Saturday, March 31, 2012

Come on out . . .

and show that the word "Planning" is not an oxymoron in Montgomery County.

Do you think that the rest of MoCo should look like Bethesda or Chevy Chase?

Here is a list of upcoming planning board meetings.  Come find out what is planned in your neighborhood!

And who knows whether, as an added bonus, you get to meet Rollin Stanley too!

From: Montgomery County Planning Department, Zoning Code Rewrite Team <>
Date: Thu, Mar 29, 2012 at 3:35 PM
Subject: Zoning Rewrite Project Open Houses

Attend one of six open houses scheduled around Montgomery County in April and early May to learn more about the project. At the open house meetings, attendees can view graphics and other materials that explain what's being considered, such as potentially reducing the number of zones and how new zones might apply in communities.

Participants at each open house will see exactly how what's proposed applies to their neighborhood. Each meeting will provide information on six different master plan areas. To see what master plan area applies to your property, go to
5-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 10 Park and Planning Headquarters
8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring
Master plans: Capitol View, East Silver Spring, Forest Glen, Four Corners, North & West Silver Spring, Silver Spring Central Business District, Takoma Park

5-8 p.m. Thursday, April 12
Eastern County Regional Services Center
3300 Briggs Chaney Rd, Silver Spring
Master plans: Cloverly, Fairland, Kemp Mill, Sandy Spring/Ashton, White Oak

5-8 p.m. Monday, April 16Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center
4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda
Master plans: Bethesda Central Business District, Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Friendship Heights Central Business District, North Bethesda/Garrett Park, Potomac Subregion, Westbard, Woodmont Triangle

5-8 p.m. Monday, April 23Upcounty Regional Services Center
12900 Middlebrook Road, Suite 1000, Germantown
Master plans: Agricultural & Rural Open Space, Boyds, Clarksburg, Damascus, Germantown (1989 and 2009)

5-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 24Wheaton Regional Library
11701 Georgia Avenue, Wheaton
Master plans: Aspen Hill, Kensington/Wheaton, Olney, Upper Rock Creek, Wheaton Central Business District

5-8 p.m. Tuesday, May 1
Rockville Memorial Library, 2nd floor
21 Maryland Avenue, Rockville
Master plans: Gaithersburg & Vicinity, Great Seneca Science Corridor, Shady Grove, Twinbrook, White Flint

MoCo v. Fairfax, Pr. Geo. Dep'ts. of Economic Development --how are we doing?

The recent Washington Business Journal (March 23-29, 2012) has published their annual list comparison of regional Economic Development agencies. How well is Ike Leggett's appointment, Steve Silverman doing?

Here's the comparison:

Montgomery County Department of Economic Development
Annual Budget: $6.25Million
Previous Annual Budget: $6.68Million
Percent Change: -6.56%
Date fiscal year ends: June 30, 2012
Jobs created in last Fiscal Year: 556
Senior Local Executive: Steve Silverman, Director

Fairfax County Economic Development Authority
Annual Budget: $7.05Million
Previous Annual Budget: $6.8Million
Percent Change: 3.68%
Date fiscal year ends: June 30, 2012
Jobs created in last fiscal year: 8,765
Senior Local Executive: Gerald L. Gordon, President and CEO

Prince George's County Economic Development Corporation
Annual Budget: $7.54Million
Previous Annual Budget: $9.83Million
Percent Change: -23.23%
Date fiscal year ends: June 30, 2012
Jobs created in last fiscal year: 1,191
Senior Local Executive: Gwen S. McCall, President and CEO

Friday, March 30, 2012

VIDEO: League of Women Voters - Board of Education Candidate Forum

Montgomery Community Media:  Board of Education Candidates Forum  will air on  Cable Channels 19 and 21 at the following times:

Friday, March 30th - 9 PM
Saturday, March 31st - 11 AM
Sunday, April 1st - 8 PM
Monday, April 2nd - 9 PM

and then will be available on the MCM On Demand site.

Individual Candidate Videos available here.

No Ethics needed at Board of Ed

This session in Annapolis Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-District 20), Chair of the Special Committee on Ethics Reform, introduced SB920, the Ethics Disclosure Act of 2012. According to reporter Justin Snow of,
The bill comes weeks after Sen. Ulysses Currie, D-Prince George’s, was censured by his colleagues for ethics violations and as new concerns are raised over Senate Majority Leader Rob Garagiola’s failure to disclose income he earned as a lobbyist.

Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, who is chair of the Special Committee on Ethics Reform created in January and is the sponsor of the bill, said Maryland is a leader in ethics reform but lags when it comes to Internet disclosure.

“All of the financial and ethics disclosure materials that we have are public information, but that’s really more theoretical than real,” said Raskin.

Currently, anyone seeking such documents has to travel to an Annapolis office during business hours to view those documents.


Michael Lord, executive director of State Ethics Commission, testified that by mandating electronic disclosures the bill would accomplish what the commission has been attempting to do since 2005.

Here's a copy of this bill. Take a look -- and see who isn't covered under this ethics online bill: "providing that municipal corporations and boards of education are not required to post financial disclosure information on the Internet or to require that financial disclosure statements be filed electronically;" Because why should a public, taxpayer-funded agency that spends over $2Billion each year be subject to an ethics law?



by Frederick Stichnoth
March 30, 2012
A forum for the At Large and District 2 Montgomery County Board of Education candidates was on held March 26, sponsored by The League of Women Voters of Montgomery County and the American Association of University Women; and for District 2 candidates on March 29, sponsored by The Rockville Community Coalition, in cooperation with The League of Women Voters of Montgomery County and The Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville. This is a summary of the candidates’ statements.


Meet the Candidates, March 31, 2012

Candidates’ Forum – Montgomery County Muslim Council (MCMC)
Sunday, March 31st – 11:00am – 1:00pm
Potomac Community Center
11315 Falls Road
Potomac, Maryland 20854

Letter: School board members shouldn't owe allegiance to unions

I am impressed and somewhat alarmed at the media blitz financed by the MSEA and the HCEA promoting their candidates for the Howard County Board of Education. Given that it is the Board of Education who negotiates our teachers, salary, benefits and pensions (that will soon be correctly our obligation, not the state's, to fund), am I the only one who sees a fox guarding the henhouse issue here?
Given the next board may be making some very tough choices requiring that school funding be reduced so as to fund the obligations to the pension fund, I would prefer members with no particular allegiance...
The Baltimore Sun, Letter to the Editor: March 29, 2012 

Secrecy surrounding Howard Co. Superintendent Search

[Board of Education member] Dyer said that he was uncomfortable with the secrecy surrounding the search.
"I felt like I was covered with slime participating in the last part," said Dyer, who told Patch that in recent weeks school board members interviewed superintendent candidates across county lines, where they were instructed not to wear name tags.
“We spent time in no-tell motels and things like that interviewing these candidates," said Dyer...
 ...Transparency has been a hot-button issue in Elkridge—a community with which the school board has refused to share information about school sites—and with the board as a whole.Dyer has filed suit over what he alleges are the board's violations of open meeting laws, and last month, the board attempted to exclude a member from participating in a meeting over the phone.
As far as transparency in the superintendent search, there was more public participation in the past, according to school board candidate Mary Jo Neil, who has served on the PTA for Maryland, Howard County and West Friendship Elementary School.
“Several years ago...we did actually have a little different process,” said Neil, referencing the 2000 search that resulted in the appointment of superintendent John O'Rourke. "We did have some more time to vet the candidate. I wish we had that opportunity this time."
PATCH:   School Board Hopefuls Question Superintendent Search

Senator and others upset about closed superintendent search process in Baltimore County

Inside Ed: Brochin and others upset about closed search process
Sen. James Brochin called me this morning to tell me a story and to express his concern about the way the search for Baltimore County superintendent was handled. 
Brochin said he had lunch at BlueStone in Timonium about six months ago with the school board president and vice-president and urged them to include parents and advocates as part of the search team. Given the problems in communication and the issues that had emerged in the past year, Brochin said, he told the board they should be particularly sensitive to making sure the public was part of the process.
That is exactly what did not happen, he said. "I am just flabbergasted....I went way out of my way to ensure that things wouldn't turn out like this." When asked if the board should have delayed the process if they felt they were in competition with Howard County, Brochin said he "can't believe that no one else was of equal caliber that this had to be done so quickly."
read full article here 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Candidate Morris Panner responds to Parents' Coalition Questions

1.  Do you support an online checkbook for MCPS such as is used in a number of other public school systems including Miami-Dade County Public Schools?

* I strongly support financial transparency.  I am not familiar enough with the online check book system to know if it is worth the effort.  I tried the one of the Miami-Dade website and wasn't able to get enough information to understand whether it would be truly useful.  I would like to learn more. 

