Category Archives: Support OFA’s work in Maryland

Violation of the constitution and the laws of the land.

untitled

imagesca1d2dt3

Dr. Lillian M. Lowery Maryland State Superintendent  of schools has been criticized for showing very poor leadership skills in various ways including discriminatory conduct and received an F grade for Common Core meetings so far.

Dukes

In our opinion, We aver and therefore believe Maryland State Board of Education President Dr. Charlene Dukes shown here has demonstrated a culture of corrupt leadership style and continues “an integrated pattern of pay to play” and manipulation during her tenure.

Two individuals in our opinion have emerged as the faces of this new tyranny in Prince George’s county – Dr. Charlene Dukes and Dr. Lilian Lowery.

We have one message for them – you are living in the past. Your modern day repressive tactics will collapse.

The constitutional rights that Prince George’s county citizens are enjoying are a product of their struggle. These rights are not privileges bestowed by the state but are inherent by virtue of birth. The transition Committee controlled by these two individuals are holding the county at ransom through instilling a culture of fear, manipulation and corruption. Only a despotic regime without legitimacy deploys such tactics.

Their actions may be a pointer that the regime being fronted is in no mood to obey the constitution and the laws of the land. The Executive has no powers to unilaterally take away the rights and liberties of Prince George’s county citizens. It must demonstrate to the satisfaction of all that Prince George’s County is a total disaster under severe threat and ascertains it in accordance with the constitution. Individual liberty is indivisible. A citizen or any other resident for that matter should only be deprived of liberty only after a proper judicial process but not because of a political decision.

Prince George’s county citizens should remember Edmund Burke’s words, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. It is the high time we took this emerging tyranny heads-on.

Please do not let Maryland go the way Prince George’s County Public Schools, (PGCPS) and the School District of Philadelphia, because they were caught off guard by the deceitful and conniving Board of Education. Parents, students, concerned citizens have to hold their school board representatives responsible. If they do not reform, let us show them the door. There is no future without responsibility and time representation.

This is a warning to Maryland citizens and Prince George’s County in particular – do not be complicit in the establishment of a dictatorship-in-the-making disguised as democracy. A tyrant cannot be a tyrant without a victim. Bystanders are necessary for the tyranny to emerge because thirst for power invariably accompanies one for publicity. Democracy is not about regular elections. Elections are necessary but not sufficient conditions for a true functioning of a robust democracy. What happens between elections and how the government of the day handles fundamental concerns of interest to the public matters greatly.

The new school leadership of Dr. kevin Maxwell – regardless of who is county Executive in the future – must demonstrate its commitment to getting rid of the rampant impunity which continues to undermine the rule of law, justice and security of Prince George’s county citizens. Dr. Maxwell came in promising to work with advocates of change and innovate the county through good ideas. However, the citizens who helped put him in power have been way laid and sidelined through unorthodox means.  Reforms which we advocated for seem to have effectively stalled and taken over by special interest led by one Dr. Charlene Dukes who is a suspect in corruption involving top leadership. To advance the cover up, PGCPS has enlisted the co-chair of Dr. Lilian Lowery Maryland state Supritendent of schools creating a conflict of interest.  Hence, advocates for good governance are being undermined by those who want to restore old order and emasculate changes. Maryland legislature must hold a hearing to verify what is going on. This must be their first task on their agenda in 2014. The time to act is now.

As articulated before,  We have got a runaway state board of education with no oversight, not subject to election, and doing reforms not subject to legislative review.  All without citizen input nor consent.  And wielding a billion dollar budget.

As expressed in the past, Mr. Rushern Baker’s biggest test is creating a smooth transition within the schools to include transparency and avoid appointing leaders from the old regime who caused problems in the first place. However, if he wants to pass this test, he must persuade every single PG County citizen that he has sincere intentions that transcend his own political interest, for the wellbeing of the County to include other groups into the change management with the New CEO.

