House Bill 350 Tightens Teacher License Suspension Law With Potential Controversy For Rights Of Teachers

The most interesting part about House Bill 350 isn’t the bill itself, but who the Delaware House of Representatives main sponsor is: Pete Schwartzkopf.  I usually don’t see his name as a main sponsor on education bills which leads me to believe this bill is coming from Governor Markell himself.  I could be wrong on that, but it is a hunch.  In any event, there is very interesting changes to the language in the Delaware state code for this pending legislation.  I have a feeling the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) will not like the change from “shall” to “may” for reinstatement of a teacher’s license if a teacher is found not guilty of an offense that would cause their license to be suspended.  Some of the changes are common sense changes, but others are a bit unpredictable.

The one area teachers may have an issue with is the publication of the license suspension.  What if the charges are dropped or a no guilty verdict happens.  With the name published already, that could certainly cause an issue when they go to look for another position in their own district or another district.  Just having a name on that list could severely damage a teacher’s reputation, especially in a state as small as Delaware.  The bill also seems to give the Secretary of Education more authority and decreases the role of the local school district in making decisions.

The next stop is the House Education Committee.  I would love to hear what teachers think of the changes in House Bill 350.

***UPDATED***Channel 6 ABC Action News Gives Information About Details In Amy Joyner-Francis Case

According to Philadelphia’s Channel 6 ABC Action News, charges against three Howard High School of Technology students in Wilmington, DE could come as early as today in the death of Amy Joyner-Francis.  While not specifying who gave the information, only giving a description of a law enforcement veteran, Channel 6 wrote:

A law enforcement veteran close to the investigation says Joyner-Francis was thrown to the floor during the altercation, and stabbed repeatedly with pencils. Then the source says one of girls slammed her head into a sink.

Only one will be charged with the actual murder:

Sources tell Action News one of the female students will be charged with the actual killing of Joyner-Francis. The other two will be charged as accomplices.

Earlier reports surrounding the use of knives in the assault appear to be false based on this information.  Someone explained to me that if there are stab wounds they cannot administer CPR to a patient.  Which made me wonder about the validity of that information once I heard that.  Once the official information is released from the Wilmington Police Department, we will know what is real and what isn’t.

Updated, 5:41pm: Amy Cherry with WDEL announced earlier this afternoon a statement from Wilmington Police Dept. Chief Bobby Cummings.  No charges will be filed this week, and despite the information Channel 6 ABC news gave last night, they reiterated there were NO weapons used in the murder.  I’m not sure where a Philadelphia station is getting their information, but they may want to double-check that source!

Next Week In The House Education Committee: Autism, Vouchers, & School Board Terms

I wrote earlier this week  about the massive amount of education meetings going on next week. Add one more to the list: The House Education Committee on Wednesday, May 4th.  On tap is House Bill 161 sponsored by State Rep. Deb Hudson which covers The Parent Empowerment Education Savings Act (school vouchers for special needs students), Senator Margaret Rose-Henry and State Rep Earl Jaques’ Senate Bills 92 and 93 dealing with autism, and State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s House Bill 333 which looks to lower school board terms from five to three years.  Hudson’s bill was on the agenda a few weeks ago but disappeared.  The Senate Education Committee meeting will take place at 3pm, but as usual, no agenda is up for it.  That usually doesn’t happen until the day before.

HouseEducCommMtg5416lkj;lk

 

Amy, Skyline, Bomb Threats, Bus Issues, Fighting, Bullying, Inclusion, Zero Tolerance: How Do We Fix The Mess?

In the wake of what happened at Howard High School of Technology a week ago, many are questioning how to fix what is happening in our schools.  There are no easy answers.  I have not heard anyone defending the perpetrators of Amy’s murder.  But I have seen people describe students who exhibit behavior issues referred to as “animals” and “they should be sent to labor camps”.  While this is an extreme, I’ve heard these types of comments more than once, and I hear it more and more.  Once we go down that path we are essentially labeling these students as helpless and stating there is nothing we can do to help them.  And let’s face facts: when people say this there is a very racist undertone and they are referring to African-Americans.  I don’t agree with it on any level and every time I see it I want to ship the people who would say things like that out of our state.

Just this school year we have seen the following: a charter school that closed mid-year due to an uncontrollable environment, a change in feeder patterns resulting in many instances of bullying at a Red Clay middle school, a bizarre number of bomb threats resulting in many schools closing for the day, a child intimidated by a bus driver in Appoquinimink, a father suing Brandywine over what he alleges are due process violations and unsubstantiated searches, students sent to hospitals as a result of fighting that are never publicly acknowledged but whispered about on social media, inclusion practices that are not working, and a student who died from a brutal assault last week at Howard.

As our state grapples with these issues, we have not seen solutions put forth that look at the big picture.  Why are our students acting out?  Why are many of our schools attempting to hide many of these issues?  I have attended many State Board of Education meetings this year and I listen to their audio recordings.  We don’t hear them discussing these kinds of issues too much, if at all.  They seem to be more concerned with student outcomes based on standardized tests, Pathways programs, charter schools, accountability for schools, and celebrating the good things in our schools while giving short shrift to the issues that truly impact school climate.

It starts there.  To get to the heart of issues like this, you have to start at the top and have it trickle down to the Superintendents or Heads of School, to the building administrators, to the teachers, to the students and to the community.  If we have that massive disconnect at the top, the issues can never truly be addressed.  If our State Board and legislators can’t get these matters fixed, how can we expect our schools to do so?

To adequately blame one thing that started a lot of this, we can blame zero tolerance.  After the Columbine shootings in 1999, a massive wave of zero tolerance spread throughout America.  No school wanted to have a situation like that on their hands.  Students would be suspended for frivolous things.  It got to a point in Delaware where an African-American first grader was expelled in the Christina School District for having a cake knife.  As a result of that one bad judgment call, a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) resulted in the district entering an agreement with the OCR.  Because the OCR ruled too many minority student suspensions were happening, the district had to be very careful about how they were meting punishment to students.  Other districts saw what happened to Christina and didn’t want to suffer the same fate.

