Guest Post By John Young: Christina Breaks Out!

Former Transparent Christina blogger and current Christina Board of Education member John Young wrote the following guest post based on an event held yesterday at the Chase Riverfront in Wilmington.  All Christina School District administrators, teachers, and staff members attended the event.

On Tuesday, August 22nd I had the distinct pleasure of attending our district-wide kickoff event. As most people who follow education know, Christina has faced many challenges in the last decade, many of which continue today: poverty, leadership, choice laws that do not put children first, policy, and politics to name a few of the big ones. We meet these challenges every day, across a 2000+ employee base that is dedicated, professional, and truly amazing!

I was struck by the enormity of having the entire district in the same place at the same time. We had done a similar event in the past broken into two sessions at Glasgow High School due to capacity issues, but our new Superintendent, Richard Gregg, was able to negotiate a single venue with capacity because he wanted to set our district upon this year with a distinct theme and direction: One District, One Vision, One Voice.  After 8+ years on the Board, it was so refreshing to have a message that resonated in a single setting, one that could be heard by all.  For me, one of the KEY takeaways is that each of those three prongs of the message will be uniquely and specifically fueled by a calculus with children at the center.

I know that’s what school districts claim to do, and pledge to do, but we in Christina have been led very erratically for such a long time (well over a decade now), we lost our way somewhere in there. I know each district leader before Mr. Gregg did their level best, but sometimes there was a lack of relation between intent and execution of the vision and direction which has fueled divisiveness at every level of the district, including our board.

I felt like so much of that began to thaw, even melt, in 4 short hours yesterday. I’ve been involved in countless issues over my tenure on the board many of which are not always about the students: contracts, consultants, ideology around destructive policies put for by the state, etc. etc.  Yesterday, it became clear to me that some of those things don’t deserve another moment of my time. They are worthless endeavors that do not serve children. We have new leadership and a new focus for our service model which requires the removal of “awfulizers” from our midst, and replace them with “awesomeizers”.

Christina planted a flag in the ground yesterday. I feel like it was our own metaphorical Gadsden Flag. Our referendum rally cry of a “New Christina”, an amorphous, unclear, and frankly controversial concept for some was jettisoned yesterday, not because it was bad, but because it took life. It’s beating in our core, and breathing on its own…

…and it had 2000+ parents and guardians present for the delivery. Quite a welcome sight to behold and an honor to witness.

Bunting Bunts On Match Tax Boon For Delaware Charter Schools

At the Christina School District Board of Education meeting two weeks ago, Chief Financial Officer Robert Silber gave insight to a very interesting meeting at the Delaware Department of Education concerning the recent decision to give Delaware charter schools a portion of match tax funds through the local funding formula.  Silber’s description of Delaware Secretary Education Dr. Susan Bunting’s reaction during this meeting was surprising.

The memo that they also sent to districts said that due to the uncertainties associated with the budget, we’re holding off on a determination of match dollars until legislators made a determination around how the proposed reductions were going to occur.  They didn’t want, as they expressed it to us, they didn’t want to make a decision in advance that may have been different based upon the budget (state) for this year since there were a lot of talk legislatively around match tax.  The Department then came out with a position statement that said they believe match taxes are operating expenses and as an operating expense should be included.  District business managers then turned as a group and said to the Department, as part of the process, that we would like to have a meeting to discuss that.  That meeting occurred last Thursday (August 3rd) and I would say that the Secretary and a member of her staff were there, listening.  But there was no decision rendered at that meeting and we have not seen anything since that point in time to know whether or not they listened to our concerns.  One of the concerns that we expressed, and is probably the easiest one for me to grasp around, is that when you take a look at the various match components that exist, one of those matches is for reading resources.  Reading resource teachers are, by the definition of the dollars enabling legislation to begin with, was very specifically targeted to elementary schools.  So we posed the question to the Secretary, once these dollars go into the formula, those same dollars are going to a high school.  It doesn’t make logical sense and we asked that be considered.  She’s considering it.

Come on Dr. Bunting!  As someone who comes from a traditional school district, you know how this stuff works.  Charters lobby for more money, whether it is justified or not.  Just because they want it doesn’t mean it is right.  I get that everyone wants a piece of the funding pie but sometimes the taste isn’t so palatable.  Don’t give in to this Bunting!  We live in a state where charters are able to keep their excess transportation funds.  It is VERY hypocritical for the Department of Education to give in to the charters while that anomaly exists.  We need a Secretary who will stand up to these freakish money requests from the charters and do what is right!  We need a home run here, not a bunt!