Rep. Paul Baumbach To Christina: “Keep Moving As Fast As You Can”

At the end of the Christina School District Board of Education meeting last week, State Representative Paul Baumbach spoke before the board.  He thanked the board and the district for the changes they implemented in the past year and “strongly encouraged” them to keep doing it.  There was a specific reason Baumbach did this.  He admitted the General Assembly doesn’t help.

“I know that we, in the legislature, are clearly part of the problem. Hopefully, occasionally, part of the solution.”

What Baumbach didn’t talk about is planned legislation coming out from State Rep. Earl Jaques which would hand the Christina School District over to the State of Delaware.  Because we all know the Delaware Department of Education would do such an excellent job running a district when they can’t even run themselves effectively.

Baumbach knows this legislation is floating around.  Will it have enough muster to be pre-filed on December 13th?  Some say yes while others say no.  But Baumbach is essentially warning the district.  He is saying keep making changes that could sway legislators from voting for a state takeover of the district.

It used to be a common fear that the state would demolish Christina and turn them into charter schools.  But the cold and stark reality is the district is turning their schools into a Rodel bucket list of corporate education reform.  Many districts and charters are doing this and have been for a long time.  It just took Christina longer to cave in to the demands of Rodel.  Jaques has wanted the district to sell Glasgow High School to New Castle County Vo-Tech for a long time.  Is the legislation he is planning a smokescreen for him getting his wish as a compromise?  Or does he just hate the district THAT much?

I’m not saying Christina isn’t perfect and doesn’t have issues.  Every school district does.  But Christina has a moving target on them from several areas: the Delaware DOE, the General Assembly (not all but enough to make a ton of noise), Rodel, DelawareCAN, pretty much every single referendum hater in Wilmington, the Delaware Business Roundtable, and, recently, the University of Delaware.  When the constant barometer for their success is not within the district itself but an exclusive charter school in Newark that has demographics that don’t match the district they reside in, it is a false comparison.  We all know standardized tests are a socio-economic indicator.  While Newark Charter School does have a low-income population, they do not have the concentrated pockets of poverty that exist in the Christina School District.  And they do not take Wilmington students.

If you listen to the audio recording, there are significant concerns about the district’s feeder patterns in Wilmington.  The board voted 4-1 to change the Wilmington feeder pattern.  Board member Elizabeth Paige was the sole no vote.  Members John Young and Angela Mitchell were absent from the meeting.  But it stirred a ton of conversation with some feeling it was not good for these students to get shuffled around like they will.  Christina teacher and the 2016 Exceptional Delaware Hero of the Year, Michelle Suchyj gave public comment at the meeting with valid concerns from teachers, students, parents, and the community about the impact of moving students into different schools: “We are going to send East Side kids over to the West Side.”

This move could become problematic for the district.  Rumors are swirling about EastSide charter school submitting an application to become a K-12 school.  Why would those students and families choose Christina when they could stay in their own neighborhood?  It just doesn’t make any sense.

Baumbach’s encouraging but ominous warning to the district might be too little too late.  We will know soon enough when the General Assembly returns for their 150th outing in January.

20 thoughts on “Rep. Paul Baumbach To Christina: “Keep Moving As Fast As You Can”

  1. Is this the advice we want to offer to a district that has impulsively implemented changes- some small, others not- then let them many drop away with nary a word of input from those who actually interact with students every day? Christina has been doing this exactly this, for years, and it has most teachers and some principals rolling their eyes with every announcement.
    The dysfunctional leadership must be dealt with before Christina loses what’s left of its reputation.

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  2. Yes, a City school district must happen to return the County to economic viability.
    No one is handling the Christina problem. No one is setting up the framework for the new Wilmington School District. Education must be local. The State and the Districts are spending hundreds of millions of Tax dollars busing students to districts hours away from their homes to no effect. Naive PC thought from the last Century is not accomplishing the boot strap goal of betterment. It has destroyed education in NCC. Reset Now. Fund schools from income Taxes. A WSD is needed today.

    Currently, our NCC schools are little more than juvenile detention centers. I wish it was not so. I just had a rare face to face meeting with the Governor and he told be income taxes could rise 2% if income taxes supported the schools. The savings on property tax, transportation costs (if students received education locally and the general uplifting of the quality of education with its effects on Community economics would pay this back.

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  3. Paul’s rhetoric is irresponsible. Children do not deserve fast, they deserve right. They deserve interventions with evidence of efficacy. Speed is the enemy of contemplative, thoughtful decisions grounded in evidence. The same slogan the State Police use for cars applies to children: speed kills.

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    • John – how long have you been on the board? How many more years do you think it will take for it to be “right?” And while you’re working to be right the kids now just are experiments?

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      • It will never be right, Arthur. They don’t want it to be. Those that want it right have no power. School board members are ostensibly powerless ad individuals and I’m certainly no exception. My small role is calling out the charlatans.

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  4. I believe the best we can do for our children is provide them with diverse educational program and delivery systems and settings that further our need to teach how students learn. The children in our buildings today are not the generation before them. Though buildings may appear so. As our technological culture has evolved, as our population has grown, and the science of the brain has expounded – though much is still a mystery – it is evident that education is a science in diversity and diversity is the controlling factor in what programs and environments we have, we create, and we desire. Education should be both an equal proportion of the tried and true, “interventions with evidence of efficacy (JY)” and innovation born of those who are tasked with meeting our children in the classroom. Reform as a top down assignment has been a repeated failure. Teaching to the test has been an abysmal failure. Our government uses the union as a mechanism to ignore the voices of our teachers. Same for PTA – I assure you that PTA does NOT speak for ME. Everything is upside-down. This is what happens when the concentrate of power, money, is solely controlled by a system that lacks checks and balances. The problem is that the Gov and his appointees already control our funding, governance, and leadership. Jack Markell was a huge shadow that stymied any real organic change. Earl Jaques seeks to further the Markell agenda since Carney is largely meek and uninterested in education. Earl has picked up the torch to move deform forward and further enrich the pockets of those who profit off of education – which is not our children or teachers. I can understand Paul’s desire to urge Christina forward faster. We have years of data that can lead us toward small innovative pilots. Wholly redesigning, re-aligning, re-imagining our high schools was a leap. Creating a remote honors academy was daring and scary for many – a more common standard for others who’ve lived outside of Delaware. The first public Montessori school in Delaware is a Christina gem that is widely ignored. My message is that when you’re looking down the barrel of a shot gun, aimed by Jaques and power brokers, and you got one guy willing to take throw himself on the first shot for you (Paul), you don’t exactly look a gift horse in the mouth. Hell, I’ve probably done more advertising for what Christina is doing right in this comment than CSD’s own PR department. And frankly, since Jaques is my rep, I am quite comfortable saying that I would remove my son from CSD the moment the takes “official” control over it. Living with the puppet strings is hard enough.

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  5. I’ve already repeated numerous times – the best we can do for our schools is return parents to the school board. Not “elected”, not “professional”, rotating seats for parents to have a REAL say on the matters with the board. Not “observers” and not “backseat passengers”, equal stakes holders. Hell, for all i know parents should be taking the steering wheel!

    Either way, the more I read about DOE the more it resembles late USSR DOE, the parallels are so striking it is just impossible to believe. Top-down hierarchy, complete blank check with basically no strings attached at all and mostly opaque internal workings – yes, this was USSR planned economy that nobody was allowed to criticize – even less to do anything about. We are living in the second reincarnation of the USSR education system!

    I repeat, parents should have a FINAL SAY, not politicians. Parents should be able to cancel, say, administrators’ pay raises and vote for more teachers’ pay raises. Parents!

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    • Thanks to the reformers CSD is data rich. Innovate based on data. Look, anything a local board approves for a their students that could have merit is light years beyond the gauntlet doe requires of our districts.

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      • The data we have based on deform suggests: do not place technology into the hands of grades 2-12.

        Also, the MSHA test scores suggest a) we creamed and b) the test scores regressed. So blow it up? Send it to all middle schools? Grow it despite the early failures on paper?

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        • I think you missed my message.
          1. Could please share where I can find those scores you mentioned.

          2. We have data because we have teachers who have been forced to take data on “reforms” that have failed. When you see something fail, if it’s your craft or passion, you tend to also imagine something better or different that might meet the needs of the children you have. Allow our teachers to take what the deform data shows and massage it into what our children need. Change the way we look at the data. We have mostly intelligent, competent teachers. Many with decades of experience. I know our teachers have ideas on how to improve education in our district. Let’s invite them to offer some initiatives based on what the deform data has taught us. Then, let’s empower them to pilot their ideas. Administrators need to be hands-off, other than provide back office support. It’s time for a teacher-led initiative or pilot. If we don’t try we are no better than the “pro-testers,” the deformers.

          I also agreed that we need to make decisions and implement that which is research based and proven productive. Only, I differed in believing we need make these changes concurrently with innovative ideas. No practice ever became tried and true until it was tried and found to be true.

          Here’s a simple concept that could impact education for all students in our preschools and elementary schools: When balancing classrooms, balance by birth months. Jan-March, April-June, July-September, and October-December. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that a child that is 4 years and 10 months is cognitively and socially more developed than a student who is 4 years and 1 month. Yet, we toss them into classrooms the way we toss salads and expect the same outcome from every student. This isn’t even about smaller class sizes, which we all know are a legitimate option, this about meeting children where they are developmentally and allowing our teachers to adapt their curriculum, methodology, and environment to move children in collective similar age groupings forward together. This model allows the child that is individually talented or advanced to be moved into another age grouping where material is taught at a faster or more complex pace. It’s building an honors class per each grade level without even trying in every elementary school. And yet, it’s intention is to meet all kids where they are. What would be the cost? There truly isn’t a fiscal note on this pilot, only the willingness of the administration and school board to recognize that data from outside the system is as valuable as data from inside it.

          And I used MSHA as an example of how to scale a new model or program, not to inject that we need one in every middle school. We need to learn from it good and bad. We also need to study it for longitudinal data. At least this reform (or deform depending on how you feel about it) was district initiated, not forced down our throats by DOE, and is supported by the parents who choice there despite a lack of district transportation or long-term data. Put simply, our parents are showing our district that they want the choice. BTW – MSHA educates kids with IEPs and 504s. It’s kind of hard to cream that. And yes, grow it internally. Breathe life into it until we have longitudinal data and then make decisions about what to do with it. Maybe we will find it was successful. Maybe we will find, five or six years from now, that the H building would be better used as a regular smaller middle school for students who will matriculate into Christiana High School’s general education program.

          So again, as a parent, I am urging the district to equally innovate while implementing the other tried and true. Because, frankly, the tried and true that worked for me, may not be the tried and true that works for you. We need fluidity. Choice creates it and parents love choice. It also put the impetus of failure equally on the parents bc they chose to participate in a choice experiment.

          God knows, I own mine.

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    • I see choice as a pre-cursor to the college experience. yes the best scoring students get siphoned off to Newark Charter but the same happens at the college level. MIT and Yale get the best and the brightest but that doesnt mean that University of Delaware cant provide a top notch education, which they do. and further down Del Tech provides a solid education at their level. Obivously each student isnt going to college so why not develop schools based on what their future aptitude may be. we’ve got vo-tech schools but obviously not enough. Why not make glasgow high a vo tech, christina can be the ‘college prep’ school and newark can focus on service area job preperation

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      • Arthur, you make perfect sense to me. With one exception – college is an option not a requirement. And the burden to pay for college lies with the choice makers and not the tax payers. At least not the same extent as prek-18 and sometimes 21. Some students will find grants and scholarships or work study. Others will finance college with loans. Regardless, the impetus is on the student to find a way fund his/her education. Choice in that regard is very different than when it is used as a tool of parents of minors. Choose in this regard a tax payer funded experiment and results should be the tax payers expectation. Now, how we measure the success of that expectation is another story all-together. If you base it on a standardized test, Christina is a majority failure. However, if you consider success in the context of individual student growth as measured by a test, not necessarily “the” test, you are likely to find scores of children are making individual and meaningful progress toward maximizing curriculum within the educational system.

        On a separate note, I do believe that Glasgow needs a major re-invigoration. If a city high school were ever to be re-established, CSD would have no choice but to shutter one of its high schools. The writing on the wall says it’s Glasgow. Your idea to repurpose as a pseudo vo-tech has merit. It’s worth exploration. The question remains – does CSD have the political courage to demand that exploration?

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        • Red Clay has already done this with McKean High School and it appears to be thriving. Not thriving based on test scores, but on enrollment and the number of parents willing to choice into a vocational-technical program in an existing public high school.

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          • Very Interesting. This is the trajectory I would love to see Glasgow move towards. Let’s help our kids be career ready because they are not all going to college. The Vo-Techs don’t bother to keep waitlists. They just reject you based on whatever secret criterion they use. But, why should a student who wants to become a para, a CNA, an HVAC tech, an electrician, run a day care, work in hospitality, etc be denied the opportunity to learn pertinent skills and certifications because the vo-techs can’t education them all. We often talk about the charter drain on districts, but we seldom look at the vo-tech drain. Red Clay took the lead when it came to specializing schools.

            I understand that not all parents are educated in how to and their right to CHOICE their student into the EXPERIMENT. I understand that for many families choice will eventually lead them back to their home district with no way to hold anyone accountable for whatever disconcerting outcome led them home. I can scream from the mountain tops exactly what choice is and how to use. I can go into homes and create mobile hotspots and teach parents how research and prioritize.

            But, I can’t make them want it. I can’t make them want to learn about choice.

            However, I don’t think eliminating choice for everyone else is the appropriate way to manage THAT problem. I put my children in schools with environments that I think best matched my child’s learning needs. I’ve been wrong. I own it. I took the steps necessary to mitigate as much of it as I could. I’ve also been right and given my children teachers (often without resources) who inspired them to learn, grow, and reach.

            To each his own. But, if you come for my choice, I will defend it.

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  6. Choice, in its aggregate form, is segregationist and racist. Not any one decision fits this description, but when all choice decisions are measured up together against what’s best for all public school students, it’s an indisputable disaster.

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