Friday, October 21, 2016

Police Blotter: Teens arrested in cell phone thefts at Richard Montgomery High School

Police Blotter: Two Teens Arrested in Thefts at High School; Silver Spring Restaurant Burglarized: The following incidents were reported to Montgomery County or Rockville police from Oct. 3 to 12

Taxpayers League Mtg: Are Slow Reassessments hurting property tax revenues?

             Wednesday, October 26, 2016  -  7:00 - 9:00 pm
                                        6th Floor Conference Room, Council Office Building

                                              100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850

                                                                    Free and open to the public
Topic:   " Are Slow Reassessments hurting property tax revenues?"

Speakers:  Alexandre Espinosa, Director, Department of Finance
Diane Schwartz Jones, Director, Department of Permitting Services

Questions sent to Speakers:
1.  What were some of the causes leading to this loss of property tax revenue?  Were there gaps in accountability?
2.  What is the annual budget for the Department of Permitting Services (DPS)?  How many inspectors are authorized in the DPS budget?  Have they increased or declined over the past 5 years? How are workloads projected for DPS inspectors?  Are there trade-offs between new vs improvements to properties?
3.  How are inspector backlogs managed to ensure timely and accurate assessments?  What incentives do inspectors have to reduce backlogs? 
4.  How are expired permits tracked and follow-up inspections performed?
5.  Why are the processes for controlling inspections and the interface with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) not automated?
6.  How do inspection backlog standards compare with those in Fairfax and Howard counties?
7.  How does the Department of Finance project revenues for new and improved properties?  How much revenue was not collected in FY 2016 and 2017 due to procedural weaknesses at DPS? at SDAT? 
8.  As a result of the Inspector General's report, when will corrective actions be implemented and how much will they cost?  How much in additional property taxes will the county regain in FY 2018, 2019 and 2020 as a result of corrective actions? What role will SDAT need to play to make DPS changes implementable?
9.  It is estimated that the county has lost $52 million a year in revenue through granting of Income Tax Offset Credits (ITOC) for non-owner occupied homes.  The county claims that it lacks the requisite State authority to remove these credits on failure to submit the form. But the county uses exactly the same qualifications to grant Homestead Credits. State law that authorizes ITOC directly references State law that authorizes homestead credits.  Why has the county not sought authority from the state to remove the ITOC from every property whose owner has not submitted a homestead credit verification form?  Can you justify this loss of revenue? 

NBC4: How did a teacher who pleaded Guilty to assaulting a student find a new teaching job and a new victim?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Residents Skewer Bethesda Downtown Plan at Public Hearing

Residents Skewer Bethesda Downtown Plan at Public Hearing: Too few parks, too tall buildings, too little attention to schools, they say...

...Residents also asked for Montgomery County Public Schools to sign off on the plan, fearing that the number of new housing units allowed by the plan would stress already overcrowded schools...

MCPS asks to start school earlier

The Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education is asking Gov. Larry Hogan (R) for a waiver to start classes before Labor Day next year.
On Monday, school board members directed the superintendent to request a waiver from the governor’s executive order.
If the waiver is approved, classes would begin Aug. 28, 2017, the Monday before Labor Day and the last day of school for students would be June 14, 2018, according to Board member Rebecca Smondrowski (District 2)...

Monday, October 17, 2016

Board of Education Candidates Forum Oct 25 7-9pm

Board of Education Candidates Forum
Tuesday, October 25 
7-9 pm

Trinity Lutheran Church
11200 Old Georgetown Road
Rockville, MD

Hosted by Luxmanor Citizens Association
Co-sponsored by
Greater Farmland Civic Association and North Bethesda Neighborhoods Civic Association

Jeanette Dixon
Phil Kauffman

District 2
Brandon Orman Rippeon
Rebecca Smondrowski

District 4
Shebra Evans
Anjali Reed Phukan

Family files wrongful death suit in Montgomery Co. stun gun death

The family of a Montgomery County man who died after police deployed stun guns to subdue him filed suit in federal court Thursday, alleging the officers acted improperly as part of a larger pattern of misuse of the weapon within the department.
Anthony Howard Sr. was dancing barefoot on top of a vehicle in Laytonsville while neighbors watched and laughed in April 2013 when police arrived on scene, according to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court...

