Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Local governments hide public records, face few consequences

Miranda S. Spivack, The Center for Investigative Reporting 

...During the legal fight, they also began learning about Maryland’s open records law. Used frequently by journalists and business interests, the state’s public records law allowed them to seek government documents — memos, officials’ calendars and other items — that might offer clues to how the deal was done or hints about who had been speaking with whom, when the plans were hatched and why.
But when residents asked for those documents, they hit a wall: Montgomery County government officials said they could not find many emails, letters and calendars related to their search.
This seemed preposterous, so the residents took the only route available to them — they went to court. A skeptical county judge urged the government to look anew for missing documents. Officials soon managed to find most of what the residents had sought.
The details weren’t pretty.
Documents showed that County Executive Isiah Leggett, a Democrat less than a year from his next election, had been pushing behind closed doors for the private soccer club to take over the site and attempting to pressure a reluctant school board, even though in theory he had no power over school system decisions.
The Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board also found that the school board had violated the state’s open meetings law by discussing the lease deal in closed session....

Monday, November 28, 2016

NBC-4 uncovers lavish travel spending by Montgomery College president

Presidential Perks: Students, Staff Complain About Spending at Montgomery College

The News 4 I-Team started investigating [taxpayer funded] Montgomery College after receiving multiple letters from staffers throughout the summer complaining about the school’s president, Dr. DeRionne Pollard, and how much she spends on travel and transportation, including an armed driver recently hired by the school to protect her.

Dr. Pollard spent more than $3,400 [of taxpayer and student money] on airfare and upgraded seats to fly both herself and her wife to Honolulu and then Austin, Texas, for back-to-back conferences.

They spent an additional $495 on luggage fees for their five additional bags.

After spending $2,776 for a hotel room at the Moana Surfrider in Honolulu, they spent another $2,753 at the Four Seasons in Austin, racking up $500 on room service, including an $80 breakfast and a $49 dinner on the same night Dr. Pollard submitted a receipt for another $127 dinner at an Austin restaurant.

Both Dr. Pollard and the Board of Trustees declined requests for on-camera interviews. Spokesman Raymond Gilmer initially said he would do an on-camera interview but later explained the president and the board went behind closed doors and decided no one from the college would speak about the spending.

Entire story and AMAZING VIDEO at:

Despite Failures, San Diego Unified Just Can’t Quit FieldTurf

San Diego Unified had at least six Fieldturf fields fall apart before the warranty was up, and two were replaced with the same defective product. Still, district officials have such confidence in the company, no other turf manufacturer has been allowed to compete for jobs within the district.

This is Part Three in our four-part series. Here’s where to find Part One and Part Two
Twenty artificial turf fields that once gleamed in the San Diego sun have quickly fallen apart over the last decade thanks to a defect.
The field failures have created dilemmas for school districts that tried to get replacements from FieldTurf USA under the manufacturer’s eight-year warranty. Often, schools were faced with the option of choosing a free replacement with the same defective material, or paying thousands of dollars more to upgrade to a non-defective product that would hold up as originally promised.
San Diego Unified – the region’s largest FieldTurf buyer – had at least two defective fields replaced with more of the same turf that failed...

Voice of San Diego scoured thousands of San Diego Unified documents and sought an interview with district officials to discuss the district’s FieldTurf history. Officials declined multiple interview requests and instead made defensive, misleading and at times outright dishonest claims by email.
For starters, Reed-Porter said district fields were replaced for free under warranty before they actually failed as a preventative measure.
“The FieldTurf fields in San Diego Unified did not fail. It would be inaccurate for you insinuate or report in your story,” she wrote Sept. 21. “According to FieldTurf at the time, the fields were beginning to show signs of wear, and might not last though (sic) the entire warranty period.”
That’s not quite what district and FieldTurf officials said in emails when $1.5 million worth of FieldTurf Duraspine turf installed in 2010 at Mira Mesa, San Diego and Morse high schools needed replacement after only four years...

