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Friday, December 31, 2010

Budget Video is Live!

I've finished my video on the budget! I've also included information about the Superintendent Search and the cell phone pilot. You can watch it here:

More Budget Facts

After some reading, I wrote up a list of important things you guys should know about this year's budget.

·         FY 2012 Proposed Operating Budget
o   $2.163 billion, increase of $59.6 million or 2.8% from FY 2011 $2.104 billion
·         Revenue sources in FY 2011
o   Revenue from county: 67.3%
o   Revenue from state: 23.2%
o   Revenue from federal government: 5.7%
o   Other: 3.8%
·         Change in revenue sources in FY 2012
o   Revenue from county: $1.497 billion, up from $1.415 billion (69.2%)
o   Revenue from state: $516 million, up from $488.6 million (23.86%)
o   Revenue from federal government: $65.56 million, down from $119.06 million (3.03%)
§  Loss of almost $54 million in federal stimulus aid
o   Other: 3.91%
·         Enrollment increase
o   Officially, there are 144,064 students
o   Projected 2012 enrollment of 146,649 – an increase of 2,585 students
·         Expenditures
o   Instructional Programs: 80.5%
o   School Support: 14.6%
o   System-wide Support: 2.3%
o   Miscellaneous (including Food Service): 2.6%
·         Reductions and Savings
o   No across-the-board class size increase
·         Maintenance of Effort
o   State law requiring county to provide local funding at least equal to the same amount last year per student
o   FY 2012 requirement is $10,664 per student
o   MCPS received a MOE waiver last year
o   County Council is the school system’s funding body – the BOE can’t tax
o   This year’s MOE requirement is $1.497 billion
o   If the County Council does not fund us at MOE, we face a penalty of up to $27 million in loss of increased state aid
·         Dr. Weast’s Recommended Budget – not definite
·         The Board of Education is holding Public Hearings on the budget on January 12th and 19th, 2011

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

American Math Scores

A while back, the results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released. This test measures the performance of 15-year-olds in reading literacy, mathematics literacy, and science literacy. The results of American children can be found here

The following is an article by The Washington Post's Jay Matthews about U.S. test scores. 

Are math scores lagging because U.S. parents are clueless?
By Jay Mathews
I stumbled across one of those charming surveys with too small a sample to depend on, but a result interesting enough -- and close enough to possible -- to blog on anyway. It suggests that the kids in Singapore are stealing our lunch money in the race for math supremacy because their parents hire tutors far more often than we do, and because their parents have a less inflated sense of their math skills than U.S. parents do.

The survey of 1,114 parents of children ages 10-14 was conducted in 2010 by a team of researchers working for the Raytheon Co. and a Boston firm called Eduventures Inc. There were only 561 parents from the United States, 311 from England and 272 from Singapore participating, but the researchers apparently felt that gave them at least a faint suggestion of what might explain the fact that Singapore students’ average math scores are significantly above those of U.S. students. What do you think?

In Singapore, the researchers said, 42 percent of parents report the use of tutors for math help, compared with 10 percent of parents in the United States.
That doesn't mean those American 10- to 14-year-olds aren't getting extra help with their math homework. Seventy-seven percent of U.S. parents said family members helped the children, usually about one or two hours a week.

Let's give a cheer for involved parents before we review the evidence suggesting that mom and dad may not be the best tutors, or the best judges of the worth of their assistance. More than half said they "believe they have high ability to help their children with fractions, division, and math word problems." Seventy-two percent said they "know the level of math education my child needs to succeed in college."

The researchers, phrasing their conclusions gently, said: "Evidence suggests U.S. parents may be overly confident or lacking in the use of accurate metrics around math performance and college preparedness. For example, 78 percent of U.S. parents report their children's math performances are in the top 20 percent compared to peers in school."

There is more bad news for us otherwise good-hearted American parents, proud of our kids and eager to help. The researchers discovered that 51 percent of Singapore parents had received instruction from educators about how to help their children with math. In the United States and England, only 25 percent of parents reported receiving similar instruction.

About a third of Singapore students had participated in math competitions, the parents reported. Only 20 percent of the English parents and 9 percent of the American parents said the same.
U.S. educators appear to think that our kids need more help in math, as well as other subjects. Parents agree. Now we have to figure out if the help we are giving them is really helping much.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Superintendent Search

The Board of Education has hired the firm Hazard, Young, Attea, & Associates to conduct its Superintendent Search. Our website for the search is located here.

The timeline below shows how the search will be conducted. Right now, we're still very early in the process. However, I'd like to know what characteristics you guys would value in your future superintendent, and what priorities you think he or she should have. Send me an email at, or leave a comment! I'll be updating the blog periodically to discuss our progress in the search.


Quick Budget Facts

In anticipation of my upcoming budget video, here's some facts about the Superintendent's FY 2012 Recommended Operating Budget:

- No new services or initiatives
- No across-the-board class size increases
- No Cost of Living Increases (COLAs) for employees for the 3rd year in a row
- MCPS employees have agreed to forgo COLAs for the past two years, and voted to give up step increases last year - saving us $115 million annually
- Meets Maintenance of Effort: state law requiring the county to fund education at the same per-student level of $10,664 from FY 2010 (because MOE was waived during FY 2011)
- If the county doesn't fund the budget at MOE, MCPS will likely be penalized with the loss of  $28 million in increased state aid
- 2.8% budget increase ($59.6 million) to account for a 2.3% growth in enrollment and loss of federal stimulus funds
- Loss of $54 million in funds from the federal stimulus package, leaving us a "funding cliff"
- Currently, the number of students considered Limited English Proficient is 18,793
- The number of students receiving Free or Reduced-Price Meals (FARMS) is at 45,196 - nearly one-third of MCPS students
- MCPS was named a recipient of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the highest presidential honor an American organization can receive for performance excellence through innovation, improvement, and visionary leadership
- MCPS was selected as a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education, which recognizes large school systems that have improved student performance while narrowing racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic achievement gaps

That's all for now - keep an eye out for my video!

