Monthly Archives: June 2015

Prayers for Governor Larry Hogan and others in similar situations.

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Elected Officials from around the state have signed a card with words of support and encouragement to Governor Larry Hogan as he battles against cancer. We have put partisan politics aside and stand in prayer that God will have mercy on our Governor and heal his body. Maryland is a great state with great people. We are united as one in prayer for the Governor Larry Hogan and all others whom are battling this horrible disease throughout the world.

Hogan rose to national prominence during his handling of the Freddie Gray riots in Baltimore this past spring. Hogan surprised political observers last November 2014 when he easily defeated much favored and highly rated Democrat Anthony Brown who was also well funded to retake the governor’s office for Republicans.

“The odds I have of beating this are much, much better than the odds I had of beating Anthony Brown,” he said, to laughter and applause from the room before starting chemotherapy recently. #HoganStrong





Please Don’t Text and Drive –(Warning graphic)

This video was taken by a state Trooper Dash Cam. See how quickly your life could change by taking your eyes off the road for a split second.

This is the story of how Liz’s daughter car accident from texting while driving has changed lives forever. If you get a text, don’t look at it while you’re driving. It’s not worth it.16369930_BG1USA-Flag-Wallpaper-01


Colorado Supreme Court rejects Douglas County voucher program

State’s top court rules that Choice Scholarship Program is unconstitutional; district wants to take case to U.S. Supreme Courtcolorado-supreme-court-buildingThe Colorado Supreme Court Building in Denver.

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday shot down the Douglas County School District’s groundbreaking, controversial school voucher program, finding it unconstitutional in a split ruling.

The long-awaited decision caps a more than three-year legal battle over the fate of the wealthy suburban district’s Choice Scholarship Program.

The voucher program, which would use taxpayer money to send children to private schools, was put on hold in 2011 just as the first 304 students were about to enroll. Most planned to attend religious schools.

The court found the program conflicts with “broad, unequivocal language forbidding the State from using public money to fund religious schools.”

Wrote the court “… this stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear: A school district may not aid religious schools.”

During a news conference Monday morning, Douglas County school officials indicated they likely would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case for consideration. They also said they will immediately seek a legal way to proceed with vouchers.

“While we are disappointed in the court’s decision today, we are not surprised,” said Douglas County Board of Education president Kevin Larsen. ” We have always believed that the ultimate legality of our Choice Scholarship Program would be decided by the federal courts under the United States Constitution. This could very well be simply a case of delayed gratification.”

Using private donations, the district has spent $1.2 million on the legal challenge.

Opponents of the program prevailed in Denver District Court in their initial legal challenge. In February 2013, the Colorado Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the program in a 2-1 vote, with the majority ruling finding it was neutral toward religion.

RULING: Read the Colorado Supreme Court’s full decision

A plurality of Supreme Court justices, however, found the program violates the state constitution, reversing the judgment of the appeals court.

The court ruled 4-3 for voucher foes on the constitutionality question, which turned out to be the case’s key argument.

On a different issue, the justices ruled 6-1 that voucher opponents could not challenge the program under a public school finance law.

The significance of Monday’s decision stretches beyond Douglas County.

A decision upholding the program would have opened the door to similar initiatives in other school districts; any districts that had designs on a voucher program will either need to shelve those plans or come up with a new blueprint that stands a better legal chance.

The voucher program “essentially functions as a recruitment program, teaming with various religious schools,” the ruling says.

While money is not funneled directly to religious schools — rather, financial aid is provided to students — the prohibition against aiding religious schools is not limited to direct funding, the court held.

Parents and media attend the press conference at the Douglas County School District after hearing about the Colorado Supreme Court ruling finding

Parents and media attend the press conference at the Douglas County School District after hearing about the Colorado Supreme Court ruling finding the voucher program unconstitutional (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

The court also cited the program’s “lack of vital safeguards,” saying it does not forbid private schools from raising tuition or reducing financial aid in the amount of the scholarship awarded.

If that were to occur, the program would essentially channel taxpayer money directly to religious schools, it said.

This story will be updated.

