For An “Education” Governor, Jack Markell Isn’t Too Bright! Exclusive FOIA Emails Show His Incompetency!

When it comes to education, brokering deals isn’t Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s strong suit.  His fumbling could have given the Christina priority schools major headaches larger than the ones they had.

In September, 2014, Governor Markell announced six priority schools in Wilmington, DE.  Three in the Red Clay Consolidated School District and three in the Christina School District.  Each school board had to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for each school.  Red Clay signed their MOU a few months later while Christina fought the Delaware Department of Education every step of the way.  By the end of February of 2015, the Christina School Board refused to sign the MOU and didn’t approve plans for the schools.  When it looked like the Delaware DOE and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy were going to take the schools from the district, Governor Markell brokered a plan between the district and the Delaware DOE.

As a result of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) and their recommendation to turn the Christina schools in Wilmington to Red Clay, the priority school saga was on hold.  The Christina Board voted in favor of the WEAC idea and Governor Markell brought both sides to the table.  A new MOU detailed the WEAC recommendation and the Christina Board signed it.  The MOU went to Secretary Murphy for signature.  The tension ended.  Or so we thought.

For seven months, the subject of the Christina priority schools was very quiet.  WEAC became the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission through legislation.  The commission started meeting in September of 2015 to craft the plans to eventually fold the Wilmington Christina schools into Red Clay.  At the October meeting of the Delaware Education Support System (DESS), a representative asked about the Christina priority schools and what would happen to them if the redistricting plan fell apart.  Delaware DOE Chief of Accountability and Assessment Penny Schwinn said that was a very good question and one they were hoping to get answers for soon.

The DOE was in transition.  Secretary Murphy announced his resignation at the end of July.  Acting Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky inherited the Christina priority schools.  The DESS meeting was on October 5th.  A month earlier, I wondered what would happen if the WEIC plan didn’t pass the State Board of Education or the Delaware General Assembly.  Everyone assumed the deal Governor Markell brokered in March covered the Christina priority schools up until that point.  But in FOIA’d emails never revealed to the public until now, the Delaware DOE truly didn’t know what Markell’s deal even meant.  Behind the scenes, Schwinn emailed the United States Department of Education to get clarification on what the options were for the three schools seven months after “the deal”.

SchwinnUSDOEChristina1

I find it astonishing Governor Markell never had the Delaware DOE check with the US DOE before the March deal.  This is a man who prides himself on all things education.  Instead, he made an executive decision without checking to see if it was even okay.

SchwinnUSDOEChristina2

Nearly two weeks after Schwinn first posed the question to Julie Glasier, an Education Specialist at the US DOE, she received an answer:

SchwinnUSDOEChristina3

As per the US DOE, the deal brokered by Markell wasn’t good enough.  All of this led to what is known as “The Hissy Fit” at the December meeting of the Delaware State Board of Education meeting.  The board minutes for this meeting tell one story, but reality was far different.

It was pointed out that the Christina School District schools are in the second year of planning as the Department has not received a plan.  Dr. Gray voiced her dismay and concern that the district has failed to respond to the Department’s requests.  Dr. Godowsky stated that it is the Department’s expectation that the district will submit their plan.  It was also noted that the educators in that district are to be commended for helping their students achieve without the additional funding they could be receiving.

State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray was visibly upset about the Christina School District priority schools.  She acted as if the district made the deal back in March and just forgot about the schools.  She was so angry she had to excuse herself from the State Board meeting to regain her composure.  The very next day an astonishing revelation came out about what happened, or to be more concise, didn’t happen after the brokered meeting nine months earlier.  Secretary Murphy never signed the MOU between the Christina priority schools and the Delaware DOE.  Christina board members stated they were never told anything more had to be done with the schools during the pending WEIC redistricting proposal.  Now the Delaware DOE wanted the district’s priority school plans.

While never officially confirmed, Murphy’s resignation was rumored to be a “resign now” due to issues with the funding for the three Red Clay priority schools.  Emails released by this blog weeks before the Murphy announcement seemed to be the final straw for his Cabinet position in Delaware.  Was Markell aware of Murphy’s other colossal error concerning the Christina priority schools?

This led to another explosion of sorts at the February State Board of Education meeting.  The State Board voted no on the WEIC redistricting plan due to wording around funding and Christina having no priority school plans turned into the DOE.  State Board member Pat Heffernan went on a tirade of his own about the three schools and how Christina failed them.  At an emergency meeting of WEIC the next week, Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan told State Board President Dr. Gray she should apologize to Christina for the underhanded treatment they received from her.  To date, Dr. Gray has not apologized to Christina.

