Monthly Archives: March 2018

Maryland General Assembly overhauls the school construction approval process to undermine the Governor

Maryland

The Maryland State Senate gave final approval to a bill that overhauls the school construction process by removing the current role of the Board of Public Works. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

The Maryland Senate on Thursday voted to eliminate a decades-old state process for prioritizing the building and repairing of schools by stripping the governor, comptroller and state treasurer of their role in approving projects, a move Gov. Larry Hogan (R) called a “personal vendetta” against his ally, Comptroller Peter Franchot (D).

The 29-14 vote, with one abstention, came after a brief filibuster and long debate about why the Democratic-controlled legislature pushed so hard to eliminate Franchot from the school construction process.

Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said the bill, which requires standards for school buildings and assessments of school structures as well as a plan to spend $400 million a year on projects, will help to remove politics from the process. The legislation also includes $10 million for school safety enhancements.

“The system has been broken,” he said, noting the condition of some Baltimore City schools. “Parents across the state are clamoring for better schools for their children.”

But Republicans said the new process is likely to create bigger problems.

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Comptroller Peter Franchot

“We’re taking away an important part of the transparency and accountability that we’ve come to rely on in this state,” said Sen. Justin D. Ready (R-Carroll), who voted against the measure.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for Hogan, said the governor will veto the bill. But the move would be symbolic; both chambers have passed the measure with a veto-proof majority.

“In what is surely one of the least transparent episodes in legislative history, 29 senators voted today to take away critical oversight and give authority over billions of taxpayer dollars in school construction funding over to an unelected, unaccountable group that includes lobbyists, partisan operatives and political cronies,” Chasse said.

The legislation sets up a commission, composed of appointees by the governor, Senate president and House speaker, to handle decisions involving school construction that are currently made by the Board of Public Works.

On Wednesday, at the start of the bimonthly BPW meeting, Hogan called the legislative action and the amendment, which was added onto a popular school construction bill, “simply outrageous.”

Franchot said it was “utterly shameful” that the legislature would “hijack” the bill to strip him and the rest of the panel of its authority. He said he was not apologetic for taking county and school officials, including those from Democratic-run jurisdictions, to task over the “inhumane conditions” of the schools and how they spend state taxpayer dollars.

“I’m not going to apologize for this board’s advocacy,” he said in a nearly 10-minute speech at the beginning of the meeting.

Sen. Michael J. Hough (R-Frederick) on Thursday read Franchot’s entire speech on the Senate floor.

Via Washington Post 

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Gov. Larry Hogan (R) called a “personal vendetta” against his ally, Comptroller Peter Franchot (D).

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Senate President Mike Miller

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Democrats did ‘duty’ in Md. redistricting. Now the Supreme Court will evaluate.

democrats-did-duty-in-md-redistricting-now-the-supreme-court-will-evaluate-1038x692.jpgBy Robert Barnes

Maryland Democratic leaders set out in 2011 to redraw the state’s congressional districts to boost the likelihood that the party’s 6-to-2 edge in the delegation became 7 to 1, the state’s Democratic former governor Martin O’Malley recalled last year. It was nothing personal.

“I came to really like and respect and in many ways admire” the Democrats’ unlucky target, Republican Roscoe G. Bartlett, who had represented Maryland’s 6th Congressional District since 1993, O’Malley said.

But business is business, and this business was politics.

Hundreds of thousands of voters were shifted, Republicans became a distinct minority in the 6th District, and Bartlett, who had been reelected in 2010 by a 28-percentage-point margin, lost to a Democrat in 2012 by 21 points.

“As the elected governor, I did my duty within the metes and bounds” of Maryland law that set up redistricting as a partisan exercise, O’Malley said last spring in a deposition. He added that if the reconfigured district “would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican, yes, this was clearly my intent.”

O’Malley’s frank admission is at the heart of what is becoming an unprecedented look at partisan gerrymandering by the Supreme Court. The justices on Wednesday will hear the challenge to Maryland’s Democratic decision-making, after last fall examining — but not yet deciding — a lawsuit on Republican efforts in Wisconsin.

