Caesar Rodney Student Addresses District Censorship And Walking Out For Victims Of Parkland Shooting

A Caesar Rodney School District student took his complaints against the ongoing censorship on social media concerning student walkouts.  In a nutshell, the student called out the district for going against what they have taught their students.  David Haynes, a Caesar Rodney High School senior, gave his permission for me to put his Facebook post from last night on here.

For over 13 years, I have bled blue and gold. The Caesar Rodney School District’s repeated failure to do the right thing, however, has me fed up. How dare they teach us the beauties of activism with the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and John Lewis, only to turn their backs and ban a peaceful protest. How dare they teach us of the necessity of freedom of speech, only to turn their backs and delete and block those who oppose. How dare they warn us of evil tyrants who limit the people’s freedoms, only to turn their back and act authoritarian themselves. How dare they teach us to “speak for the silent, stand for the broken,” only to tell us to shut up and sit down. Caesar Rodney is missing a golden opportunity to practice what they preach. And yet, it seems as if there is an asterisk next to the First Amendment. *does not apply to students, they are too young to speak freely and protest peacefully. My history teachers did not teach me about THAT clause. Our superintendent believes that we should “write or call their legislators to let their opinions be known.” If our practices of freedom of speech are met with post deletions and blocks, why would he expect us to think that a legislator would listen?? I can’t speak my mind on Facebook without getting censored, how about I go to an elected official? What a wonderful plan. We live in a world in which 17 people in a school have to be killed in order for a nation to listen to their children. For years, students have been silent (or silenced) and now we decide that it is time to make a change. The district should welcome this with open arms—we are actually concerned about our country! But they are missing a chance to foster this spark of activism by threatening consequences and shutting down our discussions. School districts such as Cape and Brandywine are supporting their students’ First Amendment rights, and in turn, are encouraging future activists for a better tomorrow. I commend these two districts and regret that CR is not setting this example for the state. The country is on the verge of change to make all of our lives safer—and the movement is being led by students like Gail, Grace, Laura, and millions across the U.S who are brave enough to speak up.
On March 14th, I will be walking out of school at 10:00 am for 17 minutes—one for every person killed in Parkland, FL. I accept the consequences, but hope that the Caesar Rodney School District does the right thing and supports our movement.
#ENOUGH!

We need more Davids and less folks like the district communications guy who actually thought it was a good idea to delete public Facebook posts.  I say to that guy: this is a screenshot world sir!

Rodel’s Paul Herdman Has To Love His Insane $398,000 (And Counting) Salary! Plus: Rodel’s Friends Make Big Bucks Too!

Based on their 2015 tax filing, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Paul Herdman, makes an astonishing $398,000.  Keep in mind this was in 2015 so he is most likely well over that pesky $400,000 barrier.  Good lord!  I found lots of interesting stuff in this tax filing, signed off by Dr. Paul Herdman on May 12th, 2017.  As well, I looked up some of Rodel’s best friends and found TONS of information on them as well! Continue reading Rodel’s Paul Herdman Has To Love His Insane $398,000 (And Counting) Salary! Plus: Rodel’s Friends Make Big Bucks Too!

The Exceptional Delaware Education Power Broker Top 25 List

Delaware Education.  Two words that will always create some type of debate in The First State.  But who is in charge?  Is anyone?  Who has the most influence?  Who are the ones you would never think are able to dictate education policy?  Some are obvious but others are not.  This list is not a list of the “good guys” per se, but more about power.  These are the folks who can pack a punch whether you realize it or not.  They are the voices that carry the most weight.  As well, I have a list after showing who could hold power in the future and those who lost a bit of their might in Delaware education. Continue reading The Exceptional Delaware Education Power Broker Top 25 List

Big Trouble At Gateway Charter! Executive Director Resigns At Board Meeting!

Tim Griffiths, the Executive Director of Gateway Lab School, resigned last Wednesday night at their board meeting.  The Wilmington charter school, which caters to students with disabilities and struggling students, has been up and down in terms of success over the years.

Griffiths’ resignation comes on the heels of their Board President, Nate Schwartz, resigning a few weeks ago.  The school is facing what many charters in New Castle County are going through these days- declining enrollment.  But Gateway is a school that has a particular niche.  Many parents chose Gateway because of that niche.  If enrollment is going down, that means a few things.  Either the districts and other charters are doing a better job with special education or Gateway is struggling in that area.

Because there was not a quorum of the board at their meeting last week, the board will meet this week to officially vote on accepting Griffiths’ resignation letter.

As of today, their board consists of Vice-President and Acting President Jon Fletcher, Treasurer Henry Clampitt, Community Director Geoff Grivner, Community Director Joyce Henderson, Teacher Director Drew Keohane, Parent Director Tina Horgan, and Community Director Kenyatta Austin.

Gateway made major news in Delaware in the Fall of 2014 when their charter renewal was in doubt.  Due to a groundswell of support from parents, legislators, and advocates for students with disabilities, their charter was renewed.  But enrollment was not an issue at that time.

The audio recording from their February 20th board meeting is not on their website as of this writing.

Governor Carney’s “Invest In Public Education” Tour At Delaware Schools This Week

Governor Carney is hitting the road this week up and down the state to different schools to drum up support for some of his proposed education initiatives in the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.  Each school he visits will have a different focus.  Those areas are Opportunity Grants, Investing In Educators, Better Schools, Math Coaches, and Early Education & The Delaware STARS program.  As well, Carney and Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a Facebook Live event on Tuesday, February 27th.  Which schools is he going to?  Find out here! Continue reading Governor Carney’s “Invest In Public Education” Tour At Delaware Schools This Week

Exclusive: Delaware Swim & Fitness Center’s November Inspection Report & New Information About Delaware Spa Party

Earlier this week, I put a post up about the Delaware Spa Party, a nudist party held at Delaware Swim & Fitness Center in New Castle.  As Delaware social media exploded for the rest of the week, many felt I was attacking a seemingly innocent event.  At that time, I was unable to respond accurately to those accusations.  In this situation with the Delaware Spa Party, there IS more to the story.  Those who want to believe this was just some harmless “naturalist” event can certainly choose that option, but recently uncovered information suggests otherwise.  Before we go on, I will say the rest of this article is most likely not safe for work. Continue reading Exclusive: Delaware Swim & Fitness Center’s November Inspection Report & New Information About Delaware Spa Party

Trolling

Until a certain troll who just wants to stir up trouble who is no longer welcome on this blog goes away, all comments will be held in moderation.  I’m very sorry about that, but these are the house rules for now.  My apologies to those who this doesn’t apply to, but this person has written under different aliases and IP addresses for years.  If I can fix the issue with WordPress I certainly will.  Thank you.

A Parent’s Horrifying Experience With Her Daughters’ First And Only Day At Delaware Design-Lab High School

Someone once told me school choice is a roll of the dice.  For this parent and her two daughters, it was a one day nightmare that resulted in the parent pulling her children out of the Delaware public education system and homeschooling her daughters.  Delaware Design-Lab recently requested a major modification to reduce their enrollment (again), despite winning $10 million dollars from XQ Schools in the Fall of 2016.  The parent allowed me to publish an email she sent to the school with her reasons for taking her children out after one day in the school.  I did edit the email for grammatical purposes but none of the parent’s complaints were altered in any way.  As well, I did take out her daughters’ names and replaced them with Daughter A and Daughter J.

Hello Loretta,

There are numerous reasons that we did not stay with Delaware Design Lab.  I am not sure if you are aware how it is being run or what goes on in a normal day but I and the girls saw it.

I wound up in the office in the morning just to let everyone know we were there.  There were tons of students in the office arguing about dress code.  The secretary couldn’t get into her computer, there was tons of chaos. The substitutes didn’t even know where to go and Mr. Harris was nowhere to be found.  They had to have students escort the teachers.  The students were complaining they had no money and had to buy new pants for school and came in jogging pants and completely out of uniform standards.  This was something you and Mr. Harris had stressed on open house night.  There was confusion because the students that took us on tour were not in uniform either and did imply it wasn’t followed to the T at all.  Daughter A asked Mr. Harris and he said leggings were fine but Mrs. Hembree said leggings are not allowed at all.  There was confusion between Business Professional and Business Casual.  I remember both being said.  We went out and got stuff to meet the requirements while the current students are held to no standards or consequences.  That is minor but when you add it all together after the morning I had, and the day they had, it shows that there is no authority or administration adhering to their own guidelines.

The major things you said in the recruiting open house is almost opposite of our experience.  I know you followed through with my emails and we even came in on a Saturday to give you more paperwork.  School was pushed back to the 20th because they needed time to create a schedule for the girls.  I was more than understanding.  When we arrived Tuesday we sat for an hour and a half making schedules that should have already been done.  The counselor, Mr. Burke, was nice and I don’t know where the ball was dropped but it was.  He wasn’t well-informed with all the Design Lab offerings and the other younger gentleman, also a counselor, Mr. Sherodd, didn’t know the definition of some and didn’t seem to want to be bothered.  We were giving grace because we were so appreciative of being accepted late in the year.  It didn’t appear the paperwork I had brought in was even looked at.

So we ignored the fact their schedules should have been ready and the teachers weren’t aware of them coming.  We also gave grace when they received a new scheduling system and couldn’t figure it out or log in and needed to take training on it to be able to get into the system to make an official schedule.  This just added to the confusion and makes all the rumors I heard choosing this school true.

I sent several emails and told you in person the girls had to be withdrawn from Glasgow, and as far as I was told, by Christina School District, they never received it. They withdrew them by my email and acknowledgement of my home school being open.  That goes to show that there is no follow through with a simple request that is detrimental to my kids not receiving truancy.  I don’t even think Mrs. Hembree read the email about the request being emailed to the district office because I had to give her the email address again in person.  All while she is making the copies of my girls’ paperwork, the counselor Mr. Burke is in the office with small talk when he should have been working on the new scheduling system to get my girls a printed schedule instead of a hand written one. I then pick up the girls and they both burst into tears.  Each class they endured the students cussing, screaming, shouting out, didn’t raise hands, and they almost cried how the teachers were treated.  Most teachers didn’t even acknowledge the girls or talk to them.  In not one class, except for History, did they learn and they didn’t even learn that much.  I could see if this was the beginning of the year but not February.  The process should be seamless, the kids should be on point, and the teachers should be able to teach.  They couldn’t even talk because the kids just ran the show.  On top of that some classes were so full there weren’t enough desks.

My Daughter J broke her foot and was in a boot. Daughter A was helping her to gym and said oh now here we go to gym which most kids don’t enjoy anyway and the gym teacher comes up behind her and yells at her and Daughter J on their first day and says “go back to the counselor’s office. I don’t want you in my class you can’t do anything with a broken foot and since you don’t want to be here anyway you can go with her.”  Daugher A was trying to help Daughter J carry her stuff. She had been on her foot all day and was pushed and shoved up and down steps with the rude students.  My daughters were also told the gym teacher made the student who had a broken back last year run because he forgot his note.  That is serious.  My daughter did forget hers and I am so thankful they were sent to the counselor’s office because if she was made to run there would be a lawsuit and the school shut down.

Not being able to take Driver’s Ed was all a huge let down.

They were also called ho’s, bitches, and sluts throughout the day.  They were treated horribly by the majority of the student population.  Daughter J says one girl blurted out she lost her voice because she sucked so much D.  The students called the teachers the N word and were constantly causing chaos.  Where there is no order, chaos abounds.  I was feeling so down about my kids because home school didn’t align with public and it’s not supposed to.  My kids volunteer weekly, respect elders, read on their own, and have desires to become better than themselves every day.  The kids told Daugher J and Daughter A they were too smart for this school and had more potential than majority of the students.  They themselves want to leave Design Lab but can’t because the standards are so low they would be placed in a lower level class.

During the gym hour last period they were sent back to the counselor’s office to pick a new class because they were made aware they were not wanted in gym. While they are sitting there figuring out where they could be put, and the only option was Forensic Science, which neither of them wanted, they hear a student pouring her heart out to the younger gentleman, Mr. Sherodd.  She tells him that she is having some thoughts but wasn’t going to act on them but she was depressed and needed help.  He tells her he is not a counselor but that is how we were all introduced to him.  He said here is a list of therapists.  The student was still talking while he answers the phone and walks out the room.  The student comes over, tells the girls that the school doesn’t ever read their emails, her dad had a stroke a previous year and no one even knew nor were concerned.  She isn’t leaving because it’s her senior year.  When he comes back from his phone call, he sits down and looks at her and says why aren’t you back in class? She responds you didn’t really help or tell me what to do next. He responds I thought you were just going to talk to the student and she said what about these thoughts… should I receive medication, talk to my mom or get a therapist?  He says I am not qualified to tell you whether or not you need medicine but I have the list of therapists you can talk to.  She then stands up while he is talking to Mr. Burke and starts to walk back to class and says so once I start therapy will we be able to talk weekly and he says I am not a counselor and I don’t do weekly meetings.  The student was clearly distraught and going off about Mr. Reek and how he doesn’t teach and they need to hire better people.  Mr. Sherodd tells her to go to the office to complain about the teacher.  Right before she leaves she says he just pointed me to the office.  My girls were heartbroken for her especially after hearing about the shooting in Florida.  This kid is begging for help and no one is helping her.  People should drop what they are doing and help this girl out.

Daughter A also met with the Ashley Bystricki during the day and she didn’t say much whatsoever and nodded repeatedly and when discussing leaving two minutes before class she said that was fine but none of her teachers were made aware.

Mr. Spangler didn’t even acknowledge Daughter J in her math class. The aide gave her a worksheet that Daughter J had previously done the year prior.  They put her in IMP3 which she was the only sophomore and the aide asked Daughter J where she was and she said Algebra II and he said these kids are nowhere near Algebra II.

The only teacher they did like was Ms. Marvel.

The Spanish I teacher, for Daughter A, which was her last day, couldn’t get this one kid to settle, wound up slamming a metal yardstick to the desk scaring everyone and tried to use a pressure point technique on a kid and he just laughed at her.  Daughter A mouthed to her she was so sorry she was being treated like this and came over and offered help to Daughter A.  She was so thankful to be leaving for another school.

Ultimately, the teachers and the students don’t like being there and made it very well known.  There was no follow through on simple, standard requests.  There isn’t even an acting principal.  This environment is not conducive to learning.

This is probably why the school isn’t meeting enrollment and need to request a lower percentage through the DOE.

My kids are accomplishing way more at home with their curriculum, servicing the community, and their faith.  I truly believe homeschooling is the best option especially when this is what goes on in what is supposed to be a professional school setting.

I am reporting the school to the charter board and sending an email to a blogger who holds charter schools accountable.  I also shared it with everyone who wants to hear.  There needs to be better options than public.  This should have been the answer not equal to what the public is.  Most kids said that Design Lab is worse than their feeder Glasgow which isn’t an option either.

Thank you and God Bless,

Parent C

 

These kind of issues are going on in many of our public schools in Delaware.  For parents and students like this, public schools have become a living nightmare.  I recently had a discussion with someone about how public education turned into this, especially in high-needs schools.  When did students rule the roost?  When did some adults become almost numb and uncaring?  I am not saying this is all of our schools.  But it is one too many.  I’ve been in schools that do not have these issues.  But I’ve been in others that do.  It is not a charter school problem, it is a Delaware problem.  Perhaps I am “old school”, but this kind of conduct in our schools is unacceptable.  When there is no authority in schools, students will do whatever they want.  Is it the fault of the students in these situations or the administration?  Or both?

During my recent conversation mentioned above, I explained that education has turned into a business enterprise.  Despite many saying they represent students, that is not always the reality.  I’ve learned to know the difference.  For far too many, it is about the money involved first and students last.  It isn’t the teachers (in most cases), it is the administrators and boards that are responsible for making sure our schools are student first.  In this situation with Delaware Design-Lab, it is obvious, based on this experience, there are serious issues with teacher recruitment.  The environment at this school is NOT conducive to student learning.  Based on the parent’s email, she also had issues in the Christina School District at Glasgow High School.  For any parent to have to run from public education like this is a true shame.

I won’t pretend to have the answers.  I don’t know the solutions.  I can grapple with these issues and write about them, and in my heart I can cry for students that go through bullying and horrible education experiences.  I can write about situations like this.  I ask myself every single day what will be the catalyst for things to truly change.  While a ton of talk is going on about school safety, situations like this are the norm in far too many of our schools, whether they are traditional schools or charter schools.  School safety is paramount but that also includes addressing situations like this.

When I received the email from this parent, I shook my head.  I reached out to the parent again and she agreed I could publish it and added this:

The only good thing I could say about it is it was clean and nice looking.  The kids shared with my girls that most of the time the classes are so full there isn’t a desk for them to sit at.  The teachers are afraid to teach and from what I heard and could tell no acting Principal.  The Open House is very enticing and we thought this was an answer to our prayers.  Unfortunately not at all.  The one catch that is really sad that most don’t know about that Christina District office told us was once you register for a Charter in Delaware you have to complete a full year grade in it to be able to switch back to a public.  So this year wouldn’t have counted they would have had to complete 11th to switch back to a public.  Their public being Glasgow is even worse.  I don’t think parents know when they go to charter if they pull them out they have to go to private, parochial or home school like we are.  

In my own opinion I see a lot more deciding to home school in the years to come.  I don’t know if you write about public but Glasgow High was much worse than Design Lab.  I was there two days trying to register and I cried leaving.  It is so sad our youth have to endure this to get an education.  

The Permanent Ban

I’ve been blogging for almost four years.  In all those years, I have never blocked anyone from ever commenting again on this blog.  In reaction to the post about the Delaware Spa Party and State Rep. Mike Ramone, one commenter crossed the line in a major way.  I’ve developed thick skin over the years but what I will NEVER tolerate is someone going after my family.  Especially my son.  This person wrote “Do you even have a kid who has special needs !! You are con -artist !!”.  I initially left the post up because I know this person and believe her to have good intentions but bad judgment.  But as her comments continued, including out-and-out lies, I had to take them down.  It is not something I like doing at all.

While many in Delaware seem to be angry at me over the Nudist Party post and the ramifications of that post, this blog is primarily about education.  I will fully admit this post was out of my usual realm.  It was not mean-spirited in nature or meant to be some personal attack against Rep. Ramone.  When I received the tip, and saw the accompanying verbiage on the website and Twitter account, it suggested something entirely different than what Ramone talked about on WDEL.  Had it been completely innocent in appearance the way Ramone made it out to be, I wouldn’t have touched it.  But obviously, Ramone agreed with that sentiment and the nudist party was shut down.  While some described my post as “Puritanical” in nature and that I pre-emptively judged Ramone, I tend to use some humor and sarcasm in posts at times.  Most of what I write is about bad things so for my own sanity I try to inject some levity in posts.  And let’s face it, a post about a state legislator that owns a business that hosts nudist parties is not something you read about every day.

