Thursday, April 30, 2015

Education Advocate Resigns From MCCPTA

Susan Burkinshaw has resigned from her position as treasurer of the Montgomery County Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (MCCPTA).
Burkinshaw, who was also the health and safety committee co-chair of the MCCPTA, said she no longer wanted to be part of the executive committee because she had concerns about the efficacy of the leadership team.
“I constantly felt that I was pushing back on decisions that were being made, and I was not comfortable continuing to be a part of the leadership team,” Burkinshaw said...

...On March 17, the Maryland PTA received a written request from Burkinshaw to review MCCPTA’s decision to rescind her appointment.
Below is Ray Leone, president of Maryland PTA, response:
“First and most important is that in looking at your complaint it became obvious that the Montgomery Council was not following proper procedure in regards to recognizing Co-Chairs. Co-Chairs are not legal appointments. No co-chairs presently listed can be recognized as board members. We have urged the Council to look at their current Board structure and correct these bylaw infractions and appoint one chair per committee. We realize that the Council has been operating this was for some time. Now that they are aware of the interpretation being incorrect we are asking that it be addressed and corrected.”...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

PARCC testing is back and concerns about student privacy, test value, gag orders on teachers remain

imageAFT’s Weingarten to Pearson: Lift Gag Order on Testing

As MCPS students sit for (or refuse) the 2nd round of PARCC testing, the ATF President Randi Weingarten delivers in person a letter to Pearson's shareholders asking the company that administers the PARCC test to stop spying on student social media and lift the gag order on teachers so that teachers, parents and students could review the PARCC test and voice concerns about it. Watch a video of Weingarten's message to Pearson and read her letter here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Glee Comes to Wootton High School

Funny noises are coming from Wootton Parkway.  Is it the high school putting on a homespun version of Glee?

I doubt it.  If anything, the shouts of joy are coming from Dr. Doran and his buddies from Carver.

You may ask why.

In this age of tight budgets and overcrowded classrooms, Wootton is getting yet another building addition!  Seems as if the last project was just completed - although it was in 2002.

Surprise.  Mr. Crispell's projections are wrong again.

In most parts of the county, kids are crammed into overcrowded and aging classrooms, and have to wait until for any type of building improvements because precious construction dollars must  be allocated and carefully planned.

But not at Wootton.  We don't want those darling test wizards to be in an overcrowded facility.

Whatever Wootton wants, Wootton gets (sorry Damn Yankees fans, this one comes to mind).

But curious taxpayers want to know - what did Dr. Doran have to promise to get a construction process fast tracked?

Thank goodness the community stopped the cell tower project last year.  Hasn't anyone told MCPS that land is a limited resource?

Tour the Public School Building that the BOE wants to Demolish for Bus Depot

Ewing School
Would you like to visit the Blair G. Ewing Center?
If so, now is your chance!
MCPS is arranging two tour dates so residents can see the school for themselves:

- Wednesday (tomorrow) April 29, 2015 at 2:30pm
- Thursday May 7, 2015 at 3:30pm

To participate, visitors need to sign in at the main entrance. The Ewing Center's address is:
14501 Avery Road
Rockville, MD 20853

Monday, April 27, 2015

Question of the Day: Is it time for your principal to retire?

Answer:  Yes.  Especially if you are James Fernandez, principal of Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland.  Ask any art student at the school.

At today's Board of Education meeting, numerous parents and students came out to testify in favor of the Visual Arts Program at Einstein High.  Once again, this program is on the list of potential cuts from the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Read the testimony and if you have time, watch the video replay.  Students and parents spoke from their hearts about the impact of this program on their MCPS experience.

The written statement of Maya Cartland really caught me by surprise. She writes:
The VAC is more than just an art class; it’s a community of artists and scholars. In a school as large as Einstein, it’s important for students to be in an environment where they feel safe to express themselves and their creative talents. Ms. Walsh and Ms. Harris hold their students to high expectations and give us the support to go beyond what we think we can initially do.

Maya continues: 
This is in stark contrast to our principal, Mr. Fernandez, a known opponent of the arts. Every year he speaks to students before Career Day and says, “if you major in the arts, be sure to memorize my McDonald’s order: Big Mac with no pickles.” Ask any art student at Einstein and they will be able to recite Mr. Fernandez’ order for you.
Did Mr. Fernandez really tell  kids to memorize his McDonald's order?  

Maya and her classmates get it - even if Mr. Fernandez doesn't.   
He, like so many, believe that art doesn’t matter, but what he fails to understand is that we are more than just art students; we are also honor students, AP, IB scholars, and athletes. The senior class has gotten into 32 top art and liberal art schools and won over $1.2 million in scholarships alone. 
Mr. Fernandez owes Maya and her classmates an apology.  And as for the rest of the taxpaying citizens of Montgomery County?

