State Rep. Paul Baumbach Asking For Ouster With Pending Legislation Allowing State Board of Education To Remove Local School District Board Members

I’ve seen some insane legislation in my day.  This one takes the cake.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach has put forth legislation which would give the State Board of Education the power to remove a sitting school district board member.  Way to take the local out of local control and hand it over to the state there Paul!  Are you kidding me?  I wish this was some horrible joke, but it isn’t.  How would Baumbach feel if some board could take away HIS power?  This guy is begging to be primaried and removed from office.  You can’t even make this stuff up!

As the crappy legislation states, if someone had a beef with a publicly elected school board member, the State Board of Education could remove that publicly elected school board member with a 60% vote.  The irony of a non-elected board getting the authority to remove an elected school board member should give you chills at night.  And of course the Governor would have to have final approval on it.

Note this legislation does not include charter school boards.  They aren’t elected either.  They are appointed.  God forbid if they are accused of wrongdoing.  Let that non-elected board take care of their own.

I don’t know if Baumbach slipped on a banana peel.  Word on the street is Senator David Sokola is the lead Senate co-sponsor.  Which makes these Newark buddies more transparent than Saran wrap with this.  Gunning for a certain elected board member I’m sure.  Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out and who is pushing them to do this.  Yeah, I know.  And don’t play coy with me next time we chat.  I’m sure the Governor would love to sign this bill since he thinks the state can do a better job with education than local school districts.

The State Board of Education has six members right now.  Which means it would take four of them to oust a school board member.  But they should be seven, which would then take five members to do it.  See where I’m going with this folks?

As for Baumbach, I can’t believe he actually put his name to this.  What in the name of Delaware politics is he thinking?  Stop listening to the folks at the swim club Paul.  They do not form the opinions of your entire district.  You once stood against this evaporation of local control and now you want to sign it away with the WORST bill I have ever seen come across my desk.  I hope this legislation dies a quick and painful death.

State Rep. John Kowalko issued a statement on this pending legislation (seen below):

I find this legislation to be one of the most unconstitutional assaults on the rights of voters and the decisions that they have made. To suggest that an Executive branch (Governor appointed and unelected) board should have the authority to overturn the decision of the voting public disregards both separation of powers and constitutional rights of those elected. If either of the two sponsors or the agitators for such a horrible piece of legislation have a problem with individual board members (as seems to be the case here) than they should come up with a lawful process attended to by lawful entities. This is the type of overreach that causes the public to doubt the sincerity and legitimacy of the laws we create and pass. I hope the sponsors of this proposed legislation quickly withdraw this legislation.

Representative John Kowalko

With apologies, an earlier version of this story disappeared due to technical difficulties with WordPress.

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Gregory Coverdale Resigned From The State Board of Education & Other State Board News

The Delaware State Board of Education has a vacancy!  Board member Gregory Coverdale resigned before the November State Board meeting and it was announced by President Dennis Loftus at the meeting.  His term expired prior to that but he decided to continue his seat until a replacement was found.  Coverdale was unable to continue serving due to work commitments.  Chances are good Governor John Carney will wait until the new year to nominate Coverdale’s replacement.  The 149th General Assembly returns in mid-January.

The State Board of Ed has their next meeting on December 14th, at 5pm.  The big news will be the charter school renewal-palooza with five schools awaiting the big decision.  Public comment on those renewals ended today.  Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College High School, First State Montessori Academy, Sussex Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School are all up for renewal.  Delaware Secretary of Education will announce her recommendation for each school and then the State Board will vote on each school.

Other items on the agenda for the State Board meeting include an update on the State Board’s Literacy Campaign, a presentation on the DPAS Annual Report, a Regulation dealing with matching Delaware state code with Federal Law concerning visually impaired students, a Regulation about Financial Literacy and Computer Science standards, a few Regulations from the Professional Standards Board on teacher licensure, and a couple of information items about appeals between students and the Smyrna School District.

What is NOT on the agenda is Regulation 225.  For those who don’t know, the Regulation received 11,000 comments which will take some time for Secretary Bunting to review.  She did thank all who submitted public comment.  This information appeared on the agenda for the meeting on Thursday concerning Regulation 225:

The public comment period for proposed 225 Prohibition of Discrimination Regulation closed on December 4, 2017. The Department received more than 11,000 comments, which deserve careful review before a decision is made. Secretary Bunting is asking the Development Team to reconvene in January to review the comments and make recommendations for changes to the regulation. If substantive changes are made, the regulation will be published in the Register again with another 30-day public comment period before any decision on a final regulation is made.

