Thursday, December 11, 2008

CCFC Press Release on BusRadio in MCPS

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood Press Release

December 11, 2008

Contact: Josh Golin (617.278.4172)

For Immediate Release

Montgomery County Pulls the Plug on BusRadio


Today, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) decided to terminate their relationship with BusRadio, the controversial company created to force children to listen to commercialized radio broadcasts on school buses around the country. MCPS's decision came after the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) sent a letter to MCPS superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast urging him to end the use of BusRadio on MCPS school buses. Montgomery County had been using BusRadio in a number of school buses on a trial basis. With 96,000 school bus riders, Montgomery County would have been BusRadio's largest school district. The following is CCFC's statement on Montgomery County's decision:


The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood commends Montgomery County Public Schools for their decision to terminate their relationship with BusRadio. No school district should turn their students over to a company whose stated goal is to "take student-targeted marketing to the next level" or force children to listen to advertisements on their way to and from school.

CCFC also congratulates the Parents Coalition of Montgomery County for their advocacy efforts and for drawing attention to BusRadio's presence in Montgomery County. The events of the past twenty-four hours demonstrate once again that when parents learn the truth about BusRadio, they want no part of it for their children. We hope that parents around the country will continue to utilize our BusRadio resources – and those of Obligation, Inc – to keep their school buses commercial-free.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups and concerned parents who counter the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals who care about children. CCFC supports the rights of children to grow up – and the rights of parents to raise them – without being undermined by rampant commercialism. For more information, please visit: http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/

Monday, October 20, 2008

Schools collect student fees, but don't spend them on students

Here is how students were overcharged for Curricular Fees (and other fees) in the schools where audits have been made available on the Parents Coalition website. Where possible it is noted the total for
the group that included Curricular Fees. Although these account statements are not all organized the same and the accounts get mixed into different groups. 



The "overcharge" is how much was left in the student accounts as of June 30th - kids were gone - money left behind.

Fees paid in during school year but not expended on students during the school year.

Overcharge:

BCC: $78,378 (Curricular fees group)

Blair: $90,636 (Curricular fees group)

Churchill: $94,152 (Curricular Fees group)

Einstein $191,761 (all student accounts)

Poolesville $272,197 (all student accounts)

RM $37,221 (Curricular fees group)

Seneca Valley $107,398 (Curricular fees group)

WJ $63,594 (Curricular fees group)

Whitman $418,935 (all student accounts - not broken out by groups)

Wootton $132,011 (Curricular fees group)

Because we don't know how the funds are being spent, this is only a snapshot of funds that are being carried over to the next year. We can't tell if the funds expended were used for curriculum related items
or transfered to other non-student uses. All we can say about these numbers is that it appears that with regard to Curricular Fees, these schools are collecting more than they actually are spending.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Testimony to State Board: Curricular Fees in MCPS


Testimony to Maryland State Board of Education
September 23, 2008
Curricular Fees in Montgomery County Public Schools

Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to present public comment. My name is Janis Sartucci and I am a Montgomery County parent. My children have spent a combined 15 years as public school students in Montgomery County. Possibly you are aware of newspaper reports and media coverage on the issue of curricular fees that parents in Montgomery County are forced to pay. In the 3 minutes that I have before you I would like to make sure that you are aware of the facts behind the media reports on this issue and I would like to make a plea for your assistance.

Fact 1: In 2003, the Montgomery County Board of Education created a Curricular Fees policy that allowed for the collection of Curricular Fees from MCPS parents. This was a new policy for the county. (Attachment B)

Fact 2: This stack of textbooks and instructional materials, including this red suit, were required purchases for credit classes taken during the regular school day for one our children to attend Montgomery County public schools. In addition, I have a "towel" that is a required Physical Education fee at a number of MCPS high schools. (Towel was shown to State Board members.)

Fact 3: Students in Montgomery County pay Curricular Fees for English, Science, Foreign Language, Computer, Math, Social Studies, and Physical Education and many other credit classes taken during the course of the regular school day. In addition, some schools require mandatory senior fees that must be paid in order to participate in the school's graduation. (Attachment F)

Fact 4: Curricular fees are required to be paid and when not paid the debt creates what is known as an "obligation". Students who have outstanding obligations face many penalties including having their report cards withheld (per MCPS policy), are denied tickets to graduation, prom and homecoming, are denied access to after school activities, and can have their names placed on a list that is publicly displayed on the school wall. (Attachment A)

Fact 5: In August of 2008, MCPS parents wrote to Attorney General Gansler for assistance on the mandatory Curricular Fees being charged by MCPS schools.

