CSAC Recommends DAPSS Stay Open For One Year With Conditions While Queen Margie Exerts Control

At the Delaware Department of Education building in Dover, the Charter School Accountability Committee recommended Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security stay open for another school year with very stringent conditions.  At that point, Colonial’s Board of Education could very well decide to take over their charter.  Queen Margie once again made it all about her.  But the discussion that reached this point was very intense.  Much more information here than you will find in the Delaware DOE press release. Continue reading “CSAC Recommends DAPSS Stay Open For One Year With Conditions While Queen Margie Exerts Control”

Advertisements

Untold Tales: Delaware DOE, Dave Morgan, & Three Days That Scared The Hell Out Of Me

For a few months there, I had a great source at the Delaware Department of Education.  When Delaware MET went down at the end of 2015, there was a lot I didn’t publish about what was going on there.  You will find out why shortly.  I’m glad I trusted my gut and didn’t send Wilmington into chaos mode.  The below emails, between Dave Morgan and myself, not only shed a lot of light on Delaware MET, but also the Delaware DOE itself.  Different names are thrown around in these emails.  Going back and reading these is always fun!  The last email between Dave Morgan and myself is particularly enlightening given that DAPSS is finally under formal review.  The incompetence at the DOE is plain to see in these emails.  I wish I could have met Dave in person.  I probably did but didn’t know about their secret alias with me.  I’ve had a few suspicions over the years, but have been unable to prove it.  Some parts of these emails I redacted for a few reasons.  That’s my business! Continue reading “Untold Tales: Delaware DOE, Dave Morgan, & Three Days That Scared The Hell Out Of Me”

Highlights From The January State Board of Education Meeting

Aside from the controversial Special Education Strategic Plan presentation and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security going under formal review, what else happened at the January State Board of Education meeting?  This is what goes out to legislators and all those important education folks in the state!

January State Board Meeting Highlights

The State Board of Education held its Regular Monthly Board Meeting on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 5:00 p.m.

All materials and presentations from the meeting can be accessed on the online meeting platform posted within each month’s agenda as posted on our website (www.destateboarded.k12.de.us ).

  • Here is a direct link to the agenda complete with links and attached documents related to presentations and other items before the Board:  SBE Monthly Meeting Agenda

The audio recording from the meeting is now posted on the State Board website.  An index of the recording with live links by section is copied below.

 

·         Board President, Dr. Dennis Loftus,  discussed his attendance at the Governor’s State of the State address earlier in the day and provided a recap of the key points involving education.  The Executive Director presented her report which included discussion of the latest publication by NASBE which focuses on Early Learning. A link to the publication as well as a few other articles regarding accountability plans across all 50 states according to ESSA plans and an interesting approach to chronic absenteeism. Her posted report called “News Updates and Information” is provided monthly.  There will soon be a link added to the home page for easier access to these reports and local and national articles related to education issues which are provided for review by the Board and public. Ms. Johnson then updated the Board on the work related to the Literacy Campaign and highlighted the upcoming meetings for the steering committee and subcommittees of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

·         Secretary Bunting provided a comprehensive report to the Board which included details about several school visits and opportunities to engage with members of the business community and other policy leaders,  meetings with school administrators, educators, and students in which she had been involved throughout the month.  These visits included meeting with the School District Consolidation Task Force Academic and Student Needs Committee where they discussed the state’s EL Strategic Plan. She also had the opportunity to recognize the outstanding achievement of 4 schools for Continued Excellence and identified 15 as Recognition Schools. Recognition Schools receive a banner to display in their school as well as $8,000 to further advance learning at their schools. She highlighted her involvement at the P-20 Council, Governor’s Cabinet meeting, Family Service Council, and the G.E.A.R meeting.

·         The Board received a presentation from the 2018 DE State Teacher of the Year, Virginia Forcucci.  Following her presentation and discussion with the Board they honored her with the SBE Award of Excellence.

·         The Board received a presentation on the Special Education Strategic Plan from the co-chairs of the Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Council, Dr. Michele Marinucci and Bill Doolittle. Board members discussed the development of the plan and asked questions regarding the goals and metrics within the plan. Additional information and resources from the presentation were provided on the agenda page for this item.

·         Department Regulations

o    Regulation 925: Children with Disabilities Subpart D, Evaluations, Eligibility Determination, Individualized Education Programs  was presented for final action.  There was discussion regarding the comments received from the GACEC and Statewide Disabilities Council as well as the fact that this change was only addressing one aspect of the regulation to align with federal requirements.  The Board was informed that a broader group of stakeholders are currently working on revisions to further update the rest of the regulation and that this regulation may be before them again with more comprehensive changes in the near future. A motion to approve the regulation as presented for final order was made by Mrs. Rutt and seconded by Dr. Whittaker. The motion passed unanimously by voice vote with one abstention (Mr. Rushdan, who was just confirmed to the Board the prior day and not a part of the prior month’s discussion of the regulation).

o   Regulation 501: State Content standards  was presented for final action. The amendments included the addition of statewide K-12 Financial Literacy and Computer Science standards.  The public comment received as well as feedback received through the community engagement sessions held by the Department was shared with the Board. There was discussion regarding the date in regulation for adoption and how that was different from the full implementation date of these standards to be integrated and aligned with curriculum.  It was explained that the date in regulation is the date that the standards would officially become the state content standards and that the implementation of those standards into professional development for teachers and integrated and aligned with curriculum would follow a similar timeline trajectory has was used for the Next Generation Science standards.  A motion to approve the regulation as presented for final order was made by Mr. Heffernan and seconded by Mrs. Rutt. The motion passed unanimously by voice vote with one abstention (Mr. Rushdan, who was just confirmed to the Board the prior day and not a part of the prior month’s discussion of the regulation).

o   Following the approval of Regulation 501, the Board took a moment to thank Mr. Michael Watson, Chief Academic Officer, for his many contributions to improving education for children in the state of Delaware.  It had been announced the prior month that this would be his final State Board meeting before leaving the department.  The Board recognized him for his service and awarded him the State Board’s Award of Excellence.

o   Regulation 1008 DIAA Junior High and Middle School Interscholastic Athletics and Regulation 1009 DIAA High School Interscholastic Athletics were presented to the Board for discussion.  These regulations are out for comment during the month of January and will be back before the Board in February for final action.  The DIAA Executive Director and legal counsel addressed questions from the Board members regarding the proposed changes which dealt with Officials organizations and Foreign Exchange and International Students’ eligibility.

·         The Board received public comment from two individuals commending them on the decision to approve regulation 501 and adopt statewide Computer Science standards for Delaware.

·         John Carwell, from the Charter School Office, presented the Department’s request to place Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.

o   At the December 18, 2014 meeting of the State Board of Education, the charter for DAPSS was renewed with the following conditions:

§  1. The school shall attain a rating of “Meets Standard” on the Academic Framework for the 2014-15 school year; and

§  2. The school shall attain a rating of “Meets Standard” on the Financial Framework for the 2014-15 school year.

o   In SY 2014/2015 Delaware implemented a new system of accountability known as the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) and was permitted by the U.S. Department of Education to use this school year as the year from which to measure academic achievement and progress.  Due to this waiver, DAPSS was provided an additional year to satisfy its conditions.

o   In SY 2015/2016, Delaware changed the academic assessment for high schools from Smarter Balanced to SAT.  Due to this change in academic assessment, DAPSS was provided an additional year to satisfy its conditions.

o   In SY 2016/2017, DAPSS failed to meet academic standards in three of the four DSSF metrics and showed a decline in both academic achievement and academic growth.

o   As for financial standards, in SY 2014/2015, SY 2015/2016, and SY 2016/2017, DAPSS failed to meet financial standards.

o   In 2015-2016, DAPSS was approved for a modification to decrease enrollment.  Despite this decrease, the school did not meet the 80% requirement for enrollment by May 1st for SY 2017-2018 enrolling only 77% of its projected population.   As of September 30, 2017, DAPSS enrolled 228 of their projected 340 students or 67% of their approved enrollment.   Since September 30, 2017, DAPSS’s enrollment has again declined.  The school currently has 217 students enrolled.

o   This is the third year that the school has shown a decline in enrollment going from 303 students in SY 2015/2016 to 217 students SY2017/2018.  With a 2018 graduating class of 47 students, 49 choice applications, and one withdrawal at the time of this report, it is doubtful that DAPSS will meet the Financial Framework standard this school year.

o   After considering these potential violations of its charter, the Department as approving authority, has determined that DAPSS should be submitted to formal review to determine whether the school is violating its charter and whether there are grounds for remedial measures.  The Department is seeking the assent of the Secretary and the State Board for this action.

·         The Secretary of Education following this outline of performance and concerns regarding the compliance with their charter stated, “Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security appears to have failed to meet the conditions of its charter renewal and should have the opportunity for a rigorous review of the school performance. Therefore, as Secretary of Education, I assent to placing Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.   In accordance with 14 Delaware Code Section 511(c), I seek the assent of the State Board of Education to the decision to place Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security on formal review.”

·         Dr. Loftus asked for a motion to assent to the formal review of the charter for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security.  The motion was made by Mrs. Sorenson and seconded by Mr. Heffernan.  After discussion of the Board which involved discussing the process that is included during formal review the motion passed unanimously by voice vote.

·         The charter office also provided in its monthly update, which was posted on the SBE website for information a timeline for the review of the new application received to open a new charter school in Sussex county called Sussex Montessori as well as the major modification requested for Design Lab HS. The links to all of these were provided in the agenda item online.

·         The Professional Standards Board  had no items to bring before the SBE this month since their January meeting was cancelled due to snow.

·         The Board had no one signed up for general public comment

·         The Board received an update from its Deputy Attorney General  regarding two appeal requests that have had their hearing and are currently in the time window in which either party is able to submit responses to the hearing officer’s recommendation. Both of those appeals will come before the Board for action at the February meeting.

The next regular monthly meeting of the State Board is scheduled for

Thursday, February 15, 2018

The meeting will begin at 4:00 p.m. and the Board will enter Executive Session to discuss two disciplinary appeals and then will return to general session at 5:00pm 

January 18, 2018 – Delaware State Board of Education Audio Recordings

Pat Heffernan Is The Biggest Jerk In Delaware!

I’ve seen a lot in Delaware education over the past four years.  I’ve seen people say some very brilliant things and I’ve heard very stupid things.  I’ve seen the full range of human emotion, from happy to sad, from angry to depressed.  But what I heard today made me feel many negative things like never before.  How someone could be so blind to reality yet be in such a position of power is beyond my comprehension.  Who is this person? Continue reading “Pat Heffernan Is The Biggest Jerk In Delaware!”

Wali Rushdan Gets Senate Approval For State Board of Education AND Explains His Time At Family Foundations

After a crucial Senate Executive Committee hearing, Wali Rushdan was given a unanimous Senate vote for the Delaware State Board of Education about an hour ago.

The Senate Executive Committee met with Rushdan right before the full Senate vote.  I must give props to State Senator Nicole Poore for tackling the elephant in the room.  She just came right out and asked Rushdan about his affiliation with the Family Foundations Academy Board of Directors. Continue reading “Wali Rushdan Gets Senate Approval For State Board of Education AND Explains His Time At Family Foundations”

More Information On The Atrocious School Board Member Removal Bill

Aside from State Rep. Paul Baumbach, I have yet to hear from one person in support of this legislation.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  But in the 24 hours or so since I posted this story, I have had many sidebar conversations with Baumbach, as well as many other crucial conversations. Continue reading “More Information On The Atrocious School Board Member Removal Bill”

Delaware State Board Of Education May Survive After All…

Last month, I reported the Delaware State Board of Education was done.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee took their funding away from them.  Many assumed they were toast.  We were wrong.  It appears the Delaware Department of Education will pick up the tab.  So there will be more State Board of Education meetings in the future.  And there is big news on that front as well.  Starting in July, their meetings will begin at 5pm.  Which means, you know, teachers and educators and working parents can actually go to these meetings.  As well, they will have public comment before each action item (except those which have a formal public comment period, such as charter school stuff and regulations).  Unless the Joint Finance Committee or the legislators deny the funding to DOE to do this.

So what happened?  The changes to Delaware Title 14 would be monstrous.  They would have to change up a lot of things.  While some thought things could change in the epilogue language of the state budget (which I oppose in and of itself), it is not an option.  New laws would have to come out granting the authority to the Delaware DOE.  While those could happen, it would be a headache and a half to get them in play between now and June 30th.

There was talk during the Joint Sunset Review meetings about the State Board taking on one or two new members.  With that being said, and probably because of all the confusion surrounding if they should even exist, Delaware Governor John Carney never nominated anyone to take Jorge Melendez’ place on the board.  So there could be changes to the membership.  I am hoping for some folks with more resistance to the Rodel way of thinking.  I haven’t heard anything about Donna Johnson going anywhere.  The Executive Director role is chosen by the State Board of Education President which is currently Dr. Teri Quinn Gray.  She was appointed by former Governor Jack Markell.

The State Board of Education is still under Sunset Review by that legislative committee.  Prior to the announcement about their funding, the committee agreed to hold them over until next year.

Breaking: State Board of Education Not Released From Sunset Committee

I don’t have all the details yet, but the Delaware State Board of Education is being held for another year in the Delaware Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee.  There are several areas of concern the committee still has with the State Board of Education.  I also heard someone from the State Board of Education named John Marinucci as the State Board’s contact person for all Delaware school boards.  Marinucci is the Executive Director of the Delaware School Boards Association.  Only 15 out of the 19 school districts in Delaware belong to that organization.  None of the Delaware charter schools do either.  So how could Marinucci possibly represent all the school boards to the State Board of Education?  Anyone who has been around the State Board of Education knows who acts as a liaison between Delaware charter school boards and them- Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.

As soon as I know more, I will update this article.  I heard this on the fly from several people while I was down at Legislative Hall today.  Actually, I heard a lot of things down there today!  All I can say is get ready for an absolutely crazy time from now until June 30th (July 1st for those who know how things work in Dover).  If you think the conversation is heated now, strap your seatbelt on and get ready for an insane ride until the end of the legislative session!

