Attorney General Opinion Highlights Need For More Accurate Accounting For Education Funding

Allison Reardon, the State Solicitor for the Delaware Department of Justice, wrote a legal opinion on a Freedom of Information Act complaint last week.  Even though DOJ ruled the complaint was not a FOIA violation, the answer from Christina School District shows Delaware seems woefully lost in terms of being able to decipher education funding. Continue reading

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State Reps Kowalko and Williams Petition Attorney General Matt Denn To Investigate Leak From Auditor Of Accounts Office

In a letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, State Representatives John Kowalko and Kim Williams are urging Denn to investigate the controversial leak from the Auditor of Accounts office.  On August 8th, the News Journal “obtained” a report from AOA regarding a personnel matter with Kathleen Davies.  While the validity of the report has yet to be determined, especially since it wasn’t even used in Davies unemployment hearing, the report was leaked from AOA.

The News Journal based an entire article, online and in print, on the report.  I find it ironic that a cabal of folks at AOA, who falsely went after Davies over sending a draft copy of an audit to Kim Williams (which was found to be perfectly okay), seem to think it is okay to send out a confidential employee report that very same office may have had the ability to edit themselves.  Talk about sheer hypocrisy!  Political motivation during an election?  You better believe it!  Reports have come out of that office where employees would spend their time on political campaigns in the last election.  I don’t mind any citizen helping out with elections and all that, but not while you are on the clock for the state!

To read the letter from Rep. Kowalko and Rep. Williams, please see below:

 

Bombshell Document Shows Massive Amounts Of Collusion With Indian River School District Audit Investigation

It appears there was collusion going on between various Delaware agencies when it came to the Indian River School District audit investigation in 2016.  As a result of that collusion, Patrick Miller walks free and Susan Bunting became the Delaware Secretary of Education. Continue reading

Delaware DOJ Fraud/Theft Prosecutions Since 2015

Last night, I sent an email to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn about the ongoing problem in Delaware concerning fraud and theft of taxpayer funds in Delaware from various state agencies and organizations dependent on state funding.  Today, Sonia Augusthy, the head of the Civil Rights and Public Trust division sent me an email regarding my concerns.  She sent me a list of what that division has done since they were created in 2015.  I was shocked at the amount of names but since I primarily write about education, it is sad to see how rampant fraud and theft is across the state.  I was not away Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy had been indicted and is awaiting prosecution.  This is the email sent to me from Sonia Augusthy: Continue reading

Auditor Of Accounts Office Releases Very Questionable Report To News Journal’s Jessica Bies In Attempt To Interfere With Election & MERB Hearings

Jessica Bies with the News Journal wrote an article about State Auditor candidate Kathleen Davies and willfully withheld information provided to her that would have drastically changed her article.  There is absolutely no credible reason for Bies to withhold crucial information like that. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delaware DOE Employee Gets Off Easy On Theft Of Education Funds

In yet another pathetic sentencing, a Delaware state employee got off very easy for stealing in what should have been a harsher sentence.  When did our Delaware Department of Justice get so soft? Continue reading

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

Delaware Department Of Justice Weighs In On Charter Schools Keeping Certain Match Tax Funds

The Delaware Department of Education’s Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting requested a legal opinion from the Delaware Department of Justice.  She wanted to know if the Department could legally enforce local school districts to send non-minor capital improvement match tax funds to Delaware charter schools.  What did the DOJ say? Continue reading

Major FOIA Violations Found By Delaware DOJ At DelTech Community College Regarding Open Meetings & Transparency

I filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint against DelTech Community College on May 10th, 2017.  The Delaware Department of Justice issued their legal opinion on the FOIA complaint today.  They found that DelTech violated open meeting law with their College Educational Foundation and The Collegewide Criminal Justice Advisory Board.

First, the Attorney General had to determine if these two entities are public bodies.  They found both are.  Especially noteworthy is their Foundation.  Because their Foundation consists of seven members from the college’s Board of Trustees, and four board members represents a quorum, they are a public body that must make their meetings public and produce minutes from each meeting.

…any gathering of the Foundation that includes a quorum of the Board of Trustees, and during which public business is discussed, is considered a meeting of the Board of Trustees to which FOIA’s open meeting requirements are applicable.

I did name other groups at the school, specifically their Collegewide Safety/Security Committee, Ad Hoc President’s Council, President’s Council, and Learning Community Collegewide Steering Committee.  Because those groups are made up of staff members, they are not considered a public body thus they are immune to open meeting law.

It’s hard sometimes to win these things.  There are ambiguities in state code that can turn a predicted victory into a moment of defeat.  But I was very pleased with the outcome of this one and what it means for other such entities floating around Delaware.  Time to do some reaching out to other various foundations in the state.  For those who think this might apply to Delaware State University or University of Delaware, think again.  They are exempt from FOIA law in Delaware.

To read the full legal opinion issued by Deputy Attorney General Carla Jarosz, please read below:

Delaware Courts Send WRONG Message With NO Jail Time For Those Who Steal School Money

WDEL announced Dr. Tennell Brewington, the former co-head of school of Family Foundations Academy, pled guilty to her role in theft of education funds at the New Castle County charter school.  Her whopping sentence: three years in prison but it was suspended.  NO jail time.  Oh, but she will have probation.  Cry me a damn river!  You better believe if that was you or I working in the private sector, we would be doing time!  But no, not in Delaware, the first to sign the Constitution and the last to follow it.  Sorry, this really pisses me off.

As if education funding isn’t jacked up enough, now our courts are saying it is okay to steal money meant for kids.  But I guess we need to add new buckets on Delaware Online Checkbook.  You know, things like foot massages and pedicures.  Give me a friggin’ break here!  I guess Audrey Erschen and Chuck Taylor from Providence Creek Academy will get lollipops for their misdeeds there.  Or Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover will get some more Disney knick-knacks for showing a little remorse.  And the guy from Indian River, Patrick Miller, can get a new boat.  But we will throw kids down the river for much lesser crimes.  This state is so damn corrupt it isn’t even funny.

And what the hell is up with Sean Moore?  That crap isn’t even funny anymore.  He is sitting back and laughing at all this.  These people are getting away with whatever the hell they want.  It appears it doesn’t matter what you do, it’s who you know.  Whose palms are getting greased?  What political favors are going around to avoid prison time for these clowns?  These are kids that are going without.  Our courts are saying they care more about the burden of incarcerating influential school “leaders” than sending an example that it isn’t right to steal education funds.

Some lady stole a ton of money from the Cape Henlopen boosters club for baseball or something like that.  Over $20,000.00.  I can see that example really working there Delaware!  That happened after all the charter thieves got caught.  I suspect there is a lot more of this going on.  Which is why nobody wants to REALLY audit these schools.  Providence Creek didn’t learn their lesson the first time.  They just got better at hiding it.  But like most secrets, they can’t stay buried forever.  But what does it matter?   The guilty will get off easy.  Can’t have all those thieves filling up courtroom space while the courtroom is already filled up with the school-to-prison pipeline kids.  Can’t have that!

Prelude: Patrik Williams & Smyrna School District’s Egregious Zero Tolerance Railroading Of Middle School Student

Consider this a glimpse into the future.  This picture won’t make any sense now, but it will later.  This is an end result of a battle that has gone on for well over a year and a half between a student at Smyrna Middle School and the district, led by now Superintendent Patrik Williams, and their refusal to bow down from zero tolerance policies in the district.  This is ugly, but it doesn’t stop at the Smyrna School District.  It gets bigger from there and involves the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Department of Justice, the police, and the Justice of the Peace in Delaware. Continue reading

Some Big Education Bills Up For A Vote Today In The Delaware General Assembly

Cursive.  Educator Licensure.  Child Abuse Training.  Bullying.  Gang Detection.  Public School Enrollment for children in custody of DSCYF.  These are the biggest education bills up for a vote today in the Delaware House of Representatives and the Senate.  Two will go to the House and two to the Senate if they pass.  What are these bills?

House Bill #70:

This is State Rep. Andria Bennett’s cursive bill.  It was released from the House Education Committee in April.  It would make cursive instruction mandatory in all Delaware public schools.  It has many in support of the bill, but quite a few are opposed to it as well.

Under current educational standards, students are no longer required to be taught cursive writing and many schools have abandoned teaching cursive writing to students. As cursive writing is still an imperative skill in many professions, this bill makes teaching cursive writing a requirement for all public schools in Delaware.     

VIEW HB70

House Substitute 1 for House Bill #143:

State Rep. Kim Williams’ HS1 for HB #143 deals with teacher licensure and the Praxis exam.

This Act removes the provisional license and re-establishes a 3 tiered licensure system. An initial license provides for two years for the initial licensee to obtain a passing score on an approved performance assessment. This Act provides for reciprocity for a state-created and approved performance assessment from another state or jurisdiction to meet the performance assessment requirement. This Act also eliminates the general knowledge exam for licensure which will result in a savings to the candidate of a range of $100 to $150. Additionally, this Act provides for a reimbursement of no less than $100 to a license holder who meets the performance assessment requirement and becomes employed in a Delaware public school. The Department will be responsible for training local district and school staff on the performance assessment. Additionally, the Department of Education leadership, including the Secretary of Education will be trained on the performance assessment. For enactment, any individual provided an initial license prior to the enactment date will not be subject to the requirement of obtaining a passing score on a performance assessment. Additionally, any individual provided a provisional license prior to the enactment date will be reissued an initial license and the 2 year requirement for meeting the performance assessment will become effective commencing on the new issue date. The remainder of the bill makes conforming changes to cross-references and license designations.

