Monthly Archives: July 2015

Prince George’s County chooses to preserve and embrace symbols of Hate.

Surratt_1CLINTON – While Montgomery County continues to squabble over the removal of a statue honoring those who died serving the Confederate army in the Civil War, Prince George’s County officials and residents have decided they want symbols of history—such as the Surratt House here—to remain intact.

The Surratt House, which is open to the public for tours—was erected in 1852 as part of a middle-class farm for Confederate sympathizers John and Mary Surratt, and served as a hiding place for John Wilkes Booth, the Confederate supporter who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Booth died there after the farm was set on fire.

Since the removal of the Confederate flag in South Carolina, Baker said, more Americans have begun to express their concerns about symbols of hatred that occupy public places. Should anything of that nature come up in Prince George’s County, he said, the county will address the matter seriously.

“We have always touted that diversity is our strength here in Prince George’s County, so symbols and monuments that glorify heroes of a very divisive time go against the grain of our quest towards equality for all of our citizens,” Baker said. “We will address all requests for the renaming and removal of these symbols seriously, respecting the diversity of our citizens.”

The county must ensure that it “does not promote hatred and intolerance in any form or fashion,” Baker said. Currently, he said, the administration is unaware of any requests or proposed policies to rename or remove Confederate related history from county-controlled sites or monuments.

Additionally, Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baker, said a distinction needs to be made between monuments and historical places.

“The County Executive distinguishes a difference between historical sites like the Surratt House where people can go to learn about history, as compared to statues or other memorials that were built to honor the Confederate legacy,” said Scott Peterson, the county executive’s spokesman.

The Surratt House was originally built as a nearly 300-acre plantation in Prince George’s County and housed seven slaves working for the Surratt family, according to Laurie Verge, the director of the Surratt House Museum.

When Lincoln began his presidency, Verge said, many Prince George’s residents traveled down south the join the Confederacy. Only one man in Prince George’s County voted for Lincoln, she said, and the state largely supported Confederate values.

“The Surratts were no different,” Verge said. “Mr. Surratt himself was a very vocal secessionist. He firmly believed that Maryland should leave the Union even though it didn’t.”

John Surratt died in 1862 and left his wife to run the plantation as well as $3,500 in unpaid bills. Because of that, Verge said, she struggled to keep the plantation in operation. Her son, Isaac, aided her in running the plantation and ran an illegal mail chain for the Confederacy through the post office and served as spy for the Confederate army.

“If somebody apart of the Confederacy came to their door and they needed help, they would help them,” Verge said.

Booth, who planned on kidnapping Lincoln but ended up assassinating him, Verge said, stopped at the Surratt house to retrieve weapons and supplies that were hidden there. As a result, the United States government tried, convicted and executed Mary Surratt with conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln.

Despite the involvement with the Confederate army and the support of the secession from the United States, Verge said, the Surratt family and the Surratt house can teach the children of the future very valuable lessons.

“This is a very good lesson we use for the school kids that we have here,” said Verge. “We take about 3,000 school kids per year in this museum and kids are familiar with gangs today. They learn the word conspiracy when you compare it to a gang. And it’s a good lesson that shows to choose your friends wisely. That was the case with Mary Surratt.”

The outrage and uproar against Confederate history has been used largely as a “political” ploy, Verge said. People that love their history are not going to be happy if the Confederate presence is removed from the history books, Verge said.

“People that love their history, no matter what side they say they are on, think this is the destruction of American history,” Verge said. “The Confederate flag that is being taken down now did not have any prominence until the 1960s Civil Rights act. That’s when people started displaying the flag because they were irritated about the Civil Rights Act that (President) Lyndon Johnson passed.”

The preservation of the Confederate flag and history are necessary, Verge said, for the education of the United States and being able to learn from past mistakes.

Fred Harley, lifelong resident of Clinton, agreed with Verge and said he does not think the Surratt House Museum should be closed.

“If you don’t teach people the history then you allow them to repeat it,” Harley said. “You teach people that what she did was wrong in helping John Wilkes Booth.”

Harley questioned whether taking the site down will even help children learn about what happened after Lincoln was murdered.

“People should go visit it and get the real story about why it’s there,” Harley said.

Harley also said he has a problem with the county not memorializing African-American historical sites rather than bulldozing them down.

