March Shuffle 1.0

It’s the last day of the month, so readers will only see one music shuffle this month.  Given the article I posted earlier today, it is obvious music had a huge influence on my own life.  I developed that love at an early age.  I was always involved with music in some way going to school, whether it was choir or theater.  I took piano lessons until 5th grade and even tried the drums and trumpet during middle school.  You really don’t want to hear what my trumpet days sounded like!

“My Favorite Game”, The Cardigans: One of my favorite songs from 1999.  This reminds me of when I went back to visit Sweden that year.  It was my first time back in nearly two years and I had no clue what to expect.  The Cardigans, of course, are from Sweden.

“D’yer Maker”, Led Zeppelin: Back in the 1980s, I got into Led Zeppelin as a young teenager.  If you were “cool”, you dug Zeppelin.  I almost pretended to like a lot of their stuff.  It wasn’t until I was much older that I truly appreciated the band.  I always liked this song though!

“Follow You Follow Me”, Genesis: One of my all-time favorite songs.  This was one of Phil Collin’s first big songs he had vocals on after Peter Gabriel left the band.  When I was a kid, I believed in true love and that all you have to do is say certain things and it would be reciprocated.  Love is a lot more complicated than that.

“Every Breath You Take”, The Police: Most people might not be aware, but this isn’t a song about love and romance.  It’s about a guy actually stalking a woman.  Kind of creepy when you look at it from that angle.  But it was the biggest song in the Summer of ’83 as well as the biggest song from The Police.  That fame eventually led to the band breaking up and lead singer Sting getting his own solo career.  I liked a girl in 8th grade and this song reminded me of her.  Of course, back then I thought it was a song about love.  Such is life as a teenager!

“(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, Blue Oyster Cult: Another song that kind of creeps me out but I love.  This was the song that played at the beginning of “Stephen King’s The Stand” mini-series from 1994 as a virus is released that eventually kills most of the population.  The survivors are either on the side of “good” or “evil”.  Darkness is always overcome by light.

“Tomorrow People”, Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers: When Bob Marley died, many fans never thought they would hear his voice again.  In the late 80s, his son Ziggy showed the world that Bob Marley was alive and well with his voice.  It also reminds me of graduating high school because the song came out around that time.

“The Journey To The Grey Havens”, Howard Shore: I am a Tolkien geek and proud to say it.  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings will always be favorites of mine.  Howard Shore’s music to the LOTR trilogy was perfect and fit each scene perfectly.  By the time The Return of the King came out in December of 2003, I had already scheduled time off at work to see the movie on opening day.  Shore’s music for the last 20% or so of the film is constantly on my shuffle.

“Parting Words”, Michael Giacchino: The season finale of the first season of LOST will always stand out for me.  Giacchino and the orchestra created a beautiful score as Michael, Walt, Jin and Sawyer prepare to leave the island on a raft.  Farewells were said and a husband and wife parted ways.  Between the epic score and the beautiful scenery of the beach and the great silhouettes of various characters, it was one of the highlights of the show.  Another keeper on my shuffle list.

“Until She Comes”, Psychedelic Furs: From the band’s last studio album in 1991, their first single was one for the ages.  Butler’s moody vocals combined with the guitar and drums in the song created a classic song.  I was dating someone at the time for over a year and a half.  Things were good at that time.

“Drawn To The Blood”, Sufjan Stevens: I just heard this song a few months ago.  During one of the darkest and scariest weekends of my life.  I won’t go into details, but this song perfectly hit how I felt that weekend.

“Into The Mystic”, Van Morrison: “Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.”  One of the most beautiful songs ever written, musically and lyrically.  This is quintessential Van Morrison here folks.  If you’ve never listened to this song, I urge you to seek it out now.  I consider this one of those songs that always soothes my soul no matter how much that soul seems to be lost or scared.

“And The Cradle Will Rock”, Van Halen: The rowdy screams of David Lee Roth intertwined with Eddie Van Halen’s sliding guitar riffs in this song make it a classic.  “Have you seen Junior’s grades?”  An anthem for the rockers of the early 1980s!

