Monthly Archives: February 2018

Bipartisan Bill Targets Foreign Gov Corruption

The Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Act Would Establish a Rewards Program for Whistleblowers.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday afternoon to combat terror finance and foreign government corruption in a move that was welcomed by the Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency (FACT) Coalition.

Sponsored by Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) and Keith Rothfus (R-PA), the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Act (H.R. 5101) would establish a rewards program for whistleblowers — encouraging individuals to inform the U.S. government about assets in the U.S. financial system that are connected to foreign corruption, enabling authorities to reclaim and return the money and deter foreign corruption moving forward.

Clark Gascoigne, the deputy director of the FACT Coalition, issued the following statement:

“Foreign corruption is a major economic and national security threat to the United States.  Corruption undermines the rule of law, provides the lifeblood of authoritarian regimes and enables transnational organized crime to flourish.  It diverts precious resources away from those who most need them, and fosters disillusionment with government—sometimes leading to the rise of terrorist networks.

“The Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Act is a sensible tool to safeguard American citizens and businesses from the scourge of corruption.”

In addition to Reps. Lynch and Rothfus, the bill is co-sponsored by Ted Budd (R-NC), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Norma J. Torres (D-CA), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).

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Thursday hearing for HB355, Investigator General for Education

md_general_assemblyCompiled By Jerome Dancis 

The House of Delegates bill for an Investigator General for Education is HB355.

(It is the house version of SB302)

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0355&stab=01&pid=billpage&tab=subject3&ys=2018RS

It’s hearing is schedule for this Thursday March 1, before the Ways and Means Committee.

I am planning to go.

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Here is my 3 minute public presentation to the state BOE yesterday.

Needed: An Investigator General for Education

On Feb. 7, I, joined other concerned citizens, who provided cogent testimony before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee in favor of MD Senate bill 302, which calls for an Investigator General for education.

Here are 8 of my take-a-ways:

1. Christina Delmont-Small, member, BOE, Howard County. She was a Congressional Investigator for a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. She spoke on the usefulness of inspector generals.

2. Barbara Krupiarz, board member of Howard County Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee.

She mentioned an Ombudsman’s report on Howard County’s significant violations of the Public Information Act (FOIA):

Unfortunately, the ombudsman also has no enforcement capability.

3.Gene Ryan noted that Howard County’s school budget listed almost $3 million in special education services, which were denied at a cost of $777,000 in legal fees. Therefore this was considered cost effective by Howard County schools.

4. Julie Gaskins of Baltimore City. She mentioned that the U.S. Dept. of Education – Office of Civil Rights found many violations of civil rights including retaliation against staff. Maryland Dept. of Education does not deal with retaliation.

5.Catherine Carter of Howard County. Her son’s double-vision was not considered a visual impairment, so school refused to provide doctor recommended vision accommodations. She noted that nationally, most school districts are violating federal law.

6. Nicole Landers, RN:

“I experienced violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,

“I work as Assistant Director of Nursing for an agency that provides nursing care at home and school to medically fragile children. I visit many schools across multiple counties within the state. ”

7. Anne Miller, She is one of the four members of the Baltimore County BOE who are calling for a Special Review Audit by the Office of Legislative Audits. They can do a comprehensive, forensic investigative audits looking for fraud, waste and abuse. Not merely a compliance audit.

8. Janis Sartucci, Parents Coalition of Montgomery County, Her statement of 15 cogent bullet points of misdeeds in Montgomery County schools, is on the web at

http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/2018/02/statement-in-support-of-gov-hogans.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ParentsCoalitionOfMontgomeryCounty+%28Parents%27+Coalition+of+Montgomery+County%29

Needed: An Investigator General for Education

Opposed: Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE)

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This is a short version of my 4 page summary of testimony at feb. 7 hearing, ” Needed: Investigator General for Education in Maryland”. It is on the “Reform Sasscer” website dated Feb. 25, 2018. It is at

https://pgcpsmess.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/investigator-general-for-education-in-maryland/

(“Sasscer” is the name of the administrative building of the Prince George’s County school system.)

Relatedly

* “[Julie] Gaskins’ son goes to Garret Heights Elementary Middle. A recent letter from the State Department of Education confirmed that her son who is in 7th grade, had the curriculum of a first grader. The State declared Garrett Heights in violation of state and federal law.”

From:

” “It’s Infuriating”: City Mom Reacts After State Senators Walk Out”

http://foxbaltimore.com/news/project-baltimore/its-infuriating-city-mom-reacts-after-state-senators-walk-out

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* I attended a Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates Forum on Sunday night.

* I asked Candidate Ben Jealous a question about having an inspector general for education. Ben Jealous said he supports inspector generals.

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Gov. Hogan to potential challenger Rushern Baker: ‘Fire Kevin Maxwell’

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) delivers his State of the State address in late January. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, a potential gubernatorial challenger, should fire his handpicked schools chief over a diploma scandal in the district.

Hogan (R), who has long been critical of Baker’s response to the scandal, said the county executive needs get rid of schools chief executive Kevin Maxwell and assume responsibility for the grade-tampering that resulted in an inflated number of high school graduates in the state’s second-largest school system.

“This saga has gone on for far too long,” Hogan said Wednesday in response to a question during a news conference on school safety. “Enough is enough. . . . In my opinion, it should have happened a long time ago. But I’ll say it today — the county executive needs to fire Kevin Maxwell.”

Baker (D), who is ahead of his six primary rivals in the polls but lags well behind Hogan, scoffed at the governor’s suggestion.

“I listen to students and parents in Prince George’s County, and the last I checked, the governor was neither of those,” Baker said. “I view his comments as purely political, and I don’t take them seriously at all.”

Baker has touted improved test scores and graduation rates as one of his significant accomplishments. His record on education seems likely to become a major issue during the gubernatorial campaign.

A state investigation found in November that grades were changed days before graduation for nearly 5,500 students during the past two years.On Tuesday, the Maryland State Board of Education took the unusual step of assigning a full-time employee to monitor the county’s efforts to address the scandal. It also ordered a second audit to ensure that the problems are resolved.

Baker said board members should take it upon themselves to monitor the county’s actions. “That’s their job,” he said.

Several elected county school board members, along with the county branch of the NAACP, also have called for Maxwell’s ouster.

Baker asked for partial control of the troubled school system in 2013, a move that gave him the authority to select the schools chief and appoint several members to a newly created hybrid board. But it is not clear whether he would have the authority to fire Maxwell outright.

The Prince George’s County Educators’ Association last week voted a lack of confidence in the school board’s current structure and asked the state legislature to strip Baker of the power to appoint members. A bill to repeal Baker’s schools takeover is pending in the General Assembly.

Via Washington Post 

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Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell, center, and his executive staff take questions from Prince George’s County Council members about a recent audit found issues with the system’s grading policies and procedures.

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County Executive Rushern Baker III (Seen here) granted control over the school board and CEO was a big mistake. PG county school system is a regular reality tv show that needs to be cancelled! Grade scandals, child abuse scandals, discrimination lawsuits among other lawsuits, security issues, union issues, employee pay issues. All under the watchful eye of Maxwell! Who is protected by a law passed specifically for him! And a County Exec who is blinded by his own agenda. Granted Hogan could take time from the big chair to come down to PG and spend a day in these schools and see the damage that’s being done! Maxwell you’ve over stayed your welcome! And Baker you stand 0 chance of Marylanders trusting you or your judgement! Good Luck on the campaign trail!

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Maryland State Board of Education to implement full-time employee to monitor PGCPS

 – The Maryland State Board of Education voted Tuesday to install a full-time state employee in Prince George’s County Public Schools to monitor the school system and ensure policies are being followed. It comes after a troubling state audit found evidence of grade-fixing and that nearly 30 percent of students in a sample group did not have records to show they earned a diploma.

State Superintendent Dr. Karen Salmon said she recommended installing a “full-time employee over the course of the year to monitor Prince George’s County Public Schools’ compliance with the corrective action plan, its grade-changing policies, student attendance policies as they relate to earning a Maryland high school diploma.”

The state board also voted to do a second audit of Prince George’s County Public Schools and said they want answers to specific questions that remain about the audit results.

Before the vote, the board was given a letter from Prince George’s County school board members Edward Burroughs, David Murray and Raaheela Ahmed, who continue to say not only did the school district’s central office know students were graduating who shouldn’t have been, but there was direction to graduate students by any means to boost the graduation rate.

In the letter, the board members mention what they say is evidence, including an internal school district audit done in 2016 that showed it had been determined back then students were graduating without meeting requirements. The audit only became public when FOX 5 reported on it last month.

They also quoted the teacher’s union president who said at a recent board meeting that DuVal High School guidance counselors accused of violating policies related to grading and graduation policies were following directions from the central office.

“Let’s be real about it. The three school guidance counselors at DuVal High School were thrown under the bus, placed on administrative leave, publicly admonished and then their emails cut off because there was evidence in those emails saying that their directives came from the central office,” Prince George’s County Educators’ Association president Theresa Dudley told the board.

While FOX 5 has not seen emails to guidance counselors, we have obtained emails sent to an assistant principal who, like the counselors, has been removed from her position.

Prince George’s County school board member Edward Burroughs said he had hoped the state would consider information that has been uncovered since the audit and further investigate.

“It looks like they want to move forward and forget the past, which is unfortunate,” he said. “But what I will say – I think it’s absolutely embarrassing the fact that out of the 24 jurisdictions in Maryland, Prince George’s County is the only one that has state oversight at this point.

Dr. Salmon declined to speak to FOX 5 about her recommendations Tuesday.

Via Fox5DC

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Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell, center, and his executive staff take questions from Prince George’s County Council members about a recent audit found issues with the system’s grading policies and procedures.

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Maryland officials to Prince George’s: Show us you’re fixing diploma scandal

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From left, Kevin Maxwell, chief executive of Prince George’s County Public Schools, and Rushern L Baker III, county executive, speak to reporters at Suitland Elementary School in 2017. (Donna St. George/The Washington Post)

 Maryland education officials on Tuesday called on Prince George’s County to prove it is fixing problems uncovered in a diploma scandal and took the unusual step of assigning a state employee full time to monitor those efforts for the next year.

The actions were recommended Tuesday by state Superintendent Karen B. Salmon and drew unanimous support from the Maryland State Board of Education a month after Prince George’s leaders appeared before the panel.

Under Maryland’s plan, the state will seek periodic written reports on the county’s progress in fixing what went wrong and request an outside audit afterward to ensure problems are resolved. At least one state employee would be tapped to track compliance as efforts are underway.

“It’s another set of eyes to look at grade-changing policies, ­student-attendance policies, as they relate to earning that Maryland high school diploma,” Salmon said in an interview.

Andrew R. Smarick, president of the state Board of Education, said the panel was alarmed by findings of a state-ordered investigation, conducted last fall after allegations of graduation rate fraud in the state’s second-largest school system.

“Too many students were graduated despite falling short of the expectations we had,” he said. “Unfortunately, this does a disservice . . . and this undermines the value of a Maryland diploma.”

Smarick said the board hoped the measures would “ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

“The state just needs to be confident that the district’s graduates have earned their diplomas,” he said.

The graduation rate probe has become fodder for political opponents of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who is running for governor based in part on his efforts to overhaul schools.

Baker — who wrested control of the troubled system from the county’s elected school board during his first term — has been sharply criticized by the county teachers union and by his potential gubernatorial rivals. The Prince George’s County Educators’ Association in a vote last week indicated its lack of confidence in the school board’s current structure and asked the state legislature to strip Baker of the power to appoint members.

The follow-up audit requested by the board would resemble the investigation done last fall, examining the same issues to make certain that proposed changes are in place and working, state officials said. It would look at the Class of 2018 and possibly the following year.

Told of the state’s actions, school system officials Tuesday said Kevin M. Maxwell, the district’s chief executive, had already proposed a second audit as part of the district’s plan for remedying problems.

“We agree on that step to ensure academic integrity, and we have worked with the state closely on this, and we look forward to continuing that partnership,” said district spokesman John White.

White asserted that many of the problems described in the report related to a sample of students with late grade changes. “It is not a description of our entire school system,” he said. “However, many of the problems identified, we’ve already begun fixing.”

At the Board of Education’s previous meeting, Maxwell and five other Prince George’s officials faced tough questions about the system’s practices and attributed the scandal to failures in procedure and monitoring, not pressure from the top.

The board asked about high levels of student absences, problems in district culture and diminished community trust.

The controversy comes as D.C. Public Schools also has been mired in a diploma scandal.

In Maryland, the controversy goes back to last spring, when a minority bloc on the school board wrote to Gov. Larry Hogan (R), saying that whistleblowers had come forward with evidence that grades and credit counts were manipulated to boost graduation rates.

State lawmakers from Prince George’s soon echoed the call for state action, and Hogan in June asked the Board of Education for a “complete, thorough and exhaustive” investigation.

The county’s four-year graduation rate climbed more than seven percentage points from 2013 to 2016, when it reached 81.4 percent — the largest jump for that period of any school system in the state. Recent figures show it edged up again in 2017, to 82.7 percent.

The state board hired an independent auditor to conduct the examination — the D.C. firm Alvarez & Marsal — and in early November released a report that showed grades for nearly 5,500 students were changed days before graduation during the past two years. It pointed to problems with documentation and high levels of student absences.

About 30 percent of students in a sample group with late grade changes were not eligible to graduate or lacked adequate documentation, the report said.

Prince George’s officials have pointed out that the report found no evidence that grade tampering or improper activity was ordered by the district’s leadership.

But critics disputed the assertions last month when an email from a central office staff member surfaced showing that less than three weeks before graduation in 2016, one high school — DuVal — was showing a preliminary graduation rate of 59 percent. By the time the final count was in, the graduation rate had risen to 92.4 percent.

Prince George’s officials said in January they removed some staff members at DuVal amid findings that grading and graduation certification procedures were violated. County officials told the state board last month that five or six employees had been disciplined.

Via Washington Post

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Investigator General for Education in Maryland

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Collected by Jerome Dancis

Summary of SB 302. Establishing the Education Monitoring Unit in the State; providing that the Unit is an independent unit; establishing the Investigator General Selection and Review Commission in the Unit; requiring the Commission to appoint the Investigator General in accordance with certain procedures; requiring the Unit to investigate certain complaints; requiring the Unit to establish an anonymous electronic tip program; requiring the Unit to submit an annual report by December 15 to the State Board, the Governor, and the General Assembly; etc.

MD SB302 is sponsored by Senator Katherine Klausmeier [D] of Baltimore County and 12 Republican Senators and the governor. It would be useful to persuade Sen. Muse and other Democratic senators to co-sponsor.

There are no PolitiCorps discussions concerning the 2018 Maryland SB302 at this time. See https://legiscan.com/MD/comments/SB302/2018

Many concerned citizens provided cogent testimony before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee on Feb. 7 in favor of MD SB302 calling for an Investigator General.

The hearing was taped. These presentations are on the website of the Maryland legislature at:

http://mgahouse.maryland.gov/mga/play/1c6d5b0a-de34-4344-b8f8-150a85d43a58/?catalog/03e481c7-8a42-4438-a7da-93ff74bdaa4c

MD SB302 starts at 4:20. Here is a timeline:

4:21 Ali Keane, Governor’s office. She explained the bill.

4: 24 Edward Burroughs, III, member, BOE, Prince George’s County. He broke the news about the scandals in Prince George’s County. He and Bob Ross petitioned the governor for more investigations.

4:27 Christina Delmont-Small, member, BOE, Howard County. She was a Congressional Investigator for a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. She spoke on the usefulness of inspector generals.

4:31 Janis Sartucci, Parents Coalition of Montgomery County, http://parentscoalitionmc.blogspot.com/ She has a 15 cogent bullet points presentation. She got thru only the first few at the hearing.

4:37 Sen. Paul Pinski, Vice-chair of Educational Committee.

The PGCPS Graduation-rate Audit reported no evidence of system-wide intimidation by PGCPS leadership or evidence of system-wide fraud as it relates to these allegations.

Jerry: Perhaps, if the private investigating firm was paid more money and provided more time, it would have found evidence of system-wide intimidation and fraud. Last month, a 2016 email surfaced from central office to Duval High School directing the school to graduate more students. (I make this point after 5:10)

4:39 Barbara Krupiarz, board member of Howard County Special Education Citizens Advisory Committee (SECAC). She spoke about serious violations of FOIA. Her presentation is the attached file.

4:42 Gene Ryan Was on New Jersey state BOE. Now living in Howard County.

4:46 Gene Ryan data $2.8 million in special education services denied at cost of $777,000 in legal fees. Therefore considered cost effective by Howard County schools.

4:51 Julie Gaskins Baltimore City Mentioned Project Baltimore has been uncovering wrong doing, violation of civil rights and retaliation against staff.

The U.S. Dept. of Education – Office of Civil Rights found many violations including retaliation. Maryland Dept. of Education does not deal with retaliation.

4:54 Catherine Carter of Howard County. Her son’s double-vision was not considered a visual impairment, so school refused to provide doctor recommended vision accommodations. Nationally, most school districts are violating federal law.

The next three were less compelling.

4:59 Rubin Shaeffer

5:08 Ella Ennis Vice-president, MD federation of Republican Women

5:05 Sharon Mosel science teacher

5:10 – 5:15 Jerome Dancis

My written presentation was the same as my presentation, “[PGCPS Graduation] Audit Found Smoke; Now Need Investigation To Find Fires //

Time For Maryland To Do An Atlanta Gold Standard Investigation!” to the MD state BOE Dec. 2017 is on its website at http://www.marylandpublicschools.org/stateboard/Documents/12052017/PublicComments12052017.pdf

Search for “Dancis”.

At hearing, I also said that at the January meeting of the Maryland state BOE, state board members observed that the PGCPS Graduation Audit showed that the PGCPS has a culture of non-compliance with regulations. They asked the appointed BOE chairman and the appointed CEO (aka superintendent) what was being done to change to a culture of compliance with regulations. The appointed CEO and team chose not to discuss culture.

Dr. Kevin Maxwell’s team said that the main reason for late grade changes were parents complaining about grades. (Grades were changed after the deadline for changing grades for 5,000 out of the 15,000 graduates of PGCPS in 2016 and 2017)

Provided written testimony in favor, but did not speak:

* Bob Ross, President, Prince George’s County branch of NAACP

* Anne Miller, member, Baltimore County BOE. She is one of the four members of the Baltimore County BOE who are calling for a Special Review Audit by the Office of Legislative Audits. They can do a comprehensive, forensic investigative audits looking for fraud, waste and abuse. Not merely a compliance audit.

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Relatedly, there is HB103 which would allow a BOE to fire its superintendent.

There were good presentations on this at the hearing this past Thursday. One was from the BOE of Howard County.

Colleen Morris, representing 6000 employees of Howard County Public Schools, said that the previous superintendent created an atmosphere of fear and retaliation.

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Vicky Cutroneo, PTA Council of Howard County president, who uncovered mold problems in several of Howard County schools that was being hidden from the public (and for which she has loads of evidence to support that claim).

Christine McComas. She is the Howard County parent whose daughter’s suicide prompted Grace’s Law on bullying and cyberbullying. You will see, in the ombudsman’s report, the serious violations (and completely unethical and inhumane treatment) she received in trying to obtain her daughter’s records from HCPSS.

Below is the link to the Maryland Public Access Ombudsman’s report on Howard County’s significant violations of the Public Information Act:

http://www.marylandattorneygeneral.gov/OpenGov%20Documents/PAO/Final%20HB%201105%20report.pdf

Unfortunately, the ombudsman also has no enforcement capability. There is a whole FOIA enforcement branch at the federal level and some states have enforcement capabilities for their state FOIA laws. Once again, there is no accountability in Maryland.

The benefit of your perspective will be appreciated.

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Donna Edwards Vows to End ‘Unethical’ Campaign Contributions to School Board

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Donna Edwards, candidate for Prince George’s County executive, speaks during a Feb. 22 press conference outside the school administration building in Upper Marlboro as Phyllis Wright (left), parent of two county students, and Bob Ross, president of the county’s NAACP chapter, look on. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Donna Edwards already has her sights set on cleaning up the Prince George’s County school board in her bid for county executive.

If elected later this year, the former U.S. congresswoman said she would ban the school system CEO and top-ranking school officials from donating campaign contributions to board members.

“Our education leaders are bold enough to put up political contributions that can influence their hiring and contracting decisions,” Edwards said Thursday at a press conference outside the school administration building in Upper Marlboro. “It may not be illegal, but it is unethical.”

Edwards’ comments were triggered by revelations that two school board members, Carolyn Boston and Sonya Williams, received such donations for their election campaigns.

According to finance reports, schools system CEO Kevin Maxwell donated $500 to Boston, the school board vice president who served on a committee to evaluate Maxwell’s performance.

Boston, who couldn’t be reached for comment, eventually returned the money.

Williams received $3,000 from Delegate Dereck Davis (D-District 25) of Mitchellville, according to campaign documents. The money from Davis, who is married to schools Deputy Superintendent Monique Whittington Davis, came from his terminated campaign from Congress two years ago, campaign records show.

“I’ve known [Davis] forever,” said Williams, a civil engineer who has served on the board since 2014. “It is not unethical or illegal for any politician to support another politician’s campaign. My goal on the school board is for us to be great by choice.”

Although the Maryland Ethics Commission monitors and approves regulations based on the legislature, state law allows school boards to manage its own ethic rules and committees.

Michael Lord, executive director of the state’s Ethics Commission, said Prince George’s received approval for its ethics regulations at least three years ago. He said any school complaints, however, are handled by the county, not the commission.

“It is all done on the local level,” Lord said.

The donations to Boston and Williams surfaced after two parents, Keisha Chase and Yolanda Rogers, wrote a letter last week to alert the state’s ethics commission.

“The culture of pay-to-play, kickbacks, you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours must end if we are ever going to provide a quality education for our children,” the letter said.

Chase and Rogers have children who attend DuVal High School in Lanham. Parents received letters from Maxwell last month informing them several staff members had been removed for violation of grading and graduation procedures.

The parents now plan to bring their concerns about the campaign contributions to the state Board of Education and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

 Via Washington Informer

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