Will Executive Director Donna Johnson and the State Board of Education meet the requirements to get out of Sunset review?  I guess we have to wait until next year!  But the fact they are being held over until then means they did not satisfy the committee.  Meanwhile, long-time State Board of Education receptionist Danielle Moore is retiring at the end of June.  I’ve seen Danielle probably hundreds of times between the Townsend Building and Legislative Hall.  She is an awesome lady and is always courteous and genuine.  Best of luck on your future endeavors Danielle!

Enrollment Preferences Bill Released From Committee But Newark Charter School Exclusion Remains Controversial

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 was released from the Delaware House Education Committee today.  There are very serious concerns due to a “compromise” brought forth by the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  The bone of contention surrounds the Christina School District and Newark Charter School.  Since a portion of Christina exists in Wilmington, those students would not be considered in the enrollment preference which includes all students in a choice school’s district.  The line of thinking appears to be the district section of Wilmington is not connected to the rest of the district.  However, those who oppose this section of the bill feel it is a barrier for Wilmington students who are part of the Christina School District.

Today, State Rep. John Kowalko is bringing forth an amendment but no one on the committee knew specifically what the amendment was.  State Rep. Kim Williams, the primary sponsor of the bill, stated she assumes it would be to remove lines 7-9 of the bill which would give Newark Charter School their Wilmington exclusion.  Williams said she would not support the amendment because she gave her word to Senator David Sokola.  This, apparently, was an addition to the bill from Senator Sokola which caused the House Substitute bill from the original House Bill 85.  State Rep. Joe Miro said he would not support the bill if the amendment passed.

State Rep. Sean Matthews said he is in support of the bill but does not feel the bill serves all students in the Christina School District.  He felt the bill does not allow for Wilmington students to go to Newark Charter School and the exclusion for NCS was put in so it can pass the Delaware Senate.

If Newark Charter School is so good, they should take all students. -State Rep. Sean Matthews

State Rep. Deb Heffernan agreed with Matthews.  The bill was released with 11 votes in favor of the bill.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the Delaware Department of Education is taking a neutral stance on the bill.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, said former State Board member R.L. Hughes was on the Enrollment Preferences Task Force and voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius. Kristin Dwyer, the Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing,  said she is happy the conversation is opened with this bill but DSEA does not feel the bill goes far enough.  DSEA feels the 5-mile radius should be completely removed.

My concerns with this bill are the very nature of Newark Charter School to begin with.  Even with their 5-mile radius, their student populations do not reflect that of the Greater Newark area.  This is the public comment I gave to the committee and my idea for a potential amendment.

While I am very happy to see this bill, I have concerns around Newark Charter School. When the charter school had their major modification approved to build their high school, they were instructed with formulating a plan to allow for more diversity in their district.  I have yet to see that materialize, even within their current 5 mile radius.  While their special education numbers have increased, they are still woefully under what the state average is, much less the Christina School District.  In the school profile for this school year, African-Americans represent 10.7% of their student population compared to 39.4% of Christina.  While factoring in the African-American population of the Wilmington contingent of Christina student population, the greater Newark area has a much higher population of African-Americans compared to NCS.  I would recommend an amendment be placed on this bill for a weighted lottery for charter schools, magnets, and any choice school where the demographics are disproportionately lower than that of the surrounding district to allow populations that do not seem to be getting access to certain charter school even footing and representation within those schools.  Enrollment preferences are meant to allow the most disadvantaged students into choice schools, not to keep them out. Thank you.

The bill, if passed, would take place immediately.  However, it would not be able to kick in until the 2018-2019 school year since the school choice calendar for the 2017-2018 school year closed in January.  During the House Bill 90 Enrollment Preferences Task Force, the majority of the members voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius as an enrollment preference for choice schools.  Williams said she does not necessarily agree with the Newark Charter School exclusion, but felt compromise was necessary.  If the bill didn’t move forward, she would not be able to help any students.

Once Kowalko’s amendment is public, I will add it to this article.

The Sun Rises For The Delaware State Board of Education

The Delaware Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee voted today not to Sunset the Delaware State Board of Education.  Sunset would have shut down the board.  I will write more details later since I arrived late for the meeting due to a prior commitment.  As for the State Board’s Executive Director, Donna Johnson, the board voted for option one in regards to her role: The Board will present to the Committee a revised Executive Director job description to better align with the Board’s duties.

Issues surrounding public comment got a bit of discussion.  The JLOSC voted unanimously that the State Board of Education shall allow public comment before each action item but with an amendment.  Public comment may not be allowed during action items that have a pre-established and finite public comment period, such as regulations and charter school issues.  The reason for this is because state code allows for this.  Newly christened Senator Stephanie Hansen said during county council meetings in Sussex and New Castle Counties they allow for this because sometimes the public comment could affect a decision by the Council.  State Board member Pat Heffernan said they are bound by the Delaware State Code.  In my eyes, that is legislation begging for change as soon as humanly possible.  The Committee agreed that information shall be sent to public libraries and schools with meeting information about the State Board of Education.  A matter surrounding charter school approval and local impact was tabled so the State Board of Ed can give more clarifying information about their role on this matter.

I did not anticipate the JLOSC would shut down the State Board of Education.  I surmised some items would pass and some wouldn’t.  Without an apparatus in place to replace them it would be tough to figure out who should pass regulations.  Once again, legislation could take care of a lot of the issues surrounding them.  In a poll I put up the other day, over 70% of readers felt the State Board should shut down permanently.  I write this with the caveat that my readership tends to align with what I believe more and the poll only had over a 100 voters.

High Noon For The Delaware State Board of Education On Tuesday

We can do it better ourselves but we won’t tell them that.

The Delaware State Board of Education could be shut down as of Tuesday.  They face the Delaware Joint Legislative Overview and Sunset Committee.  The State Board was put under review by the committee last year after some very rough years under former Governor Jack Markell.  Many of the complaints circulate around their Executive Director, Donna Johnson.  As well, many citizens and education organizations in the state feel the State Board has outlived their usefulness and just seem to perpetuate agendas brought forth by corporate education reform organizations such as the Rodel Foundation of Delaware and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  I wrote about their last meeting with the committee over a month ago.  But I was able to be the sole attendee at a meeting yesterday where the State Board discussed their final meeting with the Sunset Committee and boy was it a doozy! Continue reading “High Noon For The Delaware State Board of Education On Tuesday”

When You Can’t Give Public Comment About A Change In Public Comment

The Delaware State Board of Education has always been ridiculous with their public comment policy.  You cannot give public comment on any action item on their agenda.  Further complicating this absolutely ludicrous scenario is a proposed change which will be up for action at their next meeting, on Thursday March 23rd.  The State Board of Education will take action on moving public comment from the beginning of the meeting until towards the end.  Thereby ensuring that the public is put on the bottom of the list.  There are certain groups that put public comment at the end of meetings, but the State Board of Education needs to hear from the public prior to voting or discussing items.  The very nature of attempting to contact a member of the State Board of Education is futile.  Everything goes through the Executive Director, Donna Johnson.  The State Board of Education will be having a meeting tomorrow at 12 noon to discuss the policy recommendations from the Joint Sunset Committee, a group of legislators who are taking a hard look at the State Board of Education.

As far as this latest action item, I am vehemently against this.  The State Board meetings are very long at times and to make members of the public sit through the whole thing just to give public comment is absurd.  I hope the State Board votes no on this insane idea.

