Guest Post: “Mike Matthews Has Nothing To Apologize For”

It is the return of The Bygone Blogger!  This blogger of old has some more stuff to say about the controversy surrounding Mike Matthews and his DSEA resignation based on old blog posts Mike wrote.  In which we learn, once again, things are NOT always what they seem on the surface and some of the pitchfork throwers aren’t exactly innocent!  Take it away (again) Bygone Blogger! Continue reading

Mike Matthews Speaks- From April 2006

This guest post is brought to you by the handle of The Bygone Blogger.  This blogger was one of those around back in the halcyon days of Delaware blogging- the time when the Iraq War commanded the headlines, America saw its first African-American President, and the Recession put America in severe dire straits.  In Delaware, it was the days of Governor Ruth Minner and the “I still have some hair” Jack Markell.  The Bygone Blogger covers the Mike Matthews situation and in the middle of it found some fairly recent material written by another Delaware blogger running for office!  We learn very fast that context matters!  This is something Atnre Alleyne, despite his vast amount of education, can’t seem to grasp.  Take it away Bygone Blogger!  Continue reading

The Davies-McGuiness-Spadola Gambit

With four days until the Delaware 2018 Primary, the State Auditor’s race is gaining a TON of attraction this year.  While some may suggest McGuiness has this locked up, I beg to differ.  There are two scenarios that will play out.  Whoever wins the Primary will determine who wins the General Election in November. Continue reading

Kathy McGuiness: Why The Idea Of Her As State Auditor Is Beyond Frightening

Who is Kathy McGuiness?  Yes, she is running for State Auditor.  But who is she really?  Is she true Blue or is she Red for convenience sake?  Who are her best friends and why would that make it VERY dangerous for her to win this election?  She wants to be a state auditor.  Someone whose job is making sure other state agencies don’t break the rules.  But her alliances and allegiances beg the question and puts her on a very slippery slope.  And I’m not just talking about the slopes in Park City, Utah. Continue reading

OMG! Electing Kathy McGuiness As State Auditor Would Be Like Putting A TFA Teacher As Secretary Of Education! Don’t Do It!

I just caught part of the Delaware United forum with the candidates for State Auditor and Attorney General.  I heard Kathleen McGuiness babbling about her qualifications.  She is NOT a certified accountant.  She took some crash course in NY last year to be a “fraud investigator”.  She is a pharmacist and a realtor.  This would be like putting a crash-course Teach For America teacher as Secretary of Education.  She is NOWHERE close to being qualified.

I understand the Speaker of the House, Pete Schwartzkopf, wants her.  As well as other legislators who seem to think she would be the best.  They aren’t basing that decision on any amount of qualification for the office but because Pete wants her.  Because they are friends.  It is Delaware politics at its worst!

For this office, we need someone who is qualified.  We could argue whether that would be Kathleen Davies or Dennis Williams.  For my money, I’m going with Davies.  She worked in the Auditor’s office.  She knows exactly what to do and how to do it.  There would not be a “learning curve” that McGuiness would stumble through.  Williams tends to tick off a lot of people.  I agree the Auditor’s office should be independent of political party.  But Williams already has a ton of burnt bridges which would not be helpful in getting things done.

Yes, there is a cloud with Davies.  Why was she put on leave by Tom Wagner?  I still firmly believe that was due to someone wanting her to shut up.  I have never bought the bogus News Journal article from 2016 suggesting she was inappropriately reimbursing herself for travel expenses.  I believe whatever happened was cooked up, kind of like McGuiness’ auditor campaign over the past year.  I believe we will find out in due time what happened and I also believe it will come out that something was cooked up.  Davies for State Auditor by a landslide!

If you really want to learn about Kathy McGuiness, just Google “Kathy McGuiness” and “Delaware Liberal” to get the scoop.  There is plenty of stuff in there to keep you reading for hours!

Will The Delaware House Repeal The Estate Tax Today? And Which State Rep Had A “Folder” Incident Yesterday?

House Bill 16 will get a vote today.  This bill would repeal the estate tax in Delaware.  State Rep. John Kowalko issued the following statement last evening concerning this bill:

Today 5/18/17, a bill to repeal the “estate tax”, has been placed on the House Agenda by Speaker Schwartzkopf. It will require a suspension of rules due to notification inadequacies but more importantly it will guarantee less revenue for the state and amounts to a giveaway to the Republicans and the wealthy. This tax garnered $9.3 million in revenue in 2016 and to date there have been no suggestions from leadership of either party or the JFC as to how that revenue loss will be replaced. I have asked this question of all of my Democratic colleagues and have not received one suggestion. This bill should not receive one Democrat vote but it will as deals have been cut to the detriment of Delaware’s taxpayers to ensure passage. This is irresponsible and abhorrent behavior that contradicts true Democratic party principles and ideals and all Democrat legislators should reject this or be held accountable. -Representative John Kowalko
I fully expect Kowalko to make his voice heard when he opposes this bill.  I’m not sure what the notification inadequacies are.  The bill came out of committee on 5/3/17 and is on the ready list.  Perhaps it is the timing of when it was put on the ready list.
Delaware Liberal is reporting the deals are flying left and right down in Dover.  This isn’t a new phenomenon.  It happens ALL the time.  It is how politics works (or doesn’t work in many cases, but I digress).  Del Lib believes Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf is letting this bill up for a vote if the House Republicans will at least do a roll call on House Bill 175, which would raise corporate taxes.  Expect more of this in the next 43 days folks!  And watch for the sneaky-snake charter lobbyists getting their hooks into the Joint Finance Committee and the Bond Committee.
Speaking of Legislative Hall, State Rep. Mike Ramone smacked me in the face with a folder yesterday!  I was at the House Education Committee meeting talking with one of the Superintendents.  Ramone came over and the Super asked him an education question.  Ramone didn’t know the answer so he asked me.  I told him “I’m just a blogger, find out for yourself!”  Ramone took his House Education Committee folder and smacked me in the face with it.  It didn’t hurt.  He laughed.  I told him I was going to blog about it and I am a man of my word!  Just a playful moment down in Dover folks, no scandal here.  He usually gives me a lollipop, not a physical assault!
Full details of House Bill 16 can be found here.

Delaware Liberal’s Huge Exodus Of Contributors Over The Hillary/Bernie Split

The Delaware blogging community saw a very odd thing happen this week.  Delaware Liberal saw four of their ten contributors suddenly leave the popular liberal blog.  El Somnambulo left on Wednesday.  Soon after, Delaware Dem, Cassandra, and Pandora left and began a new blog called Blue Delaware.  The tension came to a high point when Delaware Dem put up a post about changes readers would like to see on the blog.  Feelings rose to the surface causing the split.  Delaware Liberal is still around and is pumping out tons of posts.  As well, a regular commenter on Del Lib named Donviti began his own blog called Worn Off Novelty.  Stan Merriman is also writing more stuff on his own blog, Pitchforks & Populists.  Kavips is still closed but I am hoping he/she comes out of the woodwork very soon!  On the education front, I am still writing stuff (not as much as I had been), along with Kilroy and Atnre Alleyne’s The Urgency of Now.  Elizabeth Scheinberg has been writing some interesting stuff with her new blog, Echo Awareness.

Much of the feelings of resentment go back to the primary and the split among Delaware Democrats between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  The three who left Del Lib to start their own blog were huge Hillary supporters.  El Som was a big Bernie supporter.  Conflict ensued leading to the events of this week.  Looks like it is time for me to update my Delaware blog roll!

Did The Governor’s Office Just Scuttle The Charter Settlement With Christina In An Act Of Premature Celebration?

In their haste to get the settlement out, did Governor Markell’s office actually blow the whole thing?

Governor Markell’s office let the settlement between the 15 charter schools and Christina School District get out to the public before all parties signed the document.  Markell’s Chief Legal Counsel, Meredith Tweedie, sent an email to State Representative Paul Baumbach yesterday according to Christina School District board member John Young.  Young posted the following on Facebook this morning:

If you needed any proof that the Charter lawsuit against Christina (not against the Governor’s office) wasn’t a shakedown, ask your self this: Why is the Governor’s office, a non-party, disseminating the not-yet-final settlement to legislators before the actual parties that signed it? They are clearly invested in this, and it comes off rotten. Here’s the email (you can see the document on Delaware Liberal):

From: Tweedie, Meredith (Governor)
Sent: Friday, December 2, 2016 7:14:23 PM
To: Baumbach, Paul (LegHall)
Subject: Charter settlement agreement–with some signatures

Good evening Representative Baumbach,

Attached is a copy of the signed Settlement Agreement (actually two copies, but it’s the same document with different signature counter-parts). This will be fully “final” when all of the Charter signatures are acquired, which we anticipate will occur early next week.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email me. Otherwise, have a great weekend.

Best regards,
Meredith
2 Attachments

When Christina approved the settlement at their board meeting on 12/1/16, the motion included that the settlement would not be made public until it was final.  No legal settlement is final until ALL parties have signed.  In the settlement on Delaware Liberal the  parents representing the minor children had not signed and two of the charter schools didn’t either.  Even if they publicly stated they would approve the settlement this does not translate to the settlement being final.  Presumed approval is not the same as final approval.  Since this leak from Markell’s office broke the condition of the Christina board’s approval of the settlement, does that render the settlement null and void?

Why would Jack Markell’s office leak a legal settlement that had already caused a great deal of controversy in the state to begin with?  To what purpose?  Why was the Governor’s office even in possession of this document to begin with before all parties signed on?  And even some of those signatures are suspicious based on their authorization in some of those schools.  Last night, Delaware Liberal posted the entire settlement.  I knew this wasn’t leaked from the Christina board because it had the other signatures on it which would not have been on it before or even immediately after  Christina’s board meeting.

According to the above email from Tweedie, there were two attachments, one for Christina and one for the DOE.  What were the stipulations in the DOE settlement?

Markell and Christina… this chapter needs to close fast.  Watching Markell support Christina’s referendum in a video last Spring was like watching a root canal.  The man obviously has no love for the district which spread to his puppets in the DOE during his administration.  Should a Governor target an entire school district?  It almost seems personal for him.  Certain legislators who chair certain education committees in the General Assembly don’t really hide it either.  They are transparent as Saran wrap.  Will Carney carry on this very obvious disdain?  I certainly hope not.  It has been very damaging not only to Christina but the entire education system in the state.

Education Funding A Hot Topic At The PDD Monthly Meeting Tonight

The Progressive Democrats of Delaware will have a panel tonight on the subject of education funding.  I was asked to be one of the panelists for this to which I happily accepted.  But I’m up against some heavy hitters!  One of the most knowledgeable experts on school district funding, Brian Stephan, will join myself, Tony Allen, and State Rep. Paul Baumbach on this important discussion.  As well, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission will receive the 2016 Bob Stachnik Progressive Courage Award for their advocacy efforts on improving education in Wilmington.  Tony Allen is the Chair of WEIC.  Brian Stephan serves on the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee and is a contributor for Delaware Liberal.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach is running unopposed for the 23rd State Rep. Seat which will give him his third consecutive term for the district.

I highly recommend coming out for this.  The event begins at 7pm and runs until 8:30am.  This will take place at the New Castle Democrat HQ at 19 East Commons Blvd., 2nd floor, in New Castle.  I will gladly answer any question presented to the best of my ability but I do not consider myself an expert on this stuff.  I know many facets but it is a very broad topic with many moving parts.  But I do plan on talking about a few things I’m pretty sure none of the other panelists would mention as I have just discovered them myself.  I have to imagine the very controversial charter school lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware Dept. of Education will come up.  As well, funding for WEIC will surely be a topic as well.  Many of the panelists want to revamp funding to include a weighted funding formula so children with higher needs are given a greater weight of money.

The Heart of the District/Charter Funding War

History will teach us nothing.  Or that’s what they say.  In this case, history is teaching us everything.  Almost three and a half years ago, Newark Charter School had a major modification approved that allowed them to open a high school.  One of the biggest concerns was the financial impact it would have on Christina School District.

During the Public Hearing for their modification request, NCS Board President Steve Dressel said the financial impact of $2.4 million wouldn’t hit Christina until year five of their expansion.

While CSD will make the claim that an NCS expansion will be “devastating”, the reality is the financial impact on CSD is quite small.  CSD estimated it to be $2.4 million…

Dressel was correct in one aspect.  That estimation was “quite small” because when you flash forward three years later, that number jumped three times the original estimate.  In their final budget for FY2016, Christina had a picture in the presentation which showed how much Newark Charter School and other charters receive from them.

CSDFY2016FinalBudgetCharterPmts

Christina had 2,008 students choice out of the district to Newark Charter School.  On the Delaware DOE website, it shows NCS had 2,140 students enrolled.  That means nearly 94% of their students come from Christina.  And that number will go up for both this year as NCS reaches a 12th grade.  How do charter payments, which were estimated at $2.4 million three years ago, jump up to $7.3 million?  And counting?  Did the formula go up that much in just three years?  Are we sure this formula hasn’t changed already without anyone knowing?  This is a huge financial impact for a school district.  This illustrates that NCS knows exactly what kind of impact this has when they get their checks from Christina.  And still, they want more.

While some called my article the other day a call for a “holy war” against charters, it was Greg Meece who once said “this is jihad against charter schools,” when the Delaware State Education Association commissioned a report on the impact charter schools have on school districts.  This came from a 2008 article in the News Journal.  Ironically enough, David Blowman talked about the impact this had on the Brandywine School District to the tune of $2.3 million going to charter schools.  Blowman was the key figure in the now-failed attempt at changing the local cost per pupil formula which would give charter schools more money.

At the time of this article, legislation was brought forth to have the State Board of Education limit the number of new charter school applications if it would have a large financial impact on the districts the charters drew their students from.  The bill did not move forward in that session, but Meece’s claims of destruction to Delaware charter schools hardly came to pass.  The report DSEA bought was released to the press by former State Senator Charlie Copeland.  Copeland later opened up a charter school called Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.

I believe history will repeat itself if this new charter funding formula goes ahead at some point.  This scenario has been proven time and time again throughout America over the years.  The price tag keeps getting higher and higher every year.  Even though there was a moratorium on new charters in New Castle County last year, that didn’t stop the State Board of Education from approving many modifications for increased enrollment at some charters.  With all the increases, that might as well have been a new charter school.  But our State Board of Education, led by an Executive Director who is definitely in bed with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, keeps remaining oblivious to the reality before them.