Monday, December 27, 2010


Hey everyone,

If you haven't already seen it, here's the SMOB Tumblr:

It's a compilation of pictures from everyday school life, and we're hoping to expand it and make it a part of the blog as well.

Have a fun winter break!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Senator Madaleno Proposes Maryland Dream Act

From the Gazette article entitled "Feds drop ball; Madaleno prepares to introduce state Dream Act" published December 20th, 2010 by staff writer Sarah Breitenbach:

After the U.S. Senate failed to pass a plan this weekend that could give undocumented students access to citizenship through military service or higher education, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. announced his plan to bring similar legislation to Maryland.

Madaleno (D-Dist. 18) of Kensington, announced Monday that he plans to introduce his version of the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act when the General Assembly convenes in January. If passed, the bill would enable students who graduated from Maryland high schools or served in the military to receive resident-rate tuition at public universities and colleges.

His version of the legislation, while unable to offer citizenship, a federal responsibility, will mirror a bill introduced by Sen. David C. Harrington (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly in 2009.

Giving immigrants access to higher education and a path to citizenship improves communities and would come at little cost to the state, Madaleno said.

"My impression from the conversations I've had with people in the immigrant community is they're just not going to school," he said. "They're not able to pay the out-of-state- rate. If there were a revenue loss, I think it would be so tiny, it would be minimal."

The Maryland legislature passed a version of the Dream Act in 2003, but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Ten states have passed laws allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition.

"We want to certainly maximize the potential of every person in our state and if it's helping them go to college, I think that's a good thing," Madaleno said, "especially if that's encouraging them to find a path to at least being documented."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Operating Budget Presentation

Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast presented his proposed Operating Budget this Wednesday, December 15th at Richard Montgomery HS.

He has recommended a $2.163 billion budget that complies with Maintenance of Effort. This is an increase of $59.6 million, or 2.8% from the FY 2011 budget. It is important to remember that this budget requires additional local funding due to the loss of federal stimulus funds (ARRA).

It is projected that we will have 3,340 additional students in FY 2012, and an increase of $17.2 million is used to cover these costs. However, there are no new initiatives or programs. In addition, there will be no across-the-board class size increase.

To read the Budget in Brief, click here.
To read the full budget, click here. It is a very large file and may take a long time to load/may crash your computer.

If you have any questions about the budget, don't hesitate to send me an email at

A final note: I will be creating a short, 1 minute video about the budget in the next several weeks. It will be sent out to all MCPS middle and high schools in January. An in-depth blog post about the budget is also coming up!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bus Fees Bill Dropped

Today, Senator Madaleno (D - District 18) announced his withdrawal of proposed local bill MC 10-11.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Local Legislation

The Board of Education voted to support three local bills: MC 7-11, 10-11, and 11-11. A public hearing for these bills will be held on December 6th, at 7 PM. It will take place in the 3rd Floor Hearing Room of the Stella Werner Council Office Building, 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville.

Here's some clarification on these bills:

This bill would give the Montgomery County SMOB full voting rights (except negative personnel). I want as many students as possible to lobby the General Assembly for the passing of this bill, and to show up at the hearing. This will show that we care, and help us finally achieve (almost) full voting rights!

This bill would repeal the prohibition on bus fees in Montgomery County. However, there are a few issues regarding this bill that need to be addressed. This bill is NOT instituting bus fees. The Board of Education has NO plans on the table or in the pipeline to institute bus fees. This bill simply puts Montgomery County on level footing with the other counties in Maryland by repealing the prohibition on bus fees. In Maryland, 23 out of 24 counties currently do not prohibit bus fees.

This bill would create a unified process for the construction, remodeling, and placement of MCPS buildings. It would give only Montgomery County government the authority to issue permits and enforce regulations and codes, benefiting MCPS immensely.

I encourage youth to please come to observe or testify on December 6th! You can sign up here, call 410-841-3010/301-858-3010, or email Thanks!

Fall Update!

It's been more than a month since my last post, and I apologize for taking so long - it's been a busy couple of weeks!

Here's an idea of what's happened so far:

- On October 6th, the Board of Education met with the MCAAP (Montgomery County Association of Administrators and Principals) and discussed several issues, including the change to state law regarding evaluation systems and the FY 2012 budget.

- On October 6th, I also met with the MCJC Executive Board and discussed the MCAAP meeting. On the 7th, I met with the MCR Executive Board.

- The Board of Education met on October 12th. At this meeting, we approved the Comprehensive Master Plan and discussed Wellness in MCPS, specifically the 12-week health and fitness competition called MCPS on the Move, a program between MCPS and Kaiser Permanente. We also discussed the nutrition of school lunches.

- The Board of Education's 14th Annual Distinguished Service to Education Awards Ceremony was held on October 21st. Congratulations to all of our amazing recipients! They have truly made outstanding contributions to public education and children in Montgomery County.

- The Board of Education held another meeting on October 25th. During this meeting, we took action on the sale of the former site of Robert E. Peary HS. In addition, staff updated the Board on a pilot program: Student Instructional Program Planning and Implementation (SIPPI).

- On October 27th, the Board of Education met with MCCPTA (Montgomery County COuncil of Parent Teacher Associations) leadership and discussed community engagement and communication.

- On October 13th and 28th, the Board of Education held two Community Roundtable events. They were a huge success!

- On October 29th, I attended the MCJC General Assembly at Eastern MS. It was a pleasure to return to my old middle school and talk to students from around the county, and I enjoyed the experience very much. I also attended the MCR General Assembly at Blair HS on November 4th. On November 8th I attended the MCJC Executive Board meeting, and on the 9th I attended the MCR Executive Board meeting.

