Saturday, December 14, 2013

Joshua Starr and Leading by Example

Clearly, our Montgomery County Superintendent of Schools, Joshua Starr, follows the leadership model of extraordinary contradictions. 

His latest?  Josh has been cyberbullied about his decision whether to close schools earlier this week. 

He READ all the tweets, some were cute, some were offensive, and some - well, he may have referred them because they appeared to be threatening to him personally and his family.  According to News 4, MCPS staff tracked down all the tweets, referred them to the schools and perhaps law enforcement officials.  And he sent out a letter to the families of all 150,000 plus MPCS students.

You can read for yourself in the NBC4 story, with video.

The Superintendent's Letter is here

Remember, this is from the Superintendent of Twitter.  Josh is known for his twittering habits, and frequently twitters from Board Meetings and on his travels.    At the end of his letter, he encourages people to contact him on his (gasp) twitter account (@mcpssuper).

This mom of the MCPS educated and tech savvy generation has some advice to Josh.

1.  Lead by example.  Stop encouraging folks to contact you by twitter.  You can't control the message but you can control how you communicate.  Twitter unfortunately, has become your preferred mode of communication.  Do the taxpayers of MoCo get information about your travels from other media?  Nope, not from the BOE, from public disclosures of your travels, or any type of report of what occurred when you meet with folks, both in MoCo and outside of Maryland.  Can we get some information about common core and math standards? Many of us feel like cybersleuths trying to track down how you spend our money.  

2.  Turn off your device.  Do not use it in meetings, especially MoCo Board of Education meetings and other meetings with county officials.  This is simply rude, and shows you are not paying attention. 

3.  Be realistic about kids using technology.   Yes, parents and teachers will have discussions about the proper use of technology, but saying that younger kids will not use twitter just because their parents don't allow it in their homes is unrealistic.  I bet your kids know more about tech than you do, I know my children did when they were very young.  Asking parents to know their kids passwords and keep the computer in a public place in the home doesn't insure that everything will be parent approved and safe.  Parents need to work continuously to instill their values in their children - and these values may not always be yours.  Banning something at home doesn't mean that they won't see it elsewhere - at school or at friends homes.  Some elementary schools and teachers use twitter as a classroom add on.  Really? 

4.  Be the grownup here.  Did you really feel threatened by these kids with twitter messages?  We have bigger problems in MoCo, and need better solutions.  How many teachers in the past few weeks have been subject to charges of molesting minors?  What about Rock Terrace and the theft of moneys from special ed kids?  Those are real problems in need of real solutions. 

and finally.

5.  Use taxpayer resources wisely.  I admit that I sometimes look at twitter, but I don't post or tweet and generally find this particular tool of social media not worth my time.  Is this worth your time personally and professionally?  How much time and money do you spend on Twitter and social media?  How much time and money did you spend on your "investigation" of this one cyberbullying episode?  How much is the task force going to cost?  Is this worthwhile?  Do you think this solved the problem?


  1. Thank you.

    Best and most rational response to this I've read.

    Remember that Dr. Starr asked us to send him our feelings directly. I hope you sent him your thoughts.

    This is a learning opportunity for all of us - teens and adults. ;-)

  2. This is a little disappointing to read, especially coming from a parent.

    Unless Dr. Starr himself is vulgar, offensive and threatening in his tweets, he IS leading by example. The fact that he tweets during meetings is correctly identified as being rude, and he should certainly be a little more courteous to his colleagues, but it does not justify the type of messages some of these children posted.

    As a parent, you serve your children much better by teaching them how to be curteous, respectable and responsible people (off- and on-line) than by rationalizing and making excuses for them.

    1. What messages did students post? Don't see any on his Twitter feed.

      Superintendent Starr has been a frequent Twitter poster of CHILDREN'S pictures without the consent of their parents or guardians. Child advocates know this is a very dangerous practice as these images are used in all sorts of ways by pedophiles. What example does that set? Want a Task Force? Then let's start by looking at what the superintendent is posting to the public Internet through his frequent use of Twitter. Is posting of pictures of students the example that should be set for students?

      Note - public school children do not exist for the superintendent's public relations campaign for a new job.

    2. FYI - Superintendent Starr introduced elementary school children to Twitter as part of their curriculum. That's the superintendent's decision. It's not parents issue to clean up the mess that the superintendent created.

