Governor Carney’s Letter About Basic Special Education Funding For K-3 Is Wishy Washy At Best

I received a letter from Governor Carney in my email today.  So did over 900 other Delaware citizens.  Two months ago, a push was made to send letters to Governor Carney concerning House Substitute 1 for House Bill 12.  This is the pending legislation which would provide Basic Special Education Funding for students with disabilities in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  The state provides extra special education funding for all other students with disabilities who have an IEP, so why not these students who are just getting their start in elementary education?

For years, I have been advocating for this funding.  So has Rep. Kim Williams.  This is the second go-around with this legislation.  House Bill 30, from the 148th General Assembly, sat around in the Appropriations Committee from early 2015 until June 30th, 2016 and died.  I have yet to meet anyone who thinks this bill is a bad idea.  I understand we have a deficit Governor Carney, but the purpose of state funding should have a top priority of those who need it the most.  These students fit that criteria.  Response to Intervention does not take care of these students’ needs, nor as it designed to.  Please don’t perpetuate this myth.  You did not include it in your proposed budget and I am calling foul on that oversight.  I pray our elected officials in the General Assembly have the common sense to put children first when they approve the budget for Fiscal Year 2018.  They are the future of Delaware.

The letter was dated March 7th, 2017, but I just received it today.  I won’t bicker about that, but it is noteworthy.  What I will mention is Governor Carney’s refusal to commit to this funding.  I just don’t get it.  It is a no-brainer and everyone knows it.  Who is lobbying against this bill behind the scenes?

A Mentor At Delaware Met Speaks Out About The School Closing & The Impact On Students

Tamara Varella worked at The Delaware Met as part of A.J. English’s mentoring team.  She reached out to me and asked me to share a post she wrote on Facebook about her time at the school.  She offered some insight into what went on at the school from a very different perspective.  I think most people are in agreement that Delaware Met was cursed from the onset, but could it have been saved at some point?

This post is to all of my family, friends, followers, current/past/future clients. Thank you to everyone that has checked on me, prayed for me and even slightly noticed my drastic pull back from social media the last 4 months. I more than appreciate you! The DE MET School closed last week, literally 5 months after opening its doors. Back in September I was asked by my client, AJ English to help him transition his after school mentoring program to a full-day in-school program at the Delaware MET Charter School. When I went to the school and saw how great the need was I knew I could not walk away and turn my back on “Our Kids”. I made a conscious decision to put my business and whatever plans I made for my future on complete hold because I personally felt it was warranted and would require that level of dedication. For the last 4 months AJ, Cheris Monique and I have been literally pouring out our heart, tears and soul every day ministering to the students at the MET. It just so happens that the majority of students at the MET were the At-Risk, troubled youth no one wanted to deal with let alone play a role in shifting their lives. Regardless of what you read in the paper or heard in the streets, the students at the MET were not animals or just numbers tied to funding! They were our babies that needed direction and more importantly someone to care enough to show them love and correction. The way God used our team, English Lessons, during this time was miraculous. We have countless testimonies of students changing, improving grades, being respectful to adults, restoring relationships w family members and most importantly getting to the root causes so students could be made whole. Our in-school fight prevention rate was insanely high as we were able to resolve issues, restore respect among peers and instill a level of respect for each person involved in a disagreement that was brought to our attention prior to an altercation. School administrators had never seen this done before. The work we did transcends school walls and was felt in the streets of Wilmington as our interventions involved predominantly “street issues”. Students come to school with issues and problems that the average adult would not be able to handle AND go to school and learn!!! From being hungry to almost getting shot the night before, to fear of getting jumped when they get home, to getting kicked out the house and I could go on and on. If you have not viewed Monique Taylor-Gibbs testimonial of the state of our children in DE Schools I beg you to click the link below or look at my last post.
 
