Tag Archives: transparency

State lawmakers from Prince George’s seek broad probe of graduation rates

IMG_0158Members of the Prince George’s County’s legislative delegation joined the call Thursday for a state investigation into charges that county school officials doctored grades to increase promotion and graduation rates.

In a letter dated Thursday, the delegates called upon state Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon to examine the claims. The letter was signed by Dels. Jerry Walker and Geraldine Valentino-Smith, a Bowie resident and vice chairwoman of the delegation.

The claims were made by four members of the county school board, including David Murray and Raaheela Ahmed of Bowie.

“Given that the Maryland State Department of Education has oversight over public school districts in Maryland and the educational interests of the State, we respectfully request the resources of the Maryland State Department Education for purposes of an in-depth audit and further investigation of such serious allegations,” the delegates wrote.

The allegations of grade tampering came to light this week when county schools CEO Kevin Maxwell revealed that four school board sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, asking him to conduct an investigation into possible irregularities. He dismissed the claims as “politically motivated” and revealed that a similar probe conducted last fall turned up no evidence of grade-tampering. However, Dr. Maxwell has refused to sit down with reporters as such fox for on camera interview despite repeated requests.

At a jam-packed and often heated school board meeting Thursday night, during which the $1.9 billion school budget was passed, Maxwell repeated his defense of the school system.

“The false allegations about our graduation rates strike at everything that Prince George’s schools stand for – past, present and future,” Maxwell said. “These allegations denigrate why teachers teach and why principals lead. They are a personal attack on every teacher, counselor administrator and employee in this system.”

In their letter, the delegates said the state probe of anonymous allegations last fall did not go far enough because the school personnel interviewed in that investigation were selected by Maxwell.

“It has come to our attention that a high level of concern exists for those schools that experienced a significant change in graduation rate or that have a significant disparity between graduation rates and the performance of students on high school standardized tests,” delegates wrote. “We are also aware that the local change in grading policy may be causing both confusion and disagreement among teachers and parents and this issue could certainly be clarified through a careful MSDE review.”

County officials adopt slightly increased budget for FY 2018
The other nine school board members and a group of county high school principals released statements this week denying the charges and supporting Maxwell.

But Ahmed and Murray stood by their claims, saying Thursday they’d heard and seen enough evidence from system employees to indicate that something was amiss with the grading system. Hogan’s office has forwarded the letter to state education officials.

“There was enough information that I had received – testimony, having seen documents – that there convinced me there was reason for some of these things to be true,” Ahmed said. “I had reason to expect issues – widespread issues.”

Tracie Miller, principal of Gwynn Park High School, was joined by several other high school principals at the board meeting in Upper Marlboro as she spoke out in defense of her colleagues at the meeting.

“We, as high school principals, are extremely offended about the allegations and hurtful accusations that we pressure teachers to to give students grades in order to (increase) the graduation rate,” she said. Such claims, she added, “stain all of us.”

Many parents have come forward with information that their children grades appear suspicious after receiving an A in their report card. Other students who skipped school for many days got A’s and B’s as part of their grades in a shocking revelation to make the adminstration look good.

image

***

2nd Major Meeting Planned in PG County to Discuss corruption and other issues

030912-Senate-hopeful

Senator C. Anthony Muse
Democrat, District 26, Prince George’s County (See Below)

SECOND EDUCATION FORUM. Please join Senator Anthony Muse and other sponsors at our next Prince George’s Education forum. Hundreds turned out at the last meeting. However,we cannot just meet. Many issues were identified and we need the information on these issues so that we, as a community, can ACT. Numbers matter. Please be present and invite as many as you can. Meet us there please share this on you FB page.

***

Read more  and call your representatives>>> Let us demand investigations.

***

19059909_10209248659281488_7448346462193070993_n

image

***

Maryland House moves to curb suspensions, expulsions of young pupils

md_general_assemblyThe House of Delegates approved legislation Thursday that would significantly curb the practice of suspending or expelling the youngest public school students without first taking other steps to improve their behavior.

The measure now goes to the state Senate, where a committee approved a similar bill Thursday.

Delegates voted 91-48 for the House measure, which bars the suspension or expulsion of prekindergarten, kindergarten, first and second grades students except in narrow circumstances — such as bringing a gun to school.

Students could be suspended for up to nine days in the House version — five in the Senate’s — only if a mental health professional determines there is an “imminent threat of serious harm to other students or staff” that can’t be addressed another way.

The legislation directs that schools provide “intervention and support” for students who are suspended or expelled instead of merely sending them home.

Del. Brooke E. Lierman, the House sponsor, said she’s happy with the bill as amended.

“The bill still sends a strong message to the schools and the Maryland State Department of Education that the General Assembly does not think it is appropriate to suspend or expel our youngest learners,” the Baltimore Democrat said.

If the Maryland State Senate passes its bill as the committee amended it, the two chambers will have to resolve their differences before the bill becomes law.marylandmap2

***

Update on HB1565 – PGCPS Bill on Reform.

img_8982

Prince George’s House Delegation Education Committee hearing on HB1565 to address issues with the school board structure was held yesterday.

