Exclusive: Secretary Bunting And Brandywine Superintendent Holodick Break State Law In Profit Scheme For Buccini-Pollen

Last Spring, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation was House Bill #454.  This bill was a gift to Buccini-Pollen, a developer in New Castle County.  It waived the Voluntary School Assessment tax for a large portion of the Concord Plaza development project.  Not many were in favor of this present to the developer and eventually the bill was stricken.  They felt, and rightly so, it would cost regular taxpayers more and it was a gimme to the developers.  But behind the scenes, folks like Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting were hard at work making sure Buccini-Pollen would get their waiver no matter what. Continue reading

Patrick Miller Brainwashes His Fire Company Cult Followers

The Jim Jones of Delaware fraud is at it again.  What did the infamous Patrick Miller do now?  He only lied to the entire membership of the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company at their monthly meeting. Continue reading

Delaware Education Roundup October Edition

There are always gems to be found when you comb through district and charter board minutes, agendas, and websites.  I did that last night and found a ton of stuff!  Instead of coming out with a dozen or more articles about it, I thought I would just combine all of it one fell swoop!  There is A LOT of material in here so dig in! Continue reading

Former Employee Alleges His Brandywine Supervisor Had Him Arrested

A former Brandywine School District employee sent an email to the Brandywine School Board, Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, myself, and others employed by the state last evening.  He accused a Brandywine Supervisor of having him arrested earlier this year. Continue reading

Interview With Brandywine’s Kenny Rivera After His Trip To See Schools In India

Kenny Rivera, an Assistant Principal at Brandywine High School, recently embarked on an incredible journey to India to explore different schools and systems in education.  I interviewed Kenny this week.  While he was in India, I saw his Facebook posts filled with pictures of schools and students.  Kenny has graciously allowed me to use those pictures in this article. Continue reading

Patrick Miller’s Hat Trick & The Bunting Letter Sent To Indian River Staff After Patrick Miller “Resigned”

Brandywine School District.  Indian River School District.  Indian River Volunteer Fire Company.  What do all three of these have in common?  Patrick Miller.  A man accused of financial fraud in the two districts who is not behind bars.  High crimes and misdemeanors indeed!  But he is a free man.  How is that even possible? Continue reading

Brandywine School Board President John Skrobot Jr. Passed Away

An hour ago, the Brandywine School District announced that Board of Education President John Skrobot Jr. passed away.  This is very sad news.  I never met Mr. Skrobot but I have no doubt this is a great loss for the Brandywine community.

It is with much sadness that we share the passing of our School Board President, John Skrobot Jr. Mr. Skrobot served on the School Board since 2011 and as Board President for the last five years. He was a longtime supporter of BSD in many, many ways. In addition to his service on the School Board, he was a very active member of the District’s Renovations Oversight Committee. As a student at Mount Pleasant High School in the 70s, he was a founding member of WMPH Radio. He also was involved in the creation of the Brandywine Education Foundation.

Mr. Skrobot cared deeply about the Brandywine School District and the children and families we serve. It was quite common to find him attending District and community events as he was, indeed, a hands-on leader. His commitment and dedication to supporting District improvements and ensuring the success of all students could be seen and felt in both his words and actions. Mr. Skrobot will be greatly missed, but he has left an indelible mark on the BSD community. May his memory be eternal.

Rest in peace John Skrobot Jr.

Audit: All School Board Agendas, Minutes, & Audio Recordings; Caesar Rodney, Brandywine & Laurel Are Breaking The Law Big Time!

Transparency in public education is a must.  When more than a quarter of Delaware’s state budget goes to public education, the citizens expect, and rightfully so, transparency.  But some of our districts and charters struggle with transparency.

I haven’t done this since 2016, but I thought it was a good time to see how Delaware’s traditional school district and charter school boards were doing with transparency on their websites.  I checked for board minutes, board agendas, and board audio recordings. Continue reading

What Ever Happened With Patrick Miller, Former Chief Financial Officer of Indian River?

