17 Who Made An Impact In 2017: The Providence Creek “We’re Worried” Crew

Last Spring, a bunch of teachers and staff at Providence Creek Academy assembled to voice concerns about working conditions at Providence Creek Academy. They had some definite beefs with the way things were run, especially with the Principal and the Head of School. Ultimately, they brought their concerns to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education. While the DOE was unable to substantiate their claims, they initiated an important question: should charter school teachers be unionized?

Over Labor Day, they contacted me indicating they had enough votes to be able to join the Delaware State Education Association. Last month, they emailed me they no longer had those votes. But I always saluted their courage and bravery in their attempt. They never contacted me individually, always as a group. To this day, I could not tell you one member of the group. They had a very legitimate fear that if they did announce their names they would have been terminated from the school. I can’t blame them one bit for feeling that way. Delaware is an at will state and without union representation, charter school teachers can be terminated for pretty much any reason. Whether it is justified or not. And speaking up about a hostile working environment can be very dangerous. I truly wish we lived in a world where any teacher could use their voice without that fear, but that is not the world we live in unfortunately.

At the very least, I hope some of those situations at Providence Creek Academy did change for the teachers and staff. Whether it is one voice or half their staff, no one should have to live with fear is as their top concern.

January Shuffle 3.0

Is the third time the charm?  Let’s find out! Continue reading

3000

Sometimes a landmark passes you by and you never take notice.  As I looked at my blog earlier today, I saw I had written 2,999 posts.  That is a heck of a lot of articles for a blog that isn’t even two and a half years old.  So I thought I would do something special for the 3,000 mark.  I want to talk about fear.

There is no crippling force greater than fear.  It can turn the most well-intentioned person into a bowl of jello in a heartbeat.  We have all been there.  Some live in this state constantly.  What is my greatest fear?  Probably that my son will have a hard life.  It is one of the reasons I fight.  With every bone in my body.  I see teacher fear constantly.  Those who are afraid to speak because they can’t lose their job.  Fear can paralyze you when you least expect it.  It gnaws at you and turns conviction into uncertainty.  Truth into doubt.  But there are those who fight the fear and do something with it.

Do you want to know who doesn’t seem to have any fear?  Rita Landgraf.  The News Journal announced today she will take a job at the University of Delaware.  The soon-to-be former Delaware Secretary of Health will have big things to do at the University of Delaware.

She will join UD’s College of Health Sciences as a professor of practice and distinguished health and social services administrator in residence. She also will direct the UD Partnership for Healthy Communities, a cross-state and college initiative that looks to address healthcare challenges in the community.

Landgraf has been fighting for those who aren’t able to fight for themselves for a long time now and I’m glad to see she will continue that tradition.

Sometimes fear means rising up out of your comfort chair and doing the right thing.  Shelley Suckyj spoke out at a Christina Board of Education meeting on September 20th.  This one action drew major attention to the mold issues plaguing Christina schools right now.

Then there is Kathleen DeNight.  Last week, she received Autism Delaware’s Volunteer Of The Year.  As a parent of a child with Autism, I have seen DeNight at meetings.  She is not one to mince words and she will fight for her child.

Next is my wife.  On Saturday, she participated in a 5k walk.  In the pouring rain, she completed the whole thing and came in 11th place.  She has worked very hard in the past year to get to this point and I am very proud of her.

We can’t forget Jerry Fickes and Chris Leach, the two Wilmington firefighters who sacrificed their own lives to save others last month.

Another is one of my sources who I can’t name because then they wouldn’t be a source.  But sometimes sticking your own neck out in order to do good for others can be tough.  But this source does it consistently, and has been doing this for years.

There is this guy at work.  He says some of the most outlandish stuff I’ve ever heard in my life.  But he always does it with a smile.  He has absolutely no fear at all in this world and will say whatever is on his mind.

The Chicago Cubs may have a lot of fear going to the World Series, their first in 71 years.  But fear doesn’t get a team that far.  It is hard work and dedication.  I’ll be rooting for the Cubs.

Take Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook.  The two are running for the President and Vice-President of the Delaware State Education Association next year.  But they are starting their grass-roots campaign now and have committed to holding 15 meetings throughout the state in the coming months to meet with teachers and hear their concerns.  They have no fear whatsoever in speaking their mind for what they believe in.

Some take their fear from younger days and turn it into something good.  Such is the case with the Dover High School Peer Group Connections members.  These seniors help new freshmen transition to the high school.

I want to give a shout-out to some other bloggers out there in this country.  Especially two of them who continue to astonish me with the level of investigative prowess they exhibit.  They are heroes in my mind, and what these two blog about is very frightening stuff.

One of my favorite artists, a bloke by the name of Steve Dillon, passed away recently.  He was one of the co-creators, along with Garth Ennis, of Preacher.  Before that, they had a fantastic run on a comic called Hellblazer.  Dillon lived life by his own terms, and he wasn’t afraid to stand by what he believed.

Or what about Scott Goward.  A Dover resident running for Governor on a 3rd party ticket.  I’m sure he knows he will most likely lose, but he runs anyway, announcing his candidacy long before candidates from the “major” parties did so.

Fear conquering is all around us.  We see it every time a baby takes its first steps.  When a dying person is finally ready to let go.  When a student walks into a school for the first time.  When a couple finds out they are expecting.  People who struggle with addiction who take those tentative steps to ask for help.  When someone goes into surgery not knowing what the outcome might be.  When a parent attends a board meeting to give public comment about issues with their child.  When an African-American tells the world no more.  Or it could be a teenager who ignores a bully and walks right past them with their head held high.  Or another teenager who tells his mother, “I did it”, knowing that confession is better than the guilt.  Those who wake up in immense pain every single day but find the courage to get out of bed and face the day.  The opposite of fear is courage.  In big ways or small ways, courage is overcoming fear.

For those who have been along this journey from the very beginning, thank you for the road to 3,000.  For those who came along in-between, thank you for sticking around.  For those who just read occasional articles, that’s cool too.

Things are changing fast in education right now.  It will take great courage to speak your truth.  But it has to happen.

Kevin, 10/24/16

 

 

 

Nothing Is Invincible

Nothing is invincible.  Both statements are correct.  No one person or power is absolutely invincible.  But if you do nothing, then nothing becomes invincible.  This is where we are these days, a synchronicity, a play on words.  Not just in my home state, but as a country.  People seem to be making decisions based on fear more than what is necessary.  If I do this, then this will happen.  If I speak against this then it may make me look bad or it could cause me problems.  You are exactly where they want you.  Because even if they aren’t invincible, they know nothing is.  They also know if you do nothing, they are that much closer to becoming invincible.

I heard these words this morning driving to work.  Nothing is invincible.  A guy named Gordon Sumner sang these words along with a couple of his friends back in 1983.  Gordon was a teacher back in the day.  His words from thirty-three years ago are very prophetic.  Because nothing is winning the day in public education.  A lot of people talk about something but too many say nothing.  But trust me, the  enemies of public education have plenty to say.  They hold an illusionary  power.  This is power they have been given.  They use fear tactics to silence their oppressors because they know how to do it.  They turn words like “rigor”, and “robust”, and “pathways” into their symbols of change.  But they experience fear too.

Nothing scared them more than 22% of New York students opting out of the state assessment this year.  New York parents are smart.  They know that if enough of them opt out it makes the policy makers who love these tests.  They know nothing is invincible.  We all need to take this cue from the Empire State.  Imagine if 22% of Americans said something instead of nothing?  Imagine if that number grew to 30%? 50%, or 75%?  It would destroy their corporate profit-driven dreams for our children.  Politicians would stand up and take notice.  The King would fall.  For the corporate education reformers, their illusionary invincibility would crumble into dust.   They would become nothing.

How many parents in Delaware and the rest of America got their kid’s state assessment results, looked at them, and thought “my kid’s grades don’t reflect this.  What the hell are they taking this test for?”  I know many who felt it was a waste of paper and ink and disposed of these results.  I know some parents are worried about choicing their child to another school if they opt them out of the test.  To them I say “Do it anyways,” because if enough of you do it those choice qualifications won’t matter.  Those qualifications will become the dust on the reformer’s mirrors when they look at themselves and say “Why”?

Remember, nothing is invincible.  If you believe in something, say it.  It’s what makes us America.  Don’t let fear rule the day.  Let your voice and your conscience and your own inherent sense of what is right and what is wrong make the decision, not what others say or what they pressure you into believing.  They are liars and will stop at nothing to tear down your child’s own sense of what is right and wrong so they can get their way.  Don’t give them that power.  Don’t let them try to brainwash our kids into believing their way is the right way.

 

The Winter Flower

snowflower

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Sorry for not posting much today.  I woke up at 4:30am to see if the Level 2 State of Emergency alert was still in effect for Delaware.  I saw something about it being lifted at 10am, and I fell asleep again.  At 9:00am, I woke up again.

I shoveled some yesterday and a good neighbor came over with his snow blower.  After he finished, I began shoveling our porch when I found the above picture.  One lone flower, buried underneath the snow, still alive in the harsh winter.  I had to get a picture of it.  For some people, they would think “Big deal, it’s just a flower.”  But I am a deep philosophical kind of guy and I look for meaning in even the smallest things.

To me, this was a symbol of hope.  I haven’t had much reason to hope lately.  The battles have gotten harder, and longer.  They are more time-consuming.   For the longest time, I’ve been scared.  Scared there is no hope for education.  That no matter what some of us do or say, no one is listening.  But I think they are, cause our enemies are speaking louder and trying to carry out all they can in a hurry.  These reformers have been patient for well over a decade, sinking their teeth in wherever they can and thrusting the knife into public education.  But because of those like myself who are fighting them, every chance we get, we are making a difference.  They are getting a bit sloppy.  Actually, they left a lot of tracks uncovered, and many of us are finding them in the oddest of places.

I’m not giving up.  Not by a long shot.  I may be quiet at times.  Those are the times they need to worry the most.  That means I’m doing lots of research that is already bearing fruit.  I will post a lot about this research… when I’m ready.  In the meantime, keep opting out.  Keep asking the questions.  Challenge them.  Call them out.  Write letters to the editor.  Whatever you do, don’t let nagging questions gnaw at you.  Let them out.  Take a risk, be daring.  Be vocal.  We can’t get there alone.  We need all of you who are willing to rise up to the challenge.  These are children we are fighting for, never forget that.  They need us to be their voice.

Are There Human Rights Violations Going On At Delaware Met? Parents Need To Speak Up NOW!!!!

I received an anonymous message this morning concerning Delaware Met.  We may be entering a new level of abuse inflicted by this school on their students.  As if everything already happening isn’t bad enough, I am now hearing about issues concerning the school hiring prison guards to “control kids”, multiple suspensions, and issues with confinement.  While these allegations have not been vetted, it follows the alarming trends with this school.  To that effect, I emailed the DOE, Governor Markell, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, and some legislators in regards to this.  I also called the Delaware DOE about this and left a message.  I did receive a return call just minutes ago from them and I advised the Charter School Office of the information conveyed to me.  Someone needs to do the right thing and get in there and shut this place down.  There are many students with disabilities in this school and not following, implementing, or creating an IEP for them is a recipe for disaster.  Below is the email I sent out not long ago:

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Nagourney Jennifer <jennifer.nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Blowman David (K12) <david.blowman@doe.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay (Governor) <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>; Denn Matthew (DOJ) <matthew.denn@state.de.us>
Cc:
Williams Kimberly (LegHall) <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Kowalko John (LegHall) <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Baumbach Paul (LegHall) <paul.baumbach@state.de.us>; Sean Matthews <sean.matthews@state.de.us>; Gray Teri (K12) <teri.gray@sbe.k12.de.us>
Sent:
Thursday, October 22, 2015 10:54 AM
Subject:
Delaware Met

