Friday, December 30, 2011

African American students suspended and expelled two to five times as often as whites

Across the Washington area, black students are suspended and expelled two to five times as often as white students, creating disparities in discipline that experts say reflect a growing national problem.
An analysis by The Washington Post shows the phenomenon both in the suburbs and in the city, from the far reaches of Southern Maryland to the subdivisions of Fairfax, Prince George's and Montgomery counties... 
...In Montgomery, Deputy Superintendent Frieda K. Lacey said the district has trained principals and administrators in new approaches, which include involving a team of administrators in suspension decisions.
Still, she said, much remains to be done. Nearly 6 percent of black students were suspended or expelled from school last year, compared with 1.2 percent of white students. The gap remains even as suspensions are down since 2006 across all racial groups.
She pointed to one unsettling statistic: 71 percent of suspensions for insubordination, a relatively rare offense in the county, were handed out to black students. African Americans make up 21 percent of students in Montgomery’s schools. The goal is to dig deeper into the data, offer more professional development and share best practices, she said. “We don’t try to minimize the data,” Lacey said. “We just try to talk about it the way it exists.”

Read the entire Washington Post article at this link

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Former Gaithersburg principal running for Montgomery school board

From the Gazette:
Thursday, December 29, 2011

A County Council candidate in 2010, Evans cites experience
by Andrew Ujifusa, Staff Writer

A former Gaithersburg High School principal and 2010 County Council candidate is running for the Board of Education’s District 2 seat.

Rockville’s Fred Evans, who worked in Montgomery County Public Schools for three decades and has also taught at George Mason and Johns Hopkins universities, filed the required paperwork Dec. 20.

For the entire story go here.

Healthy Foods for Children

From The Sunlight Foundation:

Food and media companies donated generously to lawmakers opposing food marketing guidelines for kids

By Nancy Watzman Dec 20 2011 4:50 p.m.

Last summer, a bipartisan group of House members from Pennsylvania wrote federal agencies complaining that proposed guidelines restricting the marketing of unhealthy food to children marked “an alarming regulatory overreach.” They emphasized their sugary roots in “the leading confectionary producing state in the nation.”

Indeed, Pennsylvania is home to the 117-year-old Hershey Company, maker of the ubiquitous Hershey’s kiss. But what the lawmakers from the Keystone State didn’t say was that they had other “constituents”—out-of-state campaign cash constituents, many of them Washington-based trade associations.

The massive lobbying push by food and media interests against the controversial guidelines appeared to reach its goal last weekend as Congress voted to delay the guidelines as part the budget deal. Tucked into the massive bill: A measure, backed by opponents of the guidelines, calling for the government to study the costs of any advertising limitations before implementing them. That will effectively put off any efforts to issuing the voluntary guidelines on the marketing of foods high in fat, sugar and sodium to children.

The Pennsylvanians' letter, sent July 18, was one of two sent by members of Congress to head off the marketing guidelines that the Sunlight Foundation obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. An analysis using transparencydata.com of campaign contributors to the two groups of lawmakers reveals that some of the groups lobbying against the ad guidelines have plenty of chits to collect from members of Congress.

The 15 Pennsylvania members of Congress who signed the letter raising concerns about the guidelines have together collected at least $546,765 in campaign contributions from interests that reported lobbying against restrictions on marketing unhealthy food to kids. The contributions included $159,291 from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), $153,500 from the National Restaurant Association, and $61,660 from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).

And:

The Nebraska-based company Con-Agra is Sen. Michael Johanns’ second largest career donor. As a member of the Agriculture Committee, the Nebraska Republican has drawn contributions from food companies based around the country, such as Kentucky-based Yum! Brands, Illinois-based Kraft foods, and Georgia-based Coca-Cola. Johanns was one of the lead signers of the Senate letter.

Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., a lead on the House letter, also posted an opinion piece in October on his website charging that the nutrition standards “would make American grocery stores look like … old Soviet Bloc stores…Chocolate Easter Bunnies would be made extinct, along with gummy snacks and pasta shaped like cartoon characters.”

As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Pitts has drawn increasing amounts of contributions over the years from the communications industry, including more than $33,000 from the NCTA and more than $13,000 from NAB.

To read the whole story go here.

Montgomery County schools chief targets special ed, test score gap | Washington Examiner

Montgomery County Public Schools parents and staff are most concerned about special education services and the persistent achievement gap between white and minority students, according to a report from the school system...

..."What we're doing internally right now is reorienting my team's work to improve instruction for every child, with a clear need to go deeper school by school," Starr told The Washington Examiner. He plans to analyze the variation in the achievement gap at each school before taking next steps...

...To that end, Starr pledged to hold a districtwide forum on special education in the spring semester,
atop parents' concerns that special needs students -- about 12 percent of the school system -- were receiving services that varied by school...

...Another concern was the implementation of Curriculum 2.0, an integrated learning approach adopted by kindergarten and first-grade teachers, as well as some second-grade teachers, this school year...

"This is a message to all parents to put everything in writing, take pictures, and not rely on the school system to do the right thing,"

Jury finds in favor of school system in bullying lawsuit - Baltimore Sun
...This is the system telling us: We're not responsible for your children," Edmund Sullivan said of the verdict. "We're not the only people who have gone through this. It really puts us all on notice. I feel betrayed that the school system can do this and get away with it."
Donna King, attorney for the Sullivans, said that in the end it was important to share the Sullivans' story, even though jurors said they didn't have enough evidence to believe all of it.
"This is a message to all parents to put everything in writing, take pictures, and not rely on the school system to do the right thing," King said....

Montgomery schools officials seek reprieve for open meetings reprimand

Gazette:  Body president: State ruling could affect use of citizen groups
After being chastised by the state over how they searched for a new superintendent, Montgomery school system officials are asking for a do-over... 
...Activists Paula Bienenfeld, Rosanne Hurwitz and Louis Wilen complained to the compliance board in April that the school system should let members of the general public into meetings of a citizens’ committee during which candidates were interviewed. They also said the school board did not properly publicize the board’s decision to create that committee, since it failed to release minutes from three meetings in December 2010 and March.In a July 26 opinion, the compliance board sided with the residents, stating that the board should have decided in public to create a citizens’ committee to interview and consider candidates...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Joshua Starr: "It becomes difficult ... to avoid micromanagement when the ... boards force them to wallow in the details"

Eric J. Cooper: Give school superintendents the support they need

...In "Every Child, Every Classroom, Every Day: School Leaders Who Are Making Equity A Reality" (2011), edited by Harvard's Robert S. Peterkin and Deborah Jewell-Sherman, et al., former Stamford Superintendent Josh Starr writes of the tugs and pulls of board micromanagement: "It becomes difficult ... to avoid micromanagement when the ... boards force them to wallow in the details" because they have final say on the budget. 
Of course, a superintendent and board are forced to address a variety of challenges, and there's no denying that perceptions about the success of a superintendent -- or even a board, for that matter -- are formed by subjective as well as objective evaluations. But the reality is that these boards also can do more harm than good when they are buffeted by competing forces in the community that have little to do with the core work of classroom instruction, student achievement and the leveling of the playing field, which will lead to improved life trajectories, social equity, fairness, basic justice and the promise of America. All too often, and in too many circumstances, board governance can impede a record of student achievement...

Special Needs Hockey Classic

David Lucia Coaches Montgomery Cheetahs In Laurel, Md., Special Needs Hockey Classic
LAUREL, Md. (WUSA) -- Playing a team sport can be incredibly intimidating for children with autism and other sensory disorders, unless it's a team only for kids with special needs. On Tuesday, four such hockey teams in the DC-area got together at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel for the Special Hockey Holiday Classic.
"Today is a special day for all of the local special needs hockey teams," said David Lucia, head coach of the Montgomery Cheetahs...


Please add strings

Patch $100,000 Give-Away Ought to Come with a Few Strings

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Montgomery College employees get bonuses not raises | Washington Examiner

However, the agreements on both bonuses and salary increases may not be set in stone just yet. If the county government or Montgomery County Public Schools gives employees a greater total increase in employee compensation, Montgomery College's agreements with its unions -- the American Association of University Professors, SEIU and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- automatically go back to the bargaining table, Homan said.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays



Happy Holidays and all good wishes to you and yours from the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County

Lobbying Spending Database - Pearson Education, 2010 | OpenSecrets

Lobbying Spending Database - Pearson Education, 2010 | OpenSecrets

Friday, December 23, 2011

Financial Times: New York probes Pearson Foundation


...The non-profit foundation is funded by Pearson, the parent company of both the Financial Times and Pearson Education, the largest company by revenues in the US educational publishing, testing and services industry. As a tax-exempt body the Pearson Foundation cannot for legal reasons engage in lobbying...
...The CCSSO defended the events that it organises, saying: “As state leaders advance aggressive reform efforts aimed at preparing every child for college and career, it is critical that they learn about what is working in countries that are successfully raising student performance.” 

