Friday, February 27, 2015

WUSA9: Family says MD teacher sexually abused special needs child

ROCKVILLE, Md. (WUSA9) -- WUSA9's Andrea McCarren learned more about a special needs student who shot video of the teacher's aide with whom he was having a sexual relationship at his school in Rockville. Andrea McCarren has been reporting all week on inappropriate, and criminal behavior by teachers.

Critical Area Commission will review cell tower for sensitive area land on public school playground

On March 4th, 2015, the Maryland Critical Area Commission will review the cell tower proposal for a middle school in Anne Arundel County.  This is the cell tower proposal that suddenly included a fabricated cell tower construction curriculum when this application was submitted to the Critical Area Commission.  

Monthly Commission Meeting Agenda

The agenda is posted approximately one week prior to the date of the Commission meeting. Times listed are approximate and interested parties are advised to be present at the beginning of the subcommittee meetings and the plenary meeting.
The agenda is subject to change in order to address modifications to agenda items and to accommodate scheduling conflicts of applicants and presenters. To verify that an agenda item will be discussed at a meeting and the approximate time, please contact the Commission the day before the meeting at (410) 260-3460.

Critical Area Commission
Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays
Meeting at
Maryland Department of Agriculture, Annapolis, Maryland
March 4, 2015


11:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Project Review Subcommittee
Members: Setzer (Chair), Andrews, Carter, Clark, Coster, Cox, Gabel, Gardina,
Goebel, Konapelsky, S. Meehan, Moss, Russell, Sutton, Varney-Alvarado
Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA)
Memorandum of Understanding
Nick Kelly
Maryland Port Authority (Baltimore City)
Fruit Slip Filling / Redevelopment
LeeAnne Chandler
Anne Arundel County
Magothy River Middle School Cell Tower
Conditional Approval
Charlotte Shearin
11:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.  Program Implementation Subcommittee                                           
Members: Bloxom, Clagett, Cummins, Dubow, Feinberg, Gesl,
Holloway, Lawrence, R. Meehan, Shanks, Sydnor, Trumbauer
Refinement – Town of St. Michaels
Program Amendments – Growth Allocation
Jennifer Anderson
Refinement – Anne Arundel County
Text Amendment – Structures on Piers
Charlotte Shearin
All Commission Members
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.  Lunch

Critical Area Commission
Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays
Meeting at
Maryland Department of Agriculture, Annapolis, Maryland
March 4, 2015


1:00 p.m. – 1:05 p.m. Welcome and Remarks
Approval of Minutes of December 4, 2014
Louise Lawrence
Acting Chair


1:05 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Growth Allocation Overview Ren Serey
1:30 p.m. – 1:40 p.m. VOTE: Maryland Port Authority
Fruit Slip Filling / Redevelopment (Baltimore City)
LeeAnne Chandler
1:40 p.m. – 1:50 p.m. VOTE: Anne Arundel County Magothy River Middle School Cell Tower Conditional Approval Charlotte Shearin
1:50 p.m. – 2:05 p.m. VOTE: Maryland Transportation Authority
Memorandum of Understanding
Nick Kelly
2:05 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. Refinement – Town of St. Michaels
Program Amendments – Growth Allocation
Jennifer Anderson
2:15 p.m. – 2:25 p.m. Refinement – Anne Arundel County
Text Amendment – Structures on Piers
Charlotte Shearin
2:25 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. LEGAL UPDATES Rachel Eisenhauer
Mark Talty
2:30 p.m. – 2:35 p.m.
Louise Lawrence
Acting Chair

Maryland Department of Agriculture located at 50 Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland 21401, click here.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tonight at 7 PM - MCPS BUDGET REVIEW at BCC Regional Services Center

[This event will be held this evening.]

It’s a Palooza! At least it is for those who are in to reading through the Montgomery County Public Schools’ $2.4 billion budget line by line.

The Montgomery County Civic Federation, the Taxpayers League of Montgomery County, and the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County are inviting anyone interested to this year’s Budgetpalooza! It’s the third year for this budget breakdown event. This year the group plans to go over the MCPS fiscal year 2016 budget chapter by chapter.
“It’s a good opportunity to go through the budget more carefully. I think we would like to see people take a close look at how their tax dollars are being spent,” said  Paula Bienenfeld, president of the federation.
Bienenfeld said about 25 people attended the event last year, including County Executive Isiah Leggett. The results of the finding are expected to be released by the groups hosting the event, she said.
“Every year there are a few more people as a basic interest in transparent government. It’s an important process and event,” Bienenfeld said.
You can preview that budget here. You can sign up to present a chapter of the budget at the event here.
The event is scheduled for Feb. 26 from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, one block from the Bethesda Metro.
According to the most recent MCPS data, the school system is expected to end this year with a budget surplus of $33 million.

