Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Doling out green for new artificial turf

PORT NECHES [Texas] — On Tuesday, the Port Neches-Groves ISD school board spent almost $400,000 on a new turf field for Indian Stadium, after FieldTurf, the company currently being sued by the district for installing a defective turf, offered to replace the field for free.
The district will pay a new company, Hellas Construction, $379,289 for the new synthetic turf field.
PN-GISD school board president Rodney Balsamo declined to comment on the major purchase, which is to be taken out of leftover funds from the 2007 bond, and referred all questions to the district’s attorney Lance Bradley.
“I think (the PN-GISD school board) lacks confidence in FieldTurf based on prior dealings with them,” said Bradley, during a telephone interview Tuesday. “They want a safe bet.”
FieldTurf’s offered to replace the four-year-old field but would not grant a new warranty to the replacement turf, according to Bradley.
“Do we want the field if they don’t have enough faith in it to give us a warranty?” said Bradley.

Four months ago PN-GISD entered into a lawsuit with FieldTurf, the company which installed the turf in 2008, after several evaluations reported premature deterioration of the nylon fibers in the synthetic grass surface of the field.
According to previous statements from the PN-GISD superintendent Rodney Cavness, FieldTurf was refusing to recognize their end of the contract...

School system to give more detailed finance reports

Gazette:  County council continues to request more information
The Montgomery County school system now will be required to submit to the County Council each month more details and descriptions about revenue and spending...

Floyd Starnes, the school’s principal: “But what the general public doesn’t know …

National Journal: Maryland County Is at the Intersection of Diversity, Culture, and Language
...In the MCPS system, Kemp Mill Elementary in Silver Spring is the only school that offers a dual-language program it. It is not part of the county’s ESOL division. Half of its students speak English, while the other half speak Spanish. Instruction is in both languages.
“A lot of people look at bilingual programs in general as being wonderful because they’re helping the student maintain their heritage language,” said Floyd Starnes, the school’s principal. “But what the general public doesn’t know … is that their English is better.”...

Examiner: Md. board OKs overhaul of school discipline

Maryland school officials approved sweeping changes to the state's discipline policy Tuesday, banning zero-tolerance approaches and requiring local school boards to emphasize rehabilitation over punishment.In a unanimous preliminary vote, the State Board of Education emphasized that cutting down on expulsions and long-term suspensions would translate to more classroom time and higher achievement for students, the ultimate goal of the state's school system. The changes are subject to state review and public comment and will be put to a final vote next month."No student comes to school 'perfect,' academically or behaviorally. We do not throw away the imperfect or difficult students," the state board wrote in a report explaining the changes.The board also directed the state's Education Department to identify local districts that disproportionately suspend and expel minority students, giving these systems one year to reduce the disparity and three years to eliminate it...
continue reading article at this link.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Schools Matter: Pearson and the Crumbling Foundation of Standardiz...

Who would have ever imagined that Pearson would be at the epicenter of the final quake ? 

In 2006, a math pilot program for middle school students in a Dallas-area district returned surprising results.
The students’ improved grasp of mathematical concepts stunned Walter Stroup, the University of Texas at Austin professor behind the program. But at the end of the year, students’ scores had increased only marginally on state standardized TAKS tests, unlike what Mr. Stroup had seen in the classroom.

A similar dynamic showed up in a comparison of the students’ scores on midyear benchmark tests and what they received on their end-of-year exams. Standardized test scores the previous year were better predictors of their scores the next year than the benchmark test they had taken a few months earlier.

Now, in studies that threaten to shake the foundation of high-stakes test-based accountability, Mr. Stroup and two other researchers said they believe they have found the reason: a glitch embedded in the DNA of the state exams that, as a result of a statistical method used to assemble them, suggests they are virtually useless at measuring the effects of classroom instruction.

Pearson, which has a five-year, $468 million contract to create the state’s tests through 2015, uses “item response theory” to devise standardized exams, as other testing companies do...

Appeal Likely on Brickyard Middle School Site transfer to Private Club

Appeal Likely in Brickyard Middle School Site Decision

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Parents' Coalition Fourth Annual Summer Reading List

This summer, Parents’ Coalition, like everyone else, is watching the 2012 London Summer Olympics.  And so, we thought we would focus our Summer Reading List on England, sports, and the Olympics.  In that spirit, we were honored to receive a letter from the British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Peter Westmacott, who told us that one of his favorite childhood books was Winnie-the-Pooh, because, as he writes,

“As a child I was a big fan of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, I found Pooh’s uncertainty about life endearing and familiar, Tigger energising, and Eeyore’s resigned self-pity a characteristic I continue to encounter in every walk of life. I was also very fond of another British classic, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. The Mongoose, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, was my favourite character.

During my teenage years I was drawn to anything by the novelist Hammond Innes. My father was a naval officer, and many of Innes’ novels were thrillers taking place at sea.”

We asked our friends and neighbors to tell us what their favorite books were, either about sports, the Olympics, or England and this was what we found out.

