Monthly Archives: July 2018

Mercedes Schneider: The Betrayal of John McDonough High School in New Orleans

img_1170-e1530991507504

McDonogh High School Building, July 06, 2018

The historic John McDonough High School was one of the few schools in New Orleans that experienced only minor damage during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It should have reopened but it didn’t.

It needed repairs but the state-run district neglected the school. When John White was briefly in charge of New Orleans, he promised a major renovation. He promised to give the school to Steve Barr of Los Angeles, charter entrepreneur.

Thirteen years later, renovations have begun.

Mercedes Schneider tells the sorry story of delay and neglect here.

Don’t believe stories of the efficient new administration in New Orleans. They are Not true.

John-Mc-protest-11-14.jpg

129

***

0001146-flagge-usa

***

Maryland Governor Hogan stresses need for Greater accountability – Calls for CEO Kevin Maxwell removal.

Still0222_00005_1519344293120_4992798_ver1.0_640_360

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

On a Facebook post, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has decried high level corruption within Prince George’s County Public schools. He called for greater accountability in Prince George’s County schools and all school systems across the state. 

He writes:

For months now, I – along with the Prince George’s County NAACP, the teachers union, numerous local officials, and parents – have called on Prince George’s County Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell to be removed from his position. Under his leadership, thousands of students were cheated out of the education they deserve in a grade-fixing scandal that is still being investigated by the State Board of Education. It’s time for greater accountability in Prince George’s County schools and all school systems across the state – and that should start at the top.

When the adults in charge of local education systems aren’t held accountable, our children lose. We must put systems in place so that corruption is not allowed to spread in any of our schools – that is why I proposed legislation this year to create an Investigator General to root out wrongdoing in our school systems.

I will continue fighting to make our school leadership more transparent and accountable to ensure our kids get the world-class education they deserve.

Read more >>> Poor governance and Corruption are bedmates – Skimming and mismanagement of public funds must end.

36780845_10216175603727291_2360931483817869312_n.jpg

Prince George’s County Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell is under pressure to quit due to systematic major public corruption in the county school system. 

 

unnamed

***

Poor governance and Corruption are bedmates – Skimming and mismanagement of public funds must end.

There has been Outcry as Waste and Fraud dominate move to the New county Headquarters at Largo.

“Fraud, waste, and abuse.” A simple Google search returns about 35 million mentions of this term. It’s not surprising. For decades, our political leaders have promised to cut fraud, waste, and abuse from government spending, but somehow the problems persist, draining billions—some estimates would say trillions —of taxpayer dollars.

Fraud, waste, and abuse in government spending drain billions of taxpayer dollars. Prince George’s County in Maryland is not a different place. Now, new tools and techniques such as predictive analytics, behavioral economics, and collective intelligence offer agencies innovative ways to address the problem.

If you are one of the more than 800,000 Americans estimated to hire a professional moving company this year, it is important that you understand the process, and know how to spot the “red flags” of moving fraud.

Moving fraud can be financially and emotionally draining. More than 4,100 moving fraud complaints were filed in 2017 in the U.S. Department of Transportation according to the information recorded on it’s websites.

Locally, Prince George’s County new Headquarters was supposed to be completed last year in December 2017. However, due to fraudulent activities including deliberate delays of permits to the contractors according to the information received by this writer, the move has been delayed on purpose. Rushern Baker III administration has engaged in many questionable activities to benefit unjustly. A few months ago we made inquiries and at that time more than $500,000 had been used on cosmetic expenses at the expense of the county citizenry.

The question everyone should be asking… is how much estimate did the developers who have sponsored the administration benefit from all these deliberate delays?? Many developers or companies have been known to give in a low estimate for the price of the move and later sky rocket the prices. How much is the final bill going to be at your expense?

CORRUPTION

Corruption seriously harms the economy and society as a whole. Many countries around the world suffer from deep-rooted corruption that hampers economic development, undermines democracy, and damages social justice and the rule of law. Prince George’s County which is part of the State of Maryland in the United States is not immune to this reality. Corruption varies in nature and extent from one country to another, but it affects all counties in Maryland and Member States of the United States of America. It impinges on good governance, sound management of public money, and competitive markets. In many cases, it undermines the trust of citizens in democratic institutions and processes, as seen here in Prince George’s County.

Amid the talk of draining swamps, restoring political might to blue-collar America and turning off the spigot of taxpayer cash that showers Washington DC and Prince George’s County a suburb of the capital city, a familiar battle cry is ricocheting through this county: Reject the developer money and drain the swamp.

There is all this unused office space opening up in Upper Marlboro outside the main court house where the County Headquarters has been for many years. That Upper Marlboro town, unlike downtown Largo, desperately needs the economic surge such an agency would bring. Why are we spending millions of dollars on the new headquarters in Largo after an African mayor was elected in Upper Marlboro? What will happen to the extra revenue in Largo town, which is a town without a mayor?  Millions of tax payer cash should not be used to benefit few individuals. We must question every thing this administration has done and continues to do including mailing almost a million  fraudulent ballots. The  “Official Democratic sample ballots” were mailed at the last minute before June 26th of this year in order to win primary democratic election fueled by developer money. Most of the officials in that sample ballot won unjustly. This bizarre behavior should not be allowed to continue, not in our watch!

>>>Sign the Petition here  and here<<

31646842_1612021695580788_9097587863687528448_n

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

***

The Prince George’s schools chief said he was quitting. So why is he still there?

IMG_3017-647x485

Donna St. George

It was more than two months ago when the embattled leader of Prince George’s County schools announced he would make a “transition” from the job he’d occupied for nearly five years.

He’s still there.

But officials said this week that confidential negotiations are underway on a contract settlement that could clear the way for CEO Kevin Maxwell’s exit.

Maxwell, who has been engulfed in scandals over questionable pay raises and inflated graduation rates, has three years remaining on a four-year contract. If the county school board opted to pay off his full salary and benefits, the cost would exceed $1 million.

How much Maxwell is seeking — and under what terms — remains unclear. But attorneys are meeting, and the school board will convene Thursday for a second session to discuss the matter, said Segun Eubanks, the board’s chairman.

The board will assess the state of negotiations and possibly take action at the meeting, he said in an interview this week.

Maxwell has not spoken with reporters since giving a May 1 interview as he announced his plans to leave. He turned down another request this week. A district spokesman said that Maxwell had nothing new to discuss and that the CEO declined to provide the name of his attorney.

The timing and cost of his departure have been flash points for weeks. NAACP and union leaders called for Maxwell to go by June 30 and argued against a major severance payment. Similar concerns were voiced by members of the school board’s minority bloc.

Inside and outside the school system, people are increasingly impatient about the lack of clarity, said Doris Reed, executive director of the union that represents principals and administrators.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “People want to move on. And he’s already spent so much of our money. Why are we going to give him more money?”

Maxwell’s contract, signed last year, allows for a parting of ways by several routes: mutual accord, retirement, resignation, death or permanent disability. If the breakup is mutual, the two sides may agree to a severance payment — but don’t have to, according to the document.

The contract also lists grounds for being fired, which are laid out in state law: misconduct in office, immorality, insubordination, incompetence or willful neglect of duty. In Maryland, the state superintendent of schools has the authority to remove county superintendents.

The situation is made more complex because Maxwell has not resigned or retired, leaving the nature of his departure an open question.

Maxwell was vague in his May 1 announcement, referring to his decision to “transition” from the school system and citing distractions “unlike anything I’ve experienced,” which he said had taken a toll on students, families and staff. He also noted that candidates running to be the next county executive wanted a change in the school district’s leadership.

Eubanks would not discuss the possibility of Maxwell’s firing this week. “The board knows fully all of its options and all of the law,” he said.

Maxwell is an ally of outgoing county executive Rushern L. Baker III, who appointed him to the post in 2013, reappointed him last year and recently lost a bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

Critics have said county officials delayed resolving Maxwell’s financial issues until after the June 26 primary election to avoid voter backlash. Officials said in May that negotiations would wait until after the school year ended, on June 20.

“I don’t want him to be paid out anything,” said David Murray, a school board member and Maxwell critic. “He’s made a lot of mistakes at the taxpayers’ expense already, and I don’t think the school system can afford to pay him a million dollars to not even serve out his contract.”

Murray added: “It’s hard to believe he is able to hold us up for a payout when he is the one who announced he was transitioning.”

Maxwell draws a base salary of $299,937, and his contract extends until June 30, 2021.

Many point to the string of scandals that unfolded under Maxwell’s watch.

In early 2016, the school system was rocked by a major sexual abuse case, involving a school volunteer and raising major questions about oversight.

Later that year, it lost a $6.4 million federal Head Start grant after the system was cited for humiliation and corporal punishment of children and failed to adequately correct deficiencies.

Last year, the school system reeled again, with a state-ordered investigation of graduation rates revealing widespread grade changes and ineligible graduates.

