Dr. Dan Shelton Milks Financially Ailing Christina School District

The mysterious contract for Dr. Daniel Shelton, the Superintendent for Christina School District, was finally released today in an article by Amy Cherry over at WDEL. Considering Shelton started out at Capital five years ago in the $150-$160,000 range he sure made a windfall moving over to Christina School District. Because he is now making $199,000 a year (for the first year, read further to find out how that could drastically increase).

Among Dr. Dan’s many perks, he received $15,000 for this school year as a “transition” stipend to cover his costs of relocating to the district. Because, yes, it apparently costs $15,000 to “transition” when you live in the Red Clay School District all the way to Christina School District. I would love to see the justification for this exorbitant fee (and that’s exactly what it is). But luckily for the taxpayers of Christina, Delaware, and all of America (because his contract is paid through local, state, and federal funds), it will only cost us $9,000 a year to cover Dr. Dan’s automobile expenses to the tune of $750 a month.

Even more egregious and insulting to the taxpayers of Christina-Delaware-America, Dr. Dan gets an automatic step increase of 2% a year ALONG with whatever percentage of raises the local teacher unions get for their increases. Because hell, why not? No apparent conflict of interest here given that HIS OFFICE NEGOTIATES TEACHER CONTRACTS.

What confuses me though is the fact that the Zoom meeting to vote Dr. Dan in took place on 6/4/2020. All the board members were in different places at the time. So how in the world did they all manage to sign this contract on 6/4/2020? Furthermore, the contract had zero public input which would have been helpful given that the district was going out for a referendum at the time. And four out of the seven board members were elected by the board and not the public.

While everyone is figuring out what to do with Covid-19 and schools, it looks like Dr. Dan took FULL advantage of the chaos to get himself a contract that benefits him immensely.

To read the contract between Dr. Dan and Christina, feast your eyes. It is QUITE a read. Thanks to WDEL for doing all the legwork on this!

Capital To Hold Public Forum On Their Upcoming Referendum Tomorrow

Capital School District, located in Dover, DE, will be going out for a referendum next year to help build two new middle schools in the district.  Tomorrow night the district will be holding a public forum at Central Middle School to get public input on their plans for the district.  Tonight, Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton sent the following message out to parents in the district: Continue reading

Capital School District Does The Administrator Shuffle

For many students in Capital School District, their building leaders will look different in August.  Capital is moving Principals and Associate Principals around as a part of their Strategic Planning Process.

For Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Dr. Paige Morgan will replace Dale Brown who resigned/retired earlier this year.  William Henry Middle School will look very different.  Charles Sheppard, the current Principal of Towne Point Elementary, will be the new Principal while Linda Daye will take on a role of Associate Principal, coming from Central Middle School.  Current William Henry Middle School Principal Tori Giddens will take Sheppard’s spot at Towne Point.  Current Associate Principal Lurleen Lumpkin will become an Associate Principal at Central Middle School taking Daye’s former spot.

I know a lot of these administrators and they are good people.  I believe this is a positive step for Capital.  Sometimes you need to mix things up a little!

According to a letter sent from Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, these changes are being made to help the district grow.

Capital School District has engaged much of the community in its Strategic Planning Process over the last 2 years.  As part of that process, we are working to ensure we have opportunities for all staff members to learn and grow.  We are also being very reflective on how we can advance the district.

As part of that reflective process, some administrative changes were identified.  We believe that these changes will help everyone as we educate the whole child.

Capital’s Balanced Scorecard Is A Massive Shift In The WRONG Direction

Capital School District sure has changed in just two years.  Back in 2014, their board was railing against the Smarter Balanced Assessment and fully supporting a parent’s right to opt their child out of the test.  Flash forward to now, and their board will be discussing something called a “Balanced Scorecard.”

This balanced scorecard is five-year goals for the district.  Some of the goals are good: getting behavior referrals down, more parent involvement, things like that.  But then I wanted to vomit when I saw goals for Smarter Balanced proficiency.  Keep in mind this is just a draft.  The board hasn’t decided on this.  I’m at their board meeting now.  I thought their meetings started at 7:30 but I haven’t been here for a while so it looks like they changed it to 7:00.  Otherwise I would have assuredly giving public comment based on what I’m writing in this.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment is the worst test Delaware students have ever taken.  Why in the name of public education is this district wanting to kiss the DOE’s ass and follow their own despicable goals based on standardized test scores?