“Fix You”, Yellowcard: The band’s remake of the Coldplay single is much better than the original in my humble opinion.  I spent many years trying to fix something I didn’t think I could replace.  I was wrong.  Don’t get me wrong, I tried.  But some things just can’t be fixed no matter how hard we try.  It is a humbling realization when you finally understand this.

“Chapter 12 Verse 5”, Henry Jackman and Dominic Lewis: Earlier this month, I watched the first two seasons of “The Man In The High Castle”.  I don’t binge-watch shows that much, but from the first episode of this series I was hooked.  This piece was done very early on in the series at a pivotal moment for one of the characters.  Trust is a tricky thing when your back is against the wall and it can be very easy to be fooled.

“Underneath the Sycamore”, Death Cab For Cutie: I listened to this song all the time in the Summer of 2011.  I would drive my son to summer camp in the morning and pop this song in along with many other songs and sing on the way to work at the top of my lungs!

“Under Pressure”, Queen and David Bowie: It is hard for me to pick my absolute favorite song of all time.  There are a few contenders for that position.  This is one of them.  Everything about this song makes it the best.  Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury and David Bowie are in perfect synch and melody with each other.  But the lyrics, the damn lyrics get me every single time. “Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word and love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night.  And love dares you to change our way of caring about ourselves.  This is our last dance, this is ourselves under pressure.”  The world will never have musical gold quite as good as this.

“All This Time”, Sting: I am going nuts with the awesome songs coming up on this shuffle!  This first single from “The Soul Cages” in 1991 hooked me from the first time I heard it.  I must have played this song a thousand times in the first few months the album came out.  Mixing history and a relationship between a son and his father along with religious verses is something only a singer like Sting could do. “Teachers told us, the Romans built this place.  They built a wall and a temple at an edge of the empire garrison town.  They lived and they died.  They prayed to their gods but the stone gods did not make a sound.  And their empire crumbled and all that was left were the stones the work men found.  All this time, the river flowed.”  How much of what we do will make a difference in a thousand years?  What will we be remembered for, if anything?

“A Gift Of A Thistle”, James Horner: In the movie “Braveheart”, William Wallace’s father dies when he is a young boy.  At his funeral, the boy is lost in his grief.  He knows his life will never be the same again.  He can’t find comfort anywhere.  A little girl, recognizing this, picks a thistle from the ground and gives it to young Wallace.  This tender scene, as Wallace lets the tears flow down his cheek, is the birth of love.  When he returned to his home after many years away, the first thing he did was find that little girl and profess his love to her.  A hand that reaches out can have ramifications that span decades.  Never be afraid to offer comfort to those who are lost and alone.  Many of us have been right where Wallace was at that moment.  But how many have taken on the role of the little girl?

“The Dead Heart”, Midnight Oil: History is filled with subjugation and discrimination.  For the original natives of Australia, this was the story for the Aborigines.  Like Native-Americans in our own country, it took a long time for the native inhabitants of the smallest continent to gain acceptance and respect by the invading white man.  Peter Garrett, the lead singer of Midnight Oil, was very active in helping to make this happen.  He also went into politics and fought for the rights of the Aborigines.  Nothing but respect for those who are forced to leave their land by an invading force!

“All Right”, Toad the Wet Sprocket: I love b-sides to singles.  In the days of digital mp3s and iTunes, the b-side is a lost relic of a bygone age.  This was one of Toad’s b-sides back in 1992.  I didn’t find it until 1995 when the band released a compilation of their b-sides and hidden tracks.  It quickly became one of my favorites from the band.

“Rise”, Eddie Vedder: One of my favorite books and movies from the 00’s was “Into The Wild” by Jon Krakauer.  Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder provided the soundtrack to the film.  Have you ever just gone for a hike by yourself, into the wilderness, and allowed yourself to be surrounded by the vastness and beauty of it all?  I have.  You just want to get away from the world and see the beauty of it for yourself.

