Capital Union President Lied To Every Single Teacher In Capital School District

For the past several months, teachers at Dover High School have been grappling with Covid, remote learning, hybrid learning and the district itself. But it appears their greatest enemy might just be their own union that is supposed to protect teachers.

This past Monday, WDEL had an explosive article about teachers at Dover High School. The news shocked Delaware teachers up and down the state but it didn’t come as a surprise to many. For Leann Ferguson, her actions in reporting the incidents to WDEL were met with mixed results. Many teachers hailed her as a hero for finally reporting things many would not. Others branded her a traitor to the district and Dover High School.

The article dealt mainly with accommodations teachers could get through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how the district responded to those requests. According to the article and Ferguson, one teacher was fired after they were denied an ADA request to the district. The teacher wrote to the board and was summarily terminated the next day with an email from the district indicating their contract was ending before the end of the year.

One teacher, who also requested anonymity for fear of retribution, confirmed to WDEL they initially requested reasonable ADA accommodations to teach remotely. When that request was refused the teacher sent a letter to the Capital School District Board of Education asking for unpaid leave. Instead, they were let go.

The district denies the allegation.

“That is absolutely inaccurate. No one who requested accommodations has been terminated,” said Cooke.

However, WDEL has obtained their request for leave letter, and an email response from the district, dated November 30, 2020, indicating the teacher’s contract would be paid off and their insurance ended. The teacher is considering litigation in the matter.

It seems there is a lot of denial at Dover High School. One of the chief denial makers is a teacher named Lisa Whiteman, the President of the Capital Educators Association. In response to the WDEL article, Whiteman issued a letter to every single teacher at Dover H.S. and for no reason at all, lied about CEA knowing anything about the issues in the article. The full letter can be seen below.

Careful attention should be drawn to the words “Please know CEA had no prior knowledge of the issues brought forth in the article.” This would indicate that they knew absolutely nothing about issues with ADA accommodation issues that teachers were facing. CEA did an investigation into the matter, met with the district, and found the article “to be not completely true in most instances”. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Whiteman lied to every single teacher in the Capital School District in her sad attempt to throw Ferguson under the bus. What does “to be not completely true” even mean? Why didn’t Whiteman address the issues in it that she knew to be true? Whiteman knew. And on more than one occasion.

In an email dated 10/13/2020, from the UniServ Director for the Capital School District, Mike Hoffman, that included Whiteman and Ferguson, it dealt directly with the issues that were mentioned in the article. To understand the matter in it’s full context, I will include Ferguson’s email to Hoffman and others first. As educators do like abbreviations, here is a quick guide: DO = district office, CBA = collective bargaining agreement, CEA – Capital Educators Association

From: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2020 1:00 PM
To: Hoffmann, Mike [DE] <Mike.Hoffmann@DSEA.org>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>
Subject: [External] Concerns re: employee rights/covid protocols re: ADA accommodations

Hello Mike, 

Hope you are well.  We have been hearing from more and more staff members who have serious concerns about the DO handling of a number of issues. This is not new of course but the pandemic appears to have emboldened the DO.  Some staff members believe this amounts to unilaterally rewriting certain aspects of our CBA.  I know you have been contacted regarding the demand to submit lesson plans and the DO disregard for our contract language that specifically prohibits that unless a staff member is on an improvement plan. That issue has not been resolved but we have a far more pressing situation on the horizon.  We have already been contacted by staff members who have submitted the required documentation related to requesting ADA compliant accommodations.  The manner in which the DO is handling this has given rise to a fear that staff members with be subject to disparate treatment under the law.  

We are asking for the support and guidance of the DSEA as we navigate this process. I’m sure you are having similar situations across the state and that the DSEA would want to present a united position on providing protection and support for its membership.  

Staff members who have already submitted medical documentation requesting accommodations have been told by Ms. Cooke that she will contact them individually and discuss each case individually.  None of the staff members we have spoken with have expressed any level of comfort with this.  They do not want to engage with DO unless union support is present during any discussions. Ms. Cooke has also stated (on the record in a recent IAC meeting) that each request for accommodation would be handled individually and that the granting of accommodations would depend on the position of the staff member making the request.  In other words, your request will be granted or denied based on the professional position you hold.  This appears to constitute “disparate treatment” in the eyes of the law.  (EEOC documentation)

I have read the State benefits explanations re: covid benefits and coverages. I have read the EEOC and ADA regulations and recommendations.  We are deeply concerned about the level of discretionary authority afforded a single individual in the DO.  This individual does not hold a medical degree and appears to be making unilateral decisions about risk exposure and notification of affected staff.  (See her recent response to my letter of concern re: notification of potential staff exposure to Covid 19.

We have seen a pattern of disregarding the CEA CBA from the DO.  We are truly in uncharted territory here and we believe we would be best served by engaging in a formal, transparent process to develop acceptable MOU’s to address these very important protections for our members.  The conduct and commentary from the DO is clear on one point only; their primary objective is to protect the DO, NOT the staff.  Ms. Cooke has stated on more than one occasion that the DO will not accept any liability for exposure to covid, that WC coverage would not be applied and would be “difficult to prove”, and that the DO will be making ALL decisions unilaterally as to who will be afforded “reasonable accommodations” and who will not.  The DO has indicated that they will attempt to do this by aggressively interpreting and applying HIPAA.  The HIPAA Privacy Rule states the following: “A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well-being.” 

So far, the DO actions have protected the DO without transparency and consideration for the “public’s health and well-being”.  We believe this level of discretionary authority at the DO level has created tremendous risks for the health, safety, and financial well-being of protected members of the CEA.  We are asking for your guidance and support as we proceed.  

I would be happy to discuss these concerns in more detail. You can reach me via cell at your convenience.   

Thank you very much. 

Best Regards, 
Leann H. Ferguson 

In Hoffman’s reply to Ferguson he not only included Whiteman but also mentioned her name in the email and the act of setting up a meeting with her to discuss the issues that eventually led to the WDEL article this week:

From: Hoffmann, Mike [DE] <Mike.Hoffmann@DSEA.org>
Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2020 2:01 PM
To: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>
Subject: [External] RE: Concerns re: employee rights/covid protocols re: ADA accommodations 

Good afternoon,

I understand and appreciate your concerns.  There are questions being raised in other districts as well around ADA accommodations.  I am in consult with our attorney on these concerns and have been directed to obtain any denial of the accommodations in writing.  I do agree that a lot of power, when it comes to deciding who gets what accommodations has been given the HR departments.   The accommodations are there to address the ability of a person to carry out their job without the accommodations.  This would be different depending on what that job is and the duties needed to successfully carry out the job. We need to have data on who has requested accommodations and the result of that request.  I would like to set up a meeting with you and TH along with Lisa Whiteman to discuss the concerns.  If there are contract violations that need to be addressed with MOU’s let’s talk about them.  I would certainly encourage anyone that is having a conversation with Mary Cooke about the request for accommodations, ask that there be a representative present.  I am available to attend these meetings if needed.

She does not have to grant that request but lets see how that plays out.  CEA has a meeting tomorrow and I will bring your concerns up, and talk with Lisa about setting up a meeting with you and TH.  I appreciate your advocacy for a safe working environment for you, the students and your colleagues.

Mike Hoffmann

DSEA UniServ Director

If Hoffman knew about these issues as an employee of the Delaware State Education Association it should be assumed folks at DSEA were brought up to speed with the ADA issues with Capital teachers. But this cannot be verified at the time of this writing. But what is very troublesome is the fact that Whiteman denied any knowledge of these issues and then compounded on this lie by collaborating with the Capital School District officials in an “investigation” she herself knew was completely true.

To add insult to injury, the issue was addressed again in an email exchange between Whiteman and Ferguson on November 4th, 2020:

From: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 8:11 PM
To: Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>; mike.hoffmann@dsea.org <mike.hoffmann@dsea.org>
Subject: Advocacy Concerns Greetings,
 

Would you please advise as to what CEA leadership actions are being taken to address the many unresolved concerns of staff members?  As we attempt to safely navigate many challenges, we have been waiting for communication from CEA Leadership as to advocacy actions on behalf of the membership.  Will you be addressing these unresolved concerns at the Board of Education meeting tomorrow night?  Some of the issues that remain unresolved are unknown numbers of students (the DO policy of allowing any student “on the bus”)increasing numbers of people in the building at any point in time, lack of an enforceable policy of mask wearing for all students, cleaning of surfaces contacted by food, inconsistent communication from the DO regarding covid positive notifications(this makes contact tracing nearly useless if the DO has discretion on who gets notified) and last but certainly not least, the inflexibility of the DO in addressing staff accommodations requests, forcing many to choose between their health and safety or their livelihoods. These and many more issues affect all of us. 

The covid case numbers are rising everywhere.  The CEA membership deserves to have clear, consistent and transparent plans for successfully reopening our classrooms. The members need to have copies of the DPH and CDC guidance the DO says it is following including all District procedures demonstrating full compliance with CDC and DPH recommendations. The safety and well-being of the staff and students should be the most important factor as we proceed forward.  

Thank you for your consideration.  

Best Regards, 
Leann H. Ferguson Dover High School Social Studies Dept. 

Whiteman responded to Ferguson and very directly discussed the district response to ADA issues.

From: Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Wednesday, November 4, 2020 8:57 AM
To: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>; mike.hoffmann@dsea.org <mike.hoffmann@dsea.org>
Subject: Re: Advocacy Concerns Hello Leann,

Thank you for voicing your concerns.  

There are answers to each one of them which will be shared below.  

Information has come out from DO (town hall, HR emails)as to what to do next when a member has concerns about: coming back because of personal/health issues, what the district is using to clean (schedules/product ingredient lists), discipline when students are not adhering to the mask-wearing policy and having any student “on the bus” and enter the school, even when they’re not on the list to come in to the school building.

Realizing that you as a district employee and a CEA member and still don’t know the answers means that communication was not given enough times or in multiple ways to reach all appropriate audiences. For that, I apologize, and have taken steps to hopefully remedy the situation.

One step taken is that  I have asked the DO to put answers to all of these in some type of written communication for all members to benefit from the information.  If they choose not to, I have offered to create MOUs to put these procedures in writing.

I have also reached out to a board member to see if I can even approach them with questions for tonight…but am unsure as to how to go about it as this is a “work session”.  If I am able to, I certainly will. Clear and consistent communication is what I see is our weakest link with the DO now…specifically how word is getting out to all the employees in mass distribution.  The district has had emails go out via the HR department and from Paul Dunford and most recently a Town Hall.  I was very supportive of the Town Hall as it seemed to answer a lot of the questions being asked of me by the entire membership, including some that you inquired about.

Specifically, until that “written form” happens, my answers will mirror the response to Mr. Lewis yesterday, that you were also included:

Personal/Health concerns about coming back: Accommodations requests are at the discretion of the employer. The union has no interaction with that.  It’s about being ADA compliant according to the law. Mrs. Cooke has continued to meet with individuals and sometimes with our UNISERV rep, Mike, who is also on this email. She’s offered information on accommodations to keep teachers safe and has asked them to bring them to their doctor to see if that is appropriate for individual cases.  I believe in this case, the members have been and continue to be supported.

Cleaning (schedules/product ingredient lists): It was stated in the Town Hall that a list of the product ingredients used in the disinfecting of the schools is available via the chief custodian and your building principal and will be given to you when requested. Cleaning schedules are set by the building administrator and will be communicated to you via the building administrator. I believe in this case, we are also supporting our members by making this information available.

Non-compliance of mask wearing policy: It was stated first at the board meeting and then again at the town hall that there is a progressive discipline process where 2 documented forms of redirection/re-education will need to happen, then a mandatory administrative meeting with the student and parent, then the student would be sent home to have the only option of learning as “virtual”. In this case, I believe the membership is being supported in the area of safety.

Accepting all students who attempt to “board the bus”: It was stated at the board meeting, but not sure it was at the town hall, that no student will be turned away.  It was stated that it was a far greater concern for the safety of the child, who if turned away, may not have adequate supervision if left at the stop.  So, the next step that was mentioned was that the student (who because of the way the bus seating is set up) would board the bus, remain socially distant, and then be greeted by adminstration/designee at the school, held at the office or a designated space and admin would contact the parent, or keep the student safe, under their care, keeping the socially distant requirements of the CDC in the building. In this case, I believe the members are being supported in the area of safety, while still holding the accountability of safety of the students on the DO’s shoulders.

Again, thank you for reaching out and sharing your concerns.  It is my intent to increase the clarity of communication from the district to the membership.

Lisa Whiteman

Teacher & Educational Diagnostician

William Henry Middle School

Capital School District

Whiteman’s assertion that the union, including CEA and DSEA has NO involvement with ADA issues seems to be contradictory. Why did Mike Hoffman attend a meeting with Capital School District’s Human Resources Director Mary Cooke covering ADA Interactive Processes?

In multiple Capital School District Board of Education meetings in 2020, Cooke and Director of Instruction Paul Dunford told the board the district expects teacher losses. By playing games with ADA requests, it seems the district is cherry-picking who they can give ADA accommodations to. They are accepting certain requests and not others. Which is highly illegal.

The heart of the ADA matter involves the law around it. In the case with the teacher that was terminated, the teacher provided the letter from their physician which explicitly said the teacher should not be doing in-person learning. By ADA law that is all the district needed to honor the ADA request. But instead they denied that request and asked for additional medical information which, according to the ADA, is also against the law to ask for more information. So why would a school district, which is expecting teacher losses, mess around with a federal law? Did they think they were above the law?

In the case of the terminated teacher, they did what they thought they should based on all the guidance they received from the school district and in compliance with ADA law. They went to their doctor, received a doctor’s note for the ADA request. They issued it to district human resources and was denied their request and told they had to provide more medical information. Because the teacher was already in full compliance with the requirements set forth by ADA law, they did not obtain the illegal request for more medical information in violation of ADA law. They then wrote a letter to the Capital Board of Education on 11/27/2020 requesting an FLMA absence and instead of an answer from the Board they received an email from the District on 11/30/2020 stating the following:

I wanted to let you know that we will be paying off your contract on the 12/18/20 check. Also, you will not have insurance after today. You will receive COBRA information in the mail. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

I’m not an attorney but I know enough to know this was indeed a termination with a slew of labor law issues, including violations with ADA, Equal Employment Oppurtunity Commission (EEOC) and the actual Capital Educators Association Collective Bargaining Agreement that the district is bound to.

Getting back to Whiteman’s letter to the entire union membership of Capital School District teachers, I would really like to know what her “investigation” with the district consisted of considering she already knew about the ADA issues going on with teachers. In addition, why is Whiteman telling teachers to go to the district office when there is already an issue with ADA accommodation requests? If she wants to claim ignorance on the issue why did she not seek guidance set forth by the National Education Association (NEA)? Did she not understand how her own union works?

These are my questions: What is the level of collusion between the CEA leadership team and the Capital School District? Why is Whiteman, who is supposed to work with teachers, working with Mary Cooke, who has already proven she knows how to break multiple labor laws, to clarify ADA issues in a WDEL article that Whiteman herself already knew about? It isn’t like the NEA gave specific guidance on this issue, right? Oh wait, they did, as seen below:

What is the district going to do about their HR Director, Mary Cooke, in the face of all this? How much did Interim Superintendent Dr. Sylvia Henderson know about this? If the CEA President would lie about a WDEL article that she wasn’t even mentioned in how much can the teachers of the Capital School District trust their union leadership? Has this situation played out in other Delaware school districts with ADA requests during the pandemic? Why are teacher losses even an acceptable scenario with district officials at Capital? Why would they speed up that process by terminating a teacher that did everything they were supposed to do? Which leads to a more fundamental question and the biggest of them all: what are teacher unions doing if they don’t protect and support the teachers who need them the most?

This article was not an easy one for me to write. I support a lot of the same things the teacher unions do. We have stood in unison at Legislative Hall supporting legislation through public comment. I have fought for teachers in this state more times than I can count. But what I cannot abide is any supposed union leader turning their back on a fellow educator and throwing them under the bus the way Whiteman did to Ferguson. Teachers in Delaware pay roughly $750 a year for membership in the teachers union. For teachers like Ferguson and the Capital teacher that was terminated they might as well throw that money away because their union failed them.

In full disclosure, my son attends the Capital School District. Nothing in this article is a reflection of my personal experiences with the district. Until this week, with the exception of Mike Hoffman, I never heard of the educators mentioned in this article as well as the WDEL article. If this were about any other district in this state, with the information provided, I would be writing about the exact same thing. This is about a deadly pandemic affecting our state and teachers are scared. When districts use those fears against teachers it is time for rampant change that has to happen now. When the very same teachers union that is supposed to advocate AND protect teachers turns their back it is incumbent upon the teachers union to re-examine what they stand for.

While Whiteman’s actions are deplorable in this situation there are a great deal of lessons to be learned here. Education isn’t just for students. All too often the adults involved need to be schooled as well. It takes extreme bravery for a teacher like Leann Ferguson to do what she did. She approached her union multiple times for guidance and assistance. The responses she received, given the preponderance of evidence which indicated Mary Cooke broke the law, were not sufficient. Her moral conscience demanded she do more for the educators in her district. It wasn’t for personal gain or fame. It was to help those who needed help. Which is more than the teachers union President at Capital did. I support a teachers union that does the right thing. Not the farce Whiteman has turned it into.

If we are going to fix education in Delaware it starts in our schools. There are far too many players involved for these silly power games to be going on. It is, and always should be, about the students first. Teachers second. But our schools are run by bureaucracies that don’t seem to realize that very simple attitude. It is about power and ego. Arrogance and stupidity. Teachers want to teach and the less bureaucracy they have in their way the more students will learn. It isn’t rocket science.

Dr. Dan Shelton Milks Financially Ailing Christina School District

The mysterious contract for Dr. Daniel Shelton, the Superintendent for Christina School District, was finally released today in an article by Amy Cherry over at WDEL. Considering Shelton started out at Capital five years ago in the $150-$160,000 range he sure made a windfall moving over to Christina School District. Because he is now making $199,000 a year (for the first year, read further to find out how that could drastically increase).

Among Dr. Dan’s many perks, he received $15,000 for this school year as a “transition” stipend to cover his costs of relocating to the district. Because, yes, it apparently costs $15,000 to “transition” when you live in the Red Clay School District all the way to Christina School District. I would love to see the justification for this exorbitant fee (and that’s exactly what it is). But luckily for the taxpayers of Christina, Delaware, and all of America (because his contract is paid through local, state, and federal funds), it will only cost us $9,000 a year to cover Dr. Dan’s automobile expenses to the tune of $750 a month.

Even more egregious and insulting to the taxpayers of Christina-Delaware-America, Dr. Dan gets an automatic step increase of 2% a year ALONG with whatever percentage of raises the local teacher unions get for their increases. Because hell, why not? No apparent conflict of interest here given that HIS OFFICE NEGOTIATES TEACHER CONTRACTS.

What confuses me though is the fact that the Zoom meeting to vote Dr. Dan in took place on 6/4/2020. All the board members were in different places at the time. So how in the world did they all manage to sign this contract on 6/4/2020? Furthermore, the contract had zero public input which would have been helpful given that the district was going out for a referendum at the time. And four out of the seven board members were elected by the board and not the public.

While everyone is figuring out what to do with Covid-19 and schools, it looks like Dr. Dan took FULL advantage of the chaos to get himself a contract that benefits him immensely.

To read the contract between Dr. Dan and Christina, feast your eyes. It is QUITE a read. Thanks to WDEL for doing all the legwork on this!

Capital To Hold Public Forum On Their Upcoming Referendum Tomorrow

Capital School District, located in Dover, DE, will be going out for a referendum next year to help build two new middle schools in the district.  Tomorrow night the district will be holding a public forum at Central Middle School to get public input on their plans for the district.  Tonight, Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton sent the following message out to parents in the district: 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

16 Very Tough Questions With Capital School District About In-School Alternative Placements

A month ago, I posted an article about an In-School Alternative Program the Capital School District Board of Education would be voting on at upcoming board meeting. When I read the contract and heard the board audio recording, I had several questions about the program.  I do understand the Christina School District runs the same program but I had some concerns for it in Capital’s middle schools and high school.  Continue reading

Save The Date: October 6th, Super Senator Day, Dover High School, Capital School District

Capital School District will be holding their third annual Super Senator Day at Dover High School on October 6th from 10am-2pm.  See the pics for details!

Free Backpack Giveaway In Dover Today From 2-4pm For Capital Students In K-5

If you have a child in the Capital School District in Kindergarten to 5th Grade, come to City Hall between the hours of 2-4pm today and you can get a free backpack with supplies!

The Mariano Rivera Foundation (yes, founded by one of my favorite NY Yankees) is hosting the giveaway.  This is awesome!  These have been going on throughout Delaware and is a part of First Lady Tracy Carney’s initiatives.  If you haven’t checked, find one on your area!

Capital Looks To Have Three Referenda Over Next Several Years

The Capital School District Board of Education will discuss a draft of a Certificate of Necessity tonight.  Included in this draft is a master plan to essentially rebuild the district in various ways over the next five years.  Overall, the cost for these changes would be around $360 million over a long period of time.  For local taxpayers, the capital costs (for the new buildings and renovations) would be around $130 million.  The district has not calculated what this could cost taxpayers in school taxes.

What the Capital plan does not include are any plans for an operational referendum.  These types of referenda give a local school district more funding for the local share of operational costs.  Many districts include an operational referendum with a capital one.

It has been over a decade since Capital went out for a referendum.  They are actually two years ahead of another district in terms of time between referenda.

Capital is unique with their middle schools.  They have two middle schools.  One covers grades 5-6 and the other 7-8.  Many citizens in Capital expressed a desire to see their middle schools have the traditional grades of 6-8.  This plan would grant that desire.

The caveat to all this is the Delaware Department of Education approving this Certificate of Necessity.  Capital applied for it last year but it was denied.  The state does not just approve any application.  There is a finite bucket of costs for these type of plans.  Currently, Appoquinimink and Cape Henlopen school districts are using a lot of those funds.  The DOE’s number one priority when approving these type of plans is student capacity.  While Capital’s student population has not increased at the rates of districts such as Appoquinimink, Cape Henlopen, and Indian River, they also house many of the programs for students with disabilities that have complex needs for all of Kent County.  Those populations, which require smaller classroom sizes, have accounted for much of the growth in the district.

The plan is very detailed.  When all is said and done, Capital is hoping to have the following:

Two middle schools covering 6th-8th grade.  One will be focused on the Arts while the other will be focused on Skilled and Technical Trades.  Plans call for this to be on Pat Lynn Dr., the site of the old Dover High School.

Elementary schools would carry students in Grades 1-5.  Pre-K and Kindergarten would get new buildings.

The current East Dover E.S. would be demolished and in its place will be an Early Childhood Center.  Down the road they may put a new elementary school on that campus.

Fairview E.S. would be demolished.  Both Fairview and East students would move to the current location of Central Middle School.  This building would be rebranded as Elementary School at Central.

At the site of their current 5-6 middle school, William Henry, this would become the Kent County Community School and the site of the Kent County Secondary Intensive Learning Center.  Currently, the district is leasing a building for KCCS at a cost of $330,000 a year.

Down the road plans include renovating the un-renovated part of Booker T. Washington E.S., Towne Point E.S., Hartly E.S., and expanding Dover High School.

This is what Capital School District is hoping to look like by 2033:

These are very long-range plans going into the next couple of decades.

The full draft can be found here:

Capital School District draft of Certificate of Necessity

 

 

Capital School District Board To Vote On Contract For In-School Alternative Program

The Capital School District Board of Education will be holding a special board meeting on August 8th.  Among the few items for consideration is a contract with Pathways of Delaware to run an in-school alternative program in some of Capital’s schools.  The program is meant to prevent expulsions where students are sent to alternative schools.

Whenever I see outside contracts like this, my very first thought concerns students who have special education.  Any contractor would have to follow the student’s IEP just as any district employee would.  This program is not for every student.  It is for students who are simply unable to function within a school for very serious behavior issues.  Alternative placement is very expensive for any district or charter school.

What are your thoughts on this proposal?  In reading the proposal from Pathways of Delaware, they included endorsements from the Christina School District.  Do other districts have this program?

Capital Parents Of Students With Disabilities: Are You Aware Of Parent Councils Mandated By State Law? We Need To Unify Now!!!!

Three years ago today, Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill #33 into law.  Among the many changes to Delaware special education, one of the key facets of this legislation was the following:

  • 3125. Parent Councils.

Each school district and charter school enrolling any child with disabilities shall, on an annual basis, contact the parents of each such child to attempt to facilitate the creation and maintenance of a parent council for the parents of students with disabilities. Parent councils will advocate generally for students with disabilities and provide person-to- person support for individual parents and children. The charter schools and school districts shall collaborate and coordinate with existing parent groups and other information and support groups to facilitate creation, maintenance, and effectiveness of the Parent Councils.

While my own son was not in Capital School District when districts and charter schools were required to create the Parent Councils, he was for the 2017-2018 school year.  I contacted the Special Services Office at Capital this morning and was told letters went out to parents about the Parent Councils.  I advised them I never received such a letter.  Apparently there were three meetings during this school year.  The maximum attendance at any of these meetings was eight parents, at the first meeting.  There is absolutely no mention of the Parent Councils anywhere on the district website.  None of their school websites have this information on them either.

I don’t feel we, as parents, should have to wait around for the district to comply to state law.  To that end, I am creating a Capital School District Parent Group and I invite all to attend.  Please email me at kjohlandt70@gmail.com if you interested in joining this group.  Even though it is the summer and our kids are out of school, I believe we should meet and hold discussions on what the district is doing in terms of special education for our children.  Three meetings over one school year is not enough.  I believe we should meet monthly and if warranted to get things going, every other week.  It is also my intention that we should pick a spokesperson for the group to present our findings at each Capital Board of Education meeting each month.  They generally meet on the third Wednesday of each month.  Even if you believe the district is doing everything right, we want to hear from you.  I will also create a Facebook group which will be private so we can discuss things in a private forum.  If you would like to join this Facebook group, please message me on my own personal Facebook profile, under Kevin Ohlandt.

I find it very discouraging that a school district that continually stresses a need for parental involvement can’t proactively advertise for something that is required by state law.  Sending one letter out to parents (which I didn’t even get) for an entire school year is doing the bare minimum.  The United States Supreme Court ruled on a special education case dictating schools must do more than the bare minimum with special education services for students with disabilities.  While that case does not provide a case against Capital not advertising Parent Councils, it does show a consistent pattern in terms of special education.  As a Capital parent, I received robo-calls throughout the year.  Not one robo-call talked about Parent Councils.  My son had many IEP meetings this year.  As well, I was in constant contact with his Principal.  Never once were the Parent Councils mentioned.

I hope to hear from many of you as soon as possible.  For a school district that has 18.3% of their student population designated as Special Education (which means having an IEP) and probably higher due to 504 plans not being listed in that percentage, we need to band together now more than ever.  The district, based on their 2017-2018 student unit count has 1,188 students on IEPs.  8 parents out of 1,188 attended the district’s Parent Council meetings this year.  That is unacceptable and I would hazard a guess most of you did not even know this was an option.

Please share with as many parents of students with disabilities in the Capital School District as you can.  For parents of these students in other school districts or charter schools, please make sure your school or district is following Delaware state law under Title 14 in this area.  Thank you.

Capital School District WILL Have An Operating Referendum In 2019

Capital School District managed to hold off a referendum for the past eight years but that will change in 2019 as they will be going out for an operating referendum.

According to their Chief Financial Officer, Adewunmi Kuforiji, at their March board meeting, the district will hold this referendum next year.  The Capital Board of Education discussed placing school safety monitors (constables) in all of their elementary schools, their 5-6 middle school and hiring a Supervisor to oversee the 19 constables that will be in all their schools.  The price tag for adding these constables? Over $400,000.  Some of the funds would come from federal cafeteria funds.  Since the state does not give that specific funding, the rest would come out of the district’s local funds.  This would be in addition to the five constables in place now, three at Dover High School and two at Central Middle School which serves students in grades 7-8.  The board passed the resolution with three yes votes (two board members were absent).

Board President Sean Christensen asked Kuforiji several times if this action would push the district closer to an operating referendum.  Kuforiji responded it would not as they have room in their FY2018 budget for this along with their reserves.  But he did say, in no uncertain terms, more than once, the district would have an operating referendum in 2019.  He did not say when in 2019.

Nine years is a long time to go without a referendum.  Their last referendum helped to build the new Dover High School and the new district office.

Many in Delaware feel school referenda are outdated and refuse to support them.  Others feel they are a necessary beast in education funding.  Education funding has been a huge topic this year.  Property assessments in Delaware are severely outdated and based on formulas from the 1970s and 1980s.  The state’s education budget has grown over the years but it bounces from education cuts to new initiatives.  In my opinion, it is a very disproportionate system that does not focus on the students but rather the school staff and administrators.  With the exception of special education (and even that is messed up for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade), no extra funding is given based on student needs (poverty, English language learners).  Some support a weighted funding formula while others support adding to the current unit-based system.  Some feel no extra money should go towards public education and actually support school vouchers where the money follows the student, even if it goes to a private school.  How will Dover residents vote next year when their district makes the ask for more taxpayer money?

 

Capital School District Salaries Over $100,000

The Capital School District is in the middle of Kent County where the capital of The First State lies.  Even their middle school, Central, boasts itself as being in “The Heart of Dover”.  Their enrollment has pretty much been flat over the past four years.  The district has two middle schools, one for 5-6 and one for 7-8.  Potential plans may change that in the future, but this also causes a bit more administrative positions than most school districts.  Superintendent Dan Shelton is going on his 3rd year in the district.  He replaced Dr. Michael Thomas who retired at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.  Capital is one of the districts in the state with the largest percentage of low-income students.  As notated in the article on Caesar Rodney, the competition between the two districts is well-known in Kent County! Continue reading

Tonight

There is so much going on tonight.  First up is the first Town Hall meeting (which I filed a FOIA complaint against the Governor’s Office and Christina School District for a violation of the seven day notice) for the Governor Carney let’s screw with Christina School District one more time.  Second is the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting in which they pick up a new board member and tackle the resolution similar to the Christina resolution on sanctuary schools and all that.  Finally, it is the Capital School District Board of Education meeting.  My son goes to school there again so I have a vested interest in what goes on in their district.  I can’t possibly attend all of them.  So which one am I going to?  Who gets the honor? Continue reading

Catching Up On Delaware Education And Politics

It’s been a while.  At least for me.

I haven’t been blogging as much.  Like I’ve said before, sometimes you have to take a break and recharge your batteries.  But it doesn’t mean things aren’t happening offline or in sidebar conversations.  These are just some of the things I’ve seen and heard the past few weeks: Continue reading

Three Days To Change Secretary Bunting’s Mind On Match Tax, Email Her NOW!

It is time the people spoke up and emailed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting!

The match tax saga continues! On August 4th, a bunch of Delaware legislators sent Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting a letter regarding the proposed plan for the match tax.  Bunting’s response shows no sign of bending from the original plan.  While Bunting believes this is a win-win for districts based on other exclusions to the local funding formula, only one district seems to make a windfall from them.  And believe it or not, that district is Christina.

Below are the letter sent to legislators from Bunting, the new “procedure” for charter and choice payments, and a breakdown of the changes and how they financially impact the districts.

For Red Clay, they are taking a $124,000 loss based on this plan.  I would love to know what the ten “newly approved categories” are for exclusions on the charter bill.  It looks like the districts that are getting the biggest hits are Capital, Red Clay, and Smyrna.  While some may laugh at those figures, remember, that could be an extra teacher.  Or a paraprofessional.  In your child’s class.  Notice how Bunting did not provide a summary of how MUCH the charters are going to get from this.  Add in their should be illegal charter school transportation slush fund, and it adds up to a lot of money!  Cause that first number of $828,465.11?  That will more than double in two years.  So all those schools that currently show a surplus of funds will see that evaporate.  Meanwhile, the charters will just get more and more money.

This is how the Delaware DOE works.  They try to make crap look like gold.  They compare things that aren’t always related and say “Look, it isn’t as bad as you thought!”  They do the same thing with standardized test scores.  I fail to see Bunting’s justification for doing this with the match tax.  If you agree, please email her at susan.bunting@doe.k12.de.us and let her know you do not support this match tax scheme.  As pretty as that picture may look, it will be uglier next year and the year after when those first numbers go deeper in the red.  The plan is to reduce the match tax exclusion to nothing by the 2019-2020 school year.  Bunting has until September 1st to make a final decision on this.  Let’s make some noise!

Some issues I see with the timetable on this stem around the budgetary process that goes down each year.  School districts and charters are subject to the final passage of the budget bill.  This doesn’t typically happen until June 30th/July 1st each year.  At that point, all the business managers have to figure out what it all means.  That is not an easy task, whether it is a district or charter.  So for the DOE to say they want any meetings scheduled with them by June 15th is ludicrous in my opinion.  They should wait until all the business managers have time to see what the final budget does to their own budget first.

 

Dover High School Plans To Change Graduation Regalia To Address Gender Identification Issues

At the Capital School District Board of Education Committee, Dover High School Principal Courtney Voshell gave a presentation on the proposed new graduation regalia.  Traditionally, the girls wore white and the boys wore blue.  Voshell explained the rationale for the change during their board meeting:

I think it’s important to also address the fact that we have some students that gender identification is an awkward conversation for some of our students.  It’s definitely not the majority but it happens.  In the past two years that I have been leading the school, it has become a conversation where a student doesn’t want to wear one color or the other because that’s not the gender they are identifying with.  And for me, it’s just not a time we should make any student feel awkward.  This is their day.  They worked really hard for it.

Voshell also noted this will be the first year the new Dover High School will have graduating students that attended the school all four years in the new building.  Because of this, the extra $10.00 fee for the new uniforms would be covered by the school through a student services funding bucket for this year’s graduating class.  Voshell also cited parent concerns about not having graduation in alphabetical order in the past and parents didn’t know when their child was coming up next to receive their diploma.  In the past, students tended to be set up in a stripe pattern with girls in white rows and boys in blue rows.  Beginning this year, graduating seniors will be seated in alphabetical order.

This presentation was not an action item for the Capital School Board but merely a discussion item.

 

 

Capital School District Does The Administrator Shuffle

For many students in Capital School District, their building leaders will look different in August.  Capital is moving Principals and Associate Principals around as a part of their Strategic Planning Process.

For Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Dr. Paige Morgan will replace Dale Brown who resigned/retired earlier this year.  William Henry Middle School will look very different.  Charles Sheppard, the current Principal of Towne Point Elementary, will be the new Principal while Linda Daye will take on a role of Associate Principal, coming from Central Middle School.  Current William Henry Middle School Principal Tori Giddens will take Sheppard’s spot at Towne Point.  Current Associate Principal Lurleen Lumpkin will become an Associate Principal at Central Middle School taking Daye’s former spot.

I know a lot of these administrators and they are good people.  I believe this is a positive step for Capital.  Sometimes you need to mix things up a little!

According to a letter sent from Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, these changes are being made to help the district grow.

Capital School District has engaged much of the community in its Strategic Planning Process over the last 2 years.  As part of that process, we are working to ensure we have opportunities for all staff members to learn and grow.  We are also being very reflective on how we can advance the district.

As part of that reflective process, some administrative changes were identified.  We believe that these changes will help everyone as we educate the whole child.

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

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

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!