Capital Union President Lied To Every Single Teacher In Capital School District

For the past several months, teachers at Dover High School have been grappling with Covid, remote learning, hybrid learning and the district itself. But it appears their greatest enemy might just be their own union that is supposed to protect teachers.

This past Monday, WDEL had an explosive article about teachers at Dover High School. The news shocked Delaware teachers up and down the state but it didn’t come as a surprise to many. For Leann Ferguson, her actions in reporting the incidents to WDEL were met with mixed results. Many teachers hailed her as a hero for finally reporting things many would not. Others branded her a traitor to the district and Dover High School.

The article dealt mainly with accommodations teachers could get through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and how the district responded to those requests. According to the article and Ferguson, one teacher was fired after they were denied an ADA request to the district. The teacher wrote to the board and was summarily terminated the next day with an email from the district indicating their contract was ending before the end of the year.

One teacher, who also requested anonymity for fear of retribution, confirmed to WDEL they initially requested reasonable ADA accommodations to teach remotely. When that request was refused the teacher sent a letter to the Capital School District Board of Education asking for unpaid leave. Instead, they were let go.

The district denies the allegation.

“That is absolutely inaccurate. No one who requested accommodations has been terminated,” said Cooke.

However, WDEL has obtained their request for leave letter, and an email response from the district, dated November 30, 2020, indicating the teacher’s contract would be paid off and their insurance ended. The teacher is considering litigation in the matter.

It seems there is a lot of denial at Dover High School. One of the chief denial makers is a teacher named Lisa Whiteman, the President of the Capital Educators Association. In response to the WDEL article, Whiteman issued a letter to every single teacher at Dover H.S. and for no reason at all, lied about CEA knowing anything about the issues in the article. The full letter can be seen below.

Careful attention should be drawn to the words “Please know CEA had no prior knowledge of the issues brought forth in the article.” This would indicate that they knew absolutely nothing about issues with ADA accommodation issues that teachers were facing. CEA did an investigation into the matter, met with the district, and found the article “to be not completely true in most instances”. Problem solved, right? Wrong. Whiteman lied to every single teacher in the Capital School District in her sad attempt to throw Ferguson under the bus. What does “to be not completely true” even mean? Why didn’t Whiteman address the issues in it that she knew to be true? Whiteman knew. And on more than one occasion.

In an email dated 10/13/2020, from the UniServ Director for the Capital School District, Mike Hoffman, that included Whiteman and Ferguson, it dealt directly with the issues that were mentioned in the article. To understand the matter in it’s full context, I will include Ferguson’s email to Hoffman and others first. As educators do like abbreviations, here is a quick guide: DO = district office, CBA = collective bargaining agreement, CEA – Capital Educators Association

From: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2020 1:00 PM
To: Hoffmann, Mike [DE] <Mike.Hoffmann@DSEA.org>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>
Subject: [External] Concerns re: employee rights/covid protocols re: ADA accommodations

Hello Mike, 

Hope you are well.  We have been hearing from more and more staff members who have serious concerns about the DO handling of a number of issues. This is not new of course but the pandemic appears to have emboldened the DO.  Some staff members believe this amounts to unilaterally rewriting certain aspects of our CBA.  I know you have been contacted regarding the demand to submit lesson plans and the DO disregard for our contract language that specifically prohibits that unless a staff member is on an improvement plan. That issue has not been resolved but we have a far more pressing situation on the horizon.  We have already been contacted by staff members who have submitted the required documentation related to requesting ADA compliant accommodations.  The manner in which the DO is handling this has given rise to a fear that staff members with be subject to disparate treatment under the law.  

We are asking for the support and guidance of the DSEA as we navigate this process. I’m sure you are having similar situations across the state and that the DSEA would want to present a united position on providing protection and support for its membership.  

Staff members who have already submitted medical documentation requesting accommodations have been told by Ms. Cooke that she will contact them individually and discuss each case individually.  None of the staff members we have spoken with have expressed any level of comfort with this.  They do not want to engage with DO unless union support is present during any discussions. Ms. Cooke has also stated (on the record in a recent IAC meeting) that each request for accommodation would be handled individually and that the granting of accommodations would depend on the position of the staff member making the request.  In other words, your request will be granted or denied based on the professional position you hold.  This appears to constitute “disparate treatment” in the eyes of the law.  (EEOC documentation)

I have read the State benefits explanations re: covid benefits and coverages. I have read the EEOC and ADA regulations and recommendations.  We are deeply concerned about the level of discretionary authority afforded a single individual in the DO.  This individual does not hold a medical degree and appears to be making unilateral decisions about risk exposure and notification of affected staff.  (See her recent response to my letter of concern re: notification of potential staff exposure to Covid 19.

We have seen a pattern of disregarding the CEA CBA from the DO.  We are truly in uncharted territory here and we believe we would be best served by engaging in a formal, transparent process to develop acceptable MOU’s to address these very important protections for our members.  The conduct and commentary from the DO is clear on one point only; their primary objective is to protect the DO, NOT the staff.  Ms. Cooke has stated on more than one occasion that the DO will not accept any liability for exposure to covid, that WC coverage would not be applied and would be “difficult to prove”, and that the DO will be making ALL decisions unilaterally as to who will be afforded “reasonable accommodations” and who will not.  The DO has indicated that they will attempt to do this by aggressively interpreting and applying HIPAA.  The HIPAA Privacy Rule states the following: “A major goal of the Privacy Rule is to assure that individuals’ health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well-being.” 

So far, the DO actions have protected the DO without transparency and consideration for the “public’s health and well-being”.  We believe this level of discretionary authority at the DO level has created tremendous risks for the health, safety, and financial well-being of protected members of the CEA.  We are asking for your guidance and support as we proceed.  

I would be happy to discuss these concerns in more detail. You can reach me via cell at your convenience.   

Thank you very much. 

Best Regards, 
Leann H. Ferguson 

In Hoffman’s reply to Ferguson he not only included Whiteman but also mentioned her name in the email and the act of setting up a meeting with her to discuss the issues that eventually led to the WDEL article this week:

From: Hoffmann, Mike [DE] <Mike.Hoffmann@DSEA.org>
Sent: Tuesday, October 13, 2020 2:01 PM
To: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>
Subject: [External] RE: Concerns re: employee rights/covid protocols re: ADA accommodations 

Good afternoon,

I understand and appreciate your concerns.  There are questions being raised in other districts as well around ADA accommodations.  I am in consult with our attorney on these concerns and have been directed to obtain any denial of the accommodations in writing.  I do agree that a lot of power, when it comes to deciding who gets what accommodations has been given the HR departments.   The accommodations are there to address the ability of a person to carry out their job without the accommodations.  This would be different depending on what that job is and the duties needed to successfully carry out the job. We need to have data on who has requested accommodations and the result of that request.  I would like to set up a meeting with you and TH along with Lisa Whiteman to discuss the concerns.  If there are contract violations that need to be addressed with MOU’s let’s talk about them.  I would certainly encourage anyone that is having a conversation with Mary Cooke about the request for accommodations, ask that there be a representative present.  I am available to attend these meetings if needed.

She does not have to grant that request but lets see how that plays out.  CEA has a meeting tomorrow and I will bring your concerns up, and talk with Lisa about setting up a meeting with you and TH.  I appreciate your advocacy for a safe working environment for you, the students and your colleagues.

Mike Hoffmann

DSEA UniServ Director

If Hoffman knew about these issues as an employee of the Delaware State Education Association it should be assumed folks at DSEA were brought up to speed with the ADA issues with Capital teachers. But this cannot be verified at the time of this writing. But what is very troublesome is the fact that Whiteman denied any knowledge of these issues and then compounded on this lie by collaborating with the Capital School District officials in an “investigation” she herself knew was completely true.

To add insult to injury, the issue was addressed again in an email exchange between Whiteman and Ferguson on November 4th, 2020:

From: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Tuesday, November 3, 2020 8:11 PM
To: Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>; mike.hoffmann@dsea.org <mike.hoffmann@dsea.org>
Subject: Advocacy Concerns Greetings,
 

Would you please advise as to what CEA leadership actions are being taken to address the many unresolved concerns of staff members?  As we attempt to safely navigate many challenges, we have been waiting for communication from CEA Leadership as to advocacy actions on behalf of the membership.  Will you be addressing these unresolved concerns at the Board of Education meeting tomorrow night?  Some of the issues that remain unresolved are unknown numbers of students (the DO policy of allowing any student “on the bus”)increasing numbers of people in the building at any point in time, lack of an enforceable policy of mask wearing for all students, cleaning of surfaces contacted by food, inconsistent communication from the DO regarding covid positive notifications(this makes contact tracing nearly useless if the DO has discretion on who gets notified) and last but certainly not least, the inflexibility of the DO in addressing staff accommodations requests, forcing many to choose between their health and safety or their livelihoods. These and many more issues affect all of us. 

The covid case numbers are rising everywhere.  The CEA membership deserves to have clear, consistent and transparent plans for successfully reopening our classrooms. The members need to have copies of the DPH and CDC guidance the DO says it is following including all District procedures demonstrating full compliance with CDC and DPH recommendations. The safety and well-being of the staff and students should be the most important factor as we proceed forward.  

Thank you for your consideration.  

Best Regards, 
Leann H. Ferguson Dover High School Social Studies Dept. 

Whiteman responded to Ferguson and very directly discussed the district response to ADA issues.

From: Whiteman Lisa <Lisa.Whiteman@capital.k12.de.us>
Sent: Wednesday, November 4, 2020 8:57 AM
To: Ferguson Leann <Leann.Ferguson@capital.k12.de.us>
Cc: Leighty Thomas <Thomas.Leighty@capital.k12.de.us>; Omans Wendy <wendy.omans@capital.k12.de.us>; mike.hoffmann@dsea.org <mike.hoffmann@dsea.org>
Subject: Re: Advocacy Concerns Hello Leann,

Thank you for voicing your concerns.  

There are answers to each one of them which will be shared below.  

Information has come out from DO (town hall, HR emails)as to what to do next when a member has concerns about: coming back because of personal/health issues, what the district is using to clean (schedules/product ingredient lists), discipline when students are not adhering to the mask-wearing policy and having any student “on the bus” and enter the school, even when they’re not on the list to come in to the school building.

Realizing that you as a district employee and a CEA member and still don’t know the answers means that communication was not given enough times or in multiple ways to reach all appropriate audiences. For that, I apologize, and have taken steps to hopefully remedy the situation.

One step taken is that  I have asked the DO to put answers to all of these in some type of written communication for all members to benefit from the information.  If they choose not to, I have offered to create MOUs to put these procedures in writing.

I have also reached out to a board member to see if I can even approach them with questions for tonight…but am unsure as to how to go about it as this is a “work session”.  If I am able to, I certainly will. Clear and consistent communication is what I see is our weakest link with the DO now…specifically how word is getting out to all the employees in mass distribution.  The district has had emails go out via the HR department and from Paul Dunford and most recently a Town Hall.  I was very supportive of the Town Hall as it seemed to answer a lot of the questions being asked of me by the entire membership, including some that you inquired about.

Specifically, until that “written form” happens, my answers will mirror the response to Mr. Lewis yesterday, that you were also included:

Personal/Health concerns about coming back: Accommodations requests are at the discretion of the employer. The union has no interaction with that.  It’s about being ADA compliant according to the law. Mrs. Cooke has continued to meet with individuals and sometimes with our UNISERV rep, Mike, who is also on this email. She’s offered information on accommodations to keep teachers safe and has asked them to bring them to their doctor to see if that is appropriate for individual cases.  I believe in this case, the members have been and continue to be supported.

Cleaning (schedules/product ingredient lists): It was stated in the Town Hall that a list of the product ingredients used in the disinfecting of the schools is available via the chief custodian and your building principal and will be given to you when requested. Cleaning schedules are set by the building administrator and will be communicated to you via the building administrator. I believe in this case, we are also supporting our members by making this information available.

Non-compliance of mask wearing policy: It was stated first at the board meeting and then again at the town hall that there is a progressive discipline process where 2 documented forms of redirection/re-education will need to happen, then a mandatory administrative meeting with the student and parent, then the student would be sent home to have the only option of learning as “virtual”. In this case, I believe the membership is being supported in the area of safety.

Accepting all students who attempt to “board the bus”: It was stated at the board meeting, but not sure it was at the town hall, that no student will be turned away.  It was stated that it was a far greater concern for the safety of the child, who if turned away, may not have adequate supervision if left at the stop.  So, the next step that was mentioned was that the student (who because of the way the bus seating is set up) would board the bus, remain socially distant, and then be greeted by adminstration/designee at the school, held at the office or a designated space and admin would contact the parent, or keep the student safe, under their care, keeping the socially distant requirements of the CDC in the building. In this case, I believe the members are being supported in the area of safety, while still holding the accountability of safety of the students on the DO’s shoulders.

Again, thank you for reaching out and sharing your concerns.  It is my intent to increase the clarity of communication from the district to the membership.

Lisa Whiteman

Teacher & Educational Diagnostician

William Henry Middle School

Capital School District

Whiteman’s assertion that the union, including CEA and DSEA has NO involvement with ADA issues seems to be contradictory. Why did Mike Hoffman attend a meeting with Capital School District’s Human Resources Director Mary Cooke covering ADA Interactive Processes?

In multiple Capital School District Board of Education meetings in 2020, Cooke and Director of Instruction Paul Dunford told the board the district expects teacher losses. By playing games with ADA requests, it seems the district is cherry-picking who they can give ADA accommodations to. They are accepting certain requests and not others. Which is highly illegal.

The heart of the ADA matter involves the law around it. In the case with the teacher that was terminated, the teacher provided the letter from their physician which explicitly said the teacher should not be doing in-person learning. By ADA law that is all the district needed to honor the ADA request. But instead they denied that request and asked for additional medical information which, according to the ADA, is also against the law to ask for more information. So why would a school district, which is expecting teacher losses, mess around with a federal law? Did they think they were above the law?

In the case of the terminated teacher, they did what they thought they should based on all the guidance they received from the school district and in compliance with ADA law. They went to their doctor, received a doctor’s note for the ADA request. They issued it to district human resources and was denied their request and told they had to provide more medical information. Because the teacher was already in full compliance with the requirements set forth by ADA law, they did not obtain the illegal request for more medical information in violation of ADA law. They then wrote a letter to the Capital Board of Education on 11/27/2020 requesting an FLMA absence and instead of an answer from the Board they received an email from the District on 11/30/2020 stating the following:

I wanted to let you know that we will be paying off your contract on the 12/18/20 check. Also, you will not have insurance after today. You will receive COBRA information in the mail. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.

I’m not an attorney but I know enough to know this was indeed a termination with a slew of labor law issues, including violations with ADA, Equal Employment Oppurtunity Commission (EEOC) and the actual Capital Educators Association Collective Bargaining Agreement that the district is bound to.

Getting back to Whiteman’s letter to the entire union membership of Capital School District teachers, I would really like to know what her “investigation” with the district consisted of considering she already knew about the ADA issues going on with teachers. In addition, why is Whiteman telling teachers to go to the district office when there is already an issue with ADA accommodation requests? If she wants to claim ignorance on the issue why did she not seek guidance set forth by the National Education Association (NEA)? Did she not understand how her own union works?

These are my questions: What is the level of collusion between the CEA leadership team and the Capital School District? Why is Whiteman, who is supposed to work with teachers, working with Mary Cooke, who has already proven she knows how to break multiple labor laws, to clarify ADA issues in a WDEL article that Whiteman herself already knew about? It isn’t like the NEA gave specific guidance on this issue, right? Oh wait, they did, as seen below:

What is the district going to do about their HR Director, Mary Cooke, in the face of all this? How much did Interim Superintendent Dr. Sylvia Henderson know about this? If the CEA President would lie about a WDEL article that she wasn’t even mentioned in how much can the teachers of the Capital School District trust their union leadership? Has this situation played out in other Delaware school districts with ADA requests during the pandemic? Why are teacher losses even an acceptable scenario with district officials at Capital? Why would they speed up that process by terminating a teacher that did everything they were supposed to do? Which leads to a more fundamental question and the biggest of them all: what are teacher unions doing if they don’t protect and support the teachers who need them the most?

This article was not an easy one for me to write. I support a lot of the same things the teacher unions do. We have stood in unison at Legislative Hall supporting legislation through public comment. I have fought for teachers in this state more times than I can count. But what I cannot abide is any supposed union leader turning their back on a fellow educator and throwing them under the bus the way Whiteman did to Ferguson. Teachers in Delaware pay roughly $750 a year for membership in the teachers union. For teachers like Ferguson and the Capital teacher that was terminated they might as well throw that money away because their union failed them.

In full disclosure, my son attends the Capital School District. Nothing in this article is a reflection of my personal experiences with the district. Until this week, with the exception of Mike Hoffman, I never heard of the educators mentioned in this article as well as the WDEL article. If this were about any other district in this state, with the information provided, I would be writing about the exact same thing. This is about a deadly pandemic affecting our state and teachers are scared. When districts use those fears against teachers it is time for rampant change that has to happen now. When the very same teachers union that is supposed to advocate AND protect teachers turns their back it is incumbent upon the teachers union to re-examine what they stand for.