VIEW HS1 FOR HB143

Senate Bill #87:

Senator Margaret Rose Henry’s bill deals with children in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families.  The Every Student Succeeds Act has certain provisions dealing with these students and this legislation would bring Delaware in synch with that requirement under the McKinney-Vento Act.

This Act updates the school stability law for children in the custody of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF) following passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESSA requires Delaware to eliminate the provision “awaiting foster care placement” under § 202(c), Title 14 in accordance with the federal McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act by December 10, 2017, and instead create a distinct provision regarding school stability for children in the custody of DSCYF. [42 U.S.C. §§ 11431 to 11435; ESEA section 1111(g)(1)(E)(i)-(iii)), 20 U.S.C. §6311(g)(1)(E)]. This Act clarifies that children in the custody of DSCYF remain entitled to attend their school of origin if it is in their best interests to do so, or are eligible for immediate enrollment in a new school. Sections 1, 2, and 3 of this Act take effect on the effective date of final regulations published in the Register of Regulations and promulgated under authority granted by § 202A(d) of Title 14, which is created by Section 2 of this Act.   

View SB #87

Senate Bill #102:                  

Another Senator Henry bill.  This bill is similar to last year’s Senate Bill dealing with bullying and child abuse training for educators.  This has A LOT of provisions in it.  It was heard in the Senate Education Committee meeting yesterday.  The Delaware DOE, DOJ, and the Office of the Child Advocate worked on this one for a long time.

This Act consolidates Delaware law related to child abuse and child sexual abuse training and detection, suicide prevention, bullying, criminal youth gang detection, and teen dating violence and sexual assault into one subchapter of Chapter 41, Title 14 of the Delaware Code and develops a non-academic training program that coordinates the trainings school district and charter school employees are required to receive. In addition to streamlining non-academic trainings, this Act provides school districts and charter schools with flexibility to meet current and future non-academic training needs of school district and charter school employees, students, and parents. This Act applies to all public schools, including charter schools and vocational technical schools. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the standards of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual, ensure consistency within the new subchapter, and make references throughout the Code consistent based changes to certain Code designations made by this Act.                    

View SB #102

House Agenda for 6/8/2017

Senate Agenda for 6/8/2017

Other Ex FFA Leader Tennell Brewington Arrested And Charged By State of Delaware

It sounds like Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn is finally clearing up the lingering messes from the charter school financial scandals.  Dr. Tennell Brewington, the co-director of Family Foundations Academy, was arrested and charged on October 24th according to Jennifer Flueckiger with WMDT.

A Public Information Officer from the Delaware DOJ told 47ABC that Brewington was arrested on October 24, 2016, and charged with two counts of theft greater than $1500, two counts of unlawful use of a credit card greater than $1500, one count of unlawful use of a payment card less than $1500, and one count of official misconduct.

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice dealt with a guilty plea from the other co-director of FFA, Sean Moore.  He faces a potential prison term of thirty years.  If I had to guess, Brewington’s charges from Delaware couldn’t come until she was cleared of any potential federal charges.  Or perhaps they were waiting on Moore to give information when he was arrested in another state.

There is no word yet on Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover and Shanna Simmens from Providence Creek Academy.  State audit investigations found they too stole money from schools.  Justice may be slow at times, but it does happen eventually!

 

Attorney General Opinion On Delaware Pathways Steering Committee Issued Today Is Sloppy, Inconsistent, & Incorrect

On October 7th, the Delaware Pathways Steering Committee held their first meeting with no public notice or an agenda put up 7 days prior to the meeting as required by Delaware state code.  In August, Delaware Governor Jack Markell issued an Executive Order creating this public body.  The only reason I found out about it was due to tweets from the Rodel Foundation and Mark Brainard of Delaware Tech.  I promptly filed a FOIA complaint on October 11th.  Seventeen days later, the Delaware Attorney General’s office has already responded to the FOIA complaint.  To put this in perspective, I filed a FOIA complaint last March which just had the Attorney General opinion issued last week.  BI submitted another FOIA complaint around that same time period and there has been no official opinion released from the Attorney General’s office.  But Alison May from the Delaware DOE did respond in record time with their side of the complaint, but she has before.  So why was this FOIA complaint rushed?

