I am a proud parent of a son with Tourette's Syndrome and several other co-morbidities. I write on this blog to educate other parents so they know a bit more about not only special education, but all the really bad things that are happening with public schools in Delaware and the USA. We are all in this together, and if our children aren't able to advocate for themselves it's up to us parents! We need to stop letting companies run our schools, and demand our children get a proper education. Our Departments of Education in our states have become weak with fear from the bullying US DOE, and we need to take back our schools!
It’s time. My writing itch has always been there but I have felt trapped in Delaware. Not that Delaware is a horrible place but I was too confined just writing about education and politics in the First State. I still care about education and politics in Delaware. I’ve lived here just about 17 years. That is over a third of my life. But change is in the wind.
I want to write about everything. Hopes and dreams. Creative writing. My reaction to news. Sometimes making news. Entertainment. Poetry. Memories. History. Places. Things. All of it. Infinite possibilities about what makes life exceptional.
I may change the name if people hate it. Let me know!
The Delaware Charter School Network is in active lobbying mode to stop Delaware charter school teachers from receiving a raise that all public school district teachers will be receiving this year due to a surplus in the Delaware state budget.
State Rep. Kim Williams reported this shocking news on her Facebook account today with this quote from Delaware Public Media:
Some JFC members also offered statements about future budget issues, such as ensuring any salary increases for state employees also include charter school workers, something State Rep. Kim Williams (D-Stanton/Newport) says the charter schools are lobbying against. Charter school employees, which are public schools, will receive the one-time monies but the charter school employees that qualify for this raise may not see the salary increase, that will be up to the individual charter school leadership. The only two charters that will definitely see their increase will be Charter School of Wilmington and Odyssey Charter School, both charter schools voted to unionize and have contract language ensuring they received the state salary increase.Top House leadership has committed to sponsoring a bill with me in January to correct this wrong and make sure all of our state employees receive a raise when given.
It sounds to me like the other charter schools in Delaware should unionize along with Charter School of Wilmington and Odyssey Charter School. Teachers deserve their fair share no matter where they work. They are state employees, period.
The Delaware Charter School Network, led by the education Queen of lobbying at Legislative Hall is Kendall Massett. They are a lobbyist organization. They are not designed to be pro-teacher but pro-charter school. There is a huge difference. They cater to the whims of the charter school leaders and not the staff at charters. By attempting to get this funding blocked they are practically inviting charter school teachers and staff to unionize. The upcoming school year, from what I’m hearing, will see more charter schools in Delaware joining the teachers union and it is about time!
Updated, 1:23pm, June 10th: Senate Bill 155 has been pulled from the Delaware Senate Agenda and will not get a vote today.
Senate Bill #155 is on the ready list for the Delaware Senate tomorrow. This very atrocious bill undermines the spirit of the Freedom of Investigation Act and serves no other purpose than to protect public bodies who want to keep things hidden from public consumption. My issue with the bill is this section:
It amends the examination and copying of public records provisions of FOIA to alleviate the significant time, resources, and financial burdens imposed on public bodies by FOIA requests that are unreasonable, disruptive, or abusive. This Act allows a public body to deny a request from a requestor whose intent is to disrupt the essential functions of the public body or abuse the process and allows a public body to charge administrative fees for all reviews, including the review and redaction of information exempt from FOIA. The review and redaction of information is often performed by non-attorney staff in conjunction with necessary review for exceptions and exclusions.
The most disturbing part is the revelation that redactions are performed by non-attorney staff. Which means public bodies have always had the ability to redact information as they see fit. That isn’t a freedom of information. That is cherry-picking what you want the public to see.
Who determines a requestor’s intent? If the public body is doing things that are not essential functions and someone wants to make this publicly known you better believe that public body is going to deny the request. The assumption that public bodies are innocent 100% of the time is blatantly false. Which is a huge part of why FOIA law exists in the first place.
Administrative fees. Some already charge those fees. I filed a petition against the Delaware Department of Education in 2015. Attorney General Matt Denn’s office ruled the DOE grossly overcharged their administrative fees in my FOIA request. Who determines what a proper rate is?
The lead sponsor of this bill, Senator Kyle Evans Gay, leads the committee that is allowing the bill for a vote. In an opinion letter published in today’s News Journal, the Senate Education Committee was accused of violating FOIA by not posting their committee meeting in the designated time-frame. Senate Bill 130, which involves allowing public school coaches to coach student athletes for pay during off-season time, is also sponsored by Senator Gay. How can a Senator so callously destroy the fabric of FOIA with one Senate Bill while allowing a FOIA violation on another bill of hers? This is not what FOIA is about Senator Gay. Whoever is pushing you on this definitely got to you. But the kicker is the fact it was scheduled this during a time when you knew the Public Integrity Commission (PIC) wouldn’t be able to make it, as written in the News Journal opinion letter:
The PIC attempted to participate in the state Senate Legislative Oversight & Sunset Committee’s meeting on SB 130, which was held on May 18. However, the meeting notice and agenda were not posted on the General Assembly’s website until approximately one hour before its unusual scheduling on a Tuesday, rather than the standing Wednesday meeting. In addition to the lack of meaningful notice, the meeting was scheduled on the same day and time as our monthly Commission meeting, precluding our ability to participate.
That is just dirty politics Senator Gay. Allowing your bill to come before a committee during a time when you know the chief opposition to it won’t be able to attend is not just bad form, it is shady beyond belief.
And for the record, I definitely agree with the Public Integrity Commission on the absolute favoritism that will occur if Senate Bill 130 passes. It will definitely give an unfair advantage to Delaware student athletes who cannot afford off-season coaching.
The PIC issued an opinion on this matter in 2003. The Delaware General Assembly wants to overturn that ruling now. Why now? So coaches can get more money. But the consequences are obvious as the PIC Chair Andrew Manus wrote in his opinion letter:
The reasoning behind the decision was that paying a school coach for extra coaching sessions may lead a coach to favor those students at the expense of those who cannot afford such luxuries.
All the sponsors on Senate Bill 130 are Democrats. Some of which I believed were Progressive in their thoughts. In addition, all the FOIA destroyers on Senate Bill 155 are Democrats. What are they thinking? Do they not believe in transparency? Do they not realize the damage they are doing to public trust with both of these bills?
I urge every single Delawarean to email your State Rep and State Senator and urge them to vote NO on both of these bills. Senate Bill 130 is not up for a vote yet but that should not dissuade you from contacting your elected officials. Senate Bill 155 will get a vote tomorrow. Even with Senator Gay’s amendment dictating the public body must give a reason to deny a FOIA request it is still a recipe for corruption and fraud by the public.
Delaware is well-known for being horrible with transparency and violating the public trust. Are we going to allow our legislators to further erode that trust? I have never met Senator Gay and I don’t know much about her. But I don’t like these two bills at all. They both harken to a time that any true Democrat should be long past. We are better than this Senator Gay and I urge you to pull both these bills and table them. SB 130 is a special interest bill, lobbied by the DIAA to get coaches more money. SB 155 is a despicable and ugly bill. You can do better than this Senator Gay. And so can the rest of your Senate colleagues by voting NO on SB 155.
Smyrna School District Superintendent Patrik Williams found himself in the hot seat yet again. This time it was with the Delaware Public Employment Relations Board.
In a case filed by the Smyrna Educators Association (SEA) against the Smyrna School District Board of Education concerning payment for part-time custodians during the Covid shutdown in Spring of 2020, the Relations Board ultimately ruled in the district’s favor but not without completely blasting Williams communications to the SEA. It appears Williams’ obnoxious and arrogant way of communicating in any situation knows no bounds. Not only does he lambasted the union over the situation but he doesn’t hide a direct threat to them either. As quoted from the final decision, rendered 2/15//2021:
The tenor of the Superintendent’s emails to the union representatives was unusually caustic.
In the last paragraph of the Superintendent’s last email he states he will not be bashful about sharing his opinion of SEA and DSEA”where (he) travels” and warns that “we won’t forget”.
Williams has been under fire for the past six months due to Twitter comments made last summer and fall concerning controversial comments made in tweets. As a result, State Senator Dave Lawson and several Smyrna citizens have led an effort for the belligerent Superintendent to resign. While Lawson and I don’t see eye to eye on many issues this is one I have to get behind.
I will say this to teachers and staff at the Smyrna School District: Now is the time to unify. I know there are more stories to tell about Patrik Williams. It is time to make your voices heard. It is time to put this man in his place and either force him to resign or have the board terminate him. If enough of you make enough noise the fear and intimidation he has placed in your hearts will no longer have power.
I have posted several articles about Williams’ unprofessional demeanor over the years, stemming back to his time to his role as Assistant Superintendent to the present. In my opinion he is a ticking time-bomb with no ability to filter himself or to deal with anything in a professional manner. He has impacted the lives of district students, teachers, staff and parents unnecessarily and his conduct in no way is fitting for a district Superintendent.
The below document is a must-read for ALL Delaware teachers, staff, students, and parents. If you have been on the fence about Williams this may just tip you over to the side of right. If you have been experiencing the same thing in districts or charters aside from Smyrna you need to know you have a voice. We are at a tipping point in Delaware education and this kind of behavior should not be tolerated at any level.
At the last school board meeting on Wednesday, February 17th for the Smyrna Board of Education, Diane Eastburn gave a public comment for the ages. While announcing she would be running for the open seat on the school board, Eastburn trashed the district. Eastburn is a frequent advocate for students with disabilities in IEP meetings. She also served on the IEP Task Force led by former Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn in 2014. Eastburn’s public comment was cut off due to a three minute restriction but she posted the rest in various Facebook groups yesterday.
I am informing you that I am filing the needed papers to run for the open school board position – because change is in our futures. Some of you, may spread more lies, you may continue to challenge my character and good name with lies, but you will no longer get a free pass. I will start challenging legally those who attempt to damage my reputation, good name, and my standing in the community with lies. I may not win, that’s okay, because at least the dirty laundry and lies that have glued this district together will be out for the community to judge you all! I am not done – I have just begun to fight for our students – staff – parents – taxpayers and community members. If that makes me a trouble maker – so be it!
Back in August, I was watching the board meeting. I have been on the receiving end of hateful, hurtful, and flat out lies that have been written about me and false statements made about my character and integrity by so called leaders of this district. However, I was one of the few – who when a public apology was made, I accepted the fact a lesson was learned and a wrong was righted. I was wrong.I am done sitting in board meeting after board meeting where the public questions or statements go unanswered! Where the administration tramples over students and parents’ rights unchallenged and uncorrected. I am tired of staff and students being mistreated and bullied. I am tired of staff complaining they are forced to teach ideology instead of teaching students core subjects.
I now speak to you as a tax paying member of this district who is tired. Tired of an apology out one side of the mouth while changing platforms to continue to attack people. I am tired of leadership who says – do as I say not as I do! I am tired of fake IEP meetings, I am tired of faked documents, I am tired of altered documents, I am tired of fake data or no data. I am tired of illegal change of placements made to students. I am tired of parents being told security cameras purchased with taxpayers dollars are private property of the district and a parent can not view their child’s attack – yet those very same cameras are used by the district to go after students. I am tired of staff that lives in fear – of the wrath of one PERSON! I AM TIRED OF BEING LIED TO AND HAVING TO GET PROOF OF THE LIES THROUGH FOIA REQUESTS!
You want truth – how about an elementary age child who was falsely accused of being arrested by this administration, then months after being informed the accusations were false by the police – a staff member telling a parent not to allow her child to play with that kid because he had been arrested! You want truth – after reporting discrimination against a student with special needs on a field trip by the hosts of the events (yes this has happened more than once) – you send more kids to the very same people after it was reported to the administration and the school board. You want truth – how about failing to report legally required restraint reports to DOE & parents! You want truth – how about an elementary child man-handled by administration! (I believe this is as far as I got to read the rest was to be as follows) You want truth – how about a student restrained for over 40 minutes because he stepped on a staffers foot when they walked past – NO IMMINENT DANGER TO STAFF – STUDENTS OR SELF! PURE RETALIATION! Yet – unreported to DOE! You want truth – I am tired of students’ rights violated – I am tired of parents’ rights violated – like when parents are NOT given writeups by administration – then told they can not appeal a punishment without the needed document. I am tired of a superintendent (administrator) refusing to meet with a parent to resolve a matter – then he cries to others that I don’t follow the chain of command! You want truth – how about a child removed from a building and the parent not contacted for hours – then lied to about who witnessed it! You want truth – I don’t think so – because that clearly shows the total incompetence and bad behaviors of this administration and board!
That is certainly one way to announce your candidacy for a local school board race! As of press time there was no filings announced by the Delaware Department of Elections for the Smyrna School District Board of Education board seat.
On February 5th, led by Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams and State Rep. William Bush, 46 out of the 62 Delaware state legislators wrote Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting requesting Delaware seeks a waiver from the United States Department of Education in implementing the state assessment in Delaware for the 2020-2021 school year. The test was waived last year due to the Covid pandemic. I highly salute all of these legislators on BOTH sides of the aisle for doing this!!! When it comes to education, our legislators need to put away partisan politics and do what is right for kids and this is an awesome way to do it. Of course, Bunting needs to acquiesce to their request and that has yet to be determined. And then the United States Department of Education needs to grant those waivers. Still a lot to happen here with a small window of opportunity for the Smarter Balanced Assessment to go away this year. But the legislators stepped up!
February 5, 2021
The Hon. Dr. Susan Bunting Delaware Department of Education 401 Federal St. Dover, DE 19901
RE: U.S. Department of Education ESEA/ESSA assessment waiver request
Dear Secretary Bunting:
It has recently come to our attention that the U.S. Department of Education has been accepting applications from State Education Agencies to waive certain requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), with respect to student assessments. It also has been reported that U.S. DOE sent correspondence to all state chief school officers in recent weeks advising the extension of the waiver application period beyond Feb. 1, and that several of your colleagues in other states have already availed themselves of this opportunity to request a standardized testing waiver for this school year.
We strongly urge you to request an ESEA/ESSA assessment waiver for the state of Delaware as soon as practicable and without delay.
As you well know, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on Delaware educators, administrators, school support personnel, students and their families. Although U.S. DOE may waive the testing requirement for accountability purposes, it is also our firm belief that the state should forego plans to implement the shortened Smarter Balanced Assessment as indicated by your department during the Jan. 26 meeting of the ESSA Advisory Committee. Any attempt to administer required standardized tests in the current school environment would create an extreme hardship for our school communities and jeopardize the fairness and equity of the testing structure itself. Even if our talented education professionals were able to create a testing plan that would comport with the health and welfare restrictions in place to control the spread of the virus, the resulting testing data would almost certainly be flawed for a variety of reasons.
We believe the time required for testing could be better spent by educators in continuing to provide instruction and screen students at the district and building level to inform summer intervention programs and prepare for instruction in the fall.
We know there is no guarantee that a request for a waiver would be granted, however we also know that U.S. DOE is more likely to facilitate waivers if a significant number of states make similar requests. If you wish to discuss this matter further, please don!t hesitate to contact us directly. Thank you for your kind attention.
