A Review Of “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”: More Of The Same With No Solutions

A University of Delaware class called Documentary Production produced a video called “The Deed: Fixing Education In The First State”.  The cinematography of the video was good, but I feel it should have been renamed “Fixing Education In Wilmington” because that was pretty much what the video was about.

It gave a good history of segregation before 1954, but after that it focused solely on Wilmington.  But I found the stereotypes to be a bit too much.  The video primarily focuses on two Caucasian mothers.  One is in what appears to be a classroom, and the other is out in the suburbs in a very nice home.  When they do show African-Americans (aside from  Tony Allen), it is primarily urban Wilmington.  As if there are no African-Americans in the suburbs.

The TedX Wilmington videos shown in this are from Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, and Dr. Paul Herdman, the CEO of the Rodel Foundation.  Other folks shown in the video are Dan Rich from the University of Delaware and one of the main WEIC players, Atnre Alleyne from DelawareCAN and TeenSHARP, and Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.   There are cameos from Delaware Teacher of the Year Wendy Turner and the not-even sworn in yet Christina Board Member Meredith Griffin Jr.

Here is a newsflash.  There are 19 school districts in Delaware.  Up and down the state.  I love Wilmington, but if you are going to make a video called Fixing Education In The First State, you have to focus on the whole state.  This was one of the biggest mistakes WEIC made, focusing on Wilmington and expecting the rest of state to pick up the tab to fix Wilmington issues.  Yes, Wilmington is the biggest city, but many issues with poverty and low-income exist all over Delaware.

Like most discussions about “fixing” education in Delaware, we go through the history and the present situation.  Add some current events like the upcoming Colonial Referendum to make it current.  Show some shots from a WEIC meeting a few months ago when Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting attended for some extra oomph and importance.

I recognize segregation in Wilmington schools and what school choice has done to Northern New Castle County as major problems in Delaware.  But there are other equally important issues, only one of which was briefly touched on in the video- education funding.  We also have special education with a rapidly growing population of students with disabilities, standardized testing, a growing population of English Language Learners, a General Assembly that generally makes some very bad choices for our schools, bullying in our schools,the continued fall-out from the Race To The Top accountability era, a State Auditor who doesn’t audit school districts every year even though that office has to by state law, referenda, a new Governor that is putting a ton of cuts towards school districts (but not charters), the Rodel Foundation’s stranglehold on decisions made in education, data mining of personal student information, and the upcoming and very real threats of competency-based education, personalized learning, an eventual replacement of real teachers with glorified moderators instead in a digital technology wonderland, and the upcoming Blockchain technology which will institute a full-blown “digital badge” scenario, tracking children from cradle to grave and predetermined careers and what their societal worth will be.  And yes, even Social-Emotional Learning is in the process of getting hijacked by the corporate education reformers (more on that soon).

Many of these things aren’t on the radar as much as they should be.  We are still bickering over how to “fix” education but we are stumbling with talking about what is right in education.  We are in a constant state of flux, in a state of constant improvement.  This obsessive need for improvement is actually what is fracturing education the most in Delaware.  The problem comes when we try to measure all these changes by one standardized test.

For an eleven minute video, it would be impossible to catch all the issues in Delaware education.  But showing very old videos of Tony Allen and Paul Herdman don’t do much for me.  Most Delawareans really don’t know who the two of them are.  Just because they have a TedX stage doesn’t give them more importance than a teacher giving a lecture to a class or a parent giving public comment at a school board meeting.  Those are actually the voices we need to hear more of in Delaware education, the everyday citizen.  Not a CEO of a “non-profit” making over $344,000 a year or a well-meaning Bank of America executive.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Tony Allen is a great guy, but it has become more than obvious that WEIC isn’t heading towards the destination it dreamed of and it is time to move on.  As for Dr. Paul “Rodel” Herdman, I have never been shy about my dislike of his “visions” for Delaware schools that have its roots in corporate profit.

We need to focus on what is going right in Delaware education and build from that.  It begins at the grass-roots level, in the classroom.  For that, the student and teacher voice are the most important.  And then the parent.  We go from one reform or initiative to the next, and the cycle goes on and on.

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The Christina Settlement Memes You May Not Have Seen

Last night, I posted a series of memes on Facebook.  I also put them on Twitter.  I do recognize that some folks don’t participate in social media, so for those 21st Century hold-outs, here they are.

restrictedfunds

tuition-tax

attorneyfees

whatchatalkinbout

fieldtrips

shakedown

fundsmold

cafetorium

santachristina

swimminginextramoney

settlementduedate

rescindthevote

forthekids

mutual

murphy-resign

brandywine

donaldbetsy

blogvote

 

Breaking Down The Annual Vision Conference

The Delaware Kool-Aid Festival, or what most know as the Vision Coalition of Delaware’s Annual Conference on Education, will take place on November 14th.  They have the “all-star” line-up this year.

Introduction by Dan “the Main WEIC Man” Rich

Welcome by Dennis “University of Delaware President” PhD.

