DE Academy Of Public Safety & Security Get 200 Students To Save Themselves From Shutdown

Talk about the last minute!  If the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security did not have a student enrollment of 200 students by tomorrow, their charter would have been revoked.  They hit that number so they have met their first condition of their probation.  Under 200 students would have meant the school would not have been financially viable as a non-profit public school.  This is “unofficial” but I am hearing this from excellent sources so I don’t doubt the viability of this claim at all.

I don’t ever wish to see any school closed unless there is some unbelievable egregious stuff going on there (case in point: Delaware Met).  I sincerely hope the school can meet the rest of their probation conditions over the coming year or so.  The whole point of any school is the success of the students.  I do wonder what schools won’t have these students next year.  Are they coming from districts or other charters or a combination of the two?  That is school choice for you and at the end of the day it is a parent’s decision!

Anya Kamenetz: “A Nation at Risk” Cooked the Books

Imagine that… a huge report cooked up to promote a false narrative on American schools.

Diane Ravitch's blog

In this report by NPR journalist Anya Kamenetz, we learn that the famous 1983 report “A Nation at Risk,” we learn that the Reagan-era Commission “cooked the books.” Kamenetz interviewed two of the original commission members and learned that the commission knew its conclusion in advance, then cherry-picked facts to prove its claim that the schools were ”mired in mediocrity.”

She writes:

“In the context of declining resources and rising child poverty, maintaining steady or slightly improving test scores over decades could be described with other words besides “flat” and “disappointing” — perhaps “surprising” or “heroic.”

“But the narrative established by “A Nation At Risk” still seems to be the one that dominates how we think of the data.

“[Professor James] Guthrie, for one, thinks that’s been, on balance, a good thing, because it brought education to the front and center of the U.S. agenda.

“My view of it in…

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Farewell Dr. Terri Hodges, Hello Delaware PTA President Julie Alvarez

For the past five years, Dr. Terri Hodges led the Delaware Parent Teachers Association through some very trying times in Delaware.  As Common Core became a staple, along with its evil counterpart, the Smarter Balanced Assessment, Hodges stood up for parents during the opt out movement in Delaware.  Yesterday, Hodges turned over the mantle to the newly elected Julie Alvarez at the annual Delaware PTA convention.

Yvonne Johnson, Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, and Dr. Terri Hodges

Together with their Vice President of Advocacy Yvonne Johnson, Hodges and Johnson were the PTA Mafia in Delaware.  I mean that in the best way possible.  They made the opt out movement what it was back in 2015 with their non-stop advocacy for parental rights on the issue.  Sadly, they were shut down on that advocacy by their parent organization, the National PTA.  The Nation PTA President, Laura Bay, threatened to shut off their national funding if they didn’t shut up.  It was a classic case of bullying.

Johnson, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, Hodges

I thoroughly enjoyed working with Hodges in support of House Bill 50, the infamous legislation that ultimately passed the General Assembly but was subject to a veto by the very corporate education reformer loving Governor, Jack Markell.  Hodges strongly supports funding for basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd grade along with tons of common sense legislation.  I will miss her as President of Delaware PTA but I have no doubt I will continue to count her as a friend I met during my journey in Delaware public education.  Thank you Terri for your outstanding advocacy and looking out for Delaware students!

As for President Alvarez, she had some words to say about her new role.  I look forward to working together with her on various education bills and policy in the years ahead.

Thank you for joining us at the annual Delaware PTA Convention and for all of the work that you do on behalf of Delaware’s children. We have put together an extensive day of networking and information gathering opportunities for you that we hope you will find beneficial.  Make sure to visit the vendor area and take advantage of the door prizes and giveaways.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Terri Hodges for all of her hard work and tireless efforts as the Delaware State PTA President for the past five years. In that capacity, she has created a strong platform on which I plan to continue to build upon. I am excited to continue working with her as she moves to the position of Immediate Past President as well as with the other members of the board.

In the coming year, my focus will be on three major areas: expanding family engagement in our schools, increasing PTA membership and involvement through raising awareness of the value of and developing excitement for PTA, and continuing the advocacy that is the foundation of PTA.

I invite you all to join Delaware PTA as we work together to make positive change towards the mission of making every child’s potential a reality.  Enjoy the Convention!

Regards,

Julie Alvarez

Delaware PTA President Julie Alvarez

Caroline Harrison-DeJose became the Delaware PTA 1st Vice-President as well yesterday.

Meredith Chapman’s Life Cut Short, Rest In Peace

It was with extreme sadness when I received a call this morning about the death of Meredith Chapman.  While details are vague, there was a murder-suicide at her home in Bryn Mawr, PA yesterday.  17 hours ago she posted on Facebook about accepting a job at Villanova University.  I endorsed Meredith when she was against State Senator David Sokola two years ago and she came within five percentage points in the November 2016 election.

Meredith was best known for her time as Director of Digital Communications at University of Delaware.  She resigned to take the new position at Villanova as an Assistant Vice President.

Meredith was young and full of life.  Had she won, I have no doubt she would have become a vibrant voice at Legislative Hall.  Out with the old and in with the new.  Sadly, Meredith’s voice will never be able to create new laws in our state.  I can’t imagine how her husband is dealing with this as well as her friends and family.  No one ever wants to receive that call.

Please keep them all in your prayers and thoughts today.

District Consolidation Task Forces Passes All Recommendations But There Were No Recommendations For Actual Consolidation Of Districts

Sorry for the long title.  Yes, the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force did not have any recommendations to actually consolidate any school districts in the state.  But there were a ton of other recommendations that were passed by the task force.  However, State Rep. Earl Jaques (the Task Force Chair) did manage to anger one citizen who came all the way down from Wilmington to give public comment.  Jaques adjourned the meeting without asking if anyone wanted to give public comment even though it was on the agenda.  I did ask Earl if he could readjourn the meeting before everyone left to allow the citizen to speak but he just gave his infamous head roll.  Bad form Earl!

All the recommendations passed (which you can read here) with a few edits to some of them.  I will get those up when they come out.  I voted no on a few of the recommendations.  One that really got my goat concerned professional development days for ALL employees of a district.  I wasn’t opposed to the original wording which said “establish” but it was changed to “support”, as in give the local school board the ability to provide it based on its merits.  I wanted “establish”, and even suggested an addendum covering special education for ALL employees, but I was told by the Committee Chair (Dr. Dusty Blakey, Superintendent of Colonial School District) it would include special education.  I voted no because the addendum took out the word “establish”.

While the actual task force report won’t come out until May 7th, folks may be surprised the majority of the task force voted yes on tax increases to be created by the State which would come as either a Statewide or Countywide tax to cover a projected deficit of $125 million to “reduce class sizes, provide after school programs, wellness centers, additional reading, Math and ELL specialists, early childhood education for 2,3, and 4 year olds and other programs needed to level the playing field for children in those underserved communities.”  While I support many of those items, I voted no because the task force also recommended providing additional funding for English Language Learners and students living in poverty (note it was NOT for low-income students).  Four of us voted no on that.  Another one of those no votes was Senator Dave Sokola.  See Dave, we can agree at times!  By implementing a statewide or countywide tax, that is more money coming out of taxpayer pockets and leaves the legislators off the hook.  It is their job to balance the state budget and I would think there is enough “fluff” in our budget to cover those deficits.  As an example, get rid of the very horrible charter school transportation slush fund.  That did come up as a recommendation but since the legislation creating the task force did not include charter school matters for points of discussion that recommendation was not voted on by the task force.

Transportation was a major issue and created much discussion around it.  There is a tremendous shortage of bus drivers in Delaware and the recommendation passed to look at potential raises for district bus drivers.  Contractors set their own rates based on what the district can pay them.  Anything more would have to come from the contractor.

 

 

 

 

 

Final School District Consolidation Meeting Tonight With Big Votes! All Recommendations Are Here!

Tonight is the final meeting of the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force.  The meeting will be held at 5pm at Legislative Hall in Dover, in the House Chamber.  This is the big one folks!  All the subcommittees issued recommendations last week and the entire task force will be voting on each one.  That doesn’t mean they are a done deal.  It typically means legislation could be forthcoming to address those recommendations.  All the recommendations from each committee appear below.  Come down (or up) to Dover and check it out!  We will see if this mysterious oddity State Rep. Earl Jaques dropped last month concerning a recommendation to have the State Board of Education get the authorization to have the state takeover “failing” school districts resurfaces.  It wasn’t popular when I reported it and many thought Earl slipped on a banana peel or something.

Academic & Student Needs Sub-Committee Recommendations:

Structure Sub-Committee:

Finance Subcommittee:

Teachers And Staff Subcommittee:

 

Delaware Teachers Will Have To Work Extra Hours To Make Up For Snow Days This Year

Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education voted to forgive one snow day this year.  For Delaware public school teachers, they are required to work 188 days a year.  With the forgiveness of one day, that number comes down to 187.  But many schools had at least five snow days or more this year due to the winter storms.  Even though two of those snow days were State of Emergency issued by Governor John Carney, Secretary Bunting only put forth one forgiveness day to the State Board.

