John Young Takes On John Carney Over Christina MOU Vote

Last night, the Christina School District Board of Education voted again to table a vote on the Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the Delaware Dept. of Education, and Governor Carney’s office.  From the sounds of it, Carney is getting very impatient with Christina.  Board member John Young included a quote from Carney and his response to it on a Facebook post today.

“I’m disappointed that the board did not act tonight to address the serious challenges facing students in these Wilmington schools. We have made it a priority to work in collaboration with Christina to do right by these students. We have offered significant new resources to support educators and students in Wilmington. We can’t afford to wait and delay on this issue any longer.” – John Carney

Well, we do share an emotion: It’s so disappointing to have a partner at the table use this situation for political gain. Not surprising, just disappointing. The MOU currently on the table is the Governor’s version. It makes barely a fraction of the commitment necessary to help our students, is the furthest thing from “significant resources”, and seems to be hyper-focused on only getting one thing done: a dual-generation center. This leaves all our K-8 students in the rain holding a wet bag of nothing, Governor John Carney. Your charged declaration proves what I have sadly suspected: this plan isn’t about helping our students at all. The board, while tabling this terribly lopsided version, ardently pledged to stay at the table and work. I know that’s what I’m committed to doing. I’d really rather not spend much effort like this responding to divisive nonsense like your declaration; however, I will not sit idly by as you disparage the process and hard work of all partners, including your own staff. Let’s get to work instead of name calling and finger pointing, Governor.

As always, I’m right here.

Young gave his cell phone number after the last sentence but I do not feel comfortable providing that on a blog.  When Young addressed him as Governor John Carney, that was linked to his Facebook profile.

I think things are about to get very interesting in Christina.  As I’ve written before, Carney does NOT like anyone challenging him.  He takes that very seriously.  Will Carney try to pull some type of “priority schools” stunt on Christina if they do not act on the MOU?  I would be willing to bet he will.  Something will happen.  I have no idea what that is.

As well, the Christina board voted NO on their final Fiscal Year 2018 budget.  While this does not mean the state will stop disbursing funds to the district, it could affect their local payments.  It certainly did not make Christina Chief Financial Officer Robert Silber or Superintendent Richard Gregg have a good night.  Things are getting interesting up there.

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Wali Rushdan Gets Senate Approval For State Board of Education AND Explains His Time At Family Foundations

After a crucial Senate Executive Committee hearing, Wali Rushdan was given a unanimous Senate vote for the Delaware State Board of Education about an hour ago.

The Senate Executive Committee met with Rushdan right before the full Senate vote.  I must give props to State Senator Nicole Poore for tackling the elephant in the room.  She just came right out and asked Rushdan about his affiliation with the Family Foundations Academy Board of Directors. Continue reading “Wali Rushdan Gets Senate Approval For State Board of Education AND Explains His Time At Family Foundations”

Ex-Priority Schools Princess Getting Run Out Of Texas

Penny Schwinn, the former Chief of Accountability at the Delaware Department of Education, is looking for a job in Massachusetts after a very controversial no-bid contract in Texas dealing with special education put her in the hot seat.

 

Schwinn serves as the Texas Education Association’s Deputy Commissioner of Academics.  The Texas tribune reported in December that the TEA’s no-bid contract with SPEDx that cost the Lonestar State $2.2 million dollars.  The purpose of the work done by SPEDx was to collect a huge amount of data on students with disabilities in the state.  Advocates screamed foul and the contract ended.  It also caused Texas to take a close look at no-bid contracts dealing with education.  In Delaware, any contract over $50,000 must go out for bid.  In Texas, it is $15,000.  But Schwinn was instrumental in getting the contract.  Now she is looking to leave Texas less than two years since she got the job, something an overwhelming amount of readers on this blog predicted.

In a pump and dump statement by the Education Commissioner’s office, they said the following:

In a statement Tuesday, TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson said that Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath was aware Schwinn was being considered for the Massachusetts job and that Schwinn’s “professional background and leadership reflects a distinguished career committed to schoolchildren.”

“Penny Schwinn continues to do an outstanding job at the Texas Education Agency and would be a tremendous leader for the state of Massachusetts,” Culbertson said.

