Breaking News: DSEA To Hold Run-Off Election To Commence On February 27th

The Delaware State Education Association made a very smart move last night at their Executive Board meeting last night.  Due to the overwhelming amount of concerns expressed as a result of their January election which ended in a tie for the President role, the Delaware educator’s union is holding a run-off election to determine who will become the next DSEA President.

Voting will begin on February 27th and will last until March 13th.  I sincerely hope more than 20% of Delaware’s educators actually vote this go-around!

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Crickets From Water Street

The Delaware State Education Association held an executive board meeting last night.  On the agenda was determining what to do about the tie in the election for a new DSEA President.  As of this writing, nothing has come out regarding the outcome.  Their main office, located on Water St. in Dover, has been exceptionally quiet.  No leaks are coming out and nobody seems to know what is going on.

Mike Matthews, one of the candidates running for President who received an unprecedented tie vote against Karen Crouse, reported on Facebook this morning that he hasn’t heard anything about the results of the meeting.  Kilroy’s Delaware keeps asking teachers on Facebook if DSEA has a new King or Queen.  We will have to wait a little bit longer fair readers to see if there is a new leader or if DSEA will hold a run-off election to break the tie.  This wait and see is like waiting on a new Pope!  If you see white smoke coming from the vicinity of Water Street, I guess that means they have a new leader!

My Take On The Bizarre DSEA Election Results. Did Two Wrongs Make A Right?

In the shot heard round Delaware teachers email yesterday around 4:00pm, the Delaware State Education Association election results came in for President and Vice-President.  Shock followed shock.  Mike Matthews and Karen Crouse tied for President at 862 votes each.  Stephanie Ingram (not Ingraham) won the Vice-President position.  Some (including myself) are crying foul.  Matthews and Kook ran as a ticket as did Crouse and Ingram.  Logic would dictate that Matthews and Kook’s votes would align more with Matthew’s total.  But this was NOT the case.  Ingram won with 400 something votes while Kook had 300 plus.

First off, with 12,000 teachers in Delaware, why did only 2,100+ vote in this election?  That is my biggest concern.  Second, how the actual hell do you get a tie?  Off the record, I have heard DSEA did not want the powerhouse of Matthews/Kook ruling the teacher union halls in Delaware.  Did things happen?  Of that I am certain.  When an obvious fake Facebook account with the not-so-genius name of Sam Muskrat showed up at the same time as the election went into full swing, I paid very close attention to the writing style of the you really aren’t fooling anyone Mr. Muskrat.  I’ve seen that style before.  With another anonymous commenter somewhere else.  I won’t out the person, but I can promise you it is NOT Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware.  That guy is probably sucking down some Shirley Temple’s in his batcave.

The next big question surrounds the ballots.  There were mentions on social media of teacher’s getting the ballots in their spam folders.  While the plausibility of that is suspect if it was coming from DSEA (do all DSEA emails go to spam?).  If it was an outside company, such as Intelliscan, based out of Phoenixville, PA, I could somehow see that.  Some teachers reported not receiving any ballots.  Some did not know who was running, or actually know some of  the people running (to them I would say “Hello!  This is the future of your teaching profession calling, wake up!”).

I’ve heard that campaign literature was suspect in certain situations.  While there is nothing against the DSEA rules about the President endorsing a candidate, Frederika Jenner made it transparently obvious who she wanted.  And that person wound up tying and is not a man.  And her VP choice won as well.  Crouse would not have won if it weren’t for Kent County.  Which I find ironic considering her popularity in certain places.  I don’t mean to bash her.  I’m sure she is a fine person.  But there is something VERY shady with this election.  I’m sure the current DSEA crew will get offended I posted this.  First off, too bad.  Second, you can sit there and say it isn’t my business but I choose to make it my business and you can’t stop me.  We live in a country where Donald Trump is President so I think any rules went out the window last November!

So what happens next?  Some more ballots could come trickling in by Monday (since it is soooooo possible for something postmarked 1/23/17 or earlier to take a week to get to Dover in our huge state).  There could be a run-off election if it remains a tie, in which case Presidential candidates Danny Rufo and Dom Zaffora’s votes would go to either Matthews or Crouse.  Or another option could be the tie remains and the Executive Board at DSEA would vote on a winner.  Which would, in all likelihood, be Crouse.  Since these election results are not part of an official state or county election, DSEA is under no obligation to release the full results to the public.  A teacher’s union is a private organization.  If I were Matthews or Kook, I would be issuing a challenge right away.  Something doesn’t smell right.  I could, of course, be wrong.  But I would err on the side of caution in just blindly accepting these results.

While this potential mystery starts to get some heat, feast on the famous Samuel Muskrat posts, from an anonymous person whose Facebook account was created the VERY same day Matthews and Kook had a live Facebook feed answering questions.  And disappeared the next day.

