There is so much going on tonight. First up is the first Town Hall meeting (which I filed a FOIA complaint against the Governor’s Office and Christina School District for a violation of the seven day notice) for the Governor Carney let’s screw with Christina School District one more time. Second is the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting in which they pick up a new board member and tackle the resolution similar to the Christina resolution on sanctuary schools and all that. Finally, it is the Capital School District Board of Education meeting. My son goes to school there again so I have a vested interest in what goes on in their district. I can’t possibly attend all of them. So which one am I going to? Who gets the honor? Continue reading “Tonight”
So I took a break over the last week and a half. I did cheat last Monday and popped two articles up. But whatever. It’s my blog. I’ll do what I please. It was a hectic week. Between work and the damn car. But I did have fun on Facebook on many of those days. Dug into an awesome collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman. I discovered MY song of the summer, “One Of Us”, by New Politics. I sold the last remaining vestiges of a forty-year old hobby, my comic collection. They are all digital today. I went for some walks with my music blaring. It was hot as hell most of the week. I tried to steer clear of education conversation. On the first day of my “break”, God bless them, no less than six people contacted me in some way about education stuff within an hour after my announced break.
I did think about education stuff, mainly what is coming up. Jotted some notes down…
Every year, on June 13th, Exceptional Delaware celebrates its anniversary. This year is, pardon the pun, no exception. You won’t see what the mission is until you read about it. But it is definitely time to reboot the mission and go back to basics. It’s about the kids. It’s about families. It’s about what is covered up and hidden. In ALL facets of education, people want quiet. They didn’t want the dirty skeletons coming out of the closet. But they are there. Like an ostrich with a head buried in the sand, so it is with Delaware education. Continue reading “Season Four On Exceptional Delaware Just Got Very Interesting, Time To Reboot The Mission”
2017 has been an odd year for Exceptional Delaware. There has been a ton of transition, between a new Governor, a new Delaware Secretary of Education, and very peculiar budget issues plaguing Delaware schools. But the biggest post by far has been a recent one about a particular charter school in Newark and their 5 mile radius.
Top 17 Posts of 2017 So Far:
- Newark Charter School Doesn’t Want Wilmington Black Kids Or Wilmington Special Needs Kids Going To Their Private School
- Thom Labarbera, Brandywine Social Studies Teacher, Passes Away
- Delaware Racism: It Is Real And It Is Not Going Away
- Racial Slurs Appear To Go Unpunished For DE Military Academy While A.I. DuPont Basketball Team Suspended For Rest Of Season
- What To Make Of Bad News Betsy’s Letter About ESSA To Chief State School Officers
- Silence Is Complicity: Human Sex Trafficking In Delaware and How I-95, Craiglist, Backpage, & Kik Make It Thrive
- Delaware Joint Finance Committee Cuts State Board of Education From State Budget, DONE!!!
- Wahl v. Brandywine Case Settles! Justice For Joseph & An End To Zero Tolerance In Brandywine!
- Jack Markell Under Investigation By Ed Authorities ***DEBUNKED***APRIL FOOL’S DAY***
- 77 Teachers On The Chopping Block For Christina School District, Increased Classroom Sizes As Well!
- Not A Good Day For Christina
- **UPDATED**Christina Public Comment By Board Member Alleges Involvement Of Other Board Members In Hate Emails
- Final Delaware 2017 School Board Filings
- Exceptional Delaware Endorsements For 2017 School Board Elections
- Don’t let your special needs child fall victim to “new” Federal and State voucher/choice policies
- Cut The Admins In Districts & Schools? How Many Are There? TONS!
- Exceptional Delaware Endorses John Marino For The 10th Senate District
Like I said, this has been an odd year. Because of so many changes, I’ve found that some folks I allied with on just about everything have shifted somewhat in their line of thinking. We still agree on a lot of the old stuff (Common Core, Opt Out) but the lines have gotten very blurry in some areas. I endorsed John Marino in the 10 Senate District Special Election and caught holy hell for it. Issues involving racism filled up three of the top four articles. My first foray into Human Sex Trafficking yielded a lot of reads. The month of May has been the biggest month so far this year. Between the school board elections, budget cuts, and the infamous HS1 for House Bill 85, over 50,000 people visited the blog this month. 7 out of 17 articles are from May. An April Fool’s Day joke apparently fooled many people judging by Jack Markell’s place on this list.
Expect the unexpected in the month of June. I can tell you now a lot of articles will be about the state budget, the effects it will have on Delaware schools, and the shenanigans down at Legislative Hall. It will culminate on June 30th/July 1st as the legislators try to get it all done so they can have their long 4th of July weekend.
I’ve had more than my usual requests lately for writing about certain things. I’m actually going to hold off on some of those until July. The main reason for that is due to the state budget sucking up all the oxygen in the room. I have a couple articles where people want to talk about new ideas for education but all any school district or charter really cares about now is the budget and what impact it is going to have on them. If the State Board of Education is truly done, there are going to be a ton of legislation dealing with that. The most controversial two words between now and the end of June: Epilogue Language.
If you want to help this blog, please go here and if you have the means and are able to help out, I would be forever grateful! And a huge thank you to those who have chipped in. I was talking to someone last night about how I am the last of the education bloggers in Delaware (without an agenda). We were discussing if someone else is going to enter the rat race. Who will be the next Delaware education blogger that churns stuff out? Can’t wait to meet you!
Twelve years ago I had a big idea. It was a monstrous and colossal idea. So big I couldn’t begin it. When I first had the big idea, I began to map it out. I knew much of the who, what, when, where and why. It was the how that was killing me. It would be my magnum opus for the world or at least a few readers. Either way, I knew I had to do it. I would revisit my idea over the years, continuing the map. Five years ago, I wrote the prologue and the first chapter. I haven’t been back since. This little thing called education got in the way.
