Breaking News: Carney & Bunting To Announce Weighted Funding “Phase One”. Let The Education Hunger Games Begin Again.

Next Tuesday, January 15th, Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a press conference at Legislative Hall to announce a weighted funding system for Delaware students.  Luckily, this blogger got the details of it this evening.  The devil, as they say, is in the details. Continue reading

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Special Report: Red Flags In Delaware Student Enrollment Trends & The Increase In Special Education

The Delaware Department of Education released the September 30th counts report for the 2018-2019 school year.  Enrollment in Delaware is up by 775 students.  Special education is on the rise, jumping to over 16%. There are some very odd trends going on with different sub-groups in Delaware.  Ones that are making me VERY suspicious. Continue reading

Delaware DOE’s Big Plan To Steal Kids From Traditional School Districts & Send Them To Charter Schools

There are a finite number of students in Delaware schools.  Sure, the number enrolled steadily grows over the years, but there are only so many schools.  We know in Delaware that some districts are having lower enrollments thus creating lower capacities in those buildings.  The Delaware Department of Education really doesn’t care about that.  But if they can make sure charter schools grow, let’s do it!  Let’s take a look at the Delaware DOE’s plans for the huge grant they just got! Continue reading

John Kowalko Doesn’t Hate Charter Schools But…

When you think of those who don’t support charter schools in Delaware, one of the first names that pops up is State Representative John Kowalko, from the 25th Rep. District.  Known for his arguments against charter schools, specifically Delaware’s biggest- Newark Charter School, it can be easy to make the assumption Kowalko hates charter schools.  However, that is not the case.

Earlier this weekend, Kowalko sent out an email to his constituents with his thoughts and beefs on Delaware charter schools. Continue reading

From “Jon’s Loving Father” To Absolute Insanity: The Exceptional Delaware Story

As I delve into year five on this blog, sometimes it is healthy to take a look back at my humble beginnings.  From the crazy legislation I proposed in 2014 to my modern-day attempt to get a Secretary of Education removed from power, it has been a crazy four plus years!  It started out with a plan and turned into so much more! Continue reading

Governor Carney’s Communications Director Jonathan Starkey On Susan Bunting: “No Comment”

I just called Jonathan Starkey, Governor Carney’s Communications Director.  I asked him flat-out what Governor Carney is doing about the Susan Bunting situation.  I received silence.  I then advised Starkey we are now seeing 105.9 articles being removed from Google searches and my Facebook post being reported as spam last week.  His official response: “No comment.”

I let Starkey know there would be more coming out and this is just making the Governor look worse.  He thanked me for my call.

Seriously?  Carney better get his head out of the sand and act on this.  We have a sitting Secretary of Education, at a Cabinet level position, with allegations of knowing about widespread financial theft and parent complaints about extremely egregious behavior from Patrick Miller, and Starkey gives me a “no comment”?

I thought about the Facebook spamming and the 105.9 article disappearing from Google.  The fact that it is disappearing shows they do not want it out there.  It isn’t a case of it being untrue and they know it.  They are actively trying to suppress the information and preventing people from seeing it.  In the grand scheme of things, a Delaware Secretary of Education knowing about this stuff isn’t earth-shattering news for America.

This is my hunch: Bunting is just the tip of the iceberg.  It was just last Friday the Delaware Dept. of Justice sentenced a former DOE employee to probation for stealing grant money.  Patrick Miller was doing the same thing.  How rampant is this?  How many education dollars have been stolen over the years?  I believe this is what they don’t want us doing.  They don’t want us knowing they have been powerless to stop it so they ignore it and pray it goes away.  The people of Delaware aren’t idiots.  As I told Starkey, I’m not giving up on this.

If you have ANY information about foul play with Delaware education funds, anywhere, be it a district, charter school, or the DOE, anything, let me know.  I promise confidentiality.  But it is time for the shattered puzzle pieces to come together so we have a clear picture.  As taxpaying citizens, we need to know what is going on.  Enough is enough.  No more.  If they want a war, they just got one.

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

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

Changes To Exceptional Delaware: Your One-Stop Delaware Search Engine!