I suggest that Mr. Fernandez turn in his resignation now.  If he doesn't value the students, their diverse learning styles, or their unique interests, then he should not be in education. Its time to move on, and let someone who enjoys leading a Montgomery County High School, with its many talented kids of all shapes, sizes, and interests, toward finding their true passions.

Dr. Einstein left us with many memorable quotes - so it seems fitting that I end this piece with the words of the man that gave the high school his name. [See image]

Good luck to the current students at VAC as you pursue your dreams, and lets hope that MCPS keeps a program that works!

Your Child Can Be Alone in a Dark Room with Door Locked Sitting on MCPS Staff Lap Getting a Back Rub and CPS Will NOT Be Called

It's time to bring some clarity to what is considered Child Abuse by the Montgomery County Board of Education.  Parents, you should know what the Board of Education considers "not child abuse."  These are the MCPS staff and student interactions that will not be reported to the Montgomery County Child Protective Services office or to the Montgomery County Police. 

If child abuse is not suspected (according tot he Board of Education definition), the Report of Suspicious/Inappropriate Interaction with a Student form, shown below, will be used to document concerns such as:
  • physical contact of a questionable nature (sitting on lap, back rub, etc.)
  • social communication unrelated to classroom activity (texting, personal phone calls, etc.)
  • excessive time with a student out of the class
  • being alone with the student under suspicious circumstances (room locked and/or dark, in personal vehicle without parent’s permission, etc. 
Again, let's be very clear about this. All of the above are considered NOT child abuse by the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Your child can be alone with a MCPS staff person sitting on the staff person's lap, in a locked, darkened room and Child Protective Services will not be called.  

A MCPS staff person can text, call or e-mail your child about non-school related matters and Child Protective Services will not be called.  

Your child can be in a MCPS staff person's CAR without your permission and that will not be reported to Child Protective Services. 

Currently, MCPS teachers and staff are permitted to enter in to a personal relationship with your child, without your permission, and that is considered acceptable conduct by the Montgomery County Board of Education.  If any of the above situations are observed between your child and a MCPS staff member the interaction will be recorded on this form and filed away.

The Board of Education has not drawn any lines to protect students from inappropriate personal relationships with MCPS staff.

At today's Board of Education meeting when the Board discusses changes to their current Child Abuse Policy, they will not make any changes to the form below.  Going forward, all of the above interactions between MCPS staff and students will continue to be not reported to Child Protective Services.


MCPS Parent: "The school system now officially has blood on its hands."

Today, the Montgomery County Board of Education will discuss proposed changes to some of its Child Abuse Policy.
The statement below is from Jennifer Alvaro, MCPS parent and vocal advocate for change in how the Board of Education handles the sexual abuse of students by MCPS staff. Ms. Alvaro has written to the Board of Education in response to the policy changes proposed by MCPS staff that will be presented to the Board of Education today.
I won't be able to attend the meeting today, not that I was invited, encouraged to attend or would have been asked for input, but never the less, I would have like to be there.

I want to briefly share my thoughts on what is going on.

The school system now officially has blood on its hands.  There is no easier way to say it than that. 

  1. In 2012, the State Board of Education told MCPS some basic steps they should have been and should now (then) implement.   MCPS chose to ignore them. Nothing happened.  No steps were taken to protect our children.   
  2. In October 2013, I sent a detailed letter requesting basic steps be taken and offering to help.    Nothing happened.  
  3. In April 2014, MCPS had it's first work group meeting (a meeting they refuse to acknowledge publicly took place, they would instead have you believe this group started in the fall of 2014).  NOTHING HAPPENED. No steps were taken to protect our children.    
  4. Now, despite dozens of arrests, horrific media attention, countless wasted hours of people shuffling paper around and reinventing a wheel THAT DID NOT NEED TO BE REINVENTED......nothing has actually happened.  No steps were taken to protect our children. 
  5. Last week, yet another MCPS staff member was arrested for sexually abusing a girl on and off campus.  The media is reporting that when he was finally arrested, he confessed.   
  6. THIS COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED.  Had MCPS acted in 2012, they would have had an employee code of conduct (and perhaps this man would not have been alone with her, not have been off campus with her, not have been texting and calling a student - all of which now are perfectly fine with the school system).  If MCPS had acted in 2012, students would have been taught to report boundary violations, would have been taught they don't have to wait in terror to report.  If MCPS had acted in 2012, people would not have been trying to blame the victim.  IF they had acted in 2012, the other MCPS programs he worked in would have been notified quickly and appropriately.
In my professional and personal opinion, it is totally outrageous the Montgomery County Council and the Montgomery County Board of Education are allowing the same people who created this mess, perpetuated this mess and have dragged their feet to be the ones to fix it.  And please, spare me the outside consultant rebuttal.   Without a clear understanding of who did what, who stood by, who broke the law and who covered it up what real change can be expected or hoped for? The outside consultant is useless as they were not brought in to investigate anything.    

