Wednesday, August 21, 2019

GAO: K-12 Education: Education Should Take Immediate Action to Address Inaccuracies in Federal Restraint and Seclusion Data

From Government Accounting Office:

As we reported in February 2019, the Department of Education’s (Education) data suggest that the restraint and seclusion of K-12 public school students is rare nationwide, though it disproportionately affects students with disabilities and boys in general.1 In broad terms, Education defines restraint as restricting a student’s ability to freely move his or her torso, arms, legs, or head, and defines seclusion as involuntarily confining a student alone in a room or area from which the student is physically prevented from leaving. Education’s 2012 resource document on the use of restraint and seclusion states that restraint or seclusion should never be used except when a child’s behavior poses imminent danger of serious physical harm to self or others...

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Mother alleges MCPS teacher denied teen’s request to get inhaler during asthma attack, seeks $20M+ in Damages

Attorneys are preparing for a November trial stemming from a lawsuit in which a Gaithersburg mother alleges teachers denied her daughter access to her inhaler during an asthma attack during gym class in 2015, leading to the teen’s death.
Georgia Grant-Walton’s lawsuit against Montgomery County Public Schools says her daughter, Taylor Walton, requested permission to leave gym class twice to get her inhaler from her locker because she was having trouble breathing, according to court documents. The teacher, Karen Philbin, allegedly denied Taylor’s request each time, court documents say.
After the second request, 14-year-old Taylor left the class at Gaithersburg High School without permission to get her inhaler. Shortly after, she was found lying unconscious on the floor outside the gym.
Gaithersburg High School’s staff administered CPR and first aid before calling an ambulance, according to court documents. Taylor was pronounced dead upon arrival at a hospital about 4 miles away.

Grant-Walton is seeking more than $20 million in damages from her daughter’s death, which occurred on Nov. 30, 2015...

“We never saw any money,” Eanes school district spokeswoman Claudia McWhorter said in an email. The district dropped the technology last year.

Red-light camera ban also stops bus-camera program in most areas

Texas banned red light cameras in June, joining at least seven states that have halted use of the traffic devices, which advocates say save lives but which ran into controversy over that claim and other problems.
The measure outlawing red-light cameras also ended the use of school bus cameras, which take pictures of motorists passing stopped school buses discharging students. Whether that was the legislature’s intent wasn’t clear; the author of the bill, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford), did not respond to requests for comment. 
As a result, at least a dozen Texas school districts that signed contracts with the now-defunct Dallas County Schools, the public agency that worked with a private company for years to outfit buses with the cameras, will never see a penny of revenue for the plan that they were told would add millions of dollars to their coffers...

Albornoz’s first piece of legislation on property disposition passes in county, providing more clarity

ROCKVILLE — On July 30, Montgomery County Councilmember Gabe Albornoz saw his first piece of legislation enacted by the full council.
Bill 13-19, or the County Property-Disposition-Reuse Analysis, is designed to change the procedures for disposal of county property. The new legislation requires the county executive to submit a reuse analysis to the council, which would include any proposals for the property from an outside agency...

Monday, August 19, 2019

Cases conclude, behind closed doors, for two teens charged in Damascus High School locker room attacks

Court cases concluded this week for two of the remaining four Maryland teenagers accused in a 2018 locker-room sexual assault involving a broom stick at Damascus High School, but the outcomes in juvenile court could not be learned immediately.
The teenagers, ages 15 and 16, appeared in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Wednesday and Thursday in Rockville, where Judge Mary Beth McCormick ordered the proceedings closed and directed participants, including attorneys for the victims and the victims’ families, not to discuss the outcomes.
Before closing the courtroom, McCormick ruled that protecting the interests of the victims and the suspects outweighed access. “I understand that people want to know what happens in this case,” she said Thursday, adding, “At the end of the day, my charge is to help the rehabilitation of these children.”
The Washington Post asked in writing before the hearings to stay during the proceedings.
A reporter for The Post also went to the courtroom at the start of each teen’s hearing, which opened with statements about how the teens had earlier pleaded in the case. Before the bulk of the hearings got underway — during which the specific plea deals and possible punishments were expected to be discussed — defense attorneys asked that the judge clear the courtroom of anyone not directly connected to the case.
McCormick agreed...

