Tonight

There is so much going on tonight.  First up is the first Town Hall meeting (which I filed a FOIA complaint against the Governor’s Office and Christina School District for a violation of the seven day notice) for the Governor Carney let’s screw with Christina School District one more time.  Second is the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting in which they pick up a new board member and tackle the resolution similar to the Christina resolution on sanctuary schools and all that.  Finally, it is the Capital School District Board of Education meeting.  My son goes to school there again so I have a vested interest in what goes on in their district.  I can’t possibly attend all of them.  So which one am I going to?  Who gets the honor? Continue reading “Tonight”

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State Rep. Rich Collins Is Not Digging Gender Expression Regulations

It looks like State Rep. Rich Collins is taking aim at proposed regulations dealing with gender discrimination according to the weekly newsletter from the Republican Caucus of the Delaware House of Representatives.  I felt the need to redline this because there are some points I agree with and some I don’t.

State Lawmaker Says Proposed Education Regulations Could Violate Parental Rights, Spark Lawsuits
A proposed anti-discrimination policy and regulations that could soon be applied to Delaware public schools are raising questions and concerns.
I’m sorry, but how often does Rep. Collins take an active role on education issues in the General Assembly?  How much education legislation has he put forth?  I think this has more to do with transgender issues than potential legality of the Governor’s actions.  Cause if Collins wants to poke holes at legality in state code, I can think of a few dozen issues that need the spotlight more than this.
“It opens Pandora’s Box,” said State Rep. Rich Collins, R-Millsboro.  “It has the potential to twist schools up in knots.”
A little overdramatic there.
The process began in mid-July with the issuance of a brief memorandum from Gov. John Carney to Sec. of Education Susan Bunting.  In the memo, the governor directed the agency to promulgate regulations providing clear guidance to schools “to prohibit unlawful discrimination in educational programs, and activities for students, on the basis of any legally protected characteristic.”
This is Executive Overreach.  Something Carney does very well.  He has been doing this a lot lately. 
The memo set a deadline of November 1st for the proposed rules to be posted in the Delaware Register of Regulations, a needed step preceding implementation.
If you ask me, any regulation should be based on a bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor.  No questions asked. 
Four “community conversations” were held — one in each county, and one in the City of Wilmington — to gather public input.
These community conversations are usually poorly attended.  The results of these meetings are predetermined as usual.
State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, attended the Sussex County event last week.  She said the meetings – which all took place between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. over a period of just ten days – were, perhaps intentionally, inconveniently staged for parents to participate.  “They were held when families are collecting students from school activities, having dinner and assisting with homework,” she said.
I like Rep. Briggs King.  But my question would be when is an opportune time?  When parents are at work?  Is after 8pm better when parents are trying to get kids to bed?  I would say sufficient notice and having schools send out robo-calls paid for by the state would work better.  Or hell, have the state send out robo-calls. 
Rep. Collins noted that the forums appeared to have been deliberately engineered to thwart public criticism, with participants broken into small discussion groups, limiting interaction and open debate.
Welcome to DOE 101 Rep. Collins!  This is how they roll.  I’ve been dealing with this kind of nonsense for years.
He added that an online survey form for public feedback on the proposed policy and regulations posed questions that specifically called for participants to provide three things they liked about each but avoided any such pointed solicitation of negative comments.
Once again, we go back to the predetermined thing.  The Delaware DOE will never put “This sucks” as an option!
The draft regulations include “gender identity or expression” among its protected characteristics. 
Among the more controversial aspects of the proposed rules are the following:
  • All students enrolled in a Delaware public school would be able to self-identify gender or race.  (Rule 7.4)

I watch the show Shameless.  In an episode from last year, a character named Carl wanted to get a DNA test to prove he had African-American ancestry so he could get into a military academy.  The white teenager couldn’t get in but the school did have openings for different minorities for 20% of their population.  Even though he did not have any African-American ancestry, he did find out he was 3% Apache so he got in.  Not sure where I’m going with this, but I thought it was kind of funny.  In these episodes dealing with Carl’s situation, another brother named Ian is dating a transgender.  The writers did a great job of conveying some of the issues transgender people go through.  But I digress. 

  • A student would have the opportunity to participate on the sports team that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.  (6.4)

I really don’t know how to comment on this one.  I have no issues with gender identity whatsoever.  But calling it “assigned sex”?  Is that a legal term?  I don’t know.

  • A student would have the opportunity to participate in the program of instruction dealing with human sexuality that is consistent with the student’s gender identity, regardless of the student’s assigned sex at birth.  (3.4)

I would think this is appropriate.

  • Regarding physical education programs – goals, objectives and skill development standards could not be designated on the basis of gender.  (5.2)

Why does everything have to be a “standard”?  What happened to the days when kids went to gym to release energy and play basketball or floor hockey? 

  • School districts and charter schools would be required to work with students and families on providing access to locker rooms and bathrooms that correspond to students’ “gender identity or expression.”  (8.1)

What does “work with” mean?  This is a good point.  I’ve seen how schools are “required” to work with parents, but sometimes you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

  • Even if a student does not legally change his or her name, he or she can select a “preferred name” based on a “protected characteristic” that school officials would be obligated to use except on official records.  (7.3)

I don’t mind this.  My son’s name is Jacob.  He likes his name.  He doesn’t like to be called “Jake”.  If he wanted to be called “Bob” in school, I would respect that, as long as he is consistent with it and not changing his “preferred name” every other week.

The proposed regulations direct school districts to establish antidiscrimination policies within 90 days of the rules’ implementation or the start of the next academic year, whichever is earlier.  The policies would be required to contain informal and formal complaint procedures.
A procedure isn’t the same thing as reality.  Just gonna throw that one out there.
“The regulations and policy contain no mention of a student’s age, so I question the wisdom of allowing very young students to make some of these decisions,” Rep. Collins said.  “These proposals also seem to undercut parental authority; giving parents less say in some of these processes then I think is appropriate.”
Then and than mean two different things.  Just saying.  But I kind of agree with Rep. Collin’s point here.  A five-year old making these decisions, without parental consent, could be a slippery slope.  A thirteen-year old, who is more aware of their body and their wants… that could be a different thing.
State Reps. Collins and Briggs King say the proposed regulations are invalid, noting that “gender identity or expression” is not a legally protected classification under the Delaware Code covering public education.
Then perhaps Reps. Collins and Briggs King should write legislation which would put it as a legally protected classification.
Delaware’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013 — which forbids discrimination on the basis of gender identity in housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations, and insurance – added new language to seven titles of the state code.  However, those changes were not applied to Title 14, which covers public education.
See above.
“Neither the proposed regulation nor the model policy document, are legitimate because they are not based on any legal authority granted by the General Assembly,” Rep. Collins said.
That’s because Carney wants to circumvent the General Assembly whenever possible.  He is becoming very proficient at that.  But the House Republicans had a Carneypalooza in their newsletter this week with pictures of him all over the place. 
Rep. Briggs King points to language in House Joint Resolution 6 – which is still pending action in the Senate – as further proof.  The measure contains a provision explicitly stating that Delaware’s laws on public education do not “prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.”
Carney likes to flex his gubernatorial muscle.  If he wanted this so bad, he should have done his posturing on June 30th (and July 1st, July 2nd) and gotten the General Assembly to pass a simple Joint Resolution.
Rep. Collins said there has been a rapid push to implement the anti-discrimination regulations, outside the authority of law and escaping the attention of most parents and elected officials.  He said the new rules would produce confusion and likely create additional disputes and lawsuits.
John is all about the rapid push.  Patience is not his strong suit.  The only authority he seems to recognize is his own authority.
In a recent communication to the Department of Education, Rep. Collins urged the agency to delay action to address the growing concerns about the proposals.
How much you want to bet the response will be as empty as Legislative Hall between July and early January?
I am really torn on this one.  Collins offers up some valid points.  The biggest is that Governor Carney once again operated under the guise of Executive Power to do whatever the hell he wants.  He is the most non-transparent Governor in Delaware history.  He is flaunting this power a lot lately.  Much more than Jack Markell did.  It does not bode well for Carney.  I’m sure the DOE, Rodel, and the Delaware Business Roundtable love it though!
I dig into a great deal of education happenings.  I don’t mind any rights of students being clarified.  But there are some parental no-nos in the below draft of the proposed regulations.  I don’t think any educational setting should determine what is best to tell a parent or NOT tell a parent.  Parents have rights when it comes to their children and I can understand the concerns by some parents in feeling those rights are being stripped away.  I don’t see it as a “left-wing liberal snowflake” agenda though.  I see it as an overall concern I have with education policymakers who pretend they want parental engagement but operate behind the scenes and make decisions which ALL parents should know about.  They should also be a part of those conversations and no back-door meetings should take place.
The reason I’m so torn on this issue is because for me it is relatively new.  I’m not in schools enough and I don’t know many transgender folks.  While this isn’t a brand-new issue, it has gotten the spotlight the past few years.  I’m against any kind of discrimination, period.  Equal rights for all.  But many Republicans are against transgender folks, as well as homosexuals, because of what the Bible says.  I’m sure I won’t win any friends here, but the Bible was rewritten in the Council of Nicea some 1,500 years ago.  By a group of men.  It wasn’t rewritten by God.  And while the Bible doesn’t address gender identity or expression, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a big debate in the Council of Nicea.  I’ve heard some say the Bible is “God-breathed”, meaning it is infallible.  But I’ve seen one message in the Bible taken in so many different ways that it seems folks forget the basic message of the good book: love your neighbor.  Be nice.  Be kind.  To me, that is the message I take from the Bible.  Did you learn to forgive others?  Do you give more than you take?  Do you do your best to set an example for your children?  To me, those are the important things.  I believe in the Ten Commandments.  I do my best to obey them.  I don’t covet my neighbor’s wife.  I know the couple next to me are moving out and I haven’t met my other neighbor yet.  I haven’t killed anyone.  And so on.  I will never understand hating someone for what they are or the choices they make.  If they get all the stuff I take from the Bible, I’m pretty sure their passage to Heaven (or whatever afterlife you choose to believe in) is assured.
If Delaware Republicans and Democrats want to make some real headway, how about they band together to get rid of the rot in our state government?  We did a pretty good job on opt out a couple years ago.  Imagine what we could do together if we REALLY got organized?