I simply do not have the words to express my disgust.    
The policy is a farce as it is so lacking in details, so lacking in oversight, so lacking in transparency, so lacking in accountability  to be laughable.....except, except, except, we cannot laugh because due to the negligence of the school system CHILDREN ARE STILL BEING PREYED UPON.  
MCPS would have the public believe they have been working hard to correct things but really, I will be happy to walk anyone who wants to listen through the reality which is, lots of talk and no action.    
All they can really show for anything is a website with inaccurate and misleading information (which I have documented proof they refuse to update) and 3 principal trainings which they admit in 2 of them, they trained people to break the law.  That's it.   In 3 years, that's it.  
I hope in your meeting today you take real action, I hope one of you stands up and shouts out that the emperor has no clothes on.  
I hope that enough is finally enough.
Jennifer Alvaro

"It's how school boards typically handle such matters"

STAMFORD -- It began in May 2011, when a Stamford High School ninth-grader reported that her teacher touched her breast as she sat behind his desk during class.
Then-Principal Donna Valentine investigated and concluded that the touching was not intentional. The teacher apologized and Valentine took no disciplinary action.
Ten months later, the teacher was cited in another incident, The Advocate has learned from a disciplinary letter obtained by the paper.
According to the March 26, 2012, letter written by the school district's former human resources director, the teacher was reprimanded that month, when he was discovered in his locked, darkened classroom with a female student. When his supervisor knocked on the door, the teacher refused to open it, according to the letter.
The teacher was suspended for two days without pay, Superintendent Winifred Hamilton said in an emailed response to questions about the incident.
Eight months after that, in November 2012, the father of another Stamford High student went to Valentine with inappropriate text messages sent to his daughter by the same teacher.
The teacher was never seen at Stamford High again.
But he wasn't fired.
The Advocate has learned that, in January 2013, the school system struck a deal with the teacher, placing him on administrative leave, with pay and benefits, from November 2012 to June 2013, when he resigned.
He formally separated from the school system in August 2013, complete with a letter of recommendation written by Valentine, included in the agreement.
The teacher, who is not being identified because he was not charged with wrongdoing, now works at a school in another state.
It's how school boards typically handle such matters, Hamilton said in an email sent through a spokeswoman for the schools...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The County Where Public Information Costs $58,000

Activists in a rich Maryland county requested details about a public library project that would benefit lower-income residents. They were told to cough up $58,000 for the public information.

Friday, April 24, 2015

MCPS Educator charged with sexual abuse of minor

...Wilson allegedly met the student underneath a set of stairs at the school where there were no cameras. The two would “kiss and touch,” according to court documents.
Police said it is believed the incidents occurred from October 2014 through March. Wilson gave the student his cell phone number while he was helping her with homework, according to police. They also exchanged phone calls and texts.
There was also another incident between the two where Wilson allegedly fondled the girl at the apartment building where the student lived, police said.
Police said the student last had contact with Wilson at the end of March, when he left the school to start a new job...

Former Loiederman Middle School employee arrested for inappropriate contact with a student |

Former MCPS employee arrested for inappropriate contact with a student |

...Robert Otis Wilson, 23, a former paraeducator at Loiederman Middle School, was arrested by Montgomery County Police for inappropriate contact with a female student, authorities said Friday morning.
A paraeducator is a school employee who works under the supervison of a teacher.
Wilson has been charged with one count of sex abuse of a minor and three counts of third degree sex offense. The incidents occurred between October 2014 and March 2015.

Special Education Paraeducator - "some of the alleged conduct that led to his arrest may have occurred on school property."

...A former Montgomery County paraeducator is accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old female student.
Robert Otis Wilson III, 23, was arrested Thursday night, Montgomery County Police said.
Further details about the allegations have not been released, but Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) said in a statement in part, "We are very concerned and disturbed about the allegations against Mr. Wilson and that some of the alleged conduct that led to his arrest may have occurred on school property."
MCPS said Wilson is currently on administrative leave.
He had worked for MCPS since August 2013, when he started as a special education paraeducator. He later applied for a job at the Division of Food and Nutrition Services warehouse, and began that position March 30.
Wilson also worked as the assistant track coach at Wheaton High School for the past two years.
Members of both school communities are being notified about the arrest, MCPS said.
MCPS said the sex assault allegation came to the attention of a staff member at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School in Silver Spring earlier this month. The claim was then reported to Child Protective Services and the Montgomery County Police Department...

...Authorities interviewed Wilson on Tuesday. They say he admitted he had feelings toward the victim and that he knew it was wrong due to their age difference and his position as a paraeducator...

Charges Files on Loiederman Middle School Special Education Para-Educator

Charge and Disposition Information
(Each Charge is listed separately. The disposition is listed below the Charge)
Charge No:001Description:SEX ABUSE MINOR
Statute:CR.3.602.(b)(1)Description:SEX ABUSE MINOR
Amended Date:CJIS Code:1 0322MO/PLL:Probable Cause:X
Incident Date From: 10/01/2014To: 03/31/2015Victim Age:

Charge No:002Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Statute:CR.3.307Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Amended Date:CJIS Code:3 3600MO/PLL:Probable Cause:X
Incident Date From: 10/01/2014To: 03/31/2015Victim Age:

Charge No:003Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Statute:CR.3.307Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Amended Date:CJIS Code:3 3600MO/PLL:Probable Cause:X
Incident Date From: 10/01/2014To: 03/31/2015Victim Age:

Charge No:004Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Statute:CR.3.307Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Amended Date:CJIS Code:3 3600MO/PLL:Probable Cause:X
Incident Date From: 10/01/2014To: 03/31/2015Victim Age:

MCPS Teachers/Coaches/Staff Arrested for alleged Child Abuse and Sexual Abuse of Students

The Parents' Coalition is tracking the arrests of MCPS teachers, para-educators, contractors, substitutes and staff on charges of sexually abusing MCPS students. 

Find the list at this link and please let us know if we have missed any arrests. 

Meanwhile, the Board of Education's Child Abuse Police remains 27 years out of date.

Educator accused of sexually abusing minor student at Silver Spr - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Educator accused of sexually abusing minor student at Silver Spr - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

A Montgomery County educator, accused of sexually abusing a minor student, is in police custody.
Robert Otis Wilson III was arrested late Thursday night at his Silver Spring home. He is charged with 4 counts of sex abuse after investigators say he was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old female student at the school where he taught.
Wilson, who is described as a para-educator formerly at Loiederman Middle School in Silver Spring, is accused of meeting with the student and engaging in inappropriate touching and kissing beginning in October of 2014.
Wilson, who was assisting the girl with after-school work, allegedly met the student under a stairwell where no security cameras were present. Police say this occurred once a day for several months...

New Rockville Elementary School to Cost $35.4 Million

Rockville’s Richard Montgomery cluster is one step closer to getting a new elementary school, following a decision by the Montgomery County Board of Education....
...The construction phase of the school is expected to begin in January and be finished by August 2017.
The school is projected to cost $35.4 million and will be part of the Richard Montgomery Cluster, along with Beall, College Gardens, Ritchie Park and Twinbrook elementary schools; Julius West Middle School; and Richard Montgomery High School.
For now, the school is called Richard Montgomery Elementary School No. 5, but another name will likely be chosen before it opens.
The building would initially be built to accommodate about 600 students, but could be expanded to handle up to 740 in kindergarten through fifth grades...

Sentinel Cartoon: Addressing School Capacity Issues

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bill To Increase Power Of Student School Board Member Suffers 11th-Hour Defeat

...Nonetheless, there were private concerns about the bill voiced among some delegation members in the wake of the intense maneuvering earlier this year over whether to extend the contract of former Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr.
While the student member of the eight-member school board already has the power to vote on a superintendent’s contract absent additional legislation, the split in the school board over Starr’s future—potentially placing the student member in a position to cast a deciding vote—raised questions about the wisdom of putting additional responsibilities and pressures on the student member. These concerns appeared to have slowed down movement on the bill as the legislative clock ticked in recent weeks...

...Meanwhile, legislative sources suggested that, in the waning hours of this year’s session, the SMOB bill may have become politically entangled with another Montgomery County “local” bill—a somewhat controversial proposal by the county’s House delegation to require special elections for unexpected school board vacancies. Out of 20 local bills put forth by the county House delegation this year, the SMOB and special election bills were the two whose fate remained unresolved in the last week of the session. And both were being considered almost simultaneously by the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs panel.
Del. Al Carr, D-Kensington, the lead sponsor of the special election bill, defended it as placing the school board on the same footing as the Montgomery County Council in the event of a vacancy. At present, when a school board vacancy occurs, it is filled by the remaining members of the board. In the case of the County Council, a special election must be held if the vacancy occurs in the first three years of a four-year term.
But the school board special election bill became a point of tension between the county’s House and Senate delegation after the proposal cleared the full House on a 140-0 vote in mid-March. King, a former school board member, quickly voiced her opposition, and the current school board was said to be opposed to the legislation as well...

MCPS places controversial cellular towers at predominantly high-poverty schools, stats show |

MCPS places controversial cellular towers at predominantly high-poverty schools, stats show |

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Palm Beach County's new superintendent would make a base salary of $350,000 a year under a proposed contract, likely making him the highest paid in Florida.

...In addition to salary and health, life and disability insurance, Avossa's proposed contract includes other perks and allowances.
Deferred compensation of $24,000 a year, which will go into a tax sheltered annuity.
An automobile and expenses associated with it, including tolls, fuel, oil, insurance and maintenance.
A business expense account of $1,000 per month.
Membership in several professional associations.
The employee's contribution into the Florida Retirement System and up to $19,000 additional per year at the end of each year of service.
Technology, including a smartphone of his choice, a personal computer system, software, high-speed Internet connection, laser printer and fax machine for his home.
Twenty-two days of leave per year and one sick day per month, in addition to normal district holidays.
Twenty weeks of severance pay if he is terminated without cause. This is the maximum allowed by the state...

