Mike Matthews’ First Day As DSEA President

Mike Matthews became the next President of the Delaware State Education Association today.  Taking over from outgoing President, Frederika Jenner, Matthews will undoubtedly generate news over the next few years.  After an actual tie in the election last January, Matthews won in a run-off election two months later.

With the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act in our schools, more personalized learning/competency-based education crap, the usual teacher evaluation based on Smarter Balanced, and all the budgetary/legislative stuff going on, look for Matthews to have his hands full the next few years.  Today, he sent out a letter to Delaware DSEA educators:

A Message from DSEA President Mike Matthews


Dear Fellow Educator:

Today I begin a new journey as DSEA President. Throughout my career as an educator, DSEA has been the strongest voice to ensure our members and students have what they need to succeed. I look forward to continuing this strong tradition of advocacy, but will need your help to be successful. Stay informed by reading our e-newsletters Professionally Speaking, which covers all manner of education policy news, as well as Legislative Matters, which provides comprehensive coverage of the legislative developments impacting public education and educators.  Also, DSEA maintains active social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and publishes an all-member newspaper, ACTION, on a quarterly basis.  These are just a few of the many ways in which you can stay informed and continue to advocate for your students.


Over the next few years, working with our network of strong local leaders, I hope you will share your stories with me about what’s going on in your school. Share with me the good… Share with me the not-so-good.  I intend for open and honest communication to be an important piece of my time as DSEA President.  To that end, please feel free to contact me to share those stories.  My email is Mike.Matthews@dsea.org.


Together, our unified, collective voice can speak up on behalf of our colleagues and the students we advocate for every day. I hope you are enjoying your summer and I look forward to working with you in the near future. Thank you for all that you do.

In Solidarity,
Mike

The Mind of Mr. Matthews Makes Way For President Matthews

Mike Matthews doesn’t have to teach for the next three school years!  Instead, he will be taking over from Frederika Jenner as the President of the Delaware State Education Association beginning July 15th.  Today, Mike got his final evaluation before he takes off to Water St. in Dover.  He reflected on this evaluation and much more in his Facebook status earlier this afternoon.  I’m going to say right now, I expect a lot out of Mike the next three years.  My expectations are very high.  Are we going to agree on everything?  Hell no.  I expect we will have our fair share of disagreements.  I also want to wish the very best to the outgoing President, Frederika Jenner.  I never really had the opportunity to get to know Frederika, and I will regret that.  I was very tough on her a couple of years ago, and once again, I apologize to Frederika for that.  But back to President Matthews…

I finish my year at Cooke Elementary with a totally different worldview. I had an excellent Component V conference with my administrator this morning. Now, that’s not to say I’m a fan of Component V. I’m still 100% absolutely against using standardized test scores of students on an educator’s evaluation.

The meeting was productive because it laid bare and confirmed my thoughts over the last few years. Whereas students at my other schools often showed lower proficiency, but high percentages of growth, my students at Cooke showed amazingly high proficiency at the beginning of the year, but some of the Smarter Balanced growth goals set by the state were so high, that a handful of my students didn’t meet them. Consequently, I was one student away from getting an “Exceeds” rating on my Measure A Component V.

It’s a different world at Cooke, with different challenges and successes from what I experienced at Warner and Richardson Park. But my resolve remains: I feel that our educators should not be judged based on a system that has never been shown to be a valid or reliable measure of teacher effectiveness.

I’ll miss being in the classroom next year, but will certainly be fighting like hell with the awesome DSEA team and educators and professionals throughout the state to lobby and advocate for a teacher and specialist evaluation system that respects the work they do.

Mike Matthews On Personalized Learning And Digital Technology In The Classroom

The upcoming Delaware State Education Association President, Mike Matthews, just wrote an excellent post on Facebook about the rise of digital technology and personalized learning in the classroom.  His post was in response to the recent announcements by various Delaware school districts of Reduction in Workforce notices going out to schools based on Governor John Carney’s proposed budget for FY2018.

For the past several years, personalized and blended learning have been strong dialogue points in education circles. The thinking behind personalized and blending learning is that it offers different environments to meet students’ needs for learning. One of those environments is digital, where some of the learning is done on devices as opposed to direct teacher instruction or small-group instruction.

There is a belief out there by some that many education reformers and corporatists are supporting personalized and blended learning because, ultimately, it could reduce personnel costs by getting rid of large numbers of teachers. Me? I’m a fan of “personalized learning” in a very basic sense: that all learning, in effect, should be personalized to meet student needs. However, I am beginning to have some concerns with the personalized and blended learning information I’m seeing as well as the propagation of 1:1 devices in classrooms across the state.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Technology is a must in today’s digital environment and students MUST be exposed to its responsible use. However, eight years ago, then-Gov. Jack Markell made a series of devastating cuts to education. And we still haven’t recuperated from that.

Governor John Carney is proposing a series of devastating cuts to his education budget now. We never saw Gov. Markell’s cuts come back to education. Will we see Gov. Carney’s cuts come back if they’re passed by the legislature? Will these layoffs — these hundreds of human beings about to lose their jobs — be victims to technology because it’s cheaper to purchase a Chromebook than it is to pay a teacher’s salary?

Two years ago, I had a very open mind about personalized learning when I was president of the Red Clay Education Association and some fellow members introduced me to personalized learning. And, to an extent, I’m still VERY open to what personalized learning is and can be. I made sure to share with those teachers that at no time should personalized learning EVER be seen as a means to layoff and cut teachers in our schools and the they agreed with that. However, I’m concerned that these heartless and cruel layoffs coming could only grow worse as policymakers embrace the idea that technology can do cheaper or better what humans can for children.

I will never accept a world where computers take the place of living, breathing, caring human beings. We must fight like hell to bring these positions back to our school districts as quickly as possible. Anything less should be cause for direct, organized action by educators and the public that supports us across the state.

Amen Mike, Amen!  With that being said, the reaction of the state and local education associations to this technology push in our classroom will be instrumental in making sure that future never comes to pass.  DSEA will have to be at the front of the line opposing this future.  When Mike said “some believe”, those numbers are growing fast and it isn’t just a belief.  It is happening in districts across the country and it will happen here if we don’t get enough educators, parents, citizens, and students to fight it.

In Delaware, the Rodel Teacher Council has been pushing personalized learning a lot in the past couple months.  They met with legislators and the State Board of Education.  As I have said many times, I don’t believe these teachers are the bad guys.  But I don’t trust Rodel at all.  For the life of me, with everything I’ve written, I can’t understand why these teachers continue to listen to Rodel and do their bidding.  These teachers spend a lot of time working for Rodel with little to no pay for their time and effort.  At the end of the day, Rodel is a corporation.  They may say they are a non-profit, but when their CEO Dr. Paul Herdman makes over $350,000 a year, that gives me considerable pause.

The personalized learning push goes beyond computers replacing teachers though.  There is the matter of massive exposure to screen time and what kind of effects that has on students.  There is the massive amount of data collection.  There is the presumption by many that the algorithms in many of these apps and learning programs are being used to push students toward certain types of future careers.  There is the competency-based education aspect of it all that has a severe danger of putting at-risk students even further behind than their peers.  While I don’t expect many to get this yet, they soon will.  Right now, I am John the Baptist, wandering around in the wilderness warning everyone.  A madman?  No.  One who would rather prophet for students than profit from students?  Yes.

The Rodel Teacher Council Policy Briefs & Why Delaware Teachers Need To Be VERY Concerned

I’ve heard from more than a few teachers in the past hour since I posted about the Rodel Teacher Council’s presentation to the State Board of Education.  Many were unaware of what this very small group of Delaware teachers have been up to and how it could impact the future of their profession.  I wanted to follow-up on that article with this set of “policy briefs” created by this teacher council.  What could happen is this corporate education reform hocus-pocus is all of a sudden written into Delaware state code without anyone the wiser.  This would be done by our General Assembly who Rodel has been making nicey-nice with in the past year.  I would strongly urge all the local teacher unions and the Delaware State Education Association to get on top of this as soon as humanly possible and find out what the hell some of the teachers in their districts are doing with all this in the name of Rodel.  I’ve been warning about these possibilities for a long time.  But it will take much more than me to stop this from becoming the new reality.

For months, I’ve heard Delaware Governor John Carney talk about “public and private partnerships”.  Funny how the Rodelians mention this very same thing in their policy briefs issued last November.  If you think for one second John Carney is not under Rodel’s thumb, think again!

I’ve written about “Social Impact Bonds” before.  Where companies come in and essentially make bets on student outcomes.  Now we see “Innovation Funding”, also known as crowdsourcing, where communities “invest” in schools so someone can make a whole lot of money.  As well, the state won’t have to pay for it.  But all that comes with a price.  The future generation of students who will be fully immersed in this nonsense will become nothing more than drones to the corporations as true local decision-making becomes a thing of the past.  Meanwhile, all the “smart” and “wealthy” kids will be attending private schools paid for, in part, by school vouchers.

The below documents were created last November but they are making their rounds with the decision-makers in Delaware education.  This is Paul Herdman’s ultimate vision folks.  Everything else has just been a sideshow compared to this.  They can come out with all the pretty and colorful presentations they want.  But as long as people keep swallowing their pills, this will continue.  It will never change until people demand our Department of Education, our legislators, and our schools stop adopting Rodel’s corporate greed-driven drivel.  And for the love of all that is holy, will education stakeholders who really should know better please get off the Vision Coalition?  All you are doing is prolonging the existence of Rodel.  DSEA, DASA, and DSBA need to inform all those who pay dues to them of every single aspect of these policies and let their members decide how to deal with this.  Decisions like this should not be brought forth by 22 Delaware teachers speaking for the entire teaching force in Delaware.

Mark Murphy Spews Sour Grapes About His Time As Delaware Secretary of Education

Do you want some cheese with that wine Mark Murphy?  That is the thrust of an online article from The Job in which Mark Murphy laments his time as the Delaware Secretary of Education.  Murphy gets it wrong on so many levels it isn’t even funny.

Frankly, kids’ interests and adults’ interests don’t always align. Kids have no power, no say, no decision-making authority, no money — so nobody has a real reason to listen to kids. Go shadow a high-school kid for a day — good luck staying awake. You have to walk from class to class, with four minutes between each bell. You have to raise your hand to go to the bathroom. It is so disempowering and so boring.

Yes, he did use the word boring.  Because we are desperately clamoring for high school students to do whatever they want in school.  I’m terribly sorry Murphy had to exercise so much while shadowing a high school kid.  He did always seem fit.  Perhaps that is why.  Let’s be very clear on something.  Teenagers are trying to figure out who they are.  They are going through puberty.  I’m not saying their voice isn’t important, but adults often need to be the ones to make decisions for students.  It isn’t because they are on a power trip, it is because they went through their teenage years and entered adulthood (well, most of them did).  They went through it and came out on the other side and know what works and what doesn’t.  But then a bunch of billionaires got together and decided they knew what was best for education.  They used students and parents in their quest to get rid of teacher unions.  That is whose side you were always on.

What would happen is, I would feel like I had reached an agreement with the union leadership, but then they came back a month or two later and that wasn’t how their membership felt. I should have spent more time meeting with local leadership. In hindsight, I would have done that differently.

Yes Mark, you should have.  It sounds to me like the union leadership wasn’t also aware of what was happening at the ground level either or perhaps they were just placating you.  The union leadership should reach out to their membership before making agreements on their behalf.  If that is how it went down.

Each time you try to turn around a school, or you open or close a charter school, or disagree with the union, you punch another hole in the bucket and you start to drain out. You lose some political capital. Eventually, you’re out of water.

Mark, you became the Delaware Secretary of Education at the worst possible time in Delaware.  Post Race to the Top and knee-deep in Markell’s very bad education policies.  We are seeing a lot of those policies reversed throughout the country.  Being a leader is allowing yourself to stand up to the criticism and not letting it get to you.  If you ran out of water that’s because you kept listening to the same people over and over again and were not willing to hear what was happening at the grass-roots level.

If every kid had access to a middle-class lifestyle, the country would be a much better place, and people wouldn’t be so angry about all the immigrants.

The two don’t really intersect Mark.  I know the goal is for every kid to be the same, but good luck with that.  The bad education policies you pushed on Delaware at the behest of your education totalitarian boss, Jack Markell, failed because they did not look at the individual, only the collective.  Not sure where your immigration comment comes in.

I am really nervous that really great people are going to stop being willing to pursue public office because you get publicly and professionally assassinated in these jobs.

Does this mean you see yourself as “really great people” Mark?  Since I became involved in Delaware public education a few years ago, I have seen three Delaware Secretaries of Education: yourself, Dr. Steven Godowsky, and Dr. Susan Bunting.  Both Godowsky and Bunting treated me with respect although we do not always agree on policy.  When you were around, you didn’t give me the time of day.  You treated opt out parents as if they were somehow beneath you and should be squashed like a bug.  You didn’t even mention the Rodel Foundation in this article, but you listened to them far more than any educator, student, or parent.  The priority schools initiative was the death knell of your time as the Delaware Secretary.  The whole thing was a Delaware Dept. of Education public relations nightmare from the onset.  It was shoddily planned and I would have to think you knew that.

If you’re a teacher in one of these schools, the new principal who comes into the school should decide whether you stay or whether you don’t stay. The teachers’ union was quite upset about that.

Of course they would be upset about it because the whole basis for this was standardized test scores.  It failed to address issues such as trauma, special education, segregation, and the individual student.  Who wants some corporate education reform Principal hand-picked by the Delaware DOE to come in and can a ton of teachers over Smarter Balanced scores?  That’s why parents and citizens also objected to this plan.  The biggest failure was your inability to predict the severity of the public backlash for this.  I have to think you felt so empowered at the height of the corporate education reform movement that you felt infallible.  No human being is infallible.

In retrospect Mark, this sounds like sour grapes on your part.  You cast far too much blame on others while failing to address your own failures in your term.  Playing around with the priority schools funding was the final straw.  You can’t make promises and then back away from them.  I’m not sure why you blame the unions for all that is wrong with public education.  I know that is the corporate education reform mantra, but perhaps you should think of your own future and get off the shame and blame bus.

Enrollment Preferences Bill Released From Committee But Newark Charter School Exclusion Remains Controversial

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 was released from the Delaware House Education Committee today.  There are very serious concerns due to a “compromise” brought forth by the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  The bone of contention surrounds the Christina School District and Newark Charter School.  Since a portion of Christina exists in Wilmington, those students would not be considered in the enrollment preference which includes all students in a choice school’s district.  The line of thinking appears to be the district section of Wilmington is not connected to the rest of the district.  However, those who oppose this section of the bill feel it is a barrier for Wilmington students who are part of the Christina School District.

Today, State Rep. John Kowalko is bringing forth an amendment but no one on the committee knew specifically what the amendment was.  State Rep. Kim Williams, the primary sponsor of the bill, stated she assumes it would be to remove lines 7-9 of the bill which would give Newark Charter School their Wilmington exclusion.  Williams said she would not support the amendment because she gave her word to Senator David Sokola.  This, apparently, was an addition to the bill from Senator Sokola which caused the House Substitute bill from the original House Bill 85.  State Rep. Joe Miro said he would not support the bill if the amendment passed.

State Rep. Sean Matthews said he is in support of the bill but does not feel the bill serves all students in the Christina School District.  He felt the bill does not allow for Wilmington students to go to Newark Charter School and the exclusion for NCS was put in so it can pass the Delaware Senate.

If Newark Charter School is so good, they should take all students. -State Rep. Sean Matthews

State Rep. Deb Heffernan agreed with Matthews.  The bill was released with 11 votes in favor of the bill.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the Delaware Department of Education is taking a neutral stance on the bill.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, said former State Board member R.L. Hughes was on the Enrollment Preferences Task Force and voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius. Kristin Dwyer, the Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing,  said she is happy the conversation is opened with this bill but DSEA does not feel the bill goes far enough.  DSEA feels the 5-mile radius should be completely removed.

My concerns with this bill are the very nature of Newark Charter School to begin with.  Even with their 5-mile radius, their student populations do not reflect that of the Greater Newark area.  This is the public comment I gave to the committee and my idea for a potential amendment.

While I am very happy to see this bill, I have concerns around Newark Charter School. When the charter school had their major modification approved to build their high school, they were instructed with formulating a plan to allow for more diversity in their district.  I have yet to see that materialize, even within their current 5 mile radius.  While their special education numbers have increased, they are still woefully under what the state average is, much less the Christina School District.  In the school profile for this school year, African-Americans represent 10.7% of their student population compared to 39.4% of Christina.  While factoring in the African-American population of the Wilmington contingent of Christina student population, the greater Newark area has a much higher population of African-Americans compared to NCS.  I would recommend an amendment be placed on this bill for a weighted lottery for charter schools, magnets, and any choice school where the demographics are disproportionately lower than that of the surrounding district to allow populations that do not seem to be getting access to certain charter school even footing and representation within those schools.  Enrollment preferences are meant to allow the most disadvantaged students into choice schools, not to keep them out. Thank you.

The bill, if passed, would take place immediately.  However, it would not be able to kick in until the 2018-2019 school year since the school choice calendar for the 2017-2018 school year closed in January.  During the House Bill 90 Enrollment Preferences Task Force, the majority of the members voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius as an enrollment preference for choice schools.  Williams said she does not necessarily agree with the Newark Charter School exclusion, but felt compromise was necessary.  If the bill didn’t move forward, she would not be able to help any students.

Once Kowalko’s amendment is public, I will add it to this article.

Apples, Oranges, & The Myth Of Grading Schools: The True Goals Behind Bad Education Policy

Atnre Alleyne came out with a blog post this morning supporting a Governor Carney idea where Delaware rates schools with stars.  Of course he did!  I don’t care what you label them with: stars, letter grades, numbers, or rocket ships.  It all translates to a comparison between apples and oranges.  What I find most ironic about Alleyne’s post is how self-serving this is for him.  As the guy behind Delaware Can, any school labeling further perpetuates the myth that companies like that thrive on: label, shame, and punish.  Alleyne’s personal war against the Delaware State Education Association is filled with holes and misdemeanors!  I thought I would pick apart a few of his “facts” and “myths”.

The Fallacy of Surveys

Thousands of Delawareans responded to the Delaware Department of Education’s 2014 survey indicating they want school performance ratings.

When you come out with a survey that doesn’t even ask the question “Do you think Delaware should have school performance ratings?” and you continue that survey with questions about those ratings, I don’t think it is fair to say that means “thousands of Delawareans” wanted this.  The survey predetermined the school report cards was going to happen (as required by federal law) but that in no way to translates to the citizens of Delaware demanding this system.

Self-Serving Agendas

Recently a coalition of 24 community and business groups also sent the Department a letter with recommendations for the state’s ESSA plan that called for a “single summary rating for schools and districts…in order to ensure clarity for parents and community members.”

And who led that band of public education marauders, disguised as organizations wanting to help public education?  Who corralled and convinced these 24 mostly non-profits who would benefit from what Alleyne wants?  Who was also on the Governor’s Advisory Committee for the state ESSA plan and in a position to leverage his agenda?  Yes, none other than Atnre Alleyne.

The Rating-Label Scheme

MYTH: School ratings are more of the type of “testing, labeling, and punishing” we do not need in our schools.

Yes, they are.  Given that the weighting of these report cards is over 50% towards results from the Smarter Balanced Assessment so carefully masked as two different categories: growth and proficiency, it most certainly is a testing, labeling, and punishing apparatus.

Even The Feds Are Backing Away From Bad Education Policy

Today, federal law requires that we identify and “label” the bottom 5 percent of schools in our state. The school report cards to which the Department has committed renames those schools – from Priority and Focus schools to   Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI) and Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) schools – and continues its support for these schools with access to more money and assistance. That’s not punishment. It’s being honest about where and how we need to help our schools.

A label is still a label even if you change the wording.  I love the word “Targeted” because that is exactly what this system does.  Jack Markell loved this and apparently Governor Carney does as well.  U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos seems to be backing away from a federal accountability system and leaving it up to the states.  Governor Markell embedded that system into Delaware and our whole education system is based on this.  Alleyne, who used to work for the Delaware Dept. of Education, is very familiar with this system and knows exactly what it is meant for.

The Growth In Our Education System Is Malignant

It’s also important to remember that growth measures, which take into account how much a student’s performance has grown over a school year, also benefits schools with higher performing students in ensuring they help their students grow, as well.

Okay, this is the part that absolutely kills me!  If a school has higher performing students, i.e., the average proficiency on SBAC is 3.87 out of 4, that does not leave much room for growth.  But the illusion of having a growth goal of students reaching a 3.9 proficiency is not out of the ballpark.  It is doable and can certainly happen.  Take a school with a high population of low-income and students with disabilities, where the average SBAC proficiency is 1.24 and the growth goal to proficiency is 2.0, the whole system changes.  The work needed to get to that score, with more challenging students with much higher needs, multiplies at an exponential rate.  The odds of that school reaching that goal are much lower than the “high-performing” school that only needs to go up a tiny bit to reach their growth goals.  It is comparing apples and oranges.

Judging The Haves and The Have-Nots And Voucherizing Students

MYTH: If you give schools a rating parents are just going to use that single rating to judge schools and ignore all the other information about a school’s performance.

This is an exercise in futility.  This is the difference between the “haves” and the “have-nots”.  The “haves” will utilize this system to find the “best” school for their child.  Many of the “have-nots”, who in many cases aren’t even aware a system like this even exists, will simply send their child to the local neighborhood school.  In the midst of this landscape we have the issue of school vouchers coming to the front burner.  So much so that the feds are willing to dump all this truly bad accountability crap out the window in favor of a voucher system that will make private schools the next big thing.  For reasons they aren’t saying, this will be the cushion for students from wealthier families for what happens next.  See more on this later.

How To Place Yourself In An Area Of “Importance”

Our goal, as advocates and policymakers, must be to equip parents and taxpayers with school quality information that is easy to understand, fair, and consistent.

Notice Alleyne uses the word “Our”, as if he is the man behind the curtain waving the magic wand that mesmerizes his audience into taking his every word as the Gospel truth.  For a guy that makes a living based on the very worst of corporate education reform Kool-Aid disguised as helping disadvantaged students, I encourage all Delawareans to take what he says with a grain of salt.  Having met Alleyne in person, he is a nice guy.  But his education policy and what he advocates for causes alarm bells to go off in my head.  I get why he does what he does, but he is just another victim of the bad education policy that is fighting for its last legs in the new era of Trumplandia.  I completely understand that he wants better education outcomes for minority students.  I do as well.  I also want that for students with disabilities and English Language learners.  It is the way Alleyne wants this that bothers me.  If society as a whole has not learned the valuable lesson that the continued use of high-stakes testing is just plain bad for public education, than folks like Alleyne will continue to spread their “myths” and “facts”.  I say opt out of not just the high-stakes testing but also opt out of false edu-speak that exists to sway parents of student populations and trapping them in a system where testing reigns supreme.

What’s Up With All The Teacher Union Hate?

If there is one consistent question I’ve been asked by parents who seek to understand this system of high-stakes tests it is this: if we don’t use these tests how do we measure how our schools are doing?  It’s a damn good question and I won’t pretend to have the answer.  I have always suggested that a student’s classroom grades are more of a true measure than these once a year test scores.  I don’t believe in students going on to the next grade if they aren’t ready.  That is when parents need to carefully watch their child’s progress.  It is not the end of the world if a student is held back.  We need to also trust our teachers that their years of preparation and continued training serve to benefit our child’s success in education.  If you have doubts about a teacher’s effectiveness than certainly question it.  I believe it is our sacred duty to do so.  But when we are given lie after lie about teachers from these education think tanks about how bad unions are and how they only want what is best for them, we have to recognize the truth: these companies do NOT want teacher unions to exist at all.  They don’t like the idea of teacher’s organizing on behalf of themselves because it takes away from their profit-making ventures.  The sad part is how so many parents actually believe these horrible lies about public education.  So when unions fight against these bad policies they are immediately painted as the villain in articles like the one Alleyne wrote today.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the teacher unions are perfect.  But I don’t think any organization, school, parent, student, or state agency is perfect.  But there is a clear difference between offense and defense.  I see corporate education reformers as a vicious marauder into areas where they have no business being in.  The predictable result is teacher unions going on the defense against these schemes and agendas.

Opt Out Is The Only Defense

The only way to fight a bad system is to ignore it.  This is why I have always defended a parent’s fundamental and God-given right to opt out of these silly little standardized tests.  I refuse to give them the clout these companies think they deserve.  I would rather hear the word of the teacher in the classroom who is on the ground floor watching the colossal waste of time these tests have.  They are expensive, take up true teaching time, take up school resources, kill libraries during testing time, and the results serve no true purpose.  If you haven’t opted your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment this year, please do so now.  Even if they are already in the middle of testing.  When many parents get the Delaware DOE suggested letter from the school about how opt out is illegal and the school can’t allow it, treat it as fire-starter material for a fire-pit in your backyard.  Just write a letter to your child’s school stating you are opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, hand it to the principal, and state there is to be no further discussion on the issue.  If they attempt to dissuade you, give a pleasant “thank you but no thank you” and stand firm on your decision.

What Is A Governor To Do Facing A $385 Million Dollar Deficit?

For Delaware Governor John Carney, he faces a crucial moment.  He has to make cuts in the state budget.  There won’t be easy choices, but one should be a no-brainer: get rid of the dead and expensive weight at the Delaware DOE and get rid of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Sever the ties between the Delaware DOE and these “non-profit” for-profit education companies.  If that means getting rid of DOE employees whose sole existence is to continue what amounts to lobbying off the backs of children, just do it!

The True Goal Behind Alleyne And The Rodel Foundation

These are the end goals behind all this:

  • Get rid of the teacher unions
  • Have students learn in a 100% digital learning environment
  • Create a competency-based education system which will prevent students with high needs from advancing more than ever before
  • Track the hell out of the data in this ed-tech wonderland and create what amounts to a caste system where the best students get the best jobs and the struggling students get the menial jobs
  • Do away with brick and mortar schools and have teachers become glorified online moderators
  • Send young children to 3rd party organizations to get their “personalized learning” with Teach For America and other fast-track educator prep “teachers” guiding students
  • Have older students logged into whatever Blockchain technology is coming our way where they “earn to learn” and companies profit from teenagers

Surf-And-Turf or Filet Mignon?

We see this in agendas like Delaware’s “Pathways to Prosperity” program.  I attended Governor Carney’s Inaugural ball.  All the food was prepared and served by students in the culinary program.  The food was awesome.  But did any of those students who prepared this food get paid for their servitude?  I highly doubt it.  I have no doubt they received some type of education credit for their service while the State of Delaware says “thanks for the cheap labor”.  Or what about these “coding schools” where students pay thousands of dollars to train themselves on coding while at the same time doing work for very big companies through the training material?  Our students are nothing more than fodder for corporations.  They are the true victims in this new world and are being used by those whose biggest concern is if they should get the surf-and-turf or just the filet mignon at their next country club dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking News: Mike Matthews Is The New DSEA President

Mike Matthews just put the following post out on Facebook.  Congrats to Mike for his victory.  This was a long and hard fight, but he finally did it.  Look for a different kind of DSEA in the future!

An email has just been sent to all DSEA members. Results were shared this morning and I won the run off election for DSEA president. I’m thrilled and so happy for this. Thank you to all my supporters and thank you to my three opponents, Karen Crouse, Dom Zaffora, and Danny Rufo, who ran really great, issues-based campaigns.

Biggest thank you to my best friend and always-running mate Jackie Kook. This win is bittersweet for me, but I know she will always be there to support me and this organization.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone, and I hope that you have a great weekend.

Rodel’s Latest Can Of Spam Aims To Take The Special Out Of Special Education

The Rodel Foundation of Delaware came out with a whopper of a blog article today over on their site.  Entitled “Can Personalized Learning Defray The Cost Of Special Education?”, this article dares to suggest that personalized/blended learning can help save on special education costs.  By daring to think Rodel’s version of personalized learning (a constant zombie state whereby kids are in front of a computer all day going at their own pace) is the Dante’s Peak of education, Doc Paul Herdman and the gang have just poked this bear again.  I’ve stayed quiet with these absolute idiots for far too long.  I am wide awake.  Message received.

Why does ANYONE in this state swallow their absolute crap anymore?   What happens when these students with disabilities, who are going “at their own pace”, fall even further behind?  With this craptacular system, actual grades a student are in wouldn’t matter.  And they still have to take the not-so Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But in Rodel’s world, they want the stealth testing.  These are standardized tests embedded in the digital technology slowly taking over the classroom in Delaware.  Once a student masters the content, they can move on.  So what happens when they don’t?  What happens when they don’t get it?  They fall farther behind.  I warned about this public education hara-kiri for well over a year and half.  Now, here we are on the cusp of it.  NOW is the time for parents to stand up and say “Screw you Rodel” and to take back public education.  Our policy-makers and state officials have been drinking the Rodel Kool-Aid for 12 years now.  Enough.  Rodel doesn’t own Delaware.  We the people do.  Kids gloves are off now Rodel!  Fair warning!  And Delaware DOE and State Board of Education, if you even think of pushing this crap in Delaware more than you already have, I will unleash the public education parent hounds on you!  Fair warning to whomever wins the DSEA President: Back far away from this nonsense.  Do not be a part of it.

Breaking News: DSEA To Hold Run-Off Election To Commence On February 27th

The Delaware State Education Association made a very smart move last night at their Executive Board meeting last night.  Due to the overwhelming amount of concerns expressed as a result of their January election which ended in a tie for the President role, the Delaware educator’s union is holding a run-off election to determine who will become the next DSEA President.

Voting will begin on February 27th and will last until March 13th.  I sincerely hope more than 20% of Delaware’s educators actually vote this go-around!

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Crickets From Water Street

The Delaware State Education Association held an executive board meeting last night.  On the agenda was determining what to do about the tie in the election for a new DSEA President.  As of this writing, nothing has come out regarding the outcome.  Their main office, located on Water St. in Dover, has been exceptionally quiet.  No leaks are coming out and nobody seems to know what is going on.

Mike Matthews, one of the candidates running for President who received an unprecedented tie vote against Karen Crouse, reported on Facebook this morning that he hasn’t heard anything about the results of the meeting.  Kilroy’s Delaware keeps asking teachers on Facebook if DSEA has a new King or Queen.  We will have to wait a little bit longer fair readers to see if there is a new leader or if DSEA will hold a run-off election to break the tie.  This wait and see is like waiting on a new Pope!  If you see white smoke coming from the vicinity of Water Street, I guess that means they have a new leader!

Exceptional Delaware Endorses John Marino For The 10th Senate District

Let it be known, throughout the State of Delaware, that I proudly endorse John Marino for the 10th Senate District special election on February 25th.

Wait a minute, some of you might be thinking, aren’t you a dye in the wool Democrat?  Hardly.  I am an issues guy.  And I also value consistency and someone knowing what they are talking about.  I’ve known John Marino’s stances on public education for years now, since the 2014 election.  He supports opt out, wants more resources in the class-room, is not a big fan of top-down education mandates, and supports local control and teachers.  He is against Common Core and wants our students to succeed.

There will be DSEA members who will be screaming for my head right about now because of the fear of the Delaware Senate going under Republican control if Marino wins.  Right to Work could come to Delaware, but that kind of bill would need to pass the House and get Governor Carney’s signature.  The Senate could play games with the budget as well trying to get Right to Work in Delaware.  I can picture Delaware Dems sitting in Legislative Hall well into July to prevent that.  So I am not as scared of that notion as some left-leaning teachers are.  As well, I am not a teacher.  I’m a parent, and I am disgusted by many of the stunts I’ve seen when it comes to Delaware education and government.

But let’s take a look at what Democrat control has done for teachers: DPAS-II and Component V.  Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Not to mention far too many of them cowering to Jack Markell.  It is all about a balance of power.  Delaware is ripe for change, and it starts with our government.  One party control has given us far too many special interest items tucked into the state budget over the years.  Money that could and should be going to far more pressing needs in this state.  We need a balance of power, and if the Delaware Senate goes red, so be it.

As far as Hansen, she seems to change her education beliefs by the day.  She even did that on her website between January 28th and January 29th.

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If I want to see flipping, I’ll go on Netflix and watch some old episodes of Flipper!  In terms of a DSEA endorsement, keep in mind what that really is.  The DSEA Executive Board decides endorsements and it is not an accurate representation of all Delaware teachers.  It is a handful of people.  What I don’t appreciate is someone not knowing the issues, like Hansen, then getting schooled on them and acting like she knows what the hell she is talking about.  Marino has always felt the same way.  I won’t even get into the bizarre issues with Hansen and New Castle County government.  I will just say it some very surreal stuff.

So how does Marino feel (and consistently) about education in Delaware?

State government has broken our school system. Due to over-testing, heavy-handed bureaucracy and a lack of support for our teachers, our local schools have to work twice as hard to provide a quality education for our young people. I support legislation to reign in and minimize burdensome state tests, as well as an unequivocal policy that parents are the only authority to decide what tests their children take. A parent has the natural right to remove their child from any test or school activity — anytime, anywhere. No government should be given even the smallest opportunity to infringe on parental rights.

I also support letting teachers teach. I support building-level control and more money in the classroom. Our education bureaucracy has only grown and grown. It’s hurting our children, costing more taxpayer money and the people in power in the Senate have encouraged that growth at every turn. We can’t get the schools we deserve unless we change the people making the decisions and restore balance to state government.

I’ve been around Legislative Hall enough to see how the one-party system is not good for our state.  We need to end the legislator locks on the budget that allow funds to go towards programs that benefit members of the Joint Finance Committee.  We need to stop the political games and get back to governing Delaware and making laws that make sense for ALL Delawareans.  We need John Marino to win this election.

 

My Take On The Bizarre DSEA Election Results. Did Two Wrongs Make A Right?

In the shot heard round Delaware teachers email yesterday around 4:00pm, the Delaware State Education Association election results came in for President and Vice-President.  Shock followed shock.  Mike Matthews and Karen Crouse tied for President at 862 votes each.  Stephanie Ingram (not Ingraham) won the Vice-President position.  Some (including myself) are crying foul.  Matthews and Kook ran as a ticket as did Crouse and Ingram.  Logic would dictate that Matthews and Kook’s votes would align more with Matthew’s total.  But this was NOT the case.  Ingram won with 400 something votes while Kook had 300 plus.

First off, with 12,000 teachers in Delaware, why did only 2,100+ vote in this election?  That is my biggest concern.  Second, how the actual hell do you get a tie?  Off the record, I have heard DSEA did not want the powerhouse of Matthews/Kook ruling the teacher union halls in Delaware.  Did things happen?  Of that I am certain.  When an obvious fake Facebook account with the not-so-genius name of Sam Muskrat showed up at the same time as the election went into full swing, I paid very close attention to the writing style of the you really aren’t fooling anyone Mr. Muskrat.  I’ve seen that style before.  With another anonymous commenter somewhere else.  I won’t out the person, but I can promise you it is NOT Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware.  That guy is probably sucking down some Shirley Temple’s in his batcave.

The next big question surrounds the ballots.  There were mentions on social media of teacher’s getting the ballots in their spam folders.  While the plausibility of that is suspect if it was coming from DSEA (do all DSEA emails go to spam?).  If it was an outside company, such as Intelliscan, based out of Phoenixville, PA, I could somehow see that.  Some teachers reported not receiving any ballots.  Some did not know who was running, or actually know some of  the people running (to them I would say “Hello!  This is the future of your teaching profession calling, wake up!”).

I’ve heard that campaign literature was suspect in certain situations.  While there is nothing against the DSEA rules about the President endorsing a candidate, Frederika Jenner made it transparently obvious who she wanted.  And that person wound up tying and is not a man.  And her VP choice won as well.  Crouse would not have won if it weren’t for Kent County.  Which I find ironic considering her popularity in certain places.  I don’t mean to bash her.  I’m sure she is a fine person.  But there is something VERY shady with this election.  I’m sure the current DSEA crew will get offended I posted this.  First off, too bad.  Second, you can sit there and say it isn’t my business but I choose to make it my business and you can’t stop me.  We live in a country where Donald Trump is President so I think any rules went out the window last November!

So what happens next?  Some more ballots could come trickling in by Monday (since it is soooooo possible for something postmarked 1/23/17 or earlier to take a week to get to Dover in our huge state).  There could be a run-off election if it remains a tie, in which case Presidential candidates Danny Rufo and Dom Zaffora’s votes would go to either Matthews or Crouse.  Or another option could be the tie remains and the Executive Board at DSEA would vote on a winner.  Which would, in all likelihood, be Crouse.  Since these election results are not part of an official state or county election, DSEA is under no obligation to release the full results to the public.  A teacher’s union is a private organization.  If I were Matthews or Kook, I would be issuing a challenge right away.  Something doesn’t smell right.  I could, of course, be wrong.  But I would err on the side of caution in just blindly accepting these results.

While this potential mystery starts to get some heat, feast on the famous Samuel Muskrat posts, from an anonymous person whose Facebook account was created the VERY same day Matthews and Kook had a live Facebook feed answering questions.  And disappeared the next day.

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Yes, I am the Kevin this Samuel Muskrat is referring to.  This kind of makes it my business now!  I will fully admit I am not the most popular person in the executive offices of DSEA.  Once upon a time the stars were in alignment around the time I wrote a huge article on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, but I burned that bridge with them during the whole House Bill 50 veto override fiasco when I called out DSEA (very strongly I might add) with a twinge of regret.  I don’t regret calling them out on their non-support of the override but rather how I did it.  I apologized, but while some accepted that apology, some were less than cordial with me.  In fact, one of them decided to viciously attack me many times somewhere else.  That person knew I knew that when I commented on the above Facebook comment bringing me into it.  I dropped a couple of words in my comment which vanished as soon as it appeared.  Muskrat knew I had them and ran for the hills.  Muskrat seemed to know a lot of things about Mr. Matthews.  Things your average teacher would not know unless they were really involved with DSEA.  But the tone and attitude, and especially the reference to me, shows a personal beef.  Trolling is one thing.  Going on  Facebook during a candidate forum and disguising yourself when they are potentially a staff member of DSEA is another thing entirely.  Like I said yesterday, shenanigans with this election.

Both Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook are well-known in Delaware as teachers who will really fight for their causes.  This doesn’t mean they won’t sit down with you, but it also doesn’t mean they will swallow the Kool-Aid which happened so many times in teacher matters involving the Delaware Dept. of Education, the General Assembly, and yes, even DSEA.  Most recently, Kook ruffled feathers with the teacher evaluation bill last Spring.  It wound up getting Senator Sokola amendments attached to it.  A large part of that was the insertion into the process of former DOE employee Atnre Alleyne, now promoting his role as Executive Director of DelawareCAN which is an offshoot of the corporate education reform company 50CAN.  Another big part was a letter from the DPAS-II Advisory Committee Chair Dr. Susan Bunting.  Bunting was confirmed by the Delaware Senate three days ago as the new Delaware Secretary of Education.  But neither of them are Sam Muskrat.  In Delaware, if you aren’t calling out legislators here and there, than democracy really isn’t taking place.  And some really shouldn’t throw stones like that because the hypocrisy involved is astounding!  But I guess many wrongs make a right?

Only One More Day To Vote In DSEA Election For President and Vice-President

The voting for the Delaware State Education Association leadership officially ends tomorrow, January 23rd.  All ballots must be in as per the DSEA election website.  Initial results will be shared with the Executive Director and Business Manager of DSEA on Thursday, and preliminary results will be announced on January 27th.  If there is a challenge based on the preliminary results, that would have to be in by February 3rd.  At the DSEA Executive Board meeting on February 16th, the results will be officially ratified.

There are four races for the President slot and two for the Vice-President.  For President, there is Karen Crouse, Mike Matthews, Danny Rufo, and Dom Zaffora.  For Vice-President, there is Jackie Kook and Stephanie Ingraham.  Two are running on a “ticket” per se, but that ticket could be divided pending the results.  Those “tickets” are Matthews/Kook and Crouse/Ingraham.

What is at stake with this election?  The teacher’s union in Delaware would have a lot to contend with in the coming years.  The three-year terms would usher in the new Every Student Succeeds Act in Delaware along with mounting budget issues that will almost assuredly result in education cuts along the way.  Add on the new Carney administration and a promise from Governor John Carney to make the Delaware Department of Education less of an accountability factory and more of a resource center for districts and charters.  However, much of that will depend on the final approved ESSA state plan.  Even though ESSA was meant to eliminate a lot of the federal oversight, accountability regulations won’t change things that much.  And if history is an indicator, the Delaware DOE loves accountability.  The role of teacher evaluations will always be a major issue with DSEA.  Other potential factors affecting them, depending on the state budget, could be the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan or the possibility of consolidating districts around the state becoming more than a discussion point.

Vote Mike Matthews & Jackie Kook For President And Vice-President Of DSEA

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I hereby endorse Mike Matthews as President for the Delaware State Education Association.

I hereby endorse Jackie Kook as Vice-President for the Delaware State Education Association.

I’m not a teacher.  Just a parent.  But I have been very aware of DSEA the past few years and their role in education.  To say that relationship has been frosty at times would be an understatement.  I do not always agree with DSEA on issues.  But when I heard Mike and Jackie were running a joint ticket for DSEA leadership, I immediately rooted for them.  And then Danny Rufo announced his candidacy as President.  So I was torn for a long time.  I’ve known all three of these educators since shortly after I started blogging in 2014.  Danny is awesome.  But Mike and Jackie bring many battle scars to these roles.  Battles fought at the Delaware DOE and Legislative Hall.  Fought in front of cameras as they loudly advocated for teacher, student, and parent rights.  To me, they are more of a voice for teachers than the current leadership at DSEA.  They know the players and they know who to watch out for.

I get that these leadership roles change people.  You can’t just say whatever you want.  I don’t know Frederika Jenner very well at all.  But I do know Mike and Jackie.  I know Danny.  Crouse and Ingraham, endorsed by Jenner, just seem to be missing something.  I can’t pinpoint it.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have never seen them before.  Maybe it’s because when I asked three of the candidates their thoughts about student data privacy, the Matthews/Kook team and Rufo genuinely and thoughtfully answered.  Crouse and Ingraham gave some robotic Facebook response.  When I asked for more, they endorsed not getting into Facebook “battles” and having off-line conversations.  Sorry, Delaware has suffered immensely from those kind of talks.  The fourth candidate, Dom, I couldn’t pick out of a line-up.  No offense Dom!

What the package of Mike and Jackie could bring to Delaware education is a dream team beyond compare.  They know the issues.  They have great ideas on how to address those issues.  I’ve heard some say they are worried about Mike’s ability to “go along to get along”.  I firmly believe Mike will bring his A-game to the role and not put aside the issues he has fought for much longer than I have.  If there were a way to have co-Presidents AND a vice-president, I would say throw Rufo on that triumvirate!  But with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act and some crazy stuff coming up in education, Delaware’s largest teacher association needs people who will look at every angle.  Who aren’t afraid to go outside of the box for help.  Who will fight not just for teachers, but also what our students need.  The symbiotic relationship between teacher and student is a relationship like no other.  Teachers have had it rough.  But I think because of that fight, many in DSEA leadership have capitulated towards those in favor of corporate education reform to the detriment of that symbiotic relationship.

Between vouchers, personalized learning in a digital environment (which is the gravest threat to teachers in my opinion), and more charter school enrollment going up, the teacher unions have never been more vulnerable than they are right now.  They need a very strong shield, and Mike and Jackie are it!  So I urge every single member of DSEA to vote for Mike and Jackie on January 9th.  Don’t wait, vote that day.  Some will say a non-DSEA person should mind their own business and not get involved.  Too bad.  Freedom of the press baby!  Don’t like it?  Too bad.  At least I’m not making fake Facebook accounts trying to start trouble.  I will leave that right there.

Some will say I am only endorsing Mike and Jackie because I’m friends with them.  I’m friends with Danny too.  And do you want to know what drew me to all three of them in the first place?   Education.  If I never started blogging I wouldn’t know the first thing about any of this.  But this is the world I live in.

Kilroy, Stop The Union-Bashing! You Have MUCH Bigger Fish To Fry!

Every once in a while, Kilroy posts something about me.  It is usually in regards to some comment someone made over on his blog.  But lately, especially on social media, I see Kilroy taking potshots at DSEA and a couple of members in particular.  This led to a dust-up on Kilroy’s Facebook page tonight, over all things, social justice.

It appears Kilroy didn’t understand the context and went into a tirade over it.  This led to other commenters talking about the validity of unions and how the dues work.  Steve Newton completely evaporated the opposition and proved conclusively that union dues come with the application for a teaching job in Delaware school districts.  It isn’t a question of right or wrong, it is just the way it is.

Kilroy needs to stop trying to poke holes into DSEA and their upcoming elections and really focus on the things that are happening outside of teacher unions.  Like the complete and utter privatization of public education if certain parties get their way.  Like the Rodel-led hijacking of Delaware’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.  Like the Christina-charter school settlement that will take away funds from every single school district in the state for things that are rightfully excluded from charter payments.  Like an incoming Governor who has not announced any leadership positions for Delaware education with a little over a month before his inauguration.  Like the swarm of education technology in our classrooms that is collecting a plethora of private student information with algorithms we will never know about.  Like how it doesn’t matter who won President of the country, that march to privatization continues.  Like the “Bad News Betsy” that will make Arne Duncan and John King look like rank amateurs.  Like the stealth tests coming our way sooner than we think in Rodel’s when you wish upon a star personalized learning and competency-based education environment.

For someone who claims to support teacher unions, he sure does talk about them a lot.  Especially their role in Race To The Top.  Six years ago.  Which, I might add, all nineteen school districts signed up for, along with the Delaware PTA and every other education organization in the state.  To say DSEA was the only party that led RTTT into Delaware is very misleading.  Being real here, I wasn’t involved in all of this when RTTT came out.  So my window on this is seen in perceptions of that time from others after the fact in the past few years.  But there comes a time when beating it over us is not productive.  Who is still in DSEA leadership from that time?  I don’t think anyone running for DSEA leadership was instrumental in the decisions from six years ago.  But if Kilroy has a grandchild in Red Clay, he needs to get up to speed with what is going on in education.  Cause it is not pretty and he needs to be on the right side of things.  I admire the hell out of Kilroy.  He got me my start in the Delaware blogosphere.  And I want him to focus on more because he has a great deal of influence on education.

In terms of social justice, I’m not sure what context Kilroy took it in, but as a result of Kilroy’s post, Mike Matthews updated his status to show what his definition of social justice is:

Social justice means to me…

…standing at a school board meeting begging for more supports for special needs students.

…going to Dover and speaking in support of the Opt Out movement before the House education committee.

…reading a book to kindergarteners on why sharing and respect are key values.

…protesting the State’s attempts to shut down community schools because of test scores.

…letting a Black student know that when all around them they feel like the world hates them, that their life DOES matter.

…demanding that Delaware get off the list of four states that doesn’t fund ELL students.

…ensuring that ALL students know that a classroom is a place where they can be themselves — no matter how different — and be accepted.

…organizing educators to make sure they understand their rights to speak up and ADVOCATE for their students when the time comes.

Social Justice, to me, is about education and NEVER indoctrination. Social justice is about respect. Kindness. Acceptance. Organizing. Advocating. Speaking up. Believing in who you are as a human being and being able to take action to fight for the most vulnerable.

That’s what social justice is. While that phrase may be dangerous to some, I will always wear it like a badge of honor.

Besides, it’s too much fun being an outspoken pain in the ass sometimes.

 

Well said Mr. Matthews.  That is some social justice I can get behind.  While I have been critical of DSEA leadership in the past, I have always seen the potential of what a united and strong DSEA could become in this state.  A DSEA that will have to align with parents in the coming years if they want to save public education.  Perhaps that is why I have been critical of DSEA at times because I have high expectations for them to be the voice that has the power to influence public education in this state, not be an observer while others feast on the scraps.

We ALL need to be concerned about Donald Trump and his very poor selection of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.  Trump really doesn’t have a clue about education.  But he will surround himself with people who do.  And what they know and what they have planned is not good.

 

DSEA President Battle Heats Up As Three Vie For The Top Spot

To date, three Delaware educators have announced their intention to run for President of the Delaware State Education Association.  All three have announced this on Facebook.  I know two of them, but I haven’t met the other candidate.  Two of the candidates are running on a ticket with a Vice-President candidate.  Who are these brave souls? Continue reading “DSEA President Battle Heats Up As Three Vie For The Top Spot”

Governor Markell Loses His Voice Tonight. Now Is The Time To Seize The Moment.

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At some point later this evening, Delaware will have a newly elected Governor. No matter who it is, they can’t be worse than Governor Jack Markell. I truly hope I don’t eat those words, but I can’t think of any Delaware politician who has sold out Delaware children to corporations more than Jack. Well, there is one, but I’m really hoping he gets ousted in the 8th Senate District today. If not, I expect some very frosty stares between the two of us come 2017.  But it is also my fervent hope that this particular Senator, no matter what the outcome is today, begins to see deep inside his soul what certain viewpoints on education can have on the state as a whole.  But Jack Markell…

I never gave Delaware politics much thought before 2013. I was just one of those guys who stayed in his own neighborhood and didn’t truly care about the state politics. I couldn’t even tell you who my State Rep was before that year. Or my State Senator. But then things changed in my life and I reached a point where I couldn’t live in my insular little bubble anymore. Circumstances demanded I get involved. When things happen to your child, beyond the point of a parent to control it, something happens. A shifting of thoughts begins and a need for understanding takes over. I may have gone way past the point of sanity most parents do when faced with this reality, but I felt it was my obligation to do all this.   I have regrets, but I also know everyone makes mistakes.  But no one, not even Senator Sokola or Mark Murphy, has ticked me off over education more than Jack Markell.

I quickly learned Jack cares more about corporations and their profits than Delaware students. Sadly, he found a way to combine the two and turned Delaware schools into profit centers for companies that could give two craps about student outcomes. Jack knows this. He knows the only way those companies will continue to flourish is with a steady stream of data and fix-it schemes. I suppose most states have a Jack Markell. How else can we explain the onslaught of Common Core and crappy tests like Smarter Balanced? I also learned Markell and Rodel are two sides of the same coin. They feed off each other, like twin parasites infecting their host.

My worst fear is having to continue beating up on Jack Markell. That would only happen if he were put in a more dangerous position than he is now. I see two potential Cabinet positions he could be placed in if the “nasty woman” wins. I’m hoping a rumor I heard long ago about him taking a Cyber Security position in Israel comes true. I would have loved to sit in a debate with him for a few hours and blown apart his theories and thoughts on education.

The most dangerous thing Jack Markell did with education in Delaware happened before he even became Governor. He did the interview for a man from the Massachusetts Department of Education, in their charter school office. A guy named Dr. Paul Herdman. This set up 12 years of education policy in this state that very closely aligned with what was going on across the country. And those plans aren’t done yet. Both of these men are actually very brilliant. They are strategists of the highest measure. They are futurists who plant seeds that bloom years in the future. I actually find them to be very worthy opponents in that respect. But one half of that equation is coming to an end in this state. And hopefully his replacement will be able to sever that cord.

It will be up to our next Governor to see through all the smoke and mirrors involved with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Whoever our new Governor is, I will attempt to meet with him. I intend to have a very long conversation with him, if he will let me, and let him know what I know. Maybe he already knows it already. Maybe he doesn’t. But I truly don’t want to fight him. I will give him a fresh and clean slate from day one, regardless of whatever policies he may have come out with during his campaign. I will also give every single member of the General Assembly that same respect, regardless of what may have happened pre-January 2017. They can choose to hang on to the past and hold a grudge against me.  I haven’t been easy on many.  But whether they are new or old, it is a new day. This also goes for the Department of Education and the State Board of Education. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to expose what I find out, or file FOIA requests or complaints if something happens. Everything I have fought for will continue. But I won’t do it alone.

There are many who are on my side of things on many issues. There are some who are just now beginning to see the big picture. There are those who can’t see the forest through the trees. There are so many moving parts to education and understanding the full scope of it all takes time and patience. But I refuse to allow any child to be a guinea pig or a pawn for profit. I refuse to let their personal data go out to anyone who makes one penny off it. I refuse to let our Department of Education get away with what they have been doing.

January won’t just see new leaders in politics. We will also have new leadership in the Delaware State Education Association. Knowing what little I know about potential leaders and conversation that has taken place in the last week based on a few of my posts, I firmly believe that change in leadership can’t come quick enough. But we also need changes in the charter school landscape. For far too long, advocates for charters have ignored the elephant in the room. I am not saying it is all of them, but those with the loudest voices tend to get what they want. The funding and equity issues involved are killing us as a state. I personally believe there is enough funding in our state budget as it currently stands to have every child get the resources they need. There is a ton of wasted money being spent. We just have to convince the 149th Delaware General Assembly of this fact despite what will be a tsunami of opposition from districts and charter schools alike. I am leaning towards a weighted funding system more and more but not before we make sure every single district and charter schools is held fully accountable for the funds they already have.

The next six months are going to be very slippery in Delaware. One wrong move could send Delaware education sliding off the cliff. Now will be the time for voices like never before. Opt out was a drop in the bucket. But I don’t see those voices. Not front and center. Parents need to speak up like they never have before. They need to be louder than the state, louder than the administrators, and louder than our legislators. We need to become a force to be reckoned with. We need to organize and band together. We won’t agree on everything, but I think the majority of parents in this state can agree that what we have now is not working. We need to make sure Rodel is reduced to a low decibel noise that doesn’t hold the weight it used to. We need to make sure Delaware education is what we want, not what corporations want. This does not mean increased membership in the Delaware PTA either, but they will play a role. You will be hearing from me on this more in the next few weeks. Eyes will open to things that have happened right underneath all our noses with no one the wiser.

I need you. Our children need you. We are Delaware, not them. We need to finally make sure that is understood. We need to end the discrimination and segregation in this state. We need to end the racism that is underneath it all. We need to end the hate and make peace with the past. It is the only way we can truly move forward. I won’t have all the answers. You won’t. But maybe together, we can figure it out.

An Inside Look At The DSEA Endorsement Machine

The Delaware State Education Association comes out with endorsements during election cycles.  This year there are a ton of candidates at the state and federal levels.  Below is a document showing why DSEA endorsed certain candidates in the Delaware House and Senate.  These are only the candidates who have an opponent that they endorsed.  I find some of their choices to be very interesting.  For example, Joe Miro got a nod for getting an appointment on the Southern Regional Education Board.  Two words that I did not see in this document were opt and out.  That is very concerning as  a parent viewing this document.  In fact, some of their endorsed candidates opposed the override of Markell’s veto on House Bill 50.  The words “voted”, “ensured”, and “supported” all come down to a yes vote either in committee or on the floor.  Only two of the candidates they support in a race aren’t incumbents.  Don’t get me wrong, I agree with many of their choices, but this wording for one of the candidates really made me want to vomit a little bit…

Helped DE students complete in the ever-changing global economy by supporting funding for important academic programs, like the Governor’s World Language Expansion Initiative

That sounds like something Jack Markell would say…

One of these was a complete head-scratcher because I don’t recall this legislation even coming to a vote.  I fully support the candidate this is attributed to, but it seems misguiding to put this in their profile when this same rep was a fervent supporter of the opt out bill and that doesn’t even get a mention.

Supported the creation of a funding source for students enrolled in Delaware public schools who are determined as low-income that will provide one unit of funding for every 250 low-income students in grades K-12

Sokola Ebola Vs. Right To Work: Which Is The Bigger Danger To Education?

Sunday evening I put up a post about a political ad for Delaware Senator David Sokola.  You would have thought I sent a cannonball into a church picnic with the reaction this post got.  In a nutshell, the Delaware State Education Association did not endorse the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, David Sokola.  He has been the chair of this committee for decades.  This was a very clear statement that DSEA no longer has faith in Senator David Sokola when it comes to education.  But unbeknownst to many, DSEA is also part of a PAC with various other Delaware unions that paid for an advertisement for Sokola’s 8th District Senate campaign.  I wasn’t happy to see this and many others weren’t as well.  I linked Frederika Jenner, the President of DSEA, to this PAC because her name appears on their website.

Before I knew it, teachers who are very supportive of DSEA jumped to their defense.  One of them, Mike Matthews, who used to be President of the Red Clay Educations Association and is currently campaigning for Jenner’s spot next January, wrote a very long comment about why Right To Work is dangerous in the current Delaware political landscape.

Before I get to Matthews’ comment, I want to briefly explain what Right To Work is.  Basically, it would prevent a worker from paying union dues but they would get the union benefits.  This has been implemented in some states but the Delaware General Assembly has thwarted this from happening here.  Delaware Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle has been very supportive of Right To Work in Delaware.  Not every Delaware Republican is 100% behind a complete Right To Work state, much less with DSEA.  Matthews’ comment suggests that Right To Work is a bigger danger than very bad Dave Sokola education policy.

Here’s where I stand on this and, as always, I thank Kevin for providing the forum to discuss!

DSEA did not vote to endorse Sen. Sokola for his re-election campaign. As someone who has consistently received DSEA’s endorsement in years’ past, this is obviously big news. I have had many concerns — and shared them publicly — with Sen. Sokola’s positions on education. I think many others have, as well. And that’s why DSEA chose the route it did during the election season this year.

But — and this really is a big BUT — folks need to realize that we are a union whose main goal is to activate and organize its membership. We have seen union membership in many states decrease dramatically because of nasty Right to Work laws. These laws severely weaken the ability of local unions to do the work they need to do — advocate for members and students.

The threat of Right to Work is very much real here in Delaware. If the Democrats lose just two seats in the Senate, then it’s very likely that Republicans will demand legislation that could repress labor rights in exchange for getting YES votes on the budget. If the Republican Senate REFUSES to pass a budget because they are demanding more restrictions on organized labor, then my guess is the Democrats in the House will cave so they can get a budget passed. That’s the reality of the situation that we’re dealing with.

DSEA’s membership in the Delawareans First PAC is borne out of the need to fight back any effort for Right to Work to land in Delaware. DSEA’s participation in this PAC is very much about ensuring our own survival SO WE CAN continue to advocate for our members, students, and schools.

And there are some very clear differences between the two major-party candidates in the 8th Senate District when it comes to labor rights. Sen. Sokola is vehemently anti-Right to Work. Meredith Chapman has stated her support of the collective bargaining process, but can’t say unequivocally that she would be anti-Right to Work. And, as I’ve said to her, should she get elected and the GOP take the Senate, her ability to negotiate with a newly-emboldened GOP leadership will be severely diminished and she will have to walk lock-step with the caucus on these issues.

