Saturday, November 29, 2014

Auditor reports over $25,000 loss at Gaithersburg HS

After a long delay, MCPS has finally put the Gaithersburg High School Independent Activity Fund (IAF) report online.   The IAF is comprised entirely of student money and is administered by the principal.

Among the findings:
  • A cumulative loss of student money during recent years of $25,500 related to production of the yearbook. 
  • Course fees that are being used to pay for things other than course costs. All course fees are illegal, but the auditors are now reporting that some of the illegal course fees aren't even being used to pay for course materials.
  • Negative balances in several accounts.
The entire report is available at:
http://audits.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/school/gaithersburghs
 

Friday, November 28, 2014

School Board Says it “Meets Expectations” in Self Survey

The Montgomery County Board of Education is “meeting expectations” in seven categories including “responsible management of resources” and “community engagement and communication”, according to a self-evaluation published by the board Wednesday.
When the Board of Education hired Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr in 2011, the Board committed to a system of shared governance with the superintendent. As part of his contract, an annual evaluation of the superintendent and a self-evaluation of the Board is required, according to the MCPS website. The Board has since done three self-evaluations to coincide with the superintendent’s evaluation cycles.
You can read the evaluation here.

 http://www.mymcmedia.org/school-board-says-it-meets-expectations-in-self-survey/

MCPS Parents: A Day in the Life of a Data Mined Kid — Story from Marketplace, Includes Audio and Infographic

This is an important report for MCPS parents and guardians to hear!  

Keep in mind that the Montgomery County Board of Education has not discussed or addressed these issues in any way, shape or form.  There are no policies, no protections for MCPS students.
 
Listen at this link:
http://coreconcerns.weebly.com/data-brokers/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-data-mined-kid-story-from-marketplace-includes-audio-and-infographic

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Developers' Thanksgiving

From our friends at The Sentinel. Cartoonist William Charles.

SENTINEL 2014-11-27 Developers Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Breaking News: Starr was told about 2011 touching incident when he was Stamford Superintendent

...Documents obtained by The Advocate show one of the things the assistant principals questioned three years ago was why Valentine did not report to state authorities a student's claim that a teacher touched her inappropriately.
According to the documents, a ninth-grader told Stamford High administrators in early May 2011 that a male teacher had touched her breast, and the assistant principals were concerned that Valentine did not call Stamford police or the state Department of Children and Families, as state law requires.
In late May 2011 the assistant principals asked to meet with Starr to discuss Valentine, according to a report written by a private investigator later hired by the Board of Education to look into their claims...

...The assistant principals said they had pens and notebooks, according to the report, and that Starr "directed them to close their notebooks and to participate in a 'let's just all talk it out' type of meeting." The assistant principals "also reported that when each of them read aloud from their statements of concern, Dr. Starr made remarks and questions like, 'Do you really want to put that in writing?' " the report states.
The meeting was part of Starr's internal investigation. Starr concluded that the assistant principals' claims were unwarranted, and in mid-June 2011 he transferred three of them to other schools in the district. At the end of June 2011, Starr left for Maryland...

Upset with the findings of his investigation, the four assistant principals hired an attorney to bring their claims about Valentine to the school district.
On July 22, 2011, the attorney, Victoria de Toledo, of Casper & de Toledo in Stamford, wrote a letter to then-interim Superintendent Winifred Hamilton, then-school board President Polly Rauh and the former human resources director. De Toledo wrote that Starr told the assistant principals that complaining about the principal was "a career killer."
 http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Former-Stamford-superintendent-was-told-about-5918443.php#page-1

Peeping Hoover MS Janitor STILL Employed by MCPS! @mcpssuper

Convicted peeping Tom re-arrested for molesting family dog, still employed by MCPS



Read more: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2014/11/convicted-peeping-tom-re-arrested-for-molesting-family-dog-still-employed-by-mcps-109340.html#ixzz3KBd0kQzV Follow us: @ABC7News on Twitter | WJLATV on Facebook

Another $26,699 to the Venable law firm! #creditcards #expenseaccounts

...The Venable bill for July 2014 totaled $26,699. The largest amount was for policy matters ($20,205), the largest part of which related to expense review matters (18,477)..,


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Greenbelt City Council Votes to Oppose Cell Towers on Public School Land

At the November 24, 2014, meeting of the Greenbelt City Council, the Council voted to oppose the location of cell towers on public school sites within the City of Greenbelt.  
Below is the discussion of this agenda item and the Greenbelt City Council's unanimous vote.



Petition to Oppose Locating Cell Phone Towers on School Property Reference:       Articles

At the Council meeting of October 27, 2014, Theodora Scarato petitioned the Council to oppose the placement of cell phone towers on Prince George’s County Public School (PGCPS) property.  In 2011, PGCPS entered into an agreement to lease property to Milestone Communications for the possible location of cell phone towers.  According to news reports, over 70 schools have been identified as potential sites including Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Greenbelt Middle School, and Turning Point Academy.