    3. Following up on a previous issue in MCPS, did you read the State Board of Education's Opinion directing MCPS to clean up their system for handling suspected child abusers in schools?

      This Opinion came out BEFORE Lawrence Joynes was arrested.

      Where was Joshua Starr's response? Oh, none.
      Where was his formation of a task force? On, none.
      Where was his statement to the many, many victims? Oh, none.

      ZERO response from the Superintendent when multiple elementary school students were sexually abused IN SCHOOL by a MCPS teacher.

      "Outrage" over alleged tweets that the Superintendent didn't like.

      Is MCPS about the children or the superintendent?

    4. @Janis: Did you even think before posting that...if it's your child IT IS your issue. Think before you say something.

      Overall though, I half agree with what is said here but at the end of the day, why do so many people automatically deflect. When shooting happened, it was the music that they listened to, movies that they watched...But did the parents actually look in the mirror and their own actions or lack there of before pointing their fingers at everyone and everything else...Parents need to take a more direct role in their childs life and not assume that my child is smart and or smartER when comes to technology. It is the PARENTS responsibility to teach their children morals and etiquette whether online or off. Next time you are on a public transportation pay attention to see if any man or young kids get off their lazy ass and let and elder person sit down...

  3. Totally missed the point. It is not about the use of technology it is about teaching your little snowflakes, common courtesy and civility. Not doing so leads to "afluenza" and that seemed to work out well.

    1. Yes, you did. Your obvious disdain for children comes through loud and clear, so your words are no surprise. Parents did not introduce their elementary school children to Twitter, the Superintendent did. It is HIS responsibility to teach proper usage. He opened the door, he is the one responsible for how the technology is used.

    2. It doesn't matter if it's on the phone, in person, on twitter, google + or ANYWHERE...there is NO reason for a child to threaten or speak disrespectfully to an adult unless they are in real danger. Teach your kids common courtesy instead of worrying about hurting their feelings or squashing their "free minds". It's the PARENTS responsibility first and foremost to teach their children how to properly treat others...they learn from example at HOME.

    3. Really? Then parents and guardians shouldn't have to put up with a superintendent using social media for self promotion at the expense of their children, right?
      Superintendent Joshua Starr promotes himself by saying that he uses Twitter to communicate with students. That was his choice, not parents.

  4. Oh, and if you want to see how MCPS staff talk to parents in e-mails...well, we have those examples. It makes these alleged tweets look like fluff. Where is the Superintendent's outrage?

  5. Sorry Janis, but you're way off base on this issue. The mechanism by which the communication took place is meaningless to this discussion. The content of the what was said is all that matters. If somebody threatens or verbally attacks another person then they're in the wrong, whether it is via twitter, on Facebook, in email, in a written letter sent via US Mail, spoken face-to-face, or spray painted on the side of a house. Be happy you have a superintendent who desires communication. Use that to your advantage and communicate.
    Based solely upon this thread alone, I hope that your children learn more from Mr. Starr than from you on matters of civility and making a clear point. Good luck to all of you.

    1. The "mechanism"? Really? So sexual abuse of students in a classroom by a MCPS teacher is worthy of NO communication, but some twittering produces a huge letter AND a Task Force?

      The message from the superintendent is clear.

      What example does THAT set for children about public school administrators?
      Not a thing parents can do about public school administrators who are more interested in self promotion than children.

      By the way, where exactly are those horrible tweets on Twitter? Anyone seen them?

    2. If you're implying that Superintendent Starr is making up these tweets to bolster his own image and status, then you're completely off your rocker, Janis.

    3. Really?
      Who is the person that is currently on the short list for the joy of NYC public schools chancellor?
      Who just gave himself a bunch of national publicity?

      Now, let's see the Tweets. The Washington Post just printed some of the Tweets. Are they worthy of a Task Force? Not hardly.

      Meanwhile, when exactly does the Task Force on pedophiles in public schools meet?

  6. Oh drat and double drat; are we all describing a self-serving bureaucrat?

  7. Could this be the bullying threatening uncivil tweet that prompted the letter and task force: "@mcpssuper i dont think your kids would be too happy with you if you didnt cancel school tomorrow" < >

    Wow. That tweet is much more important than child abuse by MCPS employees! No wonder the Superintendent is taking prompt and public action. After all, that tweet appears to refer to his children.