Reform Sasscer Movement for Prince George’s County verified with several delegates concerning the bill HB1565. There are amendments currently pending including by Delegate Howard, Delegate Jay Walker. A possible hearing is supposed to take place next week on Wednesday March 8th, 2017 at 9am. However, delegates are not sure if the date conflicts with other hearings. In any event, it will take a while to decide if the bill dies in the committee or not.

According to delegate Howard, all senators from Prince George’s County except Senator Muse are against bill HB1565. She indicated she was fighting for the bill to be debated and is supportive. We will share the latest once amendments become available.

Remember , we must fight to help  stop….” Prince George’s County Public Schools diverting money through illegal procurement practices and stop using the annual school budget to create black holes to hide money that is later diverted to pet projects, bonuses and salaries of employees for central office staff. When the CEO of Schools, his executive staff and appointed board members are allowed to break the law; cover up the abuse and sexual molestation of children; lose a $4 million grant; fire whistle blowers reporting waste using manufactured evidence; give bonuses and salary increases to executive staff while only giving teachers a 2% cost of living increase; attempt to fund school background checks in the FY18 budget at $600,000 when the FY17 expenditure is projected to be less than $80,000; and consistently have more than $30 million in unplanned spending for non school-based programs or services, it’s difficult to make a legitimate argument that $20 million split between 24 counties is going to hurt our systems bottom line”… ( Tonya Wingfield via facebook)

princegeorges1

***

Update:HB1107 Hearing in Annapolis Maryland postponed.

14925273_10209778694056391_220817217610615058_n

Update: The hearing concerning bill PG -402-17 which was to be held on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 8:30am, room 218 Lowe House Office Building has been postponed. Please check these links for the future hearing and dates.

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=cmtepage&stab=03&id=hru&tab=subject3&ys=2017RS

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?pid=billpage&stab=01&id=hb1565&tab=subject3&ys=2017RS

School Board and CEO
If you are interested in testifying in support of PG-402-17, to return to an all elected school board.

We received this information late. You might want to call your elected officials concerning this bill.

See bill text at https://www.princegeorgeshousedelegation.com/legislation/bill-history?local=PG%20402-17

Read more >>> Kevin Maxwell, PGCPS CEO, gets four more years in Suspicious Circumstances
image
***

Hogan warns that a ‘culture of corruption’ could be taking root in Annapolis

Larry Hogan

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan poses with a bill during a bill signing ceremony in Annapolis during the last legislative session. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) declared Thursday that the State House was at risk of succumbing to a “culture of corruption” and proposed a package of bills he said would help weed out unethical behavior and improve public trust.

Hogan’s Integrity in Government Initiative comes in the wake of recent scandals in Annapolis, including the guilty plea of a former state lawmaker who admitted to accepting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for official favors and the indictment of a Baltimore Democrat, who had been nominated for a General Assembly seat, on charges of violating campaign finance laws.

The guilty plea, entered by former delegate William A. Campos (D-Prince George’s), was a result of an ongoing bribery probe centered on liquor sales in Prince George’s County. Federal prosecutors say additional elected officials in Annapolis have been implicated.

“We cannot allow the unethical behavior of the few to tarnish the goodwill of the many in our state capital,” Hogan said during a news conference in front of the State House. “Marylanders are now asking how many more public officials have to be indicted before we are finally going to take the actions necessary to clean up this mess.”

Hogan offered few specifics about the legislation he would propose. But he said he wanted to make it harder for lawmakers to influence bills affecting industries in which they have a financial interest and also wanted legislators accused of ethics violations to be investigated by the State Ethics Commission, rather than the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.

 Sen. James E. “Ed” DeGrange III (D-Anne Arundel), who co-chairs that committee, pushed back against Hogan’s characterization of the state capital and defended his panel, saying the lawmakers do hold their colleagues accountable.

In recent years, the committee recommended reprimanding a delegate for pushing a law that would have helped him regain his real estate license and stripping Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s) of committee assignments for failing to disclose his work consulting for a grocery chain. In 1998, the committee recommended the expulsion of a senator accused of misusing his office for private gain.

 “I’m baffled why he would think that legislators can’t do their job as they’ve done many times before,” DeGrange said.

“To say there’s a culture of corruption in Annapolis is just beyond me,” he said. “It’s no different than any other profession, if you will. You’ll have a percentage, which is a very small percentage, that don’t do things right, and those things are addressed as they come up.”

But with the federal bribery investigation still underway and speculation rampant in the capital about who else may be involved, Hogan’s proposals seemed likely to gain traction.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) released statements saying they looked forward to working with the governor on ethics reform, which Miller said would be a “major topic in the 2017 legislative session.”

Miller and Busch declined to answer questions about the governor’s proposals on Thursday, saying they had not seen the legislation.