2.  MCPS has minority contracting goals—we want more business to flow to people of color.  Currently, do you believe the practice of awarding non-bid contracts supports these goals?  What would you do to make MCPS always use a fair and open bidding process?

*  I support vigorous competition for contracts.  You get the best price and the best product that way.  The more open the process, the more likely you are to get good results.

3.  Do you suppport a U turn away from a one-size-fits-all education and restoring and improving wider choice of education opportunities for our children, including restoring learning centers for special education students, restoring honors classes, and restoring non-IT vocational education?

*  There are certain basic things we all should know, if possible.  Still, this can require special assistance and accommodation and that not all people will reach the same level.  I have a son with an IEP, so I have some sense of the limits of one size fits all education.  In addition, there is no question that we can do a better job helping people build on their individual strengths and find a path to a fulfilling and happy educational experience.  So, I don't know if I support a U turn, but I certainly support an effort to improve our ability to help individuals realize their potential.

4.  Do you support requiring new initiatives and new curriculum be required to undergo a legitimate pilot study that meets the minimum standards from the U.S. Department of Education for reasonable evidence before deploying to the whole county?  Do you support assessing all new initiatives against the minimum U.S. Department of Education standard of "what works"?

* In general, we should be looking to best practices to ensure that we are taking advantage of others' experiences.  We should also be piloting before wide-scale deployment.  My sense is that the US Department of Education has good guidelines, but that we need flexibility to decide what works for us. 

5.  If elected to the Board of Education, will you support or oppose MCPS' practice of permitting principals to assess students fees to attend public school classes?
* oppose

6. Do you support a U turn from current policy of paying attorneys for advice on how to skirt the Maryland Open Meetings Act to a policy of full compliance with the Act and spirit of the law of open meetings, and even going beyond the legal requirements of the Act?

* I am in favor of complying with the open meetings laws and being transparent. 

7.  Do you support returning the preparation of the MCPS budget to the public Board of Education table?

*  I do, although you are going to have to do staff work in advance of that so you can have productive meetings.

8.  Do you believe that the MCPS Educational Foundation should be transparent in its sources of funds and its expenditures?

* yes

Video: Delegate Kaiser public comment on 3rd version of HB 596

The anatomy of a bill.
The video below is of the March 8, 2012, House Ways and Means Committee Public Hearing on House Bill 596. The public hearing begins with Delegate Anne Kaiser explaining her 3rd version of this bill since the bill was first introduced just 32 days prior. 
For all blog posts on HB 596, please click here.

Minute index of public hearing video: 
0:50 Delegate Anne Kaiser submitted written public comment
2:00 Kaiser: "finding a little bit of relief on the professionals side"
2:50 Kaiser: "not doing bill that way, we are doing bill it this way"..."what I have to tell you is that we are even going another route, once again"..."I apologize for that"...
4:00 Kaiser:  "the letter you would have received from me a few weeks ago" (letter about amending bill to change window for reports around holidays)
4:45 Kaiser: "I've since learned we can't do that in terms of the federal law"...
5:05 Kaiser: ..."The changes that I am recommending would only impact the side of the school impact on parents...process smoother for those professionals..."
8:50 Kaiser:  "...parents always have the right with IEP meetings to cancel and reschedule..."  " a parent might say... "that's [speech therapist report] coming two days later?  I can wait. That's fine. I'm still fine and ready for the meeting""...
9:15  Kaiser: "problems with IEP process in general"..."incredible under staffing of [staff] in schools"...
10:20  Kaiser:  "...hope that this finds a balance in making life easier for our school professionals without adding any added burden to our parents..."
Questions from Delegates for Delegate Kaiser. [Good discussion - worth listening]
16:25 Delegate Glass: "...parents want more time not less time"
19:00 Joshua Rubin, teacher in MCPS
24:50  Amy Maloney, Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) [5 day rule and difficulties - 2,000 e-mails]
26:25  [teacher]
30:35  Bill Fluke, Maryland School Psychologists Association "...good idea to go back from 5 business to 5 calendar..."
35:39  Lauren Kallins, Maryland Disability Law Center

Full Video Coverage: 6th District Democrats Debate has the full video from last Sunday's debate among the Sixth District Dems vying for the Congressional Seat opened up in the redistricted District 6. The debate was sponsored by and AARP and was hosted by the Germantown Campus of Montgomery College. Candidates Charles Bailey, John Delaney, Milad Pooran, Rob Garagiola and Ron Little all answered questions.

Not sure who to cast your vote for? Go here to see the debate.

