The Discussion About Racism Is Important But So Is The Tone. Tales From A Red Clay Board Meeting.

Last week, at the Red Clay Board of Education meeting, a huge and heated conversation took place about the lack of diversity at Cab Calloway School of the Arts.  It turned into something ugly and what I would not expect from a sitting board member. Continue reading

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Kenny Rivera’s Farewell Speech To The Red Clay School Board

Last evening was Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education’s last meeting for long-time member Kenny Rivera.  A social studies teacher in the Brandywine School District, Rivera spent some crucial years on the board.  He served as President and later Vice-President during his last two years on the board.  He gave a farewell speech to the board and the attendees.  Rivera’s seat is going to the amazing Ashley Sabo.  Sabo won the seat last month in a three-way race, beating Henry Clampitt and Thomas Pappenhagen.  Here is Rivera’s speech:

I would like to take just one minute a bid you a farewell from this seat. Throughout our progress and turmoil, from the discussions to the battles, I have found great joy in this opportunity to serve the Red Clay community. I will miss serving, but I cannot be any more thrilled to have Ashley Sabo join our board.

I have seen, experience, and learned a lot over the past 5 years, and I think we should be proud. There is something unique about Red Clay, and I think it has a lot to do with the culture our staff sets. My daily interactions with educators, administrators, and parents in Red Clay revealed to me a group of people who are true professionals, go way beyond the call of duty, and look to do what is best for students. And yes there have been our share of debates, but the majority of the people come to the table open minded, willing to listen and share their perspective, seeking to do what is best for our kids. I think this culture starts at the top. Attitude reflects leadership. We always need to remember that our heart of service, our motives, and our discourse is being emulated by those around us. I see this in the zeal from each of our board members, in the compassionate heart for all children from Superintendent Mervin Daugherty, and in some of the most talented people I have ever met – our district Cabinet. I have worked closely with Jill Floore, Ted Ammann, Hugh Broomall, and Sam Golder over the years, and they are some of our real unsung heros.

I hope that you take encouragement from our progress, continue to build strong relationships, and choose your battles carefully to win the wars that really make a difference. We must stand firm, continue to advocate, and work to find common ground to ensure that we provide an equitable and personalized education to every child. I look to continue our fight together for some needed reforms in education, especially our funding system.

I cannot leave without saying a few thank yous. Thank you to the board members, district and building staff, and parents who have taken the time to work together to ensure a better education for our children. I want to thank Leah Davis for her mentorship over the past 5 years, and to Rep. Kim Williams and Mike Matthews for their passionate involvement and ability to sharpen me. Lastly and most importantly to my wife Kelley who has fully supported my passion and calling to serve and for stepping up at home without one complaint.

I pray that I served and provided you the support that you needed to do your job. May God Bless you, and have a good night. This meeting is now adjourned.

Kenny also shared this on his Facebook account with the following news about his immediate future plans with Delaware education:

Last night was the completion of my 5 year term serving on the Red Clay School Board. I promise to remain active, as today I will speak to a UD program about education advocacy, tomorrow morning I will meet with Gov. Carney over the planned education cuts, and at night I will be featured on WHYY’s Delaware First program for needed school funding reform.

I met Kenny two years ago when Red Clay was voting on their opt out resolution, and later, their opt out policy.  He is a good guy and I wish him luck in his future Delaware education activities.  I have no doubt Kenny and I will cross paths in the coming months or years.

Ashley Sabo Wins Red Clay School Board Election! Congrats Ashley!

With modest voter turnout, Ashley Sabo defeated Henry Clampitt and Thomas Pappenhagen for the District C Board Seat.  Unofficial results gave Sabo 1,142 votes, Clampitt 833 votes, and Pappenhagen 152 votes.  I got to hang out at a couple of schools tonight and saw both Sabo and Clampitt.  They were both greeting the candidates.  More districts will be announced shortly.

Delaware School Board Election 2017 Surveys: Red Clay Consolidated School District

In Red Clay, three candidates are vying for the District “C” seat for the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education.  Henry Clampitt, Thomas Pappenhagen and Ashley Sabo are the three.  One candidates, James Starzman, withdrew shortly after filing.  Clampitt did not return a survey, but Pappenhagen and Sabo did.  One of these three will replace current board member Kenny Rivera.  Don’t forget to vote on May 9th!  Christina went up before this, and more will be coming later tonight or tomorrow morning.  Once again, I want to thank all the respondents for the time they took in coming up with answers to some very tough questions. Continue reading

Exceptional Delaware Proudly Endorses Ashley Sabo For Red Clay School Board

I’ve been a fan of Ashley Sabo going on a year and a half now.  Oddly enough, I first “met” her through a Rodel-Vision conference on Twitter!  Life is funny like that.  But Sabo represents the very best of what a school board member can offer.  She is a compassionate mom and wife, very involved with the community, attends most of the Red Clay board meetings and has for a very long time, gives public comment, is a CASA officer in Delaware (helping out kids in foster parent situations), was very involved in Red Clay’s inclusion policy, and fully supports the most fundamental and crucial of parental rights when it comes to education.

I’ve met and spoken with Sabo many times and she is one of those who just gets it.  She understands that far too many of the bad education policy in Delaware, as well as America, is not good for students.  I wish I lived in Red Clay so I could vote for her, but I strongly encourage all Red Clay Consolidated School District citizens to vote for Sabo on May 9th.

The Red Clay Education Association voted to endorse Sabo for Red Clay’s Board of Education in the upcoming election.  As the largest school district in the state, this is a huge endorsement for Sabo!

Some of the posts on her Facebook candidate page clearly illustrate why she should get your vote in Red Clay!

A year ago I made public comment at the board meeting about the need for more play and hands on learning in kindergarten. I still firmly believe kids, and not just kindergarteners, benefit from LESS rigor – fewer worksheets, less time at their desk – and MORE active learning – greater time using play to learn, more hands on activities. We need to help instil the LOVE of learning in kids!

For the past 3 years I have attended the majority of board meetings, making public comment when issues arose that needed to be addressed. I have attended countless committee meetings working tirelessly to ensure that decisions the district makes benefit all students. I have met with teachers on my own time to hear their concerns about different topics.

I am involved as a parent and will be even more involved as an elected board member.

As a parent of a high schooler in general education classes with no supports, an elementary student in a general education classroom with supports and a paraprofessional and a youngster who would love if there were more pre-k programs I have a wide variety of experience in the world of education.

BUT…. I am not a teacher. They are the ones working tirelessly for our children and they are the ones greatly affected by policy changes. I value their experience and knowledge.

I am committed to listening to our educators – making decisions that not only benefit all students but also help teachers spend more time teaching and less time navigating policy changes and paperwork.

I am beyond thankful for the wonderful teachers in my life and my children’s’ lives.

Next week, there will be a “Meet The Candidate Night” at Café Napoli Restaurant and Pizzeria at 4391 Kirkwood Hwy, in Wilmington on Wednesday, March 29th from 7pm to 9pm.

 

Did My Predictions Come True For The 16 To Watch In 2016?

In December of 2015, I posted 16 articles about who would make an impact on 2016.  Did they truly have an impact and did they fizzle out?  Many of them did have a huge impact, some fizzled out, and some didn’t do as much as I thought they might.  You be the judge!

State Rep. David Bentz: Bentz had a relatively low-key rookie year in the Delaware House.  He did get a bill passed and signed that bans the sale of Dextromethorphan to those under the age of 18.  He did sit on many committees including Health & Human Services and Education.  I expect Bentz will begin to rise in 2017 after running unopposed for his seat earlier this month.  He did vote in support of the suspension of rules on the override of the House Bill 50 veto which won him some fast points in my book.

Henry Clampitt: Clampitt became very quiet about halfway through the year.  He did help out the Delaware Charter Schools Network with some key legislation surrounding charter school audits.  Over the summer he joined the board of Gateway Lab School.  I am still predicting he will make a run for Red Clay’s board next year!  Clampitt curtailed some of his online activity as well this year.  Clampitt can usually be found at the occasional Red Clay board meeting cavorting with some of his friends.

Dr. Robert Andrzejewski: The Acting Superintendent of Christina had a huge year!  And not all of it was good.  He did help the cash-poor district in winning their referendum but that only introduced other problems.  The fifteen charter schools that feed off of Christina students complained they weren’t getting enough money from Christina.  After it became public and legislators were swarmed with complaints from parents and citizens, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky backed off the changes that would have given more to the charters.  In October, the charters filed a lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE.  Now news comes of a possible settlement.  Bob A also had to contend with mold issues at Pulaski Elementary School and soon reports came in of other schools having mold issues as well.  He set up an “Academy” at Christiana High School with very poor communication and transparency which led to all sorts of controversy.  Bob A also introduced many “cash in the trash” contracts for vendors which the Christina board approved nearly every single time.  Rumors continue to swirl about the potential of Bob A getting the Secretary of Education role under John Carney.  It could happen which would make a lot of Bob A’s activities make an odd sort of sense.  Fattening up his resume or being Bob A?  Time will tell.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell: Jack always makes an impact.  Whenever I see that smiling face, I know he is up to something.  He successfully influenced enough Delaware House reps to vote no on a suspension of rules to override his veto of House Bill 50.  But then many of those same legislators voted yes on a suspension of rules for a corporate tax bill.  This rightfully earned Markell the wrath of many parents in Delaware.  In fact, many of us beat the hell out of him over opt out on his own Facebook page before the vote.  Instead of going up to Howard High School and dealing with the death of Amy Joyner Francis, Markell issued a brief statement and merrily went on his Common Core tour at Delaware schools.  He pimped the Delaware Pathways to Prosperity program every single chance he could.  He spoke at a conference on Blockchain technology and announced Delaware would get legislation going so Blockchain firms could incorporate in Delaware.  He created the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee while issuing another executive order to create a Pathways Steering Committee that had its first meeting with no public notice.  The “Education” Governor won some fancy-schmancy award from the National Association of State Boards of Education.  Despite rumors, Markell firmly stated he was never a consideration for a Cabinet post in a Hillary Clinton administration (easy to say after the shocking upset when Donald Trump won the presidency).  He continued to appear at press conferences and letters to the editor promoting corporate education reform which pretty much landed with a resounding thud in the minds of Delawareans.  As Jack enters his final days as Delaware Governor, I don’t think history will be very kind to his legacy of putting corporations over people.  But I will ask one boon of Jack Markell before he leaves his post: a chance to meet with him, do an interview, and get his side of the story on Delaware education.  What do you say Jack?  One for the road?

Delaware Governor John Carney: Unless you’ve been living in a hole the past few weeks, John Carney won the Governor’s seat by a landslide.  Everyone is waiting with bated breath to see who Carney picks for his administration.  He has been very quiet (as he was during the election) about what he is going to do.  He came out with platforms on various subjects, but they were somewhat vague.  As of today, he has only announced two members of his administration.  This blogger has reached out to Carney many times with zero success, as recently as yesterday.  I don’t want Carney and I to be at odds with each other.  We will assuredly disagree on many things, but if he isn’t willing to sit down with me then I fear this will be the case.  In education, Carney will have his hands full between whomever he picks for his next Secretary, education funding, ESSA implementation, and a budget deficit which will force the state to begin cutting items from the state budget.  I expect Carney will be more low-key on many issues facing Delaware, but he should not be underestimated at all.

Delaware Senator David McBride: McBride was relatively low-key this year, but he did become the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate when Senator Patti Blevins suffered a shocking loss earlier this month to Anthony Delcollo.  But this title will not have as much importance since Delaware has a Lieutenant Governor again in the form of Bethany Hall-Long who will preside over the Delaware Senate.

Tony Allen: Allen was all over the place in 2016.  State Board of Education meetings, ESSA Advisory Committees, Legislative Hall, and forums kept the Bank of America executive very busy.  Allen stood his ground with the Delaware State Board of Education when they kept trying to change the redistricting language.  When the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting bill failed to pass the Delaware General Assembly, Allen did save the plan by extending the timeline.  It remains to be seen what Carney will do with the plan, especially given that deficit I told you about.  Allen is serving on the transition team for Governor Carney.  Earlier this month, Allen predicted another segregation lawsuit against the state based on Delaware schools, especially those in Wilmington.  Allen did admit one of WEIC’s weaknesses was not including Kent and Sussex County representatives on the plan.

Ashley Sabo: The Red Clay mom of a special needs child had a very busy year.  While she continued to fight for inclusion in Red Clay, she also held the district accountable for the lack of communication surrounding the plan.  Sabo also adopted a foster child and became a Court Appointed Special Advocate as well as becoming the Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Orphan Care Coalition.  I am very optimistic about Sabo’s future in Delaware and I see her as a rising young star who will become a very important voice for not only students with disabilities and foster children, but all citizens of The First State.

The Delaware Bloggers: It was an interesting year.  Three longtime Delaware bloggers closed up shop this year: Transparent Christina, Kavips, and the Delaware Grapevine.  The first two dealt with many education issues.  For Transparent Christina, the beginning of the end came when the author of that blog discovered Facebook and all the fun he could have on there.  Kavips ended his blog earlier this month capping off a ten-year run of what he viewed as “The Progressive Era” of Delaware politics.  I suspect we haven’t heard the last of the enigmatic one and he will pop up somewhere once he/she gets his/her groove back once Donald Trump is inaugurated.  Kilroy’s Delaware slowed down this year but that had more to do with fixing up his house at the beach than a lack of interest.  Delaware Liberal provided a healthy dose of election news and dealt with the epic defeat of Hillary Clinton and bemoaned to rise of Donald Trump.  A new blog by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne called The Urgency of Now stirred up tons of controversy this year as teachers were blasted constantly on his blog.  Another longtime blog, The Colossus of Rhodey, also ended.  As for this blogger, now almost halfway through his third year, who knows what the future will bring.  One sure thing is that change is inevitable but things stay the same in too many of the wrong places.

The Parents of Delaware Students: The parents of Delaware received a fatal blow when the Delaware House refused to suspend the rules to allow for an override of Markell’s House Bill 50 veto.  The Delaware PTA received a hush order on opt-out from their National headquarters.  Parents still opted their kids out, but it was comparable to 2015.  The Delaware DOE has attempted to corral parents into their Every Student Succeeds Act Community Conversations, but I really hoped more parents would attend to lend their voices in opposition to the DOE’s crazy plans.  Many parents attended referenda this year as Christina, Brandywine, and Cape Henlopen referendums passed.  Not enough Indian River parents supported their referendum when it failed to pass last week.  By and large, Delaware parents continue to get the shaft in education policy.  I predict the voice of parents will rise in 2017 to unheard of levels.  With national and state politics the way they are now, many parents will be pitched against each other with various events.  One appointment of U.S. Secretary of Education for Betsy DeVos has already renewed a lot of debate about school choice, charter schools, and school vouchers.  These arguments will heat up in 2017.  Many parents of students with disabilities (as well as advocates) successfully thwarted an attempt at a very bad special education strategic plan at the Delaware DOE.  Parents of special needs children are quickly learning that banding together in unison across various groups is more important than debating their differences.  So much so that a two-day planning session for a new special education strategic plan will take place on December 8th and 9th.

Karen Field Rogers: While the first half of the year started very slow for the promotion of Field Rogers as the new Delaware Deputy Secretary of Education, she certainly made her mark in the second half as the Delaware DOE spokesperson at many ESSA meetings.  The jury is still out on what Delaware’s ESSA plan will be.  I can picture her still working at the Townsend Building under Governor John Carney.  She is not really a subject of controversy down there.

Delaware Senator Colin Bonini: Bonini lost his bid for Delaware Governor as many predicted.  But he did not do himself any favors by publicly announcing he would lose and continuing to call Carney his friend.  Even if you think you are going to lose, you don’t make a spectacle of it.  But he did answer a very long survey I gave all the candidates for Governor.  Only Carney failed to respond to the survey, and I unintentionally left out Green Party candidate Andrew Groff.  Bonini will still be in the Delaware Senate doing his thing, unless he gets a new job in the Carney administration.  Whatever happened with Bonini’s recommendation for a Civil Rights Committee in the Delaware Senate?

Harrie Ellen Minnehan: She started the year as the Christina Board of Education President, but lost her gavel over the summer to the re-elected Elizabeth Paige.  Minnehan overtly supported Paige’s opponent in the spring school board election.  When board member David Resler announced he would not run again, Meg Mason won the election.  Mason voted for Paige’s appointment as board president.  The Christina board seems to still be at odds over many things but they will have to get it together soon for the sake of the district.  I miss the fiery board that stood in unison against the Priority Schools debacle in the fall of 2015.  Nothing against Minnehan, but the board lost a bit of that during her Presidency.  Paige brings that temperament back to the board and they (along with every other board in the state) need to start speaking up now to fight for what is theirs.  I must say, my favorite “HEM” moment in 2016 was when Minnehan blasted State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray during a WEIC meeting in Wilmington.  I have no doubt her words were bubbling under the surface for a long time, going back to her days as the President of the Pencader charter school board.

The Delaware Met Kids: After causing a lot of concern in the fall of 2015, the students at Delaware Met said goodbye to the not even five-month old charter school in mid-January.  The students went to various school districts and charter schools.  But not until they caused enough chaos at the school to get an extra couple of days off.

The Seans: Sean Lynn gave a very stirring speech when the death penalty repeal bill hit the floor of the Delaware House.  Ultimately, the House voted against the repeal, but federal rulings rendered the point moot for Delaware executions.  Lynn was instrumental in crafting legislation for the WEIC redistricting bills, but the controversial redistricting effort did not pass the General Assembly.  He did get several bills through dealing with courts and animal fighting.  After a landmark first year in the House where six bills became law, Sean Matthews did not have any legislation signed by Governor Markell this year.  But this didn’t stop Matthews from using his voice in support or opposition to many bills.  Both Sean Lynn and Sean Matthews won their seats back for a 2nd term in the General Election after facing opposition.  This will give them more of an entrenched status in the House.  Both had a relatively quiet year, but I expect they will be re-energized and ready to go in January!

Braeden Mannering: The kid who melted Delaware hearts the past few years continued his 3B: Brae’s Brown Bags movement with growing success.  In January, Braeden was invited to and attended President Obama’s State of the Union address.  Later in the year, he was one of the speakers at a TedX conference in Wilmington.  Braeden’s future is bright!

I will be doing this for 2017 beginning in December with those I think will make an impact in 2017.  Some will be names seen on this list but others will be new faces.

 

Red Clay Parent Ashley Sabo Speaks Out In Support Of Inclusion

Red Clay parent Ashley Sabo, who I’ve written about a few times on here, just gave a stirring public comment at the Red Clay board meeting.  While I wasn’t there, Ashley was kind enough to share it with me.

As an involved parent and inclusion advocate, the magnitude of inclusion did not become real until my daughter started kindergarten last year.  It was with great trepidation, major anxiety and a lot of prayer that we put her in full inclusion at Forest Oak.  We met with her teacher soon into the school year and we continued the constant communication throughout the year.  It did not take long at all to know that not only did we make the right decision putting her in full inclusion, but when it came to Kindergarten teachers we hit the jackpot.

Jackie Gallagher worked with our daughter, Anna, to meet her where she was then pushed her forward to develop new skills and abilities and onward to success. When one method or plan didn’t work for Anna, she would alter things. If equipment or modifications were needed she worked tirelessly to get them.  She reached out to other staff who had different knowledge and experience to create new ways for Anna to learn.  She approached each day with understanding and patience and behind her was an administration who listened not only to the teacher but to us as parents – fully respecting our expertise when it comes to our daughter and was committed to the mindset that Anna was just as much a Forest Oak student as any other student without special needs.

We often hear about needing to close the achievement gap and more rigor, rigor, rigor.  I can assure you it was not the rigorous worksheets and overwhelming curriculum thrown at kindergarteners these days which made Anna’s year successful.  It was the open communication between parent, teacher and administration. It was the willingness to be flexible and make adjustments. It was the collaboration between colleagues to develop plans and find the right resources which made Anna’s kindergarten year so successful.

Growth and success will never be from a standardized test or learning at a computer. Closing the achievement gap is not something that can be done through legislation.

Successful inclusion happens when the line of communication between parent, teacher and administrator is always open. When requests for resources and equipment are met in a timely manner.  When teachers are flexible and willing to make changes to meet the needs of their students.

Seeing the joy as my daughter received a birthday invitation to her classmate’s party is the outcome of inclusion and is proof inclusion can be a wonderfully, beautiful thing.

If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And Inclusion is worth doing so we need to make sure it stays as a top priority and that changes take place so that we can look back and say Red Clay has done well.

Ashley Sabo’s Must Read Public Comment To Red Clay’s Board About Kindergarten

Ashley Sabo addressed the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education tonight about a topic that is rising with grave concern to parents and educators all over the country.  Rigor and kindergarten are like oil and water.  They don’t belong together at all.  She should run for public office!

In the essay, “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten” the author writes about how all the things we need to know for living life are learned in kindergarten, not in graduate level classes or adulthood, but in that primary year of our schooling. The things he says we learn are: share everything, play fair, don’t hit, put things back where you found them, clean up your mess, say sorry when you hurt someone, live a balanced life – learn some, think some, draw and paint, sing and dance, and play and work every day.  And wonder, never lose your sense of wonder.

As a parent of a kindergartner I have watched the joy of learning fade from her – a child who once happily grabbed her backpack and headed to the car for school now is reluctant to go and would prefer a nap on the couch despite it being 8:15 in the morning. The joy of learning is fading for the sake of rit and rigor and supposed success, when we’re really losing the success of learned social skills and dynamic imaginative play. 

Our students are no longer taught to live a balanced life with both play and work. Rather they are pushed to the limit each day with more testing and more worksheets and more rigorous academia.  Despite studies that show children who are allowed to play have higher language skills, both receptive and expressive, and better problem solving skills, school leadership continues to add on to the curriculum requirements. 

In addition to language and problem solving skills, learning through play helps children increase cognitive development, increase self-confidence, reduce anxiety, learn basic social development skills such as cooperation, sharing, and conflict resolution – all skills and traits that are necessary and critical to navigating adulthood.

I would wager a guess that a number of you, if not the majority of you, had the old-fashion type of kindergarten that allowed for naps, extra recess, more imaginative play and less seat work – and look at you all, I think you turned out pretty well, after all you are overseeing the education of thousands of children.

I implore you, the school board and district leaders, to reconsider the kindergarten curriculum and the proposed increase of scope and sequence being piloted this year. Our kids deserve to be kids and learn the best way kids do – through play!

Thank you

No, thank you Ashley Sabo for having the heart and the guts to stand before a school board and telling them basic truths.  I joked years ago that Governor Markell would set up a Smarter Balanced In Utero Assessment.  With all the Kindergarten and pre-school push lately, I may not be too far off!  But seriously, Ashley Sabo should run for office.  We need more common sense in Legislative Hall.  And any public comment that quotes Robert Fulghum is great!