What Delaware Can Learn From The Newark Charter School Students And The “Slappening” Sit-In

Last Friday, Newark Charter School students performed a “sit-in” to protest an incident which has been referred to as “The Slappening” among the student body of Newark Charter School.  200 high school students participated in the sit-in until administrators broke up the party in the cafeteria.  This is about 1/4th of their student body at their high school.  While we don’t know if the teacher was reinstated, we do know that when the majority of the people stand up for something they believe in, people take notice.  This was what I attempted to push for the opt out movement in Delaware.  If everyone opted out, then Smarter Balanced would have disappeared.  We can still do this, but not just with “Smarter” as the DOE puts it (which is ironic because it is dumber), but all standardized tests.  Whether they are once a year or embedded as “stealth test” in personalized learning technology coming soon to a school near you.  And when it comes to all that ed tech, you can opt out of that as well.  If enough parents do it, we can make ed tech irrelevant and be assured our child’s every keystroke isn’t tracked and catalogued by Education Inc. and their data is safe.  As well, this will protect the teaching profession so they don’t become glorified TFA or Relay moderators.  It’s a win-win.  No battle is ever won by sitting at the table and compromising to the point of surrender.

Wait one minute, let’s get back to “The Slappening”.  I saw many tweets which indicated the teacher was terminated after the student sit-in at Newark Charter School last Friday.  While I won’t put minors tweets on this blog, I can say one tweet was pretty definitive!  I have a very good idea of what actually happened between the teacher and the student last week and what led to “The Slappening”.  I can’t see, in that situation, where a teacher should have been terminated.  That teacher has rights.  She also has the right to due process.  Had I known about this sit-in beforehand, I would have sat in with the students as well (Yeah right, like Greg Meece would let that happen)!  But I do respect what the students did.

This has been a very bizarre year for the higher-ups at Newark Charter School.  From their insane awards based on Smarter Balanced results to the “social engineering” of their lottery last winter  to my strange discovery they are the only charter school in the state that doesn’t file IRS 990 tax returns to the district-charter funding war which has now become the charter-Christina-DOE lawsuit to “The Slappening”.  I have to wonder if a change needs to happen.  Not my place, but just putting it out there.  Many students were terrified of the sit-in and what could happen to them.  But they did it anyway.  They stood up (or sat down) to the school leaders and said stop with the madness.  Granted, what they were hoping for didn’t happen, but it did draw attention to the school through major Delaware media like the News Journal.  Even the students seemed shocked they made delawareonline.

It is 2016.  Newark Charter School is having a VERY bizarre year.  With absolutely no disrespect intended for the students or the parents, but your administrators and board have made some really strange decisions.  It’s refreshing in a weird way that NCS has lost its aura of being such a well-behaved mild-mannered gee we’re awesome school.  It brings the school back down to earth.  I hope more students and parents speak out about issues going on there.  I’m not saying NCS should become a priority school tomorrow, but the era of invincibility is over.  NCS had the veil lowered and we are all getting a chance to peek in.  Greg Meece has allowed his temper to get the best of him this year and he has been there a loooooooooooooooooong time.  He can do one of two things: keep the Harry Potter cloak back on the NCS schools or just let things flow.  I’m hoping for the latter.  But that will require him also lightening up on a few other things.

I believe the original intent of NCS was for parents to get their kids out of the Christina School District.  Did they have cause?  Sure they did.  But there are really good things happening in Christina right now.  There are also bad.  As there are in every single school in America.  Even NCS.  I get the need to protect your child.  But if it gets to a point where what one student has means many others do without, how is that teaching any child right and wrong?  I’m not saying this to start a fight.  Truly.  But if we always have this divide in this state, nothing anyone does will ever fix anything.  This lawsuit NCS triggered… it’s not good for Delaware.  It’s not good for NCS or Christina.  Lawsuits cost a ton of money.  But more than that, they take away from students.  They create long-lasting hostilities that play out for decades.  NCS sees this one way and Christina sees it another.  Eventually, unless it goes into some type of settlement, a judge will decide.  Chances are it isn’t going to play out the way the fifteen charters think it will.  I have no doubt Meece thinks he has some smoking gun he thinks will make the case.  It might, but not against Christina.  The Delaware DOE?  Probably.  But never underestimate what happens when you poke a bear.  If NCS truly thinks Christina will take this like a champ, they are wrong.  All 15 charters are wrong.

At a time when Delaware as a whole is trying to figure out pretty much every single aspect of education, from funding to academics to post-secondary outcomes to early childhood to special education to testing, we have a group of charters merrily led by their cheerleader over at the Delaware Charter Schools Network, some legal eagles, and probably a few other “stakeholders” trying to upset the apple cart and make sure they get what they think is their bounty.  But have they given one thought to what this means to Delaware students as a whole?  Nope.

That teacher the NCS students staged a sit-in for… why don’t they do that for ALL Delaware students.  They loved their teacher and fought for what they believed was just and fair.  Something was taken away from these students and they didn’t like it.  They did what Americans have been doing since the Boston Tea Party.  Now imagine all those students in Christina who will have less so the charters can have more.  Is that fair to them?  NCS has their engaged parents and their cafetorium and all that.  Not every school in Christina does.  Some schools don’t even have a librarian.  Stage a sit-in for that.  If the teacher you lost is as great as you say she is, she will find a new job.  This issue, due to your efforts, has been very public.  But the students in Christina… they might not get those second chances because of this ridiculous lawsuit.

Education is never going to be fixed no matter what all the corporate dreamers think will happen.  As long as there is one individual in a school, there will always be issues.  But the key is trying to find a way to make it work.  Robbing Peter to pay Paul isn’t the way.  This is why the charters, despite what they think happened and are behaving worse than any petulant child, are a classic example of what not to do in education.  This is making them reviled and hated more than anything I’ve seen in a long time.

 

 

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22 thoughts on “What Delaware Can Learn From The Newark Charter School Students And The “Slappening” Sit-In

  1. Teachers at most charter schools are not unionized, therefore they have no due process rights and may be terminated at any time without recourse.

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    1. “Doesn’t make it right and it doesn’t mean they can’t get their own attorney and attempt to make it right.”

      On what grounds? Assuming the charter teacher is an “at-will” employee, the at-will doctcrine holds that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason or no reason. No lawyer would take the case. Charter teachers are screwed the day they take the job.

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      1. Actually, that isn’t necessarily true. I do know of a few teachers who have sued charters for wrongful termination. And they wound up with a better result as opposed to sucking it up and doing nothing.

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      2. Mike, seriously? That law just means non-union. I thought you were smarter than that. This is America, 2016. No one can do anything ‘at will’

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    2. Wrong. A teacher at a charter school who is non unionized does not sign away their labor rights when they sign their contract. If those labor rights are violated, the teacher should visit with a lawyer, file an EEOC claim and possibly an OCR claim for a right to sue letter. With or without the letter, if the teacher’s labor rights were violated they can endeavor to sue their former employer. Most of these cases are settled out of court and never see the light of day. Most employers – usually a district – negotiate a satisfying offer for BOTH parties that mitigates the pain and suffering, the past, current, and future financial damages, and the loss of benefits. Most. Not. All. There are a handful of employers who will refuse to see the forest for the trees and risk the reputational damage such suits can wreak on them.

      Generally, this is why the reading public never actually sees a case actually show up in a court of law. I believe CSD is batting 100% in this ballpark.

      But, the takeaway here is that employees who do not belong to a union still have state and federal labor protections. And employers better be damned sure they don’t violate the labor rights of the feisty ones because not everyone goes quietly or will be bought off with the first desperate offer that comes their way.

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  2. Here we have an adult educational blogger who is actively seeking to undermine the livelihood of a jr/sr high school that houses about 1,000 children of Newark, DE.

    1.) He successfully trolled high school students who — appropriately –responded to his article last week with vitriol.

    2.) He now plays to those students’ heartstrings while — with very little subtlety — simultaneously urging them to opt out of the very testing that keeps the school eligible for funding.

    3.) He plays upon recent criticism of its administration’s private handling of a private student and personnel matter to make a suggestion that leadership should be reevaluated.

    4.) He comes after a school that is suing state and local leaders into action over 9 million dollars in funding withheld from public schools.

    This here is an adult with an axe to grind against one man — Greg Meece. It’s funny that we never hear of Meece instigating with such petulant goading.

    Please keep in mind that there are children at stake in your little game of misguided public shaming. Be an adult, and stop engaging in Facebook comment wars with teenagers. It’s not a good look.

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    1. Fair points to which I disagree with Michael.
      I’ll address each one:

      1) I didn’t troll anyone. Social media is public. I was told to look for tweets about the issue, so I did. And I found them, in spades. I didn’t respond to any of the tweets, nor did I retweet them or even like any of the tweets. So you are saying it is right for students to respond with vitriol to a blog article? Isn’t that exactly what they were doing with the “slappening”, publicly, for any to see? Using vitriol and disgust to talk about something they didn’t believe in? Sure, I didn’t know all the facts when I wrote the article last week BASED ON the News Journal article, the comments on the article, and Meece’s email to parents. Don’t sell these students too short. They have their own minds.

      2) I’ve always been a very huge advocate for parents to opt their children out of very bad and toxic state testing. That isn’t anything new. The testing doesn’t keep ANY school eligible for funding. It was a bluff, played out at a national level. But the feds never cut funds for anyone. And the new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, explicitly forbids the feds from doing that again. Students can not opt themselves out of the state assessment. The law is clear on that. But their parents can. And they are, even at NCS. Maybe a handful now, but we will catch up to NY eventually.