Delaware State Board of Education’s Wild Sunset Review & They Are Still Missing A Member

The State Board does not hear or receive official complaints.

As the Delaware State Board of Education goes through their sunset review with the Delaware Sunset Committee, it has become more clear than ever this is a state agency in need of massive change.

After board member Jorge Melendez resigned last fall, the Delaware State Board of Education still has six members on their seven seat roster.  Three weeks into Governor Carney’s four-year term, there has been no nomination for Melendez’ replacement.

My concern is what happens if the State Board of Education votes on an action item which results in a tie vote.  Who breaks that stalemate?  How long will Carney wait to choose a replacement?  As well, the Governor has the authority to replace the existing State Board of Education President with Senate confirmation.  Will Carney do this which has been a typical thing in the past?

At present, the Delaware State Board of Education is under Joint Sunset Review by Delaware legislators.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board, submitted a very lengthy questionnaire to the committee last October.  Johnson provided an extensive and very thorough history of the State Board of Education which included items I had no clue about.  Included in the document is a list of Delaware Attorney General opinions that affect the agency.  There have been 21 such opinions dating back to 1996 with an average of one per year.  Eight Executive Orders, all issued for former Delaware Governor Jack Markell, had an impact on the State Board as well.  There is one section that talks about bringing the former Delaware Teacher of the Year on the board as a non-voting member.  Donna Johnson’s role was changed in 2010 from Policy Analyst to Executive Director.  Aside from her, the only other staff is an administrative assistant through the Delaware Dept. of Education (awesome lady by the way, Dani Moore).  Donna Johnson’s performance review is also included in the below document, but there is no indication of who approved this review aside from the State Board of Education in 2015.  I do not recall seeing this performance review on a State Board of Education agenda, but that may not be required under Delaware code or perhaps I missed it.  The most shocking part of this document exists towards the end.  The State Board of Education does not receive or recognize complaints about their own agency.  Perhaps this is why they are often perceived as a state agency that acts with an air of impunity and infallibility.  I believe that needs to change.

 

Donna Johnson on Jorge Melendez State Board Exit

Yesterday morning, I announced Delaware State Board of Education member Jorge Melendez was taken off the roll call for the board on their website. I reached out to Executive Director Donna Johnson for clarification on his exit. Late afternoon, I did receive a reply from Johnson who did let me know the reasoning behind Melendez’ exit.

Mr. Melendez submitted his resignation from the State Board to the Governor’s office. Mr. Melendez is moving out of state and would no longer be eligible to serve on the Board. As you are aware, the Governor brings forth nominations for the SBE to the State Senate for confirmation, just as is done with several other Boards. During this time when the General Assembly is out of session and the Governor’s administration is coming to an end, it is not uncommon for Governors to choose to leave a vacant seat open so that the next administration may appoint and the next State Senate may vote on confirmation. There are other boards facing this same situation right now and historically it is not an unusual occurrence. I do not have details about the nominations made during the special session on 10/13, but know there was not a nomination for a new member to the SBE made during that session. You would have to address the Governor’s office with respect to any details regarding their process in making this appointment.

Where there is smoke, there’s fire. But none here. Just someone moving on. Good luck to Mr. Melendez with his move and future endeavors in another state. And thank you to Donna Johnson for the response.

Delaware State Board of Education Missing A Member

The Delaware State Board of Education is a seven member public body appointed by the Governor of Delaware.  But one of their members has been taken off the list of active members.  Jorge Melendez is no longer a State Board of Education members.  I went back and listened to the past few State Board of Education audio recordings.  Mr. Melendez was not on the roll call for their October 13th meeting.  I did not hear any announcement reflecting his resignation from the State Board, but I do contend I could have missed something.

destateboard

 

The Delaware Senate held confirmation hearings on October 13th, the same day as the last State Board of Education meeting.  There were a handful of Senate nominations that day but the General Assembly website does not reflect what those nominations were for.  I did send an email to State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson for clarification on this at the time of this writing.  I will update this article if I hear back from her.

By Delaware state law, the State Board of Education must consist of seven members.

The Kathleen Davies Mystery Deepens As Charter School Petty Cash Letters Come Out & Many Charters Get Sue-Happy

Delaware is missing one of the key players in transparency thanks to a deliberate campaign orchestrated by one or many.  Because of this, it may have cleared the way for many charter schools to launch a lawsuit in Delaware.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams exclusively released the letters sent to five Delaware charter schools about their petty cash practices last night.  They showed some very extreme violations of state code.  As well, letters were sent to four other state agencies.  These letters were sent by Tom Wagner, the publicly elected Delaware State Auditor, on June 21st to the following charter schools:  Odyssey Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy, and Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  The state agencies Wagner sent letters to addressing the petty cash violations of state code were the following: Department of Education (Secretary Godowsky), Department of Finance (Secretary Tom Cook), Division of Accounting (Director Kristopher Knight), and the State Treasurer (Ken Simpler).  These letters were never publicly released from Tom Wagner or the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  Originally, this was an audit inspection and that report would have been released.  But before that happened, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts top official, Kathleen Davies, was put on leave last spring.  Now we can clearly see why.

Before I get into the results of the letters to the five charter schools, we need to look at motive.  The key to any mystery is “Who benefits”?  That benefit could be the ability to keep something hidden or being able to reap some type of positive outcome from the situation.

We have so many who could have done it: Ann Visalli, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Kendall Massett, Senator David Sokola, Charlie Copeland, Nick Manolakos, and others as well.  We can’t forget the potential role Greg Meece may have contributed either.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett are very tight and the DOE is in the same building as the Auditor of Accounts Office.  It could be a combination of any of these people.  It could have even come down from the very top, Governor Markell himself.

Out of all these entities, one of them leads the pack in Delaware when it comes to offering charter schools advice and protection.  That would be the Delaware Charter Schools Network, led by Executive Director Kendall Massett.  When it comes to charter schools, I have no doubt Kendall is in a key position to communicate issues to charter school leaders.  Some charter schools are run by ex-legislators in some sort of capacity.  Former State Rep. Nick Manolakos is the Head of School for Odyssey Charter School.  Delaware GOP Chair Charlie Copeland is the President of the Board of Directors for Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security.  Both are prominent Republicans in Delaware.  Many on the Sussex Academy Board of Directors are also Republican.  Odyssey Charter School and Delaware Military Academy clearly had the most egregious of petty cash violations out of the five charters.  I can imagine the pressure on Tom Wagner from all sides could easily have prompted his decision to make Kathleen Davies go away.

