Blog Moving Announcement!

Hello everyone!

The SMOB's blog has been moved to Thanks for following!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

LC Policy in the Process of being Rescinded

I have just received word from staff that the LC Policy will be in the process of being rescinded. Please stay tuned for more information.

The Case Against LC Policy:

The LC Policy violates MCPS's Grading and Reporting Guidelines and a Student's Rights and Responsibilities. It is clearly stated that grades will not reflect attendance, that grades will never be used as a disciplinary measure, and that a student's grades should be solely based on the achievement of course outcomes. The LC Policy fails students for constant absences and uses grades as a disciplinary measure. It uses attendance as justification for failing students and is thus not reflective of a student's achievement of course outcomes. It further turns students off to the school: if a student LC's more often than not, the incentive to continue going to class is lost.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Md. Senate passes bill that would waive $23 million Montgomery education fine

By Michael Birnbaum
A bill that would waive a $23 million penalty levied against Montgomery County public schools passed with overwhelming support in the Maryland Senate on Friday.

The fine has been hanging over the state's largest school system
for months. The district was penalized for failing to meet state requirements for minimum levels of education spending during the 2009-10 fiscal year. But educators and politicians have questioned the wisdom of the fine at a time when school systems are facing deep cuts because of the economy.

The bill was approved on a 43 to 3 vote. The Maryland House must now take up the issue, which waives the minimum spending levels, called "maintenance of effort," for the current fiscal year.

Counties across the state are planning next year's budgets and are facing the same issue. Legislation has been introduced that would waive next year's minimums as well, but no votes have been taken.
If this passes in the House and the Senate, MCPS will not have to make $23 Million in cuts this year.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

State Board Sets Limited Waiver Process for Snow

Depending on how many days the State Superintendent grants us, this will allow MCPS to relieve some of the snow days that are added onto the summer. However, the hours requirement will still be in place.

MSDE Press Release: BALTIMORE (February 22, 2010) – The Maryland State Board of Education today set forth a limited waiver process for Maryland school system calendars affected by the historic snow storms of this winter.

School systems may request a waiver of up to five days from the required 180-day instructional calendar due to the inclement weather that affected the State during storms in December and February. The State Board has authorized the State Superintendent to approve individual requests from local system superintendents to make adjustments in the school calendar.

State law requests schools be open for a minimum of 180 instructional days. The law also grants the State Board authority to make adjustments to the school year if normal school attendance is prevented by severe weather. Under the waiver provision, systems must demonstrate that they have made sufficient effort in providing instruction through calendar planning and modifications.

“We believe that 180 instructional days is a bare minimum in a competitive world where some nations keep students in school for 220 days or more,” said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick. “At the same time, we recognize that severe weather conditions this year have been unprecedented, and the State Board believes that some flexibility must be granted.”

Due to federal deadlines and a tight scoring schedule, Maryland does not have the option to delay the Maryland School Assessments (MSAs). Students will take the annual MSAs as scheduled, beginning the week of March 8, but State officials have said they will ask the U.S. Department of Education for special flexibility to maintain the same scoring targets that were in place for 2009. This practice has been used by other states in severe circumstances.

Under federal law, schools and school systems must meet steadily increasing scoring targets to maintain what is known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools and systems strive to make AYP in order to reach the overall goal of having 100 percent of all students scoring at proficient levels in reading and mathematics by 2014.

Maryland’s proposal would maintain the overall 2014 target, but would not increase the interim target from 2009 to 2010. Instead, Maryland schools and systems would be required to make greater improvement by 2011, a target which would not be altered.

Monday, February 22, 2010

MC 12-10 Passes the Senate Delegation But....

On Friday, the Montgomery County Senate Delegation of the Maryland General Assembly voted to pass MC 12-10, the bill to expand the SMOB's vote in Montgomery County, but with amendments. Various amendments throughout the bill removed the right of the student member to vote on the $2.2 Billion Operating Budget, $1.2 Billion Capital Budget, and Collective Bargaining. This left the bill with only an expansion of School Closings/Openings (permanent, not weather related), and Boundaries. [Voting List]

On Thursday, the bill will go to the County Affairs Committee of the House to review the amendments. And on Friday, the bill will go to the House Delegation who will vote on whether or not to support the amendments. If the House decides to accept the amendments, the fight is over and your SMOB will not be able to vote on the budget. However, if the House Delegation votes to re-amend the bill back, the Senate will re-discuss the bill.

