Just 40 days till early voting, and 52 days till Election Day: that means we were busy today!! We spent the morning in western Montgomery County at Poolesville Day, then I visited Mount Calvary Baptist in Rockville, went to the Blue Wave rally and popped into Magrudar HS to talk to some soccer and field hockey families!

My family and I will be at the Tacoma Park Folk Festival tomorrow. Next week, don’t forget the Burtonsville Day parade and the Talbot Avenue Bridge Celebration!  Let me know if you want to walk with us in Burtonsville!

I am delivering yard signs on my way to and from Tacoma – Let us know if you need one! And if you want a sign, please consider taking two and finding a good home for the second one!

Bethesda Beat 10/11/2018 – School Board Candidates Weigh in on Achievement Gap, Boundary Solutions.  All call for universal pre-k, better representation of district to lawmakers. “Blaeuer, who participated via recorded message and was not present at the forum, acknowledged the difficulties that could arise when changing the trajectory of students whose parents bought homes in particular areas to ensure they would attend specific high schools.  “We need to introduce choice and support that choice, even if that means providing some transportation for students to different places and school choices,” she said.  And where I was?  At my alma mater, Howard University School of Law, talking with law students about managing stress, mental health, & self-care as part of their program to support the ABA’s Law Student Mental Day, “The Struggle is Real: let’s talk about it.”  I am so proud that the law school is supporting their students’ personal AND professional growth while they are there!

MCM candidate statement, originally aired on 10/10/2018.

Bethesda Beat 9/27/2018 –  MoCo School Board Candidates Examine Issues of Equity During Forum Candidates agree that technology use in the classroom has pros and cons.  “It is not appropriate that students with disabilities can’t access free public education in their neighborhood school. They have a right to that,” [Blaeuer] said. “A lot of kids and families can’t afford transportation to get to those programs, and you can’t be included if you can’t get there.”….. When the issue of using cell phones for instruction came up, Blaeuer said that the devices could level the playing field for students who aren’t native English speakers, struggle to stay organized or have special needs. “I don’t like cell phones for instruction, but it would have changed my experience in law school if I could take a picture of everything my teacher wrote,” she said. When the candidates were asked about MCPS’s plans to shift to a new curriculum starting early next year in English and math for elementary and middle schools, some of the candidates expressed frustration with the pace at which the shift away from the current Curriculum 2.0 took place.  “Parents and teachers knew that Curriculum 2.0 was not working and they plowed ahead anyway,” Blaeuer said.

Washington Post 9/2/2018 – Parents say D.C. buses for special-ed students are unreliable at start of year – Maria Blaeuer, director of programs and outreach at Advocates for Justice and Education — a D.C. nonprofit organization that works with special-needs students to get them the services they require — said troubles with city transportation have made for a challenging start to the school year for many families. But she said the superintendent’s office is attempting to improve the services, meeting with her organization and others to address concerns. “Transportation continues to be an ongoing challenge for students in the District of Columbia, creating hardships for families and preventing students from accessing their education,” Blaeuer­ wrote in an email.

Bethesda Beat 2/28/2018 – Durso Decides Against Running for Re-Election to School Board – Blaeuer is an attorney who heads up programs and outreach at Advocates for Justice and Education in D.C. She’s a mother of three children, with one attending Laytonsville Elementary School and another at Gaithersburg Middle School.  While her family has been generally happy with Montgomery County Public Schools, she said the system doesn’t work equally well for everyone, especially for students with disabilities and non-traditional needs.  Blaeuer said she does recognize that she’ll have an uphill battle to defeat an incumbent but thinks her background is an advantage.  “I don’t have much name recognition and a complicated last name with four vowels in a row, but I also think that the reason why I’m doing this and my experience in this space makes me somebody that people can get behind,” she said. “Yes, I have a whole lot of background in education policy. But when it comes to education in Montgomery County, mostly, I’m a mom.”

180317Blauer0539Hechinger Report 12/16/217 – The ‘forgotten’ part of special education that could lead to better outcomes for students – But advocates and lawyers interviewed …. said the vast majority of goals and measures they have seen are vague or even nonsensical and fail to live up to their legal requirements. Plans often include too few goals, or superficial ones.  If a student likes football, for example, educators may note that he wants to join the NFL. “Everybody doing this work has seen this [in a] transition plan,” said Maria Blaeuer, staff attorney for the D.C.-based Advocates for Justice and Education. “That’s not a transition plan. That’s just filling in blank lines.”  College-bound students might be instructed to research colleges and fill out college applications — but the plans often don’t include training in other essential skills for college, such as how to study. Frequently, transition plans demonstrate low expectations.

