Season Four On Exceptional Delaware Just Got Very Interesting, Time To Reboot The Mission

Every year, on June 13th, Exceptional Delaware celebrates its anniversary.  This year is, pardon the pun, no exception.  You won’t see what the mission is until you read about it.  But it is definitely time to reboot the mission and go back to basics.  It’s about the kids.  It’s about families.  It’s about what is covered up and hidden.  In ALL facets of education, people want quiet.  They didn’t want the dirty skeletons coming out of the closet.  But they are there.  Like an ostrich with a head buried in the sand, so it is with Delaware education.  Continue reading “Season Four On Exceptional Delaware Just Got Very Interesting, Time To Reboot The Mission”

Kilroy Was Here, And What A Time It Was! Bon Voyage Kilroy’s Delaware!

Kilroy wrote his last post today.  I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m not surprised.  I’m sad, for many reasons.  I will still talk to the man behind Kilroy.  Perhaps one day we can go fishing at his paradise in really slower lower.  But dammit, Kilroy filled me in on so much with Delaware education before I took a crack at blogging.  He lent me his blog for about a month and a half three years ago so I could tell a story about my son.  We talked a lot over the past few years.  Over time, he became a friend.  Not a friend I talk to every day or even see.  But a friend nonetheless.

Some of the commenters over at Kilroy’s Delaware pissed me off to no end.  That is no secret, especially that one guy.  But I loved the discussion even if I didn’t agree with the point of view.  Things got nasty between myself and a few of the commenters from time to time.  But Kilroy loved it.  He loved his virtual kitchen table.  He was the godfather of Delaware education blogs and paved the way for the rest of us fighting the good fight.

Transparent Christina, Kavips, and now Kilroy’s Delaware.  We still have other education blogs, but they are either mixed in with political blogs (Delaware Liberal and Blue Delaware) or the other blogs really don’t post that often.  They were the big three.  I get it.  Life moves on.  Blogs are not a forever thing.  I’m very surprised mine has lasted as long as it has.  I feel this insurmountable task of carrying the torch for the giants that came before me.  Someday, another irate or concerned parent will take up the mantle.  Perhaps a teacher.  Blogging is not dead.

I often consider hanging it up though.  Is Delaware education blogging needed anymore?  Things have calmed down since Governor Markell left his throne.  But there are still considerable dangers and concerns going on with education.  Perhaps bigger than all that came before.  The biggest concerns I have are vouchers, personalized learning, competency-based education, funding, digital technology, and student data privacy.  And hovering above all those issues is how students with disabilities will fit in with this new world.  I’ve seen the end goals, and any legislator, teacher, or educator can tell me that will never happen.  But they aren’t in the corporate world.  Not knee-deep in it.  That’s where Rodel comes in.  They are the middle man between the corporations and the education stakeholders, whether it is the Governor, the Delaware Dept. of Education, schools, teachers, and even parents at times.  As long as they are peddling their wares, I will try my best to stick around.

There will never be another Kilroy.  He had such a unique identity and style to his writing.  Even the best imitator couldn’t come close.  I’ll miss his cryptic hints and his crazy codes he would drop.  He had a mission, and he accomplished it.  I remember taping the Senate session when they passed his digital recording bill (finally) and sent him a copy.  I was proud of him because I knew great things don’t always come easy.  But with sweat and perseverance, change can come.

Best of luck Kilroy.  I will forever be grateful for you taking a chance on an odd parent from Kent County and getting me going in this very surreal blogging world.  Because of you, my life was forever changed.  Sometimes it wasn’t always good change, but it hasn’t been bad.  You were the gateway to my meeting a ton of people (including yourself) who have left a mark on my life, often at times I needed it more than ever.  At the end of the day, it is about friendship and trying to help people.  Even when you don’t get anything for yourself out of it.  You taught me that Kilroy, along with Kavips and Transparent Christina.

Should they ever make a movie about Kilroy’s Delaware, I want Robert DeNiro to play him!

State Rep. Bennett Brings Cursive Bill Back For Consideration In Delaware

State Rep. Andria Bennett’s House Bill 70 would make cursive writing a requirement for Delaware public education students.  This is the second time in the past couple of years a bill like this came before the Delaware General Assembly.  Last time, State Rep. Deb Hudson was the main sponsor of this bill but it didn’t move forward.  For this legislative session, it looks like the proposed bill has a lot more Democrat support.

I support this bill.  You need to know cursive to sign checks and important documents.  It also promotes better penmanship for students.  Many historical documents were in cursive.  Thanks Rep. Bennett!

Exceptional Delaware Endorses John Marino For The 10th Senate District

Let it be known, throughout the State of Delaware, that I proudly endorse John Marino for the 10th Senate District special election on February 25th.

Wait a minute, some of you might be thinking, aren’t you a dye in the wool Democrat?  Hardly.  I am an issues guy.  And I also value consistency and someone knowing what they are talking about.  I’ve known John Marino’s stances on public education for years now, since the 2014 election.  He supports opt out, wants more resources in the class-room, is not a big fan of top-down education mandates, and supports local control and teachers.  He is against Common Core and wants our students to succeed.

There will be DSEA members who will be screaming for my head right about now because of the fear of the Delaware Senate going under Republican control if Marino wins.  Right to Work could come to Delaware, but that kind of bill would need to pass the House and get Governor Carney’s signature.  The Senate could play games with the budget as well trying to get Right to Work in Delaware.  I can picture Delaware Dems sitting in Legislative Hall well into July to prevent that.  So I am not as scared of that notion as some left-leaning teachers are.  As well, I am not a teacher.  I’m a parent, and I am disgusted by many of the stunts I’ve seen when it comes to Delaware education and government.

But let’s take a look at what Democrat control has done for teachers: DPAS-II and Component V.  Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Not to mention far too many of them cowering to Jack Markell.  It is all about a balance of power.  Delaware is ripe for change, and it starts with our government.  One party control has given us far too many special interest items tucked into the state budget over the years.  Money that could and should be going to far more pressing needs in this state.  We need a balance of power, and if the Delaware Senate goes red, so be it.

As far as Hansen, she seems to change her education beliefs by the day.  She even did that on her website between January 28th and January 29th.

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hanseneducationnew

If I want to see flipping, I’ll go on Netflix and watch some old episodes of Flipper!  In terms of a DSEA endorsement, keep in mind what that really is.  The DSEA Executive Board decides endorsements and it is not an accurate representation of all Delaware teachers.  It is a handful of people.  What I don’t appreciate is someone not knowing the issues, like Hansen, then getting schooled on them and acting like she knows what the hell she is talking about.  Marino has always felt the same way.  I won’t even get into the bizarre issues with Hansen and New Castle County government.  I will just say it some very surreal stuff.

So how does Marino feel (and consistently) about education in Delaware?

State government has broken our school system. Due to over-testing, heavy-handed bureaucracy and a lack of support for our teachers, our local schools have to work twice as hard to provide a quality education for our young people. I support legislation to reign in and minimize burdensome state tests, as well as an unequivocal policy that parents are the only authority to decide what tests their children take. A parent has the natural right to remove their child from any test or school activity — anytime, anywhere. No government should be given even the smallest opportunity to infringe on parental rights.

I also support letting teachers teach. I support building-level control and more money in the classroom. Our education bureaucracy has only grown and grown. It’s hurting our children, costing more taxpayer money and the people in power in the Senate have encouraged that growth at every turn. We can’t get the schools we deserve unless we change the people making the decisions and restore balance to state government.

I’ve been around Legislative Hall enough to see how the one-party system is not good for our state.  We need to end the legislator locks on the budget that allow funds to go towards programs that benefit members of the Joint Finance Committee.  We need to stop the political games and get back to governing Delaware and making laws that make sense for ALL Delawareans.  We need John Marino to win this election.

 

Farewell Markell

In less than 20 hours, Delaware’s new Governor will be sworn in.  Jack Markell’s eight-year term as the Governor of Delaware will end.  I’ve seen reviews of his term all over Delaware and social media in the past week or so.  I believe it is no secret that I view his education initiatives as an unmitigated disaster.  But were they? Continue reading “Farewell Markell”

John Carney Q&A Reveals Thoughts On Education In Delaware: Susan Bunting, Labor Day, and Test Scores

carneyshuckers

Delaware Governor-Elect John Carney and State Senator Brian Pettyjohn held a question and answer session at J.D. Shuckers in Georgetown this morning.  The packed restaurant submitted many questions.  A few of them dealt with Delaware education.  Carney’s answers provided some insight to one of his recent decisions. Continue reading “John Carney Q&A Reveals Thoughts On Education In Delaware: Susan Bunting, Labor Day, and Test Scores”

Delaware House Education Committee Gives Fond Farewell To Secretary Godowsky

As Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky spends his last two weeks in the role, the House Education Committee gave Godowsky a fond farewell at the end of their committee meeting today.  Together with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and House Majority Leader Val Longhurst, the committee brought Godowsky up to the podium and a few members gave eloquent praise to the Secretary of Education who could only be seen as an improvement over his predecessor, Mark Murphy.

