Margie Lopez-Waite New Head Of School At DAPSS But Is Colonial Backing Out? Conflicts Of Interest All Over The Place!

After waiting an extra ten days to put up the audio of their June board meeting, the future of the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is once again in doubt.  Immediately into their board meeting, Margie Lopez-Waite resigned as President of their board and was than voted into the new Head of School position. Continue reading

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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

US DOE Rules Delaware “Needs Assistance” For Special Education

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services for the United States Department of Education came out with their special education ratings for each state on July 5th and Delaware was rated as “Needs Assistance” in special education for IDEA Part B (ages 3 through 21).  For Part C, which covers Birth through Age 2, Delaware was rated “Needs Assistance” for the second year in a row.

While OSERS did not release the letters sent to each state, they did put up a document covering what each state received for their rating.  The individual letters are supposed to be up this month according to their website.

It is hard to give a lot of weight to these rulings by the US DOE.  Most of the ratings are based on standardized test scores.  I broke this down by school districts and charter schools a few weeks ago based on the letters sent to each district or charter by the Delaware Department of Education.  When over 60% of the ratings are based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment or the SAT, by grade, we are failing to properly grade our special education.  Students with disabilities, historically, are the worst performers on these type of tests.  These tests do not give an accurate gage of the ability and knowledge these students need to succeed in school.  While even the education reformers are jumping on the “standardized testing does not show the full picture in education” bandwagon, for the US DOE, the almighty standardized test is the basis of everything.  These tests, based on Common Core, which President Trump swore up and down he would abolish (like he even could if he wanted to).  Furthermore, these ratings are always two years behind.  This current rating is based on the 2015-2016 school year.

Repeat after me, IDEA is more than a standardized test.  IDEA is more than a standardized test.

Once the US DOE releases Delaware’s findings letter I will post it.  Last year we were “Meets Requirements”.  We tend to flip back and forth between “meets requirements” and “needs assistance”.  In 2014 we were rated as “Needs Intervention” which upset me to no end until I found out just how flawed these ratings are.

 

Appoquinimink CFO Chuck Longfellow Is The New DOE Associate Secretary of Operations & Other DOE News

While the Delaware Department of Education has not formally announced Chuck Longfellow as their new Associate Secretary of Operations, it looks like his former home, the Appoquinimink School District, let the cat out of the bag on their website.  No start date has been announced yet and Longfellow still appears on the Appo website as their Finance Director. 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

Caesar Rodney’s Christine Alois Is The New Deputy Secretary Of Education In Delaware

The Deputy Secretary of Education job posting was up for a long time, going back to last Winter.  After a long search, the Delaware Department of Education announced Dr. Christine Alois, the Director of Instruction for the Caesar Rodney School District, will be the new Deputy Secretary of Education.  Caesar Rodney put the following on their district Facebook page today:

DR. CHRISTINE ALOIS NAMED DELAWARE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF EDUCATION

Caesar Rodney School District Director of Instruction Dr. Christine Alois has been named Delaware Deputy Secretary of Education by Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting.

Dr. Alois has worn many hats in her 24 years in the Caesar Rodney School District. Starting in 1994 as the district’s first latch key teacher, she quickly rose up the ranks becoming a 5th grade teacher, a 7th grade teacher, a district resource teacher, an assistant principal, principal, supervisor and ultimately a director.

Dr. Alois has been nothing but an asset to the district championing and spearheading key CR initiatives such as language immersion, instructional technology and environmental education.

Karen Field-Rogers was the former Deputy Secretary of Education and has been filling double duties down at the Townsend Building in Dover so this hiring will be welcome news for her!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will The State Auditor, Treasurer, Div. of Accounting, Delaware DOE or Attorney General Act On Petty Cash Abuse? And What Happens To DAPSS?

A few days ago I put an article up about petty cash abuse in our districts and charter schools.  No state agency has yet to give an official response even though they are all well aware of the article at this point.  I’m fairly sure if there were an investigation that came out of this the last person they would tell is me.

The interesting snafu in all this is Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  They are already on probation from their formal review.  While not using a petty cash for fun time at the school is not a condition of their probation, the fact that money was used for fun time and who knows what else is a concern.  I’ve heard lots of tales about how that money was used.  An auditor would have a field day with this.

Like I said, I’m not too concerned with the folks who did it once or twice.  Those can be explained.  In fact, one school district made it a point to contact me.  It is the chronic offenders I take issue with.  Most especially the two that got a letter from Tom Wagner less than two years ago saying “Don’t do it”.  No one should be doing it to begin with but when you get a letter like that and essentially flip the bird and do the same thing all over again, I have ZERO respect for you.  Sounds like Sam Paoli has more on his plate than just CSW teachers joining the union!

I was really hoping Margie Lopez Waite and the board at DAPSS would act on this immediately.  But no, when I go to the DAPSS website I see the SAME person on there who was behind the school’s petty cash splurging.  On the taxpayer’s dime.  I don’t mind paying taxes so kids can get an education.  But I take a very serious affront to school leaders who want to break the rules and treat state money like it is their own piggy bank to play with.  Yes, I’m talking about you Herb Sheldon.  Margie acted lightning fast last Winter in getting someone off the school website.  But I guess playing with school funding is an okay.  Gotcha!  I understand now!

Will anyone in the state actually do more on this issue than send more letters saying “Don’t do this”?  When does REAL accountability start happening?

 

Hey Project Veritas, This Is How Our Teacher Union Rolls In Delaware- They Get It Done! Publish That!

A month ago, I posted some articles about a far right-wing group called Project Veritas.  I didn’t know much about them but their videos intrigued me.  I gave the Delaware State Education Association a hard time and that may not have been very fair on my part.  Today, when I read an article by Cris Barrish with WHYY, DSEA President Mike Matthews impressed me a lot!  The article was about Senate Bill 234, which passed the Senate yesterday and will be heard in the House Education Committee in the next few weeks, if not sooner.

Mike Matthews, president of the Delaware State Education Association that represents teachers and other school employees, said crimes and violations like those cited in this article spurred his union’s lawyer to work with state education officials, attorneys and others to craft the legislation.

I remember talking to Mike about some of these horrific crimes that were making the media such as Karen Brooks in Smyrna.  He was as disgusted as I was.  A few years ago, Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf came out with a similar bill but this one was much better.  I firmly believe DSEA’s role in the writing of Senate Bill #234 made it a much stronger bill.

Matthews said the DSEA “strongly supports” the bill because it could prevent the ability of child abusers to “bounce around’’ to different school districts with their teaching license intact while a serious allegation goes through a copious investigative process at the district level. The bill would also provide extensive due process to protect teachers who are unfairly accused by students, parents or other faculty, he said.

Amen Mike!  We don’t want ANY teacher or educator milking the system when they are abusing kids.  My take on teachers like this?  They shouldn’t be anywhere near children or teenagers.  But at the same time, we don’t want to necessarily punish the innocent.  Unfortunately, there have been situations where teachers have been victim to false claims.

“It clarifies the process that I think maybe has been muddied for some time,” Matthews said. “It kind of separates this idea that the employer, the district and board, has to take action before [the state can take action] to revoke or suspend an educator’s license when there are allegations of a serious crime.”

My take on this?  Most districts or charters don’t necessarily want the publicity when things go down.  If there is an arrest, they can’t help it.  What happens when an investigation is a stall tactic?  Forcing the state to take action tells the district or charter- “we know this is going on and we will take action when you won’t!”

“The bill takes necessary steps to remove those educators if there is clear fear of harm coming or having come to a child. I like to believe that like any other profession we are always going to have those who do not represent our profession well and need to be exited when it comes to these allegations and potential crimes.”

A fast exit!

What I didn’t foresee with this bill was how it could affect special education.  Barrish wrote about this aspect of the legislation when discussing the “letters of concern” portion of it.