      3) If this administration’s “private handling of a private student and personnel matter” was so private, why didn’t the head leader tell the News Journal “no comment”? Instead he gave a great deal of facts for something that was so “private”. That would make me question his ability to lead right then and there. He put the school at a substantial legal risk with his comments in the News Journal article. Not to mention all the other stuff I wrote about in this article.

      4) It isn’t just NCS suing. It is 14 other charters. Don’t let this lawsuit make NCS look like the big bad wolf. They knew they couldn’t do it alone so they coerced 14 other charters to come along for the ride to give their weak argument some ounce of credibility. Until a judge determines what NCS claims is “withheld funding” or what Christina claims is “allowable exclusions”, we are all just farting in the wind.

      Greg Meece is the face behind the school. Just as Godowsky is the main face behind the DOE, or Merv Daughtery is the face behind Red Clay. And let’s face it, Meece does rule over NCS with an iron fist. Meece doesn’t openly and petulantly goad. Most of his work is done behind the scenes with no one the wiser. When I write about state employees like Meece, or those that have a very active hand in Delaware education, and I (along with many others) feel they aren’t making the best decisions for ALL Delaware students, I write about it.

      I have never engaged with an NCS student on Facebook. If they want to come to my house and comment on my blog, my door is always open. But being that it is my house here, with an open invite to all, I think I am allowed to respond to those comments. I don’t see any of this as a game. And I always keep in mind that children’s lives are at stake. And unless you read this blog regularly, I find it almost hysterical you would say that Michael. What NCS is doing and has done with Christina is very much a game and public shaming. It has been since before they opened their doors. If anyone has to worry about how they look these days, based on the huge amount of response I’ve seen from the charters filing of their lawsuit, it would be NCS and their cohorts. I don’t have an axe to grind with Meece. I’m just trying to help dig out the axe he keeps thrusting into the back of Christina with very little cause and no effort to deal with things in an amicable way.

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  3. I laugh when plants try to impune a blogger… It brings to mind: “take the log out of your own eye before trying to take the speck out of someone elses.”..

    I think its past time to walk a New Castle County K9 through Meece’s office.. I see signs of chemical misuse written all over his behavior lately….. It certainly couldn’t hurt…. now.. could it?

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  4. Your word choice is intended to instill hatred towards NCS and Meece. What evidence do you have that he coerced 14 charters to join in? What force or intimidation did he use? If the answer is none, he convinced 14 charters – very different meaning. What evidence do you have that he was the defining source of the lawsuit? Is it possible the other charter schools and parents involved suggested it? Where is your proof? What evidence do you have that he rules with an “iron fist” (nice use of the terms used for your heroes Lenin & Stalin, by the way) beyond your claiming it?
    You spew your hatred towards a school nowhere near your home. Why? What is it that this school and Meece do that makes you so angry?
    Have you sought out professional help to get in touch with the source of this anger and productive ways to handle your seeking out targets to vent this anger? You might want to consider it.
    In the meantime, don’t use the pain these kids are going through as material in your personal vendetta.

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    1. It’s in their board minutes from last Spring. In Godowsky’s timeline. This is public knowledge. Perhaps coerced is a bad word. Perhaps it was something like “Hey guys, want to get more money and make Christina look bad?” The words “iron fist” were used by someone very involved with the school to describe how Meece runs the place. I don’t have hatred towards to school. If anything, I have pity. Pity for the parents and students who don’t realize they have been spun into a web of elitism and perfection. That their school is all that matters in this world. Do I get mad about it? I sure do. But it appears Delaware is not going to do anything about what goes on with education except most likely make it worse. I’m not using anyone. But given your apparent tie to NCS, I can safely assume there are things you would rather I not say about NCS. I get it. You are protecting what is yours…

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      1. Kevin, that is so unfair, putting everyone into a box like that. How many NCS parents have you met? They are elitist because of the school where their children go? And that their school is all the matters in this world.. how do you expect people to take you serious when you say things like that? It’s not true, and frankly, it’s mean.

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        1. I didn’t say every NCS parent is like that. What I’m saying is there is enough of them, that tear down Christina every chance they get and they praise the lord their child doesn’t have to go to that district. My issue with charters has been the same since day one: the lack of transparency for many of them and the selective enrollment preferences for some. And I’m sorry, but NCS and CSW are #1 and #2 for this in Delaware. I don’t believe I’ve ever strayed from this notion. Yes, as most know, my kid went to a charter and it didn’t work out so well. He also went to a district and that didn’t work out so well. I believe the charter recognized the issues at hand and proactively attempted to solve them. As for the district, I can’t really say. I’m not trying to be mean, but I have seen and heard enough. Not all NCS parents are like this, but enough of them that it is readily visible by citizens up in that area of Delaware. I have heard MANY describe it as almost cult-like with NCS. Personally, I think a lot of aspects of education need an enema and we need to see what comes out and what should stay. ESSA isn’t going to begin to address the issues in this state. I get that NCS is unique because of the extreme amount of parent involvement. But with the strong defense of the school they give, it almost seems like they think their demographics are A-ok. They aren’t.

