Capital School District, located in Dover, DE, will be going out for a referendum next year to help build two new middle schools in the district. Tomorrow night the district will be holding a public forum at Central Middle School to get public input on their plans for the district. Tonight, Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton sent the following message out to parents in the district: Continue reading
A month ago, I posted an article about an In-School Alternative Program the Capital School District Board of Education would be voting on at upcoming board meeting. When I read the contract and heard the board audio recording, I had several questions about the program. I do understand the Christina School District runs the same program but I had some concerns for it in Capital’s middle schools and high school. Continue reading
The Capital School District Board of Education will discuss a draft of a Certificate of Necessity tonight. Included in this draft is a master plan to essentially rebuild the district in various ways over the next five years. Overall, the cost for these changes would be around $360 million over a long period of time. For local taxpayers, the capital costs (for the new buildings and renovations) would be around $130 million. The district has not calculated what this could cost taxpayers in school taxes.
What the Capital plan does not include are any plans for an operational referendum. These types of referenda give a local school district more funding for the local share of operational costs. Many districts include an operational referendum with a capital one.
It has been over a decade since Capital went out for a referendum. They are actually two years ahead of another district in terms of time between referenda.
Capital is unique with their middle schools. They have two middle schools. One covers grades 5-6 and the other 7-8. Many citizens in Capital expressed a desire to see their middle schools have the traditional grades of 6-8. This plan would grant that desire.
The caveat to all this is the Delaware Department of Education approving this Certificate of Necessity. Capital applied for it last year but it was denied. The state does not just approve any application. There is a finite bucket of costs for these type of plans. Currently, Appoquinimink and Cape Henlopen school districts are using a lot of those funds. The DOE’s number one priority when approving these type of plans is student capacity. While Capital’s student population has not increased at the rates of districts such as Appoquinimink, Cape Henlopen, and Indian River, they also house many of the programs for students with disabilities that have complex needs for all of Kent County. Those populations, which require smaller classroom sizes, have accounted for much of the growth in the district.
The plan is very detailed. When all is said and done, Capital is hoping to have the following:
Two middle schools covering 6th-8th grade. One will be focused on the Arts while the other will be focused on Skilled and Technical Trades. Plans call for this to be on Pat Lynn Dr., the site of the old Dover High School.
Elementary schools would carry students in Grades 1-5. Pre-K and Kindergarten would get new buildings.
The current East Dover E.S. would be demolished and in its place will be an Early Childhood Center. Down the road they may put a new elementary school on that campus.
Fairview E.S. would be demolished. Both Fairview and East students would move to the current location of Central Middle School. This building would be rebranded as Elementary School at Central.
At the site of their current 5-6 middle school, William Henry, this would become the Kent County Community School and the site of the Kent County Secondary Intensive Learning Center. Currently, the district is leasing a building for KCCS at a cost of $330,000 a year.
Down the road plans include renovating the un-renovated part of Booker T. Washington E.S., Towne Point E.S., Hartly E.S., and expanding Dover High School.
This is what Capital School District is hoping to look like by 2033:
These are very long-range plans going into the next couple of decades.
The full draft can be found here:
The Capital School District Board of Education will be holding a special board meeting on August 8th. Among the few items for consideration is a contract with Pathways of Delaware to run an in-school alternative program in some of Capital’s schools. The program is meant to prevent expulsions where students are sent to alternative schools.
Whenever I see outside contracts like this, my very first thought concerns students who have special education. Any contractor would have to follow the student’s IEP just as any district employee would. This program is not for every student. It is for students who are simply unable to function within a school for very serious behavior issues. Alternative placement is very expensive for any district or charter school.
What are your thoughts on this proposal? In reading the proposal from Pathways of Delaware, they included endorsements from the Christina School District. Do other districts have this program?
Capital School District managed to hold off a referendum for the past eight years but that will change in 2019 as they will be going out for an operating referendum.
According to their Chief Financial Officer, Adewunmi Kuforiji, at their March board meeting, the district will hold this referendum next year. The Capital Board of Education discussed placing school safety monitors (constables) in all of their elementary schools, their 5-6 middle school and hiring a Supervisor to oversee the 19 constables that will be in all their schools. The price tag for adding these constables? Over $400,000. Some of the funds would come from federal cafeteria funds. Since the state does not give that specific funding, the rest would come out of the district’s local funds. This would be in addition to the five constables in place now, three at Dover High School and two at Central Middle School which serves students in grades 7-8. The board passed the resolution with three yes votes (two board members were absent).
Board President Sean Christensen asked Kuforiji several times if this action would push the district closer to an operating referendum. Kuforiji responded it would not as they have room in their FY2018 budget for this along with their reserves. But he did say, in no uncertain terms, more than once, the district would have an operating referendum in 2019. He did not say when in 2019.
Nine years is a long time to go without a referendum. Their last referendum helped to build the new Dover High School and the new district office.
Many in Delaware feel school referenda are outdated and refuse to support them. Others feel they are a necessary beast in education funding. Education funding has been a huge topic this year. Property assessments in Delaware are severely outdated and based on formulas from the 1970s and 1980s. The state’s education budget has grown over the years but it bounces from education cuts to new initiatives. In my opinion, it is a very disproportionate system that does not focus on the students but rather the school staff and administrators. With the exception of special education (and even that is messed up for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade), no extra funding is given based on student needs (poverty, English language learners). Some support a weighted funding formula while others support adding to the current unit-based system. Some feel no extra money should go towards public education and actually support school vouchers where the money follows the student, even if it goes to a private school. How will Dover residents vote next year when their district makes the ask for more taxpayer money?
