Monthly Archives: March 2015

PGCPS Apologize for Not Notifying Parents of Black Mold.

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Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) students have been sitting next to black mold for days. Now a local school district is apologizing for not notifying parents of the discovery in an elementary school classroom. Prince George’s County Bureau Chief Tracee Wilkins reports on what the school system is planning to do about the mold.

>>> See the Report NBC4

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Hogan, congressional delegation, focus on FBI headquarters.

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Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, left, discusses bipartisan efforts by his administration and the state’s mostly Democratic congressional delegation to attract a new FBI headquarters to Prince George’s County during a news conference on Monday, March 23, 2015 in Annapolis, Md. To the right of the governor are Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. 

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and members of Maryland’s heavily Democratic congressional delegation pledged Monday to work together to bring the FBI’s new headquarters to the state.

They held a news conference to emphasize that November’s election result will not affect the resolve of federal, state and local officials in Maryland to draw the facility to Prince George’s County, just outside of the nation’s capital.

“We have all committed to work together and to do everything we possibly can to ensure that Maryland is the ultimate choice for the FBI headquarters relocation,” Hogan said.

>>> Read more WUSA9 

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Prince George’s County woman arrested for stabbing her mother, 94 to death.

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60-year-old Michelle Miriam Davis is facing charges of first and second degree murder. 

The Prince George’s County Police Department’s Homicide Unit arrested a suspect in connection with a homicide in Chillum on Saturday. The suspect is 60-year-old Michelle Miriam Davis. The victim is 94-year-old Margaret Ellen Wells. The victim is the suspect’s mother. Both lived in a home in the 6400 block of Knollbrook Drive in Chillum. 

On March 21, 2015, at about 11:30 am, patrol officers were called to the home on Knollbrook Drive at the request of emergency medical personnel. When the officers arrived, they found Wells inside the home suffering from apparent stab wounds. She was pronounced dead on the scene. 
The preliminary investigation reveals the victim and suspect had been in an argument prior to the stabbing. The suspect was home when officers arrived. 
Davis is facing charges of first and second degree murder. 
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Prince George’s County Police Department’s Homicide Unit at 301-772-4925. Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477), text “PGPD plus your message” to CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone or go to http://www.pgpolice.org/
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Happy Water Day, World!

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A huge amount of water goes into the food we eat, much more than most people think. Indeed, it takes a thousand times more water to feed the human population than it does to satisfy its thirst.

This remarkable relationship between water and food security is exactly what the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization wants us all to contemplate today, World Water Day 2012.

Since the first of these annual campaigns, in 1993, World Water Day has been organized around a theme. The focus last year was “Water for Cities.” In 1995, it was “Women and Water.” This year, organizers are reminding us all that water conservation is one good reason to eat lower on the food chain:

It takes about 1,500 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of wheat; producing the same amount of beef takes 15,000 liters.

The FAO warns that feeding the 9 billion people expected to populate the planet by 2050 simply won’t be possible unless we figure out how to grow more food with less water. Already 70 percent of fresh water collected for human consumption is put toward irrigation. If more of those irrigated crops fed people rather than cattle, we would be headed in a step in the right direction. But it’s going to take smarter application of water as well.

>>> Read more  >>> UN Message

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Gov. Hogan’s charter bill is in trouble; Md. lawmakers striking key provisions.

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Maryland senators are planning to strike key provisions of a bill proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) to increase the number of charter schools in the state, dealing a major blow to the governor’s plan to provide parents with more education options.

Senate leaders said Friday that the measure that could make it to the floor this week will be vastly different from the one Hogan proposed. The governor’s sweeping charter reform plan would have given charter operators the power to hire and fire, to set admissions criteria and to receive more public funding.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said senators formed a work group to study changes to Hogan’s bill. A similar work group in the House is headed by Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Montgomery. The Senate group is considering a measure that would offer charters some flexibility, give them more say in who can attend their schools and clearly define whether teachers at charter schools work for the local school boards or the charter schools.

“It’s progress,” Miller said.

But charter school advocates disagree. They have argued for years that Maryland’s requirements are some of the worst in the nation and have kept charters from opening in the state. They said the changes being considered by the senators will do little to encourage more charters in Maryland.

“I don’t see new schools being able to open,” said Kara Kerwin, president of the Center for Education Reform, a national charter school advocacy group that is pushing for Hogan’s bill to remain intact. “The ones that have opened have done so with great resistance.”

The major stumbling block, advocates said, is the Senate’s plan to remove a provision that would have freed charter schools from adhering to state labor contracts. The state teachers union strongly opposes the move.

Under Hogan’s bill, charter school operators would have greater autonomy to hire and fire teachers, who under the current rules are employed by local school districts, not by individual charters. Teachers would be exempt from state certification. Charters would have a greater say over who attends their schools, with the option of giving preference to students based on geography or having a low family income. Charters would receive a guaranteed and higher percentage of per-pupil funding at the state, local and federal level. They also would be able to compete with traditional public school districts for school construction funds.

>>>Read more

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Confirmation of Hogan’s higher ed nominee in doubt.

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Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera

Gov. Larry Hogan‘s nomination of Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera to be Maryland’s secretary of higher education has run into trouble in the General Assembly.

A key Senate committee has twice postponed votes on Hunter-Cevera’s nomination to review complaints about her leadership years ago of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute.

The latest delay came after Sen. Jamie Raskin, chairman of the Executive Nominations Committee, said Monday he had received “more information” on Hunter-Cevera that he considered relevant to her qualifications to oversee the state’s system of higher education, including public and private colleges and universities.

Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat, declined to release or discuss the information. But former U.S. Sen. Joseph D. Tydings of Maryland said in an interview Tuesday that he had contacted the committee and Hogan’s office to relay his concerns about her management of UMBI over a decade ago. Tydings said complaints about her came to his attention while he served on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents in 2001.

“If they do any sort of research at all,” Tydings said, “I think they’ll find that the governor really should withdraw her name. Her record was not in my judgment one that would recommend her for this job.”

Tydings said he objected to Hunter-Cevera’s use of a consultant at the institute and to her management of efforts to apply and commercialize technology developed by university scientists. As an example, Tydings contended that Hunter-Cevera squelched a promising enterprise formed by a researcher from College Park.

>>> Read more 

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FREE SPEECH RIGHTS OF PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS.

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Speech Outside of School

Teachers do not forfeit the right to comment publicly on matters of public importance simply because they accept a public school teaching position. Teachers cannot be fired or disciplined for statements about matters of public importance unless it can be demonstrated that the teacher’s speech created a substantial adverse impact on school functioning. A teacher’s off-campus statements regarding the war or participation in an off-campus political demonstration are not acceptable bases for job discipline or termination.

Speech Inside the Classroom

A teacher appears to speak for the school district when he or she teaches, so the district administration has a strong interest in determining the content of the message its teachers will deliver. While courts sometimes protect the academic freedom of college and university professors to pursue novel teaching methods and curriculum, these principles do not apply with equal force to K-12 teachers. It does not violate a teacher’s free speech rights when the district insists, for example, that she teach physics and not political science, or that she not lead students in prayer – even though both have the result of limiting what the teacher says in the classroom.

Washington courts have upheld the authority of school districts to prescribe both course content and teaching methods. Courts in other jurisdictions have ruled that teachers have no free speech rights to include unapproved materials on reading lists.

Although the boundaries are not precise, there are limits to a school district’s ability to control teachers’ controversial speech in the classroom. Courts have sometimes ruled that schools may not punish teachers for uttering particular words or concepts in class that are otherwise consistent with the school curriculum, where the school has no legitimate pedagogical purpose for the restriction, or where the restriction harms students’ ability to receive important ideas that are relevant to the curriculum.

A school district might choose not to include discussion about a controversial issue in its curriculum and direct teachers to avoid the topic unless it arises through student contributions to classroom discussion. Depending on the circumstances, a court might well approve such a rule. This assumes that the school is neutral in its implementation of the rule. If a school permits anti-war lesson plans but forbids pro-war lesson plans, such action would raise questions about viewpoint discrimination.

>>> Read more 

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Prince George’s County man pleads guilty in $1.1 million scheme.

Faked romantic interest in victims to extract money.

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Krist Koranteng, 33

Krist Koranteng, 33, of Burtonsville and Laurel, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and to money laundering related to a scheme in which he and others faked a romantic interest in victims so the victims would send money to Koranteng’s business.

The total losses to the victims, which included elderly individuals, in Canada, Texas and West Virginia totaled more than $1.1 million, according to Koranteng’s plea agreement.

Koranteng also pleaded guilty to violating his supervised release for a previous federal drug conviction for distributing heroin, according to the agreement.

Between September 2012 and February 2014, Koranteng and others searched online dating websites to initiate romantic relationships with men and women, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in Baltimore.

The conspirators invented stories about sick family members who needed money, created fake hospital bills and created a scheme to ship and store fake gold that required money, according to the release.

Victims were persuaded to mail checks to Kristsons LLC, a corporation that Koranteng created and controlled based on McKnew Road in Burtonsville, or to wire money into bank accounts held in the name of that corporation, which Koranteng also controlled.

As part of his plea agreement, Koranteng will be required to pay restitution of $1,171,657, which represents the full amount of the victims’ losses, according to the release. The plea agreement also was signed by Koranteng’s attorney, John B. McKenna.

Koranteng remains detained pending sentencing, which is scheduled for July 2.

>>> Read more  >>> Wjla

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Citizen Coalition Beat Privatization in Arkansas.

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VICTORY RALLY: A gathering meant to oppose HB 1733 turned into a victory party Tuesday night on news the sponsor wouldn’t attempt to pass the bill this session. – Mandatory credit BARRY HAAS

This is what happens when citizens stand together to oppose corporate takeovers of public institutions. Allies of the Walton family proposed a state takeover of the Little Rock School District, because 6 of 48 schools were low-performing. Advocates for the takeover wanted to turn the district into an all-charter district, like Néw Orleans. But community resistance was strong and the proposed legislation was withdrawn:

Education Advocates Applaud the Halt of School Privatization Bill

>>> Read more Arkansas Times.  >>>Bruce Cozart Pulls Nonprofit School District Proposal

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Four from Prince George’s to run for Congress.

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A competitive primary race is brewing in Prince George’s as several political veterans from the county set their sights on a Congressional seat that will soon be vacated by Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D) of Fort Washington.

Former Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) and former county state’s attorney Glenn F. Ivey (D) announced their campaigns last week, while former County Councilwoman Ingrid M. Turner (D-Dist. 4) and current state Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk (D-Dist. 21) announced their plans Tuesday.

Edwards is running for the U.S. Senate seat that will open up when Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) retires

>>> Read more

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