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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.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Md. General Assembly waives $23 million Montgomery education fine

Schools fine waived
Washington Post
Michael Birnbaum

The Maryland House of Delegates voted 130 to 5 Thursday to waive a $23.4 million fine that had been levied against the Montgomery County public schools this year because the county failed to meet minimum levels of education spending in the 2009-10 fiscal year.

A similar bill passed the Maryland Senate last month, and though some procedural steps remain before the change becomes final (the Senate and the House have yet to pass identical bills), school officials are breathing easier.

The bills waive the minimum spending levels, called "maintenance of effort," for the current fiscal year, and therefore eliminate the penalty associated with the County Government not fulfilling those requirements.

The possible $23.4 Million cut to FY 2009-2010 has now been resolved and MCPS will not have to make them.

LC Policy Rescinded for SY 2010-2011

I have just received word from staff that the LC Policy is in the process of being rescinded for the 2010-2011 school year. 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 (not a failure of meeting course objectives) 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. Finally, it promotes a "credit card" mentality that states that a student is allowed to have 4 absences prior to any consequence.

SMOB Voting Rights Bill Moved to Thursday 3/18!

The Senate Delegation has moved the vote for the Voting Rights bill to Thursday 3/18! How can you help?

1. Email your Senator
Use this letter ( as a template and email them. Make a STRONG online presence to make our voices heard.

2. Call your Senator
During lunch (if you're allowed) tomorrow or after school tomorrow pull out your cell phone and call your Senator to tell them how important this bill is. Nothing annoys your Senator more than having to do their job.

3. Be in Annapolis on Thursday!
Thursday in the Miller Senate Building in Annapolis, the Montgomery County Delegation will be taking up this bill. Be in Annapolis and bring signs to make your voices heard! Carpools will be arranged so if you need a ride please feel free to contact me.

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 "

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

SMOB Voting Rights Bill Tomorrow!

Hey Guys

Tomorrow the Senate will be voting on a bill that would significantly alter politics as usual in Maryland. For the past three decades, students from across the county have fought for voting rights for their student member. While, Maryland is famous for its commitment to student advocacy on local Boards of Education, it’s time for Montgomery County to lead the way for the next generation and send a strong message that your opinions should be valued.

Currently, I, as the student member, am not allowed to vote on issues relating to the budget, boundaries and redistricting, school closings, and firing personnel. This year, I have made it my goal to change this and allow your representative to vote on the $2.2 Billion Budget and $1.1 Billion Capital Budget. Why? Because that's the way real change gets done. During the election you told me you wanted better teachers, you wanted programs, you wanted better schools - but all these things take money. And right now your representative can not vote on ANY of it.

The SMOB can’t enact real change unless they're given the opportunity to do so! My hope is that this bill passes and future SMOBs will be a powerful and resounding voice for the students. If the County and the State are truly committed to improving the educational system of Montgomery County
and placing the interest of the students first, especially in these tough budget times, it must affirm and respect the contributions of the student voice by granting this right.

The words “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union” are echoed throughout the years within our government classes – in an attempt to get our youth politically involved, yet for students – these “People” are often associated with those that make decisions, the adults, and students are left outside the gates of the decision making process.
Under this current system, students are fundamentally excluded from the process. We are the largest stakeholder in the system, and yet we have the least representation in our own education. I can’t accept this, and neither should you. Next year, will be a tough budget year for us, and now more than ever we need a powerful on-the-ground student perspective on the issues that relate to us. But I need your help.

Currently, there are those who say that students are too inexperienced. That they don’t have the knowledge or the skillset to be able to handle the kind of work or pressure it takes to be a full board member. That they’ll be manipulated by the powers that be. And there are those who continue to disrespect the student voice and deny them an opportunity to be heard. But let me ask you a fundamental question: what is a school system without its students? What is the purpose of the educational system if not to prepare students to have the very skillsets that they are denying?

Your county student governments, your teacher’s union, almost every single Delegate in the Montgomery County Delegation, your County Council, your County Executive, your Board of Education, parents, and community leaders have all come out – together - with overwhelming support for this bill. But tomorrow, I’ll need your help. We need to make calls, write letters, sign petitions to tell our State Senators how important it is that we get the representation that we deserve.

