Friday, April 26, 2019

Mystery Instagram account comically documents cockroach sightings at Damascus High School

Most people use Instagram to showcase life's luxuries with the assistance of flattering filters and catchy hashtags... sunsets, European vacations, sandy beaches and fine dining dinners.
However, students and staff members at Damascus High School are finding comic relief in an anonymous Instagram account making light of the fact that cockroaches keep crawling into classrooms, hallways and bathrooms.
The account — aptly named "cockroaches of dhs" — first launched in November 2017. Since then it has shared 63 posts of the ugly, disease carrying critters, and has a following of nearly 350 people...
...Despite 63 posts over the last 18 months, Montgomery County Public Schools claims there is nothing special or unique about the cockroach sightings within the walls of Damascus.
"There is no significant issue with cockroaches at Damascus High School," MCPS spokesman Derek Turner said in an email to ABC7 Friday. "As with all older buildings, pests do appear from time to time, but they are quickly addressed."
Turner did not share what tools and tactics MCPS has used to combat the persistent insects. He also did not comment on rules dictating the consumption of food and drink on school property...

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Stop giving your kid your smartphone. World Health Organization releases first-ever screen time guidelines

The World Health Organization has issued its first-ever guidance for how much screen time children under 5 should get: not very much, and none at all for those under 1.
The U.N. health agency said Wednesday that kids under 5 should not spend more than one hour watching screens every day — and that less is better...

Monday, April 22, 2019

U.S. officials probe alleged discrimination against Asian American students in MCPS @MCPS @mocoboe

Federal officials are investigating allegations of discrimination against Asian American students in a suburban school system in Maryland where parents have complained that race was unlawfully used as a factor in magnet program admissions.
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights notified families it had taken up the case in March, months after a spate of complaints was filed against Montgomery County school officials.
Parent leaders involved in the action allege that the school system — the state’s largest — discriminated against Asian American students while seeking greater racial balance in two sought-after middle school magnet programs.

They say the number of Asian American students invited into the programs fell 23 percent from 2016 to 2017, amid a wave of attention to diversity issues, and then dropped by 20 percent the next year after a new screening and selection process took effect.
Federal officials received 10 complaints raising similar concerns, which have been incorporated into one case, federal officials said in letters to parents...

Learning must be our priority as educators and we need to take a hard look at our practices of removing barriers to ensure we aren’t making the common mistake of enabling students rather than supporting them. Wrap around services are critical but not when they wrap so tight that they squeeze out the educational part of the equation.

We Can’t Let Our Love For Our Students Morph Into Low Academic Expectations

By Jessica Waters
I remember the day like it was yesterday. The year was 2013 and I was in the oval office with President Obama to receive an award for excellence in teaching. I was there as the 2013 RI Teacher of the Year to represent the teachers in my state and to honor the hard work they do every day. I loved teaching. I loved my students and I was unwavering in my belief in their potential to achieve and do great things...

Friday, April 19, 2019

'Signing Day' recognizes high school seniors starting jobs, not college

The familiar high school rituals take place every spring. Athletes sign letters of intent to play for college programs as their coaches beam with pride, the photographs splashed across social media. Other high school seniors wave college acceptance letters as their names are announced at school assemblies.
But one school system in Virginia wanted to celebrate a different life-changing moment for the seniors who were starting careers right after graduation. In Henrico County, public school administrators held a ceremony in late March called "Career and Technical Letter-of-Intent Signing Day."
"This is a celebration of students who are entering the workforce or post-secondary training with a plan," said Mac Beaton, director of Henrico Schools’ Department of Career and Technical Education, in a Facebook post. "They’ve chosen to maximize their high school opportunities for career training and industry certifications, with an eye on becoming successful and financially secure much earlier in life."..

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Students Suing for a Constitutional Right to Education

A new federal complaint with a unique argument accuses the state of Rhode Island of failing to provide students with the skills they need to participate effectively in a democracy.

