Saturday, July 30, 2011
Testimony by Ms. Shannon Hamm at the July 25th joint meeting of the Council's Education (ED) and Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committees:
Good Afternoon, Council Members.
My name is Shannon Hamm, I am a 19-year resident of Rock Creek Hills and a 27-year resident of Montgomery County. Both of my children are B-CC graduates in the IB program. I moved to this county to send my children to our wonderful public school system. We have Great Schools. Great Schools Need Great Locations.
There is no question in my mind that Westland is at capacity, the statistics support that. But how is this being addressed? Have we done our homework? I suggest not.
Today’s joint hearing between the Education Committee and the Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee is my opportunity to state for the record that the Site Selection process was flawed. Members of the Board of Education are on record agreeing to this, staff from MCPS are on record agreeing that the process was flawed. Two clear examples were that the Citizens’ Association in Rock Creek Hills did not receive adequate notice before the vote was taken on April 28 by the BOE, as no one from our neighborhood was on the site selection advisory committee. Secondly and more importantly, the BOE failed to consult with the Planning Board before making its decision. Even though the SSAC report indicates that staff from MNCPPC were members, Chairwoman Carrier’s letter dated April 29, states her clear concerns over this matter.
Given that so many officials in the county agree that the Site Selection Advisory Committee process was flawed, we cannot continue to support a broken process and make another bad decision. Let’s work together to make this a great outcome for our citizen’s and our children.
I have thoroughly read the Site Selection Advisory Committee Recommendation Report for B-CC MS #2, dated March 8, 2011. I have to say as a public servant, the report lacks strong analytics, performance measures for determining the outcome, as well as lack of quantitative criteria for developing options. This is not a report I would want to put my reputation behind. I do not understand why there was such an urgency to generate this report, when MCPS has a long range planning department that projects school capacity. We have very smart staff working in the county and I am not clear how this became such an emergency.
Thus, I ask that the Council direct the BOE to start a new more collaborative process for conducting a more expansive Site Selection Process that is collaborative and inclusive. Now is the time to start thinking outside of the box, and look to public/private partnerships. Seek out new relationships with agencies and developers that moves us forward with building a Great School. Allow the BOE to recommend to the County Executive that a placeholder for constructing a new middle school in the B-CC cluster be accepted in the CIP this fall.
To continue to conduct the Feasibility Study for the B-CC MS #2 at Rock Creek Hills Park, will lead to building a clearly inadequate school that will not meet MCPS’ educational specifications due to the small acreage and topography. Specifically, the site is less than 2/3 the size it was when Kensington Junior High School existed, owing to the long term leasing of 8.22 acres to our elderly residents at Kensington Retirement Community. To date, no option presented can meet all of the educational requirements. More importantly, this middle school will divide the middle schools demographically.
I know that finding available sites in the lower county for schools is a difficult challenge. I also know that parks are not vacant land. Rock Creek Hills Park is home to 2 regulation soccer fields that support the Westland and B-CC athletes, as well as supports over 400 permits a season. Without Rock Creek Hills Park, where then will students in the cluster be sent for their athletic requirements? It appears to be a recipe for even more travel time for students.
We need to work together in the county to partner with each other to solve tough land use issues. Our Great Schools have produced Great Minds that can, if the will is there, do the right thing and find a Great Location for a much needed school.
Thank you for allowing me to speak.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Everyone makes mistakes. But not everyone responds well to requests that mistakes be corrected.
The first meeting of the B-CC middle school #2 "feasibility study" took place on June 8th. When the draft minutes of that meeting were posted, we noticed four errors and omissions that we thought were important and worthy of correction. We wrote at 1:50 PM on Tuesday, July 12th, to MCPS's Mr. Dennis Cross, requesting corrections. At today's "feasibility study" meeting, in response to our email request for corrections, we were told by Mr. Cross that none of our requests would be addressed. And we were told this:
"This is not a formal committee. We call it a committee but it's really nothing more than a work session. ... So we really can't vote on anything. We can't even vote on the minutes, to approve them, because we don't know whether we have a quorum or not, because we don't have a committee."