University of Delaware Partnership for Public Education by Elizabeth “coolest last name in the universe” Farley-Ripple

Achieving Student Success by Dr. Mark “Brandywine” Holodick

Introduction of Keynote Speaker by Paul “When Is Rodel Going To Break the $400,000 Level With My Salary?” Herdman

Redesigning Education to Restore Opportunity by Paul “Harvard Graduate School of Education, Home Of Relay Teachers” Reville

Exploring Educational Opportunity in Delaware Panel Discussion

Michelle “United Way of Delaware” Taylor

Paul “I Get To Keep Talking” Reville

Jeffers “Nothing Happened With My Townsend Endorsement Letter Sent On School Stationary, Phew!” Brown (Principal of Stubbs Elementary)

Leslie “Children and Families First CEO” Newman

Maria “Academia Antonia Alonso Board of Directors” Alonso

Introduction of Idea Exchange by Dr. Mark “Tied With Reville For Getting To Talk” Holodick

Early Learning

Addressing Social-Emotional Needs by Dionne “Parents As Teachers” Patterson

Building and Supporting the Early Learning Workforce by Ariel “Office of Early Learning at the DOE” Ford

Engaging With Local Readiness Teams by Dawn “Colonial S.D. Preschool Expansion Coordinator” Alexander

Reading by Third Grade by Dr. Teri “State Board of Education President” Quinn “Will Carney Keep Me?” Gray

Strengthening Families Through Supports by Niagia “Prevent Child Abuse Delaware” Williams

Transitioning to Kindergarten by Caitlin “Another Delaware DOE Early Learning Associate” Gleason

System Governance, Alignment, & Performance

Addressing Needs Through Community Partnerships by Jeffers “Feeling the Rodel Love” Brown

Collaborating Across School Boards by John “DSBA Isn’t a 501c3 Anymore Cause We Don’t File IRS Tax Returns” Marinucci

Connecting Research to Schools and Communities by Liz “Sounds Like An Ice Cream Roller Coaster Ride” Farley-Ripple

Finding the Best Educational Fit by Kendall “The Charter School Diva” Massett

Overcoming Barriers to Family Engagement by Elizabeth “But Call Me Tizzy” Lockman

Transitioning to ESSA by Donna “I Run The Delaware DOE” Johnson

Postsecondary Success

Connecting Education and Business by Paul “Del Tech Workforce Development Guy” Morris

Engaging Students Through Counseling Supports by Kelly “UD Partnership for Public Education” Sherretz

Increasing Career Exploration Opportunities by Dana “Christiana Care Health System” Beckton

Increasing College Access by Jodi “Brandywine Counselor” DaCosta and Dr. Jason “Wilmington University” James Jr.

Planning Education to Support Career Goals by Shana “Higher Education Office at Delaware DOE” Payne

Preparing Students for College and Career by Lisa “CTE Branch of the DOE, Think Pathways” Stoner-Torbert

Educator Support & Development

Advancing Teacher Leadership by Jesse “Milford Assistant Principal/Didn’t Support Parents With Opt Out” Parsley

Aligning Teacher Supply With School Needs by John “Associate Dean of U of Del” Pelesko

Collaborating on Digital Student Resources by Tim “Rodel Teacher Council/New Castle Co. Vo-Tech” Brewer

Ensuring Equitable Access to Excellent Educators by Angeline “My Hair Is Shorter Than Chris Ruszkowski/TLEU at the DOE” Rivello

Preparing and Supporting Principal Candidates by Julie “Capital Turnaround School Principal” Giangiulio

Preparing Teacher Candidates by Laura “DE Center for Teacher Education at UDel”

Supporting and Developing Principals by Peter “Colonial Director of Elementary Schools” Leida

Fair & Efficient Funding

Advocating for English Language Learners by Terry “ELL Title III Lady at the DOE” Richard

Erasing Inequitable Access To Great Teachers by H. Raye “On The Rodel Board” Jones “Run the Christina Cultural Arts Center” Avery

Measuring Education Investments by Dan “I Wrote The WEIC Book” Rich

Supporting High-Needs Students by Susan “I Really Hope They Don’t Release The Indian River Audit Investigation Before Our Referendum” Bunting

Personalized Learning

Designing Schools of the Future by Dr. Cristina “DE Design Lab Would Have Been Toast If We Didn’t Get That Huge Grant By Mrs. Jobs” Alvarez

Developing Growth Mindset Through Gaming by Michele “Rodel Teacher Council/Leader In Me Cheerleader For Capital” Johnson

Developing Students Social Skills by Deborah “UDel Center for Disabilities Studies” Boyer

Empowering Youth Through Collective Impact by Tynetta “United Way of Delaware” Brown

Integrating Arts and Academics by Kim “Christina Cultural Arts Center” Graham

Integrating Health and Academics by Kelli “Nemours” Thompson

Integrating Supports for Students by Paul “I’m ahead of Holodick again” Reville

Investing in Technology Infrastructure by Patches “Indian River Technology Systems Manager/What Is This Audit Going To Do To My Job” Hill

Reimaging Learning Through Technology by Richard “Chief Innovation Officer for State Of Rhode Island/Why The Hell Am I In Delaware?” Culatta

Supporting Students Experiencing Childhood Trauma by Eliza “Office of the Child Advocate” Hurst

Transforming The Student Experience by Doug “Colonial Principal/I Love Jack Markell” Timm

Closing Statements by Dr. Mark “LOL Reville, I get the last word” Holodick

Gee, I hope they get enough people who can attend all these mini-discussions.  But if they get a huge crowd and can’t fit all the people into all these rooms, I have a few suggestions….

Blogging on Education by Kevin “The Sneaky Snake Blogger” Ohlandt, John “The DOE Needs Great Leaders” Young, Kavips “I don’t have a last name” and Kilroy’s “Pocketful of College Credits” Delaware

What I Learned On My Time With The State Board by Jorge “I’m Free” Melendez

Transparency Hide-And-Go-Seek by Jack “Sunshine” Markell

Life After Political Office by David “Should Have Supported Parents and Teachers” Sokola

Using School Funds Wisely by Sean “You Can Run But You Can’t Hide” Moore and Noel “I Miss My Disney Figures” Rodriguez

Life At Panera and Dunkin Donuts Every Weekend by Mike “The Mind of Mr. Down With Absolutes” Matthews and Jackie “JK Growling” Kook

Dealing With FOIA Complainers by Matt “When Is Markell Gone?” Denn

The Life And Times Of An Infamous Former Blog Commenter by Publius “School Boarding Is A Gateway Drug” E. Decere

Becoming The Next Delaware Secretary of Education by Penny “Just Kidding Guys, Miss You Delaware” Schwinn

Prophet and Profit: The Art Of Hedge Funding In The 21st Century by Paul “Education Is Not A Business” Herdman

Falling From Grace by Mark “I Shouldn’t Have Gone To The Wilmington City Council Priority Schools Meeting” Murphy

Population Control and Genetic Engineering by Greg “Crab Bucket” Meece

Exiting During ESSA by Dr. Steven “Florida Here I Come” Godowsky

How To Be More Vocal As An Ex Delaware DOE Employee by Atnre “Boy Do I Have Plans” Alleyne

Opening Clown Schools in Delaware by Pat “We Need To Do More” Heffernan

Increasing Education Funding For Charter Schools by William “The Godfather” Manning

Doc Holodick Gets Superintendent Of The Year, Patrick Wahl Gets The ED Parent Warrior Of The Year Award!

Dr. Mark Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, received the Superintendent of the year designation by his peers in the Delaware Chief School Officers Association.  I would like to put forth my award, that of the Exceptional Delaware Parent Warrior of the Year.  This award, nominated by a panel of one, goes to Patrick Wahl.  Wahl filed a lawsuit against the district over a discipline incident with his son last winter.  While Wahl opposed the Brandywine referendum, it ultimately passed.  Wahl has appeared on the Rick Jensen show several times and was interviewed by many of the major media outlets in the northern part of Delaware.  Many have chastised Wahl due to his perceived wealth, but the reality is that he is fighting the good fight for all students in the state.  Wahl did start a very serious discussion about discipline in our schools and showed us all it isn’t just an issue with minority or high-need students.

PatrickWahl

Congrats to Holodick and Wahl.  I hope you work everything out in the lawsuit and find a way to mend fences and maybe go out for a beer sometime.  In the meantime, here is what showed up on the Delaware DOE’s Facebook page with the same picture they put up with anything mentioning Holodick.  Time to get a new picture DOE!

DocHolodick

 

Congratulations to Dr. Mark Holodick, superintendent of the Brandywine School District, for being named the 2016-17 Delaware Superintendent of the Year by the Delaware Chief School Officers Association.

“We are extremely proud to have Dr. Holodick represent the Chief School Officers as our Superintendent of the Year,” said Dr. Victoria Gehrt, current President of the CSOA. “He is an outstanding leader who is very community based in his approach to addressing the needs of his school district. His knowledge of instructional best practices significantly impacts the success of the students who are served in the Brandywine School District.”

Dr. Holodick was appointed superintendent of the Brandywine School District in October 2009, after a long history with the district as a student, teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Prior to being named superintendent, he was principal at Concord High School and at a blended middle and high school in the Delmar School District. He earned his Bachelor of Arts at West Virginia Wesleyan University, his Master of Education at Wilmington University, and his Doctor of Education at the University of Delaware.

Since being appointed superintendent, Dr. Holodick has been committed to the foundation of the District: professionalism, customer service, equity, and meeting the needs of all students. He recognizes the importance of developing whole child through unique and diverse programming, after-school enrichment opportunities, athletics, arts, and of course a rigorous curriculum. Under his leadership, the district has invested resources to expand and increase access to programs such as AVID, Achievers Academy, International Baccalaureate, and most recently AP Capstone. Dr. Holodick was one of the four superintendents that helped spearhead the BRINC Consortium, an organization made up of school districts that focuses on personalized and blended learning, access to technology, and collaboration. BRINC has now grown to include seven districts across the state.

Both the Delaware Association of Educational Office Professionals and the Delaware Association of School Librarians have recognized Dr. Holodick as Administrator of the Year for 2016. He is a member of the statewide Vision 2025 implementation committee and the Claymont Lions Club and serves on the board of the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association, having previously served as both president and vice president. During the 2014-2015 school year, Dr. Holodick also served as the president of the Delaware CSOA.

“I am proud to represent not only the Brandywine School District, but also the thousands of educators across the state as the Superintendent of the Year,” said Dr. Holodick. “Like all of my colleagues in the 18 other districts in Delaware, I am committed to working together and sharing best practices to benefit all of the students entrusted to us. Indeed, it is an exciting time to be an educator!”

Doc Holodick, I have to ask… what does “Vision 2025” really do?  I thought it was “Student Success 2025” these days.  Or is it really “It Doesn’t Really Matter What We Call It, Our Goal Is To Take Over Education And We Get The Best Damn Eclairs At Our Annual Fiesta 2025”?

Two Truths And A Lie

This is the beginning of what I hope will be an ongoing feature of this blog.  Below will be several groups of statements and facts.  Two will be true and one will be a lie.  It will be your job to guess or determine which is fact and which is fiction!  Comment away!

#1

*EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations Academy are blaming their Smarter Balanced scores on the fact their kids are not as computer literate as their peers in other schools

*Sussex Academy won’t be able to finish their pool because of mercury in the ground.

*Freire Charter School signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Wilmington Police Department

#2

*Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick was so happy their referendum passed he was seen doing cartwheels the next day.

*Academia Antonia Alonso wants no help from the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE with their upcoming move to property at Odyssey Charter School.

*Howard High School of Technology suspended students who were in the bathroom the day of Amy’s death and kept suspending them for weeks on end without any form of due process.

#3

*Charter School of Wilmington held a legislative breakfast.

*Charter School of Wilmington wants an audit inspection to be released that has been on hold since March.

*Charter School of Wilmington will be allowing 20% of all students with disabilities who applied this year to be admitted to the school in August.

#4

*Early College High School parents are not happy about the school’s grading system since the school’s scores didn’t match up with Delaware State University’s grading system

*Penny Schwinn is coming back to the Delaware DOE.

*Dr. Lamont Browne mentioned my blog post about his resignation at a Family Foundations Academy board meeting.

#5

*Family Foundations Academy held pep rallies prior to the school’s testing window for the upcoming Smarter Balanced Assessment to pump up kids.

*A Delaware State Representative recently had a Facebook post titled “State Representative Looking For Beaver”.

*The same State Representative found some beaver and had a barbecue.

Did you vote in the Brandywine Referendum yet?

The Brandywine School District is having their second attempt at a referendum today.  To say both sides have come out swinging for the fences would be an understatement.  Politicians like Delaware Governor Jack Markell, Senator Tom Carper, and State Reps Bryon Short and Sean Matthews have all come out in support for the referendum.  Brandywine father Patrick Wahl appeared on the Rick Jensen show yesterday along with referendum leader James Hanby.  Wahl is claiming the district gave out absentee ballots to an assisted living home along with a host of other issues about the referendum.  The Delaware Dept. of Education came out with a letter yesterday indicating it erred with the number of administrators that show on the DOE website.  Teachers in and out of the district are urging citizens to get out and vote.  Brian Stephan wrote a post on Delaware Liberal yesterday addressing many of Wahl’s allegations.

GodowskyHolodick

We will know tonight if this attempt passed or failed.  It is getting very hard to keep track of what is truth and what is not, from both sides of the issue.  As of 12:55pm today, the New Castle County Dept. of Elections verified 2,085 people have voted already in 18 out of the 22 polling stations.  I’m not taking sides on this one folks.  There is too much mass confusion surrounding this one.  Most likely, the truth is somewhere in the middle in certain areas.  The important thing is to get out there and vote if you live in Brandywine.

Brandywine Responds To Referendum Allegations With “Accurate Facts And Information” Document

The Brandywine School District in Delaware will face their 2nd referendum attempt this year on May 17th.  Frequently in Delaware, referenda in Delaware has supporters and non-supporters.  I posted a video earlier today from Brandywine parent Pat Wahl.  The below document refers to a Brandywine employee who emailed the entire district last weekend with what the district claims is inaccurate information.  Brandywine responded to the email with a document defending some of the allegations.  While Mr. Wahl did make some similar claims in his video, what was addressed in this document was in direct response to the email sent from the district employee.  I have not seen the original email.  Nor have I seen an official response to Mr. Wahl’s video at this point.  I imagine it would be a long response since that video clocks in at over 23 minutes!

Brandywine Threatens $8 Million In Cuts If Referendum Doesn’t Pass, 40 Teachers At Risk Of Losing Jobs

Yossi Goldstein with WDEL broke the news this morning concerning the Brandywine School District’s cuts they will have to make if their second referendum attempt this year does not pass on May 17th.  The district did not include the new turf costs in this referendum attempt.  Dr. Mark Holodick, the Brandywine Superintendent, laid down the potential areas where costs would occur at their board meeting last night.  While the below doomsday scenario doesn’t give exact amounts for each area or how definitive the cuts would be, he did estimate 40 teacher positions would be cut resulting in larger classroom sizes.

Brandywine is part of the BRInC Consortium which is a collection of several Delaware school districts who share a blended learning program, combining digital learning and actual instruction.  The report did mention the district’s “Instructional Technology Plan initiative”.  There was no mention of pending legal costs for the lawsuit filed by Patrick Wahl against the district which has received a great deal of media attention the past couple months.

Last month, both the Christina and Cape Henlopen School Districts passed their referendums, but Brandywine did not.

An Open Letter To Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick

Yesterday, Saranac Spencer with the News Journal posted an article about the ongoing litigation against the Brandywine School District.  Patrick Wahl, the father of a son in the district, filed a lawsuit against the district earlier this year based on due process issues arising from a school suspension and what Wahl believes was a violation of due process rights regarding a search and seizure. This is the first time, to my knowledge, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick has publicly commented on the matter.  Today, Patrick Wahl issued a response to Holodick’s challenge to Wahl.

The News Journal reported this exchange at the end of their article:

So far, Wahl has spent nearly $50,000 on attorney fees, he said, and he is seeking to recover that money through the lawsuit. He is also seeking damages.

“The district questions Mr. Wahl’s motives as he continues to pursue this issue,” Holodick said in his statement. “He has stated in social media venues that he is concerned for the taxpayer as this lawsuit could result in the district spending money on attorneys, a possible settlement or damages.  If that is indeed the case, the district hopes that Mr. Wahl will sign a binding agreement to donate any monetary rewards gained from this lawsuit to a local, deserving non-profit organization, such as the Brandywine Education Foundation, which provides students scholarships and teacher grants.”

Wahl responded that he is eager to talk to the district about what he is looking for – ultimately, he said, he wants to see changes in policy regarding reasonable searches of students.

“They could have ended this a year ago,” Wahl said. “They could end it today.”

Wahl’s rebuttal to Holodick’s challenge appeared on his Facebook account today.  I did ask Mr. Wahl if it was okay to publish this along with the personal information included.  He said it was all public.

AN OPEN LETTER TO BRANDYWINE SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT DR. MARK HOLODICK

Please LIKE and SHARE so this message FINDS ITS WAY to Dr. Holodick!!!

Dear Dr. Holodick,

I read with interest your confusing comments to the News Journal, linked below.