WUSA9: Hundreds of Maryland teachers disciplined by the state in MCPS, it is almost impossible not to graduate.

Weak standards inflate graduation rate success

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

14 Montgomery County teachers are among the nearly 400 that have been disciplined by the State of Maryland. Tonight at 11, Andrea McCarren shows us why their licenses were revoked or suspended.

Tonight on the WUSA 9 news at 11 PM.  Part 2 of Andrea McCarren's report on the sexual abuse of students by teachers and staff.

Families of children victimized by #teachers, #school staff members or contractors, here's my dilemma. Ideas? @wusa9

Andrea McCarren      @AndreaMcCarren

Más de 20 empleados de escuelas de Montgomery investigados por abuso infantil

Las escuelas del condado dijeron que están implementando grandes cambios en la manera que lidian con alegaciones de abuso incluyendo revisión de antecedentes y entrenamiento de empleados.

Más de 20 empleados de las escuelas del condado de Montgomery están siendo investigados por abuso infantil.  Jennifer Álvaro, madre de estudiantes del condado y experta de este tipo de abuso explica que hay que reportar estos ofensores aunque tengan tan solo una sospecha.
Si uno sospecha hay que reportarlo a la ley en muchos casos con las escuelas vemos y tenemos pruebas que no llamaron a nadie intentando de ocultarlo y manejarlo por adentro," dijo Jennifer Álvaro, Trabajadora social y experta de abuso infantil
Las escuelas del condado dijeron que están implementando grandes cambios en la manera que lidian con alegaciones de abuso incluyendo revisión de antecedentes y entrenamiento de empleados. 
"Muchos padres están extremadamente disgustados no solo por los crímenes pero porque dicen que en muchos casos, varias quejas y señales fueron ignoradas por el sistema escolar."...

School bus catches fire in Silver Spring - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

School bus catches fire in Silver Spring - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

@mcpspio says "saw the video. It was a smoky, but was contained to engine compartment."

Senator Nancy King wants school bus doors to lock. Here's why MD Law currently does not permit them to be locked.

Current Maryland law dictates that school buses can not have locking doors.

The law is designed to keep students safe in the event of an emergency.  First responders can easily enter a bus and remove students if the doors are not locked.

But, Montgomery County Senator Nancy King wants to change Maryland law and permit school buses to have locked doors.  

SILVER SPRING, Md. — About 40 high school students were evacuated from a Montgomery County school bus after an engine fire...

WUSA9: Child sex offenders in Montgomery County Public Schools

BOE Opposes bill placing law enforcement officers in all MD public schools

Montgomery school board supports bill requiring IEP translation services

...used the names of ... students living in the Maryland suburbs “straw purchasers” for three dozen row houses in Baltimore.

Owner of Bethesda business indicted on mortgage fraud charges

Man accused of using county students, immigrants to obtain $3.8 million in loans

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A secret database in MCPS lists current employees who display inappropriate and possibly criminal behavior toward children

Watch Andrea McCarren's report tonight at 11 on WUSA 9

Special Education Legal Fees: @mocoboe Chooses Costly Litigation over Education

Special education legal fees for outside counsel for October 2014 totaled $43,403. The year-to-date total of $107,080 is $52,833 (97.4 percent) more than the same period in the previous year.

Special education legal fees for outside counsel for September 2014 totaled $33,794. The year-to-date total of $63,677 is $41,828 (191.4 percent) more than the same period in the previous year.

Special education legal fees for outside counsel for August 2014 totaled $26,537. The year-to-date total of $29,883 is $22,657 (313.5 percent) more than the same period in the previous year.

Special education legal fees for outside counsel for July 2014 totaled $3,346. This is $1,304 (63.9 percent) more than the same period in the previous year.

Thurs. Feb 26th BOE and Planning Board Dinner Meeting

Thursday, February 26, 2015
6:00 PM

Joint meeting of the Montgomery County Planning and Montgomery County Board of Education (Meeting may be viewed live on our website, visit

*MRO Auditorium, 8787 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring

Agenda: Meeting of Board of Education and Montgomery County Planning Board

Montgomery County Planning Board Headquarters,
8787 Georgia Avenue, Auditorium

Thursday, February 26, 2015
6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. AGENDA

1. Introductions

2. Overview of Growth Trends in Montgomery County and Impact on MCPS Facility Needs

3. Overview of Colocation White Paper

4. Status Report on Current Master/Sector Plan Updates

5. Community Forum, “Infrastructure and Growth: Are We Keeping Pace?”  scheduled for March 7th.

Monday, February 23, 2015

At BOE Now: Parents Plead for BOE to Support Students with Diabetes. BOE told to OPPOSE.

