Archive for September, 2008

Prince George’s Schools Superintendent Resigns

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

The Prince George’s County Board of Education accepted the resignation of Superintendent John E. Deasy Tuesday.

Deasy, who was hired in 2006, will become deputy director of the education division at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Deputy Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. was chosen by the board to serve as interim superintendent beginning Feb. 1, after Deasy leaves. The board has not yet settled on an approach to finding a replacement for Deasy but has begun that process, said John White, Prince George’s County Public Schools spokesman.

“We will certainly want to hire someone who is familiar with the culture of this particular environment, and that doesn’t mean they have to come from Prince George’s County, but they certainly need to be aware of the demographics of Prince George’s County,” said Judith James, executive director of the Board of Education.

Deasy’s doctoral degree from the University of Louisville was under scrutiny this month due to the small number of credits that he completed at that institution. Although the university’s doctoral students usually complete 18 credit hours in full-time residency, Deasy completed only nine credit hours there.

Capital News Service also reported last week that Deasy’s resume included two anomalies. He listed a faculty position at Loyola Marymount University, Calif., but that institution’s human resources department could not find any records to show he held that position. There also were questions about the date on which Deasy received a master’s degree from Providence College.

“We’re not, and have not, allowed any of that to affect our decision making,” said James, referring to the investigation. “Dr. Deasy has been very successful in his efforts here, and it has proven itself in how well our students are achieving.”

–By Capital News Service’s Megan A. Conlan

College Park Joins State Geocaching Trail

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

College Park is the latest stop on a statewide high-tech treasure hunt.

The City Council approved support in September for the Maryland Municipal League Geocache Trail Project, meant to promote awareness of and visits to Maryland’s cities and towns.

College Park was the 14th addition to the trail that also includes geocaching spots in Centreville, Charlestown, Cottage City, Denton, Greenbelt, Leonardtown, Luke, Middletown, Millington, Mountain Lake Park, Somerset, Sykesville and Thurmont.

Geocachers use a hand-held GPS  (Global Positioning System) to plot map coordinates and locate the spot where the “treasure” is buried. Participants are encouraged to leave something in the cache container in exchange for anything they take, and there is frequently a logbook to leave notes.

Anyone can find the coordinates through the Official Global GPS Cache Hunt site, geocaching.com, by accessing the Maryland Municipal League’s account and downloading or manually entering the map coordinates for each cache on the trail. The site gives directions for getting started on trails at several levels of difficulty, including safety tips and how to record discoveries online.  

Geocaching.com lists 661,996 active geocaching sites around the world, with 3,814 Maryland sites now listed on its rolls.  The Maryland Geocaching Society Web site has more information about geocaching in the state, including message boards and forums and a blog with member spotlights and regular event updates.

Cities have until Oct. 30 to be listed on the current trail. 

The next round of additions will begin in July 2009.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Laurie White

Avoiding Debt 101

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Congress recently introduced legislation that would make it harder for credit card companies to market to college students, and harder for the students to qualify for the cards.

Some local universities are also taking steps to reduce the level of debt among students.

Did you get into credit card debt as a student? Would a session at orientation or a required freshman course have made a difference in your financial behavior?

Are universities offering these courses headed in the right direction, or might there be a better solution to the student debt problem?

–From Maryland Newsline’s Avital Medoff

School Transportation Costs Rise

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

As we all know, it’s getting more and more expensive to get from A to B. And the same holds true for our local school buses.

According to report recently released by the environmental group 1000 Friends of Maryland, buses are driving longer distances and paying more for gas and the state’s school systems are really starting to feel the pinch.

Districts are coming up with different ways to cope with the rising transportation expense, but maybe you can help, too.

What suggestions do you have to help local schools keep costs down?

–From Maryland Newsline’s Jasmine Jernberg

English: College Park’s Official Language?

Friday, September 19th, 2008

The College Park City Council is debating whether to formally make English the city’s official language. Council member Jack Perry, who introduced the proposal, says the change would benefit immigrants and “promote efficiency” in the city. Others say it’s an unnecessary measure that would make some residents feel unwelcome.

What do you think of the proposal? Would making English the official language help or hurt College Park?

From Maryland Newsline’s Avital Medoff

State Government on Facebook

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

As a reporter there are a handful of responses you can expect to hear when you call a state agency and identify yourself. It could be anything from, “Let me get you in touch with the right person,” to “I have no idea. Please hold.”

