Sunday, December 31, 2006

A New Education System?

Current method called outdated by Amanda Paulson of The Christian Science Monitor.

Excerpt from the article

What if the solution to American students' stagnant performance levels and the wide achievement gap between white and minority students wasn't more money, smaller schools, or any of the reforms proposed in recent years, but rather a new education system altogether?

That's the conclusion of a bipartisan group of scholars and business leaders, school chancellors and education commissioners, and former cabinet secretaries and governors. They declare that America's public education system, designed to meet the needs of 100 years ago when the workplace revolved around an assembly line, is unsuited to today's global marketplace. Already, they warn, many Americans are in danger of falling behind and seeing their standard of living plummet.

In its place, the group proposes a series of controversial reforms:

  • Offer universal pre-kindergarten programs and opportunities for continuing education for adults without high school diplomas.
  • Create state board exams that students could pass at age 16 to move either on to community college or to a university-level high school curriculum.
  • Improve school salaries in exchange for reducing secure pension benefits, and pay teachers more to work with at-risk kids, for longer hours, or for high performance.
  • Create curriculums that emphasize creativity and abstract concepts over rote learning or mastery of facts.

Read the complete article at

Friday, December 29, 2006

College Board sets standards for Advanced Placement courses

In an article by Elle Ashford on the National School Board Association web-site...

"As the college admissions process has gotten much more competitive, the number of high school students taking Advanced Placement courses has soared. At the same time, there’s been a concerted effort among policymakers and education leaders to get more minorities and students who have not been on the college track to sign up for AP and other rigorous classes.

But as high schools have greatly expanded their AP programs, some are questioning the quality of courses labeled AP. Concerns about AP courses being watered down has led the College Board, which supervises the end-of-course AP exams, to establish an audit procedure to ensure AP courses meet certain standards."

For the complete article,

Saturday, December 23, 2006


From my house to yours,
Merry Christmas!!

A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students

I've actually downloaded and read this full report a few months back (link below). It's quite lengthy but well worth the read if you have a gifted child. Please let me know what you think.

An article by Queue, Inc. - December Issue

America’s schools routinely avoid academic acceleration, the easiest and most effective way to help highly capable students. While the popular perception is that a child who skips a grade will be socially stunted, fifty years of research shows that moving bright students ahead often makes them happy.
Acceleration means moving through the traditional curriculum at rates faster than typical. The 18 forms of acceleration include grade-skipping, early-entrance to school, and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. It is appropriate educational planning. It means matching the level and complexity of the curriculum with the readiness and motivation of the student.
Students who are moved ahead tend to be more ambitious, and they earn graduate degrees at higher rates than other students. Interviewed years later, an overwhelming majority of accelerated students say that acceleration was an excellent experience for them. Accelerated students feel academically challenged and socially accepted, and they do not fall prey to the boredom that plagues many highly capable students who are forced to follow the curriculum for their age-peers.
A Nation Deceived can be downloaded here:

Friday, December 22, 2006

Maryland High School Assessments (HSA)

This post is in response to a question regarding the new testing requirements for graduation.
The Maryland High School Assessments (HSA) are tests that measure school and individual student progress in four core subjects: English, government, algebra/data analysis, and biology. Students take each test whenever they complete the course. For example, some students may take algebra in seventh grade while others may not take it until tenth grade.

The tests contain multiple-choice questions and questions requiring written responses. These questions are based on the content outlined in Maryland’s Core Learning Goals. (See link below for specifics)

Beginning with the graduating class of 2009, students are required to earn a satisfactory score on the HSA, in addition to all credit, service-learning, and attendance requirements, in order to earn a Maryland High School Diploma. Students have several options in fulfilling this requirement:

  • Pass all four HSA (See scores below)


  • Earn at least the minimum score on each HSA and earn a combined score of 1602. This combined-score option benefits students because it allows higher performance on one test to offset lower performance on another test.


  • Earn passing scores on state-approved substitute tests and substitute one or more of those scores for passing scores on the HSA. The state has not yet named acceptable substitute tests, but possibilities include the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.

HSA Passing Score/Minimum Score
Algebra/Data Analysis= 412/402
Biology= 400/391
Government= 394/387
English= 396/386

Students who do not pass an assessment will receive academic assistance from the local school system. After completing an academic assistance program, students can retake the assessment during the next administration of the test.

To help with intervention and remediation, the state has created a series of online courses in HSA subject areas. Teachers may use the courses with students as an intervention strategy, and students may take the courses themselves to review tested material.

Maryand's High School Core Learning Goals

HSA Fact Sheet

HSA Scores

Practice Taking an HSA Online

HSA Technical Report

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Supreme Court Reviews School Diversity Plans

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Dec. 4 in two cases that could have a significant impact on whether school districts can use race as a factor in assigning students to schools.
NSBA had submitted an amicus brief, along with seven other education organizations, urging the Supreme Court to allow school districts to use as a factor in assigning students to schools in an effort to promote diversity.
However, the tenor of the justices’ questioning during the oral arguments indicates there is a strong possibility the court will rule against the districts.
And if that happens, districts would be left with few remedies to promote racial diversity, ultimately speeding up the resegregation of public schools that already is occurring across the nation. A potential ruling against the districts could undermine the decades of progress that have occurred since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

Read the complete article

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Quote for the Day

Throughout my campaign I stated, "I say what I mean and mean what I say." I was sent this great quote today and wanted to share it.

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
-Dr. Seuss

Some Improvements Seen in School Safety

According to a report by the National Center for Educational Statistics, fewer students have been victims of school-related crime during the 2004-05 school year, compared to the year before.
The victimization rate of students age 12-18 at school declined from 73 per 1,000 in 2003 to 55 per 1,000 in 2004, states Indicators of School Crime and Safety issued Dec. 3.
But there was no decline in the percentages of students reporting violent crime between 2003 and 2005. The number of homicides of students ages 5 to 18 at school was higher in 2004-05 than in 2000-01 but remained below most years in the 1990s.
The complete report is available at .

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NSBA Advocacy Needs Your Support

Increasing Funding for America's Public Schools
NSBA and our dedicated grassroots network members have been lobbying Congress to increase funding for education as a part of the "Campaign to Restore Funding for America's Schoolchildren." At this time, it is uncertain whether Congress will extend the current continuing resolution for education until the beginning of the 110th Congress. If so, current FY 2006 funding levels would likely apply to all education programs until a final FY 2007 spending bill is passed. Congress could consider an alternative by passing an omnibus appropriations bill that would include all remaining FY 07 spending bills.&nbs! p; If so, specific program allocations may not be disclosed until after final passage, leaving little or no opportunity to oppose cuts to education. Additionally, the number of earmarks for special projects could soar in an omnibus spending bill, which could affect final FY 07 spending levels for education.

NSBA opposes the pending House and Senate bills in their current forms, which would underfund Title I and IDEA by more than $18 billion. NSBA will begin lobbying for funding increases to Title I and IDEA in FY 2008 as well, in order to be proactive before the President's budget proposal is released in January and to ensure that education funding is a top budget priority of the new 110th Congress.

Pledge to America's Schoolchildren
Please join NSBA's newest campaign --the Pledge to America's Schoolchildren. You can get involved by contacting your United States Senators and Representatives, urging them to sign the Pledge to America's Schoolchildren, which includes five broad, bipartisan goals for the 110th Congress—from improving NCLB to supporting 21st century skills needed for global competitiveness. A grassroots action alert is available on the Pledge Campaign website at

Currently, the Pledge has the bipartisan support of almost 50 members of Congress. NSBA is actively engaged in securing more signatures. Federation Members are also utilizing the Pledge in an effort to establish solid working relationships with newly elected members of Congress

Monday, December 18, 2006

Free Housing to Retain New Teachers

According to an article by Carol Chmelynski on the National School Board Association web-site...

"Officials at the rapidly growing Clark County, Nev., school district in Las Vegas, are having such a hard time hiring enough teachers, they are considering offering affordable housing as an incentive.
Clark County is just one of several districts throughout the nation in areas with soaring housing costs that are looking at innovative ways to attract and retain teachers.
The Clark County school board is exploring options for providing a few hundred residences in the form of houses, condominiums, and apartments and will make a final decision in January, said George Ann Rice, associate superintendent for human resources."