“The county should build those buildings back up and repaint them like they did at Surratt house,” said Harley. “The historical African-American sites are torn down, leveled to the ground, and then they put up a plaque. But plaques don’t tell the history of what happened.”

Joyce Richardson, Clinton resident for 32 years, recently visited the Surratt House Museum with her aunt and said they both truly enjoyed seeing the museum.

“The museum tour guide took us around the museum,” Richardson recalled. “The best part was seeing the bookstore and obtaining vast amounts of information about the history of the site.

“It is history so it should not be taken down. We met people from other places while touring the museum as well and we all agreed that the museum is a great site to visit and learn from.”

County Councilwoman Mary Lehman said the next steps in addressing the Confederate history in the county are going to be a judgement call.

“I understand—to the degree of which a white person can—the pain and hurt Confederate symbols have for African-Americans, and displaying some of them, namely the flag, has no useful purpose,” Lehman said. “Statues and historic markers are more of a judgement call, depending on the person or event and the significance. We can’t erase history, nor should we try. That said, I think the county, municipalities and residents should make decisions about whether to relegate these things to museums and libraries or continue to display them publicly on a case by case basis.”

Despite the city’s name change to Clinton in 1878, nearly 140 year ago, Verge said the “old timers” still have a connection to the name.

“We still have businesses that are in a place that have the name Surratt Square, so it’s a name that has stuck around,” she said.

The Prince George’s County Public Schools also has a high school named after the family. Surrattsville High School resides in Clinton, a half mile away from the Surratt House, and was founded in 1959, more than 90 years after the name of the city changed.

Sherrie Johnson, a spokesperson for PGCPS, said the school system is not aware of any complaints about the name of the school and said the history of the family was “news to them.” She said PGCPS is not considering changing the name at this time.

Sentinel reporters Candace Rojo Keyes and Tiffany Watson contributed to this report.

via Prince George’s County Sentinel

shheader schoolThe Prince George’s County Public Schools also has a high school (Surrattsville) named after a family which engaged in racism.



US President Barack Obama inspects guard of honour at State House – Nairobi.

imageUS President Barack Obama arrived on friday for Kenya, marking his first presidential visit to the homeland of his father. From there, Obama traced the Great Rift Valley northward to Addis Ababa, becoming the first US president to visit Ethiopia. Obama is celebrated as a hero throughout Kenya and Ethiopia.



Schools chief wants freedom from state rules to rival charters


Palm Beach County’s schools chief wants permission from state lawmakers to convert the county’s public school system into a “charter school district,” a designation that could let him end-run state rules and drastically reorganize schools’ schedules, class sizes and instruction time.

Superintendent Robert Avossa’s proposal would require approval from state lawmakers and the support of the county’s school board. If granted, he said the extra freedom would allow the county’s traditional public schools to better compete with charter schools, which have more flexibility under state law and are attracting thousands of new students each year.

The new superintendent was hired from the Fulton County School District in Georgia; Georgia has a law permitting “charter districts.” Superintendent Robert Avossa now wants to try it in Palm Beach County, where parents have been fighting for years to keep the hands of the charter industry out of their county. In his application for the job of Superintendent in PBC (which he assumed in June), he spoke of his passion for public education; there was no indication that he would immediately bring in the privateers, entrepreneurs, and fly-by-night operators whose charters overpopulate the lowest-performing schools in the state. As soon as he got the job, he switched.

Read more


Teachers’ union, Exelon top spenders on lobbying in Annapolis

dsc_0901The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) HQ pictured above in Annapolis Maryland.

Political cynics are fond of urging taxpayers to hold onto their wallets when the General Assembly is in session. But that doesn’t apply to businesses, industries and others with something to win or lose in Annapolis.

The Maryland State Education Association, which was fighting deep school funding cuts and a major expansion of charter schools, spent more on lobbying state lawmakers this year than any other association, business or group, according to a rundown recently posted by the Maryland State Ethics Commission.

The teacher’s union reported spending $446,000 from Nov. 1 through April 30, 2015 in what appears to be bribing of sorts to Maryland lawmakers in order to get a favorable outcome in advancing corruption within the schools.

The second-biggest spender on lobbying was Exelon Corp., the Chicago-based energy company, which paid $369,000 to have its interests represented in Annapolis.

Exelon, which absorbed Baltimore-based Constellation Energy Group four years ago, had a range of bills it wished to influence. It also was seeking state regulators’ approval to merge with the Washington-based energy provider Pepco, a measure before the Public Service Commission. The commission OK’d the deal in May.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., a subsidiary of Exelon that delivers power and natural gas to hundreds of thousands of customers in Central Maryland, also reported spending $264,000. The two companies’ combined output of $633,000 dwarfed the teachers’ lobbying payout.

Exelon wasn’t the only business with more than one entity lobbying: Verizon Communications reported spending $240,000, while Verizon Maryland chipped in $88,000, according to the ethics listing.

Businesses and business groups, which may see their profits impacted by legislation, traditionally put a lot into lobbying. Those involved with the lucrative health care, energy and communications industries, which also are regulated by the state, tend to be among the biggest spenders.

No. 8 on the list of top lobbying spenders, though, was one with a mix of spiritual and economic interests — the Maryland Catholic Conference, which spent $271,000. Its legislative agenda included killing a bill that would have authorized assisted suicide, which didn’t pass. It also sought a tax credit to help private schools, which also failed.

The ethics commission also lists the lobbyists who benefited the most by all that largesse. The top earner this year was Gerard Evans, who raked in $1.8 million. Second-highest paid was Timothy Perry, who got $1.15 million. Rounding out the top five were three others earning more than $900,000 – Joel Rozner, former Montgomery County state Sen. Robert Garagiola and Lisa Harris Jones.

To review the listing of employers that spent more than $50,000 on lobbying and to see what lobbyists made, go to

via Baltimore sun

Top 10

The top 10 businesses, industry groups and other entities that spent the most on lobbying in Annapolis during a four-month period encompassing the 2015 session of the General Assembly.

1)   $446,242 Maryland State Education Association

2)   $368,673 Exelon Corp.

3)   $345,719 Maryland Hospital Association

4)   $329,432 CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield

5)   $310,398 MedChi, the Maryland state medical society

6)   $290,203 Maryland Bankers Association

7)   $284,549 Maryland Retailers Association

8)   $271,270 Maryland Catholic Conference, LLC

9)   $270,045 Johns Hopkins Institutions

10) $263,641 Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.


Principal commits suicide amid Common Core test scandal.

School Principal Jeanene Worrell Breeden.

School Principal Jeanene Worrell Breeden.

The principal of an innovative West Harlem public school killed herself the day after her students took the state Common Core exams — which were later tossed out because she cheated, The Post has learned.

Jeanene Worrell-Breeden, 49, of Teachers College Community School, jumped in front of a B train in the 135th Street station on St. Nicholas Avenue on April 17, police said.

She was pulled out from under the train and taken to Harlem Hospital, where she died eight days later. The city Medical Examiner’s Office ruled it a suicide.

The leap came at 9:20 a.m., less than 24 hours after her 47 third-graders wrapped up three days sweating over the high-stakes English exam — the first ever given at the fledgling school.

It was also the same day a whistleblower reported the cheating to DOE officials.

Parents were shocked and saddened to learn Worrell-Breeden died but were given no details at the time. It was rumored she was killed in a car crash.

Parents were in for another shock in June. Superintendent Gale Reeves told them in a meeting that all the third-grade English exams had been “red-flagged” and “invalidated.”

“The children didn’t do anything wrong, and the teachers didn’t do anything wrong,” Diane Tinsley, a mother of one of the third-graders, quoted Reeves saying. Reeves refused to explain.

In a June 22 letter to families, Reeves wrote, “The integrity of the assessment was compromised due to actions outside your child’s control.”

Parents grew frustrated. No one from the city Department of Education or the state Education Department, which administers the exams, answered questions. They asked for help from politicians, including Assemblyman Keith Wright, whose staff also hit a wall.

On Friday, the DOE blamed the dead principal.

“Principal Worrell-Breeden was the subject of allegations of testing improprieties,” spokeswoman Devora Kaye said. “An investigation substantiated these allegations, and we closed the investigation following her tragic passing.”

Kaye would not say how Worrell-Breeden allegedly tampered with the tests.

Asked whether Worrell-Breeden was told of the April 17 allegations against her, DOE officials did not answer.

The DOE invalidated all 47 English exams. Third-graders took the state math exams April 22 to 24. Those scores will be released this summer, but Tinsley said the superintendent assured parents that all the kids would be promoted to the fourth grade.

The tough Common Core exams have raised anxiety. In 2014, only 34.5 percent of city students passed the math tests, and 29.4 percent passed English tests.

“A lot of people are getting sick and leaving the system because of the pressure the high-stakes tests are putting on them,” a veteran educator said.

But Worrell-Breeden seemed “relaxed,” Tinsley said.

“She was reassuring us parents,” Tinsley said. “Her whole attitude was that they’re going to breeze through this test, and that she had prepared them to ace any test.”

Each morning of the three-part exam — given April 14 to 16 — Worrell-Breeden served the kids breakfast and held a pep rally.

“She had them run around the gym cheering to get rid of their nervousness,” Tinsley said.

A family friend described Worrell-Breeden as a driven leader struggling with personal setbacks.

“Her grandmother died last year. Her husband moved out last year. He had a child with another woman. She was under a lot of pressure at home,” the friend said.

“She was the first principal at that school so she was trying to make . . . a good impression. “Maybe all that pressure, added to what was going on at home, got to her.”

Rescue workers examine the tracks where Principal Jeanene Worrell-Breeden met her tragic end.Photo: Robert Miller

Worrell-Breeden, who made $135,000 a year, was the founding principal of the school, which the DOE opened in 2011 in partnership with Columbia University’s Teachers College. It promised access to Columbia facilities, student interns and researchers. While planning to grow, it served only pre-K to grade 3 last school year.

Worrell-Breeden got the job despite a scandal at her former school, PS 18 in The Bronx. In 2009, the special commissioner of investigation for city schools found she had clocked in for overtime pay while working out with a personal trainer three times a week in the school gym.

Her time card “disappeared” after investigators visited the school. The probe found she altered her time card and coerced subordinates to say she had offered them hundreds of OT hours first — as required — before taking them herself.

In a six-month period she collected more than $9,500 in OT pay, records say.

An arbitrator dismissed charges of a coverup. She was docked two weeks’ pay.

Additional reporting by Georgett Roberts

via New York Post

skylineNew York City Skyline



Arizona school admins scrambling, again, to hire teachers


WASHINGTON — Arizona officials say there are at least 1,000 vacant teacher positions to fill, with just weeks left until the school year starts around the state.

It’s not the first time school districts have found themselves scrambling to hire teachers in Arizona, where officials say low salaries, lack of support and high turnover rates combine to make summers a stressful time for administrators.

‘’We’ve been working very hard since the spring to fill all our positions,” said Balsz School District Superintendent Jeffrey Smith.

He said this week that the district has “about four, maybe five” teacher openings, and no guarantees they will be filled by the July 27 start of school.

READ MORE: Why I left: Respect and teacher pay go together || Why I stay: Teachers get to watch as ‘miracles’ unfold

At Cave Creek Unified School District, Superintendent Debbi Burdick said, “It’s bad.”

Burdick said she is trying to fill six teaching slots, and the district’s governing board even approved a $4,000 signing bonus for qualified special education or middle school math teachers. But she’s still looking.

‘’We’re concerned, and for many of the positions we have open we do not even have one applicant,” Burdick said.

GET INFORMED:Why are Arizona teachers leaving in droves?

They are not the only schools in that situation, nor is this the only year it’s happened. The Arizona Department of Education created an Educator Retention and Recruitment Task Force in response to “rising concerns regarding the shortage of effective teachers and high turnover rates of educators in Arizona schools.”

RELATED:  Scottsdale back to hiring teachers after years of cuts 

That task force’s report in January cited many of the same problems that educators around the state point to: relatively low pay, high turnover rates that result in little mentorship of young teachers, and an increasing workload for an increasingly under-appreciated job.

And the situation is likely get worse, with 25 percent of the state’s roughly 60,000 teachers eligible to retire within the next five years, said Cecilia Johnson, the state Education Department’s associate superintendent of highly effective teachers and leaders.

Heidi Vega, spokeswoman for the Arizona School Boards Association, said there are many factors in play behind the vacancies but, “First of all, of course, the budget.”