MCPS receives update on Boundary Review Analysis

ROCKVILLE –Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) staff amended its timeline for the boundary review analysis, days before it was scheduled to recommend a consultant to the Board of Education.
Staff wrote in the request for proposal that it would recommend a selection to the board on Aug. 1. However, Chief Operating Officer Andy Zuckerman and Executive Director of Operations Essie McGuire announced during the board of education’s July 29 business meeting that they will instead recommend a consultant or group of consultants during the next scheduled board of education meeting, on Aug. 29, four weeks after the original date. MCPS had received two proposals and is considering both.
McGuire said that the date change will not disrupt the schedule of the boundary review analysis because staff had allowed extra time for that...

One Year Later, Baltimore County Schools’ Financial Disclosure Doc Shredding to Remain a Mystery

The Baltimore Post lost a battle last Tuesday after appealing to Baltimore County Public Schools’ administration, asking for the release of suppressed emails related to the shredding of roughly 2,600 financial disclosure statements last year.
Upholding two attorneys’ rulings that the emails were not public information due to a legal exemption which states they are part of “attorney-client work product” and are, therefore, “privileged” communications, the school board concurred with the previous decisions despite The Baltimore Post’s yearlong attempts to obtain any information specific to the April 27, 2018 and August 1, 2018 shredding of the financial records.
In fact, according to numerous responses to Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) requests and denials from the same law office that destroyed the records, it is as if the shredding of the financial records did not occur at all.
“(The) emails will not be disclosed at this time pursuant to your request,” board attorney, Andrew Nussbaum, said in an email on Monday.
But other than a 56-page destruction log which recorded the dates of the document destruction, the emails are the only known records that relate to the shredding event.
Yet the law office – and now the school board – will not release them. 
Additionally, attorneys in the law office have not responded to questions surrounding the timing of the document destruction which coincided with The Baltimore Post’s investigation into several key employees’ financial ties. The destruction of the documents both impaired the investigation and restricted access to public information...

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Maryland Public Information Act Compliance Board will hold its Annual Meeting at 1:00 pm on August 19, 2019

The Public Information Act Compliance Board will hold its Annual Meeting at 1:00 pm on August 19, 2019, at 200 St. Paul Place, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. The public is invited to attend. Click here for a copy of the agenda​. 
If you are interested in attending, please contact Ms. Janice Clark (at piaopengov@oag.state.md.us or 410-576-6560) NO LATER THAN AUGUST 13 so that we may make the necessary arrangements. When you arrive, please check in at the guard desk in the building lobby.​​
If you are interested in receiving email notifications about future meetings of the PIACB, please contact Janice Clark at piaopengov@oag.state.md.us.

Judicial Watch sought the voter list data in Maryland after contending there were more registered voters in Montgomery County than citizens over the age of 18 who could register to vote.

A federal judge has ordered the release of the voter registration list for Maryland’s largest county.
Judicial Watch, a conservative group that sued the state elections board for the voter registration list for Montgomery County, said Thursday it’s time for states to clean up state voter rolls...

Judge orders release of Maryland county voter registration



Friday, August 16, 2019

Affected neighborhood communities were NOT involved in the site selection committee for the proposed @mcps @mocoboe school

The City of Gaithersburg is considering selling Kelley Park, including most of the athletic fields, playgrounds, and green space, so that an elementary school could be built on the land.
The proposed school already has land to be built on which can accommodate the needs and traffic of a large school. Although Kelley Park will not be completely torn down, some parts of it will be lost to the school and the use of Kelley Park may be restricted while school is in session.
With lack of community involvement thus far in this decision, it is important to understand what is at stake, and how to let your voice be heard.

WHY IS THIS PARK SPECIAL?

Kelley Park, built with $550,000 of State and Gaithersburg City funds through the program know as Open Space, is the only multi-use park east of 355.  People from across the region come and use these facilities.

The money didn't materialize — in part because of judges throwing out many of the tickets issued based on evidence from the cameras — and the district was stuck with the bill.

Former Dallas County Schools Chief Gets Seven Years for Role in Bribery Scheme

...“You were living high on the hog,” Chief U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn told Sorrells during his sentencing hearing, according to reporters in the federal courtroom. "You were supposed to be a faithful servant to your community ... I don’t forgive you for what you did."..

Thursday, August 15, 2019

report found that the school bus cameras have not reduced violations, nor have they reduced accidents involving school children

...The report explained that the county has generated none of the revenue it had anticipated from the school bus camera program, while the vendor has pocketed $10 million. The report concluded that the contract failed to follow the normal public bidding process and instead created an arrangement that favored the camera vendor.