Please contact your State Senator below and tell them how important this bill is! We need to send letters and emails, make calls, and visit our representatives in Annapolis! We will be running a grassroots campaign to show our elected officials that we have the ability to be the leaders of the next generation. You can use this letter as a template for your call or any emails you send to them!

Remember, why do we need voting rights? Because that's the way real change gets done. If students want better teachers, if students want certain programs, if students want better bathrooms - all these things take money. And right now the SMOB can't vote on ANY of it. The SMOB can't enact real change unless they're given the opportunity to do so! I hope that this bill passes and future SMOBs will be a powerful and resounding voice for the students, as the largest stakeholder in the system. I may not bring about changes in my term, but I hope that future SMOBs will use this opportunity that I give them to fight on behalf of the students.

To see some context here are the list of supporters and opposition. Students, state officials, local officials (almost every elected official in Montgomery County), state education leaders, teachers, and education specialists all agree that student members deserve the right to vote! It is up to you guys to show our elected officials that we truly have what it takes to be the leaders of the next generation!

Official Supporters:
Montgomery County House Delegation (19-1-1)
Montgomery County Board of Education (7-1)
Montgomery County Council
Montgomery County Executive
Montgomery County Education Association (Teacher's Union) Board
Montgomery County Region (HS County Student Government)
Montgomery County Junior Councils (MS County Student Government)
State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick
State Board of Education - supported state SMOB expansion (more expansive than MC 12-10)
Senate President Mike Miller - supported state SMOB expansion (more expansive than MC 12-10)

Official Opposition:

Contact Information (some schools repeated twice - Control+F to find school):
Senator Rona Kramer (D-14): Paint Branch, Damascus, Springbrook, Sherwood, Gaithersburg, Blake
Phone: 301-858-3625 / 410-841-3625

Senator Rob Garagiola (D-15): Wootton, Poolesville, Churchill, Clarksburg, Damascus, Northwest, Seneca Valley
Phone: 301-858-3169 / 410-841-3169

Senator Brian Frosh (D-16): Whitman, BCC, Walter Johnson, Churchill
Phone: 301-858-3124 / 410-841-3124

Senator Jennie Forehand (D-17): Rockville, Quince Orchard, Richard Montgomery, Wootton, Gaithersburg
Phone: 301-858-3134 /410-841-3134

Senator Richard Madaleno (D-18): Einstein, Kennedy, Wheaton, Blair, BCC
Phone: 301-858-3137 / 410-841-3137

Senator Mike Lenett (D-19): Magruder, Blake, Kennedy, Rockville
Phone: 301-858-3151 / 410-841-3151

Senator Jamie Raskin (D-20): Blair, Northwood, Wheaton, Edison
Phone:301-858-3634 / 410-841-3634

Senator Nancy King (D-39): Quince Orchard, Northwest, Magruder, Watkins Mill, Seneca Valley, Gaithersburg
Phone: 301-858-3686 / 410-841-3686

Thursday, February 18, 2010

MCPS Recommended FY 2011 Budget Passed!

The Montgomery County Board of Education met on Wednesday, February 17, and, among other items, adopted the FY 2011 Operating Budget.

The Board approved a $2.263 billion operating budget recommendation for Fiscal Year 2011. The budget proposal funds no new initiatives but, as the state's "maintenance of effort" provision requires, maintains the same level of local per-student funding for FY 2011 as the district received for the current school year. This budget recommends NO CUTS and an increase in 1% to accommodate for the thousands of new kids that enrolled in MCPS this year. For more information please go to the following post.

The Budget will now go to the County Executive, the County Council, and the State who will determine whether or not to fund it and how much to fund it by. The first step is the County Council. The County Council is required by law to fully fund the MCPS Maintenance of Effort Budget (What is Maintenance of Effort?) . Remember, if the County Council does not fully fund the budget, we will lose $51 Million in State Aid (because of the County Council does not fund MOE, the State does not pay for local education) in addition to the penalty already ($23.5 Million) put on us and the deficit that they put on the backs of MCPS ($?? Million). In essence, the County Council will be determining 92% of the funding for MCPS. Based on the amount the County Council and the State give, that is how MCPS will have to determine what cuts will have to be made.

