Saturday, April 25, 2015

The County Where Public Information Costs $58,000

Activists in a rich Maryland county requested details about a public library project that would benefit lower-income residents. They were told to cough up $58,000 for the public information.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/26/the-county-where-public-information-costs-58-000.html

Friday, April 24, 2015

MCPS Educator charged with sexual abuse of minor

...Wilson allegedly met the student underneath a set of stairs at the school where there were no cameras. The two would “kiss and touch,” according to court documents.
Police said it is believed the incidents occurred from October 2014 through March. Wilson gave the student his cell phone number while he was helping her with homework, according to police. They also exchanged phone calls and texts.
There was also another incident between the two where Wilson allegedly fondled the girl at the apartment building where the student lived, police said.
Police said the student last had contact with Wilson at the end of March, when he left the school to start a new job...
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/educator-in-montgomery-county-charged-with-sexual-abuse-of-minor/2015/04/24/970516d6-ea82-11e4-9a6a-c1ab95a0600b_story.html

Former Loiederman Middle School employee arrested for inappropriate contact with a student | WJLA.com

Former MCPS employee arrested for inappropriate contact with a student | WJLA.com

...Robert Otis Wilson, 23, a former paraeducator at Loiederman Middle School, was arrested by Montgomery County Police for inappropriate contact with a female student, authorities said Friday morning.
A paraeducator is a school employee who works under the supervison of a teacher.
Wilson has been charged with one count of sex abuse of a minor and three counts of third degree sex offense. The incidents occurred between October 2014 and March 2015.

Special Education Paraeducator - "some of the alleged conduct that led to his arrest may have occurred on school property."

...A former Montgomery County paraeducator is accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old female student.
Robert Otis Wilson III, 23, was arrested Thursday night, Montgomery County Police said.
Further details about the allegations have not been released, but Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) said in a statement in part, "We are very concerned and disturbed about the allegations against Mr. Wilson and that some of the alleged conduct that led to his arrest may have occurred on school property."
MCPS said Wilson is currently on administrative leave.
He had worked for MCPS since August 2013, when he started as a special education paraeducator. He later applied for a job at the Division of Food and Nutrition Services warehouse, and began that position March 30.
Wilson also worked as the assistant track coach at Wheaton High School for the past two years.
Members of both school communities are being notified about the arrest, MCPS said.
MCPS said the sex assault allegation came to the attention of a staff member at A. Mario Loiederman Middle School in Silver Spring earlier this month. The claim was then reported to Child Protective Services and the Montgomery County Police Department...

...Authorities interviewed Wilson on Tuesday. They say he admitted he had feelings toward the victim and that he knew it was wrong due to their age difference and his position as a paraeducator...

Charges Files on Loiederman Middle School Special Education Para-Educator

Charge and Disposition Information
(Each Charge is listed separately. The disposition is listed below the Charge)
Charge No:001Description:SEX ABUSE MINOR
Statute:CR.3.602.(b)(1)Description:SEX ABUSE MINOR
Amended Date:CJIS Code:1 0322MO/PLL:Probable Cause:X
Incident Date From: 10/01/2014To: 03/31/2015Victim Age:

Charge No:002Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Statute:CR.3.307Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Amended Date:CJIS Code:3 3600MO/PLL:Probable Cause:X
Incident Date From: 10/01/2014To: 03/31/2015Victim Age:

Charge No:003Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Statute:CR.3.307Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Amended Date:CJIS Code:3 3600MO/PLL:Probable Cause:X
Incident Date From: 10/01/2014To: 03/31/2015Victim Age:

Charge No:004Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Statute:CR.3.307Description:SEX OFFENSE THIRD DEGREE
Amended Date:CJIS Code:3 3600MO/PLL:Probable Cause:X
Incident Date From: 10/01/2014To: 03/31/2015Victim Age:

MCPS Teachers/Coaches/Staff Arrested for alleged Child Abuse and Sexual Abuse of Students

The Parents' Coalition is tracking the arrests of MCPS teachers, para-educators, contractors, substitutes and staff on charges of sexually abusing MCPS students. 

Find the list at this link and please let us know if we have missed any arrests. 

Meanwhile, the Board of Education's Child Abuse Police remains 27 years out of date.

Educator accused of sexually abusing minor student at Silver Spr - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Educator accused of sexually abusing minor student at Silver Spr - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

 SILVER SPRING, Md. -
A Montgomery County educator, accused of sexually abusing a minor student, is in police custody.
Robert Otis Wilson III was arrested late Thursday night at his Silver Spring home. He is charged with 4 counts of sex abuse after investigators say he was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a 14-year-old female student at the school where he taught.
Wilson, who is described as a para-educator formerly at Loiederman Middle School in Silver Spring, is accused of meeting with the student and engaging in inappropriate touching and kissing beginning in October of 2014.
Wilson, who was assisting the girl with after-school work, allegedly met the student under a stairwell where no security cameras were present. Police say this occurred once a day for several months...

New Rockville Elementary School to Cost $35.4 Million

Rockville’s Richard Montgomery cluster is one step closer to getting a new elementary school, following a decision by the Montgomery County Board of Education....
...The construction phase of the school is expected to begin in January and be finished by August 2017.
The school is projected to cost $35.4 million and will be part of the Richard Montgomery Cluster, along with Beall, College Gardens, Ritchie Park and Twinbrook elementary schools; Julius West Middle School; and Richard Montgomery High School.
For now, the school is called Richard Montgomery Elementary School No. 5, but another name will likely be chosen before it opens.
The building would initially be built to accommodate about 600 students, but could be expanded to handle up to 740 in kindergarten through fifth grades...

 http://www.gazette.net/article/20150403/NEWS/150409537/1094/new-rockville-elementary-school-moves-forward&template=gazette

Sentinel Cartoon: Addressing School Capacity Issues

http://www.thesentinel.com/mont/images/cartoons/SENTINEL_2015-04-09_New_MCPS_Bus_Depot.jpg

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Bill To Increase Power Of Student School Board Member Suffers 11th-Hour Defeat

...Nonetheless, there were private concerns about the bill voiced among some delegation members in the wake of the intense maneuvering earlier this year over whether to extend the contract of former Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr.
While the student member of the eight-member school board already has the power to vote on a superintendent’s contract absent additional legislation, the split in the school board over Starr’s future—potentially placing the student member in a position to cast a deciding vote—raised questions about the wisdom of putting additional responsibilities and pressures on the student member. These concerns appeared to have slowed down movement on the bill as the legislative clock ticked in recent weeks...

...Meanwhile, legislative sources suggested that, in the waning hours of this year’s session, the SMOB bill may have become politically entangled with another Montgomery County “local” bill—a somewhat controversial proposal by the county’s House delegation to require special elections for unexpected school board vacancies. Out of 20 local bills put forth by the county House delegation this year, the SMOB and special election bills were the two whose fate remained unresolved in the last week of the session. And both were being considered almost simultaneously by the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs panel.
Del. Al Carr, D-Kensington, the lead sponsor of the special election bill, defended it as placing the school board on the same footing as the Montgomery County Council in the event of a vacancy. At present, when a school board vacancy occurs, it is filled by the remaining members of the board. In the case of the County Council, a special election must be held if the vacancy occurs in the first three years of a four-year term.
But the school board special election bill became a point of tension between the county’s House and Senate delegation after the proposal cleared the full House on a 140-0 vote in mid-March. King, a former school board member, quickly voiced her opposition, and the current school board was said to be opposed to the legislation as well...

 http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/2015/Bill-To-Increase-Power-Of-Student-School-Board-Member-Suffers-11th-Hour-Death/

MCPS places controversial cellular towers at predominantly high-poverty schools, stats show | WJLA.com



MCPS places controversial cellular towers at predominantly high-poverty schools, stats show | WJLA.com

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Palm Beach County's new superintendent would make a base salary of $350,000 a year under a proposed contract, likely making him the highest paid in Florida.

...In addition to salary and health, life and disability insurance, Avossa's proposed contract includes other perks and allowances.
Deferred compensation of $24,000 a year, which will go into a tax sheltered annuity.
An automobile and expenses associated with it, including tolls, fuel, oil, insurance and maintenance.
A business expense account of $1,000 per month.
Membership in several professional associations.
The employee's contribution into the Florida Retirement System and up to $19,000 additional per year at the end of each year of service.
Technology, including a smartphone of his choice, a personal computer system, software, high-speed Internet connection, laser printer and fax machine for his home.
Twenty-two days of leave per year and one sick day per month, in addition to normal district holidays.
Twenty weeks of severance pay if he is terminated without cause. This is the maximum allowed by the state...

 http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/palm-beach/fl-palm-superintendent-contract-20150421-story.html

Breaking: MCPS Superintendent Finalist Announced and Lost to Florida

You can only read the article linked below if you promise not tell Board of Education President Patricia O'Neill that you have learned the name of one of the finalists for the position of the MCPS superintendent.

Board of Education President O'Neill has already made it very clear that she does not want the names of the MCPS superintendent finalists made public.

So, if you can keep a secret you can read this AJC.com article about a finalist for the MCPS superintendent position that just accepted another job in Florida. 


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My Two Cents: Debating Healthy Food In MCPS

For the past 15 years, I’ve worked as a federal contractor supporting a government survey that assesses school health.

I see what educators and health experts around the nation do to improve the lives of youth. And one of the side benefits of the work is that I get to attend the occasional conference to hear about what is actually happening on the ground.

Several years ago, for example, I spent half a day listening to Kentucky educators explain how they connected local farmers and schools to improve school lunches. Local farmers also helped build functional school gardens. The end result was a true farm-to-table operation. Kentucky school children were eating just like the hipsters on the Food Network.
And so when a small group of Montgomery County Public Schools parents started advocating for “real” food, I paid attention. Was farm-to-table coming to MCPS?...

Monday, April 20, 2015

Today: BOE Committee Will Discuss Sexual Abuse of MCPS Students

Mon, April 20 01:00 PM Policy Management Committee


Warning: Montgomery Co. Will Not Protect Names of Children Who Are Victims of Sexual Abuse by Adults

If you watched or read the Fox5 report on the recent allegations regarding a Chevy Chase karate teacher you heard or saw this statement at the end of the article.
...Detectives would like to identify and speak to these victims captured on the videos to determine possible criminal acts that may have occurred. Victim information will be confidential and victims are strongly urged to call investigators.

The Parents' Coalition regrets to inform Montgomery County parents and guardians that the above statement is not true.  While Montgomery County Police may keep the names of victims confidential during investigations, when official public charging documents are filed in District or Circuit Court, the Montgomery County State's Attorney will not redact the names of children who have been victims of sexual abuse by adults.

The Parents' Coalition has found numerous examples of public charging documents where the first name, last name and birth date of the CHILD VICTIMS have been printed in the public charging documents.

Thinking that the failure to redact the names of these children was an error, we contacted the Montgomery County State's Attorney's office directly.  We learned from the Montgomery County State's Attorney Division Chief Debbie Feinstein that the Montgomery County State's Attorney's office DOES NOT REDACT THE NAMES OF CHILDREN WHO ARE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE.

We know that other Maryland Counties do redact the names of children when they are the victims of sexual abuse by adults.

We are horrified and stunned that Montgomery County does not protect children who have been victims of sexual abuse.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Chevy Chase karate teacher wanted on child pornography charges - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Chevy Chase karate teacher wanted on child pornography charges - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

CHEVY CHASE, Md. - A warrant has been issued for a Montgomery County karate teacher who faces child pornography charges, and police believe some of the students at his Chevy Chase studio may have been victims.

Montgomery County police say 26-year-old Alexander Soumbadze currently faces eight counts of possession of child pornography, but investigators believe he may have fled the country. Investigators are also attempting to find and speak with possible additional, unidentified victims, and say there may be additional charges filed once those people are located.

In December 2014, the Montgomery County Police-Child Exploitation Unit was alerted by the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation that someone who possibly resided in Montgomery County was uploading child pornography via the internet. Detectives obtained information about that particular user, who was later identified as Soumbadze.

Then, on April 1, a search warrant was executed at Soumbadze's Bethesda home. He was interviewed, and admitted to trading and receiving child pornography. Investigators seized several of his electronic devices, and in reviewing their contents, the found eight videos containing child pornography.

Investigators also found videos of Soumbadze improperly touching and engaging in sexual acts with what appear to be adolescent boys and young adults. They say it appears the victims knew they were being videotaped.

Authorities say they were able to determine the videos were shot prior to October 2011 at a karate studio formerly known as DC Martial Arts, which was located at 6936 Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase. Soumbadze had been an instructor at that studio, and when the business changed ownership in October 2011, he became a partner in the business, which was then called On The Mat Sports International.

Investigators say Soumbadze has been affiliated with the karate studio since he was a young child and attended the studio as a student.

Police say Soumbadze fled the U.S. on or about April 3, and his possible final destination may have been the country of Georgia.  A warrant has been issued for his arrest, and the investigation into these additional seized videos continues.

Detectives would like to identify and speak to these victims captured on the videos to determine possible criminal acts that may have occurred. Victim information will be confidential and victims are strongly urged to call investigators.

Investigators are asking that anyone who believes he or she was a victim of inappropriate contact with Soumbadze to please call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5406.

Friday, April 17, 2015

L.A. school district demands iPad refund from Apple

From the LA Times, by reporter Howard Blume. For the complete story go here.
Contact info: howard.blume@latimes.com  @HowardBlume

The Los Angeles Unified School District is seeking to recoup millions of dollars from technology giant Apple over a problem-plagued curriculum that was provided with iPads intended to be given to every student, teacher and administrator.