Ramone suggested in his interview with Dan Gaffney that he questioned the motives behind this.  He mentioned it was done in an election year.  If I truly wanted to crush Ramone in an election year, I would have put this post out right before a primary if he faced one or closer to the General Election.  As I mentioned in a comment, I don’t have a beef against Ramone.  I don’t always agree with his bills but there are some I’ve liked.  I’ve joked with Ramone at Legislative Hall at times.  I am not a diehard Republican nor am I a staunch Liberal.  I’ve said this a million times but the banned commenter seems to think I am working for some Liberal agenda here.  One commenter demanded I apologize to Ramone.  I thought about it all morning, and yes, I will apologize to Mike Ramone publicly.  I’m sorry my post led to a decision that destroyed a 25 year tradition at your place of business.  If this was truly an innocent and “kind” gesture (as Ramone repeatedly said in his radio interview) it is certainly a shame it is now gone.  But that was not my decision.  It was my decision to write about it.  Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine WDEL would pick up on it and talk about it to the extent they have in the past few days.  I’ve seen other Delaware political blogs write about very outlandish and crazy stuff without that kind of attention drawn to it.  But I understand this blog resonates with many parents, teachers, legislators, students, and Delaware citizens because the heart of it is about education.

As for the commenter, I sent that person a private message indicating why I blocked her.  I truly hope she understands but that is her own conscience she needs to grapple with and I certainly hope she has a moment with herself and the way she projects herself.  Others have expressed the same thoughts about her to me.  I don’t believe she is a bad person but terribly misguided.  This is what modern politics has done to many people.  It is a true shame.  So many people in this country have morphed into one side and one side only.  There are ALWAYS gray areas.

Meanwhile, I will continue to write…

Newark Charter School’s Greg Meece On What NCS Is Doing For School Safety

A few days ago I put up a post about an alleged lack of intruder drills at Newark Charter School.  A few parents approached me and were very concerned.  Many denied the school never conducted these drills.  As such, I will be checking with schools in the future when parents come to me about these type of things.

Greg Meece from NCS issued a letter to parents about what both locations of Newark Charter have done to promote school safety:

Dear NCS Community:
Like all of you, I was deeply saddened to watch the news last week and see another tragic school shooting.  Our hearts go out to the community of that Florida high school for such a senseless and devastating loss of life.  As we grieve for the families of the students and teachers who lost their lives, we begin to think about the safety of our own school community.  I thought it would be comforting to share with you some of the things we at Newark Charter School have done, and will continue to do, to provide the best safety and security we can.
Our school has been fully compliant with the Comprehensive School Safety Omnibus Safety Act since its inception.  We are proud that we recently received a special award from the Department of Homeland Security to recognize our school being in 100% compliance with Delaware’s Omnibus School Safety Act. To be compliant, schools are required to:
  • Have a Comprehensive School Safety Plan (CCSP) that aligns with the Delaware Department of Homeland Security requirements;
  • The school’s CCSP, including rally points, building plans and other campus-specific information  is maintained on a secured server (Emergency Response Information Portal) that can be accessed by first responders;
  • We conduct monthly drills including but not limited to: fire dills/heightened security drills/bus evacuation drills, etc.;
  • We conduct at least two intruder/lockdown drills each school year;
  • We conduct at least two table top exercises (walk-through of Emergency Action Plans) each School Year).
We have upgraded our facilities and resources to protect our students.  For example, we reinforced key windows and doors, making them more resilient to forced entry and, in some cases, making them shatter-proof if hit by bullets.
We established a single point of entry in each of our three buildings, including lock-out systems that require either a school security badge (which all staff members are required to display at all times) or having an office staff member permit entrance to the school hallways by activating the door lock buzzer system.  This, of course, is only after proper identification is given or when we know the visitor and their purpose.  Visitors, then, receive badges as well.
We installed cameras in main entrances to monitor those entering and leaving.  We are currently adding approximately a dozen internal cameras as well.
This year, we marked all the outside classroom and office windows of our schools with numbers corresponding to the room numbers.  This is designed to aid first responders when they arrive on campus.
There has been an effort to pass legislation in Delaware that would require classroom door locks at the state’s public schools to be lockable from both inside and outside the room.  All Newark Charter School classroom already meet this goal.
All administrators, custodians, secretaries, counselors and other key staff members carry two-way radios.
We have a great partnership with the local police force.  For example, we allow the Newark Police Department SWAT team as well as State of Delaware law enforcement to use our buildings and grounds for their drills and trainings.  For many years, Newark Charter School has been used for police K-9 trainings at night.  Recently, we contracted with the City of Newark Police Department to provide ALICE training.
ALICE training has been used locally, including in Cecil County School District, with great results. The ALICE instructors provide interested businesses, schools, churches, etc., with active shooter/threat response training. Newark Charter School was able to help underwrite the costs associated with training the Newark Police Department officers so that they, in turn, can provide ALICE training to our school and to others as often as necessary.
We meet with our staff at the beginning of each year to go over our safety plans and to make sure everyone knows what to do.  Our students are amazing about knowing and practicing what to do.  I can’t rave enough about how smoothly they make our drills work.
Recently, we had a representative from Sandy Hook Promise present the “Start with Hello” and “Say Something” programs to our students. Both of these age-appropriate programs provide strategies for students to recognize and assist students who may be struggling as another strategy for preventing school violence. This compliments our long-standing anti-bullying efforts.
I wish I could push a magic button to make school violence no more, but the reality is that we have to work together and to be open to change when it is necessary.  I hope our nation’s leaders listen to our families and to the students.  The recent Florida incident requires that we continue to evaluate and update our plans and practices.  It requires time and resources, but I know you agree with me when I say that the safety and security of our students and staff is priority number one.

