#STOPESEA

The Full “Every Student Succeeds Act” Legislation To Be Voted On 12/2 By Congress

Please take the time to read this.  It is a mammoth read.  With PDFs, if you right-click you can search for specific words or phrases.  I strongly recommend every single parent, teacher, staff members, legislator, and US citizen read this.  It will change everything forever.  If there is anything in here you don’t like, call your state Congress representatives and tell them to vote NO!!!! I know what I will be doing when I get home from work tonight…

Generous Delaware Family Donates $4 Million For Autism Program At Nemours/A.I. duPont

The News Journal just reported that the Katzin family of Greenville donated $4 million to enhance an autism section of the Nemours/A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington.  This is incredibly awesome!

Although Nemours has treated children with autism for decades, the Katzins hope their gift will serve as seed money to make the hospital and Delaware a major center for the understanding and treatment of autism. Their son Jack was diagnosed in 2002.

The donation will help neurologists and doctors better understand how autism works in the human mind and will allow them to research more effective treatments for the disability that has seen a spike in diagnosed cases in the past twenty years.

“We have a chance to put together something unique to better understand the scientific causes of autism and to work toward better treatments and better support,” said Diane Chugani, who has been director of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Autism Center.

Any additional funding for disabilities is great.  This could certainly help Senate Bills 92 and 93 in Delaware which face a steep price tag in a coming fiscal year budget deficit battle where everyone will be fighting for funding.

USA Teachers: It Is 11:59 On The Public Education Doomsday Clock! Wake Up And Act NOW! #StopESEA

clock

This is an urgent message to every single public school teacher in America.  You need to fight for your jobs.  That’s right.  You need to STOP this ESEA bill coming to a vote on Wednesday.  If you don’t, it will weigh on your conscience when all the bad stuff in the bill is implemented and you have even less control than you do now.  This legislation actually changes the future of teaching.  You will no longer be a teacher, giving instruction to your students.  You will become a data coach.  A facilitator.  Is this what you want?  If it is, then you can certainly stay the course.  If you want to stand around while children are plugged into computers all day and you base your very brief interaction with students on what will amount to a corporate written script, then stay the course.  But I urge you to read this legislation when it is made public tomorrow.  You need to act fast once you do.  Call your Congress representatives immediately if you do not think this is a good thing.

You have been under-minded by numerous companies and “leaders” in America.  Between No Child Left Behind, Common Core, Race To The Top, VAM, Standardized Testing, and so forth.  Are you really going to sit back and let this happen again?  You have a voice.  A very powerful voice.  Use it.  And not through the lips of your leaders.  Use your own voices.  But do it now before it is too late.

Just because your union presidents are endorsing this sham of an education bill does not mean you have to.  This bill is designed solely for the corporate education reformers.  The very same ones who pushed VAM and hardcore evaluations on you.  If you want to see the escalation of more money going out to companies instead of your classrooms, than doing nothing or endorsing this bill is your best course of action.  But if you believe that this is not education, but a nightmare being inflicted on kids and teachers, than you need to get on the phone, email, social media and any way or method you have to put a stop to this bill.

I am sure many of you are thinking “It’s no use.  There is nothing I can do.”  If you have that attitude, you are absolutely right.  But there are many of you fighting this fight and using their voice.  They will not quit.  They will not let public education be destroyed by greed and corruption.  If you truly believe in public education, then you need to fight.  And even if  you like some parts of this bill, you need to nuke the whole package with your voice.  All of you.

For those reading this who have no clue who I am, I will tell you.  I’m just a dad.  A very angry and upset father who has watched the fall of education happen before my very eyes.  I watched it affect my own son with disabilities in the worst ways possible.  I acted.  I researched.  I dove in to the data and the very diabolical events happening at my state’s Department of Education.  I saw how they pushed stuff through that was damaging to teachers and students and schools with no one the wiser.  I got wise.  I made it my mission to upset their plans as much as humanly possible.  I speak because so many of you can’t.  But it has reached a point where those of us who are fighting the good fight need you to rise.  If you have to march on your state capital or actually drive to D.C., do it.  Use social media as your weapon pointed right at those who would disrespect you and destroy what you enjoy.  But for the love of public education, do something!

You don’t have time to do nothing.  It is 11:59 on the public education doomsday clock!

 

The above picture was originally on Amazing Stories Mag

Lily Eskelen Garcia @Lily_NEA You Need To Apologize Now For Your Discriminatory Comments Towards Students With Disabilities

Lily Eskelen Garcia: Shame on you for referring to students with disabilities as “chronically ‘tarded”.  You represent the largest group of unionized teachers in the country.  Shame on you…  First you endorse the ESEA reauthorization and tell teachers to call and support it, and now this…

The Christmas Legend of Jack and Paul: The Birth of Common Core and Race To The Top

Many years ago, ten years ago to be exact, a legend began.  It was whispered to citizens of Delaware through the years but nobody ever knew if it was true.  When people would try to find out the truth, they were met with half-truths or outright denials.  This is the story, unverified with any credible source, and how I heard it from a stoned DOE employee at Firefly one summer.

One Christmas Eve, Delaware Treasurer Jack Markell and Rodel CEO Paul Herdman met at a tavern.  Markell wanted more from his political career, and Herdman had just been given a lofty position at Rodel.  They were both at a crossroads in their careers, and they decided to vent to each other.  This is the conversation that has passed down from teachers to students, from hedge fund managers to investors, from Comcast ticket vendors to charter school superintendents.

Jack: I don’t know what to do Paul.  I’ve been treasurer for years, and it’s all about the money.

Paul: Uh, yeah Jack, it kind of is.

Now Jack had arrived early at the tavern, and started drinking hours earlier.  By the time Paul got there, Jack was already three sheets to the wind.

Jack: I want to make my mark on Delaware.  I want to go down in history, like Santa.

Paul: I’m glad you mentioned that Jack, because I have a vision.

Jack: You’re from the future?  You know what’s going to happen?

Paul thought about it, and realized he could take advantage of this.

Paul: Yes I am from the future, and yes, I know what will happen with you Jack.  What if I told you me and some friends of mine have a 20 year plan to take over education, not only in Delaware, but across the whole country? We are meeting in a few weeks to get things going.