What truly shocked me was a goal of “increasing students exiting out of special education”.  Currently they are using a baseline of 31% but they want to increase this to 41% in five years.  I’m sorry, how do you put a measurement on unique disabilities that affect an individual student?  While it is certainly true that students can fall out of needing special education for varying reasons, that seems like a very high number.  As well, decisions on special education are decided on by an IEP team, not based on a district-driven strategic plan.  This is highly disturbing on many levels.  The last thing special education students is a district trying to hit some arbitrary goal and pushing schools to have students get out of IEPs.

The board is discussing this now.  Board member Matt Lindell asked why the district can’t use this as their accountability scorecard.  Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton explained how the Delaware DOE has no intention of removing their own Delaware School Success Framework.  That was the only question.  Three members of this board sat in front of a very similar audience two years ago and proudly passed their opt out resolution.  Now they seem like they have accepted the horrible status quo that is killing public education.  The board is voting on the scorecard, passed 5-0.  What the hell is wrong with this board?  They are prescribing to the point of view of the Delaware DOE.  They have fully accepted Common Core and Smarter Balanced as legitimate for their district.

In talking about technology in their ongoing Strategic Plan, there is a lot of talk about collaborating with BRINC and increasing ed tech in the classroom.  More personalized learning.  They have no clue, as they talk about building configuration, how they are signing their own district death warrant by signing on to all of this junk.  The board is not asking questions about anything they should be asking.  This isn’t the first time I’ve pointed this out with this board.  Stop drinking the Kool-Aid Capital!  You should be better than this!  And I distinctly remember when Matt Lindell was President of the Board when they approved a letter to the General Assembly urging them to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, the opt out bill.  They never overrode the veto, so why has this district not come forth with an opt out policy like Red Clay and Christina did?

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!

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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

Gang Issues At Dover High School Leads To Capital Board Approving Use Of Armed Constables

Last night, with a vote of 5-0, the Capital School Board voted to hire three armed constables at Dover High School.  Using a model currently in use by Indian River School District, the board discussed the issue with members of the community as well  as high school and district staff.  All supported the measure with one exception: the Senior Class President.  The pool of applicants would come from the Delaware State Police.  Because of insurance and pension issues, the pool was limited.  All were in agreement that hiring out-of-state would not be a wise decision.

One of the staff from the high school gave public comment indicating the current non-armed security guard company they utilize is highly ineffective and said it is like “throwing $40.000 off the roof”.  He cited the bomb threat incident a few months ago that led to a student’s arrest.  But he also indicated there was a huge fight on the football field as students were already trying to deal with the bomb threat.  He indicated there are gangs at Dover High School.  He said they are a small group of students who cause a lot of the problems.

The Senior Class President said many students were concerned with going from unarmed to armed persons in the school.  He felt like it was a drastic leap to go from one situation to what he felt was extreme.  He urged the board to find some middle ground.  Many students, he stated, felt it wasn’t fair to have this in their school when they weren’t the ones causing the problems.

In an attempt to allay the class president’s fears concerning the presence of armed constables at the high school, board member Ralph Taylor, also a retired Dover Police Officer of 20 years, said a gun is a very last resort.  He said the last thing an officer wants to do is use a gun, but it could mean a matter of many lives in a bad situation.  Board member Sean Christiansen said he reached out to different stakeholders in the Indian River School District including their own constables, parents, teachers, and students to get their thoughts on the matter.  All felt it improved school climate and led students to a feeling of safety within the district.  Dover High School Principal Courtney Voshell had a survey where parents could rate how safe they felt their children were at Dover H.S. and over 93% felt the school was not safe the way the current safety program was set up.

The school will also retain their School Resource Officer from the Dover Police and the constables will not have arrest authority.  They will be used to diffuse situations, but as it was explained, they will not punish students if they don’t have a bathroom pass.  The contract will cost the district an additional $75,000 out of their budget which will be used from carryover funds from fiscal year 2016.  Going forward, this would be a permanent part of the district budget.  The constables will be employees of the district.  They will receive professional development on all areas of school safety.  The details are not flush yet, but there was discussion if the training would come from the current Indian River Constables or the Dover Police Department.

I asked the board how the recently passed Senate Bill 207, which would not mandate schools to call the police every time a physical assault occurs unless it is considered to be a crime, could affect this decision from a financial perspective.  The bill, not yet signed by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, would give schools and parents discretion to contact law enforcement in those events.  Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton said the current school resource officer currently deals with crimes in the school so it would not change things.  Certain school crimes such as drugs or weapons, would still result in an arrest of a student.  Shelton said another bill (the restorative justice bill) didn’t pass but if it does in the future it would give the district additional funding to deal with school climate issues.   I also asked if the constables would receive special education training for students with disabilities.  Shelton said they would, but not on an individual basis.

The board was so impressed with the Senior Class President, board member John Martin invited him back up to the podium to discuss student concerns in greater detail.  Board member Christiansen invited him to come to every single board meeting.  It was also conveyed they wanted him to be a part of the hiring committee for the constables and Christiansen told Voshell he expected him to be excused from class those days.  Voshell jokingly answered that would be a summer school excuse which drew laughter from the audience.

The special board meeting, held just for the purpose of this decision, also had another activity.  Elected board member Dr. Chanda Jackson was sworn in by board President Matthew Lindell.

While I wrote some very negative things about the district almost half an hour prior to this board meeting yesterday, most of which concerned their Strategic Plan and joining the BRINC Consortium, I felt this board meeting was a very honest and open discussion about a very serious issue.  The district was honest about the issues happening at Dover High and didn’t try to whitewash the gang activity.  After the meeting, I happened to be speaking to a board member from another district that deals with similar issues as Dover H.S. but they said their district would never openly talk about these kinds of issues in their schools.  We both agreed that issues can’t be dealt with until they are acknowledged.  So I salute the Capital School District and Board for tackling this decision.

 

Capital Drinks The DOE/Rodel/Markell Kool-Aid As They Join BRINC & Announce “Strategies”

As Capital joins the BRINC initiative in Delaware, they are moving forward with their Strategic Plans which will benefit corporations more than students.  It is like they copied the playbook of the Delaware Dept. of Education, Rodel, and Governor Markell and called it a plan.

At their April board meeting, the Capital School District unanimously voted to apply to join the BRINC Consortium.  BRINC is a personalized/blended learning group of districts in Delaware that involves spending money, potentially compromising student data privacy, and forcing teachers into a certain way of doing things.  While the Rodel/DOE loving teachers jump all over this, some are opposed to it.  But that doesn’t stop districts from convincing their boards to vote on joining.  I gave public comment to the Capital Board of Education at their April meeting with my severe concerns with student data privacy and the loopholes that exist in state and federal law that allows student data to get out.  But no one listens to the blogger when it comes to making important education decisions.  Or consults with the parents of students in the district to let them know they will be changing how students are instructed going forward using lesson plans from teachers they aren’t familiar with.  Despite my reservations, the Capital School District joined BRINC when they accepted an invitation to join the conglomerate of blended learning school districts in Delaware.  WBOC reached out to Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton who said:

Dr. Dan Shelton, superintendent of Capital School District, said he is looking forward to using technology as a resource for teacher collaboration and sharing quality lesson plans.

For a district that is in the middle of a Strategic Plan that was supposed to be about increasing public stakeholder input for the district, this one sure fell under the radar.  Without the ability for the public to comment on it, for parents to see what BRINC is, and their board passed the action item with no public announcement ahead of time and just a board agenda, Capital has shown once again they don’t really want public input, just the illusion of it.  It’s starting to look like the ability of this board to provide the much-needed pushback against the DOE and corporate driven education “best practices” has faded with the departure of Kay Sass as the Board President last year.  They had a bright moment when they wrote the Delaware General Assembly to support the House Bill 50 override AFTER they already voted on it, but aside from that, I see less transparency.  I believe they think they are being more transparent by announcing things with their Strategic Plan, but I have no doubt in my mind most of the outcomes for this were already decided on a long time ago.  In my eyes, transparency is announcing and soliciting community feedback before an item like BRINC is approved, not announcing it after the fact.

In the below press release from Capital, they announce what their strategies will be coming out of their Strategic Plan.  While it all looks great to read, I have to wonder when they are going to announce their Early Learning Academy at Dover High School.  But there are things in there that give me equal agita.  Items italicized are in the report, while the red-penned comments are my own.

Students, Parents, Staff and Members of the community share through survey data a more positive reflection of our communication.

Survey data you say?  Wasn’t that a very controversial insertion into House Bill 399 (the teacher evaluation bill), just last week?

Students report on surveys a more positive experience.

More surveys.  From students.  What are they going to judge?  Administrators, the district, teachers?  More information is needed.  Far too much potential for bias resulting in discipline against teachers that may not even be verifiable.

Student grades, attendance and standardized test scores improve.

Grades and attendance I like.  Standardized test scores…no.  Just no.  For the Capital Board to approve this and go along with it is a far cry from where they were a year ago.  In fact, I would say it is a 180 degree shift.

Student behavior referrals decrease

HA!  This is a district that has no consistency with this practice whatsoever.  It was also notated at their April board meeting that Booker T. Washington Elementary School, under the leadership of Dr. Dale Brown, had NO discipline referrals for this school year up to that date.  Not one student was sent to the Principal’s office.  The board questioned this and I later asked Dr. Shelton about this who informed me this was correct reporting from the school.

10-15 year Facility Plan is accepted by community of stakeholders.

This is what I like to call a future referendum for capital costs!

The board gives unlimited freedom to the implementation team as long as staff complies with regulations and board policies and the approved process for defining and implementing strategic priority projects are met.

Big mistake! Very big mistake.  A board needs to carefully watch things like this.  If they give up their authority to stop this, aside from budget constraints or those that conflict with district policy, they are handing the reins over without any rationale behind that decision.  This is just more erosion of local control from a local district.  We will see more of this than we already have in our local school districts in Delaware, mark my words.

My biggest question surrounds who is actually on the implementation team which the press release, and to the best of my knowledge, and the Capital website don’t specify.

https://www.scribd.com/document/317550144/Press-Release-CSD-Strategies-With-Attachments

To give some background on their Strategic Plan, we have to go back to a year ago.

Prior Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas retired last year.  As well, Assistant Superintendent Sandra Spangler and Director of Human Resources David Vaughn left as well.  The Board of Education hired Dr. Dan Shelton last July.  Shelton immediately embarked on his Strategic Plan.  Shelton and Demosophia owner Andy Hegedus already knew each other.  As former employees of Christina, they have connections all over the Newark area.  Hegedus wrote his own biography on the website for Demosophia.  He proudly lists himself as a Broad Fellow, which also has such distinguished members like Joey Wise, the former Superintendent of Christina, and Lillian Lowery, also a former Christina Superintendent and the former Delaware and Maryland Secretary of Education.  Hegedus proudly boasts about participating in a plan to change the Christina schools as far back as 2006 in this document.

The subject of a new Strategic Plan for Capital first came up at the October 3rd Board Retreat.  The only people in attendance at this Board Retreat were the five board members, Dr. Shelton, and Assistant Superintendent Sylvia Henderson.  On their Board Docs, it clearly states in Item #2: “Capital School District Strategic Plan”.  The board went into open session at 8am to discuss the Strategic Plan and then went into executive session the rest of the day to discuss contracts and personnel evaluations.  At their next board meeting on 10/21/15, the minutes reflect the Retreat was seven and a half hours. In the same meeting, there is no action item to move forward with the contract for the Strategic Plan at all in the minutes.  Under Delaware state law, if any state entity wants to obtain a vendor in an open bidding process, they must submit a Request for Proposal (RFP).  Capital gave a very small window for their RFP.  The public notice of the RFP went out on 10/30/15 and proposals were due by 11/13/15.  The RFP seems to be custom designed for a company like Demosophia.

An article in the Dover Post from 1/6/16 went over the thinking behind the Strategic Plan:

“I don’t want our direction moving forward to be Dan Shelton’s direction. It needs to be the community’s direction” he said. “We’re going to use our teachers, our administrators, and members of the community who want to volunteer for different portions of this plan.”

However, this is a direct contradiction with a part of the Superintendent Update from the Board’s 10/21/15 meeting:

Reviewed long term facility plan which will be incorporated into Strategic Planning Process

If the Strategic Plan was truly represented by the community of the district, how could they have a long term facility plan that would be “incorporated” into the Strategic Plan?

In fact, we don’t hear about the Strategic Plan in the board minutes for Capital again until their 1/20/16 meeting when the board unanimously approves the $45,000 contract awarded to Demosophia.  For a five year strategic plan, they sure didn’t leave a lot of time for companies to submit a bid.  Almost as if it was already decided who would win the contract.  However, they did have three top-ranked firms apply for the bid with a total of six interviews according to the audio recording from  the 1/20/16 meeting.  Board member John Martin asked how Demosophia was chosen as the vendor.  Shelton explained they scored 301 on the rubric with the two other firms placing at 294 and 232 points.  Board member Sean Christiansen said he was a member of the interview committee which included district staff, teachers, and members of the community.  He said Demosophia means “wisdom of the people” which is exactly what they were looking for at their 10/3 Board Retreat.

In the Board Docs for this meeting, there is no contract listed as a document.  In fact, the contract with Demosophia can not be found anywhere.  The Awarded Contracts for the State of Delaware website only shows the award letter issued to Demosophia.

Hegedus doesn’t even talk about the Strategic Plan with the public until the 2/17/16 board meeting.  So the board and Shelton knew about Demosophia’s involvement with the plan since at least 11/13/16 but this isn’t revealed until the 1/20/16 meeting.  Two and a half months after the Board Retreat…

The forums were held at the end of February and the beginning of March with the one-on-one interviews taking place in March.  The Capital Board was supposed to have a workshop on 4/6/16 to discuss how the Co-Labs would work, but it was abruptly canceled and never rescheduled.  The Co-Labs began in April.  In fact, Capital has been extremely transparent with the activities surrounding the Strategic Plan on their website.

In the Co-Labs, participants state their ideas and it is all thrown into a computer system which will generate the results based on the input.  It actually records exactly what these “stakeholders” put forth.  It then spews out a picture graph (as seen in the above document) of the most talked about ideas and forms a conclusion for what the main issue is.  This already happened in April.

Hegedus’ company, Demosophia lists other companies as their “world-wide affiliates” based on “Structured Democratic Dialogue”.  All of these companies participate in programs to “consciously design humanity’s future”.  These affiliates, including companies such as Institutes for 21st Century Agoras, CWA Ltd. ( a link to their website doesn’t even work), and Future Worlds Center.  These are all think tanks that want to guide a conversation toward pre-determined goals.

What are the goals of Dr. Dan Shelton’s ideal Capital School District?  He wants to start a Pre-School Academy at Dover High School.  Yes, you heard it right.  All of the forums involving the public and this came up how much?  Not much at all.  So how does a Strategic Plan spit out this big idea?  You have to look beyond the illusion crafted by the public forums.  The true meat of this agenda lies in the Co-Labs and who was on the committee.  85% of the members were paid employees of the district.  One board member, one student, one member of the district’s CBOC, two outside parents and one Dover High School  PTO vice-president.  However, in this document, it paints a very different picture of the representation on the committee.  It overlaps many district employees as parents of students at certain schools.  This is the trap.

Many task forces, committees, and advisory groups are stacked in the favor of those who want a desired outcome in Delaware.  Other current or recent groups in Delaware include the Assessment Inventory Committee, the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025, and the Education Funding Improvement Committee.   In fact, when the IEP Task Force was brought about by Senate Concurrent Resolution #63 in June, 2014 there were no outside parents on the group at first.  I successfully rounded up people to contact their legislators to include that crucial representation on that task force.  Their input was invaluable to the Task Force and helped to shape the final legislation brought about by Senate Bill #33 last year.

Make no mistake, this Strategic Plan is entirely Dan Shelton’s idea.  It is comparable to many initiatives going on in Delaware right now.  Governor Markell earmarked $11 million for early childhood programs in the state, but the final budget only had $9 million given to the initiative.  Since the federal Race To The Top for pre-schools ended last year, the state is on the hook.  The goal of these early childhood programs is to reduce the number of students who receive special education services in later years.  I heard as much at a Senate Education Committee meeting this winter.  That should not be a goal taking up $9 million state funding when things like the WEIC redistricting plan or basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade failed to be included in the final budget.  But I firmly believe Capital wants to strike gold on this while the funding is there.  By becoming the first district in Delaware to have universal pre-K services, they will increase attendance in the district which is their true objective.  The district lost a ton of students the past few years.  I don’t blame them for that, but the way in which they are going about it is not a long-term strategy if they don’t improve upon the basic issues in the district.

The district, like many others in Delaware, seem to have an overreliance on Response to Intervention as a cure-all for what ails the district.  RtI is a failed experiment that has long since outlived its original purpose of helping children to read better.  It is used as a substitute for special education services when nothing a school does or says can reduce a manifestation of a child’s neurological disability if they are not utilizing even the most basic of special education services.  And if they start this at a pre-school level district-wide, I fear for the outcomes of these children.  It’s almost like the district read the Every Student Succeeds Act, took the very worst parts inserted in there at the last minute by lobbyists for the corporate education reform machine, and came up with this Strategic Plan to implement it through the smoke and mirrors of community input.  In looking at the picture graphs, I see very little in regards to actual improvement of the district’s special education efforts.  The words special education are not even in there.  I see a lot mentioned about the “whole child” and “community centers”.  Many citizens in the district already feel our schools should not become all-day day-care centers.  But this plan seems to call for that, using outside organizations to improve the educational outcome of students.  While the district would be correct in stating they have a high population of students coming from low-income, poverty, and violence-prone communities or homes, they should not put themselves in the unsustainable position of becoming the go-to source for what affects children out of school.  Wrap-around services should be directed from parents, not a school.  If a parent is unable to provide those services for their child, there are already existing mechanisms by which a school district can help get those services for a child in the event of neglect.  But our schools should not become a Band-Aid for students.  Not to mention the already existing fears by many of state control over children and loopholes in student data privacy laws.

Full disclosure: I ran for the Capital School Board this year and I lost.  I bear no ill will towards the district or the board for that outcome.  In fact, I’m glad I lost and I certainly want to wish Dr. Chanda Jackson the best of luck as she is sworn in at a special board meeting tonight at their district office at 7pm.  I’m quite sure the district will say BRINC is the best thing for student outcomes and will come up with some fancy way of saying so.  Of that I have no doubt.  What I doubt is the ability of the board to question these things anymore and just goes along with whatever Dr. Shelton wants.  But the board lost a key player when former President Kay Sass resigned last year.  I thought Matt Lindell was the voice of sanity on this board, but I fear I misjudged him.  And who will pay for all this?  The citizens of the district, that’s who.  And as the Christina School District will be knee-deep in the Demosophia think-tank way of doing things with their own contract in the fall, Capital will be ahead of the game showing the residents of Dover what the eventual price tag for these plans are.

 

 

 

Governor Markell Gives $400,000 To 21 Delaware Schools On Common Core Tour

As Delaware Governor Markell went on his “common core” tour today at W. Reilly Brown Elementary School in the Caesar Rodney School District, he announced $400,000 in competitive grants going to 21 Delaware schools.  The goal of these grants are professional development for teachers to further implement Common Core to increase student outcomes.  And God wept…

Why is Jack Markell, with nine months left in his reign as Governor, doing this Common Core tour?  Which company is paying him for this?  What disgusts me is the way the Governor and the DOE lure teachers in by making it look like it is for them.  How much professional development do teachers need?  Let’s not forget the two purposes of this tour: to thank teachers for implementing Common Core and to “debunk” the myths surrounding it.  You may fool some of our teachers and administrators Jack, but this is corporate tomfoolerty at its best.  Far too many Delaware parents know better and you may have fooled us once, but not twice.  As the state looks for funding, our districts will take any money they can get regardless of the cost to students.  I will ask again Governor Markell: where are the funds for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade?  Answer the question Jack!

This is, in my opinion, a strong push towards the blended/personalized learning the Rodel Foundation has pushed on Delaware the past couple years.  The press release doesn’t even mention this, but events from last night suggest otherwise.  Last night at the Capital Board meeting, their board unanimously voted to apply to BRINC, the blended learning consortium that already includes the Brandywine, Indian River, New Castle County Vo-Tech, Colonial, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Caesar Rodney School Districts.  Despite my public comment about the very obvious data privacy loopholes in existing law.

While student identifiable information doesn’t go out, it all filters through the Delaware DOE who simply gives education “research” companies the student’s identification number.  When that information comes back, the DOE has all that data attached to a student’s identification number.  As well, Schoology uses a cloud system called IMS  that would allow any aggregate information through the Schoology application to be shared with their members.  The Capital board seemed a little too eager to get this passed.  At one point, Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton didn’t know how much it would cost the district and it took him over fifteen minutes to find the information.  The board discussed how it would be good professional development for teachers without talking about what it means for students or their personal data.  Their CFO, Sean Sokolowski, said it would be paid for through Federal Consolidated Grants.  Are these the same grants Markell announced today or are they separate?  I would assume they are separate, but I’ve found many grants tend to have strings attached to them, just like the federal waiver scheme the US DOE abused under Race To The Top.  As we rush headfirst into this personalized learning/competency-based education/career pathway future for our students, those in the power to question things are going along to get along.  I can’t understand, for the life of me, why teachers are jumping on this bandwagon.  This will eventually cause their job functions, as instructors,  to diminish in the future.  To the point where they will become “facilitators” instead of “instructors”.  Does anyone think it is a coincidence paraprofessional salaries will eventually start at the same point as a first-year teacher in Delaware?  Don’t believe me?  Check out Governor Markell’s proposed FY2017 budget.  Go to page 202 on the pdf, section 286.  While many feel, and rightfully so, that paras in our schools are underpaid, should they be paid the same as a first-year teacher?  If they performed the same job function…

I have not been too impressed with Caesar Rodney Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald in the past year.  He seems to have been sucked into the DOE/Markell/Rodel whirlpool of corporate education reform.  You can read more on his role in today’s announcement below.

Just today, the National Education Policy Center issued a damning report on the success of blended and personalized learning schools and pointed out they are less successful than schools who don’t use these services.  So if it is all about proficiency and increasing standardized test scores and growth, why are we pushing, as a state, a system that just isn’t working?  Could it have anything to do with the billions of dollars companies are making off this smoke and mirrors?  And how many of these companies are incorporated out of Wilmington, DE?  As per the IMS article I linked to above, they are incorporated out of Delaware.

It is my opinion the Governor’s time could have been better spent heading to Wilmington to do more than issue a statement on the tragic and pointless death of a student at Howard High School today.  His visit to W. Reilly Brown was at 11am, well after this hit the media today.  As a state tries to understand the absolute horror that went on in that school today, our Governor is off playing corporate lap-dog for his education buddies.  I will never understand that man.

Here is the DOE press release on these “grants”:

21 schools win professional learning grants

Delaware awarded 21 schools in seven school districts nearly $400,000 in competitive professional learning grants Thursday as the state moves toward professional learning tailored to individual school needs.

Governor Jack Markell announced the awards today during a visit with Secretary of Education Steve Godowsky to Caesar Rodney School District’s W. Reily Brown Elementary School in Dover. Five schools in the district won a combined $50,000.

“All educators deserve the opportunity to continuously improve their practice through their own initiative and through investments made in them by their schools, districts, and the state,” Markell said. “We must improve the quality and efficacy of professional learning for all educators in Delaware. To do this, we as a state need to support districts and schools in their promise to provide Delaware educators with ongoing, job-embedded professional learning that leads to real improvement for students.”

For the past three years, the Delaware Department of Education has provided state-led professional learning for school-based teams through the Common Ground for the Common Core program. Common Ground identified principals and teacher leaders, engaged them in deep practices around the standards and concepts and analyzed student work to determine how to target instruction in the classroom.

In year one, the focus of Common Ground was on the shifts under the then-new standards. In year two, the focus was on ensuring a balanced assessment system, and in year three, the initiative focused on targeted approaches to closing achievement gaps and deepening literacy in other content areas. Next year, the Reimagining Professional Learning grants will provide professional learning that continues to target the school level.

“A stable foundation has been built, and after three years of Common Ground, we now are incentivizing schools that are committed to continuing this important work while also strengthening the professional learning for their educators,” Godowsky said. “The grant applications of these 21 schools is a clear indication that they are ready to embrace this challenge.”

Godowsky said he is continuously impressed by the commitment of Delaware’s teachers and administrators and what they do every day and by what they plan to do with the Reimagining Professional Learning Grant: “Educators at all of these schools are looking at their data, lesson plans and structures so that they can reimagine the positive impact of  professional learning for the benefits of their students.”