Good morning all,
I received an anonymous and very troubling message this morning concerning the Delaware Met.  As I’m sure you all know, this school is under formal review.  But if this message is true, there could be human rights violations going on at this school, in current time.  I know most of us don’t see eye to eye on education policies, but I’m sure we can all agree that no student in Delaware should have any rights violated whatsoever. 
The message I received concerns many of the items already covered in Del Met’s formal review letter, but also issues concerning the hiring of prison guards, multiple suspensions and issues of “confinement”.  The last of these concerns me greatly.  Many of these students may have IEPs and Federal and State law clearly indicates matters of punishment for students with disabilities.  Confinement sounds very serious, and I fear for these students safety. 
I’m not sure who has to get in there, but something needs to be done.  This school is out of control and something beyond a formal review needs to take place immediately if these types of things are going on.
Thank you for your time, and I appreciate any response to this very disturbing situation.
Respectfully,
Kevin Ohlandt
I strongly urge parents of students in this school to go public with what they know.  Do not let this school intimidate you or your child.  If what I am hearing is true, I would highly recommend you do not send your child to this school.  Let the cards fall where they may, but if it is a matter of safety and human rights, please do the right thing for your child.  This is a wake-up call for all of us in Delaware, and I am letting you know I care about your kids.  I have never issued a message like this before, but look out for your kids.  I strongly commend the DOE for doing the right thing with putting this school on formal review, but this has now become a matter beyond them if these events are occurring.  We need to keep our children safe, first and foremost.
Who is actually running this school? Is it Innovative Schools? The Delaware Leadership Executive Director who stated he would farm out the “day-to-day” operations to an intern?  What is going on inside this place?
To that end, parents need to name names and let those with the ability to do something operate out of full transparency so they can get in there.  Schools need to be a safe haven for children, but this sounds more like prison conditions.  I won’t deny there are probably some bad behaviors going on with some teenagers in this school, but if the school is unable to adequately deal with this than the center will not hold.  I heard from another parent of severe bullying going on at this school and the administration not dealing with this properly.  Something needs to be done…NOW!!!!
UPDATED, 12:10pm: This developing situation is being looked at very seriously by the Delaware Department of Education.  As well, I am being told there are two rival gangs within this school and this seems to be the heart of the issues.  Someone is going to get killed in this school if something doesn’t change immediately.  We need all hands on deck here, and parents should be very concerned.  I am begging the school: If you cannot handle this, do not hide.  Don’t think you can wave a magical wand and fix this.  If it is beyond your ability to control, please, just shut it down.  The Delaware Met is not an alternative school.  You do not have the necessary supports to handle those students.  Do the right thing.

A Time To Be Bold, Teachers. Do Not Let Fear Rule The Day.

I had a recent conversation with a teacher, and she thought certain things about me based on this blog and what we were talking about.  She assumed I was a teacher.  I am not a teacher.  At least not in the classroom sense.  I am not beholden to any administration, educators association, or state department.  I am beholden to my son, and his educational well-being.

This gives me latitude and the ability to operate without fear of certain kinds of retribution.  It’s very easy for me to sit here and type these words.  It’s easy for me to tell people to rise and speak with one voice.  But I understand it is not that easy for you.  Besides being a teacher, you are also wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, you have parents, grandparents and nieces and nephews.  Some of these people depend on you to feed them, or clothe them.

There is a movement going on in Delaware.  It’s been a slow thing, waiting for this to happen.  But it is happening, right here, right now.  For far too long, the darkness has blocked us from seeing the truth.  Fear has left the operations and machinations of the nefarious to be shrouded in darkness.  But one by one, the light is beginning to shine through the cracks they have unwittingly exposed.  Perhaps it is their own guilty conscience that has allowed this to happen.

I see a time when all is exposed.  When all the cards are put on the table.  When we can sift through the rubble and rebuild, and make something new.  But we can’t get there until more people speak.  Until they use the very gifts bestowed upon them to educate our children.  We need you to teach us out of the darkness.  The greatest accomplishments in history were when great men and women went beyond the call of duty.  When they would not remain stifled in the dark and shone their light on the world.

As parents, we want you to say no.  We want you to do what is best for our children.  We want you to teach.  We are tired of the iron fist that is hanging above you, every second of the day.  We are exhausted from you being forced to do things you do not want to do.  We need you to rise.  But more than that, we need you to speak.  We need you to tell your stories, from the past and the present.  Fear is a powerful thing.  It allows us to become paralyzed and unable to move.  But the truth will set you free.  Untangle yourself from the web created by those who believe fear is more important than truth.  Become your destiny.