Sunday, August 31, 2014

Montgomery Co. Public Schools: 3 confirmed, 9 suspected cases of whooping cough among students |

Montgomery Co. Public Schools: 3 confirmed, 9 suspected cases of whooping cough among students |

Two Months After June Primary, The Financial Returns Are In

Several Democratic candidates pursuing nominations for state legislature in the June primary poured in hefty amounts of their personal assets in the closing days of the campaign – but nevertheless fell short, according to reports filed this week with the state Board of Elections.
The reports, which were due Tuesday, cover a period from June 9 through beginning of last week -- and are largely intended to outline the financial status of campaigns as the general election gets underway. But, given the dearth of competitive contests for state legislature and local office in Montgomery County this fall, the reports are notable mainly for their disclosures covering activity in the final weeks prior to the June 24 primary.
The list of top self-funders includes:

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Daily Record: Election watchdog raises alarm over duplicate voter registrations

Elections Integrity Maryland has identified 43,983 voters who were registered in Virginia and Maryland, some of whom voted in both states in 2012.

Read more:

and more coverage at this link...  14,646 duplicate voters flagged in Fairfax, Maryland

Friday, August 29, 2014

Thousands miss deadline for Montgomery immunization records

About 12 Montgomery students have confirmed or suspected whooping cough Enrolled at Rockville, Potomac schools

From The Gazette, reporter Lindsay Powers:

As many as a dozen students at four Montgomery County schools have been confirmed or are suspected to have pertussis, also known as whooping cough, county officials said.

The students are enrolled at Julius West, Cabin John and Robert Frost middle schools and Cold Spring Elementary School, said Dana Tofig, a spokesman for Montgomery County Public Schools.

“It is believed that all of the cases are related to students who attended the same summer camp where they were exposed to pertussis,” Tofig said in an email Friday.

To read the whole story go here.

Ride On officials investigate potential student passenger privacy breach |

Ride On officials investigate potential passenger privacy breach |

CCPS is launching a new entry system at all schools, centers and buildings this school year

From Charles County Board of Education member Jennifer Abell's blog:

Charles County Public Schools is launching a new entry system at all schools, centers and buildings this school year that changes how visitors, students and staff enter the facility. The system is intercom and video-based and is being programmed to match the bell schedules at each individual school. Most schools will begin use of the system when schools open on Monday, Aug. 25.
Based on the school bell schedule, doors will be locked automatically when the first period bell rings. Outside visitors will then be required to use the intercom system to speak to the main office staff. An intercom button and camera are located at the main entrance of all schools, and office staff will use the touchscreen video equipment to respond to requests for entry during the school day. Visitors will need to use the intercom box to notify main office staff of their arrival to the school before staff will unlock the doors for entry. The system does not lock or unlock any interior doors in schools, including classroom doors, but controls specified access areas to the main building.
Staff members will receive access badges to use during the school day when the system is active. Additionally, schools will also have access badges to use as student hall passes for restroom purposes, for travel to and from the school building to trailer classroom areas and for use at any time during the bell schedule when the system is active...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Breaking News: PG NAACP President Calls for Halt to PGCPS Cell Tower Deal

Bob Ross (Linkedin)
Prince George's County NAACP President Bob Ross spoke to the Prince George's County Board of Education at their August 28, 2014, meeting about their deal to place at least 73 cell towers on public school property. 

Mr. Ross calls for the Prince George's County Board of Education to hold off on the building of any more cell towers until the issue can be given further study. Mr. Ross also speaks to forming a coalition of other NAACP branches (Montgomery, Anne Arundel and Howard) to further review the issues surrounding the placement of cell towers on public school playgrounds. 

Please note the webcast video and audio are not aligned. If we can obtain a better copy of this statement we will post it. 

Capital Gazette: Cell tower proposal a risky move

Cell tower proposal a risky move

Teacher Lawrence Joynes Child Pornography Trial Set for March 2, 2015

08/20/2014 Docket Number: 55
Docket Description:ORDER, POSTPONE
Docket Type:Docket Filed By: Court

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

NPR: Investigation by member station KPCC, which obtained emails between Deasy and tech executives that bring into question whether the initial bidding process was fair. #JohnDeasy #Pearson #Apple #Ipads

"...Pearson software wasn't ready..." 
Deasy "not uncommon to meet with" vendors prior to competition...

NPR:  The LA School iPad Scandal: What You Need To Know

A massive expansion of classroom technology has come to a grinding halt in Los Angeles.
The L.A. Unified School District had planned to buy some 700,000 iPads for its students and teachers. The Apple tablets would include learning software built by publishing giant Pearson. But Superintendent John Deasy announced earlier this week he is cancelling the contract and restarting the bidding process.
The decision comes on the heels of an investigation by member station KPCC, which obtained emails between Deasy and tech executives that bring into question whether the initial bidding process was fair. First, some context...
The goal of the expansion was simple yet ambitious: to equip every student in the nation's second-largest school district with a tablet computer. The expected price tag for equipment, software and wi-fi upgrades to schools: $1.3 billion...
...Then came the emails.
"Looking forward to further work together for our youth in Los Angeles!" Deasy wrote to Marjorie Scardino, then Pearson's CEO, on Tuesday, May 22, 2012, after hearing an initial pitch over lunch.
"Dear John, It's I who should thank you," Scardino replied. "I really can't wait to work with you."
KPCC reports these notes were going back and forth long before the tech contract was ultimately opened for competitive bidding:
KPCC's investigation found Deasy and his deputies communicated with Pearson employees over pricing, teacher training and technical support — specifications that later resembled the district's request for proposals from vendors. Pearson and Apple emerged as the winning bidders and were awarded the now-abandoned contract in June 2013...

Branson Gets MCPS to Release High School Budget and Staffing Data!

Congratulations to Councilmember Cherri Branson! 

She has pushed MCPS to release high school budget, program, and staffing information.  See pages 3 and 4 of the document below.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Letter from Office of State Prosecutor

There are still over 1,400 other MCPS credit cards floating around.

State Prosecutor Closes Investigation into School-Issued Credit Cards - Bethesda Beat

State Prosecutor Closes Investigation into School-Issued Credit Cards - Bethesda Beat

State prosecutor: No ‘criminal misconduct’ in use of Montgomery school board credit cards

 The Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor closed its investigation into Montgomery County school board members’ use of school system credit cards after the office subpoenaed board expense records in June.

Note: The Board of Education has not eliminated any of their $158,477 expense account. 
The party will continue, just without the use of personal MCPS credit cards. 

It's Time to Put an End to No Bid Purchases and Excessive Dues from BOE Club! No More MABE!

2013 MABE Conference in Ocean City (MABE)
Another day and another MABE "partner".

No thanks MABE! 

What is MABE?

MABE is the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.  It is a private club that taxpayers fund. Each Board of Education in the State of Maryland belongs to MABE with the notable exception of the Maryland State Board of Education who dropped out of the club in 2012.

Each Board of Education uses tax dollars to pay their MABE dues.
What do dues cost?
Here is what MCPS' Board of Education has paid into this private club over the last 6 years.

FY 2015  $66,354
FY 2014  $68,401
FY 2013  $41,986
FY 2012  $48,062
FY 2011  $47,017
FY 2010  $47,602

MABE 2013 Conference in Ocean City (MABE)

In recent years MABE has been "partnering" with companies that have things to "sell" to Boards of Education.


Each year MABE holds a conference in Ocean City and on top of the dues above, tax payers fund the OC Party! (Click link for PICTURES from 2013 junket.)

While at the conference MABE "partners" have unrestricted access to BOE members.  Parents? You aren't there and don't have a voice in these procurement decisions.  

Milestone Communications
at MABE 2013 (MABE)
How is this impacting Maryland public school systems?  MABE partnered with Milestone Communications in 2011 and now 9 Boards of Education in the State of Maryland have turned over their public school playgrounds for commercial development.  Bids? Public Notice? Public discussion?

Below is MABE's latest announcement of a "partner."  Besides Milestone Communications, MABE has also partnered with BoardDocs and you will notice that MCPS suddenly is using the BoardDocs product to post their BOE meeting agendas and minutes.  Did we all miss the bids for this procurement?
What is this MABE "partner" costing taxpayers?

