Ask Teachers One Question And…

Alright, I admit it.  Asking Delaware teachers if they would consider taking a cut in their benefits and pensions probably wasn’t the smartest move in the book, but many of you came out in droves to respond.  Granted, no administrators, principals, or superintendents replied.  The article went over like a resounding thud.  But I challenge every single teacher in the state: if not benefits or pension, what do you view as wasted money in our schools?  And please don’t say “nothing”.  We spend a billion dollars on education in Delaware and that’s just from the state.  We also get federal money and local funds from school taxes.  While other states may laugh and say “that’s it?”, we are a small state with less than a million people and about 133,000 kids in public education.  Since this could be a hot topic with certain folks, feel free to post anonymously on this!

Since I just got home from work and grocery shopping and I’m dead to the world now, just a few updates on recent stuff.  They must have a huge cricket crisis going on in the Appoquinimink School District, because that’s all I’ve heard from them since I dropped the special education funding bomb on them last week.  I did have an interesting comment on the “Unsustainable” article that had me wracking my brain all day.  Delaware school districts and charters might be thinking I’ve slowed down on them and my target of the month is Appo.  Wrong!  I have a ton of articles that will be coming out in the next couple of weeks.  One is about an interesting superintendent situation going on in one of our school districts.  That one led to a VERY interesting board meeting last month.  Dr. Mark Holodick is winning the “who will be the next Secretary of Education in Delaware poll”, followed by Susan Bunting.  Every one seems to be playing pin the tail on the auditor in the past week and everyone wants to know when Tom Wagner is actually going to, you know, do some audits.  Kenny Rivera is now the Vice-President of the Red Clay Board of Education and Michael Piccio was voted in as the President.  The State Board is having their monthly snooze fest on Thursday.  Expect to hear some type of hip-hop hooray about the latest Smarter Balanced Assessment results but not the actual final scores cause they aren’t done yet.  Both the Christina and Red Clay Boards of Education passed resolutions to suspend the WEIC timeline which will be echoed by WEIC at a meeting on July 26th.  On Wednesday, WEIC will be honored by the Progressive Democrats of Delaware as their Education Heroes of the Year.  So Elizabeth Lockman gets a two-peat!  Jack Markell hasn’t signed the teacher evaluation bill yet, House Bill 399.  I guess he was too busy not filing to run for Congress (okay, I never said I bat home runs every time)!  Delaware Military Academy wants to build a sports dome, but not with any funding from the state.  They said it will all be from private donations.  Apparently Chief of Instruction Michael Watson at the Delaware DOE has been “chosen” to be on John Carney’s “transition team”.  How very presumptuous of you Mr. Carney.  Today is State Rep. Trey Paradee’s birthday so wish him a Happy Birthday on Facebook.  I did hear back from EFIC about their epic fail, which is the Education Funding Improvement Committee’s final report.  Apparently “their work isn’t done yet” after having a due date of March 31st which was extended until June 30th.  Publius disappeared from Kilroy’s Delaware about a month ago and hasn’t been seen since.  He said something about the sign is in the yard.  It makes me very curious why he would feel he shouldn’t comment “anonymously” on a blog anymore.  Especially in light of a recent vacancy in Dover (totally speculating on this one folks).  Unless…

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Membership & Committees Announcement, Two Major Things Missing

I know a lot of these people, but some I don’t.  All have an enormous task in front of them.  Without further ado, this is the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission:

Tony Allen, Chairperson, Bank of America Senior Executive

Kenny Rivera, Vice Chairperson, President of Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education and teacher in Brandywine School District

Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, Education Advocate, Wilmington Parents, and Public Allies alumna

Eve Buckley, Parent and Education Advocate, Christina S.D.

Nnamdi Chukwuocha, Chair of Education Youth & Families Committee for Wilmington City Council

Rosa Colon-Kolacko, Chief of Diversity Officer, Christiana Care

Karen Eller, Teacher in Christina S.D.

Reverend Meredith Griffin, Chairperson of the Education Committee for Interdenominational Ministers Action Council

Frederika Jenner, President of Delaware State Education Association

Yvonne Johnson, Delaware PTA Parent & Education Advocate, Red Clay S.D.

Joseph Laws, President of Colonial School District Board of Education

Margie Lopez Waite, Head of School for L’Aspira Academy Charter School

Aretha Miller, Executive Director of the Community Education Building

Harrie Ellen Minnehan, President of the Christina School District Board of Education

Joe Pika, PhD., former President of the State Board of Education

Chandra Pitts, Executive Director of One Village Alliance

Delaware State Rep. Charles Potter

Vicki Seifried, Teacher in Red Clay Consolidated S.D.

John Skrobot, President of the Brandywine School District Board of Education

Delaware Senator David Sokola

Michelle Taylor, President of the United Way of Delaware

A High School student from Red Clay Consolidated S.D.

A High School student from Colonial S.D.

As well, support is being given by the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration and the following employees:

Dan Rich, PhD., Policy Director

Kelly Sherretz, Project Manager

Elizabeth Burland, Administrative Coordinator

Jerome Lewis, PhD., IPA Director and Senior Policy Advisor

Ed Freel, Senior Policy Advisor

Liz Farley-Ripple, Policy Advisor

Neil Kirschling, Policy Advisor

Sarah Pragg, Communications Advisor

The following committees have been announced with the following as Committee Chairs:

Redistricting Committee: Joe Pika, Henry Harper, PhD. (former Superintendent of Appoquinimink S.D.)

Charter & District Collaboration Committee: Eve Buckley, Aretha Miller

Meeting the Needs of Students In Poverty Committee: Chandlee Kuhn (former Family Court Chief Judge), Michelle Taylor, Jackie Jenkins Ed.D. (Education Advisor for Office of the Mayor of the City of Wilmington)

Funding Student Success Committee: Jill Floore (Chief Financial Officer for Red Clay Consolidated S.D.), Mike Jackson (Deputy Comptroller for the State of Delaware)

Parent, Educator, and Community Engagement Committee: Yvonne Johnson, Chandra Pitts

At first glance, this is a very diverse group in this.  But I have a major new concern, as the below document will clearly show, the website for this, still under construction but will be available on September 1st, is http://solutionsfordelawareschools.com.  I thought this was a Wilmington thing.  I know, some of the recommendations from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee can help all of Delaware, but if they are doing this, why is there NO representation from anyone in Kent or Sussex Counties?  I think excluding representation from the whole state is very dangerous in this political climate, especially for a commission that will be meeting for the next 5-6 years.

As well, they need to make an entirely separate committee to cover special education.  If special education is not improved, nothing they do will make any difference for students with disabilities who represent anywhere from 16-20% of the student population affected.  I actually advised Tony Allen of this twice.  Once at the House Education Committee in February, and last March in private.  I know there will be sub-committees, but this needs to be its own committee.  I have to say I’m very disappointed, but then again, special education doesn’t seem to be a priority anywhere these days in Delaware.  We keep making the same mistakes over and over again and then we are left scratching our heads wondering why these children don’t have better outcomes.  Meanwhile, disabilities are on the rise and funding is going to become a huge issue, especially with Autism.

I don’t like the idea of Senator Sokola being in WEIC at all.  This is a man who has done more harm than good for all the students of Delaware, specifically in Wilmington.  Most don’t see it that way, but he was the spearhead behind a lot of legislation that has further segregated Wilmington schools.  I know, I’m biased cause we went head-to-toe on House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill, but I wasn’t a big fan of his before that.

And So It Begins…Markell Signs Bills To Allow For Redistricting Of Wilmington Schools & Creation of WEIC

Let the games begin!  Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 122 and House Bill 148 into law today at the Hockessin Colored School.  Joined by city and state leaders, these articles of legislation will allow for the creation of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) and the redistricting of Wilmington district lines by the State Board of Education.  Any plans the State Board comes up with will be subject to approval by the 148th General Assembly.

Delawareonline, in an article written by their education reporter Matthew Albright, published the news and a video earlier today.  Albright said WEIC will be chaired by Tony Allen, the Bank of America executive who also chaired the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC), and will have assistant chairs consisting of Kenny Rivera, the President of the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education and Elizabeth Lockman, a parent advocate who also served on WEAC.

The plan will move the City of Wilmington schools out of the Christina School District into the hands of Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Some, including myself, have wondered if there are ulterior motives at play from Governor Markell, city leaders, some state legislators, the Delaware Department of Education, and the State Board of Education.  I’ve always hypothesized there is a secret plan to increase the number of charters in Wilmington or make it an all-charter district.

The bottom line is it will come down to funding.  The state of Delaware is already projected to have a $160-$170 million dollar deficit in next year’s budget.  So where will the money come from for this redistricting?  I can picture corporations wanting to donate funds, or non-profits like Rodel or the Longwood Foundation.  They will have stipulations for these funds, which could change the overall plan for the redistricting.  Yes, it needs legislative approval, but what if there is already a consensus among our state legislators?  This is conspiracy theory at it’s maximum for a state like Delaware, and I pray I’m wrong.  But if the DOE is already reneging on the promised priority school amount for Red Clay, how can the state assure adequate and proper funding for this endeavor?

“As I have said many times, the only way this all works is if Red Clay has a seat at the table as decisions are being made, is properly funded for taking on greater responsibility and is given a reasonable timetable that we all agree to,” Allen said.

What will be important for Red Clay is to make sure they have a seat at the table and they are not what’s on the table!

Governor Markell has less than a year and a half left in his term as Delaware Governor, and he will want to leave his “legacy” on Delaware.  The question looms over what that legacy will be, and if it will be for the people of Delaware or corporate interests and the privatization of our schools.  I like Tony Allen, and I want to think he is being true to his word on all of this, but there is just way too much that hasn’t been planned or answered in regards to this.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission will hopefully provide many of those answers.

Based on the video Delawareonline provided, in attendance were the following: Governor Markell, Tony Allen, WEAC Vice Chair Dan Rich, State Rep. Charles Potter, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Senator Margaret Rose Henry, Kenny Rivera, Elizabeth Lockman, Kendall Massett (Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network), Karen Eller (Christina School District teacher and WEAC member), Delaware PTA Vice-President for Advocacy Yvonne Johnson, State Board of Education member Gregory Coverdale, Red Clay Consolidated Superintendent Merv Daugherty, WEAC member and legislative aide Meghan Wallace, legislative aide Mark Rucci, and many others.  If anyone wants to add names that I missed or don’t know, feel free to comment or email me.