Monday, August 31, 2015

Free public education costs in Montgomery County High Schools

Isn't high school supposed to be free for public school students in Maryland?  Taxpayer dollars cover the costs for all students to attend - right?

We know that, and you know that it's in the Maryland Constitution.

But unfortunately, our Board of Education seems to think that the Maryland Constitution doesn't apply.

Our MCPS students get charged for classes and materials that should be free.

Our middle schools list is only eight pages - but the high school list is 23 pages long!


One day, our Board of Education will get it right.  Or maybe never.

Here is the 2015 list of fees for high school students.  Read my previous post to see what happens in middle schools.  

I wonder what the ghosts haunting the State House in Annapolis think of what Pat O'Neill has done to their prize constitution.

How MABE Introduces No Bid Vendors to Boards of Education and Local School Systems .@MABE_News

MABE is the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.

MABE is a taxpayer funded private club for Board of Education members across the State of Maryland.  Taxpayers fund the club and get absolutely no information on how funds are used.  The funds paid to MABE each year are Maintenance of Effort public school education dollars.

In Montgomery County, our Board of Education spent over $70,000 on MABE last year.  That's about one less teacher for our classrooms. Apparently, this private club is more important to our Board of Education than teachers.

But, the $1.2 million +/- that MABE gets in dues and fees from Boards of Education is not enough to keep this private club going.  MABE's president, Frances H. Glendening, apparently needs more than what taxpayers fork over for this club.  So MABE has "partnered" with vendors looking for their own slice of the education pie (scroll down the right side of the MABE home page to see the partners).  MABE allows these vendors to have exclusive, behind closed doors access to Board of Education members all over the state.  Some of those vendors end up getting no bid contracts with public school systems. 

Below is an example of where a MABE "partner" was able to hold court with Baltimore County Public School administrators.  The vendor was able to make a presentation and then use that presentation on their website.  Even more outrageous, the vendor was able to get an endorsement from a Baltimore County Public School administrator to use on the website.

Members of the Maryland Coalition to Halt Cell Towers at Schools discovered this endorsement and were concerned that this was a violation of the Baltimore County Public Schools ethics policy.  Inquiries were made.  The web page was immediately taken down.  If Coalition members had not spotted the endorsement of this MABE "partner" by a public school administrator it could have remained on the vendor's website indefinitely.   

If anyone can find out why MABE thinks that vendor "partners" should have exclusive access to public school Board of Education members, please let us know.  Our inquiries to MABE president Glendening have gone unanswered.

January 2015 screenshot of now removed webpage.
This January 2015 tweet is still showing up on Twitter.

MCPS buses collide on first day of school

60 percent of Montgomery County graduates require remedial math courses

...The math relearning at Montgomery College can last as long as three semesters, depending on where a student is placed. But the problem is not just math. Nearly 30 percent of Montgomery County graduates need remedial English courses, and 26 percent need remedial reading classes, the figures show...

MSDE: Final School Size Study Report : Impact of Smaller Schools

...The research team has suggested enrollment limits based on the points at which schools in Maryland start becoming both less cost efficient and less productive. These enrollment limits are set at 700 students for elementary schools, 900 students for middle schools, and 1,700 students for high schools. The study team does not recommend that schools in Maryland should be this large, but no newly constructed schools should be allowed to exceed these limits.
The second recommendation suggests that the State should develop a small schools incentive grant program. Such a program would provide financial incentives and support for replacing the State’s largest, low-performing schools or for renovating existing large school buildings. Based on the research team’s set of assumptions, up to 74 schools would be eligible for this type of grant. The estimated costs vary, but will ultimately be controlled by the fiscal decisions of state policy makers...

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Are your children getting a free public education in Montgomery County?

Did you know that the Maryland Constitution guarantees a free public education for its students?

The Montgomery County Board of Education still has not read the document.  Imagine running a multi billion dollar public school system, and not knowing about state law.

Truly amazing.

As our annual tradition, below is the list of  fees "approved" by the Board of Education for middle school students.  If you cannot pay or choose not to pay, simply tell ask the school to waive your fee. Your child cannot be excluded from class for not paying a fee.

And why hit the arts classes the hardest?  How many times per semester does the school get their band uniforms dry cleaned?  And - can't they use a discount dry cleaners?  Or have the kids wear white shirts and black pants?

