Monthly Archives: April 2016

Lawmakers look to shake up leadership of Baltimore city schools

bs-md-ci-school-budget-session-20150414-001According to Baltimore sun, State lawmakers want a greater role in choosing the next leader of the Baltimore city school district, and want to give city voters some say in the makeup of the school board.

Amid growing criticism of the city’s appointed school board and calls for the ouster of schools CEO Gregory Thornton, the General Assembly approved legislation this week that would overhaul the process by which school leadership is selected.

The bill would make two lawmakers nonvoting participants in choosing the CEO, and expand the school board from nine members to 11.

The two new board members would be elected by city voters. Baltimore’s is the last school board in the state to be composed entirely of appointed members.

The bill reflects a 12-year effort by city and state lawmakers to make the school district’s governing body, they say, more representative of and accountable to city residents.

Currently, the nine members of the board are appointed by the mayor and the governor.

In recent months community leaders and state lawmakers have urged the board to fire Thornton. Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, who has sponsored legislation to create a partially elected school board for more than a decade, was “ecstatic” the legislation finally won support.

“This is a great day for Baltimore city schools because we will finally have people on the school board who will be accountable to the people,” the Baltimore Democrat said. “It changes the whole paradigm of how the school board does its business.”

Marietta English, president of theBaltimore Teachers Union, called the bill the “crown jewel of the legislative session,” and said it would democratize the board.

“It has been a long time coming,” she said in a statement. She said it was “necessary for the public to have a say in the policy that governs our schools.”

The legislation won unanimous support in the House of Delegates, and cleared the General Assembly with last-minute amendments in the Senate.

Sen. Joan Carter Conway won inclusion of an amendment that would give a delegate and a senator seats on the committee that recommends the next Baltimore schools CEO.

Conway, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Senate committee that oversees education, said lawmakers felt blindsided the last time the board chose a schools chief.

“We figured we should be in the loop because the state gives 75 percent of the money” in the district budget, she said.

She said school officials routinely turn to state lawmakers for help in times of fiscal crisis.

While it is not unusual for political and community leaders to vet superintendent candidates informally, the legal requirement that state lawmakers actively participate in the process is unprecedented in Maryland.

Lawmakers introduced similar legislation this year that would have given them a strong role in appointing and confirming a new state superintendent. That bill was unsuccessful.

The city school board sets policy, oversees the school system’s budget and hires and fires the superintendent.

The board has long opposed electing members, and any legislative measure that infringed upon its autonomy.

Marnell A. Cooper, the board’s chairman, said the board has changed its position to support the addition of two elected members. He noted that every other school system in the state has a partially or fully elected school board.

“We have heard the public for a number of years express their desire to have some composition of the board that is elected, and we listened,” he said.

Cooper said the board embraced lawmakers’ input on a new superintendent.

“They can bring statewide perspective to the conversation,” he said.

The bill would require that lawmakers be included in all meetings and discussions during the selection process but serve only as advisory, non-voting members.

The board would vote on the final candidate.

Conway said she didn’t expect the legislation to impede the board from searching for a new superintendent.

Cooper declined to say whether the board was actively seeking a new superintendent. He has supported Thornton.

Thornton has defended his tenure.

“My plans and commitment to the district have not changed,” he said in a statement last month, when lawmakers called for his ouster. “I will continue the work that is needed to ensure that every student in this city is given an excellent and equitable education that prepares them for college and career.”

The Senate president and House speaker would select lawmakers who would serve on the committee.

Conway said she expects that either she or Sen. Bill Ferguson, another Baltimore Democrat, would be appointed as the Senate representative in the superintendent selection process.

Ferguson, who called for Thornton’s resignation on the Senate floor during the session that ended this week, said the legislation would help stabilize the city school system.

“The bill attempts to settle an ongoing topic of concern,” he said, “and reflects a step toward rebuilding the trust between communities and the Baltimore city school board.”

Ferguson said he initially had concerns that the bill could violate conditions of a 1996 consent decree that established the current governance and funding structure for the city school system, including the jointly appointed school board.