MABE is diverting precious public school education dollars away from classrooms through unnecessary dues, countless conventions and meetings, and by the circumvention of the public bidding process.

It's time to just say NO to MABE! 

MABE Ocean City Conference 2013 (MABE) 

Here are Superintendent Joshua Starr's charges at the MABE Ocean City event last year

Remember the lavish meal in Ocean City charged on a MCPS credit card? That took place during the MABE convention.

Here is the newest MABE "partner."

Monday, August 25, 2014

FTC To the Rescue

If you think that MCPS and its various computer software and hardware vendors may not value your MoCo student's privacy interest, fear not.

FTC  - the Federal Trade Commission - may provide relief.

From the press release:
Under the rule, online sites and services directed at children must obtain permission from a child’s parents before collecting personal information from that child. The rule lays out a number of acceptable methods for gaining parental consent, but also includes a provision allowing interested parties to submit new verifiable parental consent methods to the Commission for approval.
In a Federal Register notice to be published shortly, the FTC is seeking public comment about the proposed AgeCheq verifiable parental consent method; whether the proposed method is already covered by the existing methods included in the rule and whether it meets the rule’s requirement that it be reasonably calculated to ensure that the person providing the consent is actually the child’s parent. The Commission also seeks comment on whether the program poses a risk to consumers’ information and whether that risk is outweighed by the benefits of the program. The comment period will last until Sept. 30, 2014. 

If you  have an opinion, let the FTC know before September 30. Remember, once your child's privacy is compromised, who knows what the consequences will be. 

MCPS Public Information Officer: "Some of these students may be facing issues that might be beyond what we can handle," #steak #lobster #mabe #expenseaccounts

BOE Fine Dining
$2.3 billion and MCPS can't handle counseling for students? Maybe the BOE should cut out the lobster and steak dinners at their Ocean City conventions? 
Next BOE junket to Ocean City is October 1, 2014. While the BOE cut up credit cards for the media, they have still maintained their $96,000 expense account. 

The Baltimore Sun: 
...Montgomery County public schools have taken in 985 students from the region in the past year, 107 of whom are without a parent or relative in the country. As they register the children, school officials in Montgomery try to ensure that the students are healthy and have access to a health clinic, said Dana Tofig, a school system spokesman. Montgomery County, like other school systems, is not equipped to handle intensive counseling, and Tofig said the system is turning to nonprofits for help in meeting those needs.
"Some of these students may be facing issues that might be beyond what we can handle," he said. "We are going to provide the services that kids need. Having more students who come needing more services, that does have a financial impact."...

Read more:,0,530122.story#ixzz3BQAEn1RU

High Schools, Middle Schools Should Begin Day No Earlier Than 8:30 a.m., American Academy of Pediatrics Says

Wheaton HS will have Cell Tower within a few feet of School #nobrainer

The Parents' Coalition has had questions about the location of the Wheaton High School cell tower now that the school is being modernized.  The cell tower used to be on the football field, but with the new design the cell tower will be smack up against the school building and next to a student courtyard.

The architect's rendering of this structure is not quite accurate.  See what the cell tower actually looks like below.

Here is what the Wheaton High School cell tower actually looks like now.

Wheaton High School cell tower

School Fees - the 2014 Version

PCMC Guideto Public School Fees
The Maryland Constitution guarantees a free and appropriate public education for all - unless you live in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Our wonderful school system, headed up by the eminent Superintendent Joshua Starr, insists that some fees are allowed - and he is going to be sure to collect!

The good news is that the number of fees at both the high school and middle school level seems to be decreasing since the Parents Coalition first started posting the lists.

However, at both the middle school and high school levels, some schools charge for dry cleaning band uniforms.  What band uniforms?  At my childrens' middle school (Frost) and high schools (Blair and RM), the kids wore their own clothing.  They didn't wear anything that required dry cleaning by the school.  And if you are really resourceful, once your family is done with the shirt, you can pass it along to another family!

Some bad news.  Josh doesn't like the arts or tech ed courses. And if your child goes to Edison, be prepared to shell out major money.

The other high school with lots of fees - Einstein.

The big winners?  Watkins Mill has only one fee;  Kennedy doesn't have any.  Frost MS doesn't list any - those Frost shirts really do live on and on and on.  Maybe the Einstein principal should call the principals at Kennedy and Watkins Mill to find the secret to not shaking down kids for fees.

Here are the lists - you can see for yourselves what the various schools charge.
It's hardly uniform across the school system.

As usual, Mr. Tofig includes in the cover letter that all students will have full access to these courses, regardless of their circumstances.  SO, if you want to make a donation to your school, go for it, but if you don't, remember your child is still entitled to full access, whatever that means.

The really bad news is that the Superintendent thinks that family money is unlimited.  Is it really worthwhile to nickel and dime MoCo families for these fees?  Probably not.  And Dr. Starr still doesn't get the point that the folks in MoCo already pay taxes to fund the schools.  Money doesn't grow on trees.

Whitman High School student news report on curricular fees in MCPS.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Montgomery County is establishing a 7,200-square-foot garden to grow its own produce.

The Washington Post:  Back-to-school: School lunches are packing a healthier punch

Eastern MS Changes School Start Time

Remember all that dust up over changing the start times of schools?  Apparently, changing a start time is actually no big deal and any school can do it anytime. 

Arrive after 7:45 AM and you are tardy!  

Look at how easy that was! No budget implications! No bus schedule issues! No work group!  
One school just changed the start time of school without any fuss! 

MCPS' middle school start time is actually 7:55 AM.  That's the time the students at other MCPS middle school students will be arriving at school. 

MCPS will not permit cell towers on top of schools

The things you learn when you read the fine print!

On page 5 (circle 19) of the special exception filed with the City of Rockville (see below) we learn that "the Board of Education of Montgomery County will not permit rooftop wireless communication facilities on their properties."

Now this is interesting because the Board of Education has never, ever discussed or voted on this.  Yet, somehow there is a prohibition on cell towers on school roofs.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Md. agency failed to monitor placement of foster children, audit says

Md. agency failed to monitor placement of foster children, audit says

Bowie parents push back against school cell tower proposals

Bowie parents push back against school cell tower proposals

A group of Bowie and Prince George's County parents have banded together to stop construction of cellphone towers at public schools, and hope the first week of school will boost their numbers.
Parents against the proposals fear electromagnetic and radio-frequency emissions from cell towers pose a health risk for the children, possibly hurting their ability to learn.
"I think we can all agree we have enough cellphone towers across the nation and the students shouldn't be sold out," said Charlene Beairsto, a Bowie parent who opposes building cell towers at schools...
- See more at:,0,5678714.story#sthash.1XqeVEuO.dpuf

Complaint Opens Meetings, Forces Release of Memo

The Washington Post Editorial
The Maryland Open Meetings Act Compliance Board has released their opinion concerning the secret meetings of Board President Phil Kauffman's credit card committee.

The original complaint was filed on May 31, 2014, by a member of the Parents' Coalition. The filing of the Complaint brought to light the creation of a backroom committee to discuss the Board of Education's (BOE) use of credit cards. When the complaint was filed the committee had already been formed and had met without any public notice.

On June 8, 2014, The Washington Post published a lengthy Editorial suggesting that the BOE had something to hide.

After the Complaint was filed, BOE President Kauffman changed his mind and made subsequent meetings of the credit card committee open to the public. As part of the filings that followed the initial Complaint, the BOE finally released the memorandum that had created the backroom credit card committee. The memorandum was made public on July 16th, almost two months after the committee had been created.

The filing of the Open Meetings Act complaint on May 31st was the catalyst for the opening of future meetings of this committee and forced the BOE to release the memorandum that originally created the committee.

The Open Meetings Act Compliance Board has determined that BOE President Kauffman's creation of a backroom, closed door committee did not actually violate current Maryland Open Meetings Act law. However, the process of permitting the public to question actions of boards by the filing of a complaint regarding the Maryland Open Meetings Act served to push the BOE to open meetings that otherwise would have been closed.

Through the complaint procedure, a member of the public was allowed to question a secret, closed door meeting and bring attention to the backroom dealings of a Board of Education. Shining a light on this backroom committee forced its existence into the sunlight and allowed the public and the press to attend and observe subsequent meetings.

Mendon-Upton iPad policy prompts ACLU complaint - Worcester Telegram & Gazette -

Mendon-Upton iPad policy prompts ACLU complaint - Worcester Telegram & Gazette -

BOE to Hide for 3 1/2 Hours Today in Closed Meeting

This mornings Board of Education Closed Session is 2 1/2 hours long!

What in the world is the Board of Education discussing this morning for 2 1/2 hours?  The Agenda for this mornings Closed Session lists a few topics, but nothing that would necessitate over 2 hours of discussion.

The Closed Session will continue with another hour of closed discussion at lunch time. That's a total of 3 1/2 hours of Closed Session today.

The Board has Open Meetings that barely last that long.

Note that the final item on the Board's Closed Session Agenda concerns the recent decision of the Maryland Open Meetings Act Compliance Board.  We assume this will be a discussion of the Opinion of the Compliance Board. Why is that public Opinion a topic for a secret meeting? Guess they have something to hide.

Oh, and by the way, the Closed Session goes until 11:30 PM.  So for all you members of the press and public who believed the Board's Agenda when it said today's meeting would start at 11:00 AM, you might want to adjust your schedules. The Montgomery County Board of Education would rather meet in private without you in the room.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BOE Spent $15,556 on Venable LLP in FIRST Month of Credit Card Scandal

The Board of Education has just released their Legal Fees Report for May 2014.  The report shows that in the first month of the MCPS credit card scandal the Board of Education spent $15,556 on the Venable LLP law firm reviewing expense reimbursements.

The MCPS credit card scandal went on for months and has not yet concluded.

Imagine what the BOE has paid Venable LLP over the course of the summer.

Stay tuned for the monthly totals.

Breaking News: A Lot to Hide in Milestone Cell Tower Deal!

Way back in 2010 the Prince George's County Board of Education signed up for Doug Duncan's "no brainer" public school playground cell tower deal.

In just 40 seconds the Prince George's Board of Education discussed and voted on the construction of multiple cell towers on each of 73 of their public school playgrounds.

Now in 2014, Prince George's County communities are finding out that multiple cell towers are going to be built on their neighborhood public school playgrounds.

We asked for documents, e-mails and correspondence that would explain what is going on between the Prince George's County Board of Education and Milestone Communications Management III, Inc. through a Maryland Public Information Act request. 

It looks like quite a lot has gone on in just the last year between the PG Board of Education and Milestone Communications Management III.  So much has gone on that the PG Board of Education is charging us $4,532 to see these documents!

$4,532!  There has obviously been a lot of behind the scenes communication between the PG Board of Education and Milestone Communications Management III, Inc.

Remember the public discussion of this "no brainer" deal only took 40 seconds back in 2010.  

Looks like the public has been missing out on quite a bit behind the scenes!

Exclusive: BOE Produces Memo Previously Withheld from Public

After the Parents' Coalition filed an Open Meetings Act complaint with the Maryland Open Meetings Act Compliance Board the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) finally made public the memorandum from Board President Phil Kauffman that established the credit card committee.

Note that the BOE did not produce this memorandum in their initial response to the Open Meetings Act Compliance Board.

The BOE did not produce this memorandum until July 16th, five days after the Parents' Coalition alerted the Open Meetings Act Compliance Board to its existence. 

The memorandum, shown below in SCRIBD, from BOE President Phil Kauffman states that the backroom, no public allowed credit card committee was initially established just because Mr. Kauffman decided it was time to review the policy. 

The memorandum makes no mention of the fact that members of the Parents' Coalition had picked up over 300 pages of Board member credit card bills and expense reports just two days earlier on April 23, 2014

Date: Wed, 16 Jul 2014 10:45:44 -0400
Subject: RE: Open Meetings Act Complaint (MCPS) - response to Venable LLP

Ms. MacNeille:

Attached please find a copy of the April 25, 2014 Memorandum referenced by Ms. Wilson in her July 11, 2014 letter.  As noted in the Memorandum, Board of Education President Philip Kauffman created the ad hoc committee to review the processes and guidelines relating to Board of Education expenditures as set forth in the Board of Education’s Handbook.  In reviewing such processes and guidelines, the ad hoc committee is carrying out an administrative function and is not developing new policies for Board of Education expenditures as suggested by Ms. Wilson.  As noted in my letter of July 3, 2014, the Open Meetings Act also did not apply to the gathering of the ad hoc committee because such gathering did not involve a quorum of the Board of Education and the ad hoc committee is not a public body that is subject to the Open Meetings Act.   Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions.

