As I wrote the other night, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Brandywine want their share of the local funds for choice students from Christina stemming from the charter school settlement with Christina last fall. It looks like Colonial and Smyrna have now jumped in as well. The Christina Board of Education will hold a special board meeting on May 24th to discuss this issue. The below document shows how much it would cost Christina if approved.
Parent power is very real in Delaware! Look no further than House Bill 176, introduced today by State Rep. Deb Hudson! This bill would give school boards and administrators more discretion for what is considered a “deadly weapon” other than a gun. It even says in the synopsis of the bill .”this bill is a result of a recent case in the Brandywine School District.” You don’t have to be a genius to figure this one out folks. Wahl was down at Legislative Hall a couple of weeks ago for the PTA Day.
For some reason the PDF won’t download on Scribd so I will update it when it becomes available, but this would be the change to Delaware state code if the bill passes:
(6) In the event that an elementary or secondary school student possesses a deadly weapon other than a firearm in a Safe School and Recreation Zone in addition to any other penalties contained in this section, the student shall be suspended for a period of not less than 30 days unless otherwise provided for in federal or state law. The local school board or charter school board of directors may, on a case by case basis, modify the terms of the suspension.
Like I said, never underestimate parent power. Wahl fought for over two years to get his son’s discipline removed from his record. But he went a step further and as a result of a settlement with the district, a new policy was created in Brandywine. Now it looks like Wahl is taking it to the next level so this policy goes statewide! Congrats and thank you for your advocacy Pat Wahl!
Christina School District is about to get screwed again! But not by the charters this time. This time it is districts who should be their allies!
Okay, time to let the cat out of the bag. A month ago, and if you blinked you missed it, the Christina Board of Education discussed and voted no on the Chief Financial Officer of their district negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding between Christina, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Brandywine. The MOU would have given authority to the CFO of Christina to send those local funds to the three other districts for students that choice to those districts out of Christina. The board said no. Look for a special board meeting sometime next week. From what I’m hearing, now the Superintendents of the districts (all four) want to have the MOU between them. Welcome to Christina Richard Gregg!
That’s what happens when you open Pandora’s Box like that with that stupid settlement between Christina and the charters. I’m talking to you four Christina board members who voted FOR the settlement and then voted against rescinding the settlement a week later. Did I not distinctly hear that it would set a precedent? That it would come back to bite them in the ass? I know I said it. I believe a few others did as well. Karma truly is a vengeful and mean bitch.
Do I have anything against Brandywine, Appo, or Red Clay for going after these funds? I don’t know. The timing sucks. And how soon until Colonial jumps on the train? All this happened because, supposedly, according to some commenter named Elizabeth, Jack Markell had some secret deal with Lillian Lowery and Christina when she became Secretary of Education. The way I’ve heard it, Lowery was involved in a lawsuit when she became Secretary and Captain Jack wanted it all hush-hush so all sorts of crazy crap happened. I heard that from someone who used to be on the board who hasn’t been too quiet about it over the past year or so. Funny how stuff gets out in The First State.
So what happens if Christina’s board says no again? Will the big three (and possibly Colonial) get their feathers in a twist and file a lawsuit against Christina as well? My gut tells me Christina’s board will be forced to vote yes because of the precedent set in the charter settlement. So last week, the board announced they will be laying off 44 or so teachers. Will this cause that number to rise? And how the hell does their CFO Robert Silber still have a job there?
How much money are we talking? I don’t think it would be as much as the cha-ching the charters got, but it will leave a mark on their budget. At this point, anything more is suck city. Here’s a novel idea… how about going after Jack Markell and Lillian Lowery for their side deals that went on. Better catch Jack quick before he goes on his Forrest Gump tour of America! Yeah, like that will ever happen. Captain Jack seems to have some special immunity shield around him. It’s a special kind, where you screw things up for eight years and you get to go biking into the
Education never gets boring in this state. But this will not be a joking matter for the teachers and staff in Christina School District. These are good people who have been the victim of these education funding games for many years now. Throw in priority schools and the constant labeling and shaming of the district. I feel bad for all the districts right now. Students and teachers should not be the sacrificial targets because the adults in charge can’t get their shit together. Sorry to be so blunt, but I’m really getting sick of it.
Here’s the kicker! I submitted a FOIA to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office a couple of weeks ago. This is what I asked for:
Please provide, in PDF format, all reports, letters, guidance, or inspections for any Delaware school district, vocational school district, or charter school generated by the Office of the Auditor of Accounts that is not listed on the Auditor of Accounts website for fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016. This would include any of the above listed documents sent to members of the General Assembly, the Delaware Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Controller General, or the Office of Management and Budget that would be considered a public document 29 Del. C. Paragraph 10002(1).
Wanna know what I got? Bupkis, that’s what! I got the petty cash letters sent to a handful of charters last year along with the letters about that specific situation sent to various state agencies. For three fiscal years!