So, while many of our members — and myself included — have serious issues with Sen. Sokola’s education positions, we have to realize that we are still a union. And it’s our business to maintain our membership and attempt to stave off any threats to that membership. I am completely able to see both sides here and while Sen. Sokola hasn’t been the best friend on education issues, he’s unwaveringly a friend on the topic of Right to Work. To condemn him from all angles because of his education positions (no matter how large those issues are) would be unfair.

DSEA’s membership in this PAC is voluntary, of course, but in the interest of solidarity, it’s imperative that we union brothers and sisters come together and support candidates who will repel Right to Work — even if it means supporting a candidate we oppose on other issues. Because if Right to Work comes to Delaware — which could happen if the Senate swings GOP — then our ability to be an effective agent for change will be severely dampened. And that could have consequences that hasten all the negative things we know have been coming down the education pike for years that you have thankfully been reporting on with such fervor.

I just think it’s important to realize that I think it’s completely within bounds to have severe disagreements with candidates on certain issues, but to find common ground on others, especially issues that relate to the survival of organizations that I would hope are seen as positive players in the education arena like DSEA.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.

So suppose the Republicans gain control of the Delaware Senate and there is a budget impasse next year (as there seems to be almost every year).  Does that automatically make Delaware a Right To Work state?  We just don’t know.  I can picture a scenario where, if it were that bad, certain concessions could take place.  Last week at the Carney-Bonini debate, the subject of Right To Work zones was brought up.  That would not make the whole state a Right To Work place, but for certain companies.  Auto manufacturing was brought up as an example.  But I personally don’t believe the General Assembly would make DSEA a Right To Work organization.  If they did gain control of the Senate, that would last as long as one General Assembly if they did that.  The General Assembly is always on a cycle of campaigning every two years.  Any legislator who voted for Right To Work would automatically lose any future endorsement from DSEA.  Many do not want to face that prospect in the coming years.  Delaware is a small state and its citizens have more access to their Senators and State Representatives than they do in other states.  A Republican controlled Senate would also have to contend with a Democrat controlled House and, by all indications, Democrat Governor John Carney.  Would the Republicans wait around all summer in an attempt to get Right To Work passed if a budget was held up?  I highly doubt it.  Most legislators are at the point of collapse after an all-night session bridging June 30th to July 1st.

While I will certainly say I do not know how many teacher jobs DSEA has actively protected over the years, I imagine it is quite a bit.  Charter school teachers, which are supported heavily by Delaware Republicans, do not presently have teacher unions.  But I firmly believe Senator Sokola is, at a much greater degree, a bigger threat to Delaware teachers than a potential Right To Work law in Delaware.  He has 25 years of experience showing exactly what he has done to Delaware education and the teaching profession.  And judging by the first draft of Delaware’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t see that situation changing any time soon.

I firmly believe Sokola serves interests much bigger than any Democrat platform.  He serves those who profit immensely off students and teachers.  He represents the corporations who want to reform education so they can make more money.  But more dangerous, is the very real threat of how these changes in education will eventually transform society as a whole.  It is my contention that whether Right To Work happened or not, the teaching profession union members across the country fight for every day will be gone one day.  At the rate where are going, everything will be online instruction and teachers will just be glorified moderators if those classrooms are even in brick and mortar schools.  The more we let outside organizations into our schools, the ability for decisions to be decided at a local level diminishes greatly.  That is what Sokola represents.  He takes the side of a particular charter school in his district and he will do whatever is necessary to make sure they look good at the expense of the district around him.  If he didn’t have the power he currently has as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, that would be one thing.  But that taint in his decision-making policy affects every single public school in the state.

In my eyes, as a parent and a Delaware citizen, David Sokola needs to go.  By any means necessary.  I fully endorse Meredith Chapman for the 8th Senate District.  Even if I was a die-hard Democrat and never voted out of party lines, I would make this one exception.  He is that bad.  Do I trust David Sokola to be anti-Right To Work because he truly believes it would be bad for unions or because he knows if he isn’t he would have a hard time getting re-elected in his district with various unions supporting him?  I would go with the latter.  But there comes a time when you have to weed out the rot.  That time is now.  We have had enough Sokola Ebola in Delaware education.  This is a guy who lied in a debate last week.  How can anyone trust him to do the right thing when he lies when the truth would be far better for him?  That is how desperate he has become.  For the first time in 25 years, he knows he may not enter Legislative Hall as a FOIA-protected legislator.  He is scared.  In a microscopic way, down to the molecular level, I feel bad for him in that respect.  But it stops there.  In politics, you reap what you sow.  And what David Sokola has sown over a quarter of a century is dangerous for every single citizen of Delaware.

As I am writing this, the AFLCIO President, James Maravelias just wrote a comment supporting Matthews’ stance on this issue.  To this I can only reply with the following: by allowing Right To Work in Delaware, the unions believe they will lose all their collective bargaining rights.  As a parent, we didn’t seem to have a choice when Senator Sokola, the corporate education reformer led Delaware DOE, and Governor Markell brought Common Core to Delaware.  When a once a year test became the measurement for all Delaware schools.  When our General Assembly passed laws allowing for more charter schools in the state which drained resources out of many school districts.  When special education took a back-seat to standards.  When teachers spent an exorbitant amount of time on professional development during school days.  When our collective voice said “We don’t want our children to take this test”, the DSEA supported an assessment inventory that ultimately led to no real change.  Even when I begged them not to and that it would weaken the parent voice for opt out legislation.  And it worked.  DSEA sheepishly and almost after the fact supported an override of the Governor’s veto but not without my having a tirade of epic proportions that actually caused me to burn some bridges.  I didn’t see DSEA’s collective bargaining power at play when disaster happened at the hands of David Sokola with their own teacher evaluation bill.  One man was able to turn the wishes of the entire DSEA into his playground and he got what he wanted.

Parents are consistently left out of the equation when it comes to education.  Sure, we get our placards on this committee or that task force, but we don’t have the ability to collectively bargain our way out of things we know are bad for our kids.  The majority of the decisions are made those who represent some type of profession in education or a company that will somehow profit off it.  I’m not saying this to bash unions, but to illustrate a point.  Any union is, on its face, going to have a priority of protecting their membership.  I get that.  Just as a baked bean company would be all about making great baked beans.  But when one guy wants to branch off and make different kind of baked bean products that diminish the entire line, that is a big problem.  Even when the research comes back that fully states: this new product isn’t worth a hill of beans, the one guy makes it happen.  That is Senator Sokola in Delaware.

As a final thought, in June of 2015, a Delaware parent openly questioned and challenged Sokola during a Senate Education Committee meeting on opt out.  When Sokola lost his cool and showed the true David Sokola, he told the parent that if she thought she could do a better job herself to run for office.  While this citizen was not able to run for Sokola’s seat, another citizen rose up to the challenge.  Would she have run if Sokola didn’t make a mockery out of parents over opt out?  We will never know.  But perhaps it planted a seed that could begin to bloom next week.  We may not know what kind of plant will grow next year, but it has to be better than the out of control and choking poison ivy that tarnishes every facet of education Sokola touches.  This is why I can’t personally stomach the thought of Sokola sitting in Legislative Hall in 2017.  And nothing, not even a potential threat of Right To Work, could get me to change my mind on that.  Perhaps Frederika Jenner wasn’t fully supportive of paying for a Sokola political ad as a member of the board of Delawarean’s First PAC.  But attaching her name to it sent ripple effects throughout the state in the past 44 hours.  Delaware education won’t change for the better until David Sokola is gone.

As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my child gets the best education possible.  As a parent, I can clearly see how Sokola policy has affected my child and 133,000 other children in Delaware.  I don’t see how a threat of Right To Work has affected these kids.  Perhaps it could become a future danger, but the Defcon-4 danger to education that is happening right now, in real-time, is David Sokola.  He must go.  I understand Mike Matthews and his perception of a Republican Senate as a danger.  But it is not something that would automatically come to pass.  We have years and years of watching Sokola operate.  I’m not running out telling every Delaware citizen to vote Republican in the Senate.  Nor am I doing that for any election this year.  But I would be remiss as a parent, a father, a husband, a supporter of public education, a supporter of teachers, a supporter of transparency, and a supporter of hope by thinking it is okay to give Sokola any possible edge in this election.  I can’t support the triumvirate of Democrat control in Delaware if it means keeping a guy like David Sokola in power.  I will support DSEA and other unions in a lot of areas, but not on David Sokola.  There is no balance in education as long as he retains his Senate seat.