You say, on the one hand, that you are “confident that upon the examination of the accurate record through the litigation, Mr. Wahl’s claims will be disproven.”

But on the other hand, you hope that I will sign “a binding agreement to donate any monetary rewards gained from this lawsuit to a local, deserving non-profit organization, such as the Brandywine Education Foundation, which provides students scholarships and teacher grants.”

Which is it? You’re confident that my claims will be disproven? Or you fear I’ll be awarded monetary damages? Make up your mind.

This confidence that you have — it’s the same confidence you had before the State Board hearing, right?

Dr. Holodick, you lost at the State Board. Do you remember why?

The State Board decided against you because, despite their repeated requests, you produced NO RECORDS.

Now, you say you in fact have an “accurate record” that you’ve been saving, apparently, for the courts.

Your assertion begs the question:

IF YOU HAVE THESE RECORDS, WHY DID YOU NOT PRODUCE THEM FOR THE STATE BOARD?

Did you not have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayer to produce them then upon the repeated requests of the State Board? And if you did not have them then, why did you instead use district funds to pay district counsel to argue the case you knew you would lose? Why did you not simply expunge the record, which is all we were asking for at that time? Were you just trying to exhaust and bankrupt me, hoping I would go away? Did you think the State Board was in the tank for you? Why does a parent have to go to court to see these records?

Do you understand that when the State Board said that the Brandywine School Board violated the law, they mean that YOU violated the law, Dr. Holodick? Aren’t you the Brandywine School Board’s EXECUTIVE SECRETARY? What’s going on with your board, Dr. Holodick?

Taxpayers deserve your explanation TODAY. What kind of records have you suddenly come up with, and why did you withhold them from the State Board? Are you really going to make me produce witnesses who you already know will disprove your claims? As you wish.

You made me prove that you broke the law at the State Board hearing, forcing me to hire a lawyer to get the due process to which I was entitled. So I did. I was right. You violated the law. So now the question is, how do I get those attorney fees covered which I should never have had to pay in the first place? Dr. Holodick? Hello? Are you still there?

I am EAGER to meet with you, WITH OR WITHOUT OUR LAWYERS, to discuss this BINDING AGREEMENT you suggest. My email address is pat@officemagic.com and my cell phone is (302) 229-9520. I’m waiting to hear from you for this meeting that so far, you’ve refused me — in violation of your own Code of Conduct.

You circumvented the “Grievance Procedures When a Suspension Has Occurred” on page 65 when you sicced your lawyer on me instead. See that part where you were supposed to schedule a conference with me? You know, right before the “stay-put” provision stuff which allowed Joseph to stay in school, but which you also ignored? Oddly, hearing from district counsel Mr. McMackin as I did is never mentioned in these grievance procedures.

I am happy to discuss this binding agreement in which monetary awards will go to charity, but perhaps to the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit which provides legal services at no charge to students whose constitutional rights have been violated. I’m sure you understand that while I indeed have donated to the Brandywine Education Foundation in the past, I will never, ever do so again. I noticed that Mr. John Skrobot, President of the Brandywine School Board, is on the Board of Directors of the Brandywine Education Foundation. So you are asking that the money I’m awarded be donated to the very lawbreakers I’m suing. I’m going to pass.

But you know what else, Dr. Holodick? I’ve already thought about the taxpayer. That’s why I’m suing you personally, and not just in your official capacity. Did you notice that part of the complaint? I agree with you — damages should be paid by you, Mr. Rolph, and Mr. Simmons, and not by the taxpayer. After all, as Delaware’s #1 highest paid state employee, you take home a quarter million dollars a year. Will you sign a binding agreement that any damages I’m awarded will be paid by you personally and not by the taxpayer? Hey, no worries, right? After all, you are “confident that upon the examination of the accurate record through the litigation, Mr. Wahl’s claims will be disproven.”

Now, I do want to be accurate. Your actual pay is just under a quarter million a year — $246,071.52, to be exact. Mr. Rolph and Mr. Simmons make six figures as well, just like EVERY OTHER administrator in the entire Brandywine School District. I understand there are nearly 100 such six-figure administrators in the Brandywine School District.

Are you a good risk manager? Are you aware of the district’s exposure in this case? Was it a good use of taxpayer money when you fought all the way through the State Board? Did you receive competent counsel advising you simply to expunge the record instead as I had requested and as they eventually ordered anyway? Did you reject and overrule that counsel?

You’ve already wasted a great deal of taxpayer money fighting your losing case at the State Board, and you’re going to spend exponentially more taxpayer money fighting in court. That’s what’s costing the taxpayers, not the damages you’ll pay personally.

You also know this case has little or nothing to do with your zero tolerance policy for “knives of any sort,” and everything to do with the court’s zero tolerance policy, as each and every American should have, for violations of the Constitution and of due process.

You say you want to keep the school safe. The school was not made any safer when my son was banned from its premises for a full week. If you want to keep the school safe, as we all do, I have an idea. How about the administrators know the students? Why did Mr. Rolph not know the student he was looking for? Why did Mr. Rolph not know the student he found? Does that trouble you? What are you doing about it?

I look forward to hearing from you. Let’s both put our personal differences aside and do what’s best to fix what’s wrong in the school district and resolve this case. If you will treat me with respect rather than with the contempt you’ve shown me, I will reciprocate. Again, my email is pat@officemagic.com and my cell phone is (302) 229-9520. I will be letting everyone know whether your suggestion of a binding agreement between us was sincere or was merely empty posturing in which you “question the motives” of a parent of a student whose civil rights you violated, and whose right to due process you systematically suppressed.