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          1. This is the rub that so many charter supporters have with claims from you and your ilk. Selective enrollment – CSW does have a selective enrollment (though less now than in years past) but the claims that NCS has selective enrollment is incorrect. Their are enrollment preferences to children of founders, staff members, and siblings – I don’t see anything wrong with these. Beyond that, there is a public lottery of the applications with preference to a five mile radius. It makes sense to me that the founders of the school were able to ensure their children would be enrolled as they put in a great deal of work in starting the school. I would think that preference is no longer relevant given the time the school has been around. As for sibling preference and the five mile radius, this would be no different than the feeder patterns for schools based on residence in CSD (most of which are smaller than 5 miles). I would expect that siblings would attend their neighborhood school together unless the parents chose another school for one child. Obviously, that would change for some years if the school only serves certain grades. The weakest preference may be children of faculty, but I would argue that it helps build the community involvement you would like to see in a school. They also have the option to send their children to other schools.
            The idea that there is an elitist attitude is a reach. Are there some elitists, sure. However, they are no different than you might see from some parents of students in gifted & talented programs or part of certain sports programs from schools. I’ve heard people with children in CSD schools bash other CSD schools based on their view of the academics, behavior, sports, etc… Is that elitist?
            I think the vast majority just want to send their children to a school they feel is best for their child – the whole purpose of choice schooling.
            The elitist argument is just a fallback for people who oppose charter schools like you. It is an easy argument to make when your readers are looking for reasons to bash charter schools. I guess you are just giving your supporters what they want even if it doesn’t make it true.

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          2. “People like you”… we are going to have to agree to disagree here Pete. We can both agree it is some parents. Not ALL parents. The bottom line is NCS and Christina have been at war for years now. It probably isn’t going to change much, and the lawsuit is assuring that. There is so much “bashing” going on. I don’t hear this as much in Kent and Sussex. It is more of a New Castle thing. There are problems all over this state. But this whole district-charter war amped up big time when the charters felt they deserved more than what they are getting. I was actually focusing more on districts over the summer then I was on charters believe it or not. My concerns are about ALL of Delaware education. To be honest, I see the districts sucking up to the DOE a lot more than the charters these days. All this personalized learning and ed tech is primarily being implemented by the districts. I have HUGE concerns with that. I accepted a long time ago that districts and charters are here to stay. While some do want all charters to close, I do believe they serve a purpose. But it should NEVER be at the expense of other students. That’s not what it was supposed to be about. It was NEVER supposed to be a situation where ANY charter could pick and choose based on preferences. Now do I think NCS sits there and says “we have to get this student” or “we can’t get that student”? No. But the way they set up their enrollment preferences all but assures the same result. This isn’t a new argument. It’s been going on for years now. Long before I came on the scene. I’ve brought up the fact that NCS doesn’t feel they should file their 990 tax return based on very ambiguous IRS guidance. I have yet to hear ANY supporter of NCS address that issue. Or their tweaking of their enrollment preferences concerning Kindergarten students. Their later grades are what they are. But by messing around with Kindergarten stuff they are giving themselves certain guarantees. That I have HUGE issues with. Yet, nobody at NCS seems to think it is a big deal. And because of those guarantees they have set up for themselves, they don’t need as much money as districts like Christina or Red Clay who service students with much bigger needs. These are at-risk children who could easily fall through the cracks. Every school in Delaware is feeling the financial pinch. So this lawsuit comes at a time that is not good for ALL of Delaware. Nor did their overreach for the DOE to change the local funding formula (which the DOE screwed up on so many levels it isn’t even funny). So if you want to reply to my true issues with NCS, ones that are very unique to that one particular Delaware charter school, we can have a conversation. Otherwise, we can go back and forth with this getting very boring dialogue.

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      2. Who is the elitist? You who have “Pity for the parents and students who don’t realize they have been spun into a web of elitism and perfection.” or people who confront those who attack the school? Once again, you fall back into that “those poor people just don’t understand. They need someone like me to tell them what to think.” philosophy so common with people like you.
        What you can assume is I would rather that you recognize your bias against charters and NCS. I would prefer you stuck with the truth and not present your assumptions and opinions as if they are fact. You use terms like coerce and call people racist and segregationist without any concern for the impact you have on the people you attack. It is irresponsible and benefits no one.

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