 ...The district has had such confidence in FieldTurf over the years, no other manufacturer has been allowed to compete for the turf job. Public officials continue to argue FieldTurf’s superior product and warranty allows them to skip competitive bidding normally required by state law for public works projects.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Revised MCPS Regulation Would Allow Elementary Students To Have Cell Phones in School

From the Department of Unenforceable Rules:


The prohibition against private cell networks is to ensure students use the MCPS filtering that prevents students from accessing certain websites. Filtering is not available on the private cell networks. Therefore, students would be required to use the school system’s network for internet access, according to the revised regulation.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Former MCPS Director of School Peformance chauffered around in $55,000 SUV

From NewsChannel 5 in Nashville:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A NewsChannel 5 hidden-camera investigation raises new questions about how Metro's new director of schools spends your money
We spotted him using district employees as his personal chauffeurs - even on personal errands. That's despite his insistence that the school system's budget is tight.

"We don't have a dollar to waste," Joseph told the Metro School Board recently.
But we watched as Metro Schools employees chauffeured Dr. Shawn Joseph around town in the brand new $55,000 Tahoe provided by taxpayers.
Watch the entire story here:


Social worker: Montgomery County Public Schools has a sex offender problem

- A concerned parent said Montgomery County Public Schools has a sex offender problem and she believes school officials are covering it up.
Jennifer Alvaro is a licensed social worker, certified sex offender treatment provider and a mother of a Montgomery County student. She believes the school system is dropping the ball and children are suffering.

 “I think there is a massive problem here and there has been for many, many, many years,” she said.


FieldTurf USA turned failure into opportunity when dozens of its artificial turf fields quickly fell apart at local public schools.

This is Part Two in a four-part series. Catch up with Part One here.
FieldTurf USA turned failure into opportunity when dozens of its artificial turf fields quickly fell apart at the region’s public schools in recent years.

Though customers paid $450,000 to $800,000 per field for “the best” and “the next generation of engineering excellence,” certain FieldTurf fields frayed, faded and shed after only a few football seasons, years before the eight-year warranty ran out.

The field failures – caused by a defect in the turf grass blades in the company’s popular Duraspine field – raised safety concerns for some schools and spurred districts to seek free warranty replacements from the Canadian turf manufacturer.
FieldTurf’s response came with fewer apologies than “offers” and “opportunities” for schools to upgrade their turf field to the latest and greatest for another $25,000 to $300,000, records show.
Some school districts took that offer to avoid getting more defective turf and to finally get a quality product. Schools like Carlsbad High, Fallbrook High, Valley Center High and Mesa College all paid FieldTurf a second time to replace defective fields that were still under warranty.
No one held the turf company line and wrung more money from local customers than regional FieldTurf salesman Tim Coury.
Coury also employed legally questionable methods to get new fields built, public records obtained by Voice of San Diego show.
The worst example was found in emails produced by Oceanside Unified...


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

WBAL: Superintendent did not disclose income from 2 side jobs, panel finds

The Baltimore County School Board's Ethics Review Panel has found that Superintendent Dallas Dance failed to file financial statements about two jobs he has had on the side.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Superintendent Smith Proposes Busing Blair, Einstein, Kennedy and Northwood Students to Fill Woodward HS in Rockville

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack R. Smith is proposing a roundtable to evaluate how to ease Walter Johnson High School overcrowding by reopening Woodward High School.  As part of this evalutation, Superintendent Smith proposes that students from 4 out of 5 Down County Consortium high schools be bused to the re-opened Woodward High School.

Below is the response from the Down County Consortium PTA representatives to this proposal.

Friday, November 18, 2016

MCPS Wants $1,200 for Injury Documents on Students!

A reporter asked MCPS for the documents related to non-concussion student injuries.

MCPS wants $1,200 to produce this public information.  

Presentation to MD State Legislators on Documented Health Risks to Children who use Computers Daily

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Group Seeks Support of Montgomery County Businesses To Advance Early Learning

Group Seeks Support of Montgomery County Businesses To Advance Early Learning: Officials say preparing children to be productive workers as adults starts in the early years

Breaking: More Charges Going Back to 2000 at Cloverly ES, Sexual Abuse of Minor, Child Abuse Molestation Exploitation, 3rd Degree Sexual Offense

Additional charges have been filed against the teacher from Cloverly Elementary School that was previously arrested on sexual abuse charges.  This is the same school that cancelled Halloween.  

