Vote against longer term limits, fewer papers of record in Prince George’s.

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Early Voting began on Thursday October 23, 2014. This midterm election is most important because you will have a chance to elect people who will represent you on local levels.

Above all and especially Questions H and J are disservice to Prince Georgians.  Please vote against Question H and J. In addition, elect Board of Education members who can ask tough questions to Rushern Baker administration and not sycophants as a result of on going corruption and misconduct involving county leadership.

Questions H and J  are couched in a group of Prince George’s County ballot questions that could be easily approved but are two pretty significant requests that must be soundly rejected: permission to extend term limits and to be able to reduce the number of newspapers of record, publications authorized to carry public and legal notices.

The Reform Sasscer Movement and other news outlets have long been opposed to term limits; we believe voters should decide when an elected official leaves office, and it’s a disservice when a strong leader must leave because of such rules.

However, Question J seeks merely to make term limits slightly longer, extending county executive and council terms from two to three — and smacks of a gradual attempt to remove term limits. Please reject Question J and spread the word. 

The county should either keep or remove the limits, not add a few years based on what leaders think voters will let them get away with. For this reason, We  oppose Question J.

Another less-talked-about referendum is Question H, a request that the county only be required to have at least one newspaper of record. Instead of the current rule of having at least three papers of record, the county would also use county-maintained electronic media for such items.

While this may seem minor, it’s actually a big deal. Legal information needs to be easily accessible by the community and, unfortunately, computers are not yet readily available to all residents. One only needs to look at the struggle libraries have encountered as job-seekers compete with students for free computer time.

In addition, the Prince George’s government is still working to regain residents’ trust, so it’s important to have independent carriers for legal and public notices rather than relying on the government.

The county’s disturbing request also would complicate access to information such as foreclosures, a major problem in Prince George’s County.

In the interest of full disclosure,  we recognize that computer access is growing daily. However, until that time becomes a reality — and until the county government website becomes an easy and reliable place for legal information and notices — the government owes it to county residents to make the information as widely available as possible.

For these reasons, Prince George’s voters should vote against questions H and J.

However, the other ballot questions should get approved with no problem.

Questions A through E

The first five questions ask voters whether the county can borrow money and issue bonds for construction and repair of public safety, library, community college, county, and public works and transportation facilities. The price tag is high at $727.3 million, but the work must be done.

Question F

County officials want the flexibility to be able to issue bonds in serial form or term form (they differ based on maturation dates). Put in layman’s terms, officials want to be able to use the bond that would best fit their financing strategy. It makes sense.

Question G

Currently, if the county executive leaves office less than two years before the end of the term, the County Council is required to vote one of its own as a replacement or the council chair fills in as county executive until the next election. Question G would let the chief administrative officer serve as acting county executive until action is taken. The alternative would be to leave the post empty until the council makes a decision, which doesn’t make sense, so we support Question G.

Question I

Although disability and sexual orientation are protected categories under state law, the county charter doesn’t include them in the list of prohibited forms of discrimination for county employees. Question I simply adds them to the list, as it should.

Statewide ballot questions

Question 1 involves the Transportation Trust Fund, a pot of money Maryland collects that includes revenue from the gas tax and vehicle registration fees. The fund was created to pay for transportation projects, but over the years, lawmakers have distributed the money to other programs to balance the Maryland budget.

The question would require the fund be spent on road and transit projects. The money could be transferred into other accounts if the governor declares a fiscal emergency and the General Assembly approves legislation authorizing the transfer with a three-fifths majority. We think these are significantly high hurdles and transfers will be rare, which means the money will be used for the purpose intended.

Statewide Question 2 authorizes charter counties to hold special elections whenever a county executive cannot finish a term and there’s a vacancy in the office.

Currently, if a Prince George’s County executive has less than two years left in the term and leaves office, the position can be filled only by an appointment from the County Council.

Choosing “yes” for Question 2 will be a step forward, giving voters a greater say in their county governments in those rare instances when a county executive resigns or dies in office.

Please vote! Nobody’s vote is more important than yours unless you don’t show up. Then everybody’s vote is more important than yours.

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Prince George's County

Prince George’s County

Early Voting Centers

2014 GUBERNATORIAL GENERAL ELECTION
Early Voting Wait Times

Early Voting is October 23, 2014 through October 30, 2014
Daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

EV-01 Upper Marlboro Community Center
5400 Marlboro Race Track Road
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772

EV-02  College Park Community Center
5051 Pierce Avenue
College Park, MD 20740

EV-03  Bowie Community Center
3209 Stonybrook Drive
Bowie, MD 20715

EV-04  Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Center
8001 Sheriff Road
Landover, MD 20785

EV-05  Southern Regional Technology and Recreation Complex
7007 Bock Road
Fort Washington, MD 20744

EV-06  Laurel – Beltsville Senior Activity Center
7120 Contee Road
Laurel, MD 20707

EV-07  Baden Community Center
13601 Baden-Westwood Road
Brandywine, MD 20613

EV-08 Suitland Community Park School Center
5600 Regency Lane
Forestville, MD 20747

 Directions to Early Voting Centers

For more information, contact the Prince George’s County Board of Elections at (301)341-7300.

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Average Prince George’s SAT score declines.

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The average SAT score for the Class of 2014 in Prince George’s County was 1197, down 10 points from the year before, according to figures released by county school system officials.

This year’s students in Prince George’s County also fared worse on the SAT test than students nationally, who scored an average of 1497 on the college admission test that has a perfect score of 2400 for critical reading, math and writing.

The county’s scores continue to slide, dropping 77 points in the last two years.

Deputy Schools Superintendent Shawn Joseph said school system officials are trying to determine what factors are causing the decline.

“We’re still investigating the reasons why students performed the way they did this year,” Joseph said. “Our goal is to make sure our students do well on this or any other exam.”

Prince George’s students scored an average of 409 on the test’s critical reading portion, 393 on math and 395 on writing.

In Maryland, the average overall score fell to 1468, a drop of 15 points. Despite the slide, state officials said they were pleased by greater participation in the exam.

The scores for nearly all racial groups in Prince George’s went down this year with white students and Hispanic students seeing the greatest drop — 37 points and 22 points, respectively. American Indians, who were less than 1 percent of all test takers, were the only group that showed gains. They scored an average of 1076, which was 31 points higher than the year before. >>> Read more Washington Post 

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OPINION

As we have stated before, real improvements in a school systems take time and hard work. Miraculous sudden improvements as shown during the previous regime led by Ms. Verjeana Jacobs in student achievement was likely the result of outright fraud or a rigged evaluation system designed to produce desired results.

Successful schools share characteristics such as strong instructional leadership, a clear and focused mission, high expectations for students, a climate conducive to learning, opportunities to learn, regular monitoring of students and classrooms, and positive home-school relations (Levine and Lezotte, 1990). New research also ties collegiality and collaboration to positive school outcomes. Ongoing research into school culture, change, and improvement is finding that success is more likely when teachers are collegial and work collaboratively on improvement activities (Levine and Lezotte, 1990; Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991). When teachers and administrators work together, the level of commitment, energy, and motivation is likely to be higher and change efforts are more easily implemented. Obviously these elements are missing in many schools in Prince George’s County public schools (PGCPS).

Schools with professional collaboration exhibit relationships and behaviors that support quality work and effective instruction, including the following:

  • More complex problem-solving and extensive sharing of craft knowledge
  • Stronger professional networks to share information
  • Greater risk-taking and experimentation (because colleagues offer support and feedback)
  • A richer technical language shared by educators in the school that can transmit professional knowledge quickly
  • Increased job satisfaction and identification with the school
  • More continuous and comprehensive attempts to improve the school, when combined with school-level improvement efforts (see Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991, for an excellent review)

These schools feature helpful, trusting, and open staff relationships (Nias, Southworth, and Yeomans, 1989, in Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991). They also may have “a commitment to valuing people as individuals” and valuing the groups to which individuals belong (Nias, Southworth, and Yeomans, 1989 in Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991). “Within these schools the individual and the group are inherently and simultaneously valued.” (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991, p.49, emphasis in original)

These settings also foster practices that support success, such as the following:

  • Failure, mistakes, and uncertainty in work are not “protected and defended” but are openly shared, discussed, and examined in order to provide support and help.
  • “Broad agreement on educational values” exists, but colleagues accept the natural disagreements that foster new dialogue (Nias, Southworth, and Yeomans, 1989, in Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991).
  • These schools are “places of hard work, of strong and common commitment, dedication, of collective responsibility, and of a special sense of pride in the institution” (Nias, Southworth, and Yeomans, 1989, in Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991, p. 48).
  • Disagreements are openly voiced more frequently and more strongly as purpose and practice are discussed (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1989, p.49).
  • The teacher receives respect and consideration as a person (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991).
  • Collaborative schools have more satisfying and more productive work environments (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991).
  • Students show improved achievement (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991).

