Caesar Rodney Community In Shock Over Racial Situation

Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald sent out an email and robo-call to parents and staff last evening about a racial epithet in connection with the Caesar Rodney mascot.  It appears, based on Facebook comments on their Facebook page, that someone photo-shopped the racial slur on a sign the mascot was holding in a picture.

Many parents thanked the district for taking such swift action on the issue.  The message sent out by Fitzgerald said the following:

STATEMENT FROM DR. FITZGERALD

The Caesar Rodney School District has been made aware of a picture that is being distributed through social media in which the Rider Mascot is holding a piece of paper with a racial slur.

The Caesar Rodney School District is distressed that our mascot would be used in such a manner and we strongly disavow the statement.

The Caesar Rodney School District and Caesar Rodney High School consider racial slurs reprehensible and are deeply disturbed by the content of this message.

We have zero tolerance for this behavior.

This matter is being investigated by the high school administration with the assistance of the Delaware State Police.

While I am a Dover High Senators fan, I do not condone this at all.  As I wrote on CR’s Facebook page, if this was a joke it isn’t funny.  If it was meant to be a hate symbol, may God have mercy on your soul.  Bottom line, people need to wake up.  It’s the 21st Century now.  We aren’t supposed to be this backwards.  But apparently some have not woken up from our country’s own dark history and think it is okay to call African-Americans by disparaging names.  Frankly, I’ve had enough of hate and the talk that accompanies it.  We saw the worst in hate last Sunday with the Las Vegas shootings.  This is the kind of news I hate to write about.

One commenter suggested getting rid of the Rider Mascot for a while until feelings calm down.  That is the absolute worst thing to do in my opinion.  That lets whoever did this win.  It’s like the old saying, “you don’t negotiate with terrorists”.  You certainly don’t give in to hate!

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Delaware is lying to its babies and toddlers

Urgency of Now

A few weeks ago, I celebrated my birthday and my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter sang “Happy Birthday” to me…in English and then in Spanish. As she belted out “cumpleaños feliz,” I was reminded that one of my greatest gifts is the opportunity to watch her learn and grow. It is a gift to see and support her language acquisition, to watch her be able to distinguish between an oval and a circle, to see her hold a writing utensil correctly, to watch her put her socks and shoes on by herself, to see her dance to a beat, and to see her understand the difference between an inside and an outside voice. It is also a gift to know that she is learning these skills and much more primarily during the almost 50 hours a week she spends in a five-star rated early childhood education center. These early years are the most…

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An Open Letter From State Rep. Earl Jaques About The School District Consolidation Task Force

I just received this email in regards to the School District Consolidation Task Force and where it will go from here:

School District Consolidation Task Force – HCR 39

A Letter from the Chair – Rep. Earl G. Jaques, Jr. 

September 20, 2017 

I have gotten a lot of questions from task force members and those who attended this week’s meeting about the path of this task force moving forward. Where are we going from here? 

I thought it would be helpful to review what we have achieved so far as a task force and outline my goals for our future meetings. 

Our first two meetings have been focused mainly on organizational matters.  At the first meeting we elected the Task Force Chair as required by HCR 39. Then we established four sub-committees (Academics/Student Needs, Finance, Teachers/Staff, and Structure). These four sub-committees are being led by four outstanding individuals with extensive knowledge and experience in their fields. In order to include a diversity of opinions and perspectives, we added additional members to the original 22 members designated by HCR 39. At our second meeting, we approved these additional members to give us a group with backgrounds and experiences from across our state.  

To ensure transparency, we have put all minutes, power point slides and other related material on our designated section on the legislative website; more materials will be uploaded to this site soon. To view the documents uploaded please scroll to the bottom of the page to “Minutes, Reports, and Information.” In addition, all materials have been sent to every member of the taskforce and those members of the public who asked to be included on the email lists. In cooperation with our statewide media partners we were able to get the citizens of Delaware to provide us with their ideas, suggestions and comments on what they would like to see happen with our school districts. We received 146 different written responses.  

This past Monday we hosted a task force meeting in Sussex County to receive verbal comments from county residents. At this meeting David Blowman, from the Department of Education, presented an overview of our state’s districts, schools and students with some informative graphs and maps. The response to his presentation was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that members present expressed their wishes for residents in Kent and New Castle Counties to have the opportunity to view it as well.