Sincerely,

Greg Meece
School Director

Thank you Greg Meece for getting this information out.  When it comes to school safety, there should be NO restrictions on keeping children safe.  I’m glad your schools are doing all they can.

CSAC Recommends DAPSS Stay Open For One Year With Conditions While Queen Margie Exerts Control

At the Delaware Department of Education building in Dover, the Charter School Accountability Committee recommended Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security stay open for another school year with very stringent conditions.  At that point, Colonial’s Board of Education could very well decide to take over their charter.  Queen Margie once again made it all about her.  But the discussion that reached this point was very intense.  Much more information here than you will find in the Delaware DOE press release. Continue reading CSAC Recommends DAPSS Stay Open For One Year With Conditions While Queen Margie Exerts Control

Breaking News: Which State Legislator Allows A Nudist Party At Their Business?

A Delaware state legislator runs a company.  As part of that company, certain events can be held at various locations.  One of those events is a Nudist Party, held once a month.  Which legislator is this? Continue reading Breaking News: Which State Legislator Allows A Nudist Party At Their Business?

DAPSS Faces CSAC In Final Meeting Today As Queen Margie Reigns Supreme & King Herb Is Making Big Money

I’ve seen some arrogant stuff from charter schools in my day but this one takes the cake!  Separating herself from the rest of the Board of Directors, Margie Lopez-Waite must be thinking her name adds extra oomph to the struggling Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  Yes, being a Chairperson or President of any school board does give you a certain amount of power and responsibilities, but to distance yourself from the other equal board members is not a good idea.  It makes the rest of the Board look weak in comparison.  I’ve seen many charters where the head of the Board calls the shots.  The rest of the Board winds up becoming a rubber stamp.

For Queen Margie, she has gained absolute control at the school.  Obviously they need something since they are on formal review but I would prefer like-minded people working together as opposed to this self-created hierarchy.

Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security came out with their response to the initial Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.  We learned Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting turned down the school’s request to submit a major modification to reduce their numbers.  That makes sense since you can’t do that when you are on formal review.  The school also made an attempt to compare their test scores to area high schools and show they really aren’t that bad when you compare them like this.

Since their modification won’t happen, that means they can’t switch their location for this school year or even next school year if they remain open by that time.  That means they have to renew their lease with Fatima, the church that holds the lease on their building.  Given that the school is at least $184,000 in the hole, this spells trouble.  My sense is they are deeper in the hole than suggested but they found a way to hide it.  Even though THIS WAS DISCUSSED AT THEIR FIRST MEETING WITH CSAC.

We also learned their teaching staff has some glaring holes in it.  Out of their eight core teachers, three are on emergency certificates, two are vacant positions, and one has an initial license.  What does that mean?  This school’s teaching population is not up to snuff.  75% of them are not fully certified teachers.

Does Herb Sheldon make $185,000 as Principal of this school?  According to their proposed budget for the 2018-2019 school year, that’s what it looks like.  I hardly think a school of 200 students needs a Principal making THAT much money.  Especially since he has NO academic background aside from human resources at another charter school.

