Merry Christmas To The Heroes Of Education & My Christmas Wish For The Delaware General Assembly

Last year, I started a tradition of honoring the heroes of public education on Christmas.  This year the list is much longer.  I finally met many of you this year, and I made new friends along the way.  The battles were tougher than ever, but we all came out of it relatively unscathed.  Some of our battles were won, but the war for public education continues.  2016 is going to be a very tough year as we are in the middle of major transitions between ESEA and ESSA.  The US DOE is trying to get some hits in before it kicks in, but we aren’t taking it lying down.  We will fight these changes!

Without further ado, thank you to all the below for listening to my rants, hearing my pleas, and taking action on your own.  I am nothing without any of you, and I want you all to know I appreciate you very much.  Some of us had our moments but we were able to reach out and work out our differences.  Some of you might be wondering why you are even on this list.  It could have been something as simple as a kind gesture, support, or you took the time to listen even if you didn’t agree with everything I had to say.  On these lists are parents, teachers, reporters, bloggers, legislators and more.  There are very left liberals on here and die-hard conservatives.  But all of you, in one way or another, contributed to this blog in some way.  And I thank you! There are many who I am unable to list on here due to requests for anonymity.  They know who they are, and I think it is very brave for anyone to stick their neck out to help students.  And then the silent voices.  The ones who reached out to me in a request for help.  For many of you I don’t know if I helped or not.  I hope I did, in some way.  Some of you I never heard back from and I pray that everything worked out.  The below Delawareans are my 2015 Delaware Heroes of Education.

Matthew Albright  Tony Allen  Tyler Anaya  Faith Andrews  Austin Auen  Dee August  Meg Eldred Barcus  Adriana Bohm  Giffin Bowen  Sue Breakie  Suzanne Burton  Eve Buckley  Catherine Ciferni  Jennifer Cinnelli  Larae Coley  William Cortes  Sammi Dahms  Matt Denn  Nelia Dolan  Bill Doolittle  Lyn Doto  Diane Eastburn  Marie Evans  Steve Fackenthall  Tim Furlong  Natalie Ganc  Jodi LeVan Gennusa  Lori Gloede  Tara Greathouse  Elizabeth Greenwell  Karen Gritton  Eric Gustafson  Alan Harris  Christine Hermes  Annemarie Hobson  Terri Hodges  CEO Hope  Laurie Howard  Devon Hynson  Rick Jensen  Wendy Johnson  Yvonne Johnson  Scott Jones  Kavips  Maureen Keeney  Mike Kempski  Amanda Kilby Kilroy  Jackie Kook  John Kowalko III  Pam Levin  Matt Lindell  Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman  Mary Jane Long  Christy Mannering  Mike Matthews  Deborah McCann  Floyd McDowell  Connie Merlet  Harrie Ellen Minnehan  Laura Nash  Sabine Neal  Mike Oboryshko  Jen O’Brien  Liz Paige  Pandora  David Paulk  Lisa Radke  Kenny Rivera  Danny Rufo  Ashley Sabo  Kay Dietz-Sass  Elizabeth Scheinberg  Jill Schilling  Nate Schwartz  Anne Willing Solan  Mel Spotts  Melissa Stansell  Brian Stephan  Ralph Taylor  Liz Toney  Jenny Twardowski  Meghan Wallace  Nancy Willing  Jeanette Wilt  Avi Wolfman-Arent  Dave Woodside  John Young

And there are some “out-of-staters” I want to honor as well:

Debby Herbage Stacey Kahn Melissa Katz Cheri Kiesecker Marla Kilfoyle Donna Yates Mace Roxana Mariachi Ken Previti Diane Ravitch Priscilla Sanstead Teri Sasseville Mercedes Schneider Valerie Strauss Emily Talmadge Nicholas Tapio Publius Withering

I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t publicly thank all those who voted yes on House Bill 50 during its final votes in the Delaware General Assembly.  I know some of you struggled with your vote, and I want you to know how much I appreciate your honoring parents and their rights.  I am counting on your support again for the veto override when you come back!

From the House of Representatives: Paul Baumbach, Andria Viola Bennett, Gerald Brady, Ruth Briggs King, William Carson, Richard Collins, Kevin Hensley, Deb Hudson, James Johnson, Helene Keeley, Harvey Kenton, John Kowalko, Valerie Longhurst, Sean Lynn, Sean Matthews, Joe Miro, John Mitchell, Michael Mulrooney, Ed Osienski, Bobby Outten, Trey Paradee, Charles Potter, Mike Ramone, Pete Schwartzkopf, Bryon Short, Daniel Short, Melanie Smith, Stephen Smyk, Jeff Spiegelman, Kim Williams, David Wilson, and Lyndon Yearick

From the Senate: Patti Blevins, Colin Bonini, Catherine Cloutier, Bruce Ennis, Bethany Hall-Long, Gerald Hocker, Dave Lawson, Ernie Lopez, Robert Marshall, David McBride, Karen Peterson, Brian Pettyjohn, Nicole Poore, Bryant Richardson, and Bryan Townsend

For those who voted no, I invite you to search your hearts and ask yourself why you voted no.  If it was for any reason other than honoring a parents right to determine what is right for their child, I urge you to think about it.  I know, for some of you, it has become a matter of honoring the Governor’s office or honoring parents.  The parents will be here long after Jack leaves office and they have a long memory.  I implore you to remember why you ran for office to begin with.  I expect most of you, if not all, wanted to make a difference for the people of Delaware.  I understand power.  I understand favor.  I understand compromise.  But what I cannot understand is not honoring your constituents.  Some of you have been duped by the Governor, the DOE, or lobbyists into believing all the wrong reasons.  While the state is looking at reducing the amount of assessments our children get, this bill has always been about the Smarter Balanced Assessment or any high-stakes test that comes along.  You saw the scores.  I hope many of you have seen the very unrealistic “growth” targets the DOE set for the next six years.  I ask you to think about the damage this does to students and schools.

Yes, there are very real consequences now for opt-out.  Funding cuts, as dictated by the US DOE, could very well happen.  But I belong to groups in just about every state in this country on Facebook.  I wrote articles about these threats made by the US DOE and posted them on all of those Facebook groups.  Not one parent said they will not opt their child out this Spring because of these threats.  They are more determined than ever to opt their child out of the state assessment this year.  Across the country, including Delaware.  In fact, many are already planning a defense against this unethical and immoral “guidance” by the US DOE.  An argument has already been presented that federal funding cuts that hit schools with high opt-out numbers could result in students with disabilities not receiving what is known as FAPE, a Free and Appropriate Public Education.  If the feds cut money, schools will suffer, resulting in a loss of services for those students.  FAPE is covered under the Federal IDEA law.  These are potential lawsuits, even class action, that would be taken against the US DOE.  As well, parents of minority or low-income students have already begun talking about civil rights violations should federal funding cuts occur.   Those in favor of these high-stakes tests will tell you opt-out will result in civil rights being violated against these children with needs we can’t imagine.  They are wrong.  It doesn’t matter if a parent is insanely rich or poor, it is still their right.  Parents know what is best for their child, and these tests are not what is best.

There was one State Representative I did want to name who didn’t vote for House Bill 50 either time it hit the House floor.  I saw your emotional struggle with this bill Stephanie Bolden, and I greatly appreciate what you said and respect you for it.  Your passion for the students of Wilmington is very honorable.

I got to know many legislators this year.  Some of you I count as friends.  There are a couple of you I have written much about, and I wasn’t very nice about it at times.  For the two of you, I would strongly ask yourself “Who do I serve”?  I will leave it at that.  Please don’t take this personally, but I still believe in both of you, despite our many differences earlier this year.  But you are on the wrong side of the issue here and everyone knows it.

There are some of you at Legislative Hall, I really don’t know what I would do without you.  I don’t see you as “Democrat” or “Republican”.  I see you as people, wanting to do what is right for the students of Delaware.  You see way beyond what others see and you vote with your heart.  Some of you create legislation that hits just the right note that will result in positive change for education.  I know you know who you are, and I thank you immensely for what you do.  It makes me very concerned when these bills either sit there or don’t pass.  Every legislation in that building deserves the right to be heard.

For all you, I want to wish a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (belatedly), Happy Kwanza or whatever you choose to call this time of year.  As well, Happy New Year to all of you.  2016 will be anything but dull!



15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Kathleen Davies

Behind the scenes in Delaware is a woman who had a VERY busy 2015.  Kathleen Davies is the Chief Administrative Officer at Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office.  She is the name on all the inspection reports for Delaware charter schools.  Academy of Dover.  Delaware College Prep.  Kuumba Academy.  And yesterday’s Delaware Department of Education inspection (of which they were cleared).  She even has a pending audit investigation with Family Foundations Academy.

These actions did not go unnoticed by one Delaware State Representative.  Kim Williams introduced House Bill 186 (after going through a few revisions) to mandate charters go through the State Auditor’s office when contracting for auditors.  It became one of the lightning rod bills of the season, which prompted Davies to testify to support the bill.  She told the Delaware House Education Committee the situation with the charters was worse than they could imagine.

During this time, the Academy of Dover audit inspection was finishing up.  When the report was released, all the Delaware major media picked up on it.  Former Principal Noel Rodriguez had used well over $160,000 in school funds for personal purchases, along with numerous other egregious activities.  In October, Davies released a report on four charters.  Two were cleared of any wrongdoing, but Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy had some nasty findings.  And apparently, while that was finishing up, her office was working on the report on the DOE!

With Delaware Met’s pending charter revocation, will the auditor’s office step in?  While their closure has more to do with academic and organizational reasons the financial picture is not pretty at this point.  And that whole real estate deal is begging for an investigation.  I hope though, for Davies sake, her charter school audits decrease in 2016!