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

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Not Hearing Good News For Donna Johnson’s Replacement For State Board Of Education Executive Director

This will not be good.  It will be a backwards step for Delaware education.

This is entirely in the rumor stage, and I don’t even have a cold confirmation, but Donna Johnson’s replacement for Executive Director of the State Board of Education will be… Continue reading

The New State Board of Education Has The Shortest Meeting In Living Memory!

(L to R) Vincent Lofink, Nina Lou Bunting, Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, Deputy Attorney General Valerie Dunkle, Whitney Sweeney, Dr. Audrey Noble, Wali Rushdan, Candice Fifer, Dr. Terry Whittaker

The State Board of Education meeting was over in half an hour today.

With so many new members, it was short but sweet.  The new members are new President Whitney Sweeney, former State Rep. Vince Lofink, and Candice Fifer.  The agenda was very light today.

Former State Board Vice President Nina Lou Bunting nominated Dr. Audrey Noble to be the new Vice President.  Board member Wali Rushdan seconded the nomination.  The board voted and Noble was unanimously selected as their Vice President.

The board passed a DIAA regulation.  The board got an update on DAPSS’ probation.  The new members introduced themselves.  Dr. Bunting introduced the new Deputy Secretary of Performance Support, Dr. Christine Alois.  She also introduced the new Associate Secretary of Academic Support, Monica Gant.  She is replacing Michael Watson, who left the DOE earlier this year.  Bunting announced that her restructuring of the Delaware DOE is now complete.

At the end of the meeting, the State Board of Education announced they would be going into Executive Session to discuss personnel issues.  The State Board of Education said they did have interviews for the Executive Director position and would be discussing that.  Based on that discussion, they could be letting Secretary Bunting know their decision.  At that point, the Human Resources Department of the Delaware DOE would be notified.  So we don’t have an announcement on who is replacing Donna Johnson just yet!

I believe the agenda was kept to a minimum so the new board members could acclimate to the process.  Whitney Sweeney did a good job in her new role as President.  I did get to meet Fifer and Lofink before the meeting.  I chatted with Lofink for a little bit.  He is a funny guy!

Attendance at the meeting was very low.  Aside from myself, a representative from DSEA, and some folks from the DOE, that was it.  But this is how it usually is at State Board meetings in July.  Next month they may go over the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and have some presentations, so attendance and the length of the meeting will pick up.  And with seven charter schools up for renewal this year, I know their December meeting will be a long one!

Updated, 9:22pm: No, Dr. Susan Bunting and Nina Lou Bunting are NOT related.  Bunting is like the last name “Smith” in Sussex County.  Several people have asked me this recently.

A Christina Administrator Is The New Board President Of DE Academy Of Public Safety & Security

The Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security Board of Directors chose their new board President last evening.  This board member was not on their board before last evening and he serves on another charter school board. Continue reading

Delaware State Board of Education “Relaunches” Today

For those who attend the monthly State Board of Education meetings, their meeting today will look very different.  With new members, a new President, and soon, a new Executive Director, the State Board will soon become a travelling a road show!  What is on the agenda today? Continue reading

Delaware DOE Has 7 Charter School Renewals To Contend With This Fall!

When you have 24 charter schools in a state, 22 of which are authorized by the state Department of Education, there are going to be years where the amount of charter renewals are going to go up.  This fall, the Delaware DOE Charter School Office and the Charter School Accountability Committee are going to have their hands full as seven charter schools go through their renewal process. Continue reading

Governor Carney’s Three Nominations For State Board of Education & Who Will Become President?

Governor Carney presented three nominations for the State Board of Education on Friday.  And another State Board member has been nominated to replace Dr. Dennis Loftus as the President of the board.  Who are the nominees?  One of them is a former legislator! Continue reading

Legislation Aims To Have Teacher Of The Year & A Delaware Student On The State Board of Education

How did I miss this one?  It was filed last week!  Not only would this add two new members to the State Board of Education but could also make the State Board of Education a wandering event!

House Bill #455, filed last week by State Rep. Stephanie Bolden and Senator Jack Walsh, comes from the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee.  The two new members would be non-voting but it could certainly create lively conversation at these meetings!  It also gives clarity around who the Executive Director reports to and who their employer would be.  The legislation calls for the State Board of Ed to meet in the three different counties which would, by default, cause Delaware Dept. of Education employees to travel with them.  Very interesting bill.