- The Board of Education met on November 9th and voted on the 2011-2012 school calendar and approved several pilot courses. In addition, staff updated the Board on the K-12 Mathematics Work Group. Finally, the Board of Education voted on its Legislative Platform. We voted unanimously to support SMOB voting rights, and the Board also voted to support MC 7-11, the local bill sponsored by Delegates Kaiser and Hucker that would give the SMOB full voting rights (except negative personnel).

- On November 10th, I attended a meeting with the Montgomery County Commission on Children and Youth. This meeting was an open forum discussion among youth about stress, with many adults acting as observers. The event was a huge success and I encourage youth to attend next year.

- The Board of Education held two Facilities Hearings on November 10th and 11th, and the community came out in full force to provide testimony. Decisions on boundaries were made on November 18th. A short summary can be found here.

- On November 16th, the Policy Committee held its first meeting of the year. We discussed Policy IED, regarding Framework and Structure of High School Education. In addition, we discussed Policy JEE, regarding Student Transfers.

- The Board of Education also met with the Montgomery County Delegation on November 16th. Though some legislators were unable to attend, the meeting was still very important. The Board discussed Maintenance of Effort, the budget, and local bills that it endorsed (MC 10-11 and MC 11-11).

- I met with the SMOB Council for the second time on November 17th. At this meeting, we planned outreach with high school newspapers and testimony for educational legislation such as SMOB voting rights.

That's all for now!

Monday, October 4, 2010

SMOB Town Hall

Hello everyone!
I'm pleased to announce that I will be holding a county-wide student Town Hall at Richard Montgomery High School on Monday, October 18th, from 6 PM to 8 PM. This event will be a way for students around the county to express their concerns and opinions in an open forum, and allow them to communicate with the SMOB and understand the work that is being done.

The SMOB Council will be working diligently to plan this event, and we hope to see a diverse group of people from across the board. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone there!

Please spread the word about this!

Monday, September 27, 2010

SMOB Council Information

The SMOB Council decisions have been made! Due to privacy concerns, specific names will not be posted on the blog - instead, email notifications have been sent. There were a lot of good applicants, so congratulations to everyone on making it! Our first meeting will be on Monday, October 4th at the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville, from 6-8 PM. I'm looking forward to meeting everyone and working with all of you over the course of this year.

Hopefully, we'll get the Tumblr, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook more active within the next few months!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Apply for the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council!

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett is seeking student applicants to fill a vacancy on the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. This student member will serve a one-year term, which may be renewed for one additional year. The student should be a high school junior or senior when initially appointed, and should attend a public or private school in the County. This student serves without compensation, but is eligible for reimbursement for travel and dependent care for meetings attended. Meetings are held six times per year the second Thursday of every other month at 5:30 p.m. in the Family Justice Center building at 600 Jefferson Street in Rockville.

Applicants of diverse backgrounds, professions, gender, geography, disability and ethnicity are encouraged to apply. An application, consisting of a brief cover letter and resume, should be sent by mail to County Executive Isiah Leggett, 101 Monroe Street, 2nd Floor, Rockville, MD  20850, or by email to Home and employment addresses, as well as contact phone numbers and email addresses should be included. If appropriate, applicants should indicate the position for which they are applying. The deadline for application is October 8, 2010.

Friday, August 27, 2010


For all students taking AP tests: starting in May 2011 (this school year), all tests will no longer have a guessing penalty. According to the College Board, "Total scores on the multiple-choice section will be based on the number of questions answered correctly. Points will no longer be deducted for incorrect answers and, as always, no points will be awarded for unanswered questions." To read the entire statement or view revised grading curves for past released exams, click here.

The reasoning behind this change and possible effects are still unknown. Yet this change poses several questions. Do the new changes in AP scoring actually disadvantage certain groups at the expense of others? Also, should blind guessing be allowed on exams that measure content mastery (as opposed to skill mastery)?


Students are the largest stakeholders in the educational system, and we, the undersigned student leaders of Montgomery County, would like to release a statement on behalf of the students regarding the upcoming elections. Approximately one in every five people in Montgomery County is a school-aged child - almost 20% of this county’s demographics. Yet we students have had historically minimal representation in the political process when compared to other groups of smaller size and scope. Although society places an incredible emphasis on education, it paradoxically overlooks the youth population during the political process. This ends now.

MCPS is home to more than 142,000 students. As student leaders, we will act in the best interests of each one of these students in order to promote the welfare of our school system as a whole. We have carefully analyzed the decisions and policies of our elected officials, and have a thorough understanding of which candidates have contributed significant legislation to education. This past year has been fiscally challenging for the school system, and we hope that during this next year and the ones that follow, we will be able to maintain the world-class quality of education within MCPS. Although we will not officially endorse specific candidates in any race, these elections will have a significant impact on our education for years to come. We are paying close attention to the races and are extremely sensitive to the current political climate.

In the spirit of increasing political advocacy, we are also encouraging all eligible students in Montgomery County to register to vote in the coming months. Through collaboration with local student leaders we hope to coordinate an early voter registration drive in schools at the beginning of the school year.

We applaud the students of Montgomery County for their advocacy and encourage them to continue promoting student involvement in important issues. This election is an important step towards a new future for education and student empowerment; we are proud to be taking that step together, as a community, as a county, and as students of MCPS.

Mr. Alan Xie
Student Member, Board of Education

Mr. Daniel Arias 
President, Montgomery County Region

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Summer 2010

Hello, everyone! It's the last week of summer, and school's about to start. Here's a brief update on what's happened since school ended:
  • Stephen N. Abrams, a three-term Board of Education member, passed away on August 1st. His passion for education has created a lasting impact on MCPS, and he will be commemorated by the Board of Education at their next meeting, on August 26th. I offer my deepest sympathies to Mr. Abrams’ wife, family, and friends. 
  • Dr. Jerry Weast, superintendent of MCPS, has announced that he will retire at the end of his current contract, on June 30th, 2011. Dr. Weast has made remarkable achievements during his tenure, and is the second-longest serving superintendent in MCPS history. To read his memorandum to the Board of Education regarding this, click here.
  • Maryland is among ten winners in Phase 2 of the "Race to the Top" education grant initiative, winning $250 million in federal grants. The other winners are D.C., Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Rhode Island. The two Phase 1 winners were Delaware and Tennessee. 
  • Last week, I attended New Board Member Orientation at MABE (the Maryland Association of Boards of Education). I met almost all of the other SMOBs/SROBs from other counties in Maryland, as well as the state SMOB. We hope to achieve a lot this year through our continued collaboration.
  • With the arrival of school also comes the fall elections. Youth are playing a larger role in today's politics, and I encourage all eligible youth to register to vote and participate in the political process.
There's still time to apply for the SMOB Council! Once again, detailed descriptions of each staff's responsibilities are here, and the application is here.

Good luck to everyone with their new school year! I hope to see as many students as possible this year during school visits, SGA events, and the like.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SMOB Council Applications!

In continuing Tim's SMOB 2.0 legacy, I present: the SMOB Council Applications for the 2010-2011 school year.

Interested in student advocacy, leadership, politics, or playing a role in the decision making process of your education? Apply to join the SMOB Council!

Detailed descriptions of each staff's responsibilities are here.
To apply, click here.

All applicants will be contacted for phone interviews. Applications close Saturday, September 11th at 11:59:59 PM.

I appreciate everyone's commitment and dedication to our mutual cause, and hope to have a successful year working with the Council!

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Board of Education Fourteenth Annual Distinguished Service Awards

Sorry for the short notice! The nomination deadline is Friday, July 16th, 2010 at 5 PM. Nominate those who you feel deserve this recognition!

From the MCPS website:
The Montgomery County Board of Education established the Awards for Distinguished Service to Public Education in 1997 to recognize and show appreciation to individuals, groups, and businesses that have made exemplary contributions to public education in Montgomery County.

Up to three awards will be made in each of the following categories:
-- Business
-- Community Individual
-- Community Group
-- Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Staff
-- School Service Volunteer
-- Individual Pioneer

Who Can Be Nominated? (Eligibility)
The Individual Pioneer Award is presented to an individual who may not be active currently, but who has made extraordinary contributions in the past, and whose impact has had a profound systemwide effect on MCPS over the years. The other awards go to an individual (including MCPS students), group, or business that has, within the past three years, provided sustained service, support, and commitment to public education, as demonstrated by:
-- An outstanding contribution of time and expertise to MCPS programs
-- The development and/or implementation of an exemplary program or project
-- A contribution that results in systemwide benefit

Who Can Submit a Nomination?
Any person or group may submit nominations. Nominations for the awards are sought from the general community as well as community organizations, businesses, the superintendent of schools, and members of the Montgomery County Board of Education.

Online Nomination Form
Printable Form

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thanks, again!

Hello! I'm Alan Xie, the Student Member of the Board of Education for the 2010-11 school year. I'd like to congratulate Tim on a wonderfully successful year in office, and say thanks to all of the people who helped to elect me.

This marks my first post on this blog, with hopefully many more to come. The design and layout of the blog have been adjusted, and the Facebook and Twitter have been updated as well.

For students who are interested in applying for the SMOB 2.0 Council, more information will be posted regarding position information, applications, and meeting dates. I'm looking forward to working with everyone this coming year!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Thank you!


My name is Tim Hwang and I am now your former Student Member of the Board of Education. Although I can hardly believe it, my term is now over, and I would like to thank every one of you for allowing me to serve this past year.

It has been an incredible experience meeting students across the county and working to represent you all, and I am confident that Alan Xie, your new SMOB will work just as hard to keep up the great tradition.

Together we were able to eliminate the LC policy, together, we were able to create a pilot program to all cell phones during lunches, together we were able to fight for more voting rights, together we were able to make MCPS more environmentally friendly, together we were able to fight for the budget, and together we were able to bridge the communication gap that many SMOBs have failed to do.

I hope you will all continue to stay involved and informed about the many issues that are coming up. Next year will be tough. With an increasingly tough budget year and a new superintendent in place, your SMOB will have a lot to do, but I am confident that you all will be there to support him.

To see a copy of my swearing-out speech or what we were able to do this year, you can go to:

Thank you!
Swearing Out Speech:

Exactly one year ago, in a building displaying banners of excellence and a room drenched with an aroma of expectations, I walked into this very same room, with a bead of trepidation making its way down my back, with the weight of responsibility and anticipation of an entire county on my shoulders. But in the course of this one year, my beliefs about the school system have not changed much. My belief that the hard work of teachers, staff, and administration and the open minds of a student body ready and willing to learn provides the fundamental engine of a world class education system, is just as strong, if not stronger today. So I am here today, a product of this school system, humbled by the opportunity to have served the students of Montgomery County and honored by the opportunity to have worked alongside the dedicated and passionate staff and members of the MCPS Board of Education.

It is with this belief and experience that I continue the tradition of passing on the torch to the next leader of the students. I have gotten to know Alan through his experience in Student Government, and just like all the student members before him, I am confident that he will be able to take on the burdens of responsibility and advocacy, cherish them, and reach new heights. I would be amiss if I did not mention and recognize Nick Maggio, as well, who gracefully ran against Alan in the past election. Both candidates provided strong leadership and experience and it serves as a testament to the strength and caliber of student leadership in our county.

I thank my family and friends for putting up with my ridiculous schedule as well as all of the great staff members and members of the Board office who have helped me learn and achieve every step of the way. And of course I would like to thank each and every one of my former colleagues on the Board of Education for providing me the opportunity to learn under your excellent leadership and example. We may not always have agreed on issues or practices, but the civil attitude and willingness to work together is something that is something to be rivaled in many other governmental organizations and decision making bodies.

