Thursday, February 25, 2010

Changes to Two-Hour Early Dismissal Days

Superintendent James E. Richmond has made several decisions regarding 2010 calendar changes. The Superintendent intends to request a waiver of three days from the state. If the state grants the waiver, Mr. Richmond will submit the recommendation to the Board of Education to restore the three days now scheduled to be made up during Spring Break. That decision will be announced March 9 at the Board of Education meeting.

Before granting waivers, the state is requiring school systems to show that sufficient efforts have been made to make up for lost instruction through calendar planning and modifications. The school system is going to make up for some lost instructional time by converting two-hour early dismissal days for students to full days.

The Superintendent has changed a number of two-hour early dismissal days into full days of instruction for students. Two-hour early dismissal days that are now full days for students are:

· Thursday, March 4

· Wednesday, March 24

· Wednesday, April 28

· Wednesday, May 26

· Friday, June 11

· Monday, June 14

Please change this information on your calendars.

The two-hour early dismissal days on April 8, May 12, June 15 and June 16 remain as early dismissal days for students.

As of Feb. 25, the school system had closed seven days for inclement weather. Four days are built into the calendar, leaving three days to be made up elsewhere. The school calendar, set by the Board of Education more than a year in advance, calls for any additional days used to be made up during Spring Break on March 29, March 30 and March 31. Also, if weather causes future closings, additional calendar changes are possible.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Official: FBI probing Pa. school webcam spy case

(A cautionary tale...?)

The Associated Press
Friday, February 19, 2010; 9:27 PM

PHILADELPHIA -- The FBI is investigating a Pennsylvania school district accused of secretly activating webcams inside students' homes, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case told The Associated Press on Friday.
The FBI will explore whether Lower Merion School District officials broke any federal wiretap or computer-intrusion laws, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Days after a student filed suit over the practice, Lower Merion officials acknowledged Friday that they remotely activated webcams 42 times in the past 14 months, but only to find missing student laptops. They insist they never did so to spy on students, as the student's family claimed in the federal lawsuit.

Families were not informed of the possibility the webcams might be activated in their homes without their permission in the paperwork students sign when they get the computers, district spokesman Doug Young said.

Read more HERE.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A bipartisan look at No Child

By Nick Anderson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Senior House Republicans and Democrats plan to announce Thursday that they will team up to rewrite the No Child Left Behind education law, a rare show of bipartisanship in the polarized Congress.

Last month, the Obama administration launched talks with lawmakers on an overhaul of the 2002 law, which mandated an expansion of standardized testing and established a national framework for school accountability. This month, President Obama's budget proposed eliminating the standard of "adequate yearly progress" for schools to close test-score achievement gaps, a key element of the law.

Read more HERE.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Grasmick to propose waiving 180-day rule for state schools

by Marcus Moore
Staff Writer

‘We have to be sensitive to the weather,' state superintendent says

State Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick is planning to request a waiver for some of the instructional days school systems would have to make up because of this week's snowstorms.

Grasmick will ask the state school board later this month to waive three or four instructional days, she told the Gazette on Thursday.

Under state law, school systems are required to provide 180 days of instruction to their students. However, some systems have sought waivers of the 180-day rule due to the snow blanketing the state.

Back-to-back storms have kept schools closed this week and forced school systems to use all of their snow days.

For each instructional day lost because of inclement weather, the school year is extended one day.

Some school systems are concerned about losing much-needed instructional time for students, but "we have to be sensitive to the weather," Grasmick said. "We're going to be looking at what's viable."

Some systems are seeking to hold classes Monday, which is Presidents Day, and Grasmick said she would allow them to open their schools. However, weather forecasters predict another 3 inches or more of snow Monday.

Policy 6000 Review

Well it's that time again! The Policy Review Committee (myself, Pedersen, Cook) will be meeting soon (date TBD) to review and discuss changes that need to be made to Policy 6000, which involves curriculum and instruction. Please take some time and review this Policy and forward and recommended changes to me as soon as possible.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Race To The Top

I attended the abbreviated BOE meeting on 2/9/10 to catch the budget briefing, but what I ended up finding most interesting was the presentation on the new "Race To The Top" federal educational grant program (Power Point presentation found here ). This grant program ushers in a new set of standards and assessments that local school systems will be forced to accept in order to be eligible for the money. What's interesting, and was pointed out during the presentation, is that the new standards and assessments will be in addition to NCLB, not in place of it. How the two sets of government mandates and controls will be reconciled was not addressed.

Per the presentation, the state of Maryland would be eligible for between $125,000,000 and $250,000,000. Fifty percent of that total would be distributed to the Local Education Agencies (LEAs), with the remainder staying at the state level. Of that total Charles County would be eligible for approximately $1.5 to $1.7 million. The question was asked what the state would use the remaining fifty percent (between $75,000,000 and $125,000,000) on, and the answer was to develop the new data collection systems, curricula, and standards and assessments. (Here is where I'd love to voice my opinion, but I made a promise)

Additional information included in the presentation:

  • All schools, including charter schools, are expected to "embrace the effort."
  • The MOU must be signed by the school superintendent, BOE president, and the local teachers' union leader (as of now, the EACC is refusing to sign)
  • Each LEA must develop a performance and evaluation plan
  • Lowest performing schools will get the most funding
  • Teachers and principals will be evaluated based on the achievement of the students in their control. Higher performing teachers and principals will be reassigned to lower achieving schools.
  • LEAs must adopt numerous state dictates on core standards, assessments, data collection, remedial actions, teacher and principal evaluations, etc.
  • Program will include four "intervention models" for underachieving schools.

Again, how all these new standards and criteria are going to exist side by side with NCLB has not been addressed. Considering all the overhead involved in simply running the program (local systems have to develop and maintain new data collection and analysis systems, new assessments for students, new evaluations for teachers and principals, and new reporting systems) one has to wonder how much of the $1.5 to $1.7 million will actually go toward anything remotely associated with instruction.

With Federal Stimulus Money Gone, Many Schools Face Budget Gaps

Published: February 7, 2010

Federal stimulus money has helped avoid drastic cuts at public schools in most parts of the nation, at least so far. But with the federal money running out, many of the nation’s schools are approaching what officials are calling a “funding cliff.”

Congress included about $100 billion for education in the stimulus law last year to cushion the recession’s impact on schools and to help fuel an economic recovery. New studies show that many states will spend all or nearly all that is left between now and the end of this school term.

With state and local tax revenues still in decline, the end of the federal money will leave big holes in education budgets from Massachusetts and Florida to California and Washington, experts said.
Read more HERE

A Federal Effort to Push Junk Food Out of Schools

Published: February 7, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration will begin a drive this week to expel Pepsi, French fries and Snickers bars from the nation’s schools in hopes of reducing the number of children who get fat during their school years.

In legislation, soon to be introduced, candy and sugary beverages would be banned and many schools would be required to offer more nutritious fare.

To that end, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will deliver a speech Monday at the National Press Club in which he will insist, according to excerpts provided to The Times, that any vending machines that remain in schools be “filled with nutritious offerings to make the healthy choice the easy choice for our nation’s children.”

Read more HERE

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

BOE vs Commissioners - Budget FACTS

  • On April 22, 2009, at Mr. Cooper’s and the Commissioners' request, the Board of Education was required to sign a “settlement agreement” which agreed to the terms and conditions of funding the BOE 2010 operating budget effective July 1, 2009. Included in that request was a commitment statement that the County would “meet its Maintenance of Effort Obligation” for 2010 and rescind their MOE waiver request.

  • During this same timeframe, Mr. Richmond was called over to a meeting with the Commissioners where he was asked to sign a separate confidential agreement indicating that he would not XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. Mr. Richmond refused and indicated to them that it would be illegal to do so and a violation of collective bargaining. Mr. Richmond, Mr. Balides, all five commissioners and the County Administrator were present at this meeting.

  • On September 09, 2009 the county administrator announced across the board cuts totaling $8-10 million based on anticipated future cuts from the state. Of that amount the County requested that the BOE cut 2% or $2.9 million. "I am proposing these reductions so that we are able to sustain future anticipated state cuts, sustaining a loss of revenue due to the economic recession and to prevent additional cuts throughout the year," said County Administrator Rebecca B. Bridgett in an article in the Maryland Independent.

  • On September 10, 2009 Mr. Cooper met with Mr. Richmond, Col. Wade, Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Balides at Hawthorn Country Club, to discuss the County’s budget problems. Mr. Richmond and Col. Wade reminded Mr. Cooper that we could not (and would not) violate the maintenance of effort law by returning funds below the maintenance of effort level. If the county government wanted to violate the law, that was its option. It was at this meeting that Mr. Richmond also told Mr. Cooper that the teachers' contract required us to open negotiations for salaries in January, and that we hoped to have saved enough money to make good on the contract. Mr. Cooper stated “that would be great.”

  • On September 18, 2009 the County identified $934,000 in BOE funding cuts which would not violate the maintenance of effort laws.

  • On October 23, 2009 the County Commissioners sent over a letter indicating that they were reversing a longstanding agreement which allowed the Board of Education to transfer funds between categories as long as it did not require additional funding from the County.

  • In a meeting on November 3, 2009 between Mr. Cooper, Ms. Patterson, Col. Wade, Ms. Wise, Mr. Richmond, and Mr. Balides, Mr. Cooper indicated that the intent of the letter was to prevent the BOE from using fund balance so that could revert back to the County at year end. Once again Mr. Richmond, Mr. Balides and others reiterated the maintenance of effort law and emphasized (provide Mr. Cooper and Ms. Patterson with documentation) of prior attorney generals legal opinions that any fund balance that a school system generates does not relieve a county from its maintenance of effort obligations.

  • On November 18, 2009 Gov. O’Malley announced a second round of cuts which did not include cuts to local County governments. Interestingly enough, the County still implemented the cuts from its earlier $10 million estimate, including staff furloughs.

  • January 12, 2010, the BOE approves funding step and scale increases (no COLA) through internally generated savings. The MSEA teacher’s representative indicated to Mr. Balides and Mr. Hettel that she had had several conversations in the past with Mr. Cooper and he was supportive of providing teachers their scale increase.

NOTES from Board of Education Meeting, 2/9/10

The Board Meeting on Tuesday, February 9th will be re-broadcast on Comcast Channel 96, Verizon FIOS Channel 12 and is available via webstream at . To view the full agenda and the various reports, please visit BoardDocs.

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 transparent. Although I have diligently tried to make these notes as unbiased and accurate as possible, I am only human and do make mistakes.


Executive session - 11 a.m.
Call to order - 11:20 a.m.

Pledge of Allegiance

Reports of officers/boards/committees

Superintendent's update

  • DVD on new high school

Correspondence/Board member updates

  • Wise reported on the annual Beg-A-Thon in Annapolis
  • Carrington-Thanks students at Dr. King breakfast...Canadian Embassy/Space Foundation
  • Pederson-Unity in the Community Forum

Education Association of Charles County update

  • See Report

Student Board member update

  • See Report

Race to the Top grant

  • See power point presentation, lots of information...EACC is strongly against...see separate post
  • Evaluations tied to student achievement
  • Compensation tied to student achievement
  • Difficult to staff schools in trouble
  • Tenure

Report item: FY 2011 budget

  • See power point presentation

2011-2012 school calendar

  • See proposal and provide input to CCPS

Legislative update

  • Labor Relations Bill H#243; S#590 (Middleton is one of the leads)
  • Eric Schwartz says we oppose

Unfinished business

  • Review RSVP's for What Counts and call them

New business and future agenda items


  • Read Across Charles County
  • Women's History Month
  • Fine and Performing Arts Month

Action items

  • Minutes - YES Unanimous
  • Personnel - YES Unanimous


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

REMINDER: Board of Education Meeting, 02/09/10

The Board of Education’s next monthly meeting is Tuesday, Feb. 9, 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 Verizon FiOS Channel 12, and is rebroadcast throughout the week. Program schedules are available at

Executive session - 12 p.m.
Call to order - 1 p.m.

Pledge of Allegiance, Westlake High School's JROTC unit

Reports of officers/boards/committees

  • Superintendent's update: DVD on new high school
  • Correspondence/Board member updates
  • Education Association of Charles County update
  • Student Board member update
  • Schools system's outreach to Haiti
  • CIP update
  • Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) and equity training
  • Race to the Top grant
  • Report item: FY 2011 budget
  • 2011-2012 school calendar
  • Legislative update

Unfinished business

New business and future agenda items

  • New business
  • Future agenda items

Recognition - 4:30 p.m.

  • Students
  • Employees
  • Maryland Society for Educational Technology Outstanding Educator Using Technology Award winner, Sandra Chisholm, Piccowaxen Middle School
  • Resolutions: Read Across Charles County; Women's History Month; and Fine and Performing Arts Month

Public Forum - 6 p.m.

Action items

  • Minutes
  • Personnel

Public hearing on FY 2011 budget

Work session on FY 2011 proposed operating budget (if needed)

Action item

  • FY 2011 proposed operating budget


Finding the better high school

Jay Mathews
Washington Post

On the second page of the Post's Metro section, and on this Web site, you see the results of the 12th annual Washington Post survey of high school student participation in college-level tests, what I call the Challenge Index.

The ranked list of public schools -- both the Washington area version in the Post and the national version in Newsweek each June -- gets lots of attention, but the outrage and acclaim usually swirls around the issue of whether ranking schools is good for you. With much support from Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate teachers around the country, I think it is. But how can you use it?

I invented the list to show that some schools in good neighborhoods don’t deserve their great reputations, and some schools in poor neighborhoods don’t deserve their terrible ones. Opening up AP and IB courses to everyone who wants to work hard -- the philosophy of the teachers who inspired me to do this -- is a relatively new idea. Ten years ago, most schools in the United States did not let students take these courses unless they had strong grade point averages or teachers’ recommendations.

Many still have those rules, or at least don’t encourage students to challenge themselves as much as they could. The list helps you find the ones that have shed those old, bad habits.

Read more HERE

Administration Outlines Proposed Changes to ‘No Child’ Law

Published: February 1, 2010

The Obama administration said on Monday that it would ask Congress to raise education spending by about $3.5 billion, a 7.5 percent increase, for the 2011 fiscal year, even as it sought to limit other categories of domestic spending.

In outlining its budget request, the administration also said it would seek an extensive rewrite of the main federal law governing public schools, known as No Child Left Behind, and would seek to replace the law’s much-criticized system for rating schools based on student test scores.

The administration proposed replacing that system, known as adequate yearly progress, with a new accountability system that officials said would more fairly characterize schools’ academic progress.

Read more HERE