I called for Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s ouster yesterday. And that was before I even knew about his latest stunt. At the Wilmington City Council meeting on Thursday night, Murphy had a flyer printed up to show reasons why the State of Delaware wanted to implement the Priority Schools initiative against the six Wilmington schools. These schools are low income with heavy populations of African-Americans and students with disabilities. I spoke at the Christina Board of Education meeting a couple weeks ago how the state’s programs have led to a bizarre type of triple segregation with these schools. Murphy managed to top that with his comments about a school in the Indian River school district in Sussex County, Delaware.
In the flyer, entitled “Priority Schools: An Opportunity To Improve Our City’s Schools Together”, handed out to the public, part of it said the following:
A great Delaware example is Indian River’s Clayton Elementary, located in a rural area of Sussex County with many parents working for the poultry factories. When Sharon Brittingham took over as principal in 1997, she found a staff that didn’t expect much of it’s low-income, black, Hispanic students. The teachers commonly used the phrase, “You can’t make chicken salad from chicken shit.” Brittingham found “teachers didn’t just need to believe in the ability of children to learn but also their ability to teach.” She helped educators improve their instruction, providing high quality professional development with aid from the district and state. She also added intensive intervention for struggling students. And she found teachers needed help with inclusive classrooms, which include students with disabilities alongside their peers. By the time she retired in 2006, her school was one of the top in the state with proficiency rates of 100 percent in some grades and subjects. The school faltered a bit when some teachers did away with some of the changes she had put in place. But the school now is doing well again after it’s current principal returned to some of Brittingham’s successful strategies.
So let’s see here, how many groups can you treat badly with discriminatory statements in one paragraph? How about low-income, African-Americans, Hispanics, farmers and teachers. Great job Murphy! I’m sure this flyer really resonated with the folks up in Wilmington, but not in the way you expected. It showed a DOE that is clueless about the realities these schools face, and showed their true colors.
Later on in the guide, it states the following hypocritical statement:
DOE has communicated the expectation to the participating districts that engagement of families and the community will be meaningful and genuine.
This one sentence is a summary of what the Delaware DOE has become, a manipulative back-stabbing entity that thrives on bullying school districts to do their bidding. The DOE forced their Memorandum of Understanding on both Christina and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts, and aside from Governor Markell and Murphy’s impromptu press conference at Warner Elementary School, where the school districts first learned of the blitzkrieg plan, they have done nothing to try to bring the community and parents into their diabolical agenda. In fact, Christina’s Board of Education chose to ignore the MOU so they could write their own to bring more stakeholders into it, including, you guessed it: families and the community. If this flyer is any indication of how the Delaware DOE intends to engage with families and communities, someone might want to remind them this isn’t 1860.
Yesterday, Red Clay Education Association President Mike Matthews emailed both Markell and Murphy about how he and many other teachers were extremely offended by the flyer. Apparently Murphy fanned the flames even more by sending a personal apology to Matthews and other union members, but not to the entire state in a public forum. Murphy needs to go. Period.