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.
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.