2,000,000 And Beyond

Exceptional Delaware hit 2,000,000 hits this morning.  I predicted this would happen in early February.  I’m still proud of this little blog even though I don’t post with the regularity I used to.  A full-time Monday to Friday job will do that.

4,210 posts.  2,969 loyal followers.  9,710 comments.  Countless Facebook and Twitter conversations.  Many new friends.  Years of sweat and blood.  Trying to do the right thing for kids.  Fighting the fight.  Going through the motions of life.  How much is enough?  Am I doing enough?  It took years to find a balance.  It’s been a journey.

When I hit my first million in November of 2016, my life was completely different from how it is now.  I have to wonder if it will make it to three million and what my life will look like at that point in time.

Thanks for coming here.  This blog would be nothing without readers.  Whether we agree or not on things, I’ve always done my best to shed light where there was none.  It became more political over the years but that is, in large part, because politics and education have become so entwined.  Faces come and go in the education world.  Some remain.  Education is never going to be perfect.  But we need to be better and that starts with the adults in charge.

President Trump Issues Executive Order About Federal Control Of Public Education

Hot off the press, United States President Donald Trump just issued an Executive Order concerning federal control of education.  This order gives U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos a lot of authority to remove regulations that may interfere with state or local control of public education.  It also talks about Common Core.  Worth a read…

Governor Carney Brings Family Services Cabinet Council Back To Delaware

On Tuesday, Delaware Governor John Carney signed Executive Order #5.  This order reestablishes the Family Services Cabinet Council.  From the press release:

Governor Carney Reestablishes the Family Services Cabinet Council

Date Posted: Tuesday, February 28th, 2017

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney signed Executive Order Five on Tuesday, reestablishing the Family Services Cabinet Council to help coordinate public and private services for Delaware families.

Delaware families continue to face significant challenges – including the high cost of child care; violence and poverty in their neighborhoods; the impact of caring for an aging family member; and the challenges of navigating an economy in transition. The Family Services Cabinet Council will be charged with coordinating public and private services that are often fragmented, and proposing changes to current programs to make the delivery of state services more effective.

Governor Carney will serve as chair of the Council.

Reestablishment of the Council, which was first established under Governor Tom Carper, was an action called for by Governor Carney’s Transition Team in their Action Plan for Delaware. The Council also will work closely with the Government Efficiency and Accountability Review Board (GEAR), which Governor Carney created this month to identify cost savings and efficiencies in state government, and to more effectively operate state programs and services.

“Our challenge is to determine whether the programs and services we offer are effective in moving families out of poverty, improving our system of education and creating opportunities for all Delaware families to succeed,” said Governor Carney. “That requires all of us – government agencies, nonprofits and private business – to work together. That also requires that we measure our progress. The reestablishment of the Family Services Cabinet Council will help us do just that, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of Delaware families.”

The Council will be tasked with implementing innovative tools and strategies for addressing a series of specific issues, including: breaking the school-to-prison pipeline; improving access to early childhood education; increasing the availability of affordable housing; improving access to substance abuse treatment; reducing recidivism in Delaware’s correctional system; expanding job training opportunities; and reducing violence in Delaware’s neighborhoods.

The Council will include eight members of Governor Carney’s Cabinet – the Secretary of the Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families; the Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services; the Secretary of the Department of Education; the Secretary of the Department of Labor; the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security; the Director of the Delaware State Housing Authority; the Director of the Office of Management and Budget; and the Commissioner of the Department of Correction.

“It is our duty to ensure that our children and our families have the necessary tools to be healthy, prosperous, and safe,” said Lieutenant Governor Bethany Hall-Long. “The reestablishment of this Council will break down silos in state government and allow for a more collaborative and coordinated approach to address some of the most critical issues we face, so that every Delawarean has a fair shot.”

 

Origins: Bugarach & Bayhealth

The definitive seeds for this blog bloomed in late 2013 and early 2014. But what if I said the germination of those seeds began years before?

In 2009, I met someone who was making some very poor choices with their life.  They told me they had a child with a lot of problems.  One night, that person had to take their son to the hospital.  I thought about meeting the person to talk to them about those very poor choices, but the son’s problems took front and center.  I went to Bayhealth in Dover that night after thinking about it for a couple of hours.  As I walked in, the person didn’t see me.  I saw them rocking this teenage boy child in their arms, back and forth, back and forth.  While I didn’t agree with this person’s life choices, I understood how broken they were.  Their entire life was devoted to helping this child.  I could tell they didn’t have a support system that allowed them to get the help they truly needed.  I walked out of the emergency room waiting area and drove home.  It was about 2am in the morning.  I talked to the person briefly a couple of days later but I lost track of the person and I have never seen or heard from them again.  I’ve always wondered how that person and the boy were doing.  I’ve never shared this with anyone until now, not even those closest to me.  But it stuck with me for some reason.  While I’ve been blessed in many ways to be able to give my own special needs child the most basic of comforts, there are others who are unable to.

Almost two years later, I had a dream one night. It was the most bizarre dream of my life and I remember every single detail of it.  Terrorists were launching a full-scale attack on the airport in San Diego airport.  I was on a plane attempting to take off in the midst of fire and carnage.  I looked out the window of the plane to see  fire and death on the ground.  People were dying before my eyes as I flew off into the sun setting over the Pacific.  As dreams go, moments shift in the blink of an eye.  The plane was flying towards a mountain.  There was a flat area so the plane could land.  There were not that many people on the plane.  We got off after a bumpy landing to find soldiers escorting us to a door in the mountain.

We walked into the mountain and I quickly realized the world was ending. Inside the mountain was an entire city.  It was built like a mall with different stores and what I could only call processing centers.  I walked into an auditorium and saw children and teenagers.  All of them seemed like there was something unique about them.  While I didn’t realize this in the dream, I believe they were special needs children.  Those with Autism, Aspergers, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and the different.  The separated.  The cast out.  They were told to listen and behave.  I knew instantly that something was very wrong with this whole scene.  For some reason, I got a job at the mountain as a guard of some sort.  I walked around this mountain mall for a while.  People were walking around and seemed happy, but I noticed I didn’t see any of the children that were in the auditorium.  All the people walking around were grown-ups.  What happened to the children?

I found out the answer to that question. Soldiers were placing corpses on a conveyor belt which went through a door to the outside.  I got close enough to take a peek out the door and what I saw horrified me.  Children were being sent into an outside furnace.  Some of the children were still alive as they were led to the slaughter.  A guard motioned towards me and I woke up from my dream.

That dream haunted me for months. One day at work during a break I happened to see a newspaper headline about a mountain in France that was attracting New Age followers.  December 12, 2012 was fast approaching and they believed this mountain in the Pyrenes chain would save them from the upcoming apocalypse.  They call Bugarach the “upside-down” mountain based on its geographical structure.  That apocalyptic moment never came in 2012.  UFOs did not take the New Age followers away to some interstellar promised land.  But when I read the online article about this bizarre mountain in France, they showed a picture of it.  It was the exact same mountain as the one in my dream.   Granted, there was no revelation about a mountain mall at Bugarach.  I began to do tons of research on Bugarach and found some bizarre stuff.

pech_de_bugarach_27072014_02

It was more the dream that stuck with me.  When I began this blog, I did a couple of articles on treatment of those with disabilities in history.  It really isn’t until the past fifty years that those with disabilities began to gain the rights they should have always had.  I even incorporated Bugarach in a never-finished series called “Delaware Horror Story”.  Maybe one day I will pick that up and give the history of what happened to Mike Matthews and Paul Herdman when Sussex County was wiped out due to melting glaciers.  But not today.  For me my dream about Bugarach and the dark horrors within represented a potential future to avoid at all costs.

So why am I just now revealing these what could only be viewed as crazy moments in my life now?  First off, the topic of that person I met with the child at Bayhealth recently came up.  I didn’t realize what an impression that made on me over the years.  I didn’t know the first thing about special needs, how to advocate for rights, or certainly any knowledge of how to help a child who was clearly suffering.  As far as the dream, I have tried to get back to that dream in the six years since with no luck whatsoever.  It was the worst possible future for these kids.  Do I think that could really happen?  I pray to God not.  But if you asked someone if the Holocaust or the wholesale slaughter in Rwanda in the 1990s if they could have foreseen those moments, perhaps not.  History is filled with such atrocities going back tens of thousands of years.  Like I said, history is filled with very bad treatment of anyone different.  As I said in the intro for this, these were just seed germinations.  The simple truth is this blog would have never happened if not for the very difficult birth of those seeds bursting to life all those years ago.  For some, it seems like just yesterday that late 2013 and early 2014 happened.  For me, it feels like a lifetime ago.  Along with all that came before that.

I see what is going on now in our world.  In America, we seem more divided than ever.  I don’t see the “growth” happening for students with disabilities that all the faux Common Core believers profess they are having.  I see people at each other’s throats over party lines.  I believe we are fast approaching a tipping point in society.  A line will be crossed and there will be no looking back.  But I also have hope.  Hope that we can overcome our differences and unite to help all people.

Last Friday night, I attended a candle-light vigil for Lieutenant Steven Floyd in Dover.  For those around the country who read this blog, Lt. Floyd was the correctional officer tragically murdered in last week’s prison siege at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, DE.  I saw hundreds of people paying tribute to a man that saved others with his actions.  He was and is a true hero.  Everyone who attended this vigil, along with the accompanying tribute in Smyrna, was there to pay tribute and to mourn.  As we held our candles up high for Lt. Floyd, I remembered another evening where many of us lit candles to remember.

It was after 9/11.  I lived in California at the time.  Word was going around on the internet that everyone should hold a candle-light vigil one Friday evening.  I went outside and found people just coming over.  Some I had never met before.  I became the de facto leader of this group and started to speak.  This was something I never did before.  I thought, “Why me?”  But I got through it.  After everyone left I felt a feeling of peace.  In the midst of unspeakable tragedy, people could still unite for something bigger than themselves.

In the span of my life, my advocacy for special needs, opt out, and getting rid of corporate education reform is still in its infancy.  I truly don’t know what will happen next.  Things are moving very fast and there are many things I need to put in the “unable to control” box.  While I was blogging, life continued to move forward.  I’m at a crossroads with many things in my life right now but I know I have a few things in my corner: friends, hope, and love.  Will the dreams of yesterday and missed opportunities create change in the future?  Time will tell.  But my days of living in darkness, of drowning in it, will not define who I am.  It will not shape my world any longer.  I refuse to let it.

At the vigil last Friday evening, a Reverend spoke to the crowd.  His final words resonated with me like no other words in a long time.  I can’t remember it verbatim, but he was talking about how much people need help from others.  How so many of us just walk right past them.  He said we should only be looking down unless it is to lift another person up.

When we are fighting on Facebook about politics, are we really contributing anything worthwhile to the world?  Do we really believe a local fight on Facebook is going to change the shape of a nation?  Are we that self-absorbed to think that?  I am not bemoaning standing up for rights or what you believe.  What I am criticizing is the way so many of us are going about how they convey their beliefs.  If making a point hurts someone to a level where the words “I’m sorry” are said, it has gone too far.  If friendships die forever over this stuff, that is the truest shame in the world.

The driving force for this blog has evolved in the past couple of months.  I felt I said all I needed to say about certain subjects.  I was no longer in a place to do vast amounts of research and spend so much time on it.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  I still am in some respects, but I’ve also experienced a reawakening I never expected.  Here comes the future.

 

Do You Want To Believe?

Belief is a funny thing.  Some people need to see something splattered all over newspapers and major news outlets to believe something is real.  Others just need to hear one thing to think something is true.  When it comes to education, what do you believe?

I recently had a conversation with someone who told me I was a conspiracy theorist.  That what I am saying about the vast plans that have been going on with education and what is to come is nothing more than that.  That I have no basis to prove my theories whatsoever.  This person also informed me they don’t care about my theories and they have more important things to do with their life.  I encouraged this person to do some research on their own and to come up with their own conclusions.  When you talk about the agendas for public education to someone who is not deeply engrossed in the minutiae of what has been going on, it is very easy to sound like a crackpot.  It won’t be the first time someone has expressed that I am crazy or wearing a tin hat.  I’m sure it won’t be the last.  But as I left that person, they were on Google looking up “Common Core conspiracy theories”.

To an outside observer, many of us who do the research with corporate education reform do sound crazy.  But they haven’t poured through contracts and websites, or followed the money to see where billions of dollars are going.  They haven’t read everything we have.  They can’t accept how deep the tentacles reach.  That this involves much more than education and has ties with the U.S. Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Labor.  That what is going on in public education will redefine society as we know it and strip away substantial rights of citizens in the future.  It sounds so crazy it would have to be a conspiracy theory, right?  And that is exactly what they are counting on, these masters of wealth and foundations, these billionaires who throw money around like it was nothing.  “But these foundations do good things,” I’ve heard.  Of course they do.  They help people around the globe.  If all they did was fund Common Core and personalized learning and education technology, it would be MUCH easier for people to follow the trail.

Our country is run by corporations.  I can’t make people see this.  I can’t make them understand that politicians are bought and sold like discounted goods on Black Friday.  I can’t make them see the major media blackout on so much that is really going on.  I hear so many people say “You can’t believe what you read on the Internet or on blogs.”  I’ve seen it myself.  There is a ton of bad information out there.  I’ve published bad information before based on bad information or a misunderstanding.  It happens.  But when all the same trails lead to the same conclusions repeatedly, after a while the truth sinks in.  It’s not like a lot of these companies are hiding what they want to do with data.  They are announcing it on their websites or pushing it with policy briefs for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  But who has the time to look at all that?  If I weren’t hip to a lot of this stuff, I wouldn’t give any of it the time of day.

It is no longer theory when something has been proven.  It is fact.  And it is a fact that there are corporations and foundations, run by some of the richest people in the world, that want today’s youth and future generations to become servants to their masters.  They will accomplish this through education by turning it into a data tracking system that will affect every facet of their lives: health, careers, outside interests, media, technology, and higher education.  Everyone will be plugged in and led to believe what their lives should be.  The data will tell them so.  Meanwhile, those who aren’t plugged into the Blockchain technology coming our way, the masters, they will happily reap the profits of those who don’t want to believe.

As those who want to save our children from this future, how do we reach those who don’t want to believe?  Who honestly don’t have the time or an inkling of how grand this scheme is?  That it doesn’t matter who is President or this Secretary, they are just following the script written decades ago?

The Supermoon

Before a secret is told, one can often feel the weight of it in the atmosphere.

-Susan Griffin

On January 26th, 1948, a full moon shone brightly in the Winter sky.  The next time the full moon will be that close to the earth will be on Monday morning at 6:22am.  The next time you can see a Supermoon that close to Terra Firma will be 2034.  Tonight, it is just Waxing Gibbous.  It is at 97.4% of a full moon.  And it is cold out.  There is a frost in the air and the stars are shining bright.  Winter is coming.

They are saying it is going to be a mild winter this year.  Another La Niña.  So this means I could probably lay on the beach for New Years.

It’s the middle of the night.  Sleep comes and goes tonight.  I’m feeling restless, more than I have in a long time.  Afraid to close my eyes and afraid to stay awake.  Work comes in three and a half hours.  It will be a long day.

My arm is doing better.  I had a case of hairspray fall on my left elbow a month ago.  It hurt like hell when it happened, but only for a few minutes.  But then a week later this… thing… started sticking out of my elbow.  Like a Dr. Scholl’s pad golf ball.  I’ve been to doctors a few times for this.  I even had my first MRI.  Not an experience I care to repeat.  Last week I learned I had a slight tear in a tendon.  So I’ve been on light duty at work for a month and will be for another few weeks.  I work a tough job, but for scheduling purposes, there are reasons why I work that job.  It isn’t for the weak, that’s for sure.  But I feel the weight of age creeping up on me sometimes.  An odd ache here, a desire to take a nap in the middle of a day off.  And I’m not even fifty.

I haven’t been writing here as much as I could.  I have plenty to say, and plenty or articles ready to pop.  I’ve never had more research in my life.  But right now, America and Delaware seem to be dealing with President Trump in one of two ways: it is the end of democracy as we know it or it is the best post-coital bliss ever.  I don’t want to throw stuff out there that will get bypassed for yet another article about Trump.  I’m also at that point in education where I have to start calling people and organizations out.  Ones that, when I began this journey, I thought were on the side of kids.  But they aren’t.  The picture starts to get blurry and the colors start to merge.  I wish I could say there are those that I thought were the “bad guys” but then I discovered they aren’t.  But I can’t say that.  Yes, Jack Markell will sail off into the sunset.  Secretary Godowsky will go with him.  But what Jack made for Delaware is still in play.

I have this sense of foreboding tonight.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I do.  Things are going to change.  I know this but I want to wish it away.  Taking things for granted is never a good idea.  I want things to be simple again.  But they won’t be.  The last time things were simple for me was in 1975.

The summer after Kindergarten, my mom had to have an operation of some sort.  I couldn’t tell you what it was for, but it was enough for my parents to send me and my brothers to a family friend’s house for a couple of days.  We went to see Peter Pan, the classic cartoon version.  Afterwards, we went to our friend’s church.  I don’t remember how it got to that point, but I remember the minister asking me if I had anything to say.  So I told the whole church about Peter Pan.  I went on and on and on.  Everyone in the church was laughing and smiling.  I didn’t understand at the time that they weren’t laughing at how great Peter Pan was, but the fact that a five year-old boy was talking about this in God’s House of Worship.  Of course, I felt like the king of the world and the audience loved me.  I was the star of the show.

That was the last time things were truly simple for me.  Genuine, unadulterated bliss.  When you are that young, the world revolves around you.  You are the center of the universe.

I won’t be falling back to sleep tonight.  I would be getting up in an hour and a half anyways, so what’s the point.  I’ve already started my first cup of coffee.  To me, there isn’t anything better than that first sip.  Hopefully that, and a couple more, will do the trick for the day ahead of me.

Now I’m thinking of an earlier time, before Peter Pan.  My family and I were in church.  My Dad, Mom, my three brothers, and myself.  All I remember was that I was crying because my Mom went up to get Communion.  My Dad was holding me in his arms.  But I felt lost and scared.  I couldn’t have been older than two or three.  My father pulled out a little toy giraffe, no bigger than my hand.  For some reason, that giraffe gave me comfort.  It eased my troubled toddler little mind.  But I see it differently now.  I see a father holding a crying baby who wanted his mommy.  And in that moment, he found a connection.  Instead of getting upset, he gave me something he hoped would give me comfort and a feeling of safety.  It worked.  I remember holding that giraffe in my tiny hand and looking up at my dad.  In his eyes I saw a feeling of calm, of peace.

I haven’t thought, or written, about that moment in a long time.  The last time I wrote about it was in 1988.  I was in a creative writing class for the first half of my Senior year of high school.  Our final project was to write an autobiography based on something important in our life.  I wrote about my walk with God.  And I couldn’t very well talk about God without writing about all the people in my life.  This project became bigger and bigger the more I wrote.  It was about my life, from birth until that very snowy January over seventeen years later.  I believe it was about 24 pages, typed.  I got an A on it.  We had to read it in class.  I remember a few of my classmates crying when I read it.  I remember asking them later why they cried.  They said they had no idea or close I was with God.  I wasn’t a Bible-thumping evangelist running around my high school reading scripture every chance I got.  But in my thoughts, I pondered and wrestled with questions of faith back then.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.  At least that’s what they say.  It is now 3:15am.  My alarm will be going off at 4:30am.  I’m leaving it on in case weariness overcomes me and I succumb to somnus.

I was  a wreck last Christmas.  I never got the tree fully set up.  My son was transitioning to his fifth school since Kindergarten.  In six years.  It took its toll on me.  On my family.  I wonder sometimes if I will ever find a reason or answers to why my son had to go through so much at such an early age.  I watch him sometimes, struggling with his disability.  Those times when he asks God why he has to suffer through painful and repetitive tics.  Why his mind sometimes feels muddled.  Other times he refuses to believe in God because how could any God do that to a human being.  I see the host of people who have come in and out of his life.  Too much “goodbye” and not enough “hello”.  I struggle with my own thoughts on this.  When do I let go a little?  When does my fighting interfere with his ability to self-advocate?  He is fast becoming a teenager.  That transition period between boy and man.  When do I see the disability?  When do I see the boy-turning-into-a-man chrysalis?  Tourette Syndrome is not all he is.  He has it.  It affects him.  But it isn’t his whole being.  It is not his whole life.  It is just baggage he has to carry with him on his own walk through life.  One day, he will have to find peace with it.  I pray that day comes soon, but all things come in time.

What madness has struck upon me during this waxing gibbous that I am poring all these memories and feelings onto the screen?  I don’t know.  But it feels right.  Sometimes writing is my way of purging things.  Or coming to terms.  Reconnecting with the world.  I can throw numbers and statistics and secrets on the screen all day long.  But none of it means anything if I don’t have that reconnection.  I can’t be tethered to education all the time.  How I see education is not how most see it.  I dive into the cesspools most don’t even know exist.  Waters that don’t look that deep, but they will suck you in and drown you for all its worth.  But it is worth plenty.  I have no regrets.  This is my way of walking away from it.  At least for this moment.  To see life beyond the lies.  Because there is so much that human beings never learn in the classroom.  The painful and hard lessons they learn in real life.

schoolgaiman

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors.  He has this uncanny knack for dealing with the most abstract of thoughts in the simplest of ways.  So that anyone can understand it.  The above picture comes from his Sandman comic-book series.  It ran 75 issues, from 1988 until 1996.  I didn’t catch on to this series until 1991.  By then it was well-known.  Each issue became a gold-mine when it came out.  By the time the 74th issue came out, I was preparing to move to another country.  Young love and a huge sense of wanderlust brought me to Sweden in 1996.  I was there for two months when I walked into a newsstand one evening.  I was killing time before going over to a friend’s house.  I sold about 90% of my comic-book collection before moving and I didn’t really have much intention of picking up the habit again.  But there it was, staring at me.  Sandman #75.  The last issue.

William Shakespeare appeared in an earlier issue of Sandman.  Gaiman crafted a reimagining of the Bard’s inspiration for A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream in the story.  Morpheus, also known as the Sandman or Dream, granted William Shakespeare the inspiration for all his plays in exchange for a boon.  Shakespeare wrote two plays for Morpheus.  The play highlighted in the earlier issue was A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.  But the last issue was based on The Tempest.  Ironically, this took place prior to the pivotal moment in the series six issues earlier, but it served as the perfect moment for Dream to sleep.

I’m halfway done with my second cup of coffee.  For the first time in well over eight years, I read the last issue of Sandman again.  I am left wondering: do I inspire or am I inspired?  Do I write for you or do you read for me?  Do I amuse or am I your muse?  Weighty thoughts, heavier on my shoulders by little sleep and not having the ability to dream.

I leave for work in an hour.  This has been a distraction.  Away from my fears, my worries.  A distraction from a truth wrapped up in a secret.  We all do this.  We refuse to face a reality so we hide from it.  We try to cover it up.  But it’s always there, staring down at us like a Supermoon.

secrets

 

 

The Unholy Matrimony Of Education And Corporation

Last night at the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Governor’s Advisory Committee meeting, audience members were given a chance to give public comment.  I gave the following public comment, with the exception of a couple of sentences because that was covered during the meeting.  I will put an asterisk between those sentences.

Good evening members of the ESSA Advisory Committee. My name is Kevin Ohlandt.  Congratulations on your selection for this very important group.  This is a mammoth undertaking, this new federal law.  I will be completely frank: I do not trust this law.  I do not trust our Delaware Dept. of Education.  I believe ESSA is an unholy matrimony between education and corporations.  You can consider me the friend of the bride, education, warning about the potential husband who will not be good for her.  I have seen and heard far too much to suggest otherwise.  I believe this matrimony will eventually result in a messy divorce.  The custody battle for the students will be huge, and I fear the groom, the companies, will eventually win custody of the kids. 

I urge this committee to give an immediate recommendation of postponing Delaware’s submission of their state plan to the US DOE. There are far too many moving parts.  *States were given two dates to submit their final plan: March 31st or July 31st.  Our Dept. of Education chose March 31st without any true consultation with the citizens of our state.*  We were not given a choice as a state or allowed to be part of that decision-making process.  Certain parties were given a much greater weight in consultation with the DOE before any public gathering took place.

As a member of the Student and School Supports discussion group, I see far too many members of that group who would financially benefit from the Every Student Succeeds Act. When that happens, I don’t see them as a stakeholder, but a benefactor.  That is not what the term stakeholder means.  I believe some good can come out of this law.   I have seen many great ideas come forth in the meetings.  But until we can weed out what is good or bad for students, we need to “slow our roll”.  There are far too many conflicts of interest involved with this plan.

With that being said, the issues facing education in Delaware are at a crisis point. Whether it is mold in schools that is making people sick, or drugs and gangs reaching into elementary schools, or a teenager murdered in a bathroom stall, or the very fast implementation of educational technology in our classrooms with no research on the long-term psychological effects on children, or student’s personal data being given to parties that truly do not need that information, or lawsuits concerning school funding or segregation of minority students, or FOIA complaints against the DOE for continually failing to make certain public body meetings transparent and available to the public, we need to slow down. 

Education should always be about the kids. Some in this world have already determined what their future should be and I find that to be an immoral and grave injustice. 

Exceptional Delaware Endorses Kim Williams For State Representative, 19th District

kimwilliamsstaterep

She does the right thing.  There is no other reason than that to vote for Kim Williams in the 19th District.  But for those few and far between in Delaware who may not know Kim Williams, let me explain why I am endorsing her.

Kim Williams is the Vice Chair of the House Education Committee.  She has served on that committee since she was first elected in 2012.  In that time, she has dealt with charter school reform, opt out, charter school audit, teacher evaluation, special education, education funding, Smarter Balanced, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, bullying, and so much more.  She votes with her conscience every single time.  Not how others vote, or the popular vote, but how SHE wants to vote.  And behind that vote is her love of children.  Not just the children of her district.  Not just the children in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  All the children of Delaware.

If there are issues going on at a school, she is there.  She isn’t afraid to ask questions when it has to happen.  If there is something big going on in education, she is there.

My favorite “Kim Williams” moment was when I was talking to a friend that lives in a school district 45 minutes south of me.  Kim’s district is way up in Newcastle County.  This friend told me how she was working with Kim on an issue.  I was amazed that Kim would help someone who lives so far away.  That’s just who she is.

But she is more than just an “education” state rep.  She is the people’s representative.  To me, she is the heart and soul of Delaware, at least what I would like it to be one day.  I wrote a fake article last year called The Last Exceptional Delaware Post.  In this imaginary future, Kim Williams was the Governor of Delaware in the year 2024.  I’m not ruling that out!

In writing this article, I wanted to find a picture of Kim that represents who she is.  It was very hard.  As I looked through her pictures on Facebook, she is always surrounded by people.  All the time.  Whether it is her family, her friends, her constituents, her peers in the General Assembly, she is always with people!

Please check out Kim’s State Rep. Facebook page to see how engaged she is with not only her constituents, but all of Delaware.  For those wishing to donate to Kim’s campaign, please go here: Contribute to Kim Williams, State Rep. 19th District Campaign

Intermission

If you may have noticed, I haven’t been writing as much lately.  I’ve been on an intermission of sorts.  Life stuff.  And fun stuff (for me at least).  I’ve been catching up on some reading and listening to a lot of music.  Things I used to do a lot before I started blogging.  I just need to wind down at times.  I’ve pretty much been on the go for over two years with education and I really don’t want to burn out.  So I’m taking some time off.  I’ll still try to get some stuff up everyday, but nothing to in-depth.  Unless something big comes my way.  Then I will get that up fast!

My wife and I cleaned out our garage today.  My car was filled with stuff we donated to Good Will.  I had to clean out my gutters when I saw weeds growing out of them in a couple of areas.  While I was doing that, a wicked wind blew green leaves all over the place.  I thought I might lose some trees on the edge of our property, but walnuts are very sturdy.

TV winds down for me in the summer.  Only a few shows I’m watching now: Game of Thrones, Preacher and Outcast.  The season finale of The Americans is on tonight.  I will definitely be watching that!  Like those who watch it, I think it is one of the best shows on TV now.  Having lived through the 1980s it is very spot-on with the rendition of the early part of that decade.  They even had a bunch of characters watching “The Day After” in one episode this season.  Kids today don’t live with nuclear threats like I did when I was a kid/teenager.  That movie scared the crap out of millions of Americans.  It came out in 1983 on a Sunday night.  I’ve watched it a few times since.

I was listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons earlier today.  The Summer trio are my favorite.  Highs and lows, with a crashing crescendo at the end!  Then I vegged out to some Imagine Dragons and later a band you’ve most likely forgotten about or never heard of called Gene Loves Jezebel.

I’m just blabbing here, about nothing specific.  My son has been watching Arrow and telling me all about it.  I’m a huge Flash fan, but I’ve been stuck on the first season of Arrow for a couple of years.  If you haven’t guessed, I’m a huge comic book fan.  In terms of shows and movies, Marvel gets the movies right and DC does really well with the tv shows.  I still haven’t seen Captain America: Civil War yet.  It is on my soon-to-do list.  Along with a million other things.

I’m kind of at a transition point.  My son is exactly where he needs to be with education.  His battles are a thing of the past for the most part so much my anger is fading.  That doesn’t mean I don’t care about education overall, I just don’t have that immediate connection to it I used to have.  I’ll still do the research and the digging and the listening.  But I am really trying to leave emotion out of it.  If anything, I’ve gotten more sarcastic with my writing.  I’ve been involved with this mess in Delaware so long and so intensely, nothing really shocks me much anymore.  But we are entering unchartered territory with Jack leaving next year and the upcoming elections.  At the time of this writing, Hillary is the Democrat nominee and Donald is the Republican.  I really can’t stand them both.  I was really rooting for Bernie, but his age concerned me a lot.  I don’t like the fact that both the frontrunners are two people who I’ve heard about for over twenty years and neither of them ever impressed me.  It’s kind of depressing actually.  I will fully admit it is very hard for me to not want to blast certain people involved in education.  I see them doing some of the same things over and over.  But it’s the everyday people I’m sometimes hard on, and I’m starting to feel bad about that.  My intention isn’t to hurt anyone.  I’ve always figured if you are going to attend meetings about education you are most likely a public person.  Even if they are “secret” or non-public meetings.  I know I upset a couple of people two weeks ago and I feel bad about that.  I’m going to try to be nicer to people on here.   I know, I’ve said that before and then two weeks later I was cussing out some folks.  When I have posts like that, I’m not going to publish them right away.  Sometimes the best thing to do is sleep on it and not go by the moment.

Alright, enough out of me.  For those reading this, I’m sure this was not the kind of post you wanted to read.  Everyone always loves the scoop (or the supposed scoop).  But even bloggers need a time out once in a while!

Resistance

“That is the force of resistance. It has a moral power, it has a truth. And that truth exposes any totaliterian forces, including our corporate masters for who they are. And it is our job, each of us, in whatever circumstance we are in, to find the courage to stand up and speak that truth, and damn the consequences. When you speak that truth, that good, it draws to it the good. And it is the good that will bring them down.” -Chris Hedges

A lot of people ask me why I do what I do. Why I write about education so much. Why I attack instead of cooperate. Why I question instead of answer. Why I fight instead of surrender.   Why I resist every single word that comes out of my Governor’s mouth.  Why I believe everything coming out of the Rodel Foundation serves no child, but rather a hedge fund or a company’s bottom line.  Why I can look any member of the State Board of Education in the eye and tell them in no uncertain words, “This is wrong.”  Why I disdain those who have the power to stop all of this but enable it instead.  Why I fight for parents to opt out instead of opting in.  Why I sound like a crazed madman coming out of the wilderness when I tell people, “Don’t just opt out of the state assessment, opt out of the personalized learning too.”  Why I connect the dots on all the pieces of the puzzles and say, “Don’t believe this is a good thing.  Not for one second.”

The people who are doing all of this, they can’t relate.  They don’t know what it is to be on the bottom.  They don’t know the struggles most of us go through.  They are relentless in their methods.  I will speak until I can’t.  I know the difference between genuine and fake.  I know when the same words are being said over and over and over again, it is a script.  A script designed to be force-fed to all of us until we numb our brains into believing it.  This is why. Everything Chris Hedges says in this video is why.

I would rather be shunned and ridiculed than cower to any of these pieces of trash that want to take something good from children and replace it with corporate dividends.  I would rather be laughed at than to believe the lies.  I would rather be given a look of pity than a handshake of compliance.  I will not give up the fight.  I won’t stop until these people are exposed for the frauds they are.  I will stand up for parents and children even if I am the only one standing.  I believe the rights of parents and students are more important than the rights of the test-makers and the corporate shakers.  I will fight for the rights of all children at risk even when their supposed advocates are leading them down a path of destruction designed to swallow their lives whole.

I will resist.

The Dead Heart

We have not had a major world war in over seventy years.  There are very few alive who fought in World War II.  But the modern war is the companies.  The huge corporations.  Companies have more say than people.  They infiltrated education and took over.  Do you we the people have what it takes to take it back?  How loud do we have to get?  If we miss our chance, which is pretty much right now, our children will never be the same.  All the things we take for granted will be gone forever.

Senator Tom Carper (DE) Explains Why He Voted “Yes” For John King As U.S. Secretary of Education

Tom Carper

The United States Senate confirmed John King as the United States Secretary of Education today in a 49-40 vote.  Both of the Delaware Senators, Tom Carper and Chris Coons voted yes.  Bernie Sanders was one of eleven “not voting”.  Had those eleven voted no this title would have been different…

Last night, Diane Ravitch and the Network for Public Education put out a blitz to have folks email their U.S. Senators to vote no for John King.  I sent my letters to Carper and Coons.  Tom Carper responded today.  His response touched on different facets of education, but in the letter he didn’t commit to which way his vote landed.  But it was obvious he was going to vote yes based on the context of the email…

March 14, 2016

Dear Mr. Ohlandt,

Thank you for contacting my office to express your concerns regarding the nomination of Dr. John King, Jr. to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. I appreciate hearing from you on this important matter.

As you know, on February 11, 2016, President Barack Obama formally nominated Dr. John King, Jr. as U.S. Secretary of Education. Dr. King currently serves as Acting Secretary of Education, and he holds degrees from Harvard University, Columbia University, and Yale Law School. In addition to serving as Commissioner of Education for the State of New York, Dr. King spent years teaching social studies and helped launch a charter school in Boston, Massachusetts.

I understand your concerns regarding Dr. King pertaining to his tenure in New York. On February 25, 2016, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing regarding Dr. King’s nomination. My colleagues on the Committee spent much of the hearing discussing implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the new bipartisan law to replace No Child Left Behind, which was enacted in December 2015. A video of Dr. King’s confirmation hearing is available to watch online at the following link: http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/nomination-of-dr-john-king-to-serve-as-secretary-of-education

Nonetheless, few issues are more important to me, to Delawareans or to the future of the United States than the quality of our education system and its ability to raise student achievement. As a United States Senator, I feel that the federal government must reform our education system to help our neediest students who are literally being left behind. Ultimately, the government needs to ensure that all students and teachers have the resources to raise student achievement. 

I believe it is important to take a holistic approach when identifying and raising student achievement, starting from birth. As Governor of Delaware, I worked hard to provide a fully funded Head Start to every four-year-old living in poverty. Additionally, I helped establish a comprehensive system of standardized testing and accountability. I also worked to promote professional development opportunities for teachers and school leaders. I believe that this sort of holistic effort is crucial in helping students gain the necessary skills to prepare them for the workforce.

As a former Governor, I also respect the right, in most instances, of our current Chief Executive, and his predecessors, to surround themselves with cabinet members that they believe will best serve their administrations and our country. When I was privileged to serve for eight years as Delaware’s chief executive, I nominated numerous individuals to cabinet positions. During those years, I consistently asked the Senate to give me the benefit of the doubt on nominations so that I could surround myself with the leadership team that I felt would best enable me to keep my commitments to the people of Delaware who elected me.

Now, as a United States Senator, it is my responsibility to carefully consider each nomination by our Chief Executive and to decide whether or not I should consent to those appointments. Having said that, I take seriously my obligation to provide advice and consent on the president’s cabinet-level appointments and have met with Dr. King on his recent trip to Delaware. In considering these appointments, I use criteria that I developed as governor. I look for the nominee to have the following attributes:

  • a sound moral character
  • a strong work ethic
  • be a consensus builder
  • a complete knowledge of the law
  • knowledge and experience in the area of appointment
  • the ability to make difficult decisions with sound reasoning

In closing, I agree with you that the health and well-being of our children should be among our nation’s top priorities. We must ensure that all children are given the tools they need to succeed. Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind should I have the opportunity to consider Dr. King’s nomination for U.S. Secretary of Education before the full Senate.

Thank you again for contacting me about this important nomination. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future about other matters of importance to you.

With best personal regards, I am,

Sincerely,

Tom Carper
United States Senator

Sorry Senator Carper, a lot of the attributes you look for in a nomination do not apply to John King.  If all you know about his tenure in New York is based on the hearings from a few weeks ago, you  have a lot of reading to do!  But he is one of President Obama’s education buddies, along with Arne Duncan, so I’m not surprised.

Governor Markell’s FY2017 Education Budget Gives Funds For WEIC, SAIL, Autism, & Early Childhood Education But Stiffs Basic Spec. Education For K-3 Students

Provide greater support and accountability to Priority Schools and ensure the State and districts collaboratively intervene in failing schools.

 

Once again we have the Delaware Governor and his Department of Education labeling schools as “failing”.  This is based on standardized test scores.  It doesn’t take into account the high number of low-income/poverty students, students with disabilities, and the students who bear witness to horrible violence which has a severe impact on their ability to learn.

Governor Markell put in $6 million for the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan and $1 million for the SAIL (afterschool) program.  Charters have the recommended $500,000 for their “performance” fund which is the same as last year.  $2.5 million would go towards “school improvement” funds (priority schools, focus schools).  The Governor is recommending $4 million for “teacher compensation reform”.  He nixed nearly $10.7 million in base teacher increase pays, but allowed for $5.3 million to cover inflationary costs.  This is a $57 million dollar increase from the FY2016 budget for personnel costs so I am a bit confused on that one.

From what I can see, it looks like the Teacher/Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE is losing some funds.  Secretary of Education Godowsky requested an increase from $1.8 million to $2.4 million, but Markell is recommending $1.75 million.  Godowsky also wanted to double the state funding for technology operations from $2.8 million to $5.7 million, but Markell is looking at $3.6 million in his budget.  SEED scholarships, which increase scholarships for Delaware students going to Community College, has a proposed $1.6 million increase.

What I do see is a $10 million increase in special needs programs.  Although it doesn’t explain the increase, I am assuming this is to cover the funding for Basic Special Education for Kindergarten to 3rd Grade students in Delaware.  Currently, there is no state funding for these students with disabilities.  This was one of the main recommendations from WEIC and is also pending legislation from State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 30.  It looks like, upon inspection of Senate Bill 175, which breaks down everything in the budget, these funds are going towards early education.  Since the Race To The Top for Early Childhood Education ended, Markell is putting $11.35 million towards this.  So Basic Special Education funding doesn’t get funding, but we are going to pay for early childhood “intervention”.  I will have MUCH more to say about this one later.  Many other special education programs remain the same, including alternative settings.  Allocations for out-of-school placement, like Day Schools and Residential Treatment Centers looks the same as last year, even though costs for these programs have skyrocketed over the years.

On the Dept. of Health and Human Services budget, Markell is looking to increase funding for Autism by only $500,000.00, which is much less than the funds requested through Senate Bills 92 and 93.  Altogether, the fiscal notes for those two bills totaled $1.3 million.

Many of the increases from the previous year are based on inflationary measures.  In the below document, I’m not sure why the first page has all the black on it, but I will attempt to fix it later. Updated 4:58pm: I’m just going to put a picture of it in here…

DOEProposedBudget1stPage

And the detailed version, giving a full breakdown of where the money would go…

Happy New Year Delaware! 2016 Is Here!

Let’s make this a true and lasting year of change in our state where everyone has a voice!  You will hear many voices later today in a post that will have many sides of education lending their own voice.  Some of the names on here may surprise long time readers!  But for now, enjoy the festivities and keep the hope all year long!

Tony Allen’s TedX Video Is VERY Illuminating: “Fix Poverty, Fix Education, or Fix Nothing”

On October 15th, the Chairperson of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission gave a TedX presentation on poverty and education.  I agree with Dr. Tony Allen on many of the things he said in this speech.  But in my opinion, this was a very harsh attack against the Colonial School District.  Whether Tony Allen was correct or not about Colonial’s standardized test claims, he used the argument to validate a district’s capabilities on a very flawed system.  Standardized tests are not a true indicator of any school’s standing as an educational institution.  There are many measurements and indicators of how good or bad a school district is and standardized testing should never be used as a measure of success or failure.  While I don’t disagree with Tony that education needs to change, especially in our current environment, using a flawed system is dangerous and further perpetuates the perception of what a failing school is.

The Last Exceptional Delaware Post

This is the last post I will be writing because all my objectives with this blog have come to fruition.  Education is always going to be an issue in Delaware, as it should be.  The learning environment for children and teens should always be one of the most paramount issues of our state.  I actually prayed this day would come for years! Continue reading

Why Delaware Needs To Emulate Finland With Education

As our Governor in Delaware talks about all the changes we must have in education and our policy-makers debate over the laws surrounding these changes, we have forgotten one essential fact.  What we have in education just doesn’t work.  At all.  We need to find the places where EVERYONE is happy with education.  Places like Finland.  I highly recommend you watch this four-part documentary on the Finnish education landscape.

Breaking News: DSEA Supports Parent Opt Out & States Over-Emphasis On Standardized Testing

The Delaware State Educators Association has just issued a press release indicating they support parent opt out and want the State of Delaware to take a hard and thorough look  at the over reliance on standardized testing.

Happy Birthday To The Inspiration Behind Exceptional Delaware

Before Markell and Herdman started plotting together, before Common Core was a gleam in Arne Duncan’s eye, before the words Race To The Top meant gouging schools in America with corporate education reform, a baby was born.  Eleven years ago today to be precise.  Out in Southern California, he entered this crazy world.  It was a beautiful day, very warm and in the 80s, not a cloud in the sky.

After some complications, my son was born.  My wife had some complications as well, so I went with the nurse to the incubator.  Before my son was placed in there, I reached out my hand to his and he squeezed my finger.  Not even 10 minutes old, and I bonded with him forever at that moment.  It was one of the happiest moments of my life.

Here we are, eleven years later.  He came into this world on a warm and sunny day, and he turned eleven waking up to snow.  There have been many challenges along the way, and there will be more.  But there are also those moments of joy that you can never put into words.  Things only a parent can truly know.

His journey through life is his own, I’m just a guide for a certain amount of time.  He has other guides, like his mom, and others.  His story has become my story, and everything I do on here, every word I write, it is to help him, and others like him.  The battles I fight, the secrets uncovered, it is all to expose and to change.  If I, along with others, ever do win these battles, the biggest challenge will be what comes next.  Nature abhors a vacuum, so something must take it’s place.  I pray that worthy voices will very carefully replace the abomination education has become.  For my son, and the students in all of our schools.

I have to believe something better is on the way.  I have hope.  It can’t be this bleak all the time.  In the meantime, I will continue to write, for my inspiration and my moments of joy, happiness, sadness, anger, confusion, curiosity and insight.  Happy Birthday bud!  I love you!

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You Don’t Know Jack: The Markell Edition

Governor Markell, the biggest name in Delaware.  We hear him all the time talking about education in our state.  Why?  What is his agenda?  Is he in it for the children, or does he have other ulterior motives?  To that end, I will let you decide.

I have compiled all my main articles concerning Governor Markell in what spot on this blog, and you can find them all here:

https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/governor-markell/

If you still think Markell is a great man after reading this, so be it.  If you are very concerned about your child’s education after reading some of these articles, please educate yourself some more and read the article right below this one and take a stand!