Thursday, February 21, 2019

@SenatorSusanLee Puts Forth Another Useless Bill Instead of Actually Working to Protect Children

Montgomery County State Senator Susan Lee is at it again. 

Just like last year (2018) she is putting forth a bill that pretends to address the absence of any criminal penalty for mandatory reporters (for example, MCPS administrators) who fail to report suspected sexual abuse of children (for example, former MCPS teacher John Vigna).  

Maryland and Wyoming are the ONLY two states in the nation that do not have a penalty for a mandated reporters' (for example MCPS administrators) failure to report the sexual abuse of a child.  

Montgomery County Senator Susan Lee has again filed a bill that pretends to address this problem but in reality does not protect children because the standard written into the proposed law is almost impossible to ever attain. 

Below is public comment from child advocate and sexual abuse expert Ellen Mugmon on Senator Susan Lee's Senate Bill 568.  

Isn't it time for Montgomery County elected officials to stand up for the children of Maryland who have been sexually abused by public school staff?  

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Prepared by Ellen Mugmon
Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee
February 22, 2019

OPPOSE


   FACT SHEET

The underlying purpose of this bill is not to protect Maryland’s children.  Its real purpose is to continue to ensure that powerful, self-serving professionals and institutions remain unaccountable, as has been the case for over thirty years. No other state has enacted such a restrictive penalty for failing to report child abuse and neglect as proposed in this bill.  If mandatory reporters do not have “actual knowledge” of abuse or, in other words, did not witness it, then they cannot be subject to the penalty in SB 568 for failing to report, even when they suspect abuse or have other evidence that it occurred.  

Currently, certain professionals can be disciplined by licensing or certification boards for failing to report child abuse, but there is no way to discipline other mandatory reporters who do not have occupational boards. However, to our knowledge, only one professional since 1986 has ever been disciplined by a board for failure to report notwithstanding another bill, HB 245, enacted in 2016 which was supposed to increase disciplinary actions. Last session, its sponsor mentioned during a hearing that so far it has been ineffective.

Certain proponents of SB 568 know full well that the reporting law has no teeth and want to keep it that way. One dentist representing the Maryland State Dental Association previously had the temerity to testify publicly against penalties stating that she did not want to take the time to report head injuries she suspected or knew were caused by abuse. In addition, on Boychat, a pedophile chat line, pedophiles deemed a particular psychiatrist as “safe.”

It should be noted that all mandatory reporters are given immunity from both civil and criminal liability when they make good faith reports to encourage reporting. But the fact that there is no real enforcement of the law makes it, in reality, discretionary and rather than mandatory. 

Witnessing child abuse is extremely rare. Consequently, the federal law, enacted in response to the horrendous USA gymnastics scandal states: "When a mandatory reporter learns of facts that give reason to suspect that a child has suffered an incident of child abuse...and fails to make a timely report...the mandatory reporter shall be fined or imprisoned not more than a year or both.” Except for Maryland and Wyoming, other states’ laws are written similarly. 

In 1989, the General Assembly repealed a 1987 amendment named for Dr. Fred Berlin, a psychiatrist who treats pedophiles. This amendment had exempted health practitioners who provided psychiatric treatment to pedophiles from the mandatory reporting law.  It was unique to Maryland.  Since then the Maryland Psychiatric Society has attempted to use penalty bills such as SB 568 as vehicles to essentially reinstate the so-called Berlin exemption by negating a significant 1993 Attorney General’s opinion. See Md. Atty. Gen Op. Dec. 3, 1993. which requires the reporting of past abuse committed by pedophiles. (Prior to this session, a representative of the Society also suggested reinstating regressive language repealed in 1987 which would require reporting only when mandatory reporters contacted, examined or treated a child, not when the psychiatrist learned of abuse from the pedophile or other sources.)

SB 568 targets this Attorney General’s opinion by specifically exempting from the scope of the penalty  the failure to report abuse as soon as the victim turns 25.  Under this legislation, the shocking disclosures of the notorious Maskell Case, and others like it, would never have come to light. The Maskell case is chronicled in the Netflix series, The Keepers. The Baltimore Archdiocese, on its website, admits that it only reported Maskell as a result of this significant 26 year-old Attorney General’s opinion. SB 568, nonetheless, undermines it.

