Changes To Exceptional Delaware: Your One-Stop Delaware Search Engine!

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!

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Audit: All School Board Agendas, Minutes, & Audio Recordings; Caesar Rodney, Brandywine & Laurel Are Breaking The Law Big Time!

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

Delaware School District & Charter School Special Education Ratings Are The Biggest Joke In The State!

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

Delaware School Districts & Charter Schools That Are Serial Abusers Of Petty Cash Laws

**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

Proposed Legislation Would Give Delaware Secretary Of Education Authority To Suspend Teacher Licenses In Certain Felony Situations

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

Big Vote In The House Today On School Suspension Bill

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.                    

Less Than 7,500 Delawareans Voted In School Board Elections Yesterday…How Do We Fix This?

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.

Senator Sokola Makes My Day With Proposed Education Funding Transparency Bill

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?

The Dream Becomes A Reality: Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students

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 kjohlandt70@gmail.com and we can exchange phone numbers from there.

Delaware Public Education Salaries Over $100,000: Rankings, Student Cost, Ratios, $$$ Totals, & Synopsis

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

Prologue: The Big FOIA About Salaries

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

Only District Superintendents Or Highest Authority In Charter Schools Can Change A Student’s Grade In Delaware

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

Delaware DOE FINALLY Releases 2016-2017 Annual Bullying Report

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.

Hey Delaware DOE, You May Want To Make Sure Mitch & Our Schools Know This Stuff!

It would be my hope that all Delaware schools, be they district or charter, have seen this.  I would also hope the Exceptional Children Resources Group, the special education area of the Delaware Department of Education, led by Mary Ann Mieczkowski, circulated this to all our schools.  If not, I’ll make sure they get this.  And I won’t even charge them!  But just in case they haven’t seen this, they may want to read this from top to bottom.  Special education is NOT a choice.  And you are expected to implement it with fidelity and as per federal law under IDEA.  The below document, released by the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education issued guidance about the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on Endrew F v. Douglas County School District.

State Audit Inspection On School District Expenditures For FY2016 Is Ridiculous!

By Delaware state code, we should be seeing this report every single year.  In any event, Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner released the Fiscal Year 2016 report today.  Yes, a year and a half after that fiscal year ended.  And guess what the overall finding was?  We don’t know what districts are spending cause everyone codes their expenses differently in the state financial system.  And this report states the state ALLOWS the districts to do this.  They have discretion.  What a crock of…

In an attempt to categorize spending items as instructional or non-instructional for further analysis, the Office of Auditor of Accounts (AOA) extracted all voucher and PCard expenditures made from State and local funds by each of the 19 school districts.  However, the State’s financial system has over 11,000 active appropriations and over 1,500 active account codes available for use.  As a result, we found inconsistencies in expenditure coding across the 19 school districts that prevented us from performing an in-depth analysis of expenditures.

They named nine areas that are either prohibited by accounting rules or were not used for a functional educational purpose.  Some of these are sports lottery, florists, online games, and table games.  Are you kidding me?  And the report found over $98,000 was used for in-state meals.  I can picture it now, Joe Superintendent says to himself “I feel like going to Friendly’s for lunch today”.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  The inspection found that many of these “inconsistencies” were due to human error.  Uh-huh.  Yes, I get that humans make errors.  But how do you miscode sticky buns?

When it comes to food, it looks like Cape Henlopen and Lake Forest looooove to eat out! The report talks about WaWa purchases. I’m sorry, but since when is fast food or deli considered an in-state food purchase? Do what the rest of us do and pay from your own damn wallet. I don’t pay taxes so you can celebrate Hoagiefest all year long!

But this little bit about Lake Forest…wow!

In December 2015, the Lake Forest School District held a holiday dinner for board members, administrators, and their spouses at The Rookery Golf Club in Milford, Delaware, totaling $1,899.30. (This amount is included in the in-State meal transactions described above in the “Employee Recognition purposes” category since administrators were recognized.) A handwritten note on the invoice stated it was approved at a special board meeting in executive session on October 14, 2015.

Are you friggin’ kidding me? Sounds like higher-ups are feasting on the fatted calf called the Delaware accounting system. And with no oversight whatsoever, this is only scratching the iceberg.