 

Odyssey Charter School:

  1. petty cash fund not approved by State Treasurer and checking account used for petty cash not approved by State Treasurer
  2. 53 petty cash checks over state limit of $500.00, totaled $303,451.65
  3. 57 debit transactions from petty cash account over state limit of $500.00, totaled $326,574.05
  4. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $88,979.83

Delaware Military Academy:

  1. had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian
  3. checks signed with two signatures but each check signed by Account Custodian who can’t sign checks
  4. 30 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $114,111.08
  5. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $20,589.31
  6. failed to provide receipts or invoices for check of $1000.00 for “lunch start-up costs”

Charter School of Wilmington:

  1. had no written polices and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliations done by Account Custodian, was performed by Chief Financial Officer who was not the Account Custodian
  3. no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
  4. 13 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $11,228.90
  5. had debit transaction from petty cash account for $4,000, well over the $500 limit, which was transferred to another CSW account
  6. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $6,174.10

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security:

  1. had no written policies and procedures for petty cash
  2. never had account reconciliation done by anyone, including the Account Custodian
  3. no checks signed with two signatures, only signed by CFO who was not the Account Custodian
  4. 8 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $6,440.11

Sussex Academy:

  1. 5 petty cash checks over state limit of $500, totaled $16,377.05
  2. maintained petty cash account over $5,000 limit, average monthly balance was $26,689.95

 

So let me get this straight.  Kathleen Davies was working on finalizing this report, showing five Delaware charter schools breaking the law, but she got put out to pasture?  And all the charters got was these “don’t do it again” letters?  That were NEVER released to the public, until now?  And look at the cc: on the letter to Godowsky.  All charter school leaders and board presidents.  My theory that Kathleen Davies was put on leave for bogus purposes is actually proven in the letters to the charter schools.  As the News Journal wrote, Ann Visalli with the Office of Management and Budget followed up on a complaint by unnamed individuals at the Auditor of Accounts Office.  As a result, Davies was placed on leave (six months after the tip was submitted to OMB) because she failed to use a procurement card for travel purposes and went through the also-existing state reimbursement program.  But in the letters to the charters, that standard doesn’t seem to exist because Wagner writes:

We also recommend using a State-issued procurement card (PCard) or direct claim through First State Financials when possible.  Regardless of the method of payment, supporting documentation must be maintained for all transactions.

So by Wagner’s own advice to the charters, what Kathleen Davies did is perfectly acceptable.  She followed the procedure.  Maybe not a preferred procedure, but a procedure nonetheless.  Which makes Ann Visali’s actions a complete and utter crock.  A complete and utter lie meant to disgrace the one person at the Auditor of Accounts office who was doing their job, and doing it well.  But no, instead we get these non-transparent letters from Tom Wagner.  And he has the gall to ask Godowsky to collaborate with him on “an event” to make sure all the charter schools know this, even though their leaders and board presidents were included in the letter to Godowsky?  How much more special treatment and hand-holding do the charters need to understand the law?  Do they need circle time to get this right State Auditor Wagner?  This obvious fraud going on in our State Auditor’s office is completely out of control, matched only by that of the Department of Education.

This whole debacle comes down to this: someone or maybe even a group of individuals is protecting charter schools in Delaware.  They have enough power and clout to make things disappear or just focus on other aspects surrounding it to cloud the issues.  We are seeing this with the charter school lawsuit and I have to wonder if the petty cash information was not made public because of that looming timebomb.  One can only assume the charters were given some type of direction in their process for having the DOE review exclusions districts submit for their local funding formulas.  They clearly knew the results before the districts did as evidenced by the emails between the finance office of the DOE and charter school leaders.  They also had to have known there would be some major blowback from the districts and advocates for the districts based on that.  If not, they are complete and utter idiots who truly underestimate the will and resolve of people in Delaware traditional school districts.

This is my new working theory: the charters knew they would wind up filing suit on the local funding formula.  I think they knew Godowsky was intentionally kept out of the loop on this and when the public found out about the new charter bills going out to the districts with very elevated amounts, Secretary Godowsky would be forced by public pressure to reverse course.  As a result, they would be free to sue the Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education for something they wanted to happen in the first place- a big, fat, and juicy lawsuit.  They knew the only thing that could happen for them to get more money would be to create the conditions for a lawsuit to happen.  Which they did.  Delaware is a very corrupt state.  If people don’t see that in this day and age with everything I’ve written, along with many others, they need to get their eyes checked.  There are good people, fighting the good fight, but they are overpowered and outnumbered by those who are either corrupt or lend their ears to those who are corrupt.  If some cities get a moniker of “Sin City”, then Delaware clearly qualifies for the “Sin State”.

But the charters and their friends had to clear a very real obstacle in their road to the lawsuit.  One Kathleen Davies.  The same person who was doing the petty cash audit along with other charter school audit inspections.  One of those inspections was a tip I sent to the auditor’s office on Newark Charter School and their failure to submit non-profit 990 tax forms to the IRS.  While they met the criteria once upon a time for being exempt from filing their 990 tax returns, they knew the conditions which allowed for those exemptions no longer existed.  Something the IRS issued very strongly worded guidance to all American charter schools that participate in these exemptions.  NCS knew they could not look like a victim in a lawsuit against their feeder pattern district if that audit inspection came out.  It had to disappear.  We all know true compliance with properly making sure all our schools in Delaware are truly funding student needs is an exercise in futility, despite what the law already requires.  But an audit inspection into NCS’ finances would be a much deeper probe.  It could have offered a great deal of transparency with their money and what they are doing with it, far past the scope of their annual audit or what appears in their financial statements.  But given the pull they seem to have, with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee (Delaware Senator David Sokola), to some extent the Chair of the House Education Committee (State Rep. Earl Jaques), other members of the Delaware General Asssembly, select members of the Delaware Dept. of Education, lobbyists, and companies within the Newark area, I could easily picture Greg Meece being able to rally enough force to make things happen in regards to Kathleen Davies.  Once again, I stress, with utmost importance, this is only a working theory of mine and is not grounded in documented fact.  I imagine a paper trail that could conceivably supporting this working theory would not materialize no matter how many FOIA requests I might ask for.

Lest we forget, as clearly documented in the above-linked News Journal article, Senator Sokola was the prime sponsor on a bill meant to give charter schools more authority over the choosing of their annual auditors as opposed to the State Auditor of Accounts office.  This was in complete contrast with Rep. William’s original bill which would have had the auditor’s office doing the job.

She publicly supported Williams’s bill over an alternative proposal from Sen. Dave Sokola, D-Newark, which would strengthen the rules charters have to follow in picking auditors but leave them with the authority to do so.

Eventually, Rep. Williams and Senator Sokola compromised on a charter school audit bill but the charters still get to pick their own auditor.  What the new bill also accomplished was any charter school under investigation by the State Auditor of Accounts office would also be audited for that fiscal year by the Auditor of Accounts.  By making the petty cash audit turn into letters instead of a full-blown inspection report, those five charter schools will not get a full financial audit by the Auditor of Accounts office this year.  There are also other stipulations in which that office can do a full financial audit on a charter, including the following, based on the text from the signed House Bill 435.

Has failed to maintain a current status with the Internal Revenue Service Form 990 filings, if said filings are required of that charter school.

All of this legislative language serves to expose charters who do not comply with the law.  But discovery of something like an exemption of an IRS 990 filing not being practical based on the current conditions of the only Delaware charter school in the state to not file said return, would come from something like an audit inspection of the school.  Something that is not happening from the Auditor’s office because they got rid of Kathleen Davies and my request to them seems to have vanished into the ether.  Even though I provided clear documentation to John Fluharty about this.  Granted, the Office of Management and Budget received a “tip” from other officials in the Auditor of Accounts office with the allegations of Davies “not following procedure” with travel expenses in November of 2015, the OMB did not act on this until the petty cash audit neared completion and the NCS 990 audit would have been under way.  As well, there was the pulling of Davies’ September 30th Enrollment inspection which was reworked by Wagner and released in September.  That report was released two weeks before Davies was put on leave.

At a bare minimum, the Auditor of Accounts office and the Office of Management and Budget must be made accountable for their actions regarding Davies.  If she was put on leave for something as trivial as not following suggested procedure while charter schools run amok with their petty cash accounts and the results of which were not made public, even if it was switched from an inspection to non-transparent letters, we have a major conflict of interest going on here.  This conflict of interest reaches to the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  As the charter authorizers of these five charter schools, they failed to even publicly broach the subject going on four months since the letters went to them, much less put the charter schools on formal review to address the financial violations of their charters, as they have the ability to do so under Title 14:

  • 515 Oversight and revocation process.

(a) The approving authority shall be responsible for oversight of the charter schools it approves.

(b) In addition to the review required by § 514A(a) of this title, the approving authority may notify a charter school of potential violations of its charter and submit the charter to formal review to determine whether the charter school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures pursuant to subsection (f) of this section.

Both the Delaware Department of Education and the Red Clay Board President, Kenneth Rivera, were well aware of the situation because they were included in the letters sent from Tom Wagner.  Bloggers like myself exist because of what amounts to severe issues with education in Delaware.  Our state has, is, and will continue to fail the most important stakeholders in education, the students themselves, because they fail to adequately provide oversight to make sure our schools do the right thing.  Instead, Delaware does its level best to cover up issues with no transparency and institutes polices and measures that have no basis in reality.  They are what outside interests want.  These “poverty pimps”, corporate education reformers, ed tech charlatans, and those hiding behind the cover of “non-profits” and “community organizations” should not be involved in education at all.

This is what I want to see: Kathleen Davies immediately reinstated, the original charter school petty cash audit inspection completed, and any other pending charter or district audits done with fidelity.  As well, anyone else who played a role in this absolute cover-up and smear campaign against Davies needs to be named and held accountable for their parts in this.  As State Rep. Kim Williams asked, who audits the auditors?  I believe it is time to find out.  It is past time the feds got involved in Delaware’s finances.  Corruption, fraud, waste, and abuse are rampant in Delaware.  If left unchecked, as it has been for some time now, the situation will only wind up costing the taxpayers of the state even more money than they have already doled out without even realizing it.

In the above picture, the people in the “Brady Bunch” format are as follows:

Top- Kendall Massett, David Sokola, Governor Markell

Middle- Tom Wagner, Kathleen Davies, Nick Manolakos

Bottom- Charlie Copeland, Secretary Godowsky, Ann Visalli

Early Childhood Education Exec. Director Susan Perry-Manning Resigning From Delaware DOE

I heard this as a rumor a few weeks ago, but the State Board of Education agenda for their meeting on October 20th confirms it. Susan Perry-Manning, the Executive Director of the Office of Early Learning, is resigning from the Delaware Department of Education effective tomorrow, October 7th. She joined the Department in February of 2015, just as the Every Student Succeeds Act and its push for more early childhood education became a very big topic in Delaware and the rest of the country.

doepersonneloctober2016

Prior to her stint at the Delaware DOE, Perry-Manning was the Executive Director for the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation. Early childhood education hasn’t been on my radar too much since I began this blog. K-12 education keeps me busy enough! But as I see this corporate push for what many are now calling a “cradle to grave” thing going on, I expect that to change. I’m all for kids learning as soon as they can, but I also worry about what pushing kids at too early of an age, before they are developmentally ready for certain things, will do to future generations of children. I joked once about a fetal Smarter Balanced Assessment. That was years ago. While we haven’t quite reached that point, I am skeptical of more and more corporations getting in on education. I don’t believe in “toddler rigor”. But I do admit I need to understand early childhood education more and see if I can separate the opportunists from those who truly want to help. There is a fine line at times…

Another noteworthy departure is Wayne Hartschuh. He is the Executive Director of the Delaware Center for Educational Technology (DCET). I find that one very interesting because of the personalized learning push in Delaware. He has been with the DOE for over twenty years, so he is definitely a lifer! It looks like the last of the bigger names at the Delaware DOE are leaving before Jack Markell leaves his post as Governor in three months. There is still one more who I wouldn’t shed any tears over if they left. “Elementary, my dear ______” There are a few others who look like they may stick around into the next Governor’s term: Susan Haberstroh, Karen Field-Rogers, David Blowman, and Donna Johnson. Time will tell on them! But the big question is who will be the next Delaware Secretary of Education! Or will Godowsky stick around for a while?

As well, we see the “official” announcement of Denise Stouffer taking over for Jennifer Nagourney, which I wrote about last week. Stouffer has to be having one hell of a week between Prestige Academy turning in their charter at the end of this school year and the bombshell charter school lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE.

do

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 3: Union? We Don’t Need Your Stinkin’ Union!

How did the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition get around the Delaware State Education Association?

The Rodel Foundation, Delaware DOE, and the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition had a meeting coming up on November 20th, 2014.  In the meantime, things were heating up with the priority schools, especially a looming showdown between the Christina School District and the Delaware DOE.  Many people felt no matter what Christina or Red Clay did, the DOE was going to take the six schools and convert them to charter schools.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium was getting ready to release the cut scores on the upcoming high-stakes test based on the field tests administered earlier that Spring.  The Delaware DOE was starting their town halls for their “school report card”.  They had released surveys to the public with ridiculous things like stop lights for grades (this eventually became the Delaware School Success Framework).  The IEP Task Force was in full swing and they were actively working on their final draft.  Unbeknownst to most, former Rodel employee Matthew Korobkin began his job in the Secretary of Education’s office at the DOE to begin work on the Special Education Strategic Plan.  This blogger had started doing some serious digging into Rodel after what I found out at the end of October of 2014.  The General Election came and went.  Matt Denn won the Delaware Attorney General slot in a landslide.  Two new state reps would have a dramatic effect on education in the General Assembly in the next year.

On November 19th, 2014, I released my mammoth Rodel article.  Knowing this little group was meeting in back-door meetings would have been good to know when I was writing that article.  It would have filled in some holes.  From what I heard from a few people, this article really rattled Rodel CEO Paul Herdman.  I know he was upset with me for daring to allege that Rodel would ever make money from hedge funds and somehow profit off Delaware education.  But in any event, the CBL Guiding Coalition was about to meet…

guiding-coalition-2nd-meeting

I tried the link referenced in the email to an Ed Week article, but the link no longer exists.  I have no doubt it reference some personalized learning school and how great it was.  When you look at the above email, note the word barriers.  If competency-based learning is supposed to be so great, why would there be any barriers?  At this point, it is probably a good idea to let folks know who was on both the Core and Advisory groups for this.

cbladvisorygroup

cblcoregroup

In terms of involvement, I don’t know if every single person participated in this CBL Guiding Coalition that was now divided into two groups. I do know, for example, that Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA did not go to any meetings of this group whatsoever.  There were six district Superintendents and one charter Head of School on the coalition.  Quite a few of the teachers were also on the Rodel Teacher Council.  Note the presence of university and college members.  There was a specific reason for that which will come in later parts.  Now, on most education committees and task forces, or any type of education group, there is always representation from the Delaware State Education Association.  But not on this coalition!  To me, the key figures in this group were Michael Watson, Susan Haberstroh, Wayne Hartschuh and Donna Johnson.  They were (and still are) important people at the DOE who were in a position to let the ideas of this group come into being.

