Red Clay Letter To Parents Has Many Gasping About Education Cuts

Yesterday, Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty sent a letter to parents advising them of all the education cuts since 2008.  He also urged them to attend the Delaware PTA rally outside Legislative Hall next week to support basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

I agree with a lot of what Merv said but then again I have to wonder about some of his logic.  After all, Red Clay did purchase one-to-one devices for all their students which costs a pretty penny.  As well, they are one of the few districts that still has Race To The Top administrators even though the funding for that horrible federal initiative ended years ago.

His language in the letter confused me a bit though because he asks parents to vote with public education funding in mind.  Yes, the General Assembly decides the budget.  But who is Merv asking these parents to vote for?  State legislators?  School board candidates?  Should a school Superintendent be pushing parents toward certain votes? And that’s what happens when I don’t have my morning coffee before I write!

In terms of special education, I have supported any bill that gives that funding.  This is the foundation of special education for these kids.  It baffles me that our legislators will fund pre-school as much as they do but not provide this necessary and vital funding.  They really don’t have any more excuses to justify their cowardice with special education funding.  I highly salute the legislators who consistently support State Rep. Kim William’s bills to get this going.  If you have the means, come down to Legislative Hall next Wednesday, May 9th, at 1:30pm, on the East steps.

I fully support public education funding but I also support the ability to properly audit those funds if need be.  Last year, the State Auditor’s office released a report on education funds but since so many school districts code expenditures different the auditor couldn’t make heads or tails of the funding.  So perhaps we should be making sure our vote for State Auditor is a sound one and not based on a popularity contest among certain legislators.  If you are going to vote for a Kathy in September, make sure it is for Davies!

Things I like that are going on?  Senator Dave Sokola’s bill for education funding transparency which could go a bit further than what it has in it now.  I love the fact that people are waking up to education issues and speaking out.  We may not always agree, but the discussion is healthy.

To read Merv’s letter to parents, please see below:

Red Clay Consolidated School District Salaries Over $100,000

Red Clay Consolidated School District has become a cash cow.

I thought I had a general idea of my overall theory of school administrators in Delaware.  Red Clay was the last to respond to my FOIA request with their numbers.  I sat for a good ten minutes just staring at what they sent me.  While Christina and Red Clay have the exact same amount of administrators, Christina has more schools AND holds statewide programs like the Delaware Autism Program.  Both have 93 administrators.  But in reviewing Red Clay’s, along with some of the titles, I was utterly shocked.  They have individual supervisors for each core subject, personnel specialists, and program coordinators. Continue reading

Red Clay’s Super Merv Writes Letter To Community About Budget Cuts & Deficits

In a week of somber news around Delaware in the wake of pending teacher and educator layoffs, districts are scrambling to figure out their budgets for next year.  Through this blog and other social media sources, citizens of the state are growing concerned about teachers losing their jobs and classrooms becoming more bloated than they already are.  In response to this public outcry, Red Clay Consolidated Superintendent Dr. Mervin Daugherty wrote a letter to the community about what this means for the district and the community.

I’ve seen many Delawareans giving Governor John Carney a pass on this since he inherited most of this mess from former Governor Jack Markell.  But his almost boneheaded solutions could make the situation much worse for citizens across the state.  In the coming weeks, I will be going through last year’s budget as well as the proposed budget for FY2018.  I will also recommend areas across districts and charter schools where funding should be cut or consolidated without losing teachers.  I will present these recommendations and findings to the General Assembly and Governor Carney.  I am sure it won’t be in any official capacity, but I will do so all the same.  Any input or recommendations from the general public will be most welcome!

Red Clay Schools Continue To Openly Defy Their Own Board of Education With Opt Out Threats

I sent the following email to the entire Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education and Dr. Merv Daugherty, the Superintendent of the district.  I am posting the email because I have heard similar complaints from parents several times since the Smarter Balanced Assessment came out in 2015.  What is the point of having a policy if the schools ignore it?