Included in Council’s packet are a number of articles related to this topic including when parents opposed to the use of school property appeared before the School Board, an information piece on cell towers from Anne Arundel County Schools as well as information from an Anne Arundel County parents group opposed to cell phone towers on school property, and an article on the Federal Communications Commission view on cell phone towers.

According to the information, there is not conclusive proof that cell phone tower locations on school property are dangerous.  However, there clearly are parental and group concerns, including the Prince George’s County Chapter of the NAACP which has gone on record opposing the placement of cell phone towers on school property.

Council direction is sought.

Report: Leggett Asks County Council to be Cautious on Spending

...During a Tuesday meeting with MCPS officials, Del. Kathleen Dumais (D-District 15) asked school leaders to recognize that state representatives are working to obtain additional school construction funds from the state. The conversation was recorded by The Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County, a watchdog group that monitors school spending and controversies...

 http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/2014/Report-Leggett-Asks-County-Council-to-be-Cautious-on-Spending/

Cell tower proposed to be built on Clemente grounds

...“Once the tower goes up Verizon needs to have 24/7 hour access to the school,” Johnson said, explaining that with recent allegations in the school system that was a concern among parents.
Last month, a contractor who provided maintenance to the school’s security camera systems was arrested on charges of groping a student at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus.
According to Johnson, the decision is in the hands of Barkley, but some people who attended the meeting thought that the decision shouldn’t be at the discretion of one person.
“Mrs. Barkley is not making this decision alone. She has all the members of the administration, she has the PTSA,” Johnson said. “She wants her parent community to support whatever decision is made.”
Some people at the meeting wanted to take a vote, but Johnson wouldn’t allow that step just yet because the meeting was informational rather than for a decision...
 
 http://www.gazette.net/article/20141119/NEWS/141119244/1022/cell-tower-proposed-to-be-built-on-clemente-grounds&template=gazette

Former School Teacher Held on $150k Bond in Sex Abuse Case

Jose Pineda, a former substitute teacher who was recently arrested and charged with having inappropriate contact with several Montgomery County Public Schools students, will continue to be held on $150,000 bond after a bond hearing was held today in Montgomery County District Court.
Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Spokesman Ramon Korionoff said the former teacher remains in custody after the hearing Monday afternoon...

 http://www.mymcmedia.org/former-school-teacher-held-on-150k-bond-in-sex-abuse-case/

NewsTalk: Spivack "Schools don't know how to deal with bad news"

MCPS Slow to Report Abuse and Arrests

Journalist Miranda Spivack looked at the controversial changes to the school-holiday calendar in Montgomery County. Also, why it took so long for MCPS to disclose allegations of inappropriate touching by a substitute teacher.




Read more: http://www.wjla.com/blogs/news-talk/2014/11/mcps-teacher-accused-of-sex-abuse-report-slams-secret-service-23679.html#ixzz3JpDKVOlU
Follow us: @ABC7News on Twitter | WJLATV on Facebook

What MCPS Administrators Say on the Conference Circuit

The MCPS Director of Transportation was in Kansas City, Missouri in November at a transportation conference and here's what he had to say about MCPS. (How much did this "vacation" cost taxpayers?)    
“In the period I’ve been at Montgomery County (since 1996), we’ve had zero fatalities on school buses, yet we’ve had several fatalities among student walkers. Different things have led to situations when kids have been injured or even killed. Often we’ve found students either walking with earphones or texting while walking,” Watkins told STN. “The reality is, if we could get students to act more safely when they walk, I think many of these (incidents) could be prevented, so that’s the target of the [YOLO] campaign.”
 Transportation Chief Turns Attention to Student Pedestrian Safety at NASDPTS 

******

Here's what MCPS students had to say about MCPS' YOLO Campaign.

Prince George’s school calendar opts for inclusive approach

Prince George’s County Public Schools has no plans to follow Montgomery County’s lead and remove the names of religious holidays from the school calendar, according to school officials.
On Nov. 11, the Montgomery County Public Schools school board voted to strike the names of all religious holidays from its school calendar, following a request by Muslim organizations to add the holy day of Eid al-Adha to its calendar.
The dates of the holidays are still listed as non-school days, only religious names such as “Christmas,” “Easter” and “Yom Kippur” were removed.
The PGCPS school calendar has included Muslim holidays since the 2007-2008 school year calendar, said spokeswoman Lynn McCawley, and the major Hindu holiday of Diwali has been added to the proposed 2015-2016 calendar.
In 2015, Diwali falls on Nov. 11, which is also set aside for parent/teacher conferences.
“When the administration sent the draft calendar back to the calendar committee, they requested the Hindu holiday be added to the calendar,” McCawley said...

 http://www.gazette.net/article/20141120/NEWS/141129966/prince-george-x2019-s-school-calendar-opts-for-inclusive-approach&template=gazette

Monday, November 24, 2014

Real Food for Montgomery County

From The Sentinel, Nov 6, 2014, by Karen DeVitt, Real Food for Kids-Montgomery.  For the whole story go here 

What do Montgomery County parents want for their children? Access to free water in the cafeteria; fewer highly-processed meal choices; more salad bars; healthier a la carte and vending machine options; more transparency and accountability; utilization of our county’s Agricultural Reserve for fresh, local produce; less sugar; and more respect for the latest research on the dangers of chemical food additives.
 
