** UPDATED ** 5/16/2018 ** Delaware Election 2018: Who Filed For State Rep, State Senator, AG, State Auditor, State Treasurer, U.S. Senator & U.S. Representative

Election Day 2018 is less than six months away but tons of folks are filing.  I know other bloggers and social media talk about intent to file, but I don’t count anything until they actually do.  Which means filing with the Department of Elections!  I am fully aware there are several folks who have publicly admitted they are running for office.  And I’ve even written about some of those announcements.  But this list will be updated ONCE folks file.  If it is in bold black, that means there is a race for that position in the General Election.  If it is in red, that means there will be a Republican primary.  If it is in blue, that means there will be a Democrat primary.

Dates to know:

7/10/18: Last date to file for major parties

9/6/18: Delaware Primary

11/6/18: Delaware General Election

There are ten seats in the Delaware Senate up for election.

Last updated: 5/16/2018

Continue reading “** UPDATED ** 5/16/2018 ** Delaware Election 2018: Who Filed For State Rep, State Senator, AG, State Auditor, State Treasurer, U.S. Senator & U.S. Representative”

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Appoquinimink To Create Safety Task Force Due To Incident Yesterday

Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows sent an email to parents minutes ago giving more detail about the district’s role in the handgun incident yesterday at Middletown High School.  I will certainly give Burrows credit for fully owning up to the omission of details in his parent letter yesterday as those facts seem to have been discovered by the Delaware State Police after he sent out the parent letter.  While I am not a member of the MOT Residents Facebook page, I understand parents have been going off on there all day long about the differences between the parent letter and the Delaware State Police press release.  I just have one question, and it is a big one: who discovered the student pulled out the gun on another student?  Was it the district or the State Police?  I posted my article about those differences less than two hours ago.

Appo Superintendent Matt Burrows Failed To Disclose Student Pointed Handgun At Student In Parent Letter

The Delaware State Police issued a press release today about the arrest of Tymere Moore, an 18 year old Middletown High School student in Appoquinimink School District.  It gives much more information than the statement Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows sent to parents yesterday.  Including the very disturbing fact that the student actually pulled out the handgun and pointed it at another student.  The primary charge in the arrest was for brandishing a handgun.  Which was not mentioned in Burrows’ parent letter at all. Continue reading “Appo Superintendent Matt Burrows Failed To Disclose Student Pointed Handgun At Student In Parent Letter”

OMG! Electing Kathy McGuiness As State Auditor Would Be Like Putting A TFA Teacher As Secretary Of Education! Don’t Do It!

I just caught part of the Delaware United forum with the candidates for State Auditor and Attorney General.  I heard Kathleen McGuiness babbling about her qualifications.  She is NOT a certified accountant.  She took some crash course in NY last year to be a “fraud investigator”.  She is a pharmacist and a realtor.  This would be like putting a crash-course Teach For America teacher as Secretary of Education.  She is NOWHERE close to being qualified.

I understand the Speaker of the House, Pete Schwartzkopf, wants her.  As well as other legislators who seem to think she would be the best.  They aren’t basing that decision on any amount of qualification for the office but because Pete wants her.  Because they are friends.  It is Delaware politics at its worst!

For this office, we need someone who is qualified.  We could argue whether that would be Kathleen Davies or Dennis Williams.  For my money, I’m going with Davies.  She worked in the Auditor’s office.  She knows exactly what to do and how to do it.  There would not be a “learning curve” that McGuiness would stumble through.  Williams tends to tick off a lot of people.  I agree the Auditor’s office should be independent of political party.  But Williams already has a ton of burnt bridges which would not be helpful in getting things done.

Yes, there is a cloud with Davies.  Why was she put on leave by Tom Wagner?  I still firmly believe that was due to someone wanting her to shut up.  I have never bought the bogus News Journal article from 2016 suggesting she was inappropriately reimbursing herself for travel expenses.  I believe whatever happened was cooked up, kind of like McGuiness’ auditor campaign over the past year.  I believe we will find out in due time what happened and I also believe it will come out that something was cooked up.  Davies for State Auditor by a landslide!

If you really want to learn about Kathy McGuiness, just Google “Kathy McGuiness” and “Delaware Liberal” to get the scoop.  There is plenty of stuff in there to keep you reading for hours!

Gun Found In Student’s Bag At Middletown High School In Appoquinimink Today

Following a break-up of a potential fight, a handgun was found in a student’s bag at Middletown High School in the Appoquinimink School District earlier today.  Sadly, this came shortly after news broke out of another school shooting.  The shooting in Santa Fe, Texas killed nine students and a teacher.  While I salute the staff at Middletown High for defusing this situation very fast, it is indicative of potential threats in our schools.  I’ve been told by other educators that weapons are brought into schools constantly but they are rarely found.  I fully support metal detectors in ALL of our schools.  Is it a burden?  Yes.  But Delaware does not want to be on the news for innocent students being gunned down.  Hats off to Superintendent Matt Burrows for letting parents know this went down as well!  Earlier reports in the day addressed a situation but it wasn’t until Burrows released the letter about the gun being found that I felt it was appropriate to post this.

 

Who Protects Kids When Teacher Unions Won’t? The DSEA and NEA Response To Shocking Video Is Horrendous!

Project Veritas released a video on May 2nd about a teacher union president that clearly shows him admitting the union will lie and manipulate to protect a teacher in a student abuse situation.  The responses from the union president are shocking.  Even more shocking are the responses from the Delaware State Education Association and the National Education Association to help members deal with this video. I am putting the video up which you can see below. Continue reading “Who Protects Kids When Teacher Unions Won’t? The DSEA and NEA Response To Shocking Video Is Horrendous!”

Where’s Kendall? And Margie, I Don’t Have To Know You But I Do Know A Scam When I See One!

I just saw a video of the entire Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security board meeting from this evening.  Since I’m the only blog (or media at this point) really writing about DAPSS these days, I feel it is safe to assume Board President Margie Lopez-Waite was talking about “the blog”.  But an even bigger question is where the Delaware Charter School Network was?  Isn’t their job to support charter schools?  Where was Kendall Massett?

Margie did all the talking for the entire board.  She played a game of bait and switch with the members of the audience.  On one hand, she said she became the “scapegoat” for the slew of termination notices that went out Monday.  She said Head of School Herb Sheldon played a direct role in that.  She is trying to make it sound like those were his decisions to make and carry out.  But then, on the other hand, she has the board pass a motion to revisit those terminations.  She said, “A school can’t function if we don’t let the leaders lead”.  But she is attempting to play to the crowd.

In terms of the DAPSS programs going away, Margie said emphatically they are not going away.  But she said several times she wants to essentially marry DAPSS and her long-term goal of having an ASPIRA high school.   That is her vision.  No one else is screaming for that vision.  Do not let her fool you.  She saw an opportunity and struck.

“When I look in the mirror, I know who I am…And I hope that one day you guys learn the person I am.  Cause I have no agenda here.  I have no motivation other than helping children.  So you can read all you want on the blog.  You can get your information from those sources but they’re all completely wrong.  That person doesn’t know me.  They are just trying to feed you information.  “

You are absolutely right Margie.  I don’t know you.  I’ve seen you a handful of times prior to your involvement in DAPSS.  I’ve never written about anything big at ASPIRA as I have other Delaware charter schools.  But what you seem to forget is the nature of this blog.  I don’t pull stuff out of the air.  It comes to me.  From multiple sources.  If I have nothing to write about, I don’t write.  Plain and simple.  And yes, I am trying to feed information.  What is the purpose of this blog if it isn’t to inform?  I don’t get paid.  I could care less if 10 people read this or 5,000.  I’m just getting it out there because once upon a time I needed information.  Guess where I found a lot of it?  Not in mainstream media articles.  I found it on blogs.  From people that were there.  From comments on blogs.  From what I heard, YOU didn’t know a lot of the staff that were fired the other day either.  In fact, one staff member pointed out how you had never once said hello to him during your many visits to the school.

You said that less than 20% of the teachers were cut.  But at the same time you said other teachers “resigned” because they weren’t able to take alternative positions.  When you tell a full-time teacher they have to become a part-time teacher and they can’t afford that, you aren’t offering them an opportunity.  You are basically saying “you mean nothing but I don’t have the guts to just come out and fire you so I’ll let you quit first.”  Which, in my opinion, is extremely scummy.  So if those people are getting the “demote or leave” slip, what does the percentage come out to factoring that in Margie?  I get the financial perspective and sometimes there is fat to be trimmed.  But we both know this was more than that.  Don’t try to downplay it at a board meeting.  Say those numbers in public including staff members.

You sit there and say you have no agenda or motivation while at the same time you are telling people who were just screaming at you that you want to merge DAPSS with your ASPIRA high school.  You say you don’t want to interfere with the Head of School but you effectively took over the board, got folks who you KNOW will vote with you (hello Joanne Schlossberg from Newark Charter School), and all of a sudden pink slips are going out left and right.  You talked about the Charter School Accountability Committee meetings and how you wished folks came down to Dover.  I did.  I was there.  I heard you say you were going to make tough decisions people were not going to like.  Not the board.  Not the Head of School.  But you.  Not once did I hear a damn thing about your plan to merge DAPSS and this ASPIRA high school.  I heard the rumors that you have always wanted that.  Nor did you mention this HUGE need to have Spanish and Chinese programs at DAPSS.  So don’t try to spin this as if you are some scapegoat.  You initiated all of this.  Like you are the damn superhero that “saved the school”.  You didn’t save anything.  You are an opportunist who saw a chance to get your precious dual language high school on the cheap without just doing it yourself.  And you pissed off a ton of people along the way.  I don’t need to know you.  I need to listen, and hear, and report.  You also don’t know me.  Nor have you ever made a point to.  And I’m okay with that.