I’ve been wanting to do this for years!  I’ve changed this blog to include links to every single Delaware school district and charter school.  As well, I’ve added all the Delaware media (newspaper and radio) websites.  I’ve included many State of Delaware websites: Delaware DOE, Governor Carney’s website, The General Assembly, Auditor of Accounts, Attorney General and more!  Various education support groups have been added: DSEA, Delaware Charter Schools Network, Delaware School Boards Association, Delaware Association of School Administrators and more!  You will still be able to find a list of current Delaware blogs as well as closed Delaware blogs.  I cleaned up those lists to take out ones that are not current anymore (nothing written in 2018) and those that are non-functional.  In addition, I’ve added some links to what I call “transparency” sites that folks ask me about all the time.  I’ve found a ton of information over the years at many of these links and so can you!

If you are not on these list of links and would like to be added, please let me know.  I try to get everything but I’m not perfect!

I hope these changes will allow Delaware citizens, parents, students, teachers and more be able to navigate through our state easier.  These are just the first of many changes coming to Exceptional Delaware!

Audit: All School Board Agendas, Minutes, & Audio Recordings; Caesar Rodney, Brandywine & Laurel Are Breaking The Law Big Time!

Transparency in public education is a must.  When more than a quarter of Delaware’s state budget goes to public education, the citizens expect, and rightfully so, transparency.  But some of our districts and charters struggle with transparency.

I haven’t done this since 2016, but I thought it was a good time to see how Delaware’s traditional school district and charter school boards were doing with transparency on their websites.  I checked for board minutes, board agendas, and board audio recordings. Continue reading

Delaware School District & Charter School Special Education Ratings Are The Biggest Joke In The State!

How were the Delaware school districts and charter schools rated this year for special education?  Every single one is in here and the joke isn’t even funny anymore! Continue reading

Delaware School Districts & Charter Schools That Are Serial Abusers Of Petty Cash Laws

**UPDATED BELOW WITH NEW INFORMATION ABOUT ONE DISTRICT**

Two years ago, letters went out to five charter schools from State Auditor Tom Wagner letting them know they were in violation of Delaware’s Budget and Accounting Manual (BAM).  For the purposes of this article, I looked to see how many districts and charters violated BAM in one area.  That was where they write checks from petty cash accounts for more than $500.00.  That is a big no-no according to BAM.  I looked in both FY2017 and FY2018 up until May 31st.  There were many offenders, including two who were included in the 2016 letters!  The reason I started with FY2017 was to give the benefit of the doubt just in case districts and charters were not clear of the rule before that fiscal year.  This isn’t just a few districts and charter schools. Continue reading

Exclusive: The Truth About Teachers At Charter School of Wilmington Joining DSEA & President Paoli

If you read the News Journal article on the Charter School of Wilmington teachers voting to unionize, it was filled with reasons why President Sam Paoli did not want the teachers to unionize. The article failed to capitalize on why the vote happened in the first place- CSW President Sam Paoli.

At this point it is unclear why the educators wanted to unionize or by how large a margin the vote was successful.

I have those answers. Continue reading

Proposed Legislation Would Give Delaware Secretary Of Education Authority To Suspend Teacher Licenses In Certain Felony Situations

A piece of Delaware legislation that is out for consideration would seek to have the Delaware Secretary of Education obtain the authority to suspend a teacher’s license under certain felony crimes or a clear and immediate danger to students prior to certain actions taken by a school district or charter school.  Similar to a bill Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf put out a couple of years ago, this one defines the types of felonies that could warrant the Secretary exercising this type of authority.  The bill is sponsored by Senators Bryan Townsend and David Sokola and State Representatives Earl Jaques and Pete Schwartzkopf.

The synopsis of the bill is as follows: Continue reading

Big Vote In The House Today On School Suspension Bill

SS1 for Senate Bill #85 should get a final vote in the Delaware House of Representatives today.  If it passes and Governor Carney signs the legislation, it should mean Delaware students won’t receive out of school suspensions for ridiculous offenses.  The bill would make schools report the offenses they suspend students for and, data shows, schools don’t like being called out for zero tolerance policies!

The bill came out two years ago as part of the 148th General Assembly but it didn’t make it out of that session.  Senator Margaret Rose Henry tweaked the bill and after more than two months, the bill comes down to the House vote today.  If this is Senator Henry’s education bill swan song, it will be a good one!  Senator Henry is retiring after the end of this session.

This Act draws attention to the types of discipline used in schools by capturing data about out-of-school suspensions and publishing that data, in an effort to help schools identify areas where the data regarding out-of-school suspensions indicates there is room to reduce such suspensions. This Act is meant to increase transparency, improve overall school climate, resulting in improved student outcomes. The collection and publication of this data will also help the Department of Education and community partners identify opportunities to provide greater supports to schools, students, and their families. According to data provided by the Delaware Department of Education (“DOE”), thousands of Delaware students receive out-of-school suspensions each year for minor infractions, such as being unprepared or late for class, dress code violations, and disrespectful behavior. In 2013, only 2% of out-of-school suspensions were for serious offenses such as weapons, drugs, or serious violence. Out-of-school suspensions do not address the root causes for the misbehavior, and only serve to put the students further behind in class. Furthermore, DOE data shows that, in 2013, African-American students made up only 32% of the student body, but accounted for 62% of out-of-school suspension, and students with disabilities made up 13% of the student body, but accounted for 24% of out-of-school suspensions. Federal discipline guidance, developed jointly by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, instructs schools to commit to regular evaluation of school discipline policies and practices, and monitor progress toward the schools’ climate and discipline goals. The federal process requires schools to collect and publicly report disaggregated student discipline data and solicit feedback from students, staff, families, and community representatives. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the guidelines of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual. This Substitute Bill makes the following changes to Senate Bill No. 85: 1. References the existing definition of “disruptive behavior” in Title 14. 2. Includes “disability” as a category for data collection. 3. Extends by 1 year the years stated in the requirements to retain the same time frames. This is necessary because this Act will be enacted in 2018, not 2017 when it was drafted. 4. Clarifies what information is required for reports and provides deadlines for the required plans and reports. 5. Clarifies that schools must develop plans and strategies with stakeholder input. 6. Clarifies content for professional development.                    

Charter School of Wilmington Teachers Vote To Unionize And Join DSEA

Last night, Charter School of Wilmington teachers made a huge vote.  They became the only current charter school in Delaware to join the Delaware State Education Association.  As such, they will be a part of the National Education Association as well.  This opens the door for other charter schools to unionize in the future.  Often, when one domino falls…

The vote was not won by an overwhelming majority but enough for it to pass.  I’ve been hard on DSEA and NEA recently but that was because of very unique and limited circumstances.  That was a case of bad apples in the bunch and perception.  Even with that, I do support the unions and see them as a last defense against education reform that is bad for schools.  This CSW vote changes the landscape in Delaware.

I’ve heard rumblings about severe dissatisfaction with CSW leader Sam Paoli for months now.  Nobody wanted to go on the record though.  A teacher was terminated in the Winter over a minor disagreement with Paoli.  Many claim he rules the school with an iron fist and teachers, parents, and students are against this dictatorship.  By unionizing, these teachers regain some sense of control over their job security.  The CSW board is not elected so it allowed Paoli to run around unchecked.

There have been other charter schools in Delaware that have looked into unionizing but this is the first to actually do it.  Last summer, teachers at Providence Creek Academy wanted to but you must have at least 50% of the vote in favor of it.

More information as it becomes available.

Updated, 10:50am: This is not the first time a Delaware charter school joined DSEA.  Positive Outcomes did many years ago but it only lasted a year.

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

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

Senator Sokola Makes My Day With Proposed Education Funding Transparency Bill

As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, all schools are required to provide more transparency with how they spend money.  Delaware Senator Sokola seeks to codify this with legislation currently in circulation for sponsorship.

I like this bill.  I believe an amendment should make sure every expense down to the school level is given a specific category.  Trying to read Delaware’s online checkbook is a lesson in futility at times and does not give an accurate picture to make sure funds are spent the way they are supposed to.  Excluding certain items, like under (2) (b) of the proposed legislation should not happen.  Yes, these funds can be tracked in a confusing way through state reporting procedures but putting the whole puzzle together can be very difficult.

What do you think?  Will this bill provide the information we need?

The Dream Becomes A Reality: Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students

It all starts with an idea.  But ideas that roll around in your mind will always be just that.  It is now time for action!  Therefore, this is the birth of Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students.

For almost four years I’ve been writing about education in good old Delaware.  It’s taken me from the bottom of Sussex all the way to the tip-top parts of the state.  I’ve been to Legislative Hall and the Delaware DOE building more times than I can count.  And nothing has changed.  In fact, I’m going to say it is getting worse.  Especially with special education.  But it isn’t just that.  It is also issues dealing with school discipline, race, gender, bullying, classroom management, class sizes, safety, and trauma coming into our schools in ways our educators are just now starting to fathom and understand.