MCPS Parents Split between calendar that started after Labor Day and the calendar the board supported.

Montgomery County’s school board voted to seek a waiver from Gov. Larry Hogan’s mandate that the school year begin after Labor Day, supporting Aug. 28 as the first day of classes.
The board on Monday unanimously backed a 2017-18 calendar that starts the school year a week before Labor Day, leaves spring break intact, builds in extra snow days and ends on June 14.
It also places a teacher work day on Sept. 1, when the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Adha may fall. This is the second year it has made such an accommodation, following years of requests for time off from Muslim community leaders...

...School district staff said community members had sent 320 recent emails on the topic, with views split between an option that started after Labor Day and the calendar the board supported...

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Changes to Walter Johnson Cluster Schools

On October 13 Superintendent Jack Smith presented his recommendations for the Walter Johnson Cluster.

Read the entire recommendation here.


Enrollment growth and consequential space deficits in the Walter Johnson Cluster result from a combination of housing turnover and new development. At the high school level, Walter Johnson High School will face a deficit of nearly 700 seats by the 2022–2023 school year, and long-term projections indicate that high school enrollment could reach 3,600 students. At the middle school level, the approved Fiscal Year (FY) 2017–2022 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) addresses enrollment growth through the 2022–2023 school year, and long-term enrollment is projected to exceed capacity by approximately 100 students at each middle school. At the elementary school level, three schools have capacity needs not addressed by the current CIP: Ashburton, Farmland, and Garrett Park elementary schools.

 The Roundtable considered a wide range of approaches to address capacity needs that included classroom additions and the reopening of closed schools. The group also explored the possibility of new school construction, grade reorganizations, use of commercial buildings, and changes to school schedules. After careful consideration of the work and input from the Roundtable and feedback received from the wider community, I recommend that the Board of Education adopt the following course of action for the schools in the Walter Johnson Cluster:

 For Ashburton Elementary School, reduce the approved addition project scheduled for completion in August 2019 from 881 seats to 770 seats, relocate the four special education Preschool Education Program (PEP) classes to Bradley Hills and Luxmanor elementary schools beginning in the 2017–2018 school year, and construct a modular classroom addition to open in August 2019 that can be relocated in the future after a new school opens.

 Monitor the enrollment at Farmland Elementary School and consider the reassignment of students to Luxmanor Elementary School beginning in the 2020–2021 school year after completion of the revitalization/expansion project.

 Utilize space in the annex facility adjacent to Garrett Park Elementary School to address the capacity deficit at the school.

 Monitor enrollment in the cluster elementary schools and open a new school in the long term when the capacity deficit may support the need for the new school.

 Continue with the plans for the addition at North Bethesda Middle School scheduled to open in August 2018 with a capacity for 1,229 students and a master-planned addition for up to 1,500 students.

 Continue with the plans to revitalize/expand Tilden Middle School (and collocation with Rock Terrace School) with a capacity for 1,200 students and a master-planned addition for up to 1,500 students.

 Convene a roundtable discussion group to include representatives from the Downcounty Consortium high schools and Walter Johnson High School to study the following:

o Reopen the former Woodward High School to address the space deficits at Montgomery Blair, Albert Einstein, Walter Johnson, John F. Kennedy, and Northwood high schools; and in addition

o Explore the possibility and develop a potential model approach to address space deficits at these high schools as well as others countywide, by offering alternative programmatic, career technology education, or other voluntary educational options for high school students through use of non-traditional facilities, including commercial space. 

 Planning and construction funds will be included for the high school solution as part of the Superintendent’s Recommended FY 2019–2024 Capital Improvements Program in October 2017.

NAACP calls for PG school's chief ouster following scandals

NAACP leaders in Prince George’s County called for the removal of schools chief Kevin Maxwell after a string of school system scandals involving child abuse and other problems.
“It’s been one incident after another,” said Bob Ross, president of the Prince George’s NAACP branch, which announced its request Wednesday. “It’s just out of control, and we need someone to come in and put it back on track.”
Ross and others asked that County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) take Maxwell out of the district’s top job. But Baker made it clear Wednesday that he has faith in the leader he tapped in 2013 to turn around a struggling school system...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016

.@mocoboe spends $26,459 in July 2016 Fighting Families of Kids with Disabilities

Special Education Legal Expenses

Special education legal fees for outside counsel for July 2016 totaled $26,459, and the entire
amount was for services by Jeffrey A. Krew. The year-to-date total of $26,459 is $24,613 more
than the same period in the previous year.

