Thursday, April 30, 2009

Important News Reminders for Charles County Public Schools

Last day of school for students is Friday, June 12
Information regarding swine flu

[Email from Maurice J. McDonough High School received today –]

Dear Parents/Guardians:

Charles County Public Schools has two important news reminders this week.

The Board of Education this week set the last day of school for students as Friday, June 12. For more information on the last day of school, visit HERE.

On April 30, a letter outlining steps Charles County Public Schools is
taking to prevent the spread of infection and the flu was sent home with
all students. Information about swine flu changes daily, and already since
we had this letter printed yesterday, there have been six probable cases
of swine flu identified in two northern Maryland counties. Superintendent
James E. Richmond wants to assure each parent we are taking all steps
possible, and we are working with the Charles County Department of Health
to do our part to help lessen the spread of this disease.

Here is a copy of the letter sent home with students.

April 28, 2009

Dear Parents/Guardians:

Although there have been no reported cases of swine flu in Maryland,
Charles County Public Schools is on alert and is taking immediate steps to
help prevent the spread of flu among students.

Swine flu is a respiratory virus that started with pigs, but has spread to
humans. It has already caused more than 100 deaths in Mexico, and there
have been confirmed cases in the United States. The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention is calling the spread of the virus a public health

Symptoms include fever greater than 100 degrees, sore throat, cough,
stuffy nose, chills, headache and body aches and/or fatigue. If students
present any of these symptoms to a school nurse, parents will be contacted
and asked to immediately take their child home. If your child has a fever
greater than 100 degrees, contact your family doctor. If your child is
sick, he/she should stay home from school and limit contact with others.

At schools, we are reminding students of proper hygiene practices and
conducting frequent supervised hand washing in elementary schools.
Teachers are reminding students at secondary schools that hand washing is
the best flu prevention measure.

All public schools in Charles County use appropriate measures to limit the
spread of infection. Some of the daily cleaning done by our building
service workers includes disinfecting bathrooms and other areas with
hospital-approved cleaners.

Additionally, the school system is monitoring attendance at each school
and will investigate any spikes or unusual occurrences. We are also making
contingency plans with the Charles County Department of Health in the
event the flu spreads to Maryland and Charles County.

If you have a question about the virus, please contact the school nurse or
the Charles County Department of Health at 301-609-6900, ext. 6025. If you
have a concern about your child’s health, please contact your doctor


James E. Richmond
Superintendent of Schools

Winter/Spring Update: 2009 AP Program News

Four AP Courses and Exams Discontinued After the 2009 Administration

2008-09 will be the final year in which AP French Literature, AP Italian Language and Literature, AP Latin Literature, and AP Computer Science AB courses and exams will be offered.

New and Forthcoming AP Publications

Course Descriptions
New 2010–2011 AP Course Descriptions are currently in development and will be available in May… Read more HERE.

Teachers question effectiveness of AP classes

April 29, 2009
Evan Haning

WASHINGTON - The boom in Advanced Placement classes would seem to be the opposite of "dumbing down" the schoolroom, but some educators say it's not always a smart move.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an educational think tank, asked more than a 1,000 public school teachers what impact rapid growth has had on AP courses. Fewer than 33 percent believed students were enrolling for academic challenges.

"They believe it'll help them get into college," says Michael Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy at the Institute.

While all AP courses are harder than standard high school instruction, some -- such as AP Psychology -- are easier to pass.

"We don't see that many more students signing up for the tough AP Physics or AP Calculus classes," Petrilli says.

Read more HERE.

Giving Kids a Jump on Technology

Innovative Mitchellville Shows Off Its Success

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 30, 2009

You could see the pride in third-grader Kuron Anderson's eyes as he jumped from his tiny chair to talk about his technology project. He called it "The Many Faces of the Man," a digital photo mosaic that he created to celebrate the election of President Obama.

"I worked hard on it, and I did my best," Kuron said.

He then methodically explained how he used about 1,000 pictures to create his project for the first science and technology fair last month at the Mitchellville School of Math, Science and Technology in Bowie.

Read more HERE.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Child behaviour 'linked to sleep'

BBC News
Monday, 27 April 2009

A good night's sleep could reduce hyperactivity and bad behaviour among children, a Finnish study reports.

It has been suggested that some children who lack sleep do not appear tired, but instead behave badly.

Of the 280 examined in the Pediatrics study, those who slept for fewer than eight hours were the most hyperactive.