In terms of the barriers, the coalition was very visible with what the policy and system barriers could be:

cblbarriers

In answer to why DSEA wasn’t represented on this committee, I think the words “collective barg”, which would be “collective bargaining” gives a clear answer to that question.  Unless this is all about some secret archaeology plan, I can only assume “dig learning” is “digital learning”.

guiding-coalition-3rd-meeting

Policies on seat time?  What does that mean?  In a competency-based world, a student doesn’t move on until they master the assignment or concept.  They must be proficient.  So what measures that proficiency?  The teacher?  Or a stealth assessment embedded into the ed tech the student is working on?  I love how the DOE and ed reformers turn simple words like “jigsaw” into something else.  I know what they mean, but why do they do that?

By the time their January 2015 meeting came around, the holidays came and went.  All eyes were on the Christina School District as they valiantly fought the DOE on the three priority schools in their district.  Red Clay signed their Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE.  A financial crisis occurred during Family Foundation’s charter renewal.  The community rallied for Gateway Lab School.  Parents were talking more and more about opt out.  And the General Assembly was back in session…

To Be Continued in Part 4: Playing with regulations, priorities change, and the DOE and the Governor freak out…

Prologue

Part 1

Part 2

Delaware Competency-Based Education, Part 1: Rodel, DOE & Achieve Inc. Team-Up

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  In its original form, it was an effort to personalize learning between a teacher and a student.  Students don’t always learn at the same pace.  The term has been bastardized by corporate education reformers over the past five years.  Their idea is to launch a technology boom in the classroom where investors and ed-tech companies will get tons of money.  To do this, they had to use education “think-tanks” and foundations to sway the conversation towards this lucrative gold-mine.  No one has been a bigger supporter of personalized learning in Delaware than the Rodel Foundation.  They began talking about this new and exciting education reform movement as early as November, 2011.  A company called Digital Learning Now! released their 2011 report card on different states ability to transform into a digital learning environment and Delaware scored poorly on their report.  According to this Rodel article on the report written by Brett Turner (the link to the report card doesn’t exist anymore), Turner wrote:

…the initial results are not promising, demonstrating that we have significant work ahead of us before the necessary policies are in place to ensure our students benefit from high-quality next generation learning opportunities.

Digital Learning Now! was an initiative of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.  Other digital “experts” the company thanks in their 2012 report include the Alliance for Excellent Education, the Data Quality Campaign, iNACOL, SETDA, Chiefs for Change, Getting Smart, and the Innosight Institute.  The Foundation for Excellence in Education was founded by Jeb Bush in 2008, just as Common Core was in its formation stages.  In the Rodel article, Turner talks about how Delaware needs to adapt to this environment so our students can succeed.

Over the next two and a half years, as Race to the Top became more of a nightmare than a promise of better education, Rodel began to take steps to have Delaware become a part of this next big thing.  They formed the Rodel Teacher Council to recruit well-intentioned teachers to join their personalized learning dream team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil but rather teachers who are easily manipulated and coerced into being connected with the “next big thing”.  I see them as unwitting pawns of Rodel.

Rodel didn’t write much about personalized learning too much during this time, but they did release a Personalized Learning 101 flyer in 2013.  At the same time, four Delaware districts formed BRINC: Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, and Colonial.  Using funds from Race To the Top and a Delaware DOE “innovation grant”, the districts used Schoology and Modern Teacher to usher Delaware into the digital learning age.  Rodel’s blog posts about personalized learning didn’t touch on the concept again until February, 2014 when a Rodel employee by the name of Matthew Korobkin began writing posts about digital learning.  More followed by other Rodel employees in the coming months.  At this time, Dr. Paul Herdman of Rodel was palling around with an ed-tech company called 2Revolutions and went around Delaware talking to groups about the glory of personalized learning.

In the beginning of June in 2014, Rachel Chan with the Rodel Foundation attended a seminar in Washington D.C. on personalized learning sponsored by iNACOL.  She wrote about this extensively on the Rodel website.

Later that month, the United States Department of Education released their state reports on special education in America.  Delaware received a rating of “needs intervention”, prompting Governor Jack Markell to set aside funding in the state budget for a special education “Strategic Plan”.  What no one knew until recently was this plan consisted of hiring Korobkin away from Rodel and into Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s office to put this plan together.

Later in the summer of 2014, the Delaware Department of Education, with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, banded together to form a clandestine group of “stakeholders” to look at competency-based education in a personalized learning environment in Delaware.  The biggest hurdle in getting this going in Delaware was the barriers in the state code.  Their were many players in this non-public group, including members of the Rodel Teacher Council who were also working on a “Personalized Learning Blueprint” at the same time.  This group shaped the future of education in Delaware.  But they used people to do so, including some of the members of this group.

The timing for this group couldn’t have come at a better time.  There were many distractions happening that allowed them to fly under the radar with no one the wiser.  Invitations were sent out to select participants from Theresa Bennett at the Delaware DOE.  She was an Education Specialist for English/Language Arts in the Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development area of the DOE.  She was the person who scheduled all the meetings.  An introductory webinar, sponsored by Achieve Inc., was held on August 14th, 2014.

After an explanation of competency-based education and personalized learning from some folks at Achieve Inc., they opened the webinar up for questions.  At the 30:07 mark on the video, Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows explained his district already began the process for personalized learning.  He mentioned several hurdles, especially the teachers’ union.  Next came Judi Coffield, the former Head of School at Early College High School, a charter school run through Delaware State University.  Coffield asked how Carniege units and high school grades would come into play with this.  Bennett explained what role the DOE played in this and how she and Rachel Chan from the Rodel Foundation were going to run the group.  Bennett went on to explain that select allies were invited to participate in this group.  She also talked about a meeting with Achieve Inc. in Washington D.C. in May of 2014 to pave a path forward.

Bennett did a roll call of who was participating in the webinar.  Jose Aviles, the director of admissions at the University of Delaware, was not on the call.  Bennett explains how Aviles accompanied her to the Achieve Inc. meeting.  “Is there a representative from Delaware PTA on the call?”  No response.  “Is Donna Johnson on the call?”  Silence.  “Kim Joyce from Del-Tech?”  Nothing.  “Pat Michle from Developmental Disabilities Council?”  Empty air.  She added Laurie Rowe and Stanley Spoor with Howard High School of Technology would be joining them.  Susan Haberstroh with the Delaware DOE joined later in the Webinar.

Rodel and Markell knew they needed to stage a distraction to further this personalized learning agenda away from prying eyes while at the same time steering the conversation towards their end goals by using the distraction.  They knew one of these distractions would automatically happen based on federal mandates from the US DOE, but the other would need careful planning and coördination.  The first drove the need for the second.

