In reading Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky’s letter to the General Assembly about what I am now calling Blowmangate 2016, it appears Godowsky is shielding himself from potential accountability for this gigantic mess. I believe he should.
In the letter, the word “I” doesn’t appear until the 5th paragraph. Every mention in the timeline provided in the paragraphs before that uses the words “The Department”. I firmly believe Godowsky did this to not only provide the entire state a definitive answer on this funding issue, but also to cover himself should any investigation or accountability rise from this.
At no point in the letter does Secretary Godowsky show he ever approved the changes to the charter and choice bills sent out from the Delaware Department of Education. That is very important. As many have surmised based on articles about this as well as an email from State Rep. Earl Jaques, Godowsky was in the dark on this until after the charter bills went out. But he was the epicenter of the firestorm, as the News Journal called it, when I published the first article on this topic and legislators pounced on Godowsky like a mama bear would protecting their cubs.
At no time has the true mastermind at the DOE behind this ever provided any public comment about this: Associate Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman. In the Delaware DOE, it is very rare when someone is terminated. On paper and in the public, it is usually a resignation. Former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy “resigned” shortly after the priority schools funding issues with Red Clay were made public. Former Accountability & Assessment Chief Penny Schwinn and her right-hand man Ryan Reyna “resigned” after the school report card saga called the Delaware School Success Framework showed many issues surrounding transparency and a lack of true collaboration with stakeholders. Former Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit Chief Christopher Ruszkowski “resigned” after complaints about his comments at the DPAS-II Advisory Group Sub-Committee. We see this phenomenon often in school districts and charters. It happens in the business world as well. It allows for a graceful exit without controversy and saves both parties bad press and potential legal action (unless some “Sneaky Snake Blogger” writes about it). Will David Blowman “resign” over his self-created Blowmangate 2016? I believe he should “resign”.
For Secretary Godowsky, this has to be embarrassing for him. He promised the citizens of Delaware there would be better communication and partnership coming from the Delaware DOE. At his Senate Confirmation Hearing last October, State Senator Nicole Poore said Dr. Godowsky is “a breath of fresh air” after three years of Mark Murphy. After the opt out penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework last year, where Godowsky changed course on the matter in two weeks, he had to deal with the closure of a brand-new charter school. Key personnel at the DOE “resigned” as the better communication coming from the Department never seemed to materialize. While Godowsky serves at the pleasure of the Governor, he does have his own opinions. I have to think the decisions he makes based on his commitment to the Governor has to conflict with issues he wrestles with in his own mind. Now the Delaware DOE has a babysitter over the district-charter funding issues in the form of the House and Senate Education Committee. I don’t recall that happening at any time on any DOE issue. This is a clear sign the General Assembly is at their wits end with the Delaware DOE. In addition to that, the State Board of Education is under Sunset Review by the Joint Sunset Committee next year. This is not something that is done at random. It has to be put forth by a member of the Sunset Committee. Eight members of that committee voted yes with one abstention (Senator David Sokola) and one absent (Senator Bryan Townsend).
Many people in Delaware, including parents, citizens, legislators, and educators are calling for an elected State Board of Education and more recently, an elected Secretary of Education. Some seem to want the position of Secretary of Education eliminated altogether. Many want radical change in the Delaware DOE. With the Every Student Succeeds Act about to become the biggest topic in Delaware education, in addition to the upcoming primary and General Election, the DOE has to be very careful about how they conduct themselves. They are being closely watched, and not just by me. To give this a matter of perspective, they are standing on a frozen lake in early March and the weather forecasts are calling for warm days ahead. Will the DOE be able to get off the frozen lake before they plunge into the depths? Time will tell. They need to change course immediately and realize that defiance of the will of the people and the General Assembly will not be tolerated.
As for Secretary Godowsky, he will retire next year. He has the endpoint on his resume of being the guy that transitioned between Mark Murphy and whoever our next Governor picks as the Secretary of Education. Time will tell how he will be viewed through the lens of history. He could convince Governor Markell that what the DOE is doing is wrong and they need to abandon his plans for Delaware education. I strongly urge Dr. Godowsky to consider that option in his remaining months. He knows exactly what is at stake.
*The above picture of the Townsend Building, home of Delaware DOE leadership, in Dover, DE is from firststatepics.com