Auditor Of Accounts Office Releases Very Questionable Report To News Journal’s Jessica Bies In Attempt To Interfere With Election & MERB Hearings

Jessica Bies with the News Journal wrote an article about State Auditor candidate Kathleen Davies and willfully withheld information provided to her that would have drastically changed her article.  There is absolutely no credible reason for Bies to withhold crucial information like that. Continue reading

Advertisements

Former Employee Alleges Delaware DOE Violated FOIA, Delaware AG Opinion Agrees

Atnre Alleyne, a former employee of the Delaware Department of Education and the current head of DelawareCAN, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DOE back in March.  He was not satisfied with their response and filed a FOIA complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice.  The Delaware DOJ issued their opinion on the complaint on May 4th and found the Delaware DOE did violate FOIA. Continue reading

Who Is My Delaware State Rep & Senator? Which District Do I Live In? A Primer For Delaware Students! #swarmthehall

This article is for ALL Delaware public education students.  This is what you need to do NOW to make a difference for YOUR school.

Last night, I attended an Education Forum at Newark High School.  As members of the audience stated they didn’t know who their legislators even are, State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked me to put up a post on my blog about this in front of the whole audience.  It is my pleasure to do so Paul!

Even though students (unless you are 18 or over) are not registered voters, your voice is important.  I will go so far as to say it is the most important voice in the state.  You can get involved, and I would ask your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, friends, and neighbors to get involved in this year’s budget, especially when it comes to public education.  But first, you have to know who to contact!

The first thing to do is go to the General Assembly website, found here: http://legis.delaware.gov/

The easiest way to find out “Who is My Legislator” is to go that section of their website and put in your address or go on the “Find by Map” option.  I did that using my address, and it came up with this:

Another way to find out what Senator or State Rep covers your district, go to the tabs that say “Senate” or “House”.

I will use the House as an example.  Go to the tab that says “Members & Districts” and click that.  Now I have to sacrifice one of our State Reps as an example, so I chose my own State Rep, Trey Paradee of the 29th Rep. District.

What a big smile for your constituents Trey!  It has other information on the page, but if you want to contact them, it provides their phone number at Legislative Hall or their email address.  You will get a legislative aide or an answering machine when you call them.  An email might shoot you an automatic reply if they aren’t there that day.  Some legislators are brave enough to put their home or cell phone numbers on their contact information.  I would ALWAYS call that phone number first since the likelihood of them getting back to you SHOULD improve.  Another way is to look for them on social media.  Send them a friend request if they offer that option.  I would shoot them a message stating who you are and possibly an issue or topic you would like to discuss with them.

Once you know what they look like, and if you have the time, go down to Legislative Hall and introduce yourself.  Don’t do it while they are in session in their respective chamber though because they can’t really stop that time to talk to you.  Be respectful and courteous.  Ask for THEIR cell number if you don’t have it already.

If you find your legislator isn’t getting back to you, keep at it!  I’m not saying to stalk them, but keep calling, emailing, or texting.  As a professional courtesy, I would give them at least three days to get back to you.

As the General Assembly prepares their version of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget, they need to hear from their constituents NOW.  Not later.  Not on June 30th.  NOW!!!!

Here is how it goes for the next five weeks down in Dover.  The General Assembly is on a two-week recess right now and will return on June 6th.  In the meantime, the Joint Finance Committee, which is a group of legislators, are doing what is known as the “budget mark-up”.  They go through Governor Carney’s proposed budget and make changes.  This group needs to hear from you NOW!

I would email ALL of them in one email and tell them what you are looking for.  For those who are against all these cuts in education, some suggested wording could consist of this:

Please remove the cuts to education from the state budget.  It is unfair to balance the state’s budget on the backs of our students.  Schools are already under-resourced and our children need our commitment to their future.  Thank you.

The public can attend the Joint Finance Committee meetings, but seating is limited.  And considering most of you students will be in school, DON’T CUT SCHOOL to come to Dover to go to a JFC meeting.  There will be plenty of time for that when school gets out because the General Assembly continues to meet until June 30th.  If you want to see some real craziness going on, come down (or up) to Dover on June 30th.  The fun usually starts around 6 or 7pm in the evening.  Bills pass on the fly, left and right and they suspend a ton of rules to get bills passed.  You see bodies passing by you like the Flash.  I’ve gone the past two years and didn’t get home until the sun was coming up.  That’s right.  They MUST pass the budget or they don’t get to go home until they do.  They can go home, but their legislative session isn’t over until the State Budget passes.  By State Law, the Governor must either sign or veto (not sign it) the budget once the General Assembly passes it.  If the Governor passes it, the General Assembly has to keep meeting until it passes or they can attempt to override the Governor’s veto.  This year, June 30th falls on a Friday so I have no doubt they will want to get in and get out so they can have their 4th of July weekend last as long as possible.