As a result, there was no consistency throughout the state on best practices.  For all the accountability and “standardization” of students based on very flawed state assessments, there has never been any definitive set of standards for school discipline and school climate.  There is no consistency with how schools report instances of bullying, offensive touching, and fighting.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn pointed this out many times but there has been no direct accountability to schools over these issues.  Part of the problem with discipline issues is the unique nature of them.  Because of student privacy and FERPA regulations, many situations can’t be discussed publicly.  There is no accurate tracking method to make sure our schools are recording these instances on the state reporting system, E-school, as required by state law within a set time period.  The result is very bad data in the one area we actually need it the most.  Add in special education issues and behaviors exhibited by students with disabilities.  Is it a result of their disability or is it everyday behavior?  Sometimes we just don’t know.

Some schools are very faithful with recording issues, but far too many aren’t.  How do we know which schools need help with issues if they aren’t being 100% honest about what is going on in their halls?  What shape would that help even be?  If it is a punitive measure from the state, is that going to solve the problem or persuade schools to hide things better?  Non-profits and corporations are lining up to get into our schools to offer what amounts to for-profit assistance.  Under the guise of the Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a call for companies to come into our schools like never before to offer after-school programs and to turn our schools into all-day community centers.  As well, we are seeing some states allowing companies to essentially bet on student outcomes in return for financial profit through social impact bonds.  Many of these ideas are concerning to parents.  Should schools be a place where medical and therapeutic treatment for students occur?  For neglected and abused children, this could be a life-saving measure for those children.  But it also opens up more of our public education system to less control at the local level.  Many feel government should not even be allowed to write something like this into any law.  The Elementary/Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was designed to make sure minority students were given equal footing in schools and were not disadvantaged.  Written in 1965, its goal was actually simple: equal rights for all.  Fifty years later, we are still tackling many of the original issues.  But now we want to turn our schools into more than what they should be.

As far as this insane filming of fights in our schools, it is a new environment with no oversight.  Students want to become social media famous because people come to their profile to look at it.  Something needs to happen immediately.  It is fostering an environment that is not healthy and desensitizes kids to violence.  Even community Facebook pages that have nothing but street fights on them exist unchecked and unmonitored.  In some of these videos, you actually see people telling others how to evade the police and they give warnings when the police are in the area.  For some reason, students are fascinated by this.  But the effect is chilling.  As well, the role of technology in our schools and homes is greater than ever.  But why are we allowing students to carry iPhones around school?  How much of the violence from gaming is warping young minds?  For that matter, what is all this screen time doing to all our brains?

If Amy’s tragic death has shown us anything it is that something is very broken.  We have to fix it, no matter what.  Amy’s situation is by far the worst thing that could happen to a student in school.  But many students bare physical and emotional scars from this broken system.  They are the survivors of fights and bullying that cause trauma to the soul, if not the physical.  On the flip side, we have students like Patrick Wahl’s son Joseph who many view as a victim of very bizarre due process circumstances for a district that still follows zero tolerance tendencies.  There are good things happening in our schools.  Don’t get me wrong on that.  We see students participating in charity events and giving back to their community on many levels.  But that can’t be all the public sees.  We have to look at the bad too.  We can’t put a blanket over the violence in our schools and pretend it isn’t there.  Amy’s death shattered that illusion in our state.

In the shadow of all this is the other illusion the state has cast on parents.  Many parents judge schools based on their performance without realizing the measurement of that performance is fundamentally flawed.  To get a basic breakdown of how this works, many years ago corporations decided they could make money off education.  They tailored reports to give the illusion that “the sky is falling” and all students were in danger of falling behind other countries.  Politicians jumped on the bandwagon through concerted lobbying efforts on the part of these companies, and soon enough new laws came down from a federal level based on student outcomes from standardized tests.  No Child Left Behind opened the door but Race To The Top opened the floodgates for this corporate invasion.  As schools were labeled and shamed under “school turnaround” laws, the US DOE started their ESEA flexibility waiver scheme.  They bribed schools with money to further these agendas.  Our schools and districts took the money with immense pressure from state governments during a recession.  A dramatic shift in school climate happened.  As more and more teachers took part in professional development to train them on the Common Core and other company initiatives, something happened to students.  They were not supervised the way they were prior to all of this and they found new ways to usurp authority, especially in schools with large populations of high-needs students.  Add in the situation with the OCR in Christina, and it was a recipe for disaster.  Diane Ravitch wrote today about the fifteen years of “fake” reform and how the impetus behind it all, NAEP scores, show students who are now seniors more behind than they were compared to their counterparts in 1992.  Common Core doesn’t work.

What if what we are seeing with student behavior and the reasons behind it are all wrong?  What if those who come from poverty, special needs, and low-income minority populations isn’t just misbehavior but something else altogether?  What if it is a direct result of a system designed for conformity?  The supposed goal of the Common Core was to make all students get the same set of standards across the country.  I hear many consistent things from parents in Delaware.  For smarter kids, Common Core isn’t so tough once they get it.  But for struggling students, basically the ones from sub-groups that perform poorly on state assessments, it is much more difficult.  Perhaps what we are seeing with this absolute disregard of authority in schools is a natural defense mechanism kicking in.  A fight or flight mechanism when their way of living, of being, is attacked.  The natural instinct for teenagers is to rebel.  Compound that with an entire education system designed to make students question authority less and use “critical thinking” based on standards that actually give children less choices, and something will give.  We are seeing this now.  And if we continue on the same track, it will get far worse.  If a “smart” student gets it faster, it would naturally put other students behind.  This is the impossible bar the Common Core puts on students.  For the intelligent who come from wealthier and more cohesive home environments, this isn’t a problem.  But for students with disabilities who cannot always control their actions and minority students who do not have the environmental stability their more advantaged peers have, it will take a great deal of effort to catch up with their peers.  Add in the stress and anxiety they have from their environment outside of school to the pressure to perform in school, and the pressure gage gets higher.  Then add the explosive need every teenager has, to belong and have friends, and the gage gets closer to the point of no return.  Throw in a fixation on violence mixed with wanting to be accepted and the Pompeii of public education is set.  Last week we saw the volcanic eruption of rage unchecked and bystanders filming it and doing nothing.

The biggest victims of the education reform movement are inner-city African-American students.  While civil rights groups demanded more equity for these students they fell into the trap the corporate education reformers methodically laid out for them with financial enticements.  The reformers echoed their complaints and pitted parents against teachers.  The reformers used standardized test scores to give a false impression of schools and invented a whole new language based on the word “gap”: the equity gap, the proficiency gap, the honesty gap, and on and on and on.  Add in school choice, a growing charter school movement, forced busing based on a horrible Neighborhood Schools Act in Delaware, and the rise of Jack Markell as Governor wrapped in a corporate bow and the perfect storm began in our schools.

To ignore the plight of African-Americans in Delaware would be a gross injustice.  It goes way beyond apologizing for slavery.  A friend of mine sent me an article about the 1968 Occupation of Wilmington.  The article written by Will Bunch with philly.com talked about the nine-month Occupation of Wilmington by the National Guard following the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.  For the African-American community in Wilmington at the time, this was a grave injustice:

On the other hand, in a sign of some of the deep divide and mistrust in Delaware that lingers to this day, the white Democratic governor down in Dover decided to send in the National Guard – and then kept troops on the streets of Wilmington for nine long months, the longest military occupation of a U.S. city since the Civil War.

And this quote from former Wilmington Mayor James Baker:

But the memory still burns for those who lived through the occupation. “It sent a shock wave through the social-service agencies . . . and the city as a whole,” Baker recalled. “People said, ‘What are we doing?’ “

Many African-American communities in Wilmington are very distrustful of the government, and for very good reasons.  This belief gets handed down from generation to generation.  But when drugs enter a city like Wilmington, followed by violence and murders, that distrust can get out of control.  How do we tackle this?  How do we lift a whole city out of a problem of this magnitude?  When my friend sent me this article, it was a response to my question about why we don’t just send in tons of cops and clean it all up, all the drugs and gangs.  She informed me the last time this happened it didn’t work out too well.  It astonishes me that we are still dealing with issues of race in the 21st Century, but we are and we need to face it and deal with it, all of us.  But at the same time, we cannot ignore what individuals are doing in individual circumstances.

We need to be very careful on how we plan to deal with the situations in far too many of our schools.  Far too much is tied into the very bad education reforms that show, time and time again, how it just doesn’t work.  But our current system has been infiltrated with far too many people tied to these efforts.  I expected to see a late rush of legislation coming forth at Legislative Hall in the final days of June.  With very little community input and transparency, we need to watch our legislators like a hawk and make sure what they put forth is best for students and not the broken system some of them are trying desperately to make permanent.  The funding mechanisms for our schools are under the microscope, but if we squeeze the property assessment orange too fast, it could cause many to leave the state they moved to because of low taxes.  As well, we need to be mindful of laws Delaware could pass in anticipation of the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The law is still being flushed out in a lot of areas and the DOE and Governor Markell WILL take full advantage of that to please the hedge funders and corporations.

If businesses want to come into our schools and turn them into community schools, they should pay rent to our schools.  If they want to turn education into a marketplace, like any other store they need to pay their rent.  Why are we giving them a free ride while they make millions and millions and our districts get less?  It makes no sense when you look at it like a business model.  But no, our state wants to give them tax discounts for doing business in our state.  We are giving them free reign to pump out the same products over and over again with no actual results.

While these aren’t the solutions we need to make our schools safer, it is a big start.  Our district administrators are far too distracted with all of the nonsense around Common Core, state assessments, personalized learning, and career pathways when they should be focused on the more important things.  The first steps to ending violence in our schools are actually quite simple.  A rebellion like none seen before in public education.  A collective and concerted effort to rid ourselves of the catalysts that are stroking the flames in our children’s lives.  End Common Core.  End state assessments.  End the testing accountability machine that destroys morale in students, teachers, and schools.  End the corporate interference in education that perpetuates the false ideals that if students have more “rigor” and “grit” they can become college and career ready.  We are indoctrinating children at a very young age to be something they are not meant to be.  The human mind won’t allow it.  Some will conform.  But for the growing poor and disabled in our country, they will not be what the reformers want them to be.  You can’t guide a four-year old towards a certain career path based on data and scores.  You can’t say they don’t qualify for special education if a disability has not manifested itself yet.  End the abhorrent amount of data collection on our students for “educational research”.

This is the start.  Let’s get back to more human education.  Why are we doing this to our future?  No child should be a victim of a padded resume or a fattened wallet.  The majority of teachers will tell you privately what we are doing is not working.  Administrators will as well if you catch them on a good day.  But they feel threatened that if they don’t comply their profession will disappear.  They will fight for certain things but when they need to openly rebel against the system, it doesn’t happen.  It is their self-defense mechanism.  The closest we have come to ending this era of education reform is opt out.  But even that is in danger of disappearing if the education tech invaders get their way and have the state assessment embedded in small chunks instead of a once a year test.  The personalized learning and competency-based education models are already calling for this.

When I hear people say “all you do is complain, what are your solutions?”, I cringe.  The problem is so epic in scope, so large in diameter, that it will take a great deal of effort by many well-meaning people to find all the answers.  And when I say well-meaning, I don’t mean the Rodel Foundation or the Governor.  I mean the people who are not affected by corporate greed and a lust for power.  I’m talking about the people who truly want to save our children.

Parents Told They Can’t Record Board Meeting Tonight At Academia Antonia Alonso

NoAudioOrVideoRecordingAllowed

Tonight, a Delaware charter school refused parents the ability to record their board meeting.  A group of parents attended the Academia Antonia Alonso Board of Directors meeting to give public comment about what they felt was unfair termination of many teachers at the school.  They wanted to record the meeting but were told they could not.  Even though charter schools are technically corporations, they still have to abide by public meeting laws in Delaware.  And in Delaware, all you have to do is advise someone you are recording a meeting.  You do not need their consent.

Charter schools in Delaware are not unionized, therefore they can hire and fire at will without any protection whatsoever for the teachers.  While one would hope charter administrators use a common sense approach in making these decisions, some charters have been known for running their schools like a dictatorship.  Some charters have fired a teacher over something as small as questioning a policy.  When this happens as often as it has at Academia Antonia Alonso this school year, sooner or later parents will begin to notice and question it themselves.  What charter boards fail to understand is they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a parent’s ability to make a choice.  What kind of message does that send when a parent is denied the simple freedom of recording a meeting when they don’t even need their consent?

