The former Superintendent of Indian River School District who is now the Delaware Secretary of Education, Dr. Susan Bunting, was well aware Patrick Miller, the former Indian River Chief Financial Officer, was stealing money. Despite telling the Auditor of Account’s office, Delaware media, and the staff of Indian River that she was shocked and had no clue about what Miller was doing, she knew. In fact, she knew going back to at least 2008. Continue reading
After waiting an extra ten days to put up the audio of their June board meeting, the future of the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is once again in doubt. Immediately into their board meeting, Margie Lopez-Waite resigned as President of their board and was than voted into the new Head of School position. Continue reading
Christina School District Board of Education member John Young posted this tonight on his Facebook account. I agree with a lot of what he said. I haven’t written a lot about the divisiveness I believe is going on up there. In my opinion, it is corruption at its finest. Yes, I have my own election to worry about tomorrow. But I’m glad John put into words what he has been feeling, as have many others. It concerns me because I can see some parallels in Capital School District. While the board doesn’t seem to have these kind of issues and the level of manipulation isn’t as high, it is, to some degree, present. This is a long post from John Young, but it is well worth the read. If you live up in Christina, please vote for Elizabeth Paige. She earned her stripes a long time ago and Christina would not be the same without her. It would be much worse…
Well, here we are: tomorrow is the day. Christina faces an election for one seat as we already prepare to welcome Meg Mason in July to replace the outgoing Dave Resler. CSD voters have a pretty stark choice in my opinion. Unbeknownst to many voters, there is a distinctly unique tone to this year’s school board race between Desiree Brady and Elizabeth Paige and for the most part it’s not being created by the candidates themselves. There is a disturbing set of forces in play, in my opinion. I am well aware that what I type next will have people confirming either their love for my willingness to speak the truth of the situation or their hatred of the same thing. I can live with both.
Our district has been in crisis for quite some time now and the processes that have yielded several key results have caused irreparable harm to the ability of our board and district to function well. Please note my very specific use of the word “processes”. Some of the processes that have created deep concern include: the hiring of the acting Superintendent, the referendum campaign, the hiring of a parent engagement coordinator, the hiring of a consultant on climate and discipline issues and most recently the unfinished process of selecting HOW to select the new permanent superintendent. This list is not inclusive of all concerns.
The yield of these processes are not as universally concerning as the actual processes themselves. During each of these processes, the board was controlled by one person and the information shared to the board from both her and the administration has been extremely restrictive and in my opinion damaging to the rights of our taxpayers to have board members make informed decisions. During this period, a minority of board members have asked for more information and sought to push through these political barriers. At almost every turn, these behaviors have been supported by key stakeholders, while in the minority, have chosen to ignore the greater good often to continue parochial support of programs and people they like, need, and desire to see remain in power. Meanwhile, real questions about real issues are not only being ignored, they are being hidden and in some cases the public is being lied to about how the district works. A perfect example is my recent questioning of the contract for school climate and discipline. No one I know in CSD feels we don’t have major opportunity for improvement here; however, I also don’t know anyone that feels the district should just hand over a $49,250 no-bid contract with no public notice or input. Except for the 4 board members that did just that in support of the acting superintendent and the extremely public acknowledgement of previous employment and friendship with the vendor. TO be clear, this is not an indictment of the vendor whatsoever, only the broken process that yielded the result.
The same forces that seek to keep CSD board members in the dark on issues and prevent board members from making informed votes are now seeking to remove one of the three members willing to stand up and actually ask questions in support of CSD not their own agendas. They are aligned to drive out Elizabeth Paige. The planted questions, the stolen signs, the opponent’s campaign, up to and including the obvious employment at the workplace of one of the referendum’s biggest supporters who is close friends with the acting superintendent is simply too much to ignore.
One of this groups most concerning tactics is the one where they distract people by making allegations of failing to collaborate or not being civil. The truth is, to them collaboration is only labeled as such if you agree with them, and their role as civility police is undermined by their own off stage hypocrisy on the same subject. Both are morally bankrupt offerings in the face of board members just trying to actually be stewards of our students, parents, and taxes. It is repulsive to me to watch our district fall prey to these petty and unbecoming tactics. I am well aware that some feel I am a divisive force on the board. I can totally see why. When I ask questions and I don’t get answers, I get mad. Guilty as charged. I would ask those that feel I am the problem to try, if only for a moment, to ask yourself how you would react if you were elected by the public to do a job and other public officials got in your way, on purpose. I can accept criticism on my tactics and can fully admit that my seemingly righteous anger, on stage at times, can be both interpreted and misinterpreted as counterproductive. However, what you get from me is the same, all the time. I am not a chameleon. I was elected to do right by our students and until I am voted off I will not shrink from that responsibility. Not. One. Inch. I only speak of myself in this endorsement letter to paint the picture that a vote for Elizabeth is not a vote for me. She does not act or react the way I do even if she sometimes is just as mad or concerned about Christina processes. A vote for Elizabeth is a vote for the same passion, brought in a different and perhaps much better way. Don’t be fooled by some of the terrible tactics being used to convince you that any sympathy to a cause that happens to be supported by anyone not seeking to remove her means she is in some sort of policy silo.
Elizabeth Paige and I do not agree on everything, but we do agree on this: our students and our taxpayers deserve a responsive school district befitting the trust and respect owed to its students, parents, educators, administrators and taxpayers alike. She also is an elected official who does not stop in the quest to bring those basic yet quintessential aspects to Christina.
If you value transparency, intellectual curiosity, courage, independent thinking and a reasoned, systemic, analytical approach to policy then please vote tomorrow for Elizabeth Paige. If you don’t value those qualities, please Vote May 11th.
The United States Department of Education released a “Dear Colleague” letter to charter schools and State DOEs in regards to charter school responsibility for spending of Federal funds issued to them. It also warns about board oversight and conflicts of interest. Something that never happens in Delaware, right? This page on my blog is in the process of being updated in the next few days, and it is huge!
This letter goes out on the same day the US DOE gave away $157 million to US charter schools. But read the letter. Count the many ways in which Delaware charter schools are out of compliance with this guidance:
The Delaware Department of Education recently sent letters to every single school district, vocational district, and each charter schools with their special education rating based on compliance indicators with the United States Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs. There are four designations: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention, and substantially needs intervention. I will be delving into more of this in GREAT detail, as I don’t agree with much of this. This is based on compliance from fiscal year 2013, so any schools that opened in FY2014 or FY2015 are not part of these ratings. But for now, please see what the district ratings are:
Traditional School Districts
Appoquinimink: Needs Assistance
Brandywine: Needs Intervention
Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention
Cape Henlopen: Meets Requirements
Christina: Needs Intervention
Colonial: Needs Assistance
Delmar: Needs Intervention
Indian River: Meets Requirements
Lake Forest: Needs Assistance
Laurel: Needs Intervention
Milford: Meets Requirements
Red Clay Consolidated: Needs Intervention
Seaford: Needs Intervention
Smyrna: Needs Assistance
Woodbridge: Needs Intervention
New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements
Polytech: Needs Assistance
Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements
Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance
Campus Community: Needs Assistance
Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements
DE Academy of Public Safety & Security: Meets Requirements
DE College Prep: Meets Requirements
DE Military Academy: Meets Requirements
East Side Charter: Needs Intervention
Family Foundations Academy: Meets Requirements
Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention
Kuumba Academy: Needs Assistance
Las Americas ASPIRA Academy: Needs Assistance
MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance
*Moyer: Needs Intervention
Newark Charter School: Meets Requirements
Odyssey Charter School: Meets Requirements
Positive Outcomes: Needs Intervention
Prestige Academy: Needs Intervention
Providence Creek Academy: Needs Assistance
*Reach Academy for Girls: Needs Assistance
Sussex Academy: Meets Requirements
Thomas Edison Charter: Needs Assistance
*means school is now closed as of 6/30/15
There you have it, all the districts, charters, and vo-techs in Delaware. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Delaware can see the obvious flaws with this rating system. Most of the districts and charters who “need intervention” have the greatest populations of special education students, as well as the highest number of minorities and low-income populations. This system is completely unfair to any parent looking for potential school choices for their special needs child. Or even to those parents with a “regular” student, who may think the school is not a right fit for their child because of perceived special education issues.
These ratings also do not take into account IEP denials at all. Many charters have flat-out refused entrance to children with IEPs, despite numerous warnings by the state and the federal government, as well as civil rights groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union. Charters have also been widely known to practice “counseling out”, where students with IEPs are either kicked out or pushed out through repeated suspensions or strong suggestions to parents how they “can’t service your child” or “we don’t have the resources”.
For a school like Charter School of Wilmington to “meet requirements” when they have a literal handful of IEPs there, while a school like Eastside who has numerous IEPs to need intervention is not a fair and accurate comparison.
One other important factor is none of these ratings take into account the continuous and growing number of special education lawsuits in our state. The feds ratings are based on complaints, mediations (with the state) and due process hearings. There are several problems with this. First off, there hasn’t been a due process hearing in Delaware in over two years. The last hearing was in April of 2013, and out of the 25 due process hearings since 2006, only two were against charter schools. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Delaware Online Checkbook can see the MILLIONS of dollars going out in special education lawsuits. When I asked MaryAnn Mieczkowski, the Director at the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE about this conundrum last summer, she stood by the due process system as being “more than fair.” Many of the schools that “meet requirements” have been sued and more than once. But the DOE will never report that data…
Second, the complaints are heard by “hearing officers” who are paid by the Delaware Department of Education. One such hearing officer is the President of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, Robert Overmiller. He was paid $10,000 this year alone to rule on these special education complaints. The Director of the Exceptional Citizens Resource Group at the DOE sits on the very same group. Overmiller is also paid by the GACEC. The GACEC issues opinions on matters such as the recent and growing opt-out movement. Many were shocked to see the GACEC dead set against opt-out and House Bill 50. But now we know about conflicts of interest where the state Department pays the other state group’s Presidents, and the two side on issues of legislative importance. As well, the GACEC gives opinions on State Board of Education regulations. This is the problem in Delaware with conflicts of interest. They aren’t transparent until someone happens to stumble upon them.
There is so much more to all of this, and I will be writing a lot about it in the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can read each letter sent to these districts, vo-techs and charters here: District And Charter Reports
You can also see each state’s ratings below, in the below document released by the US DOE, which is also very misleading, because it rates Delaware as “needing assistance” in the Part B determinations for one year, and “meets requirements in Part C, but doesn’t even touch on the fact they were “needing intervention” the past two years, which makes Delaware look better on a long-term basis when that is not the case.