Parents speak out against Howard school system leadership

Baltimore Sun, Howard County Times Report
By Lisa Phillip,

Parent complaints alleging the Howard County school system’s lack of openness and responsiveness to parents and educators dominated an education-focused town hall meeting hosted by elected officials on Tuesday night.

“A lack of transparency, principals being lap dogs to administration, board members being too cozy with superintendent…it all smells,” said parent Sue Faustino. “And that smell is not mold.”

Faustino’s comments, which referred to school system’s highly criticized handling of mold growth in several of the county’s schools, were met with a standing ovation from almost half of the audience.

Citing concerns about how central office makes policy decisions, parent David Yungmann said that, in recent years, school system leadership has grown “increasingly arrogant.”

Leslie Kornreich, who has a son with autism at Howard High School, said, “Despite the tireless work of educators, we are going backwards in terms of class sizes, and transparency, accountability.”

She pointed out Superintendent Renee Foose‘s suspension in 2014 of the Operating Budget Review Committee, “the only opportunity for the public to have input in the operating budget.”

“There is no oversight over the way that the Howard County Public School System spends money,” she said. “We have a long way to go before the school system is world-class.”

Several parents said that the school system’s lack of accountability is reinforced by the inability of educators to voice their opinions for fear of losing their jobs.

“If the administration is not being responsible for the safety of our children,” Faustino said, “why aren’t teachers allowed to speak up?”

“In Howard County, it has become them and us,” said parent Ann Faust. “And this can’t be good for anybody. Teachers are scared to talk to parents.”

In response to these statements, retired Howard County educator Marijane Monck stepped up to the microphone for less than 30 seconds to say, “Yes, teachers are afraid to speak out.”

Her words were met with cheers.

A common thread running throughout the various parent statements, which took issue with the school system’s handling of everything from special education to bullying to staffing, was the call for a change in school system leadership.

“The time has come for new system leadership before the school system is damaged for good,” said parent Christine McComas.

Lisa Markovitz, another parent, echoed McComas’s statement, adding that there are good things happening in the county’s schools, but that they are happening “in spite of leadership problems.”

Tuesday’s forum was held by Del. Frank Turner, a Columbia democrat, and Del. Warren Miller, a Republican from western Howard County, in the midst of growing parent criticism of the school board and superintendent.

Some parents have taken to social media to air their concerns using the hashtag #cutfooseloose; Superintendent Foose’s four-year contract is up for renewal in the spring. The four-year terms of school board members Janet Siddiqui, Ann De Lacy and vice chairwoman Ellen Flynn Giles will expire next year, leaving three openings to be voted on during the 2016 election cycle.

County Council Chairman Calvin Ball, County Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, delegates Vanessa Atterbeary and Clarence Lam and state Sen. Guy Guzzone joined Turner and Miller at the meeting to listen to public testimony.

Christina Delmont-Smalls, former president of the PTA Council of Howard County, and Courtney Watson, former county councilwoman and a former school board member, moderated the forum.

In response to parent criticism at the town hall, Howard schools’ communications director John White wrote in an email, “There were several school system staff members in attendance to listen to the community members’ comments.

“We know the community has high expectations for its in high-achieving school system,” he wrote. “We will consider ways to increase communication and further strengthen public confidence in the system that has served the county well.”

White attended the meeting along with school system officials Frank Eastham and Bruce Gist. School board members Cindy Vaillancourt, Sandie French and Bess Altwerger and board chairwoman Christine O’Connor and vice chairwoman Ellen Flynn Giles were also in attendance.

After the meeting, which took place at Howard Community College, Turner said that he hoped school administrators would “hear the community’s stories and be more in tune and sensitive in responding to their constituents.”

“What are we going to do from here? We need to go back and talk to other people,” Turner told the audience at the end of citizen input, which he and Miller said they would share with school officials. “The delegation is getting ready to go to Annapolis and we won’t get back until April. It’s going to be up to you to move forward, to make sure that the board and the superintendent are responsive to you.”

Turner and Miller are part of the group of delegates and senators that represent the county to the Maryland General Assembly, whose 2016 legislative session will run from Jan. 13 to April 11.

“I hope that’s a message that we can take away,” Turner added. “That they have to be responsive to our community, because it’s our children and that’s the most important thing we do in life, is to take care of and protect our children.”

Last week the Howard County Delegation hosted a public hearing on local legislation — discussion about two bills related to local schools took up much of the forum. One would change the way that the school board is elected and the other would make it more difficult for the school system to turn down public information requests.

