Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

I have been chosen.  Along with Mike Matthews, President of the Red Clay Educators Association, John Young, Christina School District Board Member, and Tizzy Lockman, Wilmington Education Advisory Committee member and fierce advocate for civil rights in Wilmington schools.  I just see myself as a blogger on education matters in Delaware.  Those other three, they have a lot of skin in the game and have been around a lot longer than myself.  But I am honored to be listed among these giants in the below announcement.  I didn’t think Exceptional Delaware would reach as many as it has, but if I am the proudest of anything it’s that more parents are finding this blog and finding out what is really going on out there.  At the end of the day, I’m still just a Dad to an awesome kid who happens to have disabilities and my fight has always been so he can have a better future.

July 14, 2015

Kevin Ohlandt

Exceptional Delaware Blog

Dear Kevin,

I am proud to announce today, as President of the Progressive Democrats for Delaware, that you are a 2015 PDD Education Hero Award winner!

PDD voted to recognize four Education Heroes for your work in bringing education reform issues to the public’s attention this year: Mike Matthews, Kevin Ohlandt, John Young and Elizabeth Lockman.

We’re also recognizing the House Democratic Caucus Six (Paul Baumbach, Kim Williams, Sean Lynn, Andria Bennett, Sean Matthews and John Kowalko) with this group award for standing up to their caucus with the courage of their convictions and voting against the budget this year [Why we voted against the state budget].

The formal announcement of our PDD honorees will take place at our July 22nd Progressive Democrats for Delaware Summer Social!, 7-9 at the FireStone Roasting House on the Riverfront.

This event serves as a fundraiser for our PAC for progressive candidates but you’ll be our guest for the evening – no charge – and we would love it if you can join us in celebration. We’ll be soliciting additional nominations  for Progressive Community Heroes at the event so come prepared to offer an outstanding individual of your choice for recognition at the PDD Awards Ceremony in September.

The award ceremony itself will be at our September 2nd General Meeting (7PM DEM HQ in New Castle) where we’ve invited the DEM Caucus Six to speak as panelists. Save the date!

PDD will be coordinating with the Delaware Americans for Democratic Action to rally the public over the next year with informational events through the fall and implementation events through the next session of the Assembly. PDD hopes to excite Delaware’s progressive voters and get them to the polls in 2016!

I hope to see you Wednesday night!

Nancy Willing, President

Progressive Democrats for Delaware

PDD Summer Social

7-9 Wednesday July 22nd

FireStone Roasting House 

110 S West St 

Wilmington, DE 19801

For the six Democrat State Reps that voted against the budget, I was there during their moment of courage.  If I were in their shoes, I would have done the exact same thing.  Now before everyone starts saying I am a Progressive Democrat, I can be.  I can also be a moderate Republican depending on the issue.  I don’t talk about my own personal politics too often.  I don’t think it matters as long as I fight the good fight out there.  But having worked with several of these legislators on education issues, I’ve found they are the most informed about the realities and not the smoke and mirrors we hear about from so many others at Legislative Hall.  There are some great legislators there, but they aren’t all education legislators, so our paths don’t tend to cross.

As for the other three Education Heroes, I’ve known John Young the longest.  As the Transparent Christina blogger and a board member at Christina, he has always inspired me to get the truth out there.  Along with Kilroy and Kavips, John Young showed me the news the mainstream media doesn’t cover.  As a board member, my admiration for John grew immensely during the Priority Schools showdown at their board meeting in September.  He stood up to the DOE, and two State Board members angrily walked out.

I met Mike Matthews at a State Board of Education meeting a year ago.  We had commented on stuff over on Facebook, but when I met him he was cutting out material for his classroom.  Someone that bold is someone to watch.  I’ve seen Mike speak out several times in support of many of the same beliefs I have.  His most memorable speaking moment came at the Imagine Delaware forum last March.  This one has no fear and we need more of that!

Tizzy Lockman.  I never really heard of her until the whole ACLU lawsuit announcement last December.  But she is everywhere, on WEAC, the Enrollment Preference Task Force, and she is always advocating for students with the greatest needs.  I don’t know her as well as John and Mike, but I can say the Delaware education landscape is better with her being in it!

Any award for me is dedicated to all the parents of special needs kids and the parent supporters of opt-out.  Hopefully we changed the conversation, and I know we can’t stop now!

Exclusive: Red Clay & Delaware DOE Letters You Have To See To Believe! Must Read!!!!!