The survivors of Hurricane Schwinn in Delaware feel for Texans.  Schwinn came to Delaware in the Spring of 2014.  Right from the get-go, she caused controversy.  At a State Board of Education meeting, during a discussion about crime and violence affecting students in Wilmington, Schwinn said that wasn’t “necessarily a hurdle to overcome”.  After that, she embarked on a crazy Priority Schools agenda involving schools in the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated school districts.  The plans called for new leaders and firing half the staff in their buildings.  After teachers, parents, and advocates screamed bloody murder, the plans changed drastically.  The promised state funding for the plan was not what was originally promised.  Many feel that fiasco led to former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy “resigning” from his post.  In 2015, she led the horrible school report card creation which penalized schools for opt out numbers higher than 5%.  Eventually, the Every Student Succeeds Act took care of that travesty.  But by then, Schwinn flew off to Texas.

The ex-Broad fellows and Teach For America alumni continue to spread their not-so-magical woes from state to state.  They leave their mark, do some damage, and leave when the going gets rough.  And the cycle never ends.  I hope Massachusetts doesn’t make the same mistakes Delaware and Texas did.  Does Penny still own that charter school out in California?

For folks in Texas or Massachusetts who want to read more about Schwinn’s time in Delaware, please go here.

 

 

Wali’s Wax-On Wax-Off State Board Of Education Nomination

Despite what I reported last evening, the Senate Executive Committee is BACK ON TODAY at 3:30pm.  The meeting was canceled but now it is taking place again.  I don’t understand what all the confusion was.  The Senate Executive Committee will discuss Wali Rushdan’s nomination for the State Board of Education.  If it clears the committee, it will most likely go before the full Delaware Senate for a vote shortly after.

Senate Cancels Executive Committee Meeting, Only Item On Agenda Was Wali Rushdan

The Senate Executive Committee canceled their meeting tomorrow.  The only item on the agenda dealt with Governor John Carney’s nomination of Wali Rushdan for the State Board of Education.  The Executive Committee must clear any nominations before the Delaware Senate can vote as a body for that nomination.  No reasons were provided for the cancellation of the meeting.

Things that make you go hmmm…

Controversy Erupts On Social Media Over Special Education Funding Task Force Resolution

House Concurrent Resolution #34, introduced on June 29th last year, will be on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting tomorrow.  One line in the legislation offended many, including myself, when it was brought to my attention.

WHEREAS, special education represents a growing financial burden on school districts as the need for services increases.

I can pretty much guarantee any parent of a student with disabilities would take offense to that wording.  While it is true that special education costs have risen over the past decade, referring to those costs as a “financial burden” is not a wise choice of words.  Schools have an obligation, under both state and federal law, to provide those services regardless of cost.  Which is exactly how folks took it on social media last night.  I do not think that was the intent of the legislators who sponsored the bill.

As well, parents took offense to there only being one slot on this task force for a parent.  That seat would be determined by the Delaware PTA.  The bill has an odd mix of sponsors.  With the majority of the sponsors as Republicans, some wondered why Democrat State Senator Nicole Poore would sign on as the prime Senate sponsor.  In addition,  Democrat State Rep. Ed Osienski also signed on as a co-sponsor.

State Senator Brian Pettyjohn joined in on the conversation and doubted the resolution would appear in the Delaware Senate.

Last week, news from Texas regarding allegations against the Texas Education Agency shocked Americans everywhere.  A report said the TEA was limiting the number of special education students in The Lonestar State since 2004.  Their special education population dropped from 11% to 8% over a seven-year period even though most states saw dramatic increases in those student populations.  Many blame caps instituted by the Texas legislature on special education funding.  Which is eerily similar to the recommendations a task force like this could come out with.

While I don’t believe there was ill intent with this legislation, the optics on it could not be worse.  In conjunction with the news from Texas, a lawsuit filed by the Delaware ACLU today against the state has special education funding as part of the overall complaint with education funding.

I have been saying for years that Delaware needs to revamp how they submit payments in their state financial system.  No one follows the recommended spending codes so it is impossible to track how money is being spent.  Especially with special education.  That should be an easy problem for our legislators to fix but no one wants to take up the baton.  Not sure why.  It isn’t a change to the Delaware Constitution.  It would be a simple bill mandating our school districts and charter schools accurately code expenditures in a uniform process.  And the Delaware Department of Education would have to oversee this and implement regulations in regards to Delaware state code.  Any task force, committee, workgroup or other such thing looking at any facet of education spending is useless until this is done first.  Which legislator wants to twirl a baton?  Anyone?

