News Journal Lacks Integrity And Ethics With Coverage Of State Auditor Race

Last week, News Journal reporter Jessica Bies came out with an article about a confidential report that the News Journal “obtained”.  The article was rife with speculation and hearsay based on a report commissioned by State Auditor Tom Wagner concerning Kathleen Davies.  That article appeared in print today.  It looks like something you would see in a bargain-basement tabloid at a grocery store. Continue reading

News Journal Shows Bias And Fails To Publish Key Document In Kathleen Davies Fight Against Tom Wagner

The Delaware News Journal came out with an article today about the ongoing battle between Kathleen Davies and the Office of the Auditor of Accounts.  Even though the hearing with the Department of Labor ruled State Auditor Tom Wagner terminated Davies without cause, that only determined unemployment funding for Davies.  Now the battle is heating up with the Delaware Merit Employee Review Board (MERB).  But the News Journal article is missing or failed to report some vital facts. Continue reading

Baumbach At It Again Trying To Turn Local Issues Into Statewide Legislation

Enough already Paul Baumbach!  In his second attempt at lowering school board terms, State Representative Paul Baumbach filed House Bill #278 yesterday seeking to lower school district board member terms from five years to four years.

In 2015, Baumbach’s House Bill #333, which sought to lower those terms to three years went nowhere.  It was assigned to the House Education Committee but never came up.  Due to heavy resistance to the bill, Baumbach did state he would probably come back with this bill at a later date.  And he did!

Why is Baumbach so adamant about messing with school boards?  Why does he not include charter school boards in this legislation?  The answer is simple: he does not like certain school board members in the Christina School District.  Which is fine and he is certainly entitled to his opinion, but his judgment is impaired when it comes to translating this to a statewide issue.  I get that State Representatives are supposed to represent the district they were elected to, but they also pass laws for the entire state.  It is not beneficial to make local issues a statewide issue.  And once again, we have the very real question about WHO is asking for this legislation and how much of it is directed towards certain board members who frequently and publicly go against bad education policy in the state.

One thing I can say is State Reps in Delaware are elected every two years.  So this is not a case of legislators being hypocritical.  School board members do this because they want to.  It is unpaid and requires a great deal of time and effort to be on a school board.  I don’t think any school board member takes their responsibilities lightly.  I wish more school board members would question things which Baumbach seems to have a problem with.

Yesterday, the News Journal Editorial Team covered the highly inappropriate school board member removal bill that is currently in circulation for sponsorship.  They just so happened to throw in a part about school board member terms:

Also, lawmakers should consider shortening school board members’ five-year terms. Why should they have to face voters less frequently than governors, legislators and mayors?

Come on!  Who are we trying to kid here?  Is the News Journal Editorial Team now a part of Team Baumbach when it comes to this kind of crap?  They just happen to say this on the SAME day Baumbach filed House Bill #282?  I don’t mind term limits for any elected position, but school boards are NOT the same as governors, legislators, and mayors.  There is a learning curve, but there is also the heart of a volunteer.  There are charter school board members who have sat on their boards for over a decade!  But not one word about that from the would-be demolisher of local board control Baumbach or this Editorial Team.  I don’t always agree with some board members out there, but I do not think lowering the term for this function is a good idea at all.

Baumbach needs to re-examine his priorities and actually support the second largest school district in the state instead of trying to interfere with their governance process.  Attending more of their board meetings would be a start.  He wouldn’t dare interfere with Newark Charter School but it’s open target season on Christina.  Could you be less transparent here Baumbach?  Stop listening to the mouths of the few and start coming out with real and meaningful legislation that benefits the state.  This is not good for your political health.

To read Baumbach School Board Terms 2.0, please see below:

 

 

Why Does The DOE Pay Vendors To Do Teacher Surveys & Reports?

I’ve always wondered why the Delaware Department of Education has outside vendors do surveys and reports on teachers.  It’s not like 95% of these companies aren’t already biased towards the DOE’s way of thinking anyways.  The DOE will say it is so they don’t have a conflict of interest.  What do those employees due at the DOE all day if outside vendors do everything?  Here is the latest report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Operation Public Education based on a survey they did about teacher recruitment.  Of course there are a gazillion recommendations coming out of this.  Maybe they are good, maybe they are bad.  I don’t know.  I don’t work for a school district.  I do know the DOE paid this consultant over $44,000 for the last report they did.  How much coin will they get for this one?

Delaware DOE “Honors” 13 Schools For Doing Good On High-Stakes Testing….

