Governor Carney Launches “Basic Needs School Closets” In 45 Delaware High Needs Schools

Today, Delaware Governor John Carney announced the creation of basic needs school closets for 45 high needs schools from the bottom of the state to the top.  These schools have high concentrations of low-income and poverty students.  I salute the Governor for this initiative!  From the press release:

“We are helping to make certain every Delaware student in high-needs schools has the basic resources many of us take for granted so they can focus on their education and thrive in the classroom.” Governor John Carney

All Delaware students deserve to be able to learn in a comfortable environment, with their basic needs met.

That’s why we’re stocking basic needs closets in 45 high-needs Delaware schools. Delaware’s basic needs closets will provide elementary and middle school students across the state with increased access to free products designed to meet students’ needs so they can effectively participate in class. Each school’s basic needs closet will be stocked with products identified by districts and charter schools as essential to the wellbeing of their students, including hygiene products, school supplies, clothes, and more. Students will be able to discreetly access the closets throughout the school year. This is about meeting students’ basic needs with dignity, so they can be ready to learn in class.

A map of the schools where students will be able to access these closets can be found here.  This is an excellent idea and I know Carney talked about this when he was on the campaign trail.  Other organizations helping out with this program are Bayhealth, Beebe Healthcare, Christiana Care Health System, Cover & Rossiter, Delaware Dept. of Education, DrinkerBiddle, Edis, First Book, Food Bank of Delaware, Global Delaware, Incyte, Nanticoke Health Services, Nemours Children’s Health System, Office of the Governor and Operation Warm.  As well, on the above link, there is a form you can fill out if you want to help with this awesome idea!

Origins: Bugarach & Bayhealth

The definitive seeds for this blog bloomed in late 2013 and early 2014. But what if I said the germination of those seeds began years before?

In 2009, I met someone who was making some very poor choices with their life.  They told me they had a child with a lot of problems.  One night, that person had to take their son to the hospital.  I thought about meeting the person to talk to them about those very poor choices, but the son’s problems took front and center.  I went to Bayhealth in Dover that night after thinking about it for a couple of hours.  As I walked in, the person didn’t see me.  I saw them rocking this teenage boy child in their arms, back and forth, back and forth.  While I didn’t agree with this person’s life choices, I understood how broken they were.  Their entire life was devoted to helping this child.  I could tell they didn’t have a support system that allowed them to get the help they truly needed.  I walked out of the emergency room waiting area and drove home.  It was about 2am in the morning.  I talked to the person briefly a couple of days later but I lost track of the person and I have never seen or heard from them again.  I’ve always wondered how that person and the boy were doing.  I’ve never shared this with anyone until now, not even those closest to me.  But it stuck with me for some reason.  While I’ve been blessed in many ways to be able to give my own special needs child the most basic of comforts, there are others who are unable to.

Almost two years later, I had a dream one night. It was the most bizarre dream of my life and I remember every single detail of it.  Terrorists were launching a full-scale attack on the airport in San Diego airport.  I was on a plane attempting to take off in the midst of fire and carnage.  I looked out the window of the plane to see  fire and death on the ground.  People were dying before my eyes as I flew off into the sun setting over the Pacific.  As dreams go, moments shift in the blink of an eye.  The plane was flying towards a mountain.  There was a flat area so the plane could land.  There were not that many people on the plane.  We got off after a bumpy landing to find soldiers escorting us to a door in the mountain.

We walked into the mountain and I quickly realized the world was ending. Inside the mountain was an entire city.  It was built like a mall with different stores and what I could only call processing centers.  I walked into an auditorium and saw children and teenagers.  All of them seemed like there was something unique about them.  While I didn’t realize this in the dream, I believe they were special needs children.  Those with Autism, Aspergers, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and the different.  The separated.  The cast out.  They were told to listen and behave.  I knew instantly that something was very wrong with this whole scene.  For some reason, I got a job at the mountain as a guard of some sort.  I walked around this mountain mall for a while.  People were walking around and seemed happy, but I noticed I didn’t see any of the children that were in the auditorium.  All the people walking around were grown-ups.  What happened to the children?

I found out the answer to that question. Soldiers were placing corpses on a conveyor belt which went through a door to the outside.  I got close enough to take a peek out the door and what I saw horrified me.  Children were being sent into an outside furnace.  Some of the children were still alive as they were led to the slaughter.  A guard motioned towards me and I woke up from my dream.

That dream haunted me for months. One day at work during a break I happened to see a newspaper headline about a mountain in France that was attracting New Age followers.  December 12, 2012 was fast approaching and they believed this mountain in the Pyrenes chain would save them from the upcoming apocalypse.  They call Bugarach the “upside-down” mountain based on its geographical structure.  That apocalyptic moment never came in 2012.  UFOs did not take the New Age followers away to some interstellar promised land.  But when I read the online article about this bizarre mountain in France, they showed a picture of it.  It was the exact same mountain as the one in my dream.   Granted, there was no revelation about a mountain mall at Bugarach.  I began to do tons of research on Bugarach and found some bizarre stuff.

pech_de_bugarach_27072014_02

It was more the dream that stuck with me.  When I began this blog, I did a couple of articles on treatment of those with disabilities in history.  It really isn’t until the past fifty years that those with disabilities began to gain the rights they should have always had.  I even incorporated Bugarach in a never-finished series called “Delaware Horror Story”.  Maybe one day I will pick that up and give the history of what happened to Mike Matthews and Paul Herdman when Sussex County was wiped out due to melting glaciers.  But not today.  For me my dream about Bugarach and the dark horrors within represented a potential future to avoid at all costs.

So why am I just now revealing these what could only be viewed as crazy moments in my life now?  First off, the topic of that person I met with the child at Bayhealth recently came up.  I didn’t realize what an impression that made on me over the years.  I didn’t know the first thing about special needs, how to advocate for rights, or certainly any knowledge of how to help a child who was clearly suffering.  As far as the dream, I have tried to get back to that dream in the six years since with no luck whatsoever.  It was the worst possible future for these kids.  Do I think that could really happen?  I pray to God not.  But if you asked someone if the Holocaust or the wholesale slaughter in Rwanda in the 1990s if they could have foreseen those moments, perhaps not.  History is filled with such atrocities going back tens of thousands of years.  Like I said, history is filled with very bad treatment of anyone different.  As I said in the intro for this, these were just seed germinations.  The simple truth is this blog would have never happened if not for the very difficult birth of those seeds bursting to life all those years ago.  For some, it seems like just yesterday that late 2013 and early 2014 happened.  For me, it feels like a lifetime ago.  Along with all that came before that.

I see what is going on now in our world.  In America, we seem more divided than ever.  I don’t see the “growth” happening for students with disabilities that all the faux Common Core believers profess they are having.  I see people at each other’s throats over party lines.  I believe we are fast approaching a tipping point in society.  A line will be crossed and there will be no looking back.  But I also have hope.  Hope that we can overcome our differences and unite to help all people.

Last Friday night, I attended a candle-light vigil for Lieutenant Steven Floyd in Dover.  For those around the country who read this blog, Lt. Floyd was the correctional officer tragically murdered in last week’s prison siege at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, DE.  I saw hundreds of people paying tribute to a man that saved others with his actions.  He was and is a true hero.  Everyone who attended this vigil, along with the accompanying tribute in Smyrna, was there to pay tribute and to mourn.  As we held our candles up high for Lt. Floyd, I remembered another evening where many of us lit candles to remember.

It was after 9/11.  I lived in California at the time.  Word was going around on the internet that everyone should hold a candle-light vigil one Friday evening.  I went outside and found people just coming over.  Some I had never met before.  I became the de facto leader of this group and started to speak.  This was something I never did before.  I thought, “Why me?”  But I got through it.  After everyone left I felt a feeling of peace.  In the midst of unspeakable tragedy, people could still unite for something bigger than themselves.

In the span of my life, my advocacy for special needs, opt out, and getting rid of corporate education reform is still in its infancy.  I truly don’t know what will happen next.  Things are moving very fast and there are many things I need to put in the “unable to control” box.  While I was blogging, life continued to move forward.  I’m at a crossroads with many things in my life right now but I know I have a few things in my corner: friends, hope, and love.  Will the dreams of yesterday and missed opportunities create change in the future?  Time will tell.  But my days of living in darkness, of drowning in it, will not define who I am.  It will not shape my world any longer.  I refuse to let it.

At the vigil last Friday evening, a Reverend spoke to the crowd.  His final words resonated with me like no other words in a long time.  I can’t remember it verbatim, but he was talking about how much people need help from others.  How so many of us just walk right past them.  He said we should only be looking down unless it is to lift another person up.

When we are fighting on Facebook about politics, are we really contributing anything worthwhile to the world?  Do we really believe a local fight on Facebook is going to change the shape of a nation?  Are we that self-absorbed to think that?  I am not bemoaning standing up for rights or what you believe.  What I am criticizing is the way so many of us are going about how they convey their beliefs.  If making a point hurts someone to a level where the words “I’m sorry” are said, it has gone too far.  If friendships die forever over this stuff, that is the truest shame in the world.

The driving force for this blog has evolved in the past couple of months.  I felt I said all I needed to say about certain subjects.  I was no longer in a place to do vast amounts of research and spend so much time on it.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  I still am in some respects, but I’ve also experienced a reawakening I never expected.  Here comes the future.

 

Mark Murphy and the horrible, terrible, no good day

Just imagine being Mark Murphy today.  Having all that bad news heaped upon him today.  It can’t be easy being Delaware’s Secretary of Education.  I have to imagine what his day must have been like today…

Mark arrived late at the office.  He explained to his administrative assistant why he was half an hour late. “There I am, driving down Route 1.  Beautiful sunrise, nice weather.  John Kowalko called me with questions about opt out.  Every time I tried to talk he cut me off.  Half an hour later, he’s still going.  I had to take it off blue tooth.  That’s when he nabbed me and I got a ticket.” “How fast were you going?” she asked.  “I wasn’t going too fast, I was going too slow.  I was going 35 in a 65.”

Mark went to his morning meetings and went over the agenda for the State Board meeting.  He spilled some coffee all over his brand-new white shirt when Penny Schwinn came running in with big news.  Mark read the news and his face turned pale, as if someone had taken his favorite pair of glasses.  Then his wife called.  “Mark, I just heard.  Are you okay?”  “No, I’m not okay.  Two years in a row.  How come I’m not in the top ten?”  “Mark, are you okay?  What are you talking about?  Have you been doing those Smarter Balanced interim tests again?”  “No, it’s Holodick.  I’m the Secretary of the whole gosh-darn Delaware education system, and he’s still making $45,000 more than me.  It just isn’t right.  And those not nice bloggers keep saying he will replace me one day.  Will he get to keep his salary then?”  “Maybe you’ll get his job honey.  It would be closer to home.  But that’s not what I called about.  It’s this article in Newsworks…”

Mrs. Murphy was cut off by the director of the Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Unit.  “Boss, holy crap, you gotta be pissed!  I’ll show those #@$%ing teachers!  I think it’s time for Operation Human Capital Drop!”  “Christopher Ruszkowsi, good gracious, I’m on the phone with my wife.  Can you come back at another time?”  “Sure Murph, I’ll come back in five.”  Murphy just stared at him as the “Rus Man” gave an enthusiastic thumbs up leaving the office.

“Sorry honey, what were you calling about?”  “On Newsworks, they reported…”  This time it was David Blowman, his Deputy Secretary.  “Mark, my friend, I’m so sorry.  We need to do a root-cause analysis and find out who put them up to this.”  “David, I’m on the line with Mrs….”  “Oh dear heavens Mark, I’m so sorry.  I will embark immediately.”  The coffee on Mark’s shirt was still seeping down his shirt.

“I’m going to have to call you back,” as Mark abruptly said his goodbyes.  This had been a hell of a morning, and all he wanted to do was crawl back into bed and watch “Common Core for Common People Part 9: The Commonalities of Common Teachers.”  He missed it the other night when Earl Jaques kept calling him asking for advice on how to handle the media.  Ruszkowski ran into his office again, “Holy crap Murph, your supposed to have green clothes on St. Patrick’s Day, not spill it on your shirt!”  Mark just stared at him.  “What, I was just messing around Boss!  Anyways, you know I got your back on this.  I’m gonna TFA their schools like we’ve never seen before.  I got an ad on Craigslist as we speak!  And we are going to lower the requirement from 5 weeks to 3 weeks to get them in faster.”  “But that’s not in regulation Christopher, we can’t just…”  “Sure we can, we’ve done it before.  Remember that time when we…”

Karen Field Rogers, his Associate Secretary of Financial Reform and Resource Management came into his office.  “Mark, I think you spilled some coffee on…”  “Yeah, the Boss doesn’t really have the luck of the Irish today!” Ruszkowski shouted.  “What can I do for you Karen?”  “I just got off the phone with Rep. Hudson.  She’s going to need us to do a cursive study.  Do we have any funds left from Race To The Top to do an RFP for a contractor on this?” she asked.  “I don’t know.  Call Herdman, he controls all that.”  “But Mark, Jack wants this out there right away.   He think this might turn the tide with the opt out movement and distract parents from the blogs.”  “Better call Paul!” Ruszkowsi shouted.  Mark looked at them both, his cheeks as red as John Young’s Red Pen editions on Transparent Christina.  “Look, I have to run out to Target.  I’ll handle it when I get back.”