Below is my original request, the acknowledgment from the Attorney General’s office, the Delaware DOE’s response to the complaint, and the opinion on the FOIA complaint issued today.  As well, I am including an email that was still in draft form disputing the facts provided by Alison May in the Delaware DOE’s response.  I truly believed I had more time given the turnaround time on FOIA complaints coming out of the AG’s office but this one had a lightning fast response.  Given the below findings and other inconsistencies with their opinion, I believe this was a very rushed job they wanted to put to bed fast.  But that opens up a whole other can of worms…

Original FOIA Complaint, issued 10/11/16

From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2016 9:23 AM
To: OpenGovernment (DOJ) <OpenGovernment@state.de.us>
Subject: FOIA Complaint

 

 Good morning,

I am submitting a FOIA complaint in regards to the newly created Pathways Steering Committee.  This body came out of Executive Order #61, issued by Governor Markell on Thursday, August 11th, 2016.  While there was nothing anywhere indicating they were holding a meeting, tweets appeared on October 7th suggesting the body met as a group.  This is a state group, created by an elected official.  Yet there was no posting of the meeting or an agenda.  Attached are screen shots of the tweets posted by Mark Brainard and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  

I take this violation very seriously.  For a group that is supposed to be all about students, I find it ironic they would operate in secrecy with no ability for the public to attend.  This does not translate into anything close to an open government.  

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

9 Crosley Court

Dover, DE 19904

On October 12th, the Delaware Attorney General acknowledged receipt of my FOIA Complaint

October 11, 2016 Correspondence Regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

VIA EMAIL

 

Mr. Kevin Ohlandt

9 Crosley Ct.
Dover, DE 19904
kevino@yahoo.com

RE:     October 11, 2016 Correspondence Regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

Dear Mr. Ohlandt:

            This will acknowledge receipt of your correspondence regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee (the “Committee”), received on October 11, 2016, alleging certain violations of the open meetings provisions of Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act, 29 Del. C. §§ 10001-10007 (“FOIA”). We treat your correspondence as a petition for determination pursuant to 29 Del. C. § 10005.  We are forwarding your correspondence to the Committee’s counsel, asking that they respond to your allegations by October 19, 2016.  When we have received the Committee’s response, we will determine whether additional information from either party is required and decide what further action, if any, is appropriate.

Very truly yours, 

                                                                        /s/ Kim Siegel

                                                                        Kim Siegel

                                                                        FOIA Coordinator

KS/ks

cc:        Danielle Gibbs, Chief Deputy Attorney General (via email)

            Michelle E. Whalen, Deputy Attorney General (via email)

            Meredith S. Tweedie, Esq. (via email)

The Delaware Department of Education’s Response to the FOIA Complaint, 10/19/16

Issued today was the official opinion from the Delaware Attorney General’s office:

16-IB23 10/28/2016 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Kevin Ohlandt re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

This is the draft I was working on to send to the Attorney General’s office that I believed I had more time to formulate:

October 26th, 2016

Good afternoon Ms. Siegel,

In reviewing Alison May from the Dept. of Education’s response to my FOIA complaint from October 11th, in the letter provided from her on October 19th, she states the following:

