Friday, June 29, 2012

Wyoming sues Pearson and goes back to paper tests

Pearson's online testing, three times each school year, is coming to MCPS as part of Pearson/MCPS Curriculum 2.0.  Are MCPS parents paying attention?

The Hechinger Report: Online testing debacle in Wyoming provides a warning to other states
Technical problems erupted as soon as Wyoming switched to online testing in 2010. Students were unable to submit their tests after spending hours taking them. At times the questions wouldn’t load on the screen. And ultimately the scores were deemed unreliable... 
...Online testing was such a debacle that voters threw the state superintendent of education out of office and the state sued Pearson, the company hired to administer the test. (The state reached a $5 million settlement with Pearson, but the outgoing governor decided not to sign it and obligate his successor to the deal.) The state went back to old-fashioned paper, which it still uses...
 ...Instead, the network infrastructure collapsed under the weight of more than 80,000 public school students. Knopp explained that there were two cyber traffic jams. The first was that every school was routed through a single pipe to the Wyoming Department of Education. The Department of Education and Pearson had decided to control the raw test data through a single, private network...

Reflections on Superintendent Joshua Starr First Year Montgomery Week in Review 6/21/12

Prince George's County Gifted and Talented Advocacy

From the Pen of PGTAG

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Board Files to Condemn Private Property for School

On June 22, 2012, the Montgomery County Board of Education filed a condemnation proceeding in the Circuit Court of Maryland.  

The Board of Education voted to take this action in January.  Before the Board voted to take this action they heard from MCPS staff.  Board member Mike Durso asked MCPS Director of Facilities James Song if MCPS had ever been through a condemnation proceeding before, and if so, how long it was anticipated this process would take.  

Mr. Song replied, "To my recollection, I don't think Board ever has gone into the condemnation process before, but I only been here 22 years. Who knows what went on before. But, I couldn't find any records beyond 22 years..."

Well, we found two previous condemnation proceedings by the Board of Education.  One in 1994, and one in 1974.  

In November of 1994, the Board of Education voted to begin condemnation proceedings (page 35 at link) for a Northeast High School site. 

And, in 1974 the Board of Education appealed to the Court of Appeals of Maryland for a new trial in a condemnation proceeding.  The Board wasn't happy with the result of the first jury trial.  In the opinion the Court of Appeals said:
In essence, it may be said the Board's chief complaint is its state of shock at a jury verdict of $83,500, or about $24,000 per acre, which seems a bit high to it for unimproved back land in Montgomery County even in this present day and age... 
...Judgment affirmed; appellant [Board of Education] to pay the costs.
In January 2012, the Board of Education voted to condemn a private site without ever having seen the Site Selection Report.  Once again, the Site Selection process was conducted in secret.  

After the January 2012 Board meeting the Site Selection Report was posted on the MCPS website. 

Take a look at the report and see the properties that were considered for this new school.  Should condemnation have been the Board's first choice? What will be the cost of litigation in time and money?

NW Cluster ES SSAC Report Final

Gazette: Staff pay raises may leave Montgomery school system with little to meet student needs

Of $30 million increase in fiscal 2014, $22.5 million will go to staff pay raises

Gazette: Montgomery County expected to face $71 million budget gap in fiscal 2014

Officials blame burden on changes to maintenance of effort law, slow revenue growth

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

MCPS Parent Gets State Board of Ed. Action!

The Baltimore Sun: State school board looking into head injuries

Board concerned that not enough focus is put on prevention

...Thomas Hearn, a Montgomery County parent whose son received a concussion playing football at Walt Whitman High School, has testified before the state school board and Montgomery County school board, asking members to consider requiring parents to get more training in recognizing the signs of concussions and limiting the number of contact practices. He said the new state law doesn't go far enough.
High school students can still have contact practices twice a day and five days a week, Hearn said. While there are no reliable statistics on how many of the 115,000 athletes in public schools in the state suffer concussions while playing sports, he suggested that if you extrapolate from the experience of Virginia school systems that have kept careful records, there may be as many as 6,000 a year in Maryland.
"Between now and the start of football season in August, you need to consider why you shouldn't at least adopt the NFL and Ivy League limits for Maryland high school football," Hearn said in his testimony before the board last month...
...State school board members said they found Hearn's testimony so compelling that they asked for a briefing on the subject...

Disgraced principal whose student drowned on field trip is hired to lead troubled Bronx charter school

Jose Maldonado-Rivera put on probation after death of Nicole Suriel, 12, and was banned from city schools when caught using employee mistress as baby-sitter

Read more:

...School Board holds off on contract with Pearson

No, this isn't the Montgomery County Board of Education.  They would never pull a Pearson sole source contract off of the Consent Agenda.  But, read about a school board that  does ask questions.  

Montgomery County Public School elementary children will be learning the Pearson curriculum, taking the Pearson assessments three times a year, and then...they can use the Pearson remediation materials.   

