Jason Casper Urges Calm Ahead Of Red Clay Board Meeting Tonight… Will Both Sides Listen?

Over the past couple of weeks, Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education member Jason Casper has been a lightning rod of controversy over Facebook posts supporting gun rights.  After the anti-gun group Moms Demand Action and others demanded Casper not run for President of the Red Clay board, he acquiesced and said he would not accept a nomination should it come up at their board meeting tonight.  But some groups, led by former Congressional candidate Kerri Harris, want Casper to resign from the board.  Meanwhile, the pro gun rights crowd plans to attend the meeting tonight to support Casper.  To that affect, Casper issued a statement on Facebook tonight urging both sides to let the Red Clay Board get back to issues about education.  It will also be his statement prior to public comment at the meeting tonight.  For my own personal thoughts on this, you can read my private Facebook page if I’m friends with you.  For the record, I hate what was done to Jason Casper.

Tonight, before I left for this meeting, I wanted to post a statement on Facebook. You might find that ironic, since it was a handful of Facebook posts that got me into this situation in the first place; but I wanted there to be a record of my words available after I spoke to you this evening.

So here goes:

I stepped forward to serve on this Board only after waiting to see if someone more qualified, someone whose leadership I would trust, would do so. When that didn’t happen, I thought, “I’m a teacher, and since Kenny Rivera left that perspective has been absent.” I’ve worked with students from the inner city, and that’s key to many of the kinds of challenges Red Clay is facing. I believe that we solve problems and educate kids not when we engage in ideological crusades, but when we sit down and do the thoughtful, detailed planning and support for our teachers, administrators, staff AND parents in the hard, day-to-day work of implementing those ideas.

No child has ever earned better math grades as the result of a fiery speech at a School Board meeting, or a cleverly worded meme on Facebook, which I think we all forget from time to time.

I know that I’m guilty of that.

As a leader, whether as a potential School Board President, or just as a Board member, I have been, and should have been held to a higher standard. I’m a conservative Catholic who believes in 2nd Amendment rights, and my posts did not do anything positive for those identities or for my district.

I should have known better. I should have known that in today’s world attempts at humor are always politically dangerous, and that I was setting a poor example for the kids I love.

So I am sorry for that, I apologize unequivocally, first and foremost to them. I don’t believe people who say, “For those whom I might have offended,” so I won’t say that.

It was inappropriate, and it has cost my family more dearly than you can imagine.

Yet, at the same time, this incident has told me more about the problems that keep us from coming together for our kids than I have otherwise learned in the past two decades.

As I look out into the audience tonight, I see the faces of those who have come here to protest against me as well as the faces of those who’ve turned out to support me.

And, you know what?

I don’t recognize most of you. I haven’t seen you at the committees that meet to pick next year’s elementary math textbooks, or at meetings brainstorming about how to better support our special needs population, or at public Board workshops. Even more to the point, the statistics—and just the fact that I’m sitting up here—tell me that the overwhelming majority of you do not turn out to vote in Red Clay School Board elections.

Yet people who have never met me, never spoken to me, and never stepped up to the plate here in the district feel empowered by my errors to condemn me as wanting to bring “racism, violence, and hate” into our schools. One person even posted half gleefully the rumor that I had been so struck down by their attacks that I visited the Emergency Room last week and died.

I tried reaching out to some of my most vocal critics. I wrote an extended response to one, laying out in full my thought processes, especially around the post I’d written about the student walk-out. She did not deign to reply, and after reading my words moved from calling for me not to run for President to inciting her followers to show up tonight to demand my resignation.

I saw public officials and want-to-be politicians jump on the bandwagon like sharks smelling blood in the water. I remember thinking that when I saw this happen last year to a very good man, and a very skilled teacher, with whom I share literally nothing in common in terms of political viewpoints, “Wow, now I know what a feeding frenzy looks like.”

Well, now I know what a feeding frenzy feels like.

I’d love to know if those of you who were convinced that you would come here tonight to see a rabid, white-robed fanatic carrying an AK-47 are wondering just what happened. All you got was an old driver education teacher and former funeral professional, who still digs graves from time to time.

As for my supporters tonight, aside from thanking you, I’d like to ask two favors.

The first is that if you signed up to speak, please don’t. Your presence, and the kind words you’ve offered to me and to my wife, Ami, over the past week have been a Godsend in a dark time, but tonight your presence is sufficient.

We don’t need to ratchet up the war of words and prove—unfortunately not for the first time—that this Board is more divided than it should be, and that in today’s rough world of politics good people of differing opinions find it more productive to trade insults than ideas.

The second thing I would ask you, from the Constitutional Republicans to Delaware Gun Rights, from Moms Demand Action to Sandy Hook Promise, is to remember that this district is not about your battles over the status of gun rights or free speech, but about the necessity of doing our very best for the children about to walk back into Warner, Heritage, Highlands, Linden Hill, Stanton, Richardson Park, Skyline, Dickinson, Cab, Conrad and all of our other schools.

So I’d ask you tonight, if you live in the district, to stop and find out how to sign up for a committee, or a working group, or your building’s PTA instead of letting this be your single visit to the process.

