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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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

Exclusive: A Delaware Legislator Is Not The Hero For Public Education They Appear To Be

I’ve been wrestling with something for a long time now.  I found out something.  Something big.  Usually my first instinct is to get it out there.  But this was BIG, and if I was wrong about it, it could have shot me in the foot.  It concerns a legislator and an election.  But more than that, it concerned friends.  Friends who are very supportive of this particular legislator.  I’ve had wrestling matches in my head before about these kind of things, but usually the need for truth prevails.  This time though, it was different.  Continue reading

The Angeline Rivello Email About The Teacher Leader Pilot That Really Ticked People Off

A couple of days ago, I posted an article about major controversy with the Delaware Teacher Leader Pilot program.  It was a long article and if there was one thing I’ve been told since the beginning of this blog, some of articles are just too damn long.  I know, I know.  My own wife tells me I babble on and on at times.  So here is the short and sweet:

Angeline Rivello sent out applications for the Teacher Leader Pilot before the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation & Careers even came out with their final recommendations.  The selection committee for this pilot included a member that was also picked for the program.  The DOE didn’t seem to give a crap if the Joint Finance Committee was going to approve this in the final budget for FY2017 either.  I alleged that Rodel was behind the whole thing.  I do this a lot, and I have yet to be proven wrong on a lot of this stuff.  Donna Johnson was included in the email and she damn well knew the committee had not approved it yet which shows collusion with the State Board of Education office.

So you can consider this the radio version of this song, or you can read the extended dance mix linked above.

The Teacher Leader Pilot Program Comes To Us Courtesy Of Rodelaware

The Delaware Department of Education continues their self-righteous Rodel led agendas.  In their latest corporate education reform press release, Godowsky and the gang announced the nineteen members of the Delaware Teacher Leader Pilot program kicking off this year.  I find it more than a coincidence that most of the districts who got these positions are very tight with the “Leader In Me” program.  The only districts selected were Capital and Appoquinimink.  Three charters are joining the bandwagon which are MOT, Kuumba Academy and Odyssey.

At their April board meeting, the Capital Board of Education tentatively approved going forward with this program.  But they had deep concerns about setting up competitions in schools.  They cited the very controversial Delaware Talent Co-op Program from a few years ago and how it caused many problems among teachers.  As well, the board was concerned with the amount of time the selected Teacher Leaders would spend out of the classroom and how additional substitute teachers would need to take their place.  The principals of these schools were very enthusiastic about the program.  Both are “focus” schools, one of the latest “turnaround” labels thrown at schools over low state assessment scores.  In a sense, I don’t blame these principals for doing what they can to get their schools out of these false labels put on them by the Delaware DOE.  If you go to the Capital board audio recording from their April 20th board meeting, click on the second audio recording link, and the discussion begins around the 1:22:03 mark.  When asked how much the program would cost, Superintendent Dan Shelton mentioned the stipend teachers would get but also that the training would take up the bulk of the costs.  A figure of $50,000 was thrown around.

The only schools in Capital who are instituting this pilot program are Towne Point and East Dover Elementary.  Towne Point is a huge advocate of the “Leader In Me” program.  Fairview Elementary in Capital also has this program.  Appoquinimink School District brought Leader In Me to Delaware.  Payments for this program are made to a company called Franklin Covey.  Many of the teachers at Towne Point who advocate for this program are also members of this Teacher Leader pilot program.  One of them is also very involved with the Rodel Teacher Council.  I have no doubt this teacher is an excellent teacher, but when you see one name associated with so many things I can not support, it is hard to draw the line between saying nothing and pointing it out.  I fully welcome any discussion with this teacher about anything written in this article, especially the part I write about later on.

The Delaware General Assembly passed their budget bill in late June with an appropriation of $800,000 in state funds going to the recipient districts and charters towards the Teacher Leader program.

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What I don’t understand is how the DOE can move forward with a program that is contingent on approval in the State Budget.  The funds for this state grant weren’t approved until late June.  But here we have the DOE sending out invitations to apply after Spring Break.  For Capital school district, students came back after Spring Break on April 4th.  They gave schools a very short time to apply for this program, a matter of 25 days.  What was the insane rush behind this?  I will touch on this later, but for now check out the press release from Alison May at the DOE:

First teacher leaders announced

Nineteen teachers have been selected to serve as teacher leaders in a pilot program launching this school year. The program is among the first of its kind in the nation to take place at the state level.

Providing this kind of teacher leadership opportunity was among the recommendations of the Committee to Advance Educator Compensation and Careers. During his administration, Governor Jack Markell has championed the creation of a compensation system that makes Delaware educator salaries more competitive with neighboring states and rewards teachers for helping their peers to best support our students.

“Through this pilot, teacher leaders are provided a career pathway that both rewards educators for excellence and provides opportunities in formal leadership positions,” said Markell, who recommended funding for the pilot in his Fiscal Year 2017 budget that was approved by the General Assembly on June 30. “Through these roles, teacher leaders will use their skills to support schools where they need it most: helping other educators develop their practices and better prepare Delaware’s students for college and careers —all while allowing teacher leaders to maintain a foot in the classroom and earn additional compensation without needing to take on administrative roles.”

The Governor joined Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky today at Appoquinimink High School in Middletown to participate with members of the pilot in a discussion about the coming year.

The five teacher leader roles to launch this year will support educators in the following areas:

·         Instructional practice leads will improve the instructional practice of fellow educators using a variety of high-impact support strategies focused on frequent, targeted feedback in educators’ development areas.

·         Digital content leads will help educators build their instructional technology knowledge so more students have access to technology that helps improve their academic outcomes.

·         Instructional strategy leads will introduce new instructional strategies into schools to help educators meet their learning needs and help schools meet their academic goals.

·         Community partnership leads will help students gain access to services designed to improve their physical and mental health, giving them a greater chance at academic success.

·         Instructional culture leads will help schools build a philosophy around culture, discipline and culturally responsive teaching.

Schools across Delaware were invited to participate in the teacher leader pilot. A nine-member committee representing educators, administrators and external partners selected eight schools and those schools created selection committees that designed a rigorous, multi-stage process to meet their schools’ needs and choose the 19 teacher leaders.

Each school is identifying a set of goals that teacher leaders will work toward. This summer, teacher leaders and school leaders came together to meet other pilot participants, plan pilot implementation for their schools, and learn more about teacher leadership to ensure a successful launch this fall.

“Being a novice teacher can be overwhelming at first, especially when it comes to lesson planning and classroom management. That’s why we want to use this new position to target support for our novice teachers in these areas,” said Kirsten Belair, who will work as an instructional practice lead at Odyssey Charter School.

The 2016-17 teacher leaders are:

 

·         Amanda Alexander, instructional culture, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)

·         Colleen Barrett, digital content, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Chelsea Baxter, instructional culture, Kuumba Academy (Charter)

·         Kirsten Belair, instructional practice, Odyssey Charter School (Charter)

·         Lindsay Bouvy, instructional practice, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Michelle Duke, instructional practice, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)

·         Carrie Howe, community partnerships, MOT Charter School (Charter)

·         Melanie Fauvelle, digital content, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Michele Johnson, instructional practice, Towne Point Elementary (Capital School District)

·         Kris King, instructional practice, Cedar Lane Elementary (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Heather Patricco, instructional practice, Cedar Lane Elementary (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Heather Mann, instructional practice, East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)

·         Shana Noll, instructional practice, MOT Charter School (Charter)

·         Crystal Samuels, digital content, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Katharine Sawyer, instructional practice, Middletown High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Krista Seifert, instructional culture, East Dover Elementary (Capital School District)

·         John Tanner, instructional practice, Appoquinimink High School (Appoquinimink School District)

·         Kady Taylor, instructional strategy (K-8 reading), Kuumba Academy (Charter)

·         Tamara Walker, instructional strategy (K-8 math), Kuumba Academy (Charter)

Alison May

alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Last May, educators were “encouraged” to apply for this program.  The Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware DOE issued an overview of the program along with applications and descriptions of the different categories teachers could apply for:

Based on all of these descriptions, the teachers selected into this program would receive a stipend ranging from $5000-$6000 depending on whether or not the school is a “high-needs” school.  Assuming all of the schools are “high-needs”, that would give each teacher a stipend of $6000.  With nineteen teachers selected, that is a total of $114,000.  So my question would be where the other $684,000 allocated for this program is going to.  I emailed the DOE about this earlier this afternoon.

This program spun out of the Committee to Advance Educator Compension & Careers Committee which spun out of the 147th General Assembly and Senate Bill 254.  In the beginning of this committee, Delaware teachers were outraged because the vendor for the committee, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), suggested Smarter Balanced scores should determine if a teacher could become a teacher leader.  Eventually, the committee ran out of time and the committee was extended through House Joint Resolution #7 in the 148th General Assembly.  The group was led by an employee in Governor Markell’s office named Ryan Fennerty.  This name may sound familiar to some readers.  Another member of the committee, Lindsay O’Mara, former wife of Colin O’Mara, is engaged to Fennerty.  She also worked in Governor Markell’s office as his education policy advisor before leaving last winter to get a job at the United States Dept. of Education.  Delaware or Peyton Place?  You decide!  But I digress…

If you look at the minutes for this committee, the last three meetings have no minutes.  This is where the final votes would be shown on what became today’s announcement by the Delaware DOE.  These last three meetings were held on 5/11/15, 1/29/16 and 4/22/16.  The Delaware DOE obviously jumped the gun on this a bit because Capital’s board discussed their two schools applying for this on April 20th, two days before the final vote took place.  I did email the chair of the CAECC, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, as well as Donna Johnson, the legislators on the committee, and Dr. Godowsky for a status on these minutes earlier today.  There was also an Educator Work Group as a subset of this committee, and this section of the CAECC website has NO minutes at all for the four meetings that were held between November 2015 to January 2016.  So much for transparency in Delaware.

This committee had a lot of familiar faces.  The heads of the Senate and House Education Committees for the 147th General Assembly were on it, Senator David Sokola and former State Rep. Darryl Scott.  Senator Brian Pettyjohn and State Rep. Joe Miro rounded out the legislative portion of the committee from the other side of the aisle.  State Rep. Kim Williams replaced Scott when he opted not to run again in the 148th General Assembly.  The Delaware State Education Association, Dr. Mark Holodick (Superintendent of Brandywine School District), and eventually, the Delaware Association of School Administrators had a seat at the table.  On the state financial side of things, Meghan Brennan represented the Office of Management and Budget and Controller General Michael Morton from his office.  It is important to note there were no actual teachers on the main committee. 

I’ve heard tales from these meetings and how DSEA fought against SBAC scores tying into these Teacher Leader creations.  I actually wrote about how teachers went to a Town Hall based on this at the Bear Public Library and many weren’t allowed entrance because the library had too many people.  But I can’t find the article.  But needless to say, teachers were VERY pissed off about this.

I have to wonder how many applications were received by the Delaware DOE for this and how many different districts or charters applied.  And yet, we only have two districts and three charters represented in this pilot program.  Appoquinimink is pretty much a grant whore and applies for every grant under the sun (and usually gets it) and is a proud member of BRINC and The Leader In Me program, Capital is an unknown quantity: heavily involved in The Leader In Me, just joined BRINC (the digital blended learning consortium representing 8-9 districts in Delaware), and now this program, Kuumba is one of the darling charters loved by the DOE, the Delaware Charter Schools Network and several legislators, MOT Charter School is one of the Smarter Balanced superstars with high scores (take a look at their demographics), and Odyssey Charter School is… I don’t know what they are.  They have been under my radar for a long time, but I have a sneaky feeling that will change in the coming months.

Now, to be fair, I don’t think every teacher involved with these type of things are evil or the Judas Iscariot of the Delaware teaching profession.  I think they are regular teachers who want to do more but don’t want to necessarily go into administrative roles.  They jump on things like this, or the Leader In Me program, or the Rodel Teacher Council, in an honest intention of diversifying their resume and their professional career path.  But, with that being said, I don’t trust Rodel, or a DOE sponsored program, or the Leader In Me.  I think a lot of them are not in it for kids and teachers and have bigger plans.  And behind all of this, we have Smiling Jack, leading the pep rally behind this latest pilot program.  But what I do take extreme offense to is the arrogance of people who knew 1) the CAECC had not approved the program when applications went out, and 2) the General Assembly had not approved the funding for the program before applications went out.

In the grand scheme of things, $800,000 for a Teacher Leader Pilot Program is not that much money considering the state spends a third of it’s budget on education.  But the danger is when it is labeled a success and the funds no longer flow freely from the state in the form of grants.  In a year or three, when the local school districts are asked to pick up a share and they jump on it because they don’t want to disrupt the program, that is when we will find out the true cost of a program like this.  And as we have more teachers jumping to become a Teacher Leader, spending less time in the classroom with less instruction they are giving students, what happens to the kids?  I believe the Capital board members should have pushed harder against having their two schools apply.  There were no firm answers about what to do with the vast amount of substitute teachers needed to make up for these teachers being out of the classroom.  Not only do you have the teacher’s salary, but you also have an ever-growing number of substitute teacher wages that the districts will  have to eat.  I truly don’t think it is a wise idea to have seasoned teachers out of the classroom up to half the day.  If they want to do this stuff outside of school hours, that is one thing.  But our students deserve better than to have half a teacher.

Oh yeah, there is just one more tiny, itty-bitty, little thing with all this.  On April 21st, Angeline Rivello, the Chief of the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit and also an Assistant Secretary at the Delaware DOE, sent out an email to the Selection Committee of the Teacher Leader Pilot program.  I was able to get this email.  And it is a doozy of an email.

How does a member of the Selection Committee manage to get selected for this program?  Can you answer that for me Michele Johnson?  Why do I constantly see the names of the aforementioned Michele Johnson, Robyn Howton and Jennifer Nauman attached to so much Rodel/Vision stuff and now this selection committee?  Under whose authority did you allow schools to apply for this before any decision was made granting the authority by legislative decree to a public committee or before the funds were even appropriated for this program?  Can you answer that for me Angeline Rivello?  Or do you answer to Donna Johnson?  Because there is a crystal clear reason she was cc’ed on this email.  Who chose the selection committee for a program that, once again, wasn’t even approved?  Your email said there was a chance to get a “wide diversity” of schools but we have only one Kent Country district, one New Castle County district, and three New Castle charters.  How did that work out?  What was the rubric for scoring applications?  How many applications were received?  Did the selection committee read every single application or what it divvied up among the selection committee?

I think it is past time the DOE fessed up on their sneakiness and manipulation. Secretary Godowsky PROMISED a greater degree of transparency and open communication coming from this Department, and all I see are more lies, secret agendas, emails to select individuals with no public awareness, funds committed to things before they are even approved, focus groups or special meetings with no public notice, no minutes provided for certain things, or even links to certain groups (hello Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition).  Meanwhile, you allow charters and districts to allocate money wherever they want with no true oversight, browbeat the auditor’s office until a good woman is put on leave while charters get away with financial murder, manipulate the ESSA regulatory process by claiming to have true stakeholder input when it is really just school administrators and lobbyists, force a school report card scheme on our schools without any regulatory authority to impose it, and have our students take a test that judges everything and the students don’t even take the test.  Secretary Godowsky, I don’t care what anyone says, you are a HORRIBLE Secretary of Education.  This kind of crap makes even Mark Murphy look okay in comparison.  The rot in YOUR Department still exists, more than ever.  This happened under YOUR watch.  I hope the pieces of silver from Rodel and Markell were worth it… 

Angeline Rivello, when I announced Chris Ruszkowski was leaving the DOE, a lot of teachers in this state reached out to me and they expressed how they wanted to give you a chance and hoped the stink from the TLEU would disappear.  It is stronger then ever. 

Donna Johnson, this just once again proves what I have always known: you don’t believe in transparency and you are well aware of everything that goes on in the Townsend Building.  Does your beloved State Board know what you know?  How the hell are you even still employed there?  All of you are liars, plain and simple.  There is no other justification for your actions. 

Governor Markell, you tricked us again. You are a mastermind at turning something that looks good on the surface into a tangled web of lies and deception. If I had my way, I would impeach you even though you have less than five months in office.

If those in Delaware thought maybe I would temper things down eventually, my commitment to exposure in this state has NEVER been stronger.  Every single day I see the corruption and fraud going on in our state.  This isn’t a democracy.  We have the most corrupt and vile state government in the country.  None of this is about our kids.  It is about power, position, and money.  You all need to start coming clean before I find out about it.  Because if you think only a few Delaware teachers and parents read this blog, you are VERY wrong.  You have no idea, no one does, who is watching all of you.  Recording every single thing I come out with, just building a very large and thick file.

And I do have a final item to throw out there.  How can three contracts, which I can only assume may play into the total of $800,000 for Section 362is program which answers some of my questions for the funds involved in this sham, be signed on the following dates: 4/19/16, 4/21/16, 4/26/16, 5/2/16, 5/4/16, 5/10/16, 5/11/16, and 5/23/16?  If these are for this program, and the General Assembly had not approved the funds for this program, how can you have contracts starting before the Joint Finance Committee even released their budget?  Or should I assume the Rodel Foundation will be the one training these teacher leaders?  With funds from the Vision Coalition?  Or should I say Schools That Lead?  Because when I look up Schools That Lead’s IRS 990 tax forms, it comes up with 990s for 2012, 2013, and 2014.  Since Schools That Lead wasn’t really around then, care to take a guess what company comes up?  The Vision Network.  And if this description of their purpose doesn’t fit the bill for this Teacher Leader Pilot, I don’t know what does:

VisionIRS9902014

Care to take a close look at who Schools That Lead’s “partners” are?  Just look at this.  And if you aren’t aware of the backbone behind the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025, you need to take a look at this.  The Vision Coalition wants us to be “rethinking roles and responsibilities” and that includes teacher leaders and their compensation levels.  Take a look at the contracts above with Teach For America, University of Delaware and Supporting School Success.  Sound familiar based on all this?  Even more fascinating, even though Delaware has paid millions of dollars to the Rodel/Vision education incorporated enterprise, we never see any contracts with them listed on the awarded vendors portion of the state contracts website.  I would have to imagine this contract could land them anywhere from $500,000-$600,000.  Would that be a good guess Dr. Paul Herdman?  With an address at 100 W. 10th St. in Wilmington, DE, it stands to reason Rodel is somehow going to profit off this.

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When I first started digging into education stuff in Delaware, I remember reading an article on Kilroy’s where he wrote about talking with Jack Markell in 2008.  Kilroy wanted to support him, and he asked Markell flat-out if he was going to stop the spread of Rodel into Delaware education to which Markell said he would.  Jack lied Kilroy.  He lied to all of us.  Rodel runs the education show in Delaware.  They have for 12 years.  Every single decision made in Delaware education has been at the behest of the Rodel Foundation since Jack Markell took office.  Together with their order-takers at the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, the Delaware Charter Schools Network, the Delaware Business Roundtable, the Christina Cultural Arts Center, Governor Markell’s office, and the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League, they have single-handedly turned Delaware education into a billion dollar corporation.  And our kids lose more and more every single day.  Because their minions have infiltrated every charter, every district, every state agency, and even our General Assembly.  We gave them this power.  Now, it is time to take it all back.

State Board of Education ESSA Meeting: 60 Pictures & Flipping The Narrative

At Grotto’s Pizza in Dover, DE, the State Board of Education held a workshop on the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The Capitol Room at Grotto’s was jam-packed with administrators, teachers, advocates, Delaware DOE employees, State Board members, a Congressman, education company employees, and even a blogger or two.  Sadly, there were not that many parents there.  Yes, many of these people play that role as well as their other jobs, but for a meeting the Delaware DOE will say is a true “stakeholder” meeting, this key group was missing.  I recognized a lot of the faces, but there were some I didn’t.  Some I was able to put together based on conversations I overheard.  This was the State Board of Education Workshop on ESSA.  Notice some of the tables where certain people are sitting together.  Especially the one Secretary Godowsky was sitting at…

I did not take these 60 pictures.  They were taken by an employee of Secretary of Education Dr. Godowsky’s office and put on the Delaware DOE Facebook page this morning.  Which means they are part of a state agency which puts them in the public domain!  Thank you DOE Photographer!

ESSAMtg1

State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson at the microphone, Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field-Rogers in the pink jacket with striped shirt in the back, Susan Haberstroh with the DOE with the mid-length brown hair and glasses, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Meghan Wallace with the ponytail and glasses, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky to the right near the screen. Continue reading

How Newark Charter School Cooked Their Books To Break The Law In Delaware

Newark Charter School found a way to overtly break Delaware charter school laws and they are using parents and students to do it.

Yesterday, an anonymous source informed Mike Matthews that Newark Charter School’s student body activity funds are legit.  Be that as it may, they aren’t reporting the revenue generated from these activities.  Instead, they are putting at as an expense on their monthly budget.  They aren’t reporting this revenue anywhere.  But they are showing the expense on their monthly budget.  How much are they getting overall?  That is unknown, but I was able to find out they are using student body activity revenue to pay for items they should not be according to Delaware law.

Newark Charter School does not post a 990 IRS tax form on their website.  They are exempt from even filing this return.  Why?  Because way back during the Bill Clinton years, they had elected officials on their founding board.  Granted, none of those elected officials are there anymore.  No one has ever questioned NCS at a state level about this before and they just assume it is alright.  Even though the IRS issued very specific guidance to charter schools about this type of exemption.  But of course Newark Charter School takes advantage of this ambiguity.  Until the IRS determines they are not exempt, they will continue to not file tax returns.  Even though they should and the reasons for them not doing so are the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  On IRS 990 tax forms, non-profit corporations are required to show any revenue they receive.  They don’t have to pay taxes at all, but they are required to show their numbers.

There are a multitude of reasons why Newark Charter School would not want to file an IRS tax return.  They are the only Delaware charter school specifically exempt from this.  Academy of Dover had their corporation status rescinded by the IRS some years ago, but the Delaware Dept. of Education turned a blind eye to this glaring fact during the school’s formal review last year which was in part over financial viability.  Eventually, Academy of Dover was able to restore this status and are now filing their 990 forms on their website.  But Newark Charter School took advantage of the bogus loopholes in this IRS regulation and have had a field day with it ever since.

This was my biggest issue with any changes to House Bill 186, the original charter school audit bill.  My sense was that anything even associated with charter school audit legislation would only be tainted by Senator David Sokola.  This would somehow benefit Newark Charter School and keep their finances in the dark.  Anyone can make a budget and show numbers on it, but a true audit and an IRS return would show a lot of information.  They would have to report the revenue they receive from students or their parents for field trips and student body activities.  But they aren’t.  No one can see this information.  If they get such a huge amount of money from these activities, they should be fully transparent and post their revenue stream on their website.  But they don’t.

On their monthly budget sheets they are required by state law to post on their website each month, they list student body activities as part of their operating budget.  Operating funds are part of state and local funded expenses.  If they have students pay for field trips and they write a big fat check to, say, the Bermuda Institute, and put that as an expense in their budget, that means they are getting these funds from the state and local funds.  Granted, their budgeted amount for student body activities in FY2016 was $300,000 as shown in the below pictures.  But their budget forms the picture of how much money they will need to operate as a school.  This is the spine of any charter school or district’s operations.

Newark Charter School 7/2015 Monthly Budget: Revenue

NCS715Budget

In the above picture, we see the school’s projected revenue for FY2016 as of July, 2015.

Newark Charter School 7/2015 Budget: Expenses

NCS715Budget2

Above, we see their projected expenses. Note the Student Body Activities amount of $300,000.

Newark Charter School 6/2016 Budget: Revenue

NCS616Budget

By June of 2016, their revenues looked completely different.

Newark Charter School 6/2016 Budget: Expenses

NCS616Budget2

Their expenses, especially Student Body Activities went up as well, mushrooming to over $445,000. This was $145,000 over what they budgeted for this category.  As if it was almost planned…

This brings us back to the current situation at the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  As I wrote earlier this week, there is some shady business going on there.  Kathleen Davies had my tip about NCS and Academy of Dover’s lack of IRS 990 forms and I believe it was an active investigation.  I know this because I received a call from John Fluharty about it in March, two months before Davies was put on “leave”.  He wouldn’t call to get information if it was not active.  If that office was leaning towards NCS needing to put up their 990 tax forms, invariably the inspection would lean towards “Why aren’t they putting up this information?” which could further lead towards a full investigation of their finances.

Senator David Sokola has been the Senator for the 8th District since 1995. This district surrounds most of Newark Charter School’s five mile radius.  Sokola helped in the creation of Newark Charter School.  He even joined their board for a stint in the mid 00’s while also an elected Senator, which is perfectly legal in Delaware.  But in his stint as a Delaware Senator, he has essentially served as a buffer between the school and true accountability.  Sokola is a senior-ranking Delaware Senator.  Not only is he the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, but he is also the Senate Chair on the Bond Committee.  If you look at a lot of the legislation about education he writes, every single bill has benefitted Newark Charter School in some way.  I’m sure if you look at some of his non-education legislation, including ones about land usage, those would benefit the school as well.  This isn’t the first time I’ve thought out loud about Senator Sokola.

In my fictional novel I am working on about Kathleen Davies and whodunit, I would put Senator Sokola as the lead suspect in this mystery.  He has the means, the motivation, and the pull to get something like this done.  He is well-connected with the Delaware Charter Schools Network and Rodel.  Since he is also in tandem with many House and Senate Republicans over charter schools, it would stand to reason he would lend his ear to them and get a fire going.  As well, he has a very cozy relationship with the State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  As the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, this is to be expected, but he always seems to be able to get support for his bills that do more damage to public education.  His connections with the Delaware Charter School Network go back many years.  He has frequently been involved with the Rodel Foundation sponsored Vision Coalition.  He is a firm believer in standardized testing and teachers being judged by those scores.  He put in very damaging amendments to House Bill 199 a couple months ago based in large part on feedback he received from his beloved Newark Charter School.  He is no friend to traditional school districts.  As the Newark Charter School legislative cheerleader, he can count on votes from his constituents who have students attending that school.  With a student population of over 2,000 students, that is a lot of votes.  In exchange, he allows them to operate with no transparency, accountability, or oversight through his legislative input.

Now some will say Tom Wagner is a staunch Republican and Sokola is a Progressive Democrat!  How could Sokola convince Wagner to do anything?  He didn’t have to.  Somehow, someway, the “whistleblowers” in the Davies complaint to the Office of Management and Budget were told exactly how to get Davies.  This idea had to come from someone with advanced knowledge of the rules and regulations of the Delaware accounting procedures and policies.  We know Newark Charter School knew about what was going on with Davies and her “administrative leave” from the Auditor of Accounts office based on what they put in their June Board meeting notes:

NCSTravelReimbursementBdMtg

In Delaware politics and education, there is no such thing as a coincidence.  The fact Schlossberg would bring this up a month after Davies was put on leave is very telling in my opinion.  We know the Delaware DOE already knew about all this because one of their employees told me about in late May.  So if that person would tell an education blogger, it would stand to reason many in the state knew as well.  NCS, in their board meeting minutes over the past year, has been very diligent about discussing legislation that could impact charter schools (especially the charter school audit bills).  But to write about how Davies was specifically put on leave, something I wasn’t even aware of until last Saturday when the News Journal came out with their article, would suggest having very intimate knowledge of the case against Davies.  So much so that they wanted to adopt this into their board policies.  The News Journal article never even specified if their information was coming from their “sources” or the Office of Management and Budget.

NCS connection with Sokola would give them instant knowledge of anything going on at a statewide level.  But this has always been my big question about the charter school audit bills: why were they fighting them so hard?  Especially Newark Charter School?  Some answers can actually be found in the oddest of places.  Newark Charter School’s selected auditor for their annual required audits is Barbacane Thornton and Company.  As seen below, they do this work for many Delaware charter schools.

BarbacaneThorntonFY2016

In looking at this list, I see quite a few charter schools who have landed in hot water at the State Auditor of Accounts office: Academy of Dover, Delaware Military Academy, and Providence Creek Academy.  One of their lead accountants, Pam Baker, testified in opposition to Kim William’s third attempt at a charter school audit bill, House Bill 186, in June of 2015:

She said this bill takes away responsibility from the board to select (an) independent auditor and takes away the opportunity for charter schools to do that effectively.

Now why would someone who is hired by many of these schools to do their audits put her neck out there for schools she knew were under investigation?  As well, her statement basically said “they may not be able to hire the firm I work for” which would show a clear conflict of interest in her sworn testimony.  A lobbyist for the Delaware Charter Schools Network even spoke on behalf of the business office of Newark Charter School at this meeting:

Nitin Rao, DCSN, spoke on behalf of the business manager of Newark Charter School in opposition to the bill.

For a school that seems to have a great deal of extra revenue after their year-end expenditures each year, this was a head-scratcher.  Like many who felt the same way, I questioned whether the charters opposition stemmed from the cost involved with the legislation or more what these new audits through this legislation would find.