A few weeks later, Governor Markell and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced the six priority schools in Wilmington.  The DOE picked the six “lowest-performing” schools in Wilmington, DE and announced the two school districts involved, Red Clay and Christina, would have to sign a “memorandum of understanding” and submit to the demands of the Delaware DOE.  This put the entire city into an educational tailspin.  Teachers in the affected schools felt outrage at the Governor and the DOE.  Parents didn’t know what this meant.  Politicians scrambled to make sense of it all as primaries and general elections faced them while constituents furiously called them.  Teachers in Delaware were still reeling from the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment and the scores tied into their evaluations.  Meanwhile, the secret meetings of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition began without any public notice as an email went out from Bennett…

Thank you for your interest in the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  If you were unable to attend the informational webinar, please use this link to access the recording:   http://www.achieve.org/DelawareCBLwebinar  

The Guiding Coalition will be charged with laying the foundation for competency-based learning in Delaware. This will include creating a working definition of competency-based learning and what it could look like in Delaware, understanding current barriers to implementing CBL in Delaware, and establishing support for CBL initiatives to take root in the state. Once we have a common understanding of CBL, we will surface key ideas and develop recommended strategies for helping CBL take shape in the state.

The time commitment for the Advisory Group of the Guiding Coalition will be attending approximately two or three 2-hour meetings during the coming school year, with 30-60 minutes of pre-work for each meeting. There will also be opportunities to engage further through optional readings, school visits, webinars, and other convenings if your schedule/level of interest allows.

We are excited to share that an expert facilitator will be guiding each of our meetings; we would like to collect information to inform our meeting agendas.  Please complete the following survey by September 10th:  https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DECompetency-BasedLearning.  

Please complete a Doodle to help us best schedule the meetings for this group.  We hope to begin late September/early October, with meetings held in Dover. Responses to the Doodle poll will help us find the best day/time for the first meeting. Please use this link: http://doodle.com/mts6ncf74v77mnf

Best,

Theresa

Theresa Bennett

Education Associate, ELA

Curriculum, Instruction, and Professional Development

Delaware Department of Education

401 Federal Street, Suite #2

Dover, DE 19901-3639

Coming up in Part 2: Delaware gets Marzanoed

Delaware Charters & Delaware DOE Looking To Make Changes Against Delaware Law! And Who Is “The Author”?

Incompetence seems to rule the Delaware DOE these days.

The Delaware Department of Education, Delaware Charter Schools, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network have been holding meetings this year to look at changing two areas of their annual Performance Framework.  The Financial and Organizational Frameworks are two sections that have been controversial for charter schools in the first state.  Some of the proposed changes are minor but some are very big.  One statement from the proposed draft for the organizational framework probably sums up what many of the charter schools feel when these things roll out each year:

In order to avoid penalizing charter schools for anything less than perfection, the authorizer will apply a reasonable interpretation of sufficiency that acknowledges attentiveness, prudent compliance, and generally sound stewardship.

Let’s get real here Delaware!  Unless a charter school falls apart like Delaware Met, Moyer, and Pencader, you aren’t going to see the DOE or even Red Clay doing a lot in terms of compliance on some of these issues.  Especially website maintenance.  Far too many charters have been raked over the coals by bloggers such as myself for not adhering to the law on tons of the requirements.  But when it comes time for the charter to renew or get a modification, or even get a formal review, those things are rarely mentioned in the conversation.  The State Board of Education rarely talks about any of that stuff.  But in my eye, they need to be perfect with those things.  The districts do as well (see: Indian River).

One of the biggest flaws in this new system pertains to board membership.  Delaware law clearly states:

At the time at which the school commences its instructional program and at all times thereafter, the board of directors must include a teacher from at least 1 of the charter schools operated by the board and at least 1 parent of a student enrolled in a charter school operated by the board;

With this new organizational framework, they are proposing to change Delaware code, without any regulation or legislation, by giving charters a 90 day window to fill the parent and teacher slot for their board membership.  This label in the framework would give the charter a “partially meets standard”.  You can’t partially follow the law.  You either do it or you don’t.  In this area, you are either “meets standard” or “does not meet standard”.  As well, they want to do the same thing with not posting minutes and financial information on their website, but this would have a 60 day window.  You can’t cherry-pick through state law.  If the law needs to change, lobby legislators to change it.  But you can’t do it through the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education.  This Department continues to defy Delaware legislators.  It is the legislators duty to write the laws of this state, not the Charter School Office at the DOE.

The proposed financial framework would give charters some leeway when it comes to reporting requirements or how they submit financial information with the state.  Let me be the first to say ALL Delaware schools need to get some serious training on this.  The training exists, but everyone seems to do what they want with limited to no oversight.  There have to be uniform procedures and policies across the board for every charter and district in the state with absolutely no excuses.  Once again, it comes down to partially breaking the law.  A misnomer if I’ve ever heard one.  But even more important, there have to be very real consequences for those who violate financial laws in our state.  This is something I hope and pray the 149th General Assembly tackles when they come back in January.  Because right now, it’s a train wreck.

I will fully admit I sometimes feel bad for the charters.  Especially when it comes to the DOE’s constant nitpicking about things.  An organization filled with more non-educators in leadership roles that doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a right and left hand most of the time.

charterframeworkrevisionstimeline

But the most egregious thing out of all this: the window for public comment begins on September 1st.  But try finding them anywhere.  Good luck with that!  I happened to find the below documents in the DOE search engine.  How can you say this is an open, transparent, and collaborative method when the public can’t even comment on what you are proposing?  Even worse, the State Board of Education won’t let you comment on any action item on their agenda.  This won’t come up for final action at a State Board of Education meeting until their October 20th meeting, but if these documents are never released to the public it will be highly illegal for the State Board to take action.

charterframeworktimeline2

The Delaware DOE Charter School Office needs to release these drafts to the public and let them comment on it.  These documents have not been posted on the DOE website.  Care to take a wild guess who is running the show on this?  If you said David Blowman, that would be correct on the surface.  Until they find a replacement for Jennifer Nagourney, who left the DOE on July 1st, Blowman is the guy in charge.  But in a very odd find, well, you’ll get the picture…

de-proposed-fincl-framework-authorship

de-proposed-organ-framework-authorship

How can Jennifer Nagourney be the author of the below documents when she is no longer an employee at the Delaware DOE?  Doesn’t she work in the Charter School Office at the New York City DOE now?  What in God’s name is David Blowman doing?  This is the same guy who has run the non-transparent local cost per pupil scam that has caused a “firestorm” in Delaware.  The same guy who went ahead and sent out changes to school districts and charter schools without the old Secretary of Education Seal of Approval?  And he is in charge of this hot mess?  Where charters seem to think it will be okay to partially follow the law?  With a guy like Blowman running the show no wonder they think they can do as they please!  And, it goes without saying, I’m sure the Sisters of Sin, Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network have their hands involved in this.  But Nagourney?  Unless you are getting paid for this work when you are no longer employed by the State of Delaware, why are you even involved at this point?  It’s not like I haven’t written about the old PDF right-click trick.  And you guys keep forgetting that essential thing!

At this point in time, our General Assembly needs to meet for emergency hearings and subpoena the hell out of the entire Delaware Department of Education.  Every single document in their system.  Every nook and cranny, from top to bottom.  The more than obvious fraud and lies coming out of this Department is readily available for anyone to see.  I’ve proved it over and over again.  But no one does anything about it.  It’s time.  You know it and I know it.  So stop making postures and just do it!

Below are the two proposed frameworks.  These are not approved, just in draft form.

Proposed Financial Framework

Proposed Organizational Framework