In April, the County Council will be holding hearings on the county-wide budget (which funds 72% of MCPS's budget). I will keep you updated on how you can participate in these hearings and how you can tell the County Council that they need to fully fund our educations and our futures!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snowpocalypse Waiver Possible

Many of you have asked the question: what will happen as a result of our snow days? As of right now, MCPS has missed 9 school days due to this historic weather. Maryland State Law requires that school systems have 180 school days built into the year. That would mean that we would extend our school year by 5 days into the summer. We probably have two more days in the summer we can add on to until we start going into spring break.

However, Montgomery County Public Schools is currently seeking a waiver for this 180-day rule. The ruling would be determined by the State Superintendent and the State Board of Education at the Maryland State Department of Education. To give you all some historical background, back in 2005, MSDE excused several days of this 180 rule because of Hurricane Katrina. It looks like the State is pursuing a similar measure as a result of this year's weather.

But here's the twist, the state also has an HOURS requirement. Middle schools must have 1080 hours and high schools must have 1170 hours in a school year. This is why it is detrimental to have consistent 2-hour delays or early releases even though we have a school day. Unfortunately, this hours requirement cannot be waived. So MCPS administration is looking to see some ways where we can expand the number of school hours.

I will keep you guys up to date as we deal with the situation.

2010-2011 Student Member of the Board!

7 Candidates have filed to become your 2010-2011 Student Member of the Board of Education. This member will have the important duty of selecting the next Superintendent as well as (hopefully!) voting on the $2 Billion+ Budget and boundaries as well as their current duties of connecting with you all and voting on policies, regulations, legal opinions, etc. And in next year's continued budget crisis, they will have an important voice in which programs and initiatives to cut or keep.

Feel free to browse around and look at their profiles here. In addition to giving their experience and a statement, all candidates were asked to answer two questions: 1. What qualities and performance goals would you consider for hiring or contract renewal of our superintendent? 2. During the current budget crisis, for what initiative or program would you advocate to keep fully funded?

On March 4, school from across the county will send delegates to the SMOB Nominating Convention where these 7 candidates will debate each other and give speeches. After convention, the candidate field will be narrowed down to two and they will begin the long process of the General Election, campaigning to all of you. You will have the chance to see them on the "Meet the Candidates" show, which I will be hosting, and see some of the most prominent questions answered.

When it comes to voting, on April 28, vote for who you think will best represent you and who you think will has the best handle of the issues to be able to navigate in the position!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Campaign for Our Future!

Thank you to everyone who sent in their pictures! Overall, we had over 500 students from schools across the county participate in our Campaign for Our Future! The final video will be sent to our local, state, and federal officials to tell them that we are truly taking our futures into our own hands. For those of you just tuning in, at the start of 2010, I asked students for pictures of their future to show officials that we truly care about our education. This is their response:

Snowpocalypse I and II!

Hope you guys are enjoying your days off! Hopefully we can back to school by Tuesday.

I just got my internet back and my power just returned after I was in the dark with no heat or electricity for just about 60 hours. I still can't get out of my driveway because the snow plows are still making their rounds. Hope you guys had a better experience than me!

If you guys want to see the snow clearing status for your area, here is the map: You can view the status of the snow plows here after the snow stops falling.

Friday, February 5, 2010

MC 12-10 Passes the House Delegation!

Today, the Montgomery County House Delegation of the Maryland General Assembly voted to pass MC 12-10, the bill to expand the SMOB's vote in Montgomery County. If this bill passes, your student elected representative will be able to vote on the budget, boundaries, etc. This is a historic step in making sure that the student voice is heard throughout the county and the state!

Yesterday, in the County Affairs Committee, the final vote was 7-1 (Voting List). When the full House Delegation voted on it today, the vote came out to 19-1-1 (Voting List). The next step will be for this bill to pass through the Senate Delegation sometime in the next couple of weeks. I will keep you up to date on the latest news of this bill as it happens. In the mean time, contact your Senators and tell them how important you think it is for your representative to have equal representation on the Board of Education!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

County Council Youth Town Hall Summary

Thank you to all the students who showed up to the County Council Town Hall tonight (and for packing the room!). Your very presence really showed them that youth really do have a say when it comes to the future!

For those of you who couldn't make it due to transportation, weather issues, etc. I have provided a summary of some of the testimony provided by students during the Town Hall. Don't worry the room was absolutely packed with over a hundred students - so much so that parents had to be sent out and many students couldn't even find a seat in the room!