For the complete article,

Saturday, December 16, 2006

WANTED: Student Stars

The National Affiliate program will be hosting a Evening of Student Stars at the NSBA Annual Conference. We are looking for talented students to fill out the program. Below are program guidelines. For more information about the application process go to Student Stars Info

General Guidelines:

  • We are highlighting individuals and small performance groups for this event. The size of the group (including instrumentalists, singers, dancers, accompanists, etc.) may not exceed eight people.
  • Each selected individual or group will be limited to one adult accompanist (i.e. - pianist or conductor) for performance.
  • Applications must be received no later than January 20, 2007 and should be sent to: Alyssa Martin, 185 Prince George Street, Annapolis, Maryland 21401. Selections are made by an outside professional consultant (not by NSBA's elected leaders or staff) on the sole basis of performance quality.
  • NSBA provides two nights of complimentary housing for the student(s) and for two or three accompanying adults who will be expected to assume responsibility for the safety and deportment of the group.
  • Transportation and meal costs are the responsibility of the respective school boards.
  • Performing soloist or groups must represent a public school or group of public schools and have school board approval to represent their district.

The deadline is January 20, 2007. For more information contact Sandy Folks at (703) 838-6787 or

Children At Risk

Poverty: A Common Thread

Many students come from impoverished homes with no history of financial or familial success? How can schools help "at-risk" kids beat the odds?

"Over the next several months, American School Board Journal will examine the education of children at risk. We’ll look at their lives in and out of school, the myriad problems they face, and how some schools are responding to their needs. Social scientists have identified six primary risk factors, all of which are common in low-income households: poverty itself, welfare dependence, absent parents, one-parent families, unwed mothers, and a parent without a high school diploma.While it is not necessary to be poor to be at risk—children from single-parent families are found all along the income spectrum—poverty usually is the common thread. How much can schools do to help the poor? That is a matter of considerable debate. Some argue that by becoming more efficient, focused organizations, schools alone can lift children out of poverty. Others say the problems of poor children are so multifaceted and profound that reforming schools is not enough."

For the complete article, please visit the site below.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why I Do What I Do

I've received a few comments from persons disgruntled by my posting the Superintendent's Contract on my site and I've heard second hand there are some disgruntled by me even having this site at all. This post is dedicated to clarifying Why I Do What I Do.

This blog, is run by me, Jennifer Abell, Member of the Charles County Board of Education, and involves topics and issues on education and children, two of my passions in life. ANY and ALL comments ARE MY PERSONAL comments and do not reflect the opinions of the Board of Education and ARE NOT official communications of the Charles County School Board. (We have a very capable, thorough and dedicated communication person on staff, Ms. Katie O'Malley-Simpson)

The concept of starting a blog began after attending the National School Board Conference in April of 2006. They actually encouraged board members and superintendents to have a blog-site and dialog with the community and held a seminar on the how-to's. After months of pondering the idea, and a plea from the public to be more transparent, it came to fruition with the impending election. I knew so little about blogging, I had to enlist the help of friends to set it up and get me started.

As stated, initially the blog began as part of my campaign. After the election, I received numerous requests to keep it up and running due to the Board meetings being held at an inconvenient time for the public to attend, the televising of the meetings no where in sight, and the minutes from the meetings not reaching the public for a month or more. I agreed. Since then, the blog has become a personal endeavor to try and be more open and transparent to the public, and provide as much information as possible. I encourage everyone...students, staff, teachers, parents, post and give me your opinions, good or bad. You can even do it anonymously if you are shy :)

As for the Superintendents contract, it was posted in response to a request from the public and is strictly for factual informational purposes. My posting of the contract in no way represents my dissatisfaction with it or the Superintendent. I voted for the contract and I support it and Mr. Richmond. In addition, the Superintendent, as well as Board members, is a public servant and therefore his contract is a public document and has been reported in various other media prior to my posting. My posting is not a complete contract and does NOT list all the numerous responsibilites, qualifications and guidelines he must adhere to (please contact Central Office to request a complete copy)

I sincerely apologize if the contract posting or this site has offended anyone or made them feel threatened, for that was not it's intention. This site is not an attempt to "grand-stand" or undermine the Board of Education or staff in anyway. As stated throughout the site, my intentions are strictly to provide the public with knowledge and transparency, answer questions, state my opinions, and hopefully with everyone's cooperation, come up with solutions and innovative ideas for our school system.

Yours in service,

Notes from Board Meeting, 12/12/06

The below notes are my personal notes and are not intended to be all-inclusive or official minutes for the Board of Education meetings and are provided as a request from my supporters and the general public in a personal effort to be more transparet. Although I have diligently tried to make these notes as unbiased and accurate as possible, I am only human and do make mistakes. Please follow-up for official minutes upon approval. For copies of printed reports presented visit

Public Forum

  1. Gentleman spoke in support of Margaret Young. Thanked her for her dedication and voice for the children of Charles County. Presented her with flowers. Encouraged the incoming board to televise board meetings and make attendance at board meetings more inviting to the public. Last meeting he attended he felt intimidated.

Action - Approval of Minutes from 11/14/06

  • Young - requested numerous missing items and conversations to be included in the minutes. Currently could not locate her notes.
  • Abell - stated missing items. Conversations regarding color-coded badges, GED rate comparison among counties, food services and nutrition budget, new high school vision committee, NAEP test results, and missing votes on the summary table of votes.

*Vote on amending the minutes
Yes=Abell, Young; No=Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Wade; Bailey=no vote

*Vote to approve minutes
Yes= Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Wade; No=Young; Abstain=Abell; Bailey=no vote

*Vote to unapproved the October Meeting minutes
Yes=Abell; Crawford; Coggins; Wade; Young; Bailey=no vote

*Vote to correct vote count to go into Executive Session (Young actually abstained)
Yes= Abell; Bailey; Crawford; Coggins; Wade; Young;

*Vote to approve October Meeting Minutes
Yes= Abell; Bailey; Crawford; Coggins; Wade; Young;

Correspondence/Board Member Updates

  • Wade - spoke about the It’s Academic competition. Very professional and well attended.
  • Crawford - relayed his appreciation for serving on the board. Read Psalm 100.
  • Abell - attended the state football game, even though McDonough lost they played a good game and we should be proud of our athletes.
  • Coggins - relayed his thanks for the opportunity to serve on the board.
  • Young encouraged new board to meet soon regarding vision and goals because budget will be coming before them soon.
  • Young - request from last month regarding violent offenders. Staff response was that names could not be released. Young clarified that was not the request.
  • Young - request from last month regarding 10-digit number. Young felt staff response did not answer her question.

Report – EACC

  • Bill Fisher spoke about class sizes and encouraged board members to visit; over testing and teaching to the test and stress placed on teachers; CCPS is outstanding on closing achievement gap and teachers need to know about how children can learn a second language; discipline issues and guidelines and the need for administrative and board support; surveys completed by teachers regarding workload and priorities for negotiations. over testing and teaching to the test and stress placed on teachers; CCPS is outstanding on closing achievement gap and teachers need to know about how children can learn a second language; discipline issues and guidelines and the need for administrative and board support; surveys completed by teachers regarding workload and priorities for negotiations.
  • Meg MacDonald spoke of the discipline issues and teachers being assaulted by students; need to have students removed and changes filed w/sheriff’s office; board policy is to remove the student and they thank us; problem is getting worse and students need to be removed immediately and additional policies needed for special education students.
  • Young – in a perfect world, what would you do to correct the testing issues
  • Fisher – curriculum is suffering due to preparation for numerous tests. Limits need to be set. Don’t know perfect amount. Possibly have report card grades included as part of AYP.
Report - Student Board Member
  • Andrew VanWorkem – At the CCASC meeting students discussed curriculum and instruction in schools; testing is becoming the curriculum; students required to retake course if test is not passed; Mr. Kregar is fabulous for increasing scores on SAT/ACT; students suggest class or seminar is a waste of time and teachers are not effectively teaching; Richmond told Student Advisory Council he would like to implement IB courses and compare to AP.
Report – Superintendent
  • Richmond –McDonough won It’s Academic; met with Dr. Richard Nadolink, Director of Energetics Technology Center and discussed plans to build an ETC in Bryans Road and ETC to give two county scholarships; Student Advisory Council Meeting; Richmond and Marshall attended state football game at Raven stadium and helped present awards.
  • Young – noticed Richmond meeting with business on increasing math and technology curriculum. Has he considered and will he be meeting with professionals regarding the performing and fine arts?
  • Richmond – Always; the arts are very near and dear to his heart.

Report - Deputy Superintendent

  • None

Report - CIP

  • Davis MS – all roof work complete; windows being installed; interior work to be completed throughout winter
  • North Point – baseball field reseeding; underground sprinkler system; waiting on pump station
  • Gale-Bailey – boiler replacement almost complete
  • Smallwood - boiler replacement ongoing January completion
  • Requested $27M from state, IAC recommendations only received $6.5M
  • $161,000 transfer request from Commissioners to cover field conditions
  • Young – Was this an intercategory transfer?
  • Wineland – No. It combined three line items.
  • Young – No notes on the CIP meeting with commissioners that took place following the legislative breakfast on 11/27/06.
  • Wineland – Staff was just there to answer any questions from commissioners
  • Wade – congratulated staff for their professionalism and having the best interest of the school district.

Report – Budget

  • Balides – Food Services is being monitored closely; general funds in good shape
Report - Curriculum Update - Adult Education
  • Estep – JROTC started in county in 1993; Army at Stone and McDonough; Navy at LaPlata and Westlake; Air Force at North Point and Lackey; $645,000 for 12 instructors’ salaries and benefits; students and recent graduates spoke highly and fondly of the program.
  • Young – Upon visiting schools the JROTC classroom students are always very respectful, disciplined and focused. Have we considered offering a similar program at Middle School
  • Peggy Stafford – JROTC groups have done demonstrations for local elementary schools and recruit at middle schools
  • Wade – Great job to staff and cadets

Action - Personnel

* Vote to accept staff recommendations
Yes=Abell, Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Young, Wade; No=None; Bailey=no vote


Action – Naming of Elementary School
  • Coggins – motions for Mary Burgess Neal
  • Abell – Neal is very deserving of having a school named after her but she is not related to this school or this part of the county in any way. Mary Keech Edelen was a teacher in that area before. Personal opinion is the board needs to consider not naming schools after individuals.
  • Young – agreed with Abell on Neal and Keech but disareed about schools being named after individuals
*Vote to name school Mary Burgess Neal Elementary
Yes=Bailey, Coggins, Crawford, Wade; No=Marshall; Abstain=Abell, Young;


Board Farewell
  • Bailey – speech and presentation of gifts

Unfinished Business

  • Young – Request for a sample Physical Education Report Card
  • Young – update on the committee for the new high school vision
  • Young – NAEP test results; Cunningham clarified these were sent in an update
  • Young – update on the status of the Lackey Drama department

New Business

  • Wineland - Pinefield Site Elementary School #3 to obtain state approval; IAC needs assurance that site approval in process; borderline wetlands issue briefed in hopes of a favorable decision by Maryland Department of Environment.

*Vote to move forward
Yes=Abell, Crawford, Coggins, Marshall, Wade, Young; Bailey=no vote


Future Agenda Items

  • Young – according to the communication goal the board is to meet with the Economic Development Commission and Chamber of Commerce
  • New board should set a meeting to determine goals and objectives for the coming year

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Superintendent's Contract

This post is in response to a request for the details of the Superintendents benefits and compensation through his contract.

The Superintendent’s contract is public information and a complete copy may be requested from Central Office. The current contract is a four-year contract as required by the State of Maryland and was signed by all Board members on 1/24/05. Listed below is the Superintendents current benefits and compensation provided by this contract.

  • Base salary $245,000
  • Annual comprehensive medical examination
  • Lifetime paid family health insurance coverage
  • Automobile and insurance coverage
  • Disability income protection for the base salary contract amount for the duration of the contract
  • Thirty days of annual leave per year and an additional 3 days per month. May be redeemed if not used
  • Sick leave accrued at the rate of two days per month. May be redeemed if not used
  • Board contributes an amount equal to 7% of base salary to a supplementary retirement plan.
  • Board provides term life insurance equal to base salary plus a $40,000 supplemental policy. Benefit will continue upon retirement.
  • Board will contribute 2% of base salary to the Teacher’s Pension System.
  • Board will contribute to a tax-sheltered annuity the maximum amount allowed by the IRS Code.
  • $5,000 annual allowance for unreimbursed medical expenses

Monday, November 27, 2006

Legislative Breakfast Notes 11/27/06

Since official Board of Education Meeting Minutes are generally not available to the public for at least one month folowing a meeting, I will be posting my notes here for the public to review. These are my personal notes and are not intended to be all-inclusive or official minutes for the BOE meetings. Although I have diligently tried to make these notes as accurate as possible, I am only human and do make mistakes. Please follow-up for official minutes upon approval.

For a copy of the Board of Education Legislative Issues Packet, please go to:
Go to the meeting of 10/10/06; look under New business (Stand on your head and count to 10) :)

Board of Education – Bailey, Abell, Cook, Pederson, Wise, Coggins Marshall, Carrington, Wade (late)
BOE Staff – Wineland, Estep, Richmond, O’Malley-Simpson, Stubblefield, Hettel, Schwartz, Cunningham, Balides (late)
Commissioners - Cooper, Patterson, Collins, Graves
C.C. Government Staff – Fink, Eicholtz, Voehl
Delegates – Jameson, Levy
Pages – Frazee, Coombs, Coggins III
Media – Rabe (MDIND)

Jameson – foresee structural deficit. Will try not to cut funding for education and school construction and renovation.

Levy – state general fund helps fund education like Thorton. Doesn’t think education or Thorton is going to be cut in 07. Maybe not in 08. Probably in 09. Risky. 1+ billion shortage. Suggests we (BOE) should look at funding sources. Mindful spending. Push forward with construction. Suggests having finance people from BOE call him and review finances.

Wineland – compounding of state overlapping payments & stretching them out causes funding problems. Build seats or renovate; can’t do both.

Levy – Housing market has dropped nationally 7%. County 21%.

Cooper – Commissioners proposed increasing the excise tax for the state formula. 3% increase. DRRA – builders having trouble paying because market has slowed down. Caution overfunding.

Abell – Is it feasible to obtain any kind of funding on on resales? Don’t have current figures here but a lot of the students entering the system are from resales not new construction.

Cunningham – 06-07 school year had a student turnover of 3,300. 217 student net gain.

Cooper – Not looking at resales now but possible in the future for school renovation cost. Not enough profit for new schools.

Patterson – Teacher housing – offer incentives to home owners to rent to teachers. Keys for Employees program. Commissioners have adopted program. BOE unaware. Hettel to prepare presentation for Board.

Cooper – Is there any one issue more important than the others?
Bailey – Teacher retirement legislation that allows them to stay in county and teach with out losing retirement benefits.

Wise – Wants Hope Scholarship reinstated.

Abell – Hope Scholarship – Didn’t Erlich replace it with an equally advantageous program?

Levy – No

Jameson – No

Hettel – No

Levy – financing a program similar to the Hope Scholarship is similar to the budgeting and financing of a pension fund.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Arts in the Schools Paint Masterpiece: Higher Scores

In an era when school arts programs often have been considered expendable as budgets were tightened, the first comprehensive study of the effects of such instruction shows a statistical rise in student achievement, especially among low-income students.
The study found that art programs have a dramatic influence on elementary and high school students’ performance—not just in painting a still life or playing the trombone but also in standardized test scores. The study looked at programs across the country, including one currently used in 30 Chicago public schools.
"The people who run our schools have been looking for some hard evidence that what happens in arts classes impacts on learning. Well, here it is," said Dick Deasy, director of the Arts Education Partnership, a sponsor of the study along with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
James Catterall, a UCLA professor and co-author of the report, found that, "high arts participation makes a more significant difference to students from low-income backgrounds than for high-income students."
For the complete article

Monday, November 20, 2006

New High School to be SPACE & SCIENCE SCHOOL???

Charles County Technology Council - November General Members Meeting
Lunch & Learn with Guest Speaker Mr. James E. Richmond, Superintendent of Schools

DATE: Tuesday, November 28
TIME: 12pm-1:30pm
LOCATION: Charles County Chamber of Commerce, 101 Centennial Avenue, Suite A., La Plata, Maryland.
COST: $10 members; $15 guests
RSVP: RSVP by Wednesday, November 22 (see below)

Please be our guest at CCTC's Annual General Members Meeting/Lunch & Learn. Our speaker for the event is Mr. James E. Richmond, Superintendent of Schools for Charles County. Mr. Richmond will talk about Charles County's next high school, which will focus on Space and Science.

Legislative Breakfast, November 27

The Board of Education (current and newly elected apply to all positions) will be meeting with delegates and commissioners on Monday, November 27 at 7:30 am at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building for their annual legislative breakfast. The breakfast is for all official participants but the media and public are invited to attend to observe and listen to the dialog.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Ms. Margaret Young has filed an official complaint to the Open Meetings Compliance Board against the Board of Education regarding a variety of concerns including discussions amongst Board members that took place behind closed doors on August 8, 2006, the Boards failure to record executive session official minutes, and evasive "boilerplate" language on public minutes regarding executive session agenda topics.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Televising Board of Education Meetings: In the Legal Notices of the Indy??

Okay, I think everyone knows the story but just in case, here is a little history...Abell and Young are on a mission to televise Board meetings (gasp!) in an effort to be transparent and make the public fully aware of all decisions and discussions. The Superintendent, Mr. James Richmond, has recommended NOT televising the meetings and will only put his endorsement on the project after we spend thousands of dollars to "do it right". (We currently can video tape football games and other special events and air them on our station at whim.) The remaining five Board members CONTINUOUSLY VOTE AGAINST televising the meetings.

