Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bye-Bye Trees at Wayside Elementary School #notjustPEPCO

Xs marks the spots where trees will be removed.
Neighborhoods are losing trees. 
Lots of trees.  And it's not just PEPCO that is removing them.  It's also MCPS.  

When MCPS "modernizes" a public school site they systematically wipe out the trees that have served as a neighborhood buffer for decades. 

Where do the trees go?  Sometimes there is a forest conservation area set up on the MCPS site. However, many times the trees are removed from the neighborhood public school site and a separate site is temporarily reforested elsewhere in the county.   

The temporary sites aren't cheap. The Board of Education has to pay a developer big bucks to "hold" trees elsewhere in the County.  Here's an example of the BOE spending $284,310 for temporary trees to make up for the ones that the Paint Branch High School neighbors lost.  Where are the temporary trees?  Can the Paint Branch High School neighbors visit them?  

Here is the BOE spending $55,000 for the trees that the Hoover Middle School neighborhood lost.  We found these trees up in Poolesville.  Although, the developer only has to plant the trees and maintain them for a few years. Whatever happens to the trees after the initial few years is up to nature. Maybe they will survive, maybe they won't. Who cares?

On June 5, 2014, the Wayside Elementary School neighborhood will say good-bye to .36 acres of forest in their neighborhood.  The forest will be moved "elsewhere" at a huge cost to the MCPS budget.

Montgomery County Planning Board:
11  -  POTOMAC, Wayside Elementary School Revitalization and Modernization - Preliminary Forest Conservation Plan and Mandatory Referral, in R-200 Zone at 10011 Glen Rd.

1.04 acres of forest exist in the northwest corner of the site. Encroachments beyond the existing developed area include improvements to the stormwater management outfall and existing trail. This will result in a total of 0.36 acres of forest loss. 
There are eight (8) Protected Trees in the project area that will be impacted and one that will be removed. All of these trees are located along the perimeter of the school property. Redevelopment of the already developed school site, together with encroachment into the perimeter forest area, creates the impact to the trees.

a cafeteria designed for me: IDEO reinvents the school food system

Brilliant ideas on how to reinvent the school lunch from designboom.  It can be done, even in MCPS.

From designboom:

imagine, that you’re back in 8th grade. having pre-ordered your lunch online the night before, you grab a brown bag from the rolling cart—no lines. your lunch is fresh, as it’s been sourced from local suppliers and cooked in a communal kitchen. you and your friends devour it on beanbags. on your way out, you pick up a dinner kit for your family. according to IDEO and SFUSD, that’s how they imagine a typical school lunch.

the lunch experience introduces topics such as central warehouse & local sourcing, space renovation, dinner kits, community kitchen and even smart meal technology into the system redesign. to learn more on the initiative, see here.

working together with the san francisco unified school district, IDEO developed recommendations for three age-appropriate dining experiences, from communal eating to student-designed spaces to new technology platforms. conceived to address the operational deficit, the system was developed as a robust business model—considering thousands of data points, like the cost-per-meal of a delivery truck route and where the ketchup was placed in cafeteria. federal, state, and local regulations were taken into account, as well as operational and labor constraints.

the team worked alongside more than 1,300 students, parents, union leaders, nutrition staff, board commissioners, principals, teachers, and community groups to create a better cafeteria experience.

smart meal technology
an interactive system enables students to pre-order meals, provide feedback, set dietary preferences, and learn about food. this generates data that makes the entire system more efficient and tailored. an integrated loyalty program rewards pupils for healthy choices.

central warehouse & local sourcing
a central warehouse enables SFUSD to source local, fresh, and diverse food for our middle and high schools and manage inventory centrally.

space renovation
each semester or once a year, groups of students get to redesign the cafeteria. sfusd can partner with local furniture suppliers and space planning companies to upgrade cafeteria spaces in middle and high schools.

dinner kits
student nutrition extends its offerings beyond school meals and taps into new sources of revenue. by being a member of the sfusd dinner program, students can pick up take-home meal kits equipped with all the ingredients and recipies needed to make a nutritious family dinner.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Pearson Gets PARCC Contract, They were only bidder. #parcc #pearson

Pearson is expected to perform a broad range of duties under the contract, including development of test items, delivery of paper-and-pencil and computerized test forms, reporting of results, analysis of scores, and working with states to develop "cut scores," or performance standards for the exams.
While a number of companies inquired in response to PARCC's request for proposals for the project, ultimately Pearson was the only bidder, said James Mason, who helped negotiate the contract as part of a team of PARCC state leaders.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

An extraordinary new study suggests judges and elected leaders in Montgomery County are doing too little to protect children in homes with a history of domestic violence.