Fact 6: On August 18, 2008, principal counsel to the Maryland State Department of Education, Elizabeth Kameen, responded to a MCPS parent and copied her letter on school fees to Superintendent Jerry Weast and State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick. (Attachment C)

Fact 7: The next day, August 19, 2008, Superintendent Weast's office authorized a memo that was sent to all MCPS principals and teachers stating that, "You may be contacted by persons who challenge or contradict our policy of curricular expenses for student fees. There may be individuals or organizations that attempt to tell you that no fees may be charged. This is their interpretation of the law." The memo did not explain to MCPS staff that the "person or organization" that was interpreting Maryland law on school fees was the Maryland Attorney General and you, the State Board of Education. (Attachment D)

Fact 8: Curricular Fees paid to MCPS schools are put in Student Activity Accounts, not in the MCPS Operating Budget. There is no accounting for how these funds are used.

Fact 9: Maryland State statute Sec 4-201(e)(1) says that the State Superintendent may remove a county superintendent for: (i) Immorality; (ii) Misconduct in office; (iii) Insubordination; (iv) Incompetency; or (v) Willful neglect of duty.

Fact 10: This summer Superintendent Weast declared $6,607,000 in Textbook funds surplus. Then when students returned to schools across the county in August they were presented with over 2,000 mandatory Curricular Fees for textbooks and materials of instruction in the high schools alone. (Attachment E)

Failure to provide MCPS students with the textbooks and materials of instruction that are part of their free public school education is a willful neglect of duty by a Superintendent.

It is unconscionable that 130,000 families should all have to appeal the assessment of illegal curricular and senior fees to the State Board of Education. It is time for those in authority, with the legal power to stop this illegal practice, to act before one more child is turned away from public school for failure to pay illegal mandatory course fees.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

School Fees - BOE Meets the Blair HS Gym Towel

Rosanne A. Hurwitz
Testimony before the Montgomery County Board of Education
August 21, 2008 on
MCPS Curriculum Fees

Good afternoon, Superintendent Weast and Members of the Board of Education. My name is Rosanne Hurwitz. I am here to testify concerning student fees for my child who is a student at Blair High School.

As we know, Maryland law provides for a free public education for all. The Maryland Court of appeals has stated that schools must be open to all without expense and this information has recently been reiterated by the Principal Counsel to the State Board of Education.[1]

Therefore, I come to you with three requests.

1. Please refund the towel fees charged my son for two semesters of Physical Education at Blair High School. Physical education is a state mandated graduation requirement. Students at Blair do not take showers in conjunction with their class; however, the school imposes a fee for which students incur an obligation of $4 per semester. Failure to pay this fee results in a “financial obligation” and students who do not pay this fee cannot participate in certain school activities, including graduation.[2] At the end of last year, the senior class had over $72,000 in outstanding obligations.[3]

2. Remove the upcoming charge of $3 per semester for AP English Language. According to the 2008-2009 approved student fee schedule for Blair, this is for a computer workshop. This is clearly a fee in conjunction with the instructional program for the course.

3. Finally, I request that you suspend the imposition of other similar charges throughout the county immediately, pending a review as to the legality of these charges. Although the Board President stated earlier this week that these charges were permitted under Board Policy JNA, I question whether the policy itself or its implementation is in fact consistent with our state law. The list of fees charged by the various MCPS high schools exceeds 40 pages, and the charges themselves are not consistent from school to school, thereby questioning why education costs more at some schools than others. While the Attorney General suggests parents appeal to the Board, it is unconscionable to expect the families of our county to go through this process to obtain what is clearly their right.

Thank you.

[1]August 18, 2008 letter from E. Kameen to L. Wilen (in MCPS records)
[2]2008-2009 MBHS Parent Handbook, page 16
[3] SCO, June 2, 2008

Link to WJLA story

Bring back free public education to Montgomery County

Testimony to MCPS Board of Education

August 21, 2008

On August 18, 2008, the Principal Counsel for the Maryland State Department of Education, Elizabeth Kameen, wrote to a MCPS parent concerning the issue of course fees. The letter was copied to MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast and State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick.