Now for the next chapter.

I open todays Indy and for some odd reason I am compelled to read the legal notices. (I have never in my life ever read these.) Call it divine intervention... Low and behold CCPS is in the legal notices. INDY. CCPS, contrary to the majority vote of the Board, is evidently requesting RFP's (bids) for a television studio and control room for staff at central office!?! You must read the above link. I am completely befuddled. the bottom it says "By Order of the Board of Education of Charles County." What the heck?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Meet The Author

Robert Westfield, a former Henry E. Lackey High School student and recently published author, will be available to meet and greet the public on Sunday, November 19, 12-2 p.m., at the Brewhouse coffee shop in LaPlata. Charles County Public Schools arranged for the meet and greet, and encourage everyone to come out and show support for one of our successful former students.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Synopsis of Board Meeting, 11/14/06

Since official Board of Education Meeting Minutes are generally not available to the public for one month I will be posting my notes here for the public to review. These are my personal notes and are not intended to be all-inclusive or official minutes for the BOE meetings. Although I have diligently tried to make these notes as accurate as possible, I am only human and do make mistakes. Please follow-up for official minutes upon approval. For copies of printed reports presented visit

Public Forum

  1. Mitchell Elementary parent concerned about large class sizes. 1st grade classes of 27+. Only three 1st grade classes. Teacher problems giving individual students attention needed at this young age.
  2. Mitchell Elementary parent. Board meetings need to be moved to a more community friendly time. Concern of large class sizes. 30+ students in daughters 4th/5th grade math class. Principal promised 1 teachers aid per grade. Has not happened as of yet.
  3. Mitchell Elementary parent concerned with class sizes.
  4. Wants the next school named after his brother, Walter Melvin “Johnny” Johnson, Jr. Killed in action during WWII at age 19.
Action - Approval of Minutes from 10/10/06
Abell questioned why the table summary of votes was not included on the minutes. Per last months meeting it was requested to be included in the minutes in order for the Board to be in adherence to policy. Staff response was it would be forthcoming momentarily. (Did not receive by end of meeting.)
Yes=Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Young, Wade; No=None;Abstain=Abell;Bailey=no vote

Correspondance/Board Member Updates

  • Coggins relayed information on meetings he's attended as well as upcoming seminars and meetings that might be of interst to other Board members.
  • Crawford emotionally spoke about his tenure and experience on the Board.
  • Young relayed comments she received from teachers regarding the new elementary math program. i.e. - lack of supplies, premature introduction of abstract ideas, willingness to give the program additonal time, etc.
  • Young relayed concern over increase in emails from parents feeling as though CCPS is "pushing" them out of their child's school experience.
  • Marshall was adamant that he did not like Young's comments and asked for her to continue at the end of the meeting.

Later resumed

  • Young requested concern over the use of social security numbers within the school system.
  • Young relayed concern over the Drama department at oneof the high schools. The teacher has lost her official office space due to overcrowding issues and is now located in the boys dressing room. The boys and girls are now forced to share one dressing room.
  • Young relayed concern over comments she hear at the Economic Development Summit regarding the new high school. Seems as though it is a done deal for it to be a space school.
  • Young expressed concern over Board members lack of access to Executive Session notes/minutes ad they how they are not approved by the Board. She has filed a complaint with the Open Meetings Act Compliance Board.
Report - EACC
Collecting data via survey regarding teacher workload and testing. Reviewed festivities for American Education Week. Welcome and farewells to Board members.

Report - Student Board Member
CCASC Meetings. Legislative positions discussed amongst members. Pursuit of voting rights for student members. Upcoming Legislative Conference to be hosted at North Point and video played.

Report - Superintendent
Charles County is one out of five counties in the state with NO schools on state improvement list. Redistricting committee for next elementary school has begum meeting. Student Recognition will take place 11/27 at North Point. American Freedom Week festivities. School Safety flyer provided by Sheriff's Office will be provided to PTA/PTO/PTSO's. SAT/ACT/AP consultant (Kregar) has made a history CD to be provided to students and aired on the CCPS station. Additional subjects will be made as time and funds permit. Young stated she had tried to locate Kegar at Central Office and could not. Staff stated he is located in New Jersey. Young requested staff consider using different colored badges for contractors/consultants etc.

Report - Deputy Superintendent
Student enrollment numbers are up 217 students fromlast year.
  • 26,623 total count
  • 3,303 first time to Charles County public schools
  • 1,354 first time in school
  • 1,037 from other counties
  • 558 from other states
  • 52 from other countries
  • 284 from private schools
  • 218 from home schools

Report - CIP

  • North Point students from construction related classes are receiving tours of Davis Middle School throughout the construction phase for on-site training.
  • Soccer fields at Lackey are complete and will be available for play by fall 07
  • Diggs playground is complete
  • Smallwood is undergoing boiler replacement
  • North Point is having an underground sprinkler system installed
  • State report from IAC should be forthcoming
  • Abell questioned the portable classroom report which states there are two portables at Craik. Abell doesn't recall portables at Craik. Staff confirmed the report is correct.

Report - Curriculum Update - Adult Education
FY06 there were 224 graduates. (Please see the link above for complete report). All teachers in the program have degrees. Young asked if we are restricted by NCLB guidelines in this program. Staff response was negative. Young asked our GED success rate compared to other counties and states. Staff did not have that data.

Report - Budget
(Please see link above for complete report) Item of note was the Nutrition/Food Services Department is suffering due to high cost of freight and delivery charges in direct relation with rising gas prices.

Report - School Naming Committee
New elementary school to open in August 2008 on Piney Church road. (Please see the link above for the complete report.) Suggestions by committee: Piney Church Road Elementary School· Mary Keech Edelen Elementary School· Mary Burgess Neal Elementary School. Vote to be taken in December.

Report - Suggested Changes to Bylaws
(Please see link above for suggested changes). Bailey asked the attorney (Schwartz) for his legal advice on the proposed changes to the policies and bylaws. Schwartz advised that all changes to policies and bylaws remain on hold until the new Board is in office. Young motioned, seconded by Abell to move ahead with the proposed changes.

Yes=Abell, Young; No=Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Wade;Abstain=None;Bailey=no vote

Action - Personnel
Yes=Abell, Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Young, Wade; No=None;Bailey=no vote

Action - Month of the Young Child Resolution
Yes=Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Wade; No=Young;Abstain=Abell;Bailey=no vote

Action - Salute to School Food and Nutrition Service Personnel Resolution
Yes=Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Wade; No=Young;Abstain=Abell;Bailey=no vote

Unfinished Business

  • Young asked if date-stamping had been implemented on Board Doc as of yet. Staff response was they are still working on the logistics of it.
  • Young asked if the committee for the vision of the new high school had met yet. Staff stated they were in the process of identifying members at this time.
  • Young asked if the meeting between the Board and the Economics Development Commission had been set up as of yet. Staff response was negative.
  • Abell requested an update on the possibilty of audio tapes of Board meetings being broadcast on CCPS station. Staff response was negative.

New Business/Future Agenda Items

  • Abell relayed concern over the state nutrition guidelines and emails from parents concerning their enforcement during special occassions such as holiday parties. Abell requested the Board send a letter to MSDE requesting clarification on their policies and procedures and their pertinance to special occassions.

Yes=Abell, Young; No=Crawford, Marshall, Wade;Abstain=Coggins;Bailey=no vote

  • Abell relayed parent and teacher concern regarding foods sold in the school cafeteria and their lack of being within the policy guidelines. Abell cited numerous nutritional values of foods currently sold in the school cafeteria. Abell requested a review of the policy and a future staff report on food items available in the school cafeteria.

Yes=Abell, Young; No=Crawford, Marshall, Wade;Abstain=Coggins;Bailey=no vote

  • Abell relayed concern over the parent visitation policy and rules. The current restrictions are two 45 minute classroom observations per quarter. Abell's concern was now we are implementing block scheduling in some of our schools and the classes are longer than 45 minutes in duration. In addition, if a child is having difficulties in more than two subjects, the parents are unable to observe the other classes. Abell requested the Board review this policy. Chairman Bailey stated thatall policies are due for review on an annual basis and would defer this to the incoming Board in January.
  • Young requested the Board send a letter to the State Highway Administration requesting confirmation on the new high school site.

Yes=Abell, Young; No=Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Wade;Abstain=None;Bailey=no vote

  • Young requested an update on the number of violent offenders at each school. Young relayed teachers concerns and fears regarding the number of students required to wear "ankle bracelets" by juvenile services/sheriff's department. Staff was uncertain if we have this data and will be getting back to us.
  • Young requested a meeting to gather public input on the vision for the new high school.

Yes=Abell, Young; No=Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Wade;Abstain=None;Bailey=no vote

  • Young requested the counties NAEP test results. Staff is checking on this data to see if we have received as of yet.
  • Young requested a report on the new initiative for a 10-digit student identifier number, who has access and what information it contains. Staff could provide in update.

Yes=Abell, Young; No=Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Wade;Abstain=None;Bailey=no vote

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nancy Grasmick...No Plans on Leaving

O'Malley suggest that its time for Nancy Grasmick, state schools superintendent, to relinquish her office and provide Maryland schools a "fresh start". Grasmick vows to serve the last 20-months of her 4-year term. For the complete article,0,1286834.story?coll=bal-local-headlines

Sunday, November 12, 2006

REMINDER: Board Meeting Tuesday, 11/14/06

Just wanted to remind everyone there is a Board Meeting this Tuesday, November 14th at 1:00 pm. To see the full agenda please visit
A few highlights include:

  1. Curriculum Update - Adult Education - Did you know that approximately 20% of the adults in Charles County do not have a diploma. Based on 2000 census data the population increased 19% in the last decade, while the English as a Second Language population increased 65% during the same period. Click here to view the full report.
  2. School Naming Report - Naming of the new elementary school off Piney Church Road in Sheffield Neighborhood in Waldorf. Committees suggestions are · Piney Church Road Elementary School· Mary Keech Edelen Elementary School· Mary Burgess Neal Elementary School. ( Let me know what you think)
  3. Suggested changes to bylaws - Submitted by Margaret Young regarding policy's and minutes.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Thank you to all my supporters and to all the other candidates for being advocates for our children. My hope is that everyone remains very active in their commuity and their school system. Together we can make a difference!!!!

Saturday, October 28, 2006


Please join me in a night of fun, food, music and celebration.

Friday, November 3, 2006
Gilligan's Pier (Pier III)
Seafood & Chicken Buffet (mmm! crab balls and spiced shrimp)
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
$25 per person in advance
$30 at the door

Smith Tucker Band performing 7:00 - 10:00 pm

For tickets please click on the link below and specify the quantity needed along with you mailing address and telephone number.

Yours in service,
Jennifer Abell

Letter of Endorsement

The letter below was submitted to the Maryland Independent and the Washington Post. as well as copied to me for posting.
October 23, 2006

Dear Editor,
I believe Jennifer Abell, School Board Candidate, is completely misunderstood. People who don't know Jennifer accuse her of having a hidden agenda, being a religious freak, and serving on the board to meet her own needs. Well her own needs are a high quality education for the students (she has four enrolled in county schools), committed, caring and qualified staff (this is the only way to reach goal number one), top notch facilities with state of the art technology (being fiscally smart in order to make the best use of limited funds) and an appropriate learning environment (safety first!) that will enable all students to be successful and reach their potential.

Jennifer Abell is one of the hardest working, most conscientious members of the board, and, one of the best advocates for education in Charles County. She's not just talk. She is the one member who continually listens to all sides, researches the issues, and utilizes all resources available before making decisions. She's devout in her religion, but she NEVER pushes her religious beliefs on anyone else. She knows I'm Jewish, and we've discussed the differences in our religions, but she's made it quite clear that religion is best taught at home. She would never support distributing bibles in school nor would she support the teaching of creationism. I am very sure about this, and would not support her if this were not the case.

Jennifer doesn't have a hidden agenda. The agenda she has is outlined above. She believes the Board meetings should be televised, or held at a time that is convenient for parents, teachers and staff to attend ? because there is nothing to hide. She believes in teaching abstinence, but she?s also wise enough to know that more is needed in regards to sex education. She believes in academic rigor, increases in teacher salaries, and parents involved in their child?s education. Most importantly, she wants to help the schools succeed in leaving "no child left behind" but she also wants the schools to ensure that bright children are allowed to more forward.

Don't believe me? Clear up the misunderstanding by checking out her blog site at You?ll find out where she stands on all the issues. Thanks for your understanding.

Donna Liberman
La Plata

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Lacrosse in Charles County? Yes it might finally happen. After numerous emails from students and parents requesting the sport to be added at the high school level, it might finally happen. Currently, the sport is played in our surrounding counties and Charles County students want to play too!
During the October Board meeting, Ms. Jan Johnson , Specialist in Athletics, gave an oral report regarding the status of lacrosse in Charles County. The good news is it looks as though there is enough support to have lacrosse in the county high schools. The bad news is it looks as though it won't be available until 2008-2009. As with everything involving government, it is a slow process. For those of you pulling for this to happen, stay diligent and you shall prevail.

Year-Round School

The subject of year-round schooling has come up on several occasions at the candidate forums. I personally have not done a lot of research on the topic but find it very intriguing. From what I have read it seems to aid students in retention of information, provides the teachers with much needed respite to regroup, and is very economical for the system. I don't see how it would benefit us as far as the overcrowding issue because it would still be the same number of students.
The ideal hypothetical scenario I was envisioning would be three months of school Sept-Oct-Nov; 1 month off Dec; three months on Jan-Feb-Mar; 1 month off Apr; three months on May-Jun-Jul; 1 month off Aug. My rationale...the students are off 7-10 days in December any way and are in need of a break and families travel for the holidays; April break because students are off 7-10 days again during this month for spring break and families travel; and then August for families to participate in a summer vacation.
Of course this schedule would reek havoc on the summer sports schedule such as the summer swim league.
Again, I would never promote or support a change of this nature without thorough research, and public input/debate.
Please weigh-in Charles County and let me know what you are thinking.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Soccer Fields vs. Police Sub-Stations

At the October 10th meeting the BOE voted to surplus land back to the county to build police sub-stations. The land is at TSHS & Jenifer Elementary . Minutes will reflect in Nov. , Young voted against the motion, & I abstained. Young tried to make an amendment to the motion to delay the Jenifer transaction until we received more information (i.e., impact on soccer community and field size). I seconded the motion but it failed. Young & I were the only two voting yes to the amendment.
As Ms. Young predicted, when we were first informed of this "opportunity," the soccer community started roaring when they found out one of their practice fields was eliminated. These are high-use fields and are in constant use. Yes, we have PLAYING fields, but the powers that be don't like teams practicing on the "good" (playing) fields because then they won't be in proper shape for games. To my knowledge, Jenifer is not used for games. Some coaches have resorted to practicing at fields in PG County. How sad it is that we can't provide sufficient practice facilities for our own youth. How utterly inconvenient for parents who furiously drive home from work only to turn around & drive back up to PG County for their childs soccer practice.
The motion to surplus the land passedbut included a stipulation to retain a soccer field at the Jenifer site. Currently, there is 1 large field & 1 very small field.

The Board was first told that the commissioners approached us & wanted us to surplus these pieces of land to them. In exchange they would renovate the Adult Ed Bldg.
IAfter speaking with a couple of the commissioners we were told the need for substations was discussed publicly but, the commissioners did not approach the BOE; the BOE came to them & "offered up" the land. This was odd. First, the BOE never discussed approaching the commissioners to do this. Second, why would we or staff do that out of the blue? We were never told they were looking for sites for substations. It just wasn?t adding up. This was very conflicting information.
The commissioners said we offered up land first & CCPS staff says the commissioners approached us first. Hmm? Mr. Bailey says Cooper met with him & Richmond near the beginning of Oct. at one of their regularly scheduled meetings. (This may start a whole new thread about transparency issues. Mr Bailey has been asked before to provide the rest of the board with notes from his meetings with Cooper & Richmond so we could all be on the same page. His response, "There are no meetings, so there are no notes.") Hmmm.....
Bailey says Cooper brought up the issue during the regularly scheduled bimonthly meeting in Oct..
Why weren?t we told about that meeting & why weren?t we given information about the issue prior to our board meeting. Bailey says we should have received the information by e-mail and fax prior to the Board meeting. Our secretary says a memo was composed & was originally intended to be distributed 5 days prior to our meeting. After further discussion between Bailey & another staff member it was decided the information would not be sent. They determined the information would be distributed (for the first time) in executive session. We still didn?t receive the written information then either.
We were told this had to be rushed because a state agency must ultimately approve the transaction, & that agency meets at the end of Oct.. If we didn?t vote on it immediately the "deal" would be delayed 3 months.

Please let me know how you feel about removing our youths soccer fields in order to build police sub-stations.

Overcrowded Schools

The biggest problem facing our school system is meeting the demands of our rapidly growing county and the resulting overcrowding of our schools. The Board of Education cannot solve this problem by itself. We (the Board of Education, the Commissioners, the delegation, and the community) need to support aggressive pursuit of maximum local and state funding for construction of new schools, and work with the IAC to pursue changes to the state funding formula. Next, the BOE needs to work with the Commissioners on changing the APFO Allocations. In addition to all of the above, the BOE needs to look to alternative ways of funding the construction of new schools. For example, in Montgomery County they have had some developers build schools and lease the building back to the county for a set number of years and then the county owns the building (rent to own). Please let me know what you think.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Letter to the Editor #3

Printed in the Maryland Independent on Wednesday October 11, 2006.
Dear Editor,

I would like to respond to several letters to the editor that ran on October 6, 2006. Mr. Brady, on par with other EACC members, once again attempts to mislead readers and alleges a religious voting bloc of Abell, Young, Crawford, and Bailey. However, this science teacher does not provide the readers with any factual data to support his allegation. So, I've taken heed from my own advice and hit the homework books once again.

I have reviewed all minutes and public voting records from the time of my appointment in June of 2004, up to and including September, 19, 2006. I found 293 total votes over those 27 months. I will let the statistics speak for themselves, for they ring loud and clear over the din of the EACC's continual flow of misinformation.

As a board we have cast unanimous votes 117 times. This is a 40% agreement rate for a board that the EACC and the media have attempted to label and portray as divisive.

From 293 total votes, the alleged "religious voting bloc" of Bailey, Crawford, Abell, and Young voted together a whopping 16 times over the course of 27 months. Do the math, and it comes out to a 5% rate.

While doing my homework, the data also revealed two other interesting voting trends. The bloc of Crawford, Wade, Coggins, and Marshall voted together 16 times too, however that has been in the past 6 months alone. Over the same aforementioned 27-month period, Bailey, Wade, Crawford, and Marshall voted together 8 times. This information could lead one to conclude the "split" was never really along so called religious lines, but rather along gender lines.

Please feel free to contact me via e-mail at and I will be happy to provide you with the hard, cold data.

In addition, I believe the public will have a difficult time choosing from among so many qualified candidates who are committed to the education of our children. I would be honored to serve with any of them. The candidates each have unique styles and opinions. So I urge you once again, to do your own homework, don't rely on "little apple ballots", or rumors and innuendos in the editorial section of the paper. Instead, choose a candidate whose style and opinions are best for you.

Jennifer Abell

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I seem to be receiving a barrage of email regarding school uniforms. The Board has never discussed the possibility of uniforms, at least not during my tenure. I have done a little reading, just what has come across my desk, but haven't really dealved into a lot of research because it hasn't been on the radar screen. So let me know what you think. They're your children and your schools. I've listed a few links below to get you started on some of the materials I have read. If you know of any others, please post.

Teacher's Pension and Salaries

Contrary to the EACC propaganda, I voted for an increase in teacher pension and do support a substantial increase in salaries. Although the starting salary for teachers MAY be adequate, the subsequent increases are not high enough. I believe the Board should dealve into pay increases being based on performance not tenure. Teachers deserve to be compensated based on their effectiveness in the classroom. These teachers not only are teaching our future leaders of this country, but they have to constantly deal with and answer to parents and administration while adhering to all federal/state/county guidelines and deal with our children. It's a tough job and they deserve our support!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Another "Unedited" Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor:
The EACC is at it again. I am writing this letter in response to an article on Wednesday, September 20, "EACC gets its way in board primary" and a letter to the editor on the same day from Ms. Meg McDonald, representative of the EACC, titled "Revolutionary results in the school board primary". For those readers unfamiliar with the EACC, it is ONE of our local teachers unions who is lead by a small but very vocal group of individuals who try to portray themselves as representing ALL the teachers of Charles County. Unfortunately, the information put out by the EACC leaders is frequently inaccurate with the intent of misleading the public and misrepresenting others and me on several issues.

Personally I despise the bantering back and forth in the newspaper between letter writers so as opposed to fabrication, innuendos, and down right slander, I would just like to clarify a few facts.

· I am a Christian and believe in God, he walks and guides me through my daily life. Does this mean I am trying to impose my religious beliefs in the public school system? NO
· Ms. McDonald refers to me as part of a radical right voting block. I strongly encourage all readers to review the minutes of the Board meetings . It it obvious the voting block is Collins Bailey, Donald Wade, Mark Crawford and Cecil Marshall.
· Ms. McDonald refers to the Board of Education "goals" released in 2004. Again, inaccurate information in hopes of misleading the public! We (the board) have never discussed the teaching of creationism, intelligent design, or the distribution of Bibles in schools. Were these topics written on a list as suggestions for future discussion items and submitted by one individual board member? Yes they were! Was it me? NO it was not! I wish the board member that wrote it would be man enough to stand up and admit it in public.
· The Board of Education in which I proudly serve has never discussed the banning of books. We have discussed books on the ?required? reading lists in response to a parental complaint but NO books have ever been banned!
· We, the Board, have never discussed the use of vouchers. Was this submitted by a board member as a possible discussion item on ways to decrease overcrowding? YES, but it was quickly out voted, and I voted against it.
· In March of 2006, Mr. Fisher, President of the EACC, announced to all staff at several schools (not just the EACC members) "Ms. Young and Ms. Abell voted against increasing the teacher's pension." This statement is blatantly untrue! I voted to increase the teacher's pensions! When I was made aware of the comments (contrary to EACC beliefs I do have teachers supporting me), I questioned Mr. Fisher who was adamant he was correct. After my insistence he reviewed the Board minutes and later called to apologize for he stood corrected. However, Mr. Fisher refused to send out a retraction to all staff informing them of his error.
· Did I oppose the interviewing of a new board member in public? YES, I did! We had over 40 applicants to interview and in an effort to be fair to all of them and not give any one person an advantage I opposed the interviews being conducted in public. However, I did suggest that the names be made public and the interviews be video taped and shown publicly at a later date via the CCPS Comcast station. I was not supported by a majority of my colleagues.

As for the candidates for Board of Education, you the public, have 13 to choose from. Some are very qualified and vying for the position with the best interest of our county?s students in the forefront. Others are not. The five incumbents have actual voting records that the public can easily access and review ( Of the 13 candidates, three (Wise, Gesl, and Stover) have a conflict of interest; their personal family incomes and benefits are directly tied to the Board of Education. In addition, only one non-incumbent has taken the time to actually attend a Board meeting. Please, I urge you the voters, do your own homework and don?t rely on hearsay, the media, or ?little apple ballots?, when you make your decisions for the Board of Education. Our children, their education, and this county?s future is relying on you.
For further details regarding my beliefs, feel free to visit my blog at; or email me at
Thank you,
Jennifer Abell

Saturday, September 23, 2006

"UNEDITED" Letters to the Editor

Below you will read an "unedited" Letter to the Editor submitted to the Maryland Independent on Friday, September 22, 2006 by Ms. Margaret Young. She was kind enough to forward it to me for posting. I wonder if they will print and if they do will it be edited. hmmmmm.

I am no longer a candidate for the school board race, but I would like to respond to two pieces that were printed in the September 20th edition of the Maryland Independent, ?The EACC gets its way in board primary? and Meg MacDonald?s letter to the editor. I would also like to encourage the voters of Charles County to do their own homework.

When EACC administrators, such as Meg MacDonald, have difficulty debating the merits of an issue they resort to purposefully misleading and confusing the general public and their own members as well. Like Chicken Little, they want people to believe the sky is falling. The Chicken Little League manipulates the truth so citizens think the EACC member?s accusations are the actions or statements of the Board or its individual members. Some examples of their tall tales are a religious voting bloc and board goals for teaching creationism, banning books, and distributing Bibles. The roorbacks of the Chicken Little League keep journalists employed, publishers in the black, and readers entertained, but it still doesn?t change what actually occurred.

One high profile example is creationism. A board discussion to include creationism as part of the science curriculum has never occurred during the eight years I?ve been on the board, yet I doubt the general public is aware of that fact. Yes, there was debate ad nauseam on the issue, but the Board was not debating the topic. While the Chicken Little League was out fanning the flames of phobia, the board spent many hours listening to opinions of those that responded to their frantic ?all-call.?

The debate took place in the media and during the public forum portion of our meetings. The agenda for public forum is set by the speakers, not the Board. It is a time for citizens to address the Board and for the Board to listen It is not a time for board members to weigh in on the debate or respond to a misguided speaker?s allegations or unfounded personal attacks. Board members only rendered their personal opinions on creationism when they were contacted by the media.

Yes, one member listed creationism and Bible distribution during a brainstorming session as topics for us to consider discussing in the future. And, granted, that member has met repeatedly with top ranking administrators to push that agenda for years, but it was always done without the Board?s knowledge, let alone Board consent or direction.

Previous Boards were accused of being a rubber stamp for the superintendent. This board has attempted to break that tradition and focus instead on accountability from the superintendent down to the classroom teacher ? that ruffles Chicken Little?s feathers.