Read article at this link:
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b8c741b4-2cc0-11e1-b485-00144feabdc0.html#ixzz1hN7hiNkb

What about other side businesses?

A Montgomery County ethics panel has decided that an after-school fitness program operated by a physical education teacher at Somerset Elementary school violated a district policy that prohibits employees from tutoring their own students for extra pay.
The panel met early this month; its decision was sent to the Board of Education Thursday.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Civic Fed January 2012 Program

Please join the Montgomery County Civic Federation at our January meeting when the Civic Fed will award Janis Sartucci the Community Hero award for her extraordinary contributions to the civic life of Montgomery County.

And, our program will be: The Cell Tower Approval Process in Montgomery County


Monday, January 9, 2012

7:45 p.m.

County Council Building - 1st Floor Auditorium

100 Maryland Avenue

Rockville, Maryland


Speakers



  • Marjorie Williams, Chair of the Transmission Facility Coordinating Group, Montgomery Coumnty Department of Technology Services


  • Bob Hunnicutt, Tower Coordinator, Columbia Telecommunications


  • Susan Present, Citizen and Community Organizer, Hillandale, Silver Spring

For directions go here.

Wall Street Journal: Pearson Faces School Probe

By Lisa Fleisher
The New York state attorney general is investigating whether the nonprofit arm of a school-testing and products company tried to influence public-education officials with free trips to Brazil, Singapore and other countries, a person familiar with the probe said.
Pearson Education Inc. and its nonprofit arm, Pearson Foundation, received subpoenas this week from Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office, which regulates charities and nonprofit organizations. No government agencies were issued subpoenas.
Public-school officials from across the country, including former New York Education Commissioner David Steiner, have come under fire for accepting free trips from Pearson to Brazil, England, Singapore and Finland. After Mr. Steiner attended one trip, put on by the foundation and a national group for state education officials, the state in January awarded the for-profit company a $32 million contract to create tests for third- through eighth-graders.
Mr. Steiner and officials from Pearson couldn't be reached for comment late Wednesday night. Pearson Education is a unit of Pearson PLC of London...ARTICLE CONTINUES HERE

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NYT: Testing Firm Faces Inquiry on Free Trips for Officials

The New York Times
By WINNIE HU
Published: December 21, 2011
New York State’s attorney general is investigating whether the Pearson Foundation, the nonprofit arm of one of the nation’s largest educational publishers, acted improperly to influence state education officials by paying for overseas trips and other perks...
Read the full NYT article HERE.

*****
Previous Parents' Coalition blog posting:  Pearson Foundation grant sent Weast, Dale and Hatrick to Australia

Applesauce


The folks that put together the Apple Ballot for the teachers' union have put out a rather interesting announcement, shown below.  The announcement tells people that are interested in getting the Apple stamp of approval in the 2012 Board of Education elections that they should contact the Apple folks by January 11, 2012.

Yes, the Apple won't be contacting you if you file to run for a Board of Education seat.  The Apple is not interested in interviewing all Board of Education candidates because in all likelihood they have already pre-selected their picks.  But if you would like to help the Apple pretend that they evaluate all candidates, give them a call by January 11th.

And, oh by the way, January 11th is the FILING DEADLINE for anyone that wants to run for one of the 3 open Board of Education seats in the 2012 elections.


MCEA Announcement:

Attention 2012 Board of Education Candidates

During the months of January and February 2012, the Montgomery County
Education Association (MCEA), an organization of over 12,000 education
professionals in our community, will be conducting candidate interviews
and reviewing qualifications in connection with its recommendation
process for Board of Education candidates for the upcoming primary and
general elections.

Formal announcement of those recommended by MCEA will occur at the end
of February.

Candidates interested in seeking recommendation by MCEA should contact
Jon Gerson at 
301-294-6232 or by email to JGerson@mceanea.org by January
11, 2012 to ensure full consideration by the organization.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Open Meetings Act Do-Over

Poor Dr. Joshua Starr.

As soon as he arrives in Montgomery County, he is faced with a stream of Maryland Open Meetings Act complaints as a result of actions by his predecessor, Dr. Jerry Weast, and the esteemed Montgomery County Board of Education.

Dr. Starr had several choices.  He could reform the Board and ask them to heed the advice of the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board.  He could read the law himself, and abide by its requirements.   Or he could continue to insist that MoCo and its Board of Education can't possibly be wrong.

Guess what?  Doesn't matter that Pat O'Neill was on "pins and needles" at the thought of having to testify under oath for the first time during her tenure as a member of the Board of Education in conjunction with another open meetings matter.   Dr. Starr and the MoCo Board of Education insist they are right.

Dr. Starr and MoCo's Board of Education hired the Venable Law firm, one of the country's top 100 law firms, to ask for a "do over" of an earlier decision by the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board.   No more Reese and Carney.  They are serious, and are willing to fork over major dollars to have a partner who bills at top dollar at the firm draft a request to reconsider the issue.

You can read the request here.

http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/76187932?access_key=key-l786sqkc0tt1avqivcc

Curious, isn't it? 

Do you think MoCo is pressing this with the Compliance Board because we may be looking for a new superintendent shortly?   Why is the Board of Education so concerned about this decision?

Better question.  How much did Samantha Williams and Venable charge to write this opinion?

I am not sure that I would classify the selection of a School Superintendent as an administrative or routine function, would you?  And even assuming that such business could be conducted in a closed session away from the public eye, is that really necessary?  It's not as if the privacy of any candidates is an issue.

I thought the school system is short on funding.  Apparently not when it comes to paying lawyers to get them out of trouble.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Top Secret: Public School Land

County Executive Leggett Stonewalls Citizens’ Public Information Request Regarding Brickyard Middle School Lease

If it's about public school land in Montgomery County, you can be sure it's a secret.  Public school land is a valuable asset that our elected officials can transfer to private interests for pennies.  Remember back one year ago to the Peary High School sale at a bargain basement price, it was as if the building wasn't even there!
PI Press Release Final

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What is Transparency?

At the November 22nd meeting of the MCCPTA, Josh Starr, Superintendent of MCPS, posed that question. And he answered it in part by saying, “in a large organization how do you do that?” (see the video here).

Well, Josh, here’s how. The Federal government seems to be able to work towards transparency. The elected Board of Education could take a lesson from what most believe is a pretty large organization. This is from the Sunlight Foundation:


House To Be More Open: OKs Online Publication Standard 
Daniel Schuman
Dec. 16, 2011, 11:49 a.m.

This morning, the House of Representatives took a tremendous step into the 21st century when the Committee on House Administration unanimously adopted "Standards for the Electronic Posting of House and Committee Documents & Data."

Taking effect on January 1, 2012, the resolution instructs the Clerk of the House to maintain a single website where the public can access all House bills, amendments, and resolutions for floor consideration in XML. In addition, committees will be encouraged to post their documents on that site in XML whenever possible -- and searchable PDFs when not -- with the expectation that mandatory publication requirements in XML will soon be imposed. The House will also store video of hearings and markups, and work to implement standards "that require documents to be electronically published in open data formats that are machine readable," thereby enabling transparency and public review.

In a statement, Committee on House Administration Chairman Dan Lungren said “With the adoption of these standards, for the first time, all House bills, resolutions and legislative documents will be available in XML in one centralized location. Providing easy access to legislative information increases constituent feedback and ultimately improves the legislative process. ”

Three cheers to Chairman Dan Lungren, Ranking Member Bob Brady, members of the committee, and its staff for moving this important issue forward. As was discussed at the recent #hackthehouse conference, as well as in our longstanding Open House Project Report (pdf), there's a lot more to do, but this is a major stride towards implementing Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor's pledge to " publicly releasing the House’s legislative data in machine-readable formats." The Senate could do well by following this example, as could legislative support agencies like the Library of Congress and GPO.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Every MCPS Position and Salary

Below is a listing of every single Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) position and salary as of January 4, 2011


The information was provided by MCPS in response to a Maryland Public Information Act request. This data does not include benefit information.  MCPS provided the data as a PDF document with the names of employees, positions, and salaries listed in no apparent order.


