Monthly Archives: December 2015

20 years after unsolved killing of PGCPS student,

…many still hope for answers

20151218_ChuckyWhen 17-year-old Charles Marsh Jr. was killed by a stray bullet in December of 1995 outside Oxon Hill High School, no witnesses came forward to police. Twenty years later, authorities are hoping those people may finally speak out. (WUSA9)

By Perry Stein

The final bell of the day rang just after 4 p.m. at Oxon Hill High School, and Jeremy Bull, a senior, drove home to Fort Washington as he always did. He flipped on the evening news that icy December evening in 1995 and discovered that minutes after he had pulled out of the school parking lot, one of his classmates was shot dead waiting for the bus home.

It didn’t take many phone calls for Bull to learn that the victim was Charles Marsh Jr. — the small and reserved 17-year-old in his gifted classes whose voice had just started to crack and was so proud that he’d finally topped 5 feet tall.

Prince George’s County police suspect that he was hit by a masked gunman trying to steal a popular Eddie Bauer jacket from a teen standing near Marsh.

According to police, Marsh was an unintended victim — a kid about to board a bus that would deliver him back to the mother who awaited his arrival every day.

Twenty years later, who shot Marsh remains unknown, and the unsolved case haunts Bull, now a county police sergeant.

When 17-year-old Charles Marsh Jr. was killed by a stray bullet in December of 1995 outside Oxon Hill High School, no witnesses came forward to police. Twenty years later, authorities are hoping those people may finally speak out. (WUSA9)

Marsh’s killing spurred Bull’s interest in law enforcement, and the fear that some other family might face the same lifetime of unanswered questions pushes him during every homicide investigation.

“Every case that I work on, this is my motivation — to bring closure to the families, especially in murders, because those victims can’t speak for themselves,” Bull said.

“This was the first time that someone I knew was murdered, even died. It hit the class as a whole. It brought us together.”

As Marsh’s former high school classmates prepare for their 20-year reunion, they want to give the cold case another airing and encourage anyone who might have witnessed the shooting to come forward.

The Marshes, too, want to know who killed their son but at this point say they’ve long moved past expecting that answer.

After the death of Chuckie — the son they still call by the name he never had a chance to outgrow — they established the Charles Marsh Jr. Fund to reward anyone who could identify the person who pulled the trigger. After about three years, they dissolved the fund and put the $4,500 they had raised toward family expenses.

They’ve carried on as best they can. Charles Marsh retired six years ago from Metro, where he was a bus driver and former train operator, and purchased a new Audi to celebrate. Chuckie’s mother, Thomasene, retired in 2007 from her job as a deli worker at the nearby Safeway.

They spend time with their two daughters, who were in college when Chuckie was killed, and celebrate the professional accomplishments of Chuckie’s friends.

Charles Marsh Sr., 69, still has his impish humor, joking about how he flirted with Thomasene and her twin sister while they all were high school students in North Carolina — and what a boost it was when, after two daughters, he found out he and his wife were having a boy. He had promised his family he would quit smoking if he had a son, and he hasn’t touched a cigarette since Chuckie’s birth 37 years ago.

And Thomasene Marsh can still laugh with her husband.

“I raised three kids, and now I have to raise him,” she said, nudging her chuckling husband in a living room decorated for Christmas.

They bought the suburban home in 1993 so Chuckie could go to high school in a safe neighborhood, and the Fort Washington house still holds subtle hints of the tragedy that changed them.

The main living area where the couple spend most of their time is bare of any photos because, they said, it’s too hard, to constantly see their son’s full-faced smile that mirrors his father’s resilient grin.

Instead, photos rest in neatly organized scrapbooks that can be pulled out when they please.

The basketball hoop in the dirt courtyard where Chuckie and his father played for hours in the evenings remains there. But grass has grown over the court, and no one has played on it since the teen’s death.

After all of the milestones that Chuckie has missed, the 20-year anniversary of his death seems not to carry special weight for them.

“Chuckie is an everyday thought, an every-minute thought, an every-second thought,” said Thomasene Marsh.

It is rare for a case like this to still have no resolution 20 years later, according to Bernard Nelson, a cold-case investigator with Prince George’s police who was one of the first homicide detectives to get to Oxon Hill High School two decades ago. The killing occurred during the day in front of many witnesses and was part of a high-profile pattern of jacket robberies at the time.

There had been a string of robberies of students on or around campuses at county schools over the $300 Eddie Bauer coats, and security personnel were on the lookout. Witnesses to the teen’s shooting say they saw at least two masked men robbing students of jackets, according to police. After a struggle with one student, a gun went off, the bullet tearing through a teen’s jacket and striking Chuckie in the chest.

Nelson said the department came close to solving the case several times and had promising leads, but none so solid that they could make an arrest.

“That’s the most disappointing part. Not just losing a man to a senseless crime, but we felt we were on the brink of bringing justice to this family, but we just couldn’t prove it. . . . It’s not what you know, it’s what you can prove,” Nelson said. “We know there are people out there who can put together the last pieces of this puzzle, and we need them to come forward.”

President Bill Clinton referred to the Marsh shooting in his 1996 State of the Union address as he made his case for why public schools should have uniforms, a White House spokesperson confirmed to The Washington Post at the time.

“If it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require the students to wear school uniforms,” Clinton said in his Jan. 23, 1996, address.

The wrenching irony is that Chuckie liked chess, computers and sports, never fashion. And his parents said they never would have bought him an Eddie Bauer coat and risk making him a target.

It had been years since the Marshes heard from a detective about the case, they said.

But on Monday, Bull — the officer who attended school with Chuckie — visited the family’s home to mark the 20th anniversary. Bull hadn’t been friends with Chuckie outside of school, and the Marshes knew nothing about him.

They didn’t know that Bull pulled out the case file every so often to see whether someone had missed any clues. They didn’t know that their son’s homicide had helped inspire his career in public service. And they didn’t know that Chuckie’s former classmates — who knew him as Chuck — were posting pictures and remembering their son on their high school reunion’s Facebook page, trying to figure out if there was any way they could help bring closure to the family.

“You’re my hero,” the mother gushed to Bull.

Via Washington Post and WUSA 9

Marsh011450140790Sgt. Jeremy Bull knew homicide victim Charles Marsh Jr. as a teenager. At right is Thomasene Marsh, the mother of the victim, who was 17 when he was killed. The case remains unsolved. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

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We wish you a Merry Christmas

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We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding;
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding and a cup of good cheer
We won’t go until we get some;
We won’t go until we get some;
We won’t go until we get some, so bring some out here

We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas;
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Joy To The World

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Home for Christmas: Live from Dublin

Joy to the world! The Lord has come
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room

And heaven and nature sing
And heaven and nature sing
And heaven, and heaven and nature sing

Joy to the world! the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods
Rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat the sounding joy
Repeat, repeat the sounding joy

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.
As the curse is found.

 He rules the world with truth and grace
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness
And wonders of His love
And wonders of His love
And wonders and wonders of His love

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We wish you a Merry Christmas

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PGCPS says ready to tackle testing woes. But where is the accountability?

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UPPER MARLBORO – Testing scores in the county are producing a dismal reputation for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), but school leaders say there is more to the story than poor testing performances and they are already trying to combat the problems. However, the county leadership does not mention the millions of dollars they are awarding themselves as bonus pay to the detriment of the county youth and the Prince George’s County citizenry.

All in all, it appears it’s all about the county CEO and his close friends who are milking the system as they bribe their way into the surroundings institutions in order to entrench themselves into power for personal gain.  Yes! for personal gain and the county suffers under questionable leadership.

Student testing scores in Advanced Placement (AP) and SAT have fallen while scores in the first administered Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career assessment (PARCC) in the county are some of the lowest in the whole state of Maryland.

“PARCC is a new rigorous test, and with anything new there are challenges,” said Kevin Maxwell, Chief Executive Officer for PGCPS.

