Kowalko Picks Apart Carney’s Not So Legal Christina-Wilmington Plan

Last night, the Christina Board of Education voted 5-2 to push back Delaware Governor John Carney’s consolidation plan for Christina’s Wilmington students until the 2019-2020 school year. They felt the initiative would need more time. The no votes belonged to board members George Evans and Fred Polaski. State Rep. John Kowalko gave public comment concerning the plan. To say he was not in favor would be an understatement. Kowalko brought up many good points which the Governor and the Delaware DOE ought to consider.

I and 9 other legislators attended a meeting called by Governor Carney less than a week ago purportedly to discuss the proposed Wilmington school reform plan and MOU proposal. Since we weren’t given copies of the MOU and it doesn’t seem to be available any longer at the link the Administration provided I cannot offer or challenge some of the specifics. At this meeting the Governor suggested that the MOU draft submitted by DOE would be changed and this board is not bound by it and should draft its own MOU proposal. The deadlines for Board action that the Governor and DOE appear to be imposing are substantively unrealistic and impractical for such a complex consideration with so many unanswerable questions.

Having examined some of the initial proposal and the details and expectations it held has led me to conclude that this is not a well thought out plan, that raises more questions and challenges then it has answers for.

I distributed some of my points of concern to the Governor and DOE and have copies for you that I will distribute. Due to time constraints I will try to focus on only a few of my concerns that I hope you will consider at this time.

I find it particularly harmful and hurtful to the “Southbridge” community, families and children to propose closing Elbert Palmer, one of the true neighborhood schools in walking distance and accessible to this Wilmington community. I hope that this Board’s counter-proposal would support closing that tired old monolith known as Bancroft and refurbish Palmer, Pulaski and Bayard to use for the suggested K-8 reconfiguration.

I also implore this Board to pay heed to the massive costs (which the Governor personally refused to speculate on) in refurbishing or renovating in order to make these consolidations. You should be acutely aware that any promise of funding cannot be guaranteed. In fact I would urge you to recall this Administration’s recently passed budget with concurrence of this current General Assembly cut traditional public school revenues by more than $36 million. Restoring that $36 million in cuts and adding even a small percentage of the proposed renovation costs would be much more beneficial and effective for Wilmington students if allocated to create smaller classroom ratios and hire reading and math specialists.

As I’ve looked at this reform proposal and its details and drawing upon my 11 years of experience as a legislator I am forced to conclude that this is a no-win situation for Christina, this Board and the children of Wilmington. Its predisposition to fail will be used to scapegoat the district and further stifle opportunities for Wilmington students and their families.

Finally I would suggest that this Board consider that traditional public school funding has received reduced funding since 2009 now totaling over $65 million per year. Ask the DOE and Governor:

Who is going to pay for the renovations?

Who is paying for longer school days and school years?

Who is paying for vacation academies?

Who is paying for after-school programs?

And why aren’t Reading Specialists and funding for them part of this plan?

At this point, Kowalko had several questions for Governor Carney as well:

1) If CSD does not approve MOU, more money will be taken from the District further harming prospects of Wilmington students and families. (“If it rejects the plan and fails to come up with an acceptable alternative, the agreement would be terminated immediately, resulting in the loss of any additional financial support for the district”).
2) Bayard/Bancroft are not appropriate buildings for little children even if renovated. Bancroft too old to make usable with renovations.
3) Trauma Training not necessarily (research?) effective but investing/funding 1 to 15 class size ratios would effectively improve the learning environment and outcomes.
4) Palmer became the first equity lawsuit in Delaware when Christina District (at Lowery’s behest) tried to close it 10 years ago.
5) Leaves no “Neighborhood Schools” for city children and in fact may violate the “Neighborhood Schools Legislation”.
6) Bancroft is far away from Palmer and Southbridge children who now walk would be unable to continue that practice.
7) Distinguish more specifically between renovate, refurbish and reconfiguration.
8) Why don’t we do things like “successful” districts? The most successful programs such as in New York and Massachusetts fund “reading specialists” and lower class ratios.
9) When the plan refers to “potentially” establishing “early childhood education” and “centers for students and families learning English” at a vacated Palmer are the planners aware that there are no ESL students at Palmer?
10) Have you considered neighborhood “gangs” being integrated from across Wilmington into the same building?
11) The suggested “Co-leadership” model re: principals and assistant principals belies the reality that these two jobs have never had the same duties and have always had designated responsibilities and functions.
12) “Loan forgiveness stipend” to young and “inexperienced” teachers does not reflect any benefit to already established teachers who have devoted their careers to inner-city education and “Who” is paying for these loans?
13) “Who” is paying for “longer school days/year”?
14) “Who is paying for “vacation academies”?
15) “Who is paying for “after-school programing”?
16) Why aren’t reading specialists part of this plan and therefore WHO IS PAYING FOR “READING SPECIALISTS” SO THAT CHILDREN ACTUALLY LEARN TO READ?

These are all valid questions that deserve answers. One of my biggest questions is why the Delaware Department of Education did not include this in their presentation to the Office of Management and Budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget a couple of weeks ago. Where is all this money coming from? The Christina Board of Education will vote on the plan again next Tuesday at their monthly board meeting. Revisions will supposedly go back and forth until February of 2018 which is Governor Carney’s deadline for the decision.

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Christina Superintendent Gregg Releases Statement About Potential School Closures In Wilmington

After the proposed memorandum of understanding leaked to the News Journal yesterday, those affiliated with Christina’s Wilmington schools have been scratching their heads.  On the chopping block are three city schools.  It appears Superintendent Richard Gregg is perfectly okay with these changes that have yet to receive proper stakeholder feedback.  It looks like the “Community Conversation” meeting tonight at Stubbs Elementary School will give out a lot of the details.  I really hope the communities on both the East and West sides of Wilmington come and say “How dare you” to both the Governor and the district for embarking on a plan that could be approved before funding is even approved, gives no certainties about what happens to students after 8th grade in those schools, and has been planned and schemed behind closed doors long before the public caught wind of it.

 

 

WEIC Gets Stuck On A FOIA Technicality While Christina And Carney Scheme To Close Schools

I’d heard the rumor.  The five Wilmington schools serving Christina students would fold into two.  It was only a rumor until today when the News Journal published details of a confidential memorandum of understanding between the district and Governor Carney. Meanwhile, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, which has outlived its usefulness as of late, decided to hold an impromptu meeting while breaking state FOIA open meeting laws.

As per Jessica Bies’ News Journal article:

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, a state advisory committee formed by then-Gov. Jack Markell to come up with ideas to improve education in the city, was also scheduled to review Carney’s proposal Tuesday night. It did not publicly advertise the meeting in compliance with state law or post the agenda for the meeting until late Monday, after a News Journal reporter called and asked when it would be shared.

As per a source, this WEIC meeting was planned six weeks ago and the Mayor of Wilmington came to speak.  A technicality of not posting the agenda in the required seven day window occurred.  When Tony Allen arrived at the meeting, he advised the committee of the technicality and that no action would be taken at the meeting, including approving the minutes for the last meeting.  While I have seen time and time again in FOIA complaints that a party forgot to post an agenda, it is my belief, even if a meeting is planned and they decide to only hold it for informational purposes, they should delay the meeting for appearances sake.  How confidential is this memo if so many people had access to it before the Christina Board of Education even has it? Sounds like Carney and Christina want it to get out. I’ve heard people rambling for years that Christina needs to consolidate some of their schools but the way this happened is shady at best.

If Carney’s office released the document, it doesn’t sound like Superintendent Richard Gregg was too happy about it:

Superintendent Richard Gregg recommended removing the names of schools from the document before it came to the school board for the vote, and there was a discussion about having the governor refrain from using the schools’ names in public.

Who were the three school board members who met with district staff, Carney’s team, and the union representative? Why doesn’t the News Journal name those board members? And where is all the scoop on the Empowerment crap Carney is trying to foist upon the schools? More questions than answers. And the Delaware DOE is going to be the one to implement all these changes? Has Christina lost their ever-loving mind? But this is the part that scares the living hell out of me:

The memorandum says Carney and the state Education Department would ask the General Assembly for additional funding to renovate the schools, as well as provide trauma-informed training to principals and teachers. It also promises funding for a dual-generation education center, as well as “philanthropic monies to support all Wilmington schools,” starting with those in Christina.

Philanthropic monies… and what will they want in return? This is the beginning of the end of public education. Once you get foundations actually funding schools (they already help fund charter schools), these schools are no longer public. They become part of Carney’s “public-private partnerships” where FOIA and open meeting laws go out the window. You heard it here first. Carney is just continuing Markell’s agenda who was following all the corporate education reform crap. At this point, I can no longer refer to Carney as Markell 2.0. He is Carney, through and through. Selling out schools to corporations. This is so deliberate and in your face. He played Christina and their board like a fiddle. This is when we start to see social impact bonds hit Delaware. And Rodel is loving every second of it with their competency-based education and personalized digital learning crap. I won’t go so far as to say Carney is the devil, but he is certainly his willing accomplice and Secretary Bunting is just playing the part of the yes-woman and kissing King Carney’s ring he wears for whichever level of Dante’s Hell he serves. I can see why Carney picked her now. She will do whatever he wants.

When I attended the very first WEIC meeting, I advised them transparency is the glue to whatever they do.  While I recognize human error, there is also accountability for recognizing that and taking the appropriate action.  Not go ahead and hold the meeting anyway.  The only way we can stop people from violating FOIA law is to call them out on it.  I have made it my mission to do so for over three years now.  I will not hold back on that for any organization that is subject to FOIA law.

I hope Carney locked the General Assembly into funding this hot mess, otherwise it becomes yet another unfunded mandate in Delaware.  I’m sure deals have been made behind the scenes.  If not, the philanthropic foundations like Rodel and the other vultures waiting to pounce on public education will assuredly send their lobbyists to hound them for the next seven months.

Condoms, Chlamydia, Christina, Closures, Carney and the Council

The Christina Board of Education meeting last night was filled with some awesome discussion about what appears in the title of this article.  I painstakingly transcribed the part of the meeting with the Superintendent’s report to the Board and the crazy discussion after.  Board member John Young was on fire!!!!  The topics dealt with Governor Carney’s plans for Christina’s Wilmington schools.  There is A LOT of information in here.  A ton.  From venereal diseases to transparency to possible school closures and more!  I have a feeling things are going to look VERY different in Christina’s Wilmington schools a year from now.  And for the record, I agree with John Young on EVERYTHING he said! Continue reading “Condoms, Chlamydia, Christina, Closures, Carney and the Council”

Christina Falls For The Trap Set By Governor Carney, Secretary Bunting, and the Delaware DOE

It was just announced on the State of Delaware website that the Christina School District in conjunction with the Christina Education Association plan on working with Governor Carney’s Office and the Delaware Dept. of Education on a Memorandum of Understanding to improve the educational “success” for Christina’s Wilmington students.  In other words, they swallowed the bait and Carney is reeling them in.  There is no Christina Board of Education seal of approval on this letter of intent, but it does state the Christina board would vote on this MOU.  It appears Carney is rushing into this without a care in the world and he is bringing all the key players with him.  But let’s not forget, this is just another way to corporatize education at students’ expense.  This is priority schools under a new spin.  There is inherent danger here folks.  You play with the devil, you get burnt, plain and simple.  Notice this is only the Christina Wilmington students.  Nothing about the Red Clay or the many charter school students whatsoever.  This is not a Wilmington Schools Partnership.  This is a trap.  Jack Markell must be proud of this development.  Mark Murphy is probably going “Why didn’t I think of that?”

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney, Christina School District Superintendent Richard Gregg, and Christina Education Association President Darren Tyson announced on Thursday that they have signed a joint letter of intent to work together and develop a partnership with the goal of improving educational opportunities in the City of Wilmington.

The partnership will address the long-term success for the 1,640 Christina students in preschool through grade 8 who reside in Wilmington and attend the district’s four city elementary schools and one middle school. These schools are Bancroft Elementary School, Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, Pulaski Elementary School, Stubbs Elementary School, and Bayard Middle School.

Christina School District will work with staff from the Governor’s office, the Delaware Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, and the Christina Education Association to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) this calendar year and submit the MOU for approval by the Christina Board of Education.

The MOU will define the roles and commitments of each party in crafting a system designed to create great public schools for every Christina student in the City of Wilmington. Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education, and Dorrell Green, Director of the Office of Innovation and Improvement, also signed the joint letter of intent.

“It’s always been clear to me that as goes the City of Wilmington, so goes our state. And improving our city starts with improving our schools,” said Governor Carney. “We are committed to working in partnership with the Christina School District, the Christina Board of Education, the Christina Education Association, families, educators, and community members, to improve outcomes for students in Christina’s city schools. We have a responsibility to do better by these students, and I look forward to getting to work.”

“The Christina School District is committed to exploring every option available to improving achievement for its students,” said Richard Gregg, Superintendent of the Christina School District. “We are willing to enter into this partnership to explore the development of an MOU that clearly outlines the commitments that will be made by all involved. The Christina Board has been clear that any agreement that is developed must focus on what is best for our students, and we will work with the Department of Education and the Governor’s Office toward this goal in good faith.”

“We welcome the Governor’s initiative to partner in service to our Wilmington students,” said George Evans, President of the Christina School District Board of Education. “We need to create and maximize new pathways to excellence and equity within our Wilmington schools.”

“CEA and its members look forward to entering into this partnership and working together to create an MOU that best serves and supports the Christina students in Wilmington,” said Darren Tyson, President of the Christina Education Association.

Read the full letter of intent here. (or you can read it below without even leaving this blog!)

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Governor Carney will join Superintendent Richard Gregg and CEA President Darren Tyson at two Wilmington town hall meetings to discuss the partnership between the State of Delaware and the Christina School District:

Town Hall Meeting on Wilmington Schools Partnership

This event is open to the press.

WHAT: Governor John Carney will join Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg, Office of Innovation and Improvement Director Dorrell Green, the Christina Education Association, members of the Christina School Board, and community organizations to discuss the partnership, and ideas for improving Wilmington schools, with families and educators in Wilmington. Governor Carney, Superintendent Gregg and others will take questions.

WHO:          Governor John Carney

Richard Gregg, Superintendent, Christina School District

Members of the Christina School Board of Education

Darren Tyson, President, Christina Education Association

Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary, Delaware Department of Education

Dorrell Green, Director, Office of Innovation and Improvement, Delaware Department of Education

WHEN:       Wednesday, October 18, 2017

6:30 p.m.

WHERE:    Bancroft Elementary School

700 N. Lombard Street, Wilmington, DE 19801

 

Town Hall Meeting on Wilmington Schools Partnership

This event is open to the press.

WHAT:        Governor John Carney will join Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg, Office of Innovation and Improvement Director Dorrell Green, the Christina Education Association, members of the Christina School Board, and community organizations to discuss the partnership, and ideas for improving Wilmington schools, with families and educators in Wilmington. Governor Carney, Superintendent Gregg and others will take questions.

WHO:          Governor John Carney

Richard Gregg, Superintendent, Christina School District

Members of the Christina School Board of Education

Darren Tyson, President, Christina Education Association

Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary, Delaware Department of Education

Dorrell Green, Director, Office of Innovation and Improvement, Delaware Department of Education

WHEN:       Wednesday, October 25, 2017

6:30 p.m.

WHERE:     Bayard Middle School

200 S. DuPont Street, Wilmington, DE 19805

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Christina Superintendent Gregg’s Reaction To Carney Comes To Christina

Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg issued a statement today on the Christina School District website in response to Delaware Governor John Carney’s visit to a special Christina Board of Education meeting the other night.  I wouldn’t expect an unfavorable response to the visit but it did a great job showing the Board’s concern with Carney’s “partnership” idea.

