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”

Rep. Jaques Turns Simple Opt Out Parental Rights Bill Into A Three-Ring Circus

State Rep. Earl Jaques showed off his “Big Man on Campus” persona in an embarrassing display of supposed power today which he may be wrong about.

Advocates for any opt out bill in Delaware knew there would be opposition.  Those of us who have advocated for a bill which codifies and honors a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment knew this going in.  However, hanging your hat on a superficial and made-up procedure the way Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques did is shameful and embarrassing.  State Rep. John Kowalko, the primary sponsor of the bill, was composed and polished today.  There was no back and forth between himself and Jaques as there was two years ago.

House Bill 60 was not released from the House Education Committee.  With only eight out of seventeen members voting to release the bill, Jaques declared the bill dead.  However, there is a big caveat to his declaration.  Although there were 12 members on the floor, the committee is made up of 17 state representatives.  Five bills were heard in committee today.  For the other four, Jaques indicated he would walk the bill to the members.  For the opt out bill, he said he would not release the bill since there was a majority of members on the floor during the vote.  State Rep. Sean Lynn called for a parliamentary inquiry on the matter.  There is a chance Jaques could be overruled on his refusal to walk the bill for signatures and it could be released.  However, Jaques absolute disdain and contempt against this bill is clouding his better judgment.  He set the precedent for this by agreeing to walk the other four bills in my opinion.

After the committee adjourned the second time (since Jaques declared the meeting over a first time without asking for or getting a motion to adjourn), I spoke to him in the lobby of Legislative Hall. I said “Earl, you have to walk the bill.”  I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t upset.  He began yelling at me and said “The bill is not released.”  I asked him why he was yelling at me and advised I wasn’t yelling at him.  He continued to yell and said “The bill is not released.  It’s done.  The bill is dead,” as he stormed off.

About fifteen minutes later, I found myself in Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf’s reception area.  In the office were Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, Meghan Wallace, and Jaques.  The receptionist said there was a wait and I advised I would just send him an email.  The email is below.

In terms of the discussion on the bill in committee, it was very much a repeat of 2015.  The usual suspects opposed the bill: Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, Delaware Business Roundtable, State Rep. Tim Dukes, a couple of women from Wilmington who were sitting next to DelawareCAN’s Atnre Alleyne, etc.  Even the Delaware School Boards Association opposed the bill because they believed it is a local decision and detracts from the issues surrounding testing.  There was a lot of discussion around losing federal funds even though it has never happened.  The excuse this time was “We don’t know what will happen with Secretary Betsy DeVos.”  I love when a State Rep. has something important to say about a bill they oppose after they get a piece of paper from someone in the audience, but I digress.  There was talk about how bad Smarter Balanced is, the amount of time wasted on testing, and so forth, but there was far too little about the heart of the bill: the parental right to opt out.

No state has ever lost federal funding over dipping below the 95% participation rate.  And I don’t think little old Delaware would be the first.  If the feds really put their money where their mouth is, it would have happened in New York or New Jersey years ago.  So I don’t care what they say (and no one is actually saying it these days), it is not a good idea to cut federal Title I money from schools with poor kids.  Secretary Bunting did say Delaware got feedback on its state ESSA plan last evening and believes the US Dept. of Education will be tougher than she thought, but as a state with a 97% participation rate, I don’t think we are on the Title I money chopping block.  Let’s get real here.

To be fair, I don’t ever expect the Delaware DOE and the usual cast of opposers to ever support an opt out bill.  It just isn’t going to happen.  Expecting it is as likely as convincing the wind to change direction.  It isn’t something I’m even upset about anymore, it just is.

My public comment was as simple as the bill: it is a parental right bill.  And since there was a question about what districts or charters have given parents a rough time about opting their child out, I named them: Red Clay, Christina, Freire Charter School, and so forth.  I even advised Rep. Dukes a constituent in his own district tried to opt their child out two years ago, the only one in that school district.  When the school refused, they told the mother he could not opt out.  It got so bad the mother was ostracized by members of her community.  After, Dukes came up to me and told me he didn’t appreciate me calling him out.  He asked me which district, and I told him which one I believed it was.  He said “you don’t know?”  I said it was two years ago and I talk to a lot of parents.  He said next time I better know before I call him out like that.  I advised him the parent tried reaching him at the time and he claimed he never heard from the parent.

One public commenter said he wasn’t even there for that bill but felt he had to comment.  He said, as someone who makes six figures and works for Fortune 500 companies, he has never looked at a single standardized test score.  He said if a college student in an interview told him they opted out of the state assessment, he would give them an internship based solely on that.

Here is the email I sent to Schwartzkopf:

Speaker of the House Peter Schwartzkopf,

Good evening.  I attempted to see you in person, but you had a long line in your office about half an hour ago.  I advised your receptionist I would email you, which I prefer to do at this point since it is in writing.

As  you are no doubt aware, I am very passionate about education.  But I have calmed down with my public comments regarding certain legislation.  I wish the same could be said of the Chair of the House Education Committee.  The behavior I saw from him today regarding House Bill 60 was offensive, both as a citizen of Delaware and as a parent.

I am sure you know about the situation with “walking the bill” after Rep. Jaques set the standard for that with four other bills in the committee today.  It was very obvious to all he wanted this bill to die a messy death and he wanted to be the one to do it.  That is conjecture on my part, but based on his attitudes and attempts to kill the bill in 2015, I would say that is a fair assessment.  But his behavior in the lobby of Legislative Hall was unacceptable.  I simply said “Earl, you have to walk the bill.”  He began yelling at me, loud enough for many folks nearby to overhear.  When I asked him why he was yelling at me and that I wasn’t yelling at him, he continued to yell at me claiming “the bill is dead” and stormed off like a petulant child.  While I certainly can’t say I have never shown anger about legislation, I believe a certain decorum is expected out of our elected officials.  I don’t agree with Earl’s decision about deciding not to walk the bill, but I have to believe two grown adults can treat each other with respect and discuss the matter like two gentlemen.  I wanted to advise you of this issue because of his position as Chair of the House Education Committee.  Please consider this a formal complaint against Rep. Jaques.  I do believe this is something the House leadership should investigate.  I would have accepted a decision on the bill if it was given a fair shake, but I found Rep. Jaques behavior and conduct unbefitting for a Chair of a committee.

As I’m sure you know, I am a firm believer in transparency, so this email will be a part of my article about the opt out bill heard in committee today. 

Respectfully,

Kevin Ohlandt

As Deep Budget Cuts Loom, Will New Tax Bills Save The Day In Delaware?

Fiscal Year 2018 will involve a lot of pain if the Joint Finance Committee’s marked-up state budget continues down the same dark path it is on now.  While some cuts seem like a good idea, others will make children go without desperately needed services.  The State Board of Education is kaput if everything stays the same.  But could new tax bills, which would bring in more revenue to the state, cause some of those cuts to disappear?

In Delaware, the General Assembly needs a 3/5 vote to pass any revenue bills.  In the House, that requires 25 yes votes and in the Senate, 13.  This is where it gets very tricky.  The House has 25 Democrats and 16 Republicans.  The Senate has 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans.  The House could conceivably pass the budget just on their Democrat base, but complications could easily arise.  Some Dems in the House will not favor certain perks in the epilogue language, such as the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund.  There is at least one Democrat, State Rep. John Kowalko, who will not say yes to the budget if that is in there.  The Republicans in both houses want something: prevailing wage.  They have wanted this for years, but this could be the year where they get what they want, or at least make some inroads towards it.

The Joint Finance Committee has to make the cuts until they see more revenue.  Are they going after some of the programs that help people the most?  Not yet.  But today is another day and is expected to be uglier than yesterday.  The JFC does not meet again until Tuesday, June 6th.  I expect a whirlwind of activity at Legislative Hall every single day someone is there between now and July 1st.

In Governor Carney’s proposed budget, the local share of student transportation costs went from 10% to 15%.  Yesterday, the Joint Finance Committee raised that to 20% with the expectation the school districts can recoup those costs from this mythological one-time Match Tax.  Carney proposed the district school boards utilize this option without a referendum.  Let’s be very clear on this: if this happens, do not expect taxpayers to pass referenda any time soon.

No matter how this plays out, John Carney’s vision of shared sacrifice will have winners and losers.  If the uber-wealthy get more perks like the estate tax repeal, it will become very obvious who is pulling the strings behind the curtain at Legislative Hall in Dover.

All The JFC Cuts & Reductions To Delaware FY2018 Budget Up To Today

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee had one hell of a mark-up session today with the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2018.  The following are programs that will be eliminated or have their budgets reduced.  I hope they have a lot of pens down there, because this process is not done yet.  Education wasn’t even supposed to happen today except for higher education.  Most of the education power-brokers weren’t even there when this mighty swath of cuts came up!

Delaware Department of Education Eliminations

Infrastructure Capacity

Professional Development for Student Standards & Assessment

Dues for Southern Regional Education Board

State Board of Education

Michael C. Ferguson awards

20% Reduction in Scholarships and Grants

Teacher Leader Pilot program

Summer School: Gifted & Talented funding

Delaware Teacher Center

Career Transition

Delaware Geographic Alliance

Center for Economic Education

Gay Straight Alliance

Teacher stipends for service in high-risk schools through the Delaware Talent Cooperative

Adolescent Day Program

College Access: Dual Enrollment Subgrants, PSAT, Competition subgrants, Delaware College Scholars, College Application Month, Scholarship Compendium, Stand By Me with DHSS,

 

Other Dept. of Education Reductions or Shifts

Professional Accountability and Instructional Advancement fund: eliminates $157 per employee allocation

Driver’s Education: implements fee for non-public school students to pay for program costs

Public School Transportation: Increase local share from 15% to 20%

Reduce $2 million in early childhood incentives

Reduce the following by 5%: Odyssey of the Mind, Teacher of the Year, Educator Certificate & Development, Professional Standards Board, State Testing Comp., Parents as Teachers, Student Organizations, Technology Operations

 

Other big cuts or reductions in the State Budget

Eliminations: FY18 Appropriation for Victim Offender Mediation, FY18 Appropriation for Child Placement Review Board, Civil Indigent Services, Kids Count, International Trade, Italian/American Commission, Delaware Center for Global Trade, Delaware Art, Library DELNET computer system and computer equipment (shifts costs to counties), Medical Marijuana Appropriation, Hispanic Affairs Appropriation, Office of Volunteer Services, FY2018 Appropriations for Dept. of Corrections for Hope Commission, Mentor Programs, Pre-Trial Services provided by Rick Vanstory, Tire Scrap Management Fund, Agriculture Advertising Line, Agriculture Development Program Line, Alternative Agricultural Products Line, Nutrient Management Planning, Poultry Litter State Funding

Reductions: Dept. of Justice Transcription Services, Contractual Services, and Conflict Attorney Rates, Two full-time employee positions and reductes contractual services for Commission for Women, Drug Court Program (Dept. of Services for Children, Youth & Their Families), Child welfare/contractual services for foster care contracts and Ready by 21 program, Vocational Rehabilitation Contractual Services through Dept. of Labor, Reductions for Fire Prevent Commission including ballistic vests and statewide fire safety education

DHSS Reductions of 20%: Health Disparities, Preschool Diagnosis and Treatment, Immunizations, Hepatitis B, Needle Exchange Program, Infant Mortality Task Force, Cancer Council, Gift of Life, Delaware Organ and Tissue Program 2, Developmental Screening, Uninsured Action Plan, DIMES, Sickle Cell, Nurse Family Partnership, Prescription Drug Prevention.

 

For a full list of all the cuts and the amounts, please see the document below:

Breaking: State Board of Education Not Released From Sunset Committee

I don’t have all the details yet, but the Delaware State Board of Education is being held for another year in the Delaware Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee.  There are several areas of concern the committee still has with the State Board of Education.  I also heard someone from the State Board of Education named John Marinucci as the State Board’s contact person for all Delaware school boards.  Marinucci is the Executive Director of the Delaware School Boards Association.  Only 15 out of the 19 school districts in Delaware belong to that organization.  None of the Delaware charter schools do either.  So how could Marinucci possibly represent all the school boards to the State Board of Education?  Anyone who has been around the State Board of Education knows who acts as a liaison between Delaware charter school boards and them- Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

As soon as I know more, I will update this article.  I heard this on the fly from several people while I was down at Legislative Hall today.  Actually, I heard a lot of things down there today!  All I can say is get ready for an absolutely crazy time from now until June 30th (July 1st for those who know how things work in Dover).  If you think the conversation is heated now, strap your seatbelt on and get ready for an insane ride until the end of the legislative session!

Will Executive Director Donna Johnson and the State Board of Education meet the requirements to get out of Sunset review?  I guess we have to wait until next year!  But the fact they are being held over until then means they did not satisfy the committee.  Meanwhile, long-time State Board of Education receptionist Danielle Moore is retiring at the end of June.  I’ve seen Danielle probably hundreds of times between the Townsend Building and Legislative Hall.  She is an awesome lady and is always courteous and genuine.  Best of luck on your future endeavors Danielle!

The Rodel Teacher Council Scares The Living Hell Out Of Me

Today, the Rodel Teacher Council gave a presentation to the Delaware State Board of Education with policy recommendations for their Personalized Learning Blueprint.  I’ve written about them before and actually received a bit of heat from a few of their membership.  These aren’t bad people or bad teachers.  I truly believe they have been brainwashed into the corporate education reform movement.  Some may not even realize it.  But what they came out with today for their State Board presentation literally frightens me and makes me wonder more than ever where public education is heading.  I have to wonder if the State Board of Education would ever allow those who are against this kind of thing to give a presention to them.

This presentation has all the education reform buzz words in it: Personalized Learning, Blended Learning, Competency-Based Education, Micro Credentials, Seat-Time, Social and Emotional Learning, Waivers, Assessment, and Standards.  To break it down, under these models the eventual goal is what is known as “stealth assessments”, the state assessment broken down in chunks at the end of each unit.  The student can’t move on until they “master” the material provided to them from their digital technology.  Predicting the future here, I imagine Delaware will eventually incorporate some kind of “digital badge” the student would get once they “master” the material (Colorado is at the forefront of this ridiculousness).  Meanwhile, all the data from this ed tech is going to vendors galore.  Personal and private data, every single keystroke.

So why are Delaware educators jumping on this bandwagon when it will eventually lead to the demise of the public school teacher?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Special standing, power, incentive for future mobility in their profession?  Perhaps they are blind to how their actions today will lead to the end of their professional world as we know it.  The fact that ANY Delaware school district teacher would get behind something with the Rodel name in it makes me suspect.  Very suspect.  The fact this council is going before the State Board of Education after they went to some legislators earlier this month makes me very worried.  Worried that legislation is coming that will allow this Rodel Vision of Educational Paradise.

Make no mistake.  This has been in the planning stages for years.  And it will get a huge push in states once Blockchain Technology really gets going.  And Delaware will be at the forefront of that initiative.  People read stuff like this from me and some say I am wearing a tin hat or engaging in conspiracy theory.  Let them.  They said the same thing when I said Delaware’s Assessment Inventory Committee was just a big distraction from opt out and would produce nothing worthwhile.  I said that before the legislation even passed which created that committee.

What is Governor Carney’s role in all this?  I don’t think he has an original thought on any of this.  I think his staff tells him what to do.  Many of those staff members are fully aligned with this Rodelian future and have been for quite a while.

To read what the Rodel Teacher Council (aka Rodel) wants policy-makers in Delaware to subscribe to, please read the document below.

No Formal Review For DE Academy Of Public Safety & Security Or Delaware Design-Lab? What’s Up With That?

Two Delaware charter schools are in violation of Delaware state law.  The Delaware Department of Education is not putting them under formal review as they did two years ago when a few charter schools did not have 80% of their student enrollment for the next school year by April 1st of that calendar year.  Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security and Delaware Design-Lab High School are under the 80% enrollment.  Why no formal review?  The Delaware State Code, under Title 14, is very clear about this type of situation:

(c)(1) On or before April 1 of each school year, a charter school shall have enrolled, at a minimum, 80% of its total authorized number of students, and the administrator of each charter school shall, pursuant to the requirements below, provide a written certification of that enrollment to the Department of Education and to the superintendent of each public school district in which 1 or more of the charter school’s students reside.

So what gives?  The answer can be found in the State Board of Education agenda for their meeting today.  The Charter School Office gives a monthly presentation to the State Board on all matters surrounding charter schools.

The law is the law.  If they did the same to other charter schools, why are these two not going under the same scrutiny with their enrollment numbers?  Is that fair to the charters that had to go through the formal review process two years ago?  DAPSS numbers have been down for years.  Had they not submitted a modification last year to decrease their enrollment numbers (which passed), they would have gone under formal review last year.  Delaware Design-Lab was one of the schools under formal review two years ago for low enrollment numbers.  Fair is fair, no matter what.  While these numbers are not a train-wreck, they are in violation of what our legislators passed and was written into the state code.

Enrollment Preferences Bill Released From Committee But Newark Charter School Exclusion Remains Controversial

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 was released from the Delaware House Education Committee today.  There are very serious concerns due to a “compromise” brought forth by the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  The bone of contention surrounds the Christina School District and Newark Charter School.  Since a portion of Christina exists in Wilmington, those students would not be considered in the enrollment preference which includes all students in a choice school’s district.  The line of thinking appears to be the district section of Wilmington is not connected to the rest of the district.  However, those who oppose this section of the bill feel it is a barrier for Wilmington students who are part of the Christina School District.

Today, State Rep. John Kowalko is bringing forth an amendment but no one on the committee knew specifically what the amendment was.  State Rep. Kim Williams, the primary sponsor of the bill, stated she assumes it would be to remove lines 7-9 of the bill which would give Newark Charter School their Wilmington exclusion.  Williams said she would not support the amendment because she gave her word to Senator David Sokola.  This, apparently, was an addition to the bill from Senator Sokola which caused the House Substitute bill from the original House Bill 85.  State Rep. Joe Miro said he would not support the bill if the amendment passed.

State Rep. Sean Matthews said he is in support of the bill but does not feel the bill serves all students in the Christina School District.  He felt the bill does not allow for Wilmington students to go to Newark Charter School and the exclusion for NCS was put in so it can pass the Delaware Senate.

If Newark Charter School is so good, they should take all students. -State Rep. Sean Matthews

State Rep. Deb Heffernan agreed with Matthews.  The bill was released with 11 votes in favor of the bill.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the Delaware Department of Education is taking a neutral stance on the bill.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, said former State Board member R.L. Hughes was on the Enrollment Preferences Task Force and voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius. Kristin Dwyer, the Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing,  said she is happy the conversation is opened with this bill but DSEA does not feel the bill goes far enough.  DSEA feels the 5-mile radius should be completely removed.

My concerns with this bill are the very nature of Newark Charter School to begin with.  Even with their 5-mile radius, their student populations do not reflect that of the Greater Newark area.  This is the public comment I gave to the committee and my idea for a potential amendment.

While I am very happy to see this bill, I have concerns around Newark Charter School. When the charter school had their major modification approved to build their high school, they were instructed with formulating a plan to allow for more diversity in their district.  I have yet to see that materialize, even within their current 5 mile radius.  While their special education numbers have increased, they are still woefully under what the state average is, much less the Christina School District.  In the school profile for this school year, African-Americans represent 10.7% of their student population compared to 39.4% of Christina.  While factoring in the African-American population of the Wilmington contingent of Christina student population, the greater Newark area has a much higher population of African-Americans compared to NCS.  I would recommend an amendment be placed on this bill for a weighted lottery for charter schools, magnets, and any choice school where the demographics are disproportionately lower than that of the surrounding district to allow populations that do not seem to be getting access to certain charter school even footing and representation within those schools.  Enrollment preferences are meant to allow the most disadvantaged students into choice schools, not to keep them out. Thank you.

The bill, if passed, would take place immediately.  However, it would not be able to kick in until the 2018-2019 school year since the school choice calendar for the 2017-2018 school year closed in January.  During the House Bill 90 Enrollment Preferences Task Force, the majority of the members voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius as an enrollment preference for choice schools.  Williams said she does not necessarily agree with the Newark Charter School exclusion, but felt compromise was necessary.  If the bill didn’t move forward, she would not be able to help any students.

Once Kowalko’s amendment is public, I will add it to this article.

The Sun Rises For The Delaware State Board of Education

The Delaware Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee voted today not to Sunset the Delaware State Board of Education.  Sunset would have shut down the board.  I will write more details later since I arrived late for the meeting due to a prior commitment.  As for the State Board’s Executive Director, Donna Johnson, the board voted for option one in regards to her role: The Board will present to the Committee a revised Executive Director job description to better align with the Board’s duties.

Issues surrounding public comment got a bit of discussion.  The JLOSC voted unanimously that the State Board of Education shall allow public comment before each action item but with an amendment.  Public comment may not be allowed during action items that have a pre-established and finite public comment period, such as regulations and charter school issues.  The reason for this is because state code allows for this.  Newly christened Senator Stephanie Hansen said during county council meetings in Sussex and New Castle Counties they allow for this because sometimes the public comment could affect a decision by the Council.  State Board member Pat Heffernan said they are bound by the Delaware State Code.  In my eyes, that is legislation begging for change as soon as humanly possible.  The Committee agreed that information shall be sent to public libraries and schools with meeting information about the State Board of Education.  A matter surrounding charter school approval and local impact was tabled so the State Board of Ed can give more clarifying information about their role on this matter.

I did not anticipate the JLOSC would shut down the State Board of Education.  I surmised some items would pass and some wouldn’t.  Without an apparatus in place to replace them it would be tough to figure out who should pass regulations.  Once again, legislation could take care of a lot of the issues surrounding them.  In a poll I put up the other day, over 70% of readers felt the State Board should shut down permanently.  I write this with the caveat that my readership tends to align with what I believe more and the poll only had over a 100 voters.

Take The Poll On The Delaware State Board of Education

When You Can’t Give Public Comment About A Change In Public Comment

The Delaware State Board of Education has always been ridiculous with their public comment policy.  You cannot give public comment on any action item on their agenda.  Further complicating this absolutely ludicrous scenario is a proposed change which will be up for action at their next meeting, on Thursday March 23rd.  The State Board of Education will take action on moving public comment from the beginning of the meeting until towards the end.  Thereby ensuring that the public is put on the bottom of the list.  There are certain groups that put public comment at the end of meetings, but the State Board of Education needs to hear from the public prior to voting or discussing items.  The very nature of attempting to contact a member of the State Board of Education is futile.  Everything goes through the Executive Director, Donna Johnson.  The State Board of Education will be having a meeting tomorrow at 12 noon to discuss the policy recommendations from the Joint Sunset Committee, a group of legislators who are taking a hard look at the State Board of Education.

As far as this latest action item, I am vehemently against this.  The State Board meetings are very long at times and to make members of the public sit through the whole thing just to give public comment is absurd.  I hope the State Board votes no on this insane idea.

Rodel’s Latest Can Of Spam Aims To Take The Special Out Of Special Education

The Rodel Foundation of Delaware came out with a whopper of a blog article today over on their site.  Entitled “Can Personalized Learning Defray The Cost Of Special Education?”, this article dares to suggest that personalized/blended learning can help save on special education costs.  By daring to think Rodel’s version of personalized learning (a constant zombie state whereby kids are in front of a computer all day going at their own pace) is the Dante’s Peak of education, Doc Paul Herdman and the gang have just poked this bear again.  I’ve stayed quiet with these absolute idiots for far too long.  I am wide awake.  Message received.

Why does ANYONE in this state swallow their absolute crap anymore?   What happens when these students with disabilities, who are going “at their own pace”, fall even further behind?  With this craptacular system, actual grades a student are in wouldn’t matter.  And they still have to take the not-so Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But in Rodel’s world, they want the stealth testing.  These are standardized tests embedded in the digital technology slowly taking over the classroom in Delaware.  Once a student masters the content, they can move on.  So what happens when they don’t?  What happens when they don’t get it?  They fall farther behind.  I warned about this public education hara-kiri for well over a year and half.  Now, here we are on the cusp of it.  NOW is the time for parents to stand up and say “Screw you Rodel” and to take back public education.  Our policy-makers and state officials have been drinking the Rodel Kool-Aid for 12 years now.  Enough.  Rodel doesn’t own Delaware.  We the people do.  Kids gloves are off now Rodel!  Fair warning!  And Delaware DOE and State Board of Education, if you even think of pushing this crap in Delaware more than you already have, I will unleash the public education parent hounds on you!  Fair warning to whomever wins the DSEA President: Back far away from this nonsense.  Do not be a part of it.

Governor Carney & Secretary Bunting Will Be At Big WEIC Meeting Next Week

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission will hold their next meeting on Tuesday, February 28th.  On the agenda is an appearance by none other than Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting.  This will be interesting!

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This week, Carney gutted a proposed weighted funding formula for the FY2018 state budget stating there is no money for it.  WEIC doesn’t work at all if the money isn’t in that budget either.  The state is facing a $350-$400 million dollar budget deficit.  In November, WEIC Chair Tony Allen publicly announced that if WEIC doesn’t go through he can foresee some type of legal action against the State of Delaware.  Interestingly enough, WEIC member Meredith Griffin filed today to run for the Christina School District Board of Education for the election in May.  That sets up that election for a four-person race with still another week to file for potential candidates.  This week, issues of race and due process came up in Red Clay stemming from an incident at a basketball game between A.I. DuPont High School and Delaware Military Academy.  Carney and Bunting are getting an hour to talk.  That is actually a long time.  I can’t say if I’ve ever heard Carney talk about education that long.  I don’t know if all of these issues will come up at the meeting, but this meeting comes at a very interesting time.  This will also be a big moment for Secretary Bunting as she is new in office and will be tasked with restricting the Delaware Dept. of Education.

WEIC and it’s earlier incarnation, WEAC, have been around for two and a half years.  Eventually, WEIC presented a plan to send Christina Wilmington students to Red Clay along with several other initiatives throughout the state to improve education for high-needs students.  After a long and drawn-out battle with the State Board of Education, WEIC’s plan turned into legislation.  That legislation failed to pass in the Delaware Senate.  New legislation extended the planning period for another year.  But with this year’s budget deficit looking dismal, will WEIC get the bypass again?  If it does, what will folks like Tony Allen and Jea Street’s next move be?

This could be a crowded meeting.  Get there early.  And what is up with five minutes of public comment?  They may want to stretch that out!

Delaware State Board of Education’s Wild Sunset Review & They Are Still Missing A Member

The State Board does not hear or receive official complaints.

As the Delaware State Board of Education goes through their sunset review with the Delaware Sunset Committee, it has become more clear than ever this is a state agency in need of massive change.

After board member Jorge Melendez resigned last fall, the Delaware State Board of Education still has six members on their seven seat roster.  Three weeks into Governor Carney’s four-year term, there has been no nomination for Melendez’ replacement.

My concern is what happens if the State Board of Education votes on an action item which results in a tie vote.  Who breaks that stalemate?  How long will Carney wait to choose a replacement?  As well, the Governor has the authority to replace the existing State Board of Education President with Senate confirmation.  Will Carney do this which has been a typical thing in the past?

At present, the Delaware State Board of Education is under Joint Sunset Review by Delaware legislators.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board, submitted a very lengthy questionnaire to the committee last October.  Johnson provided an extensive and very thorough history of the State Board of Education which included items I had no clue about.  Included in the document is a list of Delaware Attorney General opinions that affect the agency.  There have been 21 such opinions dating back to 1996 with an average of one per year.  Eight Executive Orders, all issued for former Delaware Governor Jack Markell, had an impact on the State Board as well.  There is one section that talks about bringing the former Delaware Teacher of the Year on the board as a non-voting member.  Donna Johnson’s role was changed in 2010 from Policy Analyst to Executive Director.  Aside from her, the only other staff is an administrative assistant through the Delaware Dept. of Education (awesome lady by the way, Dani Moore).  Donna Johnson’s performance review is also included in the below document, but there is no indication of who approved this review aside from the State Board of Education in 2015.  I do not recall seeing this performance review on a State Board of Education agenda, but that may not be required under Delaware code or perhaps I missed it.  The most shocking part of this document exists towards the end.  The State Board of Education does not receive or recognize complaints about their own agency.  Perhaps this is why they are often perceived as a state agency that acts with an air of impunity and infallibility.  I believe that needs to change.

 

Sussex Montessori School, If Approved, Will Bring A Second Charter School To Sussex County

The Delaware Department of Education received one application for a new charter school in the 2018-2019 school year: Sussex Montessori School.  For the parents of students in Kindergarten to 6th grade who are interested in the “Montessori Approach”, this potential second charter school in Sussex County, Delaware could change the face of many surrounding districts, including Laurel, Seaford, and even Indian River.  By putting an enrollment preference of wanting a Montessori approach, this school could already filter out some of the surrounding students due to a lack of understanding of Montessori methods.  Many feel First State Montessori Academy, which has a top priority preference for those interested in Montessori despite having a five-mile radius, is not balanced well with high-needs students in the area.

Where this application loses me is quoting the Rodel Foundation and Vision 2025, as well as using standardized test scores as a barometer for student achievement.  The application was submitted by Montessori Works, a non-profit 501c3 corporation.  They have received initial funding from the Longwood Foundation, the Welfare Foundation, and Discover Bank.  If approved, the plans call for a $4.4 million dollar 32,000 square foot facility on ten acres of land between Bridgeville and Laurel which the group expects funding by the above three entities or a financial institution.

I didn’t recognize many of the names with the founding group of this school, but a couple stuck out.  Trish Hermance was the Head of School for Campus Community until 2013.  Brett Taylor was involved with the Delaware STEM Academy which failed to open due to low enrollment and charter revocation by the State Board of Education.  But you can read the resumes of all the founding group and support.  Their feasibility study shows an initial student population of 300 students in the first year  (2018) and 450 students by 2023.

Last month, the Christina Board of Education voted 6-1 to keep the Montessori program in their district despite shrinking enrollment due to First State Montessori Academy in Wilmington a couple of years ago.  There are currently no Montessori programs in Kent County but the Jefferson School in Georgetown exists.  With that being said, the class size once children get out of pre-school and Kindergarten is only six to eight students per class.  It is not considered a good school by many parents in the area according to an anonymous source.  Typically, as in years past, the State Board of Education would vote on final approval at their April board meeting.

State Board of Education Renews Charter For Academy of Dover

The Delaware State Board of Education renewed the charter for Academy of Dover.  This will give the school a period of five years, as every established Delaware charter gets, until their next renewal.  But there were some concerns from the State Board of Education.

The topic of Academy of Dover’s enrollment was the talking point for the State Board in discussing their charter renewal.  Their numbers, as I reported a couple of months ago, have been declining.  If those numbers don’t start increasing, they could face the unfortunate prospect of dipping below the state required 80% of their enrollment.  By state law, all charters must be at 80% of their approved enrollment by April 1st for the next school year.  If a Delaware charter does not meet their numbers, they are placed under formal review with the Delaware State Board of Education.  That process is somewhat similar to the charter renewal process but focuses more on the subject that places them under that review.  But it is still a daunting task.

For now, I’m sure Academy of Dover is celebrating their renewal but with a bit of apprehension.  As Capital expands their programming, which is the main feeder pattern for Academy of Dover, the charter school will have to step up their game to compete with Capital and Campus Community School, their main charter school competition in Dover.  Time will tell!