There are always gems to be found when you comb through district and charter board minutes, agendas, and websites. I did that last night and found a ton of stuff! Instead of coming out with a dozen or more articles about it, I thought I would just combine all of it one fell swoop! There is A LOT of material in here so dig in! Continue reading
I am more convinced than ever that there are people in Delaware who are hell-bent on demolishing the Delaware State Education Association. The resignation of Mike Matthews over old blog posts was just the opening salvo. This is an all-out war on the teachers union in Delaware.
Yesterday, I received a letter in the mail. The envelope was hand-written and the actual letter was typed. The bottom part of the page was cut off. There was no return address, just a Wilmington postmark. I do not know who sent it but it feels and smells like a campaign to go after DSEA. This is what the letter said: Continue reading
Odyssey Charter School teachers and staff voted and an overwhelming majority decided to join the Delaware State Education Association. This is the second charter school in Delaware to do so in 2018. Last Spring, the Charter School of Wilmington also voted to join DSEA. In 1997, Positive Outcomes joined DSEA but opted out in 2000. Delaware College Prep joined in 2012 but closed a few years later due to low enrollment.
With 131 for and 16 against, over 89% of the educators in the school decided a teachers union was the best option for them. Prior to 2018, it was virtually unheard of for Delaware charters to unionize. What turned the tide?
For Odyssey, the decision was clear- they did not like decisions the board was making and felt their voices were not being heard. When former leader Nick Manolakos did not have his contract renewed, the school hired two to take his place. But the tipping point was when their former Board President, who had just resigned, became a leading contender for a third highly paid administrator.
Over the summer this led to those teachers and parents questioning the board about decisions that would affect the school. Parents saw fundraiser after fundraiser to get more money for the school but didn’t feel the money was going towards what the school promised. But they had money for all these administrators.
Congratulations to Odyssey Charter School for joining DSEA. With two joining this year, will more Delaware charters follow? Even with forces joining together to muffle DSEA it has become more apparent than ever that teachers want respect and to have their voice heard. They are the second most important part of a school after the students. They have rights and deserve to organize and fight for what is theirs. They deserve due process and the right to air grievances.
Alleynegate continues! Hours after it was discovered DelawareCAN’s Atnre Alleyne decided to spam Delaware teachers with his “I hate Mike Matthews” blog post, many are wondering how the not so illustrious corporate education reformer got ahold of so many teacher’s personal emails. In a response to one teacher, Alleyne responded by saying this: Continue reading
Atnre Alleyne, the Executive Director of DelawareCAN, sent out an email blast to Delaware educators today. The email was unsolicited and left Delaware teachers wondering how Alleyne even got their email address in the first place. This pattern of abuse on Alleyne’s part ends a week filled with his mischief. Continue reading
I’ve seen Delaware divided over issues in my day but the social media comments about Mike Matthews old blog posts and his resignation from DSEA last night have lit Delaware up. Today, Matthews turned off his radio silence and gave, what I felt, was a very mature statement about his resignation and his old blog, Down With Absolutes.
Throughout my time as an educator, local union leader, and state union leader, I’ve prided myself on my attempts to be honest, transparent, and open when confronted with any issue. I like to think that no matter how difficult the topic, at times we need to set aside issues, sit down, and have the conversations that can help move any debate forward.
Now is one of those times where I need to be completely open, honest, and transparent with you, my Facebook friends.
Two days ago, I was contacted by a reporter who shared with me he had come into possession of some old posts from my blogging days. He shared with me that some individuals have concerns with the content, tone, and language used in the posts and he wanted for me to provide a comment on whether my words from 10-12 years ago match my representation of the organization I now lead, DSEA.
First, I will say that my conversation with the reporter was cordial. I’ve had a relationship with him over the last few years and he handled the interview with care and with the utmost respect. It is not a phone call that I expected to receive, considering I’ve been very open with my past in multiple venues since I became a teacher in 2009 after shutting the blog down several months before I started my job.
Second, as I shared with the reporter, I take full ownership of the comments I made on my blog from the period of about 2004-2009. I will not deflect. I will not blame. I will not obfuscate. I own the outlandish, insensitive, at times offensive, and inappropriate posts that I wrote mostly on topics of Delaware politics. I cannot recall every one of the thousands of posts that I authored in those five years…and it wouldn’t matter if I could. Because I wrote them. And I must own them. For any hurt, pain, or grief I caused individuals because of my words, I can only offer a full-throated, genuine apology without exception or qualification and hope that the work I’ve done since entering education and my role as a union leader can, in some minor way, redeem the words that are in no way a reflection of where I am today.
We are in very challenging times right now…a time where individuals are being scrutinized for actions they’ve taken in the past and how those actions should be weighed on their present and future. While I own and take responsibility for the words I published nearly a decade ago, I do not condone them nor are they words that would ever slip from my brain to my hands to the keyboard ever again. It is no defense to say that I was a rambunctious, wily twentysomething attempting to find his way in the world who had suddenly found an audience willing to receive the often thoughtless words I posted on the Internet.
Nearly a decade ago, I entered a fifth-grade classroom in Red Clay. Nothing excited me more than showing up to work every day to help guide the young minds of the students who entered room 210. Soon after I started teaching, I found that I still had a lot to say. I found that my role as classroom teacher had to extend beyond my classroom walls if the stories of my students and fellow educators were ever to be heard. I began to find ways to use my voice in a more measured way and soon began to engage elected officials in a more productive manner. I found a vehicle in both my local and state union as a way to communicate thoughts and feelings of myself and my fellow educators. Even in those years where I used my voice in a more productive manner, I acknowledged the blog and its contents and at no time have I attempted to hide my past or stray from the scrutiny that it has brought.
So where am I right now? As someone who has always believed that he should take responsibility for his actions, I stand ready to accept any responsibility or consequence that comes as a result of my words. Within hours of the article appearing online, I submitted my resignation to the Executive Board of DSEA; I will not allow my past transgressions to define the finest organization in Delaware advocating for Delaware’s educators and students. As I learned when I took office July 16, 2017, DSEA is a bigger organization than one man. And, regardless of my actions, I will honor this organization by doing what I feel and what I know is in its best interests.
In rendering a final judgment on who I am, I would hope that you, my Facebook friends, as well as the members of our organization, DSEA, would be willing to measure my work over the past five or six years and whether or not that should have some bearing considering the words I published long ago. Neither am I absolving myself of my actions nor am I seeking absolution from you, my friends. I am asking only that consideration be given to my record as a whole when you eventually read about the past that has come back. As I shared with the Executive Board on a conference call Tuesday night, I consider what I did with my blog as running up a large credit card tab. And now the bill has come due. And I am willing to accept any consequences that come with that.
To anyone in the past who has been harmed or offended by my words, please know it was never my intention to do so. Intentions don’t matter, though, when the actions and hurt are so explicitly clear. To those individuals, I can offer nothing more than a sincere apology and the promise that my personal and professional growth over the last few years is reflective of who I truly am today.
Thank you, everyone, for your support over the years. Thank you to DSEA and NEA for your counsel during this time and for the continued strength your organizations show on supporting students and educators. Good luck to my friend Stephanie Ingram, who is going to make an AMAZING DSEA president. I hope our members will show her the love that you’ve showered on me over the last year. Thank you to the dozens of DSEA members who’ve reached out in the last 24 hours with messages of support. Thank you to those who’ve reached out with thoughtfully constructive messages urging me to take ownership and make this a teachable moment. Thank you, most importantly, to my family, friends, and my husband Jose for helping me realize that this is now a period for growth and reflection. I intend to do just that.
Thank you, all.
Following an article by WHYY earlier today, Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews tendered his resignation tonight. Vice-President Stephanie Ingram will take over as President until the end of the three-year term in 2020.
DSEA sent the following email to its members this evening:
Dear DSEA members,
The educators who lead the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) take seriously our responsibility to our members, their students and our community. The Delaware State Education Association’s Executive Board convened an meeting this evening to discuss the blog posts written by Mike Matthews from 2006-2009 . Regardless of the fact that these posts were created prior to Mr. Matthews becoming an educator and member of DSEA, they were completely inappropriate and contrary to the views or values of the educators who make up the DSEA.
Therefore, Mr. Matthews has resigned as President of DSEA. We thank him for his service to DSEA and its membership.
Per DSEA’s bylaws, as Vice President, I will now assume the position of President of DSEA for the remainder of the term, ending in July, 2020.
DSEA represents more than 12,000 classroom teachers, specialists, and education support professionals working in Delaware’s public schools. As educators we are dedicated to providing the best educational opportunities possible to all Delaware public school students.
Our members provide a wide range of services to the students and the communities they live in. They teach students in classrooms from early learning centers through high school. They counsel adolescents and help them build career aspirations. They deliver instructional assistance in every type of subject, prepare and serve nutritionally-balanced meals, provide needed transportation and ensure our schools and facilities are clean and safe. They supply the professional services which help our schools run efficiently.
Since 1919, the members of DSEA have dedicated their lives to supporting children and public education and we will never falter in that mission. I am committed to helping DSEA to continue moving forward, building on the important partnerships with parents, community leaders, and elected officials, and maintaining our focus on the goal of providing all Delaware children with a quality education.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email me at Stephanie.Ingram@dsea.org or call me at 302-734-5834.
Parents of students at Odyssey Charter School received the following email tonight from the Head of School, Denise Parks. If Odyssey teachers and staff do vote to unionize they would become the second Delaware charter school to do this. In May, Charter School of Wilmington voted in the majority for joining the Delaware State Education Association.
Good evening, OCS Families–
Our new leadership team continues to work to improve communications and also to promote transparency in school developments. To reinforce these efforts, I want to make you aware that OCS has received notice from the State of Delaware, Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) that the Odyssey Charter School Education Association (“OCSEA”) has filed a petition to represent certain academic and facilities employees here at OCS. This process ultimately will lead to an election to determine whether OCSEA, as the union, will represent this group of employees in collective bargaining negotiations. I want you to know that the leadership team strongly believes that remaining union-free is the right thing for both OCS and for the staff involved. I will endeavor to keep you informed of key developments as they occur in this process. Please contact me if you have any questions. Whatever the outcome of this vote, I look forward to a productive year for our school.
Yours in education, Denise Parks Head of School
I think it is safe to say Renee Taschner will win the 22nd State Representative Democrat primary. Her opponent , Guillermina Gonzales, sent out a mailer bashing Delaware schools and the teachers union.
You shouldn’t need to send your children to private schools or move to Pennsylvania for them to get a good education.
I’m not going to sit here and say Delaware schools don’t have issues. But this tacit verbiage in a campaign mailer by a Democrat is not going to please voters! So she is basically saying ALL Delaware schools, except for private schools, suck. Even charter schools! Her anti-union stance is certainly not going to win DSEA votes! I can’t imagine the many charter school supporters in her neck of the woods will appreciate it either! So if all Delaware schools suck, is she a Betsy DeVos supporter? Would she join the Delaware Republicans who want school vouchers? Hell, even Joe Miro supported public schools. Ugh.
I’m not beholden to the teachers union or any other special interest groups.
Doesn’t sound like you are beholden to very much Ms. Gonzales. But then I read this part:
As a professor I know how important high quality teachers are and I’ve heard over and over from voters in this district how much room there is to improve in Delaware.
Would any of those voters happen to belong to DelawareCAN? Because I see your endorsement from the DelawareCAN Action Fund. They also endorsed a Republican in the 22nd primary as well, Michael Smith. He of the failed Pike Creek Charter School from 2014. DelawareCAN happens to be anti-union and promotes the “high quality teachers” game while putting down so many of our actual high quality teachers in Delaware. Running on a corporate education reform policy is bad mojo in Delaware. Maybe that will work in the Pike Creek area but I tend to doubt it.
Ralph Taylor, a Democrat candidate for the 31st District Representative Primary, just unleashed a tirade against the Delaware State Education Association over what he alleges are unfair practices for endorsements.
In the past few days, Kilroy’s Slower Delaware has posted three articles. All of them are puff pieces for the Caesar Rodney Institute (CRI). All three deal with CRI going after the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) over union dues.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court finalized the Janus decision. This rules that states can’t automatically collect union dues. Delaware’s biggest union, DSEA, took proactive steps anticipating this ruling. But the Caesar Rodney Institute, a Republican think tank in Delaware, has taken a special interest on this matter right before school starts.
Kilroy might have received a new job! Because he seems to be their blogger public relations guy! There are dozens of things going on in Delaware education at any given time. We have fraud and corruption. Teacher shortages. Charter scandals. The Delaware DOE. Legislation. Regulations. So much to write about! Why rest your hat on the teacher union? Come on Kilroy! Stop spending so much time at Paradise Grill and crabbing and get back to what you do best!
It isn’t just Christina School District. The entire state of Delaware is facing a teacher shortage with schools starting as soon as tomorrow in some districts. Based on visits to school districts, DSEA President Mike Matthews said Delaware is short anywhere from 150 to 200 teachers. Continue reading
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?