Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ebenezer Weast slashes Christmas break to 4 days

Yet another instance of the superintendent's family-hostile policies.

December 26-29: A measly four days for Christmas vacation. Christmas and Thanksgiving are the most important national holidays for family reunions - yet Superintendent Weast has seen fit to cut the Christmas break to the bone.

A latter-day Ebenezer Scrooge with callous disregard for families, Weast has made it as difficult as possible for families to travel to enjoy Christmas, giving a pathetic four days off from school.

So as not to offend the oh-so-sensitive people who find Christmas offensive, MCPS has re-named the vacation "Winter break."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Philosophical shift seen on school board

The November elections that swept away the pro-Weast majority marked a philosophical shift on the Board of Education.

According to the Gazette, the election of Nancy Navarro as school board president "had board members and observers this week talking about a shift of power and in philosophy on the board."

‘‘The recent election has resulted in what I believe is a significant philosophical shift among members of the board in regard to the board’s role and responsibilities,” says school board member Sharon W. Cox, a longtime defender of the Weast status quo who is best known for her role in the "veggie sex" video scandal.

The board broke precedent by failing to elect Cox, who had served as vice president for most of 2006, as president. The school board vice president traditionally becomes president the following year, but the new board rejected Cox in favor of the reformist Navarro.

The Gazette notes that Navarro "was often an outsider on the former board." She was outnumbered consistently in her calls to root out cronyism and apparent corruption from among MCPS leaders.

But now, Navarro is "in a position to set the tone for the board for the year to come."

Navarro: MCPS must stop congratulating itself

Montgomery County's new school board chief says the board and MCPS must resist the urge to congratulate themselves and spend more time talking about continuing challenges and how to fix them.

Board of Education President Nancy Navarro says in the Gazette, "We need to present the human face of what we're doing and connect the dots so the public can understand the challenges we face."

In a pointed shot at the previous board, whose slavish loyalty to Superintendent Jerry Weast had made it an object of ridicule, Navarro said that all the self-congratulation made it difficult to seek state funds for disadvantaged students.

‘‘It’s hard to make your case when all you talk about is how great everything is,” says Navarro. "Why give any more money?”

A local education leader agrees. ‘‘There’s a certain amount of cheerleading that has to go on,” says Montgomery County Civic Federation Education Committee Chairman Mark Adelman. But he adds, in the words of the Gazette, "that rah-rah attitude cannot take the board away from its mission."

‘‘My perception is that there’s too much time spent talking about how great a job is being done and not enough time spent with the public at the table in a dialogue of how do we get the job done better,” says Adelman.

Abrams decries Navarro 'power play'

Facing assault and extortion charges against an African-American politician whom he had pressured to drop out of an election campaign, School Board member Steve Abrams lashes out at the newly elected majority.

According to the Gazette, Abrams denies School Board President Nancy Navarro's observation of a marked philosophical shift on the board, denouncing the multi-racial majority's criticism of the MCPS leadership as a "power play."

Abrams had supported an all-white school board slate in support of Superintendent Jerry Weast, and opposed the elevation of Hispanic and African-American candidates to the board.

He got into legal trouble in November after making racial taunts against a black former candidate for county council, whom he had pressured to quit the campaign so that he, Abrams, could run in his place. Abrams insists that he is not a racist, denying allegations that his alleged assault of the politician was racially motivated.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Reformers elected to lead school board

The new Montgomery County school board president is a proven reformer who has been among the few to stand up to bullies like the superintendent.

At its December 12 meeting, the school board elected Nancy Navarro as president for 2007, and new board member Shirley Brandman as vice president. Both were endorsed by the Save Seven Locks School Coalition.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Superintendent's budget is in trouble

Even before he unveiled his budget to the school board, Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast saw that it was in trouble.

Gone are his allies who unquestioningly approved his steady increases in spending. In their place are newly elected leaders, distrusting of MCPS officials, who intend to scrutinize every line item.

Weast proposed a 7 percent increase in the next fiscal year budget, and plans to ask for a big raise for his own salary and perks.

The $1.98 billion budget "could be a tough sell with new county leaders concerned about the bottom line," Daniel de Vise and Ann E. Marimow report in the Washington Post.

"In releasing his eighth budget as county schools chief, Weast faces more pressure than in the past to demonstrate that he is spending frugally. Montgomery's new chief executive and the nine-member council, which controls the school system's purse strings, said yesterday that they plan to take a conservative view of what the county can afford in the upcoming budget year," according to the Post.

"Timothy Firestine, who was confirmed yesterday as County Executive Isiah Leggett's chief administrative officer, told the council 'you absolutely can't sustain' the pace of spending approved in recent years. 'That's just not going to work.'"

'The sky is falling!'

If the County Council doesn't add $132 milion to the public school budget next year, the sky will fall down and people will get hurt!

That's what Superintendent Jerry Weast is saying, as he sets up local elected officials to look bad if they turn down his demand for more money (including a raise for himself).

"If we don't have the kind of money we need, the only people who get hurt are our people," Weast said when he unveiled the budget on December 13.

By "our people," Weast appears to be referring to the powerful NEA teachers' union. Most of the budget increase goes to increased pay, including a raise for Weast above his current base pay of $238,000 a year plus $100,000 in tax sheltered retirement benefits and a free car.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Abrams: Blacks and Hispanics need to be told how to vote

In another apparently racist comment, School Board member Stephen N. Abrams hinted that blacks and Hispanics need to be told for whom to vote.

According to the Gazette, Abrams complained that the School Board's African-American and Latina members voted to elect another African-American to the board after being given instructions from a teachers' union.

Pretty ugly stuff, especially on the heels of the racist "boy" incident in which Abrams is charged with extortion and assault.

Weast silent for a month on Abrams racism

Today marks the one-month anniversary of School Board member Steve Abrams' racist outburst against an African-American politician. Abrams tugged and tussled with Adol Owen-Williams on November 13, making remarks that Owen-Williams considered racist.

Not an unkind or critical word from Superintendent Weast, who is happy to have any allies at all on the school board.

Railroaded again

Looks like MCPS is railroading parents and elected officials again.

MCCPTA President Jane de Winter has alerted new School Board President Nancy Navarro about the latest antics from the superintendent's office.

This time, it's about middle school reform. MCPS is now getting sneaky with deadlines, sending out policy issues before the cutoff date for public comment.

De Winter writes about how authorities have been keeping the PTA and the public in the dark: "For several years parents have yearned for substantive middle school reform. They have been anxiously awaiting the recommendations of the Middle School Reform Steering Committee as well as the revisions to Policy IEB. MCCPTA has been represented on the Steering Committee for close to two years. There have been no interim reports or other documents which could be released to MCCPTA or the broader parent community. Information shared and input given on middle school reform has been informal since there is no official list of recommendations on which to comment though hundreds of recommendations have been discussed within the Committee. The Committee had a preliminary list of recommendations in early June but opted not to release them to the public.

"Now it is time to submit comments on this revised Policy IEB and we have very little information with which to evaluate the proposed policy changes and to place them into the proper context. We have been able to deconstruct the meaning of many sections of the revised policy based on explanations from our representative to the Steering Committee and those to the sub-committees, yet we have many remaining questions regarding definitions and interpretations and the intent of the Board's vision; these follow in the second section below. The comments and questions were generated by several MCCPTA committees and were presented to our delegates who engaged in thoughtful discussion, added some points of their own, and endorsed the comments contained in this letter.

"MCCPTA strongly believes that the Board should not have put Policy IEB out for public comment before the Middle School Reform Report was issued, or even completed. It is our understanding the Middle School Reform Report is currently a draft that is missing numerous specifics. It might be fair to say that the current driver for the Middle School Reform Report is the need to submit a specific budget request to the County Council in February rather than the revised Policy."

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Leggett to scrutinize MCPS budget

Newly inaugurated Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett says the party's over for the controversial public schools superintendent.

From now on, the school budget will undergo some serious scrutiny - something Superintendent Jerry Weast has fought when leaders tried to look in the past.

Referencing Weast's 2007 budget proposal, Leggett tells the Washington Post that he plans to "look at it much more carefully" than his predecessor and the County Council have in recent years.

Doug Duncan and Weast did under-the-table real estate deals together to try to turn public school property over to developers, and they got caught when Seven Locks Elementary School parents issued a spirited challenge.

Weast is in trouble on the County Council, as well. His crony Michael Subin, who for 20 years chaired the education committee, was thrown out of office in September and replaced on the panel by arch critic Valerie Ervin.

Weast fought the county Inspector General's right to monitor the MCPS budget - something not lost on Leggett, who created the IG office and wants to strengthen it.

With MCPS eating up about half the county's budget, Leggett says, "it should withstand that kind of analysis, and if they can't, then something is wrong."

Monday, December 11, 2006

Post: Weast wants a raise!

Superintendent Jerry Weast thinks Montgomery County taxpayers owe him more cash and perks than ever. He wants a raise above his $238,000 annual salary, $100,000 tax sheltered pension, and free car.

According to the Washington Post, "Weast is expected to seek a new multiyear contract and a raise. He is currently paid $238,000, excluding benefits and perks such as a car allowance."

Good riddance to Michael Subin

Finally, the public school system is rid of one of the nastiest bullies around - defeated County Council Education Committee Chairman Michael Subin.

Subin is the only county incumbent whom voters threw out of office this year.

And with good reason - the sneering skinhead was behind all sorts of sleazy deals involving the improper and possibly illegal disposal of public school property.

He threatened his colleagues on the County Council. He even threatened to castrate one of them. He bullied citizens who raised concerns about abuses of public trust. He used the F-word in front of children. He threatened to punch out a dad in front of the man's second-grade son.

Even his wives (wife #2, Sandra and wife #3 Catherine) had to get restraining orders against him, alleging physical abuse.

He was Superintendent Weast's most dogged supporter on the County Council.

A local blog, MOCOrruption, has the details. (The blog is coincidentally on the same template as, but it's run by someone else.)

Meet our newest school board member

Our newest school board member has the support of the newly dominant reform bloc, and is a father of three MCPS children.

Christopher S. Barclay, 45, received the support of all board members except Sharon Cox and Steve Abrams to replace Valerie Ervin, who was elected to the County Council.

Barclay was treasurer of the re-election campaign of board member Nancy Navarro. He says he is particularly interested in closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.

Miranda S. Spivack of the Washington Post has the story.

All-white Weast ticket is thing of past

The Board of Education is starting to look more like Montgomery County now. The pro-Weast ticket on the school board was all-white. Now that reformers are in control, the board is reflecting the county's diversity.

Over the objections of Stephen "Strom" Abrams and Sharon Cox, the board appointed Christopher Barclay to replace outgoing Valerie Ervin, who was elected to the County Council. Newly elected Judy Docca is the other African-American on the board.

Cox quits bid for School Board prez

Controversial Board of Education member Sharon W. Cox has quit her bid to become school board president.

Perhaps best known for her advocacy of the discredited veggie sex video, Cox finds her fortunes reversed now that most of her allies have either quit or been defeated.

Her only sure-fire ally left on the board is the unpopular Steven N. Abrams, who stands accused of extortion and assault and who has yet to answer for allegedly racist comments directed at an African-American politician.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Abrams emerges from hiding after extortion and assault charges

Unpopular School Board member Stephen N. Abrams emerged from hiding December 9 to attend a board of education meeting, the Gazette reports. It was his first public appearance since November 13, when he allegedly committed acts of assault and extortion against an African-American politician.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Out of control: Weast tries to squelch family input again

The superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools is again trying to prevent families from having input in the system's decision-making process.

After public opposition shot down his Kendale elementary school scheme earlier this year, Superintendent Jerry Weast is now moving to crush parental and community input into decisions concerning county middle schools.

Janis Sartucci of the Churchill High School cluster reports,

Sartucci gives the background to the MCPS middle school issue: "In recognition that MCPS middle schools need significant improvement, the Board of Education (BOE)created a 'Middle School Reform' process over a year ago. It includes school administrators, teachers, parents and students, who worked in 7 Project Teams to propose comprehensive solutions. They have not yet consolidated their recommendations into a final report, but are on schedule to issue their report in January 2007."

MCPS moves to pre-empt and void the Middle School Reform report

"But MCPS has already developed a new policy statement (called 'IEB' Middle School
Education), and the BOE has already tentatively approved it and intends to adopt it, BEFORE they even receive the Middle School Reform report," Sartucci says.

MCPS has rigged the process: "They have allowed only 45 days, ending December 12, for public comment, and again, the public is expected to comment before the public receives the Middle School Reform report."

Parents urged to act NOW

Parents of MCPS elementary and middle school kids can stop the latest Weast power grab if they act now.

They are being urged to "send an urgent message to the Board of Education before they cut parent input out of the policy development process."

Longtime Churchill Cluster coordinator Janis Sartucci urges parents to email a letter to the school board at, or write to the Montgomery County Board of Education at 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville MD 20850, and send a copy to Superintendent Jerry Weast at the same address.

Here's what the local school reform leader says needs to be done: Address the letter to "Dear Board of Education Members." (BOE copies all correspondence to all its members.) BOE must receive the letters before December 12, 2006.

Then: "Follow up with a phone call: 301-279-3617. Unlike other electedbodies, the BOE does not normally get lots of phone calls from the public with opinions on issues. That's all the more reason to call - it will have impact! Just say something brief, like,

* "'I'm calling to say that the Board should not act on the Middle School Reform policy until AFTER the Middle School Reform Report has been received, and

* "'that accelerated and enriched [or gifted and talented] education should be maintained along with special education and on-grade level instruction.'"

Citizens should attend BOE meetings. Members of the public can sign up to testify, or simply show up to demonstrate community support. It worked on the Seven Locks/Kendale scam, and it can work this time. Janis says, "Visit the BOE website to learn about specific meeting agendas, at"

Also: "Attend MCCPTA meetings to learn more about all MCPS issues from the parent point-of-view. Visit the website at for a schedule of meetings.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

3 weeks and counting: Weast still silent on supporter's racism

It has been more than three weeks since Superintendent Jerry Weast's main supporter on the school board was reported to have used racist remarks to intimidate a local African-American politician.

The school board member, Steve Abrams, is accused of assault and extortion during an altercation with Adol Owen-Williams, a former candidate for County Council.

The Washington Post reported November 21 that Abrams called Owen-Williams "Boy" in a racially charged disagreement.

Abrams is white. Adol-Owens is black. The Post reported at the time, "Owen-Williams said he resented Abrams's use of 'boy' because it has racial connotations."

Southern white racists often use "boy" in a demeaning way against African-Americans.

Rather than stand up for principle, Weast, as is his nature when the media isn't calling to fawn over him, has been silent.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Ervin replaces 'Dr Evil' on education committee

Education reform champion Valerie Ervin, who as a school board member stood up to Superintendent Weast's cronyism is to be a member of the County Council's powerful education committee.

She replaces Michael Subin, the skinhead known to schoolchildren as "Dr. Evil."

Subin had turned the committee into a personal feifdom during his 20 year tenure. He was known for browbeating and threatening parents of young schoolchildren who questioned cronyism and alleged corruption in the school system.

Subin was behind several school related scandals, including the Seven Locks/Kendale scheme and the turnover of public school property to crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Democrats threw Subin out of office in the September primary.

O'Neill wants new contract for Weast

School board member Patricia B. O’Neill, recently elected without an opposition candidate, says she wants to renew Superintendent Jerry Weast's contract, which expires early in 2007.

"When I joined the board in 1998, the board began its search to hire a new superintendent," O'Neill says in the Gazette. She boasts, "I am proud that I was part of the group that hired Dr. Weast, and I look forward to raising my hand as we renew his contract for another four years."

Navarro: 'Truth has a way of rising above fear'

Triumphant from her re-election success, school board member Nancy Navarro appeared to challenge Superintendent Weast. The Gazette quotes Navarro as telling supporters, "Thank you for not succumbing to the politics of fear and manipulation. Truth has a way of rising above fear, and this is a lesson that we must always teach our children."

MSI needs new soccer fields while MCPS planned cutting them

Remember when our superintendent and soon-to-be-departing board of education planned to hand a large MCPS soccer field over to developers and replace it with a tiny one superimposed over a baseball and softball diamond? And reduce the inadequate parking even further while forcing kids to walk on a narrow road that had no sidewalk? All this in a "replacement school" that would be three times the size of the existing one?

That was part of the Kendale scandal, of course. Parents killed that ill-conceived plan earlier this year. As it turns out, Montgomery County kids need more soccer fields, not fewer as MCPS had envisioned.

Here's what the folks at MSI, who bring us extracurricular soccer to public schools, tell parents in the 2007 registration form:

"Many of you know that one of the biggest problems facing our community is the overwhelming shortage of recreational ball fields and, especially, the poor quality of those fields that are available. MSI is committed to solving this problem by partnering with our county government to help build new parks and superior quality soccer fields. In 2007, MSI will be launching a sponsorship campaign to help support our field development efforts."

By the way, the MSI people are volunteers who donate their time to the kids.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Weast to give his last budget presentation Dec 13

Superintendent Jerry Weast is giving what is expected to be his last MCPS budget presentation on December 13. His 7-year contract expires early in 2007. For more information on the budget presentation and how to attend, click here.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Post: School board members 'wary of working with Abrams'

"In 10 years of service to the Montgomery County Board of Education, Stephen N. Abrams has developed a reputation for tough talk and, some say, a short fuse," the Washington Post reports.

"Now, amid allegations that he assaulted a fellow Republican at a recent party meeting and addressed the man with a volley of racially disparaging terms, some on the school board say they are uncomfortable working with Abrams."

4 school board members want Abrams to explain

"Four current and future board members - two new members are to be sworn in today - say they want an explanation from [Stephen] Abrams, at the least," according to the Washington Post.

"'Mr. Abrams, I believe, owes the board a statement of sorts, as well as the public,' said board member Nancy Navarro (Northeastern County). She is particularly concerned about the prospect that Abrams used racially insensitive language, which, if true, 'brings a totally other angle to it. I think he should really think about, what does his continued presence on the board mean?'"

The Post continues, "Valerie Ervin (Silver Spring), who is about to leave the board to join the County Council, agreed that Abrams should make a public statement, as did Shirley Brandman (At Large), who is about to join the board, and Patricia O'Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase), one of its senior members."

Abrams in hiding after racist incident; confers with Weast

"Abrams (Rockville-Potomac) has been absent from board meetings since the Nov. 13 incident became public knowledge. He said he has spoken to School Superintendent Jerry D. Weast and to the county schools' head of security about the affair," the Washington Post's Daniel de Vise reports.

Incident highlights Abrams' lack of self-control

The alleged racial incident highlights school board member Steve Abrams' legendary lack of self-control.

The Washington Post reports directly from Abrams' own colleagues. One of them, Valerie Ervin, who was just elected to the County Council, went on record:

"Some on the board say the allegations look bad in light of Abrams's reputation as being temperamental. They recounted incidents as recent as last year in which, they say, Abrams publicly sparred with two County Council members. 'He tends to lose his temper,' Ervin said. 'He's lost his temper with me more than once.'

"Abrams says he prides himself on a sharp wit and sharp tongue, but he defies critics to find any case of physical violence.

"'Anybody who knows me and knows my physical characteristics knows that I settle things verbally. I don't settle things physically,' said Abrams, who is 5 feet 5 inches tall."

(Abrams does things worse than assaulting people physically - he sends lawyers after them.)

Abrams won't confirm or deny 'boy' comments

Here's a big admission of innocence. According to the Washington Post, "Abrams neither confirmed nor denied making the comments."

Montgomery County Republican biggie Tom Reinheimer confirms that Abrams called the black Owen-Williams "boy," but said it wasn't as bad as people say.

"Reinheimer said he walked in on the men, and Abrams told him: 'See what your boy did? That's your boy.' He thinks Abrams meant to portray Owen-Williams as the chairman's political lackey."

"I think that can be taken in a racial context, but I don't think that's how Abrams meant it," said Reinheimer. After all, some of his best friends are black.