting was not televised solely because of a request by a council member.  Greenberger would not say which council member made the request.

When asked why Berliner ordered the programming change, Berliner aide Susan Buffone said only that "changes sometimes happen."  Berliner did not respond to a request for a telephone interview.

Buffone offered to provide an audio recording of the meeting.

County Council disagrees with NFL Players

NFL Players were asked their opinion on grass versus artificial infill football fields. Their answers:


Which surface do you think is more likely to contribute to injury? 82.4% artificial infill


Which surface do you think causes more soreness and fatigue to play on? 89.1% artificial infill


Which surface do you think is more likely to shorten your career? 89.7% artificial infill


Which surface do you think is more likely to negatively affect your quality of life after football? 64.4% artificial infill


Source:  2010 NFL PLAYERS PLAYING SURFACES OPINION SURVEY

Durso: Puzzled that number of contractors that qualify as disabled, minority, women owned is so small.

Board of Education member Michael Durso, "On the surface that doesn't look like a good track record."


From the September 13, 2011, Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education meeting:


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Why does MCPS pay $60,000 more for artificial turf?

MCPS paid $449,746 for the artificial turf (plastic grass only, not site work) at Richard Montgomery High School in 2008.
MCPS paid $441,694 for the artificial turf (plastic grass only, not site work) at Walter Johnson High School in 2009.

And in 2010, the school system in the article below paid only $388,109 for the artificial turf for their football field.  


All three schools got their plastic grass from the same supplier. Remember MCPS has a no-bid, exclusive deal with one supplier. The one supplier hires their own no-bid "partners" to do the site work. Those charges are in addition to the cost of the plastic grass.


Please don't ask the County Council about this. They are done talking about artificial turf and they think the MCPS artificial turf installations have contracts (they don't) and are the result of bids (they aren't). Don't burst their bubble.


The Dirt on Turf - times-journal.com: News
...Russell Raney, chief financial officer for Cullman City Schools, said the system spent $200,300 for field prep and sub-surface drainage work, and the turf itself cost about $388,109.
FieldTurf comes with an eight-year warranty, and Raney said Cullman officials believe they can get 10 years out of their new field by keeping it well maintained.
Rainey said the expected cost for replacement turf is about $400,000.
He said Cullman football boosters spent about $25,000 a year to maintain their grass field, so in the long term staying with real grass appears to be the cheaper option....

Monday, September 26, 2011

Breaking: Council Pulls Plug on Hearing

Contrary to earlier reports, the Montgomery County Council will NOT be televising the Artificial Turf -not an Open Meetings Act - Work Group hearing today at 2 PM.

Why have transparency and open public access to hearings when you can just pull the plug!

Here was the County Council's Committee Agenda as of Friday, September 23, 2011 at 3:36 PM.  Scroll down below this document to see how it was changed minutes before the Artificial Turf - not an Open Meetings Act- Work Group hearing.
comm_mtgs_9-26_thru_10-31-11

You can see what the Council has up now by clicking here. Note the "Prepared" line is suddenly blank.
You bet! This document was modified at 1:21 PM on Monday, September 26, 2011, just 39 minutes before the -not an Open Meetings Act- Work Group Report on Artificial Turf hearing was to start and gone was the notation that the artificial turf hearing would be televised.

Council Staff Endorses Work Group Report; Denies Open Meetings Act Applies

The Montgomery County Council has released it's Work Group Report on Artificial Turf. The Report will be discussed by Council Committees on Monday, September 26, 2011 at 2 PM. The hearing will be televised on the Montgomery Cable Channel.


In the Committee Packet, Council staff felt the need to state that in their opinion the Work Group does not fall under the Maryland Open Meetings Act. That means that the public has no idea how many meetings the Work Group held, no idea of what the agenda of any meetings was, and has no access to any minutes of the Work Group. (Wasn't this the issue discussed by Montgomery County's former Inspector General in his letter in The Washington Post yesterday?)


Council staff concludes their summary of the Not an Open Meetings Act Work Group Report by stating:
Council staff believes that the Council has exercised a high degree of due diligence in these reviews. Council staff endorses the staff work group's findings.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ask Chris Core about Promethean Board procurements

In an ad for WTOP commentator Chris Core's newspaper column there is a list of topics that a teenager has suggested. 


One of the topics that the teenager would like to be interviewed about is, "The sheer waste of money on Promethean Boards." Mr. Core puts in parenthesis, "I have no idea, either, dear reader."


Chris Core will interview this teenager on any of the listed topics if there is reader interest.  So send Mr. Core an e-mail and ask him to interview this student about the topic of Promethean Boards!  Let's find out what this student has to say!


Write to Mr. Core at:  cccore@aol.com and ask him to interview this student about her opinion on education funding for Promethean Boards.



Post Letter: Montgomery County government’s culture of secrecy


In Montgomery County, senior management in government and the county attorney’s office have grown too accustomed to operating behind closed doors and avoiding the tough questions.This conclusion is based on my six years as Montgomery County’s inspector general. This approach to governing hurts taxpayers by diminishing the ability of oversight organizations such as the inspector general’s office, the ethics commission and the Merit Systems Protection Board to do their jobs. The result has been growing suspicion by residents and county workers of unchecked wrongdoing within government. The lack of transparency can only get worse if some things don’t change... 
...The main remedy must come from the Maryland General Assembly. State lawmakers should amend the Maryland Public Information Act to give municipal inspectors general access to the records, including those that are “confidential,” of any state or local government unit, or of another body that receives public funds, with respect to any matter under that inspector general’s jurisdiction. Taking this simple step is necessary to increase government transparency in Maryland. But even with such a law, other changes need to happen, at least in Rockville. Montgomery County would benefit from a cultural change that encourages residents and employees to ask tough questions on difficult issues — and forces leaders to answer...

Artificial Turf: What Work Group?

The Artificial Turf Report (A Review of Benefits and Issues Associated with Natural Grass and Artificial Turf Rectangular Stadium Fields) is supposedly the product of a 'Work Group' first mentioned by the County Council's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee. The final report is dated September 14, 2011. However, apart from the work product of one draft and one final report, there is no evidence to show a work group ever met. I have been in email correspondence with members of the County Council, requesting any evidence at all to show this work group ever met, and if it did, how much did it cost the taxpayers to produce the draft report and now the final report. To date I have been told there are no notes, no minutes, no records at all that the work group ever met. If anyone has any evidence that this group ever met, and what they discussed in any meetings, please let me know either by emailing this blog or emailing me offline.

Thank you.

Paula Bienenfeld
Education Committee Chair, Montgomery County Civic Federation

Pregnancy rates climb for Montgomery's Hispanic teens | Rachel Baye | Local | Washington Examiner

Teen pregnancy among Hispanics is rising in Montgomery County, bucking a countywide trend of falling birth rates.

The birth rate for Hispanic 15- to 17-year-olds was 39.7 births per 1,000 females in the period from 2007 to 2009 -- the most recent for which data is available. That is a jump from 33.3 births between 1996 and 1998 and only a slight drop from the 41.6 rate from 2006 to 2008, according to the Maryland Vital Statistics Administration

Saturday, September 24, 2011

CFP-DC Nonprofit Events: Back to School Breakfast | Catalogue for Philanthropy - Greater Washington

CFP-DC Nonprofit Events: Back to School Breakfast | Catalogue for Philanthropy - Greater Washington

Event Details
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Back to School Breakfast
Neediest Kids
This breakfast is an opportunity for Neediest Kids to honor our vendor, corporate and retail partners. Chick Hernandez from Comcast SportsNet will be the Master of Ceremonies. Our keynote speaker will be Dr. Joshua Starr, the new Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools
When: Thu Sep 15 2011 (08:00 AM - 09:30 AM)
Where: Congressional Country Club, 8500 River Road, Bethesda, MD 20817
Fee? no
Contact: Amy Ginsburg, (301) 919-1609

**************
Looks like new Superintendent Starr is already on the lecture circuit!

"It is important to note..." that it is easy to put one over on the County Council

In the recently released Report from the Montgomery County Council titled, A Review of Benefits and Issues Associated with Natural Grass and Artificial Turf Rectangular Stadium Fields, the following statement is made on Page 71. 



"It is important to note that site preparation and stormwater management facilities are bid as part of the project's site work, which is bid separately from the purchase and installation of the artificial surface" - seriously?  Who wrote that? 


Certainly not someone who has seen the actual procurement documents that have been made public for the Richard Montgomery High School and Walter Johnson High School artificial turf installations.  Those documents show one vendor, no bids and the entire project listed on one proposal sheet - site work AND artificial turf. 
Note the "ASSUMPTIONS" listed: 1. Bidding services will not be required.




