Thursday, January 23, 2014

Role of AP classes in Baltimore County, and the nation, is questioned

Stock photo via MorgueFile
Did you see this story in The Baltimore Sun about AP classes and the demands placed on high school students? It does seem like we need to step back and evaluate what exactly we're doing here.

"The relentless marketing effort by many principals to place a greater number of kids into a greater number of AP classes — all in a single semester, as early in a student's career as possible — is backfiring," said Mary Ellen Pease, a co-founder of Advocates for Better Course Choices in Baltimore County Public Schools [] and the parent of two recent county graduates.

Such protests represent a minority voice, and educators and parents say they have little influence over such a national juggernaut. Most education leaders across the nation have embraced the expansion of AP, seeing it as a way to raise achievement and provide educational equity to students in poorly performing schools.
But its ever-expanding use has meant that high-achieving students are loaded with the courses while some unprepared students at low-performing schools flounder and fail. A Baltimore Sun investigation last year showed that many students are given high grades in the AP classes but then fail the exams.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Sunday, March 31, 2013

New "valet" drop-off program at Rodgers Forge Elementary

What do you think? Will this eliminate some of the morning nuttiness?
From the Rodgers Forge Chronicles:

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Rodgers Forge board proposes many rule changes

The board's by-law committee has proposed a variety of revisions to the way the board does business, including streamlining the process for hiring a lawyer, allowing non-Rodgers Forge residents to help with committee tasks (does that mean someone from Stoneleigh will have input regarding what color we can paint our doors?) and requiring that all committee members be part of the RFCA -- that is, that they have paid their annual dues. Read about the proposed changes here and here.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

TED Talk on power and body language

Apropos of nothing, I love TED talks and I found this one fascinating: "Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how “power posing” -- standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident -- can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success. Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions — and even our own body chemistry — simply by changing body positions."

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pinehust Wine Shoppe is a beer paradise

A guest post from my husband, Scott: 

The Pinehurst Wine Shoppe has quickly become my favorite place in the neighborhood to buy… not wine, but beer. The shop has a smaller beer selection than some other local stores, but it's very good stuff.

But the main attractions are the taps -- and the fun that comes with them. Pinehurst has sold nearly 1,000 refillable growlers to people in Rodgers Forge and the surrounding neighborhoods since August, and they have an ever-changing selection of high-quality and local tap beers to fill those growlers. The shop also holds tastings -- when a particular brewery will take over all the taps -- offering unusual and sometimes rare brews for customers to try and take home. The recent Langunitas day sold me on that California brewery. And the events always feel a bit like a little party.

Pinehurst has more fun things planned for the coming weeks. The shop will offer a special prize (not yet determined, the owners say) for the person who buys the 1,000th growler. They expect to sell it this weekend, or perhaps sooner. To celebrate the Ravens' Super Bowl bid, Pinehurst will have a special offer on Natty Boh: Refills of large-sized growlers will go for $4 this Saturday, and the mascot Mr. Boh will be hanging around at the store.

On February 9, Tröegs will take over the taps from 1 to 5 pm. The brewery's standard offerings like Tröegenator and Java Head will be available, along with some rarer brews from the great Pennsylvania beermaker.

If you love beer and haven't yet checked out Pinehurst, you should head down Bellona for a taste.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Enrollment projections for Baltimore County schools

Download the full report here:

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Why we see so many chain restaurants in, and coming to, Towson

Yesterday brought the unveiling of the names of three of the eight restaurants that will be opening at Towson Square. They are all chains -- maybe pretty decent ones, I don't know -- and people have long lamented the shortage of good restaurants in the Towson area, a place one might think would attract a variety of offerings. The same could be said for the York Road strip where Harry Little Sub Shop and Stoneleigh Bakery just closed. People always say, "Why doesn't someone open a cute little wine bar there?"

Here's why: The county's insane process of distributing liquor licenses. From an April 2012 editorial in the Baltimore Sun: 

"If you would like to open a bar or restaurant that sells alcoholic beverages on the Liberty Road corridor in Baltimore County, a liquor license will run you $2,000. About a 20-minute drive away, Joe's Crab Shack, a chain restaurant that's moving into the Hunt Valley Towne Centre, just paid $225,000 for its liquor license. The reason? An antiquated system that allots licenses by population in districts drawn decades ago and allows those licenses to be bought and sold on the open market. In Randallstown, an inexplicable dead zone when it comes to dining options, there are plenty of licenses for the taking. In Timonium, Cockeysville and Hunt Valley [and Towson], those pieces of paper are worth far more than their weight in gold. Whatever purpose this once served has long since disappeared." (Read the full piece here. And here's a very comprehensive piece about the history of the law.)

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz was able to secure a few reforms in the last General Assembly session, but as the Baltimore Sun editorial notes, they won't do Towson any good. So if you're a wanna-be entrepreneur, you're probably going to be discouraged at the idea of spending upwards of $200K for a liquor license, and your profits aren't going to be as good if you can't sell alcohol, and your chance of success dims. If you're Applebee's or Chili's, that investment might not be such a big deal.