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Yes, I am the Kevin this Samuel Muskrat is referring to.  This kind of makes it my business now!  I will fully admit I am not the most popular person in the executive offices of DSEA.  Once upon a time the stars were in alignment around the time I wrote a huge article on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, but I burned that bridge with them during the whole House Bill 50 veto override fiasco when I called out DSEA (very strongly I might add) with a twinge of regret.  I don’t regret calling them out on their non-support of the override but rather how I did it.  I apologized, but while some accepted that apology, some were less than cordial with me.  In fact, one of them decided to viciously attack me many times somewhere else.  That person knew I knew that when I commented on the above Facebook comment bringing me into it.  I dropped a couple of words in my comment which vanished as soon as it appeared.  Muskrat knew I had them and ran for the hills.  Muskrat seemed to know a lot of things about Mr. Matthews.  Things your average teacher would not know unless they were really involved with DSEA.  But the tone and attitude, and especially the reference to me, shows a personal beef.  Trolling is one thing.  Going on  Facebook during a candidate forum and disguising yourself when they are potentially a staff member of DSEA is another thing entirely.  Like I said yesterday, shenanigans with this election.

Both Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook are well-known in Delaware as teachers who will really fight for their causes.  This doesn’t mean they won’t sit down with you, but it also doesn’t mean they will swallow the Kool-Aid which happened so many times in teacher matters involving the Delaware Dept. of Education, the General Assembly, and yes, even DSEA.  Most recently, Kook ruffled feathers with the teacher evaluation bill last Spring.  It wound up getting Senator Sokola amendments attached to it.  A large part of that was the insertion into the process of former DOE employee Atnre Alleyne, now promoting his role as Executive Director of DelawareCAN which is an offshoot of the corporate education reform company 50CAN.  Another big part was a letter from the DPAS-II Advisory Committee Chair Dr. Susan Bunting.  Bunting was confirmed by the Delaware Senate three days ago as the new Delaware Secretary of Education.  But neither of them are Sam Muskrat.  In Delaware, if you aren’t calling out legislators here and there, than democracy really isn’t taking place.  And some really shouldn’t throw stones like that because the hypocrisy involved is astounding!  But I guess many wrongs make a right?

Only One More Day To Vote In DSEA Election For President and Vice-President

The voting for the Delaware State Education Association leadership officially ends tomorrow, January 23rd.  All ballots must be in as per the DSEA election website.  Initial results will be shared with the Executive Director and Business Manager of DSEA on Thursday, and preliminary results will be announced on January 27th.  If there is a challenge based on the preliminary results, that would have to be in by February 3rd.  At the DSEA Executive Board meeting on February 16th, the results will be officially ratified.

There are four races for the President slot and two for the Vice-President.  For President, there is Karen Crouse, Mike Matthews, Danny Rufo, and Dom Zaffora.  For Vice-President, there is Jackie Kook and Stephanie Ingraham.  Two are running on a “ticket” per se, but that ticket could be divided pending the results.  Those “tickets” are Matthews/Kook and Crouse/Ingraham.

What is at stake with this election?  The teacher’s union in Delaware would have a lot to contend with in the coming years.  The three-year terms would usher in the new Every Student Succeeds Act in Delaware along with mounting budget issues that will almost assuredly result in education cuts along the way.  Add on the new Carney administration and a promise from Governor John Carney to make the Delaware Department of Education less of an accountability factory and more of a resource center for districts and charters.  However, much of that will depend on the final approved ESSA state plan.  Even though ESSA was meant to eliminate a lot of the federal oversight, accountability regulations won’t change things that much.  And if history is an indicator, the Delaware DOE loves accountability.  The role of teacher evaluations will always be a major issue with DSEA.  Other potential factors affecting them, depending on the state budget, could be the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan or the possibility of consolidating districts around the state becoming more than a discussion point.

DSEA President Battle Heats Up As Three Vie For The Top Spot

To date, three Delaware educators have announced their intention to run for President of the Delaware State Education Association.  All three have announced this on Facebook.  I know two of them, but I haven’t met the other candidate.  Two of the candidates are running on a ticket with a Vice-President candidate.  Who are these brave souls? Continue reading “DSEA President Battle Heats Up As Three Vie For The Top Spot”

An Inside Look At The DSEA Endorsement Machine

The Delaware State Education Association comes out with endorsements during election cycles.  This year there are a ton of candidates at the state and federal levels.  Below is a document showing why DSEA endorsed certain candidates in the Delaware House and Senate.  These are only the candidates who have an opponent that they endorsed.  I find some of their choices to be very interesting.  For example, Joe Miro got a nod for getting an appointment on the Southern Regional Education Board.  Two words that I did not see in this document were opt and out.  That is very concerning as  a parent viewing this document.  In fact, some of their endorsed candidates opposed the override of Markell’s veto on House Bill 50.  The words “voted”, “ensured”, and “supported” all come down to a yes vote either in committee or on the floor.  Only two of the candidates they support in a race aren’t incumbents.  Don’t get me wrong, I agree with many of their choices, but this wording for one of the candidates really made me want to vomit a little bit…

Helped DE students complete in the ever-changing global economy by supporting funding for important academic programs, like the Governor’s World Language Expansion Initiative

That sounds like something Jack Markell would say…

One of these was a complete head-scratcher because I don’t recall this legislation even coming to a vote.  I fully support the candidate this is attributed to, but it seems misguiding to put this in their profile when this same rep was a fervent supporter of the opt out bill and that doesn’t even get a mention.

