Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bloomberg News: SAT and ACT College Test Companies Sued Over Data Sales

ACT Inc. and the College Board, companies that administer college admissions tests taken by high school students across the U.S., were accused in a lawsuit of selling personal data without permission.

ACT and the College Board, whose exams include the SAT and those for advanced placement, ask for permission to share data including names, birth dates and social security numbers without disclosing that information is being sold to scores of buyers for about 33 cents a student, according to the complaint in federal court in Chicago. The plaintiff, Illinois resident Rachel Specter, accuses the companies of breach of contract for selling the personal identifying information, or PII.

Entire article at:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-31/sat-and-act-college-test-companies-sued-over-data-sales.html

Song: “Rolling Terrace is not just the only school that is having mold, and it is not just the rain I was referencing to.”

From the Sentinel article on Rolling Terrace mold crisis:
Song responded by saying the problem is not only at Rolling Terrace: “Rolling Terrace is not just the only school that is having mold, and it is not just the rain I was referencing to.”

Mold outbreak causes school woes

The Sentinel
Published on: Thursday, October 31, 2013
By Holden Wilen
ROCKVILLE – Montgomery County Public Schools is reeling after a meeting last week with the County Council’s education committee to discuss a mold outbreak at Rolling Terrace Elementary School.
Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, chair of the education committee, called for the meeting after visiting the Takoma Park school to see the mold for herself.
“I did a walkthrough of the school with Principal (Jennifer) Connors,” Ervin said. “We saw the undersides of chairs with mold, pipes with mold, rugs with mold, heating and air conditioning vents with mold. It is a significant problem and there are a lot of children in that building, 800 students.”
Bridgette Kaiser, a mother of two Rolling Terrace students, said the mold is affecting the health of her fourth-grade son.
When Kaiser’s son went to school at the beginning of the fall, she said his allergies and asthma began acting up. Kaiser said she is normally able to keep her son’s health condition under control, but this time he ended up having to go to urgent care. At one point Kaiser said her son was on seven different medications...
[...]

“The other fact is that this again is in direct correlation with the weather conditions that we are having,” Song said. “Usually mold is factored into the outside weather conditions that we have. Usually when the weather turns at this time into the cooling season that we are going into, the mold dissipates because there is less humidity. It is a direct dependent on that.”
County Councilman Marc Elrich did not buy Song’s excuse, asking him why mold outbreaks did not occur at other schools. “When it rained for three days it rained for three days on the whole county near as I can tell,” Elrich said.

TODAY at NOON: Joshua Starr on Kojo Show - Call in Your Questions

Call the Kojo Nnamdi show from Noon to 1PM to ask Superintendent Joshua Starr a question.
Remember that the Kojo show screens their callers! Work "School Start Times" into your question for best chance of getting through to Superintendent Starr.

1-800-433-8850

Joshua Starr on Montgomery School Start Times

High School Football Player Dies at Practice--Richmond, VA-Area

Yahoo!Sports
October 30, 2013

In yet another tragic turn of events in a season full of them across the nation, a young football player near Richmond, Virginia collapsed during an afternoon practice on Tuesday and was pronounced dead at a hospital hours later.

There was no immediate indication about what led to the 15 year old Jacob Vick's sudden collapse. The Daily Press reported that the New Kent team had already completed all individual drills on Tuesday when Vick collapsed during a team session.

The team's coach, Dan Rounds, said that Vick sat out the team's two most recent games following a concussion earlier this season. The teenager was cleared to play in Friday's New Kent game against Lafayette High (Williamsburg, Va.) but the family and coach decided against having him participate.

Read the rest of the story here.



Wall Street Journal: The Bare Spots in the Turf

...But dozens of fields installed between 2006 and 2009 were flawed and are now falling apart, forcing schools to replace playing surfaces they once thought would last a decade or more...
...The fields that are failing prematurely were manufactured by FieldTurf Inc., a unit of France's Tarkett SA...
 http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324108204579025062616281416.html

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Leaning cell tower of Jefferson County fails inspection, closing school : News

Leaning cell tower of Jefferson County fails inspection, closing school : News

Trial Postponed Until January 8, 2014

Loiderman Middle School teacher Benjamin Cano's trial has been postponed until January 8, 2014.

10/30/2013 Docket Number: 11
Docket Description: MEMORANDUM, POSTPONEMENT
Docket Type: Docket Filed By: Court
Ruling Judge: MASON, MICHAEL D
Docket Text: MEMORANDUM OF COURT (MASON, J.) TO POSTPONE PLEA (TRIAL DATE) TO 01/08/2014 AT 9:00 A.M., FILED. (LP)

MCPS Admins in Prince George's Public Schools Top Positions

George Margolies named chief of staff for Prince George’s schools
Before going to Anne Arundel, Margolies worked for 11 years as the staff director of the Board of Education in Montgomery County, where he and Maxwell met. Maxwell served four years as the principal of Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda before being named a community superintendent in Montgomery. He became the superintendent in Anne Arundel in 2006.

How come D.C. can fire bus drivers?

