The Christina School District. They have less administrators than they did four years ago, but they also have over 2,000 less students than they did then. Much of that can be attributed to the very big charter school growth during that time. Not only were new charters springing up all over the place, but existing charters expanded their enrollment by adding new grades. Former Superintendent Freeman Williams resigned in the Fall of 2015 and the district did not get a new Superintendent until the beginning of 2017. The Delaware DOE and various Delaware Governor’s public education target, Christina has actually come a long way. Last month they signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Governor Carney and the Delaware Department of Education. They are taking a strong look at each of their schools, not only in Wilmington but also the Newark/Bear/Glasgow area as well.
I’ve predicted their demise but that was more of a warning shot to them. Out of all the districts and charters in Delaware, I’ve probably written about them the most. Which I feel gives me the ability to defend them when the need arises. The district certainly has their challenges but all districts do. Christina has some of the highest numbers of low-income and special education students in the entire state. While they don’t have the highest percentage of low-income students, they have the highest number of students. And many of those, especially in Wilmington, are students of poverty. They aren’t the district I’m worried about. More on that another day.
A very important note about their numbers. The district itself has 75 administrators making over $100,000. While that may seem like a lot, they also have over 15,000 students in their district despite the charter explosion in the past decade. But they also hold special programs in their district, such as the Delaware Autism Program and the Delaware School For The Deaf. With those programs, the district has 93 administrators making over $100,000. This is an important distinction which will play out later on. Four years ago they had 108 administrators hitting the over $100,000 mark.
The on-leave Superintendent of the Christina School District, Freeman Williams, submitted a retirement letter to the district effective February, 2016. In August, Williams went on a leave status which prompted the Christina Board of Education to hire an Acting Superintendent. Former Red Clay Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski is the current Acting Superintendent, but Christina’s Board must now look for a new and permanent Superintendent.
The first time I met Freeman was 13 months ago at a special board meeting at Christina surrounding the priority schools. I found him to be very cordial and respectful, and he was greatly concerned about the priority status designated to the three Christina schools. I attended quite a few Christina board meetings in the next five months and watched them systematically and efficiently hold back the Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell from making rash and hasty decisions over the Christina priority schools.
The last time I saw Freeman was at the Imagine Delaware Forum back in March. I had a very pleasant discussion with him concerning House Bill 50 and parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which he supported. Whatever his reason for retirement, I wish him the best and I hope he enjoys his time away from the crazy education environment we live in.
As Christina will assuredly attempt another referendum in 2016 amidst severe financial issues, the search will be on for a new Superintendent. This district needs a very strong leader who can rally the people in favor of Christina. While some think Christina may wind up in receivership by the end of the year, I would prefer to have hope. The long-term impact of charters has definitely siphoned off a great deal of local funding due to many of the students in Christina’s feeder pattern choicing out to charters, and the emergence of so many new charters in Wilmington this school year alone has definitely had a negative effect. Now is the time for Christina to strongly promote their strengths and eliminate their weaknesses. What many don’t realize is Christina also holds the Delaware Autism Program and the Delaware School for the Deaf. That could cause tremendous problems for the students involved if they have to transition out of the existing programs.
I just tweaked this article a little bit based on feedback from the GACEC. The important edits were the fact that the Delaware School For The Deaf does provide services throughout the state, and the GACEC unanimously voted for the final report from HR 20 to not have action taken on it until the GACEC could examine the issues.
House Resolution #20 created a taskforce to examine better ways to help students in the state of Delaware who are deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind. At the June 17th meeting for the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC), Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of Exceptional Children with the Delaware DOE gave a presentation on the DOE’s response to the task force. There was a lot of discussion about this resolution and what it means for deaf students in Delaware. Most services are currently provided by the Delaware School For The Deaf, based in Newark, DE in the Christina School District. Many people connected with the issue feel strongly that not all students statewide are being serviced properly by a school that services students that are predominantly in the northern part of the state. Delaware School for the Deaf does have itinerant services provided by DSD staff throughout the state…