While Whiteman’s actions are deplorable in this situation there are a great deal of lessons to be learned here. Education isn’t just for students. All too often the adults involved need to be schooled as well. It takes extreme bravery for a teacher like Leann Ferguson to do what she did. She approached her union multiple times for guidance and assistance. The responses she received, given the preponderance of evidence which indicated Mary Cooke broke the law, were not sufficient. Her moral conscience demanded she do more for the educators in her district. It wasn’t for personal gain or fame. It was to help those who needed help. Which is more than the teachers union President at Capital did. I support a teachers union that does the right thing. Not the farce Whiteman has turned it into.

If we are going to fix education in Delaware it starts in our schools. There are far too many players involved for these silly power games to be going on. It is, and always should be, about the students first. Teachers second. But our schools are run by bureaucracies that don’t seem to realize that very simple attitude. It is about power and ego. Arrogance and stupidity. Teachers want to teach and the less bureaucracy they have in their way the more students will learn. It isn’t rocket science.

Lazarus Mike Matthews Comes Out Of His Facebook Sabbatical With Big News!!!

Well over a year after former Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews resigned from his position, he announced last night he is seeking a seat on the Executive Board of DSEA.

Hello, friends. Hope you’re doing OK. Not going to take a lot of your time.

Just reaching out to all of my friends and Delaware educators on here to let you know I’ve just submitted my petition to DSEA to run for a seat on their Executive Board. New Castle County gets 16 seats and 8 of those seats are up this year.

As a former state and local leader, I want to continue to be an advocate for educators and students in Dover. Times remain turbulent in education today and we need assertive voices in the mix to make sure our concerns are front and center with both our state union leadership and elected officials in Dover.

The election will be in January. You should receive your ballot by email. If you’re a DSEA member, I would love having your vote and I would love it if you would consider sharing this message to let your friends know I’m running.

This is not a statewide election. Only members who work in New Castle County will be able to vote in my election. I would be humbled to earn your vote.

Thank you all for your continued love and support over the last year. It has gotten me through a really tough time, but I like to think I’m back and my engine is fired up again.

In Solidarity,

Mike

I wish I could say I was shocked but I’m not.  Matthews is not one to stay quiet for too long.  I couldn’t believe he managed to stay off Facebook for seven months.  But the Red Clay teacher isn’t quite done with his union work.  Will Matthews get back into DSEA?  Could this be a sign of Matthews seeking the Presidential seat again at some point?  Time will tell!

Controversial Del Tech Tax Bill Dies A Quick Death

What is it about Delaware bills with the number 50 in it?  Senate Bill #50 is going to be pulled today according to sources in the know.  The bill would have created the Delaware Tech “Community College Infrastructure Fund”.  But after opponents of the bill cried foul the legislation is going to die. Continue reading

DSEA Gives Strong Public Comment To Delaware Joint Finance Committee

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee listened to the Delaware Department of Education present their FY2020 budget presentation today.  The Delaware State Education Association made their public comment open to the public today.  Given by DSEA’s Director of Legislation, Kristin Dwyer, the public comment hit home on some areas.  In particular, the very heavy lift we are asking of our educators.  It is more apparent than ever that teachers can’t do it alone. Continue reading

Rodel Embarks On Their “Lipstick On A Pig” Rebranding Tour

The Rodel Foundation of Delaware has a new name.  They are now called Rodel.  This landmark rebranding effort comes to you from Rodel.  It is the 20th Anniversary since the Budingers sold their business to Germany and decided to launch an education reform non-profit company destined to jack up Delaware education for all time.  In honor of this infamous anniversary, it is time to talk about what Rodel is up to and what their goals and agendas are really about.

I’ve been writing about Rodel for four and a half years.  But the complete and utter crap I saw from them in the past couple of weeks is the height of arrogance.  They have been pimping their snake-oil for 20 years but they are now reaching the height of their power.  As an example, Rodel seems to think they are the sole force in the creation of Delaware charter schools.  If you ever doubted the complete farce Rodel really is, this screenshot from their rebranded website should cast those doubts aside: Continue reading

Are Carney & Bunting Intentionally Leaving DSEA Out Of The Loop?

I was wondering why Delaware Governor John Carney’s office resent the same media advisory today that they sent on Friday.  I figured there had to be some change to the big shindig tomorrow at Legislative Hall.  And there it was, staring at me like a full moon on a summer night, one addition to the number of attendees: Continue reading

Mutiny At Odyssey As Teachers Union Votes For No Confidence In Board of Directors

The Odyssey Charter School Education Association declared a vote of no confidence in the school’s Board of Directors.  As well, they asked four members of the board to resign. Continue reading

Red Clay Board Member Pokes The Bear With Sam Paoli From CSW!