Experts said adequate sleep could improve behaviour in healthy children and reduce symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Read more HERE.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Court Weighs Funding for Special Education

Private-School Tuition at Heart of Case
By Robert Barnes and Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, April 27, 2009

The Supreme Court will consider a question this week that has riled parents, cost local school boards here and across the country hundreds of millions of dollars, and vexed the justices themselves: When must public school officials pay for private schooling for children with special needs?

The issue has emerged as one of the fastest-growing components of local education budgets, threatening to "seriously deplete public education funds," which would then detract from the care of students with disabilities who remain in the system, according to a brief filed by the nation's urban school districts.

Read more HERE.

Monday, April 20, 2009

NGA, CCSSO Launch Common Standards Drive

Education Week
April 17, 2009
By Michele McNeil

After years of debating the idea of national content standards, representatives from 41 states convened in Chicago today in what organizers hope will be a first, concrete step toward common guidelines in mathematics and English-language arts.

The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers—the Washington-based groups that are co-sponsoring the meeting—want to build a prototype of high school graduation standards by summer, and grade-by-grade academic standards in math and language arts by the end of the year.

To read more of this Education Week “Top Stories” article, click HERE.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Agenda for Charles County Commissioners/Board of Education Retreat

Tuesday, April 21, 2009, Hawthorne Country Club

8:45 a.m. Continental Breakfast

9:15 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Opening Remarks/Welcome (Commissioner Cooper and Colonel Wade)

9:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Communication between Boards (Colonel Wade)

10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. High School Value Engineering Update (Mr. Chuck Beall)

11:00 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Federal Stimulus funding (ARRA), and FY10 State budget funding approved for the Charles County Board of Education during the 2009 session of the Maryland General Assembly

11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. Lunch

12:45 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. Discussion: Request for Waiver of Maintenance of Effort (Mr. Paul Comfort)

1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. High School Assessment (Colonel Wade)

1:45 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. Break

2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Adequate Yearly Progress (Colonel Wade)

2:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. STEM Programs (Colonel Wade)

3:00 p.m. Open Discussion

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

News in Robots and Autism:

Robot Playmates May Help Children with Autism
Science Daily
July 23, 2008

Papers delivered at three conferences in the US and Europe this summer report on new research at the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering studying interactions of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) with bubble-blowing robots.

The preliminary studies, by Professor Maja Mataric and PhD student David Feil-Seifer of the USC Interaction Laboratory, confirm what has been widely reported anecdotally: that ASD children in many cases interact more easily with mechanical devices than with humans.

Read more HERE.

And a second article:

Robots to Fight Autism
By Val Wang
Posted 04.10.2009 at 3:18 pm
Popular Science (

Two years ago, a yellow spongiform robot named Keepon became a minor YouTube sensation when one of its creators programmed it to do a squishy, twisty dance in time to the Spoon song "I Turn My Camera On." The video has garnered more than 2 million hits. Now Keepon's keepers, Marek Michalowski, a Ph.D student in robotics at Carnegie Mellon University, and Hideki Kozima of Miyagi University in Japan, are turning Keepon's attention to a more serious task: to study how children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) interact socially and to see if the robot may be able to help in therapy.

Read more HERE.

A Gallop Toward Hope: One Family's Adventure in Fighting Autism

By Motoko Rich
The New York Times
April 15, 2009

When Rupert Isaacson decided to take his autistic son, Rowan, on a trip to Mongolia to ride horses and seek the help of shamans two years ago, he had a gut instinct that the adventure would have a healing effect on the boy. Mr. Isaacson’s instinct was rewarded after the trip, when some of Rowan’s worst behavioral issues, including wild temper tantrums, all but disappeared.

Read more HERE.

Education Standards Likely to See Toughening

By Sam Dillon
The New York Times
April 14, 2009

WASHINGTON — President Obama and his team have alternated praise for the goals of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law with criticism of its weaknesses, all the while keeping their own plans for the law a bit of a mystery.

But clues are now emerging, and they suggest that the Obama administration will use a Congressional rewriting of the federal law later this year to toughen requirements on topics like teacher quality and academic standards and to intensify its focus on helping failing schools. The law’s testing requirements may evolve but will certainly not disappear. And the federal role in education policy, once a state and local matter, is likely to grow.

Read more HERE.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Zero-Tolerance Policies in Practice

By Marc Fisher
The Washington Post
Tuesday, April 14, 2009; B03

We don't really know what we want. That's the conclusion of a social psychologist who decided to test just how committed parents and others are to single-sanction, zero-tolerance, tough-love punishment regimens of the kind that many schools have adopted to fight drug use by teenagers.

Colgate University psychologist Kevin Carlsmith concluded that people fail to recognize that a zero-tolerance policy that seems simple and effective in theory will violate their sense of justice when they see it in practice. And that's exactly the response I've been getting to my column last week about Josh Anderson, the Fairfax high school junior who killed himself on the eve of a disciplinary hearing that was likely to have ended with his expulsion for being caught on campus with a small amount of marijuana.

Read more HERE.

Schools' 'Money Is Falling Off the Truck'

Local, State Budget Woes Chip Away at Federal Dollars Aimed at Reform

By Maria Glod and Michael Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, April 13, 2009; B01

Educators across the country are counting on a federal stimulus windfall to prevent teacher layoffs and improve schools. But while Washington is giving, some state and local governments are taking away.

After hearing that an initial batch of $11.8 million in federal funds would soon arrive in Loudoun County, supervisors slashed $7.3 million from the schools budget. They also made clear that if more federal recovery money flows to schools, schools might be asked to give back an equal amount of county dollars.

Read more HERE.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Accelerated Math Challenge, For a Student and Her Mom

By Jay Mathews
Monday, April 13, 2009; B02

Anne McCracken Ehlers's third-grade daughter was not doing well in accelerated fourth-grade math at Whetstone Elementary School in Gaithersburg. Becca was spending far too long on her assignments. She was confused. She was unhappy. Ehlers is a teacher herself, in the English department at Rockville High School. So she was polite when she asked for a change, but nothing happened.

Finally, the 8-year-old in the drama decided that enough was enough, prompting this e-mail from her teacher to Ehlers on the afternoon of Feb. 5: "I just wanted to let you know that math bunch was held today from 1:00-1:30. Rebecca chose not to come. I asked her several times to please join us and she refused saying that she would come next week. We went over rounding, estimating, and adding decimals. We also reviewed word problems that include fractions. Please encourage Rebecca to take part in these extra math sessions. Thank you very much for your support."

Read more HERE.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Education Secretary says kids need more school (Colorado)
April 9, 2009

DENVER - The nation's education chief was in Denver talking about national school reform on Tuesday and says U.S. children need to be in school more.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited two Denver schools Tuesday morning. He toured with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who, until this year, was superintendent of Denver Public Schools.

During his visit, Duncan said American schools should be open six days a week, at least 11 months a year, to improve student performance.

Read more HERE.

School Drug Policy Limits Probed

Strip-Search Case Could Redefine Student Privacy

By Robert Barnes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 11, 2009; Page A01

SAFFORD, Ariz. -- April Redding was waiting in the parking lot of the middle school when she heard news she could hardly understand: Her 13-year-old daughter, Savana, had been strip-searched by school officials in a futile hunt for drugs.

It's a story that amazes and enrages her still, more than six years later, though she has relived it many times since. Read more HERE.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Board of Education meetings now available live online

Board of Education meetings are now available live on Comcast Channel 96 as well as on the Charles County Public Schools Web site located at

The school system will be streaming the Board meeting live beginning 1 p.m., Tuesday, April 14. Users will be able to access the page from a link on the school system home page that will be posted the day of the Board meeting or by going directly to

Superintendent James E. Richmond said the school system is providing live streaming on the Web site for those who are not able to access the meeting as it airs live on Comcast Channel 96.

Windows users should be running Windows Media Player 9 and above, and Mac users should download and install Flip4Mac ( Both programs are free to download.

If users are unable to watch the Board meeting live, it will be available on our Web site as Video On Demand by Thursday, April 16. To access our Video On Demand page, visit

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rhee Works on Overhaul of Teacher Evaluations

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 7, 2009; Page B01

While talks between D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee and the Washington Teachers' Union remain stalemated over salary and job security issues, one critical question is not even on the bargaining table: how the District's educators will be evaluated.

For months, Rhee and her chief "human capital" assistant, Jason Kamras, have been working on an overhaul of the evaluation system that would expand the ways teachers are assessed. In addition to a system of classroom observations and conferences, it is likely to include methods to track how students' standardized test scores grow over time. Several major school systems, including those in Houston, Chicago and Milwaukee, have started limited use of this new "value-added" approach.

Read more about this HERE

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

REMINDER: Board Meeting, 4/14/09

The Board of Education's next monthly meeting is Tuesday, April 14, at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building on Radio Station Road in La Plata. The public portion of the meeting begins at 1 p.m. and recognition begins at 4:30 p.m. The meeting is televised live on Comcast Channel 96 and rebroadcast throughout the week. Program schedules for Channel 96 are available at The agenda and reports can be found on BoardDocs

Executive session  11:30 a.m.

