Typically after a blogger posts something about the Delaware Department of Education they act pretty fast in trying to get something website related fixed. Not the case with their Charter School Renewal section of their website. I had to hunt last month’s State Board of Education agenda to find a document showing when the Charter School Accountability Committee meetings and public hearing will be held.
Last night I put up a screenshot of their charter renewal web page. It was blank. It looks like they did go into it today to modify the already blank page. How does a blank page get modified?
So like I said, I did find a timeline somewhere else.
Let’s see…today is October 15th. Looks like there are two public hearings tonight. There are three tomorrow night. Two last week. But what the heck is the public supposed to comment on when there are no renewal documents available? Are they supposed to say “I’m drawing a blank on why I love/hate this charter school?” This is an insult to the charter school crowd. I believe this is also a violation of State Code, Title 14. But what do I know? (more than the DOE these days)
Get with the program DOE! You are growing more incompetent by the day! If you are having technical issues, put a note on the page. We know you went on that page today! Did DelawareCAN/Atnre Alleyne hack into the DOE’s website last week too? And why are they having public hearings before the first CSAC meetings? Typically it is the other way around. Secretary Bunting, it is time to wake up now! This shouldn’t be THIS easy for me!
I will update this if the DOE gets around to updating their non-transparent website or they modify the blank page again.
The Delaware Department of Education has not released the state law required annual bullying report for the 2016-2017 school year. As per Title 14 of Delaware State Code:
(4) The Department of Education shall prepare an annual report, which must include a summary of all reported and all substantiated incidences of bullying, a summary of the information gathered under paragraph (b)(2)f. of this section, and the results of audits conducted under paragraph (d)(4) of this section. The Department shall post the report required by this subsection on its website.
I reached out to the Delaware DOE about this a month ago and received a response from the Public Information Officer, Alison May, that it “should be” released at the end of the month. Here we are, a month later, and no report. Which would have put this after the choice window closed in the beginning of January. How can parents make accurate and informed school choice decisions for their children without information like this? Bullying is a very big concern for many parents and it helps to know the numbers for these in Delaware schools. That is, assuming they are reported with fidelity. I recently heard a tale of a high school principal who took a stack of discipline referrals and put them in a shredder without acting on them.
I took a look at earlier years to see when those reports were released:
So why hasn’t the Delaware Dept. of Education released this report yet? Is there some type of issue? The year with a report issued at the latest date in the next school year was the 2015-2016 report. Here we are two and a half months after that date, in Mid-February, and no report.
I checked into other required reports that haven’t come out from the DOE yet. We have yet to see the annual report on Teen Dating Violence. I have to wonder what is going at the DOE under Secretary Bunting’s command. I know they are going through a “reorganization” but they are still required to comply with Delaware law. Annual reports need to be released in a timely fashion. I shouldn’t have to be some citizen watchdog writing about this stuff. I expect to be able to go to the DOE website and find what I’m looking for. I don’t mind doing that but I would rather they just do the right thing to begin with. I would prefer to write about a report instead of a lack of finding one. So what is the repercussion for the DOE not following state code on this? There is none. There is absolutely no accountability except for maybe the Governor calling Bunting and saying “Why am I reading about this on Kevin’s blog? Get the damn report out!” and Bunting saying “Yes sir”. There is no mechanism in Delaware to oversee these kind of things and alert the state agency about not following state law. When it comes to education, I guess that’s me. And people wonder why I seem upset sometimes and claim I never do some due diligence before I post stuff.
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.
The Office of Accountability and Assessment is gone. Previously led by Penny Schwinn, who departed the DOE earlier this month, it is now part of the Teaching & Learning Branch but only as the Office of Assessment. Dr. Carolyn Lazar is still listed as the Interim Director of The Office of Assessment, in the sub-section of the Teaching & Learning Branch which is still led by Michael Watson. There is a sub-section under the new Deputy Secretary, Karen-Field Rogers, called Performance Management, but that is showing as vacant. This is echoed with the Data Management office. Former Deputy Secretary David Blowman has taken over Field-Rogers slot as Associate Secretary Financial Management & Operations. It looks like he still oversees the Charter School Office. Chris Ruszkowski is still running the show in the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit.
It appears the DOE is in the process of updating their website, because if you look under their “leadership” tab, it still shows Penny Schwinn there, and Blowman as the Deputy Secretary. There are many such errors on their website. If you look under the Exceptional Children Resources group, it still shows Sarah Celestin listed even though she left the DOE last summer to become the Special Education Director at Red Clay Consolidated School District.
The DOE has seen some key departures and changes in the past few months since the new Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, took the helm. With the amount of work the DOE receives based on the never-ending barrage of changes implemented by the State Board of Education and the feds, with more coming every day, on top of compliance issues, implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, charter school issues always going on, priority schools, assessment changes, state budgets and everything else is the DOE staff reaching a point where they are actually understaffed? Do they have too much on their plate? In some areas I would say so, but in others there is a lot of wasted money and resources going out. Like the TLEU. Every time I look, they are paying someone to come up with the latest report on Educator Effectiveness. Or the Office of Assessment, constantly regurgitating report after report about Smarter Balanced and everything that goes with it. Figuring out the Rubiks Cube that is the Delaware DOE is always a challenge…