I heard a lot of comments in the past 24 hours about Christina School District’s bloated administrative costs and their higher cost per pupil. While that may be true, did anyone bother to check why that is true? I did, and it took five minutes to figure out what all the naysayers were unable to do. I actually posted this in a comment on another blog earlier: https://criblog.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/whats-next-for-christina-school-district/#comment-3511
As for the difference in funding between Red Clay and Christina, there is a HUGE difference between one portion of their populations: special education. Based on national estimates of extra costs per special education student in America, it works out to be about $9,369 extra per student. Red Clay has 11.9% special education whereas Christina has 17.9%. If you multiply the number of students by those percentages, and then multiply that number by that average special education cost, it works out like this:
Red Clay: $22,635,504 in special education funding
Christina: $33,237,473 in special education funding
Now these are based on national averages. We all know Delaware has some of the highest per-pupil funding in the country. So that nearly 11 million dollar difference is probably about 18-25% higher. As well, Christina has the Delaware School for the Deaf, as well as many of Delaware’s DAP programs. These are not inexpensive programs, and that constitutes a lot of the differences between the two districts. This is something that would also cause additional administrative costs as there would have to be a lot of coordination with other state agencies.
So what these voters who said “No more” essentially did was cut services for many special education kids. That’s why I take such offense at the attitudes of some of these folks who voted no. While I’m sure they believed in what they were saying, I don’t think they realized this essential fact.
I’ve said this time and time again but far too many don’t want to get it. The key to so many of the problems in Delaware stem around special education. I wrote the other day how there are probably 20% of Delaware’s students that should be on an IEP, but only 13% actually are. I also said this is about 50% of the problems with education in the state. You can read about a classic example along with the comments about how special education doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room it has become in so many of our schools. Maybe now eyes will start to open. As for Christina, they have to figure out where to take funds away from and which jobs to cut. And who suffers the most, the students. And in Christina’s case, a whole lot of special education students…
After the horrible defeat of the Christina referendum yesterday, a devastated district is left to pick up the pieces today. On The Rick Jensen Show today, at 2pm, Christina board member John Young and parent Christy Mannering will discuss the implications of the referendum results and what has to happen to move forward. You can call in at 302-478-9335 and listen in here: http://www.delmarvabroadcasting.com/player/?st=WDEL
Why not? They already give millions of dollars to Delaware charter schools. Is it even legal for a traditional public school district to do this? I have no idea. But I think the very nature of a referendum should not be legal. Yesterday’s vote on the Christina referendum shows a clear disparity between traditional public schools and charters. When a charter needs funds fast, there are many organizations willing to donate funds. But when a district like Christina needs money, they have to beg for it. The charters will say they need to beg, but when they get extra funds from transportation funds, non-profits, and even DOE awards, you never hear them offering solutions for the districts that give them their main source of funding. Nearly 6,000 votes should not decide a source of funding for over 21,000 students and cause the termination of 200 teachers and support staff.
Legislators are already calling for change. Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko sent out an email this morning in response to very concerned constituents in the Christina District:
I do not pretend to offer lip-service or support from a distance. I will meet with a House lawyer this Friday and plan to compose and consider legislation that may be offered immediately to help and legislation to create a task-force with a reporting requirement no later than Jan. 1 2016 to offer a plan to change Delaware public education funding structures and eliminate the referendum process. I am open and willing to hear any and all suggestions to accomplish that and will meet with your group at your convenience to discuss this. I want to thank you for all of your hard work in trying to secure a favorable outcome on the referendum and to specifically applaud all of your group’s efforts to dispel the lie and the implication that some unidentifiable flaw in Christina Board/Administration/educators should cause voters to pause before casting a ballot in support of the referendum. These types of references did much more damage and influenced many, many more negative votes than the weak whispers of support voiced by some leaders with the caveat that the district was corrupt, misusing funds or populated with malcontents. Once again thank you all for your reasonable and intellectually honest assessment of the needs of our public school children.
Representative John Kowalko
With the topic of school funding already a hot topic in Dover, yesterday’s vote is just going to add fuel to a raging inferno. Add standardized testing, opt-out, redistricting of Wilmington schools, special education funding, Autism, charter school audits, teacher evaluations, change in the Department of Education and Secretary’s roles, and how to protect our schools. It is more than obvious that the biggest concerns in Delaware right now are around education. Should the General Assembly extend their legislative session to deal with these crucial issues? They essentially have five weeks left. Three days a week. With education committees meeting once a week for an hour or two. They need to do more and act quicker.
The ongoing story about Charter School of Wilmington’s leader, Dr. Sam Paoli, continues. Last week, stories emerged about the leader and his bullying and intimidation towards students. This caused a great deal of controversy. Now it is revealed his attitudes are not just isolated to students. A Change.org petition to renew a very beloved teacher’s contract is currently under way. Dr. Thomas Fleetwood has been at the school since the beginning, and students are extremely offended his contract was not renewed.
Some students feel Paoli did not renew his contract because Fleetwood challenged Paoli on the bullying and intimidation we are now learning is directed towards anyone who disagrees with him. I would have to ask this: why is Paoli the sole deciding factor on faculty? Wouldn’t this be a board decision? In most schools, it is the boards who make these types of decisions. A school leader can make a recommendation, but it should be the board. I don’t have an answer to this, and if anyone from the Charter School of Wilmington board wants to advise on this, please let me know.
In 2013, Dr. Fleetwood won an award from the Delaware Charter School Network called a “Dedication Award” for his achievements in teaching high school students. The article on this quoted a parent as saying “he sets a high bar for all of his students, and provides real-world experience that inspires his students to pursue careers in the medical profession.”
The convergence of student and faculty issues with Paoli is something the CSW board should take an immediate look at. Schools need leaders, not dictators. In the comments on my articles last week about a discipline incident, as well as other exchanges outside my blog, it was overwhelmingly clear there are major issues with Paoli as the leader of CSW. Most said he is not a fit leader and bullying and intimidation is common practice with him. All eyes are on the board at CSW to see what happens next.
-Which Delaware charter school has a leader that is severely ticking off not only students, but faculty as well?
-Which Delaware charter school is not renewing a beloved teacher’s contract because this teacher called out the same leader on their tactics of bullying and intimidation?
-Which Delaware charter school has students taking a stand: the teacher over the leader?
*Hint: It’s all the same charter school, and you will definitely hear more about this soon…