But what Kathleen Davies said at this meeting was the essential problem with the charter school audits in Delaware:

Kathleen Davies, Chief Audit Administrator at AOA, said AOA does not have any firms under contract that conducted any charter school audits. She rebutted that the IRS filing mentioned by Pam Baker is a non-audit service and those fees are not part of the audit work. She said there have been a lot of terms thrown around and the only requirement for charter schools, with regard to oversight, is GAP compliant financial statements. She said there are currently seven investigations on charter schools underway because of mismanagement of funds. She said fraud and abuse were never brought to anyone’s attention for these seven schools. She said AOA has subpoena power and a firm, under AOA contract, can be used to address the issues found. She said those seven charter schools got a “clean bill of health” with no findings and no body to identify issues. She said this bill would change that.

Notice Davies brought up IRS filings.  As we all know, Newark Charter School doesn’t even have to file with the IRS because of their “special” exemptions.  IRS filings require all sources of revenue.  Which brings us back to Student Body Activities.

If student body activity expenses are an item in the school operating budget, they are counting on this money from the state and local funds.  But the issue comes in when these student body activities are pre-planned field trips and events that students or parents pay for prior to the actual event.  I can certainly buy the notion that teachers or the school would have to pay for many of these events ahead of time.  And as Head of School Greg Meece is the only person in the school who has a state procurement card, teachers or the school would have to pay out of pocket ahead of time for these activities.  But to spend $445,000 in student body activities for a school population of over 2,100 students, there would be a bucket load of revenue coming in from field trip money.  This is the revenue we are not able to see.  At all.  Anywhere.  Trust me, I looked.  All over the place.  There is nothing on Delaware Online Checkbook showing any such revenue.  If this revenue was put back into the school, we would see it as negative amounts in their expenses.  But they don’t exist through the state accounting system.  Therefore, they are only showing the expenses of student body activities and not the income that comes back as revenue to offset those costs.

Without knowing exactly where they put that revenue, I can safely guess where they put the entire $449,575.29 they reported as “student body activity” on Delaware Online Checkbook.  They used that revenue to pay for the remaining amounts on two capital building projects they contracted with one company to perform.

In the fall of 2014,  Newark Charter School started talking about building a Performing Arts Center and a STEM Laboratory Suite.  Since these are capital projects, not minor capital improvements, they would not be able to get funding from the state as dictated by the Delaware charter school law.

MinorCapitalFundingLaw

So even though Newark Charter School received $273,447 from the General Assembly for FY2016 for minor capital improvements, they could not use it for projects of this magnitude and scope.  Since the Performing Arts Center would be an entirely new addition to the school and the STEM labs would require structural change to the building, these two projects did not qualify for minor capital funding.  So how much capital funding would they need to obtain for this project?  Quite a bit according to their application for the Delaware Charter School Performance fund in the Spring of 2015.

NCSCharterSchoolPerfFundAppl2015

As part of Delaware charter school law, NCS had to submit a minor modification request for these projects.  They did so, and it was approved by then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy according to their December 2014 board minutes:

NCSDec2014BoardMinutesMinorMod

But in their application for the minor modification, Meece either greatly underestimated the costs for the project or later added more bells and whistles to the whole thing.  Because the original projected amount was $853,088.  At no point in time did NCS resubmit a new minor modification based on the financial difference between the original amount and the projected amount, a difference of $636,061.  But the section of the application where it asked about financial impact on the school was very enlightening:

NCSMinorModApplication2014

Greg Meece and Joanne Schlossberg, their Business Manager, knew they would have to get a lot of money for this project and began working the foundation circuit.  They were able to obtain funding from the Longwood Foundation ($500,000), the Welfare Foundation ($125,000), and the Calder Foundation ($79,000).  They applied for $400,000 in the Charter School Performance Fund (even though the maximum amount any Delaware charter school could win was $250,000 that year).  They received the maximum amount of $250,000.  Even though they were able to generate a lot of funding in a very short time, they were still short from the budgeted amount.   By $535,149.00.  Since construction was already underway by this point, the school had to raise the remaining  funds for the projects or  use funds from their reserves.

In June of FY2015, the board’s treasurer stated the school was $668,000 favorable for revenue “due to the annual fund and pledges from the capital campaign”.  The school received the Longwood Foundation grant in June of 2015.  In July of FY2016, the treasurer stated the school was not $1,283,000 favorable in state revenue due to the grant funds received from the Longwood Foundation and the Welfare Foundation in FY2015.  As well as the other grants they received in June of 2015, they received the $79,000 grant from the Calder Foundation and $250,000 from the charter school performance fund in July of 2015.  At their September 2015 board meeting, it was announced the funds received from the Longwood and Welfare Foundations were received in FY2015 so they could not put this as revenue in FY2016 even though they budgeted these funds for FY2016.  This caused their revenue to be unfavorable in the amount of $961,000.  But they were going to amend their budget to make this happen.  While a lot of these revenue figures are all over the map, it is important to look at the $668,000 talked about in June of 2015.  If the school already had pledged amounts coming from the Longwood and Welfare Foundations totaling $625,000.00, it would stand to reason their remaining “favorable revenue” came from their annual fund.  Which leaves $43,000 they had remaining from their FY2015 annual fund which they committed towards this project.  This reduced their shortage for the two projects to $449,149.00.

Earlier this week, I posted an article about Student Body Activity funds and questioned why Newark Charter School is showing such a high amount for this.  Based on this article, I showed how a FOIA received by a Delaware citizen showed NCS as spending $445,000 in student body activities as of 7/2/16.  As of 8/2/16, that amount increased to $449,557.29.  Now if you notice the projected amount for the STEM Laboratory Suite in the above picture, that amount is for $449,588.  Almost the exact same amount as the expenditures for their student body activity.  If this fund is meant for just student body activities, they should not be going towards capital costs, such as the creation of a STEM Laboratory and a Fine & Performing Arts Center.  Delaware law is very specific about this and the business manager and Greg Meece are well aware of these laws.

How much did these two projects actually cost Newark Charter School? $1,512,599.08.  They contracted with Daystar Sills, a construction company in Delaware.  The difference between the projected amount in their charter school performance fund application and the actual amount was $23,540.08.

NCSBldgImprovDaystarSills

If you add up the following figures:

$43,000 from their FY2015 Annual Fund

$500,000 from Longwood Foundation

$125,000 from Welfare Foundation

$79,000 from Calder Foundation

$250,000 from Charter School Performance Fund

The total amount is $997,000.  Which leaves them very short of the eventual $1,512,599.08 those projects were going to cost.  We know, as of  their November 2014 board minutes, the school received $64,000 from an auction they had.  This was their 11th annual auction.

NCS1114boardmtg

They had their next auction in November of 2015, but at their November 2015 board meeting, Greg Meece did not give an amount of how much they generated.

NCSNov2015BoardMinutes

By not publicly mentioning how much they received in their FY2016 auction, they could leave this open for future use as they saw fit.  Since there was never a capital fund amount given, we would have to assume it was close to the amountselaw they received in prior years.

Since they are so short on this capital project, and we don’t know where the money is coming from to pay for the rest, watch what happens when we add this to the $997,000:

$449,575.29 from FY2016 Student Body Activity expenses

We now get a grand total of $1,446,575.29.  They are still short $66,023.79.  We can safely guess where those funds came from based on their FY2015 Audit with Barbacane Thornton & Company:

NCSFY2015AuditStmntOfNetPosition

Note how NCS received $77,226 in pledged monetary support in FY2014 and $67,812 in FY2015.  It would stand to reason they used their FY2016 pledge amount to supplement the rest of this bill from Daystar Sills.  The school could never use extra local reserve funds because those funds could only be used for operating expenses or minor capital improvements based on Delaware charter school law.  They could not be used for capital building projects.  Meece knew this, and Mark Murphy should have.  The fact that Meece applied for a minor modification for this huge project and didn’t know the true estimate of the costs, didn’t have the capital funding when he applied for it, and operated on the assumption that Mark Murphy would just take it at face value that the school could always fall back on local appropriation reserves speaks volumes about the arrogance behind Newark Charter School.  Meece and Schlossberg, in my opinion, knew exactly what they were doing with all of this.  They knew the project would be short and planned ahead of time.

In June of 2015, they budgeted $300,000 for student body activity.  This would have been a very good guess on the amount they would need to pay towards the final bill for this project.  Because at that time, they somehow thought they could get $400,000 from the charter school performance fund.  This turned out to be a huge error on their part because they had to somehow find a way to get another roughly $150,000 when they only got $250,000 from the performance fund.  This is how their Student Body Activity expense amount went from a budgeted $300,000 to a little bit shy of $450,000.  They actually planned for this amount, in my humble opinion, based on how the project was turning out.  Once they realized their error with the performance fund, they got to work.

To use a shell student body activity account to pay for Capital projects is an obvious violation of Delaware state law.  To never report the revenue they received from parents and students should be a violation of state law.  To use parents and students money to disguise illegal activity is fraud, pure and simple.  Because I am not a judge or a jury, I cannot say with 100% certainty this is exactly what Newark Charter School did.  If I were writing a fictional novel, either as part of the Kathleen Davies whodunit or a new one on Newark Charter School, because no criminal charges or official allegations of wrongdoing have been laid out by any type of legal authority in the State of Delaware, I would say there is most likely a strong connection to this activity going on at Newark Charter School and Kathleen Davies eventually being put on leave.  I believe NCS knew there was an investigation going on with their IRS 990 forms.  I believe they knew their exemption was a glass house that would eventually have many stones thrown at it.  While I don’t think it was a case of Senator David Sokola going to Tom Wagner and saying “You have to stop this audit inspection cause my buddies at Newark Charter School could get in trouble”, I do believe the goal was to slam the character of Kathleen Davies.  By doing so, it would undermine the audit inspections she already completed (the September 30th Enrollment Count inspection and the Millville Fire Department audits which were either pulled or redone).  As well, it would cast a doubt on audits already underway.  I believe the right amount of pressure was put on Tom Wagner by the Office of Management and Budget to get Davies put on leave.  Aside from the false accusations of Davies abusing the travel reimbursement accounts by not using the state procurement card, there had to be a confrontation to push Wagner towards that decision.  The accusations by itself wouldn’t be enough.  There had to be that one final straw.