Mike Matthews Speaks!

Finally!  After weeks of Delaware Governor John Carney’s posturing about his plans for the Christina School District Wilmington schools, Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews gave a shout-out to his fellow DSEA members about the rapidly developing situation.

Being at the table doesn’t mean you are in full collaboration with the rest of the table.  But it is a slippery slope.  Cause sometimes they will serve you on the table.  Carney’s Springfield gambit has more holes than a donut shop.  The Springfield teachers union was not on board with this at all despite any mainstream articles you read about it.  I fully expect DSEA and the Christina local to speak out 100% against this when the time comes.

In looking at the demographics between Christina and Springfield, I noticed the student populations are vastly different.  While Springfield’s largest minority is Hispanic students, Christina’s Wilmington students are mostly African-American.  This represents different needs and approaches right off the bat.  For those who see this is a softer approach to Christina, I don’t.  I see it as a forced coercion on the part of the Governor and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  And it appears they have the usual suspects pimping for them.

Seaford Mother Outraged Over Potential Abuse From Seaford Teacher Towards Her Child With Autism

Tonight, Rob Petree with 105.9 wrote an article about a Seaford School District parent who is claiming a teacher took unnecessary physical measures against her child with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum.  The mother explained what happened.  When the student was told he could not go to the office when he became upset over not finding his writing journal, the mother claims the teacher took things a bit too far:

“My son said the teacher went so far as to stand in front of the door and block the door and not let him out. The teacher told him to get back in his seat, and he said ‘no I want to go to the office,’ and the teacher told him ‘no get in your seat or I’m going to put you in your seat,’ and Landon once again said no he wanted to go to the office, so the teacher grabbed him by his arm, picked him up, carried him across the room and slammed him down in his chair. Landon said he then got back up out of his chair and tried to go out the door again and the teacher wouldn’t let him out of the door. So he went over and sat down in the chair at the round table near the door, and the teacher again was telling him to get up and go get back in his seat and Landon refused. The teacher went over to try to grab ahold of Landon and Landon got upset, jumped up out of the chair, and grabbed the back of the chair and slammed the chair into the floor, trying to get around the teacher to get out the door. He said at that point the teacher said ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and grabbed him up by his arm and physically carried him out of the door of the classroom, banging his forehead into the metal door facing in the process, and Landon said at that point as soon as the teacher sat him down in the hallway he ran straight to the office, and that’s when he called me.”

Even more alarming is the Seaford Middle School Principal’s response to her when she asked to see the video of the incident:

Today, I had a meeting with the Middle School Principal and basically what they told me today was that the teacher said that he asked Landon to leave several times and Landon wouldn’t leave the room, and that Landon was throwing pens, pencils, chairs and desks, and that they seen this on video; however, no one was able to produce any video to me showing my son behaving the way they said he behaved. I honestly, truly believe my son, and I believe this teacher is doing nothing but trying to protect himself and the school the same way. I cleaned my son’s locker out today, and he’s not going back to that school as long as that teacher is there.

This is unacceptable.  I found out today the same thing happened to the parents of the child who was assaulted last week at Caesar Rodney High School.  The district refused to release surveillance footage that captured the incident (and I will have more to say on that whole thing that hasn’t been made public yet).  I tagged tons of our state legislators on my Facebook page with a link to the 105.9 article asking for legislation that would demand schools release video to parents whenever their child is harmed in any possible way.

The district will not respond to any of this.  They will shut up unless they have to fire the teacher.  People ask me why I write so much about bad stuff happening in our schools instead of the good.  Sorry, this kind of crap outrages me.  You can have many great things happening in schools, but this is what folks remember and talk about.  This is a travesty.  Even if this teacher used proper restraint and seclusion practices as dictated by state law, the district should still release the video to the parent.  Instead, they are covering their asses.

A former board member for a district did tell me that video like this is released to the police department.  They will review it and eventually it would be shared with the parent(s).  I explained that the video could help a parent understand what happened.  It could be necessary for them to see it so the parent can seek sufficient medical or counseling treatment for their child.

I wrote an article last year on the Delaware Dept. of Education’s annual Restraint & Seclusion report.  Seaford Middle School had 13 incidents of restraint in the 2015-2016 school year.  Compared to Milford’s middle school which had 1.  In Seaford, they had 38 incidents of restraint affecting 21 students.  But if this situation played out anywhere close to what the mother is claiming, this was no ordinary restraint.  If it went down how she said it did, this teacher should face criminal charges for assault.  Dealing with special education students can be challenging for teachers and parents.  But if you don’t have the proper training required to take action like this, you should do nothing and contact someone who can help.  Sadly, for this student, it will be a day he will never forget.

I don’t care where a video is: cafeteria, classroom, bus, hallway or anywhere on school property.  If a parent asks to see it, you show it to them, no questions asked.  The act of withholding something like that immediately sends red flags up with parents.  Or saying you have it but then you don’t.  You reap what you sow with that kind of logic.  In the case of the Family Educational Records Protection Act (FERPA), that applies to educational records.  If a parent requests records on their child, the school is obligated to produce it.  But is surveillance video considered an educational record?  That will be the argument here.  But I don’t care.  If a kid gets hurt, you do the right thing and show the parent.  Cause it could mean the difference between a parent deciding whether or not to sue the district.

This should NOT happen in our schools.  Tonight, I am very pissed off.  At this.  At Caesar Rodney.  At other districts where I am trying to help parents navigate through special education issues with schools.  So much of what I help parents with are things every school should know by now.  Districts and charters complain all the time about getting sued so much and the “predatory” law firms.  Guess what?  The very act of protecting yourself is usually what gets you sued.  How does that work out for you?

Updated, 9:50pm: A big thank you to special education advocate Devon Hynson for providing a link to what FERPA says about surveillance videos-

Schools are increasingly using security cameras as a tool to monitor and improve student safety. Images of students captured on security videotapes that are maintained by the school’s law enforcement unit are not considered education records under FERPA.  Accordingly, these videotapes may be shared with parents of students whose images are on the video and with outside law enforcement authorities, as appropriate. Schools that do not have a designated law enforcement unit might consider designating an employee to serve as the “law enforcement unit” in order to maintain the security camera and determine the appropriate circumstances in which the school would disclose recorded images.

 

Christina Falls For The Trap Set By Governor Carney, Secretary Bunting, and the Delaware DOE

It was just announced on the State of Delaware website that the Christina School District in conjunction with the Christina Education Association plan on working with Governor Carney’s Office and the Delaware Dept. of Education on a Memorandum of Understanding to improve the educational “success” for Christina’s Wilmington students.  In other words, they swallowed the bait and Carney is reeling them in.  There is no Christina Board of Education seal of approval on this letter of intent, but it does state the Christina board would vote on this MOU.  It appears Carney is rushing into this without a care in the world and he is bringing all the key players with him.  But let’s not forget, this is just another way to corporatize education at students’ expense.  This is priority schools under a new spin.  There is inherent danger here folks.  You play with the devil, you get burnt, plain and simple.  Notice this is only the Christina Wilmington students.  Nothing about the Red Clay or the many charter school students whatsoever.  This is not a Wilmington Schools Partnership.  This is a trap.  Jack Markell must be proud of this development.  Mark Murphy is probably going “Why didn’t I think of that?”

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney, Christina School District Superintendent Richard Gregg, and Christina Education Association President Darren Tyson announced on Thursday that they have signed a joint letter of intent to work together and develop a partnership with the goal of improving educational opportunities in the City of Wilmington.

The partnership will address the long-term success for the 1,640 Christina students in preschool through grade 8 who reside in Wilmington and attend the district’s four city elementary schools and one middle school. These schools are Bancroft Elementary School, Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, Pulaski Elementary School, Stubbs Elementary School, and Bayard Middle School.

Christina School District will work with staff from the Governor’s office, the Delaware Department of Education’s Office of Innovation and Improvement, and the Christina Education Association to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) this calendar year and submit the MOU for approval by the Christina Board of Education.

The MOU will define the roles and commitments of each party in crafting a system designed to create great public schools for every Christina student in the City of Wilmington. Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education, and Dorrell Green, Director of the Office of Innovation and Improvement, also signed the joint letter of intent.

“It’s always been clear to me that as goes the City of Wilmington, so goes our state. And improving our city starts with improving our schools,” said Governor Carney. “We are committed to working in partnership with the Christina School District, the Christina Board of Education, the Christina Education Association, families, educators, and community members, to improve outcomes for students in Christina’s city schools. We have a responsibility to do better by these students, and I look forward to getting to work.”

“The Christina School District is committed to exploring every option available to improving achievement for its students,” said Richard Gregg, Superintendent of the Christina School District. “We are willing to enter into this partnership to explore the development of an MOU that clearly outlines the commitments that will be made by all involved. The Christina Board has been clear that any agreement that is developed must focus on what is best for our students, and we will work with the Department of Education and the Governor’s Office toward this goal in good faith.”

“We welcome the Governor’s initiative to partner in service to our Wilmington students,” said George Evans, President of the Christina School District Board of Education. “We need to create and maximize new pathways to excellence and equity within our Wilmington schools.”

“CEA and its members look forward to entering into this partnership and working together to create an MOU that best serves and supports the Christina students in Wilmington,” said Darren Tyson, President of the Christina Education Association.

Read the full letter of intent here. (or you can read it below without even leaving this blog!)

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Governor Carney will join Superintendent Richard Gregg and CEA President Darren Tyson at two Wilmington town hall meetings to discuss the partnership between the State of Delaware and the Christina School District:

Town Hall Meeting on Wilmington Schools Partnership

This event is open to the press.

WHAT: Governor John Carney will join Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg, Office of Innovation and Improvement Director Dorrell Green, the Christina Education Association, members of the Christina School Board, and community organizations to discuss the partnership, and ideas for improving Wilmington schools, with families and educators in Wilmington. Governor Carney, Superintendent Gregg and others will take questions.

WHO:          Governor John Carney

Richard Gregg, Superintendent, Christina School District

Members of the Christina School Board of Education

Darren Tyson, President, Christina Education Association

Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary, Delaware Department of Education

Dorrell Green, Director, Office of Innovation and Improvement, Delaware Department of Education

WHEN:       Wednesday, October 18, 2017

6:30 p.m.

WHERE:    Bancroft Elementary School

700 N. Lombard Street, Wilmington, DE 19801

 

Town Hall Meeting on Wilmington Schools Partnership

This event is open to the press.

WHAT:        Governor John Carney will join Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg, Office of Innovation and Improvement Director Dorrell Green, the Christina Education Association, members of the Christina School Board, and community organizations to discuss the partnership, and ideas for improving Wilmington schools, with families and educators in Wilmington. Governor Carney, Superintendent Gregg and others will take questions.

WHO:          Governor John Carney

Richard Gregg, Superintendent, Christina School District

Members of the Christina School Board of Education

Darren Tyson, President, Christina Education Association

Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary, Delaware Department of Education

Dorrell Green, Director, Office of Innovation and Improvement, Delaware Department of Education

WHEN:       Wednesday, October 25, 2017

6:30 p.m.

WHERE:     Bayard Middle School

200 S. DuPont Street, Wilmington, DE 19805

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Governor Carney Shows His True Colors In A Dog And Pony Show For The Ages!

Delaware Governor John Carney released a statement about his meeting with the Christina School District Board of Education last evening.  I felt obligated to give it the TC Redline Edition.  In which I give a no-holds barred critique of Carney’s boneheaded idea.

Governor Carney to Christina Board: Let’s Partner to Improve Wilmington Schools

Date Posted: Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday met with the Christina Board of Education during a study session at Bancroft Elementary School to discuss a proposed partnership between the state and Christina School District to more effectively serve educators and students in Christina schools in the City of Wilmington.

I have to give kudos to Carney for actually attending and meeting with the Board.  However, that does not excuse the backdoor closed meetings he had with two of their board members over the summer.

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Governor John Carney
Full remarks to Christina School District Board of Education – October 3, 2017
*As prepared for delivery

Thank Rick Gregg, members of the Board, Principals, teachers, parents and others present.

Proper thing to do when you are in their house so to speak.

I’m here with Secretary of Education Susan Bunting and Dorrell Green. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Board in this workshop format.

They would be the ones to also be there.  Was anyone else there?  Perhaps your Education Policy Advisor, Jon Sheehan?

I’ve lived in this city for 30 years. And it’s always been clear to me that as goes the City of Wilmington, so goes our state.

I respect that Wilmington is the biggest city in the state and it is essentially the gateway to the rest of it, but the rest of the state has a lot to offer.  Perhaps Wilmington wouldn’t be in the shape it is in if the state didn’t keep trying to put all its eggs in one basket when there are hundreds of others as well.  We get you’ve lived in this city for 30 years.  It’s all we heard from you when you were campaigning for Governor.  But you had many years at a Federal level to do more for Wilmington.  What did you do for Wilmington when you were in Congress?

Wilmington is our economic and cultural center. Its success in many ways will drive Delaware’s long-term success. And so we need a city that is safe, with strong neighborhoods and good schools. We’re working with Mayor Purzycki, legislators, members of city council, businesses and the community service agencies to achieve these goals.

And yet we continue to see murders and violent crimes constantly.  All we hear from political leaders is “we’re working with…”.  That doesn’t solve the problem.  Action does and I have yet to see true action being taken to reduce those crimes and rampant drug use.

Our efforts have to start with improving our schools, and doing a better job educating city children.

No, your efforts have to start with improving the climate of Wilmington. 

One of the first things I did when I took office was ask Secretary Bunting to visit Wilmington schools.

Which she did.

I joined her on some of these visits. And while we certainly saw dedicated teachers and principals, what we saw by and large was very discouraging.

Let me guess: you saw children with hygiene issues and worn clothing.  You saw a look in their eyes you couldn’t really understand.  It tugged at your heartstrings and thought, “I will be the one to fix this.”

And when the proficiency scores for these schools were released this summer, we saw that they fell well short of what’s acceptable.

Here we go… the test scores.  For a flawed test.  In most schools, anything below a 65% is failing.  For Smarter Balanced, the whole state is failing.  Is that the fault of teachers and students or the test itself.  Don’t answer, we already know.

All of us, together, are responsible for doing better.

We can always do better, but don’t put the blame on all of us Governor Carney.  The buck stops with you.  While you inherited many of these issues from your predecessors, you are falling into the same traps.

It was pretty clear to us that Christina’s portion of the City schools – Bayard, Stubbs, Bancroft, Palmer, and Pulaski – are in the most need of help.

Was it only a year ago that the state refused to step in when Pulaski had all the mold issues?  It is great that you visit these schools but what have you done to make life outside of these schools better?  These are the schools with the highest concentrations of low-income and poverty students.

Already we have taken steps that, I believe, will help our efforts in all city schools.

And how many of those were created by you with no public input.  How many of those efforts involved back-door secret meetings?  Once again, don’t answer.  We know the score.

We opened the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the Department of Education, to focus state energy on these and other high-needs schools.

Ah, yes.  Your attempt at “reducing” the Delaware DOE.  By making a satellite office in Wilmington. 

We created an Opportunity Grants program that, while not funded at the level that I want, will help identify proven practices for serving disadvantaged students.

Don’t even get me started on that failure of a FY2018 budget Carney.  You put aside a million bucks while cutting exponentially more.  That does not serve disadvantaged students.  It is a Band-Aid on an infected wound.

We put basic needs closets in Wilmington schools, so students can have access to hygiene products, school supplies, and winter clothing, in a dignified way.

Now this I do support and continue to do so.

We’ve reestablished the Family Services Cabinet Council to better coordinate services to families and children, and to address issues of poverty that are impeding the success of our city children.