Christina submitted the priority school plans to Secretary Godowsky and the State Board passed the WEIC redistricting plan last month.  Godowsky notified the State Board the plans were enough for the DOE.

Several questions emerge from this year and a half story though.  During the time of the priority schools announcement and the months following, many assumed the DOE wanted to take the schools.  Myself included.  But the stark reality is the DOE really didn’t have a clue what they were doing.  Neither Governor Markell or the DOE bothered to check to see if the brokered deal was acceptable to the federal agency that mandated the priority schools in the first place.  Granted, Delaware made up their own plans to decide which schools were “priority”, which wasn’t exactly without it’s own controversy.

I don’t believe ANY school should get a label based on standardized test scores.  Period.  Teachers should not fear for their jobs because of bogus tests.   The way the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Governor Markell treated Christina during the five months after the announcement was shameful.  Even worse was the false treatment from the State Board of Education last fall and this winter.  Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson serves as a liaison of sorts between the State Board of Education and the Delaware Department of Education.  While not knowing for certain, I would have a very hard time believing Johnson was not aware of Schwinn’s emails to the US DOE and the fact that Secretary Murphy never signed the MOU.  She could have cleared that up at the December State Board meeting, but she didn’t.  If she did know of these events, she allowed Dr. Gray to behave the way she did.  Even Godowsky seemed shocked at the appalling actions on Gray’s part.

The Delaware State Board of Education is appointed by the Delaware Governor.  There are no public elections for the seven State Board of Education seats.  Donna Gray sits on the DESS Advisory Committee.  The WEIC redistricting plan awaits action from the Delaware 148th General Assembly.  The three Christina priority schools are still in the district and they began the Smarter Balanced Assessment last month.  The scores on these tests, like so many other Title I schools in Delaware, determine their fates to this day.  Governor Markell believes the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best test Delaware ever made.

Delaware DOE Will Severely Punish More Brandywine, Christina & Red Clay Schools Based On Smarter Balanced Scores

Wilmington

As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Delaware Department of Education named several new schools that would have become Priority or Focus Schools in an email to the United States Department of Education if the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) went into full effect this year.  It won’t, but it gives a very good sign of the entire purpose of this “school report card” scheme: more inner-city schools getting false labels and “turnaround status” based on high-stakes standardized test scores.  One school, far away from Wilmington, which was highly praised by Governor Markell and the DOE a couple of years ago for their reduction of proficiency gaps would have been a Focus School this year because of the increase in their proficiency gap.  Another school that would have become a priority school is already slated to close at the end of this year.  Again, I will stress these schools (aside from the ones with an asterisk) have not been named but would have been if the DSSF went into effect this year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority1

Wow!  That is a lot of information from the former Director of Accountability at the Delaware DOE!  This was part of the Delaware DOE’s ESEA waiver request they sent to the US DOE at the end of November last year.  The State Board had just approved the participation rate penalty in the DSSF at their November meeting.  What wasn’t revealed was this list of schools that would have been named Focus or Priority…

ReynaPotlFocusPriority2

Four of the schools labeled as Priority are already Priority Schools.  I find it interesting the other two Red Clay Priority Schools are not on this list.  The Christina School District would have two more Priority Schools based on their DSSF score.  Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed and will close their doors forever at the end of this school year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority3

Booker T. Washington Elementary School?  What?  Isn’t this the same school Governor Markell touted and praised for closing the gaps in 2014 and 2015?  Didn’t Delaware Today just do a big article about the school’s big turnaround?  I have to wonder if Capital School District is aware this school would have been punished again and put back in turnaround status.

Brandywine School District (district code 31) already had three designated Focus Schools this year, but four more would have joined that elite group.  Half of Delaware’s Focus Schools would have existed in the Brandywine School District!  Red Clay would have seen a middle school join while Christina would have another two schools in turnaround status.  Colonial and Delmar both would join the “Focus School Group” based on their proficiency gaps.

When you compare these schools with charter schools based on the actual Smarter Balanced scores last year, the fatal flaw in the Delaware School Success Framework becomes very clear.  Many charters such as EastSide, Family Foundations, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison had lower Smarter Balanced scores than some of the priority and focus schools above.  But because the DSSF is based not just on the overall scores but also the “growth to proficiency”, the system is rigged to punish schools in traditional school districts.  Why?  Because the Delaware DOE never did what they said they were going to do in their ESEA waiver application:

CharterPriorityRegulation

So even though they named Delaware College Prep as a priority school in their “DSSF” scenario, it wouldn’t happen because to this date the DOE has not submitted any regulations indicating what is in the picture above.  As well, this would account for Focus Schools as well, as seen here:

FocusCharterRegulation

And what is that Focus School Criteria?

FocusCriteria1617beyond

But here is where things get confusing:

TimelineTransitionDSSF

The above states no new Focus or Priority schools will be named in the next two years.  But they will name Reward and Recognition schools.  So that’s good, right?  Wrong.  The whole ballgame changes on August 1st, 2016.  That is when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect.  States will be given a “planning and implementation year” so to speak.  But the key will be in the regulations issued in the coming months.  That is where ALL OF THIS will come into play.  The Delaware DOE was probably about 95% certain the ESSA would pass at the time of this ESEA Waiver application on November 19th, 2015.  So what does this mean?

These are my predictions: The regulations coming out of ESSA will give the states the authority to determine “turnaround” schools based on US DOE “guidance”.  The Delaware DOE will take full advantage of this to keep the plans now in place but also to make things go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year.  Or possibly, they will stall this until the 2017-2018 school year.  They will support this with a re-designed Regulation 103 in Delaware based on the US DOE regulations.  If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes the General Assembly (which I now think will happen), Red Clay will have a lot of priority and focus schools.  And more to be named based on the Delaware School Success Framework and how they calculate things.  Most of them are schools in the city limits of Wilmington.  Around 2019 or 2020, the DOE will pounce on these schools with hardcore priority school MOUs.  If you thought the MOUs in 2014 were stringent, these will be even tougher for the Red Clay Board of Education to work around.  By this time, based on the Smarter Balanced scores (or whatever replaces it), all the Wilmington Red Clay schools will be in Priority School status.  Red Clay won’t close all the schools, so they will be forced to turn them over to the DOE, become charter schools, or be put into a management organization.  And that, my friends, is when we see Wilmington become an all-charter school district.  Over time this will engulf the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts.  Upper New Castle County will become ALL charter.

Think about the real estate deals that will come out of that.  Think about the collective bargaining rights that are marginalized when a school goes into priority school status.  Think about competency-based education and personalized learning and career pathways initiatives already in place in Delaware and other states.  Think about the huge amount of schools in the country that have already converted to charters, and the vast amounts of money hedge fund managers make off charters.  Think about all the foundations and non-profits that support charters.  Think about the fact that WEIC had to happen for all of this to come to fruition.  Think about how organizations like Teach For America and the Relay Graduate School for Education stand to benefit immensely from a scenario where teachers are no longer teachers but glorified moderators in a personalized learning environment.  Think about the long con and how this would eventually trickle down the state, past the canal, all the way down to Sussex County over the long run.  Think about all the tax break legislation that has gone through in Delaware that Markell has signed so fast.  There could be a lot of new business coming to Delaware.  But none of it will be good for students.

This is the game plan.  The one that Delaware Governor Jack Markell, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Business Roundtable fervently support.  You won’t find any memos or emails about this.  You won’t find any hard or definitive proof either.  It will just happen.  And if you think John Carney will save the day as the new Governor of Delaware, think again…

Guess what the one mechanism is that stops all of this?

OPT OUT

If the state doesn’t have the data needed to carry out all of this, they can’t very well use the results to force all these changes.  This is why Governor Markell and the DOE and Rodel and all the organizations, foundations, and non-profits are against opt out.  Opt Out is the game-changer that disrupts ALL their plans.

The O’Mara-Markell-Coach-Quinn Gray-Godowsky Scandal

This was originally on the Delaware blog Children & Educators First yesterday:

Earlier this week, C&E 1st posed the question:  What’s Lindsey O’Mara got to do with it? Regarding the WEIC Commission, the State Board of Education, Priority Plans, and the Christina School District.

To get to the answer, I’ve scribed together several posts from Exceptional Delaware by Kevin Ohlandt. I give full credit to Kevin for ferreting out and documenting meeting after meeting related to the Gov and all his pawns.  What I have tried to do is give the reader a sense that not one event is singular to the WEIC drama, not one event is special, and not one is organic.  These meetings, who had what info, who stumbled, this was all pre-ordained by our self-aggrandizing Gov. Markell and his entitled political hacks.

