A long-time Montgomery County resident, Paul Geller has been volunteering in and for our schools since 2008. From organizing art, science, language, and writing extracurricular activities, to advocating for hundreds of millions of dollars in additional investment in our schools, Paul is always willing to roll up his sleeves and get to work.
He found his calling in November 2012 when he marshaled waves of online support via a petition for upgrading and expanding the use of technology in our schools, and successfully testified to the County Council to invest in Chromebooks and WiFi districtwide.
When not advocating for public school students, he enjoys spending time at home with his family, working on various household and automotive repairs, doing research for a book about the early NASA astronauts selected by NASA, and doing some occasional gardening.
Since 2012, I have been a full-time, volunteer advocate for our Montgomery County Public Schools. It has been a privilege testifying dozens of times to the MCPS Board of Education, Montgomery County Council, and to various committees in the House of Delegates and Senate in Annapolis about myriad issues ranging from Capital Improvements Program (CIP) funding for schools needing construction or capital projects, Operating Budget funding to hire additional teachers (600 hired from the 2016 Education First Budget alone), successfully helping Student Members of the Board gain full voting rights, and much more. Privately, I successfully advocated behind the scenes to our Superintendent and Board of Education to keep the Student Leadership Coordinator position when students informed me the job was slated to merge with another one and effectively cease to exist after nearly half a century. I also have taken up the cause of repairs at individual buildings, and successfully advocated for improvements to Summit Hall Elementary School, Carl Sandburg Learning Center, and several Sherwood Cluster schools needing everything from resolving HVAC issues, to having doors installed in an open floor plan school.
Montgomery County Council of PTAs (MCCPTA)
+Past President (2016-17) – responsible for leading successful advocacy efforts with the Board of Education, County Council, and in Annapolis. Ensured coordinators from all twenty-five of our clusters reached out to their area Principals and PTA leaders, sought out their requests, and all testified to both the Board of Education twice a year and the County Council twice a year. Led the charge to exceed Maintenance of Effort for the second year in a row with the Montgomery County Council. Served on MCPS Operating Budget Committee, numerous hiring panels, and traveled extensively throughout the county listening to the needs of my 43,000+ MCCPTA members, our 158,000+ students, teachers, staff, administrators, and all other stakeholders.
+Vice President of Programs (2013-16) – worked with a colleague to coordinate five different countywide PTA trainings over two and a half years. I recruited knowledgeable speakers; wrote up all course descriptions; invited guests; and coordinated signage, lunch, and all activities for the day of the event. Attended by more than 200 people each time. At one training, a representative from National PTA who had heard about what we were doing showed up, and during a plenary session, thanked me for all my efforts and presented me with the Gold Oak Pin for Outstanding Service to PTA for my countywide efforts to help raise everyone up.
+Sherwood Cluster Coordinator (2013-16) – reached out and spoke with every one of the eight school Principals, and most of our PTA leaders, within the cluster at least twice a year. Visited schools frequently as well. Took their feedback and requests directly to the Board of Education and County Council twice a year in oral and written testimony for Operating Budget and CIP needs of the Cluster. Managed to get nearly all of their project requests fulfilled including new lockers at Rosa Parks Middle School; new HVAC systems at Olney and Brooke Grove Elementary Schools; doors for several classrooms at Belmont Elementary School;…
+Host and Interviewer for MCCPTA Presents – hosted a one-hour cable television program aired monthly on MCPS-TV that featured teachers, staff, students, community members, politicians, folks from Carver, school musical groups, and more. Transformed this program from a series of lectures provided almost solely by staff from Carver, into a wide-ranging program geared toward helping parents, students, educators, advocates, and the community better navigate MCPS.
Belmont Elementary School PTSA
+President (2012-16) – Beginning from 176 PTA members, I grew membership to 440 members in my first year as President. By 2015-16, our membership of 650 exceeded that of many high schools. For four years in a row, Belmont had the highest percentage of engagement in Montgomery County PTA history, eventually reaching 208% in 2015-16 (650 members/312 students). Managed an incredible parent volunteer team of 64 committee chairs. In the 2014-15 school year I led the creation of one of the first elementary school PTSAs east of the Mississippi with the encouragement of National PTA. (Local PTA units at the elementary level usually do not include students.) I met with students during lunch to hear what they wanted to have at the school. One result was purchasing hundreds of dollars of games and supplies for indoor recess. In 2015 I led the entire school in the creation of a gorgeous outdoor mosaic of the school’s name, address, and a large sun displayed proudly on the front of the building. Arranged mosaic artist visits and parent volunteers, purchased supplies, and oversaw installation.
+Creative Adventures Coordinator (2010-14) – Recruited students, checked students in and made sure all students were picked up for this once a week, after school art program. I coordinated two sessions a year. Arranged discreet scholarships when needed.
+FLES Coordinator (2010-14) – In 2010 after much cajoling, FLES (Foreign Languages in the Elementary Schools) began what was to become an extremely successful language program at the fifth smallest school in MCPS. We eventually had more than 80 students participating (more than one-quarter of the student population), and offered three languages for students in first through fifth grades: Spanish, French, and Chinese. I did everything from promoting the classes, to securing scholarships, to being there for every class in case help was needed.
+Science Fair Co-Chair (2012-18) – This event is now a staple of the Belmont community. When I took the helm in 2012, only 28 students participated the previous year, and trophies were handed out from a cardboard box. Along with some friends, and many incredible volunteers, we transformed this event into a showcase that drew people from outside the community to witness, including the MCCPTA President in 2013. Each year we would publicize the event, and do whatever it took to help students and their parents put together imaginative and inspiring projects. We would transform the gym into a Science Exhibition Hall complete with tables with tablecloths, signs hung from between the basketball hoops and encompassing the entire length of the gym, and much more. It was a full-day event. Students would check-in with their projects from 7-9 a.m., each classroom would visit the fair during the day, and at night hundreds of people would attend to have a pizza dinner, see the projects, and witness the KNOW-BEL Prize Ceremony (KNOW as in knowledge and BEL as in Belmont). The night of the fair at least two volunteer scientist parents interviewed each student to have them discuss their project, and sign their KNOW-BEL Prize Certificate. Each year between 75 and 108 students participated. All were celebrated with a medal engraved with their name, and a few special words about each and every one of them uttered by a tuxedo clad MC (me).
+Reef Ball Project Coordinator (2012-14) – at the request of Belmont's Staff Development Teacher, and our fourth grade teachers, I worked with all the kids in this grade to construct two reef balls each year. This project, established by WSSC, was designed to dovetail with the syllabus and provide students with a hands-on project to help clean the Chesapeake Bay. I would acquire all the materials, recruit parent helpers, and lead the kids in constructing these 80-120 pound behemoth structures. I even arranged for several students to ride on a boat and watch their reef balls get deployed. The kids had a ball doing this project, as did I.
Most significant achievements:
Led the charge for the unprecedented and record breaking Education First Budget of 2016. Worked with the Presidents of MCEA, SEIU Local 500, and MCAAP; MCPS Board of Education President Mike Durso, and all members of the County Council to reach a unanimous vote supporting the first time Maintenance of Effort (MOE) was ever exceeded. Part of this $89,000,000 investment in MCPS went to hire 600 new teachers. Best of all, this amount is now a permanent part of the budget each year.
Continued leading the charge for exceeding MOE. To date, we have now exceeded MOE in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 for a combined total of $462,733,583 in additional funds going towards the MCPS Operating Budget. (Source: Annual memorandum from the Superintendent regarding the final adoption of the Operating Budget).
Worked with the County Council President to change the School Impact Tax paid by developers in the Subdivision Staging Policy revision of 2016 to better reflect the actual cost of a building new school seats required for the students generated by new residential development. Before this, developers paid 90% of the cost of a seat and sometimes a paltry facility fee; after my efforts, along with those of my colleagues, this was changed to 120%.
As the leader of MCCPTA, I organized our members to offer comprehensive testimony for the Recordation Tax in 2016. This amount, based on the price of a residence, is part of any real estate purchase or refinance in Montgomery County. Because many people move here for our excellent schools, schools that you as MCPSRA members helped make that way (thank you!), some mechanism was needed to take housing turnover into account. Despite overwhelming odds and in sharp contrast to motivated members of the Real Estate community who wanted to see this legislation disappear, I marshaled our troops, and we managed to get this vital revenue source increased. Recordation tax now exceeds School Impact Tax as a percentage of revenue for the MCPS CIP budget.
Also was one of the few speakers to testify in favor of property tax breaks for seniors until they sell their homes. We won!
Secured more than $20M from the state for Capital Improvements Projects in 2015 and 2016.
In the fall of 2012, along with the PTA leaders at S. Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, I marshaled my Belmont families to sign an online petition to get Promethean Boards into all elementary schools lacking them and WiFi into all our schools districtwide. My son and I were some of the handful of people to testify to the County Council. And we won! Within two years, nearly all elementary school classrooms received a Promethean Board, and WiFi was installed districtwide. This multi-million dollar project was a long time coming, and successfully rectified an inequity created by the ability of some school PTAs to pay for Promethean Boards on their own.
Advocating for the purchase of new technology for use in all our classrooms. Starting in 2013, I became a leading advocate for the purchase of a replacement to NetBooks, a type of very slow laptop computer teachers asked me to help them upgrade. In my school, only seven functioning NetBooks served all our students. I advocated tirelessly for funding new technology in our classrooms, including to our then Superintendent, with whom I met with monthly as a member of the eight-member MCCPTA Executive Committee. Eventually MCPS acquired Chromebooks for select grades and subjects. When fourth graders were left out of the equation, I went with three students to a Board of Education meeting to rectify the inequity. Within two months, MCPS found the money and came up with a rollout plan for all fourth graders to get Chromebooks. It was such an inspirational story, The Washington Post visited the kids at Belmont who successfully testified. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/surprise-fourth-graders-and-middle-schoolers-get-chromebooks-after-all/2015/09/07/e6d1ecd0-51a1-11e5-8c19-0b6825aa4a3a_story.html