The Delaware Met Down For The Count A Month Into The School Year

Today, I got an email from someone about The Delaware Met closing next week.  Usually, I want to get more information on something like this, so I reached out to the Delaware Department of Education and the leaders at the school.  Not one response.  I put out some more feelers, and it looks like this story has some weight to it.  I don’t have specifics, but I’m hearing about multiple incidents of violence at the school, a student brought a gun to the school on the very first day, and students leaving the school in mass quantities.  The school just opened a month ago.

This school is being touted as a “Big Picture Learning School”, whatever that means.  But it looks like families aren’t buying it.  Is this a sign of things to come for Delaware charters?  I’ve heard that many of the new charters are not prepared for their students this year, despite what the DOE is saying.  I’ve heard of multiple special education issues going on at many charters this fall.

Back to The Delaware Met, I’m hearing their relationship with Innovative Schools has soured to the point of breaking.  This is not a situation where the DOE will be closing the school, but The Delaware Met will be voluntarily closing down.  Has that ever happened before in Delaware?  This is a charter school that met their enrollment figures last Spring when many other charters were struggling.  So what happened?  I’m hearing many of the students were at-risk students who were facing issues at other schools including potential expulsion and suspension issues.  I have no idea how many students at this school are students with disabilities.  But how prepared was the school to handle these issues?  If the allegations are true, not prepared at all.  It’s one thing to apply to open a charter and get through the DOE.  It is quite another to actually implement all the talk and ideas once the school opens.

The other night at the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission committee meeting on Charter-District Collaboration, a Red Clay principal actually advised the committee he is getting a lot of students transferring back to traditional schools from charter schools.  The charter movement in Delaware may be hitting the brakes folks.  Is the party over?  Between financial concerns, funding issues, transportation problems (more last year), special education, and Smarter Balanced results showing the most at-risk students in charters are no different than traditional schools, I think it is past time the Delaware DOE ended their love affair with the charter movement.

If the school were to voluntarily close next week, it would make sense because the school would receive funding based on their September 30th count.  Better to do it now than to wait until after they get funding…

Updated, 5:44pm: This story is gaining traction by the minute.  Multiple sources are confirming, but no official word from DOE or the school.  The only question is exactly when and how many students are actually left at the school….

Updated, 5:47pm: Other sources are telling me this school received a significant student population from Moyer, which was shut down by the state a year ago and closed it’s doors for good on June 30th, 2015.

No public comment is allowed at the State Employees Health Plan Task Force

You have got to be kidding me! This is a public meeting. The amount of action going on in Governor Markell’s administration to stifle public input is growing by the day. So much for “sunshine” Jack!

DelawareFirstState

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I attend the State Employees Health Plan Task Force meeting yesterday from 10:00 to 12:00 at Buena Vista, the place was packed. This is the 2nd meeting of the task force. Ann Visalli was getting ready to adjourn the meeting. I asked if there would be public comment period and  Ms. Visalli answered me with a “no”.  Ann Visalli stated that public comment could be made by email (Suggestions Mailbox which is not working) or through the Public Testimony Meetings and those meetings have ended.

As a State Representative, I was not allowed to make a public comment at the end of the meeting.

I attended one of the Public Testimony Meetings and all they give you is a brief overview of the purpose and objective of the State Employees Health Plan Task Force. The real discussion is taking place during the task force meetings, the public should be allowed to make…

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Governor Markell Announces Review of State Expenditures

Thanks to Rep. Kim Williams for getting this out there so fast! This is huge. I certainly hope the Delaware Department of Education is at the VERY TOP of their list!

DelawareFirstState

Committee of Private Sector and Public Sector Leaders to Review State Spending and Identify Opportunities for Savings 

Wilmington, DE – Governor Jack Markell announced today the signing of Executive Order No. 52, creating the Delaware Expenditure Review Committee. Led by Fred Sears of the Delaware Community Foundation, the Committee will review state government for opportunities to create efficiencies and provide services in a more cost-effective manner. The Committee, comprised of private sector appointees from the Governor and all four caucuses of the General Assembly, brings together representatives of the business community, unions, government and the non-profit sector.

