Delaware’s budget deficit hit a new stage last night when Christina School District students took over State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum at Newark High School. As well, Senator David Sokola said the issue with the 5 mile radius bill was about transportation. It was an evening full of dodged questions and skirting around the issues. It was a night when things were as confusing as Twin Peaks and the Mighty Thor put her hammer down! Continue reading “Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum In Newark Taken Over By Students And Teachers”
Delaware State Rep. Paul Baumbach will be moderating an education forum Monday evening at Newark High School from 7pm to 9pm. Questions will be asked of the following: Senator David Sokola, Newark Charter Head of School Greg Meece, new Christina Superintendent Richard Gregg, Christina Board of Education President Elizabeth Paige, and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting.
Given the article on HS1 for House Bill 85 from yesterday, this forum could not come at a better time. I challenge Greg Meece and Senator Sokola to explain WHY they didn’t want Christina’s Wilmington students included in the removal of the 5 mile radius legislation. Yesterday, the Delaware House passed the bill with 27 yes and 13 no.
If you are able to get to this forum, I would strongly suggest doing so. Especially if you are a parent of a Christina Wilmington student.
To clarify on the article from yesterday, I do not believe every legislator who voted yes on the bill is a racist. I believe it was more political than anything else. But, the unintended consequences of this bill will lead to more de facto segregation.
Education funding will also be a hot topic at this forum, as it should be. I, for one, would like to know why the charters feel they should be able to keep their portion of the educational sustainment fund while local school districts don’t. I would also like to know why there is talk that the charters will keep their transportation slush fund (extra freebie money they get to keep if they spend less than their budgeted transportation amount).
On Tuesday evening, the Christina School District Board of Education voted 6-0 on a resolution to bring some sanity back to public education. I love, love, love this resolution! Christina Board President Elizabeth Paige drafted the resolution and it should become a policy for every single school district and charter school in America!
Christina School District Board of Education Resolution in Support of Unstructured Learning Time
Whereas, the mission of the Christina School District supports …fostering a nurturing learning environment; and,
Whereas, unstructured learning time has been proven to enhance a child’s social development and ability to problem solve; and,
Whereas, play improves memory and stimulates brain development; and,
Whereas, play is necessary for ELL students to develop social language that is less formal than academic language; and,
Whereas, play fosters an environment of cooperation and scaffolding of learning among children at different ages/stages and encourages children to connect academic experiences to real-world scenarios; and,
Whereas, research proves that children who are exposed to at least 15 minutes of unstructured play time during the day exhibit better behavior during academic time than children who are not offered a break; and,
Whereas, research published in the Early Childhood Education Journal revealed that both free play and adult-guided play can help young children learn awareness of other people’s feelings and that play helps to teach kids to regulate their own emotions; and,
Whereas, evidence informs us that a lack of ample time for undirected, self-chosen play/activities contributes to mental health problems such as rising rates of stress, anxiety, and depression, and therefore should be treated as an important provision in the scheduling of student time; and,
Whereas, studies show that frequent small breaks are more beneficial to student emotional and physical health as well as academic achievement; therefore,
Be it resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education affirms that play is a positive aspect of being a student in a public school system; and,
Be it further resolved that in all Christina School District elementary schools, unstructured learning time should be provided to all students in varying degrees, but in quantities no less than 20 minutes daily; and,
Be it further resolved that recess shall be supplementary to unstructured learning time inside the classroom; and,
Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education affirms its support for unstructured learning time and recess for students in grades 6-8; and,
Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education supports the fact that appropriate amounts of time for play and/or freely chosen activities are necessary for healthy development and should be provided during the school day; and,
Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education supports the evidence that play increases student abilities in the areas of critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, executive functioning, communication skills, empathy, and self-regulation; and,
Be it ultimately resolved that the Christina School District believes that ample time for student-driven, unstructured play must be included among the essential learning experiences in the education of our students. Beyond physical activity, these experiences include imaginative play, creative/constructive play, and games with rules. Student engagement in undirected, freely chosen activities is an essential component of healthy human development as well as a necessity for social/emotional, physical, and cognitive growth of children.
A Christina School District Board of Education member unexpectedly resigned from the board. Which one? Continue reading “Breaking News Shocker: Board Member Resigns From Christina Board of Education”
Yes, the words “chicken-fried awesome” were used by a Christina board member last night. But first they had to get through 45 excruciating minutes of approving their agenda. Board member Harrie-Ellen Minnehan introduced motions to remove three action items from the agenda and to table another item. That was just the beginning of a meeting that had topics as varied as car shopping to a very strong use of the word culpability. A member of the audience drew a great rendering of the meeting and asked me to put it in this article.
The four motions Minnehan put forth failed to move forward. Board member Shirley Saffer kept alleging Minnehan had a personal agenda going on. There was a ton of discussion about the motions and how it was unprecedented for one board member to attempt to remove action items like that. As a result of the motions, what should have been a 1-2 minutes process turned into a 45 minute ordeal for the audience. A lot of the audience had come for the presenting of the Honor Roll which is done right after the approval of the agenda and board minutes.
The charter settlement with Christina fell after a 3-4 vote by the board, exactly how the vote went when they voted for the settlement two weeks ago. Board member Fred Polaski tried to convince everyone that he believed the district would lose if it went to court with the charters. He offered no viable reason for why he felt they would lose. But it didn’t seem to matter because the board was clearly divided on many of the same action items with Polaski, Minnehan, George Evans and Meg Mason on one side. On the other were members John Young, Saffer, and President Elizabeth Paige. Young stated the minutes of the executive meeting would now become public since the need for the meeting was no longer valid and the settlement is public. He said he will be submitting updated minutes on that meeting. He also stated he had concerns about the culpability of the district in the matter. He also had grave concerns about the back and forth between the district and attorneys over Thanksgiving weekend and what amounted to a short time period of 90 minutes for the board to review the settlement. Young said that would make for a very interesting FOIA request. He had many concerns about the authority of charter leaders in signing the document, such as an Interim Principal, a Head of School, or a Board President. He reviewed many charter school bylaws and did not see that authority granted to those parties without permission from the entire board. He also did not special board meetings for the charter boards to vote on the settlement.
One of the shockers of the evening (and there were many), was the situation with the Montessori program in Christina. There was an action item to end the program. This became the controversy of the evening as parents and staff members gave public comment in support of the program. When it came time for the board to discuss the matter, Paige asked a question that solidified a crucial problem with the district, that of transparency. Delaware schools receive academic excellence units which they are free to cash in and do as they please. The Montessori program had three of those units. Paige asked about them and it was revealed by the district the Honors Academy would use three academic excellence units. While the district hemmed and hawed about the “coincidence”, Paige said the “optics” look very bad. In a rare moment of unity, the board voted 6-1 in favor of keeping the program with Polaski as the lone no vote. This prompted Young’s quote of the evening. He said the district believes competition is so “chicken-fried awesome” that they should be doing everything they can to get students who are a wait list at First Sstate Montessori Academy into Christina’s Montessori program. Board member Polaski suggested partnering up with the Wilmington charter school to have them open a satellite school in the Christina school district. No one even responded to this rather absurd notion. But it did point to what I see as a very charter friendly Polaski.
Once again, with a 3-4 vote, the board voted against annulling the Honors Academy vote from November with the same 3-4 blocks. Young pointed out that many of Christina’s existing Cambridge programs are disproportionate with the amount of minorities represented in them. The irony of the district wanting to close a program where there is equity (the Montessori program) in favor of moving forward with a program which has a strong potential of inequity (The Honors Academy) did not escape members of the audience. Concerns around placement tests, a parent letter, and standardized test scores were the chief reasons three of the board members wanted to annul the prior vote. There were also concerns around opt out and how the application for the academy could penalize those students who were opted out despite a board policy that explicitly forbids that.
The point of exhaustion for members of the audience surrounded the district’s Superintendent interviews. Yesterday, the Delaware Attorney General answered a FOIA complaint surrounding the board’s November executive meeting to formulate questions for the Superintendent candidate. Some board members refused to participate in the meeting since they had already figured out it would be a FOIA violation. This prompted the board to make public the questions for candidates. There was also a matter about interviewing the candidates the week before Christmas and a mad rush to get it done. As a result, the board voted in favor of naming an Interim Superintendent with Noreen LaSorsa taking on the role. It was agreed the board would conduct Superintendent interviews the first week of January. Saffer argued the board needed the public to see the candidates in the schools and interacting with students and staff as they had done in the past. Board member Evans said he would not participate in any of that. Young’s action item to begin the Superintendent search again to get a more diverse pool of candidates fell with a 2-5 vote with Saffer and Young as the two no votes.
This board is a house divided. Mostly between common sense and… I don’t know what. On the one side we have Young, Paige, and Saffer who seem to know the law and sees how decisions made today could cause problems in the future. On the other is the not-so Fantastic Four who always seem to be in this frantic hurry to get things done now without looking at all of the angles. They also seem to be easily intimidated by the district and outside forces. This shapes their votes. Minnehan took a pointed jab at Young as she said she would never want to go car-shopping with him because he takes too long to make a decision. I would rather have that than winding up with a lemon Mrs. Minnehan! As I drove down to Dover after this very long meeting which entered an actual new day, I saw a warrior district succumbing to the privatization movement that is paralyzing public education. I believed for a long time Christina was the last hold-out in Delaware, but after some of the votes last night, it was painfully obvious the last blockade fell. At this point, Delaware needs a hero. We need an Obi-Wan moment where someone answers the call of “you’re my only hope“. Will that person come from Christina or somewhere else?
I gave the following public comment to the board last night but despite my six minutes thanks to borrowed time, I was not able to get to the end of it which I will notate in the below comment.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the Christina School District Board of Education. It has been a long time since I came up to this podium to speak before this board. The last time I did so was seventeen months ago. I believe Ms. Minnehan was the Board President at that time. A lot happened at that meeting. I did want to offer an apology in regards to that. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to give public comment here.
I have a lot to talk about tonight, mostly in regards to the charter school shakedown, er, uhm, lawsuit.
First, can you please, for the love of all we hold sacred, fix the sound for the audio recordings on your website? It is a recurring issue and I’m certain it wouldn’t cost that much money to correct this.
Second, I am very curious why a FOIA request I sent to the district was never followed up on. I sent a FOIA request to the district asking for the past three years of all air quality inspections for every single one of the Christina schools. I received an email back that a cost estimate would be forthcoming. That was almost two months ago. I received nothing. As Delaware state code gives any public agency a period of 15 business days to respond to a FOIA request, the district has violated FOIA. Please remedy this by tomorrow so I do not have to file another FOIA complaint with the Delaware Attorney General’s office. Which I’m sure this district has had enough of. But I digress.