“I Got A Name”, Jim Croce: This song always reminds me of my earliest years.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps I heard it when the song was released in the mid 1970s.  Never be afraid to sing your song.  Don’t be afraid to speak, even when the world doesn’t want you to.  It is your inherent right to speak about things.  Doesn’t always guarantee you will be heard, but for those who want to hear you, they will listen.

“Tequila Sunrise”, The Eagles: Country rock.  It’s the best way to describe the magic that was The Eagles in the 1970s.  The California band told the stories you didn’t read about in the newspaper.  They were the simple stories about love lost, heavy drinking, and the idiosyncrasies of man.  The late Glenn Frey sang his heart out on the song about the morning after.

“The People Who Grinned Themselves To Death”, The Housemartins: I’m not one to follow the crowd.  I don’t always subscribe to the “popular” view.  Usually that view tends to have a price.  That view is often brought about by politicians who are following the will of lobbyists who serve corporations.  The end result is the people having something taken away from them in some way as the companies make more and more money.  It takes time to see through the smoke and mirrors, but once you do it is hard to look away.  For myself, it is even harder not to act on it and point it out so others can see as well.

 

 

 

 

Breaking News Shocker: Board Member Resigns From Christina Board of Education

A Christina School District Board of Education member unexpectedly resigned from the board.  Which one? Continue reading Breaking News Shocker: Board Member Resigns From Christina Board of Education

Red Clay Schools Continue To Openly Defy Their Own Board of Education With Opt Out Threats

I sent the following email to the entire Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education and Dr. Merv Daugherty, the Superintendent of the district.  I am posting the email because I have heard similar complaints from parents several times since the Smarter Balanced Assessment came out in 2015.  What is the point of having a policy if the schools ignore it?

Ron Russo Lost Me With Jeb Bush, I Think I’m Going To “Go Home”!

Ron Russo, a senior fellow at the right-leaning Caesar Rodney Institute, wrote a blog post yesterday with a BOLD PLAN for Delaware schools.  By even mentioning former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Foundation for Excellence in Education in the very first sentence, it was hard to lend any credibility to this piece.  But I read the whole thing out of morbid curiosity.

…Governor Jeb Bush, the keynote speaker, told the attendees that they had to, “Be big, be bold, or go home.”

I would have left at that point and proudly went home.  Jeb Bush has made a ton of money capitalizing off the backs of schools and students.  He is the very essence of corporate education reform.  I give anything he says zero weight.

Russo seems to view former Red Clay Consolidated Board President William Manning as the Messiah of Delaware education:

He recommended a confederation of independent schools each locally managed and free of regulations about who to hire and how to teach.  The schools would be evaluated only by performance data that would be shared with the public.

Manning’s vision created charter schools that do not serve the populations within their district boundaries.  Quite a few Delaware charters have selective enrollment preferences that seem to further segregation and push out kids with high needs.  Manning was the lead attorney in the lawsuit against the Christina School District when charters that serve Christina students sued the district to get more money per student.  Eventually the lawsuit wound up becoming a settlement that further stripped funds away from the district.  Russo’s BOLD PLAN is modeled after the original charter school bill, Senate Bill 200:

The Caesar Rodney Institute is supporting a systemic change to our education bureaucracy called the “BOLD PLAN”.  It significantly alters the way the current education system operates by empowering the individual schools to make operational decisions to best serve their students.

In theory, this would be a great idea.  However, Russo lost me yet again when he brought up the VERY controversial priority schools as a potential model for this plan:

CRI’s BOLD PLAN incorporates the best features of the 1995 Charter School Law and the Memorandum of Understanding designed by Delaware’s DOE for Priority Schools.  If the changes proposed in the MOU were expected to raise the performance of the state’s lowest performing schools, why wouldn’t those changes be offered to all public schools?

Sorry Ron, but the priority school Memorandums of Understanding were absolutely horrible and did more to create parent backlash in Wilmington than anything seen before.  So what would this plan consist of?  Therein lies the rub:

BOLD legislation would specify areas of local decision-making.  Such areas would include: 1) Authority to hire and dismiss all staff; 2) All programing inputs (school calendar, schedule, curriculum aligned to Delaware standards, instructional practices and methodology, textbooks, technology, etc.); 3) Marketing and planning; 4) Support services including transportation, food, and maintenance; 5) Budget preparation and expenditure control with surplus operating funds retained by the school.  Schools will have autonomy from any district or Delaware DOE requirements not mandated by state or federal law.