PARRC was first administered in the spring of 2015 after the state of Maryland chose the assessment as the new accountability program, replacing the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) in Reading and Math. The test is specifically aligned to Maryland’s college and career ready standards by requiring students to demonstrate critical thinking, problem solving, and clear writing. By taking PARCC, the students are assessed on how close they are to the standards on a scale of one to five, with five meaning the student exceed expectations. A score of four indicates a student is on track.

On the assessment, which looks at students in grades three through eight, only 25 percent of PGCPS students earned a level four or five in the literacy assessment. Statewide, just less than 40 percent of students scored a four or five. In math, less than 15 percent of county students scored a four or five. Statewide 30 percent reached a four or five.

“There is room for growth on the PARCC assessments,” Maxwell now says. “A low score does not mean a child is failing to learn. This is an opportunity for growth and fine tuning instruction, and that’s exactly what we plan to accomplish.”

The overall pass rate of AP tests in the county has also dropped. AP tests are scored on a scale of one to five as well, with a score of three through five considered passing. The overall percentage of students in PGCPS with a passing score from the tests in May was 25.8 percent, which is a 1.2 percent drop from 2014.

State-wide, 61 percent of Maryland AP students scored a three or higher in 2015, which was the same as 2014.

AP scores in math dropped from a 19.1 percent pass rate in 2014 to 15.8 percent in 2015. The average score on mathematics exams was 1.5. Passing rates also dropped in fine arts, foreign languages and social studies exams. The highest pass rate however, was in foreign languages with 72.9 percent.

Although most subjects saw a decrease in pass rates, both science and English language arts saw increases of 1.9 percent and .5 percent respectively.

Scores on the SAT also dipped countywide.

The average SAT composite score, which is complied from adding the scores of the math, writing and critical reading scores, was 1195 – a four point drop from 2014. The SAT is scored out of 2400 and the nationwide average is 1500. The average in Maryland was 1435, which was also a four-point drop from 2014.

While there was a decrease in passing of mathematics AP tests, the county on average increased SAT math scores. The math average increased from 394 in 2014 to 397 this year. Scores dropped in both writing and critical reading by less than five points.

Segun Eubanks, the chair of the county board of education, said the matter of test scores is extremely complicated.

“Now while these results clearly show that we have lots of works to do, we also need to unpack the data. That means we need to dig deeper to get the full story of what this information reveals, something our friends in the media rarely bother to do,” he said at the State of the School System Address last week.

Eubanks said when he looks at the data he sees a story of hope because the numbers show students in the county are performing better than students in similar situations.

“We know that’s not enough, but we know when we look at this data we see there are schools and programs and classrooms and teachers that are working to help student succeed everyday,” he said.

The school system is also already in the process of addressing the testing scores and ramping up an effort to hit testing from every angle as they prepare their students, not for the test, but in life skills and critical thinking.

This ideology, along with the school’s system strategic plan, was discussed in length at a board work session in September when the school staff and administrators discussed literacy in the school system. Literacy is the central part of the school system’s new strategic plan.

The PGCPS definition of “rigorous literacy,” as defined by the curriculum and instruction team is, “the ability to read, write, speak, listen and use numeracy.”

“For example, we want our students to be able to construct meaning for themselves. If our students can do that, they are well on their way,” Gladys Whitehead, executive director of curriculum and instruction, said at the work session. “We’re not trying to train our students or teach to the test. If we can give our students the skills, they can be successful no matter what test you put in front of them.”

The school system is already working on implementing literacy programs and new instructional teachings to help with overall literacy, which Whitehead said will lead to not only better test scores, but well-rounded students.

In September, PGCPS set out goals for themselves to reach academic excellence for their students. Those goals, according to the plan provided by PGCPS, include a desire for 45 percent of elementary students to obtain a two or better (of three) on the local and state assessments in writing, 20 percent to get a two or better in critical reading assessments, 40 percent to get a two or better in math assessments, and 39 percent of pre-K and kindergarten students should “meet or exceed state standards for language and literacy and mathematical thinking based off the (kindergarten readiness assessment).”