For many students in Capital School District, their building leaders will look different in August. Capital is moving Principals and Associate Principals around as a part of their Strategic Planning Process.
For Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Dr. Paige Morgan will replace Dale Brown who resigned/retired earlier this year. William Henry Middle School will look very different. Charles Sheppard, the current Principal of Towne Point Elementary, will be the new Principal while Linda Daye will take on a role of Associate Principal, coming from Central Middle School. Current William Henry Middle School Principal Tori Giddens will take Sheppard’s spot at Towne Point. Current Associate Principal Lurleen Lumpkin will become an Associate Principal at Central Middle School taking Daye’s former spot.
I know a lot of these administrators and they are good people. I believe this is a positive step for Capital. Sometimes you need to mix things up a little!
According to a letter sent from Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, these changes are being made to help the district grow.
Capital School District has engaged much of the community in its Strategic Planning Process over the last 2 years. As part of that process, we are working to ensure we have opportunities for all staff members to learn and grow. We are also being very reflective on how we can advance the district.
As part of that reflective process, some administrative changes were identified. We believe that these changes will help everyone as we educate the whole child.
The Capital School District has mighty plans for the district! As part of their ongoing strategic plan, the district will discuss potential building and grade configurations at their board meeting this evening, beginning at 7pm.
While these plans are not set in stone, there is serious discussion about what the district will physically look like in the long run. Referendum haters may want to relax because the plans I am about to discuss are long-term and could take twenty years to reach the finale. But current plans call for sweeping building changes, grade configurations, and a new way of looking at middle school. The district began earnestly looking at these changes last fall and held staff and community forums earlier this month after a facility master plan was presented to the board.
With the proposed changes, two current elementary schools would disappear and another would be renovated. Fairview and Town Pointe Elementary Schools would be demolished and Dover East would get a new building. Both plans call for a potential expansion at Dover North. Where things get very interesting are the plans for the existing middle schools, William Henry and Central Middle. Central Middle would become an elementary school. Since William Henry is connected to Kent County Community School, the plan is to use room in William Henry to house a growing high-needs special needs population. This does not mean all special education students in the district would be going to this potential facility!
For the middle schools, they would be two separate schools but joined by a common area. Potential plans would called for shared resources between the two such as a cafeteria and large gym. But it would also allow the district to have Career-Technical education programs in one school and arts programs in another. But since the schools would be in the same location, it would be difficult for diversity issues to come up since they are both there. The district is looking at potential magnet programs in the future. The proposed site for the new middle schools would be on the property of the old Dover High School.
Those are the major changes. Other options call for an early childhood center attached to Dover East and potentially one next to Booker T. Washington Elementary School. Both of the potential options would call for what is known as a “Main Campus” which would house the expanded Kent County Community School, Booker T. Washington (which holds the district Delaware Autism Program inclusion program) and the proposed early childhood center. As well, other space in William Henry could house the Transition program for students with high needs between the ages of 18-21. The district now leases space in a building across from the Department of Education in Dover.
In terms of grade configurations, the plan is to have the following: early childhood centers would hold Pre-K to Kindergarten, elementary schools would hold 1st-5th grade, middle schools would have 6th-8th, and high school would be 9th-12th grades.
So how much is all of this going to cost? Probably millions and millions of dollars. But not all at once. The goal is to look at the projected growth of the district based on a capacity of 600 students in each elementary school, 750 in the middle schools, and 1,800 for the high school. Keep in mind, this is a twenty year plan. Things could very well change during the next two decades. Projections are good but you never know when a huge business could come to Dover or Kent County which could change all the numbers. But I like this plan. I like the idea of sharing resources at the middle school level. Having the “Main Campus” could also allow for that which could save the district tons of money. Of course, any new construction or renovation costs tons of money but everything old must one day become new!
As the above diagrams show, Hartly Elementary School, Dover South Elementary School and Dover North Elementary School would have the least amount of changes. The revamped district would actually have one less elementary school than present, but the populations in each school would change based on removing Kindergarten and adding 5th grade. As a citizen of Dover, this will definitely be one to watch! When the strategic plan process began last year I strongly advocated for changing the middle school grade configuration to what they are now proposing. To hear the plans in more detail, come on out to the board meeting at the district office!
Capital School District sure has changed in just two years. Back in 2014, their board was railing against the Smarter Balanced Assessment and fully supporting a parent’s right to opt their child out of the test. Flash forward to now, and their board will be discussing something called a “Balanced Scorecard.”
This balanced scorecard is five-year goals for the district. Some of the goals are good: getting behavior referrals down, more parent involvement, things like that. But then I wanted to vomit when I saw goals for Smarter Balanced proficiency. Keep in mind this is just a draft. The board hasn’t decided on this. I’m at their board meeting now. I thought their meetings started at 7:30 but I haven’t been here for a while so it looks like they changed it to 7:00. Otherwise I would have assuredly giving public comment based on what I’m writing in this. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test Delaware students have ever taken. Why in the name of public education is this district wanting to kiss the DOE’s ass and follow their own despicable goals based on standardized test scores?
What truly shocked me was a goal of “increasing students exiting out of special education”. Currently they are using a baseline of 31% but they want to increase this to 41% in five years. I’m sorry, how do you put a measurement on unique disabilities that affect an individual student? While it is certainly true that students can fall out of needing special education for varying reasons, that seems like a very high number. As well, decisions on special education are decided on by an IEP team, not based on a district-driven strategic plan. This is highly disturbing on many levels. The last thing special education students is a district trying to hit some arbitrary goal and pushing schools to have students get out of IEPs.
The board is discussing this now. Board member Matt Lindell asked why the district can’t use this as their accountability scorecard. Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton explained how the Delaware DOE has no intention of removing their own Delaware School Success Framework. That was the only question. Three members of this board sat in front of a very similar audience two years ago and proudly passed their opt out resolution. Now they seem like they have accepted the horrible status quo that is killing public education. The board is voting on the scorecard, passed 5-0. What the hell is wrong with this board? They are prescribing to the point of view of the Delaware DOE. They have fully accepted Common Core and Smarter Balanced as legitimate for their district.
In talking about technology in their ongoing Strategic Plan, there is a lot of talk about collaborating with BRINC and increasing ed tech in the classroom. More personalized learning. They have no clue, as they talk about building configuration, how they are signing their own district death warrant by signing on to all of this junk. The board is not asking questions about anything they should be asking. This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed this out with this board. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid Capital! You should be better than this! And I distinctly remember when Matt Lindell was President of the Board when they approved a letter to the General Assembly urging them to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, the opt out bill. They never overrode the veto, so why has this district not come forth with an opt out policy like Red Clay and Christina did?
Tomorrow night, the Capital School District Board of Education will discuss their legislative priorities for Fiscal Year 2017 at their monthly board meeting. There is a lot in this proposed draft. Some I agree with, and some I don’t. But if certain things get pushed by all school districts, we could see a controversial start to the 149th General Assembly in Delaware. Parents of students with disabilities could be spending a lot of time down at Legislative Hall in Dover.
In terms of burden of proof for who is implementing a special education student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), I believe it should be the school that has the burden of proof. If a parent challenges a school on these issues, how is a parent going to know what is happening inside the classroom? It should be the school’s responsibility to address these issues if it gets to the point where a parent files a complaint that leads to a due process hearing. There is one or two parents and maybe one advocate in an IEP meeting. The rest is school personnel. A parent cannot implement an IEP in a school setting. Only a school can. This is the law. But in Schaffer v. Weast, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Burden of Proof should lie with the aggravated party, be it a student or the student’s parents (or legal guardian) or the school district should they dispute an IEP. While the Supreme Court is the largest court in the land, I don’t agree with their decision in some respects, but I do recognize the authority of the United States Supreme Court.
The final ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2005 reads as this:
We hold no more than we must to resolve the case at hand: The burden of proof in an administrative hearing challenging an IEP is properly placed upon the party seeking relief. In this case, that party is Brian, as represented by his parents. But the rule applies with equal effect to school districts: If they seek to challenge an IEP, they will in turn bear the burden of persuasion before an ALJ. The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is, therefore, affirmed.
In a sense, any challenge a school district has about an IEP will invariably lead to the burden of persuasion. I would find it very difficult for a due process hearing to occur where a school district does not disagree with at least one part of a student’s IEP. And if it does happen, I would assume the parent lost or the Due Process Hearing Officer ruled based on applicable law that neither party got it right in terms of what should be in an IEP. In any of the steps that could eventually lead up to a Due Process Hearing, districts have to provide sufficient evidence to the parent about what is happening with special education. Parents do have considerable rights for their child’s special education. They can request an Independent Educational Evaluation, they can call for a manifestation determination hearing under certain criteria, and they can file an administrative complaint. Even though I disagree with the finding of the Supreme Court in 2005, it is the law and it is precedent. Therefore, I have to agree with the Capital Board of Education that Delaware should not have a law on the books that predates a Supreme Court decision (their law is from 1999).
With that being said, Delaware is well-known to have serious lapses or even outright denials of special education services for students with disabilities. Parents of children with special needs tend to be very passionate about what they want for their children. Many understand the law (sometimes better than the school districts) very well. I have always said never walk into an IEP meeting without an advocate and always record the meeting. What is said in IEP meetings can make or break a case in certain circumstances. Parents in Delaware should not be afraid to have their attorney subpoena a teacher as a witness. Senate Bill 33, passed in the Spring of 2015, allows for whistle-blower protection for any school staff in regards to special education. If there is one consistent thing I’ve heard from parents in Delaware, it is that teachers want to implement IEPs, but administrators have been the ones who stopped something for some reason. While this isn’t always the case, and sometimes it is both, never be afraid to play a card that could work out to your child’s best educational interest.
The other legislative priority for Capital deals with a Free and Appropriate Public Education. IDEA federal law states schools must provide children with disabilities a “basic” education without clearly defining what is meant by basic. Delaware law states schools must go beyond “basic”. I would argue that in Delaware’s current educational landscape, the push is for all students to go beyond “basic”. If Capital wants to have AP and honors classes, that goes beyond “basic”. You can’t sit there and say “all for some”. If you are going to be a school district that wants ALL students to succeed beyond just “basic”, you can’t pick and choose. Then Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn said it best at the first IEP Task Force meeting:
Children with disabilities are entitled to a Cadillac education, not a serviceable Chevrolet.
The trick is finding out what that “Cadillac education” is. I do not agree that this should be based on standards-based IEPs leading to higher proficiency on the state assessment. We all know students with disabilities fare the worst on these types of tests. We are failing all students if we continue this very bad charade of student success as measured by high-stakes testing.
In terms of the other legislative priorities in the below document, it is a no-brainer that our state needs to find a better way to fund education. The funding cuts from 2009 should have been restored a long time ago.
Last night, with a vote of 5-0, the Capital School Board voted to hire three armed constables at Dover High School. Using a model currently in use by Indian River School District, the board discussed the issue with members of the community as well as high school and district staff. All supported the measure with one exception: the Senior Class President. The pool of applicants would come from the Delaware State Police. Because of insurance and pension issues, the pool was limited. All were in agreement that hiring out-of-state would not be a wise decision.
One of the staff from the high school gave public comment indicating the current non-armed security guard company they utilize is highly ineffective and said it is like “throwing $40.000 off the roof”. He cited the bomb threat incident a few months ago that led to a student’s arrest. But he also indicated there was a huge fight on the football field as students were already trying to deal with the bomb threat. He indicated there are gangs at Dover High School. He said they are a small group of students who cause a lot of the problems.
The Senior Class President said many students were concerned with going from unarmed to armed persons in the school. He felt like it was a drastic leap to go from one situation to what he felt was extreme. He urged the board to find some middle ground. Many students, he stated, felt it wasn’t fair to have this in their school when they weren’t the ones causing the problems.
In an attempt to allay the class president’s fears concerning the presence of armed constables at the high school, board member Ralph Taylor, also a retired Dover Police Officer of 20 years, said a gun is a very last resort. He said the last thing an officer wants to do is use a gun, but it could mean a matter of many lives in a bad situation. Board member Sean Christiansen said he reached out to different stakeholders in the Indian River School District including their own constables, parents, teachers, and students to get their thoughts on the matter. All felt it improved school climate and led students to a feeling of safety within the district. Dover High School Principal Courtney Voshell had a survey where parents could rate how safe they felt their children were at Dover H.S. and over 93% felt the school was not safe the way the current safety program was set up.
The school will also retain their School Resource Officer from the Dover Police and the constables will not have arrest authority. They will be used to diffuse situations, but as it was explained, they will not punish students if they don’t have a bathroom pass. The contract will cost the district an additional $75,000 out of their budget which will be used from carryover funds from fiscal year 2016. Going forward, this would be a permanent part of the district budget. The constables will be employees of the district. They will receive professional development on all areas of school safety. The details are not flush yet, but there was discussion if the training would come from the current Indian River Constables or the Dover Police Department.
I asked the board how the recently passed Senate Bill 207, which would not mandate schools to call the police every time a physical assault occurs unless it is considered to be a crime, could affect this decision from a financial perspective. The bill, not yet signed by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, would give schools and parents discretion to contact law enforcement in those events. Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton said the current school resource officer currently deals with crimes in the school so it would not change things. Certain school crimes such as drugs or weapons, would still result in an arrest of a student. Shelton said another bill (the restorative justice bill) didn’t pass but if it does in the future it would give the district additional funding to deal with school climate issues. I also asked if the constables would receive special education training for students with disabilities. Shelton said they would, but not on an individual basis.
The board was so impressed with the Senior Class President, board member John Martin invited him back up to the podium to discuss student concerns in greater detail. Board member Christiansen invited him to come to every single board meeting. It was also conveyed they wanted him to be a part of the hiring committee for the constables and Christiansen told Voshell he expected him to be excused from class those days. Voshell jokingly answered that would be a summer school excuse which drew laughter from the audience.
The special board meeting, held just for the purpose of this decision, also had another activity. Elected board member Dr. Chanda Jackson was sworn in by board President Matthew Lindell.
While I wrote some very negative things about the district almost half an hour prior to this board meeting yesterday, most of which concerned their Strategic Plan and joining the BRINC Consortium, I felt this board meeting was a very honest and open discussion about a very serious issue. The district was honest about the issues happening at Dover High and didn’t try to whitewash the gang activity. After the meeting, I happened to be speaking to a board member from another district that deals with similar issues as Dover H.S. but they said their district would never openly talk about these kinds of issues in their schools. We both agreed that issues can’t be dealt with until they are acknowledged. So I salute the Capital School District and Board for tackling this decision.
As Capital joins the BRINC initiative in Delaware, they are moving forward with their Strategic Plans which will benefit corporations more than students. It is like they copied the playbook of the Delaware Dept. of Education, Rodel, and Governor Markell and called it a plan.
At their April board meeting, the Capital School District unanimously voted to apply to join the BRINC Consortium. BRINC is a personalized/blended learning group of districts in Delaware that involves spending money, potentially compromising student data privacy, and forcing teachers into a certain way of doing things. While the Rodel/DOE loving teachers jump all over this, some are opposed to it. But that doesn’t stop districts from convincing their boards to vote on joining. I gave public comment to the Capital Board of Education at their April meeting with my severe concerns with student data privacy and the loopholes that exist in state and federal law that allows student data to get out. But no one listens to the blogger when it comes to making important education decisions. Or consults with the parents of students in the district to let them know they will be changing how students are instructed going forward using lesson plans from teachers they aren’t familiar with. Despite my reservations, the Capital School District joined BRINC when they accepted an invitation to join the conglomerate of blended learning school districts in Delaware. WBOC reached out to Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton who said:
Dr. Dan Shelton, superintendent of Capital School District, said he is looking forward to using technology as a resource for teacher collaboration and sharing quality lesson plans.
