At the Christina School District Board of Education meeting this evening, the board announced the Delware Department of Education has set new strict guidelines regarding their memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the priority schools. The DOE gave Christina three options in regards to their very limited choices:
1) Approve their existing MOU which the DOE has already said is not approvable.
2) Develop a negotiating team made of 3 members of the board, the superintendent, and other members hand-picked by the superintendent. This team would have to meet with the DOE by 1/9 (Friday) and agree to a memorandum of understanding. The DOE would no longer give feedback on the plan. If the sides were not able to come to an agreement, the district would have the opportunity to choose one of the three turnaround models-turn the school into a charter, school closure, or turn it over to a management company. If the two sides were able to come to an agreement, the Christina Board would have to vote on it at their 1/13 meeting.
3) If no action is taken, and all items are tabled, the turnaround models would again be the only option.
The board voted unanimously for option #2 and to allow for three or more board members to attend the meeting. As board member John Young pointed out, this put the board in violation of open meeting law because they would not have one week to publish a notice of an open meeting in the event four members of the seven member board, as per Title 29 regulations for the state of Delaware. Another board member pointed out the DOE put them in this position.
The superintendent advised the board all of the options are horrible, but they are left with little choice. State Representative Paul Baumbach advised the board it is a gesture of good faith, and if the board doesn’t honor this last ditch effort, basically it wouldn’t look good.
The board voted not to bring legal counsel to the negation meeting which the DOE advised they should. They also voted not to invite any legislators to the meeting as well. None of the members of the board or the audience were happy with the decision. The DOE set a trap for the Christina School Board and they had little choice but to choose one of the three options and #1 and #3 were not even options. This does not mean the Christina can’t or won’t submit a “nuclear option” at some point.
The board discussed how the DOE and Christina could not come to agreement on two key issues, the firing of two Christina priority school principals and laying off the staff and only half of them would be able to be rehired.
In terms of where this negotiation meeting would be held, a twisted yet hysterical part of the meeting came when board member Harrie Ruth Minnehan read DOE Chief Proficiency Officer Penny Schwinn’s hours of availability during the next two days. The longest block of time she could provide was two hours, but only if they met in Wilmington, between 9-11am on Friday. Yes, I can see how bad the DOE wants to negotiate in good faith…
The Christina Educators Association had a press conference before hand where CEA President Mike Kempski wanted to give teachers an opportunity to speak about the priority schools. A few teachers spoke very heartfelt and candid speeches. After that, Nelia Dolan, one of the founders of Delaware Parents and Teachers for Public Education, announced the creation of the group and their support for the Priority Schools. The group plans to bring their iPetition to Governor Markell’s office in Dover on 1/12, but that plan may change given the change in the priority timetable.
This cunning and duplicitousness on the part of the DOE, who had changed the final date to January 16th and then did an about face on this 1/5 and changed the date to January 9th, has shown they do not care about collaboration or negotiation. Which just proves my theory all along, which I advised the board of during my public comment, these schools will become charter schools at the Community Education Building in Wilmington.
Even though Red Clay Consolidated School District signed their MOU, the Delaware DOE has not fully agreed to it. My prediction: six new charter schools will open in the next school year unless Christina chooses the nuclear option. Or some 3rd party comes in and does something!