When Bunting, Sokola, & Jaques Have Lunch, How Soon Will Legislation Come Out About State Takeover Of School Districts?

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Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting informed the State Board of Education yesterday she had lunch with State Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques.  As heads of the Senate and House Education Committee, Bunting said it was to discuss upcoming legislation.  Could this lead to state takeover of school districts in Delaware? Continue reading

Breaking News: Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Final Report Released Today

Delaware State Representative and Chair of the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Earl Jaques released the final report of the school district consolidation task force today.  The report, seen below, does NOT recommend consolidating school districts based on “findings” that it would not save a substantial amount of money.  It does, however, give recommendations regarding shared services among school districts.  This report, in my opinion, is missing a TON of information! Continue reading

District Consolidation Task Forces Passes All Recommendations But There Were No Recommendations For Actual Consolidation Of Districts

Sorry for the long title.  Yes, the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force did not have any recommendations to actually consolidate any school districts in the state.  But there were a ton of other recommendations that were passed by the task force.  However, State Rep. Earl Jaques (the Task Force Chair) did manage to anger one citizen who came all the way down from Wilmington to give public comment.  Jaques adjourned the meeting without asking if anyone wanted to give public comment even though it was on the agenda.  I did ask Earl if he could readjourn the meeting before everyone left to allow the citizen to speak but he just gave his infamous head roll.  Bad form Earl!

All the recommendations passed (which you can read here) with a few edits to some of them.  I will get those up when they come out.  I voted no on a few of the recommendations.  One that really got my goat concerned professional development days for ALL employees of a district.  I wasn’t opposed to the original wording which said “establish” but it was changed to “support”, as in give the local school board the ability to provide it based on its merits.  I wanted “establish”, and even suggested an addendum covering special education for ALL employees, but I was told by the Committee Chair (Dr. Dusty Blakey, Superintendent of Colonial School District) it would include special education.  I voted no because the addendum took out the word “establish”.

While the actual task force report won’t come out until May 7th, folks may be surprised the majority of the task force voted yes on tax increases to be created by the State which would come as either a Statewide or Countywide tax to cover a projected deficit of $125 million to “reduce class sizes, provide after school programs, wellness centers, additional reading, Math and ELL specialists, early childhood education for 2,3, and 4 year olds and other programs needed to level the playing field for children in those underserved communities.”  While I support many of those items, I voted no because the task force also recommended providing additional funding for English Language Learners and students living in poverty (note it was NOT for low-income students).  Four of us voted no on that.  Another one of those no votes was Senator Dave Sokola.  See Dave, we can agree at times!  By implementing a statewide or countywide tax, that is more money coming out of taxpayer pockets and leaves the legislators off the hook.  It is their job to balance the state budget and I would think there is enough “fluff” in our budget to cover those deficits.  As an example, get rid of the very horrible charter school transportation slush fund.  That did come up as a recommendation but since the legislation creating the task force did not include charter school matters for points of discussion that recommendation was not voted on by the task force.

Transportation was a major issue and created much discussion around it.  There is a tremendous shortage of bus drivers in Delaware and the recommendation passed to look at potential raises for district bus drivers.  Contractors set their own rates based on what the district can pay them.  Anything more would have to come from the contractor.

 

 

 

 

 

Final School District Consolidation Meeting Tonight With Big Votes! All Recommendations Are Here!

Tonight is the final meeting of the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force.  The meeting will be held at 5pm at Legislative Hall in Dover, in the House Chamber.  This is the big one folks!  All the subcommittees issued recommendations last week and the entire task force will be voting on each one.  That doesn’t mean they are a done deal.  It typically means legislation could be forthcoming to address those recommendations.  All the recommendations from each committee appear below.  Come down (or up) to Dover and check it out!  We will see if this mysterious oddity State Rep. Earl Jaques dropped last month concerning a recommendation to have the State Board of Education get the authorization to have the state takeover “failing” school districts resurfaces.  It wasn’t popular when I reported it and many thought Earl slipped on a banana peel or something.

Academic & Student Needs Sub-Committee Recommendations:

Structure Sub-Committee:

Finance Subcommittee:

Teachers And Staff Subcommittee:

 

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

An Open Letter From State Rep. Earl Jaques About The School District Consolidation Task Force

I just received this email in regards to the School District Consolidation Task Force and where it will go from here:

School District Consolidation Task Force – HCR 39

A Letter from the Chair – Rep. Earl G. Jaques, Jr. 

September 20, 2017 

I have gotten a lot of questions from task force members and those who attended this week’s meeting about the path of this task force moving forward. Where are we going from here? 

I thought it would be helpful to review what we have achieved so far as a task force and outline my goals for our future meetings. 

Our first two meetings have been focused mainly on organizational matters.  At the first meeting we elected the Task Force Chair as required by HCR 39. Then we established four sub-committees (Academics/Student Needs, Finance, Teachers/Staff, and Structure). These four sub-committees are being led by four outstanding individuals with extensive knowledge and experience in their fields. In order to include a diversity of opinions and perspectives, we added additional members to the original 22 members designated by HCR 39. At our second meeting, we approved these additional members to give us a group with backgrounds and experiences from across our state.  

To ensure transparency, we have put all minutes, power point slides and other related material on our designated section on the legislative website; more materials will be uploaded to this site soon. To view the documents uploaded please scroll to the bottom of the page to “Minutes, Reports, and Information.” In addition, all materials have been sent to every member of the taskforce and those members of the public who asked to be included on the email lists. In cooperation with our statewide media partners we were able to get the citizens of Delaware to provide us with their ideas, suggestions and comments on what they would like to see happen with our school districts. We received 146 different written responses.  

This past Monday we hosted a task force meeting in Sussex County to receive verbal comments from county residents. At this meeting David Blowman, from the Department of Education, presented an overview of our state’s districts, schools and students with some informative graphs and maps. The response to his presentation was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that members present expressed their wishes for residents in Kent and New Castle Counties to have the opportunity to view it as well.

In accordance with this feedback, we plan to hold the same meeting at William Penn High School (October 16th) for New Castle County residents and then shortly after that meeting to hold one again for Kent County residents. In order to give residents of each county the opportunity to view the presentation and share their thoughts we have decided to move the meeting schedule a bit.

Instead of waiting until November to meet as a full task force as was originally planned, the Kent County meeting will be moved to October 25th at Caesar Rodney High School. Then the full task force will meet in early November (details TBA) to vote on the various plans suggested so that the sub-committees can start their work. I envision this vote as being one where 2-3 proposals are chosen to be explored and modeled and compared with the current system. This is a very important topic and so our work cannot be rushed. I will ensure that sub-committees have adequate time to complete their work while also making sure that public submissions and comments are properly heard. 

Once the sub-committees’ work is completed we will meet as a full task force to determine the feasibility of the various components and discuss recommendations to be included in our final report to the State Legislature. 

I look forward to continue working with all of you on this very important issue area. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me or my legislative aide, Madinah Wilson-Anton.

Respectfully Signed,

Earl Jaques

27th Representative District

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

School District Consolidation Task Force & Sub-Committees Meeting Schedule & How YOU Can Help!

The Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force, as authorized by House Concurrent Resolution #39, is in full swing.  Whatever that means!  But below is a list of ALL the meetings scheduled to date.  No sane person could possibly attend all of them.  I’m sure someone will try though.  Not this guy!  The first sub-committee meeting for the Structure group met last Monday, August 28th.  All meetings are open to the public and public comment will be allowed.  Whether you agree or not with district consolidation, make your voice heard.  I like that the main task force group is utilizing schools from each county.  Below the schedule is information the task force wants from YOU!

District Consolidation Task Force

Monday, September 18th, 6:30pm, Woodbridge High School, Bridgeville, DE

Monday, October 16th, 6:30pm, William Penn High School, New Castle, DE

Thursday, November 16th, 6:30pm, Caesar Rodney High School, Camden, DE

Academic & Children Needs Sub-Committee

Wednesday, September 13th, 6:30-8:30pm, Library Conference Room, Dept. of Education, Townsend Bldg., Dover, DE

Monday, October 2nd, 6:30-8:30pm, Georgetown Middle School, Georgetown, DE

Tuesday, November 7th, 6:30-8:30pm, Independence Conference Room, Carvel Bldg., N. French St., Wilmington, DE

Monday, December 4th, 6:30-8:30pm, Cabinet Room, Delaware Dept. of Education, Townsend Bldg., Dover, DE

Finance Sub-Committee

Thursday, September 7th, 9:00-11:00am, Government Center, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE

Thursday, October 5th, 9:00-11:00am, Office of Management and Budget, Haslet Armory, 3rd Floor, Dover, DE

Thursday, November 9th, 4:30-6:30pm, Government Center, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE

Thursday, December 7th, 4:30-6:30pm, Office of Management and Budget, Haslet Armory, 3rd Floor, Dover, DE

Structure Sub-Committee

Met on August 28th

Wednesday, September 27th, 6:30-8:30pm, St. George’s Technical High School, Middletown, DE

Teachers & Staff Sub-Committee

Monday, September 11th, 5:00-7:00pm, Colonial School District offices, 318 E. Basin Rd., New Castle, DE

no other future meetings known as of yet

 

I will pin this article to the top of the blog and will update meetings as the information becomes available.

 

As well, State Rep. Earl Jaques is looking for YOUR suggestions on how a district consolidation would take place.  Below is a Suggestion Graphic which, should you choose to participate, would need to be sent back by September 11th.  This would be up for discussion at the next regular Task Force meeting, on September 18th.

Feel free to slice and dice the State of Delaware any way you want for this.  But take it seriously.  You never know… your suggestion could become the final outcome!  I am a member of the Finance Sub-Committee but will be paying attention to every meeting taking place.  Sorry I missed the first Structure Sub-Committee meeting!  To find out more information about the Task Force, please go here.

 

 

Finance Sub-Committee For District Consolidation Task Force Shuts Out The Public

I received an email yesterday for the meeting schedule for the District Consolidation Task Force Finance Sub-Committee.  ALL the meetings are in the morning, split between Dover and Wilmington.  I get that legislative staffers and the Delaware Department of Education sets all this stuff up, but they are doing a huge disservice to the public by holding these meetings in the mornings.  The number one item on the public’s radar is if district consolidation is worth it financially.  These are taxpayer dollars at stake here.  I volunteered for this committee and while I don’t mind morning meetings, I would rather it was scheduled at a time when the majority of the public can attend.

Here is the schedule.  All meetings are on Thursday mornings.

September 7th, 9am to 11am, Government Center, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE

October 5th, 9am to 11am, Office of Management and Budget, Hazlet Armory, 3rd Floor, 122 Martin Luther King Blvd., Dover

November 2nd, 9am to 11am, Government Center, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE

December 7th, 9am to 11am, Office of Management and Budget, Hazlet Armory, 3rd Floor, 122 Martin Luther King Blvd., Dover

Once again, I have to ask why the person running this sub-committee is NOT an actual member of the task force.  I understand Fred Sears has been very active with the Delaware Community Foundation and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, but why isn’t Mike Jackson with the Office of Management and Budget running this sub-committee?  Why are none of these meetings happening in Sussex County?  We need the public’s input on this task force.  This is a very ominous start for what should be the most transparent of all the sub-committees.

Who Is On The School District Consolidation Task Force? Live From Legislative Hall

We got a full house here at Legislative Hall.  Seems a lot of suits showed up for this impromptu meeting.  But who is on the Delaware School District School District Consolidation Task Force?

Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting

Jon Sheehan (Education Policy Advisor for Governor Carney)

State Rep. Earl Jaques

State Rep. Joe Miro

Senator David Sokola

Senator Brian Pettyjohn

Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov

Caesar Rodney Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald

Colonial Superintendent Dr. Dusty Blakey

Director of OMB Mike Jackson

DSEA Representative Jeff Taschner

DSBA Representative John Skrobot

GACEC Representative Robert Overmiller

Delaware PTA President Dr. Terri Hodges

New Castle Co. Parent Rep. Nacole Gardner

Kent Co. Parent Rep. Loretta Greig

Sussex Co. Parent Rep. Lauren Hudson

Vo-Tech School Districts Parent Rep. Mark Dufendach

Wilmington City Council Rep. Hanifa Shabazz

New Castle Co. Executive Matthew Meyer

Kent Co. Designee Michael Petit DeMange

Sussex Co. Designee Gina Jennings

 

State Rep. Earl Jaques ran introductions.  He said there will be a lot of hard work for this committee.  He is hopeful the report will be done by January but he doubts it.  Everyone, members and audience members, introduced themselves.  Jaques said there are 22 members on the task force, not 23.  He said this task force is not just about money.  If we aren’t putting children first none of that matters.  That’s because the Charter Schools Network rep. was voted out on June 30th since the charters didn’t want to be included in the conversation.  Dr. Bunting is giving a history of past attempts at district consolidation.  See the 2002 report (I will put a link up later).

Rep. Miro said there are districts across state lines that have a district with the same number of students as all of Delaware’s public school student count.  He mentioned Fairfax County in Virginia.  Miro is opening the floor for nominations for the Chair of the Task Force.  A motion for State Rep. Earl Jaques to be the chair.  Motion seconded.  Only nomination.  Jaques is the Chair.  I am shocked (not).

There will be four sub-committees of the group:

Structure, Transportation and Manpower: led by Dr. Kevin Carson and assisted by Jaques

Financial: led by Fred Sears (think Rodel) and assisted by Mike Jackson, will deal with property assessments

Academic and Children Needs: led by Dr. Bunting and assisted by Rep. Miro

Teachers And Staff: led by Dusty Blakey, assisted by Jeff Taschner

These sub-committees will meet between meetings.  Miro invited members of the public to sign up for the sub-committees as non-voting members.  I actually signed up for the money sub-committee.  Next meeting will be at Woodbridge High School at 6:30pm on September 18th.  This will be down in Sussex County so you might want to leave early if you live up north.  October 16th meeting at William Penn High School at 6:30pm.  November 16th meeting at Caesar Rodney High School.

Jaques said this committee is not going to decide on closing schools.  Their job is to figure out if it works or doesn’t work.  I gave public comment urging more transparency for the group to which Jaques said that was his fault.  I also urged the task force to make sure this is about students first and to have the State Auditor make sure they can properly audit funds that are already in play.  Woodbridge Board Member Walter Gilefski said he is adamantly against district consolidation.  Caesar Rodney teacher Natalie Ganc said she is here to check this out.  She said she has a daughter in Smyrna School District and thinks they are awesome despite what I write about them.

Meeting adjourned.

Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Meeting Tonight At Legislative Hall

Thanks for State Rep. Kim Williams for getting the word out on this.  Yes, this task force is meeting tonight.  At Legislative Hall in the House Hearing Room on the 2nd floor.  From 6:30 to 8:00pm.  Come, give public comment.

I don’t know who the members are except for the following State Reps and Senators: State Reps. Earl Jaques and Joe Miro and Senator David Sokola and Brian Pettyjohn.  I’m guessing since Dave is biking somewhere in Illinois or Ohio at this point, he won’t be there.  That is an interesting group right there.  I’m assuming Earl is the Chair of this cabal since he is the one funning the meeting.  Come, or be square!  We know the Delaware Charter Schools Network won’t have a membership because of Rep. Williams last minute amendment on the bill.

Seriously, whose idea was it to have meetings in the middle of the Summer?  The Dept. of Education is the coordinator.  So I just answered my own question, duh!  Sorry for the late notice folks, but I literally just found out about this myself!