Secretary Bunting thanks, those who shared their feedback during the formal comment period. All comments received will be posted online so the public, as well as committee members, can review them prior to the January Development Team meeting.

I expect a full house with the charter renewals so if you plan on attending I would get there early!  Good luck to Greg Coverdale in his future endeavors!

17 Who Had An Impact In 2017: State Rep. Rich Collins

The first time I heard anyone going off about what eventually became Regulation 225 was State Rep. Rich Collins. A couple of months ago, the Republican State Rep. from the 41st district lashed out against the Delaware Department of Education over the draft for the regulation. He did not like that parental rights were seemingly violated in this gender identity discrimination regulation.  Which started off more controversy in Delaware than I’ve seen in a long time. It probably got more response than opt out did. Which I find to be a crying shame cause I think, in the long run, that is a much more important issue. But I’m biased like that. Not ashamed to admit it. But I digress…

Collins fired the shot heard around Delaware. From there, the regulation continued to find many who opposed it. The final day for public comment on it was today, at 4pm. It is now in the hands of Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting. Will she approve it? Disapprove it? We will find out soon. Perhaps as early as December 14th, the next State Board of Education meeting. I would guess she will hold onto it for a little while. Or maybe Carney just wants it over as soon as possible, one way or another.

The part about Collins’ role in all this was he isn’t a state rep I’ve found to get involved in many education-related things. I guess this one hit home for him in his neck of the woods.

Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College H.S., First State Montessori, Sussex Academy and Thomas Edison All Get Renewal Recommendations But One Has Serious Conditions

All five of the Delaware charter schools have received renewal recommendations from the Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC). The State Board of Education will decide if they agree at their December 14th meeting. Anyone wishing to submit formal public comment must do so by December 8th. Everything looks good for these charters except for one of them. Which one? Continue reading “Academia Antonia Alonso, Early College H.S., First State Montessori, Sussex Academy and Thomas Edison All Get Renewal Recommendations But One Has Serious Conditions”

18 Who Will Make An Impact In 2018: Herbert Sheldon & The Board

What? Who in the world is Herbert Sheldon? Who is the Board? While you may not know this name right now unless you are very involved in Delaware education, you soon will. Why? Continue reading “18 Who Will Make An Impact In 2018: Herbert Sheldon & The Board”

Delaware Politics Explodes With Regulation 225

When Regulation 225 hit the Delaware Registrar of Regulations on November 1st, it sparked a firestorm that will get more controversial by the day.  The regulation is causing a furor among Republican groups.  Legislators are receiving phone calls and emails from constituents who are vehemently opposed to the regulation.  What is the controversy?  Continue reading “Delaware Politics Explodes With Regulation 225”

Delaware Design-Lab Is Below 65% Enrollment… Time For Formal Review?

In 2016, the Delaware State Board of Education approved a major modification request to lower their enrollment.  This year, they are supposed to be at 475 students based on that approval.  Charter schools have to be at 80% enrollment to be financially viable.  That number would be 380 for Delaware Design-Lab High School this year.  They are below 300 students according to sources.  Will Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting recommend formal review for the struggling charter school?

The dangling carrot for Design-Lab is their $10 million prize from XQ.  The school is currently interviewing positions for their three deans.  But those funds can only be used for very specific purposes.  It is not meant for salary increases for teachers.  But according to an anonymous source, the Interim Head of School (Rebecca Collins) is promising teachers increases.  How can the school afford this with their low enrollment?  Many teachers are fearing for their jobs due to the school’s low enrollment.  Since the Board of Directors ousted Dr. Joseph Mock a couple of weeks ago, a wave of parents have pulled their kids out.  Their enrollment tally was due to the Delaware Department of Education on Friday because of the annual September 30th enrollment count.

Historically, the Delaware State Board of Education has put charters on formal review for low enrollment because below 80% charters are not financially viable.  Many charters (including Design-Lab) faced this review in 2015.  They all squeaked by with higher enrollment by the time the State Board voted that July.

For a charter like Design-Lab, they had their enrollment lowered after that and still can’t get anywhere close to their approved numbers.  Many parents don’t seem to be wowed by the XQ award.  Three different leaders have been in charge in the past nine months with another new one coming on.  I did find out Rebecca Collins did step down from the board to take the interim leader role and plans to go back on the board once the new leader is in place.  But Joseph Mock was definitely fired from his position.

At the Delaware DOE, charters are overseen by the Charter School Office.  Since Denise Stouffer replaced Jennifer Nagourney in July, 2016, no charter schools have been placed on formal review.  Will Delaware Design-Lab High School be the first?

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 “Catching Up On Delaware Education And Politics”

Breaking News: Governor Carney Signs Cursive Bill! Take That Kate Gladstone!

At 2:27pm, on August 30th, Delaware Governor John Carney signed House Bill 70, which will make cursive writing mandatory instruction in all Delaware public schools beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.  The new (and old) instruction will require English and Language Arts teachers to teach cursive to students until the end of 4th grade.

So what happens next?  I imagine the State Board of Education will issue regulations based on the new law and from there the local school district and charter school boards will have to make sure it is part of the curriculum for the next school year.

As for the fierce opponent of the bill, Kate Gladstone, she will NOT be happy about this.  Ms. Gladstone travels to different states opposing cursive legislation.  Me, I write a blog.  She travels.  We all have our thing I guess.  But I don’t think Gladstone counted on the tenacity of little old Delaware.  She probably thought she could just roll over our state legislature.

Congrats to State Rep. Andria Bennett for getting this rolling again and to State Rep. Deb Hudson for bringing it for in the last legislative session.

State Board of Education Overturns Smyrna Expulsion

In another Smyrna School District expulsion case, not related to that of Student J, the Delaware State Board of Education overturned that decision.  The family filed an appeal earlier this Spring.  The Hearing Officer recommended the State Board overturn the decision.  They did so at their July 27th meeting last Thursday.

It is my most fervent hope that between this and Student J’s case, the district will take a very close look at their expulsion policies which are among the highest percentage in Delaware for school districts.  I am not against expulsion if the violation is egregious.  But any expulsion is a very serious thing and should not be taken lightly.

This issue is on my radar and it does not just apply to traditional school districts.  I find “counseling out”, where some charter schools have “talked” a parent out of keeping their child in their school to be just as unfair as an unnecessary expulsion.  I will be keeping a very close eye on these kind of situations in the upcoming school year.  If any parent feels an expulsion was unjust, I encourage them to contact me.  As J’s mother quickly became aware, I will quickly intervene and attempt to help.

To read the full story of Student J in Smyrna, click here.

2017 Not That Much Smarter Balanced Results For Delaware Show Blah Blah Blah

The Delaware Department of Education just presented the 2017 Smarter Balanced, SAT, and DCAS-Alt1 preliminary results to the Delaware State Board of Education.  Even though scores were up and down, the Department is excited by the magnificent work of… and that’s about it! As the poor guy next to me was snoring through the presentation, I listened to the whole thing.  The only thing I cared about was that every district and charter school met or exceeded the 95% participation rate.  Which means opt out rates are going down.  Which means more Delaware parents are okay with their kids being tested, catalogued, tracked, and data shared with corporate education companies.  That is nothing to celebrate.  We need opt out numbers to increase and have ALL districts and charters crack that 95% barrier and plummet down to 90% or even 0% in the event of a miracle.

To see the rigorous and vigorous results (not really, just trying to add some super pizazz here), see below.  Sorry, I just can’t take this test or the results seriously it all.  They are about as important as wrapping paper after you open a gift.

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 9: Criminal Contempt & Finale

We reach the end of our series.  A new player joins the wide cast of characters with a very important role.  And what is J’s final fate?

In the last chapter, J was getting pummeled by various state agencies: The Smyrna School District, The State Board of Education, The Delaware Department of Education, and The Delaware Department of Justice.  For allegedly calling a girl a terrorist ten months earlier.  He was up on truancy charges.  The Delaware DOE rescinded the home school certificate four days after they approved one for her.  Is this kid ever going to get a break? Continue reading “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 9: Criminal Contempt & Finale”

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 7: The Trial, The Tootsie Roll, & Patrik Williams Loses It

The story of J and his battle with the Smyrna School District continued.  After J was expelled, his mom filed an appeal with the State Board of Education.  She also had J’s criminal trial to contend with as well.  The trial was set for November 14th. Continue reading “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 7: The Trial, The Tootsie Roll, & Patrik Williams Loses It”

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 6: The HUGE Conflict Of Interest & Things Escalate

J was officially expelled from the Smyrna School District on September 21st, 2016.  But his mother was not giving up without a fight.  She told the administration this very thing at the discipline hearing two weeks before this.  So it wasn’t a shock when his mother filed an appeal with the State Board of Education.  Something happened soon after that raised serious questions as to the true intent of J’s expulsion. Continue reading “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 6: The HUGE Conflict Of Interest & Things Escalate”

Chaos At Legislative Hall In Dover

Legislative Hall was a very odd place this afternoon around 4pm.  Usually the place is bustling on a Wednesday afternoon, but since yesterday’s announcement by party leadership that no “controversial” bills would be heard until the budget is passed, it was eerily quiet.  Of course the lobbyists were milling around, but the tone was very subdued.

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee met today and added $51 million in cuts to education and healthcare for a total of $88 million cuts.  Rumors were swirling that Democrats in the House were turning on their own because they won’t vote for the budget if it includes House Bill 240, State Rep. Val Longhurst’s very weak revenue bill.  Turns out the Democrat leadership sent those legislators to the Principal’s office (aka Governor Carney) over the past couple of days.  Way to turn on your own!  And they even got a few of the Delaware labor organizations (including DSEA) to rattle those legislators cages.

The Republicans introduced a resolution to extend state services for 30 days during July if the budget doesn’t pass.  I saw Mike Jackson who runs the Office of Management and Budget briefly and asked if we had a budget.  His response…  “For now.”  Which doesn’t mean much given no one has voted on it yet.  But the epilogue language is being written.  Grant-in-aid got slashed from $51 million to $8 million so good luck to those non-profits!

Meanwhile, the House voted on House Joint Resolution #6, directing the DOE to come up with regulations surrounding gender identity issues in Delaware schools.  Reps. Dukes and Smyk asked questions about it which basically meant they were opposed to the bills.  As one observer put it, there was definitely some “transhomophobia” in the House chamber.  The bill passed the House.  Expect similar resistance in the Senate.

Two Senators were there today who hadn’t been in the latter part of last week.  Senator Bryan Townsend’s wife had a baby boy last week.  Meanwhile Senator Brian Pettyjohn had some other stuff to straighten out.

I had some good chats with some folks.  Asked some pointed questions to a few so I am hoping to find out some answers on those in the next few days.  One of them has to do with the series of articles I’ve been writing about Smyrna.  It’s kind of putting a delay on Part 6.  I am hoping the answer is positive.

Some of us talking were in agreement the State Board of Education isn’t going anywhere.  The Delaware Dept. of Education will pick up the $213,000 tab for them.  Today the Senate confirmed former Delaware Senator Liane Sorenson as an at-large member of the State Board of Education.  I met her briefly and enjoyed our conversation.  She did confirm she reads Exceptional Delaware so that is always a plus in my book!

The next two days are going to be absolutely crazy down there.  If I’m not there tomorrow, I definitely will be on Friday.  That is an education blogger MUST!  I am hoping to get more of the Smyrna series up tomorrow.  But it depends on that one answer on how I move forward with this.

Oh yeah, the Blockchain legislation, House Bill #226, passed the Delaware Senate.  I anticipate Governor Carney will sign that faster than the Flash.  And so it begins…

I can’t for the life of me figure out why they aren’t moving forward with State Rep. John Kowalko’s franchise tax for companies incorporated in Delaware.  It would raise the fee from $300 to $325.00 and would raise $43 million in revenue.  Sounds like a no-brainer, right?  The last time that happened, there were 500,000 companies incorporated in Delaware when they raised it from $275 to $300.  Opponents feared it would cause companies to leave Delaware.  Now we have around 800,000 companies incorporated in Delaware.  Bills that make common sense should sail through, but we aren’t dealing with common sense in leadership at Legislative Hall these days, so once again, I digress…

It is late June in Dover, Delaware.  62 elected officials will attempt to decide how our state is run.  I trust a handful of them.  Pray for us, rest of the United States of America.  We need your prayers more than ever!

Updated with essential article from Delaware Public Media: http://delawarepublic.org/post/jfc-eliminates-grants-nonprofits-fire-companies-senior-centers-balance-budget

Updated again, 3:29pm, 6/29/2017: This article has been corrected to reflect that there were zero no votes for Liane Sorenson’s confirmation on the State Board of Education.

HJR #6 Directs Delaware DOE & State Board To Create Regulations To Prevent Gender Identity Discrimination In Schools

Pre-filed regulation released today in Delaware’s General Assembly would have the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education to write into Delaware State Code certain provisions to prevent discrimination against students and school employees.  The House Joint Resolution, sponsored by State Rep. Deb Heffernan and State Senator Harris McDowell, states the following in the synopsis:

Directing the Delaware Department of Education, with the assistance of the Delaware State Board of Education, to promulgate regulations that prohibit discrimination in school districts’ employment practices or educational programs and activities for students on the basis of any legally-protected characteristic, including gender identity or expression.

Since the resolution is not “officially” filed, it does not appear on the list for the final House Education Committee meeting of the year, next Tuesday June 27th.  It will be read into the record today during the House’s session and would be assigned to the education committee.

Updated June 22nd, 2:30pm: Click this link for the actual text of the legislation.

 

New State Board of Education Member Dennis Loftus Will Replace Teri Quinn Gray As President

I reported earlier today Delaware Governor John Carney nominated Dr. Dennis Loftus for a seat on the Delaware State Board of Education.  This afternoon it was revealed during the Senate Executive Committee meeting prior to the vote he would become the President of the State Board of Education.  In Delaware, the Governor appoints the members of the State Board as well as the President of the board.  The board members vote for the Vice-President.  Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, the prior State Board President was selected by Delaware Governor Jack Markell in 2009, shortly after his inauguration.  The State Board of Education serves at the pleasure of the Governor.

Things just got very interesting for the State Board of Education.

 

 

Governor Carney’s Nomination For The Next State Board Of Education Member Is…

Yeah, the State Board of Education isn’t going anywhere.  Delaware Governor John Carney nominated the next person and this nomination is being considered by the Senate Executive Committee tomorrow.  Who is it? Continue reading “Governor Carney’s Nomination For The Next State Board Of Education Member Is…”

Delaware State Board Of Education May Survive After All…

Last month, I reported the Delaware State Board of Education was done.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee took their funding away from them.  Many assumed they were toast.  We were wrong.  It appears the Delaware Department of Education will pick up the tab.  So there will be more State Board of Education meetings in the future.  And there is big news on that front as well.  Starting in July, their meetings will begin at 5pm.  Which means, you know, teachers and educators and working parents can actually go to these meetings.  As well, they will have public comment before each action item (except those which have a formal public comment period, such as charter school stuff and regulations).  Unless the Joint Finance Committee or the legislators deny the funding to DOE to do this.

So what happened?  The changes to Delaware Title 14 would be monstrous.  They would have to change up a lot of things.  While some thought things could change in the epilogue language of the state budget (which I oppose in and of itself), it is not an option.  New laws would have to come out granting the authority to the Delaware DOE.  While those could happen, it would be a headache and a half to get them in play between now and June 30th.

There was talk during the Joint Sunset Review meetings about the State Board taking on one or two new members.  With that being said, and probably because of all the confusion surrounding if they should even exist, Delaware Governor John Carney never nominated anyone to take Jorge Melendez’ place on the board.  So there could be changes to the membership.  I am hoping for some folks with more resistance to the Rodel way of thinking.  I haven’t heard anything about Donna Johnson going anywhere.  The Executive Director role is chosen by the State Board of Education President which is currently Dr. Teri Quinn Gray.  She was appointed by former Governor Jack Markell.

The State Board of Education is still under Sunset Review by that legislative committee.  Prior to the announcement about their funding, the committee agreed to hold them over until next year.

Prelude: Patrik Williams & Smyrna School District’s Egregious Zero Tolerance Railroading Of Middle School Student

Consider this a glimpse into the future.  This picture won’t make any sense now, but it will later.  This is an end result of a battle that has gone on for well over a year and a half between a student at Smyrna Middle School and the district, led by now Superintendent Patrik Williams, and their refusal to bow down from zero tolerance policies in the district.  This is ugly, but it doesn’t stop at the Smyrna School District.  It gets bigger from there and involves the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Department of Justice, the police, and the Justice of the Peace in Delaware. Continue reading “Prelude: Patrik Williams & Smyrna School District’s Egregious Zero Tolerance Railroading Of Middle School Student”