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.

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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!

 

Red Clay, Brandywine, & Appoquinimink Go After Christina For The Same Bling The Charters Got In Settlement

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 Pacific sunset.

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.

Exceptional Delaware Endorsements For 2017 School Board Candidates

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”

Delaware School Board Election 2017: Brandywine, Caesar Rodney, Capital, Smyrna, & Woodbridge School Districts

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”

Vitamin C Ring At Brandywine’s P.S. DuPont Middle School Lands Six Kids In Hospital

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.

Thom Labarbera, Brandywine Social Studies Teacher, Passes Away

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.

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Sean Matthews For State Rep. District 10

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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).

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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.

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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.

Delaware Special Education Due Process Hearing Decisions & Administrative Complaint Resolutions Released For Four Districts & One Charter School

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

 

Some Are Pushing For The WEIC Redistricting For The WRONG Reasons

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.

Two Truths And A Lie

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!

#1

*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

#2

*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.

#3

*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.

#4

*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.

#5

*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.

In Today’s Game: Can You Spot The FOIA Violation?

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!

Brandywine Wins Referendum With Over 62% Of Votes Cast, Over 15,000 Total Votes Today

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!

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Did you vote in the Brandywine Referendum yet?

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.

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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.

Brandywine Responds To Referendum Allegations With “Accurate Facts And Information” Document

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!

What Has Patrick Wahl Done Now?

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!

What’s Going On In Indian River School District?

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.