Jack: Just don’t make it on Minner’s inauguration.  I have to go.  Your friends, are they from the future too?

Paul: Yes, they are Jack.  Say, do you want another drink?

Jack: Oh yes Paul, I would.  Thank you Paul.

Paul shrugged and ordered another Zima for Jack.

Paul: You know this No Child Behind crap they’ve been peddling from D.C.?

Jack: Whose child got left behind?  Was this at Safeway?

Paul: No Jack, all the kids.  They deserve better in our schools.  What if I told you we can all become rich?  You, me, my buddies?  What if I told you we can bust the teachers unions, get cheap teachers fresh out of college, make kids take tests that make absolutely no sense, and you could be Governor one day?  All we have to do is make LOTS of charter schools.

Jack: But what happened to the kids at Safeway?

At this point, Paul realized Jack was incapable of fully understanding what the hell he was talking about.  He decided to get Jack some dinner rolls to soak up some of the Zima that was poisoning his mind.  Paul couldn’t figure out how much bread Jack would need to do the job.

Paul: Jack, you’re a numbers man.  How much bread would it take to get you sober?

Jack: If you take a whole loaf, divide it by 20, but only in groups of 4 and then add 5, that should tell you what year it was made.

Paul snickered in his mind.  This was exactly the kind of math his cabal wanted to get out there.  It made no sense at all, but they could brainwash parents into thinking this was what kids need to know for college and to compete against kids from China.  Paul ordered the bread, and after hours of talk about Safeway, and comparing it to Acme and Redners, Jack began to sober up a bit.

Jack: Did you say something about Governor Markell earlier?

Paul: Yes I did Jack.  The 2008 election is a ways off, but we can plant the seeds now.  Like I said earlier, I have a vision…

Jack: Cause you’re from the future, right?

Obviously Jack was still on the tipsy side, but not fully immersed in complete drunken foolery.  His mind was like play dough now, and Paul knew he had him.

Paul: Yes Jack, I’m from 2025.  All you have to do is do everything I tell you to do, and you will become a very important man. 

Jack: Woah, you’re the vision man!  Like the Avenger.  But from the future.  No matter what year we get to, you’ll know what’s going to happen.  Vision 2012 Man, Vision 2015 Man!  The education man! Future boy!  Ed25 man!

Paul: Those are great names Jack, but you are the public face.  You will lead the charge for education reform in this state.  We’ve been playing around with names for this new “reform”.  We’ve come up with Common Standards, Core Basics, and Education Vision.  What do you think of those?

Jack: You said core.  And when I think of education, I think of an apple.  And since I will be leading this, why don’t we call it Apple Jacks?

Paul: That’s a great idea Jack, but Apple Jacks is already trademarked. 

Jack: Dammit!  Let’s get back to the core idea.  We need something common, like a common core all kids can get to.

Paul: That’s it Jack!  You did it. We’ll call it Common Core!  Let’s get a drink!

As Jack got another Zima, Paul sucked down his mimosas.  The two were laughing and joking through the night.  As the two bonded and hatched their plans, the dynamic duo began slurring words.  Meanwhile, Santa Claus was delivering all the presents to the little boys and girls around the world.

Paul: You know what Jack, if you do my bidding, I will make sure you are WELL compensated.  I’m going to give you a piece of Rodel.  The prize will be yours!

Jack: A piece of what Paul?  What did you say?

Paul: A piece of Rodel.  A prize.

Jack: Did you say pizza?  Chicago has the best pizzas.

Paul: No Jack.  I said Rodel.  Piece.  Prize.

Jack: The Nobel Peace Prize?

Now Paul knew Jack loved to have his ego inflated.  So he knew giving Jack something he would never actually get would help his cause.  There had to be an end point to Jack’s wild imagination, and what would feed the ego more than the Nobel Peace Prize?

Paul: Yes Jack, you will get the Nobel Peace Prize!  It will take a while, and you will need to be very patient.  Many will oppose this, but if we get all the right people in the exact positions, we can make sure no one can stop us.  We have to present our ideas to the people, make them think it’s the only way to improve schools.  When we give these horrible tests to kids, we will use the scores to close down the poorest schools and we’re going to make them charter schools.

Jack: Did you say I have to make charts?

Paul: Yes Jack, lots of charts.  Lots of data.  You’re good with money, you can handle this. 

The two wandered off into the snowy night, and they saw a huge mound of snow the plow had just made. 

Paul: I’ve been trying to figure out how to get all the states in on my plan.  We have to coerce them into it, and then they have to trick all the school districts.  Make them think this plan is their only option. 

Jack: Why don’t we just tell them I won’t give them any money if they don’t listen?  I can do that you know.  I control all the money.  My friend Barack from Chicago told me the way Wall Street is going, there might a be a big recession in a few years.  His buddy Arne is a master at making people do things.  What if we do it then?

Paul: Yes, you’re absolutely right Jack.  You are a Zima drinking genius! 

Paul got distracted.  He thought he saw someone he knew down the street but he couldn’t see too well.  He needed a better vantage point. 

Paul: Do you see that lady down the street Jack?  I know her.  We should tell her about my plans.  Kendall, is that you down there?

Kendall: Paul, is that you, I can’t see you?  Where are you? 

Paul and Jack realized the mound was blocking her view. 

Jack: How are we going to get over that big pile of snow?  We would have to use a lot of rigor to figure out how to get up there.  Come on Paul, let’s race to the top!

As Paul ran, he smiled, and thought to himself, “Common Core” “Rigor” “Race To The Top”…

And this was the genesis of the Common Core.  Two drunken fools in Delaware, talking out of their arses about something that was so mind-boggling and confusing, with so many layers and levels, it had to work.  And the legend was born.  In the years since, Jack Markell is still waiting to be picked for the Nobel Peace Prize.  He calls his friend Paul every Christmas Eve, and asks him when.  Their friendship almost fell apart when Barack Obama received the prize, but Paul assured him it would happen.  One day…

When Did Rodel Become Governor Markell’s Public Relations Agency?

In the latest Rodel/Vision Coalition email, they had a very odd announcement at the end of it with no details other than the picture below.  I Googled this event and found absolutely nothing.  I find it incredibly frightening when Rodel is pimping for Governor Markell like this.  While many parents will think “Wow, this Governor is really great and he must love kids!”, I find this to be more of the same.  This is the same Governor who told parents “I’m going to veto your opt-out bill!”  He doesn’t have respect for parents.  But he has a tremendous amount of respect for Rodel and the Delaware State University.  I think Markell’s first 3,000 days as Governor have been especially bad for education.

Birthto8Summit

Time Is Running Out #StopESEA

We only have three days to make a VERY strong impression on the members of Congress before they vote on the ESEA Reauthorization on 12/2.  Three days.  They won’t even be releasing the final bill until tomorrow.  I saw somewhere, either on Facebook or Twitter, someone put out a plea to have the members of Congress let the public view this for 60 days.  For something as important as the future of education I am inclined to agree.  I don’t think it will happen.  This is the bill that the corporate education reformers are salivating over.  As well as the politicians who have the most to gain.

It wouldn’t shock me if Delaware Governor Jack Markell has known for months what is going to be in the final draft.  Because all indications point to the very agendas he has been having HIS Department of Education and HIS Secretary of Education inflict on Delaware.  These are crafty and sneaky people, whose sole existence is to do the Governor’s bidding.  Like little minions without a mind of their own.  I love how this bill “allows” states to create their own accountability systems but the ESEA Flexibility waivers demanded it from most states.  Even though it wasn’t congressionally approved and merely “guidance”.  It’s almost like the US DOE and the States knew exactly what was going to be in this bill…

Call your state members of Congress TODAY!  Time is running out!

Sorry, I Don’t Think A Poll Of 568 People Is Enough To Determine Markell’s “Popularity”

Jonathan Starkey with The News Journal wrote an article on Friday about Governor Markell’s latest popularity poll.  Jack Markell, in a poll of a whopping 568 people, had a 61% approval rating.  25% of those polled did not approve of the Governor and his actions.  Since when, in a state of over 935,000 people according to 2014 census figures, does .6% of the population warrant an approval rating for a politician?  I’m sure some stats person will come on here and say “That is actually a very good number to poll”.  Sorry.  This is why polls can be very misleading.  I do polls on here somewhat often, but I know they are biased towards the views of many of my readers.  I would never hold them as a true measurement or barometer on any issue or person.

When lawmakers return to Dover in January, they will face a budget gap of more than $100 million and could move quickly take a vote to override Markell’s veto of legislation allowing parents to opt their children out of standardized testing in public schools. Despite that political turbulence, Markell has remained in favor with voters.

I have a very hard time believing this.  While I know this is a “blue” state, many Democrats can’t stand Markell and his arrogance.  Do a real poll, with 10% of the state, and we shall see how “popular” Jack Markell really is in Delaware.

Odyssey Charter School And Other “Successful” Charters Want Money To Grow

Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal wrote an article today about Delaware charters, and centered on Odyssey Charter School.  Delaware charter schools face obstacles to growth is the name of the article.  I think it’s funny, because many disadvantaged students face obstacles to getting into these “dream” charters like Odyssey, Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School and Sussex Academy.  Their student populations always have less African-Americans, students with disabilities and low-income students than those around them.  And their cheerleaders always say the same thing: “Their lotteries determine who gets in.”  Yeah, and I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you.

School leaders and parents at successful Delaware charter schools say the state can and should do more to help them grow.  While understanding that the Department of Education has to crack down on charters showing evidence of financial mismanagement or a failure to provide high quality education, parents and educators wonder: If a school has top test scores, deep community connections and parents clamoring for expansion, can’t the state help?

Did Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware write this article?  If a charter school has “top test scores”, which doesn’t mean squat to me because I don’t value any standardized test score as a true measurement of any school, than they have trimmed the fat and picked the better students and essentially recruited (stolen) them from their local districts.

Albright talks about Odyssey’s latest money problems, something I wrote about six days ago.  But of course, Albright, being a reporter for a somewhat major metropolitan newspaper would get more information.  I’m just a blogger!  Should Odyssey get more money from the state?  Hell no!  Charters wanted to have it their way, but when they can’t get things their way, they call the State.  Enough.  They get more financial perks from non-profits and loop-holes in the budget to make up for what they don’t get from the state.

Charter skeptics maintain that the state shouldn’t spend a cent more on charters while traditional school districts cry out for more resources to serve at-risk students. They argue charters don’t serve enough of the kids who need the state’s help the most, and every dollar that goes to a charter is a dollar less for districts charged with that mission.

Damn straight!  Some schools are literally falling apart, and Odyssey and other charters want more?  After they have siphoned money and students away from their local districts?  Sorry, you missed the boat.  Why don’t they call the Longwood Foundation?  They are always giving away money to charters.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko got the Albright call and didn’t mince words:

“Until you can prove to me, and I mean show me proof on a piece of paper, that these schools are taking in the same kind of students as our districts and doing a better job, then maybe we have a different discussion,” Kowalko said. “Until then, it is unconscionable for us to be sending additional taxpayer dollars to them.”

Why would we give more money to a school that is facing this on their latest financial framework with the DOE:

The problems reported include deficits, high debt-to-asset ratios, low cash reserves and negative cash flow over the past three years.

So we give them a get out of jail free card while Christina bleeds?  I don’t see the state rushing to help them.  And the article even has Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network joining the fray!  I’m not sure when she finally figured out there were other schools in Delaware aside from charters, but I’m not sure I buy what she wrote:

“If any public school, not just a charter, is doing great things for kids, we should be enabling them to do more of it,” Massett said. “Odyssey is a great example of that.”

The timing on this is impeccable.  The DOE and Donna Johnson will be presenting to the State Board on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  This is the strategy to “determine how charters operate in Delaware” along with all the other great programs our schools offer.  Another US DOE non-regulatory non-Congressionally approved “suggestion”.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers approved a moratorium on new charters until June of 2018, or until the state finishes a comprehensive strategic plan that would address how charters fit into the state’s overall public education system.

If anyone really thinks there will be a moratorium on charters until 2018, they are smoking something funny.  Once the State Board celebrates Donna and the DOE’s hard work and does their high-five party, the charter applications will flow.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, Why Are You Telling Members To Vote Yes When Final Product Isn’t Out Yet? #StopESEA

I wrote a plea to the National Education Association earlier today to wait until they see the final product before urging members to vote yes on the ESEA reauthorization.  So can someone please tell me why their President, Lily Eskelen Garcia, is doing the exact opposite?  This was sent to all NEA members across the country earlier this week:

An ESEA Update from NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia

Admit it, I’ve been telling you since July that we were getting closer to the finish line of ESEA Reauthorization and you have been thinking, “Yeah right!” 

Well, as you can read in this statement from the House Education and the Workforce Committee or NEA’s statement, the House-Senate ESEA conference committee has voted to approve the framework agreement for ESEA reauthorization!  

What’s next? While we will not see official bill language until November 30th, this framework agreement does seem to address our core goals of closing opportunity gaps, giving students more time to learn and teachers to teach, and includes educators’ voices in the decision making process.  

The House is expected to vote as early as December 2nd followed by a Senate vote the week of December 7th. As usual, this is where you come in to continue the incredible work that has moved ESEA Reauthorization this far down the road. Go to GetESEARight.com  to send an email, or call 1-866-331-7233 to urge your members of Congress to VOTE YES on the ESEA conference agreement!

I would seriously question the wisdom of your President!  This is foolish and hasty at best…

The Education Polls For Delaware…Those Running For Office- Take Note!!!

 

#StopESEA @DelawarePTA @DSEA1 @gacecoffice Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid!!!!

Delaware PTA, DSEA & Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens:

You  hold a great deal of power in your groups.  We the people need you to band together and unite for the students of Delaware.  The ESEA reauthorization is all about more testing, more federal mandates and waivers, and even “social impact bonds”.  I know your bosses in the National PTA, NEA and Governor Markell are all behind this federal legislation.  But that does not mean you need to endorse legislation that has not even been seen by the public yet.

Delaware PTA: You know I love you for your support on the opt-out movement and House Bill 50!  We need you to take a serious look at the personalized learning models and competency-based education supports embedded in this legislation.  These are not good for students over the long-term, especially those students who are most in need.  This bill is big on accountability systems created at the state level, and we all know what that kind of power can have in a few corrupt minds in our state.  Please, do not endorse this bill and let your National PTA know they shouldn’t either.

DSEA: I have to admit, you folks are an enigma to me!  From my perspective, the best words I can think of are this- you always want a seat at the table but don’t realize you are actually on the table as the main course.  I’ve seen this with the Delaware School Success Framework, teacher evaluations, and Race To The Top.  I know you wish there didn’t even have to be opt-out, but the plain simple fact is that it is here and it is necessary for parents to do this.  I get that teachers endorsing opt-out could put them in rough waters, but they are already in that position because of the state and federal mandates coming down.  Please do not endorse this bill that will make sure teachers lose even more voice.

GACEC: You are a Governor’s council run by the state, which puts you under the shadow of Governor Markell.  But your mandate is to look out for exceptional citizens, those with disabilities.  Please tell me how supporting the Governor against opt-out helps those citizens.  Please tell me you truly want the best outcome for children with special needs.  Please tell me you do not support this latest edition of the ESEA reauthorization.  We’ve seen the outcome of Smarter Balanced for our children with disabilities.  They are now further behind.  That isn’t progress, and I’m sure you have seen how Delaware wants these children to go from 19% proficiency to 59% in six years.  That is insanity, brought on by Governor Markell.  Please stop siding with the DOE on matters that only negatively impact our kids.

 

#StopESEA @NEAToday @AFTunion @BadassTeachersA Do Not Endorse This Reauthorization, Very Bad For Teachers

To the members of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teacher, and the Badass Teachers Association:

I know many of you are torn over the latest edition of the Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization.  It looks great on the surface.  But embedded within are numerous “easter eggs” designed to steal your jobs right out from under you.  It won’t happen tomorrow.  It won’t happen a month from now.  This is the long con.  This bill will eventually replace the jobs you rightfully deserve, and will put data facilitators in your place.  Students will be plugged into their personalized learning modules, striving to pass their current unit standardized assessment.  K-12 will become a thing of the past.  The need for teacher instruction will be gone.  I’m going to take a wild guess that most of you don’t see this as a great leap forward in your profession.  So I have to ask, why are the leaders of the NEA and AFT urging members to endorse this reauthorization?  Why are they considering this the great change that will bring back the respect and standing you have lost over the years?  Start at your local level and bring it all the way up the food chain straight to NEA President Lily Eskelen Garcia and AFT President Randi Weingarten.  Let your locals know you are not happy with this.  The devil is in the details, and while many of you are glad teacher evaluations are being looked at in different lights, do not think for one second that the entire profession of teaching as you know it is not in serious jeopardy.  And I would urge Garcia and Weingarten to look out for their members and not play politics with so much at stake.  Our children’s teachers deserve better than this bill, and I think you both know this.

To the Badass Teachers: you are all awesome and I love your dedication to education!  Don’t change a thing about what you do, but do not endorse this horrible legislation!

#StopESEA @JohnCarneyDE @SenatorCarper @ChrisCoons #netde #eduDE #Delaware Our Children Are Not Lab Rats

Rep. John Carney, Senator Carper and Senator Coons:

We need you to vote NO on the ESEA Reauthorization.  This is not about children.  It is about companies, and their endless invasion into public education.  They want to turn our children into their testing guinea pigs with their personalized learning and competency-based education.  We know this is just an even more invasive method for them to break up Common Core and standardized tests into micro-chunks through their digital platforms.  We know lobbyists in Delaware and across America have been pounding you and your offices with all the reasons you need to vote yes.  We know the Delaware DOE, the Delaware State Board of Education, the Rodel Foundation, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, and Governor Markell have most likely been calling you non-stop to vote yes.  That is not good enough to sell the souls of our children down the river.  You represent the people of Delaware.  Not companies like Schoology and Achieve.  Not American Institutes for Research and all their sub-companies.  Not the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Not the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the University of California.

I am quite sure all three of you have aspirations to continue in government, whether it is at a state or federal level.  The people of Delaware are fast becoming aware of the dangers in this legislation.  Those in the know don’t want this.  They don’t want their children broken down into data points and tested incessantly.  This is what this bill is all about.  It is not about the students.  It will only serve to kill the illusion of helping those who need it the most.  Vote with your conscience, not your future prospects.  Vote with the knowledge that if you let this bill pass, your chances of re-election or your campaign for Governor will meet with very serious resistance.  This is not a threat, this is a fact.  When you start messing with children, you hold your fate in the hands of parents.  The same parents who press buttons at the voting booth.  Some of you may think it is a foregone conclusion that your political lives will continue based on voting patterns in Delaware.  This smoke and mirrors is evaporating faster than you realize.  The polls may say one thing, but the reality is a parent’s love for their child is bi-partisan.

Do the right thing for the children of Delaware and America.  We the people are counting on you.

The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole

Embedded in the latest Elementary/Secondary Education Act reauthorization are initiatives and agendas that will transform education as we know it. This is not a good thing. Nothing in Delaware currently going on (WEIC, Student Success 2025, Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities) is original. This is happening across the country. The result: students plugged in to computers all the time who will only advance once they have gained proficiency in the Common Core-infused personalized learning technology. The benefits will not be for the students.  They come in the form of financial benefits which will belong to the corporate education reformers, hedge fund managers, and investors. Tech-stock will go through the roof if the current ESEA reauthorization passes, and companies like Schoology, Great Schools and 2Revolutions Inc. will become billionaires over-night. Meanwhile, our children will indeed become slaves to the system. The future is here!

The ESEA reauthorization has morphed into the classic quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars movie: “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”  If you actually think this latest round of ESEA legislation that will come to a vote next Wednesday will reduce testing, you have been sucked down the rabbit hole!

Who is Schoology?  I’ve heard their name countless times in the past year.  I figured it was long past time I dove into this company that is essentially invading every single school district and charter in the First State.  Especially given the information regarding the upcoming ESEA reauthorization vote coming on 12/2.

Schoology offers a cloud service for personalized and blended learning.  For those who aren’t aware, personalized learning is defined by a Great Schools sponsored company as the following:

Personalized learning is generally seen as an alternative to so-called “one-size-fits-all” approaches to schooling in which teachers may, for example, provide all students in a given course with the same type of instruction, the same assignments, and the same assessments with little variation or modification from student to student.

But this is what it really is: a cash-cow bonanza for corporate education reform companies, especially those on the tech side who are pushing their internet-based modules out faster than you realize.  Schoology opened shop in Delaware with the BRINC partnership between the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial school districts.  These four districts used Schoology as the base for their personalized learning partnership, and the Caesar Rodney and Appoquinimink districts have joined as well.  The News Journal wrote a huge article on Schoology last March, and reporter Matthew Albright wrote:

Schools must figure out how to create the right infrastructure, providing enough bandwidth and wireless network capacity. They have to settle on the right computers or tablets and find ways to pay for them, configure them, and teach students how to use them.

And, while many teachers have taken their own initiative to find new educational tools, schools and districts have to find ways to train teachers in using these systems and make sure all educators are on the same page.

In Delaware, a group of districts has banded together to work out the best way to deal with those challenges.

The consortium is called BRINC, after the four school districts that originally participated: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech and Colonial. The group added two more districts, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney, this year.

Over a year ago, I was distracted away from this by a company called 2Revolutions Inc.  After their appearance at the annual Vision Coalition conference, I looked into 2Revolutions and did not like what I was seeing.  My eye was on 2Revolutions coming into Delaware as a vendor, and I completely missed Schoology who was already here.  Meanwhile, 2Revolutions invaded the New Hampshire education landscape.  Schoology is not much different.  But they don’t just provide a cloud service in Delaware.  According to the minutes from the Senate Concurrent Resolution #22 Educational Technology Task Force in Delaware, Schoology has also integrated with e-School and IEP Plus.  In a press release from Schoology on 5/20/14, the company announced they were integrating with SunGard K-12 Education (the creators of e-school and IEP Plus):

SunGard K-12 Education’s eSchoolPLUS, an industry-recognized student information system, helps educational stakeholders—students, school administrators, district staff, teachers, parents, and board members—easily manage and immediately access the summary and detailed student information they need, when they need it.

While this seems like a good thing, it is a tremendous amount of data which is now in Schoology’s hands.  Schoology is also branching out like crazy all over the country.  They just announced a contract with L.A. Unified School District, as well as Seattle Public School District and Boulder Valley School District.  In terms of financing, they just secured their fourth round of financing with JMI Investments to the tune of $32 million dollars.  This brings their total financing amount to $57 million over the past couple years from investment firms.  The trick to all of this is in the surface benefits: the cloud-based service where teachers can share instruction is free.  But where it goes from there is unchartered territory, according to Tech-Crunch:

On the other side, there is an enterprise-grade product meant for school districts and universities, that gives richer functionality to administrators to hook into back-end student information systems, build out campuses and building maps, and far more. Schoology said that the price (which is per student, per year) is scaled down for larger clients, but he wouldn’t share the general price range for Schoology Enterprise.

Schoology also provides “assistive technology” services for professional development, according to more minutes from the SCR #22 Task Force:

The creation of comprehensive online professional development using the Schoology platform for both Delaware and Assistive Technology Guidelines documents.

The task force is also going to recommend the following:

Provide district/charters the opportunity to buy-into using Schoology with K-12 students at minimal cost. Increase funding to support growth of the use of Schoology that will drive the per student cost down.
Support the use of Resources within Schoology for sharing teacher-created content and OER.

The SCR #22 Educational Technology Task Force was brought forth by Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend, and sponsored by Senator David Sokola, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Rep. Trey Paradee, and co-sponsored by Senator Colin Bonini. While this task force is going on, there is another task force called the Student Data Privacy Task Force, which came from an amendment to Senate Bill 79, sponsored by Senator Sokola.  Sokola and Jaques also sponsored the current Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Task Force. I firmly believe every single one of these task forces, aside from having very similar legislators behind the scenes, will also serve to bring about the complete immersion of Delaware into personalized learning. I wrote last month about the clear and present danger behind the data collection occurring with Delaware students.  But it doesn’t just stop at personalized learning because at a state and national level there is a big push for “competency-based education”, which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Competency-Based Education, also called Proficiency Based Learning, is a process where students do not advance until they have mastered the material. Instead of a once a year standardized assessment, students will be tested at the end of a unit, on a computer. Think Smarter Balanced Assessment broken up into numerous chunks throughout the year. This “stealth” testing will effectively “reduce the amount of testing” but would also give the exact same tests but at a micro-level. This is also an opt-out killer as parents would have no way of knowing how often their child is being tested, nor would they likely have access to the actual questions on the mini-assessments.  Meanwhile, as President Obama and soon-to-be-former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan mirror Delaware’s Senate Joint Resolution #2, parents and educators are saying “Yes, yes, yes!” but bloggers like myself are saying “No, no, no!”

Save Maine Schools, a blog written by a teacher from Maine named Emily Talmage, has delved into this digital nightmare in great length.  Talmage bought the product these companies were selling until she wisely began to question the motives behind it all.  Maine, along with New Hampshire, Alaska, and Delaware, is one of the state guinea pigs where the experiment of Personalized Learning and Competency-Based Education is at the forefront.  All four of these states have smaller populations and are led by reform-style education leaders.  Talmage recently wrote about what has been going on while we were testing:

The fact is, the state-led testing consortia , which promised to use our tax money to bring us high quality tests that would get our kids “college and career ready”, were actually business consortia, strategically formed to collaborate on “interoperability frameworks” – or, to use simpler terms, ways of passing data and testing content from one locale to the next (from Pearson to Questar, for example, or from your local town to the feds).

Just as the Common Core State Standards were intended to unleash a common market, so, too, was the effort to create a common digital “architecture” that would allow companies like Questar and Pearson and Measured Progress and all the rest to operate in a “plug in play” fashion. (Think of Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, and all the rest teaming up to make a super-video-game console.)

The upcoming ESEA reauthorization, called the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, is filled with easter eggs and cash prizes for companies like Schoology, as seen in the below document from EdWeek.

That is a ton of federal money going out to schools from legislation designed on the surface to halt federal interference in education.  It sounds like Race To The Top all over again, but on a much bigger scale.  The tentacles from the feds reach deep into the states with this latest ESEA reauthorization, and behind the US DOE are all the companies that will feast on tax-payer funds.

The bill also allows for further charter school expansion and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools recently said:

The National Alliance congratulates the conference committee for taking another step forward in the bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. While we have not yet seen the full text of the conference agreement, we are pleased to learn the proposal would modernize the Charter Schools Program, supporting the growth and expansion of high-quality charter schools to better meet parental demand.

When the opt-out movement grew in huge numbers earlier this year, many civil rights groups protested opt-out as a means of putting minority children further behind their peers.  What they don’t realize is the current ESEA reauthorization will ensure this happens!  Even the two largest teacher union organizations are jumping on this version of ESEA.  The American Federation of Teachers wrote a letter urging ESEA to pass as soon as possible.  National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia wrote:

We look forward to working with the congressional conference committee members to ensure that we produce a bill that, when signed by the president, gives every student the opportunity, support, tools, and time to learn.

How much do these civil rights groups and leaders of teacher unions really know about what is inside this bill?  Do they understand the danger of rushing this ESEA version to a vote and what it will mean for the future of education and children?  Don’t the teacher unions realize this will be the death knell for the future of teachers in America?  Once personalized learning is embraced by all public schools in America, teachers will become moderators or facilitators of the personalized learning modules.  The demand for “old-school” teachers will greatly diminish, and teacher qualifications will simply become how to review and program these digital instructional items.  The vast amount of money and resources will pour into technology and only the school leaders will be the ones with high salaries.  The current teacher salary models in each state will become a thing of the past.  With the charter school protections written in this bill, more and more charters will open up that will drain away local dollars.  With each state able to come up with their own accountability systems, the schools with the highest-needs students will slowly give way to charters.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  If I were a public school teacher that is in a union, I would seriously question why the national leaders are endorsing this.

Even American Institutes for Research (AIR), the testing vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware and holds numerous other contracts with other states and the US Department of Education is in on this new “digital age”:

As part of the Future Ready initiative, President Obama hosted more than 100 school superintendents at the White House during a November 19, 2014 “ConnectED to the Future” summit.  Superintendents signed the Future Ready District Pledge indicating their commitment to work with educators, families and communities to develop broadband infrastructures; make high-quality digital materials and devices more accessible; and support professional development programs for educators, schools and districts as they transition to digital learning.

But it doesn’t stop there, because AIR wants districts to invest heavily in all this technology:

Effectively using technology is an essential skill in today’s workforce but also critical to advancing teaching and learning. Today’s students aren’t just digital natives: they increasingly use digital devices to complete school assignments, stay informed, and network with peers around the world. A tipping point for technology and schooling may be in store soon:  instead of merely enhancing teaching and learning, technology may transform both by better accommodating individual learning styles and facilitating collaboration. Whether through the deeper learning, personalized learning, or blended learning approaches districts are exploring and investing heavily in now, technology could finally help your state unlock instruction—educational policy’s “black box”—and ultimately close achievement gaps.

It all comes back to closing those damn achievement gaps, based on the very same state standards and standardized testing that are creating those very same achievement gaps.  This is something AIR excels at, creating the “need” and then selling the “fix”.  Some have theorized, but been unable to prove due to an inability to get into AIR’s contracts and financial records, that companies like WestEd, Questar, Data Recognition Corp. (the “human scorer” company for the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware), and Measurement Inc. are merely shell companies for AIR.  AIR seems to be controlling so much of what is in education.  So much so, it is hard to tell the difference between AIR and the Council of Chief State School Officers.  Which brings us back to Delaware Governor Jack Markell.

This is a man who has been involved in corporate education reform for well over ten years, possibly longer.  He worked at McKinsey and Associates in the 90’s as a consultant, and after coining Nextel, he became the State Treasurer for Delaware, a role he served from 2001-2009.  Since then, he has served as the Governor of Delaware and been behind every single education reform movement that has swept the country.  When Markell served as the President of the National Governor’s Association in 2013, he attended some very big events.  Including the Milken Institute Global Conference.  While in attendance, he served on several panels that were not open to the public and were considered private “by invitation only”.  Why would an elected official, sworn to uphold the best interests of his state, serve on private panels for huge investment firms?  The panels Markell served on at the Milken conference were “Global Capital Markets Advisory Council” (along with Tony Blair, Michael Milken, Eric Cantor and Rupert Murdoch) and “K-12 Education Private Lunch”.  Those were the only two panels Markell talked on, both private, and both closed to the public.

Jack Markell, the great violator of parental rights, who vetoed opt-out legislation in Delaware that overwhelmingly passed the Delaware House and Senate, is one of the key political figures and puppet masters behind all of this.  With close ties to Achieve, McKinsey, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, New America, and the Center for American Progress, Markell is a very dangerous man in education.  Markell’s ambitions are not for the good of the citizens of Delaware.  His constituents are the very same companies behind the latest ESEA reauthorization, personalized learning, competency-based education, and the public shaming of educators everywhere unless they happen to belong to a charter school.  He was even involved in the creation of Common Core:

He has also served for three years as Chair of the National Board of Directors of Jobs for America’s Graduates, co-chair of the Common Core Standards Initiative and chair of the Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League.

The last of those groups is a civil rights organization in Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington.  When Markell first announced his “original” idea of assessment inventory, he was joined in the press conference by the head of that organization at the time.

In Delaware, we are led by a tyrant who leads the charge in education reform and allows the money-sucking vampires like Schoology to come in and pocket funds that allow bloated classrooms.  Companies like Schoology will make damn sure students with disabilities, children from poverty, and at-risk youth are always behind their peers.  This is what their services thrive on, the constant demand to fix education.  As our US Congress votes on the ESEA reauthorization, keep this in mind: it is not meant for every student to succeed.  It is all about the money.  Follow it, and you too will see the path to success.

What can parents and teachers do?  Aside from following the money, which is a mammoth task and all too frequently a lesson in humility, look at your local, state and national leaders.

Look at legislation and regulations.

What initiatives and plans are your district boards, charter boards, and state boards of education voting on?

For charter school parents, do you ever question why the boards of charters are appointed rather than elected?

Do you ever look at “task forces”, “working groups” and “committees” in your state and wonder who is on them and why there were appointed?

Does  your state sell the term “stakeholders” in determining policies but many of the same people serve on these groups?

Which of your state legislators are introducing legislation that seems harmless on the surface but has caveats and loopholes deeply embedded into it?

Which legislators are up for re-election and could be easily swayed for promises of future power?

Which legislators are running for higher office?

What policies and laws are your state Congress representatives voting on?

What is your Governor up to?  Do you see news blips about them speaking at private organizations but it is not on their public schedule?

Do you see action by legislators that seems to defy the beliefs of their individual political party?

Do you see education leaders and legislators comingling with lobbyists in your state Capital?

For teachers, where does your local union and state union stand on these issues?  Your national?

Parents: if your school has a PTA or PTO, what are their collective stances on these critical issues?

Do you know if your State Board of Education is elected or appointed?

Find out who your state lobbyists are.  Read.  Search.  Discover.  Question everything.  Email your state legislators and Congress representatives when you don’t agree with something you believe will have no direct benefit for your individual child.  Vote for those who you think will stand against this bi-partisan regime of education vampires.  Question those who sit on the sidelines and do nothing.  Push them.  Make your voice heard.  .  Look into initiatives going on in your state, or research groups looking into school funding or redistricting.  Part of the ESEA reauthorization has states looking at “weighted funding”, whereby funds would pour into more high-needs schools.  As well, the reauthorization would allow more Title I dollars to go into the “bottom” schools than they currently do.  When I say “bottom”, these are schools usually with the most high-needs students who do not do well on the standardized tests.  In many states, these schools become charter schools.  Once again, rinse, wash, repeat.

One thing to keep in mind is the corporate education reform movement is everywhere.  Like a secret society, they have embedded themselves and they are hiding in plain sight.  In every single one of the groups mentioned above.  Some of the people I am asking people to look into may not even realize they are a part of these agendas.  Some may just think they are doing the right thing.  For folks like myself, Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Emily Talmage and countless others, our job is to expose and name them.  We discover the lies and call them out.  We are the last line of defense before your child’s worthwhile education is completely gone, lost in the shadows and truckloads of money behind those who would dare to steal your child’s benefit for their own future.  Unless you are part of the wealthy and elite, your child’s fate is being decided on next week during the vote for the ESEA reauthorization.  Most of you don’t even realize this.  Many that do have been duped and fooled into believing this is the right thing.  Many of us have been fighting the evil standardized test and opting out, and the whole time they have been plotting and scheming in closed-door meetings with companies to bring about the last phase of corporate education reform: the complete and utter brainwashing of your child wired into a never-ending state of constant assessment and proficiency based on the curriculum that they wrote.  They fooled the bloggers as well.  But we are the resistance, and we will not stop the defense of our children.  We will protect our schools and our communities from the corporate raiders.  We will keep opting out and fighting for the rights of others to do so as well.  We will not be bought or sold into the devious and intrinsic methodologies they seek to perpetuate on our society.  We will fight, not because we gain personal reward or acclaim, but because it is the right thing to do.

More on FairTest and Why You Should Call Your Legislators TODAY

Delaware! Heed this warning! What is going on in Maine and New Hampshire is very similar to Delaware. If you get a chance today, read this ESEA reauthorization. They are voting on it on 12/2, so we need to contact our legislators and say NO!

New Parent Advocacy Group For Special Needs Children & At-Risk Youth In The Works

I can now reveal why Bill Doolittle stepped down as President-Elect of the Delaware PTA.  He is in the process of forming an advocacy group for the children in Delaware who need it the most!  And he wants parents help in the formation of this group.  Bill asked me to help get  the message out:

Beginning today, I am starting the effort of forming a group of parents/families and other interested individuals to begin the formal process of developing a mission/vision, purpose and to incorporate as a nonprofit for such an organization.

I have an initial concept which is a non dues (donation only) grassroots organization for parent/families and others who are interested in making sure that every child at risk can be fully supported to have the opportunity meet their potential. I see the efforts including: providing information, peer-to-peer support and of course strong focused advocacy. My initial vision is of Delaware as the first chapter with 2 divisions. One for children with disabilities and special health care needs and a second for children living in poverty and impacted by other environmental factors such as trauma, home and food insecurity, non-English speaking, any type of discrimination and so forth. Of course it will be the people who join in this effort to make the final decisions as to all of this.

I am asking for individuals who are interested in being part of the formation, or who simply want to add their voice once it is formed, to contact me. The emails I am using for this initiative is DEARCPA@gmail.com

Shortly after I first started this blog, Bill contacted me about starting a group like this which I was looking to do eventually.  I firmly believe now is the time for a non-partisan, non-State Government affiliated group like this to get going.  Far too often, our state only listens to groups that are already a part of state government and that needs to change!  I will certainly be adding my voice to this effort, and I strongly encourage all like-minded parents to do the same.  Parents are an integral part of education and the community at large, and our voices need to be heard!

Delaware Met’s Appalling Response To The DOE Raises Even More Questions

In spite of a very intensive hiring process, we were unable to find many teachers with urban experience or a familiarity with the local community and those that we did hire were from charter schools that had closed such as Moyer Academy. Those teachers brought with them the “alternative school” mentality, along with lingering conflicts from the past years, which perpetuated the punitive, authoritarian mindset, which is the antithesis of the BPL design. We had hoped that the past relationships with the students would have a positive effect on their relationships with students, though this was not the case.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse with Delaware Met, I ran across many updated documents on the Delaware Department of Education Charter School website regarding their formal review.  The number one issue at this point seems to be their enrollment.  If they were approved for 260 students, and they must maintain 80% of that as required by Delaware law, that would be 208 students.  As of their September 30th count, they had 215 students.  In these documents, they announced four more students have withdrawn since 9/30, and six more will withdraw from the school very soon.  This puts their enrollment at 205.  They are now completely out of compliance with their charter.

The letter from the Delaware DOE’s Exceptional Children’s Resources Group is very telling.  59 IEPs were looked at by the DOE, and ALL 59 are out of compliance.  Delaware Met’s Special Education coordinator, Sue Ogden, used to work in the Delaware prison system as a special education coordinator, so she should be well aware of DOE timelines and what is needed in student’s IEPs.  While the below documents give many reasons for the school challenges, I still can’t help but think many of the events at this school could have been avoided.  It is now near the end of November, and NONE of the IEPs are in compliance as of November 25th.  This does not bode well for students with disabilities at this school which now represent over 28% of the school population.  Furthermore, in the narrative in the documents below, there is talk about going through 80 IEPs.  Have 21 students with disabilities who had IEPs left the school?

For their in-school suspension, students are required to write the following:

DelMetBehaviorLesson

And another “behaviour lesson”:

DelMetThinkingAboutBehavior

Now, with a school filled with at a minimum, 59 IEPs, and admitted issues on teacher parts where they treated a school like an “alternative” school, are the in-school suspensions warranted?  I can’t answer that, but I do know in-school suspension does not count towards a manifestation determination hearing.  Only out-of-school suspensions or expulsion.  And is it just me, and I get the whole concept of restorative justice, but isn’t the point of school discipline already a punishment?  What could a student do to “make up to the school” for their behavior?  What if they have a disability and it was a manifestation of their disability and they don’t even realize it was a “behavior”?

This “in-school suspension room”.  I have some big issues with it.  It seems like an easy solution to stop discipline problems.  Student gets in trouble, send them to the ISS room.  The below documents also state their special education coordinator, Sue Ogden, will make sure accommodations are being followed while students are in there.  But is one of their accommodations to be sent to an ISS room if they get in trouble?  There are more questions than answers here.  Sue Ogden, as I stated earlier, used to work in the prison system.  Even with all its issues and students with potential legal issues, the Delaware Met is not a prison.

The Charter School Accountability Committee will meet with Delaware Met for their final formal review meeting next Tuesday, from 8:30-10:00am.  At this point, the committee will determine their recommendation for the school.  The Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education will decide the school’s fate at the December State Board of Education meeting on December 17th.  In the meantime, read the below documents to find out the school’s interpretation of events.  I still have this nagging feeling there is much more going on at this school…

Delaware Met response to Charter School Accountability Committee

Specific Information requested by the Charter School Accountability Committee

Exceptional Children Resources Group monitoring and letter sent to Delaware Met

Teachers Emails regarding Science and Social Studies Curriculum

Board of Directors questions to Innovative Schools with response from them

 

 

What I’m Truly Thankful For On This Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers of Exceptional Delaware.  It’s been a crazy year, and we all know what the issues are.  But today, I want to give thanks for what we do have and some of the accomplishments brought forth by others this year.

Thank you to State Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson for listening to parents of Delaware and introducing House Bill 50!

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Thank you to John Young for his passion and words of wisdom!

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Thank you to the victories! Like when House Bill 50 cleared the House by a 36-3 margin!

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Thank you to State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf for letting my son Jacob play with your gavel!

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Thank you to Delaware Governor Jack Markell for signing House Concurrent Resolution #36 recognizing “Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month” in Delaware!

Governor Markell, Kevin Ohlandt and Jacob Ohlandt, 5/14/15
Governor Markell, Kevin Ohlandt and Jacob Ohlandt, 5/14/15

Thank you to beautiful summer days and the beach!

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Thank you to the Progressive Democrats of Delaware for an honor!

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Thank you to the friends I’ve made along the way during my sojourn into Delaware education!

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Thank you to the world for reading my crazy blog!

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Thank you the legislators and stakeholders who fight for our kids and schools!

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Thank you to my dog Bella who helped take care of me after my hernia operation!

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Thank you to my son Jacob who is the inspiration for all I do!  He is becoming an amazing young man who, despite everything, has a heart of gold!  As well, thank you to my awesome wife who puts up with more than anyone I know!

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Thank you once again, to all my readers and those who are allies and enemies, and those in-between!  We will prevail, somehow, someway!