This summer our Reading List includes…

This is London.  This book introduces the magical City of London and was written by Miroslav Sasek, and first published in 1959.  An updated version is in print and still available.

The Kid Coach by Fred Bowen was a favorite of Rosanne Hurwitz, PC member and blog contributor.  Mr. Bowen also contributes to the Kid’s Page at the Washington Post.  The Kid Coach is about a team whose adult coach quits, and the kids organize to find their own coach among the team’s members.

Another PC member and blogger, Agnes Jones Trower, said that her daughter's favorite book about sports was The Magnificent Seven: the Authorized Story of American Gold, by Nancy H. Kleinbaum, because she took a few years of gymnastics at Hill's Gymnastics in the early ’90s, and knew Kelly Hill and Dominique Dawes.  The Magnificent Seven of course refers to the seven gymnasts who represented the United States in the 1996 Olympic Games.  They were the first to ever win a gold medal in the Womens Team Competition.  Kelly Hill and Dominique Dawes were on that remarkable team.

Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier…Lyda Astrove, also a PC member a blogger, recommended Rebecca.  Although not about sports (as I recall), it is an atmospheric tale that takes place in England.

So have fun, watch the Olympics, and root for your teams and athletes.  And be sure to get outside and play yourself! Have a wonderful summer and remember to send us your favorite books – we promise to post them on the blog.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rascovar: Time for procurement overhaul

Martin O’Malley is onto something: Maryland’s system for obtaining billions of dollars in contract services is horribly broken.He describes the state’s procurement fiasco as “one of the constant pebbles in our shoe.”
Make that a boulder.
Bollixed contract awards are gumming up modernization and improvement projects. Years of delay are routine in big contract disputes, which drag on interminably. Arguments rage over bidding irregularities, violations of procurement law in the bidding process and faulty decisions by procurement officers that skew outcomes.
The most recent embarrassment: a $4.5 million rejected contract for a child-support call center. An appeals board charged the procurement officer with “gross errors,” inexcusably late changes in the contract specifications and mystifying conclusions about the bidders’ qualifications. It overturned the award, calling the process “deeply flawed,” “unreasonable, illogical and improper.”...
Gazette Opinion piece continues at this link.

Asset Management Software Upgrade Sought by Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland

(Targeted News Service Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) By Targeted News Service WASHINGTON, July 27 -- The state of Maryland has issued a request for proposals notice (MDMPS31004044) on behalf of the Montgomery County Public Schools for the upgrade of maintenance work order and asset management system. A pre-bid conference is scheduled on Aug. 8. The response due date is Aug. 15.


Friday, July 27, 2012

Starr Signs Teen Dating Peace Order MOU

In February 2012, the State Department of Juvenile Services, the Sheriffs Office, State's Attorney's Office, and the Montgomery County Public Schools entered into an MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] to support the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council's effort to facilitate access to Peace Orders for teen victims of domestic violence when the perpetrator is a minor. The MOU establishes protocols that will direct the exchange of information among the agencies in order to address teen dating violence and reduce the risk of violence for Montgomery County youth.

Under the MOU, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) is responsible for:

• A MCPS designee will review peace orders involving teen dating violence and provide notification to the appropriate designee at the petitioner's and or respondent's schools.
• A MCPS designee will apprise students and parents, if appropriate of community resources regarding teen dating violence.
• MCPS administrator or, designee may assist students with the Peace Order application and submission to DJS via electronic scan of the petition when appropriate.
• The MCPS designee at each schoof will initiate coordination of the school's
response, if any to the teen dating violence incident.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Brauchli: Washington Post reporters will need editor’s approval to share drafts with sources | Poynter.

Brauchli: Washington Post reporters will need editor’s approval to share drafts with sources | Poynter.

Parent Notes on Off-Camera Board of Education Meeting - July 25, 2012

Work Session on Strategic Plan Core Values
Richard Montgomery HS, July 25, 2012

In her opening remarks, Shirley Brandman stated that the goal of the work session was not to come to a final resolution with regards to defining core values but rather to develop a consensus that will serve asa foundation guiding the Board in formulating those core values. Members of the Board of Education and MCPS staff present at the work session had received copies of the Core Values Definition, the Core Purpose Statement as well as a list of offered and proposed Core Values. These definitions were prepared by the Core Value Ad Hoc Committee whose members included Pat O’Neill, Judith Docca, Chris Barclay and Larry Bowers. Shirley Brandman asked for feedback on the draft Core Values Definition which reads as follows:

“Principles that define the culture of the organization and guide the behavior of employees in relationship with students, parents and community”.

Questions were immediately raised with regards to what groups should be included in the definition.  Dr. Starr pondered if parent and student behavior should be expected to reflect the core values. Shirley Brandman agreed that core values reflect and guide culture and it is therefore important to determine who is expected to affiliate with those values. A question was also raised whether or not the Board should be included in the definition. Chris Barclay thought that the question for a Board member should
be “Is this an organization I want to work for and have oversight responsibility?”
Judith Docca added that she considers herself an employee of the school system and therefore she expects to be guided by these values.