In December of 2016, days before a crucial referendum, Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner released a scathing audit inspection of the Indian River School District.  The number one culprit of shenanigans in the district was their former Chief Financial Officer, Patrick Miller.  What is Miller up to these days? Continue reading

Christina, Brandywine, Colonial, & Red Clay Named In Ridiculous Lawsuit Filed By Charter School Development Corporation

The four Wilmington, Delaware traditional school districts are in the middle of a long lawsuit filed against them by the Charter Schools Development Corporation last January.  But the lawsuit itself is absurd! Continue reading

A Dangerous Bill In The Delaware General Assembly Could Cost School Districts Millions Of Dollars!

If a certain bill goes through, look for future referenda in several school districts! Continue reading

Delaware School Board Election 2018 Results

The Department of Elections for each county are still counting a lot of the votes, but some unofficial results are in which are usually a good indicator for where things are going. Congrats to the victors and to those who didn’t make it, do not give up! If you can’t run again based on being in a district, either continue lending your voice or begin to if you haven’t already. Voter turnout for school board elections is abysmal in Delaware. For those who don’t know, this election is held EVERY SINGLE YEAR on the 2nd Tuesday in May.

Brandywine, District A: Shanika Perry 684, Reynaldo Epps 164
Caesar Rodney: P. Scott Wilson 403, William Victory 387, John Moore 318, and Tracey Miller 207
Christina, District C: Fred Polaski 411, Richard Jester 358 and VJ Leonard 357
Christina, District E: Keeley Powell 618, Christy Mannering 502
Colonial, District C: Ronnie Williams 237, Richard Schiller 141
Colonial, District G: Robin Crossan 221, Tanya Kerns 98, Ana Viscarra-Gikas 94
Indian River, District 3: Leolga Wright 349, Dana Probert 92
Indian River, District 5: Derek Cathell 95, Carla Ziegler 27
Lake Forest: John Moyer III 158, James Parsons 78
Red Clay District A: Jose Matthews 1,009, Joseph DiMichele 715
Smyrna: Kristi Lloyd 479, Gary Dodge 251
Woodbridge: Jeffrey Allen 167, Darrynn Harris 24

Brandywine School District Salaries Over $100,000

Next up is Brandywine School District.  Located at the top of Delaware if you are looking at a map, Brandywine has 10,400 students.  This number has hovered around that amount for the past few years.  Given that, the number of administrators in Brandywine making over $100,000 has gone down dramatically over the past four years.  In 2014, they had 71 making that coveted number.  Now, they have 55.  In 2016, the district went through a tumultuous referendum process.  This could account for the reduction in administrators in the district.  Four years ago, Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick was the highest paid administrator in Delaware’s public schools.  As a reminder, these salaries are only the base salary and doesn’t include extra perks.  Back in 2014, including those perks, The News Journal estimated Holodick’s salary at $214,176.  If those perks are still the same, Holodick got a huge raise from the district! Continue reading

Carney Cremates Christina

If you thought the arrow Delaware Governor John Carney shot through Christina School District’s heart was bad, you haven’t seen anything yet!  Plans are afoot.  And what will be left standing after Carney does his coup d’état will shock everyone! Continue reading

Colonial, Red Clay, Christina, Brandywine, Woodbridge, Caesar Rodney, Las Americas ASPIRAS, Kuumba & Great Oaks Are Big Winners In Carney’s Opportunity Grants

Today, Governor Carney’s Office announced the recipients of the $1 million in opportunity grants that are part of the FY2018 Delaware budget.  Colonial was by far the biggest winner receiving $200,000 for several schools.

Governor Carney Announces Recipients of $1 Million in Education Opportunity Grants

Funding will help districts and charter schools support disadvantaged students and English language learners

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Wednesday announced that nine Delaware school districts and charter schools will receive a combined $1 million in Opportunity Grant funding to support programs that help disadvantaged students and English language learners succeed in classrooms across the state.

Delaware’s Opportunity Grant program – created and funded by Governor Carney and members of the General Assembly in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget – will help districts and charter schools improve supports for low-income students, students chronically exposed to stress and trauma, and English language learners. District and charter awardees will use the grant to fund programs in the 2017-18 school year.

“All Delaware students deserve a quality education and an equal chance to succeed. We’re working hard to provide schools and educators with the tools they need to more effectively serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and close the achievement gap,” said Governor Carney. “I look forward to seeing the progress that these schools and districts make, and will urge them to share their successes with their fellow educators across the state. Thank you to members of the General Assembly for their leadership in helping fund this program.”

Governor Carney has pledged to take decisive action to address Delaware’s achievement gap, and he has made it a priority to support disadvantaged students in Wilmington and across the state.  In July, the Governor established the Wilmington-based Office of Innovation and Improvement, led by longtime Wilmington educator Dorrell Green, to support students and educators in high-needs schools.

For Christina School District, Opportunity Grant funding will help increase resources at Elbert-Palmer Elementary School for students and families dealing with complex trauma. Christina is focused on treating trauma as part of a larger effort to reduce student suspensions, increase student attendance, elevate student achievement, and more.

“The Christina School District is excited to receive an Opportunity Grant for Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, which will allow us to implement strategies like compassionate schools training for teachers and related resources that are critical to student success,” said Richard Gregg, Superintendent of Christina School District. “With this funding, students at Elbert-Palmer will truly have increased opportunities–just as the name of the grant suggests. We are thankful to the Department of Education for recognizing how much our students deserve to have access to high-quality programs.”

“We are very excited about this opportunity to make Elbert-Palmer a Comprehensive Compassionate School,” said Dr. Gina Moody, principal at Elbert-Palmer Elementary School. “Staff will be given resources to become more informed practitioners who engage with students with various social and emotional needs. Our plan will focus on providing stronger positive behavior supports for Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions, such as counseling services, and universal Tier 1 supports such as preferred activities and tangible incentives. Additionally, we will focus on engaging families in the educational process through community and school events.”

Woodbridge School District plans to use its Opportunity Grant funding to contract with a behavioral health provider who will provide counseling services at Woodbridge Early Childhood Center and Phillis Wheatley Elementary School.

“The awarding of the Opportunity Grant to Woodbridge will give our staff and students new and innovative approaches to meeting the social and emotional needs of our students,” said Heath Chasanov, Superintendent of Woodbridge School District and the 2017-18 President of the Chief School Officers Association“We are extremely appreciative of this funding source being provided by the Governor’s Office and the Department of Education to provide additional programs for our students to be successful.”

“The Woodbridge School District is very grateful for the opportunities this grant provides,” said Michele Marinucci, Woodbridge School District’s Director of Student Services. “We will be implementing additional innovative programs in music, mindfulness, health, wellness, and emotional stability as we continue our journey of meeting the social emotional needs of all of our students.”

Red Clay Consolidated School District plans to use the Opportunity Grant to enhance their trauma informed care so they can provide students who have greater needs with higher levels of care.  

“We are extremely excited to receive this grant to work with students, families and staff members to provide trauma informed support and professional development,” said Dr. Mervin Daugherty, Superintendent of the Red Clay Consolidated School District. “The opportunity to partner with the University of Delaware will also allow us to provide trauma screening and implement group/individual interventions for students impacted by trauma. We are hopeful this path forward will become a model for other schools throughout the district and the state.”

In considering applications for funding, the Department of Education gave preference to school-level initiatives, rather than broader district or organizational programs. Grant applicants outlined a detailed plan for how funds would be used – and grant recipients are required to provide information on the outcome of the support, in an effort to showcase what is working.

District and charter school awardees specifically focused on integrating student services and trauma-informed supports to low-income students, as well as on additional supports to low-income students and English language learners.

“We are thrilled to be able to facilitate educators’ efforts to better meet the diverse needs of students throughout the state, especially those students who need the most support,” said Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education. “This opportunity also gives Delaware another way to identify what works in schools and to share successes with educators servicing similar populations.”