This backward provision would not just apply to the Catholic hierarchy and psychiatrists who learn of abuse from sex offenders, it would affect the safety of children in all settings. Placing a cap on the victim’s age means that Rachael Denhollander, who was one of 250 gymnasts who were victims of Larry Nassar and who was 31-years-old when she became the first one to disclose her victimization, would never come to Maryland to support SB 568 as part of her activism. Under this bill, a mandatory reporter would be able to say that she was too old to require a report  to authorities, and that her disclosure did not provide the requisite “actual knowledge” either.

The bill’s one year statute of limitations, which would require that the failure to report would have had to be discovered by authorities within one year, would further ensure that the possibility of a prosecution would be almost impossible.

The passage of SB 568 would additionally undermine Maryland’s civil reporting law.  It would muddy the understanding of the circumstances under which reporting is required. Because there would be two standards, “reason to believe” and “actual knowledge,” mandatory reporters may be confused as to which standard to apply. This would encourage them to delay reporting or not report at all.  After all, the state is only going to enforce the law if the mandatory reporter witnesses abuse.

This bill additionally appears to contravene another Attorney General’s opinion.  The phrase, “DOES NOT INCLUDE A DUTY TO INVESTIGATE,” implies that conducting internal investigations by schools prior to reporting is their choice. In a 1991 opinion, however, the Attorney General clearly stated that internal investigations conducted prior to reporting suspected abuse to the police and departments of social services to determine if there is a “reason to believe” to report are against the law. This provision is also troubling because it would sustain the Catholic bishop’s practice of conducting internal investigations prior to reporting to determine if allegations are credible. This is a long standing problem. Maryland’s reporting law does not include  the term or definition of what a credible allegation is. Apparently bishops themselves have various definitions for the term, and internal investigation prior to reporting whether in schools or other institutions compromise subsequent investigations by the police and social services and allow abusers and those who wish to cover up for them the opportunity to destroy evidence and place pressure on victims to remain silent.   

Therefore, SB 568’s ostensible purpose of protecting children is a pretext for furthering the agenda of powerful, self-interested professional groups and institutions. It would confirm that Maryland is an outlier state.

It would also be a way of getting the penalty issue off everyone’s plate by passing something.  Unfortunately, in this case, something is not better than nothing. Children’s interests deserve to be made the priority instead of mandatory reporters and certain institutions which refuse to protect them.

Breaking: MSDE Confirms MCPS Teacher John Vigna's Teaching License was Not Revoked Because He Voluntarily Surrendered It @MdPublicSchools @MarylandSCCAN @paulpinsky @ericluedtke @clarencelammd

As we reported on February 15, 2019, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) did not revoke MCPS teacher John Vigna's teaching license even though State Regulations call for the license of a teacher after notice of an allegation of child sexual abuse to be revoked.

On Twitter, we asked MSDE for an explanation of why John Vigna's teaching license was not revoked.  MSDE responded that John Vigna "voluntarily surrendered" his license. 

The Maryland Regulations do not state that a "voluntary surrender" can bypass the mandatory revocation of a teaching license. 

We have again asked MSDE for an explanation of why John Vigna's name is not listed on their public list of teachers who have had their licenses revoked. 




WTOP: Fight at Magruder HS leaves Montgomery Co. defending medical policy

...Montgomery County police are investigating, but it’s unclear how long that will take since the hospitalized child won’t be questioned immediately.
“Our main concern is about the health and welfare of anyone who’s been injured. That’s our primary concern,” Montgomery County police Capt. Tom Jordan said.
“Our secondary concern is to determine the facts and circumstances around the incident and charge anyone appropriately, if warranted,” Jordan added.
After the boy was picked up from school, Jordan said it was the hospitalized child’s parent who reported the incident to 911.
“The school will look into it, and they will determine whether proper protocol was followed,” Jordan said. “Our investigators will be looking at all of the facts and circumstances surrounding the mutual assault.”..

Monday, February 18, 2019

A due process hearing against #MCPS is open to the public tomorrow [Tuesday] morning at 9:00 am at MCPS headquarters at 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, MD




@ABC7Kevin: EXCLUSIVE: Sherwood High School staff member charged w/ attempted murder




MCPS Board of Education Sued for Allowing John Vigna To Stay in Classroom After Abuse Allegations Surfaced

The Montgomery County school system is disputing claims that it was negligent by allowing a former Silver Spring elementary school teacher to molest a third-grade student “almost daily” in 2014 even after they knew he had been reprimanded in 2008 for holding children on his lap...

