Odyssey Charter School Students Tasked With Building A Snow Creature!

The students of Odyssey Charter School have a VERY important assignment for tomorrow, Monday, February 1st:

Tomorrow, February 1st will be a snow day! Let’s have fun with it!!

Join us in our first-ever #OCSsnowdaychallenge Go outside and make your best snow creature, take a picture, post it to your social media accounts, and tag Odyssey Charter. Our goal is to have at least 200 pictures across Facebook, Twitter (@OCSDelaware), and Instagram (@odysseyCHS)!

Let’s go Owls!!!

If you know of other fun events or awesome snow day messages for Dover schools tomorrow, please let me know at kevino3670@yahoo.com

Academy Of Dover’s Very Awesome Snow Day Message

Snowmageddon 2021 is upon us. For many students that will mean no school tomorrow. For Academy of Dover students that came with a very special message about WHY tomorrow is a snow day!

I remember the absolute excitement at the thought of a snow day when I was a child. I don’t remember wearing my pajamas inside out, I don’t think I ever heard of that until I was an adult. However, had I known and thought it may work, I most certainly would have done it. Our children have had quite the year. They’ve been living through a pandemic for 12 months. After careful consideration, and driving up through our Academy areas that our buses travel, we will be honoring the wishes of our children and granting a snow day. Please be safe and take time to HAVE FUN tomorrow. It looks like this weather will turn to rain perhaps at some time in the early morning, but then again to snow. I’ll keep you all posted about Tuesday. For tomorrow, the remote learning assignment is all about self care and letting our children be children. Parents and caregivers, I hope you also can find a way to enjoy our snow day.

I sincerely hope all school districts and charter schools in Delaware make tomorrow a snow day. It is the right thing to do. Let the children play! Michele Marinucci rocks!

Capital Union President Lied To Every Single Teacher In Capital School District

For the past several months, teachers at Dover High School have been grappling with Covid, remote learning, hybrid learning and the district itself. But it appears their greatest enemy might just be their own union that is supposed to protect teachers.

This past Monday, WDEL had an explosive article about teachers at Dover High School. The news shocked Delaware teachers up and down the state but it didn’t come as a surprise to many. For Leann Ferguson, her actions in reporting the incidents to WDEL were met with mixed results. Many teachers hailed her as a hero for finally reporting things many would not. Others branded her a traitor to the district and Dover High School.

The article dealt mainly with accommodations teachers could get through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how the district responded to those requests. According to the article and Ferguson, one teacher was fired after they were denied an ADA request to the district. The teacher wrote to the board and was summarily terminated the next day with an email from the district indicating their contract was ending before the end of the year.

One teacher, who also requested anonymity for fear of retribution, confirmed to WDEL they initially requested reasonable ADA accommodations to teach remotely. When that request was refused the teacher sent a letter to the Capital School District Board of Education asking for unpaid leave. Instead, they were let go.

The district denies the allegation.

“That is absolutely inaccurate. No one who requested accommodations has been terminated,” said Cooke.

However, WDEL has obtained their request for leave letter, and an email response from the district, dated November 30, 2020, indicating the teacher’s contract would be paid off and their insurance ended. The teacher is considering litigation in the matter.

It seems there is a lot of denial at Dover High School. One of the chief denial makers is a teacher named Lisa Whiteman, the President of the Capital Educators Association. In response to the WDEL article, Whiteman issued a letter to every single teacher at Dover H.S. and for no reason at all, lied about CEA knowing anything about the issues in the article. The full letter can be seen below.

Careful attention should be drawn to the words “Please know CEA had no prior knowledge of the issues brought forth in the article.” This would indicate that they knew absolutely nothing about issues with ADA accommodation issues that teachers were facing. CEA did an investigation into the matter, met with the district, and found the article “to be not completely true in most instances”. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Whiteman lied to every single teacher in the Capital School District in her sad attempt to throw Ferguson under the bus. What does “to be not completely true” even mean? Why didn’t Whiteman address the issues in it that she knew to be true? Whiteman knew. And on more than one occasion.

In an email dated 10/13/2020, from the UniServ Director for the Capital School District, Mike Hoffman, that included Whiteman and Ferguson, it dealt directly with the issues that were mentioned in the article. To understand the matter in it’s full context, I will include Ferguson’s email to Hoffman and others first. As educators do like abbreviations, here is a quick guide: DO = district office, CBA = collective bargaining agreement, CEA – Capital Educators Association

From: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2020 1:00 PM
To: Hoffmann, Mike [DE] <Mike.Hoffmann@DSEA.org>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>
Subject: [External] Concerns re: employee rights/covid protocols re: ADA accommodations

Hello Mike, 

Hope you are well.  We have been hearing from more and more staff members who have serious concerns about the DO handling of a number of issues. This is not new of course but the pandemic appears to have emboldened the DO.  Some staff members believe this amounts to unilaterally rewriting certain aspects of our CBA.  I know you have been contacted regarding the demand to submit lesson plans and the DO disregard for our contract language that specifically prohibits that unless a staff member is on an improvement plan. That issue has not been resolved but we have a far more pressing situation on the horizon.  We have already been contacted by staff members who have submitted the required documentation related to requesting ADA compliant accommodations.  The manner in which the DO is handling this has given rise to a fear that staff members with be subject to disparate treatment under the law.  

We are asking for the support and guidance of the DSEA as we navigate this process. I’m sure you are having similar situations across the state and that the DSEA would want to present a united position on providing protection and support for its membership.  

