Capital School District Board of Education Chooses A New Superintendent

Late in the evening, the Capital School District Board of Education went into executive session to discuss the last item on their agenda, the selection of a new superintendent to replace Dr. Michael Thomas who will resign effect June 30th.  The board was in this executive session for 45 minutes.

When they came out, board member John Martin stated he was unequivocally against the choice selected.  He felt Capital had a bold opportunity here and suggested they go back to the drawing board and repost the position.  The motion was introduced and brought to a vote.  Martin voted no, “emphatically”, and members Kay Dietz-Sass, Matt Lindell and Sean Christiansen all voted yes.  The new Superintendent of Capital School District is… Candidate #216.  The official name will be revealed tomorrow afternoon according to Lindell.  They have to notify the other candidates first…

Teachers: “Wanted Dead or Alive”; the hate perpetuates in Delaware State Senate

Thank you to this blogger for getting down what I wasn’t able to during that offensive and insulting Senate meeting. Jessie Parsley…you made no new friends tonight if you think you did…

Delaware Senator Sokola DOES NOT Care About Parental Rights, Who Else Voted No On HB50, & New Amendments

Delaware Senator David Sokola attempted a Kill Bill style execution of House Bill 50 today in the Delaware Senate.  By adding his amendment to the parent opt-out legislation, he guaranteed this bill will go back to the House of Representatives even though it passed the Senate.  Senator Bryan Townsend, who at least had the courage to vote yes, also added an amendment allowing high school juniors to not take the assessment.  Both of these amendments will stall the bill, and should Governor Markell choose to veto it, he can do so safely when the legislators aren’t in session.

Senator Sokola: Why introduce an amendment on a bill you don’t support and have never supported?  You are a hypocrite when you say you value opinions from your constituents.  You are a public school back-stabbing liar of epic proportions.

And the DOE’s new boy toy: Jessie Parsley.  He should be on every public school teacher’s most wanted list because he sold all of you down the river tonight.  This is a Rodel guy through and through.  He has big aspirations and what we saw tonight was him trying to kiss his ass up to the top.

What shocked me was Senator Colin Bonini’s statements concerning, when you boil it down, smart kids being encouraged to take the test and dumb kids being encouraged not to.  Interesting he received the classic slip-it note from Governor Markell’s education policy advisor, Lindsay O’Mara before it all began.  And this guy wants to run for Governor?  He lost my vote with this.

The following NO votes do not support parental rights and believe all the crap the DOE and Markell have been shoving their way:

HB 50 w/HA 1 + SA 1, SA 2 Kowalko Passed

AN ACT TO AMEND TITLE 14 OF THE DELAWARE CODE RELATING TO EDUCATION ASSESSMENT.

Date: 06/17/2015 07:44 PM Passed

Vote Type:SM Yes: 14 No: 7 Not Voting: 0 Absent: 0

Blevins Y Hocker Y Peterson Y
Bonini Y Lavelle N Pettyjohn Y
Bushweller N Lawson Y Poore Y
Cloutier Y Lopez Y Richardson Y
Ennis Y Marshall N Simpson N
Hall-Long Y McBride Y Sokola N
Henry N McDowell N Townsend Y

HB50

House Bill 50 Passes The Delaware Senate With 2 Senate Amendments, Goes Back To House For Vote

House Bill 50 w/SA 2 and SA3 has passed the Delaware Senate and will now go back to the Delaware House of Representatives for another vote due to the two amendments.

House Bill 50 Is Up Now: Live From The Floor Of The Delaware Senate!

Finally!  They are reading the bill.  I have seen a new amendment but not the one we thought it was.  This amendment would allow for high school juniors to not take the assessment.  But for now Senator Sokola is introducing an amendment to add district and statewide assessments that parents can be opted out of.  They are doing a role call on the amendment.  11 yes 9 no to the Sokola amendment.  They fell for the Sokola trap.  Sokola just came out and said he doesn’t support opt-out.  Bonini is saying he supports this bill but he has grave concerns.  He thinks it will make smart kids take the test and students who are struggling will get out of the test.  Once again he doesn’t realize the schools are held accountable for doing this.  Senator Lawson called Yvonne Johnson to testify.  She is letting the Senate know parents opted their kids out of Smarter Balanced, not all the other tests.  Lawson asked Johnson how many tests kids are taking.  She mentioned juniors are faced with an unbearable amount of assessments.  “Delaware PTA does not feel this test gives usable data,” she said.

Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor is texting to Senator Sokola’s legislative aide named Tanner, and Tanner is going back to Senator Sokola to give him the information.  Typical political games going on…

State Rep. Kowalko just came in.  Senator Peterson is talking about an email she got from a teacher stating how children are “tethered” to taking this test.  No word on this 3rd amendment I’ve seen floating around.  Peterson is talking about how kids don’t care about the test, as heard from a high schooler she talked to today, and the test is about the teachers.  Johnson is talking about the high-stakes involved with this assessment in a very passionate way.

Donna Johnson with the State Board of Education is here and some other DOE reps.   Senator Sokola called Jessie Parsley from the Milford School District up to testify.  He is saying this test takes shorter than DCAS and gives better results.  Now Parsley, Sokola’s own witness, is saying this bill do more damage if it applies to all state assessments.  And the trap is sprung.  Parsley is saying spring to spring results are more beneficial than fall to fall results.  Parsley is a traitor to all public school educators in Delaware.  What should we expect from a Rodel Dream Team guy….

Senator Townshend is saying we need to take a more measured approach.  He is talking how switching from test to test is a detriment to students and educators.  The way we rolled this out was not good according to Townshend.  Now he is quoting the Gates Foundation that said we should not have rolled  it out so fast and waited to test the test for years.  Now he is totally bashing the DOE in terms of how they paint inner-city schools.  “How can you possibly say kids are going to do well on this test when they don’t have skin in the game?”  He is now talking about a student with a 504 plan who struggled through the test and other students have said “How does this benefit us?”  Now he is saying this test is forcing young kids to express their thoughts.  Why are 11th graders taking a Common Core aligned test when they have only had this for 2-3 years was one question students asked him.  Townshend wants to add an amendment that 11th graders can opt out of the test.  His amendment passed on a 13 yes, 2 no, 5 not voting.  There are now two Senate amendments.

Sokola is now saying even with these two good amendments, he still can’t support the bill.  This is a complete crock.  This was all set up.   Sokola doesn’t care about parents.  He cares about corporate education reform.  These are the NO votes: Bushweller, Henry, Lavelle, Marshall, McBride, Simpson and Sokola.

roll call: HB 50 14 yes, 7 no

The Delaware Senate is Running Very Behind Today….No News On HB 50 Yet **UPDATED**

When it happens, you will know it.  Keep checking to see if it is on.  I will be live blogging and you can listen to the legislative session here:

http://legis.delaware.gov/

Just click on the link on the right side of the page.

UPDATED: 4:24pm- Still waiting…and waiting…and waiting…

Update On House Bill 50 Senate Vote Today: Legislative Session Starts At 3pm!!!!

Just a very quick note to let everyone know the Delaware Senate will being their legislative session at 3pm today at Legislative Hall in Dover.  House Bill 50 is on the agenda, but there are several other bills as well.

Action Reaction: Delaware Charter School Network Is Stopping Audit Bills, Email The House Now In Support of HB 186!

Now I have a new website to look at on a weekly basis.  Thanks for that Kendall Massett!  It turns out the Delaware Charter School Network has a portal set up on their website to automatically email legislators when they don’t like a pending bill that might affect charter schools.  That’s fair, I suggest folks email legislators all the time.  However, when the messages sent do not give accurate facts, I take issue with that.

For example, the current campaign is against House Bill 186.  In a nutshell, HB186 is as follows:

Currently, all school districts, including vocational schools, are subject to the Auditor of Accounts. Edits to the November 2010 Charter School Manual removed instructions for charter schools to go through Auditor of Accounts when contracting for audits. There is presently no legislative authority to require charter schools to submit to the Auditor of Accounts processes. This bill adds charter schools to the list of entities for audits through the Auditor of Accounts. The bill takes effect so that the Auditor of Accounts shall conduct postaudits for the time periods starting on or after July 1, 2015. (source: http://legis.delaware.gov website)

This bill combines the now stricken House Bills 53 and 154, which were both sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams.  She watched as Family Foundations Academy almost got shut down due to financial mismanagement (fraud), and has seen this time and time again at many of our charter schools.

Now the Delaware Charter School Network is gunning for any legislation that would hold charter schools accountable for their finances through their Action Center  on their website.  I find the following facts they are using to stop this bill either outright lies or gross exaggerations.

This is the text of the introduction:

Our email campaign last week to stop HB 154 from being released from the House Education Committee was a success! Representative after Representative told us that they had heard from their constituents and that it was so helpful. NICE GOING!! Your action along with other circumstances led to the desired outcome, but the fight is not over. We have learned that the bill’s sponsor has introduced a new bill that combines HB 53 and HB 154 – House Bill 186. The new bill has been placed on the House Education Committee agenda for Wednesday, June 17 (TOMORROW). This means that we must re-launch our campaign, and this time we will be alerting all House members with the same message not just the committee members. We have altered the message slightly so even if you sent an email last week, it is okay to send again. Start by entering your email address and home zip code over to the right. When you complete the next screen, the email will be sent automatically based on your home address. The reasons to oppose the legislation are the same…

Gee Kendall, what were those “other circumstances”?  I know you were at Legislative Hall last Wednesday cause I saw you at the Senate Education Committee meeting.  Your organization are registered lobbyists down at Leg. Hall.  More concerning is the text in this email you are having people send to their elected officials.

“This bill will not stop fraud.”

It might not, but it will find it much quicker than anyone else has in the past.  All too often we hear the same sob story: “We had no idea this was going on for years and years.  Heavens to Betsy, they were so secretive about it.”  We don’t just hear this from the charter schools but from our own Department of Education.  It would help if these charters actually took the time to have their Citizens Budget Oversight Committee meetings.  I saw fraud flags all over the purchase card website Delaware has.  It’s called opening your eyes.

“…our schools already receive less funding on average than district schools ($3000 less on average).”

There are several reasons for that.  Traditional school districts, on average, have more special needs students that get more funding for special education, more low-income students, and more minorities in some cases.  As well, the LIE they get $3000 less on average is completely false.  As per the DOE’s School Profiles website, statewide school districts receive $12,901 on average student funding whereas charters receive $11,521.  That my lobbyist friend, is a different of $1,380, not $3000.  Nice try.  Charters may not receive capital funding, and you will never let us forget it.  However, they do get some extra perks to make up for that.  We have the Charter School Performance Fund whereby some charters may qualify for up to $250,000 a year from the DOE based on certain criteria.  We have the charter school transportation slush fund, where the charters get to keep any extra transportation funds they don’t use which last year alone was well over a million dollars for most of the charter schools collectively.  As well, they get tons of money from donors like the East Side Foundation, or the Longwood Foundation which pours millions of dollars into charter schools each year.  They gave Odyssey Charter $1.4 million in grant funds for their new school.  As well as numerous other corporate donors.  Traditional school districts aren’t allowed to get these extra perks and aren’t included in the funding calculations the DOE provides.  I would say on average, with all these other factors involved, charters get more funds per average student than traditional school districts.

“…a one size fits all RFP will not take that into consideration and a school could end up paying a significant amount of money for something that they do not need…”

Yet the charters in Delaware seem to be okay with a one size fits all standardized test in the form of Smarter Balanced that gives the illusion of helping vulnerable students but in actuality will further separate them from their peers.  And the charter schools DO need this.  As a state, we must protect our students from funds not reaching the classroom, and if fraud is going on, we are legally and morally responsible to find, fix and punish actions like this.  There are three publicly known charters in Delaware under investigation by the State Auditor’s office: Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy and Providence Creek Academy.  Rumors suggest even more, and the auditor’s office confirmed they are looking at several but wouldn’t name any other schools.

“Charter schools support accountability.”

Then this bill should be a no-brainer.  But the reality is they don’t like getting investigated by anyone.  When they do, they often lie to protect themselves.  Because their board meetings are not recorded, and some charters rarely post their board minutes monthly, it is very difficult to know what goes on in these charter schools.  I am not saying this is all charters, but there are enough of them this bill is warranted.  And lest we forget, the Delaware Charter School Network is funded by non-profits, for-profits, and dues paid to them by the charter schools themselves.  If the DOE can’t hold charter schools fully accountable, perhaps we need even more legislation like this to hold their fat to the fire.

Please email the entire House of Representatives in support of House Bill 186.  I apologize for not having a fancy website portal that sends a one size fits all message to legislators, but I can offer your ability to send your own individual and unique message to legislators.  It’s called copy and paste!

Charles.Potter@state.de.us StephanieT.Bolden@state.de.us helene.keeley@state.de.us gerald.brady@state.de.us melanie.g.smith@state.de.us debra.heffernan@state.de.us Bryon.Short@state.de.us Quinton.Johnson@state.de.us Kevin.Hensley@state.de.us sean.matthews@state.de.us jeff.spiegelman@state.de.us Deborah.Hudson@state.de.us john.l.mitchell@state.de.us Peter.Schwartzkopf@state.de.us Valerie.Longhurst@state.de.us jj.johnson@state.de.us Michael.Mulrooney@state.de.us michael.barbieri@state.de.us kimberly.williams@state.de.us Steve.Smyk@state.de.us Michael.Ramone@state.de.us joseph.miro@state.de.us paul.baumbach@state.de.us Edward.Osienski@state.de.us john.kowalko@state.de.us John.Viola@state.de.us Earl.Jaques@state.de.us william.carson@state.de.us trey.paradee@state.de.us bobby.outten@state.de.us Sean.Lynn@state.de.us andria.bennett@state.de.us jack.peterman@state.de.us Lyndon.Yearick@state.de.us David.L.Wilson@state.de.us Harvey.Kenton@state.de.us Ruth.BriggsKing@state.de.us Ronald.Gray@state.de.us Daniel.Short@state.de.us Timothy.Dukes@state.de.us Richard.G.Collins@state.de.us

Delaware DOJ Finds Numerous FOIA Violations With DOE In Request For Standardized Testing Contracts

The Delaware Department of Justice recently answered a complaint surrounding a FOIA I submitted to the Delaware Department of Education on March 6th, 2015.  This FOIA asked for the following:

– the Delaware Department of Education’s contracts (whether they are awarded contracts, cooperative contracts, set aside contracts, sole source contracts, or recently closed contracts, including any and all RFPs, addendums, award letters, and change orders) agreements, pacts, communications (whether in email or written correspondence, email should be in To: formats and cc: formats between any DOE employee with the below companies or consortiums) with the following companies or consortiums: American Institutes for Research (or if they are listed under AIR or Amer Institutes for Research), Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (or if they are listed under SBAC, SB, Smarter, Smarter Balanced, or Smarter Balanced Assessment), and Data Recognition Corporation. If available, I ask that this information be provided in a PDF format for the contracts, and a database format with a delimited text file for the communications. If you have this information in an existing report, that may suffice.”

American Institutes for Research (AIR) is the testing vendor for Delaware with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and Data Recognition Corporation is the contracted vendor for scoring the assessment.