It will also be shown on Montgomery Cable at these times:

Thursday, March 29, 7 p.m.
Friday, March 30, 1 a.m.
Saturday, March 31, 9 p.m.
Sunday, April 1, 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Monday, April 2, 2:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 3, 12 p.m.

Read more: Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Crash Testing the MCPS Hype

Joseph Hawkins
Senior Study Director, Westat. Former evaluation specialist, MCPS.
At this Montgomery County Public Schools website, MCPS proudly points out that it is the home of 34 National Blue Ribbon Schools.
Blue Ribbon Schools are awarded by the U.S. Department of Education—the feds. The award is a prestigious award denoting high quality schools. Back in the day, I did Blue Ribbon school site visits for the feds, and so, I believe winning denotes that something special is truly present. Click here to read more about the award.
I think it is fair to say that MCPS likes the Blue Ribbon program. And because we have so many winning schools, it is probably also fair to say that MCPS believes that the feds know quality schools when they see them.
So, many of us MCPS-watchers are somewhat surprised when MCPS rejects the suggestion that Jerry Weast-era programs be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education’s What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) for review. In fact, when making this suggestion, some of us have been told by MCPS officials that the feds don’t have a clue about how to conduct research. Really!...
Patch article continues here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Candidate Susan Byrne responds to Parents' Coalition Questions

Susan Byrne
(301) 200-2535

1.  Do you support an online checkbook for MCPS such as is used in a number of other public school systems including Miami-Dade County Public Schools?

2.  MCPS has minority contracting goals—we want more business to flow to people of color.  Currently, do you believe the practice of awarding non-bid contracts supports these goals?  What would you do to make MCPS always use a fair and open bidding process? 
Non-bid contracts do not support the goals of the MBE mission in MCPS.  The mission, as written, is "to foster a positive working relationship with small and historically underutilized minority/female owned professional services."  This is to be achieved through specific goals, including "increase the diversity and number of contracts and professional services providers that actively compete for construction services."  Competition is not compatible with non-bid contract awards.  All contracts should be open to public bid and all bids available to public scrutiny.  

3.  Do you support a U turn away from a one-size-fits-all education and restoring and improving wider choice of education opportunities for our children, including restoring learning centers for special education students, restoring honors classes, and restoring non-IT vocational education? 

Support.  I believe school choice and program choice and student-led learning all contribute to a quality learning process.  The record of MCPS achievement scores makes it clear that the current MCPS model of education fails to support the academic success of more than 2/3 of our students.  We must fit programs to students, not students to programs.

4.  Do you support requiring new initiatives and new curriculum to undergo a legitimate pilot study that meets the minimum standards from the U.S. Department of Education for reasonable evidence before deploying to the whole county?  Do you support assessing all new initiatives against the minimum U.S. Department of Education standard of "what works"? 

Support.  DOE's "What Works" is one of a number of best practice standards that should be adopted for practice and performance review throughout MCPS.  Performance at all MCPS schools should be held against objective best practice standards.
5.  If elected to the Board of Education, will you support or oppose MCPS' practice of permitting principals to assess students fees to attend public school classes?  
6. Do you support a U turn from current policy of paying attorneys for advice on how to skirt the Maryland Open Meetings Act to a policy of full compliance with the Act and spirit of the law of open meetings, and even going beyond the legal requirements of the Act? 

7.  Do you support returning the preparation of the MCPS budget to the public Board of Education table? 

8.  Do you believe that the MCPS Educational Foundation should be transparent in its sources of funds and its expenditures? 

Campaign Finance Reports for BOE Primary Candidates as of today

Click the link for each name to see the campaign finance reports filed to date for each of the Board of Education candidates.  
And, as we have suggested before, hum along to the Sesame Street tune "One of these things is not like the other" as you review the reports. See if you can spot the differences in the fundraising by the candidates. 

Board of Education At Large Candidates

Board of Education District 002 Candidates 

Ali, Saqib

Byrne, Susan (no report found to date)
Evans, Fred

Smondrowski, Rebecca 
(no report found to date)

Exclusive: MCPS Secret Budget Meeting Agendas Revealed

The Parents' Coalition has obtained copies of Agendas from the MCPS secret budget meetings.

While Maryland law says that a public school system Board of Education is to "prepare" the school systems budget, we know that here in Montgomery County that doesn't happen.  The MCPS budget is prepared by a committee that meets in secret, off camera and without notice to the public. 

We have known about the existence of the secret budget meetings for years.  In August of 2009, the teacher's union president announced he was attending the secret budget meetings.  In May of 2011, Superintendent Jerry Weast thanked the secret committee for their hundreds of hours of work on the MCPS budget.

This is the first time that the public has seen an Agenda for these meetings.  
Below are the Agendas for the meetings that were held to prepare the FY 2013 MCPS Operating Budget.  According to these documents, meetings were held on September 15, 2011; September 22, 2011; September 27, 2011; October 4, 2011; October 6, 2011; October 12, 2011; October 14, 2011; and October 18, 2011.

In attendance at these meetings were MCPS staff, Union leaders and MCCPTA officers.
Wonder what went on at these meetings? What budget decisions were made? What did MCCPTA advocate for?  What trade offs were made? 

According to MCPS Public Information Officer Dana Tofig, no minutes were taken at any of these meetings, so this is all the public can know about what took place at these meetings. 


MD law says the Board of Ed "shall prepare an annual budget". But do they?

Does the Montgomery County Board of Education prepare an annual budget? 
Here's what Maryland law says about the role of the Board of Education.  


Md. EDUCATION Code Ann. § 5-101  (2012)
§ 5-101. Annual school budget 
   (a) Preparation of annual budget. --
   (1) Subject to the rules and regulations of the State Board and with the advice of the county superintendent, each county board shall prepare an annual budget according to:
      (i) The major categories listed in this section; and
      (ii) Any other major category required by the State Board.
   (2) In addition to the information required by this section, the county fiscal authorities may require the county board to provide details to the service areas and activities levels in the account structure within the "Financial Reporting Manual for Maryland Public Schools".
   (3) With the annual budget, each county board shall provide:
      (i) The number of full-time equivalent positions included within each major category; and
      (ii) A description of any fund balances or other moneys held by any outside source, including an insurer, that are undesignated or unreserved and are under the direction and control of the county board.
(b) Categories. -- The budget shall be prepared to include the following categories
Part I
   (1) Current expense fund, estimated receipts:
      (i) Revenue from local sources;
      (ii) Revenue from State sources;
      (iii) Revenue from federal sources;
      (iv) Unliquidated surplus, the actual from the previous fiscal year and the estimated from the current fiscal year, whether accrued from revenues or expenditures; and
      (v) Revenue from all other sources with identification of the source.
   (2) Current expense fund, requested appropriations:
      (i) Administration, which means those activities associated with the general regulations, direction, and control of the county board, including:
         1. Executive administration;
         2. Business support services; and
         3. Centralized support services;
      (ii) Mid-level administration, including:
         1. The office of the school principal; and
         2. Staff providing administration and supervision to the school instructional programs;
      (iii) Instructional salaries, which means those activities which deal directly with teaching students, including:
         1. Teachers;
         2. Aides;
         3. Psychological personnel;
         4. Guidance counselors; and
         5. Library personnel;
      (iv) Textbooks and classroom instructional supplies;
      (v) Other instructional costs;
      (vi) Special education with subcategories and items budgeted in this category to be determined by the State Board with the advice of the county board;
      (vii) Student personnel services;
      (viii) Health services;
      (ix) Student transportation;
      (x) Operation of plant and equipment;
      (xi) Maintenance of plant;
      (xii) Fixed charges;
      (xiii) Food services; and
      (xiv) Capital outlay.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable

Today's Washington Post reminded me of an old saying from my high school journalism teacher and faculty advisor at the Francis Lewis High School Patriot.  I had him for three semesters.  Lucky me.

He remarked frequently about folks putting the accent on the wrong syl-la-ble, emphasizing the "la".  it was his way of saying you failed to capture what is important.

In this morning's Washington Post, Paul Farhi wrote about an incident at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, where the school newspaper was pulled because of concern over an article about a reporter who did a story on drinking among high school kids.  You can find the article here.  Story from the Post?  The reporter on the original series about underage drinking at the school raised a concern about a story in the school newspaper, and the principal pulled the student paper.  Takeaway from the Post?  A reporter's concern about a story triggered an act of censorship by the principal.

Hate to say it, Mr. Farhi, but you got the story wrong. 

Responsibility for the action lies squarely with the principal, Karen Lockard, and not the reporter.

Why the principal?

The time to set the standards and  review the print edition of the paper is prior to publication.  Once a story is in print or online, calling it back is like putting a cloud in a box.  Can't be done.

And, the story misses the point completely.  The real issue and message that needs to be sent to the students concerns drinking and other illegal behaviors. 