"The business case for this program was built around the desired use of a predetermined vendor rather than an objective analysis to design an effective and economical method to achieve an identified outcome," the report found.

To bypass the public bidding process, Montgomery County latched onto the contract between Force Multiplier and the school board in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. While the Louisiana deal had East Baton Rouge splitting profits with Force Multiplier, the Montgomery County "bridge" contract stated Force Multiplier would keep the first $18 million in revenue generated. After that, the company would keep the first $1 million generated annually before splitting any profits.

"Although we have not undertaken a forensic accounting review of the MCPS program, it appears to be structured much like the Dallas County School District program which ultimately led to the bankruptcy of the school district," Blansitt wrote. "Much like the situation in Dallas County, Montgomery County appears to potentially bear the financial burden of vendor failure."

As for safety, the report found that the school bus cameras have not reduced violations, nor have they reduced accidents involving school children. As national statistics show, such accidents are exceedingly rare and none were recorded in the four years before the cameras were activated...

https://www.thenewspaper.com/news/67/6768.asp

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Breaking: Court of Special Appeals of Maryland Affirms MCPS Teacher John Vigna's Conviction

Excerpts from the Opinion:

John Vigna v. State of Maryland, No. 1327, September Term, 2017. Opinion by Nazarian, J.

CRIMINAL LAW – CHARACTER EVIDENCE – CHARACTER OF ACCUSED
In a child sex abuse case, the accused’s reputation for appropriate interactions with children
under their care is not a pertinent trait of character under Maryland Rule 5-404(a)(2)(A).

John Vigna was a long-time teacher at Cloverly Elementary, a public school in Montgomery County. In 2016, several students reported that Mr. Vigna had touched them inappropriately in his classroom, dating back as early as the 2001-2002 school year. Under the guise of a warm and affectionate teaching style, Mr. Vigna allegedly hugged female students and held them in his lap as he fondled their bodies through their clothing. He was tried in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County and, on June 9, 2017, convicted of one count of Child Abuse, three counts of Sex Abuse of a Minor, and five counts of Sex Offense in the Third Degree.

Mr. Vigna raises primarily evidentiary issues on appeal. First, he argues that the circuit court improperly excluded testimony (he describes it as character evidence) that Mr. Vigna had a reputation in the community for interacting appropriately with children under his care. Second, he argues that the circuit court improperly admitted reprimands he had received in previous school years for interacting inappropriately with students in the classroom. Third, he contends that the circuit court improperly admitted a school counselor’s hearsay testimony relaying one victim’s reports of her sexual abuse. And finally, he argues that the circuit court’s evidentiary rulings violated his right to a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We disagree and affirm in toto.

...The issue before us, therefore, is whether Mr. Vigna’s reputation in the community for appropriately interacting with children bears on whether he sexually abused them. We agree with the circuit court that it does not. This narrow issue is one of first impression in Maryland...

...Sexual predators are “not instantly recognizable as the ‘dirty old man in the raincoat.’” Anne-Marie McAlinden, Setting ‘Em Up: Personal, Familial, and Institutional Grooming in the Sexual Abuse of Children, 15 SOC. AND LEGAL STUD. 339, 348 (2006). They blend into the community and often stand in trust relationships—coaches, clergy, teachers, physicians, or family members—with their victims. Id. Offenders “groom” victims through these relationships and “skillfully manipulate a child into a situation where he or she can be more readily sexually abused and is simultaneously less likely to disclose.” Id. at 346.7 Recent news accounts demonstrate how offenders exploit trust relationships, not only with children but also their parents and the community at large, to gain access to victims.8 Before these allegations became public, there undoubtedly were colleagues, parents, and other children who could have testified honestly that they believed those
abusers were appropriate with children and much beloved by the community for the strong
relationships they formed with them.

To admit a community member’s opinion about a defendant’s reputation for propriety with children would fail to “consider that sex offenders may [] groom not just the child but also their family or the wider community as a necessary prerequisite to gaining access” to child victims. Id. at 341. In this way, they “ingratiate themselves with children and infiltrate themselves into unsuspecting . . . communities. . . . To do this successfully, they must pass themselves off as being very nice, usually, men who simply like children.”..

...But an adult’s public interaction with children under his care doesn’t make it any more or less likely that the alleged victims were abused by him privately. And because it’s not relevant, it’s not admissible under Rule 5-404(a)(2)(A)...