This year, we have the opportunity to make history. Young people are no longer apathetic when it comes to policies that affect them. That is why I am here today, as a voice for you all. This issue is not just about voting rights; it is about our generation’s ability to raise political efficacy among the youth, to improve our government, and to spark innovative and generational leaders. We have one of the biggest opportunities as a community to truly change the world we live in, and this is our opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of our youngest citizens. Ultimately, this issue boils down to one question: do our elected officials trust and respect the student voice? That answer should be a resounding yes. And with your help, I am confident that we will be able to accomplish all our goals. Thank you.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Script for Meet the Candidates Video

Hey guys, today we taped the video for the "Meet the Candidates" SMOB Video between Alan Xie and Nick Maggio. Here's my opening statement for anyone who's interested. It tries to specify my term within 5 minutes:

Hello and welcome to "Meet the Candidates." My name is Tim Hwang and I am your current Student Member of the Board of Education. Although I can hardly believe it, my term is almost over, and the time has come to elect a new SMOB.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for electing me last year. It has truly been a gratifying experience serving you on the Board of Education and look forward to the rest of my term.

I am proud of the successes we have had thus far. In this one year, we have been able to initiate a pilot program to allow cell phones in high school lunches, start the long process of eliminating the unfair LC policy, and continue an effective environmentally friendly school system that has allowed MCPS to win numerous awards. Furthermore, with our top AP scores, #1 ranking in graduation rates, and new integrated curriculum we have been able work towards closing the achievement gap, work on several policies including a new bullying policy, and I personally have started a new communication system using new media like youtube videos, twitter, facebook, and a blog while opening up a new representative committee called SMOB 2.0.

Students can now receive email newsletters to stay informed on the Board of Education’s activities and share their opinions with MCPS by signing up at or joining any one of my new media outlets online. In the spirit of all of this, I have made an attempt to get MCPS more technologically savvy while still doing old fashioned school visits to most of your schools and holding county-wide town halls.

I am also in the process of getting your student representative the ability to vote on the budget so that they can be allowed to make changes to programs and budget issues from here on out and make the SMOB an equal position on the Board – a right that we have been fighting for 30 years. In the midst of all of this, I also created a taskforce to look at many of the county’s problems such as Youth Voter Registration, Crime, Gangs, Poverty, Hunger, Healthcare, Mental Health, and the Environment through the eyes of student engagement.

Finally, I, along with the rest of the Board, am continuing to lobby the County Council and the State government hard to get full funding for all of our programs and services in our budget like our buses, teachers, and other important items. Through the “Campaign For Our Future” hundreds of you throughout the county were able to come together in a grassroots campaign to fight for full funding of our education. And your elected officials are beginning to witness the power of the youth voice, as seen by the hundreds of you who packed the County Council’s Youth Town Hall.

However, much work remains to be done. We face the problem of retaining the very best teachers, closing the achievement gap, and maintaining the programs we currently have in place. The contract of the superintendent is set to expire and your next SMOB will be choosing a new superintendent who will set the direction of MCPS for the next several years, and overcrowding continues to plague many of our schools. In the current economic state our country is in, all of these goals and ideas will continue to become more difficult. With Federal Stimulus funding running out next year and the budget gap at the county and state increasing at over $700 Million in the County and $2 Billion in the state this year alone, now more than ever you need a SMOB who will fight for the programs you believe in. The next SMOB will have to confront these and other challenges during the next school year.

Every January all sophomores and juniors across Montgomery County have the opportunity to apply for the position of Student Member of the Board of Education. In March, a nominating convention is held where delegates from every middle and high school across the county listen to speeches and responses from all the candidates and then vote to narrow the field of candidates to the final two.