This legislation has more holes than a donut shop.

  1. What happens if the board membership or the Superintendent of the district is not operating under normal parameters of their function?  What if personal grudges get in the way of a sound decision to hire or dismiss all staff?  Delaware is a small state and conflicts of interest are well-known in this state.
  2. You lost me at “Delaware standards”.  If you truly want to give local education authorities the coveted local control, they would be free to set their own curriculum without being tied to any type of standard pushed down from the state or federal government.  I have yet to see any indication Delaware will get rid of Common Core which was created under false pretenses.
  3. Don’t they already do this anyway?
  4. See #3
  5. That would not be a good thing.  Delaware charter schools already keep their surplus transportation funds in a sweetheart deal with the General Assembly and there is no apparatus to make sure those funds are being used with fidelity.  What is the point of even having a district or charter board if the school can do whatever it wants with extra money?  This proposal sounds like anarchy.

Russo’s logic becomes even more confusing when he casually drops the Rodel Visionfests and Race To The Top into his conversation:

The BOLD PLAN complements Delaware’s other education improvement efforts (Visions, Races, etc.).  In fact, it may even complete them.

I don’t think completion of those plans is something anyone in Delaware really wants.  Race To The Top was an unmitigated disaster with funds going to the state Department of Education more than local school districts.  The Vision Coalition goals further perpetuate many bad corporate education reform policies.  It is hard to take anything they do seriously when the CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, Dr. Herdman, makes over $345,000 a year.

Ironically, Russo channels Dan Rich who has been very involved with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s proposed Wilmington redistricting.  But Russo doesn’t bring him up in any way related to that endeavor but rather his involvement with the Vision Coalition:

At the very first Vision 2015 meeting hosted by Dan Rich, then Provost of the University of Delaware, he ended the meeting by telling the attendees that if they wanted to improve Delaware’s public schools they had to be bold and, if they didn’t want to be bold, they should get out.  Hmmmm, it seems that Dan was way ahead of Jeb.

Comparing Rich to Jeb Bush almost seems insulting.  Of course, any education push should be bold.  But by telling people if you don’t like it to “get out” or “go home” it is essentially saying if you don’t agree with us we won’t give you the time of day.  That is NOT the way education issues should be ironed out and only creates more of a divide.  The Delaware charter school experiment, now well into it’s third decade, has met with very mixed results.  It has not been the rousing success the forefathers of the original legislation thought it would be.  Why would Delaware even entertain this idea based on that?  And lest we forget, all this imaginary “success” is based on standardized test scores, of which Delaware has gone through three different state assessments since then.  Sorry Ron, but this is not a BOLD PLAN.  It is an old plan, that just plain doesn’t work.

I have to wonder about the timing of this article.  The Caesar Rodney Institute has long been a fierce supporter of school vouchers.  Delaware has been very resistant to that system under Democrat control but under the Trump administration and the appointment of Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education, it is not surprising to see Russo coming out with this type of article.  President Trump and DeVos want a federal school voucher system that has already met with disappointing results in several states.

What Happened To Sean Moore’s March 2nd Sentencing?

Former Family Foundations Academy charter school leader Sean Moore was supposed to receive a federal sentencing for his role in embezzlement of school funds.  Nothing of record shows up anywhere.  This is very puzzling.  Why wouldn’t Moore have been sentenced?  I received an anonymous tip a couple of months ago that suggested Moore may have cut a deal with the authorities.  Who these authorities may have been is unknown or what the nature of the deal was.  Moore was charged by the federal government so any deal would have been with the feds.

If Moore did cut a deal which would be unrelated to education, many Delaware citizens would be VERY upset.  This was a man who was charged with looking out for the best interests of children.  With a documented amount of over $160,000 stolen from the school, it is painfully obvious Moore had his own best interests in mind.  When the allegations first came to light, many parents from the school refused to believe the leader would ever do this, but when it was revealed he did abscond with money meant for kids, parents were disgusted.  This was just one of a few Delaware charter schools that came under the spotlight for this sort of thing but it had the biggest profile in the media.  If Moore did get a sentencing, it should be public knowledge.  He could have faced up to 30 years for his crimes in federal prison.

This saga has dragged out for years.  It finally came to light in December of 2014 during the school’s charter renewal.  Moore and fellow school leader Dr. Tennell Brewington were terminated.  Other members of the board resigned and eventually the board was reconstructed with new members.  The school entered a partnership with East Side Charter School which is now under the umbrella called Vision Academies.  Family Foundations recently changed its name to The Charter School of New Castle.

Exclusion of Music & The Arts In Delaware’s ESSA Plan Results In Awesome Letter To Delaware Legislators

The Delaware Music Educators Association sent a letter to every single member of the Delaware General Assembly earlier this week urging the Delaware Dept. of Education to include certain recommendations in the final draft of their Consolidated State Plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Members of the organization felt their pleas for inclusion in the state plan were ignored.  Last night at the final Delaware Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee meeting, the head of the organization gave public comment.  He wished Delaware would include music and the arts in their accountability system.  The Delaware DOE will submit their final plan to Governor Carney for signature on Monday, April 3rd.  Below is the letter sent to the Delaware lawmakers.

Every summer, members of each state’s Music Educators Associations convene in Washington, DC to discuss matters of advocacy, share visions for the future of music education, and speak with our elected members of Congress regarding these issues.  In June of 2014, members of the Delaware Music Educators Association (DMEA), in conjunction with the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and other state Music Educators Associations, helped to successfully lobby members of Congress to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, putting an end to the era of No Child Left Behind. This was a major victory for education—specifically music education. Some of the most important provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act for music education include:

  • A New and Clear Intent to Support Our Nation’s Schools Through a Well-Rounded Education: This is a change from NCLB, which focused heavily on the academic success of students narrowly defined as reading and math only.  
  • Enumeration of Music as a Well-Rounded Subject: Replacing the Core Academic Subject language from NCLB, this language clearly articulates that music should be a part of every child’s education, no matter their personal circumstance.  
  • Requirements for Well-Rounded Education: Schools will now be able to assess their ability to provide a well-rounded education–including music–and address any deficiencies using federal funds.  All Title I programs, both schoolwide and targeted, are now available to provide supplemental funds for a well-rounded education, including music.  
  • More Professional Development for Music Educators: Funds from Titles I, II and IV of ESSA, may support professional development for music educators as part of supporting a well-rounded education.  
  • Flexible Accountability Systems: States must now include multiple progress measures in assessing school performance, which can include such music education friendly measures as student engagement, parental engagement, and school culture/climate.  
  • Protection from “Pull Outs”: The new ESSA discourages removing students from the classroom, including music and arts, for remedial instruction. 

When the Delaware Department of Education began to draft its plan for the ESSA, it seemed that music and arts educators in the state would finally have a voice in helping to build a framework for ensuring that all of Delaware’s students had access to a well-rounded education.  Sadly, that does not seem to be the case.

During the second revision of the DDOE ESSA, a survey was created to allow for public feedback regarding the state’s plan. DMEA reviewed the document and was discouraged to find that the arts–specifically music–were referenced only once throughout the entire plan. Utilizing the online survey, members of DMEA, art educators, parents, and community members voiced their concerns to the DDOE, urging them to consider what a truly “well-rounded” education might look like for Delaware students.  With the release of the final draft of the DDOE ESSA plan, it appears that feedback has fallen on deaf ears.  Not one suggestion made by the DMEA, Delaware educators, or parents found its way into the revision.