I’m sharing all this not to gloat but to put a call out to everyone taking the time to read this….. Our kids need US!! Not a new system, not a new program, not a bunch of hype and empty promises. Our kids need YOU!! We won’t see a change in our community, the city of Wilmington or even our state until YOU show up!!! YOU have what our kids need. Your story of overcoming, your story of a shady past and bad decisions, your story of being told u would be nothing but proved them wrong, your story …. which comes with the ANOINTING TO BREAK THE YOLK. This generation is a different breed. They only want to hear and receive from those who can relate. I could go on and on abt the system and how they failed our kids but that would be a waste of time.

Please come back to the HOOD, ROLL UP YOUR SLEEVES AND GET INVOLVED!! Thank you to both AJ and Cheris for allowing me to be part of the team. Thank you to all my clients that were patient and understanding. For those of you who were upset about my not doing my workshops, I promise I’ll make it up to everyone! Please keep praying for me as the closing of the school and worrying about the students has me hurt and saddened. This whole experience has caused me to shift internally …. Not clear yet on what that means… But it is definitely time to get back to business. See you all soon!

PLEASE VIEW: Link to Monique’s testimony abt the state of DE Schools
https://www.facebook.com/tamara.varella/posts/10205432459713008
Or you can access it on my last Facebook post.

Anani Maas Returns And Looks At The Big Picture At Delaware Met

This is the second guest article by Anani Maas in a week, and I have to say I am very impressed! Thank you Anani!

By Anani Maas
Delaware Educator
In response to the discussion on the Delaware MET and the interest in their model, here are some things that I know about Big Picture Learning:
1. It is a charter chain with over 60 schools nationwide.  The first school was opened in Rhode Island in 1995.  They are non-profit, but that doesn’t mean the founders aren’t bringing in big bucks.  If I were a teacher there and I was making peanuts while the leaders are pulling big $$, I’d be pretty mad.
2. It sounds good. From their website: “In the schools that Big Picture Learning envisioned, students would take responsibility for their own education. They would spend considerable time doing real work in the community under the tutelage of volunteer mentors and they would not be evaluated solely on the basis of standardized tests. Instead, students would be assessed on their performance, on exhibitions and demonstrations of achievement, on motivation, and on the habits of mind, hand, heart, and behavior that they display – reflecting the real world evaluations and assessments that all of us face in our everyday lives.” – See more at: http://www.bigpicture.org/big-picture-history/#sthash.ecQGJHsw.dpuf
The problem with good theories is that they are hard to replicate, and hard to meld with DE state requirements.   Delaware requires charter school students to take standardized tests and those tests determine their funding and charter renewal, no matter what their model describes. So, the charter will have to decide to trust their model and risk reduction in funding and difficulty in renewal, OR, teach to the test anyway and attempt to do both.  This almost always means that the model cannot be followed with fidelity.
I personally agree with the model IN THEORY, but as an educator, I know that educational theories and educational realities are usually not the same thing!  For example, their model says students SHOULD take responsibility for their learning.  So, what is their plan if a student doesn’t?  They also say that students will be assessed on their habits of mind, hands, heart, etc.  Again, I ask, what is the plan if students come with horrible attitudes, bad habits, poor motivation, low skill levels, and etc.  What if they won’t or can’t find mentors?  What if the students use their freedom to do nothing at all, or worse, to harm and take advantage of others?
We don’t live in utopia, we live in a real city with students with real problems.  Having good intentions and great ideas isn’t enough to help students who are at-risk!  They need resources, wrap-around services, guidance counseling, qualified educators, etc.  If the school isn’t providing these things, then all the theories and research in the world won’t help them.  In fact, removing them from a school that has those services could actually be hurting them.  Why would you choose to put children who need the MOST resources in a school with the LEAST?
3. They exist through grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as others.  Because Big Picture Learning is promoting “individual” learning, each student needs a computer, and Gates supports those kinds of charter schools.
4. Their website does not offer any independent research that has been done on the model outside of that performed by the founders themselves.  This sounds like more radical changes to education not based on research.

Delaware Met Under Consideration For Formal Review At State Board Of Education Meeting This Week

The Delaware Met certainly got the Delaware Department of Education’s notice, and not in a good way.  This was just updated on the agenda for the State Board of Education meeting this Thursday.  Now how this works, this is just a recommendation.  It is presented to the State Board.  The Acting Secretary of Education (Dr. Steven Godowsky) and the State Board have to give assent.  I have a strong feeling this will happen.  Here we go again…

The DOE Charter School Office is seeking to submit  the charter of The Delaware Met to formal review to determine whether the school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures under the Delaware Code. 

 

The issues for formal review include, but are not limited to, concerns about the school’s compliance with its charter, financial viability, policies regarding student conduct and discipline, and appropriate strategies to accommodate the needs of at-risk students and those needing special education services.

 

In accordance with the requirements of 14 Del. C. . § 511(c), the Department is seeking the assent of the Acting Secretary and the State Board of Education to the formal review of The Delaware Met.

I’m hearing two founding members of The Delaware Met’s Board of Directors resigned from the board last night. As well, Innovative Schools is telling the board everything is going great, but the reality on the ground is vastly different. Parents want out, but they are being told the students can’t leave because it is after the September 30th date when schools in Delaware get their funding.

To anyone wishing to leave Delaware Met: You have something called “Good Cause”. If the school isn’t living up to their obligations in providing even a basic education and can’t get the school climate under control, you can present a case to the DOE. Call the Charter School Office tomorrow at phone number 302-735-4020. Let them know what is going on there and why you want to transfer your child out. This is a very unique situation with this school, and I can’t recall this happening before.

Delaware DOE: I’m not sure it is safe to keep this school open all year long. You may want to take a drastic step here for the benefit of all the students…

The Delaware Met Down For The Count A Month Into The School Year

Today, I got an email from someone about The Delaware Met closing next week.  Usually, I want to get more information on something like this, so I reached out to the Delaware Department of Education and the leaders at the school.  Not one response.  I put out some more feelers, and it looks like this story has some weight to it.  I don’t have specifics, but I’m hearing about multiple incidents of violence at the school, a student brought a gun to the school on the very first day, and students leaving the school in mass quantities.  The school just opened a month ago.

This school is being touted as a “Big Picture Learning School”, whatever that means.  But it looks like families aren’t buying it.  Is this a sign of things to come for Delaware charters?  I’ve heard that many of the new charters are not prepared for their students this year, despite what the DOE is saying.  I’ve heard of multiple special education issues going on at many charters this fall.

Back to The Delaware Met, I’m hearing their relationship with Innovative Schools has soured to the point of breaking.  This is not a situation where the DOE will be closing the school, but The Delaware Met will be voluntarily closing down.  Has that ever happened before in Delaware?  This is a charter school that met their enrollment figures last Spring when many other charters were struggling.  So what happened?  I’m hearing many of the students were at-risk students who were facing issues at other schools including potential expulsion and suspension issues.  I have no idea how many students at this school are students with disabilities.  But how prepared was the school to handle these issues?  If the allegations are true, not prepared at all.  It’s one thing to apply to open a charter and get through the DOE.  It is quite another to actually implement all the talk and ideas once the school opens.

The other night at the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission committee meeting on Charter-District Collaboration, a Red Clay principal actually advised the committee he is getting a lot of students transferring back to traditional schools from charter schools.  The charter movement in Delaware may be hitting the brakes folks.  Is the party over?  Between financial concerns, funding issues, transportation problems (more last year), special education, and Smarter Balanced results showing the most at-risk students in charters are no different than traditional schools, I think it is past time the Delaware DOE ended their love affair with the charter movement.

If the school were to voluntarily close next week, it would make sense because the school would receive funding based on their September 30th count.  Better to do it now than to wait until after they get funding…

Updated, 5:44pm: This story is gaining traction by the minute.  Multiple sources are confirming, but no official word from DOE or the school.  The only question is exactly when and how many students are actually left at the school….

Updated, 5:47pm: Other sources are telling me this school received a significant student population from Moyer, which was shut down by the state a year ago and closed it’s doors for good on June 30th, 2015.