Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Weast negotiating new contract, Haughey says

Outgoing School Board President Charles Haughey says the board soon will be "negotiating new contracts with . . . Superintendent Jerry D. Weast and his top administrative staff," the Gazette reports.

The board is also negotiating new contracts with the three employees unions in the school system, according to Haughey.

With a base annual salary of nearly a quarter of a million dollars plus an additional tax dodge retirement package of more than $100,000, Weast is one of the most highly paid public officials in the United States.

Weast's annual salary is $237,794, with another $111,052 as a tax sheltered retirement payment.

That's considerably more than the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, the Vice President of the United States, and the Speaker of the House, who are paid $212,000 a year.

MCPS COO Larry Bowers is paid $166,821 plus benefits - more than a United States Senator. Richard Hawes, who ran the Kendale construction project and provided phony facts to the PTA and the County Council (remember the sidewalks he said didn't exist?) is paid $124,539.

2 school board members won't seek re-election

Two Montgomery County Board of Education members have quit since watching their hard-fought Kendale agenda go down in flames.

The two are the softest members of the ROACH slate, so called by the first letters of each member's surname.

Board member Gabe Romero (left) and board President Charles Haughey (right) were the least noxious of the ROACH slate in their support of the discredited Kendale project and the secret plan to tear down Seven Locks Elementary School and sell the land to developers.

Romero, of Montgomery Village, was the first to announce he would not seek re-election, the Gazette reported on May 23. Haughey's announcement appeared in the May 31 Gazette.

Haughey's announcement came as a surprise, as he had announced he would seek re-election.

The ROACH slate is now down to Patricia O'Neill, Steve Abrams and Sharon Cox. O'Neill is running for re-election this year. Abrams and Cox are in office until 2008, though Abrams is running for comptroller of Maryland.

Rumors are that Haughey plans to continue his health education campaign by going into the cucumber business.

Subin denies he took money from Abramoff

The head of the County Council Education Committee, Michael Subin, says he never took a penny from crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff and associates gave County Executive Doug Duncan at least $35,000 just a month before Duncan approved transferring public school property to Abramoff's private school.

"I will look again, as a belt and suspenders kind of thing," Subin says in the Gazette, noting that he looks carefully at donations from weird places. "And I guaran-damn-tee that if it’s from out of the country, we’re asking, 'Who is this?'"

Gazette: Duncan's school-for-cash scandal is a 'setback'

The report that County Executive Doug Duncan took money from crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff just before deciding to hand over public school property to Abramoff's private school "is viewed as a setback for his gubernatorial campaign and intensifies allegations that he is too cozy with special interests," the Gazette reports.

"These are troubling revelations and they raise serious questions," said a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, Duncan's rival for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. "We look forward to the facts emerging in the coming days so that more light can be shed on what exactly happened between Doug Duncan’s campaign and Jack Abramoff."

A Duncan spokeswoman denies any link: "There is absolutely no relation between the lease of the school and campaign contributions."

Says the Gazette, "Duncan supporters said the Abramoff imbroglio would pass and dismissed any allegations of wrongdoing." However, even Duncan supporters acknowledge a problem. Maryland Senate Finance Chairman Thomas McLain Middleton, a Duncan backer, admits that the report is a "political liability" for the politician.

Post: Abramoff school payola scandal likely to hurt Duncan

The Jack Abramoff campaign-money-for-school-property scandal is likely to hit County Executive Doug Duncan's gubernatorial prospects right on his home turf, the Washington Post reports.

"It'll affect Duncan's base in Montgomery County," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), tells the Post. "His base is one of the most educated in the history of elected officialdom."

Duncan's apparent political favor for Abramoff, an influence peddler-turned-convict, "has given new ammunition to critics who say the county executive is too cozy with special interests, including developers," according to the Post.

A local Democratic party activist says the Abramoff connection has reinforced "the pay-to-play mentality the county is becoming known for" and strengthens the impression that Duncan is interested in "developers, not citizens."

That sums up why we started this blog: Because Duncan and other county leaders care more for construction developers than they do for school kids. Why else would they push to shut down a thriving elementary school so it could be turned into a high-density residential complex?

Monday, May 29, 2006

'Sleazy' school deal shows Duncan isn't as clean as he looks

The Washington Post editorializes that County Executive Doug Duncan is no longer a scandal-free politician. The paper uses words it has never ascribed to the gubernatorial candidate: "sleazy," "unseemly," and "shady."

"The Abramoff-related money arrived just four weeks before a decision by Mr. Duncan involving the fate of the Yeshiva of Greater Washington, a religious school on whose board Mr. Abramoff served," says the Post editorial.

"It has the look, feel and aroma of the sleazy influence-peddling for which Mr. Abramoff became notorious."

But even if Abramoff was not involved with Duncan's decision or his campaign, the Post continues, the campaign money-and-school issue "raises serious questions."

"In addition to the $20,000 related to Mr. Abramoff - some of it nominally contributed by individuals who say they've never heard the name Doug Duncan - Mr. Duncan simultaneously received $15,000 from other sources with an interest in the yeshiva," the editorial continues.

"That means Mr. Duncan got a total of $35,000 just before he approved allowing the school to lease a disused county public school - a decision opposed by both the county school system and the school's neighbors."

While the connection may not be illegal, "it is unseemly and at odds with the image of an able, honest public servant that Mr. Duncan has enjoyed until now."

Take a look at Duncan's campaign homepage

See for yourself on

'Shady dealings': Duncan aide makes it look like school-for-campaign-cash

"The impression of shady dealings and the possibility that political favors were traded for cash is reinforced by the fact that a key aide to Mr. Duncan, Jerry Pasternak, was dealing with the school issue at the same time he was handling fundraising duties for his boss," the Post continues in its May 28 editorial. "As Mr. Duncan himself told The Post, 'You should not be asking people for contributions if you're negotiating with them.'"

What donations preceded this letter to surplus school land for developers?

Did Doug Duncan take any odd campaign money prior to writing this sudden letter in October, 2003, asking Superintendent Jerry Weast to surplus Montgomery County Public Schools property so Duncan could turn the land over to developers?

This letter ignited the Kendale scandal and got all the weirdness of the past two-and-a-half years in motion. Something motivated it. Duncan and Weast have avoided Seven Locks citizens' repeated requests for information. Maybe the Inspector General can find out.

Post: Duncan owes a 'full, public explanation'

"Because he has built a scandal-free record over the years, [Doug Duncan's] admirers will want to give him the benefit of the doubt," the Washington Post says in a May 28 editorial.

