Hey Project Veritas, This Is How Our Teacher Union Rolls In Delaware- They Get It Done! Publish That!

A month ago, I posted some articles about a far right-wing group called Project Veritas.  I didn’t know much about them but their videos intrigued me.  I gave the Delaware State Education Association a hard time and that may not have been very fair on my part.  Today, when I read an article by Cris Barrish with WHYY, DSEA President Mike Matthews impressed me a lot!  The article was about Senate Bill 234, which passed the Senate yesterday and will be heard in the House Education Committee in the next few weeks, if not sooner.

Mike Matthews, president of the Delaware State Education Association that represents teachers and other school employees, said crimes and violations like those cited in this article spurred his union’s lawyer to work with state education officials, attorneys and others to craft the legislation.

I remember talking to Mike about some of these horrific crimes that were making the media such as Karen Brooks in Smyrna.  He was as disgusted as I was.  A few years ago, Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf came out with a similar bill but this one was much better.  I firmly believe DSEA’s role in the writing of Senate Bill #234 made it a much stronger bill.

Matthews said the DSEA “strongly supports” the bill because it could prevent the ability of child abusers to “bounce around’’ to different school districts with their teaching license intact while a serious allegation goes through a copious investigative process at the district level. The bill would also provide extensive due process to protect teachers who are unfairly accused by students, parents or other faculty, he said.

Amen Mike!  We don’t want ANY teacher or educator milking the system when they are abusing kids.  My take on teachers like this?  They shouldn’t be anywhere near children or teenagers.  But at the same time, we don’t want to necessarily punish the innocent.  Unfortunately, there have been situations where teachers have been victim to false claims.

“It clarifies the process that I think maybe has been muddied for some time,” Matthews said. “It kind of separates this idea that the employer, the district and board, has to take action before [the state can take action] to revoke or suspend an educator’s license when there are allegations of a serious crime.”

My take on this?  Most districts or charters don’t necessarily want the publicity when things go down.  If there is an arrest, they can’t help it.  What happens when an investigation is a stall tactic?  Forcing the state to take action tells the district or charter- “we know this is going on and we will take action when you won’t!”

“The bill takes necessary steps to remove those educators if there is clear fear of harm coming or having come to a child. I like to believe that like any other profession we are always going to have those who do not represent our profession well and need to be exited when it comes to these allegations and potential crimes.”

A fast exit!

What I didn’t foresee with this bill was how it could affect special education.  Barrish wrote about this aspect of the legislation when discussing the “letters of concern” portion of it.

The bill also has a provision that could apply when the state determines that no violation has occurred which warrants disciplinary action, but that “an act or omission” by the teacher is a “matter of concern.” Such a concern could be that the teacher creates inadequate Individualized Education Programs for students who are identified as in need of special education services.

I have very mixed thoughts on this.  A teacher could write a draft IEP before the IEP team convenes to discuss it.  Putting the onus on a teacher for what could be team decisions is very dangerous.  Yes, the teacher is the one that writes the draft, but the team decides what is final.  Any IEP team should include an administrator (usually the Principal or an Associate Principal), the school psychologist, the school special education coordinator (also called an Educational Diagnostician), the school nurse (unless the parent says it is okay for them not to attend), a special education teacher, and a primary teacher.  And of course the parent or parents.  When students reach 8th grade, they typically attend the IEP meetings as well.  Is one teacher out of a whole IEP team the only one that should get a “letter of concern” if the school winds up getting sued for not following an IEP?  Or writing a bad one?  This could open a huge can of worms.  I have always told parents, do not sign an IEP unless you are satisfied with it.  There is nothing preventing you from doing so.  And if you find the IEP isn’t working, you can always request another IEP meeting to revise it.

Now when it comes to teachers not following very specific parts of an IEP, such as not having the student do every other math problem as an example, that is a different matter.  If a teacher willfully doesn’t follow what is written in an IEP, I can’t defend that.  I may need to see more on this part.  The big question would be what happens if a parent sues a charter or district over special education matters.  Would those “letters of concern” become discoverable evidence?  Would the district or charter put themselves in a position of legal vulnerability?  Or would the special education law firm have to subpoena the Delaware DOE to get those letters?

I’m going to take this time and publicly apologize to Mike Matthews for my Project Veritas articles.  A DSEA email was provided to me the same day I saw Veritas’ videos.  I published it without reaching out to Mike for more information.  I regret that.  While the email didn’t condone the actions of the subject of a Veritas video it didn’t defend it either.  It was simply an internal email warning of potential Veritas spies hoping to entrap teacher union members.  I was harsh on DSEA and I acknowledge that.  Legislation doesn’t happen overnight and I will assume DSEA was working with the Delaware DOE on what became Senate Bill #234 long before the Veritas videos came out in May.  I had no idea Veritas was going to jump on my article and put Mike in the spotlight the way they did.  I remember seeing that video and gasping.  Yes, I published it, but the more I found out about Veritas the more something didn’t seem quite right.

I look forward to Senate Bill #234 becoming the law of the land in Delaware!  And I would hope James O’Keefe who seems to have made it a crusade to go after teacher unions can provide “fair and balanced” coverage to show the good things they are doing.  But knowing O’Keefe, he would probably take the credit for it himself.  That seems to be how he rolls!  He can say what he will about some rogue union leaders out there, but here in Delaware, our union looks out for students as well as teachers!

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DSEA Needs To Push For Amendments In Pay For Success Bill Lightning Fast! This Bill Is Being Rushed At The 11th Hour!

The Delaware State Education Association needs to keep a very close watch on a bill flying through the Delaware General Assembly!  Scratch that.  They need to be all over Senate Bill #242 like white on rice!  They have the political muscle to get some fast changes on this bill and they need to flex it yesterday!  This bill has more head-scratching sponsors on it who should know better! Continue reading “DSEA Needs To Push For Amendments In Pay For Success Bill Lightning Fast! This Bill Is Being Rushed At The 11th Hour!”

Exclusive: The Truth About Teachers At Charter School of Wilmington Joining DSEA & President Paoli

If you read the News Journal article on the Charter School of Wilmington teachers voting to unionize, it was filled with reasons why President Sam Paoli did not want the teachers to unionize. The article failed to capitalize on why the vote happened in the first place- CSW President Sam Paoli.

At this point it is unclear why the educators wanted to unionize or by how large a margin the vote was successful.

I have those answers. Continue reading “Exclusive: The Truth About Teachers At Charter School of Wilmington Joining DSEA & President Paoli”

Proposed Legislation Would Give Delaware Secretary Of Education Authority To Suspend Teacher Licenses In Certain Felony Situations

A piece of Delaware legislation that is out for consideration would seek to have the Delaware Secretary of Education obtain the authority to suspend a teacher’s license under certain felony crimes or a clear and immediate danger to students prior to certain actions taken by a school district or charter school.  Similar to a bill Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf put out a couple of years ago, this one defines the types of felonies that could warrant the Secretary exercising this type of authority.  The bill is sponsored by Senators Bryan Townsend and David Sokola and State Representatives Earl Jaques and Pete Schwartzkopf.

The synopsis of the bill is as follows: Continue reading “Proposed Legislation Would Give Delaware Secretary Of Education Authority To Suspend Teacher Licenses In Certain Felony Situations”

Charter School of Wilmington Teachers Vote To Unionize And Join DSEA

Last night, Charter School of Wilmington teachers made a huge vote.  They became the only current charter school in Delaware to join the Delaware State Education Association.  As such, they will be a part of the National Education Association as well.  This opens the door for other charter schools to unionize in the future.  Often, when one domino falls…

The vote was not won by an overwhelming majority but enough for it to pass.  I’ve been hard on DSEA and NEA recently but that was because of very unique and limited circumstances.  That was a case of bad apples in the bunch and perception.  Even with that, I do support the unions and see them as a last defense against education reform that is bad for schools.  This CSW vote changes the landscape in Delaware.

I’ve heard rumblings about severe dissatisfaction with CSW leader Sam Paoli for months now.  Nobody wanted to go on the record though.  A teacher was terminated in the Winter over a minor disagreement with Paoli.  Many claim he rules the school with an iron fist and teachers, parents, and students are against this dictatorship.  By unionizing, these teachers regain some sense of control over their job security.  The CSW board is not elected so it allowed Paoli to run around unchecked.

There have been other charter schools in Delaware that have looked into unionizing but this is the first to actually do it.  Last summer, teachers at Providence Creek Academy wanted to but you must have at least 50% of the vote in favor of it.

More information as it becomes available.

Updated, 10:50am: This is not the first time a Delaware charter school joined DSEA.  Positive Outcomes did many years ago but it only lasted a year.

Project Veritas Hits Ohio Teacher Unions, More Cover-Ups Of Student Abuse By Teachers

First it was New Jersey, then Michigan. Now Ohio is the latest state to show situations where teacher union officials and Presidents would cover up teacher abuses and not report it. But so many have been telling me the guy in NJ was a solo act. Uh-huh..

As I projected when I started writing about these videos last Friday, I would lose friends. Folks would be mad at me. If someone wants to blow a friendship over this they were never a friend to begin with. Folks seem perfectly okay with trying to downplay this because it is Project Veritas. Sorry, if there is blood in the water does it really matter how someone found it?

When a union President explains that he has protected teachers in a physical abuse against students 80 times in his career, over an eight-year time span, that is very alarming. But let’s continue to blame Project Veritas for getting this news out.

To date, neither the Delaware State Education Association or the National Education Association has issued press releases disavowing this type of activity of union activity around the country.  NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia seems to think students should feel safe in school in regards to school shootings but she is silent on the issue of these videos.  A bit of a pickle you are in right about now Lily.  This is starting to remind me of the Catholic priests scandal.  How widespread are these issues?  How many more videos have to come out before the NEA says something?

“Every child has the right to feel safe and be safe at school, and every parent has the right to know their neighborhood schools are safe places to send their children.” -Lily Eskelsen Garcia

So I will challenge the Delaware State Education Association and their local affiliates to answer this question: Have you ever protected a teacher in a physical or sexual abuse situation and not reported it to the proper authorities or the school?  Have you ever turned a situation where a student was made out to be an aggressor when you knew it was the teacher?

Kim Williams Reports Delaware JFC Put Funding For K-3 Basic Special Education In The Budget!!!!

Finally!  One of the first things I pushed for on this blog almost four years ago was the funding for students designated as basic special education in Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams just put the following on her Facebook page:

I am so thankful that the Joint Finance Committee voted to include funding for K-3 basic special education services in the budget. This funding will support necessary services that will help students close learning gaps and move forward to have bright futures.

This has been a true collaborative effort with my colleagues, especially Rep. Smith and Sen. Nicole Poore, my prime Senate sponsor, and I truly appreciate their leadership. These services will become a reality thanks to the advocacy of Delaware State Education Association, parents throughout the state and the many advocates coming together to support our youngest learners. Our children deserve our best efforts to help them learn and succeed through life.

Amen Kim!  As I’ve always said, many kids develop their disabilities in these grades.  Even though schools are obligated by Federal law to provide special education no matter what grade they are in, this obstacle to the funding schools would get sometimes led to students not getting the services they deserve.  In some cases, schools would deny an IEP creating a toxic relationship with parents.  Kim has worked hard for this ever since I met her all those years ago.  She is the best education legislator in the state and she will ALWAYS have my support.