Censored

House Bill 61, the school board recording bill, is awaiting a full vote by the Delaware Senate.  It passed the Delaware House last year.  Since then, many reports have come out about charter school fraud.  The bill is a no-brainer!  This is just another reason why this bill needs to pass.  Denying a parent of a choice is never a smart thing to do, especially when it comes to education.  For a parent to even attend a board meeting is a feat in itself.  They should be happy they have parent engagement.  I can only think of one reason a board wouldn’t want a public meeting to be heard.  And it isn’t because they don’t want parents to hear a great meeting.  They don’t want something getting out.  While the school did allow the parents to give public comment at two minutes each, will their concerns be put in the board minutes for the meeting?

What makes this more interesting is the amount of parent input they had for their recent major modification that passed the Delaware State Board of Education last week.  They had to solicit parents to comment on that publicly.  But when the parent’s want to talk about something the school doesn’t want out there, they don’t want the public to hear that.

Academia Antonia Alonso currently resides in the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The State Board of Education approved their major modification request to move to one of the buildings owned by Odyssey Charter School at Barley Mill Plaza.  The charter school has gone through three heads of school since they opened in August of 2014, in less than two years.  They were placed on formal review before they even opened based on low enrollment.  They got out of formal review with a probation and got their enrollment up to what their charter was approved for.  In the 2014-2015 Charter School Performance Framework, the school met the standard for their financial framework but was labeled as does not meet standard for their organizational framework.

When our schools going to learn that if you try to silence parents in any way, sooner or later they will organize.  Teachers in traditional school districts already have the capability to organize through their unions.  Perhaps charter school teachers should as well to avoid these administrators who seem to think ruling with an iron fist is the right thing to do.

Delaware State Senator David Sokola Faces Competition From Republican Meredith Chapman In 2016 Election

For over a year now, many people in Delaware have felt State Senator David Sokola has served for far too long in the Delaware Senate.  Today, a Republican named Meredith Chapman publicly announced she is running for State Senate in District 8.

https://twitter.com/MediaMeredith/status/725360717831016448

According to her LinkedIn profile, Chapman’s resume includes the following summary of her credentials:

Award-winning, nationally-recognized digital strategist, educator, communicator and former journalist, known as @MediaMeredith. Highly motivated and polished public relations manager with expertise in higher education, public affairs, government and politics, community outreach, crisis management, multimedia and strategy development as well as relationship cultivation. Innate leader with successful track record in management, organizational development, and strategy creation and execution. More than 10 years experience with and in the Delaware news scene with work on national and global levels. Proven skills in strategic communications, project management, program development, leadership and high-profile outreach and event management.

She is the current Director for Digital Communications at the University of Delaware.  This could get very interesting.  What do you think?  Is it time for new blood in the 8th Senate District in Delaware?  I will flat-out say I believe Senator Sokola has not used his position as Chair of the Senate Education Committee without bias towards certain agendas in Delaware.  A fervent charter school and standardized testing supporter, Sokola has been a lightning rod of controversy for some time.

MeredithChapman

 

Were Weapons Used In Amy Inita Joyner-Francis’ Death? Please Come Clean On This Wilmington P.D. & Howard High School of Technology

Over on Kilroy’s Delaware a commenter named M Ryder wrote a reply about who should have files charged against them in connection with Amy’s death at Howard High School of Technology.  Many have felt the administration of the school should have better coverage of student hallways in the beginning of the school day.  Since they didn’t, I questioned whether they should be charged with gross negligence.  I have always maintained that the parties directly involved in Amy’s death are ultimately responsible for her death.  M Ryder definitely agreed with that but added some facts that I haven’t seen involving this story:

So kevin, the school should be charged that two students planned to meet in the bathroom to fight over a boy? The school should be charged because the girl who was losing the fight had girlfriends carrying knives? The school should be charged for the girlfriends who then ganged up on the girl who they stabbed and then forced down striking her head on the way down? The school should be charged? Really???

If this really happened, why did the Wilmington Police Department state there were no weapons involved?  I asked M Ryder how he/she came about knowing this information but I have yet to receive a response.  If there were stab wounds, those would be seen right away by the police.  Superintendent Dr. Gehrt empathized Howard was a safe school just hours after the assault.  When are we going to get full details about what happened that day and why am I smelling a cover-up?  I thought it was ridiculous when someone mentioned there was talk about installing metal detectors at the school but if there were knives used in this crime, it is completely understandable.

I have no idea who “M Ryder” is, but they are usually accurate with their information they post on Kilroy’s Delaware.  I can’t verify if the information M Ryder posted is credible, but given everything that went down that day and the actions of those in authority afterwards, I would not be surprised.  As if this tragedy wasn’t already horrifying, this new aspect, if true, takes us further down the path of evil that came out that day.

What’s Going On In Indian River School District?

I found an article this morning from Kelli Steele with Delaware 105.9 about Indian River School District’s Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Miller.  He was placed on paid administrative leave without any explanation to the public.  This isn’t the first time Miller has been under the microscope:

Miller came to the Indian River School District from the Brandywine School District where he resigned from his position as acting supervisor of the business office in September 1998, after he pleaded NO contest to a criminal charge arising from the State Auditor’s nearly two-year investigation of District finances.

Of course, the school district isn’t going to come out and say why he was put on paid administrative leave as of April 24th because they have to protect personnel.  But how much money are we talking here?  I saw a link on Twitter that Indian River is now live streaming their board meetings.  Of course I saw this after their last board meeting.  If anyone knows what is going on here, feel free to reach out to me.

Breaking News: Lamont Browne Leaving EastSide Charter & Family Foundations Academy

The Delaware exodus continues.  Next up: Dr. Lamont Browne, the Executive Director of EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations Academy.  Browne will leave his mini charter empire on June 30th.  This hasn’t been officially announced, but it will be tomorrow night at their board meeting.  The word on the street has him going to Relay Graduate School’s Colorado program in Denver.

Browne joined EastSide Charter School in 2011 after a couple of years as a Principal in Philadelphia.  His goal was to turnaround the struggling charter school.  After a few years under Browne’s leadership, EastSide showed major gains on the former Delaware state assessment, DCAS.  As honors and kudos came to him from Governor Markell and the State Board of Education, the board of EastSide took over Family Foundations Academy after major financial fraud by the two school leaders.  Browne became the Executive Director of Delaware Charter Schools: EastSide & Family Foundations Academy.  For all the growth the students at EastSide had on DCAS, the school did horrible on the Smarter Balanced Assessment last year.  While this was consistent throughout the state, it was surprising to see EastSide near the bottom of the list for Delaware charter schools.

Many viewed Browne as a miracle worker with the growth students experienced at EastSide.  As a former member of the Teach For America Corps, Browne used many TFAers at EastSide.  But the school also experienced a lot of turnover with students so it was hard to pinpoint the exact growth at a consistent level.  For the Common Core standardized testing cheerleaders in Delaware, Browne became the poster leader for school growth in Delaware.  In March 2015, Browne was one of the five participants in the Imagine Delaware Forum.  He also served on the leadership council of the Vision Coalition, the offshoot of the Rodel Foundation.

The timing of Browne’s departure for the Colorado relay program matches with the timetable for Relay going into full operation mode in Denver this summer.  Relay Graduate School, similar to Teach For America, has what many view as very controversial teacher and leader preparation programs.  The corporate education reform movement loves them both.  Browne is a huge believer in teacher leaders elevating to principal roles in Delaware schools.

Obviously, there is no word on who will take over Browne’s title.  Many of the principals at the two charter schools he oversees are new principals with very little experience.  The next few months will be interesting to watch.  Especially when something happens on Moore and Brewington, the former Family Foundations leaders…

When Angels are Bystanders

Urgency of Now

My soul weeps and shudders in shame

To know that she was hoping for an angel who never came.

To know that if they dared droves of angels could’ve swooped in

But only if they cared for life more than they cared for groupthink.

Celestial beings who missed the moment their glorious wings were about to sprout

Because they lost their focus on purpose and courage for standing out.

Instead, the angels sought better angles to witness a tragedy unfold;

It’s a travesty they couldn’t see the stage was set for the majesty of bold.

So many angels whose sturdy shoulders were supposed to be an anchor

But they’re unstable, steeped in politics, arguments, and rancor.


Too many angels are out of commission in the system;

They forgot their mission was to serve and to listen.

Now we’re living with these sins of omission

Of all the heavenly stewards so…

View original post 97 more words

Should Criminal Charges Be Filed Against Those Who Watched Amy’s Assault?

We see it all the time.  Video footage surfaces of fights, in and out of schools.  They are all over social media.  While this can be used as evidence in a criminal investigation, it also glorifies the actual fighting.  Last week, Amy Joyner-Francis died from blunt force trauma to her head.  While this has not been labeled as the “official cause of death” pending an autopsy, my hunch is it will be.  Several students filmed the fight and watched.  They did not intervene.  Many of them cheered it on and formed a blockade so adults couldn’t get in to the bathroom at Howard High School of Technology.  Many feel they should be charged as well.  While they didn’t commit the act, they also did nothing that could have stopped it.  As well, should schools act on these issues if the justice system does not?  Please take the below poll and feel free to comment on this thread.  There will be many different opinions so let’s keep it civil!  If you vote “Other” please put what punishment or non-punishment you think they should get.

Why Are So Many Charters In Delaware Starting Smarter Balanced After Traditional Districts?

This question came up last year and it is happening again this year.  Why do many Delaware charters get to begin Smarter Balanced testing anywhere from 3-7 weeks after traditional school districts take the assessment?  That is a lot more instruction students are getting.  That can make a large difference in the scores on SBAC.  It can make some schools look better.  Not that I think anything involving standardized test scores actually means anything, but our state and policy-makers do and they allow our DOE to judge schools based on the performance of these tests.  As well, schools are now getting rewarded based on their test scores and receiving financial awards.

I challenge all school districts and charters, or the parents thereof, to let me know when kids started taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment in your schools this year.  When the scores come out, it will be very interesting to see if that additional month makes a difference.  My feeling is that it probably does.  As well, how do we really know, since the tests are already out there so much earlier, that some schools aren’t given a heads up on what to expect on the tests and design instruction based on that?  I’m sure the DOE would respond “they can’t do that”.  But we all know the DOE does many things “they can’t do” but they do it anyway.

If there is one consistent thing I’ve heard this year about opt out it is that some schools are still sending out the -yawn- Delaware DOE template letter they sent to schools and districts way back in December of 2014.  The one with laws with … two times in the middle of the sentence.  The one where it cherry-picks certain words in the law without giving the full context, weight, or even the meaning of the law.  You know, the illegal letter.  The one that is about enforceable as a Resolution in the Delaware General Assembly.  I know the testing season is nearing the end for this year, but some schools haven’t begun testing yet, so it is important to continue to get the word out there for parents who don’t know this information.  Of course, this wouldn’t even be necessary to point out if our General Assembly did the right thing with House Bill 50.  But it appears that ship has sailed.  Please share on your Facebook pages and social media.

WEIC Meeting Tonight, The DOE’s Divide And Conquer Strategy Next Monday, & The Capital Debate

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is having a full commission meeting tonight at the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The meeting on the 2nd floor in the teacher’s lounge begins at 5:30pm.  Many big education meetings are going down Monday afternoon with overlapping times, thereby ensuring no one can possibly make all three meetings.  As well, the very odd-sounding EFIC group has another meeting and the candidates for the Capital School Board are having a question and answer night!  But first, the WEIC agenda:

WEICAgenda42616I would imagine the group is a bit nervous since no legislation has been introduced to move forward on their redistricting plan.  If I were a betting man, it is coming but not until late June.  Tomorrow, one of the WEIC sub-committees is having a meeting: The Charter & District mud fight Collaboration Committee.

WEICCharterDistrictAgenda

But next Monday is where a lot of the action is as groups meet about the assessment inventory, student data privacy and the Every Student Succeeds Act.  It is possible to make all three if you drive REALLY fast and miss portions of two of the meetings.  But if you want free soda and pizza on the taxpayer’s dime, go to the last meeting!