Breaking: MCPS Superintendent Finalist Announced and Lost to Florida

You can only read the article linked below if you promise not tell Board of Education President Patricia O'Neill that you have learned the name of one of the finalists for the position of the MCPS superintendent.

Board of Education President O'Neill has already made it very clear that she does not want the names of the MCPS superintendent finalists made public.

So, if you can keep a secret you can read this article about a finalist for the MCPS superintendent position that just accepted another job in Florida. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Two Cents: Debating Healthy Food In MCPS

For the past 15 years, I’ve worked as a federal contractor supporting a government survey that assesses school health.

I see what educators and health experts around the nation do to improve the lives of youth. And one of the side benefits of the work is that I get to attend the occasional conference to hear about what is actually happening on the ground.

Several years ago, for example, I spent half a day listening to Kentucky educators explain how they connected local farmers and schools to improve school lunches. Local farmers also helped build functional school gardens. The end result was a true farm-to-table operation. Kentucky school children were eating just like the hipsters on the Food Network.
And so when a small group of Montgomery County Public Schools parents started advocating for “real” food, I paid attention. Was farm-to-table coming to MCPS?...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Today: BOE Committee Will Discuss Sexual Abuse of MCPS Students

Mon, April 20 01:00 PM Policy Management Committee

Warning: Montgomery Co. Will Not Protect Names of Children Who Are Victims of Sexual Abuse by Adults

If you watched or read the Fox5 report on the recent allegations regarding a Chevy Chase karate teacher you heard or saw this statement at the end of the article.
...Detectives would like to identify and speak to these victims captured on the videos to determine possible criminal acts that may have occurred. Victim information will be confidential and victims are strongly urged to call investigators.

The Parents' Coalition regrets to inform Montgomery County parents and guardians that the above statement is not true.  While Montgomery County Police may keep the names of victims confidential during investigations, when official public charging documents are filed in District or Circuit Court, the Montgomery County State's Attorney will not redact the names of children who have been victims of sexual abuse by adults.

The Parents' Coalition has found numerous examples of public charging documents where the first name, last name and birth date of the CHILD VICTIMS have been printed in the public charging documents.

Thinking that the failure to redact the names of these children was an error, we contacted the Montgomery County State's Attorney's office directly.  We learned from the Montgomery County State's Attorney Division Chief Debbie Feinstein that the Montgomery County State's Attorney's office DOES NOT REDACT THE NAMES OF CHILDREN WHO ARE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE.

We know that other Maryland Counties do redact the names of children when they are the victims of sexual abuse by adults.

We are horrified and stunned that Montgomery County does not protect children who have been victims of sexual abuse.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chevy Chase karate teacher wanted on child pornography charges - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Chevy Chase karate teacher wanted on child pornography charges - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG


CHEVY CHASE, Md. - A warrant has been issued for a Montgomery County karate teacher who faces child pornography charges, and police believe some of the students at his Chevy Chase studio may have been victims.

Montgomery County police say 26-year-old Alexander Soumbadze currently faces eight counts of possession of child pornography, but investigators believe he may have fled the country. Investigators are also attempting to find and speak with possible additional, unidentified victims, and say there may be additional charges filed once those people are located.

In December 2014, the Montgomery County Police-Child Exploitation Unit was alerted by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation that someone who possibly resided in Montgomery County was uploading child pornography via the internet. Detectives obtained information about that particular user, who was later identified as Soumbadze.

Then, on April 1, a search warrant was executed at Soumbadze's Bethesda home. He was interviewed, and admitted to trading and receiving child pornography. Investigators seized several of his electronic devices, and in reviewing their contents, the found eight videos containing child pornography.

Investigators also found videos of Soumbadze improperly touching and engaging in sexual acts with what appear to be adolescent boys and young adults. They say it appears the victims knew they were being videotaped.

Authorities say they were able to determine the videos were shot prior to October 2011 at a karate studio formerly known as DC Martial Arts, which was located at 6936 Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase. Soumbadze had been an instructor at that studio, and when the business changed ownership in October 2011, he became a partner in the business, which was then called On The Mat Sports International.

Investigators say Soumbadze has been affiliated with the karate studio since he was a young child and attended the studio as a student.

Police say Soumbadze fled the U.S. on or about April 3, and his possible final destination may have been the country of Georgia.  A warrant has been issued for his arrest, and the investigation into these additional seized videos continues.

Detectives would like to identify and speak to these victims captured on the videos to determine possible criminal acts that may have occurred. Victim information will be confidential and victims are strongly urged to call investigators.

Investigators are asking that anyone who believes he or she was a victim of inappropriate contact with Soumbadze to please call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5406.

Friday, April 17, 2015

L.A. school district demands iPad refund from Apple

From the LA Times, by reporter Howard Blume. For the complete story go here.
Contact info:  @HowardBlume

The Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking to recoup millions of dollars from technology giant Apple over a problem-plagued curriculum that was provided with iPads intended to be given to every student, teacher and administrator.

To press its case, the Board of Education on Tuesday authorized its attorneys in a closed-door meeting to explore possible litigation against Apple and Pearson, the company that developed the curriculum as a subcontractor to Apple.

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product,” said David Holmquist, general counsel for the nation’s second-largest school system. He said millions of dollars could be at stake.


 The $1.3-billion iPad effort was a signature program under then-Supt. John Deasy. But it faltered almost immediately during the fall 2013 rollout of the devices. Questions later arose about whether Apple and Pearson enjoyed an advantage in the bidding process; an FBI criminal investigation is ongoing.


Under the contract, Pearson was to provide English and math curriculum. The district selected Pearson based only on samples of curriculum — nothing more was available.

L.A. Unified made the deal anyway; it wanted to bundle the curriculum and the device into a single price. A three-year license to use the curriculum added about $200 to the $768 cost of each iPad. The entire purchase then was financed through school construction bonds, which can be used to purchase computers.

L.A. Unified bought 43,261 iPads with the Pearson curriculum. The district purchased another 77,175 iPads under the contract without the Pearson curriculum to be used initially for state standardized tests.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

L.A. School District Terminates iPad Program and Seeks Refund From Apple

From by reporter Lily Hay Newman, 4/16/15, 3:31pm

It's been an interesting ride, but the Los Angeles school iPad program is done. Between the rampant student hacking and the FBI probe, you can see how the focus kind of wandered away from education. But there are millions of dollars tied up in the project, so it's not just lunch money.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, the Unified School District Board of Education told its attorneys that they should consider litigation against Apple and Pearson. (Pearson developed the iPad curriculum as an Apple contractor.) District counsel David Holmquist said that Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product.” In a letter to Apple, the school district wrote that it won't continue to pay for the Pearson curriculum or services. And board members are calling for a refund.

For the entire story go here.

MCPS to Investigate Constructing a Cell Tower at Neelsville Middle School

...If the school and PTSA decide not to move forward at this point the cell tower would not be built. However, if they decide to continue the process, the process will have to go through the general public comment and meeting sessions as any other construction project in county. At that point a full open community meeting would be organized by the school.
   There are currently 11 Montgomery County Public Schools with cell towers, all but one are high schools, Capt. James Daly Elementary is the only exception.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Exlusive E-Mails Between Starr and BOE During Last 3 Months: Bell Times, Sexual Abuse, Blair Ewing School, Minority Scholars, Purple Line, Washington Post, Outdoor Ed

SMOB bill fails

In the final minutes of the Maryland legislative session on April 13, questions were raised in the senate about HB0086, Montgomery County Board of Education - Student Member - Voting MC 7-15.

At midnight, the 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly ended and the bill did not receive a final vote, and will therefore not become law.

HB0086 would have allowed the Student Member of the Montgomery County Board of Education to vote on budgetary matters.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Bowers Putting Another Cell Tower Compound on Another Red Zone Playground - Meeting Tues. April 14th at 7 PM

PTSA Meeting
When: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Where: Neelsville Middle School Media Center, Germantown

Interim MCPS Superintendent Larry Bowers is allowing VERIZON to make a presentation at Neelsville Middle School on Tuesday, April 14th on his plans to permit another cell tower compound to be built on another Red Zone playground.
The next MCPS Red Zone school to get a cell tower compound will be Neeslville Middle School in Germantown. See the pink arrow on the map for the location of Neelsville Middle School.
Red Zone refers to schools that have a high rate of students receiving free and reduced priced meals. As you can see from this map, the vast majority of cell tower compounds on MCPS playgrounds have been placed on schools that are located in the Red Zone.  It has been documented that cell towers can reduce the property value of neighboring properties.

Yellow dots show MCPS school playgrounds that already have cell tower compounds.

MCPS And Planners Sparring Over Design Of New Bethesda-Chevy Chase School

Things have gotten testy between planners and MCPS officials who disagree about how to best protect trees at the site of a planned middle school in Kensington...

 ...A discussion at the March 26 Planning Board hearing also illustrated the apparent rift between planners and school officials when it comes to designing new schools on smaller-than-preferred school sites...

...Planning Department Director Gwen Wright claimed MCPS staff had contacted PTA representatives in the days before the hearing “and told them that Park and Planning is trying to delay the project and that they should speak up.”
 “That’s a very disappointing outcome to what started as a collaborative effort to solve a difficult problem to try to achieve a plan that would meet the law,” Wright said...