State Rep. and House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques stated Godowsky became a dear friend which was echoed by State Rep. Kim Williams.  Williams thanked Godowsky for always being there to answer her many questions and said she would miss him.  Godowsky informed me his last day will be January 24th.  Governor-elect John Carney named Indian River Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting as his choice for Delaware Secretary of Education.  Bunting will appear before the Delaware Senate on January 18th for her confirmation hearing.

I asked Godowsky if he was counting the days.  He stated he has mixed feelings about leaving.  He said he is sure on his last day he will be ready but he will miss working with the people.  But he is not done with education in Delaware.  While no formal announcement has been made about his post-Secretary plans, I have no doubt Godowsky will still be in the education arena.  He even joked at the tribute today that he will be “babysitting” education in the First State.

Despite my many articles about education policy and procedures, Godowsky was very much a sea change from Mark Murphy.  On a personal level, Godowsky was always approachable when I saw him and he would always say hello to me.  I can’t imagine leading the entire Delaware Dept. of Education.  The honest truth is I have no idea how Dr. Bunting will be as Secretary of Education.  So much of that will be based on the environment around her and what John Carney plans to do with that environment.  One issue she will face right off the bat is the education funding issue, especially in relation to Delaware’s projected $350 million dollar deficit heading into the FY2018 state budget talks.  I’ve been a bit rough on her on the Indian River audit investigation and the fallout from that scenario.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, best of luck to Secretary Godowsky and may good health and luck find you in your next plans.

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Turning The Page

What happens when you close one door and open another?  Continue reading “Turning The Page”

Kilroy, Stop The Union-Bashing! You Have MUCH Bigger Fish To Fry!

Every once in a while, Kilroy posts something about me.  It is usually in regards to some comment someone made over on his blog.  But lately, especially on social media, I see Kilroy taking potshots at DSEA and a couple of members in particular.  This led to a dust-up on Kilroy’s Facebook page tonight, over all things, social justice.

It appears Kilroy didn’t understand the context and went into a tirade over it.  This led to other commenters talking about the validity of unions and how the dues work.  Steve Newton completely evaporated the opposition and proved conclusively that union dues come with the application for a teaching job in Delaware school districts.  It isn’t a question of right or wrong, it is just the way it is.

Kilroy needs to stop trying to poke holes into DSEA and their upcoming elections and really focus on the things that are happening outside of teacher unions.  Like the complete and utter privatization of public education if certain parties get their way.  Like the Rodel-led hijacking of Delaware’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.  Like the Christina-charter school settlement that will take away funds from every single school district in the state for things that are rightfully excluded from charter payments.  Like an incoming Governor who has not announced any leadership positions for Delaware education with a little over a month before his inauguration.  Like the swarm of education technology in our classrooms that is collecting a plethora of private student information with algorithms we will never know about.  Like how it doesn’t matter who won President of the country, that march to privatization continues.  Like the “Bad News Betsy” that will make Arne Duncan and John King look like rank amateurs.  Like the stealth tests coming our way sooner than we think in Rodel’s when you wish upon a star personalized learning and competency-based education environment.

For someone who claims to support teacher unions, he sure does talk about them a lot.  Especially their role in Race To The Top.  Six years ago.  Which, I might add, all nineteen school districts signed up for, along with the Delaware PTA and every other education organization in the state.  To say DSEA was the only party that led RTTT into Delaware is very misleading.  Being real here, I wasn’t involved in all of this when RTTT came out.  So my window on this is seen in perceptions of that time from others after the fact in the past few years.  But there comes a time when beating it over us is not productive.  Who is still in DSEA leadership from that time?  I don’t think anyone running for DSEA leadership was instrumental in the decisions from six years ago.  But if Kilroy has a grandchild in Red Clay, he needs to get up to speed with what is going on in education.  Cause it is not pretty and he needs to be on the right side of things.  I admire the hell out of Kilroy.  He got me my start in the Delaware blogosphere.  And I want him to focus on more because he has a great deal of influence on education.

In terms of social justice, I’m not sure what context Kilroy took it in, but as a result of Kilroy’s post, Mike Matthews updated his status to show what his definition of social justice is:

Social justice means to me…

…standing at a school board meeting begging for more supports for special needs students.

…going to Dover and speaking in support of the Opt Out movement before the House education committee.

…reading a book to kindergarteners on why sharing and respect are key values.

…protesting the State’s attempts to shut down community schools because of test scores.

…letting a Black student know that when all around them they feel like the world hates them, that their life DOES matter.

…demanding that Delaware get off the list of four states that doesn’t fund ELL students.

…ensuring that ALL students know that a classroom is a place where they can be themselves — no matter how different — and be accepted.

…organizing educators to make sure they understand their rights to speak up and ADVOCATE for their students when the time comes.

Social Justice, to me, is about education and NEVER indoctrination. Social justice is about respect. Kindness. Acceptance. Organizing. Advocating. Speaking up. Believing in who you are as a human being and being able to take action to fight for the most vulnerable.

That’s what social justice is. While that phrase may be dangerous to some, I will always wear it like a badge of honor.

Besides, it’s too much fun being an outspoken pain in the ass sometimes.

 

Well said Mr. Matthews.  That is some social justice I can get behind.  While I have been critical of DSEA leadership in the past, I have always seen the potential of what a united and strong DSEA could become in this state.  A DSEA that will have to align with parents in the coming years if they want to save public education.  Perhaps that is why I have been critical of DSEA at times because I have high expectations for them to be the voice that has the power to influence public education in this state, not be an observer while others feast on the scraps.

We ALL need to be concerned about Donald Trump and his very poor selection of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.  Trump really doesn’t have a clue about education.  But he will surround himself with people who do.  And what they know and what they have planned is not good.

 

Santa And John

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Once upon a holiday season, in the land of Delaware, there lived a man who would become Governor.  He was promised the throne eight years ago, but another man took his seat.  In this land, the people chose their Governor  every four years.  The man who would be Governor finally won the seat and 58.34% of the people rejoiced.  As he sat in his car one day after returning from his job in D.C., he looked out the window.  He saw the sun setting in the distance.

John was anxious to get things going in Delaware.  He had to officially wait until January 17th, 2017.  “Only 47 days,” John said to himself.  He had been so busy for so long.  Things wouldn’t slow down for him in the next four years, and hopefully the four after that.  His day was filled with phone calls, texts, and emails.  Everyone wanted a piece of Delaware.  He knew not everyone could get a piece.  He called his wife from the driveway and told her he was going to go for a walk to clear his head.  Always supportive, she knew John needed this and told him to take all the time he needed.  John drove to the nearby park.  As he walked out of his car, he put on his hat.  It was rare he could get away from his security detail but at the same time he didn’t want to be bothered.  John walked down the trail…

Meanwhile, 3,529.75 miles away, the jolly one was settling into his favorite chair.  The elves were busy preparing for the big day.  Santa was happy he had an extra day to prepare this year.  As a tradition, during these leap years, he would pick one day off each leap year to do whatever he wanted.  Mrs. Claus always forgot about it, but Santa didn’t.  Today was his day off!  Santa picked up his laptop and on his favorites bar was the website he enjoyed going to the most: Exceptional Delaware.  Ever since Santa learned about Common Core and opt out, he found himself checking back in to see what was happening with the children of Delaware and the rest of the country.  Santa was not happy when he found out what happened a few weeks after Christmas earlier this year.  The people of Delaware wanted the lawmakers to override Governor Jack’s veto of the opt out bill, but it got hung up in some silly rule business.  He knew exactly which of those lawmakers would be getting coal this year, led by their Speaker and the leaders below him.  Santa heard there was a new Governor in Delaware so he decided he would pay him a visit.  While he didn’t usually venture so far south during the busy month, it was his day off and he could do whatever he wanted.  At least the things Mrs. Claus wouldn’t have cause to file for divorce over.

