An Open Letter To Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick

Yesterday, Saranac Spencer with the News Journal posted an article about the ongoing litigation against the Brandywine School District.  Patrick Wahl, the father of a son in the district, filed a lawsuit against the district earlier this year based on due process issues arising from a school suspension and what Wahl believes was a violation of due process rights regarding a search and seizure. This is the first time, to my knowledge, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick has publicly commented on the matter.  Today, Patrick Wahl issued a response to Holodick’s challenge to Wahl.

The News Journal reported this exchange at the end of their article:

So far, Wahl has spent nearly $50,000 on attorney fees, he said, and he is seeking to recover that money through the lawsuit. He is also seeking damages.

“The district questions Mr. Wahl’s motives as he continues to pursue this issue,” Holodick said in his statement. “He has stated in social media venues that he is concerned for the taxpayer as this lawsuit could result in the district spending money on attorneys, a possible settlement or damages.  If that is indeed the case, the district hopes that Mr. Wahl will sign a binding agreement to donate any monetary rewards gained from this lawsuit to a local, deserving non-profit organization, such as the Brandywine Education Foundation, which provides students scholarships and teacher grants.”

Wahl responded that he is eager to talk to the district about what he is looking for – ultimately, he said, he wants to see changes in policy regarding reasonable searches of students.

“They could have ended this a year ago,” Wahl said. “They could end it today.”

Wahl’s rebuttal to Holodick’s challenge appeared on his Facebook account today.  I did ask Mr. Wahl if it was okay to publish this along with the personal information included.  He said it was all public.

AN OPEN LETTER TO BRANDYWINE SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT DR. MARK HOLODICK

Please LIKE and SHARE so this message FINDS ITS WAY to Dr. Holodick!!!

Dear Dr. Holodick,

I read with interest your confusing comments to the News Journal, linked below.

You say, on the one hand, that you are “confident that upon the examination of the accurate record through the litigation, Mr. Wahl’s claims will be disproven.”

But on the other hand, you hope that I will sign “a binding agreement to donate any monetary rewards gained from this lawsuit to a local, deserving non-profit organization, such as the Brandywine Education Foundation, which provides students scholarships and teacher grants.”

Which is it? You’re confident that my claims will be disproven? Or you fear I’ll be awarded monetary damages? Make up your mind.

This confidence that you have — it’s the same confidence you had before the State Board hearing, right?

Dr. Holodick, you lost at the State Board. Do you remember why?

The State Board decided against you because, despite their repeated requests, you produced NO RECORDS.

Now, you say you in fact have an “accurate record” that you’ve been saving, apparently, for the courts.

Your assertion begs the question:

IF YOU HAVE THESE RECORDS, WHY DID YOU NOT PRODUCE THEM FOR THE STATE BOARD?

Did you not have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayer to produce them then upon the repeated requests of the State Board? And if you did not have them then, why did you instead use district funds to pay district counsel to argue the case you knew you would lose? Why did you not simply expunge the record, which is all we were asking for at that time? Were you just trying to exhaust and bankrupt me, hoping I would go away? Did you think the State Board was in the tank for you? Why does a parent have to go to court to see these records?

Do you understand that when the State Board said that the Brandywine School Board violated the law, they mean that YOU violated the law, Dr. Holodick? Aren’t you the Brandywine School Board’s EXECUTIVE SECRETARY? What’s going on with your board, Dr. Holodick?

Taxpayers deserve your explanation TODAY. What kind of records have you suddenly come up with, and why did you withhold them from the State Board? Are you really going to make me produce witnesses who you already know will disprove your claims? As you wish.

You made me prove that you broke the law at the State Board hearing, forcing me to hire a lawyer to get the due process to which I was entitled. So I did. I was right. You violated the law. So now the question is, how do I get those attorney fees covered which I should never have had to pay in the first place? Dr. Holodick? Hello? Are you still there?

I am EAGER to meet with you, WITH OR WITHOUT OUR LAWYERS, to discuss this BINDING AGREEMENT you suggest. My email address is pat@officemagic.com and my cell phone is (302) 229-9520. I’m waiting to hear from you for this meeting that so far, you’ve refused me — in violation of your own Code of Conduct.

You circumvented the “Grievance Procedures When a Suspension Has Occurred” on page 65 when you sicced your lawyer on me instead. See that part where you were supposed to schedule a conference with me? You know, right before the “stay-put” provision stuff which allowed Joseph to stay in school, but which you also ignored? Oddly, hearing from district counsel Mr. McMackin as I did is never mentioned in these grievance procedures.

I am happy to discuss this binding agreement in which monetary awards will go to charity, but perhaps to the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit which provides legal services at no charge to students whose constitutional rights have been violated. I’m sure you understand that while I indeed have donated to the Brandywine Education Foundation in the past, I will never, ever do so again. I noticed that Mr. John Skrobot, President of the Brandywine School Board, is on the Board of Directors of the Brandywine Education Foundation. So you are asking that the money I’m awarded be donated to the very lawbreakers I’m suing. I’m going to pass.

But you know what else, Dr. Holodick? I’ve already thought about the taxpayer. That’s why I’m suing you personally, and not just in your official capacity. Did you notice that part of the complaint? I agree with you — damages should be paid by you, Mr. Rolph, and Mr. Simmons, and not by the taxpayer. After all, as Delaware’s #1 highest paid state employee, you take home a quarter million dollars a year. Will you sign a binding agreement that any damages I’m awarded will be paid by you personally and not by the taxpayer? Hey, no worries, right? After all, you are “confident that upon the examination of the accurate record through the litigation, Mr. Wahl’s claims will be disproven.”

Now, I do want to be accurate. Your actual pay is just under a quarter million a year — $246,071.52, to be exact. Mr. Rolph and Mr. Simmons make six figures as well, just like EVERY OTHER administrator in the entire Brandywine School District. I understand there are nearly 100 such six-figure administrators in the Brandywine School District.

Are you a good risk manager? Are you aware of the district’s exposure in this case? Was it a good use of taxpayer money when you fought all the way through the State Board? Did you receive competent counsel advising you simply to expunge the record instead as I had requested and as they eventually ordered anyway? Did you reject and overrule that counsel?

You’ve already wasted a great deal of taxpayer money fighting your losing case at the State Board, and you’re going to spend exponentially more taxpayer money fighting in court. That’s what’s costing the taxpayers, not the damages you’ll pay personally.

You also know this case has little or nothing to do with your zero tolerance policy for “knives of any sort,” and everything to do with the court’s zero tolerance policy, as each and every American should have, for violations of the Constitution and of due process.

You say you want to keep the school safe. The school was not made any safer when my son was banned from its premises for a full week. If you want to keep the school safe, as we all do, I have an idea. How about the administrators know the students? Why did Mr. Rolph not know the student he was looking for? Why did Mr. Rolph not know the student he found? Does that trouble you? What are you doing about it?

I look forward to hearing from you. Let’s both put our personal differences aside and do what’s best to fix what’s wrong in the school district and resolve this case. If you will treat me with respect rather than with the contempt you’ve shown me, I will reciprocate. Again, my email is pat@officemagic.com and my cell phone is (302) 229-9520. I will be letting everyone know whether your suggestion of a binding agreement between us was sincere or was merely empty posturing in which you “question the motives” of a parent of a student whose civil rights you violated, and whose right to due process you systematically suppressed.

All I can say is “Wow!”  I can’t wait to see Dr. Holodick’s response.  I would just like to extend an invitation that if Dr. Holodick wants to channel a response through this blog, I would be more than happy to give him the chance to air his side of the story.

Delaware DOE Will Severely Punish More Brandywine, Christina & Red Clay Schools Based On Smarter Balanced Scores

Wilmington

As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Delaware Department of Education named several new schools that would have become Priority or Focus Schools in an email to the United States Department of Education if the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) went into full effect this year.  It won’t, but it gives a very good sign of the entire purpose of this “school report card” scheme: more inner-city schools getting false labels and “turnaround status” based on high-stakes standardized test scores.  One school, far away from Wilmington, which was highly praised by Governor Markell and the DOE a couple of years ago for their reduction of proficiency gaps would have been a Focus School this year because of the increase in their proficiency gap.  Another school that would have become a priority school is already slated to close at the end of this year.  Again, I will stress these schools (aside from the ones with an asterisk) have not been named but would have been if the DSSF went into effect this year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority1

Wow!  That is a lot of information from the former Director of Accountability at the Delaware DOE!  This was part of the Delaware DOE’s ESEA waiver request they sent to the US DOE at the end of November last year.  The State Board had just approved the participation rate penalty in the DSSF at their November meeting.  What wasn’t revealed was this list of schools that would have been named Focus or Priority…

ReynaPotlFocusPriority2

Four of the schools labeled as Priority are already Priority Schools.  I find it interesting the other two Red Clay Priority Schools are not on this list.  The Christina School District would have two more Priority Schools based on their DSSF score.  Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed and will close their doors forever at the end of this school year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority3

Booker T. Washington Elementary School?  What?  Isn’t this the same school Governor Markell touted and praised for closing the gaps in 2014 and 2015?  Didn’t Delaware Today just do a big article about the school’s big turnaround?  I have to wonder if Capital School District is aware this school would have been punished again and put back in turnaround status.

Brandywine School District (district code 31) already had three designated Focus Schools this year, but four more would have joined that elite group.  Half of Delaware’s Focus Schools would have existed in the Brandywine School District!  Red Clay would have seen a middle school join while Christina would have another two schools in turnaround status.  Colonial and Delmar both would join the “Focus School Group” based on their proficiency gaps.

When you compare these schools with charter schools based on the actual Smarter Balanced scores last year, the fatal flaw in the Delaware School Success Framework becomes very clear.  Many charters such as EastSide, Family Foundations, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison had lower Smarter Balanced scores than some of the priority and focus schools above.  But because the DSSF is based not just on the overall scores but also the “growth to proficiency”, the system is rigged to punish schools in traditional school districts.  Why?  Because the Delaware DOE never did what they said they were going to do in their ESEA waiver application:

CharterPriorityRegulation

So even though they named Delaware College Prep as a priority school in their “DSSF” scenario, it wouldn’t happen because to this date the DOE has not submitted any regulations indicating what is in the picture above.  As well, this would account for Focus Schools as well, as seen here:

FocusCharterRegulation

And what is that Focus School Criteria?

FocusCriteria1617beyond

But here is where things get confusing:

TimelineTransitionDSSF

The above states no new Focus or Priority schools will be named in the next two years.  But they will name Reward and Recognition schools.  So that’s good, right?  Wrong.  The whole ballgame changes on August 1st, 2016.  That is when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect.  States will be given a “planning and implementation year” so to speak.  But the key will be in the regulations issued in the coming months.  That is where ALL OF THIS will come into play.  The Delaware DOE was probably about 95% certain the ESSA would pass at the time of this ESEA Waiver application on November 19th, 2015.  So what does this mean?

These are my predictions: The regulations coming out of ESSA will give the states the authority to determine “turnaround” schools based on US DOE “guidance”.  The Delaware DOE will take full advantage of this to keep the plans now in place but also to make things go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year.  Or possibly, they will stall this until the 2017-2018 school year.  They will support this with a re-designed Regulation 103 in Delaware based on the US DOE regulations.  If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes the General Assembly (which I now think will happen), Red Clay will have a lot of priority and focus schools.  And more to be named based on the Delaware School Success Framework and how they calculate things.  Most of them are schools in the city limits of Wilmington.  Around 2019 or 2020, the DOE will pounce on these schools with hardcore priority school MOUs.  If you thought the MOUs in 2014 were stringent, these will be even tougher for the Red Clay Board of Education to work around.  By this time, based on the Smarter Balanced scores (or whatever replaces it), all the Wilmington Red Clay schools will be in Priority School status.  Red Clay won’t close all the schools, so they will be forced to turn them over to the DOE, become charter schools, or be put into a management organization.  And that, my friends, is when we see Wilmington become an all-charter school district.  Over time this will engulf the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts.  Upper New Castle County will become ALL charter.