Wanna know what that means? The Auditor of Accounts office is NOT auditing ANY school district unless it is an investigation based on something submitted on their tip line. Which means that office is breaking the law. But the General Assembly won’t give them the funds to do their job as required by Delaware State Law (which the General Assembly does: create laws). So who do we take to court? The Auditor of Accounts office or the General Assembly? Who is tracking where the hell education funds actually go? NO ONE! Except myself and Jack Wells it looks like. But yeah, let’s layoff teachers and make classrooms into sardine cans while people in district offices are making over $100,000 in salary. Cause that makes a lot of fucking sense! Let’s keep paying for state testing and all these one-to-on devices so we can just weed out teachers and turn education into a reformer wonderland! as I said, I’m getting tired of all this nonsense. And if I were a teacher, I would be too! If I were a parent (which I am) I would be shouting this from the rooftops: Stop screwing over our schools! And when I say schools, that primarily means the students and teachers. That is the heart of it all.
Now that all the surveys are up, it is time for endorsements! I’ve known who I was going to endorse in a few elections for some time. Some I changed my mind on. Some I have always known who I would NOT endorse. Some I wavered back and forth on. Some races won’t get an endorsement from me at all. I don’t always go with the “popular” candidate. I look, as best I can, at the issues facing education and which candidate is willing to stick their neck out and do what is best for students. The biggest thing is if the candidate knows what the issues are. Without further ado, here come the endorsements: Continue reading “Exceptional Delaware Endorsements For 2017 School Board Candidates”
May 9th is in five days! Big school board elections are taking place that day!
In the Brandywine School District, John Skrobot Jr. will face Alma Ginnis. For Capital School District, Andy Ortiz and Joan Lowenstein-Engel are vying for the at-large seat. Caesar Rodney has a three-way race with Alan Claycomb, Tawanna Prophet-Brinkley, and David Failing running against each other. Smyrna will see Vetra Evans-Gunter facing Karin Sweeney. Finally, Woodbridge will have a face-off between Paul Breeding and Darrynn Harris for their at-large seat.
I sent surveys to all the candidates who had viable contact information through either the Department of Elections contact information on their website or through Facebook. Don’t forget to vote on May 9th!
These are the responses I received from the candidates in these five districts: Continue reading “Delaware School Board Election 2017: Brandywine, Caesar Rodney, Capital, Smyrna, & Woodbridge School Districts”
Yes, Vitamin C landed six students from p.s. duPont Middle School at the hospital according to an article from WDEL. One student apparently led other students to believe they were taking something else. As a precaution, the district sent all six kids to the hospital. I can’t wait to see that bill come in for the Brandywine School District! I’ve written about some crazy education stuff in Delaware, from pee issues to science experiments gone bad. Let’s add Vitamin C craziness to the list!
We are at a crossroads in Delaware education. When Vitamin C rings land kids in the hospital, we must act! We can no longer look away when children are ingesting drugs that will make them pee more. This is not something we can opt out of, these dangerous Vitamin cartels sweeping our schools. We must do what we have to do to keep our schools safe.
In all seriousness, this did happen. I do salute the school for taking the necessary precautions with this. But I would hate to get that bill Brandywine Chief Financial Officer!
UPDATED, 12:55pm: I just want to clarify. This article is satirical in nature, but this did happen. DRUGS ARE BAD! NO ONE SHOULD BE TAKING ILLEGAL DRUGS, ESPECIALLY STUDENTS!!!! The school did the right thing in this situation.
I just saw Brandywine School District put this out. My condolences to Mr. Labarbera’s family and the Brandywine School District community. Rest in peace sir.
Dear BSD families,
It is with the heaviest of hearts that we mourn the loss of Concord teacher Thom Labarbera, who tragically passed away this weekend. Mr. Labarbera, a Brandywine School District social studies teacher of 20 years, will be sorely missed at Concord and in our community. Due to this unexpected and tragic loss, there will be no school for Concord students tomorrow, Monday, January 23rd. Members of the BSD Crisis Team are meeting today. We will be prepared to support Concord’s faculty tomorrow and are working to plan and coordinate support for students on Tuesday. For those CHS students who need additional support more immediately, Crisis Team members will be available at Concord from 11 am to 3 pm tomorrow. Please know that the District will do everything it can to ensure that the emotional needs of our students, staff, and families are met during this most difficult time. May Mr. Labarbera rest in peace. He will be dearly missed.
Sean Matthews is awesome. I can’t put it any clearer. The 1oth Representative District in Delaware has only one choice to make on September 13th: Sean Matthews.
I met Sean in the beginning days of the 148th General Assembly when he came in as a rookie. He is always friendly and cordial. I knew he was an educator and stood for many of the same things I do. But he took the ball and ran with it. During the House Bill 50/opt out saga, he was in front of the bill supporting it all the way. This brought him in conflict with some of his Democrat peers in the House, but he didn’t give up. When there was a question if the bill would die in the original House vote, Sean added an amendment to make it just the Smarter Balanced Assessment. My proudest moment with Sean Matthews came in March of 2015. The News Journal had an opposing views column on opt out, and Sean annihilated State Rep. Earl Jaques position on the issue.
But Sean’s accomplishments go beyond just House Bill 50. He sponsored House Bill 157, signed by Governor Markell, which would change how potential patients are able to gather crucial information about freestanding emergency rooms. He helped ease some of the burdens citizens face during snowstorms when they live near a school with House Bill 129, also signed by the Governor. Matthews also sponsored a bill that may not seem important now but could save many lives down the road with House Bill 91. If a student is opted out of immunizations based on religious beliefs, that student would be temporarily excluded from school in the event of an outbreak for what that student could have received a vaccine for. That one was controversial, but it makes sense in the context of that kind of frightening scenario. Sean also signed on as a sponsor on many education bills that I pushed for, including House Bill 30 (basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade) and House Bill 399 (the teacher evaluation bill that I am hearing Governor Markell will sign in the next few weeks).
As an educator in the Brandywine School District, Sean knows exactly what kind of challenges students face. He doesn’t buy into the education fixit talk we hear from so many in Delaware. He knows what teachers need to be able to reach students so they can truly succeed. Not by a standardized test, but by treating students as unique and creative kids. He knows that poverty is not an excuse for teachers to do their best with low-income students, but it plays a crucial factor in brain development. I remember hearing him on the Rick Jensen Show one afternoon when he talked about the actual physical effects of poverty on the human brain and how that can impact a student’s ability to learn effectively.
On June 30th, 2015, Sean and five other Democrats valiantly said no to the budget that year. He knew this would draw criticism from some of his peers who believe a budget vote must always be yes. But he stood his ground, and for that I respect him. I would rather see someone vote no for the right reasons than vote yes for the wrong reasons.
He was one of the key members on the Assessment Inventory Committee that advocated for including the Smarter Balanced Assessment as one of the tests to look at getting rid of. In the education arena we live in under Governor Markell, Sean consistently stuck his neck out in the face of fierce opposition. But he did so with style and grace. I don’t know if he first coined the phrase “cash in the trash” but it was the first time I heard it. This term refers to the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on education reform that doesn’t really do anything for students or educators.
He is one of the younger and newer faces at Legislative Hall, but also one of the brightest. Rookie House Reps aren’t always able to get a lot done during their first term. But Matthews will be one to watch, that I can bank on. We have only begun to see what Sean Matthews has to offer and I urge the citizens in the 10th District to vote for Sean next Tuesday, September 13th. Dennis Williams had his time. It passed in 2014 when something better came along.
Three Delaware Due Process Hearing and two Administrative Complaint decisions were put on the Delaware Department of Education website with varied results. The Due Process cases involved the Colonial School District, Brandywine School District, and a combined case against Delaware College Prep and the Delaware DOE. As well, an Administrative Complaint decision involving the Red Clay Consolidated School District prevailed for the district where another Administrative Complaint involving the Milford School District prevailed for the student.
In most of these cases, there were complaints around Independent Educational Evaluations in terms of the costs and the timing of them. Other cases involved residential treatment center costs, a school making sure IEP accommodations were followed, and statute of limitations. These are important decisions to read. Parents can avoid many pitfalls by reading these and seeing what they shouldn’t do. Special education is complicated enough but even a careless error on a parent’s part can lead to future ramifications. All schools, districts, and teachers should read these as well. Special education will never get better unless the players are informed of their rights in all sides of the issues. Many of these cases involve timing, on either the school or the parent’s part. The Brandywine case is very interesting.
Many schools in Delaware start up again in two weeks. Many parents will be requesting IEPs or updates to existing ones. Now is the time to see what cases are setting precedence!
Due Process Hearing: Colonial School District Vs. Student
Due Process Hearing: Student Vs. Brandywine School District
Due Process Hearing: Student vs. Delaware College Prep and Delaware Department of Education
Administrative Complaint: Student Vs. Red Clay Consolidated School District
Administrative Complaint: Student Vs. Milford School District
I’ve gone back and forth with the WEIC redistricting plan for a while now. Some days I like it, others I don’t. I tend to think of it from more of a statewide level because I live down in Dover. But there are those who are in full support of the plan. But some aren’t in it for the right reasons. I recently heard a reference to “those kids”…those being the Wilmington Christina students. While many of the main advocates want a better outcome for these students and think a population of city kids split up between four districts is bad, there are those who don’t want those kids in Christina anymore. For the simple reason that they are a perceived burden and a problem that needs to go away. I like to call this racism. There are also some in Red Clay who don’t want more of “those kids”. That is also racism when said in the same context.
I get the folks who are afraid of their taxes going up. I understand that. Especially older citizens on a fixed income. But those who don’t want them because of their environment, or the color of their skin, or the issues they bring into schools… you need to get over it. We live in the 21st Century. The Jim Crow laws are gone. Gay people can marry. It’s a new way of looking at things. I tend to believe, and this is only my opinion, most issues of racism are inherited. Racism exists on both sides. There are white people who hate black people and black people who hate white people. I think it comes down to a matter of trust and dealing with fear.
Way back in the halcyon days of the mid 1990s, I worked in a comic book store in Trenton, NJ for a little while. I was driving home from work one night, and I took a wrong turn. I wound up in a bad neighborhood. I was approaching a stop sign when a group of African-American men started walking towards my car with baseball bats. It terrified me. I ignored the stop sign and gunned it until I was in a safer area. I didn’t report it. I just made sure I was never in that area again. Did I let that one bad situation define my views of African-Americans? No. I recognized there are good and bad people everywhere. Is there really much difference between those men who were defending their turf and a fight at a school? Probably not. Was their intention to harm me or just scare me? I may never know. Perhaps they viewed me as a threat.
Back to WEIC, I just feel like the Christina Wilmington children could possibly be a political football. I’ve discussed this with many people over the past year and a half or so. I just don’t see how transferring them from Christina to Red Clay is really going to make such a huge difference for them. They will still be in a school district. Maybe they won’t be bused as far, but I remember it taking my bus an hour on some days to get to school. If it was snowing, forget about it! As an adult, I would kill for an hour in a vehicle I don’t have to drive! To be alone with my thoughts, possibly someone to talk to. Read, listen to music, stare at the scenery, I wouldn’t mind it at all.
I get that things need to change. Personally, I think making Wilmington its own district isn’t such a bad idea. I think a lot of the other districts should combine. We really don’t need nineteen school districts in Delaware. If those in power pushed this, it would happen. But they are stuck in their ways and the way it is. Change is very hard for Delaware. I’ve realized that a lot lately. But this whole “it has to happen now” thing is beginning to irritate me. A lot. If it has to happen now, why are there so many demanding conditions on the whole thing and timetables set up that almost seem to be a detriment rather than a help?
When I hear about Red Clay’s nightmare of an inclusion plan, I worry about the Christina Wilmington special needs kids who may be headed into a district that, on the surface, claims they are a success. When I hear from parents that the flaws and issues facing that inclusion plan haven’t been solved and that the administration keeps canceling the Red Clay Inclusion Committee meetings for no reason at all, I worry we are sending them to a district that just doesn’t get it. But once you start digging a bit, you find out Red Clay really isn’t that different from Christina in a lot of respects. But what they do have is power. They have very affluent suburbs. Red Clay and Colonial own the Data Service Center. They have the ability to authorize their own charter schools. While it hasn’t been done in a long time, the option is there. Christina has this option as well, but no one has utilized it. Christina doesn’t have a Charter School of Wilmington or a Conrad to brighten their reputation (and test scores). One of them is the most discriminatory institutes of learning I have ever seen in my life while calling themselves a public school. But no one acts on this. I have to wonder why that is? We talk all the time about how we need to make life better for kids. But we allow discrimination factories in our state that the citizens of the state pay taxes to fund. What does that say about who we are as Delaware? We can say we hate it, but when the time comes to push on these issues, and I mean really push, it gets very quiet.
If WEIC truly wants to make things equitable for the children of Wilmington, they need to stop doing it under this illusion of instant change or it is gone forever. I would love instant change as well, but that doesn’t mean it is always good. The redistricting plan, if it becomes law, is going to pump tons of money into Red Clay. But it won’t last forever. What happens when that money is gone four, five years down the road? All these programs will happen based on that money. When it disappears, what happens then? Is Red Clay going to ask their citizens to pay for it? Do we truly think the state will keep paying? And why aren’t Brandywine and Colonial participating in this? That was the original plan. Do they not want “those kids” as well? I know Colonial want to keep the ones they already have, but why did they never offer to take more?
If you are robbing Peter to pay Paul, you better be damn sure you are doing it for the best of all possible reasons. If you are sending kids into a transition just for the sake of getting rid of them, you might want to take a good look in the mirror and think how it would feel if you were being tossed around like that. If you’re doing this to gain power, or an illusion power, remember this is not a game. These are children. If you truly believe their lives will be better, than go with that feeling. If you want a legacy, make sure it is a legacy for kids and not your name. Names are only as important as how things are perceived in the long run. If this ends bad, your name will be attached to it.
I know there are legislators who have or will vote yes for this because it is the political thing to do. I know some of them really haven’t researched it enough to know what they are actually voting on. I have to say, I respect the hell out of State Rep. Kim Williams. Out of all the House Democrats, she was the only one to vote no. Not because she doesn’t want a better life for these kids. Not because she thinks Red Clay isn’t as good as Christina. She voted no because she is deeply concerned about the funding for all this and what it will eventually mean for the constituents in her district. To vote against party lines like that, especially when you are the last Democrat on the roll call and you know every single other Democrat in that room already voted yes, that takes courage and strength.
I know some Senators will fight this. Even a Democrat or two. I recently heard something about a tooth and a nail. I heard about another one who is opposed to it but the power players feel they can handle this Senator. Excuse me? Handle? Is this the FBI? I didn’t know Delaware Senators had handlers. I spent a lot of time in Legislative Hall this week. I saw and heard a lot. More this week alone than I think I have the entire time I’ve gone there during the 148th General Assembly. While I’m not naming names here, I think some of the Delaware “elite” may want to put themselves in check. You only have as much power as you think you have. It can be taken away in an instant. For those who think they are above the will of the people and all that, think twice. I’m not the only one who talks, and I don’t talk as much as I could. The “elite” would most likely have something to really fear if others did. I would worry more about the things people say about you that you can’t hear. That puts a chink in your armor and you don’t even know it’s happening.
I fear this will all end badly for these kids. I agree with what some of the legislators said the other day. This is a hope bill. A hope bill with a hell of a lot of money, but even more important, children’s lives on the line. We still have the Smarter Balanced Assessment which will be the measurement of how successful this thing is. Success based on a failure of a test. I have to ask… what the hell are we really thinking this will accomplish if it based on the very flawed measurement that will define this? The same test that is making a complete mockery out of special education in our state? If this thing is so important, so “has to happen now”, I would encourage all those who have children or grandchildren that could attend Red Clay district schools send their children there. Choice them into Warner, or Bancroft, or Stubbs. Only then will the words I hear so many of you saying actually mean you truly believe this.
This is the beginning of what I hope will be an ongoing feature of this blog. Below will be several groups of statements and facts. Two will be true and one will be a lie. It will be your job to guess or determine which is fact and which is fiction! Comment away!
*EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations Academy are blaming their Smarter Balanced scores on the fact their kids are not as computer literate as their peers in other schools
*Sussex Academy won’t be able to finish their pool because of mercury in the ground.
*Freire Charter School signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Wilmington Police Department
*Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick was so happy their referendum passed he was seen doing cartwheels the next day.
*Academia Antonia Alonso wants no help from the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE with their upcoming move to property at Odyssey Charter School.
*Howard High School of Technology suspended students who were in the bathroom the day of Amy’s death and kept suspending them for weeks on end without any form of due process.
*Charter School of Wilmington held a legislative breakfast.
*Charter School of Wilmington wants an audit inspection to be released that has been on hold since March.
*Charter School of Wilmington will be allowing 20% of all students with disabilities who applied this year to be admitted to the school in August.
*Early College High School parents are not happy about the school’s grading system since the school’s scores didn’t match up with Delaware State University’s grading system
*Penny Schwinn is coming back to the Delaware DOE.
*Dr. Lamont Browne mentioned my blog post about his resignation at a Family Foundations Academy board meeting.
*Family Foundations Academy held pep rallies prior to the school’s testing window for the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment to pump up kids.
*A Delaware State Representative recently had a Facebook post titled “State Representative Looking For Beaver”.
*The same State Representative found some beaver and had a barbecue.
Gateway Lab School, a Delaware charter school that serves a very high population of students with disabilities, held a special board meeting on April 4th, 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss a due process mediation. Can you spot the Delaware FOIA violation? It’s easy if you try!
Oops! That’s a big one! I’ve already filed the FOIA complaint to the Attorney General’s office. As a gentle reminder to all school boards in Delaware: you can discuss student related matters in executive session if it pertains to an issue, but you can’t vote on it in executive session. You need to come out of executive session and vote on it then. Now you can’t, and shouldn’t, say this is for x student’s due process mediation situation. But I would suggest giving a number for all action items at a board meeting. Many boards do this already. You can just say, as an example, “In the matter of 16-322, may I have a motion to vote on this action item?”, or something along those lines. It wasn’t that long ago that Brandywine School District’s board had the same issue which is causing issues for the district now as part of a lawsuit.
As well, I have also requested an opinion from the same office about public comment at public meetings. I have noticed some Delaware charter schools ask public comment to be submitted up to two weeks in advance before a board meeting. I don’t think that is in the spirit of the law. Any member of the public should have unfettered access to a public meeting and have the ability to give public comment without having to give advance notice.
Sorry Gateway! Don’t mean to call you out but if all of your board members have not received the full training on these matters I would definitely get on that!
Wow! The Brandywine School District won their second referendum attempt this year with a ton of votes and a wide margin between pass and against. With over 15,000 citizens of the district voting today, this is huge. Compare that to the recent school board elections in Delaware. I doubt there were 15,000 total votes for the whole state!
The Brandywine School District is having their second attempt at a referendum today. To say both sides have come out swinging for the fences would be an understatement. Politicians like Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Senator Tom Carper, and State Reps Bryon Short and Sean Matthews have all come out in support for the referendum. Brandywine father Patrick Wahl appeared on the Rick Jensen show yesterday along with referendum leader James Hanby. Wahl is claiming the district gave out absentee ballots to an assisted living home along with a host of other issues about the referendum. The Delaware Dept. of Education came out with a letter yesterday indicating it erred with the number of administrators that show on the DOE website. Teachers in and out of the district are urging citizens to get out and vote. Brian Stephan wrote a post on Delaware Liberal yesterday addressing many of Wahl’s allegations.
We will know tonight if this attempt passed or failed. It is getting very hard to keep track of what is truth and what is not, from both sides of the issue. As of 12:55pm today, the New Castle County Dept. of Elections verified 2,085 people have voted already in 18 out of the 22 polling stations. I’m not taking sides on this one folks. There is too much mass confusion surrounding this one. Most likely, the truth is somewhere in the middle in certain areas. The important thing is to get out there and vote if you live in Brandywine.
