The Washington Times - August 22, 2011, 08:34AM

As another school year begins across the region, the District of Columbia and Montgomery County open their doors under new leadership and with widely contrasting academic and socioeconomic challenges. In the District, Chancellor Kaya Henderson begins her first full year Monday trying to bring direction to a school system that is ranked among the worst in the country and that has experienced a revolving door of leaders. Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr will try to build on the successes of the retiring Jerry Weast, who during his 12-year tenure steadily increased graduation rates and test scores while trimming racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps. Montgomery County schools open Aug. 29. Prince George’s County schools also open today while Northern Virginia schools open after Labor Day, Tom Howell Jr. and David Hill of The Washington Times report.

Tourists and Washingtonians alike are about to get their first up-close look at the memorial to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The site is opening today at 11 a.m. without fanfare to kick off a week of celebrations ahead of Sunday’s official dedication. The memorial sits on the National Mall near the Tidal Basin, between memorials honoring Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. It includes a 30-foot-tall sculpture of King and a 450-foot-long granite wall inscribed with 14 quotations from the civil rights leader. Sunday marks the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington and King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, according to the Associated Press.


Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley sparred Sunday for the first time as leaders of their respective parties’ governors associations, drawing clear lines in the sand on federal spending, job growth and President Obama’s performance on the economy. The back-and-forth came as the two governors continue to rise as national political stars, according to The Washington Times.

Virginia residents are expected to stay away from the polls in droves during Tuesday’s rare off-year state legislative primaries during the dog-day vacation season of August. But a handful of intraparty nomination fights, particularly in some state Senate battleground districts, will set the roster for November general elections with total GOP control of state government and a rightward shift in state policy at stake, according to the Associated Press.

Verizon’s union employees in the District of Columbia, Maryland and elsewhere across the region will head back to work as early as Tuesday after a deal was reached to extend their expired contract pending further negotiations, the company said Saturday in a statement. About 45,000 workers in the District and nine Northeastern states went on strike when their contracts with Verizon Communications Inc. expired two weeks ago. The workers, technicians and customer support employees began negotiating with Verizon in June, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The D.C. Republican Committee has launched a Web site highlighting D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr.’s political problems and calling on him to resign, as first reported by The Washington Post. Mr. Thomas, Ward 5 Democrat, and his nonprofit Team Thomas are under federal investigation for allegedly using roughly $300,000 in public funds for such purchases as a luxury sport-utility vehicle and golfing vacations in Pebble Beach in California and Las Vegas. In July, Mr. Thomas settled a civil suit filed by the city’s attorney general, agreeing to repay the $300,000 but not admitting to criminal wrongdoing. The site also attempts to organize a recall of Mr. Thomas, which has been rebuffed by local activist Frederick Butler, who is coordinating his own recall movement and doesn’t want Republican help, according to the website DCist.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi have been subpoenaed to give depositions as part of a whistleblower lawsuit filed against Mr. Gandhi by a former contracting official who claims Mr. Gandhi fired him for raising questions about a $38 million D.C. Lottery contract, the Washington Examiner reports.