Kristin M. Koger, Esq. | Venable LLP
t 301.217.5643 | f 301.217.5617
One Church Street, Fifth Floor, Rockville, MD 20850

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

BOE Withholds Memo from Open Meetings Act Compliance Board

Open Meetings Act
This is the reply to the Board of Education's response to the Open Meetings Act complaint filed regarding the conduct of the Board of Education's credit card committee. 

July 11, 2014

Ann MacNeille
Assistant Attorney General
Counsel, Open Meetings Compliance Board
200 St. Paul Place
Baltimore, MD 21202

Re: Open Meetings Act Complaint - Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education

Dear Ms. MacNeille,

I am following up on the complaint I filed with your office on May 31, 2014 over an apparent
violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act by the Montgomery County Board of Education. After
receiving a reply from the Board of Education on July 5 I am seeking to offer a clarification regarding the work of the ad hoc committee that allegedly first met out of the public view on May 6.

According to the Montgomery County Public Information Officer, Dana Tofig, the ad hoc
committee was created by a memorandum dated April 25, 2014, from Board of Education President Phil Kauffman. It is a major omission on the part of the Board of Education that the April 25th memorandum was not included in the Board's response to the Open Meeting Act Compliance Board. The memorandum is not publicly available on the Board of Education website. That document is needed to fully understand how this committee was created and the purpose of the committee. The failure of the Board of Education to produce this memorandum hampers the ability of the Open Meetings Compliance Board to render an accurate opinion in this matter.

The Board of Education's response speaks to a "gathering" as if somehow by re-naming a
meeting of Board of Education members the Open Meeting Act can be ignored. The ad hoc committee
has been meeting to conduct Board business and refine Board policy. The minutes show that the Board
members have discussed the use, misuse and abuse of school system credit cards. The Board members
have been meeting to formulate Board policy for use of school system credit cards going forward.

The Board of Education notes that the Montgomery County Public Schools general counsel has
participated in this committee. It is important to note that the Montgomery County Public School
general counsel is not the general counsel for the Board of Education. The Board of Education has their
own, separate legal counsel. The presence of the school system's general counsel would seem to
indicate that this committee will be reviewing the credit card policy of not only the Board of Education, but of the entire school system.

The ad hoc committee created by Board of Education President Phil Kauffman:
  1. is engaged in an advisory function as it discusses the development of new policy for Board expenditures
  2. it discusses a matter that is of great concern to the public
  3. is scheduled to report and make its recommendations to the full Board of Education at a meeting on July 28
The actions of the Board of Education have so far demonstrated a clear intention to circumvent
the Open Meetings Act. The expectation from the public is that matters such as board expense policies
would be discussed publicly. I am submitting a copy of a Washington Post Editorial that I believe reflects the mood of the public on this issue.

The initial action to exclude the public was criticized by many Montgomery County elected
officials and attracted the attention of the State Prosecutor who is currently conducting a criminal
investigation into Board of Education expenditures.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.


Danuta Wilson
Attachments (5)
Cc:Kristin M. Koger

Monday, August 18, 2014

BOE Response to Open Meetings Act Complaint

On May 31, 2014, a member of the Parents' Coalition filed an Open Meetings Act Complaint regarding the secret meetings of the Board of Education credit card committee. 

Below is the response from the Board of Education to this complaint.

Note that the Board used the Venable LLP law firm to write this response to the Open Meetings Act Compliance Board. That is the same law firm that later stated "outside counsel did not uncover evidence of intentional action to improperly use credit cards for personal expenses."

In the Board of Education's response they contend that the credit card committee is not subject to the Maryland Open Meetings Act requirements.  Yet, the Board of Education notes in the final paragraph of this response that meetings of the credit card committee have now been opened up to the public. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

MCPS: “The public would misuse the data.”

