Friday, October 31, 2014

Exclusive: Family Sues BOE over Loiederman MS teacher incident

The Parents' Coalition has learned that a lawsuit has been filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court against the Montgomery County Board of Education concerning the incidents surrounding the arrest of Loiederman Middle School teacher Benjamin Cano. 

Cano was sentenced on January 21, 2014, on two misdemeanor sex offenses in the fourth degree and assault in the second degree.

The civil lawsuit filed in September in Montgomery County Circuit Court lists the following counts:
  • assault and battery
  • negligent hiring/negligent retention
  • battery
Damages against the Board of Education are sought in excess of $75,000.

Whitman Football Coach Plead Guilty on September 26th

A Potomac man was sentenced to three years of probation in District Court on Friday for recording an exchange student while she was taking a shower.
Darrien Lamont Tucker, 40, a physical education teacher at the McLean School of Maryland in Potomac, pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of visual surveillance in a private place and with prurient intent. He was given three years of probation with a one-year suspended sentence for each count, meaning any violation of his probation could result in two years of jail time.
The sentence also requires Tucker to attend therapy and have his computers regularly tested for “pornographic surveillance material,” according to Ramon Korionoff, spokesperson for the State Attorney’s office.
“This plea not only holds him accountable for his crimes but also provides the community safety,” Korionoff said in an email...

Article continues at this link:

Fox5 coverage of Tucker's arrest included, that Tucker has also served as a football coach at Walt Whitman High School.

Starr on Chromebooks: " can never have everything perfectly completed before you go forward..."

Here's Part 2 of the Board of Education meeting where Superintendent Joshua Starr's surprise Chromebooks project was announced and voted on.
In this segment of the video we learn about:
  • MCPS policies need to be updated immediately
  • Co-construction with students as to how to use Chromebooks
  • Training for teachers
  • Support/Repairs 
  • Equipment
  • Media Specialists take on new responsibilities

July 15, 2014
7.1 Strategic Technology Plan-Creating 21st Century Learning Spaces

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ike Leggett one of the Funders of BOE Incumbents Mailer

Did you receive a mailer similar to this one this week?

The mailer says it is "By authority:  Committee for the Public Schools PAC."

The Parents' Coalition has pulled the Campaign Finance report for this brand new political action committee and is making it public here so that voters can see who is actually funding this mailing supporting the current Board of Education members re-election campaigns.

It turns out that County Executive Ike Leggett's campaign account contributed $3,000 to this new Committee for the Public Schools PAC. 

However, County Executive Ike Leggett is not listed on the mailer as a supporter of these candidates.  

As of October 19th, the contributors to the Committee for the Public Schools PAC included:

MCEA (teachers' union)  $4,000
BOE member Judy Docca's campaign $7,000
BOE member Mike Durso's campaign $7,000
BOE member Patricia O'Neill's campaign $10,000
Senator Nancy King's campaign $1,500
County Executive Ike Leggett's campaign $3,000


Cell Tower Committee Admits MD Open Meetings Act Violation, PG Parents Can Finally Track 60 Cell Tower Plan

Cell Tower at Daly Elementary School, Germantown, MD
Parents in multiple Maryland counties, including Montgomery County, are having a hard time tracking the rapid construction of cell towers on public school playgrounds.

In Prince George's and Montgomery Counties, cell tower applications must go through a Tower Committee.  Tower Committees are public bodies and must abide by the requirements of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.  But, in Prince George's County the Tower Committee was not following the Open Meetings Act, making it impossible for parents to track when their local school playground was to be the site of one of the 60 cell tower compounds coming to their schools.

A complaint was filed on September 17th with the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board regarding the failure of the Prince George's Tower Committee to follow the Open Meetings Act.
This week the Prince George's Tower Committee filed their response to the complaint.

In their complaint they acknowledge numerous failings of their committee process including the fact that they have not been providing the public with Minutes of their meetings.

As a result of the Open Meetings Act Complaint that was filed:
  • The Tower Committee has now changed it's webpage to show meeting dates, time and location.  
  • The Tower Committee will now be posting notices of upcoming meetings. 
  • The Tower Committee has now made the location of their monthly meetings public so that the public can attend. 
  • The Tower Committee will now be making audio recordings of their meetings available to the public as the meeting minutes.
Here is the full text of the Tower Committee's response.  In the coming weeks the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board will review the complaint and the response and issue a formal Opinion.
In the meantime, the Tower Committee has committed to following the Open Meetings Act going forward.  This will make the construction of the 60 cell tower compounds on Prince George's public school playgrounds easier to track.