  8. Starr's leadership example seems to be: call the police and send a letter of complaint and concern to thousands of people and make your complaint as public as possible. I hope everyone at Rock Terrace; at MCPS schools where children were victims of pedophilia; at schools where your child has been locked in a storage closet for hours; and children in health-threatening mold areas, all at MCPS schools, are paying attention. Following Dr. Starr's lead, make sure to call the police immediately and make your concerns known to thousands of people. I for one am glad Starr set this example. Now, all parents should follow his lead. Call the police immediately if you suspect anything out of the ordinary is happening to your child. And make your concern as public as possible. It is not only you and it is not just your child. Don't go through your teacher, then your principal, then your community superintendent. Just cut through the red tape, as Starr did, and make your concern very, very public. And call the police immediately.

  9. Our kids sit in classrooms infested with mold. No big deal.
    Our kids are sexually abused by teachers and principals. No big deal.
    Our kids are ripped off by administrators. No big deal.

    But just refer to the superintendent's kids, and he will launch a campaign, and call the police.

    Which gives me an idea:

    Maybe the way to fight mold in MCPS is to ask @mcpssuper what he'd do if HIS kids had to sit on chairs covered with mold.
    Maybe the way to fight ripoffs by MCPS staff is to ask @mcpssuper what he'd do if HIS kids were ripped off.
    Maybe the way to fight sexual abuse by MCPS teachers is to ask @mcpssuper what he'd do if HIS kids were abused.
    Maybe the way to fight unauthorized photo-tweeting by @mcpssuper is to ask him what he'd do if HIS kids' photos were posted online without his permission.

    Maybe then he'd get the idea that our kids matter. Because our kids are just like his kids. They're kids. And kids should be protected.

    Oh, but wait. No. If we were to ask him any of those questions, why then, he'd call us "cyberbullies," right? And he'd call the police, right? Because it's okay when our kids are endangered and abused, as long as his are never mentioned.

  10. You obviously have issues in the school district. You obviously have disagreements with how the superintendent and his administration deal with problems. It also sounds as if he has done things that are probably not appropriate on twitter, such as using children's images without the expressed concent from their guardians. I am not privy to all the details in the various examples you have brought up, so I will not presume to defend or argue in Dr. Starr's favor.

    None of his potentially inappropriate behavior detracts from his point on this specific issue. Teaching your children to be civilized human beings capable of participating in rational discourse, be it in person or online, is an essential lesson that they need to learn and that will serve them well in life. Just because parents disapprove of someone's job performance does not mean that they should excuse or condone insults or threats from their children (or anyone) to that particular person and their family.

    How we communicate matters.

    1. Starr now says tweets were kids "doing silly things".

      Who is having a communication issue?

    2. Mrs. Sartucci, it's clear that you fail to see beyond the medium in which Superintendent Starr is communicating. I agree with Anonymous above - it's not about that at all! It's about teaching and modeling correct communication skills for our kids so that they have intelligent conversation as opposed to vehemently defending oneself, which you have modeled so perfectly on this thread and blog.

      It's not Superintendent Starr with the communication issue, it's Mrs. Sartucci.

    3. OK - So what IS the correct communication skill for a superintendent when a teacher that was KNOWN to have issues that REQUIRED that he NOT be allowed to TOUCH children was left IN the classroom, EVEN AFTER the State Board of Education warned said superintendent to address these issues?

      Yeah, let us all know what the proper form of communication is for that situation. Let's hear the intelligent conversation about what the superintendent should do in that situation.

      By the way, the teacher in question is in jail on $1 million bond. Not getting out anytime soon. Yet, NO communication from the superintendent on this arrest and NO response to this ongoing problem in MCPS.

      What you "anonymous" aren't doing is thinking about children. At all.

      The only thing the "anonymous" comments on this blog piece show is that they "anonymous" commenters haven't taken a second think about the message the Superintendent has put out through his Twitter Task Force.
      Once again, for those having trouble following: Twitter messages to the Superintendent are TOP PRIORITY.
      Sexual abuse of public school students is of no priority.


      I've been reading this whole thread and I just had to say that.

    5. Sorry, the subject is communication, remember? It's about when and on what topic the $500,000 +/- a year Superintendent decides to communicate and form a task force.

      What we have done here is list all of the topics where the Superintendent has remained silent and not started a task force, in contrast to the Twitter letter and Twitter task force.

      It's all about communication and what is being communicated as a priority by the Superintendent.

    6. Sartucci has her panties in a bunch over Tweets that bully & Superintendent Starr spending an extra taxpayer buck on a pad of butter at a conference. In the meantime, Starr spent millions to prevent the biggest PR nightmare in school system history by paying off those six KMES teachers in May. Had that trial gone on, the damage to MCPS would have made what Jerry Sandusky did to Penn State look mild.

    7. @anonymous 7:44 - I didn't write either of the blog posts that you are referencing. Time to start reading and get some facts.

      MCPS is already another Penn State and there is enough out in the public view already to make that case. Again, if you took the time to read what has already been made public you would know that.
      But, it doesn't matter what goes on in MCPS, the cover up here can stand up to a Penn State and beyond. You see in PA they actually had news outlets and officials that cared about children. We don't have that here and no amount of facts, documents or trials will ever shine any light on the abuses that exist in MCPS.

  11. Why would Starr appoint a task force when he (MCPS) spent millions in hush money in May to silent six teachers from revealing the Sandusky-like details of one of his own elementary school principals?

    1. No one has yet communicated with the parents of the abused children.

  12. Shorter Josh Starr communications policy:

    When my staff endangers or abuses your kids: (… crickets ...)

    When you mention my kids: I will shout & call the cops!

  13. I'm pretty sure this open letter and comments from the author of the letter show where these kids are getting their morals. I really enjoy the comment that since he introduced twitter to the kids, he has to teach them to not to threaten or be rude on it. Nice parenting right there.
    You must have many many issues with this school district, but that doesn't change the fact that parents need to parent their children.
    I do not envy Starr's position or any of the teachers if this is the type of parents they have to deal with. And I also pity your children for when they enter the real world and realize this doesn't work.

    1. How's that work? School system forces kids to "tweet", school system doesn't teach how to "tweet"?
      You must have missed Starr's other big push for "social, emotional_________". How's that work with your statement? You see, Starr has ALREADY said that HE is in charge of teaching students "social, emotional" status. Shouldn't that be on the parents?

      This is very confusing. You want parents to do everything, school to do nothing? Well, you've got that here. Parents in MCPS are already busy teaching their children higher math and cursive writing - the things that MCPS no longer values. Parents don't really need to add in Twitter messaging to the list of after school activities.

    2. I'd suggest stepping back for a minute, taking a deep breath, and trying to get some perspective. Harboring as much hatred and disdain as you seem to will not serve you or your children in any way.

      If the superintendent is doing a poor job or behaving inappropriately, go through every possible official channel to make your concerns known. Gather whatever information you can and contact local news outlets and seek interest in investigative reporting. Moderate the aggressive, emotional and illogical style of your contributions and continue to add any factual information you come across to this blog and any other appropriate sites you can find online.

      Consider how few people you seem to be getting on your side through your posts and ask yourself if this is the best course of action to bring about any meaningful change or improvement to your school district and your children's educations.

    3. Thanks for the suggestion, but the superintendent is already out looking for a new job. He's on the short list for the NYC chancellor position, and has been on that short list for months.

      "The coalition might be the best-known parent advocacy group in the region. Its members represent several constituencies, including parents of special education and gifted education students and fiscal watchdogs. The group's defining victory came this school year when the school system scaled back the fees charged to families for course materials."

      Coalition leaders have drawn attention to the misuse of funds collected from students for activities, the broadcast of a commercial radio service on school buses and, with their "Weast Watch" blog, the travel habits of Weast and his lieutenants.

      The Washington Post, June 4, 2009

    4. Looking for a new job or being vetted for one (but probably not getting hired)? There *is* a difference.

    5. Joshua Starr met with Diane Ravitch in NYC.

      That was for???

      Why do you say not getting hired? He's a top contender for the position and has been for months!

    6. Depends on whether Diane Ravitch was interviewing him for the NYC Chancellor's job, which I'd say is unlikely. LOL

      And it seems, although it could admittedly be a smokescreen, that DiBlasio has someone else in mind for the NYC top spot.

    7. The NYT can answer your question about Diane Ravitch's role in the selection of the next NYC DOE Chancellor. (Hint: Answer is she is involved in advising de Blasio.)

  14. We have a situation of miscommunication
    That's an epidemic gripping the whole nation
    Resulting in frustration with the administration
    And grass roots groups express their indignation.