Supported the creation of a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income that will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12

Sokola Ebola Vs. Right To Work: Which Is The Bigger Danger To Education?

Sunday evening I put up a post about a political ad for Delaware Senator David Sokola.  You would have thought I sent a cannonball into a church picnic with the reaction this post got.  In a nutshell, the Delaware State Education Association did not endorse the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, David Sokola.  He has been the chair of this committee for decades.  This was a very clear statement that DSEA no longer has faith in Senator David Sokola when it comes to education.  But unbeknownst to many, DSEA is also part of a PAC with various other Delaware unions that paid for an advertisement for Sokola’s 8th District Senate campaign.  I wasn’t happy to see this and many others weren’t as well.  I linked Frederika Jenner, the President of DSEA, to this PAC because her name appears on their website.

Before I knew it, teachers who are very supportive of DSEA jumped to their defense.  One of them, Mike Matthews, who used to be President of the Red Clay Educations Association and is currently campaigning for Jenner’s spot next January, wrote a very long comment about why Right To Work is dangerous in the current Delaware political landscape.

Before I get to Matthews’ comment, I want to briefly explain what Right To Work is.  Basically, it would prevent a worker from paying union dues but they would get the union benefits.  This has been implemented in some states but the Delaware General Assembly has thwarted this from happening here.  Delaware Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle has been very supportive of Right To Work in Delaware.  Not every Delaware Republican is 100% behind a complete Right To Work state, much less with DSEA.  Matthews’ comment suggests that Right To Work is a bigger danger than very bad Dave Sokola education policy.

Here’s where I stand on this and, as always, I thank Kevin for providing the forum to discuss!

DSEA did not vote to endorse Sen. Sokola for his re-election campaign. As someone who has consistently received DSEA’s endorsement in years’ past, this is obviously big news. I have had many concerns — and shared them publicly — with Sen. Sokola’s positions on education. I think many others have, as well. And that’s why DSEA chose the route it did during the election season this year.

But — and this really is a big BUT — folks need to realize that we are a union whose main goal is to activate and organize its membership. We have seen union membership in many states decrease dramatically because of nasty Right to Work laws. These laws severely weaken the ability of local unions to do the work they need to do — advocate for members and students.

The threat of Right to Work is very much real here in Delaware. If the Democrats lose just two seats in the Senate, then it’s very likely that Republicans will demand legislation that could repress labor rights in exchange for getting YES votes on the budget. If the Republican Senate REFUSES to pass a budget because they are demanding more restrictions on organized labor, then my guess is the Democrats in the House will cave so they can get a budget passed. That’s the reality of the situation that we’re dealing with.

DSEA’s membership in the Delawareans First PAC is borne out of the need to fight back any effort for Right to Work to land in Delaware. DSEA’s participation in this PAC is very much about ensuring our own survival SO WE CAN continue to advocate for our members, students, and schools.

And there are some very clear differences between the two major-party candidates in the 8th Senate District when it comes to labor rights. Sen. Sokola is vehemently anti-Right to Work. Meredith Chapman has stated her support of the collective bargaining process, but can’t say unequivocally that she would be anti-Right to Work. And, as I’ve said to her, should she get elected and the GOP take the Senate, her ability to negotiate with a newly-emboldened GOP leadership will be severely diminished and she will have to walk lock-step with the caucus on these issues.

So, while many of our members — and myself included — have serious issues with Sen. Sokola’s education positions, we have to realize that we are still a union. And it’s our business to maintain our membership and attempt to stave off any threats to that membership. I am completely able to see both sides here and while Sen. Sokola hasn’t been the best friend on education issues, he’s unwaveringly a friend on the topic of Right to Work. To condemn him from all angles because of his education positions (no matter how large those issues are) would be unfair.

DSEA’s membership in this PAC is voluntary, of course, but in the interest of solidarity, it’s imperative that we union brothers and sisters come together and support candidates who will repel Right to Work — even if it means supporting a candidate we oppose on other issues. Because if Right to Work comes to Delaware — which could happen if the Senate swings GOP — then our ability to be an effective agent for change will be severely dampened. And that could have consequences that hasten all the negative things we know have been coming down the education pike for years that you have thankfully been reporting on with such fervor.

I just think it’s important to realize that I think it’s completely within bounds to have severe disagreements with candidates on certain issues, but to find common ground on others, especially issues that relate to the survival of organizations that I would hope are seen as positive players in the education arena like DSEA.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.

So suppose the Republicans gain control of the Delaware Senate and there is a budget impasse next year (as there seems to be almost every year).  Does that automatically make Delaware a Right To Work state?  We just don’t know.  I can picture a scenario where, if it were that bad, certain concessions could take place.  Last week at the Carney-Bonini debate, the subject of Right To Work zones was brought up.  That would not make the whole state a Right To Work place, but for certain companies.  Auto manufacturing was brought up as an example.  But I personally don’t believe the General Assembly would make DSEA a Right To Work organization.  If they did gain control of the Senate, that would last as long as one General Assembly if they did that.  The General Assembly is always on a cycle of campaigning every two years.  Any legislator who voted for Right To Work would automatically lose any future endorsement from DSEA.  Many do not want to face that prospect in the coming years.  Delaware is a small state and its citizens have more access to their Senators and State Representatives than they do in other states.  A Republican controlled Senate would also have to contend with a Democrat controlled House and, by all indications, Democrat Governor John Carney.  Would the Republicans wait around all summer in an attempt to get Right To Work passed if a budget was held up?  I highly doubt it.  Most legislators are at the point of collapse after an all-night session bridging June 30th to July 1st.

While I will certainly say I do not know how many teacher jobs DSEA has actively protected over the years, I imagine it is quite a bit.  Charter school teachers, which are supported heavily by Delaware Republicans, do not presently have teacher unions.  But I firmly believe Senator Sokola is, at a much greater degree, a bigger threat to Delaware teachers than a potential Right To Work law in Delaware.  He has 25 years of experience showing exactly what he has done to Delaware education and the teaching profession.  And judging by the first draft of Delaware’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t see that situation changing any time soon.

I firmly believe Sokola serves interests much bigger than any Democrat platform.  He serves those who profit immensely off students and teachers.  He represents the corporations who want to reform education so they can make more money.  But more dangerous, is the very real threat of how these changes in education will eventually transform society as a whole.  It is my contention that whether Right To Work happened or not, the teaching profession union members across the country fight for every day will be gone one day.  At the rate where are going, everything will be online instruction and teachers will just be glorified moderators if those classrooms are even in brick and mortar schools.  The more we let outside organizations into our schools, the ability for decisions to be decided at a local level diminishes greatly.  That is what Sokola represents.  He takes the side of a particular charter school in his district and he will do whatever is necessary to make sure they look good at the expense of the district around him.  If he didn’t have the power he currently has as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, that would be one thing.  But that taint in his decision-making policy affects every single public school in the state.

In my eyes, as a parent and a Delaware citizen, David Sokola needs to go.  By any means necessary.  I fully endorse Meredith Chapman for the 8th Senate District.  Even if I was a die-hard Democrat and never voted out of party lines, I would make this one exception.  He is that bad.  Do I trust David Sokola to be anti-Right To Work because he truly believes it would be bad for unions or because he knows if he isn’t he would have a hard time getting re-elected in his district with various unions supporting him?  I would go with the latter.  But there comes a time when you have to weed out the rot.  That time is now.  We have had enough Sokola Ebola in Delaware education.  This is a guy who lied in a debate last week.  How can anyone trust him to do the right thing when he lies when the truth would be far better for him?  That is how desperate he has become.  For the first time in 25 years, he knows he may not enter Legislative Hall as a FOIA-protected legislator.  He is scared.  In a microscopic way, down to the molecular level, I feel bad for him in that respect.  But it stops there.  In politics, you reap what you sow.  And what David Sokola has sown over a quarter of a century is dangerous for every single citizen of Delaware.

As I am writing this, the AFLCIO President, James Maravelias just wrote a comment supporting Matthews’ stance on this issue.  To this I can only reply with the following: by allowing Right To Work in Delaware, the unions believe they will lose all their collective bargaining rights.  As a parent, we didn’t seem to have a choice when Senator Sokola, the corporate education reformer led Delaware DOE, and Governor Markell brought Common Core to Delaware.  When a once a year test became the measurement for all Delaware schools.  When our General Assembly passed laws allowing for more charter schools in the state which drained resources out of many school districts.  When special education took a back-seat to standards.  When teachers spent an exorbitant amount of time on professional development during school days.  When our collective voice said “We don’t want our children to take this test”, the DSEA supported an assessment inventory that ultimately led to no real change.  Even when I begged them not to and that it would weaken the parent voice for opt out legislation.  And it worked.  DSEA sheepishly and almost after the fact supported an override of the Governor’s veto but not without my having a tirade of epic proportions that actually caused me to burn some bridges.  I didn’t see DSEA’s collective bargaining power at play when disaster happened at the hands of David Sokola with their own teacher evaluation bill.  One man was able to turn the wishes of the entire DSEA into his playground and he got what he wanted.

Parents are consistently left out of the equation when it comes to education.  Sure, we get our placards on this committee or that task force, but we don’t have the ability to collectively bargain our way out of things we know are bad for our kids.  The majority of the decisions are made those who represent some type of profession in education or a company that will somehow profit off it.  I’m not saying this to bash unions, but to illustrate a point.  Any union is, on its face, going to have a priority of protecting their membership.  I get that.  Just as a baked bean company would be all about making great baked beans.  But when one guy wants to branch off and make different kind of baked bean products that diminish the entire line, that is a big problem.  Even when the research comes back that fully states: this new product isn’t worth a hill of beans, the one guy makes it happen.  That is Senator Sokola in Delaware.