 Hogan said he wants to overhaul how liquor board commissioners are chosen in Maryland, which he called one of the “last vestiges of the patronage system.” The federal probe includes bribery charges against then-Prince George’s liquor board commissioner Anuj Sud and commission executive director David Son.

Under current rules, local party central committees, along with local senators, recommend liquor board members to the governor, who appoints the boards. Hogan proposed removing the party committees from the process and requiring nominees to undergo criminal background checks.

Hogan also said he had allocated $1.2 million in the state budget to allow all General Assembly meetings to be live-streamed. Maryland is one of only seven states not to provide that service already, he said.

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, the executive director of Common Cause, applauded the move, noting that her group long has pushed to have legislative meetings publicly broadcast. “There is a possibility that we will see a dozen bills that Common Cause has worked on for five or 10 years presented with a bow on it, and that is incredibly exciting,” she said.

 But Bevan-Dangel also said she was eager to see more details of the legislation. “It is a little ironic that a press conference on transparency did not have transparency, including details on the legislation,” she said.

Hogan’s ethics reform proposals appear aimed in part at addressing a controversy surrounding the legislature’s foremost champion of medical marijuana, who continued pushing for bills related to the industry after being hired as a consultant to a medical marijuana business.

State ethics laws generally allow lawmakers to vote on bills that broadly affect the industry in which they work, and Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) has maintained he did nothing wrong because none of his legislative actions was specific to the dispensary in which he was involved.

Corruption is in full swing in the Maryland Judiciary!

pic

The Maryland Court of Special Appeals in Annapolis.

The latest graft disclosures in the Maryland Judiciary, in which documents filed with the court disappear and judges ignored overwhelming misconduct of attorneys involved in cases, underscores just how complicated the war on corruption in Maryland and elsewhere has become. We have heard that a person can buy their case in most Maryland courts if they have the money, or the connections.

This unfortunate incident is a painful reminder of a reality that points to a general collapse in the war on corruption in the state of Maryland and in Prince George’s County in particular. Other counties such as Montgomery County are the epicenter of the misconduct alleged here with connection to other counties.

The war on graft in the Judiciary is not isolated from the national war on corruption that is currently in progress in Maryland and throughout the country. We must continue to request help and work closely with the U.S State attorneys and other leaders committed to reforms in various parts of the country.

For effective war on corruption to be waged, we need all the three arms of government working in sync: This is because, for effective delivery of service, these arms of the state must interact.

For example, if the Executive decided to fight corruption to the exclusion of either the Judiciary or Legislature, the likelihood is that the other two will sabotage such an endeavor. We have seen this first hand after several Maryland delegates in Prince George’s County joined forces to ruin our careers in conspiracy with others.

Much as the Judiciary is an independent arm of government, judicial officers do not have the individual independence to immunize themselves from corruption.

Corruption erodes the independence of our courts. Most judicial officers do not want an independent Judiciary because it reins in their desire to be corrupt.

A wholesome effort is necessary, but the challenge comes once it is clear that society worships the beneficiaries of corrupt dealings. Rather than become an expensive, nauseating enterprise, more people are being attracted to this enterprise because it provides one with the ‘sweet’ opportunity of scaling the economic ladder.

In Prince George’s County, the U.S Attorney office tried to wage this complex war during the tenure of former County Executive Jack Johnson, but from the look of things the County, the Judiciary and personnel connected to the executives are back to being its former true self.

These latest disclosures concerning Federal bribery charges filed over Prince George’s County liquor licenses suggest that corruption is still in full swing in Prince George’s County and in the state of Maryland. Further investigations will review that, the same arm of government that is supposed to fight corruption without any reservations might be heavily involved in some circles. As citizens, we must request for anyone involved to resign their seats.

The tragedy in all this is that, as bad as these events are, the local state Judiciary has not shown a single person with the fire in the belly who can lead the war on corruption and so effectively.

What is needed is a person who can cultivate respect among peers and instill fear in errant judicial and state officers throughout Maryland and set an example for others to follow.

We need new judicial leaders in Maryland who can make cartels and officers engaged in professional misconduct and fraud throughout howl with pain. On these issues, we have been actively trying to get the attention of the Baltimore Sun, the Washington Post, WUSA 9, NBC4 etc for some of these issues, but have been told by many that the politics behind newspapers has stopped some good local stories from being reported there first. So perhaps they will jump on the bandwagon once another one writes first?

All eyes are on Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr in the next few months concerning these issues if the highest courts in Maryland fail to act. As stated in the New Year message, a clean, competent, caring, accountable, inclusive and honest local government is what we must expect. If you missed it, read our new year message here.

Dr. Martin Luther King challenged our nation many years ago to live out that sacred truth: to banish the evils of bigotry, segregation and oppression from the institutions of society and the hearts of men.  He was indeed a champion of great principles, laboring mightily and in the end sacrificing his life to advance the cause of equal rights for all. At the level of first principles—in his commitments to natural rights, democratic government, and the irrelevance of race to moral personhood and just social deserts—King’s political thought might properly claim a consensus among virtually all American citizens.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

MarylandMap2

***