"But they will be hard-pressed to do so until he gives a full, public explanation of his role, and that of his aides, in this affair."

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Post: 'Conflict of interest' for Duncan campaign aide, Abramoff and MCPS

"A longtime aide to Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan played a key role in the county's leasing of two schools" to a religious school involving crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff while "at the same time he was working as a political adviser and fundraiser for Duncan."

So reports the Washington Post in a front-page May 27 story.

"Jerry Pasternak, a special assistant to Duncan (D), knew lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- a Yeshiva board member in the late 1990s and early 2000s -- from the Orthodox Jewish community and accepted his offer to help raise money for Duncan in 1998, Duncan's gubernatorial campaign manager, Scott Arceneaux, said yesterday," according to the Post.

Arcenaux made the admission after the Post reported on May 26 that Duncan had rigged the leasing and possible sale of public school property at an artificially low price after taking $20,000 from Abramoff-related businesses.

"Pasternak's dual role raises the question of a potential conflict of interest," according to the Post. "He is on leave from his county job while he volunteers on Duncan's gubernatorial campaign."

Tainted Duncan aide's picture pulled from Montgomery website

A photograph of a Doug Duncan aide and political activist tainted by the Jack Abramoff corruption scandal has been removed from the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee website.

Jerry Pasternak, a county employee on leave to work on Duncan's campaign to become governor of Maryland, reportedly accepted Abramoff's offer in 1998 to raise money for Duncan's county executive campaign.

According to the Washington Post, Pasternak used his influence as a Duncan aide on the county payroll to help turn over public school property to Abramoff's school - over the objections of the community and the school superintendent - at steeply discounted prices.

A photo of Duncan with Pasternak appeared on the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee website at this URL:, but the image has been taken down and the link no longer exists. No reason is given for the omission.

Tom Perez says tainted Duncan aide 'led negotiations'

County Council member Tom Perez (pictured), who in 2003 opposed the lease of Montgomery Hills Junior High School to a private school of corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, tells the Washington Post that Doug Duncan's campaign aide "led negotiations on behalf of the county."

The Duncan campaign operative, Jerry Pasternak, was a Montgomery County official at the time. According to the Post, a board member of Abramoff's Yeshiva school said "that Pasternak also 'was probably' the person who solicited him for contributions to Duncan's campaign account."

Pasternak declined to give the Post his side of the story.

Duncan's gubernatorial campaign issued a statement instead in Pasternak's name: "At no time during our discussions about Yeshiva, did I ask [the Yeshiva board member] for campaign contributions." In the campaign statement, Pasternak acknowledged that he was "involved in the project," but that county attorneys handled the leases.

Perez is running for state attorney general.

'Some kind of quid pro quo involved,' Perez says

Councilman Tom Perez says that Duncan aide Pasternak's alleged mixing of official county duties and campaign fundraising with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff looks bad for the gubernatorial candidate.

Perez tells the Washington Post, "The perception is there is some kind of quid pro quo involved."

Abramoff connection answers questions of puzzled residents

Montgomery County residents who opposed the deals to lease public school property to lobbyist Jack Abramoff's private school "said the disclosure of the campaign contributions yesterday provided new insight into a situation they found puzzling at the time," according to the Washington Post.

"Ed Ferrigno, a member of the North Woodside Montgomery Hills Civic Association, was active in pressing for safeguards requiring greater public and official review of school reuse that were instituted after the Belt transaction. When Duncan and the council sought an exemption for Yeshiva soon after the safeguards were approved, he said, the group was 'floored that they would reverse like that.'"

According to the Post, "Community activists said the timing of the contributions raises concerns that the money was intended to influence county policy. 'This is a very clear example of special interest money securing favors,' said Duncan critic Drew Powell, executive director of Neighbors for a Better Montgomery, a nonprofit group that tracks campaign contributions to local officials."

Ferrigno himself is a professional lobbyist, and he says he has no problem with local members of the private school making political contributions. "That's part of the system," he tells the Post. "But it certainly appears that a political contribution drove a decision to override sound public policy."

Subin says he's sure there were no improprieties

While Councilman Tom Perez and others are concerned about conflicts of interests or worse in the alleged influence-buying racket to take over a public school, County Council Education Committee Chairman Michael Subin (pictured) says he's sure everything was honest and aboveboard.

Just as it always is in Montgomery County.

The Washington Post reports that Subin "said Duncan and Pasternak had kept a clear demarcation between their political and official activities."

Subin supported the scheme to provide MCPS property to lobbyist Jack Abramoff's school.

Just as he did with Duncan's stealth plan - which the community successfully scuttled - to turn over the Seven Locks Elementary School to developers.

County Exec says he never noticed the money from Saipan and Guam

County Executive Doug Duncan and his gubernatorial campaign staff say they just didn't notice the Saipan and Guam addresses of Abramoff-related donors who maxed out on their contributions.

"Although the 2006 campaign acknowledged Abramoff's role in helping raise money for Duncan, officials insisted that the county executive had no knowledge of the contributions from Saipan, an island in the U.S. commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the US territory of Guam," the Washington Post reports today.

That's kind of a stretch, because the Post ran a series of major page-one stories about Abramoff and his controversial lobbying on behalf of Saipan sweatshop interests.

Duncan's campaign staffers say it isn't unusual for a candidate or official to let the staff handle fundraising issues on a "week-to-week basis." But the fishy contributions made up a quarter of Duncan's fundraising for an entire month.

Isiah Leggett, who hopes to succeed Duncan as county executive and who supports strengthening the county Inspector General to investigate fraud and abuse, said he would have noticed cash from Guam and Saipan.

"I would know -- at least I would see the address," he tells the Post.

Friday, May 26, 2006

School scam: Duncan took illegal cash from crooked lobbyist

The Washington Post has tied Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan to convicted felon Jack Abramoff (pictured).

The disgraced former superlobbyist arranged for $20,000 in apparently illegal campaign contributions to Duncan just four weeks before Duncan - over the objections of the community and the school system - "authorized the lease and potential sale" of a vacant public school to Abramoff and his friends.

Most of the cash came from sweatshop interests in the Pacific island of Saipan, which Abramoff was representing in Washington, the Post reports on May 26.

Duncan arranged for sale of public school for fraction of value

County Executive Douglas Duncan arranged for the sale of Montgomery public school property to campaign cronies for a fraction of the assessed value, the May 26 Washington Post reports.

According to the Post, "the assessed value of the property in 1998 was $9.7 million; the sale price under the agreement was $1.75 million."

The MCPS superintendent at the time, Paul L. Vance, said that the school system "wanted to modernize the facility and keep it public. The County Council backed Duncan and authorized the transaction," according to the Post.