Vega said some teachers haven’t had a raise in six or seven years. The state routinely ranks near the bottom when it comes to per-pupil spending, she noted.

Johnson said the average salary for a teacher in Arizona is $47,000 – well below the $54,000 national average – and an average starting salary in the state is $32,000.

‘’I personally don’t necessarily believe that teachers become teachers because of the pay,” Vega said. “They become teachers because they want to make a difference in impact.”

Still, she said, it can be difficult to “stay in the field and not even receive any type of cost of living, salary increase, or any type of increase, and just trying to live off a certain income for 15 years.”

‘’It is difficult. It’s challenging. And I think many teachers just get frustrated and many teachers have second jobs,” Vega said.

That difficulty could be behind a drop in the number of students majoring in education in college, experts said, another reason for the apparent teacher shortfall.

Once in the profession, Johnson said, teachers face greater accountability requirements and more demands of their time than they used to. Those demands “require them to take less and less time in teaching what they believe as experts should be taught,” she said.

Vega said school administrators have pushed lawmakers for more funding and tried to implement policies that spread the word about what a great profession teaching is, while showing appreciation for teachers who go above and beyond.

MORE INFORMATION:  Arizona teacher shortage forces schools to go international

But it’s slow going.

Smith said the state hasn’t demonstrated a commitment to public education, and Burdick said that we still “just don’t seem to have the infrastructure or the support,” resulting in teachers going elsewhere.

The loss of experienced teachers leaves the state with an even bigger job of filling positions year after year, Johnson said. And it drains away experience that Vega said is vital to young teachers.

‘’You need that mentorship,” she said.

If they can’t find full-time teachers, districts are forced to rely on long-term substitutes, which present other problems. Parents are “very concerned that their students aren’t getting the quality education they would expect when we have so many vacancies,” Johnson said.

But that doesn’t mean district will hire anybody just to have a full-time teacher.

‘’We’re extremely picky in our district. We will not hire someone just to put a body in front of students,” Burdick said. “We expect someone to be of excellent quality.”

via The Arizona Republic

Phoenix,_Arizona-PhoenixdowntownArizonaUSADowntown Phoenix, ArizonaEntering_Arizona_on_I-10_Westboundaz_h


What’s going on with Mr. O’Malley’s money?

image FORMER MARYLAND governor Martin O’Malley is a small-timer when it comes to the fees he demands for speaking engagements, at least compared with Hillary Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. Nonetheless, Mr. O’Malley has been stepping up his game, specifically by striking a deal with a tech company that benefited from a sizeable no-bid state contract when he was governor — and which then paid him nearly $148,000 for speeches and consulting in the months after he left office in January.

The appearance of a quid pro quo is not the biggest problem facing Mr. O’Malley, who remains stuck near zero in the polls among Democratic primary voters. Still, the payment — his single largest chunk of current income — while not illegal, is troubling.

In response to our questions, Mr. O’Malley’s campaign said he has given four speeches since January to the company, Environmental Systems Research Institute, known as Esri, which is based in California. A spokesman said Esri had approached Mr. O’Malley to propose the arrangement near the end of his term as governor last fall and that a contract to give speeches, provide consulting and “review policy documents” for the firm was signed in January, almost immediately after he left office. The speeches to date were delivered in Washington, California and Lisbon.

Mr. O’Malley, justly recognized for his use of data-driven policy analysis, helped deepen Maryland’s business with Esri, which specializes in interactive mapping software. In 2011, the state Board of Public Works, on which Mr. O’Malley was one of three members, approved a $2.1 million sole-source contract for Esri; the contract was expanded to $3 million last year, also with Mr. O’Malley’s backing. (The board, on which Mr. O’Malley no longer sits, will consider an additional contract expansion worth $832,000 in August.)

There’s no reason to doubt that Esri’s work for Maryland, as well as for other states and municipalities, is worthwhile. And we don’t question Mr. O’Malley’s track record, as governor and, before that, mayor of Baltimore, of using data-driven analysis and mapping to enhance public services and programs.

What’s concerning is how he pivoted almost immediately on leaving office to accepting a large income from a firm whose ongoing business with the state was sustained in no small part because of Mr. O’Malley’s influence. Notwithstanding the governor’s sincere interest in the subject matter, there’s the appearance of a payback.

