Delaware Public Education Salaries Over $100,000: Rankings, Student Cost, Ratios, $$$ Totals, & Synopsis

After weeks of work, all of the Delaware Public Education salaries over $100,000 have been posted with a few exceptions.  Those are four charter schools who either did not respond or will in the next couple of days.  But there is more than enough data to make some sense out of all this.  Many asked why I was posting these.  There were several reasons: requests, comparisons, money tracking, and general curiosity.  But the main reason was to see if I could answer the age-old question- “Are there too many administrators?”  Finally, I am prepared to answer that. Continue reading

New Castle County Vo-Tech Salaries Over $100,000

New Castle County Vo-Tech School District has a lot of very high-priced administrators in their district.  Their leader, Dr. Victoria Gehrt, is the second highest paid Superintendent in the state.  Their enrollment has gone up in the past four years by over 168 students but they have eight less administrators making over $100,000.  What is very interesting with them is their Assistant Principals seem to begin in the $120,000 range, which is significantly higher than the rest of the state.  All of their Principals are in the $140,000 range.  This is what happens when the General Assembly approves a line-by-line budget as they do with all the vocational districts in Delaware.  I do get that all of their schools are high schools and those usually require Assistant Principals.  It just seems way out of proportion when compared to other districts.  Of note is the fact they do not appear to have an Assistant Superintendent so perhaps that is a wash. Continue reading

Charter School Salaries Over $100,000: Freire, Las Americas ASPIRA, Positive Outcomes, and Thomas Edison

Three more charter schools.  Two in New Castle County, one in Kent.  One centers around Spanish language skills.  Another is a special education theme.  One originally began with a theme of zero tolerance with school discipline but changed its tune.  One had a ruckus last fall when their school leader was placed on leave because he wanted more pay for teachers.  Continue reading

Smyrna School District Salaries Over $100,000

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

Seaford School District Salaries Over $100,000

The Seaford School District lies on the western edge of Sussex County.  The district hovers around the just below 3,500 mark most of the time.  Even though their enrollment is the same, they have two more administrators making over $100,000 than they did four years ago.  Like their neighbor to the south, Laurel, they have a high percentage of low-income students and English Language learners.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission brought up both of these districts many times in their reports on Delaware public schools.  Seaford reminds me of the school district I grew up in with its make-up four elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school.  But that’s where the similarities end.  My school district was about 3/5ths the size of Seaford.  Which means they have a lot of kids in their buildings.  Continue reading

Red Clay Consolidated School District Salaries Over $100,000

Red Clay Consolidated School District has become a cash cow.

I thought I had a general idea of my overall theory of school administrators in Delaware.  Red Clay was the last to respond to my FOIA request with their numbers.  I sat for a good ten minutes just staring at what they sent me.  While Christina and Red Clay have the exact same amount of administrators, Christina has more schools AND holds statewide programs like the Delaware Autism Program.  Both have 93 administrators.  But in reviewing Red Clay’s, along with some of the titles, I was utterly shocked.  They have individual supervisors for each core subject, personnel specialists, and program coordinators. Continue reading

Prologue: The Big FOIA About Salaries

On February 28th, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to every single Delaware school district and charter school.  The ask?  Every single employee with an annual salary over $100,000.   I based it on that specific number because I know pretty much every single assistant principal and up (with a few exceptions) makes over $100,000.  One of the key questions in Delaware education is “Do we have too many administrators?”.  This comes up every single time the state budget conversation heats up or a district goes out for a referendum. Continue reading

Guest Post By John Young: Christina Breaks Out!

Former Transparent Christina blogger and current Christina Board of Education member John Young wrote the following guest post based on an event held yesterday at the Chase Riverfront in Wilmington.  All Christina School District administrators, teachers, and staff members attended the event.

On Tuesday, August 22nd I had the distinct pleasure of attending our district-wide kickoff event. As most people who follow education know, Christina has faced many challenges in the last decade, many of which continue today: poverty, leadership, choice laws that do not put children first, policy, and politics to name a few of the big ones. We meet these challenges every day, across a 2000+ employee base that is dedicated, professional, and truly amazing!

I was struck by the enormity of having the entire district in the same place at the same time. We had done a similar event in the past broken into two sessions at Glasgow High School due to capacity issues, but our new Superintendent, Richard Gregg, was able to negotiate a single venue with capacity because he wanted to set our district upon this year with a distinct theme and direction: One District, One Vision, One Voice.  After 8+ years on the Board, it was so refreshing to have a message that resonated in a single setting, one that could be heard by all.  For me, one of the KEY takeaways is that each of those three prongs of the message will be uniquely and specifically fueled by a calculus with children at the center.

I know that’s what school districts claim to do, and pledge to do, but we in Christina have been led very erratically for such a long time (well over a decade now), we lost our way somewhere in there. I know each district leader before Mr. Gregg did their level best, but sometimes there was a lack of relation between intent and execution of the vision and direction which has fueled divisiveness at every level of the district, including our board.

I felt like so much of that began to thaw, even melt, in 4 short hours yesterday. I’ve been involved in countless issues over my tenure on the board many of which are not always about the students: contracts, consultants, ideology around destructive policies put for by the state, etc. etc.  Yesterday, it became clear to me that some of those things don’t deserve another moment of my time. They are worthless endeavors that do not serve children. We have new leadership and a new focus for our service model which requires the removal of “awfulizers” from our midst, and replace them with “awesomeizers”.

Christina planted a flag in the ground yesterday. I feel like it was our own metaphorical Gadsden Flag. Our referendum rally cry of a “New Christina”, an amorphous, unclear, and frankly controversial concept for some was jettisoned yesterday, not because it was bad, but because it took life. It’s beating in our core, and breathing on its own…

…and it had 2000+ parents and guardians present for the delivery. Quite a welcome sight to behold and an honor to witness.