Bravo to these Court watchers for putting in the time and effort to document what goes on in Montgomery County Court rooms.

...The volunteers say in 70% of the hearings they attended, judges ordered unsupervised visits between a child and father even after finding clear and convincing evidence he'd committed violence on the child's mother...


Student collapses at middle school, nurse does not call 911 |

Student collapses at middle school, nurse does not call 911 |

FCPS vs. MCPS: Comparing their responses to a request for information

One state, two adjacent counties, each with their own school system.  Let's see how Frederick County Public Schools responds to a request for documents compared with Montgomery County Public Schools.

A local citizen sent FCPS a request for copies of leases for cell tower sites.  FCPS emailed the requested documents -- five very long leases -- as PDF files just three days after the request was submitted.  They charged the requester nothing at all.

Another citizen sent MCPS a request for copies of expense reports for two Board of Education members.  The response was issued 29 days later.  State law allows up to 30 days for an agency to respond to a public information request.  (Unlike the FCPS response, the MCPS response didn't state the date of the request, but our records confirm that the request was sent by email 29 days before the date of the response.)

In the past, Parents' Coalition reporters have used a hand-held scanner to quickly scan documents in the MCPS public information office.  This eliminated the $0.15 per page copying charge and eliminated the need for an MCPS staffer to make copies -- which saved time and money for everyone.

Times have changed and Superintendent Starr is now prohibiting members of the public from scanning, photographing, or copying public documents, as stated in the above letter.  (The above letter was written by Chief Communications Officer Brian K. Edwards on behalf of Superintendent Starr, and we have received confirmation that this is actually Starr's rule.) 

With the choices of either paying for copies of the documents or leaving empty-handed, parents chipped in and paid a considerable sum to purchase the copies from MCPS.   The MCPS documents were then shared with the media, which led to public disclosure of BOE member Chris Barclay's use of the MCPS American Express card for personal expenses, overnight stays at local hotels, purchase of a fancy cake, and other questionable purchases.

In contrast, as mentioned above, FCPS provided PDF files of the requested documents for free in just three days.

Please take time to read the letters.   Which letter would you prefer to receive?

Thousands of Free School Lunches Skipped Each Day in MCPS

MC Planning Board: Wayside Elementary Removed from May 22nd Agenda

Item *5
Wayside Elementary School Revitalization and Modernization 
A. Preliminary Forest Conservation Plan MR2014029-MCPS-1: Wayside Elementary School Revitalization and Modernization
10011 Glen Road, Rockville, Potomac Subregion Master Plan
Staff Recommendations: Approval with conditions
B. Mandatory Referral No. 2014029-MCPS-1: Wayside Elementary School Revitalization and Modernization
10011 Glen Road, Rockville, R-200 Zone, Potomac Subregion Master Plan
Staff Recommendations: Approval and transmit comments to MCPS
K. Nelson/M.O’Quinn

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Comcast property taxes years overdue on MCPS lease

County Executive Ike Leggett, Montgomery County attorney and MCPS officials allow Comcast debt to remain unpaid while homeowners lose homes over similar unpaid taxes

Cable service provider and cell site operator Comcast Corporation has racked up over $10,000 in unpaid property tax bills since 2009.

During the 2009 to 2013 time period, Montgomery County has collected overdue property taxes from thousands of homeowners by selling liens against their homes -- which, in many cases, has led to foreclosure and eviction.  Comcast, however, has received special treatment.   Instead of foreclosing on the Comcast tower and cell site equipment, the County Attorney has done nothing to collect the overdue taxes from Comcast.

In addition to the unpaid taxes from 2009 to 2012, Comcast was never issued tax bills for 2003 to 2008 because the Board of Education failed to inform the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation that the lease had been created.   All of the tax revenue that should have been collected from 2003 to 2008 has been lost because of the three year statute of limitations on collection of property taxes.  And by not pursuing collection of the 2009 to 2012 debt, the county and the Board of Education might let Comcast run the clock out on these tax bills, too.

Starr never approved any of the BOE Expense Reports?

Take a look at the documents we were supplied by MCPS showing the expense reports of two Board of Education members.  Do you see Superintendent Joshua Starr's signature on any of those forms?  According to the current Board of Education Handbook all of those expenses were supposed to signed off by the superintendent or his designee.

Why isn't Superintendent Starr doing his job and providing oversight on these expense reports?

...The expense form is reviewed and signed by the chief of staff and the 
superintendent of schools (or his designee). Whenever possible, the 
expense form must be accompanied by appropriate itemized receipts 
and phone bills. Receipts for meal expenses must indicate clearly the 
names of meeting participants and an explanation of the purpose of 
the meal...

After School Pizza Sales Now Covered by BOE Nutrition Policy - 1/10th of a pizza anyone?

After school pizza sales and other food fundraisers must now comply with the Board of Education's new Policy on food and beverage sales during the 30 minutes after school.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cell tower property tax still unpaid

Cell tower companies are continuing to show Montgomery County and the Board of Education "who's boss" by not bothering to pay thousands of dollars of property taxes for towers located on land owned by the Montgomery County Board of Education.   Even though some of the taxes are several years overdue, the Board of Education has not terminated the leases and the county government has not foreclosed on the towers.

Just a couple of the absconders are listed below.

Unpaid taxes for cell site at Wheaton High School - Clear Wireless

Unpaid taxes for cell site at Tilden Middle School - Tower Co.

Meanwhile, on June 9, the county will be selling liens against substantially all other residential and commercial properties that are just six months overdue in paying their taxes, which will eventually lead to the loss of ownership of these homes.

"All restaurant receipts must be annotated with the names of the meeting participants and purpose of the meeting." .@mocoboe

...All expenditures must be clearly documented with an original itemized receipt. All restaurant receipts must be annotated with the names of the meeting participants and purpose of the meeting...
From page 36 of the Montgomery County Board of Education Handbook.

Is this Board of Education rule being followed by Board members when they submit their expense reports?

See Parents' Coalition Press Release on Board of Education member expense reports. 

MCPS State Audit: $17,930 in unapproved credit card expenditures

Finding:  MCPS Should Ensure that All Employees Comply with 

Existing Travel Policies

MCPS has established adequate policies and procedures designed 
to control travel expenditures. These policies define the conditions 
under which employees may be reimbursed for travel, including the 
requirement that all travel be approved in advance by appropriate 
supervisory personnel

However, the policies and procedures did 
not establish adequate controls over travel expenditures charged on 
credit cards. Approximately 26 individuals (that is, upper 
management employees and Board members) had been issued 
credit cards that did not have travel-related restrictions, such as for 
air fare and hotel accommodations. 

Use of credit cards for travel expenditures may allow cardholders to incur such expenditures 
without obtaining advance approval, as required by MCPS 

Our tests of 32 calendar year 2007 travel expenditures 
charged to credit cards totaling $19,028 disclosed 30 expenditures 
totaling $17,930 that were not recorded on monthly activity logs 
and, therefore, were never approved. In addition, no documentation 
could be located to support 10 meal expenditures totaling $2,172 
that were recorded on credit card statements. 

According to MCPS records, during fiscal year 2007, travel expenditures totaled $2.5 
million, including $80,465 charged on credit cards

This finding is from the 2009 Maryland State Office of Legislative Audits report on Montgomery County Public Schools. Has anything changed since then? 

...MCPS counselor, I was dismayed by the stranglehold AP exams had on students...

Why limit yourself to the few subjects covered by AP exams? When I was a Montgomery County Public Schools counselor, I was dismayed by the stranglehold AP exams had on students. Many wouldn’t consider taking non-AP classes (such as philosophy and comparative religion)

"We said no...and we are saying no again." .@mcpssuper #celltower #JuliusWestMiddleSchool #Rockville #getthecelloutJWMS

This is the cell tower compound that is on the
MCPS Daly Elementary School playground in
Germantown, MD.
I am a resident that fought the T-Mobil cell tower at Julius West Middle School in 2006.  My neighbor and a group of us have gone around the neighborhood and acquired over 300 names on a  petition, signed against the tower coming up in 2006. We STILL reside in Rose Hill Falls and Rose Hill, Monument and others.

In 2006 the tower height was 75 feet, and extremely close to the school. This tower was supposed to go to Wootton High School and was rejected . The location is exactly where the Verizon tower is now planned to come up.  All the documents regarding the T-Mobil proposal are in the archives and I have given the memory chip with everything that I have to Ms. Janis Sartucci. 

Dr. Weast was against the tower back then, what has changed??. Mr. Starr is now in charge! Travelling back and forth from the Citizen’s Forum I have kept updated the West End as well as the Mayor and Council. 3 Mayors were against it as well at that time. T-Mobil needed a special exception due to the height of the tower, which they did not get. I went on local TV,  Gazette was involved ; we joined forces with the West End, and to our surprise we were not invited to any of the PTSA meetings, when the tower was discussed; interesting.

Now we come, yet again to another tower application. What is the difference between then and now? We are still the homeowners residing in the same location.

Parents,teachers and kids come and go. Our property value will go down, our stress will go up and this is not really a way to live.

We said no previously and we are saying no again.  Having said that here is the difference between the 2006 T-Mobil tower and the 2014 Verizon tower proposal.

The Verizon tower is no longer for just getting a cell phone signal as everybody seems to think. It is for DATA transmission. We have the Internet, Twitter ,Facebook to go viral on this. Looking at what is out there, there are many communities that have objected to the tower in public schools and surprisingly enough there is a site of firefighters that got together and refused to have the cell tower installed next to their station. 

Who signs the document for the approval to go ahead for the tower? Is  it the School Superintendent? Is it somebody that no one knows that just signs the document and here we go? Where does the City of Rockville Government stand in regards to this particular tower and others?

Cell Tower technology is almost obsolete, there is already new technology that has come up and is being installed in the highway’s corridor. What will happen when this old tower, rusted and all will remain? What will happen to our neighborhood? 

Did you know that you need diesel to run the tower? That means maintenance and strangers coming and going from the school. I leave  it to your imagination, and I will stop here.

Nadia A.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

"...gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime...let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,-- the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."     

General John Logan, General Order No. 11, 5 May 1868

... one of the most dynamic and visionary school leaders in Maryland, Joshua Starr...

...Compare this view with one of the most dynamic and visionary school leaders in Maryland, Joshua Starr, who is attempting to be a model disrupter by sponsoring the Gallup organization to survey students’ dreams. The thinking is that if educators can know and understand young people’s dreams for their futures, the curriculum and instruction provided through schooling can be designed to support their manifestation. Now that is 21st century thinking!...
Read more here:

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sentinel Political Cartoon: Duncan No Brainer
Source of quote:

BOE Won't Fund Graduations So Principals Extort Money from Students? What's wrong with this picture?

Public school graduation is free in Maryland.  There is no legal charge to attend your own graduation from a Montgomery County Public High School.

The Board of Education got their budget request fully funded by the County Council this year!  How is it that graduation is not included in fully funding the public school budget? 

...Most Montgomery County high schools hold commencement at the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C., which costs more than what’s allotted by the school system, forcing the schools to charge students a fee to graduate...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Watch: BOE Puts Cell Towers on 73 Playgrounds in 40 Seconds .@PGCPSCEO @VoteDougDuncan #getthecellout

This November 11, 2010 video shows the Prince George's County Public Schools Board of Education agreeing to place cell towers on 73 public school playgrounds.

There was no discussion of this decision and the entire process took a total of 40 seconds. The proposal was on the Board of Education's Consent Agenda.

This is the super cool "deal" that former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan has been pushing on behalf of Milestone Communications.  The "deal" is that a Board of Education votes on a "master lease" to put all school sites up as potential cell tower sites.  There is no notice to the neighbors of these school sites and no opportunity for public comment.  Mr. Duncan called this super cool deal a "no brainer."

Prince George's County Public School parents and neighbors are just now, in 2014, starting to find out that their neighborhood public school playgrounds are about to include cell towers through a deal that was on the Consent Agenda in 2010!

Surprise! Guess you all missed the 40 second decision by your Board of Education back in 2010!

**Note to Montgomery County parents and school neighbors: All Boards of Education in Maryland are part of the same club and vacation/conference together each year in Ocean City, Maryland. The club is called the Maryland Association of Boards of Education.  Milestone Communications is one of the partners of these vacation/conferences.

Here is the list of Prince George's County Public School playgrounds that are listed as being available for cell phone towers through Milestone Communications.

Green Valley Academy Existing_Structure
Burroughs MS In_Development
Croom Vocational High School In_Development
Flowers High School In_Development
Kenmoor Middle School In_Development
Oxon Hill Middle School In_Development
Parkdale High School In_Development
Tasker Middle School In_Development
Annapolis Road Academy AHS Rawland_Site
Beltsville Academy Rawland_Site
Bladensburg High School Rawland_Site
Bowie High School Rawland_Site
Brent Regional School Rawland_Site
Buck Lodge Middle School Rawland_Site
Carroll Middle School Rawland_Site
Central High School Rawland_Site
Chapel Forge Early Childhood Center Rawland_Site
Crossland High School Rawland_Site
Decatur Middle School Rawland_Site
Douglass High School Rawland_Site
Drew-Freeman Middle School Rawland_Site
Duckworth Regional School Rawland_Site
DuVal High School Rawland_Site
Eisenhower Middle School Rawland_Site
EXCEL Academy Charter Public School Rawland_Site
Fairmont Heights High School Rawland_Site
Forestville High School Rawland_Site
Friendly High School Rawland_Site
Fuchs Early Childhood Center Rawland_Site
Gholson Middle School Rawland_Site
Goddard Montessori School Rawland_Site
Gourdine Middle School Rawland_Site
Green Valley Academy at Edgar Allan Poe Rawland_Site
Greenbelt Middle School Rawland_Site
Gwynn Park High School Rawland_Site
Gwynn Park Middle School Rawland_Site
Hall Academy Rawland_Site
Hanson Montessori School Rawland_Site
High Point High School Rawland_Site
Hyattsville Middle School Rawland_Site
Imagine Lincoln Public Charter School Rawland_Site
Jackson Academy Rawland_Site
Johnson Middle School Rawland_Site
Just Middle School Rawland_Site
Kettering Middle School Rawland_Site
King Middle School Rawland_Site
Largo High School Rawland_Site
Laurel High School Rawland_Site
Madison Middle School Rawland_Site
Marshall Middle School Rawland_Site
Mason Special Center Rawland_Site
Massie Academy Rawland_Site
Northwestern High School Rawland_Site
Ogle Middle School Rawland_Site
Orem Middle School Rawland_Site
Owens Science Center Rawland_Site
Oxon Hill High School Rawland_Site
Possibility Prep Charter School Rawland_Site
Potomac High School Rawland_Site
Pullen Creative School Rawland_Site
Rieg Regional School Rawland_Site
Roosevelt High School Rawland_Site
Schmidt Outdoor Education Center Rawland_Site
Stoddert Middle School Rawland_Site
Suitland High School Rawland_Site
Surrattsville High School Rawland_Site
Tall Oaks Vocational High School Rawland_Site
Tanglewood Regional School Rawland_Site
Turning Point Academy Public Charter School Rawland_Site
Walker Mill Middle School Rawland_Site
Wheatley Early Childhood Center Rawland_Site
Wirt Middle School Rawland_Site
Wise High School Rawland_Site

Friday, May 23, 2014

Walter Johnson High School student stabbed with scissors during fight |

Walter Johnson High School student stabbed with scissors during fight |

WPost: MoCo school board member’s D.C. hotel charges broke no rules, official says

...But Barclay also used his board-issued credit card for a $745 charge covering two nights with room service at the Washington Hilton on Feb. 13 and 14. According to receipts, he was attending an event sponsored by theNational School Boards Association.
Barclay also charged $681.09 for two nights at the same hotel in January 2013, records show, for a meeting of the Federal Relations Network, another school boards association program...
...Barclay, a member of the Board of Education’s Fiscal Management Committee, has yet to return phone or e-mail messages requesting comment...

State Board: Tubman Facility Teens Entitled to Attend Montgomery Schools - Bethesda Beat

State Board: Tubman Facility Teens Entitled to Attend Montgomery Schools - Bethesda Beat

...But an issue arose with the MCPS plan after the Office of the Public Defender filed a complaint alleging that the school system failed to deliver free and appropriate public education to four boys, and that the school system violated an education law governing homeless students in state-supervised care by not enrolling the students in a public school, according to the state board’s opinion...

*Exclusive* Plans Revealed: Starr Wants Cell Tower Where Weast, City and Neighborhood said NO #dejavu #hopeless @mcpssuper

What's up with Superintendent Joshua Starr and cell towers?  

  • In 2004, the Wootton High School community said no to a cell tower on the school's field, yet Starr has let a cell tower vendor come back with a proposal again.  
  • In 2007, Superintendent Jerry Weast, the City of Rockville and neighbors to the Julius West Middle School all said no to a cell tower on that playground.  Yet, Superintendent Starr is letting MCPS staff spend time reviewing yet another cell tower proposal for the Julius West Middle School playground.
How many times must a community say no to a cell tower on their public school playground?