In these schools, teachers and others lead and work together:

  • “In collaborative cultures, teachers develop the collective confidence to respond to changes critically, selecting and adapting those elements that will aid improvement in their own work context, and rejecting those that will not.” (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991, p.49)
  • Interdependence is valued and fostered (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991)
  • Leadership is dispersed; many teachers are leaders and the principal supports and nurtures teacher leaders (Fullan and Hargreaves, 1991).

Collaboration is not simply a group of congenial, happy teachers. As Fullan and Hargreaves point out (1991), “contentment should not be mistaken for excellence” (p. 47). In collaborative schools, the natural give-and-take of professionals means that conflict, disagreement, and discord will sometimes occur. But, these situations can be worked out for the good of students.

Thus, collaborative schools may be a way to build a professional capacity for change, improvement, and success even in the most difficult urban school District like PGCPS.

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Scholars: What Matters Most for Successful Teaching is Collaboration, Not Competition.

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This is an important article in the Shanker Blog by two scholars at the University of Pittsburgh. They are Carrie R. Leana, George H. Love Professor of Organizations and Management, Professor of Business Administration, Medicine, and Public and International Affairs, and Director of the Center for Health and Care Work, at the University of Pittsburgh, and Frits K. Pil, Professor of Business Administration at the Katz Graduate School of Business and research scientist at the Learning Research and Development Center, at the University of Pittsburgh.

Leanna and Pil write:

“Most current models of school reform focus on teacher accountability for student performance measured via standardized tests, “improved” curricula, and what economists label “human capital” – e.g., factors such as teacher experience, subject knowledge and pedagogical skills. But our research over many years in several large school districts suggests that if students are to show real and sustained learning, schools must also foster what sociologists label “social capital” – the value embedded in relations among teachers, and between teachers and school administrators. Social capital is the glue that holds a school together. It complements teacher skill, it enhances teachers’ individual classroom efforts, and it enables collective commitment to bring about school-wide change.

“We are professors at a leading Business School who have conducted research in a broad array of settings, ranging from steel mills and auto plants to insurance offices, banks, and even nursing homes. We examine how formal and informal work practices enhance organizational learning and performance. What we have found over and over again is that, regardless of context, organizational success rarely stems from the latest technology or a few exemplary individuals.

“Rather, it is derived from: systematic practices aimed at enhancing trust among employees; information sharing and openness about both problems and opportunities for improvement; and a collective sense of purpose. Over a decade ago, we were asked by a colleague in the School of Education about how our research might be applied to improving public schools. Since then, we’ve spent a good deal of time trying to answer that question through several large-scale research studies.

“One thing we noticed immediately in our work with schools was the intense focus on the individual educator. This is prevalent not just among school reformers but in the larger culture as well, as evidenced in popular movies ranging from “To Sir with Love” in the 1960s to “Waiting for Superman” nearly fifty years later. And every self-respecting school district has a version of the “Teacher of the Year” award, which has now risen to state and even national levels of competition. In recent years, however, we have also witnessed a darker side to accountability, as districts around the country publicly shame teachers who do not fare well on the accountability scorecards.

“Accountability models find their roots in the discipline of economics rather than education, and are exemplified in the value-added metrics used to evaluate teacher performance. These metrics assess annual increments in each student’s learning derived from standardized tests in subject areas like math and reading. These are then aggregated to arrive at a score for each teacher – her “value added” to students’ learning. Anyone with access to the internet can find teacher rankings based on these scores in many districts across the country.

“Needless to say, many teachers, and the unions that represent them, argue that value-added measures of student performance fail to capture the complex factors that go into teaching and learning. At the same time, reliance on such metrics may undermine the collaboration, trust, and information exchange that make up social capital and, in this regard, do far more harm than good.”

They go on to explain why current “reforms” actually are counter to the coloration and trust that are most needed and most successful.

They add:

“What do these findings tell us about effective education policy? Foremost, they suggest that the current focus on teacher human capital – and the paper credentials and accountability metrics often associated with it – will not yield the qualified teaching staff so desperately needed in urban districts. Instead, policy makers must also invest in efforts that enhance collaboration and information sharing among teachers. In many schools, such social capital is assumed to be an unaffordable luxury or, worse, a sign of teacher weakness or inefficiency. Yet our research suggests that when teachers talk to and substantively engage their peers regarding the complex task of instructing students — what works and what doesn’t — student achievement rises significantly.