PBS: The Drug-like Effect of Screens on Children's Brains

Screens distract. Screens damage learning. Screens act like a drug in the brain. 
Why are schools bringing screens and cellphones into the classroom like wildfire? 

Special-ed student confined 617 times in 6 months despite state laws

The effectiveness of a law limiting how often school officials physically restrain or isolate students is impossible to judge because nearly half the state’s school districts missed the reporting deadline.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

WTHR News Investigates: Wireless Radiation Causes Cancer in NIH Rats

See the news report online here http://www.wthr.com/article/13-investigates-cellphones-and-cancer-is-the-risk-real

Crossfield Elementary Students Don't Want a Cell Tower! Fairfax Virginia

Crossfield Parents and Children Are Calling For Safety First

The Fairfax Virginia Board of Education has a lease with Milestone
The Stop the Crossfield Tower Website is at http://www.stopthecrossfieldtower.org/

Mike Rowe, can you help? @mikeroweworks

"Many viable careers once aspired to are now seen as “vocational consolation prizes,” and many of the jobs this current administration has tried to “create” over the last four years are the same jobs that parents and teachers actively discourage kids from pursuing" ~Mike Rowe

Read what Mike Rowe has to say about vocational/technical education in our schools at the link below. 

Let's ask Mike Rowe to speak up for MCPS students. 

Today, the Montgomery County Board of Education STILL allows principals to charge ILLEGAL CURRICULAR FEES to MCPS students who take courses at Edison High School of Technology (our one local vo/tech high school).  

Fees for public school classes discourage and prohibit participation and send a strong message that these classes are to be avoided.

The fees do not go into the MCPS budget, are not publicly accounted for, and create a slush fund for the principal. The practice has been going on for over a decade and our public officials will not speak up about this illegal practice. 

We have it in writing from the Maryland Attorney General's office and the Maryland State Board of Education that our children are entitled to a FREE PUBLIC EDUCATION under the Maryland Constitution. Yet, the charging of illegal curricular fees continues in Montgomery County. 

Mike Rowe, can you help?



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Montgomery Co. schools to refine calendar with post-Labor Day start

 ...O’Neill said she saw three options: adhere to Hogan’s executive order; ignore the law; or challenge it in court. O’Neill said ignoring it was not responsible as they are sworn to abide by the laws. And she added that a court challenge could prove to be expensive for local school districts with an uncertain outcome...


School Board Votes To Start School After Labor Day Next Year

School Board Votes To Start School After Labor Day Next Year: Members agree to abide by Hogan's executive order

MCPS says attending a protest demonstration can be an excused absence

MCPS Releases Statement on Student Demonstrations 


“Students who were absent from classes as part of [Monday’s] demonstration will be marked as unexcused; parents may send in a note to reverse the unexcused absence."

Petition: Tell Montgomery Co. Planning Board and County Council to Stop Unfettered Growth in North Bethesda

...Schools in the North Bethesda area are bursting at the seams. The demographic forecasts used by the County neglect the reality of younger families moving into the area, as well as the planned development. The current utilization percentage in the Walter Johnson Cluster justifies suspension of new construction. For complete details on the cluster, see the recent WJ Cluster Roundtable report.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Students discover racial slur at Md. elementary school

From Meghan Cloherty, WTOP:

Parents in Silver Spring, Maryland, are upset over what they call a delay in school officials’ response to a racial slur found written on a bathroom wall last week.

The three third-grade boys discovered the racial slur on the bathroom wall at Sligo Creek Elementary School on Thursday and reported it to their teacher.

“They all came out absolutely frightened and immediately went to their teacher, who they trust, to get some reassurance this problem would be taken care of and the teacher didn’t report it,” said mother Sarah Cohen.

Cohen learned of the incident on Facebook after the mother of one of the children involved posted about it online. Cohen said the mother said she waited to post the information, but she was frustrated she hadn’t heard back from the school.

For the whole story go here.

Petition to County Council on MCPS Overcrowding

Montgomery County Council's November 15 vote on the Subdivision Staging Policy stands to eliminate ANY disincentives to build until schools are over 120% of their capacity. The Council plans to discontinue the School Facility Payment that is currently charged on development when schools are between 105-120% of capacity.
They say they'll make up the money with a higher impact tax. But that does nothing to discourage development or prevent worsening overcrowding.

There are some a good changes in the works, but the County Council continues to view the SSP as a revenue model and not as a staging policy. THERE IS NOTHING IN PLACE TO STEM DEVELOPMENT UNTIL SCHOOLS REACH 120% OF CAPACITY. We ask that they postpone the vote scheduled for November 15th and address the the MCPS crisis more fully. Our schools cannot be left to struggle for the next four years (when this policy will be up for review again). MCPS has NO answers and can't clean up the Council's mess.

While individual school tests are a step in the right direction, more must be done to ensure that our schools don’t get worse before they get better. MCPS capacity and renovation projects can’t keep pace with development. Capital improvement projects that will be completed in 4 or 5 years cannot be counted as adequate capacity, leaving schools and their staff to cope with increasing enrollment in the interim. Impact taxes aren’t an adequate economic incentive to put our children through this. School impact taxes account for only 12% of the CIP funding, and they do nothing to cover incremental operational costs – busing, staffing, materials, etc. – all of which are a net burden to MCPS, and not a boon at all. For these reasons we propose the following


Pupil personnel worker for MCPS elected to Howard County Board of Education

...A pupil personnel worker for Montgomery County Public Schools since 2001, Ellis has served on the boards of the Maryland State Education Association and National Education Association.
“I was impressed with the support by the teachers at the polls,” Ellis said late Tuesday. “I’m exhausted but I feel very positive. … This will change everything.”...


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Meet with the Silver Spring area public school principals Nov 14, Monday, 7pm

NOVEMBER 14 - Monday

Community Civic Meeting
*Everyone welcome to participate*

You do NOT have to be a member
of the Board or Committee member
to join in the conversations.

Please come - and bring a friend!

Civic Building
Monday, November 14th

All are invited! You do NOT need to be a member to participate!
Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board: Meets every second Monday as a full body; The SSCAB's Sub-committees (Economic Development, Neighborhood, and Transportation) meet on the fourth Mondays. Most meetings are in the Civic Building at 7pm.

On the Agenda:

A dialogue with some of Silver Spring Regional Area
public school principals

Remember Marc Elrich's Statement about MCPS Audit? Let him know you remember what he has forgotten. #2016StateAudit #MCPS

May 2016 Elrich on Facebook
Today on Facebook, Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich says no one ever talked to him about when the 2016 Legislative State Audit of MCPS would be discussed by the Council.

But, of course, we did. Council's Education Comm. will Take Up State Audit of MCPS while You are on Vacation: Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland

The County Council did not take up the State Audit of MCPS in August. 

In fact, they held the Audit until after last week's election. That ensured that the public would not know about the Audit and would not ask the BOE members running for re-election why they let MCPS waste so much of their budget. 

Tomorrow, the Council's Education Committee will let MCPS and the Board of Education tell them why the State Audit of MCPS is to be shredded and should not be read. That's right, the Board of Education considers the State Audits to be useless and irrelevant to them.  That's why they, along with three state delegates, pushed for the law authorizing these audits to be gutted.

The County Council has done no analysis or review of the 2016 State Audit.  Read the "analyst packet" for tomorrow's Education Committee meeting. You will note there is absolutely no analysis of the State Audit at all! Council staff simply re-printed the Audit! Council staff is paid to cut and paste?  

Friday, November 11, 2016

Middle school administrators find swastikas in a boys’ bathroom

Washington Post, reporter Joe Heim, posted 11/11.

Administrators at a Bethesda middle school found numerous images of a swastika drawn on a boys’ bathroom wall Friday, the second such incident at the school in the past two weeks.

In a letter sent home to parents of students at Westland Middle School in Bethesda, principal Alison Serino said the school has contacted the Montgomery County Police Department to investigate the acts of vandalism.

The full story is here.

Rockville Metro Station: Adult Male Arrested for Soliciting Sex Over the Internet with a Female Minor


Is MCPS aftercare becoming too much like school? #washpost #kaplan

This was our first experience with an aftercare program. We’d chosen it because it was there, in our five5-year-old’s Montgomery County public school, and the price was within our budget. I hadn’t paid much attention to what was going on beyond that. By the time I picked up our daughter up, she was usually doing some kind of craft or just running around. Occasionally, she was playing on an iPad, which didn’t thrill me, but she always seemed happy. She loved her teachers, and almost never wanted to leave. 

A couple of weeks later, I was sitting at a PTA meeting, hearing a presentation about the new program, run by AlphaBest Education√, Inc., a subsidiary of Kaplan Early Learning√ Education in
Lewisville, N.C.North Carolina, which started out 48 years
ago as a business selling furniture for day-care centers a day-care-furniture business. AlphaBest serves 14,000 kids in 12 states. At the meeting, a representative spoke about homework time. For those who don’t have homework any, AlphaBest would provide their own worksheets. He also talked about enrichment activities such as like calligraphy, cartooning, and Lego robotics. I asked if there would be any unstructured time.  

“Don’t worry,” the representative told me. “Not much.”


Thursday, November 10, 2016

After-School Program Counselor Charged with Sexual Offenses: “Kids After Hours” program at Flower Valley Elementary School


Chiefs suffer more concussions, say playing surface in Indy is one of the hardest in NFL

On Sunday, the Chiefs lost quarterback Alex Smith and running back Spencer Ware to concussions. They also lost left guard Parker Ehinger to a knee sprain. The last time they played there – their 45-44 wild-card loss in 2015 – they lost five key players to injuries, including three to concussions.
The Colts haven’t been spared either. They lost two players Sunday to concussions – cornerback Vontae Davis and right tackle Joe Reitz – and also had six players on the 53-man roster listed as out prior to Sunday’s game.

All of which led to several Chiefs fielding an obvious question afterward – is there something up with the FieldTurf surface in Indy? 

“It’s a fast surface, it’s a thin surface,” Chiefs safety Eric Berry said. “It’s not the thick turf that you’re probably used to seeing.”
Berry added that while it’s not old-school Astroturf – which was basically like playing on concrete – it’s about as close as you’ll get to that, these days...


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/nfl/kansas-city-chiefs/article111507662.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Board of Education Term Limits

No, not Montgomery County. At least, not yet. Carroll County.

Carroll County
Question A
Local Referendum from General Assembly
Chapter 301-2016
Board of Education - Term Limits

Do you favor changing the law so that a voting member of the Carroll County Board of Education may not serve on the board for more than two consecutive four-year terms?

FOR the referred law: 86.1%
AGAINST the referred law: 13.9%

For the details go here.

Term Limits Appears Headed for Passage

Term Limits Appears Headed for Passage: Voters choose to limit county executive, council members to three terms

Dixon Appears To Have Unseated Kauffman on School Board

Dixon Appears To Have Unseated Kauffman on School Board: Smondrowski, Evans win races

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How to relieve stress by County Council President Nancy Floreen

From Council President Nancy Floreen's Facebook page comes the following advice for stress relief. 

In her apparently drunken and drugged stupor, Ms. Floreen forgot to mention the many alcohol-related tragedies over the past several years in Montgomery County, including the death of a Montgomery County police officer from Olney and the deaths of numerous MCPS students.

School official: Social media a bigger problem than gangs

Student posts on social media lead to a lot of fights in schools, according to a local school safety leader.
“We’re dealing with so many issues day in and day out, and acts of violence and students being attacked based on what’s out there on their social network,” said Wayne Ferrell, a cluster security coordinator for Montgomery County Public Schools.
At a meeting last week about gangs hosted by the group Safe Silver Spring, Ferrell said social media is actually a bigger problem than gangs.
He said the schools’ new, state-mandated Code of Conduct, combined with an influx of new students who fled violence in other countries, set up what looked like a “perfect storm.”...


Monday, November 7, 2016

Voters To Choose Three for School Board

Voters To Choose Three for School Board: Candidates running in Districts 2 and 4, plus for at-large seat

SSIMS Student Struck Crossing in Crosswalk With Walk Signal

The intersection of Colesville Road (Rt. 29) and Sligo Creek Parkway presents significant safety risks to pedestrians and people on bicycles.  Due to these concerns, a handful of North Hills neighbors reached out to local officials to seek improvements at the intersection to enhance pedestrian/bicyclist safety.  Unfortunately, the change has been slow moving.  This October, a student on his way home from Silver Spring International Middle School was struck by a vehicle as he crossed Sligo Creek Parkway, requiring him to be transported to the hospital by ambulance. The student was crossing at the crosswalk with the “Walk” signal when he was struck by a car turning right from southbound Rt. 29 onto Sligo Creek Parkway.  The driver of the vehicle left the scene of the collision before police arrived and without leaving her car to ensure the child’s safety...


