Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Starr Changes Promethean Board Story Again!

When the Board of Education votes on a contract, they are supposed to be voting on an actual document that they have read. Their vote is supposed to authorize the Board President to sign a specific contract.   

But, our Board of Education doesn't do that.  They regularly take votes based on rumor and gossip.  They don't have the actual contracts they are voting on in front of them.  They haven't read that actual contracts they vote to approve and sign. 

As with the "telephone game", as the gossip passes around, the story changes. And, so we have it with Superintendent Starr's $14.5 million technology expenditure rumor.  Every time the story is told, the facts change.   

Here's where we started.  This was Superintendent Starr's first statement when he released his September 11, 2012 memorandum to the Board of Education requesting their vote to approve this $14.5 million expenditure.
September 11, 2012:  Resolved, That the Board of Education approves the purchase of Promethean interactive classroom technology systems at a total cost of $8,949,719; 
Then, before the Board of Education meeting on September 11th, Starr revised his memo to read:  
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; 
Then, on October 23, 2012, Superintendent Joshua Starr released a memorandum through PTA's to help the common people "understand" the purchase of 2,000 Promethean Boards and wireless access.  Here's what he is saying now:
October 23, 2012:  MCPS will purchase the Promethean Boards by piggybacking on two statewide contracts that have been put out to bid and conforms with state procurement law. The contracts are with two statewide organizations—The State of Maryland and the Maryland Education Enterprise Consortium.
Two contracts?  That's not what the Board of Education voted to approve on September 11, 2012.  The BOE voted on ONE contract:  State of Maryland contract 050B7800023.  (And, anyone with computer access can pull up that document and find out that it was a 5 year contract issued in 2007 that has expired.)   

Can Superintendent Joshua Starr just ignore the Board of Education vote and substitute TWO contracts for the ONE that they voted on?

Superintendent Starr, if you want the public to "understand" your technology purchase, then be honest with us. Make the actual contract that will be used to purchase 2,000 Promethean brand boards public. It's a real document that will require your signature and the signature of the BOE President.   
Let's see it.  

We're all grown up and we can read the details for ourselves.

Superintendent Joshua Starr's Shell Game with Promethean Board Procurement October 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

MCCPTA Clarification on Question 7: We have taken NO position.

MCCPTA (Montgomery County Council of PTAs) would like to get out the word that it has taken a NO/NO position in Question 7.  Please go here for more information.  From the website:


MCCPTA was just alerted (10/29/12) that our logo appears on TV ads and our name on a list of organizations supporting Question 7. We have taken NO/NO position and MCCPTA has not authorized any organization involved with this ballot issue to use our name or our logo in advertisements, pro, con, or ambivalent.


There is a lot of discussion and concern on this Question, and debate over exactly where the extra revenues would end up, and if state schools would truly benefit.  MCCPTA has taken no position on Question 7.

Why Wootton High School Really Isn't Turf Smart

The alternate title for this post could also have been Dr. Doran on how to install an artificial turf field Part 2. Do the parents at Wootton High School really think they are smarter than the average parent by getting their school to the top of the artificial turf list by handing over their own cash?

Aside from the ethics of supplementing the county coffers and the equity argument about jumping to the head of the line just because certain members of your community have more cash, does Wootton High School really know what it means to get into a partnership with a private organization?

Perhaps Dr. Doran should take a lesson from Moreno Carrasco, the former principal at Richard Montgomery High School.  Mr. C negotiated a partnership with Real Maryland, a "professional soccer team," that helped pay for the first artificial turf field at a Montgomery County High School.

So - how's that working for Richard Montgomery?

Real Maryland, owned by Maryland Soccer Enterprises, LLC. is having some problems.  Most notably, the entity forfeited their corporate charter in the state of Maryland.  You can check that out here or see the information below.  This doesn't seem like a good deal now - who is picking up Real Maryland's share of the field now?

The question for Dr. Doran and the Wootton Boosters is - how well do you know your business partner?  What happens if your partner decides to forfeit its license?  Who will pick up the pieces?

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Guest Post: The "special" relationship between MCPS and HHS

School Health Services - Cursory Assessments
by Steve Zepnick

To determine appropriate academic placements for children with medical needs, MCPS routinely requests hundreds of evaluations to be performed by School Health Services under the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  According to HHS, “The evaluations are performed by nurses, who do not medically evaluate the child but rather review records to make an assessment and determination of what level of support is needed from a school health perspective.”

This assessment is significant to plan for the appropriate placement of a child but, on occasions, it has been used by MCPS to deny special placements.  There is no policy that requires: MCPS to inform the parents that the School Health nurse is an employee of HHS and what steps can be taken for an appeal; the nurse to see or observe the child; to consult with the parents; or, to call the child’s attending physicians.  The evaluation is not even co-signed by the Health Officer.  On one occasion, a family had to demand that the nurse contact the child’s physician and then document her one hour contact.  When the nurse finally consented to document (7 mos. later), she recorded only 4-5 sentences that included an incorrect diagnosis!  When the family asked for a HHS review, the family was told by an administrator “that the nurse managers were interviewed and were very comfortable with their recommendations.”  

How would you feel if you received a medical or psychological “assessment” and the evaluator never interviewed you but wrote a report by only reviewing other reports? What if the assessment had a deleterious effect on your application for employment or needed social services?  Cursory assessments are unprofessional and harmful.  This process needs to be reviewed by both Departments for corrective action rather than ignoring parents’ complaints.  How many families of special needs children have already been harmed by this “special” relationship between MCPS and HHS?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dr. Doran on How to Install an Artificial Turf Field at your School

Wootton Booster Club

Dr. Doran, the principal of Wootton HS, is so creative.

We are so lucky to have him as principal.  He has kids who score well on standardized tests, and, as a reward, he is able to get perks that simply aren't available in other schools in the county.

Last spring, this blogger wrote about Third Eye Blind concert at Wootton.  At that time, this blooger joked that it seemed the ulterior motive was to ultimately get an artificial turf field at Wootton High School.

This blogger was correct.  Artificial turf is coming to Wootton.

All parents need to do is come up with $200,000 to meet their end of the "partnership" with Bethesda Soccer League, the same folks who brought artificial turf to Walter Johnson High School.

Did I hear that the fundraising needs to be completed by December?

Funny, I don't recall that Gaithersburg or Paint Branch High Schools needed to raise a similar amount, and I know that Richard Montgomery and Montgomery Blair High Schools did not need to dig into their pockets to support a field.

What gives?  Is this a thank you for those test scores?

Pay up folks.  After all, its only $50 per student.  And you get to say that you went to the top nonmagnet high school in Mo Co.

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Are MCPS Teachers Cowards?

Those who know me know I’m no fan of Jerry Weast, the former superintendent of the Montgomery County Public Schools. One can find a fairly long list of blog postings, including here and here where I hold no punches when criticizing Weast and his legacy.
So, it feels strange to find myself almost defending Weast. A recent Washington Post "Answer Sheet" blog posting, written by MCPS teacher Lisa Farhi, seemed so wrong on so many fronts that I just had to come to Weast’s defense...

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Whiteboards from a Principal's Perspective"

"Whiteboards from a Principal's Perspective"

I read an article in "The Principal Difference" that makes so much sense:

A few excerpts:

"As a principal, I didn’t drink the whiteboard kool-aid. First, I didn’t have enough money to equip our classrooms. Second, I wasn’t sure if they would help to raise student achievement. So, I did what I always did. I asked the experts. No, I didn’t ask the company reps, nor was I able to find any research on the effectiveness on interactive whiteboards. It was simply too early in the products life to find any quality studies. Instead, I asked the real experts, our teachers."

"This is not to say that our school had no interactive whiteboards. We did. However, we purchased them based on need and intended use, not on the fact that is was more convenient to have every classroom in every department exactly the same. We didn’t believe in the “one size fits all approach” or in trying to squeeze a round peg into a square hole—force teachers to adapt their instruction to the technology instead of the technology serving the teacher."

"Whiteboards are neither good nor bad. They are either useful or not useful in improving student achievement. Whiteboards are a tool not an end in and of themselves."

To read the whole article, CLICK HERE.

How about we learn something from this principal? Stop focusing on Promethean Boards as the be-all and end-all of instruction and dividing the county into the Haves and the Have Nots. Step back, take a breath, see if they really do improve instruction. Do a *gasp* pilot study examining achievement between classrooms using Promethean Boards and tablet computers. Do a survey of teachers within MCPS and get their frank opinions about their use in the classroom.

Otherwise, we are just spending more and more money with no documented student achievement to show for it.

Promethean partners with controversial Channel One News. Two out-of-date companies keep each other company.

Obligation, Inc.:  Why is this man smiling?
...So what does Promethean World do as their sales are rapidly heading South? Marshall chooses to partner with the controversial Channel One.  There couldn’t be a worse partner.  If time has possibly passed Promethean by, it is for certain that Channel One is a thing of the past. So Promethean, a company rushing for irrelevancy, teams up with Channel One’s dead brand of youth marketing. They deserve each other.
Promethean is trying its best to bring Channel One’s into elementary schools. There is nothing smart about that. When I go around the country talking about the Channel One controversy, I talk now of the Channel One/Promethean controversy. Promethean’s chances of thriving – or surviving – have not been enhanced by their partnership with Channel One....

Guest Post: "Vote these Board of Education members out..."

The tearing down of structurally sound schools and replacing them with multimillion dollar grand structures, like Hoover and Cabin John Middle schools, is of great concern to many Montgomery County residents, who feel tax payer dollars should be spent more on better education of our main stream children. Attempts to get information as to who the decision makers are consistently fall on deaf ears.

Two members, Christopher Barkley and Phil Kauffman, are up for reelection. Both are members of the Board’s Fiscal Management Committee. As responsible tax payers who are outraged by their performance we are left with but one choice. Vote these Board of Education members out and demand fiscal responsibility from their replacements. Perhaps, this action will help the other members to take notice and realize that Montgomery County residents demand more of their elected officials.

At a time when Maryland has been operating in the red for many years, expenditures of this sort can and should be cut every which way possible. Every department can help to balance the budget.

Meher Desai

France's Hollande promises pupils ‘no more homework’

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Safe Routes to School grant funding is available

Passing the below on from Del. Al Carr.  The grants seminar is Nov 13th, and registration deadline is Nov. 7th for the seminar.

Dear Principals and PTA presidents,

My name is Al Carr and I am a Maryland State Delegate representing the 18th Legislative District (Kensington, Chevy Chase, Wheaton, Silver Spring, Garrett Park, Bethesda and Rockville). I am also the father of three school-age boys. One of my top priorities is to promote pedestrian safety and the health and safety of our kids.

I wanted to inform you that the Maryland State Highway Administration has just announced the availability of a new round of Safe Routes to School grant funding.
This round will have more than 4 million dollars available to state and local agencies, as well as non-profits.  These projects are 100% federally funded (no matching funds required).   Safe Routes to School funds can be used for infrastructure (examples: sidewalks, crosswalks, bike racks, pedestrian beacons, ADA ramps) as well as non-infrastructure education and encouragement (examples:  project coordination, education programs and materials, special law enforcement details, safety equipment and training for crossing guards, walking school buses).
I encourage you to consider applying for these funds. Three years ago, my office worked with Kensington Parkwood Elementary and local municipalities to successfully obtain a $100K grant for sidewalk construction.
The first step is to attend a Grant Seminar on Tuesday, November 13th at 8:30am or 1pm at the State Highway Administration Office. You must register for the seminar by November 7th.
My staff and I are available to assist with information. I would be glad to meet with you or attend one of your upcoming PTA meetings. We can also connect you with an organization called the Safe Routes to School National Partnership that is available to provide technical assistance.
Feel free to share this email message with other.
Best Regards,
Delegate Al Carr
Maryland's 18th Legislative District
301 858-3638 office

Safe Routes 2012 Grant Seminar[1]Safe Routes to School Applicant Registration[1]

BRT: More secrets

Ever heard of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP)? No? We hadn't either.  But they exist.  And more than that, in December, 2010 they signed a legal agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with our own County Department of Transportation (MCDOT).  They have been working with the county DOT on plans for the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit).  The MOU states that ITDP will "work in a spirit of cooperation with MCDOT and other stakeholders"  Bet you though you were a stakeholder.  Well, think again.  You are just the ATM for the BRT.   Meanwhile, the Rockefeller Foundation is granting even more money to fund "studies."  We have never seen these studies but we hear they exist.

Parents' Coalition obtained the MOU and here it is.  Take a close look.  Then, go ask your councilmember for the studies stated in the document.  Where are they? Why aren't they publicly available? And, who is on "the consulting team?"   Like everything else about the BRT, it is all a big secret.
Executed MOU Between MCDOT and ITDP 12 2 10[1]

Seckinger: “But I have concerns not knowing how the spending is happening.”