On Friday, the Delaware Department of Education and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky had a little party at Dover Air Force Base Middle School.  What was the occasion?  Honoring schools who do good on standardized testing when it comes down to it.  I’m sure these schools worked hard and the students did well on these high-stakes tests, but once again, the demographics for a lot of these schools aren’t the same as, say, Warner Elementary School or Bancroft in Wilmington.  Sure, they get a lot more money cause they are “priority” schools, but the effect is horrible and tarnishes the school districts they are in.  But the DOE just ignores that, as they always do, and throws accolades and parties for the runs “making a difference”… I’m getting so sick of this.  It’s getting old real fast…  And Newark Charter School?  Seriously?  Again?

For immediate release

Contact Alison May  (302) 735-4006

STATE HONORS REWARD, RECOGNITION SCHOOLS

 

Thirteen schools from across the state were honored today for their students’ academic achievements.

 

Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky lauded the 12 winners of the state’s Reward and Recognition School awards during a ceremony at Dover Air Force Base Middle School; a 13th building was named a School of Continued Excellence.

Godowsky recognized the dedication and hard work of the entire school communities,  the educators, students, parents and community partners whose collaboration helped the schools succeed.

“This is the kind of progress only achieved through dedicated efforts by many thoughtful educators and school community supporters,” Godowsky said. “It takes the partnership of families, teachers, school and district leaders and community supporters. I congratulate the students for their hard work and perseverance and thank the professional educators and leaders who supported them on their journey to achieve excellence.

“We now have the opportunity to learn from these successes and see how we can replicate this achievement in other schools across our state.”

These Reward and Recognition School awards, which carry an $8,000 prize for each school, were created by legislation passed by the Delaware General Assembly in 2009. The awards are given (a) to schools whose students are performing at an exceptionally high level, particularly those schools with large percentages of students coming from low-income households and (b) to schools that have succeeded in closing the achievement gap for students such as low-income students, students from minority groups and students with disabilities.

For 2015, there were two Reward and 10 Recognition schools that will receive $8,000 each. Funding for the awards comes from the state’s School Improvement funds. Additionally, there is one School of Continued Excellence that was honored as a Recognition School last year and had outstanding performance again this year but is not eligible for a financial award again until 2016. 

Godowsky was joined by the 13 principals and eight superintendents of the winning schools, along with students, parents, teachers and other administrators. The winning schools have much discretion in deciding how to spend the money. As in years past, each school will appoint a committee (with administration, teacher, support staff and parent representation) to determine how the award will be used.

Reward Schools are Title I schools (federal classification based on percentage of low income population) are identified for being either highest performing or high progress.

 

Recognition Schools  are chosen for exceptional performance and/or closing the achievement gap. Both Title I and non-Title I schools can qualify. Two of the schools are also Title I Distinguished school awardees. They are Title I schools that met the criteria for Recognition School that had not been Title I Distinguished school awardees in the past two years.

 

Schools of Continued Excellence are schools that have received state awards during 2014 and continue to qualify for Reward or Recognition School distinction in 2015 are named Schools of Continued Excellence to recognize their sustained accomplishments. They will be eligible for funds again next year if they meet the Reward or Recognition School qualifications.

The 2015 winners are below. Included with each is information provided by its leaders on how their schools achieved.

·         Brick Mill Elementary School, Appoquinimink School District, Recognition School: While the school’s success can’t be attributed to a single program or initiative, establishing and maintaining a positive school culture with high expectations has had a profound impact on academic and social outcomes. Each day begins with Morning Meeting, a component of Responsive Classroom. This practice encourages children to express their ideas and take risks. It has fostered improved academic and social skills, communication, empathy, and rapport with peers and teachers. There’s a collective excitement about learning, and improved attitudes about school. The school recognizes and rewards students’ academic and behavioral accomplishments through its Dolphin Pride PBS Program. Teachers engage in ongoing professional development to support utilizing best practices in the classroom and embed Learning Focused Strategies into daily Common Core lessons. The school is successful because its amazing students, staff, parents, and community work as a team.

·         Dover Air Force Base Middle School, Caesar Rodney School District, Recognition School: The success of the school is rooted in its excellent parental support and an unparalleled student work ethic. These factors are combined with an outstanding staff that provides research-based, engaging and effective classroom instruction each and every day. In addition, a multi-faceted intervention program is in place that is designed to allow struggling learners to fill in their learning gaps. These interventions not only concentrate on re-teaching critical material, but also focus on pre-teaching high-priority core content that is essential for student understanding. Finally, differentiated instruction period for math and language arts provides students additional support to ensure students reach their maximum potential.