I will be working with you, if you do that, because I’m not going anywhere.

I will not be resigning my position on this Board.

I considered it, I really did. Would staying make me into the target of prolonged controversy that materially interfered with my ability to advance education? Would the cost of being publicly called—for the first time in my life—a violent, racist hate monger be too high a price for my family to bear?

But then I recalled that the teaching of my faith is that we are all, necessarily, flawed servants, but that it is our calling to emphasize the service and not use the flaws as an excuse.

So I will still be here. I pledge that I will be addressing my own flaws while working as tirelessly as possible for the children and families we are called to serve.

If you are moved to speak against me tonight, I will listen. Your passion is important, and your comments may move us further toward the district’s goals even when they are personally uncomfortable to me. More to the point, I believe in your right to speak and to criticize all public officials for any reason, and I will practice that belief.

In the next couple of weeks, we will have close to 17 THOUSAND students coming back to our schools, as well as hundreds of staff members from custodial staff and bus drivers, to teachers, counselors and administrators; all getting prepared for our Red Clay kids. We have a new superintendent that we need to support so that he can make 2019-2020 the best school year possible. We are ALL here for the kids.

Thank you, Madam President, for this opportunity to speak my piece.

Now let’s get back to work!

 

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Did Hegedus Campaign Violate Election Law In Illegal Emails To State Teachers?

A school board campaign in Delaware could be breaking the law and they are turning what should be a fair election into a disgrace.  And how could a member of this campaign benefit should her ghost candidate win?  And which legislator is foolishly endorsing a candidate that won’t serve if elected? Continue reading

Mike Matthews Ruminates On The Coordinated Hit Against Him And DSEA

On Facebook tonight, former Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews talked about his resignation from DSEA in light of the “uncovering” of blog posts he made a decade ago.  Matthews talks about who was behind it. Continue reading

Video Shows Monique Johns Or Someone From Her Campaign Stealing Kevin Hensley Flyer From Door

A citizen in the 9th State Representative district caught Monique Johns or someone from her campaign stealing a Kevin Hensley flyer from their door.  This is a very bad optic for the Democrat opponent of incumbent Republican Kevin Hensley.

The citizen has video cameras on their porch.  In the first video, from today, it clearly shows Hensley inserting a flyer into the door.  In the second video, also from today but later in the day based on shadows and the sun moving to a different position, an African-American woman wearing a red jacket and a white baseball cap comes to the door.  She takes the Hensley flyer from the door.  She looks on a list of some sort and then puts her own flyer in the door.  I have never met Johns so I can’t tell if it is her or not.  The shadows make it difficult to find out.

The citizen wrote this as a forward to the two videos and picture of the Johns flyer:

Nice Sunday for our local candidates to make house calls. In the first video is Kevin Hensley dropping by the house and putting his flyer in the door. A little later in the afternoon we got a second visitor. Monique Johns who in the video clearly steals Kevin’s pamphlet out of our door and replaces it with her own. Enjoy

The explosive Facebook video can be found here.  It has been viewed on Facebook over 4,300 times today and I have no doubt it will continue to rise.  Johns lost against Hensley in 2016.  After this, I can’t imagine any citizen wanting to vote for her.  Some may say it was an honest mistake but it looks pretty damn blatant to me!  What say you Delaware Election Commissioner Elaine Manlove?

Mike Matthews Gives Statement on DSEA Resignation & Apologizes For Comments Made On His Blog

I’ve seen Delaware divided over issues in my day but the social media comments about Mike Matthews old blog posts and his resignation from DSEA last night have lit Delaware up.  Today, Matthews turned off his radio silence and gave, what I felt, was a very mature statement about his resignation and his old blog, Down With Absolutes.

Throughout my time as an educator, local union leader, and state union leader, I’ve prided myself on my attempts to be honest, transparent, and open when confronted with any issue. I like to think that no matter how difficult the topic, at times we need to set aside issues, sit down, and have the conversations that can help move any debate forward.

Now is one of those times where I need to be completely open, honest, and transparent with you, my Facebook friends.

Two days ago, I was contacted by a reporter who shared with me he had come into possession of some old posts from my blogging days. He shared with me that some individuals have concerns with the content, tone, and language used in the posts and he wanted for me to provide a comment on whether my words from 10-12 years ago match my representation of the organization I now lead, DSEA.

First, I will say that my conversation with the reporter was cordial. I’ve had a relationship with him over the last few years and he handled the interview with care and with the utmost respect. It is not a phone call that I expected to receive, considering I’ve been very open with my past in multiple venues since I became a teacher in 2009 after shutting the blog down several months before I started my job.

Second, as I shared with the reporter, I take full ownership of the comments I made on my blog from the period of about 2004-2009. I will not deflect. I will not blame. I will not obfuscate. I own the outlandish, insensitive, at times offensive, and inappropriate posts that I wrote mostly on topics of Delaware politics. I cannot recall every one of the thousands of posts that I authored in those five years…and it wouldn’t matter if I could. Because I wrote them. And I must own them. For any hurt, pain, or grief I caused individuals because of my words, I can only offer a full-throated, genuine apology without exception or qualification and hope that the work I’ve done since entering education and my role as a union leader can, in some minor way, redeem the words that are in no way a reflection of where I am today.