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Guest Post: What a Concussion Looks Like on Artificial Turf

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr. taken off on stretcher after landing on head yesterday.  
Watch in the video to see his head bounce off the artificial turf.

NOVEMBER 5: Tommy Armstrong Jr. #4 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers is looked at by trainers from Ohio State after being injured on a tackle in the second quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. Armstrong Jr. was taken off on a cart and did not return

The 2014 field replaced a June 2007 defective Duraspine field. FieldTurf Duraspine is the same type of field at Walter Johnson, Richard Montgomery and Montgomery Blair high schools. 

FIELDTURF RE-USED THE OLD INFILL IN THIS "NEW" FIELD!!  Here's a story and video that documents it:

- Three turf fields - Ohio Stadium, the Woody Hayes Athletic Center indoor field and one outdoor field at the WHAC - will receive new FieldTurf surfaces this spring ...

Friday, November 4, 2016

CA is protecting their children's privacy. What is MD/MCPS doing?

California, the place where many tech companies exist, is way ahead of Maryland in protecting the data collected on students.  Why?  Because it is the same companies that are collecting data and selling it.  CA has the strongest laws protecting their children.

The CA Attorney General put together their privacy position in this document.

When is Maryland going to do the same? While we passed a k-12 student privacy law this year, it is much weaker than the CA law.  Why?  Because the CA tech companies spent millions to block the language that would hurt their revenue streams.

Please let Jack Smith, Superintendent of MCPS, know that enough is enough and get a CTO that knows how to protect our children's personal information, with or without laws to mandate it, within MCPS' tech platform or 3rd party vendors (via agreements). In addition, we need to mandate that collection of any data is at minimal (vs. PARCC/Pearson requiring student names to take the test when the purpose is to merely grade the school/county, not the student).

FYI: Where do you think Maryland is in this study?

The administrative tools that maintain vast stores of student data have posed governance challenges for school districts. A 2013 study by the Fordham Law School found that 95 percent of school districts nationwide relied on cloud services to maintain and manage student data. The study also found that the services were weakly governed, with 20 percent of districts failing to have policies for their use of cloud services. Fewer than 25 percent of the agreements between districts and cloud providers specified the purpose for disclosures of student data and fewer than seven percent restricted the sale or marketing of the data.10

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Hey Big Spender! Smondrowski & Kauffman Expense Reports Withheld. $15K for Smondrowski Spent on ???

Right here in Montgomery County we have elected officials that are running for re-election that will not release the public documents that show how they have personally been spending public school education dollars.

Did they go to lunch? dinner? take a trip? or buy a gift with MCPS operating budget funds?

We will never know because the Montgomery County Board of Education is refusing to release expense reports for Rebecca Smondrowski and Phil Kauffman.

We asked for:
  • expense reports
  • reimbursement checks
  • expense logs
  • credit card bills/statements
for the following MCPS staff and Board of Education members for the period January 1, 2016, to August 31, 2016.

Larry Bowers
Andrew Zuckerman
Philip Kauffman
Rebecca Smondrowski

We did not get back one single document in response to our request!  

Yet, we know that during that time period covered in the public reports linked in this response letter Rebecca Smondrowski spent over $15,000 of MPCS Operating Budget funds on personal expenses.  

We have no way of knowing what that money was spent on specifically, but we can tell you that Ms. Smondrowski is the big spender when it comes to charging taxpayers for local travel.  In the reports shown, Ms. Smondrowski charged almost $9,000 to taxpayers for her "local travel."  

Phil Kauffman is not far behind Ms. Smondrowski in his spending, but since no one in Montgomery County cares about how public school education dollars are spent, there is no point in adding up his totals.

Links to the Reports mentioned in Mr. Turner's non-responsive response to our Maryland Public Information Act request.