There is no law prohibiting that sort of arrangement; the public’s only safeguard is the conscience of the public servant himself.

It’s also fair to wonder how Mr. O’Malley and his wife, Catherine Curran O’Malley, a state district court judge, ran up such large personal debts. Together, the couple had a combined annual income of nearly $300,000 for most of the eight years he served as governor, as well as free housing in the governor’s mansion in Annapolis. Yet they have taken loans of $339,000 to put their two eldest children through college, plus a line of credit of at least $100,000 and a mortgage of $500,000 for a home in Baltimore.

The question of how presidential candidates handle their finances is related to character, personal responsibility and maturity. By his means of earning income and the debt he has incurred, Mr. O’Malley has raised questions.

Read more


State’s highest court upholds school voucher program despite lack of accountability and standards –

imageIn a 4-3 decision that defies principles of accountability to taxpayers and students alike, the elected Republican justices of the state Supreme Court today upheld a school voucher program that allows taxpayer dollars to fund tuition for private schools having virtually no obligation to provide North Carolina students with even a basic education.

Chief Justice Mark Martin, writing for the majority and joined by Justices Robert Edmunds, Paul Newby and Barbara Jackson, couched the opinion in terms of judicial restraint and deference to the legislature, saying that the court’s role was “limited to a determination of whether the legislation is plainly and clearly prohibited by the constitution.”

Finding that the state’s “Opportunity Scholarship Program” did not clearly violate the state constitution, the court reversed Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood’s 2014 ruling reaching the opposite conclusion.

“The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” Hobgood wrote at the time.

The challenged law, enacted as part of the 2013 state budget, allows the state to appropriate more than $10 million in public money to award qualifying low-income families $4200 per child for use at private schools.

Those schools, which can range from religious schools with several students to a home school of one, are not subject to state standards relating to curriculum, testing and teacher certification and are free to accept or reject students of their own choosing, including for religious or other discriminatory reasons.

In reaching its conclusion — and despite the constitution’s language that state funds should be “appropriated and used exclusively for establishing and maintaining a uniform system of free public schools” — the majority held that public funds may be spent on educational initiatives outside of the uniform system of free public schools.

As to the lack of accountability required of the private schools receiving public voucher money, the majority said that the constitutionally required “sound basic education” for North Carolina students, set down in the landmark Leandro decision, did not apply to private schools.

It is axiomatic that the responsibility Leandro places on the State to deliver a sound basic education has no applicability outside of the education delivered in our public schools. In Leandro we stated that a public school education that “does not serve the purpose of preparing students to participate and compete in the society in which they live and work is devoid of substance and is constitutionally inadequate.” We concluded that the North Carolina Constitution guarantees every child of this state an opportunity to receive a sound basic education in our public schools. Leandro does not [though] stand for the proposition that [the constitution] independently restricts the State outside of the public school context.

The upshot of that conclusion is that public schools paid for with taxpayer funds must provide students with such a “sound basic education.” Taxpayer-funded private schools need not.

That double-standard particularly perturbed Justice Robin Hudson, who wrote in her dissenting opinion that “a large gap opens between Leandro-required standards and no standards at all, which is what we have here. When taxpayer money is used, the total absence of standards cannot be constitutional.”

Hudson added:

Private schools are free to provide whatever education they deem fit within the governing statutes’ requirements. When parents send their children to any private school of their choosing on their own dime, as they are free to do, that education need not satisfy our constitutional demand that it be a for a public purpose. However, when public funds are spent to enable a private school education, that spending must satisfy the public purpose clause of our constitution by preparing students to contribute to society. Without meaningful standards meant to ensure that this or any minimum threshold is met, public funds cannot be spent constitutionally through this Opportunity Scholarship Program.

Hudson, who was joined in her opinion by Justices Cheri Beasley and Sam Ervin, went on to compare accountability standards in the state’s voucher program with those in other states — and found North Carolina’s woefully inadequate.

“Compared with ten similar programs across the country, North Carolina’s program falls painfully short,” Hudson wrote.

Justice Cheri Beasley joined in Hudson’s opinion but wrote separately to explain her further concerns with the state’s voucher program.

Beasley pointed out that in Leandro, the court had already confirmed the right of every child in the state, not just those in public schools, to a “sound basic education.”

