Tuesday, February 20, 2018

ABC7- Prosecutors: Rifle, grenades, grievances found at home of teen found with gun at Md. HS

ARSENAL OF WEAPONS FOUND IN CLARKSBURG HS STUDENT’S HOME

District Court Judge John C. Moffett said there was clear and convincing evidence that Alwin Chen was a serious danger to the community and ordered Chen to remain in jail without bond...

http://www.thesentinel.com/mont/news/local/item/6464-arsenal-of-weapons-found-in-clarksburg-hs-student-s-home

Kevin Lewis ‏@ABC7Kevin BREAKING: MoCo Police located the following items in home of Clarksburg HS student who allegedly brought handgun to class last week:






DAMASCUS HS STRUGGLES TO MAINTAIN CALM AFTER POSTED SOCIAL MEDIA THREAT

Students from Damascus High School were in panic mode Friday after an old social media threat against Damascus students had been reposted to social media sometime around noon...

http://www.thesentinel.com/mont/news/local/item/6455-damascus-hs-struggles-to-maintain-calm-after-posted-social-media-threat

Monday, February 19, 2018

Statement in Support of Gov. Hogan's Proposal for an Inspector General for Education

Statement on Senate Bill 302 Accountability in Education Act of 2018
February 7, 2018
Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee

Janis Zink Sartucci
 Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland
 parentscoalitionmc@outlook.com

Formed in 2002, the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland seeks to achieve the goals of coherent, content-rich curriculum standards; high expectations combined with timely remediation and acceleration; a wider range of educational options for parents and children; greater transparency and accountability; and meaningful community input. The Parents' Coalition is a non-partisan group made up of independents, Republicans, and Democrats like myself.  We believe that public school education is a vital right for all children.  We believe that every dollar labeled for education should benefit classrooms and that when children attend public schools they should be in a safe and secure environment.

In Governor Hogan's press conference announcing the introduction of this bill, he mentioned our 2014 investigation into the use of personal MCPS credit cards by Board of Education members and MCPS administrators.

Over the years the Parents' Coalition has investigated various issues related to our public school system.  Each and every investigation has been validated by State Audits and, or investigative journalists from all of the major news sources in the Washington, D.C. area.  Today I would like to briefly mention some of our investigations in the hopes that the vital need for an Investigator General for Education in the State of Maryland will become clear.

• Our investigation into the use of personal credit cards by Board of Education members and Montgomery County Public School administrators revealed that thousands of credit cards had been issued but that the credit card bills are paid without verification.  Over the years the credit card bill has climbed to over $8 million a year.  Any time these bills are reviewed, improprieties are revealed.

• No bid purchases continue to be the prevalent with the Board of Education and often the majority of Board of Education spending is without bids or review of vendors.  At the last Board of Education on January 9, 2018, there was $4.8 million in spending.  Of those purchases 8 contracts were no bid and 12 were “extensions.”  The majority of the $4.8 million was spent without competitive bidding or a review of contractors for quality or price.

• In 2009, while working with a federal inspector general, I uncovered the no bid purchase of 3,300 Promethean boards for over $12 million.  Those Promethean Boards were being purchased on individual invoices so as to avoid Board of Education public votes on the purchase.

• Further investigation into the under the table Promethean Board purchases revealed that the Board of Education had been receiving rebates from the federal government that they were not reporting in their public budget documents.  As of 2009, the Board of Education had received over $21 million that had not been disclosed in public budget documents.  The Board was then spending those funds on no bid purchases, without any public disclosure.

• Our 2013 investigation into the placement of commercial cell towers on public school land revealed that those cell towers were hiding in plain site and not paying property taxes.  At the time Louis Wilen discovered that the cell tower companies had avoided hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes by building on public school land.  He prompted the State to begin issuing property tax bills as required by law, but years of tax revenue was lost forever.

• In 2008, we uncovered the illegal charging of class fees.  In Maryland, students are entitled to a free public education.  Unfortunately, that right is not honored by the Montgomery County Board of Education and to this day students are denied their right to attend public school free of charge.

• In 2013, working with parents and staff we exposed the stealing of student funds at Rock Terrace School.

• In 2013, I uncovered that our Board of Education was allowing teachers who were suspected of sexually abusing students to stay in classrooms.  The Board would issue “restriction letters” to the teachers telling them to stop touching or otherwise physically interacting with students.  In some cases, the teachers were left in their classrooms, in other cases they were moved to new schools without parents ever being informed as to the potential danger to their children.