In the letter Assistant Attorney General Kameen stated:

Over the years, this Office has issued Opinions and advice letters addressing the school fees issue. In 1987, the Attorney General opined: …whatever the outer limits of Maryland’s “free public schools” guarantee, we are safe in saying that anything directly related to a school’s curriculum must be available to all without charge.”…

In my hand I am holding 40 pages of curriculum related fees that are being charged to MCPS parents today as I speak. (That is over 1,800 separate curriculum related fees.)

The Parents Coalition of Montgomery County has made the Maryland State Constitution and legal opinions available to MCPS parents via a Guide and a website. In response to reading the state law one parent wrote to the Parents Coalition and said,

“I am concerned about the inclusion of the TI 83+ or better calculator on the Westland Middle School supply list for students in IM or higher math classes. I bought one for my son last year and I felt obligated to buy one for his friend this year. His family can't afford that kind of expense but he shouldn't go without necessary materials.”

Parents should know that if they wish to receive their Maryland Constitutional guarantee of a free public education they should not live in Montgomery County. Montgomery County does not welcome parents who seek to redeem their constitutional rights. Parents interested in seeking a free public education for their children should seek out another county or state.

I received a free public education when I attended Montgomery Knolls, Eastern and Blair. I look forward to the day when Montgomery County returns to a county that honors the Maryland state Constitution.


Janis Sartucci

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Press Release: Montgomery County 11th in Math, 6th in Reading

Contact: Bob Astrove For Immediate Release
July 23, 2008
E-Mail: astrove@hotmail.com
MONTGOMERY COUNTY 11TH IN MATH, 6TH IN READING
Results demonstrate a marked decline in MCPS performance

The recently released results on the Maryland School Assessment tests for students in third through eight grades should sound an alarm for our local education system. An analysis by the Parents Coalition of the results on these statewide examinations, across the 24 county school system in Maryland, shows that Montgomery County ranked only eleventh in Mathematics and sixth in Reading. Montgomery County Public Schools has long enjoyed a reputation as the state leader in education yet the results, contained on the following tables as compiled by the Parents Coalition, demonstrate a marked decline in performance for the children of our county.

These recent results do not match the $2 Billion a year investment Montgomery County taxpayers provides to make Montgomery County Public Schools world class.

The Parents Coalition is concerned that the statements by our local education officials appear to be hiding these facts on the performance of our schools from the Montgomery County community.

Turning alarm into action, in order to bring a process to restore our local school system to a leadership position in Maryland, the Parents Coalition will sponsor a forum this fall on Mathematics Instruction.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Weast: MCPS is "Cream of the Crap"

The rapid spread of an e-mail across Montgomery County this week prompted outrage among parents who opened it to learn that school Superintendent Jerry Weast refers to his district as “the cream of the crap.”
The unsavory wording was discovered by members of the Parents Coalition... It was used in a June presentation at Harvard University by Deputy Superintendent Frieda Lacey and several other administrators.
Examiner: Superintendent under fire for comments about district

and additional coverage;

WJLA News Channel 7: Montgomery County Superintendent Makes Crude Comments

Read the full text of Deputy Superintendent Frieda Lacey (p. 5) and Community Superintendent Heath Morrison's (p. 9) comments at Harvard University here or watch the video of the presentation here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Make free public schools part of MCPS Strategic Plan

Testimony to Montgomery County Board of Education
July 15, 2008


The Board of Education’s Strategic Plan is missing a key goal. The Strategic Plan is used by principals to run their schools and to formulate their school improvement plans. It is crucial then that it convey to MCPS administrators the primary purpose of the school system, to fulfill the mandate of the Maryland Constitution to provide a system of free public schools.

Included in the mandate of a system of free public schools is that textbooks, materials of instruction and supplies are to be provided free of charge for use in the public schools.

However, as I have testified to you before, students at Churchill High School have been forced to purchase textbooks when taking certain courses. After last year’s publicity you probably assumed that the practice stopped. It did not. However, I can report that our student did not have to purchase any textbooks this year. Each and every time a teacher attempted to require him to purchase instructional materials; he educated the teacher as to the state law by pulling out a copy of the law from his wallet.