At this evening's Board of Education meeting, parents are pleading with the Board of Education to support the above legislation.

The Board of Education recommended position is to OPPOSE this legislation. 

Watch the BOE meeting online live this evening to see if the BOE will support students with diabetes.

Will Gov. Hogan Vote to Demolish a Usable MCPS Public School Building?

85,400 sq. ft. Ewing School
The Board of Education has voted to put parking for 400+/- school buses on a school site that is currently the location of a 85,400 sq. ft. school building.  The school building is the Ewing School Center and the building is in use today. 

In order to park the 400+/- school buses on this land, the Board of Education will have to demolish the 85,400 sq. ft. school building.

In order to demolish the school building, the Board of Public Works will have to approve the demolition.

The Board of Public Works is made up of the Governor, the Treasurer and the Comptroller. 

Will Governor Larry Hogan vote to demolish a perfectly usable, functioning public school building? How about Comptroller Peter Franchot, how will he vote?

Friday, February 20, 2015

No Documents Exist to Support Cell Tower Construction Curriculum

The Maryland Critical Area Commission has received a request to approve the construction of a cell tower on the Magothy River Middle School playground.  Magothy River Middle School is in Anne Arundel County and sits within the land that is part of the Critical Area of the Chesapeake Bay.
The Critical Area application is shown below.

The application references a cell tower construction curriculum that has been developed with the Anne Arundel Board of Education as a special circumstance that justifies the construction of this cell tower in a Critical Area of the Chesapeake Bay.  

In an attempt to verify that such a curriculum existed, we filed a Maryland Public Information Act request with the Anne Arundel County Public Schools.  The response was that AACPS "has no such curricular documents."

February 19, 2015

This email is in response to your request under the Public Information Act, Annotated Code of Maryland, General Provisions Article (GP) § 4-101, et seq., seeking information “curriculum in place in Anne Arundel Public Schools that deals with the placement, construction, maintenance, and landscaping of telecommunications towers.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools has no such curricular documents.

Pursuant to GP §4-362, in the event you disagree with any determination regarding this Maryland Public Information Act request you may seek judicial review by filing a complaint with the Circuit Court in Anne Arundel County.

Please contact me at 410-222-5312 should you have any further questions.


Bob Mosier
Chief Communications Officer
Anne Arundel County Public Schools
Phone: 410-222-5312
Twitter: @AACountySchools


School Overcrowding Forum Saturday, March 7th 8AM-4PM

Hi Everyone,
Recently Ike Leggett took part in a groundbreaking for the new Public Safety Training Academy (PSTA) on Snouffer School Road.  According to the press release, the current PSTA or fire tower area on Darnestown Road at Great Seneca will be moved to the new Snouffer School Road site in order to:
  • “Create a transit-oriented bioscience enclave at the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center that will increase the County’s competiveness;
  • Construct thousands of new housing units;
  • Create new, high-paying jobs;
  • Relocate and replace old, overcrowded, inadequate public facilities;
  • Save $22 million a year on rent payments; and
  • Create opportunities to protect the agricultural reserve.”
2,000 apartments are proposed for the existing PSTA site on Darnestown Road at Great Seneca (56 acres).  To put that into perspective, the Crown Farm site (180 acres) will have 2,250 housing units stretching from Sam Eig to Omega Drive.

I have been told that the kids from the Crown development (2,250 housing units) as well as the apartments on or near Key West Avenue (approximately 1,570 housing units) will go to the Gaithersburg schools.  The kids from the PSTA (2,000 units) as well as the Rickman property on Travilah Road (approved for 300 multifamily units) will go to schools in the Wootton cluster.  There is space reserved on Crown Farm for a high school and space in the PSTA for an elementary school… “if needed”.