• I uncovered that Capital Budget funds of over $8 million are diverted annually to the Operating Budget without disclosure in the public budget documents.

• We have investigated students with disabilities not receiving services they need, yet that same testing qualifies them for services under the Americans with Disabilities Act if they go to college.

• Monitoring gaps:  MCPS, as well as other Maryland school districts, have been addressing educational achievement gaps forever.  MCPS has been at it for more than 3 decades.  Yet, pretty much every school district in the state is unable to answer simple questions.  For example:  Overtime, has the black-white achievement gap--measured with test scores narrowed within districts like MCPS?  The reason we cannot answer the question is because districts like MCPS have not used a common measurement standard overtime.  But one does exists:  NAEP.  Make districts use NAEP for gap measuring initiatives.  NAEP is low cost.  The federal government produces it.  Districts can buy in.  https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/

• Require districts to periodically conduct follow-along (longitudinal) studies:  We have no systematic means by which to determine if inputs generate significant outputs (outcomes).
We want all districts to conduct follow-along studies.  And these studies would include following dropouts.  Normally, such studies pick a cohort/class and begin following them at the end of middle school.  By beginning this early, studies include dropouts.  Districts also would capture what happens to special populations.  Right now, a district like MCPS only seems interested in kids that complete college--never documenting what happens to other populations. https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/hsb/    Jerry and Jody’s Kids: Where are They Now? | MoCoEdBlog

• We have monitored the public school funds diverted to the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE).   We continually watch as public education dollars are spent on this private club that gives no bid vendors exclusive access to Board of Education members in closed meetings and at an annual vacation in Ocean City.  Those vendors have secured no bid contracts with Boards of Education across the State, all without public oversight or competition.

• We have investigated and exposed the failure of our public school system to keep children safe from sexual predators in classrooms.  We have attended court proceedings and heard how teachers who have been arrested and convicted of crimes against children remain on the MCPS payroll and can even have their records expunged so that they can return to jobs working with children.  The list of teachers and administrators who have had their licenses suspended and revoked should be made public and parents should have access to this information.  Currently, the Parents' Coalition is the only source for this complete information.

• The fraud, waste and abuse of tax dollars is unfortunate, but dollars can be replaced.  Our childrens' lives can not.  First and foremost, we would like to see an Education Investigator General work on making sure that all Maryland children are safe and protected from predators when they attend our public schools.

Thank you for your time today and for your consideration of Senate Bill 302.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Legislature Proposes Bill that would be "Nearly Impossible" to Use

 Children will Continue to be Victimized by Known Sexual Predators in our Schools when Administrators Fail to Report without Consequences.

A Washington Post article today  discusses legislation that has been proposed by the Maryland General Assembly to add a criminal penalty for professionals, including public school administrators, who fail to report suspected child abuse of children.  (Click here to read about MCPS administrators, including the superintendent, who failed to report MCPS teacher John Vigna to the police or Child Protective Services when they were informed he was lap sitting with his female students.)

As reported by ABC7, only Maryland and Wyoming do not have penalties for failure to report child abuse.  The legislation proposed in this session of the General Assembly would supposedly change that for Maryland, except that if the bill is useless what will actually change?  

Below is the Statement of Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby on Senate Bill 132 - Child Abuse and Neglect - Failure to Report. Her statement below explains why Senate Bill 132/House Bill 500 as written will not be useful to prosecutors if passed. 

"...I suggest amending the "actual knowledge" standard to "knowledge." To prove a crime occurred under the current language, the listed professionals must have "actual knowledge" of the abuse or neglect. It is nearly impossible from a legal perspective to prove that an individual had "actual knowledge" of abuse, especially if the mandatory reporter contends that they did not see the abuse occur and did not believe the child's disclosure."

ABC7 BREAKING: 18yo Alwin Chen allegedly brought loaded 9mm handgun + knife to class at Clarksburg High School.




Should teachers [Administrators], doctors and social workers face jail time for failing to report child abuse?

A judge last year sentenced Deonte Carraway, an aide who molested more than 20 students at a Maryland elementary school, to 100 years in prison on 23 counts of child sex abuse and pornography.
But prosecutors did not have the option to seek charges against anyone who they felt should have reported the abuse but failed to do so, because Maryland is one of only two states that does not allow criminal penalties for that type of violation.