Remember, you are the taxpayer.  Ask questions - and if you do pay these fees, treat them as a donation to the school, not a mandatory fee, because we all know that mandatory fees are not allowed - right?

High school fees will be posted shortly.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

“Why? Is it because we are Latinos?” he asked, saying that many of the children Joynes abused are Latino.

...One victim’s father spoke before the court, describing the impact on his daughter and family. “The wound he caused us — we will never be cured, definitely,” he said, speaking in Spanish through an interpreter.
The father questioned why victims would have to bear the costs for any problems in Joynes’s childhood.
“Why? Is it because we are Latinos?” he asked, saying that many of the children Joynes abused are Latino.
Hagan also read a written statement from a victim, in which the girl said the abuse made her feel “dirty, messed up” and “not the same as other girls my age.”
Baltimore Co. mug shot
She said she has had a hard time sleeping, which results in headaches, and feels that she must protect her younger brothers and sisters from “something like this happening to them.”
She said she also has a hard time asking for help at school because she feels scared to stay alone with teachers.
“I don’t trust teachers,” she said.
The girl said that she goes to therapy and that her mother blamed herself “for putting me in that school.” She said that when her mother found out about the abuse, she was pregnant and “it made her cry a lot and she didn’t eat much.”
“I still hear her cry,” she said. “It makes everyone in my family very sad.”... 

Friday, August 28, 2015

WUSA9: Ex-music teacher gets 40 years for sex abuse

Joynes gets 40 Years for Sexual Abuse of MCPS Elem. Students

Mr. Joynes can get parole on this case after 20 years.

In court today former MCPS teacher Lawrence Joynes claimed that he had been addicted to alcohol and drugs for 40 years and only became sober after his arrest. 

Mr. Joynes worked as a MCPS music teacher for 27 years prior to his arrest.

More details on today's sentencing hearing will be provided in a later post.

Mr. Joynes has a second sentencing hearing on a different criminal matter scheduled for November of 2015.

Today: Lawrence Joynes Sentencing for Sexual Abuse of MCPS Elem. Students

Court System: Circuit Court for Montgomery County - Criminal System
Case Number: 124485C                           
Event Date: 08/28/2015 Event Time: 01:30 PM Judge: QUIRK, JOSEPH M
Location: 50 Maryland Avenue North Tower Courtroom 9b Courtroom: 9B
Description: SENTENCING  

For information on this MCPS teacher's arrest start at the link below and then follow the Lawrence Joynes posts:

Breaking: Who will Gov. Hogan's State Board Members Pick to Run MD State Dept of Education (MSDE)?

Maryland state superintendent resigns for new job

Surveillance Society: Students easy targets for data miners

What kid wouldn’t want to be able to create an electronic science fair poster, with photos and embedded video, using their smartphone — all on the morning bus ride on the day it’s due?
Glogster EDU lets kids do that and, according to its website, it’s setting up “2,000 new teacher accounts daily,” each with, presumably, a classroom full of kids attached.

According to its public statements, though, the Czech Republic-based firm may be assembling more than photos of vinegar-and-baking-soda volcanoes.
The company’s privacy policy said it may collect a user’s “name, address, email ... date of birth, gender, country,” as well as “interests, hobbies, lifestyle choices, groups with whom they are affiliated (schools, companies), videos and/or pictures, private messages, bulletins or personal statements.”
It may share information about users with “consumer products, telecom, financial, military, market research, entertainment, and educational services companies,” according to its website...

School System Finds Money to Revive Part of Google Chromebook Rollout #miracle

MCPS had originally said the rest of the program would be delayed because of budget constraints

...MCPS found money for more Chromebooks...


Franchot flips out over standardized testing contract #pearson

"I think there's a bigger issue about our state's relationship with this company," said Franchot.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

ABC7: MCPS Special Ed Bus Attendant arrested for sexually assaulting wife with a curling iron

It is important to note that in the past MCPS did not consider arrests of MCPS staff that do not involve students to be their concern.  
That is, a case like this would have been ignored by MCPS and the Board of Education. The staff member could have been left in contact with children, even after this arrest.  

Thanks to ABC7's Kevin Lewis for reporting that the individual arrested works for MCPS!  Let's see how the Board of Education handles this arrest now that ABC7 has exposed that MCPS is this person's employer and that this person has daily contact with vulnerable public school children. This arrest was August 17, 2015.  The MCPS website still lists this individual.

MCPS staff directory as of 8/25/2015

Task force members also say child pornography and exploitation are exploding along with the number of computers, mobile devices and other new technologies.

Team that raided Jared's home used mobile laboratory
...The custom-built lab allows investigators to feed real-time questions to interviewers based on what they find or what is missing. It also lets them preview data before computers or devices are shut off or erased. It helps identify other devices to look for inside the home. And it saves days, weeks or months of time compared with the old method of copying their contents.
Indianapolis police detective Darin Odier said it's imperative that authorities develop new tools to keep up with changing technology, like the way that some people are using streaming video to show sexual abuse rather than storing the footage....

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Welcome Back to School

Its hard to believe that summer is almost over and MCPS starts school next week.

Teachers are already heading back to classrooms across the county to prepare for the first day of school

And parents - don't forget those checkbooks.

On this blog, we've posted many time about how school is supposed to be free in Maryland.

But what happens when public funding doesn't cover everything?

Westbrook ES has the answer. Since 1999, the Friends of Westbrook School Foundation, a 501(c)(3) entity, raises funds for school improvement that are not funded by MCPS or otherwise fall within the PTA guidelines.  From the website:
Past projects include a security system upgrade, technology equipment like computer lab, Promethean Boards and ELMO projectors, full suite of playground equipment, and overall grounds and drainage enhancement.
These folks seems to have so much fun.  Look at what they planned just in the last few months of school last year (names of hosts are deleted):

Yoga for Parents [-]4$25.00
Come join us on Sunday, March 29th from 2:50-4:30 pm at Simon Says Yoga located at 4611 Sangamore Road, Bethesda, MD 20816. This is the first of two events to help you get into the "ZEN ZONE" before Spring Break. Co-sponsors . . .  will be leading us in an hour of yoga at nearby Simon Says Yoga, followed by refreshing and healthful tea and light snacks. A big thank you to Simon Says Yoga for donating use of their studio:
Manicures and Mojitos [-]3$30.00
Join us on Tuesday, March 31st from 5:30-8:00 pm at AquaNails located in the Shops at Sumner Place at 4701 Sangamore Road, Bethesda, MD 20816. This always-popular event could not come at a better time. Get your nails done while also enjoying some delicious mojitos and snacks with friends before Spring Break. 
ZENGO Spinning Party [-]4$40.00
Join us on Saturday, April 18th at 2:00 PM at ZENGO Cycle located at 4866 Cordell Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814. This energy-fueled and inspirational event is always a blast. We will cycle hard for an hour and then enjoy some healthy snacks. If you have never tried spinning before, what better way to try than in a room filled with supportive friends? There is no shame and no judgment in the spinning studio! It is just like dancing until dawn in some awesome college bar. You will get hot and sweaty and listen to great tunes with your friends. Except you will feel so much better in the morning! Ticket price includes shoe rental. . Big thanks to ZENGO Cycle in Bethesda for donating use of their studio. Check out their class schedule at:

Kids Movie Night [-]SOLD OUT$20.00
It will be the kids turn on Friday, April 24th from 6:00-8:00 pm in the Westbrook All-Purpose Room. Kids are invited to hit the "Red Carpet" and enjoy a screening of BIG HERO 6 (popcorn included). Moviegoers will get some hands-on inventing time in our mini "Pop-up" maker space before and after the movie. Sponsored by the Friends of Westbrook Board and 

