Margie Lopez-Waite New Head Of School At DAPSS But Is Colonial Backing Out? Conflicts Of Interest All Over The Place!

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

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Appoquinimink CFO Chuck Longfellow Is The New DOE Associate Secretary of Operations & Other DOE News

While the Delaware Department of Education has not formally announced Chuck Longfellow as their new Associate Secretary of Operations, it looks like his former home, the Appoquinimink School District, let the cat out of the bag on their website.  No start date has been announced yet and Longfellow still appears on the Appo website as their Finance Director. Continue reading

And Then There Were Four… State Board of Education Down Three Members

It appears former State Rep. Liane Sorenson and longstanding State Board member Barbara Rutt have resigned from the Delaware State Board of Education leaving four members left.  Delaware Governor John Carney has not put forth any nominations for any replacements of the vacant positions, including that of former State Board President Dr. Dennis Loftus who resigned last month as well.

A quorum for the State Board of Education is four members.  If any of the existing members do not show up to a State Board of Education meeting the board could take no action on any item at their meetings.  That would mean no regulations, no appeals, nothing.  This is who we are left with:

The Delaware General Assembly has one month left for the 149th General Assembly.  It actually ends on June 29th since the 30th is on a Saturday.  As well, the Delaware Department of Education is on the hunt for an “education associate” to replace former Executive Director Donna Johnson who resigned early last month.  The deadline for that application is June 9th.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting is the Executive Secretary of the State Board of Education but she is not considered a member of the board and has no voting privileges.  This is not good at all for the State Board.

Hot Off The Press: Regulation 225 Changes Released By Delaware Department Of Education

While the June 1st issue of the Registrar of Regulations has not come out today, the Delaware Department of Education just issued a press release on what the changes to Regulation 225 will be including a copy of those changes within the regulation. Continue reading

Charter Nepotism At ASPIRA & DAPSS

Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security will have a new Director of Instruction as of July 1st.  Deborah Panchisin resigned as an Executive Director of Instruction at Appoquinimink School District last month, effective July 1st.  Greg Panchisin is the Chief Operating Officer at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy.  Greg and Deborah Panchisin are married.  Margie Lopez-Waite is the Head of School at Las Americas ASPIRA.  Margie Lopez-Waite is the current President of DAPSS’ board.  Margie Lopez-Waite is slated to be the next Head of School at Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  Margie Lopez-Waite proudly boasted of having someone lined up to take over the position of Director of Instruction a few months ago at a Charter School Accountability Committee meeting when DAPSS was under formal review.

This is what happens when anyone is allowed to insert themselves into a leadership role at a charter school.  They cause chaos and use personal connections to hire who they want and who cares if it is a very personal connection.  Because they are two different schools, it is not against the law.  But it is certainly a manipulative and scummy move.  Please continue to tell me this is “for the students”.  Margie Lopez-Waite played the Charter School Accountability Committee and the State Board of Education.  And Secretary Bunting.  And they fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The Panchisins make a combined income of $245,000 in their current roles.  Deborah Panchisin makes $136k at Appoquinimink.  Greg Panchisin makes $109k at ASPIRA.  Say she gets a pay cut for her role at DAPSS.  They would still most likely be making a combined income well over $200k.  I imagine that handling instruction for 200 students as opposed to many more at Appo would be less work.  Less stress.

This is Delaware…

Delaware Teachers Will Have To Work Extra Hours To Make Up For Snow Days This Year

Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education voted to forgive one snow day this year.  For Delaware public school teachers, they are required to work 188 days a year.  With the forgiveness of one day, that number comes down to 187.  But many schools had at least five snow days or more this year due to the winter storms.  Even though two of those snow days were State of Emergency issued by Governor John Carney, Secretary Bunting only put forth one forgiveness day to the State Board.

As a result, teachers could have extra days after the school year.  There are other ways teachers could make up that time according to DSEA President Mike Matthews:

How snow buyback works is if a district needs to make up 21 hours (or three days) then the District can choose how that’s done (usually in consult with their local union and School board). Maybe they will add one day to the teacher year and have the staff make up 14 hours of APPROVED outside-the-regular-school day activities like staying after to volunteer at a family literacy night or maybe they will count that IEP meeting that happened before or after school as make up time. The state requires that every employee keep a log of their time to show they worked to make up those days lost.

Depending on contracts, some teachers could use personal hours to make up for that lost time according to Matthews.

For Delaware public school students, most districts and charters exceed the 1,060 hours students must attend school for each year.  Some have already canceled a day off meant for professional development for teachers to make up for that lost time.  So it is not anticipated that students will have their school year extended.

Sussex Montessori School Approved To Open In 2019

The Delaware State Board of Education unanimously approved the charter school application for the Sussex Montessori School this evening with a 6-0 vote.  The second charter school in Sussex County will open at the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year.  However, there were some conditions for the approval and should the charter school not meet those conditions, their charter would be revoked.

The two big conditions dealt with student enrollment and an actual facility.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the charter school must have 80% of their enrollment by May 1st, 2019.  As well, they must have an actual facility in place.  Currently, the school has not made a firm decision on a building or even an actual location in Sussex County.

The enrollment decision could be tricky.  In the past, as was seen in the case of Delaware Design-Lab High School and Freire Charter School in 2015, they were not at their 80% enrollment numbers by May 1st of 2015, a mere four months before they opened.  This caused both to go under formal review.  While they met those numbers and escaped charter revocation, they did go through the formal review process first.  Bunting’s decision to revoke the charter if that 80% is not met caused Delaware Charter School Network Executive Director Kendall Massett to immediately question the decision.  I will have to check Delaware state code on this one!

This will be the second Montessori charter school in Delaware.  First State Montessori Academy, located in downtown Wilmington, opened in 2014.

Governor Carney Signs Diploma Bill In Heartfelt Ceremony

Delaware Governor John Carney’s office was packed at 1:30pm today when parents, students, school employees, and advocates came to watch him sign HS1 for House Bill #287, the diploma bill.

State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Nicole Poore thanked everyone for all their hard work on the bill.  Both were close to crying with joy as they explained how much this bill will mean to this special class of exceptional students.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting thanked everyone for their contributions to the bill.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and DSEA Legislative Liason Kristin Dwyer talked about how they approached Williams and Poore about the bill.  Woodbridge Special Education Director and Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Group Chair Michele Marinucci said she has waited twenty years for this bill to become law.

But the best part was listening to the students who will benefit from this bill.  Hearing the joy in their hearts as they thanked the room for their chance to get a diploma made all the battles with this bill worth it.  One of Carney’s aides said there hasn’t been this many people in his office since the budget bill passed last July!  Even Carney was very moved about the response to his signing the bill.  He even joked that he wants the ability of the Spec Ed Strategic Plan’s Advisory Committee to get along to come to Legislative Hall!

I’ve been to a few bill signings in my day but this was easily the best!  Good things do happen in education.  I was happy to fight for this bill and report on it as much as I did.  No students will work harder than these awesome kids and they deserve it!  Today was a great example of the a wrong being fixed for the benefit of all- students, schools, and businesses.  Today, I was proud to be a Delawarean and even prouder to see this bill become law.

The bill will allow students with the most extreme disabilities to earn a diploma with modified standards in lieu of a certificate of attendance.  This became a huge issue when some of these students would fill out job applications and couldn’t check the box about having a diploma.  Many businesses in Delaware lost the chance to hire these hard workers because of that.  But more important, it was missed opportunities for these students.  Truly a blessed day at Legislative Hall!

Carney & Bunting Announce Teacher Advisory Council But Violate FOIA With First Meeting Today

**UPDATED**, 4:36pm: I was informed by the Governor’s Office this is a public meeting.  With that being said, they are in open violation of Delaware law.

It wouldn’t be Delaware without yet another council.  But this one takes the cake because no sooner does Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting announce this but the first meeting is today.  To assume this decision was made today would be foolhardy because the teachers would have been given advance notice to attend this meeting.  I don’t know when the teachers were given their notice, but I can tell you it did not appear on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar until 3/23.  Today is 3/27.  Delaware FOIA law states all public notices of meetings must be up seven days prior to that public meeting.  I don’t look at that calendar every day.  The last time I looked at it was on 3/22 and I did not see it on there.

The below picture is from the posted agenda:

This is my issue with this.  There is a reason we have that seven-day law.  Not a rule, a law.  Every other state agency who had meetings or committee meetings postponed due to last week’s snowstorm reposted agendas.  But four days, for something brand new, is not acceptable.  The DOE and Carney’s Office could have rescheduled this first meeting.  But no, they announce it the day of with little to no disregard they are violating state law.  Had I known this was an actual public meeting (which was not announced in the DOE’s below press release), I would have gone to it.  But instead, I see an email from the Governor’s Office stating it is.

What was the criteria for the selection of teachers?  Does DSEA know about this?  While I always feel teachers having a louder voice is important, I do NOT like the fact this was just announced today (or on Friday if you want to be technical).  And where is the Parent Advisory Council?  How come parents are always left out of important education policy decisions?  I guess our voices don’t matter as much.  We just have to deal with the results of these education policy decisions…

I would file a FOIA complaint about this meeting with no agenda just being announced today, but it is a backdoor meeting and not open to the public.  FOIA only applies to public meetings.  Which Bunting and Carney don’t seem to want… 

Maybe I should file a FOIA complaint.  Since the meeting is going on, let’s see, NOW.

