Smyrna and Clayton are very tight-knit communities. Many in the Smyrna area will tell you the Smyrna School District runs the town. Whether that is true or not, one thing is true: Superintendent Patrik Williams certainly runs his schools! By keeping administrative costs down, he runs a tight ship. While Smyrna is not the fastest growing area in the state, it is certainly growing. Smyrna’s biggest competition is local charter schools Providence Creek Academy and First State Military Academy, both in Clayton. The district has grown modestly by about 200 students in the past four years. Last year, former Superintendent Deborah Wicks retired. The one thing about Smyrna that troubles me to no end is their very high expulsion rates. They are the highest in the state. Last year they had 30 expulsions. To me, that is zero tolerance. Something we should be getting away from. It is rumored Smyrna does this so they can pay for pre-paid spots at Parkway Academy. While this hasn’t been made official, it makes sense in a bizarre way. The State Board of Education sees more expulsion appeals come from Smyrna over any other district or charter school. There is a reason for that. Williams is a pretty funny guy once you get to know him. Continue reading
Why did the Smyrna School District wait so long to release this information? Is it because of what happened in Florida two days ago with the school shooting that killed 17 students and staff? **UPDATED** I looked at the Smyrna website when I posted this and it did not have a date on the release but apparently their app on cell phones shows a date of February 6th. Any day longer than the day of the event is too long to release this information. I would think parents would want to know about this kind of stuff sooner! If I had to guess, they are being proactive while facing some type of lawsuit over what happened!
SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION
On January 24, 2018, a gunman shot 16 people in a school in Kentucky. Two days later, the Administration of the Smyrna School District received a credible report that a named high school student had brought a handgun with him to school and also had a brother at the middle school. The report described the handgun in detail and alleged that the student in question maintained gang affiliations.
An enrollment check revealed that the identified subject had withdrawn from the Smyrna School District. However, the sibling was in school. Given the specificity of the report and its reference to the middle school sibling, Administration and law enforcement immediately initiated a response to protect the health, safety and welfare of all students and staff.
Fortunately, no weapon was found. The Administration contacted the parents of the student, and in concert with local law enforcement, closed the investigation before the end of the school day on January 26th.
It has been alleged that District Administration engaged in an act of racial discrimination by searching the middle school student. First, given the detailed threat that jeopardized lives, swift and discrete action that returned the student to class immediately was necessary. That the student happened to be of a certain race is of no consequence, as the Administration would have interviewed any student under the circumstances, given the exigency of the potential threat. Second, the student was not searched. Given that he was not attired such that he could conceal a weapon on his person, his voluntary turning out of his pockets satisfied staff that he did not present a threat.
SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT
82 Monrovia Ave.
Smyrna, Delaware 19977
(302) 653-8585 Fax (302) 653-3429
Patrik D. Williams, Superintendent
Out of all the articles I’ve written on this blog in three and a half years, none were more intense than the story about a student named J in the Smyrna School District. It took a considerable amount of time to write the ten part series about what happened to J in the district. But I wouldn’t trade that time away for a minute. While the story wound up having a happy ending, it caused a lot of folks in Delaware to take a very close look at student discipline, zero tolerance, and expulsions.
The Smyrna School district has been tough with discipline. In my opinion, they have used the heavy hand more often than not. Case in point: the State Board of Education has two more Smyrna appeals coming up. In looking at their history of appeals the past few years, Smyrna comes up A LOT! For J, he is doing well at Smyrna High School and is happy to be back in the district.
To read all about what happened with J in case you were living under a rock last summer, here it is:
In another Smyrna School District expulsion case, not related to that of Student J, the Delaware State Board of Education overturned that decision. The family filed an appeal earlier this Spring. The Hearing Officer recommended the State Board overturn the decision. They did so at their July 27th meeting last Thursday.
It is my most fervent hope that between this and Student J’s case, the district will take a very close look at their expulsion policies which are among the highest percentage in Delaware for school districts. I am not against expulsion if the violation is egregious. But any expulsion is a very serious thing and should not be taken lightly.
This issue is on my radar and it does not just apply to traditional school districts. I find “counseling out”, where some charter schools have “talked” a parent out of keeping their child in their school to be just as unfair as an unnecessary expulsion. I will be keeping a very close eye on these kind of situations in the upcoming school year. If any parent feels an expulsion was unjust, I encourage them to contact me. As J’s mother quickly became aware, I will quickly intervene and attempt to help.
To read the full story of Student J in Smyrna, click here.
Every once in a while, stories do get a happy ending. Continue reading
We reach the end of our series. A new player joins the wide cast of characters with a very important role. And what is J’s final fate?
In the last chapter, J was getting pummeled by various state agencies: The Smyrna School District, The State Board of Education, The Delaware Department of Education, and The Delaware Department of Justice. For allegedly calling a girl a terrorist ten months earlier. He was up on truancy charges. The Delaware DOE rescinded the home school certificate four days after they approved one for her. Is this kid ever going to get a break? Continue reading
The State Board of Education had their next meeting on January 19th, 2017. The long-awaited answer to J’s appeal was set for a vote by the six-member board. Meanwhile, another growing threat was preparing to rear its head which would bear even more consequences for J and his mother. This is the time when other state agencies got involved at a lightning fast rate. Continue reading
The story of J and his battle with the Smyrna School District continued. After J was expelled, his mom filed an appeal with the State Board of Education. She also had J’s criminal trial to contend with as well. The trial was set for November 14th. Continue reading
It looks like the Smyrna School District Board of Education has been reading my series on the story of J and their harsh zero tolerance discipline tactics. It turns out they are having a “special” board meeting dedicated solely to student discipline issues. This comes right on the heels of my series about J. Hey, Patrik Williams, you should give Dr. Mark Holodick up in Brandywine a call about this kind of stuff. He is VERY familiar with these kind of issues. So much so his district is taking a very good look at their own zero tolerance policies.
