Budget Projections Place Christina In Jeopardy In A Year If Current Trends Continue

The true financial impact at Christina School District was revealed for all last night, and the most troublesome of these numbers was the bleeding out of students from Christina to charters.  It is a requirement that any district in Delaware be able to meet the first month’s payroll prior to the school year starting, and CFO Bob Silba announced this may not be a possibility in a year’s time.  Board member John Young commented that the district needs to face the reality they could be down from three high schools to two in a couple years.  Projected numbers show over 900 students leaving Christina but their Title I funding basically remains the same and their IDEA funding which comes from students with disabilities will actually go up.

This shows the students leaving the district are not necessarily those in most need: low-income and special needs.  As Christina hemorrhages students, they are left with financial numbers that are in dire straits.  School resource officers are being spread out among schools instead of one located at each, extra pay for extra responsibilities (EPER) has been drastically reduced, and classroom materials has been reduced by over 50%.

Discussion surrounding an interim superintenedent was chaotic at best, with Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan starting the meeting with a very long monologue about how the board was unified, but the meeting showed they are anything but.  Minnehan referred to herself as “I” several times, much to the chagrin of other board members who felt out of the loop.  As the meeting stretched into the wee hours of the morning today, several board members actually left the board table for long stretches.  Minnehan, unsure of what the board had just voted for, actually said at one point “I guess we just passed a motion.”

Apparently, even public comment was in disarray with Minnehan cutting off a speaker and having the microphone turned off after the 3:00 minute mark for another.  Challenges of board policy went back and forth between Minnehan, Young and George Evans.  This board needs to unify once and for all before it is too late.  This district will be gone in two years time unless they are able to retain students and increase enrollment.

There was much discussion about the district’s  agreement with the Office of Civil Rights over discipline of minorities, which is now two years running.  From the agreement, the district has to have a vendor to oversee it, but the board was very concerned about the costs associated with this and the revelation that the main staff member who was overseeing much of this was placed in a different school.

Current Superintendent Dr. Freeman Williams, who announced he was going on personal leave last week, will be out at least another 11 weeks.  Prior to the meeting, rumors circulated that former Red Clay Consolidated School District Bob Andrzejewski would be appointed interim Superintendent, but members of the board felt they should not rush into a rash decision.  Discussion around qualifications of principals within the district and timing of the temporary hire took center stage.  The board will meet in a special meeting on August 20th to go over the qualifications and will plan from there.

A proposed board policy on parent opt-out passed it’s first read with six “yeas” and one abstention (George Evans, who was the sole no vote on the board’s opt-out resolution earlier in the year).

Showdown At The Christina Corral

In what is promising to be an epic board meeting tonight, the Christina School District is facing an onslaught of issues, all at once.  These are the biggest items facing them tonight:

-The leave of absence of Superintendent Dr. Freeman Williams and the whole thorny issue over last week’s executive session going over his “competencies” and the legality of it.

-The recent guilty verdict of board member Shirley Saffer’s harassment of a bus driver a year and a half ago.

-Christina’s budget and the unfortunate letting go of over 100 employees, as well as future referendum discussion.

-Declining enrollment due to choice and charters and the impact that is having on the district.

-Tension between board members.  Will the topic of two board members tipping off the state auditor to do an investigation against the district come up?  It should!  As well, reports have surfaced that one board member (could be included as one of the above two) has been acting unilaterally with important matters such as removing a posting for a deputy Superintendent and meeting with local legislators and business leaders on the whole redistricting effort.

-Board Member Elizabeth Paige has an opt-out policy on the agenda which will get into the whole high-stakes testing discussion.

-Tension between the district and the board will surely reach a fever pitch in the coming weeks as school starts and the impact of the budget crunch will be felt in every facet of student’s lives.

-The redistricting effort to remove Christina’s Wilmington schools from their authority and place them under Red Clay Consolidated’s control.

Brainwashed Fatal Four on Christina Board Pass Priority School MOUs, Kowalko Storms Out, My FOIA Request, & Very Mad Teachers

I attended the Christina Board of Education meeting tonight.  To say it was chaos would be an understatement.  Picture watching France capitulate to Germany in 1940, and that was the Fatal Four on the Christina Board tonight.  Enough to get the damn MOUs passed.  The Delaware DOE is now clear to reject this MOU and give the district their three options: close, convert to charter, or hand over the schools to a management organization.

The board I saw two weeks ago was vastly different.  Tonight there were two clear sides: one that seems to have been brainwashed by the DOE during the non-public and non-recorded negotiation meeting on 1/9, and the other three members of the board who were not given all the pertinent information from the other.

The vote for the priority schools MOUs passed 4-3.  But not before board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige attempted to add amendments to the previously approved MOU and modified by the superintendent and the other four board members.  Every amendment Young and Paige offered was turned down, with the exception being Paige’s very wise suggestion of deleting the comment “Any other documents are secondary to this document”.  That passed 4-3 after teachers in the audience almost had an open revolt over that line which would make their teacher contracts null and void.

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko stormed out when he realized this board was going to pass the MOUs as written.  By this time I suspected the four board members had changed the past couple weeks, and the superintendent as well.  I asked to give public comment and openly told the four members of the board and the superintendent I didn’t trust them and I requested a FOIA for all board members emails between themselves and the DOE going back to January 1st of this year. I told the Fatal Four they weren’t looking at the audience the way the other two were (from my vantage point, I couldn’t see if board member Ressler was or not, but he was one of the good guys tonight, so I didn’t care).

Red Clay teacher Mike Matthews told board member George Evans he has been on the board 35 years in response to Evan’s comment to Christina teacher Jackie Kook about this “putting the kids first”.  Matthews is now campaigning for anyone to run against Evans in the upcoming board seat election.

The Fatal Four who voted Yes for the MOUs were President Fred Polaski, George Evans, Shirley Sutton Saffer, and the one board member I never thought would do anything with an MOU but tear it up, Harrie Ellen Minnehan.  The heroes of the night were Young, Paige and Ressler.  It seemed obvious an alliance had developed amongst the Fatal Four and Superintendent Dr. Freeman Williams.  This cabal, in my opinion, purposely didn’t tell the other board members key information, which was the reason for my FOIA request.  If the DOE’s goal was to split the board and turn them against each other, they succeeded.

This was a board divided, and the Fatal Four discounted anything the other three had to say.  And it’s not like the other three were just talking about nothing.  All of the amendments and their discussion made sense.  The Heroic Three were blindsided by the Fatal Four.  The Fatal Four should have just told the audience at the beginning of the night they were going to vote yes for the mass destruction of public education in Delaware and saved us all a miserable three and a half hours of sheer hell with their crossed arms and smug angry faces.  By the time I requested my FOIA, I felt like I was going to vomit in my mouth if Polaski said “The DOE wants…” one more time.