This year, several controversies erupted over pay raises that were notably large or unauthorized.

Many district employees say their salaries lag because of past years when budgets were tight and pay was frozen.

Maxwell said unauthorized raises to human resources employees should not have happened, but he defended increases to high-level aides while noting the sensitivity of the issue.

He said he had approved more than $100 million in teacher raises over the past five years after several years of salary freezes.

“I find it hard to believe that someone who cares about our system and our students would want to take so much money away from us for years he will not complete,” said Edward Burroughs III, a school board member and frequent Maxwell critic.

With no clarity about when Maxwell is leaving, the school system that serves more than 132,000 students has not tapped a replacement.

One oft-mentioned candidate as a temporary replacement is Monica Goldson, deputy superintendent for teaching and learning and the highest-ranking remaining leader after Maxwell.

The system’s other deputy superintendent, Monique Whittington Davis , recently left Prince George’s to take a lower-level post in neighboring Anne Arundel County schools.

The choice of an interim CEO will be made by Baker, who remains county executive until after the November general election, when a successor will be sworn in.

Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baker, has said Baker will appoint an interim leader after the school board reaches an agreement with Maxwell. “We’re just waiting for the board and Dr. Maxwell to go through their processes first,” he said.

Via Washington Post

3WIP7DET6YI6PB2U2R4GRDJDWQ

Kevin M. Maxwell, chief executive officer of Prince George’s County Public Schools, visits with students in 2016. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

***

Prince George’s School Board Mulls Independent Audit

board.jpg

Prince George’s County school board holds a meeting at the Sasscer Administration Building in Upper Marlboro on June 28. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

By William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

Prince George’s County Public Schools may hire a firm to conduct an independent review of its graduation process, in response to a state audit last year that found undue grade changes and high absenteeism rates among graduating seniors.

A proposed contract of nearly $500,000 would allow D.C.-based Ernst & Young to analyze the school system’s action plan on whether county officials improved grading and absent procedures in the high schools. The audit will be based on high school seniors who graduated this year.

“Ernst & Young will provide a detailed summary report to include any misalignment regarding graduation requirements, as well as specific recommendations for correction of deficiencies or errors,” according to a resolution.

The resolution nearly didn’t come up for any discussion at a school board meeting Thursday, June 28.

Schools system CEO Kevin Maxwell recommended the board approve hiring the firm and placed it as an emergency item on the agenda.

Board member Edward Burroughs III asked to place the item as a first-reader, or preliminary item, so that the board could not only discuss it more thoroughly but so that it wouldn’t be approved that night.

“We need a lot more time for something … as important as the graduation rate,” he said before he requested to not adopt the entire board agenda.

Because another colleague backed his motion, the board voted 6-6 to not adopt the board agenda. The tie vote ended just minutes after it started.

Board Chairman Segun Eubanks explained that board members could’ve deferred a vote when the contract came up for discussion, or simply voted against it.

“I’m going to currently ask us to do this right way,” he said. “Please, let’s vote so we can have a meeting.”

Burroughs requested to amend the agenda and present the proposal as a first-reader.
Because of that, the board will have to meet again this month to discuss and possibly approve the resolution to hire Ernst & Young. If the board agreed to hire the company Thursday, then it wouldn’t meet again until Aug. 23.

The state Board of Education announced in May it will conduct a second audit of the schools system which could take about six months to complete.

County school officials have conducted mandatory training on grading procedures, alerted parents through recorded telephone calls on a timeline to appeal grades and continuous evaluations of SchoolMAX, an online portal used by teachers to post grades students and parents can review.

Meanwhile, Maxwell received a surprise award from the “Men of PGCPS” as the system’s leader for “excellence in education” and “dedication service to the students, parents, families, educators and personnel to the Prince George’s County public schools.”

Maxwell received a standing ovation from school officials, the majority of the board and dozens in attendance at the meeting. Three board members who didn’t stand up —Burroughs, David Murray and Raaheela Ahmed — have written letters to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III to examine why Maxwell allegedly signed off on unauthorized pay increases for some central office personnel.

Maxwell, who makes nearly $300,000 annually, announced in May he would “transition” out of the school system, but it remains unclear when exactly he plans to step down and whether the board will agree to offer him a severance package.

Via Washington Informer

***

Her job with the MS-13 robbery crew: Case the businesses and wipe down the guns.

67YMBYEAQMI6RJR7PNOSVOT2YU

Josselin Ramirez (Montgomery County Police)

Dan Morse and Michael Brice-Saddler

Josselin Ramirez faced long odds as her trial drew to a close.

Prosecutors in Montgomery County had tied the 20-year-old to an armed MS-13 robbery crew, showing that she helped them case businesses ahead of heists and cleaned the weapons to remove evidence after the robberies. Jurors had watched a video of Ramirez speaking to detectives about her earlier gang life in her native El Salvador and about how she had lured a policeman there into an MS-13 ambush.

“He was shot in the head,” she said.

Then, on June 28, Ramirez did what few courtroom regulars could recall ever seeing: She asked that the proceedings be halted, consulted with her attorney, had him talk to prosecutors, and then, through her lawyer, announced that she was guilty — just two hours before a jury was to start deliberating on a verdict and without any agreement upfront from prosecutors to be credited for her plea.

“All right,” said Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge John M. Maloney, who asked whether the change came about because prosecutors had agreed to drop some of the robbery and ­gang-related charges that Ramirez faced. “Is there a plea agreement?”

“No,” said her attorney, Timothy Clarke.

“Plea to all six charges?” Maloney asked.

“That’s correct,” Clarke said. “We tried to reach a plea agreement, but the state did not wish to do that.”

After that last-minute admission of guilt, Ramirez was back before Maloney on Thursday for sentencing. She faced up to 105 years in prison in total.

Ramirez was given a total of 95 years on six charges as Maloney told her, “You are a scary human being.”

The robbery crew with which Ramirez is associated is suspected in more than a half-dozen robberies in the Washington region. Four or five armed members of the crew would enter a business and be out within minutes.

Ramirez sat silent and with her head in her hands as Clarke argued she should be placed on parole and quickly deported.

Ramirez joined MS-13 as a teenager, according to evidence at her trial. “How old were you?” she was asked in Spanish during a police interview.

“I was 13,” she said, according to the evidence. She admitted to helping MS-13 kill a policeman in El Salvador and helping kill a rival gang member there, trial evidence showed.

Clarke said she was drawn back into gang activity when an associate in the United States encountered her and recruited her, and she eventually had a child with him.

Assistant State’s Attorney Teresa Casafranca said Ramirez “willingly embraced the violence that is MS-13,” adding that she never told police that she was forced or coerced back into gang activity. Casafranca said that although Ramirez could be deported, the state would have no way to control her actions or prevent her from returning to the United States.

Maloney, the judge, said he was puzzled about why Ramirez would commit such “horrific crimes” if she had intended to leave that lifestyle behind.

“You embraced the lifestyle again. It doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m having trouble understanding,” Maloney said. “You need to be housed away so you can’t harm others.”

At the time of her arrest last year, Ramirez was living in Alexandria, Va., having just moved from Temple Hills, Md., according to court records. She had begun living in the area several years earlier, after coming from El Salvador in 2013, according to court files. Immigration officials said recently that she is in the country illegally.

The guilty plea appears to have eliminated the chance that prosecutors might play an audio recording for jurors of a telephone call Ramirez made from jail to her mother in the week of the trial.

“She indicated that she was going to be found guilty,” Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Mays said at the time of Ramirez’s plea, describing the contents of the recording. “And she was going to jail for quite some time, that there were photographs.”

The photos, Mays said during the plea, showed Ramirez holding guns, including one weapon that was used in a robbery. Other photos showed Ramirez displaying MS-13 hand signs, prosecutors said.

When Ramirez abruptly pleaded guilty last month, it was to three counts of conspiracy to commit armed robbery and three counts of participating in a gang-related crime.

The incidents were September robberies of a food truck between Wheaton and Rockville, Md., and of an Exxon station in the area, then a Nov. 3 robbery at a cellphone and check-cashing operation in downtown Wheaton. The Exxon robbery was the largest of those, with $120,000 taken, police said.

The robbery suspects were caught Nov. 3 after police spotted them during a stakeout and pursued them onto the Capital Beltway and their van crashed. One suspect, police say, was killed when he fled the disabled van and was struck by a police car.

In statements after her arrest in the robberies, trial evidence showed, Ramirez had said gang life in El Salvador “was very ugly” and that “things are very different over there.”

She crossed into Texas in October 2013 and reached Northern Virginia three months later, trial evidence showed.

Ramirez is likely to eventually face deportation proceedings.

Via Washington post

Read more >>>👇👇👇

***

Oklahoma: Pastors for Oklahoma Kids Organize to Support Public Schools and Their Teachers

arton2001.jpg

This is a report from the newly organized Pastors for Oklahoma Kids,written by Rev. Clark Frailey.