As for the part where she started conversing with a parent DURING public comment IN SPANISH, that happened when the father stated he was Puerto Rican like her.  She began speaking in Spanish to him but he shot her down and explained that even though he knows the language he speaks English in his house and his kids do as well.  He said Spanish is NOT the most important language in the world.  But when folks are complaining about having dual language programs at their school, that probably isn’t the best time to start talking in Spanish during a board meeting when someone else is giving public comment.  The fact I have to point this out speaks volumes!

Lopez-Waite listened to what parents had to say.  She took the jabs and expressed her opinions about them.  But never once did she say anything about reconsidering HER vision for an ASPIRA high school.  Even though the parents, former students, and current students loudly said they didn’t want the current programming diluted by HER vision.  When you fail to truly listen and act on what you are hearing, by ignoring the will of the people (and that audience was the DAPSS family), you disrespect them.

Did DAPSS need changes?  Well, yeah, they were under formal review and about to get shut down.  The only thing that shocked me about all that is how long it took the Delaware DOE to initiate that formal review.  But Lopez-Waite came in like a bear and wanted to tear the camp apart.  And she did.  Take responsibility for your actions.  Own them.  Be accountable.  That’s what we want our students to learn.  But when the adults can’t do it, how the hell do you think the students will?

When you have a “vision”, it is often a coin toss.  If you fail to see the other side of the coin, you can’t be shocked when that coin comes up tails.  That’s exactly what happened with Margie Lopez-Waite tonight.  She underestimated parents, staff, and students.  She assumed it was the same crowd she has at ASPIRA.  It backfired big time!  With this crowd, you wouldn’t dare pull your next move, which was to make yourself Head of School at DAPSS.  They would have fileted you alive and you knew it.  Which was why the board meeting was cut short before you could even get through the agenda.

And once more, for the record, where’s Kendall?

Absolute Insanity At DAPSS Board Meeting Right Now! Margie Screwed Up Big Time!

At the Delaware Academy of Safety & Security board meeting going on now, parents are screaming at Margie Lopez-Waite and students are crying.  They are very upset with her about the mass termination of anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 of the staff on Monday.  They are also very pissed at her about her plans to turns DAPSS into a type of ASPIRA High School. Continue reading “Absolute Insanity At DAPSS Board Meeting Right Now! Margie Screwed Up Big Time!”

Breaking News: Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Final Report Released Today

Delaware State Representative and Chair of the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Earl Jaques released the final report of the school district consolidation task force today.  The report, seen below, does NOT recommend consolidating school districts based on “findings” that it would not save a substantial amount of money.  It does, however, give recommendations regarding shared services among school districts.  This report, in my opinion, is missing a TON of information! Continue reading “Breaking News: Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Final Report Released Today”

Charter Nepotism At ASPIRA & DAPSS

Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security will have a new Director of Instruction as of July 1st.  Deborah Panchisin resigned as an Executive Director of Instruction at Appoquinimink School District last month, effective July 1st.  Greg Panchisin is the Chief Operating Officer at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy.  Greg and Deborah Panchisin are married.  Margie Lopez-Waite is the Head of School at Las Americas ASPIRA.  Margie Lopez-Waite is the current President of DAPSS’ board.  Margie Lopez-Waite is slated to be the next Head of School at Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  Margie Lopez-Waite proudly boasted of having someone lined up to take over the position of Director of Instruction a few months ago at a Charter School Accountability Committee meeting when DAPSS was under formal review.

This is what happens when anyone is allowed to insert themselves into a leadership role at a charter school.  They cause chaos and use personal connections to hire who they want and who cares if it is a very personal connection.  Because they are two different schools, it is not against the law.  But it is certainly a manipulative and scummy move.  Please continue to tell me this is “for the students”.  Margie Lopez-Waite played the Charter School Accountability Committee and the State Board of Education.  And Secretary Bunting.  And they fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The Panchisins make a combined income of $245,000 in their current roles.  Deborah Panchisin makes $136k at Appoquinimink.  Greg Panchisin makes $109k at ASPIRA.  Say she gets a pay cut for her role at DAPSS.  They would still most likely be making a combined income well over $200k.  I imagine that handling instruction for 200 students as opposed to many more at Appo would be less work.  Less stress.

This is Delaware…

Should Charter School Board Members Be Allowed To Manipulate Their Board To Allow Themselves To Lead A School?

Stack the deck towards a power play and you often get what you want.  That is the case with Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  Tomorrow night they will hold their monthly board meeting.  The rumor mill has it that Margie Lopez-Waite, the current President of their board, will resign as President and the board will vote her in as the Head of School.  With that will assuredly come some type of financial incentive for Margie’s undying loyalty to the school (insert sarcasm here).  Together with her salary at Las Americas ASPIRA, she will be making a pretty penny.  Oh yeah, Delaware state code dictates you can get your pension based on your three highest years of salary.  Something the soon to be departed Providence Creek Academy Head of School took full advantage of.

Here is the issue though.  From what I hear, Margie doesn’t spend enough time at her current school.  She has her trusted minions and followers who pretty much run the school.  By her cut throat first and answer questions later tactics yesterday, she is stacking the staff deck at DAPSS to do the same thing.  In essence, Margie Lopez-Waite is a power-hungry dictator who is completely running the school.  Unless there is a mutiny, the Delaware DOE will let it happen.  This is a classic power play on her part.  But she may have shown her cards too early.  I expect a huge crowd at their board meeting tomorrow night.  She pissed off a lot of people.  I would say I hope the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE shows up, but their leader will be leaving them soon as she… wait for it… replaces Chuck Taylor at PCA.  Perhaps it is time Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting actually took the reins on this and stopped Margie’s power trip and exposes it for what it really is.

Margie’s bloody coup is not new.  We’ve seen other “leaders” throughout history do the same thing.  We call them dictators.  Tyrants.  They don’t last in the annals of history.  Eventually the people rise up and take back the power.  This is my big issue with some of our Delaware charters.  They are run by folks who tend to answer to the ruler of the school, not the other way around.  Far too many of their board members, which are appointed, not elected, are meant to curry favor with said ruler.  While commenters on my article from last night come to the plate in defense of Margie, I have yet to hear those commenters say anything about the lives Margie destroyed yesterday.  About teachers and staff who came to work yesterday with a job and are now wondering how they will feed their families after June 30th.  Even though Margie promised more training for them through Colonial.

Margie will take full advantage of Colonial’s relationship with Relay Graduate School and get cheap teachers for DAPSS.  Relay is just another teacher-prep fast track program.  They bounce around like kangaroos in the Outback, but they are fiercely loyal to their leaders.  In other words, they are cheap puppets.  Be careful what you wish for.  You may get exactly what you want.  It helps to have friends from high school help you get what you want, doesn’t it Margie?

Educators Who Needed Rescuing Part 1: My Story

So glad to see Natalie writing again! Get better Natalie!

E.R. +Educators to the Rescue+

This is Natalie, and I’ve been neglecting this page for an awfully long time.  So many things have happened in a year’s time, that it’s been difficult to concentrate my passion on educational issues.  I feel like you need an explanation, so I’ll try to be brief.  I’ll start with myself, and then I will fill you in with what happened to Laura, my educational partner who ran this page with me.

In December 2016, on the first day of Winter Break, I carried my then 15-year-old geriatric Pug down our back porch steps to go do his business, because he was too old to navigate them by himself.  On about the third step, I fell down in severe pain and threw “Bob” down the rest of the steps.  I crawled to the door screaming in pain.  Luckily, my husband was home, because I could not lift myself up to…

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Bloodbath At DAPSS As Two-Thirds Of Their Staff And Herb Sheldon Were Fired Today

Delaware Academy of Safety and Security will look very different next year.  After surviving their formal review and getting their enrollment up to an acceptable level, the culling began today when 2/3rds of their staff AND Principal Herbert Sheldon got their walking papers.  They will still be there until the end of the school year, but many aren’t happy.

The Dean of Students and Discipline, Dakevis Matthews…gone

Director of Public Safety, David Wainwright…gone

Operations Specialist, Lisa Flynn…gone

Office Manager, Tara Williams…gone

Behavior Interventionist (listed on their website as a Behavior Interventionalist), Marcus Bazemore…gone

The odd part is that Sheldon did the firings.  But when he wouldn’t accept a lesser position, he was on the chopping block as well.  We ALL know where these firings are coming from.  That would be Board President Margie Lopez-Waite.  A few months ago, she dropped their Academic Director, Erica Thomas, like a bag of hot potatoes after the school got reamed in their formal review meeting at the DOE.  But if Margie is still involved in a year or so I would be shocked.  And this is why charter schools need to be unionized.  So this kind of bloodbath doesn’t happen.  Many of the staff that were fired were directly responsible for getting their enrollment to where it needed to be.  Their reward?  This.  So if you EVER want to be a teacher at ANY charter school Margie Lopez Waite is involved in, you might want to put body armor on your back so the knife doesn’t penetrate too deep.