The meat of the story is underage drinking.  It's wrong, and dangerous.

Pointing fingers at the reporter and the side story of her concern about the content of the student newspaper is tangential to the issue of student behaviors at BCC.  Its blaming the messenger for delivering the message. 

And what about the drinking and other undesirable behaviors at BCC?  The problems remain.

Or, to quote Mr. Fredericks, faculty advisor to the Francis Lewis HS Patriot, you're putting the accent on the wrong syl-la-ble.

2012 Board of Education Primary Candidate Information

Click on the Parents' Coalition Board of Education Election 2012 Page for information and links to the Board of Education candidates that will appear on the April 3, 2012 ballot. 

Community Service

From today's Washington Post, Print Edition: March 27, 2012

For several years without success, I’ve been asking the principal of the Montgomery County high school closest to me to give students community service credits for picking up the trash left along our roads by kids who don’t seem to get the negative impact that dropped soda cans, plastic bags and plastic foam containers from fast-food stores — much less assorted school papers — have on our environment.

About 500 high school students walk past my community several times a day on their way to and from school, the nearby shopping center and their homes. It’s hard to believe the amount of litter that they generate and that their neighbors have to pick up.

To read the whole letter in the Post, CLICK HERE.P.C., Silver Spring

For more on this issue, read the Gazette article.

Meet the BOE Candidates March 29, 2012 in Rockville

Board of Education Candidates Forum March 29, 2012
Forum Map

Cheating our children: Suspicious school test scores across the nation  |

Cheating our children: Suspicious school test scores across the nation  |

and more

  • Cheating our children: Find your school district's test-score shifts
  • Cheating our children: Map of suspicious test scores nationwide
  • Cheating our children: The story behind the story
  • Cheating our children: The AJC’s methodology behind suspicious school test scores
  • Cheating our children: The journey from cheating in Atlanta schools to suspicious test scores nationwide
  • MCPS To Ditch 'Pink Slime' For 2012-13 School Year

    PATCH:  Montgomery County Public Schools will stop using meat with a finely textured beef additive also known as "pink slime" for the 2012-13 school year.

    The 22 Delegates

    On Saturday, March 24, 2012, an amendment was posted on the Maryland General Assembly web page for a bill that had been previously introduced.  The bill was HB 596.  The amendment was in fact a new proposal to change existing law but using the original bill number. 

    A public hearing had already been held on the original bill as written. There is no public hearing scheduled for the new version of Bill 596. 

    The new version of Bill 596 was introduced and voted on at a House Ways and Means Committee meeting without ever having been released to the public.  

    What is fascinating about this is that when HB 596 was introduced in its original version, almost 600 citizens from across the state of Maryland signed a Petition opposing the changes.  Delegates in Annapolis knew that at a minimum there were almost 600 people that cared about potential changes to this law. 

    Yet, when the Ways and Means Committee met and voted on March 23rd, none of the 22 Delegates listed on the voting record below apparently felt the need to release the new version of the Bill to the public prior to their vote.  

    If you click on the Fiscal and Policy Note for this bill, you will see that even that information relates to the original version of the bill and not the new version. A member of the public reading the HB 596 webpage would be justifiably confused.  

    And HB 596 isn't through the entire legislature yet.  What other changes are in store for this Bill as it zips through the legislature before this year's legislative session ends on April 9th?  

    Do citizens have the right to know what legislators in Annapolis are voting on in advance, or should we all just wait and be surprised?

    Delegates who voted without consulting parents/constiuents

    Patch users have voted, and most think schools should change start hours to begin later.

    Have You Weighed In On Rescheduling School Hours?

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    Md. public-private partnership bill stirs debate

    From The Carroll County Times:

    The House of Delegates on Saturday gave an initial nod to Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposed policy governing public-private partnerships on big projects like roads and public buildings, but some lawmakers heatedly objected to a new provision ensuring speedy legal proceedings for participants in such a partnership.

    The change would allow legal appeals to be heard on an expedited track before the Court of Special Appeals, the state's intermediate appellate court. It was not part of the initial proposal by the O'Malley administration, but was added by a House panel.

    Delegate Luiz Simmons, D-Montgomery, argued that the provision could confer special legal benefits on a "special group of fat cats.”

    “In my opinion, what we are about to do is to become legislators in a banana republic, where they routinely interfere with the judicial process on behalf of special friends and special interests, and we are not covering ourselves in honor by doing this,” Simmons said.

