Saturday, November 22, 2014

More students allege sex abuse against former substitute teacher in Montgomery

A recent Montgomery County substitute teacher accused of inappropriately touching a 12-year-old girl was arrested on additional charges Friday involving three more victims, county police said.
Two of the alleged victims said they were inappropriately touched in 2013 at Ridgeview Middle School. A third said she was inappropriately touched in 2004 at Forest Oak Middle School, and her principal was notified of the incidents, according to arrest records.
The new charges come after several weeks of heightened concern among Montgomery parents over how the school system handles such allegations...

Police: More sex abuse charges filed against Montgomery Co. subs - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Police: More sex abuse charges filed against Montgomery Co. subs - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG


NBC4: Maryland Substitute Teacher Jose Pineda Accused of Inappropriate Contact With Three More Girls

Congratulations to Tom Hearn! County puts athletic trainers in all schools

Years of advocacy at the local and state level by MCPS parent and Parents' Coalition member Tom Hearn have paid off!  

MCPS has finally agreed to put athletic trainers in all schools.  

Congratulations Tom and thank you for your extensive research and continued advocacy on this issue!

County puts athletic trainers in all schools

High school coaches within Montgomery County Public Schools no longer have to play doctor on the side. The county launched a pilot program for the 2014-15 school year that MCPS Athletics Specialist Jeff Sullivan said is an extension of last year’s addition of mandatory baseline concussion testing. All 25 high school athletic departments have their own nationally-certified trainer to help ensure student-athletes’ health and safety...

Video Shows Friction Between MCPS, State Delegation On School Construction Funding

Woman claims MCPS substitute teacher charged with sexually abusing students fondled her in 2004 |

Woman claims MCPS substitute teacher charged with sexually abusing students fondled her in 2004 |


Friday, November 21, 2014

Montgomery County substitute teacher charged with sexual abuse of three more students |

Montgomery County substitute teacher charged with sexual abuse of three more students |

Exclusive: State Delegation Tells BOE & Starr to "Cut It Out"

Exclusive video of the November 18, 2014, meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education and the Montgomery County State Delegation.

At minute 1:30 of this exclusive video Maryland Delegate Kathleen Dumais says the MCPS Press Release on the school construction budget is false.

There did not appear to be any reporters at this event.  This video was taken towards the end of the meeting.

November 17, 2014, Montgomery County Board of Education Press Release
...MCPS sought additional help from the state for school construction during the 2014 legislative session, but the funds were not approved. After the proposal fell through, the Montgomery County Council approved a $1.53 billion CIP for fiscal years (FY) 2015-2020, which was $214 million less than requested by the Board of Education. The Board’s requested amendments approved Monday would increase the six-year CIP to $1.75 billion.

“We deeply appreciate the partnership of our local elected officials and the significant investment our citizens make to meet the space needs of our students,” said Patricia O’Neill, vice president of the Board. “It is my hope that our state leaders will now step up to help provide our students with the learning spaces they need and deserve.”...

"I didn’t quite appreciate the people walking their kids to school"

ROCKVILLE – The Planning Commission re-approved a self-storage facility application in East Rockville with a 4-2 vote on Nov. 12, against the wishes of residents and the parents of students at a local elementary school...
 ...Commission Chair Don Hadley and Commissioner Charles Littlefield were the two dissenting votes and also voted against the project in September. Commissioner Dion Trahan, the third nay vote in September, was not present at the Nov. 12 meeting...
...Multiple residents of David Scull Courts talked about walking to and from bus stops or walking their children to school.
Sade’le, a mother who preferred only to give her first name, said she is worried about traffic and crime that could happen around the facility.
“There are fifth graders, fourth graders walking little kids because parents have to work to provide. We’re not as rich as the public storage unit people that have many locations and are gaining money for it,” she said. “We have one crossing guard that manages people coming from many directions.”
Littlefield said the testimony from David Scull Courts residents elevated his concerns about parents taking their children to Maryvale, which sits about two blocks from the storage site. Although he said overall traffic numbers would increase no matter what the site became, Littlefield voiced concern about people without experience driving trucks and vans dropping belongings at the storage unit.
“I don’t know that it would be a heavy flow of people, but it would exist and to me that just adds to the potential that, God forbid, a little child could get in an accident just because of the situation,” he said. “When we first considered this, I didn’t quite appreciate the people walking their kids to school from the direction of David Scull.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Breaking News: PG Cell Tower Committee Violated Open Meetings Act

Cell towers are being proposed for public school playgrounds in Montgomery County, Prince George's County and Anne Arundel County.