“Building social capital in schools is not easy or costless. It requires time and, typically, the infusion of additional teaching staff into the school. It requires a reorientation away from a “Teacher of the Year” model and toward a system that rewards mentoring and collaboration among teachers. It also asks school principals and district administrators to spend less time monitoring teachers and more time encouraging a climate of trust and information sharing among them. The benefits of social capital are unequivocal, and unlike many other policy efforts, initiatives that foster it offer far more promise in terms of measurable gains for students.”

They conclude by asking you to give them feedback. Their email addresses are on the Shanker Blog. Contact them and let them know what you think. Here is their survey. Take a moment and respond.>> courtesy  Dianeravitch

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Hotel Rwanda – Million Voices.

This film is based on true events that took place during the genocidal violence that erupted in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi groups in 1994. At that time, the Hutu military and Interahamwe militias killed roughly 800,000 Tutsis over approximately 100 days. In the face of these unspeakable actions, inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summons extraordinary courage to save the lives of over a thousand.

>>> Read more The Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation was founded by Paul Rusesabagina, the real life hero of the acclaimed film Hotel Rwanda.

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Substitute teacher at D.C. Options charter school charged..

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Donna Montgomery, chief executive officer at Options Public Charter School who mismanaged school funds , arrives at the school in this May 2013 photo. (Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post)

A 22-year-old substitute teacher at a D.C. charter school for at-risk youth was arrested Tuesday and charged with having oral sex with a student football player behind her classroom desk, according to police and court documents.

The 17-year-old 11th grader at Options Public Charter School secretly recorded part of the encounter Friday afternoon, which police said happened at the end of an English class in Room 266 while other students and faculty members were at a pep rally to cheer on the Options Panthers’ as they prepared for a game against Perry Street Prep. Police said the student showed the video to five of his football teammates and a childhood friend.

The student and teacher then texted each other throughout the weekend, and the teacher sent him a clothed picture of herself while urging the student to “chill” because she could get in trouble for the relationship, police said.

Symone Greene, of Fort Washington, is charged with first-degree sexual abuse of a minor, a felony. A Superior Court judge ruled that Greene could be released until a preliminary hearing Nov. 18, but put her on a high-intensity supervision program, meaning she must wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

Court documents say that after police called to question Greene about the classroom encounter, she texted the victim’s phone and urged him to tell authorities that she “only helped him with his resume and nothing else happened while they were in the classroom together.” >>> Read more Washington Post  >>> Read more Fox 5 DC.

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Symone Greene, of Fort Washington in the Prince George’s County District is pictured above leaving Washington DC Superior Court. – Courtesy Fox 5 

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Symone Greene, of Fort Washington in the Prince George’s County District is pictured above leaving Washington DC Superior Court. – Courtesy Fox 5 

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Possible violence at Fright Fest Expected at PGCPS District.

…Retaliation from last incident at Six Flags prompt principal to send warning for this weekend.

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Principal Nate Newman principal of Suitland High School broke the bad news.

A high school principal in Prince George’s County is urging parents not to send their children to Six Flags America this weekend because of the threat of violence at Fright Fest.

“Don’t allow your children to go to Six Flags this weekend,” Nate Newman, principal of Suitland High School, said to parents in a text message. “Big gang fight planned. Retaliation from last incident.”

Last month, fights broke out inside the park and outside the gate during the opening night of the park’s Halloween-themed event, known as Fright Fest. At least three teens were injured, including a 15-year-old DuVal High School student who was placed in a medically induced coma after being punched outside the park. Witnesses described the scene as “chaos” and “mayhem” as frantic parents searched for their children.

Havilah Ross, a spokeswoman for Six Flags America, said in a statement that the park has stepped up safety and security measures, including increased surveillance throughout the park, in the parking lots and at a dedicated area for picking up and dropping off guests.

Prince George’s school officials said they were unaware of Newman’s message to the Suitland High community until Wednesday and would not send a similar message to the broader school community. Max Pugh, a school system spokesman, said Newman sent the message after hearing “chatter at the school.” >>> Read more Washington Post

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I Look to You.

Whitney Houston

I Look to You is the sixth and final studio album by former American recording artist Whitney Houston. It was first released on August 28, 2009 through Sony Music in Europe, then August 31, 2009 with Arista Records in the United States. The album was Houston’s final studio album before her death on February 11, 2012.