The start of a school year is always going to have issues. But when those issues could potentially have a health impact on students and staff, citizens are left wondering why these issues aren’t taken care of during the summer months when students are not in the buildings. For Christina, several schools are having problems with their buildings. Continue reading
Atnre Alleyne, a former employee of the Delaware Department of Education and the current head of DelawareCAN, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DOE back in March. He was not satisfied with their response and filed a FOIA complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice. The Delaware DOJ issued their opinion on the complaint on May 4th and found the Delaware DOE did violate FOIA. Continue reading
Christina School District Board of Education member John Young has taken up a new calling, that of Ghost Hunter. After my post about The Moldy Ghost of Pulaski Elementary, Young decided to take a look for himself. This is what he found:
Yes, that is an empty room. No dusty cobwebs. No ectoplasmic goo. No police tape of any sort. And no ghosts. This is their old computer room. If I had to hazard a guess, the school is under capacity as it is and given that this was the epicenter of the 2016 Moldgate issue, they decided to keep it closed. I do have to say, for a closed room that floor looks sparkly clean.
I guess John Young ain’t afraid of no ghosts. However, I am hearing about a new apparition at Bancroft Elementary School, on their 3rd floor…
Last night the Christina Board of Education, in front of a packed house, passed the Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the Delaware Department of Education and Governor John Carney’s office with a 4-2-1 vote. Board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige voted no while member Angela Mitchell abstained. The tense meeting, which lasted over three hours, had Carney sitting in the audience the entire time. While the News Journal, WHYY, and WDEL all came to the meeting, many parts of the meeting were not covered in their articles. Continue reading
The Christina Board of Education will finally vote on the Memorandum of Understanding between Governor Carney’s office, the Delaware Department of education, the district and the Board of Education on Tuesday night at Sarah Pyle Academy. Their regular Board of Education meeting begins at 7pm. What’s at stake? Schools closing and consolidating into two schools. Governor Carney’s reputation. The Christina School District Wilmington students in Kindergarten to 8th grade.
Even if you don’t live in Christina, this will be something to watch. It isn’t every day a Governor proposes this kind of action. Some say it is needed while others say it is too much. Some say the Board should vote yes while others say mixing these student populations from different areas of the city is a powder keg waiting to explode. Some say forget the past and keep an open mind while others say Carney’s office doesn’t have the first clue as to what these kids need. We will find out what the Christina Board votes on Tuesday evening.
The below pictures were released by the Christina School District:
If I were Christina, I would want to see a big fat check hand-delivered by John Carney before I put ink to this. They are putting a lot of trust in a state that has continually targeted this one particular district if they vote yes. Sorry, I don’t trust Carney. He has yet to prove he can be trusted.
Last night, the Christina Board of Education voted 5-2 to push back Delaware Governor John Carney’s consolidation plan for Christina’s Wilmington students until the 2019-2020 school year. They felt the initiative would need more time. The no votes belonged to board members George Evans and Fred Polaski. State Rep. John Kowalko gave public comment concerning the plan. To say he was not in favor would be an understatement. Kowalko brought up many good points which the Governor and the Delaware DOE ought to consider.
I and 9 other legislators attended a meeting called by Governor Carney less than a week ago purportedly to discuss the proposed Wilmington school reform plan and MOU proposal. Since we weren’t given copies of the MOU and it doesn’t seem to be available any longer at the link the Administration provided I cannot offer or challenge some of the specifics. At this meeting the Governor suggested that the MOU draft submitted by DOE would be changed and this board is not bound by it and should draft its own MOU proposal. The deadlines for Board action that the Governor and DOE appear to be imposing are substantively unrealistic and impractical for such a complex consideration with so many unanswerable questions.
Having examined some of the initial proposal and the details and expectations it held has led me to conclude that this is not a well thought out plan, that raises more questions and challenges then it has answers for.
I distributed some of my points of concern to the Governor and DOE and have copies for you that I will distribute. Due to time constraints I will try to focus on only a few of my concerns that I hope you will consider at this time.
I find it particularly harmful and hurtful to the “Southbridge” community, families and children to propose closing Elbert Palmer, one of the true neighborhood schools in walking distance and accessible to this Wilmington community. I hope that this Board’s counter-proposal would support closing that tired old monolith known as Bancroft and refurbish Palmer, Pulaski and Bayard to use for the suggested K-8 reconfiguration.
I also implore this Board to pay heed to the massive costs (which the Governor personally refused to speculate on) in refurbishing or renovating in order to make these consolidations. You should be acutely aware that any promise of funding cannot be guaranteed. In fact I would urge you to recall this Administration’s recently passed budget with concurrence of this current General Assembly cut traditional public school revenues by more than $36 million. Restoring that $36 million in cuts and adding even a small percentage of the proposed renovation costs would be much more beneficial and effective for Wilmington students if allocated to create smaller classroom ratios and hire reading and math specialists.
As I’ve looked at this reform proposal and its details and drawing upon my 11 years of experience as a legislator I am forced to conclude that this is a no-win situation for Christina, this Board and the children of Wilmington. Its predisposition to fail will be used to scapegoat the district and further stifle opportunities for Wilmington students and their families.
Finally I would suggest that this Board consider that traditional public school funding has received reduced funding since 2009 now totaling over $65 million per year. Ask the DOE and Governor:
Who is going to pay for the renovations?
Who is paying for longer school days and school years?
Who is paying for vacation academies?
Who is paying for after-school programs?
And why aren’t Reading Specialists and funding for them part of this plan?
At this point, Kowalko had several questions for Governor Carney as well:
1) If CSD does not approve MOU, more money will be taken from the District further harming prospects of Wilmington students and families. (“If it rejects the plan and fails to come up with an acceptable alternative, the agreement would be terminated immediately, resulting in the loss of any additional financial support for the district”).
2) Bayard/Bancroft are not appropriate buildings for little children even if renovated. Bancroft too old to make usable with renovations.
3) Trauma Training not necessarily (research?) effective but investing/funding 1 to 15 class size ratios would effectively improve the learning environment and outcomes.
4) Palmer became the first equity lawsuit in Delaware when Christina District (at Lowery’s behest) tried to close it 10 years ago.
5) Leaves no “Neighborhood Schools” for city children and in fact may violate the “Neighborhood Schools Legislation”.
6) Bancroft is far away from Palmer and Southbridge children who now walk would be unable to continue that practice.
7) Distinguish more specifically between renovate, refurbish and reconfiguration.
8) Why don’t we do things like “successful” districts? The most successful programs such as in New York and Massachusetts fund “reading specialists” and lower class ratios.
9) When the plan refers to “potentially” establishing “early childhood education” and “centers for students and families learning English” at a vacated Palmer are the planners aware that there are no ESL students at Palmer?
10) Have you considered neighborhood “gangs” being integrated from across Wilmington into the same building?
11) The suggested “Co-leadership” model re: principals and assistant principals belies the reality that these two jobs have never had the same duties and have always had designated responsibilities and functions.
12) “Loan forgiveness stipend” to young and “inexperienced” teachers does not reflect any benefit to already established teachers who have devoted their careers to inner-city education and “Who” is paying for these loans?
13) “Who” is paying for “longer school days/year”?
14) “Who is paying for “vacation academies”?
15) “Who is paying for “after-school programing”?
16) Why aren’t reading specialists part of this plan and therefore WHO IS PAYING FOR “READING SPECIALISTS” SO THAT CHILDREN ACTUALLY LEARN TO READ?
These are all valid questions that deserve answers. One of my biggest questions is why the Delaware Department of Education did not include this in their presentation to the Office of Management and Budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget a couple of weeks ago. Where is all this money coming from? The Christina Board of Education will vote on the plan again next Tuesday at their monthly board meeting. Revisions will supposedly go back and forth until February of 2018 which is Governor Carney’s deadline for the decision.
It was revealed yesterday that the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education finally reached a signed agreement over the eighteen month priority school battle. As shown below, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky formally wrote a letter to the State Board of Education indicating this. As one of their conditional approvals for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan, the State Board can no longer complain about this in their meetings.
Christina School District citizens face a referendum in 13 days. I really like a lot of what I’m seeing from the district in terms of what they have planned for the money raised from the referendum. Brian Stephan wrote an excellent article on Delaware Liberal earlier this morning about what the district will allocate the funds for and I like a lot of their ideas.
In the meantime, see the letter that ends the long DOE-State Board-Christina battle over three schools. Is this the same agreement from a year ago?
According to a VERY anonymous source in the Delaware Department of Education, this is the plan with the three priority schools in the Christina School District: Next year, Stubbs, Bancroft and Bayard will remain in Christina as they currently are but they will be given to Red Clay Consolidated School District in the 2016-2017 academic year. Apparently a very small team from the Christina School Board came to the DOE for a meeting. This meeting was hinted at in the 2/27 deadline letter in regards to the WEAC recommendations.