He added an amendment that required that parties in the lawsuit be notified of the changes.

The attorney general’s office opined that the consent decree does not prohibit the legislature from making changes to the school board, but that parties involved could challenge it in court.

Bebe Verdery, the education reform director for the ACLU of Maryland, led the lawsuit that produced the consent decree. She said it was unlikely the organization would challenge the legislation because adding two elected members does not “fundamentally change the governing structure of an independent school board.”

But she added: “The ACLU continues to have the right legally to challenge changes that would adversely affect city children’s interests and the consent decree provisions ordered by the court.”

via erica.green@baltsun.com

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For Your Viewing pleasure. Lynx helicopter landing on ship in rough sea

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This video shows a landing conducted by a Prism Defence Test Pilot and Flight Test Engineer during development of Ship Helicopter Operating Limits for the Lynx Mark 90B helicopter onboard the KNUD RASMUSSEN class Offshore Patrol Vessel.

Operating helicopters onboard ships is extremely complex, due in part to the difficulty of landing a helicopter on a moving platform, but also due to numerous practical engineering issues.

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PGCPS Bus driver hits pole, sends more than 20 students to hospital

aaaaWASHINGTON, D.C. – Around 2 p.m. Friday afternoon, a Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) bus with 46 elementary students on board collided with a light pole in lot eight of RFK Stadium in the District of Columbia, sending dozens of students to the hospital.

“We were not informed how many people were injured, we were under the impression we only had a few people injured,” said Doug Buchanan, spokesperson for the D.C. Fire Department. “When the first engine arrived on the scene they quickly determined there were several dozen students injured and requested a Mass Casualty Incident.

“Additional ambulances, along with the fire department’s ambulance bus, were dispatched to the incident to transport more the 20 students to area hospitals.”

Buchanan didn’t really have an explanation for the accident.

“For one reason or another, the PGCPS school bus driver didn’t see the pole or just misread the distance. It was enough to shake and rattle the bus. It was enough to move some kids around in the bus and for us to come here and make sure everyone was okay.”

The students were from the Woodridge Elementary School in Hyattsville and were returning from a USA Science & Engineering Festival.

Fire officials said all of the injuries appeared to be minor, mostly bumps and bruises, and once the students were checked out by doctors they would be released from the hospital.

The students who weren’t hurt were taken back to school on another bus.

Police officials from the Metropolitan Police Department are investigating the incident.

Via Prince George’s county sentinel

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Former Pr. George’s executive asks for corruption conviction to be set aside

image.jpegFormer Prince George’s County executive Jack B. Johnson, who pleaded guilty in a broad corruption scheme and is serving 87 months in prison, is asking a Maryland judge to set aside his conviction and sentence.

In a motion filed in U.S. District Court of Maryland, Johnson claims he has “newly discovered evidence” that “uncovers probable law enforcement misconduct” in connection with the federal investigation into him that ended with his 2011 plea on extortion and witness and evidence tampering.

The latest motion claims that Johnson and his family received several “offensive and hate-filled” notes “containing implied death threats,” before Johnson reported to prison in 2012. He suspects that a member of the Prince George’s County Police Department sent them, though the motion acknowledged that there was no solid evidence to prove it.

At least one note was sealed in a Prince George’s County government envelope and mailed to Johnson’s home in Mitchellville, according to court records. That envelope contained Monopoly money with handwritten notes on the back urging Johnson to “Rot in Jail.” Another was sent to the College Park home of his eldest son, Jack Johnson Jr. One of the notes referenced two county police officers whom Johnson prosecuted while he was state’s attorney from 1994 to 2002.

“I have always suspected that law enforcement, involved in prosecuting the case against me, sent these hate-filled and threatening message to me and my family,” Johnson said in a sworn declaration accompanying his motion.

Terry Eaton, Johnson’s attorney, declined comment other than to say: “We look forward to litigating the issues we raised in court.”

Johnson hired private investigators and a forensic lab to help determine who was involved in the alleged intimidation, including possibly federal agents, according to records. The lab found DNA trace evidence on the back of the envelope mailed on county government stationery and said it matched DNA from a second envelope.

Johnson, 67, said he would not have pleaded guilty had he “known that it was possible to recover DNA evidence” from the envelopes.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, whose office prosecuted Johnson and his wife, said Johnson’s motion is without merit.

“Mr. Johnson admitted under oath that he was guilty of serious crimes,” Rosenstein said in a statement on Monday. “His motion does not include anything that casts doubt on the propriety of his conviction and sentence.”

Johnson, who served as county executive from 2002 until December 2010, masterminded a corruption conspiracy and received more than $1.6 million in bribes, and implicated his wife, Leslie Johnson, and several developers, county officials and businessmen.

Johnson and his wife were arrested at their Mitchellville home by the FBI in November 2010 as part of a sting operation. They were overheard on a wiretap scheming to flush a $100,000 check that he received as a bribe down the toilet, and stash $79,600 in cash in her underwear. Jack Johnson also was videotaped taking cash bribes from a longtime associate and developer.

A grand jury returned an eight-count indictment against the Johnsons in February 2011.

Jack Johnson, who could have received a maximum of 14 years in prison, agreed to a plea deal and was sentenced to 87 months. The judge also fined him $100,000 and ordered him to undergo alcohol treatment and forfeit $78,000 and his antique Mercedes-Benz.

Johnson’s sentence was among the longest in Maryland history for a politician in a corruption case.

He is in custody at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., and is scheduled to be released in June 2017, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Leslie Johnson, who was elected to the County Council 10 days before her arrest, pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to commit witness and evidence tampering. She received one year and one day in prison, and was released in 2013.

via Washington post
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Disturbing Call from Pgcps Ardmore

We received this in our blogs. Please investigate and share, there is so much corruption going on at this school it is ridiculous!

Published on Apr 16, 2016.

On 4/14/16 at 5pm parents received this robocall from the school. No context was given and the school has a history of lacking communication. The day prior children had a “drill” for strangers entering the building. If you received this call, what would you think?

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Pr. George’s schools sued again over background checks

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A federal civil rights lawsuit filed this month alleges that the Prince George’s County school system failed to conduct a proper background check on a teaching assistant with a previous history of alleged sex abuse who was later convicted of molesting an elementary school student.

The suit, filed in federal court in Greenbelt, comes four months after the school system settled a similar civil rights complaint and as it finds itself amid a wide-reaching child-pornography investigation involving a volunteer teacher’s aide.

The case filed April 5 involves a former Glenn Dale Elementary School teaching aide and an ­8-year-old student. Jason Jamar Howard, 33, was charged with sexual abuse of a minor in April 2013 after a teacher witnessed him sit next to the child, place his hand under her skirt and fondle her in the middle of the school day, according to police. Howard later admitted to abusing the girl between 10 to 15 times over the course of two school years, according to court documents.

Howard, who is no longer with the school system, pleaded guilty to sex abuse in Prince George’s County Circuit Court six months later and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The student’s family contends that the Prince George’s County school system should not have hired Howard in 2011 because he had been charged with assault and sex offenses in 2002, according to online court records. The 2002 charges were dropped.

The school system “breached their duty by either failing to conduct a criminal background check on Howard, which would have revealed Howard’s past charges of assault and sexual offense or by conducting a criminal background check and hiring him despite the charges,” the family’s attorney alleged in the legal complaint. The complaint also alleges that the principal at the time failed to immediately disclose the abuse to authorities and the child’s parents.

Officials in Prince George’s would not comment on the pending lawsuit, saying it is the school system’s practice not to comment on legal issues. But in a response to the complaint filed in court, attorneys for the school system denied many of the allegations set out in the lawsuit. Attorneys for Howard and the principal named in the suit did not respond to requests for comment.