The past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about my big idea. I’m not getting any younger and if I’m ever going to do it, now would be an ideal time. There are three main sources of inspiration for this, from three areas of my life I have enjoyed since a child: music, tv, and comic books. For the musical inspiration, one line from a Wallflowers song planted the idea. The television show Lost, which ran from 2004-2010, germinated the seed. And finally, my literary muse, the one and only Neil Gaiman, was the one who showed me that even the most random of characters can hold great importance later.
I proudly present “1000 Lives”. The prologue will give the theme of how this works. And then… well, you will just have to wait. It will be so epic that I can’t do it on this blog. So I have to start a new one. But Exceptional Delaware will continue as well. Two blogs, at no price to you the reader. Please follow “1000 Lives” as it will be completely separate from this blog. If it isn’t your cup of tea, don’t worry about it. If it is, spread the word. This is a fictional story with pieces of real life thrown in for good measure. I’ve met many people in my forty-six years of life so don’t be surprised at many inspirations spread throughout this online novel.
I invite you on a journey like no other. I’m not sure if this has ever been attempted before. If not, look for something very original. Most stories have a beginning, middle, and an ending. This story’s beginning starts at the end of one story while opening up many more.
Here is the link to 1000 Lives.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! As the Irish eyes are smiling, I thought I would give an update on what articles are in the top 17 of all time on here along with some other Top 17 lists!
TOP ARTICLES FROM JUNE 13th, 2014 UNTIL MARCH 17th, 2017
TOP REFERRERS TO EXCEPTIONAL DELAWARE
- Kilroy’s Delaware
- Delaware Liberal
- WordPress.com Reader
- Android apps
- Diane Ravitch.net
- Elizabeth Scheinberg.net
- Yahoo Search
- Cloaking Inequity.com
Top 17 Countries Reading Exceptional Delaware
- United States of America
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
- South Africa
Top 17 Most Bizarre Search Terms That Brought Someone To Exceptional Delaware
- Bank of America and U2
- Waist deep on charter and on demand
- Mold photos willowleaf dr
- did Mark Zuckerberg restrict Common Core posts on Facebook?
- “are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law” and citi
- christiana school distinct to start after Labor Day
- big daddy taution school
- Quentin Tarantino
- mark holodick age
- dr brewington ffa jail
- data walls suck
- meredith blowman archmere
- delaware goopen initiative
- man jacks son common core
- henry clampitt delaware
- mark murphy dsea president
My Top 17 Favorite Articles I Wrote On This Blog
A lot of the above articles were either a labor of love or based on a ton of research. Some just came to me on a whim. Some of these articles actually changed things in Delaware. One was wishful thinking on my part! A few were written in a very different style than what most of my readers are accustomed to. With over 3,200 articles written on here, it is tough to pick out my personal favorites, but these ones are definitely up there.
As for the future, I’ll keep chugging along. I’ve taken a back seat to a lot of things going on in Delaware education the past few months. Had to stretch my sea legs! But research-based articles will return at some point once I get my bearing back. Unless something radically changes, you will see more of my investigative work but with less of an accusatory tone and with more quotes (hopefully) or information gathering from the subject of the article. In any event, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
Is the third time the charm? Let’s find out! Continue reading “January Shuffle 3.0”
I reached a million hits on my blog today. For this one, I am going to brag. I am also within days reach of passing the number of hits I had in 2014 and 2015 combined and the year isn’t even done yet.
I’m not bragging cause I think I’m something special. I’m doing it because of something someone said to me a long time ago, a couple of months after I started this blog. It was a comment meant to disparage me. To belittle me. The person tried to make it as though the News Journal was the only media people cared about in Delaware. And how they get 300,000 readers daily. How my little blog didn’t matter. And that no one really cares.
The News Journal has a much bigger staff than I do. I have a staff of one. My staff is unpaid and does this during their own time. I don’t tend to get the “official” word ahead of time on news because I don’t have the access mainstream media reporters do. This blog is a grassroots effort at the soul of it. And lots of reading. Tons of reading. It is listening and going with my gut. Going by instinct in the dark at times. Comparing and contrasting. Listening, searching, looking, and very recently, actually smelling. Some of it is pure luck and just being at the right place at the right time. A lot is opinion which is based on various facets of information. I can say that I have always attempted to deliver the truth or my perception of the truth. Sure, I occasionally come out with my outlandish “fan-fiction” stuff but I would be stunned if anyone gets through the first paragraph and thinks it is the real deal. I don’t have sponsors or advertisements. Social media is a huge boost, sure, but there has to be interest. We are inundated with material on social media.
I’ve watched my readership steadily grow since June 13th, 2014. Eleven days after I started this blog, the U.S. Dept. of Education came out with their state determinations for special education. Delaware was rated “needs improvement”. Before that, my eye was on the DOE but not a full stare. That woke me up to look deeper into them. I wrote a huge article about Delaware’s special ed rating that day and I got 424 hits. I remember the 4th of July ten days later I got 28 hits that day. I was averaging 100 hits a day prior to that and I thought my readership had suddenly left me. I really cared about my stats back then. My first article that went viral concerned my son’s 5th grade Common Core division homework. It was confusing as hell and both of us were really struggling with it for hours. I put the homework up on here. It must have clicked because apparently moms and dads around the country were struggling with the same assignment that night. That article had over 14,000 hits. Every year since, I watch that article breathe life again around the same time of year as new parents of 5th graders wonder what the heck that assignment is all about.
This blog would be nothing without the readers. I would like to think anyone bothering to read a blog about education in the 2nd smallest state in the country already has an interest in education. Or perhaps a headline brought them here. Or a Google search. The numbers don’t matter to me though, it is what people do with it. My goal has always been to open people up to different lines of thought. To lift the veil of non-transparency that happens in education. To expose the prophets who profit. To let people see what is going on behind the campy jargon coming out of a certain Governor’s mouth. Letting people see that numbers don’t always tell the tale and they can be abused greatly. But if there is anything I would want people to take from this blog it is my unwavering belief that it should always be about the kids. This gets me in trouble sometimes and some feel I am overreaching on something or going to extremes. Or that I’m wearing a tin hat. They are certainly free to feel that way. I will always argue my side. No one has ever changed hearts and minds by keeping quiet.
People tell me all the time they don’t know how I do this blog and where I find the time. I make the time. I think it is that important. Some articles just happen very fast and I can do it in five minutes. Some stay in the drafts folder until I get more information or it is very research-intensive. If there is one thing I’ve learned about education it is that no one is going to agree on everything. Sometimes I offend people and I think to myself, “where did that come from?” It isn’t intentional in those situations. I don’t know it all. Let me be very clear on that. I get stuff wrong. I like to think I get more right though. In a culture of vague ambiguities coming out of state agencies and whatnot, the smoking gun is not that easy to find. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found something, put it up, and thought this was going to change everything. It just doesn’t happen. That was a hard reality for me to accept. I always hope, but realism has to creep in after a while.
I’ve made the promise in the past that I wouldn’t throw grenades at public figures. I own that I can be seen as attack first and ask questions later. It’s who I am, or at the least, who I’ve become. Hate it or love it, but until the shroud of secrecy concerning education and the satellites that revolve around it disappear, I’m going to be the rake at the gates of Hell when it comes to this stuff. As an example, I’m working on an article now. I have been for over two weeks now. And it is so big, I reached out to many people on this: parents, teachers, districts, and even the Delaware DOE. No one from a school district will return my call. Not one. So do I go with what I have and draw conclusions on what others are telling me, or do I wait around for some magic moment when some district bigwig or school administrator decides to pick up a phone? If they even have the answers I’m looking for? Other times I definitely go for the “shock and awe” approach. The best way to expose something is to lay it out for all to see. Let people reach their own conclusions.
I’ll fully admit, blogging can get lonely sometimes. I’ll hear from people who want to provide information. People want to hear more about something or they want my help. And then they disappear. Oftentimes, someone reaches out to me with “I can’t be seen talking with you, so I’m reaching out to you like this”. I see people very sheepishly dancing around me at meetings, trying to watch what they say or how they say it. Or those meetings when I know I’ve pissed people off about something and they won’t even look at me. Then there are those very dark times when I feel like nothing I do on here matters, that no matter what happens, nothing will change. Those are usually the times I look at my son and remember how all this began. And that gets me back in the fight. There are those who will say education shouldn’t be a fight. That the problems is adults talking and talking and never getting anywhere. That is actually a valid point. But all too often, the actions taken are what causes the fight. Policy is set in place but those very same policy-makers want us to shut up and just take it. I’m that voice that says “Hell no, I don’t think so.” If John Carney wants to deal with me, he can choose how that is done. It is entirely up to him. He can take the Jack Markell approach and deal with daily or weekly onslaughts against his decisions, or he can sit down and have a conversation with me. Not some thirty-second question at a fund-raiser. But a real, honest-to-God frank discussion. I have no doubt he has the “other side” whispering in his ear all day long.
I can’t save education. No one person can. I wouldn’t even want to be burdened with that. We will probably never get it exactly right. There have been many before who have tried and there will be many long after me. There will be cycles and ebbs and flows. It started with special education on here, but I soon realized all Delaware students were getting screwed over with bad laws, policies, and a crap-load of people making money off education. I will never be a Diane Ravitch who has close to 30 million hits on her blog. There are blogs out there that get 100,000 hits a day based on subject matter I wouldn’t even think to look at. But for a little blog about education in the First State, I’m kind of proud of hitting the million mark. Today, I celebrate. Tomorrow, it’s back to the grind…
Over a million hits ago, it began with this…
Hello everyone, and welcome to the latest blog to hit the First State: Exceptional Delaware!
I am a father of a special need’s son, and you can read all about my family’s journey with a Delaware charter school here:
Everything that happened with my son inspired me to want to do more, not just for him, but all the children in Delaware who have some sort of disorder or disability that gives them special education. I know a lot about Tourette’s Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and Sensory Processing Disorder, but I need to learn about things like Autism, Asperger’s and other disabilities.
This blog will be a mix of news, interviews, spotlights, investigations, and more! I believe every single parent in America should know their children’s rights when it comes to special education. I will be doing features on IDEA, IEPs, 504 Plans, Manifestation Determination, FAPE, Child Find and more. If anyone has anything they would like to see on here, please feel free to comment or shoot me an email, and I will do my best to make it happen.
I have several ideas for potential legislation that will force all public schools in Delaware to become more transparent about the special education they have in their schools. I will go into great detail on my ideas in future posts.
To get the best and most truthful education news here in Delaware, I highly recommend you check out Kilroy’s Delaware, Kavips, Transparent Christina, theseventhtype, Children & Educators First, and Parents Of Christina. If you’re looking for the joys of Common Core, Standardized Testing and Race To The Top, you’ve come to the wrong blog. I can’t stand any of them, and I will go to great lengths to explain why.
Thank you for visiting, and I hope to see you again soon!
2016 has been a very interesting year in blogging. Some articles took off way beyond what I thought they would while others didn’t even hit the 1,000 mark. Such is life in Delaware education! The articles that get the most hits on this blog seem to take on a life of their own. It is very odd to watch as the writer of this blog. I think to myself, “this is Delaware, it can’t be that interesting!”
Without further ado, here are the top 2016 articles on Exceptional Delaware:
- Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints 51,505 hits
- Her Name Is Amy 36,029 hits
- Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice From Year Long Nightmare 22,277 hits
- Tragedy Strikes Howard High School In Wilmington As Student Dies From Head Injuries In Fight 6,924 hits
- Niche.com Delaware School Rankings By High School, Middle School, Elementary School, Best Teachers, & More 3,098 hits
- Delaware Senate Passes The “No School After Labor Day” Bill With Close Vote 3,054 hits
- Delaware DOE Hits All-Time Low With Very Scummy Move Against Teachers… 1,993 hits
- ***UPDATED***Channel 6 ABC Action News Gives Updated Information About Details In Amy Joyner-Francis Case 1,823 hits
- Governor Markell Takes It To Facebook And Receives The Beat Down Of His Life! 1,783 hits
- Delaware’s Pee Problem 1,712 hits
Out of all the above articles, the one that was the hardest to write was Her Name Is Amy. It was the day after her murder at Howard High School of Technology, and the words just came out of me. The data walls article really took me by surprise. I wrote the whole article in about five minutes while at work one day in response to a Facebook post. When I checked my laptop a few hours later at my next break, it had over 3,000 hits. The whole Senate Labor Day bill was also a post I thought no one would really care about, but it clearly resonated with readers for some reason. A lot of these articles generated so many hits because they were either original topics that couldn’t really be found anywhere else or because they dealt with a tragedy on a scale we weren’t used to in Delaware. The fact that three of these articles dealt directly with Amy Joyner-Francis speaks volumes at the grief we felt (and still do) over her senseless death. There was a lot of misinformation about what happened that day. Some of it was discounted only to be later verified. In some instances, it was just bad information. When I was prepping the Brandywine lawsuit article, I had a feeling it would be big, but not that big. The Pee article was meant to be serious, and it was. But sometimes the title just jumps out and says “read me”.
For the data walls article, I will be keeping a close eye on this topic. I want to hear from any parent, teacher, or student who sees data walls in our schools that give out names and test scores and rankings of students. In the classroom or out, especially if it is in an area where anyone can see it. Many schools who practiced this last year got a reprieve from me because it was the end of the school year, but I will not be so kind this year.
Blogging is an odd thing. None of these posts were heavily linked to with the exception of Facebook in certain situations. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have always been my biggest “referrers”. What none of these hits include are hits to my “homepage” which received 93,065 hits so far this year. Each year, this blog gets bigger, and I am very grateful for that. When I began this little thing back in June of 2014, I didn’t foresee anything like this or what it became. I thank all my readers, near and far, for coming to visit. It’s been controversial, it’s been real, and it’s even been fun with some stuff. The people I’ve met since have left a very big impression on me. I am a better man for meeting a lot of you! And some, I won’t go there!
While I don’t always slow down in the summer, my readers do. I have noticed a crystal clear trend with this as my 3rd year of summer blogging comes to a finish. Things ramp up big time in late August/early September. That continues up until Christmas. Slows down for a few weeks, and then the General Assembly comes back. Things slow down around Easter for a week, and then back up again until June 30th. Slows to a crawl on 4th of July, and goes up or down all summer depending on how many people are around and not purposely checking out from “real life”. But summer is when the DOE is usually the most crafty, so I make it an extra point to monitor them closely then. Sometimes it takes a while to put the pieces together, but eventually a picture forms.
Funny story, the first time I wrote an article about Governor Markell in the title, I thought for sure the Delaware Secret Service would be collecting me at work. It never happened, and as time went on, I stopped worrying about stuff like that. It’s not that I’ve ever been about to destroy Jack Markell. I’ve always hoped he would wake up one day and do the right thing. But he is very predictable once you figure him out. He constantly disappoints me, but that feeling leads me to the truth every singe time. I’ve always made it a point to tell the truth on here. Some of that is perception, and some were gut reactions, borne out of frustration and anger. I’ve flip-flopped on a lot of things, but some things have stood the test of time: my stances on Smarter Balanced, Opt Out, personalized learning, Rodel, Markell, the Delaware DOE, and the Delaware State Board of Education. I still think special education needs vast improvement in Delaware. Following the money has taken more time and research the past few months, but I understand things so much more than I used to. It isn’t just a charter thing, it’s a Delaware public education thing.
I’ve written some things on here that some found reprehensible but I stand by those decisions. To my detractors, I ask this: if I am wrong about so many things, why do I get no response for those things from those who know the truth? They have the ability to reach me. They all know how. It has been a very rare event when I left a comment in moderation because of the nature of the comment. I can count those on one hand. I have never edited a comment. I’ve corrected articles many times. In Delaware education, transparency is not always there so you draw conclusions based on what you have and the information presented. I’ve even apologized if I was wrong in the past. Sometimes I hear that others are upset with me, but I never seem to hear from those “others”. To those “others”, you should not feel afraid to reach out to me. I may not agree with you, but I will certainly present your side of the story. As long as you don’t lie to me or intentionally try to mislead me. Cause if I find out, you can be pretty damn sure I will write about that.
At the end of the day, this isn’t my blog. It isn’t even about the people who read it. It’s about the Delaware kids in public education. It’s about my kid and yours. When politics gets involved, it can get ugly. I won’t endorse those who toe the party line or vote against something that could and should be in a student’s best interests. In Delaware, we have the capability of ushering in true change to education. We stand on the cusp of something better and different. But all of this depends on how you vote in the September primaries and on Election Day in November.
I urge all of you to do research into which legislators have stood up for public education. Who has supported the rights of teachers and parents? Who voted against the Smarter Balanced Assessment? Who has openly, even in the face of disdain from their peers in their own party, voted for what is right and not for what the Governor or the forces against public education want? Who goes to a lot of education meetings and serves the will of the people and not the Governor? This can be a very thin line at times. There are many parents who support charter schools and school choice in this state. I recognize that, and I accept that. Some assume certain politicians are out to destroy charters. They aren’t. They just want transparency and honesty, about their finances or their enrollment practices. They see and hear things you never hear a word about. They see the lobbyists in full swing at Legislative Hall and know who is zooming who.
I think most of us want something better for our kids than what we have. But if you want to live in a sheltered island where everything is safe for the few, and not the many, then that isn’t always the best thing. Parents are used when they exist in those kind of environments. They are more willing to believe certain things because it is all they know. But trust me when I say the reality is very different. There are people in this state who are all about themselves. They may smile and appear to be the nicest people in the world. They aren’t. They know who they are. They know what they do. I believe most, if not all of them, are fully cognizant of their actions. I’ve seen many of their faces when they aren’t in a crowd. They aren’t the same faces. It is truly horrifying to see sometimes. I can also see the weight of guilt on some of them. I see the stress on their face and the remorse in their eyes. But they feel powerless to do the right thing. This isn’t something I can fathom. I guess it just isn’t in my genetic makeup. I feel for them in the same respect I feel bad for anyone who does wrong and it eats at them. We have all been there at one point or another. It isn’t a fun feeling. But at the same time, I don’t feel any loyalty to these people. Everyone has the opportunity to tell the truth or live a better life. It might mean sacrificing something these people aren’t willing to do. I don’t think it’s a question of not being able to do so for any of them.
We all make choices, for good or bad. I believe we all face moments when we wrestle with those choices. Struggle with what to do. We may be protecting someone else, or just ourselves. But when it involves kids, there is no place for ego or greed or manipulation or lies or fraud or power. Because most of these kids, they don’t know how to do those kind of things. They are seeing the paths set for them by the adults. So for those who I am talking about here, and you know damn well who you are, are you okay with Delaware students being who you are when they are your age? Are you okay with them taking the same actions you have? Because that is what will happen. If it isn’t your own children or grandchildren, it will be someone else’s kid. Someone who will grow up and think the game is more important than life. Is that really what you want?
I have been very remiss about updating certain parts of this blog. In an effort to improve the ability for readers to find information, I put pages below the title. I am in the process of updating those pages. I added a new one called “Delaware School Districts” which will have links to articles I’ve written about the different school districts in the state. This will take quite a bit of time. As well, I updated all of the charter school articles in the “Delaware Charters” section. Education Meetings and Education Legislation are next on my to-do list. Followed by the FOIA file, Governor Markell, and Rodel & Friends.
Are there are any pages you would like to see up there to make it easier to find certain things on here? Let me know!
I really can’t believe it’s been two years since I started this little experiment. I am more committed than ever to righting the wrongs in public education. With that being said, I need your help. What do you like about the blog? What do you hate? Is there something you want to see more of? Less? Am I too opinionated or not enough? Am I too mean or not mean enough? Do you like your stories to be journalistically based or with the flavor you come to expect on this blog? I came to the realization there is absolutely no way I can cover everything or please everyone. Education is a beast and growing by the day. There will always be heroes, villains, and those in-between. It’s getting very hard to understand motivations. As I’ve said before, I believe most people have “tainted decency”, meaning they are not 100% good and not 100% bad. I will have an article coming later this morning that will explore this notion. There are a few sides to this story.
Until then, thank you for the followers from the beginning of this blog, those who jumped on for the ride, and those who are just starting now. I appreciate all of you and your opinions, whether I agree with them or not. There are no easy answers with education.
There are many. Too many nowadays. There are many reasons. Retaliation against people is the biggest one. Another one is waiting on more information. Blogging takes a lot of time and effort. Especially the way I do it. I have more articles in my draft folder then I ever have. Many are in my head. Some are… with others. Sometimes there are games afoot. Sometimes a source drops a load of information and then disappears. I’ve learned I have to vet some sources a bit more than I used to.
Some of these articles would be permanent game changers for some people, schools, or even districts. Even some of our politicians in Delaware should have reason to fear. Delaware is a small state but large in secrets. Through it all, it always comes back to Jack Markell, one way or another. He is the Kevin Bacon of education connections in Delaware.
Many of the tales I cannot tell are heart-wrenching. They are incredibly sad and all I can say is some children should never be treated the way they are in some schools. If you are an education leader of some sort in our crazy state, and you are wondering “Does he know?”, chances are pretty good I probably do. For those who think “he is clueless, he has no idea what is really going on”, be advised I most likely do know exactly what is going on, why it is happening, and the trail of breadcrumbs you left.
I know about a lot of the side deals, and the knife thrusts in the backs of enemies, and the things some think only a select few know about. You are wrong. I know when I’m being used, even though you don’t think I do. Sometimes I allow myself to be used because I know what is at the other end of the tunnel. I know why some react and why some stay quiet as a church mouse. I know why some stopped reacting. I know those who drink the kool-aid in public but tell me in private they know it is wrong. I know who has a forgiving heart, who has the capacity to forgive, and who has a dead heart.
I know a lie before the words finish coming out of a mouth. But the most stunning thing I know is there are some things I could write about and the whole state could read it but nothing would happen. I know about the corruption in our state, from the top to the bottom. I know the looks some give me can be an “I understand” or “Please go away” or “You can’t do a thing to stop any of this” or “You know nothing”. Some desperately tell me how wrong I am only to see the dawn of realization hit them later. I know those who try to distract me to keep me away from something else. It has worked in the past but it is much harder now.
I know about the money trails and how some try to hide it. I see the categories and we both know it is utter bullshit. I see it more than you think I do. I hear the administrator horror stories. How unfairly so many of our teachers are treated. I know those who don’t bat an eye when making the wrong decision to protect themselves while others suffer. I know about those who think a climb to power is better than integrity and dignity. I know far too many who are blinded and manipulated and believe what they think they are hearing. I know who my enemies are. That is very easy. I know those who want me to think they are my allies but I know they aren’t. I know those who are genuine and true and want the best for children. I know the chess players and the ones who think they are grand champions but the reality is they should stick to checkers or go fish.
These are the tales I cannot tell. Many of them are just in a “for now” status. Some can NEVER be told. Some I plan for an exact moment. Some will join together in unholy matrimony in ways even I couldn’t imagine but make sense when they do. Some I find out about and publish right away while others age like a fine wine. I have seen a future and it is a very dark place for all of us. I’ve seen the past and paths clear more each time. I see the futurists, always scheming and plotting. I know things that will happen that nobody knows about yet. I know things that some think will happen but they are going to be very disappointed. I know when to walk way over the line and when to draw back. I know when the line is blurry and sometimes I know when it is invisible. I know what the biggest trick of all was and who was involved, even though I don’t write about it. I know so much more than you think I do. This is… Exceptional Delaware.