When a MCPS bus driver abandons students they get reassigned. 
In D.C., they get fired. 

WTOP:  DC school bus driver charged with drunken driving

What happened to bus cameras already installed on school buses?

Gazette:  New cameras on some Montgomery school buses planned for January


Student Primer on Cell Tower Maintenance

As long as students are going to be spending time on the playground with cell towers, they might as well learn the basics of cell tower maintenance.
Here's a handy check list from one cell tower vendor on what to check on your local school's cell tower.

Copy this for your kids and send it with them to school.

Parents, don't miss the last page that lists all of the "opportunities" for the cell tower vendor to outsource tasks connected with maintaining a cell tower.  "Outsourcing" means all the different subcontractors that can be coming on the school playgrounds to service cell towers.  Do you really imagine that all of those subcontractors have had background checks? 

Cell tower compounds have already been installed on playgrounds/fields at the following Montgomery County Public Schools: 

Northwood HS - Silver Spring
Blake HS - Silver Spring
Einstein HS - Silver Spring 
Kennedy HS - Silver Spring
Wheaton HS - Silver Spring 
Springbrook HS - Silver Spring
Blair HS - Silver Spring
Watkins Mill HS - Gaithersburg
Daly Elementary School - Germantown*
Magruder HS - Rockville
Tilden Middle School - Rockville
Sherwood HS - Sandy Spring

Woodwards Road ES site - Gaithersburg

*The Daly ES PTA and community said no to this cell tower and Superintendent Jerry Weast signed the lease and placed the tower on the playground anyway.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Md State Bd of Ed--Don't Hide Your Light Under a Bushel, Let Public Watch Your Meetings On-Line

The Maryland State Board of Education does not
provide a live video feed of its meetings or a link at its website to recordings of previous State
Board meetings.  
In neighboring Virginia and Delaware, the state boards of education provide recordings of their meetings.    http://www.doe.k12.de.us/infosuites/ddoe/sbe/sbeaudio.shtml http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/meetings/index.shtml
Most local school systems in Maryland and county councils  provide live
streaming of their meetings and  recordings of previous meetings at
their website.

Last December, a parent asked the State Board to live stream their meetings. 
-->
On Thursday, October 31, the State Board will hold their annual retreat.  I hope they will discuss live-streaming and decide to do it. 
A parent has asked Maryland State Senator Brian Feldman as well as District 16 Delegates Susan Lee, Ariana Kelly, and Bill Frick to introduce a bill in the Maryland legislature to require the State Board to live-stream its meetings. 
-->
Here's what Maryland's education law would look like if the General Assembly enacted this bill and Governor O'Malley signed it.  

Gazette: Rolling Terrace mold issue continues

Parents remain concerned more than a month after a major mold outbreak at Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Takoma Park, even though Montgomery County Public Schools officials say the problem has been remedied as much as possible.
On Thursday, the school’s mold problem, which affected about 30 classrooms, came before members of the Montgomery County Council’s education committee, who discussed the issue with school system officials, the county’s health officer and parents.
Rolling Terrace students and staff returned from the Labor Day weekend to find mold on Sept. 3 and 4 in the majority of the building.
 http://www.gazette.net/article/20131028/NEWS/131029366/1124/rolling-terrace-mold-issue-continues&template=gazette

Monday, October 28, 2013

Gansler says 'whether you have a boy or a girl' makes a difference in teen drinking

Gansler says 'whether you have a boy or a girl' makes a difference in teen drinking

MCPS Fib of the Day: "If a school does not want a cell tower located on their property, it is not placed there," Montgomery schools spokesman Dana Tofig

Except, of course, when the Daly Elementary School PTA and neighbors said no to a cell tower, MCPS put one in anyway. 

The Baltimore Sun:  Cell towers at schools ignite debate in Arundel
Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Democrat who represents Piney Orchard and proposed banning towers at schools, said he's heard health concerns from parents and neighbors and is worried about towers falling or catching fire. But he's particularly concerned about the school system raising money on its own — outside the purview of the council.
"They are not a taxing authority. They are not elected. They are not a fiscal authority," Benoit said. "Until they are, the County Council makes the final decision on every dollar collected. That's why we pass a budget every year."
Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/anne-arundel/annapolis/bs-md-ar-cell-tower-bill-20131017,0,6893597.story?page=2#ixzz2j1FcoPXh

64% of MCPS Teachers Not Engaged or Actively Disengaged

Remember when Superintendent Joshua Starr arrived he immediately signed up MCPS for a Gallup poll of employees.  He cancelled the administration of the 2nd grade Terra Nova testing to help pay for this $900,000 Gallup poll.

Gallup didn't have to bid on this project, Starr just handed them the cash.

What is in the Gallup poll that cost $900,000?  19 questions. That's all.

Here are the 19 questions the Gallup poll asks staff, and the Gallup summary provided to the Board of Education.

--------------------------------------
On a 5 point scale, where 5 means extremely satisfied and 1 means extremely dissatisfied, how satisfied with your organization as a place to work?