Racial Slurs Appear To Go Unpunished For DE Military Academy While A.I. DuPont Basketball Team Suspended Rest Of Season

At a recent basketball game between Delaware Military Academy and A.I. DuPont High School, a fight broke out when DMA or students in the stands allegedly used racial slurs including the “n” word.  As a result, the A.I. team has been suspended the rest of the season while the DMA players seemingly have not been punished for instigating the incident.  I do not condone using force to resolve issues.  If there was fighting, then certainly the A.I. players should be punished.  With that being said, the use of racist slurs should NOT go unpunished.  Details are sparse on this incident and I did reach out to Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty and Delaware Military Academy Commandant Anthony Pullella to see if they can confirm what actions took place.  As of this writing, I have yet to receive a response from either of them.

Apparently, this is not the only incident involving charter schools within Red Clay and Red Clay high schools.  Several parents have suggested there was an incident between Charter School of Wilmington and Cab Calloway and the incident with DMA is not the first time racial slurs were said by DMA players.

Without “actual” documentation, much of this is hearsay.  However, when enough parents start talking about something, expect a lot of noise.  I don’t think this matter is going to quietly go away.  For the current school year, DMA has a population of African-American students of 5.8% while A.I. DuPont has 36.1% according to the Delaware Dept. of Education website.

Updated, 10:42am: The News Journal covered the team’s suspension but not a single word was written about the alleged racial slurs.

Updated, 10:55am: The incident did not involve actual assault but players from A.I. rushing to the student seats at the DMA home game.  Their coach had explicitly informed them to stay in their seats.  Red Clay closed the investigation last week but it was reopened as of today.  If anyone has firsthand knowledge of racial slurs being used at this game, please contact the Red Clay Consolidated District Office and Delaware Military Academy.

Updated, 11:00am: I have not received any response to my request for information from Daugherty or Pullella.

Updated, 12:34pm: Red Clay Board of Education member Adriana Bohm put the following message on Facebook:

In regards to the AI/DMA situation and based on information I received I requested the case be re-opened and it was reopened this morning. If folks heard the “N Word” and other racially derogatory language being used at the game please file an official complaint and write a letter to the Red Clay School Board. The email address is RCBOARDMEMBERS@redclay.k12.de.us. You may also message me so we can talk.

Updated, 1:27pm: I heard back from Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty.  I will include my initial request as well as his response:

Merv,

Several people have reached out to me this morning in regards to a fight at a DMA basketball game.  What I’m hearing is the AI team has been suspended the rest of the season.  I’ve also heard the catalyst for this fight was the use of racial slurs by DMA players that have gone unpunished.  Can you confirm any of this?  This is under the assumption you would not know or be able to control what kind of punishment would occur for DMA players.

Thanks, 

Kevin Ohlandt

Dr. Daugherty’s Response:

Kevin,

We have investigated this incident for several days. We have interviewed coaches, administrators,  security personnel, and parents of players from both teams who were at the game.  None of those persons interviewed reported hearing any racial slurs. The decision to forfeit the remainder of the season (one game) and the playoffs was made because of the players actions at the conclusion of the game. The account of the incident in today’s News Journal is accurate. And, you are correct in that Red Clay is not responsible for the discipline of DMA students. 

Respectfully,

Merv

I have yet to receive a response from Commandant Pullella at Delaware Military Academy.  There appears to be some confusion on whether the alleged racial epithets were coming from DMA basketball players or students in the stands.

Updated, 2/23/17, 4:28pm: I have updated this article to reflect that the alleged racial slurs came from Delaware Military Academy students in the stands, not their basketball players.  There have been several reports about a hostile attitude at the game towards the A.I. DuPont High School team.

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

This bill is a no-brainer! DeStateBoardofEducation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Red Clay’s Merv Daugherty Stands Firm On Funding For WEIC

MervDaugherty

Red Clay Consolidated School District Superintendent Merv Daugherty released a statement this morning about the State Board of Education’s very odd vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan last Thursday.  I talked with Merv yesterday at the Pathways To Prosperity conference and he told me the exact same thing!