Original Complaint as filed September 17, 2014.

Maryland County Budget Information

Click this link for access to MACO County information

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

MCPS Chromebooks Presentation to Board of Education Part 1

This video is the first hour of the MCPS  July 15th presentation on the introduction of Chromebooks into classrooms.

July 15, 2014
7.1 Strategic Technology Plan-Creating 21st Century Learning Spaces

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

@mcpssuper Starr Calls This School a "Successful Co-Location" - You Be The Judge

Here's a couple of snapshots of the playground for students with severe disabilities at Matsunaga/Longview.

Do you call this successful planning?

Exclusive Pictures of Unlocked Pool at Nix Elementary School - Hearing Wed. Oct. 29th

These pictures show the condition of the unlocked and abandoned pool on the Roscoe Nix Elementary School parking lot on September 16, 2014.

As shown in the photo below, an unlocked door would allow Nix Elementary School students to easily enter and explore this abandoned pool property.

What have the Board of Education and Superintendent Joshua Starr done to keep students safe at this elementary school in light of the ongoing danger on the school parking lot?  

It should be noted that in 2005, the Board of Education bought the parking lot for the pool for use by Nix Elementary SchoolThe only access to the pool property now is over Board of Education property.  

As the Parents' Coalition and ABC7 have previously reported, this property is easily accessible by children at Nix Elementary School.

The Montgomery County Board of Appeals will hold a hearing on this property on Wednesday, October 29, 2014.

Monday, October 27, 2014

November 11th Meeting on Joshua Starr's Cell Tower for Clemente Middle School

Daly Elementary School cell tower - Germantown - Fall 2014
A public meeting has been scheduled in Germantown for that community to weigh in on a proposal to put a cell phone tower at Roberto Clemente Middle School.

The meeting is scheduled for Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. inside the school’s cafeteria at 18808 Waring Station Road...

Today: County Council Education Committee Off Site, Off Camera

MCPS Teacher Joynes Rape Trial Now Put Off Until May 26, 2015

Mugshot - Balt. Co.

MCPS teacher Lawrence Joynes is currently being held in a Montgomery County jail without bond.  He has two cases pending in the Montgomery County Circuit Court.  One of the cases involves the rape of a middle school student.  That trial has now been scheduled for May 26, 2015, and the Court has set aside four days for that matter.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Montgomery schools to prohibit certain chemicals in foods

New contracts won’t include some food dyes, sweeteners
From the Gazette.  Read the whole story here.
October 16, by Lindsay A. Powers, Staff Writer

Montgomery County students will be seeing fewer dyes, artificial sweeteners and other chemical additives in their food after a recent decision by school officials to add to a list of banned ingredients.

As Montgomery County Public Schools enters into new contracts with food vendors, the system will require that foods be free of the Blue 2, Green 3, Red 3, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 food dyes, aspartame, acesulfame-potassium, butylated hydroxyanisole, potassium bromate, propyl gallate, saccharin, sodium tripolyphosphate and tert-Butylhydroquinone, said Marla Caplon, director of food and nutrition services for the school system. Existing contracts won’t be affected.


Lindsey Parsons, co-founder of Real Food for Kids-Montgomery, said the change marks “a huge step.” Her organization, which includes more than 3,500 members, has advocated for healthier foods in county school cafeterias.

She said Real Food appreciates the school system’s decision given the number of items that will be affected.
“We recognize that that’s a big give for them,” she said.

The organization still wants to see other chemicals banned as well, including other food dyes and substances similar to MSG. Parsons said Real Food’s main concern is that the chemical additives that remain in school foods might be carcinogenic. Members are also concerned the food dyes might cause hyperactivity in some children.

[Marla] Caplon [MCPS Director of food and nutrition services] said some chemical additives are more prevalent in cafeteria foods and the school system thinks there are good reasons for keeping them.

Providing an example, she said that a caramel additive is used in nearly all the fully cooked meat items the school system serves. The system buys fully cooked meat due to safety reasons.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

U.S. High School Dropout Rates Fall, Especially Among Latinos

From Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight.  To read the whole story go here.
6:36 AM Oct 20, 2014
By Ben Casselman 

Five years ago, educators at Elkhart Community Schools realized they had a problem. Their dropout rate was too high. More than one third of the northern Indiana school district’s students weren’t graduating from high school on schedule. Among Hispanics, who make up about a third of the student body, the figures were even worse.

“It was a significant moment where we said we have to change the culture,” said Gail Draper, who heads the guidance department at Elkhart Central High School. “We had to do something to turn the tide.”

It seems to be working. In 2013, 85 percent of Elkhart’s students graduated on time, putting the district close to the state average. Perhaps even more remarkably, the graduation rate among Hispanics is now equal to — or even slightly above — that of the district’s overall population.

 Elkhart’s improvement is a particularly dramatic example of a nation-wide trend: Graduation rates are improving, especially for Latinos.1 Nationally, the on-time graduation rate topped 80 percent for the first time in 2012, up from 74 percent five years earlier. For Latinos, the graduation rate is up more than 10 percentage points over the past five years, to 76 percent. 

And...what works:

“It’s hard to get an 18-year-old to think in the long term when they can get a job for $12 an hour,” said Draper, the Elkhart guidance counselor.

So Elkhart administrators began calling local employers and talking to them about how by offering jobs to teenagers during school hours, they were contributing to the dropout problem — ultimately leaving them with a less educated workforce. In some cases, the administrators worked with employers to turn the jobs into internships, earning students school credit. And they developed an after-hours school program to help students who needed to work during the day stay in school.

“We try and work with the students in the circumstances that they’re in,” Draper said.

Draper recalled one student who had arrived in Elkhart from Mexico in his sophomore year speaking no English. He was a particularly promising student — until one day he walked into the guidance office and announced he was dropping out. His mother had lost her job. He needed to go to work.

“We said no, you can’t do that. You’re too smart,” Draper said. The school raced to find help for the student and his family, reaching out to local community groups to find financial support and working with the student to ensure he could stay in school while working. Draper said the experience showed the importance of relationships — the student’s relationship with his advisor, where he felt comfortable revealing his family’s problems, and the school’s relationship with the community, where they could find a solution.

It worked. The student stayed in school and is on track to graduate with his class this spring — with honors.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Silver Spring neighbors call abandoned Oakview Pool a hazard for kids and an eyesore | - Roscoe Nix Elementary School

See also Parents' Coalition October 21st posting of Montgomery County Citation concerning this abandoned pool next to Roscoe Nix Elementary School.

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJLA) - A Montgomery County neighborhood is wading into the debate over a long-standing, now-closed community pool that some say is a danger to kids and an eyesore.

Oakview Pool was built right after World War II, but now it’s crumbling, overgrown, and abandoned.
For many years, the pool served the neighborhood, but it’s located right next to an elementary school and in an area where lots of young children live.
“That's not good for the neighborhood and it's certainly not good for the school,” Donna Butts says.
The pool closed when the nonprofit organization that operated it ran out of money. The grounds have not been kept, rainwater sits in the bottom of the pool, and it was broken into and vandalized in August.
Some neighbors fear children can get in and get hurt.

Starr and Morrison on List for Los Angeles Superintendent Job .@mcpssuper .@CMSSupt

Deasy has stepped down as superintendent of LA Unified, replaced on an interim basis by Ray Cortines, it’s open season on speculating who might be considered as a permanent superintendent...

...In any case, let the speculation begin. Below is a list of possible candidates, compiled by LA School Report :
  • Alberto M. Carvalho has served as superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth largest school system, since 2008. He was named Florida’s 2014 Superintendent of the Year, the 2014 National Superintendent of the Year and has worked his whole career for the district
  • Richard A. Carranza has served as superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District since 2012. He previously served as deputy superintendent of Instruction, Innovation and Social Justice at the district from 2009 to 2012 and as northwest region superintendent for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas. 
  • Joshua Starr has served as superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland since 2011. He began his career as a special education teacher in New York City and served as superintendent of Stamford Public Schools in Connecticut.
  • Heath E. Morrison has seved as superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg  Schools district in North Carolina since 2012. He previously served as superintendent of the Washoe County School District in Nevada and community superintendent for the Down County Consortium in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland....

Karl A. Racine has raised about $675,000, including nearly a half-million of his own money, to fund his campaign, which has touted his experience as a litigator and manager.

Audits critical of candidate Karl Racine’s firm roil D.C. attorney general race

MCPS Contends State School Board Should Rule on Turf Field Dispute - Bethesda Beat

Montgomery County Public Schools is asking a Circuit Court judge to dismiss a youth soccer organization’s claims that it unfairly chose other groups to use turf fields at public schools, saying the state school board should weigh in on the issue before the court...

MCPS Contends State School Board Should Rule on Turf Field Dispute - Bethesda Beat

“Teachers say there is too much content to cover” in the standards they have now.

When Mike Petrilli, a national expert on education policy, complained in a Web site post about the thin content of social studies and science lessons in his son’s Montgomery County first-grade class, he received a friendly e-mail from Marty Creel, director of curriculum and instruction for the Montgomery County public schools...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

TONIGHT: Fairfax Board of Education Votes to Move High School Start Time

Are educational materials used to promote products to MCPS children?

We hope not.  But we'd like your help.

As our readers know, Pearson Education Inc, the global educational publisher, now is in charge of the curricular materials in Montgomery County Public Schools.

And our students have new media, Google Chrome account, and lots of other bells and whistles to accompany this new curriculum.

But - and there is always a but - have you noticed something else that comes with these packaged materials?

One MCPS parent recently commented on Facebook about a passage his child had from school concerning purchasing an iPhone and insurance.  Yes, a real life example, but how many elementary kids carry cell phones or purchase their own iPhone?  And insurance?  I don't have that for my iPhone.  My elementary school aged kids would have been confused.

Parents in NY noticed that Pearson exam materials frequently reference commercial products.  From the article:

"Just Do It" has been a familiar Nike slogan for years, but some parents are wondering what it was doing on some of New York's Common Core standardized English tests.
Brands including Barbie, iPod, Mug Root Beer and Life Savers showed up on the tests more than a million students in grades 3 through 8 took this month, leading to speculation it was some form of product placement advertising.
. . .

The use of brand names was one of several complaints raised by some educators and parents about the statewide tests, aligned to the Common Core standards intended to increase academic rigor. Some contend they are too difficult and don't measure what students are actually learning.
While such general complaints about Common Core tests have arisen elsewhere, advocates said the prevalence of brand names appears to be specific to New York.
Here is our question to the folks in MoCo:  Have you noticed any product placements in your child's educational materials this year?

We truly hope that our kids aren't seeing pitches for products in our educational materials or on media in the classroom, and that the one parent comment we picked up was an anomaly.  We don't think our children should be for sale in MoCo, and trust that the Board of Education feels the same way.

But you can never be too sure.

Parents and caregivers - we know you are paying attention to your child's progress.  So - as you go over homework and help out in assignments with your kids - keep an eye out for placement of specific trademarked goods.

And if you find something, take a screenshot (I usually print/save the page as a PDF), and send to us at

contact @

And, as always, stay tuned.

Exclusive: Family Suing Wootton Principal, Athletic Directors, Coaches and Board of Education #mocofootball
On June 27, 2014, a Wootton High School family filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court against Wootton High School principal Michael Doran, Wootton athletic directors Christopher Thompson and Al Lightsey, current and former Wootton coaches Benjamin Tynes, Mark Rabon, Tyree Spinner, and the Montgomery County Board of Education alleging that their student was injured during a football conditioning after school club as a result of "being required to do 125 elevated pushups."

According to the case file the Montgomery County Attorney has alleged that coach Tyree Spinner was not employed by MCPS at the time of the May 2011 incident, but became employed with MCPS a few months later.

The complaint asks for judgment in an amount in excess of $75,000.

City Paper: Karl’s In Charge: Audits Question Bills from Attorney General Candidate’s Law Firm #mocoboe #creditcards #venable

The Montgomery County Board of Education's credit card reviewer in the news: 
...But maybe no one is better positioned to enjoy the new office than Karl Racine, who’s taken a leave of absence from white-shoe law firm Venable to run for the job...

...He’s also loaned or given his campaign $450,000 since the race began, giving him a $40,000 cash advantage over his nearest rival as of Oct. 10...

...While Racine ran the firm, according to the audits, Venable overbilled its clients—including the District—by hundreds of thousands of dollars...

...In 2011, an inspector general looked into whether Venable’s billing to the Treasury Department could be substantiated. Venable submitted bills that were with “vague and inadequate” work descriptions, according to the report, as well as expenses that weren’t allowed under the terms of the contract.
When the inspector general audited $1,027,049 worth of payments to Venable, it questioned $676,840 worth of payments—which amounted to two-thirds of the audited fees. The investigation found many expenses, according to the report, that should have had more documentation...
 ...Venable employees weren’t just remunerated with cash. The audit also found them inappropriately billing for 28 lunch and dinner orders, for a total of $1,737.70 in meals. District taxpayers picked up the check...

WPost: Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong

WAMU: What it is like in a Pay to Play Climate

WAMU:   The Cost of D.C. Council’s Power Over Contracts