Carney & Bunting Announce Teacher Advisory Council But Violate FOIA With First Meeting Today

**UPDATED**, 4:36pm: I was informed by the Governor’s Office this is a public meeting.  With that being said, they are in open violation of Delaware law.

It wouldn’t be Delaware without yet another council.  But this one takes the cake because no sooner does Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting announce this but the first meeting is today.  To assume this decision was made today would be foolhardy because the teachers would have been given advance notice to attend this meeting.  I don’t know when the teachers were given their notice, but I can tell you it did not appear on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar until 3/23.  Today is 3/27.  Delaware FOIA law states all public notices of meetings must be up seven days prior to that public meeting.  I don’t look at that calendar every day.  The last time I looked at it was on 3/22 and I did not see it on there.

The below picture is from the posted agenda:

This is my issue with this.  There is a reason we have that seven-day law.  Not a rule, a law.  Every other state agency who had meetings or committee meetings postponed due to last week’s snowstorm reposted agendas.  But four days, for something brand new, is not acceptable.  The DOE and Carney’s Office could have rescheduled this first meeting.  But no, they announce it the day of with little to no disregard they are violating state law.  Had I known this was an actual public meeting (which was not announced in the DOE’s below press release), I would have gone to it.  But instead, I see an email from the Governor’s Office stating it is.

What was the criteria for the selection of teachers?  Does DSEA know about this?  While I always feel teachers having a louder voice is important, I do NOT like the fact this was just announced today (or on Friday if you want to be technical).  And where is the Parent Advisory Council?  How come parents are always left out of important education policy decisions?  I guess our voices don’t matter as much.  We just have to deal with the results of these education policy decisions…

I would file a FOIA complaint about this meeting with no agenda just being announced today, but it is a backdoor meeting and not open to the public.  FOIA only applies to public meetings.  Which Bunting and Carney don’t seem to want… 

Maybe I should file a FOIA complaint.  Since the meeting is going on, let’s see, NOW.

Council will gather feedback from educators statewide, increase the voice of teachers in policy decisions

DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney and Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education, announced on Tuesday the establishment of a new Teachers Advisory Council to gather the feedback of educators from across the state.

Secretary Bunting invited two teachers from each of the state’s 19 school districts and six charter school educators to join the group, which will facilitate communication, contribute to solutions, and help increase the voice of teachers in policy decisions. The group will meet bi-monthly to discuss a variety of issues affecting teachers.

“Educators work on the front lines helping prepare Delaware’s children for the future,” said Governor Carney. “We are committed to transforming the Department into a true support agency to help schools and educators better serve their students. This new advisory council will help ensure that we are listening to educators every step of the way as we make policy decisions that affect the classroom. Thank you to the educators who are participating, and Dr. Bunting and our team at the Department of Education for convening this group.”

“This is an opportunity for me to hear directly from those who work closest with our children and often feel the most direct effects of our policy decisions,” said Secretary Bunting.

Teachers participating on the new advisory council were recommended by their superintendents or the Delaware Charter School Network for the voluntary role. Secretary Bunting has asked each to share his or her personal feelings as an individual rather than serve as a representative of a district or charter school’s position on an issue.

This group is in addition to the Teacher of the Year Advisory Council, which Secretary Bunting also meets with bi-monthly.

 

Educators participating in the new advisory council include:
  • Kristyn Bradford of Lake Forest North Elementary in Lake Forest School District
  • Seth Buford of Milford High School in Milford School District
    Shorel Clark of Brittingham Elementary School in Cape Henlopen School District
  • Marisa Clarke of Central Elementary in Seaford School District
  • Guy Cooper of Providence Creek Academy charter school
  • Luke Crossan of Waters Middle School in Appoquinimink School District
  • Todd Cushman of Delmar Middle School in Delmar School District
  • Chelsea Darczuk of East Side Charter School
  • Robert Edmondson of Seaford Middle School in Seaford School District
  • Catherine (Katy) Evans of Sunnyside Elementary School in the Smyrna School District
  • Christina Gallo of Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest School District
  • Shelby Gordon of Bunker Hill Elementary School in Appoquinimink School District
  • Emily Green of Caesar Rodney High School in Caesar Rodney School District
  • Robert Harrod of Cape Henlopen High School in Cape Henlopen School District
  • Matt Hoopes of Concord High School in Brandywine School District
  • Shelley Hovanec of Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center in Woodbridge School District
  • Michelle Howard of Delmar High School in Delmar School District
  • Lesley Louder of Dover High School in Capital School District
  • Tina Lykens of POLYTECH High School in POLYTECH School District
  • Jennifer MacDonald of Smyrna High School in Smyrna School District
  • Nathalie Melvin of South Dover Elementary School in Capital School District
  • Phyllis Mobley of Harlan Elementary School in Brandywine School District
  • Elaine Norris of Mispillion Elementary School in Milford School District
  • Petra Palmer of Delcastle High School in New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
  • Michael Paoli of Hodgson High School in New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
  • Sarah Polaski of Christiana Middle School Academy in Christina School District
  • Moraima Reardon of Woodbridge High School in Woodbridge School District
  • Lisa Richardson of Millsboro Middle School in Indian River School District
  • Matthew Sabol of William Penn High School in Colonial School District
  • Dara Savage of Early College High School charter school
  • Cameron Sweeney of POLYTECH High School in POLYTECH School District
  • Crystal Thawley of Sussex Technical High School in Sussex Technical School District
  • Elizabeth Van Aulen of Wilson Elementary School in Christina School District
  • Anthony Varrato of Sussex Technical High School of Sussex Technical School District
  • Kim Weber of Welch Elementary in Caesar Rodney School District
  • Leigh Weldin of Conrad School of Sciences in Red Clay Consolidated School District
  • Karen Willey of Sussex Academy charter school
  • Jill Young of Lord Baltimore Elementary in Indian River School District
  • Stacie Zdrojewski of Red Clay Consolidated School District Office

The Teacher Advisory Council will meet on Tuesday, March 27th from 4:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. at the Collette Education Resource Center Conference Room, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover.

The IEP Task Force Is Back! Too Bad Nobody Knows & They Are Having Non-Public Meetings…

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Today the IEP Task Force reconvened in a meeting about the new IEP Plus 5.0.  Together with the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC), a meeting was held to go over the new functionalities of the IEP computer system that former Chair of the IEP Task Force Matt Denn wanted to scrap altogether.  This meeting was SO important nobody knew about it.  And unless legislation has been introduced extending Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 from the 147th General Assembly, anything with the name “IEP Task Force” is technically illegal.

cantbloghere

While pretty much nobody showed up to the meeting from the old IEP Task Force, I find it interesting the DOE would stage a meeting in conjunction with the GACEC and this mythical new IEP Task Force.  None of the legislators from the previous task force showed up.  Matt Denn wasn’t there.  So who is running this?  Apparently, the Director of the Exceptional Children Resources Group Mary Ann Mieczkowski ran the meeting.  She was on the IEP Task Force.  And she is also a member of the GACEC.

closedtothepublic

So we have a non-public meeting of two very public entities.  Say the IEP Task Force was just a name thrown on over a month ago (which was when an email was sent to different task force members advising them of this meeting today).  The GACEC should have definitely put this on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.  But I guess non-transparency is okay if nobody finds out about it!

