Capital School District’s VERY BOLD Long-Term Plans

The Capital School District has mighty plans for the district!  As part of their ongoing strategic plan, the district will discuss potential building and grade configurations at their board meeting this evening, beginning at 7pm.

While these plans are not set in stone, there is serious discussion about what the district will physically look like in the long run.  Referendum haters may want to relax because the plans I am about to discuss are long-term and could take twenty years to reach the finale.  But current plans call for sweeping building changes, grade configurations, and a new way of looking at middle school.  The district began earnestly looking at these changes last fall and held staff and community forums earlier this month after a facility master plan was presented to the board.

With the proposed changes, two current elementary schools would disappear and another would be renovated. Fairview and Town Pointe Elementary Schools would be demolished and Dover East would get a new building.  Both plans call for a potential expansion at Dover North.  Where things get very interesting are the plans for the existing middle schools, William Henry and Central Middle.  Central Middle would become an elementary school.  Since William Henry is connected to Kent County Community School, the plan is to use room in William Henry to house a growing high-needs special needs population.  This does not mean all special education students in the district would be going to this potential facility!

For the middle schools, they would be two separate schools but joined by a common area.  Potential plans would called for shared resources between the two such as a cafeteria and large gym.  But it would also allow the district to have Career-Technical education programs in one school and arts programs in another.  But since the schools would be in the same location, it would be difficult for diversity issues to come up since they are both there.  The district is looking at potential magnet programs in the future.  The proposed site for the new middle schools would be on the property of the old Dover High School.

Those are the major changes.  Other options call for an early childhood center attached to Dover East and potentially one next to Booker T. Washington Elementary School.  Both of the potential options would call for what is known as a “Main Campus” which would house the expanded Kent County Community School, Booker T. Washington (which holds the district Delaware Autism Program inclusion program) and the proposed early childhood center.  As well, other space in William Henry could house the Transition program for students with high needs between the ages of 18-21.  The district now leases space in a building across from the Department of Education in Dover.

In terms of grade configurations, the plan is to have the following: early childhood centers would hold Pre-K to Kindergarten, elementary schools would hold 1st-5th grade, middle schools would have 6th-8th, and high school would be 9th-12th grades.

So how much is all of this going to cost?  Probably millions and millions of dollars.  But not all at once.  The goal is to look at the projected growth of the district based on a capacity of 600 students in each elementary school, 750 in the middle schools, and 1,800 for the high school.  Keep in mind, this is a twenty year plan.  Things could very well change during the next two decades.  Projections are good but you never know when a huge business could come to Dover or Kent County which could change all the numbers.  But I like this plan.  I like the idea of sharing resources at the middle school level.  Having the “Main Campus” could also allow for that which could save the district tons of money.  Of course, any new construction or renovation costs tons of money but everything old must one day become new!

OPTION A

option-a

OPTION B

option-b

As the above diagrams show, Hartly Elementary School, Dover South Elementary School and Dover North Elementary School would have the least amount of changes.  The revamped district would actually have one less elementary school than present, but the populations in each school would change based on removing Kindergarten and adding 5th grade.  As a citizen of Dover, this will definitely be one to watch!  When the strategic plan process began last year I strongly advocated for changing the middle school grade configuration to what they are now proposing.  To hear the plans in more detail, come on out to the board meeting at the district office!

Capital School District Parents: Go To The Board Meeting Tonight & Give Dr. Shelton Your Opt-Out Letter

This is a special announcement for all parents of students in the Capital School District: Please go to their board meeting tonight, at 7:30 pm at the District Office, and give Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton your opt-out letter.  And then give public comment about why you are opting your child out and your desire to have the Capital board pass a parent opt-out policy like the Christina School District board did two months ago and the Red Clay board is going to vote on tonight.  The Capital Board did pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right a year ago, but a policy would make sure this is ironclad in Capital.  This is a public service announcement brought to you by Exceptional Delaware.  Thank you!

Should Capital School District Name The Dover H.S. Football Stadium After Dr. Thomas?

I’m hearing from a ton of people the Capital School Board may vote to name the Dover High School football stadium after the recently retired Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas.  There are a lot of mixed thoughts with this.  Some feel it is way too soon, some say he should definitely receive this honor, and others are saying heck no!  What do you think?

Parent Opt Out Movement Gaining Steam In Delaware, Another Parent Opts Child Out At Capital Board Meeting

As the Smarter Balanced Assessment draws closer, more parents are catching on to the opt out movement.  Tonight at the Capital Board meeting, a parent read a brief public comment she was opting her son out and gave a letter to the board.  Later on in the meeting, the board unanimously approved a resolution to support the House Bill to allow Parent Opt Out but wanted to add language concerning school protections.  Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas was concerned, and rightly so in my opinion, about the implications this could have on teachers and principals at the schools.  I actually advised the board at this point the bill was submitted today with new language to add certain protections for schools.

The bill will be released tomorrow with a House Bill number as per Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko. From there, it will go to the House Education Committee.  If it moves on from there, it would be voted on by the House, and would then go to the Senate if approved.  If it passes, it would go to Governor Markell to sign into law.  This is where it could get tricky.  If enough parents are behind this, Markell would have a public relations nightmare if he refused to sign this.  But he is a lame-duck and firmly in the pockets of the corporate education reformers.  Which is why parents need to make a lot of noise about this NOW!

Board member Matthew Lindell said the bill has the same type of language in Capital’s resolution from October which passed.  The Capital resolution stated there would be no penalty against students if they were opted out of the state assessment.  Board President Kay Dietz-Sass said she has personally had about 70 inquiries into opt out by concerned parents.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment testing window begins March 10th, and ends on June 4th.  Parents have 20 days to opt their child out of this test.  We need many more with the brave courage of the parents who have already done this.  We also need a count, so if you have opted your child out, let me know.  If you would prefer privacy, you can shoot me an email at kevino3670@yahoo.com If you are a special needs parent, and you are still on the fence about this, just be prepared for hell to be unleashed once this test starts.  You can stop that from happening.

Capital Board of Education Meeting Tonight Draws A Huge Crowd To Support High School Principal

The Capital School District Board of Education meeting tonight was a packed house, in spite of very icy roads in Dover, DE.  Most of the crowd was there to support the Dover High School Principal, Dr. Evelyn Edney.  Edney’s contract was not renewed by the board in the November executive session of their board meeting, despite a recommendation to renew by Capital Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas.

There were about fifty public comments submitted, but Board President Kay Dietz-Sass limited the comments to a maximum of three minutes each for two blocks of fifteen minutes each.  Edney’s supporters claimed her non-renewal would set back race relations 50 years in the capital of Delaware.  Some gave exact details of how much a potential lawsuit would cost the district.  Edney, an African-American, was supported by several members of the Dover community.  The board did add another fifteen minutes at the end of the evening, allowing an additional half hour of public comment.

In an article in the Dover Post from December 17th, 2014, a teacher at the high school said in the 12/10 Capital Board meeting “Under her leadership, she has gotten Dover High School out of the state’s partnership zone program, met average yearly progress (AYP) goals and increased graduation and attendance rates,” he told the board. “She is a leader that puts the students first and I am asking that the DHS contract be put back on the agenda for February 2015 and revisit the decision, giving more time for community input.”

Many of the commenters at tonight’s board meeting demanded to know why Edney’s contract was not being renewed.  Dietz-Sass told the commenters they could not discuss personnel issues based on laws protecting employees.  One commenter asked which law this was, to which Dr. Thomas told the commenter he would check with the Board attorney and would get back in touch with him.  Another commenter actually said he was going to start a petition to disband the school board and would give it to Governor Markell.  I don’t think the Governor has that kind of power over a local education agency school board, but they are welcome to try.

In terms of allegations of Edney’s race playing a factor into the decision, that would be tough to prove given that Capital has many African-American principals.  I do think the board should give a valid reason to Edney why her contract wasn’t renewed, but I don’t think members of the community should make it into a bigger issue.  There could be a multitude of issues beyond a track record of improvements for the high school.  That should be between Edney and the Board.  Just my two cents…

For more information on the Dover Post article from 12/17/14, please go here: http://www.doverpost.com/article/20141217/NEWS/141219820?template=printart

The Heroes of Delaware: Transcript of Parent Opt Out Decision at Capital School District Board Meeting @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @BadassTeachersA #netde #eduDE #edchat

On Wednesday, October 15th, the Capital School District Board of Education passed a resolution allowing parents to opt their children out of state assessments without any penalty from the schools or the district. The following is a transcript, taken from the digital audio recording of the meeting.

Capital School District Board of Education: Matthew Lindell (Vice-President, Acting President in lieu of President Kay Dietz-Sass’ absence), Sean Christiansen, John Martin, Brian Lewis (absent), Dr. Michael Thomas (Superintendent)

Lindell: Moving on. 3.10, State Assessment, Parent Opt Out, Resolution #15-041. Ms. Sass asked to put this on the agenda. I think we’ve gotten to the point where we ended up tabling the policy itself when we were trying to adjust the policy as far as protecting parents who choose to opt their children out of standardized testing within the school district. Upon just taking things into consideration and other thoughts, feelings and so forth. You know, parents, by creating a policy we’ve basically already, basically were almost like DOE but were just saying, were giving you the ability to do this. The parents have the choice, it’s just frowned upon by DOE. And yes, can there be consequences for the district? Yes, there can be. I think we’ve debated that extensively. But there comes a time, and I think I mentioned this the last time we tabled this, there comes a time when, imagine in history, when some of the key points in history when some individuals said “I’m gonna sit down and I’m not gonna risk it.” Imagine if George Washington said “I’m gonna turn down the command of the Continental Army in 1775,” or Thomas Jefferson was like “No, I’m not going to risk King George III hanging me from the closest tree.” Or Martin Luther King Jr. saying “You know what, I don’t want to rock the boat so I’m just going to let things go as they may.” If we did this every single time someone threatened us, and said “This is going to happen to you if you don’t do this,” what’s going to happen? I grew up in an America standing up for issues of great importance. Not being afraid of what might happen if you take the step of questioning the government that the people duly elect. Our government is not perfect, we’re certainly not perfect, but there comes a time when policies and the continuation of the same old same old needs to be questioned and addressed. When that communication is ignored, sometimes it requires bolder action.

I would support, and I hope the board would support, the idea that we would entertain a motion to protect the parents and the district who choose to opt out their children from the test. Just as much as we would protect the parents who choose to have their kid take the test. I think it comes down to parental rights. Who knows more about their kids, many times, than their parents? Just to see the stories of kids struggling and the lack of confidence… Just tonight we saw Mr. McCove (a former alumni of Capital who gave a presentation on a program called Passport To Success earlier in the meeting)… that creativity. That is what, in my personal opinion, I think, many countries around the world admire that they can’t duplicate about our system. We’re creative, and the one thing we try to do is educate everyone. But we’ve come to the point now where it’s just about the test. You see the excitement for learning just draining out of kids. We shouldn’t see that in 1st, 2nd or 3rd grade. We shouldn’t see kids going to the bathroom having to throw up, or being afraid to go to school because they have to take this test. There’s more to measuring our schools. The banners tonight, recognizing our schools, (banners were presented earlier in the meeting to schools in Capital School District that had significant increases in DCAS scores or decreased percentages in different proficiency gaps between regular groups and sub-groups such as minorities or special education students) I didn’t need the test data telling us our district and our schools are successful. I can walk in there and see what good teaching looks like. I can see what our students are doing. It’s about time that we started addressing these things and making waves and saying enough is enough. And hopefully we have some legislators that might join on board and say this is an issue we need to take a look at.

Christiansen: Mr. Lindell, as one of those parents that witnessed a child losing his mind because he was worried about a test, “I got a 4 Dad, but they need me to do better.” He didn’t sleep that night, he didn’t want to go to school the next morning, but he went. He took his test, he came home, (I said) “How did you do?” He said “Dad, I sat in the test.” “What did you learn today?” “How to take a test.” And that’s what our teachers are being pushed to do. You know, a lot of these teachers have been here a long time, and they’re going to be here a lot longer. Teaching has changed. The demands on our students have changed. The demands on our teachers have drastically changed. And it’s not easy for you to wake up every morning and say I’m going to school to educate because you’re worried about one thing or another. But when we take fun out of learning, we take kids that are in elementary school, not getting on the bus and hiding behind a bush because they don’t want to take a test, that’s an issue. We talked about this in May, of this year, and that’s when we tabled it I believe. And we stood up here strong and said we’re going to fight for the student or fight for the parents to be a parent. I think it’s time. I wish there were five of us here instead of three of us. But unless Mr. Martin’s got something to say or has a question I’d like to make a motion.

Martin: I’ve been waiting for this one all night long, the whole dog-gone time!

Christiansen: Are you okay with me making a motion now or do you have something to say?

Martin: Oh no, I have something audacious to say.

Christiansen: I can’t wait.

Martin: Let’s do it!

Christiansen: Mr. President, I’d like to make a motion that this Board of Education will support a parent’s decision for a child to opt out of standardized state testing without any repurcussions from the Capital School District.

Martin: Mr. Lindell, I second that motion. Resolution #15-041 for parents to be able to opt out of the state assessment.

Lindell: The motion has been made by Mr. Christiansen, and it’s been seconded by Mr. Martin. Any further discussion gentlemen?

Martin: None.

Lindell: All those in favor? Say aye.

Lindell, Christiansen and Martin: Aye.

Lindell: All those opposed? (None) Motion carries. (clapping coming from audience)