How much notice do parents get of these proposed school construction projects?  

In Prince George's County the answer has been none.  The Prince George's Telecommunications Transmission Facility Coordinating Committee that is charged with approving these projects was operating in violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.  A complaint was filed and the Committee immediately began to change their ways, but compliance with the Open Meetings Act comes too late for the schools where the cell towers are already being built.  Too bad for those communities and parents.

The Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board has given the Prince George's TTFC Committee a pass on the Open Meetings Act violations that they immediately corrected, but cites them for their failure to keep minutes of their actions.  

Yes, it does make it hard for the public to track the actions of a committee where there are no meeting notices, no meeting location, no agendas, and no minutes.

The failure of the Prince George's County Telecommunications Transmission Facility Coordinating Committee to follow the Maryland Open Meetings Act has made it very easy for vendors to quickly build cell towers on public school playgrounds in Prince George's County. 

"It may be the most effective watchdog model in the nation."

...The Watchdogs anti-corruption toolbox features an “exposure” website, insistence on freedom of information, pro se lawsuits, public comment at open meetings, earned media, and motivating hundreds of local citizens to attend board meetings. It may be the most effective watchdog model in the nation...
...In Ford-Iroquois County, the health department was disbanded after the Watchdogs pushed an investigation into an alleged $4 million federal flood grant fraud, public credit cards used for private beer and gasoline purchases, and substantial gift card employee compensation which circumvented payroll taxes...
...They even recently exposed a superintendent – a candidate running for the state house – who racked up $5,000 on the school credit card at fast food restaurants...
...The Watchdogs live by Dillon’s Rule – a principle from a famous 1868 case that says government only has the power granted by law. As the Watchdogs argue, in the absence of a legal basis, government power is limited. Public bodies are asked to prove that public funds, property or credit are only being used only for public purposes (Article 8 Section 1 of Illinois Constitution). Trusting government to act in the public’s interest isn’t good enough. They require proof and verification...

My Two Cents: Growing A More Diverse Teaching Corps In MCPS

by Joseph Hawkins — November 3, 2014

 A recent Montgomery County Council report points out that the Montgomery County Public Schools teacher corps is not diverse enough when compared to the school system’s student body.
Nearly, two-thirds of MCPS students are non-white and yet 76 percent of its teachers are white...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Exclusive: Joshua Starr Refuses to Meet with MD Enough Abuse Campaign

This letter was sent to Joshua Starr one year ago today from the Maryland Partnership to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (MPPCSA), the state level partnership that runs the Enough Abuse Campaign.

"I would also like to schedule a time to meet with you to discuss MPPCSA’s available resources to assist MCPS in assessing your current policies and practices and developing comprehensive strategies to reduce the risk of child sexual abuse within your schools."

To date, Superintendent Joshua Starr has not met with the Enough Abuse campaign Maryland State partner.  
It's been a year since they requested this meeting.  
Isn't it time for Superintendent Starr to meet with the Enough Abuse - Maryland partner?

Gazette: Family of girl who reported being groped by teacher is suing MCPS

Gazette story on lawsuit first reported here on October 31st by the Parents' Coalition.

Suit alleges assault by teacher, negligence by officials

Attention Joshua Starr: Tweet this! "It is widely recognized that child victims should not be subjected to numerous investigative interviews during the course of a child maltreatment investigation."