Last year, I spoke of one of my friends, Jeff Sy. Jeff came here from very modest means. His father would drive 4 hours a day to his work to put food on the table and provide for a small two-bedroom apartment where Jeff could study with his two siblings. His mother barely spoke English and managed to feed him on the established welfare system. Despite all that, he was able to come to Montgomery County and study in the some of the best schools in the world, allowing him the opportunity to reach new heights never imagined by his parents. And today, I am proud to say that, against all odds, because of school systems like these, he is a proud graduate of MCPS schools and will be attending a top 20 college in the fall. Indicative of the changing demographics of our nation, Jeff’s parents traversed thousands of miles to raise a family in the best county in the nation to join hands with this system in its goal in providing the American Dream for every student.

As we look towards the future, MCPS is poised to take on new challenges – of increasingly difficult economic climates and a student population more diverse and more in need of aid than before. Jeff’s situation is not unique; rather it is becoming the norm in many of our communities throughout the county. And it seems as if public education, is being assaulted from all ends. Yet at the very same time, this generation is desperately grasping on to the hope that they will have a job, a career, a future, once they are of age and HOPING to maintain the same American Dream that previous generations have achieved. After having worked in the school system this part year and being a student of it for twelve, I am proud to say that MCPS has been at the forefront of this compelling need in our society, working to raise the bar, close the gap and revolutionizing MCPS to bring it into the 21st Century.

Throughout the year, our struggle to set high expectations and fight for the budget set the tone of this Board. And we have all learned that when we struggle together, when we strive to achieve together, and when we try and understand each other, we are able to accomplish great things. I have always believed that that democracy is not a spectator sport; rather it is an amalgamation of all its citizens within a constantly changing system requiring participation from every one of its members. And together with the teachers, students, parents, staff, all standing side by side, together we were able to organize, and together we were able to send a powerful message to our officials that education is not something to be looked down upon, and together we were able to spare MCPS from an impending catastrophe.

Through twitter, youtube, facebook, blogging, and SMOB 2.0 whether through town halls or school visits students capitalized on their ability to make a difference and join in on the discussions. And for the first time, through the “Campaign For Our Future” hundreds of students throughout the county were able to come together in a grassroots campaign to fight for full funding of our education. Consequently, the decision-making authorities are beginning to witness the power of the youth voice, as seen by the hundreds who packed the County Council’s Youth Town Hall and Community Forums that the Board held.

Last year, I ran for this position envisioning a particular school system. A school system unrestricted by race, gender, socio-economic status, or disability; A school system competitive with the rest of the world; A school system where no child is truly left behind. Consequently, one year ago, I said that I would try and bring together students from across the County to fight for a common purpose and empower this generation. One year ago, I said that we would work to make the school system a better place to learn and achieve. And one year ago, I said that we would work together to make MCPS a world-class school system for all of our students. While we have not achieved these goals as of now, I am confident that this Board and this system will be able to accomplish any goal that it sets for itself, and that with the collective resolve of parents, teachers, students, staff, and community, we can and we will achieve.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

#1 in the Country

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) has the highest graduation rate in the nation among large school districts, according to a national report released today.

MCPS’ graduation rate is 83.1 percent, highest among the nation’s 50 largest districts, according to Diplomas Count 2010, a report put out by Education Week. Fairfax County, Va. was second at 82.5 percent. MCPS’ graduation rate rose 2.4 percentage points from last year’s report, when the district was tied for first with the Cypress-Fairbanks district in Texas.

“The commitment to education shown by our staff, our parents and our community continues to pay dividends for our students,” said Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill. “We are proud that more of our students than ever are graduating on-time with the skills they need for college and the work place.”

The MCPS graduation rate of 83.1 percent is significantly higher than the rate for the state of Maryland (73.7 percent) and the nation (68.8 percent). It is also the highest rate MCPS has ever had in the five years that Education Week has been publishing the report.

Superintendent of Schools Jerry D. Weast said the growth in the graduation rate has come as MCPS has seen dramatic changes in its student population, including increases in the number of students living in poverty and those who need language assistance.

"The staff and students of MCPS are showing the nation that race, ethnicity and family income do not have to be predictors of academic success,” Dr. Weast said. “We have high expectations for all of our students and they are living up to those high expectations every day.”

The Diplomas Count 2010 report is the latest indicator that MCPS is successfully graduating its students ready for college and the work place. Participation and success in Advanced Placement classes—a strong predictor of college readiness—is at an all-time high, and it is expected that the class of 2010 will have the highest SAT scores in MCPS history. Additionally, this year’s graduates have already qualified for $232 million in college scholarships, an increase of almost $50 million from last year.

MCPS is one of five finalists for the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education, the largest education prize in the country. The prize recognizes large school districts that demonstrate high academic achievement and success in closing the achievement gap. The winning district will be announced in October.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Maintenance of Effort Waiver Granted

Because the County Government went below $137.7 Million + $19.7 Million in funding the specified legally-mandated Maintenance of Effort budget that the Board of Education proposed, it needed a waiver so that MCPS wouldn't get slapped with a penalty the following year.

After MCPS and the County Government came to a budget reconciliation agreement last week, the Maryland State Board of Education just voted 7-5 to grant MCPS the Maintenance of Effort Waiver for FY11 and not give MCPS a $51.3 Million penalty next year.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

FY 2011 Budget Reconciliation Agreement

Previously, I had told you all that the proposed County Executive's Budget contained a $137.7 Million reduction to the Board of Education's proposed budget. As of today, MCPS, the County Executive and the full Council (with a recent unanimous vote) agreed to the following more cuts and changes to the budget:

Reduce Tech mod and Relocatable projects in CIP (construction budget - not operating): $4.7 million
Additional operating budget reductions for FY11: $19.7 million
Total Additional Cuts $24.4 million

Carryover from FY 10 Operating Budget for energy tax: $2.0 million

We will now have to wait for the State Board of Education's ruling on Montgomery County's Maintenance of Effort Waiver to decide whether or not MCPS will lose an additional $52 Million in state aid or not. This will bring the total FY 11 reductions to $137.7 Million + $19.7 Million = $157.4 Million with the possibility of the state Board of Education making the reductions close to $210 Million if they do not grant the Maintenance of Effort Waiver.