The Brandywine School District in Delaware will face their 2nd referendum attempt this year on May 17th. Frequently in Delaware, referenda in Delaware has supporters and non-supporters. I posted a video earlier today from Brandywine parent Pat Wahl. The below document refers to a Brandywine employee who emailed the entire district last weekend with what the district claims is inaccurate information. Brandywine responded to the email with a document defending some of the allegations. While Mr. Wahl did make some similar claims in his video, what was addressed in this document was in direct response to the email sent from the district employee. I have not seen the original email. Nor have I seen an official response to Mr. Wahl’s video at this point. I imagine it would be a long response since that video clocks in at over 23 minutes!
Patrick Wahl has upped his video series from tackling the lawsuit he has against the Brandywine School District to attacking their referendum in his latest video. Whether you agree with him or not, you can definitely say he has done his research!
You run for the local school board and you miss stuff like this! Wow!
I found an article this morning from Kelli Steele with Delaware 105.9 about Indian River School District’s Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Miller. He was placed on paid administrative leave without any explanation to the public. This isn’t the first time Miller has been under the microscope:
Miller came to the Indian River School District from the Brandywine School District where he resigned from his position as acting supervisor of the business office in September 1998, after he pleaded NO contest to a criminal charge arising from the State Auditor’s nearly two-year investigation of District finances.
Of course, the school district isn’t going to come out and say why he was put on paid administrative leave as of April 24th because they have to protect personnel. But how much money are we talking here? I saw a link on Twitter that Indian River is now live streaming their board meetings. Of course I saw this after their last board meeting. If anyone knows what is going on here, feel free to reach out to me.
Yossi Goldstein with WDEL broke the news this morning concerning the Brandywine School District’s cuts they will have to make if their second referendum attempt this year does not pass on May 17th. The district did not include the new turf costs in this referendum attempt. Dr. Mark Holodick, the Brandywine Superintendent, laid down the potential areas where costs would occur at their board meeting last night. While the below doomsday scenario doesn’t give exact amounts for each area or how definitive the cuts would be, he did estimate 40 teacher positions would be cut resulting in larger classroom sizes.
Brandywine is part of the BRInC Consortium which is a collection of several Delaware school districts who share a blended learning program, combining digital learning and actual instruction. The report did mention the district’s “Instructional Technology Plan initiative”. There was no mention of pending legal costs for the lawsuit filed by Patrick Wahl against the district which has received a great deal of media attention the past couple months.
Last month, both the Christina and Cape Henlopen School Districts passed their referendums, but Brandywine did not.
Yesterday, Saranac Spencer with the News Journal posted an article about the ongoing litigation against the Brandywine School District. Patrick Wahl, the father of a son in the district, filed a lawsuit against the district earlier this year based on due process issues arising from a school suspension and what Wahl believes was a violation of due process rights regarding a search and seizure. This is the first time, to my knowledge, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick has publicly commented on the matter. Today, Patrick Wahl issued a response to Holodick’s challenge to Wahl.
The News Journal reported this exchange at the end of their article:
So far, Wahl has spent nearly $50,000 on attorney fees, he said, and he is seeking to recover that money through the lawsuit. He is also seeking damages.
“The district questions Mr. Wahl’s motives as he continues to pursue this issue,” Holodick said in his statement. “He has stated in social media venues that he is concerned for the taxpayer as this lawsuit could result in the district spending money on attorneys, a possible settlement or damages. If that is indeed the case, the district hopes that Mr. Wahl will sign a binding agreement to donate any monetary rewards gained from this lawsuit to a local, deserving non-profit organization, such as the Brandywine Education Foundation, which provides students scholarships and teacher grants.”
Wahl responded that he is eager to talk to the district about what he is looking for – ultimately, he said, he wants to see changes in policy regarding reasonable searches of students.
“They could have ended this a year ago,” Wahl said. “They could end it today.”
Wahl’s rebuttal to Holodick’s challenge appeared on his Facebook account today. I did ask Mr. Wahl if it was okay to publish this along with the personal information included. He said it was all public.
AN OPEN LETTER TO BRANDYWINE SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT DR. MARK HOLODICK
Please LIKE and SHARE so this message FINDS ITS WAY to Dr. Holodick!!!
Dear Dr. Holodick,
I read with interest your confusing comments to the News Journal, linked below.
You say, on the one hand, that you are “confident that upon the examination of the accurate record through the litigation, Mr. Wahl’s claims will be disproven.”
But on the other hand, you hope that I will sign “a binding agreement to donate any monetary rewards gained from this lawsuit to a local, deserving non-profit organization, such as the Brandywine Education Foundation, which provides students scholarships and teacher grants.”
Which is it? You’re confident that my claims will be disproven? Or you fear I’ll be awarded monetary damages? Make up your mind.
This confidence that you have — it’s the same confidence you had before the State Board hearing, right?
Dr. Holodick, you lost at the State Board. Do you remember why?
The State Board decided against you because, despite their repeated requests, you produced NO RECORDS.
Now, you say you in fact have an “accurate record” that you’ve been saving, apparently, for the courts.
Your assertion begs the question:
IF YOU HAVE THESE RECORDS, WHY DID YOU NOT PRODUCE THEM FOR THE STATE BOARD?