We don’t agree 100% of the time, but I will take those rare times any day because what she has done for Delaware education is nothing short of astounding!  A big thank you to DSEA, Senator Nicole Poore, Rep. Melanie Smith, Delaware PTA, and all the parents who pushed for this as well!

The Delaware Joint Finance Committee put the funding in the budget today.  Of course, the Delaware General Assembly has to approve the budget as a whole by June 30th, but I am confident they will do the right thing with this.  Delaware’s projected surplus for FY2019 went up yesterday as the Delaware Economic Forecast Advisory Committee added $80 million to the surplus.

Updated, 5:32pm: The amount budgeted for the Basic Special Education for students in K-3 is $2.9 million. As well, $3.6 million went in for Reading Specialists for students in Kindergarten to 4th grade. It also looks like $2 million that was cut in last year’s FY2018 budget will be restored for school transportation.

Who Protects Kids When Teacher Unions Won’t? The DSEA and NEA Response To Shocking Video Is Horrendous!

Project Veritas released a video on May 2nd about a teacher union president that clearly shows him admitting the union will lie and manipulate to protect a teacher in a student abuse situation.  The responses from the union president are shocking.  Even more shocking are the responses from the Delaware State Education Association and the National Education Association to help members deal with this video. I am putting the video up which you can see below. Continue reading “Who Protects Kids When Teacher Unions Won’t? The DSEA and NEA Response To Shocking Video Is Horrendous!”

Governor Carney Signs Diploma Bill In Heartfelt Ceremony

Delaware Governor John Carney’s office was packed at 1:30pm today when parents, students, school employees, and advocates came to watch him sign HS1 for House Bill #287, the diploma bill.

State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Nicole Poore thanked everyone for all their hard work on the bill.  Both were close to crying with joy as they explained how much this bill will mean to this special class of exceptional students.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting thanked everyone for their contributions to the bill.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and DSEA Legislative Liason Kristin Dwyer talked about how they approached Williams and Poore about the bill.  Woodbridge Special Education Director and Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Group Chair Michele Marinucci said she has waited twenty years for this bill to become law.

But the best part was listening to the students who will benefit from this bill.  Hearing the joy in their hearts as they thanked the room for their chance to get a diploma made all the battles with this bill worth it.  One of Carney’s aides said there hasn’t been this many people in his office since the budget bill passed last July!  Even Carney was very moved about the response to his signing the bill.  He even joked that he wants the ability of the Spec Ed Strategic Plan’s Advisory Committee to get along to come to Legislative Hall!

I’ve been to a few bill signings in my day but this was easily the best!  Good things do happen in education.  I was happy to fight for this bill and report on it as much as I did.  No students will work harder than these awesome kids and they deserve it!  Today was a great example of the a wrong being fixed for the benefit of all- students, schools, and businesses.  Today, I was proud to be a Delawarean and even prouder to see this bill become law.

The bill will allow students with the most extreme disabilities to earn a diploma with modified standards in lieu of a certificate of attendance.  This became a huge issue when some of these students would fill out job applications and couldn’t check the box about having a diploma.  Many businesses in Delaware lost the chance to hire these hard workers because of that.  But more important, it was missed opportunities for these students.  Truly a blessed day at Legislative Hall!

Carney & Bunting Announce Teacher Advisory Council But Violate FOIA With First Meeting Today

**UPDATED**, 4:36pm: I was informed by the Governor’s Office this is a public meeting.  With that being said, they are in open violation of Delaware law.

It wouldn’t be Delaware without yet another council.  But this one takes the cake because no sooner does Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting announce this but the first meeting is today.  To assume this decision was made today would be foolhardy because the teachers would have been given advance notice to attend this meeting.  I don’t know when the teachers were given their notice, but I can tell you it did not appear on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar until 3/23.  Today is 3/27.  Delaware FOIA law states all public notices of meetings must be up seven days prior to that public meeting.  I don’t look at that calendar every day.  The last time I looked at it was on 3/22 and I did not see it on there.

The below picture is from the posted agenda:

This is my issue with this.  There is a reason we have that seven-day law.  Not a rule, a law.  Every other state agency who had meetings or committee meetings postponed due to last week’s snowstorm reposted agendas.  But four days, for something brand new, is not acceptable.  The DOE and Carney’s Office could have rescheduled this first meeting.  But no, they announce it the day of with little to no disregard they are violating state law.  Had I known this was an actual public meeting (which was not announced in the DOE’s below press release), I would have gone to it.  But instead, I see an email from the Governor’s Office stating it is.

What was the criteria for the selection of teachers?  Does DSEA know about this?  While I always feel teachers having a louder voice is important, I do NOT like the fact this was just announced today (or on Friday if you want to be technical).  And where is the Parent Advisory Council?  How come parents are always left out of important education policy decisions?  I guess our voices don’t matter as much.  We just have to deal with the results of these education policy decisions…

I would file a FOIA complaint about this meeting with no agenda just being announced today, but it is a backdoor meeting and not open to the public.  FOIA only applies to public meetings.  Which Bunting and Carney don’t seem to want… 

Maybe I should file a FOIA complaint.  Since the meeting is going on, let’s see, NOW.

Council will gather feedback from educators statewide, increase the voice of teachers in policy decisions

DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney and Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education, announced on Tuesday the establishment of a new Teachers Advisory Council to gather the feedback of educators from across the state.

Secretary Bunting invited two teachers from each of the state’s 19 school districts and six charter school educators to join the group, which will facilitate communication, contribute to solutions, and help increase the voice of teachers in policy decisions. The group will meet bi-monthly to discuss a variety of issues affecting teachers.

“Educators work on the front lines helping prepare Delaware’s children for the future,” said Governor Carney. “We are committed to transforming the Department into a true support agency to help schools and educators better serve their students. This new advisory council will help ensure that we are listening to educators every step of the way as we make policy decisions that affect the classroom. Thank you to the educators who are participating, and Dr. Bunting and our team at the Department of Education for convening this group.”