If MCPS now maintains that there were additional costs to install the artificial turf at these two high schools then it is time for them to release the additional documentation to support those procurements, name the vendors, and release the bids.



  • MCPS Artificial turf procurement documents released January 25, 2010 pursuant to a Maryland Public Information Act request, and now contradicted in Report to be presented Monday, September 26, 2011 to the Montgomery County Council, are shown below.

Artificial Turf Purchase Orders for Montgomery County Schools


MCPS Director Contradicts Artificial Turf Procurement Documentation


The above statement is found on Page 73 of the recently released Report from the Montgomery County Council titled, A Review of Benefits and Issues Associated with Natural Grass and Artificial Turf Rectangular Stadium Fields.

In this statement, MCPS Director of Facilities is quoted as saying, "There is NO commitment for MCPS to purchase 3 AT [artificial turf] fields within a 3 year period. The cost is based on each individual project." 


But the MCPS Director of Facilities signed the letter authorizing the payment of the Volume Discount Price for the Walter Johnson High School artificial turf! Those documents have already been made public through a Maryland Public Information Act request and show the VOLUME DISCOUNT PRICE based on the purchase of 3 or more fields in 3 years.

Here is the VOLUME DISCOUNT PRICE that was stated in the Walter Johnson High School artificial turf proposal:

And here is the letter from MCPS Director of Facilities authorizing the payment based on the VOLUME DISCOUNT PRICE shown above. Without the VOLUME DISCOUNT PRICE, MCPS would have had to pay $1,122,169.84 for the Walter Johnson High School artificial turf football field. 

EXCERPTS OF COUNTY COUNCIL AGENDA FOR TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2011


9:45 a.m.  CONSENT CALENDAR items include... 
-  INTRODUCTION of Resolution to sunset or repeal certain boards, committees and commissions, sponsored by Councilmember Leventhal (public hearing scheduled for 10/18 at 1:30 p.m.)

9:50 a.m.  ACTION - confirmation of County Executive's appointees: Ramona Bell-Pearson as Director, Mid-County Regional Services Center; Diane Schwartz Jones as Director, Department of Permitting Services; and, Captain Russell Hamill III as Assistant Chief of Police

10:00 a.m.  LEGISLATIVE SESSION - INTRODUCTION of:
-  Bill 29-11 - Boards, Committees and Commissions - Sunset, Consolidation, sponsored by Councilmember Leventhal (public hearing scheduled for 10/18 at 1:30 p.m.)
-  Bill 30-11 - Fire and Emergency Services Commission - Duties, sponsored by Councilmembers Leventhal and Elrich ((public hearing scheduled for 10/18 at 1:30 p.m.)

10:05 a.m.  DISTRICT COUNCIL SESSION
* - Rezoning of Hoyt Property at 5400 Butler Rd. (south of terminus of Butler Rd.) from industrial zone to RT-15 Townhouse Zone (with proposed driveway access from Little Falls Parkway)

10:15 a.m.  WORKSESSION on ZTA 11-01, CR Zone Amendments (staff packet available at

12:15 p.m.  RECESS

1:30 p.m.  Continuation of WORKSESSION on ZTA 11-01 (action tentatively scheduled for 10/4)

4:00 p.m.  ADJOURN
________________
SELECTED COMMITTEE MEETINGS - Week of September 26 through 30
-  9/26, 9:30 am, PHED Comm. on Wheaton CBD and Vicinity Sector Plan (to be televised live on county cable tv and internet--see General Note below)
-  9/27, 10:30 am, GO Comm. on Bill 21-11, Transportation Impact Tax Amendments
-  9/26, 2 pm, T&E and Ed. Comm. to discuss report of Artificial Turf Fields Working Group (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 http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov 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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale to retire

Fairfax County Superintendent Jack D. Dale, who has weathered a brutal recession and parent frustrations while steering one of the nation’s top-performing suburban school systems for the past seven years, announced Thursday he will retire when his contract ends in June 2013...

...“Dr. Dale and his current administration seem so anxious to maintain our reputation that they’re never willing to look for the problems,” parent activist Maria Allensaid. “Too many of our kids fall through the cracks.”
Many candidates in the board election have positioned themselves as reformers who would challenge the superintendent’s decisions, greet his ideas with skepticism and force his administration to operate with more transparency...