The first one, which I’m most interested in given that I write a lot about student data privacy all the time these days, is the Data-Mining Club Student Data Privacy Protection Task Force.  They canceled the last meeting because they knew they wouldn’t have a quorum.  I would have put the agenda in, but of course the link doesn’t work.  I guess they want to make it private! 😉

StudDataPrivTF5216

In the next episode of “We Hate Parents so we are going to trick them out of opting out by making it look like we are getting rid of the bad tests”, the committee meets to discuss testing in Delaware.  Someone on the DOE side will talk about how essential the Smarter Balanced Assessment is and someone from the “good guys” side of the table will question what the hell we are even doing.  Audience members will give public comment overwhelmingly on the side of “Smarter Balanced sucks”.

SJR25216

To see the wonderful world of the Every Student Succeeds Act through the eyes of Corporate Education Reform Cheerleader State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson, come to Grotto’s Pizza at 5:30pm.  Keep in mind, everyone is still trying to figure out what the hell this mammoth law even means so anything Donna talks about will be subject to change.  Expect many “I don’t know”s and “We don’t know yet”s coming from the microphone for this one.  We can expect a lot of the same people to show up to this one.  Last time I went to one of these I got to take part in a table discussion with Kendall Massett from the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Melissa Hopkins from the Rodel Foundation.  Talk about awkward!  But it was all good…

StateBoardWorkshopESSA

And then on Tuesday, the Education Funding Task Force is meeting again to finalize their pre-determined potential education funding plan for the General Assembly to squeeze in during the last days of their legislative session.

SJR4Mtg5316

But THE most exciting education event next week will actually take place at Central Middle School on Wednesday May 4th at 7pm.  Candidates running for the Capital School Board are having a debate!!!  Shameless plug: I am one of the candidates.  Come and find out what our priorities, ideas, and concerns are and what our plans are to improve the district.  And don’t forget, no matter what district you live in, the school board elections are only two weeks away, on May 10th.

Capital Candidate Night

The Wink

Last Thursday at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, Chris Ruszkowski gave his last public appearance as the Chief of the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware Department of Education.  State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray congratulated Ruszkowski on his departure to New Mexico.  As a few of us feverishly went to Google to find out what that was all about, a DOE employee informed me he was going to be the new Deputy Secretary of Education for New Mexico.  I put up a very short post about it right away.

Shortly after, Ruszkowski winked and smiled at me.  I have to wonder what that was about.  Was it his way of saying “You were right about everything but guess what, I’m moving up in the education world.”  Or was it “I can’t stand you, but I’m not going to let you know that.”  It could have possibly been “You were wrong about everything.  There you sit with your little blog while I’m off to New Mexico.”  I’ll probably never know.  Or there could have been other reasons.  Maybe he really liked the “Surfer Boy” nickname I gave him.  Perhaps he enjoyed the cat and mouse games myself and others played with him and it kept him on his toes.

It is my hope his replacement, Angeline Rivello, seizes the opportunity to make this area of the DOE more transparent and less judgmental about our teachers in Delaware.  Ruszkowski didn’t just burn bridges, he blew them up.

All I can say is good luck. New Mexico is going to need it!

1986

I was 15 when it began.  A year that changed so much.  A time when I began to find out who I was and broke out of the mold I set for myself.

A time for BHTL…

A time for friends…

standbyme

A time to be happy…

A time to win…

ChicagoBears

A time to be young…

A time to pretend…

hamlet

A time to panic…

A time to appreciate…

Ferris

A time to look away…

A time for heroes…

mattingly

A time to pray…

StMchurch_op_800x600

A time for dreams…

A time for love…

24683-3622-27458-1-watchmen

A time to look to the future…

Dark_knight_returns

A time to run…

Elektra_Assassin_Vol_1_1

It was 1986.  I was a high school sophomore and junior during this year.  We lost a teacher before she ever entered space.  We joined Hands Across America.  The Police got back together for the Amnesty International concert.  The beginnings of Glasnost led to the end of the Cold War as fallout fell around Chernobyl.  Ferris took a Day Off while Molly got Pretty In Pink.  We wasted our time watching Geraldo find a bottle of moonshine but we were obsessed with Max Headroom.  Bill Buckner let a ball slide between his legs while we watched a Refrigerator do a Shuffle.  For myself, it was a reawakening that changed my life forever, where the bizarre met the future.  Howard and Phil told us No One Is To Blame.  I was a short-lived Drammie.  A lady rose in stature once more.  The term “going postal” was born in Oklahoma but we lost a couple good ones at my school.  Lindsay Lohan entered the world while there was some affair going on between Iran and Contra.  I worked at a comic store and helped out with a magazine about comic books as well as the local pharmacy.  I spent a lot of time that summer in Ridgefield where I left my heart for a while.  I played football in Vermont one weekend and was an Antassawomack Beach Bum another.

To truly get this article, you had to be alive at the time, and probably into some of the same stuff I was at the time.  Alternative music, comics, Yankees, and movies!  The Cold War was still going on but we could see the beginnings of a warm-up.  I walked out of my own shadow and became… something!  It was a chrysalis but I didn’t find out what came out of the cocoon until many years later.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  It was 1986…

 

 

 

Public Information Officer For Howard High School Of Technology Clears The Air On Board Meeting & Town Halls

I updated my last post yesterday with information from the New Castle County Vo-Tech District concerning the change of time and venue for their board meeting this month.  During my communication with the district, I asked them if they just wanted me to make the change or post their information verbatim.  I didn’t hear back from them until late last night but I already made the change earlier.  This was their communication to me:

From: Demarest Kathy <kathy.demarest@nccvt.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2016 3:49 PM
Subject: Regarding your post to Exceptional Delaware

Hi, Kevin-

I am writing this email to you instead of using your blog as a forum.

On behalf of the NCC Vo-Tech school district, it is disappointing that you presumed that we decided to change the school board meeting time and location in order to prevent access to the public.  Nothing could be further from the truth.
As you can imagine, or perhaps you cannot, the first two days were spent doing everything that could be done to support Amy’s family, to provide supports for our Howard students and staff, and to communicate with students, parents, and the greater community the details as we knew them,  while this horrible tragedy was evolving.

