Friday, November 30, 2012

Richard Montgomery HS apparently left with artificial turf field debt

The Montgomery Sentinel is reporting that Real Maryland soccer has suspended operations for the 2013 season. Under a five year agreement that begin in February 2009, Real Maryland (a.k.a. Maryland Soccer Enterprises) had committed to funding a large portion of the cost of the artificial turf field at Richard Montgomery High School.

From the article:
The lack of ownership also raises concerns about the turf field located at Richard Montgomery High School that Real Maryland sponsored and help fund in 2009.

As of press time, Dana Tofig, spokesman for the Montgomery County Public Schools said MCPS had not received any notice from Real Maryland and was unsure how the soccer team’s exodus would affect Richard Montgomery or if there was a remaining fiduciary responsibility.
 The entire article can be found here.

FYI: MCPS Vending Machine Policy

Effective Date August 1, 2006:

Vending Machine Policy.pdf

Source:  Board of Education, Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

PG Legislators Demand Plastic Grass on All HS Fields by 2018!

Talk about an unfunded mandate. 

Here's a new bill being introduced by Senator Douglas J. J. Peters and Delegate Jay Walker from Prince George's County.  They want the Maryland State Legislature to pass a law, yes a law, that requires the Prince George's County Board of Education to install plastic grass on all Prince George's High School fields by 2018.  

No mention of where the $34 MILLION dollars (low estimate) would come from.  Guess the Maryland taxpayers will be picking up the tab for this plastic grass.  How long before the Montgomery County Delegation wants in on this deal? 

Any guesses on the no bid vendor that will install all these plastic fields?  
Yes, we all know who will get these projects.  No surprise there.  Taxpayers will not have the benefit of any competitive bidding on these plastic grass installations.  We will pay top dollar to the State of Maryland exclusive vendor.

PG 404-13

"... I'm not a big fan of schools using their limited funds to purchase Interactive White Boards..."

Classroom Q and A With Larry Ferlazzo: What Are The Best Ways To Use Interactive White Boards?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

D.C. fires two after 4-year-old left on school bus |

D.C. fires two after 4-year-old left on school bus |

In 2010, natural grass was MCPS "standard".

"MCPS noted that natural turf is still the county standard for the stadium field, however, consideration of an artificial turf field will be explored as an add alternate, along with support by local business partners to fund the artificial turf." See p. 3 at link.

Video #6: Starr on Opting Out of Testing

Question #6 from November 26, 2012, MCPS Special Education Advisory Committee meeting with Superintendent Starr.
Starr on parents who have their students skip state tests.

Video #5: Starr "Central Office people were working in silos"

Question #5 from November 26, 2012, MCPS Special Education Advisory Committee meeting with Superintendent Starr.
Superintendent Starr's reason for realigning the MCPS Central Office. 

Hearing for Local Bills, Monday, December 3rd

Monday, December 3, 2012House Hearing for local bills - 7:00 p.m. - 3rd Floor Hearing Room, Stella Werner Council Office Bldg., 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850 - Local bills refer to legislation affecting issues specific to Montgomery County.
Click here to sign up to testify

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Video #4: Starr's Seven Keys Myth

Question #4 from November 26, 2012, MCPS Special Education Advisory Committee meeting with Superintendent Starr.

In this question, Superintendent Joshua Starr was asked about the MCPS Seven Keys in relation to special education students.  

Superintendent Starr begins his answer to the question by spinning a tall tale about how the MCPS Seven Keys were created.  Apparently, Superintendent Starr has not been told that the Seven Keys were created by Jerry Weast as his personal vision for use in his presentations at conventions.  The Seven Keys were not the result of some MCPS "study".  

In 2006 parents first learned of Superintendent Jerry Weast's "vision" of the Seven Keys.  They were discussed in a Harvard paper on MCPS.  From the Harvard paper (page 10) we learned: 

..."During subsequent administrative gatherings and MCPS Board of Education meetings, Weast continued the dialogue on institutional barriers and racism and defined what he called “The Path to Achievement,” which concisely communicated his vision of what every student should achieve before graduating from MCPS (see Exhibit 9 for “The Path to Achievement” slide). When conveying his related strategy for closing the achievement gap in simplest terms, he used the formula “Access + Equity + Rigor = Achievement.”"...

The Seven Keys went through a few changes over the years and the name was changed from "The Path to Achievement" to the "Seven Keys". 