“Delaware’s revenue sources don’t grow with our economy, so even as our state’s economy has improved, we face tremendous budget challenges,” said Governor Markell. “We must do everything we can to deliver the most value to Delawareans at a reasonable cost and the committee I’m creating today builds on six years of…

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Students With Disabilities & Delaware Charter Schools: OCR Complaint & We Need Your Help!

Last week, I filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights against the Delaware Department of Education for allowing a culture of discrimination against students with disabilities at Delaware charter schools.  All too often, children with disabilities are either denied an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or they are “counseled out”, meaning the school either expels the students or very strongly suggests to the parent they don’t have the resources to help their child.  Both are illegal under Federal and Delaware law.  To this extent, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has responded to my complaint and they need a lot more information.

I need every single parent or guardian who has run across any of the below issues to contact me as soon as possible.  The OCR has given me a very small window of opportunity here.  For some parents, they may be worried if this interferes with any type of legal resolution they had with a school in the past.  It would not.  This is a complaint against the Delaware Department of Education, not any individual school.  I will not make any of this information public, but it would be included in the complaint.  We need to stop this culture of lawlessness in our state in respect to special education.  It must stop.

While the below information states anything prior to 180 days would need a waiver, I fully intend to request this waiver since this has been an ongoing system issue in our state.  The Delaware Department of Education has no method by which they track IEP denials in Delaware schools.  If things progress too far, it can wind up going into mediation or a due process hearing.  But this is not an easy task for parents and it takes up a great deal of time, money, and resources.  We need to stop this problem from happening in the first place.  While far too many parents can’t change what happened to their own child, we can stop this from happening to other children.  I need your story!

If you have any information in regards to the following, including the funding issues when a student leaves a charter school, please reach out to me at kevino3670@yahoo.com.  If you are just reading this article and it does not apply to you, please share this link on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media.  If you know anyone this may apply to, please share this with them specifically.  Thank you!

Below is the letter I received from the Office of Civil Rights in regards to my complaint:


Dear Mr. Ohlandt,
This refers to the complaint you filed with the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) against the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE).  OCR enforces regulations that prohibit discrimination on the bases of race, color, disability, sex and age.  The regulations enforced by OCR also prohibit retaliation against individuals who assert or defend a right or privilege secured by the laws OCR enforces, or participate in an OCR proceeding.
In order to proceed further with your complaint, we need additional information regarding your allegation[s].  Please respond to the questions below as specifically as possible. In responding to questions about your belief that an action by the recipient is discriminatory, please provide information indicating that the action was inconsistent with a recipient policy or practice (be as specific as possible), you were treated differently than others in a similar situation, and/or that members of the recipient staff made statements that would indicate dislike/hostility on the basis of disability.
 
  1. Based on your review of your complaint, it appears that you are alleging that the DDOE is discriminating on the basis of disability by:
  1. Permitting Delaware charter schools to deny students with disabilities an individualized education program (IEP);
  2. Permitting Delaware charter schools deny or discourage the enrollment of students with disabilities; and
  3. Permitting Delaware charter schools to maintain funding for students who leave the charter school after the September 30th count, but requiring the funding to follow a student who leaves a traditional school district to attend a Delaware charter school.
  1. Do the allegations listed above in #1.a.-c. fully and completely capture the allegation(s) that you wish to raise at this time?  Yes or No (please circle or highlight your answer).  If not, please edit the above allegations accordingly and/or list your additional allegations.   Please provide the following information about each additional allegation:
  1. Describe the discrimination (who, what, when (date), where, how, please list the applicable names and dates);
  2. State the basis for the discrimination (e.g., disability); and
  3. State your reasons for believing that the discrimination is related to that basis (es).
  1. With regard to allegation #1.a., provide the following information for each student was denied an IEP:
  1. Name of student;
  2. Name of charter school;
  3. Date of parent request to charter school to evaluate the Student for an IEP or Section 504 plan;
  4. Date of charter school’s denial of request;
  5. If request was denied, indicate whether parent was provided with notice of procedural safeguards;
  6. If the denial occurred as a result of an evaluation meeting and you believe the meeting did not comport with the regulations enforced by OCR, please provide information indicating that the meeting was not attended by persons knowledgeable about the child, the evaluation data, and the placement options, or that the parent was not provided with notice of procedural safeguards.
  1. With regard to allegation #1.b., provide the following information about each instance when a charter school denied or discouraged the enrollment of students with disabilities:
  1. Name of student;
  2. Name of charter school;
  3. A description of the discriminatory conduct by charter school officials, including the date;
  4. The names or titles of the charter school officials engaging in the discriminatory conduct; and
  5. Most recent date of charter school’s denial of enrollment or student withdrawal.
 