"A group of residents sued the county to block the transaction, arguing that 'the result will be an unlawful permanent transfer of public property to a private interest at a grossly inadequate price,'" the Post reports.

Duncan denies link between school deal and Abramoff cash

"Duncan said there had 'absolutely not' been any relation between the lease of the school and campaign contributions," the Washington Post reports on May 26.

"I feel very strongly that closed, abandoned schools are bad for neighborhoods. I wanted to get the schools reused," Duncan says in defense of his actions.

Duncan overrode the objections of then-MCPS Superintendent Vance, and pushed the deal through to turn over the shuttered Belt High School in Wheaton to a religious school dominated by crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Duncan did the deal four weeks after Abramoff's sweatshop clients in Saipan funneled $20,000 into his political campaign.

Other Abramoff associates gave Duncan another $15,000 at about the same time, but they deny that the cash had anything to do with Abramoff's school, the Yeshiva of Greater Washington.

Weast reclaimed the school, but found another one for Abramoff

Superintendent Jerry Weast reclaimed the school from Jack Abramoff's group in 2001, but MCPS and county officials found another public school for the crooked lobbyist.

In order to conceal the deal from the public, "[County Executive Doug] Duncan had a bill introduced in the council to exempt the transaction from a review mechanism instituted after the Belt transaction," according to the Washington Post.

Nobody seems to remember anything about the money

Doug Duncan doesn't seem to remember anything about receiving campaign contributions from the Pacific island of Saipan, and the people in Saipan on record has having written the checks don't seem to remember anything, either.

They don't even recall who Duncan was, even though they gave him the maximum amount allowed by law in 1999. Some say they were reimbursed for the contributions, which may have been illegal.

Corrupt superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, a Montgomery County resident, was behind the transactions, according to the Washington Post.

Unlike other politicians tainted by the Abramoff scandal, Duncan didn't come forward with the information that he had received crooked money. He said nothing until the Washington Post confronted him with the information this month. Then he gave the money back.

Duncan had County Council conceal the Abramoff deal from review

After the Belt High School deal fell through, Doug Duncan had the County Council shield a subsequent deal with Jack Abramoff from public review.

Superintendent Jerry Weast (pictured) and MCPS were complicit in the second arrangement to provide public school property to Abramoff and other Duncan campaign donors at a suspiciously low price.

The Washington Post reports, "Duncan had a bill introduced in the council to exempt the transaction from a review mechanism instituted after the Belt transaction."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Seven Locks community shows citizens can fight and win

The community victory over the Montgomery County Board of Education taught a lot of lessons to Seven Locks kids, parents and neighbors, a guest column in the Washington Post explains.

In his piece piece expressing the views of the successful Save Seven Locks School Coalition, Seven Locks dad Jay M. Weinstein writes:

"1) You can take on City Hall and win, even against the greatest odds. But you need lots of people -- persistent people, diligent people, irrepressible people. We were lucky, but as they say, luck is the residue of hard work.

"2) Although everyone has an opinion about presidents and governors, even the most conscientious citizens have no clue whom to vote for in county and school board elections.

"The paradox is, decisions by local officials are infinitely more likely to directly affect voters than anything George W. Bush does.

"3) Government officials must remember that constituents are not their enemies; they are their friends. They cannot assume the competence, fairness or honesty of other governmental agencies when challenged by respectable citizens."

Doug Duncan 'refused' to meet with Seven Locks parents

In the two-and-a-half years since he signed his infamous letter to Jerry Weast asking for the school system to surplus school property for a politically motivated housing project, County Executive Doug Duncan refused to meet with concerned community leaders.

Save Seven Locks Coalition representative Jay M. Weinstein writes in the Washington Post, "The county executive refused to meet with our group during the entire process."

Lt. Gov. Steele visited the school that Duncan and Weast tried to avoid

Like Superintendent Jerry Weast (left), County Executive Doug Duncan has chickened out from meeting with his Seven Locks constituents for two-and-a-half years.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele visited the school and had a productive meeting with PTA members.

Duncan (right) is running for governor of Maryland. Steele (center) is running for the US Senate.

Their avoidance of Seven Locks lead us to conclude that Weast and Duncan have something to hide.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Soothing words from a chastened bully

"Fighting does not solve problems, it exacerbates them."

That's what Superintendent Jerry Weast said in the March 24 Almanac after the County Council smashed his Kendale school fantasy and checkmated his efforts to shut down Seven Locks Elementary School.

Citizen action defeated county bosses

"Civic groups, PTAs and community activists at times steered the process and at times were shut out," the Almanac reports in a summary of the Kendale ordeal.

"They rallied around opposition to the Kendale proposal and a February inspector general’s report that found that MCPS had not fairly represented the costs of the plan. Most visible was the Save Seven Locks Coalition, which used Freedom of Information Act requests and budget analyses build its case, lobbying county leaders, keeping a Web site, and printing now-omnipresent 'Save Seven Locks' T-shirts."

The big stars on the County Council were Howard Denis and George Leventhal, who acted decisively when the Inspector General reported MCPS wrongdoing earlier this year.

NC teacher recalls Weast legacy of 'ill feeling, fear, suspicion'

Guilford County, North Carolina teachers have been discussing their former superintendent, Jerry "Double Secret Probation" Weast (pictured), on the chatboard. And they remember him as a bully who filled teachers with fear. One says he lost sleep at night because of Weast.

A science teacher writes, "Yes, I remember Jerry Weast. A lot of people, former teachers, students, former adminisrators....we ALL REMEMBER HIM....and some of his henchmen.

"So he is up to the same mess in Maryland, huh? I am sorry for that, but it does not surprise me...

"And don't call on your local NEA affiliate to help you out. In Guilford county, they allegedly caught one of the NCAE uniserve reps 'sharing information' with his regime. NCAE denied it (of course) but it was odd how that person was rapidly transferred someplace else.

". . . Their policy of 'children first' is laughable. There has been little else but ill feeling, fear, suspicion and contention since the merger . . . oh and it was NOT a merger at all, but a hostile takeover by the Greensboro City Schools. A certain assistant superintendent in the former Greensboro City Schools was instrumental in orchestrating the Weast reign of terror. He's still around too.

"I have moved on with my life and career and have done quite well in a neighboring county. . . . 12 years now. No, it isn't perfect and there is much left to desire, but at the VERY LEAST, I don't spend my time looking over my shoulder, losing sleep at night. . . ."

Teacher says colleagues who criticized Weast were forced to quit

A North Carolina science teacher elaborates on harassment and intimidation during Jerry Weast's tenure as superintendent in Guilford County. The teacher writes on

"I was the target of a 'witch hunt' (I am older too), orchestrated by a pair of meddlesome, overzealous parents who were instrumental in nearly wrecking my life and career. Not only were the Weastenistas not interested in settling the matter quickly (it festered all summer), they wrote me up and 'transferred' me to a horrible school where they knew I wouldn't last. Even my former principal concluded it was done to be 'rid' of me.

"I was one of the 'lucky' ones; I wasn't fired or forced to resign. I have heard many of the horror stories about things done to other older and outspoken teachers.

"If a place like this ( is not a place where we can discuss ideas and attitudes openly, then where is? Gracious Lord knows if we do it via a letter to the editor, we get ourselves into trouble. I did a few years back.

"I agree with you when you say we don't need a teacher union, but our biggest problem is that we 'hold still' for too many abuses, won't or can't fight back. When it is that we get 'enough,' dig in our heels, and resist???!!!"

Critics threatened with forced transfers & lawsuits

A Guilford, North Carolina teacher recalls that when Jerry Weast was superintendent there, the school system threatened teachers who criticized his administration and even threatened to sue a local newspaper. But the paper didn't back down and Weast relented.

Discussing Weast on the chatboard, the teacher writes,

"As to the legality of it, we still have free speech in this country, despite what some have done to curtail or end it. And as to slander and libel, those things require falsehood.

"The GCS [Guilford County Schools] threatened a local newspaper with a lawsuit some years back, saying all the news about their terror tactics were false. The newspaper didn't back down, stuck to their story, and the GCS didn't pursue it further. They were merely trying the same tactics on this newspaper than they had on teachers.

"Sadly, it worked with teachers as we had a 'mole' working for the gutless NCAE who was feeding them inside information. Not so with the newspaper.

"And now they say the same stuff is going on in Maryland. Sad."

Weast allegedly tormented NC teachers, who feared speaking out

Another North Carolina teacher posted this note about the superintendent in 2001. We re-post it here for the record in Montgomery County, Maryland:

"It seems that Jerry Weast is the CIA of public education. The
school district in Guilford County allegedly hired a sleazy lawfirm
to unleash sort of a McCarthy witch-hunt. Teachers were allegedly
called into rooms full of school officials and lawyers and accused
of sinister deeds - like child abuse. Their tormentors used
hardball tactics and many teachers were driven out of the district.

"The common denominator? The victims were allegedly usually older
teachers. In fact ageism is very common in education. I believe
the 'industry' is emulating corporate downsizing, replacing older
teachers with younger teachers who are CHEAPER. In addition,
younger teachers are less knowledgeable about school politics. And
if they aren't tenured, they're especially afraid to speak out.

"Now Weast is working his evil in Maryland, which, along with
Washington, D.C., may be the nation's 'education mafia' capital.
Are you familiar with [name deleted]? His sleazy career in public
education followed him into private practice. The last I heard, he
was under fire for corruption in some private education company he

Weast 'scared the crap' out of NC teachers

A North Carolina teacher with the pen name "Harassed" writes on the chatroom that his or her colleagues might still be scared of their old boss.


MoCo superintendent 'known for harassing teachers'

Another North Carolina teacher recalls Weast on

"I don't teach in Guilford County, but I remember when he [Weast] was here. He was known for harassing teachers, and everyone was glad when he left. . . . Sorry if you are having to deal with him now in Maryland, but I don't think anyone here wants him back."

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Note to Doug Duncan: Please rescind your Kendale surplusing request

TO: Doug Duncan
FROM: "Not Doug Duncan"
DATE: May 23, 2006
RE: Damage control

A lot of people who would otherwise vote for you get hopping mad when they learn that you were the one who started the whole Kendale/Seven Locks ordeal.

They get even angrier when they see your October, 2003 letter asking Superintendent Jerry Weast to surplus public school property for one of your pet construction projects.

Now that we forced the superintendent and school board to scrap their Kendale project and keep Seven Locks Elementary School open, we imagine that some on the losing side are still planning to bulldoze the wooded wildlife habitat on Kendale Road that you asked Weast to surplus for your project.

We remain worried about the fate of the Kendale property, as MCPS is still being untruthful about its intentions. We as parents are concerned about any county-led construction project that would result in hundreds of new kids suddenly dumped into area schools, and find the county's secretiveness to be cause for alarm.

You can do much to ease the community's concerns by rescinding your 2003 request for surplused school property. You should also pledge to keep school land for school kids.

Your withdrawal of your surplusing request will ameliorate some of the community's festering distrust of its elected local leaders. Some of those leaders are among your strongest supporters and are trying to do the right thing. Please help them.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Duncan's 2003 letter that started the Kendale crisis

Here's County Executive Doug Duncan's October, 2003 letter to Superintendent Jerry Weast, asking Weast to take land away from school kids and give it to the county government for housing development.

We're asking Duncan, who is running for governor of Maryland, to rescind his request to take land away from our overcrowded public schools.

Friday, May 19, 2006

More lies from the School Board

The school board majority lied again to the County Council as Superintendent Jerry Weast floated a "compromise" plan containing a poison pill to phase out Seven Locks Elementary School.

In proposing to move the "Seven Locks Replacement School" from the intended Kendale site to Bells Mill, the board told the County Council that the initiative had "unanimous support."

The direct implication from School Board President Charles Haughey (pictured) was that the two Kendale opponents, Valerie Ervin and Nancy Navarro, suddenly were in agreement with the board majority.

Haughey wasn't telling the truth.

Ken Millstone reports in the Almanac, "'There is unanimous support for this new approach' on the School Board even though there has not been time for a vote, Board President Charles Haughey wrote in a memo to [County Council Education Committee Chairman Michael] Subin. 'It addresses the space needs of Bells Mill and Potomac elementary schools in a timely manner.'

"School Board member Nancy Navarro said in an e-mail that she does not support the new recommendation 'because it only includes minor maintenance for Seven Locks ES. It does not modernize Seven Locks ES until 2011.'

"'I did not realize that an official letter was to be sent out. Once I realized this, I contacted [Haughey] right away but the letter had already been sent,' she wrote.

"'I also spoke to Board member Ervin, who is out of town, and she is not in support of the compromise for the same reasons I have stated.'"

So - Did Haughey trick the County Council into a "compromise" that would leave Seven Locks Elementary School open to a future phaseout? Is the May 17 compromise based on calculated deception? It sure looks that way.

Haughey to Subin: These members don't matter

School board members Valerie Ervin and Nancy Navarro (pictured) don't matter to board President Charles Haughey, who either lies about their views or pretends the elected officials don't exist. (Or, maybe he was just sleeping on the job again and someone at MCPS sent the letter out in his name.)

MCPS deception derailed County Council majority

Did MCPS drive its Kendale suicide bomb into Bells Mill in order to subvert a majority vote of the County Council?

Some involved with the process think so. They say that the weasties took advantage of Councilman Howard Denis' reputation for magnanimity to drop a poison pill into a Kendale compromise.

The sudden softheartedness of stalwart weastie Councilman Mike Subin (pictured), who did everything he could to shut down Seven Locks Elementary School, deepens community suspicions that sinister forces remain in play.

County Council spokesman Patrick Lacefield told the Almanac that the Denis amendment, to build the Kendale school on the Seven Locks site, had all the votes it needed when Superintendent Weast proposed moving Kendale to Bells Mill and School Board chief Charles Haughey lied about unanimous board support - leaving Seven Locks vulnerable for an unofficially planned phaseout.

Seven Locks PTA chief rips school board's 'barely hidden agenda'

"The implications of this proposal are clear: Seven Locks will remain vulnerable to closure, and its students to redistricting in 2008," Seven Locks PTA President Harlivleen Gill wrote to the County Council concerning the MCPS poison pill.

"This is, of course, the barely hidden agenda of the majority of The Board of Education. . . . [It] is simply a different way for the Board of Education to obtain the result it has desired all along: build the Kendale school (although now on the Bells Mill site) and close Seven Locks."

Gill's comments are reported in the Almanac.

Shocker: Weast agrees with IG about MCPS transparency

In a shocking admission, Superintendent Jerry Weast agreed with Inspector General Thomas Dagley's finding that MCPS lacks transparency.

The Almanac carries the sensational story.

"I think it is an issue of trust and I think the trust is always broken when you don’t have all the transparency," Weast told the County Council's Education Committee, chaired by Michael "For the Kids" Subin, on May 16.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Subin won't concede - says he 'Must have the Precious'

"'Precious, precious, precious!' Gollum cried. 'My Precious! O my Precious!'

"And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell.

"Out of the depths came his last wail Precious, and he was gone."

- J.R.R. Tolkein, The Return of the King

Citizen action wins - Seven Locks school is saved!

By a unanimous vote, the County Council handed a harsh rebuke to the school board and Superintendent Jerry Weast by saving Seven Locks Elementary School.

The May 17 vote came after two years of hard citizen action - action that school board member Steve "Abramoff" Abrams denounced as "guerrilla warfare."

Overriding the discredited school board, the County Council voted to keep Seven Locks a kindergarten through fifth grade school for neighborhood children. Councilman Howard Denis withdrew his amendment to build the Kendale school on the Seven Locks site by 2008, and introduced an amendment to expand and modernize Seven Locks as follows:

Funding for "modernization," to include a new gymnasium, for completion by December, 2011.

Addition of 4 to 8 classrooms as part of a permanent structure (not portables), based on Churchill Cluster needs, that could double enrollment from about 260 to as many as 500.

Funding for immediate upgrades, including facility planning for FY 2007 ($50,000), planning and design for FY 2008 ($400,000), and planning and design for FY 2009 ($450,000).

The package would assist other Churchill Cluster schools, including Bells Mill modernization to a core school of 640 students, immediate and longer-term repairs at Potomac Elementary, and a community-based boundary study.

Citizens remain wary

This cautionary note from the Save Seven Locks Coalition e-mail shows that the community will remain on guard against county attempts to renege on the deal:

"While kudos are in order to all in the community and PTA and those throughout the County who have helped save Seven Locks School, it is clear that continuing vigilance is in order."

Denis says 'the war is over,' but Leventhal stays locked and loaded

"The war is over, and it is time for magnanimity and peace," County Councilman Howard Denis says after getting Superintendent Jerry Weast to kill his beloved Kendale project.

"But even as school board and council members spoke in conciliatory terms," the Washington Post reports, "[County Council President George] Leventhal offered some words of caution. 'The fact that we have an excellent school system does not mean we shouldn't ask questions about it,' he said, adding that no institution - not the school board or the County Council - is above scrutiny."

Leventhal has yet to file a brief with the Maryland Attorney General in support of the County Inspector General's right to investigate allegations of wrongdoing in the school system.

"One factor that helped doom the Kendale plan," according to the Post, "was a report in February by the county's independent inspector general, Thomas Dagley."

Thanks to the public officials who did the right thing. . .

Thanks to all who pitched in - even the latecomers - and the bipartisan folks on the County Council, including George Leventhal, Howard Denis and Marilyn Praisner, as well as the courageous school board duo, Nancy Navarro and Valerie Ervin.

. . . and an odd gracias to Subin and Abramoff

Thanks are also due, in weird ways, to County Council Education Committee Chairman Michael Subin and school board member Steve "Abramoff" Abrams.

They were vital to the rout of the weasties and to the saving of the school. Their ugly tempers, sleazy modus operandi, and overall boorishness in the name of "the kids" helped alienate the last fence-sitters who ultimately came around and did the right thing.

Subin and Abramoff have exposed themselves as mean-spirited bullies. But at least they faced the families of Seven Locks at the public hearings. The preening Jerry Weast chickened out.

It's been a tough but great civics lesson for the Seven Locks kids. United citizen action works when the people lose their fear.

There's more work to do. So this blog will still be around.

The County Council helped us defeat the MCPS drive to corral our kids in mega-schools. But we're not out of the woods yet. The majority of the school board is seething with resentment against the PTA, and Steve Abrams still blubbers about smacking us down and doing away with our school. And then there's the usual assortment of cleverlings within MCPS who will find a way - any way - to stick it to the people who told them "no."

The school board majority and the Weasties lost their precious Kendale project. They lost completely to the Seven Locks PTA. They lost to the County Council. They lost their credibility with the public. And they lost to the Inspector General. With more losses on the way.

And we still can't let County Executive Doug Duncan off the hook. He started this whole mess when he asked Weast to surplus school land for one of his pet projects. He hasn't tried to un-do it, let alone apologize. There's still time before the primary.

So this blogger will take a rest for a while. But the blog will stay. And we still have the names of the local politicians, or clever variants, registered as Internet URL addresses, just in case the people need them.

We're doing it for the kids.

How to remember friend from foe on the school board

It's hard to keep track of who does what in local politics, and it's even harder for the average citizen to remember who is whom on the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Only two members - Valerie Ervin and Nancy Navarro - supported the kids on the Kendale issue. Curiously, they are the only school board members who supported the county Inspector General's investigation of alleged official wrongdoing in MCPS.

Navarro's term is up this year. Let's make sure she gets plenty of support for re-election!

But the rest - they're another matter. They marched in lockstep:

Gabe Romero (term ends this year)
Patricia O'Neill (term ends this year)
Steve "Abramoff" Abrams (running for Maryland comptroller)
Sharon "Cucumber" Cox (term ends in 2008)
Charles Haughey (term ends this year)

Collectively known as R.O.A.C.H.

Let's turn Kendale into a ROACH hotel this election season!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

For the kids: MCPS planned 5 portables for new Kendale school

If getting kids out of portable classrooms was really an overriding factor for MCPS and its Kendale project, then why did MCPS approve a design that includes five portables before the school was even built?

The upper image shows a close-up of the five portables in the MCPS-approved design for the Kendale school project.

The lower image shows the portables in the context of the proposed main school building.

For the kids: MCPS planned tiny sports field for 700+ children

Here's what MCPS was planning "for the kids" at Kendale: A tiny athletic field consisting of a baseball diamond and a softball diamond superimposed over a soccer field.

About half the size of the existing athletic field at Seven Locks.

With five portable classrooms stuffed between the "mulched play area" and the "hard surface play area."

For 740 children.

For the kids: Nearly 3 times as many crammed on 80 percent of the space

Here's another reason why the Seven Locks PTA was so dead-set against the Kendale project - and why the community supports building a new school on the current Seven Locks site.

Seven Locks is located on a 10.0 acre parcel and holds about 260 kids.

Kendale - called "Seven Locks Elementary School Replacement" on the above chart - is located on a 10.2 acre parcel, of which only 8 acres are usable, and would have held up to 740 kids.

The MCPS-approved architectural plan for Kendale shows that the school board has been fighting the PTA so it could cram almost three times as many children onto a serviceable school lot just four-fifths the size of Seven Locks.

All with the following ameneties for the kids: a tiny athletic field, a parking lot that can't accommodate cars and buses at the same time and is too small for after-school events, no road-side parking, no sidewalk, and five portable classrooms squeezed between the mulched and hard play areas.

For the kids: Unsafe parking at Kendale

MCPS designed inadequate parking at Kendale, with no safe space for parking or walking along Kendale Road.

All for the kids. The MCPS-approved architectural plan shows only 71 daytime parking spaces for the 740-child school (top parking lot), and another 46 spaces for "after-hour use."

Those extra spaces designed to be useless during the day because up to 12 school buses will need the space.

MCPS planned only 117 parking spaces for a school of kids from 400 to 500 families - plus faculty and staff - making school-wide evening and weekend events practically impossible.

To compensate for that problem, MCPS proposed burdening the families with twice as many events to attend and forcing siblings ("the kids") to split up. The MCPS idea was for Kendale to hold events for some grades on one evening, and events for other grades on another evening.

Parking is unsafe along Kendale Road, where the pavement is so narrow that two school buses cannot pass one another. There are no sidewalks and few if any street lights. The top MCPS construction official justified the lack of sidewalks by claiming - falsely - that no sidewalks existed for kids to walk or bike to Seven Locks. (For more pictures of the nonexistent sidewalk, click here.)

To accommodate the planned unsafe parking system, MCPS would have the county widen Kendale Road, thus creating more parking spaces on county easements, and not including the costs in the MCPS construction budget. MCPS did not provide that information to the County Council when seeking funds.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Your Kendale scandal could go here

This overhead image of Bells Mill Elementary School is on the MCPS website. Note how MCPS uses an image so old that none of the moldy portable classrooms is visible. For a more recent satellite image, see Google Earth and enter the following coordinates - 39°01'55.78" N by 77°10'10.21" W - to zoom in on the first of the portables.

Or simply copy and paste the school's address: 8225 Bells Mill Road, Potomac MD.

[Update: Better yet, just look at the Google Earth picture below.]

Not on MCPS website: Bells Mill with moldy portables

Here are the moldy portables at Bells Mill Elementary! Courtesy of Google Earth.

Subin: Why can't we all just get along?

County Council Education Committee Chairman Michael Subin, not known for his gentle way of child advocacy, insists his campaign to shut down Seven Locks is for the kids.

After browbeating a Seven Locks PTA member for raising concerns about official misconduct, demanding proof then attacking the Inspector General when proof was presented, losing interest in the official investigation he had once demanded, using foul language in front of children, threatening to retaliate against the Seven Locks community for raising allegations about the Kendale scandal, and bullying just about anybody who gets in his way - even threatening to punch out a Seven Locks dad in the presence of the man's 7 year-old son - Subin now sounds like a reformed Rodney King.

"The fights have got to stop," Subin says in the May 10 Gazette. "This is about the kids. It's not about the adults. It's about the kids. It's a simple as that."

MCPS seen playing Bells Mill against Seven Locks neighbors

By proposing to convert the "Seven Locks replacement school" at Kendale into a "Bells Mill replacement school," Superintendent Weast is picking another fight with the County Council.

The Seven Locks PTA and local community leaders support Councilman Howard Denis' proposed amendment that would have given MCPS the school it wanted on the site that the community wanted. That was widely seen as a fair compromise over a bitter issue.

But Weast would rather take his ball and go home, or in this case, take it to Bells Mill. PTA members have protested repeatedly to the County Council and Board of Education that Weast and MCPS are purposely setting the neighboring school communities against one another.

School Board Chairman Haughey admits defeat on Kendale

"Obviously, we needed to find another approach," school board chief Charles Haughey admits in the Washington Post. "We could have continued to push for Kendale, but it seemed much easier to step back."

Concerning the board's switch-Kendale-to-Bells Mill idea, the Post comments, "it's not clear whether this plan will be a winner."

Weast proposes transfering Kendale to Bells Mill

"Just days after their efforts to build an elementary school in Potomac were thwarted by the Montgomery County Council, school officials are floating a plan they hope will end the stalemate over the disputed construction project," the Washington Post reports.

"Superintendent Jerry D. Weast has proposed that the $32.8 million that would have gone toward building a 640-student school on Kendale Road, to replace the much smaller Seven Locks campus, be used to build a new Bells Mill Elementary campus. The plan, which five of the seven school board members support, would mean that Bells Mill, which is overcrowded and had three portable classrooms shut this year because of mold, would be renovated in August 2009 -- a year ahead of schedule."

Ken Hartman, aide to Councilman Howard Denis, dismissed the proposal: "We think it's a nice offer, but there are improvements to be made."

This proposal looks like the brainchild of school board member Steve "Abramoff" Abrams, currently the target of official wrongdoing allegations, who surfaced the idea of a Kendale solution for Bells Mill.

Abrams is on record as saying he wants to shut down the Seven Locks Elementary School because a parent filed a complaint against MCPS to the county Inspector General.

Bells Mill plan seen as ploy to choke off Seven Locks

"Members of the Seven Locks community said they worry that if a new school is built at Bells Mill, it could siphon off enrollment from their campus, leaving them a target for closure," the Washington Post reports.

Washington Post: Kendale relocation plan will 'upset' communities

The MCPS plan to relocate the Kendale school on Bells Mill ahead of other projects, according to the Washington Post, "is likely to raise questions about fairness. School construction projects are carefully sequenced, and several school board and council members have expressed concern that expediting work at Bells Mill will upset other communities also in line for construction projects."

Leventhal: situation is 'very fluid'

"It's a very fluid situation right now," County Council President George Leventhal says in the Washington Post, concerning the Kendale/Bells Mill solution. "There is merit to what the school system has proposed."

However, the proposal leaves the future of Seven Locks Elementary School uncertain. Repeated vengeful from school board members and MCPS officials indicate a continued commitment to punish the school and the families. The situation is very fluid, indeed.

Bells Mill PTA warned of MCPS distortions

Bells Mill Elementary School PTA members are hopeful that MCPS will relieve their overcrowding problem, and have been impressed by top school officials' presentations and proposals.

Their Seven Locks PTA neighbors, however, are adding some reality to what MCPS is saying, walking BMES PTA members step-by-step through the two-and-a-half-year odyssey of distortion, deception and manipulation that led to the Kendale scandal.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Weast's Sioux Falls employer didn't trust him, either . . .

The Washington Post issued a warning of sorts seven years ago when Jerry Weast came to Montgomery County, saying that a previous school board didn't trust the superintendent.

Running the schools in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Weast "was admired for providing every teacher with a personal computer," but faulted for not thinking things through, the Post reported in July, 1999.

"Sometimes Jerry stepped on toes without thinking of the ramifications," said former school board member Mary Tidwell in the Post article. "Jerry gets things done, but Jerry did not instill in people a sense that they could trust him."

. . . and North Carolina folks were glad to see him leave

As a superintendent in North Carolina, Jerry Weast had his fans - but he made so many enemies that, when he was preparing to leave to come up here to Montgomery County, people offered to hasten his departure.

According to the Washington Post, "viewers called in to a local TV program, "overwhelmingly urging Weast to go - Jerry, tell me where you live, I'll help you pack your bags. . . ."

Why the superintendent has to have it his way

While corruption could be driving some of the apparently irrational MCPS school construction policies, a look at the record shows much of the problem could just be the superintendent's own personality.

Jerry Weast is certainly a hard-charging, effects-minded superintendent, but a 1999 Washington Post profile shows him also to be a vain, controlling technocrat who insisted that people call him "Dr."

"His loyal followers use words like focused, intense, hard-working, even brilliant to describe him. Controlling. Confident, with a touch of gall. A technophile. They echo the slogans Weast has come up with for the system and himself: 'Achievement Up. Costs Down.' 'Children First.' 'The superintendent is a teacher on special assignment.'

"But to his critics, Weast is a self-promoter who can't be trusted. An egotist who looks good on paper and tears around town, car phone in hand, in a big black Infiniti QX4 sport utility vehicle. A man so driven to weed out incompetent teachers that he spent nearly a half-million dollars one year on a law firm to document problems, then interrogate teachers for hours in the central office. Sixty-five later resigned or were fired.

"'I'm not saying he's incompetent,' said one elementary school teacher who asked not to be named. 'But he's slick, slick, slick, slick, slick.'

". . . Not a hair is out of place. His maroon penny loafers are polished. His cell phone and beeper chirp constantly. And his folksy, corn-pone style masks an iron resolve and a single-minded focus on numbers, spreadsheets and the unbending stories they tell. . . .

"'When we hired Jerry, we knew we were only a steppingstone for his career,' recalled Claudia Steen, then the school board chair. 'The moment you talk to Dr. Weast, you know that -- he has big plans.'

"And there, too, Weast did not fare well with teachers. 'He insisted that you call him '"Dr. Weast,"' . . ."

Weast had bad relations with county leaders at previous job

Superintendent Jerry Weast's jihad against the Montgomery County Council is no surprise to those who know his record from before he moved to Maryland.

He had bad relations with the county leaders at his previous assignment, too.

The Washington Post reported the following on July 6, 1999:

"Voters defeated a school construction bond in 1994, and county commissioners have been tight with the purse strings in this manufacturing area, which is both the furniture and hosiery capital of the world.

"But Weast's detractors say he could have swallowed his pride, mended more fences and worked the system better to change that."

North Carolina portables crisis blamed on Weast

With Superintendent Jerry Weast nearly seven years on the job in Montgomery County, it's noteworthy to learn that he was blamed for a school overcrowding crisis at his previous place of employment.

Here's what the Washington Post reported in July, 1999, where Weast was superintendent of a school system in North Carolina:

"People blame Weast because the schools are so old and crowded that nearly 450 aging portable classrooms litter the parking lots. Northwest Guilford High School looks like a mobile home park. 'The science lab for my daughter was a rolling cart,' said parent Susan Bever, who now lives in Fairfax County.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Washington Post: Weast defeated

Superintendent Jerry Weast, once considered a superstar and model for how a public school chief should operate, suffered a "rare defeat" when the County Council quashed his plan for a school the community doesn't want.

The Washington Post reports that "Weast has seldom been challenged on his leadership of the state's largest school system" until now.

According to the Post, "the County Council hand[ed] School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast a rare defeat" in a 6-3 vote that "further strain[ed] relations between the council and school board."

The County Council was not very responsive to community concerns until the Inspector General found the public school leaders had committed wrongdoing.

"Community members have long voiced opposition to the Kendale Road site, but it wasn't until after the county's independent investigator, Thomas Dagley, issued a report in February which criticized the school system's plan that County Council members began to take a closer look at the project," the Post reports.

More Abrams antics

School board member Steve Abrams made a fool of himself again when he almost got thrown out of a County Council meeting.

At the May 11 County Council hearing on the Kendale scandal, Abrams misbehaved so badly that he got a verbal spanking and was nearly rolled out of the room.

According to the Washington Post, "At one point in the three-plus-hour hearing, council President George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) threatened to call security when school board member Stephen N. Abrams (Rockville-Potomac) kept interrupting him."

Friday, May 12, 2006

Abrams admits 'credibility problem' but says it isn't his fault

Looking more like the Sgt. Schultz of the school board, Steve Abrams admits that the board has a "credibility problem" but holds himself and his colleagues blameless.

"We have a credibility problem, guys. We have a credibility problem, not through our making," Abrams said at a May 9 meeting.

According to the Almanac, Abrams blamed the community for "gaming the system by throwing up hurdles to an approved school plan."

Abrams confesses: 'we're not transparent enough' - but faults community

Steve Abrams appears to agree with the Montgomery County Inspector General that the board is "not transparent enough."

It isn't the school board's fault, of course. It's the fault of the community members who demanded transparency and accountability.

Commenting on the school board's credibility problem, Abrams says in the Almanac, "Part of the reason is we’re not transparent enough. . . . [But] this is a sophisticated community that knows how to engage in guerilla warfare and they’ve done a marvelous job of undermining our credibility.”

Required reading for school board majority

Education task force member: School board won't tell its real intent

Trying to give the Montgomery County school board a face-saving way out of the Kendale mess has proved near-impossible for the County Council aide who tried to broker a compromise.

"It’s almost like we’re playing some game of poker," according to Ken Hartman, an aide to County Councilman Howard Denis and a member of the County Council-Board of Education task force set up to find a solution.

"We’re trying to read the tea leaves because they don’t want to talk to us," Hartman says in the Almanac.

"It sounded to me like the Board was signaling that we won't take up Seven Locks until sometime in the future and in the interim we should use some money for an accelerated Bells Mill project and Potomac would get some improvements. . . .

"It’s so vague. It’s hard for us to comment unless we know what their intent was."

Hartman warned that if the school board remained stubborn by trying to push through the unpopular Kendale project, "we're on for a train wreck."

Navarro says school board could have compromised

School Board member Nancy Navarro, after visiting the Kendale and Seven Locks sites, said her colleagues could have compromised with the community.

"I was not necessarily convinced as I [recently] drove through the Seven Locks and Kendale sites that we could not do something at Seven Locks to respond to the overwhelming testimony that I heard," Navarro said in the Almanac.

"I understand that we cannot always please everybody but I feel very strongly that . . . we should have looked a little harder at ways to address everybody’s concerns," she added.

Almanac: School board action 'created confusion'

The school board's action to disregard opposition from the PTA, community and County Council, and its refusal to compromise by building the school it wants at the site that the community wants, has "created confusion" among Montgomery County officials, the Almanac reports.

"'I’m perplexed,' said County Council President George Leventhal (D-At Large). 'In early March, I tried to open a dialogue with the School Board and the school system and we put together a task force that costed out eight options [for relieving overcrowding]. We had three nights of public hearings. . . . .

"'Now the School Board is sending us something which was not one of the eight options and on which there have been no public hearings.'"

County Council chief: School board acted in bad faith

The Board of Education acted in bad faith in trying to find a solution to the Kendale scandal, County Council President George Leventhal says.

"I don’t really think the Board has made a good faith effort to work with the Council," Leventhal says in the Almanac. "I think the Board has insisted on its approach."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Law enforcement officials receive complaint against Abrams

Blogger's note: Because of threats against PTA members who raised the issue, we have deleted the names of the private citizens involved with the following story.

School board member Steve Abrams is the subject of a formal allegation of wrongdoing filed with the Montgomery County fraud-hunter and the state of Maryland's top law enforcement officials.

The allegation centers on an alleged incident in which Abrams indicated he decided to shut down Seven Locks Elementary School in retaliation for the action of one individual in the community who had filed a complaint with the county Inspector General.

A member of the Seven Locks Elementary School PTA formally made the allegation against Abrams with the county Inspector General, the State Attorney General, and the State's Attorney for Montgomery County on May 10.

He passed word of it to County Council President George Leventhal, telling him in a message that he thought the Council "should be aware of this allegation prior to your actions on the Seven Locks issue."

"Prior to the Board of Education public hearing on May 1 on the task force report on Seven Locks Elementary School I asked Mr. Abrams why he had turned against the community that had helped him get elected by not supporting keeping Seven Locks school at its current location," the PTA member told the Council president.

"There were many witnesses to the conversation including a reporter from the Gazette who took a picture of the conversation with Mr. Abrams."

"His response was: 'Your school is gone. You lost my support when someone in your community went to the IG [Inspector General]. I advised you not to raise your issues in a larger way.'

"By this time [name deleted], who is the husband of one of the Seven Locks coalition leaders, joined in my conversation. Mr. Abrams then told Mr. [name deleted] that his wife was the one that sent the information to the IG and that our school was gone.

[Note: This is another case of Abrams getting his facts wrong. Abrams blamed the wrong person, and we can prove it.]

The PTA member continued, "He [Abrams] also pointed at and stuck his index finger in the chest of Mr. [name deleted] as he continued his rant against the community for going to the IG.

"It is unfathomable that an elected official would punitively damage the children and community in which he was elected to serve because somebody wanted to have the facts investigated," the PTA member said.

"I would like to have Mr. Abrams investigated about whether his statements and behavior break any whistleblower laws or any other laws that protect the right of the community to have potential waste, fraud, or abuse investigated without retaliation."

Steve Abrams broke his word

In his spiteful attack on the Seven Locks community for the action of one person, school board member Steve "Abramoff" Abrams broke a major campaign promise.

Abrams was elected in 2004 after pledging to the community that athough he supported building the controversial Kendale school, he would save Seven Locks Elementary School at its present location.

He told the Gazette in October 22, 2004 issue, "I believe Seven Locks Elementary School should be retained even after the new Kentsdale [sic] facility is opened. It should be used to help reduce both class size and the utilization of portable classrooms in the cluster."

Abrams also criticized MCPS for poorly communicating with the Seven Locks community. The Gazette asked him, "How would you characterize the decision-making process about how to proceed on Seven Locks Elementary School? Is there anything you would like to do differently?"

Abrams replied, "I believe the school system could have communicated better with the community. The failure to do so has caused some unnecessary anxiety on both sides."

Presently Abrams is making campaign promises to all of Maryland as he pursues higher office to become the state comptroller.

Flashback to Feb 27: Warning about state prosecution on Abrams

"The State Special Prosecutor may . . . need to be invited to take a look" at Steve Abrams' antics over the Kendale scandal, we reported last February.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

School board votes to kill Seven Locks School

The Board of Education formally voted to do away with Seven Locks Elementary School and to build the controversial and unpopular mega-school on Kendale Road. The vote was 5 to 2, with Nancy Navarro and Valerie Ervin dissenting.