This is the world. If you see a country in white, that means they haven’t visited Exceptional Delaware. I’ve conquered North America, Europe, and most of South America. Asia has some holes in it still, along with Africa. This is one of my goals for 2016. To close the gaps. I will not rest or sleep until I have completely taken over the world. This is not a game of Risk, otherwise Africa would have been mine already. Every country must have a color! I am opting out of countries that are blank until they come and visit me. I tried with Mongolia, even going to a few Mongolian WordPress blogs and making comments. It’s how I got Greenland, but I also found a really awesome Greenland blog with amazing photos on it, so it all worked out. What’s up with the Stans in Asia? I’m sure they have that thing called the internet over there. Exceptional Delaware wasn’t built in a day, but with the last country colored in I will completely take over the world in a day! I will accept no substitutes!
Exceptional Delaware had many polls this year. While these are by no means an official record on the entire state’s feelings on education issues, they are indicative of the thoughts of many Delaware readers of Exceptional Delaware. The voter numbers on these polls varied from thousands to less than 100. I don’t care what the “margin of error” was. I did not base any policy or agendas on the results of these polls although I completely agree with many of the answers! I’m sure the regular readers can figure out which ones I support and those I don’t.
In March, I asked readers if they opted their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. 31% said not yet but they would this week, 26% said they already did, 14% said they would if they had kids, 9% said they wanted to see how their kids did on the test, 9% said no because they believe in Smarter Balanced and Common Core, and 6% said “I was googling balance polls cause I want to get one for the gym when I go back to being a gym teacher”.
In June, in response to a poll if the Smarter Balanced Assessment was a good test, 75% said no and 22% said no.
Also in June, when asked if pollsters believed parents have the right to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, 79% said yes while 21% said no.
In July, the subject of naming the Dover High School football stadium after Capital School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas, who had recently retired, was a good idea or not. 85% said no and only 15% said yes.
September was a big survey month. The phrase that best described the Delaware Department of Education, as picked by readers, landed in a 1st place tie, with 44% each of the results going to “Mobius Strip of Bullshit” and “You know who needs great leaders? The DOE needs great leaders”. 12% of survey takers thought “If they had one more brain cell it would be lonely” was an apt description.
40% of readers taking a poll on Jack Markell’s life after Governor felt he would open up the “No Excuses” chain of charter schools, 23% felt he would retire when he cashes in his ed-stock portfolio, 11% thought he would become the next US Secretary of Education, 11% felt he could do prison time, and 6% believe he will move to Israel to work for a tech company.
For DOE buzz words that drive people crazy, over half the survey takers, 51%, hate the word “rigor”, followed by 25% hating “college & career ready”, 9% hating “data dive”, 6% hating “grit”, 6% hating “robust discussion” and 3% hating “Dear Educators…”
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission had some interesting results. 51% think they will create more of a mess in Delaware, 29% felt it would not result in any true lasting change, 11% thought it would actually improve education in Delaware, and 9% felt it would cause Red Clay to go bankrupt.
When asked which organization would openly revolt against the DOE next, the Delaware Association of School Administrators was the hands-down favorite, with 47% of the vote. Oddly enough, 20% thought DOE employees would revolt, followed by 18% for WEIC, 9% for the Rodel Foundation, and 6% for the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League.
The next poll actually showed a dog beating a couple legislators for the top spot in Delaware education! 55% of pollsters though State Rep. Kim Williams would be an excellent choice for Delaware Secretary of Education. 20% thought State Rep. John Kowalko could do the job, followed by 13% for Senator Brian Pettyjohn. State Rep. Trey Paradee’s dog Belle actually received 8% of the vote over Senator David Sokola’s 3% and State Rep. Earl Jaques received NO votes at all!
The worst torture for readers was sitting through a State Board of Education presentation on teacher effectiveness. 48% of voters really didn’t want that in their lives! 24% didn’t want to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and 22% didn’t want to have a staring contest with Mark Murphy. Only 6% didn’t want to eat glass, which proves for many that eating glass would be a better option than the above three.
For the House Bill 50 Veto Override, 32% said it will pass in the House and Senate, 25% said the override will take place but it won’t pass, 20% were really hoping there would be something in the Every Student Succeeds Act that would wipe out the necessity of House Bill 50, 18% thought the veto would stick and there would be no override, and 5% thought the General Assembly would return early and pass the bill in Special Session.
Over half the poll takers, 52%, thought there would be “one too many” charter schools in Delaware in 2025, 20% thought my dream from The Last Exceptional Delaware Story would come true, 17% said 40, and 11% said 50.
When asked which charter school would get a formal review for financial mismanagement, 48% felt Providence Creek Academy would be next, 28% said Thomas Edison, and 24% said Odyssey. The answer was none of the above! Providence Creek actually escaped that by doing the right thing, Thomas Edison was cleared of any wrong-doing by the Delaware State Auditor’s office in an investigation into multiple charter schools, and Odyssey’s cryptic board meeting minutes in reference to potential financial issues were actually in reference to bond issues for their high school. But Delaware Met, in addition to actually being the first charter school in the state to be closed in the middle of their first year, is under investigation by the auditor’s office.
October saw the weakest poll I have ever done. I stepped way outside the education arena and asked readers which musicians would get voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame based on their nominations. Six whole readers took the poll, with 33% saying The J.B.’s were in, and vote tallies of 16.66% each for The Smiths, The Spinners, Deep Purple, and Yes. This includes my vote for The Smiths. Lesson to self…don’t expect a lot of readers when I step too far away from the central themes of my own blog!
In November, I asked readers what their current thoughts on opt-out were. 38% said they don’t have kids but they support it, 23% don’t believe in opt-out, 21% said they already opted their child out next Spring, and 17% said they will opt their child out. This poll mistakenly caused some to believe support for opt-out was dwindling because of the 2nd place rating. But that left the other 77% supporting opt-out.