…and the draft minutes of the October 7th meeting (attached hereto, along with the other documents discussed at the meeting) will be posted online by the end of this week.
In doing an extensive search this afternoon, I have not been able to see anywhere in the State of Delaware, on the Delawarepathways.org website, or any such place on the World Wide Web where Alison May’s assurance of transparency actually took place.
This attempt at a good-faith effort on the Dept. of Education’s response to the complaint seems a bit odd considering this does not exist.  And while I know the Governor is not obligated to publicly report on where he speaks publicly, the fact that no documentation exists anywhere in regards to this meeting on the internet aside from I wrote about it on Exceptional Delaware and a few tweets from those associated with this group, I find that to be very suspect.  While Ms. May states “this was an oversight on the part of the involved State agencies and organizations and not an intentional effort to circumvent FOIA requirements” in her response, the very minutes she attached to the DOE’s response indicate Luke Rhine from the Department of Education would be in charge of coordinating staffing.  And since Alison May from the Dept. of Education was the responding party for the response to the complaint, that leads me to the belief that the Delaware Dept. of Education would have been the State Agency to fulfill FOIA requirements for a public body.  Since they did not, I take issue with Ms. May’s response about not coordinating with other state agencies and do not believe that to be a true statement. In regards to the reasoning for not making this meeting public to the citizens of Delaware, a statement of “oversight” bears little meaning in the contextual framework of following state code.
In a prior FOIA complaint of mine against the Delaware Dept. of Education, #15-IB12, Danielle Gibbs, the Chief Deputy Attorney General wrote:
The DOE provided no explanation as to why the notices and agendas were posted less than seven days in advance of the meetings, and it concedes that the postings did not comply with FOIA.  The DOE also explained that no action was taken by the AFWG at either meeting.  The DOE apologized and said it would “endeavor to determine the agenda of any future AFWG meetings as of the time of any required public notice of them, and include the agenda in any such required notice.
The notices and agendas for the AFWG meetings held in September violated FOIA because they were not posted at least seven days in advance of the meeting as required by 29 Del. C. §10004(e)(2).  We find that these errors were technical violations that did not negatively affect substantial public rights.[17]  Therefore, we find that no remediation is required.”
Given that the words “substantial public rights” means no action was taken at those meetings, it was during a regulatory process for Regulation 103 where key issues concerning that regulation would have been discussed at the AFWG meetings.  So in a finding that “substantial public rights” did not apply in that situation with pending legislative action, I take issue with that.  As well, in the attached minutes from the minutes for the Pathways Steering Committee, there is talk of legislative action and a discussion with the Delaware General Assembly.
In FOIA Complaint #13-IB05, issued October 1st, 2013, citizens filed a complaint against the Charter School Reform Working Group in regards to having closed-door meetings not open to the public.  In that Attorney General opinion, it states the following:
By letters dated July 31 and August 1, 2012, the Governor extended invitations to a number of individuals to participate in the Working Group as representatives of several public bodies, including the General Assembly, the Department of Education and the State Board of Education, and various private stakeholder groups (the “Invitations”).
While that opinion was an appeal to an earlier complaint, it states the following:
On June 10, 2013, you filed this appeal seeking access to the Working Group’s meeting minutes.  We received a response on July 11, 2013.  The response indicates that the Working Group did not consider itself to be a “public body” within the meaning of section 10002(h), due primarily to the informal nature of the Working Group.

FOIA, with certain exceptions not relevant here, establishes a public right to inspect all “public records” and requires that all meetings of public bodies be open to the public.4   FOIA’s “open meeting” provisions call for advance notice to the public of all public meetings and require public bodies to prepare and make available to the public agendas for and minutes of their public meetings.5

Section 10002(h) provides substantial guidance as to the types of entities and bodies encompassed within the phrase “body of the State.”  That concept, as used in FOIA, includes, among other things, any “group . . . appointed by any . . . public official of the State” that was “impliedly or specifically charged” with making recommendations.9   The Working Group was a “body of the State” within the meaning of section 10002(h).

But the key part from this opinion rests on the following and is key to my own FOIA complaint:

First, this Office consistently has rejected arguments that FOIA’s applicability hinges on adherence to formalities in the creation of a public body, lest FOIA’s goals of openness and government accountability be subverted.14

This was where my draft ended which I fully intended on doing further research on in the next week.

Now here are my issues with the Attorney General’s response to the FOIA complaint.  First off, in Alison May’s response from the Delaware DOE, she said it was under the Delaware Dept. of Education’s control to issue the agenda.  However, in the link on the FOIA complaint, we see an Agenda created on 10/17/16, ten days after the meeting, and it was issued from Governor Markell’s office, not the Delaware DOE.  Furthermore, if this was indeed a public body, why was there no agenda item for public comment?  As well, the minutes submitted by Alison May in the DOE’s response to the FOIA complaint are actually different than those that appear on the Googledrive website.

In the original minutes, submitted with Alison May in the Delaware DOE response to my FOIA complaint, it states the following:

Dr. Brainard charged Mr. Rhine to conduct outreach to Steering Committee members to review the draft strategic plan and collect additional input;

Dr. Brainard charged Mr. Rhine to develop a transition report for partnering state agencies to be used as a transitional tool in planning for the next executive administration;

But in the minutes on the Googledrive for the steering committee, it said this:
Mr. Rhine will conduct outreach to Steering Committee members to review the draft strategic plan and collect additional input;
Mr. Rhine will develop a transition report for partnering state agencies to be used as a transitional tool in planning for the next executive administration;
While the two items look very similar on the surface, the action of taking out Dr. Brainard from the updated minutes which were created on October 24th by Luke Rhine, which the Googledrive suggests that no action was directed to Luke Rhine, the main Delaware Dept. of Education representative, when in reality it was.  This change is substantial.  The opinion issued today states that no action was taken at this meeting so the perception that no “substantial public rights” violations occurred by not making a public body meeting public is visibly changed between the two meeting minutes.  As well, if the Delaware DOE is the state entity that answered the FOIA complaint and is in charge of posting information about it, why is there absolutely nothing on the Career and Technical Education portion of their website?
We are also expected to believe the minutes and agenda they presented are accurate when they were created at the earliest, six days after the meeting, and at the latest, seventeen days after the meeting:
dtccgoogledrivepathways
As well, the response from the Attorney General’s response today shows a link to a website that was not included in the original DOE response to the complaint which means there was further communication between the Attorney General’s office and the parties to which I issued the FOIA complaint against.  In all other FOIA complaints I have submitted, I have been a party to those communications every single step of the way but not with this one.
The Deputy Attorney General who wrote this opinion, Danielle Gibbs, handled a FOIA opinion from a complaint I submitted in 2015.  She made sure I received all communication from the Delaware DOE on that every single step of the way.  But this time I guess I wasn’t so blessed.  She actually wrote in the FOIA opinion issued today:

