This guest post is brought to you by the handle of The Bygone Blogger. This blogger was one of those around back in the halcyon days of Delaware blogging- the time when the Iraq War commanded the headlines, America saw its first African-American President, and the Recession put America in severe dire straits. In Delaware, it was the days of Governor Ruth Minner and the “I still have some hair” Jack Markell. The Bygone Blogger covers the Mike Matthews situation and in the middle of it found some fairly recent material written by another Delaware blogger running for office! We learn very fast that context matters! This is something Atnre Alleyne, despite his vast amount of education, can’t seem to grasp. Take it away Bygone Blogger!
Delaware Auditor of Accounts Office Violated FOIA According To Legal OpinionDelaware Auditor of Accounts
On September 7th, I filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint against the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office. Even though I did receive the documentation for my original FOIA request regarding a contract that office entered into with Grant Thornton, it came very late. In fact, it came the day after a highly contested primary for the State Auditor position. But my FOIA complaint dealt with what I felt were illegal and unethical issues coming out of AOA.
Happy Birthday Exceptional Delaware! Moving Into Season 5!Exceptional Delaware
I honestly didn’t think it would last this long. Here we are, June 13th 2018, and my screaming toddler is moving into the school years! It’s been a long journey filled with ups and downs, tosses and turns, and joy and anger.
As I head into Year 5 on here, I’m not going to make any promises. One, I never keep them, and two, why spoil the fun? I can’t commit to what I’m eating for breakfast tomorrow so why set myself up for failure?
I always get asked “why don’t you put more happy stuff on here”. I do, but it is few and far between. Whatever. I’ll put up what I see fit. And if I don’t think it is good for kids, you will probably see it. Since teachers are the caretakers of those kids in our schools, I’ll look out for you to the best of my ability. Deal?
Happy 4th Birthday Exceptional Delaware!
A Look Back At 2017 And Leaping Into 2018!!!!2017
2017 will go down in the record books. As what remains to be determined. It had it’s highs and, for me, it had some unbelievable lows. For those who know me “outside of the blog”, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I’ve danced around on it several times on here this year. For my faithful readers, you can probably figure it out. Those “events” cast a shadow on this blog resulting in periods where I didn’t write anything. Sometimes for weeks at a time. Compare that to 2015 when I wrote a blog post every single day and very close to it in 2016!
I like to take a look back at the “best” of the blog at the end of each year. Instead of just doing a top ten list or whatever of the top articles, I want to try something different.
January: Thom Labarbera, Brandywine Social Studies Teacher Passes Away
This was probably one of the fastest articles I ever wrote. I saw something on Facebook about this teacher passing so I thought I would make a post about it. The fact it was the most-read article of the month shows a great deal about how loved this teacher was.
February: Delaware Racism: It Is Reality And It Isn’t Going Away
I wrote this in the wake of allegations that Delaware Military Academy’s basketball team was shouting racial stuff at a Red Clay basketball team during a game. It was never proven definitively if it did happen, but it got a lot of us thinking. It made me write about how widespread I believe racism is in Delaware.
March: Don’t Let Your Special Needs Child Fall Victim To “New” Federal And State Voucher/Choice Policies
This was actually a guest post by Steve Newton. He posts some amazing and insightful words on Facebook. When I read this, I immediately reached out to him and asked if I could publish it. I would love to continue sharing Steve’s well-written words on here, but that is certainly up to him.
April: Silence Is Complicity: Human Sex Trafficking In Delaware And How I-95, Craigslist, Backpage & Kik Make It Thrive
The day I wrote this I attended a seminar on human sex trafficking up in Red Clay. It struck a chord with me. It should with everyone living in this state. I went way out of my comfort zone with this article but I was happy to do it. The Delaware General Assembly passed a couple of new laws about this type of thing not long after this article. They would have passed them whether or not I wrote about it, but this post opened some eyes in Delaware. Every time I look at my stats, I see this article continue to get hits just about every day.
May: Newark Charter School Doesn’t Want Wilmington Black Kids Or Wilmington Special Needs Kids Going To Their Private School
This was the most-read article of 2017. It was based on a House Bill that aimed to get rid of the 5-mile radius that a few charter schools have as an enrollment preference. Once Senator David Sokola got wind of it, he demanded the bill had something added to it. Something that would only benefit one school in the entire state… Newark Charter School. Eventually, Governor Carney vetoed the bill because of the NCS exclusion. Most likely it was planned that way the entire time in Sokola’s mind.
June: Pray For New Mexico! Surfer Boy Is In Charge Now!
Give a former Delaware DOE employee the keys to the New Mexico Secretary of Education car and watch heads start shaking both in Delaware and New Mexico. Once New Mexico teachers caught wind of this, they immediately wanted to know what Christopher Ruszkowski did for good old Delaware. He recently pulled a priority schools fiasco in Albuquerque pissing off pretty much everyone.
July: The Hidden Secrets Behind Providence Creek Academy’s Bomb Threat & Audit Investigation
The jury isn’t out on this one. It never got to that point but it should have. Nothing happened because of this article which really pisses me off. I’m hoping that changes one day. If it doesn’t, it just goes to show how corrupt this state really is.
August: Massive Teacher Exodus At Providence Creek Leaves Parents Shaking Their Heads
Shortly before school started, many teachers had left PCA. Parents from the school accused me of beating up their school and I had no clue what I was talking about.
September: Breaking News: Governor Carney Signs Cursive Bill! Take That Kate Gladstone!
In the Spring, the Delaware General Assembly passed a bill mandating cursive writing be a part of English/Language Arts curriculum for students in lower grades. It was controversial. Some of my biggest allies loathed and hated this bill. I still think it is very important. Governor Carney signed the bill in September and I was able to get the exclusive on it.
October: Caesar Rodney District Staff & Admins Watched Disabled Kid Get Beat Up And Did Nothing
Shortly after the whole Caesar Rodney mascot thing exploded in the news, bigger news came out about a disabled student getting beat up in the cafeteria. Another student filmed the whole thing. When I found out that district staff and administrators were in the cafeteria that day and didn’t do a damn thing to stop the fight, it really ticked me off!
November: Delaware Politics Explodes With Regulation 225
Probably the biggest education news of the year. A regulation about transgender students turned Delaware upside down. 11,000 public comments later, the Regulation is getting a second look which will cause it to come roaring back in 2018. Parental rights are at the heart of the regulation. It will be interesting to follow, that’s for sure!
December: The Exceptional Delaware Hero Of The Year 2017: Laurie Howard
Like the January article, this post was about a beloved teacher who passed away. This one hit home for me though. Laurie was a friend of mine. I wrote this less than 24 hours after she passed away. There will never be another like Laurie Howard. I was glad nothing else I wrote this month came close to beating this article. A fitting tribute to an awesome woman! Even Diane Ravitch picked up on it!
While I didn’t come close to the number of hits I received in 2016, I wrote less articles. So altogether, most of those articles on average did better than articles that came out in 2016. The top search terms that brought readers here included the following: Exceptional Delaware, Backpage, Craigslist, Trinity Carr, Susan Bunting, Thomas Edison Charter School and John Marino. Some of the oddest ones were: Chakeria sex video, omegle, abc reading eggs where children, and how do I join the illuminati if I live in New Castle Delaware.
I imagine I will continue to write less in 2018. Just like I did this year. But I do plan on writing next year’s articles with more facts. I know, I’ve said this before. I’ve said I will reach out and get more info before I just throw it up on here. I think I break this New Year’s resolution every single year. Will this be the year? We shall see. But I do know I will branch out more from education into other areas. I will experiment where I can. I will also be writing more personal stuff. Not everyone’s cup of tea. But I do that for me more than anyone else. I find writing to be very cathartic. I may have a few other tricks up my sleeve, but that will have to wait. I’m sure I will piss off people like I do every year. Can’t please everyone!
But I do want to wish all of you a very Happy New Year! Be safe tonight. Chances are pretty good if you don’t read this tonight you are having fun somewhere. Just be safe in your travels and tell those you love how much they mean to you! As for me, I can’t wait for 2018! 2017 sucked in a lot of ways for me. But like anything in life, you have to take the bad with the good. I learned a lot this year. And sometimes those growing pains (even for a 47-year old man) are very important. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring and the other 364 days in the year. Bring it on! The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m ready for it!
The Exceptional Delaware MemoExceptional Delaware
So I took a break over the last week and a half. I did cheat last Monday and popped two articles up. But whatever. It’s my blog. I’ll do what I please. It was a hectic week. Between work and the damn car. But I did have fun on Facebook on many of those days. Dug into an awesome collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman. I discovered MY song of the summer, “One Of Us”, by New Politics. I sold the last remaining vestiges of a forty-year old hobby, my comic collection. They are all digital today. I went for some walks with my music blaring. It was hot as hell most of the week. I tried to steer clear of education conversation. On the first day of my “break”, God bless them, no less than six people contacted me in some way about education stuff within an hour after my announced break.
I did think about education stuff, mainly what is coming up. Jotted some notes down…
About That Administrator Count Article…School Administrators
I am never writing an article about administrator cuts ever again! But seriously, after getting thrown on the fire for my post yesterday about school administrator counts and my suggestion that some should be cut, I am going to take a different approach to on this. I appreciate the feedback from dozens of you on here and on social media. To that end, I spoke with Tammy Croce, the Executive Director of the Delaware School Administrators Association today down at Legislative Hall. She indicated the information I got was not correct, nor is the Delaware DOE’s information. She said there are inherent flaws in the data reporting system and there is bad data out there. She gave me a very good suggestion which I plan to take her up on.
I don’t mind posting information I receive from others, but I will be doing more homework on it in the future prior to posting it. Perhaps the answer to this is somewhere in the middle. It was not my attempt to badmouth every single administrator and to indicate they all suck. I know tons of admins and they work their butt off morning, noon, and sometimes evenings. I do know of some who got there through the buddy system and they really shouldn’t be there. It is a complicated issue. But I heard you loud and clear on Facebook, and you know who you are. But let’s try not to get insulting and attempting to make me look like an idiot. I have never pretended to get everything right, and when it comes to education, the transparency needs to drastically improve. If you want to raise taxes on citizens to pay for education, than we as taxpaying citizens deserve to know where that money is going. That is the unstated contract when taxpayers pay for our schools. I wish more people would demand to know where the money is going!
I wish there were NO public education cuts. I wish we knew where every penny the existing money is going towards. I wish every district would list their admins along with job descriptions on their website. I wish a lot of things. What I can’t stand though is advocates for one district assuming the article was solely about THEIR district. It wasn’t. But when those same advocates kept questioning me on social media, I asked specific questions about their district and they either didn’t know the answer or didn’t want to provide it. If you are going to defend something, please be prepared to back up your defense, that’s all I’m asking. And as much as I may want to, I can’t go to every Citizens Budget Oversight Committee meeting. To be honest, I can’t really get to most education meetings like I used to. If they are close to where I live, that is one thing. But trekking up to Wilmington all the time? Not an option for me. Which is why I try to have a social media presence with this blog, which I do on my own time, unpaid.
This is the part about education that baffles me. Our state and our schools demand full transparency regarding our children: health records, test scores, academic progress, where they live, who they live with, discipline records, etc. But when it comes time to demand transparency surrounding the adults in education and where the money is going, we fall far short in this state. If you want to get mad, get mad. To be frank, I expected much more public outcry over charter schools keeping their share of the educational sustainment fund. To me, that is a much more important issue than all this admin count discussion going on.
If anyone would care to assist, please reach out to me and we can swap ideas.
Kilroy Was Here, And What A Time It Was! Bon Voyage Kilroy’s Delaware!Kilroy's Delaware
Kilroy wrote his last post today. I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m not surprised. I’m sad, for many reasons. I will still talk to the man behind Kilroy. Perhaps one day we can go fishing at his paradise in really slower lower. But dammit, Kilroy filled me in on so much with Delaware education before I took a crack at blogging. He lent me his blog for about a month and a half three years ago so I could tell a story about my son. We talked a lot over the past few years. Over time, he became a friend. Not a friend I talk to every day or even see. But a friend nonetheless.
Some of the commenters over at Kilroy’s Delaware pissed me off to no end. That is no secret, especially that one guy. But I loved the discussion even if I didn’t agree with the point of view. Things got nasty between myself and a few of the commenters from time to time. But Kilroy loved it. He loved his virtual kitchen table. He was the godfather of Delaware education blogs and paved the way for the rest of us fighting the good fight.
Transparent Christina, Kavips, and now Kilroy’s Delaware. We still have other education blogs, but they are either mixed in with political blogs (Delaware Liberal and Blue Delaware) or the other blogs really don’t post that often. They were the big three. I get it. Life moves on. Blogs are not a forever thing. I’m very surprised mine has lasted as long as it has. I feel this insurmountable task of carrying the torch for the giants that came before me. Someday, another irate or concerned parent will take up the mantle. Perhaps a teacher. Blogging is not dead.
I often consider hanging it up though. Is Delaware education blogging needed anymore? Things have calmed down since Governor Markell left his throne. But there are still considerable dangers and concerns going on with education. Perhaps bigger than all that came before. The biggest concerns I have are vouchers, personalized learning, competency-based education, funding, digital technology, and student data privacy. And hovering above all those issues is how students with disabilities will fit in with this new world. I’ve seen the end goals, and any legislator, teacher, or educator can tell me that will never happen. But they aren’t in the corporate world. Not knee-deep in it. That’s where Rodel comes in. They are the middle man between the corporations and the education stakeholders, whether it is the Governor, the Delaware Dept. of Education, schools, teachers, and even parents at times. As long as they are peddling their wares, I will try my best to stick around.
There will never be another Kilroy. He had such a unique identity and style to his writing. Even the best imitator couldn’t come close. I’ll miss his cryptic hints and his crazy codes he would drop. He had a mission, and he accomplished it. I remember taping the Senate session when they passed his digital recording bill (finally) and sent him a copy. I was proud of him because I knew great things don’t always come easy. But with sweat and perseverance, change can come.
Best of luck Kilroy. I will forever be grateful for you taking a chance on an odd parent from Kent County and getting me going in this very surreal blogging world. Because of you, my life was forever changed. Sometimes it wasn’t always good change, but it hasn’t been bad. You were the gateway to my meeting a ton of people (including yourself) who have left a mark on my life, often at times I needed it more than ever. At the end of the day, it is about friendship and trying to help people. Even when you don’t get anything for yourself out of it. You taught me that Kilroy, along with Kavips and Transparent Christina.
Should they ever make a movie about Kilroy’s Delaware, I want Robert DeNiro to play him!
Missing The Friend I Never MetDelaware Bloggers
It has been five months since my friend disappeared. That is a long time. I haven’t seen a trace of my friend ever since. What black hole swallowed up my friend never to been seen or heard from again?
In Honor Of St. Patrick’s Day: The Top 17 ListsUncategorized
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As the Irish eyes are smiling, I thought I would give an update on what articles are in the top 17 of all time on here along with some other Top 17 lists!
TOP ARTICLES FROM JUNE 13th, 2014 UNTIL MARCH 17th, 2017
- Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints
- Her Name Is Amy
- US DOE & Arne Duncan Drop The Mother Of All Bombs On States Special Education Rights
- Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice For Year Long Nightmare
- My Special Needs Son’s First Day Of Common Core Division & This Is His Homework
- Breaking News: Secretary Godowsky Is Changing Funding Formula So Charter Schools Will Get More School District Money
- Charter School of Wilmington & Discrimination: Student Denied Due Process and Subject To Potential Profiling By Head Of School
- America Is Getting Bamboozled With Betsy Devos! She Is All In On The True Agenda: Cradle To Grave Workforces Of Tomorrow
- Tragedy Strikes Howard High School In Wilmington As Female Student Dies From Head Injuries In Fight
- Teach For America Rejected & Slammed At Professional Standards Board Meeting Last Night **UPDATED**
- Breaking News: Court Rules Smarter Balanced Assessment Violates The U.S. Constitution
- The Gates Foundation Isn’t Even Hiding It Anymore… The Complete Transformation Of Education Brought To You By Billionaires
- Thom Labarbera, Brandywine Social Studies Teacher, Passes Away
- Delaware Racism: It Is Reality And It Is Not Going Away
- Delaware Senate Passes The “No School Until After Labor Day” Bill With Close Vote
- Carney’s Pick Of Susan Bunting For DE Secretary Of Education May Not Be The Wisest Choice
- Niche.com Delaware School Rankings By High School, Middle School, Elementary, Best Teachers & More
TOP REFERRERS TO EXCEPTIONAL DELAWARE
- Kilroy’s Delaware
- Delaware Liberal
- WordPress.com Reader
- Android apps
- Diane Ravitch.net
- Elizabeth Scheinberg.net
- Yahoo Search
- Cloaking Inequity.com
Top 17 Countries Reading Exceptional Delaware
- United States of America
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- South Africa
Top 17 Most Bizarre Search Terms That Brought Someone To Exceptional Delaware
- Bank of America and U2
- Waist deep on charter and on demand
- Mold photos willowleaf dr
- did Mark Zuckerberg restrict Common Core posts on Facebook?
- “are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law” and citi
- christiana school distinct to start after Labor Day
- big daddy taution school
- Quentin Tarantino
- mark holodick age
- dr brewington ffa jail
- data walls suck
- meredith blowman archmere
- delaware goopen initiative
- man jacks son common core
- henry clampitt delaware
- mark murphy dsea president
My Top 17 Favorite Articles I Wrote On This Blog
- Her Name Is Amy
- Breaking News: Family Foundations Academy Under Financial Investigation With State Auditor
- Delaware Race To The Top, Hedge Funds & Millions Wasted: The Story of Rodel, Markell, Charters & The Vision Network
- Rodel’s CEO Dr. Herdman Sent An Email Re: Rodel Article, My Response & Challenge
- Mold Issues At Christina Elementary School Could Be Causing “Pulaski Kennel Cough”
- Smyrna Assistant Superintendent Patrik William’s Hysterical Letter To Delaware DOE
- Breaking News: Santa Claus Supports Opt-Out!!!
- The “Dear Hillary” Letter That Will Cause Your Mouth To Drop To The Floor
- The Tentacles Of Corporate Education Reform And How They Pull Parents Down The Rabbit Hole
- Breaking News: Secretary Godowsky Is Changing Funding Formula So Charter Schools Will Get More School District Money
- Newark Charter School Denies Lottery To 6 Year Old Girl With Rare Disability
- Santa and John
- The Last Exceptional Delaware Post
- Opt Out As We Know It Is Dead… Long Live The Badge
- Jack Markell, Blockchain, Coding Schools, Rodel, BRINC, Pathways To Prosperity, Registered Agents… Delaware’s Role In “The Ledger”
- The Test Made For White Kids, Not Black Kids
- The Delaware Met Down For The Count A Month Into The School Year
A lot of the above articles were either a labor of love or based on a ton of research. Some just came to me on a whim. Some of these articles actually changed things in Delaware. One was wishful thinking on my part! A few were written in a very different style than what most of my readers are accustomed to. With over 3,200 articles written on here, it is tough to pick out my personal favorites, but these ones are definitely up there.
As for the future, I’ll keep chugging along. I’ve taken a back seat to a lot of things going on in Delaware education the past few months. Had to stretch my sea legs! But research-based articles will return at some point once I get my bearing back. Unless something radically changes, you will see more of my investigative work but with less of an accusatory tone and with more quotes (hopefully) or information gathering from the subject of the article. In any event, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Origins: Bugarach & BayhealthOrigins
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.
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.
I reached a million hits on my blog today. For this one, I am going to brag. I am also within days reach of passing the number of hits I had in 2014 and 2015 combined and the year isn’t even done yet.
I’m not bragging cause I think I’m something special. I’m doing it because of something someone said to me a long time ago, a couple of months after I started this blog. It was a comment meant to disparage me. To belittle me. The person tried to make it as though the News Journal was the only media people cared about in Delaware. And how they get 300,000 readers daily. How my little blog didn’t matter. And that no one really cares.
The News Journal has a much bigger staff than I do. I have a staff of one. My staff is unpaid and does this during their own time. I don’t tend to get the “official” word ahead of time on news because I don’t have the access mainstream media reporters do. This blog is a grassroots effort at the soul of it. And lots of reading. Tons of reading. It is listening and going with my gut. Going by instinct in the dark at times. Comparing and contrasting. Listening, searching, looking, and very recently, actually smelling. Some of it is pure luck and just being at the right place at the right time. A lot is opinion which is based on various facets of information. I can say that I have always attempted to deliver the truth or my perception of the truth. Sure, I occasionally come out with my outlandish “fan-fiction” stuff but I would be stunned if anyone gets through the first paragraph and thinks it is the real deal. I don’t have sponsors or advertisements. Social media is a huge boost, sure, but there has to be interest. We are inundated with material on social media.
I’ve watched my readership steadily grow since June 13th, 2014. Eleven days after I started this blog, the U.S. Dept. of Education came out with their state determinations for special education. Delaware was rated “needs improvement”. Before that, my eye was on the DOE but not a full stare. That woke me up to look deeper into them. I wrote a huge article about Delaware’s special ed rating that day and I got 424 hits. I remember the 4th of July ten days later I got 28 hits that day. I was averaging 100 hits a day prior to that and I thought my readership had suddenly left me. I really cared about my stats back then. My first article that went viral concerned my son’s 5th grade Common Core division homework. It was confusing as hell and both of us were really struggling with it for hours. I put the homework up on here. It must have clicked because apparently moms and dads around the country were struggling with the same assignment that night. That article had over 14,000 hits. Every year since, I watch that article breathe life again around the same time of year as new parents of 5th graders wonder what the heck that assignment is all about.
This blog would be nothing without the readers. I would like to think anyone bothering to read a blog about education in the 2nd smallest state in the country already has an interest in education. Or perhaps a headline brought them here. Or a Google search. The numbers don’t matter to me though, it is what people do with it. My goal has always been to open people up to different lines of thought. To lift the veil of non-transparency that happens in education. To expose the prophets who profit. To let people see what is going on behind the campy jargon coming out of a certain Governor’s mouth. Letting people see that numbers don’t always tell the tale and they can be abused greatly. But if there is anything I would want people to take from this blog it is my unwavering belief that it should always be about the kids. This gets me in trouble sometimes and some feel I am overreaching on something or going to extremes. Or that I’m wearing a tin hat. They are certainly free to feel that way. I will always argue my side. No one has ever changed hearts and minds by keeping quiet.
People tell me all the time they don’t know how I do this blog and where I find the time. I make the time. I think it is that important. Some articles just happen very fast and I can do it in five minutes. Some stay in the drafts folder until I get more information or it is very research-intensive. If there is one thing I’ve learned about education it is that no one is going to agree on everything. Sometimes I offend people and I think to myself, “where did that come from?” It isn’t intentional in those situations. I don’t know it all. Let me be very clear on that. I get stuff wrong. I like to think I get more right though. In a culture of vague ambiguities coming out of state agencies and whatnot, the smoking gun is not that easy to find. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found something, put it up, and thought this was going to change everything. It just doesn’t happen. That was a hard reality for me to accept. I always hope, but realism has to creep in after a while.
I’ve made the promise in the past that I wouldn’t throw grenades at public figures. I own that I can be seen as attack first and ask questions later. It’s who I am, or at the least, who I’ve become. Hate it or love it, but until the shroud of secrecy concerning education and the satellites that revolve around it disappear, I’m going to be the rake at the gates of Hell when it comes to this stuff. As an example, I’m working on an article now. I have been for over two weeks now. And it is so big, I reached out to many people on this: parents, teachers, districts, and even the Delaware DOE. No one from a school district will return my call. Not one. So do I go with what I have and draw conclusions on what others are telling me, or do I wait around for some magic moment when some district bigwig or school administrator decides to pick up a phone? If they even have the answers I’m looking for? Other times I definitely go for the “shock and awe” approach. The best way to expose something is to lay it out for all to see. Let people reach their own conclusions.
I’ll fully admit, blogging can get lonely sometimes. I’ll hear from people who want to provide information. People want to hear more about something or they want my help. And then they disappear. Oftentimes, someone reaches out to me with “I can’t be seen talking with you, so I’m reaching out to you like this”. I see people very sheepishly dancing around me at meetings, trying to watch what they say or how they say it. Or those meetings when I know I’ve pissed people off about something and they won’t even look at me. Then there are those very dark times when I feel like nothing I do on here matters, that no matter what happens, nothing will change. Those are usually the times I look at my son and remember how all this began. And that gets me back in the fight. There are those who will say education shouldn’t be a fight. That the problems is adults talking and talking and never getting anywhere. That is actually a valid point. But all too often, the actions taken are what causes the fight. Policy is set in place but those very same policy-makers want us to shut up and just take it. I’m that voice that says “Hell no, I don’t think so.” If John Carney wants to deal with me, he can choose how that is done. It is entirely up to him. He can take the Jack Markell approach and deal with daily or weekly onslaughts against his decisions, or he can sit down and have a conversation with me. Not some thirty-second question at a fund-raiser. But a real, honest-to-God frank discussion. I have no doubt he has the “other side” whispering in his ear all day long.
I can’t save education. No one person can. I wouldn’t even want to be burdened with that. We will probably never get it exactly right. There have been many before who have tried and there will be many long after me. There will be cycles and ebbs and flows. It started with special education on here, but I soon realized all Delaware students were getting screwed over with bad laws, policies, and a crap-load of people making money off education. I will never be a Diane Ravitch who has close to 30 million hits on her blog. There are blogs out there that get 100,000 hits a day based on subject matter I wouldn’t even think to look at. But for a little blog about education in the First State, I’m kind of proud of hitting the million mark. Today, I celebrate. Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind…
Over a million hits ago, it began with this…
Hello everyone, and welcome to the latest blog to hit the First State: Exceptional Delaware!
I am a father of a special need’s son, and you can read all about my family’s journey with a Delaware charter school here:
Everything that happened with my son inspired me to want to do more, not just for him, but all the children in Delaware who have some sort of disorder or disability that gives them special education. I know a lot about Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and Sensory Processing Disorder, but I need to learn about things like Autism, Asperger’s and other disabilities.
This blog will be a mix of news, interviews, spotlights, investigations, and more! I believe every single parent in America should know their children’s rights when it comes to special education. I will be doing features on IDEA, IEPs, 504 Plans, Manifestation Determination, FAPE, Child Find and more. If anyone has anything they would like to see on here, please feel free to comment or shoot me an email, and I will do my best to make it happen.
I have several ideas for potential legislation that will force all public schools in Delaware to become more transparent about the special education they have in their schools. I will go into great detail on my ideas in future posts.
To get the best and most truthful education news here in Delaware, I highly recommend you check out Kilroy’s Delaware, Kavips, Transparent Christina, theseventhtype, Children & Educators First, and Parents Of Christina. If you’re looking for the joys of Common Core, Standardized Testing and Race To The Top, you’ve come to the wrong blog. I can’t stand any of them, and I will go to great lengths to explain why.
Thank you for visiting, and I hope to see you again soon!
2016 Update: Which Articles Get The Most Hits?Top Ten Lists
2016 has been a very interesting year in blogging. Some articles took off way beyond what I thought they would while others didn’t even hit the 1,000 mark. Such is life in Delaware education! The articles that get the most hits on this blog seem to take on a life of their own. It is very odd to watch as the writer of this blog. I think to myself, “this is Delaware, it can’t be that interesting!”