...Mr. Vigna counters that his victims allege they were abused in public and that the
reputation evidence he seeks to admit is therefore appropriate. But although it is true that
much of the reported abuse took place in his classroom, with other students in the room,
the victims explained that Mr. Vigna took active steps to avoid detection. His victims were
abused most frequently during the chaos of the classroom at dismissal time, or during
showings of videos when the room was darkened and other students’ attention was

distracted...

...Until Ms. Sobieralski’s body safety class, ----. didn’t understand that Mr. Vigna’s behavior toward her was sexually abusive. As soon as she understood that Mr. Vigna had touched her inappropriately, she became upset and told her teacher and school counselor about what had happened. The delay between the onset of the abuse and A.C.’s complaint is explained readily by A.C.’s young age and close and trusting relationship with Mr. Vigna. And although we know that Mr. Vigna’s abuse of A.C. spanned a period of years, “[n]owhere in any case of which we are aware does the applicability of Rule 5- 802.1(d) . . . hinge upon the victim reporting the first act of abuse.” Gaerian, 159 Md. App. at 538. (cleaned up). We agree with the circuit court that A.C.’s complaint was prompt within the meaning of Rule 5-802.1...

2018: Dallas Lawsuit Seeks to Recover $125 Million Lost to Stop-Arm Video Scheme #ForceMultiplierSolutions

This litigation is ongoing. Will it have any impact on the bus camera scheme being used in Montgomery County?


The dissolution of the Dallas County School District has been described as the biggest shut- down of a government agency in modern Texas history. And it all started with a plan to equip school buses with stop-arm cameras aimed at ticketing motorists who illegally pass while students are loading and unloading.
Beginning in 2008, Force Multiplier Solutions advertised that its BusGuard and Ongo Live products could provide school districts with mobile camera systems using real-time data, video and audio. In 2010, Dallas County Schools (DCSD), a government agency that was established over a century ago to provide educational services such as transportation to about a dozen local independent school districts, signed a contract with Force Multiplier to purchase 150 bus stop-arm cameras. The new equipment promised to catch drivers who ran the red octagon, hold them accountable, and fine them, which would hopefully reduce the number of future violations.
Unbeknownst to taxpayers, parents, and even the district’s own board members, DCSD Superintendent Dr. Rick Sorrells would dump millions of dollars into the bus-arm program over the next six years. While Sorrells drove the district into unmanageable debt, he also admitted to receiving $3 million in bribes, campaign contributions and kickbacks from Force Multiplier Solutions’ owner, Robert Leonard...

In 2015, county school and police officials traveled to Texas to meet with FMS to "get a first-hand look at their product and operation," according to the report.



County Watchdog Concerned About School Bus Camera Agreement

Montgomery County's inspector general has concerns about a deal that puts surveillance cameras in more than 1,000 county school buses.


ROCKVILLE, MD — A new report by Montgomery County's inspector general is raising concerns about a deal between the public school system and the vendor in charge of installing surveillance cameras in school buses. Questions were raised over whether Montgomery County Public Schools carefully considered a contract with the vendor — whose CEO went to jail for fraud and bribery — and whether the county will receive money from fines drivers caught by the cameras will pay.
In June 2016, Montgomery County Public Schools entered a contract with Force Multiplier Solutions (FMS) to get cameras — including exterior stop-arm cameras — installed in all school buses. Through this system, drivers who fail to wait for signalized stopped school buses will be captured in enforcement photos and issued a fine.
In his report, Montgomery County Inspector General Edward L. Blansitt III said he has no problem with the school system trying to keep children safe, but rather takes issue with the agreement officials have with FMS...

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

MCPS Board of Education Agrees To $500,000 Settlement in Cloverly Elementary Sexual Abuse Case - Teacher John Vigna

The Montgomery County Board of Education agreed Tuesday to settle a civil lawsuit that stemmed from a school teacher’s sexual abuse of children.
In a hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court, attorneys for the school board agreed that the district would pay $500,000 in a settlement agreement, split evenly among two children who filed separate suits. The lawsuits say the school system failed to remove a Cloverly Elementary School teacher from the classroom, despite learning of his inappropriate behavior several years prior.
The two students will be allowed to transfer schools as part of the settlement agreement.
John Vigna, a former third-grade teacher at the Silver Spring school, was convicted in June 2017 of sexually abusing four female students over the course of 15 years. He was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
The two civil lawsuits were filed in civil court by family members on behalf of juveniles called “Jane Doe” and “Mary Doe” in court documents. The lawsuits alleged that in 2014 Vigna would place the children on his lap and touch them inappropriately in the presence of other students. The plaintiffs said MCPS officials could have prevented the abuse.
On June 2, 2008, then-Principal Melissa Brunson sent Vigna a letter of reprimand, detailing two incidents in which Vigna was observed holding students in his lap, according to the recent lawsuit. Brunson told Vigna in the letter that if similar behavior continued, it would be grounds for discipline “up to and including dismissal.”
In February 2013, Vigna was removed from his teaching position for three weeks while the school system investigated further alleged incidents of inappropriate behavior, according to court documents. School officials again issued a letter of reprimand and advised Vigna to seek assistance for his “inability to recognize appropriate behavior with students,” according to court documents.

He was arrested in 2016 after a child reported that Vigna abused her two years earlier. The girl reported Vigna after learning about “inappropriate touching” in a fifth-grade class, according to court documents...

NEW: RMHS Athlete was Correct. RMHS Field is More Abrasive. Confirmed Again in July Test. #artificialturf #GrassIsSoftest

In the fall of 2018, a Richard Montgomery High School athlete complained to the Board of Education about the abrasiveness of the new RMHS artificial turf field.
ABC7 covered the story.

http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/2018/11/7-on-your-side-students-wounded-by.html

Now, in August of 2019, MCPS releases new abrasiveness test information that shows the RMHS artificial turf field is still the most abrasive surface of the fields tested.  For comparison, the first image shows the abrasiveness of Kentucky bluegrass and Tall fescue.



https://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/ssrc/research/infill/abrasion-indices-of-synthetic-and-natural-turf


Ex-MCPS security guard sues school system, accuses female principal of sexual harassment

A former security guard at John T. Baker Middle School is suing Montgomery County Public Schools, alleging the female principal he reported to engaged in sexual harassment, gender-based discrimination and hostile behavior.
The 12-page, federal, civil rights lawsuit — filed this May in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland — claims Dr. Louise Worthington first targeted security guard Scott Wilson in 2014.
MCPS hired Wilson in 2002 as a paraeducator. In 2007, he became a "security assistant" at Baker Middle School where he worked until getting suspended, and ultimately terminated in January 2018...

"the company began paying Sorrells' credit card bills and other debts in order to avoid direct cash payments, according to Sorrells' plea agreement. "

Former Dallas County Schools Chief Gets Seven Years for Role in Bribery Scheme


...The money didn't materialize — in part because of judges throwing out many of the tickets issued based on evidence from the cameras — and the district was stuck with the bill. Amid the fallout from the failed camera program and a series of managerial missteps, Dallas County voters approved dissolving DCS in November.
According to federal court documents, Sorrells began receiving payments from a company selling the district cameras in 2010. (Force Multiplier Solutions isn't mentioned in Sorrells' indictment by name, but it's the only company that sold stop-arm cameras to DCS, according to KXAS-TV.)
After DCS agreed to buy between 100 and 150 cameras from Force Multiplier Solutions in 2010, the company began to make payments to Sorrells through a series of shell companies set up by the superintendent.
Eventually, the company began paying Sorrells' credit card bills and other debts in order to avoid direct cash payments, according to Sorrells' plea agreement. Slater Swartwood Sr., the former owner of Force Multiplier Solutions, pleaded guilty in 2017 to federal money laundering charges related to the bribes paid to Sorrells.
"This defendant pocketed a whopping $3.5 million in bribes, simultaneously crippling the agency he was tapped to lead and undermining the public’s trust in city officials. The citizens of Dallas deserve better — and they should rest assured that we are committed to rooting out public corruption wherever we find it," U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said in a statement...

Monday, August 12, 2019

MCPS selects another "parent portal, student portal, and gradebook into one big system"

..."We had over 900 people participate in the selection process, including parents, students, and all of our union partners," said Dr. Kara Trenkamp, Director of Technology Integration and Learning Management Systems. "Our teachers were wowed by Synergy. For the first time they had a vision of a student information system that could truly serve them by connecting the parent portal, student portal, and gradebook into one big system in which all of the parts communicate, giving users a complete profile of what they're looking for."..

