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 “Capital School District Salaries Over $100,000”
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 “Tonight”
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 “Catching Up On Delaware Education And Politics”
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 email@example.com 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.
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.
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.
Now that all the surveys are up, it is time for endorsements! I’ve known who I was going to endorse in a few elections for some time. Some I changed my mind on. Some I have always known who I would NOT endorse. Some I wavered back and forth on. Some races won’t get an endorsement from me at all. I don’t always go with the “popular” candidate. I look, as best I can, at the issues facing education and which candidate is willing to stick their neck out and do what is best for students. The biggest thing is if the candidate knows what the issues are. Without further ado, here come the endorsements: Continue reading “Exceptional Delaware Endorsements For 2017 School Board Candidates”
May 9th is in five days! Big school board elections are taking place that day!
In the Brandywine School District, John Skrobot Jr. will face Alma Ginnis. For Capital School District, Andy Ortiz and Joan Lowenstein-Engel are vying for the at-large seat. Caesar Rodney has a three-way race with Alan Claycomb, Tawanna Prophet-Brinkley, and David Failing running against each other. Smyrna will see Vetra Evans-Gunter facing Karin Sweeney. Finally, Woodbridge will have a face-off between Paul Breeding and Darrynn Harris for their at-large seat.
I sent surveys to all the candidates who had viable contact information through either the Department of Elections contact information on their website or through Facebook. Don’t forget to vote on May 9th!
These are the responses I received from the candidates in these five districts: Continue reading “Delaware School Board Election 2017: Brandywine, Caesar Rodney, Capital, Smyrna, & Woodbridge School Districts”
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!
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!
This is one of the things I can’t stand about Delaware. Weeks will go by without anything momentous going on and then BOOM! Everything all at once on the same night. Tonight is no exception!
The biggest, which will likely draw a great deal of media attention, is the debate between Republican John Marino and Democrat Stephanie Hansen for the 10th Senate District seat. The winner of this special election will dictate who holds the power in the Delaware Senate. There is a lot of heat on this election already and it will only ramp up until the February 25th voting day. Hosted by Allan Loudell with WDEL, this debate at Middletown High School begins at 7pm. As well, Libertarian candidate Joseph Lanzendorfer will be a part of the debate.
The State Board of Education has their first Joint Sunset Committee review tonight in the Joint Finance Committee room at Legislative Hall, 7pm. The State Board of Education was put on review last Spring by this committee. There could be big changes coming out of this review and this will be one to watch.
Capital School District is holding a forum on “potential building configurations” at the William Henry Middle School Auditorium, 6pm. Many in the district have felt their current grade configuration doesn’t work. Coming out of their ongoing Strategic Plan, this could draw a lot of attention for Senator Citizens in Dover. This part of their strategic plan is under the long-range master facilities plan. I say make it K-5, 6-8, and 9-12. But there is also a potential of pre-school and Kindergartners getting their own building.
The Progressive Democrats for Delaware are holding a pot-luck dinner tonight at the New Castle Democrat Headquarters over on 19 Commons Blvd. in New Castle from 7pm to 9pm.
The Down Syndrome Association of Delaware is holding a forum with state legislators covering topics such as education, Medicaid, and employment. This event, sponsored by Eventbrite, will be held from 7pm to 9pm at State Troop 2 in Newark, DE.
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is holding a meeting for the Meeting the Needs of Students in Poverty at United Way of Delaware, 625 Orange St. at the Linden Building, 3rd Floor, in Wilmington from 4pm to 6pm.
Earlier today, the Joint Finance Committee heard opening remarks for Public Education as well as the Chief School Officers down in Dover. After that, the JFC got to hear the Delaware Department of Education’s FY2018 budget request which is still going on until 4pm.
Busy day with no ability for everyone to get to all these things. I will be attending the debate tonight. Let’s see who wins this one!
The Delaware State Board of Education renewed the charter for Academy of Dover. This will give the school a period of five years, as every established Delaware charter gets, until their next renewal. But there were some concerns from the State Board of Education.
The topic of Academy of Dover’s enrollment was the talking point for the State Board in discussing their charter renewal. Their numbers, as I reported a couple of months ago, have been declining. If those numbers don’t start increasing, they could face the unfortunate prospect of dipping below the state required 80% of their enrollment. By state law, all charters must be at 80% of their approved enrollment by April 1st for the next school year. If a Delaware charter does not meet their numbers, they are placed under formal review with the Delaware State Board of Education. That process is somewhat similar to the charter renewal process but focuses more on the subject that places them under that review. But it is still a daunting task.
For now, I’m sure Academy of Dover is celebrating their renewal but with a bit of apprehension. As Capital expands their programming, which is the main feeder pattern for Academy of Dover, the charter school will have to step up their game to compete with Capital and Campus Community School, their main charter school competition in Dover. Time will tell!
Capital School District sure has changed in just two years. Back in 2014, their board was railing against the Smarter Balanced Assessment and fully supporting a parent’s right to opt their child out of the test. Flash forward to now, and their board will be discussing something called a “Balanced Scorecard.”
This balanced scorecard is five-year goals for the district. Some of the goals are good: getting behavior referrals down, more parent involvement, things like that. But then I wanted to vomit when I saw goals for Smarter Balanced proficiency. Keep in mind this is just a draft. The board hasn’t decided on this. I’m at their board meeting now. I thought their meetings started at 7:30 but I haven’t been here for a while so it looks like they changed it to 7:00. Otherwise I would have assuredly giving public comment based on what I’m writing in this. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test Delaware students have ever taken. Why in the name of public education is this district wanting to kiss the DOE’s ass and follow their own despicable goals based on standardized test scores?
What truly shocked me was a goal of “increasing students exiting out of special education”. Currently they are using a baseline of 31% but they want to increase this to 41% in five years. I’m sorry, how do you put a measurement on unique disabilities that affect an individual student? While it is certainly true that students can fall out of needing special education for varying reasons, that seems like a very high number. As well, decisions on special education are decided on by an IEP team, not based on a district-driven strategic plan. This is highly disturbing on many levels. The last thing special education students is a district trying to hit some arbitrary goal and pushing schools to have students get out of IEPs.