Staff members who have already submitted medical documentation requesting accommodations have been told by Ms. Cooke that she will contact them individually and discuss each case individually.  None of the staff members we have spoken with have expressed any level of comfort with this.  They do not want to engage with DO unless union support is present during any discussions. Ms. Cooke has also stated (on the record in a recent IAC meeting) that each request for accommodation would be handled individually and that the granting of accommodations would depend on the position of the staff member making the request.  In other words, your request will be granted or denied based on the professional position you hold.  This appears to constitute “disparate treatment” in the eyes of the law.  (EEOC documentation)

I have read the State benefits explanations re: covid benefits and coverages. I have read the EEOC and ADA regulations and recommendations.  We are deeply concerned about the level of discretionary authority afforded a single individual in the DO.  This individual does not hold a medical degree and appears to be making unilateral decisions about risk exposure and notification of affected staff.  (See her recent response to my letter of concern re: notification of potential staff exposure to Covid 19.

We have seen a pattern of disregarding the CEA CBA from the DO.  We are truly in uncharted territory here and we believe we would be best served by engaging in a formal, transparent process to develop acceptable MOU’s to address these very important protections for our members.  The conduct and commentary from the DO is clear on one point only; their primary objective is to protect the DO, NOT the staff.  Ms. Cooke has stated on more than one occasion that the DO will not accept any liability for exposure to covid, that WC coverage would not be applied and would be “difficult to prove”, and that the DO will be making ALL decisions unilaterally as to who will be afforded “reasonable accommodations” and who will not.  The DO has indicated that they will attempt to do this by aggressively interpreting and applying HIPAA.  The HIPAA Privacy Rule states the following: “A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well-being.” 

So far, the DO actions have protected the DO without transparency and consideration for the “public’s health and well-being”.  We believe this level of discretionary authority at the DO level has created tremendous risks for the health, safety, and financial well-being of protected members of the CEA.  We are asking for your guidance and support as we proceed.  

I would be happy to discuss these concerns in more detail. You can reach me via cell at your convenience.   

Thank you very much. 

Best Regards, 
Leann H. Ferguson 

In Hoffman’s reply to Ferguson he not only included Whiteman but also mentioned her name in the email and the act of setting up a meeting with her to discuss the issues that eventually led to the WDEL article this week:

From: Hoffmann, Mike [DE] <Mike.Hoffmann@DSEA.org>
Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2020 2:01 PM
To: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>
Subject: [External] RE: Concerns re: employee rights/covid protocols re: ADA accommodations 

Good afternoon,

I understand and appreciate your concerns.  There are questions being raised in other districts as well around ADA accommodations.  I am in consult with our attorney on these concerns and have been directed to obtain any denial of the accommodations in writing.  I do agree that a lot of power, when it comes to deciding who gets what accommodations has been given the HR departments.   The accommodations are there to address the ability of a person to carry out their job without the accommodations.  This would be different depending on what that job is and the duties needed to successfully carry out the job. We need to have data on who has requested accommodations and the result of that request.  I would like to set up a meeting with you and TH along with Lisa Whiteman to discuss the concerns.  If there are contract violations that need to be addressed with MOU’s let’s talk about them.  I would certainly encourage anyone that is having a conversation with Mary Cooke about the request for accommodations, ask that there be a representative present.  I am available to attend these meetings if needed.

She does not have to grant that request but lets see how that plays out.  CEA has a meeting tomorrow and I will bring your concerns up, and talk with Lisa about setting up a meeting with you and TH.  I appreciate your advocacy for a safe working environment for you, the students and your colleagues.

Mike Hoffmann

DSEA UniServ Director

If Hoffman knew about these issues as an employee of the Delaware State Education Association it should be assumed folks at DSEA were brought up to speed with the ADA issues with Capital teachers. But this cannot be verified at the time of this writing. But what is very troublesome is the fact that Whiteman denied any knowledge of these issues and then compounded on this lie by collaborating with the Capital School District officials in an “investigation” she herself knew was completely true.

To add insult to injury, the issue was addressed again in an email exchange between Whiteman and Ferguson on November 4th, 2020:

From: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 8:11 PM
To: Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>; mike.hoffmann@dsea.org <mike.hoffmann@dsea.org>
Subject: Advocacy Concerns Greetings,

Would you please advise as to what CEA leadership actions are being taken to address the many unresolved concerns of staff members?  As we attempt to safely navigate many challenges, we have been waiting for communication from CEA Leadership as to advocacy actions on behalf of the membership.  Will you be addressing these unresolved concerns at the Board of Education meeting tomorrow night?  Some of the issues that remain unresolved are unknown numbers of students (the DO policy of allowing any student “on the bus”)increasing numbers of people in the building at any point in time, lack of an enforceable policy of mask wearing for all students, cleaning of surfaces contacted by food, inconsistent communication from the DO regarding covid positive notifications(this makes contact tracing nearly useless if the DO has discretion on who gets notified) and last but certainly not least, the inflexibility of the DO in addressing staff accommodations requests, forcing many to choose between their health and safety or their livelihoods. These and many more issues affect all of us. 

The covid case numbers are rising everywhere.  The CEA membership deserves to have clear, consistent and transparent plans for successfully reopening our classrooms. The members need to have copies of the DPH and CDC guidance the DO says it is following including all District procedures demonstrating full compliance with CDC and DPH recommendations. The safety and well-being of the staff and students should be the most important factor as we proceed forward.  

Thank you for your consideration.  

Best Regards, 
Leann H. Ferguson Dover High School Social Studies Dept. 

Whiteman responded to Ferguson and very directly discussed the district response to ADA issues.

From: Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Wednesday, November 4, 2020 8:57 AM
To: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>; mike.hoffmann@dsea.org <mike.hoffmann@dsea.org>
Subject: Re: Advocacy Concerns Hello Leann,

Thank you for voicing your concerns.  

There are answers to each one of them which will be shared below.  

Information has come out from DO (town hall, HR emails)as to what to do next when a member has concerns about: coming back because of personal/health issues, what the district is using to clean (schedules/product ingredient lists), discipline when students are not adhering to the mask-wearing policy and having any student “on the bus” and enter the school, even when they’re not on the list to come in to the school building.

Realizing that you as a district employee and a CEA member and still don’t know the answers means that communication was not given enough times or in multiple ways to reach all appropriate audiences. For that, I apologize, and have taken steps to hopefully remedy the situation.

One step taken is that  I have asked the DO to put answers to all of these in some type of written communication for all members to benefit from the information.  If they choose not to, I have offered to create MOUs to put these procedures in writing.

I have also reached out to a board member to see if I can even approach them with questions for tonight…but am unsure as to how to go about it as this is a “work session”.  If I am able to, I certainly will. Clear and consistent communication is what I see is our weakest link with the DO now…specifically how word is getting out to all the employees in mass distribution.  The district has had emails go out via the HR department and from Paul Dunford and most recently a Town Hall.  I was very supportive of the Town Hall as it seemed to answer a lot of the questions being asked of me by the entire membership, including some that you inquired about.

Specifically, until that “written form” happens, my answers will mirror the response to Mr. Lewis yesterday, that you were also included:

Personal/Health concerns about coming back: Accommodations requests are at the discretion of the employer. The union has no interaction with that.  It’s about being ADA compliant according to the law. Mrs. Cooke has continued to meet with individuals and sometimes with our UNISERV rep, Mike, who is also on this email. She’s offered information on accommodations to keep teachers safe and has asked them to bring them to their doctor to see if that is appropriate for individual cases.  I believe in this case, the members have been and continue to be supported.

Cleaning (schedules/product ingredient lists): It was stated in the Town Hall that a list of the product ingredients used in the disinfecting of the schools is available via the chief custodian and your building principal and will be given to you when requested. Cleaning schedules are set by the building administrator and will be communicated to you via the building administrator. I believe in this case, we are also supporting our members by making this information available.

Non-compliance of mask wearing policy: It was stated first at the board meeting and then again at the town hall that there is a progressive discipline process where 2 documented forms of redirection/re-education will need to happen, then a mandatory administrative meeting with the student and parent, then the student would be sent home to have the only option of learning as “virtual”. In this case, I believe the membership is being supported in the area of safety.

Accepting all students who attempt to “board the bus”: It was stated at the board meeting, but not sure it was at the town hall, that no student will be turned away.  It was stated that it was a far greater concern for the safety of the child, who if turned away, may not have adequate supervision if left at the stop.  So, the next step that was mentioned was that the student (who because of the way the bus seating is set up) would board the bus, remain socially distant, and then be greeted by adminstration/designee at the school, held at the office or a designated space and admin would contact the parent, or keep the student safe, under their care, keeping the socially distant requirements of the CDC in the building. In this case, I believe the members are being supported in the area of safety, while still holding the accountability of safety of the students on the DO’s shoulders.

Again, thank you for reaching out and sharing your concerns.  It is my intent to increase the clarity of communication from the district to the membership.

Lisa Whiteman

Teacher & Educational Diagnostician

William Henry Middle School

Capital School District

Whiteman’s assertion that the union, including CEA and DSEA has NO involvement with ADA issues seems to be contradictory. Why did Mike Hoffman attend a meeting with Capital School District’s Human Resources Director Mary Cooke covering ADA Interactive Processes?

In multiple Capital School District Board of Education meetings in 2020, Cooke and Director of Instruction Paul Dunford told the board the district expects teacher losses. By playing games with ADA requests, it seems the district is cherry-picking who they can give ADA accommodations to. They are accepting certain requests and not others. Which is highly illegal.

The heart of the ADA matter involves the law around it. In the case with the teacher that was terminated, the teacher provided the letter from their physician which explicitly said the teacher should not be doing in-person learning. By ADA law that is all the district needed to honor the ADA request. But instead they denied that request and asked for additional medical information which, according to the ADA, is also against the law to ask for more information. So why would a school district, which is expecting teacher losses, mess around with a federal law? Did they think they were above the law?

In the case of the terminated teacher, they did what they thought they should based on all the guidance they received from the school district and in compliance with ADA law. They went to their doctor, received a doctor’s note for the ADA request. They issued it to district human resources and was denied their request and told they had to provide more medical information. Because the teacher was already in full compliance with the requirements set forth by ADA law, they did not obtain the illegal request for more medical information in violation of ADA law. They then wrote a letter to the Capital Board of Education on 11/27/2020 requesting an FLMA absence and instead of an answer from the Board they received an email from the District on 11/30/2020 stating the following:

I wanted to let you know that we will be paying off your contract on the 12/18/20 check. Also, you will not have insurance after today. You will receive COBRA information in the mail. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

I’m not an attorney but I know enough to know this was indeed a termination with a slew of labor law issues, including violations with ADA, Equal Employment Oppurtunity Commission (EEOC) and the actual Capital Educators Association Collective Bargaining Agreement that the district is bound to.

Getting back to Whiteman’s letter to the entire union membership of Capital School District teachers, I would really like to know what her “investigation” with the district consisted of considering she already knew about the ADA issues going on with teachers. In addition, why is Whiteman telling teachers to go to the district office when there is already an issue with ADA accommodation requests? If she wants to claim ignorance on the issue why did she not seek guidance set forth by the National Education Association (NEA)? Did she not understand how her own union works?

These are my questions: What is the level of collusion between the CEA leadership team and the Capital School District? Why is Whiteman, who is supposed to work with teachers, working with Mary Cooke, who has already proven she knows how to break multiple labor laws, to clarify ADA issues in a WDEL article that Whiteman herself already knew about? It isn’t like the NEA gave specific guidance on this issue, right? Oh wait, they did, as seen below:

What is the district going to do about their HR Director, Mary Cooke, in the face of all this? How much did Interim Superintendent Dr. Sylvia Henderson know about this? If the CEA President would lie about a WDEL article that she wasn’t even mentioned in how much can the teachers of the Capital School District trust their union leadership? Has this situation played out in other Delaware school districts with ADA requests during the pandemic? Why are teacher losses even an acceptable scenario with district officials at Capital? Why would they speed up that process by terminating a teacher that did everything they were supposed to do? Which leads to a more fundamental question and the biggest of them all: what are teacher unions doing if they don’t protect and support the teachers who need them the most?

This article was not an easy one for me to write. I support a lot of the same things the teacher unions do. We have stood in unison at Legislative Hall supporting legislation through public comment. I have fought for teachers in this state more times than I can count. But what I cannot abide is any supposed union leader turning their back on a fellow educator and throwing them under the bus the way Whiteman did to Ferguson. Teachers in Delaware pay roughly $750 a year for membership in the teachers union. For teachers like Ferguson and the Capital teacher that was terminated they might as well throw that money away because their union failed them.

In full disclosure, my son attends the Capital School District. Nothing in this article is a reflection of my personal experiences with the district. Until this week, with the exception of Mike Hoffman, I never heard of the educators mentioned in this article as well as the WDEL article. If this were about any other district in this state, with the information provided, I would be writing about the exact same thing. This is about a deadly pandemic affecting our state and teachers are scared. When districts use those fears against teachers it is time for rampant change that has to happen now. When the very same teachers union that is supposed to advocate AND protect teachers turns their back it is incumbent upon the teachers union to re-examine what they stand for.

While Whiteman’s actions are deplorable in this situation there are a great deal of lessons to be learned here. Education isn’t just for students. All too often the adults involved need to be schooled as well. It takes extreme bravery for a teacher like Leann Ferguson to do what she did. She approached her union multiple times for guidance and assistance. The responses she received, given the preponderance of evidence which indicated Mary Cooke broke the law, were not sufficient. Her moral conscience demanded she do more for the educators in her district. It wasn’t for personal gain or fame. It was to help those who needed help. Which is more than the teachers union President at Capital did. I support a teachers union that does the right thing. Not the farce Whiteman has turned it into.

If we are going to fix education in Delaware it starts in our schools. There are far too many players involved for these silly power games to be going on. It is, and always should be, about the students first. Teachers second. But our schools are run by bureaucracies that don’t seem to realize that very simple attitude. It is about power and ego. Arrogance and stupidity. Teachers want to teach and the less bureaucracy they have in their way the more students will learn. It isn’t rocket science.

The Hierarchy Of The Teachers Union In Delaware

The average citizen in Delaware has always known teachers belong to a union but how exactly does this work? What is the flow or hierarchy involved? Teachers, when hired at a local school district or charter school (if that charter already belong to a union, most don’t), are asked if they want to join the teachers union. It is not just teachers who belong to the union but also many support staff in schools. This can include custodians, bus drivers, food service workers, paraprofessionals, and secretaries. The main role of the union is to advocate for teachers and staff members. So you have all these teachers paying union dues to be a part of the union. Most teachers join because it offers them protections.

Each school building within the district, depending on the number of teachers, has a given number of building reps. Those buildings are grouped into what are known as areas or district union leadership team (depending on the size of the district) and there is an assigned area director (if applicable). The district union leadership team is elected by the members in the district. Each district union has an executive board and the area directors are on that executive board. Above them, in each district, are positions of Secretary, Treasurer, Vice-President and President of that local education agency. This can vary to some degree by district though and isn’t necessarily the same set up. But there is usually some type of power structure.

So, as examples, there are the RCEA (Red Clay Education Association), CEA (Christina Education Association), and to make things more confusing, another CEA (Capital Educators Association). Each district in Delaware has their own local education association.

In-between the local and state education associations is what is called a Uniserv Director. They are usually assigned to several districts. They are employed by the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA). They are the point person between the local and state associations. They will handle grievances on many occasions. If a situation advances further than that, DSEA has an in-house attorney that will step in or outside counsel if the need arises.

At the state level is DSEA. They handle state wide issues. They have their own staff at their offices in Dover but also have their own hieirarchy of a Treasurer, Vice-President and President. The current President is Stephanie Ingram. Past Presidents since the creation of this blog in 2014 have been Mike Matthews and Frederika Jenner. DSEA also has an executive board made up of various teachers from the districts, usually those higher up in the chain at the local education associations.

While DSEA frequently gets a label of being a lobbyist group behind the scenes many other activities occur. They attend several meetings at the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and frequently visit Legislative Hall and push for legislation that will benefit their membership and public education. Chances are pretty good that if there is legislation concerning education someone from DSEA will be involved in some way whether they support the bill or not. They look at the laws for teachers, up to and including regulations. The UniServ directors play a very important role as they help negotiate the Collective Bargaining Agreements between staff and the districts. Others deal with professional development and benefits which any educator will tell you is essential to them being able to do their jobs.

At the national level is the NEA, which stands for National Education Association.