For a district that is in the middle of a Strategic Plan that was supposed to be about increasing public stakeholder input for the district, this one sure fell under the radar. Without the ability for the public to comment on it, for parents to see what BRINC is, and their board passed the action item with no public announcement ahead of time and just a board agenda, Capital has shown once again they don’t really want public input, just the illusion of it. It’s starting to look like the ability of this board to provide the much-needed pushback against the DOE and corporate driven education “best practices” has faded with the departure of Kay Sass as the Board President last year. They had a bright moment when they wrote the Delaware General Assembly to support the House Bill 50 override AFTER they already voted on it, but aside from that, I see less transparency. I believe they think they are being more transparent by announcing things with their Strategic Plan, but I have no doubt in my mind most of the outcomes for this were already decided on a long time ago. In my eyes, transparency is announcing and soliciting community feedback before an item like BRINC is approved, not announcing it after the fact.
In the below press release from Capital, they announce what their strategies will be coming out of their Strategic Plan. While it all looks great to read, I have to wonder when they are going to announce their Early Learning Academy at Dover High School. But there are things in there that give me equal agita. Items italicized are in the report, while the red-penned comments are my own.
Students, Parents, Staff and Members of the community share through survey data a more positive reflection of our communication.
Survey data you say? Wasn’t that a very controversial insertion into House Bill 399 (the teacher evaluation bill), just last week?
Students report on surveys a more positive experience.
More surveys. From students. What are they going to judge? Administrators, the district, teachers? More information is needed. Far too much potential for bias resulting in discipline against teachers that may not even be verifiable.
Student grades, attendance and standardized test scores improve.
Grades and attendance I like. Standardized test scores…no. Just no. For the Capital Board to approve this and go along with it is a far cry from where they were a year ago. In fact, I would say it is a 180 degree shift.
Student behavior referrals decrease
HA! This is a district that has no consistency with this practice whatsoever. It was also notated at their April board meeting that Booker T. Washington Elementary School, under the leadership of Dr. Dale Brown, had NO discipline referrals for this school year up to that date. Not one student was sent to the Principal’s office. The board questioned this and I later asked Dr. Shelton about this who informed me this was correct reporting from the school.
10-15 year Facility Plan is accepted by community of stakeholders.
This is what I like to call a future referendum for capital costs!
The board gives unlimited freedom to the implementation team as long as staff complies with regulations and board policies and the approved process for defining and implementing strategic priority projects are met.
Big mistake! Very big mistake. A board needs to carefully watch things like this. If they give up their authority to stop this, aside from budget constraints or those that conflict with district policy, they are handing the reins over without any rationale behind that decision. This is just more erosion of local control from a local district. We will see more of this than we already have in our local school districts in Delaware, mark my words.
My biggest question surrounds who is actually on the implementation team which the press release, and to the best of my knowledge, and the Capital website don’t specify.
To give some background on their Strategic Plan, we have to go back to a year ago.
Prior Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas retired last year. As well, Assistant Superintendent Sandra Spangler and Director of Human Resources David Vaughn left as well. The Board of Education hired Dr. Dan Shelton last July. Shelton immediately embarked on his Strategic Plan. Shelton and Demosophia owner Andy Hegedus already knew each other. As former employees of Christina, they have connections all over the Newark area. Hegedus wrote his own biography on the website for Demosophia. He proudly lists himself as a Broad Fellow, which also has such distinguished members like Joey Wise, the former Superintendent of Christina, and Lillian Lowery, also a former Christina Superintendent and the former Delaware and Maryland Secretary of Education. Hegedus proudly boasts about participating in a plan to change the Christina schools as far back as 2006 in this document.
The subject of a new Strategic Plan for Capital first came up at the October 3rd Board Retreat. The only people in attendance at this Board Retreat were the five board members, Dr. Shelton, and Assistant Superintendent Sylvia Henderson. On their Board Docs, it clearly states in Item #2: “Capital School District Strategic Plan”. The board went into open session at 8am to discuss the Strategic Plan and then went into executive session the rest of the day to discuss contracts and personnel evaluations. At their next board meeting on 10/21/15, the minutes reflect the Retreat was seven and a half hours. In the same meeting, there is no action item to move forward with the contract for the Strategic Plan at all in the minutes. Under Delaware state law, if any state entity wants to obtain a vendor in an open bidding process, they must submit a Request for Proposal (RFP). Capital gave a very small window for their RFP. The public notice of the RFP went out on 10/30/15 and proposals were due by 11/13/15. The RFP seems to be custom designed for a company like Demosophia.
An article in the Dover Post from 1/6/16 went over the thinking behind the Strategic Plan:
“I don’t want our direction moving forward to be Dan Shelton’s direction. It needs to be the community’s direction” he said. “We’re going to use our teachers, our administrators, and members of the community who want to volunteer for different portions of this plan.”
However, this is a direct contradiction with a part of the Superintendent Update from the Board’s 10/21/15 meeting:
Reviewed long term facility plan which will be incorporated into Strategic Planning Process
If the Strategic Plan was truly represented by the community of the district, how could they have a long term facility plan that would be “incorporated” into the Strategic Plan?
In fact, we don’t hear about the Strategic Plan in the board minutes for Capital again until their 1/20/16 meeting when the board unanimously approves the $45,000 contract awarded to Demosophia. For a five year strategic plan, they sure didn’t leave a lot of time for companies to submit a bid. Almost as if it was already decided who would win the contract. However, they did have three top-ranked firms apply for the bid with a total of six interviews according to the audio recording from the 1/20/16 meeting. Board member John Martin asked how Demosophia was chosen as the vendor. Shelton explained they scored 301 on the rubric with the two other firms placing at 294 and 232 points. Board member Sean Christiansen said he was a member of the interview committee which included district staff, teachers, and members of the community. He said Demosophia means “wisdom of the people” which is exactly what they were looking for at their 10/3 Board Retreat.
In the Board Docs for this meeting, there is no contract listed as a document. In fact, the contract with Demosophia can not be found anywhere. The Awarded Contracts for the State of Delaware website only shows the award letter issued to Demosophia.
Hegedus doesn’t even talk about the Strategic Plan with the public until the 2/17/16 board meeting. So the board and Shelton knew about Demosophia’s involvement with the plan since at least 11/13/16 but this isn’t revealed until the 1/20/16 meeting. Two and a half months after the Board Retreat…
The forums were held at the end of February and the beginning of March with the one-on-one interviews taking place in March. The Capital Board was supposed to have a workshop on 4/6/16 to discuss how the Co-Labs would work, but it was abruptly canceled and never rescheduled. The Co-Labs began in April. In fact, Capital has been extremely transparent with the activities surrounding the Strategic Plan on their website.
In the Co-Labs, participants state their ideas and it is all thrown into a computer system which will generate the results based on the input. It actually records exactly what these “stakeholders” put forth. It then spews out a picture graph (as seen in the above document) of the most talked about ideas and forms a conclusion for what the main issue is. This already happened in April.
Hegedus’ company, Demosophia lists other companies as their “world-wide affiliates” based on “Structured Democratic Dialogue”. All of these companies participate in programs to “consciously design humanity’s future”. These affiliates, including companies such as Institutes for 21st Century Agoras, CWA Ltd. ( a link to their website doesn’t even work), and Future Worlds Center. These are all think tanks that want to guide a conversation toward pre-determined goals.
What are the goals of Dr. Dan Shelton’s ideal Capital School District? He wants to start a Pre-School Academy at Dover High School. Yes, you heard it right. All of the forums involving the public and this came up how much? Not much at all. So how does a Strategic Plan spit out this big idea? You have to look beyond the illusion crafted by the public forums. The true meat of this agenda lies in the Co-Labs and who was on the committee. 85% of the members were paid employees of the district. One board member, one student, one member of the district’s CBOC, two outside parents and one Dover High School PTO vice-president. However, in this document, it paints a very different picture of the representation on the committee. It overlaps many district employees as parents of students at certain schools. This is the trap.
Many task forces, committees, and advisory groups are stacked in the favor of those who want a desired outcome in Delaware. Other current or recent groups in Delaware include the Assessment Inventory Committee, the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025, and the Education Funding Improvement Committee. In fact, when the IEP Task Force was brought about by Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 in June, 2014 there were no outside parents on the group at first. I successfully rounded up people to contact their legislators to include that crucial representation on that task force. Their input was invaluable to the Task Force and helped to shape the final legislation brought about by Senate Bill #33 last year.
Make no mistake, this Strategic Plan is entirely Dan Shelton’s idea. It is comparable to many initiatives going on in Delaware right now. Governor Markell earmarked $11 million for early childhood programs in the state, but the final budget only had $9 million given to the initiative. Since the federal Race To The Top for pre-schools ended last year, the state is on the hook. The goal of these early childhood programs is to reduce the number of students who receive special education services in later years. I heard as much at a Senate Education Committee meeting this winter. That should not be a goal taking up $9 million state funding when things like the WEIC redistricting plan or basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade failed to be included in the final budget. But I firmly believe Capital wants to strike gold on this while the funding is there. By becoming the first district in Delaware to have universal pre-K services, they will increase attendance in the district which is their true objective. The district lost a ton of students the past few years. I don’t blame them for that, but the way in which they are going about it is not a long-term strategy if they don’t improve upon the basic issues in the district.
The district, like many others in Delaware, seem to have an overreliance on Response to Intervention as a cure-all for what ails the district. RtI is a failed experiment that has long since outlived its original purpose of helping children to read better. It is used as a substitute for special education services when nothing a school does or says can reduce a manifestation of a child’s neurological disability if they are not utilizing even the most basic of special education services. And if they start this at a pre-school level district-wide, I fear for the outcomes of these children. It’s almost like the district read the Every Student Succeeds Act, took the very worst parts inserted in there at the last minute by lobbyists for the corporate education reform machine, and came up with this Strategic Plan to implement it through the smoke and mirrors of community input. In looking at the picture graphs, I see very little in regards to actual improvement of the district’s special education efforts. The words special education are not even in there. I see a lot mentioned about the “whole child” and “community centers”. Many citizens in the district already feel our schools should not become all-day day-care centers. But this plan seems to call for that, using outside organizations to improve the educational outcome of students. While the district would be correct in stating they have a high population of students coming from low-income, poverty, and violence-prone communities or homes, they should not put themselves in the unsustainable position of becoming the go-to source for what affects children out of school. Wrap-around services should be directed from parents, not a school. If a parent is unable to provide those services for their child, there are already existing mechanisms by which a school district can help get those services for a child in the event of neglect. But our schools should not become a Band-Aid for students. Not to mention the already existing fears by many of state control over children and loopholes in student data privacy laws.