State Audit of Howard Co Public Schools Issue in Election, While MCPS Audit Still Buried

..."They are all about transparency," Markovitz said of the challengers. "They're all about responsiveness. They're all about putting money in the classroom."

The concerns expressed by critics have drawn the attention of other elected officials.
A bipartisan group of state lawmakers got a bill passed requiring the state's public information ombudsman to investigate the Howard school system's handling of information requests. The report is due by the end of the year.

County Executive Allan H. Kittleman, a Republican, and the County Council declined to fund the school system's full budget request, and the council is conducting its own financial audit of the school system. Council members are considering asking the Maryland State Department of Education to conduct a performance audit of county schools.

"There have just been numerous concerns, and it is our duty to continue to advocate and fight for our children and our families," said Council Chairman Calvin Ball, a Columbia Democrat.

A state audit released in October found Howard school officials awarded salaries for administrators without school board approval, awarded no-bid contracts without proper justification and made mileage payments to employees without documentation of the travel. The school system's internal auditor defended the practices and criticized the expertise of the state auditors...


Reminder: Zero Coverage of State Audit of MCPS, No Oversight from County Council

Today is November 3, 2016.

On May 19, 2016, the Maryland State Office of Legislative Audits released their 6 year audit of Montgomery County Public Schools.

As of today, the full Board of Education has not discussed this audit, the Montgomery County Council's Education Committee has not taken up this audit, and no commercial media outlet has reported on this audit.   

That's how we cover up bad news in Montgomery County.  Remember to vote for all the incumbents in Tuesday's election because it takes a lot of elected officials to keep a public audit of a $2.5 billion dollar public school system quiet.  

Not one single local or state elected official dares to make a public statement about the results of this public audit. All of them must be under a gag order to keep this audit from reaching the public.  If just one spoke up, it would be in the news, yet none have said a word.

Our current elected officials want another term to keep covering up waste, fraud and abuse in Montgomery County Public Schools.  Look at the great job they are doing now!

Here are links to the only coverage you will find of the 2016 State Audit of Montgomery County Public Schools: 






“If I dump crumb rubber on a parking lot, I can get it to pass a G-Max test,” #FieldTurf #crumbrubber

Civic Group Concerned That Richard Montgomery High School’s Artificial Turf Field Failed Safety Test

...“If I dump crumb rubber on a parking lot, I can get it to pass a G-Max test,” Teeter said. However, he advised against adding significant amounts of rubber to fields because doing so can cause traction issues that can increase the risk of injuries to ankles and knee ligaments. The rubber also can wash away or be tracked throughout the surrounding environment, leading to environmental concerns if it enters local waterways. Teeter said the Richard Montgomery field should be replaced "in the near future."...


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Berliner, Hucker & Katz want to Eliminate Office of People's Counsel, Because Why Should the Public Have Any Representation in the Planning Process?

A Bill has been proposed (without consultation with communities) to permanently abolish the Office of the People's Counsel from the County Code and replace it with a Resource Officer that would not be allowed to participate in hearings.

The Montgomery County Civic Federation (MCCF) pushed hard to establish this office and it was finally placed in the County Code in 1990.  The funding for the Office of People's Counsel in 2008 was $246,000 for 1.8 positions. In 2010 the Montgomery County Council removed funding for this important office ostensibly for fiscal reasons.

MCCF pushed hard to establish this office and it was finally placed in the County Code in 1990.  The funding for the Office of People's Counsel in 2008 was $246,000 for 1.8 positions. In 2010 The County Council removed funding for this important office ostensibly for fiscal reasons.

Take the time to read the testimony from the MCCF and then send a note to the County Council asking them to reestablish funding for the Office of People's Counsel, not just a resource officer.

In the MCCF testimony it shows that the 3 development ombudsmen/coordinator positions ($577,000) that have been funded since the time that the Office of People's Counsel was defunded, are being funding with Montomgery County Department of Transportation Capital Improvement funds.  Yes, we are using debt service to pay for public positions that assist developers but the County Council (Berliner, Hucker, Katz) does not want to fund the position that is supposed to represent the public interest. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Open Letter to Superintendent Smith: Due to secrecy, obfuscation and an unwillingness to follow the law, the public is once again left to guess at what MCPS is, or in many cases is not, doing to protect our children.


