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
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
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!
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:
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?
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 email@example.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 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?
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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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
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?