School Clusters - The Life Sciences Center is served by two school clusters: the Gaithersburg Cluster and the Thomas S. Wootton Cluster. Based on the results of the School Test for FY13, the Gaithersburg Cluster is now over 105 percent of capacity at both the elementary and the middle school levels. The Wootton Cluster is over 105 percent of capacity at the high school level. To address capacity needs, certain residential development proposals will need to make school facility payments to receive plan approval in these clusters.”  Note that this does not say that construction of new schools is imminent or even planned.
 A forum with county agencies to discuss how county infrastructure and development planning and their timelines will impact school construction planning, and the disconnects among county agencies in coordinating that planning has been organized by WJ Cluster Coordinators and CIP Committee, with coordination with Councilmember Roger Berliner.  It will be held on
 Saturday, March 7th, 8am-4pm
 Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School, Cafeteria
 4301 East-West Highway, Bethesda, 20814
 Accessible to Bethesda Metro station
 The announcement states:
“While this conversation was initiated by PTA leaders in the Walter Johnson cluster with their council representative, we recognize that these issues are countywide and Councilmember Berliner's office has organized this forum accordingly.”
“This is a heads-up for you and your communities, as we would like each cluster to send as many representatives as possible, especially those of you in areas where the increase and pace of residential development, in particular, is impacting your schools.”
Please plan to attend.

Good schools are vitally important to our children and the quality of our schools directly affects property values.  Please feel free to forward this email.

Thanks and best regards,

Donna Baron
Coordinator, The Gaithersburg – North Potomac – Rockville Coalition, online at

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tonight: BCC Parents Meeting to Discuss MCPS & Pearson Product Privacy Concerns

Informal meeting on Chromebook and Student Privacy
Thursday, February 19, 2015 at 7:00 pm in the Conference room of Jane E. Lawton Community Recreation Center,
4301 Willow Lane, Chevy Chase, MD 20815. 

We are following up on the Chromebook concerns about our students’ personal information, and also responding to those who emailed us back with similar concerns. 
While waiting for a response from CCES or MCPS, we ran into another, potentially more serious privacy issue: the newly implemented self-registration system for students and patents to sign up for classes online - see the attached file. 
As of Jan. 2015, class selection at Westland Middle School, B-CC High School and throughout MCPS is to be done online by students and parents via a website branded as myMCPS, which is in fact a Pearson’s Student Information System (SIS) PowerSchool. The new registration process was the topic of the recent Westland info sessions at CCES.   We are given till February 14 to register our children for classes for 2015/16 academic year:
By registering the students, unbeknownst to us, we parents, consent to Pearson’s Privacy Policy. Pearson collects and data-mines students’ and parents’ personal information including names, home addresses, social security numbers, phone numbers and student grades, health and disciplinary records. To see these capabilities, visit the Pearson’s Features page and scroll down to Family management, Health Screening, Immunization Screening:
Pearson and Google are companies that refused to sign the voluntary pledge not to collect and sell students’ data proposed by President Obama. Pearson is the company that pioneered the “stealth assessment”- the technology of continuous, secret monitoring and evaluation of student achievement and behavior.
Other school districts that use these providers (Google, Pearson) have been a lot more forthcoming about their practices and have informed the parents proactively:

City of Baltimore Hearing on Prohibiting Cell Tower Contracts on School Property

                                     You are cordially invited to a hearing of the
Land Use and Transportation Committee
Wednesday, February 25
1:00 pm
Council Chambers
City Hall, 4th floor
(Picture ID is required for admission to City Hall.)

12-0170 Wireless Telecommunications Antennae - Prohibited Contracts
FOR the purpose of prohibiting contracts or other authorizations for the placement of a wireless telecommunications antenna on property that is owned or controlled by the City of Baltimore and used for the recreation, care, or education of children; defining certain terms; and providing for a special effective date.

Please plan to come and testify.
If unable to attend, please email your comments to the following
committee members:
Council Members
Edward Reisinger, chair
James Kraft, vice chair
Sharon Green Middleton,

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Old and New MCPS Schools are Flooding This Week. All about that Maintenance.

On Monday the Parents' Coalition showed a picture of the flooding at the new Blair High School.  
Today we have video of flooding at the old Blair High School.
This week, MCPS buildings old and new are flooding.  The Board of Education has decided to  keep hundreds of administrator positions in the budget, but cut 17 maintenance positions for next year.  
We hope those 1,700+ MCPS administrators know how to repair pipes, HVAC systems and do mold remediation.

Video Published on Feb 18, 2015
On Monday, February 17th, 2015 several sprinklers on the second floor in the front stairwell froze and ruptured sending water cascading down the stairs to the front entrance, Band Room, Chorus Room and Main Office. Water made its way down the hall into adjoining Sligo Creek ES. The sprinklers that caused this flood were replacements for the ones that burst and flooding in January 2014. It is believed that inadequate heat in this stairwell caused both sprinkler failures.

