And Then There Were Four… State Board of Education Down Three Members

It appears former State Rep. Liane Sorenson and longstanding State Board member Barbara Rutt have resigned from the Delaware State Board of Education leaving four members left.  Delaware Governor John Carney has not put forth any nominations for any replacements of the vacant positions, including that of former State Board President Dr. Dennis Loftus who resigned last month as well.

A quorum for the State Board of Education is four members.  If any of the existing members do not show up to a State Board of Education meeting the board could take no action on any item at their meetings.  That would mean no regulations, no appeals, nothing.  This is who we are left with:

The Delaware General Assembly has one month left for the 149th General Assembly.  It actually ends on June 29th since the 30th is on a Saturday.  As well, the Delaware Department of Education is on the hunt for an “education associate” to replace former Executive Director Donna Johnson who resigned early last month.  The deadline for that application is June 9th.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting is the Executive Secretary of the State Board of Education but she is not considered a member of the board and has no voting privileges.  This is not good at all for the State Board.

Breaking News: State Board of Education President Dr. Dennis Loftus Resigning After A Year Of Service

A year ago, Governor Carney nominated Dr. Dennis Loftus to take over as State Board of Education President.  Replacing Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Loftus served in the role for a year.  At the end of this month, sources tell me Dr. Loftus is resigning from the position.

No nomination for his replacement has been announced at this point.  As well, even though Donna Johnson officially resigned a couple of weeks ago, no replacement has been announced for the Executive Director role for the State Board of Education.  The State Board is still going through sunset review with that committee at Legislative Hall.

The State Board underwent many changes in the past year with four new members (including Loftus) and a now vacant role of Executive Director.  It doesn’t look like that facelift is going to stop any time soon with the resignations of their Board President and their Executive Director.  The State Board of Education is a different entity than the Delaware Department of Education.  Any State Board members would be nominated by the Governor and then have to go through a confirmation process with the Delaware Senate.  The only exception to that rule is the President which is picked solely by the Governor but there is no designated term for that role and serves at the pleasure of the Governor.  In addition, the State Board themselves would pick a new Executive Director.

What is the reason for this massive amount of turnover?  In January long-time board member Pat Heffernan resigned unexpectedly after an explosive board meeting about the diploma bill.  Heffernan was deeply opposed to the legislation which would do away with certificates of performance or attendance for the most severe cognitively-challenged students.  Governor Carney signed the bill last month.  Other new members came about through prior board members ending their term.  But to have the President of the State Board resign after less than a year says something!

Proposal Floating To Have State Board Use Charter Performance Framework For Potential State Takeover Of School Districts

All hell broke loose at Smyrna High School’s auditorium tonight.  The Chair of the School District Consolidation Task Force talked about a recommendation for state takeover of struggling school districts. Continue reading

Highlights From The January State Board of Education Meeting

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

January State Board Meeting Highlights

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

·         Department Regulations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

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

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

A Kind Moment With The President Of The State Board Of Education

I put this on my Facebook account, but I’ll add more here.

Special shout-out to State Board of Education President Dr. Dennis Loftus. On my way back from their board meeting, my car stalled out at a light at a major Dover intersection. I got out to direct traffic until the Dover Police got there. Dr. Loftus came by and asked me if I needed help. Even though I didn’t, I appreciated the gesture, especially to a guy that is very critical of the Board he is on.

In the end, my transmission fluid dipstick somehow came loose which resulted in a loss of transmission fluid. Since this dipstick is buried behind my engine I’m not sure when or how this happened. My car would not move in the drive position when the light turned green. I didn’t know this when Dr. Loftus drove by. Actually the tow truck driver figured that one out. Luckily, $80 for the tow and $36 in transmission fluid solved the problem. Not something I could really afford now, but it is what it is. It could have been a lot worse. Thank you Dr. Loftus for the offer to help on a very cold night after you had just spent the past three and a half hours at a meeting and probably just wanted to get home to your family.  I suspect that if I had taken you up on the help, it would have meant more time unselfishly given.

As I’ve always said, I won’t write about personal lives on this blog and some of the people I write negative things about on my blog are due to their public stances on education.  But make no mistake, these are some of the nicest people in the world.  With that being said, I have never written anything negative about Dr. Loftus.  But I’m sure he knows what I have written about the State Board of Ed and that I often express a desire to see them as elected officials, not Governor appointed.  It is a bizarre world we live in, but tonight, I greatly appreciated an offer.

New State Board of Education Member Dennis Loftus Will Replace Teri Quinn Gray As President

I reported earlier today Delaware Governor John Carney nominated Dr. Dennis Loftus for a seat on the Delaware State Board of Education.  This afternoon it was revealed during the Senate Executive Committee meeting prior to the vote he would become the President of the State Board of Education.  In Delaware, the Governor appoints the members of the State Board as well as the President of the board.  The board members vote for the Vice-President.  Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, the prior State Board President was selected by Delaware Governor Jack Markell in 2009, shortly after his inauguration.  The State Board of Education serves at the pleasure of the Governor.

Things just got very interesting for the State Board of Education.