He may have been the only student at Churchill High School who received a free and public education as mandated by state law.

The disregard for this law permits some to charge as much as they like for public school classes.

For example, our student signed up for a Chorus Class as part of Churchill’s Performing Arts Signature Program. The class listing in the course guide made no mention of a class fee. However, in October we received an e-mail listing the names of the families who had already paid the first installment of the $1,120 class fee. The e-mail advised those of us who had not paid yet to write a check for $623.50 (first installment) made out to Winston Churchill High School and mail it to a Jane Kubasik’s house. For your information, that is the name of a parent, not a MCPS employee.

Complaints to the administration about this exorbitant fee fell on deaf ears. These bills had been going out for years and the response was that “we should have known this was the way the class was run”. This $1,120 fee was listed as an “obligation” which meant that to not pay it was to risk our child being banned from activities, performances and being subjected to the withholding of report cards.

I have also attached the quotation from a Maryland Attorney General Opinion in 2003 that states that “schools must be open to all without expense” and that “at the very least ‘anything directly related to a school’s curriculum must be free’”.

Please add a Goal to the Strategic Plan to put forward the mandate of the State Constitution to provide students with a free and public education. Thank you

Janis Sartucci
Montgomery County parent

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

[MCPS] Harrison said that the school system conducts its own inquiry when an employee is charged with abusing a student #DoesNotCallCPS

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Gazette:  Bates remained in substitute bus aide pool after he was fired from MCPS
by Meghan Tierney | Staff Writer

A former special education instructional assistant recently charged with sexually abusing a Germantown girl five years ago was fired from a county high school in 2000 after being accused and later acquitted of making sexual advances toward a female student.
Vernon Eugene Bates, now 41, of Washington, D.C., turned himself in on March 24 in the Germantown case involving a then 16-year-old girl.
According to a January 2000 article in The Gazette, he was also arrested on child sex abuse charges on Dec. 15, 1999, after allegedly sexually touching a then-17-year-old girl while giving her a ride to the Wheaton Metro station. Bates was employed as a special education instructional assistant and assistant football coach at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring at the time.
MCPS placed Bates on paid administrative leave the day he was charged, and fired him in January 2000, according to Kate Harrison, a Montgomery County Public Schools spokeswoman.
Bates was found not guilty during a jury trial and the charges were later expunged, according to Cpl. Tracie Copeland, a Montgomery County Police spokeswoman. Police and court records are no longer available because the case was cleared from his criminal record, but according to an article that appeared in The Washington Post at the time, he was found not guilty of second-degree assault and a fourth-degree sexual offense after a three-day jury trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court in 2000.
Despite being fired from his staff job, Bates remained on an MCPS list of substitute bus attendants from August 1999 until February 2002, Harrison said. He was never called to service during the four years he was in the database, she said.
It is unclear why Bates was allowed to be on the substitute driver list given his firing, Harrison said, noting that Bates passed a background check when he was hired as a bus attendant. MCPS also moved to another database system during the years Bates was in the pool, she said.
Bates applied for the bus attendant position before he was hired as an instructional assistant, Harrison said. Names are dropped from the database if they are not called up after a certain period of time, she said.
Harrison did not know if the substitute pool is ever screened after an employee is hired or how the attendants are placed when the need arises.
‘‘This is an unusual situation,” she said. ‘‘I think we can assume his name would have been flagged.”
Bates’ Silver Spring-based attorney, Teresa Whalen, did not return a call for comment.Harrison said that the school system conducts its own inquiry when an employee is charged with abusing a student but did not know if Bates’ case had been investigated. The decision on whether to fire a worker is made on a case-by-case basis, she said.
Harrison declined to provide further information, citing employee confidentiality concerns.
Bates was most recently charged with sexually abusing a minor, second-degree assault and fourth-degree sexual offense after the now-21-year-old daughter of his former girlfriend told police he had sexually touched her when she was 16, according to police. The abuse occurred on two separate occasions in April 2003, according to police charging documents filed in District Court.
Bates, who frequently spent the night at the family’s home, exposed himself on one of the occasions, the documents state. He also told the alleged victim’s mother that he had been ‘‘inappropriate” with the teen after the incidents occurred, according to the documents.
The girl came forward to police in February after a recent telephone conversation with Bates in which he ‘‘took ‘accountability’ for his behavior and [said] ‘it was not your fault, you didn’t deserve it,’” the documents state.
Bates was released on $50,000 bond, police said. A preliminary hearing is scheduled May 2.
Bates was working as a personal trainer at Washington Sports Club, located at 6828 Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda, when he turned himself in to police, police reported. He was known to have associations with teenage girls at the club, according to a police statement.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