Last night ABC7 exposed yet another major error in the way MCPS handles allegations of sexual abuse of students by MCPS staff.  
...Parents were also furious about how the young victim had been handled at Clemente Middle once she reported Pineda’s alleged sexual assault. She was repeatedly questioned by staffers before police or her parents were called...

It has been known for decades that children should not be subjected to multiple interviews when there are allegations of sexual abuse or child abuse.  The quote below from the American Prosecutors Research Institute is from 2004.
...It is widely recognized that child victims should not be subjected to numerous investigative interviews during the course of a child maltreatment investigation. As stated in the American Prosecution Research Institute’s Investigation and Prosecution of Child Abuse manual: “The number of investigative interviews should be limited to one whenever possible. Multiple sessions are stressful for the child, are often unnecessary, and can lead to seemingly inconsistent statements.”1

1American Prosecutors Research Institute, Investigation and Prosecution of Child Abuse 39 (3d ed. Sage Publications 2004).

MCPS admits mistake in handling of alleged butt-grabbing substitute teacher

The MCPS child abuse policy that is used to train MCPS staff is 26 YEARS out of date. It is any wonder that MCPS staff have no idea how to handle these incidents? 

GERMANTOWN, Md. (WJLA) – Parents are outraged that Montgomery County Public Schools took so long to notify them about a substitute teacher accused of inappropriately touching a student.

Public Body Arrested for Denying Public Comment in violation of Open Meetings Act

...Clark County Sheriff Jerry Parsley personally responded to the scene that night, because he knew it was a heated situation. He told the BGA that Kraft handled the citizen's arrest responsibly, and the board was definitely in violation of the Open Meetings Act by not allowing the public to speak.
"It's not that they should have. They're mandated to," Parsley said. "The people need to have their voice. It's not a dictatorship. It's a democracy."...

MCCPTA Shuts Out Dues Paying Members from Yahoo Discussion List

This is the message that PTA members got last week.
Last week, MCCPTA deleted dues paying PTA members from the MCCPTA Yahoo discussion list.

For over a decade, dues paying PTA members could participate and read the MCCPTA Yahoo discussion list, but all that ended last week. MCCPTA deleted everyone from the Yahoo group that wasn't part of the MCCPTA inner circle. 

MCCPTA is no longer interested in keeping dues paying PTA members informed about the workings of this countywide organization.

It's really not a surprise.  Since around 2009 MCCPTA Presidents have been sitting on the MCPS budget committees and signing Confidentiality Agreements swearing that they will not reveal the MCPS back room budget discussions to their members.

PTA members, how is MCCPTA representing you behind closed doors? MCCPTA isn't telling.  

Parents just remember, according to MCCPTA the less you know the better.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Video: Parents Say No to Cell Tower at Clemente Middle School

There was no support at the November 11th parent meeting for Superintendent Joshua Starr's proposal to build a cell tower on the Clemente Middle School playground.

Why are education dollars being wasted by MCPS staff on this proposal?  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Stop Alternative Education Programs' Relocation To English Manor School

This community moves fast! They just found out about Superintendent Joshua Starr's plan to attempt to reclaim a school building in their neighborhood and they already have a website up and running.


Bethesda PTA Reps Make Their Case For More School Construction

North Bethesda Middle School’s cafeteria is so crowded during lunch that it’s almost impossible to walk between the tables. Portables are likely headed to Walt Whitman High School next year. By January, Pyle Middle School might have 1,500 students — more than six county high schools...

Breaking News: Starr Wants Elem School Back, But No Right To Reclaim Building or Site

MCPS says they have a "planning" department, but situations like this make one wonder.

In Superintendent Joshua Starr's Capital Budget proposal released on October 28, 2014, Starr announced that he was going to move a program from the Ewing Center to a Montgomery County owned property in Aspen Hill.  The property in Aspen Hill is the former English Manor Elementary School.

At the November 6, 2014, Board of Education public hearing, BOE member Shirley Brandman asked if MCPS anticipated any difficulty reclaiming the English Manor Elementary School site.

As it turns out, the answer to that question should be yes, as the Deed given to Montgomery County for this property did not include any right to reclamation for the Board of Education.