The bill also has a provision that could apply when the state determines that no violation has occurred which warrants disciplinary action, but that “an act or omission” by the teacher is a “matter of concern.” Such a concern could be that the teacher creates inadequate Individualized Education Programs for students who are identified as in need of special education services.

I have very mixed thoughts on this.  A teacher could write a draft IEP before the IEP team convenes to discuss it.  Putting the onus on a teacher for what could be team decisions is very dangerous.  Yes, the teacher is the one that writes the draft, but the team decides what is final.  Any IEP team should include an administrator (usually the Principal or an Associate Principal), the school psychologist, the school special education coordinator (also called an Educational Diagnostician), the school nurse (unless the parent says it is okay for them not to attend), a special education teacher, and a primary teacher.  And of course the parent or parents.  When students reach 8th grade, they typically attend the IEP meetings as well.  Is one teacher out of a whole IEP team the only one that should get a “letter of concern” if the school winds up getting sued for not following an IEP?  Or writing a bad one?  This could open a huge can of worms.  I have always told parents, do not sign an IEP unless you are satisfied with it.  There is nothing preventing you from doing so.  And if you find the IEP isn’t working, you can always request another IEP meeting to revise it.

Now when it comes to teachers not following very specific parts of an IEP, such as not having the student do every other math problem as an example, that is a different matter.  If a teacher willfully doesn’t follow what is written in an IEP, I can’t defend that.  I may need to see more on this part.  The big question would be what happens if a parent sues a charter or district over special education matters.  Would those “letters of concern” become discoverable evidence?  Would the district or charter put themselves in a position of legal vulnerability?  Or would the special education law firm have to subpoena the Delaware DOE to get those letters?

I’m going to take this time and publicly apologize to Mike Matthews for my Project Veritas articles.  A DSEA email was provided to me the same day I saw Veritas’ videos.  I published it without reaching out to Mike for more information.  I regret that.  While the email didn’t condone the actions of the subject of a Veritas video it didn’t defend it either.  It was simply an internal email warning of potential Veritas spies hoping to entrap teacher union members.  I was harsh on DSEA and I acknowledge that.  Legislation doesn’t happen overnight and I will assume DSEA was working with the Delaware DOE on what became Senate Bill #234 long before the Veritas videos came out in May.  I had no idea Veritas was going to jump on my article and put Mike in the spotlight the way they did.  I remember seeing that video and gasping.  Yes, I published it, but the more I found out about Veritas the more something didn’t seem quite right.

I look forward to Senate Bill #234 becoming the law of the land in Delaware!  And I would hope James O’Keefe who seems to have made it a crusade to go after teacher unions can provide “fair and balanced” coverage to show the good things they are doing.  But knowing O’Keefe, he would probably take the credit for it himself.  That seems to be how he rolls!  He can say what he will about some rogue union leaders out there, but here in Delaware, our union looks out for students as well as teachers!

DSEA Needs To Push For Amendments In Pay For Success Bill Lightning Fast! This Bill Is Being Rushed At The 11th Hour!

The Delaware State Education Association needs to keep a very close watch on a bill flying through the Delaware General Assembly!  Scratch that.  They need to be all over Senate Bill #242 like white on rice!  They have the political muscle to get some fast changes on this bill and they need to flex it yesterday!  This bill has more head-scratching sponsors on it who should know better! Continue reading

What Is Margie Lopez Waite Doing Now? And Is A 3rd Charter In The Mix With Her Plans For DAPSS & ASPIRA?

Will a Wilmington charter school become embroiled in the ongoing saga of Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security and Las Americas ASPIRA Academy?  Many are saying yes. 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

Exclusive: The Kathleen Davies Mystery Solved! What Role Did Tom Wagner, The Delaware DOE, & The News Journal Play?

For over two years, Delaware citizens wondered why Kathleen Davies was put on leave by Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner.  Now, finally, the truth can be told. 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.                    

Former Employee Alleges Delaware DOE Violated FOIA, Delaware AG Opinion Agrees

Atnre Alleyne, a former employee of the Delaware Department of Education and the current head of DelawareCAN, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DOE back in March.  He was not satisfied with their response and filed a FOIA complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice.  The Delaware DOJ issued their opinion on the complaint on May 4th and found the Delaware DOE did violate FOIA. Continue reading

And Then There Were Four… State Board of Education Down Three Members

It appears former State Rep. Liane Sorenson and longstanding State Board member Barbara Rutt have resigned from the Delaware State Board of Education leaving four members left.  Delaware Governor John Carney has not put forth any nominations for any replacements of the vacant positions, including that of former State Board President Dr. Dennis Loftus who resigned last month as well.

A quorum for the State Board of Education is four members.  If any of the existing members do not show up to a State Board of Education meeting the board could take no action on any item at their meetings.  That would mean no regulations, no appeals, nothing.  This is who we are left with:

The Delaware General Assembly has one month left for the 149th General Assembly.  It actually ends on June 29th since the 30th is on a Saturday.  As well, the Delaware Department of Education is on the hunt for an “education associate” to replace former Executive Director Donna Johnson who resigned early last month.  The deadline for that application is June 9th.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting is the Executive Secretary of the State Board of Education but she is not considered a member of the board and has no voting privileges.  This is not good at all for the State Board.

Hot Off The Press: Regulation 225 Changes Released By Delaware Department Of Education

While the June 1st issue of the Registrar of Regulations has not come out today, the Delaware Department of Education just issued a press release on what the changes to Regulation 225 will be including a copy of those changes within the regulation. Continue reading

Breaking News: Changes To Regulation 225 Coming Out Tomorrow Morning

On June 1st, a new issue of the Delaware Registrar of Regulations will come out.  Included in this will be a revision to Regulation 225.  Apparently the changes will address the issue of parental involvement which caused a substantial amount of resistance to the regulation when it came out last fall.

When the revision comes out tomorrow, the public will have 30 days to give public comment on the regulation.

The original Regulation 225 limited the ability of schools to let parents know about issues when a transgender student sought help from the school.  The Delaware Department of Education said they put this in there so as not to cause an issue where students could be in danger due to the school notifying the parent.

Some parents in Delaware had issues with the entire regulation and voiced their discontent.  I don’t think this regulation will ever make everyone happy but it sounds like the Delaware DOE did make changes.  We will find out tomorrow what they are.

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

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

Charter Nepotism At ASPIRA & DAPSS

Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security will have a new Director of Instruction as of July 1st.  Deborah Panchisin resigned as an Executive Director of Instruction at Appoquinimink School District last month, effective July 1st.  Greg Panchisin is the Chief Operating Officer at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy.  Greg and Deborah Panchisin are married.  Margie Lopez-Waite is the Head of School at Las Americas ASPIRA.  Margie Lopez-Waite is the current President of DAPSS’ board.  Margie Lopez-Waite is slated to be the next Head of School at Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  Margie Lopez-Waite proudly boasted of having someone lined up to take over the position of Director of Instruction a few months ago at a Charter School Accountability Committee meeting when DAPSS was under formal review.

This is what happens when anyone is allowed to insert themselves into a leadership role at a charter school.  They cause chaos and use personal connections to hire who they want and who cares if it is a very personal connection.  Because they are two different schools, it is not against the law.  But it is certainly a manipulative and scummy move.  Please continue to tell me this is “for the students”.  Margie Lopez-Waite played the Charter School Accountability Committee and the State Board of Education.  And Secretary Bunting.  And they fell for it hook, line and sinker.

The Panchisins make a combined income of $245,000 in their current roles.  Deborah Panchisin makes $136k at Appoquinimink.  Greg Panchisin makes $109k at ASPIRA.  Say she gets a pay cut for her role at DAPSS.  They would still most likely be making a combined income well over $200k.  I imagine that handling instruction for 200 students as opposed to many more at Appo would be less work.  Less stress.

This is Delaware…