Here’s your answer:

The Deal – https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/tag/the-deal/

According to Fred Polaski, the Christina Board of Education President, he and Superintendent Freeman Williams met with Lindsey O’Mara, the education advisor for Governor Markell, in hashing out an agreement over the three priority schools in their district.  The Delaware Department of Education was there at the beginning of the meeting, and left soon after.  More details as they emerge…
I’m not sure if this was at this meeting, before, or after, but apparently DOE Officer of Accountability Penny Schwinn told Christina she already has three assistant principals already in mind for the three priority schools during the “transition”.
The Christina Board is getting ready to vote on the decision to follow this plan, developed not by Christina and the DOE, but Christina and Governor Markell’s office.
The Christina Board passed the Markell/DOE plan (still waiting to find out whose plan it was), by a 4-1-2 vote.  For those keeping track, the yes votes belonged to John Young, Elizabeth Paige, David Ressler and Fred Polaski.  Harrie Minnehan voted no, and George Evans and Shirley Saffer abstained.  The board also voted unanimously for a second referendum on May 27th.


This was buried in a blogpost last March on ExceptionalDelaware – a post that garnered no comments (rare!) However, this meeting has a far reaching impact. Let’s start with the attendees – O’Mara, representing the Governor, Penny Schwinn, on behalf of DOE, Superintendent Williams and Board Member Fred Polaski, for the Christina School District.  Notably, Coach Murphy was absent.  It’s been rumored that the Gov. ordered Murphy to stand down and lay low. You can find the plans that this covert team hammered out here:

To read the rest of this very interesting article, go here: http://elizabethscheinberg.blogspot.com/2016/02/omara-markell-coach-quinngrey-godowski.html

Christina Priority Schools & The Weird Behavior Of The DOE & State Board

On Christmas Eve, Avi with Newsworks/WHYY published an article called “A year later, still no money for three Delaware ‘priority’ schools”.  I found this article to be fascinating and revealing.  Especially since it gave information that, apparently, the Christina Board of Education wasn’t even aware of.  One thing is for certain: the Delaware Department of Education is gunning for the Christina School District and they don’t care who knows anymore.

Last year, the DOE labeled six Wilmington schools as priority schools based on standardized test scores.  Three in Christina, and three in Red Clay.  Red Clay submitted their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), their plans for the schools, and received funds from the state for the initiative.  Christina fought it tooth and nail in many intense board meetings.  Finally, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee released their recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington.  The Christina Board signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE giving a one-year pause on their priority schools and granting them a second planning year.

The Christina priority schools seemed like a dead issue until October of this year.  At the Delaware Education State Support (DESS) meeting, a DSEA representative asked Penny Schwinn (Chief of Accountability at the DOE) what would happen to the three Christina priority schools if the redistricting effort fell through.  Schwinn responded that had been a recent topic of conversation at the DOE.  But as per several members of the Christina board of education, nobody from the DOE contacted them about the priority schools or even mentioned them until the State Board of Education meeting on December 17th.

Both Avi and I were present at this meeting and we both saw State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray’s very bizarre behavior.  Avi described it well in his article:

The issue surfaced publicly during last Thursday’s State Board of Education Meeting. In the middle of a presentation, board president Terri Quinn Gray grew so upset she rose from her chair and blurted, “I need to take a break.”  She meant it literally. Gray grimaced, clutched her stomach, and walked out of the board meeting.  The source of Gray’s discontent wasn’t charter schools or testing or redistricting in Wilmington. It was priority schools.

There were several contentious moments at this board meeting.  But for Dr. Gray it was something that should have been a throwaway line during a presentation from Penny Schwinn’s Accountability department.  The second Penny Schwinn mentioned Christina was on their 2nd planning year for their priority schools, Gray either was truly surprised or she was putting on a show for everyone to see and hear.

The State Board is presented with information for their meetings from Executive Director Donna Johnson.  Most of the time, the information can be seen by the public on the State Board website.  But sometimes, information isn’t seen until the day of the meeting.  I truly don’t know if this applies to the actual State Board members or not.  But based on attending one of their State Board retreats, I did see the information was available to them and not the public when it came to a presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Now whether they actually read this information or not ahead of time, or any of the information presented to them, cannot be determined.

During a late September 2014 Christina board meeting, Dr. Gray and fellow State Board member Gregory Coverdale gave public comment and pleaded with Christina to sign their MOU.  The audience was filled with Christina board members, and Gray and Coverdale were booed and left when board member John Young was talking about how the DOE needs great leaders.  As revealed in a FOIA of DOE emails a year ago, Donna Johnson accused Christina Board member John Young of giving a speech that was most likely written by State Rep. John Kowalko or State Senator Bryan Townsend.  Both Gray and Johnson were hammering Christina at the State Board of Education.  And we can’t forget Donna Johnson’s very bizarre and strange accusation leveled at the Christina School District last summer.

Based on the last link, I filed a complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice’s office of Civil Rights & Public Trust against Johnson.  Over three and a half months later and I have not received an answer to that complaint.  No one has contacted me to clarify any of the information about it.  I did speak with Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn a week ago about the status of these complaints.  He explained to me that the new office in the DOJ is still in the planning stages and they are still sorting out what they can and cannot do based on state code.  He also said someone from that office would be contacting me in a few days.  That never happened.

In my perception, this is a very personal amount of contention against Christina between Gray and Johnson.  I do not think the State Board will approve the WEIC plan for the redistricting of Christina’s Wilmington Schools into Red Clay.  I think they are reintroducing the Christina priority schools conversation to put us back to the exact same moment we were at a year ago where the State wants to take those schools and convert them into charter schools.  The Delaware Met building is in the Christina School District.  There is room in the Community Education building for another school, which is also in the current Christina School District.

The true disconnect here seems to also be taking place within the Christina School District itself.  Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski admitted to having conversation with the DOE about Christina priority schools earlier this month.

Andrzejewski, who started as acting superintendent on October 1, told NewsWorks/WHYY he didn’t know money was available for the three priority schools until early December. He said the district will submit sub-grant applications for each of the three school before the month ends.  “It kind of surprised all of us when we heard come December that there was money available,” Andrzejewski said.

But this is something the Christina Board had no idea even came up until the State Board meeting on 12/17.  And it doesn’t stop there, because Andrzejewski submitted an application for a grant without anyone on the Christina Board even knowing about it.

State and district officials say they’re working together and that both want the schools to receive money as soon as possible. As this article was being reported, a Christina spokesperson told NewsWorks/WHYY that grant applications for each of the three schools were sent to the Department of Education on December 23.

It sounds to me like Andrzejewski needs to get it together and actually speak with his board.  The board hired him so he is beholden to informing them before anything like this is submitted to the DOE.  Beyond that though, this shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation.  The DOE should have given those funds to Christina once they had them available.  Instead, they are pretending this is a big deal to give it a media push.  Behind the scenes, they are just biding their time and waiting for the pushback from Christina so they can take the schools.  And lest we forget, Schwinn herself said one of the consequences of Christina not agreeing to the DOE’s terms on the priority schools is making Christina a “high-risk district”.  Imagine if the DOE could somehow take the whole district lock, stock and barrel?

State Board President Questioning Why Christina Gets 2nd Year For Priority School Planning

“I’m totally confused!”

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray is freaking out at the State Board of Education meeting right now about the Christina School District getting a 2nd year of planning for their priority schools. Penny Schwinn explained to Dr. Gray how, because of the WEAC recommendations, a deal was basically cut with Christina to get additional time to plan.  Dr. Gray said WEIC just left and basically said they aren’t able to distribute education recommendations.  As Penny tried to explain this to Dr. Gray, she became more flustered.

“So this is a five year plan, until 2019.  Am I the only one hyperventilating here?  Excuse me.  I have to step out.”

And she did, looking like she hasn’t read anything about this in THE PAST 10 MONTHS!!!!

Penny is going over the options if Christina doesn’t get their plans in on time.  Here we go… and the war begins anew.  I hope everyone in Christina is reading this!

Melendez and Heffernan are talking about how Christina plays games.  “They did it with the Race To The Top money,” said Melendez.  “They’re getting hurt.”

Secretary Godowsky is talking about interventions Christina is implementing in the district.  He brought up the DASL reports!  He is reiterating the deal Christina made.  He is actually calming the conversation down…

Gray came back.  She asked Penny when their plans are due.  Penny said December 4th.  It is up to the Secretary’s discretion for any punitive action if it doesn’t happen.  Donna Johnson is saying the educators are great but she is laying the blame on the district and the board.  This got REAL tense.

Dr. Gray is visibly livid about this.  She wants follow-up on this…

DOE Recognizes MOT Charter & Sussex Academy As “Reward Schools” While Low-Income Title I Schools Are Labeled

The top recognition by the Delaware Department of Education for schools that do awesome on standardized assessments are two charter schools.  One is in a district that has a low population of low-income students and is in a more affluent area of the state, and the other has been named in a lawsuit by the ACLU for selective enrollment preferences in their application process that results in discrimination.  MOT Charter School and Sussex Academy are the two reward schools.  The recognition schools are as follows:

Distinguished Title I/Recognition Schools:

Thurgood Marshall Elementary School and Newark Charter School

Recognition Schools:

Brick Mill E.S., Dover Air Force Base M.S., Lake Forest North E.S., Lake Forest South E.S., Lancanshire E.S., Olive B. Loss E.S., Southern Delaware School of the Arts, Kathleen H. Wilbur E.S.

School of Continued Excellence 2015:

Howard High School

This is a new process for the Department as approved in their ESEA waiver submitted earlier this year.

Meanwhile, in the low-income Title I schools that have high populations of low-income, minority students, and students with disabilities, these schools have been labeled as Focus, Focus Plus and Priority Schools.  There are 10 Focus Schools, 4 Focus Plus, and 7 Priority Schools listed in the below report.  None of them are charter schools…no magnets…no vo-techs…just traditional school districts struggling to receive the resources and staffing they deserve.  They are not allowed to pick and choose who goes to their schools.  They take everyone.

Christina Priority Schools: What Happens If Redistricting of Wilmington Schools Collapses?

Since last Winter, the fate of the three Christina School District Priority Schools has been in limbo.  While threats from the Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell were thrown against the district if they did not comply with the Memorandum of Understanding, a last minute miracle seemed to rise in the form of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  Their suggestion of taking the Christina schools currently in Wilmington and transferring them to Red Clay put a freeze on the Christina Priority Schools.  They are still priority schools, but the plans are not really moving forward as they are in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

On Tuesday, at the Delaware Education Support System Advisory Council (DESS), Kristin Dwyer with the Delaware School Education Association (DSEA) posed a question to the Chief Officer of Accountability and Assessment at the Delaware DOE.  To paraphrase: What happens if the redistricting effort doesn’t go through?  Penny Schwinn said this is a question on many folks mind at the Delaware DOE.  She said the schools are eligible to receive funding this year, but did not go into details about what the terms of that “eligibility” is.  She said she felt uncomfortable giving a firm answer to this without the blessing of Interim Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky.  But she did say this will be a topic of conversation between the two in the next couple weeks.

Dwyer indicated that the unique situation with the Christina Priority Schools does not match with the proposed language in Regulation 103 to which Schwinn nodded in agreement.  While the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission continues to have meeting after meeting, time is rapidly running out for them to come up with a firm plan that will have adequate funding and resources for this initiative.  There is a lot of talk, and some good ideas, but nothing is set in place at this point.  If the redistricting effort falls apart, I can foresee a scenario where the DOE and Markell go back to their status quo before the WEAC recommendations and begin the bullying tactics again.  In my opinion, Christina thwarted the DOE and Markell at their intimidation efforts and made the DOE and Markell look very bad in the process.  The whole process created a fire in teachers, parents, and communities in Wilmington and they do not trust the DOE as a result.

DOE Can’t Pay Red Clay Priority Schools Money But They Can Pay Mass Insight Almost $2.5 Million Dollars?

Earlier in the summer, I received a letter sent from the Red Clay Consolidated School District to the Delaware Department of Education and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  Red Clay was upset because they were not being given the promised amount designated to them for the priority schools.  The DOE responded shortly after, and I published both of them.  I have heard the situation has been resolved, but nothing has been made public.  In fact, I stumbled across an email from the DOE to Red Clay from last November strongly suggesting they would be sending $750,000 a year to each of the Red Clay priority schools.  But the bottom line for each school in Red Clay is around $366,000.00.

So where did all that “promised” funding go?  The way I see it, each priority school is short about $400,000 a year.  There are six priority schools.  That adds up to about $2.4 million dollars.  I wonder where oh where the DOE could have allocated that money too…If Red Clay somehow compromised with the DOE, I have yet to know about it.  But I ran across this little bit of information today.  The Delaware DOE is paying a company called Mass Insight $2,445,000.00 for three years worth of work with “turnaround school support”.  The contract for this disappeared on the state contract website for a little while, but it’s back now.  What’s interesting is the last time I looked there were only 3 bidders for the project when it was still up for bids.  By the time all was said and done, there were 13 bidders, and the last was Mass Insight and they got the contract.  Nothing suspicious three….

To see this whole saga play out, check out the original RFP for the School Turnaround contract….

And then take a look at the bidders.  It’s like a who’s who of education reform companies in that bunch!

Last, but definitely not least, the awarded contract letter.  Sent to the very last bidder at the last minute I’m sure!

Now if the name Mass Insight sounds familiar, that’s because DOE used them back in 2010 and 2011 when they first started labeling turnaround schools.  Back then they called them partnership zone schools, or PZ for short.  Mass Insight was controversial then, so much so that someone started a blog called Mass Inciter.  It was short-lived but you can still go to it if you Google them.

The DOE and their magic math.  They have Governor Markell and Coach Murphy make a big grandstand on the steps of Warner Elementary School a year ago and publicly name these six “failing” schools.  Emails I posted in a series of articles last Spring showed how the DOE had no clue about how to get “those schools”, so they worked like mad for over a month coming up with the exact formula to get them labeled as “priority schools”.  Jack gave his big speech, and promised $5 million dollars to six schools.  He never told us half of those funds were going to an outside vendor!  That’s just like the DOE and Markell.  Screw over the schools that need resources the most but make the districts feel like crap if they don’t comply.

So while the DOE spends $2.445 million dollars over the next three years, and that’s just on THIS contract, and these schools don’t get the funds they were promised, who can we blame then?  Jack will be gone.  Coach will be gone.  You can’t blame Godowsky, he wasn’t there when this went down.  Will a new Governor keep the whacky regime heading the different areas at DOE now? I doubt it.  You can only play pin the tail on Penny Schwinn so much, but she answers to someone.  But Mass Insight will still get their cash cause the State of Delaware signed a contract with them.  And we can’t waste the money, so let’s just spend it!

The legislators need to, pardon my French, get their heads out of their asses and actually get this DOE under control. Lord knows what kind of damage they can do in the next 16 months!  I’m getting tired of being the ONLY one finding out this information.  The legislators should be all over the DOE, but they aren’t.  The ones that do question the DOE get shunned by their own party!  This is Jack’s world, and us little peons are just living in it.  There must be something that can be done… oh yeah, there is and I’m about to do it!

Delaware’s 14 Focus Schools & Who Knew There Was A 7th Priority School In Laurel?

2015FocusschoolsThere was a seventh priority school I didn’t know about, and this is the first I’ve heard about it nearly a year after the initial announcement.  According to the DOE’s ESEA Flex Waiver request submitted March 31st, 2015, Laurel Middle School was also labeled a priority school along with the other six in Red Clay and Christina school districts.

With 14 Focus schools, these could eventually become priority schools if they don’t show the necessary “growth” and “proficiency” on standardized test scores.  This is wrong on so many levels, especially since the 10 new focus schools are named based on data from over a year ago.  That’s right, old data is being used by the US DOE.  It doesn’t matter if two grades of students are no longer at those schools, they will label and shame whoever they can…

Major Exclusive: Delaware DOE Email To Red Clay Allocating $750,000 For Each Priority School From November

The Delaware Department of Education, in an email dated 11/13/14, assured the Red Clay Consolidated School District of a certain amount allocated for each of the three priority schools in their district.  As well, they placed more demands regarding the school leaders.  Nowhere in this document does it state anything about Title I funding as addressed in the documents I posted yesterday between the DOE and Red Clay from May of this year.

What the Delaware DOE did by not informing the Red Clay Consolidated School District that 10% of Title I funding had to be divvied up between the three priority schools and taken out of other schools in the district is an absolutely disgusting and reprehensible new low.

There is also more “direction” placed on Red Clay in regards to the University of Virginia in this email…

Priority Schools-The Truth Revealed Part 39 **”But Wait, Didn’t Red Clay Come Up With….”**

We have reached the end of the Delaware Priority Schools FOIA Saga.  This picture actually harkens back to the bygone days of the Summer of 2014, but it was always my intention to save this one for last.

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At this point in time you are probably thinking “Uh, okay, what’s the big deal about this?  Just another education reform Turnaround School document.  I’m sure these are a dime a dozen around the DOE offices.”  You are right.  But if you look at the bottom right corner, there is an emblem for the University of Virginia.  The very same university that Red Clay put in their priority schools plan to use as a vendor to help out with their priority schools.  But if the DOE used WestEd earlier in the summer to get help with the Memorandum of Understanding and the methodology for the calculation of the priority schools, and Red Clay used University of Virginia, doesn’t that mean…  Yes, there was some collusion somewhere along the way between the summer and when Red Clay officially signed on in December 2014…

We know Penny Schwinn used WestEd as a consultant in the summer, and she asked them for a turnaround plan to work on the Delaware priority schools initiative. Did she work with someone at Red Clay in advance to get the University of Virginia thing going? Who? Hugh Broomall? He is mentioned in a couple emails in this FOIA party. This Transparent Christina link may shed some light on what was going on at Red Clay when they announced this:

There will be one more part after this, maybe two. I want to put all this together along with some other sources and put a working theory together on what the DOE was up to with the whole priority schools deal.

Priority Schools: The Truth Revealed Part 36 **The Legislator Q&A**

It’s been a couple weeks, but we are nearing the end in the Priority Schools FOIA Saga.  In this edition, see how a state representative challenged the Delaware Department of Education and would not stop asking them essential questions that needed answers.  Did the DOE satisfactorily answer the legislator’s questions?  And what school in Delaware mistakenly received $500,000.00 in Federal government funding?  Find out NOW:

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Yes, State Rep. Kim Williams was one of the legislators who not only submitted FOIA requests to the DOE immediately after the announcement, but also pounded the DOE with question after question.