MCPS Principals Endorse RMHS Principal's Consulting Business

April, 5, 2008

A Montgomery County principal who was running pricey private seminars, including one scheduled at his school on a weekday, shut down his consulting company Friday after The Examiner discovered that his side business may violate the Board of Education's code of ethics.
Since incorporating the business in 2006, Moreno "Mo" Carrasco, principal of Rockville's Richard Montgomery High School and Maryland's 2007 High School Principal of the Year, has held several "Breakthrough Principal" seminars at schools around the region, often scheduled during the week.
Minutes after an interview with The Examiner, the company Web site, savetheprincipal.com, was taken down and all future events were canceled. Earlier versions of the site listed a "One Day Refresher Institute" open to members of his $399 "Principals' Network" to be held Monday at Richard Montgomery between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Though a day off for students, Monday is a professional day for staff...

...Three glowing testimonials on the site included two from principals at Montgomery County's Beall Elementary and Roberto Clemente Middle School, and one from Carrasco himself, whose role in the company is apparent only on incorporating documents registered with the state...

http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/montgomery-principal-shuts-down-consulting-side-business/article/70835




Montgomery principal shuts down consulting side business


Montgomery principal shuts down consulting side business, Leah Fabel, The Examiner, 2008_04_05, http://www.examiner .com/a_1322126~ Montgomery_ principal_ shuts_down_ consulting_ side_business. html
A Montgomery County principal who was running pricey private seminars, including one scheduled at his school on a weekday, shut down his consulting company Friday after The Examiner discovered that his side business may violate the Board of Education's code of ethics. Since incorporating the business in 2006, Moreno "Mo" Carrasco, principal of Rockville's Richard Montgomery High School and Maryland's 2007 High School Principal of the Year, has held several "Breakthrough Principal" seminars at schools around the region, often scheduled during the week. Minutes after an interview with The Examiner, the company Web site, savetheprincipal. com, was taken down and all future events were canceled. Earlier versions of the site listed a "One Day Refresher Institute" open to members of his $399 "Principals' Network" to be held Monday at Richard Montgomery between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Though a day off for students, Monday is a professional day for staff.
District spokesman Brian Edwards said Superintendent Jerry Weast knew nothing of Carrasco's business activities. "We will investigate the matter and take appropriate action as warranted," Edwards said. Carrasco's two_day institutes cost $469 for each administrator and a secretary, with a minimum of 20 "teams." The site advertised outcomes such as "Do the principal's job in 8 hours a day." "If it's during the school day, this would be highly inappropriate, " said Pat O'Neill, a member of the school board. "Being a principal is a rather time_consuming job, and I'd be surprised if he had the time to be doing this."
Board ethics code forbids school officials from "any employment that would affect their usefulness as employees" or "would make time and/or energy demands upon the individuals that could interfere with their effectiveness. " Carrasco said he wasn't able to say how much he had made with his venture. Three glowing testimonials on the site included two from principals at Montgomery County's Beall Elementary and Roberto Clemente Middle School, and one from Carrasco himself, whose role in the company is apparent only on incorporating documents registered with the state. In an interview with The Examiner, Carrasco said seminars within the county were free of charge, and he was no longer pursuing the business. "I want to clarify for the record that this is not a conflict of interest, and I have looked at the ethics policies," Carrasco said. "The story that should be written is how innovative my practices are."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Washington Post: New Concern Over Ex-Official's Spending

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer

In 2006, while he was a deputy superintendent of Montgomery County schools, John Q. Porter spent $11,722 on travel, dining, gifts for co-workers and other items he submitted as business expenses, according to a review of his corporate American Express card for the calendar year.

That's almost twice as much as the $6,932 that his boss, Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, submitted in the fiscal year that ended in June.