But Meece, drawing from his infamous “crab bucket” analogy from 2012, still seems to think everyone is out to destroy his “successful” school.  Christina is not paying them what they deserve and they want more!  Regardless of the consequences.  The original opinion piece by Meece is no longer available from the News Journal, but luckily Delaware Liberal saved it for all to see:

Years ago, someone explained to me a phenomenon called the “crab bucket syndrome.” As crabs are caught and tossed into a bucket, the first crab tries to climb out to save its life. Other crabs, seeing his escape plan, grab hold of the first crab’s legs, which pulls him back into the bucket. Eventually, all the crabs perish. In schools, this is a metaphor for, “If I can’t have it, neither can you.” This is what happens when a group tries to “pull down” any other school that shows success can be achieved.  This is happening in Newark, where a group is trying to stop one of our most successful public schools, Newark Charter School, from expanding.

As Pandora brilliantly pointed out in her article on this, Meece forgets about all the crabs that are killed so the few can get out as well as the fact that Meece’s actions are what happened to Christina not Newark Charter School.  For Christina, the tipping point with Newark Charter School happened three years ago.  Now it is just the spear point jabbing at an already bleeding wound.

 

Who Was Pulling The Strings At Delaware DOE? It Wasn’t Godowsky. And A Message For NCS Parents.

Chartergate 2016 and the aftermath took over social media in Delaware yesterday.  When I searched “Secretary Godowsky” last night on Facebook I saw tons of posts.  Many people were outraged about Godowsky’s actions, but a fair number were upset about my comments concerning Mr. Greg Meece.  I won’t apologize for that.  Chances are probably pretty good I know a bit more about some behind the scenes stuff than you do.

Let me be perfectly clear on something.  I am not the News Journal.  First off, the News Journal wouldn’t write about most of the stuff I’ve figured out over the years.  Second, a blog is not true journalism.  That doesn’t mean the facts are wrong.  But bloggers do not have a journalistic credo they need to have like members of the Associated Press do.  I saw tons of posts about how I’m so wrong about things all the time.  I’ll own that up to a point.  Sometimes I am wrong.  And when I am called out on it, I will either correct it or write about how someone felt I was wrong.

I always use this as a classic example.  When the Family Foundations Academy fraud was going on at the school, I wrote about it before the mainstream media picked up on it.  One gentleman, and I know he won’t mind me saying this, blasted me for it.  How dare I disgrace the school and their leaders by writing about that.  Turns out I was right.  The same thing happened with Academy of Dover.   I wrote about the Smarter Balanced shenanigans, and still there were doubters, but it turned out I was right about everything.

I don’t mind people doubting my information.  I’ve received bad information in the past and ran with it, much to my chagrin.  Here’s the deal though: if our schools and the DOE were more transparent about things, I wouldn’t have to write at all.  But the hard truth some of you may not realize is this: there is a ton of shadiness that goes on in this state.  That’s what I write about.  I can’t just out sources all the time.  I can’t always produce a smoking gun.  But it’s out there.  Most of the time I turn out to be right.  And when I’m wrong and someone actually lets me know that, I’ll do what is right.  Let’s really be honest with ourselves.  With the stuff I find out, am I really going to get an honest answer?  If I emailed Godowsky about this before I published it, he would have ignored me.  I like Steve.  I think he has a very tough job, but at the end of the day, he answers to the Governor.  With what I do and what he does, there really isn’t a time where we can collaborate.  We have talked many times in person.  We’ve even joked around here and there.  But when it comes to the really tough questions I present to him… he can’t own up to them.  I get that.

Here are some facts for the whole mess.

Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, and Stephen Dressel met with Delaware Associate Secretary of Education David Blowman and the director of the Finance area at DOE, Kim Wheatly, last April.  Meece wanted more money from Christina.  Somehow this evolved to all districts and charters.  Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky is telling people he didn’t know about this until August 19th.  I do know David Blowman was out of the office all last week because I received an out-of-office reply from him.  Blowman and Wheatly set this whole thing up.  Which means Godowsky didn’t know about the letter sent to all the districts on August 8th asking them to justify their restricted and non-restricted sections of their local funds.  I can say with certainty Godowsky was not on that letter.  But I don’t believe it was solely Blowman and Wheatly who knew about this.  Blowman’s boss is Karen Field Rogers, the Deputy Secretary of Education.  And I have always believed that State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson makes it a point to know every single thing that goes on there.  Did it go up higher than that?  I would assume it did.  Education is Jack Markell’s baby, and nobody touches that baby without him knowing about it.

The charters have been holding meetings at the DOE, some public and some private, to change their organizational and financial framework sections of their budget.  They had representation on the Education Funding Task Force this year.  David Blowman was on that task force.  This issue, to the best of my knowledge, never came up during those meetings.

The change in the local pupil cost for charters and choice schools was all set to change.  I found out about this, ironically enough, when I was working on an article about charter school funding.  This news changed that whole article so you may not ever see it.  I heard from one person in one district, then another, and then another.  24 hours later I wrote the article and published it.  When it comes to stuff like this, I explained it the best way I could.  I’m sorry I didn’t pass the News Journal sniff test.  When I break big news, it isn’t going to be easily tied up like an episode of Murder She Wrote.  There isn’t going to be forensic evidence.  Sometimes I’m able to provide that.  But you need to understand that nothing in Delaware is neat and tidy.  We are a very non-transparent state.  There is a good reason we came in 49th place on a national state transparency ranking last year.  Trust me, I would love to have a smoking gun for everything I write.  I want that more than you do.

With stuff like this, you can either take my word for it or don’t and wait for it to be “officially verified”.  I can take the heat.  What I won’t take is someone trying to make an anonymous comment and attacking my son.  That is intolerable.  I’ve written over 2,800 articles on this blog and no one has ever done that until this article.  You don’t like me attacking your school?  I get that.  Blast me all you want.  But don’t you dare make an attempt to come after me through my son with false information.  There is a line, and you went way past it.  I never attack children on this unless they do something so heinous and it is already in the public spotlight, like the Howard High School of Technology murder.  I will write about adults, but attacking kids… no.  And if you disagree with me on something, that’s fine.  But I hope whoever this was realizes this.  You know who you are.

Today, Brian Stephan with Delaware Liberal wrote an excellent article going into the actual financial implications and what it all means.  Thank you Brian!  Brian has much more knowledge about education funding as a member of the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee.  I appreciate him explaining this better than I ever could.  In the article, Brian wrote about what the charter schools seem to be looking for.  It is bogus, in my opinion.

This is my big question, especially for Newark Charter School.  If you have such a great school, great classrooms, great teachers, manageable classroom sizes, students behave better than traditional schools, and so forth, what do you need all this extra money for?  Many charters get extra money when their transportation budget is higher than what they actually spend.  Some charters, like Newark Charter School, get tons of money from this.  Probably more than they would have made had this gone through with Godowsky.  Newark Charter School got free money from the charter school performance fund last year.  $250,000.  They got money from various foundations.  Is it worth all this fuss, especially when they know districts aren’t exactly swimming in money.  Lets face it, all Delaware schools have some fat they can trim.  This isn’t a charter thing, this is a Delaware thing.  I saw many comments about how I am so biased against charters.  I’m not.  I’m biased against financial abuse, closed-door meetings, things done in secret, high-stakes testing, an out of control DOE and Governor, and some legislators who care more about profit and pleasing the rich than they do about kids.  I will fully admit I didn’t understand a ton of aspects with district financing until the past few months.  Charters are smaller so it is easier to find stuff.   I look at them as well now.  But this move that was going to happen until I wrote about it was shady beyond all belief.

Yesterday, the legislators swarmed Godowsky, and he backed down from doing it this year.  And it was a lot more than the four I saw on one legislator’s Facebook post.  But it is not over.  On Thursday morning, all the district business managers are having a meeting at the DOE.  This is a closed meeting.  The charter leaders aren’t backing down on this, and I’m sure the district leaders aren’t going to let this just happen.  This will get ugly.  The legislators are involved now, so a lot could happen either way.  Godowsky and Markell will be gone in January.  So if Markell wants this to happen, he would need to do something now or after the election.

In terms of charter funding overall, the way we are doing it does NOT work.  At all.  It sets up animosity between districts and charters.  We also need to get rid of the false competition which is based on standardized test scores.  And I’m going to say this NCS parents.  Constantly saying we are “jealous” or “his kid must not have gotten into the school” is elitist.  To be honest, I never heard of Newark Charter School until a few years ago.  Ask Greg Meece about me.  See what he says.  Ask him all the questions I’ve written about.  The only time he has ever reached out to me was last winter over a lottery issue with a parent of a disabled child.  Ask him the following:

Why doesn’t NCS show other bank accounts run through the school or school activities on their website?

Why did the board remove their May 2016 board minutes?  These minutes were put back on the NCS website at 5:17am this morning by NCS CFO Joanne Schlossberg, and does discuss the meeting with Blowman:

NCSMayBoardMinutes

New Question: Why were the board minutes modified this morning and put up without approval of the Board of Directors at NCS who has to approve the minutes as per your very own bylaws?

NCSBoardMinutesModified

Why does the school refuse to file a tax return based on very bogus reasons for not doing so in the first place?

Why did Greg Meece ignore the IRS Guidance letter stating charter schools really aren’t exempt from filing tax returns?

Did the school divert funds from allocations they weren’t allowed to in building their STEM lab and their new auditorium?

Why did the school accept a Title I award from the US DOE when they have one of the smallest Title I populations in the entire state?

Why did a teacher from the school publicly state yesterday on a Facebook post that in a year NCS will be over 50% minority?

How can NCS make a claim (from the same teacher) that they have more kids in Basic Special Education in K-5 than many Red Clay schools?

Why would Meece email all the teachers and parents to support the Christina referendum but wouldn’t do it publicly?

Why does Senator Sokola write so much legislation that benefits charters, especially NCS, but has no problem writing laws that make things harder for teachers and parents?  How much input does Greg Meece have on that legislation?

Why does Meece refuse to collaborate on his innovative discipline practices with other schools?

Which, if any, legislators knew about this change in the way districts pay charters before a week ago?  Did any help in the organizing or structure of these secret meetings?  Did any attend these meetings?

Why have I heard from so many teachers in this state that if they disagree with Meece on even the slightest thing they are fired?

And the most important.  Does he believe NCS is better than everyone else?

When he can answer all those questions, which I publicly ask him to do, then I may change my mind about him.  But until then, no, I don’t have a high opinion of him as the Head of School at Newark Charter School.  Sorry, but I have seen and heard far too much to think otherwise.  I understand that for the parents and teachers at NCS it is the greatest place on earth.  There is a reason for that.  And maybe you don’t want to face it, but NCS supposed success is based on very selective enrollment preferences.  Set up a long time ago, this prevents many at-risk kids from attending the school.  Sure, some get in, but not enough based on the demographics.  There are key parts set up which prevent the often-heard excuse of “it’s a lottery, anyone can get in”.  You need to understand that choice has consequences.  It may be great for your kid, but when people like Meece want more money, after he gets tons of it already from Christina and other districts, that takes from the very same at-risk kids who can’t get into that school.  Not in the numbers where it would be a true picture of the surrounding area.  And setting it up with a five-mile radius also prevents kids from not even being able to apply.  So when folks see Meece wanting more money, that is what they see.  They see your kid going to a school built on a façade while their kids will have less.  This isn’t all charters.  But enough.  And when the one that is very guilty of this modern-day social engineering is the genesis of this funding change, you shouldn’t be surprised when there is major blowback.  That’s not jealousy, that’s understanding the implications these actions have on the state.  You want equal funding?  You have to earn that.  Prove it by opening your doors to everyone.  Until then, you can say whatever you want, but we aren’t hearing it.  Not until your demographics show otherwise.

 

 

Delaware Senate Violates Constitution By Passing Budget Without Required Majority 3/4 Vote

On Tuesday, the Delaware Senate passed Senate Bill 285, the FY2017 budget bill, with a vote of 15 yes and 6 no.  The Delaware Constitution requires 3/4 of both the Delaware House of Representatives and the Delaware Senate to vote yes in order for the budget to pass.  The Delaware Senate did not get the necessary 3/4 vote.  It was a little bit over 71%, not 75%.  But they passed it anyways and sent it to the House who did pass it with the required 3/4 vote.  Now it heads to Governor Markell’s desk.  As El Somnambulo pointed out on Delaware Liberal this morning, only the General Assembly can declare this unconstitutional and could send it to the Delaware Supreme Court.  This is the dark side of shady Delaware Politics as El Som pointed out:

The question, of course, was moot when the budgets passed almost unanimously. But that’s not the case this year. I don’t care whether the R’s are doing this just to be pains in the ass. The idea that the General Assembly would willfully pass, and the Governor would sign, a budget that might not meet constitutional standards is, well when you think of it, not surprising. Just depressing and sorta outrageous. And business as usual.

The absolute corruption and fraud in Dover continues.  It isn’t just education folks, it is everything.  This General Assembly has no respect for the Delaware Constitution or those who came before them.  They set up laws to allow illegal activity in our state. Yes, that is an oxymoron, but it is what they do.  And we still keep voting the same people in, year after year.  At least Senator Karen Peterson has the good sense to get the hell out of there before they do something even more stupid.  The same day the Senate illegally passed the budget, WBOC reported a federal judge ruled Delaware’s abandoned property collecting practices violate due process law.  Amounting to revenue for the state to the tune of almost $500 million dollars on an annual basis.  That is about 1/8th of the state budget folks.  How can we, as the citizens of Delaware, allow this to continue?  When will the people rise up and take control?  Are we just as guilty as the politicians that look the other way on illegal activities by electing the lawmakers who violate our Constitution?

Librarian-Gate In Christina Heats Up: Sophie’s Choice or Misinformation? You Decide!

I wrote a post yesterday about the Christina School District choosing not to rehire librarians that were cut as a result of their 2nd failed referendum last year.  Many have gone on the attack against the district and many have jumped to their defense.  One clear and obvious thing is Delaware needs to change their antiquated unit-based funding system to some extent.  I don’t think anyone is arguing that point.  But a lot of accusations were thrown out as a result of my article and I wanted to point out some of them.

During Christina’s 3rd referendum attempt, the situation was dire.  As a result of the last two failed referenda, they had to make some major cuts.  Teachers, para-professionals, specialists, and yes, including librarians.  In several places, whether in writing or spoken word, the district mentioned they wanted to hire back the positions they cut and reduce classroom sizes.  This year, there were anywhere between 35-45 kids in some classrooms.  That isn’t good for any student, much less some of the high-need populations in the district.  One of the members of Christina’s Citizen Budget Oversight Committee, Brian Stephan, also writes for Delaware Liberal.

