The Erosion Of Transparency At The Delaware DOE

Even though I’ve done my fair share of beating up on the Delaware Department of Education, I felt they were transparent in a few ways.  Most specifically on their website.  But now I am finding that transparency is evaporating fast.  There are three examples of this, most of which would not be caught by most people.  For a blogger like myself, those three areas contained a lot of information.

The first is their special education section.  For years I would look at their Due Process Hearing and Administrative Complaint decisions.  Each report would name the specific school district or charter school.  Since last Spring, they stopped doing that.  Now it just says “______ school district” or _____ charter school”.  What is the big deal?  Don’t parents of students with disabilities have a right to know what kind of special education complaints are happening at certain schools?

In looking at the above two screenshots from the DOE website, a pattern begins to form.  Last school year, there were three administrative complaints against charter schools in Delaware.  None of them are named.  I don’t need to be a forensic scientist to figure this one out.

The second area involves Department of Education personnel.  As long as I can remember, the Delaware State Board of Education would list changes to DOE personnel on their website as part of their agenda for each meeting.  That stopped a few months ago.  I did reach out to Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education.  She said the State Board does not control personnel at the DOE and they were the only state agency that listed personnel changes.  So it was a matter of consistency.  I get that, but it was also what made the DOE stand out above those other state agencies.  Not to belittle other state agencies, but the DOE is an important one and citizens have a right to know who is leaving or who is hired there.

The third area, which absolutely no one in their right mind would find is a bit tricky.  It involves their search engine.  I learned a few years ago that if you type “PDF” in their search bar it will bring up all PDF documents.  You can even tweak it so the results come up with the most recent documents.  I relied on this to see what was going on at the DOE.  The last PDF document that comes up on the search of most recent is from 5/2/2017.  I highly doubt the DOE is not creating PDF documents anymore.  I know that is the case because I’ve seen them.  But they somehow found a way to eliminate it from their search bar.  Maybe they figured out some crazed blogger from a specific IP address was always using it and disabled it.

It doesn’t shock me that these transparency issues coincide with the new Carney administration.  I, as well as others, have written about a continual lack of transparency coming from the state since Governor John Carney took office.  I guess the people no longer have a right to know.

For The Love Of Special Education

Yesterday morning, I read a Facebook post on a friend’s feed.  She didn’t write it.  It is one of those “copy and paste” things on Facebook.  I usually tend to ignore them, but this one tugged at my heartstrings.  I felt obligated to put it down here, on this blog.  Because this teacher reminded anyone who read this what is truly special about special education.

I don’t remember the exact moment my life was changed by someone with a disability. The memories seem far away, blurry, as if they don’t belong to me. But this is what happens after you’ve been working with people with disabilities for years. You change.
They don’t tell you that when you’re filling out your application. Instead, they tell you about the hours, the health benefits, the 401(k) plan, the programs and the strategies. But they don’t tell you about the fact if you do it right, you’ll never be the same.
They don’t tell you it will be the most amazing job you’ve ever had. On other days, it can be the worst. They can’t describe on paper the emotional toll it will take on you. They can’t tell you there may come a time where you find you’re more comfortable surrounded by people with developmental disabilities than you are with the general population. They don’t tell you you’ll come to love them, and there will be days when you feel more at home when you’re at work than when you’re at home, sitting on your couch. But it happens.
They don’t tell you about the negative reactions you may face when you’re out in the community with someone with a disability. That there are people on this earth who still think it’s OK to say the R-word. That people stare. Adults will stare. You will want to say something, anything, to these people to make them see. But at the end of the day, your hands will be tied because some things, as you learn quickly, can’t be explained with something as simple as words. They can only be felt. And most of the time, until someone has had their own experience with someone with a developmental disability, they just won’t understand.
They train you in CPR and first aid, but they can’t tell you what it feels like to have to use it. They don’t tell you what it is like to learn someone is sick and nothing can be done. They can’t explain the way it feels when you work with someone for years and then one day they die.
They can’t explain the bond direct service personnel develop with the people they are supporting. I know what it’s like to have a conversation with someone who has been labeled non-verbal or low-functioning. After working with someone for awhile, you develop a bond so strong they can just give you a look and you know exactly what it means, what they want and what they’re feeling. And most of the time, all it boils down to is they want to be heard, listened to and included. Loved.
When you apply for this job, they do tell you you’ll be working to teach life skills. But what they don’t tell you is while you’re teaching someone, they’ll also be teaching you. They have taught me it’s OK to forgive myself when I have a bad day. There’s always tomorrow and a mess-up here and there doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. They have taught me to slow down, to ponder, to take the time to just look around and take in this beautiful world and all of the simple joys we are blessed to encounter every day.
So when did I change? I realize now there wasn’t one pivotal moment. Instead, it was a million little moments, each important in their own way, that when added together changed me. And I’m grateful for each one.

I would love to know who the original author is.  I would shake their hand in a heartbeat!

Exclusive: Kathleen Davies Files To Run For State Auditor

Delaware’s next General Election is still over a year away, but a surprise filing with the Department of Elections today made it very interesting.  Kathleen Davies, the former Chief Administrative Auditor for State Auditor Thomas Wagner, is running for the elected position in 2018 as an Independent.  To say this isn’t huge news would be an understatement.  While Davies cannot publicly talk about why she was run out of the office in the Spring of 2016, the fact she is running for the State Auditor title shows there was definitely some funny business with her ouster.

I wrote extensively about the situations around her removal last year.  I always knew there was more to it.  The News Journal wrote a story involving Ann Visali and travel expenses that never made a lick of sense.

Tom Wagner, who has held the position of State Auditor for the last three decades, has not announced his intention to run again.  A couple of weeks ago, former State Rep. Dennis Williams announced he would run but nothing has been heard about that since.

I know, without a moment of hesitation, that Kathleen Davies will get my vote on Election Day in 2018.  Without a doubt in my mind.  She is easily the most qualified and her resume involving work with state audit agencies goes beyond Delaware, to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  I firmly believe Davies will one day be vindicated for the horrible treatment she received in the Spring of 2016.  But even better, it is my fervent hope she will see that vindication while holding the office of State Auditor.

Change is needed in the Auditor’s office.  That change was there when Davies held the title of Senior Audit Manager.  She was the first to conduct audit investigations against Delaware charter schools.  From Delaware Military Academy, to Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, and Providence Creek Academy.  The last big audit she had a major role in was a September 30th Count audit inspection which found some pretty glaring errors with a few charters.  That report was pulled from the State Auditor website the same time Davies was placed on administrative leave.  Wagner released a new report a few months later but the actual procedures from the first audit were not used in the second report.

I can imagine some in the Delaware education world will begin rolling up their sleeves when they hear this news.  My suggestion to the people of Delaware: ignore them.  If you want an auditor who will serve that office above and beyond and believes in their work 100%, that person is Davies.

Kathleen Davies for Delaware State Auditor 2018!!!!!

Caesar Rodney School District Drops The Ball

19 days ago, a student was beaten in the cafeteria of Caesar Rodney High School.  Tomorrow, the student’s parents and advocate will be holding a press conference in front of the Caesar Rodney District Office.

Update on CR High Student Beaten 10-3-17
Press Conference 10-23-17 -10am in front of Caesar Rodney Central Office.
District failing to keep agreement upon student return.
Advocate filed a complaint with DPS Internal Affairs Division.
District condemning media outlets who report on unsafe conditions in the school.
Robert & Rose Boyles, in addition to advocate Diane Eastburn will be on hand with statements – evidenced – and audio proof for all in attendance.
Sounds like the district underestimated parents and how far they will go to protect their children.  I did find out a few things since my last article on this.  As per their teachers union contract with Caesar Rodney School District, teachers may intervene in fights.  Note the use of the word may, not shall.  Some students can be bigger than some teachers so I can understand a fear of harm from a student.
Our schools and districts haven’t wised up to the fact that parents do have the means in today’s social media world to make some noise.  Most schools just want parents to shut the hell up when things go south with their kid but parents don’t have to do that.  Never sign a non-disclosure agreement without having an attorney look at it first!

Tonight

There is so much going on tonight.  First up is the first Town Hall meeting (which I filed a FOIA complaint against the Governor’s Office and Christina School District for a violation of the seven day notice) for the Governor Carney let’s screw with Christina School District one more time.  Second is the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting in which they pick up a new board member and tackle the resolution similar to the Christina resolution on sanctuary schools and all that.  Finally, it is the Capital School District Board of Education meeting.  My son goes to school there again so I have a vested interest in what goes on in their district.  I can’t possibly attend all of them.  So which one am I going to?  Who gets the honor? Continue reading Tonight

State Rep. Rich Collins Is Not Digging Gender Expression Regulations

It looks like State Rep. Rich Collins is taking aim at proposed regulations dealing with gender discrimination according to the weekly newsletter from the Republican Caucus of the Delaware House of Representatives.  I felt the need to redline this because there are some points I agree with and some I don’t.

State Lawmaker Says Proposed Education Regulations Could Violate Parental Rights, Spark Lawsuits
A proposed anti-discrimination policy and regulations that could soon be applied to Delaware public schools are raising questions and concerns.
I’m sorry, but how often does Rep. Collins take an active role on education issues in the General Assembly?  How much education legislation has he put forth?  I think this has more to do with transgender issues than potential legality of the Governor’s actions.  Cause if Collins wants to poke holes at legality in state code, I can think of a few dozen issues that need the spotlight more than this.
“It opens Pandora’s Box,” said State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro.  “It has the potential to twist schools up in knots.”
A little overdramatic there.
The process began in mid-July with the issuance of a brief memorandum from Gov. John Carney to Sec. of Education Susan Bunting.  In the memo, the governor directed the agency to promulgate regulations providing clear guidance to schools “to prohibit unlawful discrimination in educational programs, and activities for students, on the basis of any legally protected characteristic.”
This is Executive Overreach.  Something Carney does very well.  He has been doing this a lot lately. 
The memo set a deadline of November 1st for the proposed rules to be posted in the Delaware Register of Regulations, a needed step preceding implementation.
If you ask me, any regulation should be based on a bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.  No questions asked. 
Four “community conversations” were held — one in each county, and one in the City of Wilmington — to gather public input.
These community conversations are usually poorly attended.  The results of these meetings are predetermined as usual.
State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, attended the Sussex County event last week.  She said the meetings – which all took place between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. over a period of just ten days – were, perhaps intentionally, inconveniently staged for parents to participate.  “They were held when families are collecting students from school activities, having dinner and assisting with homework,” she said.
I like Rep. Briggs King.  But my question would be when is an opportune time?  When parents are at work?  Is after 8pm better when parents are trying to get kids to bed?  I would say sufficient notice and having schools send out robo-calls paid for by the state would work better.  Or hell, have the state send out robo-calls. 
Rep. Collins noted that the forums appeared to have been deliberately engineered to thwart public criticism, with participants broken into small discussion groups, limiting interaction and open debate.
Welcome to DOE 101 Rep. Collins!  This is how they roll.  I’ve been dealing with this kind of nonsense for years.
He added that an online survey form for public feedback on the proposed policy and regulations posed questions that specifically called for participants to provide three things they liked about each but avoided any such pointed solicitation of negative comments.
Once again, we go back to the predetermined thing.  The Delaware DOE will never put “This sucks” as an option!
The draft regulations include “gender identity or expression” among its protected characteristics. 
Among the more controversial aspects of the proposed rules are the following:
  • All students enrolled in a Delaware public school would be able to self-identify gender or race.  (Rule 7.4)

I watch the show Shameless.  In an episode from last year, a character named Carl wanted to get a DNA test to prove he had African-American ancestry so he could get into a military academy.  The white teenager couldn’t get in but the school did have openings for different minorities for 20% of their population.  Even though he did not have any African-American ancestry, he did find out he was 3% Apache so he got in.  Not sure where I’m going with this, but I thought it was kind of funny.  In these episodes dealing with Carl’s situation, another brother named Ian is dating a transgender.  The writers did a great job of conveying some of the issues transgender people go through.  But I digress. 

  • A student would have the opportunity to participate on the sports team that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.  (6.4)

I really don’t know how to comment on this one.  I have no issues with gender identity whatsoever.  But calling it “assigned sex”?  Is that a legal term?  I don’t know.

  • A student would have the opportunity to participate in the program of instruction dealing with human sexuality that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.  (3.4)

I would think this is appropriate.

  • Regarding physical education programs – goals, objectives and skill development standards could not be designated on the basis of gender.  (5.2)

Why does everything have to be a “standard”?  What happened to the days when kids went to gym to release energy and play basketball or floor hockey? 

  • School districts and charter schools would be required to work with students and families on providing access to locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond to students’ “gender identity or expression.”  (8.1)

What does “work with” mean?  This is a good point.  I’ve seen how schools are “required” to work with parents, but sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

  • Even if a student does not legally change his or her name, he or she can select a “preferred name” based on a “protected characteristic” that school officials would be obligated to use except on official records.  (7.3)

I don’t mind this.  My son’s name is Jacob.  He likes his name.  He doesn’t like to be called “Jake”.  If he wanted to be called “Bob” in school, I would respect that, as long as he is consistent with it and not changing his “preferred name” every other week.

The proposed regulations direct school districts to establish antidiscrimination policies within 90 days of the rules’ implementation or the start of the next academic year, whichever is earlier.  The policies would be required to contain informal and formal complaint procedures.
A procedure isn’t the same thing as reality.  Just gonna throw that one out there.
“The regulations and policy contain no mention of a student’s age, so I question the wisdom of allowing very young students to make some of these decisions,” Rep. Collins said.  “These proposals also seem to undercut parental authority; giving parents less say in some of these processes then I think is appropriate.”
Then and than mean two different things.  Just saying.  But I kind of agree with Rep. Collin’s point here.  A five-year old making these decisions, without parental consent, could be a slippery slope.  A thirteen-year old, who is more aware of their body and their wants… that could be a different thing.
State Reps. Collins and Briggs King say the proposed regulations are invalid, noting that “gender identity or expression” is not a legally protected classification under the Delaware Code covering public education.
Then perhaps Reps. Collins and Briggs King should write legislation which would put it as a legally protected classification.
Delaware’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013 — which forbids discrimination on the basis of gender identity in housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations, and insurance – added new language to seven titles of the state code.  However, those changes were not applied to Title 14, which covers public education.
See above.
“Neither the proposed regulation nor the model policy document, are legitimate because they are not based on any legal authority granted by the General Assembly,” Rep. Collins said.
That’s because Carney wants to circumvent the General Assembly whenever possible.  He is becoming very proficient at that.  But the House Republicans had a Carneypalooza in their newsletter this week with pictures of him all over the place. 
Rep. Briggs King points to language in House Joint Resolution 6 – which is still pending action in the Senate – as further proof.  The measure contains a provision explicitly stating that Delaware’s laws on public education do not “prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.”
Carney likes to flex his gubernatorial muscle.  If he wanted this so bad, he should have done his posturing on June 30th (and July 1st, July 2nd) and gotten the General Assembly to pass a simple Joint Resolution.
Rep. Collins said there has been a rapid push to implement the anti-discrimination regulations, outside the authority of law and escaping the attention of most parents and elected officials.  He said the new rules would produce confusion and likely create additional disputes and lawsuits.
John is all about the rapid push.  Patience is not his strong suit.  The only authority he seems to recognize is his own authority.
In a recent communication to the Department of Education, Rep. Collins urged the agency to delay action to address the growing concerns about the proposals.
How much you want to bet the response will be as empty as Legislative Hall between July and early January?
I am really torn on this one.  Collins offers up some valid points.  The biggest is that Governor Carney once again operated under the guise of Executive Power to do whatever the hell he wants.  He is the most non-transparent Governor in Delaware history.  He is flaunting this power a lot lately.  Much more than Jack Markell did.  It does not bode well for Carney.  I’m sure the DOE, Rodel, and the Delaware Business Roundtable love it though!
I dig into a great deal of education happenings.  I don’t mind any rights of students being clarified.  But there are some parental no-nos in the below draft of the proposed regulations.  I don’t think any educational setting should determine what is best to tell a parent or NOT tell a parent.  Parents have rights when it comes to their children and I can understand the concerns by some parents in feeling those rights are being stripped away.  I don’t see it as a “left-wing liberal snowflake” agenda though.  I see it as an overall concern I have with education policymakers who pretend they want parental engagement but operate behind the scenes and make decisions which ALL parents should know about.  They should also be a part of those conversations and no back-door meetings should take place.
The reason I’m so torn on this issue is because for me it is relatively new.  I’m not in schools enough and I don’t know many transgender folks.  While this isn’t a brand-new issue, it has gotten the spotlight the past few years.  I’m against any kind of discrimination, period.  Equal rights for all.  But many Republicans are against transgender folks, as well as homosexuals, because of what the Bible says.  I’m sure I won’t win any friends here, but the Bible was rewritten in the Council of Nicea some 1,500 years ago.  By a group of men.  It wasn’t rewritten by God.  And while the Bible doesn’t address gender identity or expression, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a big debate in the Council of Nicea.  I’ve heard some say the Bible is “God-breathed”, meaning it is infallible.  But I’ve seen one message in the Bible taken in so many different ways that it seems folks forget the basic message of the good book: love your neighbor.  Be nice.  Be kind.  To me, that is the message I take from the Bible.  Did you learn to forgive others?  Do you give more than you take?  Do you do your best to set an example for your children?  To me, those are the important things.  I believe in the Ten Commandments.  I do my best to obey them.  I don’t covet my neighbor’s wife.  I know the couple next to me are moving out and I haven’t met my other neighbor yet.  I haven’t killed anyone.  And so on.  I will never understand hating someone for what they are or the choices they make.  If they get all the stuff I take from the Bible, I’m pretty sure their passage to Heaven (or whatever afterlife you choose to believe in) is assured.
If Delaware Republicans and Democrats want to make some real headway, how about they band together to get rid of the rot in our state government?  We did a pretty good job on opt out a couple years ago.  Imagine what we could do together if we REALLY got organized?

