State Steals Autism Program From Christina, Students Future In Jeopardy

The State of Delaware stole the Delaware Autism Program from the Christina School District when no one was looking.  With an almost imaginary and very vague loophole in recent legislation, the Delaware Department of Education is now in charge of DAP.  But not so fast…

In a letter from Delaware Office of Management and Budget Director Michael Jackson and Controller General Michael Morton, they direct Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting to have the DOE take over the program based on legislation passed from House Bill #292.

It appears, based on this letter, the Delaware DOE is running the Delaware Autism Program.  But this mystery is not yielding easy answers.

Sarah Mueller with Delaware Public discovered this and wrote an article about it today.  When the DAP Program Director, Vincent Winterling, retired last year, it provided a frantic search for someone to fill the position.  Christina posted the position, and when they were unable to find candidates, they rehired Winterling as Temporary Program Director.

Meanwhile, the two Mikes decided this was grounds for taking the program from Christina because Christina was not “willing” to run the program.  It would be one thing if Christina notified the Mikes of this intention, but that never happened.  Sources tell me Christina wasn’t even notified the Delaware DOE took over until last month.

Updated, I just received notification of the letter sent to the Christina Board of Education from the Christina School District:

Christina Board member John Young had plenty to say about the issue in the Delaware Public article:

“Plucking a public schooling program away from a local agency without consulting the governing body of that agency,” he said. “I think that’s absolutely a messed up process,” he said.

Young feels the district should take action against the state:

He wants the district to take the state to court.

“But remember again, I’m just one board member,” he said. “Just because it’s how I feel in no way necessarily means that’s what’s going to happen. But I’m certainly telegraphing my considerable displeasure at the state’s behavior.”

What does Christina have to say about this?  Not a lot.

The district’s spokeswoman says the legislation changed the qualifications for the director’s position and there’s a lack of qualified candidates. She didn’t reply to a question asking if Christina plans to take legal action against the state.

So now we have the Delaware DOE in control of the program.  Have they hired anyone to take over as Program Director of DAP?  Nothing is shown on the Delaware DOE website nor is there anything about the DOE posting for a Program Director for DAP. Have they shown they are “willing” to take this on?  If you search through the Delaware DOE directory, why does no position show up under the word “autism”? If the Delaware DOE took over DAP in October why are the employees of DAP being paid through Christina School District?

Even more puzzling is the glaring omission in the Delaware DOE’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget request.  Yesterday they gave a presentation to the Delaware Joint Finance Committee but there was no ask for the funding necessary for them to run DAP.

Young isn’t taking this laying down.  He sent the following email to the Mikes and the State Board of Education along with his fellow board members and Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg.  He asked a ton of questions which demand public answers.

From: YOUNG JOHN <JOHN.YOUNG@christina.k12.de.us>
Date: Feb 4, 2019 12:34 PM
Subject: DAP Questions
To: “Jackson, Michael S” <michael.s.jackson@delaware.gov>,”Morton, Michael” <michael.morton@delaware.gov>
Cc: CSD Board Members <CSDBoardMembers@christina.k12.de.us>,GREGG RICHARD L <richard.gregg@christina.k12.de.us>,SILBER ROBERT <robert.silber@christina.k12.de.us>,Sweeney Whitney <whitney.sweeney@sbe.k12.de.us>,Noble Audrey <audrey.noble@sbe.k12.de.us>,Bunting Nina Lou <ninalou.bunting@sbe.k12.de.us>,Fifer Candice <candice.fifer@sbe.k12.de.us>,Lofink Vincent <vincent.lofink@sbe.k12.de.us>,Rushdan Wali <wali.rushdan@sbe.k12.de.us>,Bunting Susan <susan.bunting@doe.k12.de.us>,Ahner Jenna <jenna.ahner@sbe.k12.de.us></jenna.ahner@sbe.k12.de.us></susan.bunting@doe.k12.de.us></wali.rushdan@sbe.k12.de.us></vincent.lofink@sbe.k12.de.us></candice.fifer@sbe.k12.de.us></ninalou.bunting@sbe.k12.de.us></audrey.noble@sbe.k12.de.us></whitney.sweeney@sbe.k12.de.us></robert.silber@christina.k12.de.us></richard.gregg@christina.k12.de.us>

Mr. Jackson and Mr. Morton,

Attached is your memo to Secretary of Education Bunting dated 10.9.2018.

I have a few questions as a member of the governance body for the assigned agency (Christina Schools):

Why was there no communication by either of you to our duly, publicly elected Board of Education prior to or after the decision?

What rigorous process or rubric was used by your departments to determine our “willingness to administer” the statewide program?

Was Christina administration contacted/consulted before or after you made this decision?

Was this decision made in a public way: with stakeholders? with public meetings properly noticed? etc.

What factors contribute to your determination of our willingness?

Have you consulted with legislators regarding intent around “willing to administer”?

Have you secured a legal opinion regarding the legitimacy of this action or your reasoning for concluding a lack of willingness?

Does the OMB and Controller General have the authority/purview to reassign a school program?

Does Title 14, 1332 grant special authority to OMB or the Controller General?

Has the State BOE been notified (prior to this email) of this change and the fact that the local governance body was not included in any discussions as they are the agency that designates

John M. Young
Christina School Board Member

Young’s questions illustrate an all too familiar trait in The First State.  Many in state government will tell you it isn’t Governor Carney running the show.  Sources say it is actually Mike Jackson who is controlling how the state runs.  But Jackson and Morton may have overplayed their hand with this crazy stunt.  Doing this in non-public letters without any public input smacks of the non-transparency that exists within the Carney administration.

The sad part is the number of students with Autism these parlor games will affect.  It is one too many Mr. Jackson and Mr. Morton.  Do these children, with needs Jackson and Morton will never truly know, have any voice in these decisions?  Or the educators that work tirelessly to help these students?  Or the district that has carried this program for decades without so much as a thank you from the State?  Or is this just another in the long litany of attacks against Christina School District coming from state officials who have never taught in a classroom?

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