The cases hold the prospect that the court is on the brink of a historic change in the way elections are conducted in the United States.

If O’Malley’s words sound like a confession, claiming partisan gerrymandering for years has actually been a defense. The justices regularly police state legislators who overly rely on voters’ race when drawing electoral districts, but the court has never thrown out a state’s map because it was drawn to help one political party over another.

Some justices have considered that a perk of power that the courts have no role in overseeing.

But the political landscape has changed, and the legal one might as well.

“There’s a revolution underway,” said Kathay Feng, national redistricting director for Common Cause.

Voters across the country are organizing to take redistricting power away from politicians and put it in the hands of nonpartisan decision-makers — although many states, including Maryland, don’t allow such changes without legislative approval.

The other option is litigation, and courts in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania have thrown out maps where the partisan line-drawing was judged extreme.

In Pennsylvania’s case, the state Supreme Court ordered a new map for this fall’s election that levels the playing field for congressional candidates. The old map drawn by the state’s Republicans provided such an edge that the party consistently won 13 of the state’s 18 districts, despite its reputation as a battleground state in national elections.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down pleas from Republican lawmakers to get involved, letting the new maps go into effect.

The justices’ decision to take the Maryland case, which raises different constitutional challenges than the one from Wisconsin, heartened those who are advocating for change.

“It’s clear that the Supreme Court wants to say something about partisan gerrymandering, and we don’t quite know what that is yet,” said Michael Li, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program. But he said that if the court had decided it had no role in policing partisan gerrymanders, as some states have suggested, the court did not need to take a second case to say that.

Maryland’s governor, Larry Hogan (R), took the unusual step of filing an amicus brief on behalf of the challengers and against his state. He has tried since his inauguration to persuade legislators to turn redistricting over to a nonpartisan commission. He said the judicial interest in the issue coincides with a new public awareness.

“Polling on this is off the charts,” Hogan said in an interview, adding, “Democrats, Republicans, independents — everyone thinks that citizens should be able to pick their representatives, rather than have it the other way around, where representatives get to pick their voters.”

Indeed O’Malley — who was adamant during the deposition that Maryland’s map met constitutional requirements for one person, one vote and respected the Voting Rights Act’s protection of racial minorities — said he thinks the system should be scrapped.

“Some states are starting to move to nonpartisan redistricting commissions, and I think that would be a positive and healthy and good thing for our nation,” he said.

Maryland’s case provides a bit of counterprogramming to the national image of partisan gerrymandering as a Republican sport.

The party simply has more chances to show its stuff: The 2010 election put Republicans in sole control of the redistricting in 21 states following the ­once-a-decade census.

They produced maps that critics said solidified GOP control of state legislatures, such as in Wisconsin, and produced congressional districts in battleground states such as North Carolina that meant Republicans captured 10 of 13 seats.

Maryland was an exception, one of 11 states after the 2010 election with Democrats in control of the legislature and governor’s mansion.

In such an arms race, there was pressure on Democrats to do what they could to alter the national picture, Democrats have said.

The obvious targets were Bartlett and Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican who represented the Eastern Shore. As O’Malley put it in his deposition, “the largest estuary in North America” — the Chesapeake Bay — made changes to Harris’s district unwieldy.

Easier was to put many of the Republicans in the old 6th District into the overwhelmingly Democratic 8th District. And to add Democrats from Montgomery County into the 6th.

When completed, the 6th District stretched from the state’s westernmost border across the panhandle before taking a sharp turn into Montgomery County, all the way down to about 10 miles from the White House. The 8th started in Takoma Park, on the border of the District of Columbia, and ran to the Pennsylvania border.

Both were won by Democrats.

Michael B. Kimberly, a Washington lawyer representing Republican voters, has tailored his challenge to appeal to Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, seen as the court’s pivotal member on the issue. Kennedy in the past has wondered whether partisan gerrymandering should be seen as retaliation against voters based on their political affiliations.

Kimberly’s brief offers just that: “What happened in Maryland’s Sixth District in 2011 — and what is sure to happen all over the nation in 2021 absent this court’s intervention — is a clear violation of the First Amendment, which forbids states from disfavoring citizens on the basis of their political views.”