Call to order  1 p.m.

Pledge of Allegiance, Maurice J. McDonough High School's JROTC unit

State champion recognition

  • North Point and Westlake high schools boys' indoor track and field teams and others

Reports of officers/boards/committees

  • Superintendent's report on redistricting committee
  • Correspondence/Board Member updates
  • Education Association of Charles County update
  • Student Board Member update
  • Update on Maryland TELL survey
  • CIP update
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) update
  • Recruiting
  • Budget update
  • Legislative update

Unfinished business

New business and future agenda items

Recognition  4:30 p.m.

  • Students
  • Employees
  • Resolutions: Teacher Appreciation Week, Administrative Professionals' Week, Child Nutrition Employee Appreciation Week, National Physical Education and Sport Week and the Washington Post Distinguished Educational Leader.

Public Forum  6 p.m.

Action items

  • Minutes
  • Personnel
  • 2010-11 calendar


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Budget Update

The following link is to a short video explaining a request by the Charles County Commissioners for a waiver of Maintenance of Effort.

Click HERE

I personallly have not had a chance to watch it, please provide feedback.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

BREAKING NEWS - Charles County Government Press Release

Board of Education Presses for Tax Increase during Recession

The Charles County Board of Education issued a press release yesterday
asking the Charles County Commissioners to raise taxes instead of
requesting a waiver of the Maintenance of Effort (MOE) requirement for
public school funding.

According to a press release, Donald Wade, Chairman of the School
Board, said that State law requires the County to raise property taxes
to fully fund the school system.

The Commissioners requested a waiver of the State’s MOE requirement
in anticipation of deep funding cuts by the State of Maryland that could
have significant impact on the County’s budget.

The County’s request is based on the Maryland General Assembly’s
consideration of additional cuts in State funding for counties, and the
current expectation that State and local revenues will continue to
decline during the recession through the remainder of this fiscal year
and in fiscal year 2010, which begins on July 1. The potential State
cuts, along with declining local revenues, may impair the County’s
ability to support local operations of State agencies, such as Social
Services and the Health Department, as well as local County government

In contrast to the County, the Charles County Board of Education is
slated to receive additional aid this year. In addition to
appropriations of State and County funds to support the schools, this
year local boards of education will receive more than $1 billion in
special funding from the federal economic stimulus package (American
Recovery and Reinvestment Act). According to State sources, the Charles
County Board of Education’s share of this new funding amounts to $18.5
million over the next two years.

Considering the economic challenges facing all Charles County citizens
and businesses during this national recession, the Charles County
Commissioners are unanimously opposed to any tax increases.

Commissioner President Wayne Cooper noted that last week, fifteen
Maryland counties were pursuing a waiver of the Maintenance of Effort
requirement, including Calvert County. “The Maryland Association of
Counties has encouraged all counties to seek State legislation for a
State-wide waiver,” added Cooper.

Commissioner Gary V. Hodge commented that “we are under an obligation
to adopt a balanced budget. Decisions at the State level, which we have
no control over, will flow down to the counties. We have no alternative
as County Commissioners but to adopt a balanced budget.”

“There is an opportunity in the process for the public to be
heard,” said Commissioner Reuben B. Collins, II. “A public
hearing is required by the State before action can be taken.”

The County’s projections for FY 2010 indicate that local revenue will
be 1.4 percent less than in the current FY 2009 adopted budget, due to
lower income from most of the County’s revenue sources.

The Commissioners have already taken steps to reduce spending and save
money in several key areas. Next year’s budget will not include
employee cost of living increases, or step increases in pay, and will
continue a hiring freeze on current and future vacancies. The
Commissioners are also considering a furlough, which would result in a 4
percent decrease in salaries, as well as exploring the option of
refunding portions of the County’s bond debt to save interest costs.
In addition, substantial cuts have been made in the capital construction
program in an effort to trim every possible budget line item.

The County Commissioners believe that the waiver request is essential
to meeting the County’s basic responsibilities to protect the health,
safety and welfare of all the citizens of Charles County.


The incident ticker you have seen under construction in the left hand column is now active. I will use this ticker to post serious events at our local schools that are reported to me by members of the public. The events listed will NOT be obtained through my position as a board of education member. To report an incident to be posted, please EMAIL ME with the school, date, and the event...NO NAMES PLEASE.