·         Howard High School, New Castle County Vocational Technical School District, School of Continued Excellence: In 2010, Howard was named one of the state’s four original Partnership Zone schools due to underperformance in English and math on the state assessment. Since that time, Howard has shown remarkable progress. Howard’s remarkable progress has been made possible through the outstanding work of its very talented staff with the ever-present support of the district office. The dynamic staff has a strong belief in students, high level content and pedagogical knowledge, and a “can-do” spirit that makes anything seem possible in the school and for its students. What is particularly remarkable about Howard’s success and makes the school particularly proud is that the school is succeeding with students who need it most. Howard is considered a high-need school and has many at-risk students. Despite nationwide statistics to the contrary, Howard has been able to reach remarkable achievement levels with a high percentage of minority and economically disadvantaged students.

·         Lake Forest North Elementary School, Lake Forest School District, Recognition School: Students’ success is a direct result of the strong commitment of the administration, educational staff, school personnel, parents and the students. Dedicated and seasoned administrators guide and promote the efforts of highly qualified teachers and support staff. Their efforts are reinforced by actively involved custodians and school personnel, as well as a proactive Parent Teacher Organization. The success would not be possible without the school’s hardworking students, many of whom overcome economic and physical adversity, to meet the challenges of today’s changing academic environment. Data-driven instructional practices, aligned to the Common Core and refined through vertical and horizontal alignment, are supported by innovative technology and innovative teaching aides, to provide for the individual needs of every student.

·         Lake Forest South Elementary School, Lake Forest School District, Recognition School: Students pledge every day to be on track for success, and it is embedded in the culture of the school. South emphasizes teaching and learning, which demonstrates a climate of positive and professional student-teacher-school relationship as well as social and emotional skills training, civic education, and positive support for learning. Data is studied to address students’ needs to grow the students academically, behaviorally and culturally. Staff is encouraged to build relationships with their students and not only learn how they learn, but learn their culture as well. The PBS program also impacts student achievement. Staff meet and discuss data and identify those students who need interventions as well as those teachers who may need assistance in classroom management strategies. If a student feels safe, he or she will perform better in classes, and with the support of all stakeholders, there is a culture of support.

·         Lancashire Elementary School, Brandywine School District, Recognition School: Lancashire has 18 different languages represented from students from around the world. The school acknowledges and celebrates its diversity and credits its achievement to its unique partnership with families and the stake that every staff member has in each child. From families, secretaries, teachers, administrators, custodians, and other staff members, the school community is committed to providing the love, care, and mentoring that all students need to develop the necessary skills to be good citizens. The success with the 2015 test scores is a result of teachers and administrators raising the bar for all students , analyzing student data, differentiating instruction, and providing the necessary interventions and enrichment activities to address our students’ academic needs from kindergarten through fifth grade. The school believes that every student has the ability to learn and also makes an effort to teach students that they are also responsible for their learning.

·         Olive B. Loss Elementary School, Appoquinimink School District, Recognition School: Academic excellence in all curricular areas is the goal of Olive B. Loss School. The faculty and staff at Olive B. Loss School work to ensure that all students are successful and reach their full potential. The school incorporates instructional strategies that provide students with a variety of experiences, including interactive and hands on activities. Teachers work cooperatively to plan and assess instruction that provides the foundation for academic rigor. Olive B. Loss School is fortunate to have a very involved and active parent community and appreciates the volunteer hours parents contribute to the school.

·         Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, Christina School District, Title I Distinguished School and Recognition School: Marshall has a wonderful community of teachers, parents, and students who work together towards the CORE Values of the school: C= Caring Community, O = Overall Respect, R= Responsibility, and E = Excellent Effort. Marshall utilizes every opportunity during the school day to work with students in small groups to provide intervention. Staff members analyze student data to identify needs that are specific to individual students. During Professional Learning Communities, teams work together to create an instructional pathway for student success in both Reading, Writing, and Social Emotional areas. Marshall has a very diverse population including a 10% population from India and a newly created Visually Impaired Program. The students with visual impairments are mainstreamed into the regular classroom and receive braille instruction and other supports over the course of their day. Marshall has kids at the core of all decision making. The school does what’s best for students and for their success.

·         MOT Charter School, Middletown, Reward School: MOT Charter School helps every student reach his or her potential by setting high expectations and fostering a school-wide growth mindset. The school was an early adopter of STEM in middle school and established a student-centered, blended-learning environment in its new high school. Focused on developing the whole child, the instructional program is designed to challenge and engage students in thoughtful inquiry, problem solving, and analysis. Staff continuously analyze a variety of student data to ensure that the program is responsive to student needs and growth. Parents not only support classroom teachers, coach, and chaperone field trips, but they also provide small group instruction, serve on policy committees, and are key participants in the school’s hiring process.

