It Is Time For DSEA To Regurgitate Themselves From The Bowels Of Rodel

I warned them.  Many times.  Sit at the table and you will be on the table.  The Delaware State Education Association was swallowed whole.  By who? Continue reading

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Delaware Teachers Will Have To Work Extra Hours To Make Up For Snow Days This Year

Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education voted to forgive one snow day this year.  For Delaware public school teachers, they are required to work 188 days a year.  With the forgiveness of one day, that number comes down to 187.  But many schools had at least five snow days or more this year due to the winter storms.  Even though two of those snow days were State of Emergency issued by Governor John Carney, Secretary Bunting only put forth one forgiveness day to the State Board.

As a result, teachers could have extra days after the school year.  There are other ways teachers could make up that time according to DSEA President Mike Matthews:

How snow buyback works is if a district needs to make up 21 hours (or three days) then the District can choose how that’s done (usually in consult with their local union and School board). Maybe they will add one day to the teacher year and have the staff make up 14 hours of APPROVED outside-the-regular-school day activities like staying after to volunteer at a family literacy night or maybe they will count that IEP meeting that happened before or after school as make up time. The state requires that every employee keep a log of their time to show they worked to make up those days lost.

Depending on contracts, some teachers could use personal hours to make up for that lost time according to Matthews.

For Delaware public school students, most districts and charters exceed the 1,060 hours students must attend school for each year.  Some have already canceled a day off meant for professional development for teachers to make up for that lost time.  So it is not anticipated that students will have their school year extended.

DSEA President Mike Matthews’ Speech From Their Representative Assembly On 3/17

This past weekend, the Delaware State Education Association held their annual Representative Assembly.  President Mike Matthews gave the following speech to the DSEA delegates on Saturday, March 17th.  While I’ve been writing a ton about administrators and their salaries, it is important to recognize the issues many of our teachers are facing.  I felt Matthews did a good job highlighting those things and painted a clear picture of a huge danger coming to the teacher unions across our country.

My speech to the delegates of the 2018 Representative Assembly.

Time. As I travel up and down the state to talk with our members, I’m reminded of what is most valuable to them. Time. Planning time. Time with friends and family. Time to meet the needs of all students. Time to grade papers. Time to relax. Time to watch a movie. Time to exercise. Time. Time. Time.

And as we sit here today at our annual Representative Assembly, I know that the time you all have taken to do the business of our Association is valuable time. And, to that end, I’d like you to know that it’s my goal to respect your time and keep it short because, as a half-Irishman myself, this is indeed a day to celebrate. So, to those who do, I offer you a hearty Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!: Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I want to say thank you for spending your time today with some of our Association’s most active union members. Since I started in this new role eight months ago, I’ve been bowled over by the support from our wonderful staff here at DSEA as well as the 13,000 members we represent. And time seems to be an issue for everyone. In my 50+ school visits since the beginning of the school year, time is all I hear about.

From the AP Language and Composition teacher at Mt. Pleasant High School who’s always looking for more time to share great works of literature with her students to the special education teacher from West Seaford Elementary who’d like more time to complete her required IEP paperwork. From the paraprofessional at Love Creek Elementary who wants her students to have more one-on-one time and resources to the music teacher at Elbert-Palmer who wishes his students could have more time playing instruments as opposed to taking standardized tests. From the food service worker at Old State Elementary who wants more time to share union information with her 10 coworkers to the secretaries across the state who want to make sure they’ve got the time during the day to simply stop and breathe. From the bus drivers and bus aides for whom TIME is certainly most important to ensure their students arrive on time to the custodians who make the best use of their time to get everything done that needs doing to keep our buildings looking great for staff and students.

Time. It matters. And, while we are always at a deficit of time to get done everything that needs doing, our members do their best to maximize the time they have to ensure our students get what they need to succeed.

However, friends, I’m here to tell you that time is not on our side, regardless of what the Rolling Stones may have told you. Last year, my predecessor, Frederika Jenner, told you the wolf was at the door in regards to policies coming down from the frightening administration of Betsy DeVos at the US Department of Education. Frederika urged us all to pay attention and be vigilant. Well, I’m here to share with you that we will have to be vigilant in the coming months as the greatest threat to our Association is handed down by the United States Supreme Court in the form of the Janus case.

Now, I will not bore you all with the details of this case. You all are among the most active members of our Association and my guess is most of you have found the time to learn more about this case. In short, the current make-up of the Supreme Court will likely chip further away at the rights of public-sector unions. Have no doubt – this will impact our membership and could very well impact how we deliver service to our members.

This Supreme Court case is called Janus, named after the plaintiff, Mark Janus, a home health care worker in Illinois. Mr. Janus believes that if you don’t want to pay fair share fees to your union, you shouldn’t have to, EVEN IF you benefit from the work the union does. In essence, when this Supreme Court decision comes down, it could create a new generation of worker that expects and demands union representation and benefits, but will refuse to pay for them.

But Janus also means something else. Several months ago, while toying around on the Internet, I Googled “Janus.” Did you know that Janus is the Roman god of endings, new beginnings, transitions, and, most appropriately, time? Janus is often depicted in mythology as having two faces. I equate these two faces to the two choices we have as an Association.

Do we twiddle our thumbs, look backwards, complain, and cry when the Supreme Court hands down a decision that, in the long run, could cost DSEA thousands of members?

Or – do we look forward? Do we pick ourselves up and fight back and show our members who we really are here at DSEA? That we are going to work harder than ever to ensure they see the value in the work we do? That we are going to continue to drive the narrative that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions? That we are going to continue to fight for more resources for our most impoverished students – for our students with disabilities – for our English language learners? That we are going to continue to push back against bad education policies that focus more time on testing and less time on authentic learning?

It’s when we show our members as well as the public that EDUCATORS are the best advocates for students that we win the narrative. And when we win that narrative, we will never have to worry about members leaving us – because they will see themselves in the work we do.