Whether Maryland lawmakers set out only to make sure a Democrat was elected, instead of retaliating against voters who had elected Bartlett in the past, does not change the legal analysis, Kimberly said.

Brian E. Frosh, who as a Democratic state senator chaired the redistricting committee and now defends the state as attorney general, did not respond to an interview request.

In his brief to the court, he says the state’s action was a defensible way to deal with the state’s growth, much of which occurred in the areas at issue. It produced a district that is competitive, he said. Rep. John Delaney (D), who defeated Bartlett in 2012, almost lost to a different Republican challenger in 2014.

And Frosh said the challengers failed to provide the court with the thing that has vexed past judicial efforts to impose standards on partisan gerrymandering: a way to “determine when partisan considerations in the redistricting process have gone too far.”

“By dodging the problem, the plaintiffs’ proposed standard threatens to render any partisan motive fatal to redistricting — something that this court has already rejected,” the state’s brief said.

The case is Benisek v. Lamone.

Via Washington Post

Appellant’s Brief

Appellees Brief

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the state’s Democratic former governor Martin O’Malley recalled last year. Howver, there was retaliation by the administration which has thrown the Democratic party leadership into disarray.  

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PGCPS substitute teacher, coach pleads guilty to child porno charges

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Christopher Speights coached basketball at Bradbury Heights Elementary School, in Capitol Heights, for about nine years, as well as a traveling basketball team.

WASHINGTON — A former Prince George’s County, Maryland, substitute teacher and basketball coach has pleaded guilty to uploading and sharing child pornography online and will be sentenced to 30 to 40 years in prison.

Christopher Speights coached basketball at Bradbury Heights Elementary School, in Capitol Heights, for about nine years, as well as a traveling basketball team.

He had been charged with child sex abuse and possession and distribution of child pornography. He’ll be sentenced in July.

After he entered his guilty plea, prosecutors said the case involved up to 59 children, including some from Bradbury Heights. “Unfortunately, we cannot identify them all,” said Kelly Burrell, of the state Attorney General’s office.

Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said that, like most predators, Speights took advantage of opportunities to be around kids. “He availed himself of children everywhere that he could find them,” she said, “which is why he very likely made himself a substitute teacher in one of our schools for many years.”

Speights was arrested by Maryland State Police in April 2017 after they got a tip from the online storage company Dropbox that someone was storing child pornography on their site that involved children as young as 5 years old.

Asked in September of that year to estimate the number of victims, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said, “We can only say, at this point, dozens is an accurate way to say it.”

According to court records, Speight used fake identities online to coerce more than 20 minors to send him sexually explicit images of themselves, recorded himself sexually exploiting three boys during school and basketball team trips in Maryland, and secretly recorded two boys in a hotel bathroom during a trip to North Carolina.

He was also able to “reach out to many kids in the school system and in his coaching his teams, and he used those kids to photograph other kids,” Burrell said.

Speights pleaded guilty Tuesday to similar federal charges — two counts of production of child pornography and one count of production and attempted production of child pornography. His sentences in the two cases will run concurrently.

via wTOP

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‘I’ve Personally Sacrificed My Entire Career for This’

The debate around sexual-harassment legislation is playing out in the Maryland General Assembly, where reform advocates say leadership is loath to embrace changes.

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In Maryland, legislative sessions run 90 days, from January through early April. On the final day of each session—commonly referred to by the Latin term sine die—the capital city of Annapolis lets its hair down. There is dining and dancing and parties galore as aides, lawmakers, and lobbyists celebrate having survived the season.

A few years back, at one sine die soiree hosted by a legislator, a former Annapolis aide (who requested anonymity because she remains involved in Maryland politics) took to the dance floor. “I was dancing a little bit by myself,” she recalled. “All of a sudden I hear, ‘You’re packing a little bit more than I thought back here!’ I turn around, and this legislator is dancing right behind me. I was like, ‘Ooookay. This is a little weird. I know your wife and kids.’ So I tried to subtly move away.” The legislator followed, recalled the ex-aide. And then: “He got aroused.” The young woman made a swift escape, and, she informed me, “I have not spoken to that legislator one-on-one since.”

Stories of lawmakers behaving piggishly are common around Annapolis. Like far too many workplaces, the Maryland General Assembly has a long-standing harassment problem. Aides, interns, lobbyists, members—no one is exempt, although the young and inexperienced have an especially rough time. “It was really, really hard for me during my first terms. I cried quietly to myself a lot,” recalled Ariana Kelly, now in her eighth year in the house of delegates and the chair of the legislature’s women’s caucus. Starting out, Kelly endured not only gross comments but also wandering hands, including one male lawmaker’s grabbing her butt in front of two others. “I had worked in media and the nonprofit world,” Kelly told me, “but I had never worked in an environment that I felt was as hostile to women as the legislature I walked into. It was awful.”

Such close encounters tend to be shared in whispers among the women involved. The state House is a small, insular community, and there’s institutional pressure for any misbehavior to be dealt with in-house, discreetly, so as not to invite outside scrutiny. Lawmakers say violating omerta or otherwise “stepping out of line” can bring retribution in the form of bills derailed or plum assignments denied.

“If you’re not a team player, you’re off the team,” one legislator explained of the prevailing attitude. As applied to harassment, she said, “If you’re not culpable, if you’re not actively participating in the cover up, then you’re part of the problem.”

This dynamic has made life around Annapolis awkward of late, as the “Me Too” movement has infiltrated the state House. Women up and down the political food chain are agitating for reform with increasing ferocity, opening up fault lines in the legislature and leading to all sorts of awkwardness, pushback, and friction among colleagues—at times among the reformers themselves. Such conflict, in turn, has led even more women to speak out and has drawn even more attention to some of the less savory aspects of state House culture. This, reformers say, is precisely what’s needed to bring accountability to a stubbornly closed system unable to police itself.

Some of the credit for Annapolis’s reform push must go to Donald Trump. In November 2016, spurred in part by the outcry over Trump’s Access Hollywoodtapes, the women’s caucus formed a special working group to examine harassment in and around the capitol—interviewing victims, researching best practices in other states, and hammering out policy recommendations. Those involved say that the project began slowly, with few members and zero interest from top leadership. But, later, as Me Too caught fire, the issue became impossible to ignore.

Fast forward to this February, when the caucus issued its final report. Based on those recommendations, Kelly rolled out a reform bill that she hopes to get adopted before the session ends next month. One key measure sought: establishment of an independent entity to investigate harassment complaints. (Currently, complaints go through either leadership or the legislature’s HR office.)

But change is hard. And even some folks leading this charge are skeptical that reform legislation will pass any time soon. As they tell it, leadership is too invested in the current system, too accustomed to handling such matters itself (anti-harassment measures are typically set by the legislative policy committee, headed by leaders from both chambers), and loath to embrace changes that would loosen that control. “Everything is self-policing,” said Delegate Angela Angel, who went public with her harassment experiences this month. “Even for us to get this bill out, we have to convince people, some of whom, even if they aren’t necessarily directly perpetrators, have led to this system.”

Kelly, while upbeat about her proposal’s chances in the state House, acknowledged, “The senate president was not as encouraging about its prospects.”

Complicating matters, in January, as the women’s caucus was wrapping up its probe, leadership announced it was forming its own commission to study the problem, with findings to be reported at year’s end. Senior members say the move shows how seriously leadership is taking this problem. Some reformers, however, see it as a way to slow the reform train until after the November elections—perhaps until the Me Too moment fades altogether. “It’s painted like, ‘Oh, because we really care, we really want to address the issue,’” scoffed Angel. But if they seriously want to tackle the problem, she said, “why don’t they address the work already done [by the women’s caucus] as opposed to creating a whole new entity to dilute things?”

Many women around Annapolis speak of state House leadership with a mix of fear and resignation. Presiding officers and senior committee chairmen are portrayed as untouchable and unforgiving of any perceived challenge to their authority. (Multiple calls to the offices of state Senate President Mike Miller and state House Speaker Michael Busch were not returned.)