“The majority notes that the purpose of the grants is to address grade level deficiencies of a “large percentage of economically disadvantaged students,” but it is unclear whether or how this program truly addresses those children’s needs,” Beasley wrote.

She also noted the practical realities of a program that offers little help to the legislature’s professed beneficiaries:

For now, as noted by the majority, the program is available only to lower income families. This availability assumes that private schools are available within a feasible distance, that these families win the grant lottery, and that their children gain admission to the nonpublic school of their choice. With additional costs for transportation, tuition, books, and, at times, school uniforms, for the poorest of these families, the “opportunity” advertised in the Opportunity Scholarship Program is merely a “cruel illusion.”

– See more at:


In Philly, New administrator has past controversies

Dr. William Hite Jr hires Eric Becoats who was among the finalist in 2013 PGCPS MESS . Eric Becoats scored poorly during the interview at Sasscer. dr-becoats

Eric Becoats who failed the test in PGCPS was recently hired for senior position in Philly school District by William Hite Jr. 

ERIC BECOATS was very dedicated to his administrator job in Charlotte, N.C.

He was also equally committed to his consulting business, Queen Educational Planning LLC, whose client was the Little Rock School District in Arkansas. Once Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials found he made at least 17 calls from district phones to Little Rock, he was censured and suspended for a day.

Becoats, now a newly hired top school district administrator in Philadelphia, has resigned from two previous jobs, including Charlotte, following accounts of his alleged misuse of public resources, the Daily News has learned.

Becoats, who has a business and financial-planning background, was forced to resign after a series of missteps that included underestimating the rainy day fund by $15 million and using a public school bus to ferry around friends and loved ones.

District officials, however, stood behind Becoats yesterday, saying in a statement that he was fully vetted and brings a “deep skills set” to Philadelphia.

School Reform Commission president Marjorie Neff was on vacation yesterday and unavailable for comment. Becoats was also unavailable, officials said.

But one Durham community activist, who butted heads with him during his tenure, warned:

“All I can say to Philadelphia is good luck and keep your eyes on the process,” said parent activist Rodrigo Dorfman, a multimedia producer. “There’s obviously a pattern and you can expect more, unless he had a come-to-Jesus moment.”


Becoats will earn $150,000 as the district’s new assistant superintendent for the Turnaround Network, an office newly created by Superintendent William Hite to improve low-performing schools.

He came to the district from Chicago, where he was interim executive director at Distinctive Schools, a nonprofit that assists charter schools serving underserved children.

The Lincoln University graduate stepped down in December 2013 as superintendent of Durham Public Schools in North Carolina. Nearly a decade earlier, in March 2004, he resigned from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools as assistant superintendent for Planning and Development.

When he left Durham, Becoats was in the middle of a contract that paid him $223,048.56 annually, according to Durham schools spokeswoman Chrissy Deal, and his term was expected to end in June 2016.

He walked away with a $298,074.54 severance package, according to a resignation agreement with the Durham Board of Education.

Decisions questioned

Among Becoats’ financial missteps in Durham, according to media reports and documents and minutes from Durham public schools, he was found to have:

*  Used a Durham school bus and driver in June 2013 to shepherd his family and friends to private events around the Durham area, including a stop at the upscale mall, The Streets of Southpoint.

*  Racked up $21,000 in credit-card bills over 12 months, mostly for out-of-state travel to professional conferences. The board suspended the credit card.

*  Underestimated Durham school’s unassigned fund budget by $15 million – an error that was discovered in an audit days before his resignation.

Becoats worked from 1997 to 2004 for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, where he left as an assistant superintendent for Planning and Development earning $91,800 a year.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg officials reprimanded Becoats for violating district policies regarding his personal business, Queen Educational Planning, according to several media reports.

An internal investigation found that Becoats used Charlotte-Mecklenburg phones, computers, email and documents, the Charlotte Observer reported July 2003. Officials suspended him one day without pay, docked him a day of leave and told him to repay $3,625, the paper reported.

Newspaper editorials in the Durham area called for his resignation and by Dec. 31, Becoats was out.

In an email to the Daily News, Chanice Savage, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia school district, said, “We made the decision to hire Eric after fully vetting his candidacy, which we do with all executive hires.