Now that the school year is in full swing, we’d like to take this opportunity to introduce you to Real Food for Kids – Montgomery (RFKM), a grassroots parent and student advocacy group promoting healthier school food in MCPS. On October 1, RFKM celebrated its 2nd anniversary. We have much to be proud of and much work ahead of us. 

Efforts to improve MCPS food go back decades. Children, parents and school board members all come and go, but the staff at Food and Nutrition Services (DFNS) remains the same, committed to doing more of the same, with only small incremental changes and more whole wheat. “Everything we serve is healthy and meets USDA guidelines” does not answer the ongoing frustration parents feel when faced with the reality in the school cafeterias. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 resulted in some positive changes such as more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; and the passage of the Smart Snacks rules, in effect this past July, improved some of the vending and a la carte options. But overall, MCPS lags behind other school districts that have made better school food a priority. 

We were pleased last year when MCPS agreed to eliminate strawberry-flavored milk. We were equally pleased when MCPS recently announced the elimination of certain chemical additives from school food. (A closer reading of this announcement revealed that this change will not take place any time soon, but only in future bids for contracts. And the most prevalent of all food dyes, Red Dye #40, is not slated for elimination.)     

Last year we got DFNS to acknowledge on the elementary school menu that it sells snacks in the cafeteria at lunch time, and that parents can block their child’s account from purchasing these snacks. This year, the blurb on the menu doesn’t mention the bit about blocking your child’s account. The piece of paper that goes home with elementary school kids when their lunch account needs re-filling states that parents may block their child’s account from purchasing snacks. However, most parents are still completely in the dark about the existence or nature of these snacks; school lunch menus at all levels do not mention the a la carte items sold (chips, Doritos, pretzels, ice cream, cookies, gummy candies, etc.).


Gazette Letter: School system misses target again

The school board assured us before the election that their No. 1 priority was closing the achievement gap. Now we learn the board approved spending upward of $1 million on a 15-month study of school choice and special programs, with no reference in the Oct. 22 RFP to closing the achievement gap.
The Taxpayers League has repeatedly called for an independent review of MCPS’ plans to close the gap. So far that review has not happened, and current plans do not include any concrete dates for closing the gap. Efforts to improve school choice without concrete dates for improving academic performance put the cart before the horse...

 http://www.gazette.net/article/20141119/OPINION/141119231/1014/school-system-misses-target-again&template=gazette

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she has said for years that Montgomery County Public Schools was incorrectly calculating school capacity

Rockville looks at changes to school rules

Rockville eyes changes to help get more money for schools

...The standards guide how the city determines whether potential development projects would overcrowd its schools.

But the standards have failed to either control school growth or draw funding from the county for school projects, Councilman Tom Moore said.

Moore wants the city to follow the county’s guidelines of allowing development that causes enrollment to hit 120 percent of a school’s programmed capacity, rather than Rockville’s standard of 110 percent.

The 110 percent threshold was designed to allow the city to request county money before a school’s enrollment hits 120 percent of capacity, with the money allocated to that school’s cluster more quickly, but it hasn’t worked, he said.

Moore suggested other changes. He wants developers to pay a fee for projects when a school’s enrollment reaches 105 percent to 120 percent of capacity. He wants the city to assess the average of all schools in a cluster rather than each school’s capacity. Also, the city should calculate a project’s impact on enrollment when a developer applies for approval, not when it’s approved, as is done now.

Older residents are moving out of Rockville and being replaced by younger families with schoolchildren, with 85 percent of the city’s enrollment growth coming from existing homes rather than new development, Moore said.

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she has said for years that Montgomery County Public Schools was incorrectly calculating school capacity and that more students would come from existing homes.
But before any changes are made, officials must make sure parents and other stakeholders are aware of them before January’s public hearing...

 

Black & White Editorial: Behavior during male sexual assault assembly unacceptable

Staff Editorial: Behavior during male sexual assault assembly unacceptable

Saturday, November 22, 2014

More students allege sex abuse against former substitute teacher in Montgomery

A recent Montgomery County substitute teacher accused of inappropriately touching a 12-year-old girl was arrested on additional charges Friday involving three more victims, county police said.
Two of the alleged victims said they were inappropriately touched in 2013 at Ridgeview Middle School. A third said she was inappropriately touched in 2004 at Forest Oak Middle School, and her principal was notified of the incidents, according to arrest records.
The new charges come after several weeks of heightened concern among Montgomery parents over how the school system handles such allegations...

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/more-victims-allege-sex-abuse-against-former-substitute-teacher-in-montgomery/2014/11/21/82f8ddcc-71b4-11e4-893f-86bd390a3340_story.html

Police: More sex abuse charges filed against Montgomery Co. subs - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Police: More sex abuse charges filed against Montgomery Co. subs - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

NBC4: Maryland Substitute Teacher Jose Pineda Accused of Inappropriate Contact With Three More Girls



http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Maryland-Substitute-Teacher-Jose-Pineda-Accused-of-Inappropriate-Contact-With-Three-More-Kids-283514611.html

Congratulations to Tom Hearn! County puts athletic trainers in all schools

Years of advocacy at the local and state level by MCPS parent and Parents' Coalition member Tom Hearn have paid off!  

MCPS has finally agreed to put athletic trainers in all schools.  

Congratulations Tom and thank you for your extensive research and continued advocacy on this issue!



County puts athletic trainers in all schools

High school coaches within Montgomery County Public Schools no longer have to play doctor on the side. The county launched a pilot program for the 2014-15 school year that MCPS Athletics Specialist Jeff Sullivan said is an extension of last year’s addition of mandatory baseline concussion testing. All 25 high school athletic departments have their own nationally-certified trainer to help ensure student-athletes’ health and safety...

Video Shows Friction Between MCPS, State Delegation On School Construction Funding

http://www.bethesdanow.com/2014/11/21/video-shows-friction-between-mcps-state-delegation-on-school-construction-funding/#disqus_thread

Woman claims MCPS substitute teacher charged with sexually abusing students fondled her in 2004 | WJLA.com

Woman claims MCPS substitute teacher charged with sexually abusing students fondled her in 2004 | WJLA.com

 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Montgomery County substitute teacher charged with sexual abuse of three more students | WJLA.com

Montgomery County substitute teacher charged with sexual abuse of three more students | WJLA.com

Exclusive: State Delegation Tells BOE & Starr to "Cut It Out"

Exclusive video of the November 18, 2014, meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education and the Montgomery County State Delegation.

At minute 1:30 of this exclusive video Maryland Delegate Kathleen Dumais says the MCPS Press Release on the school construction budget is false.

There did not appear to be any reporters at this event.  This video was taken towards the end of the meeting.



November 17, 2014, Montgomery County Board of Education Press Release
...MCPS sought additional help from the state for school construction during the 2014 legislative session, but the funds were not approved. After the proposal fell through, the Montgomery County Council approved a $1.53 billion CIP for fiscal years (FY) 2015-2020, which was $214 million less than requested by the Board of Education. The Board’s requested amendments approved Monday would increase the six-year CIP to $1.75 billion.

“We deeply appreciate the partnership of our local elected officials and the significant investment our citizens make to meet the space needs of our students,” said Patricia O’Neill, vice president of the Board. “It is my hope that our state leaders will now step up to help provide our students with the learning spaces they need and deserve.”...

"I didn’t quite appreciate the people walking their kids to school"

ROCKVILLE – The Planning Commission re-approved a self-storage facility application in East Rockville with a 4-2 vote on Nov. 12, against the wishes of residents and the parents of students at a local elementary school...
 ...Commission Chair Don Hadley and Commissioner Charles Littlefield were the two dissenting votes and also voted against the project in September. Commissioner Dion Trahan, the third nay vote in September, was not present at the Nov. 12 meeting...
...Multiple residents of David Scull Courts talked about walking to and from bus stops or walking their children to school.
Sade’le, a mother who preferred only to give her first name, said she is worried about traffic and crime that could happen around the facility.
“There are fifth graders, fourth graders walking little kids because parents have to work to provide. We’re not as rich as the public storage unit people that have many locations and are gaining money for it,” she said. “We have one crossing guard that manages people coming from many directions.”
Littlefield said the testimony from David Scull Courts residents elevated his concerns about parents taking their children to Maryvale, which sits about two blocks from the storage site. Although he said overall traffic numbers would increase no matter what the site became, Littlefield voiced concern about people without experience driving trucks and vans dropping belongings at the storage unit.
“I don’t know that it would be a heavy flow of people, but it would exist and to me that just adds to the potential that, God forbid, a little child could get in an accident just because of the situation,” he said. “When we first considered this, I didn’t quite appreciate the people walking their kids to school from the direction of David Scull.”
http://www.thesentinel.com/mont/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1307%3Aplanning-commission-re-approves-ezstorage-application-for-development-despite-resident-concerns&Itemid=766

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Breaking News: PG Cell Tower Committee Violated Open Meetings Act

Cell towers are being proposed for public school playgrounds in Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Anne Arundel County.

How much notice do parents get of these proposed school construction projects?  

In Prince George's County the answer has been none.  The Prince George's Telecommunications Transmission Facility Coordinating Committee that is charged with approving these projects was operating in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.  A complaint was filed and the Committee immediately began to change their ways, but compliance with the Open Meetings Act comes too late for the schools where the cell towers are already being built.  Too bad for those communities and parents.

The Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board has given the Prince George's TTFC Committee a pass on the Open Meetings Act violations that they immediately corrected, but cites them for their failure to keep minutes of their actions.  

Yes, it does make it hard for the public to track the actions of a committee where there are no meeting notices, no meeting location, no agendas, and no minutes.

The failure of the Prince George's County Telecommunications Transmission Facility Coordinating Committee to follow the Maryland Open Meetings Act has made it very easy for vendors to quickly build cell towers on public school playgrounds in Prince George's County. 

"It may be the most effective watchdog model in the nation."

...The Watchdogs anti-corruption toolbox features an “exposure” website, insistence on freedom of information, pro se lawsuits, public comment at open meetings, earned media, and motivating hundreds of local citizens to attend board meetings. It may be the most effective watchdog model in the nation...
...In Ford-Iroquois County, the health department was disbanded after the Watchdogs pushed an investigation into an alleged $4 million federal flood grant fraud, public credit cards used for private beer and gasoline purchases, and substantial gift card employee compensation which circumvented payroll taxes...
...They even recently exposed a superintendent – a candidate running for the state house – who racked up $5,000 on the school credit card at fast food restaurants...
...The Watchdogs live by Dillon’s Rule – a principle from a famous 1868 case that says government only has the power granted by law. As the Watchdogs argue, in the absence of a legal basis, government power is limited. Public bodies are asked to prove that public funds, property or credit are only being used only for public purposes (Article 8 Section 1 of Illinois Constitution). Trusting government to act in the public’s interest isn’t good enough. They require proof and verification...
 http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamandrzejewski/2014/11/05/sick-of-politics-more-than-100-illinois-public-officials-fled-their-positions-rather-than-face-these-watchdogs/2/

My Two Cents: Growing A More Diverse Teaching Corps In MCPS

by Joseph Hawkins — November 3, 2014

 A recent Montgomery County Council report points out that the Montgomery County Public Schools teacher corps is not diverse enough when compared to the school system’s student body.
Nearly, two-thirds of MCPS students are non-white and yet 76 percent of its teachers are white...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Exclusive: Joshua Starr Refuses to Meet with MD Enough Abuse Campaign

This letter was sent to Joshua Starr one year ago today from the Maryland Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (MPPCSA), the state level partnership that runs the Enough Abuse Campaign.

"I would also like to schedule a time to meet with you to discuss MPPCSA’s available resources to assist MCPS in assessing your current policies and practices and developing comprehensive strategies to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse within your schools."

To date, Superintendent Joshua Starr has not met with the Enough Abuse campaign Maryland State partner.  
It's been a year since they requested this meeting.  
Isn't it time for Superintendent Starr to meet with the Enough Abuse - Maryland partner?
 



Gazette: Family of girl who reported being groped by teacher is suing MCPS

Gazette story on lawsuit first reported here on October 31st by the Parents' Coalition.

Suit alleges assault by teacher, negligence by officials

Attention Joshua Starr: Tweet this! "It is widely recognized that child victims should not be subjected to numerous investigative interviews during the course of a child maltreatment investigation."

Last night ABC7 exposed yet another major error in the way MCPS handles allegations of sexual abuse of students by MCPS staff.  
...Parents were also furious about how the young victim had been handled at Clemente Middle once she reported Pineda’s alleged sexual assault. She was repeatedly questioned by staffers before police or her parents were called...

It has been known for decades that children should not be subjected to multiple interviews when there are allegations of sexual abuse or child abuse.  The quote below from the American Prosecutors Research Institute is from 2004.
...It is widely recognized that child victims should not be subjected to numerous investigative interviews during the course of a child maltreatment investigation. As stated in the American Prosecution Research Institute’s Investigation and Prosecution of Child Abuse manual: “The number of investigative interviews should be limited to one whenever possible. Multiple sessions are stressful for the child, are often unnecessary, and can lead to seemingly inconsistent statements.”1

1American Prosecutors Research Institute, Investigation and Prosecution of Child Abuse 39 (3d ed. Sage Publications 2004).

http://www.enoughabuse.org/

MCPS admits mistake in handling of alleged butt-grabbing substitute teacher

The MCPS child abuse policy that is used to train MCPS staff is 26 YEARS out of date. It is any wonder that MCPS staff have no idea how to handle these incidents? 



GERMANTOWN, Md. (WJLA) – Parents are outraged that Montgomery County Public Schools took so long to notify them about a substitute teacher accused of inappropriately touching a student.

Public Body Arrested for Denying Public Comment in violation of Open Meetings Act

...Clark County Sheriff Jerry Parsley personally responded to the scene that night, because he knew it was a heated situation. He told the BGA that Kraft handled the citizen's arrest responsibly, and the board was definitely in violation of the Open Meetings Act by not allowing the public to speak.
"It's not that they should have. They're mandated to," Parsley said. "The people need to have their voice. It's not a dictatorship. It's a democracy."...




MCCPTA Shuts Out Dues Paying Members from Yahoo Discussion List

This is the message that PTA members got last week.
Last week, MCCPTA deleted dues paying PTA members from the MCCPTA Yahoo discussion list.

