State Rep. Kim Williams Slams State Board Exec. Director Donna Johnson At WEIC Meeting Tonight

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The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission had two meetings tonight.  At 5pm, they had their Redistricting Committee meeting and at 6:30 they had a regular commission meeting.  During the public comment part of the redistricting meeting, State Rep. Kim Williams advised the audience State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson was telling State Board members how to vote on the WEIC plan at last week’s controversial State Board of Education meeting.  This was overheard by a few people in the audience at the State Board of Education meeting.  The best part… Donna Johnson was sitting in the row behind her.  As reported to me by several people, Johnson immediately began shaking her head no.  She did not look happy at all by the time I got there.

I was not there for that stunning announcement, but I did arrive late to the commission meeting.  As Milli Vanilli would say, blame it on the rain.  But the meeting was in full swing by the time I got there.  Commission member Yvonne Johnson introduced a motion to send the WEIC plan back to the State Board without their amendments concerning “shall” and “may” and the Christina priority school plans.  The motion passed, after a lot of heated discussion on both sides of the argument, with 15 yes, 6 no, and 2 absent.

Prior to that, State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky were there to answer questions.  The best moment of the evening, which drew a huge round of applause, was when Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan informed Dr. Gray about how former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy never signed their memorandum of understanding developed with their board, the DOE, and representatives from Governor Markell’s office.  Dr. Gray actually said she wasn’t aware of that even though she was told this at the December State Board meeting.  She told Minnehan she misread the addendum to the WEIC plan, even though it was very clearly spelled out.  I have to wonder if these State Board members read anything or if Donna Johnson is calling the shots 100% of the time.  Minnehan told Dr. Gray she wanted an apology from the State Board for their misleading labeling of the Christina School District.  Many members of the commission and nearly all of the audience clapped at this.  Of course, Dr. Gray did not apologize.  I guess they need a board vote to determine if they “may” or “shall” do that.

Commission member Chandra Pitts asked Gray if she understood the intent of Senate Bill 122, which was that the WEIC plan either got a yes or a no vote from the State Board.  Gray responded by saying she did understand the legislation.  Pitts asked Secretary Godowsky what his plans are for Wilmington students after he openly said he wanted to make sure the Christina priority schools clause was put into the State Board’s consideration for the WEIC plan.

Gray said the State Board will advocate for Wilmington students just as much as they do for all of Delaware’s students.  This didn’t soothe any of the emotions in the crowd.  As I wrote on Facebook tonight, their idea of advocacy is ruling as tyrants in the Cabinet Room at the DOE Building once a month.  They are the most disconnected education group in the state, yet they have this power to make or break education.  All I see is a lot of breaking at the expense of Delaware’s students.  When the majority of the voices out there are telling you “this is wrong” or “don’t do this”, the State Board usually takes it upon themselves to ignore those voices and essentially do whatever Governor Markell tells Donna Johnson who then tells them what to do.  One member of the commission asked why the State Board brought up this whole “shall” and “may” stuff in Mid-February when they had the plan since December.  No response…

The districts were united in their response to the State Board’s change of the “shall” and “may” with no way!  They will have no part of an unfunded mandate that could eventually leave the citizens in their districts on the hook to pay for all of this.  Colonial Board Member Joseph Laws told Gray he thought it was ridiculous that the State Board would change those words based on the possibility of “tying the hands of the future State Board”.  He said the General Assembly and school board members pass laws, resolutions, and policies all the time.  Basically, and these are my words, it was lame of the State Board to change a whole plan based on future boards.

During the deliberation of the motion to send the original plan back to the State Board, WEIC member Rev. Meredith Griffiths told the group it should be about the students.  He felt if they send the plan back to the State Board where they will vote no on it again, it won’t help the students because the adults self-posture.  I see it as defending their local turf.  Had they done this during the Race To The Top days, things could be very different now.  Perhaps they have learned their lesson and we are seeing this now with the WEIC vs. State Board fight.

Bottom line: you can’t trust the State Board.  They are not publicly elected officials.  They are appointed by the Governor.  Granted, not all of the State Board members were appointed by Markell, but they have let him run the show since he became Governor.  And by using his puppet Donna Johnson to give the marching orders to the State Board, we get events like tonight.

Gray was not in her turf, so she couldn’t do her grand posturing and her bouts of Christina Derangement Syndrome the way she does in State Board meetings.  But make no mistake, beneath her calm demeanor, her arrogance could still be seen by all.  For the most part, Godowsky sat there stone-faced without much comment at all.  Our State Board of Education needs some major changes.  The trust in them is gone.  And I am still not convinced Godowsky’s changes in the DOE are enough to restore any semblance of faith in them as well.  At the end of the day, it is still Governor Markell’s commands being followed.  He may tweak those plans here and there in a vain attempt to restore public faith in his failed agendas, but the results are still the same.

If someone could please answer how the hell Donna Johnson still has her job I would greatly appreciate it.  How does someone advance from being on the Common Core math implementation team to the Executive Director of the State Board of Education in just a couple years?  It is my opinion, shared by many, that Donna Johnson abuses her power time and time again and no one at a state level who has the power to do anything about it does.  Like I said, we need drastic change in Dover.  The State Board’s incompetence at either passing or denying a redistricting plan is clear evidence of this, but this is just the culmination of years of their Markell-driven need for control.

 

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WDEL’s Weasel Of The Year: The Department of Education led by Donna Johnson and Dr. Teri Quinn Gray!!!

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The Rick Jensen Show on WDEL just announced their Weasel of the Year for 2015, and by a very wide margin, the Delaware Department of Education led by Executive Director Donna Johnson and State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray took the award!  Other nominees were Bloom Energy, Paul Ryan, Governor Markell, and more.  But the DOE won by 27 votes.  Congratulations to the DOE, Donna Johnson, and Dr. Gray!  You certainly worked very hard all year long to get this prestigious honor!

Once Rick gets the podcast of this on the WDEL website I will definitely put it up on here!

Knowing the power structure down at the Townsend Building down in Dover, I have no doubt Donna Johnson will be very irate at being called the leader of the Delaware DOE.  I let Rick know this on the air as well, but I also said they are essentially the same thing.  Maybe not in the formal Delaware State Code, but you know what I’m saying.  The best part?  Even though Governor Markell didn’t win, this is reflective of him because he appointed all of the key personnel at the Delaware DOE.  So this is a double victory in my book!

The Biggest Problem For The State Board of Education: Donna Johnson

It is no secret that I have issues with Donna Johnson.  It is also no secret that I blew her anonymous identities on my blog and another one at the end of the summer.  As well, I filed many complaints against the DOE with the Delaware Department of Justice and one of those was specifically against her over what I perceive to be very serious ethics issues.  With those disclaimers out of the way, I firmly believe she is hazardous to education in Delaware.  I know she has passion and conviction for what she believes, and I am okay with that.  What I am not okay with is how she goes about it.

The true problems exist within Title 14.  The role of Executive Director for the State Board of Education is not clearly defined.  I would assume that role to be that of an impartial and unbiased mediator between the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and the Secretary of Education.  Instead what we have is her informing the board about issues and offering suggested guidance to them.  As well, when there are State Board workshops, like the recent one on the Smarter Balanced Assessment at Grotto’s in Dover, the entire presentation was led by Donna Johnson.  She sits on the DESS committee, she sat on the AFWG committee, and many others.  That is not State Board representation as the law dictates.  That is Donna Johnson representation.  I’m sure the law is written in such a way that the President of the State Board can choose a designee, but when it is the same person at the bulk of these meetings and workgroups that is not a voting member of the State Board, I take great issue with that.

I have watched Donna Johnson in the past year and a half.  Some of those times I didn’t even know it was Donna Johnson.  She is very quick to correct someone if they are wrong on something, or her perception of wrongdoing.  But when challenged on something that is controversial or on an issue she is unwilling to give an answer for, we get a self-righteous and indignant comment or look on her face, as if she is saying “how dare you question me, don’t you know who I am?”  Yes Donna, we all know who you are.  There has never been a question about that.  I have seen you at State Board meetings, education workshops, task force meetings, AFWG meetings, and even a State Board retreat when I was the only person from the public at the meeting.  I have no doubt you can’t stand me, and you probably view my outing of you as some sort of betrayal.  But I won’t apologize for that.  You are someone who helps set policy, and your antics behind the scenes demanded I do something.  You can say you don’t set policy, but you are at Legislative Hall more than some legislators and you are firmly aligned with Rodel.  That makes you probably the most dangerous person involved in education in Delaware.  I have seen you anonymously post on my blog about how Smarter Balanced is probably not the right answer but then promote it at every education meeting you go to.  And for those who want to argue about state IP addresses, I would not say this if I were not 100% certain.  Who is the real Donna Johnson?  If this were any other person, I would never have outed them.  And I know this caused some dissent among my readers.  I own that.  But to me, someone with as big a role as yourself, should not be leading conversations in certain directions.  Nor should you be providing information that is, at a minimum, false or misleading.

I have talked with numerous people about you in conversation, and the same basic thing always comes up: that you are very difficult to deal with.  I believe you have confused your job title with personal edification.  You should not be dictating policy, you should be impartially conveying information that is given to you to relay to the State Board.  You should not be the State Board representation at every important education meeting in the state.  We need actual State Board representation at every single one of these meetings so they can hear the tone, and see the looks, and feel the heart of the conversations.  Things get lost in the transition to communicating these meetings with the State Board and that tone of those meetings is lost.  The fact that the State Board is an appointed body and not an elected body leads most citizens to believe they will fall in line with what their appointee wants, not what is best for the students of Delaware.  This has been proven time and time again, and it is bad politics.

Let’s look at the Charter School Accountability Committee.  Yes, you are a non-voting member, but you are allowed to ask very in-depth questions of the charters that face this committee.  That can easily sway the opinion of the voting members of the committee.  Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy some of the questions you ask and they are very important to the context of the purpose of those meetings, but at the same time I can’t help but wonder if your undefined role needs clarification.  I believe the ambiguity of your role allows you to do what you do.  And that isn’t right, in my opinion.  I believe you wield and flaunt way too much “executive” power and policy is made based on this.  I think Rodel is too ingrained in your thought processes and those of other lobbyists.  I feel sometimes that you are a lobbyist when your role does not clearly grant you that power.

The bulk of this post is precipitated by your actions at the final Accountability Framework Working Group meeting yesterday.  Yes, I challenged you on many aspects of Secretary Godowsky and the State Board’s decision to move forward with harsh penalties against schools for the participation rate multiplier against a school’s proficiency on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  You respectfully told me I am entitled to my opinion.  But two words did it for me: “positive consequences”.  This is the heart of this.  Because I could see that you truly believe positive consequences are needed to help destroy the opt-out movement.  I do not view these actions as positive in the grand scheme of things.  They are disrespectful to parents, educators, schools, and our communities.  It is meant to shame schools for a parent’s actions.  If I had my way, there would be absolutely no consequences for opt-out as it is not even in the State Board’s jurisdiction to assign judgment for parent’s actions.  But to refer to them as “positive” diminishes the very foundation of our education system and lumps parents as a problem that needs to be dealt with.  This is about an attempt to control parents and manipulate them into deciding what is best for their child.  This is why I vowed to you, the DOE, and Secretary Godowsky that opt-out will continue and it will reach a point where opt-out is not the only measure and it will wind up in court as a class-action law suit against the above parties by many parents in Delaware.

Why It Is Necessary To Reveal A High-Profile Source….

I sent the below email earlier today to an employee of the State of Delaware.  They are a source, and I am outing them as that source, as well as multiple pseudonyms used on my blog, and possibly others.  Sometimes there is a higher call of duty than blogger honor, and this gross negligence of right and wrong called for this.  This is an extreme situation, affecting multiple people, but most of all, the students of Delaware.  Especially in the Christina School District.  Below is the full email I sent to Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the Delaware State Board of Education.  As well, I blind cc:ed several persons on this email, so no one will be able to say “I didn’t know about this.”

Re: State Board Meeting The Other Day  

To
  • Donna Johnson
BCC
  • John Young
  • Kevin Ohlandt
  • Mike Matthews
  • Jackie H. Kook
  • Eve Buckley
  • Nancy Willing
  • Kowalko John (LegHall)
  • Kavips World Press Blog
  • Williams Kimberly (LegHall)
  • Pandora DeLib
  • Matthews Sean (LegHall)
  • Kilroy’s Delaware
  • Baumbach Paul (LegHall)
  • Terri Hodges
  • Lawson Dave (LegHall)
  • Paige Elizabeth (K12)
  • John Young
  • Minnehan Harrie E (K12)
  • shirley.saffer@christina.k12.de.us
  • montagnebeau@aol.com
  • Natalie Ganc
  • Yvonne Johnson
  • Markell Jack
  • Murphy Mark
  • Denn Matthew (DOJ)
  • Townsend Bryan (LegHall)
  • Blowman David (K12)
  • acherry@wdel.com
  • Avi Wolfman-Arent
  • Matthew Albright
  • rick@wdel.com
  • Lindell Matt (K12)
  • Gray Teri
 
Donna,