The elected officials – both at the national, state and county levels – must live up to their oaths of office in which they promised to defend and protect the constitution. They must ensure they engender policies which will ensure that all will access services without discrimination. The new leadership in Prince George’s County public schools led by Dr. Kevin Maxwell and mid-wifed by County Executive Rushern Baker must prevent human rights violations. Prince George’s County citizens in United States want a transformed county!

###

DSC_0669

Dr. Kevin Maxwell

>>> Attend Opponents Common Core protest at MSDE…on November 18, 2013. Call your elected officials now and the media. Demand changes due to Maryland State Board of Education leaders involved in corruption and abuse of power. (video)

###

“The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering.” — Ben Okri

Maxwell addresses the Prince George’s County Council

DSC_0669

In his first public appearance before the Prince George’s County Council, Schools Chief Executive Officer Kevin Maxwell said Tuesday that he is evaluating the district’s specialty programs, surveying underutilized schools and analyzing how grades are distributed in schools.

Maxwell said the district, which has experienced a drop in enrollment over the last several years, has a number of schools that are under capacity, and “there is some question of whether they should be closed.” >>> Read More Washington Post

OPINION:

School consolidation either fixes budget shortfalls and creates great schools or destroys a sense of community and adversely impacts local economies. An examination of the pros and cons reveals that each argument has it strengths and weaknesses. The issue of money and what makes a great school cuts both ways in the school consolidation discussion. We hope the agenda in Prince George’s County public school is not to sell any of them but to preserve as many as possible incase parents who have left with their children decide to come back. Closer examination sorts out the thrust of the pros and cons of consolidation.
1.      Education Quality
  • Proponents of school consolidation use the quality of education as a selling point. When two or more small schools consolidate, the resulting school will be able to offer more courses and hire more diverse faculty with teaching expertise in specialized areas. In particular, specialized courses that appeal to only a handful of students will likely generate interest from more students, allowing the school to offer them. This would include advanced classes in mathematics and science, and other areas of study such as drama or non-traditional foreign languages such as Russian or Japanese. Let us hope the Prince George’s County Public schools CEO and the Board members have a plan.

2.      Money

  • The ability to save money is another big selling point for schools considering consolidation. When schools are consolidated, unused school buildings can be sold or used for other purposes, and utility and maintenance costs are reduced, especially if the consolidated school is newer and more energy efficient. Transportation costs are also reduced as fewer school buses will be needed to cover overlapping routes.[I’d have to disagree on this one; most studies show an increase in transportation costs as students are bused past closed schools to the new one. -Ed] Employees needed for non-academic services such as office personnel, cafeteria workers and custodial services can also be reduced. That means, there is going to be job loses if the issue is taken heads on. We hope the Board of Education members will be transparent on this one.

3.      Loss of Identity

  • Local communities identify themselves with their school. Consolidation normally involves some smaller towns losing a school. While saving money is a pro, the loss of the school becomes a con. Parents want their children to attend the same small school they did. For community residents, the closing of the school they attended in the name of consolidation registers as a negative. They fear their children will be lost in the large consolidated school, and they feel they won’t be able to identify with the new school.

4.      Economic Impact

  • Some of the money saved as a result of consolidation is a result of cutting jobs. Small-town schools are often one of the largest employers in the town, and when a school closes it can have a negative effect on the community. School workers who are laid off will face much stiffer competition for those same positions in the consolidated school and face a good chance of not getting hired. David Thompson, a Kansas State University professor in education leadership, points out that the money spent on schools is partially returned to the local community as school employees spend their salaries at local businesses; by shuttering smaller schools, consolidation takes that money out of the small-town community.

###

pgcps_logo

Former Interim Super now Interin in Alexanderia.

…Dr. Alvin Crawley pictured here almost abandoned ship at sea…

forum-01_1346395080

Dr. Alvin Crawley who took off to the hills after HB 1107 was enacted into the law in Maryland has been selected to serve as Alexandria’s interim superintendent.