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/montgomery-county-public-schools-md-120000547.html

See the Rocks that go Under the Plastic Football/Soccer Fields. #ArtificialTurf #HardasaRock

Montgomery County Council's 8 minute 7 second Discussion of IG 30 Page Report on School Bus Camera Scheme

Here is the Montgomery County Council's response to the July 28, 2019, Inspector General's Report on the school bus camera scheme being used by Montgomery County Public Schools.  This discussion came at the end of the Council's Joint Committee meeting on July 29th.

Councilmember Tom Hucker begins to ask questions to MCPS and Montgomery County Police Representatives based on the Inspector General's Report, however the discussion is quickly shut down and the meeting is adjourned.



At the table presenting to the Councilmembers are:

• Assistant Chief David Anderson, Field Services Bureau, Montgomery County Police
Department (MCPD)
• Captain Tom Didone, Traffic Division, MCPD
• Richard Hetherington, Manager Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit, MCPD
• Todd Watkins, Transportation Director, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

MCPS School Board Majority Favors Renewal of Jack R. Smith's $290,000 (+perks) Contract

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/school-board-majority-in-maryland-favors-renewal-of-superintendent-contract/2019/08/11/bfd0a8c8-b4a4-11e9-8f6c-7828e68cb15f_story.html

FYI #JuliusWest basketball champions from 1969: @MCPS decided they no longer wanted the trophy you worked so hard for, and put it in a trash pile.




Montgomery County Public Schools contract with BusPatrol America questioned

Montgomery County’s inspector general is questioning the school system’s bus-camera contract with a company that was involved in a bribery scandal in Texas, noting that all of the revenue from bus-camera tickets goes to the company...

...Like the speed camera program, the bus cameras issue $250 tickets to the owners of those cars — and the company keeps 100% of the revenue until its estimated investment of $18 million is paid off.
BusPatrol America in 2017 bought the contract that Montgomery County Public Schools negotiated with Force Multiplier Solutions...
...The contract, which varied from the Louisiana model, was pitched to the Montgomery County Council as a “no-cost” program, aside from the costs of hiring staff to review camera footage to determine a violation.
“There is a cost because the revenue that comes in from the tickets, that they aren’t getting, is the cost to the county,” Mr. Blansitt said. “So far, as I know, it is $15 million.”
The inspector general said that if MCPS had purchased the cameras or gone through a competitive bidding process, it might have gotten a better deal.
BusPatrol currently maintains both ownership of the cameras and the associated obligations...
...“Anytime there is a potential savings or potential mismanagement of county funds, that is concerning,” said council member Will Jawando, at-large Democrat. “While it doesn’t look to me that did anything wrong or improper, but it does look like we could get a better deal.”
Mr. Jawando said the council will “dig into the circumstances” of the contract in September...

Saturday, August 10, 2019

WUSA9: Montgomery School bus camera system ‘profitable’ for vendor but not the school system, report says

A report from the county inspector general raised questions about the company behind the school bus camera system that's credited with protecting kids.
...The contract terms, originally with a company called Force Multiplier Solutions, which has now been succeeded by BusPatrol America "...appear to be ambiguously, and generously, tilted toward profitability for the vendor to the disadvantage of residents of Montgomery County," according to a report by the Montgomery County Inspector General's office.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Texas Monitor: Maryland officials skeptical about bus camera program with ties to Dallas debacle

A school bus camera program with ties to the same plan that landed two Dallas area officials in prison has run into trouble with regulators in Maryland.
In Texas, former bus agency superintendent Rick Sorrells was sentenced this week to seven years in federal prison for taking bribes from officials for a company called Force Multiplier Solutions, in return for agreeing to use the company’s cameras in the agency’s school buses. The cameras’ purpose is to record drivers who fail to stop for buses loading or unloading, as required by law in all states.
Force Multiplier sold its technology to Bus Patrol, a Montreal-based company that took over a similar contract for use of its cameras in school buses in Montgomery County, Maryland, just north of Washington, D.C.
Now a state inspector general in Maryland is questioning the connections between Sorrells and school officials in that county. Bus Patrol is the target of that report...
...They had no idea that Sorrells and several others would be arrested on federal charges. But even when the indictments began in late 2017, with the cameras in place in Montgomery County, the Maryland parties continued to carry out the deal without questioning it.
“We … question whether an appropriate business case was presented supporting County involvement … and if a proper reassessment was made once serious issues involving the selected vendor came to be known,” the state report says...
...Motorists in Texas have complained since the indictments of receiving tickets that may or may not be valid. In one case, a collections notice was sent to a West Lake Hills woman onforged stationary, alleging she was on the hook for a driving infraction...