The Board of Education will vote on this plan this evening, just 20 days after Starr's announcement of this plan.  Not much time for the public to review or have input in to a plan that has a big glitch.

Community opposition already exists to this plan.$file/141106%20Res%20Work%20Session%20Qs.pdf

BOE Member Mike Durso in Hillandale on Nov. 20th

Hillandale Meeting: Thursday, Nov 20, 2014
7:15-8:45 PM at CHI
 10501 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20903
We will have two speakers at this HCA meeting.  All residents are invited -- bring your neighbors too!
Please come early.  We'll have light refreshments at 7:15.  Bring your questions for our speakers:
7:30 --- Mike Durso, District 5's Member of the Board of Education will be our guest for a Q & A session.  The election is over, and now is the time to determine what can be done to bolster our local schools. The Northeast Consortium including Hillandale’s local schools are among those characterized as experiencing the “achievement gap.”  Because the quality of the schools serving a neighborhood is a major determinate factor for new homeowners, all residents should be eager to understand and press Mr. Durso about how the Board of Education is working to address this long-standing issue.  Whether you have school-aged children or not, quality schools are a big priority.

4 More No Bid Crumb Rubber Plastic Football Fields on Order for MCPS. That's $5.2 Million Diverted from School Maintenance Needs

One ton of crumb rubber.  Each field gets 120 tons of crumb rubber.
MCPS loves their no bid, crumb rubber, plastic grass football fields!

They love them so much they buy them without Board of Education votes, without competitive bids and without RFPs.  Why shop when you can have a vendor that you just love?  (Oh, and a vendor whose lobbyist was Roger Berliner's former law firm.)   

On Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 1 PM a BOE committee will discuss the artificial turf football fields that are already on order.  It turns out that Wheaton, Seneca Valley, BCC and Poolesville High Schools are already getting MCPS paid for artificial turf football fields. Churchill? Sorry, your field is in litigation and you don't get a MCPS paid for field anyway. 

How did the BOE decide which high schools get a taxpayer paid for no bid, crumb rubber field and which one's have to find a "partner"  and do their own fundraising?

When did the BOE vote to automatically include a no bid, plastic grass field at every high school modernization?

When did the BOE decide that no bid, crumb rubber plastic grass football fields were more important than routine school maintenance?  

Any schools with crumbling ceilings, leaky roofs, dangerous hallways, inaccessible buildings, deteriorating classroom trailers, broken lockers, unusable classrooms, mold, or unsecured walkways?  Sorry, those repairs can just wait. MCPS needs $5.2 million for plastic grass filled with ground up, used truck tires that only lasts a few years and then has to be replaced.


MCPS no bid, crumb rubber, plastic grass football field projects already in planning, design, and construction process.

Wheaton/Edison HS (FY 2018 Completion)

Seneca Valley HS (Completion 2020)

Bethesda Chevy Chase HS

Poolesville HS (FY 2017 planning, FY 2023 Completion)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Middle school comes clean about alleged sexual assault

DAMASCUS – A middle school eventually notified parents of an alleged sexual assault from October after media outlets criticized Montgomery County Public Schools for keeping the incident quiet.
On Oct. 6, 44-year-old camera maintenance worker John E. Epps, Jr. allegedly touched 12-year-old student Jasmine Andoh-Thompson’s buttocks at Baker Middle School, according to court documents. Police identified Epps on security footage as the suspect and charged him with second-degree assault and fourth-degree sex offense.
The Montgomery County Circuit Court has scheduled his trial date for Nov. 21. Meanwhile, parents have voiced concern that MCPS did not notify them of the incident. Many found out when WJLA posted a story about the incident on Nov. 2 in which they interviewed Andoh-Thompson and her mother...

...In Montgomery County, those who have been affected by sexual assault can reach out to the Victim Assistance & Sexual Assault Program hotline at (240) 777-1355. Every jurisdiction has a Rape Crisis and Recovery Center. Find a full list of centers in Maryland at