The Meeting with the Montgomery County School’s Interim Superintendent Went OK

20151102_160155On Monday the team met with staff of the Montgomery County School’s Interm Superintendent Larry A. Bowers.  The meeting was not as positive as some of our past meetings with school officials.  The staffers that attended listened to our asks, but pushed back hard, defining our asks as “too big.”

The meeting was attended by4 Montgomery County School FIRST teams;

  • FRC 449: The Blair Robot Project, Silver Spring
    • Talked about how the team is student run
  • FRC 1389: The Body Electric, Bethesda
    • Talked about the success the team has had over the last 12 years
  • FRC 4099: Falcons FIRST, Poolesville
    • Talked about issues with starting teams
    • Talked about issues purchasing parts
  • FTC 5421: RM’d and Dangerous, Rockville
    • Talked about issues purchasing parts

We were expecting to meet with Larry A. Bowers in person, instead met with two very capable staff members; Amy N, Gensemer (a former FRC coach) and Dana E, Davison.  At the meeting we went through slides that gave them a better understanding of the number of teams and students involved in FIRST teams throughout the county.  They were very impressed with the presentation and the students who gave it but they had some very sobering responses to our 4 asks;

  • Help us change CUPF policies to remove $3,500+ costs per team
    • Informed us that there would not be any changes here
    • Recommended we talk to our school to find more dual use time
    • We pointed out the more than $200,000 in the county for robotics programs per year.
      • The officials talked about growing the number of dollars that teams brought in
      • The officials talked about sharing the current funds with other less fortunate teams
    • We pointed out the reduced costs that are incurred by sports teams and that robotics; the Sport for the mind should also enjoy a similar reduced cost structure
      • The officials talked about the reductions in sports funding
      • The officials talked about the ticket sales proceeds as a revenue stream that sports has that robotics does not
  • Help us ensure School Business Managers purchasing policies are streamlined for robotics
    • Informed us that there would not be any changes here
    • Pointed out that the current policies take a long time and that even principals do not get relief from them
  • Help us purchase and maintain tools and secure space in our schools
    • Recommended we work with school administrators to identify tools that need to be replaced or repaired
    • Recommended we bring in more sponsorship dollars to purchase tools
    • We asked about the warehouse that the school board recommended we check into
      • The officials informed us that there are no tools in the warehouse
    • They offered to look into getting the tools repaired
  • Help us make FIRST a Sport for the Mind in MoCo
    • They pointed out that there is a cost to this ask
      • MCPS would need a person to manage the 27 school teams
      • MCPS would need more coaches
      • The school athletic coordinator would need to manage another team
    • They offered to help us better understand the costs

The MCPS staff did ask a lot of questions during the discussion that created some opportunities to move the conversation forward. Here are the ones we wrote down.

  • Where are the new teams?
    • We told the officials we would get back to them
  • What are the biggest hurdles to starting new teams?
    • We discussed the importance of teachers
    • We talked about the teacher stipend
    • They informed us that the teacher stipend is not enough and that you really need a team of teachers
    • The officials reminded us that our lobbying efforts have had an impact
      • They secured teacher stipends
      • We thanked them for the teacher stipend
    • They lets us know the stipend helped start at least one FTC team
    • We asked the School officials to identify schools and teachers to help start teams
  • How is the event at Whitman being paid for?
    • We informed them the event is being paid for by a non profit with funds from FIRST and local sponsors
  • They wanted to know if Whitman is getting any funds from hosting the event.
    • We informed that Whitman is not getting any funds
  • They asked about how FIRST is structured
    • We informed them about how it is structured at the FRC level
      • District, District Championships, Worlds
    • We informed them about how it is structured at the FTC level
      • District, Super District, State, Regional, Worlds


At the end of the meeting we took some actions that will allow us to keep the conversation going.

  • Teams
    • Get in touch with your school’s administrator in charge of maintenance and file a request to repair school tools.
    • Collect a list of teams by start date and send to school officials
    • Survey MoCo teams who are no longer running to identify biggest reason for ceasing to operate and send to school officials
  • School Officials
    • Help us find a way to avoid CUPF fees
    • Help us find a way to purchase materials quicker during build season
    • Identify process teams can use to get tools repaired
    • Help us get a better perspective of the costs and revenues for sports in the county
      1. Where can we find out how much money MCPS spending on sports in 2016?
      2. Where can we find out how much money MCPS spending on building new or maintaining current sporting facilities in 2016?
      3. Where can we find out how much money MCPS bringing in from sports revenues for 2016?
      4. Where can we find out how many county students are participating in sporting programs for 2016?
    • Identify schools and teachers that want teams


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