Open government supporters push for public records update

The current fee structure is based on the number and type of copies requested, the salary grade of the employee handling the information request and time it takes to search for the requested information. The bill would require that noncommercial information requests be filled by the person with the lowest salary grade available. The information act also provides two hours of information searching at no charge. The bill would increase that time to five hours.
The fees would only apply to the "actual cost of production" of the information, Bevan-Dangel said.
The bill also outlines monetary penalties for state agencies that deny information and also shifts the burden of proof for a denial to the agency, Bevan-Dangel said, "to show the public good is truly being outweighed by the personal harm they're using to justify not sharing the information."

School board decision to nix charge accounts was long overdue

Elected officials’ use of credit cards has been like bad plumbing: every time Prince Georgians thought the problem was fixed, another leak seemed to pop up.
Many remember the audit of the Prince George’s County school board in 2000, when lax accounting and widespread abuse of expense accounts were revealed. Questions surfaced about some board members charging items that did not appear to be related to their board duties, overspending and using funds for items that could be considered campaign related...

$10 million cut from Starr’s original proposal

The Montgomery County school board has approved a fiscal 2016 operating budget $10.2 million lower than what Superintendent Joshua P. Starr proposed in December.
The county school system’s proposed operating budget for next year now stands at $2.39 billion. The budget moves next to Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Montgomery County Council for approval...

...Under the revised budget, the school system would cut $1.8 million, mostly by reducing and eliminating staff positions. These cuts deepen similar ones Starr had already proposed, meaning the loss of another 24 full-time equivalent positions.

Those positions include 17 building service worker positions, amounting to about $708,500; a professional growth consultant, costing $124,100; an instructional specialist involved in professional development, costing $144,296; and a consulting teacher position, costing about $105,000.

In 2013, MCPS had 1,697 Non-School Based Positions, Fairfax has 1,648

We are behind on making the annual WABE Guide's available. Let's catch up by starting with the 2013 WABE Guide.

Below is the 2013 Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) Guide.  The WABE Guide compares data from 10 public school systems around Washington, D.C.  The WABE Guide compares enrollment, class sizes, staffing, revenue, salary and benefits information from each of the 10 counties.

It usually compares data from all 10 counties, except there was the year that MCPS refused to participate.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Open government supporters push for public records update - Washington Times

Open government supporters push for public records update - Washington Times

Broad Foundation suspends $1-million prize for urban school districts

Billionaire Eli Broad has suspended a coveted, $1-million prize to honor the best urban school systems out of concern that they are failing to improve quickly enough. And, associates say, he's no longer certain that he wants to reward traditional school districts at all.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Twitter Picture Appears to Show Pipe Burst at Blair High School

With thanks to Kenneth @terps11 for permission to post his picture. 

County to do new feasibility study on Blair Ewing Center

...“The fact of the matter is English Manor is not going to be a new school, it’s going to have to be completely remodeled and I have not seen the feasibility study under this new program for example to understand clearly what would happen,” Navarro said. “For me it’s not about ‘we don’t want to give our students the best possible facility.’ For me, it’s about ‘have we done the feasibility study that we need to do under this new direction of this new program? Do we have enough data to know that the program is going to actually work?’” ...

...The future of the Ewing Center is further complicated by plans to relocate the Shady Grove bus depots on Crabbs Branch Way to the current Ewing Center site on Avery Road. MCPS has to vacate the bus depots by January 2017 to make way for county redevelopment.
Some who live near the Ewing Center said they much prefer the school to be there rather than hundreds of buses turning out onto Avery Road.
“I’m concerned about safety. Avery Road is a two lane winding country road with no shoulders, absolutely none, and when I encounter a school bus now I have to virtually come to a stop,” said resident Brenda Vaughan at the rally before the committee meeting. “I can’t fathom the amount of traffic.”
The community has also voiced concerns because the bus depot currently fits 410 buses onto 35 acres and is already a little too small, according to Song. Song said MCPS would design efficiently to try to fit 370 buses on the 22.5 acre Ewing Center site, more than six acres of which is protected by a conservation easement. Also on the site is the Mark Twain Athletic Fields, which the city of Rockville maintains and uses outside of school hours.
Committee Chair Craig Rice (D-2) said he views the bus depot and the Ewing Center relocations as two separate issues. Councilmembers Navarro and Marc Elrich (D-At large) said the two are intertwined.
“We can’t not know what we know,” Elrich said...

Councilmember Hans Reimer called for a very public process to select his [Starr's] replacement.

...Some county residents have now turned their attention to how public the hiring process will be. O’Neill said she could not speculate on whether they would make the interviews or applicants public but said the search firm always solicits community input....

