New Faces Enter The Mix For Delaware Secretary Of Education & A Message For John Carney

Who will be the Delaware Secretary of Education under Governor John Carney?  My moles and sources have given me new names in the hunt for the Education Czar of Delaware.  One of them I really, really like! Continue reading “New Faces Enter The Mix For Delaware Secretary Of Education & A Message For John Carney”

Who Will Be The New Delaware Secretary Of Education?

This won’t happen for another six months, but I thought I would get the speculation game going.  I’ve heard a few names bandied about.  Some who would qualify and others who would not.  Even though Senator Bryan Townsend introduced what I like to call the “Murphy Bill”, to prevent former gym teachers from becoming the State Secretary of Education here in little old Delaware, there are certain qualifications the nomination has to have.  The current state law states any candidate must have at least five years in teaching and administration, with experience in both.  This rules out Mike Matthews for example.  He would make a very fine Secretary of Education, but unfortunately, he isn’t qualified.  So could someone like Capital Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton qualify if he has only been an administrator for about a year?  Yes, he was a teacher way back when and he was also a Principal at Kirk Middle School and others.  It does not have to be a current or even a former Superintendent.

So who do you think will be the next Delaware Secretary of Education picked by the next Governor?  For the purposes of this poll, I left out names I’ve heard who would not be able to be confirmed by the Delaware Senate because of existing state law.

Why Doesn’t The Delaware State Board of Education & The Secretary of Education Approve Minor Modifications?

The Delaware DOE must love charter school minor modifications.  An approved charter school can request a one-year delay or even choose an alternative educator evaluation system with a minor modification request.  But why doesn’t the State Board of Education have any say with minor modifications?  They used to.  This was changed with Regulation 497, which went into effect on November 1st, 2013.  Prior to that, both the Secretary and the State Board had approval authority.  The Secretary would make their decision and then submit it to the State Board for concurrence:

Decisions for minor modifications to a charter may be decided by the Secretary[, with the

concurrence of the State Board of Education,] within 30 working days from the date the

application was filed, unless the timeline is waived by mutual agreement of the Secretary and the

applicant, or in any case where the Secretary, in the sole discretion of the Secretary, deems that it

would be beneficial to either refer the matter to the Accountability Committee or to seek advice

from the State Board prior to deciding the matter.

Regulation 497 did away with this.  It allowed Mark Murphy, in one of his final acts, to approve many charter schools for an alternate teacher evaluation.  It also allowed charter schools that were approved to get a one-year delay in opening to get a stay of formal review by Mark Murphy.  The Delaware Met used this “get of jail free card” in April 2014 because they didn’t have sufficient enrollment to open by August, 2014.  The Secretary is one person.  One person should not be deciding “minor” decisions which can have a huge impact on students and staff at a school.  I think the 148th General Assembly needs to clearly definite what is considered a major and minor modification for a charter during their next legislative session.  And they should also realign this so the State Board of Education also has to approve both a major AND minor modification.

Serious Questions About Delaware Secretary of Education & Charter Modification Approvals

I was told last week by Alison May, the Public Information Officer for the Delaware Department of Education, that any change in teacher evaluation is considered a minor modification for Delaware charter schools.  If this is the case, why are there no applications shown online?  The DOE website clearly lists applications for other major and minor modifications, but for Freire and the Wilmington Charter Collaborative (EastSide, Prestige, Kuumba, & Thomas Edison), it does not show any of these.  At least not for the change in teacher evaluation.

The state law is very unclear about this aspect in relation to charter schools.  The code states all schools must use DPAS-II unless they have been otherwise approved for a different teacher evaluation system.  A minor modification is a change in school practices that does not go against their charter.  Since the DOE doesn’t list Freire’s actual charter, it is very hard to see if this meets the criteria for a minor or major modification.  And still, the DOE needs to be putting any application, from any school or district, up on their website.  But Freire seems to get a pass for some reason as their original application is not listed on the Delaware Charter Schools page on the DOE website.

So the unanswered question is this: Can Mark Murphy, in one of his last acts as Delaware Secretary of Education (his last official day is September 30th), approve an alternate evaluation system for Freire without consent from the State Board of Education?  I would assume a teacher evaluation part of a Delaware charter school would be embedded in their actual charter.  And was the approval for the Wilmington Charter Collaborative legal as well?  If anyone has the answers to this, with actual state law to prove it, please let me know.  I have searched extensively for this but I am unable to find it.  And it’s not like the DOE is actually being proactive and forthcoming with information these days, unless it’s to cover their own ass.  And the even bigger question, if it is proven this is a minor modification, should it be considered a major modification?

Who Is Dr. Steven Godowsky?

Dr. Steven Gadowsky
Dr. Steven Godowsky

It was announced today in every single Delaware media outlet that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is “stepping down” and Dr. Steven Godowsky, the former Superintendent of the New Castle County V0cational Technical School District, will fill the role on an interim basis pending a special hearing with the Delaware Senate to accept Governor Markell’s nomination on October 20th.  Who is he?

According to his LinkedIn account and his biography with the University of Delaware, this would not be his first rodeo with the Department of Education.  He served as a Supervisor there from 1977-1982 after serving a short stint in the former Alfred I. DuPont school district as a special education teacher.  He ran the Exceptional Children/Special Education division before becoming returning to teaching at New Castle County Vo-Tech.  In 2000, he was appointed Assistant Superintendent and three years later he became the Superintendent, a role he served faithfully for the next eight years.  Upon retiring in 2011, Dr. Godowsky served as a Supervisor the University of Delaware’s Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL).

I ran across him for the first time from the DOE’s Charter School Accountability Committee final report for Gateway Lab School’s charter renewal last fall.  He helped the school to overcome the odds when their charter was renewed last December after the CSAC recommended their charter not be renewed.  He also assisted the Pencader Business School Board of Directors in board governance training at the former charter school in 2012.

As a former Superintendent of the Year in Delaware, Godowsky also served as President of the Delaware Chief School Officers Administration (now called DASA) in 2008.

It sounds like Godowsky has decades of experience with Delaware education, and I am particularly impressed he has a very rich background in special education and is willing to fight for students with disabilities, as evidenced by his work with Gateway.

New Castle County Vo-Tech Education Associate Danny Rufo tweeted the following statement earlier today:

While some may lament his time with the Vision 2015 workshop, and their ties to Rodel, let’s be honest and face facts.  Most of the higher-ups in Delaware school districts and charters have spent some sort of time on one of these committees.  It does not mean they are “bought and paid for” by Rodel, especially in the pre-Race To The Top years.

I definitely think he is much higher up the education ladder in experience compared to Mark Murphy.  It has become more than obvious what we don’t need in a Secretary of Education, so this is a step in the right direction.  Nothing against Dr. Godowsky, but I really hope the Delaware Senate asks him many questions in regards to the future of Delaware education.  When Mark Murphy passed the nomination, the questions from the Senate were very limited in scope.  We must not make the same mistake again.  I feel confident, based on his vast experience as well as ringing endorsements from several Delaware legislators, he could be the right man for the job!