Tonight at the Christina Board meeting in Wilmington, the board unanimously voted to essentially ignore the MOU. Instead, they have decided to look at board member John Young’s resolution to craft an MOU that would involve all stakeholders involved. Meanwhile, Red Clay wrote up their own MOU which would require no outside agencies or companies to take over the priority schools and to eliminate the caveat that a new school leader would be paid $160,000.00 and would instead be paid at the district level.
Parents, teachers, and legislators filled a packed house tonight at the Christina board meeting. The board quickly waived the 3 minute limit for public comment. Legislators such as Senator Brian Townsend and State Representative John Kowalko voiced their opposition to the MOU as it is currently written. Several teachers commented as well. Jackie Kook, a teacher in the district, kept referring to the Delaware DOE’s usage of the words “Human Capital” when referring to teachers in the priority schools and how degrading was.
The bulk of the audience did not support the MOU. Some community leaders spoke in support of the MOU, even suggesting the priority schools have corporate sponsors to help lift them out of the DOE designated “failing” status. Two members of the Delaware DOE Board Of Education made public comment, Dr. Terry Gray and Gregory Coverdale. Both used other schools in Delaware as example of what they can do for the low income schools such as Booker T. Washington Elementary School and Positive Outcomes Charter School in Kent County. Comparing those two schools to the six priority schools is night and day in many respects.
I gave public comment, which is below. Driving up from Dover during rush hour was well worth it. All board meetings need to be this exciting!
My name is Kevin Ohlandt. Thank you for letting me speak tonight. I’m here to talk about the special education issue in the priority schools. I live in Dover, but the issues here are just as important as they are in Capital School District. What happens with these priority schools will affect every single public school district in the state. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere in the state.
The Smarter Balanced Assessment is coming, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has ALREADY indicated he expects 70% of students to fail the test. But if this is what we base proficiency on, and the test has already been determined to be a failure (not the students), how can we blame the schools, teachers and students for this? If a test is that bad, how can the fate of our public school system rest on bad judgement thrust upon us by a Governor who listens to the will of Rodel more than his own citizens?
As you are well aware, there are over 300 students with disabilities with active IEPs in the priority schools. First of all, the formula designated for the priority schools is based on data that is over three years old. It is designed to specifically target these six schools that are all within a mile of a charter school building in Rodney Square. I don’t think this was an accident. In point of fact, I believe this is something Governor Markell and the DE Department of Education want to happen. Are we really going to send these children back to the hell some of them already escaped from? Sure, the charters will say they “just didn’t fit” or “we weren’t able to offer them services”, but the DOE has allowed this to happen. The DOE Board, not publicly elected, sit there in Dover and praise the charters without ever addressing the true problems. The charters specified enrollment preference caters to the charters needs and not the will of the public. So if you take all these children with disabilities, and reject them because they don’t “fit your mold”, and deny them entry or counsel them out, the result is why we are here tonight. This is triple segregation: they have disabilities, they are low income, and they are minorities. Let those words pause in the air for a moment. Triple segregation.
But what will happen with these children who have disabilities they neither asked for nor want? Will their IEPs be adjusted for the upcoming changes? Has anyone in the DOE mentioned this in the MOU or the Turnaround Guide? What IS happening is the DOE seems to be circumventing federal law with IDEA code. This is something the US Department of Education is already being investigated on by members of the Education Committee in the US Senate.
Say Christina and Red Clay agree to the MOU. The DOE has already indicated increased school hours and additional tutoring for the students of these schools. Has this been covered in these students IEPs? I don’t think so. Does state law trump federal law? I don’t think so. Say the districts don’t agree to the MOU. When will the great takeover begin? Any parent of a special needs child needs to understand how dangerous this situation is for special needs students and special education teachers. It’s bad enough the DOE wants to insert Common Core into IEPs in their Standards-Based IEP agenda. But now they want to completely change the most important parts of IEPs where choice is taken away from parents, and things like Least Restricted Environment and Free Appropriate Public Education are turned into a joke under Mark Murphy’s reign in Dover.
The DOE has already put their chess pieces on the board. They hired a charter school transplant from California to add to the madness in Dover. Mrs. Schwinn, in the August Delaware Board of Education meeting, when asked about crime and murder in Wilmington affecting the classroom by Mr. Coverdale, said “That’s not necessarily a hurdle to overcome.” Really, in this city?
This needs to end, and it starts here, tonight. This board, along with Red Clay, can stop the madness coming from Dover. We can stop this state and federal intrusion on our public school districts. They want to dismantle the freedom we have and turn our children into common core zombies, without any regard for their individual minds. We will not stand for this. From the top of the state to the bottom, every single student in a public school district is threatened by the likes of the Delaware DOE, Mark Murphy, Governor Markell, Rodel, Arne Duncan, Vision whatever the damn year is, and yes, the Delaware Charter School Network. Follow the money and see where it goes, cause it is not going to the children of Delaware. It is going to data coaches, and companies that are making great profit at the expense of the children of Delaware. Earlier, a gentleman spoke of corporate entities sponsoring our most needed schools. This is wrong, and we’ve already seen what happens when corporations get involved in schools. Common Core, RTI, Smarter Balanced Assessment. And the list goes on and on. My suggestion is simple: How about we stop teaching to the test and judge our schools, teachers and students on actual grades based on summative and formative assessments in the classroom, and stop this insanity.
It was a good night to be a citizen of Delaware and see the people decide their own fate. This decision will have ramifications, but they already know what will happen. As John Young also said during the meeting, it’s a game of chess with the DOE, and the next move is up to them. But what will the districts next move be? A source outside of the DOE has informed me the DOE has already rejected Red Clay’s revised MOU. Tomorrow may be a very interesting day.