So – I have several requests for you when you leave today. In the coming weeks and months, I need you all to be ambassadors for our Association. I need you to go back to your locals. I need you to engage all of our members – AND NON-MEMBERS. This is our greatest organizing moment and I know that we can accomplish so much and maintain the strength of our membership if we focus on several things:

Have as many meaningful one-on-one conversations with members as you can. Get them to realize that their voices are amplified in environments where collaboration is fostered and open dialogue is promoted and that our union is a critical driver in those conversations.
If you’re a local that has faculty meetings in your buildings every month, check your contract to see if the Association is given five or ten minutes of each faculty meeting to share updates. And use that time at EVERY faculty meeting to share with members – and non-members – how critical union membership is with the wolf constantly knocking on our doors.

Go to the Dollar Store. Get a 20-pack of generic greeting cards. Write notes to your elected officials and school board members thanking them for their support of public education and sharing with them how and why unions ARE always a great partner in moving education forward here in Delaware.

Finally, and most importantly, share your story. Share it with friends. Share it with family. Share vignettes on social media of why we do what we do in public education. Share your story like the story featured in this post.

There’s a lot going on in this image. I was visiting a high school in New Castle County and walked into an English teacher’s classroom. This image immediately caught my eyes. And the story behind it will stick with me forever.

I asked the teacher where this huge drawing on a whiteboard had come from. He shared with me that it was about two years old. A former student of his — a withdrawn senior who rarely ever spoke to the teacher — did it. The teacher said it was near the end of the year, the student had shown little effort, and at a certain point, there seemed to be a level of tension the teacher wished could be resolved. Eventually, the teacher said to the student “I’ve failed you. You’ve gotten through this entire school year and you’ve barely said two words to me. I’ve failed you and for that I am sorry.” The teacher left the room, upset, not knowing what to do for this student who had been withdrawn for so much of the year. Come to find out, the student had some language barriers as well as some issues at home that were causing her to withdraw.

The teacher was out of the room for a period of time and when he came back, this beautiful drawing — representing all of the pieces of literature covered in senior year — was on his whiteboard. The teacher became so overwhelmed and emotional at this display. He told me that the young lady — though barely communicative — was obviously absorbing the literature the class was reading that year.

The teacher memorialized this art by spreading a thin film over the drawing to protect it and it remains in his classroom to this day — a testament and clear sign that he, in fact — was not a failure to this particular student.

How many stories like this are waiting to be told around Delaware?

It’s stories like this that explain why we as educators do what we do. And, based on the schools I’ve visited up and down the state, this story isn’t the only one out there. You must be prepared to share your story. You must be prepared to defend the work of our union to ensure better wages, benefits, and working conditions for our members and their families. Because we must never go back to the time cited in the classic labor hymn “Which Side Are You On?” – authored in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky. Following a night of being terrorized by Sheriff J.H. Blair and men hired by the mining company to bully mine workers and prevent them from unionizing, Reece wrote this poem on a calendar that hung on the wall in her kitchen:

“Come all you good workers
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven’t got a chance
Unless we organize
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?”

Now I’m not saying things are anywhere near as dire here as they were in Mrs. Reece’s world, but just know that long ago the rights we take for granted today were hard fought by someone else, and it’s up to us to find the time and ensure we protect those rights.

So, with what limited time we all have, be sure and find the time to do what will keep you strong, your families strong, your students strong, and our union forever strong. Because, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not.”

Thank you, delegates, and remember: Solidarity Now and Solidarity Forever. 

Who Is My Delaware State Rep & Senator? Which District Do I Live In? A Primer For Delaware Students! #swarmthehall

This article is for ALL Delaware public education students.  This is what you need to do NOW to make a difference for YOUR school.

Last night, I attended an Education Forum at Newark High School.  As members of the audience stated they didn’t know who their legislators even are, State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked me to put up a post on my blog about this in front of the whole audience.  It is my pleasure to do so Paul!

Even though students (unless you are 18 or over) are not registered voters, your voice is important.  I will go so far as to say it is the most important voice in the state.  You can get involved, and I would ask your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, friends, and neighbors to get involved in this year’s budget, especially when it comes to public education.  But first, you have to know who to contact!

The first thing to do is go to the General Assembly website, found here: http://legis.delaware.gov/

The easiest way to find out “Who is My Legislator” is to go that section of their website and put in your address or go on the “Find by Map” option.  I did that using my address, and it came up with this:

Another way to find out what Senator or State Rep covers your district, go to the tabs that say “Senate” or “House”.

I will use the House as an example.  Go to the tab that says “Members & Districts” and click that.  Now I have to sacrifice one of our State Reps as an example, so I chose my own State Rep, Trey Paradee of the 29th Rep. District.

What a big smile for your constituents Trey!  It has other information on the page, but if you want to contact them, it provides their phone number at Legislative Hall or their email address.  You will get a legislative aide or an answering machine when you call them.  An email might shoot you an automatic reply if they aren’t there that day.  Some legislators are brave enough to put their home or cell phone numbers on their contact information.  I would ALWAYS call that phone number first since the likelihood of them getting back to you SHOULD improve.  Another way is to look for them on social media.  Send them a friend request if they offer that option.  I would shoot them a message stating who you are and possibly an issue or topic you would like to discuss with them.

Once you know what they look like, and if you have the time, go down to Legislative Hall and introduce yourself.  Don’t do it while they are in session in their respective chamber though because they can’t really stop that time to talk to you.  Be respectful and courteous.  Ask for THEIR cell number if you don’t have it already.

If you find your legislator isn’t getting back to you, keep at it!  I’m not saying to stalk them, but keep calling, emailing, or texting.  As a professional courtesy, I would give them at least three days to get back to you.

As the General Assembly prepares their version of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, they need to hear from their constituents NOW.  Not later.  Not on June 30th.  NOW!!!!

Here is how it goes for the next five weeks down in Dover.  The General Assembly is on a two-week recess right now and will return on June 6th.  In the meantime, the Joint Finance Committee, which is a group of legislators, are doing what is known as the “budget mark-up”.  They go through Governor Carney’s proposed budget and make changes.  This group needs to hear from you NOW!

I would email ALL of them in one email and tell them what you are looking for.  For those who are against all these cuts in education, some suggested wording could consist of this:

Please remove the cuts to education from the state budget.  It is unfair to balance the state’s budget on the backs of our students.  Schools are already under-resourced and our children need our commitment to their future.  Thank you.

The public can attend the Joint Finance Committee meetings, but seating is limited.  And considering most of you students will be in school, DON’T CUT SCHOOL to come to Dover to go to a JFC meeting.  There will be plenty of time for that when school gets out because the General Assembly continues to meet until June 30th.  If you want to see some real craziness going on, come down (or up) to Dover on June 30th.  The fun usually starts around 6 or 7pm in the evening.  Bills pass on the fly, left and right and they suspend a ton of rules to get bills passed.  You see bodies passing by you like the Flash.  I’ve gone the past two years and didn’t get home until the sun was coming up.  That’s right.  They MUST pass the budget or they don’t get to go home until they do.  They can go home, but their legislative session isn’t over until the State Budget passes.  By State Law, the Governor must either sign or veto (not sign it) the budget once the General Assembly passes it.  If the Governor passes it, the General Assembly has to keep meeting until it passes or they can attempt to override the Governor’s veto.  This year, June 30th falls on a Friday so I have no doubt they will want to get in and get out so they can have their 4th of July weekend last as long as possible.

If students truly want to make a huge difference with this budget, if you don’t want teachers cut and you don’t want your school board to be put in a position where they are forced to raise more taxes without a referendum, your State Rep, Senator and the Joint Finance Committee need to hear from you TODAY!  They may give you a reason why they support this or don’t support that, but make sure YOUR feelings are heard.

If you want to make a HUGE impact, organize a group of your friends and classmates and come down to Legislative Hall in Dover (but don’t cut school to do it).  You are NOT allowed to carry signs into the building, but you can wear t-shirts as long as they don’t have curse words or are inappropriate.  It could say something as simple as “No Education Cuts” or have fun with it and write “Forced Match Tax Without A Referendum Is Horrible” .  I would NOT recommend t-shirts like “John Carney is bad” or “Mike Ramone loves Donald Trump….Eeeew!” (neither of them do, just making a point here).  You can even write legislator letters but make sure you go to their office in Legislative Hall and give it to the receptionist or legislative aide to give to the legislator.  Don’t try to put letters or correspondence on their desk in the House or Senate chamber.  I did that once and it is NOT allowed.  Don’t yell at anyone or interrupt anyone either.  And whatever you do, when the House or Senate is in session, just sit and listen.  You do NOT want that gavel coming down on you by Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long or Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf!

You CAN make a difference this year.  If you want to preserve what you have and not lose out next year, there is nothing wrong with a peaceful protest.  Make sure you get Mom, Dad, or your Guardian’s permission first, but make it something you can tell your grandchildren about one day.  How you told our legislators what your schools need and you helped to make a difference.  Let’s call it “Swarm The Hall”.  Share hashtag #swarmthehall on Twitter and Facebook and let’s make it a thing Delaware students!

As an education blogger, I’ve met most of our State Reps and State Senators.  I want to believe they want to do the right thing for everyone in the state, but sometimes political issues happen.  If you are a dye-in-the-wool Democrat and your State Rep or Senator is a Republican, or vice-versa, don’t get into the whole “us vs. them” mentality.  They will listen to you, but it could cause them to tune out whatever you are saying.  Make it about the issues, not about the politics.  No one wants to hear about the whole Trump/Hillary thing or “Dems Stink” or “Republicans Lie” kind of stuff.  This is about YOU, and YOUR education.  And this isn’t just about school districts, it’s also about charters.  Because if districts have to make cuts and force a match tax on their residents, they will have a hard time getting referenda passed in the future.  Which means less money for charter schools as well.

Below is a list of ALL the Delaware State Reps and Senators.  The Senate has 21 members and the House has 41 members.  Don’t get confused by the district numbers.  I live in State Rep District 29 but State Senate District 15.

If you are a Delaware public school teacher, please share this article with your students and their parents.  It can also be a valuable lesson for current events or helping children become more aware of how the political process in Delaware works.

Updated: Some libraries are holding events called “Postcard Party for Education Funding”.  Details can be found here.  This is a brilliant idea!  Reach out to the sponsors and see if you can get these events in your local libraries if they aren’t in your area!

Reasons America & Delaware Are Still Great 2016 Edition

Many people in America today are facing an impossible choice.  We call this Election Day.  I am choosing to spend the day looking at all that is good about America and more specifically the state I live in, Delaware.  No matter what happens today, we can’t let anyone take away the spirit of what makes us Americans.  We have liberties we often take for granted.  Beyond the politics of it all, we all should want the best for each other, especially the children.  We have so much talent in this country.  Each mind is a unique and wonderful creation of beauty and grace. In Delaware, we have people doing things no one hears about, every single day. We have children who have so many gifts. We have stories of hope and inspiration. As a friend of mine said on Facebook the other day, we are more than this election.

Good News

Yesterday, Senator David Sokola laid his righteous judgment on Delaware blogs by stating we don’t talk about the good things happening in education.  While I gave public comment at the meeting when he said this, indicating that was the DOE’s job and I will do my thing, maybe he is right.  So here is some good news!

Senator David Sokola has a very worthy opponent for his Senate seat in the upcoming election and he is scared.  Real scared.

Delaware has great teachers that no test can ever measure.

The students of Delaware are awesome and they are not failures.

The parents of Delaware are watching the General Assembly like never before and are calling them out on their antics.

Governor Markell will be gone after January.

Pete Schwartzkopf and Valerie Longhurst pissed off a ton of parents, teachers, citizens, and even fellow legislators last night.  How is this good news?  It was live and recorded.

Charter schools will have to record their board meetings in a few months and post them on their website.

Everybody now knows the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test Delaware ever made.

Meredith Chapman is running for the 8th Senate District seat.

Precious Little still makes me laugh… a lot.

John King gets grilled by the US House Education and the Workforce Committee on a monthly basis.

God gave me the good fortune to be present at certain times and places to witness and record what happens in Delaware education.

Winter is coming.

New Year’s Goals From 37 Of The First State’s Finest On Delaware Education

I’m going to kick back today and shut up on here.  After the last 365 days of yapping (487 consecutive days if we want to be technical), I figure it is time to give others a shot!  I reached out to a host of Delaware citizens for their 2016 New Years Goals for Delaware education.  The response was amazing!  You will see teachers, parents, Superintendents, State Reps, Senators, Republicans, Democrats, PTA, DSEA members, school board members, advocates, an attorney, a charter school leader, and more!  Unfortunately, Governor Markell, Rodel’s Paul Herdman, and several DOE employees did not respond.  I can only wonder why…  But there are a few in here I have taken potshots at before and I appreciate their seeing beyond that and responding.  I actually told Jack this would have no opinions or comments from me based on what people write.  I was actually hoping he would respond…

I would ask that folks don’t go nuts in the comments.  These were all well-thought out goals by all involved and I think there are some very recurring themes throughout.  I highly recommend every member of the Delaware General Assembly reads this.  It is a very good barometer of the education environment in Delaware these days.

If anyone wants to email me their own goals for Delaware education, feel free to email me at kevino3670@yahoo.com and I will be more than happy to keep this going.  This includes any who missed this the first time around, even Jack and Paul!

2016 New Years Goals:

Josiah Andrews, Wilmington Resident and Grandfather to Delaware Students:

  1. Make all charter school board members be residents of the State of Delaware. If you’re going to regulate tax dollars, they you’d damn well better have a vested interest as a tax payer in our state.
  2. Unionize charter school teachers so they are not constantly in fear of losing their jobs. Allow them to TEACH and FOCUS on the children, not be in a constant state of fear that they may become unemployed in a minute’s notice.
  3. Allow parents and teachers the ability to OPT OUT. Parents should not be forced to have their children stress out over these ridiculous Smarter Balanced Tests, and teachers should be permitted to TEACH a curriculum, not teach to a test.   I grew up learning how to actually read and write.  I also learned common sense math, rather than the nonsensical common core math.

Adriana Bohm, Red Clay Board of Education Member:

  1. I would like the DOE to implement a weighted funding formula which addresses poverty and institutionalized racism.
  2. I would like the educational system to stop disciplining students of color and those with special needs and IEPs/504s in a harsh, biased, and discriminatory manner.
  3. I would like the state to “deconcentrate” poverty in our schools.

Jennifer Cinelli, Milford School District Parent:

  1. Statewide Delaware Autism Program (DAP) assistance programming for all districts.  This would include respite, in home services, summer programming, etc. for all children in need.
  2. Funding for schools pushed down to the County level including a requirement that the counties be current on property assessments which would increase funding exponentially in Kent and Sussex Counties.
  3. Increase in statewide technology for all students.  I can’t understand the fact that Amazon is in our state but all the school kids don’t have Kindles instead of textbooks.  If we want our children to be competitive worldwide, we need to give them the tools.

Dr. Merv Daugherty, Superintendent of Red Clay Consolidated School District:

  1. Appropriate funding allocations for students of poverty and English Language Learners (ELL), Opportunity to support students and families.
  2. Increase Collaboration, especially in the areas of parent involvement and effective community partnerships.
  3. Increase Support for Pre-K programs, opportunity to work with students (age 4) to prepare them for their elementary experience.

Nelia Dolan, Indian River School District Parent:

  1. I would like to see our legislature consider the financial and spiritual harm that many of the policies they instituted over the last 20 years have inflicted on district schools, their students and their teachers. It is time to start supporting our district schools that accept all students, to stop punishing schools that house the highest percentages of at risk students, and rewarding those schools that manage to keep those children out.
  2. I would like to see the SBA thrown out. Having a test to measure individual student growth that is 9+ hours is ridiculous, and in the case of our younger students is abusive. We need the return of a test that can be reasonably given to all students, that is equal in length to a subject test that can be taken in a single period (50 minutes or less), and that can be used to inform instruction.
  3. I would like to hear serious discussion about making available quality preschool and summer enrichment for all of our low income and at risk students. The first place to look for money should be in our DOE. If the enormous amounts of money the DOE has spent on data, consultants, testing, surveys, salaries, etc., over the last few years had been spent on preschool for low income children in Wilmington, real progress could have been made.

Natalie Ganc, Caesar Rodney School District Special Education Teacher:

  1. Kim Williams funding bill for special education students in K-3. Being back to teaching in 3rd grade has been a real eye opener in this department. There are so many kids who aren’t being identified due to cell numbers and funding, it’s ridiculous.
  2. Delaware stops focusing on testing students, which ultimately would stop everything being ranked and tied to student test scores. I would like to just be able to do my job and spend time teaching students the skills they will need to survive in life. With test scores being tied to my school’s performance (even though they haven’t been tied to mine for going on 2 years), I end up having to spend an inordinate amount of time teaching test-taking skills to students who can barely read or perform basic mathematical operations.
  3. Get rid of Common Core standards and go back to the Delaware Standards that we already had. They were much more developmentally appropriate.  Rushing advanced concepts before a child’s brain is developed enough in that area to process them is very damaging.  I have students who feel like they are failures, because they can’t grasp the 5th grade concepts that they are now forced to learn.  If there are talented and gifted students, then they could work on the higher concepts, but trying to force them on everyone, especially my ELL and SPED students, before they are ready, is creating a culture where everyone feels inadequate. In fact, if you look at my 3 goals for Delaware Education Reform for 2016…  I’m afraid if there aren’t changes made in those areas, then we are just preparing more children to drop out of school.