Following the initial discussion, the draft definition of core values was revised and it now reads:
“Principles that define the culture of the organization and guide the behavior of employees, and relationships among students, parents, staff and community.”
The discussion moved on to the draft Core Purpose Statement which was proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee as the following:
“To provide an education that develops the potential of all students and prepares them to participate in, and contribute to a global society”.
Dr. Starr opened up the discussion by stating that he gets very nervous around the word  “potential” because the word often tends to imply that only certain students have potential and others don’t. He did express his preference for simple but inspirational language. Dr. Starr also raised a relevant issue of how the Montgomery County school system wishes to position itself in terms of how it views the value of education. Is education a public good or a private commodity? He gave examples of several school systems where education is considered a private commodity. The list includes New York, Denver, New Orleans.

Shirley Brandman asked other Board members and staff to break into groups to come up with additional descriptions to enrich the current Core Purpose Statement. After soliciting those ideas, she also determined that the participants showed a tendency to consider an education as a public good as opposed to a private commodity. The input provided by the Board members and staff included the following:

-to prepare students for their future
-to inspire teaching and learning for students every day so that they can change the world
-to provide an education that maximizes the opportunities for students and provides endless possibilities to participate in a global society

The group then proceeded to discuss the draft core values proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee. Those core values include: equity, excellence, continuous improvement, collaboration, and respect.  Dr. Starr stated that “equity is all about a belief system and defines who we are”.  Pat O’Neill added that it also captures students as assets. Both Judith Docca and Chris Barclay agreed that it is important to treat students as assets and move away from the negative language that now defines topics such as increased enrollment, high FARMS rate or diversity, and start discussing these issues as positives.

The Board continued to discuss individual core values and their tag lines for the rest of the afternoon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Texas Observer Exposes Washington Post Education Reporting

Washington Post reporter Daniel de Vise covered Montgomery County Public Schools before moving to his current assignment covering higher education.

Washington Post Reporter Allows College Officials to Alter Story on Controversial Test 
Reporter breaks journalistic convention by sharing entire drafts with ‘customers’ in University of Texas press office.
In February, Daniel de Vise, a reporter for the Washington Post, arrived at the University of Texas at Austin campus to work on a story about a controversial standardized test sweeping the nation’s colleges and universities. The test purports to determine how much students have learned in college, part of a movement to bring No Child Left Behind-style accountability testing to higher education. University officials were nervous about what the story would say about the politically sensitive topic. Before he landed in Austin, de Vise emailed UT’s director of communications to reassure him that the article was “NOT meant to be any sort of hit piece, more of a thought-provoker.”
De Vise’s visit was fairly routine journalism. He toured campus, visited with students and interviewed administrators. But when de Vise returned to Washington, D.C., he employed some unusual, perhaps even unethical, techniques.
Before publication, de Vise shared at least two complete drafts of his article with UT’s press officers and allowed them to suggest critical edits, some of which ended up in the published story, according to emails obtained by The Texas Observer through a public information request... 
..."Everything here is negotiable," de Vise wrote to Tara Doolittle, director of media outreach at UT-Austin on March 5. "Help me out by not circulating this material very far and by stressing that it is an unpublished draft. If you or anyone at the university has any concerns about it, I implore you to direct them to me. I'm one of a very few reporters here who send drafts to sources!"
In another email, de Vise wrote that he's "never had a dissatisfied customer in this process. And that includes an article a few months ago about a school with one of the nation's worst graduation rates.”...
...De Vise declined comment and referred questions to his editor Nick Anderson, the education editor for the Post, who said he stands by the story. “The story was completely up to our standards,” Anderson said. “It’s a good, fair story and tough story that I think stands the test of time.” Asked about de Vise sharing drafts with sources, Anderson said that the reporter’s “interaction with sources are made in an effort to be fair, complete and accurate as possible.”
Anderson wouldn’t comment on whether the Post has a policy on reporters sharing story drafts with sources.
A call to a Post spokesperson seeking comment about editorial policy wasn’t returned...

Whom do you trust?

County Council committee continues talks on school system finances. 
 Ervin: More information to be required in monthly financial reports.
 by Jen Bondeson Staff Writer. Gazette, Wednesday, July 25, 2012
When the Montgomery County Council’s Education Committee meets on Thursday, they will talk about how they can more closely monitor Montgomery County Public Schools spending, Councilwoman Valerie Ervin said. The committee might ask the Office of Legislative Oversight to look further into the school system’s financial reporting, she said. The committee has in the past relied on the school board to go through the details of the budget and then trusted the board to relay information to the council in a clear and concise way, without hiding anything, she said. “We found out that that was wrong,” she said.
To read the whole Gazette article, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

State school board passes emergency regulations after concerns about concussions in student-athletes

The Baltimore Sun:  Coaches required to get more training about head injuries

Exclusive Video: Board of Education and County Council Lunch Meeting July 24, 2012

Minute 10:30 - Starr, "We have essentially cornered the market on the academic piece."
Minute 36:00 - Leventhal, "I do think culture is really important...we have very different cultures...9 independent cats...
Minute 41:00 - Ervin, "...We have to work together, too..."
Minute 41:46 - Elrich, "Count me cynical...lots of lofty statements..."