Rockville buries APFS changes

ROCKVILLE – In a twist to the debate over Rockville’s Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and Standards (APFO/APFS) Monday night, Councilmember Tom Moore withdrew his motion to align with the county’s standards when Councilmember Beryl Feinberg  said she would vote against the motion.
Feinberg later took Moore to task for what she called “inaccurate” a social media post regarding her actions.
The Rockville mayor and City Council decided to delay action and wait instead for the outcome of County Councilmember Roger Berliner’s (D-1) forum on the county’s ordinance on March 7. The forum “is intended to serve as the beginning of a conversation about what is working well in our county and frankly, what is not working so well,” Berliner wrote in a letter to each member of the mayor and council...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Washington Post: Departing MoCo schools chief reflects on short tenure of superintendents

  February 15 at 1:42 PM
Montgomery County’s departing schools chief reflected on his record as leader of Maryland’s largest school system and said that sometimes expectations for superintendents are out of step with reality, according to an exit interview posted online Sunday.
Entire story at:

Contrast Montgomery’s wishy-washy approach... with that of Fairfax County

...Contrast Montgomery’s wishy-washy approach, including Superintendent Joshua P. Starr’s mixed signals, with that of Fairfax County, which figured out a way to start high school between 8 a.m. and 8:10 a.m. There, Superintendent Karen Garza made clear she was committed to change, expert help was enlisted in fashioning a solution and board members based their decision on facts rather than anecdotes. Moreover, instead of having to contend with a teachers union more concerned about the convenience of its members, Fairfax officials had a real partner in teachers. “It will be a little uncomfortable for some, but ultimately it will be much more comfortable for our children and ultimately that is what our priority is,” said Steven Greenburg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers. The Montgomery County Education Association, which released a suspect survey on the eve of the vote, should take a cue...

Saturday, February 14, 2015

WTOP: 3 arrested after 2 fights, 1 fire alarm at Montgomery Co. school

WASHINGTON – Three students were arrested following two separate fights at Paint Branch High School Friday.
Police were called to the Burtonsville, Maryland, school for a report of fighting about 11:20 a.m., a spokeswoman for Montgomery County Police says.
The sequence of events began when security guards tried to stop a fight from starting between two students inside the school’s cafeteria. A young woman who was sitting nearby then attacked one of the guards, police say.
A guard pulled the fire alarm to evacuate the building. The second fight broke out soon after when a police officer barred another student from getting back inside the school...

Paint Branch High School security pulled the fire alarm...

Three students charged after altercations at Paint Branch High School

Friday, February 13, 2015

Board of Education Members Decline To Talk About Opposition To Starr

...The Board held a series of closed meetings about Starr’s future, but Smondrowski said there was never a vote on whether to give Starr a new contract because Starr never formally asked for one...

Back in 1999, Same Search Firm Found Candidate with Bankruptcies, Candidate Immediately Withdrew

Massie Withdraws As School Candidate
Montgomery Board Searching Again
By Manuel Perez-Rivas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 1999; Page B01

Elfreda W. Massie bowed out yesterday as Montgomery County's leading candidate for school superintendent, just two days after revelations of her personal bankruptcy filings stunned school board members and threw her candidacy into a tailspin.

Massie, currently the number two school administrator in Baltimore County, was nominated Friday to succeed Montgomery Superintendent Paul L. Vance, whose term ends June 30. She was widely praised over the weekend as a well-qualified and enthusiastic educator who would ably lead Montgomery's school system, with its $1 billion budget, into the next century.
Civic, government and educational leaders anticipated meeting Massie in Rockville this week to learn about her educational vision.

But those meetings were canceled. Instead, Massie came to Montgomery to attend a private, late-night meeting Tuesday with the school board at the home of board President Reginald M. Felton (Northeastern County). During the meeting, Massie discussed the circumstances of her and her husband's two bankruptcy filings -- the most recent one last June -- and attempted to explain why she had not warned school board members before they endorsed her. It was not enough, however, to save her candidacy...

...Felton said the board had directed the firm conducting the search, Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, to find new candidates for consideration and to "strengthen the background and financial review of potential candidates."
Despite mounting criticism over the secrecy with which the board has conducted the search to date, Felton reaffirmed that members remain "committed to the search process underway at this time as the best method of identifying and selecting candidates for consideration as superintendent."
The board had been criticized by many in Montgomery's active educational circles for not giving the community a larger role in reviewing candidates, even before the revelations of Massie's personal financial problems derailed the process this week. Some said the board's stance was especially disheartening considering its stated support for collaborative decision-making...

BOE Paid $70,000 to No Bid Superintendent Search Firm in 2011 Search

On Tuesday, February 10, 2015, Board of Education President Patricia O'Neill handed a $35,000 contract to a firm she liked.  The firm was hired to find the next MCPS superintendent.  Ms. O'Neill skipped any Request for Proposal or competitive bidding.

Minority, women owned or owned by individuals with disabilities companies you are out of luck. 

Now, here's the surprise.  The contract is $35,000 plus expenses!  Back in 2011, when the Board of Education used the same firm to hire Joshua Starr the amount paid to the firm ended up just shy of $70,000. 

BOE President Handed Same Search Firm 3rd Contract #no bid

Why take competitive bids on a public school contract when you can just pick the firm that you like and hand them a $35,000 contract?

...Thumbs down to former Stamford Superintendent of Schools Joshua Starr making another abrupt exit from a district.

...Thumbs down to former Stamford Superintendent of Schools Joshua Starr making another abrupt exit from a district. The circumstances of Starr's departure from Stamford still stings for many in the city. He followed a similar script in leaving the Montgomery County district four months before his contract runs out. In both jobs, he built a reputation for being aloof, and for focusing on his next step up a career ladder. Starr is an off-stage player in the current drama in Stamford, as he shielded Donna Valentine when others came forward to complain about her performance as Stamford High School's principal. Now Valentine is fighting for her career after mishandling a sex scandal between a teacher and student, and Starr was under fire in Maryland for his response to reports of abuse on school grounds...

Thursday, February 12, 2015

...shortly after starting her job, she learned that school administrators were counting students from Jamaica, who speak English, and students with Hispanic-sounding last names, even those fluent in English, as those in need of ELL instruction...

...In the lawsuit Lawson says she was hired in 2010 by former Superintendent Joshua Starr because of the growing population of non-English-speaking students.
Lawson alleges that, shortly after starting her job, she learned that school administrators were counting students from Jamaica, who speak English, and students with Hispanic-sounding last names, even those fluent in English, as those in need of ELL instruction.
The counts were so inaccurate, the lawsuit states, that Lawson refused to certify to the state and federal departments of education that Stamford was in compliance with the program.
Lawson claims that school administrators were using federal money earmarked for ELL teachers to hire other teachers; failing to designate enough space for ELL programs, creating a waiting list of students; encouraging eligible students to opt out of ELL instruction; prohibiting ELL instruction for special-education students who needed it; using ELL teachers to cover lunch waves and non-ELL classrooms; and failing to purchase ELL instructional materials, among other violations.
When she tried to establish standards for evaluating students for ELL eligibility, her then-supervisor, Mara Siladi, reprimanded her and cut her off from Starr, Lawson alleges...

...In November 2012, the Department of Justice cited Stamford schools for many of the same violations that Lawson raised, the suit states...

"In my opinion, the Board once again showed its utter disdain for the little guys and gals of the world."

Slice of pie
Give the little person a slice of the pie!

by Joseph Hawkins

On Tuesday, February 10, 2015, the Montgomery County Board of Education hired Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates (HYA) to search for a new superintendent for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). HYA will be paid $35,000 for its work. HYA is the same firm that conducted previous MCPS superintendent searches.

The Board awarded the HYA search contract without a competitive bid process. In my opinion, the Board once again showed its utter disdain for the little guys and gals of the world.

Since 1998, I’ve worked as a research contractor. I’ve lost track of how many contracts I’ve bid on, but to make things simple, let’s just round up and say I’ve been involved in over 100 competitive bids. The bids have been both small and large. The bids have included governments (local, state, and federal), foundations, and private companies.

Over the years, I’ve noticed that some government agencies take competitive bidding very seriously, including making sure that small, women-owned, and minority-owned businesses receive a fair share of the contract dollars awarded.

I once had a contract with the state of Pennsylvania and the state required me to share 25% of the contract dollars with a pre-approved minority-owned business. I ended up using a certified small-business located in Washington, D.C., owned by a black woman (this business also was certified in the state of Pennsylvania). A multi-million dollar contract with the federal government required me not only to have annual goals with a pre-approved minority-owned business, but I had to submit to the feds each year proof that I spent what I had agreed to spend with the minority-owned business. For this contract, I ended up using a certified small-business located in Silver Spring, Maryland, owned by a black man. In the end, both of these black owned businesses ended up with a fairly substantial slice of the contract pie.

In all honesty, I have learned that while it takes a little extra energy finding small-businesses, in the end, it has always been worth the extra time.