Bret Harte Filed Suit Against FieldTurf for Failed Football Field. Field Replaced. Same Type Field as Walter Johnson HS @mcps

This high school had the same type of plastic football field as is currently in use at Walter Johnson High School.  The WJHS plastic field has been deteriorating for years due to the defective plastic grass blades.  MCPS and the Board of Education have ignored the failure of this field and continued to keep in open, putting the safety of children at risk every day.

2016: 

High school calls foul on its football field; sues FieldTurf

http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/2016/03/just-in-high-school-calls-foul-on-its.html

2017:
Bret Harte gets new turf to defend   
 http://www.calaverasenterprise.com/sports/article_c0c8249c-57a2-11e7-bc6e-6bc4f5561323.html 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

County Inspector Questions Integrity of MCPS Bus Camera Contract

Omitted from this article is the Inspector General's statement that:
"In August 2015, prior to entering into the bridge contract, MCPS and MCPD officials traveled to Dallas, Texas to meet with FMS officials to “get a first-hand look at their product and operation”"
Who paid for the trip to Dallas? Who paid for hotel and food? That information is not in the IG's Report and has not been made public.Let's follow the money.



Report says school district, police department have not done ‘due diligence’ to evaluate agreement



 In a new report, the county’s inspector general is questioning an agreement between Montgomery County Public Schools and a company tasked with installing cameras on school buses.
Montgomery County Inspector General Edward Blansitt challenges the integrity of the agreement, and the school district’s commitment to ensuring its effectiveness, after the camera company’s CEO and other affiliates were convicted of taking and offering bribes associated with the program...

Former assistant principal convicted of DUI will work in MCPS central office

An administrator who left Damascus High School after a driving while impaired conviction has left her latest position at Col. E. Brooke Lee Middle School for a job at the district’s central office.
Maniya Jules was at Lee Middle School in Silver Spring for one month. In a letter to families last week, Lee Principal Kim Hayden-Williams announced that Jules would move to Montgomery County Public Schools’ Equity Initiative Unit.
When Jules pleaded guilty in July to driving while ability impaired for a second time, parents criticized the school system for letting her stay in her job. Shortly after, she was reassigned to Lee, where she was an assistant principal from July 1 to Aug. 5...

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Man Who Met with MCPS and MoCo Police to Sell Them on Bus Camera Scheme Sentenced to 7 Years in Federal Prison

July 7, 2016, Montgomery County Council meeting presentation.
In August of 2015, the MCPS Director of Transportation and two people from the Montgomery County Police Department went to Dallas, Texas to meet with people from Force Multiplier Solutions and the Superintendent of Dallas Schools, Rick Sorrells.  After that meeting, MCPS decided to enter into a no bid contract with Force Multiplier Solutions for stop arm school bus cameras.

Today, Rick Sorrells was sentenced to 7 years in federal prison for taking more than $3 million in bribes connected to the bus camera scheme.

NBC Dallas reports on today's sentencing.

Ex-Dallas County Schools superintendent who had 'perfect life' gets 7-year sentence for taking bribes [Met with MCPS & Police in Dallas in 2015 to Sell Them on Bus Cameras]

...Despite his opportunities in life, Sorrells succumbed to the allure of something better: fancy cars, expensive jewelry and lavish trips. And it took $3 million in bribes to make it happen, prosecutors said.
"You just sold out the public for your own financial benefit," U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn said Wednesday during his sentencing hearing.
The judge gave Sorrells, 73, seven years in federal prison for a bribery scheme that led to the spectacular demise of the school transportation agency known as Dallas County Schools.
Sorrells, the agency's former superintendent, took the illicit payments from the owner of a Louisiana camera company. In exchange, Bob Leonard's company received $70 million in contracts to provide surveillance cameras for the agency's school buses...
...Lynn said Sorrells was the most culpable player in the "sordid scheme."
"You were supposed to be a faithful servant to your community," Lynn told him. "You are at the top of the pile. This happens because of you."..
...The camera system was expected to bring in significant revenue by collecting fees from motorists ticketed for driving around school bus stop arms.
Dallas County Schools even bought thousands of extra cameras from Leonard's company and tried to sell them to other Texas school districts. But the promises of extra revenue never came true...