After spending 58% more in FY16 on special education legal fees for outside counsel than the Board of Education did the year before, the Montgomery County Board of Education is off to another high-spending start in FY2017.

BCC High School Science Lab Gas Value Left Open, School Opening Delayed to Clear Gas From Building

Sent: Monday, October 10, 2016 6:51 AM
Subject: Important: Building Currently Being Cleared of Gas

This morning our building services staff arrived at the school to find a potent smell of gas.  They quickly determined that one of the valves in a science lab on the 2nd floor had been turned on.  It is unclear how long the valve has been on.  
Currently, the windows and doors are being opened to clear the school of gas, and no students and staff are allowed in the building.  Once maintenance clears us to go in, school will resume as normal.  There has been considerable improvement in the air quality since the source of the leak was quickly found and the windows were opened.
I am writing you so that your children can be prepared to stand outside for a bit, particularly if you are typically among the first to arrive at the school in the morning.

Donna Redmond Jones,

Parent brings suicide prevention program to Blake HS after two deaths

Friday, October 7, 2016

4 boys charged with making online threats against Montgomery Co. schools

WASHINGTON – Four Montgomery County 13-year-olds have been charged with juvenile offenses for making threats of mass violence against students at several county middle schools  – the latest in a series of threats against area schools this week...

Buyer beware: Failing fields leave schools in Kansas and elsewhere in a bind

Football fields shouldn’t leave fake grass stuck to the shoes and clothes of players who have just finished a game.
But as Piper USD 203 in Kansas City, Kan., watched its high school field deteriorate, that is precisely what was happening.
Superintendent Tim Conrad recalled how the green fibers would fall out and stick to one’s skin.
“I could get down on my field and rub my hand on the field,” he said, “and my hand would be covered with this.”
In Kansas and across the country, fields like Piper’s — which cost schools several hundred thousand dollars to install — have degraded earlier than expected.
The product woes have left school districts in a bind as they figure out their best options to replace troubled turf. And though the fields are warrantied, the districts are walking away with very different deals.

Some — like Seaman USD 345 and Geary USD 475 — are paying upward of $300,000, while others have struck much cheaper deals or received free-of-cost replacements. At least one district in Texas collected $275,000 from the manufacturer, FieldTurf, in a settlement in 2013.
At issue is a product sometimes called Duraspine. For several years, FieldTurf purchased the fiber for it from a third party that it eventually sued and blamed for field failures across North America. The parties settled mid-trial for an undisclosed amount.
Now FieldTurf faces legal challenges in multiple states, with some attorneys arguing the company is backing out of its warranties. Moreover, they accuse FieldTurf of knowing the material was flawed by 2009 or earlier yet continuing to install it.
FieldTurf defended itself Friday in a statement to The Topeka Capital-Journal...

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Montgomery Co. officials seek answers on school class size

ROCKVIILLE, Md. — Montgomery County Public Schools received millions of dollars to help cut class sizes in an effort to improve student performance and narrow the achievement gap. But not every school has seen the number of students in classrooms reduced — and officials say that’s by design.
“Some classrooms don’t need a reduction,” said Jack Smith, Montgomery County’s superintendent of schools. “Some need a reduction, but we did that with a para-educator and not with another teacher.”...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Baltimore County teacher faces discipline over social media post

A teacher at Deer Park Elementary School in Baltimore County faces disciplinary action after she posted a picture of herself with a class of students on school grounds and described them using an expletive, a county schools spokesman said Tuesday...