For over a decade, dues paying PTA members could participate and read the MCCPTA Yahoo discussion list, but all that ended last week. MCCPTA deleted everyone from the Yahoo group that wasn't part of the MCCPTA inner circle. 

MCCPTA is no longer interested in keeping dues paying PTA members informed about the workings of this countywide organization.

It's really not a surprise.  Since around 2009 MCCPTA Presidents have been sitting on the MCPS budget committees and signing Confidentiality Agreements swearing that they will not reveal the MCPS back room budget discussions to their members.

PTA members, how is MCCPTA representing you behind closed doors? MCCPTA isn't telling.  

Parents just remember, according to MCCPTA the less you know the better.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Video: Parents Say No to Cell Tower at Clemente Middle School

There was no support at the November 11th parent meeting for Superintendent Joshua Starr's proposal to build a cell tower on the Clemente Middle School playground.

Why are education dollars being wasted by MCPS staff on this proposal?  


Monday, November 17, 2014

Stop Alternative Education Programs' Relocation To English Manor School

This community moves fast! They just found out about Superintendent Joshua Starr's plan to attempt to reclaim a school building in their neighborhood and they already have a website up and running.

 


Bethesda PTA Reps Make Their Case For More School Construction

North Bethesda Middle School’s cafeteria is so crowded during lunch that it’s almost impossible to walk between the tables. Portables are likely headed to Walt Whitman High School next year. By January, Pyle Middle School might have 1,500 students — more than six county high schools...
 http://www.bethesdanow.com/2014/11/17/bethesda-pta-reps-make-their-case-for-more-school-construction/

Breaking News: Starr Wants Elem School Back, But No Right To Reclaim Building or Site

MCPS says they have a "planning" department, but situations like this make one wonder.

In Superintendent Joshua Starr's Capital Budget proposal released on October 28, 2014, Starr announced that he was going to move a program from the Ewing Center to a Montgomery County owned property in Aspen Hill.  The property in Aspen Hill is the former English Manor Elementary School.

At the November 6, 2014, Board of Education public hearing, BOE member Shirley Brandman asked if MCPS anticipated any difficulty reclaiming the English Manor Elementary School site.

As it turns out, the answer to that question should be yes, as the Deed given to Montgomery County for this property did not include any right to reclamation for the Board of Education.

The Board of Education will vote on this plan this evening, just 20 days after Starr's announcement of this plan.  Not much time for the public to review or have input in to a plan that has a big glitch.

Community opposition already exists to this plan.

http://www.boarddocs.com/mabe/mcpsmd/Board.nsf/files/9QXN6T5510AD/$file/141106%20Res%20Work%20Session%20Qs.pdf





BOE Member Mike Durso in Hillandale on Nov. 20th

Hillandale Meeting: Thursday, Nov 20, 2014
7:15-8:45 PM at CHI
 10501 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20903
We will have two speakers at this HCA meeting.  All residents are invited -- bring your neighbors too!
Please come early.  We'll have light refreshments at 7:15.  Bring your questions for our speakers:
 
7:30 --- Mike Durso, District 5's Member of the Board of Education will be our guest for a Q & A session.  The election is over, and now is the time to determine what can be done to bolster our local schools. The Northeast Consortium including Hillandale’s local schools are among those characterized as experiencing the “achievement gap.”  Because the quality of the schools serving a neighborhood is a major determinate factor for new homeowners, all residents should be eager to understand and press Mr. Durso about how the Board of Education is working to address this long-standing issue.  Whether you have school-aged children or not, quality schools are a big priority.

4 More No Bid Crumb Rubber Plastic Football Fields on Order for MCPS. That's $5.2 Million Diverted from School Maintenance Needs

One ton of crumb rubber.  Each field gets 120 tons of crumb rubber.
MCPS loves their no bid, crumb rubber, plastic grass football fields!

They love them so much they buy them without Board of Education votes, without competitive bids and without RFPs.  Why shop when you can have a vendor that you just love?  (Oh, and a vendor whose lobbyist was Roger Berliner's former law firm.)   

On Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 1 PM a BOE committee will discuss the artificial turf football fields that are already on order.  It turns out that Wheaton, Seneca Valley, BCC and Poolesville High Schools are already getting MCPS paid for artificial turf football fields. Churchill? Sorry, your field is in litigation and you don't get a MCPS paid for field anyway. 

How did the BOE decide which high schools get a taxpayer paid for no bid, crumb rubber field and which one's have to find a "partner"  and do their own fundraising?

When did the BOE vote to automatically include a no bid, plastic grass field at every high school modernization?

When did the BOE decide that no bid, crumb rubber plastic grass football fields were more important than routine school maintenance?  

Any schools with crumbling ceilings, leaky roofs, dangerous hallways, inaccessible buildings, deteriorating classroom trailers, broken lockers, unusable classrooms, mold, or unsecured walkways?  Sorry, those repairs can just wait. MCPS needs $5.2 million for plastic grass filled with ground up, used truck tires that only lasts a few years and then has to be replaced.

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MCPS no bid, crumb rubber, plastic grass football field projects already in planning, design, and construction process.