When I first received a response from the DOE, the cost estimate was well over $6000.00.  As time went on, they found another contract with AIR from January this year, which caused the costs to elevate to $8,552 if I chose to include this contract with AIR from the Teacher & Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE.  I filed my complaint with the Department of Justice on March 31st and received their response on June 12th.  Below is the DOE’s response to my FOIA complaint with the DOJ, which includes nearly all the emails between the DOE and myself during this process, as well as the actual answer to the complaint from the DOJ.

Not included in any of these documents is another email sent to Tina Shockley at the DOE from myself regarding the lack of transparency at the DOE:

From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 02, 2015 4:25 PM
To: Shockley Tina
Subject: Re: FOIA request Comprehensive Estimates

Tina,

Thank you for this information.  Not to assume, but I would have to think this information, like all Delaware contracts I have seen, are available in a PDF format already.  Continuing to assume here, I would have to think this research/pulling would consist of a simple search in your system and it comes up.  May I ask why the current contract information is not on the Delaware bids website for Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and American Institutes for Research?  I have found the DOE is usually very transparent at putting this information up there, so I am curious why these vendors would not be.  I’m not trying to be intentionally difficult, but others have pointed this out as well.  I know it is not a requirement for a state agency to have that information on the website, but most generally do so. 

I can say, from my point of view (which I fully understand many don’t agree with), not having something as huge as the contracts involved with a statewide assessment on the website shows a lack of transparency and I have to wonder why that is.  It gives a perception (whether intentional or not) that the DOE is trying to hide something.  Which is why I asked for the emails in the FOIA as well, because if the contracts aren’t being put up, I wonder what else may be going on.  I don’t know how much control you have over this kind of stuff at the DOE, but when our students have to take a huge test like this, parents may be curious to know more information on it.  And given that this is a huge state purchase involving multiple vendors, parents like to see this information.  Maybe it could even help us understand the motivations behind it as well a little bit more.

Any thoughts?

Thanks,

Kevin

My response to this email was a simple “Thank you for your email.  I am looking into this internally for you.”  That was two months ago and no follow-up occurred whatsoever.

As a result of all of this, I still want to see these contracts.  So I am setting up a gofundme account for $1875.00 to cover the costs of the FOIA and the gofundme charges.  Parents have a right to know this information, and the veil of secrecy with the DOE needs to be lifted.  If they won’t do it voluntarily, I will force them to do it.  If you would like to donate to this campaign, please go here:

http://www.gofundme.com/x6mb3j8

The DOJ may not have found any proof the DOE violated FOIA in terms of dissuading me from continuing with my FOIA request.  I will leave that judgment in their hands, but they definitely overcharged on an estimation of costs for a FOIA by over five times what it should have been and there are numerous examples of this in the Department of Justice response to my complaint.  There is a huge difference between $1,725 and $8,552.  If these aren’t a means to dissuade someone from continuing with a FOIA request, I don’t know what is.

Some people wonder why I have such loathing for the DOE.  This is a classic example of why.  They truly think they are above the law.  I do not trust them, and I don’t believe any parent should either.  This includes the State Board of Education as well.  While some insist they are separate from the DOE, I do not often see them voting against a DOE regulation or measure.  As a result, everyone else suffers while they continue doing the same things, day after day.

The fact that I have to ask for funds to see information that should be publicly available is very telling.  With the amount of funds the DOE spends on parent engagement and community input and wanting the public to see things a certain way, they should be providing this at no public cost.  If I were the DOE, and I received a letter like that from the Department of Justice in my state, I would email the FOIA requestor and say “Sorry about all the trouble with this, we will just give it to you.”  But five days later, and no response from the DOE on this.  So hopefully I will get their funds, give them a check, and spend days pouring through document after document to find parents the answers they may or may not know they are looking for.  I’m quite sure more will want to know when the Smarter Balanced scores come in later this summer.

As for the DOE and their FOIA violations?  What happens to them?  The petition from Chief Deputy Attorney General Danielle Gibbs did find a violation of FOIA occurred, so by Delaware law I could either file suit or have the Attorney General file suit on my behalf.  I have not made up my mind on this aspect yet.