Red Clay Consolidated School District sent a letter to Governor Markell on 5/14/15 concerning the lack of funding provided to the district from the Delaware Department of Education for the priority schools.  The DOE responded on 5/25/15.  There is obviously a severe lack of communication on the DOE’s end.  They have violated the MOU and school plans they publicly agreed to on February 4th.  I think the mention of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee in Red Clay’s letter was a stroke of genius, and also sheds some light on why Senator Sokola and Rep. Jaques put such a rush on House Bill 148 and Senate Bill 122.  The funding issues in the next year are going to be a very hot issue, and Red Clay is absolutely right!  Read the letters and judge for yourself!

And the DOE’s response, received 5/25/15 by Red Clay.  I can only imagine the call between either the Governor or his office to Secretary Mark Murphy after he received Red Clay’s letter!

It sounds like the DOE bit off way more than they can chew with the priority schools.  The Priority School FOIAs I posted on here show the very clear lack of understanding on the newly hired  Penny Schwinn’s part, and it is obvious she hasn’t learned much since then.  Unless this is all part of a bigger plan, which I have strongly suggested before.

The DOE’s process with the priority schools has clearly been to create chaos and stir up anger.  This has been proven time and time again.  They would only do this unless they know what the result will be.  And it isn’t progress.  It is their insane attempt to stir the flames so they get their desired outcome: all Wilmington city schools becoming charter schools!

The following press release from 2/4/15 from Alison May with the DOE shows a very positive vibe on the priority schools in Red Clay moving forward:

Red Clay Priority Schools to move forward with school plans

Red Clay Consolidated School District’s three Priority Schools will provide new student supports, add Saturday and afterschool enrichment activities for students and families, and ensure greater parental involvement under plans that are moving forward after the Delaware Department of Education today approved the district to move onto the next steps in transforming these schools. In September, Gov. Jack Markell and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced significant resources and support for the state’s six lowest-performing district schools, providing the opportunity for substantial changes in their approach to improve their students’ academic performance. These Priority Schools, all located within the City of Wilmington and split evenly between the Christina and Red Clay school districts, are eligible to share about $6 million to implement locally-developed, state-approved plans. The funding comes from several sources including federal School Improvement Grant and remaining Race to the Top resources. Over the following four months, Red Clay leaders worked with educators, families and community members to develop school plans tailored to meet the unique needs of the students in Highlands Elementary, Shortlidge Academy, and Warner Elementary. The plans are in line with a Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by the district and DDOE. Red Clay’s school board approved individual school plans on January 27, and after review by Delaware Department of Education staff and national experts, the schools will continue to work with the community, district, and state to finalize plans for the 2015-16 school year. In the coming days, the department will provide feedback to Red Clay about ways to continue to strengthen all three plans during that process so that final plans can be approved in the spring. “We know that many of the children in these communities face unique challenges that require more support and resources. Thanks to Red Clay’s leadership and collaboration with its school communities, Highlands, Shortlidge, and Warner now will have the plans and resources to better meet students’ needs,” Murphy said.  Red Clay Deputy Superintendent Hugh Broomall said his district is ready to move forward. “We’re excited about the opportunity,” he said. “The work is hard, but we’re ready to engage in the process.” Highlights of the School Plans All Schools: Parents will notice better coordinated referrals to community services for families and supports for teachers to improve behavior management in the classroom.Schools will implement the use of iPads and laptops for students and teachers to improve technology literacy for students, with support to help teachers integrate this technology into their lessons.Each school will host a leadership team, which will include a parent and community member, to help inform the decision-making of the school leader. The team’s responsibilities will include: organizing correspondence to the school community on developments in academic and social-emotional programming, improving academic growth and reviewing academic goals, monitoring progress on the implementation of the school’s plan toward its goals, reviewing achievements of teachers, and revisiting ongoing supports to ensure their success.The district is implementing a new math curriculum in all three schools.Shortlidge and Warner Elementary Schools The district will reconfigure grades at two of the schools, with Shortlidge becoming a PK-3 grade campus and Warner becoming 4-5 grade campus.Schools will offer Saturday Library as a time set aside for students and families to study a particular topic and for families to read with their children.Schools will offer increased after school enrichment activities that are academic in focus but have character-building components that teach students skills such as sportsmanship and self-esteem. For example, Reading Basketball would offer students reading remediation with basketball games as a reward for participating.Highlands Elementary School Highlands will foster opportunities for parent-led activities for families at the school, such as family fitness night and a science expo.Reading and math activities at Highlands will ensure parents have the tools needed to support their students to be successful in core content areas.And Saturday activities at Highlands for students and families will increase tech literacy of students and provide parents with life skills workshops.   

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4000

They sure did sell the Red Clay plans for the priority schools as awesome!  So what happened between then and now?  Only the DOE can adequately answer that.  In the meantime, Red Clay and their students will suffer due to the mind games the DOE and Governor Markell’s office continue to play with the students of Delaware…