The Red Clay Board of Education meeting the other night was one for the record books!  The highlight of the meeting was the Charter School of Wilmington renewal discussion.  Dr. Sam Paoli, the President of CSW, got drilled and grilled with a ton of questions about CSW’s demographics and recruitment efforts.

The absolute best part of the conversation was when Jose Matthews, the husband of Mike Matthews, the former President of the Delaware State Education Association, told Paoli the following: Continue reading

Mike Matthews Ruminates On The Coordinated Hit Against Him And DSEA

On Facebook tonight, former Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews talked about his resignation from DSEA in light of the “uncovering” of blog posts he made a decade ago.  Matthews talks about who was behind it. Continue reading

Rethinking Carney

I’ve been pretty hard on Delaware Governors in the past four plus years.  But sometimes they do things that make me think about things they do that are not directly related to bad education policy.  Things that will make Delaware a better place in the long run.  Two weeks ago, Delaware Governor John Carney signed Executive Order #24 which makes Delaware a trauma-informed state.  This is something we need in Delaware.  Delaware is not the best state for mental health services.  Families are crying out for help.  Sometimes they get it but a lack of training or proper services can turn that help into an issue. Continue reading

Guest Post: “Mike Matthews Has Nothing To Apologize For”

It is the return of The Bygone Blogger!  This blogger of old has some more stuff to say about the controversy surrounding Mike Matthews and his DSEA resignation based on old blog posts Mike wrote.  In which we learn, once again, things are NOT always what they seem on the surface and some of the pitchfork throwers aren’t exactly innocent!  Take it away (again) Bygone Blogger! Continue reading

It Is Time For DSEA To Regurgitate Themselves From The Bowels Of Rodel

I warned them.  Many times.  Sit at the table and you will be on the table.  The Delaware State Education Association was swallowed whole.  By who? Continue reading

Delaware Education Roundup October Edition

There are always gems to be found when you comb through district and charter board minutes, agendas, and websites.  I did that last night and found a ton of stuff!  Instead of coming out with a dozen or more articles about it, I thought I would just combine all of it one fell swoop!  There is A LOT of material in here so dig in! Continue reading

The Plot To Destroy DSEA

I am more convinced than ever that there are people in Delaware who are hell-bent on demolishing the Delaware State Education Association.  The resignation of Mike Matthews over old blog posts was just the opening salvo.  This is an all-out war on the teachers union in Delaware.

Yesterday, I received a letter in the mail.  The envelope was hand-written and the actual letter was typed.  The bottom part of the page was cut off.  There was no return address, just a Wilmington postmark.  I do not know who sent it but it feels and smells like a campaign to go after DSEA.  This is what the letter said: Continue reading

Odyssey Charter School Becomes 2nd Delaware Charter This Year To Join DSEA

Odyssey Charter School teachers and staff voted and an overwhelming majority decided to join the Delaware State Education Association.  This is the second charter school in Delaware to do so in 2018.  Last Spring, the Charter School of Wilmington also voted to join DSEA.  In 1997, Positive Outcomes joined DSEA but opted out in 2000.  Delaware College Prep joined in 2012 but closed a few years later due to low enrollment.

With 131 for and 16 against, over 89% of the educators in the school decided a teachers union was the best option for them.  Prior to 2018, it was virtually unheard of for Delaware charters to unionize.  What turned the tide?

For Odyssey, the decision was clear- they did not like decisions the board was making and felt their voices were not being heard.  When former leader Nick Manolakos did not have his contract renewed, the school hired two to take his place.  But the tipping point was when their former Board President, who had just resigned, became a leading contender for a third highly paid administrator.

Over the summer this led to those teachers and parents questioning the board about decisions that would affect the school.  Parents saw fundraiser after fundraiser to get more money for the school but didn’t feel the money was going towards what the school promised.  But they had money for all these administrators.

Congratulations to Odyssey Charter School for joining DSEA.  With two joining this year, will more Delaware charters follow?  Even with forces joining together to muffle DSEA it has become more apparent than ever that teachers want respect and to have their voice heard.  They are the second most important part of a school after the students.  They have rights and deserve to organize and fight for what is theirs.  They deserve due process and the right to air grievances.

How Did DelawareCAN/Atnre Alleyne Get A “Public List” Of Private Emails?

Alleynegate continues!  Hours after it was discovered DelawareCAN’s Atnre Alleyne decided to spam Delaware teachers with his “I hate Mike Matthews” blog post, many are wondering how the not so illustrious corporate education reformer got ahold of so many teacher’s personal emails.  In a response to one teacher, Alleyne responded by saying this: Continue reading

DelawareCAN’s Atnre Alleyne Sends Out Unsolicited Emails To Delaware Teachers With His Self-Serving Blog Post

Atnre Alleyne, the Executive Director of DelawareCAN, sent out an email blast to Delaware educators today.  The email was unsolicited and left Delaware teachers wondering how Alleyne even got their email address in the first place.  This pattern of abuse on Alleyne’s part ends a week filled with his mischief. Continue reading

Mike Matthews Gives Statement on DSEA Resignation & Apologizes For Comments Made On His Blog

I’ve seen Delaware divided over issues in my day but the social media comments about Mike Matthews old blog posts and his resignation from DSEA last night have lit Delaware up.  Today, Matthews turned off his radio silence and gave, what I felt, was a very mature statement about his resignation and his old blog, Down With Absolutes.

Throughout my time as an educator, local union leader, and state union leader, I’ve prided myself on my attempts to be honest, transparent, and open when confronted with any issue. I like to think that no matter how difficult the topic, at times we need to set aside issues, sit down, and have the conversations that can help move any debate forward.

Now is one of those times where I need to be completely open, honest, and transparent with you, my Facebook friends.

Two days ago, I was contacted by a reporter who shared with me he had come into possession of some old posts from my blogging days. He shared with me that some individuals have concerns with the content, tone, and language used in the posts and he wanted for me to provide a comment on whether my words from 10-12 years ago match my representation of the organization I now lead, DSEA.

First, I will say that my conversation with the reporter was cordial. I’ve had a relationship with him over the last few years and he handled the interview with care and with the utmost respect. It is not a phone call that I expected to receive, considering I’ve been very open with my past in multiple venues since I became a teacher in 2009 after shutting the blog down several months before I started my job.

Second, as I shared with the reporter, I take full ownership of the comments I made on my blog from the period of about 2004-2009. I will not deflect. I will not blame. I will not obfuscate. I own the outlandish, insensitive, at times offensive, and inappropriate posts that I wrote mostly on topics of Delaware politics. I cannot recall every one of the thousands of posts that I authored in those five years…and it wouldn’t matter if I could. Because I wrote them. And I must own them. For any hurt, pain, or grief I caused individuals because of my words, I can only offer a full-throated, genuine apology without exception or qualification and hope that the work I’ve done since entering education and my role as a union leader can, in some minor way, redeem the words that are in no way a reflection of where I am today.

We are in very challenging times right now…a time where individuals are being scrutinized for actions they’ve taken in the past and how those actions should be weighed on their present and future. While I own and take responsibility for the words I published nearly a decade ago, I do not condone them nor are they words that would ever slip from my brain to my hands to the keyboard ever again. It is no defense to say that I was a rambunctious, wily twentysomething attempting to find his way in the world who had suddenly found an audience willing to receive the often thoughtless words I posted on the Internet.

Nearly a decade ago, I entered a fifth-grade classroom in Red Clay. Nothing excited me more than showing up to work every day to help guide the young minds of the students who entered room 210. Soon after I started teaching, I found that I still had a lot to say. I found that my role as classroom teacher had to extend beyond my classroom walls if the stories of my students and fellow educators were ever to be heard. I began to find ways to use my voice in a more measured way and soon began to engage elected officials in a more productive manner. I found a vehicle in both my local and state union as a way to communicate thoughts and feelings of myself and my fellow educators. Even in those years where I used my voice in a more productive manner, I acknowledged the blog and its contents and at no time have I attempted to hide my past or stray from the scrutiny that it has brought.

So where am I right now? As someone who has always believed that he should take responsibility for his actions, I stand ready to accept any responsibility or consequence that comes as a result of my words. Within hours of the article appearing online, I submitted my resignation to the Executive Board of DSEA; I will not allow my past transgressions to define the finest organization in Delaware advocating for Delaware’s educators and students. As I learned when I took office July 16, 2017, DSEA is a bigger organization than one man. And, regardless of my actions, I will honor this organization by doing what I feel and what I know is in its best interests.