Parents and administrators who spoke at last week’s forum had varying opinions on both pieces of legislation, especially about changing school board elections.

“The bill regarding the election of Howard County Board of Education members would undermine the education of the 53,000 students in our system,” Superintendent Renee Foose told state delegation members.

“Electing our Board of Education by district will offer better and more complete representation for voters of Howard County,” said Leslie Kornreich, of Hanover. “It is the purest definition of representative democracy.

Parents, community members voice concerns about school system, board of education at town hall

ABC2 Report,
By Amy Aubert

HOWARD COUNTY, MD – Two Delegates organized an Education Town Hall after they say the number of concerns that they were hearing about the school system and board of education had gone up.

In the meeting on Tuesday night, the concerns rolled in.

 “I, on average, would have a really bad case of bronchitis and asthma to the point where I would see stars when I was coughing and almost cough myself unconscious,” Nancy Barker, a retired teacher, said.

“I’m being bullied at school,” a second grade girl said, leaning into the microphone set up on the side of the room.

“In spite of the tireless efforts of our overworked teachers and staff, we are going backwards in terms of overcrowding, special education, transparency, accountability, and public input,” a Howard County parent testified.

The issue of mold in some Howard County schools came up several times.

“A teacher, afraid to reach out publicly, reached out to two parents and asked for help wanting to get the word out about a years long mold issue that had been kept from parents,” said Howard County parent, Vicky Cutroneo, of learning about mold in one of the schools earlier this summer.

Many parents spoke about special education not getting the attention and resources needed.

“You’ve already heard some of the horror stories of what it’s like for our children to be students here with a diagnosis of autism,” said a Howard County father.

“The county claims this is in the name of inclusion but it isn’t inclusion to put my child in the back of the classroom with inappropriate materials and having little to no interaction with other children,” a parent told the delegation.

The town hall was organized by Delegates Frank Turner and Warren Miller. Miller told the group he’s heard countless stories of problems with the board of education and school system.

Concerns of teachers being afraid to speak out, the board of education seeming to not listen to parents, budget priorities, and class size all came up.

“I’m disturbed at what I am hearing from parents and what I hear my colleagues and what I have experienced,” a Howard County resident said.
The crowd agreed that students should be the number one priority, saying Tuesday’s meeting was, perhaps, the first step forward.
“Lack of transparency, teacher silence, principals being lap dogs to their boss, Board of Ed members too cozy with the Superintendent, just all smells. And that smell is not mold,” a Howard County parent said.
The Howard County Public School System told the In Focus team on Monday, “We welcome the community’s feedback.” On Wednesday, they said, “Several school system staff members were in attendance to listen and consider the community members’ comments.”

Follow-up From HCPSS Town Hall – Bullying/Harassment at….Elementary and Our Community

Good morning sir [Mr. Kittlemen]

I hope that this email finds you well. With that being said, I am certain that you are aware that my 8-year old daughter and I kicked off and spoke at the HCPSS Town Hall on 8 December 2015. My daughter provided oral testimony of her nightmare of being afraid to go to school or even play outside due to the bullying, harassment, and retaliation that she has suffered at the hands of another student that attends….Elementary. I fought my ex-wife and my daughters mother for custody of our daughter when she was only 2 years old and I won. I made promises to my daughter and my ex-wife in letting them know that I would never let her fall, that I would protect her, guide her, pray over her, pray with her, provide for her, do my best to teach her how to be a successful and divine young lady and woman. I would caution to say that I am doing a pretty good job given that my daughter is an Honor Student and Brownie Scout. With all of that being said, this entire ordeal hurts me to my core as my daughter and I have suffered a great deal at the expense of bullying and harassment as denoted above and those who are empowered to bring about change have been silent, neglectful, and dismissive.

With that being said, I feel extremely inclined to reach out to you as a concerned parent ​and citizen​. ​As mentioned previously, my daughter has unfortunately been subjected to constant bullying during both school and non-school hours. Her perpetrator is another student at…Elementary whom also happens to live four houses down from us. This bullying has consisted of inappropriate touch, foul language (directed at my daughter and myself), threats of violence, acts of physical violence upon my daughter and myself, and several false claims. I took what I believe to be appropriate proactive measures in notifying the Laurel Marsh, Principal….Elementary School, Dan Notari, Vice Principal…Elementary School, Lori Jenner, Guidance Counselor,….Elementary School and Sarah Kroushler, Alternative Education Specialist….Elementary School of these issues at onset (during the summer) so as my daughter would be protected and feel safe when she enters school for the day. As of today, the children have been involved in multiple altercations during both school and non-school hours.