WAMU 88.5 8/24/2017 – As D.C. Schools Audit Suspension Reporting Procedures, Some Fight For Students’ Rights – This summer, a Washington Post report found some district high schools, including Dunbar, were removing students from school but not labeling the removal as a suspension. In a few cases, students were marked as present but not allowed in the building. Blaeuer said as the new school year starts, she wants to make sure kids know their rights around Chapter 25, the D.C. municipal code around school discipline, including suspensions and expulsions. For example, when students are suspended they have a right to get everything in writing from their school.

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AP 3/24/2018 – March for Our Lives  – “It’s pretty simple for me,” said Zoe Tate, 11, from Gaithersburg Middle School in Maryland, explaining why she marched in Washington. “I think guns are dumb. It’s scary enough with the security guards we have in school. We don’t need teachers carrying guns now. I find it amazing that I have to explain that idea to adults.” Said her mother, Maria Blaeuer: “For our kids, feeling safe is fundamental, and they don’t feel safe.”

This article was extra special to me because it is a mother/daughter quote!

 

Washington Post 7/23/2017 – Undocumented suspensions persisted in D.C. schools despite repeated alerts  – Maria Blaeuer, a special-education lawyer, said that since 2010 she has settled multiple due-process complaints with DCPS on behalf of students informally suspended from Kelly Miller Middle School.  “To have central office know that this is happening — be aware of it, resolve cases and not doing anything about it — was profoundly disappointing to me,” Blaeuer said.

Politico 11/29/2017 –  How Washington Winks at Violent Discipline of Special Needs Kids “Charter schools get to write their own disciplinary code, and they can be as little as one page,” says Maria Blaeuer, an attorney with Advocates for Justice and Education, a family advocacy nonprofit in D.C. “In a lot of ways,” she adds, “it’s a political problem. OSSE is a new agency, it’s small, it doesn’t have a lot of political clout.”  If neither agency is enforcing regulations about the use of restraint and seclusion, it’s no surprise that they are not keeping good raw data either. The D.C. charter board said it doesn’t keep data on restraint and seclusion. The only documents it keeps that describe such cases are complaints from parents and families when they feel their children have been improperly restrained or secluded. The board found 43 complaints from 2011 to 2016, but it declined to release them to POLITICO to protect students’ confidentiality.  “Charters here operate under a regulatory framework that goes so far back into the mists of time, it essentially lets them operate in their own way and does not include public access to individual schools’ records,” says Fritz Mulhauser, who spent two decades as an attorney with the ACLU’s D.C. affiliate. “The charters are rabidly politically active, and they fend off any political movement toward regulation that they think goes too far.” …..  Without meaningful regulation at the local level, the protection of children in D.C.’s charter schools, among the biggest charter networks in the country, is left entirely up to the federal government and the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. And with the department’s increasingly hands-off approach and longtime unwillingness to enforce its reporting requirements, the schools are almost entirely unregulated. They’re just not doing the reporting that they’re supposed to be doing,” says Blaeuer. “It’s the Wild West.” 

Several voters have asked me what I think of how MCPS is managing lead in the water in our schools, and again, I am giving a more complete answer here than is possible to do while walking a parade or standing at the Glenmont Metro.  I hope voters find this helpful!

I support decreasing the “action level” for MCPS for lead levels from 20 parts per billion (ppb) to at least 10ppb, and ideally to 5ppb.    

I have represented the families of students who were struggling with the after-effects of childhood lead exposure and know how pervasive the harm from early childhood lead exposure is. Many of the effects of lead exposure are permanent, and the early signs of damage to a child’s brain from lead exposure are subtle.  There is a good reason the experts focus on prevention, the damage to a child frequently can not be undone.

Lead exposure can be from multiple sources, and it isn’t just an issue for drinking water.  In fact, living in older homes, especially older homes in poor repair or under renovation, is a significant source of lead exposure (see also Maryland Department of Health resources).  However, the fact that drinking water is only a part of the lead exposure problem, doesn’t mean we can ignore that part of the problem at school.  MCPS has to do our part to keep kids safe, and that means lowering the threshold of acceptable lead levels.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets 15ppb as the action level for lead in home tap water (see also EPA rule for public water systems) and the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has set the action level to be 20ppb for schools.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends “that State and local governments should take steps to ensure that water fountains in schools do not exceed water lead concentrations of 1 ppb.

