Who Is On The School District Consolidation Task Force? Live From Legislative Hall

We got a full house here at Legislative Hall.  Seems a lot of suits showed up for this impromptu meeting.  But who is on the Delaware School District School District Consolidation Task Force?

Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting

Jon Sheehan (Education Policy Advisor for Governor Carney)

State Rep. Earl Jaques

State Rep. Joe Miro

Senator David Sokola

Senator Brian Pettyjohn

Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov

Caesar Rodney Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald

Colonial Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey

Director of OMB Mike Jackson

DSEA Representative Jeff Taschner

DSBA Representative John Skrobot

GACEC Representative Robert Overmiller

Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges

New Castle Co. Parent Rep. Nacole Gardner

Kent Co. Parent Rep. Loretta Greig

Sussex Co. Parent Rep. Lauren Hudson

Vo-Tech School Districts Parent Rep. Mark Dufendach

Wilmington City Council Rep. Hanifa Shabazz

New Castle Co. Executive Matthew Meyer

Kent Co. Designee Michael Petit DeMange

Sussex Co. Designee Gina Jennings

 

State Rep. Earl Jaques ran introductions.  He said there will be a lot of hard work for this committee.  He is hopeful the report will be done by January but he doubts it.  Everyone, members and audience members, introduced themselves.  Jaques said there are 22 members on the task force, not 23.  He said this task force is not just about money.  If we aren’t putting children first none of that matters.  That’s because the Charter Schools Network rep. was voted out on June 30th since the charters didn’t want to be included in the conversation.  Dr. Bunting is giving a history of past attempts at district consolidation.  See the 2002 report (I will put a link up later).

Rep. Miro said there are districts across state lines that have a district with the same number of students as all of Delaware’s public school student count.  He mentioned Fairfax County in Virginia.  Miro is opening the floor for nominations for the Chair of the Task Force.  A motion for State Rep. Earl Jaques to be the chair.  Motion seconded.  Only nomination.  Jaques is the Chair.  I am shocked (not).

There will be four sub-committees of the group:

Structure, Transportation and Manpower: led by Dr. Kevin Carson and assisted by Jaques

Financial: led by Fred Sears (think Rodel) and assisted by Mike Jackson, will deal with property assessments

Academic and Children Needs: led by Dr. Bunting and assisted by Rep. Miro

Teachers And Staff: led by Dusty Blakey, assisted by Jeff Taschner

These sub-committees will meet between meetings.  Miro invited members of the public to sign up for the sub-committees as non-voting members.  I actually signed up for the money sub-committee.  Next meeting will be at Woodbridge High School at 6:30pm on September 18th.  This will be down in Sussex County so you might want to leave early if you live up north.  October 16th meeting at William Penn High School at 6:30pm.  November 16th meeting at Caesar Rodney High School.

Jaques said this committee is not going to decide on closing schools.  Their job is to figure out if it works or doesn’t work.  I gave public comment urging more transparency for the group to which Jaques said that was his fault.  I also urged the task force to make sure this is about students first and to have the State Auditor make sure they can properly audit funds that are already in play.  Woodbridge Board Member Walter Gilefski said he is adamantly against district consolidation.  Caesar Rodney teacher Natalie Ganc said she is here to check this out.  She said she has a daughter in Smyrna School District and thinks they are awesome despite what I write about them.

Meeting adjourned.

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Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Meeting Tonight At Legislative Hall

Thanks for State Rep. Kim Williams for getting the word out on this.  Yes, this task force is meeting tonight.  At Legislative Hall in the House Hearing Room on the 2nd floor.  From 6:30 to 8:00pm.  Come, give public comment.

I don’t know who the members are except for the following State Reps and Senators: State Reps. Earl Jaques and Joe Miro and Senator David Sokola and Brian Pettyjohn.  I’m guessing since Dave is biking somewhere in Illinois or Ohio at this point, he won’t be there.  That is an interesting group right there.  I’m assuming Earl is the Chair of this cabal since he is the one funning the meeting.  Come, or be square!  We know the Delaware Charter Schools Network won’t have a membership because of Rep. Williams last minute amendment on the bill.

Seriously, whose idea was it to have meetings in the middle of the Summer?  The Dept. of Education is the coordinator.  So I just answered my own question, duh!  Sorry for the late notice folks, but I literally just found out about this myself!

Crossing Into New Hope With High Rocks By The River

Road trips are fun.  Sometimes you just have to get away from it all and get some perspective.  Which was exactly what I did one day last week.  Delaware is a beautiful state, but it’s flatness can annoy me at times.  So I ventured to where I once lived, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where a hill actually means something and isn’t a road going up to a bridge over the C & D Canal. Continue reading “Crossing Into New Hope With High Rocks By The River”

State Board of Education Overturns Smyrna Expulsion

In another Smyrna School District expulsion case, not related to that of Student J, the Delaware State Board of Education overturned that decision.  The family filed an appeal earlier this Spring.  The Hearing Officer recommended the State Board overturn the decision.  They did so at their July 27th meeting last Thursday.

It is my most fervent hope that between this and Student J’s case, the district will take a very close look at their expulsion policies which are among the highest percentage in Delaware for school districts.  I am not against expulsion if the violation is egregious.  But any expulsion is a very serious thing and should not be taken lightly.

This issue is on my radar and it does not just apply to traditional school districts.  I find “counseling out”, where some charter schools have “talked” a parent out of keeping their child in their school to be just as unfair as an unnecessary expulsion.  I will be keeping a very close eye on these kind of situations in the upcoming school year.  If any parent feels an expulsion was unjust, I encourage them to contact me.  As J’s mother quickly became aware, I will quickly intervene and attempt to help.

To read the full story of Student J in Smyrna, click here.

The Story Behind HB 85 Veto

DelawareFirstState

As you may have heard by now, the Governor vetoed House Bill 85, a bill I sponsored. HB 85 would have removed the 5-mile radius that charter schools use as an enrollment preference. I chaired the Enrollment Preferences Task Force a few years ago and this is one of the items that were discussed during the task force meetings. The members of the task force agreed that the 5-mile radius should be removed – the vote was 10 to remove it, 3 to keep it and 2 abstained from voting.

I asked Sen. Sokola to be the Senate Prime Sponsor on this legislation, originally I was removing the 5-mile radius completely. Sen. Sokola is the chair of the Senate Education Committee and he was a member of the Enrollment Preferences Task Force. He heard first hand the discussion around the 5-mile radius from task force members and he knew most of the…

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