Gradebook:  Pasco School Board holds off on contract with Pearson

In a consent agenda filled with purchase contracts, one item caught Pasco School Board chairwoman Joanne Hurley's attention Tuesday evening — a $179,292 textbook order for a new remedial course, Math for College Readiness.
Her concern? The single provider of the material was Pearson Education, a division of the company that also creates and scores Florida's FCAT test. A district materials review team deemed the company's Intermediate Algebra materials package most in-line with the state requirements for the course, and also in line with a related Pasco-Hernando Community College course.
"It seemed to be a clear conflict of interest when Pearson is the sole source for publishing the FCAT, but for those students who do not do well, they must use remedial work published by Pearson," Hurley told the Gradebook. Pearson also provides the materials for the state's English 4: College Prep remedial course. 
Hurley had the item removed from board consideration until the staff could provide more information. Pearson's role as the sole provider of so many materials in Florida's testing and accountability system is one of the many reasons Florida's school board members are raising concerns about the system, she suggested.
"There needs to be a broadening of the availability of contractors that supply testing and remediation materials," she said...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pass The Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2020 and H.R. 1381)

Pass The Keeping All Students Safe Act (S. 2020 and H.R. 1381)

Examiner Montgomery faces $71m budget gap as school spending grows

The Montgomery County government is facing a $71 million hole in its fiscal 2014 budget, which some county lawmakers blame on a new state education funding law.Imposing strict penalties on counties that do not maintain their levels of per-student funding, the law effectively requires Montgomery County to give the county school system $30 million more in fiscal 2014 than in fiscal 2013, which begins July 1, and to keep funding for Montgomery College at the same level.As a result, funds available for other parts of the county -- like police, fire, libraries, and the Transportation and the Park and Planning departments -- are expected to drop by roughly $71 million, according to a report presented to the County Council's Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee on Monday...
...The county will need to rethink its approach to funding the school system in the future, said Councilwoman Valerie Ervin. "[School board members are] going to have to marry the funding with actually producing the results."Berliner repeated concerns that, as a result of the county's tightened purse strings, it was unwise for the school to offer employees two raises, one in July and another in May. The raises add about $65 million to the schools' costs in fiscal 2013 and 2014...

Board Makes Policy, Superintendent Changes It

Isn't that how things work in Montgomery County?

On Monday, June 25, 2012, the Board of Education voted on the tuition rate for out of county students that want to attend MCPS in FY 2013.

However, the previous superintendent had already issued a regulation that carves out an exception to the Board of Education Policy.  (See below pages 6-7) 

The Board sets a tuition rate for all out of county students.  But without any approval by the Board, the Superintendent quietly made a decision to give a 50% discount to MCPS employees who live outside of Montgomery County. 

So if an MCPS employee lives outside of Montgomery County and puts their child in a Montgomery County Public School, they will only pay half of the tuition rate as set by the Board of Education.  This perk is not in the Teachers' Union contract or the SEIU contract, and not in Board Policy.  It's tucked away in a Regulation created by the Superintendent. 

Can the Superintendent do that with a regulation?  Just usurp Board Policy? What Core Value does this represent?


Towson U. Artificial Turf Replaced after only 4.5 Years

Towson University put in a FieldTurf artificial turf stadium field in 2007. They are already replacing that field with a new type of FieldTurf artificial turf.

The Parents' Coalition received the following comment on the Towson University replacement project:

The original field still had a full 3 years left on it's warranty and it was installed with the same material in and around the same time that Montgomery County installed its (overpriced) fields.
I wonder how much this public institution paid for this “upgrade”??
Would anyone from Towson University like to weigh in on why the field was replaced so soon, and how much this replacement cost the University?

MCPS says that their artificial turf fields will last 10 years.
MCPS artificial turf fields are from the same product line that was installed at Towson University's stadium.

Towson University's artificial turf stadium field that only lasted 4.5 years was FieldTurf Duraspine. We can confirm that Duraspine is the same FieldTurf product that was installed at Richard Montgomery and Walter Johnson High School stadiums.

State Board to take up Concussion issue after public comment from MCPS parent

Tom Hearn, a parent advocate of Maryland provided initial testimony to the Montgomery County Board of Education earlier this spring.  He had a further opportunity to provide testimony/information to the State Board of Education back on May 22nd.  Due to that testimony (seen below) there has been a discussion item placed on the agenda for today’s regularly scheduled meeting.
I must say that Mr. Hearn has been working his tail off and I am very interested to see how his approach is handled, as most states have not involved the BoE.  Mr. Hearn does take up the contact limits in practices; making Maryland and Illinois as the only two states that have been given such a proposal.  Here is the testimony (minus the attachments)...
Read the full article and public comment from Mr. Hearn on The Concussion Blog.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sweetheart Field Deals Replaced by Competitive Bidding: KOA Sports Wins Carderock ES Field

Looks like a Work Group was formed to advise the Board of Education on putting out local public school fields for competitive bids by prospective sponsors.  Apparently, in the past some fields had certain sponsors that were given exclusive access to a field year after year, without any opportunity for other organizations to bid on the opportunity. 