Closed-door, non-public, back-door meetings.  We have no idea what this council discusses.  For something you like to scream from the rooftops about, we have no clue what they talk about.  Put your money where your mouth is and make these meetings public.  Otherwise, this is smoke and mirrors.

But we need to do much, much more, and that’s why I’m here today.

Every time the state tries to fix these issues, the problems get worse.  I have to wonder if that is intentional.

We didn’t get here over night. And we could spend all day debating the reasons for how we got here. I know a lot of that history through my father who worked in the old Wilmington Public School District and through my many years in state government.

Yes, why debate how we got there.  Because until you take a deep dive at those reasons, you will never understand.  You can’t ignore things that come into schools.  But I digress…

Some blame a lack of resources. Dysfunctional families. Inexperienced teachers. Weak leadership. Busing. Trauma in the home. Segregated neighborhoods. Too much testing. Not enough testing. Bad parenting. Education bureaucracy. Violence in the city.

I agree with some of these: a lack of resources, dysfunctional families, weak leadership (some from CSD in the past and definitely from the state), busing, trauma in the home, segregated neighborhoods, too much testing, bad parenting, education bureaucracy, violence in the city.  I don’t see the inexperienced teachers (except for the TFAers who get their rush-job credentials in a matter of months) and not enough testing.

Over the last few years the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) did a comprehensive study of the challenges, and came up with a plan to make changes. We’ve incorporated many of their recommendations into what I’m about to discuss.

In other words, you are copying the work done from others for your own political benefit. 

It’s clear to me that the most important thing we should do now is focus on making changes that will raise achievement levels for city children. That’s part of my responsibility as Governor, Dr. Bunting’s job as Secretary of Education and your jobs as school leaders and Christina Board members. We’re in this together.

Together?  Are you kidding me?  For months you’ve been circling the wagons and cherry-picking people to talk to about the “Christina problem”.  Divide and conquer.  That’s what I see.  Not getting that warm and fuzzy feeling I felt at your inauguration Carney…

I’m here today, at the invitation of your Superintendent, because I want to partner with you to say “enough.” I believe it’s time to begin intensive efforts to get our teachers, principals and students what they need in the classroom.

Knowing Rick Gregg like I do, I believe he invited you because he was getting tired of your secret meetings and wanted to make it a public event so people can see what the hell you are up to.  I think it’s high time Christina said “enough” with the endless interventions from the state that have been compete and utter failures.

To that end, I’m proposing that the State, Christina School District, and Christina Education Association form a partnership that focuses exclusively on Christina’s city schools.

You and your damn partnerships.  Let’s be partners.  Public-private partnerships.  In other words, let’s do as much as we can behind closed doors and throw transparency out the window.

My vision is to spend the next few months talking as a group about what this partnership would look like, so that by the end of this calendar year we can sign a memorandum of understanding to work together to improve these city schools and the proficiency of the students. I want to be ready to put our new plans into effect by the start of the 2018 school year. This aligns with your Superintendent’s timetable for implementing change as well.

When I hear Memorandum of Understanding, I hear priority schools all over again.  Who is your Penny Schwinn that is facilitating this?  How much state money will be spent trying to craft this MOU for months?  Cause I published all the emails where Schwinn painstakingly tried to make the MOU from the Fall of 2014.  And that was based on Delaware’s clueless interpretation of their own ESEA Flexibility Waivers.  Schwinn did everything she could to make sure it was six Wilmington schools within Christina and Red Clay.  Definitely Markell’s biggest failure.

I think our partnership should address five main issues that I’ve heard over and over again as I’ve toured schools in Wilmington.

Who is telling you these things you’ve heard “over and over”?  Let me guess: Senator Sokola, Rep. Jaques, Rodel, Atrne Alleyne, Michael Watson, Donna Johnson, Jon Sheehan, Kendall Massett, Greg Meece, etc.

First, principals need more control over key decisions in their schools. I would like to work with you to give principals the leadership tools they need and the flexibility and autonomy over structural areas such as staffing/hiring, school schedules, and programs. To give them the resources to implement extended learning time, and to create other school conditions necessary to best meet student needs. As part of this partnership, the Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with principals and our institutions of higher education to provide principals with high quality professional learning, coaching, and support. The Department of Education, using state resources, would assist Christina School District in training principals to better use observations to provide effective feedback that will elevate instruction.

Gee, that sounds an awful lot like the “empowerment zones” in Springfield, MA.

Second, educators in high-needs schools need more say in how resources are used. I plan to engage Christina’s city educators to ensure we are working in partnership with them, as they are on the ground every day working to improve student outcomes. I would like to work with you to empower teacher-leader teams at each school to partner with school administration on key decisions like working conditions, resource use, and school culture. The Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with our institutions of higher education and use the full expertise of the Department of Education to provide educators with professional learning that is relevant, consistent, and meaningful.

In other words, more useless programs through TFA, The Leader In Me, and other cash-cow Crackerjack box outfits that will happily take state money to “fix” the problems.  And that “full expertise of the Department of Education”… are you serious?  How many of these “experts” at the DOE have actually taught in these classrooms?  How many came up the ranks from TFA or the charter world?

Third, we need to address the fact that student achievement rates at Christina’s Wilmington schools are among the lowest in the state. In partnership with DSEA and CEA, I want to create more flexibility for these schools to provide students with additional learning time, including vacation and weekend academies. Teachers would receive stipends for additional hours worked, supported by state funds and the redeployment of district resources. I would argue serious conversations, in partnership with the Christina Wilmington community, need to take place around building use. We are doing our students, educators, and taxpayers a disservice when we have half-empty school buildings — needlessly spreading resources thin.

Maybe if the state stopped intervening in Christina, stopped pumping up charter schools like they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, and stopped calling Christina a failure, those buildings wouldn’t be half full.  The state created most of this mess by authorizing so many damn charters up there.  This is where you are assuming DSEA and CEA are on board with your half-cocked plan.  You are seriously messing with collective bargaining agreements here.  Vacation and weekend academies?  When do these kids get a break?  Are you going to churn and burn them until they score proficient on the useless Smarter Balanced Assessment?

Fourth, we need a plan to address the significant trauma students in Wilmington experience outside the classroom. I’m proud of the work already underway between the Office of Innovation and Improvement, DSEA, the Office of the Child Advocate, and community leaders to train staff to create trauma-informed classrooms. We need to double down on those efforts. I have already directed the Family Services Cabinet Council to work with City leaders to implement the CDC report, including finding a way to share data across state agencies about students in need. That work is under way.

How about thanking the Christina teachers who spend every single day dealing with trauma first-hand?  The ones who wash kids clothes, make sure they have food for the weekend, and help students deal with the latest murder that happened in their neighborhood?  You are all about the kudos before anything happens while failing to properly thank those on the ground floor.  And what will the closed-door Family Services Cabinet Council do with all this data that tells us what we have always known?  Let’s get real Carney: until you fix the crime, violence, and rampant drug use in Wilmington, these problems will always exist.  Until you find a way to desegregate the charter schools that cherry-pick students and put every single Delaware school back in balance with their local neighborhoods, these efforts will fail.

Finally, we need to build systems to create meaningful, sustained change in Christina’s Wilmington schools. As part of a partnership with you, the Family Services Cabinet Council would launch a two-generation network to support infants, toddlers and adults, with the goal of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Additionally, we ought to convene higher education institutions and create a pipeline to develop teachers and leaders ready to enter into our Wilmington schools. These efforts cannot be a flash in the pan. We need to methodically build systems that will endure.

Are you saying the teachers in these schools aren’t ready?  That they can’t handle the trauma they deal with every single day?  There is nothing any higher education institution can do to adequately deal with these issues until the state takes an active hand in dealing with the issues coming into the classroom.  And Wilmington City Council needs to get their heads out of their ass and deal with the corruption going on there before they enter into any “partnership”.  Once again, make your beloved Family Services Cabinet Council public.  This whole thing reeks of non-transparency and I’m getting sick of that. 

Give principals a bigger say. Trust and support our teachers. Tackle low proficiency rates. Address trauma. Build systems. That’s what I propose we work on together.

You will never trust and support our teachers while they are under local control.  Never.  You want to mold them and cherry-pick them to serve the latest corporate education reform scheme.  The best way to tackle low proficiency rates is to get rid of Smarter Balanced and stop judging schools, teachers, and districts based on meaningless and useless test scores.  These misused and abused scores are just one of the reasons why I advocate parents opting their kids out of the state assessments.  Addressing trauma is one thing but finding a way to actively eliminate it is the true hurdle and I don’t think you have the money, resources, or guts to do that.  Working together doesn’t require a contract like an MOU.  That is a gun to the head and we all know it.  You are seriously overreaching here with your executive power here Carney and you need to slow your roll.

The partnership I’m proposing isn’t flashy. It’s not an education fad or sound bite. It’s about the nuts and bolts of educating children. It is a simple but intense effort to put the focus where I think it belongs — in the classroom.

This isn’t about kids at all.  It’s about different ed reform companies lobbying through Jon Sheehan to get their latest programs or technology into the classroom.  And you fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Frederick Douglass said that “it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And that’s the choice we’re facing. We all have dreams for our children. But right now, we’re consigning far too many of our students to a life that no parent wants for their child. Every student we graduate who can’t do basic math or who can’t read or write, we’re sending into the world knowing he or she doesn’t have the tools to succeed. Doors are closing for these children before they even leave the third grade.

For the most part, the state created the conditions which led to these broken men.  Through very racist laws and credos.  The state allowed this to happen and now they want to rush in and save the day by fixing the schools.  What about all these broken men?  What are you doing to make restitution for the state’s absolute failure with them?

I believe, and I know you do too, that it would be immoral to let this situation continue this way.

Don’t speak for the Christina Board of Education Carney!  It would be immoral for this board to give up local control so you can make education companies happy.  How about you let Christina School District, under the leadership of Superintendent Rick Gregg and their elected Board of Education, do their thing.  I like Gregg.  I think he is the leader Christina needs.  But your swooping in and undermining the hard work he has done is an insult at best.

So I’m asking you to form this partnership with us. Let’s take the next few months and work out the details. I’d like to hear your thoughts on what I’ve laid out, and on how you think we can work together.​


I have to listen to the audio when it comes out today, but based upon reading the News Journal article on this last night by Jessica Bies, board member Liz Paige said it best:

Elizabeth Paige said the plan lacked specificity, but that she was willing to talk more as long as the state could guarantee they weren’t going to pull the infamous Charlie Brown football gag on Christina.

“We’re Charlie Brown and the football,” she said. “He has to prove he’s not Lucy.”

Don’t be fooled Mrs. Paige.  He is most definitely Lucy!

Board member John Young gave Carney’s remarks at B+.  I think he was being nice.

Harrie-Ellen Minnehan spoke the hard truth:

Harrie Ellen Minnehan said that students are often used as “political pawns” and that the plan sounded too much like just another in a long string of political solutions imposed on the education system but that have resulted in no gain whatsoever for students caught in a downward academic spiral.

The Christina Board of Education is at their best when they are fighting the latest state method of eroding local control.  I saw this firsthand at the first Christina board meeting I went to in September of 2014.  When they stood together and gave Markell’s priority schools idea a collective no thank you.  I am hoping they do the same with this latest Markellian effort by Carney.

As for Dorrell Green, his quote in the News Journal is very concerning because it gives a good deal of insight into Carney’s plan:

“Do you feel you have the bandwidth or the internal capacity to see that plan through without our support?”

This was in response to Superintendent Gregg’s own plan to build up Christina.  It as if Green was saying “You can’t do anything without the state helping out.”  Which is exactly what the problem is here.  The state interferes so much that it paralyzes the district.  The state needs to do more on the side of fixing the crime and poverty in Wilmington.  Let Christina deal with Christina.  If the state wants to “partner” under forced coercion, that is bullying.  Christina needs to enact a zero tolerance policy on state bullying.  And just by using the word “bandwidth”, Green may have overplayed his hand.  By using that particular word, he is suggesting Christina will get better by more corporate education reform double-speak education technology.

I have to give it to Carney.  He has successfully learned how to play the field like Jack Markell did.  He certainly has been busy trying to hand-select his pawns with this attempt.  And yet he gave the farm away when he announced his trip to Springfield, MA on his public schedule.  I didn’t see any of that in your speech.  It’s like a super villain in a comic announcing their intentions before they even implement them.  Look what I’m about to do.  We see through you Carney.  Stop listening to those around you who truly don’t have a clue about what is really going on.  Otherwise you are just another Jack Markell.  Be your own man, not a carbon-copy.

Don’t think for one minute that I don’t understand you Carney.  I know about some of your antics with things lately.  I know you hate my blog and will cast out those who support it.  We both know exactly what I’m talking about.  We know you have heard objections to this Christina scheme and totally ignored them.  In fact, you punish those who don’t agree with you.  You aren’t the person you put in front of the media.  Who is the real John Carney?  Time to take off the mask and reveal the true John Carney.  We both know when this plan fails (and it will if implemented), the state will continue to blame Christina for their own failure and will embark on another scheme to “fix” the problem they create in the first place.

Behind Governor Carney’s Not So Innovative Plan For Christina, Shades Of Markell 2.0 Teacher Killer

Tonight, Delaware Governor John Carney will attend a Christina Board of Education Study Session.  When was the last time a sitting Governor went to a Board of Education meeting, much less a workshop?  That is because Carney has big plans for Christina.  Very big plans.  But don’t fool yourself for one second into thinking any of these plans are Carney’s idea.  For that, you have to look at those who surround him.

Race To The Top.  Common Core.  Delaware Talent Cooperative.  Teach For America.  Partnership Zones.  Priority Schools.  Focus Schools.  DCAS.  Smarter Balanced.  These are all programs offered by the state.  Their impact?  A resounding thud.  Failures.  Every single one of them.  For a state that likes to beat up on the Christina School District as much as it has, their efforts to turn them around have been utter failures.

But now Carney’s not-so-brilliant lightbulb of an idea is to model the schools in Springfield, Massachusetts.  So much that he is visiting them on Friday along with Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and Dorrell Green from the Office of Innovation and Improvement.  And now we know where the “innovation” part comes in.

The schools in Springfield, MA are part of what is known as an “empowerment zone”.  Think priority schools without the federal mandate.  More autonomy for building leaders, shared resources, and the ability to fire teachers better (even with union support).  Just another sad attempt at eroding local control.  To learn more about “empowerment zones”, please read the white paper on this:

In an article in The Boston Globe last Winter from reporter James Vasnis, he writes:

“These zones . . . allow educators to make the changes necessary to provide a better learning environment for our kids,” Baker said during the speech.

By freeing up the schools from the central office bureaucracy and most teacher contract provisions, local and state officials say, the Springfield middle schools are in complete control of their curriculums, staffing, budgeting, and ultimately their own destinies.

The empowerment zone, which is in its second year, has grown to include nine middle schools and next fall will add a long-struggling high school. The effort is overseen by a seven-member governing board jointly appointed by local and state officials. Principals report directly to the board.

So what happens to the local board of education for those schools?  Do they lose their authority over these schools?  If legislators have to put this into state law, and not local taxpayers who fund school districts, this could set up a battle royale in Delaware.  And mark my words, we will see this in the second half of the 149th General Assembly.  What makes an “empowerment zone” a success?  The usual education reform barometer: standardized test scores…

But a turnaround could take years to achieve. Test scores at the zone’s highest-performing middle school are in the bottom 9th percentile statewide, meaning more than 90 percent of other similar schools scored better. The worst-performing school is in the bottom 1st percentile.

The sad part, the local teachers union is actually behind this.

“It’s a sea change,” said Timothy Collins, president of the Springfield Education Association, the local teachers union. “By having a culture of change where the critical mass of people feel they have a voice in what is being done and ownership in the plan, the likelihood of implementing the plan with fidelity goes up dramatically.”

But the roots of this education reform initiative go a bit deeper than all this.  We have to go back to the days of former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and his Digital Promise platform.  Springfield, MA is a part of the League of Innovative Schools that likes to think of itself as a forward-thinking process that amounts to nothing more than education technology in a personalized learning environment.  In other words, the teacher killer.  No Delaware school districts are a part of this group, but 86 districts from around the country got suckered into this.  This is the kind of crap the Rodel Foundation loves to foist upon Delaware.

In an article from the Progressive Policy Institute, they write:

While teachers cannot be dismissed at will, principals do receive support to help underperforming teachers improve where possible and to remove them where necessary. And there are real consequences – for principals and teachers alike – for school failure.

I have serious issues with any teacher union getting behind this ass-backwards corporate education reform double-speak.  Especially when it is based on test scores.  I have bigger issues with Governor Carney getting the smoke and mirrors advice that I have no doubt he believes will save the Wilmington schools here in Delaware.  I knew something was up.  Whenever a Governor starts sniffing around Christina, expect an unmitigated failure about to be thrust upon them.  Perhaps, like former Governor Jack Markell, Carney truly believes that saving Christina will be the high mark of his tenure as Governor.  It didn’t work for Markell.  It backfired on him.  And when the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission became the result of that, Markell and Carney gave it a drop-kick based on “funding issues”.

I was hoping Carney was better than this.  I was hoping Secretary Bunting was better than this.  But when you surround yourself up to the highest level with those who come from the corporate education reform world, it isn’t surprising in the least.  Carney did just that in the form of Jon Sheehan, his education policy advisor.  Markell had his inner circle from this world as well with Rebecca Taber and Lindsay O’Mara (now with the U.S. DOE).