It might be acceptable to have an action level of 20ppb if the drinking fountains at school were the only source of lead exposure for any of our children. But we know that isn’t true; we know that lead exposure is a particular problem for children who have spent time in developing countries, whose mother might have been exposed to lead during pregnancy, and children who live in older homes.  This map shows 11 zip codes in Montgomery County that were designated to be at-risk for lead exposure by the Maryland Department of Health.

Combating lead exposure is complicated, and involves working with other agencies and authorities, but that doesn’t mean that schools can’t do their part and make sure that students aren’t exposed to additional lead at school.  Other school districts have done so, and so should we.

 

 

Notes & additional links/resources.

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**additional resources – Recent WTOP article, MCPS report on Lead Levels, the American Academy of Pediatrics Lead exposure policies and resources, and Mayo Clinic link on basics of lead exposure and treatment.

**if you have seen 20ppb reported as the action level for schools, that is correct – Page 12 of this guidance from the EPA explains that 15ppb is triggering point for action on a public water system level, and 20ppb is school specific guidance. I reference the 15ppb level because that is the level where a parent, testing their water at home,  would be recommended  to take some action to reduce lead levels and I think the most analogous to the drinking fountains at schools.

**What other schools are doing

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I am running for MCPS Board of Education from District 1; but did you know that no matter you live in Montgomery County, you can vote in my race?

When the Board of Elections publishes it, a sample ballot will be available online, and you will see that no matter you live in Montgomery County, my name will be on your ballot.  All of this information (and so much more) is available at the Montgomery Co. Board of Elections!

REGISTERING TO VOTE

Are you registered to vote?  Not sure?  Maryland allows you to look up your voter registration so you can check!  Do you need to register to vote?  You can register to vote online too!

ABSENTEE VOTING

You do not need to give a reason to vote by mail, which is also called “absentee voting”.  Any registered voter may apply for an absentee ballot using this form.  You can even request that your ballot be sent to you electronically. If you do, be sure to return your ballot by mail or in person to the Board of Elections in Gaithersburg. If you do not return it, you may only cast a provisional ballot at the polls or on Election Day. Absentee and provisional ballots cast by eligible voters are all counted before the results of the election are certified. More questions?  Look at these FAQs from the Board of Elections!

EARLY VOTING & VOTING ON ELECTION DAY!

Early voting in Montgomery County is held between –

Thursday, October 25, 2018 &  Thursday, November 1, 2018

Early voting locations are open between 10am and 8pm for voters. There are early voting locations across the county in recreation centers and other sites – see the list here.

If you don’t know where to vote on Election Day, you can look that up here and if you have questions about early voting, look at these FAQs.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have spent my professional life helping to make the school experience better for students with disabilities and at-risk students by making sure that they are heard, their needs are meet and they are meaningfully included in the school community.  Help me bring that experience to the Board of Education, and create a Board that is more inclusive and responsive to the voices our diverse community.

Please complete this form to let us know that you are interested in volunteering with us.  We appreciate all the help you are able to provide, and we also especially need volunteers to host events for us, help staff tables at community events, help with canvassing, and of course on Election Day!

Of course, this campaign, like any campaign, also needs financial support, please mail checks and your completed donation receipt to –

Maria Blaeuer for Board of Education
PO Box 5193 
Laytonsville, MD 20882

You can also donate via PayPal (you do not need a PayPal account to donate).

Campaign Contribution

Every little bit helps and any size contribution will be appreciated. For example, the suggested starting donation of $20 allows us to bring plenty of materials to community events and buy yard signs for 4 supports.

$20.00

No matter how you donate, please complete this donation receipt and either send it with your donation, or email it to MariaforBoard@gmail.com!

Campaign Contribution – custom amount

$1.00

I am attending the 2nd Annual Life Chiropractic Scholarship Fundraiser on September 18th – please join me!  The scholarship supports 3 high school seniors from Good Council, Damascus and Sherwood with school-related expenses. There will be a buffet style dinner, an open bar for everyone to enjoy and raffle baskets to win.  Please help me support our local high school seniors by buying tickets to this fundraiser – for more information, please see the scholarship flyer.  Hope you’ll join us!