Wheaton/Edison HS (FY 2018 Completion)

Seneca Valley HS (Completion 2020)

Bethesda Chevy Chase HS

Poolesville HS (FY 2017 planning, FY 2023 Completion)


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Middle school comes clean about alleged sexual assault

DAMASCUS – A middle school eventually notified parents of an alleged sexual assault from October after media outlets criticized Montgomery County Public Schools for keeping the incident quiet.
On Oct. 6, 44-year-old camera maintenance worker John E. Epps, Jr. allegedly touched 12-year-old student Jasmine Andoh-Thompson’s buttocks at Baker Middle School, according to court documents. Police identified Epps on security footage as the suspect and charged him with second-degree assault and fourth-degree sex offense.
The Montgomery County Circuit Court has scheduled his trial date for Nov. 21. Meanwhile, parents have voiced concern that MCPS did not notify them of the incident. Many found out when WJLA posted a story about the incident on Nov. 2 in which they interviewed Andoh-Thompson and her mother...

...In Montgomery County, those who have been affected by sexual assault can reach out to the Victim Assistance & Sexual Assault Program hotline at (240) 777-1355. Every jurisdiction has a Rape Crisis and Recovery Center. Find a full list of centers in Maryland at mcasa.org.

http://www.thesentinel.com/mont/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=1252:middle-school-comes-clean-about-alleged-sexual-assault&Itemid=766

ABC7: Outrage over arrests - Baker Middle School meeting video

Parents Outraged at Lack of Communication At Roberto Clemente Middle School

Parents of students at Roberto Clemente Middle School remain outraged at school administrators for waiting over three weeks to inform them of the arrest of a substitute teacher on sexual abuse charges related to an incident that happened at the school.
   Roberto Clemente Principal Khadija Barkley apologized for not informing parents sooner in the letter which also served to inform parents about the incident...

Juvenile Charged With Arson in Fire at Middle School

http://www.mymcmedia.org/reported-fire-at-middle-school-in-gaithersburg/

BOE to Meet with State Delegation on Tues. Nov. 18th at 9 AM

Board of Education Meeting with Montgomery County Delegation
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
 
MONTGOMERY COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION
850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, Maryland 20850
9:00 a.m., Auditorium
AGENDA
301-279-3617, BOE@mcpsmd.org

Saturday, November 15, 2014

SCHOOL RAGE: RESIDENTS QUESTION HIGH-DENSITY WESTBARD PLAN, NEW ES SITES NOT LARGE ENOUGH

From Robert Dyer,
Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row Posted Nov 15, 2014. 
For the full post go here.

"This is crazy!"
Friday brought one of the most contentious meetings of the Westbard Sector Plan charrette, and not surprisingly, the topic was schools. Current and future public school parents in the Wood Acres-Pyle-Whitman cluster acutely aware of existing overcrowding questioned how Montgomery County planners could recommend a high-density growth plan for Westbard in that context.
Concept 1 - all of the red
structures are new apartment
buildings
Planners released their first projections for total housing units, and students to be generated by the plan, at the meeting. Those numbers were met with skepticism. Under a full build-out of Concept 1, Westbard residents would find 2529 apartments dropped into their community. That would, under the current U.S. census bureau statistic of 2.58 persons per housing unit, bring 6525 new residents (and 12724 additional cars!) to the 153 acres that comprise the Westbard Sector. In other words, 43 people per acre, which is quite a change from the area's single-family-home suburban character.
The Planning Department projection calculated Friday predicts 306 new students, with 153 of them being elementary school students. Those numbers generated some grumbling among the crowd of residents at the meeting. If one has been on Westbard Avenue when the school buses stop there in the morning, you know there are quite a few students coming from those few buildings now. In fact, Park Bethesda alone has 59 students, and Westwood Tower adds 65. Unfortunately, the chart shown did not have the numbers for the Kenwood Place condominium, which is also in the Walt Whitman HS cluster.

MCPS' infamous forecaster Bruce Crispell made a late arrival to the meeting, but tried to generate some numbers more in line with what we've seen in the Westbard area. Crispell's calculator gave him a projection of 750 students, more than double what planners forecast - and equal to the size of the entire Wood Acres ES population, one resident noted. In the context of 6525 people coming under Concept 1, 750 still sounds a bit low.

Friday, November 14, 2014

More allegations of sexual abuse against substitute teacher who worked at 20 MCPS schools | WJLA.com

 

More allegations of sexual abuse against substitute teacher who worked at 20 MCPS schools | WJLA.com

WPost: Montgomery County police said Friday that between five and 10 other students have come forward following recent school system notifications...