Don't miss Pig Pong on Saturday, May 16th at 6:00 pm at . . .  We are back…Pig Pong 2.0 but with more hosts and inviting more of you: 75 people at $75 person to celebrate Westbrook’s 75th year. We will once again serve up a delicious 80lb pig smoked on site all day long, in addition to smoked chicken, smoked brisket, grilled veggies, baked beans, homemade coleslaw and watermelon. Drinks menu includes kegs, wine, prosecco, tequila and whiskey and water. Along with live music from Timi Ryalls from Charlottesville and Harry Faulkner from D. C., there will be a Ping-Pong tournament. With 24 competitors last year, ending in an intense championship duel between our two finalists, we can only hope our defending champion will be back to defend his title. We will have a 4th table this year for warm-ups between matches! More prizes, more tables, more pong...what's not to love! .
Dads Pub Crawl [-]7$60.00
The tradition continues on Friday, May 29th. Detailed coordinates for the Dads Pub Crawl will be emailed to ticket holders ahead of the event. This is the event that started it all! The last weekend in May, we will be taking to the streets! On Friday night, Dads are invited to sample refreshing and delicious beer and snacks at three different stops throughout the neighborhood. 
Moms Unwined [-]25$60.00
It will be time of mom to unwind and "unwhine" at Moms Unwined on Saturday, 5/30. Detailed coordinates will be emailed to ticket holders ahead of the event. These are the events that started it all! The last weekend in May, we will be taking to the streets! On Saturday night, it will be Mom’s turn to “unwine” at three different spots for wine, hors d’oeuvres and desserts. 
Westbrook's Sweetheart Dance [-]18$20.00
The lovely tradition continues on Sunday, June 7th from 4:00-5:30 pm. Girls and their favorite sweethearts, whether they are dads, granddads, uncles or friends, are invited to a lovely Sunday afternoon dance. Delicious punch and desserts will be served. Please remember to purchase a ticket for each attendee. 

  Smoked pig, mojitos, and Moms and Dads taking to the streets!

We can't wait to see what FOWS come up with this year!

Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has officially banned drones

WASHINGTON– Will D.C.-area school sports fans see drones overhead this fall? Not likely, it seems, amid new recommendations and rules from local sports rule-makers.
Virginia high school sports coaches and school administrators are being advised not to allow drones around sporting events or other Virginia High School League activities. Drones have been banned entirely this fall from Maryland public school state tournament contests.
The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association has officially added the ban to its state tournament policies for the upcoming season...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Superintendent Blames Tone Deaf Administrators...

This is the guy that said no to the Montgomery County Board of Education.  Instead, Robert Avossa took the job of superintendent in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Listen to the video below as Palm Beach Superintendent Avossa speaks about a recent disaster with the Palm Beach County school bus routing.  He actually puts blame on administrators and says parents and bus drivers should have been consulted!  Not only that, he is actually speaking about a problem himself.  He isn't hiding behind a public relations bully who will call your boss if you print that!

Can you imagine if the MCPS Board of Education had been able to hire Robert Avossa and he was the superintendent here?

 School bus crisis: Superintendent has some answers

Teachers seek to take down cell tower

Some teachers concerned about radio frequency emissions want the school district to encourage a community conversation and adopt a policy on towers ....

...“There’s absolutely no educational benefit having that tower on top of Deering. Let’s take it down. Let’s do the right thing,” said Gus Goodwin, Wilson’s husband and a technology teacher at King Middle School. Goodwin has been a leading advocate for removing the tower....

22 Montgomery County employees appear to have used work addresses to sign up

Ashley Madison Leak Includes 22 D.C. Government Employees

Thursday, August 20, 2015

4,057 Empty Seats: The Truth About MCPS Middle School Capacity #unusedClassrooms

If you watched the August 20, 2015, Board of Education discussion of the dire need for a new middle school to be built on a Kensington park site, you would think that MCPS middle schools were simply bursting at the seems. 

In fact, MCPS has approximately 4,000 unused, existing seats in middle schools today.   The image to the left highlights all of the MCPS middle schools with available classroom space. The actual available space varies depending on which MCPS chart you use.  

That's right, available middle school classroom space.

MCPS has so much empty middle school space that at Sligo Middle School they have given an entire wing of the school to a private company.  

Are Board of Education members simply unable to understand the basic math of classroom capacity?  

Let's take one set of MCPS numbers.

MCPS states that they have middle school classroom space to accommodate 36,315 middle school students.

Last year, MCPS enrolled 33,169 actual middle school students

Even using this set of MCPS numbers, there are still 3,146 EMPTY middle school classroom seats. 

That's at least the equivalent of THREE entire middle schools of empty classroom space.  

If you use the chart shown in the image above, there is the equivalent of FOUR entire middle schools of empty classroom space.

Councilmember Elrich writes: "This is an expensive school with horrible access...irreparable environmental damage...

Save Rock Creek Hills Park!: Councilmember Elrich writes: "This is an expensive...: An email from Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich to the Montgomery County Board of Education:

 From: marc elrich <>
Date: August 20, 2015 at 11:24:57 AM EDT
To: "Pat O'Neill (" <>
Cc: "" <>, "" <>, Phil Kauffman <>, Rebecca Smondrowski <>, <Patricia_O'>, <>, Jill Ortman-Fouse <>, <>, <>
Subject: The new Rock Creek Middle School

Dear Pat,

I just wanted to appeal to you and your colleagues on the Board to not got through with the planned BCC middle school in Rock Creek Park. There is no doubt that we need a school, but there are better sites than this one. You’ve received no doubt countless emails on this subject and I believe that the opponents are really right. This is an expensive school with horrible access and the site work will cause irreparable environmental damage. It is not being built on the site of the former middle school, it’s being built on half the site since the other half is occupied by apartments now. You have a far superior option off of Jones Mill Rd that Park and Planning will actually accept it. The fact that P&P is willing to work with you to identify a suitable site is not something that should be ignored. You could reclaim the site in Kensington where  HOC now resides. What you are doing here is expensive and unnecessary given that you have better options.

It’s not too late to hit the pause button and reassess the alternatives. I had a chance to follow the scoring of the sites and I thought at the time that it made no sense and that from issues of access, the environment, the lack of flexible siting a reasonable capacity for growth, this is absolutely the worst of all sites. You will overwhelm both the site and the neighborhood. I have spoken to you and other Board members about this. We do not have money to burn, nor should we building new schools on constrained sites.

I hope the Board can go back to the drawing board and come up with an alternative that is less costly and more respectful of the community and the environment.

Thanks for listening (again),


Parent Says Pat O'Neill is "out of touch." MCPS Turning a blind eye to safey. Misuse of Funds. #appalled

More public comment on proposed BCC Middle School #2 construction.

Cafeteria and Gym will be Undersized by 33%. Most Permits Have Been Denied.

Public comment on the construction of BCC Middle School #2.

Public comment offers solutions to the undersized and dangerous plan to build BCC Middle School #2 on Kensington Park.

PAUL PETERSON: Teacher, school federal funding higher than most Americans estimate - Washington Times

PAUL PETERSON: Teacher, school federal funding higher than most Americans estimate - Washington Times

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Friends in the Right Places

Whitman High School and its cluster feeding schools are so lucky. This cluster has two Board of Education Members - one current Pat O'Neill and past member Shirley Brandman - are residents of the Whitman Cluster and are parents of children who attended the school.

 So - it should not be surprising that whenever Whitman wants something - poof - it happens.

Just 100 students over enrollment and Whitman is up for another renovation/expansion. Lucky for Whitman, the school is next to a former MCPS elementary school. So - say goodbye to the elementary school. Plans are to demolish the building and let Whitman grow!

Really - how crowded is your neighborhood high school - and can it expand by elbowing out its neighbors?

Read all about it here.

MCPS Removing Trees from Neighborhoods #deforestation #bccmiddleschool #kensington

When MCPS moves in, out go trees.
At the August 20, 2015, Board of Education meeting, the BOE will vote to rip acres of trees from the Kensington Park where they will build a new middle school. 

The Montgomery County Planning Board is going to allow the BOE to pay for a temporary tree reserve in another part of the County to make up for the loss of trees to the Kensington neighborhood. 

Let's do the math.  MCPS will cut down existing trees. No new trees will be planted to replace the trees cut down. MCPS will pay to "preserve" existing trees elsewhere for a couple of years.  The Montgomery County Code requires a minimum of just 2 years. 

This is a net loss of trees for Montgomery County as a whole, and a huge loss for the Kensington neighborhood where the new school will be built. 

But, if you have had a MCPS construction project in your neighborhood, you already know that MCPS rips out trees as part of their "modernization" process.  The BOE builds "green" schools.  Just don't assume that "green" schools has anything to do with leaving existing trees in neighborhoods!

Surprise! BOE Finds $1.8 Million, Transfers it to BCC Middle School #2 Project #nootherpriorities?

Do you love surprises?  Well here in Montgomery County we do! Check this out.  The Board of Education just found $1,800,000 dollars in a drawer!  

As there is no priority list for Capital projects, no projects that need Capital Budget funding, no emergency Capital repairs, the Board of Education can spend the money anywhere, anytime, right?

