The Delaware General Assembly House of Representatives leadership has issued a statement to all members of the House concerning the Delaware Department of Education letter to the Christina School District about their priority schools.
Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2015 4:48 PM
To: Finnigan, Sean (LegHall)
Subject: Memo on Behalf of House Leadership regarding Christina School District
To: House Democratic Caucus Members
From: Representative Pete Schwartzkopf
Representative Valerie Longhurst
Representative John Viola
Re: Christina School District Priority Schools
During the past two days, several caucus members have contacted leadership expressing concerns about the Department of Education’s letter to the Christina School District (which is attached). Thank you for contacting us. We wanted to update you on what actions we took and where the situation currently is.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy sent a letter to Christina School District saying that the district’s Board of Education is not in compliance with the Priority School program. As a result, Secretary Murphy gave district leaders until February 27 to decide on one of following options for its three priority schools: closure or restructuring, either as a charter school or under an education management organization. The letter also detailed the Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s recommendation to redraw Christina’s school district lines and close the noncontiguous Wilmington portion of Christina’s district in the city. The suggestion was that doing so could have an effect on “the planning process for Christina’s Priority Schools moving forward.”
Caucus leadership held a conference call with staff to discuss this issue and the concerns that several of you raised about this letter. We had multiple conversations with the governor’s office about the issue and had decided to send a letter to the governor asking that the Department of Education to extend the fast-approaching February 27 deadline. In part, the letter would have noted that forcing a short turnaround for Christina to make a decision would not result in a productive outcome, and it could have a negative impact on school referendums that are taking place. We also planned to ask the governor to convene a group of district, DOE stakeholders to reach a decision on this issue. The letter would have requested that the Chairs of the House and Senate Education committees be included in the negotiations to help facilitate the discussion, and to ensure that each caucus received accurate accounts of the progress of the negotiations.
Late Wednesday evening, we learned that the Christina School Board voted at its Tuesday meeting to support the Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s recommendation to close the Wilmington portion Christina’s district (a copy of that resolution is also attached). When they learned of this, the governor’s office told us that the February 27 deadline no longer applied because Christina had pledged to work with the state to implement the WEAC redistricting recommendation.
Currently, we are communicating with the governor’s office about what they foresee as the next steps. Here’s what we do know:
· Any redistricting process will require action by the General Assembly.
· Any redistricting process will take multiple years to implement.
· Any redistricting process is a complicated process that will involve a lot of discussions about finances and revenue, and it may require a significant amount of state money to implement.
Most importantly, we need to recognize and remember that when we talk about redistricting these Christina School District schools, we are talking about not just the physical schools, but hundreds of teachers who will be unsure of their future, and thousands of students whose educational future is at stake. Whatever we do in the coming weeks and months, our focus must be on what’s best for all of them, as well as the state of Delaware.
Please do not hesitate to contact any of us in leadership if you have questions, concerns or suggestions.