Mr. Brandywine Transcript From DE PTA Parent Opt Out Town Hall

Details are still coming in on the controversial Delaware PTA Parent Opt-Out Town Hall from Thursday night.  One member of the audience saw how heated this meeting was going to be so they recorded it.  This same individual also went to the trouble of transcribing the incident with the member of the audience who is being referred to on social media as Mr. Brandywine.

First of all I’d just like to say thank you to the parents that came out tonight. I work for the Brandywine School District and it means a lot to see you here, expressing your concerns around the amount of testing. But, I sit here and I look across the room and I see a teacher that I used to work with, Sabrina Fitzhugh, who I think is an outstanding teacher. I think if every parent sat here, you can run through the outstanding teachers that your children have in the public school systems.  And please be cognizant of the unintended consequence that opting out will have.  Cause I sit here and I think, ‘when Sabrina gets her evaluation and some of the top performing students in her class opt out, Sabrina has to live with maybe a rating that doesn’t reflect….. (at this point several people became irate and were flabbergasted by what he was saying.)  And, and I share the concern on the amount of testing and I just want to be clear (Someone from the audience, I believe her name was Meg Eldred, a teacher in the Christina School District, stated that opting out was nothing personal against the teacher) and I know that… (there was more grumbling from the audience.  Terri Hodges called for the audience to be respectful of him and to allow him to speak.  To which, the audience questioned WHY he was being given the floor at all.  He was not a member of the panel and no other member of the audience had been given the right to speak, outside of the questions that were asked on the index cards, except to clarify a question that was asked)  I will be the first one to share your concern on the amount of testing, right?  But there are ripple effects and I want that to be heard not just to the parents, but I think that we all need to be cognizant of that because we do have outstanding teachers. So, please bare that in mind.

Mr. Brandywine was later identified as Brandywine Assistant Superintendent of Academics, Lincoln Hohler.  A message was left for Mr. Holher yesterday for comment on this issue, but no call has been returned at this point.

House Rep Sean Matthews Tackles Tricky Issue Of Immunization Exemption

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While many Delawareans are talking about parents opting their child out of the state assessment, rookie Delaware State Representative Sean Matthews is proposing legislation that is very controversial at best…the subject of immunizations.  Under this proposed legislation, any child who is unvaccinated during an outbreak of what is a disease that can be vaccinated would be required to stay home from school during the outbreak.

Details on this potential legislation were released yesterday in the House Democrats weekly newsletter, Legislative Hall Insider.  Matthews is working with Delaware Senator Bethany Hall-Long on the legislation.

Bill Would Add Language to Immunization Opt-out

Lawmakers this week announced a proposal designed to raise awareness of the risks involved with not immunizing school-aged children and to encourage families to have their children vaccinated.

The draft proposal, spearheaded by Rep. Sean Matthews, would amend the state’s religious belief exemption affidavit for the public school immunization program. Currently, Delaware requires all children attending public schools to receive vaccines for certain preventable diseases – such as polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella – while allowing parents exemptions for medical reasons or religious beliefs.

In Delaware, the Division of Public Health reports that 0.8 percent of children are exempted because of religious beliefs, while 0.1 percent are not vaccinated due to medical reasons.

Rep. Matthews’ proposal would amend Delaware’s religious belief exemption affidavit for public school immunizations, incorporating a section that expressly informs parents or guardians of possible outcomes of not vaccinating their children. The affidavit language is spelled out in existing state code and the affidavit itself must be notarized.

The section would spell out that should an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease in an area of the state be declared, any unvaccinated child could be temporarily prohibited from attending a public or charter school to prevent the spread of the disease. In that instance, even if an unvaccinated child doesn’t show symptoms, he or she could be barred from attending school until the declaration is lifted.

Read more about this proposal here.

Delaware House Bill 50 Would Allow Parent Opt-Out Of Smarter Balanced & Protect Teachers

Delaware House Bill 50, co-sponsored by Delaware House Rep. John Kowalko and Delaware State Senator Dave Lawson has officially been released.  While it does not show up on the Delaware General Assembly website yet due to the recess during Joint Finance Committee hearings, the bill is official.

Since the bill was introduced for circulation purposes a couple weeks ago, new language has been added to give protections to teachers, principals and schools.

“The Department (DOE) shall report opt-out numbers in accountability ratings to provide context and impact on school and district ratings; however, the opt-out numbers shall not factor into the accountability ratings.”

What is interesting about this bill is the sponsors on it.  Kowalko told Exceptional Delaware “Kim Williams and Paul Baumbach are being added to the bill as sponsors.”  So sponsors from the House include Kowalko, Williams, Baumbach, and Helene Keeley, all reps who voted no on House Bill 334, which signed the Smarter Balanced Assessment into law.  But  State Rep. Jeffrey Spiegelman voted yes.  As for the Senate Sponsors, Lawson voted no, while Margaret Rose Henry voted yes.  New State Reps Sean Matthews and Lyndon Yearick are also sponsoring the parent opt out bill but they were not a part of the 147th General Assembly.

There seems to be a shift in thinking in regards to the state assessment in Delaware.  Spiegelman told this blog last fall that the legislature was in an impossible situation with the Smarter Balanced Assessment since Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy had already bought the assessment for Delaware.  Many legislators reported it didn’t matter what they voted because Governor Jack Markell’s staff told them even if it was turned down, Markell would sign an executive order if need be.

For many people, that very brief moment of victory when the bill was defeated in the Senate, and then rescinded a brief time later, and then passed was a dark moment for Delaware education.  Many folks blamed the one Republican Senator who changed his vote, but there were also three Democrats.

Below is a copy of House Bill 50 which is the version that will be submitted to the House Education Committee when the General Assembly returns in mid-March.  To help support this bill, please use the hashtag #supporthb50