After everything, Christina still loses the three schools, but under their own terms. It is unknown at this point if the schools will still have priority status by then because no one knows what will happen with the reauthorization of ESEA. In my opinion, Christina successfully thwarted the DOE at nearly every level. They never outright caved in to the demands inflicted upon them and said “okay, take our schools.” This is usually what happens to priority schools in other states. Red Clay signed their memorandum of understanding last year.
Teachers will not be forced to reapply for their jobs and the principals will get to stay. At least or the 2015-2016 year, according to my DOE source. What many people don’t see is how very powerful Red Clay Consolidated School District will become as a result of this. They will become the biggest school district in the state. While they have not authorized any charter schools in the last six years because of their own moratorium, do not forget they are indeed a charter school authorizer. The only other entity in the state for this is the DOE.
Recent events on Red Clay’s own board suggest a power play is in the offing. There has been a jockeying of power going on, and the attempted coup d’état Kilroy spoke of yesterday is just the beginning. The charter players in Wilmington want in on the Red Clay board because they are an authorizer. These schools would have become Red Clay schools anyways due to the upcoming legislative push to implement the recommendations of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee. The status quo in Delaware has always been charter boards on one side and traditional boards on the other. The moratorium on charter schools in Wilmington is a smokescreen to let the dust settle. I predict many more charters in Red Clay Consolidated in the next few years.
Was the priority schools initiative a smoke and mirrors power play brought on by Governor Markell and the Wilmington power brokers? Given the events brought on by the announcement and what came immediately after would give weight to this theory. Many answers for this can be found here: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/the-priority-schools-foias-part-2-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-roof_o-delawarebats-netde-edude-delaware-edchat/
The pieces have been in play for years, and Red Clay could become a charter-wide district in the next few years. But would it be individual charters as they operate now, or could we see a large charter chain such as KIPP swoop in and slowly wrest control from the original charter operators? I’ve touched on this topic before. The recent takeover of Family Foundations Academy from the East Side Charter School gives weight to this theory. The Charter Collaborative in Wilmington, which includes East Side, Kuumba, Thomas Edison and Prestige gives even more weight. Alignments such as these, on their own, do not amount to much. But when looking down on the entire Wilmington landscape and the events that have been allowed to happen, everything has a purpose. And even though they have been very quiet lately, do not count out Rodel. They may appear to be out of the picture, but make no mistake, they framed it.
The News Journal has just announced the Delaware Department of Education has given an ultimatum: close your three priority schools, convert them to a charter, or hand them over to a management company. They have until February 27th to comply.
Matthew Albright’s article is not shocking. I’ve expected this response for quite a while. Now the fun begins! There’s this little thing called the Christina Educators Association. This is called union-busting, and Governor Markell will not gain any new friends over this. I think it’s time the Christina Board of Education deployed their “nuclear option”.
The Christina School Board must choose by Feb. 27 whether to close its three Priority Schools or hand them over to charter schools or other education management organizations, the Department of Education has said in a letter to district staff sent Tuesday.
The decision comes after a contentious, months-long back and forth between the state and the Christina School Board.
Announced in September, Priority Schools is the state’s effort to improve six inner-city Wilmington schools in the Christina and Red Clay school districts with some of the state’s lowest test scores. State officials want to get elite school leaders in place, free them from most district rules and split about $2.8 million among the schools to fund innovative changes.
Christina’s three Priority Schools are Stubbs and Bancroft elementary schools and Bayard Middle School.
The plans have encountered outrage and stiff resistance, especially in Christina. Many educators feel the state is blaming them for low test scores when they say the real problems are systemic poverty and violence.
Last week, Christina School Board voted not to approve turnaround plans for the schools. Board members said they wanted more clarity on how teachers would be selected to staff the schools, saying they were convinced current school staff were the best people to lead improvements. They said they did not want to approve plans that could make it easier for teachers to be fired or transferred.
For more reaction from local officials and educators, keep watching DelawareOnline.com and read tomorrow’s edition of The News Journal.
Transparent Christina has an actual copy of the letter posted here: https://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/showdown-2-0-let-the-union-busting-begin/
CEA president Mike Kempski says he appreciated process to negotiate first MOU and is hopeful future negotiations are as positive. — Mike Matthews (@RCEAPrez) January 14, 2015
The following is State Representative John Kowalko’s public comment, given tonight at the Christina School District Board of Education meeting.
