Monday, November 30, 2015

“What works” is not a cute slogan but a specific set of criteria for what is reliable evidence on which to implement a new policy such as county wide implementation of Artificial Turf

Testimony of Sheldon Fishman

Before the Montgomery County Board of Education

November 12, 2015

Good evening, members of the Board of Education and Superintendent Bowers.  My name is Sheldon Fishman.  I am a member of the ​​​Safe Healthy Playing Fields Coalition ( ) and the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County...

...I appreciate the opportunity to offer a suggestion for using capital funds to improve MCPS sports fields.  The primary objective is to get more playing time from existing land.  To achieve this objective, the Superintendent has recommended “putting a stake in the ground” and committing to convert every high school football field to an Artificial Turf field.

I urge you to investigate the assumptions in that approach and I offer a suggestion on how to investigate those assumptions.  Right after a heavy rain storm, a brand new Artificial Turf field is more playable than current MCPS grass fields.   That leads to the assumption that the only way to get more playing time is convert all grass fields to Artificial Turf.    It is assumed that after six inches of rain, you could never have a soccer tournament on a grass field in Montgomery County.  But that assumption is wrong.  

In October 2013, “the vast majority of the Discovery Cup youth tournament went ahead as scheduled on eight of the facility’s natural-grass fields despite more than six inches of rain in some areas.

“We played on [Fields] 4, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 17 and [synthetic]turf [Fields] 18, 19, 20,” said SoccerPlex executive director Trish Heffelfinger ….

“It is remarkable in view of the amount of rain, 5.85 [inches] in five days…. Not only did we have a significant accumulation of rain but we also had no drying. It was cloudy, cool and continued to drizzle or mist the entire weekend.”

I urge you to investigate the assumptions underlying Artificial Turf.   Experts disagree if Artificial Turf is the most cost effective way to increase playing time and some experts ever question if Artificial Turf even provides the most playing time.  My suggestion is:

Please make an evidence-based decision built on a pilot comparing an Artificial Turf field with a state of the art real turf field, a sand capped grass field.

My understanding is none of MCPS fields currently is a sand capped grass field with drainage.  It would be prudent to consult with available experts who have already created and maintain durable grass fields.

I think you have a fiduciary obligation to investigate the cost assumptions of the AT policy since three top-line natural fields can be installed for price of one synthetic artificial turf field in Montgomery County.

The US Department of Education urges you to implement “what works”.  “What works” 1. is not a cute slogan but a specific set of criteria for what is reliable evidence on which to implement a new policy such as county wide implementation of Artificial Turf fields at every high school.  In this case, there is not reliable evidence that an Artificial Turf field provides more playing time than a sand capped grass field. 

  1. Criteria for evidence based policy, “What works” :


  1. Dear Santa, Please send us a new BOE Policy. One that requires our BOE members to ALWAYS publicly review the fiscal, health, and safety impacts of a proposal before voting on the matter. And Santa, while you're at it, please send some gifts of courage to the members of the BOE.

    1. Some common sense would suffice.

  2. If there ever was a time for courage at the BOE , this is it. They are allowing the poisoning of children. They have been informed and are NOT acting. This then.. becomes a criminal act. They have a duty to care for children's safety --as their highest priority. Ignoring the facts does not mean the facts are not the facts --nor that children will not be sick due to such negligence.

  3. Click here for the most recent list of State, county, and municipal PIA representatives. The PIA representative for the Office of the Maryland Attorney General is:

    Barbara Bond
    200 St. Paul Place
    Baltimore, MD 21202
    (410) 576-6405

    1. New Public Information Act Manual can be found here along with the most recent list of PIA representatives: Hard copy version of the Manual from the Office of the Attorney General makes a nice stocking stuffer.


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