It wouldn’t be a school board election season without some controversy springing out of the Christina School District. Hot on the heels of the district’s crushing loss in their referendum last week, Christina voters will head to the polls again on May 14th to elect the District D candidate. Many are trying to make sure two-time board member John Young does NOT get re-elected. But the biggest threat to the district does not exist with Young. It lies within.
Kilroy’s Slower Lower Delaware presented a strong case for John Young in a blog post earlier today. He hit the main points. But the fervor and resolve in the anti-Young crowd is at an all-time high. Young’s recent opposition to Christina’s referendum probably didn’t win him any favors but it is exactly why he needs to win.
Cathy Hegedus, who cited family issues in her recent decision not to serve if elected as the District D board member, seems to be very quiet since then. While I certainly feel for her because of those family matters, her decision not to serve would be a grave injustice to the voters of the Christina School District. Should she win and not actually take the seat, it would give the Christina Board of Education the ability to hand-pick their chosen candidate. Instead of the people speaking it would just be the board (all of which were chosen by the people). Like I said, I feel for Hegedus. Whoever is pushing her to continue to run is not doing her any favors. They are using her. But one fact cannot and simply must not be ignored. Hegedus’ husband, Andy, runs a company called Demosophia. The Christina School District had a contract with Demosophia for their strategic plan a few years ago. To the tune of $50,000.00. When the district wasn’t seeing the results they wanted, they ended the contract but still paid Hegedus $23,000.00. Now his wife is running for a school board seat she won’t keep if elected. Hello? Can we get some sanity over here?
To add insult to injury, State Rep. Paul Baumbach reintroduced his failed legislation from the last General Assembly to have school board members serve three years instead of five. Our General Assembly needs to stay out of local control. They have no business deciding these matters. House Bill #134 goes a step further by suggesting voluntary school board members should get paid $100 per board meeting. This is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard of. Once you start paying board members they could easily fall sway to special interests.
While legislators like Baumbach and Rep. Earl Jaques lament the referendum process, they seem to think they have a solution in House Bill #129 which came out the day after Christina’s failed referendum. This bill would give local school boards the ability to raise operating taxes by 2% each year with a simple majority board vote. Once again, legislators are trying to kick the can on education funding. Why? Because the state is getting sued for inadequate education funding and they are scrambling for easy band-aids to the hemorrhaging wound. And the easiest target for them to point the finger at is the Christina School District.
Where they fail is in constantly using Christina as their legislative scapegoat. Take Capital School District. They have a higher percentage of low-income students than Christina. But they easily passed their recent capital and operating cost referendum by a 2-1 margin a month ago.
Meanwhile, the Delaware DOE really has no clue. They push for charter school expansion knowing it will siphon off more Christina students. Even though the State Board of Education delayed a vote for Las Americas ASPIRA Academy to get a high school, it is widely expected they will pass it. And Newark Charter School will certainly push for their own expansion to add more students to each grade. Which will pass. The Delaware DOE and State Board of Education have never truly cared about the impact of choice on school districts. But then they cry when Christina comes out with poor test scores. It is the ultimate irony.
The problems in Christina are not John Young. It is in the district leadership. Advocates in the anti-Young crowd would suggest term limits are the way to go. But it is easy to push that when you want John Young gone. Where were those advocates when board member George Evans won his billionth board seat? That guy has been on the board longer than dirt. But you hear boo about that from the pro-Hegedus crowd.
Christina School District’s biggest problem is their human resources department. They reward those who worship and bow at the feet of Senior Director Josette Tucker. Despite many lawsuits that wind up as settlements from those who feel the sharp pain of Tucker’s knife in their back, she is still there. Still playing her parlor games from a district office and giving nonsensical jobs to those who shouldn’t even be within five miles of a school. Superintendent Richard Gregg seems to playing a game of Whack-A-Mole with district money. By jumping on the ed tech bandwagon and wanting to arm students with 1:1 devices he has failed to see what is structurally wrong with the district he is supposed to lead. The MOU between Carney, the Delaware Department of Education, and the district is slowly falling apart as money becomes a huge issue. No one gets it and no one seems to want to truly fix it. So John Young has become the poster boy for what is wrong with the district.
Young publicly wrote about his opposition to Christina’s referendum. He wrote why he was voting no. By daring to suggest that the district go bankrupt so the state can bail them out, he invited the wrath of the pro-Hegedus crowd. Which isn’t as big as Facebook pages like Friends Of Christina might suggest. How dare Young do that they asked in public posts. They will post their dog and pony lines we’ve heard for years in Delaware public education. But they have no concrete suggestions of their own. It’s hard to tell who is running the show there- Friends of Christina or the legislators at their beck and call.
Don’t buy the hype. Don’t buy the bullshit. Because you can only shine crap so much until you realize it looks and smells like the crap it is. John Young is the loudest voice in the district because he knows what is going on. Delaware seems to hate noise and nowhere is this more true than Christina School District. But it is also one of the places with the most rot at their core. Get rid of a lot of the powerful admins in the district and replace them with people who care more about kids than power and money. You will see many of those problems evaporate overnight. But the majority of the Christina board want to go with the flow and let the district run around like a gambler at Dover Downs. They would rather kiss the royal ass than actually question things. John Young is not like that. Which is why he deserves your vote on May 14th.