Message from Christina Superintendent Richard L. Gregg – October 5, 2017

Dear Christina Community:
On October 3, the Christina Board of Education held a Study Session that was attended by Delaware Governor John Carney, Secretary of Education Susan Bunting, and several other state officials and legislators. The Governor addressed Board members directly to personally request that they consider entering into a partnership between the Governor’s Office, the Delaware Department of Education, and the Christina School District to improve five of Christina’s schools in Wilmington: Bancroft Elementary School, Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, Pulaski Elementary School, Stubbs Elementary School, and Bayard Middle School. Governor Carney stated that together, Christina and the state need to focus on making changes that will raise the achievement levels of Wilmington students. 
The first step in this process will be for Christina to work together with the Governor’s Office and the Delaware Department of Education, with the goal of developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU, subject to Board approval, would outline the details of an agreement to be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year. Governor Carney communicated to board members that the state’s focus is on five main issues:
  1. Giving school principals more control over decision-making
  2. Empowering teachers to have more input on how resources are used
  3. Addressing student achievement rates, including how current facilities can be used and improved
  4. Creating “trauma-informed classrooms” that ensure safe, supportive schools
  5. Establishing systems that can create meaningful, sustained change
These issues could be addressed in a variety of ways, including implementing new governance models, exploring additional learning time, providing trauma-informed supports, implementing programs for infants through adults, creating a pipeline of teachers and leaders, and addressing the root causes of poverty.
Christina Board members asked the governor important questions about the proposal. Their concerns included:
  • the level of specifics being offered about the partnership
  • the state’s commitment to acting as a true partner in the venture
  • the importance of making changes in the best interests of children rather than adults
  • the level of input Christina leaders and staff would have in developing the MOU
  • how this proposal is different from past interventions by the state 
Governor Carney, Secretary Bunting, and Dorrell Green of the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement provided input on these concerns. 
Governor Carney stated, “It’s clear to me that the most important thing we should do now is focus on making changes that will raise achievement levels for city children. That’s part of my responsibility as governor, Dr. Bunting’s job as secretary of education and your jobs as school leaders and Christina board members. We’re in this together.” 
As our discussions with the state continue on this important topic, we will keep the Christina School District community informed of any opportunities that parents, students, staff, and the public will have to share input. We will also provide updates on any decisions made by the Christina Board of Education. We are committed to staying focused on being “One District” and doing what is best for our students. As Governor Carney said, “We’re in this together.” 
Sincerely,
Richard L. Gregg, Superintendent
Christina School District

Guest Post By John Young: Christina Breaks Out!

Former Transparent Christina blogger and current Christina Board of Education member John Young wrote the following guest post based on an event held yesterday at the Chase Riverfront in Wilmington.  All Christina School District administrators, teachers, and staff members attended the event.

On Tuesday, August 22nd I had the distinct pleasure of attending our district-wide kickoff event. As most people who follow education know, Christina has faced many challenges in the last decade, many of which continue today: poverty, leadership, choice laws that do not put children first, policy, and politics to name a few of the big ones. We meet these challenges every day, across a 2000+ employee base that is dedicated, professional, and truly amazing!

I was struck by the enormity of having the entire district in the same place at the same time. We had done a similar event in the past broken into two sessions at Glasgow High School due to capacity issues, but our new Superintendent, Richard Gregg, was able to negotiate a single venue with capacity because he wanted to set our district upon this year with a distinct theme and direction: One District, One Vision, One Voice.  After 8+ years on the Board, it was so refreshing to have a message that resonated in a single setting, one that could be heard by all.  For me, one of the KEY takeaways is that each of those three prongs of the message will be uniquely and specifically fueled by a calculus with children at the center.

I know that’s what school districts claim to do, and pledge to do, but we in Christina have been led very erratically for such a long time (well over a decade now), we lost our way somewhere in there. I know each district leader before Mr. Gregg did their level best, but sometimes there was a lack of relation between intent and execution of the vision and direction which has fueled divisiveness at every level of the district, including our board.

I felt like so much of that began to thaw, even melt, in 4 short hours yesterday. I’ve been involved in countless issues over my tenure on the board many of which are not always about the students: contracts, consultants, ideology around destructive policies put for by the state, etc. etc.  Yesterday, it became clear to me that some of those things don’t deserve another moment of my time. They are worthless endeavors that do not serve children. We have new leadership and a new focus for our service model which requires the removal of “awfulizers” from our midst, and replace them with “awesomeizers”.

Christina planted a flag in the ground yesterday. I feel like it was our own metaphorical Gadsden Flag. Our referendum rally cry of a “New Christina”, an amorphous, unclear, and frankly controversial concept for some was jettisoned yesterday, not because it was bad, but because it took life. It’s beating in our core, and breathing on its own…

…and it had 2000+ parents and guardians present for the delivery. Quite a welcome sight to behold and an honor to witness.

Carney Has Closed-Door, Non-Public, Secret Meeting With Select Christina Board Members

Delaware Governor John Carney held a closed-door, non-public, secret meeting with two Christina Board of Education members yesterday.  Which members?  And what was the discussion?  And which board member got shafted when they should have been there based on the discussion? Continue reading “Carney Has Closed-Door, Non-Public, Secret Meeting With Select Christina Board Members”

Was A Christina Principal/Former Delaware DOE Employee Placed On Leave For Some Type Of Financial Abuse?

In a letter dated to parents on June 2nd, 2017, Christina School District Assistant Superintendent Noreen LaSorsa sent a letter to parents advising that Kirk Middle School Principal Brian Curtis was placed on leave.  The letter did not indicate if the leave is a paid leave or not.  In conducting a search for more information, I found a post on Facebook to the Christina School District Facebook page where a parent asked the district if he was fired for embezzlement.

When you go to Christina’s Facebook page, all visitor posts are now gone.  I tried to submit a post asking where they all went and received a message that it would be reviewed.  But the post still shows up on Facebook’s search engine.  I edited the picture just for basic privacy rights of the person who submitted the question although it is public information on Facebook.  The response to the parent post by the administrator of their Facebook page was 10:55am on June 2nd.  The timestamp of the PDF letter sent to parents was 11:53am on June 2nd.

Curtis worked at the Delaware Department of Education for four and a half years in the school turnaround unit (i.e. priority schools) before he was hired to become Principal at Kirk Middle School in 2015.  He replaced outgoing Principal Dan Shelton who became the Superintendent of the Capital School District.  Curtis never updated his LinkedIn page with his new position.  I searched for any recent news or events with Brian Curtis in Delaware and found nothing.  While I am sure the district will not release any information pertaining to a pending investigation, this could not come at a worse time in Delaware as the General Assembly is in the final stages of preparing their FY2018 budget which has a current deficit of nearly $400 million dollars.  Many school districts and state agencies are feeling the pinch as budget cuts are expected throughout the state.

In recent years, Delaware school district and charter schools have gone through many audit investigations due to financial abuse of some sort at their schools.  Charter schools Providence Creek Academy, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Delaware Military Academy and the closed Pencader Business School as well as the Indian River School District and Sussex Technical School District have all had reports from that office since 2013.

While working on another article about a situation not related to this one at all, I stumbled across the Facebook post which led me to the announcement about Curtis being placed on leave.  While a question posed by a parent does not give any clear picture of wrongdoing, the fact the school district deleted the ability for anyone to see it on their main district page along with all other visitor posts IS cause for concern.

Christina Board Passes MOU With New Castle County School Districts With No Public Input

The Christina School District Board of Education passed a controversial motion to send the same funds going to charter schools (from the infamous settlement) to all traditional New Castle County School Districts (except for NCC Vo-Tech).  The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would bind Christina School District to sending the same funds they agreed upon in the charter school settlement to Red Clay Consolidated, Brandywine, Colonial, Appoquinimink, and Smyrna School Districts.  The price tag for this year will be $350,000 but this is a “forever” contract so those funds will go to those districts for students choicing out of Christina to those districts forever.  But another motion, that would have allowed for public comment on the issue, failed.  Board member John Young summed up the meeting in three paragraphs earlier this morning on Facebook.  Newly sworn-in board member Angela Mitchell abstained from both votes.

Last night, Christina School District BOE motioned to settle with Red Clay, Brandywine, Appoquinimink, Smryna and Colonial for $350K + this year and each year in the future forever pursuant to the charter school settlement. The meeting was at Sarah Pyle Academy at 7PM.

It was moved to approve the settlement MOU. Then it was moved to be voted on at the 6.13.17 meeting so the public could comment more fully. There was debate. Board members indicated that public opinion would have NO SWAY in their vote. The vote to vote on 6.13.17 was defeated 2 YES, 4 NO, 1 Abstention. Then the vote to approve handing over CSD monies without input from the public was approved 5 YES, 1 NO, 1 abstention. Of course all votes were public, but if you want details feel free to PM me. I am reeling from shock that board members and key employee(s) deliberately and intentionally told the taxpayers to go to hell with regards to their input. My disappointment extends beyond the board and includes CSD employees and the Supers of all NCC schools and Smyrna SD. An unreal night, I assure you.

I hope there is VOCIFEROUS public comment on 6.13.17 to protest the way the board operated tonight.

I always hated the settlement with the charters.  But, let us all hope this is the last song on this record…

Proposed MOU Between Christina and Red Clay, Appo, Brandywine, Colonial, and Smyrna Over Referendum Funds From 2003

As I wrote the other night, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Brandywine want their share of the local funds for choice students from Christina stemming from the charter school settlement with Christina last fall.  It looks like Colonial and Smyrna have now jumped in as well.  The Christina Board of Education will hold a special board meeting on May 24th to discuss this issue.  The below document shows how much it would cost Christina if approved.

Red Clay, Brandywine, & Appoquinimink Go After Christina For The Same Bling The Charters Got In Settlement

Christina School District is about to get screwed again!  But not by the charters this time.  This time it is districts who should be their allies!

Okay, time to let the cat out of the bag.  A month ago, and if you blinked you missed it, the Christina Board of Education discussed and voted no on the Chief Financial Officer of their district negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding between Christina, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Brandywine.  The MOU would have given authority to the CFO of Christina to send those local funds to the three other districts for students that choice to those districts out of Christina.  The board said no.  Look for a special board meeting sometime next week.  From what I’m hearing, now the Superintendents of the districts (all four) want to have the MOU between them.  Welcome to Christina Richard Gregg!

That’s what happens when you open Pandora’s Box like that with that stupid settlement between Christina and the charters.  I’m talking to you four Christina board members who voted FOR the settlement and then voted against rescinding the settlement a week later.  Did I not distinctly hear that it would set a precedent?  That it would come back to bite them in the ass?  I know I said it.  I believe a few others did as well.  Karma truly is a vengeful and mean bitch.

Do I have anything against Brandywine, Appo, or Red Clay for going after these funds?  I don’t know.  The timing sucks.  And how soon until Colonial jumps on the train?  All this happened because, supposedly, according to some commenter named Elizabeth, Jack Markell had some secret deal with Lillian Lowery and Christina when she became Secretary of Education.  The way I’ve heard it, Lowery was involved in a lawsuit when she became Secretary and Captain Jack wanted it all hush-hush so all sorts of crazy crap happened.  I heard that from someone who used to be on the board who hasn’t been too quiet about it over the past year or so.  Funny how stuff gets out in The First State.

So what happens if Christina’s board says no again?  Will the big three (and possibly Colonial) get their feathers in a twist and file a lawsuit against Christina as well?  My gut tells me Christina’s board will be forced to vote yes because of the precedent set in the charter settlement.  So last week, the board announced they will be laying off 44 or so teachers.  Will this cause that number to rise?  And how the hell does their CFO Robert Silber still have a job there?

How much money are we talking?  I don’t think it would be as much as the cha-ching the charters got, but it will leave a mark on their budget.  At this point, anything more is suck city.  Here’s a novel idea… how about going after Jack Markell and Lillian Lowery for their side deals that went on.  Better catch Jack quick before he goes on his Forrest Gump tour of America!  Yeah, like that will ever happen.  Captain Jack seems to have some special immunity shield around him.  It’s a special kind, where you screw things up for eight years and you get to go biking into the Pacific sunset.

Education never gets boring in this state.  But this will not be a joking matter for the teachers and staff in Christina School District.  These are good people who have been the victim of these education funding games for many years now.  Throw in priority schools and the constant labeling and shaming of the district.  I feel bad for all the districts right now.  Students and teachers should not be the sacrificial targets because the adults in charge can’t get their shit together.  Sorry to be so blunt, but I’m really getting sick of it.

Here’s the kicker!  I submitted a FOIA to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office a couple of weeks ago.  This is what I asked for:

Please provide, in PDF format, all reports, letters, guidance, or inspections for any Delaware school district, vocational school district, or charter school generated by the Office of the Auditor of Accounts that is not listed on the Auditor of Accounts website for fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016. This would include any of the above listed documents sent to members of the General Assembly, the Delaware Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Controller General, or the Office of Management and Budget that would be considered a public document 29 Del. C. Paragraph 10002(1).

Wanna know what I got?  Bupkis, that’s what!  I got the petty cash letters sent to a handful of charters last year along with the letters about that specific situation sent to various state agencies.  For three fiscal years!

Wanna know what that means?  The Auditor of Accounts office is NOT auditing ANY school district unless it is an investigation based on something submitted on their tip line.  Which means that office is breaking the law.  But the General Assembly won’t give them the funds to do their job as required by Delaware State Law (which the General Assembly does: create laws).  So who do we take to court?  The Auditor of Accounts office or the General Assembly?  Who is tracking where the hell education funds actually go?  NO ONE!  Except myself and Jack Wells it looks like.  But yeah, let’s layoff teachers and make classrooms into sardine cans while people in district offices are making over $100,000 in salary.  Cause that makes a lot of fucking sense!  Let’s keep paying for state testing and all these one-to-on devices so we can just weed out teachers and turn education into a reformer wonderland!  as I said, I’m getting tired of all this nonsense.  And if I were a teacher, I would be too!  If I were a parent (which I am) I would be shouting this from the rooftops: Stop screwing over our schools!  And when I say schools, that primarily means the students and teachers.  That is the heart of it all.

77 Teachers On The Chopping Block For Christina School District, Increased Classroom Sizes As Well!

The “Shared Sacrifice” proposed by Delaware Governor John Carney is now going to result in massive layoffs in Delaware school districts.  Christina School District just made public a recommendation from their Chief Financial Officer to cut 77 teachers and increase classroom sizes within their district.  This is in response to Governor Carney’s god-awful and horrible budget proposal.  You know, the one that shifts the blame from the state and on to local school boards to increase taxes.  The one where the Richey Rich crowd of Delaware pay a little bit more in taxes but so does everyone.  The one where the low-income and middle class get screwed.  The one where students will suffer because our state government can’t ever seem to figure out what is best for kids.

Say the General Assembly doesn’t pass the budget with Carney’s proposed budget.  The district still has to let teachers know their hiring decisions this month.  So even if Carney’s budget doesn’t pass, the district could still lose those teachers as they would be forced to look elsewhere for employment next year.  But it will be tougher because most of the districts will be going through this.  I imagine even the charters will feel the bite of this as well.  Not a good time in Delaware these days.  Welcome to Christina School District Richard Gregg!

Christina Board Votes No On Many District Recommended Budget Cuts

Tonight at the Christina Board of Education meeting, the board voted in favor of NOT eliminating the following in their schools and the district based on recommendations from their Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber and Superintendent Richard Gregg. This was under the direction of “Minimize the number of students impacted by cuts.”

Elementary & Secondary Strings

Elementary Instrumental Music

A motion to reduce elementary specialists (such as music, library, etc.)

A motion to decrease technology investment

Academic Deans

Montessori Program

Reduce Department Budgets

Reduce School Budgets (based on need)

Change Credit Recovery Delivery Model-Integrate SPA with High Schools

The following DID pass the board:

Reduce EPER (Extra Pay for Extra Responsibilities)

Do not fill Vacant Non-Academic positions

Decrease in Professional Development

While these are good for the positions and programs not eliminated, those holes in the budget will have to be filled somewhere with other cuts, which could mean up to 100 teachers being cut from the district as well as higher classroom sizes.  This isn’t a good situation no matter how you slice it.  I don’t envy any school board faced with these decisions largely set in motion by Governor Carney’s proposed budget for FY2018.  He is recommending districts be able to raise match taxes without a referendum.  Many districts are balking at this scenario presented by Carney.  However, they have to give notice to teachers about returning this month, well before the Delaware General Assembly gives their final vote on the budget which will occur on either June 30th, or more likely, the wee hours of the morning on July 1st.

John Young Takes On Donald Trump!!!! Resolution On Safe Zones For Christina Schools Pending!

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young is going head to toe with President Donald Trump in what could be a first for Delaware!  In response to what many are viewing as President Trump’s very heavy-handed immigration tactics initiated shortly after his inauguration, Young crafted a brilliant resolution declaring the district a safe zone for any student within its property.

The resolution would make it so any United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement official would have to get permission from the district Superintendent and coördinate any activities before entering any of the buildings of the district.  When asked what prompted the decision for the resolution, Young stated the following:

This resolution is in response to current political environment which was spurred on by a presidential immigration ban but it was not designed to be a reaction to it but an act to protect our students and our schools as the learning environments that they were and are designed to beBasically students should not fear coming to school for any reason and no student should be subjected to being a witness to a federal immigration and customs enforcement action.
There should be no reason any logical board member would not say yes to this resolution.  All students deserve to have schools be a safe haven!  If approved, this would be the first Delaware school district to institute this type of resolution.  The Christina Board of Education will vote on the resolution at their board meeting this evening.  The meeting will take place at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School and will begin at 7pm.
*Updated, 9:45pm: The resolution failed to pass with a vote of 3 yes and 4 no.

The Chicken-Fried Awesome Christina Fails To Rescind Settlement Vote

Yes, the words “chicken-fried awesome” were used by a Christina board member last night.  But first they had to get through 45 excruciating minutes of approving their agenda.  Board member Harrie-Ellen Minnehan introduced motions to remove three action items from the agenda and to table another item.  That was just the beginning of a meeting that had topics as varied as car shopping to a very strong use of the word culpability.  A member of the audience drew a great rendering of the meeting and asked me to put it in this article.

The four motions Minnehan put forth failed to move forward.  Board member Shirley Saffer kept alleging Minnehan had a personal agenda going on.  There was a ton of discussion about the motions and how it was unprecedented for one board member to attempt to remove action items like that.  As a result of the motions, what should have been a 1-2 minutes process turned into a 45 minute ordeal for the audience.  A lot of the audience had come for the presenting of the Honor Roll which is done right after the approval of the agenda and board minutes.

The charter settlement with Christina fell after a 3-4 vote by the board, exactly how the vote went when they voted for the settlement two weeks ago.  Board member Fred Polaski tried to convince everyone that he believed the district would lose if it went to court with the charters.  He offered no viable reason for why he felt they would lose.  But it didn’t seem to matter because the board was clearly divided on many of the same action items with Polaski, Minnehan, George Evans and Meg Mason on one side.  On the other were members John Young, Saffer, and President Elizabeth Paige.  Young stated the minutes of the executive meeting would now become public since the need for the meeting was no longer valid and the settlement is public.  He said he will be submitting updated minutes on that meeting.  He also stated he had concerns about the culpability of the district in the matter.  He also had grave concerns about the back and forth between the district and attorneys over Thanksgiving weekend and what amounted to a short time period of 90 minutes for the board to review the settlement.  Young said that would make for a very interesting FOIA request.  He had many concerns about the authority of charter leaders in signing the document, such as an Interim Principal, a Head of School, or a Board President.  He reviewed many charter school bylaws and did not see that authority granted to those parties without permission from the entire board.  He also did not special board meetings for the charter boards to vote on the settlement.

csdboardatmtg

One of the shockers of the evening (and there were many), was the situation with the Montessori program in Christina.  There was an action item to end the program.  This became the controversy of the evening as parents and staff members gave public comment in support of the program.  When it came time for the board to discuss the matter, Paige asked a question that solidified a crucial problem with the district, that of transparency.  Delaware schools receive academic excellence units which they are free to cash in and do as they please.  The Montessori program had three of those units.  Paige asked about them and it was revealed by the district the Honors Academy would use three academic excellence units.  While the district hemmed and hawed about the “coincidence”, Paige said the “optics” look very bad.  In a rare moment of unity, the board voted 6-1 in favor of keeping the program with Polaski as the lone no vote.  This prompted Young’s quote of the evening.  He said the district believes competition is so “chicken-fried awesome” that they should be doing everything they can to get students who are a wait list at First Sstate Montessori Academy into Christina’s Montessori program.  Board member Polaski suggested partnering up with the Wilmington charter school to have them open a satellite school in the Christina school district.  No one even responded to this rather absurd notion.  But it did point to what I see as a very charter friendly Polaski.

Once again, with a 3-4 vote, the board voted against annulling the Honors Academy vote from November with the same 3-4 blocks.  Young pointed out that many of Christina’s existing Cambridge programs are disproportionate with the amount of minorities represented in them.  The irony of the district wanting to close a program where there is equity (the Montessori program) in favor of moving forward with a program which has a strong potential of inequity (The Honors Academy) did not escape members of the audience.  Concerns around placement tests, a parent letter, and standardized test scores were the chief reasons three of the board members wanted to annul the prior vote.  There were also concerns around opt out and how the application for the academy could penalize those students who were opted out despite a board policy that explicitly forbids that.

The point of exhaustion for members of the audience surrounded the district’s Superintendent interviews.  Yesterday, the Delaware Attorney General answered a FOIA complaint surrounding the board’s November executive meeting to formulate questions for the Superintendent candidate.  Some board members refused to participate in the meeting since they had already figured out it would be a FOIA violation.  This prompted the board to make public the questions for candidates.  There was also a matter about interviewing the candidates the week before Christmas and a mad rush to get it done.  As a result, the board voted in favor of naming an Interim Superintendent with Noreen LaSorsa taking on the role.  It was agreed the board would conduct Superintendent interviews the first week of January.  Saffer argued the board needed the public to see the candidates in the schools and interacting with students and staff as they had done in the past.  Board member Evans said he would not participate in any of that.  Young’s action item to begin the Superintendent search again to get a more diverse pool of candidates fell with a 2-5 vote with Saffer and Young as the two no votes.

This board is a house divided.  Mostly between common sense and… I don’t know what.  On the one side we have Young, Paige, and Saffer who seem to know the law and sees how decisions made today could cause problems in the future.  On the other is the not-so Fantastic Four who always seem to be in this frantic hurry to get things done now without looking at all of the angles.  They also seem to be easily intimidated by the district and outside forces.  This shapes their votes.  Minnehan took a pointed jab at Young as she said she would never want to go car-shopping with him because he takes too long to make a decision.  I would rather have that than winding up with a lemon Mrs. Minnehan!  As I drove down to Dover after this very long meeting which entered an actual new day, I saw a warrior district succumbing to the privatization movement that is paralyzing public education.  I believed for a long time Christina was the last hold-out in Delaware, but after some of the votes last night, it was painfully obvious the last blockade fell.  At this point, Delaware needs a hero.  We need an Obi-Wan moment where someone answers the call of “you’re my only hope“.  Will that person come from Christina or somewhere else?

I gave the following public comment to the board last night but despite my six minutes thanks to borrowed time, I was not able to get to the end of it which I will notate in the below comment.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the Christina School District Board of Education. It has been a long time since I came up to this podium to speak before this board.  The last time I did so was seventeen months ago.  I believe Ms. Minnehan was the Board President at that time.  A lot happened at that meeting.  I did want to offer an apology in regards to that.  I’m sorry it has taken me so long to give public comment here.

I have a lot to talk about tonight, mostly in regards to the charter school shakedown, er, uhm, lawsuit.

First, can you please, for the love of all we hold sacred, fix the sound for the audio recordings on your website? It is a recurring issue and I’m certain it wouldn’t cost that much money to correct this.

Second, I am very curious why a FOIA request I sent to the district was never followed up on. I sent a FOIA request to the district asking for the past three years of all air quality inspections for every single one of the Christina schools.  I received an email back that a cost estimate would be forthcoming.  That was almost two months ago.  I received nothing.  As Delaware state code gives any public agency a period of 15 business days to respond to a FOIA request, the district has violated FOIA.  Please remedy this by tomorrow so I do not have to file another FOIA complaint with the Delaware Attorney General’s office.  Which I’m sure this district has had enough of.  But I digress.

I do not believe the board should even entertain not voting on the rescission of the settlement.  I am glad that motion failed. (I adlibbed the last sentence because of the board not passing Minnehan’s motion but I am not entirely sure on the wording).  I believe it is very important you vote in the majority to vote yes on rescinding the settlement.  As we all know, this was brought forth by Greg Meece over at Newark Charter School.  What has never been answered is HOW Greg Meece suddenly, last winter, decided to get a meeting with the fine people at the Delaware DOE.  How, all of a sudden, Meece knew EXACTLY what to look for.  According to a letter Meece wrote last week to the parents of NCS students, Secretary Godowsky never knew about the change to the local funding formula.  So Godowsky reversing a decision he never made, which was cited in the lawsuit and settlement, is frivolous at best.  This entire shenanigan was meant to intimidate Christina, and sadly, the district took the bait.  They didn’t just take the bait, they swallowed it and regurgitated it to four board members who voted out of fear rather than common sense.  That is something that needs to be reversed tonight.  I would rather see this district take this ALL THE WAY than see one more penny going out of this district to certain charters who want for nothing.  If anything, the DOE should be the entity paying for this year’s charter share of the 2003 referendum and all future costs due to their colossal screw-up, not just getting off the hook by paying for half the attorney fees.  But more than that, what may not have come out of all this, is the role the Office of Management and Budget played.  As Brian Stephan wrote in a recent article on Delaware Liberal, something happened in 2014 that changed everything with the local funding formula.  What he didn’t write, which he may not have been aware of, was why everything changed that year.  The Office of Management and Budget, a section of Governor Jack Markell’s office, took over the responsibility from Mark Murphy to oversee this aspect of Delaware education financing.  Oh so coincidentally, that was the same year the Delaware DOE launched the priority schools debacle and launched a coordinated attack against Christina when this board would not cower and buckle to Governor Markell’s shameful education agendas.  While I am not an attorney or an accountant, I am just a blogger.  According to Newark Charter School parents, I’m a sneaky snake blogger.  But it is my belief this omission of paying the charter schools their portion of the 2003 referendum was, at best, an egregious error that the State of Delaware should pay moving forward.  If that were not enough, the fact that tuition and match taxes were brought up in the settlement is very troubling.  The charters have no right to those funds so why it was brought up in a settlement is beyond me.  I certainly hope none of that nonsense was the district’s idea.  That just opens the door for future siphoning of district funds the local taxpayers entrusted to the district, not to fifteen charter schools.  If I’m not mistaken, Christina does not get large donations from the Longwood Foundation, they don’t get a larger proportion of minor capital funds based on their student populations like the charters do, and they certainly don’t get to keep excess transportation funds under their “budgeted” amount.

While we can sit here and pretend the charter cabal, led by Saul Ewing LLC, is a force to be reckoned with, the simple fact is they made unprecedented money grab. This could have been done a dozen different ways, but they chose threats and intimidation, with support from certain legislators in both the House and the Senate, to get what they wanted.  As a result, if this board does NOT rescind the settlement, it will continue to give away funds this district desperately needs to 15 charter schools who have more than enough money already.  And if you are going to put your trust in the Delaware Dept. of Education to do the right thing, you have already put one more nail in the coffin of this district.

At this point my time ran out, but this is how I planned to finish my public comment:

I strongly urge this board to continue to keep CSD moving forward. That does not mean responding to bullying threats by what amounts to non-profit corporations in Delaware.  That means fighting for what is yours.  As your CFO, Bob Silber, rightly argued, this district did what they were supposed to do.  It was the State that screwed up.  If this board is truly supposed to represent this district, and not Saul Ewing, Greg Meece, and the charters that have taken more funding from this district than any other force in this state, they will need to do the right thing and rescind this farce of a settlement that will allow charter schools to plunder funds not just from Christina, but would set a precedent for every district in this state.

I love the fact that the anonymous donation to Stubbs was highlighted by so much media in this state. But those students deserve more than having additional funds taken from them that would put the lunch balance to shame.

Thank you, and I do want to wish all of you a great holiday.  Bob A, thank you for the Frozen memory.  Good luck in your future endeavors.

To read the response to the FOIA complaint from the Delaware Attorney General’s office, please read below:

Is The DOE About To Dump 7 Christina Schools On Red Clay? Does WEIC Know About This?

Red Clay taxpayers beware: You might get a sticker shock on a future tax bill!  The Delaware Department of Education issued a Request For Proposal on November 28th for a “time sensitive” Facilities Condition Evaluation of all the Christina schools based in Wilmington.  While I initially thought this could have been related to Christina’s recent mold issues, I found this went much deeper than that.  Is this some type of surprise announcement that will come in John Carney’s State of the State address?

The schools that will be evaluated are Bancroft Elementary School, Bayard Middle School, Elbert Palmer Elementary School, Pulaski Elementary School, Stubbs Elementary School, Douglass School, and the Sarah Pyle Academy.  Even the district office at the Drew Education Support Center is on the list!  The smoking gun is this part:

Develop cost estimates to bring each of the above listed facilities to a similar state and with the same control systems such as building controls, camera systems, keysets, alarm, access control, phones, tech. infrastructure (switches), and wifi as Highlands Elementary School, 2100 Gilpin Avenue; Shortledge Elementary School, 100 West 18th Street; Lewis Dual Language Elementary School, 920 North Van Buren Street; Baltz Elementary School, 1500 Spruce Avenue; and DuPont Middle School, 3130 Kennett Pike.

Those are all Red Clay schools.  If this were just some random facilities evaluation, there is no way there would be something to bring Christina schools up to Red Clay specifications.  There is going to be a big move coming soon!

Identical to the process and methodology followed for typical school facilities assessment work, the assessment will identify any potential issues related to major building systems and building components such as the building envelope/structure, roofing, HVAC/mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, telecommunications, and security systems as well as any site improvements required to the immediate surrounding area for building access. Data generated from this effort will:

• Evaluate the above listed schools in 1. facility condition indices as compared to RCCSD facilities as listed in 2.

• Identify and prioritize required short and long term improvements

• Identify code compliance, accessibility and system coordination issues requiring immediate attention

• Identify potential energy conservation opportunities

But does the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission know about this?  They are having a regular commission meeting next Wednesday at Warner Elementary School.  If they don’t, boy are they in for a surprise!

As well, it looks like the Delaware Autism Program could be shifted to Red Clay as well:

Prepare a design analysis for the Christina Administrative space, Douglas Alternative School, Sarah Pyle Program and Delaware Autism Program as currently located in one of the buildings listed above.

Who is the driving force behind this?  If it is John Carney, he may want to open with a huge splash by finally giving the civil rights advocates in Wilmington their hearts desire.  But if this is his move, it would also be a huge smack in the face to the Red Clay taxpayers.  Carney was very wishey-washey during his campaign about what he would do with the WEIC redistricting plan.  He hinted at liking some of it but not all of it.  But WEIC Chair Tony Allen is on his transition team.  If Carney pulls this off without the General Assembly he risks alienating many of State Reps and Senators.  Which may not work out in his favor with the special election for Bethany Hall-Long’s seat.  That race will determine whether the Democrats or Republicans control the Delaware Senate.

Another option is Governor Jack Markell.  With the time sensitive status around this and a due date for bids of December 13th, could he have the gumption to stick it to Christina one last time before he leaves office?  While ticking off the taxpayers at the same time?

The RFP was authored by a Renee Harris.  The only thing I found on her while doing a Google search and a State of Delaware search was related to the Tobacco Settlement from the Delaware Attorney General’s office.

No matter what this is, it is going to be something that will change the Wilmington education landscape.  There is absolutely no way the DOE would issue an RFP like this without something waiting in the wings.  The WEIC redistricting plan was put on hold for a year.  The state isn’t overflowing in cash right now either.

**UPDATED** 12:35pm, 12/2/16: Senate Bill 300 with House Amendment 1 was what allowed the WEIC Redistricting Plan to survive.  But there is key language in the amendment put forth by State Rep. Kim Williams:

The amendment removes language obligating the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and affected school districts to develop, before February 2017, a detailed assessment of the impact of transitioning City of Wilmington Students from the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. Such detailed assessment would require development of school- and student-level changes that require public input and facility analysis that cannot be completed in the timeframes in the original bill. Instead, they should be undertaken as part of the planning phase for redistricting upon commitment of necessary and sufficient funding. The amendment preserves appropriation of $200,000 to continue the work related to the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, including analysis of fiscal impacts, and language clarifying and ensuring that any additional state funding requires further action of the General Assembly.

That date of February 2017 flies in the face of this RFP.  I would strongly consider a “Facilities Evaluation” part of a “detailed assessment of the impact…” for the WEIC plan.  The amendment does not include the Delaware DOE though.  But the original WEIC bills from 2015 do not give the Delaware DOE to have this much involvement.  Something is happening…

**UPDATED** 2:04pm, 12/2/16: If you read the fiscal note for Senate Bill 200, it states the following:

  1. This Act is effective upon signature of the Governor.
  2. This Act provides a supplemental appropriation of $200,000 to establish the Wilmington Redistricting Transition Fund to assess the fiscal impact of transitioning City of Wilmington students from the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. The funding is to be used by the Red Clay Consolidated School District, in consultation with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the Christina School District, for the assessment in which said assessment is to be substantially completed on or before January 31, 2017.
  3. This Act also establishes a working group to review the fiscal impact assessment that is prepared by the Red Clay Consolidated School District in consultation with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the Christina School District. The Department of Education is to provide staff support to the working group, upon request, and it is assumed that the Department will provide this support within existing resources. The working group shall submit its review by March 31, 2017 to the Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
  4. Funding is set aside in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget process in the amount of $200,000.

But once again, that due date was changed based on House Amendment #1 to the bill.  So, once again, why is the DOE issuing an RFP with a submission due date for bids of 12/13/16 and labeling this as “time sensitive”?  The key words in the amendment are this- “commitment of necessary and sufficient” funding.  The amendment states this work should not take place until a time when that commitment is assured.  No budget proposal will come out until towards the end of January.  And a budget proposal does nothing until the General Assembly approves it.  So even if folks are saying this is part of the $200,000 allocated to WEIC as a result of SB300, it appears the amendment is being completely ignored.  The bill was dead before the amendment.  The amendment saved WEIC.  I am not convinced of anything I am hearing at this point.  Whomever is directing these actions is breaking the law.

**UPDATED** 2:16pm, 12/2/16: Upon further analysis of the above amendment, it states the type of work included in this RFP should be done during the “planning phase” of the redistricting plan.  As per the plan approved by the State Board of Education, the timeline consists of the following:

December 17, 2015 to June 30, 2016 Approval Stage

July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 Planning Stage

July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 Transition Stage

July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 Implementation Stage

But because the General Assembly did not pass the legislation that would make the redistricting plan happen, they instead bumped it up a year.  So the Planning Stage of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 is no longer in place.  The amendment is very clear about what should happen during this stage.  That planning stage can’t begin again until July 1, 2017 if the General Assembly allows for that to happen based on signed legislation.  I’m just a blogger without the legal expertise the WEIC and DOE attorneys would have.  But if I can clearly see that the law is not being followed, they would assuredly know.

To read the RFP, please read below:

 

 

Christina School District’s Very Dangerous Game With Equity Could Backfire On Them

One of the reasons I have always admired the Christina School District is because they don’t have magnet schools or choice schools within their district.  That could change tomorrow night when the Christina Board of Education will vote on a proposal to expand the Honors program at Christiana High School from a 9th-12th grade program to a 6th-12th grade program.  I understand the why behind it as the district has empty seats in some of their buildings and they will be forced to consolidate at some point.  But this… I can’t get behind it.

Before I get into why I can’t support this, let me explain why they are doing it.  Christina, over the past fifteen years, has lost a ton of students to charter schools.  I truly believe the district wants to let go of the past and start offering richer programs to keep students in the district and to hopefully lure students back from the charters.  As well, they are losing honors students to Dickinson High School in Red Clay who offers an International Baccalaureate program.  Eventually, the Christina students in Wilmington issue will be resolved one way or another and Christina will lose those students.  The district has to make some major changes if they want to survive in the next decade.

But this idea is not good.  First off, I don’t think it is a wise idea to place middle school students in a high school setting.  Developmentally, they are not on the same level playing field.  By osmosis, these students will be exposed to things they are not ready for.  There is a reason students in public education are at elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.  To make matters worse, the plan would call for this to start with 6th graders only for the next school year and by 2019 all 6th-8th grade students participating in this program would be integrated as students at a high school.  This cohort of 6th graders are going to have a very difficult time at a building with peers who are far older than them.

Furthermore, what happens when all the honors students leave the existing middle schools in the district?  That will leave a higher concentration of students who have larger needs.  Our current state accountability system for schools will place those schools with a bulls-eye on them when test scores come out.  If anyone thinks the Every Student Succeeds Act is going to take care of that they are deluding themselves.  It will set up an irreversible system of discrimination and segregation all over again, within their own district.  That is something all schools in Delaware should be steering away from, not towards.

This program would have smaller “cohorts” which would mean smaller class sizes.  I am all for that but it has to be done across the board.  There are existing classrooms in elementary and middle schools that do not have enough support in this district but teachers are forced to handle large classrooms with no support whatsoever.  But giving this preference to students who would most likely be considered talented and gifted while not giving those same choices to other students with just as much need if not more is just reinventing the discrimination wheel.  I’m not saying talented and gifted students shouldn’t be given those benefits, but I am saying if that benefit exists it needs to happen for all students.  No one wins in the large classroom scenario with one teacher.

The State of Delaware, and more specifically, the General Assembly, needs to look at the state school choice law.  While the intent may have been honorable in the beginning, it has morphed into pockets of segregation across the state.  Some are big and some are small, but they exist.  While charter schools take the brunt of the shots fired at these practices, many districts are setting up programs within their own districts that are dividing students.  Take the World Language Immersion program as an example.  In my day, you took a language.  They didn’t put a fancy name on it and start teaching Kindergartners Chinese or Spanish.  While I do think it is good for students to learn a second language, and possibly a third depending on their abilities, we are already seeing school districts around the state dealing with issues of segregation between the smarter kids and those with higher needs based on this program.  This isn’t even inequity, it is also inequality.  When you have both, it is a recipe for disaster for the overall educational health of a state.  This example is not just affecting New Castle County schools.  Districts in Kent and Sussex County are having these issues as well.  But their boards and administration don’t seem to be addressing what is happening within their own schools.

I don’t know what the solution is, but this isn’t it.  I don’t understand why they wouldn’t attempt to instill those honors programs in the schools they have now.  If they need to combine some schools and possibly sell old property that isn’t being used, that is one thing.  But dividing students like this is a lesson Delaware doesn’t want to learn.  This is a recommendation from the Superintendent (even though it is an Acting Superintendent).  When Christina passed their referendum earlier this year one of their promises was to create programs like this.  I am all for better programs in schools.  But school choice has led to such severe competition among Delaware schools that future generations of adults are going to be more divided than ever between the haves and the have-nots.  We have traditional school districts, charter schools, vo-techs, magnet schools, honors programs, World Immersion programs, and so forth.  And I’m not even getting into the Pathways to Prosperity program and how that is setting up particular societal roles in the future.

How can we talk about equity in schools with a weighted funding system when we are forcing schools into that position?  We are killing education in this state, one choice program at a time.  I believe Christina is trying to rush a program like this into place.  Let it marinate a bit.  Look at other options.  Slow your roll!  I’m not convinced this isn’t a case where the Acting Superintendent who will be gone in a few months at most just wants a notch like this on his résumé.  I think something this big would need to still be in the discussion stage with a new Superintendent who would be tasked to carry it out.

And in the name of all that is holy can we please get the words rigor or rigorous legally banned from discussion about education?  As well, the word “Academy” in traditional school districts signifies something elite that only select students can get into.  Not a smart idea to put an “Academy” into a school district.

To read the action item, which will be read for a second time, please go below.

 

Christina Paying Vendor To Research School Start Times. District Could Do This For Free With A Google Search…

In the world of education, someone is always willing to make a buck. In the Christina School District, Hanover Research is the latest vendor to say cha-ching when the district gets an idea.

On Thursday, the district released a press release announcing they are looking into changing the start time for their schools. In Delaware, Superintendents and district administrators get paid a ton of money. Why are we paying outside vendors to do the work they should obviously be doing themselves? It is just cash in the trash!  This is a district facing mold issues and a charter school lawsuit on top of dwindling funds and resources.  Their board passed a resolution for the district to look at this topic, but that doesn’t translate to pay someone else to do it.  We all know their vendor is going to do the same thing anyone else could do: a Google search.  And then they will come up with a very pretty report.  I know Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski has his eye on the Delaware Secretary of Education slot, but is this the kind of continuing crap we could expect from his “ascendancy”: more meaningless contracts and vendors?  Here is the press release:

Christina Explores Changing School Start Times
Impact of early/late start times on student learning will be considered

Wilmington, DE – The Christina School District is exploring the issue of school start times and their impact on student learning, with a goal of determining if changing start times in its secondary schools could increase student achievement. The main focus is on middle and high school students and the impact of early morning start times on adolescents’ learning. The Christina Board of Education passed a resolution in May calling for the Superintendent to identify and provide a list of practices in school systems that start middle and/or high school after 8:00 a.m. Christina middle and high school students currently start school at 7:05 a.m.

The District will be working with research firm Hanover Research to determine how school districts who have adjusted their start times have dealt with issues such as communication, scheduling, transportation, sports, and after-school activities. The District is also engaging staff, parents, students, and the community through an online survey asking for feedback on how school start times may affect student success.

The Christina School District School Start Times Survey is available at the following link: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/ 3063051/e2158fc28598

The survey will be live until the end of November, and additional research and analysis will be gathered in the coming weeks.

Wendy Lapham, Public Information Officer
Christina School District

600 N. Lombard St.

Wilmington, DE 19801

The Christina Superintendent Search: What Is A SME And Why You Should Care

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young posted this publicly on Facebook about the Christina Superintendent search.  I am posting it on here to get this to a wider audience.  For clarification purposes, SME stands for “Subject Matter Expert” and James Flynn is running the Superintendent search for Christina through the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration (IPA).  I don’t know how many districts have used IPA in the past.  I do know Capital used them last year for their new Superintendent which led to Dan Shelton getting the post.  And I want to say Colonial did as well which led to Dusty Blakey, but don’t quote me on that.  I’ll let Mr. Young’s Facebook post take it from here.

Some public information on the CSD Super search. Started with a few questions and since I will not be able to attend the 11.9.16 meeting as I will be out of town, and because Mr. Polaski raised the concern below I wanted to get this out there as I would have discussed all of this in person anyway, as those that know me know I would. Also, Note Dr. Flynn’s comments regarding direction given on 10.24 does not comport with the timing of the contract which Mr. Polaski references in points 1 indirectly and 2 directly…meaning I remain confused on the issue.

POLASKI FRED
Today, 8:08 AM

YOUNG JOHN;PAIGE ELIZABETH;EVANS GEORGE;Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; SAFFER SHIRLEY

Subject: Re: Task Force Update
Inbox
Two reactions to Mr. Young’s requests:
1. The process being implemented by Dr. Flynn and IPA at the U of D was approved by the CSD Board at a BOE public meeting. Any changes to the process or contract MUST be approved by the Board after discussion at a public meeting, not by any one or more Board members by email.
2. The Board approved use of IPA to facilitate the process to select a new superintendent and directed the CSD Administration to negotiate the contract with IPA, which Mr. Silber did as the CFO of CSD.

Any further discussion of this topic, or any proposals for changes, must only be done at CSD board meetings in public, the next one being Nov. 9. I would hope to not see any more emails between 7 board members on this subject as that could be determined to constitute a Board meeting, subject to FOIA.
Fred Polaski


From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 10:28:23 PM
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH; EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY
Subject: Re: Task Force Update

Obviously I speak only for myself on this: without the names of the SMEs, I am unable to support any recommendation whatsoever.

As for the one candidate: the advantage is CLEARLY the ability to prepare answers with additional time not supplied to other candidates. I am disappointed Dr. Flynn cannot see this plainly. Another reason to be very suspect of the process thus far. Is Mr Silber in charge of the board process? This confuses me.


From: PAIGE ELIZABETH
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 10:19:33 PM
To: EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY; YOUNG JOHN
Subject: Fwd: Task Force Update

ECP
Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: James Flynn <jflynn@udel.edu<mailto:jflynn@udel.edu>>
Date: October 31, 2016 at 4:52:23 PM EDT
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH <elizabeth.paige@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:elizabeth.paige@christina.k12.de.us>>
Cc: ROBERT.SILBER@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:ROBERT.SILBER@christina.k12.de.us>, LAPHAM WENDY WENDY.LAPHAM@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:wendy.lapham@christina.k12.de.us>>
Subject: Re: Fw: Task Force Update

Ms. Paige: Hi. I’ll try to respond to Mr. Young’s questions in the order posed.

SMEs – As I’ve said at our public presentations, selection of the number and designation of SMEs is determined by the IPA as one of the steps to insure impartiality and confidentiality. Our goal is to select highly qualified individuals for the applicant screening process who are familiar with Delaware districts and Delaware education issues. For the Christina search, we identified three SMEs – two retired Delaware superintendents and a senior administrator with more than 30 years experience serving several Wilmington area districts (the contract obligates us to two SMEs). Our usual practice is not to share the names of the SMEs to further fortify confidentiality in future searches with other districts. If the CSD Board feels strongly that knowing the names of the SMEs is a critical point, I’d be willing to contact them (the SMEs) for their approval. Please remember, the SMEs review all of the applications independently first and the applicant names have been redacted. When the SMEs come together to discuss the applicants, their references are to ‘Applicant A’ and ‘Applicant B’, etc.

Impact of Extra Time for one Candidate – This applicant e-mailed me just before the midnight deadline on Friday, Sept 23. I replied to her on the morning of Monday, Sept 26 and had all her materials e-mailed to me by early that afternoon. Remember, she claimed she had everything ready for submission on 9/23, but the site was closed before midnight. I’m not sure how this may have created an ‘advantage’ since we didn’t start processing any of the applications until after 9/26.

Task Force Reporting – The instructions from Mr. Silber on 10/24 said to prepare a report of the Task Force proceedings on 11/1 directly to the Board. Changing those instructions by having the Task Force report back to the full Search Committee in a confidential setting (i.e. Task Force and Board) is your choice.

Sub-Par Candidates – I would do all in my power to dissuade the Task Force from recommending a sub-par candidate(s) to the Board. In my opinion, this Task Force has worked too long and too diligently to submit the names of candidates who wouldn’t meet the needs of the CSD.

Board Members and Applicants – I’m not sure what this statement refers to, and don’t feel competent to respond.

Please let me know if I can provide any further information or if wish to alter the Task Force reporting process going forward.

Jim Flynn


On Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 1:20 PM, PAIGE ELIZABETH

Elizabeth.Paige@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:Elizabeth.Paige@christina.k12.de.us>> wrote:

Dr. Flynn,

See below for questions that I told Mr. Young I do not have answers to and provide a response that I can share with the Board.

Thanks!
Liz


From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 12:48 PM
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH; EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY
Subject: Re: Task Force Update

I am still unsure of process. Jim has not revealed the names of the SMEs used to go through the applications.

What impact did the extra time given one candidate have on creating an advantage?

Aren’t the task force members reporting back to the committee as a whole rather than putting name(s) directly to the board?
Also, if no one stands out, does the task force know to recommend going back out rather than sending us a subpar candidate (if applicable)?

Lastly, I have a deep concern that individual board members are creating an advantage or perception of one by being seen in public with certain applicants, but not others


Hmm… sounds like something is going on up there… and in Christina… they are usually so quiet…