Around the table, starting to the left of the camera:

George Leventhal - Council
Phil Kauffman  - BOE
Christopher Barclay - BOE
Laura Berthiaume  - BOE
Joshua Starr, Superintendent
Shirley Brandman - BOE
John Mannes -  BOE student member
Phil Andrews - Council
Craig Rice - Council
Marc Elrich  - Council
Roger Berliner - Council
Hans Riemer - Council
Nancy Floreen  - Council
Patricia O'Neill - BOE
Valerie Ervin  - Council
Michael Durso  - BOE
Nancy Navarro - Council

Absent:  Judy Docca - BOE

Off-Camera Board of Education Meeting July 25, 2012

The Board of Education claims that their work on new a Strategic Plan and Core Values is important.  That's what they told the Montgomery County Council at their July 24, 2012 lunch meeting.

Yet, the Board of Education keeps hiding off camera to discuss these changes.  There is no Agenda posted for this meeting and it will not be televised.  
What's the big secret?

Wed, July 25 
12:00 PM 
Work Session on Strategic Plan Core Values -- Richard Montgomery High School

Off-Camera Meeting Today: Board of Ed. and County Council

Montgomery County Council for July 24, 2012:  

12:20 p.m.  RECESS (12:30 p.m. LUNCH with Board of Education in 6th floor conference room)

Location:  Montgomery County Council office building. 

There is no public agenda for this meeting. 

There will be no public record of the discussion today of these two elected bodies.  

The only way for the public to find out what will be discussed is to attend this meeting.  Lunch will be served.  Come hungry, you are paying. 

In previous years, these meetings weren't even posted to any Agendas. After an Open Meetings Act complaint was filed with the Maryland Attorney General's office, the County Council started posting the dates and times of these meetings.  However, they still do not post a public agenda.  The Parents' Coalition believes that the public has a right to know what these two elected bodies discuss at these meetings.  And so, we have attended and video taped some of the past meetings.  You can view our past videos of County Council - Board of Education Lunches at this link. 

Credit recovery programs boost high school graduation rates, but abuse remains a concern

Anxiety rises with grades

Googling to graduation.
Click, click, credit.
That's what critics call "credit recovery" education programs, which are increasingly used at high schools across New York as a way for struggling students to complete coursework online or using workbooks in subjects they've previously failed or in which they've fallen behind.
School employees who administer credit recovery programs and some graduates say many students simply Google the answers and fill in the blanks, because there is little adult supervision. Even though schools have panels of educators to approve all work that receives credit, some worry it's not enough to prevent abuse.
Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Anxiety-rises-with-grades-3707721.php#ixzz21VKP25Xb

Monday, July 23, 2012

Board of Ed. obtains Sibling's class work to use Against Child in Hearing

"Somebody in the school system, [at _______ elementary school] or somebody else, took her daughter's journal, went through it, copied a page, provided it to the school system's lawyer to use -- potentially use against her in this case." (Page 7 of transcript section shown below.)
This is the fifth in our series of due process hearing transcripts illustrating how the Montgomery County Board of Education uses extraneous arguments and documents to grill parents for days on end. How does any of this relate to the question of the educational needs of the child?

The transcript below is from a hearing involving the special education needs of a child. In order to protect the privacy of the parties, we will use the following:
Child = the child that is the subject of this hearing
Maisy = the sibling of Child
Mother = the mother of Child and Maisy
The attorneys in this matter are:
Mr. Eig = Child's attorney
Mr. KrewMontgomery County Board of Education attorney

In this transcript, Mr. Eig questions Mother as to whether or not she knew that the Board of Education had obtained Maisy's school journal.  Maisy's journal was item number 90 on the Board of Education's list of potential exhibits. The Board of Education's attorney responds that the journal was to be introduced in to evidence if "there was some reason to do so". (Page 5 of transcript below.)  "Some Reason?"  The only reason would be to bully or harass the parents, of course.  Is bullying and harassing parents the goal of a hearing on a child's special education needs?

Maisy's journal had to travel out of her classroom, to the Principal, to the Community Superintendent, to the Superintendent, and then to the Board of Education in order to become a part of Child's hearing.  It took a lot of MCPS administrators and the Board of Education to first find this journal, read it, and then decide to produce it as a piece of evidence that could be used against her sibling, Child.

The journey of Maisy's journal shows an institutional acceptance of opposing children that need special education services, even to the extent of taking a siblings class work without the permission of the parents.

Superintendent Starr says, "What you permit is what you promote."

Superintendent Starr, this happened on your watch.

Note that after the Child's attorney exposes that the Board of Education took a sibling's class work and brought it to the hearing, the Board of Education's attorney attempts to object to the introduction of this document.  The Board of Education brought this document to the hearing, but then doesn't want any discussion of how it came to be on the evidence list.