Got that? A committee (that has voted at prior meetings) has suddenly become a non-committee that cannot vote. So, we ask: Are they just making this stuff up as they go along?
- from the July 18th letter from John Robinson, President, Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association, to Valerie Ervin, President, Montgomery County Council, included in the official packet for the July 25th joint meeting of the Council's Education (ED) and Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committees.
"Many of the current conflicts might have been avoided if the School Board had complied with the statute and had consulted the Planning Board before making a site selection."
"The role of parks in a community is really so important to people of all ages."
-from comments by Montgomery County Councilmember Nancy Floreen at the July 25th joint meeting of the Council's Education (ED) and Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committees.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
From a July 18th letter from John Robinson, President, Rock Creek Hills Citizens' Association, to Valerie Ervin, President, Montgomery County Council, included in the official packet for the July 25th joint meeting of the Council's Education (ED) and Planning, Housing & Economic Development (PHED) Committees:
"... the School Board failed to provide an adequate opportunity to comment. ... It was only at about 2:00 p.m. on April 28, 2011 that the Superintendent's recommendation changed to include the Rock Creek Hills Local Park ... Given the lack of any notice of this possible change in plans, the County Executive wisely urged in his April 28, 2011 letter to School Board President Barclay that a decision be delayed until Rock Creek Hills had a chance to present its views. However the School Board chose to proceed with the decision to select the Rock Creek Hills Local Park, even though there was more than passing recognition by several of its members that notice had been at least practically, if not legally, inadequate."
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
From an article by Damian Garde in Kensington Patch, featuring comments by Montgomery County Parks Director Mary Bradford on Rock Creek Hills Park:
"Bradford said the Parks Department has long been amenable to sharing the use of sites with MCPS, but that the proposed middle school would leave no room for that.'This is not a matter of finding a space where it works together with the park,' she said. 'It would obliterate the park, and that's different from sharing the site. We want to work to find a better way.' "
From a report by Matt Bush this morning on WAMU-FM, on yesterday's joint meeting of the Montgomery County Council’s Education (ED) & Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committees:
"Some, including Shannon Hamm, believe [Rock Creek Hills Park] is too small to build a school that will give students the same education provided at the middle school that currently serves the area: Westland Middle School.'If a school was opened at that site in 2015, it would be inadequate from day one,' Hamm says."
From an article by Lisa Gartner in the Washington Examiner, on yesterday's joint meeting of the Montgomery County Council’s Education (ED) & Planning, Housing and Economic Development (PHED) Committees:
"Planning board Chairwoman Françoise Carrier said she was 'very distressed to learn second- or third-hand that the school system had identified one of our parks as a new school site.' "
Monday, July 25, 2011
"... please don't build a costly and deficient school on this little park." [testimony at tonight's Board of Education meeting]
Good evening Dr. Starr, Mr. Barclay, and members of the Board. My name is James Pekar.
Dr. Starr, I'm here tonight to welcome you to Montgomery County, and to ask you not to build a middle school that would be uniquely inadequate, county wide, on the site of Rock Creek Hills Park. Such a school would be the middle school on the smallest site, in the entire county, without an adjacent (or "co-located") park to provide space for outdoor recreation and athletics.
Please note that descriptions of the park as "the former middle school site" or a "site that formerly housed a school", and so forth, are inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading. The "previous location of Kensington Junior High School" included what is today the location of the Kensington Park retirement community. When the KJH site was broken up, about eight acres were deeded to the Housing Opportunities Commission, which financed with tax-exempt bounds the building of the senior housing, which stands on much of the "footprint" of the old school. This took about a third of the former school site; took the road access to the North; and severed what had been a through North-South roadway – all rendering the remainder, Rock Creek Hills Park, remarkably deficient as a potential middle school site.