All I can say is “Wow!”  I can’t wait to see Dr. Holodick’s response.  I would just like to extend an invitation that if Dr. Holodick wants to channel a response through this blog, I would be more than happy to give him the chance to air his side of the story.

Interesting House Education Committee Meeting Today With Wellness Centers And University of Delaware

The Delaware House Education Committee held their first meeting today after the long Joint Finance Committee break.  On the agenda was one bill, House Bill 234, sponsored by State Rep. Kim Williams.  As well, the University of Delaware gave a presentation on their overall enrollment trends.

House Bill 234 concerns wellness centers in three traditional school district high schools: Appoquinimink High School, St. George’s Technical High School, and Conrad Schools of Science.  These three are the last remaining high schools in the state (not including charters) which have no wellness center.  A wellness center is not just a school nurse.  They also provide counseling services as well.  The bill was unanimously released from committee.  Several folks gave public comment in support of the bill: Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick, President of DSEA Frederika Jenner, and a representative from Red Clay.  Rep. Williams read a letter she received from a high school student.  The young man was going through a depression and he credited the wellness center at his high school for getting him through this very troubled time.

There was some debate about which schools would get a wellness center first if the bill passes.  Rep. Williams felt it should be the oldest school first, but State Rep. Charles Potter felt it should be needs-based.  Rep. Williams indicated the JFC would determine this in the budget as the bill calls for each of the schools receiving the wellness centers at one per year for the next three fiscal years.

Dr. Nancy Targett, the Acting President of the University of Delaware gave a long presentation on enrollment trends and a general overview of the university.  She showed many slides about minority enrollment, retention rates, and graduation rates.  Afterwards, during a question and answer with the members of the House Education Committee, things got a bit more tense.  State Rep. Charles Potter was very concerned about minorities being placed in the Associate program at the University of Delaware.  This program is for students who need more help when they enter college.  When asked about what may be holding these students back by Rep. Williams, Dr. Targett was unable to give a clear answer but did promise the committee she would get more information.  Many civil rights advocates feel the University of Delaware under-enrolls African-Americans.  Dr. Targett did say this is her number one priority and many universities across the country are dealing with these issues.

Dr. Targett felt the recent announcement about the pilot program concerning SAT scores not counting towards admission credentials could allow for more minorities to be accepted at University of Delaware.  She said the University understands not all students do well on tests like that and a student could just have a bad day.  They want to focus more on students’ actual Grade Point Average and other activities.

After the meeting adjourned, I asked Dr. Targett about an omission in her presentation: students with disabilities.  She said she didn’t know the numbers offhand but gave me her email address so she can find out.  Which I will certainly take her up on!

Will Brandywine Get One Over On Arne Duncan?

This was a very busy week.  I didn’t write as much, but what I put up on March 1st sucked the oxygen out of everything else on this blog.  The Brandywine-Holodick-Wahl Saga is now my second most-read article on this blog.  It jumped over a controverial Teach For America story from last summer and the Charter School of Wilmington due process article and my son’s first day of Common Core division homework.  I knew the article would be big when I wrote it (actually, Pat Wahl did all of the hard work).  But it is still read thousands of times each day.  It has slowed down a bit since last Tuesday, but will it overtake Arne Duncan’s special education regulations from November 2014?  That one had many parents of students with disabilities ticked off during Thanksgiving week that year.  We shall see!  The Brandywine due process story has a ways to go to reach the #1 spot, but it could do it.  We shall see in the next week or next few weeks.

 

Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice For Year Long Nightmare

JosephWahl

Patrick Wahl is taking the Brandywine School District to court.  Last year, his son was suspended for a week.  What makes this case fascinating is the fact that his son was punished for what amounts, in my opinion, to a wrongful search.  Brandywine’s board made the situation even worse.  I can now say this case and that case are the same one.  This morning on Facebook, Joseph’s father announced the lawsuit.  He gave me permission to copy his post. I could write about what happened, but it means more coming from his father.  This is how I got my start in blogging, and I am more than happy to return the favor:

JUSTICE FOR JOSEPH: SUNLIGHT IS THE BEST DISINFECTANT Continue reading “Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice For Year Long Nightmare”

Brandywine Board of Education Votes Unanimously For Referendum On March 23rd

Last night, the Brandywine Board of Education passed a resolution calling for a referendum to support additional capital and organizational costs for the district.  The referendum will be held March 23rd, 2016.  The unanimous board vote calls for a referendum to increase property taxes by approximately $240 per tax payer on an annual basis according to an article from WDEL last month.

The last time Brandywine held a referendum was in 2012 for operating costs.  The referendum passed with 4,624 yes votes compared to 4,013 voting no as per Hockessin Community News.

The new referendum was recommended by Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.  With school funding becoming a very controversial and hot topic in 2015, there is no mistaking that local funding is increasingly taking on more and more of a district’s operating costs.  Red Clay, Caesar Rodney and Milford passed much needed referendums earlier this year, while Christina failed in two referendum attempts.  Christina will attempt for a third referendum attempt in 2016 as well.

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Dr. Mark Holodick

Holodick

Mark Holodick had a very busy year in 2015.  I wrote about him quite a bit last March.  When the opt-out movement in Delaware took off, many schools and districts started offering resistance.  Dr. Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, published a very public letter regarding opt-out on the school website.  He indicated only he could decide who opts out and who doesn’t.  Parents, myself included, rebelled against his very authoritative comments.  I’ve met Dr. Holodick a couple times, and he is a nice guy.  I think his heart is in the right place, but he makes the same mistakes those in charge do.  They think because of their title they know what is best for all kids and they should be the ones making the crucial decisions.  Unfortunately for him and the other school leaders in Delaware, this is not the case.