I haven’t heard from Patrik Williams since he emailed me a couple of weeks ago and I responded to him. I am still working on the series about J. To be honest, I’m trying to get a transcription of the hearing with the State Board of Education. Going back and forth with that office on that issue. And with a holiday coming up… But if I don’t get it, I will come out with the next part with what information I do have.
If I were a parent in the Smyrna School District who has dealt with what you feel may be harsh discipline tactics, I would definitely attend this meeting. The meeting notice doesn’t specify if they will have public comment or not. Who knows, maybe I will show up!
J was officially expelled from the Smyrna School District on September 21st, 2016. But his mother was not giving up without a fight. She told the administration this very thing at the discipline hearing two weeks before this. So it wasn’t a shock when his mother filed an appeal with the State Board of Education. Something happened soon after that raised serious questions as to the true intent of J’s expulsion. Continue reading
The September 7th Discipline Hearing for Student J at Smyrna Middle School had two very big witnesses about to testify. After Smyrna Middle School Associate Principal John Camponelli and Principal Steve Gott gave their testimony, it was time for the Smyrna School District Assistant Superintendent Patrik Williams to testify in the discipline hearing against student J. J’s entire future depended on what happened next. Continue reading
In Part 3, we heard the testimony of the alleged victim, P, and the School Resource Officer. Now let’s dive right into the testimony of the administrators. First up, Smyrna Middle School Associate Principal John Camponelli: Continue reading
J was arrested for the 2nd incident in the hallway of Smyrna Middle School. A discipline hearing was scheduled for September 7th, 2016. J did not start school with his peers because he was still “suspended” and was awaiting potential expulsion pending the results of the discipline hearing. After the meeting was rescheduled three times, the day of the discipline hearing came, almost four and half months after J was arrested for the 2nd incident with P.
Five and a half months went by after the incident in the home economics room. J took the Smarter Balanced Assessment along with the rest of his 7th grade peers at Smyrna Middle School. On April 20th, J and his friends were walking down the hall on their way to the school bus. Something happened that would alter the course of J’s future… Continue reading
Student J in the Smyrna School District was a victim of a bizarre scenario where he wound up expelled from the school district and arrested. Continue reading
Consider this a glimpse into the future. This picture won’t make any sense now, but it will later. This is an end result of a battle that has gone on for well over a year and a half between a student at Smyrna Middle School and the district, led by now Superintendent Patrik Williams, and their refusal to bow down from zero tolerance policies in the district. This is ugly, but it doesn’t stop at the Smyrna School District. It gets bigger from there and involves the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Department of Justice, the police, and the Justice of the Peace in Delaware. Continue reading
This is an important message for ALL Smyrna School District parents: You need to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. If they started already, do not let them take one more second of this test. Refuse The Test! The Network of Public Education is calling for a National Opt Out of these high-stakes tests. They aren’t effective at all, and everyone knows it. These tests are being used for nefarious purposes. Do not believe the lies coming out of Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education. They care more about corporate profit than your child. It doesn’t matter if your kid is smart. It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican. What matters is your child, and their education. This is not education. It is a mockery of education.
Please give the principal of your child’s school a letter on Monday morning indicating you are opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Let the school know you want your child to receive academic instruction while the other kids are taking the test. If they tell you that you can’t opt your child out, look them in the eye and say “Yes I can, and if you make my child take this test I will call the police.” To get support from other parents, please join the Opt Out Smyrna Facebook page.
This is an important message for ALL Appoquinimink School District parents: You need to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. If they started already, do not let them take one more second of this test. Refuse The Test! The Network of Public Education is calling for a National Opt Out of these high-stakes tests. They aren’t effective at all, and everyone knows it. These tests are being used for nefarious purposes. Do not believe the lies coming out of Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education. They care more about corporate profit than your child. It doesn’t matter if your kid is smart. It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican. What matters is your child, and their education. This is not education. It is a mockery of education.
Please give the principal of your child’s school a letter on Monday morning indicating you are opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Let the school know you want your child to receive academic instruction while the other kids are taking the test. If they tell you that you can’t opt your child out, look them in the eye and say “Yes I can, and if you make my child take this test I will call the police.” To get support from other parents, please join the Opt Out Appoquinimink Facebook page.
This regulation, in my view, is akin to a bunch of model rocket enthusiasts crafting a regulation for NASA astronauts governing their space missions.
I love this! I have never met the Assistant Superintendent of the Smyrna School District, but when I do I am certainly going to shake his hand! Thank you Patrik Williams! The below letter is in regards to a pending regulation coming before the State Board of Education at their meeting next week. It deals with “Uniform Due Process Procedures for Alternative Placement Meetings and Expulsion Hearings”. Mr. Williams definitely didn’t like the way this regulation was worded, but some of his comments had me rolling on the floor!
And to see the full regulation, please read below:
Only in Delaware…