Monday, May 30, 2005

Will FBI probe in PG County spill to Montgomery?

Will the Prince George's County school corruption scandal spill over to Montgomery County Public Schools?

It might - now that state prosecutors and the Feds are interested in investigating corruption in Maryland county governments and the area's public school systems.

PG County schools chief Andre J. Hornsby's abrupt resignation, in the midst of an FBI probe into his "stewardship of federal funds" and other alleged corruption issues, is a marker for Montgomery County to watch.

Montgomery County residents are digging into the potentially corrupt way in which County Executive Doug Duncan and the MCPS colluded to surplus school land for county housing projects - just a year before the County Council alleged that Duncan was using public funds improperly for his gubernatorial political ambitions.

"When you have government that has a lot of money to spend," says Maryland Taxpayers Association President Dee Hodges in a quote about PG County that could easily apply to Montgomery, "they are not very careful with how they spend it."

Friday, May 27, 2005

School board readied to spend $1 million fighting parents (as it axed 6 teachers to save money)

Even as it axed six elementary teacher positions to save $265,000, the Board of Education was ready to spend a million dollars to fight local parents who opposed the board's bigoted sex-ed program.

In an editorial celebrating the parents' victory over the board in federal court, the Washington Examiner says "the school board hired a top-notch constitutional lawyer to mount a $1 million defense" against the parents.

The board apparently had prepared to fight a federal judge, appointed by President Bill Clinton, who had ruled on the parents' behalf.

Said the editorial in a state of surprise, "Who would have thought that a group of intrepid parents in a progressive blue-state enclave like Montgomery County would be ones to force a politically correct Board of Education to back down from a controversial new sex ed curriculum?"

Parents unite: MCPS curriculum defeat may spread to Fairfax

A federal judge's rebuke of Montgomery County Public Schools and MCPS's quick collapse on the radical school sex-ed issue has emboldened parents across the Potomac River to bring the fight to Fairfax County schools.

"Who would have thought that a group of intrepid parents in a progressive blue-state enclave like Montgomery County would be ones to force a politically correct Board of Education to back down from a controversial new sex ed curriculum?" asks the DC Examiner in a lead editorial. "That's exactly what happened earlier this week when chastened board members reversed their previously unanimous approval of a curriculum so obviously one-sided, it couldn't even pass muster with a Clinton-appointed federal judge."

Angry parents in Fairfax, according to the editorial, are emboldened and on alert.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Post: Duncan vulnerable to 'charges' of using tax dollars to 'underwrite his campaign for governor'

In the FY2006 County Council budget battle, County Executive Doug Duncan "opened himself up to charges he was asking county taxpayers to underwrite his campaign for governor."

That's according to the Washington Post, reporting how Duncan's colleagues ditched his attempt to spend an additional $67 million taxpayer dollars. The council made it worse for Duncan by voting to return a token amount of tax money to each county homeowner.

According to the Post, "The debate caused a clash on the council between those who wanted to offer additional property tax relief and those who strived to maintain the county's reputation for generous spending."

Washington Post calls Duncan a 'loser' . . .

In a May 26 news story, the Washington Post called Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan a "loser" in the FY2006 budget fight.

By "failing to make any effort to adhere to the charter limit in a year when the county is flush with additional revenue, Duncan opened himself up to charges he was asking county taxpayers to underwrite his campaign for governor," the Post reported.

"And by not speaking out in support of his budget until the final weeks, some say he missed an opportunity to demonstrate the leadership skills he says he plans to highlight in his bid for governor. One bright spot for Duncan, however, is that most Maryland voters weren't paying attention to Montgomery's budget debate. Next year could be different."

. . . and says Denis and Weast are 'winners'

The Washington Post's "winners" in the FY2006 budget fight include: Marvin Weinman of the Montgomery County Taxpayers League, Council members Phil Andrews (D) and Howard Denis (R), and - this is not a typo - School and Housing Superintendent Jerry Weast.

$ilverman and Ficker 'broke even,' Post reports

Among those the Post said "broke even" on the FY2006 budget: County Council member $teve Silverman and conservative activist Robin Ficker.

Weast prevails with 'minor reductions and accounting maneuvers'

Creative accounting and a tight relationship with a County Council member helped School Superintendent Jerry Weast become one of the Washington Post's "winners" in the FY2006 budget wrangling.