“This is an opportunity for me to hear directly from those who work closest with our children and often feel the most direct effects of our policy decisions,” said Secretary Bunting.

Teachers participating on the new advisory council were recommended by their superintendents or the Delaware Charter School Network for the voluntary role. Secretary Bunting has asked each to share his or her personal feelings as an individual rather than serve as a representative of a district or charter school’s position on an issue.

This group is in addition to the Teacher of the Year Advisory Council, which Secretary Bunting also meets with bi-monthly.

 

Educators participating in the new advisory council include:
  • Kristyn Bradford of Lake Forest North Elementary in Lake Forest School District
  • Seth Buford of Milford High School in Milford School District
    Shorel Clark of Brittingham Elementary School in Cape Henlopen School District
  • Marisa Clarke of Central Elementary in Seaford School District
  • Guy Cooper of Providence Creek Academy charter school
  • Luke Crossan of Waters Middle School in Appoquinimink School District
  • Todd Cushman of Delmar Middle School in Delmar School District
  • Chelsea Darczuk of East Side Charter School
  • Robert Edmondson of Seaford Middle School in Seaford School District
  • Catherine (Katy) Evans of Sunnyside Elementary School in the Smyrna School District
  • Christina Gallo of Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest School District
  • Shelby Gordon of Bunker Hill Elementary School in Appoquinimink School District
  • Emily Green of Caesar Rodney High School in Caesar Rodney School District
  • Robert Harrod of Cape Henlopen High School in Cape Henlopen School District
  • Matt Hoopes of Concord High School in Brandywine School District
  • Shelley Hovanec of Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center in Woodbridge School District
  • Michelle Howard of Delmar High School in Delmar School District
  • Lesley Louder of Dover High School in Capital School District
  • Tina Lykens of POLYTECH High School in POLYTECH School District
  • Jennifer MacDonald of Smyrna High School in Smyrna School District
  • Nathalie Melvin of South Dover Elementary School in Capital School District
  • Phyllis Mobley of Harlan Elementary School in Brandywine School District
  • Elaine Norris of Mispillion Elementary School in Milford School District
  • Petra Palmer of Delcastle High School in New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
  • Michael Paoli of Hodgson High School in New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
  • Sarah Polaski of Christiana Middle School Academy in Christina School District
  • Moraima Reardon of Woodbridge High School in Woodbridge School District
  • Lisa Richardson of Millsboro Middle School in Indian River School District
  • Matthew Sabol of William Penn High School in Colonial School District
  • Dara Savage of Early College High School charter school
  • Cameron Sweeney of POLYTECH High School in POLYTECH School District
  • Crystal Thawley of Sussex Technical High School in Sussex Technical School District
  • Elizabeth Van Aulen of Wilson Elementary School in Christina School District
  • Anthony Varrato of Sussex Technical High School of Sussex Technical School District
  • Kim Weber of Welch Elementary in Caesar Rodney School District
  • Leigh Weldin of Conrad School of Sciences in Red Clay Consolidated School District
  • Karen Willey of Sussex Academy charter school
  • Jill Young of Lord Baltimore Elementary in Indian River School District
  • Stacie Zdrojewski of Red Clay Consolidated School District Office

The Teacher Advisory Council will meet on Tuesday, March 27th from 4:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. at the Collette Education Resource Center Conference Room, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover.

DSEA President Mike Matthews’ Speech From Their Representative Assembly On 3/17

This past weekend, the Delaware State Education Association held their annual Representative Assembly.  President Mike Matthews gave the following speech to the DSEA delegates on Saturday, March 17th.  While I’ve been writing a ton about administrators and their salaries, it is important to recognize the issues many of our teachers are facing.  I felt Matthews did a good job highlighting those things and painted a clear picture of a huge danger coming to the teacher unions across our country.

My speech to the delegates of the 2018 Representative Assembly.

Time. As I travel up and down the state to talk with our members, I’m reminded of what is most valuable to them. Time. Planning time. Time with friends and family. Time to meet the needs of all students. Time to grade papers. Time to relax. Time to watch a movie. Time to exercise. Time. Time. Time.

And as we sit here today at our annual Representative Assembly, I know that the time you all have taken to do the business of our Association is valuable time. And, to that end, I’d like you to know that it’s my goal to respect your time and keep it short because, as a half-Irishman myself, this is indeed a day to celebrate. So, to those who do, I offer you a hearty Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!: Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I want to say thank you for spending your time today with some of our Association’s most active union members. Since I started in this new role eight months ago, I’ve been bowled over by the support from our wonderful staff here at DSEA as well as the 13,000 members we represent. And time seems to be an issue for everyone. In my 50+ school visits since the beginning of the school year, time is all I hear about.

From the AP Language and Composition teacher at Mt. Pleasant High School who’s always looking for more time to share great works of literature with her students to the special education teacher from West Seaford Elementary who’d like more time to complete her required IEP paperwork. From the paraprofessional at Love Creek Elementary who wants her students to have more one-on-one time and resources to the music teacher at Elbert-Palmer who wishes his students could have more time playing instruments as opposed to taking standardized tests. From the food service worker at Old State Elementary who wants more time to share union information with her 10 coworkers to the secretaries across the state who want to make sure they’ve got the time during the day to simply stop and breathe. From the bus drivers and bus aides for whom TIME is certainly most important to ensure their students arrive on time to the custodians who make the best use of their time to get everything done that needs doing to keep our buildings looking great for staff and students.

Time. It matters. And, while we are always at a deficit of time to get done everything that needs doing, our members do their best to maximize the time they have to ensure our students get what they need to succeed.

