Today is Parent Strike! I will be holding a press conference shortly in front of Legislative Hall. It could be five people, or it could be a hundred. Either way a message will be sent and it will be one the Delaware Department of Education will NEVER forget. I found their Achilles heel, actually, many of them once I knew what to do. For some of this, it took weeks of culminating information. For others, it was just a matter of attending a meeting. It is past time the Delaware DOE was held accountable for THEIR actions. They know this is coming, and they have not reached out once to explain anything.
It is not my intention to demolish the DOE. It is my intention for them to want to change their actions.
In the below document, I sent an email to United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan earlier this morning. For clarity purposes, SEA stands for State Educational Agency, or what we all refer to in Delaware, as the DOE. LEA stands for Local Educational Agency, commonly known as school districts or an individual charter school.
So what are the complaints I filed against the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education and Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson?
Delaware Department of Education:
It is my contention for the following: Delaware DOE failed to adequately provide for public comment on Delaware’s ESEA Flexibility Renewal in March of 2015- the DOE released a draft of their ESEA waiver to the public. The DOE failed to include the “participation rate” category in the draft they released to the public even though it was already an approved category for the Delaware School Success Framework by the private, non-public Accountability Framework Working Group. The DOE put it in their final draft on 3/31/2015 without any public comment on this portion. This was, in my opinion, done deliberately to prevent support for House Bill 50, the opt-out legislation which was stirring a lot of public debate in March of 2015.
Complaint filed with the US Department of Education Office of Inspector General on 9/16/15, Complaint filed with Delaware Department of Justice on 9/10/15
It is my contention the Delaware Department of Education has failed to monitor crucial special education practices in respect to Delaware charter schools and a continued practice of denied Individualized Education Programs. Because of the very low n number in relation to school accountability with standardized test scores, it has allowed Delaware charter schools to keep a low number of special education students. All too often, many students are either expelled or counseled out from the charter school, or the parents do not return the child to the charter school the next school year. The Delaware DOE is very much aware of these issues as I met with the Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Group last year and she advised me there is no method by which the DOE can keep track of these instances and they will not because the “due process system is more than fair”. The DOE has allowed this environment to continue without any repercussions for anyone except the aggrieved student and their families. All too often, parents are forced to seek outside counsel to resolve issues which tends to resolve itself in a mediation, but the damage has already been done for the student with disabilities.
Complaint filed with the US DOE Office of Civil Rights on 9/16/15
The Delaware DOE charged $300 for a Freedom of Information Act request I submitted on 9/10/15. The request was for an email search for a few people at Delaware DOE in the past month to another state agency. It is my contention they failed to provide a list of all charges for the request. They claimed DTI is the one charging the costs for the email search, which is correct, but they did not provide a breakdown of any other charges for the FOIA. They stated in email they would not continue with the request until I paid $300 for the DTI search. As well, I asked if their public information officer could simply ask the individuals for the emails and I received no response to this. This is after the DOJ already issued a legal opinion on another FOIA matter and stated the DOE failed to adequately follow this part of state law.
Complaint filed with the Delaware Department of Justice on 9/11/15
Delaware State Board of Education:
By approving an ESEA flexibility renewal for submission to the US DOE without public comment on a crucial section, the State Board, as directed by their Executive Director Donna Johnson, approved a non-transparent and illegal ESEA draft because they duped the public by leaving out crucial parts, similar to the DOE complaint
Complaint filed with the Delaware Department of Justice on 9/10/15
Delaware Department of Education AND Delaware State Board of Education:
I attended part of the State Board of Education Retreat on Monday, September 14th. This was a public meeting, announced by the State Board of Education on their website and also on the Public Meeting Calendar on the state website. I was the only member of the public in attendance at this meeting. As the Delaware Department of Education was about to present information on the state assessment, Smarter Balanced Assessment, I openly asked if there was any embargoed information. State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson said “No, this is a public meeting.”
During a presentation by the head of instruction, Dr. Michael Watson, he was going through a slide show, and as he was going to the next one, he told me “This is embargoed information.” But he presented it anyways, at a public meeting. Later on in the afternoon, as the DOE and State Board were about to discuss information on the Smarter Balanced results, Donna Johnson, Shana Young (DOE) and Dr. Penny Schwinn (DOE) kept looking at me, whispering, and announced they would not be showing some information but it would be sent to the State Board members. Even later, DOE employee Ryan Reyna advised of a slide with “embargoed” information concerning Smarter Balanced Assessment results for sub-groups. It is my contention the State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE conspired to hold information they would have otherwise shown if I was not present, and when they did present information that was “embargoed”, they attempted to persuade me to not reveal it. This is not in the spirit of an “open meeting” and violates FOIA in my opinion. I am requesting a legal opinion on this matter.
Complaint filed with the Delaware Department of Justice on 9/17/15
State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray:
In her capacity as President of the State Board of Education, Dr. Gray is in a position of making education decisions for the students of Delaware. Frequently, the Delaware Department of Education contracts or pays certain vendors to provide information to the Delaware State Board of Education to enact policy or regulatory changes. One such vendor is the U.S. Education Delivery Institute. Dr. Gray sits on the board of that company as well. This company has received $345,218.50 from the DOE since FY2011 without any public acknowledgment from Dr. Gray of her capacity on this board. This is a conflict of interest, both morally and financial.
Complaint filed with the Delaware Department of Justice on 9/17/15
State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson:
In her capacity as a State of Delaware employee and the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, Donna Johnson emailed personal student information as well as medical information about the student to a person who did not need to know this and asked this person to intervene instead of the local school district authority, she also emailed medical information about a Delaware Department of Education employee to the same person. Both of these, in my opinion, are clear and blatant violations of FERPA and HIPAA laws. The person she emailed this information to is myself. As well, through personal email, Donna Johnson sent official state business to the same individual, and it is my contention, she sometimes conveyed false information, such as suggesting two members of the Christina School Board reported their own district to the Delaware State Auditor resulting in an official investigation by the State Auditor’s office. The State Auditor’s office publicly stated there is no investigative audit going on with the Christina School District. It is my contention Donna Johnson used this false information in an attempt to publicly ridicule and demean a traditional school district which had failed in two referendum attempts and was in the midst of internal tension due to a leave of absence of their Superintendent. Both board members openly informed me they never made a call to the State Board of Education about a request for an investigative audit against the school district they serve. In addition, through various blog commenter handles, Donna Johnson attempted to sway public policy using pseudonyms and aliases while she was privy to information the public did not know.
Complaint filed with Delaware Department of Justice on 9/10/15.
So there you have it. And I will say this now, every single time the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, or any employee violates FOIA, or any other single law in this state, I will report them. I urge every single citizen in the state to do the same. They wanted accountability. I just hope they are able to give the same rigor and grit during the coming months, when they have to answer for all this, that they expect out of Delaware students and teachers. This is Delaware education, the sides the public doesn’t see. And it is just beginning…
Below is just part of the formal complaints issued with the Delaware Department of Justice.