The true conversations about WEIC don’t happen at all those committee meetings, they happen on Facebook. Tonight, we got the rare privilege of having the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission join the fray! I’m not sure where to start, but since I started the WEIC debates today with my Colonial School District article, I guess we can start there.
Kevin Ohlandt Why I refuse to support WEIC going forward…
Tony Allen Kevin,
As always, I am happy to talk with you directly. You make several claims in here that are not substantiated.
We did meet with Ted and Dusty. I don’t consider that a “back door” meeting. They were both clear in the board’s desire to maintain the current boundaries. And yes, I disagree with their decision as I (not Dr. Rich) noted in a letter to them. However, we do want them to continue to be engaged in the overall work of the Commission which, as you know, involves much more than redrawing lines and is consistent with the FIVE YEAR charge of the Commission’s work.
As for the financial incentive for Colonial in keeping their kids, I have not made that claim and am certain no one on the Commission’s leadership team has done so either. In fact, our analysis suggest that there would have been very little, if any, financial impact to Colonial if they had been comfortable with moving forward.
Finally, I am a very proud Colonial alumnus and believe that reasonable minds can disagree. I did ask that they reaffirm their commitment to the city portion of their children. And they were clear that such was — and has always been — their intention. That’s fine by me and while I hope they commit to doing even more, there is no quid pro quo.
Again, feel free to call me and discuss. My intention is not to change your opinion, but rather to be clear on the facts and note that Ted and Dusty have been honest brokers in all of this. I trust they feel the same. That’s what civil discourse is all about.
Kevin Ohlandt Tony, thanks for responding to this. In terms of the letter, I went by what was said in the audio recording. A lot of what I wrote was based on the audio recording. My end opinions about my support (or now not supporting) WEIC were based on what was said on that audio recording and my wondering why it was so important and stressed to Colonial to pass a resolution about something they already said no to, even if that is in the resolution. Then I went back and read Title 14, and it made sense. If this school district does not want their students redistricted, that should be the end of the conversation, period. They should not have to be asked to “reaffirm their committment”, because that makes it sounds like they are not already committed to those students. I would love to talk to you about this, but you didn’t return my call the last time I called! wink emoticon
Tony Allen OK, Kevin, again I am not trying to change your point of view, but the notion that our only focus is redistricting is misguided. Again, we will know where we are on that portion of the work by March 31st. Wherever we land, we will have much more work to do on the many other recommendations outlined in the report. Colonial will be a part of that process and I am encouraged by that.
As for the “rush,” I have no idea why anyone thinks that after somewhere between 40 and 60 years of no action by any legislative actor, moving expeditiously now is of any more consequence than kicking the can further down the road. Moreover, I am of the strong belief that moving on school governance is the “price of admission” to get moving on many of the other priorities outlined in the WEAC report and upon which you consistently write. We can disagree on the merits, but I am not sure that there is anything in Delaware education reform’s recent past that suggests that we can have real movement in other areas if we can’t agree to do something in a system that no one argues is appropriate or fair.
On the funding, I have been clear — as you well know — if there is no funding support for the change, then none of this should move forward. Additionally, such funding should cause no undue burden on residents in the affected districts or taxpayers overall. In my view, it’s a matter or priorities and phasing, both of which are possible with a reasonable timetable.
Finally on charter, all I can say is wrong again. I have asked the Charter network and individual charter schools in and around the City of Wilmington to make a unified pledge in advancing the interest of city children specifically. That ask occurred in the Spring with the Delaware Charter School Network and continues in my many meetings with the Charter School community.
You might remember that we were also the catalyst for halting continued charter school approval until there was an overall plan for the number and net benefit of school and school types throughout the State. As you might imagine, I don’t have a lot of fans in the charter community either which, in my view, is the point. Everybody has concerns, good concerns in fact, but it doesn’t mean that such concerns should force us into another generation of inertia.
To be clear, save for the timeline for implementation, none of this is new and can be found in the WEAC report.
I appreciate the exchange and the opportunity to be clear on the facts and our position.
You know I don’t trust the Governor, that is common knowledge. But so much of what is going on with education right now is based on his very lopsided education agendas which are mostly federally mandated but he had a very large seat at the table when many of those mandates were created. And we are seeing the results of those right here and right now. Which is the current education landscape in Wilmington. If we as a state are not questioning and tackling those issues, then no matter what happens, students in the most need will continue to be labeled as failures and will bring down the schools they attend with standardized test scores. Which by default, with choice, results in the can being kicked down the road. What we are seeing very clearly with Christina is the adverse effects of school choice on an entire district.
In terms of the charters, if this was asked of them why aren’t they producing these resolutions? And why go through the Delaware Charter Schools Network? That would be like going through DSBA instead of the individual school district boards in Wilmington. I think fair is fair with this, and if the school districts are being publicly asked to agree with this, so should the charters.
I’m not going to pretend to know how to fund all this or what should happen with that. But I can say people down here are reading draft proposals of this and saying “Why should we help fund Wilmington when we don’t have enough resources for our own schools?” and “Why aren’t we being represented?” In my opinion, there should be town halls all over the state explaining to everyone what the plan will mean long-term for all the school districts in the state. I’m not saying have one for each district, but I don’t think 2-3 for each county is asking a lot (but in this short time frame would be). And by default, they will go their legislators and you know the rest.
I think we both agree on the charter moratorium up there. One only needs to look at Delaware Met to see why this is needed.
I’m not asking for another generation of inertia, just a couple more months. Colonial had some valid points about their vote last month, but in the public perception, it looks like a meeting was held with the board president and their superintendent with three of the major power players on WEIC, without notification to the rest of their board, and then the two of them hammer out a resolution in a couple days, do not let their board see it ahead of time nor do they put it up on Board Docs for the public to see it and comment on it (which might be a violation of FOIA) and it comes up as an action item without even being listed on their agenda and their board passes it. When the public sees that, they may not see it as how it was intended, but rather a “backdoor” meeting whose purpose was to get Colonial back on board which was exactly what happened. But there was no transparency behind that meeting and no openness amongst the different Colonial players (not something you can control). It appears, and I’m not the only one to say this, they were pressured into doing this.
I am all about improving education, but there are crucial things going on right now which will have an impact on all of this that aren’t even being discussed. If the State Board passes their Regulation 103 which gives a harsh opt-out penalty against schools, you are going to see a bit of a revolt in this state. And it is not going to be pretty! The DOE is getting away with a lot these days with no oversight or controls and no one seems to be able to put a lid on that which is truly frightening. These are also crucial issues but nobody except crazy bloggers want to tackle that because they either don’t want to go against the Governor or they can’t because they will lose their job. Education should not have anything to do with that kind of intimidation, but that is exactly what it has become.
I know a lot of this is out of WEIC’s purveyance, but this SHOULD be part of the whole package and the fact that it isn’t will wind up with the proverbial can kicking!
If the State Board votes no, the Commission has until February 11th to submit a revision. The State Board then has until March 31st to act.
Before any of that, there is an additional month of public comment, November 17th – December 17th, governed by the Commission on the draft plan.
Let’s see if what we get in the way of reaction. If recent history is any indication, I am thinking a lot. I could obviously be wrong.
Good discussion all!
Mike Matthews Great comment tonight from Jeff Taschner re: WEIC: “What’s better? Doing nothing or chaning district boundaries and then doing nothing to support the changes needed?” I’m very concerned about WEIC at this point. The resolution sent to the legislature must include a lock-solid kill switch that denies redistricting unless a full funding package is provided for the transition of Christina schools to Red Clay.
By virtue of position and electoral
mandate, you have substantively more power than l will ever have in this debate. If there is, in fact, “no moment,” the timelines are artificial and the “achievement gap” is a contrived narrative that has spun educational reform out of any real control, what do you think is the plan for equity of access in educational opportunities for all children?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but you are one of seven votes in a very diverse, large district with varying degrees of student performance, along any number of measures. What is that you propose in the way of solutions?
This is not a leading question or meant to be condescending in any way. I really want to know what prescriptions work and what you and your colleagues are doing to drive that agenda at the governance level.
We have five years and lots to do. Any solutions you have and know to be working are welcomed. I am also happy to talk in person if you are comfortable with that kind of meeting
I am not convinced the achievement gap is contrived, nor do I think Hess advances that argument outright, but I wholly believe that the narrow hyper-focus on “solving” it has absolutely spawned some of the most destructive and inappropriate “solutions” for schools. We, as a nation and certainly as a state have all but removed communities from their schools. We have disconnected parents from classrooms and nearly completely ignored the needs of the students, particularly those devastated by poverty and its ancillary impacts on family, violence, hunger, and stability for our youth.
I don’t have the solution Tony. I think it’s also very important for many of us to accept the notion that none of us does…certainly not by ourselves anyway. I do have some ideas though:
• Genuine stakeholder involvement (read: not the Delaware Way kind)..I think WEIC is doing an above average job here with the unfortunate exception of less than complete communication with all affected school board members since they are all equal in impact and power (as you noted…1 of 7))
• Peer reviewed research to inform policy, not anecdote and/or “feel”. Delaware, especially under the governor, to use a term I have heard you use does an INARTFUL job of crafting policy. Many to choose from but HB165 and SB51 come to mind fast. HB50 is a gubernatorial trainwreck and WEIC should seriously consider supporting the veto override to demonstrate a genuine position for support for parental rights which I believe must be a primary underpin for WEIC plan.
In Christina, we have done several things to try and support these sensibilities.
• We were the first, strongest, and to date the firmest support for WEIC via policy and resolution in New Castle County.
• We made board policy to support parental rights for unproven standardized tests which is a quintessential step in trying to eliminate the tests that have been INTENTIONALLY misused to label, shame and punish students, schools and communities and have, in my opinion, literally berthed the WEIC commission (over much, much time)
• We stood firm against junk science, 100% ideologue policy of the DEDOE on teacher recruitment and retention to the tune of having $2.4 million dollars revoked from our Federal RTTT monies. This allowed us to actually build trust and loyalty into the teacher ranks far more effectively that the specious and fractious sensibilities the DOE was espousing.
• We defended our schools from the absolutely evidence-less PRIORITY SCHOOLS policy and preserved the stability our children need so desperately in our schools, especially elementary schools.
The truth is our board, and so many other in Delaware spend WAY TOO MUCH of our time fending off the ridiculous and unproven ideology of those in power in the Delaware DOE. We have to fight them on teachers, administrative assignments, bus routes, funding, charter rules, finance rules, priority schools, focus schools, SPECIAL EDUCATION, and so many other areas. We have no partners it seems, only ill informed enemies waiting to play Monday morning quarterback using tests as their ill informed friend.
Importantly though, and perhaps because WEIC is so diverse, it is becoming its own enemy. I watched a committee co-chair sit next to Dr. Rich and ineffectively defend the truth of what the very poorly executed charter school law has done to the public school ECOSYSTEM. Our schools are not islands by design, but they are in practice. WEIC needs to BUST THOSE WALLS to succeed, IMO.
Lastly, I propose that the things that need to change are the things that effect conditions. If you TRULY want to change the status quo, you have to remove the REAL status quos, not the status quo perpetuated by the ed-reformer frauds. Here’s a quick list of the REAL and FAKE status quoFAKE status quos
• Test scores show we perform poorly
• America performs poorly compared to international students (other nations do not test poverty)
• Schools are failing
• Teachers are lazy
• Teachers are incompetent
• Lack of Grit is an obstacle to success
• Lack of Rigor causes failure
REAL status quos
• Policies of merit pay and bonuses are creating turnover not stabilizing it
• The constant shifts in staff based on test score accountability create understandable teacher inertia to meaningful policy change
• Our schools have been subject to veritable unending policy change since 1983 (Nation at Risk)
• Testing is misused to label and destroy the profession of teaching
• Testing is used to inappropriately measure schools of education (SB51)
• Testing is used to label schools and fuel a choice law that shifts funds and creates economic chaos in our schools
• Property tax funding base is unstable
• Special education is dramatically underfunded and frequently violatedSchool boards can help, but honestly are largely an exercise in petty ego wrapped up in pseudo-authority. Here’s proof:
I just offered my 7th vote in seven years in defense of children in K-3 having classes sized in accordance with the law. And for the 7th time was not only defeated, but scowled at and labeled a flame throwing radical bent on bankrupting my own district.
I have news for those folks: morally, we are already bankrupt. All I am doing is holding up the lantern. My pillow is soft and I sleep well.
Until school boards have courage, none of us will help WEIC. Red Clay will not help WEIC any better than Christina, Colonial, and Brandywine would have and the test scores. I do agree that streamlining governance will help to create the right conditions, but WEIC will need all 5 years to finish what this plan starts. Probably more.
We are all watching this moment develop Tony and are blessed to have your passion and mind behind it. Please don’t ignore the potholes. WEIC doesn’t need to hit any more…
A few weeks ago the Colonial School Board claimed their district does a better job with city kids than Red Clay and Christina. I called BS then and the data says the same. Colonial’s very small contingent of city kids perform about equal to Red Clay and Christina on math and ELA DCAS. I’m going to echo Councilman Jea P. Street‘s comments: If Colonial is so sure about their ability to service city kids, then why don’t they step up to the plate and take more? I’m sorry, but they’ve got a small strip of about 300 students in the city, a good portion of whom actually choice out of the district.
Has anyone ever gotten a definitive answer on whether or not Colonial receives the tax revenue from the Port of Wilmington and how much that actually is? Could they be wanting to hold on to those students because by giving them up they’d have to give up the Port tax revenue, too?
As I said on Tuesday, all county districts need to bear some equal responsibility for the Wilmington schools and students. But the city has been dissected for far too long and something needs to be done.
I still want a countywide school district. Let’s all take ownership of the City of Wilmington.
John M. Young I refuse to accept test scores as evidence that Colonial’s service is better OR worse than any other district that serves our children. When we buy that, we buy the lies. That’s where Jea’s comments (and anyone that rails against tests in one application but cites them in another) go fatally wrong. Always.
Countywide district. Now.
The heroes in education reform are outlined in the acknowledgements in the WEAC report. Until we get somewhere with all of this, none of us meet the mark. – T