...The latest case involved a substitute teacher, Jose Pineda, 50, at Roberto Clemente Middle School who is accused of inappropriately touching a 12-year-old girl. Pineda was arrested Oct. 14, on a charge of child abuse, and the Germantown school’s parents learned about it on Nov. 7.
Montgomery County police said Friday that between five and 10 other students have come forward following recent school system notifications about Pineda’s arrest. Police said that the investigation is ongoing and that they could not provide details about any of the students’ accounts.
The case at Clemente Middle comes amid an uproar at John T. Baker Middle School in Damascus, Md., where parents were angered that almost a month passed before they were notified that a contractor, John E. Epps Jr., was arrested for allegedly touching a 12-year-old girl inappropriately in a school hallway...
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/parents-concerned-about-handling-of-inappropriate-contact-with-students/2014/11/14/25ce465c-6852-11e4-b053-65cea7903f2e_story.html

More MoCo students allege inappropriate behavior by arrested substitute teacher

Several elementary and middle school students in Montgomery County have reported inappropriate interactions with a substitute teacher who was already charged with the sexual abuse of one middle school student, the school district said in a letter to parents Thursday...

...The letter, which the school district said was sent to parents at 20 schools where Pineda had worked, said, “Over the past two days, some students at Ridgeview Middle School [in Gaithersburg] and Gaithersburg Elementary School have come forward and indicated they had interactions with Mr. Pineda that were inappropriate or made them feel uncomfortable.”...
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/more-moco-students-report-inappropriate-behavior-by-arrested-substitute-teacher/2014/11/13/01c20616-6b92-11e4-9fb4-a622dae742a2_story.html

Rachel Carson PTA Suggests New Lakelands Elementary and Study to Expand RCES

Parents packed into the Rachel Carson Elementary School media room Wednesday to try to figure out what to do about the school’s persistent overcrowding issue...
...Rachel Carson at about 1,000 kids is about 300 students over capacity and is listed as one of the most consistently over capacity schools in the district...

http://www.mymcmedia.org/rachel-carson-pta-suggests-new-lakelands-elementary-and-study-to-expand-rces/

Starr: It is not enough to “just find the best teachers and best principals and put them where they need to be,”

...School administrators said that given union contracts and other factors, simply looking at how teachers are placed is not sufficient.
It is not enough to “just find the best teachers and best principals and put them where they need to be,” said Joshua Starr, superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. He said districts needed to think about creating supportive school cultures.
“A teacher works in an ecosystem,” he said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/11/us/obama-administration-puts-new-focus-on-equity-in-teacher-quality.html?ref=education

Are education groups really listening to their members?

“It is a recurring narrative about how the leadership in so many education organizations is more responsive to those in power than to those whom they represent.”

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/11/12/are-education-groups-really-listening-to-their-members/

Case in point in Montgomery County: MCCPTA Presidents sign Confidentiality Agreements in order to participate in back room MCPS budget meetings. MCCPTA Presidents never report to their dues paying members on what they do in those back room meetings. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Breaking News from NBC4: More Students Report Inappropriate Contact With Montgomery Co. Substitute Teacher Jose Pineda

...Several more students at Ridgeview Middle School and Gaithersburg Elementary School have said they've had inappropriate contact with Pineda, according to a statement posted on the school system's site Thursday evening. 
According to MCPS, Pineda worked at Ridgeview for 29 days and at Gaithersburg Elementary for three days since the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year.
These allegations are surfacing at the same time a contract worker for MCPS was arrested for sexually assaulting a 12-year-old girl. That incident occurred at Baker Middle School on Oct. 6, and parents say they weren't notified it happened until Nov. 3.

Jose Pineda, substitute teacher accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old, worked at another MCPS school, says letter | WJLA.com

Jose Pineda, substitute teacher accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old, worked at another MCPS school, says letter | WJLA.com

Last night the Planning Commission voted to approve again the EZ Storage Application less than 250 feet from Maryvale Elementary School.

...60% of residents of David Scull Courts sent written testimony of their opposition to the facility for reasons including: detrimental to the public welfare, not in compliance with the Master Plan, adversely affect their health and safety.   These comments, including over 350 people who have signed online petitions stating their opposition to the proposal constitute the largest public outcry against any single proposal in the history of the Rockville Planning Commission...

 http://keepourschoolsandneighborhoodssafe.wordpress.com/

On Now: Kojo Nnamdi with A Contentious School Calendar In Montgomery County

Listen now:

Montgomery County’s Board of Education voted earlier this week to remove the names of religious holidays from the school calendar. The board notes that the days off will remain the same given how many staff and students are absent on those days. But the decision is a contentious one, both for those who’d like to see the days recognized as religious holidays, and for Muslim groups who lobbied to have their own holidays added to the calendar. We explore the issues.

Guests

  • Philip Kauffman President, Montgomery County Board of Education
  • Matt Bush Maryland Reporter, WAMU 88.5
  • Patricia O'Neill Member, Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education
  • Saqib Ali Director of Government Relations, Council on American Islamic Relations, Maryland Chapter; Co-chair, Equality for Eid Coalition; Former Member, Maryland House of Delegates (D- Dist. 39, Gaithersburg) 
 http://thekojonnamdishow.org/shows/2014-11-13/a_contentious_school_calendar_in_montgomery_county

Sentinel Cartoon: What MCPS Stands For

Click here for the answer.