Ocean City Council Seeking Public’s Help In Opposing Proposed Cell Towers

OCEAN CITY — Resort officials this week made it abundantly clear they are strongly against a proposal to install as many as 90 cell phone towers, some as tall as 38 feet, throughout Ocean City and are asking residents and visitors to join in the opposition.
Two weeks ago, through a seemingly innocuous legal advertisement, the private sector company Crown Castle announced a proposal to install as many as 90 distributed antenna systems, essentially cell phone towers, at locations throughout Ocean City, including many of the resort’s residential neighborhoods. The towers would range from about 18 feet to as high as 38 feet and are needed to expand bandwidth and improve Internet accessibility in the densely populated resort.
Crown Castle approached resort officials in 2015 about installing the necessary technology to expand bandwidth and improve Internet accessibility, but that initial proposal called for installing the hardware on existing structures including light poles and other utility poles. The Mayor and Council had some concerns about even that concept, but when Crown Castle returned this spring with a vastly different proposal to install as many as 90 new towers throughout Ocean City, resort officials took exception to the plan.
“At the time, we had some concerns with this, but we were willing to work with them,” said City Engineer Terry McGean, who outlined the town’s opposition to the proposal during Monday’s Mayor and Council meeting. “They went through a couple of different consultants and this spring they came back to us and their proposal was substantially different than what we had previously seen.”...

...“We told them very strongly we are opposed these installations, particularly in our residential neighborhoods where utilities are already undergrounded,” he said. “They have submitted for over 90 of these installations and we have not approved a single one of them at the local level.”...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Cybertraps for Educators: The Legal and Professional Risks of the Digital Age [Lecture]

Cybertraps for Educators: The Legal and Professional Risks of the Digital Age [Lecture]: 2016-09-26 Cybertraps for Educators from Frederick Lane A presentation on educator misconduct presented to the New York State Council of School Superintendents in Saratoga Springs, NY on September 26, 2016. If you are interested in discussing a presentation or professional development program for your organization on this topic, please contact me for information regarding my rates and availability.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mont. Co. Tower Coordinator has Not Done Job, Committee Set to Approve Cell Towers for Non-Existent Locations

Below is a letter sent October 3, 2016, to the Montgomery County Transmission Facility Coordinating Group (TFCG), also known at the Tower Committee.  
This is the Committee that first reviews and approves applications for cell towers on school sites, on private land, on public land and in neighborhoods in Montgomery County.  The work of this Committee is very important and ultimately this Committee decides where cell towers will permanently be placed in the County.  The upcoming Agenda for this Committee is riddled with errors.  This letter requests that the Agenda be pulled and corrected before these 111 cell towers are approved for siting next to schools and homes in Montgomery County.
To:  Montgomery County Transmission Facility Coordinating Group
Please pull the October 5, 2016, Agenda for the Montgomery County Transmission Facility Coordinating Group (TFCG).  It is apparent from a brief review of the Agenda items that the work of the Tower Coordinator  (outside contractor) has not been done.
The Agenda for October 5th shows a number of addresses that simply do not exist in Montgomery County.  It is, therefore, evident that the Tower Coordinator has not fulfilled his obligation to thoroughly review these applications.  The public can not know what other errors and omissions may exist on the actual applications, but it is clear that if the addresses shown do not exist, it would have been impossible for the Tower Coordinator to actually do the work that he is contracted to do as part of the Tower siting process in Montgomery County.
It is clear that the work of the Tower Coordinator (an outside contractor) is not reliable.  It is also apparent that the TFCG is not directing the work of the Tower Coordinator. 

The stated directive for the Tower Coordinator is to verify the need for new towers by reviewing the:
  • engineering requirements
  • zoning compliance
  • appropriateness of tower siting to meet carrier's stated goals
  • impact on community, including visual impact.
In addition, the job of the Tower Coordinator is to do a site visit.  Obviously, site visits could not be made to non-existent locations.
All of the above listed tasks of the Tower Coordinator require an accurate location for the proposed Tower.
Please pull the October 5th Agenda of the TFCG immediately and send those applications back to the Tower Coordinator for a thorough review of the applications.  Montgomery County citizens are paying for the Tower Coordinator to thoroughly review these applications and they deserve no less.

"...he intended to show that racism in America is not dead..." Montgomery Village Middle School

Student recommended for mental health screening after drawing picture of lynching and ‘Black Lives Matter’

Learn How to Advocate for Appropriate Special Education Services for Your Child!

Special Education Clinic & Resource Fair
Saturday, November 5, 2016 from 9:00 AM – 2:00 PM
Holy Family Catholic Church
12010 Woodmore Road
Mitchellville, MD 20721