“Our vetting process includes reviewing candidates’ background and work history information, conducting interviews, and contacting references,” the statement read. “Eric brings a deep skill set and experience to his role and we are excited to have Eric join the team.”


After a review by Durham lawyers regarding the bus outing in June 2013, the board issued a public statement a month later calling it “an inappropriate action,” but stated that Becoats had not “intended to violate school policy.”

Becoats had asked to be billed for the bus use and did pay it, but the investigation found his payment didn’t cover the full invoice amount, the statement said. He later paid the full amount.

The statement also included Becoats’ comments: “After the use of the activity bus on the contracted dates, I was informed of the local and state policy. I apologize for my mistake.”

He was issued a letter of reprimand by the board.

The media reported in late August, however, that Becoats had been made aware of the bus usage policy by a district lawyer in 2011. At the time, the lawyer had been advising the board about bus usage in another matter, The Herald-Sun in Durham reported.

The credit-card bills’ tally was uncovered by a local TV station. Becoats was authorized to use the school-issued credit card for professional conferences but with the prior approval of the school board chair. He reimbursed the district for about $580 to cover some of the expenses.

Becoats appeared to have lofty tastes and bought from minibars, purchased flowers for employees, and took limousines from the airport, according to receipts provided by Durham schools.

Becoats’ report to the board claiming the “rainy day” fund had only $4 million appeared to anger and embarrass the members.

“The Board of Education depends on the superintendent to present an accurate accounting of what our true financial status is,” board chairwoman Heidi Carter said in 2013, according to a report in The News & Observer of Raleigh. “I feel foolish having gone in front of the county and pleaded poverty, when that doesn’t appear to be the actual case now.”


>>>Read more 


William Hite Jr hired Eric Becoats with growing charter-school ties and will earn $150,000 despite the fiasco in North Carolina and Maryland. 


County refuses to release names of Board of Education applicants

imageUPPER MARLBORO – Eight people have applied for the Board of Education seat vacated by Dan Kaufman, but county officials refused to disclose the names of the applicants to The Sentinel.

Tehani Collazo, the county executive’s education policy advisor, said County Executive Rushern Baker III’s office will not release the names, citing issues of confidentiality and privacy. The legal counsel for Baker suggested that under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) general provisions (GP) four through 101 and beyond, they have a justification for withholding names since they are only in the “accepting applications” stage of selecting an at-large board member.

“If you are simply jotting down a list of names to consider for the BOE vacancy, a strong argument can be made that the list of names could be withheld as an ‘intra-agency letter or memorandum’ under the MPIA exemption, found under GP 4-344,” Collazo said in an email response to The Sentinel.

In addition, the legal counsel advised that because the application process remains ongoing, all information pertaining to the applicants will come from the application documents, which are also considered “personal documents.”

“If you are at the stage where you are accepting applications, under GP 4-311, the names of those seeking appointment to an office may not be disclosed if the information is derived from their applications because they would be considered as ‘personnel records,’” Collazo said.

Baker’s legal counsel sought the rulings of the case of Office of the Governor v. Washington Post Company from 2000 and a letter from Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe to Senator Leo E. Green in 2002. The case in 2000 ruled that government officials have no obligation under the MPIA to disclose any memoranda, letter, or similar internal government documents, which contain confidential conversations, that are used in the decision-making process. The letter from Rowe to Green speaks specifically to the release of the names applicants to the Board of Education citing applications as personal records, which are prohibited from being disclosed under law.

While Baker’s office cites the law as justification for not disclosing the applicants’ names, some citizens involved in Prince George’s County Public Schools said feel the county administrations needs to have more transparency.

Felicia Meadows, an employee and “product” of Prince George’s County Public Schools, said she believes one person shouldn’t have “sole responsibility in the selection of something that affects a large organization.”

“There is a distrust of political officials overall, therefore transparency is needed to regain the trust of the people,” Meadows said. “In every other arena, full disclosure of applicants is made available to ensure that candidates are qualified and can meet the needs of the positions for which they are applying.”

Meadows, said she hopes Baker will select a board member who is dedicated to the needs of the children in the district, rather than personal agendas.

“People who are selected to sit on the Board should have a vested interest in education and our children and not use their position for personal or professional gain,” Meadows said.

Via Prince George’s county sentinel