Now, listen to Superintendent Starr's version of where he thinks the Seven Keys came from.  

Video #3: Starr on leaving out children with special education needs from his State of the Schools speech

Question #3 from November 26, 2012, MCPS Special Education Advisory Committee meeting with Superintendent Starr:
Answer includes Superintendent Starr saying he will not give families his vision for special education students in MCPS, students relegated to basement, when I say I won't do it, what about every other group...

Video #2: Starr "it's not an initiative"

Question #2 from November 26, 2012, MCPS Special Education Advisory Committee meeting with Superintendent Starr:
Answer includes Superintendent Starr's explanation of his social, emotional learning agenda, it's not an initiative, it's not in a binder, it's not a curriculum that teachers are going to get, state test score is not end all, be all goal, increasing collective awareness, has to be embedded...

Video #1: Starr on math acceleration, Pearson curriculum

Question #1 from November 26, 2012, MCPS Special Education Advisory Committee meeting with Superintendent Starr:
Answer includes Superintendent Starr discussing: Pearson Curriculum 2.0, teacher training in new curriculum, assessment of schools was done (?), don't care about No Child Left Behind, there's been a math work group and all that, push to accelerate, kids were being held back, fixed mindset, Carol Dweck book, social emotional piece, anyone take the SATs?, math concepts.

Overemphasis on the MSAs: Even the KIDS get it!

Even the children in MCPS "get" it.  Here's a delightful letter written by a fifth grader, and posted on the "Crunchy Progressive Parenting" blog  on November 8, 2012, about how MSA test prep activities are excessive:

To Whom It May Concern,
    What is the point of the practice MSAs? If they’re just to get us ready for the proper MSA, we already are. Most of the fifth-graders have taken it at least once, and the fourth-graders have usually taken it once before. I know there are some people who have just come to this school and are new, and the third-graders certainly haven’t taken it before. Maybe they should have the practice MSA, but it doesn’t mean all three grades should have to take it. It messes up schedules, and last year, I had to choose between instrumental music and my special. Nobody offered a make-up time, instructions on which to do, or even an apology I’d have to miss something. I don’t even think that’s a choice people should have to make.    It also eats up our reading and math time. We don’t even get to read when we finish a section of the practice MSAs! Maybe it’s not allowed on the real one, but what about the practices? You’re supposed to check your work when you’re done. Okay. Once you’ve checked your work three times and you still have ten or fifteen or maybe twenty minutes left, is there any merit to checking it again? And then what are you supposed to do? If it’s still “good practice”, why is it as strict as the real MSA?    Last year, among all the vocabulary quizzes, words of the day, and learning time spent reviewing strategies and going through packets, I think we got in more than enough practice time, and the tests really seemed unnecessary.    MSAs are about reading and math, but instead of spending our time working up to the MSA focusing on reading and math(and science, in the case of the fifth-graders), we focus on test strategies. We’re learning how to take a test, not how to be good at reading and math.    Altogether, I think we overload on MSA practice.
Sincerely,(5th grader)

If this wonderful 5th grader sees the flaws with endless "test prep," why can't the adults in charge? Sign this kid up on my team.

Over $10 Million without Competitive Bids in 24 Hours

Joint House and Senate Priorities Hearing
Montgomery County Delegation to the Maryland General Assembly
Rockville, Maryland
November 14, 2012

In the last 24 hours, Montgomery County Public Schools has confirmed purchases totaling over $10 million that will be made without the issuance of Requests for Proposals or competitive bids.  These are not purchases that are part of any other procurement program.  In the past, these exact same purchases were made without even contracts.

While in the past the Board of Education President would sign off on MCPS contracts, purchases can now be made without contracts and without Board of Education approval.  Attached is an example showing the signature of a MCPS staff member in the place marked “Board of Education”.(See page 4) 
1.  Yesterday, the County Council held a hearing on a $2,042,000 Appropriation request from MCPS.  During the course of the hearing it was revealed that MCPS would be buying 2,000 Interactive White Boards from a London based company without the use of competitive bids or a bulk buying contract.  The MCPS Chief Technology Officer simply contacted the company and the deal was made.