“We were able to hold Mr. Carraway accountable for his actions . . . but what we have not done is further close the loophole that would make us able to say to parents that we can assure to them that this will never happen again,” Prince George’s State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks recently told a panel of state lawmakers.

The General Assembly is now considering whether mandatory reporters — health practitioners, police officers, educators and human service workers — should face a misdemeanor charge and up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine for failing to report child abuse if they have “actual knowledge” that it has occurred.

Maryland and Wyoming are the only states that do not impose criminal penalties for failure to report, which can lead to felony charges in several states, including Arizona, Minnesota and Connecticut...

...Jennifer Alvaro, a longtime clinician in the field of child sexual abuse, said she supports criminal penalties but doesn’t support the bill because “actual knowledge” is “an impossibly high standard.”..

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/should-teachers-doctors-and-social-workers-face-jail-for-failing-to-report-child-abuse/2018/02/15/1d3281c2-119e-11e8-9065-e55346f6de81_story.html?utm_term=.38c048dfd9d5

NYT: Fourth School Reveals a Teacher’s Abuse

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/07/nyregion/teacher-abuse-private-school.html?mabReward=TS2&recid=10Ghm8CnKfCOvK3xMlXdLb2Lf2F&recp=6&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&region=CColumn&module=Recommendation&src=rechp&WT.nav=RecEngine

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Breaking: Clarksburg High School Letter - "While searching the student and their belongings, it was discovered that the student was in possession of a handgun."

UPDATE: Second MCPS employee arrested during drug bust at Mason Inn bar in Glover Park.




Breaking: Second MCPS Teacher Arrested in DC - Middle School Teacher Arrested for Selling Pot in DC Nightclub

A teacher at Kingsview Middle School was one of two Montgomery County Public Schools employees picked up in a raid on so-called underground “pot parties”  by District of Columbia Police on February 1.
   Metro Police charged Scott Price, a digital art teacher who works at both Kingsview Middle School in Germantown and Wheaton High School, and Erin McKenna who is a high school guidance counselor at Sherwood High School with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
   A letter was sent home to Kingsview Middle School parents today, Feb. 15 from Principal Dyan L. Harrison stating, Price had been arrested in DC on misdemeanor drug charges and that school was only just made aware of the charges on Wednesday, February 14.
   The story of McKenna’s arrest, which was first reported by WJLA on Wednesday, also mentioned that Price and another individual, Joshua Myers, were also arrested by DC police in the same incident.
   According to charging documents, Price, McKenna, and Myers were selling the drugs at a vendor table set up at a D.C. nightclub called The Mason Inn located at 2408 Wisconsin Avenue Northwest. On February 1, police raided at 6:45 pm to find Price and company in possession of 102 assorted marijuana edibles, five capsules containing a brown liquid, nine bags of marijuana, and two glass jars full of pot...

Public Hearing on Regulations to Put Cell Towers in Front Yards #MontgomeryCounty

SIGN-UP TO TESTIFY ON Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 18-02!

VOICE YOUR POSITION ON CLOSER CELL TOWERS & FEWER RESIDENT PROTECTIONS!

Contrary to the “official line,” the Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 18-02 significantly reduces residents’ protections. It eliminates and waters down regulations that govern small and large cell towers, including regulations that keep antennas and towers out of our front yards and at safe distances from our homes.  

ZTA 18-02 shifts enormous power to the same agencies that have been catering to the wireless industry, failing to enforce the laws and regulations that protect the public, and betraying the public trust.

The public hearing is Tuesday, March 20, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. On-line sign up is open!  

So immediately, please link to this portal; scroll down to the March 20th hearing for ZTA 18-02, Telecommunications Towers; and sign up before the list is closed: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/council/phsignup.html . You can also call 240-777-7803 to sign up by phone, but not until County offices are open, and it's possible the list will be full by then.

You will need to identify yourself as being “for” or “against” the ZTA. But you may be reading this ZTA for the first time, and you may not yet have formulated a clear position yet, pro or con

Historically, there have been times when the Council has deleted some speakers from the list, in an effort to balance those “for” with those “against” the legislation. There will likely be many more residents “against” the ZTA than “for” it, signed up to speak. So, if you are ambivalent about the ZTA, your opportunities to speak may be better if you identify yourself as “for.”
The industry helped design this ZTA. Please sign up, tonight. Our voices need to be heard, too! 