Think about the real estate deals that will come out of that.  Think about the collective bargaining rights that are marginalized when a school goes into priority school status.  Think about competency-based education and personalized learning and career pathways initiatives already in place in Delaware and other states.  Think about the huge amount of schools in the country that have already converted to charters, and the vast amounts of money hedge fund managers make off charters.  Think about all the foundations and non-profits that support charters.  Think about the fact that WEIC had to happen for all of this to come to fruition.  Think about how organizations like Teach For America and the Relay Graduate School for Education stand to benefit immensely from a scenario where teachers are no longer teachers but glorified moderators in a personalized learning environment.  Think about the long con and how this would eventually trickle down the state, past the canal, all the way down to Sussex County over the long run.  Think about all the tax break legislation that has gone through in Delaware that Markell has signed so fast.  There could be a lot of new business coming to Delaware.  But none of it will be good for students.

This is the game plan.  The one that Delaware Governor Jack Markell, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Business Roundtable fervently support.  You won’t find any memos or emails about this.  You won’t find any hard or definitive proof either.  It will just happen.  And if you think John Carney will save the day as the new Governor of Delaware, think again…

Guess what the one mechanism is that stops all of this?

OPT OUT

If the state doesn’t have the data needed to carry out all of this, they can’t very well use the results to force all these changes.  This is why Governor Markell and the DOE and Rodel and all the organizations, foundations, and non-profits are against opt out.  Opt Out is the game-changer that disrupts ALL their plans.

Governor Jack Markell & Johnnie Cochran: Parallel Lines & Big Mistakes

American Crime Story: The People Vs. O.J. Simpson concluded on Tuesday night.  Based on the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman, the show brought the O.J. Simpson saga from 1994-1995 back to life.  During this time, Jack Markell was making a name for himself in the business world.  The parallels between Johnnie Cochran’s defense of O.J. and Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s defense of high-stakes testing are uncanny.

To be very clear, there is no doubt in my mind O.J. Simpson killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman.  DNA evidence proved that conclusively with the blood found in his Bronco and in various areas around the Brentwood Estate.  The reason he was found not guilty was because the trial turned into a racial matter instead of a criminal one.  Even defense attorney Robert Shapiro admitted to playing the “race card” in the trial.  During the show, it became obvious that defense attorney Johnnie Cochran insisted on turning the already explosive murder trial into a black vs. white thing.  What didn’t help the defense at all was the very racist views of former Los Angeles detective Mark Furman and questions that arose concerning the bungling or planting of evidence by the Los Angeles Police Department.

JohnnieCochran

For the past twenty years, Delaware has embarked on one standardized test after another.  The purpose behind these tests, at least from the viewpoint of education “reformers”, is to close the equity gaps between minorities and their white peers.  As parents in Delaware decided to opt their children out of taking these tests, Governor Jack Markell continued to point out this divide.  With big money and high-profile names supporting him, Markell sold the “need” for the Smarter Balanced Assessment through a false defense for at-risk students along with intimidating threats by the US Department of Education.

Both Markell and Cochran seemed to think bringing race into a controversial issue was a smart idea to defend something bad.  O.J. Simpson, once again in my opinion, brutally killed his ex-wife and her boyfriend.  High-stakes standardized tests serve no other purpose than to give faulty data to corporations to further perpetuate the cycle of showing these “gaps” between minorities and their peers.

When things got tough during the O.J. trial, Cochran turned to civil rights groups to show the divide between white and black people.  This galvanized the trial into two camps.  Most white people felt O.J. was guilty but most African-Americans felt he was either innocent or didn’t care if he did it and felt a verdict of not guilty was warranted based on past injustices against African-Americans.  As the show vividly displayed when the verdict of not guilty was read, white people gasped and African-Americans cheered.  It didn’t seem to matter what the scientific and forensic evidence in the trial showed.  It became a race issue.

When things got tough during the House Bill 50 opt out legislation last year, Markell and his friends at the Rodel Foundation turned to civil rights groups to show the divide between white and black students.  The News Journal displayed an ad showing Delaware civil rights groups urging the Delaware General Assembly not to pass HB50.  When the bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly, Markell vetoed the bill and sought out public comment from members of Delaware civil rights groups to support the Smarter Balanced Assessment and rail against the opt out movement.

JMarkell

Cochran felt the O.J. trial was symptomatic of the problems African-Americans faced in the USA.  He believed far too many African-American faced arrest and imprisonment simply for the color of their skin.  He was right, but Cochran refused to believe his client was even possible of the murders.  As a result, his fierce advocacy for the true violations of civil rights of African-Americans blinded him to the preponderance of evidence which should have supported a guilty verdict.  His job was to defend his client, but the trial became a race issue because of how he conducted himself and he used the mistakes of the L.A. Police to highlight the racial divide.  Granted, Mark Furman and his very racist views didn’t help the prosecution, but race became the issue, not the murders of two people.

Many reports have come out about the very faulty state assessments in America.  Based on the Common Core standards, these tests are given once a year to students and the thresholds for the scores allow x amount of students to be proficient and the majority to be not proficient.  Clear and graphic data has shown these tests are more an indication of socio-economic levels in society than true academic progress.  This data, which has produced vast amounts of profit for testing companies and “education research” foundations and non-profits, is abused by those who want to increase the divide between at-risk students and their peers.  Politicians like Governor Markell are on the side of these companies, not the students, and especially not African-Americans.  Their agendas and testing schemes have disrupted education to such a degree that ordinary parents have chosen to pull their children out of these unnecessary and burdensome tests.

Both Cochran and Markell used the issues of the day to further matters that truly were not about race.  Cochran wanted a not guilty verdict for OJ Simpson and Markell wants a guilty verdict for schools with low-income students and high amounts of at-risk students.  By bringing race into their arguments, they have not advanced the cause for what they say.  They both caused the divide to widen.  In the end, OJ Simpson wound up being found guilty in a civil trial against him and is now serving time in prison for kidnapping and theft.  In the end, parents are still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and many in the African-American community are beginning to question if these tests truly are useful.

OJSimpson

Over twenty years later, many in the African-American community believe OJ Simpson committed the murders.  As OJ sits in a Nevada prison, pending parole next year, the true victims of his actions are the two people whose murderer was never found guilty by a jury.  As well, OJ’s children will forever live with the facts and the doubts in their minds about the results of what happened on June 12th, 1994.  Johnnie Cochran passed in 1995.  He will always be remembered for getting the not guilty verdict for his client, OJ Simpson.  Sadly, he won’t be remembered for advancing the true civil rights issues that continue to plague so many in the African-American community.

Meanwhile, as estimates come in of over 300,000 students opted out of the state assessment in New York and an unknown amount here in Delaware, the media is once again torn on the usefulness of these high-stakes tests.  Governor Markell has been very quiet on the issue this year, perhaps learning from the mistakes he made last year by reacting to the opt out movement in Delaware.  The true victims in this high-stakes education game are the children in 3rd to 8th grade, forced to either take a test that bears no worthwhile results to further their academic progress or be opted out by their parents with some schools fighting the parents tooth and nail over their decision.  As well, the parents who are forced to fight schools, the teachers who would much rather instruct students meaningfully instead of wasting all this time over a silly test, and the school administrators who feel the need to fight parents because of threats of funding cuts and false labels against their schools.  Standardized testing has done nothing to stop the very dangerous school-to-prison pipeline in Delaware.  If anything, it caused an increase as more at-risk students felt like failures based on the results of the very faulty tests and their self-confidence eroded to such a degree that they felt school was not a valid option.  Is it any wonder crime and violence increased in Wilmington the same years high-stakes testing increased?  Where is that study?

SchoolToPrisonPipeline

Cochran and Markell, two men of power, twenty years and 2,700 miles apart from each other, both used race to bring the wrong conclusion to bad events.  Their actions didn’t make things better.  They only made them worse.  History will eventually show the truth in both matters.  Race should never be used to support bad ideas.  Civil rights groups should not defend a man who openly admitted to beating his wife, was accused of killing her and her boyfriend, ran from the police, and then made a mockery of the very same community that defended him.  Civil rights groups should not use children in agendas to advance their cause, especially when they are receiving vast amounts of money from the very same foundations and companies that support the high-stakes testing environment that is putting labels on their communities.  It is deceptive and doesn’t help the ones they should be advocating for.

The injustices perpetrated against the African-American community are wrong.  No man or woman or child should be labeled or judged based on the color of their skin.  By showing false divides, we are not helping them, we are harming them.