And how in the name of God can you have in-state lodging for any school district in this state? You can drive up and down the state in less than two hours. And it looks like Red Clay was the biggest offender.

Not one look into all the vendors school districts use. Not one peak into the millions of dollars going to vendors who write reports and supply schools with cash-in-the-trash ideas. Not one bit. Disgusting. It’s no wonder none of the school districts want to consolidate. God forbid someone actually get a good hard look into how they spend money!

The best part about all this?  They could have read my blog posts in July and August of 2016 to do this report.  What the hell took them a year and a half to do a report that anyone with an excel file could figure out in three days? It is time for our elected legislators to get the hell off their collective asses and pass some laws indicating school districts and charter schools can NO LONGER use discretion when submitting their expenditures to the state. This is a third of their budget and they are given carte blanche to do pretty much whatever the hell they want. Sure, most of it is most likely legit but when your own state auditor can’t make heads or tails of where well over $1 billion dollars is going, I have some major issues with that. This is unacceptable and it will no longer be tolerated. I don’t care how much time I have to spend at Legislative Hall in 2018 to drum this into their heads. When education loses tons of money each year but we have wine and dine events at the local country club, that is absurd. This is EXACTLY what I wanted to talk to John Carney about after he was elected. But he had to go and blow me off. Big mistake. It’s not like I didn’t warn people this was going on. They just didn’t want to hear it. Carney just wanted to set up his self-destruct mechanisms for Delaware education, just like his predecessor. And as he sets off on his warped plan to charterize Wilmington schools, he could care less about where the money is going.

Delaware legislators: Cut the crap. I don’t want to hear your whining and complaining come next June about the budget and how you are doing everything you can. Change some laws. Make crap accountable and stop kissing asses all over the state. Do your job! The jig is up. I don’t necessarily blame the auditor’s office for all this. They inspect what they are able to. It is our General Assembly that needs to wake the hell up. You have allowed this scenario to happen. You have allowed this “discretion” that makes a Rubik’s Cube in a three-year-old’s hands look easy compared to the hot mess called First State Financials. No more excuses. Pass legislation demanding that every single expenditure be coded in a uniform way among ALL school districts and charter schools. And yes, charter schools should have been included in this report as well. But no way in hell would that happen because this report would have found a lot more “inconsistencies” and we all know it. But the General Assembly as a whole likes to protect and coddle them. Exactly what is wrong with Delaware education. If I sound pissed off, it’s cause I am. And every single taxpayer in this state should be ticked off as well.

To read this obscenity where money is unaccountable and untrackable and uncrackable and takes money away from where it is truly needed, please read below.

The Erosion Of Transparency At The Delaware DOE

Even though I’ve done my fair share of beating up on the Delaware Department of Education, I felt they were transparent in a few ways.  Most specifically on their website.  But now I am finding that transparency is evaporating fast.  There are three examples of this, most of which would not be caught by most people.  For a blogger like myself, those three areas contained a lot of information.

The first is their special education section.  For years I would look at their Due Process Hearing and Administrative Complaint decisions.  Each report would name the specific school district or charter school.  Since last Spring, they stopped doing that.  Now it just says “______ school district” or _____ charter school”.  What is the big deal?  Don’t parents of students with disabilities have a right to know what kind of special education complaints are happening at certain schools?

In looking at the above two screenshots from the DOE website, a pattern begins to form.  Last school year, there were three administrative complaints against charter schools in Delaware.  None of them are named.  I don’t need to be a forensic scientist to figure this one out.

The second area involves Department of Education personnel.  As long as I can remember, the Delaware State Board of Education would list changes to DOE personnel on their website as part of their agenda for each meeting.  That stopped a few months ago.  I did reach out to Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education.  She said the State Board does not control personnel at the DOE and they were the only state agency that listed personnel changes.  So it was a matter of consistency.  I get that, but it was also what made the DOE stand out above those other state agencies.  Not to belittle other state agencies, but the DOE is an important one and citizens have a right to know who is leaving or who is hired there.

The third area, which absolutely no one in their right mind would find is a bit tricky.  It involves their search engine.  I learned a few years ago that if you type “PDF” in their search bar it will bring up all PDF documents.  You can even tweak it so the results come up with the most recent documents.  I relied on this to see what was going on at the DOE.  The last PDF document that comes up on the search of most recent is from 5/2/2017.  I highly doubt the DOE is not creating PDF documents anymore.  I know that is the case because I’ve seen them.  But they somehow found a way to eliminate it from their search bar.  Maybe they figured out some crazed blogger from a specific IP address was always using it and disabled it.

It doesn’t shock me that these transparency issues coincide with the new Carney administration.  I, as well as others, have written about a continual lack of transparency coming from the state since Governor John Carney took office.  I guess the people no longer have a right to know.

Delaware Education Roundup, Early October 2017 Edition

The school year is in full swing and there is lots going on!

For starters, a Charlton School special needs teacher was arrested for sexual texts to a 17-year-old student according to WDEL.

Sources have said several board members at Thomas Edison Charter School resigned last week in response to the actions of Board President Ronald Pinkett.  I was not given names or an exact number.

Central Middle School in the Capital School District are in the process of hiring two constables for the school.  Dover High School started this program last year with success.  Capital got the idea from Indian River School District who has, I believe, 16 constables throughout their schools.  Last night, the school held a parent q & a for interested parents and will be holding another one when they have hired the two constables.

The September 30th Unit Count took place last Friday.  The results should be released at some point in November.  Expect numbers and data crunching here at Exceptional Delaware.

According to the Cape Gazette, several students from Cape Henlopen High School participated in public service announcements for safe driving: On October 4, 2017 several of our Cape Henlopen High School juniors were selected by the Driver’s Education Department, to participate in recording radio PSA’s promoting teen safety while driving. iHeart Radio stations will be playing the PSA’s throughout Sussex county on the radio and online. Students who were selected were also part of a team who competed at the Delaware Drivers Ed Competition. The competition took place at Dover International Speedway at the end of last school year.

Three Delaware schools won the Blue Ribbon Award this year.  No charters.  Olive B. Loss Elementary School, Seaford Central Elementary School (Seaford), and East Millsboro Elementary School (Indian River) all won the federal designation this year.  This is the first time since I’ve been blogging that a Delaware charter or private school was not in the list of the winners.

The Delaware Department of Education is holding “community conversations” to tweak their school report cards.  Five meetings have been scheduled: Monday October 9th from 6-8pm at Beacon Middle School in the cafeteria (Cape Henlopen School District), Thursday October 12th from 6-8pm at Warner Elementary School in the library (Red Clay Consolidated School District), Wednesday October 18th from 6-8pm at Dover High School in the cafeteria (Capital School District), Monday October 23rd from 6pm-8pm at MOT Charter High School in the cafeteria, and Tuesday October 24th from 6pm-8pm at the Laurel Middle School in the cafeteria (Laurel School District).  The Delaware DOE is asking for participants to RSVP here.

Another committee, The Anti-Discrimination Guidance Team will hold their last Community Conversation tomorrow night (October 5th) at Sussex Central High School from 6:30-8:00pm.  I have been in the midst of a move recently so I haven’t been able to fully delve into this committee.  But you can find information on the Draft Policy, Draft Regulations, and a survey from the DOE here.  I hadn’t looked at the membership of this Guidance Team until just now.  How ironic that Greg Meece from Newark Charter School is on this.

Capital School District will be holding their Super Senator Day at Dover High School from 10am-2pm.

The month of October is Disability History and Awareness Month in Delaware.  As per the Indian River Facebook page, October is Disability History and Awareness Month in Delaware. This official observance began in 2009 when members and staff of the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens encouraged Rep. Quinton Johnson and Sen. Bethany Hall-Long to sponsor House Concurrent Resolution 19. The purpose was to encourage schools to include information in their lessons and sponsor activities to promote the accomplishments of individuals with disabilities throughout history. The goal is to increase awareness and the acceptance of students with various disabilities.