One response I certainly didn’t expect when calling Maryland’s Department of Veterans Affairs to ask about their mental health initiatives was, “Oh Jenn, we just accepted your Facebook friend request this morning!”

It’s true. Upon checking in at the MDVA Web site this week, its home page banner flashed the news bulletin that the agency now has its very own Facebook profile. A little unorthodox for a state agency, but I figured it might be a good place to find some future sources. Within 30 minutes my friend request was accepted, and I’d even gotten a welcoming wall post.

What I didn’t know was that there is an actual person at MDVA, an agency of fewer than 70 people, whose job it is to handle the agency’s social networking “inquiries.”

Even our state agencies are jumping on board with 21st century connectivity and efficiency. Excellent. This should certainly open up the information pathways.Did I mention that the office still kindly directed me back to public relations when they had no idea who could address my questions?

–By Capital News Service’s Jenn Bogdan

Should Slots Be Legalized?

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Support for slots in Maryland is slipping as a November vote on the issue approaches.  Just 49 percent of Marylanders now say they would vote to legalize this form of gambling, down 5 percent since January, according to a new poll.

What do you think?  Would slots be an effective way to reduce the state’s $1.7 billion budget deficit, or could legalizing them do more harm than good?

Could they help to fund new educational and social initiatives, or will they increase the number of gambling addicts and draw from other attractions?

Palin’s Glow Lingers

Friday, September 5th, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Maryland Republicans were still buzzing Thursday morning over Sarah Palin’s convention speech from the previous night, when the Alaska governor energized a packed stadium in accepting her party’s vice-presidential nomination. “I’m so proud I can’t see straight,” said Delegate Larry Helminiak, as he refilled a cup of coffee in the Embassy Suites hotel.

Maryland’s 71-member delegation, gathered here for the Republican National Convention, has met for breakfast each day this week, and most mornings have been devoid of intense political conversation. However, on Thursday the group excitedly discussed Palin’s strengths and repeated their favorite lines from her speech.

“I get really infuriated when people say things like, ‘Can she successfully be both a vice president and a mother?’ ” said Alternate Delegate Crystal Zorbaugh, a single working mom. “Just look at how incredibly well she handled last night.”

Delegation Chairman Don Murphy offered the group a weighty prediction about Palin’s career as the breakfast adjourned.

“Speaking for those of us who were working for John McCain in the primary, I just want to say one thing. I sure am glad that Sarah Palin was not running in this primary, because she was fantastic,” said Murphy. “That woman is going to be the president of the United States one day. You mark my words.”

By Capital News Service’s Jenn Bogdan

Huckabee Says Palin Terrifies Biden

Friday, September 5th, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee stirred up the already-enthused Maryland delegation Thursday with high praise for Gov. Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential acceptance speech as well as a handful of zingers about her Democratic opposition.

“I saw (Delaware Sen.) Joe Biden being interviewed on television, and he was really a good sport about everything. But you could just see the terror in his eyes,” said Huckabee. “All the wind in Joe Biden’s body is not going to be able to blow her (Palin) away.”

Biden, the Democrats’ vice presidential nominee, will debate Palin Oct. 2 at Washington University in St. Louis.

While a handful of Marylanders at the GOP convention formerly backed Huckabee, all said they now support McCain. Still they were honored to have the former governor address their delegation. Huckabee is the most notable personality the delegation scheduled to speak during this week’s convention.

Before exiting the floor, Huckabee made sure to leave a final warning of Palin’s triple-threat status.

“She (Palin) looks like Tina Fey, has the accent of Marge Gunderson and kicks tail like Chuck Norris,” he said.

By Capital News Service’s Jenn Bogdan

Delegation Chiefs Need Moms, Too

Friday, September 5th, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Maryland delegation Chairman Don Murphy and two guests of the delegation set out for a pre-dawn excursion to a taping of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” at St. Paul’s Key’s Cafe, where they giddily brushed elbows with Republican Party bigwigs and saw themselves on TV.

Yet Murphy quickly realized he couldn’t let his 15 minutes of fame go to his head. Within minutes of being seen on the show his mother phoned and said, “You’re indoors. Take off your hat.”

By Capital News Service’s Jenn Bogdan and Lauren Williams