My Two Cents: Praise For Greater Government Transparency

...When on the telephone with Dr. Zuckerman, I mentioned that it seemed odd to me that MCPS — a modern and sophisticated public organization — wasn’t more open and transparent. Being such at has never been easier than right now. Beyond the MCPS Foundation books, I mentioned Schools at a Glance and asked, “Why is such a key, and public MCPS data file not available as a downloadable Excel file?”
His answer (not a direct word-for-word quote, but close enough): “The public would misuse the data.”

August 19th: Lawrence Joynes Status Hearing

Docket Date:07/25/2014 Docket Number: 42
Docket Type:Motion Filed By: Defendant Status: Granted

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Exclusive: E-mail from JWMS Principal "We're ready to go."

The Parents' Coalition has obtained MCPS e-mails concerning a proposal (again) to put a cell tower compound on the Julius West Middle School playground.  

The October 9, 2013, e-mail from the principal, Craig Stanton, to MCPS' Real Estate office shows that the principal does not understand the law that must be followed in order to construct a cell tower compound on the Julius West Middle School playground.  A community meeting to present the plans is not optional, it is mandatory.  The vote of a "PTA" is meaningless to the process that must legally be followed to construct a cell tower compound in a neighborhood. 

Now try and reconcile the e-mail from the JWMS principal below with the statement from MCPS in this August 6th Gazette article. Which version of the PTA response is the truth? 

If MCPS principals want to be in the cell tower construction business it's time for them to learn the law, and then follow it.  

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

City of Rockville Tricked

Take a look at this 2005 application for a special exception to build a cell tower on the Julius West Middle School playground.  The special exception application was filed by an employee of T-Mobile.

Julius West Middle School land is owned by the Montgomery County Board of Education.
The Board of Education is the legal owner of the land and is the party that would file for a special exception. Note the T-Mobile employee certifies that she has the authority to make this application.  What authority would that be?

Where was the Board of Education vote to approve this construction?  There wasn't one!

Under what authority can private companies file for special exceptions to build on public school land in Montgomery County?

Why did the City of Rockville spend any time processing this application when it wasn't signed by the property owner?

Ultimately, this application was withdrawn and the cell tower was never constructed, but what is to keep this from happening again? Can anyone file for a special exception to build on public school land in Montgomery County?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guest Post: Communication is a Human Right

2014 Syracuse University Conference Schedule
MCPS Director of Special Education Gwen Mason and parents from the Montgomery County autism pilot program spoke at Syracuse University (Douglas Biklen, leading researcher of Facilitated Communication and at this university) at their annual conference in July.  This university conference is solely about facilitated communication (FC).   As FC is of such great controversy, the newer terminology to avoid this is supported typing.  However, Syracuse is firm about keeping the FC name.   The Montgomery County Autism Pilot project does not use the name of FC to avoid this controversy, but did however, go to a conference on Facilitated Communication and presented their program there as a mode.

By way of history---- there was a tremendous amount of controversy in setting up the Montgomery County class-- the autism program under Kris Secan did NOT support or agree with it at all, and the parents of the 5 children were the ones that pushed to get the program. Their efforts including due process at the hearing levels, IEP meetings, and due process where MCPS rejected and would not enter psychological results completed by other leading professionals in the field that used facilitated typing into the IEPs, and labeled the data as invalid.  MCPS Director Gwen Mason and others worked to make it happen- not the Autism program under Kris Secan. Indeed, Kris Secan's staff are not involved ( or minimally involved) in it. 

The controversy on FC, (now usually called supported typing) continues within MCPS and the autism professionals that work there.  Many even refused to go the trainings that were held by staff from Syracuse University in MCPS.

In addition, there are speech pathologists in MCPS who have been trained privately in Texas and Syracuse in the methodology and are NOT ALLOWED to use them in MCPS  (unless they are in the Pilot program of course) .  All of them I know practice privately and deliver the supports in their practices. 

The problem of equal access to the program and even the strategies/technology in it  is significant. My hunch is that maybe there is a perception that kids who should have supportive typing technology available to them are ONLY those who are perceived as being more "high functioning" or  worse, have had to prove that they are!   

This is outrageous,  because communication is a human right, regardless of how "low or high functioning" someone is , and to deprive somewhat of the right to communicate in a way that might work for them is unethical and immoral.  It would be like not giving a kid with intellectual disabilities eye glasses when he needs them because he is perceived as "not smart enough"   Seeing is a human right, so is communicating.   Access to medical treatments for diseases are not withheld based on intellectual ability,  and neither should educational strategies be either.

Furthermore,  depriving someone of the opportunity to even see (have access to) if supported typing (or other technology) might help them communicate better at their level is even more wrong.  No matter where you stand on the FC/facilitated typing debate, the bottom line is that access to any technology or strategy should be non-discriminatory.  And, to determine if a strategy or technology is effective, there has to be a time period where it is tried and taught and practiced first.  Right now, most children with autism and other disabilities can't make it to the point where they get this opportunity.  I love research and follow it obsessively, but aIso believe that what counts is what works for what child at what time in their lives!

Many parents had the resources and supports to access and pay for facilitated typing training and are truly ground breakers in sharing this with MCPS and convincing them to start the project, and they may indeed change the face of autism instruction in MCPS in the future.  I hope their efforts will extend to advocating for all other children with autism (and with other disabilities) in MCPS to have this access, and make sure that levels or perceived levels of "intellectual ability" should not be anywhere in the criteria to access such technology and teaching strategies.

But MOST parents do not/did not have access or resources to such methodologies, and thus it is close to impossible to prove their child might benefit from them-- as there is no way to get data without giving the access to start with.  If you do not have private financial resources to help you, MCPS currently can not be counted on to give "equal access" and the "burden of proof" is on these families.    

We absolutely must support each other's children as well as our own in this endeavor. 
Sorry for the length of this post--- But these families--- in and not in the project- and this issue are dear to my heart.

Montgomery County Advocate for students with special education needs.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wootton's Plastic Grass wasn't enough for some football players

...Worst hit was Wootton, where Spinner coached before resigning in January for reasons he and the school would not disclose. The resignation was “not by choice,” he told The Post at the time. 
Six Wootton players have followed Spinner to Avalon, led by four-star recruit Trevon Diggs, brother of Maryland standout Stefon Diggs. Trevon is a rising junior with offers to play football from Florida State, Maryland and Penn State, among other top schools...

Maryland school district to start monitoring students' social media posts with new software |

Maryland school district to start monitoring students' social media posts with new software |

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Open Meeting Compliance Board Annual Meeting - All Welcome

The Open Meetings Compliance Board will hold its annual meeting at 10:00 a.m. on  August 20, 2014 at the Office of the Attorney General, 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Md.   Before holding the annual meeting, the Board will meet at 9:15 to discuss organizational matters.  The public is invited to both sessions.

If you are interested in attending, please contact Ms. Deborah Spence at or 410-576-6327 so that we may make the necessary arrangements.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

WPost: Leggett, Hixson & Luedtke and Campaign Contributions from racetrack and casino affiliated companies

3. Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) $8,000
Donors: W.M. Rickman Construction Co., River Sandy Landing
8. Del. Sheila E. Hixson (D-Montgomery), chairwoman of Ways & Means Committee $2,750
Donors: Ocean Downs (racetrack), Cambridge Plaza, Rickman Travilah
9. Del. Eric Luedtke (D-Montgomery), chairman of Ways and Means subcommittee $2,500
Donors: Ocean Downs (racetrack), W.M. Rickman Construction Company

Delegate Luedtke is also a MCPS middle school teacher.
...One recipient, Del. Eric D. Lued­tke (D-Montgomery), was unsure of the legality of a $500 contribution he received last fall from Ocean Downs, the Rickman-controlled company that runs the racetrack where Rickman’s casino opened in January 2011
So Luedtke contacted the Maryland attorney general’s office for advice about whether he could accept the money. He was told that nothing in the 2012 law prohibited him from accepting the track’s contribution, and he decided to keep the money. In May, Luedtke, who chairs a Ways and Means Committee panel with jurisdiction over gaming issues, also received a $2,000 check from Rickman’s construction company. 
Luedtke said he’s not entirely comfortable with forbidding donations by specific industries. “Why just casinos? Why not banks?” he asked. “If we’re concerned that contributions can affect policy, then why not a broader ban?”...