Cut The Admins In Districts & Schools? How Many Are There? TONS!

If there is one consistent thing I hear all over social media, it is people wanting the number of administrators and their staff in Delaware school districts and charter schools.  I am asked constantly how many there are for various schools or districts.  Robert Overmiller of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens compiled a list showing exactly how many there are.

Updated: I’ve included the below picture which shows the student ratios required to get state funding for administrator roles:

Some of these numbers are outrageous.  While it is a local school district’s decision, there are certain laws pertaining to how many administrators schools are allowed to have per student in order to get state funding for those roles.  If they go over those numbers, the funds come from local or federal funding.  For example, a Title I or special education coordinator may get funding based on federal disbursements.

If we truly want to look at education funding, this is the FIRST place to look.  Many of these positions get high salaries.  I’ve heard of some administrators who just get jobs in a district office and do nothing all day long.  Does every single administrator need a secretary?  Because that happens more than you think!  It’s the buddy system kicked into high gear.  And our teachers and students pay the price.

You Can’t Make Things Better Until You Fix What’s Broken

In the past week, a light bulb went off in my head.  I’ve been to a lot of education meetings lately.  State Board of Education, ESSA, Special Education Strategic Plan, district board meetings, and so forth.  I’ve seen and met a lot of legislators and candidates.  I’ve seen the old faces and the new.  For the most part, we are all talking about the same thing: problems in education.  Whether it is at a state level or on the ground floor.  At an ESSA meeting, one of the participants at my table was Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty.

He made a very valid point.  We keep talking about education and how to make it better.  We keep throwing ideas into the mix.  We have meetings and task forces and committees and town halls and strategic plans.  We talk ourselves to death.  We don’t take action and we have gotten away from the basics.  I agree with him.

There have been opportunities to act, but they pass by.  Until the next idea comes along.  I’ve met with parents, teachers, district administrators, board members, the DOE, advocates, disability groups, legislators and regular citizens.  There are deep rifts between everyone.  Hurts.  Things happen.  Perceptions are thrown out of whack.  I have seen two of those groups talk about the exact same topic in separate meetings but the tone and feelings about it are wider than the Pacific Ocean.

As much as I rant about the DOE, I do like that they are having these town halls.  I like that people are coming out to them.  But it’s not enough.  Not nearly enough.  What is confusing me is why different states are taking advantage of different timelines for their draft plans.  For example, Delaware wants to get their plan in by the end of March.  In Florida, they are not submitting their plan until the end of July.  The Delaware DOE wants to have their plan in place by the 2017-2018 school year.  Florida’s wouldn’t fully kick in until 2018-2019.  The Delaware DOE wants to have their first draft done by the end of October.  In 37 days.  While it is a draft and would most likely be amended based on public feedback, I don’t like that short of a time frame.

Is that enough time to heal the rifts between the adults involved in education?  Is that enough time for us to decide, as a state, what is best for students?  No.  I don’t like the idea that we are rushing to get a basic plan done, with public comment to possibly tweak that plan, and then again after the end of the year.  I would much rather see something more solid in the beginning and build from there.  I want a foundation that is grounded in fixing the already existing problems with a definitive action plan and a path forward to fix them.  While some may see ESSA as a grand opportunity to get things right, are we rushing to get certain plans that are representative of the more powerful at the expense of the majority?  I believe we are.  Delaware needs more time.  With the vast amounts of money we spend on education, I would think there could and should be a way to get more voices involved.

When many education bills are submitted in the General Assembly, they are symptomatic of larger things that are broken.  If we don’t fix those bigger things, the small solutions don’t always work.  So, I guess, I’m putting this out there for the Delaware DOE, Secretary Godowsky, and the Governor to think about.  What is the harm in waiting another four months to put forth our ESSA plan?  Yes, it’s another year students may not have something.  And many of those things they need now.  But if we squander a gift of time and having true collaboration, at a state-wide level, to get things right, then all the plans in the world won’t help.  It would also give the General Assembly more of a sense of what this will cost over the five and a half months they are in session.  By submitting the plans by the end of March, it will force the General Assembly to most likely scramble to introduce legislation to make it all fit.  Why not let the General Assembly have until the end of June to do their thing while the rest of us, and I mean ALL of us, do our thing?  I have no doubt the DOE has a very good idea of what they would like to see.  But I don’t think the rest of Delaware feels they have been given enough to do this.  We need more time.

This isn’t a rant against the DOE.  It is a heartfelt plea to all involved in education to use the time we could have.  We need to come together, for the kids.

Judge Sends A Dangerous Message In Carr Ruling For Amy’s Murder & The District’s Role In The Events

While a judge’s ruling in how Amy Joyner-Francis’ murderer will be tried sparks controversy, the role the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District may have played has been silent and ignored.

According to The News Journal last Friday, Delaware Family Court Judge Robert Coonin made a ruling in how Trinity Carr will be tried in the murder of Amy Joyner-Francis, the high school student who died after an assault at Howard High School of Technology.  Carr will be tried as a juvenile, not an adult.  In most likelihood, the maximum sentence Carr would receive, if found guilty, would be “community supervision and treatment until age 19” as per the News Journal article written by Jessica Massulli Reyes.

Judge Coonin also ruled Amy’s fingernails were more likely ripped out trying to fend the attack as the video showed her grabbing Carr as her murderer was being pulled away from her.  Coonin said there was insufficient evidence to suggest Carr lacked remorse because she did not know she had killed Amy after the fight.

None of this will likely give Amy’s family any feeling of justice.  I am very uncomfortable with Carr essentially walking the streets.  Her actions, and I don’t care what anyone says about a pre-existing condition that is suspect at best, led to the death of a sweet teenager.  Carr’s Sunday School activity doesn’t erase her actions that day.  No, I don’t think Carr should get the death penalty, but this sends a bad message to the youth of Delaware.  A very dangerous and bad message.

