I warned them. Many times. Sit at the table and you will be on the table. The Delaware State Education Association was swallowed whole. By who? Continue reading
I was looking at various polls I’ve put on here over the past couple of years and I was astonished at some of the results of them! In some cases we were completely wrong! These were basically straw polls I conducted over the past year or two. Continue reading
A month ago, I posted some articles about a far right-wing group called Project Veritas. I didn’t know much about them but their videos intrigued me. I gave the Delaware State Education Association a hard time and that may not have been very fair on my part. Today, when I read an article by Cris Barrish with WHYY, DSEA President Mike Matthews impressed me a lot! The article was about Senate Bill 234, which passed the Senate yesterday and will be heard in the House Education Committee in the next few weeks, if not sooner.
Mike Matthews, president of the Delaware State Education Association that represents teachers and other school employees, said crimes and violations like those cited in this article spurred his union’s lawyer to work with state education officials, attorneys and others to craft the legislation.
I remember talking to Mike about some of these horrific crimes that were making the media such as Karen Brooks in Smyrna. He was as disgusted as I was. A few years ago, Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf came out with a similar bill but this one was much better. I firmly believe DSEA’s role in the writing of Senate Bill #234 made it a much stronger bill.
Matthews said the DSEA “strongly supports” the bill because it could prevent the ability of child abusers to “bounce around’’ to different school districts with their teaching license intact while a serious allegation goes through a copious investigative process at the district level. The bill would also provide extensive due process to protect teachers who are unfairly accused by students, parents or other faculty, he said.
Amen Mike! We don’t want ANY teacher or educator milking the system when they are abusing kids. My take on teachers like this? They shouldn’t be anywhere near children or teenagers. But at the same time, we don’t want to necessarily punish the innocent. Unfortunately, there have been situations where teachers have been victim to false claims.
“It clarifies the process that I think maybe has been muddied for some time,” Matthews said. “It kind of separates this idea that the employer, the district and board, has to take action before [the state can take action] to revoke or suspend an educator’s license when there are allegations of a serious crime.”
My take on this? Most districts or charters don’t necessarily want the publicity when things go down. If there is an arrest, they can’t help it. What happens when an investigation is a stall tactic? Forcing the state to take action tells the district or charter- “we know this is going on and we will take action when you won’t!”
“The bill takes necessary steps to remove those educators if there is clear fear of harm coming or having come to a child. I like to believe that like any other profession we are always going to have those who do not represent our profession well and need to be exited when it comes to these allegations and potential crimes.”
A fast exit!
What I didn’t foresee with this bill was how it could affect special education. Barrish wrote about this aspect of the legislation when discussing the “letters of concern” portion of it.
The bill also has a provision that could apply when the state determines that no violation has occurred which warrants disciplinary action, but that “an act or omission” by the teacher is a “matter of concern.” Such a concern could be that the teacher creates inadequate Individualized Education Programs for students who are identified as in need of special education services.
I have very mixed thoughts on this. A teacher could write a draft IEP before the IEP team convenes to discuss it. Putting the onus on a teacher for what could be team decisions is very dangerous. Yes, the teacher is the one that writes the draft, but the team decides what is final. Any IEP team should include an administrator (usually the Principal or an Associate Principal), the school psychologist, the school special education coordinator (also called an Educational Diagnostician), the school nurse (unless the parent says it is okay for them not to attend), a special education teacher, and a primary teacher. And of course the parent or parents. When students reach 8th grade, they typically attend the IEP meetings as well. Is one teacher out of a whole IEP team the only one that should get a “letter of concern” if the school winds up getting sued for not following an IEP? Or writing a bad one? This could open a huge can of worms. I have always told parents, do not sign an IEP unless you are satisfied with it. There is nothing preventing you from doing so. And if you find the IEP isn’t working, you can always request another IEP meeting to revise it.
Now when it comes to teachers not following very specific parts of an IEP, such as not having the student do every other math problem as an example, that is a different matter. If a teacher willfully doesn’t follow what is written in an IEP, I can’t defend that. I may need to see more on this part. The big question would be what happens if a parent sues a charter or district over special education matters. Would those “letters of concern” become discoverable evidence? Would the district or charter put themselves in a position of legal vulnerability? Or would the special education law firm have to subpoena the Delaware DOE to get those letters?
I’m going to take this time and publicly apologize to Mike Matthews for my Project Veritas articles. A DSEA email was provided to me the same day I saw Veritas’ videos. I published it without reaching out to Mike for more information. I regret that. While the email didn’t condone the actions of the subject of a Veritas video it didn’t defend it either. It was simply an internal email warning of potential Veritas spies hoping to entrap teacher union members. I was harsh on DSEA and I acknowledge that. Legislation doesn’t happen overnight and I will assume DSEA was working with the Delaware DOE on what became Senate Bill #234 long before the Veritas videos came out in May. I had no idea Veritas was going to jump on my article and put Mike in the spotlight the way they did. I remember seeing that video and gasping. Yes, I published it, but the more I found out about Veritas the more something didn’t seem quite right.
I look forward to Senate Bill #234 becoming the law of the land in Delaware! And I would hope James O’Keefe who seems to have made it a crusade to go after teacher unions can provide “fair and balanced” coverage to show the good things they are doing. But knowing O’Keefe, he would probably take the credit for it himself. That seems to be how he rolls! He can say what he will about some rogue union leaders out there, but here in Delaware, our union looks out for students as well as teachers!
After a fresh overnight look at the language of Senate Bill #234, the legislation passed unanimously in the Delaware Senate. The bill gives the Delaware Secretary of Education the authority to immediately suspend a teacher’s license in the event of an arrest for certain crimes against a child.
The bill was released from the Senate Education Committee yesterday. It was placed on the agenda for the Senate later that afternoon. During discussion of the bill, Senator Anthony DelCollo wanted some clarification on the legalese in the bill. Senator Bryan Townsend laid the bill on the table to take a second look at the language of the bill but it cleared that hurdle because no amendment was placed with the bill and went to a full Senate Vote. Today, 18 Delaware Senators voted yes on SB 234. Three were absent.
Senate Bill #234 will go to the House Education Committee. I anticipate this being placed on the agenda for next Wednesday.
Currently, the ability of the Department to take licensure action (i.e., suspension, revocation, limitation) is, in certain cases, contingent upon the public school employer first taking employment action (i.e., dismissal, termination). The Department believes that its ability, as the agency issuing professional teaching credentials to educators, to undertake licensure action should be separate from any action by the public school employer. Further, the Department seeks to expand the circumstances in which the Secretary may automatically suspend teaching credentials, specifically to include situations involving felony crimes against a children or where there is a clear and immediate danger to student safety or welfare. This bill removes the requirement of employment action before disciplinable offenses may be handled by the Department, making this licensure disciplinary structure consistent with how other licensed professions are handled in this State. The bill also creates the power to impose temporary emergency suspensions in those rare instances where a teacher poses a threat to student health, safety, or welfare. Finally, this bill creates the confidential letter of concern that is non-disciplinary and may be used in those instances where a teacher’s behavior is not in violation of the code, but indicative of a practice that is a matter of concern. These two provisions also make teacher licensure discipline more similar to other licensed professions in the State.
A piece of Delaware legislation that is out for consideration would seek to have the Delaware Secretary of Education obtain the authority to suspend a teacher’s license under certain felony crimes or a clear and immediate danger to students prior to certain actions taken by a school district or charter school. Similar to a bill Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf put out a couple of years ago, this one defines the types of felonies that could warrant the Secretary exercising this type of authority. The bill is sponsored by Senators Bryan Townsend and David Sokola and State Representatives Earl Jaques and Pete Schwartzkopf.
The synopsis of the bill is as follows: Continue reading
As I was combing through Title 14 this evening, I found something astonishing. I know of a Principal that changed a grade for a student. It looks like that Principal broke the law. I believe that Principal is retired now and who knows what the enforceability of this law is. What this means is only the very highest level in a district or charter school can change a teacher’s grade. Even on something as small as homework. The law is below. I have to wonder how much the Delaware Secretary of Education actually gets on this! Continue reading
What happens when you close one door and open another? Continue reading
Today, Delaware Governor-elect John Carney picked Indian River Superintendent Susan Bunting as the Delaware Secretary of Education when his term begins in January, 2017. This is probably the worst choice he could make and it has the potential to become ripe with scandal. Continue reading
Back in March on 2015, I made several predictions for Delaware education. I ran across this post yesterday while searching for another post. As I looked back on these predictions, I wondered if I was right or wrong. I would say I got about half right and half wrong. Some were dead on the nose while others I wasn’t even close!
Top Ten Exceptional Delaware Predictions for 2015
1. Mark Murphy is either terminated or resigns
Yes, I was absolutely right about this! By August 2015, Murphy did “resign”.
2. Mark Holodick takes his place
Nope, Dr. Steven Godowsky took his place.
3. Office of Civil Rights comes back with scathing report against Delaware
Nope, still working on it supposedly.
4. More charter schools get scrutiny over finances
Yes. Academy of Dover, Providence Creek Academy, Kuumba Academy, Delaware College Prep, whatever is in the unreleased petty cash audit, and Delaware Met.
5. At least 3 districts won’t meet the 95% benchmark for standardized test participation rates
Nope, more than 3 districts didn’t hit the 95% benchmark for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
6. Delaware parents become a force to be reckoned with education conversation
Maybe. We did get House Bill 50 passed in the House and Senate but Governor Markell vetoed the bill. Parents of students with Autism did get Senate Bill 93 passed. There were other bills that went through, but parent advocacy wasn’t as big in the General Assembly after the veto override of HB50 didn’t go through.
7. Bullying and discrimination will become BIG issues
To me, this is always a big issue. I think more awareness of discrimination happened due to the situation with cops and African-Americans over the past year. For bullying, I will have to reserve judgment until I see the report for the 2015-2016 school year.
8. More bills will be introduced AND passed to limit the power of the Delaware DOE, Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education
Not really. If anything the DOE grew more bold after Mark Murphy left. Recent months have proved that more than any other time. But in terms of the legislators, the only thing I can think of which may limit power is placing the State Board of Education under Sunset review.
9. US DOE will approve extension for teacher accountability and the Smarter Balanced Assessment
The US DOE did approve this extension for the 2015-2016 school year, but as I wrote yesterday, this year is another matter.
10. The four Wilmington school districts will become two and Brandywine will cause major problems during the process
Absolutely not! I can’t recall if the WEAC recommendations came out when I wrote this, but nothing has happened at this point in terms of redistricting. Brandywine and Colonial did bow out of sending their Wilmington students to Red Clay though, so in a sense it was kind of/sort of right. But Brandywine didn’t really cause any problems. But Colonial bowing out was a point of contention for a time.
Alright, I admit it. Asking Delaware teachers if they would consider taking a cut in their benefits and pensions probably wasn’t the smartest move in the book, but many of you came out in droves to respond. Granted, no administrators, principals, or superintendents replied. The article went over like a resounding thud. But I challenge every single teacher in the state: if not benefits or pension, what do you view as wasted money in our schools? And please don’t say “nothing”. We spend a billion dollars on education in Delaware and that’s just from the state. We also get federal money and local funds from school taxes. While other states may laugh and say “that’s it?”, we are a small state with less than a million people and about 133,000 kids in public education. Since this could be a hot topic with certain folks, feel free to post anonymously on this!
Since I just got home from work and grocery shopping and I’m dead to the world now, just a few updates on recent stuff. They must have a huge cricket crisis going on in the Appoquinimink School District, because that’s all I’ve heard from them since I dropped the special education funding bomb on them last week. I did have an interesting comment on the “Unsustainable” article that had me wracking my brain all day. Delaware school districts and charters might be thinking I’ve slowed down on them and my target of the month is Appo. Wrong! I have a ton of articles that will be coming out in the next couple of weeks. One is about an interesting superintendent situation going on in one of our school districts. That one led to a VERY interesting board meeting last month. Dr. Mark Holodick is winning the “who will be the next Secretary of Education in Delaware poll”, followed by Susan Bunting. Every one seems to be playing pin the tail on the auditor in the past week and everyone wants to know when Tom Wagner is actually going to, you know, do some audits. Kenny Rivera is now the Vice-President of the Red Clay Board of Education and Michael Piccio was voted in as the President. The State Board is having their monthly snooze fest on Thursday. Expect to hear some type of hip-hop hooray about the latest Smarter Balanced Assessment results but not the actual final scores cause they aren’t done yet. Both the Christina and Red Clay Boards of Education passed resolutions to suspend the WEIC timeline which will be echoed by WEIC at a meeting on July 26th. On Wednesday, WEIC will be honored by the Progressive Democrats of Delaware as their Education Heroes of the Year. So Elizabeth Lockman gets a two-peat! Jack Markell hasn’t signed the teacher evaluation bill yet, House Bill 399. I guess he was too busy not filing to run for Congress (okay, I never said I bat home runs every time)! Delaware Military Academy wants to build a sports dome, but not with any funding from the state. They said it will all be from private donations. Apparently Chief of Instruction Michael Watson at the Delaware DOE has been “chosen” to be on John Carney’s “transition team”. How very presumptuous of you Mr. Carney. Today is State Rep. Trey Paradee’s birthday so wish him a Happy Birthday on Facebook. I did hear back from EFIC about their epic fail, which is the Education Funding Improvement Committee’s final report. Apparently “their work isn’t done yet” after having a due date of March 31st which was extended until June 30th. Publius disappeared from Kilroy’s Delaware about a month ago and hasn’t been seen since. He said something about the sign is in the yard. It makes me very curious why he would feel he shouldn’t comment “anonymously” on a blog anymore. Especially in light of a recent vacancy in Dover (totally speculating on this one folks). Unless…
This won’t happen for another six months, but I thought I would get the speculation game going. I’ve heard a few names bandied about. Some who would qualify and others who would not. Even though Senator Bryan Townsend introduced what I like to call the “Murphy Bill”, to prevent former gym teachers from becoming the State Secretary of Education here in little old Delaware, there are certain qualifications the nomination has to have. The current state law states any candidate must have at least five years in teaching and administration, with experience in both. This rules out Mike Matthews for example. He would make a very fine Secretary of Education, but unfortunately, he isn’t qualified. So could someone like Capital Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton qualify if he has only been an administrator for about a year? Yes, he was a teacher way back when and he was also a Principal at Kirk Middle School and others. It does not have to be a current or even a former Superintendent.
So who do you think will be the next Delaware Secretary of Education picked by the next Governor? For the purposes of this poll, I left out names I’ve heard who would not be able to be confirmed by the Delaware Senate because of existing state law.
The most interesting part about House Bill 350 isn’t the bill itself, but who the Delaware House of Representatives main sponsor is: Pete Schwartzkopf. I usually don’t see his name as a main sponsor on education bills which leads me to believe this bill is coming from Governor Markell himself. I could be wrong on that, but it is a hunch. In any event, there is very interesting changes to the language in the Delaware state code for this pending legislation. I have a feeling the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) will not like the change from “shall” to “may” for reinstatement of a teacher’s license if a teacher is found not guilty of an offense that would cause their license to be suspended. Some of the changes are common sense changes, but others are a bit unpredictable.
The one area teachers may have an issue with is the publication of the license suspension. What if the charges are dropped or a no guilty verdict happens. With the name published already, that could certainly cause an issue when they go to look for another position in their own district or another district. Just having a name on that list could severely damage a teacher’s reputation, especially in a state as small as Delaware. The bill also seems to give the Secretary of Education more authority and decreases the role of the local school district in making decisions.
The next stop is the House Education Committee. I would love to hear what teachers think of the changes in House Bill 350.
The never-ending saga of House Bill 50 and opt out marches on. Since a couple of days before Christmas, it has grabbed a lot of headlines. When the US DOE issued letters to states about potential funding cuts for opt-out, I knew the conversation would heat up fast. Here is a chronology of links to the latest on the override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 in Delaware, with a few other kernels thrown in:
I’m still trying to wrap my head around this one. In a perfect world, both the Delaware Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education would be elected officials. As it is, we have our school punishing, teacher bashing, reform loving, and parent disrespecter Governor Jack Markell picking all his top education posts. But when I saw Regulation 1595 on the agenda for the State Board of Education, I was somewhat shocked.
I would love to know what folks think of this regulation and how the State Board is giving up authority over leader certification programs. I wonder if any well-known and controversial teacher companies may have contributed to this…
But wait, it’s not over yet. I have never seen the below document attached to any regulations…
I just found this in Delaware’s Title 14 which seems to grant the Delaware Department of Education a great deal of power and authority.
- 1606 State Board waiver authority.
The Department of Education shall have the authority to waive or suspend provisions of the Delaware Code in the implementation of programs authorized under this chapter; provided however, that such waiver or suspension of a provision of the Code shall not result in an increased financial obligation to the State. The Department of Education is also authorized to waive or suspend its rules and regulations in order to maximize the projected impact of programs authorized under this chapter. The State Board shall be advised of any waiver of a regulation it must promulgate or approve, and may deny such waiver within 30 days or by the next regularly scheduled meeting, whichever is earlier, of the waiver’s approval by the Department. (69 Del. Laws, c. 464, § 1; 71 Del. Laws, c. 180, § 93.)
Can anyone tell me if this has ever happened and what the hell it means?
The Delaware DOE must love charter school minor modifications. An approved charter school can request a one-year delay or even choose an alternative educator evaluation system with a minor modification request. But why doesn’t the State Board of Education have any say with minor modifications? They used to. This was changed with Regulation 497, which went into effect on November 1st, 2013. Prior to that, both the Secretary and the State Board had approval authority. The Secretary would make their decision and then submit it to the State Board for concurrence:
Decisions for minor modifications to a charter may be decided by the Secretary
[, with the
concurrence of the State Board of Education,]within 30 working days from the date the
application was filed, unless the timeline is waived by mutual agreement of the Secretary and the
applicant, or in any case where the Secretary, in the sole discretion of the Secretary, deems that it
would be beneficial to either refer the matter to the Accountability Committee or to seek advice
from the State Board prior to deciding the matter.