Weast's spreadsheet maneuvering "proves he's as good a politician as he is an administrator," according to the Post.

Through a combination of "a few minor reductions and accounting maneuvers," he was able to make it look like "he was sharing in the pain" while really getting a 7 percent budget increase.

Michael L. Subin, Chairman of the County Council Education Committee, helped Weast with the sleight of hand, according to the report. [Note: When a constituent complained in a May 3 council meeting about "the potential inappropriate or unethical behavior of public officials" concerning county schools, Subin lost control of himself and lashed out at the taxpayer, prompting another council member to intervene.]

Some council members saw through Weast but lacked the courage to call him on it, because, in the Post's words, they "didn't want to appear as if they don't support schools."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Comment: County Council should apply its Duncan standard to itself

The Montgomery County Council was correct in banning County Executive Doug Duncan from doling out taxpayer money to his political campaign supporters.

Now it should apply the same ban to itself.

It should pass a law forbidding itself to issue grants, construction contracts, and other transfers of taxpayer dollars to the political contributors of its members. The ban would include, of course, property transfers such as surplused schoolyards.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Suspecting Duncan of handing out grants to political backers, County Council cuts him off

Suspecting that he will abuse taxpayer funds for political campaign purposes, the Montgomery County Council voted to strip County Executive Doug Duncan of the power to hand out millions of dollars to arts groups.

"While Duncan has broadened Montgomery's commitment to the arts, he also has raised thousands in campaign donations from individuals who work for or sit on the boards of organizations receiving county funds," the Washington Post reports.

According to the Post, the County Council said "the process [for giving grants to arts groups] has become too entangled in politics."

Kensington teacher on county curriculum: Yuck!

A Kensington woman who spent nine years as a teacher wrote a letter to the Washington Post criticizing Montgomery County's veggie sex curriculum, saying that "none of the 'sexperts' really know" what they're talking about, and appearing to argue that MCPS is more interested in advancing a social agenda than teaching kids.

"If the aim is tolerance," she writes, "surely there are better ways of achieving that than pushing kids to explore intimate topics such as masturbation in a classroom setting -- especially when so many students are anxious about their developing bodies."

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Whose the extremist? Archbishop McCarrick denounces MCPS curriculum

The Montgomery County Public Schools sex-ed curriculum, under a restraining order from a Democratic federal judge and now suspended until 2006, is so far out of the mainstream that it has nothing to do with community values.

County politicians have tried to portray critics as extremists and kooks.

But the most influential mainstream religious leader in the Washington, D.C. area, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, has weighed in, proclaiming that the veggie sex curriculum is "obviously not reflective of our values."

The Archdiocese of Washington includes Montgomery County, Maryland, making Archbishop McCarrick the spiritual leader of county Catholics - including the formerly observant Catholic County Executive Doug Duncan.

The archbishop's comment, made last winter, is reported in a news story about a similar controversy in Fairfax County, where the local Catholic diocese recently denounced the public school curriculum for ridiculing marriage.

Monday, May 16, 2005

US News & World Report calls Montgomery activism a 'model' to 'get the county to back down'

Montgomery County parents have found the right model to "get the county to back down" when it gets out of control on school issues, according to John Leo of US News & World Report.

Writing in his column dated May 23, 2005, Leo looks at how local parents went after the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) leadership to force it to retreat from extremist positions, in this case a sex-ed program that criticizes specific religious denominations as it pushes an extreme agenda. Parents and other taxpayers working as Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum designed the winning formula.

Leo writes, "The good news is that local parents and their friends were able to make a solid case, take it to a reasonable judge, and get the county to back down, at least for now. It's a model of how dissenters in other communities should act."

BoE hires big DC law firm to fight back at parents

The Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) has reportedly hired a constitutional lawyer from the DC mega-law firm Hogan & Hartson to fight parents who object to MCPS discrimination against specific religions and other issues in a new "health" program. A federal judge imposed a restraining order on the school system.

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, which defeated the county in federal court, reports that the BOE strategy is to out-spend the parents. BOE is "likely to spend a large amount of money litigating this case in court," according to CRC.

"CRC hopes the BOE will avoid this expenditure and begin negotiations to rewrite the curriculum. At this point, the BOE is unwilling to do this."

Hogan & Hartson says it has an army of a thousand lawyers in its firm.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Curriculum committee member denies any 'hidden agenda'

A member of the MCPS curriculum committee that just saw a federal judge impose a restraining order on its controversial "health" program denies the county has any "hidden agenda," the Washington Post reports.