From 2012 Gallup Report on MCPS
(Results for individual
questions were not reported to BOE)
On a 5 point scale, where 5 means strongly agree and 1 means strongly disagree, please rate your level of agreement with the following items:

  • I know what is expected of me at work.
  • I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  • At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  • In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  • My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  • There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  • At work, my opinions seem to count.
  • The mission or purpose of my organization makes me feel my job is important.
  • My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  • I have a best friend at work.
  • In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  • This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.
And, the MCPS specific questions:
  • I would recommend my school or worksite to friends and family as a good place to work. 
  • My supervisor involves me in decisions affecting my work.
  • My supervisor fosters a collaborative work environment.
  • My supervisor is an active supporter of the changes that affect our workgroup.
  • There is open communication throughout all levels of MCPS.
  • Leaders in MCPS help me see how changes made today will affect my organizations future.
Here are the 2012 Gallup survey results for the MCPS specific questions.
From 2012 Gallup Report on MCPS

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Whitman's Black and White Reports on AG Gansler Visit to Pyle MS

Maryland attorney general Douglas Gansler, a Pyle parent who works with community organizations to limit teen access to alcohol, spoke as well. He discussed various strategies that teens can set up with their parents, such as a code word that can be used to call parents in an uncomfortable situation.

“You’ve got to be a team on this,” he said.

To read the whole article, CLICK HERE.

AG Doug Gansler at Pyle Middle School: On Drinking!



Pyle MS Panthers Welcome Aly Raisman and Attorney General Doug Gansler

February 12, 2013 "This week Ask, Listen, Learn had the chance to start the week off right with one of our favorite superstars Aly Raisman! The Ask, Listen, Learn team headed to Pyle Middle School in Bethesda Maryland on Monday with a star studded line up of Aly Raisman AND Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler. Not only did the Pyle Middle School 8th graders get to meet two amazing role models but they also were the first group of kids to get the awesome new Ask, Listen, Learn tie –dye T-shirts. (Aly loved our new T-shirts too and even took two extra shirts home for her younger sisters!)"

(...)

"Attorney General Gansler also had some fun with the kids asking them to tell him how they personally resist peer pressure. Both Aly and Attorney General Gansler reminded the 8th graders that the kids who make smart choices in middle school and high school are the ones who ultimately achieve their goals."

Unfortunately, the Public Service Announcement Video featuring Doug Gansler doesn't appear to be available any longer!

Interestingly, lots of state Attorneys General made videos against underage drinking. Wonder where the one featuring Doug Gansler went?




Friday Night Lights Out: The Concussion Debate Hits the Texas Youth Leagues



Friday Night Lights Out: The Concussion Debate Hits the Texas Youth Leagues
by Pete Freedman Oct 26, 2013 5:45 AM EDT
 After years of heated debate, the NFL is finally taking concussions seriously. But how are they being handled in football’s lower levels? Pete Freedman reports from football-crazed Texas.

On the evening of Monday, September 23, emergency room doctors determined that 12-year-old Connor Curreri of Dallas had suffered a concussion during a football practice held that afternoon. Five weeks later, the seventh-grader has yet to complete a full day of school.

For the entire article go here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: Blake High School Football Player Sustains Serious Neck Injury in Game Last Night. Air-lifted to hospital.

MoCo Football's Mike Cornejo tweeted a request for prayers for Blake football offensive lineman, who is reported to have sustained a serious neck injury in last night's game against Sherwood High School.  Player was reported to have been air-lifted to area hospital.

We join Cornejo in prayers for player's speedy recovery.   

Real Food for Real Kids Montgomery School Food Forum November 2nd



Wondering why cookies, chips, Doritos, high sugar juices, Rice Krispie Treats and Welch's fruit snacks (aka gummy candy) aren't on the menu but are for sale in MCPS? Want to learn more about the MCPS school food, what's causing the epidemic of Type II diabetes and obesity, dangerous food additives in our kids' food and how school gardens help children learn about healthy eating? Want to show your concern as a parent about the a la carte items sold to children in MCPS using your lunch accounts but not appearing on the school menus?

Then join Real Food For Kids - Montgomery and Montgomery Victory Gardens at the SCHOOL FOOD FORUM:  Creating a Vision of Fresh, Real Food in Montgomery County Public Schools, to be held Saturday, November 2, 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. at Lutheran Church of St. Andrew, 15300 New Hampshire Ave. in Silver Spring, MD 20905. The Keynote speaker is nationally-known school food reformer Tony Geraci, former Food Director at Baltimore City Schools, Director of Nutrition Services for the Shelby County Schools in Memphis and subject of movie "Cafeteria Man." A healthy, delicious, and locally-sourced lunch will be served. $25 for early bird ticket by Oct. 22, $30 until Oct. 29 registration deadline ($15 students) (scholarships are available). For more info and registration go to http://www.realfoodforkidsmontgomery.org/forum.htm.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Former PG County Public Schools Superintendent Deasy Resigns After IPad-Pearson Disaster

L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy to resign

Starr's Posting of Children's Pictures Online

Did you know that pedophiles will use any pictures of children they find online?

At the Maryland Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse meeting on October 24, 2013, Corporal Keith Thomas of Maryland State Police spoke on the issue of Computer Crimes and how pedophiles use the Internet.  When asked about the posting of public school children's pictures online, Corporal Thomas explained how pedophiles will you any pictures of children they find online for their purposes.
When told that the MCPS Superintendent is taking and posting pictures of children online the collective response from the meeting participants was "Why?"

MCPS [Md] Football Games, Oct. 25, 2013--Programs W/ and W/O Athletic Trainers

Oct. 28th: Council to Review MCPS Technology Plan

ED 9:30 AM - 3CCR To be televised live on County Cable Montgomery
Oct 28 • Update - MCPS Technology Strategic Plan (McGuire)
 •To be determined

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Parents express renewed concern about mold problem at Rolling Te - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Parents express renewed concern about mold problem at Rolling Te - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Moldy Montgomery County schools pose severe health risks for students | WJLA.com

Moldy Montgomery County schools pose severe health risks for students | WJLA.com

Balt. Sun: Atty Gen Gansler Gansler says breaking up teen party was not his job.

We would like to see the job description for Attorney General in Maryland.  We know that Attorney General Gansler has been unwilling to stand up for the rights of public school children to a free public education.  
Mr. Gansler has been advised of the illegal curricular fees charged in MCPS and his response was that if he was a public school parent, he would not pay the fees.  
Yet, he has taken no action to stop the charging of illegal fees.  
Are public school children not "relevant" to him? 
"Assume for purposes of discussion that there was widespread drinking at this party," Gansler said. "How is that relevant to me? … The question is, do I have any moral authority over other people's children at beach week in another state? I say no."
Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/politics/bs-md-gansler-party-20131023,0,5177481.story#ixzz2idwHIQJA

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Imagination Stage: Some MCPS Kids Go for Free: Others Pay $13.00 for the Privilege

PTA: Letters & E-mails to Starr, Staff & BOE have gone completely unanswered

Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of
Rolling Terrace Elementary School
October 18, 2013

Valerie Ervin, Chair
Phil Andrews
Craig Rice
Education Committee
Montgomery County Council

Dear Members Ervin, Andrews, and Rice:

As you are aware, Rolling Terrace Elementary School has been battling a severe mold problem since before the start of this school year. The PTA, parents, teachers and staff continue to be extremely concerned about this issue. We greatly appreciate that Councilwoman Ervin was able to visit the school on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 to see the problem firsthand and to discuss all these issues with concerned parents. However, we considered it prudent to document our concerns so that all of Montgomery County leaders would be fully aware of the issues. This letter outlines our concerns and will present several recommendations for action.

The health of children and staff is being compromised.

Many parents are reporting an array of symptoms that are unusual for their children and can be linked to mold exposure. These range from severe, debilitating asthma attacks (requiring emergency room visits) to headaches, hives, itchy and red eyes, and scratchy throats and coughs. We know that some of these have been reported to the school's nurse, however many families are simply taking their children to their personal physicians. There have been numerous requests by the PTA to conduct a survey of all families to better understand the extent of impacts, but no action has been taken. Many parents believe that the chemicals being used to clean moldy surfaces may be causing additional health problems.

As we all know, when a child's health is compromised, so is his or her learning ability. When an entire classroom is too hot, has strange odors, or workers coming and going because of the mold issue, the quality of the teaching and learning environment is completely compromised. Our children, teachers, and school administration deserve better than this.

The PTA considers it important to better understand the extent of the impacts to help Montgomery County and the School Department improve their remediation plans to both help Rolling Terrace now and potentially other schools in the future. The lack of data and information will only continue to compromise resolving the problem.

Recommendations:
Request that parents notify the school nurse of illnesses that could be related to mold. This would provide more information regarding total health impacts.
Work with an epidemiologist to develop a survey design and implement a statistically valid survey to better understand mold impacts on the school population (children and all staff). 

Consistent and complete communications from MCPS is lacking and is not reaching all families with children at the school.

To not mince words, it has been a struggle for parents and the PTA to get answers to our questions and concerns. As one parent noted, "it's like pulling teeth." There have been improvements the past couple of weeks-some parents with children exhibiting severe allergic reactions are being informed of new mold findings, as is the PTA President and Task Force Chair - but not the entire school community. Despite the school's large community of families with limited English proficiency, not all notices have been translated.  Many parents were not fully informed or aware of the issue after the first notice was sent home with students because it completely down played the severity, extent, and potential health risks of the problem. Some information has been inconsistent, for instance, when exactly mold was first discovered. Some parents didn't even receive the notice - message
by 'student backpack' is not sufficient, especially in the case of younger students. Since then, there was only one additional notice to all parents. This second notice made parents aware of the symptoms they may see if their children are sensitive to mold, but encouraged parents to go to their own doctor, not notify the school or school nurse.

Furthermore, only parents who have reported symptoms have been receiving ongoing communication, as noted above. What appears to be a lack of outreach by the Administration could be misconstrued as an environmental justice issue. Being more proactive will improve trust and confidence that MCPS is working to eliminate the mold problem.

Finally, some letters and emails sent to Superintendent Starr, other staff, School Board members, and the Council have gone completely unanswered. A lack of response makes it appear that the leadership doesn't care or worse, is hiding something. 

Recommendations
Develop a standardized approach to notify all parents of the students in an affected classroom, not just those with known allergens, of new mold spots and the cleaners used. Have documents prepared in advance in English and Spanish (or any other language necessary) so that only the room number/teacher name has to be added.
Proactively provide a weekly update that is posted to the front page of the school website and posted in a prominent location near the front door of the school. Any description of rooms with mold should identify the room by teacher name and grade, in addition to room number, so that parents can better understand where the mold has been found.
Use robo-calls more frequently to provide information/notices to the school community.
Continue sharing print information in the Wednesday folders.
School Administrators and/or senior staff working on the mold issue should offer to hold meetings with the school community at least once a month to improve and maintain better dialog and to work together on resolving problems. 

The root cause has not been adequately identified; mold continues to reoccur and be found in new locations. 

Although Mr. James Song, director, Department of Facilities Management, sounded extremely confident the mold was contained and being effectively remediated (cleaned) when he spoke at the school meeting on September 16, that is obviously not the case. Mr. Song noted that after the cleaning mold might come back in the spring, however it is persisting without abatement. Mold continues to be regularly found and cleaned away from walls, furniture, and ceiling tiles. But this is only a symptom of a deeper problem. It is obvious to parents the mold is widespread and pervasive due to the poor condition of the school's heating and cooling system (discussed below). The source or sources have not been properly found and contained. Mold is likely persisting behind the ceiling tiles, along
pipes, in the insulation or in other hidden spaces.

An indoor air quality survey was conducted by an external third party on September 18, and though the results look relatively good, it is only providing a snapshot of the problem at one point in time. It did note that one classroom in particular had nearly three times the level of Cladosporium spores as compared to outdoor concentration. This room may prove to be a 'hotspot' or source. However, the test was done nearly one month ago. It seems more prudent to routinely test the indoor air quality to both focus in on the sources and vectors, and better understand the actual air quality conditions in real time since it could have serious
impacts on our children and staff.

Recommendation 
A more complete and larger scale inspection and abatement of the persistent mold needs to be conducted. Consideration should be given to potentially moving students to a separate site or to closing the school for a couple of days (possibly near a holiday or school break), if this is needed.
If the school is closed for a period of time, MCPS and the County Administration should consider how best to provide support to families that may not have alternative care options for their children, particularly if they cannot miss work.
Conduct indoor air quality testing more frequently throughout the school, possibly as frequently as two or three times per week. 

The schedule of the HVAC Renovation Action Plan for Rolling Terrace is completely insufficient considering the emergency situation that exists. 

An 'HVAC Renovation Work - Action Plan' was shared with the Rolling Terrace Community after the September 18 meeting and is now posted on the RTES website. Unfortunately, the schedule for replacing some components is far into the future --- as far as FY 2016 or FY2017. To parents, the PTA, and wider school community, this is unacceptable. The current failures of the heating and cooling system, and problems that have persisted for many years, is exacerbating the mold problem.

Rather than spending precious dollars for continuous, ongoing cleanups that are proving ineffective, it seems time and funds would be better spent to shorten the timeline of this Action Plan and to get as much done as feasibly possible within the next six months to one year.

Recommendation 
Reassess the emergency nature of the persistent mold problem at Rolling Terrace and elevate the full replacement of all components to the top of the County and MCPS priority list. 

In closing, the PTA and Rolling Terrace school community appreciate your prompt attention to the issues we have raised. We have strived to make positive recommendations, but you or others may have additional suggestions. The PTA Mold Task Force and PTA leadership at Rolling Terrace Elementary School are available to work with your Committee and other County or MCPS officials to resolve the mold and HVAC system problems at Rolling Terrace as quickly as possible.

Respectfully,

Craig Sharman, Chair      Mindy Kassaraba, President 
PTA Task Force              Rolling Terrace Elementary School PTA
On behalf of the Rolling Terrace Elementary School PTA and school community

Cc:
Jennifer Connors, Principal
Joshua Starr, Superintendent
Bronda Mills, Associate Superintendent
Montgomery County School Board

Joshua Starr at the Gala 2013 (or, what he spends time doing instead of addressing the Rock Terrace issues)

Open Letter to County Council ED Committee on Rock Terrace School

I understand that the ED Committee is holding a hearing concerning the ongoing Mold problem at Rolling Hills ES. The health and safety of our children is paramount. Similarly, I would like to ask that the ED Committee schedule a session as soon as possible on the issues involved with Rock Terrace. The scheme at Rock Terrace School constitutes nothing less than FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES.

In case the ED Committee needs a refresher:

1. Opening credit union accounts for students without their parents' permission.

2. Failing to give students/parents copies of credit union account statements.

3. Failing to give students/parents copies of W-2 forms.

4. Removing sums of money from student accounts without parent permission.

5. Staff members holding joint accounts with students without their parents' permission.

6. Transferring money between student accounts without the knowledge of the students involved, or their parents.

7. Using the above money taken from the students for unknown purposes.

8. Destruction of student bank records.

9. Destruction of student W-2 forms.

10. Failure to hire a forensic auditor to ascertain how much money is owed each student.

11. Whether MCPS is spending public dollars on criminal attorneys in this matter for staff members.

The above issues need to be investigated. Paramount is whether MCPS has changed any of their policies and procedures to ensure that such financial exploitation never happens again. How can you trust MCPS to responsibly manage a $2.1 billion dollar budget when these childrens' bank accounts were drained, for years, by MCPS staff?

Who is looking out for these students? MCPS, the superintendent, and the Board of Education have remained silent. Will County Council members speak up and demand that the students who suffered financial exploitation be compensated for their losses?

Lyda Astrove

Breaking News: Council MOLD Hearing for 1 MCPS School Thursday

You remember the County Council? The group that says:
 "The County Council's involvement with MCPS is largely limited to appropriating its funds." ~ Councilmember George Leventhal 
and does as little as possible to exert any oversight over MCPS.

Well, through some freak of nature (must be a Halloween trick) the Montgomery County Council's Education Committee has found a way to speak up.  Tomorrow, the Education Committee is holding a committee meeting devoted to ONE SCHOOL and ONE issue at that school!

Now take a look at the way the Council set up this hearing. Here was how the hearing was listed on the Committee's Agenda:

Discussion - School Facility Maintenance Policies and Practices

But, the meeting is going to be about one school's issue with mold.  Take a look at the packet that has been released for this meeting.  The Council is even permitting a parent from Rolling Terrace Elementary School to sit at the table for this discussion.

Other MCPS schools with mold issues? Where is your seat at the table?

Obviously, when the County Council wants to insert themselves into the operation of MCPS facilities they know how to do it.


Hypocrisy, Defined


The Marriott Foundation Bridges to Work program is a job training and internship program for students with disabilities. MCPS has a long history of working with this program to provide appropriate opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who attend MCPS schools. Over the past five years, MCPS has paid $276,000 to the Marriott Foundation so that students could participate in this program. The Bridges to Work program is a well-regarded, quality program for students with disabilities, and appreciated by the community.

FLASH FORWARD to the present. Apparently, the Superintendent of Schools, the self-proclaimed "Equity Warrior," recently attended a reception for the Bridges to Work program, tweeting how happy he was to be at a recognition reception for the Bridges program.

* I seriously DOUBT that the Marriott Foundation steals the money that the students earn in their paid internships!

* The participants in the Bridges program are participating in paid internships, while at the same time MCPS has suspended paid internships for all students working at in-school sites.

*Joshua Starr and the Board of Education have so far refused to hire an independent forensic auditor to determine how much money the Rock Terrace School students are owed.

Crashes due to distracted walking near schools on the rise

Christina Morris-Ward was 15 when she was struck by a car and killed last October as she crossed an intersection on the way to her Germantown, Md., high school.
The driver who hit her had a green light and didn't see Morris-Ward until it was too late. The teen was wearing dark clothes, had headphones in her ears and was carrying her cellphone.
All assumptions about what led to that deadly scenario point to a single culprit: distracted walking. A new study by Safe Kids Worldwide finds that one in five high school students and one in eight middle school students cross the street while distracted and possibly engaging with a device...

Another FieldTurf plastic grass field falling apart

...Parks Director Jeff Hutchinson said despite the fact that the turf is supposed to last 10 to 15 years, but turf fibers have started to break off and shred just six years after having been installed...

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Montgomery school board lobbies for White Flint school site swap

Wants to co-locate elementary school with park

Cell towers on school property - Georgia

Cell towers on school property - 7am

Anne Arundel moves to jam cell towers at schools - : News

Anne Arundel moves to jam cell towers at schools - : News

Whitman Black & White: "The boy struggled and was pinned to the ground by the officer"

Whitman Student News:
Officer Pascali restrained and handcuffed a junior near the entrance to Whittier Woods during an evacuation due to a fire alarm Oct. 11.
A faulty smoke detector caused the fire alarm to sound. Administration used an annunciator board to locate the zone that was ringing, and realized that the detector was broken, Principal Alan Goodwin said. Security found the faulty detector and called for repairs.
Students crowded under awnings near the front of the school in the middle of the pouring rain.
“We were able to figure that out quickly that we didn’t have to force kids away from the building,” Goodwin said. “If it was a real fire, they couldn’t have stood under any awnings.”
The student was looking for a member of the Best Buddies during the drill and attempted to find him by going back into the building. Pascali would not let him back in, due to safety codes.
The boy struggled and was pinned to the ground by the officer, Goodwin said.
Knowing the student’s intentions were good, Pascali did not arrest the student. Pascali instead took him for a ride to calm down. The student later returned to school and apologized for his actions, Goodwin said.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Concern over safety coordination between police and MCPS schools in M - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Concern over safety coordination between police and schools in M - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

State Teachers' Convention in Ocean City

Brown gets huge endorsement for governor
...But Chris Lloyd, vice president of the Montgomery County Education Association in the largest school system, argued that polls showed Mizeur had little chance of winning. While “we won’t agree on everything,” Lloyd said Brown was the best candidate offering the teachers “a seat at the table” and a strong voice in policy....