Alvin Crawley, who most recently was the interim superintendent in Prince George’s County, Maryland, will begin his appointment Monday. He will serve while the city searches for a permanent replacement. He has had a troubled tenure when several of our students died from violence in 2012, after he failed to perform the proper duties as a Superintendent. He was brought in specifically to cover up corruption by the previous regime which was then led by Dr. William Hite Jr.

According to Doris Reed (ASASP Director of the Prince George’s principals union), she was hoping for a change agent to take the reins of the school system when Hite left, Doris said Crawley’s leadership style during his short tenure did not live up to her expectations.

The Alexandria City school board bought out the contract of previous superintendent Morton Sherman in August amid conflicts between Sherman and the school board.

Sherman was the second consecutive superintendent whose contract was bought out by Alexandria. Rebecca Perry departed as superintendent in 2008 in the wake of an extended controversy over a drunk driving arrest.

Crawley spent most of his career in Arlington. He left Prince George’s County as control of the system shifted from the county board of education to the county executive Rushern Baker. >>> Read more Washington Post

###

logo

images

abandoned ship at sea

Who’s minding the people…

…who are supposed to be minding the schools?

OPTIONS0061368741186

chief executive of Options, Donna Montgomery

By Valerie Strauss, Published: October 3 at 5:00 am

Who’s minding the people who are supposed to be minding the schools? Let’s look at two debacles involving schools, one on the West Coast and one on the East, that are symptomatic of problems around the country. My colleague Emma Brown wrote in this story that  three former managers of the Options Public Charter School in Northeast Washington — the city’s oldest charter school — have been accused of enriching themselves with at least $3 million of public money that was supposed to be used to help some of the District’s most troubled teens and students with disabilities. The managers created for-profit companies that won contracts from the school and charged very high prices. A civil lawsuit alleges that they did this with the help of a senior official at the D.C. Public Charter School Board, which is a non-elected entity that has financial oversight over charter schools in the District of Columbia. Charter schools, which operate outside of the traditional public school district, have their own administration and boards. They now enroll more than 40 percent of D.C. students and get more than $500 million in public funds every year to operate. And it turns out, according to the lawsuit, that salary and bonuses for the chief executive, Donna Montgomery, during 2012-13 was at least $425,000, with her base salary at $240,000. Even the base salary is a lot of money for a school with about 400 students. Brown notes that Kaya Henderson is paid a base salary of $275,000 as chancellor of the traditional D.C. school system, which has about 45,000 students. Officials of the charter school board said they were sure that problems were limited to this one school. But look at the timeline of how the board came to know about the problems at Options. From Brown’s story:  >>>Read More Washington Post

john-deasy

Superintendent John Deasy – Los Angeles Unified School District

Over on the West Coast, in the Los Angeles Unified School District, there’s an ongoing debacle with a $1 billion — yes $1 billion — initiative to get iPads for every student in the country’s second largest school system. There’s been one mistake after another. When the initial planning was done, everybody forgot about the keyboards that kids would need, an oversight which now could cost the district nearly $40 million.

Officials began distributing iPads to some schools and within a week, student hackers figured out to bypass the security system and kids began using the devices to check Facebook, download music and do other personal activities. The Los Angeles Times then reported that more than 70 iPads were “missing” from a pilot program.

And now, Steve Lopez of The Times wrote in this piece that he looked at some of the software programmed into the iPads by Pearson Education and he was less than impressed:

…For all the hype about students taking a magic carpet ride into the future on these tablets, I missed the wow factor. One eighth-grade math lesson included a video of some guy on a treadmill going faster and faster, with a question about how to graph his movement. But no matter how you answered, there was no feedback, and no right or wrong answer.

Lopez asks why school board members let Superintendent John Deasy make such a huge commitment without more oversight. One member, Steve Zimmer, told him that board members “are not equipped … to micromanage.” Wrote Lopez:

I’d have to disagree with him there.