Porter's spending habits are at issue now among community activists in Montgomery because of what happened after Porter left Weast's employ in mid-2007. He became superintendent of schools in Oklahoma City, but the school board suspended him in January for 21 alleged transgressions, most involving extravagant spending. The board withdrew the allegations when Porter resigned. Porter said the allegations were largely false, and the Oklahoma County district attorney concluded last week that claims of criminal activity could not be substantiated...

...On June 5, 2006, Porter dined with his second-in-command, Executive Director Sherwin Collette, at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Bethesda for $597.08. The receipt, filed by Collette, does not indicate how many people were at the table or what was served. On May 8, the two men dined at Le Boeuf Angus, a steakhouse in Montreal. The tab: $300.99. Both were listed as business meals.
Washington Post, Tuesday, March 11, 2008; Page B05

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What's "Surplus" and "Cutting in Line"

Testimony to Montgomery County Council February 12, 2008

1. How can Superintendent Weast and the Board of Education declare MCPS CIP funds surplus before a project is completed?

Let's take the Wayside Elementary School project as an example. How can there be surplus funds from a project that is only 55% complete? (Attachment A) How can any rational manager possible assume that no additional funds will be needed and that $600,000 of money planned for this project can be diverted? We know that MCPS does not make good decisions in this regard. Here are three quick examples: First, Richard Montgomery High School recently opened the doors on its new modernized facility. The science labs in that new building are equipped with elementary sized lab tables and chairs. There are no plans to remedy this situation and no surplus funds to draw from. Meanwhile, at Churchill High School the ELEVEN science labs that were rendered unusable during that school's modernization in 2000 have still NEVER been fixed. (Attachment B) Superintendent Weast claims to have put funds in the CIP to fix ONE of those science labs. Parents have been solicited multiple times for funds to resolve the problems created in the science lab construction. And when Rockville High School was modernized one of the many deficiencies was the undersized tennis courts that rendered them unusable for competition. These are just a few examples of MCPS CIP projects that still have outstanding CIP fund needs.

2. IF there is a surplus, what project is next in the queue?

Let us assume that surplus CIP money does exist. How could ANY surplus funds go to a new project that has never been vetted through the MCPS CIP process when the MCPS CIP book clearly lists hundreds of pre-existing projects in the CIP pipeline. As just an example, let's take a look at the Bathroom Renovation list. (Attachment C) Do you realize that this list ONLY shows those schools that are not in line for a modernization? IF a school is getting a modernization in the next 20 years they were not included on this list. How does that work when your toilet won't flush, the stall door doesn't close and the sink doesn't have running water? Is that how people maintain their homes? Gee, we might move in 20 years so let's not fix the toilet? IF there is surplus CIP money it needs to go right to this list TODAY. Our children need to flush.

After all bathrooms are made usable in Montgomery County Public Schools take a look at the playgrounds. Do you realize that the MCPS plan is to replace one per year? The backlog of playgrounds that need repair/replacement is about 50 years? Great plan. The result is that taxpayers must raise the funds to pay for playground repairs because the Superintendent does not see playgrounds as a priority.

Yet, a plan to give one of our county football fields away to a private organization jumps to the top of the Capital Budget list without any feasibility study, without any notice to the public prior to the BoE vote, without any community input at the BoE level, without any bids from potential contractors, without any discussion of the benefits, concerns or issues surrounding such a decision. (Attachment D) Any why does the Northwood principal also think his school is in line for artificial turf? (See attachment E) Are there more of these "deals" in the wings? Why aren't they part of the MCPS CIP submission?

We are here today witnessing the Board of Education asking for a pot of money that doesn't have any parameters on it. There is no contract, no idea what the project might actually cost, no contingency for where the money goes if the project does not proceed on schedule.

3. What guarantees any funds allotted to an artificial turf project will actually be spent on that project?

Case in point: Last year the County Council funded the MCPS Operating Budget request to include funding for the largest county high schools to use the Comcast Center for graduations. (Attachment F) What happened to that money? Good question. Only 3 of the 6 high schools that qualify to use the larger graduation venue are going to be allowed to use it. What happened to the money that was appropriated for the other 3 schools?