Who knew there was a surplus of $1.8 million sitting around in the Capital Budget?  

Here's the message from parents monitoring the BCC Middle School #2 construction project:  
[The Board of Education is] Proposing to CIP TRANSFER $1.8M from the Clarksburg Cluster Elementary School Project "unliquidated surplus account" to build the SHELL of the [BCC Middle School #2] addition to "provide for the future expansion of 12 additional classrooms; bus canopy; brick veneer and ornamental railing for the site retaining walls; and other alternates."  They are classifying the retaining wall brick veneer and railings as "alternates," meaning that they only intended to build concrete walls from the start.  They MIS-LED THE COMMUNITY, because the original plan submitted in the Mandatory Referral stated that the walls would be brick with capstone and iron railing on top, AND that there would be a bus canopy. Now the budget submission to the BOE states this was an "ALTERNATE" plan, along with other items!!  It does not mention what other items are "alternate" that we are not aware of.  This is just another example of how the community has been MIS-LED and LIED TO!!!!!


BOE Pat O'Neill Does Not Know 1/2 of School Site is Gone. ...good enough for her husband in 1960's...

Dear Mrs. O’Neill –
Your 17 August posting [click here] regarding BCC Middle School #2 demonstrates, once again, how out of touch you are with the issues, and the concerns of the neighborhood.
Image shows original school site compared to today.

At a July Board of Education meeting, you fundamentally stated that since a middle school at this site was good enough for your husband in the 1960’s, it should be good enough for the kids of today and the next 25 years.    That statement tells me that, as the elected leader of the Board of Education, you have not done basic research into this contentious issue that has been so controversial for the past five years.  I would conjecture that if you took your husband there today, he would no longer recognize the site which is now almost half of what it was before MCPS sold a significant (and the most buildable) portion to allow construction of a nursing home.   If you took him there during morning rush hour, he would probably be alarmed at the volume of traffic today, as compared with the 1960s.
But, more importantly, your posting demonstrates that you are also unaware of the issues that concerned citizens have discussed with Dr. Zuckerman and MCPS staff over the past two months.    You stated that “some who live near the new school don’t want it in their neighborhood”.  Although that may be true of some, the discussions revolved around, and must continue to revolve around, traffic and safety, as they impact not only all Rock Creek Hills residents, but also those who must transit Rock Creek Hills to access the school – including children who will walk to school…the same route your husband took.  Planning to bring more than 500 family vehicles and over 20 buses, onto hilly, winding two lane roads over the course of one hour, without having even performed a traffic study of those roads is recipe for disaster.  There was never a discussion of a new site, but only the issues and shortcomings, and potential solutions, for those of the current site and project design.
Unfortunately, in spite of what we thought were good faith discussions with MCPS, they elected to reject basically all of the safety concerns, both on and off site, which were brought to their attention by other County officials and neighbors.   
The issues of the past are now passed. 
Do some still feel that the site selection process was biased towards speed of execution and the needs of special interest groups, versus ensuring that the site was most appropriate to provide the greatest amount of program requirements for the least cost? Yes.
Do some still feel that the MCPS relaxed its own high standards and criteria to make the current site work?  Yes.
Do some still feel that the design process was flawed, even with “significant community involvement”, and failed to properly document and address issues brought to the attention of the designers?  Yes.
Do some still feel that a disproportionate percentage of project cost will go to making a bad site work, versus making a good site work better to provide the most educational value?  Yes.

So – what are the remaining issues, given the inability of MCPS planners and leadership to demonstrate courage to admit that this site was the wrong choice?
  1. 1.  Traffic management, pedestrian safety, safety of children while on site. 
It is clear by your statement that the Board of Education intends to award a project, in spite of these latent defects that will not manifest themselves until it is far too late to make meaningful, cost effective change.    The responsibility to resolve them will be shifted by MCPS to other County agencies, at additional, yet to be budgeted cost.  
  1. 2.  School capacity.
Your statement does not reveal the intent of MCPS to also receive approval for the construction of future shell space from the BOE, which would be tantamount to de facto approval for future school expansion.  This space has neither been approved in the MCPS Capital Investment Program, nor does it follow the MCPS rule that does not additional construction before a facility reaches, and exceeds, maximum student capacity.  Additionally, no funds have been budgeted for this construction, and as such, must be taken from projects at other schools that would have to be further delayed.   So – rather than resolving immediate requirements in current our overcrowded system, MCPS and BOE will speculate with construction funds regarding the requirements of the future.   Making this decision also assures that maximum student load will lead to increased impact to traffic and safety.
  1. 3. Budget. 
MCPS seeks approval to award construction, based upon current bids, but it does not provide fiscal context for that approval. In full disclosure, a complete project budget with all associated taxpayer costs, compared with the Capital Investment Plan approved amount $52.3M should be provided, to ensure that additional funds will not be required in the future. 
So – given that the site is not the issue as you imply, I believe that you, as Chairman of the Board of Education, should issue a statement regarding your intent regarding these remaining issues.
I look forward to your public response in advance of the Board of Education meeting.
Richard Bond

Parent Responds: MCPS is Bureaucratic at best, but almost insulting to our intelligence. #construction

To: Craig Rice <>
Cc: Marc Elrich <>; Nancy Navarro <>; "" <>; Joan Kleinman <>
Sent: Monday, August 17, 2015 3:25 PM
Subject: BCC Middle School #2 - URGENT for Thursday BOE meeting

Dear Mr. Rice –
Thank you for your 23 July letter [click here] to Ms. O’Neill regarding BCC Middle School #2.  Since we last met in June, other Rock Creek Hills parents and I have had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Zuckerman three separate times.  He listened to our concerns, engaged his staff and visited the site personally.  Although he continuously indicated a commitment to listen and make change, his response(attached -click here) received last week was wholly disappointing.  Through a screen of lists of meetings, standards and codes, he basically ignored the concerns of both the community and other County officials.  Bureaucratic at best, but almost insulting to our intelligence.  Yes – we know there were many meetings.  But were they effective?  Did they actually address concerns raised, or simply document, nod and ignore?  Add green roofs and architecturally appropriate surfaces for retaining walls to your list of broken promises and missed opportunities to improve the project.
In the meantime, MCPS has received construction bids and has notified Maryland Department of the Environment that they intend to commence with the plans as they currently stand.  
This Thursday, “construction contracts” is a topic on the Board of Education meeting that would result in approval for this project to go forward.   Before that happens, however, I encourage you to question the status of the project and the resolution of all the issues at hand.   Two additional issues are of particular concern that I would like to highlight:  traffic safety, and budget authority and conformance.
Traffic Safety
Many traffic and safety issues are generated by an (total future) influx of 1,200 students to the area.  Although a traffic study was conducted, it only addressed the capacity of Connecticut Avenue and its intersections.  It did not examine other roads leading to, or immediately connecting to, the proposed site.  Attached [click here] is a graphic synopsis of the issues impacting the closest intersections.  To our knowledge, there is no similar circumstance in Montgomery County that has a school of this size served by a local road network that has:
  • similar volume of extant commuter traffic (upon which the school traffic will be overlaid),
  • winding and hilly roads that are narrower than required,
  • insufficient queuing capability,
  • intersections with limited site lines,
  • bridges with limited load capacity, and sidewalks that are not to code
  • non-existant neighborhood sidewalks. 
This is truly an “accident” waiting to happen, when frustrated parents and anxious kids try to navigate this labyrinth before the first bell.  Additionally, at the Feasibility Study presentation, it was noted (but not highlighted) that although parking is sufficient for the initial student load, it is not for the full future student capacity.  The same phenomenon will also occur with traffic…it may only be “bad” the day the school opens, but will become irreversible once the school is fully loaded.  Because none of these problems can be resolved by MCPS planners or budgets, they have stated that these are not their concern.  I contend that it is incumbent upon MCPS and its leadership as the proponents of the project to ensure that these issues are addressed, budgeted, funded and resolved within Montgomery County government and budgets.  Anything less than this should be considered to be turning a blind eye on safety, and perhaps negligence.
Budget Authority
Based upon analysis of bids received to date (see attached), it appears that the project is already dangerously close to, if not over,  its approved budget of $52.3M (CIP 2015-2020).  This assumes that only the lowest bids are awarded, as requested, which typically commits the owner to quality and cost issues during construction.  No construction awards have yet been made, more bids for components of the construction are yet to be received, and construction has not begun.  There is no place for cost to go but up.  Fundamentally, it appears that this project is destined to exceed its approved funding [click here], at the same time MCPS has bid options to build out (un-budgeted, unapproved) expansion space by constructing almost $2M in additional “shell” space with the base construction bid.  Constructing this space now, although tempting, is tantamount to committing to a future of increased traffic problems and pressure on school common spaces which remain inadequate for the full 1,200 student population.    
While I wholeheartedly agree with the intent of your letter, it is focused the future of MCPS school planning, using BCC MS #2 as example.  Without immediate action, Montgomery County is committing to build a school that even you describe as being “disappointing”, still having known and acknowledged deficiencies.  The concerns of both the community and the Planning staff still exist – they are not past tense.  They have not been resolved. 
Rather than this being known as the last school planned, designed and built with a process that is neither collegial nor constructive, it should be seen as the turning point in legacy thinking, with deficiencies corrected in a collaborative fashion.  Does Montgomery County want to be known for knowingly spending more than $52M for a school that its own staff considers to be "disappointing"?  Is this the new “standard” for our County?
Prior to awarding construction, and heading down an irreversible path, MCPS should be made responsible to:  
  1. investigate, find solutions and manage execution of traffic issues, both on and “off-site”,
  2. provide a true budget lay down of total project costs to the County, including construction contingency for this project, roads and traffic improvements, land acquisition (to replace lost park space), and all “soft costs” indirectly associated with project completion,
  3. justify additional cost, and gain CIP approval, for additional unbudgeted “shell space”, 
  4. provide an accurate construction timeline (the project is already 2 months behind approved schedule, and not yet awarded) and
  5. explain the short and long term (25 year aggregate) impact of any schedule delay.    
Although it is late in the game, there is still time to make a difference.  I hope that you have the ability to make a difference for our students, your taxpayers and the reputation of our County.
Thank you for your consideration,
Richard L. Bond, AIA

