Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Gazette: Youth group says busy roads around Northwest aren’t safe

Gazette: Students look to school board for help with walking, busing issues
...Ruthanne Stoltzfus, a retired teacher who lives in Germantown, said she often stands near Seneca Valley High School after school gets out to help student pedestrians navigate the roads.
Christina Morris-Ward, a sophomore at Seneca Valley, was struck while crossing Md. 118 on her way to school in 2012. She died from her injuries.
Stoltzfus — who said she sees both distracted walkers and distracted drivers — questioned the location of the high school.
“We plant them in between Wisteria [Drive] and Middlebrook [Road] in this great, big, busy block and have them walk all over this congested area,” she said.
Last school year, two Richard Montgomery High School students were hit by cars in separate incidents. One student was struck as she walked in a crosswalk on Rockville Pike. Another student was hit while he was crossing Wootton Parkway where there was no crosswalk.
Montgomery Blair High School sits near University Boulevard and Colesville Road, an area that has seen a high number of traffic accidents, said Therese Gibson, the school’s parent, teacher, student association leader. At the beginning of each academic year, Gibson said, the school will talk to the students about pedestrian safety and the school’s closed-campus rule tied to the area’s dangerous walking conditions...

Blair HS Now Has Same Number of School Days for All Students

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has made Montgomery Blair High School cancel its freshman-only day in the upcoming 2014-15 school year to avoid confusion with starting dates among Blair students and students around the rest of the county. Blair is requiring that all students come to school Aug. 25...
 ...Blair had been the only school in the county which had the first day of the school year dedicated to allowing only ninth graders to go to school. Former Blair principal Phillip Gainous created the freshman-only day in the 1998-99 school year...

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cell tower fires on high school sports field #HAZMAT #wheatonhighschool #kennedyhighschool #celltowerfire

Superintendent Joshua Starr wants cell towers on public school playgrounds and fields because why?

Reminder:  Cell Tower compounds are HAZMAT locations and must register with the Montgomery County Fire Department.  

This September 13, 2014, story from Oregon shows a cell tower on fire on a high school sports fields.

And here is a story from this summer about a cell tower fire on another high school sports field.
Fire and police crews responded about 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, July 15, to Anderson Field at Bobcat Stadium in Grandview Heights after one of its light poles caught on fire.
The fire began while a crew from Sprint was upgrading a cell tower located on top of the light pole, according to an email blast issued by Superintendent Andy Culp.

Board of Education Spent $112,569 in One Month on Law Firm Reviewing Credit Card Expenditures - Bethesda Beat

...Why would the board spend more than $128,000 in legal fees for advice on an issue in which they were criticized for improper spending in the first place?
According to Board President Phil Kauffman, who responded to a Bethesda Beat email about the issue, the board thought it was important to have an independent counsel “thoroughly examine the records to ensure that taxpayer dollars were being used appropriately.”...
 ...“Our goal always is to have reasonable legal costs and to get good advice from experts to help us make the best possible decisions,” Kauffman wrote. “I am confident that we did that here and I believe that our new processes and procedures will ultimately serve the board and public well.”...

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Exclusive: Parents' Coalition Releases Cell Tower Deal Documents from Across the State

Daly Elementary School playground
Germantown, MD
The PTA and neighbors opposed
the construction of this cell tower.
The MCPS Board of Education
built the tower anyway.
The Parents' Coalition has conducted Maryland Public Information Act requests in all of the 9 public school counties in the State of Maryland that have entered into deals with the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) partner Milestone Communications.

These never before seen documents are available now only through the Parents' Coalition.  Even the local public school systems that have entered into these deals have not made all of these documents available to their parents and citizens.

The Parents' Coalition does not believe that these public school documents should be a secret.

When compared, we immediately see that there are only two Boards of Education, Anne Arundel and Prince George's, that have entered into the unruly and overreaching "Master Agreement" that purports to turn over virtually all county Board of Education property to Milestone Communications for use as cell tower sites.

The "Master Agreements" attempt to eliminate the ability of all parents and citizens countywide to participate and be heard in decisions regarding construction on their local public school playground.

Parents in Anne Arundel County and Prince George's County are just now finding out the surprising news that their local public school playground is on a list of potential cell tower sites being marketed to telecommunications companies.

Under these "Master Agreements" each public school playground is available for the construction of up to three cell tower compounds!  Yes, THREE per playground!

Click the link below for all of the MABE partner Milestone Communications documents that we have obtained.

Documents: Milestone Communications - Cell Towers on Public School Land in Maryland

ABC7: MCPS Board of Ed. spends $140K in legal fees amid Board of Education credit card scandal

"We shouldn't be paying for that," Rosanne Hurwitz said. "It's not my fault there was a failure of leadership."
Hurwitz, a member of the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, is appalled that hardworking citizens are being forced to defend the financial faults of certain elected officials.
"It's a lot of money when we [the Parents' Coalition] gave them the same advice for free ... [Taxpayer insight] is a lot cheaper than hiring an attorney from a downtown law firm," Hurwitz added.
Read more: http://www.wjla.com/articles/2014/09/mcps-spends-140k-in-legal-fees-amid-board-of-education-credit-card-scandal-107081.html#ixzz3DBwXY8jY

Friday, September 12, 2014

“Zoning is not by plebiscite,” Dalrymple told the commission.- Maryvale ES gets Storage Facilty Next Door

Gazette:  Despite objections, Rockville commission OKs storage facility

...Critics also argued that it would create a risk to the students at Maryvale, through increased traffic from customers or potential criminal activity by people storing items at the facility...

Balto. Co. schools' song and dance [Editorial]

If Baltimore County residents had any doubts about the wisdom of moving toward a hybrid appointed/elected school board rather than the all-appointed version we have now, they were likely erased last week when the board voted to hand Superintendent Dallas Dance what amounts to a $27,000 raise. Not only did the board employ what is at best linguistic sleight of hand to provide Mr. Dance a bigger raise than his contract would allow, but it also shut down any public discussion of whether the raise was warranted. Critics of the system have contended for years that the board's all-appointed structure makes it unresponsive to the public. Last week's meeting appeared designed to prove the point.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-dallas-dance-salary-20140819,0,5012930.story#ixzz3BnpaRt2N

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Proposed bill would require those who don’t provide apprentice training to pay more

Gazette: Montgomery County Council wants contractors to fund apprenticeship program
...A bill, co-sponsored by Councilman Hans Riemer and Councilwoman Nancy Navarro, would require county construction contractors and subcontractors to provide apprenticeship training for workers or pay a fee to support the Building and Construction Technology Program operated by Montgomery College...

MCPS Mom Files Complaint with US Dept of Ed, Gets Transportation for Child to Magnet School

A Kensington boy is being bused to school after his mother filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education saying Montgomery County Public Schools discriminated against her son when the system did not provide him transportation to a magnet program...
...“I worked smarter because I know that federal government provides funds to schools, and you are supposed to be following federal law to get those funds,” she said. “I took it a different route.”
In response to Diaz-Cooper’s complaint, the county school system decided to enter into a resolution agreement, according to a May 28 letter to Diaz-Cooper from an education department attorney...

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

BOE Spent $128,125 Defending Use of MCPS Credit Cards and $158,477 Expense Account #Venable #KarlRacine

Fager's Island Restaurant Receipt
Montgomery County's Board of Education members really, really, really like their $158,477 expense account.

They like it so much that they paid $128,125 to have the Venable law firm and partner Karl Racine defend their use of MCPS credit cards.

Yes, that was $128,125 the BOE spent just to defend their use of credit cards.

Absolutely no students benefited from this "education funding." No teachers were hired and no classrooms were stocked with school supplies.  How many Montgomery County homes paid property taxes to supply those "education" dollars to the BOE for this use?

$128,125 spent just on 8 BOE members demanding the right to spend "education" dollars on their own meals and entertainment. $112,569 of those dollars were spent in ONE MONTH.  

The Venable bill for May 2014 totaled $28,888. The largest amount was for financial matters ($15,556), all of which was related to the review of expense reimbursements.

The Venable bill for June 2014 totaled $112,569, all of which was related to the review of expense 

Next month: the July 2014 Venable bill will be revealed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

County Wants Bigger Cell Tower Next to Nix Elementary School Without Public Hearing

UPDATE: 9/10/2014 The Montgomery County Board of Appeals in an unanimous decision without discussion Granted the petitioner's request for a public hearing on this construction project.  
We will follow up with an announcement of the date and time of the public hearing before the Board of Appeals when that information becomes available. 

Roscoe Nix Elementary School is shown on the right side of this Google Street image. 
All of the parking in this photo belongs to MCPS.
Access to the abandoned pool and cell tower site on the left is through MCPS property only.

Would you send your child to an elementary school next to a commercial HAZMAT site located on an abandoned pool property?

Gazette March 26, 2014 article and photo
Check out what the property on the left of this above image looks like up close.  The Gazette photo on the left shows you what the area to the left of the red circle above looks like.

The swimming pools have been abandoned and are now filled with brown/green water and who knows what else. The property is in extreme disrepair and the barbed wire fencing to keep kids out is no longer in place. Any child from the elementary school across the parking lot could easily climb into this abandoned swimming pool property and explore the open waters.

Right now, Montgomery County wants to allow the cell tower on the pool property to grow.  They want to permit a larger cell tower compound and higher cell tower without addressing the condition of the underlying property! The Board of Appeals has granted the request to enlarge the cell tower compound without hearing from the public.

Montgomery County and MCPS are totally ignoring the incredibly dangerous situation that has been created by the abandonment of this property right across the parking lot from Nix Elementary School in Silver Spring.

Here's the question: Should a property owner be allowed to expand a commercial use of a property while allowing the property to decay to the point of becoming a hazard to neighborhood children who might decide to explore these abandoned pools?

Would Board members Patricia O'Neill and Shirley Brandman  permit this dangerous condition to exist on the parking lot of any Bethesda elementary school?  
Would they sit by and watch as the commercial HAZMAT use of abandoned property was increased next to a Bethesda elementary school?  

We know the answer to the above questions is NO!

But, Silver Spring? This is where you can send your kids to school. 

This matter is before the Montgomery County Board of Appeals on September 10th. See Agenda Item #15 below.  The issue is that there has been NO public hearing on the request to expand the cell tower on the abandoned pool property.   
A request has been made to the Board of Appeals for a public hearing to permit the public to discuss the request to build on this property.   
Will the Montgomery County Board of Appeals permit the public to be heard?   
Will anyone from the Board of Education speak up on behalf of this elementary school community and advocate for this property to be made safe before any further construction or expansion is allowed? 

Maryvale ES Parents Petition to Stop Construction of Storage Facility

I oppose the construction of a 4-level, 800-900-unit self-storage facility in the neighborhood adjacent to Maryvale Elementary School, less than 250 feet from school grounds, and within the legally designated school zone. The City of Rockville Planning Commission, Mayor, Council, and Planning Department must keep the promise of the East Rockville Neighborhood Plan and support our effort to "retain our existing sense of identity as a quiet, secure, residential neighborhood" and "reduce the impacts of industrial properties on the East Rockville community." Please do not approve the EZ Storage Facility.
Click here to read and sign the Petition.

Council's Education Committee to meet on Sept. 15th

ED 9:30 AM - 7th floor
Montgomery County Council
Sep 15, 2014

 • Briefing - ACES Program (Ferber)
 • FY14 Year-End MCPS Financial Report and Categorical Transfer (McGuire)
 •To be determined

Monday, September 8, 2014

MCPS discourages volunteering as public school sports managers by singling them out for severe limitation on SSL hours.

From MCPS SSL Fact Page
 by David Wilkerson
The Montgomery County Service Learning organization has singled out public school sports managers to limit the earned SSL [Student Service Learing] hours to a small fraction of the actual hours worked. No other SSL activities are limited (including other school related activities) and in fact one of the basic requirements of all SSL activities is that Students receive one SSL hour for every hour of service outside of the instructional day. 
Earning SSL hours beyond the graduation requirement doesn’t provide tangible benefits to the student. But the SSL hours are a token of recognition like the gold stars teachers gave in kindergarten. These have no value and cost the school system nothing, but they are used to encourage volunteerism. In this case, they seem to be discouraging volunteers by telling them they don’t deserve the gold stars other people get. They have taken something that is free (SSL hours – gold stars) and decided not to spend it on these sports managers for some unspoken reason which seems on the surface to be a crusade against public school sports. 
This limit doesn’t affect the ability to earn enough SSL hours for graduation, but instead serves no other purpose than to denigrate this volunteer activity. These administrators have gone to an effort to make this distinction but after several months of emails and calls, they are unwilling to explain the true reason for this decision. The only reasons given were complete nonsense. Mrs. Block-Rincan said that it was because they determined 30 hours was enough to meet the graduation requirement (which is of course true of all SSL activities but only applied here). Mrs. Smith told me it was because the managers enjoyed this job – which of course is also hopefully true of all volunteer activities. Mr. Warner scheduled a meeting with me but postponed it numerous times and then cancelled it.  
This SSL organization is part of the Office of Community Engagement and Partnerships – specifically Timothy B. Warner MCPS Chief Engagement and Partnership Officer (301-279-3074, Timothy_B_Warner@mcpsmd.org ), Mrs. Kimberly Block –Rincan Coordinator, student service learning and volunteer programming (301 279 3454, Kimberly_A_Bloch-Rincan@mcpsmd.org ), and Mrs. Cheryl Smith Director, Family and Community Engagement (301 279 3100 Cheryl_l_smith@mcpsmd.org). 
In the SSL brochure issued by the Montgomery County board of education Joshua P. Starr, Ed.D. (The superintendent of schools 301-279-3383, Joshua_Starr@mcpsmd.org) states that “SSL is an opportunity to strengthen character, develop responsibility, learn new skills, explore careers, and develop avenues for civic engagement.” Being a sports manager for a public school team meets ALL of the MCPS documented requirements for earning SSL hours, and frankly I can’t think of any volunteer activity that can do the things mentioned by Mr. Starr better...
...These infections are a huge issue and it requires diligent process and substantial effort to keep the mats and equipment clean. Our managers clean the mats before and after practice every day. If not for the managers doing this job, the schools would need to hire professionals to keep the mats clean using real dollars instead of free SSL hours...
...Personal bias against public school sports cannot be used to drive public policy and to make decisions like this that single out a class of (mostly girl) students doing a valuable volunteer function. Decisions need to be transparent, and must be based on objective criteria. 
full article at this link

Sunday, September 7, 2014

“The parents in Bethesda squeal loudly enough, and they are organized to deal with it themselves,” said [MCPS] Tim Warner

Missing from this quote in today's Washington Post is the fact that for the last 8 years two current Board of Education members have both lived in the Whitman High School district, directly across the street from each other.  
Board member Patricia O'Neill files for office using her actual address while Board member Shirley Brandman files for office using a P.O. Box that masks the fact that she lives directly across the street from Ms. O'Neill.  Maybe having 2 Board of Education members from one neighborhood helps advocacy too?
Does it also help if MCPS' Chief Engagement officer will meet with you, as opposed to advocates who can't get a meeting with Mr. Warner? What is the criteria for getting a meeting?
MCPS Chief Engagement (MCPS)
“The parents in Bethesda squeal loudly enough, and they are organized to deal with it themselves,” said Tim Warner, a former minister and now chief engagement and partnership officer for MCPS. He said Briggs Chaney and other high-poverty Montgomery communities are hindered by a lack of “social capital,” or the ability to speak with one effective voice to those in power.

Friday, September 5, 2014

WPost: Moco department heads ponied up for Ike Leggett’s Democratic primary campaign

...Leading the pack was Leggett’s spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, and his wife Dinah Leventhal (Council member George Leventhal’s sister), who contributed $3,595 in cash and $300 in unspecified in-kind donations. Trailing close behind was Technology Services director Sonny Segal and spouse Veena ($3,450)...

Errors in Pearson's LA curriculum

...Also, California education officials have only approved Pearson’s math courses for grades Kindergarten through eighth grade. And the state found errors in every grade, from simple problems, like typos, to bigger issues, like learning standards that were not correctly applied...


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Whitman Black & White: “Now we need to reinvent the wheel again to work with the new system.”

New MCPS software causes login problems
Students and teachers ran into trouble getting computer logins this week after changes to MCPS software regarding the network and login information.
Schools were notified about the new software midsummer. There hasn’t been an official Information Technology Systems Specialists (ITSS) meeting regarding how the software works, but it is expected to be easier to use, IT specialist Greg Thomas said.
Computer logins are usually printed for each student then handed out during homeroom on the first day, he said. With the new software, however, the logins are compiled into one master list of all students, and the school has no way to print out the information for each student individually...

There is no way to ensure absolute security on a technology device.

KATU.com Mom alleges students read erotic literature with school iPads 

The story also discusses the use of student GMAIL accounts like the ones that will be set up for MCPS students. 

Gazette Letter: "Every child is precious and each one must be protected."

MCPS classroom trailer.
Yes, this is a public school classroom.
As almost 154,000 children begin a new school year in Montgomery County, it is essential that our government leaders make public safety their number one priority to keep our children, teachers, and school staff safe... 
...Further, we have over 10,000 children being taught in trailers, without bathrooms and vulnerable to attack, in this county. This is a health and safety issue. All of our children must be taught in classrooms... 


LAUSD officials had close ties with Apple, Pearson execs, records show

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy and his chief deputy developed a special relationship with executives from the companies that won a key technology contract, records show, raising new questions about the bidding process in a $1-billion effort to provide a computer to every student in the nation's second-largest school system. 
This collaboration between top L.A. Unified officials and those from tech giant Apple Inc. and Pearson, detailed in public records, underscores findings from an internal school district report, which warned that officials' actions could have created an impression of unfairness in the bidding...