In December of 2015, I posted 16 articles about who would make an impact on 2016. Did they truly have an impact and did they fizzle out? Many of them did have a huge impact, some fizzled out, and some didn’t do as much as I thought they might. You be the judge!
State Rep. David Bentz: Bentz had a relatively low-key rookie year in the Delaware House. He did get a bill passed and signed that bans the sale of Dextromethorphan to those under the age of 18. He did sit on many committees including Health & Human Services and Education. I expect Bentz will begin to rise in 2017 after running unopposed for his seat earlier this month. He did vote in support of the suspension of rules on the override of the House Bill 50 veto which won him some fast points in my book.
Henry Clampitt: Clampitt became very quiet about halfway through the year. He did help out the Delaware Charter Schools Network with some key legislation surrounding charter school audits. Over the summer he joined the board of Gateway Lab School. I am still predicting he will make a run for Red Clay’s board next year! Clampitt curtailed some of his online activity as well this year. Clampitt can usually be found at the occasional Red Clay board meeting cavorting with some of his friends.
Dr. Robert Andrzejewski: The Acting Superintendent of Christina had a huge year! And not all of it was good. He did help the cash-poor district in winning their referendum but that only introduced other problems. The fifteen charter schools that feed off of Christina students complained they weren’t getting enough money from Christina. After it became public and legislators were swarmed with complaints from parents and citizens, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky backed off the changes that would have given more to the charters. In October, the charters filed a lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE. Now news comes of a possible settlement. Bob A also had to contend with mold issues at Pulaski Elementary School and soon reports came in of other schools having mold issues as well. He set up an “Academy” at Christiana High School with very poor communication and transparency which led to all sorts of controversy. Bob A also introduced many “cash in the trash” contracts for vendors which the Christina board approved nearly every single time. Rumors continue to swirl about the potential of Bob A getting the Secretary of Education role under John Carney. It could happen which would make a lot of Bob A’s activities make an odd sort of sense. Fattening up his resume or being Bob A? Time will tell.
Delaware Governor Jack Markell: Jack always makes an impact. Whenever I see that smiling face, I know he is up to something. He successfully influenced enough Delaware House reps to vote no on a suspension of rules to override his veto of House Bill 50. But then many of those same legislators voted yes on a suspension of rules for a corporate tax bill. This rightfully earned Markell the wrath of many parents in Delaware. In fact, many of us beat the hell out of him over opt out on his own Facebook page before the vote. Instead of going up to Howard High School and dealing with the death of Amy Joyner Francis, Markell issued a brief statement and merrily went on his Common Core tour at Delaware schools. He pimped the Delaware Pathways to Prosperity program every single chance he could. He spoke at a conference on Blockchain technology and announced Delaware would get legislation going so Blockchain firms could incorporate in Delaware. He created the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee while issuing another executive order to create a Pathways Steering Committee that had its first meeting with no public notice. The “Education” Governor won some fancy-schmancy award from the National Association of State Boards of Education. Despite rumors, Markell firmly stated he was never a consideration for a Cabinet post in a Hillary Clinton administration (easy to say after the shocking upset when Donald Trump won the presidency). He continued to appear at press conferences and letters to the editor promoting corporate education reform which pretty much landed with a resounding thud in the minds of Delawareans. As Jack enters his final days as Delaware Governor, I don’t think history will be very kind to his legacy of putting corporations over people. But I will ask one boon of Jack Markell before he leaves his post: a chance to meet with him, do an interview, and get his side of the story on Delaware education. What do you say Jack? One for the road?
Delaware Governor John Carney: Unless you’ve been living in a hole the past few weeks, John Carney won the Governor’s seat by a landslide. Everyone is waiting with bated breath to see who Carney picks for his administration. He has been very quiet (as he was during the election) about what he is going to do. He came out with platforms on various subjects, but they were somewhat vague. As of today, he has only announced two members of his administration. This blogger has reached out to Carney many times with zero success, as recently as yesterday. I don’t want Carney and I to be at odds with each other. We will assuredly disagree on many things, but if he isn’t willing to sit down with me then I fear this will be the case. In education, Carney will have his hands full between whomever he picks for his next Secretary, education funding, ESSA implementation, and a budget deficit which will force the state to begin cutting items from the state budget. I expect Carney will be more low-key on many issues facing Delaware, but he should not be underestimated at all.
Delaware Senator David McBride: McBride was relatively low-key this year, but he did become the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate when Senator Patti Blevins suffered a shocking loss earlier this month to Anthony Delcollo. But this title will not have as much importance since Delaware has a Lieutenant Governor again in the form of Bethany Hall-Long who will preside over the Delaware Senate.
Tony Allen: Allen was all over the place in 2016. State Board of Education meetings, ESSA Advisory Committees, Legislative Hall, and forums kept the Bank of America executive very busy. Allen stood his ground with the Delaware State Board of Education when they kept trying to change the redistricting language. When the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting bill failed to pass the Delaware General Assembly, Allen did save the plan by extending the timeline. It remains to be seen what Carney will do with the plan, especially given that deficit I told you about. Allen is serving on the transition team for Governor Carney. Earlier this month, Allen predicted another segregation lawsuit against the state based on Delaware schools, especially those in Wilmington. Allen did admit one of WEIC’s weaknesses was not including Kent and Sussex County representatives on the plan.
Ashley Sabo: The Red Clay mom of a special needs child had a very busy year. While she continued to fight for inclusion in Red Clay, she also held the district accountable for the lack of communication surrounding the plan. Sabo also adopted a foster child and became a Court Appointed Special Advocate as well as becoming the Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Orphan Care Coalition. I am very optimistic about Sabo’s future in Delaware and I see her as a rising young star who will become a very important voice for not only students with disabilities and foster children, but all citizens of The First State.