As a final thought, in June of 2015, a Delaware parent openly questioned and challenged Sokola during a Senate Education Committee meeting on opt out.  When Sokola lost his cool and showed the true David Sokola, he told the parent that if she thought she could do a better job herself to run for office.  While this citizen was not able to run for Sokola’s seat, another citizen rose up to the challenge.  Would she have run if Sokola didn’t make a mockery out of parents over opt out?  We will never know.  But perhaps it planted a seed that could begin to bloom next week.  We may not know what kind of plant will grow next year, but it has to be better than the out of control and choking poison ivy that tarnishes every facet of education Sokola touches.  This is why I can’t personally stomach the thought of Sokola sitting in Legislative Hall in 2017.  And nothing, not even a potential threat of Right To Work, could get me to change my mind on that.  Perhaps Frederika Jenner wasn’t fully supportive of paying for a Sokola political ad as a member of the board of Delawarean’s First PAC.  But attaching her name to it sent ripple effects throughout the state in the past 44 hours.  Delaware education won’t change for the better until David Sokola is gone.

As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my child gets the best education possible.  As a parent, I can clearly see how Sokola policy has affected my child and 133,000 other children in Delaware.  I don’t see how a threat of Right To Work has affected these kids.  Perhaps it could become a future danger, but the Defcon-4 danger to education that is happening right now, in real-time, is David Sokola.  He must go.  I understand Mike Matthews and his perception of a Republican Senate as a danger.  But it is not something that would automatically come to pass.  We have years and years of watching Sokola operate.  I’m not running out telling every Delaware citizen to vote Republican in the Senate.  Nor am I doing that for any election this year.  But I would be remiss as a parent, a father, a husband, a supporter of public education, a supporter of teachers, a supporter of transparency, and a supporter of hope by thinking it is okay to give Sokola any possible edge in this election.  I can’t support the triumvirate of Democrat control in Delaware if it means keeping a guy like David Sokola in power.  I will support DSEA and other unions in a lot of areas, but not on David Sokola.  There is no balance in education as long as he retains his Senate seat.

Senator David Sokola Does NOT Get Endorsed By Delaware State Education Association

The Delaware State Education Association came out with their 2016 Endorsed Candidate list for the upcoming election in November.  There is a rather large glaring omission: the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, none other than 8th District Senator David Sokola.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  He was not a friend to teachers in the 148th General Assembly.  Or parents.  Or students.  Between House Bill 50 and House Bill 399, opt out to teacher evaluations, Sokola did not make a lot of new friends the past two years.   He was widely seen as the legislative water carrier for Governor Jack Markell.  While he is now trying to distance himself from the Delaware Dept. of Education, his actions the past two years speak otherwise.  This is very big folks!  To be the Chair of an education committee at Legislative Hall and NOT get endorsed by the teachers union speaks volumes.

DSEA’s 2016 Endorsed Candidates for State and Federal Elections

DSEA’s 2016 Endorsed Candidates

Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook Announce Run For DSEA President & VP

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Delaware teachers Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook announced they will run as a team for President and Vice-President the Delaware State Education Association.  These leadership positions are currently held by Frederika Jenner and Karen Crouse.  Their terms end on July 17th, 2017.

Mike Matthews was the most recent past President of the Red Clay Education Association while Jackie Kook currently serves as the Vice-President of the Christina Education Association.  Both are widely known throughout Delaware as advocates against many of the destructive and disparaging policies coming out of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  The educators spoke in favor of better teacher evaluation in the DPAS-II system.  They both support a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment and spoke in support of House Bill 50.  As members of their district unions, they both publicly denounced former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and called for him to step down, which was echoed by DSEA at their next representative assembly.  Both were highly involved in fighting for their teachers, students and districts during the troubling priority school fiasco initiated by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE.

Matthews and Kook have launched a Facebook page for their candidacy here.  DSEA members will be able to cast votes by paper or electronically between January 9th and January 23rd, 2017.  Please support Mike and Jackie.  I can’t imagine Delaware education without them.

 

 

DSEA Statement On House Bill 399

The Delaware State Education Association issued a very strong statement on the passage of House Bill 399.  The teacher evaluation bill which was completely gutted by Delaware Senator David Sokola with his amendment will affect teachers throughout the state if certain aspects of the pilot program become a permanent thing.  Obviously, there is a lot more they could have said about what happened, but this is a an official statement from the organization.  I am fairly certain there will be many discussions about what happened with this bill moving forward.  If I were DSEA, I would think very carefully about who they are endorsing in the 8th Senate District…

Update on House Bill 399:

HB 399 finally passed the Senate in the wee small hours of Friday morning. However, it’s passage came with two senate amendments attached to the bill which the House had already passed by a unanimous vote.

DSEA is deeply appreciative to its members, parents, and members of the community who supported our efforts to secure passage of the original bill passed in the House. The letters, emails, and phone calls which were made to legislators were very helpful in maintaining a firewall of support for the bill as it endured an onslaught of attacks from groups who sought to kill it. While the results of the bill were not “perfect”, politics rarely produces “perfect” results. We believe this is an important step forward, one which will help repair the damage done to DPAS in years past.

It must be noted that the final result was not a “compromise bill” in our eyes. We fought throughout day and night (literally) to maintain the original integrity of the bill, opposing Senate Amendment 1, but were unsuccessful. Nevertheless, we think the changes will help improve the quality of educator evaluations in Delaware going forward. Full text of the bill is available at: http://bit.ly/hb399-final.

The main victories which were maintained in the bill:

(1) Each component of DPAS will have equal weight in the overall score. This ends the past practice where Component V, which was built on the student score on the state standardized test, played a disproportionate level of influence on an educator’s evaluation.

(2) Codified the requirement of annual evaluations for all educators holding an initial license and all other educators to be evaluated every two academic years.

(3) Codified the allowance for the educator to select/determine a measure which they feel will demonstrate student improvement, in addition to measure(s) selected by their evaluator.

Senate Amendment 1 (http://bit.ly/hb399-sa1) to HB 399 was authored by Sen. David Sokola. DSEA opposed the amendment. Sen. Sokola’s amendment made the following changes to the bill:

(1) Clarifies that administrators maintain the “final say,” or discretion, to determine whether the State standardized assessment should be used as part of an educator’s evaluation.

(2) Clarifies that the proposed changes to the DPAS II evaluation system, as recommended by the DPAS II Advisory Committee, are intended to be piloted in three local education agencies to evaluate their effectiveness before any changes are permanently incorporated.

(3) Inputs comments received from stakeholders to include parent and student surveys in the pilot as well as include the alternate evaluation systems in the evaluation study.

Senate Amendment 2 (http://bit.ly/hb399-sa2) to HB 399 was authored by Sen. Bryan Townsend. Sen. Townsend’s amendment helped to codify the requirement that the educator be able to select/determine one measure of student improvement (see item #3 in “victories” listed above).

DSEA Unanimously Votes To Eliminate Smarter Balanced Assessment As Part Of Delaware’s Assessment Inventory

Senate Joint Resolution #2 in Delaware created legislation for the state’s assessment inventory.  All assessments given to students are included in this, with the exception of final exams and end of unit tests.  This includes the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At their Rep Assembly last weekend, a business item was introduced for the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) to recommend eliminating the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  It was a unanimous vote.

Last Spring, when discussion on inclusion of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in the assessment inventory was discussed at a Senate Education Committee, then Education Policy Advisor for Governor Markell Lindsay O’Mara assured the large audience it would be.  During the last assessment inventory meeting at the Delaware Department of Education, the Smarter Balanced Assessment was a large topic of discussion.  State Rep. Sean Matthews argued the state does not provide any real identifiable data and takes away far too much classroom time.

While DSEA doesn’t have the final say on the assessment inventory, it is a very positive step that they would unanimously pass a recommendation based on the entire rep assembly at their event last weekend.  I would love to see the test gone from all schools in Delaware, but I also fear for the future of standardized assessments.

With personalized learning invading our schools in mass quantity, the writing is on the wall for the future of assessments: much smaller standardized assessment chunks embedded into digital format through the modules for personalized learning.  As the brilliant blogger EducationAlchemy pointed out in a recent post, what makes personalized learning so personalized if it is a student using a computer?  It is all about the data.  The predictive analysis algorithms built into the Schoology systems used in Delaware.  That legislation to protect student data does not cover at all.  All to determine career paths for children at a very young age and guide them toward that profession when they leave secondary education.

Our children are not test scores, and they certainly aren’t your data guinea pigs.  The intrusion into children’s personal lives is at an all-time high.  We must stop this and take back public education from the reformers who not only want to get very rich off children but also want to mold the future with people on pre-determined career paths.

DSEA’s Official Statement On The House Bill 50 Veto Override

The Delaware State Education Association’s executive board voted on an official stance on the House Bill 50 Veto Override and released this information today publicly:

DSEA’s position on opt-out is the same as it has always been, we support a parent’s right to opt their child out of excessive state mandated standardized testing. At the same time, we believe that the state, with direction from parents and educators, must reduce the time dedicated to standardized testing. More importantly the state must ensure the tests that are taken are valid measures of student progress in the given subject area, and provide clear direction on how to improve student growth.  As an organization, DSEA will continue the push to eliminate excessive, invalid testing and tying the results of these tests to educator evaluations. With that being said, we will respect the individual decisions made by legislators regarding whether or not to override the Governor’s veto of House Bill 50.

To The Leadership Of DSEA

I wrote a few days ago about how the Delaware State Education Association was not going to come out and support the override of the veto on House Bill 50. I would like to take this moment to publicly apologize for my reaction to this.  As well, I want to clarify some things.

Nobody from DSEA has contacted me in regards to this. Nobody is forcing me to write this.  It is coming from my own conscience.  I am a very firm believer in parental rights.  As someone who experienced the stripping of those rights, on more than one occasion, I truly understand what it feels like to have no say in matters concerning my own child in an educational setting.  Those defining moments can leave scars that harden the soul.

I did reach out to DSEA, both publicly on this blog and to their President, whom I have met on a few occasions. I understood that DSEA publicly supported a parent’s right to opt their child out of standardized testing.  They acknowledged this publicly last spring.  What I could not understand is why they were not saying anything about the override of the veto on House Bill 50.  They supported the bill last year.

I have no doubt DSEA has many everyday tasks and priorities and HB50 just isn’t on their radar right now, for whatever reason. That does not give me the excuse to completely lambaste them.  So I would like to apologize to Frederika Jenner, Jeff Taschner, and Kristen  Dwyer.  My comments were way out of line.  I reacted in the heat of the moment in a very limited time to post something.  I should have waited, reached out, and sought out your side of the story.  I can’t take back what was said, but I sincerely hope you will accept my apology.

It is my wish that DSEA would support the override, but it is their choice. My article about DSEA was not a reflection on the opt-out community in Delaware and I apologize to them if others felt that way.  I know some may view me as the “leader” of the opt-out movement, but I firmly believe this is an individual choice each parent makes.  There are no true leaders in this movement, it is individual parents making decisions for their own children.  Once again I acted in haste and anger, and there truly are no excuses.  I deleted the post, and I encourage others to do the same.  Thank you.

Frederika Jenner & Jeff Taschner: DSEA Needs To Side With Parents On The Veto Override Of House Bill 50

The Delaware State Education Association needs to speak up.  Many parents have fought for teachers rights for many years.  It is past time you stepped up and did the same for parents.  We thank you for supporting House Bill 50, but as I’m sure you are well aware, the battle is not over.  The Governor vetoed the bill.  I know I ticked you off when I didn’t agree with your support for the assessment inventory legislation, and we are seeing exactly why I didn’t support it now.  Legislators, the Governor, and testing supporters are using this as a defense against the override.  The plan isn’t even due until June 30th which does nothing for parents this year.  We both know Smarter Balanced won’t be a serious part of this conversation.  We both know House Bill 50 and opt-out are parent’s reaction to the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Delaware Parents need your full support in our effort to have Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  Please help us to make this happen.  Thank you.

DSEA Will Be Part Of NEA’s ESSA Implementation Team

The largest teachers union in America is going to have representatives from each state as part of their Every Student Succeeds Implementation Team.  This group was formed so they can comb through the recently passed ESSA signed by President Obama last month.  I know a few of the folks on this team, and I certainly hope they can help Delaware students, parents, teachers, and schools navigate through this transitional period.

There is news below about the ESSA and opt-out.  I strongly urge all Delaware parents to read this as the new law allows for opt-out policies to be made at the state level, not the Federal level.  This comes at a crucial time as the Delaware General Assembly is on the cusp of overriding Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.  The ESSA does not allow for the feds to issue letters about funding cuts whatsoever.  The key words in this are “maintains requirements that assessments be administered to at least 95% of all students“.  Schools control that, but they have absolutely no control if a parent chooses to not have their child take the assessment.

From their monthly newsletter, “Professionally Speaking”:

ESSA Explained

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act in December has raised an overwhelming number of questions from educators and other education stakeholders as to what is actually contained within the law.  Over the next few issues of DSEA’s digital newsletters, Professionally Speaking and Legislative Matters, we will feature some of the key differences between the No Child Left Behind Act and the Every Student Succeeds Act.  In this issue we focus upon Standards and Assessments:

ESSA Standards Table_2

ESSA Assessments Table_2
For any of the changes outlined above, it is important to remember that successful implementation of this new bill will be dependent upon the decisions made at the state and local levels.  Educator input on state and district policies covering testing, accountability systems, and how ESSA can best support the whole child will be crucial to ensuring that the bill truly works for students and schools.

To meet DSEA and other state affiliate needs, NEA has created an ESSA Implementation Team.  This team will have its first meeting in Washington, DC on January 22-23, 2016.   Implementation team members will learn more about the core aspects of the law, provide advice about how best to equip affiliates and members with tools they need, and formulate strategies for connecting affiliates, members and staff together in this implementation effort so that we learn from each other and can help each other.  

State affiliates were asked to submit name of staff and educators to be part of this team. DSEA team members from Delaware include Kristin Dwyer, DSEA Director of Government Relations, Deb Stevens, DSEA Director of Instructional Advocacy, Jesse Parsley, an Association Rep and 8th grade math teacher at Milford Central Academy, and Jill League, a member of the DPAS II Advisory Committee and a 5th grade teacher at Brandywine Springs Elementary.  Watch for more information about ESSA implementation from our team in the near future.

DSEA Supports Opt-Out! All DSEA Members Need To Support The Override Of Markell’s Veto!

I strongly implore DSEA to issue a press release giving their full support for the override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50.

Last April, the Delaware State Education Association issued a press release with their very strong stance against the way Delaware was using standardized testing.  They also gave their full support for a parent’s right to opt their child out of standardized testing.

 

#StopESEA @DelawarePTA @DSEA1 @gacecoffice Don’t Drink The Kool-Aid!!!!

Delaware PTA, DSEA & Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens:

You  hold a great deal of power in your groups.  We the people need you to band together and unite for the students of Delaware.  The ESEA reauthorization is all about more testing, more federal mandates and waivers, and even “social impact bonds”.  I know your bosses in the National PTA, NEA and Governor Markell are all behind this federal legislation.  But that does not mean you need to endorse legislation that has not even been seen by the public yet.

Delaware PTA: You know I love you for your support on the opt-out movement and House Bill 50!  We need you to take a serious look at the personalized learning models and competency-based education supports embedded in this legislation.  These are not good for students over the long-term, especially those students who are most in need.  This bill is big on accountability systems created at the state level, and we all know what that kind of power can have in a few corrupt minds in our state.  Please, do not endorse this bill and let your National PTA know they shouldn’t either.

DSEA: I have to admit, you folks are an enigma to me!  From my perspective, the best words I can think of are this- you always want a seat at the table but don’t realize you are actually on the table as the main course.  I’ve seen this with the Delaware School Success Framework, teacher evaluations, and Race To The Top.  I know you wish there didn’t even have to be opt-out, but the plain simple fact is that it is here and it is necessary for parents to do this.  I get that teachers endorsing opt-out could put them in rough waters, but they are already in that position because of the state and federal mandates coming down.  Please do not endorse this bill that will make sure teachers lose even more voice.

GACEC: You are a Governor’s council run by the state, which puts you under the shadow of Governor Markell.  But your mandate is to look out for exceptional citizens, those with disabilities.  Please tell me how supporting the Governor against opt-out helps those citizens.  Please tell me you truly want the best outcome for children with special needs.  Please tell me you do not support this latest edition of the ESEA reauthorization.  We’ve seen the outcome of Smarter Balanced for our children with disabilities.  They are now further behind.  That isn’t progress, and I’m sure you have seen how Delaware wants these children to go from 19% proficiency to 59% in six years.  That is insanity, brought on by Governor Markell.  Please stop siding with the DOE on matters that only negatively impact our kids.

 

Exclusive Breaking News: DSEA Takes Weak Stance On Parent Opt Out **UPDATED** w/Proof Something Very Fishy Is Going On!!!

This message was just forwarded to me in regards to the Delaware State Educators Association in regards to parent opt out.  This message gives no official stance on opt out, nor does it offer protections to parents who are also teachers who choose to opt their child out.  Sounds to me like Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE are passing out the Kool-Aid to lots of organizations today in an effort to scare and intimidate teacher parents.

DSEA needs to stand up for their teachers.  They need to take an official stance.  Jack Markell loves the fence sitters, and he will take advantage of them every chance he gets.  DSEA has a big meeting coming up, it’s time for you to decide where you stand!!!!  Do you stand with the Department or with your teachers who pay dues to you to advocate for them?  DO SOMETHING!!!!

Under both state and federal law, standardized student assessments are required to be administered in all Delaware public schools for purposes of school and district/charter accountability.  Delaware law and regulations requires that school districts test all students.  It is a violation of Delaware law to exclude a student  from participation in the state assessments except in accordance with DOE regulation.  Students have been excluded from participation in the state assessments based upon extreme medical incidents, mental health of the child or where the child is severely cognitively disabled, provided documentation from a treating physician was submitted.  Participation in state assessments is an issue between the District and the parent.   Many educators are required, as part of their assigned duties and responsibilities, to administer the state- and federally-mandated tests. Educators who encourage parents to opt-out of state assessments, or otherwise engage in actions which could be viewed as subversive/interfering with the district’s duty to administer tests (or to exclude certain students) could face potential employment action.    Many legal issues stemming from opt-out are being raised in numerous states.  However,  cases challenging what action can be taken by an employing school district against educators advising/informing/encouraging opt-out rights have not made their way through legal system, and there is limited precedent for predicting how such cases will ultimately  be decided.  Educators should follow the directives of their employing districts and contact DSEA regarding concerns over any such directives.  Any effort by a district to take adverse employment action against an educator should be promptly brought to the attention of the UniServ Director.

For educators seeking to exclude their own child(ren) from participation in the state assessments, DSEA advises the educator to follow whatever procedure is in place in the child’s district for seeking opt-out.  DSEA does not believe the employing district should be able to take employment action against the educator simply because they seek to exercise their rights as  a parent.  We do caution members that an unsettled area is where a teacher-educator opts out their own child(ren) (thus, acting as a parent) but then publicizes such action (for instance, via social media) and could be perceived by others as promoting, inciting or encouraging opting-out of the state assessments.    Should a district seek to take employment action against an educator for opting their own child(ren) out of testing, please direct the member to immediately contact DSEA.

DSEA has not taken a position at this time on any pending or proposed legislation dealing with parental opt-out rights.

Yes you did! You passed AND adopted a resolution to support legislation dealing with those rights, UNCONDITIONALLY!