Let me point out this simple fact: I like Brian.  I think he is a good guy and a very involved parent.  I wish more parents were as involved as Brian and his wife in public education (and on a volunteer basis at that).  I have no doubt in the world he is very well-versed in school financing.  But just as I get my readers stuck in the weeds on issues such as special education or regulations for example, I think that may happen to Brian when he is explaining district financing.  Like any television show, there is frequently a “previously on…” before the show starts.  The brains of everyday citizens don’t remember everything, so they need a constant refresh.  I have to reiterate things on this blog constantly, not only to refresh existing readers, but also for my new readers.  I don’t always succeed with this.  But I would never complain to my readers that I have to explain it again.  That would be an insult to my readers.  I believe this happens in education a lot.  I see it all the time in parent complaints about educators and administrators.  They perceive them as being arrogant, but the reality is they may know more about situations and assume you do to.  When they realize you aren’t aware, the communication style is perceived as condescending or arrogant.  It may be, or it may not be.  There isn’t always an easy answer.  But when both parties are equally aware of a situation, and they dance around it with bad communication, that can be very dangerous.  But I digress…

I like to refer to education funding as a Rubik’s Cube with 64 sides.  It is a beast!  God bless any average parent who has a firm grasp on it, because I know I don’t.  Charters I’m pretty good at breaking down, but that is not the case with school districts.  But I do look at what people write and things they say.  That is the anecdotal evidence I look for in most situations.

Back in March, a week before the referendum, Brian wrote:

What’s the District asking for? An additional $0.30 per $100 of assessed property value that would generate an additional $16.2 million per year. What would that do? $4 million would go toward bringing back the teachers and staff we had to cut (yes, including librarians), and reduce our class sizes. $4 million would go toward the operating fund to keep the district functioning at pre-budget cut staffing levels for the next 2 years.

Note the word “and” when talking about restoring the positions cut AND reducing the classroom size in the above statement.  On Facebook yesterday, Brian was telling folks the current situation with librarians was spelled out succinctly and clearly, but I could not find anything in writing stating that it was an “or” situation.  Currently, defenders of the district are stating it is a building leader’s (principal) choice to either fund a librarian with an earned teaching unit or hire a regular classroom teacher.  In the event that a board doesn’t like that decision, they could force a principal to hire the librarian.  In effect, this comes down to a gut-wrenching choice of either keeping classroom sizes bigger or having a librarian.  Brian alleges this situation plays out in many of our school districts.  I have no doubt he is correct about this, but does the average taxpayer know this?  I doubt it.  This situation wouldn’t have become as intense as it has had this been spelled out during the weeks before the referendum.  Had something been put in writing to the effect of “It is our desire to hire back what we lost but we may not be able to get back every single position”, I would have no issue with any of this.

In response to the firestorm that went down on social media yesterday, Brian wrote a response on Delaware Liberal last night.  In the comments for this, he writes:

I can say that we described the referendum as restoring what was lost. And there’s a reason I didn’t say “Restoring ALL that was lost” because if I could have said *that*, I would have without a doubt.

This is the heart of the matter, in my opinion.  As I wrote in my response to his comment, there isn’t any transparent difference between “restoring what was lost” and “restoring ALL that was lost”.  I completely believe that Brian understands the current situation, but it was not clearly pointed out to taxpayers that their vote would mean one or the other.  That is why I was upset about what is happening with the district not restoring the librarians.  I backed this referendum 100% and fought for the district.  Now I feel like I’m eating crow.  It’s very easy to come back afterwards and explain this in writing.  I called that Monday morning quarterbacking yesterday.  I became very confused when things were written on social media and Delaware Liberal yesterday where defenders of the district wrote the funding is there to restore librarians.  Many commenters were.  But to write things to the effect of “let me explain this again” is not in the best interest of trying to win a point.  Most people feel like they are being talked down to.  But if that is the flavor of Brian’s writing style, that is his choice.

But here is the million dollar question.  If the assumption is that building principals in schools that had librarians cut are not restoring those positions in favor of keeping classroom sizes smaller, will the district take the classroom size waivers next fiscal year?  These are waivers the districts request that actually keep classrooms bigger.  They are usually granted.  Most districts do this, including Christina.  But in doing so, should Christina choose to go that route in December, they are actually breaking another referendum campaign promise, that of reducing classroom size.  Technically, one could say all districts do it and if they are out of compliance in one school they have to do it based on the populations in the school.  But it has also kept classroom sizes at increased levels in many districts and has not made the problem any better.  I could not tell you, based on my limited knowledge of this aspect, how to fix that or who exactly controls that aspect.

But back to Christina.  To make matters even worse, several sources have informed me that Acting Superintendent Robert Andrzejewski told many students the librarian positions would be restored.  These were children who were upset their librarians were no longer there.  Perhaps he spoke out of turn in saying this, but the students are probably the most important stakeholders in any education decision.  Imagine if a librarian was a student’s favorite teacher.  That librarian got cut.  The student was very upset.  They go home after the Acting Superintendent says the librarians will be back.  The student is happy, the parents are hopeful, and the district can count on a yes vote from those parents.  Those kind of events can seriously impact referendum results.  That is a huge issue and could easily be seen, and justifiably so, as a broken promise.

To truly understand what happened here, we do have to look at Delaware’s unit-based funding system.  This is based on the September 30th count for each school in a district or a charter school.  The number of students in the school determines how much state funding the district or charter school gets from the state.  Schools also get funds from federal dollars and local dollars.  What a school can’t pay for from state or federal money, comes out of local dollars which is where taxpayers come in.  A district receives x amount of units based on the population of the district.  With this, there are all sorts of conditions, especially with special education.  Based on a student’s disabilities, the formula changes.

Looking at Christina’s 2015-2016 unit allotment based on their September 30th count, they received the following: based on 15,553 students, they received 1,236.40 units.  This does not mean every unit goes towards one teaching position.  For example, a CTE teacher counts as half a unit, or .5.  Based on the amount of units a district receives, the district determines how many units each building gets based on their student count.  Certain units, such as special education, have to go towards those services (or they are supposed to).  But a building leader, or principal, does have some discretion for how the funds generated from that unit-count are allocated.  They can’t make wild decisions.  If a school’s Smarter Balanced scores are low, they can’t hire 50 math teachers and only 3 English/Language Arts teachers.  But out of that pool of funds is how decisions are made.  The district’s Chief Financial Officer guides the schools with those decisions.  If enrollment is down, based on school choice or students moving from the district, a principal may face some difficult decisions.  I don’t envy a principal making decisions like this, but I also believe they should look at things like what was told to taxpayers in the latest referendum campaign.  Such as the case with Christina now.  Unfortunately, Christina loses a lot of students to charters and this has been going on for the past ten plus years.

So then a district is faced with difficult decisions.  They could either stay on the road they are on, or make changes.  In Christina’s case, they are wisely looking at school climate and discipline as one of the key issues which results in students leaving the district.  I have no issue with this as it is the number one complaint I see for Christina.  Part of their referendum promises was to take a “deep dive” at the situation, come up with a plan, and make changes.  That is completely acceptable in my opinion.  But what Christina also didn’t point out was the fact they would hire an outside vendor to help form this “strategic plan” who also happened to also work for the district in the past.  To the tune of almost $50,000 without a formal bid process.  These are the types of things that need to be spelled out to taxpayers during a referendum attempt.

One of the questions posed on the CSD Paving the Way referendum website concerned school resource officers and if the $1 million the district would use out of the funds generated out of the referendum would go towards bringing those positions back which were cut.  It was clearly spelled out that this decision was not going to be immediately made and that an action committee would form to determine how to handle this issue.  While it doesn’t look like anyone directly asked if all cut positions, such as librarians, would be restored, that would have been the place it would have most likely appeared.  In the absence of that question, many assumed all cut positions would come back.  Not to put the entire blame for this on a referendum website or a well-read blog in Delaware, but it is part of the issues.  As well, Andrzejewski’s comments to students played a factor.  As well, I had grave issues with the district spending $181,200 on what I initially viewed as more assessments for students when a state focus has been to reduce the amount of assessments.  I have since been informed this contract would replace two assessments at less of the cost of the other two assessments, which seems to be a prudent move on the district’s part.  Furthermore, you can’t just rob Peter to pay Paul.  Just because that $181,200 was available for assessments does not necessarily mean you can pay $181,200 in librarians in lieu of those funds.  There are different buckets for different aspects of education, as Brian has explained many times to people.

I received this information from an anonymous commenter named “John Doe”, seen below, but I felt the need to put it in the heart of the article:

Sir, I would please ask that you correct some misinformation included in this blog. It was made clear at the Christina SD Board of Ed. meeting that the district was consolidating, not simply adding, assessments. Yes, a new assessment will be purchased, but it is replacing two existing assessments which together cost the district more money than will be spent on the new assessment next school year. The district is indeed cutting assessments back in a number of sensible ways, and the district will benefit from cost savings as well as savings in instructional time because of these decisions. Teachers and administrators, like carpenters, need good tools to help them do high quality work. For a district the size of Christina SD, the assessment costs the author quoted are very reasonable.

In the past, districts and charters lave gotten themselves in trouble with misappropriated funds in the wrong bucket.  For example, last year Capital School District was warned by the State Auditor’s office they can’t use a Superintendent’s discretionary fund to help pay for band field trips.  That is just one of countless examples where districts did the wrong thing.  Intent plays a big part in that.  Was it an honest mistake or done on purpose?  In the case of some charter schools in Delaware in the past few years, taking school funds and using them for personal use is a big no-no.  But this hasn’t just happened in charters, but also public school districts as well.  But charters are held under more scrutiny than traditional school districts so it could be easier to find.  But by the same token, some of the charter employees who did abuse these funds had not been involved in public education to the extent others in traditional school districts have and were not as well-versed with the law.  This does not excuse their actions.  In fact, it makes the problem more acute and laws should reflect this troubling aspect.

As I learn more about district and charter funding, I am also looking towards the future in regards to corporate interference in education.  Out of the funds schools do receive, what funds are being wasted on assessment and useless programs?  How much is going towards outside vendors who have limited experience in an actual classroom but come out with reports that are utilized by those who support these agendas?  Are districts and charters riding the latest wave that has no factual research to back up the effectiveness of these programs, such as personalized learning in a digital environment?  Are funds being allocated based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and how to increase scores while keeping bloated classroom sizes and not addressing the true needs of students?  These are the things that matter to me.  So when I see librarian positions not being restored (as of now), I have a major beef with that.  That is happening right now, in Christina.  If I am made aware of similar situations playing out in other districts, I will call them out on it.  Which is something, based on this current situation, I am going to be looking for.

Christina has a pocket of folks who do not enjoy any controversy based on decisions made coming out of that pocket, in my opinion.  And when they are called out on it, the fingers point to those casting the blame and not addressing the real issue.  This has landed me in a tough spot with the district in the past and in the present.  If information is not readily transparent, I go by what I do know.  And yes, I am opinionated and I am quick to reach judgment based on what I know, or believe I know.  I’m not denying this.  There are also other factors that play into how I write articles, such as sidebar conversations or issues I am unable to write about to protect others.  But those aspects definitely influence my opinion.  Do I get everything right?  Nope.  I’ll be the first to admit that, and when I don’t, I’ll fix it or write a follow-article.  But if you come on here and comment that I am wrong without explaining how I’m wrong, that I can’t do anything about.  I was accused of starting fires and then saying “I didn’t know” and trying to back out of my original post under that excuse.  Sure, that happens.  I write based on what information I do know and go from there.  Do I always seek clarification from other parties?  I don’t.  Here’s why: I am not a mainstream journalist.  I am a blogger.  The journalistic etiquette for mainstream journalism does not apply to bloggers.  Do I go for the “shock and awe” at times?  Absolutely.  And sometimes I just don’t feel like reaching out will serve a purpose.  All too often, I get no response, I’m attacked, or I get bad information.  That happens more often than not.  As well, the person who accused me of this, I have reached out to in the past over certain things but lately I had not been getting much response.  Until I posted about this latest librarian thing.

This is one of the reasons I admire and respect Christina board member John Young so much.  He is constantly attacked for attacking, or the perception of attacking.  John and I are very much alike in that aspect.  But it gets people talking and I would say it brings more transparency to issues facing public education.  The more people talk about education, the better.  We live in a state where a certain group of people tend to make ALL the decisions and that isn’t good for kids.  Period.  End of story.  If I can shock people out of an education awareness slumber, I certainly will.  This is how John operates, it is how Kilroy operates, and it is how Kavips operates.  It is the heart of Delaware education bloggers mindset, especially those who fight against the insane practices of the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell.  Most of the information we post (or used to in John’s case) is not information that is picked up on by the News Journal or other media outlets.  I don’t believe John’s goal, or my goal, is to intentionally divide, but to bring light to situations people may not be aware of.  But we are attacked for attacking.  If we don’t do these things, how the hell are people going to know these things?  Could we be more temperate in how we do this?  Sure, but would folks listen?  I can say I have defended Christina much more than I have “attacked” them, as some have said.

My intention is not to make things up in order to start a fire.  Unless it is one of my “fan fiction” posts, which are easily recognizable (such as Markell, Herdman, Godowsky, Jaques and Sokola going on a midnight horse ride in Dover), I am basing my information on something real.  If there is more information along the way, it’s going to come out.  If not from me, than in the comments or somewhere else.  Without going into a lot of details, there are some VERY strange things that go on behind the scenes with blogging.  Eventually, all truths are known or they are buried forever.

Updated, 9:32pm: This article has been updated to reflect the discussion about the assessments the district purchased.  I previously wrote these were more assessments, when the reality is they were to replace two other assessments to save instructional time and the district money.  While this is certainly a good thing, it does not change my issues with the librarian issue.

 

Did you vote in the Brandywine Referendum yet?

The Brandywine School District is having their second attempt at a referendum today.  To say both sides have come out swinging for the fences would be an understatement.  Politicians like Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Senator Tom Carper, and State Reps Bryon Short and Sean Matthews have all come out in support for the referendum.  Brandywine father Patrick Wahl appeared on the Rick Jensen show yesterday along with referendum leader James Hanby.  Wahl is claiming the district gave out absentee ballots to an assisted living home along with a host of other issues about the referendum.  The Delaware Dept. of Education came out with a letter yesterday indicating it erred with the number of administrators that show on the DOE website.  Teachers in and out of the district are urging citizens to get out and vote.  Brian Stephan wrote a post on Delaware Liberal yesterday addressing many of Wahl’s allegations.

GodowskyHolodick

We will know tonight if this attempt passed or failed.  It is getting very hard to keep track of what is truth and what is not, from both sides of the issue.  As of 12:55pm today, the New Castle County Dept. of Elections verified 2,085 people have voted already in 18 out of the 22 polling stations.  I’m not taking sides on this one folks.  There is too much mass confusion surrounding this one.  Most likely, the truth is somewhere in the middle in certain areas.  The important thing is to get out there and vote if you live in Brandywine.

Christina School District & Delaware DOE Reach Agreement On Priority Schools

It was revealed yesterday that the Christina School District and the Delaware Department of Education finally reached a signed agreement over the eighteen month priority school battle.  As shown below, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky formally wrote a letter to the State Board of Education indicating this.  As one of their conditional approvals for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan, the State Board can no longer complain about this in their meetings.

Christina School District citizens face a referendum in 13 days.  I really like a lot of what I’m seeing from the district in terms of what they have planned for the money raised from the referendum.  Brian Stephan wrote an excellent article on Delaware Liberal earlier this morning about what the district will allocate the funds for and I like a lot of their ideas.

In the meantime, see the letter that ends the long DOE-State Board-Christina battle over three schools.  Is this the same agreement from a year ago?

GodowskyLetter

16 To Watch In 2016: The Delaware Bloggers

We strike first.  We don’t have to wait for a copy editor or an all-clear from the publisher.  We are the copy editor.  We are the publisher.  You love us.  You hate us.  We show up at meetings when you least expect us.  Some of you get nervous when you see us typing feverishly.  We don’t get paid.  We do it for the kids.  We find you.  We are opinionated and headstrong.  We have allies and enemies.  We know who has been naughty and nice.  We are the tired.  We are the alert.  We don’t cut corners.  We don’t aim to please.  Election Season is coming.  Fear Us.  This is gonna be fun!

KilroyKev

16 To Watch In 2016: Senator David McBride

Delaware Liberal wrote about this half an hour ago.  I woke up and wasn’t sure what to write about today (yes, there are days like that).  And then I read their article.  Senator David McBride has colorectal cancer.  This is a man who has faithfully served in the Delaware legislature since 1978.  Ever since he defeated former State Rep. Robert Byrd, McBride has represented Delaware.  To give some perspective here, I was eight years old when he was elected.  That was 37 years ago.

Senator McBride wrote a letter to his friends and constituents on his Facebook page about his diagnosis.  It was very intimate and personal, but he wants to get the word out.  I admire this long-standing Delaware State Senator for his conviction and courage in what will be a difficult time.  No matter what your politics are, we will all be praying and rooting for Senator McBride in the year ahead.

Friends and Colleagues,

“How are you doing?”

“I’m great, thanks.”

It’s a simple greeting and reply – so automatic it’s almost rhetorical.

And, if you’d asked me that two months ago, it’s exactly the reply you would have gotten. I was exercising, eating well and never felt better.

Then last month, came the words no one ever wants to hear: “Dave, you have cancer.”

Fortunately because my colorectal cancer was detected during a regular screening, I was able to receive prompt treatment. And there’s a road to recovery that my wonderful doctors have put in place. I just have to follow it.

And in some ways, that’s the biggest challenge – dealing with the mental and physical toll of cancer treatment. In part, that’s why I’m writing you today, to ask for your encouragement and your prayers.
Most of you know that I tend keep my private life just that – private – so getting to the point where I could tell you this has been tough. At the same time, I’ve spent my career being honest and forthright. It’s who I am as a Senator and as a man, and it quickly became apparent to me that I must be true to those values, even in the face of this new challenge.

You deserve the truth, but even more than that, you deserve to hear the truth from me.

The truth is, I can’t help but smile at what I see as some real irony in all of this. During my Senate career, I’ve been proud to count myself as a leader in Delaware’s war against cancer. I sponsored the indoor smoking ban and supported efforts to use money from our share of the national settlement with Big Tobacco to fund the state’s Health Fund. Among other things, that fund helps provide money to support cancer screenings for people who couldn’t afford them otherwise. I also sponsored the legislation setting up the Delaware Cancer Consortium, which helps coordinate and guide our state’s ongoing battle with cancer. I really believe those efforts have saved some lives here in Delaware.
And it’s my hope that sharing my story with you today might save some more.

Early on, the Cancer Consortium decided to make colorectal cancer a priority not only because it’s so prevalent, but also because if it’s caught soon enough, it’s treatable and beatable.
Like most of you who are old enough to start the screening process, it’s not something I look forward to. Anyone who has had to take those two doses of the laxative from hell before screenings can easily think of a thousand other things we’d rather do.

In my case, three years ago, it was determined I would undergo annual screenings.

That decision saved my life.

As many of you know all too well, cancer begins as a stealthy disease. Until I heard those words from my doctor, I had no clue I was ill. I thought I was in incredibly good health and was doing all the things I usually did.

Thank God I followed my doctor’s advice and had my screening. And in turn, I hope you’ll take my advice and do the same.

As I write this, I’ve had surgery to remove the cancer and am about to embark on a regimen of chemotherapy to ensure that the disease has been fully defeated. I know that means I’ve got a fight on my hands. It’s a fight I’m ready for now.

I wasn’t so sure just a few weeks ago. As many of you know from first-hand experience or by being at the side of a family member or friend who’s had cancer, the pain has been beyond description. And as upbeat as you all know me to be, the discomfort, coupled with the mental anguish of coming to terms with my experience had plunged me into some real despair.

But I’ve really turned the corner over the last several days, and it’s because of the outpouring of love and support I’ve received from so many.

My wife, Margaret, and my family have helped bolster my spirits, as have the amazing staff at Christiana Care. Words cannot begin to describe the care and support that everyone – from the doctors and nurses to the technicians (who always seem to be checking your vital statistics) and even the friendly cleaning staff – has offered.

Then, there’s all of you.

Serving you as your senator has been one of the great privileges and passions of my life. I care deeply for all of you and my desire to continue serving you and doing the important work that lies ahead has, more than anything, picked me up and pushed me forward.

To be sure, I have a journey ahead of me. There’s six months of chemotherapy to come. But, come Jan. 12, I’ll be on the Senate floor, ready to go to work. There are big challenges ahead of us and I want to be a part of the solution. I look forward to:

• Continue my work with Chief Justice Leo Strine to revise and modernize our criminal sentencing laws as we’ve done over the past couple of years with a wide range of environmental crimes;
• Continue my work as chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Control Committee to preserve and protect Delaware’s fragile and scarred environment;
• Lend my experience and leadership to our state’s efforts to create jobs and grow our economy, while overcoming some tough financial challenges;
• Continue my tireless and passionate advocacy for you, my friends and neighbors in the 13th Senatorial District.

While I intend to continue my record of perfect attendance at regular Senate sessions and to keep up my community involvement, there may be times when my treatment will necessitate sending a member of our amazing Senate staff out to community meetings in my stead. They’ll give me full reports and will be able to reach out to me electronically on the spot if there’s something they think demands my immediate attention. Be assured that my resolve to serve you and my energy are undiminished.

In closing, I want to thank my friends for their well wishes and prayers of support.

More than anything, your support will be the thing that helps me beat this. And down the road, we’ll all get together for one heck of a victory party when I beat this disease.

I may be an old Air Force guy, but I’ve always loved the Navy SEALS creed: “I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength…to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”

With gratitude,

David McBride

We Need Teacher Blogs In Delaware!

As I look at my Delaware blogger list, I see fewer posts by many on the Delaware blogs.  I see very few from teachers in Delaware.  I keep wondering why this is.  My first assumption is they are afraid of retribution for what they write.  Which is why we need Delaware teachers to write anonymous blogs.  We need to hear things from their perspective, the good and the bad.  What is working?  What isn’t?  How are students REALLY doing in the classroom?  How do they do on actual classroom assignments?  What are the concerns and fears teachers have?  How do they feel about Common Core and Smarter Balanced now that we are waist-deep in it?  This voice is dwindling in Delaware and people need to hear it.