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Was the Delaware DOE completely truthful with Rep. Williams?  She asked the DOE how the schools were approved, and they informed her this was based on the ESEA requested/approved methodology.  Which means the DOE created the very rubric to label the six schools.  If you read the earlier parts in this, you can see whodunit and how!

And Moyer got $500,000 in partnership zone funds when they weren’t even legally a partnership zone school because they changed hands and were a “new” school.  Did Moyer ever return those funds?  And who was the Delaware DOE employee who is no longer employed with them?  Talk about a colossal mistake!

Delaware Priority Schools: The Truth Revealed Part 35

In the Delaware Priority Schools saga, which is still going on believe it or not, many citizens, teachers, parents and even legislators started questioning the Delaware Department of Education about what was really going on.  The email below, sent by a very prominent person in Delaware education, asked many questions.  I will have to reach out to him to see if he ever received a response.  This individual cares about education so much he gives up a lot of his own time to try to make it better.

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Yes, this is none other than Mike Matthews, President of the Red Clay Educators Association (RCEA), and a teacher at Warner Elementary School.  Mike is always on the front lines in the education battles in Delaware, and he is not afraid to tell the DOE exactly what he thinks.  When I first met Mike, at a Delaware State Board of Education meeting last August, he was cutting out decorations for his classroom during the meeting.  Since then, Mike and I talk a lot about education matters.  He also used to write a very popular blog in Delaware called “Down With Absolutes”.  Mike is relinquishing his teacher duties and going full-time with his RCEA role.  I see Mike one day leading all of DSEA, and eventually I could see him in a political role in our state.  I feel fortunate to know Mike as he knows a ton of information about Delaware.

**UPDATED**10:54 am

Mike Matthews just emailed me the response from DOE to his questions:

—–Original Message—–
From: McLaughlin Mary Kate [mailto:marykate.mclaughlin@DOE.K12.DE.US]
Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2014 12:04 PM
To: Matthews Michael; May Alison; Schwinn Penny
Cc: Kowalko John; Rivera Kenneth; Williams Kimberly
Subject: RE: Priority Schools

Mike – thanks for the back and forth this morning and for giving me a little time to get back to you. On your first question around the planner, the district can chose whomever they’d like for the planner – DOE will not micromanage this, including what the qualifications are. It is totally up to the district – that said, if they would like assistance identifying a person or group that does this work, we’ll be happy to help. Relative to your 10 or 12 month question, the plan is due December 31st, so the money would be used by then.

On your second question, the districts can put forward their choice for school leader – the goal should be that it is a person who can execute on the plan they’ve developed. There is not a list of potential school leaders, however, similar to my statement above, should the district ask for help in identifying candidates, we would be happy to help.

Hope this helps! mk

Delaware Priority Schools: The Truth Revealed Part 34

I told you it would be very soon till we got to the SIG funding issue.  Especially for Warner Elementary School and Bayard Middle School.  Someone may have to let me know if this is public knowledge, but since Warner and Bayard were labeled as priority schools, they are not eligible for SIG funding for the upcoming school year.  Another “oops” on the DOE’s part…

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Once again more high fives among employees of the DOE!  “We made a goof but we fixed it and found out more reasons these schools will get less resources, gimme five!”  Not actually said, but the spirit is there…

Delaware Priority Schools: The Truth Revealed Part 33

This email sets up a controversial part of the priority school saga: how much funds the schools will get.  Note this is AFTER the announcement.  Not only Governor Markell not know the exact amount, but neither did the DOE apparently.

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Remember the words about SIG funding, and any school with Title I funds can apply for those funds.  That will come into play very, very soon….  And what’s up with the schools receiving $10 million over four years?  Where did the other $4 million go that was unannounced?  And how come it doesn’t explicitly state the crazy $160,000 for the school leader that caused such an uproar…

Delaware Priority Schools: The Truth Revealed Part 32

What, you thought I was done?  Not by a long shot!  We last left off the night before the big announcement at Warner Elementary School.  Governor Markell announced the six priority schools, three in Red Clay and three in Christina.  And then the angst began!  Even Governor Markell’s Twitter account didn’t like the announcement.

So what’s a Delaware DOE to do after such a big announcement?  Take the day off?  Yeah right. They had to get the Memorandum of Understanding finalized!

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Really Penny?  Were those “good” days?  It’s so much fun to turn schools upside down.  How did it all work out in the end?  It was a public relations nightmare for the DOE.  Those are good times.  Let the good times roll.  I hate to see what you would view as bad times.