Delaware Senate Passes The “No School Until After Labor Day” Bill With Close Vote

The Delaware Senate passed State Senator Gerald Hocker’s Senate Bill 161, which would prevent Delaware public schools from opening before Labor Day.  It barely passed though.  11 voted yes while 10 voted no.  Many of the no votes were from Senators who live in New Castle County, while most of the yes votes live in Kent or Sussex County.  It can be rare to see a Delaware bill split based on the location of the legislators, but this one definitely fits that scenario.

The bill will now make a trip to the House Education Committee.  If it is released from committee, it will be interesting to see how the vote splits in the House.  But they better hurry as the legislative session ends on June 30th!

Teacher Evaluation Bill Unanimously Released While WEIC Bill Tabled In House Education Committee

It was a mixed bag of results at the Delaware House Education Committee.  A teacher evaluation bill, House Bill 399, was released unanimously from the committee.  But a Wilmington Education Improvement Commission bill, concerning the redistricting of Wilmington students in the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District, designed to make clear a school board can not raise taxes without a referendum, was not released.  It was immediately tabled after in the chance the bill can get enough votes to be lifted from that designation.  None of the House Republicans on the House Education Committee voted to release the bill, nor did Democrat Reps. Sean Matthews or Deb Heffernan.  While this doesn’t kill the WEIC redistricting plan (the main legislation for this is House Joint Resolution #12), it certainly doesn’t help.  Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf attended the meeting in support of the bill.

With the teacher evaluation bill, House Bill 399, this came after years of back and forth conversation between Delaware teachers and the Department of Education.  The bill deals with how Component V, the major sticking point for teachers, is measured in teacher evaluations.  The major part of that section deals with the state assessment scores, currently the Smarter Balanced Assesssment.  This bill would make it so both the administrator and the teacher would have to agree on what to use for this section, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be the state assessment.  There are some restrictions with this based on a teacher’s prior rating through the DPAS-II evaluation system.  This wouldn’t kick in if they were rated below effective.  House Bill 399 will go on the House Ready list and awaits a vote by the full House.  If it passes there, it would have to go to the Senate Education Committee, and if released, to a full Senate vote, and ultimately the Governor for signature.  Teachers have been fighting this component for years ever since Senate Bill 51 was signed into law during the 2013-2014 legislative session.

Executive Director of the State Board of Education, Donna Johnson, expressed concern during public comment concerning an administrator still having the final word in an evaluation.  Kristin Dwyer, speaking on behalf of the Delaware State Education Association, was in support of House Bill 399.  One public speaker (I did not catch her name so I apologize) spoke about a lack of diversity on the sub-committee of the DPAS-II Advisory Group that came up with the recommendations.  Dr. Mark Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, spoke on behalf of the Chief State School Officers, spoke in support of the bill.

The slow climb to a House vote for the WEIC bill met with resistance by half the House Education Committee today.  Seven voted yes to release while seven voted no.  For a bill to be released from the committee in the House, it must have a majority.  A lot of the discussion concerned what House Bill 424 means in terms of a school board being able to raise taxes without a referendum.  State Rep. Sean Lynn deferred to the House Attorney who said it would not give school boards this right.  That was not enough to sway the half of the committee who voted no on release of the bill.

Over in the Senate Education Committee, House Bill 277 was heard.  This bill would give the Pathways to Prosperity program a permanent steering committee.  Questions were asked to DOE representatives by State Senator Nicole Poore concerning funding for the program.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee cut $250,000 Governor Markell earmarked to go towards this program.  Michael Watson and Luke Rhine from the Delaware DOE shared the funds for this mostly come from federal Perkins funds.  I gave public comment concerning a lack of parent representation on the proposed committee.  State Senator David Sokola thought that was in there and made it a point to make sure this was corrected.  A comment was made to Sokola’s question about this to the effect of “We can talk about this.”

As well, Senate Bill 278, dealing with the Freedom of Information Act at Delaware universities and proposed to make committees and sub-committees subject to FOIA, was heard in the Senate Education Committee.  Drs. Morgan and Galileo from the University of Delaware were in support of the bill as they met with stiff resistance in trying to find out what was even discussed at committee meetings.  They also shared that public comment is not allowed at committee meetings at University of Delaware.  Representatives from University of Delaware and Delaware State University were in opposition of the bill.

With the Senate, the results are not known right away if a bill is released or not.

While not officially on the agenda list yet, House Joint Resolution #12 will most likely be voted on tomorrow in the full House of Representatives.  This could either advance the WEIC redistricting forward or end it.  Senate Bill 277 is already on the agenda for a full Senate vote tomorrow as well.

Updated, 8:09pm: House Joint Resolution #12 is NOT on the House Agenda for tomorrow…

As Matt Denn Goes On An Arrest & Indictment Spree In Other State Agencies, Charter Leaders Still Aren’t Facing The Music

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn announced seven arrests and indictments stemming from misuse of funds at the Department of Health and Social Services.  Meanwhile, several charter leaders and employees still haven’t been arrested for crimes involving school funds.  This has gone on way too long!  I’m not buying any more excuses on this.  We’ve all seen the audits.  We’ve seen the articles.  Why aren’t these charter leaders being charged for their crimes Matt Denn?  Who is protecting them?

In the article covering the arrests, Denn is quoted as saying:

This case is part of an intensified focus our office is trying to bring to fraud being committed against the state’s public benefit programs.

So public benefits demands an accounting, but school funds are okay?  In the case of Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover, which was the first of the charter audits coming out of Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office last year, nothing has happened.  Where is his arrest?  And Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington from Family Foundations Academy?  And the lady from Providence Creek?  And what about Sally Maldonado and the maintenance guy at Kuumba Academy?  And the board president at Delaware College Prep?  And what about what will come out from any future audits coming from the Auditor of Accounts?  I like Matt Denn, but it is beginning to look like a bit of a cover-up in terms of not charging these school “leaders”.  In terms of Maldonado, why is she allowed to serve on state committees and task forces concerning crucial education decisions but she gets no accountability for what amounts to a raise she gave herself with no board approval?

One of the individuals charged with this theft of funds from DHSS was Kamilah Laws, who was also a contractor with the Delaware Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education.  She was contracted with the DOE during the formal review process for the Delaware Met, which was ordered to shut down in mid-January of this year. Isn’t that interesting?  (this corrects an error I previously made in stating that Ms. Laws was on the board at Delaware Met.  She was not)

Theft is theft Matt Denn.  So I am openly and publicly challenging you to answer these questions: when will the charter leaders and employees who stole money from kids (cause that’s what it comes down to) be held accountable?  Will they?  Is there any reason why they wouldn’t?  Is Delaware law upheld only with certain state agencies?

As Christina Lies About Referendum Promises, Board Approves Contract For Assessment Package At Price Tag Of $200,000

I just wrote about how the Christina School District is not backing up their promise to restore librarians cut last year.  But the district seems to have $200,000 to spare for a new assessment suite.  Last night, the Christina Board of Education approved a contract with Curriculum Associates for new district assessments to replace two other district assessments.  The contract would give the vendor $200,000, of which $181,200 would come out of local funds.  Local funds are what the district gets from the taxpayers.  Call me crazy, but I don’t remember seeing a new assessment package as part of the referendum promises.  In fact, the state has been actively pursuing an agenda where districts have less assessments (although the one assessment that needs to go, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, wasn’t even considered by the Delaware assessment inventory committee).  My question would be how valid are these new assessments compared to the two ones they are replacing, DIBELS and Amplify.  While I am certainly not a fan of either DIBELS or Amplify, I don’t see too many other districts using this I-Ready made by Curriculum Associates, designed to make kids better at Common Core.

I have to say shame on you Robert Andrzejewski twice in one day.  What is this guy thinking?  He needs to go!  Paving the Way to a New Christina?  Hardly.  Paving the Way to a revolt by taxpayers is more like it.  So let me get this straight.  They lie about rehiring librarians but they bring in new, untried testing?  And the board approved this crap?

See the board action item in all its glory:

Christina Backs Out Of Referendum Promise As Trust Evaporates

Last night at the Christina Board of Education meeting, it was announced the district would not rehire librarians laid off after the two failed referenda attempts last year.  The district passed the third referendum attempt on March 23rd, and one of the promises made was the district would restore positions cut as a result of the budget cuts last year.  Included in that was school librarians.  While there is no specific mention of librarian positions on the actual Christina website, it does appear on the CSD Paving the Way website which was run by the steering committee for the referendum.

PavingTheWayChristina

Even the Newark Post had an article in February where Glasgow High School principal Dean Ivory quoted:

Glasgow was one of many secondary schools that lost their librarians and though classroom teachers can still sign up to take their classes to the library, it’s not the same, Ivory said. A teacher in the school’s PATH program, whose class meets in the library, has taken on the extra responsibility of coordinating these class sign-ups, he added. If this year’s referendum does pass and schools can start adding staff again, Ivory said the librarian is one of the first positions he’d bring back. “That was a very painful cut,” he said. “But if it comes down to it, do you want to lose a math teacher or a librarian?”

So much for keeping their word!  So where will the funds promised to librarians go to now?  I gave First State Liberty a very hard time for how they handled the last referendum.  But it looks like I should have been putting some pressure on the district as well.  This news is very disappointing to say the least.  What purpose does it serve to betray not only the librarians that were cut last year, but also the taxpayers in your district?  This is why the referendum process needs to go.  It has become like a Presidential election: all sorts of campaign promises that never happen.  Social media comments regarding this broken promise are not being kind to the district.  Shame on Superintendent Robert Andrzejewski for making promises he had no intention of keeping.

The district has already been under the microscope for immediately hiring outside vendors immediately following the referendum, including Demosophia which is helping the district to create a Strategic Plan in regards to their behavior and climate.  Some felt hiring a former Title I administrator from the district as an outside consultant was a bit too much.