In accordance with this feedback, we plan to hold the same meeting at William Penn High School (October 16th) for New Castle County residents and then shortly after that meeting to hold one again for Kent County residents. In order to give residents of each county the opportunity to view the presentation and share their thoughts we have decided to move the meeting schedule a bit.

Instead of waiting until November to meet as a full task force as was originally planned, the Kent County meeting will be moved to October 25th at Caesar Rodney High School. Then the full task force will meet in early November (details TBA) to vote on the various plans suggested so that the sub-committees can start their work. I envision this vote as being one where 2-3 proposals are chosen to be explored and modeled and compared with the current system. This is a very important topic and so our work cannot be rushed. I will ensure that sub-committees have adequate time to complete their work while also making sure that public submissions and comments are properly heard. 

Once the sub-committees’ work is completed we will meet as a full task force to determine the feasibility of the various components and discuss recommendations to be included in our final report to the State Legislature. 

I look forward to continue working with all of you on this very important issue area. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me or my legislative aide, Madinah Wilson-Anton.

Respectfully Signed,

Earl Jaques

27th Representative District

RIP Dr. Floyd McDowell, A True Advocate For The Best Interests Of Students

On September 10th, Dr. Floyd McDowell passed away at the age of 90.  State Rep. John Kowalko said it best in an email today:

Please note the passing of Dr. Floyd E. McDowell on Sunday September 10th. I considered Dr. McDowell a friend and a worthy champion of economic justice for all. Floyd was truly the original pioneer of the idea and concept of a single-payer health care system. My most appreciative memory of Floyd was his relentless effort to enlighten the politicians and the masses of the need for “health insurance” reform and his remarkable adaptation of his “single-payer” legislation. My most disappointing memory of Dr. McDowell was my own failure to move this needed reform to the forefront of my colleagues and the public’s minds. Rest in Peace Dr. McDowell. You made a difference.
Representative John Kowalko
Dr. McDowell and I emailed each other regularly a couple of years ago.  He sent me a book on education reform and what he accomplished in Kentucky.  He was a man with a huge vision for education, especially special education. The first time I wrote about him, back in the summer of 2014, he had a plan to sue the State of Delaware.  It never came to fruition.  I didn’t agree with him on every aspect of his education reform ideas, but it was much better than what we have now.  I knew Floyd was elderly as he reminded me in emails on how he didn’t have much time left.  I had not heard from him lately so I guessed that he wasn’t feeling well.
McDowell advocated for later start times for schools and wrote articles about sleep deprivation in teenagers.  He also felt our districts in Delaware should be consolidated down to three, one for each country.  He lambasted the current model of public education and the abuse of standardized testing:
This disproven system is based on a “one size fits all” factory model and not on individual student needs and potential.
Perhaps it is time to revisit McDowell’s ideas given the sad state of public education these days where teachers are leaving the profession in droves and children are still guinea pigs for powerful corporate entities who care more about profit.

 

Education: America’s Next Extractive Industry

Wrench in the Gears

Our children, your profit centers.

Their data, digital toil,

your oil.

Not to sell…outright,

But to collect and package

for the gamblers of global finance.

Titles and social standing held out.

Such a terrible temptation to frack children for time behind the velvet rope.

Impact investors, “social” ones, cloak exploits in justice

starve schools

play a long game

nudge, nudge, nudge us in the direction they want us to go.

Towards the “Infinite Campus” and say

The city is your classroom!

Go out and learn anytime, anywhere.

It’s all good, Future-Ready, innovative, personalized!

No need for neighborhood schools.

Expensive

20th century

Human

And humans simply do not deliver data with fidelity.

So, tablets for the littles

Chrome books

Smart phones for “lifelong learning”

Algorithms, optimizing us for a dystopian economy.

Know what we do.

Where we go.

How we think.

How we feel.

How we RATE.

In a world…

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Robots Replacing Teachers? Laugh at Your Own Risk.

Save Maine Schools

This fall, parents in a California school district discovered at a sixth grade open house that their child would no longer have a teacher.

Instead, the district had invested in an “exciting new way of learning” – a “personalized learning program” called Summit, designed by Facebook.

After listening to a presentation about the system that parents had received no prior information about (including no information about the programs data-sharing agreement, which gives Summit full authority to sell student information to third parties), theywere ushered into a classroom where they told to log onto the software program.