The information was obtained, converted and re-formatted by the Parents' Coalition.  


The document below is 848 pages long.   


On January 4, 2011, there were 22,024 positions in MCPS according to this MCPS data.
The positions are listed in alphabetical order with the salary for each position to the right of the title. 


If you click on the document link below and go to the Scribd site, Scribd allows you to do a text search of the document. For example, if you would like to find out what a "Community Superintendent" in MCPS makes in salary, simply type that job title into the search box on Scribd

MCPSSalary01042010Sheet2

Thursday, December 15, 2011

"who knows, after 45 days..."

Document

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Pat O'Neill, "everyone was on pins and needles"


Montgomery resident on campaign to save organic farm settles with county

...But Maravell said Wednesday afternoon that after weeks of negotiations, he and the school board have reached a preliminary settlement. As part of the agreement, he will drop the court case in exchange for an extension on his lease until Aug. 15. He added that the school board could further extend the lease until the end of next December. 
School board member Patricia O’Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase) said Wednesday the attorneys are still working out the details. She said she was relieved, because she had never been subpoenaed in her 13 years as board member.
“I think everyone was on pins and needles,” she said.
 
Maravell said the state case continues. He has asked the state board to decide whether public land can be used for public-private partnerships, such as maintaining soccer fields. If the board were to rule in Maravell’s favor, the county would not be able to use the land for soccerfields.
“There was never any public airing of what would be a good change of use for this land,” Maravell said before the settlement announcement...
...County spokesman Patrick Lacefield could not be reached for comment on Wednesday...

Montgomery teachers union: All school employees should get pay raises

Click here for Gazette article by reporter Andrew Ujifusa

No Montgomery County payraises under current budget scenario | Washington Examiner

No Montgomery County payraises under current budget scenario | Washington Examiner

Farquhar MS Land Swap Meeting: Jan. 3, 2012

Thanks to the MCPS Division of Construction for sending this important meeting announcement to the Parents' Coalition for publication on this blog.
Farquhar Neigbor lrt 12-12-11

File Today fo Run for Open Board of Education Seats

In 2012, there will be an election to fill 3 Montgomery County Board of Education seats.  


The filing deadline is January 11, 2012 at 9:00 PM.


File Today! 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 9:00 pm 
Candidate Filing Deadline
Deadline to file a Certificate of Candidacy .
Not later than the Wednesday that is 83
days before a primary election. § 5-303(a)(2)

Candidate Filing

  1. Candidate Information Sheet (PDF)
  2. Certificate of Candidacy for Write-In Candidate (PDF)
  3. Certificate of Withdrawal or Declination (PDF)
  4. Declaration of Intent to Seek Nomination by Petition (PDF)
  5. Affidavit for use of Alternate Name (PDF) - Updated!
  6. Certificate of Nomination or Designation (PDF)
  7. Write-in Candidate Information Sheet (PDF)
  8. Statement of Organization (PDF)




Montgomery County Board of Elections
18753-210 North Frederick Avenue - Directions
Gaithersburg, MD 20879

Hours of Operation: Mon - Fri:  8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Executive Assistants: Less is More

Executive Assistant positions in MCPS have decreased from 9 positions to 5 positions from 2006 to 2010. However, the individual salaries for the 5 positions that remain have increased as shown below.  

We are pretty sure that Executive Assistants don't work in classrooms and aren't "assisting" students.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cell Tower Compound Prevents Use of Public School Land for Students

Woodwards Road Elementary School site
Entire property leased to Comcast
Remember Superintendent Jerry Weast's cell tower compound that he put on a future elementary school site in Gaithersburg, Maryland?


That cell tower compound (shown in red circle in image) is now being used as a reason to not consider the Woodwards Road Elementary School site for use as a public school.  The leases that Superintendent Jerry Weast signed, without the approval of the Board of Education, have now tied up this public school site for use by for-profit telecommunications companies and a utility.  Public School students? Out of luck.


MCPS has released a "Site Selection" report by another one of their secret committees that violates the Maryland Open Meetings Act.  In the December 12, 2011 report below, the following statements are made about why the Woodwards Road Elementary School site is not being considered for a holding school.  
...The entire site is currently leased to Comcast with a portion also leased to several telecommunications providers...
...The Woodwards Road Elementary School property would require access  from Emory Grove Road, the road frontage of which is limited. This factor could limit the number of driveway curb cuts for optimum vehicular circulation.  The site is leased to four telecommunications companies and one utility company. Further study would be needed to determine whether there would be adequate space for the existing telecommunications operations to continue operations on the site...
Further study? Seriously? The Board of Education allowed this public school property to be converted into a cell tower compound without knowing if they could use the land for a public school when needed?  Hello, Board of Education, this land was entrusted to you for the benefit of public school children, not for the benefit of private companies.


When was this entire site leased to Comcast? Where is that lease and who signed it? 


So Emory Grove Center (18100 Washington Grove Lane, Gaithersburg), you are up as the secret committee selected location for the Upcounty Elementary Holding School.  Secret committee report below:


Upcounty Holding Facility Recommendation

"Chock full of errors and misrepresentations"

In response to a blog posting today of a letter from the Brickyard Coalition to all members of the Montgomery County Council, the Parents' Coalition received the response shown below from Montgomery County's Director of Public Information.  

We look forward to a more detailed response from Montgomery County officials to the statements made in the Brickyard Coalition letter.  A point by point response would go a long way to educate the public as to the position of Montgomery County government on this land deal.  

Thanks in advance to the Montgomery County Public Information Director for shining some light on the specifics of the Brickyard Middle School site land lease. 




Board of Ed in Circuit Court December 15, 2011

Circuit Court for Montgomery County
Case Number:  350161V

Maravell v. Board of Education and Montgomery County
Court Scheduling Information
(Schedule is subject to change)
Event Date: 12/15/2011 Event Time: 09:30 AM
Description: TRIAL - COURT

Issue: DECLARATORY JUDGMENT
Issue: INJUNCTION

Re:  Brickyard Middle School site lease and violation of Maryland Open Meetings Act

Board of Education members have been subpoenaed.  Will any Board members have to take the stand? 
Public welcome.  

Transparency & Open Government in Annapolis

The first Joint Committee on Transparency and Open Government (JCTOG) is on Wednesday, December 14, 2011. All JCTOG meetings are open to the public. Location: House Office Building, Room 240, 6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401


The Joint Committee on Transparency & Open Government was authorized in June 2011. Since the General Assembly has concluded that ". . . it is in Maryland's best interest to continue to build on and improve citizen engagement in all aspects of our government . . .", the Committee is to provide continuing Legislative oversight concerning transparency & open government. The Committee is to make recommendations to increase citizen access to government resources, publications, and actions.

Evaluation Specialists: Salaries Up

Here's another snapshot of the MCPS Operating Budget.  
Once again, we are only looking at salaries for these positions, no benefits included in these numbers.  
Today, we see that the number of MCPS Evaluation Specialist positions has remained the same since 2006, but salaries for these positions have increased.  The comparison is between the DC Examiner's database of 2006 and our data obtained from MCPS as of January 4, 2011. 


Minority achievement gap widens slightly in 2011 results

Gazette:  AP performance steady for Montgomery schools
Overall performance on Advanced Placement tests in 2011 was nearly identical to last year’s scores for Montgomery County Public Schools students... 
...From 2010 to 2011, the achievement gap between white students and black and Hispanic students widened slightly in terms of tests passed, from 31.8 to 32.3 percentage points between whites and blacks, and from 23 to 23.6 percentage points between whites and Hispanics...

Brickyard Middle School Lease to Leggett is a Disguised Surplusing of the Property

The letter below was hand delivered to all Montgomery County Councilmembers on December 12, 2011 by the Brickyard Coalition.
The letter discusses the surprise lease of a 20 acre public school site by the Board of Education to Montgomery County at the request of County Executive Ike Leggett.  
At a time when public school land is a precious resource for public school students, County Executive Ike Leggett has taken 20 acres of public school land and plans to turn it over to a private club. 

UPDATE: Response from Montgomery County Director of Public Information.
Brickyard Coalition Letter to Berliner and Council

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tonight: Councilmember Riemer wants Solutions

On Tuesday, December 12, I’d like to spend some time discussing community needs with you at my first town-hall style event.  I’m calling it a “Solutions Forum” because I want the focus to be on solving problems.

Councilmember Riemer’s Solutions Forum
Tuesday, December 12 at 7:00 PM
Richard Montgomery High School Cafeteria
250 Richard Montgomery Drive
RockvilleMD 20852

That evening, I will discuss some of my agenda items for the coming year as well as review milestones from 2011.  I will present some early information about our budget and fiscal situation and talk about how we work to balance priorities at the County Council.  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Response from the Open Meetings Compliance Board

Last week we received the decision from the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board on our complaint regarding the ‘work group’ that put together the Artificial Turf report. We were not ever able to identify who attended any meetings they might have had; what was discussed, if anything; or even if the group ever met, after months and months of trying. The ‘work group’ was convened by the County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee, yet the draft of the report that was made public had as the author in the metadata, Joe Lavorgna, a consultant to MCPS. So, who really wrote the report? No idea. Nope, still don’t know. Was there ever a work group? Did it ever meet? Nope, still don’t know.

Regarding our complaint, because the work group was not convened by a resolution, it doesn’t meet the act’s definition of a ‘public body,’ and so the Open Meetings Compliance Board found that “For the reasons stated above, we find that the work group was not a public body under the Act and that, so long as its members did not create a quorum of a different body that was subject to the Act, the Act was not violated.”Lesson: next time a ‘work group’ is convened, let’s all make sure there is a resolution for that group. This is a lesson we won’t forget.

Furthermore, although our complaint was not successful, the Board’s response is clear on this point: the government and Michael Faden in particular should not think they can bully or threaten the filer of a complaint as they did in their response. As the Board put it, “The Open Meetings Act is solely enforced by citizens.” That’s us!

Response From the MD Open Meetings Act Compliance Board 20111206234219

The Influence Around Us- Photo Contest!!

From the Sunlight Foundation:

Amy Ngai
Dec. 8, 2011, 1:36 p.m.

Last week I blogged on the Influence Around Us and took a look at the amount of money spent by the groups and businesses on campaign contributions and lobbying right in our neighborhood.

We heard lots of positive feedback and interest from our readers who wanted to explore the influence of money in politics around them. So, to help sweeten the sleuthing, we are launching a photo contest! Take your own photo or screenshot from street view on Google Maps and tag it with data from Influence Explorer using Thinglink. We will send you a prize for your participation and if your photo is worth more than our intersection, you will win a grand prize! Send your Thing linked photo to info@sunlightfoundation.com or post a link to your picture to our Facebook wall to enter!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

State Board of Education on Brickyard Middle School site Appeal

This week the Maryland State Board of Education issued an Order specifying what the MCPS Board of Education must submit as the record in the appeal of the Board of Education's decision to lease the 20 acre Brickyard Middle School site to the County Executive for soccer fields.

Typically, the MCPS Board of Education only submits the minutes of a Board of Education meeting.  In this Order, the State Board expands the list of documents that are to be submitted by the MCPS Board in this appeal.

Kurth,etal.OR11-12

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pearson Junkets for D.C. Superintendent Make Print Edition of Washington Post

In today's Washington Post print edition there is a story about the D.C. State Superintendent of Education.  As part of that story, reporter Bill Turque details the two Pearson Foundation funded trips taken by the D.C. State Superintendent.  But if a Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent takes the same trip the story ends up on a Post blog after the superintendent leaves.


Same situation, different reporting. 

D.C. education agency’s progress questioned

...This year, Mahaley has taken week-long trips to Brazil and China for conferences to explore teaching methods. The trips, sponsored by the nonprofit Council of Chief State School Officers, were not made at public expense. 
But the mid-September Brazil conference was paid for by a grant from the Pearson Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the giant textbook and educational testing company. The company won an $860,000 contract from the agency in September 2010 — three months before Mahaley’s appointment — to provide alternative standardized tests for students with significant cognitive challenges, according to OSSE officials. A $700,000 option under the contract was renewed for this school year.
Mahaley and a Pearson spokesman said that although company executives joined school officials in Brazil, no agency business was discussed...

Board adds 5 "Directors" since 2006 - List of Positions

The salaries alone for MCPS "Directors" went from 
$6.9 million in 2006, to $8.7 million in 2010.
In 2006, there were 58 MCPS Directors.  
In 2010, there were 63 MCPS Directors.