Moreover, as you note in your Petition, certain members of the Committee published photographs of its meeting on social media either, contemporaneously or immediately following the meeting. We find this to be inconsistent with an intentional failure to adhere to FOIA’s open meetings provisions. We see no evidence of an intent – by the Governor or any other Committee member – to circumvent FOIA. Nor do we see an ongoing pattern of FOIA non-compliance which might warrant extreme remedy.

Here is a newsflash for the Attorney General’s office: having a non-profit foundation and a member of the committee post tweets about a non-transparent meeting of a public body issued by a Governor’s Executive Order, does not point either way towards an intentional failure to adhere to FOIA’s open meetings provisions.  What it shows is someone tweeting.  So to give this extra bearing in a legal opinion about something that was already established to be under the Delaware Dept. of Education’s responsibility is misleading at best.

When you go to this website, there are also extensive plans and reports, involving millions upon millions of dollars of funding.  I would think that would be crucial for the public to see.
pathwaysstrategicplan
To see these large amounts of funds being talked about over the next three fiscal years, please go here: DE Pathways Priority 4 Funding Plan 10/6/16.  Feast your eyes on this document, created on October 6th, one day prior to the Steering Committee meeting.  Furthermore, the two entities planning this funding are not even state agencies, they are 3rd party non-profit companies: United Way of Delaware and the Rodel Foundation.
We have three entities involved with this FOIA complaint: the Delaware Dept. of Education, Governor Markell’s office, and Delaware Technical Community College.  How did the college get involved?  If you look at the Googledrive, the website is listed as:
This is a Del Tech website.  Why is Del Tech storing the minutes for this when it is supposed to be under the authority of the DOE?  And why is Markell’s office issuing the agenda (ten days after the fact)?  When I do a Google search for the past month using “pathways” “steering committee” “dtcc” and “minutes”, nothing comes up on the search.  So how would anyone be able to find these minutes without seeing them in a response to a FOIA complaint?  Even if I take out “dtcc” and replace it with “Delaware” nothing comes up.  Furthermore, there is nothing in the meeting minutes even discussing minutes or where these minutes were to be stored for public consumption.  I believe this to be a very sloppy response from all parties involved and further contend this Pathways Steering Committee is not making a good faith effort with transparency.  By allowing this public body to be open to the public, all three parties involved seemed to have communicated extensively with each other after I filed a FOIA complaint.  I will also add that additional communication provided by the other parties to the Delaware Attorney General’s office needs to be provided to me by the Delaware Attorney General’s office post haste.  The Attorney General opinion states it reviewed the website of the Steering Committee but the only way they would have been able to review that was by getting a link for it.  Since there is no viable way to search for this Steering Committee through internet search engines, I contend they were given this website by someone involved with it.
This Pathways Steering Committee, that is making gigantic decisions about students, in secondary and post-secondary setting, with plans for huge amounts of money at state and local levels, is all about substantial public rights.  When the General Assembly decided not to move forward with the Pathways Steering Committee as sponsored by Senator David Sokola with Senate Bill 277, Governor Markell took it upon himself to issue an Executive Order to create this committee.  When our Governor doesn’t get his way with the General Assembly, it seems he has the authority to bypass that with Executive Orders.
What is the point of a FOIA complaint if the Delaware Department of Justice, under the control of the Delaware Attorney General, has no ability to do anything substantial or with any consequences in regards to a FOIA complaint?  Why did they rush through the opinion on this FOIA Complaint without really checking into everything?  Why was there (in my view) an intentional attempt to lock me out of communication concerning this FOIA complaint when that has not happened in the past?  These are the things I want answers for, as well as Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn himself to issue a statement that this public body has to reconvene their October 7th meeting so the public is well aware of this Steering Committee that is deciding the future of thousands of Delaware students with significant amounts of taxpayer funds.
Updated, 4:53pm, 10/28/16: Since I finished this article, I can now see on the Delaware DOE website where they did a link to this on their website.  But it is filled with completely wrong information, as seen below.  First off, this is not a “task force”, it is a “steering committee”.  Second, it was not passed into law on June 14th, 2016 through Senate Bill 277.  It became law through Governor Markell’s Executive Order #61, issued on August 11th, 2016.  Senate Bill 277 was released from the Senate Education Committee on June 15th, 2016, but it never came up for a vote with the full Senate and the bill died as of the end of the 148th General Assembly on July 1st, 2016.
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Delaware Dept. of Justice Finding On Gateway Lab School FOIA Complaint

Last Spring, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act complaint against Gateway Lab School, a Delaware charter school, to the Delaware Attorney General’s Office.  As any regular reader of this blog is aware, I frequently review meeting minutes for charter schools and school districts.  What I saw in the March minutes for Gateway Lab School shocked me.  Not so much from what they did, but the fact our Attorney General’s office released similar opinions on these kind of matters in the seven months prior to this.  I bear no ill will towards Gateway or their board.  I have always commended this charter school for servicing students with disabilities as the bulk of their student population.  I was among the majority who felt the Charter School Accountability Committee’s 2014 recommendation to shut the school down was absolutely ridiculous, especially when that decision was based on standardized test scores.

After I filed the complaint, myself and Gateway went back and forth via email on the complaint.  During that time, I found another similar action by the Gateway board.  While I had some pains submitting the original complaint because of my loyalty for a special needs school, I felt it was important for them to correct this action.  Did they?  And how did the Attorney General’s office rule on my complaint?  Find out below!

My Thoughts On The Charges Against Amy’s Murderer And The Accomplices

As I’m sure most of America has heard, the Delaware Department of Justice filed charges against three teenagers involved in Amy Joyner-Francis’ murder two and a half weeks ago at Howard High School of Technology.  There is absolutely no mention of Amy’s head being slammed into the bathroom sink even though some reports stated that at the onset.  Only one girl, Trinity Carr, actually hit Amy.  She has been charged with criminally-negligent homicide.  The other two helped plan the assault up to twenty hours earlier.  But the true shocker was that Amy had a pre-existing heart condition.

According to the News Journal article linked above:

Investigators determined that the fight was a planned confrontation in the girl’s bathroom, but only one girl – 16-year-old Trinity Carr – actually hit Amy that day, according to a statement by the DOJ. The fight was filmed, according to court documents, and shows Carr hitting Amy repeatedly in the head and torso area with “what what appears to be a closed fist.”

The video then shows Carr leave and Amy attempt to stand up from the floor, according to court documents. Amy then appears disoriented, court papers say, and collapses back to the floor. When paramedics found her, she was unresponsive and went into cardiac arrest shortly after.

Knowing what really happened won’t take away the pain and sadness surrounding all this.  It won’t bring back Amy who apparently didn’t know this was coming.  Just a sweet, innocent teenage girl going to school one day.  The question is how many others knew about it.  I am still upset no one else in that bathroom intervened.  I’m assuming her heart condition was private as that has never been mentioned before.  If the intent was there to do bodily harm to Amy, what did Carr think would happen?  While they may not have planned actual murder, how is this “criminally negligent”?  Our justice systems works in funny ways.  Why did it take two and a half weeks when the police had the video the entire time to arrest Carr?  At the very least, the evidence clearly shows an assault.

Trinity Carr, Zion Snow, and Chakeira Wright will have to live with what they did every single day for the rest of their life.  Carr will most likely spend what should be some of the best years of her life in prison.  Snow and Wright will probably be in juvenile detention while their classmates are going to the prom and graduating.  But no amount of justice will ever make any of this alright.  Amy will never have the opportunity for any of those things.  I really hope this is a wake-up call for all of us in Delaware.  We need to make sure this never happens again, and that includes the adults.

Tim Furlong with NBC Philadelphia gave a bit more detail about what happened after the fight:

After the fight, Joyner-Francis complained about head and chest pain. A school resource officer called 911 and Joyner-Francis lost consciousness before medics arrived. CPR was performed as she was flown to a nearby children’s hospital. She later died at the hospital.

Where was this school resource officer during the fight?  I understand fights can happen fast, but where were any adults during this assault?  That is the question no one is asking.  I challenged the district about this a couple of weeks ago.  It was important to clarify their board meeting change, but in regards to my other concerns, they completely ignored them.  Last week I saw the Superintendent of the district for Howard High School, Dr. Gehrt.  She knows who I am cause I’ve seen her at many meetings where I gave public comment.  I saw her at the assessment inventory meeting at the Delaware DOE.  Usually she gives me a smile.  At this meeting, she could only scowl at me.  I’ll take my lumps where I get them.  But at least own up to… something.

