Ron Russo’s BOLD Plan Regurgitates Old Plans And The Worst Ideas Ever In Delaware Education

Ron Russo, the former Head of School at the Charter School of Wilmington, launched The BOLD Plan today on Facebook.  Using the tag “Education is a business”, Russo managed to take the most horrible ideas ever from the past three decades and put them into a single pile of absolute garbage.  While I don’t think this plan will go anywhere, it is symptomatic of the very same corporate education reform think tank crap that has proliferated American public education and turned Delaware’s school system into a very bad joke. The whole plan can be read below. Continue reading

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Exclusive: Secretary Bunting And Brandywine Superintendent Holodick Break State Law In Profit Scheme For Buccini-Pollen

Last Spring, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation was House Bill #454.  This bill was a gift to Buccini-Pollen, a developer in New Castle County.  It waived the Voluntary School Assessment tax for a large portion of the Concord Plaza development project.  Not many were in favor of this present to the developer and eventually the bill was stricken.  They felt, and rightly so, it would cost regular taxpayers more and it was a gimme to the developers.  But behind the scenes, folks like Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting were hard at work making sure Buccini-Pollen would get their waiver no matter what. Continue reading

It Is Time For DSEA To Regurgitate Themselves From The Bowels Of Rodel

I warned them.  Many times.  Sit at the table and you will be on the table.  The Delaware State Education Association was swallowed whole.  By who? Continue reading

Delaware AG’s Office Refuses To Prosecute Patrick Miller For Theft Of Funds In Indian River School District. Is It Because He Is White?

Multiple sources are telling me the same thing: the Delaware Attorney General’s office will NOT arrest, indict, or press charges against former Indian River School District Chief Financial Officer Patrick Miller.  With reasons as absurd as “insufficient evidence”, this is a black eye that will severely impact the four years Matt Denn served as Delaware Attorney General.  But the only color I see in this decision is a white one. Continue reading

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

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

Guest Post: Billie Jo Casapulla Bullock on Patrick Miller’s Abuse Of Funds From Indian River Volunteer Fire Company

Editor’s note: Billie Jo Casapulla Bullock worked at the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company until July 12th, 2018.  She volunteered there for seven years as an Emergency Medical Technician.  She was suspended in early June.  The board of the fire department, after a vote by the fire company, terminated Bullock after she had come forward about her discovery of financial improprieties stemming from Patrick Miller and had gone public.  Miller has seven relatives as members of the fire company.  Today, Bullock sent an email to every single legislator in the state along with Governor Carney, Attorney General Matt Denn, State Treasurer Ken Simpler and the Delaware State Fire Prevention Commission.

I am asking that the Indian River Volunteer Fire Company be looked into for fraud, abuse of authority and abuse of public trust.  It has been found by myself and the treasurer that the President Patrick Miller has been doing the above.  There is such a dictatorship at the company that the members are afraid to speak up and take action.  This is  what the treasurer sent to the fire chief after the vice president would not take action against the president and suspend him until an investigation was complete.

—– Forwarded Message —–

From: “Michael Eisenhauer” <meisenhauer1@verizon.net>

To: “‘Steven Deery'” <steven.deery@irvfc.com>

Sent: Thu, Jun 28, 2018 at 3:05 PM

Subject: SCBA grant

It appears that FEMA intends to fund our grant.  I had to fill out paperwork for the bank to be aware of direct deposit of funds from FEMA.  Mike Penzotti called me and said that this is the process when they decide to fund grants.  My concern is this.  The Delaware Congressional Team will get involved and if we have issues that they become aware of I think we can kiss the grant goodbye.  There is one single issue that should have resulted in the suspension of the president.  He has been getting the News Journal since 2012and having it paid on the Credit Card.  He gets on the computer and inputs “News Journal (or Newspaper) Electronic version”, $15.00 and now it is $22.00 a month.  A member asked me for the password to read the paper but I don’t have it so I went to find it.  IRVFC does not have a subscription to the News Journal.  What the Company has been paying for since 2012, is for the Sunday print edition of the News Journal delivered to Patrick Miller. (editor’s note: I took out Mr. Miller’s home address and phone #.)  For the past 90 months the president for the most part has been falsifying company records for his personal gain.  I have documented a persistent pattern of abuse of authority and dishonesty on behalf of the President of Indian Rive Volunteer Fire Company.  I tested Mario Street and he took the information to Patrick and after that I quit communicating with Mario.  Mario made  a serious error by using his position at SUSCOM to get at BJ and he well feel more than just the heat in the near future.

Now, it is up to you Steven.

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

Michael Eisenhauer

Treasurer

This letter shows just one thing that is happening.  This is just the TIP of the iceberg  After the treasurer and myself started to investigate we uncovered a substantial amount of misappropriated funds from Patrick Miller .

We all know how much the volunteer fire companies in the state receives from state and  county funding.  This is tax payers money and I feel that there needs to be more accountability within the fire companies to stop fraud. 

There are many other organizations that could use this funding if the fire companies are going to lie cheat and steal. 

I can say that the other fire companies that have found fraud stepped up and took action against the abuser, this is not the case for Indian River because Patrick Miller controls everything within the company.  Just like he did when he was the CFO at the Indian River School District.  He is still the same person and nothing has change and as you can see he has been abusing his trust at the fire company for a very long time.

To this day nothing has been done and Patrick Miller has been able to continue to do the above mentioned actions to now include trying to hide what he has done.  The financial oversight committee did request the state to do an investigation and Patrick Miller stopped that from happening.  At this point I think it is going to take the state to step in and take action to resolve this issue and bring trust back to the company and community.

Thank you for your time in this serious matter,

Billie Jo Bullock

Editor’s note: Wow!  Patrick Miller is at it again.  Not a state secret.  I’ve written about this before.  The problem is he keeps getting away with it.  At this point, I can only surmise that if he goes down he will take a ton of people down with him.  Including Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting.  Even though I’ve made Carney and Delaware aware of her knowledge of his theft in Indian River School District, they are ignoring it.  They don’t know what to do with it.  So they continue to act like a deer in a headlight.  Meanwhile, the rampant theft continues.  I believe the State Auditor’s office already has a lot of the information Bullock references.  But according to Miller, there is no investigation going on.  The Delaware State Fire Prevention Commission has yet to act on any of this.  Their next board meeting is next Tuesday but they don’t have an agenda for their meeting.  Which breaks FOIA law because that has to be put up on their website or on the Delaware Public Meeting calendar seven days before their meeting.  I would file a FOIA complaint but how many times can I do that with no accountability?  Sigh…

I would like to give immense praise and gratitude to Billie Jo Casapulla Bullock to stand tall in the face of this.  It takes a very courageous person to come forward and do what is right.  As a result, she was terminated.  That is retaliation.  That is illegal.  And it isn’t the first time this happened with Miller.  He is a walking, talking, and breathing menace to Delaware.  We have too many scumbags like that in this state.  I know some legislators did respond to Bullock and she gives her thanks.

We stand at a crossroads in Delaware.  We the people can no longer ignore the shenanigans going on here.  It is time to call people out, loudly and publicly.  Whether it is personal or in the public’s right to know, things MUST change.  Our state government is doing nothing.  I have many ideas on how to really change things.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  There will be more on this soon.

How Long Have Members Of The Delaware General Assembly Been Around? Should There Be Term Limits?

Term limits.  We hear these words so often but the ones to decide would be the ones that would lose out the most from them.  Some call them politicians or legislators.  But they are the Delaware General Assembly.  How long have these folks been making laws in Dover?  Some of them are lifers.  Some are relatively new (past ten years).  Should we have term limits in Dover?  If so, how long should they be?  Since the Senate serves four years how many terms are too many?  The House has a two-year election cycle.  How many terms should they get?  Or do you think the people vote for a reason and term limits don’t bother you?  Take the poll and see how long some of these cats have prowled the halls!  I put the ones first voted into office last century in bold. Continue reading

Odyssey Charter “Denies” A Parent’s Opt Out Letter Two Months Later

Last week, a parent of a student at Odyssey Charter School received a response to an opt out letter she sent the school back in February.  The letter said they were unable to offer any discretion in the matter since Delaware doesn’t have any official opt out laws.  The school does have discretion.  It’s called the parent opted their kid out and Odyssey needs to suck it up and take it on the chin.

The parent is concerned about any punitive action the Wilmington charter could take against her child.  I have yet to hear of any punishment issued to a student over a parent opting them out.  So this would be the first to my recollection.  The powers that be know there is nothing they can do to prevent opt out.  They just don’t want any school dipping below that 95% participation rate threshold.  Which (sadly) didn’t happen in any school last year.  I find it frustrating that so many parents think this test is perfectly okay.  It isn’t.

What many parents don’t realize is something schools won’t tell them which is the actual language in federal law.  That states schools must administer the state assessment to students.  It says nothing about the student actually taking the test.  A school is not allowed to deny a student the ability to take the test.  That is a far cry from a parent saying they don’t want their kid taking it.  And there have been enough U.S. Supreme Court cases involving parental rights in education to justify opt out.

The response from the school to the parent talked about only medical reasons being a valid exemption based on the law.  Which is true, but only for the school not to administer the test and NOT have it count against their participation rate.  But what Odyssey did was quote the federal law and then add their own part about ESEA (now ESSA) not allowing parents to opt their child out of the state assessment.  Which is absolute malarkey because it doesn’t say you can either.  It doesn’t even address opt out.  In fact, ESSA as it is written actually gives states the ability to come up with their own policies and laws on opt out.  But in good old Delaware, we had a chance to honor and codify a parent’s right to opt out but our Governor Markell vetoed the bill when our General Assembly overwhelmingly passed it.  And then too many of our chicken little legislators kissed the Markell ring when there was a shot to override that veto.

Currently, another opt out bill is awaiting consideration in the House Education Committee.  It was heard in committee last year but shenanigans ensued over the vote so it is still in “pending” status where it will most likely remain until the end of this legislative session on June 30th.  I don’t think Governor Carney has ever muttered the words “opt out” since he has been Governor of Delaware.

Nothing helps the opt out movement more than a school giving a parent a rough time or sending the Delaware Department of Education template letter to a parent.  Parents, if you want to opt your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just do it.  I guarantee you if they give you a rough time or try to punish your kid I will give them holy hell for it.  That is my promise to you!  And if it is in Capital, Red Clay, or Christina, their boards passed resolutions or policies honoring that parental right so none of the schools in those districts should be even addressing it!

 

Shenanigan Alert: Why Did Governor Carney’s Policy Director Write A Report On Pay For Success In Delaware?

Last Friday, the final report for Delaware House Resolution #20 came out.  The General Assembly passed this resolution last July and ordered the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Finance, and the Office of the Controller General to conduct a study on Pay For Success methodology and how it could work in Delaware.  What did the report recommend?  And who wrote it? 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

An Exceptional Delaware Christmas Story

Over the past few years, I’ve made it a point to write an original Christmas story on here each holiday season.  Some have been completely satirical while last year’s was a bit more serious.  They usually star the Governor of Delaware at that time.  Sometimes they even have Santa Claus as a main character!  I thought I would put all of them together in one place.  Next year I’ll do the same thing with this year’s stuff.  This year’s story is coming!  Just trying to find the right time and ideas to come together!  Heck, in the spirit of Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate), let’s put all the festive stuff here!

A note to newer readers who haven’t been here since the beginning.  Back in 2014, in the first six months or so of this blog, I picked up an idea from Kilroy’s Delaware to add Twitter hashtags to each title.  I didn’t realize this was highly annoying to many readers until someone pointed it out to me.  I’ve cleaned up some of those old stories and removed those hashtags, but I saw doing this a lot of the Christmas themed articles still have them.  My apologies!  Last year I took a long overdue vacation from the blog so only a couple of articles saw the light.

A Christmas Poem For Governor Markell, Warning Signs All Over! 12/1/2014

The Christmas Legend Of Jack & Paul: The Birth Of Common Core & Race To The Top 12/17/2014

The Exceptional Delaware Top 25 Christmas Songs Of All-Time 12/20/2014

Christmas Gifts For The Enemies Of Public Education Part 1 & A For-Real Contest! 12/21/2014

More Christmas Gifts For The Enemies Of Public Education Part 2 12/21/2014

How To Get Through The Holidays When Those You Love Are Gone 12/22/2014

Part 3 Of Christmas Presents For The Enemies Of Public Education 12/23/2014

Christmas Presents For The Enemies Of Public Education: The Publius Edition 12/24/2014

The Murphy’s Law Of Christmas Presents For The Enemies Of Public Education 12/24/2014

Merry Christmas To The All The Heroes Of Delaware Public Education! You Know Who You Are! 12/24/2014

Breaking News: Santa Claus Supports Opt-Out! 12/4/2015

What If Santa Claus And Governor Markell Had A Fight? Who Would Win? 12/15/2015

The Other Christmas Gift 12/18/2015

The Arne Grinch Who Stole Christmas And Promised To Punish School-ville 12/23/2015

Merry Christmas To The Heroes Of Education & My Christmas Wish For The Delaware General Assembly 12/25/2015

The Sound Of Angels 5/7/2016 (Not really a Christmas related story but perfect for that holiday spirit!)

Santa And John 12/1/2016

Secret Santa Does A Wonderful Thing For Stubbs Elementary School In Wilmington, DE 12/9/2016

If you liked the Jack and Paul Common Core birth story, I did write a sequel a year and a half later but it is not holiday themed:

The Delaware Education Posse Rides Again 5/15/2016

 

 

 

 

Kowalko Gives Markell The Knockout Punch Over NY Times Op/Ed Piece

Former Delaware Governor Jack Markell wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times this week called “Let’s Stop Government Giveaways To Corporations”.  In it, he urged states not to get sucked into giving away the farm for huge corporations.  Something, even Markell noted, he did himself during his tenure as Delaware Governor from 2009-2017.  I found the irony behind Markell’s piece astounding as I felt he sold Delaware public education students down the river with his insane Race To The Top and Common Core antics.  State Rep. John Kowalko takes it a step further n an open letter to Markell.  Some of Markell’s many corporate giveaways in Delaware still haunt us to this day.

AN OPEN LETTER TO FORMER GOVERNOR MARKELL

Dear Jack,

I’ve just finished reading your N.Y. Times op-ed and I feel it’s my obligation to Delaware’s taxpayers to respond. I’d like to think that your most recent missive has merely added to my disappointment in you but I think I’ve already passed the minimum expectations level in regard to your performance and legacy. I will try to be objective in my analysis and critique.

First, I find it unbecoming for you to use “revisionist history” as a crutch to support your crippling economic decisions. That pejorative explanation has become the trademark of Trumpism and the Republican Conservative ideologues and should be an embarrassing reference for any legitimate public servant who wears a “D” after his title. I’d suggest that you cease evading responsibilities, casting blame and rewriting reality or remove that “D”.

Your statement that “I was as guilty as any elected official at playing this game” fails to adequately express the reality that you were much more “guilty” then other Delaware elected officials. You blithely dismiss the seriousness of this ongoing “economic/corporate welfare” threat by writing “And I don’t blame public officials, either, for their efforts to attract businesses with enticements, since they otherwise would risk losing out on new jobs, the transfer of old ones elsewhere and the bad publicity that could come with abandoning efforts to entice or retain companies”. That attitude and admission would be better relegated to a confessional for your personal “mea culpa” and forgiveness ask.

In your article some of the revisions you make to your economic tenure as Governor are merely omissions, others are misrepresentative of reality and others seem to be deliberate distortions. So I will attempt to briefly summarize what you’ve conveniently forgotten. During your 8 years as Chief Executive your DEDO/Strategic Fund doled out over $250 million (in grants and subsidies) in taxpayer money. Approximately 37% of the recipients were huge fortune 400 companies. This number does not include the more than $80 million in lost corporate revenue from your hastily contrived “Delaware Competes Act” (House Bill 235 quickly ushered through the Delaware General Assembly during the first few weeks of 2016 session) along with the “Commitment to Innovation Act” (SB 200). You mention the failed Fisker debacle but choose to ignore/deny your other expensive yet failed economic enterprise the “Bloom” subsidy. Not only has the cash grant/subsidy failed to produce the promised jobs but you’ve ensured that 300,000 individual and commercial Delmarva ratepayers would be burdened with an additional 20 years of subsidies to a private speculator/entrepreneur at a cost of $12-$15 million per year. Your remarkably optimistic speculation that the two of three Dow/DuPont spinoffs was a victory belies the reality that a preponderance of the research jobs are gone and Delaware is left with a comparative handful of jobs at the two headquarters. This type of Pyrrhic victory should not be heralded as the sign of an economic boon to Delaware. You also failed to mention the layoffs of 1700 (six-figure) DuPont researchers especially in light of your Secretary of Finance Tom Cook’s testimony on the House floor in response to my query that those jobs are gone and not coming back despite the Competes/Innovates corporate tax cuts and the 13 million cash giveaways that Ed Breen publicly said would not affect DuPont’s plans for job cuts. To paraphrase Mr. Breen’s remarks in the News Journal article “that money won’t make a difference in our plans but I’m not going to turn it down”. And lest we forget Jack, $10 million to JP Morgan (declared $24 billion in profit the year before), $2.5 million to Sallie Mae ($71 million profit 2nd qtr. 2017), $70 million infrastructure improvements to the Astra Zeneca campus (dramatically improving the value of their property now being sold) housing an ever dwindling workforce.

I do agree with your sentiments expressed as such but it would be better for taxpayers if these kinds of cash incentives could be invested instead in such things as schools and infrastructure”. Maybe that will happen under your successor’s tutelage via the newly minted taxpayer giveaway mechanism named the “Delaware Prosperity Partnership”. Perhaps that corporate dominated cabal will accept applications for funding to restore the $27 million in cuts to education you made in 2009 that have continued to date (under the guise of flexible spending block grants) or the additional $31 million in cuts to public education in this year’s budget or maybe some of those poor and elderly former pharmaceutical assistance recipients could make their anguished cries heard.

Wow! Kowalko nailed it!  Jack Markell, you had your time as leader of Delaware.  I know you like to pontificate over your imagined “success” as Delaware Governor but far too many of us see past your hypocrisy.  And for the most recent news on the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the following happened this week with that:

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Friday announced that John Riley, a former state Director of Business Development, will serve as interim CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership – the newly-established public-private partnership that will lead the state’s economic development efforts.

In the position, Riley will help launch operations, develop a strategic plan for the new nonprofit, and conduct a search for a permanent chief executive.

“John is well-known and respected across our state, and has significant experience in economic development,” said Governor Carney, who will serve as co-chair of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board. “I’m pleased he has agreed to help us launch the partnership. We are committed to changing the way we do business, fostering innovation, and growing our economy. I’m confident John will help position the partnership to succeed.”

“Establishment of this entity was a critical step to enhance the state’s ability to attract, grow and retain companies; to build a stronger entrepreneurial culture and to support private employers in identifying, recruiting and developing talent,” said Rod Ward, President of CSC and co-chair of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board. “As Interim CEO, John will work with the board on the recruitment of a permanent CEO and development of a strategic plan for Delaware.”

“Thank you to Governor Carney and the entire board of the partnership for this opportunity,” said John Riley. “Delaware has great assets – a talented workforce, a strategic location along I-95, responsive leadership, and great communities up and down our state. I look forward to doing everything I can to attract investment and additional good-paying jobs to our state, and setting up this new partnership to succeed in helping grow our economy.”

Riley served as Director of Business Development under then-Governor Thomas R. Carper. He retired from Ashland where he was Director of Government Relations and previously served as Director of Public Affairs for Hercules Incorporated. Riley has continued to be active in economic development and assisted Governor Jack Markell’s Administration with Delaware’s strategy in responding to the DuPont-Dow merger.

Members of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership board approved the hiring of Riley at an organizational meeting this week.

Governor Carney, who took office in January, has made it a top priority to restructure Delaware’s economic development efforts, and strategically partnering with the private sector on economic growth was a key recommendation of the Governor’s Action Plan for Delaware. Last month, Governor Carney signed House Bill 226, creating the Delaware Prosperity Partnership and a new division within the Department of State to support small business growth.

The Delaware Prosperity Partnership will be run day-to-day by the chief executive officer and a full-time staff. The nonprofit will lead business marketing efforts for the state, with a focus on attracting early-stage and technology-focused businesses, recruitment of large employers, and expansion of international business opportunities for Delaware companies. Its leaders also will work with employers and Delaware educators to fill key talent gaps in the state. The state will jointly fund the partnership’s operations with private business.

 

Delaware ACLU Planning To Sue State Over Education Funding

In a shocking announcement, the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union wants to sue the State of Delaware over education funding.  But the announcement was not made by the ACLU but rather a Capital School District Board of Education member at their meeting last evening. Continue reading

A Review Of “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”: More Of The Same With No Solutions

A University of Delaware class called Documentary Production produced a video called “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”.  The cinematography of the video was good, but I feel it should have been renamed “Fixing Education In Wilmington” because that was pretty much what the video was about.

It gave a good history of segregation before 1954, but after that it focused solely on Wilmington.  But I found the stereotypes to be a bit too much.  The video primarily focuses on two Caucasian mothers.  One is in what appears to be a classroom, and the other is out in the suburbs in a very nice home.  When they do show African-Americans (aside from  Tony Allen), it is primarily urban Wilmington.  As if there are no African-Americans in the suburbs.

The TedX Wilmington videos shown in this are from Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and Dr. Paul Herdman, the CEO of the Rodel Foundation.  Other folks shown in the video are Dan Rich from the University of Delaware and one of the main WEIC players, Atnre Alleyne from DelawareCAN and TeenSHARP, and Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.   There are cameos from Delaware Teacher of the Year Wendy Turner and the not-even sworn in yet Christina Board Member Meredith Griffin Jr.

Here is a newsflash.  There are 19 school districts in Delaware.  Up and down the state.  I love Wilmington, but if you are going to make a video called Fixing Education In The First State, you have to focus on the whole state.  This was one of the biggest mistakes WEIC made, focusing on Wilmington and expecting the rest of state to pick up the tab to fix Wilmington issues.  Yes, Wilmington is the biggest city, but many issues with poverty and low-income exist all over Delaware.

Like most discussions about “fixing” education in Delaware, we go through the history and the present situation.  Add some current events like the upcoming Colonial Referendum to make it current.  Show some shots from a WEIC meeting a few months ago when Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting attended for some extra oomph and importance.

I recognize segregation in Wilmington schools and what school choice has done to Northern New Castle County as major problems in Delaware.  But there are other equally important issues, only one of which was briefly touched on in the video- education funding.  We also have special education with a rapidly growing population of students with disabilities, standardized testing, a growing population of English Language Learners, a General Assembly that generally makes some very bad choices for our schools, bullying in our schools,the continued fall-out from the Race To The Top accountability era, a State Auditor who doesn’t audit school districts every year even though that office has to by state law, referenda, a new Governor that is putting a ton of cuts towards school districts (but not charters), the Rodel Foundation’s stranglehold on decisions made in education, data mining of personal student information, and the upcoming and very real threats of competency-based education, personalized learning, an eventual replacement of real teachers with glorified moderators instead in a digital technology wonderland, and the upcoming Blockchain technology which will institute a full-blown “digital badge” scenario, tracking children from cradle to grave and predetermined careers and what their societal worth will be.  And yes, even Social-Emotional Learning is in the process of getting hijacked by the corporate education reformers (more on that soon).

Many of these things aren’t on the radar as much as they should be.  We are still bickering over how to “fix” education but we are stumbling with talking about what is right in education.  We are in a constant state of flux, in a state of constant improvement.  This obsessive need for improvement is actually what is fracturing education the most in Delaware.  The problem comes when we try to measure all these changes by one standardized test.

For an eleven minute video, it would be impossible to catch all the issues in Delaware education.  But showing very old videos of Tony Allen and Paul Herdman don’t do much for me.  Most Delawareans really don’t know who the two of them are.  Just because they have a TedX stage doesn’t give them more importance than a teacher giving a lecture to a class or a parent giving public comment at a school board meeting.  Those are actually the voices we need to hear more of in Delaware education, the everyday citizen.  Not a CEO of a “non-profit” making over $344,000 a year or a well-meaning Bank of America executive.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Tony Allen is a great guy, but it has become more than obvious that WEIC isn’t heading towards the destination it dreamed of and it is time to move on.  As for Dr. Paul “Rodel” Herdman, I have never been shy about my dislike of his “visions” for Delaware schools that have its roots in corporate profit.

We need to focus on what is going right in Delaware education and build from that.  It begins at the grass-roots level, in the classroom.  For that, the student and teacher voice are the most important.  And then the parent.  We go from one reform or initiative to the next, and the cycle goes on and on.

Delaware Racism: It Is Reality And It Is Not Going Away

Racism in Delaware is very real. We saw it clearly with the situation at a Delaware Military Academy basketball game.  Alleged racial slurs were yelled out by DMA students.  When the A.I. Dupont High School basketball team was told to stay in their chairs after the game, members went to go towards the seats where they heard the horrible words.  No adult will come forward about this and use honor instead of protecting their charter school.  Why?

Racism is rampant in Delaware.  Our media, especially The News Journal, does not do enough to curb this.  Every time they post any article about issues that could possibly involve race, the hatred pours out in their comments.  Perhaps they remove these but they have no filters whatsoever to prevent words like nigger being thrown out there.  Don’t believe me?  Check out this comment from their poll last night about the DMA/AI incident:

delawareracism

I don’t condone the use of that word by anyone, whether they are black or white.  It is a word from history that signifies a time when black people were owned by white people.  I don’t believe any race or culture should own the word.  It is ugly and full of hatred.  We all bleed the same blood.  We all smile the same smile and we all shed the same tears.  Maybe because I was raised in a home where the value of respecting others was instilled in me at a very early age is the reason I can’t even fathom this kind of hatred.

President Trump, for all his faults, does not bring out this kind of hatred in people.  It is there and always has been.  There are those who may not like the words but fail to do anything about as evidenced by this comment from a DMA parent:

dmaparent

Fear of retaliation.  I’ve heard those words so many times to justify bad decisions in others.  If you find those words unacceptable then do the right thing and speak up.  What kind of message are you sending your child?  That it is okay for others to say things that are unacceptable in today’s society?  That adults can act just as bad as kids which further perpetuates racism?  Speak up parent!  By hiding things and covering them up, you are teaching your own child that it is okay for these things to happen.  It is not okay.  It is not right.  Your job as a parent is to prepare your child for adulthood and instill in them a sense of right and wrong.  We all want to protect our children, I get that.  But if doing it has a cost that could make anyone think certain things are okay are you really doing your job as a parent?  If administrators allow this to continue, what does that say about the school you chose to send your child to?  Taking away a senior night, which is the first I’ve heard of any punishment for DMA students, is not enough.  If this indeed happened, that would indicate wrong-doing on the DMA team and cheerleaders.  If no racial slurs were thrown out, why a punishment at all?

Schools like Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, and Newark Charter School all have very low African-American populations compared to the schools around them.  Some have even suggested they allow this culture of racism to continue so they get more white students.  This furthers segregation in Delaware, especially around Wilmington.  If these charters truly cared about diversity, they would do something about it.  Instead, we get long drawn-out essays, significant expenses surrounding school uniforms and sports, and specific interests that dissuade low-income families and minorities from even applying.  Despite the many who have called them out on this, our General Assembly turns a blind eye to this and allows this to continue.  Despite federal guidance suggesting any specific enrollment should be designed to let students with the highest needs in.

Did the A.I. DuPont H.S. coach do the right thing?  Many have suggested he did.  By suspending the team for the rest of the season he sent a message that despite what others say reacting to it can only make the situation worse.  But what about those players who are being called one of the most vile words in existence?  The News Journal wrote an editorial and said the coach made the right decision.  However, they did not mention one word about the alleged racial slurs.  To me, that word is meant to strip away the humanity from a person and make them feel like less then a human being.  Even though the above comment no longer appears in the comments of a poll they put up last night they allowed it to go up.  Even by putting a poll up to see if the coach did the right thing without all the information conveyed to those answering the poll, they are slanting the issue.

Delaware is an odd state.  We are a state between the south and the north.  One only needs to look at the riots in Wilmington in the 1960s to see Delaware’s history with race issues.  We still struggle with this in the present.  Generations of hatred against black people still exist to this very day.  But no one wants to really bring it out in the open.  Those of us who try are chastised and told to shut up.  That we have no idea what we are talking about.  But it continues, every day.  Every time we allow any institution to further issues of race, we are allowing the problem to continue.  Any time we allow a school, a building of education, to not have student populations that match the local area, we are letting it happen.

The charter schools I mentioned were a cure for not-so-wealthy parents of white students who couldn’t afford to send their kids to private schools.  They didn’t want their kids in “those” schools so some of our legislators created the perfect situation: schools with predominant white populations and barriers that effectively prevented “those” kids from even getting into that system.  And many parents rushed towards the opportunity.  Attack one of those charters and the parents will come out in full force to defend the school with a “How dare you” attitude.  They will defend these institutions that further discrimination at the cost of their own souls.  They don’t even see they are doing it.

Any person who makes themselves better than another with words designed to hurt someone based on race, gender, disability, age, or social status is discriminatory.  They are racist.  They are advancing their old-world vision on present-day society.  Anyone who fails to speak out about these things happening is living in a fear basket cuddled up in a blanket called enablement.  You are allowing this to continue.  You are just as bad.  If your child was given a hard time at school would you not speak up for them?  Most of us would.  We wouldn’t worry about fear of retaliation because it is the right thing to speak up for your child and advocate for them when they are unable to.  So why would you not speak up when you see your child’s environment is hostile and ugly?  That can be just as damaging as any situation where someone comes after your child.  You are failing as a parent when you don’t speak up about injustice.  If we all did that when we should, there wouldn’t be so much injustice.  It would send a clear message that this will not be tolerated.  It is unacceptable.  We will not be a victim to your cruel words and hatred.

Children are the most susceptible and vulnerable population in this country.  They absorb what is around them.  If parents show racism as issues at the dinner table or use words to describe people that are not good, kids pick up on it and at a very early age.  It becomes part of their personality.  It goes both ways with race.  Putting down the white man in front of your kids can elicit the same behaviors in kids.  I go back to “Remember The Titans”.  If it really went down that way, I don’t know.  It had to have been “Disneyfied” to some degree.  But the message is clear: when we band together we are all one.

I am not afraid to speak out.  I will not stop defending the rights of any human being on this planet.  And you can throw all the stones in the world at me but I will not let your cowardice stop me.  This is why I loathe the use of high-stakes standardized testing in schools.  It is just another system that puts up divides instead of unity.  Far too many parents say “I don’t want my kid going to that school.  Look at their test scores”.  And they cycle continues.  For the Delaware racists, you know who you are.  You know what you harbor in your innermost thoughts.  You may think you are right.  You may go to church on Sundays and count your blessings.  You may believe you have the might of angels behind your beliefs.  But what you lack in humility and grace takes all of that away.  As for media like The News Journal, telling half a story isn’t addressing any issue.  Covering up things that went down and hiding behind “accounts on social media” as if that whitewashes what really went down is not journalism.  It is cowardice.

Almost a day since I broke this story, DMA Commandant Anthony Pullella has not responded to my request for information about this incident.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  Many charter schools like to live in their own bubble and want to ignore the outside world.  As if they are the beacon of society and can do no wrong.  Why shouldn’t they think that?  Our own state government has allowed them to thrive in that belief.  Our legislators can sit in their legislative chambers and condemn actions that took place 150 years ago but when the time comes for them to address the true issues that are perpetuating racism, discrimination, and segregation in our state, far too many of them do nothing.  Especially when it comes to education.  There are those who will fight on these issues, reps like Kim Williams, John Kowalko, and others.  But they do not hold the majority.  All too often, bills are saturated with words that eventually continue Delaware’s backwards slide into racism.  Some don’t even realize this at the time.  Critics of issues involving racism and discrimination are all too often marginalized in this state.  Our issues become back burner because money and power have the influence in Dover, not what is right.  It becomes politics, not morality and doing what is right.

Unless you have been spoken down to like you are less than you are as much as African-Americans have in our very racist state, how can you effectively say you are right?  Have you ever walked in the shoes of someone who has been demeaned and humiliated?  If the answer is no, then kindly shut up.  We don’t want your hatred spewing out of your mouth.  I will never condone violence as a response to hatred.  It does nothing except make the situation worse.  But to point out the potential of violence without addressing why it got to that point is highly irresponsible.

 

 

My Take On The Bizarre DSEA Election Results. Did Two Wrongs Make A Right?

In the shot heard round Delaware teachers email yesterday around 4:00pm, the Delaware State Education Association election results came in for President and Vice-President.  Shock followed shock.  Mike Matthews and Karen Crouse tied for President at 862 votes each.  Stephanie Ingram (not Ingraham) won the Vice-President position.  Some (including myself) are crying foul.  Matthews and Kook ran as a ticket as did Crouse and Ingram.  Logic would dictate that Matthews and Kook’s votes would align more with Matthew’s total.  But this was NOT the case.  Ingram won with 400 something votes while Kook had 300 plus.

First off, with 12,000 teachers in Delaware, why did only 2,100+ vote in this election?  That is my biggest concern.  Second, how the actual hell do you get a tie?  Off the record, I have heard DSEA did not want the powerhouse of Matthews/Kook ruling the teacher union halls in Delaware.  Did things happen?  Of that I am certain.  When an obvious fake Facebook account with the not-so-genius name of Sam Muskrat showed up at the same time as the election went into full swing, I paid very close attention to the writing style of the you really aren’t fooling anyone Mr. Muskrat.  I’ve seen that style before.  With another anonymous commenter somewhere else.  I won’t out the person, but I can promise you it is NOT Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware.  That guy is probably sucking down some Shirley Temple’s in his batcave.

The next big question surrounds the ballots.  There were mentions on social media of teacher’s getting the ballots in their spam folders.  While the plausibility of that is suspect if it was coming from DSEA (do all DSEA emails go to spam?).  If it was an outside company, such as Intelliscan, based out of Phoenixville, PA, I could somehow see that.  Some teachers reported not receiving any ballots.  Some did not know who was running, or actually know some of  the people running (to them I would say “Hello!  This is the future of your teaching profession calling, wake up!”).

I’ve heard that campaign literature was suspect in certain situations.  While there is nothing against the DSEA rules about the President endorsing a candidate, Frederika Jenner made it transparently obvious who she wanted.  And that person wound up tying and is not a man.  And her VP choice won as well.  Crouse would not have won if it weren’t for Kent County.  Which I find ironic considering her popularity in certain places.  I don’t mean to bash her.  I’m sure she is a fine person.  But there is something VERY shady with this election.  I’m sure the current DSEA crew will get offended I posted this.  First off, too bad.  Second, you can sit there and say it isn’t my business but I choose to make it my business and you can’t stop me.  We live in a country where Donald Trump is President so I think any rules went out the window last November!

So what happens next?  Some more ballots could come trickling in by Monday (since it is soooooo possible for something postmarked 1/23/17 or earlier to take a week to get to Dover in our huge state).  There could be a run-off election if it remains a tie, in which case Presidential candidates Danny Rufo and Dom Zaffora’s votes would go to either Matthews or Crouse.  Or another option could be the tie remains and the Executive Board at DSEA would vote on a winner.  Which would, in all likelihood, be Crouse.  Since these election results are not part of an official state or county election, DSEA is under no obligation to release the full results to the public.  A teacher’s union is a private organization.  If I were Matthews or Kook, I would be issuing a challenge right away.  Something doesn’t smell right.  I could, of course, be wrong.  But I would err on the side of caution in just blindly accepting these results.

While this potential mystery starts to get some heat, feast on the famous Samuel Muskrat posts, from an anonymous person whose Facebook account was created the VERY same day Matthews and Kook had a live Facebook feed answering questions.  And disappeared the next day.

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Yes, I am the Kevin this Samuel Muskrat is referring to.  This kind of makes it my business now!  I will fully admit I am not the most popular person in the executive offices of DSEA.  Once upon a time the stars were in alignment around the time I wrote a huge article on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, but I burned that bridge with them during the whole House Bill 50 veto override fiasco when I called out DSEA (very strongly I might add) with a twinge of regret.  I don’t regret calling them out on their non-support of the override but rather how I did it.  I apologized, but while some accepted that apology, some were less than cordial with me.  In fact, one of them decided to viciously attack me many times somewhere else.  That person knew I knew that when I commented on the above Facebook comment bringing me into it.  I dropped a couple of words in my comment which vanished as soon as it appeared.  Muskrat knew I had them and ran for the hills.  Muskrat seemed to know a lot of things about Mr. Matthews.  Things your average teacher would not know unless they were really involved with DSEA.  But the tone and attitude, and especially the reference to me, shows a personal beef.  Trolling is one thing.  Going on  Facebook during a candidate forum and disguising yourself when they are potentially a staff member of DSEA is another thing entirely.  Like I said yesterday, shenanigans with this election.

Both Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook are well-known in Delaware as teachers who will really fight for their causes.  This doesn’t mean they won’t sit down with you, but it also doesn’t mean they will swallow the Kool-Aid which happened so many times in teacher matters involving the Delaware Dept. of Education, the General Assembly, and yes, even DSEA.  Most recently, Kook ruffled feathers with the teacher evaluation bill last Spring.  It wound up getting Senator Sokola amendments attached to it.  A large part of that was the insertion into the process of former DOE employee Atnre Alleyne, now promoting his role as Executive Director of DelawareCAN which is an offshoot of the corporate education reform company 50CAN.  Another big part was a letter from the DPAS-II Advisory Committee Chair Dr. Susan Bunting.  Bunting was confirmed by the Delaware Senate three days ago as the new Delaware Secretary of Education.  But neither of them are Sam Muskrat.  In Delaware, if you aren’t calling out legislators here and there, than democracy really isn’t taking place.  And some really shouldn’t throw stones like that because the hypocrisy involved is astounding!  But I guess many wrongs make a right?

Fraud & Cover-Up Evade Transparency Through Attorney General Matt Denn’s Office

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A pungent stench is coming from Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office when it comes to the Freedom of Information Act.  When the Delaware Attorney General’s office gets the facts wrong on a response to a FOIA complaint, the only way for a Delaware citizen to correct those errors is to file with the Superior Court.  Which costs money and fills the state coffers.  Can someone please remind me why I pay taxes for a state where our Governor feels “sunshine is the best disinfectant“?

The response I received two days ago from Matt Denn’s office stems from my FOIA complaint and the Delaware Dept. of Justice’s response to that FOIA which came out on October 28th.  The Delaware Pathways Steering Committee did not publish their first meeting anywhere and I filed a complaint.  Considering the DOJ is still working on a FOIA complaint I submitted last March, it seems there was a rush to put the matter concerning Governor Markell’s Executive Ordered Delaware Pathways Steering Committee to bed.

When I emailed Denn’s office to reevaluate the FOIA response the same day, I didn’t hear back from anyone.  On Tuesday I sent an email to Matt Denn asking for any type of response to my October 28th request.  On Wednesday, I received the below email from Kim Siegel, Denn’s FOIA Coordinator.  I did edit out part of the email which covered a separate matter I am working on with Denn’s office.

From: OpenGovernment (DOJ) <OpenGovernment@state.de.us>
To:
Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent:
Wednesday, December 7, 2016 4:04 PM
Subject:
October 28, 2016 determination

Dear Mr. Ohlandt, 

Attorney General Denn has asked me to respond to the issues raised in your December 6, 2016 e-mail.  Your e-mail makes reference to an October 28, 2016 determination by the Chief Deputy Attorney General in response to a FOIA petition regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee.  Under the Delaware Code, a petitioner who is dissatisfied with the outcome of a FOIA determination by the Chief Deputy Attorney General may “appeal the matter on the record to Superior Court.”  Therefore, if you wish to appeal the determination, that is the mechanism under Delaware law by which to do so.  

Sincerely,

Kim Siegel, MPA
Legislative Affairs Manager

FOIA Coordinator
Delaware Department of Justice

So if I am understanding this correctly, when a citizen alleges a public body has violated FOIA, which is the law, the public body can skirt around the law and give false information.  But when the citizen calls them out on it, through a request for appeal, suddenly the DOJ decides the law is important.  The mechanism for appeal is not fair at all to a citizen looking for transparency.

What is the point of a Freedom of Information Act request if the agency looking at it refuses to look at all the facts from both sides?  This is typically how it is done- a party files a complaint with the facts as they know them, the DOJ sends the complaint to the party that had the FOIA complaint filed against them, the defending party sends a response, the DOJ sends the defendant agency’s response to the accuser, and then the DOJ rules on the complaint.  I have had FOIA complaints in the past that dragged out because the DOJ wanted more information.  Apparently, that was not the case with this complaint.  The DOJ Chief Deputy Attorney General came out with this FOIA response in record time without any chance of obtaining more information on the matter.

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Tony Allen: Lawsuit Coming If We Don’t Fix Wilmington Schools

Tony Allen issued a stern warning about Wilmington schools.  He said a lawsuit is coming soon if we don’t fix it.

Last Wednesday evening, the Progressive Democrats of Delaware held a panel on Delaware education funding.  The panelists were myself, Tony Allen (the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission), Brian Stephan (on the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee), and State Rep. Paul Baumbach.

The main emphasis of the panel was to discuss the pros and cons of implementing a weighted funding system for Delaware schools.  In this type of system, students with higher needs would have more money allocated to them.  These would include low-income students, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.  For the last, this already takes place with the exception of basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

All the panelists were in agreement that the system we have is not working at all.  While I don’t necessarily have an issue with a weighted funding system, the devil is in the details.  But beneath the surface, as I stated towards the end of the panel, is the huge elephant in the room concerning accountability.  Not for standardized tests but where money is currently going.  There is no viable mechanism in Delaware to ensure the funds we are using in public education are truly going to the needs of students.  Our state auditor is supposed to audit every single traditional school district for all expenses, but when was the last time we saw one of those reports unless it was part of an official audit inspection?  There is no consistency with where funds are going.  There are so many sub-groups of payment allocations with many overlapping each other.  It is a beast to understand.  Coding expenses in definitive places is a must, but no one seems to want to address that at a state level.  It is my contention that throwing more money into the system is a recipe for disaster.

Say the advocates for better education in Wilmington schools do file a lawsuit.  What would the result be?  The feds have made important decisions in the past that put temporary band-aids on the issues but eventually the situation with “failing schools” comes up again and again.  The definition of a “failing school” is now tied to standardized tests.  It is the heart of all accountability in public education.  But it fails to address the issues facing students of poverty, spoken languages that are not English, and disabilities that are neurologically based.  The “one size fits all” mentality, which the Delaware Dept. of Education is still pushing in their first draft of the Every Student Succeeds Act state plan, doesn’t work.

Tony Allen told the group he was disappointed the WEIC Redistricting Plan didn’t pass in the General Assembly.  He said, without hesitation, that he fears a lawsuit will have to happen to truly address the issues facing Wilmington students.  He did concede that one of the biggest issues facing WEIC was not having representation from Kent and Sussex counties in the group.  This was something I advised WEIC about in public comment at their very first meeting in August of 2015.  It was also why I didn’t go to as many meetings as I could have.  But will a federal lawsuit fix Wilmington schools?

In my opinion, the biggest problem in Delaware education among high-needs students is a problem no judge, accountability system, General Assembly, or any advocate can fix: hopelessness.  In our biggest cities in the state, and reaching out into the suburbs and rural areas, is a drug problem of epic proportions.  And with African-American youth, that comes with a potential of joining a gang.  Until that problem is fixed, we will continue to spin our wheels trying to fix education.  We can have after-school programs and more guidance counselors in our schools.  That will help, but it will NOT solve the problem.  I don’t have the answer to that.  I don’t know who does.  But until we can fix that problem, making our schools the penicillin for the disease facing our state will not get to the heart of the issue.  With the drugs and gangs come extreme violence and people getting shot in the streets.  This “be tough or die” mentality is the deadliest issue facing Delaware.  And when those issues come into our schools, that is when education gets put in the bulls-eye of blame.

I have no doubt, at some point, Tony Allen, Jea Street and others will file some huge lawsuit against the State of Delaware.  And many will look towards a judge to solve all our problems.  It won’t.  Until we get really tough on hopelessness, we will fail.

Save The Date: November 16th

Eight days after the 2016 elections are over (Thank God!) the Delaware Department of Education will discuss their FY2018 budget with the Office of Management and Budget.  This is open to the public, but I recommend getting there early so you can get a seat.  The budget for the next fiscal year is going to get crazy.  First off, we have the Every Student Succeeds Act.  In Delaware’s first draft plan, you can see that a lot of areas in the law will be depending on state funding.  Which means the feds will have to decide on our state plan assuming these items would pass in our budget.  Delaware is submitting their final plan to the U.S. Dept. of Education on March 6th.  That is 116 days before the Delaware General Assembly would even pass the FY2018 budget.  So what happens if the feds approve our plan but we don’t have the necessary funding allocations for our plan?  The feds would presumably pass (or reject) our plan within 120 days of submission.  That puts Delaware in the position of getting the approval after the end of legislative session.  Not to mention the fact we will have a new Governor (presumably John Carney) with his own ideas on education.  By the time this hearing comes, the next Governor will have been elected.  But further complicating matters is the exiting Governor, Jack Markell.  His administration will work up the proposed budget which won’t be released until January 2017.  And if I know Jack Jack, he will attempt to get all his friends some last-minute goodies!  Add in the fact that pretty much everyone in the state wants to trim down the Delaware Dept. of Education and make it less of a bureaucratic nightmare.  This will be a must-attend meeting if you can make it.  But, of course, it is at 10am in the morning when the true stakeholders in education… students, parents and teachers… are busy doing what they do best.

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32 Questions: Delaware Candidates For Governor On Education

I sent education surveys to all four of the candidates running for Delaware Governor.  Three responded.  I want to thank all the candidates for responding.  Many of the questions I asked deal with the issues I write about on this blog.  The survey was sent a few weeks ago, so recent events such as the district-charter funding issue and Blockchain aren’t in here.

These were tough questions in many areas and I challenged the candidates to do some research with some of them.  In some areas, all three were in agreement and in others not so much.  There were 32 questions overall, dealing with issues concerning teachers, special education, Common Core, Rodel, Markell, FOIA, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and more. Continue reading