...The new lawsuit, filed in September, claims school officials failed to act to remove him from the classroom after learning of Vigna’s actions years earlier.
Attorneys for the schools argue the girl’s accusations against the school system and employees should have been addressed earlier. The school system’s lawyers also argued nobody with authority to fire Vigna was aware he was sexually abusing students. They asked that Jane Doe’s lawsuit be dismissed in December but a judge has scheduled a jury trial for October...

Maryland is failing to protect the civil rights of people with disabilities

Jeneva Burroughs Stone is a member of Little Lobbyists.
I attended the Disability Integration Act reintroduction ceremony as a member of Little Lobbyists, a parent-led organization of families with children with complex medical needs and disabilities. As Elena Hung , the co-founder of Little Lobbyists, said at the ceremony, “We want to make sure [our children] have the support in place to live the best lives and maximize their independence in the community and be here with us and not in institutions far away.”

That statement hit me hard, because my husband and I have been placed in a no-win situation by Maryland. Now, our financial future is pitted against our love for our son...
...The problem isn’t the state’s Developmental Disabilities Administration, which assesses REM waivers, nor the state legislature. It’s the Maryland Division of Nursing Services, which processes applications for skilled nursing services, and the Maryland attorney general’s office, which reflexively backs up the nursing division’s internal guidelines that keep private-duty nursing hours at a minimum for Maryland families. In effect, the attorney general’s office is pitting the implementation of one Medicaid program against another at the expense of people such as my son...

Sunday, February 17, 2019

MCPS "teacher who sexually abused my classmate had worked at a prior school in MCPS and was credibly accused of doing the exact same thing" #sexualabuse @MarylandSCCAN @paulpinsky @ericluedtke @clarencelammd #HB486 #SB541

On average, a school employee that has been alleged to have engaged in sexual
abuse or misconduct will be transferred to THREE different schools before they
are reported to the police.

Fix this system failure and support Senate Bill 541/House Bill 486 in Maryland! The
S.E.S.A.M.E. Bill (Stop School Employee Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and
Exploitation) keeps our children safe and protects the integrity of the education
profession.

Listen to the testimony below as a Montgomery County Public School graduate details to the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee what it was like to be in a MCPS middle school when his teacher was found to have sexually abused a classmate.

The speaker describes the case of Robert Ballmann who taught at Westland Middle School in Bethesda and was then moved to Frost Middle School in Rockville.  Mr. Ballmann victimized 
students at both schools.  

The practice of moving around school staff who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of students is known as "passing the trash." 



Public Comment given before Maryland House Ways and Means Committee on February 14, 2019, on House Bill 486.

Montgomery County Taxpayers League meeting, 2/20, 7-9pm, Andrew Kleine, Speaker

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
 
Montgomery County Taxpayers League invites you to our monthly meeting,
February 20th, 2019
7-9 pm
6th Floor Potomac River Conference Room County Office Building,
100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 2085
 
"County Executive's Transition Plan"
Speaker: Andrew Kleine, Chief Administrative Officer, Montgomery County Government

7 Questions sent to Mr. Kleine in advance of the meeting:

1. Thriving Youths- Will the Executive recommend a MCPS FY 2020 budget based on a review of MCPS strategies to close the achievement gap? How? By how much will the $400 million provided by the County to MCPS (in addition to its appropriated budget of $2.6 billion) succeed in closing the achievement gap? Will the infusion of funding for Pre-K programs be accompanied by rigorous student academic performance measures to ensure that strategies are producing results that do not disappear by 3rd grade?

2. Growing Economy and Tax Equity - How will transition strategies address the 2018 slump in residential and commercial development and foster balanced growth in the residential and commercial property assessment tax base? Residential assessment base growth remains low, in part because the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) reassessments have not kept pace with improvements to existing single familyhomes ("McMansions"),and also because policy treats these improvements as subject to Charter Limits. Consequently, homeowners without improvements are subsidizing the property taxes of those homeowners with improvements whosee delayedand in some cases no market-based reassessments by SDAT. How would the Executive change this and encourage better coordination between the Departmentof Permitting Services, SDAT, and the Department of Finance?

3. Non-Governmental Grants - If arts organizations are an integral part of thequality of life in Montgomery County, what are some of the results from such organizations that would qualify for funding under "outcome budgeting"?