Amy’s death affected me immensely, and I didn’t even know the poor girl.  She is a memorial to what we need to fix in our schools.  We can’t stop what happens outside of school, but we can make sure Amy’s death is a living testament to change.  I haven’t heard one word about school climate from those in power.  We have seen plenty in social media comments, but once again it is an empty echo chamber from the decision-makers in our state.  Our legislators have been strangely quiet on the issue.  The Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Governor Markell have been eerily quiet about the situation.  Perhaps things will start to happen now that the investigation is over and charges have been filed.  All I know is something has to happen.  We can’t have another Amy, or all the many living victims of bullying and assault in our schools.  It has to stop.

Former Capital School District Teacher Arrested For Debit Card Card Abuse. Where Are The Charter Leaders Arrests For Larger Crimes?

It doesn’t just happen in charter schools.  According to WBOC, former Dover High School teacher Brian Ogbin gave himself up to the Dover Police last Friday and was charged with theft under $1500 and unlawful use of a payment card under $1500.  So how does it work that this guy gets arrested for theft under $1500 but charter school leaders and employees from Family Foundations Academy, Academy of Dover, and Providence Creek Academy get away with stealing funds in the five to six digits and NO arrests have been made?  It has been over nine months since the State Auditor report came out on Academy of Dover.

Ogbin resigned as a teacher with the Capital School District at their February board meeting.  According to the article, the theft of funds using the debit card and funds taken from a wrestling fundraiser were discovered following an investigation.  The article does not state who held the investigation.  I would imagine cash advances from Dover Downs totaling over $500 would have sent some red flags flying though.  How many debit or p-cards (state procurement cards) are floating around out there ready for someone to use at a moment’s notice for stuff like this?  While I’m glad this situation was discovered relatively fast compared to the charter school stuff going on out there, where are the controls that could stop this from happening in the first place?  Should school “clubs” or “organizations” be allowed to have their own control over funds generated by the district and fundraisers?

My biggest concern with all of this is the sheer hypocrisy involved.  I’ve been told by some in the know that something will happen with these charter school leaders.  That was in November.  I have asked “larger organizations” about this.  How long does it take to build a case against a charter school employee while a traditional school district employee is arrested for something similar but less egregious?  It makes it very hard to believe there will be accountability for the charter thieves in light of this.  They absconded with hundreds of thousands of dollars.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Matt Denn, what is the Department of Justice doing about this?

 

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn Talks About School Fights, Bullying, and Senate Bill 207

It must be Matt Denn day here at Exceptional Delaware!  In any event, Delaware Attorney General appeared on Comcast Newsmakers with Jill Horner on March 21st to talk about Senate Bill 207.  This legislation would make it so schools do not have to call the police every time there is a fight in a Delaware public school.  The schools still could, but they would have discretion based on the circumstances and the potential of serious injury.  As well, SB207 would mandate schools disclose the contact information for the Ombudsman at the DOJ who deals with school bullying issues to parents.

Delaware Cyber Security Advisory Council Violates FOIA In Their First Meeting

As reported by Randall Chase with the Associated Press yesterday, Delaware’s Cyber Security Advisory Council kicked off their first meeting with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) violation.  But what the article didn’t cover was how the state tried to cover its tracks after the meeting.

James Collins, the state’s chief information officer and head of the council, then said the panel would meet in executive session, even though Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act requires that such closed-door meetings be noticed ahead of time.

But do they have the ability to time travel into the future to give that notice?  Apparently, they do!

This is the agenda for the first meeting as shown on Delaware’s Public Meeting Calendar website.

Cyber Security Real Agenda on DE Public Calendar

It looks like they have everything covered, right?  Including a FOIA Exemption Proposal because they know they are violating FOIA.  Here is the page from the Public Meeting Calendar website:

DEPublMtgCalDECybSecAdvCoun

Looks okay to me, right?

ChangeDate

In the above picture, taken from the bottom left-hand corner of the Public Meeting Calendar notice, it shows three change dates.  3/3/2016 was the original posting of the meeting, 3/22/2016 I would assume had the addition of the FBI Agent giving the briefing on the unclassified threat, and the 3/23/2016 change was to give notice about the group going into executive session to discuss the unclassified threat.  So maybe Randall Chase got it all wrong, right?

Cyber Security Agenda

Nope.  This picture is the properties of the PDF.  If you right-click with your mouse on a PDF, it tells you when a PDF was created and modified.  This PDF was actually created yesterday, 3/23/2016 at 3:17:16pm.  It was a brand new agenda.  The part blacked out is my own personal location for my computer which I didn’t think was necessary to throw out there so I will fully admit I blacked it out in the picture.

Someone should really file a FOIA complaint on this one to the Delaware Department of Justice!  Oh wait, I already did…