So long as the following section stays in the draft MOU, the District, Superintendent and Board are abdicating substantial authority that they now legally own. It also is a betrayal of the current school leaders and the districts rights to choose those leaders. Allowing the State, and DOE to name a list of acceptable alternatives by signing this draft keeps intact every ambition that this Governor and DOE have for a takeover of the district’s and board’s responsibilities and lawful authority. Please seriously consider refusing to approve this MOU unless the language giving the State authority to unilaterally submit their approved list is removed entirely.
i. The State and District must agree on the selection of the School Leader
If not in agreement, the State will provide specific rationale in writing to the Superintendent and the process will begin again.
II. Final contract approval will be up to the Board of Education
ii. Should the District fail to produce an approved leader the State may provide a list of candidates from which the District may select and submit to the Board of Education for approval.
This section retained in the MOU draft that you will be considering is a total abdication of the Districts legal authority and responsibilities to its employees and usurps the power of the Superintendent to seek out and hire the most qualified leaders for these schools based on their experience and knowledge of these schools, the students, the communities and the teachers. Ceding this authority is tantamount to approval of the Governor and DOE’s bullying and coercive abuse of power that has dominated the entire “priority schools” dialogue.
There are many other serious issues with the entire “priority schools” process and I will highlight a few.
- The artificial time frame unilaterally imposed by Ms. Schwinn and DOE is an obvious attempt to deny an open and honest dialogue with the stakeholders and public involved. This is evident in Ms. Schwinn and DOE’s refusal to attend and join in the numerous meetings that were held to attempt to craft a legitimate plan although DOE was specifically invited. This arrogant attitude has become a hallmark of this Administration, Secretary Murphy and DOE obviously intended to intimidate and coerce you into forfeiting your rights.
- The designation and measurement techniques employed in identifying the six priority schools are irreparably flawed and have no standing of merit. A cursory reading of the emails that I received under FOIA and forwarded to you reveals a nefarious collusion that ignores and misrepresents facts and portends to evaluate success and failure with absolutely no statistically provable measure. In fact, the DOE and Governors assessment of the success of Eastside Charter used an incomprehensibly flawed measuring cohort to wit:
- Nelia Dolan, on December 27, 2014 at 12:37 pm said: The greatest proficiency gains made in East Side Charter that everyone is touting was carried by a single cohort of students that went from 62 students in the third grade (2010/2011) to 29 students in the 5th grade (2012/2013).
Unless you can look at the gains of each individual student, then the possibility that the students who left the school were ones that did not perform well enough to meet standard is too great to ignore.
What difference does it make if the student body engineering is happening on the front end or somewhere in-between?
- In addition the FOIA documents also show that there was a concerted effort to deliberately exclude charters from being considered as failing in a desperate attempt to ignore the truth and reality and to isolate the selected six schools and their staffs as beyond redemption under current district leadership and mandating a DOE assigned leadership change that totally ignores the independent findings in the DASL report that showed significant gains while these schools were led by the current principals. These principals, that Ms. Schwinn and DOE are so willing to exile and disparage are depending upon you to defend them and protect them from those who would falsely and maliciously distort their records and abilities.
- Finally, I know that there has been discussion about the expense of challenging this abuse of power in court and is it worthwhile. Everything is worthwhile when you are defending the rights of children against an intrusion of power brokers who see them as a product or marketing device. Everything is worthwhile when you are defending the rights of dedicated professionals who are more family and friend to these children then these corporatist could ever dream of being. Everything is worthwhile when you are defending the rights, responsibilities and authority granted to you by an electorate that deemed you worthy of caring for their children and their children’s teachers and friends.
- A legal challenge would only be necessary if this Governor decided to fulfill his own ego-driven agenda to wrest power from the duly elected board that you represent. It would be premature to consider legal action at this time but appropriate to refuse to sign this MOU. I urge you to consider all of these things and many more and reject this abuse of power which will irreparably harm the entire Delaware public school system and its children and not approve this MOU as drafted.
Representative John Kowalko
And next up is public comment from Kevin Ohlandt, some blogger from Dover. Since I was unable to make it up to Wilmington tonight, Mike Kempski, President of the Christina Education Association was gracious enough to read this in my absence:
I can’t figure you out Jack Markell. Especially after seeing that video Kilroy put up last weekend from 2008 when you talked about all the segregation going on at the charter schools. Flash forward to the present when you are holding six public schools hostage to the charter school agenda. When did you change Jack? Or were you just trying to please potential voters when you ran in 2008? Personally, I think it’s the latter, given that you and Rodel did your blueprint for education back in 2005. But here’s some presents for you to view and think about before you make a big decision in the coming weeks.