The school system is in the middle of reviewing policies and practices in light of the recent arrest of a Judge Sylvania W. Woods Elementary School volunteer charged with child sex abuse. According to police and prosecutors, Deonte Carraway, 22, abused and filmed inappropriate behavior with students during the school day and on school grounds since at least January 2015. Carraway, authorities said, also abused children between the ages of 9 and 13 at a local town center, church and in private homes, and has claimed at least 17 victims.

The case deeply upset parents in the city of Glenarden, with many of them demanding to know how Carraway was given so much time alone with children to allegedly perpetrate such acts and why other adults in the school didn’t notice or report problems sooner. The Carraway case has also prompted at least five civil suits against the school system, including a class-action lawsuit.

School officials have said Carraway, who was hired to be a paid employee in 2014 before budget cuts eliminated his position, passed a background check.

Dianne Stewart Hamlin, an attorney for the family of the student abused by Howard, said she believes there is a “pattern of carelessness” on the part of the school system that allowed for the continuing abuse in her client’s case and the most recent Carraway case. Hamlin said a simple Internet search revealed the past charges against Howard.

“I have children and I always do a background check on their babysitters,” Hamlin said. “If there were even a hint of a possibility that something would be out of line, I wouldn’t hire them. The school board has a higher threshold because they’re responsible for other people’s children.”

Via Washington Post 

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Washington Post Endorses Vouchers

washingtonpostMany of us read the Washington Post because of its excellent reporting and the blog written by Valerie Strauss, The Answer Sheet. There are also other raising reporters but their hands appear tied and scared to write truth to power in the region after County Executive Rushern Baker III hijacked the county schools in a suspicious manner.

However, for sometimes now, its editorial pages are not a source of enlightenment about education in this region and a proper change management to assist the citizenary make better choices. According to blogger Diane Ravitch, For the entire reign of the controversial Michelle Rhee as the D.C. schools chancellor, the editorial page of the Post defended her every move. It claimed success when there was none. In the eyes of the Post editorial board, Rhee could do nothing wrong. The fact that D.C. has the largest achievement gaps of any urban district in the nation seems to have eluded their gaze.

Now the Post has endorsed the recent legislation to start a voucher program in Maryland. It is a bizarre editorial. It suggests that “the unrest that followed the death of Freddie Gray last April shone new light on the shortcomings of the public school system and the injustice that does.” Freddie Gray died in the back of a police van, where he was shackled and improperly restrained without a seat belt. Did his death say anything about “the shortcomings of the public school system”?  Would school vouchers have prevented his death or the unrest that followed? Freddie Gray’s death was caused by a broken neck; the broken neck was the result of negligence. If Maryland had offered school vouchers, would “the unrest” have not occurred? If Freddie Gray had gone to a parochial school, would the police have put a seat belt on him? I don’t understand the logic. Maybe someone could explain it. Certainly the Post doesn’t.

The editorial also errs in praising the D.C. voucher program. The final evaluation of the program found no academic gains; it found a higher graduation rate for students who persisted in the program, but also very high attrition rates. The students likeliest to see no academic gains were those attending SINI schools (Schools in Need of Improvement), for whom the program was created.

Voucher proponents have a hard time finding a model for future voucher programs. It is not Milwaukee or Cleveland or the District of Columbia. Vouchers have been promoted by the fringe right for more than half a century. They have the support of right wing think tanks, the Koch brothers, the DeVos family, ALEC, and red-state governors. The goal is to replace public education with a free market, and to right wing ideologues, evidence is irrelevant. In North Carolina, for example, vouchers were recently adopted by the Tea Party legislature (the same one that just passed a law allowing discrimination against gay and transgender people). Voucher schools do not have to adopt state curriculum standards, are permitted to hire uncertified teachers, and do not have to administer state tests. They can use textbooks that teach creationism, and they are free to discriminate in selecting their students.

It is sad to see the Washington Post encouraging the diversion of public funds to religious schools for the nation’s neediest students while majority of public school students suffer.

Via blogger Diane Ravitch

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