“When you get down here, one of the very first things you learn is the seniority system,” said Angel. Young legislators are taught that relationships—especially with powerful senior members—are the key to success.

Some new arrivals also receive discreet advice from more senior women on how to avoid awkward encounters with male legislators: don’t wear this, don’t accept drink invitations from this member, don’t be alone with that one. Others are left to figure things out on their own. But the burden is always on the woman to learn “how to navigate the system,” said Angel.

Kelly recalled that, when she would (gently) chide male colleagues for crude comments or behavior, they’d “get defensive” and accuse her of being the problem. “I heard a lot [of] folks say, ‘Delegate Kelly, you need to change the way you act, the way you communicate, the way you express yourself. Clearly you are bringing this behavior out in people.’ It was always about me and what was wrong with me that I allowed myself to be in a situation where I was harassed.”

For black women, said Angel, the equation is even trickier. “You are painted into this ‘angry’ corner. I’m like, ‘Oh, you said something completely out of pocket, yet when I respond, I’m overreacting.” She recalled witnessing a male lawmaker coming on to a female colleague. When the woman called him on it, the man treated her like she was misreading the situation. “He was like, ‘I wasn’t really hitting on you. I’ve got my own [love interest]. You’re taking it the wrong way!’”Until just the past couple of months, few women would speak about such experiences—or even about the broader need for reform—on the record. In December, Nina Smith, who has held various jobs in Maryland politics over the years, tried to get women in and around the state House to sign a letter to the head of the General Assembly’s HR Office saying that, despite anti-harassment measures put in place by leadership, more needed to be done. But Smith couldn’t find any women willing to sign, even among those who had shared their stories with her and urged her to draft it. “I was getting radio silence,” she said. The fear of reprisal was too strong. Eventually, said Smith, “I gave up.” (Two months later, Smith herself went public, telling the women’s caucus about having been harassed by a half-dozen lawmakers during her time in Annapolis.)

Reform advocates told me they expect to suffer professional fallout for speaking out. “It has been heartbreaking and horrible,” said one lawmaker. “I feel like I’ve personally sacrificed my entire career for this.”

Angel said she has a “bill wall” on which she keeps track of legislation she’s championing. “I’m literally looking at it and saying, ‘What is somebody going to kill as a result of me pushing on this?’” (Angel recounted past instances when, after crossing leadership on some issue, her amendments had mysteriously vanished or been delayed for no apparent reason.)Some of the pushback is less than subtle. Kelly said some male colleagues have been grumbling that, because of the fuss she and other women are making about harassment, the men no longer “feel comfortable” meeting with them or “building the relationships needed to move forward” on issues the women care about.

Then there was the incident with the open letter. The women’s caucus report included stories from anonymous harassment victims, one of whom characterized the legislature as a “frat house.” This juicy bit was picked up by the local media, greatly displeasing some senior members.

“I’m a 56-year-old grandmother. I’m not in a frat house,” said Delegate Kathy Szeliga, who serves as whip for the Republican minority. “I’m very serious about the business of the people. I don’t want my constituents and voters in our state thinking we’re in Annapolis for 90 days having a big party.”

Szeliga and other women in leadership decided to circulate an “open letter to the press” that decried the frat-house depiction as “unfair and inaccurate,” stressed the pro-women aspects of the legislature, and praised leadership’s ongoing efforts to combat harassment. Women in both chambers and both parties were urged to sign. Fifty-seven of the assembly’s 60 women put their names on the letter, which was covered by the Washington Post , ran verbatim on the paper’s website, and, at the behest of state Senate President Miller, was read aloud on the senate floor on February 28.

Some reform advocates felt the letter was a betrayal. “It was devastating,” said Delegate Mary Washington. Washington was one of the three women who’d declined to sign, for fear it would be used to undercut the cause. “In fact that was how it was used,” she told me. “It was read on the Senate floor and was used to say, ‘See, women in leadership believe [the situation] is okay.’”