The Delaware Department of Education wanted the September 30th Enrollment Count done.  When the report came out, they disagreed with Davies recommendations in the report.  They complained to Wagner.  This I do know.  What happened next, I can only surmise.  Wagner wanted Davies to change the report.  Davies said no.  Boom.

Once Davies was gone, Wagner could kill the petty cash audit which would have shown charter schools abusing the petty cash policies in the state.  He did that and instead sent letters to all the charter schools that violated the petty cash policy with no ability for the public to see those letters.  He pulled the September 30th audit.  He took out Davies letter at the end of the Millville Fire Department inspection report.  We don’t know what is happening with the Newark Charter School IRS 990 Form Audit Inspection.   I have to assume we will never see it.  Unless someone gives a very good reason why the school would strongly benefit from not filing such a tax return.  Someone would have to show how they hide things financially so they can get what they want.  Then Tom Wagner’s office would have to act fast and get into that school and investigate ALL of their finances, from top to bottom.  He would want to subpoena all of their bank deposits.  He would have to turn the information over to the Delaware Attorney General’s office and in an ideal world, that office would act on that information.  If any federal funds were found to be abused in the findings of this investigation, the FBI would have to get involved.  Since this school has been around fifteen years with no IRS tax filings, I would assume the FBI would be very interested in how much revenue this Delaware corporation has received and would want to account for every single penny going in or out of the school.  If the FBI didn’t have anything to go on, I would have to imagine the State of Delaware would based on the information they would get out of their investigation.  Not to mention the very shady and scummy enrollment practices this school has had over the years in their attempts to have perfect high-stakes test-takers.  In their isolated and non-transparent world with a five-mile radius around the flagpole at their high school, some of which goes into a neighboring state, but determines what students can or can’t go to their elite wannabe private school.  Where parents can afford to pay for extravagant field trips because they don’t have to use those funds for a private school because this school is so perfect.  In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have this.  But this isn’t an ideal world.  This is Delaware.

I have no doubt Newark Charter School is not alone in Delaware with these kinds of financial games.  I think it has happened quite a bit, and not just in charter schools.  I think it has happened in our districts as well.  Maybe not the same chess move NCS pulled on this one, but other moves designed to give an advantage of some sort.  We’ve seen it before and we will see it again.  Until someone turns the board over and makes new rules for the game.  That is what needs to happen in Delaware.  This is my mission and others have this vision as well.  We keep waiting for someone in power to step up and do the right thing.   All we hear is silence.

To see the full FY2015 audit for Newark Charter School, please see the below report:

The Charter School Petty Cash Audit You Will Never See

Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner has a lot of explaining to do.  And possibly Governor Markell as well!

Things are getting a bit clearer now.  On the Kavips blog, Delaware State Representative Kim Williams wrote a comment on Kavips take on the Kathleen Davies situation playing out at the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office.  She wrote about how she contacted the auditor’s office last September regarding some concerns she had with a Delaware charter school’s petty cash activity on Delaware Online Checkbook.  The report was near completion prior to Kathleen Davie’s abrupt “leave of absence”.  Williams even had a comment she approved that would have appeared in the petty cash audit inspection.

Williams emailed Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner to find out the status of it following Davies’ leave.  Wagner told her he stopped the audit and issued letters to all the charter schools instead.  Really Wagner?  I know which school Williams found on the petty cash situation.  When the Charter School of Wilmington wrote in their board minutes that the auditors were there to review their petty cash accounts, I knew something was up.  So I checked all the charter schools petty cash activity.  Some of them were quite egregious compared to what they are allowed to have in those accounts.  But I figured I would wait to see the report before I wrote about it.  In other board minutes, CSW board members asked where the audit was and they were going to contact the auditor to find out.  I find it very interesting they chose to write about this one particular audit, not once, but twice.

So now we have an elected official voluntarily choosing to cover up information.  This makes the very bizarre action against Davies’ look even more suspicious.  Who knows what other activity is being “stopped” by Tom Wagner.  Lord only knows how much else she found.  We also have the woman who was in charge of the Office of Management and Budget involved in this scandal as well.  Ann Visalli reported to one man, and one man only… Delaware Governor Jack A. Markell.  We have an obvious set-up against Davies with a lot of BIG Delaware power figures involved.  I hope her attorney eats them up!

Hey… Tom Wagner… where is the audit on Delaware Met?  Where is the audit from the tip I submitted about Academy of Dover and Newark Charter School?  What other audits are you cancelling?  Why do you keep ignoring emails from constituents like Jack Wells and myself?  What do you do all day?  Who got you to stop audits showing abuse of taxpayer money?  Is there an Indian River audit taking place given the firing of their CFO?  Mr. Wagner, do you know what else I’m finding?

Hey, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn… when are you going to announce charges for the charter school employees that were caught?  And that Indian River guy?  Are you waiting for Markell to leave his post?  Or for the statute of limitations to run out on these thieves?  I know the FBI are aware of this because I let them know just in case Delaware didn’t.  That was in April.

If I were writing a mystery novel about this, hypothetically of course, I would have to name suspects in a crime.  Keep in mind this would be a fictional story because no one has been charged with anything (including former charter school employees who were nabbed by the auditor’s office, but I digress).  I would have to look at who opposed Kim Williams’ original charter school audit bills.  That would be Kendall Massett (Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network), a lot of House Republicans, Senator David Sokola, Donna Johnson (Executive Director of the State Board of Education), Nitin Rao (the business manager of Newark Charter School), and Democrat State Representative (and Chair of the House Education Committee) Earl Jaques.  Oh yeah, Speaker  of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voted no on that one too!  Chuck Taylor with Providence Creek Academy (also the President of the board over at the Delaware Charter Schools Network and a member of the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware DOE) had parents from his school send emails to the House prior to the vote opposing the legislation.  And we can’t forget Ann Visalli!  And some guy named Henry Clampitt who was doing work with Kendall’s group also opposed it at the Senate Education Committee meeting on it last January.  I would have to imagine many other charter school leaders were not happy about the bill either.  This is a big list of whodunit suspects!  Did they act in concert in this imaginary thriller?  Or did someone fly solo?  I can’t wait to write the ending to this mystery!  I imagine all these suspects could feel the noose tightening around them right about now.  In this fictional story of course!

I sure hope someone was able to get their hands on all those letters sent from Tom Wagner concerning the petty cash audits that went out to various charter schools…

Hot Fun In The Summertime… At The DOE? What The…

Summer.  The time of year when you cut loose and have some fun!  Even at the Delaware Department of Education.   So what are those rascals up to now? Continue reading

Secretary Godowsky Walks Out Of Back Door To Governor’s Offices At Leg. Hall As Native Americans Wait To Meet The Governor

The Senate Education Committee just ended their 2:30 meeting about half an hour ago.  House Bill 399 was discussed with many proponents and a few opponents.  The opponents were Secretary Godowsky, Donna Johnson, and Atnre Alleyne (former DOE employee who has become very active in trying to stop meaningful teacher evaluation reform).  Senator David Sokola expressed more than once his feelings of “heartburn” with the bill.  I recorded the whole thing.  Excellent comments were provided by Mike Matthews, Kristen Dwyer with DSEA, Jackie Kook, a teacher from Caesar Rodney (I will have to get his name later), and others.  Hopefully the other members of the Senate Education Committee will see through the obvious smoke and mirrors.  But a few thoughts here.  Godowsky and Johnson were not this vocal during the House Education Committee.  Judging by the fact Godowsky just left from meeting with Governor Markell’s office in conjunction with Godowsky’s adamant opposition of the bill, I think we can all safely assume who is calling the shots here.

As the lead Senate Sponsor, I felt Senator Bryan Townsend could have supported the bill more than he did.  I have found he tends to play to both sides on education issues.  During his second “round” so to speak on the bill, he did defend Delaware teachers and appeared to be more on their side.  As usual, Sokola played it up for the audience.  At one point he made a comment about how there is good news in education and something to the effect of not being able to see that on the blogs.  So I made a point in my public comment, as well as supporting the bill, to point out the DOE can get the “good” news out and I’ll do my thing.  Perhaps he didn’t like that but I truly don’t care.  He can stare daggers into me until the general election if he wants.

I don’t know if it will be released from the committee.  I hope it will.  New York is already getting out of the kind of teacher evaluations Delaware’s DPAS-II is similar to.  In regards to my comment about the Native Americans waiting to meet the Governor, Governor Markell literally just walked past me and we greeted each other.  I am assuming the Governor was out of the building.  I don’t see the Native Americans now, but the Delaware House did pass House Concurrent Resolution #97 recognizing November, 2016 as “Native American Heritage Month” in Delaware.  Yes, it is going to be one of those days!  Or possibly one of those lifetimes!

The Delaware Illuminati, Part 1: Jeb Bush Inspires Rodel

Personalized Learning, as a concept, has been around since the 1960’s.  It is an effort to personalize learning so a student doesn’t always learn at the same pace as other students.  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 team.  I don’t see these teachers as evil.  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 coordination.  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

To be continued…in part 2…coming soon…

To read the prologue to this series, link to The Delaware Illuminati, Prologue

The Judases On The Rodel Teacher Council & How They Changed Public Education Forever In Delaware **UPDATED**

Establish a “critical mass” of support for CBL in DE and leverage supportive voices to raise awareness about CBL

CBLRodelGroup

A group of Delaware teachers, in conjunction with a few Superintendents, principals, a high-ranking member of the Delaware PTA, the executive director of the State Board of Education and members of the Delaware Department of Education found a way to sneak in a future-changing regulation eight months ago with a group no one knew about and never had any notices of public meetings.  But all is not as it appears.  In doing so, they opened the gates to one of the most dangerous corporate education reformers out there.

