Christina Board Tables MOU Between District & Governor Carney With 5-2 Vote

The Christina School District Board of Education voted 5-2 to table the Memorandum of Understanding between the Christina School District and Delaware Governor John Carney’s office.  In a nutshell, this means it isn’t dead but will most likely come up at a future board meeting.  Carney’s office gave Christina a deadline of February 28th to approve the whole thing, even the portion which would consolidate five schools into two.  The two no votes belonged to board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige.

Carney is going to be one pissed off Governor tonight!  In my opinion, this MOU was a bait and switch to begin with.  Now that the Christina Board has essentially said “screw you and your MOU”, he can REALLY go after the district.  Which means he will bring out the big guns and threats of charter conversion.  These are predictions on my end with nothing to base them on.  Nothing but history.  To see the latest draft, please see below:

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More Information On The Atrocious School Board Member Removal Bill

Aside from State Rep. Paul Baumbach, I have yet to hear from one person in support of this legislation.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  But in the 24 hours or so since I posted this story, I have had many sidebar conversations with Baumbach, as well as many other crucial conversations. Continue reading “More Information On The Atrocious School Board Member Removal Bill”

Kowalko Picks Apart Carney’s Not So Legal Christina-Wilmington Plan

Last night, the Christina Board of Education voted 5-2 to push back Delaware Governor John Carney’s consolidation plan for Christina’s Wilmington students until the 2019-2020 school year. They felt the initiative would need more time. The no votes belonged to board members George Evans and Fred Polaski. State Rep. John Kowalko gave public comment concerning the plan. To say he was not in favor would be an understatement. Kowalko brought up many good points which the Governor and the Delaware DOE ought to consider.

I and 9 other legislators attended a meeting called by Governor Carney less than a week ago purportedly to discuss the proposed Wilmington school reform plan and MOU proposal. Since we weren’t given copies of the MOU and it doesn’t seem to be available any longer at the link the Administration provided I cannot offer or challenge some of the specifics. At this meeting the Governor suggested that the MOU draft submitted by DOE would be changed and this board is not bound by it and should draft its own MOU proposal. The deadlines for Board action that the Governor and DOE appear to be imposing are substantively unrealistic and impractical for such a complex consideration with so many unanswerable questions.

Having examined some of the initial proposal and the details and expectations it held has led me to conclude that this is not a well thought out plan, that raises more questions and challenges then it has answers for.

I distributed some of my points of concern to the Governor and DOE and have copies for you that I will distribute. Due to time constraints I will try to focus on only a few of my concerns that I hope you will consider at this time.

I find it particularly harmful and hurtful to the “Southbridge” community, families and children to propose closing Elbert Palmer, one of the true neighborhood schools in walking distance and accessible to this Wilmington community. I hope that this Board’s counter-proposal would support closing that tired old monolith known as Bancroft and refurbish Palmer, Pulaski and Bayard to use for the suggested K-8 reconfiguration.

I also implore this Board to pay heed to the massive costs (which the Governor personally refused to speculate on) in refurbishing or renovating in order to make these consolidations. You should be acutely aware that any promise of funding cannot be guaranteed. In fact I would urge you to recall this Administration’s recently passed budget with concurrence of this current General Assembly cut traditional public school revenues by more than $36 million. Restoring that $36 million in cuts and adding even a small percentage of the proposed renovation costs would be much more beneficial and effective for Wilmington students if allocated to create smaller classroom ratios and hire reading and math specialists.

As I’ve looked at this reform proposal and its details and drawing upon my 11 years of experience as a legislator I am forced to conclude that this is a no-win situation for Christina, this Board and the children of Wilmington. Its predisposition to fail will be used to scapegoat the district and further stifle opportunities for Wilmington students and their families.

Finally I would suggest that this Board consider that traditional public school funding has received reduced funding since 2009 now totaling over $65 million per year. Ask the DOE and Governor:

Who is going to pay for the renovations?

Who is paying for longer school days and school years?

Who is paying for vacation academies?

Who is paying for after-school programs?

And why aren’t Reading Specialists and funding for them part of this plan?

At this point, Kowalko had several questions for Governor Carney as well:

1) If CSD does not approve MOU, more money will be taken from the District further harming prospects of Wilmington students and families. (“If it rejects the plan and fails to come up with an acceptable alternative, the agreement would be terminated immediately, resulting in the loss of any additional financial support for the district”).
2) Bayard/Bancroft are not appropriate buildings for little children even if renovated. Bancroft too old to make usable with renovations.
3) Trauma Training not necessarily (research?) effective but investing/funding 1 to 15 class size ratios would effectively improve the learning environment and outcomes.
4) Palmer became the first equity lawsuit in Delaware when Christina District (at Lowery’s behest) tried to close it 10 years ago.
5) Leaves no “Neighborhood Schools” for city children and in fact may violate the “Neighborhood Schools Legislation”.
6) Bancroft is far away from Palmer and Southbridge children who now walk would be unable to continue that practice.
7) Distinguish more specifically between renovate, refurbish and reconfiguration.
8) Why don’t we do things like “successful” districts? The most successful programs such as in New York and Massachusetts fund “reading specialists” and lower class ratios.
9) When the plan refers to “potentially” establishing “early childhood education” and “centers for students and families learning English” at a vacated Palmer are the planners aware that there are no ESL students at Palmer?
10) Have you considered neighborhood “gangs” being integrated from across Wilmington into the same building?
11) The suggested “Co-leadership” model re: principals and assistant principals belies the reality that these two jobs have never had the same duties and have always had designated responsibilities and functions.
12) “Loan forgiveness stipend” to young and “inexperienced” teachers does not reflect any benefit to already established teachers who have devoted their careers to inner-city education and “Who” is paying for these loans?
13) “Who” is paying for “longer school days/year”?
14) “Who is paying for “vacation academies”?
15) “Who is paying for “after-school programing”?
16) Why aren’t reading specialists part of this plan and therefore WHO IS PAYING FOR “READING SPECIALISTS” SO THAT CHILDREN ACTUALLY LEARN TO READ?

These are all valid questions that deserve answers. One of my biggest questions is why the Delaware Department of Education did not include this in their presentation to the Office of Management and Budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget a couple of weeks ago. Where is all this money coming from? The Christina Board of Education will vote on the plan again next Tuesday at their monthly board meeting. Revisions will supposedly go back and forth until February of 2018 which is Governor Carney’s deadline for the decision.

Top Ten Reasons Not To Trust Delaware Governor John Carney

Delaware Governor John Carney hasn’t even been in his job a year and already he has managed to irk me more than former Governor Jack Markell.  Why?  Many reasons. Continue reading “Top Ten Reasons Not To Trust Delaware Governor John Carney”

Christina Superintendent Gregg Releases Statement About Potential School Closures In Wilmington

After the proposed memorandum of understanding leaked to the News Journal yesterday, those affiliated with Christina’s Wilmington schools have been scratching their heads.  On the chopping block are three city schools.  It appears Superintendent Richard Gregg is perfectly okay with these changes that have yet to receive proper stakeholder feedback.  It looks like the “Community Conversation” meeting tonight at Stubbs Elementary School will give out a lot of the details.  I really hope the communities on both the East and West sides of Wilmington come and say “How dare you” to both the Governor and the district for embarking on a plan that could be approved before funding is even approved, gives no certainties about what happens to students after 8th grade in those schools, and has been planned and schemed behind closed doors long before the public caught wind of it.

 

 

WEIC Gets Stuck On A FOIA Technicality While Christina And Carney Scheme To Close Schools

I’d heard the rumor.  The five Wilmington schools serving Christina students would fold into two.  It was only a rumor until today when the News Journal published details of a confidential memorandum of understanding between the district and Governor Carney. Meanwhile, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, which has outlived its usefulness as of late, decided to hold an impromptu meeting while breaking state FOIA open meeting laws.

As per Jessica Bies’ News Journal article:

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, a state advisory committee formed by then-Gov. Jack Markell to come up with ideas to improve education in the city, was also scheduled to review Carney’s proposal Tuesday night. It did not publicly advertise the meeting in compliance with state law or post the agenda for the meeting until late Monday, after a News Journal reporter called and asked when it would be shared.

As per a source, this WEIC meeting was planned six weeks ago and the Mayor of Wilmington came to speak.  A technicality of not posting the agenda in the required seven day window occurred.  When Tony Allen arrived at the meeting, he advised the committee of the technicality and that no action would be taken at the meeting, including approving the minutes for the last meeting.  While I have seen time and time again in FOIA complaints that a party forgot to post an agenda, it is my belief, even if a meeting is planned and they decide to only hold it for informational purposes, they should delay the meeting for appearances sake.  How confidential is this memo if so many people had access to it before the Christina Board of Education even has it? Sounds like Carney and Christina want it to get out. I’ve heard people rambling for years that Christina needs to consolidate some of their schools but the way this happened is shady at best.

If Carney’s office released the document, it doesn’t sound like Superintendent Richard Gregg was too happy about it:

Superintendent Richard Gregg recommended removing the names of schools from the document before it came to the school board for the vote, and there was a discussion about having the governor refrain from using the schools’ names in public.

Who were the three school board members who met with district staff, Carney’s team, and the union representative? Why doesn’t the News Journal name those board members? And where is all the scoop on the Empowerment crap Carney is trying to foist upon the schools? More questions than answers. And the Delaware DOE is going to be the one to implement all these changes? Has Christina lost their ever-loving mind? But this is the part that scares the living hell out of me:

The memorandum says Carney and the state Education Department would ask the General Assembly for additional funding to renovate the schools, as well as provide trauma-informed training to principals and teachers. It also promises funding for a dual-generation education center, as well as “philanthropic monies to support all Wilmington schools,” starting with those in Christina.

Philanthropic monies… and what will they want in return? This is the beginning of the end of public education. Once you get foundations actually funding schools (they already help fund charter schools), these schools are no longer public. They become part of Carney’s “public-private partnerships” where FOIA and open meeting laws go out the window. You heard it here first. Carney is just continuing Markell’s agenda who was following all the corporate education reform crap. At this point, I can no longer refer to Carney as Markell 2.0. He is Carney, through and through. Selling out schools to corporations. This is so deliberate and in your face. He played Christina and their board like a fiddle. This is when we start to see social impact bonds hit Delaware. And Rodel is loving every second of it with their competency-based education and personalized digital learning crap. I won’t go so far as to say Carney is the devil, but he is certainly his willing accomplice and Secretary Bunting is just playing the part of the yes-woman and kissing King Carney’s ring he wears for whichever level of Dante’s Hell he serves. I can see why Carney picked her now. She will do whatever he wants.

When I attended the very first WEIC meeting, I advised them transparency is the glue to whatever they do.  While I recognize human error, there is also accountability for recognizing that and taking the appropriate action.  Not go ahead and hold the meeting anyway.  The only way we can stop people from violating FOIA law is to call them out on it.  I have made it my mission to do so for over three years now.  I will not hold back on that for any organization that is subject to FOIA law.

I hope Carney locked the General Assembly into funding this hot mess, otherwise it becomes yet another unfunded mandate in Delaware.  I’m sure deals have been made behind the scenes.  If not, the philanthropic foundations like Rodel and the other vultures waiting to pounce on public education will assuredly send their lobbyists to hound them for the next seven months.

Condoms, Chlamydia, Christina, Closures, Carney and the Council

The Christina Board of Education meeting last night was filled with some awesome discussion about what appears in the title of this article.  I painstakingly transcribed the part of the meeting with the Superintendent’s report to the Board and the crazy discussion after.  Board member John Young was on fire!!!!  The topics dealt with Governor Carney’s plans for Christina’s Wilmington schools.  There is A LOT of information in here.  A ton.  From venereal diseases to transparency to possible school closures and more!  I have a feeling things are going to look VERY different in Christina’s Wilmington schools a year from now.  And for the record, I agree with John Young on EVERYTHING he said! Continue reading “Condoms, Chlamydia, Christina, Closures, Carney and the Council”

Christina Board Says Screw You To Large Class Sizes In Epic Vote!

School districts across Delaware are faced with a choice each November: do they take a class-size waiver for kids in Kindergarten to 3rd grade allowing more than 22 students or do they look out for the well-being of those kids and fail to pass the waiver?  For the Christina School District, their board said no to the waiver, voting 4-3 against it.

Board members John Young, Elizabeth Paige, Angela Mitchell and Harrie Ellen Minnehan voted no while members Fred Pulaski, George Evans, and Meredith Griffin voted yes.  Pursuant to Delaware State Code, Title 14, section 1705, school districts and charter schools must decide on these waivers, when applicable, by December 1st of each year.  Any funding for extra staff, should a board decide not to take the waiver, comes from the local share of funding.  It doesn’t always mean all classes will be 22 or under.  It could mean an extra paraprofessional comes into the room which decreases the student to teacher ratio.

This evening, Red Clay’s boards will vote on this action as well.  In an earlier version of this story, I noted Capital would be voting on class-size waivers.  In looking at their Board Docs, none of their elementary schools exceed 22 students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade so no vote is necessary.

For Christina, the elementary schools affected by this will be Brookside, Downes, Elbert-Palmer, Keene, Leasure, Maclary, Marshall, and Stubbs.

I am always against overstuffed classrooms.  It is not good for the students, the teachers, or the schools.  Christina’s board has never said no to the class-size waiver until their vote last evening.  Kudos to the no voters for being the voice of reason!

Tonight

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

Mike Matthews Speaks!

Finally!  After weeks of Delaware Governor John Carney’s posturing about his plans for the Christina School District Wilmington schools, Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews gave a shout-out to his fellow DSEA members about the rapidly developing situation.

Being at the table doesn’t mean you are in full collaboration with the rest of the table.  But it is a slippery slope.  Cause sometimes they will serve you on the table.  Carney’s Springfield gambit has more holes than a donut shop.  The Springfield teachers union was not on board with this at all despite any mainstream articles you read about it.  I fully expect DSEA and the Christina local to speak out 100% against this when the time comes.

In looking at the demographics between Christina and Springfield, I noticed the student populations are vastly different.  While Springfield’s largest minority is Hispanic students, Christina’s Wilmington students are mostly African-American.  This represents different needs and approaches right off the bat.  For those who see this is a softer approach to Christina, I don’t.  I see it as a forced coercion on the part of the Governor and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  And it appears they have the usual suspects pimping for them.

Governor Carney’s Slimy Obsession With Public-Private Partnerships & The Erosion Of Public Trust With His Springfield Trip

Delaware Governor John Carney is throwing Delaware’s public school system under the bus and he will begin this transition with the Christina School District.  Yesterday, he sent an unannounced delegation to Springfield, Massachusetts that included far more than those on his public schedule.  This group included Assistant Superintendent Noreen LaSorsa, Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Chair Tony Allen (who received his invite on September 23rd), Christina Education Association President Darren Tyson, and an unnamed member of the Delaware State Education Association (which was their legislative liason, Kristin Dwyer).  I’m sure Carney’s Education Policy Advisor Jon Sheehan attended as well.

The News Journal covered the trip in an article by Jessica Bies:

Despite school board members asking to be equal partners in the effort, there were no members of that group on the trip.

Carney apparently seems to think Tony Allen is a better choice to bring on trips about Christina than the actual board members:

Tony Allen, chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, on the other hand, has known about the trip since at least Sept. 23, he confirmed Friday. He said he was invited sometime before that.

In the article, it said Board President George Evans received an invite “very recently” but was unable to attend.  Board Vice President Fred Polaski said he didn’t even know about it until a reporter called him.

Christina Board member John Young had plenty to say about this trip on his Facebook account this evening:

Delaware officials touring a Massachusetts effort run by an unelected governing board under a 501(c)-3, just like DE charters for possible use in Christina. On its face it certainly appears that Governor John Carney does not intend to partner with Christina, but deploy untested, unproven ideas on us. I honestly took him at his word Tuesday, now it seems like I may have been wrong to do so. Google Springfield Empowerment Zone if you want the 411 on this ed reform trainwreck that’s seemingly on the way. I am disappointed that mere days after agreeing to engage us within the rules that govern public meetings and board actions, a delegation was sent out of state to “research” a model to insert into CSD and usurp local control, possibly placing millions and millions of dollars into the hands of an appointed board without any elected representation from Christina.

Carney is playing the exact same kind of education games Jack Markell played.  I’m not sure which is worse at this point, but at the rate Carney is going I have to go with our latest corporate education reform Governor.  What makes Carney so dangerous is his throw it in your face backdoor dealings.  He doesn’t care who he pisses off.  As long as he has his select cabal to go along with his plans.  Transparency is a thing of the past with this Governor.  He is initiating very scumbag moves.

There can never be public trust with John Carney.  Never.  He has proven that multiple times.  He is getting our legislators to think his hocus-pocus public-private partnership scams are perfectly okay.  There is no collaboration with Carney.  If you don’t go along with his vision, he will go ahead and do it anyway.  The very fact that Carney wants to emulate a flash-in-the-pan scam like this where the “partnership” creates a board to oversee these schools separate from the local education agency board of education where the state picks the four board members and the district the other three shows an immediate state control of Christina’s Wilmington schools.  But his contempt for local authority was not missed by Young in the News Journal article:

It has become clear the trip was planned in advance of that meeting, school board member John Young said, which concerns him because if the Springfield model ends up being the basis for the Christina partnership, it would suggest the outcome was predetermined and the school board didn’t actually have any say in the matter.

That’s right Mr. Young.  Carney doesn’t want the Christina board to have any say because he knows they would say no.  This is priority schools all over again except this time Carney is very upfront about selling these schools off to a corporate entity.  Call it a non-profit all you want.  I’m sure the overlords of this non-profit would exact their pound of flesh from the district in the form of certain salaries and operating expenses.

Where is DSEA President Mike Matthew on this?  He has been very quiet about all this since it came out in the past week.  I would think, given his resistance to the priority schools fiasco, he would oppose this.  But he has been silent and I would like to know why.  Especially given what Bies said in the article:

Legislators in Massachusetts say the program is “compelling” and has made it possible for the state to effect educational change without seizing local control from school districts. Yet, teachers unions have complained that it removes control of schools from local officials and puts it more in the hands of the state.

What is to stop this from spreading out from Christina?  I have no doubt Carney will push this on other districts as well.  Especially when their Smarter Balanced Assessment scores don’t meet his fake standards.  Once again, the Christina Board of Education will have to stand up against the evil empire (the state) to prevent further erosion in local control even though Carney’s crappy vision ridiculously suggests it would give more local control.

I  have no doubt Carney will sell more of his public-private partnership encyclopedia salesman malarkey throughout his term as Governor (a one-term Governor I hope and pray).  But what he is really doing is selling his state away.  He is evaporating transparency with his Family Services Cabinet Council and the non-public board meetings of his public-private partnership board at a state level.  The Delaware Department of Education seems to be okay with this and I have never been more annoyed with Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting for going along with this dog and pony show.  But I suppose that’s why Carney picked her for this post.  She has become Carney’s yes woman.  But what should I expect from the Rodel-Vision circle of followers?  This is not the change promised by Carney in terms of the Delaware DOE.  They aren’t a support network for schools.  He has found a way for them to micro-manage our schools more than ever with this nonsense.  But he wraps it in his public-private partnership bow.

As for Tony Allen, he is being used in a big way for the second time by a Delaware Governor.  Markell used him and threw him out with the whole WEIC plan.  Now Carney is sucking him in with his big vision for Christina.  I would think Allen would be too busy with his new Del State job, but I guess not.  Not listed in the article is another attendee, Nnamdi Chukwuocha.  This Wilmington City Councilman actually thought it was a good idea for corporations to take over public schools in the infamous Christina priority schools board meeting when he gave his public comment back in September, 2014.  More of Carney surrounding himself with those who will suck up to him, allow themselves to be used, or whatever empty promise or vapor he whispered in their ears.

The Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, and our past two Governors have had a consistent hard-on for the Christina School District.  Once they get their hooks into them it is only a matter of time until the infection spreads.  Delaware is a small state so it would not come as a shock to me that we are a model state to completely destroy the word public in public education.

This whole thing stinks like hell and I hope Delawareans who do care about public education wise up and stand up fast to this fake Governor and his shallow followers.  If Mike Matthews is the man I believe him to be, he will fight this tooth and nail.  If he even entertains this notion, I will publicly shame him and my support for DSEA will be done.  If he does not publicly go against this, it will prove he ran for President of DSEA for the power.

The Springfield model is a fake.  It is just another way for Carney and other corporate education reform politicians to erode local control away and give power to states who in turn give out taxpayer money to idiotic companies who have taken more money away from the classroom than anything else since public education was first invented.

I am beginning to doubt any sincerity from John Carney.  This whole district consolidation task force seems to be the big distraction.  “Look here and pay attention to that while I spin my web of lies somewhere else in places you would never think to look.”  The problem with Carney is his ego.  He really is as transparent as Saran Wrap.  I don’t look at him and think, “what a great politician I can trust”.  I think, “That guy can’t be trusted at all.  He’s up to something.”  We all know the type.  But that seems to be okay for over half of Delaware who put the guy in power with an empty campaign that essentially had no platform we hadn’t heard before.  This is what happens when you reward a false sense of entitlement Delaware voters.

 

 

 

 

Christina Superintendent Gregg’s Reaction To Carney Comes To Christina

Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg issued a statement today on the Christina School District website in response to Delaware Governor John Carney’s visit to a special Christina Board of Education meeting the other night.  I wouldn’t expect an unfavorable response to the visit but it did a great job showing the Board’s concern with Carney’s “partnership” idea.

Message from Christina Superintendent Richard L. Gregg – October 5, 2017

Dear Christina Community:
On October 3, the Christina Board of Education held a Study Session that was attended by Delaware Governor John Carney, Secretary of Education Susan Bunting, and several other state officials and legislators. The Governor addressed Board members directly to personally request that they consider entering into a partnership between the Governor’s Office, the Delaware Department of Education, and the Christina School District to improve five of Christina’s schools in Wilmington: Bancroft Elementary School, Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, Pulaski Elementary School, Stubbs Elementary School, and Bayard Middle School. Governor Carney stated that together, Christina and the state need to focus on making changes that will raise the achievement levels of Wilmington students. 
The first step in this process will be for Christina to work together with the Governor’s Office and the Delaware Department of Education, with the goal of developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU, subject to Board approval, would outline the details of an agreement to be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year. Governor Carney communicated to board members that the state’s focus is on five main issues:
  1. Giving school principals more control over decision-making
  2. Empowering teachers to have more input on how resources are used
  3. Addressing student achievement rates, including how current facilities can be used and improved
  4. Creating “trauma-informed classrooms” that ensure safe, supportive schools
  5. Establishing systems that can create meaningful, sustained change
These issues could be addressed in a variety of ways, including implementing new governance models, exploring additional learning time, providing trauma-informed supports, implementing programs for infants through adults, creating a pipeline of teachers and leaders, and addressing the root causes of poverty.
Christina Board members asked the governor important questions about the proposal. Their concerns included:
  • the level of specifics being offered about the partnership
  • the state’s commitment to acting as a true partner in the venture
  • the importance of making changes in the best interests of children rather than adults
  • the level of input Christina leaders and staff would have in developing the MOU
  • how this proposal is different from past interventions by the state 
Governor Carney, Secretary Bunting, and Dorrell Green of the Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement provided input on these concerns. 
Governor Carney stated, “It’s clear to me that the most important thing we should do now is focus on making changes that will raise achievement levels for city children. That’s part of my responsibility as governor, Dr. Bunting’s job as secretary of education and your jobs as school leaders and Christina board members. We’re in this together.” 
As our discussions with the state continue on this important topic, we will keep the Christina School District community informed of any opportunities that parents, students, staff, and the public will have to share input. We will also provide updates on any decisions made by the Christina Board of Education. We are committed to staying focused on being “One District” and doing what is best for our students. As Governor Carney said, “We’re in this together.” 
Sincerely,
Richard L. Gregg, Superintendent
Christina School District

Governor Carney Shows His True Colors In A Dog And Pony Show For The Ages!

Delaware Governor John Carney released a statement about his meeting with the Christina School District Board of Education last evening.  I felt obligated to give it the TC Redline Edition.  In which I give a no-holds barred critique of Carney’s boneheaded idea.

Governor Carney to Christina Board: Let’s Partner to Improve Wilmington Schools

Date Posted: Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday met with the Christina Board of Education during a study session at Bancroft Elementary School to discuss a proposed partnership between the state and Christina School District to more effectively serve educators and students in Christina schools in the City of Wilmington.

I have to give kudos to Carney for actually attending and meeting with the Board.  However, that does not excuse the backdoor closed meetings he had with two of their board members over the summer.

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Governor John Carney
Full remarks to Christina School District Board of Education – October 3, 2017
*As prepared for delivery

Thank Rick Gregg, members of the Board, Principals, teachers, parents and others present.

Proper thing to do when you are in their house so to speak.

I’m here with Secretary of Education Susan Bunting and Dorrell Green. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Board in this workshop format.

They would be the ones to also be there.  Was anyone else there?  Perhaps your Education Policy Advisor, Jon Sheehan?

I’ve lived in this city for 30 years. And it’s always been clear to me that as goes the City of Wilmington, so goes our state.

I respect that Wilmington is the biggest city in the state and it is essentially the gateway to the rest of it, but the rest of the state has a lot to offer.  Perhaps Wilmington wouldn’t be in the shape it is in if the state didn’t keep trying to put all its eggs in one basket when there are hundreds of others as well.  We get you’ve lived in this city for 30 years.  It’s all we heard from you when you were campaigning for Governor.  But you had many years at a Federal level to do more for Wilmington.  What did you do for Wilmington when you were in Congress?

Wilmington is our economic and cultural center. Its success in many ways will drive Delaware’s long-term success. And so we need a city that is safe, with strong neighborhoods and good schools. We’re working with Mayor Purzycki, legislators, members of city council, businesses and the community service agencies to achieve these goals.

And yet we continue to see murders and violent crimes constantly.  All we hear from political leaders is “we’re working with…”.  That doesn’t solve the problem.  Action does and I have yet to see true action being taken to reduce those crimes and rampant drug use.

Our efforts have to start with improving our schools, and doing a better job educating city children.

No, your efforts have to start with improving the climate of Wilmington. 

One of the first things I did when I took office was ask Secretary Bunting to visit Wilmington schools.

Which she did.

I joined her on some of these visits. And while we certainly saw dedicated teachers and principals, what we saw by and large was very discouraging.

Let me guess: you saw children with hygiene issues and worn clothing.  You saw a look in their eyes you couldn’t really understand.  It tugged at your heartstrings and thought, “I will be the one to fix this.”

And when the proficiency scores for these schools were released this summer, we saw that they fell well short of what’s acceptable.

Here we go… the test scores.  For a flawed test.  In most schools, anything below a 65% is failing.  For Smarter Balanced, the whole state is failing.  Is that the fault of teachers and students or the test itself.  Don’t answer, we already know.

All of us, together, are responsible for doing better.

We can always do better, but don’t put the blame on all of us Governor Carney.  The buck stops with you.  While you inherited many of these issues from your predecessors, you are falling into the same traps.

It was pretty clear to us that Christina’s portion of the City schools – Bayard, Stubbs, Bancroft, Palmer, and Pulaski – are in the most need of help.

Was it only a year ago that the state refused to step in when Pulaski had all the mold issues?  It is great that you visit these schools but what have you done to make life outside of these schools better?  These are the schools with the highest concentrations of low-income and poverty students.

Already we have taken steps that, I believe, will help our efforts in all city schools.

And how many of those were created by you with no public input.  How many of those efforts involved back-door secret meetings?  Once again, don’t answer.  We know the score.

We opened the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the Department of Education, to focus state energy on these and other high-needs schools.

Ah, yes.  Your attempt at “reducing” the Delaware DOE.  By making a satellite office in Wilmington. 

We created an Opportunity Grants program that, while not funded at the level that I want, will help identify proven practices for serving disadvantaged students.

Don’t even get me started on that failure of a FY2018 budget Carney.  You put aside a million bucks while cutting exponentially more.  That does not serve disadvantaged students.  It is a Band-Aid on an infected wound.

We put basic needs closets in Wilmington schools, so students can have access to hygiene products, school supplies, and winter clothing, in a dignified way.

Now this I do support and continue to do so.

We’ve reestablished the Family Services Cabinet Council to better coordinate services to families and children, and to address issues of poverty that are impeding the success of our city children.

Closed-door, non-public, back-door meetings.  We have no idea what this council discusses.  For something you like to scream from the rooftops about, we have no clue what they talk about.  Put your money where your mouth is and make these meetings public.  Otherwise, this is smoke and mirrors.

But we need to do much, much more, and that’s why I’m here today.

Every time the state tries to fix these issues, the problems get worse.  I have to wonder if that is intentional.

We didn’t get here over night. And we could spend all day debating the reasons for how we got here. I know a lot of that history through my father who worked in the old Wilmington Public School District and through my many years in state government.

Yes, why debate how we got there.  Because until you take a deep dive at those reasons, you will never understand.  You can’t ignore things that come into schools.  But I digress…

Some blame a lack of resources. Dysfunctional families. Inexperienced teachers. Weak leadership. Busing. Trauma in the home. Segregated neighborhoods. Too much testing. Not enough testing. Bad parenting. Education bureaucracy. Violence in the city.

I agree with some of these: a lack of resources, dysfunctional families, weak leadership (some from CSD in the past and definitely from the state), busing, trauma in the home, segregated neighborhoods, too much testing, bad parenting, education bureaucracy, violence in the city.  I don’t see the inexperienced teachers (except for the TFAers who get their rush-job credentials in a matter of months) and not enough testing.

Over the last few years the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) did a comprehensive study of the challenges, and came up with a plan to make changes. We’ve incorporated many of their recommendations into what I’m about to discuss.

In other words, you are copying the work done from others for your own political benefit. 

It’s clear to me that the most important thing we should do now is focus on making changes that will raise achievement levels for city children. That’s part of my responsibility as Governor, Dr. Bunting’s job as Secretary of Education and your jobs as school leaders and Christina Board members. We’re in this together.

Together?  Are you kidding me?  For months you’ve been circling the wagons and cherry-picking people to talk to about the “Christina problem”.  Divide and conquer.  That’s what I see.  Not getting that warm and fuzzy feeling I felt at your inauguration Carney…

I’m here today, at the invitation of your Superintendent, because I want to partner with you to say “enough.” I believe it’s time to begin intensive efforts to get our teachers, principals and students what they need in the classroom.

Knowing Rick Gregg like I do, I believe he invited you because he was getting tired of your secret meetings and wanted to make it a public event so people can see what the hell you are up to.  I think it’s high time Christina said “enough” with the endless interventions from the state that have been compete and utter failures.

To that end, I’m proposing that the State, Christina School District, and Christina Education Association form a partnership that focuses exclusively on Christina’s city schools.

You and your damn partnerships.  Let’s be partners.  Public-private partnerships.  In other words, let’s do as much as we can behind closed doors and throw transparency out the window.

My vision is to spend the next few months talking as a group about what this partnership would look like, so that by the end of this calendar year we can sign a memorandum of understanding to work together to improve these city schools and the proficiency of the students. I want to be ready to put our new plans into effect by the start of the 2018 school year. This aligns with your Superintendent’s timetable for implementing change as well.

When I hear Memorandum of Understanding, I hear priority schools all over again.  Who is your Penny Schwinn that is facilitating this?  How much state money will be spent trying to craft this MOU for months?  Cause I published all the emails where Schwinn painstakingly tried to make the MOU from the Fall of 2014.  And that was based on Delaware’s clueless interpretation of their own ESEA Flexibility Waivers.  Schwinn did everything she could to make sure it was six Wilmington schools within Christina and Red Clay.  Definitely Markell’s biggest failure.

I think our partnership should address five main issues that I’ve heard over and over again as I’ve toured schools in Wilmington.

Who is telling you these things you’ve heard “over and over”?  Let me guess: Senator Sokola, Rep. Jaques, Rodel, Atrne Alleyne, Michael Watson, Donna Johnson, Jon Sheehan, Kendall Massett, Greg Meece, etc.

First, principals need more control over key decisions in their schools. I would like to work with you to give principals the leadership tools they need and the flexibility and autonomy over structural areas such as staffing/hiring, school schedules, and programs. To give them the resources to implement extended learning time, and to create other school conditions necessary to best meet student needs. As part of this partnership, the Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with principals and our institutions of higher education to provide principals with high quality professional learning, coaching, and support. The Department of Education, using state resources, would assist Christina School District in training principals to better use observations to provide effective feedback that will elevate instruction.

Gee, that sounds an awful lot like the “empowerment zones” in Springfield, MA.

Second, educators in high-needs schools need more say in how resources are used. I plan to engage Christina’s city educators to ensure we are working in partnership with them, as they are on the ground every day working to improve student outcomes. I would like to work with you to empower teacher-leader teams at each school to partner with school administration on key decisions like working conditions, resource use, and school culture. The Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with our institutions of higher education and use the full expertise of the Department of Education to provide educators with professional learning that is relevant, consistent, and meaningful.

In other words, more useless programs through TFA, The Leader In Me, and other cash-cow Crackerjack box outfits that will happily take state money to “fix” the problems.  And that “full expertise of the Department of Education”… are you serious?  How many of these “experts” at the DOE have actually taught in these classrooms?  How many came up the ranks from TFA or the charter world?

Third, we need to address the fact that student achievement rates at Christina’s Wilmington schools are among the lowest in the state. In partnership with DSEA and CEA, I want to create more flexibility for these schools to provide students with additional learning time, including vacation and weekend academies. Teachers would receive stipends for additional hours worked, supported by state funds and the redeployment of district resources. I would argue serious conversations, in partnership with the Christina Wilmington community, need to take place around building use. We are doing our students, educators, and taxpayers a disservice when we have half-empty school buildings — needlessly spreading resources thin.

Maybe if the state stopped intervening in Christina, stopped pumping up charter schools like they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, and stopped calling Christina a failure, those buildings wouldn’t be half full.  The state created most of this mess by authorizing so many damn charters up there.  This is where you are assuming DSEA and CEA are on board with your half-cocked plan.  You are seriously messing with collective bargaining agreements here.  Vacation and weekend academies?  When do these kids get a break?  Are you going to churn and burn them until they score proficient on the useless Smarter Balanced Assessment?

Fourth, we need a plan to address the significant trauma students in Wilmington experience outside the classroom. I’m proud of the work already underway between the Office of Innovation and Improvement, DSEA, the Office of the Child Advocate, and community leaders to train staff to create trauma-informed classrooms. We need to double down on those efforts. I have already directed the Family Services Cabinet Council to work with City leaders to implement the CDC report, including finding a way to share data across state agencies about students in need. That work is under way.

How about thanking the Christina teachers who spend every single day dealing with trauma first-hand?  The ones who wash kids clothes, make sure they have food for the weekend, and help students deal with the latest murder that happened in their neighborhood?  You are all about the kudos before anything happens while failing to properly thank those on the ground floor.  And what will the closed-door Family Services Cabinet Council do with all this data that tells us what we have always known?  Let’s get real Carney: until you fix the crime, violence, and rampant drug use in Wilmington, these problems will always exist.  Until you find a way to desegregate the charter schools that cherry-pick students and put every single Delaware school back in balance with their local neighborhoods, these efforts will fail.

Finally, we need to build systems to create meaningful, sustained change in Christina’s Wilmington schools. As part of a partnership with you, the Family Services Cabinet Council would launch a two-generation network to support infants, toddlers and adults, with the goal of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Additionally, we ought to convene higher education institutions and create a pipeline to develop teachers and leaders ready to enter into our Wilmington schools. These efforts cannot be a flash in the pan. We need to methodically build systems that will endure.

Are you saying the teachers in these schools aren’t ready?  That they can’t handle the trauma they deal with every single day?  There is nothing any higher education institution can do to adequately deal with these issues until the state takes an active hand in dealing with the issues coming into the classroom.  And Wilmington City Council needs to get their heads out of their ass and deal with the corruption going on there before they enter into any “partnership”.  Once again, make your beloved Family Services Cabinet Council public.  This whole thing reeks of non-transparency and I’m getting sick of that. 

Give principals a bigger say. Trust and support our teachers. Tackle low proficiency rates. Address trauma. Build systems. That’s what I propose we work on together.

You will never trust and support our teachers while they are under local control.  Never.  You want to mold them and cherry-pick them to serve the latest corporate education reform scheme.  The best way to tackle low proficiency rates is to get rid of Smarter Balanced and stop judging schools, teachers, and districts based on meaningless and useless test scores.  These misused and abused scores are just one of the reasons why I advocate parents opting their kids out of the state assessments.  Addressing trauma is one thing but finding a way to actively eliminate it is the true hurdle and I don’t think you have the money, resources, or guts to do that.  Working together doesn’t require a contract like an MOU.  That is a gun to the head and we all know it.  You are seriously overreaching here with your executive power here Carney and you need to slow your roll.

The partnership I’m proposing isn’t flashy. It’s not an education fad or sound bite. It’s about the nuts and bolts of educating children. It is a simple but intense effort to put the focus where I think it belongs — in the classroom.

This isn’t about kids at all.  It’s about different ed reform companies lobbying through Jon Sheehan to get their latest programs or technology into the classroom.  And you fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Frederick Douglass said that “it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And that’s the choice we’re facing. We all have dreams for our children. But right now, we’re consigning far too many of our students to a life that no parent wants for their child. Every student we graduate who can’t do basic math or who can’t read or write, we’re sending into the world knowing he or she doesn’t have the tools to succeed. Doors are closing for these children before they even leave the third grade.

For the most part, the state created the conditions which led to these broken men.  Through very racist laws and credos.  The state allowed this to happen and now they want to rush in and save the day by fixing the schools.  What about all these broken men?  What are you doing to make restitution for the state’s absolute failure with them?

I believe, and I know you do too, that it would be immoral to let this situation continue this way.

Don’t speak for the Christina Board of Education Carney!  It would be immoral for this board to give up local control so you can make education companies happy.  How about you let Christina School District, under the leadership of Superintendent Rick Gregg and their elected Board of Education, do their thing.  I like Gregg.  I think he is the leader Christina needs.  But your swooping in and undermining the hard work he has done is an insult at best.

So I’m asking you to form this partnership with us. Let’s take the next few months and work out the details. I’d like to hear your thoughts on what I’ve laid out, and on how you think we can work together.​


I have to listen to the audio when it comes out today, but based upon reading the News Journal article on this last night by Jessica Bies, board member Liz Paige said it best:

Elizabeth Paige said the plan lacked specificity, but that she was willing to talk more as long as the state could guarantee they weren’t going to pull the infamous Charlie Brown football gag on Christina.

“We’re Charlie Brown and the football,” she said. “He has to prove he’s not Lucy.”

Don’t be fooled Mrs. Paige.  He is most definitely Lucy!

Board member John Young gave Carney’s remarks at B+.  I think he was being nice.

Harrie-Ellen Minnehan spoke the hard truth:

Harrie Ellen Minnehan said that students are often used as “political pawns” and that the plan sounded too much like just another in a long string of political solutions imposed on the education system but that have resulted in no gain whatsoever for students caught in a downward academic spiral.

The Christina Board of Education is at their best when they are fighting the latest state method of eroding local control.  I saw this firsthand at the first Christina board meeting I went to in September of 2014.  When they stood together and gave Markell’s priority schools idea a collective no thank you.  I am hoping they do the same with this latest Markellian effort by Carney.

As for Dorrell Green, his quote in the News Journal is very concerning because it gives a good deal of insight into Carney’s plan:

“Do you feel you have the bandwidth or the internal capacity to see that plan through without our support?”

This was in response to Superintendent Gregg’s own plan to build up Christina.  It as if Green was saying “You can’t do anything without the state helping out.”  Which is exactly what the problem is here.  The state interferes so much that it paralyzes the district.  The state needs to do more on the side of fixing the crime and poverty in Wilmington.  Let Christina deal with Christina.  If the state wants to “partner” under forced coercion, that is bullying.  Christina needs to enact a zero tolerance policy on state bullying.  And just by using the word “bandwidth”, Green may have overplayed his hand.  By using that particular word, he is suggesting Christina will get better by more corporate education reform double-speak education technology.

I have to give it to Carney.  He has successfully learned how to play the field like Jack Markell did.  He certainly has been busy trying to hand-select his pawns with this attempt.  And yet he gave the farm away when he announced his trip to Springfield, MA on his public schedule.  I didn’t see any of that in your speech.  It’s like a super villain in a comic announcing their intentions before they even implement them.  Look what I’m about to do.  We see through you Carney.  Stop listening to those around you who truly don’t have a clue about what is really going on.  Otherwise you are just another Jack Markell.  Be your own man, not a carbon-copy.

Don’t think for one minute that I don’t understand you Carney.  I know about some of your antics with things lately.  I know you hate my blog and will cast out those who support it.  We both know exactly what I’m talking about.  We know you have heard objections to this Christina scheme and totally ignored them.  In fact, you punish those who don’t agree with you.  You aren’t the person you put in front of the media.  Who is the real John Carney?  Time to take off the mask and reveal the true John Carney.  We both know when this plan fails (and it will if implemented), the state will continue to blame Christina for their own failure and will embark on another scheme to “fix” the problem they create in the first place.

Behind Governor Carney’s Not So Innovative Plan For Christina, Shades Of Markell 2.0 Teacher Killer

Tonight, Delaware Governor John Carney will attend a Christina Board of Education Study Session.  When was the last time a sitting Governor went to a Board of Education meeting, much less a workshop?  That is because Carney has big plans for Christina.  Very big plans.  But don’t fool yourself for one second into thinking any of these plans are Carney’s idea.  For that, you have to look at those who surround him.

Race To The Top.  Common Core.  Delaware Talent Cooperative.  Teach For America.  Partnership Zones.  Priority Schools.  Focus Schools.  DCAS.  Smarter Balanced.  These are all programs offered by the state.  Their impact?  A resounding thud.  Failures.  Every single one of them.  For a state that likes to beat up on the Christina School District as much as it has, their efforts to turn them around have been utter failures.

But now Carney’s not-so-brilliant lightbulb of an idea is to model the schools in Springfield, Massachusetts.  So much that he is visiting them on Friday along with Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and Dorrell Green from the Office of Innovation and Improvement.  And now we know where the “innovation” part comes in.

The schools in Springfield, MA are part of what is known as an “empowerment zone”.  Think priority schools without the federal mandate.  More autonomy for building leaders, shared resources, and the ability to fire teachers better (even with union support).  Just another sad attempt at eroding local control.  To learn more about “empowerment zones”, please read the white paper on this:

In an article in The Boston Globe last Winter from reporter James Vasnis, he writes:

“These zones . . . allow educators to make the changes necessary to provide a better learning environment for our kids,” Baker said during the speech.

By freeing up the schools from the central office bureaucracy and most teacher contract provisions, local and state officials say, the Springfield middle schools are in complete control of their curriculums, staffing, budgeting, and ultimately their own destinies.

The empowerment zone, which is in its second year, has grown to include nine middle schools and next fall will add a long-struggling high school. The effort is overseen by a seven-member governing board jointly appointed by local and state officials. Principals report directly to the board.

So what happens to the local board of education for those schools?  Do they lose their authority over these schools?  If legislators have to put this into state law, and not local taxpayers who fund school districts, this could set up a battle royale in Delaware.  And mark my words, we will see this in the second half of the 149th General Assembly.  What makes an “empowerment zone” a success?  The usual education reform barometer: standardized test scores…

But a turnaround could take years to achieve. Test scores at the zone’s highest-performing middle school are in the bottom 9th percentile statewide, meaning more than 90 percent of other similar schools scored better. The worst-performing school is in the bottom 1st percentile.

The sad part, the local teachers union is actually behind this.

“It’s a sea change,” said Timothy Collins, president of the Springfield Education Association, the local teachers union. “By having a culture of change where the critical mass of people feel they have a voice in what is being done and ownership in the plan, the likelihood of implementing the plan with fidelity goes up dramatically.”

But the roots of this education reform initiative go a bit deeper than all this.  We have to go back to the days of former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his Digital Promise platform.  Springfield, MA is a part of the League of Innovative Schools that likes to think of itself as a forward-thinking process that amounts to nothing more than education technology in a personalized learning environment.  In other words, the teacher killer.  No Delaware school districts are a part of this group, but 86 districts from around the country got suckered into this.  This is the kind of crap the Rodel Foundation loves to foist upon Delaware.

In an article from the Progressive Policy Institute, they write:

While teachers cannot be dismissed at will, principals do receive support to help underperforming teachers improve where possible and to remove them where necessary. And there are real consequences – for principals and teachers alike – for school failure.

I have serious issues with any teacher union getting behind this ass-backwards corporate education reform double-speak.  Especially when it is based on test scores.  I have bigger issues with Governor Carney getting the smoke and mirrors advice that I have no doubt he believes will save the Wilmington schools here in Delaware.  I knew something was up.  Whenever a Governor starts sniffing around Christina, expect an unmitigated failure about to be thrust upon them.  Perhaps, like former Governor Jack Markell, Carney truly believes that saving Christina will be the high mark of his tenure as Governor.  It didn’t work for Markell.  It backfired on him.  And when the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission became the result of that, Markell and Carney gave it a drop-kick based on “funding issues”.

I was hoping Carney was better than this.  I was hoping Secretary Bunting was better than this.  But when you surround yourself up to the highest level with those who come from the corporate education reform world, it isn’t surprising in the least.  Carney did just that in the form of Jon Sheehan, his education policy advisor.  Markell had his inner circle from this world as well with Rebecca Taber and Lindsay O’Mara (now with the U.S. DOE).

The “Innovation Zones” came from a guy named Chris Gabrieli who ran (unsuccessfully) for Massachusetts Governor.  But an elected Governor in the form of John Carney thinks he can ride in and save the day with an untested and so far unsuccessful brainfart of an idea.  What Christina needs is for The State of Delaware to stop interfering so much and actually let the district do what it needs to do.  All other state-born ideas have failed.  What makes Carney think this one will work?  Because he is being told it will.  He runs the risk of becoming Markell 2.0 with this.  But of course, no one who makes these kind of decisions will actually listen to the blogger.  Or those who know it will fail.  Because it is coming from the Governor, and what the Governor wants the Governor gets.  Executive power at its absolute worst, because it affects kids most of all.

I have no doubt I will be writing more about this.  And I fully expect blowback on this article.  Especially from those who regurgitate the very worst from the corporate education reform world here in Delaware.  They know who they are.  Sharpen your knives.  I’m ready.

Colonial, Red Clay, Christina, Brandywine, Woodbridge, Caesar Rodney, Las Americas ASPIRAS, Kuumba & Great Oaks Are Big Winners In Carney’s Opportunity Grants

Today, Governor Carney’s Office announced the recipients of the $1 million in opportunity grants that are part of the FY2018 Delaware budget.  Colonial was by far the biggest winner receiving $200,000 for several schools.

Governor Carney Announces Recipients of $1 Million in Education Opportunity Grants

Funding will help districts and charter schools support disadvantaged students and English language learners

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Wednesday announced that nine Delaware school districts and charter schools will receive a combined $1 million in Opportunity Grant funding to support programs that help disadvantaged students and English language learners succeed in classrooms across the state.

Delaware’s Opportunity Grant program – created and funded by Governor Carney and members of the General Assembly in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget – will help districts and charter schools improve supports for low-income students, students chronically exposed to stress and trauma, and English language learners. District and charter awardees will use the grant to fund programs in the 2017-18 school year.

“All Delaware students deserve a quality education and an equal chance to succeed. We’re working hard to provide schools and educators with the tools they need to more effectively serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and close the achievement gap,” said Governor Carney. “I look forward to seeing the progress that these schools and districts make, and will urge them to share their successes with their fellow educators across the state. Thank you to members of the General Assembly for their leadership in helping fund this program.”

Governor Carney has pledged to take decisive action to address Delaware’s achievement gap, and he has made it a priority to support disadvantaged students in Wilmington and across the state.  In July, the Governor established the Wilmington-based Office of Innovation and Improvement, led by longtime Wilmington educator Dorrell Green, to support students and educators in high-needs schools.

For Christina School District, Opportunity Grant funding will help increase resources at Elbert-Palmer Elementary School for students and families dealing with complex trauma. Christina is focused on treating trauma as part of a larger effort to reduce student suspensions, increase student attendance, elevate student achievement, and more.

“The Christina School District is excited to receive an Opportunity Grant for Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, which will allow us to implement strategies like compassionate schools training for teachers and related resources that are critical to student success,” said Richard Gregg, Superintendent of Christina School District. “With this funding, students at Elbert-Palmer will truly have increased opportunities–just as the name of the grant suggests. We are thankful to the Department of Education for recognizing how much our students deserve to have access to high-quality programs.”

“We are very excited about this opportunity to make Elbert-Palmer a Comprehensive Compassionate School,” said Dr. Gina Moody, principal at Elbert-Palmer Elementary School. “Staff will be given resources to become more informed practitioners who engage with students with various social and emotional needs. Our plan will focus on providing stronger positive behavior supports for Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions, such as counseling services, and universal Tier 1 supports such as preferred activities and tangible incentives. Additionally, we will focus on engaging families in the educational process through community and school events.”

Woodbridge School District plans to use its Opportunity Grant funding to contract with a behavioral health provider who will provide counseling services at Woodbridge Early Childhood Center and Phillis Wheatley Elementary School.

“The awarding of the Opportunity Grant to Woodbridge will give our staff and students new and innovative approaches to meeting the social and emotional needs of our students,” said Heath Chasanov, Superintendent of Woodbridge School District and the 2017-18 President of the Chief School Officers Association“We are extremely appreciative of this funding source being provided by the Governor’s Office and the Department of Education to provide additional programs for our students to be successful.”

“The Woodbridge School District is very grateful for the opportunities this grant provides,” said Michele Marinucci, Woodbridge School District’s Director of Student Services. “We will be implementing additional innovative programs in music, mindfulness, health, wellness, and emotional stability as we continue our journey of meeting the social emotional needs of all of our students.”

Red Clay Consolidated School District plans to use the Opportunity Grant to enhance their trauma informed care so they can provide students who have greater needs with higher levels of care.  

“We are extremely excited to receive this grant to work with students, families and staff members to provide trauma informed support and professional development,” said Dr. Mervin Daugherty, Superintendent of the Red Clay Consolidated School District. “The opportunity to partner with the University of Delaware will also allow us to provide trauma screening and implement group/individual interventions for students impacted by trauma. We are hopeful this path forward will become a model for other schools throughout the district and the state.”

In considering applications for funding, the Department of Education gave preference to school-level initiatives, rather than broader district or organizational programs. Grant applicants outlined a detailed plan for how funds would be used – and grant recipients are required to provide information on the outcome of the support, in an effort to showcase what is working.

District and charter school awardees specifically focused on integrating student services and trauma-informed supports to low-income students, as well as on additional supports to low-income students and English language learners.

“We are thrilled to be able to facilitate educators’ efforts to better meet the diverse needs of students throughout the state, especially those students who need the most support,” said Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education. “This opportunity also gives Delaware another way to identify what works in schools and to share successes with educators servicing similar populations.”

2017 Opportunity Grant awardees: 

Colonial School District – $200,000 – Castle Hills Elementary, Harry O. Eisenberg Elementary, Pleaseantville Elementary, Wilmington Manor Elementary

This grant will support 1,970 students across four schools. The plan is for Colonial to implement trauma-informed supports and deepen the Responsive Classrooms approach through embedded training, coaching and other supports. A group of teacher-leaders will be developed. The plan is designed for this core group of teachers to turn the training around to the rest of the staff. 

Christina School District – $106,832 – Elbert Palmer Elementary (EPE)

EPE will support 250 students and their families through a comprehensive, Compassionate Care model.  EPE intends to reduce student suspensions, increase student attendance, increase family involvement, increase student achievement, and provide more resources for families dealing with complex trauma.

Red Clay School District – $106,832 – Richardson Park Elementary

Richardson Park will provide trauma informed care to all students by changing the school level climate.  They will support staff in re-conceptualizing disruptive behavior to a trauma informed lens and provide access to higher level of trauma care for students in need. The project will: 1. Produce school staff who can identify, support, and refer all students exposed to trauma and who can integrate trauma informed care with existing programming. 2.  Increase access to more intensive care of students of need and their families. 3.  Strengthen Richardson Park’s network of trauma referrals.

Brandywine School District – Mt. Pleasant – $100,000 – Mount Pleasant Elementary (MPE)

The intended impact of this project will be to serve: 30-40 high need students and their families with ongoing, targeted supports; 200 families with services to meet their needs throughout the school year; and the entire adult and student population.  They expect to see improvements in chronic absenteeism, family engagement, climate and student achievement.  MPE seeks to become a comprehensive services center, as well as implement mindfulness initiatives throughout the school. 

Great Oaks Charter School – $100,000

Great Oaks will support implementation of broad trauma based and social emotional programming to support 120 students with weekly individual and/or group counseling.  All 446 students of the school’s students will benefit from the implementation of a restorative discipline system designed to drive self-agency and positive decision making. Great Oaks serves grades 6-8.

Kuumba Academy Charter School – $100,000

Kuumba will use the grant to fund a portion of its comprehensive trauma-informed practices and supports package. The package addresses school culture, academic needs, family engagement and service provision through a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive lens. Kuumba is committed to providing integrated student services and trauma-informed supports to low income students.  The package will serve all of the school’s 750 students in grades K-8. 

Las Americas Aspira Charter School – $100,000

LAAA will implement a reading framework supporting the needs of EL students, including embedded teacher supports. This reading framework will enhance the balanced literacy framework by embedding language acquisition scaffolds so that all students, English Learners included, improve their literacy achievement and ultimately close the reading achievement gap. 

Woodbridge School District – $97,678 –Woodbridge Early Childhood CenterPhillis Wheatley Elementary School

Woodbridge will provide parents with the necessary knowledge to make informed nutritional choices for their families, and further develop staff members on trauma informed practices in order to support student’s academic and behavioral needs. One of the primary focus areas of the grant is to contract with a behavioral health provider to provide counseling services in both schools.

Caesar Rodney School District – $88,656 –Caesar Rodney High School

Caesar Rodney will provide trauma informed supports and integrated services for all 750 English learner (EL) students.  The plan is designed to train non-ESL certified teachers using a train-the-trainer model to better meet the academic and language needs of the ELs. CRHS will utilize the expertise of the University of Delaware and WIDA resources (resources to assist in language acquisition for English learner students) to target planning, instruction and assessment.

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Some very interesting choices here.  These schools are definitely ones that have some high populations of high-needs students.  Two of the three charters are located in the Community Education Building in downtown Wilmington.  I have to wonder how many actually applied for these funds.  With all the cuts to the education budget, this doesn’t even begin to make a dent to restore those funds.  Many of the areas these funds will help students the most were widely discussed during the Every Student Succeeds Act discussion groups a year ago.

Catching Up On Delaware Education And Politics

It’s been a while.  At least for me.

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

Kowalko Blasts Carney, Bunting, & Several Christina Legislators

Last Thursday, Delaware Governor John Carney held yet another secret meeting.  This one was with Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and several legislators whose districts are a part of the Christina School District.  Those legislators were Senators David Sokola and Bryan Townsend and Reps Earl Jaques, Ed Osienski, Joe Miro, Mike Ramone, Melanie Smith, and John Kowalko.  The subject: those damn test scores for Christina!

Carney was pulling the usual “why are Christina’s reading and math scores so low?”  If I were a déjà vu kind of guy, I would say it is the same record spun by Governor Markell and former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  Sokola talked about capacity and too much of it in Christina.  Ramone talked about how the state has closed failing charter schools and why not public schools.  Jaques talked about how we need to fill schools with psychiatrists and psychologists while not realizing budget cuts have affected the ability to properly staff schools with educators and resources before we even need to get to that point.  Miro talked about… who knows!  But Kowalko talked about the funding cuts that have already happened that is causing the suffering of poverty students in Christina.  He suggested Christina consolidates two of their high schools and actually build a Wilmington high school for Wilmington students so they aren’t bussed all over Christina School District.

Governor Carney is proving to be more of a Jack Markell wannabe than I ever thought he could be.  I agree with Kowalko.  When Markell cut the reading specialists Governor Ruth Ann Minner created years ago, the problems in Christina got bigger.  When Markell began his dance with corporations to “fix” education it got worse.  Now we’ve had three years of Smarter Balanced and, as predicted, the scores suck.  They suck bad.  No one in power ever stops to think the test is the problem.  No, we must get new leaders in our schools.  We have to fix poverty in the schools.  How about creating real jobs, for real people?  Not these new start-up tech companies Carney gets excited about.  Cause they aren’t going to fix poverty.  They are only going to further the divide between the haves and the have nots.

Kowalko told me the only legislator who made any sense was Senator Townsend.  The rest, he felt, were playing the same skipped record on Delaware education particularly in Christina.  And Secretary Bunting… I don’t know where your head is at these days.  You’ve been drinking far too much of the Rodel Kool-Aid lately.  Taking money away from districts (see recent articles about match tax) and just giving it away to the charters is not a solution.  For someone who came from a large district with financial issues, you sure do seem to be forgetting what is truly needed in education.  Who is advising these people?  How many other secret meetings are going on?  Thank God we have legislators like Kowalko who value transparency above all else.

Rep. Melanie Smith is one of the true catalysts, along with other charter-loving legislators, who don’t care about Christina.  They care about the charters they want their kids and grandchildren to go to.  And a few of them who have relatives that teach at charter schools.  The jig is up.  You aren’t fooling any of us with your grand posturing and false bravado.  Smith, Jaques, Sokola, Ramone, Miro… enough already.  The charter lobbyists don’t need to shove anything up your ass.  You do it gladly all on your own.

We have a Secretary and Governor who allow situations like the train wreck that is Providence Creek Academy’s administration and the continuing de facto segregation factory called Newark Charter School.  You want to put your money where your mouths are?  Don’t let the charters bitch for one iota of a second about match tax and all their other funding whining when they get to keep their damn transportation slush fund.  It is a disgrace.  Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t matter.  Most of you support it as evidenced by your budget vote every single damn year.  The ones that say no to that… those are the ones I respect down at Legislative Hall.  The rest of you are phoneys pretending to be lawmakers.  Allowing charters to suck at the public teat while cutting funds from districts.  And Bunting… perhaps the biggest traitor of them all allowing this to continue.  I thought coming from a district you were going to be the watcher on the wall against this crap.  But you have proven to be just like the other Governor mouthpieces for education.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Did I (Inadvertently) Cause Christina and The Delaware DOE To Get Sued?

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…

Guest Post By John Young: Christina Breaks Out!

Former Transparent Christina blogger and current Christina Board of Education member John Young wrote the following guest post based on an event held yesterday at the Chase Riverfront in Wilmington.  All Christina School District administrators, teachers, and staff members attended the event.

On Tuesday, August 22nd I had the distinct pleasure of attending our district-wide kickoff event. As most people who follow education know, Christina has faced many challenges in the last decade, many of which continue today: poverty, leadership, choice laws that do not put children first, policy, and politics to name a few of the big ones. We meet these challenges every day, across a 2000+ employee base that is dedicated, professional, and truly amazing!

I was struck by the enormity of having the entire district in the same place at the same time. We had done a similar event in the past broken into two sessions at Glasgow High School due to capacity issues, but our new Superintendent, Richard Gregg, was able to negotiate a single venue with capacity because he wanted to set our district upon this year with a distinct theme and direction: One District, One Vision, One Voice.  After 8+ years on the Board, it was so refreshing to have a message that resonated in a single setting, one that could be heard by all.  For me, one of the KEY takeaways is that each of those three prongs of the message will be uniquely and specifically fueled by a calculus with children at the center.

I know that’s what school districts claim to do, and pledge to do, but we in Christina have been led very erratically for such a long time (well over a decade now), we lost our way somewhere in there. I know each district leader before Mr. Gregg did their level best, but sometimes there was a lack of relation between intent and execution of the vision and direction which has fueled divisiveness at every level of the district, including our board.

I felt like so much of that began to thaw, even melt, in 4 short hours yesterday. I’ve been involved in countless issues over my tenure on the board many of which are not always about the students: contracts, consultants, ideology around destructive policies put for by the state, etc. etc.  Yesterday, it became clear to me that some of those things don’t deserve another moment of my time. They are worthless endeavors that do not serve children. We have new leadership and a new focus for our service model which requires the removal of “awfulizers” from our midst, and replace them with “awesomeizers”.

Christina planted a flag in the ground yesterday. I feel like it was our own metaphorical Gadsden Flag. Our referendum rally cry of a “New Christina”, an amorphous, unclear, and frankly controversial concept for some was jettisoned yesterday, not because it was bad, but because it took life. It’s beating in our core, and breathing on its own…

…and it had 2000+ parents and guardians present for the delivery. Quite a welcome sight to behold and an honor to witness.