Nina Smith was so upset that she and two other reformers fired off a statement of protest, which also wound up in the news. “We are disappointed to learn so many legislators had disregarded the stories of current and former staffers,” they wrote. “With this action, many of us have been forced to relive our traumatic experiences.”

Faced with such backlash, Kelly asked that her name be taken off the original letter from lawmakers. She said she’d signed it with the hope of smoothing relations between the “two factions” of women members. “I think most people read the letter and understood you have to find a balance all the time in the legislative process,” she told me. Still, all that anger coming at her “from victims we had been trying to work with and support was really hard,” said Kelly.

But the roiling controversy seems to have fired up reformers. On March 2, a state senator and a former lobbyist became the first Annapolis women to call out their alleged harassers by name. (This has launched its own media sideshow, complete with name-calling and security-camera footage.) Three days later, Angel and two other delegates shared their stories of harassment during the state House Rules Committee hearing on Kelly’s bill.

Meanwhile, Angel says she’s hearing from victims who saw the whole letter kerfuffle as a wake-up call. “They told me, ‘What that letter showed me is that I surely can’t depend on these women to fight for me, so I’m going to fight for me.’” As a legislator, said Angel, this breaks her heart. “But it made me proud that this gave these women the fire to tell their truth. Because the truth of the matter is that no one is going to fight for you like you will.”

At the very least, all the back and forth is keeping the issue in the public eye, which reformers say is vital to effecting real change, whether by legislative or other means.

“Public pressure still may not get you the bill,” said Angel. “But it may get us to a point where we have some really frank and honest conversations. And sometimes that’s progress.”

Via theatlantic.

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Flood Jay Walkers office and let’s tell him know that he needs to let the PG House Delegation vote on the bills! Phone: 301-858-3581 | Toll-free in MD: 1-800-492-7122 ext. 3581 send email to: jay.walker@house.state.md.us

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Flood Darryl Barnes’ office and let’s tell him know that he needs to let the PG House Delegation vote together with his friends! Phone: 410-841-3557 | 301-858-3557 | Toll-free in MD: 1-800-492-7122 ext. 3557 send email to: Darryl.Barnes@house.state.md.us

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Flood Delegate Dereck E. Davis office and let’s tell him know that he needs to let the PG House Delegation vote! He created HB1107 law to benefit himself, his wife and his close friends. He must be part of the solution.  Phone: 410-841-3519 | 301-858-3519 | Toll-free in MD: 1-800-492-7122 ext. 3519
Fax: 301-858-3558  send email to: dereck.davis@house.state.md.us

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MICHAEL ERIN BUSCH, Speaker of House of Delegates tell him that he needs to let the entire house vote together and change the culture of sexual harassment and cover up! Phone: (410) 841-3800, (301) 858-3800
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3800 (toll free)
e-mail: michael.busch@house.state.md.us
fax: (410) 841-3880, (301) 858-3880

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THOMAS V. MIKE MILLER, JR., President of Senate tell him that he needs to let the entire house vote together and change the culture of sexual harassment and cover up! Telephone (410) 841-3700, (301) 858-3700
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3700 (toll free)
e-mail: thomas.v.mike.miller@senate.state.md.us
fax: (410) 841-3910, (301) 858-39108808 Old Branch Ave., Clinton, MD 20735
(301) 868-6931; fax: (301) 856-4029

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Spring Break Cut Short for Prince George’s Co. Schools

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Public school students in Prince George’s County public schools (PGCPS), Maryland, will have just one day of spring break vacation due to the snow storm.

Spring break was set for Tuesday, April 3 through Friday, April 6, but school officials say students will now go back to class on Wednesday, April 4.

The county called off school on Wednesday for the snow and again on Thursday for dangerous real road conditions.

Prince George’s County Public Schools lost six days this school year for bad weather, including Jan. 4, 5 and 17 and March 2, 21 and 22. The school calendar only plans for five bad weather makeup days and the school year must end by June 15, the school system said in a statement.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has ordered public schools in the state to extend summer recess until after Labor Day beginning in 2017, setting off an immediate battle with school officials and Democratic legislative leaders.