Did you not have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayer to produce them then upon the repeated requests of the State Board? And if you did not have them then, why did you instead use district funds to pay district counsel to argue the case you knew you would lose? Why did you not simply expunge the record, which is all we were asking for at that time? Were you just trying to exhaust and bankrupt me, hoping I would go away? Did you think the State Board was in the tank for you? Why does a parent have to go to court to see these records?
Do you understand that when the State Board said that the Brandywine School Board violated the law, they mean that YOU violated the law, Dr. Holodick? Aren’t you the Brandywine School Board’s EXECUTIVE SECRETARY? What’s going on with your board, Dr. Holodick?
Taxpayers deserve your explanation TODAY. What kind of records have you suddenly come up with, and why did you withhold them from the State Board? Are you really going to make me produce witnesses who you already know will disprove your claims? As you wish.
You made me prove that you broke the law at the State Board hearing, forcing me to hire a lawyer to get the due process to which I was entitled. So I did. I was right. You violated the law. So now the question is, how do I get those attorney fees covered which I should never have had to pay in the first place? Dr. Holodick? Hello? Are you still there?
I am EAGER to meet with you, WITH OR WITHOUT OUR LAWYERS, to discuss this BINDING AGREEMENT you suggest. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my cell phone is (302) 229-9520. I’m waiting to hear from you for this meeting that so far, you’ve refused me — in violation of your own Code of Conduct.
You circumvented the “Grievance Procedures When a Suspension Has Occurred” on page 65 when you sicced your lawyer on me instead. See that part where you were supposed to schedule a conference with me? You know, right before the “stay-put” provision stuff which allowed Joseph to stay in school, but which you also ignored? Oddly, hearing from district counsel Mr. McMackin as I did is never mentioned in these grievance procedures.
I am happy to discuss this binding agreement in which monetary awards will go to charity, but perhaps to the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit which provides legal services at no charge to students whose constitutional rights have been violated. I’m sure you understand that while I indeed have donated to the Brandywine Education Foundation in the past, I will never, ever do so again. I noticed that Mr. John Skrobot, President of the Brandywine School Board, is on the Board of Directors of the Brandywine Education Foundation. So you are asking that the money I’m awarded be donated to the very lawbreakers I’m suing. I’m going to pass.
But you know what else, Dr. Holodick? I’ve already thought about the taxpayer. That’s why I’m suing you personally, and not just in your official capacity. Did you notice that part of the complaint? I agree with you — damages should be paid by you, Mr. Rolph, and Mr. Simmons, and not by the taxpayer. After all, as Delaware’s #1 highest paid state employee, you take home a quarter million dollars a year. Will you sign a binding agreement that any damages I’m awarded will be paid by you personally and not by the taxpayer? Hey, no worries, right? After all, you are “confident that upon the examination of the accurate record through the litigation, Mr. Wahl’s claims will be disproven.”
Now, I do want to be accurate. Your actual pay is just under a quarter million a year — $246,071.52, to be exact. Mr. Rolph and Mr. Simmons make six figures as well, just like EVERY OTHER administrator in the entire Brandywine School District. I understand there are nearly 100 such six-figure administrators in the Brandywine School District.
Are you a good risk manager? Are you aware of the district’s exposure in this case? Was it a good use of taxpayer money when you fought all the way through the State Board? Did you receive competent counsel advising you simply to expunge the record instead as I had requested and as they eventually ordered anyway? Did you reject and overrule that counsel?
You’ve already wasted a great deal of taxpayer money fighting your losing case at the State Board, and you’re going to spend exponentially more taxpayer money fighting in court. That’s what’s costing the taxpayers, not the damages you’ll pay personally.
You also know this case has little or nothing to do with your zero tolerance policy for “knives of any sort,” and everything to do with the court’s zero tolerance policy, as each and every American should have, for violations of the Constitution and of due process.
You say you want to keep the school safe. The school was not made any safer when my son was banned from its premises for a full week. If you want to keep the school safe, as we all do, I have an idea. How about the administrators know the students? Why did Mr. Rolph not know the student he was looking for? Why did Mr. Rolph not know the student he found? Does that trouble you? What are you doing about it?
I look forward to hearing from you. Let’s both put our personal differences aside and do what’s best to fix what’s wrong in the school district and resolve this case. If you will treat me with respect rather than with the contempt you’ve shown me, I will reciprocate. Again, my email is email@example.com and my cell phone is (302) 229-9520. I will be letting everyone know whether your suggestion of a binding agreement between us was sincere or was merely empty posturing in which you “question the motives” of a parent of a student whose civil rights you violated, and whose right to due process you systematically suppressed.
All I can say is “Wow!” I can’t wait to see Dr. Holodick’s response. I would just like to extend an invitation that if Dr. Holodick wants to channel a response through this blog, I would be more than happy to give him the chance to air his side of the story.
As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Delaware Department of Education named several new schools that would have become Priority or Focus Schools in an email to the United States Department of Education if the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) went into full effect this year. It won’t, but it gives a very good sign of the entire purpose of this “school report card” scheme: more inner-city schools getting false labels and “turnaround status” based on high-stakes standardized test scores. One school, far away from Wilmington, which was highly praised by Governor Markell and the DOE a couple of years ago for their reduction of proficiency gaps would have been a Focus School this year because of the increase in their proficiency gap. Another school that would have become a priority school is already slated to close at the end of this year. Again, I will stress these schools (aside from the ones with an asterisk) have not been named but would have been if the DSSF went into effect this year.