When it became clear that no teacher was to be found, one mom went searching for an explanation.

“I went out into the hallway and found a really young looking woman. She called herself the classroom facilitator, and told us that ‘teacher’ was just an old term.”

The mom’s jaw hit the floor.

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Dear Teachers Using Google Classroom,

Wrench in the Gears

I really need you to keep in mind that all the data run through those programs (your intellectual property, student work, correspondence, etc.) is being used to refine the AI systems destined to replace you. There is a price for this “free” convenience. The bill may come due after you leave the profession, but I beg you to consider the implications of your actions now.
If you don’t know about the NSA Data Center in Bluffdale, take 8 minutes and watch the video below.  The center, located in the Utah desert, has the capacity to store 100 years of global electronic communications. The NSA says they won’t “look” until such a time as you or a student fall under suspicion and trigger a FISA order.
Pushing education into the cloud has consequences. Digital devices should be considered tools of surveillance and treated with great care. Those valuing freedom of expression…

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**Update #2 – Suspect Arrested** State Police Investigating Fatal Crash South of Hartly

I see Amish folks all the time around where I live. Please be considerate of their space on the roads people! This could have easily been avoided!

Delaware State Police

Eckeard, Robert H Robert H. Eckeard

Hartly – The Delaware State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit has arrested a Hartly man involved in the fatal hit and run crash with the Amish buggy on August 31, 2017.

Robert H. Eckeard, 29 of Hartly was taken into custody Wednesday September 6, 2017 at his residence by detectives and transported to Troop 3 where he was charged with Leaving the Scene of a Collision Resulting in Death, Failure to Report a Collision Resulting in Death, Failure to Show Proof of Insurance, and Expired Tags.  He was arraigned at JP2 and committed to James T. Vaughn Correctional Center on $7,002.00 cash bond.

The incident occurred around 8:05 p.m. Thursday August 31, 2017 as Ervin D. Miller, 55 of Hartly, was operating a horse drawn carriage westbound on Halltown Road (SR8) attempting to make a left turn into Royal Farms at the intersection with Hartly Road (SR44).  Robert Eckeard was operating…

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Parents Rebel Against Summit/Facebook/Chan-Zuckerberg Online Learning Platform

Seattle Education

Reprinted with permission from Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy.

n-SPY-COMPUTER-large570

Anyone that has not dealt with this program first hand as a teacher, parent, student or observer really needs to make an unannounced visit to one of their schools.  Words do no justice to explain the disgust one feels when they realize that the kids being exposed to this will be the ones that ultimately pay the price. “

Last October, the Washington Post published an article on its front page about the “personalized” online learning platform that Summit charter schools and Facebook developed in collaboration.  This platform, called Summit Basecamp, is a learning management system complete with a curriculum, including projects, online resources and tests.

Currently, Summit claims that the program has been adopted in about 130 schools across the country, both public and charter schools.  About 38 percent of schools using the platform are…

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Caesar Rodney Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald Pulls A Fast One On Teachers And Staff

Every year, the Caesar Rodney School District has a guest speaker at welcome back breakfast for teachers and staff.  Usually, the guest speaker tells educators about all the things they should do in the upcoming year or sometimes it is past graduates who made it big, such as Duron Harmon from the New England Patriots.  But this year’s guest speaker was a little bit different than past speakers. Continue reading “Caesar Rodney Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald Pulls A Fast One On Teachers And Staff”

Preparing For The New School Year For Students With Disabilities

Michael Connoly, Esq., of McAndrews Law Offices, P.C. just wrote an excellent article every parent of a child with an IEP or 504 plan should read.  As we send our kids back to school, it is important to know everything is in place for the continuation of your child’s special education services.  New teachers or possibly a new school can bring many changes.  Most public schools in Delaware start next Monday, but some started today.

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again.  Commercials on television of gleeful parents purchasing school supplies abound as we are quickly approaching the end of the summer and beginning of a new school year.  While every parent of a school-aged child is going through their own pre-school-year checklist of supplies and clothes and trying to get in those last few days of sun and fun, there is another entire set of considerations to think about as a parent of a child with a disability.