As hard as he tried, John couldn’t stop thinking about his plans.  He didn’t count on the new President actually winning the election.  All his plans were contingent on the Hill winning.  But the Tower Man won and he had to plan around it.  The Tower Man was picking people who John couldn’t picture running things down in D.C.  His office was frantic over the mess.  John had to strategize very carefully how he moved forward with everything.  Not only did the Tower Man win, but the two bodies of Congress won a majority in the election as well.  John’s Delaware was still blue, but a shocking election there threatened to turn the Delaware Senate red too.  The state he was to lead had some peculiar problems in it and at the top of that list was the economy and education.  Governor Jack treated the two as if they were symbiotic with each other and made some poor choices along the way.  John knew if he was going to improve both he would have to find a way to draw everyone in.  It was a difficult maze and John knew he wouldn’t please everyone.  Governor Jack chose a particular route but John knew if he did the same it would not be good.

Santa knew John’s mind was heavy.  As his sleigh crossed the border between Pennsylvania and Delaware, Santa could feel the weight on John’s shoulders.  Leadership always carries a heavy burden.  Santa knew that better than anyone.  Santa knew John ever since he was a little boy.  He always knew John would become a leader.  John didn’t have the same political sharpness so many politicians had but this also made him more relatable to the people.  He watched John’s humble beginnings in the town of Claymont.  Carney was one of those tough kids who excelled in football which helped him out at St. Mark’s High School and then Dartmouth College.  Santa remembers John’s awards.  As John was teaching freshmen football at the University of Delaware, he was also studying public administration.  From there, John began his political career working for the county he lived in and then for Governor Tom.  From there, John’s political ladder kept getting bigger and bigger.  He became the Lieutenant Governor for eight years and decided to run for Governor.  But the future “education” Governor Jack beat him in a close race.  Others told Jack to wait his turn, it was John’s turn, but Jack ignored them.  A couple of years later, John ran for Congress and won.  For six years, having to run every two years for a total of three Congressional terms, John worked in D.C. and learned how the game of politics really works.  But he never gave up on getting back to Delaware to win as Governor.  After Governor Jack was expected to end his tenure, many thought Vice-President Joe’s son Beau would run, but tragically Beau passed away after a long illness.  It was then that John decided he would run but wished it had been under better circumstances.

John walked down the path.  There was a crisp wind in the air but the moon was bright.  He used to walk down this path many times.  It hadn’t changed much over time and he remembered it like the back of his hand.  John tripped on a branch and fell to the ground.  As he looked up, he saw a bright light in the sky above him.  A voice cried out “John, we need to talk.”  John reached for his phone but he had left it in the car.  He thought to himself, “This is it, all alone in the woods with no one to help.”  He began to picture the headline in the News Journal the next day.  “Who are you?” John asked.  “Someone you haven’t thought about in a long time John.”  Santa gracefully landed the sleigh on the path in front of John.  His lights were still on so John couldn’t tell who it was.  “I do have security watching me right now.  They are watching you right now.  So I wouldn’t try anything  They will find you if anything happens to me.”  “No they won’t,” Santa said.  “Remember you let all of them have the night off and you so conveniently told each one there was coverage?”  John wondered how this guy would know that.  “It’s me, John.  Santa.”

John couldn’t believe his eyes.  As a child, he always believed.  But as children grew older, that magic disappeared.  John saw Santa everywhere this time of year.  He began seeing him in stores as early as October.  But it wasn’t the same as the man who just walked off a sleigh that came down in the middle of the woods.  John took that early childhood magic for granted, as every adult does.  John wondered what in the world Santa Claus wanted with him.  Did he visit all the new leaders?  “John,” Santa said, “We have to talk about the kids.  Come with me.”  John felt the world spin beneath him.  Santa’s words captured him.  They weren’t words demanding John obey him, but those of comfort and a calm John hadn’t felt for a long time.  John looked at his watch.  It was 6:30pm.

Santa and John got in the sleigh.  The reindeer, who John hadn’t noticed before, began running down the path.  John felt the sleigh lift up into the December night.  “John, did you read my letter last year?” Santa asked.  John read letters every day.  There were some days he couldn’t remember what he had for breakfast he was so busy.  John shook his head.  “Did you send it to me?” John asked.  He knew he probably had not seen it unless it was an issue of critical importance.  He was sure if one of his staffers opened it and saw a letter from Santa Claus it would go in the circular bin next to their desk.  “No, I let Exceptional Delaware put it up.  I thought everyone in Delaware reads it.”  That was a name John was familiar with the past six months.  The blogger.  “You mean the crazy education blogger from DoverThat guy wants to meet with me but I don’t know…” Santa abruptly interrupted John  “Watch yourself,” Santa warned.  “I have the utmost respect for the blogger.  He helped me out last year and he knows what he is talking about.”  John responded to Santa.  “But he tends to tick off a lot of people.  People I’m going to have to work with.  I was warned to stay away from him.”  Santa’s eyes widened.  “Oh really?  Would that have been Senator So-coal-A,” Santa carefully empathized.  “And all those other adults who don’t have the first clue about what education really is?  Let me tell you something John.  You will be a leader of Delaware.  Any state has a foundation from which it must build on.  That foundation is the kids.  Not the adults, and especially not the adults who try to make money and get power from kidsThere are those out there who will pretend to speak the truth.  You surround yourself with them.  But there are those who speak uncomfortable truths that people don’t always want to hear.  But they do so out of an innate need for change, in the hopes someone with the ability to hear will actually listen.”

John was familiar with what was going on in education.  He was told of the long-range plans and how education would be reformed so all kids can succeed.  The children would be trained to become the workforce of tomorrow.  As he began his campaign, he knew many people in Delaware were hurting.  When he ran for Governor the first time, the economy of the whole country was collapsing.  Even though Delaware recovered from this, not all of the citizens did.  Some never got the jobs back that made them more money.  The cities were becoming too violent again.  Drug use was up and children were getting shot in the street.  But still, Delaware did the one thing it knows how to do best- spend money.  John knew all that money wasn’t going to the right places.  He also knew that when he became the leader he would have to fix a lot of these problems.  Many of his advisors told him that education was going to fix all these problems.  Not now, but down the road.  But if he didn’t help follow the same paths Governor Jack made, nothing would ever get fixed.  This was happening all over the country.  There were critics, like the damn blogger, but they were just a whisper in the wind.  They didn’t see the big picture and how this was for the good of the state and the country.

Santa, where are we going?” John asked.  “To see the children John.”

Uhm, Santa.  We are flying into downtown Wilmington.  No offense sir, but I can’t be seen riding around in a sleigh with someone people don’t believe in along with eight reindeer.”  Santa pulled out a pouch from his pocket.  “Thanks for reminding me John, I almost forgot.”  Santa took out a handful of dust and blew it all around him and John.  “They won’t see us now.”  Santa parked the sleigh on top of the Community Education Building.  The duo went down through the building and to the streets below.  They walked over to the playground next to the building.

In a dark corner, an African-American boy was reading with a flashlight.  The boy was shivering as he turned a page.  “Why is this boy out here Santa?  Why doesn’t he go home?”  Santa sighed.  “This is his home John.  He lives on the streets.  During the really cold months he goes to a shelter with his aunt.  She is at work right now.”  John saw a grocery cart a few feet away from the boy.  Covering it was a blue tarp.  John could see some clothes in there and a few boxes.  As John looked away for a moment in horror, he saw a hypodermic needle on the ground.  The boy was reading a worn-out copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with a flashlight between his yellow teeth.  He saw the boy lift a crumpled up bag out of his coat pocket.  The boy began eating the few crumbs left in the bag of potato chips.  Santa told John about how his father went to prison a few years ago.  He belonged to one of the gangs.  During a shoot-out in front of their apartment building, a bullet missed hitting the boy but instead lodged itself in his mother’s brain.  He told John this is the first thing the boy sees when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he sees at night.  “Come on John, we have more stops to make tonight.”  John walked to the sleigh but kept looking back at the boy.

Santa and John flew once more into the night.  It was very quiet between them.  They landed in a very wealthy neighborhood with mansions all around them.  John wasn’t sure if he had been on this street when he was campaigning.  Many houses were decked out in Christmas lights and he even saw Santas made up in lights.  “This is never what Christmas was supposed to be John,” as Santa looked down at his belly.  They got out of the sleigh and went into one of the houses.  A girl was on her computer playing the latest version of Minecraft.  Her mom asked her if she finished her homework.  “I sure did,” the girl said.  “You can check it on Schoology.”  “Did you finish all the stuff on iReady?” the mother asked.  “Yes Mom,” as the girl rolled her eyes.  She had just finished eating the steak and shrimp but she was still hungry.  “Can you turn the heat down Mom?” she yelled.  As her hand grabbed the ice cream bowl, Santa and John left.  As Sarah pulled the spoon to her mouth, she wondered if she had to be at the school in her cheerleader’s outfit by 9am tomorrow or 9:15.

They flew down to Georgetown.  John was last there on Return Day in November.  All the candidates who run for office, whether they win or not, participate in this event to “bury the hatchet”.  But they flew away from the town to a trailer park.  Inside, a Hispanic girl was kicking a ball around with her little brother.  A man came into the room.  “Hicerion sus deberes?” the man asked.  “No podríamos papá. No sabíamos lo que significaban las palabras,” the boy answered.  The man watched as his children did what they do after school almost every day.  Kicking around the same ball.  “Sorry Santa, my Spanish is very rusty.  What did they say?” John asked.  “The father asked if his children did their homework.  They couldn’t because they can’t read the words.  They don’t know English very well.  They know enough for very basic things, but not enough to learn what they need to know.  Their mother is still at the chicken farm working her shift.  One of them always has to be with the kids. They aren’t here legally.  The father is afraid all the time that his kids will be taken from him and he and his wife will have to go back to their country.  He doesn’t know English at all.” 

John felt his mind stir as they flew north.  He was very troubled by what he saw.  When he was campaigning, he tended to see the best of Delaware.  In the daylight or early evening when many of his “Meet and Chews” with people were attended by those who had the means and the desire to see him.  When he went to schools, he could tell the kids were on their best behavior because “an important man” was coming to visit.  He didn’t see people in their homes or on the streets the way he did tonight.  He felt uncomfortable, like he was seeing a side of the world he heard about but didn’t see first-hand.  “Santa, I should really be getting back.  It’s getting late and my wife is probably worrying about me.”  Santa laughed so hard the sleigh shook. Look at your watch John.  What time is it?”  John looked at his watch in bewilderment.  It was still 6:30pm.  No time had passed since he first got in the sleigh with Santa back on the trail.  “Let me guess, another bit of your magic?”  Santa smiled at John as they flew into a middle-class neighborhood in Dover.

The odd couple went into the house.  Inside, a boy was crying on the couch.  His parents were arguing in the kitchen.  “What do you mean he was suspended again?” the father asked.  “I got a call from school.  They said he was acting out in class again and when the teacher told him to stop he ran out of the room.  When another teacher found him, he pushed her away.  The Principal came down the hall and yelled at him to come with him.  David yelled back at him and Dr. Smith called two teachers to help bring him to the office,” the mother explained.  “I didn’t get the call until two hours later.  By the time I got there he was so upset.”  “Did they give him any work to do when he was in there for two hours?” the boy’s father asked.  “I don’t know.  But this is not what his IEP says.  They aren’t supposed to drag him down the hall and yell at him.  He isn’t learning anything there.  He’s depressed all the time.  He can’t learn in a class with thirty kids.”  John knelt down in front of the boy.  He saw such pain and sadness in the boy’s eyes.  “This boy has no friends John.  The things you had growing up, kids to play with and throw a football around, running around in the woods, even going to the amusement park, David can’t do those things.”  Santa explained how David was labeled as high-functioning Autism.  He could do the work, but only under certain conditions.  If there was a lot of activity in the classroom, people talking, moving around, David couldn’t handle that.  His brain couldn’t filter out all the stimuli.  Some days it worked, but for David, it was an endless litany of suspensions and leaving school early.  “Special education John.  If you don’t know what is going on with a child, and everyone is different, how can we put all kids in the same box?” Santa asked him.

John could see what Santa was doing.  He understood that not every kid is the same.  But if they didn’t try to help all the kids nothing would change.  The two flew to the building where John was destined to spend many of his days in the next four years.  Legislative Hall.  Where all the laws in Delaware happened.  John didn’t think there would be any kids there at 6:30pm, and he was right.  Inside, a meeting was taking place.  John knew about half the people at the large table in the House Majority Caucus room.  There were some from the Department of Education, a couple from the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the usual Delaware State Education Association contingent, some Superintendents, a few teachers, Delaware PTA, some of the disability advocates, the lady from the Delaware Charter Schools Network, four legislators, and a couple of State Board members.  He knew them.  A few people sat in the chairs outside of the table.  A woman from the Delaware DOE was giving a presentation on the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Delaware had to come up with a state plan so all students can succeed.  She was talking about the Delaware School Success Framework and the measurements they wanted included in their state accountability system.  It was all about proficiency and growth.  Which John knew was based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  All these adults, sitting there talking about kids and how they can make education better.  John knew a few of the people there had the best of intentions but this was what they do in Delaware.  They sit around a table and talk.  This was how things got done.  They even had a name for it, The Delaware Way.

You don’t get it!” John cried out.  “We can’t keep testing these kids.  They aren’t the same.  We can’t keep doing this.  Their lives mean so much more than these tests.”  Santa looked at John.  “They can’t hear you.  Even if they could, too many of them wouldn’t listen.  They think they know what is best.  They forget what it was like when they were kids.  Even that man over there.”  Santa pointed to a man from Wilmington.  “He kept fighting for the kids in Wilmington and how the teachers need to be better,” Santa explained.  “The man believed what he said but he didn’t realize how much these children don’t have outside of school.  The man didn’t understand that you can’t just wave a magic wand and make teachers better.  And the best teachers, they were the ones already in those classrooms in Wilmington.  They were the ones who came to school every day, knowing the problems these kids brought to the classroom.  The look of hunger in their eyes as they wore the same clothes for the third day in a row.  They dedicated their lives to helping these kids in the hardest classrooms in the state.  In return, they were shamed by many of the people in this room.  The little boy we saw on the playground tonight?  He goes to the poorest school in the state.  Most of the people in this room have never walked into his school.  They don’t understand what he needs.  That legislator over there?  She sponsored a bill so special education would get better in the state.  In their eyes, it did.  Students went from 21% proficiency on the ELA part of Smarter Balanced to 23%.  To them, that is growth.  The Superintendent over there?  She runs the district where the two kids from Georgetown go to school.  She has a lot of students who can’t speak or read English.  She hasn’t said one word tonight about how to help them.  See the man over there?  He runs a charter school in Newark.  They just settled on a lawsuit against the Christina School District.  In return they will get more money in the future.  Remember the girl in the mansion?  She goes to that charter school.  That money will be taken from the homeless boy’s school.  He will get less than he has today at school.  The man over there?  He sits on the board at the Rodel Foundation.  He sees opportunity.  He sees how the business leaders in the state can profit from all this.  He is hoping they will start talking about more career pathway programs in our high schools.  He knows that some will go to the coding school he sits on the board of.  He talks with other business leaders and the graduates of that program do internships at their companies.  Sometimes they get jobs.  While they are learning, these coding students are building the network of tomorrow.  They develop algorithms that will go into the education technology in all the schools.  All that data, all that blessed data.  They store it all.  They keep everything, these futurists and visionaries.  They have the money and influence to make sure what they want becomes policy and law.  It is the way the modern world works John.  Perhaps they know, and don’t care, that what they are setting up now will only make those children who struggle the most even further apart from any true opportunity to succeed.  And them, over there, they work for the Department of Education.  They are the middlemen between the schools and the business community.  They make sure the business community gets what they want in the schools.  They do this through regulations and conversations you will never hear about.  That woman there, she runs the accountability section of the Department.  Her job is to make sure all children in certain grades take the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  When she sees the results come in, she doesn’t see the faces of the children who took the test.  She sees numbers.  Results.  Scores.  Her job is to understand why all the children we saw tonight got a 1 on the test last Spring except for the girl in the mansion who got a 4.  She doesn’t see David’s disability.  Or the two siblings who can’t read the instructions for the test in English much less understand the context of a passage  in Spanish about the stock market.  She doesn’t know that the African-American boy in Wilmington has slept in 124 different beds in the past year alone and the other 241 nights were outside with blankets.  But she actually thinks they can close the achievement gaps and these children will grow into prosperity.  How does she know this?  It’s what her bosses tell her every single day.  She hears the lie so much she believes it.

John and Santa left the building.  As the two flew north, they talked about what John had to do.  What he needed to change.  They talked about the blogger and the parents, teachers, legislators, advocates, and citizens who thought like Santa did.  “Those are the ones you really need to talk to John.  I’m sure you have heard from many of the people who were in that meeting tonight.  If you haven’t, I have no doubt your advisors have.”  John knew this to be true.  “You need to understand the other side of the coin John, where the real world lives.  These aren’t pleasant realities you saw tonight.  For those fighting for the kids, even opting out of the test isn’t as easy as it once was.  They are fighting for these kids, their kids.  And their grandchildren.  They are fighting for their jobs.  They see beyond the results and the growth.  They see what needs to change but no one listens.  No one who can really make a difference.  Some do, but not enough to make the changes.  When they do speak, they are shunned by their peers.  Given less importance.  It isn’t right John.  What the people in that room wanted, it won’t change anything.  It will only cause more damage.  You can’t incorporate education.  These are children.  You need to change all this.”

John walked out of the sleigh.  He thanked Santa for showing him so much of the Delaware he didn’t see before.  The two shook hands.  “Santa, I don’t know if I can change all of this by myself.  You know if I try I will make enemies.  Those enemies won’t make my job any easier.”  Santa put his hand on John’s shoulder.  “That is what all leaders who understand what is right and just have to face.  Some succeed and some fail.  Some do it alone and some have support.  All I can say is this John-  remember what you saw tonight.  Every single time you make a decision.  Remember the children’s faces before you see the adults.  You know in your heart who is really in this for the kids and who isn’t.  When you hear that voice in your head, questioning what the true motives are, listen to that.  Let that be your shield against your enemies John.”  John hugged Santa.  “Merry Christmas Santa.”  “And to you as well Governor Carney.”  Santa walked toward his sleigh and turned around. “John, find those who speak the uncomfortable truths.”

John looked down at his watch.  It was 6:31pm.  Santa was gone.

New Faces Enter The Mix For Delaware Secretary Of Education & A Message For John Carney

Who will be the Delaware Secretary of Education under Governor John Carney?  My moles and sources have given me new names in the hunt for the Education Czar of Delaware.  One of them I really, really like! Continue reading “New Faces Enter The Mix For Delaware Secretary Of Education & A Message For John Carney”

Secretary Godowsky’s Farewell Letter

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky will be leaving his post when John Carney is sworn in as the next Delaware Governor in January.  I’m going to be honest here… part of me likes Dr. Godowsky.  I have a feeling if he were the Secretary of Education for a different Governor, things would have been vastly different.  But he was miles better than Mark Murphy.  Godowsky was basically a clean-up guy.  He had to get all of Jack Markell’s policies into place before the “Education Governor” left office.  Today, Godowsky sent a farewell letter to the Delaware General Assembly.  Expect to see some fresh faces in Dover come January 2017…

Dear Legislators,
I have appreciated your partnership and support over the past year-plus as we have worked together on behalf of our students, educators and families.
We can all be proud of the progress made in public education during Governor Markell’s administration with success ranging from early childhood education and K-12 schools to career pathways and college access. Together we have made systematic improvements that will continue to lead to improved outcomes in the years ahead.
Already the progress is clear: More children are enrolled in quality early childhood education centers; in state assessments, at the earliest grades, we are seeing some of the highest test scores in the nation; 10 percent of our incoming kindergarteners are beginning their learning in two languages through the World Language Immersion Program; we have more students graduating from high school than ever before; record numbers of students are taking and succeeding in college-level courses in high school; and revamped career pathways are aligned to the industry and economic needs of our state. These are significant achievements!
We need to celebrate this progress and congratulate the students and educators who are leading the work our classrooms across the state. We owe it to them not to rest but to work even harder in the months and years ahead to ensure every child graduates from our public schools prepared for success in life.
In my remaining time in this office, I commit to continuing to communicate and collaborate with you, and I hope you will join me in some important conversations about the future of our education system in Delaware. It has been a great honor to have served as Delaware’s Secretary of Education. Thank you!
In this newsletter you will find more information on our progress on Delaware’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan and how you and your constituents can help inform the policy decisions we must make in the months ahead.
Sincerely,
Steve
Steven H. Godowsky
Secretary of Education
Delaware Department of Education
Dover, Delaware
(302) 735-4002

Governor Markell Loses His Voice Tonight. Now Is The Time To Seize The Moment.

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At some point later this evening, Delaware will have a newly elected Governor. No matter who it is, they can’t be worse than Governor Jack Markell. I truly hope I don’t eat those words, but I can’t think of any Delaware politician who has sold out Delaware children to corporations more than Jack. Well, there is one, but I’m really hoping he gets ousted in the 8th Senate District today. If not, I expect some very frosty stares between the two of us come 2017.  But it is also my fervent hope that this particular Senator, no matter what the outcome is today, begins to see deep inside his soul what certain viewpoints on education can have on the state as a whole.  But Jack Markell…

I never gave Delaware politics much thought before 2013. I was just one of those guys who stayed in his own neighborhood and didn’t truly care about the state politics. I couldn’t even tell you who my State Rep was before that year. Or my State Senator. But then things changed in my life and I reached a point where I couldn’t live in my insular little bubble anymore. Circumstances demanded I get involved. When things happen to your child, beyond the point of a parent to control it, something happens. A shifting of thoughts begins and a need for understanding takes over. I may have gone way past the point of sanity most parents do when faced with this reality, but I felt it was my obligation to do all this.   I have regrets, but I also know everyone makes mistakes.  But no one, not even Senator Sokola or Mark Murphy, has ticked me off over education more than Jack Markell.

I quickly learned Jack cares more about corporations and their profits than Delaware students. Sadly, he found a way to combine the two and turned Delaware schools into profit centers for companies that could give two craps about student outcomes. Jack knows this. He knows the only way those companies will continue to flourish is with a steady stream of data and fix-it schemes. I suppose most states have a Jack Markell. How else can we explain the onslaught of Common Core and crappy tests like Smarter Balanced? I also learned Markell and Rodel are two sides of the same coin. They feed off each other, like twin parasites infecting their host.

My worst fear is having to continue beating up on Jack Markell. That would only happen if he were put in a more dangerous position than he is now. I see two potential Cabinet positions he could be placed in if the “nasty woman” wins. I’m hoping a rumor I heard long ago about him taking a Cyber Security position in Israel comes true. I would have loved to sit in a debate with him for a few hours and blown apart his theories and thoughts on education.

The most dangerous thing Jack Markell did with education in Delaware happened before he even became Governor. He did the interview for a man from the Massachusetts Department of Education, in their charter school office. A guy named Dr. Paul Herdman. This set up 12 years of education policy in this state that very closely aligned with what was going on across the country. And those plans aren’t done yet. Both of these men are actually very brilliant. They are strategists of the highest measure. They are futurists who plant seeds that bloom years in the future. I actually find them to be very worthy opponents in that respect. But one half of that equation is coming to an end in this state. And hopefully his replacement will be able to sever that cord.

It will be up to our next Governor to see through all the smoke and mirrors involved with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Whoever our new Governor is, I will attempt to meet with him. I intend to have a very long conversation with him, if he will let me, and let him know what I know. Maybe he already knows it already. Maybe he doesn’t. But I truly don’t want to fight him. I will give him a fresh and clean slate from day one, regardless of whatever policies he may have come out with during his campaign. I will also give every single member of the General Assembly that same respect, regardless of what may have happened pre-January 2017. They can choose to hang on to the past and hold a grudge against me.  I haven’t been easy on many.  But whether they are new or old, it is a new day. This also goes for the Department of Education and the State Board of Education. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to expose what I find out, or file FOIA requests or complaints if something happens. Everything I have fought for will continue. But I won’t do it alone.

There are many who are on my side of things on many issues. There are some who are just now beginning to see the big picture. There are those who can’t see the forest through the trees. There are so many moving parts to education and understanding the full scope of it all takes time and patience. But I refuse to allow any child to be a guinea pig or a pawn for profit. I refuse to let their personal data go out to anyone who makes one penny off it. I refuse to let our Department of Education get away with what they have been doing.

January won’t just see new leaders in politics. We will also have new leadership in the Delaware State Education Association. Knowing what little I know about potential leaders and conversation that has taken place in the last week based on a few of my posts, I firmly believe that change in leadership can’t come quick enough. But we also need changes in the charter school landscape. For far too long, advocates for charters have ignored the elephant in the room. I am not saying it is all of them, but those with the loudest voices tend to get what they want. The funding and equity issues involved are killing us as a state. I personally believe there is enough funding in our state budget as it currently stands to have every child get the resources they need. There is a ton of wasted money being spent. We just have to convince the 149th Delaware General Assembly of this fact despite what will be a tsunami of opposition from districts and charter schools alike. I am leaning towards a weighted funding system more and more but not before we make sure every single district and charter schools is held fully accountable for the funds they already have.

The next six months are going to be very slippery in Delaware. One wrong move could send Delaware education sliding off the cliff. Now will be the time for voices like never before. Opt out was a drop in the bucket. But I don’t see those voices. Not front and center. Parents need to speak up like they never have before. They need to be louder than the state, louder than the administrators, and louder than our legislators. We need to become a force to be reckoned with. We need to organize and band together. We won’t agree on everything, but I think the majority of parents in this state can agree that what we have now is not working. We need to make sure Rodel is reduced to a low decibel noise that doesn’t hold the weight it used to. We need to make sure Delaware education is what we want, not what corporations want. This does not mean increased membership in the Delaware PTA either, but they will play a role. You will be hearing from me on this more in the next few weeks. Eyes will open to things that have happened right underneath all our noses with no one the wiser.

I need you. Our children need you. We are Delaware, not them. We need to finally make sure that is understood. We need to end the discrimination and segregation in this state. We need to end the racism that is underneath it all. We need to end the hate and make peace with the past. It is the only way we can truly move forward. I won’t have all the answers. You won’t. But maybe together, we can figure it out.

My Favorite Delaware Political Ad

I’ve seen a lot of political ads in the past few months, but this is by far my favorite.  I will fully own that I am very biased against Delaware Senator David Sokola.  Just search “Sokola” in the search section on this blog and you will easily find out why.  The quarter-century Senator just needs to go.  Wrap it up.  Cross the finish line.  Say Bon Voyage to Delaware politics.  He had his day and we need fresh blood before more Delaware students, teachers, and schools hemorrhage out.  They say a picture paints a thousand words, but this one does the job with much less.

balance-pac-ad

I love a good Sokola dig!  I am praying the citizens in the 8th Delaware Senate district make the right decision tomorrow and vote Sokola out and Meredith Chapman in!  Enough is enough.  And don’t buy all the “if the Senate flips Delaware will become a Right To Work state” paranoia I’ve heard from some people.  One, that is NOT going to happen even if the Republicans take over the Senate.  Two, Sokola has done more damage to Delaware education than Governor Jack Markell.  Jack’s only been at this for eight years (twelve if you count his early Rodel-Paul Herdman-Bosom Buddies days).  Dave has been at this for 25 years.  And three, your children and grandchildren will be better for it.

This ad was paid for by the First State First PAC.

You Have Two Choices Next Tuesday: Vote For Sean Goward Or Pray For Delaware

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John Carney…no.  Colin Bonini…no.  Sean Goward…YES!  Next Tuesday, do the right thing and vote for Sean Goward for Delaware Governor.  There isn’t another choice.  It is essential.  If you want to hear another four years of useless sound bites coming from a Governor that is just following the script and Delaware students losing out even more, then I suggest you begin praying for the future of Delaware.  I think Bonini and Carney are nice guys.  But Governor material?  No.  Politicians?  Yes.  But we desperately need something different in Delaware.  We need someone who will take the bull by the horns and really shake things up.  Someone who will clear the rot in the foundation of this state.

I’ve met Goward a couple of times.  I’ve had long conversations with him.  Back in September, I posted an article where I asked 32 really tough questions on education to the Governor candidates.  All but Carney responded.  He wanted to wait to come out with his “education platform”.  I read that document.  It was a love song for the Delaware Dept. of Education and Rodel and their big plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Bonini’s responses to my questions were okay in some areas, but his schtick about failing schools based on standardized test schools is unacceptable given everything he should know by now about Delaware education.

But Goward?  He gets it.  He understands the absolute crap being foisted on Delaware students and teachers.  He knows about all the corporate education reform going on.  He accepts that Delaware has a lot of issues as a whole and we need to clear out the rot.  When I hear people complaining about things in this state, and not the usual political/corporate jargon thrown around, but the real issues and problems, I see Sean Goward as being the best person to lead this state.  We need radical change.  Our two-party system just plain doesn’t work anymore.  I would love to see a come from behind third-party candidate like Sean Goward actually win next Tuesday.  He is Libertarian.  Who cares?  In the end, does the label matter more than the person behind the label?  What that person stands for?  Their inner integrity?  Labels aren’t getting Delaware anywhere.  Party loyalty is crippling this state, as well as our country, more than anything else.

I’m asking you to take a chance on Sean Goward.  I’m asking you to take a chance on a better Delaware.  A more transparent state that people can actually be proud of.  We need someone who won’t bend to lobbyists and corporate interests.  Someone who will lead this state based on the will of the people, not those who throw pies in the sky with ten year visions.  Our children deserve better than the other two guys.  Our families do.  Our state does.  Vote for Sean Goward on November 8th.  Vote for a leader of the people.

1,000,000

million

I reached a million hits on my blog today.  For this one, I am going to brag.  I am also within days reach of passing the number of hits I had in 2014 and 2015 combined and the year isn’t even done yet.

I’m not bragging cause I think I’m something special.  I’m doing it because of something someone said to me a long time ago, a couple of months after I started this blog.  It was a comment meant to disparage me.  To belittle me.  The person tried to make it as though the News Journal was the only media people cared about in Delaware.  And how they get 300,000 readers daily.  How my little blog didn’t matter.  And that no one really cares.

The News Journal has a much bigger staff than I do.  I have a staff of one.  My staff is unpaid and does this during their own time.  I don’t tend to get the “official” word ahead of time on news because I don’t have the access mainstream media reporters do.  This blog is a grassroots effort at the soul of it.  And lots of reading.  Tons of reading.  It is listening and going with my gut.  Going by instinct in the dark at times.  Comparing and contrasting.  Listening, searching, looking, and very recently, actually smelling.  Some of it is pure luck and just being at the right place at the right time.  A lot is opinion which is based on various facets of information.  I can say that I have always attempted to deliver the truth or my perception of the truth.  Sure, I occasionally come out with my outlandish “fan-fiction” stuff but I would be stunned if anyone gets through the first paragraph and thinks it is the real deal.  I don’t have sponsors or advertisements.  Social media is a huge boost, sure, but there has to be interest.  We are inundated with material on social media.

I’ve watched my readership steadily grow since June 13th, 2014.  Eleven days after I started this blog, the U.S. Dept. of Education came out with their state determinations for special education.  Delaware was rated “needs improvement”.  Before that, my eye was on the DOE but not a full stare.  That woke me up to look deeper into them.  I wrote a huge article about Delaware’s special ed rating that day and I got 424 hits.  I remember the 4th of July ten days later I got 28 hits that day.  I was averaging 100 hits a day prior to that and I thought my readership had suddenly left me.  I really cared about my stats back then.  My first article that went viral concerned my son’s 5th grade Common Core division homework.  It was confusing as hell and both of us were really struggling with it for hours.  I put the homework up on here.  It must have clicked because apparently moms and dads around the country were struggling with the same assignment that night.  That article had over 14,000 hits.  Every year since, I watch that article breathe life again around the same time of year as new parents of 5th graders wonder what the heck that assignment is all about.

This blog would be nothing without the readers.  I would like to think anyone bothering to read a blog about education in the 2nd smallest state in the country already has an interest in education.  Or perhaps a headline brought them here.  Or a Google search.  The numbers don’t matter to me though, it is what people do with it.  My goal has always been to open people up to different lines of thought.  To lift the veil of non-transparency that happens in education.  To expose the prophets who profit.  To let people see what is going on behind the campy jargon coming out of a certain Governor’s mouth.  Letting people see that numbers don’t always tell the tale and they can be abused greatly.  But if there is anything I would want people to take from this blog it is my unwavering belief that it should always be about the kids.  This gets me in trouble sometimes and some feel I am overreaching on something or going to extremes.  Or that I’m wearing a tin hat.  They are certainly free to feel that way.  I will always argue my side.  No one has ever changed hearts and minds by keeping quiet.

People tell me all the time they don’t know how I do this blog and where I find the time.  I make the time.  I think it is that important.  Some articles just happen very fast and I can do it in five minutes.  Some stay in the drafts folder until I get more information or it is very research-intensive.  If there is one thing I’ve learned about education it is that no one is going to agree on everything.  Sometimes I offend people and I think to myself, “where did that come from?”  It isn’t intentional in those situations.  I don’t know it all.  Let me be very clear on that.  I get stuff wrong.  I like to think I get more right though.  In a culture of vague ambiguities coming out of state agencies and whatnot, the smoking gun is not that easy to find.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found something, put it up, and thought this was going to change everything.  It just doesn’t happen.  That was a hard reality for me to accept.  I always hope, but realism has to creep in after a while.

I’ve made the promise in the past that I wouldn’t throw grenades at public figures.  I own that I can be seen as attack first and ask questions later.  It’s who I am, or at the least, who I’ve become.  Hate it or love it, but until the shroud of secrecy concerning education and the satellites that revolve around it disappear, I’m going to be the rake at the gates of Hell when it comes to this stuff.  As an example, I’m working on an article now.  I have been for over two weeks now.  And it is so big, I reached out to many people on this: parents, teachers, districts, and even the Delaware DOE.  No one from a school district will return my call.  Not one.  So do I go with what I have and draw conclusions on what others are telling me, or do I wait around for some magic moment when some district bigwig or school administrator decides to pick up a phone?  If they even have the answers I’m looking for?  Other times I definitely go for the “shock and awe” approach.  The best way to expose something is to lay it out for all to see.  Let people reach their own conclusions.

I’ll fully admit, blogging can get lonely sometimes.  I’ll hear from people who want to provide information.  People want to hear more about something or they want my help.  And then they disappear.  Oftentimes, someone reaches out to me with “I can’t be seen talking with you, so I’m reaching out to you like this”.  I see people very sheepishly dancing around me at meetings, trying to watch what they say or how they say it.  Or those meetings when I know I’ve pissed people off about something and they won’t even look at me.  Then there are those very dark times when I feel like nothing I do on here matters, that no matter what happens, nothing will change.  Those are usually the times I look at my son and remember how all this began.  And that gets me back in the fight.  There are those who will say education shouldn’t be a fight.  That the problems is adults talking and talking and never getting anywhere.  That is actually a valid point.  But all too often, the actions taken are what causes the fight.  Policy is set in place but those very same policy-makers want us to shut up and just take it.  I’m that voice that says “Hell no, I don’t think so.”  If John Carney wants to deal with me, he can choose how that is done.  It is entirely up to him.  He can take the Jack Markell approach and deal with daily or weekly onslaughts against his decisions, or he can sit down and have a conversation with me.  Not some thirty-second question at a fund-raiser.  But a real, honest-to-God frank discussion.  I have no doubt he has the “other side” whispering in his ear all day long.

I can’t save education.  No one person can.  I wouldn’t even want to be burdened with that.  We will probably never get it exactly right.  There have been many before who have tried and there will be many long after me.  There will be cycles and ebbs and flows.  It started with special education on here, but I soon realized all Delaware students were getting screwed over with bad laws, policies, and a crap-load of people making money off education.  I will never be a Diane Ravitch who has close to 30 million hits on her blog.  There are blogs out there that get 100,000 hits a day based on subject matter I wouldn’t even think to look at.  But for a little blog about education in the First State, I’m kind of proud of hitting the million mark.  Today, I celebrate.  Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind…

Over a million hits ago, it began with this…

Hello everyone, and welcome to the latest blog to hit the First State: Exceptional Delaware!

I am a father of a special need’s son, and you can read all about my family’s journey with a Delaware charter school here:

https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/?s=a+father%27s+cry+for+his+son

Everything that happened with my son inspired me to want to do more, not just for him, but all the children in Delaware who have some sort of disorder or disability that gives them special education.  I know a lot about Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and Sensory Processing Disorder, but I need to learn about things like Autism, Asperger’s  and other disabilities.

This blog will be a mix of news, interviews, spotlights, investigations, and more!  I believe every single parent in America should know their children’s rights when it comes to special education.  I will be doing features on IDEA, IEPs, 504 Plans, Manifestation Determination, FAPE, Child Find and more.  If anyone has anything they would like to see on here, please feel free to comment or shoot me an email, and I will do my best to make it happen.

I have several ideas for potential legislation that will force all public schools in Delaware to become more transparent about the special education they have in their schools.  I will go into great detail on my ideas in future posts.

To get the best and most truthful education news here in Delaware, I highly recommend you check out Kilroy’s Delaware, Kavips, Transparent Christina, theseventhtype, Children & Educators First, and Parents Of Christina.  If you’re looking for the joys of Common Core, Standardized Testing and Race To The Top, you’ve come to the wrong blog.  I can’t stand any of them, and I will go to great lengths to explain why.

Thank you for visiting, and I hope to see you again soon!

 

 

 

An Inside Look At The DSEA Endorsement Machine

The Delaware State Education Association comes out with endorsements during election cycles.  This year there are a ton of candidates at the state and federal levels.  Below is a document showing why DSEA endorsed certain candidates in the Delaware House and Senate.  These are only the candidates who have an opponent that they endorsed.  I find some of their choices to be very interesting.  For example, Joe Miro got a nod for getting an appointment on the Southern Regional Education Board.  Two words that I did not see in this document were opt and out.  That is very concerning as  a parent viewing this document.  In fact, some of their endorsed candidates opposed the override of Markell’s veto on House Bill 50.  The words “voted”, “ensured”, and “supported” all come down to a yes vote either in committee or on the floor.  Only two of the candidates they support in a race aren’t incumbents.  Don’t get me wrong, I agree with many of their choices, but this wording for one of the candidates really made me want to vomit a little bit…

Helped DE students complete in the ever-changing global economy by supporting funding for important academic programs, like the Governor’s World Language Expansion Initiative

That sounds like something Jack Markell would say…

One of these was a complete head-scratcher because I don’t recall this legislation even coming to a vote.  I fully support the candidate this is attributed to, but it seems misguiding to put this in their profile when this same rep was a fervent supporter of the opt out bill and that doesn’t even get a mention.

Supported the creation of a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income that will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12

Breaking Down The Annual Vision Conference

The Delaware Kool-Aid Festival, or what most know as the Vision Coalition of Delaware’s Annual Conference on Education, will take place on November 14th.  They have the “all-star” line-up this year.

Introduction by Dan “the Main WEIC Man” Rich

Welcome by Dennis “University of Delaware President” PhD.

University of Delaware Partnership for Public Education by Elizabeth “coolest last name in the universe” Farley-Ripple

Achieving Student Success by Dr. Mark “Brandywine” Holodick

Introduction of Keynote Speaker by Paul “When Is Rodel Going To Break the $400,000 Level With My Salary?” Herdman

Redesigning Education to Restore Opportunity by Paul “Harvard Graduate School of Education, Home Of Relay Teachers” Reville

Exploring Educational Opportunity in Delaware Panel Discussion

Michelle “United Way of Delaware” Taylor

Paul “I Get To Keep Talking” Reville

Jeffers “Nothing Happened With My Townsend Endorsement Letter Sent On School Stationary, Phew!” Brown (Principal of Stubbs Elementary)

Leslie “Children and Families First CEO” Newman

Maria “Academia Antonia Alonso Board of Directors” Alonso

Introduction of Idea Exchange by Dr. Mark “Tied With Reville For Getting To Talk” Holodick

Early Learning

Addressing Social-Emotional Needs by Dionne “Parents As Teachers” Patterson

Building and Supporting the Early Learning Workforce by Ariel “Office of Early Learning at the DOE” Ford

Engaging With Local Readiness Teams by Dawn “Colonial S.D. Preschool Expansion Coordinator” Alexander

Reading by Third Grade by Dr. Teri “State Board of Education President” Quinn “Will Carney Keep Me?” Gray

Strengthening Families Through Supports by Niagia “Prevent Child Abuse Delaware” Williams

Transitioning to Kindergarten by Caitlin “Another Delaware DOE Early Learning Associate” Gleason

System Governance, Alignment, & Performance

Addressing Needs Through Community Partnerships by Jeffers “Feeling the Rodel Love” Brown

Collaborating Across School Boards by John “DSBA Isn’t a 501c3 Anymore Cause We Don’t File IRS Tax Returns” Marinucci

Connecting Research to Schools and Communities by Liz “Sounds Like An Ice Cream Roller Coaster Ride” Farley-Ripple

Finding the Best Educational Fit by Kendall “The Charter School Diva” Massett

Overcoming Barriers to Family Engagement by Elizabeth “But Call Me Tizzy” Lockman

Transitioning to ESSA by Donna “I Run The Delaware DOE” Johnson

Postsecondary Success

Connecting Education and Business by Paul “Del Tech Workforce Development Guy” Morris

Engaging Students Through Counseling Supports by Kelly “UD Partnership for Public Education” Sherretz

Increasing Career Exploration Opportunities by Dana “Christiana Care Health System” Beckton

Increasing College Access by Jodi “Brandywine Counselor” DaCosta and Dr. Jason “Wilmington University” James Jr.