We’re talking about a superintendent who’s in a race to spend $1 billion, counting bringing Wi-Fi to classrooms. And let’s not forget that Deasy was featured as a pitchman in a commercial for iPads, and Deputy Supt. Jaime Aquino (who just resigned in a snit over the tech implementation) once worked for the parent company of Pearson, the firm hired to provide curriculum for the iPads.

So, yeah, do some micromanaging. Hold people accountable. Ask questions.

 It makes you wonder who’s minding the minders.

ipad

iPads initiative  – Los Angeles Unified School District

OPINION

They say you never know the worth of water until the well is dry.  We think that is what the article reveals has brought home the message we have been trying to convey here in Prince George’s County.  Seemingly little – but indispensable – things appear meaningless until they are lost. Gone. Our point is that the corruption cover up reports has dashed the sense of reform and mundane expectations. There is no doubt the men and women of the Prince George’s County Public schools (PGCPS) are heroic.

But there’s no longer the “guarantee” the government will give your loved ones credible – and unambiguous – answers should another catastrophe strike like what happened to previous county Executive Jack Johnson. Which begs the question – what went wrong, and we have the answers… what lessons have been learnt?  Whither from hither? Many of the old ways continue to linger in the some parts of the whole district even after pointing out the problems.

Sadly, it seems like there is a never-ending story along these lines nowadays; one embarrassing story after another.  It all boils down to greed and self entitlement.  Poor/handicapped children are being affected by these kind of schemes and there is a growing number of homeless youth. What will it take to stop this and other stories like this from happening again especially here in PG County?  If the management put the effort into helping the children who attend these schools instead of thinking up the schemes to bilk millions of dollars from the system, life will be so much better.

There is no question after reading the above article that, the charter school movement is being taken over by grifters.  When you see a group of legislators jumping on that bandwagon you can be pretty sure someone has plans to get rich using unorthodox means!  And all of you folks who sincerely believe that the free market has a solution to the problems of the public schools? Time will tell. Unless we get involved and demand answers, some of the people who actually get the contracts, are well connected to the leadership.

As time goes on and unless something is done to change the status quo, this illicit activity will continue unabated for many years to come; in the last few years especially here in Prince George’s County, we have seen officials and administrative personnel living lavish lifestyles beyond what they truly earn or deserve.

It is very sad that, this activity is peppered throughout Washington DC region.  Here in Prince George’s county, it was taken a notch higher by Mr. Jack Johnson (Previous PG county Executive) now serving jail time. However, it began with the Barry administration in Washington DC, getting exposed for lavish vacations of “Friends of Barry” in the Virgin Islands, to the fraud in The Department of Taxation, to this and even more in the future.

The Barry Ideology: “We, as a people, have suffered; and now we’re going to be rightfully paid for our suffrage.” Also known as: The Jesse Jackson Jr. Syndrome.

This illegal activity is not only affecting charter schools, small, semi-private special education schools and the Public schools are also affected.  Good, experienced administrators of these very complex entities are difficult to find, so it’s relatively easy for an unscrupulous and/or inept administrator to take over. The large salaries plus expensive benefits some of these people make while making their staff miserable and the students ill-served is truly despicable.  We must put an end to this. Our Districts deserve better and we must continue to demand more accountability and transparency in many regions, not just in Prince George’s County Public schools.

How do the unscrupulous administrators get away with it? The staff is generally held hostage during times when decent jobs are few, the parents are afraid to say anything even if they pick up on what is happening. A very good example in PGCPS is Monica Goldson and Thatcher Law Firm who are known to strike deals behind the scenes with corrupt BOE members.  For many special education parents and their children, the neighborhood school where corruption is taking place might be their last chance and so many might be scared stiff. Maryland State Board of Education is led by incompetent administrators and Board members whose oversight tends to be lax as most parents are just happy to have some place to send their children.