As a result, teachers could have extra days after the school year.  There are other ways teachers could make up that time according to DSEA President Mike Matthews:

How snow buyback works is if a district needs to make up 21 hours (or three days) then the District can choose how that’s done (usually in consult with their local union and School board). Maybe they will add one day to the teacher year and have the staff make up 14 hours of APPROVED outside-the-regular-school day activities like staying after to volunteer at a family literacy night or maybe they will count that IEP meeting that happened before or after school as make up time. The state requires that every employee keep a log of their time to show they worked to make up those days lost.

Depending on contracts, some teachers could use personal hours to make up for that lost time according to Matthews.

For Delaware public school students, most districts and charters exceed the 1,060 hours students must attend school for each year.  Some have already canceled a day off meant for professional development for teachers to make up for that lost time.  So it is not anticipated that students will have their school year extended.

DE Academy of Public Safety & Security Has 10 Days To Put Up Or Close Up!

Ten days.  That will make all the difference for the Wilmington charter school.  If they don’t get 24 students to apply AND commit to the struggling charter school, they will have their charter revoked at the end of this school year.

It was just last month that Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security narrowly missed getting shut down by the Delaware State Board of Education.  But the conditions mounted against them could kick in charter revocation at any time if they failed to comply.  The very first condition was the school must have 200 students by May 1st.

Last night, at the State Board of Education meeting, Denise Stouffer from the Charter School Office updated the board on DAPSS’ probation.  To date, they had 176 students enrolled for next year.  They need another 24 in the next ten days or they are toast.  That includes commitment letters signed by parents.  They could still reach that number but it would be very tough.  Their enrollment number has not gone up much since the State Board rendered their decision last month.

Ten days.  For 176 students already enrolled for next year, this could be problematic for them come June 29th if the charter for DAPPS is revoked.  These students and their parents or guardians will be forced to find a new school for the 2019-2020 school year.  Do they start looking if the school doesn’t meet their numbers by May 1st or wait to see what happens over the next few months?

Sussex Montessori School Approved To Open In 2019

The Delaware State Board of Education unanimously approved the charter school application for the Sussex Montessori School this evening with a 6-0 vote.  The second charter school in Sussex County will open at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.  However, there were some conditions for the approval and should the charter school not meet those conditions, their charter would be revoked.

The two big conditions dealt with student enrollment and an actual facility.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the charter school must have 80% of their enrollment by May 1st, 2019.  As well, they must have an actual facility in place.  Currently, the school has not made a firm decision on a building or even an actual location in Sussex County.

The enrollment decision could be tricky.  In the past, as was seen in the case of Delaware Design-Lab High School and Freire Charter School in 2015, they were not at their 80% enrollment numbers by May 1st of 2015, a mere four months before they opened.  This caused both to go under formal review.  While they met those numbers and escaped charter revocation, they did go through the formal review process first.  Bunting’s decision to revoke the charter if that 80% is not met caused Delaware Charter School Network Executive Director Kendall Massett to immediately question the decision.  I will have to check Delaware state code on this one!

This will be the second Montessori charter school in Delaware.  First State Montessori Academy, located in downtown Wilmington, opened in 2014.

Video Of Diploma Bill Signing

A big huge thank you to John Young for filming this and getting it up on Youtube!

Governor Carney Signs Diploma Bill In Heartfelt Ceremony

Delaware Governor John Carney’s office was packed at 1:30pm today when parents, students, school employees, and advocates came to watch him sign HS1 for House Bill #287, the diploma bill.

State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Nicole Poore thanked everyone for all their hard work on the bill.  Both were close to crying with joy as they explained how much this bill will mean to this special class of exceptional students.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting thanked everyone for their contributions to the bill.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and DSEA Legislative Liason Kristin Dwyer talked about how they approached Williams and Poore about the bill.  Woodbridge Special Education Director and Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Group Chair Michele Marinucci said she has waited twenty years for this bill to become law.

But the best part was listening to the students who will benefit from this bill.  Hearing the joy in their hearts as they thanked the room for their chance to get a diploma made all the battles with this bill worth it.  One of Carney’s aides said there hasn’t been this many people in his office since the budget bill passed last July!  Even Carney was very moved about the response to his signing the bill.  He even joked that he wants the ability of the Spec Ed Strategic Plan’s Advisory Committee to get along to come to Legislative Hall!

I’ve been to a few bill signings in my day but this was easily the best!  Good things do happen in education.  I was happy to fight for this bill and report on it as much as I did.  No students will work harder than these awesome kids and they deserve it!  Today was a great example of the a wrong being fixed for the benefit of all- students, schools, and businesses.  Today, I was proud to be a Delawarean and even prouder to see this bill become law.

The bill will allow students with the most extreme disabilities to earn a diploma with modified standards in lieu of a certificate of attendance.  This became a huge issue when some of these students would fill out job applications and couldn’t check the box about having a diploma.  Many businesses in Delaware lost the chance to hire these hard workers because of that.  But more important, it was missed opportunities for these students.  Truly a blessed day at Legislative Hall!

Odyssey Charter “Denies” A Parent’s Opt Out Letter Two Months Later

Last week, a parent of a student at Odyssey Charter School received a response to an opt out letter she sent the school back in February.  The letter said they were unable to offer any discretion in the matter since Delaware doesn’t have any official opt out laws.  The school does have discretion.  It’s called the parent opted their kid out and Odyssey needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.

The parent is concerned about any punitive action the Wilmington charter could take against her child.  I have yet to hear of any punishment issued to a student over a parent opting them out.  So this would be the first to my recollection.  The powers that be know there is nothing they can do to prevent opt out.  They just don’t want any school dipping below that 95% participation rate threshold.  Which (sadly) didn’t happen in any school last year.  I find it frustrating that so many parents think this test is perfectly okay.  It isn’t.

What many parents don’t realize is something schools won’t tell them which is the actual language in federal law.  That states schools must administer the state assessment to students.  It says nothing about the student actually taking the test.  A school is not allowed to deny a student the ability to take the test.  That is a far cry from a parent saying they don’t want their kid taking it.  And there have been enough U.S. Supreme Court cases involving parental rights in education to justify opt out.

The response from the school to the parent talked about only medical reasons being a valid exemption based on the law.  Which is true, but only for the school not to administer the test and NOT have it count against their participation rate.  But what Odyssey did was quote the federal law and then add their own part about ESEA (now ESSA) not allowing parents to opt their child out of the state assessment.  Which is absolute malarkey because it doesn’t say you can either.  It doesn’t even address opt out.  In fact, ESSA as it is written actually gives states the ability to come up with their own policies and laws on opt out.  But in good old Delaware, we had a chance to honor and codify a parent’s right to opt out but our Governor Markell vetoed the bill when our General Assembly overwhelmingly passed it.  And then too many of our chicken little legislators kissed the Markell ring when there was a shot to override that veto.

Currently, another opt out bill is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee.  It was heard in committee last year but shenanigans ensued over the vote so it is still in “pending” status where it will most likely remain until the end of this legislative session on June 30th.  I don’t think Governor Carney has ever muttered the words “opt out” since he has been Governor of Delaware.

Nothing helps the opt out movement more than a school giving a parent a rough time or sending the Delaware Department of Education template letter to a parent.  Parents, if you want to opt your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just do it.  I guarantee you if they give you a rough time or try to punish your kid I will give them holy hell for it.  That is my promise to you!  And if it is in Capital, Red Clay, or Christina, their boards passed resolutions or policies honoring that parental right so none of the schools in those districts should be even addressing it!

 

Breaking News: Donna Johnson Resigns From Delaware State Board of Education

Donna Johnson has been the Executive Director of the Delaware State Board of Education for the past nine years.  Very soon, she will be exiting that post to begin a new position in Washington D.C.  She will be joining the Office of State Superintendents in May.

I know Donna has been a huge figure on this blog over the years and I’ve thrown quite a few punches at her over the years.  But on a personal level she has always been very kind to me despite those punches and even helped me out on a few occasions.  So the best of luck to Donna Johnson in her new job!  Meanwhile, the wheels on the Delaware education bus keep spinning round and round!

Donna’s last State Board of Education will be next Thursday, April 19th.  No word on a replacement for her at this point.

 

Senator Sokola Makes My Day With Proposed Education Funding Transparency Bill

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, all schools are required to provide more transparency with how they spend money.  Delaware Senator Sokola seeks to codify this with legislation currently in circulation for sponsorship.

I like this bill.  I believe an amendment should make sure every expense down to the school level is given a specific category.  Trying to read Delaware’s online checkbook is a lesson in futility at times and does not give an accurate picture to make sure funds are spent the way they are supposed to.  Excluding certain items, like under (2) (b) of the proposed legislation should not happen.  Yes, these funds can be tracked in a confusing way through state reporting procedures but putting the whole puzzle together can be very difficult.

What do you think?  Will this bill provide the information we need?

Kavips, Read Your Email!

Yes, I am giving a shout-out to my old friend Kavips.  Asking you to read an e-mail I just sent you.  It is important in a way only you and I can understand.