To that end, I am taking my email/Facebook/social media/cell phone advocacy out of the digital world and into the schools.  This will be a huge task and I need your help!

These are the issues I am willing to advocate for students:

Special Education: whether it is IEPs or 504 plans, it is important to know your child’s rights, the parental rights, and the rights of the school.  Many parents feel overwhelmed in IEP meetings.  Trying to learn about federal IDEA law, Delaware State Code, and all the pending special education legislation is a task in itself.  Do you have a child with a unique disability that may warrant very specific goals or accommodations in their IEP?

School Discipline: does the punishment fit the crime?  Does the punishment meet the criteria of the school student code of conduct?  Does it follow state law?  If a student has an IEP or 504 plan was it a manifestation of their disability or just poor choices?  What are the rights of students when there are School Resource Officers, constables, or armed security?  When is physical restraint warranted?  How does it work with transportation and busing when a discipline issue comes up?

Trauma: Is your child going through a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder based on violence in their neighborhood?  Or in their own home?  Are their grades falling behind as a result of this?  Are they acting out?  These are students that may not be special education but need an advocate to help schools and teachers sift through these issues so they can give your child the best education possible.

Bullying: Is your child being bullied?  Are you finding the school isn’t doing everything they can to put a stop to it?  What steps can you take to make sure they do?

These are my goals:

To serve any of the above needs or potential conflict a parent may have with a school.

To guide parents on the appropriate ways to deal with the folks in the schools.  This isn’t as simple as it looks, and when things escalate, there is a proper chain of steps to go through.

To work with every school district and charter school in the state to make sure Parent Council Groups for special education are up and running.

To advocate meaningful dialogue between parents and schools.  This is crucial.  But it is also important to make sure there is one adult in the room who can be unbiased and impartial.  Screaming heads don’t get you far.  It might feel good in the short-term, but it is not conducive to the best interests of the one person who matters the most- your child!

To inform parents of their child’s rights and how that applies to the school setting.  To inform parents of the differences between legislation and regulation and what is enforceable and what is not.

To make sure due process rights are followed to the letter of the law in discipline situations.

I am not an attorney nor do I pretend to be.  I am just a parent with my own special needs child who has run the gauntlet with Delaware schools.  If your child’s school building doesn’t know me directly, they know of me.  All the district and charter leaders know me as well as the legislators.  I have contacts all over the place and know exactly who to go to when things need to happen.  I’ve helped parents out for years but it is time to take it to the next level.

I will be doing this work at no cost.  But any organization or business (whatever this turns out to be based on demand) needs funding.  Pure and simple.  So I am asking for donations from folks in Delaware who see this growing need in our state.  Whether it is a dollar or more, every bit counts.  I am willing to go up and down our state to help our kids.  I am centrally located in Dover so my door is open for all!

If you are of mind to help get this going and help sustain this, any contributions are certainly welcome!  Please go to the Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students page here: https://www.gofundme.com/exceptional-advocacy-for-delaware

If you are a parent who needs help in dealing with a situation involving your child at a Delaware school, please contact me as soon as possible.  My email is kjohlandt70@gmail.com and we can exchange phone numbers from there.

Delaware Public Education Salaries Over $100,000: Rankings, Student Cost, Ratios, $$$ Totals, & Synopsis

After weeks of work, all of the Delaware Public Education salaries over $100,000 have been posted with a few exceptions.  Those are four charter schools who either did not respond or will in the next couple of days.  But there is more than enough data to make some sense out of all this.  Many asked why I was posting these.  There were several reasons: requests, comparisons, money tracking, and general curiosity.  But the main reason was to see if I could answer the age-old question- “Are there too many administrators?”  Finally, I am prepared to answer that. Continue reading

Prologue: The Big FOIA About Salaries

On February 28th, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to every single Delaware school district and charter school.  The ask?  Every single employee with an annual salary over $100,000.   I based it on that specific number because I know pretty much every single assistant principal and up (with a few exceptions) makes over $100,000.  One of the key questions in Delaware education is “Do we have too many administrators?”.  This comes up every single time the state budget conversation heats up or a district goes out for a referendum. Continue reading