Hogan (R), a moderate who has made boosting Maryland’s economy the centerpiece of his administration, said delaying the start of the school year would be good for businesses, families and the environment — because schools would not need to use air-conditioning for as many days in August.

His effort runs counter to the trend of starting school earlier in many parts of the country in an effort to bridge the racial and socioeconomic achievement gap, maximize opportunities to prepare students for standardized testing and limit the time that working families need to pay for child care.

“School after Labor Day is now the law of the land in Maryland,” Hogan said at a news conference Wednesday August 31st, 2016 in the beach resort town of Ocean City. He was flanked by Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) and Sen. James N. Mathias Jr. (D-Worcester), both longtime advocates for a later start date almost two years ago.

TAKE ACTION

On another note, call your elected officials to demand votes for change in governance in Annapolis. PGCPS system is currently going through a bad turbulence after Prince George’s County delegates engaged in bad politics in Annapolis to suppress due process. Delegate Jay Walker, Delegate Dereck E. Davis, Delegate Darryl Barnes and others are accused of  refusing to allow bills to receive a vote in Annapolis legislature. Votes which would have changed the county system to an elected Board and help fight the county corruption while improving governance. The current status quo benefits Delegate Dereck E. Davis the most as his wife is Deputy CEO of the county schools followed by Delegate Jay Walker and Delegate Darryl Barnes in that order due to quid pro quo involving the union corruption.

>>>Read more 

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Fired PGCPS guidance counselor believes he was made a scapegoat for grade-fixing scandal

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Troy Sibila, a former guidance counselor at DuVal High School in Lanham, was among five employees who lost their jobs after accusations they violated policies relating to grading and graduating students.

 – For the first time, one of the Prince George’s County Public Schools employees fired after the grade-fixing and graduation rate scandal is speaking out — saying he refuses to let the school district make him a scapegoat.

Troy Sibila, a former guidance counselor at DuVal High School in Lanham, was among five employees who lost their jobs after accusations they violated policies relating to grading and graduating students.

Three guidance counselors, the principal and assistant principal were the only employees to lose their jobs even though a state audit found widespread grade-changing and policy violations throughout the district’s high schools. The audit showed nearly a third of students surveyed didn’t have records on file to prove they earned a diploma.

Sibila is a graduate of Bowie High School who started as a long-term substitute at DuVal before becoming a guidance counselor.

“The best part is when I see a child who thinks they cannot graduate and we are there to assist them, to make sure they are college and career ready,” he said. “To have that mother or father and student give us the biggest hug during graduation.”

Sibila became a counselor in 2014, around the same time Dr. Kevin Maxwell became Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO. He said he was on board with Maxwell’s plan to boost the graduation rate, giving students every opportunity, and school leaders specific graduation rate goals. Last year, DuVal’s goal was over 95 percent. Sibila said the goals were extremely important and part of the evaluation process for counselors and administrative staff. The rates were also closely monitored by the central office staff, especially toward the end of the school year.

“We had to meet those goals,” he said. “It was per direct order from our central office team.”

Sibila’s termination letter said he went well beyond school policies to help students graduate. According to the letter, he is accused of “misconduct and willful neglect of duty” for making inappropriate grade changes and spearheading an unapproved program that let failing students pass by doing a worksheet packet.

Prince George’s County Public Schools did have an authorized program that let failing students pass by completing a worksheet packet, but it was only supposed to be for students who earned between 50 and 59 percent as a quarter grade. DuVal’s program let students below 49 percent earn as many points as they needed, according to the letter.

“This is this is something we have been doing since I have been there since 2014,” Sibila said.

He claims the central office staff who supervised the school knew exactly what they were doing.

Doris Reed, a union leader who represents the principal and assistant principal at DuVal who lost their jobs, also contends the program was in place the year prior and that the school’s instructional director and associate superintendent were “well aware” of it.

“The assistant principal, when I talked to her, she said, ‘Well, why would I think there was a problem with this program when the administration knew the year before we were using it?’” said Reed, executive director of the Association of Supervisory and Administrative School Personnel.

Reed said she does not understand why these specific employees were the only people to lose their careers over the graduation scandal.

The state audit shows Croom High School used similar methods to help students graduate by offering unsanctioned “recovery packets” at the end of the year. At Fairmont Heights High School, the audit states, “The school is not following the guidelines with regards to make up work and grade changes,” and goes on to cite inappropriate measures taken to boost students’ grades. At Largo High School, the audit discovered the guidance office was letting students donate a dollar to charity in exchange for one state-mandated learning service hour. There are countless other examples in the audit of policy violations and improper actions.

Despite that, a school district spokesman said DuVal was the only high school where “intentional” violations were found.

“If Dr. Maxwell places anyone else on administrative leave, then that is going to show it is a systemic issue,” Sibila said. “He’s not going to put anyone else on administrative leave, he’s not going to fire anyone else. He’s hoping that DuVal High School is going to be a scapegoat. And I’m here to fight for my professional counselors as well as my administration.”

“People get so furious that we are talking to press, like I’m talking to you today,” said Reed. “Where else are people going to go?  It has to be told. These things have to be exposed.”

When Sibila went back to DuVal to get his belongings, he got to see a few students. He said he never thought this is how he would say goodbye.

“I cried,” he said. “This really impacts my professional duties to my students, I feel like I let them down.”

He said he plans to fight for his job and appeal his firing to the Board of Education.

On FOX 5 Morning, we asked Dr. Maxwell about Sibila’s claim he is being scapegoated.

“I would just say to you, ‘Look, you and I, neither one of us have all of the interviews, all the due process work that was done to make those decisions,” Maxwell said. “But I respect the rule of law and if there’s an appeal that is overturned, there’s an appeal that is overturned. But people should do the right thing. We have been working very hard to make sure that everyone is trained in what the process and procedures are and we expect them to do the right thing. Not what they are told to do if it’s wrong.”

A school district spokesman said Prince George’s County Public Schools is not looking to fire other employees as a result of the audit findings. Dr. Maxwell has said that neither he nor anyone from his staff directed grade changing or any improper action.

Via Fox 5DCStill0315_00001_1521087307051_5105498_ver1.0_640_360

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PGCPS Teachers, Administrators, support staff and citizens – flood Jay Walkers, Darryl Barnes, Derick Davis Offices to demand Delegation votes!

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Flood Jay Walkers office and let’s tell him know that he needs to let the PG House Delegation vote! Phone: 301-858-3581 | Toll-free in MD: 1-800-492-7122 ext. 3581 send email to: jay.walker@house.state.md.us

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Flood Delegate Dereck E. Davis office and let’s tell him know that he needs to let the PG House Delegation vote! He created HB1107 law together with his friends to benefit him and his wife.   Phone: 410-841-3519 | 301-858-3519 | Toll-free in MD: 1-800-492-7122 ext. 3519
Fax: 301-858-3558  send email to: dereck.davis@house.state.md.us

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Flood Darryl Barnes’ office and let’s tell him know that he needs to let the PG House Delegation vote together with his friends! Phone: 410-841-3557 | 301-858-3557 | Toll-free in MD: 1-800-492-7122 ext. 3557 send email to: Darryl.Barnes@house.state.md.us

According to Senator Anthony Muse …… We have to get this bill out. This is wrong. That watered down bill is not what the people asked for it is what party bosses put together to say they did something. We need help for the people!!!!!!!

When it comes time to vote in June, we Democrats must vote for change! Don’t fall for these slick incumbent sample ballots being passed around.

It’s very sad most and if not all the incumbents received an endorsement from the PGCEA Teacher Union. Flood their offices and let them know that they need to let the PG House Delegation vote on the following bills;

  • *HB196 was the full repeal. HB186 & HB207 also relate to pieces of PGCPS Board of Ed governance.

Read more >>> The worst kept secret in PGCPS is at Laurel High School. 

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Major bribery in a form of breakfast at TGI Friday’s in Forestville, Maryland – Exposed.

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Major bribery in a form of breakfast at TGI Friday’s in Forestville, Maryland – Exposed.

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