The most obvious consideration is to make sure that your child’s program for the new school year is set and ready to go on the first day of school.  Is your child’s IEP or 504 Plan up to date and ready to be implemented?  Hopefully, your child’ IEP was updated as necessary at the end of the last school year, but if you are aware of any issues or have any concerns you should be reaching out to your school district in these last weeks of summer for any needed changes.  If your child participated in Extended School Year (“ESY”) services over the summer, consider whether his ESY performance revealed any new areas of need or concern that should be addressed by the IEP before school starts.

Make sure you, and more importantly, your child, are familiar with his or her schedule and curriculum, particularly if either is changing from the previous year.    A new school year often brings a lot of change and can be stressful, and at times anxiety provoking, for any student and especially for a student with special needs.  Ensuring your child is comfortable with his or her schedule and classes may go a long way in easing some of the stress and anxiety that can go along with the new school year.   Similarly, if your child is moving to a new building (for example, going from elementary school to middle school) or an unfamiliar area of his or her current building, an opportunity to tour the school, follow his or her schedule, and meet new teachers before the first day of school can also help reduce any new school year anxiety.

One of the most common beginning-of-the-school-year glitch involves transportation.  Not being picked up by the bus, being late to school, or being picked up by the wrong bus can be a particularly traumatic event for a student with special needs (and his or her parents).  If your child requires special transportation or certain supports while on the bus, you want to confirm with your school district that the necessary arrangements have been made, and that the schools transportation department/service is aware of any accommodations that your child requires.

While it’s not possible to ensure that no beginning-of-the-school-year glitch occur for your child, going through your own child’s pre-school-year check list using the above considerations should hopefully help to keep those glitches to a minimum.

by Michael Connolly, Esq. of McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.

The Cold Truth About Personalized Learning

Save Maine Schools

In just a couple of weeks, my older son will start preschool.

Here are a couple of things, in no particular order, that I hope he learns while he is there:

  1. What finger paint smells like
  2. How to glue cotton balls onto construction paper
  3. The words to Down by the Bay
  4. That there are other cool things in the world besides trucks and washing machines
  5. That if you push someone’s block tower over, it will hurt their feelings
  6. That occasionally – just every now and then – it is okay to sit still for a little bit

It’s not an exhaustive list, but even if it went on forever, there are a few things you can be sure I wouldn’t include: “kindergarten readiness,” for example, or even his ABC’s or colors.

(I’m confident that, as soon as the time is right, he’ll figure out that J can’t be K just…

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The Type of PD I’d Like to See

Minding My Matters

Friends and Countrymen, it’s back to school time in these United States, and you know what that means…. Yes, the irrepressible posting of memes by teachers on social media decrying the typical welcome back events, including – but not limited to – professional development, classroom setup, meeting new colleagues, and reviewing class lists.

I’ve taken issue with some of the statements made, because I come from (perhaps) a unique perspective of actually really, truly enjoying the majority of professional development opportunities and being energized and recharged by the return to the building of my friends and coworkers. Being one of those teachers – and there are many of us – who work throughout the summer, I’m kinda bored and lonely in the building during the quieter summer weeks, so having my people back is pretty awesome. Over the past week or so I’ve been thinking about exactly what it is…

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State Solicitor Responds To FOIA Complaint Legal Opinion About Family Services Cabinet Council

That didn’t take long!  Yesterday, I received an email from the State Solicitor, Aaron Goldstein.  This was in response to my assertion the Family Services Cabinet Council is a public body, subject to public meetings and FOIA.  Which was based on research I did after the Attorney General’s office gave an opinion on my FOIA complaint to the Governor’s office about the council.

The heart of the issue stems around the disbursement of taxpayer funds.  I alleged the council did just that based on what is written in Delaware state code.  Specifically, §1605 of Title 14.  But the State Solicitor did reference that section in his letter to me:

So this round goes to Governor Carney and the AG’s office.  I still don’t agree with these glorified “staff meetings” being shut out of the public view, but until the laws surrounding Executive Privilege in Delaware change, the law is the law.  Doesn’t make it a good law by any stretch of the imagination!  I would think if you are going to all the trouble to make a “staff meeting” an actual council, you would look to see what is already in state code surrounding that very same council and solicit legislators to make changes around that language.  But I guess that’s just me.

13 Delaware Legislators Urge Secretary Bunting To Drop Ridiculous Match Tax Scheme For Charters

Led by Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, a total of thirteen Delaware legislators wrote a letter to Delaware Secretary of Education about the recently announced match tax giveaway to Delaware charter schools.  I wholeheartedly agree.  FY2018 budgets have already been approved by local school boards, tax warrants have gone out to the three counties, and districts are still hurting from the budget cuts when Governor Carney signed the budget on July 3rd.  I hope Secretary Bunting ends this ridiculous farce.  Watch the charters try to sue the state if Bunting decides to drop it because THEY based their budgets on it.  Sometimes I just want to scream at the money grabs going on in Delaware…

A House of Cards, Built on Kids

Save Maine Schools

In 2006, in a presentation to ReadyNation marked “Strictly Private and Confidential,” Paul Sheldon of Citigroup proposed a new way to finance preschool: early childhood student loans.

Non-profit organizations could borrow from banks or student loan companies, said Sheldon, and then offer loans to government organizations or individuals. Then, the loans could be pooled and turned into asset-backed securities, and – voila! – an early childhood education market would be created, worth as much as 10 billion dollars.

The idea of preschoolers saddled with debt, however, was clearly going to be too controversial. 

Over time, Citigroup’s model was reworked into the more palatable “social impact bond,” which are now proliferating across the country.

These bonds, which are really private loans made to government or non-profit agencies with repayment contingent upon pre-determined “outcomes,” are sold under the premise that they can help tax-payers save money in the long-run by preventing…

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Will “smart” cities lead to surveilled education and social control?

Wrench in the Gears

“What is a Smart City?” is the third entry in my slide presentation series “Education in the Cloud.” If you haven’t yet seen them, prior posts include an introductory essay and “Digital Classrooms as Data Factories.”

Part 3 of Education in the Cloud: What is a “Smart” City

A growing number of metropolitan areas are being shaped by “Smart” City policies. Bloomberg Philanthropy’s “What Works Cities” aims to bring these programs to mid-size cities as well. Even in communities without explicit “smart” initiatives, “innovation” or “empowerment” zones are being proposed, often around school districts, enabling outside interests to sidestep existing legal and contractual protections under the guise of “autonomy” and “flexibility.” I hope the information I’ve pulled together will reveal how “smart city” and “learning ecosystem” interests often intersect and encourage others to think critically about similar programs in their communities. It is important…

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How Data is Destroying Our Schools

Save Maine Schools

A few weeks into my first year as a teacher, my colleagues and I met for our first “data team” meeting of the year.

Our principal had printed results from the previous year’s standardized tests and given a copy to each of us.

“Take a few minutes to look at the data, and then we’ll decide what inferences we can make from it,” he instructed.

He had a book with him – something with “data coaches” in the title – and was following a protocol laid out within.

I looked at the graphs, then – smiling – at my principal.

Surely he was joking.

At that point in the year, I had only five students – four third graders and one fifth grader – in a self-contained special ed classroom for kids with severe emotional disturbances.  They were children who had experienced extreme trauma and abuse, and who struggled to…

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Delaware DOE Screws Over Districts By Allowing Match Tax Funds To Go To Charters

This is exactly why I don’t trust the Delaware Department of Education.  Taking a nod from the Christina School District settlement with 15 charter schools last year, the Department has decided to let charters get match tax funds in a phased-out plan for district exclusions.  Continue reading “Delaware DOE Screws Over Districts By Allowing Match Tax Funds To Go To Charters”

Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Meeting Tonight At Legislative Hall

Thanks for State Rep. Kim Williams for getting the word out on this.  Yes, this task force is meeting tonight.  At Legislative Hall in the House Hearing Room on the 2nd floor.  From 6:30 to 8:00pm.  Come, give public comment.

I don’t know who the members are except for the following State Reps and Senators: State Reps. Earl Jaques and Joe Miro and Senator David Sokola and Brian Pettyjohn.  I’m guessing since Dave is biking somewhere in Illinois or Ohio at this point, he won’t be there.  That is an interesting group right there.  I’m assuming Earl is the Chair of this cabal since he is the one funning the meeting.  Come, or be square!  We know the Delaware Charter Schools Network won’t have a membership because of Rep. Williams last minute amendment on the bill.

Seriously, whose idea was it to have meetings in the middle of the Summer?  The Dept. of Education is the coordinator.  So I just answered my own question, duh!  Sorry for the late notice folks, but I literally just found out about this myself!