Remember the adage:
If you don't have a seat at the table, you're probably on the menu.”

Videos of full Assembly sessions get slim support, even though cost estimates reduced

A brief, perfunctory hearing in a Senate committee Tuesday made a weak case for Gov. Larry Hogan’s legislation to make the legislature’s proceedings more open and accessible to the public.
Hogan’s Transparency Act of 2018 (SB295/HB352), sponsored by almost all Republican lawmakers and no Democrats, requires the legislature to live video stream and archive all sessions of the House and Senate and their committees, including voting sessions.
The governor’s communications staff put out a “Hearing Alert” promoting the bill, but Deputy Legislative Officer Heidi Dudderar was the only person to testify for the legislation before the Senate Health, Education and Environmental Affairs Committee.
Sen. Cheryl Kagan, D-Montgomery, noted the conspicuous absence of good government groups Common Cause and League of Women Voters, who generally support more openness in government. The Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association submitted a brief statement supporting the bill.
Committee Democrats expressed concern about the $1.1 million price tag to install the cameras and other equipment in the 120-year old chambers. Dudderar assured them Hogan would put the money in the budget...

...Maryland is one of only seven states that do not live stream video of any of its legislative sessions, though the others like Maryland do offer audio.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

NEW: Sherwood High School counselor Erin McKenna charged with intent to deal drugs at NW DC sports bar...MCPS says McKenna remains on staff at Sandy Spring school. @ABC7Kevin




#Breaking Montgomery County guidance counselor charged with possession with intent to distribute. Erin McKenna was arrested on 2/1. She works at Sherwood High School. @ABC7Annalysa




Money for Expanded Preschool, Hiring School Counselors Included in MCPS Budget

Money for Expanded Preschool, Hiring School Counselors Included in MCPS Budget: School board takes preliminary action on .59 billion spending plan

During Tuesday’s meeting, board members also took action to temper some of the changes that Smith had recommended for central services. Smith has advocated for an MCPS reorganization designed to put resources and staff closer to the classroom.

“Every single dollar we spend in this building [MCPS Headquarters at 850 Hungerford Ave.] is not spent in schools,” Smith said during the meeting at the MCPS central services building in Rockville.

Silver Chips: Blocking usage of personal Gmail accounts limits what students can do with learning tools

As technology becomes a more essential part of our education and lives, certain security precautions taken by MCPS have begun to limit the range of what students can accomplish with the free technology they are provided at school.

In September of last year, MCPS decided to block the 'accounts.google' page on Chromebooks, preventing students from signing into any other email account other than those issued by the school. The laptops are powered by Google Chrome OS, and function only with internet access. 

The blocked page has become a hassle for many students. When they complete work at home on their personal accounts, switching from one to the other is nearly impossible to do at school.

MCPS Chief Security Officer Peter Cevenini explained that the blocking of the page was done to protect students. "We're always looking to tighten up our security. We're trying to lock things down. Your normal student email account is a closed system so that you can only email teachers and fellow students in Montgomery County and that's a protection practice,” he explained...

http://silverchips.mbhs.edu/story/13708

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Federation confronts school system over sex abuse cases

Montgomery County Public Schools officials are up in arms following a contentious meeting of the Montgomery County Civic Federation last month, during which audience members angrily confronted Superintendent Jack Smith over MCPS’ handling of lawsuits related to child sex abuse in County schools...

In a written response to Johnson’s MCCF First Vice President Bailey Condrey called Johnson’s claims that Smith’s office was never notified of the updated agenda “verifiably untrue.”
“Furthermore, the email copied Board of Education staff, and each Board of Education member and county councilmembers individually,” Condrey wrote.
While Johnson agreed his office received an email about the association’s resolution concerning child abuse, he said County school officials believed Smith had been invited for the sole purpose of discussing the budget.
Condrey’s letter extended a second invitation for Smith to “meaningfully address our concerns” at the Federation’s Feb. 12 meeting, but according to Johnson, neither Smith nor a representative will be able to attend due to a previously scheduled engagement.
http://www.thesentinel.com/mont/news/local/item/6403-disappointed

Monday, February 12, 2018

Alsobrooks calls on Md. lawmakers to strengthen law after Carraway school sex abuse case


In multiple civil lawsuits filed against the Prince George’s County School system, it has been alleged that the administration of Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School knew but did not report that now-imprisoned teacher’s aide Deonte Carraway was abusing multiple children in the school.
Prince Georges County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks considered charges against the principal of the school, but found the law was not on her side. Now she wants the law changed.
“What we know is that what happened at that school should not have happened there and we know it should never happen again,” Alsobrooks says...