Was there any public notice of this Work Group?  (See Maryland Open Meetings Act) Looks like the Carderock PTA was involved.  Did they sign Confidentiality Agreements to participate in this discussion? Note that first up to have their field subject to competitive bids is a Whitman Cluster school. 

...Late last year, it was brought to our attention that other non-adopting athletic organizations would like the opportunity to compete for fields that either were adopted or dominated by an historic user. A work group comprising Montgomery County Government CUPF staff, Montgomery County Department of Parks (Parks) staff, and MCPS staff was formed to discuss a process change in order to offer fields on a competitive basis to all interested and qualified athletic groups. As a result of these meetings, a new protocol was formulated and agreed upon by MCPS and Parks...
June 25, 2012 Montgomery County Board of Education Meeting Agenda Item 3.2.4 

UnitedHealth Group to Advise Board of Ed. on Core Values

Question:  How many consultants does it take to advise our Board of Education how to do their job?

At today's Board of Education meeting the main Agenda Item of the meeting will be to hear from a representative from UnitedHealth Group about their Core Values.  

Hasn't the Board of Education already had this discussion with other consultants at their off-camera Panasonic run retreats, and at the Harvard Public Education Leadership Project they attend in Boston every summer?

County Does Not Endorse Charter School Building Plans

On June 21, 2012, the Montgomery County Planning Board conducted a Mandatory Referral public hearing that had been requested by Crossway Community and MCPS.  Crossway and MCPS want to open the Community Montessori Charter School in a building that is owned by Montgomery County.  

Montgomery County had initially written a letter to the Planning Board saying that Crossway and MCPS could apply for a Mandatory Referral.  However, as the June 21st public hearing began, it was announced by Planning Board staff that Montgomery County had changed it's position.  

Below is the June 21, 2012, letter from Montgomery County's Department of Housing and Community Affairs (the legal entity that holds the lease for the building) stating that they have not given Crossway and MCPS permission to modify the footprint of the Pleasant View building.  See page 1 of the Scribd document below. 

Again, the first day of school is August 27, 2012, and the students that have "won" the lottery to go to this public charter school still do not have a building.  Shouldn't these details have been worked out by the Board of Education before they granted this charter school the right to open on August 27th? 

Madatory Referrral 2012020 Crossway Items Submitted June 21

"...recommendation that all staff and organizations governed by the OMA...complete the training..."   Md. Open Meetings Act training available online

CHESTERTOWN — There’s no longer any excuse for journalism students to say they don’t understand the Maryland Open Meetings Act.
Training is online, and it runs on an iPad, desktop or laptop. While not exactly in the same league as “Guitar Hero,” “Angry Birds” or even “Super Mario,” it presents the basics clearly.
Anyone — especially elected and appointed public officials — can take it from their home or office...
...On June 1, Kent County Administrator Susie Hayman said, “I sent a link to the training to the commissioners and to all department heads with a recommendation that all staff and organizations governed by the OMA, within the department head’s respective bailiwick, complete the training. Since the training can be completed any time, ‘when’ is in the department head’s discretion.”
On June 4, Hayman said Public Works Director Wayne Morris has made completing training mandatory for his department.
Brian Kirby, president of the Kent County Board of Education, said the members haven’t yet discussed the new course, but “I certainly think it would be a good idea” for each to take the training...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

23rd Annual Quest For Excellence Montgomery County Public Schools

Incoming MCPS Director of School Performance spurred massive teacher turnover

From today's Boston Globe:

A hard lesson: change can come too fast

An extraordinary three-quarters of English High’s teachers and administrators have quit or been let go during the past three years, school records show, as headmaster Sito Narcisse pushed through one controversial initiative after another — from school uniforms to single-sex classrooms to eliminating the grade “D,” forcing students to earn a “C” or fail. Teachers who did not go along with Narcisse’s approach were “not the right fit,” in his words, and he sent 38 of them packing, while dozens of others retired or resigned.
Narcisse, who is departing to become director of school performance in Montgomery County, Md., insists that he got English High moving in the right direction, pointing to a slight uptick in 10th grade MCAS scores and the success stories of students who, like Hussain, are going on to good colleges.

June 25, 2012 UPDATE:  Mr. Narcisse will be the Director of School Performance for the Down County Consortium as announced by Superintendent Joshua Starr at the May 8, 2012, Board of Education meeting.  

Pearson, Gates, Wireless Generation the future of classroom testing

Bill Gates recently granted Clemson University nearly $500,000 for development of Galvanic Skin Response Bracelets as part of the Gates MET Project. This movie shows what the future of Gates MET project may look like.

These are all companies that former Superintendent Jerry Weast has partnered with in some way. The only thing missing from this video is Jerry Weast telling the world how this will close the gap.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Board of Ed's Homeless Public Charter School

Today's word of the day is DEED.

Imagine sending your kids to a public school with no classrooms! A virtual school! A school without walls!

Well that is exactly what the Montgomery County Board of Education has planned for their very first public Charter School.  The Board of Education has approved the Community Montessori Charter School to open August 27, 2012, without a school building.