Eric Gorski: 303-954-1971, or

>>> Read more

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Florida Enacts $10,000 Bonus for New Teachers with High SAT Scores

nbptsFlorida eliminated bonuses for advanced degrees and for National Board Certification. 

The State of Florida legislature  passed a proposal to award $10,000 bonuses for teachers who are “the best and the brightest.” The cost: $44 million.

The awards would go either to teachers rated “highly effective” in raising test scores. New teachers would get the bonus if they had high SAT or ACT scores when they were high school seniors.

Florida eliminated bonuses for advanced degrees and for National Board Certification. It is just a matter of time if not addressed by the other states before these trends make their way into the counties  across the United States. Educators are asked to stay vigilant and to work together for good of their communities while cajoling, encouraging, and shepherding from behind the scenes in support of emerging leaders with proven records throughout the country. That is the only way to protect the future and the education related jobs throughout the states. Some politicians within the counties have an hidden agenda to sell school buildings and then fire teachers for selfish motives.

>>>Read more 


Lac de Serre Ponçon in the southern French Alps!

This is Lake Serre-Ponçon (Lac de Serre-Ponçon) in the southerneast French Alps and yes it really is this gorgeous turquoise colour. It is one of the largest artificial lakes in western Europe. The lake gathers the waters of the Durance and the Ubaye rivers, flowing down through the Hautes-Alpes and the Alpes du Sud to the Rhône River. The waters are dammed by the Barrage de Serre-Ponçon, a 123 m high earth core dam.

As well as water control, sixteen hydroelectric plants use the water and the lake provides irrigation to 1,500 km² of land.

It’s one of the biggest artificial lakes in Europe and very popular with holiday makers.


The lake was created to control water flow after disastrous floods caused severe damage and loss of life in 1843 and 1856. First proposed in 1895, construction started in 1955 and was completed by 1961.

During construction of the lake, approximately 3 million m3 of material was moved. The dam was constructed and the valley slowly became a lake, flooding some villages in the process. This flooding is the subject of Jean Giono’s movie Girl and the River, starring Guy Béart.

Neighboring communes:


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When Charters Go Union

charter1_0Teachers and staff from Olney Charter High School at an ASPIRA board meeting in 2013. (Jake Blumgart)

This is a sneak peek at an article set to run in the upcoming Summer 2015 issue. 

The April sun had not yet risen in Los Angeles when teachers from the city’s largest charter network—the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools—gathered outside for a press conference to discuss their new union drive. Joined by local labor leaders, politicians, student alumni, and parents, the importance of the educators’ effort was not lost on the crowd. If teachers were to prevail in winning collective bargaining rights at Alliance’s 26 schools, the audience recognized, then L.A.’s education reform landscape would fundamentally change. For years, after all, many of the most powerful charter backers had proclaimed that the key to helping students succeed was union-free schools.

One month earlier, nearly 70 Alliance teachers and counselors had sent a letter to the administration announcing their intent to join United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the local teachers union that represents the 35,000 educators who work in L.A.’s public schools. The letter asked Alliance for a “fair and neutral process”—one that would allow teachers to organize without fear of retaliation. The administration offered no such reassurance. Indeed, April’s press conference was called to highlight a newly discovered internal memo circulating among Alliance administrators that offered tips on how to best discourage staff from forming a union. It also made clear that Alliance would oppose any union, not just UTLA. “To continue providing what is best for our schools and our students, the goal is no unionization, not which union,” the memo said.

The labor struggle happening in Los Angeles mirrors a growing number of efforts taking place at charter schools around the country, where most teachers work with no job security on year-to-year contracts. For teachers, unions, and charter school advocates, the moment is fraught with challenges. Traditional unions are grappling with how they can both organize charter teachers and still work politically to curb charter expansion. Charter school backers and funders are trying to figure out how to hold an anti-union line, while continuing to market charters as vehicles for social justice.

Though 68 percent of K-12 public school teachers are unionized, just 7 percent of charter school teachers are, according to a 2012 study from the Center for Education Reform. (And of those, half are unionized only because state law stipulates that they follow their district’s collective bargaining agreement.) However, the momentum both to open new charter schools and to organize charter staff is growing fast.