Lorrie Gloede, Delaware Citizen:

Guess it could be entitled “Impossible Dream”.  I would like to see Delaware educators be free to teach, using their creativity and curriculum and standards planned by them (the way it used to be).  Student assessments would be done by teachers; teacher assessments would be done by the principals and assistant principals; principal assessments would be done by the superintendents.  This “old-fashioned” concept would involve separating ourselves from federal government mandates, federal bribes, corporate involvement; and paying our education taxes to the state and local districts, resulting in more local control.  I believe problems are more easily fixed when we are closer to them.

Karen Gritton, 9/12 Patriots:

  1. Parental oversight of the Delaware DOE to force transparency and get information out. FOIAs aren’t being responded to.
  2. Parental oversight of data collection by schools.
  3. Reversal of funding for Common Core and Smarter Balanced.

Eric Gustafson, Christina School District Teacher:

  1. Cancel SBAC
  2. Funding of charter schools unlined to traditional public schools, imitate vo-tech funding.
  3. Funding of traditional public schools addressed in the Era of Choice, do away with referendums.
  4. Wilmington education scene needs conclusive action. I favor Christina School District being removed from Wilmington.
  5. Reshaping the power of the Delaware Department of Education.

Terri Hodges, President of Delaware PTA:

  1. Establishment of a committee, under the direction of the Attorney General’s office to continue assessing progress and/or areas of improvement with the compliance of anti-bullying policies and reporting of incidents at the local level. As a caveat to this, I would like to see strong and clear language with regards to the rights of victims & their families.
  2. Real meaningful inclusion of parents, teachers, and other stakeholders in addressing components of the Every Student Succeeds Act in the form of legislative initiatives that will give more local control particularly over assessments and accountability. This includes replacing SBAC with a more reliable and valid assessment.
  3. Implementation of the recommendations from the Enrollment Preference Task Force.
  4. I would like to see the passage of House Bill 186.

Dr. Mark Holodick, Superintendent of Brandywine School District:

  1. Double down on early childhood programming and supports, ensuring that ALL children have access to quality early learning opportunities that ultimately lead to ALL children reading fluently and with comprehension by grade 3.
  2. We implement a weighted student funding formula that recognizes and addresses children living in poverty and English Language Learners.
  3. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, districts refocus on the importance of Emotional Health and the Arts in education. Both are critical in the development of the whole child and deserve greater emphasis and resources within education.

State Rep. Earl Jaques, 27th District:

  1. Have audit procedures the same for every school district.
  2. Provide funding for children with disabilities in K-3.
  3. Pass redistricting for Wilmington.
  4. Eliminating test scores as part of Component 5 (in DPAS-II Teacher Evaluation System).
  5. Increase school funding for children of low-income families.

Yvonne Johnson, Vice-President Delaware PTA Advocacy Committee:

  1. Abandonment of The SBAC, Smarter Balanced Assessment: I wish there would not be a need for a state assessment. I wish that the Federal Government had a better way to measure how students are learning.  Children are not a one size fits all and when we use high stakes testing to determine everything about children and their proficiency, we are not recognizing that not all children develop on the same path. I have always been against high stakes testing, however, SBAC is probably the poorest assessment Delaware has ever used. Why? Because it does not inform instruction for teachers, it does not measure growth from fall to spring, it says that all students should master standards at a particular grade level, and the results land in the parents and educators hands when the student has already moved onto the next grade. My wish is to replace SBAC with a developmentally appropriate growth model assessment.
  2. Parent Engagement: Many school districts think they actually have 100% parent engagement in their schools. Why? Because they check the box off. If a school has a pizza party paid for by Title I funds and only 10 parents show up, the school feels that is parent engagement. I think that no matter how parents show up, it is a win, however, we need to look at parent engagement differently. We need to take the engagement to the families. We need to train parents on what true parent engagement is. Sure, volunteering is essential to support a school, however, parent engagement looks very different to different folks. I wish that we could actually have mandatory parent engagement seminars and activities in each school to show parents that it is not just about volunteering in the building but also about reading to your child, assisting them with their homework, and working with their child’s teacher to ensure that their children are learning while in school and receiving all the resources and services that are mandated. Parents must be their own child’s advocate but not all parents know how to do this. So my wish is that all parents would and should learn to be their own child’s champion.
  3. Weighted Funded for at risk students: In theory WEIC is a tremendous idea. It’s main goal is to ensure that the students in the poorest neighborhoods (at risk students and low-income students) get the best education possible. Delaware DOE has failed this population enormously. These students need more resources from the school system because they may not be getting it at home or in the community. There are so many recommendations for this to work however, if nothing else actually materializes, I wish that our schools can go to weighted funding. This would put the students at risk receiving the resources they most desperately need. These students should get more funding then perhaps their suburban counterparts because many of the students that are not at risk have other advantages to enhance and strengthen their education. My wish is that the state moves to weighted funded formula system and gets rid of unit counts.

Jackie Kook, Vice-President Christina Education Association and Christina Teacher:

  1. A method of monitoring student progress in classes based on the professional judgment of the educator. That could look like proficient scores on an agreed-upon test or a comprehensive, standardized portfolio system or anything in-between, but it should be personalized to the student and integral to the work of the class (i.e., not a standalone test with no relevance to the coursework.
  2. A well-rounded evaluation system for schools. This should include not only academic things but also access to extra-curricular activities, diverse arrays of elective/expressive courses, and respected staff that offers support to all learners on an individual basis.
  3. I’d like to see Dr. Dan Shelton rumored to be next Secretary of Education 😉 But seriously, the third thing I’d like to see is a rescinding of educational laws that make no sense, or that are holdovers from a prior federal educational policy maker. It would be great to take it all back to square one and come up with a new holistic plan instead of piecing it together a little at a time.

State Rep. John Kowalko, 25th District:

  1. Restore the cuts to public education that Governor Markell imposed in 2008-2009 which would enable smaller classroom ratios and a return of the “Minner” reading specialists among other things that have been taken away from the “educators” toolbox.
  2. Cancel all Race To The Top initiatives that have cost hundreds of millions of dollars siphoned off into the pockets of the corporate speculators. Stop asking for taxpayer money to continue this public education death spiral that will break our budget while ensuring failure for our teachers and students.
  3. An override of the Governor’s poorly considered veto of House Bill 50 with a legitimate consideration of dismantling the “Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium” commitment by Delaware.
  4. Making the State Board of Education an elected body.
  5. Cutting the ever-burgeoning bureaucracy that is the Department of Education, and electing a Governor who will insist that entities such as the State Board of Education and DOE serve the will and interest of the communities and families.

Matt Lindell, President of Capital Board of Education and Cape Henlopen Teacher:

  1. I would like to see Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 overridden by the legislature.
  2. I would like to see someone at DOE or the state admit that rating schools based on tests is a waste of time as it wastes money on something that we already know, which is socio-economic plays a role in successful and so-called struggling schools.  Fix the source of the problem; you fix the schools.
  3. I would like to see a State Board of Education that is a rubber stamp for DOE policy. They do not have to agree with my views 100% of the time; however, it would be nice to see some independent thought out of them on a consistent basis.

Mike Matthews, President of the Red Clay Education Association:

The time is now for the General Assembly and our Governor to act FOR the students in our neediest schools. Will they choose test scores or adequate supports and resources for our students? There are two big things coming down the pike this year: The House and Senate must immediately vote to override the Governor’s veto of HB 50, the parent opt-out bill. And even if they don’t pass the recommendations made by the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, then the Legislature must begin a full-scale review of our schools’ funding system to get more resources to our neediest schools. Which side will the Legislature and our Governor be on?

Greg Mazzotta:

  1. Delaware (state-level) Quality Program R & R – Refreshed and Realized – deployed by the six sections: Manufacturing, Small/Service Business, Non-Profit/Government, Health Care, and Education.
  2. Establish a Baldridge-in-Residence Leadership Program to support the state-level Quality Program regardless if Delaware has its own or is affiliated with that of another state. Currently, the fiduciary is the Missouri Foundation for Excellence and has been since 2012. With leadership changes in MD, NJ, and VA, it’s unclear who will be partnering with whom.
  3. That my work at DSU continues to show promising results in continuous improvement and that other Higher Ed organizations will take note.

Harrie Ellen Minnehan, President of Christina Board of Education:

  1. An end to all but end of the year annual tests and I’d only do them in Grades 3, 5, and 10.
  2. An end to administrative walk-throughs in classrooms. Nonsense, utter nonsense. All that is created is stress on both teachers and kids.
  3. Bring back REAL Kindergarten. Kindergarten kids do NOT NEED TO LEARN TO READ. Some do teach themselves but the typical Kindergarten child is not ready socially or intellectually to be reading. They need to learn to play, to get along with other kids, and to be part of a classroom group.

Sabine Neal, Smyrna School District Parent:

  1. A checks and balance system for IEP process.
  2. Schools to actually face accountability.
  3. For ALL children to receive a quality education.

Lauren O’Connell-Mahler, Attorney for McAndrew’s Law Firm:

  1. Improved collaboration between the state agencies that serve students with disabilities.
  2. Improved supports and services within our schools for students with emotional/behavioral/mental health needs.
  3. Increased focus on educating the whole student, not just boosting report card grades or state test scores, but also developing the other skills that our children need to be ready for life after graduation (e.g., social skills, vocational skills, adaptive skills, behavioral skills, organizational skills, etc.)

Liz Paige, Christina Board of Education Member:

  1. Christina School District moving forward with a permanent Superintendent and strong district leadership.
  2. An elected State Board of Education.
  3. Debates about education to be focused on what is best for students and not grown-ups.

Senator Brian Pettyjohn, 19th District:

  1. I’d like the relationship between the state DOE and stakeholders rebuilt. The animosity between the DOE and just about every group is apparent.
  2. Testing has to be manageable, reasonable, and reflect what we are expecting of our children when they are promoted or graduate. And those expectations have to be grounded in reality and aligned with what employers or colleges are expecting from the final product of our K-12 system.
  3. The funding model for education has to be fixed. It’s an outdated model that does not work efficiently and effectively in the 21st Century.

Lisa Radke, Appoquimink School District and First State Military Academy Parent:

  1. Override the veto on House Bill 50 and more strength in numbers with the opt-out movement in Delaware.
  2. New blood on our school boards if possible.
  3. Be rid of Smarter Balanced and Common Core.

State Rep. Mike Ramone, 21st District:

  1. Establish a unified rolling reassessment of real estate in Delaware in which each property would be grandfathered at their current assessment value and property tax rate until they sell their property at which time the “State Wide Current Market Value” is established and a new State wide property tax rate would then apply. Result: Immediately more income to fund our educational system in a fair equatable way State wide without the cost and time consumed to reassess property values throughout the State.
  2. Consolidation of our school districts into 5 Districts. Sussex, Kent, Southern New Castle, Northern New Castle and Vocational. Result: Reduction in administrative costs, allowing more monies to flow into the classrooms, and a more unified, streamlined educational environment for teachers, students and communities.
  3. Develop a statewide commitment to unified campuses with direct feeders from Elementary to Middle to High schools. Result: Consistency in transition from school to school. Teachers, Students and Administration would be more familiar with families and communities and would be better equipped to address the needs of those entities.

Three big steps but all needed to make Delaware School the Best once again. I am sure my thoughts may stray from my colleagues but they are all designed to help create a consistent environment which supports learning, allowing our teachers to help fill every child’s “cup” to the top regardless of how large or small that cup is. This results in children graduating from high school with the skills and knowledge to contribute to society in a valued and respected way. What more could we ask for?

Kenny Rivera, President of Red Clay Board of Education, Vice-Chair of Wilmington Education Improvement Commission:

  1. Support for Wilmington Education Improvement Commission recommendations (especially the current sustainable and weighted funding recommendations).
  2. Passage of the Enrollment Preference Task Force recommendations to come.
  3. More public education friendly legislators/Governor to be elected and/or stand strong.
  4. Opt Out Override.
  5. Less Testing and change the poor usage of that data to label students, schools, and teachers.
  6. Smarter Balanced replaced by SATs in high school.
  7. Kim Williams’ audit charter bill (House Bill 186).
  8. Expansion of Pre-K for at-risk children.

Ashley Sabo, Delaware PTA Advocacy Committee, Red Clay Inclusion Committee:

  1. More transparency from leaders- school boards, legislators, superintendents, state officials, ALL those in leadership positions.
  2. Return the focus of education to the children and their true needs, not the needs and desires of corporations pushing agendas and big ideas to earn a dollar at the expense of our kids- after all, these kids, our kids are our future- so fewer assessments, standards-based education, Common Core, etc.
  3. More social skills learning and active learning for our little kids in preschool and Kindergarten. They need more time to explore and hands on learning to allow their brains to grow and expand. Not more worksheets.

Dr. Dan Shelton, Superintendent of Capital School District:

  1. All High School graduates college ready and if they choose, prepared to begin the career of their choice.
  2. Full funding of the education budget.
  3. Full funding for initiatives that are places on schools by legislature (future and past).

State Rep. Byron Short, 7th District:

My key concerns regarding education are mostly related to policy leaders understanding the roll of poverty in our educational system. I think few of us really understand how desperate the lives of some of our students really are.  I would like to see schools in high poverty areas almost become community resource centers with social workers helping the whole family connect to available services.  We need strong wrap-around services.  Increased mental health services to address PTSD.  My daughter is at University of Delaware studying to become a teacher.  She is learning best teaching practices but so much of what is required of teachers to be successful are unmet needs outside of the classroom.  I am confident we can be successful but we have to take the real education challenges head-on and that means addressing the life challenges of economically disadvantaged students.

Brian Stephan, Christina School District Citizens Budget Oversight Committee:

  1. Sustainable traditional public school funding formula developed.
  2. Fund Charters via line item on State budget.
  3. House Bill 50 Veto Override.

Senator Bryan Townsend, 11th District:

  1. More funding/services for high poverty schools.
  2. Doing away with predominance of student testing in teacher evaluations.
  3. Reforms to enhance educator compensation.

Leroy Travers, Principal of Campus Community School:

I can basically answer your question with one statement that would encompass all three (and many more) things that I would like to see. That is that I would like to see more attention and emphasis, state and system wide, placed on the needs of students, all students!  That alone would solve many, many problems.

Niki Vella, Red Clay Consolidated School District Parent:

  1. Students with special needs and disabilities not labeled as students with behavior issues. For instance, a student who comes from a home of neglect or abuse and acts out, is NOT the same as a student with disabilities or special needs. Our Governor, Secretary of Education, and Delaware’s education system has failed to recognize this. If they bothered to it just might change things with our diverse students coming into the schools from neglected households in the city. This is not fair to them also. Also there would be less money for charter schools that don’t work who are draining the public school systems funds.
  2. Common Core and State Testing ABOLISHED! With this system our children and teachers strengths are being discounted. This is an ugly system that only benefits our money-hungry stingy government in Delaware and is NOT helping our children and their education in ANY way. It is a test and education plan to make our politicians discount our children’s education. Our special needs and disabled students should be exempt from this test because it is NOT the right way to measure their learning and intelligence.
  3. We need more public schools opening in the next few years. The size of our classrooms is WAY too large. Our teachers cannot keep up with the amount of kids in each class. It would be nice if they did what Jeb Bush did three years ago and passed a referendum that limited 25 kids per class and opened MORE schools per city. Our schools in DE are not evened out enough and there are limited schools in each of our cities. I blame this on the State Testing excuse and bad useless Charter Schools opening up and closing. This is causing the well to run dry! We need to re-open public schools and stop using the discrimination card. Diversity is a wonderful thing and as a parent I believe in it for my son, but these poor kids with behavioral issues caused by bad parenting coming in from the city cannot be expected to flourish in a class of 50 kids.  This is no way fair to those kids or any kids in the public school system. This is hurting ALL of our kids and the wonderful teachers in this state. This is a cry for help!

State Rep. Kim Williams,19th District:

  1. Kindergarten classrooms bring back their play stations, let children explore and use their imagination once again, instead of focusing on their performance on a test they will have to take in three years.
  2. House Bill 186- charter audit bill passes the Senate and is signed by the Governor.
  3. Weighted Funding for K-3 Basic Special Education and Students of Poverty
  4. Eliminate most enrollment preferences in our schools.
  5. No more labels being placed on our schools.
  6. No more teaching to a test, eliminate Smarter Balanced.

State Rep. Lyndon Yearick, 34th District:

  1. A reform to the unit count funding system. Let’s provide more discretion and flexibility for schools.
  2. Classify all education employees as essential and non-essential. For example, an essential employee is the teacher, paraprofessional, custodian, etc.- the individuals as close to the student as possible. Let’s build our schools from the classroom/student up.
  3. Standardize designs for new schools and construction.

Smyrna Assistant Superintendent Patrik William’s Hysterical Letter To Delaware DOE

This regulation, in my view, is akin to a bunch of model rocket enthusiasts crafting a regulation for NASA astronauts governing their space missions.

I love this!  I have never met the Assistant Superintendent of the Smyrna School District, but when I do I am certainly going to shake his hand!  Thank you Patrik Williams!  The below letter is in regards to a pending regulation coming before the State Board of Education at their meeting next week.  It deals with “Uniform Due Process Procedures for Alternative Placement Meetings and Expulsion Hearings”.  Mr. Williams definitely didn’t like the way this regulation was worded, but some of his comments had me rolling on the floor!