On Colonial School District’s Facebook page, they announced the following: Staff and students were recognized today by DuPont for the amazing agricultural work being done at William Penn High School. Representatives from DuPont, members from State Legislature and Senate, USDA and members from the community celebrated the efforts of WPHS agriculture and science students and teachers in their work with pollination. Several staff and students were also awarded with grants to help further their education to continue the success at William Penn. In honor of her tireless efforts in making William Penn the great school that it is, a wildflower meadow was named in honor of Ag Teacher Kate Pickard. Thanks to DuPont and our community for helping our kids and give them opportunities to grow.

Appoquinimink is providing dinner for interested parents of students with special needs at the Marion Proffitt Training Center.  I would RSVP fast though!  Other events through their Parent Council is included in the below picture!

State Senator Margaret Rose-Henry from the 2nd Senate District in Wilmington announced she will not be seeking reelection in 2018.  This follows State Senator Brian Bushweller’s similar announcement in August.

Campus Community School in Dover had a cool announcement yesterday: Campus Community School is in the news again!!! This year, we have partnered with Northnode Counseling and Jennifer August, a board certified Art Therapist, to provide this service to our students. Art therapy provides students with an outlet and allows them to express themselves through their artwork.

Shields Elementary School students in the Cape Henlopen School District performed a worthy cause for hurricane victims as per the district’s Facebook page from September 22nd: This week Shields Elementary School teamed up with Lewes Fire Company, and collected items to send to Florida and Texas to help families affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma. The students spent part of their morning “stuffing the bus” full of the donations. Thank you to the students, staff, parents, and community members who donated and made our “Stuff the Bus” event a success!  Way to go Shields students!

A friendly reminder that all Delaware public schools are closed on Friday due to an in-service professional development day.  While the children play, the teachers pay! Just kidding (I hope)!

Academia Antonia Alonso will be holding their Fall Festival on October 22nd.

Glasgow High School in the Christina School District will hold their 8th Annual College Fair on October 26th.

Red Clay Consolidated School District will be holding their 11th Annual Family Resource Fair on November 4th at John Dickinson High School from 10am-1pm.

Next week is National School Lunch Week, from October 9th-13th.  I’m not sure what that means.  How do you celebrate school lunches?  Free Chik-Fil-A or Panera?  That would be something to celebrate! (No disrespect to the thousands of school cafeteria workers in our fine state)

This week, Positive Outcomes Charter School is holding their Spirit Week.

I don’t think Governor Carney likes me too much today.

I don’t care.

If you have any school or district events you would like to share, please email me at kevino3670@yahoo.com with details.  Or if you want to share something controversial, feel free to do the same.  Charters are welcome to share as well despite my writing stuff about them all the time.  I write about district stuff too but that gets lost in the noise sometimes.  Trying to make this blog less bad and actually share some of the good stuff going on in our schools.  Once again, if you want to promote any type of standardized test score enjoyment, please don’t.  I will opt right out of writing about that kind of nonsense!

An Open Letter From State Rep. Earl Jaques About The School District Consolidation Task Force

I just received this email in regards to the School District Consolidation Task Force and where it will go from here:

School District Consolidation Task Force – HCR 39

A Letter from the Chair – Rep. Earl G. Jaques, Jr. 

September 20, 2017 

I have gotten a lot of questions from task force members and those who attended this week’s meeting about the path of this task force moving forward. Where are we going from here? 

I thought it would be helpful to review what we have achieved so far as a task force and outline my goals for our future meetings. 

Our first two meetings have been focused mainly on organizational matters.  At the first meeting we elected the Task Force Chair as required by HCR 39. Then we established four sub-committees (Academics/Student Needs, Finance, Teachers/Staff, and Structure). These four sub-committees are being led by four outstanding individuals with extensive knowledge and experience in their fields. In order to include a diversity of opinions and perspectives, we added additional members to the original 22 members designated by HCR 39. At our second meeting, we approved these additional members to give us a group with backgrounds and experiences from across our state.  

To ensure transparency, we have put all minutes, power point slides and other related material on our designated section on the legislative website; more materials will be uploaded to this site soon. To view the documents uploaded please scroll to the bottom of the page to “Minutes, Reports, and Information.” In addition, all materials have been sent to every member of the taskforce and those members of the public who asked to be included on the email lists. In cooperation with our statewide media partners we were able to get the citizens of Delaware to provide us with their ideas, suggestions and comments on what they would like to see happen with our school districts. We received 146 different written responses.  

This past Monday we hosted a task force meeting in Sussex County to receive verbal comments from county residents. At this meeting David Blowman, from the Department of Education, presented an overview of our state’s districts, schools and students with some informative graphs and maps. The response to his presentation was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that members present expressed their wishes for residents in Kent and New Castle Counties to have the opportunity to view it as well.

In accordance with this feedback, we plan to hold the same meeting at William Penn High School (October 16th) for New Castle County residents and then shortly after that meeting to hold one again for Kent County residents. In order to give residents of each county the opportunity to view the presentation and share their thoughts we have decided to move the meeting schedule a bit.

Instead of waiting until November to meet as a full task force as was originally planned, the Kent County meeting will be moved to October 25th at Caesar Rodney High School. Then the full task force will meet in early November (details TBA) to vote on the various plans suggested so that the sub-committees can start their work. I envision this vote as being one where 2-3 proposals are chosen to be explored and modeled and compared with the current system. This is a very important topic and so our work cannot be rushed. I will ensure that sub-committees have adequate time to complete their work while also making sure that public submissions and comments are properly heard. 

Once the sub-committees’ work is completed we will meet as a full task force to determine the feasibility of the various components and discuss recommendations to be included in our final report to the State Legislature. 

I look forward to continue working with all of you on this very important issue area. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me or my legislative aide, Madinah Wilson-Anton.

Respectfully Signed,

Earl Jaques

27th Representative District

Bunting Bunts On Match Tax Boon For Delaware Charter Schools

At the Christina School District Board of Education meeting two weeks ago, Chief Financial Officer Robert Silber gave insight to a very interesting meeting at the Delaware Department of Education concerning the recent decision to give Delaware charter schools a portion of match tax funds through the local funding formula.  Silber’s description of Delaware Secretary Education Dr. Susan Bunting’s reaction during this meeting was surprising.

The memo that they also sent to districts said that due to the uncertainties associated with the budget, we’re holding off on a determination of match dollars until legislators made a determination around how the proposed reductions were going to occur.  They didn’t want, as they expressed it to us, they didn’t want to make a decision in advance that may have been different based upon the budget (state) for this year since there were a lot of talk legislatively around match tax.  The Department then came out with a position statement that said they believe match taxes are operating expenses and as an operating expense should be included.  District business managers then turned as a group and said to the Department, as part of the process, that we would like to have a meeting to discuss that.  That meeting occurred last Thursday (August 3rd) and I would say that the Secretary and a member of her staff were there, listening.  But there was no decision rendered at that meeting and we have not seen anything since that point in time to know whether or not they listened to our concerns.  One of the concerns that we expressed, and is probably the easiest one for me to grasp around, is that when you take a look at the various match components that exist, one of those matches is for reading resources.  Reading resource teachers are, by the definition of the dollars enabling legislation to begin with, was very specifically targeted to elementary schools.  So we posed the question to the Secretary, once these dollars go into the formula, those same dollars are going to a high school.  It doesn’t make logical sense and we asked that be considered.  She’s considering it.

Come on Dr. Bunting!  As someone who comes from a traditional school district, you know how this stuff works.  Charters lobby for more money, whether it is justified or not.  Just because they want it doesn’t mean it is right.  I get that everyone wants a piece of the funding pie but sometimes the taste isn’t so palatable.  Don’t give in to this Bunting!  We live in a state where charters are able to keep their excess transportation funds.  It is VERY hypocritical for the Department of Education to give in to the charters while that anomaly exists.  We need a Secretary who will stand up to these freakish money requests from the charters and do what is right!  We need a home run here, not a bunt!

Delaware DOE Screws Over Districts By Allowing Match Tax Funds To Go To Charters

This is exactly why I don’t trust the Delaware Department of Education.  Taking a nod from the Christina School District settlement with 15 charter schools last year, the Department has decided to let charters get match tax funds in a phased-out plan for district exclusions.  Continue reading