Dr. Starr, and members of the Board, please don't build a costly and deficient school on this little park. Please, work with the Parks and Planing Commission to find a site for the school our County's children deserve. Please, embrace opportunities to identify creative solutions. Please, create a school that will support out students with offerings that will be equitable with those at Westland middle school, and with other middle schools in our County.
Coalition of Kensington Communities
A Unified Body of Civic Associations
Founded To Enhance the Quality of Life in the Kensington Area
(number of homes)
Capitol View Park (330)
Garrett Park Citizens Association (325)
Kensington Estates (425)
Kensington Heights (711)
Kensington View (125)
Rock Creek Hills (660)
Rock Creek Palisades (1,700)
July 22, 2011
Council President Valerie Ervin
Montgomery County Council
100 Maryland Avenue
Rockville, MD 20850
via email: County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov
Re: BCC Middle School #2, proposed for Rock Creek Hills Park
Dear Council President Ervin and the County Council:
The CKC represents nine communities (approximately 5,000 residences) in the greater Kensington area; our purpose is to enhance the quality of life in our community. Our member civic associations participate equally, with a rotating chair from among association representatives.
We recognize and agree that the BCC school cluster needs more middle school space to service an increasing middle school population. However, the CKC is opposed to the currently proposed site for such a school – Rock Creek Hills Park – for the following reasons. Other groups and individuals have provided background and specifics for these points so we will not repeat that information, and only provide you with our unanimously voted position.
1. The Council should not allow to stand a conclusion based on such a flawed process. A seriously flawed process has led to a seriously flawed selection of Rock Creek Hills Park for this new school. The decision to build on this site appears arbitrary and not well thought out, with an absence of objective criteria to review all possible sites.
2. Another site for the new junior high school should be found. The site of the old Kensington Junior High School was divided into two parcels – approximately one-third of the land is occupied by the Kensington Park Retirement Community and two-thirds is occupied by Rock Creek Hills Park. The proposed site for BCC middle school #2 is too small to include the facilities necessary to provide a school of comparable quality to other middle schools in the County, and it would not be adequate for the indoor and outdoor needs of middle school students. In addition, all aspects of this Park are extremely well used, and the Park should not be sacrificed; our Downcounty communities need all the playing fields and greenspace we can get.
3. To support funding for this needed new school, a “placeholder” should be included in the current CIP budget. A placeholder would not specify the location of this new school but would still allocate necessary funds. In this way, a school could be built once a reasoned approach to and process for choosing a site occurs.
Thank you for considering the opinion of our communities in making a decision about the Board of Education’s proposal to dismantle this well-used Park.
/s/ Donna R. Savage
Donna R. Savage
Current Chair for the CKC
Isiah Leggett, Montgomery County Executive
Christopher S. Barclay, President, MC Board of Education
Françoise Carrier, Chair, MC Planning Board
Friday, July 22, 2011
Why didn't Montgomery County Public Schools work with our County's Parks & Planning Commission to find a site for the new middle school that our children deserve – one that will provide parity with Westland? Why did they instead use a deeply flawed and secretive process whose outcome calls for the destruction of a cherished community resource in order to expensively cram an inadequate school onto a deficient site? Especially if finding a site appears to present a challenge, then engaging with the County agency charged with land use and planning is only common sense – and it's required by State law. Is MCPS above the law?
Here are three things you should know about MCPS and Rock Creek Hills Park:
1. Site selection appears to have been illegal.
The Montgomery County Board of Education did not consult with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission before their April 28th proclamation that they would take the site of Rock Creek Hills Park to build a middle school, in apparent violation of §4-116 of the Maryland Education Act, which states: "(a) (1) If there is a commission or agency with legal responsibility for county planning for land use, the county board [of Education] shall: (i) Consult with the commission or agency; and (ii) Ask its advice in choosing land for a school site."
2. MCPS staff have repeatedly mischaracterized the site.
For example, in a May 26 letter: "Kensington Junior High School was closed in 1979 and the property transferred to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission for redevelopment as the park that exists today." At a July 11 briefing: "That was a former school site. It was the former home of Kensington Junior High School, which was closed in 1979 because of declining enrollment, ultimately passed into the M-NCPPC, and into a park."
Such claims are not accurate. In fact, the "former home of Kensington Junior High School" included what is today the location of the Kensington Park retirement community, which provides independent living, assisted living, and Alzheimer's care to 200 seniors. When the KJH site was broken up, more than eight acres were deeded to the Housing Opportunities Commission, who financed with tax-exempt bonds the construction of the senior housing, which stands on much of the "footprint" of the former school. This took about a third of the acreage; took the road access to the North; and severed what had been a through North-South road – all rendering the remainder, Rock Creek Hills Park, stunningly deficient as a potential middle school site.
3. MCPS claims, erroneously, to own the site.
The official MCPS website includes a claim that the park is "owned by" MCPS:
This claim that the park "is owned by the school district" is incorrect. While the transfer agreement includes a "take-back" clause, which has not been executed, and which requires the concurrence of the County Executive, the owner of a property is its deed-holder, and Rock Creek Hills Park is deeded to the Parks Commission.
1. MCPS's lawyers have claimed that site selection has not yet occurred. Sort of like arguing about what the meaning of "is" is. Yes, lawyers get paid to write stuff like that, but come on, let's not pretend that MCPS has not picked a site.
2. Aerial photographs are available.
3. At 1:20 PM on Tuesday, July 19th, we wrote to the MCPS webmaster, requesting a correction of their mistaken claim of ownership. We received a prompt auto-response stating: "Thank you for contacting MCPS Web Services. We will respond to your email within 1 business day." However, we have heard nothing since.
UPDATE [25 July 2011]: The MCPS web page for the May 23rd meeting has been corrected to state that Rock Creek Hills Park is owned by the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission. As the page is annotated "Updated July 22, 2011", it appears that the correction was made on that day.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Date: July 20, 2011 11:44:31 AM EDT
Subject: July 25 hearings on site selection
Council President Ervin,
Thank you for initiating hearings to discuss the BOE’s process for selecting school sites. Unfortunately, there have been too many instances where the BOE has misused its authority and misled the communities it should be helping.
Last year, I took part in the Roundtable Discussion Group to find solutions to the overcrowding in some BCC cluster schools. While I was dismayed about the lack of long-term planning by MCPS, I was encouraged by its seeming willingness to work with the school communities to help solve the overcrowding problem that had since been ignored and/or unpredicted. Our PTAs took surveys of the parent communities, which overwhelmingly supported keeping the 6th grades in the elementary schools with similar academic offerings to those at Westland. If that could not be achieved, then parents grudgingly supported moving the 6th grades to middle school if it was in closer proximity to the eastern portion of the cluster. Parity is the foremost concern of these parents.
At the conclusion of these meetings, and following the Superintendent’s recommendation for the construction for a middle school in a centralized location in the BCC cluster, the process went awry.
From the start, the Site Selection process was secretive and implemented in a hasty and simplistic manner. Though I had participated in the first part of the process, I was aware of next-to-nothing of the SSAC. How the 10 sites were initially selected has not been made public, though I surmise that those that were so obviously inadequate (3 and 7 acres?!) were put on the list so that MCPS could “legitimately” claim that the meetings needed to be confidential because they were privately held lands. The other sites are parks, the owners of which were neither notified or consulted about beforehand. These selections were sloppily put together, without any creativity or forward-thinking. The make-up of the SSAC is telling, as well: with no representation from communities east of Connecticut Avenue, the SSAC chose two sites east of Connecticut Avenue.
We are in the midst of the feasibility portion of this process now, and it has become clear that the parity with Westland that so many parents clearly seek will not be possible if the new middle school is constructed on a site half the size of Westland.
If a middle school is built at Rock Creek Hills Local Park, we have been told that there is a possibility of off-site athletic amenities, and that PE spaces may not meet athletic program requirements. We also were told that the new school may not offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) program that Westland has. Since the new school also feeds into BCC, an IB high school, how will this affect the students who attend the non-IB middle school?
By building an inadequate school at a well-used, local park, that supports BCC high school athletics as well as 400 permit-holders annually, the County will waste a chance to build a high-quality facility worthy of its national reputation for quality education, while at the same time taking a valuable park from the county’s residents and taxpayers.
The neighborhood itself will never be the same, as the site that originally housed a middle school 30 years ago is not the same site. It is two-thirds the size, as a third of it (and the site where the Kensington Junior High buildings were) is now a 200-person retirement community. The people that work there currently use the neighborhood streets to park, and ambulances for its citizenry visit the facility 15 times a week. If there is a school next door, there will be even more congestion and traffic issues, the harm of which we don’t have to speculate about because anyone with common sense knows it will be much greater: 20 buses, twice a day, hundreds of staff and parent vehicles.
This is not the first time the BOE has misled a community. Citizens in Cabin John, Seven Locks, Waring Station and Potomac (Brickyard) have all been victim of the BOE’s negligence. It is a long-standing problem that needs to be corrected NOW, starting with Rock Creek Hills. I hope that the County Council will move to finally make the BOE accountable to the citizens of Montgomery County.
Nancy Floreen firstname.lastname@example.org
Marc Elrich email@example.com
George Levanthal firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Andrews email@example.com
Craig Rice firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Many people have expressed concerns that Rock Creek Hills Park is inadequate to build a middle school that would provide parity with its B-CC sister school, Westland. At the third meeting of the "feasibility study" process, last Wednesday, Mr. Paul Falkenbury of Samaha Associates displayed several "options". A committee member requested* that MCPS compare those options to what exists today at Westland. Eventually, MCPS did agree to provide, at the next meeting, such quantitative comparisons. However, here is the revealing initial response from MCPS's Mr. Dennis Cross:
"... I don't think you can take and compare this site to Westland's site ..."
*A transcript, from the July 13th meeting (a three-minute video beginning with this exchange is available):
Q: "This may be an easy question... I'm having a difficult time visualizing how all this lays out on this piece of property, but a lot of us are familiar with Westland, because we've either had students go there, or will. When you do these [design options], would you compare the size of the drop-off lanes or the parking lot or the cafeteria or whatever to what we currently have at Westland? I think it's important to help us visualize how much of a footprint this is going to take up. Also it would help us to compare this school to the sister school, Westland, because that may be important to parents in any part of the cluster, considering I don't think anybody knows where their students are going to go to school. For example, ... compare the size of the parking lots from this one to Westland. The drop off area for the buses, the number of buses, those kind of things, even the athetic fields I think, would be important to us to have a comparison of what exists now to what this school will have... I'm having a difficult time visualizing this thing plastered right there. In the three-dimensional diagrams, it looks like it's kind of small, like it really fits in there quite nicely. But when you look at the aerial view, it's taking up every inch of property. And I'm not sure how that compares to what the students currently have."A: "I hear what you're saying and I can see some benefit to Westland, but I don't think you can take and compare this site to Westland's site, there's just..." [waves hands]
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
In case you missed the third "feasibility study" meeting for B-CC middle school 2, last Wednesday, here's a brief summary:
Question (from a committee member): "It doesn't look like any of the options meet all the preferred requirements."
Answer (from MCPS's Mr. Dennis Cross): "That's correct."
Monday, July 18, 2011
July 14, 2011
Councilmember Valerie Ervin
100 Maryland Ave.
Rockville, MD 20850-2322
Dear Council President Ervin, County Council Education and PHED Committees,
The Rock Creek Hills Park is inadequate for the middle school that the Montgomery County BCC school cluster needs. This is been highlighted more strikingly at each successive feasibility study meeting held between the neighbors and the school system staff. No realistic solutions have been found that allow for a school building of the desired capacity and all its amenities, while preserving the safety and quality of life of students and their families, neighbors, retirement community residents, the environment and property. Enormous compromises would need to be made, and these will affect the students.
The process used by the Montgomery County school system to select the Rock Creek Hills Park has been a shambles from start to finish. There was no input from the affected communities at all, including the Maryland - National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, and apparently little attention was paid to the properties of the physical site to determine whether it is even adequate. The stated reason for selecting this site—the clawback clause in the property deed for the purpose of school building—is in ignorance of the last 30 years of history and of the existence and welfare of the Kensington Park retirement community that occupies a large fraction of the buildable land. The whole idea of seizing a well-used, beloved green park in a crowded urbanized area for a building of any kind is disrespectful of the elements that support a healthy, happy and productive life for its citizens. Soon, the only green space in our area will be Rock Creek Park (lovely, but dominated by a busy road) and the many private golf courses which are off-limits to all but their highly privileged members.
Planning appears to have been left to the last minute given school capacity requirements and the deadlines associated with county budget processes and other development projects around the county. Even given the enormous challenges currently faced by the Montgomery County school system, this does not speak well for its staff. This haste will simply result in a much larger waste of time, money and effort when the looming mistakes made in cramming a huge school onto a small, steeply-sloped, stream-side site in a small, restricted-access, sidewalk-poor residential neighborhood have to be fixed in the future.
Communication from the Montgomery County Board of Education to the various affected county and state agencies has been late, inadequate, and from every appearance, often inappropriate.
In summary, the entire planning process has been poor. The school site is inadequate. Money and time are being wasted. We respectfully request that the Board of Education be encouraged to work with the Maryland - National Capital Parks and Planning Commission to find a better site for B-CC middle school #2, and to put in place a process for choosing and developing future school sites that respects all the people of Montgomery County, and especially the needs, abilities, and aspirations of our children.
Maren R. Laughlin
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
July 12, 2011
County Council President Valerie Ervin
100 Maryland Ave
Dear President Ervin:
I am writing you today to thank you for holding the joint meeting between the Education and Planning, Housing & Economic Development committees on July 25, 2011. The situation with MCPS process for site selection and for conducting feasibility studies is completely broken. The actions taken by the Board of Education are unacceptable in terms of maintaining public trust and valuing park lands.
I am committed to creating a positive environment for making the new middle school in the BCC cluster, the best new middle school in Montgomery County. However, if we allow the BOE and MCPS to continue operating in their status quo process, we will never have that opportunity. We need to not make this their last mistake, but make this their first example of a new innovated and thoughtful process. This can be a win-win, if we allow ourselves to think outside the box, or in this case each process has its own stove-piped box.
The site known as Rock Creek Hills Park, at 13.38 acres, is not the site known formerly as the Kensington Junior High school site at 21.6 acres. In the Deed to transfer property to MNCPPC, dated May 10, 1990, Montgomery County deeded 13.38 acres to MNCPPC. The remaining parcel of land at 8.22 acres was leased to the Housing Opportunity Commission for 92 years and now is the home to 200 senior residents who live at the Kensington Park Retirement community. Thus, when MCPS and the BOE state in the site selection report and during the feasibility study that RCHP is the site of the former KJH that is not accurate, it is deficient 8.22 acres. The retirement community is primarily located where the old junior high school buildings were located. Thus, when we discuss putting a middle school at Rock Creek Hills Park we need to understand we are now talking about 13.38 acres, without an adjacent park, instead of 21.6 acres when KJH was a junior high school. If a new middle school were to be built at this location, it would effectively establish the smallest site for a middle school in Montgomery County without an adjacent park. The proposed school would be inadequate from the first day it opens in comparison to Westland’s educational and athletic curricula.
The park at Rock Creek Hills is not vacant land, as coined by the BOE. It is the home of two regulation size adult soccer fields, where annually over 400 permits issued. It is heavily used every weekend by many citizens in the county and is welcoming to the residents, with a track, tennis courts, basket ball courts, roller hockey rink and a tree lined playground.