COUNTY SCHOOL ENROLLMENT IS “FLATTENING”

The superintendent of schools said the rate of student enrollment increase in Montgomery County Public Schools seems to be “flattening,” based on enrollment counts this year.
MCPS Superintendent of Schools Jack Smith said at the Jan. 25 County Board of Education budget work session that staff predicts enrollment will increase by 1800 or 1900 students for the 2018-2019 school year, a drop from the projection included in the proposed budget in December. 
Staff predicted a 2,472- student increase from the current fiscal year’s budget (161,302 students) for a total number of 163,774 students enrolled at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, according to Smith’s proposed budget...

Friday, February 9, 2018

WMAL: MoCo Parents Group Says Nobody’s Interested in Running For Board of Education

...Sartucci, however, does not believe, people are shying away from running for the board because of time commitments. She contends repeated incidents of sexual abuse in the school system have people avoid serving on the board.
“Montgomery County is getting a reputation for not protecting children, which is subjecting them to lawsuits, so I don’t think a lot of people want to take on that responsibility of stepping in for a board of education that has failed so miserably in keeping children safe,” Sartucci said...

http://www.wmal.com/2018/02/09/moco-parents-group-says-nobodys-interested-in-running-for-board-of-education/?platform=hootsuite

WTOP: Md. child abuse bills aim for more accountability #SB 132/HB 500

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Two bills stemming from recent cases of child abuse in Maryland are making their way through the state legislature, which would hold mandatory reporters — those who have to report suspected child abuse by law — accountable when it comes to preserving and protecting children.
The first bill, more than a decade in the making, would assign a $1,000 fine and six months in prison for professionals such as teachers and social workers who have actual knowledge of child neglect or abuse and fail to report it.
Testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks reminded delegates about the case of convicted child predator Deonte Carraway, who is serving more than 100 years in prison for the abuse of 23 children both on and off school grounds when he worked as a teacher’s aide and volunteer.
Court documents said multiple educators, including the principal, knew of Carraway’s inappropriate and familiar behavior with the children, as well as the potential for abuse, and did not report it...
...Montgomery County Del. Kathleen Dumais questioned why the penalty of losing a teaching certification was not a strong enough penalty. “If you take their license away, I think that would send a message,” Dumais said in the hearing...
...The bill is the result of years of compromises between opposing parties, both sides have said. And while it is closer now to becoming law, child advocate Ellen Mugman said it lacks specificity in the defining of “actual knowledge” and in excluding mandatory reporters from any penalty after the victim has reached adulthood...

MCPS Teachers Champion State Bill To Strengthen Elementary School P.E. Curriculum

MCPS Teachers Champion State Bill To Strengthen Elementary School P.E. Curriculum: School system ranks near bottom statewide in time spent on elementary school physical education

...To that end, Slatkin and Spencer are pushing for a statewide bill that would require Maryland school districts to set aside 150 minutes per week for elementary-age students to exercise. Recess could account for 60 minutes of this total, but physical education classes would have to make up the remaining 90 minutes.
Montgomery County’s public schools rank near the bottom statewide when it comes to physical education time for elementary-age students, according to the Maryland State Department of Education. Data collected by the department in January show the county’s elementary school students get between 30 and 60 minutes of weekly physical education time. No other jurisdiction in the state had schools providing less than 40 minutes of P.E. per week...

http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/2018/MCPS-Teachers-Champion-State-Bill-To-Strengthen-Elementary-School-PE-Curriculum/

NBC4: Delegate Dumais Opposed to Legislation that Would Hold Administrators Criminally Responsible for Failure to Report Sexual Abuse of Students

Teachers, principals and doctors are legally required to report suspected child abuse. In most states, there are seriously penalties if they don't. But in Maryland, that's not the case. Proposed legislation in the state calls for six months jail time and a $100 fine. Prince George's County State's Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said she hopes the Deonte Carraway case, in which a school aide abused children in an elementary school bathroom, will spark a change. "The principal knew something wasn't right, as did other school officials, but did nothing about it," she said. News4's Tracee Wilkins reports.

https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Maryland-Reporting-of-Child-Abuse_Washington-DC-473463043.html