Lake Forest School District is in the northern part of Sussex County. Student enrollment hovers around the 3,800 mark each year. New Superintendent Brenda Wynder faces many of the same challenges other districts face in Sussex based on property assessments being among the lowest in Delaware. As a result, the district only has 12 administrators making over $100,000. Continue reading
Indian River School District, located in central Sussex County, has the least amount of administrators per student out of all the school districts in Delaware. The district has 1,000 more students than they did four years ago. With a growing population and over 10,400 students in the district, Indian River had to cut back on administrators back in the Fall of 2016 to avoid the state having to bail them out during a financial crisis. Their former leader, Susan Bunting, is now the Delaware Secretary of Education. Mark Steele leads the district now and has to deal with doing more with less. Compared to similar districts with student enrollment at that size, such as Appoquinimink and Brandywine, Indian River runs a tight ship these days. Indian River has a large number of English Language learners in the district and with a current lack of extra funding for those students, it can be tough. The district faced an investigative audit by the State Auditor’s Office at the same time they tried to pass a referendum. While the referendum did eventually pass, it caused the district to get their finances together fast!
The smallest school district in Delaware! Delmar is a very interesting district because it shares schools with another state, Maryland. As a result, students spend their school years in two states. I’ve never understood how or why the thing went down like it did. As a result, they run a tight ship and don’t go hog-wild on administrators. There are only three administrators making over $100,000 which is the same as four years ago. Their enrollment ebbs and flows around the 1,300 mark year after year. The Delaware side of the district has the middle school and high school while Maryland has the elementary schools. Continue reading
I underestimated Colonial School District for years. I always thought they were just kind of there and they were off my radar. I didn’t write much about them. Under the leadership of Superintendent Dusty Blakey, Colonial is changing before our very eyes. How and why is something I plan on writing much more about in the future. Colonial struggles to hit that 10,000 student mark. They face the same thing other districts up there do as they are surrounded by charter schools. Which baffles me why Blakey would push for the district to be an authorizer of Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security. But I digress. Colonial’s board is in for a massive shake-up in the upcoming school board election so it will be interesting to see where this district goes in the future. Blakey is everywhere these days, attending meetings in Dover all the time and pushing for public/private partnerships. But a growing discontent among teachers in his district may force Blakey to take a second look at his big push for more Relay Graduate School teachers. The district does have 6 less administrators making $100,000 and over than they did 4 years ago. Continue reading
In the next round of Delaware charter schools that have salaries over $100,000, we have an eclectic mix that include two Kent County schools and three New Castle county. Two are military schools, one has a pseudo-religious theme, one is a first responder school, and the other has a unique partnership with Delaware State University. In my eyes, if you are going to have a charter school, make it different from the schools around you. And these charters certainly fit the bill! Two of them, as you can see by their demographics, are on my radar of what I view as skewed special populations in some areas. One of them, however, could disappear by the end of June if they don’t get their student enrollment up very soon! Delaware Military Academy is authorized by Red Clay Consolidated School District. ECHS and the two FSMAs opened up after the News Journal came out with their salary article in 2014. Continue reading
The Christina School District. They have less administrators than they did four years ago, but they also have over 2,000 less students than they did then. Much of that can be attributed to the very big charter school growth during that time. Not only were new charters springing up all over the place, but existing charters expanded their enrollment by adding new grades. Former Superintendent Freeman Williams resigned in the Fall of 2015 and the district did not get a new Superintendent until the beginning of 2017. The Delaware DOE and various Delaware Governor’s public education target, Christina has actually come a long way. Last month they signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Governor Carney and the Delaware Department of Education. They are taking a strong look at each of their schools, not only in Wilmington but also the Newark/Bear/Glasgow area as well.
I’ve predicted their demise but that was more of a warning shot to them. Out of all the districts and charters in Delaware, I’ve probably written about them the most. Which I feel gives me the ability to defend them when the need arises. The district certainly has their challenges but all districts do. Christina has some of the highest numbers of low-income and special education students in the entire state. While they don’t have the highest percentage of low-income students, they have the highest number of students. And many of those, especially in Wilmington, are students of poverty. They aren’t the district I’m worried about. More on that another day.