Also discouraging is Delaware’s lack of inclusion of the arts in its ESSA plan despite such inclusion by other states. Some examples of the importance other states are placing on music include:

  • Michigan includes “Time Spent in Fine Arts, Music, and Physical Education” as an indicator of school quality or student success as part of their accountability system. 
  • New Jersey collects and reports on student access to and participation in the arts as part of a school district’s report card. 
  • Iowa addresses a “well-rounded education” for its students, citing music as a required subject for grades K-8 and requires students in grades 9-12 to have three courses in the arts.  Additionally, the state lists the Iowa Music Educators Association (IMEA) as representatives on the Well-Rounded Issue Specific forum and names the IMEA as stakeholders.
  • Idaho cites music and arts programs as allowable expenditures for Title IV-A funds and goes on to say “Exposure to the arts is an important component of a well-rounded education. As such, LEAs may establish or expand arts education through the purchase or rental of instruments for underserved populations that provide unique music opportunities for those who have not been exposed to music education.”
  • Addressing Title IV funding, Tennessee states: “It is imperative that students have access to coursework and activities that interest them. We heard from hundreds of parents and educators how critical the arts and music, health and wellness, sports and clubs are in a student’s development, as well as supporting students’ academic interests and lifelong learning.”

As an organization with a vested interest in the success of students, DMEA is insisting that music and the arts be included in the DDOE ESSA as a mandatory means to attaining a well-rounded music education. We want to be represented in ESSA, and we need our feedback on the second draft to be considered as ESSA is finalized. Without requiring the presence of music and arts education in Delaware schools, we are certain this Act will fall short of Delaware student needs and hinder the future generations to come.

The Delaware Department of Education, the public-school teachers and administrators, and the citizens of the state of Delaware all have a solemn obligation to our children—our future—to educate them as best we can.  However, education does not stop at survival skills and those things that are “easy” to measure.  It also includes “living skills” and those things not so easy to measure. Math, Science, ELA, and History are all very necessary for our sons and daughters to live and survive, but music, poetry, art, dance, and theatre are what they LIVE for. An ESSA plan from Delaware that does not include those is a document that is negligent.  The Delaware Music Educators Association is more than willing to sit at the table with the Delaware Department of Education to help find ways of ensuring that music and the arts are an inclusive part of our students’ educational experience.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Clint Williams, DMEA President

Daniel Briggs, DMEA President-Elect

Cera Babb, DMEA Advocacy Chair

Thomas Dean, DMEA Advocacy Committee

Opt Out Wins Big In Delaware

After more than two years of the Delaware Dept. of Education holding an opt out penalty against Delaware schools, the moment of victory for advocates of opting out of the state standardized test came in a big way last night.  Not with a bang, but what appeared to be a conciliatory moment for the Delaware DOE.

At the final meeting of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee last evening, the group met for what appears to be the last time before the DOE submits their Consolidated State Plan to the United States Dept. of Education.  The DOE acknowledged they have no idea what to expect in regards to approval of their plan by the feds.  Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers stated they knew what to expect from the feds under the Obama Administration but under new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos they are in unchartered territory.

For advocates of opt out, an unexpected but meaningful change to the Delaware School Success Framework, the Delaware accountability system, signaled a clear shift in thinking from the Department.  Under the former framework, if a school went below 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other state assessments, an opt-out penalty would kick in.  Schools could have their final accountability rating lowered if the opt out penalty kicked in.

The opt out penalty saga began over two years ago, under former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  At that time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was raging through the Delaware legislature.  The bill would have codified a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly but the corporate education reform leaning Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill.  Shortly after, the Accountability Framework Working Group recommended not going ahead with the opt out penalty in the framework but were overturned by Markell and the new Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  When Delaware began working on the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the opt out penalty remained.  Even though advocates spoke out against it, many did not predict the Department would remove it.  But under Governor Carney and current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, there appears to be a change in thinking.

Field Rogers said the penalty is gone and they will be going with the recommendations from the AFWG, whereby a school must submit a letter to the Department on how they will work to get the participation rate back up to 95%.   She did mention that if they see the same schools with high opt out rates a few years in a row that they may seek “interventions” for those schools but nothing was specifically named.

To see the final Delaware ESSA plan, please see below.  There might be some tweaks here and there based on the final meeting last night, but for the most part, this is it.  I’ve heard quiet rumors concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We could see a change in that area but nothing official has been announced.  We shall see…