I have spoken with Ron Morris, Director of Elementary Education at the Howard County Board of Education regarding out of district transfer requests as this has become much more than an incident of bullying. It has now become a public safety issue. Nevertheless the Howard County Board of Education [School Reassignment Office] does not appear willing to treat it as such for some reason or the other. Perhaps they do not believe that things are as bad as they seem. Or perhaps they believe that it’s acceptable that my Honor Student and Girl Scout is suffering day in and out when she enters school. ​Perhaps they believe it’s okay for my daughter to be fearful to even go to school. Or perhaps they believe that it’s okay that my daughter is afraid to report what happens to her during the course of a school day because of continued retaliation. ​

I subsequently reached out to Dr. Michael Ford, School Safety Specialist
Maryland State Department of Education as my daughter ​tells me everyday that she does not want to go to school as she feels unsafe at ….Elementary. Dr. Ford has been so kind as to listen to my complaints and concerns. He has also reached out to his counterparts in Howard County in an effort to bring about some form of resolution. ​However issues regarding reassignment are beyond his purview. Nevertheless I must ask you, should I have had to elevate the issue to the state ​l​evel? ​Should I even have had to elevate this issue to you as I am doing now?​

A​s stated previously, my daughter further reiterated that she doesn’t feel comfortable reporting incidents of bullying and harassment to the ​Administration and adults at….Elementary due to what I call broken trust. With that in mind, my daughter also informed me that each time she reports any incident between her assailant and herself, ​the other child ​goes back to Ms. Croushler and lies on her so as to make it appear that my daughter was the aggressor while she plays the role of the victim. What’s more, my daughter has also reported that ​this other child ​has continuously and habitually spread rumors about her. ​These rumors are completely demeaning to woman much less a child (E.g. Being called the B word, Being accused of practicing fellatio, etc) ​The results of all of these acts have seriously disrupted the learning environment not only for my child but several other students at….Elementary. What’s more is that it has had a significant impact on our day-to-day life​ within our community.​

At the end of the day, I’m just trying to do the best that I can to protect my daughter as a single parent and father in removing her from this tumultuous environment. However unfortunately as it may be, as mentioned previously it appears that the Howard County Board of Education [School Reassignment Office] would much rather turn a blind eye towards it this public safety and bullying issue. This is extremely concerning to me as a parent as I fear that I and other parents could potentially have other Grace McCormas on our hands if something isn’t done and soon. With that being said, I am reaching out to you in hopes that you might be able to bring about some form of resolution regarding the bullying that is and has been occurring at….Elementary School​. But more than anything I am hoping that you can perhaps facilitate the immediate processing of my out of district transfer request. ​My daughter deserves so much better than this. Please help us?​​

Please also see below for traffic and background data regarding this nightmare of an ordeal.

V/r

Dedrick Moone
A Humble and Loving Father

 

8 Year Old Bullying Victim Kicks Off Howard County Town Hall on Education

A funny thing happened after my daughter and I kicked off yesterday’s Town Hall on Education with the Howard County Public School System. There were looks of horror as she recanted her nightmare of bullying and harassment. It was accompanied by her fear to go to school or even outside to play. The Howard County Board of Education and….Elementary long ignored our concerns. What’s more they failed to inform me of our basic rights under Grace’s Law. My daughters school…Elementary decided to follow me on Twitter after witnessing folks give my daughter a standing ovation for her bravery. They decided to follow me on Twitter after witnessing folks empathize with her regarding her horror story of being afraid to go to school because of the rampant bullying or even go outside and play in the community. Having done all of this….Elementary decided that they wanted to hear what I have to say after witnessing folks run out of the room to give my daughter and I hugs and handshakes after hearing our testimony. This is of particular note as Ron Morris, Director of Elementary Education made the call to ban me from…Elementary with the exception of pickup and drop-off once I raised the issue regarding bullying, lack of accountability, lack of information dissemination regarding our rights, and lack of disciplinary procedures for bullying and harassment at….Elementary. It is my opinion that in deciding to follow me on Twitter, that….Elementary wanted to perhaps know what I more we were sharing after I put we put the administration on report in front of elected officials…..Elementary decided that they wanted to be informed after witnessing folks tweeting and empathizing with me from the room. If this story is not told, we will have more Grace McComa’s on our hands. Please see attached and investigate.

V/r
Dedrick Moone
A Humble and Loving Father

 

 

Response From the State Superintendent

Dear Mr. Moone,

Thank you for contacting the Office of the Superintendent.  I am acknowledging receipt of your email.  The Superintendent or Designee will be in contact with you in the near future regarding your concerns.

 

Sincerely,

 

Valerie C. Gist | Executive Assistant
Office of the Superintendent | 410-313-6677
Howard County Public School System

Raising Awareness Via Press Notification

Good morning,

I would like to report on the impact of bullying in Howard County Public Schools. It’s been stated that Howard County has one of the strictest Anti-bullying programs in the state; however, this is far from the truth given my personal account. Howard County was also recently ranked as the Number 1 school district in the stated of Maryland; however, I beg to differ. My daughter has been suffering at the hands of a bully who both goes to her school and lives in our neighborhood. Those empowered to ensure her protection within the Howard County School System have done little to ensure her protection and comfortability while she’s at school. What’s more the school system has failed me on multiple occasions in not informing me of the proper protocol to report bullying nor of my rights to report. As such, my daughter and I have suffered a great deal. I subsequently reached out to the Howard County Board of Education in an effort to facilitate an out of district transfer request at this has become a public safety issue. However unfortunate as it may be the Howard County Board of Education School Reassignment Office has been unwilling to treat it as such. With that in mind, I subsequently reached out to the Maryland State Board of Education as my daughter has reported to me on multiple occasions that she does not feel safe at school. The State Department of Education is doing all that they can do to help facilitate the transfer. Nevertheless a report/investigation should be conducted into bullying at….and Howard County Public Schools because if something isn’t done we’ll have other Grace McComa’s on our hands. Please, please, please, see below for additional detail and help me get our story told.

V/r

Dedrick Moone
A Humble Man and Loving Father

Turned Away From Attending Honors Assembly

​Good morning sir,

I spoke briefly with Ms. Marsh regarding the ongoing issues. We have a telephone conference scheduled for Monday at 9:30.

On another note, I’m not certain if you are aware or not, but my daughter is an honor student. She has been as such ever since she was in Pre-K. At any rate,….was hosting an assembly today to recognize those students. With that in mind, I have always been a very involved parent in her school activities, functions, and everything that you could imagine as I’m all that she has and vice versa. At any rate, Ms. Marsh advised me that I would not be able to participate in the Honors Ceremony as I am only allowed to drop my daughter off and pick her up. I put no argument up in that regard. Nevertheless my daughter was fully expecting me to be there as I always have been. I didn’t even have an opportunity to inform her that I would not be able to attend after all. Can you imagine how she must feel when she looks back and the one person that’s always been there for her isn’t there?

Can you imagine how I must feel when the schools beg for parent involvement particularly from that of fathers and I’m disallowed from being able to have lunch with my daughter or even participate in her honor ceremonies?

Please do whatever you can to push the matter through so as my daughter and I may have some peace with regards to her education.

V/r

Dedrick Moone

A Humble and Loving Father

Follow-up From the Howard County Director of Education

Good afternoon Mr. Moone,

Thank you for taking time to speak with me regarding your concerns.  I have complete confidence that the staff and administration at….want what is in the best interest of…..and will work collaboratively with you to develop a plan that you feel comfortable with.  Ms. Marsh will be in touch with you very soon to arrange a phone conference to address the concerns you indicated that are occurring in school.  You shared that the administration was not informed of the concerns that were happening during school, but were aware of your documented concerns on the Bullying, Harassment, and Intimidation Form that took place outside of school.

I have forwarded your student reassignment request to the appropriate office.  I will be following up to ensure they have a complete understanding of your concerns.

Thank you for your continued involvement, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Ron Morris
Administrative Director
Howard County Public Schools
(410) 313-6606

Follow-up With the Howard County Director of Elementary Education

Good afternoon sir,

I would like to personally thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to address my concerns as a parent [of an honor student in HCPSS]. Your attentiveness, compassion, and concern go along way in restoring a little bit of my faith.

As a recap, for those who were not on the call, we addressed the previous and current issues of bullying, harassment, and intimidation brought upon my daughter….by…..and her parents. We also discussed the perceived lack of consequences and corrective actions at…..in that regard. Furthermore we also discussed…..lack of information dissemination in notifying my family and I of the appropriate steps to take to report such harassment.  As a point of note, I happened across a new article in the Columbia Patch that details the new online bullying reporting system (Spriego).

