State Rep John Kowalko and Kevin Ohlandt Statements To The Christina School Board At Their Meeting Tonight

The following is State Representative John Kowalko’s public comment, given tonight at the Christina School District Board of Education meeting.

So long as the following section stays in the draft MOU, the District, Superintendent and Board are abdicating substantial authority that they now legally own. It also is a betrayal of the current school leaders and the districts rights to choose those leaders. Allowing the State, and DOE to name a list of acceptable alternatives by signing this draft keeps intact every ambition that this Governor and DOE have for a takeover of the district’s and board’s responsibilities and lawful authority. Please seriously consider refusing to approve this MOU unless the language giving the State authority to unilaterally submit their approved list is removed entirely.

i. The State and District must agree on the selection of the School Leader
.
If not in agreement, the State will provide specific rationale in writing to the Superintendent and the process will begin again.
II. Final contract approval will be up to the Board of Education
ii. Should the District fail to produce an approved leader the State may provide a list of candidates from which the District may select and submit to the Board of Education for approval.

This section retained in the MOU draft that you will be considering is a total abdication of the Districts legal authority and responsibilities to its employees and usurps the power of the Superintendent to seek out and hire the most qualified leaders for these schools based on their experience and knowledge of these schools, the students, the communities and the teachers. Ceding this authority is tantamount to approval of the Governor and DOE’s bullying and coercive abuse of power that has dominated the entire “priority schools” dialogue.

There are many other serious issues with the entire “priority schools” process and I will highlight a few.

  1. The artificial time frame unilaterally imposed by Ms. Schwinn and DOE is an obvious attempt to deny an open and honest dialogue with the stakeholders and public involved. This is evident in Ms. Schwinn and DOE’s refusal to attend and join in the numerous meetings that were held to attempt to craft a legitimate plan although DOE was specifically invited. This arrogant attitude has become a hallmark of this Administration, Secretary Murphy and DOE obviously intended to intimidate and coerce you into forfeiting your rights.
  2. The designation and measurement techniques employed in identifying the six priority schools are irreparably flawed and have no standing of merit. A cursory reading of the emails that I received under FOIA and forwarded to you reveals a nefarious collusion that ignores and misrepresents facts and portends to evaluate success and failure with absolutely no statistically provable measure. In fact, the DOE and Governors assessment of the success of Eastside Charter used an incomprehensibly flawed measuring cohort to wit:
  3. Nelia Dolan, on December 27, 2014 at 12:37 pm said: The greatest proficiency gains made in East Side Charter that everyone is touting was carried by a single cohort of students that went from 62 students in the third grade (2010/2011) to 29 students in the 5th grade (2012/2013).
    Unless you can look at the gains of each individual student, then the possibility that the students who left the school were ones that did not perform well enough to meet standard is too great to ignore.
    What difference does it make if the student body engineering is happening on the front end or somewhere in-between?
  4. In addition the FOIA documents also show that there was a concerted effort to deliberately exclude charters from being considered as failing in a desperate attempt to ignore the truth and reality and to isolate the selected six schools and their staffs as beyond redemption under current district leadership and mandating a DOE assigned leadership change that totally ignores the independent findings in the DASL report that showed significant gains while these schools were led by the current principals. These principals, that Ms. Schwinn and DOE are so willing to exile and disparage are depending upon you to defend them and protect them from those who would falsely and maliciously distort their records and abilities.
  5. Finally, I know that there has been discussion about the expense of challenging this abuse of power in court and is it worthwhile. Everything is worthwhile when you are defending the rights of children against an intrusion of power brokers who see them as a product or marketing device. Everything is worthwhile when you are defending the rights of dedicated professionals who are more family and friend to these children then these corporatist could ever dream of being. Everything is worthwhile when you are defending the rights, responsibilities and authority granted to you by an electorate that deemed you worthy of caring for their children and their children’s teachers and friends.
  6. A legal challenge would only be necessary if this Governor decided to fulfill his own ego-driven agenda to wrest power from the duly elected board that you represent. It would be premature to consider legal action at this time but appropriate to refuse to sign this MOU. I urge you to consider all of these things and many more and reject this abuse of power which will irreparably harm the entire Delaware public school system and its children and not approve this MOU as drafted.

 Representative John Kowalko

And next up is public comment from Kevin Ohlandt, some blogger from Dover.  Since I was unable to make it up to Wilmington tonight, Mike Kempski, President of the Christina Education Association was gracious enough to read this in my absence:

Esteemed members of the Christina School District Board of Education,
My name is Kevin Ohlandt.  I spoke at another of your board meetings almost three months to the day.  Since then, the bullying and intimidation on the part of the Delaware DOE has increased dramatically.  As well, our own Governor used a Vision conference as his bully pulpit in regards to the priority schools.  While it is okay to feel fear, it is not always okay to act on it.  In this situation, the DOE and Governor Markell are using fear as their biggest weapon.  This is the time to be strong, and tell them no.  This is the time to tell Governor Markell the Christina School District will not sit back and watch him take over their schools.  Whether you sign a draft MOU or let Markell take them over, either way you are giving them what they want: surrender.  They will use this as precedence and make you do the same in the future.  They will use you and every single student, teacher, administrator and parent to get what they want.  The priority schools initiative has never been about the betterment of student’s education.  This is corporate education reform in it’s filthiest, dirtiest form.  The truth will come out about what has been going on behind the scenes.  Bits and pieces have already been exposed.  The state wanted these six specific schools.  They have manipulated data and used race, income status, and special needs as the impetus for their decision.  This is not good for Wilmington.  This is not good for Delaware.  And it is certainly not good for Christina School District.  Be stronger than the fear they want you to have.  You have more people in your corner than you realize, and we will continue to fight for all of you.  Thank you!

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