Nearly all of the world’s 180-plus countries include the term education in their constitution. Most guarantee every child the right to free education, and many make participation in some form of schooling mandatory; some even provideuniversal access to affordable college. For the remaining handful, the UN’s decades-old treaty on children’s rights, which stipulates various educational protections, serves as a backup, and has been ratified by pretty much every sovereign nation on the planet. Except for one.

That one country is the United States of America, a nation that prizes the idea that anyone should be able to build a better life through education and hard work. Activists have occasionally sought to address this constitutional omission through congressional legislation, grassroots campaigns, and federal litigation, but they’ve never succeeded. Of the few cases that have made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, not a single one has managed to secure a majority ruling in favor of an argument that there is an implied right to an education in the Constitution. Against this backdrop, federal litigation over educational rights has all but disappeared in the past half century. Meanwhile, the nation’s public schools continue to vary significantly in funding, quality, and academic and social outcomes...

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Clean house at Damascus High School

Regarding the March 31 front-page article “A locker room assault case roils a high school”:

The football program at Damascus High School should be suspended for four years. The principal should be fired immediately; her delay in calling police was probably an attempt to play the last game of the season. The varsity and junior varsity coaches and athletic director should be fired as well. None of these people is fit to work in a high school. Denying knowledge of this is proof of not doing their job...

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The largest public high school in the state of Maryland is currently taking shape at an estimated cost of more than $150 million. The four-story building will cover approximately 440,000 sq. ft. and will serve as the new Seneca Valley High School in Germantown, Montgomery County.

The school is expected to be ready for the start of the 2020/2021 school year and will have the capacity for more than 3,000 students. Ground was broken in September 2017 and completion is set for August 2020. The following year, the current facility will be demolished and the grounds will be completed.
Construction of the new building is taking place on the school's old athletic fields. Upon completion of the new building, the new athletic fields will be built where the current building stands today...
...The capacity of the school will increase from 1,374 students to 2,423 students with a core capacity for 2,400 students. The increased capacity to Seneca Valley High School provides the opportunity to address projected overutilization of nearby Clarksburg and Northwest high schools through student reassignments in the future...
...Onsite staging areas will be included for 30 buses, 439 parking spaces, and onsite student drop-off queuing for 30 cars...

Monday, April 15, 2019

Montgomery College Enrollment Dropping as MCPS Enrollment Increases

MCPS Schools at a Glance
As Montgomery County Public Schools enrollment has been increasing, Montgomery College's enrollment has been dropping.

Montgomery College is currently asking for a budget increase from what has been proposed by the County Executive.   But missing from any discussion of Montgomery College's budget request is data on the College's downward enrollment trend.

MHEC Data Books

When asked about Montgomery College's current Fall 2018 enrollment, Montgomery County Councilmember and Education Chair Craig Rice responded that Montgomery College has 54,335 credit and non-credit students.

The enrollment data from the 2019 Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC) data book shows Montgomery College's Fall 2017 enrollment as 22,875 If that enrollment held to the Fall of 2018, that would mean that 31,460 Montgomery College students were enrolled in non-credit classes.

That puts the majority of Montgomery College students as taking non-credit courses.

The "college" component of Montgomery College has been in a decline and has not picked
up additional students, even as MCPS enrollment has steadily climbed.
What's going on at Montgomery College and will our elected officials discuss the downward trend in our community college's enrollment? 

Montgomery College Enrollment with links to MHEC Data Books on enrollment and other data on Maryland colleges.

Fall 2009     26,147

Fall 2010     26,015

Fall 2011     26,996

Fall 2012     27,453

Fall 2013     26,155

Fall 2014     25,517

Fall 2015     25,320

Fall 2016     23,916

Fall 2017     22,875

Fall 2018     21,720 (Page 14 of Council packet)

Recent Montgomery County Council discussion of Montgomery College's Capital Budget request.