The heart of the ruling deals with Carr’s age.  She is sixteen years old.  Technically, she is a minor.  The Delaware Attorney General’s Office had extreme issues with the planning that went on before the assault on Amy.  The length of the assault, the viciousness of it, and the physical results of the attack were foremost in their mind in issuing charges.  Revealed at Carr’s first hearing on the matter was the unrevealed pulling out of Amy’s fingernails.  Coonin ruled they were a result of Amy trying to protect herself based on video footage.  While this could be true, it also points out a desperation on Amy’s part to save herself.  Which swings back around to the viciousness of the attack.

We have heard the tales of “bloodlust” in people.  Where they go beyond the point of reason and brutal savagery takes over.  I have to believe that most people make a conscious choice to cross that line in their mind.  What Carr did is not a normal choice unless she made certain decisions during the timeline of events.  This was planned in advance, the day before.  But there are situations where she may not have been able to make that final choice where rage took over.  Coonin’s ruling gives teenagers a very false idea that they could get away with something like this.  While it is my fervent hope it would not, the minds of teenagers are very different than those of an adult.  I highly doubt this would come out even if it were the case, but what if Carr has a disability?  What if she was on medication that had an adverse affect on the neurology of her brain?  I have no idea if this is the case or not, I am merely questioning a possibility.  While this would not justify her final actions in my mind because of the premeditation behind it, this could potentially lead to important questions that need to be addressed.

How aware was the school of the feud between Carr and Amy?  Should they have been aware?  As part of our bullying laws in Delaware, social media is addressed in those laws.  But how much monitoring of that social media takes place?  No one can see everything at once.  That would be impossible.  But one thing I haven’t ever heard is the possibility of having a school narc to monitor things like this, especially in schools where there are higher incidents of fights and inappropriate touching.  Someone who could keep abreast of things like this.  Hearing the buzz so to speak and acting on it.  There have been narc’s for drugs in schools.  Why not bullying or threats that result in vicious fights or, as an extreme, a student’s death.

What is the school’s role in this tragedy?  I’ve reported before that many teachers at Howard High School of Technology were involved in professional development that morning.  While not completely verified, the role of hall monitors has been very spotty at this school according to several sources wishing to remain anonymous.  Yes, testimony has come out that a teacher did get to the bathroom and heard Amy’s final words.  But how much time elapsed between the point when a bunch of students were running into a bathroom, Carr confronted Amy, pulled her by the hair into a bathroom stall, Amy resisted, and Carr was able to punch and kick Amy over twenty times?  This is something the school would know.  But they aren’t talking.  Some of that could be because this is a criminal investigation and they simply can’t talk about it.  But I have to believe that if teachers were present, and not in professional development at 8 or 8:30 in the morning, this tragedy could have been averted.  I don’t blame the teachers for this, I blame the administration.  While the true fault lies with Carr, the school’s actions, while intentional or not, did lead to Amy’s death.  And this is the thing no one else is talking about publicly.  If this were outside of school, this wouldn’t even be an issue.  But this happened inside a school building, filled with adults.

While I tend to doubt the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District would ever publicly address this aspect to Amy’s death, I sincerely hope this evolves into discussions with their board and district staff.  It may have already happened.  There is a public task force on school safety happening in Delaware.  I hope changes occur that would allow for something like this to never happen again, not only in their schools, but all Delaware schools.  We owe it to Amy, and all those who have been victim to any kind of vicious assault or murder, to try.  If anything like this could be in any way prevented by the local school authority, we need to look at all scheduling aspects, how much security we may or may not need in our schools, and some type of apparatus to watch student’s actions to see if a crisis could happen.  This is something our schools should have always been doing.  It should not take the death of Amy to finally make our students the safest they can possibly be.

The School Safety Committee is meeting tonight at the Friends of Woodlawn Library, 2020 W. 9th St., in Wilmington, Delaware, at 6pm.  While I am unable to make it, and I know this is late notice, but I would try to attend if you can.  Don’t be afraid to give public comment.  Someone’s life could very well depend on it.

The Irony That An Ex DOE Employee Who Is Now A Principal Isn’t Held To Damaging SBAC Part Of Component V

A former Delaware Department of Education employee is now a Principal at a Delaware school district.  As part of  their evaluation, for the  DPAS-II teacher evaluation system, they are measured on five components.  In Component V, it states the following:

If an administrator is not assigned to supervise and/or lead at the grades levels assessed for the Statewide ELA/Math Assessment, he or she shall use Part B1 & B2 to calculate the Student Improvement Component which will be weighted at 50% each, unless administrator and evaluator agree that Part B1 will include 100% of the Student Improvement Component during the Goal-Setting Conference.

A Principal has to be certified to supervise the administration of the Smarter Balanced Statement.  This ex-DOE employee who is now a Principal at a Delaware middle school, and actually worked in areas around accountability, is exempt from having Part A apply to this Princpal’s evaluation because this Principal is NOT certified in this area.  Talk about a complete hypocrisy and the ultimate irony!  So we can consider any DOE employee who enters the school system as a Principal, looking at this through a history lens, as BC, while others who actually do the work and get certified as AD.  Incredible!

And for teachers, the very damaging Component V is still a part of their evaluation.  Even though House Bill 399 passed the General Assembly in the wee hours of July 1st, Governor Markell has yet to sign the bill.  The original recommendation from the DPAS-II Advisory Committee Sub Group was to have teachers and the Principal choose which measures to use and not have Smarter Balanced be an automatic 50% of their evaluation.  But Senator David Sokola turned the bill into a pilot program for three schools and added controversial amendments.  Remember that on Election Day folks!  Markell has given no indication whatsoever if he is even going to sign HB399.  His public schedule is blank this week.  And school starts on Monday for most students.  Way to go Jack!  He is probably out there pimping for Blockchain or some other ludicrous education get rich scheme.

With Great Power… The Perception Problem Of The State Board of Education

StateBoardESSASpideyPic

“With great power must also come great responsibility.”-Stan Lee

If you haven’t heard those exact words before, then you have been victim to one of the greatest butcherings of the past fifty years.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Now this you have heard.

in 1962, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced the world to the Amazing Spider-Man.  We all know the story.  Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider which gave him the proportionate strength of a spider.  An orphan who lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben.  He learned an important lesson very fast when he became a superhero.  At first, he used his powers for fortune and fame.  One night, he failed to stop a robber.  The same burglar later attempted to rob his house and shot and killed his uncle.  When Peter, dressed up as Spider-Man, finally confronted the burglar, he saw the same face he failed to stop.  As he walked off into the night, he remembered what his Uncle Ben always told him, “With great power must also come great responsibility.”

This is the problem with the Delaware State Board of Education.  The initial phrase Stan Lee provided to readers shows that just because you have power doesn’t mean you already possess an inherent sense of responsibility.  That is something you have to develop and learn.  The rewording of the classic phrase, which appeared in the 2002 Spider-Man movie, changes the concept of the phrase.  As if power and responsibility are there from the start.  As Delaware plows into the upcoming Every Student Succeeds Act regulations, this will become very important.  I don’t feel our State Board has developed the responsibility that comes with their power.  In fact, they want to hijack this term in their meetings about the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Many of the decisions they have made since 2008 have not been in the best and long-term interest of children.  They embraced the corporate education reform movement and haven’t looked back.  They continue to listen to the Rodel Foundation more than the teachers, students and parents who are their primary stakeholders.  As a result, they have allowed an environment of false labels against schools, demeaned teachers, created a false illusion of praise for rushed teacher and leader programs, subjected our students to three different high-stakes tests that have not created improvement for anyone, manipulated legislators into believing their mantras, approved charter schools without any consistent or necessary follow-up to ensure they will be successful upon opening, revoked five charter schools, and nearly destroyed a generation of students.  They will never take responsibility for these actions or events or even state they had anything to do with it.  They will sit there and say most of these events were based on federal mandate or existing state law.

They have an opportunity now to change that.  With the Every Student Succeeds Act, the law states that the United States Department of Education cannot dictate what type of state standard any state chooses to have.  It also deals with parent opt out of state assessments as a state’s decision.  However, U.S. Secretary of Education John King seems to have some comprehension issues as the regulations coming out of the U.S. DOE contradict what the law states.  Granted, the law is a confusing mess and there are parts that contradict each other.  King knows this and he is taking FULL advantage of it.  King will, in all likelihood, be gone by January next year, but he will be able to approve regulations and state plans based on forced dictates from his office.  That is NOT responsibility either.  That is power run amok.

As our State Board of Education prepares to deal with these regulations, they are having a workshop on ESSA before their regular State Board of Education meeting on July 21st.  They will go over what many of the corporate education reform companies are translating the law into along with King’s regulations and accepting it as the Gospel truth.  This is a critical time for Delaware education.  A wrong move by our State Board and Delaware DOE will leave us in the same problems we have faced since No Child Left Behind came into law fifteen years ago.  If you read the below presentation, you can clearly see their interpretation of the law based on the regulations and what the education companies want.  Keep in mind, many of these “companies” have never taught in a classroom.  But they have a vested interest in education.  Actually, make that an invested interest in education.

There are others who have power in education: parents, teachers, administrators, unions, and even students.  I urge all of you to watch our State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE like a hawk.  Yes, it’s the summer and in a couple of months kids will be back in schools with all the business surrounding that.  This is why they are choosing now to push regulations through when parents aren’t paying attention.  Those who want to profit off education are already on this.  They helped to create ESSA.  They have power but no responsibility.  They will control education if we let them.  And our own Governor, Jack Markell, has been the largest cheerleaders for this movement.  Power, with no responsibility, or even accountability.

We need parents, teachers, administrators, and students to take a role in this.  Don’t rely on me as a mouthpiece.  I’m a hot-tempered judgmental and pissed-off dad who has already been through many wars over this stuff.  I will continue to fight the war, but I could hit by a truck tomorrow.  Even if you are busy, you need to make the time to attend any meeting about ESSA in Delaware.  You need to review what our state is proposing, carefully watch the public comment timeframes, and make your voice known.  As well, contact your state legislators and Congressmen.  Let them know how you feel.  We have the opportunity and means to take back our children’s education.  But not if we don’t become a part of it.  This is our power.  This is our responsibility.  We have to use our power and become responsible.  If you are relying on our policymakers and unelected State Board of Education to get it right, then you have already allowed them to shape education into what they want.  They want to control the conversation and trick us.  They are masters at it.  They will smile and invite you to their events and give you real yummy eclairs and make you feel special and wanted.  But they don’t want you, they want your child.  Make no mistake about it.

To add insult to injury, Delaware is embarking on a “regulatory review”.  So not only do we have federal education regulations under review, but also a statewide regulatory review which could easily cause mass confusion.  I believe this is very intentional.  So if you are reading up on regulations, make absolutely sure you know which ones are state and which ones are federal.

If you want to change the future, you have to act now.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  I will do my best to inform you and give crucial dates and timeframes, but make sure you also do this.

In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd
We could shake this world
If you would only show us how
Your life is now

-John Mellancamp

House Bill 399 Senate Transcript Part 1: Sokola Gets His Pinocchio On

Senator David Sokola did not present the entire truth to the Delaware Senate last night when he gave his introductory remarks to House Bill 399 and introduced an amendment to the bill.  I immediately saw what he was doing and it worked because the amendment which completely changed the original bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate.  I find this legislative process, with no one able to rebut or correct Sokola’s statements a serious flaw in our law-making process.

His remarks concerned the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee, forged out of legislation last year.  The group met last fall and this winter to come up with new recommendations in the DPAS-II evaluation system for Delaware teachers.  The group had many recommendations, but the sticking point with the Delaware Department of Education was an administrator not having the final say for which assessment to use in the Component V of DPAS-II.  They didn’t feel as though teachers and an administrator should have an adult conversation and be able to mutually agree on this.  I wrote extensively about what happened during the last few sub-committee meetings and it completely contradicts the version Sokola gave his peers in the Delaware Senate.  As well, in reaction to comments given by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne at the Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, one of the chairs of the sub-committee gave her version of other events transpiring out of those meetings.  In return, Atnre had many things to say about House Bill 399 in the past week.  He was absolutely right on one point:

But if anyone is paying attention, this is the week when powerful interest groups take the unsuspecting masses to school. It is the last week of Delaware’s legislative session and while most are ruminating on 4th of July plans, pressure groups are seeing their bills breeze by on their way to becoming law.

What he fails to distinguish is how he himself represents several public interest groups which I have referred to numerous times as corporate education reform.  Stacked to the brim with flawed research and reports, they manipulate the masses into thinking teachers are bad and the unions will make sure they stay in schools no matter how bad they are.  I may have had issues with the Delaware State Education Association over opt out last winter (to which I admittedly overreacted), but I think most can agree that if a teacher is really bad, they most likely aren’t going to be around for too long.  Is there such a thing as a perfect teacher?  Probably not.  We are, after all, only human.  No one is perfect.  But I will stress, once again, that anything using a monstrosity like the Smarter Balanced Assessment as an indicator of a student or a teacher’s performance is the high point of insanity.  But Senator David Sokola doesn’t seem to care about that aspect, as indicated by the below remarks he gave the Delaware Senate last night:

Sokola: Thank you Madam President. I’m going to talk very briefly about House Bill 399 before going to the amendment.  It was, the process of the DPAS II Advisory Committee was to, uhm, set up, uh, in the past from House Joint Resolution #6.  And we had various stakeholders who, uhm, met quite a few times, as well as a sub-committee, uh, to this group to look at the evaluation of, uhm, teachers.  Uhm, that, uhm, process got a little discombobulated towards the end of the process, and uhm, there were a number of versions of a bill drafter over a period of a few weeks.  And I was not satisfied at, at that.  Various groups were continuing to meet, and discuss, to try to come to a consensus on the issues. So, uh, with that in mind I would like to ask that Senate Amendment #1 to House Bill #399 be read and brought to the Senate.

Senator Patti Blevins: Senate Amendment #1 is before the Senate. Senator Sokola…

Sokola: Thank you Madam President. This amendment actually does a few things.  The one that it does is it does give the administrator final say on components, the components of the teacher evaluation process.  Dr. Susan Bunting (Superintendent of Indian River School District and Chair of the DPAS-II Advisory Committee) had, uh, sent a letter to the education committee for the last meeting.  That was very important.  It turned out a number of the proponents in the bill as it was indicated that they thought, uhm, uh, that was the intent of the bill anyhow.  I made a suggestion that we make that very clear in the amendment.  This amendment does clarify that the administrator does maintain the final say or discretion to determine whether the state standardized assessment should be used as part of the educator’s evaluation.  It also clarifies proposed changes to DPAS-II evaluation system as recommended, uhm, intended to be piloted in three education institutions over a work period of two years.  It has an input, information and deletes section 7 of the bill in its entirety.  Are there, uhm, any questions?  I’ll attempt to answer them.  Otherwise I’d like to ask for a roll call on Senate Amendment 1.

Roll call on Senate Amendment #1: 18 yes, 2 no, 1 absent

Sokola makes it sound like the consensus issues were within the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee.  They were not.  It was between the group’s recommendation and outside groups, like PACE, which was meeting with Alleyne and former Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit Chief Chris Ruszkowski in the weeks prior to their engagement with the committee.  To say Alleyne had a bias would be an understatement.  He and Ruszkowski were the two main guys at the DOE for the DPAS-II having Component V in it to begin with.

What Sokola never mentioned in his remarks and with little time for every Senator on the floor to read the full and lengthy amendment while discussion was also going on about the amendment, was a brand-new insertion into the legislation.  This insertion was to include student and parent surveys in the pilot program.  This drew the ire of teachers all across the state today if social media is any indication.  This idea came from Atnre Alleyne in his many comments and blog posts about this bill.  But Sokola took all the credit for it on Mike Matthews Facebook page today:

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To be continued in Part 2 dealing with a 2nd amendment, heartburn, and more!

 

Capital School District Strategic Plan White Paper Shows Strengths & Weaknesses Of District

At the Capital School District Board of Education meeting tonight, the vendor for their Strategic Plan, Demosophia, presented a white paper on the plan.  Their findings were based on forums held with the public as well as a series of one-on-one interviews and small group discussions with different stakeholders in the district: teachers, administrators, board members, students, parents, and citizens.  The next part of the Strategic Plan is co-labs.  With these, a diverse set of stakeholders will convene for all-day sessions on 4/28 and 4/29 to formulate a definitive plan for the district which will be presented to the Board of Education next month.

Below is the white paper.  One thing to keep in mind is the data the Delaware Department of Education put together from the IDEA Parent Surveys sent out last year.  Recently, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn encouraged all parents of students with an IEP to participate in the survey rather than the random number sent out by the DOE.