What is the result of this? The result if that at least 2 Montgomery County vendors of Interactive White Boards were unable to bid on this procurement that will total $8,900,000, including one vendor that is minority owned.  A MCPS purchase that could have gone to a Montgomery County vendor will instead go to a London based company.
This morning I sent each of you a video clip of the Council hearing yesterday where the no bid purchase was discussed. 
2.  Later in the day, the Montgomery County Board of Education met to discuss putting an artificial turf field at a high school.  Before the Board had even voted on the installation, MCPS staff announced the vendor that would be used for the artificial turf installation.  Once again, this is a foreign based company and companies based in the United States are unable to bid on this procurement.  The vendor for the construction was picked before any formal bidding process.
There really is no solution to the problem of MCPS skirting procurement laws.  My information is just to notify you that procurement laws are not working and are unenforceable.
3.  In January of 2009, the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits released their last Audit of Montgomery County Public Schools.  We are almost 4 years from when that Audit was released. Our public school system has a budget of over $2 billion dollars.  That’s over $8.4 billion dollars that has been spent without an Audit.  The timing of State Audits needs to be every 2 years, not every 4 to 6.

4.  The State Board of Education has no time limit on when they must release Opinions from Appeals.  In some cases the State Board of Education has sat on decisions for a year.  This makes the review process of the State Board of Education meaningless.  Please consider placing a time limit on when Opinions of the State Board of Education must be released.
5.  Appeals to the State Board must be filed within 30 days under the current law.  However, there are situations where the parties impacted by a Board of Education decision are not even aware of the Board’s actions until after 30 days.  Please consider extending the time limit on Appeals to protect citizens that may not have notice of Board of Education actions that impact their neighborhood.
Thank you,
Janis Sartucci

Monday, November 26, 2012

Open-Book Test for Starr: What Went Wrong Here?

As mentioned previously, Superintendent Joshua Starr is coming to the Special Education Advisory Committee tonight at 7:00 pm, in the Carver Center at 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville.

To get the ball rolling, let's have Dr. Starr read the following excerpts from a column from today's Washington Post:

"The first clue Bonnie Beavers had of her daughter’s learning disability came in the second grade. The girl scored at the 99th percentile in math on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, but when her teacher divided the class into groups for math, she was not in the highest one.

Beavers showed the child’s test results to the teacher, who was unmoved. “I caught her counting on her fingers,” she said. Then she went completely over the top by insisting none of her students knew the groups were ranked by perceived ability.

“My daughter never again liked math or thought she was a good math student,” Beavers said.

The girl was later diagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and executive function disorder (an inability to self-organize), as was her older brother."


"After two years at Barnsley, her son wanted to go to a math-science magnet school, but failed to qualify. He finished only half the math questions in the allotted time, though all were correct.

He enrolled at Westland Middle School, where Beavers asked for a 504 Plan, part of a federal law that requires schools to give children with disabilities a boost. She presented his high test scores and the contrasting Bs and Cs he was getting because of late or missing work. She asked for extra time on tests and other accommodations. The head of the school’s education management team said, “I feel sorry for your son. You are clearly pressuring him to make As,” then walked out."

What went wrong here, Dr. Starr? Discuss.

Social Justice Warrior or Sycophant?

Tonight, we may get to hear Superintendent Starr's vision for special education. Or we may not.

The last time that the Superintendent spoke with the special education community, a year ago, we heard a lot of "feel good" talk: "good teaching is the best behavior management", yadda yadda yadda. He did a lot of listening, and I think everyone was encouraged that, hey, he CAME, and he talked about special education! Already, a massive improvement over the last superintendent.

But it has been a year now. I think a year is a long enough period of time for him to show us what his vision is for the 12% of students in MCPS who have an educational disability.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen his vision yet. Here's what I have seen: Dr. Starr tweeting his approval about other educators and administrators, calling them "social justice warriors" or "equity warriors," Dr. Starr praising administrators for this-that-and-the-other, pictures of people giving and receiving awards, and of course the "State of the Schools" presentation (described by the Patch as "lush") which omitted any mention of special education.

Wouldn't you think that "social justice" included students with disabilities? Instead, we've seen "warriors" all right: MCPS has declared war on special education families, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars since Superintendent Starr arrived to litigate against parents trying to advocate for an appropriate education for their children.

We don't need a superintendent continuously telling us how wonderful MCPS is. (We have the overpaid public relations department for that). Instead, how about a superintendent who gets his hands dirty, so to speak, with the tough problems in MCPS special education:
* overrepresentation of minorities in special education
* overrepresentation of special education students who are suspended
* the Gaithersburg Bridge programs
* how to plan for the increasing numbers of students with autism
* teachers who think students with LDs are "lazy" (see today's Post article)
* lack of self-contained classes for students that need that level of service

And I'm sure that you can think of a few more.

I've been advocating for special education for about 20 years now. I haven't given up hope that MCPS can become a school system where students with disabilities and their families are treated with respect, where parents are equal partners in IEP meetings, and a full continuum of placement options is available, and offered to students. Let's tell Superintendent Starr tonight what WE want. Try it our way. And knock it off with the continuous flattery of all things MCPS. Spend some time in our shoes, and get to work fixing problems.

Lyda Astrove

We're Havin' a Party!

Yep, that's right.  EYA, property developers in Montgomery County and the greater Washington area, are celebrating 20 years of business.   Entertainment by Dark Star Orchestra. To be held at the Fillmore, Silver Spring on November 29th.

And guess who is on the guest list and has accepted?

Of those listed below, the highlighted names have direct impact on how many units EYA can build in any of its developments.
Casey Anderson (party of 2), Planning Board Member
David Dise, Director, Montgomery County Director, Department of General Services
Hans Riemer, County Council member (D-At-Large)
Nancy Floreen, County Council member (D-At-Large and Chair of Planning, Housing, and Economic Development [PHED] Committee)
Robert Kronenberg, Planning Department staff member
Steve Silverman, Director, Montgomery County Department of Economic Development
Cheryl Cort, Policy Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, Coalition for Smarter Growth

Ike Leggett, County Executive
Roger Berliner, County Council member (D-District 1 and County Council President)

EYA hired Dark Star Orchestra, a Grateful Dead tribute band whose gigs (U.S. and Canada) are managed by SRO.  Tickets for events at the Fillmore usually go for $35 and up. Fillmore's pricing list for renting the place...about $10,000, plus the requirement to use their bar ($42/person if you want top shelf booze);  and their caterer. 

It appears that EYA will be spending over $50/person -- the legal limit according to County ethics law.

Sec. 19A-16. Soliciting or accepting gifts.

(c) A public employee must not knowingly accept a direct or indirect gift from any individual or organization that the public employee knows or reasonably should know:
              (1)     is registered, or must register, as a lobbyist on a matter
that is or could be considered by the County agency with which the public
employee is affiliated;
              (2)     does business with the County agency with which the public
employee is affiliated;
              (3)     owns or operates a business that is regulated by the County
agency with which the public employee is affiliated; or
(4)     has an identifiable economic interest that is different
from that of the general public, which the public employee may substantially
affect in performing the public employee's official duties.

(d) Subsection (c) does not apply to:
              (1)     meals and beverages which do not exceed $50 from the same
source in any calendar year;
              (2)     ceremonial gifts or awards with a resale value of $100 or
less, if the gift or award commemorates an event or achievement associated with
the public employee.
              (3)     items of personal property, other than cash, worth less
than $10;
              (4)     reasonable expenses for food, travel, lodging, and
scheduled entertainment of the public employee, given in return for the public
employee's participation in a panel or speaking at a meeting;
              (5)     gifts to an elected official, or that official’s designee
who is assigned to represent the official at an event included in this
paragraph, if the gift:
                       (A)     is a courtesy extended to the office; and
                       (B)     consists of tickets or free admission for the employee
and one guest to attend a charitable, cultural, civic, labor, trade, sports, or
political event, including meals and beverages served at the event;
              (6)     any item that is solely informational or of an advertising
nature, including a book, report, periodical, or pamphlet, if the resale value
of the item is $25 or less;
              (7)     gifts from a relative;
              (8)     honoraria or awards for achievement; or
              (9)     a specific gift or class of gifts which the Commission
exempts from this Section after finding in writing that accepting the gift or
class of gifts is not detrimental to the impartial conduct of the business of a
County agency.

(e) Subsection (c) does not apply to unsolicited gifts to a County agency.

(f) A public employee who receives a gift that the public employee must not accept under this Section must report the gift to the Commission, if otherwise required to report it, and return the gift to the donor or transfer the gift to the County. If the unacceptable gift is a perishable item, the employee, instead of transferring the gift to the County, may transfer it to a charitable or educational organization that can make timely and effective use of the gift, so long as the employee is not an officer, director, trustee, partner, or employee of the receiving organization. (1990 L.M.C., ch. 21, § 1; 1994 L.M.C., ch. 25, § 1; 1997 L.M.C., ch. 37, § 1; 2010 L.M.C., ch. 5, § 1.)

NOTE—See County Attorney Opinion dated 12/6/02 discussing whether a public employee may accept an honorarium or other reimbursement of expenses in return for a speech or presentation. See County Attorney Opinion dated 7/8/02 describing the extent to which quasi-judicial officials may engage in political activities. See County Attorney Opinion dated 12/14/98 addressing the creation of “Friends of Recreation” for revenue-raising activities. 

If you can’t make it next week, we hear there is an even bigger holiday party at the Congressional Country Club -- sponsored by Linowes and Blocher.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

By the Numbers

This Parents' Coalition blog has reached a milestone. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, on the left-hand side, you will see a tiny number in blue print.  That number, 00549842, as of this writing, means that the Parents' Coalition blog has been accessed over 500,000 times.  So, kudos to all our fellow bloggers here, and many thanks to the thousands of readers we now have.

Thanks to all of you who write to tell us what is going on in your neighborhood and at your school; to all who comment; and to everyone who helps us track the doings of the Board of Education and the county government.  This is your government and these are your schools.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Monday: Supt. Starr To Meet With Special Ed Families


WHO: SEAC (Special Education Advisory Committee)
Dr. Joshua Starr, Superintendent of MCPS

WHEN: Monday, November 26, 2012
7:00 p.m.

WHERE: Carver Educational Services Center Auditorium
Montgomery County Public Schools
850 Hungerford Drive
Rockville, MD 20850

WHY: To discuss special education in MCPS

HOW: Questions will be asked from the audience
and Dr. Starr will respond.

Babysitting services will be provided.

This is an important meeting for the special ed community.
This is a must for interested parents!!!

Councilmembers keep chemicals on fields that they don't want on your driveway.

Artificial turf football field crumb rubber contains the exact same chemical that the Montgomery County Council has banned from asphalt driveways.  Why would the Council only ban the use of the chemical in your driveway and not on the playgrounds your children use? Because the Governor is pushing artificial turf fields in the state of Maryland, and he's their buddy? So no ban of PAH's in artificial turf football fields?  

[No. 31] Spanish research confirms existence of dangerous chemicals in crumb rubber and other used-tire products. The study analyzed a large number of recycled tire playgrounds and commercial pavers. It confirmed the occurrence of numerous harmful compounds at high levels among thirty-one selected targets (PAHs, vulcanisation additives, antioxidants, plasticizers).  It found that the total PAH concentration was remarkable. The study called attention to presence of B[a]P and noted that analytes were detected in the headspace SPME experiments at room temperature. The following is an abstract of Maria Llomparta, Lucia Sanchez-Pradoa, J. Pablo Lamasa, Carmen Garcia-Jaresa, Enrique Rocab and Thierry Dagnacc, “Hazardous organic chemicals in rubber recycled tire playgrounds and pavers,” an original paper from a multi-departmental investigators at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, published on 22 August 2012 on line and made available at  :
In this study, the presence of hazardous organic chemicals in surfaces containing recycled rubber tires is investigated. Direct material analyses using solvent extraction, as well as SPME analysis of the vapour phase above the sample, were carried out. Twenty-one rubber mulch samples were collected from nine different playgrounds. In addition, seven commercial samples of recycled rubber pavers were acquired in a local store of a multinational company. All samples were extracted by ultrasound energy, followed by analysis of the extract by GC–MS. The analysis confirmed the presence of a large number of hazardous substances including PAHs, phthalates, antioxidants (e.g. BHT, phenols), benzothiazole and derivatives, among other chemicals. The study evidences the high content of toxic chemicals in these recycled materials. The concentration of PAHs in the commercial pavers was extremely high, reaching values up to 1%. In addition, SPME studies of the vapour phase above the samples confirm the volatilisation of many of those organic compounds. Uses of recycled rubber tires, especially those targeting play areas and other facilities for children, should be a matter of regulatory concern.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Baltimore County school to launch 'paperless classroom'

Baltimore County school to launch 'paperless classroom'

Matching Funds Fail to Materialize for Some i3 Grantees

Matching Funds Fail to Materialize for Some i3 Grantees

Note:  Pearson Education was the i3 matching grant for Montgomery County.  Pearson, a for-profit company, was somehow able to be used as the non-profit match for the MCPS award.

UNH field shut down due to high lead levels in artificial turf

UNH field shut down due to high lead levels

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving Day!

Happy Thanksgiving Day from the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County.
Photo source: The New Yorker, 'Preparing for the holidays
at Baked, in storm-damaged Red Hook, Photo by Gus Powell.'

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tom McMillen on Open Meetings Act and Confidentiality Agreements

Thomas McMillen is a former member of the House of Representatives (D-Md.), and serves on the University of Maryland Board of Regents. He played on the school’s men’s basketball team from 1970 to 1974.  Mr. McMillen writes about violations of the Maryland Open Meetings Act and about confidentiality agreements that kept stakeholders from participating in the decision to move the school from the ACC to the Big 10. 

The MCPS $2.2 billion dollar Operating Budget is set each year by a secret committee that meets in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.  The secret committee requires the participants (MCPS staff, Union representatives and the MCCPTA President) to sign confidentiality agreements so that they will not disclose what goes on in these meetings.  

It's an outrage when the University of Maryland Regents violate the Maryland Open Meetings Act in deciding to move the school from the ACC to the Big 10, but when the exact same violations occur with regard to setting a $2,200,000,000 annual public school budget, no one cares?

Big Ten. Big mistake.
...I believe we need new legislation — the Stakeholder Right-to-Know Act — that would prohibit universities that receive federal funds from executing confidentiality agreements on behalf of their intercollegiate athletic programs, which limit information regarding transactions that should be provided to important stakeholders.
Right now, universities and their boards are captive to a process controlled by the commissioners of the various athletic conferences. Commissioners managing hundreds of millions of dollars are extorting what they need from the universities, and the schools are powerless to stand up to them. We need a national solution to end this practice... 

Howard County Education Assoc. requests withdrawal from Race to the Top

HCEA requests withdrawal from Race to the Top

Kiss My Grit - Teacher in a Strange Land - Education Week Teacher

Kiss My Grit - Teacher in a Strange Land - Education Week Teacher

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 19, 2012

Inspired by Research and Success in Other School Districts

From:      Start School Later, SSL Montgomery County, SSL Anne Arundel County, and SLEEP in Fairfax
Contact:                Heather Macintosh, Publicity Director, Start School Later 410-279-4569, 


Three grassroots groups in the DC Metro area—the Montgomery and Anne Arundel chapters of Start School Later (SSL) and SLEEP in Fairfax—are joining forces to push area school systems to provide later morning start times for high school students.  All three groups are circulating online petitions asking local school boards to push back bell times to better meet the sleep, health, safety, and learning needs of adolescents. 

Petition signatures in the three local areas are nearing 20,000. The Montgomery County Start School Later petition has garnered over 8,500 signatures in the past month, Anne Arundel’s petition has 1,850 signatures, and SLEEP in Fairfax has 9,158. 

Convinced by the research and buoyed by each other’s efforts, local advocates are united by a common vision and are learning from other counties like Arlington and Loudoun, VA, that have successfully shifted schedules. The school board in Fairfax, VA, recently set a goal to start high schools after 8 a.m., but no changes have been implemented.

“We all believe this is a critical public health problem. By working together, we can combine volunteer resources to press more effectively for start times that are more appropriate for adolescents,” noted Kari Oakes, PA-C, co-founder of SSL-Anne Arundel and Research Director at SSL, a physician assistant with many years of experience working with adolescents and young adults.

“Even when I do manage to get my work done early, I just can't close my eyes until 11:30,” wrote a high school student from Annapolis, MD, on the Anne Arundel petition. “My doctor told me to take melatonin if I was having that much trouble falling asleep earlier. I'm not alone in this, as my friends have been told and have tried to do the same. It doesn't really help. School has stopped being fun and has instead become one the biggest stressors in my life.”

Today’s very early high school start times—7:17, 7:20, and 7:25 a.m., in Anne Arundel, Fairfax, and Montgomery county high schools respectively—necessitate rise times between 5 and 6 a.m., since buses begin picking up students as early as 5:45 a.m. These hours are incompatible with known sleep patterns of teenagers, most of whom need about 9 hours of sleep a night. Physiology limits their ability to fall asleep much before 11 p.m., regardless of homework and extracurricular demands or electronic distractions. Shifted body clocks mean that waking teens at 6 a.m. is like waking adults at 3 a.m. and is akin to shift work.

“Sleep deprivation, with such health consequences as depression, suicide, car crashes, and increased risk of other injuries, should be treated like hunger,” said Mandi Mader, LCSW-C, founder of SSL Montgomery County.  “We don’t expect children to learn without food and we shouldn’t expect them to learn without sleep.” 

“Research is on the side of the advocates,” added Phyllis Payne, MPH, co-founder of SLEEP in Fairfax.  “Numerous studies show that high schoolers with later morning start times not only have improved moods and school performance, but also more sleep each night than those in schools with very early schedules.”

“Cost is an oft-cited reason that school systems use to avoid changing school schedules, but many schools have now returned to more traditional school hours (closer to 8:30 or 9:00 for high schools) without adding buses or increasing the transportation budget.” said Start School Later’s co-director, Terra Ziporyn Snider, PhD, a medical writer and historian. "Creative solutions can be found when schools prioritize health, safety, equity, and learning."


Silver Chips: Council’s outreach to their younger constituents through social media was unsuccessful...

Sophomore Christina McCann believes that the Council’s outreach to their younger constituents through social media was unsuccessful because the council members evaded certain topics. "They encouraged us a lot to reach out to them at the meeting. However, they avoided a lot of the questions and focused on political correctness, since it was live on TV," she said.

Monday, November 19, 2012

MD School Bids for Interactive White Boards!

Here's what it looks like when a public school system in Maryland asks for bids on a purchase of Interactive White Boards.  

St. Mary's Public Schools asked for bids.  They received 3 proposals from distributors.  They picked the cheapest distributor.

This is what Montgomery County Public Schools and Superintendent Joshua Starr refuses to do when purchasing Interactive White Boards from Promethean.

St Marys County Ps Smart

...violated procurement procedures by allowing some contractors to perform work outside the scope of their original contracts without rebidding the jobs...

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Department of Transportation violated procurement procedures by allowing some contractors to perform work outside the scope of their original contracts without rebidding the jobs and without the approval of the state Board of Public Works, auditors found.
In a report released last week, the legislative auditors discovered that a rail safety inspection contractor continued to do work after its original contract had expired by making the company a subcontractor under a State Highway Administration contract for bridge engineering and design services.
Responding to the audit, the department said the procurement rules were bent “for the continuation of critical projects and were time sensitive. Those responsible for continuation looked to SHA, with many more contractual resources than TSO [the Transportation Secretary’s Office], as a means to retain the vendor experienced with the projects.”...
...passed on to the attorney general for investigation...
...To avoid bringing contracts through a bidding process has the potential to create favoritism and a too-cozy relationship with vendors. And to divert funds to projects other than those that were bid makes a mockery of the procurement process.”...

O'Malley Panel OKs contract to study procurement process

No worries here, Governor! MCPS doesn't use competitive bids.  They just shop!  

A Maryland board has approved a $149,000 contract to hire a contractor to study the state's procurement process for contracts.

The Board of Public Works voted 3-0 on Wednesday for a six-month contract with Treya Partners to conduct the study.

Treya Partners will examine the state's procurement laws with an eye toward improving the process. The management consulting firm has conducted similar studies in Oklahoma, Colorado and Oregon.

The Board of Public Works consists of Gov. Martin O'Malley, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot.

O'Malley announced in July that he wanted to bring in a consultant to examine Maryland's procurement process after repeated problems state agencies have experienced in bidding out for services over the years.

Read more:

Guest Post: Moving MCPS Start Times is Affordable

Moving MCPS Start Times is Affordable

Sunday, November 18, 2012

MD State Contract Discussed by Council Did Not Exist on November 13, 2012

At the November 13, 2012, Montgomery County Council hearing on the purchase of 2,000 Promethean brand Interactive White Boards by MCPS, Councilmembers discussed a Maryland State Hardware Master Contract. It turns out that during the November 13th discussion, the MD Hardware Master Contract they were discussing did not exist.  
So, even if MCPS were using a MD State Contract, which we now know they aren't, the contract the Council discussed did not exist prior to the Council's vote. Confused?  Well, you are not alone.  MCPS successfully used smoke and mirrors to get the Council to Appropriate $2,042,000.  What lesson does this teach our children about how government entities are to operate?  

Saturday, November 17, 2012

MCPS Public Information Director Responds to Parents' Coalition Investigation

Please scroll down for the November 16th e-mail sent to the members of the Montgomery County Delegation to the General Assembly and the Montgomery County Council from the MCPS Public Information Director Dana Tofig.