64% of readers taking a poll on the next Governor think Republican Colin Bonini will win the election as opposed to 36% thinking John Carney will win. This shocked me immensely as I underestimated the number of Republican readers on Exceptional Delaware!
Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s approval rating on Exceptional Delaware is horrible! 92% of readers were not satisfied with him, while 8% were.
When asked if State Rep. Earl Jaques should be removed as the Chair of the House Education Committee, an astounding 80% said yes and 20% said no.
47% of readers support personalized learning and competency-based education, which actually surprised me. 40% didn’t support it, and 13% didn’t know what it was.
Delaware Secretary of Education Godowsky’s approval ratings for his first sixty days were as follows: 35% said okay, 33% said bad, 22% said awful, 7% said good, and 4% said great.
87% of the vote-takers felt the State Board of Education should consist of publicly elected officials while 13% think it is okay that one person picks them, the Governor.
In terms of how readers thought about how students are with the implementation of Smarter Balanced this year, 60% said they are further behind, 32% said the same, and 8% said they are better off, praise the Lord!
December saw the State Board of Education voting whether or not to shut down a charter school in the middle of the year. Before their vote, I asked readers what they thought. 83% said shut them down while 17% said leave them open.
When asked who they felt would win in the knock-down fight of the year, 94% of readers felt Santa Claus would whoop Jack Markell in a fight. Only 6% thought Jack could win that fight.
But the granddaddy of all the polls on this blog actually started on the last day of the year in 2014 and ran for the next several weeks into the new year. In the infamous “Who Shot The Blogger” contest, it came down to Governor Jack Markell vs. the DOE’s Penny Schwinn. Jack won 68% of the vote versus Schwinn’s 32%, besting 31 other contenders in the tournament. The biggest battles came down to DOE Public Information Officer Alison May who beat Deputy Secretary David Blowman, Penny Schwinn who wiped out Pencadermom (a much-missed commenter from over at Kilroy’s Delaware), Mark Murphy’s annihilation of Chris Ruszkowski (the teacher/leader guru at the DOE), and Jack Markell vs. Paul Herdman with the Governator besting his Rodelian friend. From there, Schwinn beat May and Markell beat Murphy, setting up the grand championship!
In the final set of polls, which only ran for one day, the best moment in Delaware education in 2015 was when the Delaware House and Senate passed House Bill 50 with 41%, 32% felt Mark Murphy “resigning” was the best, 16% thought the Christina Board of Education holding the DOE back from taking their priority schools was a top moment, Penny Schwinn’s DOE resignation collected 7%, and horrible Smarter Balanced Assessment results had 5% of poll-takers looking at that as a crowning moment.
34% felt Delaware education’s darkest moment was Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, 23% thought the outright theft of school funds from the school leaders at Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy was very dark, 17% thought the State Board of Education passing the opt-out penalties for the Delaware School Success Framework was horrible, and 13% each voted for President Obama signing the Every Student Succeeds Act and the State Board revoking Delaware Met’s charter in the middle of a school year.
Here there be villains in education with 56% giving Governor Markell the villain of the year award, the soon to be departed US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan got 14%, followed by 9% for Mark Murphy, 7% for Donna Johnson, 5% each for State Rep. Earl Jaques and Rodel CEO Paul Herdman, and 2% each for current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and the also soon to be departing from the Delaware DOE Penny Schwinn.
But there were also heroes for Delaware Education. State Rep. John Kowalko nabbed the top spot with 30% of the vote, State Rep. Kim Williams got 21%, I humbly accept 12% of the vote in the other category, State Rep. Mike Ramone got 9% for saving House Bill 50 from the brink of defeat in the House Education Committee last April, Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews and Jennifer Nagourney from the Delaware Charter School Office each collected 7% each of the votes, Capital Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton and WEIC Chair Tony Allen each got 5% of the vote, the dynamic due of Terri Hodges and Yvonne Johnson with the Delaware PTA got 2%, and last but definitely not least, Christina Education Association Vice-President Jackie Kook received 2% of the votes.
The last poll of 2015 saw 23% of readers taking the poll viewing an out of control Delaware DOE and State Board of Education as the biggest issue in 2015, the opt-out movement had 21%, 15% felt legislators listening to the Governor over their constituents was a big issue, 13% thought the Smarter Balanced Assessment was controversial, 11% felt charter school fraud grabbed the headlines, 6% thought lobbyists affecting education legislation was a hot issue, the impact of choice and feeder school patterns bothered 4% of pollsters, followed by 2% each for underfunded schools, priority schools, and teacher evaluations.
While these are in no way scientific conclusions, it is always interesting to get the results on these. Sometimes I can predict how they will go, and others I can’t. Some surprise me! I do set it up so no one can vote twice from the same computer to prevent potential cheating. What will 2016 bring?
This is a first! It is very rare that I remove an article. Today, I had to do it twice. The first concerned Delaware Met and closure information provided by the DOE. They were still in the process of updating this information and wanted to make sure parents of the students there got accurate information. The second article concerned State Board of Education member Dr. Terry Whittaker. I was questioning why he has not been present at board meetings since September. Shortly after I posted the article, I was informed his wife passed away last month. This was announced publicly at the last State Board of Education meeting. My sincerest condolences for Dr. Whittaker and his family…
Now if I have to kill a third article today, that hat trick will not be acceptable to me, so I am done writing for the night! My apologies for those who saw these posts in their email, Facebook, or Twitter and wondered what the heck happened. This is not something that usually happens.
2015. It is almost over. Before we go, I wanted to take a look back at the visuals of the past year that have graced this blog and other sites as well. Yes, many of these pictures have not been seen by everyone who comes here. I searched high and low for some of these shots. In my opinion, many of these pictures give an accurate feel for many of the important topics covered on this blog in 2015. There is an index at the end of the photo album for those who are wondering who some of these people are! It is all here: Priority Schools, Opt-Out, Mark Murphy, House Bill 50, State Reps and State Senators, WEIC, Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, Teachers, Superintendents and more! You never know who may show up in the below album. It could be YOU… Continue reading “The Exceptional Delaware 2015 Photo Album”
We strike first. We don’t have to wait for a copy editor or an all-clear from the publisher. We are the copy editor. We are the publisher. You love us. You hate us. We show up at meetings when you least expect us. Some of you get nervous when you see us typing feverishly. We don’t get paid. We do it for the kids. We find you. We are opinionated and headstrong. We have allies and enemies. We know who has been naughty and nice. We are the tired. We are the alert. We don’t cut corners. We don’t aim to please. Election Season is coming. Fear Us. This is gonna be fun!
It has been a year and a half since I started this blog. 18 months today. Over 2,000 posts. Only three days where I didn’t write something: 6/16/14, 7/14/14, and 8/31/14. There has been an article on here every day since 9/1/14. Without fail. Some days I’ve put tons of stuff up. This should tell you something: how jacked up Delaware is with education. The very fact that I could find over 1,000 things to write about proves this. Some of the articles have common themes: Special Education, Opt-Out, Delaware DOE, Charter Schools and Governor Markell are the most obvious ones. Today, I’m just going to free write, say what is on my mind. No theme, no clear topic. Just writing.
I never thought I would get involved in pending legislation, but I’ve learned it is very important to know what is coming. Not just for yourself, but for your kids. If I’ve learned nothing in the past 18 months, it is that every single voice does matter. Don’t be afraid to use it. You never know when it will make a difference.
I still remember that first night when I picked the name. That nervous anticipation. Picking my “header image”, which graced the front of this blog most days and nights until very recently when someone wrote to Warner Brothers about my use of their image. Its not like I profited over it. Just someone being bitter and resentful I’m sure. Whoever you are, let me just say this: you suck!
The one question I am asked constantly is how I have the time to do this. The easy answer: I don’t. I’ve spent far too many late nights and early mornings on this blog. It is exhausting. And for a while there, I was going to every meeting under the sun. I’m spent. Tired. Exhausted. I’ve said this before, announcing I was going to slow down, only to come back roaring and writing more than ever. But like any long distance runner, you eventually hit that wall. Where your body just gives. I’m pretty sure I’m at that point. But I am resilient and bounce back fast, so any pause will be short-lived I’m sure. Or the DOE or Markell will do something to tick us off and that gets the blood boiling again.
There are days where I feel like nothing I do makes a damn bit of difference. Special education in Delaware is still a mess. Jack is still messing things up. The DOE will do as they please as long as Jack is protecting them. Charters still have big issues. I never dreamed there could be so many issues with education that would warrant daily articles. It really is crazy. I’m just tired of being mad all the time. I’m tired of seeing the same people do the same things over and over again and nothing seems to stop them. And I see others blindly following them, ignorant of what is right in front of them. I’m sick of charter parents arguing the whole choice argument over and over like it is their kids God-given right to attend “great” schools and screw the other kids. Is it right to be mad at them? I don’t know. I can explain it until the sun sets in the east, but until you have a child that has experienced the painful art of not being included somewhere or not given services they are legally entitled to, it is probably hard to imagine. But then I see something like House Bill 50 passing the General Assembly, or schools like Family Foundations Academy or Delaware Met and their stories being made public when most of the mainstream media aren’t touching on a quarter of the issues going on in these schools. Someone has to tell the tales.
I don’t write much about my son on here any more. Its not because I don’t want to, but I feel his stories are his to tell. I could write stuff every single day about him. But he knows I blog, and he knows what I blog about. I’m cool with that. Some days he wants to hear about stuff, but most days he just wants to be a kid. Nothing wrong with that at all.
I got a hair cut the other day. For men getting older, do you ever just watch as your hair falls and you notice as the years go by how much is grey or white? I saw that today. Usually it is brown with bits of grey here and there. On Friday, it was a lot more. It makes you think. Not about how long you’ve live, but how fast it goes. You blink, and time is gone. If this is my “time capsule”, so be it. There are much worse things I could be doing!
Anyone reading this will surely know that I have changed the header image on this blog. When I began this journey a year and a half ago, I saw the image as a good representative of the journey special needs children in Delaware have to take. They are all different, but they are all travelling toward a common destination: adulthood. Navigating them through education in Delaware is a nightmare of epic proportions. That image is now gone, and I have put in a filler one for the meantime. I would like to say this was well thought-out and planned, but it wasn’t. For reasons beyond my control, I have been asked to take down the image of Frodo and Friends. I am happy to comply, but I will miss seeing the journey every day. But perhaps it is time to ramp things up on here, so be on the lookout for something more Delaware specific…
On WordPress blogs, you can see what other websites refer you to your own blog. For the past few days, I’ve seen a website called Haiku Learning refer quite a few folks to Exceptional Delaware. I decided tonight to see what the fuss was all about. This is an online learning school. The class that had the assignment was Social Action and Leadership. This was today’s assignment:
For class on Friday, please read the article attached below. After reading the article, skim these two sites.
Please answer these questions:
1. Summarize the Delaware Today article.
2. What was one thing in the Delaware Today article that surprised you?
3. What impression do you get from the two sites? Do you believe they are for the same audience? If you were a parent of a public school student, how would they help you?
|Fixing Wilmington’s Schools August 2015 Delaware Today.pdf|
I guess you’ve hit the big leagues when your blog is part of a class assignment! I would love to see some of the actual completed assignments on this. Have I now corrupted the assignment by writing about it? Will Solutions For Wilmington Schools generate some out-of-state discussion concerning the Wilmington redistricting plan? I am fascinated by this! Especially the part about “If you were a parent of a public school student, how would they help you?”
You can follow the yellow brick road here.
Updated, 9/19/15, 10:15am: WEIC Co-Chair Tizzy Lockman told me Padua is an all girls Catholic school in Wilmington. This is an assignment for that school. Mystery solved. This is what happens when a Dover guy doesn’t know all the schools up there!