An Open Challenge To Governor Markell, Secretary Godowsky & DOE Regarding Opt-Out

I just sent Governor Markell and the DOE an email with a request for the final Accountability Framework Working Group meeting on Tuesday at 10am.  Anything less than this will not be sufficient for myself and the growing number of parents who will exercise their parental rights to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Godowsky Steven (K12) <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Schwinn Penny <penny.schwinn@doe.k12.de.us>; Reyna Ryan <ryan.reyna@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay (Governor) <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>
Sent:
Friday, November 13, 2015 9:53 AM
Subject:
AFWG Meeting on 11/17

Good Morning Dr. Godowsky, Dr. Schwinn and Mr. Reyna,
I understand there is to be another Accountability Framework Working Group on 11/17/15 at 10am in the Cabinet Room at the Townshend Building in Dover.  I have to admit I was taken aback at Dr. Godowsky’s suggestion last week at the Delaware State Board of Education Retreat that he was not going to accept the AFWG’s recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework.
What I am asking of the three of you for Tuesday’s meetings is actual documentation, on United States Department of Education letterhead, why Delaware would have to impose the harsh opt-out penalties based on US Congressionally approved laws and regulations.  I’m sorry, but hearing from Dr. Schwinn vocally about what US DOE requires is not enough.  I want to see, in writing, why this is necessary.  Vague letters from an employee no longer at US DOE, and non-regulatory guidance from US DOE is not sufficient.  Not for something this big.  The letter from US DOE provided to then Secretary Murphy places the burden of opt-out on schools, meaning they cannot pick students to opt out.  The law absolutely says nothing in regards to parental opt-out.  While I agree schools should not make that choice as some have done in the past, it is fundamentally, morally, and legally wrong to infer that parents can not opt their child out of the state assessment.
I am writing this on behalf of all the parents who have either already opted their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, those who will be doing so, and those who have intimidation and what amounts to bullying tactics perpetrated on them by schools in Delaware who are not honoring their parental rights which are the underpinnings of our society.  Parents should not live in fear about consequences for a school if they choose to exercise their fundamental and Constitutional rights, as established by the U.S. Supreme Court on many occasions.
If this is a mandate from Delaware Governor Jack Markell, I would challenge him to come to this meeting in person to make clear his justification and reasoning for this. If he is unable to attend, then I would like him to craft a letter on State of Delaware Governor letterhead with a legal basis for this mandate.
To not honor parental rights and to punish schools for a parental decision is a slap in the face to parents and schools.  If the intention is to punish schools for parental decisions, this is abhorrent and a disgrace.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt,
on behalf of the Opt-Out Parents of Delaware
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Secretary Godowsky Gives Lame Response To Shutting Down Delaware Met

This morning, after hearing even more things going on at Delaware Met, I took a drastic step and emailed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and pleaded with him to close Delaware Met down for good.  I also cc:ed Governor Markell, his education policy advisor Lindsay O’Mara, Attorney General Matt Denn, other leaders at the DOE, and every single legislator in the 148th General Assembly.  His response was very shocking given the nature of the email.  The responses I got from legislators had more meat than what Godowsky had.


From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 10, 2015 10:39 AM
To: Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>
Cc: Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>; Nagourney Jennifer <Jennifer.Nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; May Alison <alison.may@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; Denn Matthew <matthew.denn@state.de.us>; Williams Kimberly <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Kowalko John <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Matthews Sean <sean.matthews@state.de.us>; Lynn Sean M <sean.lynn@state.de.us>; Baumbach Paul <paul.baumbach@state.de.us>; Bennett Andria <andria.bennett@state.de.us>; Schwartzkopf Peter <peter.schwartzkopf@state.de.us>; Jaques, Jr Earl <earl.jaques@state.de.us>; Potter, Jr Charles <charles.potter@state.de.us>; Bolden StephanieT <stephaniet.bolden@state.de.us>; Paradee Trey <trey.paradee@state.de.us>; Keeley Helene <helene.keeley@state.de.us>; Brady Gerald <gerald.brady@state.de.us>; Smith Melanie G <melanie.g.smith@state.de.us>; Heffernan Debra <debra.heffernan@state.de.us>; Short Bryon <bryon.short@state.de.us>; Short Daniel <daniel.short@state.de.us>; Johnson Quinton <quinton.johnson@state.de.us>; Johnson JJ <jj.johnson@state.de.us>; Hensley Kevin S <kevin.hensley@state.de.us>; jeff.spiegelman@state.de.us; Hudson Deborah <deborah.hudson@state.de.us>; Mitchell John L <john.l.mitchell@state.de.us>; Longhurst Valerie <valerie.longhurst@state.de.us>; Bentz David <david.bentz@state.de.us>; Mulrooney Michael <michael.mulrooney@state.de.us>; Smyk Steve <steve.smyk@state.de.us>; Ramone Michael <michael.ramone@state.de.us>; Miro Joseph <joseph.miro@state.de.us>; Osienski Edward <edward.osienski@state.de.us>; Viola John <john.viola@state.de.us>; Carson William <william.carson@state.de.us>; Outten Bobby <bobby.outten@state.de.us>; Peterman Jack <harold.peterman@state.de.us>; Sokola David <david.sokola@state.de.us>; Townsend Bryan <bryan.townsend@state.de.us>; Yearick Lyndon D <lyndon.yearick@state.de.us>; Wilson David L <david.l.wilson@state.de.us>; Kenton Harvey <harvey.kenton@state.de.us>; BriggsKing Ruth <ruth.briggsking@state.de.us>; Gray Ronald <ronald.gray@state.de.us>; Dukes Timothy <timothy.dukes@state.de.us>; Collins Richard G <richard.g.collins@state.de.us>; McDowell Harris <harris.mcdowell@state.de.us>; Henry Margaret Rose <margaretrose.henry@state.de.us>; Marshall Robert <robert.marshall@state.de.us>; Lavelle Greg <greg.lavelle@state.de.us>; Cloutier Catherine <catherine.cloutier@state.de.us>; Lopez Ernesto B <ernesto.lopez@state.de.us>; Blevins Patricia <patricia.blevins@state.de.us>; Peterson Karen <karen.peterson@state.de.us>; Hall-Long Bethany <bethany.hall-long@state.de.us>; Poore Nicole <nicole.poore@state.de.us>; Pettyjohn Brian <brian.pettyjohn@state.de.us>; McBride David <david.mcbride@state.de.us>; Ennis Bruce <bruce.ennis@state.de.us>; Lawson Dave <dave.lawson@state.de.us>; Colin J. Bonini <senator-colin@prodigy.net>; Bushweller Brian <brian.bushweller@state.de.us>; Simpson Gary <gary.simpson@state.de.us>; Hocker Gerald <gerald.hocker@state.de.us>; Richardson Bryant L <bryant.richardson@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>
Subject: Delaware Met

Dr. Godowsky,

I know we have been at odds over the whole Delaware School Success Framework, but I implore the Department to act immediately with regards to The Delaware Met.  This place is an obvious danger to students and staff, and the DOE needs to shut it down immediately.  The issues there are getting worse, and the DOE needs to act now.  Not in December at a State Board of Education meeting, and not at the end of the year should their charter be revoked.  I completely understand this is a very delicate situation, but student and staff safety need to come first.  With all the information I have heard, I believe there to be a clear and present danger in that school.

I am calling for others to reach out to you on this as well.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt


Here I am, reaching out in good faith to them, and they know I know what is going on over there.  I would think the words “clear and present danger” would warrant something other than the response I got from Dr. Godowsky.  But no, the typical Delaware response which says “I read your email.  I’m not going to do anything about it Chicken Little, but you should feel lucky I bothered to respond.  That’s more than Mark Murphy ever did.”  Okay, it didn’t really say that, but that’s how it felt.  No, this is what I got:


From: Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>
To:
Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent:
Tuesday, November 10, 2015 1:38 PM
Subject:
RE: Delaware Met

Kevin,

I appreciate the notice. Thank you.

Steve

Steven H. Godowsky

Delaware Department of Education

Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us


Gee, thanks Steve.  No action plan, or even a “We will look into it” or any questions.  Nothing.  And they wonder why I blog about the DOE so much.  Are these people that arrogant and condescending to think they are above the rest of us and aren’t accountable for their actions?  They want to lord it over teachers and schools all the time, but when the time comes for them to answer for themselves they hide behind Governor Markell.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some good people working over there, but when the leadership responds like this, it doesn’t show a concerted effort to communicate better with the public.  It shows a “We are better than you” attitude.  Does he have to wait for Markell’s permission to respond effectively?  Cause we all know Jack was gallivanting around today giving a speech about teacher quality on the taxpayer’s dime without putting it on his public schedule.

Meanwhile, this school needs action taken on it now.  What is going to be the DOE’s spin when things come out?  Something like “we were aware of the situation and took every step necessary to deal with these matters.”  I’m telling everyone right now, when things are revealed about this school, don’t look to the DOE for answers.  Because you will get a response akin to the one I got from Secretary Godowsky today.  You’re going 0-2 on me here Steve.  That is not a good start.  While I appreciate you helping to put Delaware Met on formal review to begin with, that doesn’t solve the immediate problems going on there.  And your betrayal last week with the opt-out penalties is not endearing you to Delaware at all!

If no one will take quick action on this school than something bad is going to happen.  We all know it.  And I’m sure the last thing the DOE wants to do is prove me right.  I am hereby declaring the DOE a Priority State Education Agency.

*I did edit one name in the email.  Poor State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman.  I can never remember the i before e except after c rule with his name.  Both default when I start to put his name in my email address field.  My profuse apologies Rep. Speigelman!

Secretary Godowsky Stabs Schools And Parents In The Back With His Cowardly Move

At the State Board of Education Fall Retreat today in Dewey Beach, Dr. Steven Godowsky made his first big move as Delaware Secretary of Education, and it was not a good one.  I have been writing the past couple months about the Accountability Framework Working Group and the Delaware School Success Framework.  At their last meeting in early October, the group unanimously agreed not to have opt-out penalties where the proficiency rate of a school was multiplied by their participation rate for the school report card.  They agreed to a lesser penalty whereby the school would have to write a report about how to improve the participation rate and no school could earn a status of “reward” school if their participation rate fell below the 95% mark.

Today, Dr. Steven Godowsky undid all the work this group did, their 14 months of meetings and discussion, and overrode their recommendations.  That’s right, the same guy who told the New Castle County school boards at their  combined school board breakfast just two weeks ago:

“It’s not a final decision, but it looks like from all levels of the department…that harsh sanctions will not carry the day,” he said. “There will be minimum sanctions that are required.”

So what made him override this?  Looks pretty easy to me: he got confirmed by the Delaware Senate last week.  If I had to guess, if he came across as the tough guy the Senate would have pounded him.  I never thought I would say this, but thank you to Senators Greg Lavelle and Colin Bonini for saying no to this guy getting confirmed.  All his lies about being more transparent and communicating better with the public.  He just gave the middle finger to the public school system and parents in Delaware by doing this.

Godowsky is a water carrier for Governor Markell and his buddies at Rodel.  He is NOT his own man, and he is a coward.  He met with members of the Delaware Senate before his confirmation to talk about the changes he wants in the DOE.  He will make no changes without Jack Markell whispering in his ear, I can guarantee that!  This jacked up move of his assures the State Board of Education will vote on this and pass Regulation 103 which will put this into the books at their November 19th meeting.  And now schools will be coming up with even more nonsense concerning opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Delaware Parents: Just refuse the test now.  Do not lie down and let this happen.  Let’s beat New York’s 20% opt-out rate, and get it up to 50%, or higher!  The only way this cockamamie test is going to go away is unless we MAKE it happen.  That’s right, We The People!  I was starting to believe Godowsky’s line of crap about making things better.  I know he has his defenders, and I’m okay with the heat I’m about to get, but this man is a liar!  He is worse than Mark Murphy, because he does have the experience, and he is still okay with putting the screws to the public school system.  And he used to run a few of them!

If the 148th General Assembly doesn’t override the House Bill 50 veto by the equally cowardly Governor, there is going to be hell to pay for those who say no.  And if the leaders don’t even let it get to a vote, they will NOT be re-elected.  I will make damn sure of that!  We have all been victims of Jack Markell for far too long, and now he is on the cusp of completely destroying parental rights and the voice of educators.  The State Board is in Markell’s pocket just as much as Godowsky.  So we need to strike NOW!

Email your legislators today and start pounding the State Board of Education right away.

Dr. Godowsky’s Big Day! From Vision To Senate Confirmation!

Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Acting Delaware Secretary of Education, is expected to be confirmed by the Delaware Senate in an Executive Session at 2:30pm today.  Earlier this morning, he gave a speech at the Student Success 2025 event sponsored by the Vision Coalition and tons of corporate education reform companies.  I’m hearing lots of good things about Dr. Godowsky, but I am cautiously optimistic.  The Delaware Senate needs to grill him on what his true intentions are.  If he is just there to follow Governor Markell’s bidding, he should step away now before Delaware students come under more harm with false ideologies and tainted dogma coming from the destroyers of public education.

We all know many are in attendance at Student Success 2025 for the eclairs.  No one is fooled.

Delaware Senate To Hold Confirmation Hearing For Interim Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky

On October 28th, the Delaware Senate will have a rare out of legislative session to reconvene for a confirmation hearing for the Governor Markell appointed Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky.  The meeting will be held at Legislative Hall in Dover in the Senate Chamber at 2:30pm.

It would be really great if the House could come in the day before and override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, that way the reconvened Senate could just vote on it the same day as Godowsky’s confirmation hearing.  But I can’t see this happening at this point in time.  I posted an article earlier today for questions to submit to the Delaware Senate to ask Dr. Godowsky.  This is a time when parents, teachers, and everyday citizens can make an impact.  Please let me know any questions you have and I will make certain the Delaware Senate gets them.

Governor Markell appointed Dr. Godowsky when Mark Murphy resigned from the Secretary position.  His last day was September 30th.  Dr. Godowsky has been visible of late.  He attended the first Wilmington Education Improvement Commission meeting, the final meeting of the Accountability Framework Working Group, and the last State Board of Education meeting in September.

Once again, I pray Godowsky is not just a Secretary who will do whatever Governor Markell says.  We need change in Delaware, and for those who have stood up for Dr. Godowsky, I really hope your words come true.

Ask Dr. Godowsky: Submit Your Questions Here

The Delaware Senate will be having a meeting on October 28th to consider the nomination of Dr. Steven Godowsky for the role of Secretary of Education in Delaware.  Since October 1st, the role is in an interim capacity.  What questions do you think the Delaware Senate should ask Dr. Godowsky when they meet with him?  Now is the time for the Senate to really dig in and find out not only what he plans to do, but what he won’t do.  We need to find out if Dr. Godowsky is simply there to fulfill Governor Markell’s agenda until the end of his gubernatorial term or if he is truly there for change.  Please place your questions for Dr. Godowsky in the comments section and I will make sure this information gets to the Delaware Senate.  We need Dr. Godowsky to be his own man and not a puppet for the Delaware DOE, the Delaware State Board of Education, and Governor Markell.

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!