Mark drove down to Target.  He was in such a hurry, he didn’t realize he parked in a handicapped spot.  As he ran into the store, he accidentally ran into a little boy.  As he helped him up, the boy sneezed in his face.  “Can this day get any worse?” Mark asked himself.  He got to the checkout line with a new white shirt.  The cashier was on her cell phone saying “Oh my God, I can’t believe it.”  Mark looked at her and asked “Is everything alright ma’am?”  “Yeah, I’m on Exceptional Delaware, and they just announced the DSEA voted for no confidence in that Mark Murphy guy.”  “Don’t you mean the CEA and RCEA?”  “No, that was last week.  This just came out today.  Sorry, let me ring you up.”  Mark reached for his wallet, but it wasn’t there.  He remembered he left it on the dashboard when he got his ticket.  “I’ll be right back, I left my wallet in my car.”  “I can’t keep this order open.  What’s your name?”  Murphy said “Never mind” and ran out.

He noticed a police officer standing over his car, writing something.  “Officer, is everything okay?”  “Sir, you parked in a handicapped space but you don’t have the plates or even the placard.  I have to give you a ticket.”  “You do realize I’m a high-level official in this state?” Murphy asked the officer.  “Oh are you?  This isn’t something you can just ignore or shake it off.”  Mark recognized the face immediately.  It was that Dover cop who did the Taylor Swift lip-synch video on Youtube.  How could he ever forget?  His children played the video non-stop the weekend it was released.  “I am the Secretary of Education Sir.”  “Oh, so you want to opt out of getting a ticket.  But that could affect funding,” as the cop laughed.  “Here you go Mr. Secretary.  By the way, it looks like you spilled some coffee on your shirt.”

Mark went back into the store, got another shirt, and the only cashier available was the one he went to before.  “Oh, you found your wallet!”  Mark gave her his card.  “Can I see some ID?”  Mark showed her his license.  “Hey, are you the same Mark Murphy as the DOE guy?”  “Yes I am.”  “That has to bite, having all those teachers saying you suck.”  “I haven’t read the article yet.”  “I still have Exceptional Delaware up on my iPad.  Do you want to read it?”  Mark muttered under his breath.  The last thing he wanted to do was read Exceptional Damn Delaware.  This blogger had been a thorn in his side for nine months, after dealing with Kilroys and the rest all those years.  “I’m good.”

Mark stopped by WaWa, changed into his new shirt in the bathroom.  As he came out, Donna Johnson, the executive director of the State Board saw him.  “Mark, are you okay?  I just left the building and everyone said you were really upset about the whole DSEA article.”  “I’m okay, we will get through this.  How is everyone else doing?”  “What are you talking about Mark?  It was just you.  They didn’t give the DOE and the State Board a vote of no confidence.  It was just you.”  Mark stared at Donna and felt his world spinning around him.  Since the bathroom doors are right next to the service door, Mark wasn’t paying attention when a delivery man pushed the door open with a cart causing the door to swing into Mark.  Mark felt the lights go out around him.

He woke up in a bright room.  Everything was blurry.  Mark went to push his glasses up, but they weren’t there.  He heard a voice.  “Murph.  You’re up.  Hot damn, you are a mess!”  It was Ruszkowski.  “Where am I?”  “You’re at Bayhealth.  You passed out in WaWa man!  Donna called me.  She’s in the next room.”  “What happened to her?” Mark asked.  “She hit her head against a Twinkie display when you pushed her down.  She’ll be okay, only a couple stitches.”  Mark went to get up, but he couldn’t move.  “Don’t try to get up Boss.  You’ll be in traction for a couple days.  You actually broke your ass Murph!”  Ruszkowski kept talking about how he talked to Paul and Laurissa about getting some TFA action going immediately in light of the DSEA announcement.  “In fact, there’s a new bill to get another year extension.  Can you believe that Boss?  Those *&%$ing legislators think they know more about education than we do.  Anyways, I gotta get back.  I know Jack is waiting to see you.”

Murphy started smiling.  Jack always had a way of making him feel better.  He looked outside, and it was dark out.  How long had he been unconscious?  Jack came in.  “Mark, Mark, Mark.  This isn’t good.  You made more news today than you’ve had during your entire tenure as my Secretary.”  Mark wanted to cry.  “I’m going to have to temporarily replace you while you mend.”  “Who do you have in mind Jack?” Murphy asked.  “I was thinking about Mark Holodick…”  Murphy screamed.  An endless scream.  It was heard by children down the street at Dover South Elementary School.  Priests came running out from Holy Cross across the street.  As Murphy stopped, Jack looked at Mark.  “Can I get you some coffee?”  Murphy screamed again…