What disturbed me the most about this school was their attrition rate with special education students.  If you look at the below graph, you can see the number of students with disabilities dropping considerably each year as they go on to their next grade.  What happens to these students?  Are they counseled out?  Expelled?  Or do parents just say enough is enough and pull them out?  Where are these students going when they leave DAPSS?  To other charters or back to their regular feeder pattern?  For their Grade 9 that started last year, they were at 32.9% special education.  This year, those students in 10th grade are at 0% special education.  What happened to those 25 students on an IEP?  Same with the 9th graders that started in 2014-2015.  In two years, they went from 27 IEPs to 16 to none.  For a school that boasts about being able to handle high-needs students, I’m not seeing it!  To begin training on special education law at a state and federal level before the 2018-2019 school year does NOT show a commitment to these students.  That training should be going on NOW!

I love how the school talks about all the programs brought about by their former Curriculum Director, Erica Thomas, who is no longer with the school.  Way to take someone else’s work and make it your own!

To read the pitiful response from the school, please see below.  To read the appendices mentioned in the report, please go here.

 

Newark Charter School Unprepared For Intruders Since They Aren’t Complying With The Law

House Bill 340, signed by Governor Markell in 2014, demands public schools do at least two intruder/lockdown drills a school year.  But Newark Charter School hasn’t had one this school year or last school year according to sources.  Most schools that have these type of drills tell parents ahead of time.  My own son’s school has.  I’m not sure why Newark Charter thinks they don’t have to conduct these drills.

In the wake of the shooting in Florida last week that caused a former student to go on a rampage and slaughter 17 innocent lives, it is more imperative than ever that our schools are prepared for these type of scenarios.  Delaware’s law concerning these drills is part of the Omnibus School Safety Act.  Schools are required to report these drills to the Delaware Department of Homeland Security.  Do we now need a section of their website with a checklist of each school that complied with the law?  Sounds like it.  What are the ramifications for not reporting or conducting these drills?  Like most in Delaware, probably a phone call.  Sorry, NCS doesn’t get a pass on this no matter how “great” their test scores are!

Untold Tales: Delaware DOE, Dave Morgan, & Three Days That Scared The Hell Out Of Me

For a few months there, I had a great source at the Delaware Department of Education.  When Delaware MET went down at the end of 2015, there was a lot I didn’t publish about what was going on there.  You will find out why shortly.  I’m glad I trusted my gut and didn’t send Wilmington into chaos mode.  The below emails, between Dave Morgan and myself, not only shed a lot of light on Delaware MET, but also the Delaware DOE itself.  Different names are thrown around in these emails.  Going back and reading these is always fun!  The last email between Dave Morgan and myself is particularly enlightening given that DAPSS is finally under formal review.  The incompetence at the DOE is plain to see in these emails.  I wish I could have met Dave in person.  I probably did but didn’t know about their secret alias with me.  I’ve had a few suspicions over the years, but have been unable to prove it.  Some parts of these emails I redacted for a few reasons.  That’s my business! Continue reading Untold Tales: Delaware DOE, Dave Morgan, & Three Days That Scared The Hell Out Of Me

Books I’ve Read

While rearranging the placement of some books at my house, I realized I’ve read a ton of books over the years.  This list will not be complete by any stretch of the imagination.  These are actual books, and not comic books or graphic novels.  I see those as a distinctively different kind of “book”.  I do a lot of reading when I’m not blogging, working, doing chores, spending time with my son, or doing whatever.  I wish there were 48 hours in a day and I still only needed seven hours sleep! Continue reading Books I’ve Read

What Tom Wagner’s Retirement Means For The State Auditor’s Office

The loooooooong-time State Auditor, Tom Wagner, announced he was retiring last night at the annual Delaware GOP Lincoln Dinner.  He couldn’t think of a single Republican to take his place.  As many have suggested, the flip-flopper Kathy McGuiness should switch from Democrat to Republican since that is where her heart lies.  Which would leave Dennis Williams as the sole filed Democrat.  May I present a third option… Continue reading What Tom Wagner’s Retirement Means For The State Auditor’s Office

Crazy Press Release Coming From Smyrna School District!

Why did the Smyrna School District wait so long to release this information?  Is it because of what happened in Florida two days ago with the school shooting that killed 17 students and staff?  **UPDATED** I looked at the Smyrna website when I posted this and it did not have a date on the release but apparently their app on cell phones shows a date of February 6th.  Any day longer than the day of the event is too long to release this information.  I would think parents would want to know about this kind of stuff sooner!  If I had to guess, they are being proactive while facing some type of lawsuit over what happened!

SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION

On January 24, 2018, a gunman shot 16 people in a school in Kentucky. Two days later, the Administration of the Smyrna School District received a credible report that a named high school student had brought a handgun with him to school and also had a brother at the middle school. The report described the handgun in detail and alleged that the student in question maintained gang affiliations.

An enrollment check revealed that the identified subject had withdrawn from the Smyrna School District. However, the sibling was in school. Given the specificity of the report and its reference to the middle school sibling, Administration and law enforcement immediately initiated a response to protect the health, safety and welfare of all students and staff.

Fortunately, no weapon was found. The Administration contacted the parents of the student, and in concert with local law enforcement, closed the investigation before the end of the school day on January 26th.

It has been alleged that District Administration engaged in an act of racial discrimination by searching the middle school student. First, given the detailed threat that jeopardized lives, swift and discrete action that returned the student to class immediately was necessary. That the student happened to be of a certain race is of no consequence, as the Administration would have interviewed any student under the circumstances, given the exigency of the potential threat. Second, the student was not searched. Given that he was not attired such that he could conceal a weapon on his person, his voluntary turning out of his pockets satisfied staff that he did not present a threat.

SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT
82 Monrovia Ave.
Smyrna, Delaware 19977
(302) 653-8585 Fax (302) 653-3429
Patrik D. Williams, Superintendent

DAPSS Qualified Curriculum Director Rips School Leadership In Public Hearing

I heard the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security Public Hearing the other night was off the hook, but I had no idea!  Today, the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office released the transcript of the hearing.  Their Curriculum Director, Erica Thomas, went after school leadership over her many attempts to get a better curriculum going in the school but felt she was ultimately stymied in her efforts.

One criticism I received recently was that I am under-qualified to be the Director of Curriculum and Instruction — coming from someone who does not have a degree — a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and experience in various aspects above and beyond that within the educational community — I find this disrespectful because my efforts have been stymied by the lack of educational leadership at the Academy which before I arrived was filled with nepotism and cronyism.

Maybe if the Delaware DOE was paying attention they would have been able to catch that nepotism and cronyism.  It wasn’t exactly a state secret on how bad this school was doing for many years, but the Delaware DOE turned a blind eye until they couldn’t.  But I digress…

I came to this school and stepped up to the challenge to improve things for students. I was told I was going to be given autonomy to create changes. However, through Academy leadership, education best practices were secondary to maintaining personal relationships. Moreover, I was undermined and a culture of distrust and suspicion was created.

As mentioned in her testimony, Thomas came to the school in August of 2016.  This was way after the school had low enrollment and proficiency issues.  Any school turnaround takes time and doesn’t happen overnight.

I came in with a strategic plan implementing LF, Read 180, IXL, many other research-based practices that we’ve put in place, and we will give you in the CSAC rebuttal. I know the Academy is capable of doing a whole lot better than what the achievement scores show, but I was stymied in my implementation of a teaching/learning model through a series of professional development and professional learning communities.

It sounds to me like she was making a valiant effort to improve things.  I’m surprised the school didn’t already have some of these key programs in the school already!

I came to the Academy to raise expectations. I came to the Academy with all of the greatest intentions. I still believe in the school and its mission. The students and staff deserve a whole lot better, but that starts at the very top. It has been made very clear to me that I am not the top. I have taken directives. I have finished tasks and I did as a good soldier would. That’s it.

Wow!  Is that coming from new Board President Margie Lopez-Waite or the vastly under-qualified Head of School Herbert Sheldon?  Or both?  Lopez-Waite comes from the MBNA/Bank of America world.  While she may have performed miracles at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (or did she just cheerlead the school while others did all the work?), it sounds like she came into DAPSS wanting to run the show.  She may be President of the Board but that does not give her the unilateral ability to do as she pleases.    It sounds like the school tried to make Thomas the sacrificial lamb in this process.  From everything I’ve seen and heard, it sounds like the biggest problem at the school is Sheldon himself!

I find it ironic that someone with an advanced degree in education with extensive knowledge of educational best practices is treated like this but their Head of School basically has a bookkeeping background at East Side Charter School.  It doesn’t seem right.  If charters are to ultimately survive, they need people with deep education backgrounds.  I’m not sure what happened as a result of Thomas’ comments, but she no longer appears on the school website.

Meanwhile, I did receive my FOIA request back from Sheldon.  All he sent was what already appears on the school’s website.  So their huge deficit will have to be discovered another way.

The rest of the Public Hearing is below.  Aside from Thomas’ controversial testimony (which also praised the school), the many public comments were in favor of the school and while many recognized the struggles of the school, it was also urged the State Board of Education keep them open.  Towards the end, the Colonial bomb is dropped by a teacher.  And a big thank you to the excellent transcriptionist at Wilcox & Fetzer who always do a great job with these Public Hearings!

Nick Manolakos’ Journey At Odyssey Comes To An End. What Is His Next Move?

Dr. Nick Manolakos, the long-time Headmaster of Odyssey Charter School is no longer serving in that capacity.  What he does next may not be what many folks expected to happen. Continue reading Nick Manolakos’ Journey At Odyssey Comes To An End. What Is His Next Move?