The Delaware Department of Education’s Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting requested a legal opinion from the Delaware Department of Justice. She wanted to know if the Department could legally enforce local school districts to send non-minor capital improvement match tax funds to Delaware charter schools. What did the DOJ say? Continue reading
The teachers at Wilmington’s Thomas Edison Charter School are NOT happy with the Board of Directors today. As I broke the news this morning, Head of School Salome Thomas-EL was removed from the school this morning by the police with the board present. What was the issue?
The school had a surplus of funds from their FY2017 budget to the tune of $534,000.00. The teachers were requesting a 1.5% increase in salary which Thomas-EL asked for from the board. The request was denied. What happened from there I do not know… yet. But to publicly shame a charter leader who is beloved by his staff and the community around him is in very bad taste. Not to mention the appearance this gives to students. This is a school with a low-income/poverty population hovering around 96%. The last thing they need is to see their school leader kicked out of school over what amounts to him fighting for higher teacher pay at a school that is known for having the lowest paid teaching staff in New Castle County. But they can afford to have lavish Christmas parties and send seven people to a charter school conference?
Thomas Edison’s teachers, like all Delaware public school teachers, received either a 1.5% salary increase or $750 (whichever is greater) last year. The board sent a letter to their educators a year ago advising them they would receive this increase but then backed out a couple of months later. The board’s response was that charter schools are not required to give those raises as approved by our state legislators in the annual budget. Based on their board approved budget for FY2017, the amount for salaries was $5,877,429.00. If they gave the 1.5% increase, that would have amounted to $88,161.43. With a surplus of $534,000 (or $588,000 according to their final June 2017 monthly financial statement), that would have been a drop in the bucket. My guess with the increase in local funds of over $176,000 is funds received from the settlement with the Christina School District over local funding. So where is that money going if it isn’t going to teachers? Where does their surplus money go to?
The answer to that is more frightening than the question itself. Thomas Edison has a foundation. The school transfers their surplus money into a foundation account. What happens from there is anybody’s guess. In looking at their July monthly financial position statement, it shows a board approved “transfer” budget which I can only assume is coming from their “foundation” account. In July it shows $25,000 transferred and in August another $25,000. But if the school has a $534,000 variance and they are transferring funds into the foundation account, what is being done with the rest of that money? In looking at their expenditures for May 2017 compared to June 2017, it looks like their expenses went up considerably in June considering school ended that month. And why isn’t the school posting financial statements for their foundation on their website? If I were the State Auditor, I would be looking into this as soon as possible.
This is not an attack on Salome Thomas-EL or the charter school. This is looking to be another round of what the hell is this charter board doing? The optics on this at the time of their charter renewal do not look good. Could this be Family Foundations Academy redux? I would LOVE to see their monthly foundation bank statements! If you have nothing to hide Board of Directors at Thomas Edison Charter School, I am asking that you make your bank statements from your foundation bank account available on your website immediately!
It looks like we need legislation around district and charter “foundation” accounts as well. You hear that legislators!
*To clarify, Salome Thomas-EL was NOT arrested this morning. Police were used to escort him off school premises.
A year ago today, I broke the Delaware education internet in half. I revealed that the charters wanted more money from districts. In reality, it came down to Christina vs. the 15 charters. But I didn’t know that at the time. But what I did do was break it and cause immense pressure to be put on then Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky. So much he stopped the charter money grab. As a result, both the Delaware DOE and Christina were victims of, what I believe, a frivolous lawsuit. Of course it was all led by Newark Charter School’s Greg Meece. I knew that the second I sniffed it. Now they are doing it again with the Match Tax. And Delaware is so stupid they will let them do it again. I shouldn’t say Delaware, but the DOE. It isn’t Bunting lighting the match, it is the same cast and crew from last year. When are they going to stop this insipid love affair with charters? Don’t they realize all they are doing is riding the wrong horse? It has been a crazy year since then. But I would be remiss if I didn’t look back on this and wonder how much I contributed to the eventual outcome. Almost as if I was played the entire time…
Christina School District is about to get screwed again! But not by the charters this time. This time it is districts who should be their allies!
Okay, time to let the cat out of the bag. A month ago, and if you blinked you missed it, the Christina Board of Education discussed and voted no on the Chief Financial Officer of their district negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding between Christina, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Brandywine. The MOU would have given authority to the CFO of Christina to send those local funds to the three other districts for students that choice to those districts out of Christina. The board said no. Look for a special board meeting sometime next week. From what I’m hearing, now the Superintendents of the districts (all four) want to have the MOU between them. Welcome to Christina Richard Gregg!
That’s what happens when you open Pandora’s Box like that with that stupid settlement between Christina and the charters. I’m talking to you four Christina board members who voted FOR the settlement and then voted against rescinding the settlement a week later. Did I not distinctly hear that it would set a precedent? That it would come back to bite them in the ass? I know I said it. I believe a few others did as well. Karma truly is a vengeful and mean bitch.
Do I have anything against Brandywine, Appo, or Red Clay for going after these funds? I don’t know. The timing sucks. And how soon until Colonial jumps on the train? All this happened because, supposedly, according to some commenter named Elizabeth, Jack Markell had some secret deal with Lillian Lowery and Christina when she became Secretary of Education. The way I’ve heard it, Lowery was involved in a lawsuit when she became Secretary and Captain Jack wanted it all hush-hush so all sorts of crazy crap happened. I heard that from someone who used to be on the board who hasn’t been too quiet about it over the past year or so. Funny how stuff gets out in The First State.
So what happens if Christina’s board says no again? Will the big three (and possibly Colonial) get their feathers in a twist and file a lawsuit against Christina as well? My gut tells me Christina’s board will be forced to vote yes because of the precedent set in the charter settlement. So last week, the board announced they will be laying off 44 or so teachers. Will this cause that number to rise? And how the hell does their CFO Robert Silber still have a job there?
How much money are we talking? I don’t think it would be as much as the cha-ching the charters got, but it will leave a mark on their budget. At this point, anything more is suck city. Here’s a novel idea… how about going after Jack Markell and Lillian Lowery for their side deals that went on. Better catch Jack quick before he goes on his Forrest Gump tour of America! Yeah, like that will ever happen. Captain Jack seems to have some special immunity shield around him. It’s a special kind, where you screw things up for eight years and you get to go biking into the
Education never gets boring in this state. But this will not be a joking matter for the teachers and staff in Christina School District. These are good people who have been the victim of these education funding games for many years now. Throw in priority schools and the constant labeling and shaming of the district. I feel bad for all the districts right now. Students and teachers should not be the sacrificial targets because the adults in charge can’t get their shit together. Sorry to be so blunt, but I’m really getting sick of it.
Here’s the kicker! I submitted a FOIA to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office a couple of weeks ago. This is what I asked for:
Please provide, in PDF format, all reports, letters, guidance, or inspections for any Delaware school district, vocational school district, or charter school generated by the Office of the Auditor of Accounts that is not listed on the Auditor of Accounts website for fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016. This would include any of the above listed documents sent to members of the General Assembly, the Delaware Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Controller General, or the Office of Management and Budget that would be considered a public document 29 Del. C. Paragraph 10002(1).
Wanna know what I got? Bupkis, that’s what! I got the petty cash letters sent to a handful of charters last year along with the letters about that specific situation sent to various state agencies. For three fiscal years!
Wanna know what that means? The Auditor of Accounts office is NOT auditing ANY school district unless it is an investigation based on something submitted on their tip line. Which means that office is breaking the law. But the General Assembly won’t give them the funds to do their job as required by Delaware State Law (which the General Assembly does: create laws). So who do we take to court? The Auditor of Accounts office or the General Assembly? Who is tracking where the hell education funds actually go? NO ONE! Except myself and Jack Wells it looks like. But yeah, let’s layoff teachers and make classrooms into sardine cans while people in district offices are making over $100,000 in salary. Cause that makes a lot of fucking sense! Let’s keep paying for state testing and all these one-to-on devices so we can just weed out teachers and turn education into a reformer wonderland! as I said, I’m getting tired of all this nonsense. And if I were a teacher, I would be too! If I were a parent (which I am) I would be shouting this from the rooftops: Stop screwing over our schools! And when I say schools, that primarily means the students and teachers. That is the heart of it all.
Dr. Steven Godowsky had quite a year as the Delaware Secretary of Education! As he sails off to distant shores (across the canal), away from the Townsend Building in Dover, Delaware, let’s look back on 2016. And stay tuned for the end of this article where I may or may not reveal a VERY BIG secret about Godowsky.
A month ago, I participated in a forum on Delaware education funding at the monthly Progressive Democrats for Delaware meeting. State Representative Paul Baumbach from the 23rd Rep District also discussed the issue. Baumbach is very supportive of implementing a weighted education funding formula in Delaware. Last Winter, Baumbach and then Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman presented a report on a weighted funding system to the Education Funding Improvement Commission. That commission was unable to get a consensus on any particular funding apparatus and ended the 148th General Assembly with no final report. The WEIC redistricting plan also called for implementation of a weighted funding system.
Education funding, with implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, will take center stage in 2017. As more and more citizens realize the system we have now is not working for all students, attempts at fixing the problems will appear. The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and their redistricting plan for Wilmington Christina School District students is still bubbling under the surface. Last night, Christina’s board voted 4-3 to settle on a lawsuit filed against them and the Delaware Dept. of Education by 15 charter schools that receive students from Christina. The charters claim Christina was filing exclusions that were “improper” to the Delaware DOE and the DOE signed off on them. While the settlement has not been made public, it will assuredly have an impact on local funding formulas going forward.
Baumbach’s plan is to have more money go to students with higher needs, such as low-income or poverty, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities. Currently, students with disabilities do receive additional funding based on a unit-count system (with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade). This system determines how much staff each district or charter school receive based on their September 30th count of students. With the funding system Baumbach is pushing for, the money would follow the student based on their needs. Another question involving this funding system is if Talented and Gifted students would be considered high need as well.
This is not equality funding but equity funding. Schools who have less sub-groups of students with higher needs would receive less money. Final accountability regulations for ESSA will require each public school in America to show the amount of funding per student based on local, state, and federal funding. The biggest problem with education funding in Delaware is property assessments. No county in Delaware has increased their property assessments in decades resulting in severe imbalances to what the current assessed values would be. As well, referenda held by school districts have had mixed results. Adding to this mix is the potential of school vouchers coming to Delaware if President Donald Trump and his pick for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, get their way. Baumbach argued against a bill that would allow vouchers for special education students last Spring and stated it would be a violation of Delaware’s Constitution to send state funds to a religious private school. Trump also announced he wants to incentivize new charter schools across America. Capital costs for school buildings is also a major issue. Delaware has many outdated schools that have serious structural issues with the recent Christina mold problem as a glaring example.
Baumbach will most likely bring forth legislation in 2017 to change how we fund our schools. As well, there is increasing talk in Delaware about re-examining property assessments. Some state officials have even suggested consolidating school districts to save money, possibly to a county school district system with New Castle County having two districts based on the population.
For my part, I can’t support ANY changes to our education funding system until we can get more assurances the money we are already spending is used with fidelity and honesty. The recent audit investigation into Indian River showed very clearly that this district was not being honest. We’ve had far too many Delaware charter school leaders and employees committing major fraud with funds that are not getting to students. Our state auditor is supposed to audit each school district every year and publish the results. This is not happening. Charter school annual audits, usually, do not have the ability to catch financial fraud. The State Auditor of Accounts Office, run by Tom Wagner, is massively understaffed. Why in the world would we dump more money into education when we can’t accurately keep track of the money already there? This is the viewpoint of many conservatives in Delaware, but more on the left are also waking up to a reality that can no longer be ignored.
As the chief legislative advocate for a weighted funding system, Baumbach will have his hands full in the first six months of 2017. If the Republicans manage to take control of the Delaware Senate after the special election for Bethany Hall-Long’s Senate seat, the voucher conversation will become very loud at Legislative Hall. Tony Allen also warned that time is running out to fix education for Wilmington students and advocates may file a federal lawsuit against Delaware which could leave education funding and districting in the hands of a federal judge. The icing on this education funding cake is the very flawed measurement of success for Delaware schools- the standardized test. If we use them as a barometer of success or need, the system will continue to be a confusing mess with no end in sight.
No matter how you slice and dice money for education, no system will please everyone. This has become painfully obvious. We need to look at what is best for Delaware students and not those of corporations who seek to profit from education. As corporate education reform is more embedded in our schools, more administrators are implementing the very bad policies from those reformers thus turning them into profiteers of education. Yeah, Baumbach is going to have a big fight on his hands with any legislation involving this system!
To read the final report conducted by Hanover Research for the Delaware DOE on a weighted funding system, please read below:
Who is the benefactor to the 15 charter schools suing the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education? You know, the one where the almighty (or are they?) charter schools want more money? Led and initiated by Newark Charter School who got fourteen other charters to follow suit. Literally. As in a lawsuit. But they had a little problem they had to take care of first. The damn attorney fees.
I imagine taking a case like this would involve a lot of prep work and discovery. Saul Ewing, LLP is the law firm representing the fifteen charter schools in their lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education. As the named parties are represented by their own counsel, the charters would have to be able to definitively prove their case. Or at least a perception of their case. That’s what attorneys do. Make a jury or judge believe their side of the story, whether it is right or wrong. It is always about the belief. But who is paying Saul Ewing for this lawsuit? Continue reading
The Progressive Democrats of Delaware will have a panel tonight on the subject of education funding. I was asked to be one of the panelists for this to which I happily accepted. But I’m up against some heavy hitters! One of the most knowledgeable experts on school district funding, Brian Stephan, will join myself, Tony Allen, and State Rep. Paul Baumbach on this important discussion. As well, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission will receive the 2016 Bob Stachnik Progressive Courage Award for their advocacy efforts on improving education in Wilmington. Tony Allen is the Chair of WEIC. Brian Stephan serves on the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee and is a contributor for Delaware Liberal. State Rep. Paul Baumbach is running unopposed for the 23rd State Rep. Seat which will give him his third consecutive term for the district.
I highly recommend coming out for this. The event begins at 7pm and runs until 8:30am. This will take place at the New Castle Democrat HQ at 19 East Commons Blvd., 2nd floor, in New Castle. I will gladly answer any question presented to the best of my ability but I do not consider myself an expert on this stuff. I know many facets but it is a very broad topic with many moving parts. But I do plan on talking about a few things I’m pretty sure none of the other panelists would mention as I have just discovered them myself. I have to imagine the very controversial charter school lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware Dept. of Education will come up. As well, funding for WEIC will surely be a topic as well. Many of the panelists want to revamp funding to include a weighted funding formula so children with higher needs are given a greater weight of money.
Move over bacon! Here comes something meatier! It looks like we have a charter school “district” coming in Wilmington. How very interesting. Word on the street is Prestige Academy has been invited to become a part of the EastSide Charter “district”. We will now have three charter schools in this “district”: EastSide, Family Foundations Academy, and now Prestige Academy. Add in the very big connections between EastSide and Gateway, and we are seeing a budding school district within already existing school districts.
This is NOT a joke. But questions are rising up faster than Buccini-Pollen apartment buildings in Wilmington! Last month, the Board of Directors at Prestige Academy wrote a letter to the Delaware Dept. of Education indicating they would be surrendering their charter at the end of this school year and would not be attempting to renew their charter. They based their decision on low enrollment. So if they wrote this letter and did NOT have their initial Charter School Accountability Committee meeting, how can this even happen? Whether they join or not, they still have to go through the charter renewal process and deal with their very low enrollment. But once again, the word on the street is the DOE will let this go through. Even though they haven’t changed anything on the charter renewal part of their website for the 2016-2017 year for Prestige’s renewal. But still, Secretary Godowsky would have to give his assent to the State Board of Education who would have to vote as a majority. I really shouldn’t predict what they are going to do. They have their own minds.
I have a novel idea. Maybe the enrollment would go up if they changed locations. Being across from a men’s prison for an all boys school with a huge African-American population isn’t the wisest idea. It didn’t work out for Marion T. Charter School either (they went down years ago). But it looks like we could have a Wilmington School District in the future, just not the kind any of us expected (actually, Kavips did when the whole priority schools thing went down). I’m sure some will say “You’ve got this all wrong”. We will see what comes out in the wash! How ironic that the charter school lawsuit against Christina would also coincidentally come out at the same time, which all three schools in the EastSide Empire are a part of…
According to the draft minutes of Charter School of Wilmington’s latest board meeting, the school lost a lot of money due to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky deciding not to move forward with changes to the local funding formula for choice schools in Delaware. So why didn’t CSW take the same sort of action Newark Charter School and fourteen other charters did in their decision to sue Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education?
According to their chief financial officer, CSW lost $90,000.00 due to Secretary Godowsky’s decision. That isn’t exactly chump change. But it also says a lot. It means it wasn’t just charter schools that take from Christina schools that were affected by the decision. While I don’t know the exact amount of students CSW has from Christina, I know it isn’t that much. So I would guess that CSW’s stated “loss” is due to Red Clay. On the flip side, Providence Creek Academy joined the big lawsuit and only has a very few students from Christina. I guess when you do it as a huge lump thing, matters like attorney fees and whatnot can be divvied up evenly among the many parties. It would not make sense from CSW to sue Red Clay, even if they had Delaware Military Academy join them. That would make their attorney fees a lot higher. If they lost, the amount they could expect to gain would be much less than $90,000.00.
With all this being said, I still think this lawsuit is complete idiocy in motion. It is just another excuse to go after Christina. And I still have a sneaky feeling there is much more to all this than meets the eye. Something doesn’t add up. But I’ll figure it out. Trust me on that!
*Editor’s Note: The Sokola Videos are back up now. Apparently, Delaware United didn’t announce the videos yet but forgot to put it on private when they uploaded them to Youtube. And of course the Sneaky Snake Blogger stumbled on them (which is how I find a ton of stuff… shhhhhh!). I was a bit rough on the rookie political grassroots group. They are new, and they will make mistakes. Growing pains of any new organization. I know I never make mistakes on here (stop laughing). And I never overreact (seriously, stop laughing).
This morning, I put up a series of videos between Delaware United and Delaware Senator David Sokola. I found these three videos on Youtube last night. At the request of one of the parties involved in the videos (not David Sokola), I was asked me to take the post down. I honored the request. I soon found the videos were made private on Youtube. I felt the interview was excellent and gave voters in the 8th Senate District a good vantage point on David Sokola’s views on education. Many topics were covered: the Charter School vs. Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education lawsuit, the WEIC redistricting plan and what happened in the General Assembly, education funding, Newark Charter School, parent engagement, teacher unions in charter schools, and so on. But apparently, since Delaware United does not slam candidates, the perception of posting the videos on a blog that is very critical of David Sokola would be seen as the group slamming Sokola.
Delaware United has been around for a few months now. After Bernie Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the Presidential Democrat primary, many upper Delaware Bernie supporters created Delaware United. Since their creation, they have reached out to candidates in Delaware at a state and federal level. While Delaware United claims to not be affiliated with any political party, every single one of their endorsements have been Democrat candidates. While I agree with some of their choices, I have serious issues with a group that claims to be non-partisan but every single one of their goals and endorsements are Democrat leaning. The group describes themselves as the following on their Facebook page:
Welcome to Delaware United, a proactive group of Delaware voters and volunteers from various backgrounds, all united to change the course of Delaware local politics.
But what is even odder is their rules for their Facebook page:
Policies and Practices for Delaware United Online Activity
Delaware United·Thursday, September 22, 2016 .
Policies and Practices for Delaware United Online Activity
Updated: September 22, 2016
*All rules are subject to change at the discretion of Delaware United’s Administrators
Rules for Facebook posts for Those Who Like, Visit or Follow Delaware United’s Page
- No posting on, commenting on, or tagging/hashtagging Delaware United regarding Presidential Politics. This is a locally-organized group, and we need to come together to change Delaware. That will not happen by subdividing on presidential politics, it will happen by getting involved locally and making a difference in Delaware specific issues.
- No posting on, commenting on, or tagging/hashtagging Delaware United in attack posts about any candidates. We are all adults, and you don’t need to pick on anyone or drag anyone down to prove your point. If you want to lift up a candidate and explain reasonably and maturely voice your opinion about any candidate, you are certainly free to do so. However, we do not attack other candidates, we are nonpartisan, we use positive press because we do not need to further propagate the disrespectful division in our political process. This state belongs to all of us, and we need to work together to make a difference.
- No attacking each other via posting, commenting, or tagging/hashtagging. When you see something you don’t agree with, there is the option to keep scrolling. Please do not attack other people because they have different opinions on a topic or person. If you can respectfully voice your opposing opinion and wish to open a dialogue GREAT; we encourage that, but please be respectful of each other. Again, we need to work together.
- No spam posts or comments. If you are repeatedly posting the same long, drawn out comments it will be removed each time, after which you will first receive a warning message or comment, and then you will be banned from commenting and/or blocked. Open a dialogue, talk to each other, voice your opinions, but no one wants to read the same 1200 word post that you have pasted in every comment for the past week, or see that you are using a page with an engaged audience for your own purpose.
- Please try to post comments relevant to the post. We have all seen someone try to post a completely unrelated article or copy paste a comment in every post on a page, but we have also seen comments stray way off topic, despite whether or not the commenters realize this. An open dialogue is great, and it is encouraged, but this is about creating community, so please if you want to talk to someone about an issue privately message them or friend request them, and chat elsewhere. Build friendships, build dialogues, and community; we need to come together in Delaware, and who knows maybe we can create some in person relationships instead of just cyber ones. We aren’t going to block anyone, or delete comments for straying off topic, but rather we are encouraging you to become a community.
- Refrain from using certain language to describe our group. Please do not refer to Delaware United directly using all or any part of the following terms: “Democrats”, “Progressive.” “Liberal,” “Watchdog;” We don’t need labels, and not everyone in this group falls under any of these terms, so please be respectful of them. Please keep in mind the nature of our group is one that is all-inclusive, regardless of political party or past voting history, and even those who cannot vote in Delaware are still welcomed and useful volunteers, as long as they believe in our platform.
When a supposed non-partisan group begins telling people HOW TO VOTE, I have serious issues with that. Any citizen’s right to vote is their choice. How a person formulates who they want to vote for and why is their own business. It gives a vibe of “if you don’t agree with us then you can’t be a part of our group.” By telling people we welcome everyone as long as you believe in our platform, that sends a very mixed message. But this October 15th post on their Facebook page really pissed me off:
Hey everybody, I just want to share this message of caution when it comes to some of the rhetoric that’s affecting the hardest working candidates in this election cycle.
One thing I have to say, that I forgot to mention in the video, is that we have people fighting for some of the most forward thinking policies in our nation, right here in Delaware, and they need your help to get re-elected to continue fighting that fight. Please consider volunteering and help us help Delaware. We need people to remain in the house and senate that have fought for living wage policies, public option health care, pay equity, campaign finance reform, and all the other issues we care about most. This clean out the house, and burn it down in the process rhetoric is not only dangerous, but it is also detrimental to our goals across the country.
You have to consider what the other option is in the general election, would we be going from a person with one policy position you don’t agree with, to a person with even worse positions? Is that a trade you really want to make? Additionally, please be aware that you can not just vote based on positions on one issue, that is dangerous and short sighted. If you agree with 90% of the candidates policies, but 10% you disagree with, on one side of the ticket, but on the other you disagree with 90% but agree with 10%, is that a trade you really want to make as well? Please vote, but please vote educated.
What percentage of a person’s issues that factor into how they vote is their own business. There is no formula to this. It is all an individual decision. This is just one of the many reasons I can’t wait until this damn election is over.
I never participated in any of Delaware United’s events. I did share their video series with Sokola’s Republican opponent, Meredith Chapman. I just realized while linking to that article, the 2nd out of the three videos no longer exists. For a group that promotes transparency, I am having a very difficult time with their back and forth on what can be said, what views a person is supposed to have, what percentage of their mind should vote for a candidate, deleting of public posts, their very biased endorsements based on their overarching goal of the group, and the very bizarre handling of the Sokola/Chapman contest. What does it even mean when you post videos with one candidate in a contest but not the other candidate? I think this group has bitten off more than they can chew. I have no doubt Delaware Democrats love them to death. But this is not Delaware United. This is Delaware Democrats United. If you want to claim to be a non-partisan group, then stick with the original title. But their actions suggest something altogether different. I deplore any type of censorship. Their very strict rules in regards to what people can or can’t say goes against the most basic foundations of a democracy. If this is “Delaware United”, then count me out.
I will attempt to recollect to the best of my ability the highlights of the Sokola interviews. The first video was about Delaware education. The first question dealt with the charter school lawsuit against the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education. Sokola said there were inconsistencies with the formula but he laid the blame on the Delaware DOE for what happened. When asked if he would pick a side in the battle: charters or school districts, Sokola flat-out said his side is “the money follows the kid”. He made it look like the General Assembly will still attempt to bring all the sides together on this issue and hopes to have many parents attend. But he said “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” in regards to getting parents involved. One question dealt with Newark Charter School and the lack of an organized PTA or PTO. As well, the question also touched on teacher unions in charter schools. Sokola said he will not write legislation forcing union membership as he believes that is a choice for each teacher to make in filling out a union card and collectively creating a union. He said the idea of charter schools creating innovative schools was written into the original charter law (which he wrote and took full credit for), but he claimed it is a two-way street and both sides need to come together to collaborate. He cited Kuumba Charter School having a Singapore Math program and how Brandywine reached out to them and came together. One Delaware United member said she asked NCS Head of School Greg Meece about this issue to which Meece said something to the effect of throwing out an olive branch and no one took him up on it. In regards to WEIC, Sokola said it came down to funding. When told the funding could have been made available, Sokola replied with a nonchalant answer about the original WEAC plan giving certain recommendations but when the WEIC redistricting plan came out it became much more with no clear way of knowing if those recommendations would work in the long run for students. A suggestion was made to Sokola that if legislation comes up in the Senate Education Committee where parents come to support an issue, that legislation should happen first on the agenda so parents can get back to their families.
When I first heard about Delaware United, a citizen approached me about it. This person said they were concerned about how the group was forming. I checked them out. I liked their Facebook page. But I made it very clear to this group I would not support all of their endorsements and I felt their censorship regarding certain things flew against what they stood for. Apparently that advice wasn’t taken seriously. I am putting up the Sokola interview article again. I am now seeing the 2nd Sokola video is still up. Read from that what you will. This blog will no longer play Ping-Pong over another group’s internal strife.
Delaware Senator David Sokola is up for re-election. But this isn’t just any normal re-election. He is up for the fight of his life! After a very contentious 148th General Assembly and education issues coming up left and right, Sokola is faced with a very determined opponent. Meredith Chapman is running on the GOP side of the 8th Senate District ticket. Delaware United interviewed Sokola in a three-part interview. One of the interviewees is Elizabeth Paige. While she is not interviewing Sokola in her role as the President of the Christina Board of Education, there is definitely some tension there! These videos, especially the first one, are a must-watch! Thanks to Delaware United for interviewing Sokola!
This morning I followed-up on plans to observe a talented and gifted program in one of our Delaware schools. It was great seeing the kids interacting with their teacher. I arrived at Pulaski Elementary School at about 9:45am and stayed until shortly before noon. I got a tour of the building. I haven’t been in too many inner-city schools that are older, so it was great to see the design of the building and the different levels.
About fifteen minutes after arrival, I developed a nasal drip. Which was very strange because I wasn’t congested prior to getting there. About ten minutes later I began to have a headache. I ate a full breakfast this morning and took my vitamins. Most headaches I get require me to take some type of medicine like Motrin or Tylenol. Alas, I didn’t have any with me. The headache went away about 45 minutes after I left Pulaski.
I saw the rooms where the mold remediation took place. They were sealed off with plastic zipper doors, like what we saw in E.T. back in 1982. I asked if the carpeting was the same in the one room to which my guide said yes. Other areas that were not remediated had a musty, damp kind of smell. Not the whole building, but areas near the remediated rooms and above them. Even the front office had a peculiar smell.
I met the principal. A very nice woman. I met quite a few teachers, most of them in passing. All were very polite and doing what they do best, teaching kids. There were a few times I had to ask my guide to repeat herself. Unfortunately, under doctor orders, she had to wear an air filter mask because of lingering health issues.
By the way, the Christina Board of Education will meet tonight at the Sarah Pyle Academy in Wilmington. The meeting opens to the public at 7pm and public comment is always welcome. I know they will be discussing the mold issues as well as the charter school lawsuit against them and the Delaware Dept. of Education. Last night, the board held an Executive Meeting to discuss the litigation. I anticipate a very large crowd in attendance this evening, so you may want to think about arriving early. Meanwhile, the Delaware Division of Public Health is set to release a report on their walk-through of the school last Friday.
The Newark Charter School teacher who apparently lost her job over a “physical altercation” two weeks ago has been reinstated at the school. After students staged a sit-in and the bizarre incident caused me to write more articles than I would have dreamed of, it appears the administration completed their investigation of the “slappening” and gave the teacher her job back. I’m glad the teacher got her job back. But I also hope this situation opened the eyes of NCS parents and students into the minds of the admins. The students proved their voice does matter!
Is the student involved still attending NCS? I don’t have an answer to that one. But it appears things are back to normal for Newark Charter School, aside from the lawsuit they joined with 14 other charter schools and a strange occurrence at their homecoming dance on Saturday. Female students were asked to hand in their purses. The students were also told they had to purchase water at the event by at least one chaperone. While this wasn’t enforced, many parents felt this was over-doing it at a student body function. Many parents reported their child was allowed to drink from a water fountain. For a school that has a student body activity bucket of money that is second only to the Cape Henlopen School District, I find it ironic they would ask students to purchase water…
I don’t know if this is a normal practice at school dances for female students to not be allowed to carry their purses. If anyone knows, please comment. I understand the concern for security, but I would think student belongings being stored in a place they don’t have access to could be seen as invasive.
Last Friday, Newark Charter School students performed a “sit-in” to protest an incident which has been referred to as “The Slappening” among the student body of Newark Charter School. 200 high school students participated in the sit-in until administrators broke up the party in the cafeteria. This is about 1/4th of their student body at their high school. While we don’t know if the teacher was reinstated, we do know that when the majority of the people stand up for something they believe in, people take notice. This was what I attempted to push for the opt out movement in Delaware. If everyone opted out, then Smarter Balanced would have disappeared. We can still do this, but not just with “Smarter” as the DOE puts it (which is ironic because it is dumber), but all standardized tests. Whether they are once a year or embedded as “stealth test” in personalized learning technology coming soon to a school near you. And when it comes to all that ed tech, you can opt out of that as well. If enough parents do it, we can make ed tech irrelevant and be assured our child’s every keystroke isn’t tracked and catalogued by Education Inc. and their data is safe. As well, this will protect the teaching profession so they don’t become glorified TFA or Relay moderators. It’s a win-win. No battle is ever won by sitting at the table and compromising to the point of surrender.
Wait one minute, let’s get back to “The Slappening”. I saw many tweets which indicated the teacher was terminated after the student sit-in at Newark Charter School last Friday. While I won’t put minors tweets on this blog, I can say one tweet was pretty definitive! I have a very good idea of what actually happened between the teacher and the student last week and what led to “The Slappening”. I can’t see, in that situation, where a teacher should have been terminated. That teacher has rights. She also has the right to due process. Had I known about this sit-in beforehand, I would have sat in with the students as well (Yeah right, like Greg Meece would let that happen)! But I do respect what the students did.
This has been a very bizarre year for the higher-ups at Newark Charter School. From their insane awards based on Smarter Balanced results to the “social engineering” of their lottery last winter to my strange discovery they are the only charter school in the state that doesn’t file IRS 990 tax returns to the district-charter funding war which has now become the charter-Christina-DOE lawsuit to “The Slappening”. I have to wonder if a change needs to happen. Not my place, but just putting it out there. Many students were terrified of the sit-in and what could happen to them. But they did it anyway. They stood up (or sat down) to the school leaders and said stop with the madness. Granted, what they were hoping for didn’t happen, but it did draw attention to the school through major Delaware media like the News Journal. Even the students seemed shocked they made delawareonline.
It is 2016. Newark Charter School is having a VERY bizarre year. With absolutely no disrespect intended for the students or the parents, but your administrators and board have made some really strange decisions. It’s refreshing in a weird way that NCS has lost its aura of being such a well-behaved mild-mannered gee we’re awesome school. It brings the school back down to earth. I hope more students and parents speak out about issues going on there. I’m not saying NCS should become a priority school tomorrow, but the era of invincibility is over. NCS had the veil lowered and we are all getting a chance to peek in. Greg Meece has allowed his temper to get the best of him this year and he has been there a loooooooooooooooooong time. He can do one of two things: keep the Harry Potter cloak back on the NCS schools or just let things flow. I’m hoping for the latter. But that will require him also lightening up on a few other things.
I believe the original intent of NCS was for parents to get their kids out of the Christina School District. Did they have cause? Sure they did. But there are really good things happening in Christina right now. There are also bad. As there are in every single school in America. Even NCS. I get the need to protect your child. But if it gets to a point where what one student has means many others do without, how is that teaching any child right and wrong? I’m not saying this to start a fight. Truly. But if we always have this divide in this state, nothing anyone does will ever fix anything. This lawsuit NCS triggered… it’s not good for Delaware. It’s not good for NCS or Christina. Lawsuits cost a ton of money. But more than that, they take away from students. They create long-lasting hostilities that play out for decades. NCS sees this one way and Christina sees it another. Eventually, unless it goes into some type of settlement, a judge will decide. Chances are it isn’t going to play out the way the fifteen charters think it will. I have no doubt Meece thinks he has some smoking gun he thinks will make the case. It might, but not against Christina. The Delaware DOE? Probably. But never underestimate what happens when you poke a bear. If NCS truly thinks Christina will take this like a champ, they are wrong. All 15 charters are wrong.
At a time when Delaware as a whole is trying to figure out pretty much every single aspect of education, from funding to academics to post-secondary outcomes to early childhood to special education to testing, we have a group of charters merrily led by their cheerleader over at the Delaware Charter Schools Network, some legal eagles, and probably a few other “stakeholders” trying to upset the apple cart and make sure they get what they think is their bounty. But have they given one thought to what this means to Delaware students as a whole? Nope.
That teacher the NCS students staged a sit-in for… why don’t they do that for ALL Delaware students. They loved their teacher and fought for what they believed was just and fair. Something was taken away from these students and they didn’t like it. They did what Americans have been doing since the Boston Tea Party. Now imagine all those students in Christina who will have less so the charters can have more. Is that fair to them? NCS has their engaged parents and their cafetorium and all that. Not every school in Christina does. Some schools don’t even have a librarian. Stage a sit-in for that. If the teacher you lost is as great as you say she is, she will find a new job. This issue, due to your efforts, has been very public. But the students in Christina… they might not get those second chances because of this ridiculous lawsuit.
Education is never going to be fixed no matter what all the corporate dreamers think will happen. As long as there is one individual in a school, there will always be issues. But the key is trying to find a way to make it work. Robbing Peter to pay Paul isn’t the way. This is why the charters, despite what they think happened and are behaving worse than any petulant child, are a classic example of what not to do in education. This is making them reviled and hated more than anything I’ve seen in a long time.
The News Journal just reported that a group of Delaware charter schools are suing Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education over the charter school funding issue that I broke at the end of August. This is unbelievable! I can’t believe they have the unmitigated gall to go behind the districts’ backs all Spring, have the DOE issue “updated” funding formulas in August, and then sue Christina and the DOE after Secretary Godowsky reversed course on the plan.
And who does the News Journal have as a fresh picture, taken two days ago? None other than Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network. When Newark Charter School’s Head of School Greg Meece and Kendall Massett get together, we should expect nothing but trouble. For all of Massett’s talk about wanting district and charter collaboration, she sure has a funny way of showing it.
Fifteen charter schools have filed suit against the state Department of Education and Christina School District to get what they claim is their fair share of funding. Christina has been withholding millions of dollars in local tax revenue from charter schools for years and the Department of Education has been complicit, according to the lawsuit.
Their fair share of funding is what they already get. I actually can’t wait to see this go to court. I will say it here and now… the charter schools will lose! Who is paying for their attorney fees?
Under the adjusted formula, Christina School District would have had to pay about $3 million more this year than it had been planning. For Newark Charter School, one of the chief beneficiaries of those funds, that would have meant an additional $1 million in revenue.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again… this amounts to Greg Meece going for an unprecedented money grab for Christina after they won their referendum last Spring. And I also have a pretty good idea why he thinks the charters will win. But I will hold that close to the vest for now. But that one goes all the way to the top of Delaware, right Jack? So how far back does this lawsuit go? How about 2008!
The lawsuit aims at reinstating the adjustments made to the statewide formula and forcing Christina to pay back what it has withheld since 2008.
Newark Charter knows that if they win this would bankrupt Christina which I have no doubt is their overall plan. And what then? All of Christina goes back to the state and would most likely convert to charters. Is Meece going to lead his long dreamed of Newark Charter School Network and take all those kids he didn’t want for the past 15 years? I know what happened in 2008 when a former Christina Board member told Meece they would get additional funds from their referendum but the board member spoke out of turn. Ever since, Meece has been gunning for Christina because of bad information. I also have a pretty good idea of where Meece got certain information from that is making him think he has a case. That will be the true revelation when all is revealed!
I would have to assume these fifteen charters are the ones that get funding from Christina School District, which is most likely every one in New Castle County.