So I am calling out for any teachers in Delaware to start anonymous blogs.  I welcome all education blogs in this state.  Kilroy doesn’t post as much these days, but that is for a good reason.  Kavips will sometimes post 10 articles in 2 days, and then nothing.  Delaware Way used to write an awesome collection of education blog stories from the past week.  Transparent Christina rarely writes new material these days.  Where has Steve Newton’s voice been?  What happened to Minding My Matters, Fixdeldoe, and theseventhtype?  I understand many of these people have real lives with things going on, but an occasional post about different viewpoints and opinions is missed.  I saw many blogs start in the past year and then they disappeared.

Blogging is free and it takes time, but it is also an essential part of today’s media.  Bloggers are the Wild West, able to post stories along with their opinions.  The audience is there, but they need YOU!  State Rep. Kim Williams is one of the busiest persons I know, but she recently started an excellent blog called Delaware First State.  Christina CBOC member Brian Stephan of Those in Favor now writes for Delaware Liberal.  So what say you Delaware teachers?  Care to give it a whirl?  Please use WordPress so I can reblog your stuff!  And I would love to hear from Kent County and Sussex County teachers!

Poverty Matters! The Smarter Balanced Impact: Delaware Charter Schools

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According to Delaware Governor Jack Markell, throwing our hands up with poverty is a recipe for the status quo.  As we can see in the above chart, poverty had a tremendous impact in Delaware charter schools.  The higher the low-income status, the lower the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores.  There is no hiding this.  Even the highly-praised EastSide Charter School was not immune to the wrath of the high-stakes test.  Below is part of Governor Markell’s speech he gave at the Imagine Delaware Forum in March of this year:

One of the reasons that we often hear for the struggle of our kids in the inner-city schools is poverty. And it is absolutely true that poverty presents enormous, enormous challenges for many children across our state. They face barriers to learning that the rest of us can’t imagine. And that’s why we need to do everything in our power to lift our children and our families out of poverty and to reach these children from the beginning of their lives, to counter the effects of growing up poor. And we are committed to addressing the root causes of poverty, by increasing access to the best early-learning programs, by investing in economic development and reducing crime and battling the addiction epidemic, and more. But as we pursue these goals we can’t delay improvements to the education kids in these communities receive. I, and I know that many of you, refuse to throw up our hands and say that we can’t truly improve education in these schools as long as poverty exists. That’s a recipe for the status quo, a recipe for fewer of our most vulnerable children to get the skills they need to escape poverty.

What Governor Markell seems to lack insight into or just plain ignores is the impact of poverty on children’s education.  It isn’t something “rigor” and “grit” can fix.  It’s a matter of increasing the funding to these schools, and not under the guise of priority schools or focus schools.  It means lowering the size of classrooms, increasing special education funding, and judging children based on a once a year test the clearly shows how much poverty does matter.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is not improving education. It is making it more difficult for schools to get the true reform they need.  The Delaware Department of Education will be releasing their school report cards with the Smarter Balanced Assessment carrying most of the weight for school grades.  This is highly destructive to schools that do not do well on this test.  With the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education pushing Regulation 103 into state code, we need parents to see how that will affect all school districts in Delaware.

This is just the first of many articles based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and how it affects students of low-income status, students with disabilities, and the most vulnerable minorities in our state.  In conjunction with Delaware Liberal, Exceptional Delaware will be publishing articles in the coming week on this high-stakes testing epidemic that is destroying schools in our state.  This very unique “blog crossover” will paint the picture the Delaware Department of Education doesn’t want the public to see.  But numbers don’t lie.  They present facts that cannot be disputed.  Please come to Delaware Liberal and here to see further articles “Poverty Matters! The Smarter Balanced Impact”.  Delaware Liberal will be covering New Castle County while Exceptional Delaware will be covering Kent and Sussex Counties.  We may cross reference each other here and there, and I highly recommend reading what they have to write, especially with all the potential redistricting in Wilmington and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.

A very special thanks to the always awesome Pandora and LiberalGeek from Delaware Liberal, Brian Stephan of the excellent blog Those In Favor, and Delaware State Representative Kim Williams for their assistance in the data collection and formation of the graphs in this series.  This is truly a collaborative effort on all ends, and Delaware is a better place for it!

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews Tired Of “Test And Punish” & “Cash In The Trash” Education!

Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews has had enough!  Something I think many of us agree on!  As the Delaware DOE announced the long-awaited and much dreaded Smarter Balanced Assessment results, folks immediately started crunching the data to see what it all means.  On Delaware Liberal and Those In Favor, graphs were made showing the relationship between low-income populations in Delaware schools and the Smarter Balanced results.  These graphs were very telling, and show these high-stakes assessments are not doing any favors for low-income students.

This is what State Rep. Sean Matthews had to say about all this:

Enough already! The corporate education “reformers” keep pushing their “test and punish” agenda. It’s failed. It’s failing. It will continue to fail until we address the endemic poverty plaguing some of our students.

The millions we spend each year on standardized testing is nothing more than “cash in the trash.” If we just collected parent/guardian’s income levels, we would get the same data. There is a direct and enduring correlation between a family’s economic health and school performance.

Don’t believe me? Check out these 2 graphs. One from Red Clay School District and one from Christina School District. Keep in mind that within each district, the curriculum, teacher training and governing district polices are the same. The only major difference is the % of low-income students from school to school.

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Rep. Matthews hit the nail on the head!  None of this is about the kids.  It’s about other agendas which results in schools being labeled and punished.  We have seen this sad tale all over America, in Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans and New York City.  Why is it so necessary to turn public education into something it’s not?  These are the tough schools.  The ones where teachers go to, day in and day out.  They don’t have to teach in these schools, they want to.  They want to help these kids.  It’s not for a paycheck, or to have the summers off.  Their unions can’t protect them too much when a school is shut down over high-stakes testing results. They want to be, if they can, the difference in some of these students lives.  I hear so many stories from adults who came from poverty, and very often, they reference a teacher who made a difference in their lives.

When is America going to wake up and realize these kids don’t need the labels.  They don’t need companies and management organizations coming into their schools to “fix” them.  They need consistency.  They need compassion.  They need what they already have.  But the education reformers don’t think that’s enough.  They would rather test these children, all the while knowing the tests they are giving to them are designed for failure, so they can “turnaround” a school.  It all comes down to money, and it makes me sick to my stomach that anyone would use children in this manner.

Someone genuinely asked me if they should continue to send their child to a school like this or send them to a “high-performing” school.  Every time a parent makes a decision in favor of the latter, they are killing public education, one student at a time.  And that’s exactly what the reformers want.  The data in these graphs says one thing.  These tests are great for those with money and very bad for those without.  It’s not about the caliber of the school, or the teachers, it’s about the world these children live in.  The reformers can’t grasp the notion that if they spent their vast millions upon millions of dollars on actually improving communities and creating jobs, that would do far more for these children than any standardized assessment would ever do.  That would be the real reform our children need.

We keep hearing how the Delaware DOE needs this data, and that parents need it. What does it tell you?  You won’t see these graphs on the Delaware DOE website.  But they are more important than any amount of data they will ever put out.  Thank you Rep. Matthews for saying what so many of us are saying.  You have a powerful voice, and we need you to speak for a long time.

*Thank you to Delaware Liberal and Those In Favor for creating these graphs!