MCPS Cell Towers Owe $86K in Property Taxes

Cell towers on public school playgrounds represent lost property tax revenue for the State of Maryland.  For 10 years MCPS cell towers escaped paying any property taxes.  It was only after years of advocacy by Louis Wilen that property tax bills were finally issued to the MCPS cell tower telecommunications companies.

However, the bills could only be issued retroactively for 3 years.  So MCPS cell towers escaped paying property taxes for 7 years. 

Now that property tax bills are being issued, let's take a look at which telecommunications companies aren't paying.  Note that when these bills are not paid the State of Maryland can not force a tax sale like they would on a home. Instead, the State must take each of these bills to Court for collection.

The chart below shows which telecommunications companies owe property taxes on their cell towers on MCPS playgrounds. Some of these companies owe 5 years of property taxes.

17,202.24Sprint/NextelRandolph RoadKennedy High School
16,345.63Tower CoEmory Grove RoadWoodwards Road School site
16,342.07Tower CoOld Georgetown RoadTilden Middle School
15,588.20Sprint/NextelEmory Grove RoadWoodwards Road School site
13,693.68ComcastEmory Grove RoadWoodwards Road School site
7,083.86Clear Wireless 12501 Dalewood DriveWheaton High School
178.72Clear Wireless Valley Brook DriveSpringbrook High School
76.92CricketOlney Sandy Spring RoadSherwood High School

TOTAL in over due property tax bills for MCPS cell towers:  $86,511.32

Oct. 24th Council looks at MCPS Finances, Buses, Truancy, Police Officers, Maintenance

ED/PS 9:30 AM - 7CHR To be televised live on County Cable Montgomery
Oct 24 • Update - school bus camera implementation (Farag/McGuire)
 • School Resource Officers (Farag/McGuire)
 • Update - Truancy Court Program (Farag/McGuire)

ED 2:00 PM - 7CHR To be televised live on County Cable Montgomery
Oct 24 • MCPS Quarterly Financial Report (McGuire)
 • Discussion - school facility maintenance policies and practices (McGuire)

http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/agenda/cm/current_com_agn.pdf

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Thurs. Oct. 17th: BOE Dinner with Planning Board...off camera...

This is an Open Meeting of these two public bodies. Stop on by and check out the discussion!  

Meeting of Board of Education and 
 Montgomery County Planning Board 
Auditorium 
Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, Maryland 20850 
Thursday, October 17, 2013 
6:30–8:30 p.m. 

Desired Outcomes 
• Strengthen the commitment of the Board of Education and Montgomery County Planning 
Board to work collaboratively in future planning for communities and schools. 
• Receive an update on agency collaboration activities. 
• Discuss status of facility co-location study. 

Agenda

I. Welcome and Introductions (Mr. Barclay) and Dinner 6:30–7:00 p.m.

II. Opening Comments (Mr. Barclay and Ms. Carrier) 7:00–7:15 p.m.

III. Staff Presentations: 7:15–7:45 p.m.

A. Interagency Collaboration on School Projects
(John Carter, Mike Riley, James Song)
• Clarksburg Cluster Elementary School
• Clarksburg/ Damascus Middle School
• Northwest Elementary School #8
• Burtonsville Elementary School
• Arcola Elementary School
• Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2
• Wheaton High School

B. Interagency Collaboration on School Sites
 (John Carter, James Song)
• Shady Grove Sector Plan School
• White Flint Sector Plan School Site
• White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan and West Farm Depot

C. Enrollment Projections and Subdivision Staging Policy
 (Bruce Crispell)

D. Status Report on Future Public Faciities Infrastructure Study (Co-location Study)
(Gwen Wright, Chris McGovern)

IV. Board of Education and Planning Board Dialogue 7:45–8:30 p.m

Thurs. Oct 17th: BOE to Meet Off Camera, Again...

MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION 
WORK SESSION 
October 17, 2013 
2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m 
 Room 127 (850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, MD)

AGENDA

Objectives:
1. Review and adopt a monitoring calendar
2. Adopt topics for the Board’s 2013-14 Work Plan


2:00 p.m.

Call to order and Overview of Agenda


2:05 p.m.

Discussion and Review of Milestones and Monitoring Calendar


2:35 p.m.


Discussion and Adoption of Board Work Topics
 Discussion of Deliberative Process Regarding
Community Concerns

Athletic Trainer Coverage at Public High Schools--Maryland, Northern Virginia, and DC

MCPS is shown in yellow.

In 2014-2015 Operating Budget, go from yellow to green to dark green.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

MCPS and BOE Continue to Stonewall Rock Terrace Families: 4 Months, and Counting!

Below I have forwarded a copy of an email sent to Christopher Barclay, the president of the Montgomery County Board of Education on September 9. Over a month ago.
In the meantime, not a single member of the Board of Education has lifted a finger, or made a motion, to address the issues concerning Rock Terrace.
Even the Board Members on the Special Populations Committee, who hold themselves out as concerned for special needs students, have remained silent.

Make no mistake: the scheme at Rock Terrace was nothing less than FINANCIAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES.

Larry Bowers, the Chief Operating Officer who is ultimately responsible for financial oversight of the school system, should immediately be removed from any involvement in coming up with a resolution for the affected families. The State's Attorney overseeing the investigation of the case has stressed that they will NOT be sharing evidence with MCPS, contrary to what Mr. Bowers implied to the Finance committee.

Chris Garran, the associate superintendent, admitted last night at the Rock Terrace PTG meeting that he knows nothing about any plan to calculate losses to families.

The only way to calculate losses to families is to hire an outside, independent forensic auditor to fairly and properly calculate how much money was stolen from each student.

The Rock Terrace mess has been known to MCPS since the end of May. Four months have gone by, and MCPS still has not developed a plan to "make it right" for the affected families.

The State's Attorney has made it crystal clear that families do not need to wait for the conclusion of the criminal investigation to initiate their civil remedies. It was my hope, fading fast, that such action could be avoided since there is NO QUESTION of the impropriety of (1) opening bank accounts for intellectually disabled students without their parents' knowledge, (2) failing to provide parents with copies of the bank statements and/or W-2 forms generated for them, (3) withdrawing various sums of cash from student accounts (4) transferring sums of money between student accounts, and (5) failing to account for where the money went.

We may never know where the money, withdrawn in cash, went. MCPS is responsible for that loss. But with effort, parents and an independent auditor can figure out how much money went INTO their students' accounts.

I would appreciate an answer by October 23rd as to whether MCPS intends to develop a plan to compensate students and families for their losses.

Lyda Astrove
Rockville, MD 20850

"Ad astra per aspera"



-----Original Message-----
From: Lyda Astrove
To: Christopher_Barclay
Sent: Mon, Sep 9, 2013 8:54 pm
Subject: Rock Terrace, Committee Meeting

Although I could not attend the committee meeting today where Rock Terrace was discussed, I have watched portions of the video.

http://www.parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/2013/09/rock-terrace-school-audit-no-credit.html

I am EXTREMELY distressed by Larry Bowers' failure to be forthright with the Board of Education about the extent of the theft of money from Rock Terrace students.

Bowers kept saying over and over that they need to "piece together" where the money went when it was withdrawn, and that maybe it went for "programmatic purposes", as if that were somehow an acceptable use of the stolen money.

The bottom line is that MCPS has a way to calculate how much money was deposited over the years into different student accounts. And with the subpoena power of the State's attorney, eventually families will be able to ascertain how much money went into these accounts.

Whether the money was used for Rock Terrace School programmatic purposes, to pay the American Express Purchasing Card Bills (for which, by the way, there are no transaction logs apparently), to subsidize staff and staff's children's trip to London, England...it just doesn't matter. The money belonged to the student and should not have been withdrawn from their accounts.

I do not have confidence that the Chief Operating Officer, who let this situation go on for almost 10 years, is the person who should have ANY say-so whatsoever in determining whether and how much to reimburse these students. I renew my call for an outside, independent forensic accountant who will fairly determine what the students are owed.

While the state's attorney is investigating any criminal elements of this whole sorry scheme, you must realize that MCPS continues to face substantial civil liability as well. As a taxpayer, and as an advocate for children with disabilities, I had hoped that MCPS would see the immediate benefit in acknowledging fault, working promptly to ascertain damages, and take steps to make the students whole. Instead, what I saw on the video was evasiveness, obfuscation, and flat-out untruths.

For example: we know for a fact, and I have provided copies of documents to Roger Pisha, that before one student graduated from Rock Terrace, $340 dollars in cash was withdrawn from his bank account. Then, after he graduated, the rest of the money dribbled away in "inactivity fees" over several years. So not only was this student's money stolen from him, the rest of it was wasted specifically because MCPS let it be wasted.

Hire an accountant. Make it right.

Lyda Astrove
"Ad astra per aspera"

Frontline: Cell Tower Deaths

THIS is what you want on your child's playground?

WATCH:  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/cell-tower-deaths/


Well, this is what Red Zone Schools get on their playground...

Superintendent Starr wants 3 more Red Zone cell towers (shown in image):

Neelsville Middle School
Forest Oak Middle School
Gaithersburg High School


Cell tower compounds have already been installed on playgrounds/fields at the following Montgomery County Public Schools: 

Northwood HS - Silver Spring
Blake HS - Silver Spring
Einstein HS - Silver Spring 
Kennedy HS - Silver Spring
Wheaton HS - Silver Spring 
Springbrook HS - Silver Spring
Blair HS - Silver Spring
Watkins Mill HS - Gaithersburg
Daly Elementary School - Germantown*
Magruder HS - Rockville
Tilden Middle School - Rockville
Sherwood HS - Sandy Spring

Woodwards Road ES site - Gaithersburg

*The Daly ES PTA and community said no to this cell tower and Superintendent Jerry Weast signed the lease and placed the tower on the playground anyway.