On the environmental front, Rock Creek Hills has numerous specimen trees, which would have to be destroyed if a school were placed on the hills of the park. One of our residents has conducted an “Analysis of the Status of hardwood trees located in Rock Creek Hills Park (RCHP) destined for removal based Montgomery County Board of Education (MCBOE) feasibility study options for CCC Middle School #2.” In summary, there are 22 trees destined for destruction on the sloped portion of RCHP that will qualify for Significant or Specimen Tree Status in accordance with the Maryland Forest Conservation Act. Nearly all of the trees qualify as Specimen Trees (> 30” in diameter; ranging from 33.9” – 42.4” in diameter). Their removal will greatly impact the current wildlife that occupies the site. Specimen Trees would be removed due to placement of proposed middle school on the sloped portions of the site.
With the goal in mind of creating an excellent middle school in the BCC cluster, I wrote to Mr. Barclay on July 9, requesting that he instruct Mr. Song to have the Feasibility Study committee expand its site options for determining feasibility to include other public properties (e.g., MCPS inventory of closed or leased schools and any possible WSSC properties) as well as engage in dialogue with the President of the Chevy Chase Lake Development project, Mr. David Smith, to discuss space for a school.
If MCPS continues to focus only on precious park land as possible new schools, our county offices will continued to be stove piped and not collaborative. This will be a lost opportunity to improve our business processes and to be more accountable with precious recourses, including taxpayer dollars.
I applaud your efforts with that endeavor.
Shannon Reid Hamm
East Bexhill Drive
Kensington, MD 20895
Cc: Nancy Floreen
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Mr. Bruce Crispell, MCPS's Director of Long Range Planning, discussed Rock Creek Hills Park at last night's Town of Kensington meeting:
"That was a former school site. It was the former home of Kensington Junior High School, which was closed in 1979 because of declining enrollment, ultimately passed into the M-NCPPC, and into a park."
In fact, the "former home of Kensington Junior High School" included what is today the location of the Kensington Park retirement community, which provides independent living, assisted living, and Alzheimer's care to 200 seniors.
The KJH site was broken up. Roughly the northern third was deeded to the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission, which financed with tax-exempt bonds the construction of what is now the Kensington Park retirement community. This took about a third of the KJH site; took the road access to the North; and severed what had been a through North-South road – all rendering the remainder, Rock Creek Hills Park, stunningly deficient as a potential middle school site.
Why does MCPS continue to ignore the existence of the 200 elderly residents of Kensington Park?
Saturday, July 9, 2011
"MCPS demonstrates commitment to continuous improvement by reviewing, evaluating, and improving our work..."– A "Core Value" from "Our Call to Action: Pursuit of Excellence. The Strategic Plan for the Montgomery County Public Schools."
Quick question: When you find out that you've done something that is apparently illegal*, does that suggest that you should quicken the pace of your efforts to review, evaluate, and improve your work?
Quick followup: Would you also slow the pace of your efforts to follow through on the decision that appears to have been illegal?
*The Montgomery County Board of Education did not consult with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission before their arbitrary and unreasonable April 28th proclamation that they would take the site of Rock Creek Hills Park to build a middle school, in apparent violation of §4-116 of the Maryland Education Act, which states:
(a) (1) If there is a commission or agency with legal responsibility for county planning for land use, the county board [of Education] shall:(i) Consult with the commission or agency; and(ii) Ask its advice in choosing land for a school site.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
"... I am charged with the care and safety of over 200 frail and elderly residents." [A letter from Kensington Park]
A letter from the Executive Director of the Kensington Park retirement community, which is adjacent to Rock Creek Hills Park, and was built on much of the former site of Kensington Junior High School:
"... the site and neighborhood are inadequate to host a middle school with full parity to Westland."