Meanwhile, HCR #34 is on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting.  Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews said DSEA does not support the legislation on one of the Facebook posts that came out last night.  I would hope that when legislation like this comes out that our state legislators would look at the wording of their bills or resolutions.  The people are watching them.

Education Funding Lawsuit Filed By Delaware ACLU, What Happened To That Other Complaint?

I heard about this one last week.  Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Committee, warned about this a year ago.  Now the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the Delaware NAACP and Delawareans For Educational Opportunity, filed a lawsuit against the State of Delaware over education funding.  Unbeknownst to most Delawareans, however, another Delaware ACLU complaint disappeared.

According to The News Journal, the Delaware Dept. of Education released the following statement about the suit:

The Delaware Department of Education has not seen any complaint from these groups and will respond to any litigation against it in court. It is the goal of the Department to assist Delaware’s schools in preparing every student to succeed in college or career and life.

Yeah, pretty much the same thing the DOE said back in 2014 when a complaint against them and Red Clay was filed with the Office of Civil Rights over discrimination in Delaware charter schools.

Who is named in the lawsuit? Governor Carney, Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, State Treasurer Ken Simpler, and the heads of each county finance office.

To read the complaint, please see below with some exclusive news appearing shortly after.

Jessica Bies at the News Journal wrote in the above article:

According to the lawsuit, the state is failing students from low-income families, students with disabilities and students who are learning English. Test scores for these disadvantaged students are far below state standards set by the Delaware Department of Education in its new plan, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

What the lawsuit wants seems to contradict with what Delaware Governor John Carney wants:

But Gov. John Carney, listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, has said he is not in favor of needs-based funding, in part because it gives extra money to school districts serving at-risk kids without holding them accountable for how they use it. He has also said there is neither the financial nor political support for such a measure.

Yeah, okay Carney.  Whatever.  We both know how you exert pressure on the General Assembly to do YOUR bidding.

But whatever happened to that old complaint filed in December, 2014?  The one the Delaware ACLU filed with the Office of Civil Rights alleging discrimination in certain Delaware charter schools?  The Office of Civil Rights rejected that complaint.  This never made the press and the Delaware ACLU never released anything on it.  Nothing can be found on the Delaware ACLU or OCR websites.  But it happened.  I reached out to the Delaware ACLU early last week to get information on this.  They directed me to Richard Morse, who is now with Delaware Community Legal Aid.  Mr. Morse did not return my call.  I guess someone wanted that complaint to die a quick and painful death.

This lawsuit cannot be ignored though.  It was filed with the Delaware Chancery Court today.  This could be a game-changer folks!

On Facebook last week, I wrote about knowing some things coming up but I couldn’t write about them yet.  This was two of them.

 

Breaking News: Governor Carney Nominates Cerron Cade As Secretary Of Labor

This information JUST came out:

 

Delaware Governor John Carney

Governor Carney Nominates Cerron Cade as Secretary of Labor

Cade currently serves as Delaware’s Director of Small Business, Development, and Tourism

 

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday announced his nomination of Cerron Cade – Director of the Delaware Division of Small Business, Development, and Tourism – to serve as the next Secretary of the Delaware Department of Labor.

Cade’s nomination must be approved by the Delaware Senate. 

As Labor Secretary, Cade would lead a 420-employee department that oversees workforce development and training programs for the State of Delaware, unemployment insurance programs, labor law enforcement, and economic forecasting for the state.

“Cerron has a proven ability to lead, and the knowledge and experience necessary to take on this important role,” said Governor Carney. “The Department of Labor’s work connecting Delawareans with relevant job training and workforce development programs has never been more important. Cerron understands the needs of Delaware businesses from his time at the Small Business Division and, before that, at the Delaware Economic Development Office. I’m confident that Cerron’s experience will serve Delaware and Delaware workers well. I look forward to the Delaware Senate considering his nomination.”

Last year, as Acting Director of the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO), Cade managed the dissolution of DEDO and the creation of the new Division of Small Business, Development, and Tourism within the Delaware Department of State. Currently, he serves as the Division’s Director, leading a team responsible for providing key services to Delaware businesses, administration of the Delaware Strategic Fund, and marketing Delaware as a premier tourist destination.

During his time at DEDO and the newly-created division, Cade has led the state’s efforts to attract businesses and good-paying jobs to Delaware, keep them here, and ensure that Delaware remains a leading state for businesses to grow and thrive. If confirmed by members of the Delaware Senate, he will bring that experience to the Department of Labor, where he will lead state efforts to connect Delaware businesses with talented workers, and develop relevant workforce development and training programs. 

“I am honored to be nominated by Governor Carney to lead the Department of Labor,” said Cade. “Connecting Delaware businesses with skilled employees has been a large part of my focus as DEDO has transitioned into the new Division. If confirmed by the Senate, I look forward to using that experience to help the state’s workforce thrive in this changing economy.”

Cade would replace Secretary Patrice Gilliam-Johnson, who will join Delaware State University as Dean of Graduate, Adult, and Continuing Studies next month. Gilliam-Johnson will leave office as Labor Secretary on February 2.

“Secretary Gilliam-Johnson has led the Department of Labor with distinction during a time where we have faced many challenges across state government and have been focused on the importance of building strong, inclusive environments where people feel valued and supported,” said Governor Carney. “I could not be more grateful for her service.”

Cade grew up in Washington D.C. and moved to Delaware to study Political Science and Law Studies at Delaware State University. Driven by a desire to make a positive impact and following his passion for public service, Cade has worked as a Legislative Aide for the Delaware State House of Representatives, New Castle County Deputy County Director for U.S. Senator Tom Carper and State Projects Director for then-Congressman John Carney.

Cade joined Governor Jack Markell’s staff as Legislative Liaison in 2015. Last summer, Governor Carney appointed Cade to serve as DEDO’s Acting Director to lead the office’s transition, where he previously served as Deputy Director.

Cade lives in Wilmington with his wife, Kasmira, and two daughters, Jonnie and Toni.

Wali Rushdan And Sean Moore

Wali Rushdan and Sean Moore.  Friends.  Members of the same fraternity.  Moore, the former Head of School at Family Foundations Academy, convicted of theft and fraud.  Rushdan, a former member of the board at FFA, now nominated for a seat on the State Board of Education.  Moore, in prison.  Rushdan, an attorney at Fox Rothschild.  Moore and Rushdan.  What did Rushdan know about the situation at FFA?  Why has he erased his term on their board from his biography at Fox Rothschild?  Why was his bio redone the SAME day he got the nod from Governor Carney for the board seat with the State Board?  Did Governor Carney bother to check this matter out and ask the appropriate questions?  Who brought forth this nomination to Governor Carney?  Questions that need to be answered.  Questions our Delaware Senate need to ask right away.

 

Despite Getting Ten Million Bucks From XQ, Delaware Design-Lab STILL Can’t Get Their Enrollment Up!

Delaware Design-Lab High School submitted a major modification application to the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office to lower their enrollment again!  This time they want to lower their enrollment by 26%.

I admire their tenacity, but sometimes you just have to realize there are too many charter schools in Northern New Castle County!  I’m not saying they should give up but how long is this going to go on for?  By failing to capitalize on their million dollar prize from XQ, they allowed their enrollment to drop to unsustainable levels.  They just got a major modification approved two years ago to lower their enrollment and now they want to do it again.

They were supposed to be at 475 students this year.  That was lowered from 600 students in 2016.  Instead, they had 298.  There is a reason no new charter applications have come in for New Castle County in three years.  They couldn’t even get to their magic number of 380 students to be at 80% enrollment based on their September 30th count.  They should be on formal review.  They were before they even opened for low enrollment but they managed to squeak by.  The only reason they aren’t is because of their XQ Super School prize.  I’m sure they are planning to spend those funds wisely but if their aren’t enough students there, what’s the point?  Apparently ten million bucks can get you a great many things except for actual students.

The rumor mill in Philadelphia is hearing Design-Lab wants to expand to the City of Brotherly Love.  I wouldn’t call their original in The First State a resounding success if they can’t get the students.

In their application, the school has projected enrollment for the next four years.  Their numbers don’t make much sense.  As an example, they are looking to raise this year’s ninth graders (69) to 75 during their sophomore year.  But then that jumps to 85 their junior year (because so many students transfer out junior year- insert sarcasm here).  But then during their senior year, it dips back down to 75.  For freshmen next year, they are projecting 100 students for that year.  But that will drop down to 95 the next year.  But inexplicably, the next year’s freshmen are projected at 100 but their sophomore year they will drop down to 90.  I guess you have to make the numbers fit somehow.  This is a far cry from their original charter application which was approved with 600 students by year four.

To see the major modification application, please see below:

Sussex Montessori School Takes 2nd Stab At Application To Delaware DOE, Looking For Fall 2019 Opening

Only one application came in for a new charter school this year in Delaware.  It is the same one that applied last year but that school withdrew their application shortly after.  Sussex Montessori School is going for it again this year.

The proposed school is looking for 260 students in grades K-3 and by year four they are hoping to have 455 students in K-6.  There is only one charter school in Sussex County, Sussex Academy.  There are some very familiar names in their founders list and interested parties with a board consisting of nine people.  It sounds like they have their ducks in a row with this application.

What bothered me about their Executive Summary was this line:

It is clear that the traditional public schools are not working well for many children in Sussex County.

They based this on… what else… standardized test scores.  We will NEVER learn, will we?  This charter school isn’t even open and they are already assuming they can drive those Smarter Balanced test scores up.  I know, whether you agree with this or not, you have to kiss the ring of the Delaware DOE by promising higher achievement on the not-so-Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Shouldn’t there be more to education than this horrible measurement?

Sussex Montessori School does have three enrollment preferences in their application: siblings of students already enrolled, children of staff members, and children of the school’s founders.

The school is projecting a little less than 22% of their funding will come from local school districts for each year they are open.

To read the entire application and all the attachments, please go here.  The leadership team of Sussex Montessori School will have their first meeting with the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee on January 24th.

 

 

Called It! Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security Submitted For Formal Review!

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is in a very tight spot.  Very low enrollment is causing Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting to request a formal review of the charter school.  The State Board of Education will consider the recommendation at their meeting on Thursday, January 18th.

A formal review in January.  The timing on this is very interesting.  If a charter school doesn’t have 80% of their enrollment by the Spring, they can go on formal review for that.  They should have gone on formal review for low enrollment for a long time.  But when they failed to hit those enrollment numbers in their September 30th count, that can no longer be ignored.

For Delaware charter schools, this school does have a very unique purpose, to promote public safety and security (thus the name).  It is such an exact niche for students.  Perhaps it was a bit too specific.  Enrollment has steadily been going down for years.  It would take a miracle for them to get their enrollment up to at least 80% in the middle of a school year.  Low enrollment causes charters to lose a lot of money to the point where they are no longer financially viable.

This will be the first formal review in two years.  The last was Delaware STEM Academy who never opened due to low enrollment numbers.

 

“Smart and Surveilled:” Building Sanctuary Part 3

Wrench in the Gears

This installment highlights  smart city surveillance and the Internet of Things. Cam and Li’s lives, including their educational experiences, are shaped by ubiquitous algorithms that align their behaviors to the economic and social expectations put in place by the Solutionists. This is the third installment in the series. If you want to read from the beginning use this link to access the introduction and Part 1: Plugging In.

Cam and Li have grown up in a world controlled by sensors and data. All day, every day sensors watch, track and transmit information. The devices that make up the vast web of Internet of Things are tiny, but their combined power is incalculable. The most common IoT sensor in the pre-lockdown years was the smart phone. Practically anyone over the age of ten had one. Acting as a sensor, people’s phones were a primary means of data collection, logging information…

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Regulation 225 Coming Back On January 31st, Better Get There Early!

11,000 Public Comments.  Huge PDF files.  It must be Regulation 225, the very controversial regulation dealing with transgender student discrimination.  Today, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting announced the Development team will reconvene on January 31st to discuss what to do with the regulation going forward.

UPDATE: Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 – The Development Team will meet from 6 to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 31 at the Del-One Conference Center on Delaware Technical Community College’s Terry Campus, 100 Campus Drive in Dover. (Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 – Secretary to reconvene Development Team to review public comment on proposed antidiscrimination regulation)

I tried to read all the public comments.  There is not enough time in the day.  I can say those “against” the regulation are much higher than those “for”.  The PDF for Delaware residents in the “for” category is 17 megabytes (mb).  The one for “against” is 136mb.  That is a mammoth pdf file!  There is another huge file for out-of-state residents.  That PDF is 21mb.  They are all against and seem to be put in a format where all you had to do was put your name and where you are from and that you are “against” the regulation.  Yet another file with unknown residency is over 3mb, and a file described as “other” is only half a megabyte.  Most of those were blank emails or asking the Secretary questions about when the vote was.

Last week, I was listening to the Rick Jensen show on WDEL.  It was when they were doing their “Weasel of the Year”.  Of course it went to this controversy with a huge amount of votes.  But during the show, Jensen made it sound like Delaware Governor John Carney had some problems with the wording when it came to parental rights.  Which I find interesting since he never mentions the words “opt out” when it comes to standardized testing or the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But I digress.

I am predicting a HUGE crowd for this.  Probably why they are using the conference center at Del-Tech.  But with the amount of public comments, they might want to consider renting out the Dover Downs Speedway.

Wali Rushdan: How He Could Impact Delaware Education & His Ties To A Charter School Fiasco

A new name came forth recently in Delaware education.  I must admit I had never heard of him before.  Or had I?  But who is he and how could he become a voice in Delaware education? Continue reading “Wali Rushdan: How He Could Impact Delaware Education & His Ties To A Charter School Fiasco”

Earl Jaques Bows To The Delaware Chamber Of Commerce Over Special Education Diplomas

It looks like you need special permission to introduce legislation to help students with disabilities.  At the Joint House and Senate Education Committee today in Delaware, State Rep. Earl Jaques asked one of the presenters of the special education strategic plan if she checked with the Delaware Chamber Of Commerce first before pushing legislation for special education diplomas.  Currently, many students with disabilities with complex and intensive needs get a certificate in lieu of a diploma.  Many businesses will not hire these young adults after graduation because they do not have a diploma.

The legislation, which was filed last week by State Rep. Kim Williams, would award these students a diploma based on modified standards.  It is not exactly the same as a regular diploma because of those modified standards, but it is still a diploma.  That way, these students would be able to check the box on job applications indicating they have a diploma.

During a question and answer session after Michele Marinucci and Bill Doolittle gave the special education strategic plan presentation, State Rep. Earl Jaques (also the Chair of the House Education Committee) asked Marinucci if she consulted with the Delaware Chamber of Commerce and the business community over the proposed legislation.  Marinucci indicated she had not.  I took severe offense to this question from Jaques.  As if legislators need some type of special permission from big business to allow things to get better for people with disabilities.  We don’t need permission from the Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber should be begging for this type of bill to allow equal access to employment for ALL Delaware citizens.  As State Senator Anthony Delcollo pointed out, there exist certain laws already such as the Americans with Disabilities Act that prevents discrimination against disabled citizens.

The entire Delaware certificate system needs to disappear.  There are plenty of jobs where former students are more than qualified but this discriminatory certificate prevents them from getting those types of jobs.  Our legislators and Governor need to stop bowing down to big business in Delaware and do what is right for ALL the citizens, especially the most vulnerable.  While big business lobbyists run rampant throughout Legislative Hall telling legislators how they should vote and which bills they support and which ones they don’t, our legislators are missing the point of making laws.  It should be what is best for all the citizens, not just those with the fattest wallets.  There are those legislators who understand this, State Rep. Kim Williams being one of them.  But far too many listen to those who have the most money.

While Jaques indicated he doesn’t want to see potential problems arise from persons with disabilities just checking a box and not being qualified for those jobs, there is also a thing called an interview process.  As well, many job applications do ask an applicant about their qualifications to meet the need for the job.  Having a certificate instead of a diploma is an instant barrier that serves to weed out these job applicants from the get-go.  I find this practice disgusting and barbaric.  For this comment to come from Jaques, who has publicly acknowledged having a grandchild with Autism, I found it  particularly disturbing.  I’m sure he is trying to get all his ducks in a row and making sure there has been enough stakeholder engagement.  And while I do agree the business community should certainly be a part of the discussion in how to best help students with disabilities and improve upon the process, I do not think any group involved in getting common sense legislation through needs permission first.  I wonder if Jaques read my article on the current Chair of the Delaware Chamber of Commerce from yesterday.  Maybe then he would understand why I am vehemently opposed to any pre-consultation with the damn Chamber over education legislation.

The actual presentation was top-notch.  The plan is designed to help students with disabilities and schools to improve special education.  While the plan is not set in stone and is a “living document”, I think it is a major step in the right direction.  This group did their homework and while I always think there should be more parents not affiliated with any other organization on these things, there is an excellent amount of diversity from all aspects of special education.  To see the actual strategic plan and what was discussed today, please go here.

I did see one moment of political maneuvering and it was very blatant in my opinion, but since I am unable to verify that as fact, I will stop right there.  I will say it did not involve anyone involved with the Special Education Strategic Plan.  But I expect more from that legislator than to ask questions on behalf of the Governor.  If the Governor’s circle of advisers want to ask a question, they should just do it themselves.  They are more than welcome to do so.  By using a legislator to get a point across is just slimy in my opinion.  Especially when it really doesn’t have much to do with the actual presentation being discussed and more about a priority of Governor Carney.  I will say to this legislator as well as Carney’s guy, the article I posted yesterday with the actual plan embedded into it was posted on the Solutions for Wilmington Schools Facebook page and was read by many.

In another brilliant moment of the Joint committee session, State Senator David Sokola (the Chair of the Senate Education Committee) suggested to Marinucci that they should really take a look at Finland’s special education and what a bang-up job they do recognizing special education needs at an early age.  State Rep. Sean Matthews replied to Sokola’s statement that the educational barriers that exist in Delaware, such as charter and choice school enrollment preferences, do not exist in Finland.  He indicated Finland is at the top of education in the world because they do not have those barriers and grant equal education to all in Finland.  As well, Matthews said you don’t see actions like “counseling out” going on in Finland.  That is a practice with certain charter schools where parents are told “we aren’t sure if your child is the right fit here”.  While I don’t know how much this goes on now, it has been an allegation thrown at certain charters in Delaware.  Many students in the past would wind up back in their traditional school district in the middle of a school year.  Many of these were also special education students.  Sokola is a firm believer in enrollment preferences, usually those that protect the largest school within his own voting district, Newark Charter School.

In terms of the entire House Education Committee it would have been nice if the Republican House members actually stayed for the entire presentation.  About twenty or so minutes in they all walked out.  But along those lines, State Rep. Melanie Smith was a no-show as she usually is.  No offense to the GOP guys, but if you are on a committee you should stick around for, you know, the actual meetings.  It is special education.  Not sure what was more important than that.  But I digress.  On the Senate side, the only missing Education Committee member was Senator Bryan Townsend.

Despite Jaques’ assurance to me yesterday that this meeting would be on the live audio feed on the General Assembly website, it was not.  But there were also issues in getting a smart-screen going for the strategic plan presentation so I would chalk that up to technical issues going on.  Legislative Hall is a very old building.

 

Is This The Guy Pulling Carney’s Strings?

I’ve been looking for a common thread in everything I’ve written about what is taking place in Delaware education.  One person, so deeply embedded in the forces that are privatizing public education before our very eyes.  I believe I found it.  A common link to the initiatives taking place.  The Public/Private partnerships.  Workforce Development.  The Delaware Business Roundtable and the Delaware Chamber of Commerce.  The Rodel/Vision Coalition.  Personalized Learning.  The philanthropic ventures into public education.  Pathways to Prosperity.  I believe I just found the most powerful person in Delaware who is calling ALL the shots.  And most of you have probably never even heard the name. Continue reading “Is This The Guy Pulling Carney’s Strings?”

Will The General Assembly Pony Up An Additional $18.5 Million For Christina By June 30th?

The latest Memorandum of Understanding concerning Governor John Carney’s plans for Christina has an ask of $18.5 million in additional state funding to implement the plan.  This is, of course, based on approval by the Delaware General Assembly as they hammer out the FY2019 budget over the next six months.

The latest draft of the MOU, authored by Carney’s Education Policy Adviser Jon Sheehan, is a red-lined version.  The new wording in the document is all red-lined.  Keep in mind this is more than the initial ask from the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.  Carney, from all reports I’ve heard, wants this plan to go through more than anything in the world.  How much so?  He will most likely do anything to make it happen.  I’m not sure why he has made this his top priority in education matters.  I think it is a red herring with danger signs written all over it.  I believe he is counting on the Christina Board of Education to vote no on it so he can launch some dastardly punitive action against the district.  I believe it is the same tactic Governor Markell used with WEIC.  Get everyone talking about it knowing full well the General Assembly wasn’t going to approve it.  The key difference between this and that is with WEIC the state already had a budget deficit when faced with that vote.  This time around, Delaware is boasting of a budget surplus.  I believe there are some smoke and mirrors with their numbers and I believe there is some fuzzy math with their formulas.  We shall see.

From a legislator’s point of view, the funding for this is based on Wilmington schools.  As WEIC learned the hard way, giving extra and significant funding to one portion of the state and not the rest is not an easy task.  Like I said the other week, everyone and their mother will be jockeying for their share of the mystical “budget surplus”.  In an election year, incumbents will NOT want to tick off voters in their districts.  I think Carney knows this.  Or he is that stupid.  But I’ll go with the former on this one.  Which is why I think it is a red herring.

The latest draft appears to have concessions granted to the Christina Board from their last discussion.  The Christina Board wanted to change the timeline from the 2018-2019 school year to the 2019-2020 year.  But the wording in the draft suggests Carney wants the Dual Generation Center up and running in 2018.  If that went through, there would definitely be some type of building movement by August of this year.

In the meantime, check out the latest Jon Sheehan penned draft of the MOU which the Christina Board will vote on at their next board meeting on January 16th.  It would have gone to a vote tonight but the meeting was postponed due to inclement weather.

Guest Post: Shelley Suchyj On School Choice In Delaware

Shelley Suchyj is an educator from the Christina School District.  She was also the Exceptional Delaware Hero Of The Year for 2016 for speaking out about the mold issues in her district.  As the School Choice window in Delaware will end tomorrow, Suchyj put up a Facebook post with some information that was left out of a recent Delaware Today article by Larry Nagengast.

This is a must read for every politician and parent in Delaware so please share. As the Talented and Gifted Educator for the Christina School District city schools; I have spent over 30 hours already this week, going to student’s houses and helping their parents fill out Choice forms on my personal computer. This is on top of the hours spent with a “carload of parents and students” that I attended open house with at the new Christina Honors Academy two weeks ago. There is a lot that this article doesn’t include, that most don’t even understand. Like the fact that the choice website is only in English and most city parents don’t realize that you only have from November- January of the previous year to apply for Choice in the following year. The biggest hurtle is a perception of what a “good school” is.

I have been an educator for over 23 years, 16 years as an 8th grade teacher helping parents navigate the high school choice decision. Having taught most of my years as an inner city teacher. I have had siblings in the first graduating classes of both Wilmington Charter and Newark Charter when they both opened. I have sons that have attended public, catholic, charter, magnet and choice schools in the state of Delaware since choice began in 1997 and currently. I have to say the biggest issue for everyone in the state of Delaware to understand that there are GREAT programs and things happening in every school.

My own mother thought I was crazy when I took my son out of the, believed to be best catholic school, and put him in a public school. But to this day Marbrook, and the friends, teachers and experiences he had there can not be matched. But that was for him. He learned to speak Spanish fluently not because he learned it in school, because he didn’t, it was because his best friends spoke Spanish when they arrived at school and he needed to be able to communicate when they played soccer at recess and hung out after school. He got to learn a new sport at Dickinson playing varsity lacrosse that he never would have been able to play at Sallies or Wilmington Charter because of the number of kids on the team.

My belief is that every school should have an engineering class, computer class, arts class, music classes, languages and personal finance class option for every child in grades 4-12. Lets figure out what kids are talented in and grow those talents. We have changed the location of where our children can go to school in Delaware through Choice and Charter. Shouldn’t we change what they are taught in school to be successful too? It isn’t 1950 any more.

With sincerest apologies to Suchyj, I promised her I would get this up when I saw it over the weekend, but due to weather and work constraints I was unable to do so.  Every parent interested in choicing their child to a different school should look at every possible option and not go solely by reputation.  Each child is different and has unique learning methods.

HCR #54 Would Move Due Date For School District Consolidation Task Force Final Report To May 15th

State Representative Earl Jaques introduced House Concurrent Resolution #54 to the House today.  This resolution would extend the findings of the School District Consolidation Task Force from January 30th to May 15th this year.  The resolution passed unanimously in the House and will go before the Delaware Senate for a voice vote.  The prior House Concurrent Resolution which created the task force was HCR #39.

Given the amount of sub-committees involved with this, this comes as no surprise to me.  This doesn’t change my prediction of the final recommendations of this task force (of which I am a voting member).