We are in very challenging times right now…a time where individuals are being scrutinized for actions they’ve taken in the past and how those actions should be weighed on their present and future. While I own and take responsibility for the words I published nearly a decade ago, I do not condone them nor are they words that would ever slip from my brain to my hands to the keyboard ever again. It is no defense to say that I was a rambunctious, wily twentysomething attempting to find his way in the world who had suddenly found an audience willing to receive the often thoughtless words I posted on the Internet.

Nearly a decade ago, I entered a fifth-grade classroom in Red Clay. Nothing excited me more than showing up to work every day to help guide the young minds of the students who entered room 210. Soon after I started teaching, I found that I still had a lot to say. I found that my role as classroom teacher had to extend beyond my classroom walls if the stories of my students and fellow educators were ever to be heard. I began to find ways to use my voice in a more measured way and soon began to engage elected officials in a more productive manner. I found a vehicle in both my local and state union as a way to communicate thoughts and feelings of myself and my fellow educators. Even in those years where I used my voice in a more productive manner, I acknowledged the blog and its contents and at no time have I attempted to hide my past or stray from the scrutiny that it has brought.

So where am I right now? As someone who has always believed that he should take responsibility for his actions, I stand ready to accept any responsibility or consequence that comes as a result of my words. Within hours of the article appearing online, I submitted my resignation to the Executive Board of DSEA; I will not allow my past transgressions to define the finest organization in Delaware advocating for Delaware’s educators and students. As I learned when I took office July 16, 2017, DSEA is a bigger organization than one man. And, regardless of my actions, I will honor this organization by doing what I feel and what I know is in its best interests.

In rendering a final judgment on who I am, I would hope that you, my Facebook friends, as well as the members of our organization, DSEA, would be willing to measure my work over the past five or six years and whether or not that should have some bearing considering the words I published long ago. Neither am I absolving myself of my actions nor am I seeking absolution from you, my friends. I am asking only that consideration be given to my record as a whole when you eventually read about the past that has come back. As I shared with the Executive Board on a conference call Tuesday night, I consider what I did with my blog as running up a large credit card tab. And now the bill has come due. And I am willing to accept any consequences that come with that.

To anyone in the past who has been harmed or offended by my words, please know it was never my intention to do so. Intentions don’t matter, though, when the actions and hurt are so explicitly clear. To those individuals, I can offer nothing more than a sincere apology and the promise that my personal and professional growth over the last few years is reflective of who I truly am today.

Thank you, everyone, for your support over the years. Thank you to DSEA and NEA for your counsel during this time and for the continued strength your organizations show on supporting students and educators. Good luck to my friend Stephanie Ingram, who is going to make an AMAZING DSEA president. I hope our members will show her the love that you’ve showered on me over the last year. Thank you to the dozens of DSEA members who’ve reached out in the last 24 hours with messages of support. Thank you to those who’ve reached out with thoughtfully constructive messages urging me to take ownership and make this a teachable moment. Thank you, most importantly, to my family, friends, and my husband Jose for helping me realize that this is now a period for growth and reflection. I intend to do just that.

Thank you, all.

Dan Shelton’s Bizarre Psuedo Maybe Endorsement For Ralph Taylor Is Causing Many To Scratch Their Heads

It’s a rule of thumb in elections: You can’t endorse candidates if you work in a state agency.  When that candidate is on the school board who hired you and can fire you, that endorsement is clearly a conflict of interest.  The 31st State Rep. District primary race has been a popcorn eating event for weeks now.

Enter Ralph Taylor, a Capital School District Board of Education member running for the 31st State Rep. seat against incumbent Sean Lynn for the Democratic ticket.  Today, he posted the following on his Facebook page:

While Shelton does not come out and say “I endorse Ralph Taylor” it certainly comes across as an endorsement.  Especially since it is two days before the Primary.  The fact that the Capital Board of Education has allowed Taylor to use the microphone at board meetings to promote his campaign has not been ignored by attendees in the room.  One attendee, who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons, said the following: “Taylor shouldn’t be using his seat on the board for political purposes.  It gives the impression of vote for me or else.”

I wholeheartedly agree.  Shelton’s short of a full endorsement definitely dances on that fine line between a reference letter and an endorsement.  Is Shelton aware Taylor is using this as leverage in his campaign?  I did ask the Taylor campaign on the Facebook post if this was an endorsement or a reference letter.  The campaign responded it was “a note of support”.  The campaign also asked if I was being “petty again”.

It is a given that district employees are not allowed to promote campaigns for school boards.  The same is true for using state time to promote a candidate in elections.  This is just weird.

The Hypocrisy Of Susan Bunting Firing A DOE Employee For “Misconduct In Office & Willful Neglect Of Duty” After Her Own Actions In Indian River

In February of 2017, during the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center crisis, a Delaware Department of Education employee working as a Prison Education Teacher gave information to the News Journal about the situation.  The next month, Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting fired him for “misconduct in office and willful neglect of duty” according to public court documents. Continue reading

Campaign Craziness Hits Delaware!

In less than four weeks, Delawareans will hit the polls to vote in the primary election.  Meanwhile, candidates are starting to draw blood from their opponents.  The past week has seen more insanity than I’ve seen in, well, two years!

First off, the whole sign thing… don’t steal, mangle, or draw graffiti on campaign signs.  It is petty and stupid.  Is it really worth getting arrested if you don’t like someone?  If you want to, sure, do it.  But it can’t be worth the time and money.  Write a letter to the editor.  Rant on Facebook.  But don’t mess with campaign signs!  I saw someone’s sign the other day and it looked like it fell.  It was a big sign.  I could have fixed it but instead I called the candidate and let them know.  The last thing I need is a state trooper driving by as I’m trying to fix a sign.  Because it could easily look like I’m messing with it.

Don’t go looking on Delaware Court Connect to find old financial stuff on candidates.  Not everyone is wealthy.  Not everyone is immune to financial hardship in their lives.  And it may not always be accurate.  Or perhaps some disputed something at some point.  I don’t mind candidates having financial issues at some point in their lives.  It shows they understand the issues many Delawareans face!  Delaware State News did this with a candidate in Kent County the other day but when people cried foul they took it down.

In the coming days, you will hear people talking about the 30 day primary campaign finance reports.  These show how much the candidates have raised in donations and how much they have spent.  Some folks automatically assume that those with the most money will win.  That isn’t always the case.  Even if someone has over $100,000 in their war chest, it only means they know how to target people with money.  Money talks but so does qualifications.  I’m talking to you Mrs. Rehoboth!  A guy named Jesus didn’t get to be who he became by getting money from those who have it.  He hung out with the poor and downtrodden.  Now he is a household name!

These are the days where Facebook becomes a war of words.  Screenshots are gold for opponents!  You will see pictures of candidates doing selfies with babies and baby kangaroos!  Any shot of a candidate with another elected official seems to carry some kind of special meaning.  Once again, that doesn’t mean squat.  It means you are good at taking pictures.

Citizens of Delaware- know your candidates!  Seek them out!  Ask them questions!  Don’t believe everything their opponent says.  See their websites or Facebook pages.  But most important, vote on September 6th!  Vote with a clear conscience.  That is your constitutional right.  If they have a forum, go to it.

If you support a candidate, give them as much time and devotion that you have available.  Help them door-knock and canvas.  March with them in a parade.  Engage with them.  For incumbent legislators facing a primary vote, look at their FULL record.

**UPDATED** Exceptional Delaware Under Attack!

Someone involved with my article about Susan Bunting yesterday is piping mad!  How mad?  They are reporting the post to Facebook as “spam”.  I tend to post to about 10-15 Facebook groups around public education or Delaware.  Every single one of those received a notification stating it was removed as “spam”.  But it goes further because the article was shared by over 300 people on Facebook.  Each one of those people are getting the same notification from Facebook.

Who is reporting this post as spam?  There are culprits aplenty with this one!  Could it be Susan Bunting herself?  Someone from the DOE?  The Governor’s office?  Patrick Miller?  His brother?  Chuck Bireley?  Leolga Wright?  Someone doesn’t want this out there, that is obvious.  Too late for that.  This is one of the highest-read articles I’ve written in some time.  Not to mention all my followers who received emails about it.  Good luck getting this one to disappear.

So if you shared this post and get the Facebook notification marking it as “spam”, please go to the review and hit “not spam”.  Thank you.  Transparency is hard work sometimes!

Updated, 8/1/18, 8:11am: It appears all the Monday morning Bunting posts have been restored on Facebook.  Even this article was reported to Facebook as well but it has been restored as well.  I was getting messages all night from people wanting to know why their posting of the link was reported.  These are the times we live in!

Caesar Rodney Student Addresses District Censorship And Walking Out For Victims Of Parkland Shooting

A Caesar Rodney School District student took his complaints against the ongoing censorship on social media concerning student walkouts.  In a nutshell, the student called out the district for going against what they have taught their students.  David Haynes, a Caesar Rodney High School senior, gave his permission for me to put his Facebook post from last night on here.

For over 13 years, I have bled blue and gold. The Caesar Rodney School District’s repeated failure to do the right thing, however, has me fed up. How dare they teach us the beauties of activism with the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and John Lewis, only to turn their backs and ban a peaceful protest. How dare they teach us of the necessity of freedom of speech, only to turn their backs and delete and block those who oppose. How dare they warn us of evil tyrants who limit the people’s freedoms, only to turn their back and act authoritarian themselves. How dare they teach us to “speak for the silent, stand for the broken,” only to tell us to shut up and sit down. Caesar Rodney is missing a golden opportunity to practice what they preach. And yet, it seems as if there is an asterisk next to the First Amendment. *does not apply to students, they are too young to speak freely and protest peacefully. My history teachers did not teach me about THAT clause. Our superintendent believes that we should “write or call their legislators to let their opinions be known.” If our practices of freedom of speech are met with post deletions and blocks, why would he expect us to think that a legislator would listen?? I can’t speak my mind on Facebook without getting censored, how about I go to an elected official? What a wonderful plan. We live in a world in which 17 people in a school have to be killed in order for a nation to listen to their children. For years, students have been silent (or silenced) and now we decide that it is time to make a change. The district should welcome this with open arms—we are actually concerned about our country! But they are missing a chance to foster this spark of activism by threatening consequences and shutting down our discussions. School districts such as Cape and Brandywine are supporting their students’ First Amendment rights, and in turn, are encouraging future activists for a better tomorrow. I commend these two districts and regret that CR is not setting this example for the state. The country is on the verge of change to make all of our lives safer—and the movement is being led by students like Gail, Grace, Laura, and millions across the U.S who are brave enough to speak up.
On March 14th, I will be walking out of school at 10:00 am for 17 minutes—one for every person killed in Parkland, FL. I accept the consequences, but hope that the Caesar Rodney School District does the right thing and supports our movement.
#ENOUGH!

We need more Davids and less folks like the district communications guy who actually thought it was a good idea to delete public Facebook posts.  I say to that guy: this is a screenshot world sir!

The Optics Of Politics

I came back from Star Wars: The Last Jedi last Friday night and saw a post from Steve Newton on Facebook.  I always read his posts because I know they are going to be interesting.  Once I read the second sentence, I knew somehow I was going to be a part of this post.  Since Steve specifically said at the end of it not to reply with reasons or justifications, I gave a brief reply acknowledging he was talking about me and fully owning my posts about one of the two people he was talking about in his post.  Since then, Steve has taken it upon himself to wage some bizarre one-man crusade against the validity of this blog.  See the comments section over on Blue Delaware.  You can read Steve’s opening salvo he posted on Facebook in that article.  I also posted an article mainly in reply to Steve’s post.  It was already in my drafts folder but I added to it due to the nature of Steve’s post.

This is what I wrote in reply to Steve’s original post: Continue reading

For The Love Of Special Education

Yesterday morning, I read a Facebook post on a friend’s feed.  She didn’t write it.  It is one of those “copy and paste” things on Facebook.  I usually tend to ignore them, but this one tugged at my heartstrings.  I felt obligated to put it down here, on this blog.  Because this teacher reminded anyone who read this what is truly special about special education.

I don’t remember the exact moment my life was changed by someone with a disability. The memories seem far away, blurry, as if they don’t belong to me. But this is what happens after you’ve been working with people with disabilities for years. You change.
They don’t tell you that when you’re filling out your application. Instead, they tell you about the hours, the health benefits, the 401(k) plan, the programs and the strategies. But they don’t tell you about the fact if you do it right, you’ll never be the same.
They don’t tell you it will be the most amazing job you’ve ever had. On other days, it can be the worst. They can’t describe on paper the emotional toll it will take on you. They can’t tell you there may come a time where you find you’re more comfortable surrounded by people with developmental disabilities than you are with the general population. They don’t tell you you’ll come to love them, and there will be days when you feel more at home when you’re at work than when you’re at home, sitting on your couch. But it happens.
They don’t tell you about the negative reactions you may face when you’re out in the community with someone with a disability. That there are people on this earth who still think it’s OK to say the R-word. That people stare. Adults will stare. You will want to say something, anything, to these people to make them see. But at the end of the day, your hands will be tied because some things, as you learn quickly, can’t be explained with something as simple as words. They can only be felt. And most of the time, until someone has had their own experience with someone with a developmental disability, they just won’t understand.
They train you in CPR and first aid, but they can’t tell you what it feels like to have to use it. They don’t tell you what it is like to learn someone is sick and nothing can be done. They can’t explain the way it feels when you work with someone for years and then one day they die.
They can’t explain the bond direct service personnel develop with the people they are supporting. I know what it’s like to have a conversation with someone who has been labeled non-verbal or low-functioning. After working with someone for awhile, you develop a bond so strong they can just give you a look and you know exactly what it means, what they want and what they’re feeling. And most of the time, all it boils down to is they want to be heard, listened to and included. Loved.
When you apply for this job, they do tell you you’ll be working to teach life skills. But what they don’t tell you is while you’re teaching someone, they’ll also be teaching you. They have taught me it’s OK to forgive myself when I have a bad day. There’s always tomorrow and a mess-up here and there doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. They have taught me to slow down, to ponder, to take the time to just look around and take in this beautiful world and all of the simple joys we are blessed to encounter every day.
So when did I change? I realize now there wasn’t one pivotal moment. Instead, it was a million little moments, each important in their own way, that when added together changed me. And I’m grateful for each one.

I would love to know who the original author is.  I would shake their hand in a heartbeat!

Caesar Rodney Community In Shock Over Racial Situation

Caesar Rodney School District Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald sent out an email and robo-call to parents and staff last evening about a racial epithet in connection with the Caesar Rodney mascot.  It appears, based on Facebook comments on their Facebook page, that someone photo-shopped the racial slur on a sign the mascot was holding in a picture.

Many parents thanked the district for taking such swift action on the issue.  The message sent out by Fitzgerald said the following:

STATEMENT FROM DR. FITZGERALD

The Caesar Rodney School District has been made aware of a picture that is being distributed through social media in which the Rider Mascot is holding a piece of paper with a racial slur.

The Caesar Rodney School District is distressed that our mascot would be used in such a manner and we strongly disavow the statement.

The Caesar Rodney School District and Caesar Rodney High School consider racial slurs reprehensible and are deeply disturbed by the content of this message.

We have zero tolerance for this behavior.

This matter is being investigated by the high school administration with the assistance of the Delaware State Police.

While I am a Dover High Senators fan, I do not condone this at all.  As I wrote on CR’s Facebook page, if this was a joke it isn’t funny.  If it was meant to be a hate symbol, may God have mercy on your soul.  Bottom line, people need to wake up.  It’s the 21st Century now.  We aren’t supposed to be this backwards.  But apparently some have not woken up from our country’s own dark history and think it is okay to call African-Americans by disparaging names.  Frankly, I’ve had enough of hate and the talk that accompanies it.  We saw the worst in hate last Sunday with the Las Vegas shootings.  This is the kind of news I hate to write about.

One commenter suggested getting rid of the Rider Mascot for a while until feelings calm down.  That is the absolute worst thing to do in my opinion.  That lets whoever did this win.  It’s like the old saying, “you don’t negotiate with terrorists”.  You certainly don’t give in to hate!

The Ugly Truth About The Delaware Budget

Sometimes one person can put it all in perspective in such an easy and common sense way.  Today, that person is Steve Newton.  On Facebook, he posted the below in response to a post I put up.  Things are getting very heated on social media today and tonight it will only get worse.  Everyone is freaking out over this budget, especially state workers.  The article I put up yesterday about a 2% cut for state workers and increases in their insurance premiums is not a definite, but it has been brought up.  Some on social media are saying they never heard this but they also aren’t at Legislative Hall to know for sure.  I heard this from a few sources.  Before I get to the heart of Steve’s post, there was a brief discussion before that about prevailing wage.

Other person: We live in a global society. Monies are transferred all over the place all the time. We cannot expect that money spent by us here will remain here. What we need is for additional money to come back to us. We need to make Delaware some place people will come to spend THEIR money. Or, wait, is the actual problem we are all living in such austere times that no one has any money to spend at all? This nation needs to stop shrugging like Atlas and embrace the progressive core of Democratic Socialism.

Steve Newton: I appreciate that sentiment, but it doesn’t actually answer my question. Much of the work that is done here on school construction is done by companies that hale far from here. We spend a lot of time discussing returns on the investments, and I’ve personally spent time arguing that we shouldn’t be paying out corporate incentives to bring jobs to DE when, even when they employ people, those people often don’t live or work here. There’s an argument to be made on both sides here, but I have not seen it made with numbers. I’m also curious about the calculation of the prevailing wage–I know it’s based from a Federal number, but is it modified to reflect regional variations in cost of living, and–most importantly–is it recalculated on a regular basis according to some reliable metric? In other words, are we paying the same prevailing wage in Delaware that is paid in, say, San Francisco, where the cost of living is five times higher?

One possible answer is to require companies that accept prevailing wage contracts in Delaware to use a specified percentage of local hires for the work. This is (ironically) what rock and country bands do with musicians and road crews in the big concerts.

IF the point of the prevailing wage is to better the lives of the workers, and IF we are investing DE tax money to do that, it makes far more sense to me to have measures in place that insure that at least some of those DE tax dollars are in fact being used to better the lives of DE citizens. Again, there is an argument to be made on both sides, but I want to see the argument made with the numbers actually on the table, and so far I have seen no one–neither GOPers nor Dems–do this.

Other person: If the schools are using non-Delaware companies for construction, it stands to reason that it’s because the State requires it. I’ve not encountered too many times in my 16 years where the State didn’t restrict or flat-out dictate exactly what companies schools could use for what goods or services.

Steve Newton: OK but here’s the deal–you are advocating that as a point of principle towards solidarity with working people we keep the prevailing wage–even though that benefit may not be going to DE families. At the same time, “cost-cutting” measures in health care that the GA has already agreed upon with reduce our family’s salary by $5,000 next year, cause us as a married couple to pay MORE for health insurance than if we got a divorce and bought two separate policies, and they’re mooting a 2% pay cut on top of that. I do have a problem drawing a line in the sand over prevailing wage AFTER they’ve already thrown me and my family to the lions.

Where were the Democrats who are closing ranks over Prevailing Wage when it came to protecting State workers? Our pay and benefits were put on the table before there was even any discussion.

This caused Steve to write a very long reply on the thread:

Here’s the other elephant (pun intended) in the room: the GOP is right on some of this–for the wrong reasons. There remains massive structural fat in the State budget that could be eliminated with political will. Instead of massive increases in prison guards, we could legalize pot AND release all non-violent drug into prison AND eliminate prison sentences for non-violent possession in all drug crimes … thus reducing costs (incarceration 1 year=$37k; treatment 1 year=$9K) for more than 6-8,000 non-violent drug offenders in DE prisons. Reduce the prison population by 6-8,000 and there goes overcrowding and we can look at guard deployment again.

There are whole offices at DE DOE to be either eliminated or consolidated–I could cut 25% or more from that budget with a pen in an afternoon.

We have no compelling need for a Secretary of Homeland Security AND a commandant of the DSP–merge the offices, save millions. While we are at it, hand back coastal enforcement to the Coast Guard and get rid of the DSP Navy; then slash the “grey” budget for DIAC in Dover which has a greater record of violating civil rights than solving crimes.

We’ve had a massive influx from private schools to charters, so isn’t it time to stop paying transportation allowances, drivers’ ed money, and the salaries of school nurses for private schools while we are slowly eliminating funds to transport homeless kids to school? Extend school bus life to at least sixteen years or for as long as the bus meets safety and reliability standards and quit auctioning them off for pennies to private schools (this is how they get their bus fleets).

You want cheap in public education? Unfortunately, you can’t have “cheap,” “choice,” “charter,” and “effective” all at the same time. You want 3-5 school districts in Delaware? Fine–then require ALL charters to be approved by the geographical district, and require them to use consolidated transportation, food service, and data processing assets to qualify for any State money.

There is structural fat aplenty in the State budget, but precious little will to actually grapple with it. Everybody talks about health insurance costs, but take a look at the processing contracts we’ve handed out to Highmark for both Medicaid and Medicare–there are actually local Delaware companies that could do the same job for 30% less–and that money would stay in Delaware and pay wages to DE employees–which Highmark does not.

So everybody please do me a favor and quit pretending that only one side got us into this mess. “Delaware Way” politicians of both parties have been kicking this particular can as hard as they could. Both sides have signed off, again and again, on massive corporate giveaways that haven’t panned out (Fisker, Bloom Energy) or have been nothing more than embarrassing bribes to banks and financial companies.

I’ve already lost this argument. No matter what happens in the next few days or weeks, our politicians have already cut my salary, reduced my benefits, slashed my home mortgage deduction, put my grandson in larger classes, and guaranteed that my roads will continue to be full of potholes, while continuing to transfer huge amounts of public dollars into private hands via a whole variety of corporate dodges no matter who “wins.”

Shaking his head he leaves the room …

Was A Christina Principal/Former Delaware DOE Employee Placed On Leave For Some Type Of Financial Abuse?

In a letter dated to parents on June 2nd, 2017, Christina School District Assistant Superintendent Noreen LaSorsa sent a letter to parents advising that Kirk Middle School Principal Brian Curtis was placed on leave.  The letter did not indicate if the leave is a paid leave or not.  In conducting a search for more information, I found a post on Facebook to the Christina School District Facebook page where a parent asked the district if he was fired for embezzlement.

When you go to Christina’s Facebook page, all visitor posts are now gone.  I tried to submit a post asking where they all went and received a message that it would be reviewed.  But the post still shows up on Facebook’s search engine.  I edited the picture just for basic privacy rights of the person who submitted the question although it is public information on Facebook.  The response to the parent post by the administrator of their Facebook page was 10:55am on June 2nd.  The timestamp of the PDF letter sent to parents was 11:53am on June 2nd.

Curtis worked at the Delaware Department of Education for four and a half years in the school turnaround unit (i.e. priority schools) before he was hired to become Principal at Kirk Middle School in 2015.  He replaced outgoing Principal Dan Shelton who became the Superintendent of the Capital School District.  Curtis never updated his LinkedIn page with his new position.  I searched for any recent news or events with Brian Curtis in Delaware and found nothing.  While I am sure the district will not release any information pertaining to a pending investigation, this could not come at a worse time in Delaware as the General Assembly is in the final stages of preparing their FY2018 budget which has a current deficit of nearly $400 million dollars.  Many school districts and state agencies are feeling the pinch as budget cuts are expected throughout the state.

In recent years, Delaware school district and charter schools have gone through many audit investigations due to financial abuse of some sort at their schools.  Charter schools Providence Creek Academy, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Delaware Military Academy and the closed Pencader Business School as well as the Indian River School District and Sussex Technical School District have all had reports from that office since 2013.

While working on another article about a situation not related to this one at all, I stumbled across the Facebook post which led me to the announcement about Curtis being placed on leave.  While a question posed by a parent does not give any clear picture of wrongdoing, the fact the school district deleted the ability for anyone to see it on their main district page along with all other visitor posts IS cause for concern.

Christina Board Passes MOU With New Castle County School Districts With No Public Input

The Christina School District Board of Education passed a controversial motion to send the same funds going to charter schools (from the infamous settlement) to all traditional New Castle County School Districts (except for NCC Vo-Tech).  The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would bind Christina School District to sending the same funds they agreed upon in the charter school settlement to Red Clay Consolidated, Brandywine, Colonial, Appoquinimink, and Smyrna School Districts.  The price tag for this year will be $350,000 but this is a “forever” contract so those funds will go to those districts for students choicing out of Christina to those districts forever.  But another motion, that would have allowed for public comment on the issue, failed.  Board member John Young summed up the meeting in three paragraphs earlier this morning on Facebook.  Newly sworn-in board member Angela Mitchell abstained from both votes.

Last night, Christina School District BOE motioned to settle with Red Clay, Brandywine, Appoquinimink, Smryna and Colonial for $350K + this year and each year in the future forever pursuant to the charter school settlement. The meeting was at Sarah Pyle Academy at 7PM.