However, friends, I’m here to tell you that time is not on our side, regardless of what the Rolling Stones may have told you. Last year, my predecessor, Frederika Jenner, told you the wolf was at the door in regards to policies coming down from the frightening administration of Betsy DeVos at the US Department of Education. Frederika urged us all to pay attention and be vigilant. Well, I’m here to share with you that we will have to be vigilant in the coming months as the greatest threat to our Association is handed down by the United States Supreme Court in the form of the Janus case.

Now, I will not bore you all with the details of this case. You all are among the most active members of our Association and my guess is most of you have found the time to learn more about this case. In short, the current make-up of the Supreme Court will likely chip further away at the rights of public-sector unions. Have no doubt – this will impact our membership and could very well impact how we deliver service to our members.

This Supreme Court case is called Janus, named after the plaintiff, Mark Janus, a home health care worker in Illinois. Mr. Janus believes that if you don’t want to pay fair share fees to your union, you shouldn’t have to, EVEN IF you benefit from the work the union does. In essence, when this Supreme Court decision comes down, it could create a new generation of worker that expects and demands union representation and benefits, but will refuse to pay for them.

But Janus also means something else. Several months ago, while toying around on the Internet, I Googled “Janus.” Did you know that Janus is the Roman god of endings, new beginnings, transitions, and, most appropriately, time? Janus is often depicted in mythology as having two faces. I equate these two faces to the two choices we have as an Association.

Do we twiddle our thumbs, look backwards, complain, and cry when the Supreme Court hands down a decision that, in the long run, could cost DSEA thousands of members?

Or – do we look forward? Do we pick ourselves up and fight back and show our members who we really are here at DSEA? That we are going to work harder than ever to ensure they see the value in the work we do? That we are going to continue to drive the narrative that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions? That we are going to continue to fight for more resources for our most impoverished students – for our students with disabilities – for our English language learners? That we are going to continue to push back against bad education policies that focus more time on testing and less time on authentic learning?

It’s when we show our members as well as the public that EDUCATORS are the best advocates for students that we win the narrative. And when we win that narrative, we will never have to worry about members leaving us – because they will see themselves in the work we do.

So – I have several requests for you when you leave today. In the coming weeks and months, I need you all to be ambassadors for our Association. I need you to go back to your locals. I need you to engage all of our members – AND NON-MEMBERS. This is our greatest organizing moment and I know that we can accomplish so much and maintain the strength of our membership if we focus on several things:

Have as many meaningful one-on-one conversations with members as you can. Get them to realize that their voices are amplified in environments where collaboration is fostered and open dialogue is promoted and that our union is a critical driver in those conversations.
If you’re a local that has faculty meetings in your buildings every month, check your contract to see if the Association is given five or ten minutes of each faculty meeting to share updates. And use that time at EVERY faculty meeting to share with members – and non-members – how critical union membership is with the wolf constantly knocking on our doors.

Go to the Dollar Store. Get a 20-pack of generic greeting cards. Write notes to your elected officials and school board members thanking them for their support of public education and sharing with them how and why unions ARE always a great partner in moving education forward here in Delaware.

Finally, and most importantly, share your story. Share it with friends. Share it with family. Share vignettes on social media of why we do what we do in public education. Share your story like the story featured in this post.

There’s a lot going on in this image. I was visiting a high school in New Castle County and walked into an English teacher’s classroom. This image immediately caught my eyes. And the story behind it will stick with me forever.

I asked the teacher where this huge drawing on a whiteboard had come from. He shared with me that it was about two years old. A former student of his — a withdrawn senior who rarely ever spoke to the teacher — did it. The teacher said it was near the end of the year, the student had shown little effort, and at a certain point, there seemed to be a level of tension the teacher wished could be resolved. Eventually, the teacher said to the student “I’ve failed you. You’ve gotten through this entire school year and you’ve barely said two words to me. I’ve failed you and for that I am sorry.” The teacher left the room, upset, not knowing what to do for this student who had been withdrawn for so much of the year. Come to find out, the student had some language barriers as well as some issues at home that were causing her to withdraw.

The teacher was out of the room for a period of time and when he came back, this beautiful drawing — representing all of the pieces of literature covered in senior year — was on his whiteboard. The teacher became so overwhelmed and emotional at this display. He told me that the young lady — though barely communicative — was obviously absorbing the literature the class was reading that year.

The teacher memorialized this art by spreading a thin film over the drawing to protect it and it remains in his classroom to this day — a testament and clear sign that he, in fact — was not a failure to this particular student.

How many stories like this are waiting to be told around Delaware?

It’s stories like this that explain why we as educators do what we do. And, based on the schools I’ve visited up and down the state, this story isn’t the only one out there. You must be prepared to share your story. You must be prepared to defend the work of our union to ensure better wages, benefits, and working conditions for our members and their families. Because we must never go back to the time cited in the classic labor hymn “Which Side Are You On?” – authored in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky. Following a night of being terrorized by Sheriff J.H. Blair and men hired by the mining company to bully mine workers and prevent them from unionizing, Reece wrote this poem on a calendar that hung on the wall in her kitchen:

“Come all you good workers
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven’t got a chance
Unless we organize
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?”

Now I’m not saying things are anywhere near as dire here as they were in Mrs. Reece’s world, but just know that long ago the rights we take for granted today were hard fought by someone else, and it’s up to us to find the time and ensure we protect those rights.

So, with what limited time we all have, be sure and find the time to do what will keep you strong, your families strong, your students strong, and our union forever strong. Because, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not.”

Thank you, delegates, and remember: Solidarity Now and Solidarity Forever. 

Controversy Erupts On Social Media Over Special Education Funding Task Force Resolution

House Concurrent Resolution #34, introduced on June 29th last year, will be on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting tomorrow.  One line in the legislation offended many, including myself, when it was brought to my attention.

WHEREAS, special education represents a growing financial burden on school districts as the need for services increases.

I can pretty much guarantee any parent of a student with disabilities would take offense to that wording.  While it is true that special education costs have risen over the past decade, referring to those costs as a “financial burden” is not a wise choice of words.  Schools have an obligation, under both state and federal law, to provide those services regardless of cost.  Which is exactly how folks took it on social media last night.  I do not think that was the intent of the legislators who sponsored the bill.

As well, parents took offense to there only being one slot on this task force for a parent.  That seat would be determined by the Delaware PTA.  The bill has an odd mix of sponsors.  With the majority of the sponsors as Republicans, some wondered why Democrat State Senator Nicole Poore would sign on as the prime Senate sponsor.  In addition,  Democrat State Rep. Ed Osienski also signed on as a co-sponsor.

State Senator Brian Pettyjohn joined in on the conversation and doubted the resolution would appear in the Delaware Senate.

Last week, news from Texas regarding allegations against the Texas Education Agency shocked Americans everywhere.  A report said the TEA was limiting the number of special education students in The Lonestar State since 2004.  Their special education population dropped from 11% to 8% over a seven-year period even though most states saw dramatic increases in those student populations.  Many blame caps instituted by the Texas legislature on special education funding.  Which is eerily similar to the recommendations a task force like this could come out with.

While I don’t believe there was ill intent with this legislation, the optics on it could not be worse.  In conjunction with the news from Texas, a lawsuit filed by the Delaware ACLU today against the state has special education funding as part of the overall complaint with education funding.

I have been saying for years that Delaware needs to revamp how they submit payments in their state financial system.  No one follows the recommended spending codes so it is impossible to track how money is being spent.  Especially with special education.  That should be an easy problem for our legislators to fix but no one wants to take up the baton.  Not sure why.  It isn’t a change to the Delaware Constitution.  It would be a simple bill mandating our school districts and charter schools accurately code expenditures in a uniform process.  And the Delaware Department of Education would have to oversee this and implement regulations in regards to Delaware state code.  Any task force, committee, workgroup or other such thing looking at any facet of education spending is useless until this is done first.  Which legislator wants to twirl a baton?  Anyone?

Meanwhile, HCR #34 is on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting.  Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews said DSEA does not support the legislation on one of the Facebook posts that came out last night.  I would hope that when legislation like this comes out that our state legislators would look at the wording of their bills or resolutions.  The people are watching them.

Is This The Guy Pulling Carney’s Strings?

I’ve been looking for a common thread in everything I’ve written about what is taking place in Delaware education.  One person, so deeply embedded in the forces that are privatizing public education before our very eyes.  I believe I found it.  A common link to the initiatives taking place.  The Public/Private partnerships.  Workforce Development.  The Delaware Business Roundtable and the Delaware Chamber of Commerce.  The Rodel/Vision Coalition.  Personalized Learning.  The philanthropic ventures into public education.  Pathways to Prosperity.  I believe I just found the most powerful person in Delaware who is calling ALL the shots.  And most of you have probably never even heard the name. Continue reading “Is This The Guy Pulling Carney’s Strings?”

The Optics Of Politics

I came back from Star Wars: The Last Jedi last Friday night and saw a post from Steve Newton on Facebook.  I always read his posts because I know they are going to be interesting.  Once I read the second sentence, I knew somehow I was going to be a part of this post.  Since Steve specifically said at the end of it not to reply with reasons or justifications, I gave a brief reply acknowledging he was talking about me and fully owning my posts about one of the two people he was talking about in his post.  Since then, Steve has taken it upon himself to wage some bizarre one-man crusade against the validity of this blog.  See the comments section over on Blue Delaware.  You can read Steve’s opening salvo he posted on Facebook in that article.  I also posted an article mainly in reply to Steve’s post.  It was already in my drafts folder but I added to it due to the nature of Steve’s post.

This is what I wrote in reply to Steve’s original post: Continue reading “The Optics Of Politics”

17 Who Made An Impact In 2017: The Providence Creek “We’re Worried” Crew

Last Spring, a bunch of teachers and staff at Providence Creek Academy assembled to voice concerns about working conditions at Providence Creek Academy. They had some definite beefs with the way things were run, especially with the Principal and the Head of School. Ultimately, they brought their concerns to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education. While the DOE was unable to substantiate their claims, they initiated an important question: should charter school teachers be unionized?

Over Labor Day, they contacted me indicating they had enough votes to be able to join the Delaware State Education Association. Last month, they emailed me they no longer had those votes. But I always saluted their courage and bravery in their attempt. They never contacted me individually, always as a group. To this day, I could not tell you one member of the group. They had a very legitimate fear that if they did announce their names they would have been terminated from the school. I can’t blame them one bit for feeling that way. Delaware is an at will state and without union representation, charter school teachers can be terminated for pretty much any reason. Whether it is justified or not. And speaking up about a hostile working environment can be very dangerous. I truly wish we lived in a world where any teacher could use their voice without that fear, but that is not the world we live in unfortunately.

At the very least, I hope some of those situations at Providence Creek Academy did change for the teachers and staff. Whether it is one voice or half their staff, no one should have to live with fear is as their top concern.

Is Regulation 225 A Union-Busting Measure? Know When You Are Being Used!

Ever since Regulation 225 hit the Delaware Registrar of Regulations, I’ve been scratching my head over it. I’ve gone back and forth on it a few dozen times. To be crystal clear, I support any anti-discrimination measure for ANY student. No questions asked. Some of the Facebook comments I’ve seen from some who oppose the bill are filled with hate and misunderstanding. I’ve wondered what the purpose behind all this was, and today I may have received an answer. Continue reading “Is Regulation 225 A Union-Busting Measure? Know When You Are Being Used!”