"...the process for the BCC Middle School didn't serve the public or our respective agencies very well and the final design is disappointing."

A letter from Craig Rice, Chair, Education Committee, Montgomery County Council, & Casey Anderson, Chair, Montgomery County Planning Board:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

BOE Spent $71,544 in Club Dues in FY 2015

It's MABE again!  Yes, that Maryland Association of Boards of Education that sucks cash out of public school systems, and for what? No one knows! But each year MABE is getting about $60,000 of the MCPS Operating Budget.  That's one classroom teacher that can not be hired because the Board of Education would rather belong to this club.

Monday, August 17, 2015

CDC: Adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight; not engage in daily physical activity; suffer from depressive symptoms; engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco, and using illicit drugs; and perform poorly in school.

School Start Times for Middle School and High School Students — United States, 2011–12 School Year

Please note: An erratum has been published for this article. To view the erratum, please click here.
August 7, 2015 / 64(30);809-813

Anne G. Wheaton, PhD1; Gabrielle A. Ferro, PhD1; Janet B. Croft, PhD1
Adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight (1); not engage in daily physical activity (2); suffer from depressive symptoms (2); engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco, and using illicit drugs (2); and perform poorly in school (3). However, insufficient sleep is common among high school students, with less than one third of U.S. high school students sleeping at least 8 hours on school nights (4). In a policy statement published in 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urged middle and high schools to modify start times as a means to enable students to get adequate sleep and improve their health, safety, academic performance, and quality of life (5). AAP recommended that "middle and high schools should aim for a starting time of no earlier than 8:30 a.m." (5). To assess state-specific distributions of public middle and high school start times and establish a pre-recommendation baseline, CDC and the U.S. Department of Education analyzed data from the 2011–12 Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). Among an estimated 39,700 public middle, high, and combined schools* in the United States, the average start time was 8:03 a.m. Overall, only 17.7% of these public schools started school at 8:30 a.m. or later. The percentage of schools with 8:30 a.m. or later start times varied greatly by state, ranging from 0% in Hawaii, Mississippi, and Wyoming to more than three quarters of schools in Alaska (76.8%) and North Dakota (78.5%). A school system start time policy of 8:30 a.m. or later provides teenage students the opportunity to achieve the 8.5–9.5 hours of sleep recommended by AAP (5) and the 8–10 hours recommended by the National Sleep Foundation (6)...