"The motivation was to offer teachers some background, but at the end of the day, it wasn't the right kind of background," said committee member Karen Troccoli.

But Committee Chairman David Fishback disagrees. "We should not have had resources that made judgments about theological differences," Fishback tells the Post, not because it was wrong or illegal, but because "it was probably not wise given that people were going to bring a lawsuit."

Friday, May 13, 2005

Kendale is 'poor site for a school,' planning commissioner says

"I think this is a poor site for a school," Montgomery County Planning Board member John Robinson said at the May 5 hearing on the Kendale site plan.

"It's poor from an environmental point of view, it's poor from an engineering core point of view, it is particularly poor from a transportation point of view, compared to the existing site [on Seven Locks and Bradley] which is located on an arterial close to intersections that allow access from all parts of the community," he said in the Potomac Almanac.

"It's poor from a pedestrian access point of view in terms of potential sidewalks and as the staff would say, sidewalks that go anywhere. It's poor from a recreational point of view," said Robinson.

"It's bad land use planning."

Robinson abstained fromvoting on the measure, he said, "because the decision's been made by a higher authority."

Planning board staffer says it's 'difficult' to justify demolition of Seven Locks School

The Planning Board staffer who wrote the county report recommending approval of the plan to replace Seven Locks Elementary School with a new facility on Kendale Road agreed that it is "difficult" to argue for the plan.

At a May 5 meeting, Planning Board Chairman Derrick Berlage heard community leaders questioning the merits of demolishing the existing school and building a replacement on another site.

According to the Potomac Almanac, Berlage "asked Planning Board Staffer Callum Murray, who wrote the staff report recommending approval of the mandatory referral [Planning Board review], to state why building a new school at Kendale would be superior to expanding and modernizing the current Seven Locks."

"'I think it's actually quite difficult to do,' Murray said."

$ilverman claims there's no housing plan for Seven Locks, while Leventhal hints there is

County Council member Steve Silverman is now accusing Seven Locks neighbors of making up reports that county leaders want to demolish the elementary school and replace it with high-density housing, even though just a few months ago he accused those same people of "racism" because they opposed his high-density housing plan.

At the May 3 County Council meeting, Silverman told community leader Sandy Vogelgesang, "you have your facts wrong."

But Council Vice President George Leventhal hinted that the county is indeed considering the site for subsidized housing.

According to the Potomac Almanac, Leventhal said, "we're weighing a dramatic need for housing, workforce housing and other types of housing."

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Potomac Almanac: 'New allegations of secret deals'

The May 3 County Council meeting on capital improvements broke out into acrimony amid "new allegations of secret deals between county officials and real estate developers" over the stealth decision to demolish Seven Locks Elementary School for a housing project," the Potomac Almanac reports.

In her testimony to the council, Save Seven Locks Coalition leader Sandy Vogelgesang referred to "what some consider a political plot to surplus school property," and in a written statement said that "numerous developers have been approached regarding high-density development of the Seven Locks site."

Another Save Seven Locks community leader, Cyril Draffin, told council members, "We were appalled by the potential inappropriate or unethical behavior of public officials and lack of public dialogue on the tradeoff of building the current Seven Locks site [instead of the] Kendale Road site," according to the Potomac Almanac.

"There are alleged deals between developers who gave campaign money to public officials and the County Council directing the board of education to give up land for development," Draffin said.

At that, County Council Education Committee Chairman Michael Subin exploded, interrupting Draffin, twisting his words and not letting him speak (see story below).

Subin loses control at county council meeting

Montgomery County Council Education Committee Chairman Michael Subin lost control at a May 3 hearing when a community leader complained of "alleged deals between developers" and the County Council.

When Cyril Draffin, President of the Deerfield-Weathered Oaks Citizens Association, complained of lack of transparency and "the potential inappropriate or unethical behavior of public officials," Subin ripped into him.

He accused Draffin of accusing the council of "illegal dealings" - Draffin alleged no illegalities - and demanded names. Subin's diatribe was so extreme that Council Vice President George Leventhal intervened. The following dialogue appeared in the May 11-17 Potomac Almanac:

Subin: You've made an allegation, and it is a serious one, and you made it publicly.

Draffin: In response to your comments. . . .