    To read the entire article go here. To thank Del. Simmons (D-District 17) go to Or, call 301-858-3037 or 1-800-492-7122 ext. 3037 (toll-free no.)

    Student Newspaper Recalled, Released at B-CC

    Patch:  Copies of the "Tattler," Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School's student newspaper, were confiscated for several days, then released.

    Sunday, March 25, 2012

    Bill would let Maryland Seek out Private Partners for Public Projects

    From the Washington Post. The vote is tomorrow. Didn't know about this one either? Gee whiz. Isn't that YOUR delegate smiling in the photo at left?

    Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has joined a little-noticed wave of Democratic governors gravitating toward the privatization of government facilities — a practice once anathema to blue states and their often-powerful public employee unions.

    A bill proposed by O’Malley and being shepherded through the legislature by Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) follows laws approved recently in California and Illinois and under consideration in a half-dozen other Democratic-controlled states. In the name of job creation, it would make it Maryland’s policy to seek out private partners to build, operate and maintain roads, bridges, schools, government buildings and most any other public asset.


    But Maryland’s methods would make the process ripe for corruption, critics say, and even upend an existing lawsuit challenging one of the state’s biggest plans.

    To appease labor, the shift would come in a distinctly Democratic mold. Under legislation expected to come to a vote Monday in the House of Delegates, any jobs generated as the state hands off public assets would carry requirements that private enterprises pay living wages, ensure minority business involvement and put in place other labor-friendly protections.


    The bill would give the state broad powers to negotiate deals outside the established procurement system and to decide how taxpayer money would be sent to developers to pay for large, upfront investments.

    ‘Dangerous retreat’
    “It would let state agencies circumvent competitive bidding altogether simply by having a government official designate a project as a ‘public-private partnership,’ ” said Scott Livingston, a lawyer who helped write Maryland’s procurement laws after a series of corruption scandals — including one that led to the 1973 resignation of Vice President Spiro T. Agnew (R), a former Maryland governor. “This is a dangerous retreat from established safeguards.”

    To read the whole story go here. Don't like what you're hearing? That's ok, elections are only two years away.

    League of Women Voters - Board of Education Candidate Forum

    Board of Education Candidate Forum - Brown Bag

    Dates: Monday, 26 March 2012 - 6:15pm - 8:00pm
    League of  Women Voters of Montgomery County, Maryland
    Brown Bag Supper will be a Board of Education forum at the Wheaton Public Library, 11701 Georgia Ave. The public is invited.

    Maryland Corruption Risk Report Card: D-

    The recently released State Integrity Investigation, a project of the Center for Public Integrity, found that of all 50 states examined, Maryland is at high risk for corruption, coming in 46th, with a Grade of D-. For more on the report go here.

    According to a report on the investigation, here,

    "Mayland is the only state in the country that requires an in-person visit to the state capitol to request and view financial disclosure information.

    Ed Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, said that governments may seem transparent by making information available, but it is not always presented in a useable or digestible format. He said trying to compare data within a state -- say, linking campaign donations to state contracts -- can be nearly impossible, and is a huge barrier to transparency.

    "It's disingenous, hiding in plain sight," Bender said. "Governments say, 'here it is,' but they don't tell the story."

    Maryland unveiled a series of date-centric government performance measurement and spending websites - like StateStat to track spending of stimulus finds - which Governor Martin O'Malley hailed as the "foundation for restoring accountability and for driving our progress." But the state's poor ranking on public access to information -- it came in 46th -- would suggest otherwise.

    "They're selective on what they share, how they share it, and who they share it with," said Greg Smith of the nonprofit group Community Research, who said poring through the state's spending databases can be a headache.

    Tell us something we don't know.

    Examiner: Report: Montgomery County schools fail to track results of programs for at-risk students

    Montgomery County school officials aren't evaluating whether their $25.7 million alternative-education programs for at-risk students actually help students graduate from high school or go to college, according to a report from the county's Office of Legislative Oversight.The school system is also excluding the students from career and technical education programs, even though they would benefit from these options the most, the report says.On Monday, the County Council's Education Committee plans to meet with staff from Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College, along with other county officials to hash out these gaps...

    Saturday, March 24, 2012

    Special Ed. Parents Duped by Delegates

    On February 27, 2012 we reported on a letter that had been sent by Delegate Anne Kaiser to parents and activists who opposed House Bill (HB) 596.  Delegate Kaiser's HB 596 would shorten the amount of time parents would have to review documents prior to a school meeting on special educational services.