So if a teacher has an issue at a building, they would contact their building rep. Further escalation would go to the Area Director. Things could filter up to the local education association Executive Board, the district Uniserv rep, DSEA, and then NEA, if warranted. But usually, if a teacher needs protection, the UniServ Director would represent them if warranted. Sometimes things may not advance very far and the grievance can be worked out. If it can’t, if it is an employment issue, that is handled by the in-house attorney at DSEA or outside counsel if it is outside the scope of employment.

So if a teacher has an issue at a building, they would contact their building rep. Further escalation would go to the Area Director. Things could filter up to the local education association Executive Board, the district Uniserv rep, DSEA, and then NEA, if warranted. But usually, if a teacher needs protection, the local education association’s attorney would represent them if warranted. Sometimes things may not advance very far and the grievance can be worked out.

In Delaware, it is illegal for the teachers union to strike, under any circumstances. If this were not a law I expect there would have been several strikes over the past few decades. Why there has never been legislation making this legal is beyond me but I digress.

The teachers union can impact political issues with great significance in Delaware. They will endorse candidates for statewide office, State Representatives, and State Senators. The local education associations can endorse candidates for a local school board which can sometimes sway those elections.

Just a primer on what the hierarchy is in the Delaware teachers union!

Knowing teachers and union leaders in this state like I do I have no doubt if I got ANYTHING wrong with this they will let me know VERY FAST. Thank you to those who helped me connect the dots on this!

Updated, as predicted, 11:11pm (make a wish): I received the following email from Shelley Meadowcraft with DSEA which I am sharing:

Updated, 1:24pm, 1/29/2021: I have changed quite a bit of this article based on the excellent email I received from Shelley Meadowcraft who I thank for her very useful information.

From: Meadowcroft, Shelley [DE] <shelley.meadowcroft@dsea.org>To: Kevino3670@yahoo.com <kevino3670@yahoo.com>Sent: Thursday, January 28, 2021, 09:24:25 PM ESTSubject: DSEA corrections

Hi Kevin,

I don’t think that we’ve met – but I’m Shelley Meadowcroft and I’m the PR person for DSEA.  Your post was shared with me, and since you invited corrections at the end I thought I’d just add a few things 😉

First – you are definitely leaving out a big chunk of our membership when you call us the “teacher’s union.” We also represent the a large portion of the education support staff in our public schools (custodians, bus drivers, food service workers, paraprofessionals, and secretaries).  Not all of these positions are organized in every district. Some support categories have their own locals (Christina secretaries assoc, Christina paras assoc, Christina food service workers association, and so on) and some are included in what we call a unified education association that has everyone represented in the district in one local (Caesar Rodney EA, Lake Forest EA, to name a few). 

A few other things were off too. Capital EA stands for Capital Educator’s Association which is just a little off from the other EA names.

There are no local attorneys, they have the UniServ represent them unless they need an attorney and then it may be DSEA’s GC or a private attorney if the need for an attorney isn’t about employment issues.  

The example of a breakdown in local hierarchy is very rare and only at large locals like Christina EA. Otherwise the building reps all work under the local’s exec board. 

And in my opinion, to say that DSEA is just a lobbying group diminishes the work of the UniServ Directors and the work of our Instructional Advocacy dept to name a few. The UDs help the locals with the bargaining of their contracts, liaison between the local and the districts and handle many grievances at the local level at once. Ask any exec board member of a local association, and they will tell you how integral their UD is to their association. Or, better yet, ask any member who has had an issue with their administration, they will tell you how integral their UD is to them as an educator.  

Our IA dept plans all of the professional development for our members which counts for most of the snow or clock hours turned into districts. They work hard to supply our members with relevant, effective, and helpful professional development, all free with membership.  They train our members on a weekly basis and have put together an amazing cadre of educators who can also go out and train many groups at once. On top of PD they work directly with DOE to make changes to policies that affect educators.

We also have a great member benefits team, and many other staff members who work to support our members up and down the state daily. Yes, at the state level legislation is very important and is often what makes the news –  but that is a very small portion of our staff who do so much more for the membership than just legislation.  

Anyway, that’s just my two cents. I think it’s hard to see all of that when you aren’t a member because you don’t get the emails that explain each step of what is going on within the union.  I just thought I would reach out.  If you ever have any questions about DSEA I amalways happy to help answer what I can. I know you have a better relationship with many members, but thought I should introduce myself too. 

Shelley Meadowcroft DSEA Director of Public Relations and Communications 

Gauger-Cobbs In Christina School District Completely Closed Due To Covid

Due to “operational concerns” (just gonna eliminate that code word from now until the end of time and say COVID), Gauger-Cobbs Middle School in the Christina School District is closed until February 2nd.

Another rumor is floating around that Bayard has been closed but after calling the Christina School District, who confirmed the Gauger-Cobbs situation (just saying they are closed), they had not heard anything about Bayard. I also emailed Superintendent Dan Shelton but I have yet to receive a response:

Good afternoon Dan,

Hope all is well up in Christina.  I just heard a rumor that both Bayard and Gauger are completely closed due to Covid positives.  Can you confirm or deny this rumor?

Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt

Exceptional Delaware

Why Didn’t Delaware Get Pandemic EBT Nutrition Benefits For This School Year?

It came to my attention that Delaware did NOT receive the funding they received in the last school year for temporary emergency nutrition benefits for the 2020-2021 school year. Only a handful of states seemed to receive this funding. Was this a case where Delaware applied and was denied or did we even bother to apply? In a time when state budgets are facing shortfalls due to the pandemic it is a wasted opportunity to not get funding when it is staring at you in the face.

According to the US Food & Nutrition service, this funding is defined as:

Through P-EBT, eligible school children receive temporary emergency nutrition benefits loaded on EBT cards that are used to purchase food. Children who would have received free or reduced price meals under the National School Lunch Act if their schools were not closed or operating with reduced hours or attendance for at least 5 consecutive days are eligible to receive P-EBT benefits.

According to a guidance letter released to all states on November 20th, 2020:

The Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act (P.L. 116-159) extends Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) through the end of September, 2021. That means that P-EBT is now available for all of school year (SY) 2020-2021.

It seems like Delaware could have received a full refund of costs associated with this funding:

States may claim full reimbursement of necessary, allowable, and reasonable costs incurred in the development and execution of State P-EBT plans during federal fiscal year 2021 (October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021).

The only states or territories that received this funding were Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Ohio, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and Puerto Rico. The previous school year funding for this program demanded that Delaware release all funding by September 30th, 2020. Perhaps someone from the Delaware Department of Education can answer or explain why Delaware did NOT get this funding.

Updated, 10:41am:

According to Alison May with the Delaware Department of Education the EBT funding is handled by the Delaware Department of Health and Human Services.

State Senator Dave Lawson Wants Smyrna Superintendent Patrik Williams To Resign

State Senator Dave Lawson is calling for Smyrna Superintendent Patrik Williams to resign. Lawson reached out to the Smyrna Education Association, the Smyrna School District Board of Education, and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting asking for their help in getting Williams to resign. He will reportedly be speaking to the Delaware State Education Association to make the same request to them.

The heart of the issue appears to be a combination of things. Last summer Williams found himself in a mess due to Tweets he put out calling for retaliation against Trump supporters. Earlier last fall he apologized during a board meeting for his comments. In addition, some in the Smyrna community are upset about curriculum material the district began using this school year. They are saying the parent company of the textbooks is run or supported by Black Lives Matter.

I will provide more details on this as they come in what will assuredly result in some turmoil in the Smyrna School District. The decision to “make someone” resign rests on the shoulders of Patrik Williams. It would take the Smyrna Board to terminate his contract if they are able to do so.

Updated, 3:16pm:

Apparently the curriculum in question is run by a company called Akoben which some in the Smyrna community believe is a Marxist term meaning “War”. The publishing company called American Reading Company and is providing the textbooks, according to sources, supports Black Lives Matter.

I’m just reporting what I’m hearing folks. The Smyrna community seems to be deeply divided on this issue at present with half supporting Williams and the other half supporting Lawson.

Why Delaware MUST Submit A Waiver For The Smarter Balanced Assessment This Year

In a month and a half, Delaware students will be in the awful position of taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC). That is, unless, Delaware submits a waiver request to the U.S. Department of Education to forgo the god awful test for a second year in a row. The biggest problem right now appears to be Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and Delaware Governor John Carney and their willingness to stop the test this year.

Yesterday, the state of New York requested a waiver from their state assessment. Any waiver hinges upon the confirmation of President Joe Biden’s Secretary of Education nomination, Miguel Cardona. No date has been scheduled in Congress for his nomination hearing. Former Secretary Betsy DeVos resigned in the wake of the Capitol riot but she had not she would have been gone the second Biden became President on January 20th.

Time is rapidly running out as the Smarter Balanced Assessment begins its annual reign of terror in Delaware schools in early March. In the fall, multiple sources informed me Secretary Bunting was very hesitant to request the waiver. Both she and the Governor wanted students to be tested. The problem with any standardized test is the data and how it is used. For this school year it would be disastrous and would only lead to more shameful and unwarranted labeling of schools. We all know students have lost knowledge and are behind the eight ball this year. That is not the students fault nor is it the schools. We can firmly place blame on the Covid pandemic that has wreaked havoc on America and the rest of the world. While recent indications suggest Bunting may be changing her view on this nothing has come to light officially.

Last week, the Delaware Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 42 which would essentially give teachers a break on their annual Educator Evaluation system. It is expected to pass in the Delaware House this week as 22 out of 42 State Representatives are already sponsoring the bill. But many parents voiced opinions that if teachers should get a break so should students. Some even suggested that all students should be automatically given a pass for this year with all the bouncing around from hybrid to remote schooling.

Education in Delaware has been a huge mess in Delaware for almost a year now since Covid forced schools to close last March. Governor Carney’s suggested (but actually forced since it appears he called all the Superintendents and told them to open) reopening plan has been met with little success. Many students who have chosen the hybrid option are not even attending school. Attendance is chaotic on its best day. Many teachers are absent because of potential exposure, Covid positives, and quarantining. An already existing substitute shortage has been amplified greatly due to the pandemic. Some schools are ramming tons of students into classes well above the legal capacity which can only lead to further spread of Covid.

This is not the time to test students for their academic ability. While I have always been resistant to standardized testing since the day I created this blog, it is more essential than ever that we get rid of it once and for all. But that is a request for another day. We must not test students this year. It takes too long with SBAC as it is and students have already lost far too much this year.

Please write to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting at susan.bunting@doe.k12.us and request that Delaware request a waiver from the state assessment.

The Network for Public Education is already requesting that Cardona cancels the state assessments for this year at this link. Please sign the letter.

If Delaware does NOT request a waiver and the new U.S. Secretary of Education does NOT cancel all state assessments, please know parents have another option. And that is to opt your child out of the state assessment. You just write a letter to the school principal telling (not asking) them that your child will not take or participate in the state assessment and that you expect their child to receive alternate education while other students are testing. It is perfectly legal and there is nothing legally preventing you from doing so. Schools are legally obligated to administer state assessments but students are not legally obligated to take them.

What The Heck Sussex Tech???

There was some very interesting legislation introduced last week in the Delaware General Assembly concerning Sussex Tech. As usual, the words “shall” and “may” can totally change a bill. The bill is mainly about taxation and enrollment but it seems to be a Christmas bonanza for the school.

It appears, on the surface, the taxes will be lowered for the next several years but that sneaky word “may” rears its ugly head which gives the school carte blanche to do what they want with those taxes. And by the time the three years are up the taxes will be higher than they are now, which are 29 cents on each $100 of real property value in Sussex County.

The amount to be raised by taxation may not exceed 26.50 on each $100 value of real property in Sussex County for the tax year year 2022, 28.50 cents for tax year 2023, 29.50 cents for tax year 2024 and all years thereafter.

Who wrote this legislation? Haven’t we learned by now that using the word “may” gives something the ability to change into something else that eliminates the intent of the bill itself? The sponsorship on the bill is mostly Republican with State Senators Hocker and Pettyjohn accompanied by State Reps. Dukes and Short. The sole Democrat on the bill is good old Speaker of the House, Pete Schwartzkopf. All of them are legislators in Sussex County.

Even more striking in the bill is the enrollment increases. The General Assembly capped Sussex Tech’s enrollment five years ago but this bill gives them the ability to increase it gradually over the next four school years, from 1,300 students to 1,450 students by 2024. And as usual, there is that sneaky word “may” adding more legal ambiguity to the bill.

Enrollment for the Sussex County Vocational-Technical High School District may not exceed 1,300 in grades 9-12 for school year 2021-2022, 1350 students for school year 2022-2023, 400 students for school year 2023-2024 and 1450 students for school year 2024-2025 and all years thereafter.

Which means, since they “may” not like those numbers they can increase them anytime they like. Not that long ago Sussex Tech had some major financial issues, as reported by The News Journal: Auditor finds financial mismanagement at Sussex Technical School District (delawareonline.com)

This is ripe for potential abuse. So what is at the heart of all this? Making a new Sussex Tech building. A couple years ago the state denied their request for a new building, as reported by The Cape Gazette: State denies funding for new Sussex Tech | Cape Gazette

They got denied because the new building would have been meant for 1,600 students. Which at the time they could only have 1,250. This new legislation would allow them to reach that designated capacity so they can make a new building. But that sneaky word “may” gives that tiny loophole so boom, next year there could be 1,600 students if they so wanted. I wonder what construction company is pushing this bill?

And because the school was under-enrolling struggling students they had to accept students who had grades below 70 from their prior school or failed a class in 8th grade. This gave more students a shot at Sussex Tech. The new bill eliminates that language and changes it to standards set for the Delaware Department of Education.

The problem with this is that on Sussex Tech’s choice application they seem to be going by 7th grade and not 8th grade. It appears they are already circumventing the law that is already in place! And they are adding in the day program for eligibility. Guess they only want the really smart kids which makes them no better than some charter schools in this state.

There is also a nice little addition concerning board members kids getting in. For those who may not be aware, the Delaware Governor appoints board members to our technical school districts. Hmmm….

This seems like a beg and plead bill given to legislators in the area of Sussex Tech to do the school’s bidding. Have they earned the good will to request all this after their gigantic financial mistakes just four years ago? Time will tell. I expect this bill will pass but someone needs to change the wording in this from “may” to “shall” otherwise we can expect some funky stop going on with Sussex Tech for the next few years!

The bill can be found here: Legislation Document (delaware.gov) It is under consideration in the Senate Executive Committee after it was introduced on 1/22/2021.

Dan Shelton Compares Protesting Teachers Meeting To Terrorist Attack At The Capitol. Time To Step Down Dan!

In a moment of unbelievable stupidity, Christina Superintendent Dan Shelton actually suggested that the teachers airing their beefs with the idiotic decisions he has made on behalf of their district is comparable to social media groups that led to the attacks on the United States Capitol last week.

While he did not directly say the word teachers, the implication was definitely there. He said that given the events of last week that we should see that large groups can choose facts that legitimize their own agenda and no matter how big they are they aren’t right.

I have no doubt Shelton is very upset that teachers would dare to speak against his own Trumpian power in the Christina School District. This kind of thing never happened when he ran the Capital School District for five years so this would have to be a tremendous blow to his already overinflated ego.

To even compare the teachers in his own district to actual domestic terrorists shows a level of arrogance that is unheard of during this entire pandemic. Dan, there is a thing called free speech. And if he even dares to fire one teacher for using their voice against his insane decisions he will be haunted by that decision as the district crumbles around him.

Dan has chosen to make it more important that he is buddies with Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting than bringing his own district together for the safety of students and staff.

I have no doubt transcripts will be coming out the second the audio of this board meeting is posted on the Christina website.

Christina Board President Keeley Powell Wusses Out On Having Board Meet In Public, Afraid Of “Disruption” By Teachers

The Christina School District Board of Education President Keeley Powell opted to have their board meet remote tonight because she was afraid the teacher press conference outside during their meeting would “disrupt” the board meeting. Teachers are sick of being told that everything is okay when it isn’t. Tonight, teachers in Christina have had enough and are speaking out. But the Christina board wants to run and hide behind their screen instead of facing the music they wrote themselves.

Keeley, you want to know what is “disruptive”? A friggin’ pandemic. So is not being able to hug a five-year old who is crying. So is having to move an entire class because someone catches Covid and is asymptomatic. I find it very ironic that this board will give carte blanche to the Superintendent to make decisions about the district who sends teachers and students fully into harms way. But when it comes time to walk the same walk they cower behind Keeley Powell and meet remotely for a public meeting. What are you afraid of? That the teachers are right? That attending school with hybrid instruction is nothing short of dangerous and could cost lives?

We are at a crossroads in Delaware and Christina isn’t the only district facing these issues. We are all putting the lives of Delawareans into the line of fire with idiotic decisions by Governor Carney, the Delaware Department of Education, and Superintendents such as Dan Shelton. We KNOW Covid can spread through students. We know if teachers get Covid the already existing teacher shortage will become it’s own pandemic. Who teaches if all the teachers are sick? Who comforts a student who inadvertently spreads Covid to a loved one and they die?

We need to stop listening to adults who use haste over science and listen to those on the front lines: our teachers. They know more than you do. This has always been the problem in Delaware education. LISTEN TO THE TEACHERS. STOP LISTENING TO THOSE WHO AREN’T AT RISK AND HIDE BEHIND AN ADMINISTRATIVE DESK.

Delaware Governor John Carney Loses Touch With Reality As Covid Spreads Like A Wildfire In Delaware

Delaware Governor John Carney issued his gazillionth modification to the Delaware State of Emergency. To allow for further spread of the Covid-19, he is allowing bars and restaurants to stay open past 10pm beginning today. This is after he highly recommended school districts and charters reopen for hybrid learning on Monday, January 11th. Meanwhile Covid numbers are up higher than ever. Today, a child younger than 5 died of Covid in Delaware. Covid is spreading in schools among staff and students when they are open. But Carney seems hellbent on creating further spread. More people will die Governor Carney. That blood is on YOUR hands.

Teachers, I know you can’t strike. It is against the law in Delaware. The law stipulates that if you do you won’t get paid for the time you strike. It says NOTHING about an arrest. I say do it. Do it NOW. And during your off hours you make a hell of a lot of noise. Organize, unify and blast your feelings ALL OVER DELAWARE. Our legislators need to make some noise. They have been FAR too quiet.

The time is NOW folks. Do your thing.

ACTION ALERT: Delaware Superintendents & Boards MUST NOT Send Students & Staff Into Hybrid Learning Next Monday

Delaware Governor John Carney and the Delaware Department of Education issued a letter yesterday urging students return to Delaware schools to commence hybrid learning on January 11th. THIS IS A VERY FOOLISH MISTAKE WHICH WILL COST MORE LIVES. I can’t stress this enough. While some school districts, such as Red Clay Consolidated and Christina, have already made this decision it is NOT too late. We need a massive rally against this. The only way to do this is for every single Delawarean who is opposed to this hasty decision to email their local school boards and urge them to reconvene and vote an affirmative and absolute NO to students returning next Monday for hybrid learning.

We have Covid cases increasing in Delaware. All the metrics put this in the red. The Governor and the Delaware DOE think changing the metrics will put students and staff in less danger. This is absolutely ridiculous. We have two things going on here folks: 1) We don’t know how much spread occurred due to the holidays, and 2) There is the potential of the new strain reaching Delaware and causing further spread. NOW IS NOT THE TIME GOVERNOR CARNEY AND YOU KNOW IT. We can all agree that students are going to lose time and instruction this year. It has already happened. Growth this year is already a joke because of all this. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. It is January, halfway through the school year. IT IS NOT SAFE YET. We need more vaccinations and for the number of cases and deaths in Delaware to go down. We aren’t Mississippi Governor Carney and you know this.

For those reading this, please spread and share to every single person you know in this state. School district Boards of Education and charter school boards MUST be notified immediately to stop this insanity. THIS NEEDS TO HAPPEN TODAY.

My son’s school district, Capital, is meeting tonight. I submitted the following public comment to them:

Good morning,

I am writing to inform you that I am vehemently opposed to any decision that would put Capital School District students into hybrid learning beginning January 11th.  It is my fervent hope the Capital School District Board of Education votes against it as well.  Delaware Governor John Carney and the Department of Education have changed the metrics so much that it would seem possible for students to return in a hybrid environment.  The bare truth is that the original metrics, designed to help save lives, are firmly in the red categories.  While we could debate the reasoning behind the changes in the metrics the end result is the same- more people in Delaware could potentially die.  Covid numbers are on a massive increase in Delaware.  And we don’t know the true numbers based on the holidays yet.  With the potential of the new strain, which has put England under lock-down yet again, reaching Delaware, it is a time to be cautious rather than hasty.  We must not bow to the whims of Governor Carney and the Delaware DOE.  We need to look at the benefit of our students, teachers, staff, and citizens of Dover and save lives.  Please vote no on students returning January 11th for hybrid learning and keep remote learning in place until it is safer for students to return.

This article from December 28th in Forbes says it all:

Early in the pandemic, people observed that children didn’t get sick as readily as adults. Children were tested much less often than adults. Asymptomatic spread was unknown or uncertain. Studies focused on sickness in schools rather than transmission, and they suggested that keeping schools open had few costs.

But this is wrong. A recent article in the German magazine Spiegel International details an Austrian study that shows schoolchildren are infected at the same rates as adults and quite efficiently spread Covid-19 to others. There are now many other studies that draw similar conclusions. A review of studies from a group of scientists and doctors in Sweden (disclosure: my brother is among them) links to 25 studies from around the world and provides summaries of each. The science is clear: Children become infected and spread covid-19 to their parents, grandparents, siblings, and next-door neighbors. Those infected get sick. Some have long-term complications. Some die. Opening schools costs lives. If you believe in science, you have to accept even uncomfortable truths.