Thursday, April 9, 2015

@MCPS Releases Transition Work Group Report - Fallout from #RockTerrace Financial Mismanagement

When the Rock Terrace Scandal began to unfold, MCPS administrators fell all over themselves trying to explain that the purpose of paying the students was only for the purpose of teaching the "work-pay connection." The Board of Education even hired a multi-national law firm to write a memo (to the tune of $72,000) propounding that the money the students earned wasn't really "pay," and that the purpose of any money was only to teach the "work-pay connection."

There were, of course, many problems with this "explanation." First and foremost, the students at Rock Terrace School are smarter than both MCPS and their counsel give them credit for. These students are able to understand the "work-pay connection" without too much explanation. What is harder for MCPS to explain is just exactly how they were teaching the "work-pay connection" when (a) the students never actually saw the money, (b) never actually received any bank statements, and (c) the money that they did earn was stolen from them!

In light of what happened with the money the Rock Terrace students earned, MCPS convened a workgroup to evaluate the teaching of the "work-pay connection." Unsurprisingly, the recommendation is to disband the program where students earn money through work experiences and instead use those funds to help in school start-up businesses, like coffee shops, etc.

To date, the Board of Education has not discussed the memo (below) nor its recommendations. Why not? Perhaps because the State's Attorney for Montgomery County is still investigating whether anyone bears criminal liability for what happened at Rock Terrace. An announcement of the results of the State's Attorney's investigation is expected shortly.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Court reinstates verdict against Board of Education. Bd of Ed Breached Duty of Care in Placement of Bus Stop

ANNAPOLIS — A Maryland appeals court has reinstated a jury’s verdict — but not its $90.3 million damages award — for the parents of a 13-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a car six years ago while crossing a four-lane street trying to reach her school-bus stop in Temple Hills.
The Court of Special Appeals said the trial judge was wrong to toss out the jury’s verdict against the Prince George’s County Board of Education based on his erroneous finding that it owed no duty of care to the girl and that her negligent crossing of the street contributed to her death. In its 3-0 decision, the intermediate court said the board owed a duty to the girl under a regulation governing bus-stop locations and that a jury reasonably concluded she was not contributorily negligent.
“It was a very important ruling by the court,” said the family’s attorney, John F. X. Costello. “Because that regulation was not complied with, this little girl was forced to cross the street.”
The Court of Special Appeals, however, said state law calls for the award to be reduced to the school board’s insurance policy limit, but not to less than $100,000. The board has the defense of sovereign immunity from damages for amounts greater, the court said in remanding the case to Prince George’s County Circuit Court to determine the award...

 “Many of these governmental caps have not been adjusted in [many] years and are drawing the attention of the General Assembly,” said Maloney, of Joseph, Greenwald & Laake P.A. in Greenbelt.

...The Prince George’s County Circuit Court jury had found in April 2013 that the school board fatally breached its duty of care to Ashley Davis by not providing a school-bus stop on the same side of Brinkley Road as her home, thus requiring the freshman at Crossland High School in Temple Hills to cross the four-lane thoroughfare.
Ashley was killed while crossing Brinkley Road on Sept. 1, 2009. The driver admitted no liability in reaching a $20,000 settlement with the family.
The jury, in finding the school board liable, concluded that Ashely was not contributorily negligent...

...But the Court of Special Appeals reinstated the verdict, citing Maryland State Board of Education regulation 13A.06.07.13, which pertains to “Reporting and Operating Procedures.” Subsection C of the regulation states that “on four-lane highways, students shall be picked up and discharged on the side of the roadway where they reside.”
Subsection C is “designed to protect public-school students who ride county-provided buses to and from school from the risks associated with crossing a four-lane highway, including the risk of being hit by a car,” Judge Deborah S. Eyler wrote in the appellate court’s reported opinion filed Friday.
“As a public-school student living on a four-lane highway, in a school district in which the board had taken it upon itself to provide bus transportation to school, Ashley was within the specific class of people that [Subsection C] was designed to protect,” Eyler added. “And she suffered precisely the kind of injury that the regulation was intended to protect against. Accordingly, the board owed Ashley a legal duty of care to provide a bus stop on her side of Brinkley Road sufficient to support the duty element of a cause of action in negligence.”...

 ... Section 4-105 of the Maryland Education Article requires county school boards to have at least $100,000 in liability coverage. Section 5-518 of the Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article, titled “Immunity – County boards of education” provides that the boards “may raise the defense of sovereign immunity to any amount claimed above the limit of its insurance policy….”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"It is unclear whether the students still attend Sherwood."

Two Montgomery County high school students have been charged as adults in a vicious gang-related beating of a 15-year-old boy outside a restaurant in Olney, according to documents filed in court Monday and last week.
The victim in the March 27 attack, which was caught on cellphone video, suffered cheekbone fractures, was knocked unconscious and was left with a severe concussion. “He’s doing better. He’s out of the hospital,” his father, a physician, said Monday, adding that it was unclear whether his son would suffer long-term effects from the concussion. “Who knows? We’re just crossing our fingers he gets better quickly.”...

Tonight - Public Forum: Countering the Heroin Challenge

Countering the Heroin Challenge 

A Free Public Forum 

When: 7:00 PM – Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Where: Bennigan’s - 23315 N Frederick Rd., Clarksburg 

Who: You, a friend, neighbor, and teens at parents’ discretion 

Speakers: Montgomery County State’s Attorney John McCarthy and Tara Handron, Caron Treatment Centers 

An increasing number of teens and young adults are becoming addicted to opiates, often committing crime as they try to finance a habit that can run into the hundreds of dollars a day – sometimes leading to overdose resulting in brain damage or death. Gaithersburg, Germantown and upper Montgomery County are being especially hard hit. 

Come hear the experts tell what’s being done to combat the heroin explosion in our communities … and what more needs to be done. 

Sponsored by the Upper Montgomery County Republican Women’s Club and The Republican Party of Legislative District 15 

This message is provided by Patty Winters, Coordinator, Brave and Bold Coalition braveandbold2011  AT

Crumb Rubber Still in Use at Richard Montgomery High School

Crumb rubber was added as needed to the Richard Montgomery High School artificial turf football field yesterday, despite the Montgomery County Council's vote to not use crumb rubber "going forward." 

Monday, April 6, 2015

3 Hour Contentious Planning Board Hearing Capped with Board Member Announcing Basketball Score #marchmadness #payingnoattention #bccmiddleschool

On March 26, 2015, the Montgomery County Planning Board held a hearing to decide if the Board of Education had satisfied the requirements of the Forest Conservation law for the site plan for the BCC Middle School #2 construction.

The hearing appears to go on for about 3 hours.

During the hearing the Planning Board staff made a presentation, MCPS made a presentation, and numerous neighbors and interested parties gave impassioned public comment about the MCPS site plans for this new middle school.

The public comment concerns included the forest that would be destroyed, student safety concerns, visual impact of massive retaining walls, and the detriment to the neighborhood of this school construction plan.  During the hearing, Planning Board members were quiet with only a few brief questions.  Some Planning Board members never spoke during the hearing.

The hearing was contentious as MCPS staff and Planning Board staff have apparently been arguing about the requirements of the Forest Conservation law as it applies to this site for the last 9 months.  At the end of the hearing, the Planning Board staff voted to throw the plans back to their staff with the guidance to work out the differences with MCPS and come up with a plan that will satisfy the Forest Conservation law.

Immediately after the Planning Board vote, Planning Board member Marye Wells-Harley announced, "My team is losing. 70 to 75..."

Friday, April 3, 2015

Save Blair Ewing

 The Capital Improvements Plan (CIP) proposes demolishing the Blair G. Ewing Center - formerly the Mark Twain School  (on Avery Road in Rockville) and redeveloping the site to accommodate the Shady Grove Transportation Depot. The Alternative Education Program (AEP) students would then be relocated to the former English Manor Elementary School (currently housing the School for Tomorrow), located at 4511 Bestor Drive in Aspen Hill.  As usual, no local communities or neighborhoods were contacted about these plans.

We received this from and are reprinting it here:

Apparently, the Board of Education staff are encouraging our callers to NOT leave phone messages and instead email a central email for all Board members.

As you know, the Board of Ed has refused to meet with us... and now they do not want to accept calls?

Consider politely refusing to email the central email and ask to leave a message for one Board Member.   Then, call back again (doesn't hurt to space out the calls a little) and leave a message for one more member....

We want to jam their phone lines.  That's the point...

We have less than a week to make sure English Manor is not chosen for a feasibility study for a potential Alternative Education Program (AEP) move.

April 7: We will learn if English Manor is the MCPS proposed location for a feasibility study.

April 14: Board of Ed will vote to approve a feasibility study.

Tell the Board:
1) Do NOT do a feasibility study on English Manor for the AEP.
2) Make English Manor a community elementary school to ease area overcrowding.
3)  Now that the County Council has given the Board more time to keep buses at Jeremiah Park, there is no need to rush AEP's move to build a bus depot at Blair Ewing.

Please call each Board member:
• Rebecca Smondrowski: 301-279-3617 click here if you called.
• Judith Docca: 301-670-3234 click here if you called.
• Jill Ortman-Fouse: 301-279-3617 click here if you called.
• Michael Durso: 301-924-3169 click here if you called.
• Patricia O'Neill: 301-320-7600 click here if you called.
• Philip Kauffman: 301-924-3133 click here if you called.
• Christopher Barclay: 301-279-3617 click here if you called.
• Dahlia Huh: 301-279-3617 click here if you called.

Please forward this email to friends and neighbors.  We need to DOUBLE our calling and flood Board members with calls.