Reflections on a Four-Year Sentence from former MD State Board of Education President

What I learned serving as a state school board member

By Chester E. Finn, Jr. 03/26/2019

A surprising array of events are arranged in four-year cycles: leap years, the Olympics, presidential elections, and many “terms of office,” including those on the Maryland State Board of Education, where I just concluded my tour of duty.
There’s much that I won’t miss, including the obese briefing books we were sent every month, the depressing old Baltimore building in which we met, the decrepit garage next door where we parked, and the congested interstates that strained to get me there and home. I won’t miss tussling with lobbyists, politicians, and bureaucrats who don’t want anything to change (except, please, send more money!). I surely won’t say that my four-year sentence flew by. I will, however, miss board colleagues who, with almost no exceptions, struggle to do right by the state’s children, especially the neediest among them and who, for zero compensation, have committed—and, in my absence will continue to commit—many, many hours to earnest, albeit exceptionally difficult, efforts to give those kids the education they deserve.
Most states have such a board, and in many—as in Maryland—its members are appointed by the governor, often—as in Maryland—with confirmation by some branch of the legislature...

First, as a state-board member, you’re now part of a high-stakes political process, so understand that, if you and your colleagues set out to change anything of consequence, you’ll have enemies and you’ll need allies. Don’t suppose that you’re actually in charge, no matter what constitutions, statute books, and regulations may say...

Second, be wary of the bureaucracy that nominally works for you. State education departments are as set in their ways and as attuned to traditional stakeholders and their interests as are schools and districts. The first response to any reform suggestion is sure to be some combination of “here’s why that would be really hard to do” and “let’s consult the stakeholders and get their reactions and ideas.” The state superintendent is somewhere in between, formally (in Maryland and many states) accountable to the board that hired him/her but also enmeshed in the state’s longstanding assumptions, obligations, bureaucratic procedures (and capacities), and intertwined educator-career paths...

Third, do your utmost to control the agenda and contain the interruptions. Every organization with a board is capable of drowning that board in so much paperwork, so many information items, and such a long list of trivial issues for review as to prevent board members from even getting enough airtime to present their ideas and raise other matters. What’s more, any veteran executive (and every state superintendent comes from that tribe!) knows that control comes from managing the agenda, paper flow, and lines of communication. At our agency, save for a handful of carefully vetted exceptions, staffers and board members were barred from communicating directly. Everything had to channel through the front office...

Fourth, be aware that sunlight sometimes burns. Many states have “government in the sunshine” or “open-meeting” laws. Maryland’s is pretty rigid: save for obvious “executive session” matters such as personnel and quasi-judicial issues, pretty much every policy body and its sub-units must not only hold all meetings in public but must also give public notice of when and where it will meet. There’s an elaborate enforcement mechanism and a bunch of enforcement-minded attorneys...

Fifth and finally, despite all of the foregoing, don’t give up. It’s not totally hopeless. Moments of opportunity arise. Stars have been known to align. Gains, however incremental, can be made. Once in a while, the step backward is only a half-step, and then you can inch forward again.
Constrained as we were by legislators, we still managed to create a wholly new school-accountability system that was—and is—better than anything that preceded it. (Schools now get “star” ratings, for example. Gifted kids qualify as a “subgroup” whose progress must be disclosed. There’s more.) Our efforts to overhaul high-school-graduation requirements and teacher-certification practices, though resisted by stakeholders’ addiction to the status quo, coincided with the work of an influential statewide education-reform commission and produced a unified array of worthwhile, if imperfect, recommendations for change. And on those occasions when the state superintendent’s own priorities turned out to align with the board’s—well, even the bureaucracy could end up helping more than hindering!...

Friday, April 12, 2019

From Shore child's death stems 'groundbreaking' Maryland court ruling

The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled that text messages between husband and wife in the 2016 trial for a Pocomoke City man accused of murdering his nephew were not subject to marital privilege.
The ruling will serve as an example of when texts between spouses can be used as evidence during criminal trials. Maryland law stipulates that communications between spouses during their marriage that is meant to remain private cannot be used at trial.
In September 2016, Kevin Sewell was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree child abuse and neglect of a child in connection with the death of his 3-year-old nephew Luke Hill.
Sewell had been watching Hill, along with his own children, in May 2015 while his wife was at work. However, when his wife brought Hill home to his parents, a news release from the Maryland Attorney General's Office shows the boy was "unresponsive" and had suffered "multiple bruises."
Autopsy reports showed he had sustained several blows to his head and body, according to the release. His death was a result of those injuries.
Following his conviction, Sewell was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. But the Attorney General's Office said the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed the conviction in March 2018, ruling that text messages between Sewell and his wife that were introduced during the trial "were subject to marital privilege and should have been excluded."..

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Senator Bobby Zirkin stood in the way of the long gun bill

When Maryland legislators recognized five fallen members of Capital Gazette this session, they seemed to stand in unison. But the machinations in the Senate on Monday spoke volumes louder than these words.
The difference in Maryland leadership was stark that day...
...When I wrote to The Capital about how legislators seemed more interested in Opening Day in Camden Yards than in fulfilling the mandate of the voters, I received a Facebook message from Zirkin, calling me names. More importantly, he said some facts were incorrect, so I rushed to make his requested corrections...
...While I contemplated this draft article and agonized over whether it was fair to Zirkin, I received a second private Facebook message from him that ended my concerns. This message accused me of again being untrue when I had commented that his delays were preventable.
He insisted that he “could show me every text or email” to prove he did not delay the bill. I gave him my personal email, and asked him on his public page to share it. I have no response. He did delete my post, along with unrelated posts by others. He also blocked me from posting again, behavior that Marylanders paid fines for when Larry Hogan did it last year...

First Bus Camera Scheme Jail Term: Former Dallas City Councilman Sentenced to 56 Months, $500,000 in Restitution #BusPatrolAmerica #ForceMultiplierSolutions @mcps @

This is a news story about the sentencing of the first of 5 individuals who were arrested and charged in connection with the Force Multiplier Solutions bus camera scheme in Dallas, Texas.  This is the same no bid bus camera scheme that was brought to Montgomery County.  Neither the Board of Education or the Montgomery County Council have addressed the problems with this bus camera scheme or the implications of the criminal proceedings in Dallas, Texas. 

The fall from power for Dwaine Caraway is complete after the former Dallas City Councilman and mayor pro tem was sentenced to 4.6 years behind bars Friday for his role in the $100 million criminal conspiracy that shut down school bus provider Dallas County Schools.
The disgraced politician was sentenced to 56 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn and ordered to pay more than $500,000 in restitution; The sentence comes after Caraway struck a plea deal Aug. 9, 2018, where he admitted to accepting bribes worth $450,000...

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"School leaders determined the teen was so prone to acting out that he needed to be kept in class until the end of each passing period." [But was allowed to be unsupervised after school and on the football team.]

The juvenile suspect — also known as the so-called ringleader in the Damascus High School locker room sexual assaults — will be tried as a juvenile due, in large part, to ADHD.
Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Steven Salant issued his controversial ruling Thursday morning following nearly seven hours of court proceedings Tuesday. Those proceedings ran like a full-blown trial, during which, attorney Dan Wright crafted a defense grounded in his teenage client’s “extreme ADHD.”..
...“This was a premeditated, planned attack,” Woodward added. “And this wasn’t the first time The evidence shows the defendant was part of a similar attack earlier in the year.”
In fact, during a summer football practice — only a few months before the rape case — the suspect allegedly tried to “broom” a different teammate, but that player managed to break away. The revelation added fuel to the notion that hazing and “brooming” are tradition within Damascus’ revered football program.
Prosecutors also took time to highlight the suspect's “atrocious” school and juvenile criminal records...
...The suspect's Montgomery County Public Schools Record:
In the fall of 2014, he enrolled as a sixth grader at Rocky Hill Middle School in Clarksburg. Almost immediately, the then 11-year-old began to misbehave. By the time police arrested him in the pending broomstick case — some four years later — MCPS had given the suspect 11 suspensions, 61 disciplinary referrals and sent 141 communications home regarding poor conduct. The transgressions included sexual comments, inappropriate touching, threatening remarks, fights, and chronic class cutting...
...In fact, MCPS conducted multiple Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA) and Behavior Intervention Plans (BIP) for the suspect's benefit. School leaders determined the teen was so prone to acting out that he needed to be kept in class until the end of each passing period. That helped limit the number of hallway distractions. An adult escort was also recommended as an alternative option for the suspect to safely move from class to class...
...Judge Salant also took shots at MCPS for attempting to control the suspect's numerous symptoms, but not seeking to excavate the root cause of that disruptive behavior.
"They wanted him to follow the student code of conduct, but he can't do it... There's clearly a lack of impulse control."..
Fighting Words From the Father of One Victim:
...Following repeated requests, the victim's father says he is scheduled to meet with MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith on the afternoon Friday, March 29. The victim's father explained the meeting will be 45 minutes long. No attorneys are allowed to attend, and the discussion cannot delve into topics of negligence, liability or responsibility...
...The victim's father further shared that two of the four victims are the sons of Montgomery County Police officers, one having recently retired from the force. He believes the suspects — the suspect in particular — hand picked the victims due to their law enforcement ties.
For example, weeks before the locker room attacks, the suspect reportedly stole a gold chain from the son of one officer. Damascus head football coach Eric Wallich threatened to call the police if the chain was not returned. In another instance, the suspect demanded that same boy stop wearing a police department Maryland Special Olympics t-shirt.
"Take the fu----- shirt off! Fu-- the police! Fu-- Montgomery County," the suspect allegedly shouted during the heated ordeal.
“There’s no doubt that two of the victims were targeted because they’re sons of law enforcement...The act of inserting a broom in another man’s rectum is done to degrade and demoralize, retaliate, to injure, to destroy their self-esteem.”..
Prosecuting Judge Salant's Ruling:
...Maryland law prohibits prosecutors from appealing Judge Salant's ruling. Instead, McCarthy expects the juvenile court to sentence the suspect to less than one year. The types of discipline can include a detention center, house arrest, community service, among others.
“I challenge you to call the Department of Corrections to find out how many kids are incarcerated — or being detained in any juvenile facility in the state — who are 19, 20 or 21 years old. I’m going tell you, I think it’s going to be less than five.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

ABC7: Damascus H.S. assistant principal charged with 2nd DWI, arrest caught on body camera

An assistant principal at Damascus High School is on personal leave after police charged her with drunk driving for the second time in less than two years.
Maniya Jules, 50, a 22-year veteran of the Montgomery County Public Schools system, is facing jail time for her alleged improper behavior.
Around 12:45 a.m. on Friday, March 22, an officer was dispatched to the 8800 block of Tuckerman Lane in Potomac for a suspicious vehicle call. According to law enforcement sources, that officer found Jules behind the wheel of a Honda with two flat tires. The disabled vehicle was idling on the side of the road near Herbert Hoover Middle School...

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Breaking: Maryland lawmakers use unusual maneuver to revive bill on child abuse lawsuits

An effort to give survivors of child sexual abuse more time to file lawsuits that failed in the Maryland Senate has been resurrected by the House of Delegates.
Democratic Del. C.T. Wilson’s bill to remove a statute of limitations for lawsuits rising from child sexual abuse had sailed through the House, but died in a deadlocked Senate committee.

The defeat frustrated Wilson and abuse survivors.
So, the House Judiciary Committee, in an unusual move, took many elements of Wilson’s bill and tacked them Saturday onto an unrelated bill from Sen. Justin Ready — a Carroll County Republican who is one of the senators who voted against the abuse lawsuit bill in committee.