Full disclosure: I ran for the Capital School Board this year and I lost. I bear no ill will towards the district or the board for that outcome. In fact, I’m glad I lost and I certainly want to wish Dr. Chanda Jackson the best of luck as she is sworn in at a special board meeting tonight at their district office at 7pm. I’m quite sure the district will say BRINC is the best thing for student outcomes and will come up with some fancy way of saying so. Of that I have no doubt. What I doubt is the ability of the board to question these things anymore and just goes along with whatever Dr. Shelton wants. But the board lost a key player when former President Kay Sass resigned last year. I thought Matt Lindell was the voice of sanity on this board, but I fear I misjudged him. And who will pay for all this? The citizens of the district, that’s who. And as the Christina School District will be knee-deep in the Demosophia think-tank way of doing things with their own contract in the fall, Capital will be ahead of the game showing the residents of Dover what the eventual price tag for these plans are.
At the Capital School District Board of Education meeting tonight, the vendor for their Strategic Plan, Demosophia, presented a white paper on the plan. Their findings were based on forums held with the public as well as a series of one-on-one interviews and small group discussions with different stakeholders in the district: teachers, administrators, board members, students, parents, and citizens. The next part of the Strategic Plan is co-labs. With these, a diverse set of stakeholders will convene for all-day sessions on 4/28 and 4/29 to formulate a definitive plan for the district which will be presented to the Board of Education next month.
Below is the white paper. One thing to keep in mind is the data the Delaware Department of Education put together from the IDEA Parent Surveys sent out last year. Recently, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn encouraged all parents of students with an IEP to participate in the survey rather than the random number sent out by the DOE.
It doesn’t just happen in charter schools. According to WBOC, former Dover High School teacher Brian Ogbin gave himself up to the Dover Police last Friday and was charged with theft under $1500 and unlawful use of a payment card under $1500. So how does it work that this guy gets arrested for theft under $1500 but charter school leaders and employees from Family Foundations Academy, Academy of Dover, and Providence Creek Academy get away with stealing funds in the five to six digits and NO arrests have been made? It has been over nine months since the State Auditor report came out on Academy of Dover.
Ogbin resigned as a teacher with the Capital School District at their February board meeting. According to the article, the theft of funds using the debit card and funds taken from a wrestling fundraiser were discovered following an investigation. The article does not state who held the investigation. I would imagine cash advances from Dover Downs totaling over $500 would have sent some red flags flying though. How many debit or p-cards (state procurement cards) are floating around out there ready for someone to use at a moment’s notice for stuff like this? While I’m glad this situation was discovered relatively fast compared to the charter school stuff going on out there, where are the controls that could stop this from happening in the first place? Should school “clubs” or “organizations” be allowed to have their own control over funds generated by the district and fundraisers?
My biggest concern with all of this is the sheer hypocrisy involved. I’ve been told by some in the know that something will happen with these charter school leaders. That was in November. I have asked “larger organizations” about this. How long does it take to build a case against a charter school employee while a traditional school district employee is arrested for something similar but less egregious? It makes it very hard to believe there will be accountability for the charter thieves in light of this. They absconded with hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Matt Denn, what is the Department of Justice doing about this?
This is an important message for ALL Capital School District parents: You need to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. If they started already, do not let them take one more second of this test. Refuse The Test! The Network of Public Education is calling for a National Opt Out of these high-stakes tests. They aren’t effective at all, and everyone knows it. These tests are being used for nefarious purposes. Do not believe the lies coming out of Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education. They care more about corporate profit than your child. It doesn’t matter if your kid is smart. It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican. What matters is your child, and their education. This is not education. It is a mockery of education.
Please give the principal of your child’s school a letter on Monday morning indicating you are opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Let the school know you want your child to receive academic instruction while the other kids are taking the test. If they tell you that you can’t opt your child out, look them in the eye and say “Yes I can, and if you make my child take this test I will call the police.” To get support from other parents, please join the Opt Out Capital Facebook page.
At their January meeting, the Capital School District Board of Education passed a Strategic Planning initiative for the district. Tonight, the board discussed the plan with their consultant for the project. The Board will be present during the planning stages of the five-year plan as approved by the board members tonight. The five-year plan will deal with improving the district with topics like finances, behavior issues in schools, and to give the district a clear direction going forward. The district had a 5 year plan in place from 2009-2014, but with former Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas retiring, the board felt it was crucial to begin this process with a new Superintendent.
Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, new to Capital School District this year, has been adamant about getting the community involved in this projct. On January 6th, David Paulk with The Dover Post wrote an article about the plan.
As a new superintendent it’s my job to make sure we have a direction going forward,” Shelton said. “But it takes a lot of input to get a sense of what the community is going to support.
“I don’t want our direction moving forward to be Dan Shelton’s direction. It needs to be the community’s direction” he said. “We’re going to use our teachers, our administrators, and members of the community who want to volunteer for different portions of this plan.”