In rendering a final judgment on who I am, I would hope that you, my Facebook friends, as well as the members of our organization, DSEA, would be willing to measure my work over the past five or six years and whether or not that should have some bearing considering the words I published long ago. Neither am I absolving myself of my actions nor am I seeking absolution from you, my friends. I am asking only that consideration be given to my record as a whole when you eventually read about the past that has come back. As I shared with the Executive Board on a conference call Tuesday night, I consider what I did with my blog as running up a large credit card tab. And now the bill has come due. And I am willing to accept any consequences that come with that.

To anyone in the past who has been harmed or offended by my words, please know it was never my intention to do so. Intentions don’t matter, though, when the actions and hurt are so explicitly clear. To those individuals, I can offer nothing more than a sincere apology and the promise that my personal and professional growth over the last few years is reflective of who I truly am today.

Thank you, everyone, for your support over the years. Thank you to DSEA and NEA for your counsel during this time and for the continued strength your organizations show on supporting students and educators. Good luck to my friend Stephanie Ingram, who is going to make an AMAZING DSEA president. I hope our members will show her the love that you’ve showered on me over the last year. Thank you to the dozens of DSEA members who’ve reached out in the last 24 hours with messages of support. Thank you to those who’ve reached out with thoughtfully constructive messages urging me to take ownership and make this a teachable moment. Thank you, most importantly, to my family, friends, and my husband Jose for helping me realize that this is now a period for growth and reflection. I intend to do just that.

Thank you, all.

Breaking News: Mike Matthews Resigns As DSEA President

Following an article by WHYY earlier today, Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews tendered his resignation tonight.  Vice-President Stephanie Ingram will take over as President until the end of the three-year term in 2020.

DSEA sent the following email to its members this evening:

Dear DSEA members,

The educators who lead the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) take seriously our responsibility to our members, their students and our community.  The Delaware State Education Association’s Executive Board convened an meeting this evening to discuss the blog posts written by Mike Matthews from 2006-2009 .  Regardless of the fact that these posts were created prior to Mr. Matthews becoming an educator and member of DSEA, they were completely inappropriate and contrary to the views or values of the educators who make up the DSEA.   
 
Therefore, Mr. Matthews has resigned as President of DSEA.  We thank him for his service to DSEA and its membership.
 
Per DSEA’s bylaws, as Vice President, I will now assume the position of President of DSEA for the remainder of the term, ending in July, 2020.

DSEA represents more than 12,000 classroom teachers, specialists, and education support professionals working in Delaware’s public schools. As educators we are dedicated to providing the best educational opportunities possible to all Delaware public school students. 
 
Our members provide a wide range of services to the students and the communities they live in.  They teach students in classrooms from early learning centers through high school.  They counsel adolescents and help them build career aspirations.  They deliver instructional assistance in every type of subject, prepare and serve nutritionally-balanced meals, provide needed transportation and ensure our schools and facilities are clean and safe.  They supply the professional services which help our schools run efficiently.

Since 1919, the members of DSEA  have dedicated their lives to supporting children and public education and we will never falter in that mission.  I am committed to helping DSEA to continue moving forward, building on the important partnerships with parents, community leaders, and elected officials, and maintaining our focus on the goal of providing all Delaware children with a quality education.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email me at Stephanie.Ingram@dsea.org or call me at 302-734-5834.

In Solidarity,
Stephanie Ingram
DSEA President

 

Will Odyssey Become The 2nd Delaware Charter School To Unionize This Year?

Parents of students at Odyssey Charter School received the following email tonight from the Head of School, Denise Parks.  If Odyssey teachers and staff do vote to unionize they would become the second Delaware charter school to do this.  In May, Charter School of Wilmington voted in the majority for joining the Delaware State Education Association.

Good evening, OCS Families–

Our new leadership team continues to work to improve communications and also to promote transparency in school developments. To reinforce these efforts, I want to make you aware that OCS has received notice from the State of Delaware, Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) that the Odyssey Charter School Education Association (“OCSEA”) has filed a petition to represent certain academic and facilities employees here at OCS. This process ultimately will lead to an election to determine whether OCSEA, as the union, will represent this group of employees in collective bargaining negotiations. I want you to know that the leadership team strongly believes that remaining union-free is the right thing for both OCS and for the staff involved. I will endeavor to keep you informed of key developments as they occur in this process. Please contact me if you have any questions. Whatever the outcome of this vote, I look forward to a productive year for our school.

Yours in education, Denise Parks Head of School