Planning Education to Support Career Goals by Shana “Higher Education Office at Delaware DOE” Payne

Preparing Students for College and Career by Lisa “CTE Branch of the DOE, Think Pathways” Stoner-Torbert

Educator Support & Development

Advancing Teacher Leadership by Jesse “Milford Assistant Principal/Didn’t Support Parents With Opt Out” Parsley

Aligning Teacher Supply With School Needs by John “Associate Dean of U of Del” Pelesko

Collaborating on Digital Student Resources by Tim “Rodel Teacher Council/New Castle Co. Vo-Tech” Brewer

Ensuring Equitable Access to Excellent Educators by Angeline “My Hair Is Shorter Than Chris Ruszkowski/TLEU at the DOE” Rivello

Preparing and Supporting Principal Candidates by Julie “Capital Turnaround School Principal” Giangiulio

Preparing Teacher Candidates by Laura “DE Center for Teacher Education at UDel”

Supporting and Developing Principals by Peter “Colonial Director of Elementary Schools” Leida

Fair & Efficient Funding

Advocating for English Language Learners by Terry “ELL Title III Lady at the DOE” Richard

Erasing Inequitable Access To Great Teachers by H. Raye “On The Rodel Board” Jones “Run the Christina Cultural Arts Center” Avery

Measuring Education Investments by Dan “I Wrote The WEIC Book” Rich

Supporting High-Needs Students by Susan “I Really Hope They Don’t Release The Indian River Audit Investigation Before Our Referendum” Bunting

Personalized Learning

Designing Schools of the Future by Dr. Cristina “DE Design Lab Would Have Been Toast If We Didn’t Get That Huge Grant By Mrs. Jobs” Alvarez

Developing Growth Mindset Through Gaming by Michele “Rodel Teacher Council/Leader In Me Cheerleader For Capital” Johnson

Developing Students Social Skills by Deborah “UDel Center for Disabilities Studies” Boyer

Empowering Youth Through Collective Impact by Tynetta “United Way of Delaware” Brown

Integrating Arts and Academics by Kim “Christina Cultural Arts Center” Graham

Integrating Health and Academics by Kelli “Nemours” Thompson

Integrating Supports for Students by Paul “I’m ahead of Holodick again” Reville

Investing in Technology Infrastructure by Patches “Indian River Technology Systems Manager/What Is This Audit Going To Do To My Job” Hill

Reimaging Learning Through Technology by Richard “Chief Innovation Officer for State Of Rhode Island/Why The Hell Am I In Delaware?” Culatta

Supporting Students Experiencing Childhood Trauma by Eliza “Office of the Child Advocate” Hurst

Transforming The Student Experience by Doug “Colonial Principal/I Love Jack Markell” Timm

Closing Statements by Dr. Mark “LOL Reville, I get the last word” Holodick

Gee, I hope they get enough people who can attend all these mini-discussions.  But if they get a huge crowd and can’t fit all the people into all these rooms, I have a few suggestions….

Blogging on Education by Kevin “The Sneaky Snake Blogger” Ohlandt, John “The DOE Needs Great Leaders” Young, Kavips “I don’t have a last name” and Kilroy’s “Pocketful of College Credits” Delaware

What I Learned On My Time With The State Board by Jorge “I’m Free” Melendez

Transparency Hide-And-Go-Seek by Jack “Sunshine” Markell

Life After Political Office by David “Should Have Supported Parents and Teachers” Sokola

Using School Funds Wisely by Sean “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” Moore and Noel “I Miss My Disney Figures” Rodriguez

Life At Panera and Dunkin Donuts Every Weekend by Mike “The Mind of Mr. Down With Absolutes” Matthews and Jackie “JK Growling” Kook

Dealing With FOIA Complainers by Matt “When Is Markell Gone?” Denn

The Life And Times Of An Infamous Former Blog Commenter by Publius “School Boarding Is A Gateway Drug” E. Decere

Becoming The Next Delaware Secretary of Education by Penny “Just Kidding Guys, Miss You Delaware” Schwinn

Prophet and Profit: The Art Of Hedge Funding In The 21st Century by Paul “Education Is Not A Business” Herdman

Falling From Grace by Mark “I Shouldn’t Have Gone To The Wilmington City Council Priority Schools Meeting” Murphy

Population Control and Genetic Engineering by Greg “Crab Bucket” Meece

Exiting During ESSA by Dr. Steven “Florida Here I Come” Godowsky

How To Be More Vocal As An Ex Delaware DOE Employee by Atnre “Boy Do I Have Plans” Alleyne

Opening Clown Schools in Delaware by Pat “We Need To Do More” Heffernan

Increasing Education Funding For Charter Schools by William “The Godfather” Manning

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Trey Paradee For 29th State Rep. District

I’ve known Trey Paradee for a few years now.  He was the first State Representative I ever met.  It is fitting, because he is my State Rep in the 29th District.  I have approached him about many issues, mostly dealing with education.  Trey comes from a long lineage of Paradees who have served Delaware.  I proudly endorse him for another term in the 29th Rep. District.

I witnessed Paradee getting more involved with education during the course of the 148th General Assembly.  During the infamous House Bill 50 opt out saga, Paradee made it a point to attend the House Education Committee meeting to hear what parents and teachers were saying.  He stayed for the entire meeting (and it was a long one).  He voted in favor of House Bill 50 twice and also voted in favor of suspending the rules to allow for a vote on an override of Governor Markell’s veto of said bill.  While that attempt failed, Trey was one of only 13 House Reps who voted yes on this measure out of 40.  It showed his commitment to parents and their inalienable rights.

I haven’t made it easy on Paradee.  As my district rep, Trey is in the sometimes uncomfortable position of being in “that blogger’s” district.  Let’s face it, I’m not always easy on those I disagree with.  To me, it is always about the kids.  But Trey gets that.  I believe he gets that sometimes a legislator needs to cut across the grain in order to do what is right.  But at the same time, he has talked with me about my approach.  And while I haven’t always heeded those words, I very much appreciate his insight.

trey

This morning, I read the Delaware State News and there was an entire page devoted to Paradee’s views.  His opponents, Republican Jean Gallagher and Green Party candidate Ruth Ann James did not even bother to return the survey.  While it is certainly their right not to participate in a survey, it also speaks volumes to their commitment to informing the citizens of the district about their views on issues.  Given that this article came out a week and a half before the election, I find it odd they would not want to participate in something that would get their positions out there.  Neither of Paradee’s opponents participated in a questionnaire from the Dover Post as well.

I was pleasantly surprised to see Paradee devoted portions of his survey to education.  He cited education funding as a top priority the state needs to change.

However, we have created a system of haves and have-nots, and the referendum process has devolved into a political endeavor with yard signs, call centers and mailers.  Meanwhile, some school districts that deal with a higher number of English second language students and children who face challenges brought upon by poverty do not have adequate resources.  This problem needs to be addressed by the next administration, with the help of parents, educators, and administrators, to find a way to provide adequate resources to our most challenged students while maintaining some of the local control that we have grown to enjoy through the referendum process.

When asked what changes he would like to see in the Delaware Department of Education, he responded with the following:

We need to clean house.  We need to reduce the number of positions and return more control to the local school boards.

Amen Trey!

In looking at Janice Gallagher’s survey responses to the Delaware Voter’s Guide, she fully supports school vouchers which would further cripple an already financially strapped public education system and has proved ineffective in many states.  On her website, Gallagher’s only mention of education is a very broad “create common sense education for your children and grandchildren” which tells me absolutely nothing about what she stands for.  I can easily go back to the past four years and see how Trey Paradee stands on education through his voting record in the House of Representatives.  While I don’t agree with every single vote he has cast, I see a continual increase in his involvement with education issues.

On a personal level, Trey is very approachable and he will look into issues if you go to him.  I have sent a few parents his way over the past couple of years.  During the last legislative session, he made it a point to make sure Delawareans were not unfairly raked over the coals with a proposed Artificial Island project that would have increased energy costs but given the bulk of the benefit of the station to New Jersey residents.  And he succeeded!

Please vote for Trey Paradee if you live in the 29th Rep. District on November 29th.  I know I will!  Besides, who wouldn’t vote for a guy that brings his dogs everywhere!  This is also a state representative who has never missed a vote in the House.  In four years!  Not everyone can say that.  But one thing people can say is that Paradee was a spitting image of Rush singer Geddy Lee in his younger days!

geddytrey

Breaking News: Exciting New Cast Addition To Delaware DOE: The Movie

On the two-year anniversary of this blog, I exclusively broke the news about “Delaware DOE: The Movie”.  My inside sources, who may or may not work at a marijuana processing plant in Delaware, have given me the scoop of the week on a new casting.  With an increasing spotlight on the Delaware Pathways to Prosperity program being pimped by the Governor and select legislators, the director felt the need to add the character of Luke Rhine to the film.  He had to find someone who had a pony-tail and looked the part.  This is what we got:

rhinegrohl

Were they separated at birth?  Yes, none other than Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters has signed up for the movie about corruption and fraud in the Delaware education system which reaches out to the Governor’s office and other state agencies.

Because of the Every Student Succeeds Act and the upcoming Delaware elections, production has been sporadic.  But my spy drones were able to find out that there is an open audition for a group calling themselves “The Stakeholders”.  But there is a lengthy interview process and only the Delaware DOE has approval authority for who can be cast in these roles.  Donald Sutherland, in the role of Dr. Steven Godowsky, wants production to hurry up before Godowsky books his “Fishing in Florida” trip in late January.  Meanwhile, Kevin Spacey, cast as Governor Jack Markell, is desperate to grow his hair back before production starts on the next season of House of Cards.