Mike Matthews Speaks!

Finally!  After weeks of Delaware Governor John Carney’s posturing about his plans for the Christina School District Wilmington schools, Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews gave a shout-out to his fellow DSEA members about the rapidly developing situation.

Being at the table doesn’t mean you are in full collaboration with the rest of the table.  But it is a slippery slope.  Cause sometimes they will serve you on the table.  Carney’s Springfield gambit has more holes than a donut shop.  The Springfield teachers union was not on board with this at all despite any mainstream articles you read about it.  I fully expect DSEA and the Christina local to speak out 100% against this when the time comes.

In looking at the demographics between Christina and Springfield, I noticed the student populations are vastly different.  While Springfield’s largest minority is Hispanic students, Christina’s Wilmington students are mostly African-American.  This represents different needs and approaches right off the bat.  For those who see this is a softer approach to Christina, I don’t.  I see it as a forced coercion on the part of the Governor and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  And it appears they have the usual suspects pimping for them.

Hysterical Providence Creek Email Surfaces. Sad Part Is She Was Serious…

You gotta keep ’em separated. -The Offspring

I received the following email today.  This concerns the “solution” that Providence Creek Academy, a charter school in Clayton, DE, implemented when students weren’t getting along.  Yes, let’s punish whole grades of classes because of the actions of a few.  That is always a smart thing to do!  Especially on the playground.  Weird.  Just weird…

From: Messick Joan
Sent: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 1:15 PM

Subject: Lunch/Recess – Seventh and Eight Grade Students

Good Morning Upper School Team

First, I apologize for not getting this out sooner.

On Thursday, there were several students reporting issues between the seventh and  eighth grade students.  The issues, in my opinion, seem to be brought on by some students intentionally starting arguments between other student and there seem to be issues about who should be where during recess time.  Since seventh and eighth grade students must follow a similar schedule, there isn’t much we can do to separate them during lunch and recess.  This morning I went to all special classes and stem so that I could have the opportunity to talk to all students.  The conversation was pretty one sided and I asked them to listen.  I did ask that if they had any questions, comments, suggestions, complaints or just want to share, they should write it down and ask that a staff member put it in my mail box. 

Side bar, we did have students, a parent, staff members concerned that if we don’t try and do something to be proactive the issues would escalate and change the climate in the upper school for the worse.  At this point it is fair to say that the issues are disrupting recess/lunch, disrupting the educational environment AND students are using social media to make comments that could be considered threatening in nature and there are implications that they might harm another student at school.  We are going to try some things to see if we can calm the issues. 

Starting today, we painted a line on the upper school playground.   Please have the seventh grade on one side of the line and eighth grade on the other side of the line.  We put a path on one side so that when those students are entering the building they don’t have to cross path with the other grade level.  I would have one grade level go in and wait two minutes and have the other grade level go in allowing enough time for the first group to enter their classrooms.  I am in the process in meeting with staff to keep them informed about what is happening and I would appreciate your feedback and suggestions since we will probably meet to discuss what is working, what is not and see if we need to make any additional changes.  Recess is a privilege, not a right.  Please reply to me, not “reply all”. 

Seventh and Eighth Grade students can take turns using each side.  I understand there is a upper school team meeting today after school, please decide as a team how you would like to rotate the grades by day or by week and please let me know.  We think that day on day off would be better because some students might have basketball withdrawalJ. Honestly, I feel sad that we have to do this since SO MANY of our students love recess and are using that time to get some energy out and relax with friends….

Thank you for your consideration and help.  Please keep me informed if there is anything you need and I would really appreciate it if you would send me an e-mail so that I have something that I can use as a resource with names, times and some basic information; And it will help to keep track in case I need to.  I am required to report documented reports of bullying and your e-mails help me with that.  More to follow….Take care.

Lastly, I have already gotten feedback from students and those that have responded think that this is a good solution. 

Joan

 

While I salute Ms. Messick for attempting a solution, does she understand that sometimes kids will be kids?  I understand schools sometimes have to think of creative solutions to problems, but what if some of these 7th and 8th graders actually enjoyed each other and had friendships? If some students are causing issues, deal with those students.  With that being said, I do think it’s great 7th and 8th graders get to enjoy recess.  This email is over a year old so hopefully it all got straightened out.  Any PCA associated people know if this playground line is still in existence?

In other PCA news, many have reached out to me privately to find out how the We’re Worried group is doing.  I have not heard a peep since their Labor Day email when they announced their intent to join DSEA (the state teacher association).  All in good time!

Governor Carney’s Slimy Obsession With Public-Private Partnerships & The Erosion Of Public Trust With His Springfield Trip

Delaware Governor John Carney is throwing Delaware’s public school system under the bus and he will begin this transition with the Christina School District.  Yesterday, he sent an unannounced delegation to Springfield, Massachusetts that included far more than those on his public schedule.  This group included Assistant Superintendent Noreen LaSorsa, Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Chair Tony Allen (who received his invite on September 23rd), Christina Education Association President Darren Tyson, and an unnamed member of the Delaware State Education Association (which was their legislative liason, Kristin Dwyer).  I’m sure Carney’s Education Policy Advisor Jon Sheehan attended as well.

The News Journal covered the trip in an article by Jessica Bies:

Despite school board members asking to be equal partners in the effort, there were no members of that group on the trip.

Carney apparently seems to think Tony Allen is a better choice to bring on trips about Christina than the actual board members:

Tony Allen, chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, on the other hand, has known about the trip since at least Sept. 23, he confirmed Friday. He said he was invited sometime before that.

In the article, it said Board President George Evans received an invite “very recently” but was unable to attend.  Board Vice President Fred Polaski said he didn’t even know about it until a reporter called him.

Christina Board member John Young had plenty to say about this trip on his Facebook account this evening:

Delaware officials touring a Massachusetts effort run by an unelected governing board under a 501(c)-3, just like DE charters for possible use in Christina. On its face it certainly appears that Governor John Carney does not intend to partner with Christina, but deploy untested, unproven ideas on us. I honestly took him at his word Tuesday, now it seems like I may have been wrong to do so. Google Springfield Empowerment Zone if you want the 411 on this ed reform trainwreck that’s seemingly on the way. I am disappointed that mere days after agreeing to engage us within the rules that govern public meetings and board actions, a delegation was sent out of state to “research” a model to insert into CSD and usurp local control, possibly placing millions and millions of dollars into the hands of an appointed board without any elected representation from Christina.

Carney is playing the exact same kind of education games Jack Markell played.  I’m not sure which is worse at this point, but at the rate Carney is going I have to go with our latest corporate education reform Governor.  What makes Carney so dangerous is his throw it in your face backdoor dealings.  He doesn’t care who he pisses off.  As long as he has his select cabal to go along with his plans.  Transparency is a thing of the past with this Governor.  He is initiating very scumbag moves.

There can never be public trust with John Carney.  Never.  He has proven that multiple times.  He is getting our legislators to think his hocus-pocus public-private partnership scams are perfectly okay.  There is no collaboration with Carney.  If you don’t go along with his vision, he will go ahead and do it anyway.  The very fact that Carney wants to emulate a flash-in-the-pan scam like this where the “partnership” creates a board to oversee these schools separate from the local education agency board of education where the state picks the four board members and the district the other three shows an immediate state control of Christina’s Wilmington schools.  But his contempt for local authority was not missed by Young in the News Journal article:

It has become clear the trip was planned in advance of that meeting, school board member John Young said, which concerns him because if the Springfield model ends up being the basis for the Christina partnership, it would suggest the outcome was predetermined and the school board didn’t actually have any say in the matter.

That’s right Mr. Young.  Carney doesn’t want the Christina board to have any say because he knows they would say no.  This is priority schools all over again except this time Carney is very upfront about selling these schools off to a corporate entity.  Call it a non-profit all you want.  I’m sure the overlords of this non-profit would exact their pound of flesh from the district in the form of certain salaries and operating expenses.

Where is DSEA President Mike Matthew on this?  He has been very quiet about all this since it came out in the past week.  I would think, given his resistance to the priority schools fiasco, he would oppose this.  But he has been silent and I would like to know why.  Especially given what Bies said in the article:

Legislators in Massachusetts say the program is “compelling” and has made it possible for the state to effect educational change without seizing local control from school districts. Yet, teachers unions have complained that it removes control of schools from local officials and puts it more in the hands of the state.

What is to stop this from spreading out from Christina?  I have no doubt Carney will push this on other districts as well.  Especially when their Smarter Balanced Assessment scores don’t meet his fake standards.  Once again, the Christina Board of Education will have to stand up against the evil empire (the state) to prevent further erosion in local control even though Carney’s crappy vision ridiculously suggests it would give more local control.

I  have no doubt Carney will sell more of his public-private partnership encyclopedia salesman malarkey throughout his term as Governor (a one-term Governor I hope and pray).  But what he is really doing is selling his state away.  He is evaporating transparency with his Family Services Cabinet Council and the non-public board meetings of his public-private partnership board at a state level.  The Delaware Department of Education seems to be okay with this and I have never been more annoyed with Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting for going along with this dog and pony show.  But I suppose that’s why Carney picked her for this post.  She has become Carney’s yes woman.  But what should I expect from the Rodel-Vision circle of followers?  This is not the change promised by Carney in terms of the Delaware DOE.  They aren’t a support network for schools.  He has found a way for them to micro-manage our schools more than ever with this nonsense.  But he wraps it in his public-private partnership bow.

As for Tony Allen, he is being used in a big way for the second time by a Delaware Governor.  Markell used him and threw him out with the whole WEIC plan.  Now Carney is sucking him in with his big vision for Christina.  I would think Allen would be too busy with his new Del State job, but I guess not.  Not listed in the article is another attendee, Nnamdi Chukwuocha.  This Wilmington City Councilman actually thought it was a good idea for corporations to take over public schools in the infamous Christina priority schools board meeting when he gave his public comment back in September, 2014.  More of Carney surrounding himself with those who will suck up to him, allow themselves to be used, or whatever empty promise or vapor he whispered in their ears.

The Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, and our past two Governors have had a consistent hard-on for the Christina School District.  Once they get their hooks into them it is only a matter of time until the infection spreads.  Delaware is a small state so it would not come as a shock to me that we are a model state to completely destroy the word public in public education.

This whole thing stinks like hell and I hope Delawareans who do care about public education wise up and stand up fast to this fake Governor and his shallow followers.  If Mike Matthews is the man I believe him to be, he will fight this tooth and nail.  If he even entertains this notion, I will publicly shame him and my support for DSEA will be done.  If he does not publicly go against this, it will prove he ran for President of DSEA for the power.

The Springfield model is a fake.  It is just another way for Carney and other corporate education reform politicians to erode local control away and give power to states who in turn give out taxpayer money to idiotic companies who have taken more money away from the classroom than anything else since public education was first invented.

I am beginning to doubt any sincerity from John Carney.  This whole district consolidation task force seems to be the big distraction.  “Look here and pay attention to that while I spin my web of lies somewhere else in places you would never think to look.”  The problem with Carney is his ego.  He really is as transparent as Saran Wrap.  I don’t look at him and think, “what a great politician I can trust”.  I think, “That guy can’t be trusted at all.  He’s up to something.”  We all know the type.  But that seems to be okay for over half of Delaware who put the guy in power with an empty campaign that essentially had no platform we hadn’t heard before.  This is what happens when you reward a false sense of entitlement Delaware voters.