·         Newark Charter School, Newark, Title I Distinguished School and Recognition School: The guiding vision is that all children will achieve when they are challenged, supported, respected, and motivated. This is the school’s “North Star.” The school’s gap students have extra obstacles to overcome. When a student struggles, the child is surrounded with a sort of “Academic Swat Team” made up of reading specialists, instructional interventionists, special educators, counselors, Homework Club moderators, teachers, and volunteers who give their time for such activities as “Lunch and Learn” sessions, before-school Math Academy, tutoring or small group pullout instruction. What completes these efforts is involving parents. Students need to know that they have a teacher in school who cares about them like a parent, and a parent at home who understands their role as a teacher. Whether it’s one of the kindergarten children or a high school upperclassman, students know that they are never alone. Finally, all of this creates a special culture where the students, themselves, reach out to one another to see how they can help their peers.

·         Southern Delaware School of the Arts, Indian River School District, Recognition School: Students participate in high-level, creative thinking on a daily basis. Students perform, translate music, critique art, analyze feelings and expression, and solve real-world challenges. Through a focus on the Arts, students quickly become motivated to succeed academically. The scores last year are a reflection of the students and staff who all put in hours and hours of hard work centered on experiencing learning. Motivating students to enjoy learning and desire knowledge was an emphasis. Students must touch, feel, and relate to what they are learning. Through careful and hard work, the school has created an environment where students want to succeed and where teachers nurture that desire for personal success through relationship. Many of the teachers volunteer extra time with students and their families anytime it will help a student accomplish their goals.

 

·         Sussex Academy, Georgetown, Reward School: Many years ago, the faculty of Sussex Academy determined that literacy (reading, writing, speaking, listening, and presenting) is the instructional focus for the school. Unwavering attention to this school-wide focus has affected student achievement. For example, last year all teachers taught the same process (CSET) for presenting an “argument.” This instruction occurred across all content areas. School leaders are proud of Sussex Academy’s students for embracing high expectations and its teachers for being amazing educators. The school stays focused on its belief that its students will “Experience, Explore, Excel.”

·         Kathleen H. Wilbur Elementary, Colonial School District, Recognition School: A positive school culture for both students and staff is a key factor in making the school a success. Monthly, students participate in “iCommunity” meetings with the principal to help instill strong character traits, such as perseverance and leadership. A strong vision that is centered on the core ideas of rigor, relevance and relationships guides all professional development and building-based decisions. Co-teaching classrooms, with two teachers and a mix of regular and special education students, have been created at each grade level to provide support and expertise to struggling students. A STEM Lab and Makerspace in the library and an innovative exploratory model allow students to participate in weeklong projects in art, music, physical education, technology, and STEM. A building-wide focus on developing a growth mindset has been infused throughout classrooms, cafeterias, and assemblies.

News Journal Gives False Impression Of Every Student Succeeds Act

The Delaware News Journal’s Jon Offredo wrote an article about the United States House of Representatives passage of the “Every Student Succeeds Act” and how in a rare moment of consensus, most stakeholders in education agree on the legislation.  Citing the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA), the Delaware PTA, New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt, and Governor Markell in the article is not a completely accurate picture of consensus.  Many in Delaware feel the bill, while giving states more authority in education, opens the door to all sorts of new problems.  But the News Journal didn’t reach out to anyone else who could have offered a negative opinion of this bill.

States, districts and parents decried a one-size fits all education policy and many of the goals, including one that mandated every student to reach a proficiency on tests by 2015, were not met.

Since then, Congress has been unable to come up with a better education law so the Obama Administration has issued waivers to states exempting them from the requirement. The waivers mean states won’t lose federal money.

It is those very waivers that have allowed the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell to steer Delaware education towards a disastrous path since Markell took reign in January of 2009.  It is my contention Congress refused to act on reauthorizing this bill due to immense pressure from corporate education reform lobbyists who got exactly what they wanted with the ESEA Flexibility Waivers and with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Perhaps the biggest cheerleader for ESSA is Governor Markell, because he got to keep his precious standardized testing…

“The Every Student Succeeds Act preserves some of the most important elements of our existing system, including annual testing requirements in 3rd-8th grade and in high school, which ensure that every student counts,” the statement said. “We would have liked to see stronger requirements for timely intervention in schools where students are struggling, but overall, the Every Student Succeeds Act is an important step forward that will give states more flexibility to meet their students’ needs.”