    After over 500 parents and activists across the state of Maryland signed a Petition in opposition to HB 596, here is what Delegate Kaiser wrote in a Feb. 27th letter:
    "I am amending my own legislation to retain the 5 business day standard, but to disallow IEP meetings in the first 3 days following a long holiday break."
    But that didn't happen.
    The proposed changes to HB 596 were not made public prior to the March 8th public hearing. 
    And so, on March 8, 2012 a public hearing was held on HB 596 as written.
    At the March 8th public hearing the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA - the state teacher's union) gave public comment in support of HB 596 as originally proposed.  See PDF below.
    Further, MSEA reported to their members in their March 9th newsletter: 
    Five-Day Rule Update The House Ways and Means committee heard House Bill 596, legislation to address the five-day rule that governs the timeline considerations of delivering materials to parents in advance of IEP meetings.  MSEA testified in support of the legislation and to amendments offered by the bill sponsor, Delegate Anne Kaiser.  The Kaiser amendments intend to provide flexibility in how parents will receive the documents in advance of the meeting, ensure that the word “accessible” is defined, and define what the “extenuating circumstances” provision of the current law is meant to allow.
    MSEA will continue to work with Delegate Kaiser to bring common sense to the law and ensure balance is achieved between parents’ needs and educators’ workloads. Stay tuned and help us push for these important changes by emailing your legislators and asking them to fix the five-day rule.
    Parents?  Of course, they didn't show up at the March 8th public hearing because they had been told that HB 596 was not going forward as originally written.  Parents were told that the 5 business day rule on document production was not being altered.

    Cool move to keep parents from showing up at a public hearing, while allowing the union representatives to proceed with their advocacy unopposed.  The legislative session history will show that this legislation had support at the public hearing, but not that it had substantial opposition.  

    HB 596 Public Comment

    Early Voting has Begun!

    Early Voting has begun! The early voting period last from today until Thursday March 24th.

    You can vote between 10 AM and 8 PM. Here are the 5 polling stations in Montgomery County:

    Rockville, MD 20853

    Germantown Community Recreation Center
    18905 Kingsview Road
    Germantown, MD 20874

    Marilyn Praisner Community Center
    14906 Old Columbia Pike
    Burtonsville, MD 20866

    Executive Office Building
    101 Monroe Street
    Rockville, MD 20850

    Silver Spring Civic Building
    8525 Fenton Street
    Silver Spring, MD 20910

    Gazette: Opponents of Potomac development seek more records

    Group claims county planned to build 'secret' commercial sports operation on land

    Residents who say Montgomery County’s government denied them public documents about the Brickyard tract in Potomac have filed a complaint demanding the county hand over the information.
    Aimed at compelling the county to produce the information and refund the money paid so far for some documents provided in response to its November 2011 public information request, three nonprofit citizens' organizations filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court earlier this month, claiming that county executive leadership "willfully and wrongfully withheld" the information, by declaring the some documents as privileged.
    Plaintiffs in the case are the West Montgomery County Citizen' Association, Inc., Civic Association of River Falls, Inc. and Brickyard Coalition Inc., according to court documents...

    Report of Sexual Harassment in the 20 Largest U.S. School Districts

    American Association of University Women (AAUW)

    Since 1968, the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) has gathered data from schools to ensure equal educational opportunity for all children in public schools. A variety of information, including enrollment, educational programs and services, is reported by the schools, and all data are disaggregated by race/ethnicity, sex, limited English proficiency, and disability. This year, for the first time ever, the CRDC included information on harassment and bullying.

    AAUW analyzed data from the online 2009–10 CRDC by using a search tool for the largest 20 school districts based on student population and selecting three data categories for each district: allegations of bullying and harassment on the basis of sex, incidents of discipline for harassment or bullying on basis of sex, and students reported to have been harassed or bullied on basis of sex.

    The results of the AAUW analysis are shown in this table.

    Friday, March 23, 2012

    Who is Dr. Michael Perich in MCPS?

     Anyone know? We are sending him to Florida to speak about the "organizational improvement strategies" that he has implemented in MCPS.

    And if he works for MCPS, why is he selling MCPS documents on the side for $15 (plus shipping and handling)
    The 2012 Summit also features presentations on school process improvements made by Dr. Brian Marchman, the Florida Virtual School; and Dr. Michael Perich, Montgomery County Public Schools. Both of these professionals have implemented organizational improvement strategies to identify and validate leading indicators for student learning outcomes.