I do not believe the board should even entertain not voting on the rescission of the settlement. I am glad that motion failed. (I adlibbed the last sentence because of the board not passing Minnehan’s motion but I am not entirely sure on the wording). I believe it is very important you vote in the majority to vote yes on rescinding the settlement. As we all know, this was brought forth by Greg Meece over at Newark Charter School. What has never been answered is HOW Greg Meece suddenly, last winter, decided to get a meeting with the fine people at the Delaware DOE. How, all of a sudden, Meece knew EXACTLY what to look for. According to a letter Meece wrote last week to the parents of NCS students, Secretary Godowsky never knew about the change to the local funding formula. So Godowsky reversing a decision he never made, which was cited in the lawsuit and settlement, is frivolous at best. This entire shenanigan was meant to intimidate Christina, and sadly, the district took the bait. They didn’t just take the bait, they swallowed it and regurgitated it to four board members who voted out of fear rather than common sense. That is something that needs to be reversed tonight. I would rather see this district take this ALL THE WAY than see one more penny going out of this district to certain charters who want for nothing. If anything, the DOE should be the entity paying for this year’s charter share of the 2003 referendum and all future costs due to their colossal screw-up, not just getting off the hook by paying for half the attorney fees. But more than that, what may not have come out of all this, is the role the Office of Management and Budget played. As Brian Stephan wrote in a recent article on Delaware Liberal, something happened in 2014 that changed everything with the local funding formula. What he didn’t write, which he may not have been aware of, was why everything changed that year. The Office of Management and Budget, a section of Governor Jack Markell’s office, took over the responsibility from Mark Murphy to oversee this aspect of Delaware education financing. Oh so coincidentally, that was the same year the Delaware DOE launched the priority schools debacle and launched a coordinated attack against Christina when this board would not cower and buckle to Governor Markell’s shameful education agendas. While I am not an attorney or an accountant, I am just a blogger. According to Newark Charter School parents, I’m a sneaky snake blogger. But it is my belief this omission of paying the charter schools their portion of the 2003 referendum was, at best, an egregious error that the State of Delaware should pay moving forward. If that were not enough, the fact that tuition and match taxes were brought up in the settlement is very troubling. The charters have no right to those funds so why it was brought up in a settlement is beyond me. I certainly hope none of that nonsense was the district’s idea. That just opens the door for future siphoning of district funds the local taxpayers entrusted to the district, not to fifteen charter schools. If I’m not mistaken, Christina does not get large donations from the Longwood Foundation, they don’t get a larger proportion of minor capital funds based on their student populations like the charters do, and they certainly don’t get to keep excess transportation funds under their “budgeted” amount.
While we can sit here and pretend the charter cabal, led by Saul Ewing LLC, is a force to be reckoned with, the simple fact is they made unprecedented money grab. This could have been done a dozen different ways, but they chose threats and intimidation, with support from certain legislators in both the House and the Senate, to get what they wanted. As a result, if this board does NOT rescind the settlement, it will continue to give away funds this district desperately needs to 15 charter schools who have more than enough money already. And if you are going to put your trust in the Delaware Dept. of Education to do the right thing, you have already put one more nail in the coffin of this district.
At this point my time ran out, but this is how I planned to finish my public comment:
I strongly urge this board to continue to keep CSD moving forward. That does not mean responding to bullying threats by what amounts to non-profit corporations in Delaware. That means fighting for what is yours. As your CFO, Bob Silber, rightly argued, this district did what they were supposed to do. It was the State that screwed up. If this board is truly supposed to represent this district, and not Saul Ewing, Greg Meece, and the charters that have taken more funding from this district than any other force in this state, they will need to do the right thing and rescind this farce of a settlement that will allow charter schools to plunder funds not just from Christina, but would set a precedent for every district in this state.
I love the fact that the anonymous donation to Stubbs was highlighted by so much media in this state. But those students deserve more than having additional funds taken from them that would put the lunch balance to shame.
Thank you, and I do want to wish all of you a great holiday. Bob A, thank you for the Frozen memory. Good luck in your future endeavors.
To read the response to the FOIA complaint from the Delaware Attorney General’s office, please read below:
Holy stacked agenda! Could they squeeze anything else into this agenda? Some more hot-button district issues? I doubt it!
On Tuesday night, the Christina Board of Education will hold their board meeting at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School. The fun starts at 7pm. Bring food, and, just in case, you may want to bring a sleeping bag. This is going to be a late meeting!
So what’s on tap? The question is more like what isn’t on this agenda! This is NOT the order for the meeting, but it IS the controversy order!
Now the cat is out of the bag. In the absolute shocker of the year, board member John Young was the one to submit the action item to rescind the vote on the charter settlement. John is always so quiet and compliant. This is NOT like him at all to do something like this. Okay, sorry, got hit in the head for a second there. But seriously, I give John major props for having the guts to get this out there. I truly hope one of the four board members who voted yes can see this settlement sham for what it really is. If not, I hope many public comments can nudge them along.
Board member Shirley Saffer introduced this action item. After last month’s vote to create the “Honors Academy” at Christiana High School, there is an action item to annul that vote. Saffer voted yes for the program last month, but it appears she had a change of heart. The board voted 5-1 the first time. Will the districts new
charter magnet NCS wannabe Honors Academy survive this time? Expect a lot of pissed off parents for this one!
While I haven’t written too much about Christina’s Superintendent search, there has been a ton of drama surrounding it. Which will apparently culminate in many action items surrounding this. First item on the agenda is to approve an interim Superintendent. Which is basically what Dr. Robert Andrzejewski has been for the past 15 months. I really don’t know the difference between Interim and Acting, nor do I truly care. But “Bob A” is leaving on December 31st, come hell or high water. Even if the board does approve a new Superintendent by the end of the year, that person will most likely have to give notice at their current job. Unless it is Jack Markell. I heard he is going to be VERY available pretty soon. Just kidding on that one. I do NOT want to be responsible for that rumor starting.
Action Item #8 is the Superintendent Interview Questions. Which the board is making public. Because they HAVE TO. After that there will be discussion on the final interviews for the candidates. After the board gets through that, there is another John Young submitted action item to start the Superintendent search over. Like I said, this meeting is going to be crazy!
We will also get a discussion on
mold air quality at Christina schools. This should be the lighter side of the evening! Add in all the other normal stuff school boards do: honor roll, budget stuff, contracts, and so on and so forth. For those keeping track, the rescind the settlement vote and annul the Honors Academy are the last two items on the action item agenda.
If you want to sign up for public comment, I would get there early. You have to sign up to talk. I plan on being there. I plan on talking. It will be marvelous, just wait! I wonder if any legislators will show up at this meeting. I wonder if they will attempt to talk to board out of NOT rescinding the vote on the settlement. I dare Senator Sokola to try this! Triple dog dare!
These are some fun predictions. People from the audience will yell at least eight times to speak up because they can’t hear them. President Paige will bring the gavel down at least 13 times. George Evans will ridicule John Young at least four times. The audience will laugh at least four times. Someone will leave their lights on in the parking lot. Someone in the audience will have a very brilliant idea of ordering pizza (bring cash in case this does happen and you plan to stick around for the whole shebang). At least five people will wear ugly Christmas shirts and/or sweaters. And last, but certainly not least, I predict at least three things will come out that the general public has no clue about.
Christina School District Board of Education member John Young posted this publicly on Facebook about the Christina Superintendent search. I am posting it on here to get this to a wider audience. For clarification purposes, SME stands for “Subject Matter Expert” and James Flynn is running the Superintendent search for Christina through the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration (IPA). I don’t know how many districts have used IPA in the past. I do know Capital used them last year for their new Superintendent which led to Dan Shelton getting the post. And I want to say Colonial did as well which led to Dusty Blakey, but don’t quote me on that. I’ll let Mr. Young’s Facebook post take it from here.
Some public information on the CSD Super search. Started with a few questions and since I will not be able to attend the 11.9.16 meeting as I will be out of town, and because Mr. Polaski raised the concern below I wanted to get this out there as I would have discussed all of this in person anyway, as those that know me know I would. Also, Note Dr. Flynn’s comments regarding direction given on 10.24 does not comport with the timing of the contract which Mr. Polaski references in points 1 indirectly and 2 directly…meaning I remain confused on the issue.
Today, 8:08 AM
YOUNG JOHN;PAIGE ELIZABETH;EVANS GEORGE;Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; SAFFER SHIRLEY
Subject: Re: Task Force Update
Two reactions to Mr. Young’s requests:
1. The process being implemented by Dr. Flynn and IPA at the U of D was approved by the CSD Board at a BOE public meeting. Any changes to the process or contract MUST be approved by the Board after discussion at a public meeting, not by any one or more Board members by email.
2. The Board approved use of IPA to facilitate the process to select a new superintendent and directed the CSD Administration to negotiate the contract with IPA, which Mr. Silber did as the CFO of CSD.
Any further discussion of this topic, or any proposals for changes, must only be done at CSD board meetings in public, the next one being Nov. 9. I would hope to not see any more emails between 7 board members on this subject as that could be determined to constitute a Board meeting, subject to FOIA.
From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 10:28:23 PM
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH; EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY
Subject: Re: Task Force Update
Obviously I speak only for myself on this: without the names of the SMEs, I am unable to support any recommendation whatsoever.
As for the one candidate: the advantage is CLEARLY the ability to prepare answers with additional time not supplied to other candidates. I am disappointed Dr. Flynn cannot see this plainly. Another reason to be very suspect of the process thus far. Is Mr Silber in charge of the board process? This confuses me.
From: PAIGE ELIZABETH
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 10:19:33 PM
To: EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY; YOUNG JOHN
Subject: Fwd: Task Force Update
Sent from my iPhone
Begin forwarded message:
From: James Flynn <firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>>
Date: October 31, 2016 at 4:52:23 PM EDT
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH <firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>>
Cc: ROBERT.SILBER@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:ROBERT.SILBER@christina.k12.de.us>, LAPHAM WENDY WENDY.LAPHAM@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>>
Subject: Re: Fw: Task Force Update
Ms. Paige: Hi. I’ll try to respond to Mr. Young’s questions in the order posed.
SMEs – As I’ve said at our public presentations, selection of the number and designation of SMEs is determined by the IPA as one of the steps to insure impartiality and confidentiality. Our goal is to select highly qualified individuals for the applicant screening process who are familiar with Delaware districts and Delaware education issues. For the Christina search, we identified three SMEs – two retired Delaware superintendents and a senior administrator with more than 30 years experience serving several Wilmington area districts (the contract obligates us to two SMEs). Our usual practice is not to share the names of the SMEs to further fortify confidentiality in future searches with other districts. If the CSD Board feels strongly that knowing the names of the SMEs is a critical point, I’d be willing to contact them (the SMEs) for their approval. Please remember, the SMEs review all of the applications independently first and the applicant names have been redacted. When the SMEs come together to discuss the applicants, their references are to ‘Applicant A’ and ‘Applicant B’, etc.
Impact of Extra Time for one Candidate – This applicant e-mailed me just before the midnight deadline on Friday, Sept 23. I replied to her on the morning of Monday, Sept 26 and had all her materials e-mailed to me by early that afternoon. Remember, she claimed she had everything ready for submission on 9/23, but the site was closed before midnight. I’m not sure how this may have created an ‘advantage’ since we didn’t start processing any of the applications until after 9/26.
Task Force Reporting – The instructions from Mr. Silber on 10/24 said to prepare a report of the Task Force proceedings on 11/1 directly to the Board. Changing those instructions by having the Task Force report back to the full Search Committee in a confidential setting (i.e. Task Force and Board) is your choice.
Sub-Par Candidates – I would do all in my power to dissuade the Task Force from recommending a sub-par candidate(s) to the Board. In my opinion, this Task Force has worked too long and too diligently to submit the names of candidates who wouldn’t meet the needs of the CSD.
Board Members and Applicants – I’m not sure what this statement refers to, and don’t feel competent to respond.
Please let me know if I can provide any further information or if wish to alter the Task Force reporting process going forward.
On Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 1:20 PM, PAIGE ELIZABETH
See below for questions that I told Mr. Young I do not have answers to and provide a response that I can share with the Board.
From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 12:48 PM
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH; EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY
Subject: Re: Task Force Update
I am still unsure of process. Jim has not revealed the names of the SMEs used to go through the applications.
What impact did the extra time given one candidate have on creating an advantage?
Aren’t the task force members reporting back to the committee as a whole rather than putting name(s) directly to the board?
Also, if no one stands out, does the task force know to recommend going back out rather than sending us a subpar candidate (if applicable)?
Lastly, I have a deep concern that individual board members are creating an advantage or perception of one by being seen in public with certain applicants, but not others
Hmm… sounds like something is going on up there… and in Christina… they are usually so quiet…
After six days of will they or won’t they, the Delaware Department of Education is not moving forward on any changes in the school district per pupil cost sent to charter schools out of their local unrestricted funding allocations. Perhaps now we can all take a deep breath and spend the next year changing the date on this so schools aren’t stressing out over budgets the first week of school.
Christina School District Board of Education President Elizabeth Paige informed me the district Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, was officially notified of this decision by the Delaware DOE earlier this afternoon.
I am pleased that the charter funding allocation will not change for this year; however, I know that we can’t expect this not to come up again and come up often. We must continue to fight for equity and not equality when it comes to funding public education in the state.
Last night, Christina Board of Education member Elizabeth Paige was elected by her peers to be the next President of the board. With a 4-3 vote, she took the post over from Harrie Ellen Minnehan. What happened next was very surreal. Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski was going through different contract amounts which the board had to take action on. When one of them came up, I was absolutely shocked and horrified. It wasn’t even on the agenda. Their Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, disappeared shortly before this. I think he knew what was coming. Everyone was there: Acting Superintendent Robert “Bob A” Andrzejewski, Board members John Young, Fred Polaski, George Evans, Harrie Ellen Minnehan, Shirley Saffer, Elizabeth Paige, and newly elected board member Meg Mason. There were some people I knew in the audience as well. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be writing about this, so I will show you…
With a 4-3 vote, Elizabeth Paige is the new President of the Christina School District Board of Education. The prior President, Harrie-Ellen Minnehan, received three votes. Minnehan only held the post for a year. This is definitely Paving The Way to a New Christina! Congrats Liz!
With all respect to Ms. Minnehan, I believe Paige will bring a transparency to this board that has never been seen before. She is a strong voice for this board, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
I received an anonymous email last week from someone who did not give themselves a name. They claimed to have many details about the theft of Christina School Board member Elizabeth Paige’s campaign signs on May 7th. While the allegations are purely that, they do give very alarming information about another member of the Christina board. I have forwarded this information to the Wilmington Police Department as well for them to investigate the veracity of the claims in this email. If anyone has any information on this matter, please contact the Wilmington Police Department. (Updated, 5/19/16, 5:52pm: Actually it is the New Castle County Police Department which is where Paige filed a police report when her signs were stolen on 5/7/16.)
While the below email asked for confidentiality, it comes from someone anonymous. I am all in on protecting someone’s identity, but if it is anonymous and you live 3,000 miles away, I think the best thing to do is to give this information to law enforcement so they can help solve the crime based on the information. The only reason I’m posting this is because the information is vague and maybe someone can fill in the gaps.
From: Rated Many <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, May 11, 2016 11:58 PM
Subject: stolen campaign signs
Due to the sensitive nature of the following message and for fear of retaliation I hereby request that this email remains confidential and all personal information shall not be shared or used as a source. Please I ask that you respect my wishes.
Updated, 5/19/16, 5:53pm: There is much more going on with this story behind the scenes. I’m waiting on someone to do the right thing. In the meantime, I have lifted a comment out of moderation that may shed some light on this.
Christina School District Board of Education member John Young posted this tonight on his Facebook account. I agree with a lot of what he said. I haven’t written a lot about the divisiveness I believe is going on up there. In my opinion, it is corruption at its finest. Yes, I have my own election to worry about tomorrow. But I’m glad John put into words what he has been feeling, as have many others. It concerns me because I can see some parallels in Capital School District. While the board doesn’t seem to have these kind of issues and the level of manipulation isn’t as high, it is, to some degree, present. This is a long post from John Young, but it is well worth the read. If you live up in Christina, please vote for Elizabeth Paige. She earned her stripes a long time ago and Christina would not be the same without her. It would be much worse…
Well, here we are: tomorrow is the day. Christina faces an election for one seat as we already prepare to welcome Meg Mason in July to replace the outgoing Dave Resler. CSD voters have a pretty stark choice in my opinion. Unbeknownst to many voters, there is a distinctly unique tone to this year’s school board race between Desiree Brady and Elizabeth Paige and for the most part it’s not being created by the candidates themselves. There is a disturbing set of forces in play, in my opinion. I am well aware that what I type next will have people confirming either their love for my willingness to speak the truth of the situation or their hatred of the same thing. I can live with both.
Our district has been in crisis for quite some time now and the processes that have yielded several key results have caused irreparable harm to the ability of our board and district to function well. Please note my very specific use of the word “processes”. Some of the processes that have created deep concern include: the hiring of the acting Superintendent, the referendum campaign, the hiring of a parent engagement coordinator, the hiring of a consultant on climate and discipline issues and most recently the unfinished process of selecting HOW to select the new permanent superintendent. This list is not inclusive of all concerns.
The yield of these processes are not as universally concerning as the actual processes themselves. During each of these processes, the board was controlled by one person and the information shared to the board from both her and the administration has been extremely restrictive and in my opinion damaging to the rights of our taxpayers to have board members make informed decisions. During this period, a minority of board members have asked for more information and sought to push through these political barriers. At almost every turn, these behaviors have been supported by key stakeholders, while in the minority, have chosen to ignore the greater good often to continue parochial support of programs and people they like, need, and desire to see remain in power. Meanwhile, real questions about real issues are not only being ignored, they are being hidden and in some cases the public is being lied to about how the district works. A perfect example is my recent questioning of the contract for school climate and discipline. No one I know in CSD feels we don’t have major opportunity for improvement here; however, I also don’t know anyone that feels the district should just hand over a $49,250 no-bid contract with no public notice or input. Except for the 4 board members that did just that in support of the acting superintendent and the extremely public acknowledgement of previous employment and friendship with the vendor. TO be clear, this is not an indictment of the vendor whatsoever, only the broken process that yielded the result.
The same forces that seek to keep CSD board members in the dark on issues and prevent board members from making informed votes are now seeking to remove one of the three members willing to stand up and actually ask questions in support of CSD not their own agendas. They are aligned to drive out Elizabeth Paige. The planted questions, the stolen signs, the opponent’s campaign, up to and including the obvious employment at the workplace of one of the referendum’s biggest supporters who is close friends with the acting superintendent is simply too much to ignore.
One of this groups most concerning tactics is the one where they distract people by making allegations of failing to collaborate or not being civil. The truth is, to them collaboration is only labeled as such if you agree with them, and their role as civility police is undermined by their own off stage hypocrisy on the same subject. Both are morally bankrupt offerings in the face of board members just trying to actually be stewards of our students, parents, and taxes. It is repulsive to me to watch our district fall prey to these petty and unbecoming tactics. I am well aware that some feel I am a divisive force on the board. I can totally see why. When I ask questions and I don’t get answers, I get mad. Guilty as charged. I would ask those that feel I am the problem to try, if only for a moment, to ask yourself how you would react if you were elected by the public to do a job and other public officials got in your way, on purpose. I can accept criticism on my tactics and can fully admit that my seemingly righteous anger, on stage at times, can be both interpreted and misinterpreted as counterproductive. However, what you get from me is the same, all the time. I am not a chameleon. I was elected to do right by our students and until I am voted off I will not shrink from that responsibility. Not. One. Inch. I only speak of myself in this endorsement letter to paint the picture that a vote for Elizabeth is not a vote for me. She does not act or react the way I do even if she sometimes is just as mad or concerned about Christina processes. A vote for Elizabeth is a vote for the same passion, brought in a different and perhaps much better way. Don’t be fooled by some of the terrible tactics being used to convince you that any sympathy to a cause that happens to be supported by anyone not seeking to remove her means she is in some sort of policy silo.
Elizabeth Paige and I do not agree on everything, but we do agree on this: our students and our taxpayers deserve a responsive school district befitting the trust and respect owed to its students, parents, educators, administrators and taxpayers alike. She also is an elected official who does not stop in the quest to bring those basic yet quintessential aspects to Christina.
If you value transparency, intellectual curiosity, courage, independent thinking and a reasoned, systemic, analytical approach to policy then please vote tomorrow for Elizabeth Paige. If you don’t value those qualities, please Vote May 11th.
I’ve had a few of my campaign signs disappear, but I expected that. I know one was removed from Del-Dot, along with one of my opponents because you aren’t allowed to put them at this location. Not sure why, but the big wooden sign for the Dover Days festival is there too. One met a tragic end from what I assume was a riding lawn mower. But I digress.
Liz Paige, a candidate (and incumbent) for the Christina School Board, had ALL of her signs stolen that she put at the polling stations for the election tomorrow. In Christina, candidates are allowed to put their signs up at the schools that are the polling places ahead of time. In Capital you can only do so the day of the election. Paige put hers up weeks ago. Ironically, Desiree Brady, Paige’s opponent, still has her signs up. Paige confirmed the signs disappeared this weekend. What the idiot who did this may not realize is many of the schools DO have cameras. So good luck with that one sign thief. Today, signs were found in a dumpster. And they could very well have fingerprints on them.
Stealing campaign signs is ILLEGAL folks. Even for a school board election. If someone is stupid enough to steal school board campaign signs, I would suggest some therapy. Paige’s sign is below. If you see them hanging out anywhere in the Christina area, call the cops and let them know. I endorsed Paige a couple months ago, but since she has to deal with this idiocy, I’m going to endorse her again! Have I ever double endorsed anyone?
But as if what happened to her signs weren’t bad enough, apparently a teacher in the district actually got caught handing out campaign flyers for Desiree Brady to other teachers… during school hours. The teacher was at work on Friday, went to the Principal’s office, and wasn’t there today. For the love of God, just let people run for the school board. It’s not like it’s Donald Trump! It’s a school board. While immensely important to folks who live in the area, is it really worth your job or your criminal record to do stupid stuff?
The most important thing all citizens in Delaware can do tomorrow in districts where there is a contest is get out and vote. For Christina residents, I would vote for Paige. For Capital residents, what can I say? Vote for Kevin Ohlandt. I heard he has a lot of ideas! 🙂
In shocking news, long-term Christina Board of Education member David Resler has withdrawn from the upcoming Board election. Resler served on the Christina School District Board of Education for two terms, from 2006-2011 and his current term, which ends June 30th of this year. This automatically gives the board seat to the other District B candidate, Meg Mason.
Resler served on the board during some very tumultuous times for the district. Through the Joey Wise debacle, the onset of Common Core, Race To the Top, priority schools, referenda, other Superintendents and more! I wish Mr. Resler, who I met a few times, the best of luck!
The only other board set in the election, for District F, will have current Board member Elizabeth Paige facing Desiree Brady. If I lived in the Christina district, Paige would get my vote without hesitation. And yes, this is an official endorsement for Elizabeth Paige for the Christina Board of Education. I attended quite a few board meetings during the whole priority school saga and Paige’s votes, along with others, stopped the district from succumbing to the insane whims of the Delaware Department of Education. As well, she wrote both the Board’s resolution and policy honoring a parent’s right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. That takes courage and gusto in my opinion, of which Paige has plenty!
Well this is interesting. Christina School District Board of Education has an opt-out policy in the works, similar to House Bill 50, and a district administrator goes and gets a legal opinion on it from their own attorney. Mother mercy, board member Elizabeth Paige, who worked very hard on this policy, will not be happy about this…
Okay Delaware parents who support opt-out. We’re going to play a game and see what you’ve learned. It’s called “Spot the Fallacies”. First one to get them all gets a no-prize!
The true financial impact at Christina School District was revealed for all last night, and the most troublesome of these numbers was the bleeding out of students from Christina to charters. It is a requirement that any district in Delaware be able to meet the first month’s payroll prior to the school year starting, and CFO Bob Silba announced this may not be a possibility in a year’s time. Board member John Young commented that the district needs to face the reality they could be down from three high schools to two in a couple years. Projected numbers show over 900 students leaving Christina but their Title I funding basically remains the same and their IDEA funding which comes from students with disabilities will actually go up.
This shows the students leaving the district are not necessarily those in most need: low-income and special needs. As Christina hemorrhages students, they are left with financial numbers that are in dire straits. School resource officers are being spread out among schools instead of one located at each, extra pay for extra responsibilities (EPER) has been drastically reduced, and classroom materials has been reduced by over 50%.
Discussion surrounding an interim superintenedent was chaotic at best, with Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan starting the meeting with a very long monologue about how the board was unified, but the meeting showed they are anything but. Minnehan referred to herself as “I” several times, much to the chagrin of other board members who felt out of the loop. As the meeting stretched into the wee hours of the morning today, several board members actually left the board table for long stretches. Minnehan, unsure of what the board had just voted for, actually said at one point “I guess we just passed a motion.”
Apparently, even public comment was in disarray with Minnehan cutting off a speaker and having the microphone turned off after the 3:00 minute mark for another. Challenges of board policy went back and forth between Minnehan, Young and George Evans. This board needs to unify once and for all before it is too late. This district will be gone in two years time unless they are able to retain students and increase enrollment.
There was much discussion about the district’s agreement with the Office of Civil Rights over discipline of minorities, which is now two years running. From the agreement, the district has to have a vendor to oversee it, but the board was very concerned about the costs associated with this and the revelation that the main staff member who was overseeing much of this was placed in a different school.
Current Superintendent Dr. Freeman Williams, who announced he was going on personal leave last week, will be out at least another 11 weeks. Prior to the meeting, rumors circulated that former Red Clay Consolidated School District Bob Andrzejewski would be appointed interim Superintendent, but members of the board felt they should not rush into a rash decision. Discussion around qualifications of principals within the district and timing of the temporary hire took center stage. The board will meet in a special meeting on August 20th to go over the qualifications and will plan from there.
A proposed board policy on parent opt-out passed it’s first read with six “yeas” and one abstention (George Evans, who was the sole no vote on the board’s opt-out resolution earlier in the year).
Christina Board of Education member Elizabeth Paige is looking to revise the district’s policy on opt-out at their next meeting on Tuesday, August 11th. Paige drafted the original policy passed last Spring by the board on a 6-1 vote. With three districts honoring parent opt-out in Delaware, including Capital and Red Clay, Christina is the first to actually revise their policy.
I spoke with Elizabeth Paige, and she wanted not only Christina residents, but all residents of the state to know the following:
“The CSD Board passed a resolution in March expressing its support for parents’ rights to opt students out of state standardized testing. An official Board policy is a natural progression from that and will help ensure that the rights we professed to support are honored in the most professional, efficient way possible.
I am disappointed that the Governor vetoed HB50, but his veto does not mean that local school districts can’t continue to support and honor parents and their rights.”
This policy will be read officially on Tuesday evening to the other members of the board, and it is my hope it is passed unanimously! To read the policy, please read below:
There were many seminal moments on the road to this important victory for parents in Delaware. I’ll start at the beginning:
1) Delaware bloggers Kavips and Transparent Christina begin talking about opt-out in the Spring of 2014. It’s who got me to start thinking about it for Delaware.
2) Matt Lindell and the Capital School Board: a year ago, the Capital school board started the discussion on this, but it was tabled. Then it came roaring back last fall for a unanimous vote by the Capital Board.
3) The Delaware DOE letters: In early December of 2014, the Delaware DOE began sending school districts a “suggested” letter to give to parents about opt-out should they ask or opt-out. The confusing Delaware state code regarding this was exposed immediately by yours truly. It took a while for this to be clarified by the DOE, but once the genie was out of the bottle, it made the DOE look ineffective
4) Delaware State Rep. Kowalko and Senator Lawson introduce House Bill 50 in early February. WDEL radio show host Rick Jensen starts having opt-out advocates on his show.
5) The Delaware PTA holds the first Delaware Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in mid-February. Wide discussion about bullying tactics by school districts really ticks parents off. What was meant to be a scare tactic fast turns into a rallying point for Delaware parents. President Terri Hodges announces publicly she is opting her own child out.
6) Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques tells a group of Christina Educator Association teachers House Bill 50 will never pass as Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick attempts to dictate terms about opt-out to parents in that district which does not work out as planned.
7) Delaware PTA holds Kent County Parent Opt-Out Town Hall in early March. DOE is forced to admit parent opt-out can’t be stopped and the state law only applies to teachers and school staff, not parents.
8) Christina board of Education passes parent opt-out resolution in large measure due to the hard work in preparing the resolution by board member Elizabeth Paige and a fiery speech supporting parent opt-out by board member John Young.
9) Governor Markell announces initiative to reduce assessments for Delaware students while conveniently ignoring the elephant in the room, the Smarter Balanced Assessment. This leads to Jaques referring to Smarter Balanced as a “little test”.