We scheduled a Saturday morning conference call so we could schedule and plan Howard parent meetings as soon as possible. We knew we already had a regular monthly Board of Education meeting scheduled for Monday evening, and were already considering changing it so that Monday could be a parent meeting option.

We were informed late Friday by an elected city official that a Town Hall meeting for Howard parents and community had been scheduled for Monday night at Stubbs Elementary School. As we were unaware of that plan, and in order to accommodate that meeting, our Board of Education determined to move up their meeting Monday from 7 p.m. to 4 p.m., and to hold it at District Office.

We have scheduled to hold the Howard parent meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, both meetings beginning at 7 p.m., and both in the Howard auditorium.  We had to schedule two meetings in order to accommodate as many parents who may wish to attend. Howard has a student body of over 900.
The Tuesday meeting is for parents of 10th and 11th grade students; Wednesday is for parents of students in grades 9 and 12.

It was certainly disheartening to see your post, when all are trying to make the best decisions possible during this unspeakable and evolving personal crisis for the Joyner-Francis family, and a school-wide crisis for the Howard community.  Perhaps you should have asked before you presumed the worst.

Please keep Amy’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.  This will be a most difficult week for all. 

Kathy K. Demarest
Public Information Officer
NCC Vo-Tech School District

I responded with the following:

From: Kevin Ohlandt
Reply-To: Kevin Ohlandt
Date: Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 6:47 PM
To: Demarest Kathy
Subject: Re: Regarding your post to Exceptional Delaware

Kathy,

I do appreciate you reaching out to me. I apologize about not reaching out. I used to reach out, many times, and I am usually ignored. So I stopped doing so a while ago. I get information from a lot of people, and while you were disheartened with my article, that was the impression many folks had prior to my writing it. As well, many people, including staff in the district, were extremely upset that Dr. Gehrt referred to Howard as a safe school when an innocent girl was killed there. There was a whole other part to that article you didn’t address. I understand this is a very tough situation, but parents and community members are counting on all of you to change the environment there. The bottom line is Howard is not safe. It hasn’t been, and I know many of our schools aren’t either. Sadly, we learned what happens when things are sugar-coated and we hyper obsess over student outcomes.

I write what I do, not to be heartless, but to draw attention to what is really going on out there. I know that underneath the shiny veneer so many of our schools coat themselves with, that there are children suffering. I also know a lot of that suffering is due to events from outside our schools, but a lot of it does take place in schools. Let me be the first to tell you: I hate writing so much about our schools and DOE in Delaware. I truly do. There is no benefit to myself, and it takes a huge amount of time.

I will happily change the article with the information you provided to me. I can do so verbatim or just paraphrase. I will leave that up to you.

I know this is a horrifying time for the district, but as a parent myself, I would want to attend this board meeting if I were a Howard parent. Town Halls in this situation are absolutely necessary, but board meetings are too. I know many people don’t take advantage of them, but that is where things happen with our districts. I do apologize the way I wrote the article, and like I said, I am more than happy to change it.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

I received the following response late last night:

From: Demarest Kathy
To: Kevin Ohlandt
Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2016 10:27 PM
Subject: Re: Regarding your post to Exceptional Delaware

Hi Kevin,

Thank you for your apology and for the offer to post. I’d prefer you post my email in its entirety.

Regards,

Kathy

Dennis Ian: Don’t Let Anyone Hurry Your Child

Governor Markell, David Sokola, Earl Jaques, Dr. Paul Herdman, Donna Johnson, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Michael Watson, Dr. Steven Godowsky and Kendall Massett: I strongly urge all of you to read this post. I didn’t write it so maybe that will be an enticement for you. Think of your own children or grandchildren. Is this really the life you want for them? Their childhood gone with… your legacies?

Diane Ravitch's blog

Reader Dennis Ian shared this memory, which has lessons for us all about what we expect of children. Should a second-grader be on track for college or career? Read on.

Dennis Ian writes:

This has been warmly received and I thought that it might be of value to your readers especially because the spring assessments are nearly upon us …

“Time,Time, Time, see what’s become of me …”

I’m an old father now. My sons have sons. I own lots of memories. I polish the sweet ones and never dust the ones that hurt. I mind time now. I didn’t used to. In fact, like lots of you, I was reckless with time. Not any longer.

When I was a boy of about 9 or so, I had the temporary misfortune of being the last to the dinner table … and that meant sitting just to the left of my…

View original post 1,021 more words

UPDATED WITH VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION!!! Parents Concerned About Murder At Howard High School Should Go To District Board Meeting Monday Night

Updated, 8:32am: I have just heard from a few sources that the district has changed their meeting to their district office at 4pm.  And the meeting will be held in a conference room that holds a maximum of 15 people.  Apparently there is a Town Hall at Stubbs Elementary School tomorrow night which is being led by Wilmington Councilman Darius Brown, which precipitated the time change for the board meeting.  The district did reach out to advise me this is the reason for the board meeting change.  Several folks were upset about this, and I did suggest to the district they might want to change the board meeting to another night when parents and members of the community are more easily able to attend.  There is another Town Hall this week for parents to talk about the situation.  I will update that information when I know when and where.  One thing I would remind everyone to do is think of Amy and her family and friends.  And please continue praying for all of them.

Howard High School of Technology belongs to the New Castle County Vocational-Technical School District.  The district has a board meeting Monday night, 4/25, at St. George’s Technical High School in their Media Center at 7pm.  Howard was the high school where Amy died last Thursday.  I believe the district has a lot to answer for.  While I don’t believe the district is directly responsible for what happened to Amy, there were circumstances that allowed the situation to happen in the first place.

NCCVTAgenda42516

Why are students allowed to enter the school at 7:15am in the morning to gather and do what they please.  I’m hearing hall monitors are sparse, when they do come, and when they arrive on time.  I’ve heard many who want to blame the teachers for what happened.  Nope.  They are in district mandated professional development during some of these mornings.  To accommodate this, the district changed the start time for the first classes a couple days a week.  Let’s make one thing clear right off the get-go: teachers hate professional development.  I don’t care how many surveys the Delaware Dept. of Education dredges out.  The abuse of Delaware teachers doesn’t begin and end with their evaluations.