Transcript 5

Starr Releases Confidential Memos, Exposes Secret Agendas

On June 15, 2012, we asked Superintendent Joshua Starr, as Secretary of the Board of Education, for Agenda and Minutes of Board meetings where union contracts were discussed.  Board member Laura Berthiaume had stated that she had not been a part of the discussions of the union contracts, and we wanted to find out when the meetings that Ms. Berthiaume missed were held. 

34 days after we made our request, the MCPS Public Relations office forwarded the documents shown below. 

To our surprise what was released were Confidential Agendas for Closed Board of Education sessions. No minutes were provided to accompany these Agendas.

Confidential Agendas for Closed Board of Education meetings?  Why is the Board of Education seeing a different Agenda than the Closed Session Resolution that is released to the public?  Remember, in order for the Board to go in to a Closed Session they must first meet in the Open and vote to go in to a Closed Session.  The public has the right to observe the discussion of the Board when they decide to go into a Closed Session.  

But, what these documents show us is that when the Board of Education discusses and votes to go into a Closed Session, they are looking at a different Agenda than the Resolution that has been released to the public.

For example, the Board of Education released a Resolution showing what they would discuss in a Closed Session on November 8, 2011.  But, as you can see from the Confidential Agenda shown below, the Board of Education is given a little more information in their Agenda than what is released to the public.  The public was not informed that the land acquisition discussion concerned the Northwest Cluster, nor did the public know that the litigation being discussed involved Mr. Maravell.

Is keeping the Agenda for a Closed Session a secret in compliance with the Maryland Open Meetings Act?


Sunday, July 22, 2012

MCPS Mom Endorses MCPS Dad's Proposal to State Board of Education on Concussions

Kristen Sheely, mother of Derek Sheely and former MCPS mom and employee, endorses MCPS parent Tom Hearn's proposal to the Maryland State Board of Education to improve concussion safety of Maryland school athletes.

The Maryland State Board of Education will respond to Mr. Hearn's request at their July 24, 2012 meeting.

PCRM | Doctors Petition USDA to Remove Milk as Required Food from School Lunches

PCRM | Doctors Petition USDA to Remove Milk as Required Food from School Lunches

Friday, July 20, 2012

Equity and Access....at Disney World Resort!

Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. Lake Buena Vista, FL. July 18-22, 2012. AP Annual Conference. 1:15–2:30 p.m. Concurrent Workshop Sessions. Administrator Strand. Presenter: James Koutsos and Christine Handy-Collins, Gaithersburg High School, Gaithersburg, MD
Expanding Access to AP and an Action Plan for Success: The Tale of Two Schools What can administrators do to increase AP enrollment and success for students of color? After the students are enrolled, how do you provide them with the academic supports that they need to be successful? How do you monitor student progress? Attendees will hear how these two schools have increased enrollment in AP for students of color and created supports during the school day, funded a summer camp for first time takers of AP, and implemented a range of strategies to support students and help them to prepare for the AP exam. Attendees will develop an Action Plan and have real take away strategies that they can use to prepare students of color for the rigors of AP courses. This will be an interactive session where attendees engage in activities that lead to developing an Action Plan for their AP program for the upcoming school year.
***** FYI:
Want to visit some of Orlando’s world famous parks and attractions? The College Board is pleased to offer an array of discounts to AP Annual Conference attendees and their guests. Purchase your theme park tickets early and SAVE! These are exclusive to AP Annual Conference attendees and families and are not available at theme park ticket windows. Tickets are available for Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Sea World and other Orlando attractions. Walt Disney World passes include Park Hopper privileges that allow you to come and go as you please. For those with limited time, one- or two-day afternoon tickets are also available.

MCPS Parent's Petition to State Board of Ed. Gets Action on Concussion Issue

On Tuesday, July 24, 2012, the Maryland State Board of Education will respond to MCPS parent Tom Hearn's Petition asking for the adoption of regulations concerning traumatic head injuries (concussions) during Maryland public school athletic events.

Action Items...10:45 a.m. 6. Traumatic Head Injuries and Options for Responding to Petition for Adoption of Regulations

Poor Planning Results in Overcrowded Arcola

School system plans 3 more portables for Arcola Elementary - Community angered about chosen solution to MCPS crowding - Gazette, July 17, 2012 by Alissa Gulin, Special To The Gazette
Parents aired objections Monday to a school system plan to erect three portable classrooms outside 4-year-old Arcola Elementary School in Wheaton. Many parents — angered because they said the school never consulted them before launching the project — said they worry the portables could jeopardize children’s safety, damage the landscape, and lower the quality of instruction. (...) In 2008, construction of Arcola — one of the county’s largest elementary schools — helped mitigate existing issues with crowding. “We were assured the school would be an adequate size for years to come,” Greene said. “And now they want to keep adding more [portables].” (...)
To read the whole Gazette article, click HERE. To see photos of Arcola Elementary storm damage and portable preparation, CLICK HERE.

BOE attorney: “Do Women Ever Object that You’re Taking a Seven Year Old into the Ladies Room?

This is the fourth in our series of due process hearing transcripts illustrating how the Montgomery County Board of Education uses extraneous arguments to grill parents about the special education needs of their child.  In this transcript, a mother is questioned about taking her child into a public restroom in an airport.

In addition to asking the mother about taking her child into a public restroom, the Board of Education's attorney feels the need to know if the mother took the child into the handicapped or regular stall.  The Board attorney also inquires, “Does he go by himself or do you go in the men’s room with him?” 

Why is the Board of Education interested in a child's outside bathroom activities?  School toileting issues are clearly within the concerns of the Board of Education.  But, how does this line of questioning relate to anything concerning the child's public school education?  Does the Board of Education really need to know which stall a parent uses when in a public restroom?   

Is this line of questioning about the needs of the child, or just more grilling of the parents to run up the bill?  Another day, another $6K?

Mothers of our community are you outraged?

 Transcript 4

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Breaking News: Listen Live to BOE & Planning Board Dinner Meeting!

Due to the power outage at Brookside Gardens, the Board of Education and the Planning Board joint dinner meeting is being held in the Planning Board auditorium and the microphones are turned on! 

Listen live now at this link by searching the audio archives. 
The meeting has now concluded.

Breaking News: Brookside Gardens loses power. BOE and Planning Board forced to move public dinner meeting

This is an update of our previous blog posting on the off-site Board of Education and Planning Board meeting that was to be held this evening at Brookside Gardens.  The meeting has now been moved to the Planning Board auditorium.

Will it now be televised or recorded so that the public can observe the discussion of these two public bodies?

6:30 PM
Joint Meeting of the Planning Board and Board of Education
(No Public Testimony Will be Taken)
071912 Agenda (1)

Parents sue Montgomery County schools, football coaches over son's death

News Channel 8 reports:

Rosemary Hills will assign students to classes based on neighborhood for 2012-2013 school year.

A boundary change is coming for the BCC Cluster in 2013-2014.  In the meantime, one principal is putting children from the same neighborhood into classes for the 2012-2013 school year.  
UPDATED July 2  for Rosemary Hills Elementary Parents: 
The RHPS [Rosemary Hills Primary School] principle is amenable to ensuring East Bethesda students who will go on to attend BE [Bethesda Elementary] will have some other BE [Bethesda Elementary] bound students in their classes for the 2012-2013 school year.  
Parents who noted they lived in East Bethesda on kindergarten orientation forms will be placed with some other East Bethesda students.  Parents of Grade 1 and 2 students, and kindergarten parents who did not indicate East Bethesda residency at orientation, who would like to be placed with other East Bethesda students should forward the request in writing to RHPS Principle Ms. Debbie Ryan(Debbie_C_Ryan@mcpsmd.org).  

UPDATE July 19, 2012 12:30 PM:  Someone edited the wording of this website page after we posted this paragraph.  So, for our readers, below is the screen shot of the original webpage that we took when the above paragraph was posted.  The words after the red update have now been changed on the website. The original July 2nd paragraph started with "The RHPS Principal is..."  and was posted above.  You can go to the actual website at the link above and see what they have posted now, but who knows, it may be changed again or deleted.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

BOE and Planning Board to Hide at Brookside Gardens July 19, 2012

Off camera.

No meeting agenda on Planning Board website.

The Board of Education didn't even list this on their master agenda until after the Planning Board posted it!  The Board of Education only posted the meeting agenda 48 hours before the meeting.

This is a joint public meeting of these two public bodies being held at remote location without cameras or webcast!

That's the way we like our government in Montgomery County!  

But, just so you know...this is a PUBLIC MEETING.  The public is WELCOME to attend.

Best part? It includes DINNER.  So come hungry, you are picking up the tab! 

Joint Meeting of the Planning Board and Board of Education
(No Public Testimony Will be Taken)

"Can you tell us as you sit here under oath today that there are no cobwebs anywhere in your house?"

Did you know that when a MCPS employee or contractor comes to your home to provide educational services to your child they are also taking notes on the cobwebs and scruff marks in your home?

This is the third in our series of transcripts showing what goes on during a MCPS hearing on special education services for public school children. [Update: In this transcript the child's attorney is questioning the parent in response to the document introduced by the Board of Education's attorney regarding 1 cob web and 1 scuff mark in the child's home.] 

Apparently, the Montgomery County Board of Education considers ONE COBWEB in your home to be a sign of an unclean home.  Scuff marks? Let's hope there are none in your home!  We all know how dangerous scuff marks are to the health of a child! (We are sure that a major lab is working on a "scuff mark" vaccine for infants.)

Everyone that can certify under oath that as of today there are no cobwebs in your home or apartment, please comment below.  Remember, you are swearing under oath, and if one cobweb is found it is evidence of your parenting. 