4. Affordable County - Demand for rental housing has increased significantly in recent years, from 25% to 32% since 2008, but supply has remained limited, driving up rents. The average cost to build an MPDU (Moderately Priced Dwelling Unit) is now $190,000, placing further pressure on supply. A consultant studied the county's affordable housing policies in 2017 for the Council, and recommended that funding for the small but promising locally funded voucher program be increased. The Council declined. How would the transition plan expand access?

5.Effective, Sustainable Government - One performance measure calls for awarding more work to minority, female, disabled-owned and local business presumably to improve the cost-effectiveness of County services? Shouldn't a performance measure include periodically evaluating every non-core activity to determine if out-sourcing would make the service more cost-effective? Could the County's bond rating be improved by subjecting capital spending to rigorous return on investment analysis and ranking?

6. WSSC- A billion dollar operation, WSSC has water rates double that of Fairfax Water and spends on projects that have either no rate of return or one that's lower than the cost of capital. We, as rate payers, subsidize the resulting debt service. Consequently, we have endured a never ending spiral of above market rate increases (132% since 2003). But WSSC continues to argue in it's proposed budget (1/15/19) that it cannot calculate ROI or rank projects based on their returns. In a 2/7 hearing about the CIP plan that involved no substantive discussion of major projects, the T&E chair remarked that he would stay in his "swim lane," and would look to the state delegation's Metro committee for oversight. Does the Executive plan to also defer to the state? Would the Executive support shifting rate making away from local politicians to the state's Public Service Commission?

7. Safe Neighborhoods- the Police Dept has 1/3 more officers in it's Investigation Division than Fairfax County, but does not have comparable closure rates. Unlike Fairfax county, our 911 call system is not run by an independent agency with strong cost controls, and has been slow to innovate and add features to locate cell phone callers. How does the transition plan address performance in these areas? 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Breaking: MD State Superintendent Did Not Revoke MCPS Teacher John Vigna's License as Required in COMAR

The Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) states that if a teacher is convicted of a crime of child abuse or resigns after an allegation of child sexual abuse that teacher's license to teach shall be revoked.  

The Maryland State Superintendent is well aware of this Regulation as she wrote about it in a May 23, 2017, memorandum.

On June 9, 2017, Former MCPS elementary school teacher John Vigna was convicted of four counts of sex abuse of a minor and five counts of third-degree sex offense.

As of today, John Vigna's license to teach in Maryland has still not been revoked.

That means that his name has not been reported to the National Database for the reporting and dissemination of the names of teachers who have had their licenses revoked.   It also means that if John Vigna were to have his sentence reduced or completed he would be released from prison without notification to other jurisdictions that his Maryland teaching license should have been revoked.  

What's going on Maryland State Department of Education Superintendent Karen Salmon

How many other Maryland teachers have not had their licenses automatically revoked as required by COMAR?  Where are those teachers today?  Are they in classrooms or activities where they have direct contact with children?




Police sources: Magruder H.S. breaches policy by not calling 911 following violent fight



Three law enforcement sources say Magruder High School violated clear, written policy by not calling 911 or the school resource officer following a violent fight earlier this week.
The altercation, which took place around 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, left a freshman in the ICU with a skull fracture and blood clot in his head. Surgery might be required.
"They told his mother, your son's puking, I think you need to take him to an emergency room," the boy's father, Shane Van Dyken, told ABC7 earlier this week. "They didn't call an ambulance, they didn't call nobody... Makes no sense."
Van Dyken said his wife picked up their 14-year-old son around 12:50 p.m. He was "covered in vomit" and showing "clear signs" of a head injury. Their first stop was MedStar Montgomery Medical Center in Olney, but staff there explained the teen's injuries were severe. They directed the family to seek advanced treatment at Children's National Medical Center in D.C.
"I mean my son's here, at the hospital with a fractured skull and bleeding from his head and nothing was done at the school."

https://wjla.com/news/local/magruder-hs-violates-policy-by-not-calling-911-following-violent-fight

Schools director began contract talks before starting job #PerformanceMatters #JackRSmith #NoBid

Montgomery County Public Schools spent $1.5 million on a no bid Performance Matters contract in FY18.  

MCPS Superintendent Jack R. Smith brought in a no bid Performance Matters, LLC contract along with a consultant connected to Performance Matter, LLC.   

Two MCPS administrators were on Shawn Joseph's (Nashville) transition team. 

*****************


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Schools Director Dr. Shawn Joseph began talks with a Utah-based technology company about a potential no-bid contract two weeks before he formally took command of the Nashville school system, emails uncovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates reveal.