2017 Opportunity Grant awardees: 

Colonial School District – $200,000 – Castle Hills Elementary, Harry O. Eisenberg Elementary, Pleaseantville Elementary, Wilmington Manor Elementary

This grant will support 1,970 students across four schools. The plan is for Colonial to implement trauma-informed supports and deepen the Responsive Classrooms approach through embedded training, coaching and other supports. A group of teacher-leaders will be developed. The plan is designed for this core group of teachers to turn the training around to the rest of the staff. 

Christina School District – $106,832 – Elbert Palmer Elementary (EPE)

EPE will support 250 students and their families through a comprehensive, Compassionate Care model.  EPE intends to reduce student suspensions, increase student attendance, increase family involvement, increase student achievement, and provide more resources for families dealing with complex trauma.

Red Clay School District – $106,832 – Richardson Park Elementary

Richardson Park will provide trauma informed care to all students by changing the school level climate.  They will support staff in re-conceptualizing disruptive behavior to a trauma informed lens and provide access to higher level of trauma care for students in need. The project will: 1. Produce school staff who can identify, support, and refer all students exposed to trauma and who can integrate trauma informed care with existing programming. 2.  Increase access to more intensive care of students of need and their families. 3.  Strengthen Richardson Park’s network of trauma referrals.

Brandywine School District – Mt. Pleasant – $100,000 – Mount Pleasant Elementary (MPE)

The intended impact of this project will be to serve: 30-40 high need students and their families with ongoing, targeted supports; 200 families with services to meet their needs throughout the school year; and the entire adult and student population.  They expect to see improvements in chronic absenteeism, family engagement, climate and student achievement.  MPE seeks to become a comprehensive services center, as well as implement mindfulness initiatives throughout the school. 

Great Oaks Charter School – $100,000

Great Oaks will support implementation of broad trauma based and social emotional programming to support 120 students with weekly individual and/or group counseling.  All 446 students of the school’s students will benefit from the implementation of a restorative discipline system designed to drive self-agency and positive decision making. Great Oaks serves grades 6-8.

Kuumba Academy Charter School – $100,000

Kuumba will use the grant to fund a portion of its comprehensive trauma-informed practices and supports package. The package addresses school culture, academic needs, family engagement and service provision through a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive lens. Kuumba is committed to providing integrated student services and trauma-informed supports to low income students.  The package will serve all of the school’s 750 students in grades K-8. 

Las Americas Aspira Charter School – $100,000

LAAA will implement a reading framework supporting the needs of EL students, including embedded teacher supports. This reading framework will enhance the balanced literacy framework by embedding language acquisition scaffolds so that all students, English Learners included, improve their literacy achievement and ultimately close the reading achievement gap. 

Woodbridge School District – $97,678 –Woodbridge Early Childhood CenterPhillis Wheatley Elementary School

Woodbridge will provide parents with the necessary knowledge to make informed nutritional choices for their families, and further develop staff members on trauma informed practices in order to support student’s academic and behavioral needs. One of the primary focus areas of the grant is to contract with a behavioral health provider to provide counseling services in both schools.

Caesar Rodney School District – $88,656 –Caesar Rodney High School

Caesar Rodney will provide trauma informed supports and integrated services for all 750 English learner (EL) students.  The plan is designed to train non-ESL certified teachers using a train-the-trainer model to better meet the academic and language needs of the ELs. CRHS will utilize the expertise of the University of Delaware and WIDA resources (resources to assist in language acquisition for English learner students) to target planning, instruction and assessment.

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Some very interesting choices here.  These schools are definitely ones that have some high populations of high-needs students.  Two of the three charters are located in the Community Education Building in downtown Wilmington.  I have to wonder how many actually applied for these funds.  With all the cuts to the education budget, this doesn’t even begin to make a dent to restore those funds.  Many of the areas these funds will help students the most were widely discussed during the Every Student Succeeds Act discussion groups a year ago.

The “Wahl” Bill Dealing With Zero Tolerance Policies On Weapons Goes To Governor Carney For Signature

There was so much activity going on Sunday night/Monday morning with bills passing left and right, I didn’t realize a very important one passed the Senate.  House Bill 176 passed the General Assembly and is waiting to be signed by Delaware Governor John Carney.  Anyone who has been following this bill and the backstory behind it knows this started with one father’s fight against the Brandywine School District.

Pat Wahl’s son was alleged to have brought a weapon into school and was suspended.  His father fought the charge but the Brandywine Board of Education voted on it and agreed to the administrator’s recommendation.  Wahl appealed the decision with the State Board of Education and won.  After a legal situation with the district, Wahl and Brandywine settled.  The result of the settlement was Brandywine would change their zero tolerance policies.  Wahl took it another step and spoke with State Rep. Deb Hudson.  As a result, House Bill #176 was born.  Congrats to Wahl, Brandywine, and State Rep. Hudson for taking what could have been a matter of sour grapes and actually creating something lasting for all Delaware Schools.

While HB #176 deals primarily with weapons, this could be the start of a whole new way of looking at school discipline.  As I’ve been writing the series about what happened to J in Smyrna School District, I have heard from several parents about similar kinds of situations.  It has become very transparent to me that the next leg of the Delaware 149th General Assembly needs some companion legislation to House Bill #176.  Pat Wahl had the time and the means to take things as far as he did, but not all parents are so fortunate.  Not to disparage Wahl in any way, but for every one of them, there are probably 25 parents who wouldn’t have the money, resources, or even knowledge to be able to fight these issues.  Which is exactly why I am tackling them: to spread that knowledge and shine a light on what many are seeing as a very heavy hand on the part of some school districts when it comes to discipline.

In the meantime, I will take this victory and raise a glass in honor of Wahl.  I look forward to Carney signing this and making this the law of the land in Delaware.

Christina Board Passes MOU With New Castle County School Districts With No Public Input

The Christina School District Board of Education passed a controversial motion to send the same funds going to charter schools (from the infamous settlement) to all traditional New Castle County School Districts (except for NCC Vo-Tech).  The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would bind Christina School District to sending the same funds they agreed upon in the charter school settlement to Red Clay Consolidated, Brandywine, Colonial, Appoquinimink, and Smyrna School Districts.  The price tag for this year will be $350,000 but this is a “forever” contract so those funds will go to those districts for students choicing out of Christina to those districts forever.  But another motion, that would have allowed for public comment on the issue, failed.  Board member John Young summed up the meeting in three paragraphs earlier this morning on Facebook.  Newly sworn-in board member Angela Mitchell abstained from both votes.

Last night, Christina School District BOE motioned to settle with Red Clay, Brandywine, Appoquinimink, Smryna and Colonial for $350K + this year and each year in the future forever pursuant to the charter school settlement. The meeting was at Sarah Pyle Academy at 7PM.

It was moved to approve the settlement MOU. Then it was moved to be voted on at the 6.13.17 meeting so the public could comment more fully. There was debate. Board members indicated that public opinion would have NO SWAY in their vote. The vote to vote on 6.13.17 was defeated 2 YES, 4 NO, 1 Abstention. Then the vote to approve handing over CSD monies without input from the public was approved 5 YES, 1 NO, 1 abstention. Of course all votes were public, but if you want details feel free to PM me. I am reeling from shock that board members and key employee(s) deliberately and intentionally told the taxpayers to go to hell with regards to their input. My disappointment extends beyond the board and includes CSD employees and the Supers of all NCC schools and Smyrna SD. An unreal night, I assure you.

I hope there is VOCIFEROUS public comment on 6.13.17 to protest the way the board operated tonight.

I always hated the settlement with the charters.  But, let us all hope this is the last song on this record…

Proposed MOU Between Christina and Red Clay, Appo, Brandywine, Colonial, and Smyrna Over Referendum Funds From 2003

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.

I’m Calling This One The “Patrick Wahl” Legislation!

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!