I can tell you that no one in Montgomery County government cares where the graduation venue money went: not the Community Superintendents, not the Superintendent, not the Board of Education, and not the Inspector General. So once you give money to MCPS, taxpayers have no guarantee that the money will be used for its designated purpose. And make no mistake, our kids are watching. They are real clear on the fact that there are no consequences for ignoring laws, policies or procedures. Is this the kind of citizen that Montgomery County wants to be raising through its public schools? (Attachment G)

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

Janis Sartucci

Statement to Montgomery County Council

ON RECORD:

My name is Marci C. I am a lifelong resident of MontgomeryCounty, and currently live in Poolesville, Maryland.

I come before you to speak about health and safety concerns regarding the artificial turf field that is in the planning stage for Richard MontgomeryHigh School. I want to ask you today if the type of turf and infill to be used has been determined. If so, and it if is an artificial turf field that has rubber infill, I have a lot of information about the possible health and safety issues of rubber crumb infill. I hope you will look over all of this information that I have compiled before agreeing to fund artificial turf fields in MCPS.

Artificial turf is comprised of grass (polyethylene or polypropylene fibers) woven like a rug, and the material that is raked in between the grass fibers which creates a cushion is referred to as "infill," approximately 100 tons of ground-up rubber on each artificial turf field. On a hot summer day, the rubber infill can heat up to over 140 degrees F. and outgasses toxic compounds into the air, some of which are known to be carcinogens. Hazardous metals from the rubber crumbs are leached into the ground water. Dust particles from these crumbs are easily inhaled. There is no barrier between rubber crumbs and the athletes playing on the fields. Skin rashes, nasal and eye irritations from these corrosive compounds, as well as playing in excessive heat are real conditions.

Please keep an open mind and read the attached studies regarding the toxicity of the infill, and the temperatures the material can reached during playing time, and I think you will find, as I did, that there is some question as to whether this type of field is totally safe for our children.

There are alternative infills on the market, STF Infill™ for one, which is a safe and sanitary synthetic turf infill, nontoxic, and free from heavy metals, waste, steel and fiberglass byproducts. It does not heat up to the temperatures that rubber does. Literature and testing information on the STF Infill™ is provided for you to look over further, and to pass along to the appropriate persons.

I would also like to address the injuries to athletes playing on artificial turf. Skin abrasion is the largest concern, as artificial turf is more abrasive than grass. Turf wounds are the exact skin injury that allow for MRSA transmission and contraction. Professional NFL players average 2 to 3 turf abrasions per week on artificial turf. High school football players in Texashave 204 artificial turf fields in their 1134 high schools stadiums, and average 16 times higher than the estimated national average for MRSA infections, according to 3 studies conducted by Texas Department of State Health Services.

There are also more reported lower limb injuries reported with knee and ankle injuries due to instability of the turf, and cleat traction. These same injuries were also reported by soccer players.

Professional football players were polled in a survey regarding playing surfaces and 72% said they would prefer to play on grass fields to prevent injury. 65% said that playing on artificial turf contributes to more injury. 74% said artificial turf causes more soreness and fatigue when played on.

We need to be the voice for our children, who don't have a say in this matter.

With that being said about the potential health risks of an artificial turf field, I would like address the upkeep of the artificial turf, namely sanitizing. There is a regularly scheduled maintenance program that needs to be adhered to, and I am curious to know if all concerned are aware of it.

Organic matter such as airborne dirt, blood, sweat, spit, skin, and food allow bacteria to proliferate and live. The artificial turf itself will get covered with these things and be a breeding ground and host to organisms. Artificial turf needs to be regularly professional maintained, disinfected, and treated with antimicrobial agents to yield protection against spread of MRSA infections, and inhibit growth of mold, mildew, algae, fungi, and other bacteria on the surface of the field.

If staph is on the skin, and players get turf wounds, they are leaving behind their skin on the turf. I have strong feelings about the turf being disinfected routinely. These services need to be contracted for and worked into any operating budget the school board has for artificial turf fields in one and all county high school stadiums.

Entire schools need to be proactively treated (not just the athletic areas, but all areas, including desks, chairs, doorknobs, computer keyboards, cafeteria tables, etc.) with antimicrobial technology (BioShield 75™) that will destroy microbes on contact, and not allow them to grow at all. Schools would be much healthier environments. Inside and out.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008