Dr. Holodick was very involved in the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025 this year.  As one of the founding members of the BRINC Consortium and their blended/personalized learning initiative, Holodick stood front and center for this latest “10 year vision”.  As well, he was on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission even though his district was not a part of the redistricting plan in Wilmington.  He remains the highest paid Superintendent in the state.  Many were predicting that if former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy ever quit or resigned, Holodick would take his place.  This was also true when Lillian Lowery held the title and resigned.

I am really hoping Holodick treats opt-out differently this year and he understands it is a parent’s decision, not his.  This is my wish for all school leaders and political figures who disrespect parents by not honoring their fundamental rights.  It doesn’t matter whether you agree with their decision or not, it matters if you honor it.

Are Brandywine’s Mark Holodick & The News Journal Singing A New Song On Smarter Balanced & Opt-Out?

The Superintendents of the Wilmington schools, Red Clay, Christina, Colonial and Brandywine, held an education forum for WDEL last night.  Discussing the issues of Wilmington education, the subject of the state assessment came up.  What was very interesting was Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick’s response to this issue.  He told WDEL’s Shana O’Malley:

Brandywine superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick added that they’re starting to see pushback from those who are frustrated and unhappy with state standardized testing.

“The length of the state assessment, how often it’s being given, combined with this era of high stakes accountability for both educators and school ratings and rankings, I think it has reached a tipping point,” he said.

I gave Holodick a lot of heat earlier in the year for his views on opt-out procedures.  He seemed to think only he could decide who takes the test and who doesn’t.  Opt-out isn’t about someone giving permission.  It’s about honoring a parent’s right and not giving any grief about it.  Even Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski jumped on the issue.

“For example, the state test that we give, I think cost us about $6 million,” said Dr. Robert Andrzejewski, acting superintendent for the Christina School District. “What if we decided to go back to a system where we test grades three, five, eight and ten like we used to and maybe cut the testing cost in half. There are other priorities like that.”

Or how about we just get rid of the Smarter Balanced and high-stakes testing environment altogether Bob A?  That would solve that problem!

Even the News Journal Editorial staff jumped on this issue this morning.

If that’s the case, why can’t Delaware take a proactive stance and focus not on a child’s scores, but on the child herself? If the state is so concerned with schools trying to game the system, then the system is broken and our energy should be spent on fixing it, not simply policing it.

The devil is in the details with that one.  If it means personalized learning where one students gets ahead faster and another stays behind, no thanks!  And how much will it cost to fix it?  We all know fixing anything in education in Delaware means the DOE sends tons of money to outside companies to “fix” what they don’t understand.  And if it’s all tied to the Delaware School Success Framework, the DOE’s latest and not greatest accountability nightmare, it still doesn’t matter.  We will see what kind of people the Delaware State Board of Education really are when they vote on Regulation 103 which makes this insane school report card legal.  Even the News Journal seems to agree on that one:

Though Gov. Jack Markell vetoed opt-out legislation this summer, it’s safe to assume Smarter Balance will not see 100 percent student participation this school year. And if the General Assembly overrides Markell’s veto when it returns to session, then the entire scorecard concept is out the window.

House Bill 50 is all about parental rights in terms of how they want their child to be educated.  It is nothing more than that.  Something the News Journal is finally coming around to by giving it their full support:

In the meantime, parents, more than anybody else, deserve to have a say in how their kids are educated. Let’s honor that right.

It would have really helped if they came out with that opinion eight months ago!  Why the sudden shift in thinking on the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  I think it is becoming more apparent than ever that Governor Markell is indeed a lame-duck at this point and everyone is sick to death of hearing about his education reform ideas.  Everyone is starting to look towards the future and essentially undoing a lot of what Jack wrought on the First State.  Folks are sick and tired of the accountability behemoth the DOE has become and they want it to stop.  Their stupid score card penalties are not required, and I have not heard anyone say “Oh, that’s a great idea!”  The DOE is a hot mess, and if they want to play the accountability game, that starts with them!  In the meantime, keep opting your kid out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and educate other parents of their rights!

Meanwhile, as all the adults keep tinkering around with education, it is the students who suffer the most.  As Dr. Holodick told WDEL:

“I think we have an opportune time to ask some really hard questions about what we have created regarding the educational landscape in Delaware,” added Holodick.

We are ALWAYS asking the really hard questions Mark.  The time to stop asking and start doing has to begin now before this generation of students loses it all to the high-stakes testing proficiency machine.

Why Are Red Clay & Capital School Districts Ignoring Board Approved Resolutions Supporting Opt-Out?

Dr. Mervin Daugherty was present at the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education meeting just two weeks ago when their board unanimously approved a resolution supporting parent opt-out without penalty to students.  Dr. Michael Thomas was present at the Capital Board of Education meeting last October when their board passed the same resolution.

So can someone tell me why Red Clay teachers are telling their students not to opt out or they will get a zero on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and their school’s scores will go down?  And why this is coming to them in orders from a district levels to let students know?  And why did Capital School District tell WHYY/Newsworks education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent they were able to talk 1/3rd of the opt out requests they received from parents into taking the test?

“Burgoyne says the district has convinced about a third of the parents who considered opting out to ultimately let their children take the Smarter Balanced exam.”

This article also has figures that conflict with other reported figures.  Capital Board member Matt Lindell publicly stated his district had 11% opt-out according to the district offices.  But the Newsworks article says only 34 students have opted out.  The article talks about students who have been “formally opted out” with their numbers.  What does “formally” even mean?  Is this where they have been taken out of the computer system or the school “approved” a request, like Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick has publicly stated?