Without further ado, here are the top 2016 articles on Exceptional Delaware:
- Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints 51,505 hits
- Her Name Is Amy 36,029 hits
- Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice From Year Long Nightmare 22,277 hits
- Tragedy Strikes Howard High School In Wilmington As Student Dies From Head Injuries In Fight 6,924 hits
- Niche.com Delaware School Rankings By High School, Middle School, Elementary School, Best Teachers, & More 3,098 hits
- Delaware Senate Passes The “No School After Labor Day” Bill With Close Vote 3,054 hits
- Delaware DOE Hits All-Time Low With Very Scummy Move Against Teachers… 1,993 hits
- ***UPDATED***Channel 6 ABC Action News Gives Updated Information About Details In Amy Joyner-Francis Case 1,823 hits
- Governor Markell Takes It To Facebook And Receives The Beat Down Of His Life! 1,783 hits
- Delaware’s Pee Problem 1,712 hits
Out of all the above articles, the one that was the hardest to write was Her Name Is Amy. It was the day after her murder at Howard High School of Technology, and the words just came out of me. The data walls article really took me by surprise. I wrote the whole article in about five minutes while at work one day in response to a Facebook post. When I checked my laptop a few hours later at my next break, it had over 3,000 hits. The whole Senate Labor Day bill was also a post I thought no one would really care about, but it clearly resonated with readers for some reason. A lot of these articles generated so many hits because they were either original topics that couldn’t really be found anywhere else or because they dealt with a tragedy on a scale we weren’t used to in Delaware. The fact that three of these articles dealt directly with Amy Joyner-Francis speaks volumes at the grief we felt (and still do) over her senseless death. There was a lot of misinformation about what happened that day. Some of it was discounted only to be later verified. In some instances, it was just bad information. When I was prepping the Brandywine lawsuit article, I had a feeling it would be big, but not that big. The Pee article was meant to be serious, and it was. But sometimes the title just jumps out and says “read me”.
For the data walls article, I will be keeping a close eye on this topic. I want to hear from any parent, teacher, or student who sees data walls in our schools that give out names and test scores and rankings of students. In the classroom or out, especially if it is in an area where anyone can see it. Many schools who practiced this last year got a reprieve from me because it was the end of the school year, but I will not be so kind this year.
Blogging is an odd thing. None of these posts were heavily linked to with the exception of Facebook in certain situations. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have always been my biggest “referrers”. What none of these hits include are hits to my “homepage” which received 93,065 hits so far this year. Each year, this blog gets bigger, and I am very grateful for that. When I began this little thing back in June of 2014, I didn’t foresee anything like this or what it became. I thank all my readers, near and far, for coming to visit. It’s been controversial, it’s been real, and it’s even been fun with some stuff. The people I’ve met since have left a very big impression on me. I am a better man for meeting a lot of you! And some, I won’t go there!
While I don’t always slow down in the summer, my readers do. I have noticed a crystal clear trend with this as my 3rd year of summer blogging comes to a finish. Things ramp up big time in late August/early September. That continues up until Christmas. Slows down for a few weeks, and then the General Assembly comes back. Things slow down around Easter for a week, and then back up again until June 30th. Slows to a crawl on 4th of July, and goes up or down all summer depending on how many people are around and not purposely checking out from “real life”. But summer is when the DOE is usually the most crafty, so I make it an extra point to monitor them closely then. Sometimes it takes a while to put the pieces together, but eventually a picture forms.
Funny story, the first time I wrote an article about Governor Markell in the title, I thought for sure the Delaware Secret Service would be collecting me at work. It never happened, and as time went on, I stopped worrying about stuff like that. It’s not that I’ve ever been about to destroy Jack Markell. I’ve always hoped he would wake up one day and do the right thing. But he is very predictable once you figure him out. He constantly disappoints me, but that feeling leads me to the truth every singe time. I’ve always made it a point to tell the truth on here. Some of that is perception, and some were gut reactions, borne out of frustration and anger. I’ve flip-flopped on a lot of things, but some things have stood the test of time: my stances on Smarter Balanced, Opt Out, personalized learning, Rodel, Markell, the Delaware DOE, and the Delaware State Board of Education. I still think special education needs vast improvement in Delaware. Following the money has taken more time and research the past few months, but I understand things so much more than I used to. It isn’t just a charter thing, it’s a Delaware public education thing.
I’ve written some things on here that some found reprehensible but I stand by those decisions. To my detractors, I ask this: if I am wrong about so many things, why do I get no response for those things from those who know the truth? They have the ability to reach me. They all know how. It has been a very rare event when I left a comment in moderation because of the nature of the comment. I can count those on one hand. I have never edited a comment. I’ve corrected articles many times. In Delaware education, transparency is not always there so you draw conclusions based on what you have and the information presented. I’ve even apologized if I was wrong in the past. Sometimes I hear that others are upset with me, but I never seem to hear from those “others”. To those “others”, you should not feel afraid to reach out to me. I may not agree with you, but I will certainly present your side of the story. As long as you don’t lie to me or intentionally try to mislead me. Cause if I find out, you can be pretty damn sure I will write about that.
At the end of the day, this isn’t my blog. It isn’t even about the people who read it. It’s about the Delaware kids in public education. It’s about my kid and yours. When politics gets involved, it can get ugly. I won’t endorse those who toe the party line or vote against something that could and should be in a student’s best interests. In Delaware, we have the capability of ushering in true change to education. We stand on the cusp of something better and different. But all of this depends on how you vote in the September primaries and on Election Day in November.
I urge all of you to do research into which legislators have stood up for public education. Who has supported the rights of teachers and parents? Who voted against the Smarter Balanced Assessment? Who has openly, even in the face of disdain from their peers in their own party, voted for what is right and not for what the Governor or the forces against public education want? Who goes to a lot of education meetings and serves the will of the people and not the Governor? This can be a very thin line at times. There are many parents who support charter schools and school choice in this state. I recognize that, and I accept that. Some assume certain politicians are out to destroy charters. They aren’t. They just want transparency and honesty, about their finances or their enrollment practices. They see and hear things you never hear a word about. They see the lobbyists in full swing at Legislative Hall and know who is zooming who.
I think most of us want something better for our kids than what we have. But if you want to live in a sheltered island where everything is safe for the few, and not the many, then that isn’t always the best thing. Parents are used when they exist in those kind of environments. They are more willing to believe certain things because it is all they know. But trust me when I say the reality is very different. There are people in this state who are all about themselves. They may smile and appear to be the nicest people in the world. They aren’t. They know who they are. They know what they do. I believe most, if not all of them, are fully cognizant of their actions. I’ve seen many of their faces when they aren’t in a crowd. They aren’t the same faces. It is truly horrifying to see sometimes. I can also see the weight of guilt on some of them. I see the stress on their face and the remorse in their eyes. But they feel powerless to do the right thing. This isn’t something I can fathom. I guess it just isn’t in my genetic makeup. I feel for them in the same respect I feel bad for anyone who does wrong and it eats at them. We have all been there at one point or another. It isn’t a fun feeling. But at the same time, I don’t feel any loyalty to these people. Everyone has the opportunity to tell the truth or live a better life. It might mean sacrificing something these people aren’t willing to do. I don’t think it’s a question of not being able to do so for any of them.
We all make choices, for good or bad. I believe we all face moments when we wrestle with those choices. Struggle with what to do. We may be protecting someone else, or just ourselves. But when it involves kids, there is no place for ego or greed or manipulation or lies or fraud or power. Because most of these kids, they don’t know how to do those kind of things. They are seeing the paths set for them by the adults. So for those who I am talking about here, and you know damn well who you are, are you okay with Delaware students being who you are when they are your age? Are you okay with them taking the same actions you have? Because that is what will happen. If it isn’t your own children or grandchildren, it will be someone else’s kid. Someone who will grow up and think the game is more important than life. Is that really what you want?
Ten Crazy Days In Delaware Education & A Glimpse Of The FutureDelaware Education
August is supposed to be the twilight of summer. Stuff isn’t supposed to happen. At least until school starts in the 3rd week of the month. Like last year though, this August has been anything but quiet.
It started on August 5th when I came out with a massive article alleging Newark Charter School was using student body activity funds to pay for capital expenses. Like most things in Delaware, nothing came of that one. The next day, I discovered the NY PTA wasn’t as scared of National PTA and their opt out threat as the Delaware PTA was last winter. A week ago today I found out Academy of Dover was having some money issues… again. But the biggest bombshell of the week (in my opinion, and there were many), was when I started looking into the pending contract for Delaware’s Social Studies state assessment and found out all sorts of things about high-stakes tests and Delaware’s Smarter Balanced Assessment. All of this went down on three of the hottest days of the summer.
As the new week started, I called out Christina School District’s CFO Bob Silber for not responding to my inquiry about why Christina spent over $50,000 for non-state employee travel with federal funds. Still waiting on an answer from Bob on that one after a month. The Exceptional Children Resources Group at the Delaware DOE dropped a ton of due process hearing and administrative complaint reports. A hearing for Trinity Carr, the murderer of Amy Joyner-Francis, had a bit of controversy and gave some more details about what happened that day. On Tuesday, the State Board of Education held an Every Student Succeeds Act Workshop at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover. Usual Kool-Aid fest! I posted a photo album of the event. On Wednesday, I played pin the tail on the Appoquinimink special education tuition tax warrant again after they went on WDEL and basically called me a liar.
Things quieted down for about an hour on Thursday when it was revealed Brian Touchette left the Delaware DOE. But then the hat trick went down. In hockey, a hat trick is when a player scores three goals in one game. The hat trick in this case was the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell pulling fast ones and really ticking myself and others off. The first was the press release about the Teacher Leader Pilot program and the bizarre email from last May which shed a lot of light on how despicable and manipulative the DOE really is. Then came Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman’s email response about the Freire opt out scandal and the DOE basically saying congratulations to the charter school. As if those two events didn’t piss me off to no end, then I read Governor Markell’s back-stabbing Executive Order about a Pathways To Prosperity steering committee that the General Assembly had already squashed. By the time I went to bed Friday night, I was very angry at how much the DOE and Markell don’t care about how their actions impact others and they act with impunity.
I used three words from a song that came out in 1983 for a post yesterday about how nothing is invincible. Proving that I do have a life outside of this blog, I wrote about an excellent new television series called Stranger Things this morning. And finally, I wrote two articles about Governor Markell signing the charter school audit bill and how Kendall Massett is bad for education. As well, I pondered why the hell Michael Duffy from Great Oaks Charter School (and not even the one in Delaware) attended the bill signing. I also felt Kathleen Davies should have been there and I vowed to find out why she was really put on leave at the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office.
All this kept me busy, but there were a few things I didn’t write about. Delaware lost one of our State Representatives this week as Jack Peterman succumbed to prostate cancer. I heard more parents grumbling about how they really didn’t care how their kids did on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. It was hot as hell this week, but hopefully that will end tomorrow night. Outcast got really interesting if you watch that show. Matt Denn’s office did email me last week to inform me that the charter school thieves are under investigation but they can’t say anything more than that. But they stressed it is active.
How do you top all that? Who the hell knows. This is Delaware education. Last year, after the Donna Johnson outing and the Christina drama, I thought things would quiet down. But then I found out about the Accountability Framework Working Group and the very punitive opt out penalties against schools. That set the track for a very busy fall last year.
There are things I know I will be writing about this week: the State Board of Education meeting and the Congressional education debate up in Wilmington. Hans Reigle informed me he will not be able to make it, but it will be interesting to see Townsend, Blunt-Rochester, Barney, Miller, Gesty and the rest talk about education. Both of those will be on Thursday. I foresee getting a lot of dirty looks at that State Board meeting. That’s okay. I’ll be giving them right back if that’s the case. I am hoping to get some “Part 2s” of series I started a long time ago and haven’t gotten around to. Especially the Delaware Illuminati series given what went down this week. As the Delaware primary is thirty days away, I expect I will be putting out some endorsements of candidates. There is one thing coming out, maybe some this month but all of them in September, that has me very excited. All public schools in Delaware have to record their board meetings and put them up on their websites in seven days. I’m going to predict a lot of “technical difficulties” for charter schools. As well, it could be a FOIApalooza watching them go in and out of executive session. I may put some more graphs up about district and charter finances in FY2016. You can also expect my predictions for the 2016-2017 school year this week. The other girls involved in the Amy Howard murder have a court case tomorrow and the judge in the Trinity Carr case should decide by Friday if she will be tried as an adult.
There could be some follow-up or fallout from the articles I put up in the last ten days. I hope so. There is too much elusive and non-transparent crap going on in education. I don’t mind shaking things up at all and watching the dust settle. There is also a lot of stuff I can’t talk about… yet. There is always something cooking on the back burner. I do a lot of research and save it. Very often, something happens and I find a need to go back to that research when something clicks. There are some things I predict won’t happen this week: Bob Silber won’t respond to my email, Tom Wagner won’t respond to anything or anyone, John Carney won’t respond to me, and Jack Markell will do something stupid.
To be fair, this isn’t original. Kavips started this last week with a week in review. It inspired me!
Important Updates To Exceptional DelawareExceptional Delaware
I have been very remiss about updating certain parts of this blog. In an effort to improve the ability for readers to find information, I put pages below the title. I am in the process of updating those pages. I added a new one called “Delaware School Districts” which will have links to articles I’ve written about the different school districts in the state. This will take quite a bit of time. As well, I updated all of the charter school articles in the “Delaware Charters” section. Education Meetings and Education Legislation are next on my to-do list. Followed by the FOIA file, Governor Markell, and Rodel & Friends.
Are there are any pages you would like to see up there to make it easier to find certain things on here? Let me know!
Librarian-Gate In Christina Heats Up: Sophie’s Choice or Misinformation? You Decide!Librarian Gate
I wrote a post yesterday about the Christina School District choosing not to rehire librarians that were cut as a result of their 2nd failed referendum last year. Many have gone on the attack against the district and many have jumped to their defense. One clear and obvious thing is Delaware needs to change their antiquated unit-based funding system to some extent. I don’t think anyone is arguing that point. But a lot of accusations were thrown out as a result of my article and I wanted to point out some of them.
During Christina’s 3rd referendum attempt, the situation was dire. As a result of the last two failed referenda, they had to make some major cuts. Teachers, para-professionals, specialists, and yes, including librarians. In several places, whether in writing or spoken word, the district mentioned they wanted to hire back the positions they cut and reduce classroom sizes. This year, there were anywhere between 35-45 kids in some classrooms. That isn’t good for any student, much less some of the high-need populations in the district. One of the members of Christina’s Citizen Budget Oversight Committee, Brian Stephan, also writes for Delaware Liberal.
Let me point out this simple fact: I like Brian. I think he is a good guy and a very involved parent. I wish more parents were as involved as Brian and his wife in public education (and on a volunteer basis at that). I have no doubt in the world he is very well-versed in school financing. But just as I get my readers stuck in the weeds on issues such as special education or regulations for example, I think that may happen to Brian when he is explaining district financing. Like any television show, there is frequently a “previously on…” before the show starts. The brains of everyday citizens don’t remember everything, so they need a constant refresh. I have to reiterate things on this blog constantly, not only to refresh existing readers, but also for my new readers. I don’t always succeed with this. But I would never complain to my readers that I have to explain it again. That would be an insult to my readers. I believe this happens in education a lot. I see it all the time in parent complaints about educators and administrators. They perceive them as being arrogant, but the reality is they may know more about situations and assume you do to. When they realize you aren’t aware, the communication style is perceived as condescending or arrogant. It may be, or it may not be. There isn’t always an easy answer. But when both parties are equally aware of a situation, and they dance around it with bad communication, that can be very dangerous. But I digress…
I like to refer to education funding as a Rubik’s Cube with 64 sides. It is a beast! God bless any average parent who has a firm grasp on it, because I know I don’t. Charters I’m pretty good at breaking down, but that is not the case with school districts. But I do look at what people write and things they say. That is the anecdotal evidence I look for in most situations.
Back in March, a week before the referendum, Brian wrote:
What’s the District asking for? An additional $0.30 per $100 of assessed property value that would generate an additional $16.2 million per year. What would that do? $4 million would go toward bringing back the teachers and staff we had to cut (yes, including librarians), and reduce our class sizes. $4 million would go toward the operating fund to keep the district functioning at pre-budget cut staffing levels for the next 2 years.
Note the word “and” when talking about restoring the positions cut AND reducing the classroom size in the above statement. On Facebook yesterday, Brian was telling folks the current situation with librarians was spelled out succinctly and clearly, but I could not find anything in writing stating that it was an “or” situation. Currently, defenders of the district are stating it is a building leader’s (principal) choice to either fund a librarian with an earned teaching unit or hire a regular classroom teacher. In the event that a board doesn’t like that decision, they could force a principal to hire the librarian. In effect, this comes down to a gut-wrenching choice of either keeping classroom sizes bigger or having a librarian. Brian alleges this situation plays out in many of our school districts. I have no doubt he is correct about this, but does the average taxpayer know this? I doubt it. This situation wouldn’t have become as intense as it has had this been spelled out during the weeks before the referendum. Had something been put in writing to the effect of “It is our desire to hire back what we lost but we may not be able to get back every single position”, I would have no issue with any of this.
In response to the firestorm that went down on social media yesterday, Brian wrote a response on Delaware Liberal last night. In the comments for this, he writes:
I can say that we described the referendum as restoring what was lost. And there’s a reason I didn’t say “Restoring ALL that was lost” because if I could have said *that*, I would have without a doubt.
This is the heart of the matter, in my opinion. As I wrote in my response to his comment, there isn’t any transparent difference between “restoring what was lost” and “restoring ALL that was lost”. I completely believe that Brian understands the current situation, but it was not clearly pointed out to taxpayers that their vote would mean one or the other. That is why I was upset about what is happening with the district not restoring the librarians. I backed this referendum 100% and fought for the district. Now I feel like I’m eating crow. It’s very easy to come back afterwards and explain this in writing. I called that Monday morning quarterbacking yesterday. I became very confused when things were written on social media and Delaware Liberal yesterday where defenders of the district wrote the funding is there to restore librarians. Many commenters were. But to write things to the effect of “let me explain this again” is not in the best interest of trying to win a point. Most people feel like they are being talked down to. But if that is the flavor of Brian’s writing style, that is his choice.
But here is the million dollar question. If the assumption is that building principals in schools that had librarians cut are not restoring those positions in favor of keeping classroom sizes smaller, will the district take the classroom size waivers next fiscal year? These are waivers the districts request that actually keep classrooms bigger. They are usually granted. Most districts do this, including Christina. But in doing so, should Christina choose to go that route in December, they are actually breaking another referendum campaign promise, that of reducing classroom size. Technically, one could say all districts do it and if they are out of compliance in one school they have to do it based on the populations in the school. But it has also kept classroom sizes at increased levels in many districts and has not made the problem any better. I could not tell you, based on my limited knowledge of this aspect, how to fix that or who exactly controls that aspect.
But back to Christina. To make matters even worse, several sources have informed me that Acting Superintendent Robert Andrzejewski told many students the librarian positions would be restored. These were children who were upset their librarians were no longer there. Perhaps he spoke out of turn in saying this, but the students are probably the most important stakeholders in any education decision. Imagine if a librarian was a student’s favorite teacher. That librarian got cut. The student was very upset. They go home after the Acting Superintendent says the librarians will be back. The student is happy, the parents are hopeful, and the district can count on a yes vote from those parents. Those kind of events can seriously impact referendum results. That is a huge issue and could easily be seen, and justifiably so, as a broken promise.
To truly understand what happened here, we do have to look at Delaware’s unit-based funding system. This is based on the September 30th count for each school in a district or a charter school. The number of students in the school determines how much state funding the district or charter school gets from the state. Schools also get funds from federal dollars and local dollars. What a school can’t pay for from state or federal money, comes out of local dollars which is where taxpayers come in. A district receives x amount of units based on the population of the district. With this, there are all sorts of conditions, especially with special education. Based on a student’s disabilities, the formula changes.
Looking at Christina’s 2015-2016 unit allotment based on their September 30th count, they received the following: based on 15,553 students, they received 1,236.40 units. This does not mean every unit goes towards one teaching position. For example, a CTE teacher counts as half a unit, or .5. Based on the amount of units a district receives, the district determines how many units each building gets based on their student count. Certain units, such as special education, have to go towards those services (or they are supposed to). But a building leader, or principal, does have some discretion for how the funds generated from that unit-count are allocated. They can’t make wild decisions. If a school’s Smarter Balanced scores are low, they can’t hire 50 math teachers and only 3 English/Language Arts teachers. But out of that pool of funds is how decisions are made. The district’s Chief Financial Officer guides the schools with those decisions. If enrollment is down, based on school choice or students moving from the district, a principal may face some difficult decisions. I don’t envy a principal making decisions like this, but I also believe they should look at things like what was told to taxpayers in the latest referendum campaign. Such as the case with Christina now. Unfortunately, Christina loses a lot of students to charters and this has been going on for the past ten plus years.
So then a district is faced with difficult decisions. They could either stay on the road they are on, or make changes. In Christina’s case, they are wisely looking at school climate and discipline as one of the key issues which results in students leaving the district. I have no issue with this as it is the number one complaint I see for Christina. Part of their referendum promises was to take a “deep dive” at the situation, come up with a plan, and make changes. That is completely acceptable in my opinion. But what Christina also didn’t point out was the fact they would hire an outside vendor to help form this “strategic plan” who also happened to also work for the district in the past. To the tune of almost $50,000 without a formal bid process. These are the types of things that need to be spelled out to taxpayers during a referendum attempt.
One of the questions posed on the CSD Paving the Way referendum website concerned school resource officers and if the $1 million the district would use out of the funds generated out of the referendum would go towards bringing those positions back which were cut. It was clearly spelled out that this decision was not going to be immediately made and that an action committee would form to determine how to handle this issue. While it doesn’t look like anyone directly asked if all cut positions, such as librarians, would be restored, that would have been the place it would have most likely appeared. In the absence of that question, many assumed all cut positions would come back. Not to put the entire blame for this on a referendum website or a well-read blog in Delaware, but it is part of the issues. As well, Andrzejewski’s comments to students played a factor. As well, I had grave issues with the district spending $181,200 on what I initially viewed as more assessments for students when a state focus has been to reduce the amount of assessments. I have since been informed this contract would replace two assessments at less of the cost of the other two assessments, which seems to be a prudent move on the district’s part. Furthermore, you can’t just rob Peter to pay Paul. Just because that $181,200 was available for assessments does not necessarily mean you can pay $181,200 in librarians in lieu of those funds. There are different buckets for different aspects of education, as Brian has explained many times to people.
I received this information from an anonymous commenter named “John Doe”, seen below, but I felt the need to put it in the heart of the article:
Sir, I would please ask that you correct some misinformation included in this blog. It was made clear at the Christina SD Board of Ed. meeting that the district was consolidating, not simply adding, assessments. Yes, a new assessment will be purchased, but it is replacing two existing assessments which together cost the district more money than will be spent on the new assessment next school year. The district is indeed cutting assessments back in a number of sensible ways, and the district will benefit from cost savings as well as savings in instructional time because of these decisions. Teachers and administrators, like carpenters, need good tools to help them do high quality work. For a district the size of Christina SD, the assessment costs the author quoted are very reasonable.
In the past, districts and charters lave gotten themselves in trouble with misappropriated funds in the wrong bucket. For example, last year Capital School District was warned by the State Auditor’s office they can’t use a Superintendent’s discretionary fund to help pay for band field trips. That is just one of countless examples where districts did the wrong thing. Intent plays a big part in that. Was it an honest mistake or done on purpose? In the case of some charter schools in Delaware in the past few years, taking school funds and using them for personal use is a big no-no. But this hasn’t just happened in charters, but also public school districts as well. But charters are held under more scrutiny than traditional school districts so it could be easier to find. But by the same token, some of the charter employees who did abuse these funds had not been involved in public education to the extent others in traditional school districts have and were not as well-versed with the law. This does not excuse their actions. In fact, it makes the problem more acute and laws should reflect this troubling aspect.
As I learn more about district and charter funding, I am also looking towards the future in regards to corporate interference in education. Out of the funds schools do receive, what funds are being wasted on assessment and useless programs? How much is going towards outside vendors who have limited experience in an actual classroom but come out with reports that are utilized by those who support these agendas? Are districts and charters riding the latest wave that has no factual research to back up the effectiveness of these programs, such as personalized learning in a digital environment? Are funds being allocated based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and how to increase scores while keeping bloated classroom sizes and not addressing the true needs of students? These are the things that matter to me. So when I see librarian positions not being restored (as of now), I have a major beef with that. That is happening right now, in Christina. If I am made aware of similar situations playing out in other districts, I will call them out on it. Which is something, based on this current situation, I am going to be looking for.
Christina has a pocket of folks who do not enjoy any controversy based on decisions made coming out of that pocket, in my opinion. And when they are called out on it, the fingers point to those casting the blame and not addressing the real issue. This has landed me in a tough spot with the district in the past and in the present. If information is not readily transparent, I go by what I do know. And yes, I am opinionated and I am quick to reach judgment based on what I know, or believe I know. I’m not denying this. There are also other factors that play into how I write articles, such as sidebar conversations or issues I am unable to write about to protect others. But those aspects definitely influence my opinion. Do I get everything right? Nope. I’ll be the first to admit that, and when I don’t, I’ll fix it or write a follow-article. But if you come on here and comment that I am wrong without explaining how I’m wrong, that I can’t do anything about. I was accused of starting fires and then saying “I didn’t know” and trying to back out of my original post under that excuse. Sure, that happens. I write based on what information I do know and go from there. Do I always seek clarification from other parties? I don’t. Here’s why: I am not a mainstream journalist. I am a blogger. The journalistic etiquette for mainstream journalism does not apply to bloggers. Do I go for the “shock and awe” at times? Absolutely. And sometimes I just don’t feel like reaching out will serve a purpose. All too often, I get no response, I’m attacked, or I get bad information. That happens more often than not. As well, the person who accused me of this, I have reached out to in the past over certain things but lately I had not been getting much response. Until I posted about this latest librarian thing.
This is one of the reasons I admire and respect Christina board member John Young so much. He is constantly attacked for attacking, or the perception of attacking. John and I are very much alike in that aspect. But it gets people talking and I would say it brings more transparency to issues facing public education. The more people talk about education, the better. We live in a state where a certain group of people tend to make ALL the decisions and that isn’t good for kids. Period. End of story. If I can shock people out of an education awareness slumber, I certainly will. This is how John operates, it is how Kilroy operates, and it is how Kavips operates. It is the heart of Delaware education bloggers mindset, especially those who fight against the insane practices of the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell. Most of the information we post (or used to in John’s case) is not information that is picked up on by the News Journal or other media outlets. I don’t believe John’s goal, or my goal, is to intentionally divide, but to bring light to situations people may not be aware of. But we are attacked for attacking. If we don’t do these things, how the hell are people going to know these things? Could we be more temperate in how we do this? Sure, but would folks listen? I can say I have defended Christina much more than I have “attacked” them, as some have said.
My intention is not to make things up in order to start a fire. Unless it is one of my “fan fiction” posts, which are easily recognizable (such as Markell, Herdman, Godowsky, Jaques and Sokola going on a midnight horse ride in Dover), I am basing my information on something real. If there is more information along the way, it’s going to come out. If not from me, than in the comments or somewhere else. Without going into a lot of details, there are some VERY strange things that go on behind the scenes with blogging. Eventually, all truths are known or they are buried forever.
Updated, 9:32pm: This article has been updated to reflect the discussion about the assessments the district purchased. I previously wrote these were more assessments, when the reality is they were to replace two other assessments to save instructional time and the district money. While this is certainly a good thing, it does not change my issues with the librarian issue.
Exceptional Delaware Year Three Begins NOW!Year Three
I really can’t believe it’s been two years since I started this little experiment. I am more committed than ever to righting the wrongs in public education. With that being said, I need your help. What do you like about the blog? What do you hate? Is there something you want to see more of? Less? Am I too opinionated or not enough? Am I too mean or not mean enough? Do you like your stories to be journalistically based or with the flavor you come to expect on this blog? I came to the realization there is absolutely no way I can cover everything or please everyone. Education is a beast and growing by the day. There will always be heroes, villains, and those in-between. It’s getting very hard to understand motivations. As I’ve said before, I believe most people have “tainted decency”, meaning they are not 100% good and not 100% bad. I will have an article coming later this morning that will explore this notion. There are a few sides to this story.
Until then, thank you for the followers from the beginning of this blog, those who jumped on for the ride, and those who are just starting now. I appreciate all of you and your opinions, whether I agree with them or not. There are no easy answers with education.
If you may have noticed, I haven’t been writing as much lately. I’ve been on an intermission of sorts. Life stuff. And fun stuff (for me at least). I’ve been catching up on some reading and listening to a lot of music. Things I used to do a lot before I started blogging. I just need to wind down at times. I’ve pretty much been on the go for over two years with education and I really don’t want to burn out. So I’m taking some time off. I’ll still try to get some stuff up everyday, but nothing to in-depth. Unless something big comes my way. Then I will get that up fast!
My wife and I cleaned out our garage today. My car was filled with stuff we donated to Good Will. I had to clean out my gutters when I saw weeds growing out of them in a couple of areas. While I was doing that, a wicked wind blew green leaves all over the place. I thought I might lose some trees on the edge of our property, but walnuts are very sturdy.
TV winds down for me in the summer. Only a few shows I’m watching now: Game of Thrones, Preacher and Outcast. The season finale of The Americans is on tonight. I will definitely be watching that! Like those who watch it, I think it is one of the best shows on TV now. Having lived through the 1980s it is very spot-on with the rendition of the early part of that decade. They even had a bunch of characters watching “The Day After” in one episode this season. Kids today don’t live with nuclear threats like I did when I was a kid/teenager. That movie scared the crap out of millions of Americans. It came out in 1983 on a Sunday night. I’ve watched it a few times since.
I was listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons earlier today. The Summer trio are my favorite. Highs and lows, with a crashing crescendo at the end! Then I vegged out to some Imagine Dragons and later a band you’ve most likely forgotten about or never heard of called Gene Loves Jezebel.
I’m just blabbing here, about nothing specific. My son has been watching Arrow and telling me all about it. I’m a huge Flash fan, but I’ve been stuck on the first season of Arrow for a couple of years. If you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge comic book fan. In terms of shows and movies, Marvel gets the movies right and DC does really well with the tv shows. I still haven’t seen Captain America: Civil War yet. It is on my soon-to-do list. Along with a million other things.
I’m kind of at a transition point. My son is exactly where he needs to be with education. His battles are a thing of the past for the most part so much my anger is fading. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about education overall, I just don’t have that immediate connection to it I used to have. I’ll still do the research and the digging and the listening. But I am really trying to leave emotion out of it. If anything, I’ve gotten more sarcastic with my writing. I’ve been involved with this mess in Delaware so long and so intensely, nothing really shocks me much anymore. But we are entering unchartered territory with Jack leaving next year and the upcoming elections. At the time of this writing, Hillary is the Democrat nominee and Donald is the Republican. I really can’t stand them both. I was really rooting for Bernie, but his age concerned me a lot. I don’t like the fact that both the frontrunners are two people who I’ve heard about for over twenty years and neither of them ever impressed me. It’s kind of depressing actually. I will fully admit it is very hard for me to not want to blast certain people involved in education. I see them doing some of the same things over and over. But it’s the everyday people I’m sometimes hard on, and I’m starting to feel bad about that. My intention isn’t to hurt anyone. I’ve always figured if you are going to attend meetings about education you are most likely a public person. Even if they are “secret” or non-public meetings. I know I upset a couple of people two weeks ago and I feel bad about that. I’m going to try to be nicer to people on here. I know, I’ve said that before and then two weeks later I was cussing out some folks. When I have posts like that, I’m not going to publish them right away. Sometimes the best thing to do is sleep on it and not go by the moment.
Alright, enough out of me. For those reading this, I’m sure this was not the kind of post you wanted to read. Everyone always loves the scoop (or the supposed scoop). But even bloggers need a time out once in a while!
The Tales I Cannot TellUntold Tales
There are many. Too many nowadays. There are many reasons. Retaliation against people is the biggest one. Another one is waiting on more information. Blogging takes a lot of time and effort. Especially the way I do it. I have more articles in my draft folder then I ever have. Many are in my head. Some are… with others. Sometimes there are games afoot. Sometimes a source drops a load of information and then disappears. I’ve learned I have to vet some sources a bit more than I used to.
Some of these articles would be permanent game changers for some people, schools, or even districts. Even some of our politicians in Delaware should have reason to fear. Delaware is a small state but large in secrets. Through it all, it always comes back to Jack Markell, one way or another. He is the Kevin Bacon of education connections in Delaware.
Many of the tales I cannot tell are heart-wrenching. They are incredibly sad and all I can say is some children should never be treated the way they are in some schools. If you are an education leader of some sort in our crazy state, and you are wondering “Does he know?”, chances are pretty good I probably do. For those who think “he is clueless, he has no idea what is really going on”, be advised I most likely do know exactly what is going on, why it is happening, and the trail of breadcrumbs you left.
I know about a lot of the side deals, and the knife thrusts in the backs of enemies, and the things some think only a select few know about. You are wrong. I know when I’m being used, even though you don’t think I do. Sometimes I allow myself to be used because I know what is at the other end of the tunnel. I know why some react and why some stay quiet as a church mouse. I know why some stopped reacting. I know those who drink the kool-aid in public but tell me in private they know it is wrong. I know who has a forgiving heart, who has the capacity to forgive, and who has a dead heart.
I know a lie before the words finish coming out of a mouth. But the most stunning thing I know is there are some things I could write about and the whole state could read it but nothing would happen. I know about the corruption in our state, from the top to the bottom. I know the looks some give me can be an “I understand” or “Please go away” or “You can’t do a thing to stop any of this” or “You know nothing”. Some desperately tell me how wrong I am only to see the dawn of realization hit them later. I know those who try to distract me to keep me away from something else. It has worked in the past but it is much harder now.
I know about the money trails and how some try to hide it. I see the categories and we both know it is utter bullshit. I see it more than you think I do. I hear the administrator horror stories. How unfairly so many of our teachers are treated. I know those who don’t bat an eye when making the wrong decision to protect themselves while others suffer. I know about those who think a climb to power is better than integrity and dignity. I know far too many who are blinded and manipulated and believe what they think they are hearing. I know who my enemies are. That is very easy. I know those who want me to think they are my allies but I know they aren’t. I know those who are genuine and true and want the best for children. I know the chess players and the ones who think they are grand champions but the reality is they should stick to checkers or go fish.
These are the tales I cannot tell. Many of them are just in a “for now” status. Some can NEVER be told. Some I plan for an exact moment. Some will join together in unholy matrimony in ways even I couldn’t imagine but make sense when they do. Some I find out about and publish right away while others age like a fine wine. I have seen a future and it is a very dark place for all of us. I’ve seen the past and paths clear more each time. I see the futurists, always scheming and plotting. I know things that will happen that nobody knows about yet. I know things that some think will happen but they are going to be very disappointed. I know when to walk way over the line and when to draw back. I know when the line is blurry and sometimes I know when it is invisible. I know what the biggest trick of all was and who was involved, even though I don’t write about it. I know so much more than you think I do. This is… Exceptional Delaware.
We Are The World January 2016: Closing The GapsThe World
This is the world. If you see a country in white, that means they haven’t visited Exceptional Delaware. I’ve conquered North America, Europe, and most of South America. Asia has some holes in it still, along with Africa. This is one of my goals for 2016. To close the gaps. I will not rest or sleep until I have completely taken over the world. This is not a game of Risk, otherwise Africa would have been mine already. Every country must have a color! I am opting out of countries that are blank until they come and visit me. I tried with Mongolia, even going to a few Mongolian WordPress blogs and making comments. It’s how I got Greenland, but I also found a really awesome Greenland blog with amazing photos on it, so it all worked out. What’s up with the Stans in Asia? I’m sure they have that thing called the internet over there. Exceptional Delaware wasn’t built in a day, but with the last country colored in I will completely take over the world in a day! I will accept no substitutes!
What Is Exceptional Delaware? A Primer For New Readers And Some Changes For Old ReadersBlogging, Exceptional Delaware
Hello, and welcome to Exceptional Delaware. My name is Kevin Ohlandt and I would like to introduce you to a blog about Delaware education. For the confused among you right now, I often take for granted that folks reading this blog haven’t been around from the beginning. In fact, most of you haven’t. So I wanted to give a refresher for those just jumping on.
I started this blog a year and a half ago. My original intention was to make this a blog solely about special education in Delaware. I have a son with Tourette Syndrome and co-morbidities that accompany that primary disability. Without going into a lot of details, he had some issues at a Delaware charter school. He eventually changed schools, but during that journey I wasn’t satisfied with just resolving it like that. I began to research special education in Delaware, and quickly found that the problems with special education in our state are symptomatic of a much larger disease.
I soon found myself writing his story on another great Delaware blog, Kilroy’s Delaware. When I finished that, Kilroy suggested I start my own blog (probably so I could stop wasting space on his). And thus, Exceptional Delaware was born. It started out with most of the posts focusing on special education, but it quickly morphed into an almost bizarre cat and mouse game with the Delaware Department of Education. As the months went by, I found out who all the big education players are in the state. In a nutshell, it comes down to Governor Markell and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware. Even bigger than that is the similar stories playing out across America. Each state has a Markell and a Rodel. Who do they all serve? Wall Street. Its called corporate education reform, and it is the single most destructive and devastating force to ever hit public education in our country.
I soon found myself walking out of the bounds of this website and involving myself in Delaware politics. I would write about education legislation and became very involved in an opt-out bill in Delaware called House Bill 50. The bill passed our House and Senate but Governor Markell vetoed the bill last summer. Our General Assembly may attempt to override the Governor’s veto when they return in January which will bring about a host of articles from this blog.