Have you ever heard of the Delaware Department of Education Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition?  Me neither.  Until last night.  In doing a massive amount of research on the Leader In Me program in many of our Delaware schools (and there will be MUCH more on that coming), I found a very odd write-up on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware website.

In investigating a school in the Capital School District that is heavily promoting the snake-oil Leader In Me program, I came across the Rodel Teacher Council section of their website on a Google search.  And there it was, under Michele Johnson of Towne Point Elementary School in Capital School District.  I knew she was involved in the Leader In Me program, but what I didn’t know and had never heard of was the Delaware Department of Education’s Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  I’ve looked at every single section of the DOE website and never found anything about it.  So I went back to Google.  I found a link to a pdf from a State Board of Education work session on July 16th, 2015.

To give some more background, this was an important day in Delaware education.  It was the same day Delaware Governor Jack Markell vetoed House Bill 50.  The State Board holds their work sessions during the morning before their board meetings.  The State Board did have it on their agenda for this work session but try looking for anything else on this group and you will be hopelessly lost.  With most groups at the Delaware DOE, there is something listed somewhere.  But not with this one.  There was no notice of public meetings and no transparency whatsoever.    Why would there be?  This was a Rodel group from their hand-picked teacher council.  If you never believed Rodel was running education in Delaware, you will after reading the below document.  Every single thing I’ve been writing about on this blog for the past nine months: about competency-based education, personalized learning, pathways to prosperity, the “Dear Hillary” letter, it is all in this 10 page pdf in some form.

So this group recommended finding a way past these barriers to competency-based education in Delaware.  The pictures of the post-it notes show words like “urgency” and “barriers”.  They mention collective bargaining as a “system barrier”.  This Rodel Teacher Council sold their souls to Rodel when they joined this cabal.  In the above document there is an entity called Reinventing Schools.  I’ve heard of this company but this is the first time I ever saw them mentioned in Delaware.  But obviously Rodel has been working with them behind the scenes for many years.  To find out why, I highly suggest reading this article on the funded by the Gates Foundation organization led by Dr. Marzano.

I put a picture at the beginning of this article with the members of this Rodel created group.  While I’m not surprised by most of the names, one of them stood out: Yvonne Johnson.  As the face behind the Delaware PTA for many years, Johnson has been involved in many groups in one form or another.  I originally wrote, and have now changed in this article, is how Johnson was involved with this group.  I just spoke to Yvonne Johnson who was very upset about her supposed involvement with the Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition.  As Johnson told me, she was invited to a webinar on this and there was a meeting at Howard High School of Technology about it.  She said she does not support competency-based education and the other Delaware PTA member, Ashley Gray, told this group this was not for the Delaware PTA.  Obviously the Rodel machine presented this information to the State Board of Education, close to a year later, suggesting the full involvement of Delaware PTA.  But that is not the case.  It is just another example of our State Board of Education being duped by Rodel into passing regulations they really don’t have a clue about.

The biggest barrier to implementing competency-based education in Delaware was the graduation requirements.  They had to change existing state code to do that.  Lo and behold, they did exactly that.  But not without some old fashioned trickery.  At the August 20th State Board meeting, Regulation 505 was put up for discussion by the State Board.

SBOEReg505

In listening to the State Board audio recording for this meeting, notice how it is introduced as having nothing to do with competency-based education.  For a long time, they talk around it.  It isn’t until the President of the State Board, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, seeks clarification on this regulation that anyone in that room would know what they were talking about.  As well, Tina Shockley with the DOE sped through describing the regulation very fast.  But when the conversation gets going, Michael Watson from the DOE responds to a question from Gray about struggling students.  He responds by saying  some students can reach mastery in 180 days but for other students it may take longer and that’s okay.  So is he suggesting some students will have to go to school longer?

At the September State Board meeting, when everyone was going nuts about opt out penalties in the Delaware School Success Framework/Regulation 103 fiasco, the State Board passed this regulation.  But I find it hysterical how all the language surrounding the DSCFY wasn’t even needed to begin with which I’m sure the DOE was well aware of.  In my opinion, they put it in the regulation to put the focus around that knowing it would be removed to get what they want.

So what does all this mean?

Here is the easiest way to break it down.  This isn’t a Delaware thing.  It is happening all over the country.  To put it in a nutshell, corporations took over public education.  This is a plan that has been in place for decades.  First they had to make it look like public schools were failing students.  This began in 1983 when the report called A Nation At Risk was released by the federal government.  This damning report on public education changed the perception of schools in America.  It also began the thirty-three year coordinated attack against teacher unions.  Ten years later, the country’s first charter schools came into being.  At the same time, Bill Clinton became the U.S. President.  His wife Hillary received a letter from Marc Tucker, who went on to be one of the chief architects of Achieve Inc. and the Common Core.

By the late 1990s, standardized testing with high-stakes was the law of the land in Delaware.  When Delaware launched the DSTP test, students did horrible on it.  Many students dropped out of school as testing mania took over the state.  Graduation rates dropped due to the requirement of proficiency on the horrible test.  In 2002, No Child Left Behind demanded all students in America become proficient on these high-stakes tests by 2014.  It was completely absurd and everyone knew it, but it was a stall tactic.  As Common Core came out in President Obama’s second year, Delaware switched to another test called DCAS.  While not as bad as DSTP, it was offered two to three times a year.  Race To The Top was in full swing along with all the ESEA Flexibility Waivers.  Charter schools were rising in popularity for the past decade and the teacher unions were under attack.  To get all of this going, the teacher unions had to be destroyed.  But they couldn’t bust the unions, just give them a slow and painful death.

Many teacher unions across the country caved in to the new corporate education reform suggestions.  They could have fought it, but it would have given an already rising bad perception of them an even worse one.  So with the help of school boards, the unions signed on to Race To The Top.  Even the state PTAs got sucked into the Common Core/Race To The Top vortex.  Common Core was the boss, teachers were the servants, and students were the true victims.  Then came the even newer high-stakes assessments tied to the Common Core.  Meanwhile, new education think tanks and non-profits emerged from nowhere to give more and more bad news about education and how to fix it.  In Delaware,  we call them the Rodel Foundation and the Vision Coalition.  They have been around for a long time, but they are one and the same and they are as venomous to public education as any of these other education fixit organizations.

So here we are now, in 2016.  Governor Markell finishes up next January and in comes John Carney.  Like the rushed implementation of Common Core, in the next few years we will see the “urgency” to incorporate full-time competency-based learning in our schools.  Our students will be on the computer all the time in this era of “personalized learning” while our teachers become glorified guides and facilitators.  As veteran teachers leave the profession in droves, we will see more duds like Teach For America and Relay Graduate School coming into our schools.  They won’t be union, and they will take over.  With their corporate driven brainwashing, we will see more “teacher-leaders” come into play via programs like “Leader In Me”.  But education is, and always has been, about the students.  What happens to them?  This is the kicker.

All of this, everything since the day A Nation At Risk was introduced 33 years ago, has been with this plan in mind.  It is all an elaborate tracking measure meant to keep down minority students, students with disabilities, and low-income students.  They will not do well in this.  We see this with the Smarter Balanced Assessment and the PARCC tests.  The resources and funding are there.  They have always been there.  But our states and government didn’t want to fix education.  They had to tear it down first and build it up again to one of their own design.  They don’t want anyone questioning their authority.  They want their worker bees to fall in line with their career pathways and shut up.  They had to beat down the teachers and numb the minds of children.  They do not care and have no remorse if anyone gets in their way.  Even the charter schools they so methodically built up were fodder for sacrifice if need be.  We saw this in Delaware as many charters closed and more sprung from the ashes.

What the corporate education reformers do is use the art of distraction to an astonishing degree.  They know those who oppose them can’t fight everything all at once so they get us to focus on certain things.  Take opt out for example.  While they know opt out kills everything they are planning, they also know it is the key to their future.  The once a year test will go away.  It will be broken down into little tiny chunks, embedded into the end-of-unit personalized learning chapter.  But a student must score proficient to be able to move on.  They must “master” the material.  But who writes the material?  Who grades the mini-assessments?  How long will a student be “held back” until they get it?  What happens when a student just gives up because they are so mentally frustrated?  How does IDEA and existing law fit in with any of this?  Does anyone care about these kind of things anymore?

Governor Markell and Dr. Paul Herdman, along with their key player at the Townsend Building in Dover, Donna Johnson, have been the masterminds behind all of this in Delaware.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence there have been very few task forces, working groups and committees with an actual State Board of Education member on it?  It is always Executive Director Donna Johnson.  Calling the shots.  Bossing people around as if she is the ultimate authority in education.  Manipulating the playing field to the agendas she controls.  She did it with WEIC, the priority schools, the Delaware School Success Framework, Common Core, opt out, and all the other destructive policies and regulations under her control.  We don’t have a State Board of Education.  We have Jack and Donna’s puppets.  Behind them is the face of Rodel: Dr. Paul Herdman.  The single-most, number one with a bullet, vessel of discrimination and evil I have ever met in my life.  The man behind the Delaware curtain.  The man who helped Jack into the Governor role.  The man who took over the Delaware Department of Education.  The man who directs it all in Delaware.  Who answers to his masters in bigger organizations like the Aspen Institute, Achieve Inc., the Lumina Foundation, and Reinventing Schools.  Behind them are the true power players in the guise of the US Department of Education, the US Department of Labor, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Gates Foundation.  And then there are the investors and hedge fund managers and corporations making billions of dollars off all of this.  For those living in other states who may not be familiar with many of these names, I’m sure if you look hard enough, you have your own puppet masters pulling the strings.

At this point, I don’t know if those who oppose this could stop any of this.  It is so embedded into policy and law.  All the states were required to have some type of career workforce plan based on the below federal document.  The future is now.  It is here.  This Leader In Me garbage that is sweeping our schools is the biggest example of this.  It goes beyond the classroom and invades the home.  It has children making the parents compliant to this nonsense.  Their “data walls” are one of the most disgusting and abhorrent acts of labeling, shaming, and discrimination I have ever seen in my life.  But far too many of our Delaware teachers think it is okay.  This is what happens when you are brainwashed to points beyond common sense.  When you are fed the same false garbage time and time again.  You begin to believe it.  You become the enemy before you even realize it.  When you once questioned all of this and you become a slave to the compliance machine.  I am not saying these teachers are bad or even evil.  They are misguided.  They have been fooled and once the Rodelian mindset becomes a part of your thinking, they have their hooks in you.  They mold and shape you into another one of their puppets or put your name out there to make it look like they have diverse “stakeholder input”.  It seems like people with the last name of Johnson are their favorites.  Charter schools, by their very nature, are ripe for takeover or creation by the Rodelian puppet masters.  And don’t think it ends with Jack Markell.

But too many of us were blinded by opt out, teacher evaluations, and charter schools to even notice.  All we hear about anymore on social media is Trump and Hillary.  It doesn’t matter who wins because all the pieces were put into play years ago.  They snuck it all in when those who should have seen it were distracted.  As our pre-schools and schools become community centers and human teaching becomes a thing of the past, what happens to the children of tomorrow?  Will we even need the school building in the future?  What happens when they become indoctrinated into the cults of compliance?  When they lose their spark?  As the more affluent families stay in power while the vast majority of the population perform all the low-paying jobs?  Who will rise from the ashes like a phoenix to turn it all around again twenty years from now?  Or fifty?  Many have predicted the machines would take over.  But what they failed to realize was the machines were children.  I saw this coming.  I knew it.  But I was looking in the wrong place.  And for that I apologize.  At some point, like everything in history, there will be a revolution.  Only we can decide when that is.

 

Delaware House Education Committee Baffled By Inability Of Public To Comment On Action Items At State Board of Education Meetings

This bill is a no-brainer! DeStateBoardofEducation

At the House Education Committee meeting in Delaware today, members looked confused as State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson tried to explain to them why they don’t allow public comment before any action items.  Citing regulatory laws and charter applications, which are in the synopsis of the bill, Johnson said regulations have a set period of public comment.  For charter applications, she said State Board members are required to vote on the charter file which is set up with a public comment period.  State Rep. Kim Williams brought House Bill 232 forward because of events she witnessed at State Board of Education meetings.

For a while there, the volley went back and forth between Williams and Johnson.  Williams stated she wanted to give public comment on Gateway Lab School’s formal review the day the State Board made their decision but she couldn’t because of this rule.  She also cited a recent Regulation, #616, that she wanted to give public comment on but couldn’t.  Johnson explained that Regulation 616 was a Secretary only regulation so she could have given public comment.  How anyone could ever keep track of all this stuff is beyond me.  If you are just a curious member of the public going to these meetings, you would have no clue!

Johnson went on to say the State Board could face a risk of a lawsuit if they voted on something based on a public comment after they have reviewed the entire record.  When asked if there has ever been any lawsuit in any situation like this for any state agency, the answer was no.  As State Rep after State Rep tried to figure out why the State Board wouldn’t allow public comment, it culminated in State Rep. Sean Lynn stating he felt the opposition to the bill (which only came from Johnson and Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network) was disingenuous and was filled with self-interests.  No one on the committee had any reason to oppose the bill and it was released from committee.

For a split second, I almost felt bad for Donna Johnson.  Not because I felt she was right, but because she has no idea how she sounds to decision-makers.  She doesn’t see how going to bat for her friends in the charter community actually hurts her in the long run.  When a fervent charter school supporter like State Rep. Mike Ramone is saying this is an excellent bill and doesn’t understand why this isn’t already allowed, you know there is something wrong with the policy.  He questioned Johnson about the ability for a three minute public comment to completely sway a vote.  He felt that an official on any board should have enough knowledge of the events to be able to make a sound decision on matters.

Massett gave public comment.  She recalled a charter application in Southern Delaware where someone gave a statement that was completely false but there was no ability for the person they were talking about to rebut the comment.  This was the only “evidence” she could give to oppose House Bill 232.  I believe it was State Rep. Kevin Hensley who stated someone could still file a defamation of character suit in an incident like that.

Both State Reps Kim Williams and Kevin Hensley talked about their time on school boards and they couldn’t fathom not letting the public speak about an action item.  Hensley explained there were times when parents or a member of the community approached him about an issue right before a board meeting.  He said he would tell them to make sure to give public comment so the whole Board could hear it.  Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty said he may not always like what he hears in public comment, but he appreciates the public comment process.  As Lynn said today, “this bill is a no-brainer.”

I gave public comment before the vote.  I explained the public comment ban also happens for other charter issues, such as modifications or formal reviews.  I cited Family Foundations Academy and the Delaware Met as examples where things happened after the charter record closed and the State Board voted on something without giving the ability to the public to add new events.  I said there was an inherent danger with this.

One of the funnier moments came when Ramone kept going on and on about how the meeting room for State Board meetings was too small.  He recalled how it is standing room only and many people are forced to stand in the hall.  He suggested maybe they meet in the House chambers!  While it would be difficult to have seven state board members, an executive director and the Secretary of Education cram into the front of the House chamber, I’ve always suggested utilizing the VERY large conference room at the DOE’s other building over at the Collette Center in Dover.  While it isn’t as “official” looking as the Cabinet Room at the Townsend Building, it is certainly big enough to fit the State Board, DOE Chiefs, and at least a hundred members of the public, if not more.

It became very apparent to everyone in the audience today exactly why the Delaware State Board of Education was put on review by the Joint Sunset Committee yesterday.  In my opinion, I think this antiquated rule is something that comes from a country where dictators rule and the people are put on mute.  Transparency isn’t just being open with your records and dealings, it is also letting the public be transparent about how they feel.

One quick note: House Bill 161, which deals with Parent Empowerment Savings Accounts for students with disabilities, or as most call them, school vouchers, was taken off the agenda for today’s House Education Committee.

Breaking News: Here Comes The Sun! Delaware State Board Of Education Under Review Next Year

The Delaware State Board of Education will be under review by the Delaware Sunset Committee in Fiscal Year 2017.  At the meeting today in Legislative Hall, Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn brought up the nomination for the State Board of Education.  Citing concerns with fiscal transparency, Pettyjohn felt the State Board (who has never come up for a review by the Sunset Committee) should get a review.

For those who may not remember, on January 1st I wrote an article about why I wasn’t going to file complaints in regards to this mess and the other train wrecks happening in the State Board of Education.  I’ve known this nomination was going to come up for a long time now.  I’ve been biding my time waiting for today, and it is finally here.  I could have filed complaints, but sorry, I don’t trust the system in Delaware with complaints.  Instead, I will submit any information to the Sunset Committee for their review.

In determining their review, the State Board of Education’s budget for this fiscal year is $223,100.  Executive Director Donna Johnson’s salary is a little over $90,000 and the administrative assistant’s salary is nearly $54,000.  Each board member gets paid $100 per State Board meeting but they can’t attend more than 24 meetings in a year.  It is very hard to track their expenses from a citizen’s perspective because they do not have their own section or tab under the Department of Education on Delaware Online Checkbook.

The State Board of Education has been a lightning rod of controversy in the past year.  Between the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan vote, the inability to give public comment on action items, the situations I wrote about in the above links, and the fact that Donna Johnson serves as a State Board rep on most education activities without actual board member representation.  These are just some of the things that annoy the citizens of Delaware who are involved in education.  Most feel the State Board of Education should be publicly elected and not appointed by the Governor of Delaware.  For all of their arrogance and hubris, it looks like they are the next stop on the karma bus!  More details to come on this monumental nomination!

While the membership of the Sunset Committee could certainly change next year due to the upcoming elections, the following legislators serve on the committee: State Rep. Gerald Brady (Chair), Senator Nicole Poore (Vice-Chair), State Representatives Andrea Bennett, Stephanie Bolden, Tim Dukes, Jeff Spiegelman, and Senators Brian Pettyjohn, Bryant Richardson, David Sokola, and Bryan Townsend.

This is the process for review by the Joint Sunset Committee, from their website:

SunsetCommitteeReviewProcess

For An “Education” Governor, Jack Markell Isn’t Too Bright! Exclusive FOIA Emails Show His Incompetency!

When it comes to education, brokering deals isn’t Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s strong suit.  His fumbling could have given the Christina priority schools major headaches larger than the ones they had.

In September, 2014, Governor Markell announced six priority schools in Wilmington, DE.  Three in the Red Clay Consolidated School District and three in the Christina School District.  Each school board had to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for each school.  Red Clay signed their MOU a few months later while Christina fought the Delaware Department of Education every step of the way.  By the end of February of 2015, the Christina School Board refused to sign the MOU and didn’t approve plans for the schools.  When it looked like the Delaware DOE and then Secretary of Education Mark Murphy were going to take the schools from the district, Governor Markell brokered a plan between the district and the Delaware DOE.

As a result of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC) and their recommendation to turn the Christina schools in Wilmington to Red Clay, the priority school saga was on hold.  The Christina Board voted in favor of the WEAC idea and Governor Markell brought both sides to the table.  A new MOU detailed the WEAC recommendation and the Christina Board signed it.  The MOU went to Secretary Murphy for signature.  The tension ended.  Or so we thought.

For seven months, the subject of the Christina priority schools was very quiet.  WEAC became the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission through legislation.  The commission started meeting in September of 2015 to craft the plans to eventually fold the Wilmington Christina schools into Red Clay.  At the October meeting of the Delaware Education Support System (DESS), a representative asked about the Christina priority schools and what would happen to them if the redistricting plan fell apart.  Delaware DOE Chief of Accountability and Assessment Penny Schwinn said that was a very good question and one they were hoping to get answers for soon.

The DOE was in transition.  Secretary Murphy announced his resignation at the end of July.  Acting Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky inherited the Christina priority schools.  The DESS meeting was on October 5th.  A month earlier, I wondered what would happen if the WEIC plan didn’t pass the State Board of Education or the Delaware General Assembly.  Everyone assumed the deal Governor Markell brokered in March covered the Christina priority schools up until that point.  But in FOIA’d emails never revealed to the public until now, the Delaware DOE truly didn’t know what Markell’s deal even meant.  Behind the scenes, Schwinn emailed the United States Department of Education to get clarification on what the options were for the three schools seven months after “the deal”.

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I find it astonishing Governor Markell never had the Delaware DOE check with the US DOE before the March deal.  This is a man who prides himself on all things education.  Instead, he made an executive decision without checking to see if it was even okay.

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Nearly two weeks after Schwinn first posed the question to Julie Glasier, an Education Specialist at the US DOE, she received an answer:

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As per the US DOE, the deal brokered by Markell wasn’t good enough.  All of this led to what is known as “The Hissy Fit” at the December meeting of the Delaware State Board of Education meeting.  The board minutes for this meeting tell one story, but reality was far different.

It was pointed out that the Christina School District schools are in the second year of planning as the Department has not received a plan.  Dr. Gray voiced her dismay and concern that the district has failed to respond to the Department’s requests.  Dr. Godowsky stated that it is the Department’s expectation that the district will submit their plan.  It was also noted that the educators in that district are to be commended for helping their students achieve without the additional funding they could be receiving.

State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray was visibly upset about the Christina School District priority schools.  She acted as if the district made the deal back in March and just forgot about the schools.  She was so angry she had to excuse herself from the State Board meeting to regain her composure.  The very next day an astonishing revelation came out about what happened, or to be more concise, didn’t happen after the brokered meeting nine months earlier.  Secretary Murphy never signed the MOU between the Christina priority schools and the Delaware DOE.  Christina board members stated they were never told anything more had to be done with the schools during the pending WEIC redistricting proposal.  Now the Delaware DOE wanted the district’s priority school plans.

While never officially confirmed, Murphy’s resignation was rumored to be a “resign now” due to issues with the funding for the three Red Clay priority schools.  Emails released by this blog weeks before the Murphy announcement seemed to be the final straw for his Cabinet position in Delaware.  Was Markell aware of Murphy’s other colossal error concerning the Christina priority schools?

This led to another explosion of sorts at the February State Board of Education meeting.  The State Board voted no on the WEIC redistricting plan due to wording around funding and Christina having no priority school plans turned into the DOE.  State Board member Pat Heffernan went on a tirade of his own about the three schools and how Christina failed them.  At an emergency meeting of WEIC the next week, Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan told State Board President Dr. Gray she should apologize to Christina for the underhanded treatment they received from her.  To date, Dr. Gray has not apologized to Christina.

Christina submitted the priority school plans to Secretary Godowsky and the State Board passed the WEIC redistricting plan last month.  Godowsky notified the State Board the plans were enough for the DOE.

Several questions emerge from this year and a half story though.  During the time of the priority schools announcement and the months following, many assumed the DOE wanted to take the schools.  Myself included.  But the stark reality is the DOE really didn’t have a clue what they were doing.  Neither Governor Markell or the DOE bothered to check to see if the brokered deal was acceptable to the federal agency that mandated the priority schools in the first place.  Granted, Delaware made up their own plans to decide which schools were “priority”, which wasn’t exactly without it’s own controversy.

I don’t believe ANY school should get a label based on standardized test scores.  Period.  Teachers should not fear for their jobs because of bogus tests.   The way the Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Governor Markell treated Christina during the five months after the announcement was shameful.  Even worse was the false treatment from the State Board of Education last fall and this winter.  Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson serves as a liaison of sorts between the State Board of Education and the Delaware Department of Education.  While not knowing for certain, I would have a very hard time believing Johnson was not aware of Schwinn’s emails to the US DOE and the fact that Secretary Murphy never signed the MOU.  She could have cleared that up at the December State Board meeting, but she didn’t.  If she did know of these events, she allowed Dr. Gray to behave the way she did.  Even Godowsky seemed shocked at the appalling actions on Gray’s part.

The Delaware State Board of Education is appointed by the Delaware Governor.  There are no public elections for the seven State Board of Education seats.  Donna Gray sits on the DESS Advisory Committee.  The WEIC redistricting plan awaits action from the Delaware 148th General Assembly.  The three Christina priority schools are still in the district and they began the Smarter Balanced Assessment last month.  The scores on these tests, like so many other Title I schools in Delaware, determine their fates to this day.  Governor Markell believes the Smarter Balanced Assessment is the best test Delaware ever made.

State Rep. Kim Williams Slams State Board Exec. Director Donna Johnson At WEIC Meeting Tonight

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The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission had two meetings tonight.  At 5pm, they had their Redistricting Committee meeting and at 6:30 they had a regular commission meeting.  During the public comment part of the redistricting meeting, State Rep. Kim Williams advised the audience State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson was telling State Board members how to vote on the WEIC plan at last week’s controversial State Board of Education meeting.  This was overheard by a few people in the audience at the State Board of Education meeting.  The best part… Donna Johnson was sitting in the row behind her.  As reported to me by several people, Johnson immediately began shaking her head no.  She did not look happy at all by the time I got there.

I was not there for that stunning announcement, but I did arrive late to the commission meeting.  As Milli Vanilli would say, blame it on the rain.  But the meeting was in full swing by the time I got there.  Commission member Yvonne Johnson introduced a motion to send the WEIC plan back to the State Board without their amendments concerning “shall” and “may” and the Christina priority school plans.  The motion passed, after a lot of heated discussion on both sides of the argument, with 15 yes, 6 no, and 2 absent.

Prior to that, State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky were there to answer questions.  The best moment of the evening, which drew a huge round of applause, was when Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan informed Dr. Gray about how former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy never signed their memorandum of understanding developed with their board, the DOE, and representatives from Governor Markell’s office.  Dr. Gray actually said she wasn’t aware of that even though she was told this at the December State Board meeting.  She told Minnehan she misread the addendum to the WEIC plan, even though it was very clearly spelled out.  I have to wonder if these State Board members read anything or if Donna Johnson is calling the shots 100% of the time.  Minnehan told Dr. Gray she wanted an apology from the State Board for their misleading labeling of the Christina School District.  Many members of the commission and nearly all of the audience clapped at this.  Of course, Dr. Gray did not apologize.  I guess they need a board vote to determine if they “may” or “shall” do that.

Commission member Chandra Pitts asked Gray if she understood the intent of Senate Bill 122, which was that the WEIC plan either got a yes or a no vote from the State Board.  Gray responded by saying she did understand the legislation.  Pitts asked Secretary Godowsky what his plans are for Wilmington students after he openly said he wanted to make sure the Christina priority schools clause was put into the State Board’s consideration for the WEIC plan.

Gray said the State Board will advocate for Wilmington students just as much as they do for all of Delaware’s students.  This didn’t soothe any of the emotions in the crowd.  As I wrote on Facebook tonight, their idea of advocacy is ruling as tyrants in the Cabinet Room at the DOE Building once a month.  They are the most disconnected education group in the state, yet they have this power to make or break education.  All I see is a lot of breaking at the expense of Delaware’s students.  When the majority of the voices out there are telling you “this is wrong” or “don’t do this”, the State Board usually takes it upon themselves to ignore those voices and essentially do whatever Governor Markell tells Donna Johnson who then tells them what to do.  One member of the commission asked why the State Board brought up this whole “shall” and “may” stuff in Mid-February when they had the plan since December.  No response…

The districts were united in their response to the State Board’s change of the “shall” and “may” with no way!  They will have no part of an unfunded mandate that could eventually leave the citizens in their districts on the hook to pay for all of this.  Colonial Board Member Joseph Laws told Gray he thought it was ridiculous that the State Board would change those words based on the possibility of “tying the hands of the future State Board”.  He said the General Assembly and school board members pass laws, resolutions, and policies all the time.  Basically, and these are my words, it was lame of the State Board to change a whole plan based on future boards.

During the deliberation of the motion to send the original plan back to the State Board, WEIC member Rev. Meredith Griffiths told the group it should be about the students.  He felt if they send the plan back to the State Board where they will vote no on it again, it won’t help the students because the adults self-posture.  I see it as defending their local turf.  Had they done this during the Race To The Top days, things could be very different now.  Perhaps they have learned their lesson and we are seeing this now with the WEIC vs. State Board fight.

Bottom line: you can’t trust the State Board.  They are not publicly elected officials.  They are appointed by the Governor.  Granted, not all of the State Board members were appointed by Markell, but they have let him run the show since he became Governor.  And by using his puppet Donna Johnson to give the marching orders to the State Board, we get events like tonight.

Gray was not in her turf, so she couldn’t do her grand posturing and her bouts of Christina Derangement Syndrome the way she does in State Board meetings.  But make no mistake, beneath her calm demeanor, her arrogance could still be seen by all.  For the most part, Godowsky sat there stone-faced without much comment at all.  Our State Board of Education needs some major changes.  The trust in them is gone.  And I am still not convinced Godowsky’s changes in the DOE are enough to restore any semblance of faith in them as well.  At the end of the day, it is still Governor Markell’s commands being followed.  He may tweak those plans here and there in a vain attempt to restore public faith in his failed agendas, but the results are still the same.

If someone could please answer how the hell Donna Johnson still has her job I would greatly appreciate it.  How does someone advance from being on the Common Core math implementation team to the Executive Director of the State Board of Education in just a couple years?  It is my opinion, shared by many, that Donna Johnson abuses her power time and time again and no one at a state level who has the power to do anything about it does.  Like I said, we need drastic change in Dover.  The State Board’s incompetence at either passing or denying a redistricting plan is clear evidence of this, but this is just the culmination of years of their Markell-driven need for control.