This is just another reason why House Bill 50 needs to pass so these districts are consistent with not only their reporting of opt-outs, but also veiled threats or “convincing” parents and students receive.  I don’t see all these state agencies, groups, and corporate interest-lobbyists talking about that aspect of any of this.

Doc Holodick’s Letter About Smarter Balanced Sent To Parents

Brandywine Superintendent Mark Holodick sent a letter to parents dated February 10th.  Some parents just got the letter this week with a Texas postmark.  Way to educate parents about a huge test over two months later Dr. Holodick!

LetterP1Holodick

Hey, I want to know which Delaware educators helped create this train wreck!  Can we get a list of names?

FlyerP1

How many will reach the bar?  Not many.  Only 30% from what the DOE says.

FlyerP2

This ELA sample could be very subjective, but the human grader may not be objective.  This is a disaster waiting to happen!  Wait, it already is happening…  Delaware Parents: Please support House Bill 50 and opt your child out if you feel this is not the test for your child.

Who Stands For Parents In Delaware? Fall-Out From House Education Committee Meeting

Yesterday, by a vote of 8-6, the Delaware House Education Committee released House Bill 50 which would allow parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment to become a part of state law if passed.  I have received the exact votes from the members of the committee:

Yes: Kim Williams, Sean Matthews, Edward Osienski, Charles Potter, Michael Ramone, Sean Lynn, Kevin Hensley, and Harvey Kenton

No: Earl Jaques, Deborah Heffernan, Michael Barbieri, and Stephanie Bolden

Absent: Joseph Miro and Timothy Dukes (was at meeting but must have left early)

The following organizations were NOT IN SUPPORT of House Bill 50 and parent opt-out:

Delaware Department of Education, Delaware State Board of Education, Delaware Business Roundtable, Delaware Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League, First State Montessori Charter School, One Parent, A special education teacher in Milford School District, four legislators, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick

The following organizations SUPPORT House Bill 50 and parent opt-out:

Delaware PTA, Delaware State Educators Association (DSEA), Delaware Parents & Teachers for Public Education, Several Parents, Several Teachers, eight legislators, Exceptional Delaware, Delaware Parents & Teachers for Public Education

The following school district boards in Delaware have passed resolutions similar to House Bill 50 in the respect they will honor parent opt-out and will not penalize the opted out student: Capital, Christina, Red Clay Consolidated

Our work needs to focus on the entire Delaware House of Representatives and the Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf.

Brandywine Superintendent Mark Holodick Is Markell’s Mini-Me

“You complete me.”

Dr. Mark Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, told reporter Yossi Goldstein with WDEL the Smarter Balanced Assessment is absolutely necessary.  Why?  It’s all about the data.

“We’ve got to stay committed to the particular assessment that we select,” continued Holodick. “So that, over time, the data is relevant and valuable.”

I’m sorry Mark, did you say “that we select”?  Parents and teachers didn’t select this god awful test.  The Delaware Department of Education did, and only after they purchased it did they seek legitimacy from legislators and stakeholders.

“The student already has to take, at some point, a high stakes test, so to speak–to determine whether or not they’re going to have to take a remedial course in college. It might as well be while they’re in high school. So I don’t see that being a negative. I see it being a positive.”

Dr. Brandywine, are you actually admitting the Smarter Balanced Assessment is a high-stakes test?  Thank you!  Yes, I agree with you that high school juniors should have to take some type of test while in high school.  I don’t have an issue with that.  But every year from 3rd to 8th grade?  I don’t think so.  As Kavips recently wrote:

“You have to stop these people from throwing your child into those shrieking whirling blades. Once they ouch your child, whether good or bad, there is no going back. Nothing good ever comes out of a wood chipper. Be the adult. Opt them out.”

Why, I do swear Dr. Brandywine, you sound exactly like Governor Markell.  Do you just listen to his sound bites and practice in front of the mirror when you aren’t shaving (you really should based on your picture, even Mark Murphy does that)?  What’s next?  Should we expect to see a bald Dr. Brandywine in the future?

Brandywine’s Dr. Holodick Bullying Parents “I’m the only one who can say who does not have to take the test.”

I’m getting multiple reports from parents that Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick of Brandywine School District is handling all opt out requests.  Once a letter is received, he contacts the parent, asks to meet with them, and tells them he has sole authority on how a student is or is not opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He tells them unless they have a medical condition that would allow them to be exempt, they must take the test.

Dr. Holodick, I spoke to you a few weeks ago in response to my article about Brandywine’s website and your letter to parents about opt out.  I can see my words did nothing to change your feelings on this, which is fine.  We are all entitled to our opinion.  However, you are misreading the facts.  Delaware state code states a school can only exempt a child under certain medical conditions.  There is nothing in state code at all about what conditions a parent can or can’t opt their child out.  These parents aren’t opting their children out asking for permission.  They are opting their kids out…period!  You have no jurisdiction telling parents they have to obtain medical documentation to opt their child out.

You need to stop this bullying atmosphere in your school district.  While we can all agree these matters should be handled in a civil manner, you are crossing the line with your intimidating behavior.  Brandywine parents who want to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, please go ahead and send in the letter.  If Dr. Holodick calls you, tell him “thank you for your opinion, but my child is not taking this test.”  If he continues to pressure you, tell him you REFUSE to have your child take this test and the discussion is over.  If he continues, tell him you will contact an attorney.

This is exactly why I have tried to give guidance to all superintendents and heads of school in Delaware, but obviously some feel they can interpret the state code however they want.  Fair warning to all of you.  If I hear about it, I publish it.

Updated with that little thing called THE LAW:  http://delcode.delaware.gov/title14/c001/sc04/index.shtml