By 2020, PGCPS aims to have 70 percent of elementary students obtain a two or better on local and state assessments in writing, 60 percent in critical reading, 70 percent in math, 60 percent of pre-K and kindergarten students meeting or exceeding state standards. However, these are only empty promises they are making without showing any major plans to accomplish these tasks.

Goals were also set for high school students and included increasing the average SAT score to the “college ready” indicator score of 1550, and increasing the pass rate of AP and International Baccalaureate exams. However, those are goals only by name.

“I believe with all my heart that there is no reason why Prince George’s County students should not be performing at or above the average of every other student in the state of Maryland, so that is the ultimate goal,” Eubanks said in September. “We have to create ambitious benchmarks to get there. Real goals have to be right on the edge of achievability, which always means you might not achieve all of them.”

In the end, there is no question, the county school system is much worse off than when the new leadership led by Kevin Maxwell took over the PGCPS System. This is not the kind of leadership we had envisioned in the very beginning. The problem is complicated by hiring staff members and spouses of highly connected politicians in Maryland to swindle the Prince George’s county schools from the inside in a clever ploy without anything to show for it and eventually run it down.

We must demand an end to this kind of shenanigan ASAP!

eubanks_lgSegun Eubanks the chair of the county board of education, said the matter of test scores is extremely complicated.2014 Kevin Maxwell

 “There is room for growth on the PARCC assessments,” PGCPS CEO Kevin Maxwell now says.pgcps_logo

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International Human Solidarity Day

12391459_10153847312409617_570730092907055416_nHeartbreaking image from Burundi (file photo). Long trek to Tanzania. Our leaders, (surrounding countries) MUST show concern and we must all let the world know whats going down in Burundi and other parts of the world when selfish leaders try to prolong their stay in power to the detriment of their people. The circle of violence to the impairment of many has become too common lately.

2015 Theme: Shared Progress & Prosperity based on global solidarity

This year’s celebration of Human Solidarity Day comes after leaders of the world adopted theSustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a new, inclusive development agenda — succeeding the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure dignity for all.

The new SDGs agenda is centred on people & planet, underpinned by human rights and supported by a global partnership determined to lift people out of poverty, hunger and disease. It will be thus be built on a foundation of global cooperation and solidarity.

_87267947_87267946The government denies there could be a genocide >> Read more International-Human-Solidarity-Day

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6th grader beaten by fellow students on PGCPS bus

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— A sixth-grade student was pummeled by older schoolmates on his Prince George’s County school bus while the bus was still on school property.

“They were hitting me in my head a lot,” Myles Slade, a student at Accokeek Academy, told Fox 5. He suffered bruises and scratches after being struck repeatedly by two older girls.

“There’s no other way to describe that attack than barbaric,” the boy’s father, Shawn Slade, told ABC 7.

According to the family, Myles was approached by a seventh grade girl, who ordered him out of the bus seat he’d sat in. The girl punched the boy in his face, according to the family.

 “I told them I thought that they failed my son yesterday because I have a sense of security when I drop him off at the school bus — that he’s going to get on the school bus, go to school, get back on the school bus and come home safely — and that didn’t happen,” Shawn Slade told Fox 5.

Prince George’s County Public Schools spokeswoman Sherrie Johnson says the incident happened as the bus was leaving school property. The driver stopped the bus, and school staff separated the students.

Johnson says the students “were disciplined per our students rights and responsibilities handbook,” but would not specify the punishment, citing student privacy rules.

According to the handbook, a physical attack on another student can warrant a suspension of one to 10 days.

The incident was captured on cellphone video by another student and a camera installed on the bus.

Johnson says the school system’s transportation department is interviewing the driver, and reviewing the security video, to ensure protocols were followed.

Myles said he wished other students on the bus had come to his rescue.

“I feel pretty sad. I’m pretty scared to get back on the bus,” he said.

>>Read more @WTOP  and Fox 5 DC

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Instead of holiday cheer, top Maryland pols exchanged angry letters

Merlin_7463252-658Maryland Comptroller Peter V. Franchot (D), right, and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D). (Robert A. Reeder)

According to Washington Post article by Mr. Bill Turque, Instead of sharing some eggnog or perhaps a round of caroling on the streets of Annapolis, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. are celebrating the season with a highly public exchange of letters that make clear their mutual contempt.