The Parents' Coalition has obtained copies of the current proposal for the Julius West Middle School playground and are making them public.  These plans are dated February 18, 2014 and show the address of the school.

Note we did not get these plans from MCPS.

BOE President Kauffman Flashed his AMEX Credit Card in Lyda Astrove's Face and said "We corrected the problem."

Watch Board of Education member Phil Kauffman (now Board PRESIDENT) tell Lyda Astrove in December of 2010 that after a 2009 State Audit exposed misuse of MCPS American Express credit cards "controls were put in place."  

Phil Kauffman:  "And, well there were controls put in place."
Lyda Astrove: "What were they?"
Phil Kauffman: "Well you know in terms of who has to sign off, in terms of the logs, and all that, I mean, there were extensive controls..."
Lyda Astrove: "But they weren't being followed."
Phil Kauffman:  "How do you ...What happened a couple of years ago in terms of some credit card charges, ya know, happened a couple of years ago on some credit card charges. So, yes we looked at it, we put controls in place. And, I am not aware that we are currently having issues with current charges. Ya know, we corrected the problem. Ya know, it is one of the things we discuss in the Fiscal Management Committee..."

Board of Education President Phil Kauffman's "controls" FAILED!

MCPS Public Info Officer Dana Tofig: ‘No Conclusive Evidence’ of Cell Towers’ Impact on Health' (When did Board of Education decide this?)

The proposal for a cell tower at Wootton High School is scrapped, but the school system plans to continue its policy of allowing vendors to approach county schools to place cell towers on school property.
At a public meeting Tuesday, parents of Wootton students worried that radio waves from the tower might be hazardous to their children’s health.
In an email response to questions about what the school system knows about the safety of the towers, Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Dana Tofig wrote, “We continue to monitor the latest information and research and there is no conclusive evidence or data that indicates that cell towers have an impact on human health.” Tofig added, “We will continue to follow our process if there are future requests to locate towers on school property.”...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Examiner: School board official used official credit card for personal purchases

According to news reports, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education member Christopher Barclay used his school system issued American Express card for personal purchases.
The bio posted on the Board of Education website states that “Mr. Christopher Barclay was elected to his second four-year term on November 6, 2012, after being appointed to the Board on December 9, 2006. Mr. Barclay has served as president of the Board in 2010 and 2013, as well as vice president in 2009 and 2012. He is a member of the Fiscal Management Committee and the Strategic Planning Committee. ”
Barclay’s explanation that it “was an honest mistake,” did not sit well with many in the community who pointed to his role on the Fiscal Management and Strategic Planning Committees.
In addition, Barclay is campaigning for the highly coveted Montgomery County Council seat for District 5. He has been endorsed by, among others, the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA). Former Councilwoman Valerie Ervin, whose seat Barclay seeks to fill, has also endorsed him.

Entire article at:

Julius West's Principal Follows Wootton's Cell Phone Dance

Another day, another Rockville principal thinks he can place a cell phone tower at "his" school without community approval.
Wondering who this is?  Craig Staton, Principal at Julius West MS in Rockville.
Really Mr. Staton? What part of "no" do you not understand?
Following the great example at Wootton High School across I270, Mr. Staton thinks a cell phone tower at Julius West is a great opportunity. A few months back, he told the PTA.
Funny, but just like Wootton's community, the Julius West community heard this before and said no. And like Wootton, Mr. Staton believes in the saying, if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
BUT - principals come and go, and so do students and their families. So what if the PTSA agrees to a cell phone tower - its less money for them to raise, and hey, they will be out of there in a few years. Don't anger the principal, after all, he might take it out on your student.
Communities, however, have to live with the cell towers, the hazardous materials, diesel fuel, and noise forever. And, folks who live in the community more often than not don't have kids in the school. Middle school is three years, high school is four. How long have you owned your house? How long are you planning to stay? Bet the answer is longer than three or four years.
 Mr. Staton and Dr. Doran don't even come close to following the MCPS policy for seeking approval for a cell phone tower at the school. According to the MCPS Real Estate Management Strategic Plan, if the community says no - that's it. No cell tower on the school property. Here is the chart from the school system's own plan:
A funny thing happened on the way to Wootton's cell phone tower.
Dr. Doran forgot to invite the community.
He told his PTSA, he put a meeting on the website, and he told his feeder schools. Community? Don't need to notify them, someone else can do that at the supermarket.
Much to Dr. Doran's surprise, a crowd of angry neighborhood residents showed up, and said, where's Dr. Doran and why isn't he here? And, the cell phone tower deal was cancelled.
Note to Julius West community - start your emails and phone calls to Mr. Staton. Here is his contact information. Let him know that as a member of the community impacted by this decision, you are firm in your NO.  Mr. Craig Staton  301-279-3979
To the communities near the other 200+ schools in Montgomery County? Beware, a cell phone tower may be coming to your school soon. Know your rights, and be vigilent. After all, principals come and go, so does the PTSA leadership. Its hard for the PTSA to turn down a principal's request, but its not so hard for the rest of us.
Bigger questions for the Montgomery County Taxpayers.  Should principals be concerned about fundraising and cell phones, or should they devote their attention to the education of the students in their building.
And, really, why do school principals have so much power over placement of cell phone towers at school sites? That is the bigger question.