I will keep you all informed as the situation progresses.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Joint Letter to County Council from Students Opposing Further Cuts to MCPS Budget

RE: Additional Cuts to the MCPS Budget

Dear Members of the County Council,

The Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils (often referred to as MCR-SGA) voted last week to take a position on the proposed additional cuts to the County Executive’s recommended operating budget for the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). We are pleased to announce that the MCR Executive Board voted unanimously to support MCPS, MCEA, SEIU Local 500, and MCAAP in opposing any further cuts to the proposed FY 2011 MCPS operating budget. The Montgomery County Junior Councils, our middle-school counterpart, has pledged to take up the issue at their next meeting.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett’s budget meets 96% of the Board of Education’s request. MCPS is prepared to make cuts amounting to $137.7 million in its operating budget, thus meeting the County Executive’s proposed reductions. The Board of Education has assured us that it will do everything possible to limit the effect these cuts will have on the quality of education provided by the county. However, cuts to the MCPS budget exceeding $137.7 million will put in immediate jeopardy the education of over 142,000 students currently attending public schools in Montgomery County.

The students of MCPS are vehemently opposed to any additional cuts to the County Executive’s recommended operating budget for our school system. MCR-SGA and MCJC, as representatives of the student voice and as strong advocates on behalf of student concerns, are therefore of the opinion that further cuts will only harm the education MCPS can offer and, in turn, harm the potential of MCPS graduates in their roles and endeavors in the future.

Therefore, MCR-SGA and MCJC will actively oppose any further cuts to the proposed FY 2011 MCPS operating budget. Although we have remained relatively silent on this issue in the past, we have realized that we cannot sit idly by without defending our education and our school system, to which we owe so much of who we are and of who we will become.

Students, not staff or administrators, will be feeling the blunt of the reductions that you have proposed. With a skyrocketing increase in enrollment this past year and a reduction in staffing, students will be losing opportunities to sign-up for classes that they may wish to take. In many of our schools, where enrollment in higher level advanced and AP classes is already low, the subsequent increase in class sizes means less choices and less opportunities for our students to truly reach their full potential.

Programs that directly impact the students (such as summer school) and specialty programs that cater to individual student needs will be effectively cut or reduced. Furthermore, because of reductions in staffing, students will likely have less access to developing the student-teacher relationship that is truly essential to learning in our schools. These cuts will disproportionally affect our most at-risk students and will result not only in a decrease in the standards and outcomes of the education system overall, but also in the widening of the achievement gap and the elimination of the gains that thousands of staff and students have worked so hard to reach. It is simply not equitable to deny our students the opportunity to succeed.

Already, students have heard about the possible effects of proposed cuts to instruction, sports, extracurricular stipends, extended day programs, and activity buses – programs that have kept students engaged in the school community and active in participating outside of their schools. We, as students, realize the impact of these cuts in our communities and will not stand for such a hostile assault on our futures.

We are reminded everyday in school that education is the great equalizer – that education has the opportunity to create an unquantifiable multiplier effect among the community that raises the quality of living and the standards of society. Yet imagine a school system where teachers are not adequately trained or prepared to teach students with the latest techniques or content. Imagine a school system where teachers are scrambling to handle an increase in students with a decrease in preparation and instruction time. Imagine a school system where there are not enough counselors or academic intervention teachers to address the problems of our most at-risk students. Imagine a school system where students are not given the attention and the help they need in the media center to utilize and optimize resources and technology. Imagine a school system where students are not provided with safe and healthy schools that are kept clean and in top shape. Imagine a school system this time next year with a sharp increase in drop-out rates, leading to the inevitable deterioration of communities and a decrease in the standard of living. We can not and will not stand for such a school system, for further cuts will only serve to punish the hard work of our fellow staff and students.

Anyone that states that further cuts to our school system will not result in a direct impact to students and the classroom is telling a blatant lie. Education truly is the gateway to our futures and we, as students and as the largest stakeholder in the system, will not complacently remain silent as policy makers attempt to strip us of our opportunity to succeed and to achieve our true potential. We ask our elected officials and community leaders to please not do what is “right for politics” but do, instead, what is “right for the students.” Regardless of racial and linguistic barriers, regardless of geographic boundaries, and regardless of age differences, students across the county stand together in asking that education remain the top priority in our community.

As you make difficult decisions in the coming weeks, we hope you remember that you hold the futures of 142,000 students in your hands and that you have the tremendous burden of ensuring that those students are successful in their lives and careers. Therefore, we will stand united with our teachers, our administrators, our service employees, and our school board in asking that the County Council adopt a budget that:

1. Does not furlough ANY county employees
2. Avoids any additional cuts to MCPS beyond the $137.7 million already agreed to
3. Raises the full $101 million proposed increase in the energy tax
4. Phases in the restoration of the reserve fund by going to 5.6% in FY11 and then to 6% in FY12


Tim Hwang
Student Member, MCPS Board of Education

Daniel Arias
President, MCR-SGA

Richard Yarrow
President, MCJC

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New SMOB Elected!

As of April 28, 2010, Alan Xie, sophomore Richard Montgomery High School, was elected as the 33rd Montgomery County Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB). Congratulations go out to both Nick Maggio and Alan Xie for running great elections and we look forward to a great year!