Each school designed professional learning to meet its staff’s needs. For example, at Brown, the grant will allow teachers to gather each month to plan and research a lesson. They will agree which team member will teach the lesson, and the lesson study team members will observe the lesson, collect data on teacher actions and student responses. Through using lesson studies, educators will collaborate and focus on the impact of this training on teacher practice and student learning.

The funding will make a difference in other ways across the state from Bunker Hill Elementary’ s focus on inquiry learning in the Appoquinimink School District to Milford School District’s emphasis on teacher leadership through cross-district work with all elementary schools and the early childhood center. In New Castle County Vo-Tech’s St. Georges High School, there will be a school-wide focus on speaking and listening with strong professional learning communities to sustain a cycle of improvement for both teachers and students. In Colonial, school and district leaders evaluated curriculum, structures and teacher and student needs to develop a comprehensive plan with regular coaching and feedback from administrators, teachers and students.

“Educators at these schools not only looked at their data but studied their structures and developed plans to reimagine professional learning that they will tie to student outcomes,”  said Michael Watson, the department’s chief academic officer.

Kevin Fitzgerald, superintendent of the Caesar Rodney School District, said he appreciates the state’s commitment to support school-led professional learning.

“This is a perfect partnership between the state, the district and the teachers and school leaders who work closest with our children and know best how to deliver these college- and career-ready standards.”

The winners are:

·         Appoquinimink School District (Bunker Hill Elementary): $30,000

·         Capital School District (Central Middle, Henry Middle, Dover High): $90,000

·         Caesar Rodney School District (Brown Elementary, Frear Elementary, McIllvaine Early Childhood, Simpson Elementary, Stokes Elementary): $50,000

·         Colonial School District (Eisenberg Elementary, Gunning Bedford Middle, George Read Middle, McClullough Middle, William Penn High, Wilmington Manor Elementary): $90,000

·         Milford School District (Banneker Elementary, Mispillion Elementary, Morris Early Childhood, Ross Elementary): $90,000

·         New Castle County Vo-Tech School District (St. Georges High): $30,000

·         Smyrna School District (Smyrna High): $20,000

Alison May
Updated, 5:41pm: Apparently schools did apply for these grants as found on the Delaware DOE website.

 

Capital School District’s 5 Year Strategic Planning Kicks Off At Board Meeting Tonight

CapitalBanner

At their January meeting, the Capital School District Board of Education passed a Strategic Planning initiative for the district.  Tonight, the board discussed the plan with their consultant for the project.  The Board will be present during the planning stages of the five-year plan as approved by the board members tonight.  The five-year plan will deal with improving the district with topics like finances, behavior issues in schools, and to give the district a clear direction going forward.  The district had a 5 year plan in place from 2009-2014, but with former Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas retiring, the board felt it was crucial to begin this process with a new Superintendent.

Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, new to Capital School District this year, has been adamant about getting the community involved in this projct.  On January 6th, David Paulk with The Dover Post wrote an article about the plan.

As a new superintendent it’s my job to make sure we have a direction going forward,” Shelton said.  “But it takes a lot of input to get a sense of what the community is going to support.

“I don’t want our direction moving forward to be Dan Shelton’s direction. It needs to be the community’s direction” he said. “We’re going to use our teachers, our administrators, and members of the community who want to volunteer for different portions of this plan.”

Forums will take place in March with Capital educators and members of the community.  An “official” press release will go out tomorrow.  For now, take a look at the initial planning stages for Capital’s 5 Year Strategic Planning:

Capital School District Parents: Go To The Board Meeting Tonight & Give Dr. Shelton Your Opt-Out Letter

This is a special announcement for all parents of students in the Capital School District: Please go to their board meeting tonight, at 7:30 pm at the District Office, and give Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton your opt-out letter.  And then give public comment about why you are opting your child out and your desire to have the Capital board pass a parent opt-out policy like the Christina School District board did two months ago and the Red Clay board is going to vote on tonight.  The Capital Board did pass a resolution honoring a parent’s right a year ago, but a policy would make sure this is ironclad in Capital.  This is a public service announcement brought to you by Exceptional Delaware.  Thank you!