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.