As a follow-up action, you also informed me that while you’re not the decision authority on school reassignment/transfers, you will forward the reassignment paperwork to said official. With that in mind, you also stated that you would provide a synopsis of my concerns so as they can hopefully understand the criticality of the matter at hand and that they may follow up with me personally in that regard. I also expressed my loss of trust in the administration at…..with everything being considered. Nevertheless I am not exactly closed minded in meeting with them while these hours are being worked through. With that in mind, I expressed reluctance and unwillingness to continue to reach out to them. As such, you advised that you would reach out to the administration and ask that they follow up with me regarding my previous and on-going concerns.

Please let me know if I perhaps failed to capture anything.

V/r

Dedrick Moone
A Humble and Loving Father

Howard County Superintendent and Ombudsmen Notification

Good afternoon,

I hope that this email finds you well. With that being said, I feel extremely inclined to reach out to you as a concerned parent of a student within HCPSS. My daughter is an Honor Student at… She is also a Brownie Scout. My daughter has unfortunately been subjected to constant bullying during both school and non-school hours. Her perpetrator is another student at….whom also happens to live four houses down from us. This bullying has consisted of inappropriate touch, foul language (directed at my daughter and myself), threats of violence, acts of physical violence upon my daughter and myself, and several false claims  on both school and non-school grounds​. I took what I believe to be appropriate proactive measures in notifying the Laurel Marsh, Principal, Dan Notari, Vice Principal, Lori Jenner, Guidance Counselor, and Sarah Kroushler, Alternative Education Specialist of these issues at onset (August 18, 2015) so as my daughter would be protected and feel safe when she enters school for the day.

As of today, the children have been involved in multiple altercations during both school and non-school hours.

The Administrators at…failed us miserably as they never informed me of the proper procedures to document and report bullying within the school nor community. What’s more they never informed me of my rights as a parent, nor citizen. What’s more they never made any mention of me towards Howard County Board of Education POLICY 1060. ​As a matter of fact, I only found out about the policy in recently conducing my own independent research. With that being said, they have failed to implement Prevention procedures with particular reference towards bullets E and F. They have further failed to implement Intervention procedures with particular reference towards bullets B, C, and F. They have also failed in the area of Reporting procedures with direct reference towards bullets 3, 4, and 5. They have also failed in the area of Violations of Policy with particular reference towards bullet’s 2 A, 2 B, 2 C, 3 D, 7, and 8.

I have spoken with Ron Morris, Director of Elementary Education at the Howard County Board of Education regarding out of district transfer requests as this has become much more than an incident of bullying. It has now become a public safety issue. Nevertheless the Howard County Board of Education [School Reassignment Office] does not appear willing to treat it as such for some reason or the other. Perhaps they do not believe that things are as bad as they seem. Or perhaps they believe that it’s acceptable that my Honor Student and Girl Scout is suffering day in and out when she enters school.

I subsequently reached out to Dr. Michael Ford, School Safety Specialist, Maryland State Department of Education as my daughter reiterated to me yet again this morning that she does not want to go to school as she feels unsafe at school. Dr. Ford has been so kind as to listen to my complaints and concerns. He has also reached out to his counterparts in Howard County in an effort to bring about some form of resolution. However I ask should I have had to elevate the issue to the state level?

At any rate, my daughter further reiterated that she doesn’t feel comfortable reporting incidents of bullying and harassment to the adults due to what I call broken trust. With that in mind, my daughter also informed me that each time she reports any incident between her assailant and herself, her bully goes back to Ms. Croushler and lies on her so as to make it appear that my daughter was the aggressor while she plays the role of the victim. What’s more, my daughter has also reported that her bully has continuously and habitually spread rumors about her. The results of all of these acts have seriously disrupted the learning environment not only for my child but several other students at…. What’s more is that it has had a significant impact on our day-to-day life. At the end of the day, I’m just trying to do the best that I can to protect my daughter as a single parent and father in removing her from this tumultuous environment. However unfortunately as it may be, as mentioned previously it appears that the Howard County Board of Education [School Reassignment Office] would much rather turn a blind eye towards this public safety and bullying issue. This is extremely concerning to me as a parent as I fear that I and other parents could potentially have other Grace McCormas on our hands if something isn’t done and soon. With that being said, I am reaching out to you in hopes that you might be able to bring about some form of resolution regarding the bullying that is and has been occurring at….and perhaps facilitate the immediate processing of my out of district transfer request. Please help.

V/r

Dedrick L. Moone

A Humble Man and Father