What I worry about this is states like Delaware who lead the corporate education reform movement.  Every move Markell made in the past ten plus years has been towards the goals of companies who thrive on “fixing” education.  In giving states more authority in education, states who already abuse that power are ripe to continue  DSEA, along with their national counterpart, the NEA, has trumpeted the ESSA as a great bill because it does not have as big an impact on teachers in terms of evaluations.

Many people are very concerned about the huge pot of money available for new charter schools which will result in a sort of “Race To The Top” for new charter schools.  Others are concerned about the consequences “community schools” and services can have on parental decisions and rights.  Technology and personalized learning are touched on in this bill but in a way that gives the controversial practice a wide berth in the future.  Standardized testing is still here, and Common Core is so embedded in education now that it would be very difficult to just do away with it as the bill allows.

The only parent voice in this article belonged to Dr. Terri Hodges with the Delaware PTA who wisely stated she is “cautiously optimistic” about the ESSA.  The News Journal rarely goes out to ask everyday parents who don’t belong to some organization about their thoughts on education matters.  Not one Delaware legislator commented on this article.  But if it is something Rodel or Vision Coalition related, the News Journal goes out of their way to write huge articles and allow multiple letters to the editor on what those groups promote.  Many understand this is because those groups and those of the Delaware Business Roundtable provide a lot of advertising dollars for the News Journal.  As a result, many folks in Delaware have lost respect for the newspaper based on this and other biases.

 

Delaware Today Article Has Overwhelming Bias For Wilmington Charter Schools

The November issue of Delaware Today hit the stands, and controversy surrounding an article on Wilmington charter schools is already beginning.  The article, written by Melissa Jacobs, does not even mention the four surrounding traditional school districts: Christina, Red Clay, Brandywine or Colonial.  It gives the illusion that these students would be complete failures unless they attend a charter with Teach For America corps members.  It is highly disrespectful of the hard work traditional school districts do for these students.

Any article that props up the Charter School of Wilmington as the greatest school in Delaware is going to immediately be on my radar.

Other kids find it in other charters. Three of them—Academia Antonia Alonso, Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks—are housed in the Community Education Building on French Street. Delaware Met just opened its doors nearby. All-boys Prestige Academy is older. It’s true that some of the city’s charter schools have stumbled. But others have excelled, like the Charter School of Wilmington, which was ranked No. 15 in Newsweek’s 2015 list of America’s top high schools.

The reporter failed to even mention CSW’s enrollment practices and specific interest clause which results in a very skewed population of students in a Wilmington School.  As of their 2014-2015 school profile, CSW had 6% African-American, 3.3% Hispanic-Latino, and .2% students with disabilities.  Meanwhile, far surpassing any school in the state, they had a population of 26.4% Asian students.  Their demographics do not even come close to matching the surrounding schools in Wilmington.

Aside from Howard High School in the New Castle County Vocational District, no other traditional Wilmington schools are mentioned.  This is a puff piece on charters and I have to wonder why that is.  I am usually suspicious when Dr. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation is quoted in an article:

“We are at a juncture of potentially profound hope for Wilmington’s schools,” says Paul Herdman, president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, a nonprofit committed to creating a first-class educational system in the state by 2020.

Last Winter, I wrote an article concerning potential preferential treatment given to charter school teachers and the development of the Market Street Village apartments.  While Governor Markell’s office quickly debunked this theory, the article in the News Journal mentioned the Buccini/Pollin Group as providing this effort to attract teachers:

The new units will add to the 800 units Buccini/Pollin has already built in Wilmington, including 116 at The Residences of Harlan Flats, a luxury apartment property that opened last month along the Riverfront.

The Delaware Today article references the very same group as working with Great Oaks Charter School to attract certain kinds of teachers to Wilmington:

 With an ancillary mission of improving the community, Great Oaks worked with local developers Buccini/Pollin Group to find or create housing for its 37 AmeriCorps-funded tutors. Those now housed in various BPG apartment buildings on Market Street drive a need for restaurants and nightlife. And if the record from other cities with Great Oaks schools holds, a third of each year’s cohort will find permanent jobs and remain in the city after their year of service.

What concerned me the most about the article is the following part which flies in the face of the charter school moratorium in place with House Bill 56 w/Amendment #1 passed last Spring by the 148th General Assembly and signed by Governor Markell.

In the 2014-15 school year, 2,475 of the 11,575 students in Wilmington attended charter schools. That’s more than a fifth of the city’s school-aged children. And in two years, with the planned openings of new schools, charters will provide capacity for half of the city’s school-aged children. Six of the current charters call downtown home.