Subin: No. Who? I want to know who. I want names.

Leventhal: Let him answer.

Subin: No, I want names.

Draffin: Did you want an answer?

Subin: I want names.

Draffin: Can I speak?

Subin: I want names. Who were the names? Who's involved in the dealings?

Draffin: Well, if I can speak.

Subin: If you're going to give me names you may speak.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Visit 'Crooked School Board' - Montgomery County's newest school blog

Montgomery County's newest unofficial public school blog, Crooked School Board, is following the school system's antics in an edgier, sometimes more humorous way than Montgomery County Schools. It continues to rank high on Google's search engine.

'Save School Land for School Kids' postcards now available

"Save School Land for School Kids" postcards are now available, sending a message to County Executive Doug Duncan that Montgomery County parents don't want their public schools to be shut down for politicians' pet construction products.

The postcards, modeled after a World War II propaganda poster and depicting Duncan's portrait, are available by clicking here. So are a lot of other products, from T-shirts to mugs, mouse pads, a tote bag, stickers and magnets.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Washington Post chides out-of-control MCPS

A Washington Post editorial says Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast "wisely" shelved the controversial veggie sex program after a federal judge imposed a restraining order, while chiding both Weast and the Board of Education for having let the issue get out of control.

"The delay gives school officials a chance to do more thorough review -- something you'd think they would have done by now, given the months of controversy," says the Post. "School officials need to remove some of the inappropriate 'teacher resource' material accompanying the curriculum, particularly documents that praise some religious denom inations and criticize others; it's no wonder some parents were upset about that. Though students don't see this material, it shouldn't have been deemed acceptable as the basis for teachers to plan lessons, and it shouldn't have taken a court case for Mr. Weast to learn of it."

Clinton judge's ruling marks big victory for families against MCPS

A restraining order imposed on Montgomery County by a federal judge appointed by President Clinton is seen as a big victory for pro-family groups and conservative activists in one of the nation's most liberal counties.

That's what the Washington Post is reporting on the aborted MCPS veggie sex-ed program. "This was a fight that few expected would break out in what many view as a progressive, liberal-leaning county," the Post says.

"Maryland's largest school system has become a battleground over what students should be taught about sex and a symbol, some supporters of the new curriculum said, of the increasing influence the conservative movement is hoping to play in public school classrooms."

Friday, May 06, 2005

School board to grill Weast in secret meeting for shelving veggie sex video

The Montgomery County Board of Education will bar the public from a secret meeting where it will grill Superintendent Jerry Weast for having shelved the veggie sex education curriculum.

Proponents of the pro-anal sex video are outraged at Weast for caving in to a federal judge.

"I think this is a disgrace," citizens' advisory board member Jill Karpf told the Washington Times. "It's an insult to us, it's an insult to all the teachers who came up with the curriculum, it's an insult to all the official organizations who understand what's going on, and so I think there needs to be a strong statement made."

MCPS violates freedom of speech, federal judge says

The Washington Post reports that US District Judge Alexander Williams ruled that the MCPS veggie sex curriculum is so biased, "the schools were violating the free speech rights of those who may not agree."

Weast whacks cucumber curriculum for rest of year

Caught by a federal judge for religious discrimination in his cucumber sex video, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast announced he has pulled the bitterly controversial sex-ed program for the rest of the year.

Weast's reversal is a victory for Montgomery County parents who are fed up with the school system's avant garde social agenda being imposed on county kids, and on the school board's dismissal of parental concerns.

'Veggie porn' earns Montgomery County more national ridicule

Another nationally syndicated columnist has heaped ridicule on the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) system for its "veggie porn" program.

In her weekly column, Mona Charen rips the "erect cucumber" video for 10th graders and notes that MCPS is pushing a sexual social agenda that goes well beyond health and safety.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Federal judge cites Montgomery County religious discrimination

The federal judge who imposed a restraining order on Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) cited religious discrimination in his ruling.

According to US District Court Judge Alexander Williams, MCPS singled out Christian religious denominations for being "insensitive" toward practicing homosexuals, and praised pro-homosexual sects for their "sensitive clergy."

"The subject of religion should not even come up in this curriculum unless it's going to come up objectively," said the lawyer for the plaintiffs.

MCPS attorney Julie Resler claimed the critics were trying to make the school board "look bad," and in the words of the Washington Examiner, "defended the school system's free speech rights."