Email The Christina Board of Education To Vote NO On Any Reduction In Force Of Teachers

After failing to pass their referendum last week, the Christina School District Board of Education will hold a board meeting tomorrow night.  The first action item?  A reduction in force.  This means they will vote to fire a ton of teachers.  It won’t be the first time their board voted on something like this but they can do something different this time.  They can vote a resounding NO for this action item.

Many will ask the same question: then where does the money come from?  Simply put, Christina School District is too big to fail.  Who is going to take them over?  The Delaware Department of Education?  They don’t have the capacity or the money to do the job.  The charter schools?  Hell no!  They are not one organization with a ton of umbrella schools under the same name.  Like the banks in 2008, the answer is simple- a state bailout of the district.  Force them into a bankruptcy type situation and let the legislators dole out the money to save them.

For far too long teachers in this district have been forced to sweat it out come referendum time.  Their jobs, along with their livelihoods, have been put on the firing line every single time a referendum comes along.  The madness has to end and has to end now.  If you agree, email the Christina Board of Education between now and tomorrow night (May 7th) at 7pm or show up to their meeting at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 50 Gender Road, in Newark, DE.  Give loud and proud public comment urging the board to vote NO on their latest gambit to fire teachers.  Their email is CSDBoardMembers@Christina.k12.de.us and I would strongly suggest emailing them NOW!  Then go a step further and sign THIS PETITION on Change.org.

Yes, this is a drastic step.  But it is time for the state of Delaware to stop with their silly education funding games and finally take education seriously.  It is time for the legislators to stop whining and be forced to do something.  The students and teachers of Delaware can not afford any more half measures.  It has to be go big or go home!

Advertisements

Secretary Bunting Has Far Too Much Power And Authority

Last night, I wrote about how Delaware Secretary of Education and Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick broke the law by brokering a Memorandum of Understand with the Buccini-Pollen Group.  It turns out Bunting and the Delaware Department of Education snuck in a “Secretary-Only” regulation which means the State Board of Education did not have to vote on it.

Regulation 415, which covers Voluntary School Assessments was never even brought up by the State Board of Education in their meetings.  They always put Secretary-Only regulations as a topic on their agendas, even if they don’t vote on them.

Bunting and Holodick still broke the law with the MOU because the Regulation wasn’t finalized until Mid-September of this year.  They acted in haste for some reason and finalized their own MOU in anticipation of the Regulation.  They made a huge mistake with that MOU and they should be held accountable.

How did Susan Bunting amass so much power in less than two years?  Why is she abusing that authority to the best of her ability?  Why isn’t she being held accountable for her decade-long knowledge of Patrick Miller’s theft of funds in Indian River School District?  These are very dark days at the Delaware DOE.  Led by a woman with the morality of a snake.

Our Delaware General Assembly needs to change the way regulations happen in this state.  That is where a ton of shady stuff goes down.  We have too many state agencies that circumvent the Delaware General Assembly and do what they damn well please!  Enough!  They also need to bring down the authority of the Secretary of Education in Delaware.  There is far too much the Secretary can do as one person without any true meaningful public input.

Red Clay, Brandywine, & Appoquinimink Go After Christina For The Same Bling The Charters Got In Settlement

Christina School District is about to get screwed again!  But not by the charters this time.  This time it is districts who should be their allies!

Okay, time to let the cat out of the bag.  A month ago, and if you blinked you missed it, the Christina Board of Education discussed and voted no on the Chief Financial Officer of their district negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding between Christina, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Brandywine.  The MOU would have given authority to the CFO of Christina to send those local funds to the three other districts for students that choice to those districts out of Christina.  The board said no.  Look for a special board meeting sometime next week.  From what I’m hearing, now the Superintendents of the districts (all four) want to have the MOU between them.  Welcome to Christina Richard Gregg!

That’s what happens when you open Pandora’s Box like that with that stupid settlement between Christina and the charters.  I’m talking to you four Christina board members who voted FOR the settlement and then voted against rescinding the settlement a week later.  Did I not distinctly hear that it would set a precedent?  That it would come back to bite them in the ass?  I know I said it.  I believe a few others did as well.  Karma truly is a vengeful and mean bitch.

Do I have anything against Brandywine, Appo, or Red Clay for going after these funds?  I don’t know.  The timing sucks.  And how soon until Colonial jumps on the train?  All this happened because, supposedly, according to some commenter named Elizabeth, Jack Markell had some secret deal with Lillian Lowery and Christina when she became Secretary of Education.  The way I’ve heard it, Lowery was involved in a lawsuit when she became Secretary and Captain Jack wanted it all hush-hush so all sorts of crazy crap happened.  I heard that from someone who used to be on the board who hasn’t been too quiet about it over the past year or so.  Funny how stuff gets out in The First State.

So what happens if Christina’s board says no again?  Will the big three (and possibly Colonial) get their feathers in a twist and file a lawsuit against Christina as well?  My gut tells me Christina’s board will be forced to vote yes because of the precedent set in the charter settlement.  So last week, the board announced they will be laying off 44 or so teachers.  Will this cause that number to rise?  And how the hell does their CFO Robert Silber still have a job there?