...In the District 4 race, Annita Seckinger is challenging incumbent Christopher Barclay, the board’s full-time vice president. Seckinger said her top priorities are school safety — including adding more school resource officers as well as preventing bullying — and sustainability, although she said she also worries about spending and budget transparency.
“I think, frankly, you can’t spend too much on kids,” said Seckinger, who works with school systems to teach about nutrition and the environment. “But I have concerns not knowing how the spending is happening.”...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Montgomery health agency recommends healthy snacks, tracking student obesity

From The Examiner, courtesy of reporter Kate Jacobson:

Montgomery County's Health Commission is recommending that the county track student obesity and put more nutritious snacks in vending machines, as part of officials' latest efforts to make county residents healthier.

The Health Commission also told the County Council that the county should provide more opportunities for exercise for children and adults, and establish better accommodations for mothers who are breast-feeding.

"We wanted to focus on [issues] with easy implementation," said Commission Chairman Marcos Pesquera, adding that the group looked at multiple government agencies that could benefit from the recommendations.

One of the more detailed plans is to start tracking students' body mass index at certain grade levels to analyze obesity trends. BMI, calculated from a person's weight and height, is often used as a screening tool for potential weight problems.

To read the entire story go here.

Cyclist Hit by MCPS Bus in Darnestown

Edline down

As MCPS nears the end of the first quarter, parents are reporting that Edline has not been able to update grades since October 18th, 2012.

Superintendent Joshua Starr's communication to parents about this breakdown is where? Press release? E-mail? Letter home? Twitter? 

Superintendent Starr was on the WAMU 88.5 Kojo Nnamdi show this afternoon.  When a parent called to ask about staying involved in their child's school Superintendent Starr didn't mention the Edline issue. 

UPDATE:  The Parents' Coalition contacted Edline directly about the failure of the MCPS system to update at the same time this post went on the blog.  A few hours later Edline began to update academic information again for MCPS families.

Gazette: MCPS funding has council, board squabbling

...Board Vice President Christopher Barclay and Councilwoman Valerie Ervin talked over one another during the meeting. Ervin said there needs to be more truth going forward, and Councilwoman Nancy Navarro said everyone needed to get serious and “act like grownups.”...

Reminder: Live Online Discussion with County Executive Ike Leggett today

(2:00 PM-3:00 PM) Live Discussion with County Executive Ike Leggett
Live Discussion with County Executive Ike Leggett will be held on October 24th, Wednesday from 2:00 to 3:00 pm.
>>Submit Your Questions

Montgomery County Board of Education Election Information

Gazette: Montgomery County Council to hold hearing on school technology funds

In today's Gazette:

The Montgomery County Council will hold a public hearing next week regarding a request from the school system for $2 million in technology funding, as an appropriation to the fiscal 2013 budget.

The hearing will take place at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, in the council hearing room in the council building at 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville.

The funds will pay for Promethean boards, high-tech whiteboards that are connected to computers and give students new ways to interact with their lessons, and for new or upgraded wireless networking equipment, software and services.

County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) recommended in an Oct. 11 letter to the county council that the council approve the request, although he said several issues need to be addressed.

He said that the creator of Promethean boards, Promethean World, is struggling financially, citing that the company saw a 90 percent drop in stock valuations in three months.

“I am concerned that MCPS’ investment of taxpayer dollars into these whiteboards may not be viable or sustainable in the long term due to the company’s significant and, by the company’s own assessment, long-term, financial difficulties,” Leggett wrote.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

2012 Civic Federation BOE Candidates Debate Part 2

October 17, 2012 Montgomery County Board of Education Candidates Debate

WAMU 88.5 Kojo Nnamdi Show: An hour with MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr

October 24, 2012 
12:06 PM
Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr
A year after taking the helm of Montgomery County Public Schools, Superintendent Josh Starr talks about deciphering new report cards, boosting teachers' pay, interpreting standardized tests and dealing with passionate parents in one of the nation's top-performing school districts.

2012 Civic Federation BOE Candidates Debate Part 1 & 2

October 17, 2012 Montgomery County Board of Education Candidates Debate

Part 1:

Part 2:

Monday, October 22, 2012

BOE Reveals Today's Closed Session Litigation Topics

This evening the Board of Education (BOE) will hold a Closed Session.  Typically, the BOE will only say that they are going to receive "legal advice" at a Closed Session.  But, today the BOE reveals exactly which cases they will be discussing in Closed Session.  Here is the announcement from today's Closed Session resolution: 
Resolved, That the Board receive legal advice regarding the litigation pertaining to the William H. Farquhar Middle School, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2, and Northwest Cluster site acquisition and discuss with staff these pending litigation matters, as permitted under Sections 10-508(a)(7) and 10-508(a)(8) of the State Government Article; and be it further...

Commentary: Open Meetings board is a quiet watchdog with no bite

Commentary: Open Meetings board is a quiet watchdog with no bite

Saturday, October 20, 2012

BOE to hand over Cell Tower Authority to Starr

There will be no more votes about cell tower antennas at the public Board of Education (BOE) table after Monday.

On Monday, October 22, 2012, the BOE will be handing over the power to add cell tower antennas on public school land to Superintendent Joshua Starr.  

Parents, concerned about cell towers on playgrounds?  Take a hike.  It's all up to Starr now. No more public discussion. No more votes of your elected Board of Education members. No more recording of these land transactions in the public BOE minutes.

SUPERINTENDENT STARR wants to eliminate TRANSPARENCY in decisions concerning the use of public school land by entities such as cell tower companies.  

The Board of Education will be DELEGATING the AUTHORITY to sign LEASES of 6 years or less of public school property to the Superintendent. Now, what goes on at your local public school property is up to Starr, and Starr alone.  Neighbors, get ready for some surprises!  

Here's Starr's memo for the October 22, 2012 BOE meeting.  Look for a unanimous vote by the BOE in favor of turning over all this power to Starr.  Afterall, who in Montgomery County wants transparency? 

3.2.1 Delegation of Authority

Candidate Annita Seckinger Launches Website

Friday, October 19, 2012

County Executive concerned about financial condition of Promethean

Leggett recommends delaying additional purchases until concerns about vendor are addressed

A memo obtained by the Parents' Coalition reveals that County Executive Leggett is urging the County Council to consider the financial condition of Promethean World before funding additional purchases of their products. Promethean World is the predominate supplier of interactive whiteboards to MCPS.

Leggett wrote that he supports expanding technological resources to all MCPS classrooms, but questioned whether Promethean World can survive in light of their rapidly declining financial condition.

"While Promethean World reported adequate fund balances to cover their shorter term losses, they alerted their investors to the long-range nature of their financial problems," wrote Leggett.