"Derek G. Turner" ,
"jack_smith@mcpsmd.org" ,
MCPS Board of Education ,
Craig Rice ,
"councilmember.elrich@montgomerycountymd.gov" ,
Councilmember Navarro's Office ,
Good Morning Dr Smith, 

Regarding the sexual abuse of students by staff,  I have, for over the past four  years,  been demanding  MCPS follow the  law, update policy and procedures and as importantly, I have been trying to get MCPS to act in a transparent manner regarding this issue.    MCPS formed a work group due to my advocacy; a  work group which has now been disbanded with no notice.

While some very good work has been started on this issue, there remains a great deal to be done.    Due to secrecy, obfuscation and an unwillingness to follow the law, the public is once again left to guess at what MCPS is, or in many cases is not, doing to protect our children.   Based on my twenty two years of work in this field I can assure you, when people and systems have to guess what is being done, children will continue to be abused. 

Please be advised Dr. Smith, concerned parents have not been deterred by MCPS  refusal to meet with us and share information.    
Most recently, after making formal, repeated requests via email and in person (since August of 2015) and  a MPIA request in October of 2016, we learn MCPS still has no policy regarding social media guidelines for staff and volunteers.     This is  disappointing to say the least,  as among the dozens of employee sex offenders MCPS has had on staff over the past years, many of them have used technology to groom and abuse children.    

Parents continue to be concerned our children are being held to a higher standard than your employees.   First when our children had a code of conduct for their behaviors but the adults did not. There is now a code of conduct for employees but, not surprisingly after advocating for a year for a link to the adult code to be posted on your child abuse page and finally getting the link put up, it was quietly and quickly removed.     Presently, our children have clear standards for their electronic media use and in fact a new curriculum (announced last week) is being rolled out to reinforce those concepts.  While I fully support this initiative, I find myself again asking why my children are held to a higher standard than the adults tasked with their care.   

Narrowly focusing in on the social media issue, I ask you Dr. Smith, 
  • Will you direct your employees to swiftly finish the work they have told me was almost done in August of 2015?    
  • Will you investigate why (despite a recent arrest of staff who used social media to groom and assault a teen girl) your staff has still not prioritized much less completed  the employee social media guidelines?     

More specifically, I also ask you Dr. Smith:
  • Will you direct your staff to complete the work necessary to fully implement the new policy and procedures put in place last year regarding abuse and neglect?   
  • Will you have your staff close the loopholes and correct the errors in the policy and regulations which were implemented last year?  
  • Will you direct your staff to issue one, comprehensive report detailing all aspects of the implementation of the new policy and regulations; or, is it acceptable to you to have quarterly reports (each focusing on small parts of but never the whole) spread out so there is no complete annual report on what has actually been done over the past year? 
  • Will you direct your staff to comply with MPIA laws and release documents regarding the sexual harassment policy and it's implementation?    
  • Will you require your staff to comply with multiple MPIA requests to provide an accurate list of MCPS employees who are tasked with implementing and monitoring this complex task?    
  • Will you  tell parents how it is acceptable for your staff  (representing you at the policy management committee meeting with BOE members on 9/20/16), when asked to discuss the child abuse policy,  to state "we are not here to talk about the policy"? 

I have  and will continue to  work with the hope and conviction these things will be done in order to protect our children and prevent the inevitable harm which will occur if these actions are not taken.  Please be advised due to the work group being disbanded and a refusal on the part of MCPS to share information, I will continue to file MPIA requests to get your answers to the questions I am asking.

I emailed you in August 9, 2016 requesting a meeting to discuss this and other critically important issues surrounding the protection of our students.  I never received a response.  So,  I am again asking you if you will find time to prioritize this issue and meet.  

I hope to hear from you, 

Jennifer Alvaro
MCPS parent and advocate

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The fee — $50 today, but $40 during the study period in 2009 — was covered by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant, so the change cost the city nothing. Now, having read the results of the study, Gaithersburg officials are considering making the waiver process permanent, which could increase costs for providing youth sports by at least several thousand dollars. There is also a risk of waiver fraud...