Appoquinimink Up To Their Dirty Tricks Again With Opt-Out/Legal Letters…Just Refuse The Test!

The Appoquinimink School District in Delaware is continuing their intimidation of parents when they opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It looks like they added some wording to the 2015-2016 edition about the testing windows.  Once again, with gusto, the ESEA doesn’t even address parents opting their children out of the state assessment.  The laws in ESEA deal with schools not testing students,  not parents.  Once upon a time, schools would discourage students from taking the test to improve their scores.  That was why that law was written.  Why is Appo continuing this false impression after I posted their 2014-2015 letter 8 months ago?  Say, didn’t the Delaware PTA ask Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn for a legal opinion of this letter?  Whatever happened to that?  Paging Yvonne Johnson…

I love how this letter states it was sent via regular mail AND certified.  From what I’m hearing, a child under the age of eighteen signed for it.  So does that make the certified mail drop-off even legal?  Delaware parents, you may get letters like this from other school districts or charters.  I would be creative with it.  Teach a younger child how to make paper airplanes.  Teach them how to do origami.  Or that thing where it becomes eight sides with all the questions on it.  Don’t sign it, and don’t send it back.  They want you to acknowledge a law that doesn’t even apply to you.  Continue opting your child out, and when the district comes back and asks why you didn’t respond, let them know you already gave them your letter, conversation over.  The override of Governor Markell’s parent disrespecting House Bill 50 veto by the 148th General Assembly can’t come soon enough.

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Hey Appo Board: How about getting off your weak knees and actually pass an opt-out policy like Red Clay and Christina did this fall.  Or even a resolution like Capital did.  Stop kissing DOE’s  you-know-what and show some spine!

University of Delaware FOIA Denial Re: San Diego State Professor Could Be A Game-Changer

A Freedom of Information Act denial by the University of Delaware could actually change the way they are exempt from FOIA requests. Stemming from a case with a San Diego State professor named Vincent Martin, NBC San Diego sought information from University of Delaware, where Martin taught when he left in 2011. He went to San Diego State where the professor was accused of sexual harassment by several students. He was immediately suspended, and Martin tried to fight it. Meanwhile, NBC’s FOIA request from University of Delaware failed to give the information that eventually came out during Martin’s arbitration last week. Martin was terminated from University of Delaware over sexual harassment issues back in 2011…

I first heard about this story on the Rick Jensen show this afternoon on WDEL. When I arrived home, the below email chain was sent to me by State Rep. John Kowalko. No college or university should be exempt from FOIA if they receive that much funding from state taxpayers. Please, General Assembly, pass House Bill 42. The below story is exactly why these special “exemptions” can be abused by those in power.


From: Lori Hill [mailto:lhill@udel.edu]
Sent: Wednesday, June 10, 2015 10:27 AM
To: Krueger, Paul (NBCUniversal, KNSD)
Cc: Andrea Boyle; Lawrence White
Subject: Delaware FOIA re: former UD professor Vincent Martin

Dear Mr. Krueger:

Thank you for your email dated May 20, 2015.  Your request under Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act has been referred to me, and it is my privilege to respond on behalf of the University of Delaware. Your request relates to documents and information relating to Professor Vincent Martin and his departure from the University of Delaware.  

Our State’s Freedom of Information Act exempts the University of Delaware from statutory coverage except in certain limited respects. The University is covered by the Freedom of Information Act only to the extent that requests relate to “the expenditure of public funds . . . .”  §10002(i).  Public funds are “those funds derived from the State or any political subdivision of the State.” §10002(k). Because the information you seek does not relate to the expenditure of public funds, the University respectfully declines your records request.

Again, thank you for writing.

Lori Hill

——

Lori Hill

Business Administrator

Certified Paralegal

University of Delaware

Office of General Counsel

112 Hullihen Hall

Newark, DE  19716

(302) 831-7366


Editor’s note: on the below email, the University of Delaware responded to questions from KNSD where I have highlighted them in red.


On Wed, Jun 10, 2015 at 6:50 PM, Krueger, Paul (NBCUniversal, KNSD) <Paul.Krueger@nbcuni.com> wrote:

Ms. Hill,

Thanks much for your response.

Can you please help me with these follow-up questions:

Again citing the Delaware Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting information about the annual salary and cost of benefits and any other payments and/or compensation paid to Vincent Martin during his tenure at the University of Delaware. Please provide me with a yearly break-down of those payments for the years in which Professor Martin was associated with and/or employed by, the University of Delaware. I am also requesting information about any payments made on his, and/or the University’s behalf to any third parties (including, but not limited to, students, faculty and staff and campus visitors) who complained about and/or filed any claims and/or lawsuits or legal action of any kind against Professor Martin and/or the University, for alleged acts committed by Martin. 

As Ms. Hill noted, Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act requires disclosure of information related to the expenditure of public funds.  The information you seek does not relate to the expenditure of public funds; thus, the University respectfully declines your records request.

For the following requested information, I am not citing the Delaware FOIA, but am instead making a general media inquiry to your institution:

The University can verify employment for former employees, but does not disclose personnel data beyond verification.   Vincent Martin worked here from 2000-2011.

When did Vincent Martin work at the University Of Delaware? 

What year did he start his employment, and what month and year did he leave the University?

What titles and/or positions did he have, while employed by the University. Why did Martin leave the University?

Other than teaching, was Martin paid for his participation in any other on- or off-campus programs, including any summer educational programs, specifically any program in Spain?

During his tenure at the University of Delaware, did the university administration receive any complaints about Martin’s behavior, investigate any of those complaints, and issue any findings and/or discipline in response to those complaints?

Did the University of Delaware Police Department investigate any complaints against Vincent Martin made to the University and or the University Police Department? If so, please provide me with details about those complaints and subsequent investigations.

The University of Delaware Police Department’s records indicate no complaints were made against Vincent Martin. 

Thanks very much in advance for your help.

Sincerely,

Paul Krueger

NBC San Diego

Paul Krueger

Senior Producer

NBC 7 San Diego

619-578-0269 (desk)

Paul.krueger@nbcuni.com

225 Broadway, #100

San Diego, CA  92101


From: Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal)
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 3:22 PM
To:john.kowalko@state.de.us‘; ‘kowalkoforthe25th@gmail.com


Subject: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Good Afternoon Rep. Kowalko,

My name is Lynn Walsh and I am an Investigative Journalists at the NBC station in San Diego.

I am working on a story involving a professor who used to teach at University of Delaware. I submitted a request for some information (more details and the University’s response are below) about his time at the University but it was denied by the school. I received your name from a fellow journalist and friend Chris Carl.

I was reaching out to you to see if you have any other ideas on how I might be able to obtain this information or would be willing to talk to me about my request and the denial?

I feel that this information is VERY basic public information and am honestly, very surprised that a PUBLIC University would deny a request like this from any member of the public.

Thanks for your time and feel free to call me at either number below. I will also be following up with a phone call. Thank you!


From: Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal) <Lynn.walsh@nbcuni.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 6:50 PM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall); kowalkoforthe25th@gmail.com
Subject: RE: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Rep. Kowalko,

Thank you so much for your time today.

I am working on drafting the request and will send that shortly.

In the meantime, the other question I had was this:

If this professor did OR was accused of sexual harassment or any misconduct while teaching for ten years at UD, would the University have been required to report this to the state or elsewhere? If so, to who?

Thank you – trying to see if I can get the information from another source possibly. Also, here are links to the stories we have done here:

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/SDSU-Professor-Still-Teaching-After-Sexually-Harassing-Student–301129881.html

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/SDSU-Professor-Accused-303131771.html


From: Kowalko, John (LegHall) [mailto:John.Kowalko@state.de.us]
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 6:04 PM
To: Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal)
Subject: Fw: Fw: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

 initial response from my son. He just received the situation info.

John Kowalko


From: John Kowalko III <dogbert3002@gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 8:40 PM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Subject: Re: Fw: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Dad,
I have two initial thoughts.

(1) UD needs to be challenged on this “does not relate to the expenditures of public funds.” What does that even mean? What documents are they even using to support this? A FOIA request for all specific line-item expenditures involving public funds might work, but I could see UD trying to abuse the FOIA fees for a request like that.

(2) I don’t believe Delaware has any laws requiring reporting of these types of allegations, at least outside of official police reports. I think getting this data over UD’s objections could be difficult given the current state of Delaware law, but I also have not researched the issue to see if I am missing anything.


From: Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal) <Lynn.walsh@nbcuni.com>
Sent: Tuesday, July 14, 2015 9:15 PM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Subject: RE: Fw: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Thank you so much!

I am going to follow-up with the request to ask about expenditure of public funds.

In the meantime here is a draft of the information we are looking for – let me know what I need to add to it, etc. If it is completely wrong format let me know – first time doing this:

[Your Name]

[Street Address]

[City, ST ZIP Code]

[Date]

University of Delaware

General Counsel, Public Information Officer

112 Hullihen Hall

Newark, DE  19716

Dear University of Delaware:

Under the Delaware Freedom of Information Act § 100001 et seq., I am requesting an opportunity to inspect or obtain copies of public records:

  • Detail the employment history of former University of Delaware Professor Vincent Martin. This includes information detailing his salary, position and classes taught while he was an employee from 2000-2011.
  • Any complaints received about the former professors from students, faculty or parents during his time with the University.
  • Any investigation documents associated with the former professor or documents detailing any warnings or appeals made by the former professor.
  • The annual salary and cost of benefits and any other payments and/or compensation paid to Vincent Martin during his tenure at the University of Delaware. Please provide me with a yearly break-down of those payments for the years in which Professor Martin was associated with and/or employed by, the University of Delaware. I am also requesting information about any payments made on his, and/or the University’s behalf to any third parties (including, but not limited to, students, faculty and staff and campus visitors) who complained about and/or filed any claims and/or lawsuits or legal action of any kind against Professor Martin and/or the University, for alleged acts committed by Martin.

We believe the disclosure of the requested information is in the public interest and will contribute significantly to the public’s understanding.

Thank you for considering my request.

Sincerely,

[Your Name]

[Your Phone number]


From: Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal) <Lynn.walsh@nbcuni.com>
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 12:56 PM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Subject: RE: Fw: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Here is a link to our story: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/SDSU-Professor-Accused-Of-Sexual-Harassment-Has-History-Of-Similar-Behavior-353112391.html?utm_content=bufferbb5a5&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

And a link to the document detailing past behavior at University of Delaware: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2573931-sharpcpy-mail-sdsu-edu-20151120-184817.html


From: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Sent: Tuesday, November 24, 2015 1:53 PM
To: aloudell@dbcmedia.com; acherry@wdel.com; al@wdel.com; albydm@aol.com; jdf0000@aol.com; james.dawson@wdde.org; rick@wdel.com; mbittle@newszap.com; kevino3670@yahoo.com; Osienski, Edward (LegHall); Dwyer, Sean (LegHall)
Subject: Fw: Fw: NBC San Diego, Help with University of Delaware request

Here’s what a closed, non-transparent environment in a taxpayer funded entity allows to happen. UofD refused to release or acknowledge this professors record while he served here when NBC ( made inquiries. The University general counsel claimed privilege under the FOIA exemption given to the UofD. It’s very alarming to allow questionable/immoral/illegal behavior to be hidden and tacitly condoned by a secretive policy that eventually permits a continuation of bad and harmful behavior to be transferred elsewhere. I hope you all will be inspired to demand release of HB 42 from committee for a floor vote. ​HB 42 would repeal the exemption to FOIA that the University of Delaware enjoys and restore its status as a “public” institution since it receives over $110 million in taxpayer funds. I’ve also pasted below the entire email dialogue I’ve had with the NBC reporter (Lynn Walsh) including the response she received from UofD to her queries.
Respectfully,
Representative John Kowalko

And there we have it.  Delaware’s biggest university refusing to give information on an ex-employee being held accountable out in Southern California.

Secretary Godowsky Wants To Add $87 Million To Delaware Education Budget & His Stance On House Bill 50

I support the Governor’s position.

Thank you Matt Bittle with the Delaware State News for covering the budget talks in Dover yesterday.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky wants to increase the education budget by $87 million for more funds to go towards the general operating budget and an additional $5 million for the capital portion of the education budget.  The article explained how the education portion of the state budget is currently $1.3 billion and the proposed increase would bring it to $1.39 billion.  Of the requested increases, $44.7 would go to salaries, $15.8 towards “projected growth”, and $9.5 to “technology initiatives”, “safety measures”, and funding for “ELL students”.

The article also reported Godowsky does not stand with parents and educators on the controversial opt-out legislation, House Bill 50.  The bill passed the House and Senate earlier in the year, but Governor Jack Markell vetoed the popular legislation.  As predicted, he talked about the whole assessment inventory and how there are too many tests.  But no one with the ability to change things is talking about getting rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  That will be number one with a bullet for me in 2016!  Godowsky’s whole claim about communicating and sharing information better is a crock!

That’s our big priority, that we communicate better, share information and get a good sense of where we’re going,” he said.  He described himself as “optimistic” that cooperation would be improved.

I have yet to see this renewed sense of transparency Secretary Godowsky…

The Truth Is Out There With Delaware Met: Public Hearing Transcript Sheds Some Light

The Delaware Met had their public hearing for their formal review on 11/16/15.  Yesterday, the Delaware Department of Education released the transcript.  One thing is for sure: the words “blogs”, “blogger”, or “bloggers” were mentioned 8 times in the transcript.  I was glad to see two members of the Delaware State Board of Education attended this event.  Instead of writing about the public hearing, I’m going to let the people speak.

I feel like three months of my son’s education has been wasted because he hasn’t done much work, not many projects

I’ve tried to contact teachers with no response

…when we hear some of the horror stories that are going on with these kids, a lot of times, schoolwork might be the last thing on their mind, because a sibling was just killed three months ago, or they’re dealing with being displaced, you know, homeless.

For whatever reason, they opened the doors up and let a lot of kids in that probably didn’t fit the model and didn’t really understand what the model was.

Whatever bugs you all didn’t iron out first, go back to the drawing board, fix it.  As they say, you got a hole, plug it.

But we don’t get the connection from the people who are in charge, the charter school or whoever is in charge of the charter school, and the parents, there’s no connection.

…the biggest question is who is this management organization, Innovative Schools, and why does it seem that they have been an impediment to this process?  We know that starting something new often is a rocky start, but it seems like the people who are supposed to know about education in this case don’t know anything about education.

It is disturbing that some of the things that should have been in place from the first day still aren’t in place, and we’re still struggling to try to get some open communication.  I think it’s interesting that a lot of parents are here, but I don’t see too many of the administrators.

So I think we need to look into it further versus basing it upon opinions of bloggers and individuals who have not been to the school to visit firsthand to see exactly what’s going on versus reading the emails that are being sent.

I don’t know who blogs.  It has to be somebody in the school.  It has to be somebody in the schools that’s giving out certain information that, you know, that I know some of the students is not giving out, I’m thinking it’s probably one of the teachers that don’t like and are trying to sabotage the whole school.

And whoever the blogger is, they need to mind their own business.  We already know there’s an issue.

Do you all understand how bad that sounds to a kid when they go to school, the teacher says we don’t have to learn because they’re closing the school next year.

Help us out.  Give the school some funding.  You all keep talking about you don’t have money, or whoever, they don’t have money to put this in, put that in.

When you open something up, if you put a different animals in one cage, you’re going to have problems until you get somebody in there that knows how to train everybody.

And again, the story writers, the bloggers, whoever is doing this, saying what they want to say to make it, solidify what you’re trying to do, if you’re trying to close the school down, I mean, of course.

What kind of school around here has a mentoring program?

And I went to Mr. A.J. and he told me that, you know, I can guarantee you the school is not going to shut down and everything like that.

I got at least three trays in one day for lunch, and all the meat was bleeding, but I couldn’t get nothing brown bag.  I don’t understand.  These teachers going out, buying McDonald’s and all that, but we can’t do that because of other stuff.

And we have some teachers that don’t even come to school, and I don’t even know how my report card going to look.  I’m not a bad kid.  I know my report card going to look okay in other schools, but this school, I don’t know.

Okay, what is up with the “blame the blogger” game for a school going on formal review?  Trust me, the Delaware Department of Education is not going to put a school on formal review because of information I write about.  By the time I’m writing stuff, they most likely already know a great deal of the information.  The things I’ve heard coming from this brand new school, that had two years to work out all the kinks, disturb me on many levels.  This is a school that stated their budget for food is going to be over-budget.  If they aren’t cooking the meat correctly and students keep going back for non-carcinogenic food that is actually cooked all the way through, I can see why that would be.  If teachers aren’t showing up or they don’t know how to teach the curriculum, that is troubling.  What kind of school lets other students show up to the school without any type of security system to prevent that?  This school has already received plenty of funding, from the state and from the Longwood Foundation.  Throwing more money at it isn’t going to solve anything.  They will find some way to squander those funds.  Plenty of schools have mentoring programs, and A.J. English knows that.  I am always suspicious of anyone that may have a financial motive to keep a school open.  The school may know about the issues, but parents and the public may not.  That is why I blog.  Do you want to know the words I was looking for the most in this transcript and I didn’t see mentioned anywhere? Special Education, IEP, and disability.  How can you defend a school and not even talk about their biggest problem?  Innovative Schools is in way over their head across the entire state.  Other new charter schools that relied on them are having issues as well.  I don’t want any school to shut down unless it is bad for students in the short-term and the long-term.  I believe Delaware Met fits in both of those categories.

I know some people think I just write whatever I want and call it a day.  That is not the case.  There are things I could write about this school but haven’t yet.  The assumption that I haven’t been in the school must mean I don’t know anything about it.  Wrong.  I know plenty.  I went to their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.  I heard the many questions Delaware Met and Innovative Schools couldn’t answer.  These are key and essential questions that need to be answered AND fixed, or they should close.  But let’s get one thing straight, unless the school is posing an immediate health risk or students are in danger, the DOE and State Board of Education don’t just shut a school down.  They go through the process, and the likely options are: probation, revocation of their charter at the end of the year, or they rule the school is doing just fine.  I’ve taken other steps as well in light of things I’ve heard about this school.  It is obvious Delaware Met has sent information out saying “Don’t believe the blogger.”  That is their prerogative.  I just ask folks to keep an open mind and ask the questions.

To read the entire transcript, please read below.