The Delaware Bloggers: It was an interesting year. Three longtime Delaware bloggers closed up shop this year: Transparent Christina, Kavips, and the Delaware Grapevine. The first two dealt with many education issues. For Transparent Christina, the beginning of the end came when the author of that blog discovered Facebook and all the fun he could have on there. Kavips ended his blog earlier this month capping off a ten-year run of what he viewed as “The Progressive Era” of Delaware politics. I suspect we haven’t heard the last of the enigmatic one and he will pop up somewhere once he/she gets his/her groove back once Donald Trump is inaugurated. Kilroy’s Delaware slowed down this year but that had more to do with fixing up his house at the beach than a lack of interest. Delaware Liberal provided a healthy dose of election news and dealt with the epic defeat of Hillary Clinton and bemoaned to rise of Donald Trump. A new blog by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne called The Urgency of Now stirred up tons of controversy this year as teachers were blasted constantly on his blog. Another longtime blog, The Colossus of Rhodey, also ended. As for this blogger, now almost halfway through his third year, who knows what the future will bring. One sure thing is that change is inevitable but things stay the same in too many of the wrong places.
The Parents of Delaware Students: The parents of Delaware received a fatal blow when the Delaware House refused to suspend the rules to allow for an override of Markell’s House Bill 50 veto. The Delaware PTA received a hush order on opt-out from their National headquarters. Parents still opted their kids out, but it was comparable to 2015. The Delaware DOE has attempted to corral parents into their Every Student Succeeds Act Community Conversations, but I really hoped more parents would attend to lend their voices in opposition to the DOE’s crazy plans. Many parents attended referenda this year as Christina, Brandywine, and Cape Henlopen referendums passed. Not enough Indian River parents supported their referendum when it failed to pass last week. By and large, Delaware parents continue to get the shaft in education policy. I predict the voice of parents will rise in 2017 to unheard of levels. With national and state politics the way they are now, many parents will be pitched against each other with various events. One appointment of U.S. Secretary of Education for Betsy DeVos has already renewed a lot of debate about school choice, charter schools, and school vouchers. These arguments will heat up in 2017. Many parents of students with disabilities (as well as advocates) successfully thwarted an attempt at a very bad special education strategic plan at the Delaware DOE. Parents of special needs children are quickly learning that banding together in unison across various groups is more important than debating their differences. So much so that a two-day planning session for a new special education strategic plan will take place on December 8th and 9th.
Karen Field Rogers: While the first half of the year started very slow for the promotion of Field Rogers as the new Delaware Deputy Secretary of Education, she certainly made her mark in the second half as the Delaware DOE spokesperson at many ESSA meetings. The jury is still out on what Delaware’s ESSA plan will be. I can picture her still working at the Townsend Building under Governor John Carney. She is not really a subject of controversy down there.
Delaware Senator Colin Bonini: Bonini lost his bid for Delaware Governor as many predicted. But he did not do himself any favors by publicly announcing he would lose and continuing to call Carney his friend. Even if you think you are going to lose, you don’t make a spectacle of it. But he did answer a very long survey I gave all the candidates for Governor. Only Carney failed to respond to the survey, and I unintentionally left out Green Party candidate Andrew Groff. Bonini will still be in the Delaware Senate doing his thing, unless he gets a new job in the Carney administration. Whatever happened with Bonini’s recommendation for a Civil Rights Committee in the Delaware Senate?
Harrie Ellen Minnehan: She started the year as the Christina Board of Education President, but lost her gavel over the summer to the re-elected Elizabeth Paige. Minnehan overtly supported Paige’s opponent in the spring school board election. When board member David Resler announced he would not run again, Meg Mason won the election. Mason voted for Paige’s appointment as board president. The Christina board seems to still be at odds over many things but they will have to get it together soon for the sake of the district. I miss the fiery board that stood in unison against the Priority Schools debacle in the fall of 2015. Nothing against Minnehan, but the board lost a bit of that during her Presidency. Paige brings that temperament back to the board and they (along with every other board in the state) need to start speaking up now to fight for what is theirs. I must say, my favorite “HEM” moment in 2016 was when Minnehan blasted State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray during a WEIC meeting in Wilmington. I have no doubt her words were bubbling under the surface for a long time, going back to her days as the President of the Pencader charter school board.
The Delaware Met Kids: After causing a lot of concern in the fall of 2015, the students at Delaware Met said goodbye to the not even five-month old charter school in mid-January. The students went to various school districts and charter schools. But not until they caused enough chaos at the school to get an extra couple of days off.
The Seans: Sean Lynn gave a very stirring speech when the death penalty repeal bill hit the floor of the Delaware House. Ultimately, the House voted against the repeal, but federal rulings rendered the point moot for Delaware executions. Lynn was instrumental in crafting legislation for the WEIC redistricting bills, but the controversial redistricting effort did not pass the General Assembly. He did get several bills through dealing with courts and animal fighting. After a landmark first year in the House where six bills became law, Sean Matthews did not have any legislation signed by Governor Markell this year. But this didn’t stop Matthews from using his voice in support or opposition to many bills. Both Sean Lynn and Sean Matthews won their seats back for a 2nd term in the General Election after facing opposition. This will give them more of an entrenched status in the House. Both had a relatively quiet year, but I expect they will be re-energized and ready to go in January!
Braeden Mannering: The kid who melted Delaware hearts the past few years continued his 3B: Brae’s Brown Bags movement with growing success. In January, Braeden was invited to and attended President Obama’s State of the Union address. Later in the year, he was one of the speakers at a TedX conference in Wilmington. Braeden’s future is bright!
I will be doing this for 2017 beginning in December with those I think will make an impact in 2017. Some will be names seen on this list but others will be new faces.