As indicated in the blog, “corporate education reform” every teacher is subjected to unbelievable micro-management based on being forced to teach using horrific cookie-cutter methodologies. And when they “fail,” they are tossed out and public schools are closed. Yet, nobody looks twice at those who set the horrific education policies. Superintendents basically do a lack-luster job (but as long as they follow corporate “education reform” they are “good”). And when they want to increase their salaries, they just leave their “destruction” behind and are able to tow the corporate line elsewhere for a much greater salary… think about what Dr. John  Deasy and William Hite Jr (both PG County Maryland!)  What did they do to their previous School District before they left? Teachers’ salaries get cut along with the pensions they pay more and more into but the “management” gets richer. Teachers ask the question nowadays… WHEN are they going to  be allowed to Teach!

“In order for schools to change, the central office has to change. We believe the best way the system can change is to trust educators to do their jobs. Hold them accountable, but trust them. The malignant and rotten cogs must be pulled out – root and branch – without pity. The cancer must be excised before it sinks deeper. This is one reason why we wanted a competent administrator to come in with the view of making proper changes.

As we move forward into the future, we suggest that multiple bodies carry out inquiries of what caused PGCPS MESS – so that no cover up is possible. The legislature must commence its own independent bi-partisan inquiry without any fear or favor.

Party affiliation, regional and ethnic biases, and power plays must be suspended to uncover what happened so that these problems do not revisit themselves. The Executive should not investigate itself. That’s why a judicial commission of inquiry into the PGCPS MESS must be convened pronto. This does not mean the executive and the security services should not do a penetrating investigation of what went wrong. They must.

In addition, whatever happens, the local county intelligence and security services must be depoliticized. There’s a perception that too much time is spent trailing dissidents and critics. What’s lost in translation is that critics are the backbone of democracy, not its nemesis. The time wasted on surveiling legitimate domestic political activists the world over only takes valuable resources away from tracking and preventing possible corrupt groups and other malevolent clusters.

We know that complete depoliticisation is not possible, but paranoia and harassment of genuine democracy activists must be a thing of the past. Professionalizing intelligence and security services – and the police – cannot be gainsaid.

They are key to preventing future problems of various kinds. This will require killing criminal and corrupt rackets within the state.

Moreover, the apex of the security state must have a streamlined structure with competent men and women in charge. The PGCPS MESS proved the exact opposite. Previous Board Chairperson and her successor either contradict each other, or seemed at sea.

While the measures we have outline here are a core necessity in any country or county wishing success of its citizenry, PG County must move into the future with the prospect of the youth and venerable PG County families in their mind for the wellbeing of the county.

Prince George’s county Board of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education should refrain from retaliatory activities by clamping down on civil liberties. PG County Executive Rushern Baker, Board Chairman Segun C. Eubanks, PGCPS CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell, Maryland State Superintendent of School Lilian Lowery and others involved in management of public resources should banish all thoughts about ethnic profiling, racism, other forms of discriminatory conduct etc. To do so would fuel hatred among different ethnic groups like we have seen in the last few years. These illegal activities do not help anyone in the end. Let’s take the high road. That is how the Prince George’s county and the United States as whole will defeat poverty and corruption in the future!

###

pgcps_logo

MSDE hosts Common Core forum…

…Chaos and poor leadership leave parents in the dark.

imagesCA1D2DT3

Dr. Lillian M. Lowery Maryland State Superintendent  of schools has shown very poor leadership skills and received an F grade for Common Core meetings so far.

About 18 people protested outside the common core forum on October 1, 2013 hosted by the state Department of Education at Charles H. Flowers High School – Largo. Some of the protesters were carrying posters and distributing pamphlets from the Worcester County Tea Party  about “why [Common Core] is bad for your child, your family and for Americans.” Others from Baltimore, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties were protesting bad leadership of Dr. Lilian Lowery and the Maryland State Board of Education for lack of transparency and corruption.

Similar to the other sessions that have been held, there were outbursts inside the auditorioum from some who are opposed to the new standards. Others were opposed to the way the forum was being run. One parent repeatedly yelled for the Pledge of Allegiance to be done. Others tried to yell out follow-up questions which were ignored. The public was asked to submit their written questions, which would be answered by Lowery or local education officials present. The Maryland PTA President,  Dr. Lilian Lowery, Monica Goldson did not help with matters any how. They kept answering questions from a single person “Vicky” and these actions made the crowd more hostile.

There are critics on the left and the right to the new standards. Some on the left are opposed to standardized testing and some on the right consider it a federal takeover. “This is not a debate,” Lowery told the crowd before taking questions. “This is an informational session.”

One parent in the group said, “Maryland State Department of Education is a crumbling edifice, wrecked to the seams by corruption, bad leadership, ethnicism, racism, parochialism, sectarian intolerance and childish political recrimination.” He then concluded, is this America?

Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery  did mention though that “Common Core standards will bring consistency to the educational system, ensuring that the standards are the same whether a child lives in Maine or Maryland. She said the state has not changed curriculum. It has changed how subjects are taught. Maryland decided three years ago to join a consortium of states to do away with differing standards and creating new standardized tests to align with the standards.” However, she could not answer some of the questions and passed them on to her aides or Maryland PTA president.

No one was arrested, unlike an earlier forum when an Ellicott City parent interrupted Baltimore County School Superintendent Dallas Dance and complained that the new standards were not rigorous and were instead preparing students for community college not top universities.  Charges were later dropped against Robert Small, who was accused of  second-degree assault of a police officer and disturbing a school operation, after being escorted out of the forum by a police officer.

Many parents see the Maryland State Board of Education as a crumbling edifice, with massive corruption and characterised by bad leadership. There are no elections of the Maryland State Board of Education members, sweeping changes are made to our education system without parental input or notification or involvement of the legislature.  The biggest portion of our state budget goes to education, to the tune of nearly a BILLION dollars  and there are very few checks and balances to ward off corruption.  On this note, greater transparency and accountability is needed.

To make Maryland State Board of Education accountable, We must implement principles of good governance in order to provide clean and corruption-free Educational functions. In fighting corruption, the most important thing is prevention rather than punishment. Therefore this should be the main focus in the fight against corruption within the Maryland State Board of Education and elsewhere.  On this note, for an institution to foster a corruption-free environment, it would require strong leader to set an example for the rest of the officials. We feel that Dr. Lillian Lowery and Dr. Charlene Dukes (a previous board member in Prince George’s County public schools), are not role models to help with this transition after what they have done to others recently and they must go.

###

untitled

Dukes

Maryland State Board of Education President Dr. Charlene Dukes shown here has demonstrated corrupt leadership “a culture of pay to play” and manipulation.

###

Md.’s teacher certification law criticized…

…Study says requiring a master’s is causing teacher shortages in key subjects

untitled

By Liz Bowie,

The Baltimore Sun

7:20 p.m. EDT,

September 6, 2013

After a stint in the military and on his way to earning a bachelor’s degree  in physics from the University  of Maryland, Baltimore County, Rory Holderness decided he wanted to become a  high school teacher.

He enrolled in Towson  University‘s graduate program for teachers three years ago but soon became  frustrated with classes that he believed were more aimed at grooming elementary  reading teachers than someone who hoped to be teaching physics to 16-year-olds.  He dropped out.

“The whole system was pretty frustrating,” said Holderness, who might have  ended up with a career in a classroom instead of working for AT&T had he  found the route to becoming a licensed teacher easier.

A recent report by the Calvert Institute for Policy Research found that  becoming certified to teach in Maryland is so burdensome that it is causing  teacher shortages in key subjects such as science, math and special education.  And the report suggests that the state should alter some of its teacher  certification requirements to open up the field to a larger number of  candidates.

“Maryland’s teacher certification policies are ill-conceived and  counterproductive, particularly when compared to many other states’  certification policies,” said Christopher Ryan, the report’s author.

Read more: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/education/bs-md-teacher-certification-20130829,0,5261314.story#ixzz2eFuzT4rq

###