Kensington, MD 20895
Mr. Christopher Barclay
President, Board of Education
Montgomery County Public Schools
850 Hungerford Drive, Room 123
Rockville, MD 20850
July 6, 2011
Dear Mr. Barclay,
In a recent meeting with Maryland Parks and Planning, it came to my attention that you and the School Board have portrayed the Rock Creek Hills community as "NIMBYs". Though it is convenient for you to attempt to marginalize this community, I urge you to actually read the letters and testimony you have received. None of it is "not in my back yard" lingo or sentiment. It primarily revolves around a belief that the site and neighborhood are inadequate to host a middle school with full parity to Westland. This was the sentiment voiced in the vote of 240 to 10 at the Rock Creek Hills Civic Association meeting. These numbers indicate a much more serious issue than a "NIMBY" issue and at this juncture, if anyone's credibility is at stake, it would be the School Board for a squirrely site selection process that left too many people out of the loop and failed to look further than parks as possible school sites.
We have also pointed out that though the School Board has a reclaim right to the park, you leased 1/3 or more of the previous school site to a seniors' community for 99 years. The School Board does not have access to the full land and facilities that were once a junior high school, creating one of many challenges for the site.
Please note that over 30 pieces of media exposure in over 10 different outlets have viewed the School Board unfavorably in how the site selection process has been handled. The community does not write these articles, reporters do. Please do not attempt to make it the community's fault for the School Board's short sightedness when in comes to planning ahead and making too many decisions behind closed doors.
My second request is to install a professional facilitator in the feasibility study meetings. Mr. Cross may be knowledgeable about school resources and procedures, but he is not an unbiased facilitator who can help all of the attendees accomplish the goals of the meetings. Additionally, the minutes of the meetings have fallen short of accuracy and have required our diligent attention in order to make sure the records accurately reflect the discussions, requests and responses.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
"... we ... are not accustomed to finding out, indirectly, that another agency is planning to take a park ..."
"... What we have learned ... about your site selection process – some of it came from a Parks employee who was on your site selection committee. And he reported that he did not have the opportunity to talk about the concerns of the Planning Board as the property owner during the site selection. And a vote was taken, and there was no recording that he didn't support it, so that ... sounded like that his participation was minimized... He did not feel that he could ... fully express to the committee that this would not be a willing sell...It's something illuminating to me, ... that you have never done this before, that you are not accustomed to reaching out and taking another agency's land. So I can understand that perhaps you didn't think through all those ramifications. But we also are not accustomed to finding out, indirectly, that another agency is planning to take a park and turn it into something else. So you can imagine that that was alarming. ...... Our ... duty as the planning and parks commission is really to safeguard park property. We spent the County's money on land for parks, we spent money developing parks, and it has always been the intent that they would always be parks. So, it is a very different concept for us, to imagine that there would be a government agency that felt that they could say we're going to turn your park into something else."
- from comments by Ms. Françoise Carrier, Planning Board Chair, at the June 30th joint meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
"I moved into my house – it's rather small, not much room – because it's down the street from a park."
- from comments by Mr. Christopher Barclay, President, Montgomery County Board of Education, at the June 30th joint meeting of the Montgomery County Board of Education and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
Saturday, July 2, 2011
"Those of us in the Seven Locks community can only read [a recent] Gazette and respond, 'Been there, done that.'In a new record for Montgomery County Public Schools, there are not one, not two, but three allegations of malfeasance by the school system in conjunction with the school board. One comes from County Council President Valerie Ervin, who has shown herself to be extremely responsible in the recent budget debate, one from the Rock Creek [Hills] community, and one from parents alleging a violation of the open meetings law regarding the new superintendent search.We of the Save Seven Locks group spent two-and-a-half intense years fighting MCPS for exactly what they are trying to do to Rock Creek [Hills]. Nothing has changed since then...We learned in the Save Seven Locks fight years ago that once the council approves the budget for MCPS, they have virtually no say in how it gets spent. This leads to major conflict as we saw then and see now. It's a silly way for government to work..."
- from a recent letter in the Gazette by Jay M. Weinstein of Bethesda.