To press its case, the Board of Education on Tuesday authorized its attorneys in a closed-door meeting to explore possible litigation against Apple and Pearson, the company that developed the curriculum as a subcontractor to Apple.

L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product,” said David Holmquist, general counsel for the nation’s second-largest school system. He said millions of dollars could be at stake.

And:

 The $1.3-billion iPad effort was a signature program under then-Supt. John Deasy. But it faltered almost immediately during the fall 2013 rollout of the devices. Questions later arose about whether Apple and Pearson enjoyed an advantage in the bidding process; an FBI criminal investigation is ongoing.

And:

Under the contract, Pearson was to provide English and math curriculum. The district selected Pearson based only on samples of curriculum — nothing more was available.

L.A. Unified made the deal anyway; it wanted to bundle the curriculum and the device into a single price. A three-year license to use the curriculum added about $200 to the $768 cost of each iPad. The entire purchase then was financed through school construction bonds, which can be used to purchase computers.

L.A. Unified bought 43,261 iPads with the Pearson curriculum. The district purchased another 77,175 iPads under the contract without the Pearson curriculum to be used initially for state standardized tests.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

L.A. School District Terminates iPad Program and Seeks Refund From Apple

From Slate.com by reporter Lily Hay Newman, 4/16/15, 3:31pm

It's been an interesting ride, but the Los Angeles school iPad program is done. Between the rampant student hacking and the FBI probe, you can see how the focus kind of wandered away from education. But there are millions of dollars tied up in the project, so it's not just lunch money.
As the Los Angeles Times reports, the Unified School District Board of Education told its attorneys that they should consider litigation against Apple and Pearson. (Pearson developed the iPad curriculum as an Apple contractor.) District counsel David Holmquist said that Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product.” In a letter to Apple, the school district wrote that it won't continue to pay for the Pearson curriculum or services. And board members are calling for a refund.

For the entire story go here.


MCPS to Investigate Constructing a Cell Tower at Neelsville Middle School


...If the school and PTSA decide not to move forward at this point the cell tower would not be built. However, if they decide to continue the process, the process will have to go through the general public comment and meeting sessions as any other construction project in county. At that point a full open community meeting would be organized by the school.
   There are currently 11 Montgomery County Public Schools with cell towers, all but one are high schools, Capt. James Daly Elementary is the only exception.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Exlusive E-Mails Between Starr and BOE During Last 3 Months: Bell Times, Sexual Abuse, Blair Ewing School, Minority Scholars, Purple Line, Washington Post, Outdoor Ed

SMOB bill fails

In the final minutes of the Maryland legislative session on April 13, questions were raised in the senate about HB0086, Montgomery County Board of Education - Student Member - Voting MC 7-15.

At midnight, the 2015 session of the Maryland General Assembly ended and the bill did not receive a final vote, and will therefore not become law.

HB0086 would have allowed the Student Member of the Montgomery County Board of Education to vote on budgetary matters.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Bowers Putting Another Cell Tower Compound on Another Red Zone Playground - Meeting Tues. April 14th at 7 PM

PTSA Meeting
When: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Where: Neelsville Middle School Media Center, Germantown

Interim MCPS Superintendent Larry Bowers is allowing VERIZON to make a presentation at Neelsville Middle School on Tuesday, April 14th on his plans to permit another cell tower compound to be built on another Red Zone playground.
The next MCPS Red Zone school to get a cell tower compound will be Neeslville Middle School in Germantown. See the pink arrow on the map for the location of Neelsville Middle School.
Red Zone refers to schools that have a high rate of students receiving free and reduced priced meals. As you can see from this map, the vast majority of cell tower compounds on MCPS playgrounds have been placed on schools that are located in the Red Zone.  It has been documented that cell towers can reduce the property value of neighboring properties.

Yellow dots show MCPS school playgrounds that already have cell tower compounds.





MCPS And Planners Sparring Over Design Of New Bethesda-Chevy Chase School

Things have gotten testy between planners and MCPS officials who disagree about how to best protect trees at the site of a planned middle school in Kensington...

 ...A discussion at the March 26 Planning Board hearing also illustrated the apparent rift between planners and school officials when it comes to designing new schools on smaller-than-preferred school sites...

...Planning Department Director Gwen Wright claimed MCPS staff had contacted PTA representatives in the days before the hearing “and told them that Park and Planning is trying to delay the project and that they should speak up.”
 “That’s a very disappointing outcome to what started as a collaborative effort to solve a difficult problem to try to achieve a plan that would meet the law,” Wright said...

http://www.bethesdanow.com/2015/04/06/planners-mcps-disagree-on-new-bethesda-chevy-chase-middle-school/