I underestimated Colonial School District for years. I always thought they were just kind of there and they were off my radar. I didn’t write much about them. Under the leadership of Superintendent Dusty Blakey, Colonial is changing before our very eyes. How and why is something I plan on writing much more about in the future. Colonial struggles to hit that 10,000 student mark. They face the same thing other districts up there do as they are surrounded by charter schools. Which baffles me why Blakey would push for the district to be an authorizer of Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security. But I digress. Colonial’s board is in for a massive shake-up in the upcoming school board election so it will be interesting to see where this district goes in the future. Blakey is everywhere these days, attending meetings in Dover all the time and pushing for public/private partnerships. But a growing discontent among teachers in his district may force Blakey to take a second look at his big push for more Relay Graduate School teachers. The district does have 6 less administrators making $100,000 and over than they did 4 years ago. Continue reading
The Colonial School District is in dire straits. They MUST pass their referendum attempt today. If not, expect a huge amount of cuts and layoffs. Unfortunately for Colonial, this comes at a time when all eyes are on the state budget deficit.
I’ve learned there are three camps when it comes to referenda.
There are those who promote referenda because it is an essential must in Delaware for a school district to be fully funded. I tend to live in this camp most of the time with very few exceptions.
There are those who believe a referendum exists to pillage taxes out of the wallets of citizens within the district. They fight referenda tooth and nail and sometimes post “fake news” to make sure a referendum does not pass.
There are those who don’t even know what a referendum is. They get their property tax bill and pay it, no questions asked. These campers are by far the biggest of the three. They don’t vote in referenda and have no knowledge whatsoever of what it even means.
Colonial’s referendum today is do or die for them. Yes, I often state we need to see more transparency when it comes to education funding. Our State Auditor does not conduct yearly audits of school districts even though it is required by state law. But that doesn’t mean I oppose referenda in Delaware. Until a new mechanism is created which changes this warped way Delaware has with funding schools, the referendum is the only way for school districts to survive. There is a very good chance our legislators will approve Carney’s idiot idea of school boards being able to pass a one-time match tax without a referendum. I oppose this for more reasons than I can count. But Colonial had this referendum planned way before Carney even introduced this idiot idea.
To vote no is to vote no for students in many ways. If you enjoy bloated classrooms with over 30 kids in the class, then you will vote no. If you feel all administrators are an evil monopoly choking instruction in the classroom, you will vote no. If you feel no taxpayer dollars have ever funded a school, you will vote no. All three of the above are what the referenda naysayers like to promote. There is a difference between wanting transparency (folks like me) and those who don’t want education funding at all (the referenda naysayers).
Many of the folks who oppose referenda don’t even have kids in the school district. They have kids in private schools or they are elderly citizens who feel they have been taxed too much. The private school parents actually want a school voucher system to take place so their taxpayer dollars go towards me and not the community.
I support the Colonial referendum today and if I lived there, I would vote a resounding YES!
A few weeks ago, the Colonial School District referendum failed to gain enough yes votes for it to pass. So the district is holding another referendum on Tuesday, June 6th. The district issued a press release today.
Colonial Schedules Second Referendum
New Castle, DE- The Colonial School Board of Education voted in favor of holding a second referendum on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. The Board agreed to the same operating amount sought in the February 28 referendum of 38 cents per $100 of assessed home value. With impending cuts to the state budget announced recently, the 38 cents will now meet operating and growth needs only, and not the expansion of other district initiatives.
The Board of Education agreed to remove the capital improvement request of 1.4 cents, the second part of the February referendum, which was also rejected by voters.
Due to the failed referendum, the Colonial School District has implemented an immediate hiring, spending, and travel freeze to preserve funds through the remainder of this fiscal year.
Should the June referendum also be defeated, Colonial is preparing to implement over $4 million in cuts for the 2017-2018 school year. Immediate implications include:
• Over 170 positions will be eliminated. All departments will be impacted.
• Class sizes will increase due to the reduction in staff.
• Middle school and freshman sports will be cancelled.
• Parents will be required to provide basic school supplies.
• Student travel and field trips will be cancelled or costs will be incurred by parents.
• Art Show, Band and Choral Festivals and STEAM Showcase will be cancelled.
• The annual Teacher of the Year and retirement dinners will be cancelled.
• Summer enrichment programs will be cancelled, including Middle School Institute and STEM, impacting over 700 students.
• Summer Credit Recovery Program for high school students will be cancelled.
“We realized that we didn’t communicate the impact that a failed referendum will have on our schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey. While vowing to remain committed to providing students with a quality education Blakey said, “If we aren’t successful in June, we are preparing to make some very difficult choices that will impact our valued staff, and as a result, our students. When we are forced to make drastic cuts like this, we look to preserve our classrooms. However, staff cuts will mean larger class sizes and possibly the end of some popular academic programs. In addition, some sports and extracurricular activities will also be casualties.”
Gary Phillips, President of the Friends of Colonial, is meeting with parents and community members who want to see the referendum pass in June saying, “The Colonial School District has made tremendous strides over the last few years. We want to see that momentum continue for the sake our students, so we will work very hard to convince voters to support the district by voting for the June 6th referendum,” Phillips said.
The Colonial School District held a referendum today for voters of the district to vote on two measures. Both failed to garner a majority of the vote according to the New Castle County Department of Elections:
For additional tax Against additional tax
Total 2,193 2,733
For authority to issue bonds
Building For the bond issue Against the bond issue
Total 2,067 2,961
Back to the drawing board for the district. This happened with Brandywine last year. Their first referendum failed but the second attempt passed. Indian River will hold their second referendum in so many months on Thursday. Last year, Christina passed a referendum on their 3rd attempt after two others failed the previous year. And so it goes…
This is an important message for ALL Colonial 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 Colonial Facebook page.
In reading the public comment for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s Interim Redistricting Plan to be voted on by the Delaware State Board of Education on January 21st, I noticed many things. The first of which is Red Clay’s elderly population does not like this plan at all.
Many of the feelings in the public comments feel they have been taxed enough given that Red Clay just passed a referendum last year. Some even suggested that the full release of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee recommendations taking place after the referendum was done deliberately. These public comments are through December 14th, 2015.
One of the most interesting public comments comes from State Rep. Charles Potter. In an earlier message, he states he fully supports the plan, but towards the end he backtracks and opposes it. His reason? He claims that Colonial School District, whose board voted to back out of sending their Wilmington students to Red Clay in October, has less than 200 students but receives $3.8 million dollars. He doesn’t specify where those funds come from or the nature of them. If anyone has any solid information on this, I would love to see it. I have heard some reference the fact that Colonial owns some of the property on the Port of Wilmington, but this has been a back and forth between both WEIC and Colonial for a few months now and I have yet to see something in writing indicating this one way or another.
Many of the Wilmington resident public comments are in support of the plan, albeit with some reservations. The Wilmington Education Strategy Think Tank even suggests Red Clay and the Brandywine School District merge.
There are numerous public comments in hear that are well worth reading, especially if this plan does get approved. There are valid points on both sides of the coin. Public comment will be accepted until January 14th.
On Tuesday evening, the Colonial School District Board of Education passed a resolution with a vote of 4-2 to support the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting effort with the exception of the Colonial portion of Wilmington. If you listen to their audio recording from the 11/10/15 board meeting it was a very controversial decision.
Board member Melody Spotts questioned the board not even hearing the resolution until the actual board meeting. Most board resolutions are put out earlier so all board members can read it ahead of time.
Who on the board is seeing this for the first time tonight? Did you see this prior to today? No. I did not see this posted in Board Docs. You want us to vote on this today?
The resolution, presented by Board President Joseph Laws, would have Colonial support the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting effort to send the Christina School District Wilmington students to Red Clay. It would also allow Laws to remain on the Commission. What the resolution does not give is an okay by Colonial to send their estimated 150 students to Red Clay as well. They want to keep the current boundaries. Laws also mentioned that Brandywine School District feels the same way. Board member Richard Schiller was not happy with the WEIC response to the board’s October decision.
I don’t agree with the letter from Dr. Rich. It was very condescending to this board.
Spotts was very upset that Laws and Blakey met with the leadership of WEIC without notifying the rest of the board which Laws quickly deflected in the conversation by asking the board if they wanted to continue to have him represent the district on the commission. The board agreed but not if meetings are held the week before without the board being notified.
Laws left the door open for the Colonial students to possibly go to Red Clay with the resolution but not with an “11th hour commitment”. Spotts was adamant about Colonial not sending out a resolution that states Colonial should say how Red Clay spends their taxpayer dollars. She said their district would not be happy about another district doing the same for them. The district refuted the claim from WEIC members about a financial incentive for Colonial to back out of the redistricting effort based on the Port of Wilmington area in Colonial. The district explained this is a tax-exempt area and the district does not make additional money off this. The funding issue was brought up by Spotts as well:
Sure, we’re building a house, tell me how much it costs later.
Laws explained they are increasing their test scores while other districts in the effort are actually going down. Laws said he and Blakey met last week with Tony Allen, the chair of WEIC, Joe Pika, and Dan Rich to discuss Colonial’s backing out of the redistricting and said while it was civil it became very contentious. He told them the Colonial board would not be budging and backing off from their decision unless the board as a whole voted on it. The WEIC trio asked the board to pass a resolution in support of the recommendations which is where the trap was set for the Colonial board.