The emails, obtained through the Tennessee Public Records Act, show that Performance Matters had discussions with Joseph about how to “extend our partnership,” suggesting the company’s contract with Shelby County schools could be a “purchasing vehicle” for Metro Nashville Public Schools.

That process, known as “piggybacking,” allows companies to get government contracts without having to compete with other vendors.

“We may be able to discuss a pilot this year [if] the costs are right!” Joseph said in a follow-up email two weeks after he became director of schools.
Instead, less than six months into Joseph’s tenure, MNPS signed two no-bid contracts with Performance Matters, totaling $1.8 millon.

As a result of questions raised by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, the district admitted this week that it broke state law in awarding a $1 million, no-bid contract with Performance Matters for a student assessment platorm, piggybacking on a contract with Orange County, Florida, schools.
State law only allows piggybacking on in-state contracts.

The district signed a second, $845,000 contract with the company that was piggybacked on the Shelby County contract, although Metro changed the terms. Experts say that also violates state law...

...In a written statement, Metro Schools suggested that the Performance Matters contracts originated in 2016 after “a transition team made up of local, state and national experts shared that Nashville needed to focus on student achievement – with a sense of urgency.”

Joseph’s transition team did not release its final report until February 2017...


Thursday, February 14, 2019

What did MNPS [and MCPS] get for $1 million? Potentially, not much #PerformanceMatters #JackRSmith #NoBid


Like Nashville, TN, Montgomery County Public Schools also had a no bid Performance Matters contract and in FY18 spent $1.5 million on that contract.

*************************************************


What did Metro Nashville Public Schools get for $1 million?
In the case of a student assessment program developed by a company that Schools Director Dr. Shawn Joseph liked, the answer may be: not much.
As NewsChannel 5 Investigates previously reported, after Joseph's arrival in Nashville in 2016, he ordered MNPS staff to sign a deal with Performance Matters for its Unify student assessment platform.
"In 2016, a transition team made up of local, state and national experts shared that Nashville needed to focus on student achievement -- with a sense of urgency," Metro Schools said in a written statement.
Without giving any other company a chance to offer its services, Metro Schools signed the $1 million deal with Performance Matters, piggybacking on a deal the company had struck with Orange County Public Schools in Florida.
After questions raised by NewsChannel 5 Investigates, MNPS admitted it violated state law when it piggybacked on an out-of-state contract.
But our investigation also discovered questions about whether the Performance Matters contract was really utilized by Nashville teachers...

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

MNPS official failed to disclose consulting fees from vendor group #ERDI #PerformanceMatters #Amplify #Gallup #Panasonic @mcps @mocoboe

...ERDI is an industry trade group that pays school officials to sit down with technology companies, giving them feedback on products they hope to sell to those officials.
The group's affiliated companies include eight with whom Dr. Joseph's team has signed contracts -- for more than $17 million.
Back in June, school board member Amy Frogge publicly questioned the administration's ties to ERDI -- and the potential conflicts of interest when district officials take money from the group.
"ERDI's sole purpose is to act as a middleman between school districts and ed vendors," Frogge told her fellow board members...

Metro Schools broke law, misled school board about contracts #PerformanceMatters @mcps @mocoboe #SuperintendentJackRSmith

Montgomery County Public Schools spent $1.5 million on a no bid Performance Matters contract in FY18.

*****************************


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Metro Nashville Public Schools steered $1.8 million in no-bid contracts to a company with whom Director of Schools Dr. Shawn Joseph had done business in the past, violating state purchasing laws, a NewsChannel 5 investigation has discovered.
Our exclusive investigation also uncovered evidence that, in doing so, Joseph and his team repeatedly misled members of the Metro School Board about key aspects of the deals.
"That just raises red flags for me," said school board member Amy Frogge, who has emerged as a frequent critic of how Joseph's administration has handled the district's business. “Those are alarm bells.”

In a written statement, Metro Schools insisted that mistakes were made “in good faith.”
The contracts in question involve Performance Matters, a Utah-based firm that markets student assessment software to help educators track student progress and professional development software to monitor training that teachers are required to complete.
Joseph, who took control over the Nashville school system in July 2016, had appeared in a slickly produced video that touted how Performance Matters' student assessment software had been utilized in his previous job in Prince George's County, Maryland...



Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Could MoCo Bus Fines Go to Paying Off Debt in Dallas Left by Failed Stop-Arm Camera Ticketing Scheme?

If any part of fines from stop-arm camera tickets ends up with the former CEO of Force Multiplier Solutions, Robert C. Leonard, then Montgomery County Public Schools use of this stop-arm camera system could end up with fine money connected to the litigation mentioned in the article below.

Also note this article says the FBI investigation is ongoing as of August 2018.  

******************************* 


To pay off debt left by corrupt school-bus agency Dallas County Schools, officials are suing to recover funds from conspirators who defrauded taxpayers.

...The dissolution committee also filed a civil racketeering lawsuit seeking to recoup taxpayer money that was illegally funneled to corrupt officials and others involved in the conspiracy. Under federal racketeering statutes, plaintiffs can recover triple damages.
“I’m hopeful that we will get some money back,” said Alan King, chief executive officer of the dissolution committee. “The amount of money that they’ve lost is just staggering.”
“It was a conspiracy of a number of defendants and individuals that involved bribes, kickbacks, real estate fees and commissions paid,” added Stephanie Curtis, an attorney for the DCS dissolution committee.
The lawsuit’s targets include former DCS Superintendent Rick Sorrells, former DCS President Larry Duncan, and current Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, along with Louisiana-based school bus camera company Force Multiplier Solutions and its CEO Robert Leonard. A failed stop-arm camera ticketing scheme hatched by Leonard and then-Superintendent Sorrells back in 2010 precipitated the agency’s financial collapse.
Leonard’s associate Slater Swartwood, Sr. is also named in the suit. He was the first to be indicted on criminal charges in the DCS case, late last year. He pleaded guilty to federal money laundering conspiracy charges and gave federal prosecutors details of the multi-year conspiracy. Swartwood was the middle man who helped funnel millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks from Leonard and Force Multiplier to Sorrells “in return for further agreements and camera-equipment orders.”
Sorrells repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, but once Swartwood confessed, Sorrells admitted he abused his position to swindle taxpayers out of millions of dollars. As superintendent, Sorrells awarded $70 million in contracts to Force Multiplier in exchange for $3 million in bribes and kickbacks. He used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle that featured luxury vacations, expensive sports cars, and fancy jewelry. Sorrells pleaded guiltyin April to wire fraud and is set to be sentenced soon. He faces up to 20 years in prison.
Duncan, who was president of the DCS board when then-Superintendent Sorrells and Leonard launched the stop-arm camera scheme, also denied wrongdoing. From 2012 to 2016, Duncan received nearly $250,000 in campaign contributions from Leonard and others connected with Force Multiplier that coincided with DCS board approvals of agreements with the company. Duncan claims the donations were legitimate, but it’s unclear why Louisiana residents would contribute to the campaign of a Dallas bureaucrat running unopposed. Duncan later gave some of that money to campaigns of other DCS board candidates, including Omar Narvaez, who’s now a Dallas City Council member...

Inequities Discovered in Student Field Trips

Montgomery County public school students aren’t getting the same field trip experiences, with students in some poorer areas having fewer opportunities.
Students who go on field trips, regardless of their socioeconomic status, perform better in school, with nearly 60 percent reporting better grades and higher graduation rates, according to the nonprofit Student & Youth Travel Association.
The school system ensures all elementary schools have the opportunity to participate in at least one field trip, and many schools offer additional trips. But there are no similar guidelines at the high school level.
Cynthia Simonson, vice president of educational issues for the Montgomery County Council of Parent Teacher Associations, asked the school board at a recent public hearing to integrate field trip equity into new curriculum adopted earlier this month.
“We can do this better,” she said.
The school system estimates it would take $1.6 million to provide one trip per student — money that isn’t included in the proposed budget for next year.

County students took 2,099 field trips last school year to places across the region, such as the Maryland State House, colleges, national monuments and various museums, according to school data, which shows it costs an average of $300 to take a school bus on a single-day field trip, meaning the school system spent roughly $630,000 on buses for out-of-classroom experiences last school year...

Monday, February 11, 2019

"nearly all schools have secure entrances"

Active-Shooter Training To Reach All Schools by June

Delegate C.T. Wilson files Bill to Eliminate Statue of Limitations in Child Sexual Abuse Cases

House Bill 687

 A Public Hearing will be held on this Bill on 2/28 at 1:00 p.m.


From Greenwood to Annapolis: BCPS board members try for fourth time to secure state approval for White

A fourth attempt to confirm Interim Superintendent Verletta White as Baltimore County Public Schools’ (BCPS) permanent superintendent involved a road trip to Annapolis on Wednesday. It was the continuation of a struggle that first began at the system’s Greenwood headquarters in Towson last year.
Current and former Baltimore County school board members made an appearance in support of Senate Bill 222 which seeks to limit Maryland State Superintendent Karen Salmon’s authority when it comes to disapproving local superintendents for permanent placement...

Friday, February 8, 2019

Councilmember Craig Rice Thinks New Bus Camera Co. is Not Connected to CEO who Plead Guilty to Bribery and Conspiracy


Part 2  (See Part 1 at this link)

On September 25, 2018, the Montgomery County Council held a public hearing on the appropriation of bus camera citation fine money from MCPS to BusPatrol.

One member of the public spoke to this appropriation and expressed concerns about the contract, the lack of bids and the criminal money laundering convictions connected to the company that MCPS hired to install cameras on school buses.  The company MCPS and the Montgomery County Police contracted with was called Force Multiplier.

When Force Multiplier shut down after the CEO Robert C. Leonard was arrested, the directors and officers reformed the company as BusPatrol.  BusPatrol sold the same patented product that had been sold by Force Multiplier.

When Force Multiplier shut down, MCPS' Superintendent Jack R. Smith simply continued the contract with the same people, minus the CEO who was arrested, and did not bring the new contract to the Board of Education for approval.  Superintendent Smith did not notify the Board of Education that Force Multiplier had been shut down by an FBI investigation.  Instead, Superintendent Smith simply inserted the name BusPatrol as if it was just a name change.

In response to the public comment about MCPS dealing with a company that had been shut down after an FBI investigation, Councilmember Craig Rice said, "...other remaining members of the company were found to be of no wrongdoing and that's the reason they started their own company.  Certainly you can understand a business who has someone who is corrupt does not reflect on all of the employees of that corporation."  

What Councilmember Rice failed to mention is that the "new" bus camera company was actually the 4th name change for the same group and the "new" company is still using the same product owned by the CEO who was arrested and plead guilty to bribery and conspiracy. 

When Force Multiplier was shut down after the CEO Robert Leonard was arrested and plead guilty to bribery and conspiracy, remaining officers formed a new company using the same products.  The new company was called BusPatrol and according to their statements, they purchased the assets of Force Multiplier.

The underlying product being sold by BusPatrol is based on a Patent that is registered to the CEO of the former company who was arrested.  See the chart above.

That means that it is possible that the person that was arrested and plead guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges could still be profiting from the sales of the patented bus camera system in use by MCPS.   

But no elected officials or County administrators are going to investigate this no bid contract and no County Inspector General is going to examine this bus camera scheme that costs taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in police, school system, and court personnel yet yields zero revenue to the County


School bus camera tickets still raising questions in some parts of Texas #BusPatrol #alertbus.com @RicePolitics @mcps @mocoboe

Amy Hamilton lives in Elgin, a town on the east side of Austin. Last month she got a collection demand for a $422 overdue fine for driving past a school bus that was stopped. She acknowledges that she did it, though not intentionally; an online video link shows her car passing the bus.
And those are the only simple things about what should be a simple case.
The demand letter came from a collections group in Carrollton, in North Texas. The letter says it was a “city of Pflugerville” bus she passed. That town, just north of Austin, doesn’t operate school buses.
The letter says she ignored the original ticket mailed to her in May, so that a late penalty was added to the original fine. Hamilton says she never got the original notice. It’s an all-too-common occurrence when agencies issue tickets or bills for things like automated tollway charges or red-light camera infractions to motorists who, at the time, don’t even know they’ve been tagged.
The collection company says the infraction happened in Austin. But officials in both Austin and Pflugerville deny issuing the original ticket or, in fact, having the authority to do so, since no officer in their employ saw the infraction or knew anything about it.
Who does know about it? BusPatrol, the private company that owns the camera that captured the video — a company, not any political subdivision with ticket-issuing power. The company got involved with Texas school bus safety after a major scandal involving payoffs and federal felony charges took down officials of another company originally involved, as well as leaders of a now-defunct school bus agency in Dallas... 
https://texasmonitor.org/school-bus-camera-tickets-still-raising-questions-in-some-parts-of-texas/?fbclid=IwAR3kCQTSD1DJnky7mE5Vce0JK_G1Oi_hdYbn8PSelJ1yZWtmVXz0CJkPFDs