by Mike Matthews and Kevin Ohlandt
The Delaware State Board of Education passed the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan to move the city of Wilmington students currently residing in the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. The board voted to pass the measure. While the past couple months have drawn huge debates at their State Board meetings, today’s vote was very fast.
Pat Heffernan, always a lightning rod of babble, said “Our kids deserve a better plan than this.” But he agreed the current funding models don’t work. He went on: “that’s not good enough.” He felt the plan was missing “essential elements…that shows students will actually learn.” He “won’t accept blame for a plan that at best gets a grade of C.”
“Why would we leave out the details on improving student outcomes?”
“As part of this entire process, there should be clear goals around academics.”
“If Red Clay were doing significantly better than Christina, then maybe moving the lines would work. Red Clay has the same number of Priority Schools as Christina.”
“When will this actually help kids? The plan is literally taking years to take action.”
“We have examples of what works for our students from low income at schools like Booker Washington and Lewis Dual Language.”
“When we insisted on hearing how we are going to improve students outcomes, we were given what students are already doing today.”
“I believe WEIC is fairly representing the community and is looking to improve outcomes for students, but am at a loss as to why the outcomes aren’t improving graduation rates, increasing literacy, and increasing AP pass rates.”
Heffernan committed to voting no before it even came up for a vote. But he made everyone in the audience know his thoughts, as he always does.
Board member Jorge Melendez said he agreed with part of what Heffernan was saying. Basically, he said there’s a challenge in which the Board has been asked to move forward and that a lot of the people who’ve asked to move it forward have been part of the problem and now they’re saying they want to be part of the solutions. “If this passes,” he said, “then we need to take a hard look at those people who say they want to be part of the solution.” He went on to say “anyone who says this Board can’t be trusted has no clue what they’re talking about.” He said he was glad that he wasn’t at the WEIC meeting where the community called out the State Board because they would have heard from him. He said “Money doesn’t fix everything. People do.” He doesn’t get the simple fact that people actually cost money when it comes to education.
Board member Gregory Coverdale said he can’t support the plan.
Board member Terry Whittaker said, “this has been going on a long time and it won’t change just by moving kids. It’s more systemic than that and we need to get moving on this plan.”
Board member Nin Lou Bunting said, “Mr. Heffernan summed up what I’ve been saying for months, so I second what he said.”
And then it came down to the votes: Heffernan – No, Melendez – Yes, Coverdale – No Whittaker – Yes, Rutt – Yes, Bunting – No, Gray – Yes. The redistricting plan passes with a 4-3 vote. Just like the last vote the State Board had when they ignited the biggest battle Delaware has ever seen over the words “shall” and “may”.
Now the redistricting plan goes to the Delaware General Assembly where a joint resolution will have to pass both the House and Senate in order for the plan to move forward.
(Mike pretty much wrote the article. I just did copy and paste based on the quotes. Thanks Mike! My doctor advised me attending too many State Board of Education meetings in a row was not good for my health. Feel free to give me hell Mr. Melendez!)