If students truly want to make a huge difference with this budget, if you don’t want teachers cut and you don’t want your school board to be put in a position where they are forced to raise more taxes without a referendum, your State Rep, Senator and the Joint Finance Committee need to hear from you TODAY!  They may give you a reason why they support this or don’t support that, but make sure YOUR feelings are heard.

If you want to make a HUGE impact, organize a group of your friends and classmates and come down to Legislative Hall in Dover (but don’t cut school to do it).  You are NOT allowed to carry signs into the building, but you can wear t-shirts as long as they don’t have curse words or are inappropriate.  It could say something as simple as “No Education Cuts” or have fun with it and write “Forced Match Tax Without A Referendum Is Horrible” .  I would NOT recommend t-shirts like “John Carney is bad” or “Mike Ramone loves Donald Trump….Eeeew!” (neither of them do, just making a point here).  You can even write legislator letters but make sure you go to their office in Legislative Hall and give it to the receptionist or legislative aide to give to the legislator.  Don’t try to put letters or correspondence on their desk in the House or Senate chamber.  I did that once and it is NOT allowed.  Don’t yell at anyone or interrupt anyone either.  And whatever you do, when the House or Senate is in session, just sit and listen.  You do NOT want that gavel coming down on you by Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long or Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf!

You CAN make a difference this year.  If you want to preserve what you have and not lose out next year, there is nothing wrong with a peaceful protest.  Make sure you get Mom, Dad, or your Guardian’s permission first, but make it something you can tell your grandchildren about one day.  How you told our legislators what your schools need and you helped to make a difference.  Let’s call it “Swarm The Hall”.  Share hashtag #swarmthehall on Twitter and Facebook and let’s make it a thing Delaware students!

As an education blogger, I’ve met most of our State Reps and State Senators.  I want to believe they want to do the right thing for everyone in the state, but sometimes political issues happen.  If you are a dye-in-the-wool Democrat and your State Rep or Senator is a Republican, or vice-versa, don’t get into the whole “us vs. them” mentality.  They will listen to you, but it could cause them to tune out whatever you are saying.  Make it about the issues, not about the politics.  No one wants to hear about the whole Trump/Hillary thing or “Dems Stink” or “Republicans Lie” kind of stuff.  This is about YOU, and YOUR education.  And this isn’t just about school districts, it’s also about charters.  Because if districts have to make cuts and force a match tax on their residents, they will have a hard time getting referenda passed in the future.  Which means less money for charter schools as well.

Below is a list of ALL the Delaware State Reps and Senators.  The Senate has 21 members and the House has 41 members.  Don’t get confused by the district numbers.  I live in State Rep District 29 but State Senate District 15.

If you are a Delaware public school teacher, please share this article with your students and their parents.  It can also be a valuable lesson for current events or helping children become more aware of how the political process in Delaware works.

Updated: Some libraries are holding events called “Postcard Party for Education Funding”.  Details can be found here.  This is a brilliant idea!  Reach out to the sponsors and see if you can get these events in your local libraries if they aren’t in your area!

Governor Markell Issues Executive Order To Create Delaware Open Data Portal

MarkellTransparency

Yesterday, Delaware Governor Jack Markell issued Executive Order #57 to make state data more transparent and available to the public.  The Delaware Open Data Council, consisting of the Secretaries of the Delaware’s State Agencies, will make recommendations for what kind of data will be available on this new portal available to the public.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, or his representative, will serve on this council.  These are the kinds of documents I would like to see on this Open Data Portal:

  1. All Delaware Department of Education vendors, contracts, change orders, and funds sent to the vendor.  This would include any and all companies the DOE sends funds to that may not necessarily have a contract, such as The Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  All testing contracts should definitely be on this Open Data Portal.
  2. All documents, including emails, sent to or received from the United States Department of Education.  This would include any ESEA documents.
  3. Any document pertaining to the outflow of student data to any State agency or outside company.
  4. All district and charter school bullying and discipline reports, regardless of the controversial n#.
  5. All DOE and State Board of Education documents, including appendices, going back to the creation of the Department of Education.
  6. Any and all emails, meetings, and documents coming to or from the Delaware Governor’s office in regards to education.

I’m sure I can think of more, but this is just a start.

A few months ago, Delaware came in 49th place in a ranking of Open Government and the ability of states to be transparent.  Markell himself got quite a bit of heat after the disclosure of his private email, the infamous Alan Jackson account.  Delaware citizens should not have to submit FOIAs at their own time and expense to get information that should be readily available to the public.

I also think the General Assembly should have representation on the Open Data Council.  While the House Education Committee is very good about posting minutes of their meetings, the Senate Education Committee doesn’t do it at all.  The public has a right to see this information.

To read Markell’s Executive Order, please see below.

The Exceptional Delaware No Response List

Over the past year, I’ve reached out to several people and organizations either for information on articles or to advocate on issues.  I usually get a response, but some flat-out ignore me.  Especially after I publish something in opposition to their stance or actions.  That’s fair.  But at least respond!  And no, anonymous comments made on here with different names do not count as a response!

The biggest one would have to be Dr. Paul Herdman with Rodel, which I made very public on here.  After he blasted me on my Rodel article in an email last November, I emailed him back and asked him to meet at any of the six priority schools.  I never got a response back from him.  I did introduce myself to him at the Senate Education Committee meeting a couple weeks ago…

I reached out to the Delaware Charter Schools Network last summer quite a bit in regards to special education and why they never really talked about it.  They did respond: by blocking me from their Twitter account.  I am not holding out hope they will respond to my latest email to them…

The DOE can be infamous for not responding, but I have to give credit where credit is due.  Penny Schwinn reached out immediately when I had questions about the whole Smarter Balanced/SAT debacle a couple months ago.  But I did call them out on a FOIA response a few weeks ago.  I requested one specific email that I know they sent regarding Senate Joint Resolution #2.  I was told they couldn’t find it but I could pay DTI $300.00 to search for it.  I emailed back and said they were lying.  No response.  I’ve reached out to the Exceptional Children Resources Group a few times and they are hit and miss…

I will say Donna Johnson with the State Board of Education is very quick to email me if I get something absolutely wrong.  I respect that and I will correct things in those situations if I see proof or it just makes logical sense.  With that being said, she has not responded to requests for meetings either…

Lindsey O’Mara, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor, hasn’t responded two weeks later to an email.  After Jack gave a big speech at New America, I asked who pays for this and if the Governor gets any compensation for these speeches.  Zippo from Lindsey on this…

Even last weekend, I emailed the head of the charter school office at the DOE about their part-time charter school monitoring job.  I advised them my blog does about 3/4 of that work anyways, and if they added special education monitoring onto it and made it a full-time job with benefits, salary could be negotiable.  Updated: Just got a response!  And I will add that Jennifer Nagourney is very good about returning emails, even late at night or on weekends!  The charter school monitoring job email I sent was more of a feeler and not an official application.

I’ve sent a couple emails to Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf to get House Bill 61 on the agenda, no response.  But I have to say, most of the legislators do respond if it is very specific…

The blogger Kavips NEVER responds to any email anyone sends.  This is a blogger that is so anonymous I don’t think he/she knows who he/she is anymore…

The biggest no responder is none other than Governor Jack Markell himself.  I’ve emailed him numerous times about issues and requested meetings.  Nada.  Nothing.  Not even a “my people will get back to you”…

Will this trend continue?  Absolutely.  I’m not the News Journal, so they are under no obligation to get back to a spitfire blogger who doesn’t get paid to publish information.  However, it is always in their best interest to do so, because it makes it look worse for them when I do publish information and their lack of response becomes part of the issue.  In fact, I’m going to email someone at the DOE right now and see what happens…

Delaware Senate Contact Information

As promised, here is how to get in contact with Delaware Senators to ask for their support with House Bill 50.  I would get started on this as soon as possible, and keep doing it until you can convince them why a yes vote is the only sane option!  Please let me know what their responses are.  If they say they will vote yes, ask them if you can make that public!

keep-calm-the-delaware-senate-loves-parents-too

Here is the master email list if you want to send it all in one fell swoop, just copy and paste:

Harris.McDowell@state.de.us MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us  robert.marshall@state.de.us greg.lavelle@state.de.us catherine.cloutier@state.de.us  Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us David.Sokola@state.de.us Karen.Peterson@state.de.us bethany.hall-long@state.de.us  Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us Nicole.Poore@state.de.us David.McBride@state.de.us bruce.ennis@state.de.us Dave.Lawson@state.de.us senator-colin@prodigy.net brian.bushweller@state.de.us gsimpson@udel.edu   Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us  Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us

District 1: Harris B. McDowell III, email: Harris.McDowell@state.de.us Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HarrisB.McDowellIII?fref=ts 

District 2: Margaret Rose Henry, email: MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Margaret-Rose-Henry/255853794466086 https://twitter.com/MargaretRHenry

District 3: Robert I. Marshall, email: robert.marshall@state.de.us

District 4: Gregory F. Lavelle, email: greg.lavelle@state.de.us https://www.facebook.com/GregLavelle302?fref=ts   https://twitter.com/Greg_Lavelle

District 5: Catherine Cloutier, email: catherine.cloutier@state.de.us  https://www.facebook.com/SenatorCathyCloutier?fref=ts

District 6: Ernesto B. Lopez, email: Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us https://www.facebook.com/LopezErnie?fref=ts

District 7: Patricia M. Blevins, email: Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us

District 8: David P. Sokola, email: David.Sokola@state.de.us

District 9: Karen E. Peterson, email: Karen.Peterson@state.de.us

District 10: Bethany A. Hall-Long, email: bethany.hall-long@state.de.us  https://twitter.com/bethanyhalllong

District 11: Bryan Townsend, email: Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us https://www.facebook.com/BryanTownsendDE?fref=ts https://twitter.com/BryanTownsendDE

District 12: Nicole Poore, email: Nicole.Poore@state.de.us https://www.facebook.com/NicolePooreSenate?fref=ts https://twitter.com/NicolePoore12

District 13: David B. McBride, email: David.McBride@state.de.us

District 14: Bruce C. Ennis, email: bruce.ennis@state.de.us

District 15: David G. Lawson, email: Dave.Lawson@state.de.us

District 16: Colin R.J. Bonini, email: senator-colin@prodigy.net  https://www.facebook.com/colinbonini?fref=ts https://twitter.com/ColinBonini

District 17: Brian J. Bushweller, email: brian.bushweller@state.de.us

District 18: F. Gary Simpson, email: gsimpson@udel.edu https://www.facebook.com/senatorsimpson?fref=ts

District 19: Brian Pettyjohn, email: Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us  https://www.facebook.com/BrianGPettyjohn?fref=ts https://twitter.com/BrianPettyjohn

District 20: Gerald W. Hocker, email: Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us

District 21: Bryant L. Richardson, email:Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us

The Monstrous Ego Of Exceptional Delaware

As the opt-out movement is increasing in Delaware and charters are held to the fire, I’ve noticed the comments on here are getting more hostile and opponents of my views are not shying away from expressing their views.  Good, I want you to feel free to state your opinion.

Someone wrote the other day “I get that your blog exists only to stroke your own ego, and not to report responsibly about anything going on in the state…”  This commenter went on to talk about how I have the whole Academy of Dover and the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee mess wrong.  I don’t mind someone pointing out when they feel I am wrong, but please back it up with facts on how you think I’m wrong.  Otherwise I can only view it as opinion.

I’m quite sure I’m getting a lot of heat over my articles on disability organizations in the state.  That’s fine.  I’m not the only one expressing their views on their uneducated opposition of parent opt-out.  I have no qualms doing this either.  Many citizens in the state rely on their “expert” opinions and I have just as much right to challenge them than anyone else.  Some see this as a hostile stance, but I believe their initial actions are very hostile.

As far as my ego running amok, I don’t see it that way.  I see it as someone not operating out of fear or any restrictions to what I report.  Do I get everything right 100% of the time? No.  Sometimes I am fed false information, or complicated data can be misinterpreted based on the wording surrounding it.  It doesn’t mean I am completely wrong in my assertions, but it may not be as bad.  To the commenter who said I don’t report responsibly, how would you rate the media in Delaware in terms of responsible reporting?  Would you say they are 100% unbiased and follow every edict of professional journalism?  Is there such a thing as investigative journalism in Delaware education aside from bloggers?  Because the way I see it, most of the articles in mainstream media on education in Delaware come from the Delaware DOE, Governor Markell’s office, Legislative Hall, or local school stories.  Or the lobbyist organizations in the state who want to promote their views on education.

I remember when I first started digging into Family Foundations Academy last December, and I received many emails from angry parents telling me how wrong I was about Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington.  How dare I state they are stealing from the school.  Well they were, and when it came out in the News Journal a month later, it was the gospel truth.  I don’t mind taking the heat for articles like that because I know the truth will prevail eventually and if I can stir the pot, I will.

Because I dare to go against the highest powers in the state, I must operate out of a feeling of bravery.  I can’t cower to their intimidation or strong attempts to dissuade the public from pursuing issues that go against them.  That would not be responsible of me.  I don’t do this for me.  I do this for the 133,000 public school students who have no voice.  I do it for their parents.  I do it because my own son was a victim of so many egregious events in Delaware schools and this caused me to start digging for the truth.  I do it because our Governor and the DOE run around like every decision they make is right and they are infallible.  I do it because very few will and I have a moral responsibility to do so.

I will fully admit I drop easter eggs into articles all the time, hints of future articles.  For those who are well-informed of things, they see it.  There are some I have inserted into articles that nobody gets but make sense later on when I do post an article concerning that hint.  I get information all the time from several sources, some that nobody knows about.  Some of them turn out to be nothing, but some lead me in a certain direction only to have it turn out to be something completely different but even bigger than the lead.  And some, these poor desperate souls, try to give me blatantly false information in an attempt to diminish what I do.  And some think their lead is a big story, but it falls apart.

I don’t reveal these sources, and I’ve had to kill some stories because the very act of publishing the article would reveal that source in such a way they would be greatly impacted if I did so.  Usually I find a way around it and the story is slightly less than what it was meant to be, but there are some articles that will never see the light of day.  But if someone makes a public comment, anywhere, than I believe that is fair game.  If they contradict themselves publicly, and I find it, and it could change conversation, I’ll do it.  There are some stories I stumble on through sheer luck, and this happens more than anyone would think.  I do tons of research, sometimes keeping me up until the times when most sane people have long since gone to bed.

As an example of the leads I get, Kilroy wrote last night about how Moyer is having a lot of 1/2 days for professional development and he questioned the authenticity of this.  Someone emailed me how East Side Charter has 1/2 days every single Friday.  I immediately went to their website, verified my source was correct, but I checked to see what their hours of operation are: 8-4 Monday to Thursday and 8 to 12:30 on Fridays.  Most schools operate on a 7 hour day Monday to Friday, but East Side does it a little bit differently but the hours of instruction are actually a little bit more than most schools.  I am sure the person who sent me this information would not mind my writing about this to prove my point.

I find it ironic that those who accuse me the most of having this monstrous ego are usually anonymous but want to take potshots at me to think they are bashing me while under the guise of anonymity thinking they will persuade the entire readership of this blog that I am nothing.  I know I’m not going to change education in Delaware to my way of thinking.  But I do know many things I’ve written about have gotten conversations going.  And I’ve done this without joining one single group that would cause me to stifle my actions.  If that’s ego, I will gladly accept the accusation.  I do this for free, with no rewards or benefit.  And I happily accept this odd fate life has given me.  At the end of the day it’s about transparency and looking out for students in Delaware.  I don’t see them complaining, it’s the adults who are afraid to speak out because they are in positions where doing so would cause them problems.

I would challenge all Delaware parents of students to actively go to board meetings of your schools and state organizations.  Check out their websites.  Does what appears on there match what they are saying in meetings?  Are they being completely honest with the public?  Check out their finances and what is reported on the state websites about contracts and money going out.  Make Google your best friend.  After you have done all that, come back with information about why I am so wrong all the time.

Hi, this is clarity calling. Is Jack Markell there?

I’m hearing superintendents, principals, teachers, parents and students are all getting multiple different stories about opt out from districts, the newspapers, radio, social media, the Governor’s office, Legislative Hall, schools, blogs, email, and all the rest.

Here is what I am hearing the most.  Parent opts out, gets either the DOE recommended letter or an email from the principal, saying nope, can’t opt out here (I picture them saying this like the kid on the bus in Forrest Gump when he tells him “Can’t sit here”).  Parent either folds and kid is going to take the test, or notches it up a bit.  The authority figure (not the parent), folds and tells the parent “Go ahead, opt out.  That’s what the DOE wants us to say.”

Can’t we have a civilized and consistent opt out movement for crying out loud?  Is that too much to ask for?  Can’t the DOE or Governor Markell give some kind of guidance on this?  We know they don’t like it, but it’s happening, and they might as well be more successful at stopping the wind from blowing at this point.  Do your jobs!  Why am I the only one making it clear: Parents don’t need permission to opt out!!!!  Just stop!!!!!

Did DE DOJ & AG Office Collaborate w/DE DOE on Legal Opinion About Priority Schools?

It sure looks like it.  Is that even legal?  Wouldn’t the whole point about getting a legal opinion from an Attorney General’s office about another state department be they should not go to that other state department to get legal advice about the legal opinion they have been asked to provide about something coming from that state department?  Is that the longest question I’ve ever typed in my life? (Yes) How corrupt is the Delaware state government?  Does the United States Department of Justice need to be notified of this?  Does the first email which specifically states “It is not a public document under FOIA” even count as “not an FOIA document” if it was included in an actual FOIA request?  With the priority school decisions coming in early January, someone needs to look at the shenanigans the Delaware DOE, Delaware DOJ and Governor Markell’s office have committed in this quest.  And there are still a lot of FOIAs left to come out that the state needs to provide which will give EVEN MORE answers!  Read the below and see how our state operates!