How much money are we talking?  I don’t think it would be as much as the cha-ching the charters got, but it will leave a mark on their budget.  At this point, anything more is suck city.  Here’s a novel idea… how about going after Jack Markell and Lillian Lowery for their side deals that went on.  Better catch Jack quick before he goes on his Forrest Gump tour of America!  Yeah, like that will ever happen.  Captain Jack seems to have some special immunity shield around him.  It’s a special kind, where you screw things up for eight years and you get to go biking into the Pacific sunset.

Education never gets boring in this state.  But this will not be a joking matter for the teachers and staff in Christina School District.  These are good people who have been the victim of these education funding games for many years now.  Throw in priority schools and the constant labeling and shaming of the district.  I feel bad for all the districts right now.  Students and teachers should not be the sacrificial targets because the adults in charge can’t get their shit together.  Sorry to be so blunt, but I’m really getting sick of it.

Here’s the kicker!  I submitted a FOIA to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office a couple of weeks ago.  This is what I asked for:

Please provide, in PDF format, all reports, letters, guidance, or inspections for any Delaware school district, vocational school district, or charter school generated by the Office of the Auditor of Accounts that is not listed on the Auditor of Accounts website for fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016. This would include any of the above listed documents sent to members of the General Assembly, the Delaware Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Controller General, or the Office of Management and Budget that would be considered a public document 29 Del. C. Paragraph 10002(1).

Wanna know what I got?  Bupkis, that’s what!  I got the petty cash letters sent to a handful of charters last year along with the letters about that specific situation sent to various state agencies.  For three fiscal years!

Wanna know what that means?  The Auditor of Accounts office is NOT auditing ANY school district unless it is an investigation based on something submitted on their tip line.  Which means that office is breaking the law.  But the General Assembly won’t give them the funds to do their job as required by Delaware State Law (which the General Assembly does: create laws).  So who do we take to court?  The Auditor of Accounts office or the General Assembly?  Who is tracking where the hell education funds actually go?  NO ONE!  Except myself and Jack Wells it looks like.  But yeah, let’s layoff teachers and make classrooms into sardine cans while people in district offices are making over $100,000 in salary.  Cause that makes a lot of fucking sense!  Let’s keep paying for state testing and all these one-to-on devices so we can just weed out teachers and turn education into a reformer wonderland!  as I said, I’m getting tired of all this nonsense.  And if I were a teacher, I would be too!  If I were a parent (which I am) I would be shouting this from the rooftops: Stop screwing over our schools!  And when I say schools, that primarily means the students and teachers.  That is the heart of it all.

Delaware DOE Releases Detailed School Assault Report

Last year, the Delaware 148th  General Assembly passed Senate Bill 207 with House Amendment #1.  The amendment required the Delaware Department of Education to compile a more detailed report on student on student assaults that resulted in a misdemeanor charge.  The DOE finished that report yesterday for the 2016-2017 school year.  Some of these are very vicious fights.

SECRETARY OF EDUCATION DR. SUSAN BUNTING COVER LETTER

SENATE BILL 207 w/HOUSE AMENDMENT #1 FINAL REPORT

Indian River Loses Referendum, Many Voters Lack Confidence In Leadership

The News Journal is reporting Indian River lost their referendum by a mere 30 votes, with 3,321 for and 3,351 against.  It reminds me of a recent election in our country.  I have no doubt the district will roll the dice with a 2nd attempt in the next couple of months.  But the district has to own up to the audit investigation last week.  By stating the referendum has nothing to do with that report, they are shooting themselves in the foot.  I have a very hard time with Susan Bunting and her credibility at this point.  If Patrick Miller, the former CFO, was controlling everything with finances in the district then she let him do that.  She turned a blind eye to what was going on and that shows a clear lack of leadership.  As well, the Board has the capability of determining the district’s finances.

Bunting said issues need to be addressed across the board to ensure the referendum passes if it is held again. Although an audit was released late last week detailing financial issues over the past five years, Bunting said she won’t blame the audit for the failure for the referendum to pass.

If it was one year or possibly two that Miller played with school finances, that would be one thing.  But this went on a long time.  Even more frightening that it took tips to the Auditor’s office to get to the bottom of it.  Not only was Bunting and the Board asleep at the wheel, so was our state.  What happened in Indian River should give our legislators a wake-up call as well.  They should somehow get funding from somewhere and beef up the State Auditor of Accounts Office.  Every school district and charter school in this state needs a thorough audit.  We cannot continue like this.  Our children lose every single time.  All this talk of extra funding for schools… the funds are already there.  We just need to redefine the existing funding and find a system where those funds are used equitably for all students.  We can’t afford to stick with the status quo and then act shocked when we see reports like the Indian River one last week.

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Kim Williams For State Representative, 19th District

kimwilliamsstaterep

She does the right thing.  There is no other reason than that to vote for Kim Williams in the 19th District.  But for those few and far between in Delaware who may not know Kim Williams, let me explain why I am endorsing her.

Kim Williams is the Vice Chair of the House Education Committee.  She has served on that committee since she was first elected in 2012.  In that time, she has dealt with charter school reform, opt out, charter school audit, teacher evaluation, special education, education funding, Smarter Balanced, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, bullying, and so much more.  She votes with her conscience every single time.  Not how others vote, or the popular vote, but how SHE wants to vote.  And behind that vote is her love of children.  Not just the children of her district.  Not just the children in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  All the children of Delaware.

If there are issues going on at a school, she is there.  She isn’t afraid to ask questions when it has to happen.  If there is something big going on in education, she is there.

My favorite “Kim Williams” moment was when I was talking to a friend that lives in a school district 45 minutes south of me.  Kim’s district is way up in Newcastle County.  This friend told me how she was working with Kim on an issue.  I was amazed that Kim would help someone who lives so far away.  That’s just who she is.

But she is more than just an “education” state rep.  She is the people’s representative.  To me, she is the heart and soul of Delaware, at least what I would like it to be one day.  I wrote a fake article last year called The Last Exceptional Delaware Post.  In this imaginary future, Kim Williams was the Governor of Delaware in the year 2024.  I’m not ruling that out!

In writing this article, I wanted to find a picture of Kim that represents who she is.  It was very hard.  As I looked through her pictures on Facebook, she is always surrounded by people.  All the time.  Whether it is her family, her friends, her constituents, her peers in the General Assembly, she is always with people!

Please check out Kim’s State Rep. Facebook page to see how engaged she is with not only her constituents, but all of Delaware.  For those wishing to donate to Kim’s campaign, please go here: Contribute to Kim Williams, State Rep. 19th District Campaign

The Delaware Charter School Transportation Bonus, Allowed By Many Legislators!!!

I know Kilroy has touched on this quite a few times, along with other bloggers, but why in the hell are charters allowed to keep money that public school districts can’t?  Is this their way of compensating for “lack of funds” they cry about all the time?  Cause they sure are getting a lot of left-over cash as you can see by the below documents!

John Kowalko has forwarded this to MANY folks via email, and I didn’t realize the full scope of it.

Despite Speaker Schwartzkopf’ s false and exaggerated claim to the contrary I am willing and able to explore facts and reach legitimate compromises despite his unjustified and false accusations to the contrary. Here is  a prime example where I attempted to compromise on an issue before the Education committee and the Joint Finance committee and that attempt was rebuffed with ultimately harmful consequences to the taxpayers’ money and trust in the General assembly.

    Over the past five-six  years epilogue language in the budget has been created and passed that contravenes existing code directing that transportation allotments to public schools and charter schools provided by the taxpayers and not used for transportation purposes must be returned to the general fund. This has enabled Charters to use this money for any purpose with no accountability to taxpayers or the general assembly. After numerous futile attempts to have language in the epilogue that continually contradicts and violates existing law be forbidden I was faced with the reality that the attitude of leadership was to not tamper with the epilogue process. I agreed to delay my efforts to reform the epilogue system and allow supporters of unfettered and unaccountable access to the excess school transportation funding to bring legislation that would repeal existing code although I stated that I would oppose such an irresponsible action. I was able to muster opposition to proposed legislation that would have repealed the existing code mandating accountability of transportation funding and returning of any funds not used specifically for transportation and the sponsor withdrew the legislation knowing it did not have support. Contrary to the Speaker’s contention that I refuse to compromise, I did not propose legislation that would impede the often necessary use of epilogue language in the end of session budget dialogue. I did, however, make it perfectly clear that if this practice of continually rewriting and contravening existing code were to persist I would be forced to propose legislation to reform this abuse.

     Please note in the attached information that Family Foundations, the school whose leaders have been accused of misuse of funds, received in excess of $707,000 in transportation money and kept more than half of that money- almost $400,000- for ‘other’ uses.

    Over the last four years I have strenuously and vocally objected (always agreeing to attempts at compromise) to this use of epilogue language  that has been specifically added to the budget in spite of the fact that it directly contravenes existing code. This ensures that this use of this money is not accountable to the taxpayers and the General Assembly and violates the principle of specific purpose allotments of taxpayer money. This is akin to a blank check being issued to charter school management and you only need to look at the “Family Foundation” numbers attached to draw your own conclusions. Throughout Representative Schwartzkopf’s tenure as  majority leader and speaker he has turned a blind eye and deaf ear to my documented attempts to rectify this betrayal of the public trust and I find it very appropriate under current circumstances to point out how situations such as the Family Foundations scandal are able to develop and continue.

    Please review all of the documents attached and if you feel the need for clarification, I have kept the records of these dialogues and proposals and will engage in any conversation on the subject.

    Sometimes compromise is a necessary and even good thing. I compromised last year on both of the bills I had been working on . However, sometimes compromise is not. When one party is simply wrong, compromise is wrong also. It does not benefit the people we represent.

 Representative John A. Kowalko Jr.