And to think I actually congratulated Margie on DAPSS surviving their formal review… it’s going to take a lot of mouthwash for me to erase those words!  Had I known THIS was what she planned, those words would have never come out of my mouth.  You see, these are people’s lives here.  Their jobs, their income, their security.  What happened to all that extra training and support Colonial was going to give these teachers?  Where are the new teachers going to come from? TFA? Relay?  We all know Colonial has been boasting about their relationship with Relay.  Not cool, not cool at all.  For Margie… a school (even a charter school) is not the same as the banking world.  DAPSS is not MBNA.  You can’t run a school like a bank.

Uh-Oh! Financial Trouble At Delaware Charter Schools Network?

In a recent email to parents, the Delaware Charter Schools Network asked parents to donate money to keep them going. They have been around for well over a decade now and they have never tried to raise funds like this to my knowledge. They normally receive funds from the Delaware charter schools that send annual dues and grants from other non-profits like the Rodel Foundation or the Longwood Foundation.

As we end the week, we begin something new! As the only Charter Support Organization in Delaware, the Delaware Charter Schools Network advocates for and supports all of our schools – but as I have told you all before, we cannot do it alone. We need support too. To that end, today we are launching our first-ever crowdfunding campaign! Our goal is to raise a total of $20,000 to help us with programming that we provide.

Because it is our first campaign, we thought it might be easier to break this into milestones – and our first is to raise $5,000 in the first week. Would you consider becoming one of our first supporters to help make it happen?

While $20,000 doesn’t seem like a ton of money for a non-profit, I have to wonder what the sudden need is for extra money? Did the rent go up at 100 W. 10th St. in Wilmington? Did they lose funding from one of their grants? Are some charter schools deciding not to pay their dues?  Did their lobbying costs go up?

On the website for this campaign, it talks about how DCSN holds the Public School Choice Expo each year up in New Castle County. It appears they will have two in New Castle County, one in Kent County, and one in Sussex County this year as well.  The campaign, hosted by a company called Funderbolt, isn’t listed on the DCSN website which I found rather odd.  I would think they would put a link to it on there as well if they need this money so bad.  Even more odd, for a crowd-funding organization devoted to raising funds for schools, they can’t even spell the word “philanthropy” right.

To date, the campaign received three donations totaling $75.00.

While it is certainly legal for DCSN to hold this kind of campaign, and other organizations like the Delaware PTA rely on parent dues for their existence, this kind of outreach is unprecedented. Is this a sign that the charter world in Delaware is struggling?  Or did Kendall Massett see the cash-cow that is Basis Charter Schools in Arizona where they ask parents for $1,500 a year to “support teachers”?

Breaking News: State Board of Education President Dr. Dennis Loftus Resigning After A Year Of Service

A year ago, Governor Carney nominated Dr. Dennis Loftus to take over as State Board of Education President.  Replacing Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Loftus served in the role for a year.  At the end of this month, sources tell me Dr. Loftus is resigning from the position.

No nomination for his replacement has been announced at this point.  As well, even though Donna Johnson officially resigned a couple of weeks ago, no replacement has been announced for the Executive Director role for the State Board of Education.  The State Board is still going through sunset review with that committee at Legislative Hall.

The State Board underwent many changes in the past year with four new members (including Loftus) and a now vacant role of Executive Director.  It doesn’t look like that facelift is going to stop any time soon with the resignations of their Board President and their Executive Director.  The State Board of Education is a different entity than the Delaware Department of Education.  Any State Board members would be nominated by the Governor and then have to go through a confirmation process with the Delaware Senate.  The only exception to that rule is the President which is picked solely by the Governor but there is no designated term for that role and serves at the pleasure of the Governor.  In addition, the State Board themselves would pick a new Executive Director.

What is the reason for this massive amount of turnover?  In January long-time board member Pat Heffernan resigned unexpectedly after an explosive board meeting about the diploma bill.  Heffernan was deeply opposed to the legislation which would do away with certificates of performance or attendance for the most severe cognitively-challenged students.  Governor Carney signed the bill last month.  Other new members came about through prior board members ending their term.  But to have the President of the State Board resign after less than a year says something!

Teacher’s Sarcastic Letter To Delaware DOE Is The Win Of The Week!

Even though this made the rounds on social media, my guess is many of you have not seen it. I am also keeping the teacher’s name anonymous. But in reality this could have been written by just about any teacher in Delaware. It is something they all think. They all believe the façade of standardized testing is a complete and utter waste of time.  Here we are, three years after the Smarter Balanced Assessment came out, and we are still putting children through this ridiculous dog and pony show.  The needle hasn’t moved.  But now the Social Studies and Science assessments based on these almighty standards are here.  Praise the corporate education Gods!  We now have more data to give to the hedge fund managers and those who seek to profit off children!  Yes, let us all bow down to the phony corporations that have taken over state governments with their lobbying and dollars to have kids treated like cattle being led to the slaughter.  Because this is progress…

Delaware Department of Education:

As I sit here contemplating my umpteenth week of testing, and I am not halfway through, I wanted to take a minute and thank you.

Why?
Here are the reasons.

1. I want to thank you for understanding that my students need an education and only forgiving one of the snow days, instead of all four. I am quickly planning engaging lessons that my students will be very involved in during those final three days of school.

2. I want to thank you for testing an entire year’s worth of content beginning in the third marking period, when the content has not been completely covered. I truly love a challenge.

3. I want to thank you for making the last two months of school routine-less as my students are testing for this and that and being pulled at all times. I don’t often have a whole class with me to cover new material, but as I said before I love a challenge.

4. I want to thank you for taking away the Social Studies standardized test last year as a gift and then providing us with another test this year. I was worried we were going to be down a test.

5. I want to thank you for testing Social Studies again because with all of the mandatory extra reading/math interventions I rarely have time for teaching it. (I also want to say thank you for creating a test that doesn’t technically cover the curriculum we teach in class; that is ingenious!)

6. I want to thank you for spending many dollars on tests that make my students cry and get angry and frustrated. I want to thank you for spending this money on tests that make me doubt myself as an educator.

7. I also want to thank you for realizing that it is completely acceptable to lose weeks of instructional time due to time-consuming testing but simply wrong to accept nature as an excuse to lose instructional time.

Less Than 7,500 Delawareans Voted In School Board Elections Yesterday…How Do We Fix This?

Yesterday, citizens and residents of Delaware lamented the very poor turnout for local school board elections. All told, based on unofficial results from each county’s Board of Elections, less than 7,500 people voted. Those numbers are a source of ire for many this morning on social media. Everyone is asking why.

As myself and others pointed out, school board elections are held every single year on the 2nd Tuesday of May. The polls are open at various schools in each district from 10am until 8pm. Current legislation would change the start time to 7am in an effort to be consistent with other elections in Delaware. In competitive districts, such as Red Clay and Christina, signs are placed by candidates all over the place.

Some folks said doors were locked at schools when they went to vote. Others said they didn’t even know the elections were taking place. The state’s biggest newspaper, The News Journal, did not give out surveys to candidates and did not give the elections the coverage they deserve. Some people said it was the job of the candidates to get the word out.

Not every district had an election due to only one candidate filing. This was true in Dover, the capital of Delaware. Capital Board President Sean Christiansen ran unopposed. This is the first time that happened in Capital School District in many years. But in Red Clay, where only 1,724 votes were cast, and Christina, which had 2,246 between two elections, those numbers pale in comparison to the actual populations they represent.

School boards are very important to communities. They make decisions for the children that attend their schools as well as decide how much folks pay in school taxes. Those numbers are set by the business leaders in the districts based on their budget but the school board votes on it. It is a rare occasion where a school board does not pass their budget and tax matters. School boards also vote on when a school district has to go out for a referendum. By the time a school district feels they have to go out for a referendum, it is because they know they won’t have enough money in a certain area whether it is for operating costs or construction (known as capital costs). But they are the public face of a school district. Most of the big decisions have already been decided on by the district. The school board just votes on those decisions. In many cases, the board votes on the whims of the district with few exceptions. Some parents attend board meetings religiously but most do not. Parent engagement is something all school districts strive for but unless it is a sports or entertainment event, turnout tends to be low.

In some situations, school board members listen to the voices of parents or other residents and put forth policy for their board to vote on. This can be controversial at times with matters such as parent opt out of standardized testing, what books can be read in a district, or even how a board feels about current legislation or regulations such as the very controversial Regulation 225.

Not every decision in a school district is decided on by a school board. State law and federal mandates demand schools follow certain rules and protocols. Those are things, like the IDEA special education law or state testing requirements, that a school board can not tweak or change. At times, local school board members can develop a strong voice in opposition to certain state and federal laws. This can cause discontent amongst school board members. While many school districts tend to rubberstamp action items desired by the district, other districts like Christina can have lively board meetings where members openly challenge each other and do not always agree.

Charter schools, which represent about 15% of Delaware public schools, do not hold elections for their boards. It is decided on by the board itself. Charters can draw students from different districts so holding an election to the general population would be very tough to do.

For parents that reside in school districts but do not have children in those schools, whether they attend private schools, charter schools or homeschool, how do they even become aware of school board elections? If they don’t subscribe to the News Journal or other local media and do not follow school districts on social media, how would they even know a school board election is taking place? The same can be said for residents who do not have children such as the elderly. Many of these residents do not feel they have skin in the game so why should a local school board election matter?

What makes school board elections different is they are not based on a certain political party. It truly doesn’t matter whether you are Republican or Democrat as party affiliation should not play a factor. What drives many folks to vote in the General Election is whether or not the candidate is Republican or Democrat.

Like myself, there are others in the state who follow education like pollen to a honeybee. We tend to vote and write about education all the time. But we are not the norm. Unless you are actively involved on social media and follow things, you may not be acutely aware of things like school board elections or referenda. As well, the timing of school board elections is somewhat odd. It is in the heart of Spring during a time when many students are involved in spring sports. It is during a work day. But these are things that still occur during the General Election in November each year. What is the difference? State and national politics are written about in the media more extensively than school boards. There is more money that flows into candidate coffers during their elections. School board members do not get paid for their service whereas legislators and other elected positions do. That changes the landscape and the stakes for candidates. For some legislators, that is their primary source of income so they have to get out there and rally for votes.

I won’t pretend to have an answer to this question. Changing the start time could have a difference in votes, but to truly win the hearts and minds of Delawareans and why they need to vote in these elections is the challenge of the day. Some have suggested holding school board elections during the General Election while others feel candidates would lose their voice if they had to compete for attention against other elections. Personally, I feel the Department of Elections should place billboards up and down the state informing people of when school board elections are. Some have said the school districts need to make more parents aware but that limits the voting populace. In some districts, there could be more voters who don’t have children in the local school district than those that do. Why not hold school board elections on Saturdays instead of during the work week?

In a state with almost a million people and over 130,000 children in public education, 7,500 votes is nothing. It is a drop in the bucket. Even though they don’t make state-wide decisions, they do make major decisions for the communities we live in.

Delaware School Board Election 2018 Results

The Department of Elections for each county are still counting a lot of the votes, but some unofficial results are in which are usually a good indicator for where things are going. Congrats to the victors and to those who didn’t make it, do not give up! If you can’t run again based on being in a district, either continue lending your voice or begin to if you haven’t already. Voter turnout for school board elections is abysmal in Delaware. For those who don’t know, this election is held EVERY SINGLE YEAR on the 2nd Tuesday in May.

Brandywine, District A: Shanika Perry 684, Reynaldo Epps 164
Caesar Rodney: P. Scott Wilson 403, William Victory 387, John Moore 318, and Tracey Miller 207
Christina, District C: Fred Polaski 411, Richard Jester 358 and VJ Leonard 357
Christina, District E: Keeley Powell 618, Christy Mannering 502
Colonial, District C: Ronnie Williams 237, Richard Schiller 141
Colonial, District G: Robin Crossan 221, Tanya Kerns 98, Ana Viscarra-Gikas 94
Indian River, District 3: Leolga Wright 349, Dana Probert 92
Indian River, District 5: Derek Cathell 95, Carla Ziegler 27
Lake Forest: John Moyer III 158, James Parsons 78
Red Clay District A: Jose Matthews 1,009, Joseph DiMichele 715
Smyrna: Kristi Lloyd 479, Gary Dodge 251
Woodbridge: Jeffrey Allen 167, Darrynn Harris 24

Building A Mystery

In 1981, a ten-year old boy witnessed something very unusual involving two other children. For 37 years, this event haunted the boy.  Finally, I am ready to tell his story. Continue reading “Building A Mystery”

Delaware DOE’s Charter Diva Stouffer Replaces Chuck Taylor At Providence Creek Academy

I knew Providence Creek Academy had no choice but to finally find a new Head of School after their “three-year search”.  Chuck Taylor was never supposed to stay that long.  It was, after all, just a coincidence he stayed for three years at a greatly increased salary of $170,000.00.  It is also a coincidence he was able to get his pension based on that $170,000 figure because it goes by your three highest years of salaries as a state employee.  But hiring Denise Stouffer?  The lead from the Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Office?  Are you kidding me?

As always in Delaware education, it’s not what you know, it is WHO you know.  She and Chuck were buddy-buddy on the Charter School Accountability Committee ever since she came aboard in the lead position two years ago.  Denise Stouffer was ALSO who I talked to at the DOE last summer when the anonymous Providence Creek teacher and staff crowd had me post their complaints and their attempt to join the union.  Nothing came of that.  Hell, Denise Stouffer even told me her office did a thorough investigation and found none of their claims to be true.  Imagine that!  And now she is their Head of School!

I’ve talked to Stouffer a bit over the past couple years.  There is something off.  Something… I don’t know… call it… a trust issue.  I don’t always believe her.  I know, as the head of the Charter School Office at the DOE it was her job to oversee charters under the DOE’s authority.  She certainly wasn’t going to give me any more ammunition than I already had.  But I heard of too many folks going to her about things and then bad things happened.  Usually a termination at a charter school.  God forbid you go to the state agency overseeing many charter schools and actually lodge a beef against them.  But that was how it was.

I still smell a stink from PCA.  Something has NEVER felt right about that place.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Stouffer isn’t leading the Charter School Office anymore.  I’m also glad Chuck Taylor is retiring.  But this kind of thing doesn’t get PCA off my radar.  Not at all.  The fact that NO official charges ever came out against anyone at PCA with their own charter school money theft thing.  In the prosecutions that did occur, it wasn’t the school pressing charges.  That came from either the feds or Delaware’s Attorney General office.  Their was a whole damn audit report with tons of findings showing there was theft at PCA.  So how the hell did the statute of limitations run out on that?  Like I said, something smells like three-month old fish over there in Clayton.

While there is nothing in Delaware state code against a DOE employee taking a job at any Delaware school, this one seems off.  I probably wouldn’t care if this were any other school.  But Stouffer was the person who was supposed to conduct a proper investigation into PCA when the “We’re Worried” crew went to her and NOTHING happened from that tells me something was hushed.  And she had the unmitigated gall to act offended to me based on what I wrote about her role with things at PCA knowing she used her position at DOE to leverage herself to the top position at one of the charters she had to oversee really ticks me off.  This is a conflict of interest but of course nothing will happen because We Are Delaware!  Before the PCA parents start hammering me with the “she got the job because she was qualified” schtick, there were many qualified over the past three years to take that job.  This oh-so-convenient hiring leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.  But I really shouldn’t be surprised.

 

I Hope You’re Happy When The Night Is Over

Today was a perfect day.  Not because it was perfect but because I wanted it to be.  So much of what we are is how we think, our mindset.  To cap off this beautiful day I’m sitting in a lawn chair outside of my townhouse.  There is a slight breeze with a bit of chill to it but it is still warm enough.  The crickets are chirping and the leaves are blowing.  It is May in Dover, finally.

I came into 2018 with the best of intentions.  It was a new beginning in so many ways.  Life has a funny way of reminding you the battles aren’t over.  Some of those skirmishes are tougher than others.  This year’s were tougher than others for some reason.  Those who know me best know how close this one hit.  I could let it knock me down and shatter me.  That would be very easy to do.  But that’s just not who I am.  Everything happens for a reason and it is hard to explain that sometimes.  When the blood is on the field it is hard to show someone a better tomorrow.

Tonight, I am at peace.  It is a beautiful night.  A pizza is on the way which I have relished for some time now.  An episode of The Americans is waiting for me on the DVR.  I cherish the memories I had today with my son.  We had some really good father-son chats.  Both of us had more smiles on our faces today than I’ve seen in a long time.  Tomorrow is a new day.  It might not be as perfect as today, but that’s okay.

I see some of my friends and the struggles they are going through.  I wish I could take their pain and anxiety away.  Their battles are just as real as my own.  I pray they have days like today.  They deserve it.  I want them to be happy.

I heard a new song by the band called Blue October the other day.  Their singer always sings from his soul.  I’ve read a bit about this singer over the years and I know he has gone through many wars.

Just some random thoughts coalescing into a blog post here.  A thought purge.

There will be days when you’re falling down
There will be days when you’re inside out
There will be days when you fall apart
Someone else will break you heart
They’re never gonna hold you back
I’m always gonna have your back
So try to remember that
I hope you’re happy
I hope you’re good
I hope you get what you wish for
And you’re well understood

After I listened to that song, I put my music on a random shuffle.  A new song by a band called Lord Huron came on.  They are an indie band.  The singer reminds me of Jackson Browne.  “When The Night Is Over”.

I feel the weather change
I hear the river say your name
I watch the birds fly by
I see an emerald in the sky

These posts never get a lot of hits.  I’ve been slowing down on here.  I was actually talking to someone about that today, about how you can only write about the same things over and over again.  Legislators, administrators, and charters, oh my!  Things have been quiet as well.  No earth shattering news like there has been in years past.  I’ve been spending a lot of time helping parents with their own special education issues for their kids.  Sidebar conversations.  I still want to be an advocate for parents at IEP meetings and when they have issues going on with schools.  So helping out parents has been very helpful in that regard.  It forces me to learn more.  You can never know everything.  The reality is this: things are chaotic out there.  Things that make me shake my head in disbelief.  Things that should be absolute no-brainers.  It is picking up at an alarming pace.

We all need to recharge our batteries from time to time.  There are some ticking time-bombs I’ll write about soon enough.