Community Montessori wants to use space in the old Pleasant View Elementary School in Wheaton.  But they have no legal right to occupy that building. The old Pleasant View Elementary School property is owned by Montgomery County under a restricted deed from M-NCPPC that says that the property will be used "only for the purposes related to the Pleasant View multi-family housing development".  

If Montgomery County decides the property is not needed for Pleasant View multi-family housing anymore, the property reverts back to M-NCPPC.  

Surprise kids! 

Pleasant View Elementary School Deed


What is BRT?
BRT is an acronym for ‘Bus Rapid Transit.’  However, in Montgomery County this system has been relabeled ‘RTV' for ‘Rapid Transit Vehicle.’  The new acronym was chosen by the people planning the system because they did not believe people would ride the vehicles if they were called buses.  The government has stated that one of their most important issues is ‘branding,’ and they believe that more people will ride the bus if it has a different name.

But aren’t they buses?
Yes. They are.

What is the Transit Task Force (TTF)?
The TTF was appointed in 2011 by County Executive Ike Leggett.  The TTF members are listed below, with their affiliations.  The TTF met through 2011 and 2012 and presented their final report with recommendations for the BRT, routes, financing, and the like in May 2012.

Marilyn Balcombe, CCT (Corridor Cities Transitway) Coalition
Roger Berliner (D-District 1), County Council
Nat Bottingheimer ,WMATA
Francoise Carrier, Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board, M-NCPPC
Marc Elrich (D-At-large), County Council
Lisa Fadden, Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce
Jonathan Genn, Percontee
David Hauck, Sierra Club
Art Holmes, Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT)
David McDonough, Johns Hopkins
Darrell Mobley, MCDOT
Henry Montes, Latin American Advisory Group
Rich Parsons, Parsons & Associates
Craig Simoneau, City of Rockville
Tina Slater, ACT
Francine Waters, Lerner
Dan Wilhelm, Montgomery County Civic Federation
Mark Winston, Task Force Chair

Brian Feldman, MD General Assembly
Rob Garagiola, MD General Assembly
Steve Silverman, Montgomery County Department of Economic Development
Tom Street
Joan Kleinman (Van Hollen designee) U.S. House of Representatives
Terra Sabag (Edwards designee) U.S. House of Representatives
Ken Reichard (Cardin designee U.S. Senate

Where are the bus routes?
The Transit Task Force (TTF) has identified 160 miles of road corridor.  The bus routes are proposed to be implemented in three phases.  General maps are here.  There are also very detailed aerial photos in 'binders.'  These 'binders' are not yet available to the public.

They are:
Phase 1:
(I-270 to 29/Colesville Road) 22.9 miles ( ~51.8 “new construction” miles in Phase One, if ICC =“RTV ready”)
(355/Rockville Pike to
FDA Boulevard
) 12.5 miles
Mont Village Ave
to Bethesda Metro Station) 12.1 miles
(Burtonsville/198 to Silver Spring Metro) 10.7 miles
(Olney to
Veirs Mill Road
) 9.8 miles
(Rockville/County Office Buildings/Metro to
Wheaton Metro Station/Georgia Ave
) 6.7 miles

Phase 2:
(ICC to Fort Totten*) 10.1 miles
(Georgia Avenue/Aspen Hill to Purple Line and spur on
Jones Bridge Road
to Rockville Pike/Medical Center) 7.6 miles
Georgia Ave
to New Hampshire Ave/Purple Line) 6.4 miles
Montrose Parkway/Randolph Road
Bethesda Metro/Wisconsin Avenue
) 5.8 miles
Veirs Mill Road
to ICC) 5.5 miles
(Route 28/Monroe St/County Offices/Metro to Life Sciences Center/CCT connection) 5.3 miles
(355/Rockville Pike to Tuckerman to Democracy Blvd/Montgomery Mall) 5.1 miles

Phase 3:
Montgomery Village Avenue
to Clarksburg/CCT, including the Spur at
Middlebrook Road
Observation Drive
and Montgomery College-Germantown) 14.9 miles
(Clarksburg/MD 27 to ICC) 13.4 miles (Total of ~139.6 "new construction" miles if ICC = "RTV Ready")
(CCT to Gaithersburg) 7.2 miles
Veirs Mill Road
to Silver Spring Transit Center) 3.9 miles
(Bethesda Metro to Friendship Heights Metro) 1.6 miles
(Between CCT and 355 - TBD) 1.0 miles

Wait, I see my street on this list.  I know there is not enough width on this street for a dedicated bus lane.
In some cases the BRT will take a lane from the existing roadwidth to create a new dedicated BRT lane.  In other cases, the county government will take right-of-way to widen the street and create a new center BRT-dedicated lane.  The system also requires bus stations along the route.  The DOT has commented on this aspect of the proposal, you can read their comments here.

Will the BRT reduce traffic congestion in Montgomery County?
The BRT will reduce traffic temporarily if all goes as planned.  The BRT will reduce traffic enough so that more development can occur.  According to the TTF Report, "The RTV system will also provide a long-term sustainable platform for continued growth and development in the County, beyond the current 20 year growth projections." (p. 3 of TTF report)

How much will the BRT cost?
The County estimates an initial cost of $1.826 Billion in 2012 dollars with an additional $1.1Million for maintenance.  The estimate for the initial cost does not include debt service or the accrual of capital reserves (pp. 91-92 of the TTF Report)

Is that an accurate estimate?
No one knows.  However Parsons Brinckerhoff, and architect and engineering firm, has suggested the cost is too low and the true cost will be about twice that amount.  And, other planners who study these megaprojects found that cost runovers occur in nine out of ten projects.

Who pays for the BRT?
You do!  There are a number of taxing scenarios in the TTF report.  There would be a special taxing district.  Homeowners within one mile of the BRT line are likely to pay the costs of the BRT.

Bus Rapid Transit Hearing July 12th

Parents' Coalition has learned that County Executive Ike Leggett will be holding a public hearing on the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan on July 12th. Routes and the idea of a special taxing district for those of you who live within one mile of the routes are proposed in the Transit Task Force final report (yes, we know the work plan required a draft and public comments, but hey, this is Montgomery County! Who cares what the government tells the citizens?).

"Montgomery County Public Schools outspent all of the 50 largest school districts in the nation except New York City"

Examiner:  D.C. schools outspend nation per student

Friday, June 22, 2012

Board of Ed. Denies Buses to First Public Charter School

The Board of Education has authorized the opening of the county's first public charter school.  Under Maryland law, the public charter school is open to all county students.

But, the Board of Education will not be using school buses to transport children to this public school.  That would cut down on the families that would apply to this school, wouldn't it?  It will especially cut down on students with disabilities applying to the school.  

So, if you want to send your child to this public school you better own a car or a helicopter.

From MCPS' Director of Facilities Management James Song at the June 21, 2012 Planning Board hearing on the public charter school:
"...We did not see the need for bus transportation requirement as part of the public charter school approval process..."
Minute 3:49:23 of Planning Board Video of June 21, 2012 meeting.

Board of Education Loses Motion to Dismiss

News from the Montgomery County Courthouse today:

The Board of Education lost in their attempt today to have the matter Kaltreider et al. v. Board of Education et al. dismissed.  The case will now more toward a trial date of May 13, 2013. 

06/22/2012 Docket Number: 23
Docket Type:Ruling Filed By: Court Status: Denied
Ruling Judge:RUBIN, RONALD B
Reference Docket(s):Motion: 10 Opposition: 12

Charter Schools Fall Short On Students With Disabilities

Montgomery County's Charter School isn't even going to have school buses.  How they will be able to serve students with physical disabilities that require bus transportation?

Who said Brickyard Middle School site was not needed for a school?

Not the Board of Education.

County Executive Ike Leggett must have made that decision all by himself.  The legal process in Maryland for determining that a public school property is not needed for a school is that the property is determined to be "surplus" to the needs of the public school system.  But, County Executive Ike Leggett didn't ask for the Board of Education to surplus the land, he asked for the land. Period.

Here's the transcript of a Live Discussion with the County Executive where the question centered on the use of the Brickyard Middle School site.  Is the County going to develop public soccer fields on the site? No.  County Executive Leggett is turning the land over to a private club.  Coincidentally, the same private club that was e-mailing its members to support the Board of Education turning the land over to the County Executive, long before the Request for Qualifications was ever issued, ended up getting the lease of the property.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012:  Live Discussion with Ike Leggett.

Fred from Silver Spring 
I’m from down county but I am very concerned about what is planned for the County’s brickyard property in Potomac. I was a soccer dad, coached soccer for more than 10 years and both my kids were avid soccer players. But the organic farm that has been developed over 30 years on this county land is potentially a huge asset to all of us who live in Montgomery County. It’s proposed use as a learning center would be a great benefit for the entire county. Isn’t there something that can be done to stop the senseless plans to destroy this asset in the name of yet more soccer fields?

Mr. Leggett: Thank you for your question. As you may know, the 20 acres leased by a private commercial farmer for the past 30 years for $1,500 a year are publicly-owned land that under the Potomac Master Plan is specifically designated to be used for ball fields if it is not used for a school. The County leased the land last year from the Board of Education for the purpose of constructing desperately-needed soccer fields for youth to meet growing demand. There are only a little over 100 rectangular regulation fields in the entire County for soccer, football, lacrosse, and other such sports. I agree that organic farming is important. My objective was to increase the amount of organic farming in the County and provide additional fields for soccer. In this regard, I met with the private commercial farmer and walked the land with him. The County offered to relocate him on other properties in the 90,000 acre County agriculture reserve. This not only would have maintained organic farming, but could have substantially increased the number of acres far and above what he currently farms. He declined that offer. 

From the time the County rented the tract from the County Board of Education in the spring of 2011, the County engaged the community on uses for the land and followed its standard open process. The County held two large public meetings to garner feedback and ideas from the community. These meetings resulted in ideas being incorporated into the Request for Qualifications later issued. In the Request for Qualifications issued by our Department of General Services to seek private entities to “partner” with the County in a public-private partnership, the County included a preference for “dual use” proposals that included soccer fields and left open the possibility for other community amenities, including agriculture. The process was wide open to all potential bidders and there were no “deals” of any kind. 

We received one qualified proposal in response to our Request for Qualifications, from Montgomery Soccer Inc., a non-profit youth soccer organization. Their proposal actually included a space for an Organic Agricultural Education Center. The project will go before the County Planning Commission under the Mandatory Referral process. The commercial farmer has a licensing agreement with the County that allows him to use the land until August. I remain open to helping the farmer find alternative locations in the County for organic farming.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

2011 MCPS Grads and Montgomery College Enrollment

From Montgomery College Fall 2011 Enrollment Profile for Credit Students
Source of Recent High School Graduates
There was an increase in the number of recent high school graduates enrolled this fall-265 more than last fall. Each category of recent high school graduates increased (MCPS, GED, International, private schools, out-of-county, out-of-state, and home-schooled).
Montgomery County Public School Graduates
This fall, one-in-four (26.2%) of last spring’s MCPS graduates enrolled at the College (that is, 2,677 of 10,233 graduates). This percentage is up slightly from last year’s 25.0% share of the 2010 MCPS graduates.
Northwest (n=166), Gaithersburg (n=159), Clarksburg (n=145), Montgomery Blair (n=134), and Watkins Mill (n=130) were the high schools that sent the largest number of their Class of 2011 graduates to the College. As a proportion of the individual high schools’ graduating classes that attended the College in the fall 2011 semester, Seneca Valley led with 39.6%, followed by Wheaton and Gaithersburg (38.6%), Rockville (36.6%), Kennedy (36.5%), Watkins Mill (36.2%), and Einstein (34.3%). Only five of the twenty-five MCPS high schools sent fewer than one-in-five (20%) of their 2011 graduates to the College in the fall semester.
The College’s draw rate from recent graduates of the Upper Region high schools (31.8% of graduates) was significantly greater than the draw rate from the Lower Region (24.2%) and the Middle Region (23.8%) high schools.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Notes from Board of Education Self Evaluation

Thanks to Danuta Wilson for attending this off-camera Board of Education meeting and forwarding her notes to us!

6/20/2012 Montgomery County Board of Education Work Session
Richard Montgomery High School

The discussions on monitoring student achievement centered around the role of data and its quality.
Board members were in agreement that data has to be meaningful and relevant. Chris Barclay stated that if the data that they receive is not fully understood by the Board members it does not matter whether or not they get it at all. In order to improve the quality of data the data request process needs to be revised. There has to be an improvement in the ability to use data analysis to guide Board decisions. Kauffman thought that it would be helpful to have a person with a level of expertise to help the Board analyze data to make it more meaningful. A dialogue with the Superintendent to achieve that goal is key.

According to Chris Barclay better understanding of data would enable the Board, for example, to advocate better with the County Council in budget negotiations and will help the Board be more successful at articulating its vision within the community.

The Board then moved on to reviewing the quality of discussion that occurs when committee reports are presented to the Board. Phil Kauffman stated that when the topic has been so heavily worked on in the committee it appears that the Board is just rubber stamping. “Can we make changes at the Board table” – he pondered. Judith Docca illustrated this by giving an example of the strategic planning committee where the entire Board is not sitting at the table to discuss some very important items.

Michael Durso thought that the Board needs to give itself permission to ask questions to prevent rubber stamping. Pat O’Neill suggested that perhaps if the item is important to all the Board members it should  be discussed by the full Board not just at the committee level.

After lunch, the discussion centered around the topic of public engagement and communication.  Dr. Starr stressed that community engagement is an important function of the Board. Chris Barclay expressed his concern about the difficulty of reconciling so many responsibilities of Board members and that fact that this is supposed to be part time work. O’Neill pointed out there are many additional external pressures and demands on board members which requires their time.

Questions were raised about ways that the Board should communicate with the public. It was pointed out that the Communication and Public Engagement Committee was created several years ago to play that role. Phil Kauffman wondered when and how the Board should be engaging in discussion with the community. Should the Board be responding to criticism from the County Council? Should the Board be ignoring it? What should be expected of the Board?

Shirley Brandman agreed that the Board has to create more opportunities for public engagement, and to form partnerships with communities. The issue of cluster meetings came up at which point Board members discussed the role of such meetings. Should it be an opportunity to form relationships, to listen or an opportunity to clarify the role of the Board. Pat O’Neill thought that the cluster meetings can only be effective if the principal and community superintendent are present. The Board cannot micromanage. Shirley Brandman suggested that Board members can prepare for such cluster meetings ahead of time and be more proactive.

Shirley Brandman also addressed the lack of a process for bringing up topics that come up through public comment. How should the Board react? Laura Berthiume wondered if a Board member who thinks this is important should trigger action. Patricia O’Neill cautioned that any issues that come up are likely to take a lot of time and it was important to be respectful of staff time.

Shirley Brandman is setting up an ad hoc committee to look at this process.

Danuta Wilson

Should Staff Reports to Local Boards be Reliable Documents?

Montgomery County Planning Board Agenda
June 21, 2012

Public Comment from Janis Sartucci

Subject Property:  Pleasant View Elementary School site
       3015 Upton Drive, Kensington
Property Owner:  Montgomery County
Property Lessee:  Housing Opportunities Commission

The above information shows the legal owner and lessee for the subject property according to Maryland and Montgomery County public land records.  

Before the Planning Board today is an Agenda Item with the names Montgomery County Public Schools and Crossway Community, Inc. as Applicants.  Neither Montgomery County Public Schools, nor Crossway Community, Inc. has a legal right to this property.  

Further, the Staff Packet is titled:  Crossway Community Montessori Public Charter School.  There is no such entity in Montgomery County.  

It is virtually impossible for the public to observe and participate in the public decision making process of local Boards when the documentation of the local Boards is defective.  Further, when entities with no legal standing to a property are permitted to come before a Board they tie up valuable Park and Planning staff and Planning Board time.  Defective applications for Mandatory Referral complicate the ability of the public to track Board actions.  In addition, the creation of non-existent entities as parties creates confusion among all interested parties and the public.  How is the public expected to take the planning process seriously when the Planning Board and their staff show so little regard for the legal ownership of properties, or for the actual titles of legal entities?

Reports submitted by Board staff should contain nothing but verifiable facts.  Anything less is a huge disservice to the public process.

This is not the first time there has been a proceeding where the applicant before a local board had no legal right to the property in their application.  Last year, T-Mobile filed for a Special Exception to build a cell phone tower compound on the playground of Sligo Middle School. T-Mobile had no legal right to build on that property and did not have the consent of the property owner, the Board of Education.  Yet, Board of Appeals staff spent an inordinate amount of time on an application that had no legal basis.  While the Special Exception Application had called for the Applicant to submit a signed lease for use of the property, a signed lease was not submitted with the Application.  Board of Appeals Staff allowed the incomplete application to go before the Board of Appeals.  The application was withdrawn when the defect in the application was made public.   

Likewise, if an Applicant for a Mandatory Referral has no legal basis to occupy the property in question, the application should not advance to the level of Planning Board review.  Incomplete Special Exception or Mandatory Referral Applications should never get to the point of taking up valuable Planning Board or Board of Appeals time.

If, at some point in time, an actual Applicant with a legal right to occupy this building comes forward, the information in the Staff Report for Agenda Item #2 is troubling.   Planning Board staff propose a condition on the public charter school that would violate Maryland State law.

Staff states that the Charter School would set aside 10% of the seats in the school for children that attend the day care center as part of a plan to mitigate traffic.  A special set aside would violate the terms of Maryland Charter School law.  The charter school applicant already tried to set up a set aside for on-site children and asked the State Board of Education for a waiver of state law. The State Board said "no" to this request.

"Because the charter school law does not authorize a waiver of the open enrollment requirement for students whose parents reside at the Crossway housing facilities, we deny the waiver request."State Board Opinion

The Charter School has also apparently told the Planning Board staff that no MCPS school buses will be used to transport students.  

The applicant has indicated that public charter school students will not be bused...(page 7 of Planning Board memo)

How can a countywide school operate without school buses?  A transportation plan was part of the charter school application.  

However, neither of these issues are relevant until an Application is made for the use of this property by an entity that has a legal right to occupy the building.  

Please return this Agenda Item to staff for documentation of a legal right of an Applicant to occupy this building.  That is, an Applicant for a Mandatory Referral on this property must produce an executed lease showing that they have a legal right to use this facility. Then, and only then, will it be appropriate for the Planning Board to review an Application for a Mandatory Referral on this property.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Board of Ed. wants Starnes Case Dismissed

The Montgomery County Board of Education has filed a Motion to Dismiss in the former Kemp Mill teachers and staff litigation matter.  The Motion to Dismiss is below.  

The plaintiffs (former Kemp Mill Elementary School teachers and staff) have responded in their Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, shown below the Motion to Dismiss.

This matter will be heard 9 AM, Friday, June 22, 2012, at the Judicial Center, 50 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, Md 20850.  Check the board as you enter the building for the specific courtroom and floor information. 

Stop by, you are paying for this proceeding in multiple ways.  You are welcome to attend. 



Pearson "curriculum...reduces the number of concepts students must master..."

Pearson Education, Inc and MCPS Curriculum in the news.

Videos and advertising will be broadcast during Churchill HS games

Gazette:  Winston Churchill High to install $80,000 scoreboard in stadium
...With $80,000 in funding from its booster club, the Potomac school is installing an electronic scoreboard this summer with an LED screen that will showcase advertising and videos to the crowd......The school’s current scoreboard is 13 years old and has outdated parts. It is not cost-effective to do maintenance to the current scoreboard, such as replacing burnt out bulbs, said Dave Kelley, the school’s athletic director......The Winston Churchill High boosters raise about $20,000 during their annual golf tournament and another $20,000 at their annual fundraising gala......Businesses pay $1,000 to put up a 3-foot by 8-foot banner at the school for a year that moves between the stadium and baseball fields, according to the booster club website.