The good news, he says, is that “The Times, They Are A’Changing.”

This is great news for Oklahoma!

He writes:

When entering the Oklahoma State Capitol near the beginning of the session in February, I had no idea what would be in store for Oklahoma over the course of the next few months: the political upset seen in our most recent primary election, record new candidates filing for office, record voter turnout, and the defeat of numerous anti-public school incumbents.

Tulsa World photographer Mike Simons’s image of Representative Scott McEachin looking at his watch as teachers sought an audience with him to advocate for their students became a symbol of the attitude several political extremists took during the April 2018 school shutdown.

While the majority of Republican and Democrat legislators opened their doors for discussion, time and again we would hear about legislators locking out their constituents or not even bothering to show up for work.

Some legislators even bowed so low as to invent stories of perceived threats by the teachers being present. Think on that for a minute: They wanted us to buy the narrative that the Pre-K teachers who wipe little noses and teach primary colors were threatening to them.

About a year earlier, 50 pastors from across Oklahoma had converged at First Baptist Church in Oklahoma City in an effort to see if our shared concerns about the state of public education in Oklahoma were on the same page. We found common ground in our concerns and Pastors for Oklahoma Kids was formed.

Since then our fledgling grassroots group has expanded to hundreds of faithful and church leaders across Oklahoma that support our work advocating for public school children.

We were blown away when our Sunday night candlelight prayer rally in front of the state capitol following the first week of the walkout in April grew exponentially from our projected 30 to hundreds of Oklahoma’s faithful.

That night we received reports from others in our network that prayer vigils broke out across the state in Ada, Stillwater, Tulsa, and beyond.

While a bit cliche, Bob Dylan’s 1964 hit, “The Times They Are a Changin” keeps playing over and over in my mind. The teachers of Oklahoma sent a message in the first available election following the walkout: the time for games with our kids is over.

Teachers led the good fight but we know they should not stand alone for our kids. Pastors, small business owners, parents, grandparents and anyone who loves their local community need to be involved in the defense of our good community public schools.

For years now, these schools have faced relentless and unwarranted attacks by politicians and outsiders who want to privatize our public schools.

These deep-pocketed outsiders continue dumping thousands of dollars into our local elections to influence good Oklahomans to vote for their nefarious plans. But we are holding fast and remember the core identity and values we all share of community: watching out for one another and investing in the future.

Teachers, parents, and the community sent a powerful message to all current and future legislators: Leave our schools alone. Invest in our future. We are watching you.

The times they are definitely a-changin’ in Oklahoma.

Private school founder pleads guilty to human trafficking

The government said Mack set up a private school in Charlotte and used it to promise foreign teens they would play at a prominent school with scholarship offers.

Instead, prosecutors said those athletes vanished in the hands of recruiters and basketball coaches. Some reappeared in towns more than 100 miles away and others were missing for months.

[RELATED: Private school founder accused of hiding foreign students pleads not guilty] 

The government said Mack made around $75,000 by hiding 75 foreign student athletes who were in the country illegally.

Mack could face a lot of time in prison by pleading guilty, but as part of her agreement, the deal all but guarantees she won’t be sentenced to anything more than 10 years.

“We’re still probably in the middle phase of the process and we’re looking forward to everything being good for Ms. Mack,” Mack’s attorney said.

[RELATED: Charlotte school leader allegedly hid foreign students from Homeland Security]

Prosecutors are still putting together their final recommendations when it comes to Mack’s time in prison and until that’s settled, Mack will stay out of jail on bond.

When Channel 9’s Mark Becker asked if Mack had any remorse for what she had done, she did not answer. Her attorney answered for her.

“Does she have any remorse? Any apologies? All things in their time my friend and this is not that time,” the attorney said.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

0001146-flagge-usa.gif

***

Happy 4th of July

On behalf of everyone at Team Reform PGCPS, Happy Fourth of July! We hope everyone has a blessed, safe, and HAPPY holiday!

Along with the barbecues, family and fun associated with the 4 th of July, the National Fire Protection Association reminds you that fireworks involve many risks including extreme burns and even death.

In 2017, nearly 13,000 people were treated in the emergency rooms for firework related injuries. A third of those cases involved children under 15 years old. Happy Fourth of July to all of you and think Safety first!
#Safety #HappyFourth #ReformSasscer

img_3764

33C888B6-C309-4704-BB4C-D6D52E9AD9C4***