It?s 2006, the EACC has an agenda, and that is why they are more than willing to do your homework for you. Their first and foremost responsibility is to improve the benefits and conditions of dues paying members ? not students, taxpayers, voters, or parents. They must ensure Wise, Gesl, and Stover are elected. All three have personal family incomes and benefits that are controlled to a very large extent by the Board. A conflict of interest? You bet! One vote short of a majority, they?re counting on Wade, a former teacher in another county, to round out that fourth vote. The chief negotiator for administration and his wife are both CCPS employees and therefore benefit directly from the negotiated outcome. Either students will suffer program cuts or taxpayers can look forward to a serious shakedown if these four EACC endorsed candidates are elected. And, heaven help any student or parent that attempts to appeal a school or administrative decision to a ?neutral? Board.

Don?t let the EACC or any other organization do your homework for you. Get your head out of opinion pieces and start looking at some primary documents like the actual voting records and minutes; they are available on line and they paint a very different picture. Surf the candidates? websites. Better yet, attend some of the meetings if your schedule allows. Yes, some housecleaning is in order. Still, there are several excellent school board candidates from which to choose ? ones that don?t have financial and personal conflicts of interest or a covert religious agenda. Contact them directly to get the facts and unedited opinions. The Chicken Little League has an agenda, and that?s exactly why they want to do your homework and fill in your ballot for you.

Margaret Young

Saturday, September 09, 2006

SAT Results

Well the 2006 report is out. Charles County Public Schools (seniors only) average score on the SAT is 1537, which is above the state (1511) and national (1518) averages. The average score for the mathematics section is 515, the writing section is 510 and the critical reading portion is 512.

The percentage of seniors taking the SAT increased from 32.5% in 2005 to 34.4% in 2006.

Mr. Richmond and staff are doing a great job on keeping the scores above the state and national averages. This news is fantastic! We're remaining steady on the upward trend in scores and the percentage taking the SAT's.

On the down side, does anyone notice something that is really astounding. Or maybe it's just me...ONLY 34.4% OF OUR GRADUATING SENIORS ARE TAKING THE SAT!!

How do you the community feel about this? What can be done? Let me know your opinion and ideas.

Sex Education

In my March of Dimes capacity, I have the opportunity to work with the health department, hospital, social services, and local school system on the local FIMR board. We meet every month and review statistics, cases and deaths of infants and children in the county witht he primary goal of prevention. Unfortunately in this county, homelessness, lack of prenatal care, premature birth, sexually transmitted diseases, drug addiction and teen pregnancies is a growing problem affecting a healthy birth outcome. If all parents were responsible, diligent and had an open line of communication with their children where they could teach their children about sex, then their wouldn't be a need for it to be taught in the schools. Unfortunately, we do not live in that perfect world. We have students in our high schools that don't know how to tie their shoes or brush their teeth properly much less about hormones, sex, pregnancy, and STD's. We have girls starting their menses without a clue as to what is going on. With all that being said, the school system currently uses an opt-out method for sex education. Opt-out means the students will be in the class, which you might or might not get notice about, unless a parent sends a note saying they do not want them in the class. I support, would like to change, and tried to implement an Opt-In method. Opt-In means the students are not allowed in the class unless parents sign the permission slip. This keeps all parents fully informed, allows them to review the curriculum and those parents who have already discussed the issues with their children can make the decision for them to refrain from the class. When I brought this up I did not get a majority vote from my fellow members and the idea wasn't well received amongst staff. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Board Transparency/Televising

I support an open and transparent Board of Education and while the current times for the school board meetings might be more convenient for Board members, I believe they need to be held in the late afternoon/evening hours as they were previously. Mr. Crawford made a motion for this change and was supported by members Wade, Marshall, and Bailey in January of this year. Ms. Young, Mr. Coggins, and myself did not vote in favor of this change. In addition, I have advocated for televised Board meetings for the past two years. I have served on a Board Communication Committee and an Interagency Communication Committee with the Charles County Government. Both committees recommendations were to televise the Board meetings. North Point is already equipped to televise these meetings and Comcast has given us a channel that we are in danger of losing if not utilized. Televising the meetings could be done with minimal costs but must have a majority vote of a Board that wishes to be transparent. In addition, the channel could be utilized for school events, student courses and staff training.

On another note, there has been a lot of controversy over the appointing of new Board members and whether this should be done in public. Please let me clarify my position. During the last appointing process where Mr. Coggins was selected, the Board was advised by their attorney, Mr. Eric Schwartz, to repeat the same process as previously used. The Board, voted by a majority to accept their attorney's recommendation. I believe the interviews could have been video taped and made available for public viewing after the announcement of the selected member. You see, we had 42 applicants who couldn't all be interviewed on the same day. For the interview process to take place in a public setting would have given the later applicants an unfair advantage over the first applicants. They would have been aware of the questioning and would have been able to prepare for their interviews. Some applicants would have had an unfair advantage and this is what I was against, not public transaprency as misrepresented by others.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


The letter below was sent to the Maryland Independent on July 26, 2006.

Teacher Union Backs New Faces to the Board
printed Weds. July 26, 2006

Dear Editor:

Writing letters to the Editor is not a desire I wish to fulfill mostly because, I do not wish to partake in any mud slinging involving the Charles County Board of Education. However, after being misquoted on numerous occasions and after reading the article printed in Wednesday's edition, I feel compelled to set a few matters straight.

I'll begin with the article; it is true the EACC conducted interviews of the Candidates filing to run for the Board of Education. Unfortunately, the first round was conducted while I was away on a family vacation. I notified Ms. Barbara Kennedy prior to my departure and was informed it wouldn't be a problem. She clearly stated a second round of interviews was scheduled, after the July 3rd filing deadline, and would contact me then. (The letter inviting us to participate in these interviews also stated the same) Upon the return from my vacation and on two other occasions thereafter, I tried contacting the EACC leaving messages for Ms. Kennedy requesting future interview dates. My calls were never returned.

As for the questionnaire, which was sent out with the letter, it is still in my possession. The initial intention was to bring it with me to the interview, as the letter clearly stated to do.

Am I surprised by the twist the EACC tried to portray in the article on Wednesday? Not in the least. You see, this is the second time I am aware of that the EACC has tried to sabotage my efforts as a board member. Earlier in the year, Mr. Fisher himself visited several schools and announced to all staff, (not just the EACC members) "Ms. Young and Ms. Abell voted against increasing the teacher's pension." This statement is blatantly untrue! I voted to increase the teacher's pensions! When I was later informed of these comments, and questioned Mr. Fisher personally, he was adamant the information was correct. I insisted he check the minutes from the meeting; Mr. Fisher later called and apologized as he stood corrected. He subsequently stated he would not send out a retraction to all staff informing them of his inaccuracy.

In addition to shed some light on and hopefully put an end to the political tactics of a small but vocal group of EACC members who frequently attempt to misrepresent me and others on several issues, I would like to set my record straight.

I am a Christian and believe in God, he walks and guides me through my daily life.

The teaching of creationism as a science in public schools
The use of vouchers
The banning of books
The distribution of religious books in the schools

An increase in teacher's salaries & retention of highly qualified teachers
Parents actively involved in their child's education
An open and transparent Board of Education
A collaborative effort at the County and State levels to relieve overcrowding in the schools
Working collaboratively with the Superintendent and staff

If anyone has questions regarding my beliefs, feel free to visit my blog at; or email me at

Finally, did I in fact believe the EACC would endorse me as a candidate for the Board of Education? No, not based on their past history...after all, I'm not a registered Democrat!

Thank you,
Jennifer Abell

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Block Scheduling

I am still undecided on whether I support block scheduling. I'm leaning more towards not supporting block scheduling based on mathematical data (provided at the end of this post) and personal research but will refrain from a final decision until after this school year. You see, my son is the guinea pig this year. He attends Milton Somers which went to block scheduling for this school year. For a boy who is organizationally handicapped to start with, this is already turning out to be a nightmare and more work for me. Hopefully it will get better and won't need reminders every night as to which books to pack in the book bag. As for the data I promised, I will give you the following excerpt from Margaret Young's website:
Over the course of just one year students lose approximately 13.5 hours (16 school days) of instructional time. The cumulative effect over the middle school and high school career would be 94.5 hours of instruction PER SUBJECT! Here's why:

Schools are open 6.5 hours per day
Assume 30 minute lunches for both block and regular schedules
Regular scheduled schools have 7 periods; block schedules have 4 (therefore block scheduled schools are divided by 8 periods)
6.5 hours per day x 60 min. per hr. = 390 min. per school day
390 min. - 30 min. lunch = 360 min. left

360 min. - 21 min. to change for 7 classes and lunch (3 min. @) = 339 min.
339 min. divided by 7 classes = 48 min. instruction per class
48 min. class x 180 days per year = 8640 min. (144 hrs.)