I will be stepping down as the Student Member on July 1, 2010 with the installment of Alan as the new SMOB.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Senate Delegation, Gridlock Disenfranchises Students

House bill on student voting rights in limbo
by Marcus Moore and Sean R. Sedam | Staff Writers
A bill to expand the responsibilities of Montgomery County's student school board member is unlikely to pass this year's legislative session, because the county's Annapolis delegation can't agree on which issues the students should be allowed to vote.
The House of Delegates has passed a version of the bill, but it won't become law until the full Senate agrees to the legislation.
There are several reasons why the county's student school board members should not have expanded voting rights, said Sen. Rona E. Kramer (D-Dist. 14) of Olney.
Students rely on their teachers for grades, she said, so if student board members voted against a matter that affected teachers, their grades could be affected.
Another pressure could come from parents, Kramer said. If the student school board member goes to a friend's house, the parents could lean on the student to vote in favor of proposals that could help their neighborhood, she said.
"That's a lot of pressure on a student," Kramer said. "I think we've completely lost sight of common sense. These students are elected by 12-year-olds. We're going to allow a person not elected by the taxpayers to vote on a $2 billion budget?"
Hey guys,

Despite our best efforts, it looks like the bill will not pass this year. Here is a bill report showing where our Senators stood on the issue.

To address the points made by Sen. Kramer in the article, I have several questions:
  1. Should we not allow parents with children in the school system to vote on policies and regulations? Wouldn't their children's grades be affected?
  2. Should current school board members not be allowed to go to their neighbor's homes? After all, their peers could "lean on" them to vote in favor of proposals that could help their neighborhood.
  3. Should steps be taken to eliminate pressure at all levels of government? Isn't the idea of "pressure" a fundamental part of our pluralistic democracy?
  4. Do you know that the Student Member position is not elected in a Direct election by 12-year olds?
  5. Does the Board of Education appropriate $2 Billion? Or under state law, is it a recommendation to the county council? So who REALLY deals with "taxpayer money"?
  6. Shouldn't all students be exempt from paying sales and other forms of income taxes in the State of Maryland since "students are not taxpayers"?
  7. Since several senators seem to disrespect the student voice so much, should there even be a Student Member position?
Truly it is a sad day in Montgomery County, one of the most progressive districts in America, when our own legislators can not agree on whether or not students should be represented in the decision making process. This is an issue that we, as students, have been fighting for for the past 3 decades. Even after 30 years of movements, activism, and involvement, our legislators have yet to recognize the impact that students can have in their own school system. Going against those who are on the ground level every day in the school system, the Board of Education, the Teacher's Union (MCEA), the County-wide student government associations, the County Council, and the County Executive, the Senate Delegation instead chose to disenfranchise students from the process.

As we go forward, I am reminded of a quote from our current president: "In the face of a politics that's shut you out, that's told you to settle, that's divided us for too long, you believe we can be one people, reaching for what's possible, building that more perfect union. [...] Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what's needed to be done. Today we are called once more -- and it is time for our generation to answer that call. For that is our unyielding faith -- that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it."

Thank you to all the Delegates, Senators, community activists, and leaders who let us come this far. We can only hope that in future years, student and community leaders will be able to once again come together to bring up the issue and be victorious in this constant struggle to be truly represented.

Open Letter to Senators on Voting Rights

The day before the final vote on the Voting Rights Bill in the Senate Delegation, I sent the following letter to the entire Montgomery County Delegation:

Dear Senator:

I am writing to you today regarding a bill that you will be voting on in your Delegation tomorrow: MC 12-10.

During the last election cycle, we were told that we, the youth, had the fundamental ability to change the way politics was done in America. I worked tirelessly in the last election and I ran for this position because I sincerely believed that this was the truth and because I wanted to be part of a government that was truly receptive to the needs and wants of young people. It is my hope and desire that you subscribe to this notion that youth truly should be empowered to become the next generation of leaders.

Working as a board member, I honestly do not see any distinction between my role and that of the other board members. The statute currently states that I am not able to attend executive sessions regarding collective bargaining unless the Board votes affirmative to do so. To this day, I have attended every single executive session regarding collective bargaining and the constant vote to include me in the matter is simply a cumbersome and unnecessary step in restricting the voice of the students. I have always voiced my outspoken opinion of the budget with or without restrictions. At this point it is a matter of whether or not people will listen to the comments that I make, and that is up to you.

With regards to the pressure argument: I didn't run for this position thinking I wouldn't have to face and political pressure (In Montgomery County, that's just not possible). In the past election cycle, I received 35,654 votes (more than any State Senator or Delegate from Montgomery County). As you would know, one doesn't get that many votes, unless some significant pressure is applied. To be quite honest, I believe my position goes through much more scrutiny and examination than many of the state offices. I was required to debate and answer questioning from a convention of the brightest student minds in Montgomery County to narrow down the field to two candidates, to debate my opponent in a 30 minute debate broadcast to all the voters, to submit a candidate profile which is used in many government/English classes, etc. to be under public scrutiny, and to campaign to my base of 142,000 citizens, who truly place their trust into their representative.

Furthermore, I have attended every single Capital Budget and Operating Budget hearing and have been subject to extreme lobbying on every spectrum of the budget process - regardless of my vote - because citizens and community activists, just like the Board of Education, the County Executive, the County Council, MCEA, etc. recognize the importance of youth involvement in the political process. I have witnessed with my own eyes the emotional pleas, condemnations, and commendations spoken to any government body. With or without the vote, pressure will be felt - but such is the political process. We were born into a society where pluralism of interests dominate the political arena and without the "pressure", decisions cannot be made because the cases for all arguments are not made. I truly am thankful for and proud of the "pressure" that is applied to me and my position as it indicates the real interest in the community for garnering student support for a proposal.