Forums will take place in March with Capital educators and members of the community. An “official” press release will go out tomorrow. For now, take a look at the initial planning stages for Capital’s 5 Year Strategic Planning:
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: If John or Jane have to worry about if there is going to be food on the table for dinner tonight, worry about if they will have a roof over their head, or worry about being hit by a stray bullet within their neighborhoods, the self-actualization required to succeed on these tests, or for that matter, school, is made even more difficult for these students. This translates into schools that service large high-need populations facing a difficult climb to reach accountability targets.
I was curious why the Capital School District Board of Education did not pass an official policy on opt-out the way Christina and Red Clay did. They were the first Delaware school board to pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of high-stakes state assessments way before anyone else did, back in October 2014. The answer to that question is included in the below letter. It was introduced at their January meeting and will be voted on at their meeting next Wednesday, February 17th. This is the best letter I think I’ve ever seen written about opt-out, anywhere! And I have seen some awesome letters! Kudos to Board President Matt Lindell, Vice-President Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Nauleen Perry, and Ralph Taylor for this letter that says more about Delaware education than anything I have seen in a long time! Thank you!
This is a special announcement for all parents of students in the Capital School District: Please go to their board meeting tonight, at 7:30 pm at the District Office, and give Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton your opt-out letter. And then give public comment about why you are opting your child out and your desire to have the Capital board pass a parent opt-out policy like the Christina School District board did two months ago and the Red Clay board is going to vote on tonight. The Capital Board did pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right a year ago, but a policy would make sure this is ironclad in Capital. This is a public service announcement brought to you by Exceptional Delaware. Thank you!
For the past couple months, a review committee met to discuss the naming of the Dover High School football stadium and the district administration building. An idea was brought forth in the summer to name the stadium after former Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas. Some felt it was too soon as he just retired June 30th of this year. The review committee has come up with the following four options. The committee will have it’s final meeting on October 19th at 4pm in the Sentrum Room at Dover High School in Dover. Capital has their board meeting on October 21st, and I am assuming this will be brought up for discussion.
Proposal submitted to name Dover High School Football Stadium: Michael D. Thomas Football Stadium
Proposal submitted to name Dover High School Football Stadium: Alumni Stadium
Proposal submitted to name Dover High School Football Stadium: Senator Stadium
Proposal submitted to name Capital School District Administration Building: Michael D. Thomas Administration Building
I applaud the Capital School Board of Education for doing the right thing and getting a committee to review this matter.
This series began with Delaware charter schools and the four Wilmington School Districts. Now were going to the middle of Delaware, to the Capital School District in Kent County, home to our state capital, Dover.
CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
SBAC ELA & MATH RESULTS and LOW-INCOME PERCENTAGES
The above graph shows some trends, but not as noteworthy as Red Clay and Christina School Districts. Capital, like many other districts “south of the canal”, does not have more than one middle school or high school. In fact, there “two” middle schools consist of William Henry which serves grades 5-6 and Central Middle, 7-8. The true outlier in this graph is Dover High School and their very low Math Smarter Balanced results.
While this looks like no true trends exist, if we take out Dover High, Central Middle, and William Henry (where all three have all the Capital elementary schools converging into one building in all future grades), we are left with Capital’s elementary schools which only go up to 4th grade. We can see an overall trend in the below graph similar to the Wilmington school districts and Delaware Charter Schools: low-income level is high, Smarter Balanced Scores are lower, and vice-versa.
CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
LOW-INCOME & SBAC RESULTS
In the below graph, I threw in the true charter schools that primarily exist within the Capital School District, Campus Community School and Academy of Dover, just to see what would happen. There isn’t too much change.
CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT & LOCAL CHARTERS
LOW-INCOME & SBAC RESULTS
In the below graph, I threw in the district’s special education and English Language Learner percentages for each school based on DOE School Profiles data on their website for the 2014-2015 year. The grey special education area does show a slight downward trend in schools the higher the population gets for each school, with the exception of Booker T. Elementary School. This school also houses the district’s talented and gifted program, so there numbers should be a bit higher given that.
CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
SBAC RESULTS, LOW-INCOME, SPECIAL EDUCATION & ELL
Sandwiched in the middle of the state, Capital is a unique district. The more affluent areas exist within the Hartly area, which shows much higher scores than all the other schools in the district. But I foresee Capital’s numbers drastically changing in the future as some schools are set up with the World Language Immersion program, and others are not. Since special education students and “problem” students don’t usually enter into these types of programs, we could eventually see some Capital schools bottoming out on SBAC if it stays on the same course. Hopefully Capital will self-correct their internal student population otherwise they could be looking at priority schools in 4-5 years time. Of course, the grand hope is ALL of this high-stakes testing and accountability nonsense will be gone by then!
Like I said up above, the trends in Capital don’t exactly mirror the schools in Wilmington due to some of the unique nature of their district alignment with schools. When my son attended an elementary school in Capital, he went to Booker T, even though we passed North and Fairview before we got there. So there feeder patterns are a bit different as well.
One final graph I did want to point out, which doesn’t really have much to do with Smarter Balanced scores, but does show an interesting graphic is the correlation between low-income and special education within Capital.
CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
LOW-INCOME & SPECIAL EDUCATION
The numbers on this fluctuate a bit, but there are some indications of a trend. With that being said though, special education can be a very tricky beast and no school is the same. We will have more of an idea how special education students fared on the Smarter Balanced in six days when the sub-group data is released by the wild bunch down at the DOE.