What this resolution does is tie the redistricting effort to what is already in paragraph 1026 of Title 14 by eliminating a referendum for the potential school districts:
(c) Subject to subsection (a) of this section, the State Board of Education may change or alter the boundaries of any reorganized school district without a referendum of the voters if the written consent of the owners of the real property to be transferred has been obtained and if also the school boards of the districts affected by such change or alteration have adopted resolutions favoring such change or alteration.
This is the legal loophole to all of this and the WEIC folks clearly know this. How they could have gotten this past Colonial with nobody questioning it at their board meeting clearly shows this. Which is why I can no longer support this initiative whatsoever. If the powers that be want to play dirty tricks, then the entire plan is corrupt in my opinion. While the resolution would allow for Colonial’s students to stay in the Colonial district, it is going to become a hot mess because Colonial’s board passed this resolution which is exactly what the WEIC trio wanted. The 4-2 vote had the following votes: Yes-Laws, Benjamin, Kennedy and Magee, No-Schiller and Spotts. Board member Tim Suber was not at the meeting. The resolution is not on Colonial’s board docs portion of their website and did not appear before the meeting as well.
Backdoor meetings on the whole WEIC/redistricting effort goes against the very spirit of this whole thing, and it was indicated this would not happen. Now it has, and nobody really knows what was said and if any side deals happened. I cannot, and will not support this initiative based on that unless a full audio recording of the meeting between Laws, Blakey, Allen, Rich and Pika surfaces with everything that was said at this meeting. This will not happen, therefore I can not support WEIC.
Side Deals. Secret Phone Calls. Backroom Meetings. This is the stuff Delaware is made of. By the time the public finds out about something, the script has already been written and the public part is just semantics and window dressing. This is politics, not just in Delaware, but everywhere. It is not something I believe in. Neither does Christina board member John Young, who wrote the following on Facebook this morning:
All eyes will be on the WEIC with the Colonial declaration of retaining their students. If WEIC buckles, the premise for the WEAC recommendations and the subsequent, successful legislation is irrevocably damaged and a Pandora’s box of permutations will flood the marketplace surrounding the entire redistricting process. I do not envy Dr. Allen and the commission co-chairs right now. WEIC just got punched in the nose, so to speak, and their response is going to be scrutinized. This cannot be a series of private phone calls, this is the moment where transparency must shine. If this Colonial issue is negotiated in darkness, WEIC loses.
Our only role at this point is to save those babies from having to attend Red Clay because we’re already doing a great job…we need to prevent these children from going to this district. -Mel Spotts, Colonial Board of Education
I always knew some twist was going to come along in the whole Wilmington redistricting initiative. Something would happen during the process that would cause people to say “Where the hell did that come from?” That happened last night at the Colonial School District Board of Education meeting. To end the suspense, the Colonial board voted 7-0 to keep their Wilmington students. Let me repeat this, they do not want their Wilmington students leaving their school district and going to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. Approximately 350 students. You can listen to the audio recording here.
Unlike Christina and Red Clay, the Colonial board never passed a resolution in favor of the recommendations or findings from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee. Existing Delaware law, in addition to the legislation from Senate Bill 122, allows for the bypass of a referendum if the school district boards involved in the redistricting effort passed a resolution in favor of it. Colonial, in researching their board minutes, never did. The only involvement with WEAC was a presentation to the school district on 2/23/15, but this was a workshop and just a presentation.
What this means for the whole Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is not known. This is the monkey wrench thrown into the gears of the entire plan. In my opinion, Colonial was underestimated and not given the proper attention they should have received. All of the focus seems to be on Red Clay and Christina. Colonial seems to be very concerned about the approximate 350 students that would be affected by the redistricting to Red Clay schools. In their audio recording from their board meeting last night, board member Mel Spotts stated:
I would like to make a motion, based on the data provided, that our students in the Colonial School District stay within our borderlines and are not a part of Wilmington reconfiguration.
The board then passed the motion on a unanimous 7-0 vote to let the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission know they are out of the redistricting process. What this will do the future of the WEIC/redistricting initiative is going to be a big question in the coming weeks. But I am fairly certain WEIC Chair Tony Allen and Governor Markell will not be happy about this. I’m sure the phone calls will be coming fast and furious to Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey very soon, if not already.
I’m also hearing implementation of the redistricting, if it even goes through at this point in time, won’t be until 2018.
*To clarify, if the Wilmington redistricting does go through it is understood that Brandywine School District would receive these students which Ms. Spotts understood later on in the WEIC portion of the board meeting. But the motion still passed.
*As well I reworded the portion with Senate Bill 122 to clarify what is in existing Delaware code prior to SB122 and what came as a result of it.
Just look at this spreadsheet! Holy cow is that a lot of travelling for one district. From one conference to the next, with tons of people going. How does anyone have time to teach? Is this too much travel? Just think, if there were no Common Core or Smarter Balanced, most of this would be cut in half!
It makes me think of this: