Lazarus Mike Matthews Comes Out Of His Facebook Sabbatical With Big News!!!

Well over a year after former Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews resigned from his position, he announced last night he is seeking a seat on the Executive Board of DSEA.

Hello, friends. Hope you’re doing OK. Not going to take a lot of your time.

Just reaching out to all of my friends and Delaware educators on here to let you know I’ve just submitted my petition to DSEA to run for a seat on their Executive Board. New Castle County gets 16 seats and 8 of those seats are up this year.

As a former state and local leader, I want to continue to be an advocate for educators and students in Dover. Times remain turbulent in education today and we need assertive voices in the mix to make sure our concerns are front and center with both our state union leadership and elected officials in Dover.

The election will be in January. You should receive your ballot by email. If you’re a DSEA member, I would love having your vote and I would love it if you would consider sharing this message to let your friends know I’m running.

This is not a statewide election. Only members who work in New Castle County will be able to vote in my election. I would be humbled to earn your vote.

Thank you all for your continued love and support over the last year. It has gotten me through a really tough time, but I like to think I’m back and my engine is fired up again.

In Solidarity,

Mike

I wish I could say I was shocked but I’m not.  Matthews is not one to stay quiet for too long.  I couldn’t believe he managed to stay off Facebook for seven months.  But the Red Clay teacher isn’t quite done with his union work.  Will Matthews get back into DSEA?  Could this be a sign of Matthews seeking the Presidential seat again at some point?  Time will tell!

Mike Matthews Ruminates On The Coordinated Hit Against Him And DSEA

On Facebook tonight, former Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews talked about his resignation from DSEA in light of the “uncovering” of blog posts he made a decade ago.  Matthews talks about who was behind it. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Mike Matthews Has Nothing To Apologize For”

It is the return of The Bygone Blogger!  This blogger of old has some more stuff to say about the controversy surrounding Mike Matthews and his DSEA resignation based on old blog posts Mike wrote.  In which we learn, once again, things are NOT always what they seem on the surface and some of the pitchfork throwers aren’t exactly innocent!  Take it away (again) Bygone Blogger! Continue reading

Mike Matthews Gives Statement on DSEA Resignation & Apologizes For Comments Made On His Blog

I’ve seen Delaware divided over issues in my day but the social media comments about Mike Matthews old blog posts and his resignation from DSEA last night have lit Delaware up.  Today, Matthews turned off his radio silence and gave, what I felt, was a very mature statement about his resignation and his old blog, Down With Absolutes.

Throughout my time as an educator, local union leader, and state union leader, I’ve prided myself on my attempts to be honest, transparent, and open when confronted with any issue. I like to think that no matter how difficult the topic, at times we need to set aside issues, sit down, and have the conversations that can help move any debate forward.

Now is one of those times where I need to be completely open, honest, and transparent with you, my Facebook friends.

Two days ago, I was contacted by a reporter who shared with me he had come into possession of some old posts from my blogging days. He shared with me that some individuals have concerns with the content, tone, and language used in the posts and he wanted for me to provide a comment on whether my words from 10-12 years ago match my representation of the organization I now lead, DSEA.

First, I will say that my conversation with the reporter was cordial. I’ve had a relationship with him over the last few years and he handled the interview with care and with the utmost respect. It is not a phone call that I expected to receive, considering I’ve been very open with my past in multiple venues since I became a teacher in 2009 after shutting the blog down several months before I started my job.

Second, as I shared with the reporter, I take full ownership of the comments I made on my blog from the period of about 2004-2009. I will not deflect. I will not blame. I will not obfuscate. I own the outlandish, insensitive, at times offensive, and inappropriate posts that I wrote mostly on topics of Delaware politics. I cannot recall every one of the thousands of posts that I authored in those five years…and it wouldn’t matter if I could. Because I wrote them. And I must own them. For any hurt, pain, or grief I caused individuals because of my words, I can only offer a full-throated, genuine apology without exception or qualification and hope that the work I’ve done since entering education and my role as a union leader can, in some minor way, redeem the words that are in no way a reflection of where I am today.

We are in very challenging times right now…a time where individuals are being scrutinized for actions they’ve taken in the past and how those actions should be weighed on their present and future. While I own and take responsibility for the words I published nearly a decade ago, I do not condone them nor are they words that would ever slip from my brain to my hands to the keyboard ever again. It is no defense to say that I was a rambunctious, wily twentysomething attempting to find his way in the world who had suddenly found an audience willing to receive the often thoughtless words I posted on the Internet.

Nearly a decade ago, I entered a fifth-grade classroom in Red Clay. Nothing excited me more than showing up to work every day to help guide the young minds of the students who entered room 210. Soon after I started teaching, I found that I still had a lot to say. I found that my role as classroom teacher had to extend beyond my classroom walls if the stories of my students and fellow educators were ever to be heard. I began to find ways to use my voice in a more measured way and soon began to engage elected officials in a more productive manner. I found a vehicle in both my local and state union as a way to communicate thoughts and feelings of myself and my fellow educators. Even in those years where I used my voice in a more productive manner, I acknowledged the blog and its contents and at no time have I attempted to hide my past or stray from the scrutiny that it has brought.

So where am I right now? As someone who has always believed that he should take responsibility for his actions, I stand ready to accept any responsibility or consequence that comes as a result of my words. Within hours of the article appearing online, I submitted my resignation to the Executive Board of DSEA; I will not allow my past transgressions to define the finest organization in Delaware advocating for Delaware’s educators and students. As I learned when I took office July 16, 2017, DSEA is a bigger organization than one man. And, regardless of my actions, I will honor this organization by doing what I feel and what I know is in its best interests.

In rendering a final judgment on who I am, I would hope that you, my Facebook friends, as well as the members of our organization, DSEA, would be willing to measure my work over the past five or six years and whether or not that should have some bearing considering the words I published long ago. Neither am I absolving myself of my actions nor am I seeking absolution from you, my friends. I am asking only that consideration be given to my record as a whole when you eventually read about the past that has come back. As I shared with the Executive Board on a conference call Tuesday night, I consider what I did with my blog as running up a large credit card tab. And now the bill has come due. And I am willing to accept any consequences that come with that.

To anyone in the past who has been harmed or offended by my words, please know it was never my intention to do so. Intentions don’t matter, though, when the actions and hurt are so explicitly clear. To those individuals, I can offer nothing more than a sincere apology and the promise that my personal and professional growth over the last few years is reflective of who I truly am today.

Thank you, everyone, for your support over the years. Thank you to DSEA and NEA for your counsel during this time and for the continued strength your organizations show on supporting students and educators. Good luck to my friend Stephanie Ingram, who is going to make an AMAZING DSEA president. I hope our members will show her the love that you’ve showered on me over the last year. Thank you to the dozens of DSEA members who’ve reached out in the last 24 hours with messages of support. Thank you to those who’ve reached out with thoughtfully constructive messages urging me to take ownership and make this a teachable moment. Thank you, most importantly, to my family, friends, and my husband Jose for helping me realize that this is now a period for growth and reflection. I intend to do just that.

Thank you, all.

Breaking News: Mike Matthews Resigns As DSEA President

Following an article by WHYY earlier today, Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews tendered his resignation tonight.  Vice-President Stephanie Ingram will take over as President until the end of the three-year term in 2020.

DSEA sent the following email to its members this evening:

Dear DSEA members,

The educators who lead the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) take seriously our responsibility to our members, their students and our community.  The Delaware State Education Association’s Executive Board convened an meeting this evening to discuss the blog posts written by Mike Matthews from 2006-2009 .  Regardless of the fact that these posts were created prior to Mr. Matthews becoming an educator and member of DSEA, they were completely inappropriate and contrary to the views or values of the educators who make up the DSEA.   
 
Therefore, Mr. Matthews has resigned as President of DSEA.  We thank him for his service to DSEA and its membership.
 
Per DSEA’s bylaws, as Vice President, I will now assume the position of President of DSEA for the remainder of the term, ending in July, 2020.

DSEA represents more than 12,000 classroom teachers, specialists, and education support professionals working in Delaware’s public schools. As educators we are dedicated to providing the best educational opportunities possible to all Delaware public school students. 
 
Our members provide a wide range of services to the students and the communities they live in.  They teach students in classrooms from early learning centers through high school.  They counsel adolescents and help them build career aspirations.  They deliver instructional assistance in every type of subject, prepare and serve nutritionally-balanced meals, provide needed transportation and ensure our schools and facilities are clean and safe.  They supply the professional services which help our schools run efficiently.

Since 1919, the members of DSEA  have dedicated their lives to supporting children and public education and we will never falter in that mission.  I am committed to helping DSEA to continue moving forward, building on the important partnerships with parents, community leaders, and elected officials, and maintaining our focus on the goal of providing all Delaware children with a quality education.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email me at Stephanie.Ingram@dsea.org or call me at 302-734-5834.

In Solidarity,
Stephanie Ingram
DSEA President

 

My Friend Mike

Today, WHYY came out with a story about a former Delaware blogger named Mike Matthews.  This same Mike Matthews happens to be the President of the Delaware State Education Association.  It is no secret Mike wrote a blog back in 2004 to 2009 and it was nothing short of controversial.  He wasn’t the only one.  In all honesty, the first Delaware blog I read was Kilroy’s Delaware in 2013.

I met Mike Matthews at a State Board of Education meeting back in 2014.  At this time, I believe Mike was the President of the Red Clay Education Association.  He was cutting decorations for his classroom at Warner School.  I met him again at a 22nd State Rep debate a few weeks later.  And then Governor Markell announced the Priority School debacle in Red Clay and Christina and public education exploded in a day.

As a result of that, along with many other education matters, Mike and I became friends.  We didn’t always agree but I knew his heart was in the right place.  I read bits and pieces about what Mike wrote about in Down With Absolutes.  Little pieces scattered around the internet.  What I read in the WHYY article today was new to me.  It was beyond inappropriate but shock blogging was the thing back then.  Heck, if you look at many tv shows and movies around that time and even before then, they could never be made today.

Frankly, it shocked me it took nine years for this to come up.  The fact that it came out now speaks more to those who wanted to bring Mike down.  Let’s see- election season combined with someone who claims to be in it for the kids but runs the Delaware chapter of an organization that HATES public education?  That math isn’t hard to add up.  Especially since the former was quoted in the WHYY article.

I’m not condoning what Mike wrote.  Mike certainly isn’t.  He regrets it, no doubt.  He isn’t hiding from it.  The Mike from Down With Absolutes certainly isn’t the Mike I met in 2014.  Far from it.  I would have never dreamed Mike was capable of typing certain things like he did back then.  I believe Mike when he says he was outrageous with what he wrote.  Doesn’t make it right, but that’s how blogs were back then.  And people didn’t care like they do now.  It was a different time.  I have been outrageous in my own way on this very blog at times.  I once wrote a satirical article about Mark Murphy dressing up like a cross-dressing Kate Winslet.  It was all in fun.  That was in 2014.  I wouldn’t dare write that today.

But this instant crucifixion fixation for the mistakes of the past is getting tiresome on Facebook.   Even on my own Facebook post some folks commented with their pitchforks out who have said some pretty outrageous things on social media.

Since I wasn’t around in the “Golden Age” of Delaware blogging, I am copying what former blogger Steve Newton wrote on Facebook about the whole thing.

So let’s think about Mike Matthews for a few minutes. Not only is he my friend, I can say that I am one of the people currently around who knew him well “way back when” his blog “Down with Absolutes” was among the first half-dozen edgy political blogs in Delaware.

In publishing DWA Mike said things that nobody today would ever think about saying and expect to keep a job or a public position of trust, let alone leadership. As a 22-year-old radical literally blogging from his basement he was the enfant terrible of the blogging world.

I know better than almost anybody else (with the possible exceptions of the entire Delaware Liberal crew, Dave Huber, Dana Garrett, Dave Burris, Kilroy’s Slower Delaware, David Anderson, Nancy Willing, and the anonymous kavips) about what he published. I read it, laughed at some of it, winced at other parts, argued with segments, and even agreed with him at least in substance.

Blogging back then would have curled your hair today.

Flame wars filled with profanity and just plain disturbing images reigned supreme. Anybody remember the time Delaware Liberal gleefully published a picture of a Hillary Clinton nutcracker in 2008? I do. Anybody remember the blogger who called for all of his political opponents to be stood up against a wall and shot for treason? I do. Anybody remember the ones who ran obituaries for prominent people with tag lines like “I’m glad he’s dead,” or the prominent Delaware blogger who said all Catholics who didn’t leave the church had just admitted they were child abusers? I do.

(And a reasonably well-crafted Google search could find all of that–except that I didn’t give anybody but an old-timer quite enough information to do it.)

I’m not defending those times, I am remembering them. I ran a blog (with several partners on and off) in which the all-time most highly viewed posts were on Thai “ladyboys” and the civil liberties of the Missouri Militia. (I didn’t write the first one, which has to date 230,000 hits, but I did write the second one that actually ended up anthologized in a series of college Political Science readers.)

And then, one day, Mike decided to walk away from it.

He wanted to grow up and get a job. He wanted to teach kids, not just any kids, but special needs kids. He wanted to get out of the basement, lose a ton of weight, and get into the game of actually doing something positive for society instead of … whatever happens to people who blog too long.

His past was no secret. Red Clay was fully well aware of it when he got hired, and it is not especially confidential to say that a lot of people in power did not want Mike hired (his online faux-love-affair-from-afar with Christine O’Donell didn’t help), but his passion and his skills convinced them to give him a chance. That probably wouldn’t have happened today.

(Side note: Mike took down his blog not because it might harm the future of the political career he’d never thought of having by that point, but because it wasn’t something he ever wanted his students to stumble across. He was in deadly earnest from Day Zero that if he was going to teach kids, he had to become a role model for them. So he set about, systematically, becoming that person.)

Even Mike’s political enemies will have to admit he’s one helluva teacher. There are dozens if not hundreds of kids out there today (I know some of them personally) who are out there today in jobs (or went to college) who would never have made it to–let alone through–high school without having been in his class. Mike won’t tell you about them, even if that costs him everything, because it’s their lives and their privacy, and he wouldn’t compromise that to save himself from a lynching.

Down with Absolutes was never a secret as his career, first as a union grievance officer, then as RSEA President, took off. Anybody who was around back then who tells you they didn’t know about it is, frankly, either lying or at least suspiciously amnesiac. Having DWA in his past was, in fact, one of the reasons that he did not rise to prominence faster.

At every step of the way he had to prove himself, at each point he had to live down his irreverently misspent youth.

By the way, in case you doubt me, the bloggers who were trading insults with Mike back then today include senior Democratic and Republican Party officials; elected legislators and city council members (Dem and GOP) from around the State; and prominent attorneys.

At least two current bloggers who go back that far who seem to have mysteriously forgotten that they were not only there at the time, but that they participated avidly in the mudslinging of questionable taste. Both of them know exactly who I am talking about–I won’t “out” them because bloggers from that era never did that.

And he did. I am on record as not agreeing with a lot of Mike’s politics, but then I am the original iconoclast. But I cannot fault Mike for the courage of his convictions; his work ethic; his genuine concern for the welfare of everybody’s children; his push for good government; his outright advocacy of LGBTQ issues long before it was cool.

He has knocked on doors and carried signs. He has attended meetings and fundraisers, and gotten out his own checkbook time and again. He and his husband have dedicated their joint life to the causes they believe in.

Nope, he ain’t perfect. DWA aside, Mike can be pompous, overbearing, and self-righteous (sorry, guy, but we both know it’s true) and that makes him the kind of person that people want to go after.

They’ve tried it before.

Delaware’s right-wing social media attempted to crucify Mike as an enabler of child molesters (if not worse) over his stand for transgender rights for students.

One Delaware blogger (who’s at the movies) allowed himself to become the unwitting tool of a national right-wing smear campaign against unions to take some of Mike’s correspondence out of context.

There are certainly members of DSEA who resent the fact that he will not check his progressive credentials at the door, and continues to criticize President Trump, march for a $15 minimum wage, and stand up for LGBTQ rights.

He’s withstood that, and–as a person–he will withstand this, even if it costs him the DSEA presidency. Because you can’t really defeat a man like Mike Matthews, you can only kill him.

I will not stooge for forgiveness of his writings back then–I don’t think he wants that, and I think that to do so would disrespect both the young man he was, and the man he has become. He wrote some pretty horrific shit by today’s standards, and if you want to go back through all the blogs from the 2007-2010 period (that are mostly still actively archived) you can still find a lot of that, and a lot of responses in kind from many of our current political leaders.

(Is that the sound of scrubbing archives I hear? I truly hope not. I thought better of all of you.)

The difference between Mike Matthews and, say, a judge who now sits on the highest bench in the land, is that Mike has never lied about his youthful errors, and has lived a life that makes clear his atonement and growth.

So take your best shot at the man.

If you miss, you’ll probably hit me, because I will be standing beside him. I hope–and expect, damnit–to find a lot of other people who were part of that raucous conversation also willing to get into the line of fire.

Don’t make me have to go all Around-the-Horn on your asses to get you into the fight.

As I wrote on my own Facebook account earlier (before I went to the movies with my son), Mike is a friend first.  And friends are there for each other when the chips are down.  I remember a few nights where I needed a friend and Mike and others were there.  They might not have been aware that I needed friends those nights, but they were there nonetheless.  So Mike, if you need anything, I’m only a phone call away!  Like Steve Newton said, if you take that best shot at Mike and miss him and Steve Newton as well, you might hit me cause I’ll be standing next to Mike as well.

For some of you throwing their dull darts at Mike, I would first look in the mirror and see what you have said on social media.  I have some screenshots of some of it buried somewhere.  Bottom line- what you write has a damn good shot of being saved somewhere by someone.  It is very easy for someone to judge others but it is much harder to be accountable for your own actions.  Mike Matthews did that today.  But even in the midst of all this, I see many Democrats and Republicans alike sticking up for Mike.  Even some of those who vehemently disagreed with Mike over the years.  I respect the hell out of that!

For the kids in school these days- be careful! Always keep your eye on the future and don’t write words that may one day come back to haunt you.

DSEA President Mike Matthews’ Speech From Their Representative Assembly On 3/17

This past weekend, the Delaware State Education Association held their annual Representative Assembly.  President Mike Matthews gave the following speech to the DSEA delegates on Saturday, March 17th.  While I’ve been writing a ton about administrators and their salaries, it is important to recognize the issues many of our teachers are facing.  I felt Matthews did a good job highlighting those things and painted a clear picture of a huge danger coming to the teacher unions across our country.

My speech to the delegates of the 2018 Representative Assembly.

Time. As I travel up and down the state to talk with our members, I’m reminded of what is most valuable to them. Time. Planning time. Time with friends and family. Time to meet the needs of all students. Time to grade papers. Time to relax. Time to watch a movie. Time to exercise. Time. Time. Time.

And as we sit here today at our annual Representative Assembly, I know that the time you all have taken to do the business of our Association is valuable time. And, to that end, I’d like you to know that it’s my goal to respect your time and keep it short because, as a half-Irishman myself, this is indeed a day to celebrate. So, to those who do, I offer you a hearty Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!: Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I want to say thank you for spending your time today with some of our Association’s most active union members. Since I started in this new role eight months ago, I’ve been bowled over by the support from our wonderful staff here at DSEA as well as the 13,000 members we represent. And time seems to be an issue for everyone. In my 50+ school visits since the beginning of the school year, time is all I hear about.

From the AP Language and Composition teacher at Mt. Pleasant High School who’s always looking for more time to share great works of literature with her students to the special education teacher from West Seaford Elementary who’d like more time to complete her required IEP paperwork. From the paraprofessional at Love Creek Elementary who wants her students to have more one-on-one time and resources to the music teacher at Elbert-Palmer who wishes his students could have more time playing instruments as opposed to taking standardized tests. From the food service worker at Old State Elementary who wants more time to share union information with her 10 coworkers to the secretaries across the state who want to make sure they’ve got the time during the day to simply stop and breathe. From the bus drivers and bus aides for whom TIME is certainly most important to ensure their students arrive on time to the custodians who make the best use of their time to get everything done that needs doing to keep our buildings looking great for staff and students.

Time. It matters. And, while we are always at a deficit of time to get done everything that needs doing, our members do their best to maximize the time they have to ensure our students get what they need to succeed.

However, friends, I’m here to tell you that time is not on our side, regardless of what the Rolling Stones may have told you. Last year, my predecessor, Frederika Jenner, told you the wolf was at the door in regards to policies coming down from the frightening administration of Betsy DeVos at the US Department of Education. Frederika urged us all to pay attention and be vigilant. Well, I’m here to share with you that we will have to be vigilant in the coming months as the greatest threat to our Association is handed down by the United States Supreme Court in the form of the Janus case.

Now, I will not bore you all with the details of this case. You all are among the most active members of our Association and my guess is most of you have found the time to learn more about this case. In short, the current make-up of the Supreme Court will likely chip further away at the rights of public-sector unions. Have no doubt – this will impact our membership and could very well impact how we deliver service to our members.

This Supreme Court case is called Janus, named after the plaintiff, Mark Janus, a home health care worker in Illinois. Mr. Janus believes that if you don’t want to pay fair share fees to your union, you shouldn’t have to, EVEN IF you benefit from the work the union does. In essence, when this Supreme Court decision comes down, it could create a new generation of worker that expects and demands union representation and benefits, but will refuse to pay for them.

But Janus also means something else. Several months ago, while toying around on the Internet, I Googled “Janus.” Did you know that Janus is the Roman god of endings, new beginnings, transitions, and, most appropriately, time? Janus is often depicted in mythology as having two faces. I equate these two faces to the two choices we have as an Association.

Do we twiddle our thumbs, look backwards, complain, and cry when the Supreme Court hands down a decision that, in the long run, could cost DSEA thousands of members?

Or – do we look forward? Do we pick ourselves up and fight back and show our members who we really are here at DSEA? That we are going to work harder than ever to ensure they see the value in the work we do? That we are going to continue to drive the narrative that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions? That we are going to continue to fight for more resources for our most impoverished students – for our students with disabilities – for our English language learners? That we are going to continue to push back against bad education policies that focus more time on testing and less time on authentic learning?

It’s when we show our members as well as the public that EDUCATORS are the best advocates for students that we win the narrative. And when we win that narrative, we will never have to worry about members leaving us – because they will see themselves in the work we do.

So – I have several requests for you when you leave today. In the coming weeks and months, I need you all to be ambassadors for our Association. I need you to go back to your locals. I need you to engage all of our members – AND NON-MEMBERS. This is our greatest organizing moment and I know that we can accomplish so much and maintain the strength of our membership if we focus on several things:

Have as many meaningful one-on-one conversations with members as you can. Get them to realize that their voices are amplified in environments where collaboration is fostered and open dialogue is promoted and that our union is a critical driver in those conversations.
If you’re a local that has faculty meetings in your buildings every month, check your contract to see if the Association is given five or ten minutes of each faculty meeting to share updates. And use that time at EVERY faculty meeting to share with members – and non-members – how critical union membership is with the wolf constantly knocking on our doors.

Go to the Dollar Store. Get a 20-pack of generic greeting cards. Write notes to your elected officials and school board members thanking them for their support of public education and sharing with them how and why unions ARE always a great partner in moving education forward here in Delaware.

Finally, and most importantly, share your story. Share it with friends. Share it with family. Share vignettes on social media of why we do what we do in public education. Share your story like the story featured in this post.

There’s a lot going on in this image. I was visiting a high school in New Castle County and walked into an English teacher’s classroom. This image immediately caught my eyes. And the story behind it will stick with me forever.

I asked the teacher where this huge drawing on a whiteboard had come from. He shared with me that it was about two years old. A former student of his — a withdrawn senior who rarely ever spoke to the teacher — did it. The teacher said it was near the end of the year, the student had shown little effort, and at a certain point, there seemed to be a level of tension the teacher wished could be resolved. Eventually, the teacher said to the student “I’ve failed you. You’ve gotten through this entire school year and you’ve barely said two words to me. I’ve failed you and for that I am sorry.” The teacher left the room, upset, not knowing what to do for this student who had been withdrawn for so much of the year. Come to find out, the student had some language barriers as well as some issues at home that were causing her to withdraw.

The teacher was out of the room for a period of time and when he came back, this beautiful drawing — representing all of the pieces of literature covered in senior year — was on his whiteboard. The teacher became so overwhelmed and emotional at this display. He told me that the young lady — though barely communicative — was obviously absorbing the literature the class was reading that year.

The teacher memorialized this art by spreading a thin film over the drawing to protect it and it remains in his classroom to this day — a testament and clear sign that he, in fact — was not a failure to this particular student.

How many stories like this are waiting to be told around Delaware?

It’s stories like this that explain why we as educators do what we do. And, based on the schools I’ve visited up and down the state, this story isn’t the only one out there. You must be prepared to share your story. You must be prepared to defend the work of our union to ensure better wages, benefits, and working conditions for our members and their families. Because we must never go back to the time cited in the classic labor hymn “Which Side Are You On?” – authored in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky. Following a night of being terrorized by Sheriff J.H. Blair and men hired by the mining company to bully mine workers and prevent them from unionizing, Reece wrote this poem on a calendar that hung on the wall in her kitchen:

“Come all you good workers
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven’t got a chance
Unless we organize
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?”

Now I’m not saying things are anywhere near as dire here as they were in Mrs. Reece’s world, but just know that long ago the rights we take for granted today were hard fought by someone else, and it’s up to us to find the time and ensure we protect those rights.

So, with what limited time we all have, be sure and find the time to do what will keep you strong, your families strong, your students strong, and our union forever strong. Because, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not.”

Thank you, delegates, and remember: Solidarity Now and Solidarity Forever. 

Mike Matthews Speaks!

Finally!  After weeks of Delaware Governor John Carney’s posturing about his plans for the Christina School District Wilmington schools, Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews gave a shout-out to his fellow DSEA members about the rapidly developing situation.

Being at the table doesn’t mean you are in full collaboration with the rest of the table.  But it is a slippery slope.  Cause sometimes they will serve you on the table.  Carney’s Springfield gambit has more holes than a donut shop.  The Springfield teachers union was not on board with this at all despite any mainstream articles you read about it.  I fully expect DSEA and the Christina local to speak out 100% against this when the time comes.

In looking at the demographics between Christina and Springfield, I noticed the student populations are vastly different.  While Springfield’s largest minority is Hispanic students, Christina’s Wilmington students are mostly African-American.  This represents different needs and approaches right off the bat.  For those who see this is a softer approach to Christina, I don’t.  I see it as a forced coercion on the part of the Governor and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  And it appears they have the usual suspects pimping for them.

Mike Matthews’ First Day As DSEA President

Mike Matthews became the next President of the Delaware State Education Association today.  Taking over from outgoing President, Frederika Jenner, Matthews will undoubtedly generate news over the next few years.  After an actual tie in the election last January, Matthews won in a run-off election two months later.

With the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act in our schools, more personalized learning/competency-based education crap, the usual teacher evaluation based on Smarter Balanced, and all the budgetary/legislative stuff going on, look for Matthews to have his hands full the next few years.  Today, he sent out a letter to Delaware DSEA educators:

A Message from DSEA President Mike Matthews


Dear Fellow Educator:

Today I begin a new journey as DSEA President. Throughout my career as an educator, DSEA has been the strongest voice to ensure our members and students have what they need to succeed. I look forward to continuing this strong tradition of advocacy, but will need your help to be successful. Stay informed by reading our e-newsletters Professionally Speaking, which covers all manner of education policy news, as well as Legislative Matters, which provides comprehensive coverage of the legislative developments impacting public education and educators.  Also, DSEA maintains active social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and publishes an all-member newspaper, ACTION, on a quarterly basis.  These are just a few of the many ways in which you can stay informed and continue to advocate for your students.


Over the next few years, working with our network of strong local leaders, I hope you will share your stories with me about what’s going on in your school. Share with me the good… Share with me the not-so-good.  I intend for open and honest communication to be an important piece of my time as DSEA President.  To that end, please feel free to contact me to share those stories.  My email is Mike.Matthews@dsea.org.


Together, our unified, collective voice can speak up on behalf of our colleagues and the students we advocate for every day. I hope you are enjoying your summer and I look forward to working with you in the near future. Thank you for all that you do.

In Solidarity,
Mike

The Mind of Mr. Matthews Makes Way For President Matthews

Mike Matthews doesn’t have to teach for the next three school years!  Instead, he will be taking over from Frederika Jenner as the President of the Delaware State Education Association beginning July 15th.  Today, Mike got his final evaluation before he takes off to Water St. in Dover.  He reflected on this evaluation and much more in his Facebook status earlier this afternoon.  I’m going to say right now, I expect a lot out of Mike the next three years.  My expectations are very high.  Are we going to agree on everything?  Hell no.  I expect we will have our fair share of disagreements.  I also want to wish the very best to the outgoing President, Frederika Jenner.  I never really had the opportunity to get to know Frederika, and I will regret that.  I was very tough on her a couple of years ago, and once again, I apologize to Frederika for that.  But back to President Matthews…

I finish my year at Cooke Elementary with a totally different worldview. I had an excellent Component V conference with my administrator this morning. Now, that’s not to say I’m a fan of Component V. I’m still 100% absolutely against using standardized test scores of students on an educator’s evaluation.

The meeting was productive because it laid bare and confirmed my thoughts over the last few years. Whereas students at my other schools often showed lower proficiency, but high percentages of growth, my students at Cooke showed amazingly high proficiency at the beginning of the year, but some of the Smarter Balanced growth goals set by the state were so high, that a handful of my students didn’t meet them. Consequently, I was one student away from getting an “Exceeds” rating on my Measure A Component V.

It’s a different world at Cooke, with different challenges and successes from what I experienced at Warner and Richardson Park. But my resolve remains: I feel that our educators should not be judged based on a system that has never been shown to be a valid or reliable measure of teacher effectiveness.

I’ll miss being in the classroom next year, but will certainly be fighting like hell with the awesome DSEA team and educators and professionals throughout the state to lobby and advocate for a teacher and specialist evaluation system that respects the work they do.

Breaking News: Mike Matthews Is The New DSEA President

Mike Matthews just put the following post out on Facebook.  Congrats to Mike for his victory.  This was a long and hard fight, but he finally did it.  Look for a different kind of DSEA in the future!

An email has just been sent to all DSEA members. Results were shared this morning and I won the run off election for DSEA president. I’m thrilled and so happy for this. Thank you to all my supporters and thank you to my three opponents, Karen Crouse, Dom Zaffora, and Danny Rufo, who ran really great, issues-based campaigns.

Biggest thank you to my best friend and always-running mate Jackie Kook. This win is bittersweet for me, but I know she will always be there to support me and this organization.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone, and I hope that you have a great weekend.

Delaware Teacher Mike Matthews Reply To Delaware “Education” Governor Jack Markell

Former Red Clay Education Association and current Red Clay teacher Mike Matthews replied to Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s controversial email to Delaware teachers with the words only a teacher can say.  If any other teachers or Delaware citizens want me to publish their reply to our “education” Governor, let me know!

Gov. Markell:

Thank you for the email, but I feel I can’t accept your praise. First, the growth you’re praising is about as much as a margin of error in any political poll, so I’ll take said growth with a grain of salt. Second, you continue prop up this Smarter Balanced Assessment and the standards they are evaluating while failing to admit that this test provides virtually no diagnostic or beneficial material to educators in any timely fashion.

I’m going to keep this email short and say that while I respect you as a person and I respect many of the progressive stances you’ve taken during your nearly eight years in office, I continue to be disturbed by your tone and agenda when it comes to education matters. I would have thought you’d lighten up in your final year after the debacle that was Priority Schools. After mounting evidence has revealed that judging schools, teachers, and students on test scores is statistically unreliable and morally bankrupt. After charter after charter around Delaware continues to fail and close. After overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate vote to uphold a parents’ right to opt their children out of toxic standardized tests that do little to help their progress in school or out. After educators across the State vote unanimously no confidence in your corporate education reform Secretary of Education, Mark Murphy.

What other messages need to be sent to you, Governor, that your business-minded approach to education is not the way to go when we are working with students of varying needs and abilities. Using your business-model approach to education, Governor, who will get left behind when we close all those “poor-performing” schools because of a silly test score? Will it be the student with severe emotional needs that breaks down at the sight of a computerized test? Will it be the student who came to school on test day in soiled clothes after having eaten nothing the weekend before? Will it be the student who witnessed his brother get shot on the streets of Wilmington the night before?

While the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission has done a great job approaching many of the education issues your administration ignored during the first seven years of your administration (remember: the people you put in charge at DoE explicitly believe that poverty is NEVER a barrier to success. One Penny Schwinn actually stated that violence in Wilmington is never a challenge to a student’s success in school), it’s too little too late for your education legacy.

I wish this could have been different. I wish my outsized support for you in 2008 had been a little more probing when it came to education issues. As it stands, I regret the unequivocal support I offered you then both personally and by way of my blog, which no doubt contributed much to your narrow primary victory.

That being said, I genuinely wish you the best once you leave office and I hope someday you’ll realize the damage your education policies caused in this state and that you’ll have a change of heart in the coming years. 

One suggestion: At the conclusion of your term, I’d ask you to please spend a week with Warner teacher Monique Taylor-Gibbs to see what’s it’s like working at one of those “failing” schools. Your opinions will change and I guarantee you’ll realize the damage your administration did to our schools with the neverending “test and punish” schemes hoisted upon them.

All the best,

Mike

Sent from my iPhone

Why Did Mike Matthews Bill The General Assembly For Almost $250,000?

Earlier this week, Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews sent the Delaware General Assembly an invoice for $235,000.  What was the reason for this?  You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?  I am putting in the read more tag so you can, you know, read more!  There is a very good reason why he billed our legislators. Continue reading

Mike Matthews & Frederika Jenner Get The Spotlight In Vision Coalition Video

Mike Matthews, the President of the Red Clay Education Association, and Frederika Jenner, the President of the Delaware State Education Association, were both featured prominently in a video of the Vision Coalition’s recent coffee meeting. Watch the video below!

Has Mike Matthews, President of RCEA, Been A Double Agent For Rodel?

It turns out Rodel is having a Personalized Learning Workshop on February 27th.  Because I “liked” the Rodel Foundation on Facebook, I get to see all their ads.  Every. Day. I only did it so I could see what they are doing.  Honest.  But one thing is for sure: I have never been in one of their advertisements.  Mike Matthews, the President of the Red Clay Education Association… that’s a different story:

MikeMatthewsRodel

The big question: Is Mike going to this Personalized Learning Workshop? Is he indeed a double agent? The clues are all there. I have seen Mike at Legislative Hall the same time as Rodel lobbyists. I even saw him there the same time as Paul Herdman, the CEO of Rodel. As for me, I won’t be attending this event. For me, it’s about as exciting as a fart in a spacesuit.

If you are friends with Mike Matthews on Facebook, get the real story.

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Mike Matthews, Jackie Kook, and Mike Kempski

trio

In March, the Red Clay and Christina Education Associations passed a resolution announcing a vote of no confidence in Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, the Delaware Department of Education and the Delaware State Board of Education.  The resolution, announced at a press conference on March 12th, 2015, was widely cheered as a strong statement against the education policies and agendas of both the DOE and Governor Markell.

Their resolution was the first of a series of blows against the Department and Murphy in response to the DOE’s atrocious handling of the six priority schools in Wilmington.  Teachers in the two districts had enough with the standardized testing parts of their teacher evaluations.  RCEA and CEA, led by the Mikes, Matthews and Kempski, with support from CEA Vice-President Jackie Kook, brought the resolution up for a vote to their union members.  In addition, both educator associations supported the opt-out legislation, House Bill 50.  Over the coming months after their announcement, both the Delaware State Education Association and the Delaware Association of School Administrators echoed their calls of no confidence in Mark Murphy.

As 2015 draws to a close, we can’t forget the impact these three had on education this year.  House Bill 50 passed the House and Senate.  Mark Murphy is gone.  The new Every Student Succeeds Act calls for an elimination of standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluations.  In a very big way, the two largest districts in our state received the most press this year, in large part due to the Wilmington redistricting plan.

Christina had a very rough year.  It started off with the priority schools debacle which led to a memorandum of understanding with the DOE to grant the district a second planning year in response to the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s recommendations.  After that, they lost two referendums which caused a reduction in work force of 99 educators.  Dr. Freeman Williams, the Superintendent for the district, went on leave in August.  Their board narrowly passed a vote to bring in Bob Andrzejewski as the Acting Superintendent a few months ago.  Budget forecasts for the district look ominous as the district faces a third referendum attempt this year.  The redistricting effort in Wilmington, now awaiting a vote by the State Board of Education in January, will certainly change the makeup of the district if passed.

Meanwhile, Red Clay passed their referendum, but not without consequences.  A lawsuit filed by a family in the district in regards to operating procedures for the referendum could change the entire referendum landscape in Delaware.  While Christina received an extra year of planning for priority schools, Red Clay moved forward but not without severe issues with promised funding from the DOE.  New feeder patters led to a series of issues at Skyline Middle School as new students coming to the school literally changed the school culture of the building, resulting in a huge rise in bullying incidents.  The district’s inclusion initiative is now the hotbed issue in the district due to a severe lack of resources and staff to handle the complex and intensive needs of many of the students with disabilities.

Matthews, Kempski, and Kook will certainly have their hands full in 2016.  But as three of the strongest leaders not only in their district, but in the entire state, all three will be front and center in the debates and conversations surrounding education in Delaware.

How Much Is Enough? When Does The Madness Stop In Our Schools?

If you come to this blog regularly, you are more than familiar with Mike Matthews, the President of the Red Clay Education Association.  Mike used to blog before he got into teaching, but some of his Facebook status updates might as well be a blog.  Mike asks a lot of tough questions surrounding education in Delaware.

Lately, the whole Red Clay inclusion topic is coming up in a big way.  Red Clay’s board voted for a big inclusion push for students with disabilities and their regular peers to be in more classes together.  While this is good in theory, if the resources and staff aren’t implemented well than issues will mount.  For those who think Mike is just a “union” guy, you would be wrong.  Yes, he is very supportive of the union.  But he also genuinely cares about what happens with students.  Nearly all teachers do.

Mike isn’t afraid to pull punches, and we need MUCH more of that in Delaware.  Tonight, Mike posted something very thought-provoking on Facebook, and I thought I would share it for those who aren’t friends with Mike.

Our students deserve more recess. Not more tests.

Our students deserve more extracurricular activities and more unified arts. Not more “rigor.”

Our students deserve more emotional supports. Not more Common Core.

Our students deserve more enrichment opportunities to show US how they can shine. Not more unit tests and Fresh Reads and Performance Plus.

Our students deserve a more responsive District that will banish the “test and punish” model that was rebuked with last week’s passage and signing of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Not more test prep that lines the pockets of textbook and software publishers.

Our students with special needs and English Language Learners deserve to be in schools with more than one or two specialized staff members to meet the needs of potentially hundreds of students at one site. Not more simplistic exposure to the “general education curriculum” that does little to address their needs or prepare them in a meaningful way for successful post-scholastic careers.

Our District continues down the long and quixotic road of attempting to standardized the most valuable resource that should never be standardized: Our Children. And as a result, they and others are turning off a generation of both learners AND teachers.

A wise friend of mine once said: “When is enough enough?”

Well…when is it?

I know I have asked this question many times.  It could be a lot of people who have said “When is enough enough?”  I asked this question, rather angrily, to Senator Sokola, the DOE, and a packed audience during the House Bill 50 debate in the Senate Education Committee.  It seems to me like students with disabilities continue to get the short end of the stick.  I’m getting VERY tired of this.  If your going to implement something to benefit special education students and English Language Learners, you better be damn sure you have the money, resources and staffing to get it right.  These kids can’t afford what happens when schools and districts get it wrong.

While Mike is obviously more enamored with ESSA than I am, he is absolutely right.  Delaware has a chance to rewrite the script on education.  And I’m not talking about WEIC either.  I’m talking about parents telling their legislators what they want for their kids.  We have to stop hiding behind our names or our standing and how we look to our friends and neighbors.  For all the Delaware parents who continue to flaunt this insanity in Delaware education, let me ask you one simple question: How would YOU have done with all this growing up?

Delaware parents can make the most obvious change now by opting their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and supporting the override of Governor Markell’s cowardly veto of House Bill 50.  The only way things are going to change is if the very mechanism for the corporate education reformers is taken away.  Take the test away, and they no longer have their funnel into the Delaware education system.

Mike Matthews Nukes Governor Markell & DOE’s False Methodology

Mike Matthews just posted this on Facebook, and he is absolutely correct.  It is NOT about the teachers Jack.  But you already know that, don’t you.  It’s just easy for your game plan if people think that!

Some individuals truly believe that the *best* teachers are at schools where students perform great on the state test. I have never and will never buy into this belief that so many ‪#‎edreformers‬ (and our governor and Department of Education) hold.

As full-time president, I get to visit lots of schools on a regular basis. I’ve visited a majority of Red Clay’s elementary schools. When I tell teachers I taught at Warner Elementary, the response from a few dozen of them has been “Really?? I started my career at Warner!” or “I started my career at Shortlidge!” or “I started my career in the city!”

I’ve asked some a follow-up: “Why did you leave?” And most have given similar answers: “I never felt we got the support that we required to address student needs” or “I couldn’t balance having my own family and continuing to work until 7 or 8 at night” or “Classroom management was a huge issue and support was limited.”

So, according to our Governor and DoE the problem with the inner-city schools and low test scores is poor administration and teachers. But many of the teachers — a good portion of whom started their careers at inner-city schools — who are now working at “successful” (based on standardized test scores) suburban schools are having their students perform magnificently on the test.

So what’s the problem here? Do the teachers at “low-performing” city schools suck? Should they all have to reapply for their jobs? Because it’s very likely that the same “low-performing” city teacher today will in two or three years be a “high-performing” suburban teacher after they’ve chosen to leave the city school because of any number of stressors.

How do we get these ALREADY GREAT teachers in our city schools to STAY so that communities and relationships can be BUILT and SUSTAINED?

I continue to believe that the answer is easier than we all make it out to be, but too few people are willing to confront those tough questions and have the courageous conversations needed to move forward.

SBAC: Test, Label, and Punish

After the President of the Delaware State Board of Education, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, was quoted in different media sources about House Bill 50 and opt-out,  former blogger and current teacher and President of the Red Clay Educators Association Mike Matthews shot out an email to Dr. Gray and several others in response to Gray’s comments.  With Mike’s permission, I present his email:

To
  • Gray Teri
CC
  • Johnson Donna R
  • Murphy Mark
  • Markell Jack
  • Frederika.Jenner@dsea.org
  • Sokola David
  • Townsend Bryan
  • Jaques, Jr Earl
  • Williams Kimberly
  • Matthews Sean
  • jyd1988@gmail.com
  • kevino3670@yahoo.com
  • Kowalko John
  • KOOK JACKIE
  • KEMPSKI MICHAEL S

Dr. Gray:

Mike Matthews Lambastes DOE For Their One-Sided Smarter Balanced Administration Survey

In a letter sent to the Red Clay Educator Association members, President Mike Matthews slammed the DOE for their Smarter Balanced Administration survey, shown in the previous article for all to see.  I completely agree with Matthews on this.  Like so many other DOE surveys, the choices only make the Smarter Balanced Assessment look good.

RCEA Members: 

This year was an incredibly rough start for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. I heard from dozens of you about the loss of valuable instructional time to administer this test, as well as the multitude of system capacity issues when you finally sat your students down to take the test. Needless to say, I’m guessing this test has not been popular with a majority of you who have administered it. 

I received this email from one of my RCEA Executive Board members. I’m guessing this would have gotten to me at some point. I’m going to try and make this short, but I feel the need to address this survey.  I applaud the Department for wanting to get feedback from teachers on the administration of SBAC. However, I have grave concerns with the lack of balance in the survey the Department of Education has presented here. Please click below and note the questions and answer choices on the survey. Does anything stick out at you? 

I’m concerned that the only answer choices provided reflect an overall positive experience with the administration of the SBAC. Why are there no answer choices critical of the administration of this test? Sure, there’s plenty of space to provide a narrative comment by clicking “Other” and I’m hopeful that many of you will use that option to share your thoughts with DoE on this assessment. I believe this survey reflects the overall attitude and ideology from within the Department that criticism of this assessment should be absolutely blunted at best or, at worst, just completely ignored.  

I wouldn’t generally email the membership regarding a survey like this, but I feel it’s critical that you respond to the survey with absolute honesty by providing your comments in the “Other” box. I know this could take time, but I’ve heard from so many of you this year, that I feel it’s really necessary for the State to hear our unfiltered opinions on this test. 

All the best and enjoy the last few minutes with your students!

 Mike