Leggett also stated in the memo that he is concerned about the proprietary nature of Promethean products.

"The Promethean Board technology is proprietary and alternative means of providing the whiteboard service to classrooms if the company were to go out of business would require investment in alternative hardware and software," wrote Leggett. "I am concerned that MCPS' investment of taxpayer dollars into these whiteboards may not be viable or sustainable in the long term due to the company's significant and, by the company's own assessment, long-term, financial difficulties."

The memo gave no deadline for making the determination of whether or not to proceed with purchase of Promethean products or to switch to products from a more stable company.

 Memo from County Executive Leggett expressing concerns about Promethean's financial condition

Patch: Bethesda-Chevy Chase H.S. May Get Larger Addition

A feasibility study is looking at ways to accommodate as many as 750 new students at the overcrowded school.

Evaluate the Board of Education

Here is the form that the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) created to evaluate themselves.  But, we thought it would be more interesting if parents used this form to evaluate the BOE!  How do you rate the current Montgomery County Board of Education? 

Board of Education Self Evaluation

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Montgomery parents push for later start times for high schools |

Montgomery parents push for later start times for high schools |

Petition: Changing Montgomery County, MD's High School Start Times to 8:15 AM or Later.

Research has shown that when teens get the required 8.5 to 9 hours of sleep:
  • School attendance goes up.
  • Tardiness decreases.
  • They sleep less in class.
  • They get in fewer traffic accidents.
  • They visit nurses and counselors less often.
  • They report less depression and irritability.
Starting school before 8:15 a.m. like we do in Montgomery County without a doubt undermines optimal academic achievement.
That's why I created a petition on to Joshua Starr, Montgomery County's superintendent of schools, which says:
We respectfully request that our school board officially recognize the large and compelling body of research regarding adolescent sleep and academic achievement, and, with a resolution, set a goal to start high schools in Montgomery County after 8:15 a.m.
–Mandi Mader

Will MCPS Investigate County Vehicles Taken Out of State?

Another Complaint referred to the Montgomery County Office of Inspector General (OIG) as related in the OIG's October 1, 2012 Report
A Complainant reported seeing an alleged County vehicle (with an "LG" license plate) during morning commutes from West Virginia on two separate occasions. Through inquiry to the Department of General Services, the OIG determined the vehicle was assigned to MCPS. 
MCPS reported that its policy prohibits take-home vehicles to be driven to out of state residences and that it would investigate the allegation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Report: Montgomery school funding jeopardizes rest of county |

Report: Montgomery school funding jeopardizes rest of county |

MCPS Positions Lost: "550 additional full-time employees this year — including reading teachers, paraeducators and music teachers — and another 200 next year."

...The report focuses heavily on recent funding decisions made by Montgomery’s public school system, which accounts for about half of the county’s roughly $4 billion budget. It also addresses revisions to Maryland’s “maintenance of effort” law, which requires per-pupil education funding to remain at least the same level from year to year.
With newly enacted changes, the state mandate has become more inflexible. If Montgomery schools increase per-pupil funding in a given year, that increase becomes “a new, permanently increased funding level,” potentially changing the budget picture for other agencies, the report says.
“The state has taken over a relationship between the school system and the county that worked,” said council member Hans Riemer (D-At Large). “They broke a thing that was working well.”
The report revisits the school system’s budget decisions of last spring at length, most notably the raises it approved for teachers and other employees, which came at an annual cost scheduled to be $65 million.
The analysis determined that cost was equivalent to 550 additional full-time employees this year — including reading teachers, paraeducators and music teachers — and another 200 next year.
Many positions have been cut in the past two years, and county council members say they often hear complaints.
If smaller raises had been given, some positions could have been restored or class sizes could have been reduced, the report says....

The Washington Post:  Economy, law could lead to 2013 cuts in public services in Montgomery County

Education funding threatens other Montgomery County agencies

Double raises for school system employees and a change in state law could threaten the budgets of other county agencies, according to a county Office of Legislative Oversight report released Tuesday.
Counties must provide, per-pupil, the same amount of education funding each year under Maryland’s maintenance of effort law. When enrollments rise, education funding increases.
The county would have to divert money from other agencies to pay for the increased school funding if revenue does not also increase, according to the OLO report.
Early projections show Montgomery County government facing a $71 million budget gap going into fiscal 2014, thanks to in part to slow revenue growth and $30 million required to meet MOE and pension funding regulations.
Unless state law changes, Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg said it would be fiscally irresponsible to fund the school system above the statutory minimum...article continues at link...
 Gazette:  With budget gap projected, schools might not get more than minimum

Gazette: Montgomery County inspector general looking into consultant’s connection with turf company

Montgomery County’s inspector general is looking into how the county parks department selected an artificial turf supplier...

BOE to "lay low" during this year's state legislative session

Notes from the Board of Education Strategic Planning Committee meeting of October 15, 2012.  

BOE committee meetings are held in a small conference room and are not video taped.  
Thanks to parent Danuta Wilson for attending this meeting and taking notes. 

2012 October 15 BOE Strategic Planning meeting

Breaking News: BOE says, "local Boards of Education are not subject to the procurement laws" of State of Maryland

Our Montgomery County Board of Education says that they do not have to follow the procurement laws of the State of Maryland.  Now, that does explain a lot!  

But, is it really in the best interest of the citizens of Montgomery County that our $2.2 billion dollar school system does not follow Maryland procurement law?   

See page 4 of the Board of Education's Motion to Dismiss below, filed in response to our Appeal of the September 11, 2012 surprise decision to buy 2,000 Promethean Boards, for the BOE's announcement that state laws don't apply to them.

2012 Oct 10th MCPS Board of Education Motion to Dismiss

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Council Report: Fiscal Planning and the New Maintenance of Effort Law

October 16, 2012  [See Power Point presentation at separate blog posting.]


Power Point: Council Presentation on New Maintenance of Effort law

October 16, 2012  [See detailed Report at separate blog posting.]

2012 FiscalPlanning MOE

BOE spends $200,000 to defend $1,500 per year lease.

...After filing a Maryland Public Information Act request with the Montgomery County Board of Education, the Brickyard Coalition learned the Montgomery County Board of Education has spent more than $200,000 fighting legal battles in its effort to lease a 20-acre parcel of land to Montgomery Soccer Inc. MSI plans to construct a series of soccer fields on the land that has housed Nick’s Organic Farm for the last 30 years.
School system spokesman Dana Tofig confirmed the amount...

Gazette:  Land disputes in Potomac and Gaithersburg rack up costs

Inspector General Report: 13 Elementary Schools Deny Recess as Punishment

In 2011, the Parents' Coalition exposed that MCPS had deceived the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on a grant application.  MCPS was awarded a $66,000 USDA grant based on the deception.

The deception was that MCPS administrators certified to the USDA that recess was never used as punishment in MCPS. 

That deception was investigated by the Montgomery County Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG found 13 elementary schools where recess was denied as a form of punishment.  

In the OIG's October 1, 2012 Report, it is revealed that MCPS told the Inspector General that regulations would be developed to address the use of recess as punishment.  

Has that happened? Of course not.

Hey, once you deceive the federal government what's another fib to the local Inspector General!  MCPS has already got the $66,000 grant from the USDA! Who cares if they actually deserved it?
A Complainant alleged that when all MCPS elementary schools applied for a grant from the USDA, the application stated that the schools did not deny recess to students as punishment for misbehavior. The complainant provided information indicating that two elementary schools did deny recess as punishment. The OIG found that 13 MCPS elementary schools denied recess as punishment, according to their policies posted on the internet. 
MCPS responded that staff were reviewing local school discipline policies, that steps were being taken to remedy inconsistencies with Board of Education policy and MCPS regulations, and that guidelines regarding recess would be developed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

"School officials declined to comment for this report."

A fight at Northwood High School in Silver Spring Monday morning ended with one person in the hospital.
The fight broke out at around 11 a.m., said Capt. Paul Starks, a spokesman with Montgomery County police. He said that they did not know what kind of weapon caused the “puncture wound,” which was not life-threatening. The victim was transported to a local hospital, he said.
The victim was not cooperating, said Starks, adding that “There may have been an altercation last week and this may have been retaliation.”...article continues at link below.

Gazette:  One person injured in stabbing fight at Northwood High School


Washington Post: Apparent stabbing at Northwood High School in Silver Spring under investigation


Examiner: Police: 18-year-old stabs fellow student at Montgomery County high school  


MCP: Police Investigate Assault at Northwood High School


Inspector General Evaluating Artificial Turf Procurement Relationship Exposed by Parents' Coalition

The Montgomery County Office of the Inspector General released its Annual Report of Activity on October 1, 2012. The report lists recent investigations by the Office of the Inspector General.  Included in that list is a complaint that refers to the partnership between one of the M-NCPPC artificial turf evaluators and FieldTurf the exclusive supplier of artificial grass to M-NCPCC and MCPS. 

The relationship between the M-NCPPC  artificial turf evaluator and FieldTurf was exposed by a Parents' Coalition investigation and reported on this blog on June 18, 2012.  

We now await the Inspector General's report on this procurement. 
"A Complainant alleged a conflict of interest in the selection of an artificial turf product as the standard for fields at M-NCPPC and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The firm MNCPPC tasked with evaluating and recommending the artificial turf standard was alleged to have had a partnership with the selected product's provider. 
Both M-NCPPC and MCPS addressed the role of the contractor in their responses to the OIG. The OIG is evaluating the responses."

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Manna Food Center: The Best Charity in Montgomery County

...Manna—one of the 61 charities—ended up being our hands-down selection because it was the only county charity that met our high standards for transparency. On its public website one will find annual reports, audits, and IRS 990s across multiple years....

NYT: El Paso Schools Confront Scandal of Students Who ‘Disappeared’ at Test Time

...But in the cheating scandal that has shaken the 64,000-student school district in this border city, administrators manipulated more than numbers. They are accused of keeping low-performing students out of classrooms altogether by improperly holding some back, accelerating others and preventing many from showing up for the tests or enrolling in school at all.

It led to a dramatic moment at the federal courthouse this month, when a former schools superintendent, Lorenzo Garcia, was sentenced to prison for his role in orchestrating the testing scandal. But for students and parents, the case did not end there. A federal investigation continues, with the likelihood of more arrests of administrators who helped Mr. Garcia.

Happy National Coming Out Day!

To all our children, Happy National Coming Out Day! Ok, we admit it, we are a little late with the celebration as National Coming Out Day was actually on Friday, but we were paying so much attention to the whole 10-11-12 thing this important date went by.  So, happy belated NCOD.  Because everyone deserves to be respected for who they are.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Parents Protest Pearson


Parents are saying "no" to Pearson tests.  Instead of having their children participate in field testing of Pearson exams, parents are keeping their kids home.

The objection?  They want tests that evaluate whether a student knows the material taught - and not whether or not the teacher stays employed.

Well done parents.

Don't you just love the Big Apple Parents?  

MoCo parents - take a lesson.

From the article:

“I want my school to use tests to help instruction, to help find out if kids don’t know fractions,” she said. “I don’t want my child to feel like her score will decide if her teacher has a job or not.”

Ms. Chajet is one of a small but growing number of parent activists in New York City opposed to the system’s emphasis on high-stakes testing. Many of them took part in a boycott of the field tests in June, when parents at 47 public elementary and middle schools of the 1,029 tested had their children sit them out. In their eyes, it was a win-win situation: Children who skipped the field tests did not risk punitive action or potential harm to their school’s grade on the city’s progress reports, while their parents could make a statement against the tests.

Read the rest here:

MCPS teacher to Diane Ravitch, "all is far from idyllic in Montgomery County, Maryland"

The following comment is from Diane Ravitch's blog posting, "We Don't Have Time." 
October 12, 2012 at 10:04 pm
I have been a full time elementary school teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools for 26 years, and after my first year have always received strong evaluations i.e. have never been in danger of requiring PARS. That being said, however, in recent years my autonomy to work for my students’ best interests has been steadily eroded, and more and more time each school year gets used up for standardized assessments. Innovations I have created using puppets in the classroom have pretty much been necessarily set aside in order to keep up with the unwieldy Curriculum 2.0, which specifies what is to be covered every week, yet with almost no guidance as to how several content areas are to be integrated into a lesson plan simultaneously. Which curriculum I have read that Pearson is trying to sell under the name Pearson Forward in other parts of the country. This, at the same time I have recently been receiving emails from students I had 8, 10, even twenty years ago, telling of work becoming doctors, entering an international baccaulaureate program, and training to become a combination special education and ESOL (my specialty) teacher, among others. They have all thanked me for my unusual approach, which they said has stayed in their memory, and they all ask if I am still using my pet dinosaur Din-Din in the classroom. I am feeling the same demoralization of colleagues who tell me they are feeling the joy and creativity getting sucked out of what they do in the classroom. Yes, there are several wonderful caring administrators and teachers in MCPS, but all is far from well here. To understand this, just listen to a third grade teacher on the verge of tears because she’s afraid she accidentally committed a violation in the complicated administration of a standardized test. Or watch a kindergartner literally trembling with fear as she is asked to read nonsense words on a palm pilot reading skill assessment for which instruction has to be halted for at least a week at a time three times a year. These are among my grim experiences over the past decade.
I originally entered this profession because it was something I could do with a clear conscience, but what I am expected to do in recent years often leaves me feeling very troubled, that I may very well be doing more harm than good. Am presently considering an early retirement that back in the mid nineties I would not have imagined.
Dr. Ravitch, thank you so much for your courageous documentation of what has been happening to public schools nationally. Reading your work has been a source of great comfort both for me and for other colleagues whose attention I have drawn to your blog, your previous dialogue in Education Weekly, and your book. But please understand that for me and several of my colleagues, both veterans and newcomers, all is far from idyllic in Montgomery County, Maryland.

BOE Candidate Morris Panner Responds

[Board of Education candidate Morris Panner responds to Frederick Stitchnoth's commentary. Do any sitting BOE members ever respond to parents?]

Hi Fred, 
Thank you for your thoughtful email.
I am sorry I missed the event.  I attended a forum the next night at the People's Community Baptist Church in Silver Spring where these issues were also at stake.
My position is that we need to push more responsibility to the principals and teachers who are closest to the community.  We are getting lost in the bureaucracy of a large system and losing the flexibility to respond to the concerns and needs of each community.
We face a tough budget.  (I have spoken on the need to correct the structural imbalances that the County Office of Management and Budget has diagnosed.)  Without pushing responsibility closer to the schools, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for educators to come up with the incremental innovation that will allow us to maintain high standards for everyone.
We can't push a one-size fits all solution from a central command and control authority and hope to manage and respond to the challenges posed by our increasingly diverse community.  The success stories from the Race to the Top challenge have shown how innovative educators, even facing the challenges of disadvantaged student populations have improved learning dramatically.
Our goals are clear.  Each student should be able to read, write, master basic math skills and be able to think critically and learn so they can succeed in a rapidly changing world.
If we hire excellent teachers, give them the latitude to innovate and hold them accountable, we will make our great schools, even greater.
None of this is easy, but our current path of a centrally planned and insular bureaucracy is not going to work.
Thank you for being so dedicated to these issues.

Best regards, Morris

Friday, October 12, 2012

Missing Morris

[Morris Panner is a candidate for the at large seat in the November Board of Education election.] 

Dear Morris:
    David Esquith is very bright, polished and well-spoken; during the debate I sometimes found myself wishing I could vote for him. Finally, though, I realized that he was just reading from the Harvard Business Review--all process and management, no traction with the real life of education in Silver Spring. It was a clever way to project the Morris mirage.
     I wondered, what would the real Morris actually say, think, do? Would he say "I'm going to think out of the box?" or would he apply out-of-the-box thinking to grapple, in word and deed, with the real life of education in Silver Spring?
     I thought that, when you when you pushed aside Aryeh Shudofsky (my guy) in the primary, you were making a commitment to the general election (and ultimately to the huge time commitment entailed by actual service).
     Thanks for your actual contribution to Jen Bondeson's interesting piece "Segregation comment draws criticism at school board candidate forum (" Honestly I heard the Barclay/Esquith dust-up, but really didn't get what Chris's beef was.
     Your friend David certainly was not saying that desegregation was a mistake (as I understand from the article that Chris was asserting). He was making a wonky, interesting Poli Sci 301 point about institutional capacity and responsibility. I sorta followed this at the time. I guess Chris didn't. But, David was not "taken out of context" as you say in the article (you shoulda been there to see it for yourself). David's thesis was presented so quickly, and it was so out-of-context (school board debate, not seminar): maybe we can excuse Chris's blow up.
     I agree with Fred Evans: "You can't just say that schools could have done it." Desegregation, given the historical and social context at the time, seems to have been wholly dependent on the Court. I guess your point is that the school system should act this time to correct disproportionate minority suspension, not default as it did in the prior instances. OK, MCPS should act. But create a little traction between this institutional responsibility and real life education in Silver Spring: how should it act? what should it do?
     I was reassured to see you say that you "couldn't be more adamant about ensuring social equalities for our kids." Great goal, but what should MCPS do? I've urged desegregation. (Any grappling with the real life data will show terrible segregation, east and west. Separate is not equal, right?) One of the main reasons you didn't get my vote in the primary was your March 17 response to a question about growth and boundary studies; you said that "it would be nice to keep the boundaries fixed, given people's investment in housing and their settled expectations." I get what you mean: no desegregation. In that case, would you support a separate-but-equal budget -- i.e., more money for schools where MCPS keeps great masses of kids who really need the boost? It wouldn't be nearly as effective as actual desegregation, but it would go some way to "ensuring social equalities for our kids." Or, do you have some other "out-of-the-box" proposal?
     Sorry to pick you out. The candidates who actually appeared offered no more substance than David.
    Thing is, I'd probably vote for you if you'd show up and get real.

Frederick Stitchnoth

Summary of BOE Candidates Forum - Oct. 10th - Silver Spring


Frederick Stichnoth, fred.stichnoth AT
October 11, 2012

            A ninety-minute BOE candidates’ Forum on Public Safety was conducted October 10th in Silver Spring, sponsored by Safe Silver Spring, Prezco (President’s Council of Silver Spring Civic Associations), MCCPTA and Montgomery County Civic Federation.

            Fred Evans and Rebecca Smondrowski (District 2), Chris Barclay and Annita Seckinger (District 4), and Phil Kauffman (At-large) appeared; Morris Panner (At-large) was absent but was represented by his friend David Esquith.

            The audience consisted of about 25 people (apparently largely from local, down-county environs). The following notables were noted: Lynne Harris, MCCPTA Vice President of Education Issues; Shebra Evans, MCCPTA Vice President of Programs; Larry Edmunds, MCCPTA Vice President of Legislation; Jen Bondeson, Gazette reporter.  

            Questions were asked by Tony Hausner (Safe Silver Spring) and Evan Glass (Prezco), and two members of the audience. Some questions were derived from Safe Silver Spring’s September 13, 2012 “School Board Questionnaire,” which some of the candidates had answered.

            This summary presents Candidates’ Responses and My Reflections.

Candidates’ Responses

            Question 1: school resource officers.

            Fred Evans. Mr. Evans supports SRO’s if the program “operates effectively:” officers must be properly trained and must get to know the kids.

            Rebecca Smondrowski. Ms. Smondrowski supports SRO’s but would make unspecified changes to the program. MCPS must work collaboratively with the County Council (as she has a record of doing).

            Chris Barclay. “Safety and security are paramount.” The issues with the program are budget and management. If MCPS contributes to program funding, it must be able to manage the officers.

            Annita Seckinger. We must examine why we need these officers. We have problems in the schools and must teach conflict resolution to the students.

            Phil Kauffman. Mr. Kauffman supports the program and would expand it. The issue is, who pays? Typically in Maryland, counties pay for these officers. Even if MCPS paid, the maintenance of effort law would require a commensurate increase of County funding.

            David Esquith/Morris Panner. Mr. Panner would “think out of the box,” on this question and generally. He would examine what the research shows. In this case, the research shows that the program does not have a positive effect: schools are no safer, their climate is degraded, and minority students find SRO’s difficult. Mr. Panner would change the background.

            Question 2: truancy court program.

            David Esquith/Morris Panner. Mr. Panner would review research to determine whether the program was cost effective. We must distinguish an education program from a criminal program.

            Phil Kauffman. If State’s Attorney John McCarthy supports it, Mr. Kauffman supports it. MCPS is expanding the local program from Key to Neelesville and Loiederman Middle Schools. Again, the issue is, who pays? MCPS cannot just pick up the tab.

            Annita Seckinger. Ms. Seckinger would focus on why students are truant.

            Chris Barclay. Mr. Barclay would ask why students are truant and what’s going on at home. MCPS may need to “partner” (apparently a funding reference) with the Department of Health and Human Services and with Mental Health Association. We must ask what MCPS needs to do to get students engaged.

            Rebecca Smondrowski. We must make sure students are engaged. John McCarthy is a great friend of hers. This is a great program.

            Fred Evans. Giving two examples from Gaithersburg High School where he was principal, Mr. Evans said that MCPS must create a climate where intervention by private groups is acceptable.

            Question 3: fostering parent involvement (with reference to neighborhood schools with high FARMS rates).

            Chris Barclay. Mr. Barclay cited past Board outreach strategies: Parent Academies and PTA single-cluster meetings. These are not enough. Not everyone is involved in PTA. The Board must push its message out, getting out into the community, and not just at election time. He understands the concerns.

            Annita Seckinger. The Board must reach out, attend meetings in the community, and be accessible through email and home telephone to communication.

            Phil Kauffman. Mr. Kauffman agrees that the Board must get its message out more. It has an advantage in that the new Superintendent is pursuing new ways to reach out. The Board must move beyond the PTA: it hears from PTA a lot, but many people don’t participate.

            David Esquith/Morris Panner. Mr. Panner would examine things from the other end of the telescope. Parents have a very small window into the school. Board members must accommodate parents, asking what the parents want.

            Fred Evans. Mr. Evans’s campaign platform proposes “Educate the BOE” forums. Parent communications are irrelevant if the school does not follow up. MCPS must engage, especially in poor communities.

            Rebecca Smondrowski. Ms. Smondrowski would continue her record of presence in the community and advocacy.

            Question 4: vocational education expansion.

            Annita Seckinger. Ms. Seckinger is a huge believer in vocational education, which would have been more appropriate for her than was college. Not every child will or should attend college. Society should not view them as inferior if they do not attend.

            Chris Barclay. Mr. Barclay said that career and technical education (CTE) should be available for students who want to learn. MCPS students need more options. Edison is a wonderful school. MCPS must have “vision forward,” including CTE and distance learning. To succeed, all students need baseline skills.

            Rebecca Smondrowski. She would work to expand voc-ed and special education.

            Fred Evans. We are wrong in our disproportionate emphasis on “college” readiness. Vocational education students still need the core curriculum. Edison is a great school.

            David Esquith/Morris Panner. Mr. Panner does not want his special education child to be a victim of low expectations, shunted into vocational education. Mr. Panner would ask how effective the program is, reviewing outcomes, consulting research. Vocational education should prepare students for future jobs, not the jobs of 10-15 years ago.

            Phil Kauffman. MCPS must not “track” students because of their special needs. Vocational education should be an option for all students. Vocational education should provide students with the option to go to college. Edison is great, but undersubscribed. The Board has asked MCPS staff to determine why students are not choosing Edison.


            Question 5: disproportionate minority suspensions.

            Fred Evans. This is a problem. We must analyze why it occurs, looking not only at data but at personal stories. MCPS must face the racial differences in its schools by talking with staff about equitable treatment. Pending MSDE regulations should not ban expulsion for weapons, physical assault and drug infractions.

            Rebecca Smondrowski. Ms. Smondrowski does not believe in out-of-school suspensions. We must determine why students aren’t engaged, and train staff to deal with this issue.

            Chris Barclay. Mr. Barclay said that MCPS has black male disproportionality problems with discipline and special education. Staff must engage and get to know kids. Black males, whose bodies are growing and hormones raging in middle school, are disciplined for dubious infractions like “insubordination.” Suspension more than one time per year predicts school failure. MCPS must get to the root issue: put race on the table.

            Annita Seckinger. Ms. Seckinger is not a fan of suspension: students need to be in class. Race and ethnicity makes a difference: MCPS is diverse. She would increase the ratio of minority teachers and be sure that teachers are culturally competent.

            Phil Kauffman. MCPS must be sure MCPS is culturally competent. There is disproportionality in treatment. We need to look at the data. He does not favor suspensions. He is concerned about pending MSDE regulation of discipline and suspension.

            David Esquith/Morris Panner. Mr. Panner was a prosecutor: he understands crime. There is an “epidemic of expulsion.” The education system dropped the ball in this case, as it did in civil rights, special education, and female extracurricular activity; then the judicial system had to take over. He noted a conflict between supporting SRO’s and banning expulsion. We must find an evidence-based solution.

            Barclay/Esquith exchange. Following Mr. Esquith’s response, Mr. Barclay erupted with frustration. He asked what Mr. Esquith meant: schools triumphed in these instances; they did not “drop the ball.” Mr. Barclay said that “folks are throwing out platitudes; we’re dealing with real kids’ lives.”

            Mr. Esquith calmly explained that in the instances he mentioned, either the courts or Congress were required to intervene because the schools did not sufficiently address these equity issues themselves.

            Audience Question 6: guidance counselors.

            Rebecca Smondrowski. Ms. Smondrowski said that MCPS must increase the number of counselors and change their allocation. Now MCPS allocates strictly according to the number of students in the schools; MCPS should evaluate schools’ needs, “based on sheer whatever.” We must be aware of what’s happening with our students.

            Fred Evans. Students watch how adults discipline other students. This contributes to a spirit in the schools that kids understand.

