In February of 2017, during the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center crisis, a Delaware Department of Education employee working as a Prison Education Teacher gave information to the News Journal about the situation. The next month, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting fired him for “misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty” according to public court documents.
This is the same Susan Bunting who has yet to answer for her time as Superintendent of the Indian River School District when she willfully turned a blind eye to former Chief Financial Officer Patrick Miller stealing money from the district. She seems to like thrusting accountability on others but refuses to take any for herself.
Stella is suing the Delaware DOE, Bunting, and his supervisor at Vaughn. While the trial won’t occur until some point next year, there are some fundamental issues with Bunting firing Stella. As the below court document shows, the hostage negotiations could be heard by the public on broadband radio. The state was very cautious about information getting out to the public about the hostage situation and the murder of Sgt. Steven Floyd by inmates but failed to realize the taxpayer paid communications devices could be heard by anyone. Stella’s termination has nothing to do with what happened and had no bearing on the situation whatsoever. There was no danger with Stella letting the public know what the conditions were like as a private citizen. The News Journal contacted him and he gave a few statements. The man was obviously shaken by the events. Instead of offering compassion to him, Bunting terminated him.
Bunting has a lot of nerve. This is the same Bunting who knew Patrick Miller was stealing district funds since 2008. She lied to the Auditor’s office, media, and the people of Delaware. She swore an oath to become Secretary of Education. That oath is built on lies and hypocrisy. God forbid someone publicly speak about a situation that haunted every Delawarean during the two day riot. Bunting has a history of this. She did the same thing to the person who told her Miller was stealing money. Instead of doing her job and investigating what Miller was doing, that person was terminated from the district. We have a Delaware Secretary of Education who is not the woman she claims to be. She is vengeful and petty.
In the final report for the Vaughn riot, released a year ago, it said:
It is highly likely that some members of the staff are suffering from mental health issues- including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)- as a result of the incident that began on February 1, 2017.
There also appears to have been some issues with the Delaware DOE in providing education in Vaughn according to the final report:
The Independent Review Team learned that despite the DOE being responsible for providing the educational programming for the DOC, DOE staff does not want to change, does not want to accept the change in philosophy [within corrections towards rehabilitation]. In recent years, a DOE contractor responsible for delivering education services had reportedly not been doing so, and as a result, there was a 14-month period in which GED education was not available to inmates.
And yet the final report issued no recommendations based on this arrogance of the Delaware DOE. In fact, based on that final report, no interviews were even conducted with the Delaware DOE or Bunting. Why? Is the Delaware DOE immune to criticism for some inexplicable reason? What is it about the Delaware DOE that they can escape true accountability in the State of Delaware but they push it on others so much?
In an article from Coastal Point in April, 2016 showcasing the culinary program in Delaware’s prisons, they wrote about how the program was well-received by inmates. Why terminate someone who was actually able to have a positive relationship with inmates?
The students smiled to see their instructor take the podium. Chef Anthony Stella jumped at the chance to teach this new culinary program, “to share what I know with those less fortunate than myself.”
He works with the inmates daily, setting aside time from his own venture, Chef Anthony’s Italian Market in Chadds Ford, Pa.
“I teach them, I talk with them. I even eat lunch with them every day. I’m so excited for this kitchen to open up, so I can start molding them into [productive] citizens,” Stella said.
He said he is very confident in his students’ abilities to pass their first two certification tests, in kitchen safety and management.
“I hope we can make you and all the citizens of Delaware proud,” he told those gathered for the dedication.
Students called Stella “likeable and down-to-earth,” saying he even does homework with them.
The Delaware DOE, under the leadership of Bunting, seems to have taken on the same ethics as her time as the Superintendent of Indian River. That motto is punish good people and use any excuse to get rid of anyone who talks about anything.
In a News Journal article covering Stella’s initial filing of the lawsuit, it talked about a post Stella put on Facebook after he came home from the riot at Vaughn:
“Plaintiff’s Facebook post was not an official communication concerning the prison education program on behalf of DOC or DOE but rather a statement by a private citizen on a matter of public concern,” the complaint states.
Many Delawareans were posting on Facebook during the prison riot, myself included. It was a horrible time and it shook Delaware citizens to the core. Now imagine you were actually there in one of the buildings like Stella was. I can’t imagine what he must have been feeling.
Good people like Stella are punished while scumbags like Miller get a pass. That is not something I will ever understand. To date, no official investigation into Bunting’s actions as Superintendent of Indian River have been made public. No comments, despite repeated requests from myself, have been offered by the Delaware DOE or Governor Carney’s office. I hope Stella wins his lawsuit and puts the DOE in their place! This matter is scheduled for trial July 29th, 2019.
Below are an official court document from 7/24/2018 and the final report of the conditions and recommendations for Vaughn, released in August of 2017.