Did Hegedus Campaign Violate Election Law In Illegal Emails To State Teachers?

A school board campaign in Delaware could be breaking the law and they are turning what should be a fair election into a disgrace.  And how could a member of this campaign benefit should her ghost candidate win?  And which legislator is foolishly endorsing a candidate that won’t serve if elected? Continue reading

Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum In Newark Taken Over By Students And Teachers

Delaware’s budget deficit hit a new stage last night when Christina School District students took over State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum at Newark High School. As well, Senator David Sokola said the issue with the 5 mile radius bill was about transportation. It was an evening full of dodged questions and skirting around the issues.  It was a night when things were as confusing as Twin Peaks and the Mighty Thor put her hammer down! Continue reading

Charter Bias, Bad Math & Lack Of Integrity Shine In News Journal Article About District-Charter Funding War

The News Journal just put up an article on the charter school funding scam and their bias towards charters is painfully clear.

Saranac Spencer has just proven herself as one of the worst education reporters in the history of Delaware.  First off, I know you reached out to more people than Alison May, Bob Silber, Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and two legislators for this article.  Second of all, you didn’t research the facts behind this story at all.  If the charter supporters were so shocked by the reversal of the Delaware DOE’s decision because they planned for it in their budgets, didn’t that throw up a major red flag for you?  The districts didn’t know about this at all until last week.  Charters planned their budgets months ago.  Doesn’t that point you in a direction of collusion Ms. Spencer?  Do you even know how to investigate an issue?  I know you read my blog post.  You completely ignored the fact this was done in closed-door meetings at the DOE by a rogue Associate Secretary of Education and Secretary Godowsky didn’t even know about this until last week.  That was the true story here.  But you used the word transparency once in the article.

Furthermore, the DOE didn’t “begin looking into this in April”.  It was brought to them by Greg Meece and his merry band of firestarters over at Newark Charter School.  Or, as you put it, the beneficiary of $1 million dollars in this debacle.  The fact that the DOE is in negotiations on this matter after Secretary Godowsky told legislators this would NOT happen this year shows them to be proven liars, yet again.

May said Wednesday night that the department was in discussions with district and charter leaders that would determine which formula would ultimately be used this year.

And what you didn’t even touch on is the fact that the DOE (or is it?) is eliminating the match tax allocations from a restricted status.  Yeah, you forgot that VERY big part.

For the 2016 fiscal year, the district had excluded $9.3 million. Under the adjusted formula for the 2017 fiscal year, it would only be able to exclude about $650,000.

Actually publishing this elusive formula would help.  Did you even bother to look at Christina’s budget to see what that means?  What programs and district services would have to be cut for Christina students?  Take away from poor students so the more affluent students at Newark Charter can get more “cafetoriums” and Title I awards when they aren’t even a Title I school?  And before some NCS parent or teacher says “that is federal money”, you’re missing my point.  No.  Not one mention of that.  It’s all about what the poor charters aren’t getting.  Poor Greg Meece.  Boo-Hoo.  Poor Kendall Massett.  Boo-friggin-Hoo.  Ms. Spencer didn’t even bother to see what those cuts are and what they will mean.  She took the side of the charter advocates and didn’t even ask the districts what their opinion was.  That is bad journalism and in very poor taste on a controversial issue.  I  got lambasted by those “charter school supporters” because my article wasn’t “true journalism”.  Guess what, your article was not true journalism.  Not even close.  I have a good excuse.  This is a blog.  But you, you represent the largest newspaper in the state.  And your taking sides is not a good work ethic or even close to journalistic integrity.  How about the News Journal starts to really investigate what goes on in this state instead of being a public relations vessel for the DOE and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  It is getting really old.

But the worst bit of sloppiness in the article is the fact that THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP!  If you look at Christina’s preliminary FY2017 budget, there is something very wrong with her figures.  To anyone who decides to look up their budget, it shows over $49 million in Christina’s local restricted budget.  Now I can figure out where she got her $9.3 million figure from very clearly.  But to the readers of the News Journal who don’t happen to venture over here or bother to look up their budget, it paints a picture that Christina is skewing their numbers by 94%.  That is just bad journalism.  When the true story, based on what the charters are claiming to be true, is a very different percentage.  That comes out to 17.8% if  you take the TOTAL restricted funds they have of $48,389,296 by the very disputable $8.6 million the charters are claiming to be shortchanged from.  See what they did there?  Painting a picture like that on an already controversial issue is very deceptive.  It makes me wonder who in editorial is doing the fact-checking and let’s this hack work through to the printing press.

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If you subtract $650,000 from $9.3 million, you get $8,650,000.  Which number in this scenario shows $9,306,899?  That would be salary and wages.  But what the News Journal seems to forget is the fact that this district had a referendum last year.  And certain funds were earmarked out of the referendum revenue they will get to support the promises from that referendum.  Like restoring positions they cut when they lost their referendum attempts last year.  Which they have to do.  But the News Journal Lois Lane wannabe doesn’t bother to look into that important detail.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach plays the wishy-washy side here.

“The main concern is not that we are looking at the formula,” said state Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark. “The main concern is that too few eyes were looking at the formula.”

So whose responsibility is that?  What Rep. Baumbach fails to mention here is who has determined the formula for many years.  It is not the Delaware Department of Education.  It is the Office of Management and Budget, which comes out of the Governor’s office.  I pointed out in an article last night there was something very wrong with Christina jumping from $2.4 million to $7.3 million in payments to Newark Charter School over a three-year time span.  Especially when Newark Charter’s students that choiced from Christina only went from 1200 to 2000 in the same timeframe.  For a formula that hasn’t changed in well over a decade, except for minor inflation costs, that sure is one hell of a leap.  What has the Office of Management and Budget been doing with this formula?  Was this the same Office of Management and Budget that forced the Delaware Auditor of Accounts Office that forced Kathleen Davies to be put on leave?  The Auditor of Accounts for Delaware who was investigating charter schools in various inspections at the time?  One of which just so happened to be Newark Charter School?  I know that is a fact because I gave them the tip!  It looks to me like Newark Charter School has benefitted from this elusive formula for years!  Betcha didn’t know that very important fact Ms. Spencer!

The News Journal only mentions Baumbach and State Rep. Kim Williams as the legislators who reached out to Godowsky last Sunday.  There were many more.

But the topping on this farce of an article was the quote from Kendall Massett, of the lobbyist Delaware Charter Schools Network.

“This should not be a district-charter fight,” Massett said. “It’s about equity.”

Equity?  Coming from a paid lobbyist?  This woman has the unmitigated gall to bring up equity?  When she knows exactly what Newark Charter School does?  My God Kendall, please, just stop.  Equity and equality are too very different things.  Equity in this conversation would be closing down Newark Charter School based on their 21st Century racism, discrimination, and social engineering.  It is RACISM folks.  They can say they are coming around to it now, but the way their school is structured now with their demographics, it would take years for them to turn this discrimination factory around.  It is the affluent keeping out the unwanted.  It is segregation.  The very same school that will get more money and wants to cry poor?  When they just spent over $1.4 million dollars on a STEM lab and a performing arts center (or cafetorium as some may want to call it), when they refused to let a disabled six year old girl apply for their precious lottery until we beat them up over that?  Or when they get Federal money designed for Title I schools and they aren’t EVEN A TITLE I SCHOOL?  And our Delaware DOE was the one that submitted them for the award?  And they only qualified because the surrounding district was Title I?  The fact that this school applied for grant money, DOE performance funds, and a minor modification for a “performing arts center” that is actually a cafeteria and an auditorium already shows their inability to tell the truth.  And people just keep handing them dollar after dollar, and they want more.  Wake up!  Don’t you see what is going on here?

If this goes through tomorrow, Secretary Godowsky will have gone back on his word to the General Assembly legislators.  When he knew about this is immaterial at this point.  He knows about it now.  And if he does go through with it, we all know it isn’t even him making this decision.  It is Governor Jack Markell.  If this doesn’t go through, and things stay on course with our largest media outlet in the state heavily slanted on the charter side of the equation, it will happen eventually.  For a state that wants to do soooo much to help our kids in poverty and who are considered at-risk, we sure have a funny way of showing it.

Education Funding Improvement Commission Meeting #4 At 9:30am This Morning At DOE In Dover

The Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission is having their fourth meeting this morning at the Delaware Department of Education building in Dover.  The meeting will be held in the Cabinet room, where the State Board of Education holds their meetings.  There is one item on the agenda that looks very interesting.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach and the DOE’s David Blowman will be giving a presentation on weighted funding.  I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I was engaged in a Facebook conversation about this last night where others were comparing it to salary caps on baseball or football teams.

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What is very curious though is the fact that Lindsay O’Mara, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor created the pdf of the agenda that shows up on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.  Who is running this show?  With this timeline with the committee ending in May, that gives a legislator enough time to draft up a quick bill to implement the findings and get it through the General Assembly by the end of June.  Can you say “pre-determined”?

It’s funny how the State Board is giving the Wilmington Education Funding Improvement Commission a hard time.  They claimed WEIC’s proposals could clash with this task force.  I asked about this sort of thing happening at the very first WEIC meeting in September.  Dan Rich said all of this, including the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025 and the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities were all sort of planned to work in conjunction with each other.  Meanwhile, WEIC is having their second “post State Board of Education vote of no action” meeting tomorrow night at 5:30pm at the Community Education Building in Wilmington at 5:30pm.  Is this when the the transparency promised by WEIC takes a back seat while the commission makes severe changes to the plan to satisfy the State Board of Education?  Or was this also pre-determined?  Or am I a conspiracy theorist like a certain Charter School Board President/Head of the Delaware GOP recently told me?

House Democrats Letter To Governor Markell To Remove Smarter Balanced For 11th Grade

Today, ten Delaware House Democrats signed a letter to Delaware Governor Jack Markell asking him to remove the Smarter Balanced Assessment for high school juniors.  The letter also mentions Senate Joint Resolution #2, the assessment inventory task force.

We recognize that, by your order, the Department of Education is in the midst of creating an inventory of standardized tests administered throughout the state. Pursuant to Senate Joint Resolution 2, signed into law in July, the department will share its findings with legislators and the public, as well as a special work group that will make recommendations regarding possible elimination of redundant tests. While opinions will differ among stakeholders, we believe there is universal support for eliminating the Smarter Balanced test for juniors in lieu of the SAT.

I fully accept that this is Governor Markell’s order.  He came up with the “assessment inventory” idea back in March.  It is a red herring though.  I firmly believe it will get rid of many assessments that give immediate and crucial feedback for teachers in how best to instruct their students.  I also predict it will see an increase in “prep” and “interim” Smarter Balanced Assessments.  The move towards personalized learning will allow for the eventual elimination of the nine-hour test (or longer depending on the individual student’s needs).  But it will not get rid of the basic flaws in SBAC, nor will it eliminate the time taking the test.  Instead it will eventually be in shorter doses but will be just as harmful to students.

There should be universal supporting for eliminating SBAC for ALL grades.  I would caution parents not to be fooled by this letter.  This is not a direction where the Smarter Balanced Assessment will gradually be removed.  It does not address the fundamental and core issues of what is wrong with Smarter Balanced.  I fear this is another attempt to sway legislators from voting for the House Bill 50 Veto Override.  This does not get rid of the issue of parents opting out except for those who have 11th graders.  The SAT is on a downward slope in many states, and now that they are “aligning” it with Common Core, that trend may increase.

Do Not Be Fooled by this Delaware parents!  The DOE has been planning this for over a year IN RESPONSE to the opt-out movement.  They knew 11th graders would have the highest opt-outs.  But it is still implemented in 3rd to 8th grade.  The assessment inventory task force is also stocked with many who will align with the Governor’s flawed logic about standardized assessments.  It wouldn’t shock me if the DOE already wrote the report on it and they are just waiting on the group to tweak it here and there.  I will still fight for the House Bill 50 Veto Override and support parents who choose to exercise their choice to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I have been calling out the “assessment inventory” ruse since the Governor first started talking about it last March.

What I’m Truly Thankful For On This Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers of Exceptional Delaware.  It’s been a crazy year, and we all know what the issues are.  But today, I want to give thanks for what we do have and some of the accomplishments brought forth by others this year.

Thank you to State Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson for listening to parents of Delaware and introducing House Bill 50!

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Thank you to John Young for his passion and words of wisdom!

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Thank you to the victories! Like when House Bill 50 cleared the House by a 36-3 margin!

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Thank you to State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf for letting my son Jacob play with your gavel!

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Thank you to Delaware Governor Jack Markell for signing House Concurrent Resolution #36 recognizing “Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month” in Delaware!

Governor Markell, Kevin Ohlandt and Jacob Ohlandt, 5/14/15

Governor Markell, Kevin Ohlandt and Jacob Ohlandt, 5/14/15

Thank you to beautiful summer days and the beach!

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Thank you to the Progressive Democrats of Delaware for an honor!

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Thank you to the friends I’ve made along the way during my sojourn into Delaware education!

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Thank you to the world for reading my crazy blog!

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Thank you the legislators and stakeholders who fight for our kids and schools!

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Thank you to my dog Bella who helped take care of me after my hernia operation!

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Thank you to my son Jacob who is the inspiration for all I do!  He is becoming an amazing young man who, despite everything, has a heart of gold!  As well, thank you to my awesome wife who puts up with more than anyone I know!

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Thank you once again, to all my readers and those who are allies and enemies, and those in-between!  We will prevail, somehow, someway!

Accountability Framework Working Group Is Meeting NOW!!! Live From The DOE

The Accountability Framework Working Group, the group tasked to provide recommendations for the Delaware School Success Framework is meeting now in Dover at the Townsend Building at the Delaware Department of Education.  This should be very interesting!

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky appears to be leading the meeting, along with Ryan Reyna from the Accountability and Assesssment area of the DOE.  Delaware State Representatives Paul Baumbach and Kim Williams are here as well.

I’m not sure if Penny Schwinn will be attending this meeting.  She has been very quiet lately…

Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newswork just walked in.  So did State Rep. John Kowalko.  Everyone is introducing themselves.  John Carwell with the DOE Charter School Office is attending as a non-voting member.

Secretary Godowsky stated there will be public comment, but he wants to relay the purpose of the committee.  There were 16 meetings prior to this.  He said he was confirmed as Secretary on October 28th.  The ultimate goal of the AFWG was to get a level of commitment from all stakeholders.  He appreciates everyone coming back for this meeting.  He said he has watched from the outside the past couple years and wants everyone to work together to build a level of trust.  He recognized there were changes to the AFWG’s recommendations.  He is talking about his reversal on the opt-out penalty now.  The first factor was the State Board’s position on the opt-out penalty.  The consequences on the plan were not consequences.  The State Board sets policy.  They have a duty to look at students first and this influenced his thinking on this matter.  As well, he said they are investigating the policy of getting rid of Smarter Balanced for juniors and replacing it with the SAT.

Godowsky said they met with the Chief School Officers and the State Board on 11//5 to discuss this transition.  They came up with the possibility of perhaps doing this as early as Spring 2016 but there are a lot of details to sort out.  He wants to be optimistic about that.  Participation rate is key to their thinking and claims this is a civil rights issue and they have to test students in need.  As they looked at their evidence higher performing students had not taken the test.  On 11/7 there was an op/ed in the News Journal about achievement gaps and how protections need to be used to prevent a moral discrepancy.  He met with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens and will speak with that group this evening.  They respect their opinion but not the thousands of parents in Delaware.

They see more benefits for schools using the participation rate multiplier for schools in Delaware.  This is also used to implement priority and reward schools.  The priority schools will not be identified for another three years.  They have already named these schools this year.  The new framework will not be used this year and there will be no consequences this year.  Now he is addressing schools that purposely left students out of the test.  The New Castle County Vo-Tech District, of which Godowsky used to lead, was one of the first to recognize this.  Now we know why Governor Markell picked him as Secretary of Education.  He is talking about how Howard High School went from 56% to 80% proficiency.  When you can control who gets in…  The State Board raised these concerns in 2004 with students not being tested.  Godowsky is stating the US DOE wants this as well.  Where is the proof Dr. Secretary?

The consequences are significantly positive according to Godowsky.  No, they are not.  Now it is time for public comment.  State Rep. Kim Williams gave public comment and said no superintendents are in agreement with the opt-out penalty.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach said this is not gaming the system but empowering our parents.  State Rep. Kowalko said there were several meetings without the AFWG that influenced his decision.  The civil rights issue is not applicable to this situation.  There are hidden fears perpetuated by the Federal Government and the State Board of Education regarding funding and a dismantling of the education system.  RCEA President Mike Matthews said his membership voted against this penalty.  He is talking about testing and punishing schools and giving more resources to high-needs schools.  Hilary Clinton, according to Matthews, said teachers should not be evaluated.  I gave public comment advising the State Board, the DOE and Secretary Godowsky they have no place determining parental rights.  Especially over a flawed test that gives no immediate feedback or direct instruction for students.  As well, they have provided no solid mandated proof of this opt-out penalty by the feds.  Greg Mazotta is talking about the Baldridge Program.

AFWG member Bill Doolittle, representing the Delaware PTA, stated the federal intent was for schools excluding students from the test.  The new ESEA reauthorization will have very little support for this and it will be up to the states.  This was not a child-centered decision based on real world logic.  This is a political decision.  The AFWG’s recommendations gave the best outlook for students and will initiate confrontation.  This decision will accelerate the opt-out movement in Delaware.  With IDEA, they have used the NAEP standards giving parents the right to choose.  We should do what they recommend.  By agreeing to this it will distort data and the schools and DOE will not have clean data.  SAT has a long history of discriminating against students with disabilities.

Deb Stevens with DSEA said she is very concerned about the State Board’s insistence on having negative consequences for schools in regards to participation rate.  She supported the AFWG’s recommendations, but from what she is hearing it is not negative enough for the State Board.  The State Board members have never had an opportunity to meet with the AFWG.  She doesn’t understand the rationale of meeting with the State Board for 3 minutes a month before they act (as public comment at the State Board of Education meetings).  This will not improve the student gaps and will not help with getting resources to schools.  There is no confidence in this test based on the first-year results.  They don’t know how valid or reliable the test is and it is foolish to attach consequences for a test with no track record.  She will not change her vote that AFWG provided to the DOE.

Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald is thanking Ryan and Penny for their guidance with the group as well as the members of AFWG.  He said poverty was a major concern with this group.  Schools with high poverty will be punished the most with this.  AYP, or adequate yearly progress, does not work.  The AFWG thought the consequences they decided on were good.  He thinks moving towards the SAT is good because students are tested too much, especially in 11th grade.  He has concerns with the disability questions with the SAT.  There is no reason for the AFWG to change their recommendation because the Secretary and State Board will decide what they want.  He hopes they put a great deal of thought into the changes.

Ken Hutchins with Capital School District said parents got back the scores and students who were once proficient are no longer proficient.  He doesn’t think Delaware has hit their peak with the opt-out movement.  This will cause opt-out to increase.  He is a data guy.

Joe Jones with New Castle County Vo-Tech said the schools already know what supports and resources they need.  He doesn’t think an assessment should drive that change.  Delaware needs to work together to get these supports and not under the lens of a consequence.  He said nothing came as a surprise and always knew these were just recommendations.  He would love to see it one day come to fruition where assessment is not driving change.

Heath Chasanov, the Superintendent of the Woodbridge School District, thinks this will cause opt-out numbers to rise.  He went out and visited all four of the schools in his district (laughter in the room) and the comment a top senior in his class said they don’t take the SBAC as seriously as the SAT.  In terms of reading, the student said, the SBAC has flaws with the passages in the test.

Indian River’s Jay Owens supported the AFWG’s recommendations but he is excited about the possibility of the SAT and getting rid of SBAC for juniors.  They have the ability to monitor the participation rate.  They can take action as a district when the test is not being pushed by the schools.

Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, is thanking the members of AFWG.  It is no easy feat to come up with a framework like this.  The State Board has publicly met outside of State Board meetings nine times over the Delaware School Success Framework.  Dr. Gray heard the comments of this group.  They are very clear about what the group’s recommendations are.  The State Board did not believe developing a “plan” for opt-out was a good decision.  “The State Board would prefer to see a consequence that is positive and negative.”  Fitzgerald is stating there are no supports and resources to deal with the consequence.  Is the State Board able to make a decision on that, Fitzgerald asked.  Johnson said this was not a discussion at the State Board Retreat.  Fitzgerald asked if any of the supports and resources are different than ones that currently exist to which Johnson said no.

Doolittle said some members who couldn’t make it submitted comments.  He said the State Board has their own perception and this decision was not driven by Federal requirements and was driven by a desire from the State Board to have negative consequences.  Stevens said the name and blame game is driven by Federal decision.  But this does not provide the resources needed to move the needle and change the achievement gap.  Johnson, in response to Doolittle, said schools should have a plan anyways if they don’t meet the 95% participation rate.  I asked Johnson if Governor Markell advised the board to do this, wouldn’t they agree?  She said no, they are their own board.  She said I am entitled to my opinion.  I responded I am, and many agree.  I really need to check on my complaints with the DOJ today…

Godowsky is thanking the group.  The comments were appreciated.  Kowalko is asking what the exact negative consequence is from the State Board.  He said the State Board did not specifically answer this.  Johnson said the State Board did not suggest negative and punitive consequences.  Doolittle said the AFWG was not given the right guidance from the Feds.

 

 

 

 

Delaware DOE Responds To Current Discipline Issues At Delaware Met

Yesterday, I wrote an article about some very concerning events at Delaware Met.  I emailed the Delaware Department of Education about these concerns, along with legislators, Governor Markell, and Attorney General Matt Denn.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked the DOE to look at the amount of in-school suspensions as well to which Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman responded today:


From: Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
To:
Baumbach Paul <paul.baumbach@state.de.us>; Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc:
Nagourney Jennifer <Jennifer.Nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>; Denn Matthew <matthew.denn@state.de.us>; Williams Kimberly <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Kowalko John <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Matthews Sean <sean.matthews@state.de.us>; Gray Teri <teri.gray@sbe.k12.de.us>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; Young Shana <Shana.Young@doe.k12.de.us>; Carwell John <john.carwell@doe.k12.de.us>; Whalen Michelle <Michelle.Whalen@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent:
Friday, October 23, 2015 2:32 PM
Subject:
RE: Delaware Met

Representative Baumbach,

DOE staff visited Delaware Met yesterday afternoon to investigate the alleged violations of students rights.  Below is a summary of their observations relative to the specific allegations reported by Mr. Ohlandt:

  • Hiring prison guards – The school has hired four new support staff to help address the school’s climate issues.  They began working at the school on Monday. Two of these individuals have backgrounds in juvenile corrections and currently serve a number of Delaware Met students in external community based programs. 
  • Multiple suspensions – It appears that the school is attempting to be more consistent with holding students accountable to the code of conduct which might explain a spike in suspensions. The exact number of suspensions will be verified.
  • Inappropriate student confinements – There was no evidence of inappropriate student confinements. DDOE staff observed the In School Suspension (ISS) room.   There were 2-3 students in the room. 

DOE will continue to monitor the school and investigate potential violations of the school’s charter through the formal review process. 

Many thanks, David



My biggest concern is how special education and IEPs are being implemented with fidelity at Delaware Met.  And as I wrote earlier today, there seems to be confusion with their Code of Conduct, discipline efforts, and their Restorative Justice approach.  In essence, I’m sure there is a lot we aren’t being told about what the exact nature is of the offenses students are committing that warrant suspension.  From what I am hearing from Blowman, the school may be administering a type of zero-tolerance program in an attempt to instill order in the school.  I do not think that is viable solution, nor is it a positive long-term action.  It takes more students out of the classroom and away from education.  I have not seen anything coming from this school to indicate they are making the best decisions or even know how to.  But can parents of suspended students afford to wait until the State Board of Education makes a decision in mid-December?  And even then, if they ultimately wind up deciding to revoke the school’s charter, it would not be until the end of the school year.  How much damage can happen until then?

As well, I have heard numerous references to “gang-related” activity, both from third parties and the DOE’s own Formal Review notification letter.  I don’t believe the DOE is equipped as a state agency to handle that type of thing and it may take the Delaware Attorney General’s office getting involved to gage what is truly going on with that aspect of events.

I also have to wonder how well the staff is at dealing with these types of matters.  From what I am hearing, the bulk of the teachers are new.  Do they have the necessary training and development to be able to deal with defiance from students?  Does the administration?  And for that matter, who is running the school?  Is it Sean Gallagher who already has a full-time role as the Executive Director of Leadership at Innovative Schools for the Delaware Leadership Project?  Or is it his intern who Gallagher stated at their 9/28 board meeting would run the “day-to-day” details of the school?  And why has no one questioned the apparent conflict of interest with being paid by both Innovative Schools and the school that makes payments to Innovative Schools?

This culture of silence emanating from the school and their lack of transparency is highly troubling.  Two board members left (which are not changed on their web site), no staff are listed on their website, and no board minutes have been released since their 9/23 meeting even though they have had three board meetings since then (their “special board meetings” on 9/28 and 10/12 and their regular monthly board meeting on 10/21).  We don’t know what their current student enrollment is or even how many students have been suspended in the two months since the school opened.  I’m sure answers will come at the November 4th meeting of the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for Delaware Met’s formal review, but that may be little comfort to students and their parents who want answers now.

A Night Of Celebration, Reflection, Laughter, & Recognition

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Last night the Progressive Democrats of Delaware held their annual Firestone Restaurant celebration, and this year myself, as well as John Young, Mike Matthews and Tizzy Lockman were recognized as education heroes of Delaware.  This is an award I’m fairly certain I will never get from Governor Markell or the State Board of Education!

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It was great to see so many friends, advocates and legislators in a non-formal location.  John Young talked about how we all owe Kilroy a debt of gratitude as he is the godfather of Delaware education blogging.  I spoke about my outstanding FOIA request with the DOE and how much help I need to raise the funds to cover the rest of it.  Tizzy Lockman thanked everyone for their support with the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee and the upcoming Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and how much work they have before them.  Mike Matthews spoke about the dangerous influences outside forces, like Rodel and Delaware Charter Schools Network, can have on candidates and asked that the party not support candidates who are aligned with theses types of corporate education reform companies.

Delaware State Reps. John Kowalko, Kim Williams, Paul Baumbach & Sean Lynn

Delaware State Reps. John Kowalko, Kim Williams, Paul Baumbach & Sean Lynn

The six Progressive State Representatives who voted no on the state budget on July 1st were honored as well with the PDD Bob Stachnik award.  State Rep. Sean Lynn explained why they voted no as they couldn’t sit by and watch funding be cut for those who need it the most without having any revenue coming in.  He also talked about the extreme difficulty the state will face next year with predicted budget deficits between $160-$180 million.  Reps. Paul Baumbach, John Kowalko and Kim Williams also spoke about the budget.  Kowalko said it was his proudest moment in his many years of serving the people of Delaware.

It was a great evening with perfect weather on the riverfront in Wilmington.  The food was excellent, and the atmosphere was festive.  It was great to talk with others about our kids, hysterical moments in the past year (Schwartzkopf’s Gavel, Christina Board meetings, Burger Girl, a certain video released last week by one of the education heroes) while new memories were created (“Vera”, the armpit –don’t ask–, the coffee mug).

Mike O from the seventh type was there, and we spoke for quite a while about blogging, House Bill 165, and charter schools.  I had never officially met him, so it was great to get a different perspective on blogging and whatnot.  I was given an excellent source for my charter school series of articles which I plan on using immediately!

There is a lot of interesting stuff coming up in the next few months with education in Delaware, and you can read all about it on the Delaware blogs!  I would like to thank President of the PDD, Nancy Willing, and all the members of the party for their recognition of myself and the three others.  It was quite an honor!

If you would like to donate for the Smarter Balanced FOIA request, please go to this link and help us find out what is really going on with these high-stakes tests and their vendors! http://www.gofundme.com/x6mb3j8

Happy 4th Of July, Especially To The Superior Six Of Delaware!

Independence Day.  Celebrated for the day our forefathers said “Enough is enough!  We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”  When it gets right down to it, it was all about money.  They were taxed like crazy, over the stupidest stuff.  So they wrote a 1776 version of a blog and they all signed it.  It didn’t end the war.  That dragged on for another five years.  But they made their point, and that’s what we celebrate today for.

Last week, six of our leaders said “Enough is enough!” and they went against the tide and made their stand.  Ironically, it wasn’t because they were being taxed too much.  It’s because we weren’t being taxed enough.  Well, not all of us, but those whose wealth keeps increasing while the little guy gets the shaft in numerous other ways.  Today I salute our state representatives who risked all to say no to a budget that was egregious in countless ways.  Paul Baumbach, Andria Viola Bennett, John Kowalko, Sean Lynn, Sean Matthews, and Kim Williams.  Thank you!

Our forefathers built the house that is America, but it needs constant maintenance and upgrades.  That doesn’t come free.  It has always been paid off the backs of our citizens.  Nobody loves it.  I’ve never heard anyone say “I love paying taxes”.  But it is our duty as Americans.  When there is no revenue coming in for one of the rooms in America, we need to take a look at it.  The paint is starting to chip, a screen needs replaced in a window, the floor is stained…but we want to keep the room like that.  The worst part: we know what’s coming next year.  The ceiling has a hole in it, the window is cracking, and the bed is falling apart.  Instead of fixing the smaller problems now, we are adding to them.  We could fix the things that are broken now, and do smaller maintenance to fix the things that will be broken.  Instead we not only move the room around and throw out some old paperwork, we pay for it with funds that were meant for the bathroom!  The bathroom had a leaky pipe years ago, and it was a big mess.  But it was decided to get the funds to fix it and allocate that money for the pipes.  We used some of that money for our room.  Not cool at all.

The pipes wound up being okay, but some of the rooms in the house were under attack from termites, so it was decided funds would go to that.  We knew this had to be done, after all, we were on the cover of a magazine with the title “Termitetown, America”.  We took the steps to help prevent further termite damage with some of the pipe funds, but at the last minute, the big dogs in our room made the moneygrab from the pipe funds, not to pay for the termite invasion, but to pay for posters on the wall in the room.

To add insult to injury, they kept buying nice things for the room, like letting some of the people that live there keep money even after they spent less.  One would think this is okay, they used the funds wisely, why shouldn’t they keep it?  It’s written in the rules of the house, and all of the other rooms have to abide by that rule.  And they got to spend it on whatever they wanted, as long as it was for “house expenses”, which really, can mean anything.  Instead of doing something meaningful with those funds, many of them paid for the problems they created with some neighbors when they wouldn’t treat them nice.

Out of the 41 people who help keep the room in order, nine of them voted no for the way they wanted to pay for it because they knew it was just making a bad situation exponentially worse.  All of them could have made new house rules to make sure the room was not only looking good now, but in the future as well.  But instead they put a little bit of spackle up and left a lot of holes.  The Superior Six represented the part of the left side of the room owners who have a majority over the right.  For them to go against their own side was considered a taboo thing.  But next year, a vote is made to decide who keeps making the rules on both sides, and as the room falls apart, a lot of the voters are going to say “How did this happen?”  And they will be reminded who made it so.

Independence made America what it is.  It made us our own country.  But it takes work, and money.  There shouldn’t be such a wide gap between the haves and have nots, but there is.  The problem in Delaware is we have a Governor who is more concerned with proficiency gaps than budget gaps.  But the steps he’s taken to close those proficiency gaps cost a lot of money, and it is feared those gaps will widen further instead of closing.  And I think that was intentional.  We have a Department of Education built up, with great amounts of money, to create that illusion and continue it.  All for the purpose of giving more funds to keep the charter schools going and create new ones.

As you celebrate your freedom today, and in the next year, remember the price for that.  Know that your security is in jeopardy because the bulk of our legislators didn’t want to act.  And when the wound gets infected, remember that on Election Day 2016 and fix it!

Delaware Legislators Add More Education Bills: Librarians, Charter School Audits & School Board Voter Eligibility

In the final month of the 148th General Assembly before they take their six month recess, three new education bills are on the plate.  These ones deal with school librarians, a clarification on a pending charter school audit bill, and new rules for voter eligibility in school board elections.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach wants to make sure no school librarians lose their jobs.  I fully support this bill, but we also need them for art, music and other classes that all children used to enjoy but are on the cutting floor in many of our schools.

More from Kim Williams with Delaware charter school audits.  This is good, but we are still waiting on results from at least three charters and their audits in the state auditor’s office.

I’m not sure how I feel about this bill.  I’m going to have to digest this one.

Newcastle County School Boards Meeting Gets Very Heated Over WEAC Recommendations

This morning, the New Castle County school districts had a meeting, and some districts were not too happy about not being included on the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC).  They are also very upset they were not consulted prior to the recommendations put forth by WEAC.

From Delaware State Representative Paul Baumbach’s Facebook post:

At this meeting, of the New Castle County school districts, in addition to an overview by House Education Chair Earl Jaques and Senate Education Chair David Sokola, there was a heated series of statements and questions regarding the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s work. Frankly, some of the questions (why wasn’t my school board included in the Governor’s task force) simply point to the structural challenges facing public schools in Wilmington–the city is divided amongst FOUR traditional school district, one VoTech district, and slews of individual public charter schools. The frustration vented at this meeting merely confirms the need to act on the Committee’s recommendations.

And from State Rep. Kim Williams Facebook page:

Several legislators attended this morning’s New Castle County Combined Boards of Education meeting. Local school board members, administrators and lawmakers discussed topics such as priority schools, standardized testing and the work of the Wilmington Education Advisory Group.

And from State Rep. Edward Osienski’s Facebook page:

There was a lot of strong discussion this morning at the New Castle County Combined Boards of Education meeting. School board members, administrators and legislators talked about issues affecting education like priority schools, redistricting and standardized testing. These types of conversations are going to be ongoing all session with many different groups.

I would have to guess the upset districts were Christina and Colonial.  If Christina board member George Evans was there, which my sources are saying he was, than it is a guarantee words were said!

Other legislators in attendance were State Rep. Stephanie Bolden, Senator David Sokola, and everyone’s favorite State Rep., good old Earl Jaques. (shameless plug: please sign the iPetition to request he be removed from the House Education Committee, here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/we-want-delaware-state-rep-earl-jaques-to-step )