The board is discussing this now. Board member Matt Lindell asked why the district can’t use this as their accountability scorecard. Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton explained how the Delaware DOE has no intention of removing their own Delaware School Success Framework. That was the only question. Three members of this board sat in front of a very similar audience two years ago and proudly passed their opt out resolution. Now they seem like they have accepted the horrible status quo that is killing public education. The board is voting on the scorecard, passed 5-0. What the hell is wrong with this board? They are prescribing to the point of view of the Delaware DOE. They have fully accepted Common Core and Smarter Balanced as legitimate for their district.
In talking about technology in their ongoing Strategic Plan, there is a lot of talk about collaborating with BRINC and increasing ed tech in the classroom. More personalized learning. They have no clue, as they talk about building configuration, how they are signing their own district death warrant by signing on to all of this junk. The board is not asking questions about anything they should be asking. This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed this out with this board. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid Capital! You should be better than this! And I distinctly remember when Matt Lindell was President of the Board when they approved a letter to the General Assembly urging them to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, the opt out bill. They never overrode the veto, so why has this district not come forth with an opt out policy like Red Clay and Christina did?
Bullying. It can be one of the most damaging experiences any student goes through. It can cause school-wide disruption in some cases and robs students of the ability to learn. Are Delaware schools safe? Do they take the best steps to prevent bullying from happening? Dover High School, in the Capital School District, is in the midst of launching an Anti-Bullying Protocol. They will be discussing this at the Capital Board of Education meeting this evening. Principal Courtney Voshell has heard the concerns and sees what happens when bullying happens. This school, students and staff alike, are sick of the bullying and are saying “Enough is enough!”
Any stop bullying plan is only as good as the implementation of it. I believe the drive to make this plan work is there, but it’s long-term outlook is unknown. I believe it is a good plan, but I do have some concerns. The words “students with disabilities” or “special education” are not mentioned once in the below document. Special needs students have been the victims of bullying and have also been the agitators of bullying. There are very specific laws, at a federal and state law, that protects these students in certain situations. Can a school-wide plan contradict an IEP team, state law, or federal law? If a school isn’t implementing an IEP correctly, should a student be punished for behaviors that are a manifestation of that disability? This is a very hard question to answer and I don’t have the answer. I am not saying this to be a Donny Downer on the plan. I think it is excellent, and if it takes off, it should be a model for many schools in Delaware. But I believe this is an angle they should look at.
My other concern is this: Why is this being done at a high school level and not the elementary or middle school levels? One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard in the Capital School District is the middle schools. Students are coddled in the elementary schools which go up to 4th grade in this district. But then they are thrown into one school for 5th and 6th grade, and then another for 7th and 8th. If those schools aren’t aggressively tackling the bullying issues (and they might be but I haven’t seen any plan this extensive coming from them), leaving the burden on the high school could be a lesson in futility. I strongly urge William Henry Middle School and Central Middle School to take a hard look at this plan and try it out in their own schools.
I would say a lot of responsibility for bullying should be on the part of parents. If they see their child participating in any type of bullying activity, they should crush it at the onset. I always tell my son when he is crossing a line with friends or online. Even though he has disabilities that affect his thinking at times, it is my duty as a parent to let him know what is right and what is wrong. By the same token, when I see him standing up for others who are bullied, I congratulate and praise him. This is just as important. I firmly believe parents need to watch their children’s social media and online activities, even if they are in high school. Things happen outside of school that may never manifest itself in that setting. Parents or guardians need to know who their kids are hanging out with and who could be seen as a bad influence. If they know of something going on outside of the school, I believe they should proactively tell a school to inform them of the situation. I don’t expect the school to fix those issues, but knowing about things is half the battle.
If other schools or districts in Delaware are already using this type of bullying plan, I apologize in advance for giving Dover H.S. the credit for all this. If that is the case, kudos to those schools and to Dover H.S. for picking up the ball and running with it. This is what we should be doing in Delaware: finding out what truly works and emulating it so all our students can truly succeed (this is not an endorsement for Common Core, Smarter Balanced, or any corporate education reform Kool-Aid agendas).
Tomorrow night, the Capital School District Board of Education will discuss their legislative priorities for Fiscal Year 2017 at their monthly board meeting. There is a lot in this proposed draft. Some I agree with, and some I don’t. But if certain things get pushed by all school districts, we could see a controversial start to the 149th General Assembly in Delaware. Parents of students with disabilities could be spending a lot of time down at Legislative Hall in Dover.
In terms of burden of proof for who is implementing a special education student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP), I believe it should be the school that has the burden of proof. If a parent challenges a school on these issues, how is a parent going to know what is happening inside the classroom? It should be the school’s responsibility to address these issues if it gets to the point where a parent files a complaint that leads to a due process hearing. There is one or two parents and maybe one advocate in an IEP meeting. The rest is school personnel. A parent cannot implement an IEP in a school setting. Only a school can. This is the law. But in Schaffer v. Weast, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Burden of Proof should lie with the aggravated party, be it a student or the student’s parents (or legal guardian) or the school district should they dispute an IEP. While the Supreme Court is the largest court in the land, I don’t agree with their decision in some respects, but I do recognize the authority of the United States Supreme Court.
The final ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2005 reads as this:
We hold no more than we must to resolve the case at hand: The burden of proof in an administrative hearing challenging an IEP is properly placed upon the party seeking relief. In this case, that party is Brian, as represented by his parents. But the rule applies with equal effect to school districts: If they seek to challenge an IEP, they will in turn bear the burden of persuasion before an ALJ. The judgment of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is, therefore, affirmed.
In a sense, any challenge a school district has about an IEP will invariably lead to the burden of persuasion. I would find it very difficult for a due process hearing to occur where a school district does not disagree with at least one part of a student’s IEP. And if it does happen, I would assume the parent lost or the Due Process Hearing Officer ruled based on applicable law that neither party got it right in terms of what should be in an IEP. In any of the steps that could eventually lead up to a Due Process Hearing, districts have to provide sufficient evidence to the parent about what is happening with special education. Parents do have considerable rights for their child’s special education. They can request an Independent Educational Evaluation, they can call for a manifestation determination hearing under certain criteria, and they can file an administrative complaint. Even though I disagree with the finding of the Supreme Court in 2005, it is the law and it is precedent. Therefore, I have to agree with the Capital Board of Education that Delaware should not have a law on the books that predates a Supreme Court decision (their law is from 1999).
With that being said, Delaware is well-known to have serious lapses or even outright denials of special education services for students with disabilities. Parents of children with special needs tend to be very passionate about what they want for their children. Many understand the law (sometimes better than the school districts) very well. I have always said never walk into an IEP meeting without an advocate and always record the meeting. What is said in IEP meetings can make or break a case in certain circumstances. Parents in Delaware should not be afraid to have their attorney subpoena a teacher as a witness. Senate Bill 33, passed in the Spring of 2015, allows for whistle-blower protection for any school staff in regards to special education. If there is one consistent thing I’ve heard from parents in Delaware, it is that teachers want to implement IEPs, but administrators have been the ones who stopped something for some reason. While this isn’t always the case, and sometimes it is both, never be afraid to play a card that could work out to your child’s best educational interest.
The other legislative priority for Capital deals with a Free and Appropriate Public Education. IDEA federal law states schools must provide children with disabilities a “basic” education without clearly defining what is meant by basic. Delaware law states schools must go beyond “basic”. I would argue that in Delaware’s current educational landscape, the push is for all students to go beyond “basic”. If Capital wants to have AP and honors classes, that goes beyond “basic”. You can’t sit there and say “all for some”. If you are going to be a school district that wants ALL students to succeed beyond just “basic”, you can’t pick and choose. Then Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn said it best at the first IEP Task Force meeting:
Children with disabilities are entitled to a Cadillac education, not a serviceable Chevrolet.
The trick is finding out what that “Cadillac education” is. I do not agree that this should be based on standards-based IEPs leading to higher proficiency on the state assessment. We all know students with disabilities fare the worst on these types of tests. We are failing all students if we continue this very bad charade of student success as measured by high-stakes testing.
In terms of the other legislative priorities in the below document, it is a no-brainer that our state needs to find a better way to fund education. The funding cuts from 2009 should have been restored a long time ago.
The Delaware Department of Education continues their self-righteous Rodel led agendas. In their latest corporate education reform press release, Godowsky and the gang announced the nineteen members of the Delaware Teacher Leader Pilot program kicking off this year. I find it more than a coincidence that most of the districts who got these positions are very tight with the “Leader In Me” program. The only districts selected were Capital and Appoquinimink. Three charters are joining the bandwagon which are MOT, Kuumba Academy and Odyssey.
At their April board meeting, the Capital Board of Education tentatively approved going forward with this program. But they had deep concerns about setting up competitions in schools. They cited the very controversial Delaware Talent Co-op Program from a few years ago and how it caused many problems among teachers. As well, the board was concerned with the amount of time the selected Teacher Leaders would spend out of the classroom and how additional substitute teachers would need to take their place. The principals of these schools were very enthusiastic about the program. Both are “focus” schools, one of the latest “turnaround” labels thrown at schools over low state assessment scores. In a sense, I don’t blame these principals for doing what they can to get their schools out of these false labels put on them by the Delaware DOE. If you go to the Capital board audio recording from their April 20th board meeting, click on the second audio recording link, and the discussion begins around the 1:22:03 mark. When asked how much the program would cost, Superintendent Dan Shelton mentioned the stipend teachers would get but also that the training would take up the bulk of the costs. A figure of $50,000 was thrown around.
The only schools in Capital who are instituting this pilot program are Towne Point and East Dover Elementary. Towne Point is a huge advocate of the “Leader In Me” program. Fairview Elementary in Capital also has this program. Appoquinimink School District brought Leader In Me to Delaware. Payments for this program are made to a company called Franklin Covey. Many of the teachers at Towne Point who advocate for this program are also members of this Teacher Leader pilot program. One of them is also very involved with the Rodel Teacher Council. I have no doubt this teacher is an excellent teacher, but when you see one name associated with so many things I can not support, it is hard to draw the line between saying nothing and pointing it out. I fully welcome any discussion with this teacher about anything written in this article, especially the part I write about later on.
The Delaware General Assembly passed their budget bill in late June with an appropriation of $800,000 in state funds going to the recipient districts and charters towards the Teacher Leader program.
What I don’t understand is how the DOE can move forward with a program that is contingent on approval in the State Budget. The funds for this state grant weren’t approved until late June. But here we have the DOE sending out invitations to apply after Spring Break. For Capital school district, students came back after Spring Break on April 4th. They gave schools a very short time to apply for this program, a matter of 25 days. What was the insane rush behind this? I will touch on this later, but for now check out the press release from Alison May at the DOE:
First teacher leaders announced
Nineteen teachers have been selected to serve as teacher leaders in a pilot program launching this school year. The program is among the first of its kind in the nation to take place at the state level.
Providing this kind of teacher leadership opportunity was among the recommendations of the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers. During his administration, Governor Jack Markell has championed the creation of a compensation system that makes Delaware educator salaries more competitive with neighboring states and rewards teachers for helping their peers to best support our students.
“Through this pilot, teacher leaders are provided a career pathway that both rewards educators for excellence and provides opportunities in formal leadership positions,” said Markell, who recommended funding for the pilot in his Fiscal Year 2017 budget that was approved by the General Assembly on June 30. “Through these roles, teacher leaders will use their skills to support schools where they need it most: helping other educators develop their practices and better prepare Delaware’s students for college and careers —all while allowing teacher leaders to maintain a foot in the classroom and earn additional compensation without needing to take on administrative roles.”
The Governor joined Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky today at Appoquinimink High School in Middletown to participate with members of the pilot in a discussion about the coming year.
The five teacher leader roles to launch this year will support educators in the following areas:
· Instructional practice leads will improve the instructional practice of fellow educators using a variety of high-impact support strategies focused on frequent, targeted feedback in educators’ development areas.
· Digital content leads will help educators build their instructional technology knowledge so more students have access to technology that helps improve their academic outcomes.
· Instructional strategy leads will introduce new instructional strategies into schools to help educators meet their learning needs and help schools meet their academic goals.
· Community partnership leads will help students gain access to services designed to improve their physical and mental health, giving them a greater chance at academic success.
· Instructional culture leads will help schools build a philosophy around culture, discipline and culturally responsive teaching.
Schools across Delaware were invited to participate in the teacher leader pilot. A nine-member committee representing educators, administrators and external partners selected eight schools and those schools created selection committees that designed a rigorous, multi-stage process to meet their schools’ needs and choose the 19 teacher leaders.
Each school is identifying a set of goals that teacher leaders will work toward. This summer, teacher leaders and school leaders came together to meet other pilot participants, plan pilot implementation for their schools, and learn more about teacher leadership to ensure a successful launch this fall.
“Being a novice teacher can be overwhelming at first, especially when it comes to lesson planning and classroom management. That’s why we want to use this new position to target support for our novice teachers in these areas,” said Kirsten Belair, who will work as an instructional practice lead at Odyssey Charter School.
The 2016-17 teacher leaders are:
· Amanda Alexander, instructional culture, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)
· Colleen Barrett, digital content, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Chelsea Baxter, instructional culture, Kuumba Academy (Charter)
· Kirsten Belair, instructional practice, Odyssey Charter School (Charter)
· Lindsay Bouvy, instructional practice, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Michelle Duke, instructional practice, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)
· Carrie Howe, community partnerships, MOT Charter School (Charter)
· Melanie Fauvelle, digital content, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Michele Johnson, instructional practice, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)
· Kris King, instructional practice, Cedar Lane Elementary (Appoquinimink School District)
· Heather Patricco, instructional practice, Cedar Lane Elementary (Appoquinimink School District)
· Heather Mann, instructional practice, East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)
· Shana Noll, instructional practice, MOT Charter School (Charter)
· Crystal Samuels, digital content, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Katharine Sawyer, instructional practice, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Krista Seifert, instructional culture, East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)
· John Tanner, instructional practice, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)
· Kady Taylor, instructional strategy (K-8 reading), Kuumba Academy (Charter)
· Tamara Walker, instructional strategy (K-8 math), Kuumba Academy (Charter)
How does a member of the Selection Committee manage to get selected for this program? Can you answer that for me Michele Johnson? Why do I constantly see the names of the aforementioned Michele Johnson, Robyn Howton and Jennifer Nauman attached to so much Rodel/Vision stuff and now this selection committee? Under whose authority did you allow schools to apply for this before any decision was made granting the authority by legislative decree to a public committee or before the funds were even appropriated for this program? Can you answer that for me Angeline Rivello? Or do you answer to Donna Johnson? Because there is a crystal clear reason she was cc’ed on this email. Who chose the selection committee for a program that, once again, wasn’t even approved? Your email said there was a chance to get a “wide diversity” of schools but we have only one Kent Country district, one New Castle County district, and three New Castle charters. How did that work out? What was the rubric for scoring applications? How many applications were received? Did the selection committee read every single application or what it divvied up among the selection committee?
I think it is past time the DOE fessed up on their sneakiness and manipulation. Secretary Godowsky PROMISED a greater degree of transparency and open communication coming from this Department, and all I see are more lies, secret agendas, emails to select individuals with no public awareness, funds committed to things before they are even approved, focus groups or special meetings with no public notice, no minutes provided for certain things, or even links to certain groups (hello Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition). Meanwhile, you allow charters and districts to allocate money wherever they want with no true oversight, browbeat the auditor’s office until a good woman is put on leave while charters get away with financial murder, manipulate the ESSA regulatory process by claiming to have true stakeholder input when it is really just school administrators and lobbyists, force a school report card scheme on our schools without any regulatory authority to impose it, and have our students take a test that judges everything and the students don’t even take the test. Secretary Godowsky, I don’t care what anyone says, you are a HORRIBLE Secretary of Education. This kind of crap makes even Mark Murphy look okay in comparison. The rot in YOUR Department still exists, more than ever. This happened under YOUR watch. I hope the pieces of silver from Rodel and Markell were worth it…
Angeline Rivello, when I announced Chris Ruszkowski was leaving the DOE, a lot of teachers in this state reached out to me and they expressed how they wanted to give you a chance and hoped the stink from the TLEU would disappear. It is stronger then ever.
Donna Johnson, this just once again proves what I have always known: you don’t believe in transparency and you are well aware of everything that goes on in the Townsend Building. Does your beloved State Board know what you know? How the hell are you even still employed there? All of you are liars, plain and simple. There is no other justification for your actions.
Governor Markell, you tricked us again. You are a mastermind at turning something that looks good on the surface into a tangled web of lies and deception. If I had my way, I would impeach you even though you have less than five months in office.
If those in Delaware thought maybe I would temper things down eventually, my commitment to exposure in this state has NEVER been stronger. Every single day I see the corruption and fraud going on in our state. This isn’t a democracy. We have the most corrupt and vile state government in the country. None of this is about our kids. It is about power, position, and money. You all need to start coming clean before I find out about it. Because if you think only a few Delaware teachers and parents read this blog, you are VERY wrong. You have no idea, no one does, who is watching all of you. Recording every single thing I come out with, just building a very large and thick file.
And I do have a final item to throw out there. How can three contracts, which I can only assume may play into the total of $800,000 for Section 362is program which answers some of my questions for the funds involved in this sham, be signed on the following dates: 4/19/16, 4/21/16, 4/26/16, 5/2/16, 5/4/16, 5/10/16, 5/11/16, and 5/23/16? If these are for this program, and the General Assembly had not approved the funds for this program, how can you have contracts starting before the Joint Finance Committee even released their budget? Or should I assume the Rodel Foundation will be the one training these teacher leaders? With funds from the Vision Coalition? Or should I say Schools That Lead? Because when I look up Schools That Lead’s IRS 990 tax forms, it comes up with 990s for 2012, 2013, and 2014. Since Schools That Lead wasn’t really around then, care to take a guess what company comes up? The Vision Network. And if this description of their purpose doesn’t fit the bill for this Teacher Leader Pilot, I don’t know what does:
When I first started digging into education stuff in Delaware, I remember reading an article on Kilroy’s where he wrote about talking with Jack Markell in 2008. Kilroy wanted to support him, and he asked Markell flat-out if he was going to stop the spread of Rodel into Delaware education to which Markell said he would. Jack lied Kilroy. He lied to all of us. Rodel runs the education show in Delaware. They have for 12 years. Every single decision made in Delaware education has been at the behest of the Rodel Foundation since Jack Markell took office. Together with their order-takers at the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Delaware Business Roundtable, the Christina Cultural Arts Center, Governor Markell’s office, and the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, they have single-handedly turned Delaware education into a billion dollar corporation. And our kids lose more and more every single day. Because their minions have infiltrated every charter, every district, every state agency, and even our General Assembly. We gave them this power. Now, it is time to take it all back.
As Capital joins the BRINC initiative in Delaware, they are moving forward with their Strategic Plans which will benefit corporations more than students. It is like they copied the playbook of the Delaware Dept. of Education, Rodel, and Governor Markell and called it a plan.
At their April board meeting, the Capital School District unanimously voted to apply to join the BRINC Consortium. BRINC is a personalized/blended learning group of districts in Delaware that involves spending money, potentially compromising student data privacy, and forcing teachers into a certain way of doing things. While the Rodel/DOE loving teachers jump all over this, some are opposed to it. But that doesn’t stop districts from convincing their boards to vote on joining. I gave public comment to the Capital Board of Education at their April meeting with my severe concerns with student data privacy and the loopholes that exist in state and federal law that allows student data to get out. But no one listens to the blogger when it comes to making important education decisions. Or consults with the parents of students in the district to let them know they will be changing how students are instructed going forward using lesson plans from teachers they aren’t familiar with. Despite my reservations, the Capital School District joined BRINC when they accepted an invitation to join the conglomerate of blended learning school districts in Delaware. WBOC reached out to Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton who said:
Dr. Dan Shelton, superintendent of Capital School District, said he is looking forward to using technology as a resource for teacher collaboration and sharing quality lesson plans.
For a district that is in the middle of a Strategic Plan that was supposed to be about increasing public stakeholder input for the district, this one sure fell under the radar. Without the ability for the public to comment on it, for parents to see what BRINC is, and their board passed the action item with no public announcement ahead of time and just a board agenda, Capital has shown once again they don’t really want public input, just the illusion of it. It’s starting to look like the ability of this board to provide the much-needed pushback against the DOE and corporate driven education “best practices” has faded with the departure of Kay Sass as the Board President last year. They had a bright moment when they wrote the Delaware General Assembly to support the House Bill 50 override AFTER they already voted on it, but aside from that, I see less transparency. I believe they think they are being more transparent by announcing things with their Strategic Plan, but I have no doubt in my mind most of the outcomes for this were already decided on a long time ago. In my eyes, transparency is announcing and soliciting community feedback before an item like BRINC is approved, not announcing it after the fact.
In the below press release from Capital, they announce what their strategies will be coming out of their Strategic Plan. While it all looks great to read, I have to wonder when they are going to announce their Early Learning Academy at Dover High School. But there are things in there that give me equal agita. Items italicized are in the report, while the red-penned comments are my own.
Students, Parents, Staff and Members of the community share through survey data a more positive reflection of our communication.
Survey data you say? Wasn’t that a very controversial insertion into House Bill 399 (the teacher evaluation bill), just last week?
Students report on surveys a more positive experience.
More surveys. From students. What are they going to judge? Administrators, the district, teachers? More information is needed. Far too much potential for bias resulting in discipline against teachers that may not even be verifiable.
Student grades, attendance and standardized test scores improve.
Grades and attendance I like. Standardized test scores…no. Just no. For the Capital Board to approve this and go along with it is a far cry from where they were a year ago. In fact, I would say it is a 180 degree shift.
Student behavior referrals decrease
HA! This is a district that has no consistency with this practice whatsoever. It was also notated at their April board meeting that Booker T. Washington Elementary School, under the leadership of Dr. Dale Brown, had NO discipline referrals for this school year up to that date. Not one student was sent to the Principal’s office. The board questioned this and I later asked Dr. Shelton about this who informed me this was correct reporting from the school.
10-15 year Facility Plan is accepted by community of stakeholders.
This is what I like to call a future referendum for capital costs!
The board gives unlimited freedom to the implementation team as long as staff complies with regulations and board policies and the approved process for defining and implementing strategic priority projects are met.
Big mistake! Very big mistake. A board needs to carefully watch things like this. If they give up their authority to stop this, aside from budget constraints or those that conflict with district policy, they are handing the reins over without any rationale behind that decision. This is just more erosion of local control from a local district. We will see more of this than we already have in our local school districts in Delaware, mark my words.
My biggest question surrounds who is actually on the implementation team which the press release, and to the best of my knowledge, and the Capital website don’t specify.
To give some background on their Strategic Plan, we have to go back to a year ago.
Prior Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas retired last year. As well, Assistant Superintendent Sandra Spangler and Director of Human Resources David Vaughn left as well. The Board of Education hired Dr. Dan Shelton last July. Shelton immediately embarked on his Strategic Plan. Shelton and Demosophia owner Andy Hegedus already knew each other. As former employees of Christina, they have connections all over the Newark area. Hegedus wrote his own biography on the website for Demosophia. He proudly lists himself as a Broad Fellow, which also has such distinguished members like Joey Wise, the former Superintendent of Christina, and Lillian Lowery, also a former Christina Superintendent and the former Delaware and Maryland Secretary of Education. Hegedus proudly boasts about participating in a plan to change the Christina schools as far back as 2006 in this document.
The subject of a new Strategic Plan for Capital first came up at the October 3rd Board Retreat. The only people in attendance at this Board Retreat were the five board members, Dr. Shelton, and Assistant Superintendent Sylvia Henderson. On their Board Docs, it clearly states in Item #2: “Capital School District Strategic Plan”. The board went into open session at 8am to discuss the Strategic Plan and then went into executive session the rest of the day to discuss contracts and personnel evaluations. At their next board meeting on 10/21/15, the minutes reflect the Retreat was seven and a half hours. In the same meeting, there is no action item to move forward with the contract for the Strategic Plan at all in the minutes. Under Delaware state law, if any state entity wants to obtain a vendor in an open bidding process, they must submit a Request for Proposal (RFP). Capital gave a very small window for their RFP. The public notice of the RFP went out on 10/30/15 and proposals were due by 11/13/15. The RFP seems to be custom designed for a company like Demosophia.
An article in the Dover Post from 1/6/16 went over the thinking behind the Strategic Plan:
“I don’t want our direction moving forward to be Dan Shelton’s direction. It needs to be the community’s direction” he said. “We’re going to use our teachers, our administrators, and members of the community who want to volunteer for different portions of this plan.”
However, this is a direct contradiction with a part of the Superintendent Update from the Board’s 10/21/15 meeting:
Reviewed long term facility plan which will be incorporated into Strategic Planning Process
If the Strategic Plan was truly represented by the community of the district, how could they have a long term facility plan that would be “incorporated” into the Strategic Plan?
In fact, we don’t hear about the Strategic Plan in the board minutes for Capital again until their 1/20/16 meeting when the board unanimously approves the $45,000 contract awarded to Demosophia. For a five year strategic plan, they sure didn’t leave a lot of time for companies to submit a bid. Almost as if it was already decided who would win the contract. However, they did have three top-ranked firms apply for the bid with a total of six interviews according to the audio recording from the 1/20/16 meeting. Board member John Martin asked how Demosophia was chosen as the vendor. Shelton explained they scored 301 on the rubric with the two other firms placing at 294 and 232 points. Board member Sean Christiansen said he was a member of the interview committee which included district staff, teachers, and members of the community. He said Demosophia means “wisdom of the people” which is exactly what they were looking for at their 10/3 Board Retreat.
In the Board Docs for this meeting, there is no contract listed as a document. In fact, the contract with Demosophia can not be found anywhere. The Awarded Contracts for the State of Delaware website only shows the award letter issued to Demosophia.
Hegedus doesn’t even talk about the Strategic Plan with the public until the 2/17/16 board meeting. So the board and Shelton knew about Demosophia’s involvement with the plan since at least 11/13/16 but this isn’t revealed until the 1/20/16 meeting. Two and a half months after the Board Retreat…
The forums were held at the end of February and the beginning of March with the one-on-one interviews taking place in March. The Capital Board was supposed to have a workshop on 4/6/16 to discuss how the Co-Labs would work, but it was abruptly canceled and never rescheduled. The Co-Labs began in April. In fact, Capital has been extremely transparent with the activities surrounding the Strategic Plan on their website.
In the Co-Labs, participants state their ideas and it is all thrown into a computer system which will generate the results based on the input. It actually records exactly what these “stakeholders” put forth. It then spews out a picture graph (as seen in the above document) of the most talked about ideas and forms a conclusion for what the main issue is. This already happened in April.
Hegedus’ company, Demosophia lists other companies as their “world-wide affiliates” based on “Structured Democratic Dialogue”. All of these companies participate in programs to “consciously design humanity’s future”. These affiliates, including companies such as Institutes for 21st Century Agoras, CWA Ltd. ( a link to their website doesn’t even work), and Future Worlds Center. These are all think tanks that want to guide a conversation toward pre-determined goals.
What are the goals of Dr. Dan Shelton’s ideal Capital School District? He wants to start a Pre-School Academy at Dover High School. Yes, you heard it right. All of the forums involving the public and this came up how much? Not much at all. So how does a Strategic Plan spit out this big idea? You have to look beyond the illusion crafted by the public forums. The true meat of this agenda lies in the Co-Labs and who was on the committee. 85% of the members were paid employees of the district. One board member, one student, one member of the district’s CBOC, two outside parents and one Dover High School PTO vice-president. However, in this document, it paints a very different picture of the representation on the committee. It overlaps many district employees as parents of students at certain schools. This is the trap.
Many task forces, committees, and advisory groups are stacked in the favor of those who want a desired outcome in Delaware. Other current or recent groups in Delaware include the Assessment Inventory Committee, the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025, and the Education Funding Improvement Committee. In fact, when the IEP Task Force was brought about by Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 in June, 2014 there were no outside parents on the group at first. I successfully rounded up people to contact their legislators to include that crucial representation on that task force. Their input was invaluable to the Task Force and helped to shape the final legislation brought about by Senate Bill #33 last year.
Make no mistake, this Strategic Plan is entirely Dan Shelton’s idea. It is comparable to many initiatives going on in Delaware right now. Governor Markell earmarked $11 million for early childhood programs in the state, but the final budget only had $9 million given to the initiative. Since the federal Race To The Top for pre-schools ended last year, the state is on the hook. The goal of these early childhood programs is to reduce the number of students who receive special education services in later years. I heard as much at a Senate Education Committee meeting this winter. That should not be a goal taking up $9 million state funding when things like the WEIC redistricting plan or basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade failed to be included in the final budget. But I firmly believe Capital wants to strike gold on this while the funding is there. By becoming the first district in Delaware to have universal pre-K services, they will increase attendance in the district which is their true objective. The district lost a ton of students the past few years. I don’t blame them for that, but the way in which they are going about it is not a long-term strategy if they don’t improve upon the basic issues in the district.
The district, like many others in Delaware, seem to have an overreliance on Response to Intervention as a cure-all for what ails the district. RtI is a failed experiment that has long since outlived its original purpose of helping children to read better. It is used as a substitute for special education services when nothing a school does or says can reduce a manifestation of a child’s neurological disability if they are not utilizing even the most basic of special education services. And if they start this at a pre-school level district-wide, I fear for the outcomes of these children. It’s almost like the district read the Every Student Succeeds Act, took the very worst parts inserted in there at the last minute by lobbyists for the corporate education reform machine, and came up with this Strategic Plan to implement it through the smoke and mirrors of community input. In looking at the picture graphs, I see very little in regards to actual improvement of the district’s special education efforts. The words special education are not even in there. I see a lot mentioned about the “whole child” and “community centers”. Many citizens in the district already feel our schools should not become all-day day-care centers. But this plan seems to call for that, using outside organizations to improve the educational outcome of students. While the district would be correct in stating they have a high population of students coming from low-income, poverty, and violence-prone communities or homes, they should not put themselves in the unsustainable position of becoming the go-to source for what affects children out of school. Wrap-around services should be directed from parents, not a school. If a parent is unable to provide those services for their child, there are already existing mechanisms by which a school district can help get those services for a child in the event of neglect. But our schools should not become a Band-Aid for students. Not to mention the already existing fears by many of state control over children and loopholes in student data privacy laws.
Full disclosure: I ran for the Capital School Board this year and I lost. I bear no ill will towards the district or the board for that outcome. In fact, I’m glad I lost and I certainly want to wish Dr. Chanda Jackson the best of luck as she is sworn in at a special board meeting tonight at their district office at 7pm. I’m quite sure the district will say BRINC is the best thing for student outcomes and will come up with some fancy way of saying so. Of that I have no doubt. What I doubt is the ability of the board to question these things anymore and just goes along with whatever Dr. Shelton wants. But the board lost a key player when former President Kay Sass resigned last year. I thought Matt Lindell was the voice of sanity on this board, but I fear I misjudged him. And who will pay for all this? The citizens of the district, that’s who. And as the Christina School District will be knee-deep in the Demosophia think-tank way of doing things with their own contract in the fall, Capital will be ahead of the game showing the residents of Dover what the eventual price tag for these plans are.
We haven’t seen a new Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting bill in a few weeks. This one actually made me laugh. Not only does it re-summarize the last bill but it also guarantees funding (for future General Assemblies to make sure the funding is there) for what WEIC will give Red Clay if the House Joint Resolution passes. How much more legislation does this thing need? And people said opt out took up a lot of time last year! But the key part of this is the clause at the end which talks about “encouraged, but not required”.
Don’t get me wrong. I love that this would eventually give basic special education funding throughout the state to all kids in Kindergarten to 3rd grade. But here is the big question: will the rest of the districts and charters get a curve on the 3rd grade Smarter Balanced Assessment because they don’t have this funding yet? This whole WEIC thing is supposed to about righting wrongs and equity, right? So here we go, once more, setting up inequity to address equity.
What is this whole part about “school districts are encouraged, but not required, to match up to 30 percent of said funding.” Right there you are saying the state will only give about 77% of the funding for these high-needs kids. What if the districts don’t feel so encouraged to provide that funding? Will the state pony up the rest or is it just a “too bad, so sad” kind of situation? And that is in the synopsis. In the actual House Bill 425 legalese part all it says is “recommendations on resources”. There is nothing in the actual law that states this 30% language. And doesn’t this bill ignore the part in the WEIC redistricting plan that states all New Castle County schools would have all this funding in the next few years? That doesn’t sound like one a year. And how do charter schools fit into this funding mechanism? When do they get these extra funds? I like State Rep. Stephanie Bolden, and I think she has a very big heart. But everyone is bending over backwards to get the redistricting plan passed, we now have three pending bills our General Assembly will have to pass in their next six legislative sessions in order for this thing to move forward. This monster keeps growing more limbs! This “once in a lifetime chance” has more stakes in it than a beer tent at Firefly…
At least now we know what this three county thing is that Larry Nagengast mentioned a few weeks ago. But what the hell? You can’t write laws with words like “encouraged but not required”. It gives all of them an in or an out. How can we talk about equity when there is a choice for some to take part and some not to? They are either ALL IN or ALL OUT, no squeezing through the cracks here. And, oh yeah, where is this NEW money coming from? You know, the funding that would go to Indian River and Capital. I didn’t see that in the budget. We have 21 days left until June 30th. Expect fireworks!
In the meantime, I want to put up “encouraged, but not required” in the 2016 Hall of Fame along with “shall vs. may”…
The Academy of Dover is going through the very laborious charter renewal process with the Delaware Department of Education. On April 30th, the DOE gave the school their renewal report and AoD had 16 days to respond. The school had a rough couple years. Between a very damaging state auditor report on their former head of school embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, low high-stakes testing scores, a very large settlement with a former management company, and compliance issues, they have had their hands full. The former assistant principal now leads the school. A former principal from Town Pointe Elementary School in Capital School District runs the curriculum now. The board has shifted and received training in areas that caused some of the problems. Will it be enough?
This charter renewal comes at an interesting time. The 2014-2015 school year was the first year Smarter Balanced came into play. As such, the scores from that year don’t really count, but the DOE is using the ratings from the Delaware School Success Framework as a substitute for their Academic Framework. Let me say from the start, I feel bad for charter schools in the respect that the state assessment plays such a large part in anything going on with the DOE. AoD has a large population of low-income and minority students who typically fare worse on these tests than other schools.
Other factors that could affect their renewal involve Noel Rodriguez, their local school district, and the scores from the 2015-2016 SBAC. The former Head of School, Noel Rodriguez, will face charges at some point. I know of at least one other Delaware charter where the Attorney General’s office recently issued subpoenas about their own similar issues. Yet another Delaware charter had their board file for insurance claims due to embezzlement at their own school from former leaders. So something is coming which will put the school in the spotlight when Rodriguez faces charges. However, this issue already came up in their 2015 formal review and they were not shut down for it then so the DOE should not put them under the same scrutiny twice.
Capital School District, under the new leadership of Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, is looking at their own district with their Strategic Plan. What comes out of that, to improve the district, could affect AoD in the long run in terms of enrollment. But it should have no bearing on their renewal process.
The scores from the recent Smarter Balanced Assessment for the school will not play into their academic framework since it is not a part of the renewal report, but the impression could taint the process. Once again, I will stress my opinion these should not even factor into their charter renewal, but the DOE and I do not agree on this point.
I will admit I have softened my stance on Delaware charter schools a bit. My own experience with them tainted my view a bit. I still don’t agree with some of their very discriminatory practices up in Wilmington and the only one in Sussex County. But I believe they are just as much a victim as traditional school districts are with the DOE in terms of very bad regulations, mandates, and accountability. Academy of Dover and I had a frosty relationship in the past, but that has warmed up a bit in recent months. Many of the complaints against most charter schools are a result of politics and tainted legislation by people in Dover who should really know better. I believe the Delaware Charter Schools Network adds immensely to the perceptions against charters. With that caveat, Academy of Dover has a former State Representative on their board who does carry a bit of clout in Kent County so politics can play a part to help the school.
Many of the issues with Academy of Dover are well-known by the DOE and have come up before in formal reviews. There really aren’t any new complaints which suggests the school has fixed many of the issues since Noel Rodriguez left. No school is perfect, but Academy of Dover seems to have turned a lot around in the past year and a half. Rodriguez controlled the school and left a considerable amount of damage in his wake.
My one concern in the below response from the school is this 11 week Smarter Balanced Boot Camp after school for struggling students. In this era of high-stakes accountability, schools are under the gun for kids to do well on these tests. But they can go overboard with this effort. Calling anything a boot camp with education is a bad idea in my opinion. It suggests a dire need for these kids to do well on these tests regardless of the cost. The sooner we can get schools to stop giving in to this very bad proficiency environment, the better things will be in the long run. It gives the Delaware DOE all the power. But I also don’t run a school with that kind of pressure thrust upon me so it is easy for me to say that.
I know the school had special education issues in the past, but we won’t know until June how they may have improved. That is when the DOE issues their special education compliance annual reports. However, those are usually about three years behind and would reflect the height of the Noel Rodriguez era so that should be taken into consideration as well. Special education is a hot mess in Delaware overall. There seems to be a mass amount of confusion between Response to Intervention and true special education. This is an ongoing issue that will only get worse if we stay in this high-stakes accountability environment.
Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Delaware Secretary of Education will issue his final recommendation to the State Board of Education at their December 15th board meeting where they will vote on Academy of Dover’s charter renewal.
Below is the charter renewal report from the Delaware DOE and Academy of Dover’s response:
Dr. Chanda Jackson-Short won the Capital School District Board of Education seat today. With 190 votes, she had a close race with opponent Andres Ortiz who won 183 votes. Kevin Ohlandt gained 119 votes. Jackson-Short won East Dover Elementary School with 28 votes and tied with Ortiz at William Henry Middle School with 159 votes. Ohlandt won Hartley with 19 votes.
Okay, enough of the official journalism stuff. I lost! But you know what, it was an interesting journey with lessons learned. I’ve always known I’m a bit of a radical for many voters, and I’m okay with that. What was supposed to happen happened. I always believe God has a plan for everything, and this wasn’t in the cards. Jackson-Short saved Capital from becoming an all-male board. I will definitely be watching her to see what she does in the next five years. Congrats Chanda!
For now, I’m pretty beat and I’ve been awake since 4:55am yesterday morning so I think I’m going to go to bed. Tomorrow is a new day.
Christina School District Board of Education member John Young posted this tonight on his Facebook account. I agree with a lot of what he said. I haven’t written a lot about the divisiveness I believe is going on up there. In my opinion, it is corruption at its finest. Yes, I have my own election to worry about tomorrow. But I’m glad John put into words what he has been feeling, as have many others. It concerns me because I can see some parallels in Capital School District. While the board doesn’t seem to have these kind of issues and the level of manipulation isn’t as high, it is, to some degree, present. This is a long post from John Young, but it is well worth the read. If you live up in Christina, please vote for Elizabeth Paige. She earned her stripes a long time ago and Christina would not be the same without her. It would be much worse…
Well, here we are: tomorrow is the day. Christina faces an election for one seat as we already prepare to welcome Meg Mason in July to replace the outgoing Dave Resler. CSD voters have a pretty stark choice in my opinion. Unbeknownst to many voters, there is a distinctly unique tone to this year’s school board race between Desiree Brady and Elizabeth Paige and for the most part it’s not being created by the candidates themselves. There is a disturbing set of forces in play, in my opinion. I am well aware that what I type next will have people confirming either their love for my willingness to speak the truth of the situation or their hatred of the same thing. I can live with both.
Our district has been in crisis for quite some time now and the processes that have yielded several key results have caused irreparable harm to the ability of our board and district to function well. Please note my very specific use of the word “processes”. Some of the processes that have created deep concern include: the hiring of the acting Superintendent, the referendum campaign, the hiring of a parent engagement coordinator, the hiring of a consultant on climate and discipline issues and most recently the unfinished process of selecting HOW to select the new permanent superintendent. This list is not inclusive of all concerns.
The yield of these processes are not as universally concerning as the actual processes themselves. During each of these processes, the board was controlled by one person and the information shared to the board from both her and the administration has been extremely restrictive and in my opinion damaging to the rights of our taxpayers to have board members make informed decisions. During this period, a minority of board members have asked for more information and sought to push through these political barriers. At almost every turn, these behaviors have been supported by key stakeholders, while in the minority, have chosen to ignore the greater good often to continue parochial support of programs and people they like, need, and desire to see remain in power. Meanwhile, real questions about real issues are not only being ignored, they are being hidden and in some cases the public is being lied to about how the district works. A perfect example is my recent questioning of the contract for school climate and discipline. No one I know in CSD feels we don’t have major opportunity for improvement here; however, I also don’t know anyone that feels the district should just hand over a $49,250 no-bid contract with no public notice or input. Except for the 4 board members that did just that in support of the acting superintendent and the extremely public acknowledgement of previous employment and friendship with the vendor. TO be clear, this is not an indictment of the vendor whatsoever, only the broken process that yielded the result.
The same forces that seek to keep CSD board members in the dark on issues and prevent board members from making informed votes are now seeking to remove one of the three members willing to stand up and actually ask questions in support of CSD not their own agendas. They are aligned to drive out Elizabeth Paige. The planted questions, the stolen signs, the opponent’s campaign, up to and including the obvious employment at the workplace of one of the referendum’s biggest supporters who is close friends with the acting superintendent is simply too much to ignore.
One of this groups most concerning tactics is the one where they distract people by making allegations of failing to collaborate or not being civil. The truth is, to them collaboration is only labeled as such if you agree with them, and their role as civility police is undermined by their own off stage hypocrisy on the same subject. Both are morally bankrupt offerings in the face of board members just trying to actually be stewards of our students, parents, and taxes. It is repulsive to me to watch our district fall prey to these petty and unbecoming tactics. I am well aware that some feel I am a divisive force on the board. I can totally see why. When I ask questions and I don’t get answers, I get mad. Guilty as charged. I would ask those that feel I am the problem to try, if only for a moment, to ask yourself how you would react if you were elected by the public to do a job and other public officials got in your way, on purpose. I can accept criticism on my tactics and can fully admit that my seemingly righteous anger, on stage at times, can be both interpreted and misinterpreted as counterproductive. However, what you get from me is the same, all the time. I am not a chameleon. I was elected to do right by our students and until I am voted off I will not shrink from that responsibility. Not. One. Inch. I only speak of myself in this endorsement letter to paint the picture that a vote for Elizabeth is not a vote for me. She does not act or react the way I do even if she sometimes is just as mad or concerned about Christina processes. A vote for Elizabeth is a vote for the same passion, brought in a different and perhaps much better way. Don’t be fooled by some of the terrible tactics being used to convince you that any sympathy to a cause that happens to be supported by anyone not seeking to remove her means she is in some sort of policy silo.
Elizabeth Paige and I do not agree on everything, but we do agree on this: our students and our taxpayers deserve a responsive school district befitting the trust and respect owed to its students, parents, educators, administrators and taxpayers alike. She also is an elected official who does not stop in the quest to bring those basic yet quintessential aspects to Christina.
If you value transparency, intellectual curiosity, courage, independent thinking and a reasoned, systemic, analytical approach to policy then please vote tomorrow for Elizabeth Paige. If you don’t value those qualities, please Vote May 11th.