10) Governor Jack Markell is forced to talk about opt-out at Howard High School, which leads to remarks by Jaques which fans the opt-out flames even more, especially for special needs parents. Jaques quickly apologizes.
11) The Delaware News Journal publishes a front-page cover story on opt-out from both sides of the fence. A cover photo of parent Jackie Kook with her daughter brings it home for many parents. Parent who never heard the words opt-out start looking into it.
12) In front of an audience of over 1,000 people at the Imagine Delaware forum, teacher and President of the Red Clay Educator Association Mike Matthews announces he supports the opt-out movement.
13) As the Smarter Balanced Assessment begins, parents start opting out by the hundreds in Delaware. Many schools give parents a rough time, which causes parents to talk to each other and spread the news about opt-out.
14) Delaware State Rep. Sean Matthews and Jaques go head to head in a News Journal dual opinion piece on opt-out. Matthews clearly wins the contest and shows why opt-out is important in regards to Delaware education.
15) Both Red Clay and Christina Educators Association hold joint press conference announcing no confidence vote in Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.
16) Delaware PTA passes resolution officially supporting opt-out and House Bill 50.
17) DSEA (Delaware Educators Association) passes resolution supporting opt-out and House Bill 50, as well as a vote of no confidence in Mark Murphy.
18) Parent Press Conference/Rally at Legislative Hall in early April, though small, draws most Delaware media to it and more media coverage of opt-out.
19) Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams publicly announces she is opting out her own son, a high school junior who, like many Delaware juniors, are forced to take weeks and weeks of testing.
20) Mark Murphy appears on The Delaware Way with Larry Mendte and states “parents aren’t allowed to opt-out students”.
21) Red Clay Consolidated School Board passes parent opt-out resolution with excellent writing by board member Adrianna Bohm.
22) The day before the House Education Committee vote, Governor Markell announces initiative to have Smarter Balanced Scores tie into elimination of remedial classes for four Delaware universities and colleges. The announcement is critically slammed by legislators, parents and teachers.
23) At the House Education Committee meeting on April 22nd, Kowalko and Jaques battle each other as Kowalko is forced to answer a barrage of questions by Jaques. Kowalko successfully fends him off. After discussion from other legislators, public comment from parents shows near overwhelming support for the release of the bill. Opposition includes organizations well-known to support Governor Markell’s corporate education agendas. After a vote to have the bill tabled falls apart, the bill is released from the committee in an 8-4 vote ending the over two hour debate.
24) Mark Murphy’s claim of federal funding cuts of $40-$90 million over potential opt-outs and the passage of House Bill 50 is debunked the next day with the release of the US DOE letter which clearly states schools cannot opt students out, and the letter never mentions the words parent opt-out.
25) Last week, organizations such as GACEC and Council for Persons with Disabilities release near identical letter in opposition to House Bill 50 with claims that are quickly debunked.
26) In a hasty and damaging example of executive overreach, Governor Markell announces to radio host Rick Jensen on WDEL he will veto House Bill 50 if it reaches his desk.
27) Parents begin emailing all the legislators of the Delaware House and public support for the bill is clearly seen by the legislators.
28) State Rep. Sean Matthews introduces an amendment to House Bill 50 the day of the House vote which changes the language of the legislation from “the state assessment” to the “Smarter Balanced Assessment”.
All leading to today’s enormous victory in the Delaware House of Representatives, with a 36-3 victory with two reps absent. At the end of the day, this is about parents using their voice to initiate change. This could not have been done by one individual at all. It took a great deal of advocacy, hard work, sweat, social media, and legislators, parents, organizations and ordinary citizens spreading the word and supporting the cause.
What also helped were some obvious tactical blunders by the Delaware DOE, Secretary Murphy, and Governor Markell. And God bless him, we cannot forget Earl Jaques. He revealed today House Bill 50 got in the way of his planned legislation to reduce the Smarter Balanced Assessment to only three grades of testing. Which is a noble gesture, but legislation getting rid of the “little” test would be a much grander statement.
While getting the bill through the House was an undertaking, it remains to be seen how the Delaware Senate will receive the legislation. Folks are already guessing which Senate members will support the bill. Delaware Senator Brian Pettyjohn already announced on Facebook tonight he will vote yes. Senator Lawson, a co-sponsor of the bill, is a lock. But the others are a mystery for now. I can guess and predict, but until they publicly announce their intentions or a vote, we must email them and call them as much as we can.
“If this board can’t stand for parents, what the hell can it stand for?” -John Young
After fiery debate by board member George Evans, the Christina Board of Education passed a parent opt out resolution by a vote of 5-2. The no votes came from President Fred Polaski and eternal board member George Evans. The amended resolution was scaled back to focus on parental right to opt out of the standardized assessment, which in Delaware is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Christina School District Board of Education Resolution on Parent Opt-Out of Standardized Testing
Be it resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education will support a parent’s decision to opt their child(ren) out of standardized state testing without any repercussions from the Christina School District; and, therefore,
Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education will support the Superintendent to provide direction to all affected schools to provide meaningful, educational activities to replace testing time for those students who will not be participating in standardized testing.
On Tuesday, March 10th, the Christina School District Board of Education will have a huge meeting to discuss not only the agreement with the DOE on the priority schools, but also a resolution concerning parent opt out of standardized testing. Board member Elizabeth Paige said “I have written the resolution to say that there should be no repercussions for students.”
Ironically, the Smarter Balanced Assessment starts the very same day in Delaware, but many parents have already opted their children out already. For Christina parents, they appreciate the show of support by the board just for having this on their agenda. As this is the last item on the agenda, and there will be much discussion about priority schools early, plan on a late evening but come early to give public comment about the board’s proposed resolution.