  1. With regard to allegation #1.c., please state your reasons for believing that this practice constitutes discrimination against students with disabilities, identify any harmed students with disabilities, and the date of the harm.
 
  1. In your complaint, you identified September 1, 2015, as the most recent date of discrimination.  If not already explained in responses to the questions above, please provide the information requested under #2.
 
  1. OCR will generally only investigate allegations of discrimination that have been filed within 180 days of the most recent act of discrimination unless the complainant is granted a waiver.  You filed your complaint on September 16, 2015; therefore, any incidents occurring prior to March 20, 2015, are untimely.  To the extent that you are requesting a waiver of the 180-day filing requirement, please state the reason(s) for not filing sooner.
 
We need to receive your response within 20 calendar days from the date of this email (i.e., by October 14, 2015). If we do not receive this information within 20 days, we may close your complaint.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.  Thank you.
 
Joseph P. Mahoney
Program Manager
U.S. Department of Education
Office for Civil Rights
100 Penn Square East
The Wanamaker Building, Suite 515
Philadelphia, PA 19107

The Herdman Problem

Right now, a Herdman problem is running amok in our education system and causing chaos.  The Herdman problem is not the only issue.  Our classrooms are changed because of this.  We don’t know why this is happening, just that it is.  Students don’t want to go to school.  It is very hard for them to learn in this environment.  How can we solve the Herdman problem?  Parents, teachers, and principals are upset.  The community is outraged.  How did we allow the Herdman problem to invade our schools?  Each year the problems only get worse.

If you think I’m talking about Dr .Paul Herdman with the Rodel Foundation, then you have been actively reading this blog but that is NOT what this article is about.  It’s about reading.  Right now my son is reading a book called The Best Worst School Year Ever by Barbara Robinson.  This is a sequel to a story many children have read called The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  It’s about six siblings, known as The Horrible Herdmans.  These kids are monsters!  They steal, they lie, they cheat, they burn, they kidnap, you name it, they have done it.  There doesn’t seem to be one honorable bone in their bodies.  Yet, at the end of the day, you find they capture your heart in a weird way.

As my son reads this, cracking up throughout, I am relieved.  Reading and my son don’t always get along.  But he is fully engaged in this book and he is loving it!  This is what reading is meant to do.  To suck you in and bring you new worlds of joy and creativity.  To expand your brain in ways you can’t imagine.  To see my son this into a book is awesome!

I read a lot.  All the time.  I refuse to let my mind go stagnant.  I am of the belief that children need to read everyday.  It doesn’t always work as planned, but that is my goal for my child.  But some kids don’t even know how to read.  They need to be taught.  Their future depends on it.  Our future depends on it.  They may not even know words, or they may have a learning disability.  I think we can all agree this is a huge issue, and we all need to work together to solve it.  For our toddlers and really young ones, parents need to read to them all the time.  Go out of the box and see if they can actually read.  Show them the words and ask if they can say them.  Point to the words as you are saying it.    It probably won’t happen, but one day you just might be surprised!