Delaware spends a third of its budget on education. It is over a billion dollars. For a small state, with less than a million people, that is fairly significant. Most of these funds go to our school districts and charter schools, but a large sum of it does go to our Department of Education and their host of education vendors and their attempts to “fix” a broken education system. I put fix in quotes because I do not believe it is as broken as these entities claim it is. The way they do this is very simple. It’s called a standardized test. In Delaware, along with many other states, our test is called the Smarter Balanced Assessment. If the test wasn’t long, complicated, intrusive, destructive, disruptive, money-wasting, and made to make students, teachers, and schools feel like failures I probably wouldn’t give it the time of the day. But it is more than these, and more. It is the central fulcrum behind the education pirates who swarm into states and give the illusion that our schools need help. It is a never-ending cycle that demands constant watch. When you mix politics with big business, it is a nightmare of epic proportions.
I often feel like students with disabilities suffer the most from this drive for “rigor” and for all students to be “college and career ready”. I don’t mind students flexing their academic muscles when they are in high school. I am all for every student doing the best they can. But when false paintings of success are put on a canvas, before the work is even done, I find something very wrong with that. We can’t teach children, at school or at home, if someone else is micro-managing based on false ideology.
All too often the schools that suffer the most from this insanity are the ones with high populations of low-income, poverty, minority, and special education students. The public is waking up more and more everyday to this reality, but occasionally carrots are thrown their way to lull them into a false sense of calm and security. These antics could be called “assessment inventory”, or the “Every Student Succeeds Act”, or an “education funding task force”. What the corporate privateers don’t want you to know is they want schools to fail. They want them to always feel like they need to be fixed. They would not make money otherwise. This charade is supported financially by huge foundations across America, with the biggest being the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. These foundations and non-profits love their charter schools.
Charter schools are public schools, but they don’t operate the same way. As long as they receive federal and state funding, they must behave like traditional public schools. But all too often (not in every charter), some pick and choose who they want. Since charters also receive local funding from the school districts students choice from, this can have a very debilitating financial effect on the local school district. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Delaware’s Christina School District, up in Wilmington.
Traditional school districts have their own issues. Large classroom sizes, less funding from the state, and what are known as referendums. Referendums are an election in the school district. They are needed when the costs to run the district go past the allocated budget. The district needs more funds from its residents to continue. If it passes, the school uses the extra funding from property assessments and makes the necessary adjustments. If it fails, it is very bad for the school district. Many feel that school districts in Delaware spend far too much on administrators within their districts. For a small state, Delaware has 19 school districts, over 25 charter schools, and a fairly large amount of private schools. The private schools have shed students since charter schools gained in popularity beginning twenty years ago in Delaware.
For large cities like Wilmington, the factors of numerous charter schools, failed referendums, charter schools siphoning the local school districts funding, some charters taking the “best and brightest”, and standardized testing that falsely labels schools with huge populations of at-risk students as failures, results in a perfect storm of chaos and disaster. Add in unionized teachers, teacher prep programs like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School, school boards, along with the constantly interfering Department of Education, Governor, legislators, foundations, non-profits, and the corporate education vendors, and a picture forms. This picture shows far too many hands in education and the ones that suffer the most are the children.
This is where I come in. I write about it all in our state. The DOE, the Governor, Rodel, the unelected State Board of Education, charter schools, school districts, legislators, education legislation, special education, bullying, charter school financial meltdowns, standardized testing, vendor contracts, transparency, and more. For the most part it is the chase. The constant and never-ending quest to get information out so the public can see it, while our DOE blithely implements agenda after agenda with no one the wiser. It is exhausting and time-consuming. Along the way, I will write satirical articles to keep my sanity. Sometimes, as I did recently, I will write a human interest story about one particular person. I will branch out to national stories. Sometimes I just break away from it all and write about myself or something as far away from education as possible.
This isn’t my blog. This is Delaware’s blog. One of many. Stories are told all over The First State. Some blogs take place on long Facebook threads. Others are in our major media, such as the News Journal. Media has transitioned over time into a blog-like state. As newspapers and major media outlets are essentially run by advertisers and corporations, the unbiased feel of journalism has radically shifted from what it once was. True journalism does exist, but all too often the sides can become blurry and tainted. I don’t blame the newspapers and major media outlets for this. It is evolution and survival. This is not to say that journalism as we once knew it is dead, but it has changed. There are still great old-fashioned journalists out there who refuse to let themselves sway from the core journalistic principles. But in our 21st Century society, with news available the second you click something, the need for urgency has taken away from the need for unbiased clarity.
After writing at least one article a day for the past consecutive 488 days, 2,112 posts (some of which are what are called “reblogs” from other great WordPress blogs) over the past year and a half, which have received over 525,000 views, over 426,000 which were in 2015 alone, a ton of board meetings, task force meetings, legislative sessions, committee meetings, rallies, phone calls, emails, Facebook posts, tweets, research, and yes, some fun thrown in here and there, I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot on this little blog. I never dreamed I would reach over half a million hits in this short a timeframe. I don’t get paid for this, so it is truly a volunteer function. I think any blogger likes to know they are being read, it is human nature. But even more satisfying is when someone tells me “Hey, that article you did, it helped me,” or “I was able to help my child because of what you wrote”. That means more to me than any number. A lot of this is never seen on here, and takes place offline. I like that people feel they can come to me for advice about what to do. I will flat-out tell them if I can’t help them, but I will also let them know where they can go. Sometimes it is right back to the DOE believe it or not.
I don’t hate the DOE, or the State Board, or Rodel, or even the Governor. I don’t hate any legislators. I believe all humans operate on something called “tainted decency”. We may have the best intentions or motivations, but something along the way leads to something vastly different. For many involved in education, it is their job or business. Their livelihood depends on the success and failure of their allotted tasks. Intention and motivation take on a very different meaning when you have to answer to a superior. And for some, that bait called wealth is a very dangerous and alluring call to action. But it isn’t always the right action. It’s called life, and I’ve gotten things wrong on here. I’ve piped off without thinking, gotten angry, and even hurt my own reputation. I’ve gotten mad at friends. I know it, and at the end of the day, lying in bed with nothing but myself and my thoughts in that transition period between awake and asleep, I feel it. There are things I regret doing during this journey. Things I’ve said I just can’t take back. It is very easy to tell yourself you are in the right, but if it comes at the expense of hurting another without knowing all the facts or justification (as in helping to protect the kids or parents), it can hurt. I’ve been told I am cocky, arrogant, and ignorant. On the flip side, which is even more dangerous in my opinion, I’ve been told I am a “savior for education”. That frightens me more than anything. I am no savior and I am no saint! I’m just a dad writing.
With that being said, and I’ve said this before but not fully implemented this goal, I am going to make a concerted effort to be more careful about what I say and be less opinionated. I’m also going to try to reach out to other parties instead of just doing the blitzkrieg article and ask questions later. I may not agree with another person, and lets face it, many folks will outright lie when you catch them in wrongdoing, but I at least need to give the benefit of the doubt whenever possible. The caveat to this is if children or anyone is in imminent danger. I have received information like this, acted on it, and never written about it. I have no idea what the end results were, but I did my part.
I have one story I’ve been working on for a very long time, and I received information on it the other day that could draw it towards a conclusion, but I don’t even know if it is a story I can or even want to finish. You see, last spring and summer someone reached out to me. I still don’t know what their motivations were half the time, but it was meant to be in confidence. Longtime readers know exactly who this person is. When an issue became very blurry, I performed a very public outing of this person on here and betrayed the single most important journalistic and blogger credo: never out a source. I let personal feelings, stemming from the fact that I felt like I was fooled and played with, cloud my judgment. I justified it even when some were saying I was totally wrong. I don’t agree with about 90% of what this person has to say. I don’t like how they operate or how they go about their job. I feel they interfere and manipulate others. I have information that could, probably, bury this person. And many would cheer if I did so. But I couldn’t live with myself if I did it. Not that way. Not like that. So to this person, and I hope you are reading this, I am sorry for what I did. I still think you have some issues, and I would keep yourself in check, but your fall will not come from that. And you can consider that chapter closed.
Does this mean I am now a Common Core Smarter Balanced Charter School Takeover of Public Education Rodel & Markell loving DOE sympathizer kind of guy? Hell no. None of my feelings have changed on any of it. I will continue to write and do massive amounts of research and not get paid a penny for it. Folks will see me, and wonder what I’m going to write. But the feuding and animosity and vitriol coming out of me, I just can’t keep doing it like that. It’s not good for me and it certainly isn’t good for anyone I profess to help if that is the end result. No more email lightning strike articles. No more outing (it was only the one person). No more screaming at Mark Murphy and the DOE or State Senators during public comment (see many articles from April to July). I want folks to feel they can come to me if they want to clarify something and possibly respond to me if I touch base with them or seek information on something. Threatening and posturing, while it may have short-term benefits, does not solve problems.
If anything, I want to write more about the good out there. Like my recent article on Braeden Mannering, a truly awesome kid with a big heart. I have literally heard teachers tell me they had to stop reading me for a while because of all the doom and gloom I was sending their way. I would like to believe that for every harbinger of doom article, there can be an equally positive and uplifting story. I just have to find them and I am reaching out right here and now for others to let me know about these stories.
When it comes to education, there is no way any one person can cover everything. It is massive in scope and reaches into all facets of society. I find out new things every single day I didn’t know before. It will never end, and it will never be perfect. I’m just one writer in a long history of past, present and future writers doing their part to chronicle the events and confusion and shed some light. If I can help others along the way, it is all worth it.