Reminder:  Taxpayers are paying $6,000 a day for these hearings.  Every additional inane question by the Board attorney adds on to the bill that we pay the outside attorney.  It's your money.  This is how the Board of Education chooses to spend it.

In this transcript:
Mr. Krew = Montgomery County Board of Education outside attorney.  
Mr. Eig = child's attorney
C = child
M = mother
Transcript 3

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

BOE Attorney: "...did they wipe the pit bull down with Handi Wipes before bringing him into the house?"

This is the second in our series of excerpts from MCPS hearings on special education services for public school children.

In this transcript, we have the Montgomery County Board of Education's attorney asking a parent, "Well, did they wipe the pit bull down with Handi Wipes before bringing him into the house?"  

We offer no explanation why such a question would ever be asked of anyone.  Ever.  We have no idea how this relates to the special education services that a child receives in public school as part of their free, appropriate education.  

We leave it up to the animal rights activists to debate the use of Handi Wipes on dogs.  

The Board of Education's attorney also asks a number of questions that seem to infer that pit bulls are inherently dangerous dogs, and that any parent that allows their child to be near one is less than a good parent.  We leave this to the Maryland pit bull Task Force for their comment. 

We do remind readers that the Board of Education pays its outside counsel approximately $6,000 a day to represent them in these hearings.  Clearly, it is in the attorneys' interest to extend out the time of the hearing. Your tax dollars at work. 

In this transcript:
Mr. Krew = Montgomery County Board of Education outside attorney.  
Mr. Eig = child's attorney
C = child

PB = dog, pit bull mix 
M = mother

Transcript 2

Why We Cheat

The Spectator, The Stuyvesant High School Newspaper
...Academic dishonesty stems from a profound lack of respect in our school community, as well as a sense of combative division between students and the faculty and administration. We are a school that puts far more emphasis on the quantitative value of numbers and statistics than on the importance of learning and knowledge. The work assigned in many classes reflects this approach to education. Busywork assignments asking students to perform onerous tasks, such as copying down physics problems verbatim from a Regents review book, send a clear message that deep, conceptual understanding of material is worthless when compared to high scores on a standardized test. This type of assignment completely disrespects the material being taught, and ultimately insults students’ academic skills...

Monday, July 16, 2012

BOE Attorney: "How do you know that it wasn't somebody that had AIDS?"

The Montgomery County Board of Education has attorneys that are paid upwards of $6,000 a day to represent them in litigation against parents and guardians.  The attorneys are paid from the MCPS Operating Budget, thus diverting funds that could be used to educate children to fighting parents and guardians. We know that these special education hearings and trials can drag on for days and weeks.

What goes on at one of these hearings? We thought our readers might like to take a peek at a transcript from a hearing to get an idea.  You might imagine that such a hearing would be packed with the discussion of education issues, the child's strengths and weaknesses, school facilities, resources etc...

You might be surprised to find out how much time the Board of Education spends in these hearings trying to paint the parents and guardians as "bad" parents and guardians.

As you can see from the transcript below, in this hearing the Board of Education spent time having their attorney grill the parents about a vacation that they took.

At one point, the Board's attorney is questioning the parents about the cleanliness of their vacation rental.  The Board of Education apparently thinks that it is appropriate, and required, that parents ask rental agencies about the health of previous tenants of vacation rentals.  Including, asking if previous renters had AIDS.  

We don't understand this question on any level, and we certainly don't understand why precious education dollars are being spent to grill parents about who previously rented their vacation rental.

If anyone can explain the relevance of this question to a hearing on public educational services for a child, please help us out and post in the comments.  Thanks.

In this transcript the people are:  
Mr. Krew = Montgomery County Board of Education outside attorney.  
Mr. Eig = child's attorney
C = child
S = siblings
M = mother
X = nurse
Transcript 1

NYT: "an episode that has blemished one of the country’s most prestigious public schools"

...The cheating involved several state exams and was uncovered after a cellphone was confiscated from a 16-year-old junior during a citywide language exam on June 18, according to a city Department of Educationinvestigation.
Cellphones are not permitted in city schools, and when officials looked into the student’s phone, they found a trail of text messages, including photos of test pages, that suggested pupils had been sharing information about state Regents exams while they were taking them.
Sixty-nine students had received the messages and responded to them, the department said...
The New York Times:   At Top School, Cheating Voids 70 Pupils’ Tests

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Former Weast Admin. Quits Norwalk after 2 Years

Susan Marks quits as the Norwalk, CT Superintendent amid a major budget crisis.  But, not without bringing MCPS no-bid contractor Wireless Generation to Norwalk.  
Susan Marks was on Superintendent Joshua Starr's transition team.  Norwalk, CT is right down 95 from Stamford, CT.  Is Marks heading back to MCPS to be one of Starr's administrators? 