>>> Read more 


The Ongoing Struggle of Teacher Retention


Standing in front of my eighth-grade class, my heart palpitated to near-panic-attack speed as I watched second hand of the clock. Please bellring early, I prayed. It was my second day of teaching, and some of my middle-school male students were putting me to the test.

In a span of three minutes, the group in room 204 had morphed from contained to out of control. Two boys were shooting dice in the back of the room, and as I instructed them to put their crumpled dollar bills away, several others took off their shoes and began tossing them around like footballs. Before I could react, one boy broke into my supply closet. He snatched handfuls of No. 2 pencils and highlighters and sprinted out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

This was 2004. I was 22 years old and had been placed as a beginning teacher in one of Kentucky’s most troubled, underperforming, and dysfunctional middle schools. I had no prior teaching experience, nor had I studied education as an undergraduate. I’d only begun my alternative certification work at the University of Louisville a few months prior, having been recruited by Teach Kentucky. I’d enter the classroom only having completed two graduate courses—I was expected to learn on the fly. I wasn’t ready for the stress, the culture shock, or the pressure to increase student reading scores.

I resigned from the position before Christmas. I hadn’t even gotten my certification.

The district in which that middle school is located, Louisville’s Jefferson County Public Schools, is one of the nation’s largest, serving over 100,000 students in roughly 150 schools. Eighteen of them are labeled “priority schools,” meaning they demonstrate exceptionally low student achievement. Unsurprisingly, most of these campuses serve student populations with at least three-fourths of kids on free or reduced-priced meal plans, an indicator of poverty.

>>> Read more 



Prayers for Gov. Larry Hogan as he battles cancer.

1545124_992528084125290_2255929320103975503_nOur Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced recently that he has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While this is a form of cancer that responds well to treatment, it’s still a tough thing to face. We at Reform Sasscer Movement for Prince George’s County pray for him to get well soon. We also ask that people who are so inclined offer up prayers and good wishes for him and his family while they deal with this disease.

Gov. Hogan displayed incredible strength and leadership as he announced his diagnosis with B-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. According to his Facebook account, the support that has poured in from across the state and country has been nothing short of incredible!

Now, you can show your support for Governor Hogan with a profile picture or cover photo for your social media account. Together we can keep our governor in high spirits and ‪#‎HoganStrong‬!




Bridal Store in Upper Marlboro Closes Abruptly, Leaving Brides Without Dresses

bridal-shop-4Brides-to-be have been left scrambling after an Upper Marlboro bridal shop closed abruptly this week, leaving them with no idea whether they’ll get the dresses they’ve ordered and paid for. The owner of Couture Miss Bridal and Formal is facing eviction. 

Brides-to-be have been left scrambling after an Upper Marlboro bridal shop closed abruptly this week, leaving them with no idea whether they’ll get the dresses they’ve ordered and paid for.

The owner of Couture Miss Bridal and Formal is facing eviction.

“I think I am all cried out,” customer Chantayle Watkins said Friday. “This is one of the worst days of my life.”

Watkins’ wedding is in just 16 days. Her seven bridesmaids paid for gowns from the shop, but they haven’t been able to pick them up.

“She said that the government was here and that’s all I can tell you,” Watkins said.

Ephonia Green, the owner of the shop, was convicted of stealing $5.1 million from a D.C. nonprofit in 2013. As part of her conviction, Green was supposed to turn over her bridal shop, home, car and all other assets.

However, in an amended order Green was able to keep the shop — that is, until a consent motion was filed Monday, ordering the business to close and be handed over to the government because Green was facing eviction.

The feds have seized the property and all its contents, although the outdated sign from Tuesday claims they are closed for inventory.

Brides and families are left without access to their dresses or any type of refund at this time.

“She said, the only thing I can tell you to do is file suit,” Watkins said.

Customers affected by the closure should call D.C.’s U.S. Attorney’s Office at 202 252-7566 and ask for the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering prosecutors in this case. A representative at the U.S. Marshals Service will contact them with details.

By Tracee Wilkins NBC4 News