First, there was a very diverse group of students that was able to make it to the town hall. Groups like Identity, the Ghandi Brigade, Mixed Unity, Sports Academies, the Montgomery County Youth Advisory Council, ARRF, Montgomery County Junior Councils, Montgomery County Region, individual student governments, and several other programs sent student representation from around the county. Some students traveled as far as Poolesville, Damascus, and even Silver Spring while others walked down the street from schools like Richard Montgomery and Wootton. Students from 3rd grade all the way through 12th grade were able to weigh in on some of the most important issues to them.

Of course with this wide range of stakeholders, students brought a range of issues to the table. The most prevalent issues students spoke of were those dealing with magnet busing for students, after school and community programs, the need for community intervention and prevention programs, community and school safety, the education budget in general, jobs for youth, development, mental health, and healthcare for youth. Students asked for support programs for MS/HS engagement and addressed the lack of positive role models in some parts of the county. Others came to the Council with questions about the environment and about the possibility of using Polystyrene Trays. Other students talked about the programs that were working in their communities like their Sports Academies and services provided by Regional Services Centers, while others addressed aspects of the County Government that really did not aid students like many EFOs in schools (the prevalence of bullying) and problems with Police and schools. It was very clear from the number of students who wanted to comment and ask questions that students were very informed about their communities and truly wanted to have a voice in the system.

The Council briefly engaged students about the role of student safety and health in their schools. Councilmembers asked students about aspects of safety and security they were most concerned about and how the County Council could address them through prevention and intervention programs. Several Councilmembers brought up the idea of a Teen Center where students could hang out. Some asked students about how safe they felt in schools, while others addressed problems ranging from crime and teen pregnancy.

By the end of the meeting students were hungry for more. As a result, many students engaged with councilmembers on an individual level. One student even proposed creating a "Student Member on the County Council"! The energy in the room was very high and many students (and councilmembers) were disappointed that the time seemed so short.

I am sure that councilmembers will continue to engage students at a very high level and will take the views of Montgomery County's youth very seriously. Overall, I believe the night went well for many of the students in attendance especially since it was the very first Town Hall held specifically for youth by the County Council, and I am sure that this will not be the last Town Hall meeting held with youth by the County Council.

Videos and photos will be posted soon!

Still On: County Council Youth Town Hall!

The Town Hall is still ON for tonight!

The Montgomery County Council traditionally goes to various areas around the County to meet with residents and find out their feelings about whether the County is on the right track and where improvements can be made. But for the first time, your elected officials want to hear from you! This shows the utter importance of the student opinion to our county officials as they craft the budget.

Who: Students of Montgomery County with the County Council
What: Youth Town Hall Meeting
Where: 100 Maryland Avenue Rockville, MD 20850; Third Floor
When: Wednesday February 3, 2010 at 7 PM-8 PM
Why: In order to hear directly from students throughout the County

You can arrive early at 6:30 to mingle with Councilmembers on the second floor Cafeteria. This meeting will be broadcast on Channel 6 on Comcast and Channel 30 on Verizon. The Council Office Building is a three-block walk from the Rockville Metrorail. Free parking in the building's garage on Fleet Street will also be open.

Bring your school spirit (signs, t-shirts, posters, etc) and tell your County Council what you want next year! There's power in numbers. Considering the County Council is the one that gives money to the Board of Education and considering the Campaign for Our Future and the huge Budget Crisis this year, this is our time to show the County Council that we truly care about our schools, our sports, our clubs, our buses, our extracurriculars, our teachers, and our education!

* The meeting will allow the participants to let Councilmembers know how they feel about specific issues and also will provide the opportunity to ask questions of the Councilmembers in an organized, but informal, setting. We are encouraging students to ask questions about/comment about issues that impact their lives and not necessary just education (could be parks, recreation, need more places for teens, need more bike lanes, etc.).

* The meeting will last a total of 90 minutes. The first hour will be televised live. Councilmembers will then stay for an additional half-hour to answer questions—and ask questions of the students.

* Susan Kenedy, our host, will call on as many students as she can to ask their question or give their comments. Raise your hand to be recognized. Please limit questions or comments to no more than 2 minutes. Please understand, she may not be able to get to everyone who wants to speak, but she will do her best to get to as many as she can.

* Parents and other adults who would like to attend can be in the room--provided there is room. However, are invited guests are the students. If the hearing room is filled to capacity with students, adults will be asked to go to our cafeteria where a TV will be set up so they can view the meeting.