The “Innovation Zones” came from a guy named Chris Gabrieli who ran (unsuccessfully) for Massachusetts Governor.  But an elected Governor in the form of John Carney thinks he can ride in and save the day with an untested and so far unsuccessful brainfart of an idea.  What Christina needs is for The State of Delaware to stop interfering so much and actually let the district do what it needs to do.  All other state-born ideas have failed.  What makes Carney think this one will work?  Because he is being told it will.  He runs the risk of becoming Markell 2.0 with this.  But of course, no one who makes these kind of decisions will actually listen to the blogger.  Or those who know it will fail.  Because it is coming from the Governor, and what the Governor wants the Governor gets.  Executive power at its absolute worst, because it affects kids most of all.

I have no doubt I will be writing more about this.  And I fully expect blowback on this article.  Especially from those who regurgitate the very worst from the corporate education reform world here in Delaware.  They know who they are.  Sharpen your knives.  I’m ready.

Delaware Design-Lab Is Below 65% Enrollment… Time For Formal Review?

In 2016, the Delaware State Board of Education approved a major modification request to lower their enrollment.  This year, they are supposed to be at 475 students based on that approval.  Charter schools have to be at 80% enrollment to be financially viable.  That number would be 380 for Delaware Design-Lab High School this year.  They are below 300 students according to sources.  Will Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting recommend formal review for the struggling charter school?

The dangling carrot for Design-Lab is their $10 million prize from XQ.  The school is currently interviewing positions for their three deans.  But those funds can only be used for very specific purposes.  It is not meant for salary increases for teachers.  But according to an anonymous source, the Interim Head of School (Rebecca Collins) is promising teachers increases.  How can the school afford this with their low enrollment?  Many teachers are fearing for their jobs due to the school’s low enrollment.  Since the Board of Directors ousted Dr. Joseph Mock a couple of weeks ago, a wave of parents have pulled their kids out.  Their enrollment tally was due to the Delaware Department of Education on Friday because of the annual September 30th enrollment count.

Historically, the Delaware State Board of Education has put charters on formal review for low enrollment because below 80% charters are not financially viable.  Many charters (including Design-Lab) faced this review in 2015.  They all squeaked by with higher enrollment by the time the State Board voted that July.

For a charter like Design-Lab, they had their enrollment lowered after that and still can’t get anywhere close to their approved numbers.  Many parents don’t seem to be wowed by the XQ award.  Three different leaders have been in charge in the past nine months with another new one coming on.  I did find out Rebecca Collins did step down from the board to take the interim leader role and plans to go back on the board once the new leader is in place.  But Joseph Mock was definitely fired from his position.

At the Delaware DOE, charters are overseen by the Charter School Office.  Since Denise Stouffer replaced Jennifer Nagourney in July, 2016, no charter schools have been placed on formal review.  Will Delaware Design-Lab High School be the first?

Markell’s Race To The Top Architect Dan Cruce Announces Bid For Lavelle’s Senate Seat In Delusionary Statement

Dan Cruce (D), long rumored to be in the running for the 4th Senate District seat currently held by Greg Lavelle (R), announced his candidacy this week with some rather surprising comments regarding the much-maligned Race to the Top program.

As the Deputy Secretary of Education under then Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery, Cruce was former Governor Jack Markell’s leading man for the Race to the Top application.  The federal program, which cemented Common Core and stringent standardized assessments in most states, was met with controversy in Delaware.  But Cruce praises his involvement with the program on his website:

Similarly, at the Department of Education, he collapsed the government bureaucracy while helping to bring in over $100M of new funding that created new jobs and supports for teachers and schools.

First of all, he did NOT collapse the government bureaucracy at the Delaware DOE.  He ensured it with Delaware’s Race to the Top application.  Race to the Top brought in names such as Penny Schwinn, Christopher Ruszkowski, Michael Watson and Atnre Alleyne into the DOE.  All of those have since left with the exception of Watson.  The Delaware DOE received $59 million of the $119 million Delaware received and used it to create longitudinal data systems and teacher evaluation programs that have been deemed by many educators in the First State to be burdensome and overly punitive.  In essence, Race to the Top brought an inordinately large amount of bureaucracy to Delaware.  Districts and charters had no choice but to follow the new guidelines under RTTT.  Companies such as the Vision Coalition, Achieve, American Institutes of Research and others made whirlwind profits from the program.  Very little went to the classroom where resources are needed the most in education.

There is no way in hell I could support Cruce for the Delaware Senate.  I fear what kind of mischief he could get into, especially paired with Senator David Sokola.  I would rather chew glass than see the architect for Delaware’s RTTT in the General Assembly (which I won’t actually do should he win).  He might be an okay candidate in some areas, but based on his education background he will NEVER get support from me.  NEVER.

Another Dem in the 4th District, Laura Sturgeon, will be running for the seat as well.

 

Colonial, Red Clay, Christina, Brandywine, Woodbridge, Caesar Rodney, Las Americas ASPIRAS, Kuumba & Great Oaks Are Big Winners In Carney’s Opportunity Grants

Today, Governor Carney’s Office announced the recipients of the $1 million in opportunity grants that are part of the FY2018 Delaware budget.  Colonial was by far the biggest winner receiving $200,000 for several schools.

Governor Carney Announces Recipients of $1 Million in Education Opportunity Grants

Funding will help districts and charter schools support disadvantaged students and English language learners

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Wednesday announced that nine Delaware school districts and charter schools will receive a combined $1 million in Opportunity Grant funding to support programs that help disadvantaged students and English language learners succeed in classrooms across the state.

Delaware’s Opportunity Grant program – created and funded by Governor Carney and members of the General Assembly in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget – will help districts and charter schools improve supports for low-income students, students chronically exposed to stress and trauma, and English language learners. District and charter awardees will use the grant to fund programs in the 2017-18 school year.

“All Delaware students deserve a quality education and an equal chance to succeed. We’re working hard to provide schools and educators with the tools they need to more effectively serve students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and close the achievement gap,” said Governor Carney. “I look forward to seeing the progress that these schools and districts make, and will urge them to share their successes with their fellow educators across the state. Thank you to members of the General Assembly for their leadership in helping fund this program.”

Governor Carney has pledged to take decisive action to address Delaware’s achievement gap, and he has made it a priority to support disadvantaged students in Wilmington and across the state.  In July, the Governor established the Wilmington-based Office of Innovation and Improvement, led by longtime Wilmington educator Dorrell Green, to support students and educators in high-needs schools.

For Christina School District, Opportunity Grant funding will help increase resources at Elbert-Palmer Elementary School for students and families dealing with complex trauma. Christina is focused on treating trauma as part of a larger effort to reduce student suspensions, increase student attendance, elevate student achievement, and more.

“The Christina School District is excited to receive an Opportunity Grant for Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, which will allow us to implement strategies like compassionate schools training for teachers and related resources that are critical to student success,” said Richard Gregg, Superintendent of Christina School District. “With this funding, students at Elbert-Palmer will truly have increased opportunities–just as the name of the grant suggests. We are thankful to the Department of Education for recognizing how much our students deserve to have access to high-quality programs.”

“We are very excited about this opportunity to make Elbert-Palmer a Comprehensive Compassionate School,” said Dr. Gina Moody, principal at Elbert-Palmer Elementary School. “Staff will be given resources to become more informed practitioners who engage with students with various social and emotional needs. Our plan will focus on providing stronger positive behavior supports for Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions, such as counseling services, and universal Tier 1 supports such as preferred activities and tangible incentives. Additionally, we will focus on engaging families in the educational process through community and school events.”

Woodbridge School District plans to use its Opportunity Grant funding to contract with a behavioral health provider who will provide counseling services at Woodbridge Early Childhood Center and Phillis Wheatley Elementary School.

“The awarding of the Opportunity Grant to Woodbridge will give our staff and students new and innovative approaches to meeting the social and emotional needs of our students,” said Heath Chasanov, Superintendent of Woodbridge School District and the 2017-18 President of the Chief School Officers Association“We are extremely appreciative of this funding source being provided by the Governor’s Office and the Department of Education to provide additional programs for our students to be successful.”

“The Woodbridge School District is very grateful for the opportunities this grant provides,” said Michele Marinucci, Woodbridge School District’s Director of Student Services. “We will be implementing additional innovative programs in music, mindfulness, health, wellness, and emotional stability as we continue our journey of meeting the social emotional needs of all of our students.”

Red Clay Consolidated School District plans to use the Opportunity Grant to enhance their trauma informed care so they can provide students who have greater needs with higher levels of care.  