There is only one charter scheduled to open up next year in Wilmington, and that is the Delaware STEM Academy.  No applications for new charters were approved by the Delaware DOE last year, so where are all these new charters coming from?  Where do the estimated 3,300 students not currently attending charters currently go to school?  This makes me highly suspicious of a foul stench surrounding this article and plans in place that are not fully transparent to the public.  I have a strong suspicious many legislators in Delaware are not aware of these plans either as those who oppose the massive charter school push in Delaware would have surely mentioned this by now.  This article completely contradicts the view that there are already way too many charter schools in Wilmington and the reporter needs to reveal who told her about these new charters scheduled to open which will more than double the amount of Wilmington students attending charters.

As well, Paul Herdman talks about the role charter high schools play in Wilmington, and he made a completely false statement:

Though critics of public education in Wilmington make much of the fact that there is no traditional public school in the city, Herdman notes that there are three, each with a specific educational emphasis.

I’m not sure if Rodel and Herdman are aware, but charter schools are not traditional public schools.   They are uniquely different and it was specifically written into the original Delaware charter bill that these are not the same as traditional public schools.  Charter School of Wilmington, Freire and Delaware Met are not traditional public schools and the last of them may not even survive past the current school year.

This article poses a great deal of questions that deserve immediate answers.

Updated, 11:17am: Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, the Vice Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wrote the following on my Facebook page:

In defense of the article’s participants, Laurisa Schutt (TFA) referred the Philly-based author to Tony (Allen)/WEIC, assuming they might be interested in a broader vision for Wilmington’s ed landscape. Needless to say, the author made it fairly clear she was not.

I did a quick check on the author, Melissa Jacobs, and could not find any real connections with charter schools but I did find one where she promotes education reform and the charter movement in the same article.  Her LinkedIn profile doesn’t even show her as a writer for Delaware Today, but does show her as an Associate Editor at Main Line Today out of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and a freelance writer for the Pennsylvania Gazette, an alumni magazine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Power Women Today 2013

This gets more bizarre by the minute…

DOE Shells Out $443,750 To UChicago Impact For 5Essentials Survey

The Delaware Department of Education is paying UChicago Impact, a non-profit owned by the University of Chicago, $443,750.00 for the 5Essentials Survey.  The work will be completed in a year.  This is all part of the Delaware School Success Framework, aka, the school report card.  How much time and resources has the DOE spent on this part of our ESEA flexibility waiver?  My biggest question is why the DOE pays so much money to outside vendors.  I’m sure their response would fall somewhere along the lines of “our Department can’t be biased with these things so we need an outside voice”, but if you look at the “partners” of UChicago Impact, the bias is already there.  They are all about the corporate education reform movement.  The questions in their 5Essentials Survey are extensive and intrusive in my opinion and I don’t see any benefit coming to schools with these.  It is just more ammunition for the DOE to blast teachers and schools.

While the scope of the work is vast, how can the DOE keep contracting with vendor after vendor with no oversight whatsoever by the state?  Yes, I’m sure this is in their budget, but why are they allowed to have such an extensive budget when the students of Delaware have to sit in bloated classrooms with limited resources?  This is a waste of money.  $443,000 for a survey?  Why are we making sure these education “fix it” companies are well-fed, but we can’t even do the same for our own citizens?  Delaware DOE, you are actually making the problem worse.  It almost seems like the Delaware DOE wants to have an elite “country club” status in education.  But they don’t realize how much they are starving Delaware schools of what they truly need.  Below is the contract with UChicago Impact and the Delaware DOE.

The Monstrous Ego Of Exceptional Delaware

As the opt-out movement is increasing in Delaware and charters are held to the fire, I’ve noticed the comments on here are getting more hostile and opponents of my views are not shying away from expressing their views.  Good, I want you to feel free to state your opinion.

Someone wrote the other day “I get that your blog exists only to stroke your own ego, and not to report responsibly about anything going on in the state…”  This commenter went on to talk about how I have the whole Academy of Dover and the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee mess wrong.  I don’t mind someone pointing out when they feel I am wrong, but please back it up with facts on how you think I’m wrong.  Otherwise I can only view it as opinion.

I’m quite sure I’m getting a lot of heat over my articles on disability organizations in the state.  That’s fine.  I’m not the only one expressing their views on their uneducated opposition of parent opt-out.  I have no qualms doing this either.  Many citizens in the state rely on their “expert” opinions and I have just as much right to challenge them than anyone else.  Some see this as a hostile stance, but I believe their initial actions are very hostile.

As far as my ego running amok, I don’t see it that way.  I see it as someone not operating out of fear or any restrictions to what I report.  Do I get everything right 100% of the time? No.  Sometimes I am fed false information, or complicated data can be misinterpreted based on the wording surrounding it.  It doesn’t mean I am completely wrong in my assertions, but it may not be as bad.  To the commenter who said I don’t report responsibly, how would you rate the media in Delaware in terms of responsible reporting?  Would you say they are 100% unbiased and follow every edict of professional journalism?  Is there such a thing as investigative journalism in Delaware education aside from bloggers?  Because the way I see it, most of the articles in mainstream media on education in Delaware come from the Delaware DOE, Governor Markell’s office, Legislative Hall, or local school stories.  Or the lobbyist organizations in the state who want to promote their views on education.

I remember when I first started digging into Family Foundations Academy last December, and I received many emails from angry parents telling me how wrong I was about Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington.  How dare I state they are stealing from the school.  Well they were, and when it came out in the News Journal a month later, it was the gospel truth.  I don’t mind taking the heat for articles like that because I know the truth will prevail eventually and if I can stir the pot, I will.

Because I dare to go against the highest powers in the state, I must operate out of a feeling of bravery.  I can’t cower to their intimidation or strong attempts to dissuade the public from pursuing issues that go against them.  That would not be responsible of me.  I don’t do this for me.  I do this for the 133,000 public school students who have no voice.  I do it for their parents.  I do it because my own son was a victim of so many egregious events in Delaware schools and this caused me to start digging for the truth.  I do it because our Governor and the DOE run around like every decision they make is right and they are infallible.  I do it because very few will and I have a moral responsibility to do so.

I will fully admit I drop easter eggs into articles all the time, hints of future articles.  For those who are well-informed of things, they see it.  There are some I have inserted into articles that nobody gets but make sense later on when I do post an article concerning that hint.  I get information all the time from several sources, some that nobody knows about.  Some of them turn out to be nothing, but some lead me in a certain direction only to have it turn out to be something completely different but even bigger than the lead.  And some, these poor desperate souls, try to give me blatantly false information in an attempt to diminish what I do.  And some think their lead is a big story, but it falls apart.

I don’t reveal these sources, and I’ve had to kill some stories because the very act of publishing the article would reveal that source in such a way they would be greatly impacted if I did so.  Usually I find a way around it and the story is slightly less than what it was meant to be, but there are some articles that will never see the light of day.  But if someone makes a public comment, anywhere, than I believe that is fair game.  If they contradict themselves publicly, and I find it, and it could change conversation, I’ll do it.  There are some stories I stumble on through sheer luck, and this happens more than anyone would think.  I do tons of research, sometimes keeping me up until the times when most sane people have long since gone to bed.

As an example of the leads I get, Kilroy wrote last night about how Moyer is having a lot of 1/2 days for professional development and he questioned the authenticity of this.  Someone emailed me how East Side Charter has 1/2 days every single Friday.  I immediately went to their website, verified my source was correct, but I checked to see what their hours of operation are: 8-4 Monday to Thursday and 8 to 12:30 on Fridays.  Most schools operate on a 7 hour day Monday to Friday, but East Side does it a little bit differently but the hours of instruction are actually a little bit more than most schools.  I am sure the person who sent me this information would not mind my writing about this to prove my point.

I find it ironic that those who accuse me the most of having this monstrous ego are usually anonymous but want to take potshots at me to think they are bashing me while under the guise of anonymity thinking they will persuade the entire readership of this blog that I am nothing.  I know I’m not going to change education in Delaware to my way of thinking.  But I do know many things I’ve written about have gotten conversations going.  And I’ve done this without joining one single group that would cause me to stifle my actions.  If that’s ego, I will gladly accept the accusation.  I do this for free, with no rewards or benefit.  And I happily accept this odd fate life has given me.  At the end of the day it’s about transparency and looking out for students in Delaware.  I don’t see them complaining, it’s the adults who are afraid to speak out because they are in positions where doing so would cause them problems.

I would challenge all Delaware parents of students to actively go to board meetings of your schools and state organizations.  Check out their websites.  Does what appears on there match what they are saying in meetings?  Are they being completely honest with the public?  Check out their finances and what is reported on the state websites about contracts and money going out.  Make Google your best friend.  After you have done all that, come back with information about why I am so wrong all the time.

My Email To The News Journal Reporter Who Left The Red Clay Board Meeting Before The Parent Opt Out Resolution

I got home from the Red Clay board meeting tonight where they passed the parent opt out resolution and I figured the News Journal would have something on it since their education reporter Matt Albright was in attendance at the meeting. Nope, not one word, or even a tweet about it. So I decided I should not only email him about this, but also post this as an article so Delaware parents can start to see beyond what is reported in our largest newspaper.

Red Clay Parent Opt Out Resolution

Kevin Ohlandt

Today at 12:53 AM

To: Matthew Albright (malbright@delawareonline.com) 

Hey Matt,

I went to say hi to you after the Red Clay board meeting tonight, but you had already left. I have to say I was a bit upset to see the News Journal had a huge story on the Conrad Alumni/Redskins controversy, but absolutely nothing on the huge parent opt out resolution the board unanimously passed. As we both know, House Bill 50 will be heard at the House Education Committee next Wednesday, and I would think having the second largest district in the state supporting parent opt out would be something newsworthy for the News Journal. Especially since they could be poised to become the largest district if the redistricting of Wilmington schools does happen.

This is the kind of bias that is unfair to parents in Delaware. You wrote a huge article on the “remedial classes” and Smarter Balanced Assessment announcement yesterday by Governor Markell, but the fact that one of the districts is taking that initiative and stating parents rights are more important than anything associated with standardized testing shows this bias. As a blogger, I’m biased to my side of things, but as a journalist with the biggest newspaper in the state, I expect more balanced coverage of newsworthy events. Especially when it comes to the students of Delaware. For far too long, we have seen the News Journal often give more weight to Markell and DOE opinions than the voice of the citizens of Delaware. I truly hope you will consider this in the future.

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt

Rodel’s Job Posting Page, A Little Biased Here Dr. Herdman? @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @Apl_Jax @RCEAPrez @ecpaige @nannyfat @DSNEleanor @TNJ_malbright @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

Rodel is supposed to be the cheerleader of education in Delaware, right?  They have their Vision and ED25 programs and the DOE laps it up like a moth to a flame.  Governor Markell thinks they are the best thing to hit Delaware since tax-free shopping.  But what is Rodel’s beef with public school districts?  A look at their “Find A Job” page on their website shows a very tainted bias toward DOE agendas and charter schools.  Or is it Rodel’s agenda and the DOE bends toward Rodel?  I can’t keep track anymore.  Let’s just say it’s all the same plan!

Aside from the “communications” jobs for Rodel, they also have postings for Innovative Schools, Newark Day Nursery, Delaware Early Childhood Center, Delaware Office of Early Learning, GreatSchools, and University of Delaware.

For DOE jobs, they have jobs listed for an Education Associate in Accountability and Performance, an Education Associate for the Business-Finance-Marketing department of the DOE, a Deputy Officer for LEA Performance, a Field Agent for Title I Bilingual and ESL programs, and secretarial positions for the Early Development & Learning Resources and Finance divisions of the DOE.

Hoping to get that charter school bandwagon rolling, they have positions listed for the Commandant of First State Military Academy, Founding School Leader for Delaware STEM Academy, and Founding Principal for Delaware Met.

But the most bizarre one of them all is the following, taken directly from their website:

Delaware Leadership Project
This rigorous program is designed to cultivate high performing school leaders and includes: an intensive five week boot camp experience designed to transition participant’s mindset from that of teacher to school leader; a ten month paid residency experience on a school leadership team; and two years of post-graduate coaching to support a school leadership position in a high need school. Successful graduates must be willing to commit, in writing, to working in a high need Delaware public school for three years upon graduation from the program.

More information and application instruction here.

Is this where they will be cultivating their “great leaders” when the priority schools become charter schools?  Will Rodel get a “finders fee” for these jobs?  Or will someone or somebody stop the Markerodell before they can even kick it off?

They have all these “big” job postings, but where are ANY public school district jobs?  Dr. Michael Thomas is resigning as Superintendent of Capital School District, the 3rd biggest in the state, and that posting is up elsewhere, but Rodel can’t put it up on their own website?  In their defense, it does say on the page Please contact us if there is a job or internship posting that we should include.  Their link to joindelawareschools.org doesn’t work, so good luck there!  So I have taken the liberty of informing them of a very important role that needs to be filled (much more important than many of the jobs they have listed on their website) and emailed them with this information:

Hi Rodel, your Find A Job page says to contact you if we know of a position that should be on that page.  Can you please list the Substitute Nurse position in the Milford School District.  This is very important, cause if a nurse gets sick, someone else has to take care of sick kids.  Thanks!

Let’s see if they chew on that bone!

Updated: 7 minutes later.  Why don’t we just change the name of our 1st state to Rodelaware.  It’s the Rodelaware Way!