Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting informed the State Board of Education yesterday she had lunch with State Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques. As heads of the Senate and House Education Committee, Bunting said it was to discuss upcoming legislation. Could this lead to state takeover of school districts in Delaware? Continue reading
Kathleen Davies received the crown jewel of endorsements today when the Delaware State Education Association endorsed her!
Kathleen Davies has the experience needed to get done the critical work of the State Auditor’s office. With more than 25 years of auditing and accounting experience, Kathleen is the most qualified candidate with the skills needed to serve as a strong watchdog for Delaware’s taxpayers. DSEA members want an auditor who is going to hold state agencies and school districts accountable for taxpayer dollars. We enthusiastically recommend Kathleen for State Auditor and believe she’s the best choice for voters to make on September 6th.
This just adds to Davies’ growing list of endorsements and accomplishments in this race! On September 6th, vote Kathleen Davies! There are things going on in this state as I write this that will demand someone with the full capacity and knowledge to do this job. That is Kathleen Davies. We need her now more than ever!
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!
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
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
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
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.
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?
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.
A few days ago, I published an article about a Project Veritas sting with a New Jersey Education Association local leader. Part of my article was an email sent to local Delaware presidents about how to deal with potential sting operations. That email did not include a public whipping of the NJ local president and I called them out for it.
Today, Project Veritas picked up on my post on their own website. First and foremost, I am not a former teacher as Veritas suggested in the video their leader put up today. At one point, I was a paraprofessional for a few months and I substituted for a couple of years. Yes, I was very disgusted by the Veritas video and the email from DSEA which had another email from NEA as part of it. With that being said, I want to point out a few things about Mike Matthews, the President of DSEA.
Mike is a good guy. He truly wants the best for Delaware students. He went from a shock blogger to teaching to becoming involved in his local union. After he was President of the Red Clay EA he was elected to DSEA President last year. I am friends with Mike. From the moment he told me he was going to run for DSEA President he was very clear that he knew at times I would write about DSEA and himself. I also know Mike would be the very first to say “this guy in NJ acted horrible and he should have been fired”. That’s just who he is.
I don’t tend to give a heads up to folks who are the subjects of my posts. Maybe I should, but I don’t. The reasons for that are two-fold. First, they may tell me NOT to do so. Or worse, they may try to sugarcoat the purpose of the article and attempt to water it down or whitewash it. This blog has always been about getting information out. And yes, that comes with my opinions more often than not. It is up to the reader to agree or disagree with those opinions. Either way, I will keep blogging truth in education even if it is ugly at times. With that being said, if information comes out after an article that may explain things, I will post that as well. There are gray areas in situations and I recognize that. Or I may have information but it isn’t the entire picture. Folks are always welcome to come to me before I post stuff and give me a heads up. Chances are pretty good I have some basic knowledge of a situation already so some proactive work on their end is a good thing.
I do not think the teacher unions are bad. I believe they serve a necessary purpose for teachers. We have all seen in Delaware what can happen when teachers are not unionized. Charter school teachers have zero protection when it comes to terminations. I have suggested many times charter school teachers should unionize. The majority of their membership are just ordinary teachers, doing their jobs.
Where I take issue with the teacher unions are the public persona they give off. And that usually comes from leadership. All day on Friday I was blasted on Facebook threads about how unreliable Project Veritas can be in their investigations. But I do not believe this video of the NJ union leader was doctored. Could Veritas have cut out some stuff? I have no idea. But the guy said what he said, multiple times. Unless Veritas paid him to torpedo his career and face the possibility of investigations from his district, I would say the guy was telling the (horrible) truth.
I made no secret a few years ago about my frustration with DSEA over the opt out bill in Delaware, House Bill 50. I wanted them to support it the same way so many of our Delaware teachers did. They could have had a huge influence with our General Assembly overriding Governor Markell’s veto but they sat on the fence. As well, when Democrat Senator Sokola and Democrat State Rep. Jaques introduced the testing inventory resolution, DSEA backed it publicly to the hilt. Even though I told them it was a smokescreen and it was an anti-opt out measure. In time, I was proven right as the Assessment Inventory Committee was so much smoke and mirrors and absolutely nothing came of it aside from a fancy report with information everyone already knew. When the same Senator Sokola was up for re-election in 2016, DSEA endorsed him through their PAC and I called them out for it. This was the same Senator who killed a teacher evaluation bill with horrible amendments and did an extreme disservice to public education teachers in Delaware. The reason for endorsing him? They didn’t want the Delaware Senate to flip to Republican and have Delaware become a Right To Work state. Even though there was zero danger of that because the Democrat Governor and the Democrat House had no danger of losing their power. Sokola wound up winning that election by a couple of percentage points.
I have publicly saluted DSEA many times. Their support of the diploma bill this year amazed me. I know they have been pushing for funding for basic special education students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade as long as I have. They are always present at Legislative Hall and lobbying for common sense education legislation. I could write a lot about the good DSEA does for our schools, students, and teachers. But that means I also have to write about the bad.
I wish DSEA and the NEA, instead of worrying about infiltrations, recognized the legitimacy of the Veritas investigation and publicly slammed the NJ leader. We can argue all day long about Veritas but the facts are real: this guy would have done anything to protect a teacher. And I don’t believe that is one teacher union leader operating in a silo. Instead of trying to play duck and cover, the teacher unions should be rooting out people like Perry and doing thorough investigations into these practices. When ANY student is subject to abuse of any sort by an adult, it is incumbent upon those who know to expose it. I believe NEA, DSEA, and Mike Matthews know this. But yes, that email did want to make me vomit. I do recognize it was an internal email meant for local Delaware education association leaders and as such, an omission of what the NJ guy did was not the purpose of the email.
Mike was one of the first I met on this blogging journey four years ago. We share many of the same ideologies and thoughts on corporate education reform policy. But he is also the leader of the Delaware State Education Association. Which puts him in a position where, given what I write about, that organization gets on my radar. I still believe Mike Matthews is the best President for DSEA right now. I just want to see more of the spitfire Mike we used to see. When I say spitfire, I don’t mean the anti-Trump stuff but the railing against horrible education policy. That was what elevated him to where he is now. When everything becomes anti-Trump, it becomes complicated. Because many of the horrible education policies our country faces were created by President Obama and Arne Duncan, both Democrats. The party doesn’t matter. It is the corporate machine that keeps those wheels greased. Throwing grenades at Trump does NOTHING to change the very dangerous course public education is on. We need the teacher unions standing up to bad policy. They are silent on the overwhelming amount of digital technology in our classrooms. Student privacy is going the way of the dinosaur and we all know it. Where is DSEA and the NEA on that? The problem is when NEA leadership creates NEA foundations that support the work of Bill Gates and the corporate education reformers in privatizing public education. They are helping to buy the rope that is putting their own organization in a noose.
Someone once told me the teacher unions are about the teachers first. Everything else is secondary. And I get that. But because teachers are a part of education, which is primarily about educating students, the students should be just as important to the teacher unions as the teachers. If that were the case, we would NEVER hear about any situation where a teacher who commits a wrong gets to keep their job. Until they do that, teacher unions are signing their own death warrant. It is not indicative of all teacher unions, but it is a very ugly truth and instead of hiding from it, NEA and AFT need to root out the evils within their associations.
**UPDATED, 1:15pm: I do not have “access” to either DSEA or NEA emails. This email came to me. I have absolutely no ability to get into any DSEA or NEA servers nor would I want to.
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
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!
**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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.