The House adopted the amendments and moved the revised measure forward to a final vote on Monday — the final day of the 90-day General Assembly session. Any changes to the bill would need to be approved by the Senate in order to send the measure to the governor.
Ready was among five senators who voted against Wilson’s bill in the Judicial Proceedings Committee, citing questions about its constitutionality.
Zirkin said he supports both bills and hopes a conference committee will work out a compromise where both measures can be enacted.

Md. Senate panel rejects effort to give childhood sex abuse victims more flexibility to sue

A Senate panel has voted down a bill that would have let childhood sex abuse victims of any age sue institutions that harbored their attackers.
The legislation, proposed amid a global clergy sex abuse scandal, had passed the House of Delegates overwhelmingly last month. But the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee declined to advance it on Wednesday, with one Democrat joining the committee’s four Republicans in voting it down.
The bill had become a heightened source of controversy in Annapolis after its lead sponsor accused the Catholic Church of swindling himinto a deal that may have granted the organization irreversible immunity from sex abuse cases that happened decades ago.
The deal, part of a 2017 law extending the civil statute of limitations, was a key reason cited by a senator who voted against this year’s proposal...
...Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles), the bill’s sponsor and himself a victim of childhood sex abuse at the hands of his adoptive father, was shaking in anger after the committee vote. He said the lawmakers who voted down the bill were complicit in helping institutions protect predators...

Bill to lift limits on child sex abuse lawsuits in Maryland fails

A bill that would have enabled untold numbers of child sexual abuse survivors to file civil lawsuits in Maryland has been defeated.
The Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee on Wednesday deadlocked 5-5 on the measure, which would have eliminated the statute of limitations for civil claims related to child sexual abuse. The bill had already sailed through the House of Delegates.
The committee vote infuriated Del. C.T. Wilson, the bill’s sponsor and a survivor of child abuse himself. “They did their best to protect pedophiles,” an angry Wilson said in an interview after the vote.
Wilson observed the committee’s voting session, which he said featured a “tornado” of misinformation about the law and his bill.
Even though Wilson was present, he said none of the senators asked him questions about his bill. He said senators were “cowards” not to discuss the bill with him...

When Maryland gave abuse victims more time to sue, it may have also protected institutions, including the Catholic Church

Two years ago, Maryland lawmakers made it easier for adults sexually abused as children to sue institutions that harbored predators.
They may have also irreversibly granted some immunity to the Catholic Church.
A provision tucked into a 2017 law now stands in the way of Maryland joining a nationwide effort to bring justice to victims who come to terms with childhood abuse when they reach middle age and, for decades, have had no recourse in civil courts.
The language was pushed by lobbyists for the Catholic Church two years ago as part of a compromise to extend Maryland’s civil statute of limitations from age 25 to 38. Because it forbids the state from raising the maximum age above 38, it effectively inoculates the church and other organizations from costly lawsuits that could reveal whether they sheltered abusers decades ago.
State lawmakers who heralded the 2017 compromise as a breakthrough for victims now say they were swindled.
“I made a deal with the devil,” said Del. C.T. Wilson (D-Charles), the sponsor of the 2017 law and a survivor of child sex abuse by his adoptive father.
“I was working with them in good faith,” Wilson, a lawyer, said of the church. “They were behind the scenes, crafting language that protects them forever.”..
...In interviews, several other lawmakers who negotiated the compromise recalled the two church lobbyists who shopped the repose provision, saying they did not want to repeatedly revisit extending the statute of limitations. The lawmakers said they now believe they unwittingly agreed to language that could permanently prevent anyone born before the early 1980s from suing the church...
...Permanent immunity “was never discussed,” said Del. Vanessa E. Atterbeary, (D-Howard), a lawyer who is vice chair of the Judiciary Committee.
“I was in meetings with the Archbishop of Baltimore,” she said. “That’s the sort of conversation I would have remembered.”
Church lobbyist John Stierhoff declined to comment on how the provision got into law. Mary Ellen Russell, the executive director of the Maryland Catholic Conference at the time, declined to comment because she no longer works for the organization...