I want to take this opportunity to reiterate and explain Red Clay School District’s position on the State Board of Education’s conditional rejection of the WEIC plan. From the beginning of this process, we have been clear that a guarantee of the plan would be supported with adequate and sufficient funding has been a critical non-negotiable item for our District. This is no mere parochial concern- we believe that it is crucial for the success of this endeavor. The plan submitted to the State Board of Education reflected the collaborative efforts of many stakeholders. Regrettably, the State Board of Education, rather than approving the plan as submitted, has attached two new conditions to it. One of these, the replacement of the word “shall” with “may” in item #2 of the resolution within the plan, is unacceptable to Red Clay. The distinction is not one of mere semantics- “may” and “shall” simply do not mean the same thing. “Shall” secures the adequate and sufficient funding the successful implementation of the plan requires; “may” throws it into doubt. Our concern was explained to the State Board of Education at their recent meeting. Indeed, they were explicitly told that their proposal “could be a deal-breaker.” Unfortunately, they failed to heed this warning. The possibility that the plan’s implementation could continue absent adequate and sufficient funding poses an unacceptable risk to Red Clay and does a disservice to the families and students involved. For these reasons, Red Clay cannot support the change submitted by the State Board last week.

Respectfully,
Merv

WEIC meets tonight to make some decisions about the State Board’s idiot vote.  At the Christina Board meeting last night it was revealed State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and Delaware Secretary of Education will appear at the meeting.  Well said Merv!

Exclusive: Red Clay & Delaware DOE Letters You Have To See To Believe! Must Read!!!!!

Red Clay Consolidated School District sent a letter to Governor Markell on 5/14/15 concerning the lack of funding provided to the district from the Delaware Department of Education for the priority schools.  The DOE responded on 5/25/15.  There is obviously a severe lack of communication on the DOE’s end.  They have violated the MOU and school plans they publicly agreed to on February 4th.  I think the mention of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee in Red Clay’s letter was a stroke of genius, and also sheds some light on why Senator Sokola and Rep. Jaques put such a rush on House Bill 148 and Senate Bill 122.  The funding issues in the next year are going to be a very hot issue, and Red Clay is absolutely right!  Read the letters and judge for yourself!

And the DOE’s response, received 5/25/15 by Red Clay.  I can only imagine the call between either the Governor or his office to Secretary Mark Murphy after he received Red Clay’s letter!

It sounds like the DOE bit off way more than they can chew with the priority schools.  The Priority School FOIAs I posted on here show the very clear lack of understanding on the newly hired  Penny Schwinn’s part, and it is obvious she hasn’t learned much since then.  Unless this is all part of a bigger plan, which I have strongly suggested before.

The DOE’s process with the priority schools has clearly been to create chaos and stir up anger.  This has been proven time and time again.  They would only do this unless they know what the result will be.  And it isn’t progress.  It is their insane attempt to stir the flames so they get their desired outcome: all Wilmington city schools becoming charter schools!

The following press release from 2/4/15 from Alison May with the DOE shows a very positive vibe on the priority schools in Red Clay moving forward:

Red Clay Priority Schools to move forward with school plans

Red Clay Consolidated School District’s three Priority Schools will provide new student supports, add Saturday and afterschool enrichment activities for students and families, and ensure greater parental involvement under plans that are moving forward after the Delaware Department of Education today approved the district to move onto the next steps in transforming these schools. In September, Gov. Jack Markell and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced significant resources and support for the state’s six lowest-performing district schools, providing the opportunity for substantial changes in their approach to improve their students’ academic performance. These Priority Schools, all located within the City of Wilmington and split evenly between the Christina and Red Clay school districts, are eligible to share about $6 million to implement locally-developed, state-approved plans. The funding comes from several sources including federal School Improvement Grant and remaining Race to the Top resources. Over the following four months, Red Clay leaders worked with educators, families and community members to develop school plans tailored to meet the unique needs of the students in Highlands Elementary, Shortlidge Academy, and Warner Elementary. The plans are in line with a Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by the district and DDOE. Red Clay’s school board approved individual school plans on January 27, and after review by Delaware Department of Education staff and national experts, the schools will continue to work with the community, district, and state to finalize plans for the 2015-16 school year. In the coming days, the department will provide feedback to Red Clay about ways to continue to strengthen all three plans during that process so that final plans can be approved in the spring. “We know that many of the children in these communities face unique challenges that require more support and resources. Thanks to Red Clay’s leadership and collaboration with its school communities, Highlands, Shortlidge, and Warner now will have the plans and resources to better meet students’ needs,” Murphy said.  Red Clay Deputy Superintendent Hugh Broomall said his district is ready to move forward. “We’re excited about the opportunity,” he said. “The work is hard, but we’re ready to engage in the process.” Highlights of the School Plans All Schools: Parents will notice better coordinated referrals to community services for families and supports for teachers to improve behavior management in the classroom.Schools will implement the use of iPads and laptops for students and teachers to improve technology literacy for students, with support to help teachers integrate this technology into their lessons.Each school will host a leadership team, which will include a parent and community member, to help inform the decision-making of the school leader. The team’s responsibilities will include: organizing correspondence to the school community on developments in academic and social-emotional programming, improving academic growth and reviewing academic goals, monitoring progress on the implementation of the school’s plan toward its goals, reviewing achievements of teachers, and revisiting ongoing supports to ensure their success.The district is implementing a new math curriculum in all three schools.Shortlidge and Warner Elementary Schools The district will reconfigure grades at two of the schools, with Shortlidge becoming a PK-3 grade campus and Warner becoming 4-5 grade campus.Schools will offer Saturday Library as a time set aside for students and families to study a particular topic and for families to read with their children.Schools will offer increased after school enrichment activities that are academic in focus but have character-building components that teach students skills such as sportsmanship and self-esteem. For example, Reading Basketball would offer students reading remediation with basketball games as a reward for participating.Highlands Elementary School Highlands will foster opportunities for parent-led activities for families at the school, such as family fitness night and a science expo.Reading and math activities at Highlands will ensure parents have the tools needed to support their students to be successful in core content areas.And Saturday activities at Highlands for students and families will increase tech literacy of students and provide parents with life skills workshops.   

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4000

They sure did sell the Red Clay plans for the priority schools as awesome!  So what happened between then and now?  Only the DOE can adequately answer that.  In the meantime, Red Clay and their students will suffer due to the mind games the DOE and Governor Markell’s office continue to play with the students of Delaware…

Red Clay Superintendent Merv Daugherty Hints Governor Jack Markell May Not Veto Parent Opt-Out Bill

Will Delaware Governor Jack Markell veto House Bill 50, the parent opt-out legislation in Delaware that passed the House of Representatives and Senate in the First State in June?  According to Red Clay Consolidated School District Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty, indications are pointing to him not vetoing the controversial bill.  At their board meeting on Wednesday July 8th, Daugherty said the district is preparing for the legislation to take place later in the summer.  He indicated the district may have to notify parents in both September and in the Winter so they are given the options at the start of the school year and prior to the next round of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Weeks later, and Markell has not even asked for House Bill 50 to be brought to his desk.  Once he does that, if he fails to do anything with the legislation, it passes into law in ten days.  The opt-out legislation would stop Delaware schools and the Delaware Department of Education from bullying and intimidating parents when they decide to opt their child out of the high-stakes assessment.  As well, it would stop the opt-out students from counting in the school’s accountability rating and would not count against teachers in their evaluations.  Sponsored by State Rep. John Kowalko, a Democrat, and State Senator Dave Lawson, a Republican, the legislation had a five month battle in many areas of Delaware: schools, Legislative Hall, the DOE, the Governor’s office, homes, and on social and print media.

In New York, New Jersey, and the state of Washington, many opt-outs went far below the 95% Federal threshold for test participation.  Threats of federal funding cuts have been just that: empty threats.  Despite all the posturing and bullying by both the US DOE and the Delaware DOE, no school has received funding cuts due to opt-out by parents.  While the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores haven’t been released yet in Delaware, it looks like high school juniors may have gone below the 95% mark.

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.