Kimberly Williams State Representative, 19th District Chair, House Education Committee
William Bush State Representative, 29th District House Education Committee
Peter C. Schwartzkopf State Representative, 14th District Speaker of the House
John L. Mitchell State Representative, 13th District House Majority Whip
Valerie Longhurst State Representative, 15th District House Majority Leader
Nnamdi Chukwuocha State Representative, 1st District Vice-Chair, House Education Committee
Debra Heffernan State Representative, 6th District House Education Committee
Sherae’a Moore State Representative, 8th District House Education Committee
Kevin S. Hensley State Representative, 9th District House Education Committee
Sean Matthews State Representative, 10th District House Education Committee
Michael Ramone State Representative, 21st District House Education Committee
Michael F. Smith State Representative, 22nd District House Education Committee
Edward S. Osienski State Representative, 24th District House Education Committee
John A. Kowalko State Representative, 25th District House Education Committee
Eric Morrison State Representative, 27th District House Education Committee
Sean M. Lynn State Representative, 31st District House Education Committee
Ruth Briggs King State Representative, 37th District House Education Committee
Laura V. Sturgeon State Senator, 4th District Chair, Senate Education Committee
S. Elizabeth Lockman State Senator, 3rd District Majority Whip Vice-Chair, Senate Education Committee
David P. Sokola State Senator, 8th District President Pro Tempore of the Senate Senate Education Committee
Bryan Townsend State Senator, 11th District Majority Leader Senate Education Committee
Sherry Dorsey Walker State Representative, 3rd District
Gerald L. Brady State Representative, 4th District
Kendra Johnson State Representative, 5th District
Larry Lambert State Representative, 7th District
Jeffrey N. Spiegelman State Representative, 11th District
Krista Griffith State Representative, 12th District
Franklin D. Cooke State Representative, 16th District
Melissa Minor-Brown State Representative, 17th District
David Bentz State Representative, 18th District
Paul S. Baumbach State Representative, 23rd District
Madinah Wilson-Anton State Representative, 26th District
William J. Carson State Representative, 28th District
Andria L. Bennett State Representative, 32nd District
Lyndon D. Yearick State Representative, 34th District
Ronald E. Gray State Representative, 38th District
Daniel B. Short State Representative, 39th District House Minority Leader
Timothy D. Dukes State Representative, 40th District House Minority Whip
WDEL followed up on their story about the Capital School District and Dover High School today. It piggybacked off the article I put up a week ago which mainly dealt with the Capital Educators Association’s role in the Covid/ADA accommodations debacle. In the original article from WDEL there were extensive quotes from Capital’s Human Resources Director Mary Cooke and the CEA Union President, Lisa Whiteman. For the new article, instead of Cooke, Interim Capital Superintendent Dr. Sylvia Henderson was given the microphone. As well, Whiteman “declined comment” and instead free reign was given to the Capital UniServ Director Mike Hoffman who is employed by the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA).
Dan Shelton had a bad month in January. Not only did he have to deal with teachers holding a press conference against school reopenings during a board meeting but he also compared those teachers to the Capitol rioters. For the last part Shelton earned a Bad Apple award for January, 2021 from the Badass Teachers Association. In addition, Christina board members Claire O’Neal and Keeley Powell won the award as well.
Christina School District Board Members Claire O’Neal, Keeley Powell and Superintendent Dan Shelton in Wilmington, Delaware compared educators peacefully exercising their first amendment rights in concern for safety to a violent, ignorant, unlawful mob of insurrectionists.
I would say congrats to Shelton, O’Neal, and Powell but I think the award speaks for itself. Shame on them. Winning friends all over the place, aren’t you Dan?
The Badass Teachers Association has a mission statement and they are my kind of people!