Regulation 497 did away with this. It allowed Mark Murphy, in one of his final acts, to approve many charter schools for an alternate teacher evaluation. It also allowed charter schools that were approved to get a one-year delay in opening to get a stay of formal review by Mark Murphy. The Delaware Met used this “get of jail free card” in April 2014 because they didn’t have sufficient enrollment to open by August, 2014. The Secretary is one person. One person should not be deciding “minor” decisions which can have a huge impact on students and staff at a school. I think the 148th General Assembly needs to clearly definite what is considered a major and minor modification for a charter during their next legislative session. And they should also realign this so the State Board of Education also has to approve both a major AND minor modification.
Apparently, this topic actually came up tonight at the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission. But it’s been looked at before. Way back in the early years of the 21st Century, the 141st General Assembly passed House Resolution #54. This resolution directed the Secretary of Education to do a feasibility study on the possibility of consolidating all the school districts in Kent and Sussex. The Secretary did it, and, well, look what happened…
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ARTICLE I HAVE EVER WRITTEN AND ACTION NEEDS TO BE TAKEN NOW!!!!
Now Exceptional Delaware has yet another place to look for information and changes the Delaware Department of Education are trying to squeak into state regulation. I have found the actual regulation for the Delaware School Success Report in the monthly Delaware Register of Regulations for September. It is still a proposed regulation but the deadline for public comment is 10/1/15. I’m glad I found yet another source of information for me to be on top of in this state. I’m going to have come up with some kind of parent guide to navigate through all this stuff in case I ever become incapacitated or die or whatever.
Yes, this regulation already has the participation rate penalty as part of the regulation, even though it was never on the actual ESEA waiver the public was able to view and comment on. For the calendar of events/public hearing notices in the registrar, it has a listing of what the options are for the public to comment on a regulation or any hearings to attend based on the regulation. For all of them EXCEPT Regulation 103, it states what the regulation is and what the public can do. For Regulation 103, all it says is:
It was announced today in every single Delaware media outlet that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is “stepping down” and Dr. Steven Godowsky, the former Superintendent of the New Castle County V0cational Technical School District, will fill the role on an interim basis pending a special hearing with the Delaware Senate to accept Governor Markell’s nomination on October 20th. Who is he?
According to his LinkedIn account and his biography with the University of Delaware, this would not be his first rodeo with the Department of Education. He served as a Supervisor there from 1977-1982 after serving a short stint in the former Alfred I. DuPont school district as a special education teacher. He ran the Exceptional Children/Special Education division before becoming returning to teaching at New Castle County Vo-Tech. In 2000, he was appointed Assistant Superintendent and three years later he became the Superintendent, a role he served faithfully for the next eight years. Upon retiring in 2011, Dr. Godowsky served as a Supervisor the University of Delaware’s Delaware Academy for School Leadership (DASL).
I ran across him for the first time from the DOE’s Charter School Accountability Committee final report for Gateway Lab School’s charter renewal last fall. He helped the school to overcome the odds when their charter was renewed last December after the CSAC recommended their charter not be renewed. He also assisted the Pencader Business School Board of Directors in board governance training at the former charter school in 2012.
As a former Superintendent of the Year in Delaware, Godowsky also served as President of the Delaware Chief School Officers Administration (now called DASA) in 2008.
It sounds like Godowsky has decades of experience with Delaware education, and I am particularly impressed he has a very rich background in special education and is willing to fight for students with disabilities, as evidenced by his work with Gateway.
New Castle County Vo-Tech Education Associate Danny Rufo tweeted the following statement earlier today:
While some may lament his time with the Vision 2015 workshop, and their ties to Rodel, let’s be honest and face facts. Most of the higher-ups in Delaware school districts and charters have spent some sort of time on one of these committees. It does not mean they are “bought and paid for” by Rodel, especially in the pre-Race To The Top years.
I definitely think he is much higher up the education ladder in experience compared to Mark Murphy. It has become more than obvious what we don’t need in a Secretary of Education, so this is a step in the right direction. Nothing against Dr. Godowsky, but I really hope the Delaware Senate asks him many questions in regards to the future of Delaware education. When Mark Murphy passed the nomination, the questions from the Senate were very limited in scope. We must not make the same mistake again. I feel confident, based on his vast experience as well as ringing endorsements from several Delaware legislators, he could be the right man for the job!