Here is the November 17th Press Release issued by the Parents' Coalition in response to Mr. Tofig's e-mail. 


Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County
Press Release:
November 17, 2012

The Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland has conducted an extensive investigation of Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr's proposal to purchase 2,000 Promethean brand Interactive White Boards for $8,949,719
  • Our investigation has revealed that the Resolution that Superintendent  Joshua Starr brought to the Board of Education for approval on September 11, 2012, referenced a Maryland State Hardware Contract that had expired.  Here is the BOE approved Resolution: 
September 11, 2012:  Resolved, That the Board of Education approves the purchase of Promethean interactive classroom technology systems (pursuant to the state of Maryland contract 050B7800023) at a total cost of $8,949,719

  • This week, our investigation revealed that the new Maryland State Master Hardware contract that Superintendent Starr is attempting to claim he will now use to purchase 2,000 Promethean Boards does not include any Promethean brand products.  (This is not the contract that was approved in the Board of Education Resolution and is irrelevant to the Board approved action.)  As our investigation showed, Promethean is not a listed vendor on this new (unapproved) contract.  Interestingly enough, SMART Technologies, a competitor of Promethean is shown on the new state contract. 
  • We contacted the Contract Administrator for the Maryland State Master Hardware Contract and confirmed that Promethean products were not included in the new Master Contract.  They are a product that could be included at a future date, but are not part of the contract as it exists today.  In any event, the Montgomery County Board of Education has not approved the use of this new state contract.
  • To date, Superintendent Joshua Starr has failed to produce any documents that support his request to the Board of Education on September 11, 2012 for an $8,949,719 purchase of 2,000 Promethean brand Interactive White Boards.  

The Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland believes that Montgomery County citizens, the taxpayers, are entitled to see the documents, contracts, and bids to support this expenditure.  
We believe citizens are entitled to all of these things so that it is possible to determine if OUR money is being spent wisely.

Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland

From: Tofig, Dana <>
Date: Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 6:24 PM
Subject: Setting the Record Straight on Promethean Boards

To: "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , "" , ""
Cc: "Edwards, Brian" , "Bowers, Larry" , "Collette, Sherwin"
Good evening,

You recently received an email from the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County that contained misinformation and falsehoods about Montgomery County Public Schools’ technology initiative that will provide a Promethean interactive whiteboard for every elementary school classroom and install a secure wireless network in all schools. The Parents’ Coalition claims that Promethean is not a vendor on one of two state contracts that MCPS uses to purchase the whiteboards. Therefore, they conclude, the contract cannot be used to purchase the Promethean Boards.
This is false.
Promethean is not on the vendor list because the company doesn’t sell the boards directly. Instead, Promethean uses resellers to market and sell the Boards. MCPS has purchased all of its Promethean Boards from Dell. A search of the State Department of Information Technology (DoIT) 2012 Hardware Master Contract clearly shows that Dell is an approved vendor for “peripherals,” which is what items like Promethean Boards are considered under the state contract. MCPS also has the option to use a contract through the Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium (MEEC), which includes Dell as an approved vendor for “peripherals.” Both of these contracts were competitively bid.
School districts, colleges and universities routinely use this method of “piggybacking” on competitively bid statewide contracts for the purchase of technology, as it leads to more competitive pricing and access to a large number of vendors. In fact, in the 2009 Financial Management Practices Performance Audit Report on Montgomery County Public Schools by the Office of Legislative Audits/Department of Legislative Services, this practice was highlighted: 
“MCPS had instituted certain best practices that should enhance the cost effectiveness of its procurements. These include “piggybacking” onto contracts already procured by the State and other local governments, and participating in cooperative purchasing organizations. These practices save MCPS certain costs associated with the procurement of contracts and may provide larger discounts as a result of the combined purchasing power of multiple entities.” (Page 20)
The purchase of the Promethean Boards and the installation of the wireless networks will help create a strong, districtwide foundation for technology in all schools and allow MCPS to then consider other ways it can incorporate the use of technology into its instructional program. Many parents, teachers and school leaders have supported this initiative. Some members of the Parents’ Coalition have made it clear they do not support this initiative and they are entitled to their opinion. However, they are not entitled to their own facts.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.
Dana Tofig
Director, Public Information and Web Services
Montgomery County Public Schools
Twitter: @MCPS