A Message For First State Liberty re: Christina Referendum

My number one question for the folks at First State Liberty: Do you pay the same amount for guns that you did twenty years ago?  I’m not asking this to be smart.  My reasoning is very simple: you pay for things every single day that cost more than it did five years ago, ten years ago, and twenty years ago.  Education is no different.  Perhaps you don’t have children in the Christina School District.  Perhaps you don’t want to pay taxes for schools your children don’t go to.  I can see your point with that.  But here’s the thing.  You pay taxes every single time you work.  You pay for programs that don’t affect anyone in your household.  Your state and federal taxes, which go up and down, go towards things I’m sure you don’t agree with.  But yet, you still pay them.  If not, you would go to jail.

You have a choice with a referendum.  You can say no.  That is certainly your right.  But I also have to believe that you care about children.  All children.  I’ve been to your website and how you completely blast the district as if it is your moral obligation to deny children the services they need.  I do take offense to that.  But you would also be surprised at something we agree on.  I know First State Liberty is against Common Core.  I know you didn’t support the opt out bill, House Bill 50, because parents already own that right.  What parents don’t own the right to, no matter how we may wish otherwise, is how to run a school district.  We can get involved, and do our best.  We can go to meetings (not just one or two before a referendum) and make our voices heard.  We can run for the district school board.  There are many ways to get involved.  I encourage all citizens to do that.

With Common Core and Race To The Top forced on every single Delaware school district and all charter schools, things changed in education.  Basically, Delaware took a $119 million dollar bribe from the US Government.  In exchange for a financial gift equal to approximately 3% of our education budget spread out over three years, offered to us during a recession, our Governor sold out Delaware education.  But the true crime didn’t stop there, because he allowed the Department of Education to keep half of it.  Meanwhile, he cut out reading programs that were actually working for our kids.  The results were disastrous.  Especially for a district like Christina.  When Christina did the same thing First State Liberty is doing now, speaking up about what has come to be seen as a failed program called the Delaware Talent Cooperative, the Delaware Department of Education took Christina’s Race To The Top money away.  For the sole reason that they dared to challenge big government.  Something your group has as their central theme.

As I’m sure you know, urban districts like Christina don’t tend to fare well overall on standardized tests.  These are not truly tests of a student’s achievement.  They are set up for children to do poorly on them.  They set the achievement levels at a point where it would be impossible for all students to score proficient.  As a result, Christina and Red Clay got the test, label and shame status thrown on them in the guise of “priority schools”.  Here is a newsflash for you: all school districts have high administrative costs.  Because of Race To The Top, districts had to hire people to oversee all of these programs that were forced on them.  As a result of Common Core implementation and changes to teacher evaluations, the pressure put on districts was greater than ever.  This happened with charter schools as well.  Some schools overcame these challenges.  They also tended to be schools that didn’t have as many low-income students, minority students, or students with disabilities.  These schools were given the spotlight while whole districts like Christina and Red Clay were given the “we are going to fix your horrible schools even if we have to take them over” treatment.  And all of this was based on the standardized test scores.  The ones that are now fully aligned with the same Common Core your group loathes.

But are you aware, or willing to share with your entire membership and on your robo-calls about the referendum, that the ratio of administrators to students results in Christina administrators overseeing more students than any other district in New Castle County?  These jobs you so desperately want to be gone or have their salaries shrunk, that are necessary based on the very mandates forced on them by the Delaware Department of Education…

From the CSD Paving The Way website:

Sometimes pictures say it better than words. For those who are concerned there are too many administrators in the Christina School District we decided to research the numbers and find out the ratio.
 
This is the student/ administrative staff ratio in a graphic format. In short, this shows that each administrator in the Christina School District is responsible for more students than any other district in the county.
 
Therefore, the misconception that there are too many administrators in this district is not true. Our number crunching based on DOE data shows that the Christina School District has the lowest number of administrators in New Castle County when compared with the number of students in the district.
 
students-administrators

 

Please note (as stated in the fine print on this image) this graph does NOT include student enrollment and administrator totals for the Delaware Autism Program or the Delaware School for the Deaf which would elevate those numbers.

Christina has cut admins and several teachers.  They are on bare bones.  If this referendum doesn’t pass, it has the potential of getting very ugly, very fast.  More cuts, more jobs gone.  And next year, you will be looking at the same thing only they will have to ask for MORE money in their referendum to make up for what they didn’t get from this one.  Guess what happens to all of you who live in the Christina School District?  Higher unemployment, your neighbor’s children not getting what they need to survive (yes, survive) in public education.  People won’t want to move to the Christina School District.  They will look on the Delaware DOE’s really horrible school report card and say “we shouldn’t move there”.  Without new people moving into the district, your property values will go down.  The equity you have built up over the years will slowly vanish.  Perhaps one of you will come to a new opportunity or crisis point in your life.  You may want to sell that home with the reduced equity.  How did that work out for you?

If you think Delaware school taxes are high, have you talked to anyone in Pennsylvania?  I’m pretty sure anyone in Chester, Montgomery, or Delaware County in Pennsylvania would laugh when you told them how much your school taxes are going up by.  Many folks in Maryland might say the same.  And both of those states have sales tax, something you have never paid in Delaware.

If we are going to go by figures from 2014, let’s take a look at these, from the Zero Hedge website:

DELAWARE

  

 

MARYLAND

  

 

PENNSYLVANIA

  

 

NEW JERSEY

 

 

What these figures don’t include are the portion of property tax that goes towards school taxes.  All are much higher in those states.  With this information clearly visible, I really have a hard time with your group’s efforts to squash referendums in our state.  But yet I don’t hear boo from First State Liberty about Markell giving more tax breaks to corporations while every single citizen in the state pays for it.  I didn’t hear anything from any of you when it was announced yesterday that Title I funding, which is supposed to help districts with low-income students, is going to wind up giving more for the state (aka, the DOE) to keep than the school districts will receive.

I think you have the right idea, wanting to curb expenses for citizens.  I have no problem with that.  But you have the wrong target.  Why isn’t the State of Delaware in your crosshairs?  Why aren’t you sending robo-calls to every Delawarean about the absolute corruption and fraud going on before our very eyes?  Is Christina just an easy target?  Step up your game.  Come to Legislative Hall when they are doing these corporate gift bills (and I’m sure there will be more by the time June 30th rolls around) and protest that.  But all you are doing now is hurting students.  Your numbers don’t add up and all the information is available to you if you really look for it.  But telling your followers that Christina is non-transparent is completely false.  The referendum has been talked about on the radio, in the News Journal, and in the local newspaper for well over a month.

I would seriously question where you are getting your information from and what the true motivations are here.  It’s very easy to rile up a crowd.  What isn’t easy is admitting you were wrong.  I saw the kind-of sort-of owning up to that on your website, but it was followed by “give us information now”.  My advice to you: if you really want to know what is happening with district funds, go to all their Citizen Budget Oversight Committee meetings.  Not just the one a week before a referendum.  Going to one meeting a year and complaining about transparency isn’t exactly what I would call a marketing strategy for your cause.  It’s like arriving late at a dinner party and getting upset all the food is gone.  But then you tell everyone there was no food!  Go to all their board meetings.  Find out what is going on.  Look at all their monthly financial reports.  If you are relying on Delaware DOE data, don’t be shocked if it isn’t exactly accurate.

In terms of the comparison between Christina to Smyrna School District letter, Christina gets more federal funds because there are more at-risk students.  Whoever read that financial document admits they don’t know the difference between local, state, and federal funds.  If a district has more at-risk students, they get more federal money.  The bigger a district is, the more admins you have.  As well, their properties are assessed at a higher rate in Smyrna than in Christina.  So that 2/3rds number?  It doesn’t exactly mesh with reality and solid math.  This isn’t rocket science.

You want to blame a district for what is clearly the state’s fault.  But in the end, all you are really doing is making it worse for the kids.  The future of Delaware.  The future of America.  Your kids.  Your grandkids.  If Christina loses with the referendum, the charters in the district lose as well.  They get their proportion of the local tax based on students in the district that go to their schools.  All you are doing is hurting the whole education system.  Who wins when we all lose?

I encourage all of you to look into your hearts and ask yourselves “What exactly are we fighting here?  Why are we going after David when Goliath is the one doing all this?”  These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.  First State Liberty and recipients of your robo-calls: Vote YES for the Christina referendum!

 

 

So What Exactly Will Teachers Be Rated On If It’s Not The Smarter Balanced? And Why Administrators Are So Against Opt-Out!

Another Delaware Department of Education FOIA file!  This one shows a question and answer document regarding teacher and administrator evaluations for the 2014-2015 academic year.  For non-educators, to understand this document you would need to know about DPAS-II, the current evaluation system in Delaware for educators.  Even if the Smarter Balanced Assessment won’t be used as part of Component V from DPAS-II for this year and possibly next year, it is clear from this document the DOE holds all educators to very high standards, some of which may be beyond their ability to control.

As well, administrators evaluations are directly tied to the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  For both groups, their goals need to be aligned to the Common Core State Standards in preparation for the assessment.  It sounds confusing, and it is to me, and I welcome any educator feedback on this article.

The Conversation

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, about this little thing called education in Delaware.  Want to know what I hear?  A lot of screaming.  A lot of people stamping their feet on the ground saying you can’t do this.  I’m guilty of it.  We all are.  Whether it’s the DOE, Governor Markell, the teachers, the superintendents, the boards, the charters, the legislators, whoever.  Tempers are flaring, and everyone is up in arms.  We can sit here all day and talk about what hasn’t been done, or what we think will happen.  We can say our way is the best way.  But guess what’s not going to change… the everyday reality of the students in this state.  We can form committees or a task force or whatever you want to call it.  It will drag things out, kick the can down the road, and someone else will have to pick it up.  And there we are, right back at the same place we started from.  Do I have an easy solution?  Probably not.  Nobody does.  We can keep throwing stones at each other.  Whether it’s done with a state board resolution, a vote of no confidence, or a blog post.  But guess what?  None of it is working.  We have eight sides in this battle: the teachers, the parents, the DOE, the districts, the administrators, the charters, the politicians and the communities.  Actually nine if you want to count the students.  But they aren’t a side, they are the victims.

I’ve taken many sides in this war, but at the end of the day, I have to ask: is anything better?  Have I improved education in Delaware?  Nope.  Not one iota.  If anything, I’ve made it worse.  I’ve brought fire down in regards to a standardized test, preached from the heavens, and parents are opting out.  I think that’s a good thing, but the reality is it is not going away any time soon.  It can’t.  Too many of the sides are for it.  The big and powerful ones.  But here is the deal, we need to get together.  Not in one hour meetings every couple of weeks.  Not in a board meeting where things can or can’t be said.  All sides need to get together.  There needs to be a whole week or weekend thing.  Where appropriate stakeholders get together and hash all this out.  We will scream, we will fight, and it will get ugly.  But no one can leave.  And when the fire of anger dies down to a few smoldering embers, that’s when the conversation starts.  We talk, we strategize, we form ideas, we find out what’s working and what isn’t.  And we do it together.  Cause if any of these sides do this without all of the others, nothing else matters.  Then it’s just noise.

Certain things aren’t going away any time soon: standardized tests, charters, school districts, opt out, choice, bullying, special education, crime, poverty, lack of funding, behavior issues, teacher evaluations, and anger.  All need to come to the table and deal with these issues on EQUAL standing.  This can’t be about one side saying they are more important, cause that doesn’t work.  People will need to eat some crow and give up some things.  If it means a consensus and taking on the Feds, then so be it.  If it means teachers have to give up what they feel are some inalienable rights, then so be it.  If it means parents have to be more tolerant about things, then so be it.  If politicians have to give up their own political ambitions with education, then so be it.  All sides must be willing to listen and collaborate.  We need to get real, and we need to do it NOW.  If you don’t think this is a crisis with immediate attention, then you need to open your eyes.  If you think the Delaware Way is appropriate for the students in this state, open your eyes.  Let’s get all the cards on the table so everyone can see them, and let’s start to fix things.  Adult egos and students don’t mix.

Governor Markell Wants A Conversation But Parents MUST Be An Equal Party

From the Delaware.gov website, my thoughts on the bottom.

Governor Initiates Statewide Plan for Future Education Offerings

Date Posted: Thursday, March 19th, 2015
Categories:  News Office of Governor Markell

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Announces review of public schools and programs to address unmet student needs

Dover, DE – Governor Markell today announced a needs assessment and strategic planning process for the future of Delaware public schools, including charter, vocational-technical, and magnet schools. The State will review current opportunities available to students, analyze trends, and quantify areas of unmet needs for Delaware families.

“Many amazing schools and programs across the state are offering students diverse and innovative opportunities to meet their individual needs,” said Markell. “However, not all of our students have access to the programs of their choice. Many schools are oversubscribed and should be expanded or replicated. At the same time, we don’t want our districts to start new programs, and we don’t want to open new charter and magnet schools, if families aren’t asking for what they offer.

“This effort will ensure that state and district plans are designed to best meet individual students’ needs and spark their interests.”

Launching the effort during a meeting of the State Board of Education, the Governor specifically referenced the tremendous progress made at Vo Tech schools in each county, noting that they don’t have the capacity to serve all of the students who select them in the school choice process.

Other trends include four new middle and high schools that will open in the City of Wilmington this fall, reflecting the desire for new options in the city. In addition, programs focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills that are needed for jobs in growing industries, like those offered at Conrad Schools of Science, as well as the college prep courses at Mount Pleasant High School, have garnered increased interest. However, no process has existed to systematically ensure that more students can gain from the experiences they want at traditional, magnet, and charter schools.

The strategic plan developed through the Governor’s Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities for Delaware Students will quantify programs where demand exceeds the state’s capacity and analyze demographic trends to project future needs. That will help the state, school districts, and charter school operators know where and how to invest, from which dual-enrollment programs are most valuable and popular to the types of curriculum from which more students would benefit.

“For the past two years, the State Board of Education has referenced the need for the state to develop a comprehensive analysis of our portfolio of public schools, a thorough needs assessment to identify strengths, weaknesses, saturations, as well as opportunities for success and innovation,” said Teri Quinn Grey, President of the State Board of Education President. “We believe that such an analysis would aid the state in the development of this strategic plan, as well as be a useful tool for local boards and school leaders in deciding school programming decisions, facility decisions, and other educational opportunities. It also will be a tool to be utilized by policy leaders, community members, and businesses to evaluate opportunities for further investment and expansion in Delaware.”

The review announced today was inspired by a proposal by the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) – a group formed by the Governor last year that has urged the state to be smarter and more strategic about the growth of educational opportunities, particularly for charter schools in Wilmington. Markell said he agreed with the Committee’s recommendation, but also believes we can’t limit this effort to one city or county, or to charter schools alone.

“It can benefit our education system statewide,” said Markell. “All schools are part of the solution.”

WEAC Chair Tony Allen voiced support for expanding on the group’s recommendation.

“There is no question that charter schools will remain a critical part of public education in Delaware and that many students throughout the state will be served by them, and in many cases served well,” said Allen. “However, we cannot continue to operate two systems with little interaction and coordination and expect the quality benefits that all of our children deserve. It is our hope that a plan for charter schools extends itself to public education in Delaware broadly and forces stronger collaboration across the traditional district, charter and vo-tech boundaries.”

Representative Charles Potter Jr. (D-Wilmington North), who the Governor recognized at the event for his advocacy in establishing WEAC as an opportunity for members of the community to have a stronger voice on issues involving education of Wilmington children, voiced his support of the plan as well.

“I’m in support of the governor’s efforts to undertake this statewide strategic plan,” said Rep. Potter. “I feel strongly that we have to take a comprehensive look at what is happening in Wilmington and address those issues as well.”

It sounds like someone is realizing education is a mess in this state.  I think the people are the ones who need to control this conversation though.  For every person in this group, you need to have an EQUAL and state-wide amount of parents.  And not parents who are in this group or that group.  I’ve been to meetings like that.  We need down to earth, grassroots parents.  It is very easy to pick out the good and capitalize on that, but if you aren’t looking at the bad, the rot will still be there.

Nobody knows children like a child’s parent.  I defy you to find anyone that knows more than a parent that loves their child.  I think we are willing to hear a conversation, but we want to be an EQUAL part of it.  Otherwise, this just isn’t going to work Governor Markell.

 

Why Schools Need To Be Okay With Upset Parents of Students With Disabilities

I posted my last article of 2014 last night, and I talked about how my son needed an MRI after he received a concussion at his school stemming from his 8th physical assault since the end of August.  Since then, the number one question I have received is why.  That’s not an easy question for me to answer.  If I knew the answer I could try to fix the problem

It’s very easy for me to focus on Priority Schools, FOIAs, charter school financial mismanagement and non-profit tax forms for educational lobbyist groups.  The answers come very easy for me with just a little bit of investigation.  Disability bullying is a very tough topic.  It’s personal for me because it involves my son.  And I will need help from other parents who have gone through or are going through these types of ordeals.  This needs to be an ongoing conversations between parents and schools.  It can’t just be the schools. Continue reading