Wow! That is a lot of information from the former Director of Accountability at the Delaware DOE! This was part of the Delaware DOE’s ESEA waiver request they sent to the US DOE at the end of November last year. The State Board had just approved the participation rate penalty in the DSSF at their November meeting. What wasn’t revealed was this list of schools that would have been named Focus or Priority…
Four of the schools labeled as Priority are already Priority Schools. I find it interesting the other two Red Clay Priority Schools are not on this list. The Christina School District would have two more Priority Schools based on their DSSF score. Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed and will close their doors forever at the end of this school year.
Booker T. Washington Elementary School? What? Isn’t this the same school Governor Markell touted and praised for closing the gaps in 2014 and 2015? Didn’t Delaware Today just do a big article about the school’s big turnaround? I have to wonder if Capital School District is aware this school would have been punished again and put back in turnaround status.
Brandywine School District (district code 31) already had three designated Focus Schools this year, but four more would have joined that elite group. Half of Delaware’s Focus Schools would have existed in the Brandywine School District! Red Clay would have seen a middle school join while Christina would have another two schools in turnaround status. Colonial and Delmar both would join the “Focus School Group” based on their proficiency gaps.
When you compare these schools with charter schools based on the actual Smarter Balanced scores last year, the fatal flaw in the Delaware School Success Framework becomes very clear. Many charters such as EastSide, Family Foundations, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison had lower Smarter Balanced scores than some of the priority and focus schools above. But because the DSSF is based not just on the overall scores but also the “growth to proficiency”, the system is rigged to punish schools in traditional school districts. Why? Because the Delaware DOE never did what they said they were going to do in their ESEA waiver application:
So even though they named Delaware College Prep as a priority school in their “DSSF” scenario, it wouldn’t happen because to this date the DOE has not submitted any regulations indicating what is in the picture above. As well, this would account for Focus Schools as well, as seen here:
And what is that Focus School Criteria?
But here is where things get confusing:
The above states no new Focus or Priority schools will be named in the next two years. But they will name Reward and Recognition schools. So that’s good, right? Wrong. The whole ballgame changes on August 1st, 2016. That is when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect. States will be given a “planning and implementation year” so to speak. But the key will be in the regulations issued in the coming months. That is where ALL OF THIS will come into play. The Delaware DOE was probably about 95% certain the ESSA would pass at the time of this ESEA Waiver application on November 19th, 2015. So what does this mean?
These are my predictions: The regulations coming out of ESSA will give the states the authority to determine “turnaround” schools based on US DOE “guidance”. The Delaware DOE will take full advantage of this to keep the plans now in place but also to make things go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year. Or possibly, they will stall this until the 2017-2018 school year. They will support this with a re-designed Regulation 103 in Delaware based on the US DOE regulations. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes the General Assembly (which I now think will happen), Red Clay will have a lot of priority and focus schools. And more to be named based on the Delaware School Success Framework and how they calculate things. Most of them are schools in the city limits of Wilmington. Around 2019 or 2020, the DOE will pounce on these schools with hardcore priority school MOUs. If you thought the MOUs in 2014 were stringent, these will be even tougher for the Red Clay Board of Education to work around. By this time, based on the Smarter Balanced scores (or whatever replaces it), all the Wilmington Red Clay schools will be in Priority School status. Red Clay won’t close all the schools, so they will be forced to turn them over to the DOE, become charter schools, or be put into a management organization. And that, my friends, is when we see Wilmington become an all-charter school district. Over time this will engulf the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts. Upper New Castle County will become ALL charter.
Think about the real estate deals that will come out of that. Think about the collective bargaining rights that are marginalized when a school goes into priority school status. Think about competency-based education and personalized learning and career pathways initiatives already in place in Delaware and other states. Think about the huge amount of schools in the country that have already converted to charters, and the vast amounts of money hedge fund managers make off charters. Think about all the foundations and non-profits that support charters. Think about the fact that WEIC had to happen for all of this to come to fruition. Think about how organizations like Teach For America and the Relay Graduate School for Education stand to benefit immensely from a scenario where teachers are no longer teachers but glorified moderators in a personalized learning environment. Think about the long con and how this would eventually trickle down the state, past the canal, all the way down to Sussex County over the long run. Think about all the tax break legislation that has gone through in Delaware that Markell has signed so fast. There could be a lot of new business coming to Delaware. But none of it will be good for students.
This is the game plan. The one that Delaware Governor Jack Markell, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Business Roundtable fervently support. You won’t find any memos or emails about this. You won’t find any hard or definitive proof either. It will just happen. And if you think John Carney will save the day as the new Governor of Delaware, think again…
Guess what the one mechanism is that stops all of this?
If the state doesn’t have the data needed to carry out all of this, they can’t very well use the results to force all these changes. This is why Governor Markell and the DOE and Rodel and all the organizations, foundations, and non-profits are against opt out. Opt Out is the game-changer that disrupts ALL their plans.