Council will gather feedback from educators statewide, increase the voice of teachers in policy decisions

DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney and Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education, announced on Tuesday the establishment of a new Teachers Advisory Council to gather the feedback of educators from across the state.

Secretary Bunting invited two teachers from each of the state’s 19 school districts and six charter school educators to join the group, which will facilitate communication, contribute to solutions, and help increase the voice of teachers in policy decisions. The group will meet bi-monthly to discuss a variety of issues affecting teachers.

“Educators work on the front lines helping prepare Delaware’s children for the future,” said Governor Carney. “We are committed to transforming the Department into a true support agency to help schools and educators better serve their students. This new advisory council will help ensure that we are listening to educators every step of the way as we make policy decisions that affect the classroom. Thank you to the educators who are participating, and Dr. Bunting and our team at the Department of Education for convening this group.”

“This is an opportunity for me to hear directly from those who work closest with our children and often feel the most direct effects of our policy decisions,” said Secretary Bunting.

Teachers participating on the new advisory council were recommended by their superintendents or the Delaware Charter School Network for the voluntary role. Secretary Bunting has asked each to share his or her personal feelings as an individual rather than serve as a representative of a district or charter school’s position on an issue.

This group is in addition to the Teacher of the Year Advisory Council, which Secretary Bunting also meets with bi-monthly.

 

Educators participating in the new advisory council include:
  • Kristyn Bradford of Lake Forest North Elementary in Lake Forest School District
  • Seth Buford of Milford High School in Milford School District
    Shorel Clark of Brittingham Elementary School in Cape Henlopen School District
  • Marisa Clarke of Central Elementary in Seaford School District
  • Guy Cooper of Providence Creek Academy charter school
  • Luke Crossan of Waters Middle School in Appoquinimink School District
  • Todd Cushman of Delmar Middle School in Delmar School District
  • Chelsea Darczuk of East Side Charter School
  • Robert Edmondson of Seaford Middle School in Seaford School District
  • Catherine (Katy) Evans of Sunnyside Elementary School in the Smyrna School District
  • Christina Gallo of Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest School District
  • Shelby Gordon of Bunker Hill Elementary School in Appoquinimink School District
  • Emily Green of Caesar Rodney High School in Caesar Rodney School District
  • Robert Harrod of Cape Henlopen High School in Cape Henlopen School District
  • Matt Hoopes of Concord High School in Brandywine School District
  • Shelley Hovanec of Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center in Woodbridge School District
  • Michelle Howard of Delmar High School in Delmar School District
  • Lesley Louder of Dover High School in Capital School District
  • Tina Lykens of POLYTECH High School in POLYTECH School District
  • Jennifer MacDonald of Smyrna High School in Smyrna School District
  • Nathalie Melvin of South Dover Elementary School in Capital School District
  • Phyllis Mobley of Harlan Elementary School in Brandywine School District
  • Elaine Norris of Mispillion Elementary School in Milford School District
  • Petra Palmer of Delcastle High School in New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
  • Michael Paoli of Hodgson High School in New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
  • Sarah Polaski of Christiana Middle School Academy in Christina School District
  • Moraima Reardon of Woodbridge High School in Woodbridge School District
  • Lisa Richardson of Millsboro Middle School in Indian River School District
  • Matthew Sabol of William Penn High School in Colonial School District
  • Dara Savage of Early College High School charter school
  • Cameron Sweeney of POLYTECH High School in POLYTECH School District
  • Crystal Thawley of Sussex Technical High School in Sussex Technical School District
  • Elizabeth Van Aulen of Wilson Elementary School in Christina School District
  • Anthony Varrato of Sussex Technical High School of Sussex Technical School District
  • Kim Weber of Welch Elementary in Caesar Rodney School District
  • Leigh Weldin of Conrad School of Sciences in Red Clay Consolidated School District
  • Karen Willey of Sussex Academy charter school
  • Jill Young of Lord Baltimore Elementary in Indian River School District
  • Stacie Zdrojewski of Red Clay Consolidated School District Office

The Teacher Advisory Council will meet on Tuesday, March 27th from 4:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. at the Collette Education Resource Center Conference Room, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover.

Proposal Floating To Have State Board Use Charter Performance Framework For Potential State Takeover Of School Districts

All hell broke loose at Smyrna High School’s auditorium tonight.  The Chair of the School District Consolidation Task Force talked about a recommendation for state takeover of struggling school districts. Continue reading

Delaware Department Of Education Salaries Over $100,000

As per the Delaware Department of Education website, the DOE employs 241 people. 66 of them make over $100,000 based on a Freedom of Information Act request I submitted to them on February 28th.  This is eight more than what the News Journal reported four years ago.  At that time, the DOE had extra employees as part of their limited Race To The Top federal grant. Continue reading

State Board Saves The Day For Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

The State Board of Education, with a 5-0 vote and 1 abstention, declared Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security will not close.  The State Board’s vote gives DAPSS another year to prove themselves.  But there are new conditions.

The Charter School Accountability Committee recommended the school stay open for another year as long as they have a student enrollment of 200 students by May 1st, along with other conditions including utilizing their partnership with the Colonial School District.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting agreed with CSAC’s recommendation with many revisions.  She agreed with everything the CSAC recommended but wanted to know by June 29th if Colonial or Las Americas ASPIRAS would help to fill vacant staff positions and a transition plan should the school choose to make Colonial it’s .  This must be in agreement with Colonial.  If the board doesn’t meet all their conditions by June 29th, their charter will automatically be revoked.  Bunting wants more transparency with the whole process.  She also wants all teachers to be certified and the charter handed back to the Delaware DOE by mid-2019 so they can begin the transition to Colonial.  Bunting had a total of eight conditions.

State Board President Dennis Loftus requested monthly reports to the State Board.  His biggest concern was, if the school should close, that students would have enough time to transition to different schools by the new school year.  State Board member Wali Rushdan said he was satisfied with Bunting’s recommendation and this allayed many of his concerns about the staff being certified and highly qualified.  He expressed the need for a strategic plan, one of Bunting’s recommendations.  Executive Director Donna Johnson asked about the recommendation concerning Colonial and ASPIRA helping out with staffing vacancies.  Charter School Office Director Denise Stouffer clarified they would receive support by those highly qualified instructors from Colonial or ASPIRA.  Loftus wanted to make it clear that DAPSS would either transition to Colonial for charter authorization or they would cease to exist.  What happens if Colonial changes their mind?

I predicted this would be the outcome but I was happy to see Secretary Bunting add additional recommendations.

 

Diploma Bill Released From House Education Committee

The first battle for HS1 for House Bill #287 was won today as the Delaware House Education Committee released it from committee.  This puts the special education legislation on the Ready list for a full House vote.

All were in favor of the release except for State Rep. Deb Heffernan who voted no and State Rep. Stephanie Bolden who abstained.  There was a great deal of discussion about the bill and who exactly it represents among Delaware special education students.  Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the Delaware Department of Education, attempted to answer these questions to committee members.  The diploma with modified standards would apply to a very small population of Delaware students, approximately 1% of them.  These are students with severe disabilities that affect their ability to perform relative to their peers.

Currently, these students receive a “certificate of performance”.  Which means they are not allowed to check up the Diploma box on job applications.  They are unable to have the opportunity to apply for many jobs.  For parents of these children, as so aptly put by parent John Young, it is a resignation for their children that is very difficult to accept.

Much of the conversation was about the gap group of special education students between those this would apply to and those who receive a high school diploma.  To qualify for this bill, you have to be approved by your IEP team to take the alternative state assessment.  But that is only a little over 1% of Delaware students.  Our special education numbers hover around 15-16%.  Some of those students who do qualify for the Smarter Balanced Assessment have a difficult time passing rigorous high school courses and are unable to graduate.  Many legislators wanted to see numbers from the Delaware DOE on this.

One public comment, given by Robert Overmiller, said this bill would be lying to these students.  The Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens, of which Overmiller is a member, had public comment from member Kathie Cherry.  She felt it was important to note that Overmiller’s views on the bill did not reflect the overwhelming majority of the council who are in support of the bill.  While I do agree with Overmiller on many education issues, I felt his opposition to this bill was unfair but he is certainly entitled to his opinion.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting gave the DOE’s approval of the bill, as did Delaware Autism, the Delaware Association of School Administrators, the Delaware School Boards Association, and parents.

This is an important victory for this bill.  It still has a long way to go but I like the track it is going in.

Governor Carney’s “Invest In Public Education” Tour At Delaware Schools This Week

Governor Carney is hitting the road this week up and down the state to different schools to drum up support for some of his proposed education initiatives in the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.  Each school he visits will have a different focus.  Those areas are Opportunity Grants, Investing In Educators, Better Schools, Math Coaches, and Early Education & The Delaware STARS program.  As well, Carney and Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a Facebook Live event on Tuesday, February 27th.  Which schools is he going to?  Find out here! Continue reading

Delaware DOE FAILS To Release 2016-2017 Bullying Report Required By Delaware Law

The Delaware Department of Education has not released the state law required annual bullying report for the 2016-2017 school year.  As per Title 14 of Delaware State Code:

(4) The Department of Education shall prepare an annual report, which must include a summary of all reported and all substantiated incidences of bullying, a summary of the information gathered under paragraph (b)(2)f. of this section, and the results of audits conducted under paragraph (d)(4) of this section. The Department shall post the report required by this subsection on its website.

I reached out to the Delaware DOE about this a month ago and received a response from the Public Information Officer, Alison May, that it “should be” released at the end of the month.  Here we are, a month later, and no report.  Which would have put this after the choice window closed in the beginning of January.  How can parents make accurate and informed school choice decisions for their children without information like this?  Bullying is a very big concern for many parents and it helps to know the numbers for these in Delaware schools.  That is, assuming they are reported with fidelity.  I recently heard a tale of a high school principal who took a stack of discipline referrals and put them in a shredder without acting on them.

I took a look at earlier years to see when those reports were released:

2015-2016: 11/29/2016

2014-2015: 9/14/2015

2013-2014: 9/10/2014

2012-2013: 11/6/2013

2011-2012: 9/25/2012

2010-2011: 11/5/2011

So why hasn’t the Delaware Dept. of Education released this report yet?  Is there some type of issue?  The year with a report issued at the latest date in the next school year was the 2015-2016 report.  Here we are two and a half months after that date, in Mid-February, and no report.

I checked into other required reports that haven’t come out from the DOE yet.  We have yet to see the annual report on Teen Dating Violence.  I have to wonder what is going at the DOE under Secretary Bunting’s command.  I know they are going through a “reorganization” but they are still required to comply with Delaware law.  Annual reports need to be released in a timely fashion.  I shouldn’t have to be some citizen watchdog writing about this stuff.  I expect to be able to go to the DOE website and find what I’m looking for.  I don’t mind doing that but I would rather they just do the right thing to begin with.  I would prefer to write about a report instead of a lack of finding one.  So what is the repercussion for the DOE not following state code on this?  There is none.  There is absolutely no accountability except for maybe the Governor calling Bunting and saying “Why am I reading about this on Kevin’s blog?  Get the damn report out!” and Bunting saying “Yes sir”.  There is no mechanism in Delaware to oversee these kind of things and alert the state agency about not following state law.  When it comes to education, I guess that’s me.  And people wonder why I seem upset sometimes and claim I never do some due diligence before I post stuff.

 

Live From Delaware Joint Finance Committee: Delaware DOE Hearing!

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee is hearing from the Delaware Department of Education for their FY2019 budget at this very moment! Continue reading

Delaware DOE To Face Joint Finance Committee Tomorrow

The Delaware Department of Education will present their FY2019 budget to the Delaware Joint Finance Committee tomorrow on Thursday, February 8th at 1pm.  With a projected budget surplus for the next fiscal year, the Delaware DOE will assuredly want more of that money.  The problem is everyone and their mother wants a chunk of that change!  Will they get it?

Last year, in the midst of the budget crisis of 2017, the Joint Finance Committee had tons of questions for Secretary Bunting.  Will history repeat itself or will the JFC relax a bit with a projected surplus?  I will be there, reporting live from Legislative Hall!

Is This The Real Reason For Regulation 225?

A big head’s up to Alby over at Delaware Liberal for tipping me off to a New York Times article from January 10th!  While Delawareans up and down the state have been scratching their heads over Regulation 225, an anti-discrimination measure for trans-gender students, the true motive behind the controversial regulation may have been in front of our eyes the entire time! Continue reading

Former DAPSS Board President Rips School & Kendall Massett To Shreds While Margie Lopez-Waite Pleads To Keep School Open

In her resignation letter, former Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security Board of Directors President Sherese Brewington-Carr expressed a desire for the charter school to close.   As well, she opened a can of extreme whoop-ass on Delaware Charter School Network Executive Director Kendall Massett.  Five days later, the school and board went through their first meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee and went through a very intense meeting.  Las Americas Aspiras Academy Head of School Margie Lopez-Waite lambasted the school in the meeting while begging CSAC to keep the school open another year. Continue reading

Regulation 225 Meeting Draws HUGE Crowd With No Substantive Changes But Some Bizarre Comments

At Del-Tech in Dover last evening, anywhere from 250-300 people showed up for a meeting on the highly controversial Regulation 225.  Some of what I saw defied explanation.  But what I saw this morning could bring the whole thing to a crashing halt! Continue reading