“We are extremely excited to receive this grant to work with students, families and staff members to provide trauma informed support and professional development,” said Dr. Mervin Daugherty, Superintendent of the Red Clay Consolidated School District. “The opportunity to partner with the University of Delaware will also allow us to provide trauma screening and implement group/individual interventions for students impacted by trauma. We are hopeful this path forward will become a model for other schools throughout the district and the state.”

In considering applications for funding, the Department of Education gave preference to school-level initiatives, rather than broader district or organizational programs. Grant applicants outlined a detailed plan for how funds would be used – and grant recipients are required to provide information on the outcome of the support, in an effort to showcase what is working.

District and charter school awardees specifically focused on integrating student services and trauma-informed supports to low-income students, as well as on additional supports to low-income students and English language learners.

“We are thrilled to be able to facilitate educators’ efforts to better meet the diverse needs of students throughout the state, especially those students who need the most support,” said Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education. “This opportunity also gives Delaware another way to identify what works in schools and to share successes with educators servicing similar populations.”

2017 Opportunity Grant awardees: 

Colonial School District – $200,000 – Castle Hills Elementary, Harry O. Eisenberg Elementary, Pleaseantville Elementary, Wilmington Manor Elementary

This grant will support 1,970 students across four schools. The plan is for Colonial to implement trauma-informed supports and deepen the Responsive Classrooms approach through embedded training, coaching and other supports. A group of teacher-leaders will be developed. The plan is designed for this core group of teachers to turn the training around to the rest of the staff. 

Christina School District – $106,832 – Elbert Palmer Elementary (EPE)

EPE will support 250 students and their families through a comprehensive, Compassionate Care model.  EPE intends to reduce student suspensions, increase student attendance, increase family involvement, increase student achievement, and provide more resources for families dealing with complex trauma.

Red Clay School District – $106,832 – Richardson Park Elementary

Richardson Park will provide trauma informed care to all students by changing the school level climate.  They will support staff in re-conceptualizing disruptive behavior to a trauma informed lens and provide access to higher level of trauma care for students in need. The project will: 1. Produce school staff who can identify, support, and refer all students exposed to trauma and who can integrate trauma informed care with existing programming. 2.  Increase access to more intensive care of students of need and their families. 3.  Strengthen Richardson Park’s network of trauma referrals.

Brandywine School District – Mt. Pleasant – $100,000 – Mount Pleasant Elementary (MPE)

The intended impact of this project will be to serve: 30-40 high need students and their families with ongoing, targeted supports; 200 families with services to meet their needs throughout the school year; and the entire adult and student population.  They expect to see improvements in chronic absenteeism, family engagement, climate and student achievement.  MPE seeks to become a comprehensive services center, as well as implement mindfulness initiatives throughout the school. 

Great Oaks Charter School – $100,000

Great Oaks will support implementation of broad trauma based and social emotional programming to support 120 students with weekly individual and/or group counseling.  All 446 students of the school’s students will benefit from the implementation of a restorative discipline system designed to drive self-agency and positive decision making. Great Oaks serves grades 6-8.

Kuumba Academy Charter School – $100,000

Kuumba will use the grant to fund a portion of its comprehensive trauma-informed practices and supports package. The package addresses school culture, academic needs, family engagement and service provision through a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive lens. Kuumba is committed to providing integrated student services and trauma-informed supports to low income students.  The package will serve all of the school’s 750 students in grades K-8. 

Las Americas Aspira Charter School – $100,000

LAAA will implement a reading framework supporting the needs of EL students, including embedded teacher supports. This reading framework will enhance the balanced literacy framework by embedding language acquisition scaffolds so that all students, English Learners included, improve their literacy achievement and ultimately close the reading achievement gap. 

Woodbridge School District – $97,678 –Woodbridge Early Childhood CenterPhillis Wheatley Elementary School

Woodbridge will provide parents with the necessary knowledge to make informed nutritional choices for their families, and further develop staff members on trauma informed practices in order to support student’s academic and behavioral needs. One of the primary focus areas of the grant is to contract with a behavioral health provider to provide counseling services in both schools.

Caesar Rodney School District – $88,656 –Caesar Rodney High School

Caesar Rodney will provide trauma informed supports and integrated services for all 750 English learner (EL) students.  The plan is designed to train non-ESL certified teachers using a train-the-trainer model to better meet the academic and language needs of the ELs. CRHS will utilize the expertise of the University of Delaware and WIDA resources (resources to assist in language acquisition for English learner students) to target planning, instruction and assessment.

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Some very interesting choices here.  These schools are definitely ones that have some high populations of high-needs students.  Two of the three charters are located in the Community Education Building in downtown Wilmington.  I have to wonder how many actually applied for these funds.  With all the cuts to the education budget, this doesn’t even begin to make a dent to restore those funds.  Many of the areas these funds will help students the most were widely discussed during the Every Student Succeeds Act discussion groups a year ago.

Delaware Design-Lab’s Head Of School Position Was Eliminated. But They Will Be Hiring A “Dean Of Academic Intensity”

The Board at Delaware Design-Lab High School sent parents an email on September 15th letting them know about Head of School Joseph Mock’s removal from the school.  I though he resigned, but this email confirms he was ousted!  Given that they had an emergency board meeting on September 13th, it sounds like this board did follow proper channels with all this (looking at you Ronald Pinkett over at Edison).  Last year, the school won a ton of money in the XQ Super School competition.  They won $10 million from this grant and it looks like they will be branding themselves as an “XQ Super School” next year.  I had to read the email a few times just so I clearly understood (and stopped laughing) what these new administrative positions are.

From: Design-Lab High School

Sent: Friday, September 15, 5:20 PM

Subject: Important Message from the DDLHS Board

Dear DDLHS Families,

On behalf of the Board of Directors, we would like to bring you up to date on changes inside school administration as we prepare for the next phase in the process of becoming an XQ Super School in August 2018.

The Board will begin interviews next week for the position of XQ Project Manager and, shortly thereafter, will begin the search for the school’s XQ Dean of Academic Intensity. These leaders, together with a Dean of Engagement and Dean of College and Career Readiness, will guide us through the XQ process and prepare us for the opening of our XQ Super School next fall.

As we shift our administrative structure to help us succeed as a Super School, the Board has decided to eliminate the position of Head of School effective Friday, September 15, 2017. As a result of these changes, we are sad to announce that Mr. Mock will be pursuing other opportunities at this time. Mr. Mock has been an invaluable asset to our school since he joined us as Vice Principal/Special Education Coordinator in 2015. Through his tenure as Principal and Head of School, he has navigated some of the most challenging waters a school can face with grace and commitment. We thank Mr. Mock for all he’s done preparing DDLHS to move into this next phase in our school’s history, and wish him well in his new endeavors.

Mrs. Rebecca Collins will serve as our Interim Executive Director until such time as the new XQ administrative team can be brought on board and up to speed. Mrs. Collins has served as a member of our Board of Directors since early 2016, and she brings a wealth of experience in teaching, law, and school guidance to this evolution. We are confident that this transition will be seamless to our families, staff, and students. If you have not had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Collins, the Board encourages you to say hello the next time you are in the building!

As we move into the next phase of our school’s growth, we look forward to engaging with each DDLHS family to ensure that we faithfully support our mission and provide the best education possible for each student we serve.

Thank you,

Paul Miller

Board Chairman

Rebecca Collins is the Vice-President of the Board.  Is it even legal to be on the board AND lead the school?  Hmm… calling foul on that decision!  And what are all these administrative positions for?  I hope that gets paid out of their XQ grant cause the school doesn’t have enough students to have that many administrators.  Dean of Academic Intensity.  It sounds like a labor camp.  Yes, let’s make school sound as grueling as they want it to be.  Dean of College & Career Readiness.  Hey, I know a guy who would be all over that.  He’s bald and he used to be our Governor.  He just loves college and career readiness!

I would have to imagine with all these changes that could constitute changes in their curriculum as well as their actual charter.  Have they submitted a modification request to the Delaware Department of Education?

The XQ Institute is brought to you by Laurene Powell Jobs and the Emerson Collective.  They LOVE personalized learning and seem to be big players in corporate education reform where we can just solve all the problems in education with some ed tech and less teacher interface with students.

Odyssey Charter School Is Trying To Poach Students From Districts Before September 30th Count

The Greek-themed Delaware charter school, Odyssey, sent out a letter to parents in their area advising them they are still accepting students.  As most involved in Delaware education know, schools get their funding based on the September 30th student count.  Odyssey is trying to beef up those numbers to get more money.

This is a bad idea in very bad taste.  The window for school choice in Delaware closes in mid-January.  As in eight months ago.  While charters are certainly free to accept students after those dates if they have room, actively

soliciting students after the school year has already started is lousy judgment.  It is poaching, pure and simple.  It is money driven, not student driven.  But what many forget is that some charters tend to kick out high-risk students after September 30th.  And guess what?  Some keep the funding they received.