Our school districts have become so enamored with the Delaware Way, that horrible situation where all tables must come to the table and compromise while the more powerful of the parties ends up getting their way (in most cases the state DOE/Rodel Foundation for education).

Could Amy’s death have been prevented?  I would like to think it could have.  One thing is crystal clear.  The discipline and fighting figures we see are not honest.  There may be a few out there, but I think a lot is going unreported.  There are things our schools are trying to hide which is making problems worse, not better.  In many of our schools, students hit teachers all the time.  They curse and roam the halls in some schools.  Some students are expelled or sent to alternative schools in the hopes they will become better students.  But the class sizes in these schools now make it impossible for a teacher there to get anything done.  There is also this absurd culture where students have no authoritative role models anymore.  Some of them don’t get it at home or school.  A school should not be the Band-Aid to cure what ails so many of our students.  But this seems to be what our state and the corporate education reform companies want.

Don’t get me wrong: students should not encourage fighting, nor should they build a blockade so teachers or other adults can’t stop what is going on.  The students involved should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.  In my opinion, those who stood and watched while filming the tragedy should be held accountable as well.  They are just as guilty.  But the schools, districts and administrators who stand back and let these things happen time and time again need to realize how serious these things can get.  A student died in one of our schools in Delaware.  She was murdered.  We can’t forget that and it would dishonor Amy’s life to think otherwise.

The parents of students at Howard High School of Technology have every right to voice their concerns.  I strongly encourage all of them to attend the board meeting Monday night in Middletown.  If they are unable to get there, other parents should offer a ride or perhaps the district should arrange busing for them so they can make their voices heard.  This meeting could get very real and the district may be forced to hear things they would rather not hear.  But I’m sure Amy’s parents heard something they never wanted to hear the day she died.

Local Teachers Tell Truth about “Personalized Learning”

Save Maine Schools

Five years ago, the Maine Coalition for Excellence in Education (now called Educate Maine) sent a copy of Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning” to all superintendents in the state.

The book-lengthsales pitch was purchased with funding from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation as part of its lobbying campaign for Maine’s proficiency-based diploma mandate.

In Auburn, Superintendent Katy Grondin urged all citizens in her community to also read the book.Grondin’s school district had recently partnered with the Gates and Nellie Mae-funded Reinventing Schools Coalition (RISC), becoming one of a handful of districts around the country at Ground Zero for what is now a nationwide push toward the experimental, profit-driven model of education known more commonly as “personalized” learning.

As part of the district reforms, students in Auburn received iPads, and teachers, monitored closely by the Marzano teacher evaluation system, were encouraged to upload, administer, and track lessons and assessments…

View original post 594 more words

Her Name Is Amy

Something happened yesterday in Delaware that shook them to their core.  She knew she would be forever viewed as the student who died because of something that happened inside her school.  She woke up yesterday, got ready for school, her mind heavy with whatever circumstances eventually led to her death, and faced the day.  She probably didn’t know it was going to be her last.  Her name is Amy.

She got to school and soon after found herself in a girl’s bathroom where she then found herself in a fight with another girl.  Others joined the fight and what may have been even odds soon became unbalanced.  As onlookers excitedly watched and some may have pulled out their iPhones to film the fight, the girl’s head hit the floor.  As instincts for defense flashed out of her mind I imagine she felt a sudden jolt of pain and then nothing.  Her name is Amy.

She may have felt her soul leap out of her body.  She may have seen her mortal shell no longer a vessel for her heart and soul.  She may have seen the confusion, anger, and sadness around her death.  Depending on what she believed, many things could have happened.  She felt a warmth and a light calling to her as she was welcomed into the arms of those she lost in her short time here.  All her worries, confusion, and anxiety lifted from her in an instant.  Surrounded by unconditional love with a true understanding of what existence is truly about.  Her name is Amy.

As she met our Heavenly Father and His Son, she understood why everything happened the way it did and she was at peace with it.  She may have shared some of that light and kindness with her family on Earth, and her friends, and even her enemies.  She may have seen the endless tears stretch across a nation yesterday as people who never knew her tried to grapple with what happened.  Perhaps she knew her death may have meaning in the long run and serve as an example of much-needed change on our world.  Her name is Amy.

She may have seen the pervasive darkness that surrounded the city she called home.  The true evil, mixed with moments of grace, as the city endlessly struggles to heal itself.  She may have seen the light inside each and every one of its inhabitants, struggling to bring out that light and let it shine.  She may have seen those who do not have a home to call their own except the hard streets.  She may have seen the endless debate, trying to find fault in her death.  But she knew her death meant she would have eternal life.  She understood that her freedom was our loss and for some, nothing would ever be the same again.  She knew some would attempt to change things because of her death and she smiled.  Her name is Amy.

It was the last day of her mortal life and the first day of her eternal life.  The things that mattered to her here were still with her but in her new life she felt a connection with it all.  She saw how one pebble could have a ripple effect on those around her which spread out around the world.  A butterfly effect.  She understood that human beings could make a choice, to give her death true meaning they would need to look outside themselves to understand the multiple reasons for answering the whys.  She understood the factors that led to her eternal life and no one thing could give a clarifying and simple answer.  From the time she was in her mother’s womb until her last breath, everything mattered.  How one smile to a stranger could have lifted their burdens of the day.  How one word of anger could have darkened the light inside someone.  How one tear of sadness could have hardened a soul to indifference.  While these things made her who she was, she understood that it meant everything to those who cried for her but none could understand the entire puzzle.  Her name is Amy.

She understood that it wasn’t just about education, or boys, or crime, or authority, or lawlessness, or anger.  It was about life, in all its shapes and forms and colors.  Every action, every thought, every moment… it mattered.  She saw the pictures forming in the minds of the lost and she knew one day they would understand.  She knew God gave each of us a piece of Himself and we could never see the full picture until we returned to Him.  She saw the technology with her name everywhere and she laughed, a jovial soul-cleansing laugh that spread throughout the afterlife.  Heaven got brighter yesterday as it does when every new soul joins it.  An unending light that gives each of us a piece of that light.  She understood this in her first day.  Her name is Amy.

Tonight we’ll build a bridge across the sea and land
See the sky, the burning rain
She will die and live again tonight.

-U2-“A Sort of Homecoming”