It was moved to approve the settlement MOU. Then it was moved to be voted on at the 6.13.17 meeting so the public could comment more fully. There was debate. Board members indicated that public opinion would have NO SWAY in their vote. The vote to vote on 6.13.17 was defeated 2 YES, 4 NO, 1 Abstention. Then the vote to approve handing over CSD monies without input from the public was approved 5 YES, 1 NO, 1 abstention. Of course all votes were public, but if you want details feel free to PM me. I am reeling from shock that board members and key employee(s) deliberately and intentionally told the taxpayers to go to hell with regards to their input. My disappointment extends beyond the board and includes CSD employees and the Supers of all NCC schools and Smyrna SD. An unreal night, I assure you.

I hope there is VOCIFEROUS public comment on 6.13.17 to protest the way the board operated tonight.

I always hated the settlement with the charters.  But, let us all hope this is the last song on this record…

About That Administrator Count Article…

I am never writing an article about administrator cuts ever again!  But seriously, after getting thrown on the fire for my post yesterday about school administrator counts and my suggestion that some should be cut, I am going to take a different approach to on this.  I appreciate the feedback from dozens of you on here and on social media.  To that end, I spoke with Tammy Croce, the Executive Director of the Delaware School Administrators Association today down at Legislative Hall.  She indicated the information I got was not correct, nor is the Delaware DOE’s information.  She said there are inherent flaws in the data reporting system and there is bad data out there.  She gave me a very good suggestion which I plan to take her up on.

I don’t mind posting information I receive from others, but I will be doing more homework on it in the future prior to posting it.  Perhaps the answer to this is somewhere in the middle.  It was not my attempt to badmouth every single administrator and to indicate they all suck.  I know tons of admins and they work their butt off morning, noon, and sometimes evenings.  I do know of some who got there through the buddy system and they really shouldn’t be there.  It is a complicated issue.  But I heard you loud and clear on Facebook, and you know who you are.  But let’s try not to get insulting and attempting to make me look like an idiot.  I have never pretended to get everything right, and when it comes to education, the transparency needs to drastically improve.  If you want to raise taxes on citizens to pay for education, than we as taxpaying citizens deserve to know where that money is going.  That is the unstated contract when taxpayers pay for our schools.  I wish more people would demand to know where the money is going!

I wish there were NO public education cuts.  I wish we knew where every penny the existing money is going towards.  I wish every district would list their admins along with job descriptions on their website.  I wish a lot of things.  What I can’t stand though is advocates for one district assuming the article was solely about THEIR district.  It wasn’t.  But when those same advocates kept questioning me on social media, I asked specific questions about their district and they either didn’t know the answer or didn’t want to provide it.  If you are going to defend something, please be prepared to back up your defense, that’s all I’m asking.  And as much as I may want to, I can’t go to every Citizens Budget Oversight Committee meeting.  To be honest, I can’t really get to most education meetings like I used to.  If they are close to where I live, that is one thing.  But trekking up to Wilmington all the time?  Not an option for me.  Which is why I try to have a social media presence with this blog, which I do on my own time, unpaid.

This is the part about education that baffles me.  Our state and our schools demand full transparency regarding our children: health records, test scores, academic progress, where they live, who they live with, discipline records, etc.  But when it comes time to demand transparency surrounding the adults in education and where the money is going, we fall far short in this state.  If you want to get mad, get mad.  To be frank, I expected much more  public outcry over charter schools keeping their share of the educational sustainment fund.  To me, that is a much more important issue than all this admin count discussion going on.

If anyone would care to assist, please reach out to me and we can swap ideas.

School Board Election Trolls

I see this more and more every year.  Someone who is opposed to a school board candidate.  They create a fake Facebook id, come off as some type of person of knowledge and authority, and blast the hell out of a candidate running for school board.  They go on the candidate’s campaign page and start writing awful and untrue material.  I like to call these people cowards.  If you can’t use your real name while slinging dirt, go someplace else.  This already began in the current school board campaign season.  I won’t go into details about what was said against a candidate, except to say the dirt that was slung had absolutely nothing to do with that person’s qualifications as a school board member.  Nor did it really have anything to do with the qualifications of the candidate as a human being.  It was just ugliness hidden behind a coward who should know better.  I have no doubt that if this coward were to be in the same room as the candidate they would politely smile and perhaps even shake hands.  Get a life coward!

When you see this happening, and you have never heard of the person before and they have NO mutual friends, ask yourself what their agenda is.  In any school district, a person should have least one to two mutual friends on Facebook.  If they don’t, assume the name is as fake as the person behind the fake name.  School board candidates should just ignore these kind of trolls and block them on Facebook.  School boards are voluntary.  It isn’t an all-out attack on a candidate’s personal life.  This happened with the recent DSEA election and I called “Sam Muskrat” out at that time.

Sure, I go after school board members and candidates all the time, but only on education thoughts, never their personal life.  If it doesn’t have anything to do with education or the things I write about, that person’s private life is private.

Earl Jaques Threw A Doozy Out There On Friday. Does It Have Legs?

Last Friday, Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques responded to a post I put up on Facebook concerning the Delaware State Auditor’s office.  One of his replies was news to me as well as everyone else I asked about this reveal. Continue reading