Students have fought for this right for the past 30 years. Voting no to this bill would disillusion an already frustrated generation of students in Montgomery County. Voting no to this bill would not mean "protecting the students from themselves"; rather it would indicate a distrust of students and their ability to handle decisions. Please stand with your county, students, and teachers and vote yes to a proposal that would truly institutionalize the government's support for student advocacy.

Tim Hwang

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

State Grants MCPS Waiver for Five Snow Days; Classes End on Schedule with no additional days added into Summer

Maryland State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick has granted a five-day waiver to Montgomery County Public Schools, meaning the district will not have to make up the snow days that resulted from back-to-back blizzards in February.

If there are no more emergency school cancellations this school year, the calendar will not be adjusted and classes will end, as scheduled, on June 16, 2010.

MCPS has lost nine days of instruction due to snow this year—December 21-23, February 3 and February 8-12. The Montgomery County Board of Education had already built four snow days into the 2009-2010 calendar.

Monday, March 15, 2010

County Executive Proposes Budget; Goes to County Council for Review

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today announced his recommended $4.3 billion operating budget that closes a $779 million gap for fiscal year (FY) 2011 that begins July 1. Leggett’s budget focuses on protecting essential services and his priorities of education, public safety and the safety net for the most vulnerable, but includes significant reductions in services and staffing levels.

Leggett’s hard choices resulted from the continued severity of the economic recession; doubling in the local rate of unemployment; declining residential and commercial development; ongoing, sharp declines in tax revenues and state aid; and emergencies such as the H1N1 flu outbreak and snow removal from this winter’s historic blizzards.

Leggett’s previous cost reduction efforts preserved direct services as much as possible, but even these services will now be affected with this year’s looming deficit. This budget proposes cutting costs by eliminating 452 government positions, providing no pay increases of any kind for County government workers, furloughing non-public safety County employees for 10-days, realizing cost savings from all County departments, and reducing current revenue funded expenditures in the capital budget. All told, between position abolishments, leaving positions vacant, and reductions in overtime, Leggett’s budget would reduce the County government budget by 750 work-years. Under the recommended budget, the property tax rate remains unchanged, but recommends an Energy Tax and an Ambulance Fee.

Among County government departments, the largest reductions from FY10 levels are in the Regional Service Centers and the Office of Human Resources (both 33 percent reductions), the Commission for Women (27 percent), the County Executive’s Office (26 percent), Housing and Community Affairs (24 percent), Transportation (23 percent), and Libraries (22 percent). Among the lowest reductions were Fire and Rescue (2.6 percent less than in FY10), Police (4 percent), Correction and Rehabilitation (4.5 percent), Department of Transportation/Transit Services (6.8 percent), and Health and Human Services (10.6 percent). Noyes Library would be closed, library materials reduced, and overall library hours cut by 8.7 percent.

County recreational facilities, except for pools, would be closed one day each week. Senior mini-trips and outdoor adventure programs would be eliminated. After-school Sports Academies and Recreation Extra programs would be reduced. Eighteen Ride On routes (three weekday, 10 Saturday and five Sunday) would be eliminated and another 16 restructured, saving $2.7 million, and the Call-N-Ride program would be reduced to one coupon book a month. The County Volunteer Center would be reduced and restructured.

The budget includes reductions in the Montgomery Cares program that provides health care to the uninsured, as well as reductions in home care, school health aide hours and payment to disability development providers. Funding for the County’s tuition assistance program would be eliminated. Non-emergency tree maintenance would be curtailed and, except for buses, the County would purchase almost no new vehicles or computers during the coming years. Maintenance in County facilities will be reduced. Pedestrian safety education monies would be drastically curtailed.

On education, Leggett’s budget meets 96 percent of the Board of Education’s request. The County will again this year apply for a waiver from the State “maintenance of effort” requirement that will lower the County’s contribution by $58.2 million and still qualify for increased state K-12 education aid. MCPS funding will decrease by 79.5 million - a 3.9 percent decrease from FY 10. However, if the "debt service reimbursement" amount is excluded MCPS funding for educational programs in FY 11 will be the same as FY 10. Overall, MCPS' budget will decrease by ($169.7 Million offset by $37.2 Million from Governor) $137.7 Million under the County Executive's plan.

More information:


  1. MCPS recognizes the significant budget deficit the County is facing and is prepared to make substantial cuts to help close the gap. We have already achieved savings of more than $30 million in the FY 2010 budget to help fund next year’s budget.
  2. The county will not meet its maintenance of effort requirement so it will be necessary to support a MOE waiver lest MCPS face the possibility of losing up to $53 million in new state aid.
  3. MCPS must guard against any cuts deeper than $137.7 million in the budget otherwise it could have devastating consequences on our reform efforts. These cuts equal nearly $1,000 per student compared to the current budget. Because the County Executive’s Operating Budget Proposal does not meet the maintenance of effort requirement, it will be necessary to seek a waiver of the requirement for the FY 2011 budget. If MOE is not waived, MCPS could be faced with the devastating loss of up to $53 million in increased state aid. MCPS will need to work with the County to ensure that the State Board grants a waiver for FY 2011. This comes as the County is in the final stages of winning approval by the legislature to waive the $23.4 million fine for not meeting its funding requirements in FY 2010. We hope this will be approved by the legislature soon.
  4. If the cuts amount to $137.7 Million, the following will be cut to preserve the classroom as much as possible: Elimination of all OPEB contributions(retiree health trust fund) - $42.9 million; Elimination of salary increments (steps) - $25.9 million; Increase of class size by 1 student at all grade levels - $16 million; Central services reductions - $6.0 million; Other savings and reductions - $10.3 million. After that further cuts will have to be made.

The County Council will now review the Budget and will make changes/review/approve it after having hearings in April. Then it will come to the Board of Education to see what cuts will have to be made. We need to make sure that no further cuts are made to the budget in order to preserve our own education. I'll provide more opportunities for you guys to get involved as the time comes.