I’m totally disappointed that our Board of Education seems so calvalier about bidding contracts. At the end of the day, I believe HYA should have competed for that $35,000. And if our Board was serious about sharing the pie with the little guys and gals, it might actually award extra bid points to bidders that involve minority-owned businesses.

And why is competitive contract bidding some critical for small businesses, especially the women-owned, and minority-owned businesses? Because believe it or not fair and open competition is more likely to level the playing field for such businesses.

Below, is a 2010 interview I conducted with a black woman who owns her own small research firm. I think this person helps us understand why competitive bidding is so critical to the survival of such companies.

(Note: This interview first appeared in the Rockville Patch newspaper.)

In 1998, when I resigned my Montgomery County Public Schools job, I went to work for the American Institutes of Research. When at AIR, we hired Crecilla Cohen Scott to work on a testing contract AIR held with the School District of Philadelphia. Crecilla was one of the smartest young researchers I had ever come across. She always had an uncanny instinct for asking great questions, and she could crunch numbers with the best of them. Since 1998, we have remained friends and colleagues.

Departing AIR in 2000, Crecilla took her skills to the U.S. Census Bureau. After working there for several years, she went into business for herself, establishing Infinity Research in 2007.  Infinity is a women-owned research social-science company. The company also is certified as a small disadvantaged business. Infinity is based in Bowie. Crecilla is African American.

Like all research firms, Infinity survives by bidding on what we in the industry call requests for proposals (RFPs).  Coming from both government and non-government entities, RFPs are a lifeline to business contracts, and they are the difference between staying profitable—surviving—and going out of business. For the most part, governments are extremely open and transparent when it comes to contracts, RFPs, and the bidding process. This openness—when it is consistently present—aids the “little guy,” including small businesses like Infinity.

Probably once a week, Crecilla and I talk shop. When we can partner, we partner—I personally believe in sharing the pie with the little guy. For example, several years ago, I used Infinity to help put workers on the ground so Prince George’s County Public Schools could restructure its database for the homeless students the district serves. And so I thought it was worthwhile to ask Crecilla a few questions about why being open and transparent is critical to small businesses and their ability to remain profitable. My questions and her answers (gathered via email and over a face-to-face lunch) appear below.

Question: In your opinion, as a small business, why is an open RFP process so critical to staying afloat?
Answer: An open RFP process is essential to small businesses because it provides an opportunity for us to showcase our capabilities, competitively bid on work, and increase awareness of our products and services. An open and transparent RFP process opens up the market and helps to level the playing field. Without an open and transparent process, many small businesses find it difficult to compete and generate sufficient revenue to remain profitable.

Question: Recession or not, it is my experience this region continues to spend money on research contracts. For a small research firm, what are some of your biggest challenges when trying to obtain contracts?
Answer: Our biggest challenge is establishing a professional relationship with decision-makers and building trust. Larger companies have the advantage of name recognition and long-established working relationships with government agencies. When decisionmakers are unfamiliar with a smaller company’s work, it is particularly challenging to establish trust. We have several clients that have provided repeat business, but in the beginning, there was a lot of work that went into establishing the relationship. We definitely benefit from and rely on partnerships with larger companies to build our portfolio—it adds to our credibility and helps build trust.

Question: Do you have any horror stories about bidding on contracts in this region? Perhaps a situation where it looked like an agency wanted a small business, especially one owned by a minority, but then at the last moment, the contract was awarded to someone else?
Answer: Once, we were asked to bid on a project that had the potential to generate significant revenue. We were awarded a very small contract to develop a high-level “blue print” (or Phase I) of the larger project. After delivering the “blue print,” we thought we would be a natural fit to be awarded the larger contract (or Phase II). As it turns out, the agency decided to go with a large company to execute the work that we designed.

Question: Just thinking out loud here, if you could sit with government officials and give them advice on how to making the bidding process work better to the advantage of small businesses, what are some suggestions you’d offer?
Answer: I would suggest that officials take the time to reflect on the value that small businesses bring not only to each project, but also to the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, small businesses employ half of all (private sector) employees, generate 65 percent of new jobs, and pay 44 percent of U.S. private payroll. We are an important part of the U.S. economy. It is critically important to understand that small businesses have the ability to provide quality products and services. Given the opportunity, I would suggest that officials reduce the paperwork required to submit responses to RFPs. A simplified, on-line submission process would be more efficient and it would reduce the number of hours needed to competitively bid on projects. Also, I would suggest that officials increase the incentives to larger companies to partner with small businesses. Sometimes, the “piece of the pie” is so small, we wonder if we will make it another year.