The Chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, Tony Allen, sent a legislative priorities letter to the Delaware General Assembly today. While praising State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 30 (special education funding for K-3 students), State Rep. Debra Heffernan’s House Bill 117 (funding for schools w/low-income students), and State Rep. Charles Potter’s House Bill 56 (charter school moratorium), Allen is looking for the General Assembly to put forth two additional pieces of legislation. And these are big! Here they are:
It is official. House Bill 50 will be heard by the Delaware Senate Education Committee on June 3rd at 3pm at Legislative Hall in Dover. From all indications, it looks like it should get through the committee, but just to be on the safe side I would email the Senators on this committee with an extra push. Governor Markell has been strangely quiet on the issue lately. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. As Smarter Balanced winds down with the testing windows in our schools, the number of opt-outs are dwindling down, but make no mistake, once the scores come in towards the end of the summer, this conversation will heat up again if no law is passed. And if you thought parents were hot about this issue now, you haven’t seen anything yet!
Today at the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting at the Delaware Department of Education, Academy of Dover confirmed the “incident” alluded to in the letter the DOE sent them last week. A teacher struck a student but no details were given about the nature of the assault. Academy of Dover Head of School Cheri Marshall did state the teacher was immediately suspended without pay, and then terminated with board approval. But then it was said the teacher resigned, so the details are a little fuzzy. This is the same school that insisted former Head of School Noel Rodriguez “resigned”, but it was confirmed today by board member Nancy Wagner that Rodriguez was physically removed from the building. This completely contradicts Marshall’s firm “he resigned” to me when I called the school for confirmation on Rodriguez’s termination last fall. I guess when an employee is terminated at the school, the official stance is “they resigned”.
Marshall did say it was a student they had issues with all year long and numerous calls were made to the child’s mother. The mother was immediately called when the incident happened. The mother declined to press charges. However, there was no mention by Marshall or any member of the board about contacting either the police or the Attorney General’s office to report the crime. It is required by Delaware state law to report all incidents of this nature. When asked again if there was any other part of this investigation, Marshall said no. The DOE informed Academy of Dover the mother contacted them about the incident.
In regards to Noel Rodriguez, it was confirmed by Wagner that Rodriguez and several staff members had tumultuous encounters. But this did not come out until after Rodriguez left, as Wagner stated staff were too scared to come to the board. The suspicious purchase card transactions were described as a very stealth-like operation by Rodriguez in setting up different accounts. The board were not even aware of these many purchases until last fall when their annual auditor notified them of several red flags coming up. Wagner also reported the former board members all had very close ties with Rodriguez, much like Family Foundations Academy’s former board was set up during the Moore/Brewington era.
The Mosaica $2 million judgment came up, and the school stated they were not ignoring the judgment and tried for many years to work things out with Mosaica. It surprised the school when the court overruled on a previous ruling and the judgment was enforced last month. The judge involved in that ruling will be hearing arguments against his ruling on June 22nd. The State Board of Education and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will make their decision on June 18th. Academy of Dover’s attorney did state an agreement could be worked out between the two parties prior to that court date, but nothing is firm or in writing. When asked how long the new court ruling could take, their attorney said it could be the same day or it could take weeks.
In my opinion, even with all the changes the board may have made, it is obvious there were and continue to be serious issues with the school’s ability to effectively educate its 300 students. With financial judgments and past mismanagement, employee theft of state funds, a teacher striking a student, and the board’s inability to realize what is going on until after the fact, I fear for the students at this school. If I were their parents, I know what my choice would be. A board should be more aware of what is going on at a school, and the fact the teachers and staff were afraid of the head of school speaks volumes about the board’s decision making ability.
About a month ago, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy appeared on The Delaware Way with Larry Mendte. On this controversial episode, Murphy told Mendte flat-out parents are not allowed to opt their children out of tests. Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA appeared last weekend on the show to tackle Murphy’s comments. Watch the full segment!
Delaware House Bill 50, the parent opt-out legislation, is not on the agenda for the Delaware Senate Education Committee today. I can think of several reasons for this. First, it may be too soon. While this is an important bill for parents, there are well over 200 proposed bills floating around at Legislative Hall. Second, while six days may seem like a long time to wait for opt-out advocates, it is a relatively short time for the General Assembly. While we all want HB50 to speed through, a moment of calm may be needed for the Delaware Senate. A third possibility is it WILL be heard today, but Senate Education Committee Chair Senator David Sokola doesn’t want all the hype coming with the meeting.
There is only one bill on the agenda, Senate Bill 79. Could Sokola be keeping HB50 off the agenda that is “subject to change”? We shall find out at 3:00pm today when the Senate Education Committee convenes in the Senate Hearing Room, Room 248 on the East Side of Legislative Hall.
Senate Bill 94, introduced yesterday by Delaware Senator Brian Bushweller, would allow tracking of a student with ties to the military. But it can’t violate FERPA, or be used for accountability, or anything that could cause problems for the student. But it would only be used by local districts to know of any military connections. Okay… why?
According to Dr. Terri Hodges, President of the Delaware PTA, the reasoning behind the bill is this:
The Delaware PTA Military Outreach Committee began work on this issue a little over a year ago with a coalition of stakeholders and Sen. Bushweller to bring the issue of military awareness to the forefront in Delaware. We proposed a data tracking system to identify military connected students. The primary purpose behind this proposal was to bring awareness to the unique needs of military connected students and how those needs impact them academically, emotionally and socially. The majority of military connected students in Delaware attend schools off base, including in New Castle and Sussex. However, due to the lack of awareness and understanding of military culture and lifestyle, most of our schools are not aware of or familiar with the resources available for these families. The students are labeled as behavioral problems and do not receive appropriate interventions. Part of the problem is that non DoD schools have no way to identify military connected students so that they can channel those resources to those families. This is the purpose of the Bill. During our research phase, we worked with other state PTAs in states that have already passed similar legislation or are in the process of developing similar legislation.
So the idea behind the Bill is really to have a process to identify military connected students for the purposes of providing appropriate resources and supports specific to military families, like mine that attend a non- DoD school.
Hope that helps. Anyone interested in learning more or working with our Military Outreach Committee can contact me.
Originally, I thought this legislation was odd, but thanks to Dr. Hodges for explaining it to me. This actually makes a lot of sense, and I support this 100%! Please read the legislation below: