Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council’s Shameful Special Investigation Audit Is Shining Example Of Why More Oversight Is Needed In Delaware

How can three fiscal years go by where a State Agency is doing whatever the heck they want and no one is the wiser?  Why does it take a whistleblower for the State to get a clue?  Who watches the Watchmen?  This council is supposed to help folks with disabilities.  This is beyond disgusting.  I’ve met Pat Maichle and I would have never guessed she would stoop to these levels.  Issuing contracts without going out for the request for proposal if it goes over $50,000?  Letting contracts continue when the work wasn’t completed?  Travel reimbursement issues?  Yeah, this report has them all.  This report shines a negative light on a council that does do good.  But one bad apple…

The worst part?  The Director was put on Administrative Leave last October and was reinstated in January of this year.  Before the audit was even completed!  While I am happy the Auditor’s office uncovered these shenanigans, it is not up to the Auditor of Accounts to watch this stuff.  We have a procurement office in Delaware.  It seems like nobody is watching what is going on with different state agencies and they are allowed to operate with no oversight.  Delaware state agencies are going rogue.  What will it take?

Get Ready For A War Between Governor Carney & Democrat Legislators!

When the Delaware Democrat leadership in the House and Senate decided not to bring House Bill 460, the budget smoothing bill, up for a vote, Governor Carney was NOT happy.  As a result, he decided to go ahead and do it anyway.  With an Executive Order!  Well, not yet.  That will go down at 4:30pm today.  This will not go down smoothly with the Democrats in the General Assembly!  Get ready to rumble!  This all but assures Carney will get a Primary in 2020!

 

Delaware Governor John Carney

MEDIA ADVISORY

TODAY: Governor Carney To Sign Executive Order on Budget Smoothing

 

DOVER, Del. – At 4:30 p.m. today at Legislative Hall, Governor John Carney will sign an Executive Order to implement recommendations of the DEFAC Advisory Committee on budget smoothing. Following the signing, Governor Carney will be available for media to answer questions on the final day of the 149th General Assembly. 

 

WHAT:          Governor Carney will sign an Executive Order on budget smoothing, and hold media availability on the final day of the 149th General Assembly. 

 

WHO:             Governor John Carney

     Mike Jackson, Director, Office of Management and Budget

     Rick Geisenberger, Secretary, Department of Finance

     Jeff Bullock, Secretary of State

     Michael Houghton, Chair, Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council

 

WHEN:          Saturday, June 30       

4:30 p.m.

 

WHERE:        Governor’s Office

                        Legislative Hall

                        411 Legislative Avenue

                        Dover, DE 19901

 

###

A Dangerous Bill In The Delaware General Assembly Could Cost School Districts Millions Of Dollars!

If a certain bill goes through, look for future referenda in several school districts! Continue reading A Dangerous Bill In The Delaware General Assembly Could Cost School Districts Millions Of Dollars!

** UPDATED ** Governor Carney Put Forth New Nomination For State Board of Education President

Last weekend, I reported Governor Carney nominated three new State Board of Education members and also nominated existing member Dr. Audrey Noble for President of the board.  Due to health reason, Noble asked to be withdrawn from consideration.  Instead, one of the three new State Board members Carney nominated was confirmed as the President yesterday.

Whitney Townsend Sweeney is the new President of the State Board of Education.  As I reported the other day, Sweeney is an Investment Director at Schroders.  She is a University of Delaware graduate and served on the Delaware Financial Literacy Institute.  I don’t see much in terms of education background with Sweeney based on her LinkedIn profile.  This will be interesting to see.

She will replace outgoing State Board President Dr. Dennis Loftus who resigned this month.  As well, the two other nominees were confirmed by the Delaware Senate yesterday.  They are former State Rep. Vincent Lofink and Candice Fifer.  I look forward to meeting all three.

The General Assembly website does not indicate when Noble’s nomination for State Board President was withdrawn but shows it was introduced on 6/22/2018.

Teacher License Suspension and Pay For Success Bills Pass General Assembly

Two bills closely tied with public education passed in the Delaware House of Representatives today which clears them through the General Assembly and await Governor Carney’s signature.  Another bill passed but goes back to the Senate due to an amendment.

Senate Bill #234, which gives the Delaware Secretary of Education the ability to suspend a teacher’s credentials due to an arrest from abuse or other egregious crimes, passed the House with a 41-0 vote.  As written in the synopsis of the bill, this will… “include situations involving felony crimes against children or where there is a clear and immediate danger to student safety or welfare“.

Senate Bill #242, which will establish Pay for Success programs in Delaware passed with 39 yes, 1 no, and 1 absent.  The sole no vote belonged to State Rep. Rich Collins.  An amendment placed on the bill in the Delaware Senate would create a working group to explore how Pay For Success would be implemented in public education, both early childhood education and K-12 education.  I am still torn on Pay For Success but this would allow some time for the Working Group to really take a look at how this would work to make sure it didn’t conflict with existing federal laws (such as IDEA) and to set up parameters.  Pay For Success is where an outside investor would come in, pitch a program with measurable outcomes, and if approved, would set out on this program.  If the program works with those outcomes, the State would pay the company back.  If it doesn’t, they wouldn’t.  The bill sets up Pay For Success for all state agencies.

Senate Bill #172, which is meant to increase the transparency of education funds, passed the House but an amendment clarifying some language on the bill which causes it to go back to the Senate for a final vote (provided they don’t put any amendments on it).  That bill passed in the House with 41 yes votes.

On the Senate side, they passed House Bill #268 which deals with Senior property tax credits, but due to an amendment placed on the bill in the Senate, it will go back to the House.

Finally, Delaware Governor John Carney signed both the budget bill and a bill giving one-time bonuses to state employees and retirees.  Both the Bond bill and the Grant-In-Aid bill will come up for a vote on the last day of the Delaware General Assembly, Saturday June 30th.

Kathy McGuiness Victim Shaming Kathleen Davies Is A New Low

Kathy McGuiness issued a victim shaming press release today against her State Auditor candidate, Kathleen Davies.  Seeing this is showing McGuiness has to be worried about losing a primary (again) in September!  In her latest stunt, she sent an email to her “supporters” today about the News Journal article on Davies that appeared online yesterday.

The urban dictionary describes victim shaming as this- “When the victim of an event is blamed, or partially blamed, for their own attack.”

While I first wrote about why Davies was unfairly dismissed from the Auditor’s office on June 5th, it took the News Journal twenty days to (finally) catch up with that news.  But they didn’t assign a political reporter to the story, but rather an education reporter.  Both of our articles were very similar in citing the unemployment hearing report.  I did my thing but the News Journal did have some new information.

Bies wrote about an upcoming Merit Employee Review Hearing. This hearing will determine if Davies gets her job back.  Bies did a good job at expressing Davies’ thoughts on the matter:

“Merit employees are subject to a process that is controlled and driven by the state,” she explained in an email. “Hence, I had to follow the state’s guidelines and processes, which meant I had to stay on paid leave as long as the state kept me there in order to exercise my merit and legal remedies. I and other merit employees have suffered through this process with no option other than to engage legal counsel and wait.”

“The state chose to keep me on paid leave for the 19 months before I could move forward with the merit and legal process,” Davies said. “My legal representation, as is the case with other merit employees, is at my own expense. Had I resigned from my position during the 19 months, I would have lost my rights to these remedies.”

But here comes Kathy McGuiness, sending out a VERY misleading email today, calling on Davies to make her merit hearing public AND to release a report that the Auditor’s office paid over $100,000.00 for.  Yes, the Grant Thornton report.  The same report that was incomplete at the unemployment hearing.  Which begs some serious questions- why didn’t Wagner release the full report to the unemployment hearing officer?  Were there allegations against Wagner himself in that report?  Did Wagner’s office have the ability to edit that report or redact information since the full copy wasn’t released to the hearing officer?

The McGuiness campaign wrote the following “press release” today which is begging for a red-lining!

Kathy McGuiness, Democratic candidate for Auditor, responded to today’s News Journal report detailing the latest developments in Kathleen Davies’ dismissal from her post as Tom Wagner’s second-in-command and issued the following:

McGuiness acts like this has been in the press every single day for two years.  It hasn’t.  She wants to put a focus on something that was already solved.  In short, Wagner screwed up!

“In two months, Democratic primary voters will be choosing their nominee for this critical state office and deserve to know what was found in the independent investigation leading to Kathleen Davies’ initial dismissal from the Auditor’s Office. 

Wagner dismissed Davies before that investigation was even complete.  Now if you are talking about the unwarranted and unethical “independent investigation” conducted by an audit manager in the office without any authority to do so, we can talk about that.  Which led to Davies’ wrongful termination and was ruled by the unemployment hearing officer to be unethical.

Based on the News Journal account, the Wagner-Davies Auditor’s Office operated without leadership for years. 

Actually, they did operate with leadership which most likely scared half the people in the office.  All of a sudden, not long after Davies came aboard, that office was doing real audits that wound up resulting in real jail sentences for crooked charter school leaders.  But apparently some didn’t like Davies in a leadership role so they trumped up bogus charges against her.  It backfired.  Davies proved she does have what it takes to get the job done!

The decision allowing her to receive unemployment insurance is only the first step of the investigation into Ms. Davies’ professional conduct while working for Tom Wagner. 

Even though, based on testimony of others in that office, including Wagner himself, it was proven Davies professional conduct was above and beyond and she did her job.  Okay.  It seems like McGuiness is screaming about smoke but there is no fire.

The Auditor’s office has to operate transparently and maintain the public’s trust.

For someone who talks so much about transparency, why doesn’t McGuiness open up the books on her many years on Rehoboth City Council?  Where is the Rehoboth City Council online checkbook?  For a council she served on for so long, how come she never begged for that kind of transparency down there? 

To have critical investigative information about a candidate for State Auditor withheld from the public and to have a hearing closed to the public, where serious accusations about her professional conduct while on the job is a disservice to voters and undermines the public’s confidence. 

To see my own take on McGuiness, just look at this article.  Yes, this is the same McGuiness who wanted LLCs to have voting rights.  Who had to hire an attorney to figure out if she lived in Delaware or Utah in order for her to qualify as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor.  Who changed her political party several times.  For the record, Davies has not said one way or the other whether or not the hearing will be public.  I would imagine she has a lawyer involved and she would make a decision based on her own legal counsel.  And this hearing is NOT about the serious accusations about her professional conduct.  It is about Davies serious accusations against the Auditor’s office which had a light as bright as the sun shining on Wagner’s office after the unemployment hearing.  For McGuiness to sit there and victim shame Davies is very low, even for Delaware politics.  But I guess you have to do what you can to win, right?

Because she is a candidate for public office, I call on Ms. Davies to authorize the Auditor’s office to release to the public, the content of the Grant Thornton investigation as well as any other pertinent information relating into her conduct as Tom Wagner’s top assistant, and permit her July hearing before the Merit Employees Relations Board to be open to the public, so voters have all the facts.” 

You are assuming she has the ability to “authorize” the Auditor’s office to make a report they paid for public.  Regarding a personnel issue.  And once again, the same report that could very well have been doctored to such a degree to make Wagner try to look good.  Which it failed to do at the unemployment hearing by the way.  Even though the unemployment hearing report cleared Davies of the wrongdoing this “audit manager” trumped up against her, that isn’t enough for McGuiness.  She wants this report released which would, in most likelihood, make Wagner look even worse than he already does.

What McGuiness failed to mention in her email is the heart of the News Journal article which was this- Tom Wagner unfairly terminated Davies.  And it went on to state how it was unfair.  Instead she is trying to make a “thing” out of something that was already solved when I put up my article three weeks ago.  These are the actions of a desperate woman who thought she had a sure thing in running for State Auditor.  Someone who likes to talk about transparency but doesn’t even release her own reimbursements with the City of Rehoboth.

But McGuiness doesn’t even bother to write how the Merit Employee Review Board deals with grievances Delaware state employees file against the agency they worked for.  Davies isn’t the one on trial here.  The purpose is to hear what Davies has to say in regards to the grievances she filed against Tom Wagner.  I have no doubt she viewed Davies as a distant runner in the race and didn’t count on her being vindicated in the press.  So she wants to attempt to stir up trouble instead of reaching out to a political candidate.  The right thing for McGuiness to do would be to sympathize with Davies, woman to woman, and recognize that, yes, our state employee merit system is very jacked up.  Nope, she wants to try to throw Davies under a victim shaming bus and that is just wrong.

Kathy McGuiness wants to talk on her campaign stops about diversity as she sits on the all-white and well-off Rehoboth City Council.  She is just wrong for State Auditor and if that hasn’t become clear to anyone in Delaware yet, I strongly encourage you to look beyond the “image” of McGuiness.  She will happily show up at any event in the First State and tell you why she should be State Auditor.  But that doesn’t make her the real thing.

This is an ongoing issue between Davies and Wagner.  Davies was cleared in the first round.  That has been made public already.  If McGuiness wants to victim blame another candidate to make herself look like a viable candidate, that is certainly her right but it is a new low.  Which would make me very concerned about her ability to hold statewide office and how she would deal with those who cross her path in a way she doesn’t like.  This is the Kathy McGuiness that, when she feels threatened, would victim shame a good and decent woman.  While some in the Delaware Democrat party pledge allegiance to McGuiness, they are doing it for all the wrong reasons.  And they know what those reasons are.  They want McGuiness because she is malleable and will serve at their behest.  But I can promise it will be a decision those Democrat power brokers would live to regret down the road.  The optics of politics is a messy thing.  Delaware deserves a State Auditor that is not malleable and will not serve power brokers.  Delaware deserves Kathleen Davies.

The Discussion About Racism Is Important But So Is The Tone. Tales From A Red Clay Board Meeting.

Last week, at the Red Clay Board of Education meeting, a huge and heated conversation took place about the lack of diversity at Cab Calloway School of the Arts.  It turned into something ugly and what I would not expect from a sitting board member. Continue reading The Discussion About Racism Is Important But So Is The Tone. Tales From A Red Clay Board Meeting.

Governor Carney’s Three Nominations For State Board of Education & Who Will Become President?

Governor Carney presented three nominations for the State Board of Education on Friday.  And another State Board member has been nominated to replace Dr. Dennis Loftus as the President of the board.  Who are the nominees?  One of them is a former legislator! Continue reading Governor Carney’s Three Nominations For State Board of Education & Who Will Become President?

Quarter Past Midnight

Continue reading Quarter Past Midnight

The Lost River

Who are we?  Why are we here?  Those questions were put to the test this week on social media.  When the plight of immigrant children in detention centers became the voice of a nation, we reacted. Continue reading The Lost River

Mystery Solved! Results Of “Who Shot The Blogger (With A Super Soaker)” Revealed!

You may think you know who shot me with a Super Soaker, but you might be surprised.  After a week of voting, the results are in on the most ridiculous whodunit of the year!  These are folks who I’ve written about this year and years past.  One shocking “suspect” received NO votes.  None.  This is all in the spirit of fun and is not meant to offend anyone. Continue reading Mystery Solved! Results Of “Who Shot The Blogger (With A Super Soaker)” Revealed!

Delaware Gets C+ In Report On Public School Privatization

The Network for Public Education and the Schott Foundation released a report this week on how all fifty states rate on the privatization of our public education system.  They measured how charters are run, the quality of the charter schools, and how the state handles voucher schools as examples.  Delaware received a C+ in this report.  Most of that was due to the fact Delaware came in 2nd out of all states in the voucher school category with a grade of A+.  Delaware does not support any type of voucher system in our public schools.  But we got an F for the number of charter schools in the state based on how they divert funds from traditional school districts.

Delaware School District & Charter School Special Education Ratings Are The Biggest Joke In The State!

How were the Delaware school districts and charter schools rated this year for special education?  Every single one is in here and the joke isn’t even funny anymore! Continue reading Delaware School District & Charter School Special Education Ratings Are The Biggest Joke In The State!

JFC Snuck In A Permanent Charter School Transportation Slush Fund Racket Into Budget Bill

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee did the unthinkable.  Every year since 2010, the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund has been a part of the epilogue language in the budget bill.  This is where Delaware charter schools get to keep whatever they don’t spend in their budgeted transportation amount.  As an example, if M. Smith Charter School budgets $200,000 for transportation and they only spend $150,000, they get to keep the rest of that money the state gave them.  School districts aren’t allowed to do this.

But now the JFC actually wrote a bill into the Epilogue Language of the FY2019 budget bill, Senate Bill 235.  In past years, it was just part of the budget bill but now they are inserting what should be a separate bill into the budget bill.  In other words, if you don’t vote yes for the budget bill, you are a traitor to all Delawareans.  So pass our charter school boon or risk being lambasted by the Democrat leadership.  This is what they are actually seeking to amend in the budget bill:

  1. b) Notwithstanding subsection a), a charter school may negotiate a contract (multi-year, if desired) for contractor payment for school transportation up to the maximum rate of 70% or the charter school may publicly bid the transportation routes. If the actual negotiated or bid costs are lower than the maximum rate, the charter school may keep the difference to provide services to low-income and/or English-Language Learners. If the charter school includes a fuel adjustment contract provision, the charter school shall be responsible for increased payments to the contractor or it may keep funds taken back from the contractor.

Anyone who follows end of June politics in Delaware knows that State Rep. John Kowalko fights this every single year.  This year is no exception but he is even more offended about them actually putting a bill in a bill.  He has his amendment ready to go:

AMEND Senate Bill No. 235 on page 233 by deleting “If the actual negotiated or bid costs are lower than the maximum rate, the charter school may keep the difference to provide services to low-income and/or English-Language Learners.

SYNOPSIS

This amendment to the budget bill removes a proposed addition to the Delaware Code contained in the epilogue language that would permanently allow charter schools to “keep the difference” for transportation funding that is not used to fund transportation costs.

The proposed addition to the Delaware Code would contradict the requirement in 14 Del. C. § 508(a) that the State reimburse charter schools only for actual transportation costs, which is also required for all other public schools pursuant to the Delaware Administrative Code.

Will the Delaware General Assembly finally stop this nonsense?  Who is pushing this besides the Delaware Charter Schools Network?  Could it be a departing co-chair of the Delaware JFC who pretty much had to resign so she could get her kid into Newark Charter School despite the improbability of getting in through their lottery and the HUGE waiting list?

Caesar Rodney’s Christine Alois Is The New Deputy Secretary Of Education In Delaware

The Deputy Secretary of Education job posting was up for a long time, going back to last Winter.  After a long search, the Delaware Department of Education announced Dr. Christine Alois, the Director of Instruction for the Caesar Rodney School District, will be the new Deputy Secretary of Education.  Caesar Rodney put the following on their district Facebook page today:

DR. CHRISTINE ALOIS NAMED DELAWARE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

Caesar Rodney School District Director of Instruction Dr. Christine Alois has been named Delaware Deputy Secretary of Education by Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting.

Dr. Alois has worn many hats in her 24 years in the Caesar Rodney School District. Starting in 1994 as the district’s first latch key teacher, she quickly rose up the ranks becoming a 5th grade teacher, a 7th grade teacher, a district resource teacher, an assistant principal, principal, supervisor and ultimately a director.

Dr. Alois has been nothing but an asset to the district championing and spearheading key CR initiatives such as language immersion, instructional technology and environmental education.

Karen Field-Rogers was the former Deputy Secretary of Education and has been filling double duties down at the Townsend Building in Dover so this hiring will be welcome news for her!

Delaware Senate Passes The Budget Bill 10 Days Before Legislative Session Ends & Paid Parental Leave Up For A Vote

The Delaware Senate just passed the FY2019 budget bill.  With a vote of 19 yes, 1 no, and 1 absent, Senate Bill #235 will go to the Delaware House of Representatives.  This is a far cry from a year ago when the General Assembly didn’t pass the budget until after June 30th.  They wound up passing the budget in a rare continued session which lasted until July 2nd.

The sole no vote belonged to the perennial budget naysayer, State Senator Colin Bonini.  Senator Catherine Cloutier, who has been ill of late, was absent.  I fully anticipate State Rep. John Kowalko attempting to put the charter school transportation slush fund amendment on the bill to end that practice.  This could be the year!  But it would have to go back to the Delaware Senate at that point.

What this also means is no more money is going into the budget unless an amendment specifically says so.  This point actually caused a ruckus last week between Senator Dave Lawson and Senator David Sokola.  The Senate Education Committee did not release the bill.  The main reason was the budget bill was already decided upon but Senator Lawson’s bill would have added $65 million to the FY2019 budget.  It caused both the Senators to put Facebook videos up defending their points of view.

A slew of school safety bills are pending in the General Assembly right now.  Only one, HS1 for House Bill #49, has been sent to Governor Carney.  A House Bill was supposed to be heard in the House Education Committee today with an ask of $10 million for a school safety fund but it was removed due to a Senate bill asking for $15 million.

At this moment, the paid parental leave for state employees legislation, House Bill #3, is about to get a vote in the Delaware Senate.  The Director of the Delaware Association of School Administrators, Tammi Croce, is testifying about teacher shortages in our schools.  Paying for substitutes, she said, would cost more on the local side of education funding on top of paying more on the local share for a teacher’s potential 12 week leave.  She said her organization is opposed to the legislation. Senator Nicole Poore said teachers already take leave to which Croce responded most mothers take about 6-8 weeks while fathers take 1-2 weeks.  Poore said New Jersey offers a paid parental leave similar to this legislation and they don’t suffer the retention issues Delaware faces.  I will update this discussion.  It is rather fascinating.

Senator Sokola supports the bill.  He said this bill could be seen as a recruiting tool to get more teachers in Delaware.  As well, it could inspire more retired teachers to come back to long-term substitute because they would be in the same classroom as opposed to getting shuffled around different classrooms.  Croce invited Sokola to do some long-term subbing to which he said he might since DuPont dropped him three years ago.  Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long said if they have a spinning wheel in there Sokola would jump at it!

Senator Greg Lavelle, who is a sponsor of the bill, said Croce makes some good points.  He said the bill was introduced on April 5th so why are the school districts just bringing this up in the last 4-5 days?  He said it was an abdication of duty for the school Superintendents to wait this long to oppose the bill.  He said he supports what they are saying but seems offended they waited until now.  In other words, Lavelle is being Lavelle.

Kristen Dwyer with the Delaware State Education Association is testifying right now.  Senator Poore said she understands male teachers are unable to take paternity leave unless they use sick time to which Dwyer said yes.  Dwyer said 76% of their membership are women but most of them are of child-bearing age.  She said many teachers take the 6-8 weeks of paid leave now but many of them have to take more time as unpaid leave.  She expressed how many women many have complicated labors which cause that additional time.  She said new teachers in the first five years of the profession are leaving at a rate of 39%.  She said teachers are looking for benefits just as much as salaries.

Senator Simpson asked if she is concerned about the ability of school districts to hire more substitutes if this legislation passes.  She said the incident of substitute shortages is not because of this bill.  She said she has been in discussion with others to get more pay for long-term subs.  Simpson keeps trying to press the substitute teacher issue.  Dwyer said this bill does not change what has been an ongoing issue with finding substitutes due to the pay involved.

Poore asked Dwyer if her members want this bill.  She said yes.  DSEA represents 13,000 educators and this bill represents a class of that total.  Poore said 446 births a year are attributed to teachers.  Senator Hocker said this would be about 110-120 births each quarter of the year.  Simpson said he has gotten letters from teachers in DSEA who do not support the bill.  She said she has not but she has heard of teachers who would have not received this benefit since they are past child-bearing age.

Senator Simpson said he can’t support the bill.  Senators Marshall and Sokola asked to be co-sponsors on the bill.  Simpson asked what effect this could have on private employers.  He said it might impact families who decide not to come to Delaware.  Editor’s note: this guy will find any reason not to support this bill!  Now he is bringing up how the Department of Corrections has been experiencing shortages for years.  He feels as though this will add to that shortage.

Senator Poore is giving statistics about how Chase gives 16 weeks of paid parental leave and Bank Of America gives 18 weeks.  She said this is one way to invest in the next generation.  She feels this is to incentivize teachers to stay in the profession.  Senator Simpson asked what non-banks are giving?  Poore didn’t know.

Simpson introduced an amendment to reduce the time from 12 weeks to 6 weeks.  He said it is a “reasonable compromise”.  Roll call on the amendment: 5 yes, 15 no, 1 absent.  Amendment failed the Senate.

Now he is introducing Senate Amendment #2 which adds a three-year sunset to the bill.  He feels the bill is a “grave” mistake.  Roll call- 7 yes, 13 no, 1 absent.  Amendment failed the Senate.

Roll call on the bill.  Wait, Lavelle wants to talk again.  Said he supports the bill.  He said paraprofessionals are a part of the IEP, which his son has.  He said his wife as well as Senator Poore are fighters for IEPs.  Senator DelCollo supports the bill as well.  Senator Walsh said companies don’t have 39% attrition.  Said he supports the bill to support his union brothers and sisters in Delaware.  Wants to be added as a co-sponsor.  Hansen, co-sponsor as well.  Rose Henry, wants to be co-sponsor.

Everyone is calling for the roll on the bill- 16 yes, 4 no, 1 absent.  Bill passes!

Legislation Aims To Have Teacher Of The Year & A Delaware Student On The State Board of Education

How did I miss this one?  It was filed last week!  Not only would this add two new members to the State Board of Education but could also make the State Board of Education a wandering event!

House Bill #455, filed last week by State Rep. Stephanie Bolden and Senator Jack Walsh, comes from the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee.  The two new members would be non-voting but it could certainly create lively conversation at these meetings!  It also gives clarity around who the Executive Director reports to and who their employer would be.  The legislation calls for the State Board of Ed to meet in the three different counties which would, by default, cause Delaware Dept. of Education employees to travel with them.  Very interesting bill.

This Act fulfills recommendations made by the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee by doing the following: (1) Establishing 2 new, nonvoting members to serve on the State Board of Education (“Board”). The new members are a former Delaware Teacher of the Year and a Delaware 11th or 12th grade student. (2) Defining the duties of the Board’s Executive Director. (3) Clarifying that the Executive Director is selected by the Board; is an employee of the Department of Education, subject to all of the Department’s employment policies and procedures; but serves at the pleasure of the Board. (4) Requiring the Board to rotate its meetings among the 3 counties of this State in such a way to facilitate parents’, teachers’, and other community members’ attendance. (5) Establishing the circumstances under which a Board member may be removed, using language standard to boards and commissions in this State. (6) Requiring the Board to permit public comment on each agenda item prior to voting on the item and in proximity to the time at which the Board discusses the item. An exception is provided if, under Delaware law or Department or Board rules, the item has a formal comment period or a process for making a record in an administrative matter that has closed before the Board’s discussion of the agenda item. Examples of matters that qualify for the exception include charter school applications or formal reviews, amendments to Department of Education and Professional Standards Board regulations, and student appeals. The intent of the exception is to exclude Board actions that are quasi-judicial in nature and therefore not appropriate to open to public comment. This Act also corrects 2 internal references and makes other technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.   

To read the actual legal language of the bill, go here: House Bill 455

As I reported earlier today, Governor Carney will have three nominations for the Delaware Senate to confirm by June 30th which would restore the State Board of Education to their seven members after some unexpected resignations in the past couple of months.  I still think ALL members of the State Board of Education should be publicly elected.

**UPDATED**The Clock Is Ticking For The State Board Of Education

The State Board of Education still has four members.  Which is their quorum amount.  Governor Carney, with ten days left in the 149th General Assembly, has not put forth ANY nominations for replacements.  Delaware State Code mandates four members on the State Board.  If Carney does not put forth nominations until after the General Assembly goes into recess from July 1st until mid-January 2019, he could order the Delaware Senate back into session to confirm nominations.  That isn’t unusual but typically doesn’t happen until October when it does occur.  Which means our State Board of Education is operating at a bare minimum for the next four months.  Which means if just one member doesn’t attend a meeting they can not take action on any item, even approving their minutes.

I have an extreme issue with keeping this body at four members.  Any regulation or appeal the State Board hears would only have four members voting.  One no-show could shut something down very fast.  It is a recipe for disaster.  Simply put, they cannot operate the way they are supposed to.  As an example, what happens if Secretary of Education Susan Bunting decided to put a charter school on formal review for some reason?  The State Board would have to vote on that.  Is four members enough to give that conversation the full weight for a matter that serious?  There is a reason there are seven members.

I was told by Jon Sheehan, Governor Carney’s Education Policy Advisor, the State Board of Education would be restored by June 30th.  So where are the nominations?  Since there are none today, that leaves one last Senate Executive Committee meeting to do this, which would be next Wednesday.  At that point it is the last week of the General Assembly.  I would worry about the quality of the nominations if it is rushed at the last-minute.

Two weeks ago, the Joint Sunset Committee released the State Board of Education from Sunset review.  The only unanswered question is who the State Board’s Executive Director will report to- the State Board, the Delaware Department of Education, or a hybrid of both.  Meanwhile, the deadline for applicants to replace Donna Johnson expired June 9th.  Which means someone will most likely get that job soon.  But will there even be a functional State Board of Education for them to direct?

I still feel as though the State Board of Education should be elected by the people.  Having a Governor hand-pick who he wants on the State Board of Education all but ensures people will get picked who would follow his agendas.  It is something our legislators could change but nobody wants to tick off the Governor.  Many of them agree but lack the stones to actually do it.  I say have an elected State Board of Education and get rid of “Secretary-only Regulations”.  Those are the ones, like Regulation 225, that the State Board of Education does not vote on.  Which is preposterous in my opinion.

Updated, 3:37pm: I spoke with Jon Sheehan a short time ago who assured me that three nominations will be introduced next week and he anticipates a full State Board of Education by June 30th.

Will The State Auditor, Treasurer, Div. of Accounting, Delaware DOE or Attorney General Act On Petty Cash Abuse? And What Happens To DAPSS?

A few days ago I put an article up about petty cash abuse in our districts and charter schools.  No state agency has yet to give an official response even though they are all well aware of the article at this point.  I’m fairly sure if there were an investigation that came out of this the last person they would tell is me.

The interesting snafu in all this is Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  They are already on probation from their formal review.  While not using a petty cash for fun time at the school is not a condition of their probation, the fact that money was used for fun time and who knows what else is a concern.  I’ve heard lots of tales about how that money was used.  An auditor would have a field day with this.

Like I said, I’m not too concerned with the folks who did it once or twice.  Those can be explained.  In fact, one school district made it a point to contact me.  It is the chronic offenders I take issue with.  Most especially the two that got a letter from Tom Wagner less than two years ago saying “Don’t do it”.  No one should be doing it to begin with but when you get a letter like that and essentially flip the bird and do the same thing all over again, I have ZERO respect for you.  Sounds like Sam Paoli has more on his plate than just CSW teachers joining the union!

I was really hoping Margie Lopez Waite and the board at DAPSS would act on this immediately.  But no, when I go to the DAPSS website I see the SAME person on there who was behind the school’s petty cash splurging.  On the taxpayer’s dime.  I don’t mind paying taxes so kids can get an education.  But I take a very serious affront to school leaders who want to break the rules and treat state money like it is their own piggy bank to play with.  Yes, I’m talking about you Herb Sheldon.  Margie acted lightning fast last Winter in getting someone off the school website.  But I guess playing with school funding is an okay.  Gotcha!  I understand now!

Will anyone in the state actually do more on this issue than send more letters saying “Don’t do this”?  When does REAL accountability start happening?

 

Capital Parents Of Students With Disabilities: Are You Aware Of Parent Councils Mandated By State Law? We Need To Unify Now!!!!

Three years ago today, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill #33 into law.  Among the many changes to Delaware special education, one of the key facets of this legislation was the following:

  • 3125. Parent Councils.

Each school district and charter school enrolling any child with disabilities shall, on an annual basis, contact the parents of each such child to attempt to facilitate the creation and maintenance of a parent council for the parents of students with disabilities. Parent councils will advocate generally for students with disabilities and provide person-to- person support for individual parents and children. The charter schools and school districts shall collaborate and coordinate with existing parent groups and other information and support groups to facilitate creation, maintenance, and effectiveness of the Parent Councils.

While my own son was not in Capital School District when districts and charter schools were required to create the Parent Councils, he was for the 2017-2018 school year.  I contacted the Special Services Office at Capital this morning and was told letters went out to parents about the Parent Councils.  I advised them I never received such a letter.  Apparently there were three meetings during this school year.  The maximum attendance at any of these meetings was eight parents, at the first meeting.  There is absolutely no mention of the Parent Councils anywhere on the district website.  None of their school websites have this information on them either.

I don’t feel we, as parents, should have to wait around for the district to comply to state law.  To that end, I am creating a Capital School District Parent Group and I invite all to attend.  Please email me at kjohlandt70@gmail.com if you interested in joining this group.  Even though it is the summer and our kids are out of school, I believe we should meet and hold discussions on what the district is doing in terms of special education for our children.  Three meetings over one school year is not enough.  I believe we should meet monthly and if warranted to get things going, every other week.  It is also my intention that we should pick a spokesperson for the group to present our findings at each Capital Board of Education meeting each month.  They generally meet on the third Wednesday of each month.  Even if you believe the district is doing everything right, we want to hear from you.  I will also create a Facebook group which will be private so we can discuss things in a private forum.  If you would like to join this Facebook group, please message me on my own personal Facebook profile, under Kevin Ohlandt.

I find it very discouraging that a school district that continually stresses a need for parental involvement can’t proactively advertise for something that is required by state law.  Sending one letter out to parents (which I didn’t even get) for an entire school year is doing the bare minimum.  The United States Supreme Court ruled on a special education case dictating schools must do more than the bare minimum with special education services for students with disabilities.  While that case does not provide a case against Capital not advertising Parent Councils, it does show a consistent pattern in terms of special education.  As a Capital parent, I received robo-calls throughout the year.  Not one robo-call talked about Parent Councils.  My son had many IEP meetings this year.  As well, I was in constant contact with his Principal.  Never once were the Parent Councils mentioned.

I hope to hear from many of you as soon as possible.  For a school district that has 18.3% of their student population designated as Special Education (which means having an IEP) and probably higher due to 504 plans not being listed in that percentage, we need to band together now more than ever.  The district, based on their 2017-2018 student unit count has 1,188 students on IEPs.  8 parents out of 1,188 attended the district’s Parent Council meetings this year.  That is unacceptable and I would hazard a guess most of you did not even know this was an option.

Please share with as many parents of students with disabilities in the Capital School District as you can.  For parents of these students in other school districts or charter schools, please make sure your school or district is following Delaware state law under Title 14 in this area.  Thank you.