WPost: Montgomery Co. school board member pays back almost $1,500 in unauthorized expenses

Montgomery County Board of Education member and County Council candidate Christopher Barclay has reimbursed the school system for more than $1,600 in unauthorized expenses since 2012, including restaurant meals and purchases from an on-line travel site, records show. 
The expenses were charged to a board-issued American Express card that members and other senior school officials may use for meals, travel and lodging related to official business. 
The reimbursements were first disclosed by the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County, a watchdog group that presses the school system for greater transparency. The information came in response to a public records request, and WJLA reported on the expenses Wednesday. 
Records show that Barclay used the card last June and July for more than $900 in purchases from the Hotwire travel site, and has since reimbursed the school system for that amount. The records did not detail the nature of the purchases...
...Barclay, 53, a two-term board member and who is running in next month’s Democratic primary for the open District 5 County Council seat, did not respond to phone or e-mail messages Thursday...
full article at link:

Press Release: Common Cause Maryland calls for greater oversight of School Board expenditures

For Immediate Release:
May 22, 2014

Common Cause Maryland calls for greater oversight of School Board expenditures

(Annapolis) – With two breaking stories in one week regarding expenditures by School Board members across Maryland, Common Cause Maryland calls for greater oversight and clearer policies by school boards regarding the use of taxpayer funds.

In Montgomery County, a Public Information Act discovered that school board member Chris Barclay made personal charges to the county-funded credit card. The documents also revealed meal expenses that did not follow school board procedures for authorization1. In Wicomico County, state auditors found school board members purchased gift cards using county credit cards, as well as several purchases made at a produce market owned by a school board member, raising questions of conflict of interest2.

“These discoveries raise questions about the both the strength of expenditure policies and the implementation of those policies,” said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, Executive Director of Common Cause Maryland. “School boards have to make the best use of very limited dollars. Lunches, gift cards, and personal charges on the county card hurt public trust and hurt the students that the board is supposed to serve.”

Common Cause calls on county School Boards to evaluate their spending policies and make sure they provide clear oversight for member expenditures and reimbursements. School boards should consider revoking credit cards and moving to a reimbursement system, as many county governments (including Montgomery County) have done.

Common Cause Maryland also noted the importance of the public information act in bringing these stories to light.

“Public access to government expenditures is a fundamental tool to ensure that officials are held to the highest standards. The Montgomery County story is a clear example of the importance of a well-functioning public information act that gives the public access to the information they need.”
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Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, 410-303-7954,

Founded in 1974, Common Cause Maryland is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that works in the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard.

MVA: Barclay driver's license suspension pending

An official from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration has confirmed that Board of Education Member Chris Barclay's driver's license will be suspended if the $80 fine for a speeding citation is not paid within the next several weeks.

Barclay received the speeding citation on March 14.  The District Court submitted a license suspension order to the MVA on April 21 after no request for a trial was received and the fine remained unpaid.

MVA spokesman Buel Young advised the Parents' Coalition that license suspension orders are processed on a monthly basis, and that a "15 day final notice" will be issued to Barclay shortly.  If the fine remains unpaid, Barclay's driver's license will be suspended.

Update: Barclay paid the citation later today (May 22) after this blog story was posted.

Video: Outraged Community at Wootton High School Cell Tower Meeting

May 20, 2014
Wootton High School
Media Center
7 PM meeting for PTA to discuss Principal Michael Doran's proposal to place a cell tower under the Wootton High School stadium bleachers and turn a stadium light pole into a cell tower. Community members were not notified, but found out about the proposal and showed up at the meeting.
Here is the video of the entire meeting.

Beach Week Starts Saturday: Parents of MCPS Seniors, Are You Ready?

Bethesda Seniors, Parents Get Police Version Of Beach Week


 "Underage drinking, possession citations and curfew violations are prevalent, but the cops seemed more concerned about some of the more dangerous things that can happen when 18-year-olds drink in an unsupervised environment."

If only we had photos of what goes on in a typical house during beach week . . . .

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Elected official used school district credit card for personal purchases |

ABC7:  Elected official used school district credit card for personal purchases |

ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) - A Montgomery County Board of Education member who made personal purchases with taxpayer dollars vows he'll never do it again.
Current member and former board president, Chris Barclay, used his school district American Express card to buy meals, rent cars, and stay at hotels. Expense reports obtained by ABC7 show the 53-year-old made 14 unauthorized purchases between Jan. 2012 and Feb. 2014. All combined, the charges siphoned $1450.89 from school district coffers.

Barclay spent $906 on, $210 at a Lancaster Pa. Ramada Inn, $73 at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and hundreds more at stores and restaurants like CVS, Safeway, 7-Eleven, Armand's Chicago Pizzeria, and Popeyes. Barclay claimed it was an honest mistake all 14 times, but records show he then took months, and in one case more than a year, to pay back his debts -- interest-free.

"How was it caught," ABC7's Kevin Lewis asked Barclay during a sit-down interview.
"I can't go through line-by-line. I don't know all of them to say this one was this way, or that one was that way. I'm sorry, I just can't do that," Barclay said.

Ironically enough, the longtime Takoma Park resident, who's currently campaigning for the hotly contested District 5 Montgomery County Council seat, sits on MCPS' Fiscal Management Committee.

"I mistakenly used the board credit card and anytime it was brought to my attention, I paid it back," Barclay, who earns $25,000 a year as a BOE member added.
"Was it ever intentional?" Lewis asked Barclay.

Read more:
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ABC7 Video: Barclay Scandal

Rockville’s Wootton High shoots down cellphone tower

After community outrage, Wootton Principal Withdraws AT&T Cell Tower Proposal

Parents Decry Wootton Cell Tower Proposal - Bethesda Beat

...One parent asked Doran after he arrived, “This entire room is opposed to this; what can we do next time to make it clear we don’t want the tower?”
Then Doran set off the parents again by implying that although they’re clearly involved in this emotionally-charged issue, they don’t get involved in others. He said, “… yet when you have a chance to get involved in the school, then come out, too, because guess what, you don’t.”
Shouts rang out again, and parents asked Doran to say no to the tower on the spot...


Should parents be spending their time raising their children or raising cash for principals?

...Cathy Stocker — vice president of the Friends of Westbrook School Foundation and PTA president at Chevy Chase Elementary School — said she helped raise about $247,000 for improvements to the all-purpose room and courtyard at Westbrook Elementary School in Bethesda...

And Ocean City... .@mcpssuper #expenses

Our last set of credit card records for Superintendent Joshua Starr covers the months of August and September of 2013.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Part 4 is shown below:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

If we told you once, we told you twice . . .

the Wootton Community does not want a cell tower.

This is the second time the Wootton community has told Dr. Doran that cell phone towers, cell phone compound, generators, and other accessories are not welcome.

Really, honestly, truly Dr. Doran, we don't want it.  How many times do we have to tell you?  We told you in 2004, and we are telling you again - NO.

Many of the parents in the audience tonight (remember, it was a COMMUNITY meeting) have young kids - in elementary and middle school, even preschool.  Some community members don't currently have ANY kids in Montgomery County Public Schools.  This was your chance to meet them, and you blew it.

You said this was an opportunity - what type of opportunity?  What is the community benefit?  Our cell service is fine.  Kids can't use cell phones in schools anyway - are we missing something?

For some reason, you mentioned the artificial turf field - that one you said you advocated for.  Great, another long term chemical hazard.  So - to a new parent or community member, your big accomplishments are that you advocate for an artificial turf field and see an opportunity in a cell tower?

Your job is education - not fundraising or making the cell phone companies richer.  The County Council just fully funded the MCPS budget - and you need more money to do what?

If you want to be a business person, go ahead.  But Wootton HS and its cluster schools need a principal who is an educational leader, not someone who looks for placing yet another chemical hazard in our neighborhood.

Here are some pictures from tonight's meeting.