And to see the full regulation, please read below:

Only in Delaware…

The Education Polls For Delaware…Those Running For Office- Take Note!!!

 

Vision Coalition & Student Success 2025 Is A Joke, All The Kiss-Asses Need To Stop The Charade #vcconf15

I’ve been following the live tweets from the Vision Coalition and their idiotic Student Success 2025 most of the morning.  I see lots of district admins, Delaware PTA reps, teachers and legislators buying into this absolute nonsense.  All you are doing is lining up the pockets of Rodel’s Dr. Paul Herdman and his corporate education reform buddies.  Enough.  You attend this event expecting some kind of miracle every year, and it is more of the same.  Endless talk with no true progress.  The NAEP scores came out today, and students did worse.  Smarter Balanced is a complete failure.  You talk and talk and do nothing about the true problems: crap like this making its way into the classroom.  All this talk about personalized learning…you have no idea what you are turning children into.  Drones for the millionaires and hedge fund managers.  And who is going to pay for all this?  Our state is facing a probable $200 million dollar deficit in the coming months, and you want to spend more money.  While funds are siphoned out of the classroom for these events?  Come on people, wake up!

If you want to do something meaningful for Delaware students, stop attending events like this.  Get in the classrooms, see what teachers really need.  See what students need.  Personalized learning is not it.  Standards-Based IEPs are not it.  You can talk about community and parent engagement all you want, but I guarantee you the bulk of the parents in this state could not give a rat’s ass about this kind of thing.  Stop trying to reinvent the wheel.  All you are doing is making clowns like Paul Herdman rich.  And trust me, he is laughing all the way to the bank.  He likes to talk about unintended consequences a lot.  You have no idea what just attending an event does to the students you like to think you represent.  If you are there for the awesome eclairs, I get it.  But if you are there to go back to your district, school, or association and fill heads up with all these great ideas, you are barking up the wrong tree.

I’m sure Jack Markell will give some rousing speech to go along with all the other bs you heard today.  Don’t forget about the students and stop going to these “all-star country club” events.  You are all culprits in the traps being set for students and teachers by merely attending.  You should be supporting a nationwide push to get outside companies the hell out of education.  You should be digging your heels in against standardized testing and all it’s punishment tactics.  Support opt-out.  Support special education.  Stop bullying.  Turn the discussion on how we can lift children out of poverty and reduce crime.  Stop with the apparent racism that exists in our state.  Stop the segregation and the tactics used to make it continue.  This isn’t education, it is a corporation.

Many Delaware Parents Are NOT Happy With Smarter Balanced Results

As predicted, Delaware parents are not happy with the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  Of course, the ones who scored proficient or above have not been vocal.  But the 49% of parents who are seeing English/Language Arts non-proficiency and 62% non-proficiency for math, are not too happy.  And parents of special needs children are horrified.  The Delaware DOE is going to put the maximum spin machine on this utilizing every possible source they can use.  The State Board of Education is having a workshop at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover next week to deal with the fallout.  Of course, they are going to talk about the myths and fallacies of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Will they come right out and say “Don’t read Exceptional Delaware, Kavips, or any of the other Delaware blogs”? Or will they, for once in their professional lives, come out and say “You know what, we messed up.  This test is horrible.  We apologize, and let’s really work together to come up with a new test.  We want your help, and all the other stakeholders we didn’t include the last time.”

If they did the latter, and stuck to it, I would be utterly amazed and shocked.  Oddly enough, Governor Markell has been strangely quiet on the issue.  Of course, he went to Germany last week, and the Pope is coming to town this week.  But we are heading into election mode, and it wouldn’t shock me if every announced or potential candidate told his office they don’t want him talking about this test at all!

Senate Joint Resolution #4 Passes, Creates Education Funding Improvement Commission

Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques and Senator David Sokola introduced Senate Joint Resolution #4 which creates the education improvement commission.  I am always suspicious of the two education committee heads down at Legislative Hall, but we definitely need to take a very hard look at education funding in Delaware.  There are just too many problems.

This resolution passed the House unanimously.

Student-Military Connection Data Tracking Senate Bill 94 Will Help Many Students in Delaware!

Senate Bill 94, introduced yesterday by Delaware Senator Brian Bushweller, would allow tracking of a student with ties to the military.  But it can’t violate FERPA, or be used for accountability, or anything that could cause problems for the student.  But it would only be used by local districts to know of any military connections.  Okay… why?

According to Dr. Terri Hodges, President of the Delaware PTA, the reasoning behind the bill is this:

The Delaware PTA Military Outreach Committee began work on this issue a little over a year ago with a coalition of stakeholders and Sen. Bushweller to bring the issue of military awareness to the forefront in Delaware. We proposed a data tracking system to identify military connected students. The primary purpose behind this proposal was to bring awareness to the unique needs of military connected students and how those needs impact them academically, emotionally and socially. The majority of military connected students in Delaware attend schools off base, including in New Castle and Sussex. However, due to the lack of awareness and understanding of military culture and lifestyle, most of our schools are not aware of or familiar with the resources available for these families. The students are labeled as behavioral problems and do not receive appropriate interventions. Part of the problem is that non DoD schools have no way to identify military connected students so that they can channel those resources to those families. This is the purpose of the Bill. During our research phase, we worked with other state PTAs in states that have already passed similar legislation or are in the process of developing similar legislation.

So the idea behind the Bill is really to have a process to identify military connected students for the purposes of providing appropriate resources and supports specific to military families, like mine that attend a non- DoD school.

Hope that helps. Anyone interested in learning more or working with our Military Outreach Committee can contact me.

Originally, I thought this legislation was odd, but thanks to Dr. Hodges for explaining it to me.  This actually makes a lot of sense, and I support this 100%!  Please read the legislation below:

Delaware House Bill 52 Would Make Cursive Mandatory in Delaware Public Schools

I didn’t see this one coming, but I am all for it!  How can students sign checks and important documents if they don’t know how to do it when they are “college and career ready”?