On the surface, the spat between the two Democrats involves portable air-conditioning units for Baltimore County schools. But the deeper clash is about Franchot’s view of his role as an aggressive guardian of the public interest and Miller’s assessment that the comptroller is a headline-hunting opportunist who sticks his beak into local affairs for political gain.

Franchot, who often allies himself with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, has pushed for months to change rules barring the use of state construction funds for portable units to cool sweltering classrooms in buildings without central air. He wrote to Miller (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) on Dec. 11 to express his displeasure that the state Senate’s representative on the Interagency Committee on School Construction had moved to delay action so that lawmakers could have more time to consider the issue.

Franchot said he would be happy “to facilitate a discussion between the leadership of your respective chambers, and the children, families, employees and teachers who continue to suffer under conditions that none of us would ever tolerate within our own places of employment.”

Busch’s response, if there was one, has remained private. But Miller wrote a letter this week that quickly found its way into reporters’ inboxes, saying he was “puzzled” by Franchot’s “overly dramatic and unnecessary adversarial tone.”

He mentioned a Dec. 8 Washington Post story about millions of dollars in Montgomery County income tax revenue that Franchot’s office mistakenly sent to other county municipalities, and he wrote that the General Assembly should hold a hearing about problems in the comptroller’s office.
“You seem increasingly content to pursue your personal and political interests and seem to delight in basking in the glow of press releases while ignoring your constitutionally mandated duties,” Miller wrote.

On Thursday, Franchot delivered his own season’s greetings. He defended his office, which he said has earned both statewide and national recognition for service to taxpayers, reflecting “our time-honored commitment to what I call ‘The Three Rs: Respect, Responsiveness and Results.’ ”

The three-term comptroller also noted that he had been reelected in 2014 with 63 percent of the vote in what proved to be a bad year for Maryland Democrats — “particularly for state and local candidates in Calvert County [part of Miller’s senatorial district] where your political tutelage catapulted our party’s gubernatorial nominee to 30 percent of the general election vote.”

Franchot suggested that Miller — an 11-term incumbent and the longest-serving state Senate president in the country — was angry not about the air conditioners, but about Franchot’s closeness with the state’s Republican governor.

“Based on some of your more recent private comments to me — the contents of which I shall not repeat for fear they shall be reposted in family media outlets — my sense is that your sudden and newfound concerns over the performance of my office are actually based on my well-documented willingness to reach across partisan lines,” he wrote.

Franchot warned that ignoring conditions in Baltimore County schools would place Democrats on the wrong side of an important issue at a time when they should be marshaling support. “Put more directly, senator, it would be a staggering display of political incompetence that neither your caucus members nor the Democratic Party as a whole can afford right now.”

Franchot ended on a jolly note.

“I look forward to hearing from you and, in case we don’t speak in the days to come, I’d like to wish you and your beautiful family a Merry Christmas.”

Major Need for inspector General with prosecuting powers

In the meantime, Maryland lawmakers have created a commission on school construction policies after many years of not being accountable to the public. Most of the money such as billions pouring into Prince George’s County public schools has been mismanaged over the years. So the commission is the way to go for now but an inspector general with powers to make arrests and prosecute in Federal court not the state court is the key to change Maryland.

tumblr_meox7dlAvi1r3qz1lo1_500Maryland needs to get back on track. Corruption is the norm in many state institutions. It cannot be business as usual. Maryland citizens must press state leaders to pass a law and create an inspector general position with powers to make arrests and prosecute in Federal court not the state courts. This,we are hopeful for the day when we will wake up in a Maryland, where corruption is an alien concept. We have a great state- individuals caught mismanaging public funds for selfish gains must be held to account. This is the key to changing Maryland for the better. May be (they) leaders can share some eggnog after the legislature passes the law in April 2016. We should not wait much longer. Let us demand a proper change in creating an accountability mechanism.
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