Twitter used for impromptu student rally at Gaithersburg High School


Patch:  Students Organize Counter Pep-Rally Using Twitter


After school officials canceled a pep rally, students at Gaithersburg High School today protested by organizing a riot-like rally of their own.
Students used Twitter and other social media tools to organize the protest rally.
The original rally, part of Spirit Week, a week-long homecoming celebration, was called off shortly before it was scheduled to start at 12:30 this afternoon after some students became "overly spirited," according to Gaithersburg Principal Dr. Christine Handy-Collins...

27 Take Home Cars; No Audit; No Logs Kept; Most Parked Outside of County

On September 19, 2011, the Montgomery County Council's Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy & Environment Committee discussed Agency Take-home Vehicle Policies.

MCPS was included in this review.  See pages Circle 33 through 39 of the Committee Packet for the MCPS responses to the questions from the Council Committee.

Here is the redacted chart submitted by MCPS to the Council as part of this review showing the positions of the MCPS employees that have take home cars, along with make, model and purchase price of each car.
(This list does not show the 22 MCPS administrators who are given car allowances.)

20110919_TE2

The Sentinel: MCPS deals with unhealthy food practices

The Sentinel
Montgomery County Council’s Education Committee held a work session with the Office of Legislative Oversight because OLO studies found that Montgomery County Public Schools is not promoting healthy eating as well as other school systems, including the District of Columbia. Budget restraints and students not liking the food are the biggest issues in overcoming this problem...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Fact Check: Board got fact or fiction from MCPS staff?

At the September 13, 2011, Montgomery County Board of Education meeting Agenda Item 7.0 was the Superintendent's Recommendation for the Modernization of Farquhar Middle School in Olney.  Superintendent Joshua Starr's first choice for this project was that the new middle school would be built on the land next door to the current school in a "land swap" with M-NCPPC.

The natural question that flows from that recommendation is, who owns the land next door? In this video clip from the September 13th Board meeting, Board of Education President Christopher Barclay asks that question. Listen to the answer he gets from MCPS Director of Facilities James Song:



And in today's Gazette, a completely different answer to the same question:
...Park and Planning does not yet have the deed to the property on which the school would be built...
We look forward to the Fact Check Press Release from the MCPS Public Relations Department explaining the discrepancy in information.

Did the Board of Education make their September 13th decision based on Fact or Fiction?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Transition Team Report

MCPS has published the report of Superintendent Starr's Transition Team. Here is my analysis and executive summary of the Overview section. All quotes are from the report.
MCPS is a great school system – we say it ALL the time; therefore it is true. It is true even though our MSA scores are generally in the middle of the pack and even though one of every eight MCPS schools now falls short of standards set by MSDE.
The transition team met with EVERYONE we WANTED to meet with, and then we prepared this glossy report. We hope you like it.
1. Differentiation within and among schools, classrooms, and students
“Today MCPS continues to differentiate support and performance expectations between and among schools.” In other words, we expect less performance from schools in the red zone. Unequal outcomes show a “stubborn persistence” in MCPS schools. Close, damn gap! We SAID (many times) that we closed you; why won’t you close? We recommend more focus on differentiation, because we KNOW that will close the gap. It will just take more time and more focus and more reports.
2. Communications and relationships with stakeholders
We see “more work needs to be done to increase communication and subsequently build relationships with all parties”. To do this, we will continue to ignore and misinform parent groups with whom we have profound policy differences. We think this will make things better.
3. Implementation of vision, mission, and policies in practice
We “had so many initiatives under way that some members of the MCPS community were overwhelmed”. This “makes it difficult to discern the impact of many of the district’s ongoing efforts”. We recommend “a review and prioritization of the large number of initiatives”. No comment needed.
4. Design and delivery of professional development initiatives
We recommend that “professional development be reorganized” to “include a clear vision with intended outcomes”. In other words, the current system is poorly organized and has unclear goals.
5. Issues of race and equity
“MCPS has articulated a commitment to equity and excellence.” And we have shown a willingness to sacrifice excellence on the altar of equity. “Access to special programs and resources across the district concerns both the parents of high-achieving and struggling students”. We know some folks do not agree with our willingness to sacrifice excellence on the altar of equity. We recommend MCPS “maintain a focus on race and equity by embedding it within other initiatives”. We will embed our ideology more deeply to protect it from meddling parent groups.

Edline Problems Persist


From MCPS: 
Widespread problem with grade upload on Friday September 16, 2011.Many classes have disappeared from students' Edline pages. PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU CAN STILL GET TO YOUR INDIVIDUAL CLASS PAGES BY CLICKING ON THE NAME OF THE CLASS IN PRIVATE REPORTS. 

Elrich: "...report missed an important piece..."


Subject:  Artificiai turf draft report - comments 

From:  EIrich's Office, Councilmember (Councilmember.EIrich@montgomerycountymd.gov) 

To: TurfReportResponse@yahoo.com
Cc:  Councilmember.Berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov
Date: Fri, 03 Jun 2011 16:45:43

I would like to make some requests and observations regarding the draft report that was submitted for public review. Previously, while the group was preparing the draft report, I sent a list of questions and concerns that I had wanted addressed. Below are further comments regarding some of those issues.

1. Natural turf best environmental practices. It would be useful for the group to speak with knowledgeable individuals and/or organizations regarding best practices of organic care of natural turf. As you may know, organic care reduces (and sometimes eliminates) the use of fertilizers; it also reduces the amount of irrigation needed and may extend the playability hours for the field. I know the working group received an e-mail from Kathleen Michels, dated January 10, 2011 outlining some of the leaders in this field. Also, the resolution from Montgomery County Stormwater Partners Network on Sustainable Athletic Field Construction and Maintenance calls for a pilot project to install and maintain athletic fields in an organic matter. My staff had a detailed conversation with Kevin Mercer, athletic director at St. Mary's regarding St. Mary's maintenance and use of natural turf fields. We would be happy to provide you with those notes if that would be of use to your reviewing this issue. By not addressing this possibility as an alternative, the report missed an important piece of how Montgomery County might be a leader in the field of preserving green spaces (pervious surfaces) while also providing better playing fields for athletic teams. Consequently, it also did not make a full comparison on environmental impacts between natural grass and artificial turf fields.

2. Insufficient and inaccurate information regarding studies and reports mentioned in the draft report. I was dismayed to learn that potential coflicts of interest by report authors or sponsors are not identified in the report. For example, the report includes the Department of the Environment's review of existing studies; this review includes studies that receive their funding from tire manufacturers (Chemrisk 2008), FieldTurf (Moretto 2007) and a private engineering firm that designs and builds artificial turf fields (Bristol and McDermott 2008). Furthermore, the literature review neglects to note that the Artificial Turf report from Environment and Human Health (a non-profit "made up of doctors, public health professionals and policy experts committed to the reduction of environmental health risks to individuals" as described on their website) actually calls for a moratorium on any new fields until further research is undertaken. Additionally, it appears that many of the reports coming from public agencies do not conclude the absence of environmental risk; rather, they caution that their studies should not be considered conclusive. Some call for additional procedures, including the report from the San Francisco Department of the Environment, as detailed on pages 48 and 49 of the draft report.

3.Stormwater runoff. From the studies cited, it appears that this concern has not yet been sufficiently explored and various studies call for further testing. The draft report does not sufficiently address the 2010 findings from the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection regarding the possibility of chemicals from artificial turf fields leaching into Westport's waters. (Westport News 8/10/10). Additionally, some of the procedures required for stormwater management of artificial turf that might mitigate the potential leaching need to be further detailed (including the costs and the most environmentally friendly processes).  Diane Cameron of Stormwater Partners Network would be a useful contact.

4. Heat island effect. The impact of adding impervious surface around the County is not sufficiently addressed. While the extraordinary heat radiating off the artificial turf fields is certainly of concern, there is also another related but separate concern adding yet more impervious surface to our county. If instead, the County chose to pilot an organic natural turf field using be~practices, there could be less impervious surface and less heat radiated.

5. Use and availability calculations. More explanation is needed on how you calculate the total hours of usage. In particular, how do the fields get used between 8 am and 3 pm on weekdays (p.22)?

I appreciate your attention to these concerns.

Marc Elrich
Councilmember At-large

Monday, September 19, 2011

Transition team urges Starr to improve schools | Lisa Gartner | Education | Washington Examiner

...Superintendent Joshua Starr's transition team also recommended that he pare down the system's plethora of initiatives to ensure results are achieved, reorganize professional development for teachers, and clear up administrative bureaucracy.

"The transition team was repeatedly informed that the district had so many initiatives under way that some members of the MCPS community were overwhelmed. ... The district must 'make some choices' and improve its follow-through, or accountability," the team wrote...

Patch: Hurricane Irene Destroys Portable at Potomac Elementary

Students relocated to media center. MCPS said new portable in place and ready for inspection by first or second week in October.


...Sometime between Saturday, Aug. 27, and Sunday, Aug. 28, a tree fell on a fourth-grade portable. In an e-mail to parents Aug. 29, the school wrote that the building service staff inspected the building and the grounds on Aug. 28 and alerted the school system. The school's central air conditioning unit was also destroyed... 

UTTER OUTRAGE: Teachers cut while artificial turf installed

The Montgomery County Council has released the final version of their Artificial Turf Work Group Report. Included in that report are the public comments that were received.

MCPS tried to pack the comments with "pro" artificial turf e-mails when it became apparent that there had not been a big response to this report. But included in the comments is the e-mail below. Not exactly what MCPS was hoping for when they put out the call for comments.

This parent noticed that classroom teachers were being cut at the same time that MCPS was installing over-priced, no-bid artificial turf on football fields. She titled her e-mail to the County Council "UTTER OUTRAGE".
...There is a boil beginning to happen in Damascus (the forgotten part of Montgomery County) over the proposed cutting of a teacher from Damascus Elementary in the 2011-2012 school year. The public and parents are outraged about this decision...

Utter Outrage

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Penn State Researcher Comments on Artificial Turf "high surface temperature"

The County Council's Artificial Turf Work Group Report contains a comment from Penn State's Sports Surface Research Center that states, "you are correct in identifying high surface temperature as a main concern with these fields."

Penn 1

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Artificial Turf: Report -- Why SF Dept. of the Environment?

Ever wonder why the AT Work Group relies so heavily on the San Francisco Department of the Environment's findings? And why the SF Dept of the Environment issues those reports? here are some clues:

First, from the online The Potrero View from August 2011:
Synthetic Turf Threatens San Francisco’s Natural Fields
By Bailey deBruynkops

In San Francisco, where foggy dew is plentiful, fields of glistening grass blades are increasingly being replaced with shiny synthetic turf. More than 30 acres of City fields have already been synthetically turfed, with grass areas located at the Potrero Hill Recreation Center, Mission Playground, Ocean View Playground, and Golden Gate Park’s Beach Chalet fields being eyed as the next synthetic frontier. This fall the Planning Department will publish an environmental impact report (EIR) examining the potential consequences from trading grass for rubbery plastic on San Francisco playgrounds.

And:
In addition, under the plan Golden Gate Park’s natural grass would be replaced with synthetic turf. The material isn’t akin to the Astroturf of the olden days, but consists of two to three inches of pulverized tire crumbs. According to a preliminary report questioning synthetic turf issued by Charles Vadair, a staff toxicologist at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, and Chris Geiger, the San Francisco Department of the Environment’s municipal toxics reduction coordinator, “To date, San Francisco has introduced over 16 billion pounds of pulverized tire crumb into its public spaces; the equivalent of 4,392 barrels of oil…Artificial fields have been found to be 8 to 10 decibels noisier than natural grass.” Tire crumb contains 15 metals which are listed as oral carcinogens. Synthetic turf is vulnerable to vandalism, as well as bacterial build up – associated with gum, food, and bodily fluids – that adhere to the obliterated tire rubber. The report also criticizes the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (RPD) and City Fields Foundation for ignoring previous EIRs that identified adverse outcomes from synthetic turf.

And here is the money quote:
City Fields Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, is leading the effort to install synthetic fields throughout San Francisco. According to the nonprofit’s website, the Playfields Initiative, under which grass fields are being replaced, is a partnership between City Fields and RPD, with $45 million in funds; $20 million from the City and County of San Francisco and a $25 million “gift” from the City Fields Foundation. City Fields’ leadership includes John J. Fisher, president of Pisces Inc., an investment management company, and Matt Lockary, of Baycor Builders, a construction firm which at one time listed on its website a business arrangement with City Fields and the City and County of San Francisco worth more than $50 million.

To read the entire article go here.

And here is more on the City Fields Foundation, from the online FogCityJournal.com:
Astroturfing in San Francisco, by Julian Davis

"One thing is certain, the City Fields Foundation, a private non-profit organization recently set-up by Bill, John and Bob Fisher, sons of Gap founder Donald Fisher, is crazy about synthetic turf. They just love it. In a purportedly philanthropic effort to address the city’s shortage of playfields, the Fishers’ Foundation has offered up millions of dollars to makeover San Francisco parks. There’s just one main condition, that Rec and Park install synthetic turf containing toxic plastic and rubber materials."

and:

"Astroturf is made of plastic and ground up bits of tire rubber that contain carcinogens, hazardous chemicals, and heavy metals such as lead, zinc and arsenic. Results from a study published by The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in 2007 indicated the presence of numerous chemicals detrimental to human health that are found in the tire-crumbs used in synthetic fields.

The Connecticut study investigated the composition of ground rubber and determined that the chemicals leached by mincing tires exceed the cancer risk threshold in young people, children, and babies. Although tire rubber is ‘recycled’ in astroturf, the process of replacing natural grass with synthetic astroturf is hardly carbon-neutral. Natural grass eliminates Co2, a major green house gas, from the atmosphere. Synthetic turf, on other hand, does not. It also contributes to significantly higher field temperatures and higher injury rates."

For the entire article go here.

Recycling of Artificial Turf is a "Pipe Dream"

Here is another in our series on the County Council's Artificial Turf Work Group Report. 
From an e-mail submitted to the County Council on  the possibility of recycling artificial turf:
...I have spoken with technical representatives of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, www.apr.org and they informed me that they are completely unaware of any company in the United States recycling syn-turf. For the very complicated reasons that I have provided. The plastics industry spent roughly $500,000 during the '90s on technical research to recycle the various plastics from automotive bumper systems. The technology to recycle syn-turf is no less complicated. Where are the research papers on the process and where were the technical trials conducted? 
Unless they can provide the answers to all of these questions, its a pretty safe bet that the recycling of syn-turf is a pipedream. Which means that cities, counties and localities are going to have to pay to dispose of these massive rugs by landfilling or incineration
Bailey Condrey, Jr.
Kensington, Maryland
Pipe Dream

Agenda Driven Propaganda Released by Council Work Group

The Montgomery County Council has now released their Artificial Turf Work Group report. Included in the report are the public comments received by the Work Group. 


Below is one of the e-mails in the public comments. It shows that MCPS staff were told by an MCPS employee that "there have only been 175 positive responses (county-wide) for getting a turf field."


Interesting. Since the Work Group did not meet in public, did not post meeting times and places, and did not produce meeting minutes, how did MCPS staff know that there had "only been 175 positive responses...?"


It's called "insider information" and it's how MCPS stacks public comment. Just like their recent 2,000 "invitations" to parents to show up at a Board hearing, MCPS doesn't like to leave public comments to the public.


The Artificial Turf Work Group Report, therefore, is simply agenda driven propaganda and not an independent report. The report does not have any validity in terms of analysis or any utility as a public participation document. The report is no reflection of the overall community view point as it was not done in an independent and even handed fashion. 


Here's one of the e-mails contained in the Report showing how MCPS staff were rallied by an MCPS employee to flood the report with pro-turf comments. Reading the actual report wasn't required. 

DamacusE Mail

It's Constitution Day

Today, September 17th, is Constitution Day. As a reminder, here is the text from our own Constitution of Maryland, regarding Free Public Education. No ifs, ands, or buts. No fees.





SECTION 1. The General Assembly, at its First Session after the adoption of this Constitution, shall by Law establish throughout the State a thorough and efficient System of Free Public Schools; and shall provide by taxation, or otherwise, for their maintenance.

SEC. 2. The System of Public Schools, as now constituted, shall remain in force until the end of the said First Session of the General Assembly, and shall then expire; except so far as adopted, or continued by the General Assembly.

SEC. 3. The School Fund of the State shall be kept inviolate, and appropriated only to the purposes of Education.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Parents' Coalition Founder's Daughter Wins DCPS Teacher of the Year Award

DCPS Teacher of the Year Award - DC Public Schools, Washington, DC

4th Open Meetings Act Violation for Board of Ed!

Remember the saying with 6 you get eggroll? What does a public body get when they violate the Open Meetings Act four times in one year? 

This just in from the Save Rock Creek Hills Park blog:

Yesterday, the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board issued its 4th Opinion this year citing the Montgomery County Board of Education for violations of the Maryland Open Meetings laws. 

Here are links to the previous violations this year alone:  #1, #2, and #3. (Click here for a link to other recent violations of the Board of Education.)

And here's #4 for this year...
From page 5 of the Open Meetings Compliance Board Opinion: 
"We conclude that the site selection committee violated the Act by holding meetings without giving notice to the public, by failing to keep minutes, and by failing to follow any of the procedures required of a public body meeting out of the public eye."

Compliance Board Official Opinion