This Act fulfills recommendations made by the Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee by doing the following: (1) Establishing 2 new, nonvoting members to serve on the State Board of Education (“Board”). The new members are a former Delaware Teacher of the Year and a Delaware 11th or 12th grade student. (2) Defining the duties of the Board’s Executive Director. (3) Clarifying that the Executive Director is selected by the Board; is an employee of the Department of Education, subject to all of the Department’s employment policies and procedures; but serves at the pleasure of the Board. (4) Requiring the Board to rotate its meetings among the 3 counties of this State in such a way to facilitate parents’, teachers’, and other community members’ attendance. (5) Establishing the circumstances under which a Board member may be removed, using language standard to boards and commissions in this State. (6) Requiring the Board to permit public comment on each agenda item prior to voting on the item and in proximity to the time at which the Board discusses the item. An exception is provided if, under Delaware law or Department or Board rules, the item has a formal comment period or a process for making a record in an administrative matter that has closed before the Board’s discussion of the agenda item. Examples of matters that qualify for the exception include charter school applications or formal reviews, amendments to Department of Education and Professional Standards Board regulations, and student appeals. The intent of the exception is to exclude Board actions that are quasi-judicial in nature and therefore not appropriate to open to public comment. This Act also corrects 2 internal references and makes other technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual.   

To read the actual legal language of the bill, go here: House Bill 455

As I reported earlier today, Governor Carney will have three nominations for the Delaware Senate to confirm by June 30th which would restore the State Board of Education to their seven members after some unexpected resignations in the past couple of months.  I still think ALL members of the State Board of Education should be publicly elected.

**UPDATED**The Clock Is Ticking For The State Board Of Education

The State Board of Education still has four members.  Which is their quorum amount.  Governor Carney, with ten days left in the 149th General Assembly, has not put forth ANY nominations for replacements.  Delaware State Code mandates four members on the State Board.  If Carney does not put forth nominations until after the General Assembly goes into recess from July 1st until mid-January 2019, he could order the Delaware Senate back into session to confirm nominations.  That isn’t unusual but typically doesn’t happen until October when it does occur.  Which means our State Board of Education is operating at a bare minimum for the next four months.  Which means if just one member doesn’t attend a meeting they can not take action on any item, even approving their minutes.

I have an extreme issue with keeping this body at four members.  Any regulation or appeal the State Board hears would only have four members voting.  One no-show could shut something down very fast.  It is a recipe for disaster.  Simply put, they cannot operate the way they are supposed to.  As an example, what happens if Secretary of Education Susan Bunting decided to put a charter school on formal review for some reason?  The State Board would have to vote on that.  Is four members enough to give that conversation the full weight for a matter that serious?  There is a reason there are seven members.

I was told by Jon Sheehan, Governor Carney’s Education Policy Advisor, the State Board of Education would be restored by June 30th.  So where are the nominations?  Since there are none today, that leaves one last Senate Executive Committee meeting to do this, which would be next Wednesday.  At that point it is the last week of the General Assembly.  I would worry about the quality of the nominations if it is rushed at the last-minute.

Two weeks ago, the Joint Sunset Committee released the State Board of Education from Sunset review.  The only unanswered question is who the State Board’s Executive Director will report to- the State Board, the Delaware Department of Education, or a hybrid of both.  Meanwhile, the deadline for applicants to replace Donna Johnson expired June 9th.  Which means someone will most likely get that job soon.  But will there even be a functional State Board of Education for them to direct?

I still feel as though the State Board of Education should be elected by the people.  Having a Governor hand-pick who he wants on the State Board of Education all but ensures people will get picked who would follow his agendas.  It is something our legislators could change but nobody wants to tick off the Governor.  Many of them agree but lack the stones to actually do it.  I say have an elected State Board of Education and get rid of “Secretary-only Regulations”.  Those are the ones, like Regulation 225, that the State Board of Education does not vote on.  Which is preposterous in my opinion.

Updated, 3:37pm: I spoke with Jon Sheehan a short time ago who assured me that three nominations will be introduced next week and he anticipates a full State Board of Education by June 30th.

Seven Delaware Charter Schools Up For Renewal Next Fall!!!!

Every year, the Delaware State Board of Education gets to vote on charter school renewals.  This year, there are seven charter schools up for renewal.  I believe this is a record and will keep the Charter School Office busy from now until then.  But this year could be different for these renewals because of events going on the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education that are beyond their control. 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…

Breaking News: State Board of Education President Dr. Dennis Loftus Resigning After A Year Of Service

A year ago, Governor Carney nominated Dr. Dennis Loftus to take over as State Board of Education President.  Replacing Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Loftus served in the role for a year.  At the end of this month, sources tell me Dr. Loftus is resigning from the position.

No nomination for his replacement has been announced at this point.  As well, even though Donna Johnson officially resigned a couple of weeks ago, no replacement has been announced for the Executive Director role for the State Board of Education.  The State Board is still going through sunset review with that committee at Legislative Hall.

The State Board underwent many changes in the past year with four new members (including Loftus) and a now vacant role of Executive Director.  It doesn’t look like that facelift is going to stop any time soon with the resignations of their Board President and their Executive Director.  The State Board of Education is a different entity than the Delaware Department of Education.  Any State Board members would be nominated by the Governor and then have to go through a confirmation process with the Delaware Senate.  The only exception to that rule is the President which is picked solely by the Governor but there is no designated term for that role and serves at the pleasure of the Governor.  In addition, the State Board themselves would pick a new Executive Director.

What is the reason for this massive amount of turnover?  In January long-time board member Pat Heffernan resigned unexpectedly after an explosive board meeting about the diploma bill.  Heffernan was deeply opposed to the legislation which would do away with certificates of performance or attendance for the most severe cognitively-challenged students.  Governor Carney signed the bill last month.  Other new members came about through prior board members ending their term.  But to have the President of the State Board resign after less than a year says something!

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.

DE Academy of Public Safety & Security Has 10 Days To Put Up Or Close Up!

Ten days.  That will make all the difference for the Wilmington charter school.  If they don’t get 24 students to apply AND commit to the struggling charter school, they will have their charter revoked at the end of this school year.

It was just last month that Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security narrowly missed getting shut down by the Delaware State Board of Education.  But the conditions mounted against them could kick in charter revocation at any time if they failed to comply.  The very first condition was the school must have 200 students by May 1st.

Last night, at the State Board of Education meeting, Denise Stouffer from the Charter School Office updated the board on DAPSS’ probation.  To date, they had 176 students enrolled for next year.  They need another 24 in the next ten days or they are toast.  That includes commitment letters signed by parents.  They could still reach that number but it would be very tough.  Their enrollment number has not gone up much since the State Board rendered their decision last month.

Ten days.  For 176 students already enrolled for next year, this could be problematic for them come June 29th if the charter for DAPPS is revoked.  These students and their parents or guardians will be forced to find a new school for the 2019-2020 school year.  Do they start looking if the school doesn’t meet their numbers by May 1st or wait to see what happens over the next few months?

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.

Breaking News: Donna Johnson Resigns From Delaware State Board of Education

Donna Johnson has been the Executive Director of the Delaware State Board of Education for the past nine years.  Very soon, she will be exiting that post to begin a new position in Washington D.C.  She will be joining the Office of State Superintendents in May.

I know Donna has been a huge figure on this blog over the years and I’ve thrown quite a few punches at her over the years.  But on a personal level she has always been very kind to me despite those punches and even helped me out on a few occasions.  So the best of luck to Donna Johnson in her new job!  Meanwhile, the wheels on the Delaware education bus keep spinning round and round!

Donna’s last State Board of Education will be next Thursday, April 19th.  No word on a replacement for her at this point.

 

Earl Jaques And His Education Hunger Games Need To End

I reached out to State Rep. Earl Jaques and his legislative aide today regarding the massive bomb Earl laid last night at the School District Consolidation Task Force meeting.  The response was the polar opposite of what was said last night. 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 of Education Has A New Member

Either I fell asleep at the wheel or this happened very fast, but the Delaware State Board of Education has a new board member.  This new person replaces State Board member Patrick Heffernan. 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.