Norwalk Citizen:  Marks: 'It's been a privilege to be here'

..."It's been rumored that she would take a leave of absence...so it's not exactly a surprise. On the other hand, the timing of it is absolutely shocking," said Barbara Smyth, a former Norwalk teacher who has been organizing rallies to show support for the schools before BOE and BET meetings the last couple of months.
"As someone who has been involved so much in the last couple of months, I feel deeply concerned," Smyth said. "I feel concerned because of what we are dealing with right now, in terms of this profound budget crisis. And in addition needing to move forward with looking deeply into accounting practices and things that have been problematic that need to be fixed. There is so much work to be done and to think about moving forward without a leader is quite scary."
The $4 million deficit was caused by overruns in the insurance and other post-employee benefits...
..."We brought in over a million dollars worth of public-private partnerships for programs and initiatives," Marks said. "We are on the cutting edge of the Common Core State Standards... . I think we have raised the focus on ensuring that children are college ready. We've given the PSAT for the first time to all the 10th and 11th graders. We brought in the wireless generation automated system for assessing literacy in two of our schools, and it will be extended to a third school."...

The Hour:  Dr. Susan Marks resigns as Norwalk Public Schools superintendent
... “Personally, I think it was the lack of being able to do some things,” she said.Norwalk Federation of Teachers president Bruce Mellion was not surprised by Marks’ resignation and said she did not have the support of teachers, with 70 percent giving her a D and 30 percent an F in a May 2012 survey.
“She was over her head before she even started. The one compliment I’ll give her is she tried to get out to the schools to see what was happening,” he said. “At the end of the day, we have nothing to show for the 25 months we were here and we’re further behind than we were when we started.”
Mellion said Marks picked the wrong battles and worked with the wrong people.
“She shot her mouth off about things. She picked battles that she shouldn’t have had and she didn’t listen to people who have been here. She was really, really lost,” said Mellion, adding that Marks did not respond as well to the needs of the city’s 11,000 students. “I think she pandered to the mayor and the Board of Education and the Board of Estimate.”...

Surface temperatures remain a major issue on artificial turf fields.

Penn State's Center for Sports Surface Research:  Synthetic Turf Heat Evaluation – Progress Report

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Hairston gave employment contracts to two top aides before retiring

Former Baltimore County school superintendent Joe A. Hairston signed employment contracts before he retired with two top aides that would pay them nearly a half-million dollars in severance if his successor fired them when bringing in his own leadership team...
The Baltimore Sun:  Hairston gave employment contracts to two top aides before retiring

Let's Read! Let's Move!

Parents’ Coalition was honored to be invited to the Department of Education’s annual summer event, Let’s Read! Let’s Move! which took place this past week, on July 11th.  The event started off with games, with the kids all playing 'Simon Says,' and 'Hot Potato,'  Then we all settled down and listened to a few good books.  US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (left in photo) hosted special guests Samuel Kass (center in photo), WH Chef, and the Obamas’ trainer, Cornell McClellan (right in photo).  Chef Kass read, ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ and Mr. McClellan read ‘Froggy Learns to Swim’ to the children.  Mr. McClellan stressed how important it is that everyone know how to swim.  Afterwards the kids all had lots of questions.  To Chef Kass: what is your favorite meal? His answer: spaghettis and tacos.  What is his favorite food? Vegetables! Lots and lots of vegetables. And some fish.  Both Sec Duncan and Mr. McClellan echoed that. Vegetables! was the word of the day.  Chef Kass emphasized that it takes a long time to learn a skill and involves lots of failures.  You just need to keep working at it.  What does he like to cook? 'Green beans, corn, fish, foods that are in season.'   Other questions were, what exercises does Mr. McClellan do with the Obamas? His answer, ‘lots of different kinds of exercises.  Jump rope, jumping jacks, and boxing.’  He said, 'it's important to just move.  Almost any activity you do' is exercise.  Also, sports is another way of getting exercise, and the Obamas play all different kids of sports, like basketball, soccer, and swimming.  And, how much exercise should we do? Answer: at least 30 minutes every day.  So, go for it!

After reading and talking about the books, we all went outside to play games like relay races, and basketball.  Thanks to Target, all the kids chose a book to take home, and received a backpack with snacks and treats.  A special shout-out to Target, which is focused on early childhood learning and reading.

What fun! Thanks so much to Michelle Draughn and Juliette Rizzo for working so hard to organize this event and getting the message across to our children: Let’s Read! And Let’s Move!

MCPS already scheduling 2013 conferences! No shortage of travel funds!

PRE-03TW: Mission Possible: Proliferating a Culture of Universal Design For Learning

Speaker(s): Beth Poss, Montgomery County Public Schools; Christopher Bugaj, Loudoun County Public Schools
Date: Tuesday, January 29 – Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Time: 8:00AM – 4:00PM

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Power of Open Education Data | The White House

The Power of Open Education Data | The White House

$5,000 membership fee for 3 MCPS administrators

We don't know which 3 MCPS administrators are members of this organization, but we do know that MCPS is a member.  We also know that based on the dues structure, MCPS would have to pay at least $5,000 to be a member of this organization.

Is membership in this and other organizations more important than a classroom teacher?  Superintendent Starr and the Board of Education think so!