We, the members of the Badass Teachers Association, reject racially and socially oppressive profit-driven education reform and through our advocacy demand:
Equitable student driven policies and systems that are also equitably funded to meet the needs of ALL students and schools, that include highly qualified and certified educational professionals
Elimination of high stakes standardized testing as we recognize its roots in racism, arbitrary cut scores, and value-added accountability systems used to evaluate children, educators and their schools
Educator evaluations designed to grow professional practice, without punitive measures
Protection of balanced, student-centered curriculum which includes, but is not limited to, Performing and Visual Arts, Physical Education, Library, World Languages, Ethnic Studies developed with/by local affinity groups, Career and Technical Education, Unstructured Play and Recess
Developmentally sound best practices and programs which augment the experiences of students with special needs, LGBTQIA+ students, students with complex trauma, students who experience institutional racism, students marginalized for socio-economic status, immigrants and those learning the English language
Educator-designed policies, standards, and curricula that are supported by peer-reviewed research, as well as input from experienced classroom experts that includes voices from BIPoC, LGBTQIA+, and dis/abled educator communities.
Academic freedom for educators and students, thus ensuring the best possible learning, teaching, and working environment
Excellent public education for all students, regardless of economic status, race, nationality, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or dis/ability
School cultures rooted in equitable practices including the hiring and retention of BIPoC educators, that honor the culture and history of all students and strive to heal and transform past and current oppressive systems
Safe and equitable technology – recommended screen time and content limits ensuring safe privacy practice for students and educators
Safe, clean, well-maintained, uncrowded professional workplace environments, free from bullying and harassment of students and educators as well as freedom from threats of violence
Collective bargaining rights, due process, and job protections
Legislation that unequivocally directs accountability and transparency for charter schools, and maintains the vision of public funds for public institutions, disqualifying vouchers, rebates, and tax credits that divert those funds
Democratically elected school boards that solicit and openly work to include the input of the entire community they serve
It appears a few school districts in Delaware are having website issues. Both Capital and Indian River’s websites are showing an error message. Sussex Tech’s opens but you have to log in as a staff member. I reached out to the Capital School District on their Facebook page and they responded with the following:
Our website provider is experiencing a nationwide outage. You may see multiple school district websites not working this morning. They are working to resolve it.
I did a check on ALL the district websites and those three were the only ones that aren’t working. This has been going on since late last evening. Hope the problem gets fixed!
Updated, 10:31am: Capital’s Office of Technology reached out to me and gave the same explanation but did want to add that this does not affect the platforms used for teachers and staff so this will not affect instruction. The websites are still down as of this writing.
The Learning Disabilities Association of Delaware (LDADE) is holding a seminar for parents on February 10th, 2021 from 7:00-8:30pm. The speakers will include Fern Goldstein (President of LDADE), Maureen Keeney (former Delaware State Education Association President), and Caitlin McAndrews (Special Education Attorney from McAndrews, Mehalick, Connolly, Hulse, and Ryan P.C.). Having been to these they are an excellent resource for parents wondering if their child might have a learning disability. They are also good for parents of already identified special education students. It is always important for parents to know everything they can about the law with special education. Whether a student is on an IEP or a 504 Plan, there are laws attached to these programs. Parents are always the best advocate for their children!
Multiple sources are telling me that Patrik Williams, Superintendent of the Smyrna School District, will be resigning before the district’s special board meeting tonight. Rumors are also circulating around staff members crafting a vote of no confidence in Williams’ ability to lead the district.
This is following the events of last week when State Senator David Lawson connected with folks in the district asking for Williams to resign. Tonight their Board of Education will meet in a special meeting with the sole item on their agenda:
SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT Central Office 6:00 P.M. The Board will entertain a motion to adjourn to Executive Session to address a personnel issue. ***This issue arose suddenly and cannot be deferred to a regular meeting of the Board. It is anticipated the Board will adjourn from Executive Session and not return to Open Session.
Updated, 10:34pm: There has been no word about anything from the Smyrna Board of Education’s Executive Session tonight. If Williams did resign I’m guessing it would be announced tomorrow. If he didn’t it will be business as usual… until the next board meeting.
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 email@example.com
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!
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: [External] Concerns re: employee rights/covid protocols re: ADA accommodations
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 <email@example.com> Subject: [External] RE: Concerns re: employee rights/covid protocols re: ADA accommodations
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.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>; email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.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 <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org <email@example.com> 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.
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 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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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!