What The Hell Is Going On With Christina School District?

In response to my reblog of a post on Kilroy’s Delaware, someone made a comment on my side of things, and it is very damning to Christina School District.  Meanwhile there are multiple accusations flying all over the place regarding a potential mole on Christina’s board.

I don’t understand. Is this meeting called by the school board or Markell? Is Kilroy saying Markell has minions on the Christina school board who will do his bidding to force Dr. Williams out?

As a CSD resident and parent, I don’t think that it is wrong to evaluate Williams’ competency and ability to lead the district. My question would be, why has it taken this long? Under his watch we have seen an increase in unnecessary spending that has created an environment of financial instability.

I know, I know, cost of running the district have gone up and monies coming in have remained flat. I get that, and I accept it, but Dr. Williams and his henchman, Bob Silber, have known this for the last three years! They have seen this coming, yet they chose to give car allowances to top level district employees…..BMW, Mercedes and Lexus vehicles being paid for with MY tax dollars. Cell phones for hundreds of district employees paid for with MY tax dollars. Travel reimbursement for regular job travel, meaning these people knew they’d be driving a lot when they took their positions, amounts that register in the thousands of dollars. The head of HR begin reimbursed for freight costs. What is the head of HR ordering, presumably for district business, that she has to pay the freight cost personally and then be reimbursed? These are the kinds of things that are going on under Dr. Williams’ watch. And this just scratches the surface! And don’t forget the two failed referendum.

So, should Freeman (there is no “d” in his name, Kilroy) be under review? ABSOLUTELY! The board needs to take a long, hard look at how he has run the district for the last three years. And not only him, but his chief staff members. There is shady business afoot in CSD finance and personnel.

Having said all of that, I hope and pray that there are not Markell-influenced members of the board who are trying to help the governor manhandle the future of this district. The last thing we need is this US DOE want-to-be poking his bald head any further into our business. He obviously does not know, nor does he care, about true education in this state. His veto of HB50 sealed his fate, and how he’s in a panic to try to clean up his name, but he needs to find another way to do it. And he needs to keep his ugly mitts off of our children’s future.

Those are some very serious accusations against Freeman Williams and other administrators within the district.  The next couple weeks should be VERY interesting in Christina.  After failing to pass two referendums, declining enrollment due to parents choicing out of district, and the whole redistricting effort in Wilmington to get City of Wilmington schools out of Christina, this district has some large battles ahead.  Is there dissension on the board?  It appears so, and how it shakes out will be anyone’s guess.  Does Governor Markell have a hand in this?  This I do not know at all and I’m kind of doubting he would tell me if I asked him!

In terms of the legality of the whole agenda issue, the question looms based on the recent Attorney General opinion on Appoquinimink’s school board discussing their Superintendent Matt Burrows’ contract in executive session.  Should Freeman Williams’ “accountability” hearing be a matter of private or public session.  Between here and Kilroy’s, comments are swinging more towards executive session, but the issue of legality should be resolved prior to this meeting, not after.

13 thoughts on “What The Hell Is Going On With Christina School District?

  1. Kevin, it’s my understanding that the concerns about financial management in CSD are less about “shadiness” (e.g. corruption) and more about the rationale for various perqs (such as the car allowances provided in the contracts of some staff) given current financial constraints. I don’t know whether it is customary for DE districts to provide travel & car allowances to staff who travel a lot for their jobs (and possibly Christina staff travel more than most, since the district is two non-contiguous areas separated by a 12-mile stretch of I-95). These were allowed in some staff contracts, and phones were provided to some staff for work purposes–but many of those allowances have been retracted, unless explicitly agreed to in the employee’s contract, to return $ for other uses.

    This is my understanding, based on conversations with school board members and my husband’s participation in the monthly Citizens Budget Oversight Committee and the weekly June meetings of the Expense Redux Committee (intended to identify places to cut expenses other than classroom staff reductions–which will still be quite severe). It is absolutely a fair & important question, at this stage, whether the best use is being made of very scarce funds, in the interest of students.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the clarification Eve! I remember hearing about this kind of stuff when the 2nd referendum didn’t pass regarding the cell phone stuff, and I know John and Harrie Ellen turned in their district-issued iPads at a recent board meeting.

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  2. “I know, I know, cost of running the district have gone up and monies coming in have remained flat. I get that, and I accept it, but Dr. Williams and his henchman, Bob Silber, have known this for the last three years! They have seen this coming, yet they chose to give car allowances to top level district employees…..BMW, Mercedes and Lexus vehicles being paid for with MY tax dollars.”

    Let’s remove rhetoric and hyperbole from this and actually look at what’s going on. Yes, the District knew of the looming shortfall for about 3 years. Likewise, the Board of Education also knew of the shortfall for the exact same length of time the District knew about it…because the District and the Board appointed Citizens Budget Oversight Committee advised them with each report at each meeting. I would remind this commenter that the Board of Education sets policy and governs the operations of the District. If the Board had wanted to go out for a referendum earlier than February 2015, they could have done so at any point in the previous 3 years. Likewise they could have initiated cost analysis/reductions at any point in the last 3 years by taking any number of actions that could have reduced expenses and/or driven up enrollments,

    The car stipends, which have been nixed as of the end of last year, were *Board approved* when the individuals who had those stipends were initially hired by the District.

    Same deal with the district cell phones. Those purchases are approved by the Board when they vote for the annual budget. The sheer number in use was excessive, but there are those staff who benefited from having a work phone on them around the clock.

    Mileage reimbursement for job related commuting is not an optional expense.

    Curious as to what document shows the Head of HR being personally reimbursed for freight charges. Charges are assigned to operating units, usually labeled “Director HR” or sometimes using the actual person’s name.

    That entire comment is written by someone who would benefit from learning about the budgeting process of a public school district before they write supremely inaccurate comments about it….there is a CBOC meeting next Wednesday that is open to the public. 6:30pm at Eden Support Center, Rts 7&40 in Bear.

    The only thing I got out of that comment is that particular person has a vendetta against a couple of District administrators because they don’t have a even a loose grasp on budget and operations expenses.

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  3. One more thing, in addition to senior leadership let’s also look at the Board of Education and evaluate their effectiveness over the last 3-5 years in governing the District and its policies.

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  4. Reblogged this on Those In Favor and commented:
    We saw this frequently during the referenda campaigns. People who would benefit from a greater understanding of how a District operates and spends money before writing woefully inaccurate comments about it.

    Popular sentiment seems to be to take aim at the Superintendent for the District’s struggles. I feel the public should be reminded of the purpose and role of the Board of Education. Governance and policy setting. If we’re going to turn over the District Administration for it’s shortcomings, then the Board should go with them for greenlighting the policies and procedures that drove those shortcomings.

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  5. And Christina residents who are not satisfied with current district operation should seriously consider running for the board. A strong elected body needs strong candidates, as well as informed and active voters. School board membership is a pretty thankless volunteer position–and understandably most people don’t want to go anywhere near that (or really can’t, due to other commitments and life circumstances). But if you care about public ed. and have the capacity to sit on the board, please consider running in upcoming elections. The more good candidates, the better the board will be. Better board, better district.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Brian,

    Can you clarify your point re: “greenlighting the polices and procedures that drove those shortcomings.”

    I can wrap my head around bad policy, and bad performance and how each can fall into the domain of both board members and employees. I can also see how a bad policy could drive a shortcoming, but I can also see a shortcoming just existing outside of policies and procedures. In fact, I see it all the time in and out of CSD or schools altogether, I see it all over in business and government.

    As we all know, correlation is not causation.

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    • Correlation is not causation until shown otherwise. Poor execution and governance of great policy yields poor outcomes. Great execution and governance of poor policy still yields poor outcomes. What I’m looking for on behalf of my kids is great policy, governance, and execution. From what I’ve seen in the relatively short time I have been involved with CSD, the problems stem from Administrative and Board roots alike and I have not detected improvement from either area.

      Both sides of the District leadership team stand at fault for the District’s struggles until sufficient evidence leads to rejecting that hypothesis.

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      • Yes, AS noted in my response the two domains of concern can fall squarely in BOTH domains of BOE and Admin. I am simply suggesting that policy and governance do not necessarily create the shortcomings. They may, or may not. We have to be vigilant across more than (inclusive of) just policy and governance. Shortcomings can literally come from anywhere, for many different reasons. Among them:

        Hiring
        morale
        workplace environment
        discipline
        work/life balance concerns
        medical/injury
        and systemic disillusion (multiple reasons)

        I’m sure there are many more not controlled by just policy and governance. That’s my only point, not so much disagreeing with you more than just expanding the areas of concern.

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          • absolutely not. I am directly suggesting that policies and procedures are not discrete domains that spawn shortcomings. No doubt that list I put out could be, or could not be affected by poor policy and/or governance, it’s just that bad policy/bad procedures may be highly correlated to admin/BOE shortcomings but that does not make it them causative in any one case.

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