On DSEA President Mike Matthews Facebook page, he brought this up yesterday.  While he didn’t name the school, State Rep. Kim Williams said she is aware of it and did notify the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Will the charter-friendly DOE actually address the situation or just play along to go along?

As I’ve said before, I don’t have a problem with actual charter schools and the reason for their existence.  But I do take issue with situations like this, when profit and money result in grown-ups making poor decisions.  There are good charters out there but unfortunately when certain charters keep coming up in events like this it is hard to not view the charter problem as a whole.  Whether it is discrimination, poor special education, cherry-picking students, or using lobbying power to get more money at the expense of districts, the Delaware tends to side with the charters.  Even worse, they tend to turn a blind eye to recurring issues such as the ongoing financial cesspool that is Providence Creek Academy, the enrollment preferences at Charter School of Wilmington, or the discrimination factory we call Newark Charter School.  Odyssey should not be attempting to get students from districts this far into the school year.

Will Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting put the hammer down on Odyssey or will she allow this poaching journey to continue?  And what is your take on this bad education practice?

Breaking News: Governor Carney Signs Cursive Bill! Take That Kate Gladstone!

At 2:27pm, on August 30th, Delaware Governor John Carney signed House Bill 70, which will make cursive writing mandatory instruction in all Delaware public schools beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.  The new (and old) instruction will require English and Language Arts teachers to teach cursive to students until the end of 4th grade.

So what happens next?  I imagine the State Board of Education will issue regulations based on the new law and from there the local school district and charter school boards will have to make sure it is part of the curriculum for the next school year.

As for the fierce opponent of the bill, Kate Gladstone, she will NOT be happy about this.  Ms. Gladstone travels to different states opposing cursive legislation.  Me, I write a blog.  She travels.  We all have our thing I guess.  But I don’t think Gladstone counted on the tenacity of little old Delaware.  She probably thought she could just roll over our state legislature.

Congrats to State Rep. Andria Bennett for getting this rolling again and to State Rep. Deb Hudson for bringing it for in the last legislative session.

School District Consolidation Task Force & Sub-Committees Meeting Schedule & How YOU Can Help!

The Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force, as authorized by House Concurrent Resolution #39, is in full swing.  Whatever that means!  But below is a list of ALL the meetings scheduled to date.  No sane person could possibly attend all of them.  I’m sure someone will try though.  Not this guy!  The first sub-committee meeting for the Structure group met last Monday, August 28th.  All meetings are open to the public and public comment will be allowed.  Whether you agree or not with district consolidation, make your voice heard.  I like that the main task force group is utilizing schools from each county.  Below the schedule is information the task force wants from YOU!

District Consolidation Task Force

Monday, September 18th, 6:30pm, Woodbridge High School, Bridgeville, DE

Monday, October 16th, 6:30pm, William Penn High School, New Castle, DE

Thursday, November 16th, 6:30pm, Caesar Rodney High School, Camden, DE

Academic & Children Needs Sub-Committee

Wednesday, September 13th, 6:30-8:30pm, Library Conference Room, Dept. of Education, Townsend Bldg., Dover, DE

Monday, October 2nd, 6:30-8:30pm, Georgetown Middle School, Georgetown, DE

Tuesday, November 7th, 6:30-8:30pm, Independence Conference Room, Carvel Bldg., N. French St., Wilmington, DE

Monday, December 4th, 6:30-8:30pm, Cabinet Room, Delaware Dept. of Education, Townsend Bldg., Dover, DE

Finance Sub-Committee

Thursday, September 7th, 9:00-11:00am, Government Center, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE

Thursday, October 5th, 9:00-11:00am, Office of Management and Budget, Haslet Armory, 3rd Floor, Dover, DE

Thursday, November 9th, 4:30-6:30pm, Government Center, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE

Thursday, December 7th, 4:30-6:30pm, Office of Management and Budget, Haslet Armory, 3rd Floor, Dover, DE

Structure Sub-Committee

Met on August 28th

Wednesday, September 27th, 6:30-8:30pm, St. George’s Technical High School, Middletown, DE

Teachers & Staff Sub-Committee

Monday, September 11th, 5:00-7:00pm, Colonial School District offices, 318 E. Basin Rd., New Castle, DE

no other future meetings known as of yet

 

I will pin this article to the top of the blog and will update meetings as the information becomes available.

 

As well, State Rep. Earl Jaques is looking for YOUR suggestions on how a district consolidation would take place.  Below is a Suggestion Graphic which, should you choose to participate, would need to be sent back by September 11th.  This would be up for discussion at the next regular Task Force meeting, on September 18th.

Feel free to slice and dice the State of Delaware any way you want for this.  But take it seriously.  You never know… your suggestion could become the final outcome!  I am a member of the Finance Sub-Committee but will be paying attention to every meeting taking place.  Sorry I missed the first Structure Sub-Committee meeting!  To find out more information about the Task Force, please go here.

 

 

Providence Creek Educators Drop Labor Day E-Mail Bomb On Their Own School Board

One Hundred and Twenty-Three Years ago, the United States Congress passed a law which made Labor Day a national holiday in America.  Last evening, over half the Providence Creek Academy educators sent an email to their board which could not only have long-lasting ramifications for the Clayton charter school, but all Delaware charter schools. Continue reading “Providence Creek Educators Drop Labor Day E-Mail Bomb On Their Own School Board”

Three Days To Change Secretary Bunting’s Mind On Match Tax, Email Her NOW!

It is time the people spoke up and emailed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting!

The match tax saga continues! On August 4th, a bunch of Delaware legislators sent Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting a letter regarding the proposed plan for the match tax.  Bunting’s response shows no sign of bending from the original plan.  While Bunting believes this is a win-win for districts based on other exclusions to the local funding formula, only one district seems to make a windfall from them.  And believe it or not, that district is Christina.

Below are the letter sent to legislators from Bunting, the new “procedure” for charter and choice payments, and a breakdown of the changes and how they financially impact the districts.

For Red Clay, they are taking a $124,000 loss based on this plan.  I would love to know what the ten “newly approved categories” are for exclusions on the charter bill.  It looks like the districts that are getting the biggest hits are Capital, Red Clay, and Smyrna.  While some may laugh at those figures, remember, that could be an extra teacher.  Or a paraprofessional.  In your child’s class.  Notice how Bunting did not provide a summary of how MUCH the charters are going to get from this.  Add in their should be illegal charter school transportation slush fund, and it adds up to a lot of money!  Cause that first number of $828,465.11?  That will more than double in two years.  So all those schools that currently show a surplus of funds will see that evaporate.  Meanwhile, the charters will just get more and more money.

This is how the Delaware DOE works.  They try to make crap look like gold.  They compare things that aren’t always related and say “Look, it isn’t as bad as you thought!”  They do the same thing with standardized test scores.  I fail to see Bunting’s justification for doing this with the match tax.  If you agree, please email her at susan.bunting@doe.k12.de.us and let her know you do not support this match tax scheme.  As pretty as that picture may look, it will be uglier next year and the year after when those first numbers go deeper in the red.  The plan is to reduce the match tax exclusion to nothing by the 2019-2020 school year.  Bunting has until September 1st to make a final decision on this.  Let’s make some noise!

Some issues I see with the timetable on this stem around the budgetary process that goes down each year.  School districts and charters are subject to the final passage of the budget bill.  This doesn’t typically happen until June 30th/July 1st each year.  At that point, all the business managers have to figure out what it all means.  That is not an easy task, whether it is a district or charter.  So for the DOE to say they want any meetings scheduled with them by June 15th is ludicrous in my opinion.  They should wait until all the business managers have time to see what the final budget does to their own budget first.

 

Did I (Inadvertently) Cause Christina and The Delaware DOE To Get Sued?

A year ago today, I broke the Delaware education internet in half.  I revealed that the charters wanted more money from districts.  In reality, it came down to Christina vs. the 15 charters.  But I didn’t know that at the time.  But what I did do was break it and cause immense pressure to be put on then Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  So much he stopped the charter money grab.  As a result, both the Delaware DOE and Christina were victims of, what I believe, a frivolous lawsuit.  Of course it was all led by Newark Charter School’s Greg Meece.  I knew that the second I sniffed it.  Now they are doing it again with the Match Tax.  And Delaware is so stupid they will let them do it again.  I shouldn’t say Delaware, but the DOE.  It isn’t Bunting lighting the match, it is the same cast and crew from last year.  When are they going to stop this insipid love affair with charters?  Don’t they realize all they are doing is riding the wrong horse?  It has been a crazy year since then.  But I would be remiss if I didn’t look back on this and wonder how much I contributed to the eventual outcome.  Almost as if I was played the entire time…