360 min. - 12 min. to change for 4 classes and lunch (3 min @) = 348 min.
348 min. divided by 4 classes = 87 min. instruction per class
87 min. class x 90 (meets every other day) = 8730 min. (130.5 hrs.)
144 hrs. Regular - 130.5 hrs. Block = 13.5 hrs. difference (a.k.a. 16.875 Regular Schedule School Days)
Of course this is only true for science, social studies, physical education, arts (band, choir, art, etc.), foreign language, and all other subjects that aren't math or English.
Okay, we are upping the hours for math and English but shortening the hours in all other subjects. I have to wonder if there is a method to the madness. Maybe this is just one more way to get a handle on all of the mandatory testing to ensure we (the system) make the grade.

School Visitation Policy

The current visitation policy (Policy 1240) is listed below. Please provide feedback. Remember feedack both good and bad are welcome. However, let's be constructive...if there is something you don't like, provide an alternative. My ears are open!
Parent Visitation/Observation

Parents are encouraged to come to their child?s school during normal operating hours. All visitors are asked to sign in at the main office and obtain a visitor?s badge to ensure the safety and security of students and staff.Parents may either visit the classroom at the teacher?s/school?s invitation or request to make a formal observation of a classroom. Making an appointment with the school at least two (2) days in advance of an observation is not only a courtesy and a requirement, but enables you to schedule the observation for the maximum benefit. Teachers cannot stop teaching to confer with parents who stop by without an appointment. Parents may schedule up to two (2) classroom observations of forty-five (45) minutes in duration each grading period. Staff will accompany visitors to the classroom. Siblings should not attend. Teachers will be happy to discuss the observation at a mutually convenient time. Parents are welcome to visit the cafeteria and eat lunch with their child.Principals retain the authority to deny access to the school for any individual who has or may disrupt or disturb the learning environment or who lacks a valid or legal purpose for entering the school. Our shared commitment and cooperation is essential for the safety of our students and staff.

Early Dismissals, Half-Days, Late Arrivals

To Anonymous & Curious,
This is in response to two posts under the subject (Role of the Board of Education) regarding Early dismissals, Half Days, Late Arrivals. I just wanted to post something brief to let you know that I hear you, I've read your comments, and I will be posting a reply soon. I'm doing a little research and obtaining some information before replying. So...stay tuned.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

AP Exams

In regards to "Anonymous" post, "I'd like to see how the students did on the AP exams.It seems like more and more students take the exams, but are the scores getting higher, lower, or staying the same? I would think that a national or state-wide assessment is a better way to see how the students are doing in the county compared to other counties in the state."

I thought it was better to address this as an individual topic because the discussion could beome lengthy.

I've tried to insert the link (see bottom of post) to the most up to date data received by the Board from staff. Hopefully it will work. We have not yet received the data for the 05-06 school year. If you have additional questions, or the link does not work, please respond and I'll try again.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


This post is in response to "Anonymous" under the title "Vote for Jennifer Abell" which I have asked for more clarity. (I would like to please urge everyone to at least use a username because all of the anonymous posts are getting really confusing. ) I thought it might be better to start another topic group, since this topic is of a more sensitive nature.

As for religion, I am religious, I am a Christian, and I love God. He is my companion and confidant and sustains me through my days.

I do not believe I have ever pushed or even tried to push my religious beliefs on anyone. I respect all religions, cultures, and people and knowing that everyone is different, also believe that religious teachings are best left for the family to decide. After all, these students are not just students of the Charles County Public School System, but they are first and foremost YOUR children.

I do believe there are certain values that can be enhanced, instilled and enforced in the school system. Sometimes people might betray these values as religious but they are simply values that are necessary to live in unison in a community. Such as, do not kill, lie, steal, or cheat. Respect one another and their property. Etc. I do not believe that anyone, no matter what religion (or following), culture, or upbringing you come from, would argue these values as unimportant in society.

I hope this posts clarified my position on religion in the schools.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Superintendent Cell Phone Rules

Ready, Willing, and Abell
Below you will find the Superintendent's Rule for the new cell phone policy. It was presented to the Board of Education during the work session on June 26th. Please review and provide feedback.

Superintendent?s Rule 5157.8
Except as provided in this rule, students may not possess or use cell phones, pagers, beepers, two-way radios, or any other portable electronic communication devices on school property, on school buses or school-chartered vehicles, or at any school-sponsored activity before, during or after the school day.
Elementary and middle school students may not possess or use cell phones on school property except under the following conditions:
· A student may possess and use a cell phone, pager, beeper, two-way radio, or other portable electronic communication device if that student?s parent or guardian receives approval from the school principal for a specific purpose. At no time will permission for cell phone possession or use be granted for socializing or other non-essential purposes.
· A student may possess and use a cell phone while attending and not participating in any event held on school grounds after school hours and open to the general public.
High school students may not possess or use cell phones on school property except under the following conditions:
· Cell phones must not be visible and must be powered off at all times during the school day and either in the school building, or while aboard a school bus or other school-sponsored vehicle, or during after-school activities. A cell phone in the vibrate or other non-audible mode is not considered ?off;?
· Cell phones may be used after school hours, but not during a time when the student is either attending a school-sponsored activity not open to the general public, or participating in a school-sponsored activity, whether on or off school grounds. A student may possess and use a cell phone while attending and not participating in any event held on school grounds after school hours and open to the general public;
· In order to briefly communicate with the student?s parent/guardian/caregiver, a cell phone may be used while attending or traveling to or from a school-sponsored activity on a school bus or other school vehicle, as long as the supervising teacher/coach has granted the student permission. At no time will permission for cell phone use be granted for socializing or other non-essential purposes.
· A student may possess and use a cell phone if that student?s parent or guardian receives approval from the school principal for a specific purpose. At no time will permission for cell phone possession or use be granted for socializing or other non-essential purposes.
· The possession or use of a cell phone must not cause any disruption to the school setting at any time.
· Cell phones with camera functions must not be used to take or transmit any image at any time, even if the use of the cell phone is otherwise permitted.
It is the intent of the superintendent to ensure cell phone possession does not disrupt the learning environment, after-school activities, or the safe transportation of students. Therefore, students found to be in violation of this rule are subject to the following disciplinary action:
· Upon the first offense for middle and high school students
Ø The student shall be warned;
Ø The student?s parent or guardian shall be notified; and
Ø The cell phone or other portable electronic communication device shall be confiscated and returned to the parent or guardian, upon request, after a successful conference with the appropriate school administrator.

· Upon the second offense for middle and high school students
Ø The student shall be suspended out-of-school for three days;
Ø The student?s parent or guardian shall be notified; and
Ø The cell phone or other portable electronic communication device shall be confiscated and returned to the parent or guardian, upon request, after a successful re-admittance conference with the appropriate school administrator.

· Upon the third offense for middle and high school students
Ø The student shall be suspended to the superintendent;
Ø The student?s parent or guardian shall be notified;
Ø The cell phone or other portable electronic communication device shall be confiscated and returned to the parent or guardian, upon request, after a successful conference with the superintendent?s hearing officer; and
Ø The superintendent?s hearing officer may remove the privilege of possession and use of cell phones or other portable electronic communication devices.

· Upon the first offense for elementary school students
Ø The student shall be warned;
Ø The student?s parent or guardian shall be notified; and
Ø The cell phone or other portable electronic communication device shall be confiscated and returned to the parent or guardian, upon request, after a successful conference with the appropriate school administrator.

· Upon the second offense for elementary school students
Ø The student shall be suspended out-of-school for one day;
Ø The student?s parent or guardian shall be notified; and
Ø The cell phone or other portable electronic communication device shall be confiscated and returned to the parent or guardian, upon request, after a successful re-admittance conference with the appropriate school administrator.

· Upon the third offense for elementary school students
Ø The student shall be suspended out-of-school for three days;
Ø The student?s parent or guardian shall be notified; and
Ø The cell phone or other portable electronic communication device shall be confiscated and returned to the parent or guardian, upon request, after a successful re-admittance conference with the appropriate school administrator.

The Charles County public school system is not responsible for the loss theft, damage, or destruction of any cell phone, pager, beeper, two-way radio, or other portable communication device, whether allowed or prohibited by this policy.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Role of the Board of Education

It is my belief, the role of the Board of Education is to establish and direct educational policy for Charles County Public Schools including budgets, curriculum , and personnel appointments. In addition, the Board of Education should create the best environment to educate all students and enable them to reach their full potential, develop personal responsibility and achieve career readiness in order to be productive members of society.
How do you feel? What do you believe should be the role of the Board of Education?