ParentsNotPermitted

From what I have learned, the meeting was very boring.  It was a lot of technical lingo about the updated computer system run by Sunguard.  Sunguard also runs e-school, that clever little database that houses EVERYTHING about your child.  IEP Plus is the system where ALL IEPs are stored.  But that’s not the point.  I’ve been in IEP meetings where IEP Plus sucks the oxygen out of the room and technical difficulties take up far too much time.  I’m sure it isn’t just schools and the DOE who are fed up by it.  But here is the DOE, probably paying tons of money for this upgrade with no one the wiser.  By denying any parent the ability to go to this meeting, I have to wonder what other meetings are going on in this state behind closed doors that should be open to the public.  I’m sure there are plenty!  Like I’ve said a couple times: “Delaware, first to sign the Constitution, the last to follow it!”

authorized personnel

Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens Website Is A Hot Mess! Transparency Non-Existent!

The Delaware Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) website appears to be in severe disarray.  The last agenda for one of their meetings is for their March 17th, 2015 meeting.  The last minutes are from their June 2015 meeting.  When does this group meet?  On the Delaware Public Meetings Calendar it shows their last meeting was November 17th, 2015.  No agenda was on the calendar either.  Are they even meeting anymore?

I used to get emails from this group when I was on their distribution list.  But once I blasted them for their opposition of the parent opt-out legislation, House Bill 50, I was banned from this email list.  My guess, this is now an “inclusive club” in Delaware that doesn’t have to follow state law for public meetings or transparency.  As a group that is supposed to represent the disabled of Delaware, this is very disheartening to see.  I expect more out of any state agency or council, but I expect much more out of this group.  Is Wendy Strauss still the Executive Director?  Is Robert Overmiller still the Chair of GACEC?  When are their meetings?  They do have a calendar of their meetings for the year, but that isn’t saying much without the other necessary state law compliance in effect.

GACEC

Why does this group think they don’t have to be visible with their activities?

State Board Of Education’s Statement On Action For WEIC Plan Ignores The Fact They Took No Action

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Gotta love the Delaware State Board of Education.  Only they are arrogant enough to consider their “not an approval or a denial” of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan an action.  Don’t believe me?  It’s on their own website: Statement from the State Board of Education with regard to action taken on the WEIC plan – January, 21, 2016.  And yes, they did put a comma after January.  For a group that takes action all the time (usually to the detriment of public education), why are they now sitting on the fence?

The State Board is now in violation of the law as dictated by Senate Bill 122.  I wrote about how they were in danger of breaking the law last Friday.  As of today, there is no notice of a public meeting by January 31st on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar.  The State Board, by not taking action on the WEIC plan, has failed to give WEIC the sixty day window to make improvements in the plan.  What happens if they vote no at their March board meeting?  They have to vote by this coming Sunday, but without putting an agenda up for a meeting a week prior, they can’t have a meeting without violating Delaware State Code in regards to public meetings.  Meanwhile, State Rep. Kim Williams found some other potential violations that went on at last week’s State Board meeting.

Who watches the Watchmen?  In Delaware, in terms of the State Board of Education acting (or not acting in this case) without impunity, it seems nobody does…

To read their official statement on their action inaction taken at last week’s State Board meeting with WEIC, read below:

AFWG & Penalty For Participation Rates Still Alive While DOE Racks Up More FOIA Violations

Before you read this, you absolutely have to read State Rep. Kim Williams breakdown of their last meeting.  This is essential!

Okay, welcome back.  The Accountability Framework Working Group met last week for their second to last meeting.  Their next meeting will be on October 5th at 1:00pm.  I put all the notes from their first 11 meetings here and they have since updated the DOE website to include the notes from Meetings #12-14, and Agendas for #14 and #15.  Keep in mind the notes were written by the Delaware DOE.

Meeting #12 happened the same day I broke the news about this group and the whole participation rate thing.  I had not delved too deep into it at this point, and it would stand to reason the meeting happened around the same time as my article went up that day.  The key part from this meeting is this:

…as well as ensuring that schools with significant achievement gaps in ELA and Math proficiency and the four-year graduation rate do not receive the state’s highest rating.

Of particular interest is this part about what is required under ESEA and what constitutes a school getting the highest rating.  This will play a huge part later on in this article.  This meeting also had the first mention of Regulation 103 which had already been submitted to the Delaware Register of Regulations at this point.

Meeting #13 was held on September 2nd.  I don’t know how many members of the AFWG were aware of my articles on this group at this point, but I know for a fact at least three of them were.  Nothing was said about participation rate or Regulation 103 at this meeting as per the notes.

Now where things get really interesting, and nobody really knew, was the DOE all of a sudden put out an agenda for the next meeting of the AFWG on September 17th.  By state law, if you are putting out an agenda, it has to be done a week ahead of time if it is a public meeting.  This agenda was NOT on the DOE website as of 9/14/15 because I looked that day.  If you look on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar you can see this listed as a Public Meeting.  However, if you right click on the actual PDF created by Jennifer Roussell at the Delaware DOE on 9/16/15 at 8:36am in the morning, the Delaware Department of Education violated FOIA law by not announcing this a week earlier.

The proverbial stuff hit the fan at Meeting #14 on September 17th.  This was the same day as the State Board of Education meeting and news of Regulation 103 and its implications for Delaware schools spread like wildfire prior to this meeting.

Note that the group unanimously voted down the participation rate against proficiency.  But the AFWG does not have the final say on this.  That is the State Board of Education, who had quite a bit of discussion about this along with members of the public at their meeting that day.

But what the AFWG member who spoke at the State Board of Education meeting did not say was this:

The AFWG members present unanimously recommended removing Participation Rate for the Adjusted Proficiency calculation. Further discussion on the accountability consequence for schools missing the 95% target was requested. Initial feedback supported a rule that no school could receive the highest performance rating on DSSF if they missed the 95% threshold.

Since that meeting, I requested from Dr. Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna at the Delaware DOE the exact law, code, or regulation which states participation rate is required to be any part of a state’s accountability system.  As well, Schwinn said at the 9/17 State Board of Education meeting she was going to request this from US DOE.  To date, NOTHING has been presented.  I spent countless hours going through federal laws concerning this and ESEA waiver laws, rules and guidance, and there is absolutely NOTHING in Federal law that states this is a requirement.  NOTHING.  DOE knows this, but they are stalling.  AFWG needs to stop relying on the word of Penny Schwinn and actually research this for themselves.  But please keep in mind this is what the DOE wrote in the notes and may not actually be what was discussed.  If any member of the AFWG wants to contact me about this, please do so.

Last week, on 9/23/15, the AFWG held their 15th meeting.  Again, an agenda was put up, without 7 full days notice.  It is one again on the Public Meeting Calendar and this one even says there can be public comment at the meeting.  If you do the right-click thing again on this PDF and go to document properties, it was created on 9/17/15.  Two public meeting FOIA violations.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams attended this meeting as I wrote earlier.

The group will meet again on 10/5/15, but you won’t find it on the DOE website.  You have to look in the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar again but at least they got the agenda out more than seven days before the public meeting.  Maybe they were thinking if you add up all the days together for the last three meetings that would be sufficient enough to get a total of twenty-one days.  But that is some fuzzy math, cause that would only be seventeen days…

This will (for now), be the last meeting of the AFWG.  Will you be there?  Of course, it’s on a Monday afternoon, during that oh-so-convenient time for working parents and teachers to come.  But we can’t interfere with the State Board of Education’s Grotto’s Smarter Balanced party at 4pm.  Or the Charter School public hearings beginning at 4pm.

But this has to be the last meeting because it needs to be presented to the Delaware Education Support System group the next day, also during the same hours between 1-4pm.  The group that has no agenda and does not take minutes for their meetings.  Because it is so important to present it to this clandestine group but not parents in a transparent way…

This whole thing has become the biggest debacle in DOE history.  They are breaking the law all over the place.  And yes, I have already submitted two more FOIA complaints for their latest public meeting decisions concerning the AFWG for a grand total of seven pending complaints with the Delaware Department of Justice and two with the federal US DOE.