So, you can thank the liquor lobby, the businesses that support it, and the politicians who cave to it for the dearth of fun food venues in Towson.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Monday, December 17, 2012

Maryland homeowners: Make sure you've applied for the homestead tax credit

I posted this in November but am re-posting in case anyone missed it ...

My neighbor works for a firm that does title work and she just gave me a heads up that many Marylanders -- including many in Rodgers Forge -- have not applied for the Homestead Tax Credit. This is a credit that used to be given automatically but a 2007 law changed the process and now you must apply for it and if you don't, you could lose a lot of money. The credit limits the amount by which taxes on your assessment can rise. (Once you've applied you don't have to do so again.)

The deadline to apply is December 31, 2012.

Here's some info from the state Department of Assessments and Taxation:

What is the law that requires homeowners to apply for the Homestead Tax Credit?  
Legislation enacted by the 2007 session of the General Assembly requires homeowners to submit a one-time application in order to continue their eligibility for the homestead tax credit.  The homestead credit limits the amount of assessment increase on which a homeowner will pay property taxes in that tax year on the one property actually used as the owner’s principal residence.

Why should I want to submit the application?
Because of assessment increases and because of the low assessment caps adopted by the county governments, many homeowners in the State have been receiving substantial homestead credits each year on their property tax bills.

How do I file the Homestead Eligibility Application?
a.  File electronically: Request an application from the Department by sending an email to
The application mailed out to you will contain an Access Number so you may file electronically on our site at

b.   Mail the application: You may mail in the completed paper application the Department sends you. You may also print and mail the completed PDF copy of the application available on our web site.  Applications must be postmarked by December 31, 2012.

You can find out if you have already filed an application by looking up your property in the Real Property database.

If you have filed for the credit, you'll see this type of info at the very bottom of the screen:
If you haven't, you'll see this:
Find more info about the tax credit here:

You might want to pass this along to friends/neighbors who might not be aware of the credit. My neighbor let several people on our block know that they had not applied for the credit and they were very appreciative.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kamenetz's office says demolition of Towson Manor Park still "on the table"

Despite what Sen. Brochin was told earlier, a county spokeswoman told the Towson Times that moving the York Road firehouse to Towson Manor Park is still an option. And the "Save Towson Manor Park" group is going ahead with its rally today at 4:00 PM at York and Towsontown Blvd.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Plan to destroy Towson Manor Park is said to be "off the table"

That according to Sen. Brochin via this Patch article. Let's hope Plan B makes more sense.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sen. Jim Brochin will introduce bill to protect county park land

Inspired by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's plan to relocate a firehouse on York Road to Towson Manor Park in order to sell the York Road lot to developers. Read about it here.

And here's an editorial in The Sun that says the park plan is not a good one:,0,411703.story

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Destroy a park and in return DMS can get air conditioning?

If this is true, it really is troubling. Here's the story by Bryan Sears in Patch. By the way, I bought a PowerBall ticket last week (something I do about twice a year) and daydreamed about winning and buying the Elkridge Club, at Charles Street and Gittings, and giving it to the city/county with the condition that it be turned into a public park. We do need more, not less, green space around here.

Update: I emailed Councilman David Marks about the situation and asked (1) if he knew back in September that this park might be lost to the fire house, (2) what he thinks of the idea, and (3) if he thinks AC at Dumbarton should be linked to the fire house and development on its current site. Here's what he said:

 "(1) No potential site had been identified at that time. (2) I would prefer an alternative location, and think community leaders need to be fully engaged on all possible sites. (3) Dumbarton Middle School serves almost all of Towson.  My job is to advocate for its improvement, just as I did at Stoneleigh and Hampton Elementary Schools. Unfortunately, there are many other communities competing for a limited amount of money.  If there is going to be any extra money from sale of county land in Towson, the money should remain in Towson and not be scattered across Baltimore County for other purposes."

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Monday, December 3, 2012

Crush in Belvedere Square closes

Such a disappointment; I really liked this place. Especially their Orange Crush cocktail. Here's the story in The Sun.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Check out this Rodgers Forge kitchen renovation

Love it!!! Thanks so much to the reader who sent these in. She wrote: "Hi Kris, Here are before and after photos. I’m sure you can tell which are before and which are after! We had the original 1950’s kitchen with metal cabinets. It was charming but not very practical! Our contractor Genesis Contracting did a super job and they were great to work with."

You can find photos of other renovations here.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Friday, November 30, 2012

The low down on BCRs

We seem to be hit and miss at our house in terms of nailing the BCRs. (AKA brief constructed responses, for those of you without kids in school). I just found this online and it is somewhat helpful so I thought I'd share:

More info is here, including a link to the rubric used to score the BCR:

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments