So much for my daily “Best of Publius” series. Mice and men and all that! But I will make up for it. Two and a half years, the shot heard round Delaware happened on the steps of Warner Elementary School in Wilmington when Governor Markell announced the priority schools initiative. Take six “low-performing” schools and turn ’em around! The planning for it was horrible as was the community reaction. Legislators jumped on the Governor and the Delaware Dept. of Education. Teachers and parents rallied at board meetings. No one liked the idea of taking six inner-city schools, hiring new leaders, and replacing half the teachers. Lest we forget, the definition of “failing” was based on standardized test scores. Everyone hated the idea. Well, except for Publius e decere over on Kilroy’s Delaware. He had plenty to say about the debacle.
Yes, we should all bow our heads to the master, Publius himself. I would shudder to think what would happen to Delaware education if his rantings ever bridged into an actual elected office!
This morning, after hearing even more things going on at Delaware Met, I took a drastic step and emailed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and pleaded with him to close Delaware Met down for good. I also cc:ed Governor Markell, his education policy advisor Lindsay O’Mara, Attorney General Matt Denn, other leaders at the DOE, and every single legislator in the 148th General Assembly. His response was very shocking given the nature of the email. The responses I got from legislators had more meat than what Godowsky had.
From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, November 10, 2015 10:39 AM
To: Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>
Cc: Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>; Nagourney Jennifer <Jennifer.Nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <firstname.lastname@example.org>; May Alison <email@example.com>; Markell Jack <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Denn Matthew <email@example.com>; Williams Kimberly <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Kowalko John <email@example.com>; Matthews Sean <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Lynn Sean M <email@example.com>; Baumbach Paul <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Bennett Andria <email@example.com>; Schwartzkopf Peter <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Jaques, Jr Earl <email@example.com>; Potter, Jr Charles <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Bolden StephanieT <email@example.com>; Paradee Trey <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Keeley Helene <email@example.com>; Brady Gerald <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Smith Melanie G <email@example.com>; Heffernan Debra <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Short Bryon <email@example.com>; Short Daniel <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Johnson Quinton <email@example.com>; Johnson JJ <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Hensley Kevin S <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org; Hudson Deborah <email@example.com>; Mitchell John L <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Longhurst Valerie <email@example.com>; Bentz David <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Mulrooney Michael <email@example.com>; Smyk Steve <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Ramone Michael <email@example.com>; Miro Joseph <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Osienski Edward <email@example.com>; Viola John <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Carson William <email@example.com>; Outten Bobby <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Peterman Jack <email@example.com>; Sokola David <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Townsend Bryan <email@example.com>; Yearick Lyndon D <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Wilson David L <email@example.com>; Kenton Harvey <firstname.lastname@example.org>; BriggsKing Ruth <email@example.com>; Gray Ronald <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Dukes Timothy <email@example.com>; Collins Richard G <firstname.lastname@example.org>; McDowell Harris <email@example.com>; Henry Margaret Rose <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Marshall Robert <email@example.com>; Lavelle Greg <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Cloutier Catherine <email@example.com>; Lopez Ernesto B <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Blevins Patricia <email@example.com>; Peterson Karen <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Hall-Long Bethany <email@example.com>; Poore Nicole <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Pettyjohn Brian <email@example.com>; McBride David <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Ennis Bruce <email@example.com>; Lawson Dave <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Colin J. Bonini <email@example.com>; Bushweller Brian <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Simpson Gary <email@example.com>; Hocker Gerald <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Richardson Bryant L <email@example.com>; O’Mara Lindsay <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Delaware Met
I know we have been at odds over the whole Delaware School Success Framework, but I implore the Department to act immediately with regards to The Delaware Met. This place is an obvious danger to students and staff, and the DOE needs to shut it down immediately. The issues there are getting worse, and the DOE needs to act now. Not in December at a State Board of Education meeting, and not at the end of the year should their charter be revoked. I completely understand this is a very delicate situation, but student and staff safety need to come first. With all the information I have heard, I believe there to be a clear and present danger in that school.
I am calling for others to reach out to you on this as well.
Here I am, reaching out in good faith to them, and they know I know what is going on over there. I would think the words “clear and present danger” would warrant something other than the response I got from Dr. Godowsky. But no, the typical Delaware response which says “I read your email. I’m not going to do anything about it Chicken Little, but you should feel lucky I bothered to respond. That’s more than Mark Murphy ever did.” Okay, it didn’t really say that, but that’s how it felt. No, this is what I got:
From: Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, November 10, 2015 1:38 PM
Subject: RE: Delaware Met
I appreciate the notice. Thank you.
Steven H. Godowsky
Delaware Department of Education
Gee, thanks Steve. No action plan, or even a “We will look into it” or any questions. Nothing. And they wonder why I blog about the DOE so much. Are these people that arrogant and condescending to think they are above the rest of us and aren’t accountable for their actions? They want to lord it over teachers and schools all the time, but when the time comes for them to answer for themselves they hide behind Governor Markell. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good people working over there, but when the leadership responds like this, it doesn’t show a concerted effort to communicate better with the public. It shows a “We are better than you” attitude. Does he have to wait for Markell’s permission to respond effectively? Cause we all know Jack was gallivanting around today giving a speech about teacher quality on the taxpayer’s dime without putting it on his public schedule.
Meanwhile, this school needs action taken on it now. What is going to be the DOE’s spin when things come out? Something like “we were aware of the situation and took every step necessary to deal with these matters.” I’m telling everyone right now, when things are revealed about this school, don’t look to the DOE for answers. Because you will get a response akin to the one I got from Secretary Godowsky today. You’re going 0-2 on me here Steve. That is not a good start. While I appreciate you helping to put Delaware Met on formal review to begin with, that doesn’t solve the immediate problems going on there. And your betrayal last week with the opt-out penalties is not endearing you to Delaware at all!
If no one will take quick action on this school than something bad is going to happen. We all know it. And I’m sure the last thing the DOE wants to do is prove me right. I am hereby declaring the DOE a Priority State Education Agency.
*I did edit one name in the email. Poor State Rep. Jeff Spiegelman. I can never remember the i before e except after c rule with his name. Both default when I start to put his name in my email address field. My profuse apologies Rep. Speigelman!