As your governorship draws to a close in the next couple of years, Delaware will remember your legacy. Will you be a Bailey or a Potter? Cause right now, most of us in this state see you as a Potter. This clip from It’s A Wonderful Life is the best comparison to the priority schools initiative. Dangle some money at them, make a big spectacle and flashy presentation, entice them, and draw them in. That’s what happened on September 4th. Like Potter, I’m sure you thought they would jump at the chance. But there are too many Bailey’s in Delaware that know better. That what you were offering comes at a very steep price. Too many lives are affected by this decision.
If this is the future of education in Delaware, threats and dangling carrots, then I think Delaware has become a very awful place to raise our children. Are you a Rodel man or a Delaware man? Cause guess what Jack, you can’t be both. I would rather pay more in state taxes than kiss the feds ass when it comes to education. Take their measly 10% in education funding and send it back to D.C. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about the money. It’s about the students, who shine in the darkness, who try to overcome adversity to become more than what society says they are. The problems in Wilmington won’t go away, not any time soon. What happens when all these kids are in charter schools and start dropping out? All you are doing is repeating the cycle, over and over again. These children are more than test scores. All the students in Delaware are more than test scores. Stop treating them like data, and see them as unique and individual creations of God.
The teachers in the priority schools ARE doing the right thing. They are teaching these students, going the extra mile for them. They have a passion for helping these kids. They could go somewhere else, but they choose to stay. What does that tell you? Why would you ever want teachers on a fast track degree with very little experience educating these most vulnerable of students? And nobody cares more about these students than the principals at these schools. They are given a very heavy task, and while they may not be perfect, they are irreplaceable. It makes no sense, unless there is a financial payoff down the road. As my second gift for you Jack, I proudly present the students of the priority schools.
Remember this Governor Markell, if you take these schools away from their rightful districts, you will ALWAYS be remembered as a Potter.
There is absolutely no reason for Governor Markell to take over these schools. It would be a rather foolish move on his part based on this study!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 3, 2014
Wendy Lapham, Public Information Officer, Christina School District, 302-552-2610
Two “Priority” Schools Receive High Scores on Comprehensive Reviews Conducted by Delaware Department of Education and University of Delaware
Wilmington, DE – Two Comprehensive Success Reviews conducted in November by the Delaware Department of Education, the University of Delaware, and the Delaware Academy of School Leadership gave an overall high rating to two “Priority’ Schools in Christina: Bancroft Elementary School and Stubbs Elementary School. The reports highlight the many areas of strength being demonstrated at both schools.
The evaluations were conducted using a rubric score on a scale of 1-4, with 1 being the lowest rating and 4 being the highest rating.
Out of a total of 37 categories, Bancroft scored the highest score of “4” in 15 categories, and earned a score of “3” in 17 categories. The school received a rating of “2” in only 4 categories, and received only one rating of “1,” in the area of parent and community involvement in the review of the School Success Plan and parent awareness of the School Success Plan. In the two other areas of parent communication and involvement measured, Bancroft scored a “3” in both categories.
Out of a total of 37 categories, Stubbs scored the highest rating of “4” in 16 categories, and earned a score of “3” in 14 categories. Stubbs received a rating of “2” in only five categories, and received no scores of“1.” Two categories were not applicable.
Both schools received the highest rating of “4” in the categories of Policies, Procedures, and Structures, School Leadership Decisions, Time Management, Curriculum and Instruction, Strategies for Students Who Are at Risk or Do Not Master Standards, Access to Instructional Materials, and Scientifically Researched-Based Instructional Strategies.
Christina’s third “Priority” school, Bayard Middle School, underwent a Comprehensive Success Review (CSR) in April, 2014. That review indicated some of the areas that needed improvement, but since the time of the review, a new school leader was named and the school has undergone other changes based in part on the results of the report.
The results of the CSRs for Bancroft and Stubbs are significant because they suggest that the two schools are achieving in multiple areas, and that they have demonstrated significant progress since the last reviews were conducted in 2012. This is in direct contrast to the state’s announcement on September 4 that the schools are among the lowest-performing in the state. Bancroft, Stubbs, and Bayard Middle School must develop comprehensive plans to be approved by the Delaware Department of Education by January 7, or the District could face possible closure of the three “Priority” schools, and/or takeover by outside operators.
“We are excited about the very positive results of the Comprehensive Success Reviews, but not necessarily surprised by them,” said Christina Superintendent Dr. Freeman Williams. “For the past two years, we have been working towards the exact results that are now evident in the reviews. We will continue to focus on those areas that need improvement, while maintaining our effort in the overwhelming number of areas where those results show we are already demonstrating success.”
# # #
Manager of Communications/Public Information Officer
Christina School District
600 N. Lombard Street
Wilmington, DE 19801