State senator leads effort to ensure offenders still receive education

Gazette: Changes to suspension rules could leave students in schools

Examiner: MontCo to revise school site selection process

"I understand that public input is going to be an integral part [of the changes]. It should have been an integral part all along, but I'm not here to bash or criticize you, so I'll try to avoid doing that," said Councilman Marc Elrich, D-at large. "I don't know why all of a sudden we've discovered the Maryland Open Meetings law. It's been in place for decades, and I don't know why it would be a sudden decision: 'Oh yes, we'll comply with the law, wouldn't that be something worth trying?' "
Read full article at this link.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Montgomery school board finalizes $2.16B budget

Gazette:  School system leaders hope county will continue to meet needs in future

...Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr said Thursday that the system must be mindful of the way it spends money in the future, considering how its population is growing and its demographics are changing....

Attending BOE Off Camera Meeting? Send us your notes.

If you attend the Board of Education's Off Camera June 20, 2012 meeting at Richard Montgomery High School, please take notes.  Even if you just stop by for a few minutes, jot down the discussion and send it to us.  We will post your notes on this blog.  Your brief notes may be the most we will ever know about what goes on at this all day Board of Education meeting!

Send your notes to:  contact AT

In the alternative, if you are a Twitter user, you can tweet notes from the meeting!  

Breaking News: BOE to Meet OFF Camera, Evaluate Self at Richard Montgomery HS, June 20th

On Wednesday, June 20, 2012, the Board of Education (BOE) will meet off-camera to hold an all day meeting to discuss themselves.

The meeting will begin at 9 AM in the Media Center at Richard Montgomery High School.  The only way to find out what the BOE discusses will be to attend the meeting.

By camping out at a location outside of the Board of Education meeting room the public will have a much harder, if not impossible time finding out what the BOE discusses at this all day meeting.  The meeting will not be televised and the minutes will be brief.

The BOE will gather at 8:30 AM for breakfast (you are paying so stop by!) and then start the meeting at 9 AM.  Below is the just released Agenda for the day.  Note one of the Objectives is to "Celebrate the thoughtfulness of our work".  That discussion should take the same amount of time as the time the BOE spends on major spending decisions.

BOE Off Camera Self Evaluation Meeting June 20, 2012

Q&A: Starr Reflects on 1st Year with MCPS

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr answered questions for Patch, evaluating his first year.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Breaking News: M-NCPPC Artificial Turf Consultant was also Field Turf Contractor

In a November 29, 2010 blog posting we released a February 27, 2009 M-NCPPC memo that showed that FieldTurf has an exclusive 5 year deal with M-NCPPC and MCPS to supply artificial turf for fields. No other artificial turf vendors can bid on these procurements.  No Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are issued.

Today, we are releasing an October 29, 2008 letter to M-NCPPC that shows who was on the consulting "team" that M-NCPPC used to select FieldTurf as the sole supplier of artificial turf.  

In the letter to M-NCPPC below, we learn that Huron Counsulting was involved in the process that selected FieldTurf as the sole supplier for M-NCPPC. (The memo below also says that FieldTurf "cost is higher than the competitors".  But hey, we're Montgomery County where money grows on trees.)  

Who is Huron Consulting?  Well, we will let a press release from FieldTurf answer that question:
Three local Maryland companies, among many others, have benefitted tremendously in terms of their growth and development as a direct correlation of FieldTurf's local presence. The first company is the Huron Consulting Company, which has been instrumental in designing economical and technologically advanced storm water management solutions for artificial grass fields. Huron's knowledge of the State and local County storm water management regulations enabled the team to provide innovative engineering alternatives that have saved Maryland schools hundreds of thousands of dollars while remaining environmentally conscious. Since working in partnership with FieldTurf, Huron's sports surfacing projects in Maryland have grown from one field in 2007 to five in 2008. This relationship with FieldTurf exemplifies how a local business working in partnership with an industry pioneer can provide exceptional service and value.
Let's recap:

  • FieldTurf states that Huron Consulting's artificial turf projects with them increased from 1 in 2007 to 5 in 2008
  • May 12, 2008:  Huron Consulting is hired by MCPS to work on Richard Montgomery High School artificial turf field installation.
  • October 29, 2008:  Huron Consulting is named as part of the M-NCPPC consulting team that decided that FieldTurf would be sole source for M-NCPPC artificial turf fields (Huron was already working with FieldTurf on the RMHS project when this letter was written.)
  • February 27, 2009:  M-NCPPC staff state that FieldTurf is to be the sole source of M-NCPPC artificial turf for 5 years.  In that memo, M-NCPPC staff also state that MCPS is using FieldTurf as their sole supplier of artificial turf.
  • Huron Consulting's "hat trick" with MCPS fields - they worked on all 3 of these FieldTurf installations:  Blair High School, Richard Montgomery High School (2008) and Walter Johnson High School (2009).

10-29-08 Evaluation and Recommendation Letter