Mike Matthews Speaks!

Finally!  After weeks of Delaware Governor John Carney’s posturing about his plans for the Christina School District Wilmington schools, Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews gave a shout-out to his fellow DSEA members about the rapidly developing situation.

Being at the table doesn’t mean you are in full collaboration with the rest of the table.  But it is a slippery slope.  Cause sometimes they will serve you on the table.  Carney’s Springfield gambit has more holes than a donut shop.  The Springfield teachers union was not on board with this at all despite any mainstream articles you read about it.  I fully expect DSEA and the Christina local to speak out 100% against this when the time comes.

In looking at the demographics between Christina and Springfield, I noticed the student populations are vastly different.  While Springfield’s largest minority is Hispanic students, Christina’s Wilmington students are mostly African-American.  This represents different needs and approaches right off the bat.  For those who see this is a softer approach to Christina, I don’t.  I see it as a forced coercion on the part of the Governor and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  And it appears they have the usual suspects pimping for them.

Seaford Mother Outraged Over Potential Abuse From Seaford Teacher Towards Her Child With Autism

Tonight, Rob Petree with 105.9 wrote an article about a Seaford School District parent who is claiming a teacher took unnecessary physical measures against her child with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum.  The mother explained what happened.  When the student was told he could not go to the office when he became upset over not finding his writing journal, the mother claims the teacher took things a bit too far:

“My son said the teacher went so far as to stand in front of the door and block the door and not let him out. The teacher told him to get back in his seat, and he said ‘no I want to go to the office,’ and the teacher told him ‘no get in your seat or I’m going to put you in your seat,’ and Landon once again said no he wanted to go to the office, so the teacher grabbed him by his arm, picked him up, carried him across the room and slammed him down in his chair. Landon said he then got back up out of his chair and tried to go out the door again and the teacher wouldn’t let him out of the door. So he went over and sat down in the chair at the round table near the door, and the teacher again was telling him to get up and go get back in his seat and Landon refused. The teacher went over to try to grab ahold of Landon and Landon got upset, jumped up out of the chair, and grabbed the back of the chair and slammed the chair into the floor, trying to get around the teacher to get out the door. He said at that point the teacher said ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and grabbed him up by his arm and physically carried him out of the door of the classroom, banging his forehead into the metal door facing in the process, and Landon said at that point as soon as the teacher sat him down in the hallway he ran straight to the office, and that’s when he called me.”

Even more alarming is the Seaford Middle School Principal’s response to her when she asked to see the video of the incident:

Today, I had a meeting with the Middle School Principal and basically what they told me today was that the teacher said that he asked Landon to leave several times and Landon wouldn’t leave the room, and that Landon was throwing pens, pencils, chairs and desks, and that they seen this on video; however, no one was able to produce any video to me showing my son behaving the way they said he behaved. I honestly, truly believe my son, and I believe this teacher is doing nothing but trying to protect himself and the school the same way. I cleaned my son’s locker out today, and he’s not going back to that school as long as that teacher is there.

This is unacceptable.  I found out today the same thing happened to the parents of the child who was assaulted last week at Caesar Rodney High School.  The district refused to release surveillance footage that captured the incident (and I will have more to say on that whole thing that hasn’t been made public yet).  I tagged tons of our state legislators on my Facebook page with a link to the 105.9 article asking for legislation that would demand schools release video to parents whenever their child is harmed in any possible way.

The district will not respond to any of this.  They will shut up unless they have to fire the teacher.  People ask me why I write so much about bad stuff happening in our schools instead of the good.  Sorry, this kind of crap outrages me.  You can have many great things happening in schools, but this is what folks remember and talk about.  This is a travesty.  Even if this teacher used proper restraint and seclusion practices as dictated by state law, the district should still release the video to the parent.  Instead, they are covering their asses.

A former board member for a district did tell me that video like this is released to the police department.  They will review it and eventually it would be shared with the parent(s).  I explained that the video could help a parent understand what happened.  It could be necessary for them to see it so the parent can seek sufficient medical or counseling treatment for their child.

I wrote an article last year on the Delaware Dept. of Education’s annual Restraint & Seclusion report.  Seaford Middle School had 13 incidents of restraint in the 2015-2016 school year.  Compared to Milford’s middle school which had 1.  In Seaford, they had 38 incidents of restraint affecting 21 students.  But if this situation played out anywhere close to what the mother is claiming, this was no ordinary restraint.  If it went down how she said it did, this teacher should face criminal charges for assault.  Dealing with special education students can be challenging for teachers and parents.  But if you don’t have the proper training required to take action like this, you should do nothing and contact someone who can help.  Sadly, for this student, it will be a day he will never forget.

I don’t care where a video is: cafeteria, classroom, bus, hallway or anywhere on school property.  If a parent asks to see it, you show it to them, no questions asked.  The act of withholding something like that immediately sends red flags up with parents.  Or saying you have it but then you don’t.  You reap what you sow with that kind of logic.  In the case of the Family Educational Records Protection Act (FERPA), that applies to educational records.  If a parent requests records on their child, the school is obligated to produce it.  But is surveillance video considered an educational record?  That will be the argument here.  But I don’t care.  If a kid gets hurt, you do the right thing and show the parent.  Cause it could mean the difference between a parent deciding whether or not to sue the district.

This should NOT happen in our schools.  Tonight, I am very pissed off.  At this.  At Caesar Rodney.  At other districts where I am trying to help parents navigate through special education issues with schools.  So much of what I help parents with are things every school should know by now.  Districts and charters complain all the time about getting sued so much and the “predatory” law firms.  Guess what?  The very act of protecting yourself is usually what gets you sued.  How does that work out for you?

Updated, 9:50pm: A big thank you to special education advocate Devon Hynson for providing a link to what FERPA says about surveillance videos-

Schools are increasingly using security cameras as a tool to monitor and improve student safety. Images of students captured on security videotapes that are maintained by the school’s law enforcement unit are not considered education records under FERPA.  Accordingly, these videotapes may be shared with parents of students whose images are on the video and with outside law enforcement authorities, as appropriate. Schools that do not have a designated law enforcement unit might consider designating an employee to serve as the “law enforcement unit” in order to maintain the security camera and determine the appropriate circumstances in which the school would disclose recorded images.

 

Christina Falls For The Trap Set By Governor Carney, Secretary Bunting, and the Delaware DOE

It was just announced on the State of Delaware website that the Christina School District in conjunction with the Christina Education Association plan on working with Governor Carney’s Office and the Delaware Dept. of Education on a Memorandum of Understanding to improve the educational “success” for Christina’s Wilmington students.  In other words, they swallowed the bait and Carney is reeling them in.  There is no Christina Board of Education seal of approval on this letter of intent, but it does state the Christina board would vote on this MOU.  It appears Carney is rushing into this without a care in the world and he is bringing all the key players with him.  But let’s not forget, this is just another way to corporatize education at students’ expense.  This is priority schools under a new spin.  There is inherent danger here folks.  You play with the devil, you get burnt, plain and simple.  Notice this is only the Christina Wilmington students.  Nothing about the Red Clay or the many charter school students whatsoever.  This is not a Wilmington Schools Partnership.  This is a trap.  Jack Markell must be proud of this development.  Mark Murphy is probably going “Why didn’t I think of that?”

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney, Christina School District Superintendent Richard Gregg, and Christina Education Association President Darren Tyson announced on Thursday that they have signed a joint letter of intent to work together and develop a partnership with the goal of improving educational opportunities in the City of Wilmington.

The partnership will address the long-term success for the 1,640 Christina students in preschool through grade 8 who reside in Wilmington and attend the district’s four city elementary schools and one middle school. These schools are Bancroft Elementary School, Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, Pulaski Elementary School, Stubbs Elementary School, and Bayard Middle School.

Christina School District will work with staff from the Governor’s office, the Delaware Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, and the Christina Education Association to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) this calendar year and submit the MOU for approval by the Christina Board of Education.

The MOU will define the roles and commitments of each party in crafting a system designed to create great public schools for every Christina student in the City of Wilmington. Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education, and Dorrell Green, Director of the Office of Innovation and Improvement, also signed the joint letter of intent.

“It’s always been clear to me that as goes the City of Wilmington, so goes our state. And improving our city starts with improving our schools,” said Governor Carney. “We are committed to working in partnership with the Christina School District, the Christina Board of Education, the Christina Education Association, families, educators, and community members, to improve outcomes for students in Christina’s city schools. We have a responsibility to do better by these students, and I look forward to getting to work.”

“The Christina School District is committed to exploring every option available to improving achievement for its students,” said Richard Gregg, Superintendent of the Christina School District. “We are willing to enter into this partnership to explore the development of an MOU that clearly outlines the commitments that will be made by all involved. The Christina Board has been clear that any agreement that is developed must focus on what is best for our students, and we will work with the Department of Education and the Governor’s Office toward this goal in good faith.”

“We welcome the Governor’s initiative to partner in service to our Wilmington students,” said George Evans, President of the Christina School District Board of Education. “We need to create and maximize new pathways to excellence and equity within our Wilmington schools.”

“CEA and its members look forward to entering into this partnership and working together to create an MOU that best serves and supports the Christina students in Wilmington,” said Darren Tyson, President of the Christina Education Association.

Read the full letter of intent here. (or you can read it below without even leaving this blog!)

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Governor Carney will join Superintendent Richard Gregg and CEA President Darren Tyson at two Wilmington town hall meetings to discuss the partnership between the State of Delaware and the Christina School District:

Town Hall Meeting on Wilmington Schools Partnership

This event is open to the press.

WHAT: Governor John Carney will join Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg, Office of Innovation and Improvement Director Dorrell Green, the Christina Education Association, members of the Christina School Board, and community organizations to discuss the partnership, and ideas for improving Wilmington schools, with families and educators in Wilmington. Governor Carney, Superintendent Gregg and others will take questions.

WHO:          Governor John Carney

Richard Gregg, Superintendent, Christina School District

Members of the Christina School Board of Education

Darren Tyson, President, Christina Education Association

Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary, Delaware Department of Education

Dorrell Green, Director, Office of Innovation and Improvement, Delaware Department of Education

WHEN:       Wednesday, October 18, 2017

6:30 p.m.

WHERE:    Bancroft Elementary School

700 N. Lombard Street, Wilmington, DE 19801

 

Town Hall Meeting on Wilmington Schools Partnership

This event is open to the press.

WHAT:        Governor John Carney will join Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg, Office of Innovation and Improvement Director Dorrell Green, the Christina Education Association, members of the Christina School Board, and community organizations to discuss the partnership, and ideas for improving Wilmington schools, with families and educators in Wilmington. Governor Carney, Superintendent Gregg and others will take questions.

WHO:          Governor John Carney

Richard Gregg, Superintendent, Christina School District

Members of the Christina School Board of Education

Darren Tyson, President, Christina Education Association

Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary, Delaware Department of Education

Dorrell Green, Director, Office of Innovation and Improvement, Delaware Department of Education

WHEN:       Wednesday, October 25, 2017

6:30 p.m.

WHERE:     Bayard Middle School

200 S. DuPont Street, Wilmington, DE 19805

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Major FOIA Violations Found By Delaware DOJ At DelTech Community College Regarding Open Meetings & Transparency

I filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint against DelTech Community College on May 10th, 2017.  The Delaware Department of Justice issued their legal opinion on the FOIA complaint today.  They found that DelTech violated open meeting law with their College Educational Foundation and The Collegewide Criminal Justice Advisory Board.

First, the Attorney General had to determine if these two entities are public bodies.  They found both are.  Especially noteworthy is their Foundation.  Because their Foundation consists of seven members from the college’s Board of Trustees, and four board members represents a quorum, they are a public body that must make their meetings public and produce minutes from each meeting.

…any gathering of the Foundation that includes a quorum of the Board of Trustees, and during which public business is discussed, is considered a meeting of the Board of Trustees to which FOIA’s open meeting requirements are applicable.

I did name other groups at the school, specifically their Collegewide Safety/Security Committee, Ad Hoc President’s Council, President’s Council, and Learning Community Collegewide Steering Committee.  Because those groups are made up of staff members, they are not considered a public body thus they are immune to open meeting law.

It’s hard sometimes to win these things.  There are ambiguities in state code that can turn a predicted victory into a moment of defeat.  But I was very pleased with the outcome of this one and what it means for other such entities floating around Delaware.  Time to do some reaching out to other various foundations in the state.  For those who think this might apply to Delaware State University or University of Delaware, think again.  They are exempt from FOIA law in Delaware.

To read the full legal opinion issued by Deputy Attorney General Carla Jarosz, please read below:

Hysterical Providence Creek Email Surfaces. Sad Part Is She Was Serious…

You gotta keep ’em separated. -The Offspring

I received the following email today.  This concerns the “solution” that Providence Creek Academy, a charter school in Clayton, DE, implemented when students weren’t getting along.  Yes, let’s punish whole grades of classes because of the actions of a few.  That is always a smart thing to do!  Especially on the playground.  Weird.  Just weird…

From: Messick Joan
Sent: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 1:15 PM

Subject: Lunch/Recess – Seventh and Eight Grade Students

Good Morning Upper School Team

First, I apologize for not getting this out sooner.

On Thursday, there were several students reporting issues between the seventh and  eighth grade students.  The issues, in my opinion, seem to be brought on by some students intentionally starting arguments between other student and there seem to be issues about who should be where during recess time.  Since seventh and eighth grade students must follow a similar schedule, there isn’t much we can do to separate them during lunch and recess.  This morning I went to all special classes and stem so that I could have the opportunity to talk to all students.  The conversation was pretty one sided and I asked them to listen.  I did ask that if they had any questions, comments, suggestions, complaints or just want to share, they should write it down and ask that a staff member put it in my mail box. 

Side bar, we did have students, a parent, staff members concerned that if we don’t try and do something to be proactive the issues would escalate and change the climate in the upper school for the worse.  At this point it is fair to say that the issues are disrupting recess/lunch, disrupting the educational environment AND students are using social media to make comments that could be considered threatening in nature and there are implications that they might harm another student at school.  We are going to try some things to see if we can calm the issues. 

Starting today, we painted a line on the upper school playground.   Please have the seventh grade on one side of the line and eighth grade on the other side of the line.  We put a path on one side so that when those students are entering the building they don’t have to cross path with the other grade level.  I would have one grade level go in and wait two minutes and have the other grade level go in allowing enough time for the first group to enter their classrooms.  I am in the process in meeting with staff to keep them informed about what is happening and I would appreciate your feedback and suggestions since we will probably meet to discuss what is working, what is not and see if we need to make any additional changes.  Recess is a privilege, not a right.  Please reply to me, not “reply all”. 

Seventh and Eighth Grade students can take turns using each side.  I understand there is a upper school team meeting today after school, please decide as a team how you would like to rotate the grades by day or by week and please let me know.  We think that day on day off would be better because some students might have basketball withdrawalJ. Honestly, I feel sad that we have to do this since SO MANY of our students love recess and are using that time to get some energy out and relax with friends….

Thank you for your consideration and help.  Please keep me informed if there is anything you need and I would really appreciate it if you would send me an e-mail so that I have something that I can use as a resource with names, times and some basic information; And it will help to keep track in case I need to.  I am required to report documented reports of bullying and your e-mails help me with that.  More to follow….Take care.

Lastly, I have already gotten feedback from students and those that have responded think that this is a good solution. 

Joan

 

While I salute Ms. Messick for attempting a solution, does she understand that sometimes kids will be kids?  I understand schools sometimes have to think of creative solutions to problems, but what if some of these 7th and 8th graders actually enjoyed each other and had friendships? If some students are causing issues, deal with those students.  With that being said, I do think it’s great 7th and 8th graders get to enjoy recess.  This email is over a year old so hopefully it all got straightened out.  Any PCA associated people know if this playground line is still in existence?

In other PCA news, many have reached out to me privately to find out how the We’re Worried group is doing.  I have not heard a peep since their Labor Day email when they announced their intent to join DSEA (the state teacher association).  All in good time!

Governor Carney’s Slimy Obsession With Public-Private Partnerships & The Erosion Of Public Trust With His Springfield Trip

Delaware Governor John Carney is throwing Delaware’s public school system under the bus and he will begin this transition with the Christina School District.  Yesterday, he sent an unannounced delegation to Springfield, Massachusetts that included far more than those on his public schedule.  This group included Assistant Superintendent Noreen LaSorsa, Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Chair Tony Allen (who received his invite on September 23rd), Christina Education Association President Darren Tyson, and an unnamed member of the Delaware State Education Association (which was their legislative liason, Kristin Dwyer).  I’m sure Carney’s Education Policy Advisor Jon Sheehan attended as well.

The News Journal covered the trip in an article by Jessica Bies:

Despite school board members asking to be equal partners in the effort, there were no members of that group on the trip.

Carney apparently seems to think Tony Allen is a better choice to bring on trips about Christina than the actual board members:

Tony Allen, chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, on the other hand, has known about the trip since at least Sept. 23, he confirmed Friday. He said he was invited sometime before that.

In the article, it said Board President George Evans received an invite “very recently” but was unable to attend.  Board Vice President Fred Polaski said he didn’t even know about it until a reporter called him.

Christina Board member John Young had plenty to say about this trip on his Facebook account this evening:

Delaware officials touring a Massachusetts effort run by an unelected governing board under a 501(c)-3, just like DE charters for possible use in Christina. On its face it certainly appears that Governor John Carney does not intend to partner with Christina, but deploy untested, unproven ideas on us. I honestly took him at his word Tuesday, now it seems like I may have been wrong to do so. Google Springfield Empowerment Zone if you want the 411 on this ed reform trainwreck that’s seemingly on the way. I am disappointed that mere days after agreeing to engage us within the rules that govern public meetings and board actions, a delegation was sent out of state to “research” a model to insert into CSD and usurp local control, possibly placing millions and millions of dollars into the hands of an appointed board without any elected representation from Christina.

Carney is playing the exact same kind of education games Jack Markell played.  I’m not sure which is worse at this point, but at the rate Carney is going I have to go with our latest corporate education reform Governor.  What makes Carney so dangerous is his throw it in your face backdoor dealings.  He doesn’t care who he pisses off.  As long as he has his select cabal to go along with his plans.  Transparency is a thing of the past with this Governor.  He is initiating very scumbag moves.

There can never be public trust with John Carney.  Never.  He has proven that multiple times.  He is getting our legislators to think his hocus-pocus public-private partnership scams are perfectly okay.  There is no collaboration with Carney.  If you don’t go along with his vision, he will go ahead and do it anyway.  The very fact that Carney wants to emulate a flash-in-the-pan scam like this where the “partnership” creates a board to oversee these schools separate from the local education agency board of education where the state picks the four board members and the district the other three shows an immediate state control of Christina’s Wilmington schools.  But his contempt for local authority was not missed by Young in the News Journal article:

It has become clear the trip was planned in advance of that meeting, school board member John Young said, which concerns him because if the Springfield model ends up being the basis for the Christina partnership, it would suggest the outcome was predetermined and the school board didn’t actually have any say in the matter.

That’s right Mr. Young.  Carney doesn’t want the Christina board to have any say because he knows they would say no.  This is priority schools all over again except this time Carney is very upfront about selling these schools off to a corporate entity.  Call it a non-profit all you want.  I’m sure the overlords of this non-profit would exact their pound of flesh from the district in the form of certain salaries and operating expenses.

Where is DSEA President Mike Matthew on this?  He has been very quiet about all this since it came out in the past week.  I would think, given his resistance to the priority schools fiasco, he would oppose this.  But he has been silent and I would like to know why.  Especially given what Bies said in the article:

Legislators in Massachusetts say the program is “compelling” and has made it possible for the state to effect educational change without seizing local control from school districts. Yet, teachers unions have complained that it removes control of schools from local officials and puts it more in the hands of the state.

What is to stop this from spreading out from Christina?  I have no doubt Carney will push this on other districts as well.  Especially when their Smarter Balanced Assessment scores don’t meet his fake standards.  Once again, the Christina Board of Education will have to stand up against the evil empire (the state) to prevent further erosion in local control even though Carney’s crappy vision ridiculously suggests it would give more local control.

I  have no doubt Carney will sell more of his public-private partnership encyclopedia salesman malarkey throughout his term as Governor (a one-term Governor I hope and pray).  But what he is really doing is selling his state away.  He is evaporating transparency with his Family Services Cabinet Council and the non-public board meetings of his public-private partnership board at a state level.  The Delaware Department of Education seems to be okay with this and I have never been more annoyed with Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting for going along with this dog and pony show.  But I suppose that’s why Carney picked her for this post.  She has become Carney’s yes woman.  But what should I expect from the Rodel-Vision circle of followers?  This is not the change promised by Carney in terms of the Delaware DOE.  They aren’t a support network for schools.  He has found a way for them to micro-manage our schools more than ever with this nonsense.  But he wraps it in his public-private partnership bow.

As for Tony Allen, he is being used in a big way for the second time by a Delaware Governor.  Markell used him and threw him out with the whole WEIC plan.  Now Carney is sucking him in with his big vision for Christina.  I would think Allen would be too busy with his new Del State job, but I guess not.  Not listed in the article is another attendee, Nnamdi Chukwuocha.  This Wilmington City Councilman actually thought it was a good idea for corporations to take over public schools in the infamous Christina priority schools board meeting when he gave his public comment back in September, 2014.  More of Carney surrounding himself with those who will suck up to him, allow themselves to be used, or whatever empty promise or vapor he whispered in their ears.

The Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, and our past two Governors have had a consistent hard-on for the Christina School District.  Once they get their hooks into them it is only a matter of time until the infection spreads.  Delaware is a small state so it would not come as a shock to me that we are a model state to completely destroy the word public in public education.

This whole thing stinks like hell and I hope Delawareans who do care about public education wise up and stand up fast to this fake Governor and his shallow followers.  If Mike Matthews is the man I believe him to be, he will fight this tooth and nail.  If he even entertains this notion, I will publicly shame him and my support for DSEA will be done.  If he does not publicly go against this, it will prove he ran for President of DSEA for the power.

The Springfield model is a fake.  It is just another way for Carney and other corporate education reform politicians to erode local control away and give power to states who in turn give out taxpayer money to idiotic companies who have taken more money away from the classroom than anything else since public education was first invented.

I am beginning to doubt any sincerity from John Carney.  This whole district consolidation task force seems to be the big distraction.  “Look here and pay attention to that while I spin my web of lies somewhere else in places you would never think to look.”  The problem with Carney is his ego.  He really is as transparent as Saran Wrap.  I don’t look at him and think, “what a great politician I can trust”.  I think, “That guy can’t be trusted at all.  He’s up to something.”  We all know the type.  But that seems to be okay for over half of Delaware who put the guy in power with an empty campaign that essentially had no platform we hadn’t heard before.  This is what happens when you reward a false sense of entitlement Delaware voters.

 

 

 

 

What Does Disability Mean? And Why Are We Arguing All The Time?

In light of the recent video showing a student attacking another student in Caesar Rodney High School, many folks seem very confused about what the word disability means.  Many think a disability has to be visual, such as a person in a wheelchair.  That is hardly the case with the legal definition of the word.  The Americans with Disabilities Act is very clear about what the word means:

An individual with a disability is defined by the ADA as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.

In the case of special education, disability is just the umbrella word for any number of medical disabilities.  A student could have ADHD, be blind, have Autism, or any number of different classifications.  To qualify for special education, whether it is an IEP or a 504 plan, the school will want to see a medical diagnosis by a certified physician.

To be crystal clear, the child who was punched in the head in the video taken in the Caesar Rodney High School cafeteria, has a disability.  Just because you can’t physically see that disability doesn’t mean he doesn’t have one.  Some took offense to WDEL, this blog, and other media using the word disabled in the title.  Some have gone so far to say this child is not disabled.  He is.

Some have said words said caused the other student to attack him.  No, what caused the other student to attack him was a choice.  A choice to take it to the next level.  A level he got arrested for.  On social media, someone asked me what I would do if they verbally attacked me repeatedly at my job.  I proudly said I would not physically attack him.  I would report it and would even record him in areas where I could.  It isn’t worth the consequence, no matter how upset I might be by words, to ruin my life.  That is something most grown adults should understand.  But for teenagers in a high school cafeteria, among their peers, it is a different world.  Did the student who attacked the other student have the necessary ability to understand that if he followed through with the thought to resort to violence that there would be very real consequences?  Is it defending yourself if you go from words to that level?  I don’t believe it is.  Because the next defense after that could very well take place in a court of law.

We can talk about the failure of adults all day long, but the heart of this issue is making choices.  I’ve made choices in my life that have had consequences.  We all have.  It’s what makes us grow, learn, and hopefully, evolve.  I choose not to let words said by others put me in a position where I have more to lose than gain.  It’s that simple.

I would urge people not to toss the word disability around like it is a visual thing.  Most disabilities are neurological.  Those that come from the mind.  They can’t be seen by others unless it manifests physically.  We can’t see anger in someone’s heart.  We can’t see depression.  We can’t see an obsessive need to want something.  These are very real afflictions affecting the disabled across the world.  I advocate as much as I humanly can for the disabled because very often, they don’t have a voice of their own.  Many parents of the disabled sacrifice so much of their lives advocating for their disabled child.

What has made this situation very controversial are issues of race.  Some have alleged online that the other student used discriminatory words to the student that attacked him.  The school, according to the student’s advocate Diane Eastburn, did not find that to be the case based on first-hand witnesses present before and during the attack.  I’ve heard many parents say their child was in the cafeteria.  If any of those words were said, I certainly don’t condone them.  But I don’t believe they were.  What we have here are circumstances that led to a very difficult week for Caesar Rodney School District.  Parents wrestled with wanting their child to even attend the school.  The district played damage control by only allowing comments of support on their Facebook page and deleting the rest.  People across Delaware saw an employee arrested for sexting a student, a picture of the high school mascot holding a sign with the worst possible racial language, and then the video of this fight came out on WDEL.

What kind of message are we sending to our children that if someone uses words against you it is okay to physically attack them?  Are we really preparing them for the day when we can’t protect them and they get thrown in jail?  As parents or guardians, we want our children to be safe in our schools.  We don’t want them to be bullied and we certainly don’t want them to be attacked.  We expect the adults in the school to be able to take control of a situation as soon as possible because we put our trust in them to do the job when we can’t be there.  We don’t care about official training that has to take place.  We expect that training to happen before our kid is seen in a video getting punched repeatedly in the back of the head.  We also expect that if our child goes to an adult about any type of bullying issue, that they aren’t made out to be a victim all over again with doubting words by the school investigator.

I’ve heard many in Delaware suggest that many of the climate problems in our schools actually come from the home, from what parents teach their children.  Based on comments I’ve seen in the past couple of days, I am inclined to believe that.  The ends do not justify the means.  Once you make that choice to use violence, you become the aggressor.  The crime (and yes, punching someone repeatedly in the back of the head is a crime) becomes worse than any words said and the consequences are much greater.  This is something I tell my own son.

Sometimes I don’t know what to make of the world we live in these days.  Everyone seems so polarized and wants to attack others if they don’t agree.  I find myself in this position often.  It is as if we have been conditioned, over time, to be like this.  We defend certain actions, even if they are wrong, to be able to make a point.  I can’t help but think we need to be better than this.  Somewhere along the way, many have equated race issues with politics.  The two don’t mix.  I hate hearing anyone say something to the effect of “if it was a white person doing this it would be a hate crime”.  How can we ever effectively deal with the issues that divide us if we are always at each others throats?  How can we help our children one day lead us if we don’t know how to do it ourselves?  These are the thoughts I’m wrestling with more than I would like in 2017.  I meandered a bit from the original purpose of this article, and that’s okay.

We need to celebrate our differences, not use them as points in an argument.  No matter what color we are, what disability we may or may not have, no matter what God we choose to believe in or not, no matter how we choose to love others.  We are all in this together, this human race.  We are more than Democrat.  We are more than Republican.  This is our world.  We can get along.  And we should all try to help those who can’t help themselves.

Caesar Rodney District Staff & Admins Watched Disabled Child Get Beat Up And Did Nothing

I’ve heard from several sources that the fight in the cafeteria where a disabled student was pummeled could have been prevented had district staff or administration intervened.  These same sources revealed that district staff come over to the high school to eat in the very nice cafeteria.  On Tuesday, district staff were present during the fight, including Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald.  The reason no one tries to break up a fight?  Because they are not allowed to if they have not received restraint training.

It would be one thing if this were indeed a “rare” situation, as described by Fitzgerald in his announcement about the fight today.  But I’m hearing there have been several fights.  Another recent one had the same scenario- a girl gets beaten up, no one breaks it up, and the school calls the parent to tell them to pick their child up and she may need medical attention.  I’m sorry, but if the school or district refuses to get the training needed to properly break up a fight, then they should incur the medical expenses for a student when they fail to prevent it or act once it starts.

In terms of the beating the disabled child took, some have gone online suggesting the disabled child used the “n” word against the other student.  But Diane Eastburn, the child’s advocate, said there were allegations tossed around but the school found through their investigations those allegations were false.  Those comments appeared on the WDEL article that broke this story.  Many have asked why the student who beat the child wasn’t expelled.  Any school expulsion has to go through a school board.  A school may suspend a student until the school board convenes to vote on that action item, but the school cannot expel a student.  The student was arrested as per Fitzgerald’s statement today.

I have serious concerns with Fitzgerald putting in words that “The District will continue to work hard to insure the safety of our students.”  How is it working hard if staff and administration don’t have the means to break up a fight?  That cafeteria was filled with adults according to several sources.  But in the video not one of them came over to the scene in the 30 seconds the fight took place.  The high school does have a School Resource Officer, but the school cannot and should not rely on one person to break up a fight.  It is a logistical nightmare.  What comfort does this give to the parents of the beaten child?  If I were them, I would see that as a slap in the face.  Because their child needed medical attention while the adults watched.