            Chris Barclay. Supportive counselors and professional development in class management support kids in understanding their lives. The Board weighs one need against another. A lot is done by formula. It is a struggle to balance, especially when money is short.

            Annita Seckinger. Ms. Seckinger serves as a volunteer mediator in the schools. Some schools do not admit mediators because they do not want to acknowledge a problem in the school. MCPS has claimed that Montgomery County does not have gangs; that is “just simply not true.”

            Phil Kauffman. Mr. Kauffman said that this question brings the discussion back to budget. He reviewed the formulaic ratios for counselors and psychologists. The ratios have worsened as MCPS enrollment has grown.

            David Esquity/Morris Panner. Mr. Esquith referred to several behavior modification programs. Four percent of students require intensive mental health intervention. We must examine this issue at the systemic level, not position by position.

            Audience Question 7: Styrofoam trays. A very bright, articulate, self-possessed student from Piney Branch Elementary School forcefully renewed the question of whether MCPS would support a pilot dishwasher program to replace these “neuro-toxic” trays.

            David Esquith/Morris Panner. Mr. Panner would support this pilot program.

            Phil Kauffman. The Board did not do a good job in responding to this question when it was previously raised by the school. It raises the issue of Board role. The Board should not micro-manage MCPS, directing programs at any one school. Mr. Kauffman thinks the suggestion is wonderful and hopes the Superintendent will support it. The Board is waiting for the Superintendent’s decision.

            Annita Seckinger. Ms. Seckinger does not see why the Board cannot direct this pilot program.

            Chris Barclay. Piney Branch has done a great job in forwarding this proposal. Mr. Barclay sponsored a resolution to reduce MCPS’ “carbon footprint.” MCPS already has taken certain steps: apparently eliminating trays from high schools. However, the Board’s job is policy and finance, not operations; that’s why the Board hires a Superintendent.

            Rebecca Smondrowski. Ms. Smondrowski gives the Piney Branch proposal her “100 percent commitment.” While it is not the Board’s job to dictate to the Superintendent, its job is to represent citizens.

            Fred Evans. Mr. Evans said that the Board has every right to present this initiative to the Superintendent; the Board has “influence” to attain its purpose.

My Reflections

            Candidates’ perspectives. Observing a span uncluttered with substance (“folks are throwing out platitudes here,” Mr. Barclay unselfconsciously noticed), characteristic candidate perspectives are easy to discern.

            Fred Evans offers in-school experience; Rebecca Smondrowski—collaboration. Chris Barclay offers passion coupled with on-the-job know-how; Annita Seckinger—sympathy for kids. Phil Kauffman seems willingly fettered by role restrictions; Morris Panner (if you can believe David Esquith, which I do)—analysis.

            I like in-school experience, on-the-job know-how and analysis, each with a caveat.

            It is not yet clear, despite our experience with Mike Durso, that in-school experience does not limit the ability to see long-standing problems and to bring disruptive change. This concern is exacerbated, in Mr. Evans’s case, because he is embraced by MCEA—the teachers’ union (as are incumbents Barclay and Kauffman). MCEA power is wielded where it does not belong.

            In the same way as in-school experience, on-the-job know-how facilitates operations, except when it becomes hide-bound organizational passivity. Mr. Kauffman’s tired responses suggest he learned too well from strong-willed Superintendents Weast and Starr, from MABE training and Broad seminars. It sure looks like the current Board is being lead by the nose.

            Study delay. Analysis, “outside the box,” and the “other end of the telescope,” sound pretty atypical for the Board. (I distinguish simple focus and forthrightness that seem to be disqualifying characteristics, as Ms. Berthiaume’s fate suggests.) Mr. Morris (channeled by Mr. Esquith) seemed to display some homework analysis when he advised that SRO’s do not work. Most other times, repetition of his main qualification covered over a failure to have substantive answers to the questions.

            Of course, this was only a variation of the tack taken by other candidates: Ms. Seckinger thought that we must examine why we need SRO’s. Incumbent Kauffman wanted to determine why Edison is undersubscribed. Despite his experience, Mr. Evans still needs to “analyze why” disproportionate minority suspension occurs; incumbent Kauffman needs to “look at the data.” Ms. Smondrowski would determine why students aren’t engaged.

            New studies come every day, and I hope MCPS, the Board and parents will continue to review and debate them. On the other hand, some problems have been with us for decades. A claim for more study time does not excuse inaction.

            Money delay. Our know-how guys, Barclay and Kauffman, defend inaction on the basis of budget constriction generally and a game with the Council of budget blackmail in particular. This seems to reflect our pathetic national melodrama.

            Lightness of dis-placement. Unlike any other forum I’ve seen, this one was thrown by a particular neighborhood and the questions particularly reflected that neighborhood’s concerns. Our candidates missed this, in their intense preoccupation with the generic.

            It is no accident that questions regarding SRO’s, truant officers, vocational education and disproportionate minority suspension were not emanating from Bethesda.

            So, to return to the previous comment, our candidates were unaware that the hostages in their money game are the Silver Spring people looking for public safety. And Chris “Safety and security are paramount…we’re dealing with real kids’ lives” Barclay represents the Downcounty Consortium!

            While the budget may not meet hopes, or even needs, the Board must spend the budget WHERE the need is greatest.

            There were a couple of good, if grossly understated, exceptions. Ms. Smondrowski stated the MCPS should evaluate schools’ needs “based on sheer whatever” (I think she was searching for “educational load” or degree of concentrated poverty). Ms. Seckinger knows that a gang-free MoCo is just not true.

            Constricted Board function. The Board displays profound decorum in deferring to the Superintendent on the neuro-toxic tray issue. And its learned formulaic responses protect it from acknowledging need in the red zone. Despite Board policy and regulation (on educational load, for example) and Board resolution (on choice parameters, for example), the Board does not act.

            The Board has power and a paramount political function. What is it doing?

            Final miscellany. I salute Mr. Barclay for trying to keep race on the table; I hope he’ll also locate it on the map.

            MCCPTA has been MCPS’ partner, and PTA’s have been MCPS’ primary vehicle of parent engagement. Insiders Barclay and Kauffman, apparently following the Superintendent’s lead, want to supplant PTA’s. If I were MCCPTA, I’d feel dissed. (On the other hand, MCCPTA is outsourcing its function—to the Parent Leadership Group, for example—so maybe it’s in on the game.) Myself—I’ve seen the best of times and the worst of times with MCCPTA. I hope the best will resume. I’m concerned about MCCPTA’s demotion, and potential replacement by isolated and powerless small groups propped up by MCPS itself.