The Delaware Department of Education released the 2019 September 30th Unit Count report earlier this month. Special education numbers are rising each year. This is now the 6th year I’ve written about this report. This covers everything: special education, demographics of each district and charter school, and enrollment trends in Delaware’s public education. One of the demographics in Delaware public schools is actually decreasing which came off as shocking to myself. Continue reading
The Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education released their annual state determinations for special education in public schools. Their system of rating states and, by default, schools is problematic on its best day. Far too much emphasis is placed on the state assessment. In Delaware, that test is the Smarter Balanced Assessment for most students with disabilities. We all know it is a horrible test but no one seems to want to change it anytime soon. This is for the Part B determinations. Part C is for children with disabilities aged 3-5 while Part B is for students in elementary up through 12th grade.
The letters to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting can be found as follows:
You will notice some very distinct patterns in the below local education agency determinations for Delaware. No traditional school district met requirements. Those that were labeled as “Needs Intervention” tend to be the larger districts with high pockets of low-income students, minorities, and higher populations of special education students. All the schools that met requirements only serve high school students. I take these things with a grain of salt but it is not a state secret that Delaware special education needs a serious overhaul! As usual, the state education agency, the Delaware Department of Education, is not judged under the same criteria as our districts and charters. If they were, the Delaware DOE would assuredly need intervention.
Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements
Delaware Military Academy: Meets Requirements
First State Military Academy: Meets Requirements
New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements
Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements
Academia Antonia Alonso: Needs Assistance
Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance
Campus Community: Needs Assistance
EastSide Charter School: Needs Assistance
First State Montessori Academy: Needs Assistance
Great Oaks Charter School: Needs Assistance
Lake Forest: Needs Assistance
Las Americas ASPIRAS: Needs Assistance
MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance
Newark Charter School: Needs Assistance
Polytech: Needs Assistance
Positive Outcomes: Needs Assistance
Providence Creek: Needs Assistance
Seaford: Needs Assistance
Sussex Academy: Needs Assistance
Thomas Edison: Needs Assistance
Appoquinimink: Needs Intervention
Brandywine: Needs Intervention
Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention
Cape Henlopen: Needs Intervention
Capital: Needs intervention
Charter School of New Castle: Needs Intervention
Christina: Needs Intervention
Colonial: Needs Intervention
Delaware Design Thinking Academy: Needs Intervention
Delmar: Needs Intervention
DSCYF: Needs Intervention
Early College High School: error on web page for letter
Friere Charter School: Needs Intervention
Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention
Indian River: Needs Intervention
Kuumba Academy: Needs Intervention
Laurel: Needs Intervention
Milford: Needs Intervention
Odyssey Charter School: Needs Intervention
Red Clay: Needs Intervention
Smyrna: Needs Intervention
Woodbridge: Needs Intervention
In essence, administrator counts are being determined by units of pupils, as opposed to the number of personnel under their span of responsibility.
Next Tuesday, January 15th, Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a press conference at Legislative Hall to announce a weighted funding system for Delaware students. Luckily, this blogger got the details of it this evening. The devil, as they say, is in the details. Continue reading
The Delaware Department of Education released the September 30th counts report for the 2018-2019 school year. Enrollment in Delaware is up by 775 students. Special education is on the rise, jumping to over 16%. There are some very odd trends going on with different sub-groups in Delaware. Ones that are making me VERY suspicious. Continue reading
The Delaware Department of Education announced Delaware won $10.4 million dollars from a federal grant. What is the innovative use for this whopping amount of money? Absolutely nothing new. Everything that charter schools are supposed to be doing already based on Delaware state code. This is just U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s way of screwing traditional school districts by siphoning more money off to charter schools under “education improvement”.
Meanwhile, our Delaware Department of Education didn’t have enough oversight to do anything about Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security and watched them shut down a month into the school year. They could have taken off their “do-nothing see-nothing glasses” and gotten some strong meds for their scorching case of Pretendonitis and actually shut down the school earlier this year. But why do that when closing the school will actually disrupt students, families, and staff?
Does this grant money mean the DOE gets to keep some of this money? Haha! Of course it does. Maybe they can actually get a Charter School Office leader who can actually lead that office instead of covering stuff up for the charter schools!
Delaware wins $10.4 million federal grant to strengthen charter school system
I just called Jonathan Starkey, Governor Carney’s Communications Director. I asked him flat-out what Governor Carney is doing about the Susan Bunting situation. I received silence. I then advised Starkey we are now seeing 105.9 articles being removed from Google searches and my Facebook post being reported as spam last week. His official response: “No comment.”
I let Starkey know there would be more coming out and this is just making the Governor look worse. He thanked me for my call.
Seriously? Carney better get his head out of the sand and act on this. We have a sitting Secretary of Education, at a Cabinet level position, with allegations of knowing about widespread financial theft and parent complaints about extremely egregious behavior from Patrick Miller, and Starkey gives me a “no comment”?
I thought about the Facebook spamming and the 105.9 article disappearing from Google. The fact that it is disappearing shows they do not want it out there. It isn’t a case of it being untrue and they know it. They are actively trying to suppress the information and preventing people from seeing it. In the grand scheme of things, a Delaware Secretary of Education knowing about this stuff isn’t earth-shattering news for America.
This is my hunch: Bunting is just the tip of the iceberg. It was just last Friday the Delaware Dept. of Justice sentenced a former DOE employee to probation for stealing grant money. Patrick Miller was doing the same thing. How rampant is this? How many education dollars have been stolen over the years? I believe this is what they don’t want us doing. They don’t want us knowing they have been powerless to stop it so they ignore it and pray it goes away. The people of Delaware aren’t idiots. As I told Starkey, I’m not giving up on this.
If you have ANY information about foul play with Delaware education funds, anywhere, be it a district, charter school, or the DOE, anything, let me know. I promise confidentiality. But it is time for the shattered puzzle pieces to come together so we have a clear picture. As taxpaying citizens, we need to know what is going on. Enough is enough. No more. If they want a war, they just got one.
I’ve been wanting to do this for years! I’ve changed this blog to include links to every single Delaware school district and charter school. As well, I’ve added all the Delaware media (newspaper and radio) websites. I’ve included many State of Delaware websites: Delaware DOE, Governor Carney’s website, The General Assembly, Auditor of Accounts, Attorney General and more! Various education support groups have been added: DSEA, Delaware Charter Schools Network, Delaware School Boards Association, Delaware Association of School Administrators and more! You will still be able to find a list of current Delaware blogs as well as closed Delaware blogs. I cleaned up those lists to take out ones that are not current anymore (nothing written in 2018) and those that are non-functional. In addition, I’ve added some links to what I call “transparency” sites that folks ask me about all the time. I’ve found a ton of information over the years at many of these links and so can you!
If you are not on these list of links and would like to be added, please let me know. I try to get everything but I’m not perfect!
I hope these changes will allow Delaware citizens, parents, students, teachers and more be able to navigate through our state easier. These are just the first of many changes coming to Exceptional Delaware!
Transparency in public education is a must. When more than a quarter of Delaware’s state budget goes to public education, the citizens expect, and rightfully so, transparency. But some of our districts and charters struggle with transparency.
I haven’t done this since 2016, but I thought it was a good time to see how Delaware’s traditional school district and charter school boards were doing with transparency on their websites. I checked for board minutes, board agendas, and board audio recordings. Continue reading
How were the Delaware school districts and charter schools rated this year for special education? Every single one is in here and the joke isn’t even funny anymore! Continue reading
**UPDATED BELOW WITH NEW INFORMATION ABOUT ONE DISTRICT**
Two years ago, letters went out to five charter schools from State Auditor Tom Wagner letting them know they were in violation of Delaware’s Budget and Accounting Manual (BAM). For the purposes of this article, I looked to see how many districts and charters violated BAM in one area. That was where they write checks from petty cash accounts for more than $500.00. That is a big no-no according to BAM. I looked in both FY2017 and FY2018 up until May 31st. There were many offenders, including two who were included in the 2016 letters! The reason I started with FY2017 was to give the benefit of the doubt just in case districts and charters were not clear of the rule before that fiscal year. This isn’t just a few districts and charter schools. Continue reading
A piece of Delaware legislation that is out for consideration would seek to have the Delaware Secretary of Education obtain the authority to suspend a teacher’s license under certain felony crimes or a clear and immediate danger to students prior to certain actions taken by a school district or charter school. Similar to a bill Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf put out a couple of years ago, this one defines the types of felonies that could warrant the Secretary exercising this type of authority. The bill is sponsored by Senators Bryan Townsend and David Sokola and State Representatives Earl Jaques and Pete Schwartzkopf.
The synopsis of the bill is as follows: Continue reading
SS1 for Senate Bill #85 should get a final vote in the Delaware House of Representatives today. If it passes and Governor Carney signs the legislation, it should mean Delaware students won’t receive out of school suspensions for ridiculous offenses. The bill would make schools report the offenses they suspend students for and, data shows, schools don’t like being called out for zero tolerance policies!
The bill came out two years ago as part of the 148th General Assembly but it didn’t make it out of that session. Senator Margaret Rose Henry tweaked the bill and after more than two months, the bill comes down to the House vote today. If this is Senator Henry’s education bill swan song, it will be a good one! Senator Henry is retiring after the end of this session.
This Act draws attention to the types of discipline used in schools by capturing data about out-of-school suspensions and publishing that data, in an effort to help schools identify areas where the data regarding out-of-school suspensions indicates there is room to reduce such suspensions. This Act is meant to increase transparency, improve overall school climate, resulting in improved student outcomes. The collection and publication of this data will also help the Department of Education and community partners identify opportunities to provide greater supports to schools, students, and their families. According to data provided by the Delaware Department of Education (“DOE”), thousands of Delaware students receive out-of-school suspensions each year for minor infractions, such as being unprepared or late for class, dress code violations, and disrespectful behavior. In 2013, only 2% of out-of-school suspensions were for serious offenses such as weapons, drugs, or serious violence. Out-of-school suspensions do not address the root causes for the misbehavior, and only serve to put the students further behind in class. Furthermore, DOE data shows that, in 2013, African-American students made up only 32% of the student body, but accounted for 62% of out-of-school suspension, and students with disabilities made up 13% of the student body, but accounted for 24% of out-of-school suspensions. Federal discipline guidance, developed jointly by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice, instructs schools to commit to regular evaluation of school discipline policies and practices, and monitor progress toward the schools’ climate and discipline goals. The federal process requires schools to collect and publicly report disaggregated student discipline data and solicit feedback from students, staff, families, and community representatives. This Act also makes technical corrections to conform existing law to the guidelines of the Delaware Legislative Drafting Manual. This Substitute Bill makes the following changes to Senate Bill No. 85: 1. References the existing definition of “disruptive behavior” in Title 14. 2. Includes “disability” as a category for data collection. 3. Extends by 1 year the years stated in the requirements to retain the same time frames. This is necessary because this Act will be enacted in 2018, not 2017 when it was drafted. 4. Clarifies what information is required for reports and provides deadlines for the required plans and reports. 5. Clarifies that schools must develop plans and strategies with stakeholder input. 6. Clarifies content for professional development.
Yesterday, citizens and residents of Delaware lamented the very poor turnout for local school board elections. All told, based on unofficial results from each county’s Board of Elections, less than 7,500 people voted. Those numbers are a source of ire for many this morning on social media. Everyone is asking why.
As myself and others pointed out, school board elections are held every single year on the 2nd Tuesday of May. The polls are open at various schools in each district from 10am until 8pm. Current legislation would change the start time to 7am in an effort to be consistent with other elections in Delaware. In competitive districts, such as Red Clay and Christina, signs are placed by candidates all over the place.
Some folks said doors were locked at schools when they went to vote. Others said they didn’t even know the elections were taking place. The state’s biggest newspaper, The News Journal, did not give out surveys to candidates and did not give the elections the coverage they deserve. Some people said it was the job of the candidates to get the word out.
Not every district had an election due to only one candidate filing. This was true in Dover, the capital of Delaware. Capital Board President Sean Christiansen ran unopposed. This is the first time that happened in Capital School District in many years. But in Red Clay, where only 1,724 votes were cast, and Christina, which had 2,246 between two elections, those numbers pale in comparison to the actual populations they represent.
School boards are very important to communities. They make decisions for the children that attend their schools as well as decide how much folks pay in school taxes. Those numbers are set by the business leaders in the districts based on their budget but the school board votes on it. It is a rare occasion where a school board does not pass their budget and tax matters. School boards also vote on when a school district has to go out for a referendum. By the time a school district feels they have to go out for a referendum, it is because they know they won’t have enough money in a certain area whether it is for operating costs or construction (known as capital costs). But they are the public face of a school district. Most of the big decisions have already been decided on by the district. The school board just votes on those decisions. In many cases, the board votes on the whims of the district with few exceptions. Some parents attend board meetings religiously but most do not. Parent engagement is something all school districts strive for but unless it is a sports or entertainment event, turnout tends to be low.
In some situations, school board members listen to the voices of parents or other residents and put forth policy for their board to vote on. This can be controversial at times with matters such as parent opt out of standardized testing, what books can be read in a district, or even how a board feels about current legislation or regulations such as the very controversial Regulation 225.
Not every decision in a school district is decided on by a school board. State law and federal mandates demand schools follow certain rules and protocols. Those are things, like the IDEA special education law or state testing requirements, that a school board can not tweak or change. At times, local school board members can develop a strong voice in opposition to certain state and federal laws. This can cause discontent amongst school board members. While many school districts tend to rubberstamp action items desired by the district, other districts like Christina can have lively board meetings where members openly challenge each other and do not always agree.
Charter schools, which represent about 15% of Delaware public schools, do not hold elections for their boards. It is decided on by the board itself. Charters can draw students from different districts so holding an election to the general population would be very tough to do.
For parents that reside in school districts but do not have children in those schools, whether they attend private schools, charter schools or homeschool, how do they even become aware of school board elections? If they don’t subscribe to the News Journal or other local media and do not follow school districts on social media, how would they even know a school board election is taking place? The same can be said for residents who do not have children such as the elderly. Many of these residents do not feel they have skin in the game so why should a local school board election matter?
What makes school board elections different is they are not based on a certain political party. It truly doesn’t matter whether you are Republican or Democrat as party affiliation should not play a factor. What drives many folks to vote in the General Election is whether or not the candidate is Republican or Democrat.
Like myself, there are others in the state who follow education like pollen to a honeybee. We tend to vote and write about education all the time. But we are not the norm. Unless you are actively involved on social media and follow things, you may not be acutely aware of things like school board elections or referenda. As well, the timing of school board elections is somewhat odd. It is in the heart of Spring during a time when many students are involved in spring sports. It is during a work day. But these are things that still occur during the General Election in November each year. What is the difference? State and national politics are written about in the media more extensively than school boards. There is more money that flows into candidate coffers during their elections. School board members do not get paid for their service whereas legislators and other elected positions do. That changes the landscape and the stakes for candidates. For some legislators, that is their primary source of income so they have to get out there and rally for votes.
I won’t pretend to have an answer to this question. Changing the start time could have a difference in votes, but to truly win the hearts and minds of Delawareans and why they need to vote in these elections is the challenge of the day. Some have suggested holding school board elections during the General Election while others feel candidates would lose their voice if they had to compete for attention against other elections. Personally, I feel the Department of Elections should place billboards up and down the state informing people of when school board elections are. Some have said the school districts need to make more parents aware but that limits the voting populace. In some districts, there could be more voters who don’t have children in the local school district than those that do. Why not hold school board elections on Saturdays instead of during the work week?
In a state with almost a million people and over 130,000 children in public education, 7,500 votes is nothing. It is a drop in the bucket. Even though they don’t make state-wide decisions, they do make major decisions for the communities we live in.
As part of the Every Student Succeeds Act, all schools are required to provide more transparency with how they spend money. Delaware Senator Sokola seeks to codify this with legislation currently in circulation for sponsorship.
I like this bill. I believe an amendment should make sure every expense down to the school level is given a specific category. Trying to read Delaware’s online checkbook is a lesson in futility at times and does not give an accurate picture to make sure funds are spent the way they are supposed to. Excluding certain items, like under (2) (b) of the proposed legislation should not happen. Yes, these funds can be tracked in a confusing way through state reporting procedures but putting the whole puzzle together can be very difficult.
What do you think? Will this bill provide the information we need?
It all starts with an idea. But ideas that roll around in your mind will always be just that. It is now time for action! Therefore, this is the birth of Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students.
For almost four years I’ve been writing about education in good old Delaware. It’s taken me from the bottom of Sussex all the way to the tip-top parts of the state. I’ve been to Legislative Hall and the Delaware DOE building more times than I can count. And nothing has changed. In fact, I’m going to say it is getting worse. Especially with special education. But it isn’t just that. It is also issues dealing with school discipline, race, gender, bullying, classroom management, class sizes, safety, and trauma coming into our schools in ways our educators are just now starting to fathom and understand.
To that end, I am taking my email/Facebook/social media/cell phone advocacy out of the digital world and into the schools. This will be a huge task and I need your help!
These are the issues I am willing to advocate for students:
Special Education: whether it is IEPs or 504 plans, it is important to know your child’s rights, the parental rights, and the rights of the school. Many parents feel overwhelmed in IEP meetings. Trying to learn about federal IDEA law, Delaware State Code, and all the pending special education legislation is a task in itself. Do you have a child with a unique disability that may warrant very specific goals or accommodations in their IEP?
School Discipline: does the punishment fit the crime? Does the punishment meet the criteria of the school student code of conduct? Does it follow state law? If a student has an IEP or 504 plan was it a manifestation of their disability or just poor choices? What are the rights of students when there are School Resource Officers, constables, or armed security? When is physical restraint warranted? How does it work with transportation and busing when a discipline issue comes up?
Trauma: Is your child going through a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder based on violence in their neighborhood? Or in their own home? Are their grades falling behind as a result of this? Are they acting out? These are students that may not be special education but need an advocate to help schools and teachers sift through these issues so they can give your child the best education possible.
Bullying: Is your child being bullied? Are you finding the school isn’t doing everything they can to put a stop to it? What steps can you take to make sure they do?
These are my goals:
To serve any of the above needs or potential conflict a parent may have with a school.
To guide parents on the appropriate ways to deal with the folks in the schools. This isn’t as simple as it looks, and when things escalate, there is a proper chain of steps to go through.
To work with every school district and charter school in the state to make sure Parent Council Groups for special education are up and running.
To advocate meaningful dialogue between parents and schools. This is crucial. But it is also important to make sure there is one adult in the room who can be unbiased and impartial. Screaming heads don’t get you far. It might feel good in the short-term, but it is not conducive to the best interests of the one person who matters the most- your child!
To inform parents of their child’s rights and how that applies to the school setting. To inform parents of the differences between legislation and regulation and what is enforceable and what is not.
To make sure due process rights are followed to the letter of the law in discipline situations.
I am not an attorney nor do I pretend to be. I am just a parent with my own special needs child who has run the gauntlet with Delaware schools. If your child’s school building doesn’t know me directly, they know of me. All the district and charter leaders know me as well as the legislators. I have contacts all over the place and know exactly who to go to when things need to happen. I’ve helped parents out for years but it is time to take it to the next level.
I will be doing this work at no cost. But any organization or business (whatever this turns out to be based on demand) needs funding. Pure and simple. So I am asking for donations from folks in Delaware who see this growing need in our state. Whether it is a dollar or more, every bit counts. I am willing to go up and down our state to help our kids. I am centrally located in Dover so my door is open for all!
If you are of mind to help get this going and help sustain this, any contributions are certainly welcome! Please go to the Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students page here: https://www.gofundme.com/exceptional-advocacy-for-delaware
If you are a parent who needs help in dealing with a situation involving your child at a Delaware school, please contact me as soon as possible. My email is email@example.com and we can exchange phone numbers from there.
After weeks of work, all of the Delaware Public Education salaries over $100,000 have been posted with a few exceptions. Those are four charter schools who either did not respond or will in the next couple of days. But there is more than enough data to make some sense out of all this. Many asked why I was posting these. There were several reasons: requests, comparisons, money tracking, and general curiosity. But the main reason was to see if I could answer the age-old question- “Are there too many administrators?” Finally, I am prepared to answer that. Continue reading
On February 28th, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to every single Delaware school district and charter school. The ask? Every single employee with an annual salary over $100,000. I based it on that specific number because I know pretty much every single assistant principal and up (with a few exceptions) makes over $100,000. One of the key questions in Delaware education is “Do we have too many administrators?”. This comes up every single time the state budget conversation heats up or a district goes out for a referendum. Continue reading
As I was combing through Title 14 this evening, I found something astonishing. I know of a Principal that changed a grade for a student. It looks like that Principal broke the law. I believe that Principal is retired now and who knows what the enforceability of this law is. What this means is only the very highest level in a district or charter school can change a teacher’s grade. Even on something as small as homework. The law is below. I have to wonder how much the Delaware Secretary of Education actually gets on this! Continue reading
After months of waiting, I received an email from the Delaware Department of Education that their 2016-2017 Annual Bullying Report was completed and up on their website. While I am unable to take a deep dive into this and compare it to previous years, I did want to get it out there for folks to view. When I asked the DOE last week about the status of the report, they did explain the area that handles the report went through a leadership turnover in the past few months which is understandable for the delay.