This district has been in the spotlight this week, and not in a good way.  I’ve written about Caesar Rodney School District more this week than I have my entire time blogging.  And I’ve done this for well over three years now.  One source, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said “This isn’t anything new.  It is just boiling to the surface now.”  Once you let the genie out of the bottle…

Delaware’s legislators have to find a way to make discipline issues more uniform throughout the state.  They have to make sure there are proper methods for interventions before events like this erupt all over the news.  It was a year and a half ago that Amy Joyner Francis was brutally murdered in a high school bathroom.  We don’t need a repeat of that again.  Fights will happen but I can’t help but think this district and our state could be doing a hell of a lot more to prevent them or act when they do.

In a week where Caesar Rodney has been inundated with bad news, from the custodian at Charlton sending explicit texts to a minor, to the Rider Mascot racial slur, and this fight, it is clear this district needs to think very carefully about what kind of message they are sending to parents.  Their Board of Education needs to take a very clear look at these situations and not just brush them off.  They need to come up with strategies and policies to tackle this in the best interests of students.

Many parents are wondering what is happening to students.  Fights are getting more vicious.  Racial tensions are building up in our state.  But we have far too many adults in charge who seem oblivious to the realities on the ground.  People are very sensitive today and our schools and leaders have to recognize this.  They must come up with better ways to help students deal with our world.  We can no longer let local control dictate what happens with school climate.  We must have uniform policies, training, and resources in every single public school in this state.  Parents or guardians must also help their children understand and cope with these issues as well.  For those who say “it was like this when I was a kid”, maybe it was, but we have more resources and knowledge on how to deal with these situations now.  We can’t live in bubbles.  If we want to live in this world, we have to share it.  And that means accepting others differences and helping others.  The hate has to stop before it becomes an uncontrollable beast.

State Rep. Trey Paradee Announces Run For Brian Bushweller’s Senate Seat In 17th District

Today, State Rep. Trey Paradee filed with the Department of Elections to run for State Senator Brian Bushweller’s seat in the 17th District.  The 17th District covers Dover, Camden and Wyoming.  Since Paradee is running for State Senate, he will not be able to run for his State Representative seat in the 29th District in 2018.  Paradee issued the following statement on his Facebook account today:

Paradee was my State Rep. in the 29th District but I recently moved to another area of Dover.  But that doesn’t mean I will rid myself of Paradee!  Should he win, he would become my State Senator.  In all seriousness though, I did endorse Paradee in his last two elections and voted for him.  I don’t agree with him on every single bill or political viewpoint, but we agree more than we disagree.  In education, he votes how I would for most bills.

No other individuals have filed for this race, but the deadline is next year.  In terms of Paradee’s seat, I’ve heard some very interesting names from both sides of the aisle.  I will post those names once I know more as long as I get the okay from those individuals.  Until then, thanks for being my State Rep. Trey Paradee!  It’s been an adventure!

Video Of Disabled Student Getting Beat Up In Caesar Rodney High School Adds To C.R.’s Very Bad Week

On Tuesday, a student with disabilities was beat up very badly in the Caesar Rodney High School cafeteria.  According to WDEL’s Amy Cherry, this was not related to the racial slur associated with the high school mascot that shook the Caesar Rodney community this week.

The boy’s parents contacted their advocate, Diane Eastburn, because of the punishment meted out to their son who was massively beat up.  He was charged by the school with “offensive touching” even though he is not seen on the video punching the other student.  The word “bitch” was thrown around prior to the fight.  The disabled student received two days of in-school suspension but his parents do not feel the punishment should have been given to their child since he wasn’t fighting.  The parents and Eastburn contacted WDEL yesterday.  In fairness, I sent Eastburn to WDEL because I was uncomfortable posting the video with minors on it.  The video is very graphic as described by Cherry:

The student was repeatedly being punched in the back of the head as he used his hands to cover his head. The victim student suffered bumps and bruises to his head and face in the assault.

This has Eastburn wondering what is going on at Caesar Rodney High School since these two unrelated incidents happened in the same week:

“There seems to be an underlying hostility in that building,” alleged Eastburn. “And if they’re having problems they need to address it quickly. To be quite honest, they can’t afford not to.  If they start having fights like this, someone’s going to get hurt or worse.  These are lawsuits waiting to happen if they don’t start dealing with the undercurrent in that building.”

These are questions the district are going to have to look at.  I sincerely hope the disabled child does not have a concussion or any lasting damage done in this brutal assault.  I don’t think any student who is attacked should get a punishment like that, whether they are disabled or not.  If words are said, let the punishment fit that category.  But using a poor choice of words is not the same thing as offensive touching in any world.

Updated, 3:15pm: Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald issued the following statement regarding this incident on the district website-

STATEMENT FROM DR. FITZGERALD REGARDING CRHS CAFETERIA INCIDENT

“Recently a fight that previously took place in the Caesar Rodney High School cafeteria has been posted to the internet.  This situation in no way is related to the recent mascot post. After an investigation by the school administration and the Delaware State Police, disciplinary action was taken and an arrest was made.  Fights of this nature, while rare are unacceptable and are not tolerated in Caesar Rodney. The District will continue to work hard to insure the safety of our students.”

 

 

Poll On Caesar Rodney High School Rider Mascot

Christina Superintendent Gregg’s Reaction To Carney Comes To Christina

Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg issued a statement today on the Christina School District website in response to Delaware Governor John Carney’s visit to a special Christina Board of Education meeting the other night.  I wouldn’t expect an unfavorable response to the visit but it did a great job showing the Board’s concern with Carney’s “partnership” idea.

Message from Christina Superintendent Richard L. Gregg – October 5, 2017

Dear Christina Community:
On October 3, the Christina Board of Education held a Study Session that was attended by Delaware Governor John Carney, Secretary of Education Susan Bunting, and several other state officials and legislators. The Governor addressed Board members directly to personally request that they consider entering into a partnership between the Governor’s Office, the Delaware Department of Education, and the Christina School District to improve five of Christina’s schools in Wilmington: Bancroft Elementary School, Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, Pulaski Elementary School, Stubbs Elementary School, and Bayard Middle School. Governor Carney stated that together, Christina and the state need to focus on making changes that will raise the achievement levels of Wilmington students. 
The first step in this process will be for Christina to work together with the Governor’s Office and the Delaware Department of Education, with the goal of developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU, subject to Board approval, would outline the details of an agreement to be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year. Governor Carney communicated to board members that the state’s focus is on five main issues:
  1. Giving school principals more control over decision-making
  2. Empowering teachers to have more input on how resources are used
  3. Addressing student achievement rates, including how current facilities can be used and improved
  4. Creating “trauma-informed classrooms” that ensure safe, supportive schools
  5. Establishing systems that can create meaningful, sustained change
These issues could be addressed in a variety of ways, including implementing new governance models, exploring additional learning time, providing trauma-informed supports, implementing programs for infants through adults, creating a pipeline of teachers and leaders, and addressing the root causes of poverty.
Christina Board members asked the governor important questions about the proposal. Their concerns included:
  • the level of specifics being offered about the partnership
  • the state’s commitment to acting as a true partner in the venture
  • the importance of making changes in the best interests of children rather than adults
  • the level of input Christina leaders and staff would have in developing the MOU
  • how this proposal is different from past interventions by the state 
Governor Carney, Secretary Bunting, and Dorrell Green of the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement provided input on these concerns. 
Governor Carney stated, “It’s clear to me that the most important thing we should do now is focus on making changes that will raise achievement levels for city children. That’s part of my responsibility as governor, Dr. Bunting’s job as secretary of education and your jobs as school leaders and Christina board members. We’re in this together.” 
As our discussions with the state continue on this important topic, we will keep the Christina School District community informed of any opportunities that parents, students, staff, and the public will have to share input. We will also provide updates on any decisions made by the Christina Board of Education. We are committed to staying focused on being “One District” and doing what is best for our students. As Governor Carney said, “We’re in this together.” 
Sincerely,
Richard L. Gregg, Superintendent
Christina School District

Caesar Rodney Community In Shock Over Racial Situation

Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald sent out an email and robo-call to parents and staff last evening about a racial epithet in connection with the Caesar Rodney mascot.  It appears, based on Facebook comments on their Facebook page, that someone photo-shopped the racial slur on a sign the mascot was holding in a picture.

Many parents thanked the district for taking such swift action on the issue.  The message sent out by Fitzgerald said the following:

STATEMENT FROM DR. FITZGERALD

The Caesar Rodney School District has been made aware of a picture that is being distributed through social media in which the Rider Mascot is holding a piece of paper with a racial slur.

The Caesar Rodney School District is distressed that our mascot would be used in such a manner and we strongly disavow the statement.

The Caesar Rodney School District and Caesar Rodney High School consider racial slurs reprehensible and are deeply disturbed by the content of this message.

We have zero tolerance for this behavior.

This matter is being investigated by the high school administration with the assistance of the Delaware State Police.

While I am a Dover High Senators fan, I do not condone this at all.  As I wrote on CR’s Facebook page, if this was a joke it isn’t funny.  If it was meant to be a hate symbol, may God have mercy on your soul.  Bottom line, people need to wake up.  It’s the 21st Century now.  We aren’t supposed to be this backwards.  But apparently some have not woken up from our country’s own dark history and think it is okay to call African-Americans by disparaging names.  Frankly, I’ve had enough of hate and the talk that accompanies it.  We saw the worst in hate last Sunday with the Las Vegas shootings.  This is the kind of news I hate to write about.

One commenter suggested getting rid of the Rider Mascot for a while until feelings calm down.  That is the absolute worst thing to do in my opinion.  That lets whoever did this win.  It’s like the old saying, “you don’t negotiate with terrorists”.  You certainly don’t give in to hate!

Delaware Education Roundup, Early October 2017 Edition

The school year is in full swing and there is lots going on!

For starters, a Charlton School special needs teacher was arrested for sexual texts to a 17-year-old student according to WDEL.

Sources have said several board members at Thomas Edison Charter School resigned last week in response to the actions of Board President Ronald Pinkett.  I was not given names or an exact number.

Central Middle School in the Capital School District are in the process of hiring two constables for the school.  Dover High School started this program last year with success.  Capital got the idea from Indian River School District who has, I believe, 16 constables throughout their schools.  Last night, the school held a parent q & a for interested parents and will be holding another one when they have hired the two constables.

The September 30th Unit Count took place last Friday.  The results should be released at some point in November.  Expect numbers and data crunching here at Exceptional Delaware.

According to the Cape Gazette, several students from Cape Henlopen High School participated in public service announcements for safe driving: On October 4, 2017 several of our Cape Henlopen High School juniors were selected by the Driver’s Education Department, to participate in recording radio PSA’s promoting teen safety while driving. iHeart Radio stations will be playing the PSA’s throughout Sussex county on the radio and online. Students who were selected were also part of a team who competed at the Delaware Drivers Ed Competition. The competition took place at Dover International Speedway at the end of last school year.

Three Delaware schools won the Blue Ribbon Award this year.  No charters.  Olive B. Loss Elementary School, Seaford Central Elementary School (Seaford), and East Millsboro Elementary School (Indian River) all won the federal designation this year.  This is the first time since I’ve been blogging that a Delaware charter or private school was not in the list of the winners.

The Delaware Department of Education is holding “community conversations” to tweak their school report cards.  Five meetings have been scheduled: Monday October 9th from 6-8pm at Beacon Middle School in the cafeteria (Cape Henlopen School District), Thursday October 12th from 6-8pm at Warner Elementary School in the library (Red Clay Consolidated School District), Wednesday October 18th from 6-8pm at Dover High School in the cafeteria (Capital School District), Monday October 23rd from 6pm-8pm at MOT Charter High School in the cafeteria, and Tuesday October 24th from 6pm-8pm at the Laurel Middle School in the cafeteria (Laurel School District).  The Delaware DOE is asking for participants to RSVP here.

Another committee, The Anti-Discrimination Guidance Team will hold their last Community Conversation tomorrow night (October 5th) at Sussex Central High School from 6:30-8:00pm.  I have been in the midst of a move recently so I haven’t been able to fully delve into this committee.  But you can find information on the Draft Policy, Draft Regulations, and a survey from the DOE here.  I hadn’t looked at the membership of this Guidance Team until just now.  How ironic that Greg Meece from Newark Charter School is on this.

Capital School District will be holding their Super Senator Day at Dover High School from 10am-2pm.

The month of October is Disability History and Awareness Month in Delaware.  As per the Indian River Facebook page, October is Disability History and Awareness Month in Delaware. This official observance began in 2009 when members and staff of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens encouraged Rep. Quinton Johnson and Sen. Bethany Hall-Long to sponsor House Concurrent Resolution 19. The purpose was to encourage schools to include information in their lessons and sponsor activities to promote the accomplishments of individuals with disabilities throughout history. The goal is to increase awareness and the acceptance of students with various disabilities.

On Colonial School District’s Facebook page, they announced the following: Staff and students were recognized today by DuPont for the amazing agricultural work being done at William Penn High School. Representatives from DuPont, members from State Legislature and Senate, USDA and members from the community celebrated the efforts of WPHS agriculture and science students and teachers in their work with pollination. Several staff and students were also awarded with grants to help further their education to continue the success at William Penn. In honor of her tireless efforts in making William Penn the great school that it is, a wildflower meadow was named in honor of Ag Teacher Kate Pickard. Thanks to DuPont and our community for helping our kids and give them opportunities to grow.

Appoquinimink is providing dinner for interested parents of students with special needs at the Marion Proffitt Training Center.  I would RSVP fast though!  Other events through their Parent Council is included in the below picture!

State Senator Margaret Rose-Henry from the 2nd Senate District in Wilmington announced she will not be seeking reelection in 2018.  This follows State Senator Brian Bushweller’s similar announcement in August.

Campus Community School in Dover had a cool announcement yesterday: Campus Community School is in the news again!!! This year, we have partnered with Northnode Counseling and Jennifer August, a board certified Art Therapist, to provide this service to our students. Art therapy provides students with an outlet and allows them to express themselves through their artwork.

Shields Elementary School students in the Cape Henlopen School District performed a worthy cause for hurricane victims as per the district’s Facebook page from September 22nd: This week Shields Elementary School teamed up with Lewes Fire Company, and collected items to send to Florida and Texas to help families affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma. The students spent part of their morning “stuffing the bus” full of the donations. Thank you to the students, staff, parents, and community members who donated and made our “Stuff the Bus” event a success!  Way to go Shields students!

A friendly reminder that all Delaware public schools are closed on Friday due to an in-service professional development day.  While the children play, the teachers pay! Just kidding (I hope)!

Academia Antonia Alonso will be holding their Fall Festival on October 22nd.

Glasgow High School in the Christina School District will hold their 8th Annual College Fair on October 26th.

Red Clay Consolidated School District will be holding their 11th Annual Family Resource Fair on November 4th at John Dickinson High School from 10am-1pm.

Next week is National School Lunch Week, from October 9th-13th.  I’m not sure what that means.  How do you celebrate school lunches?  Free Chik-Fil-A or Panera?  That would be something to celebrate! (No disrespect to the thousands of school cafeteria workers in our fine state)

This week, Positive Outcomes Charter School is holding their Spirit Week.

I don’t think Governor Carney likes me too much today.

I don’t care.

If you have any school or district events you would like to share, please email me at kevino3670@yahoo.com with details.  Or if you want to share something controversial, feel free to do the same.  Charters are welcome to share as well despite my writing stuff about them all the time.  I write about district stuff too but that gets lost in the noise sometimes.  Trying to make this blog less bad and actually share some of the good stuff going on in our schools.  Once again, if you want to promote any type of standardized test score enjoyment, please don’t.  I will opt right out of writing about that kind of nonsense!