On Wednesday, April 28th, you will have the opportunity to voice your opinion and vote for one of the final two candidates for SMOB. This person will represent you on the Board of Education for the upcoming school year. The school board member you pick will help make important decisions affecting not just your own education, but public schools throughout Montgomery County. Before you vote, please watch the rest of this video, and read the voter's guide that is provided for all students. The voter's guide gives important information about each candidate's background and where he stands on issues that affect you. To give all students a chance to review this information, the Guide is available not only in English, but also in Chinese, French, Korean, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

In a few moments, you will meet the candidates and have an opportunity to listen to their answers as they address questions posed to them by several of your fellow students. Then, on Wednesday, April 28th, it will be your right and responsibility (and yes, that includes you, seniors) to vote for the candidate you think will most successfully represent you and the students of Montgomery County. Thank you and good luck.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

2010 SMOB Election Candidates Finalized!

Today, delegates from schools across Montgomery County gathered at Blake High School to selected the two candidates that will advance to the General Election for SMOB in 2010 in front of all 6th - 12th graders in MCPS. This SMOB will serve as the 33rd Student Member of the Board of Education. After a day of speeches, questions, and debating, the following two students were selected to advance: Nick Maggio (Junior, Damascus) and Alan Xie (Sophomore, Richard Montgomery). Take some time to look at their profiles and make an informed decision about who you will choose to become your next SMOB.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Real SMOBs of MoCo (Season 1, Episode 3)

What's it really like to be the Student Member of the Board of Education in Montgomery County? What does your SMOB do on a daily basis? Take a glimpse into the life of your SMOB and join him on his adventure through his term. In this week's episode: Follow the SMOB through lobbying in Annapolis, the County Council Town Hall, and MASC Convention!

Note: This video does not represent everything the SMOB does. Just a glimpse into some of the most memorable moments. Music at the beginning is the Theme to Chuck by NBC.

County Government Gap Now $761 Million

The County Government deficit is now at $761 Million from the previous $608 Million - an increase of 25%. We can only imagine what can happen to the school system budget now. This comes to us after the Governor's recent cuts and the large snow storm that devastated our region. The following is from County Council President Nancy Floreen's March Newsletter:

This week we met with the County Executive for a fiscal update that set the stage for the upcoming budget season. I have been advocating for communication and collaboration between the executive and legislative branches, and I thank the County Executive and his staff for providing an extensive preview into his upcoming budget. By law, the County Executive transmits his proposed budget to the County Council on March 15. We hold hearings and work sessions, and then we pass a final budget at the end of May. The budget takes effect on July 1.

We knew the news would not be good. Our last fiscal update projected a gap of $608 million for FY11. Now, because of decreases in state aid, fees and taxes, the gap has grown to $761 million. The biggest contributing factor is the unprecedented 15 percent drop in income tax revenue as a result of decreases in both the number of taxpayers and the incomes of those taxpayers. The snowstorms also took a big bite.

In anticipation of next year's budget crisis, County government already has instituted a hiring freeze and a procurement freeze. We have liquidated selected outstanding contracts and slashed spending across the board.

Still, the County Executive told us today his budget will aim to reduce public safety, health and human services, and transit spending by seven percent. He plans to reduce spending in the remaining departments and agencies by 20 percent. The Executive made it clear that significant layoffs, furloughs and service reductions likely will be required.

Although the details of the proposed budget won't be available until March 15, I appreciate the advance information.

Taskforce on Student Engagement

During my election, I promised that I would bring together all stakeholders to begin to look at ways that students could play an integral role in fighting some of the most pressing issues in our community.

Throughout the county, there is a prevailing idea that students are viewed as liabilities. The more students we have, the larger the strain on resources. On February 3, the Montgomery County Council held its very first Youth Town Hall to speak to youth about the issues they have in their communities. After the meeting, I spoke with several non-profit leaders who were interested in finding some common ground to work together in these hard economic times to really utilize and harness the power of students to target some of the most pressing issues in our county.

Today, I will be announcing my Taskforce on Student Engagement to do just that. It is my core belief that many of this County's problems can be solved through student engagement. We will look for innovative and budget-neutral solutions through volunteerism and student engagement.

We will be looking at 6 Focus Areas where we believe students will have the most impact:
  1. Political Efficacy
  2. Crime/Gangs/Drugs
  3. Mentoring/Academics
  4. Poverty/Hunger/Youth Entrepreneurship
  5. Healthcare/Teen Pregnancy/Mental Health
  6. Environment
Many problems like poverty, jobs, healthcare, etc. affect our students ability to perform and achieve. Therefore, I would like to put out a call to all stakeholders to contact me to get involved in the taskforce to engage students and solve many of the unsolved problems. Together we can truly make a difference in this county! Stay tuned for more details!

Powerpoint Presentation: