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.

 

Breaking News: Here Comes The Sun! Delaware State Board Of Education Under Review Next Year

The Delaware State Board of Education will be under review by the Delaware Sunset Committee in Fiscal Year 2017.  At the meeting today in Legislative Hall, Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn brought up the nomination for the State Board of Education.  Citing concerns with fiscal transparency, Pettyjohn felt the State Board (who has never come up for a review by the Sunset Committee) should get a review.

For those who may not remember, on January 1st I wrote an article about why I wasn’t going to file complaints in regards to this mess and the other train wrecks happening in the State Board of Education.  I’ve known this nomination was going to come up for a long time now.  I’ve been biding my time waiting for today, and it is finally here.  I could have filed complaints, but sorry, I don’t trust the system in Delaware with complaints.  Instead, I will submit any information to the Sunset Committee for their review.

In determining their review, the State Board of Education’s budget for this fiscal year is $223,100.  Executive Director Donna Johnson’s salary is a little over $90,000 and the administrative assistant’s salary is nearly $54,000.  Each board member gets paid $100 per State Board meeting but they can’t attend more than 24 meetings in a year.  It is very hard to track their expenses from a citizen’s perspective because they do not have their own section or tab under the Department of Education on Delaware Online Checkbook.

The State Board of Education has been a lightning rod of controversy in the past year.  Between the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan vote, the inability to give public comment on action items, the situations I wrote about in the above links, and the fact that Donna Johnson serves as a State Board rep on most education activities without actual board member representation.  These are just some of the things that annoy the citizens of Delaware who are involved in education.  Most feel the State Board of Education should be publicly elected and not appointed by the Governor of Delaware.  For all of their arrogance and hubris, it looks like they are the next stop on the karma bus!  More details to come on this monumental nomination!

While the membership of the Sunset Committee could certainly change next year due to the upcoming elections, the following legislators serve on the committee: State Rep. Gerald Brady (Chair), Senator Nicole Poore (Vice-Chair), State Representatives Andrea Bennett, Stephanie Bolden, Tim Dukes, Jeff Spiegelman, and Senators Brian Pettyjohn, Bryant Richardson, David Sokola, and Bryan Townsend.

This is the process for review by the Joint Sunset Committee, from their website:

SunsetCommitteeReviewProcess