A very important note about their numbers. The district itself has 75 administrators making over $100,000. While that may seem like a lot, they also have over 15,000 students in their district despite the charter explosion in the past decade. But they also hold special programs in their district, such as the Delaware Autism Program and the Delaware School For The Deaf. With those programs, the district has 93 administrators making over $100,000. This is an important distinction which will play out later on. Four years ago they had 108 administrators hitting the over $100,000 mark.
The Capital School District is in the middle of Kent County where the capital of The First State lies. Even their middle school, Central, boasts itself as being in “The Heart of Dover”. Their enrollment has pretty much been flat over the past four years. The district has two middle schools, one for 5-6 and one for 7-8. Potential plans may change that in the future, but this also causes a bit more administrative positions than most school districts. Superintendent Dan Shelton is going on his 3rd year in the district. He replaced Dr. Michael Thomas who retired at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. Capital is one of the districts in the state with the largest percentage of low-income students. As notated in the article on Caesar Rodney, the competition between the two districts is well-known in Kent County! Continue reading
Travelling to Sussex County, the Cape Henlopen School District is a very unique district. The taxpayers in Cape Henlopen pass referenda at a much higher rate than most districts in Delaware. This is considered to be a wealthier district in the state. Their student count has gone up by about 600 students over the past four years. Cape doesn’t have as many schools and their student count is significantly lower than, say, Caesar Rodney. Yet they have more administrators with less students and less buildings. This is, in large part, due to the fact that the taxpayers are more willing to pass referendum which establishes local funding for school districts. With that being said, they have two less administrators making over $100,000 than they did four years ago. Continue reading
I did not forget charter schools in my mammoth Freedom of Information Act request! With the above charter schools, the amount of employees making over $100,000 varies, usually based on student count. Two of them have NO employees making over $100,000. For Charter School of Newcastle and East Side Charter School, they are grouped together because they fall under the umbrella called Vision Academies. For five of these charter schools, comparing their demographics to Charter School of Wilmington is crazy. It has never been a secret that I have extreme issues with CSW’s demographics. Two of these schools are in Dover, one is in New Castle, and the other three are in Wilmington. Continue reading
Caesar Rodney School District is in Kent County. The district includes Camden-Wyoming and the southern part of Dover. Slightly larger in student size than their North neighbor, Capital School District, CR is an interesting district. It also includes a school at Dover Air Force Base. Their enrollment has gone up a couple hundred in the past four years. There aren’t as many competing charter schools in the area that affect districts up in Wilmington and Newark. The vo-tech in the area, Polytech, has a fixed student enrollment that has been in place for decades. Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald has made modest raises in the last four years. In four years, the number of employees making over $100,000 has increased from 26 to 29. CR and Capital have always been rivals of sorts, not just in football, but in comparing the quality of their districts. In the past year, Caesar Rodney has been in the news much more than I’ve seen them in the past four years due to controversial matters in the district involving race, special education, and most recently, their stance on the recent student walk-outs. Continue reading
Next up is Brandywine School District. Located at the top of Delaware if you are looking at a map, Brandywine has 10,400 students. This number has hovered around that amount for the past few years. Given that, the number of administrators in Brandywine making over $100,000 has gone down dramatically over the past four years. In 2014, they had 71 making that coveted number. Now, they have 55. In 2016, the district went through a tumultuous referendum process. This could account for the reduction in administrators in the district. Four years ago, Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick was the highest paid administrator in Delaware’s public schools. As a reminder, these salaries are only the base salary and doesn’t include extra perks. Back in 2014, including those perks, The News Journal estimated Holodick’s salary at $214,176. If those perks are still the same, Holodick got a huge raise from the district! Continue reading
On February 28th, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to every single Delaware school district and charter school. The ask? Every single employee with an annual salary over $100,000. I based it on that specific number because I know pretty much every single assistant principal and up (with a few exceptions) makes over $100,000. One of the key questions in Delaware education is “Do we have too many administrators?”. This comes up every single time the state budget conversation heats up or a district goes out for a referendum. Continue reading
Recently, I sent a Freedom of Information Act request to all Delaware school districts and charter schools. A week and a half later I put a post up regarding schools or districts that had not responded in any way to the FOIA request. I added MOT Charter School as one of those schools and this was an error on my end. I did receive MOT’s response last week but I filed it in the wrong folder on my laptop. I appreciate Ned Southworth from MOT getting in touch with me about this and I offer my humblest apology to MOT.
I made a mistake but I feel I am duty-bound to point out that mistake and offer public apology for it!
As I was combing through Title 14 this evening, I found something astonishing. I know of a Principal that changed a grade for a student. It looks like that Principal broke the law. I believe that Principal is retired now and who knows what the enforceability of this law is. What this means is only the very highest level in a district or charter school can change a teacher’s grade. Even on something as small as homework. The law is below. I have to wonder how much the Delaware Secretary of Education actually gets on this! Continue reading
I’d heard the rumor. The five Wilmington schools serving Christina students would fold into two. It was only a rumor until today when the News Journal published details of a confidential memorandum of understanding between the district and Governor Carney. Meanwhile, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, which has outlived its usefulness as of late, decided to hold an impromptu meeting while breaking state FOIA open meeting laws.
As per Jessica Bies’ News Journal article:
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, a state advisory committee formed by then-Gov. Jack Markell to come up with ideas to improve education in the city, was also scheduled to review Carney’s proposal Tuesday night. It did not publicly advertise the meeting in compliance with state law or post the agenda for the meeting until late Monday, after a News Journal reporter called and asked when it would be shared.
As per a source, this WEIC meeting was planned six weeks ago and the Mayor of Wilmington came to speak. A technicality of not posting the agenda in the required seven day window occurred. When Tony Allen arrived at the meeting, he advised the committee of the technicality and that no action would be taken at the meeting, including approving the minutes for the last meeting. While I have seen time and time again in FOIA complaints that a party forgot to post an agenda, it is my belief, even if a meeting is planned and they decide to only hold it for informational purposes, they should delay the meeting for appearances sake. How confidential is this memo if so many people had access to it before the Christina Board of Education even has it? Sounds like Carney and Christina want it to get out. I’ve heard people rambling for years that Christina needs to consolidate some of their schools but the way this happened is shady at best.
If Carney’s office released the document, it doesn’t sound like Superintendent Richard Gregg was too happy about it:
Superintendent Richard Gregg recommended removing the names of schools from the document before it came to the school board for the vote, and there was a discussion about having the governor refrain from using the schools’ names in public.
Who were the three school board members who met with district staff, Carney’s team, and the union representative? Why doesn’t the News Journal name those board members? And where is all the scoop on the Empowerment crap Carney is trying to foist upon the schools? More questions than answers. And the Delaware DOE is going to be the one to implement all these changes? Has Christina lost their ever-loving mind? But this is the part that scares the living hell out of me:
The memorandum says Carney and the state Education Department would ask the General Assembly for additional funding to renovate the schools, as well as provide trauma-informed training to principals and teachers. It also promises funding for a dual-generation education center, as well as “philanthropic monies to support all Wilmington schools,” starting with those in Christina.
Philanthropic monies… and what will they want in return? This is the beginning of the end of public education. Once you get foundations actually funding schools (they already help fund charter schools), these schools are no longer public. They become part of Carney’s “public-private partnerships” where FOIA and open meeting laws go out the window. You heard it here first. Carney is just continuing Markell’s agenda who was following all the corporate education reform crap. At this point, I can no longer refer to Carney as Markell 2.0. He is Carney, through and through. Selling out schools to corporations. This is so deliberate and in your face. He played Christina and their board like a fiddle. This is when we start to see social impact bonds hit Delaware. And Rodel is loving every second of it with their competency-based education and personalized digital learning crap. I won’t go so far as to say Carney is the devil, but he is certainly his willing accomplice and Secretary Bunting is just playing the part of the yes-woman and kissing King Carney’s ring he wears for whichever level of Dante’s Hell he serves. I can see why Carney picked her now. She will do whatever he wants.
When I attended the very first WEIC meeting, I advised them transparency is the glue to whatever they do. While I recognize human error, there is also accountability for recognizing that and taking the appropriate action. Not go ahead and hold the meeting anyway. The only way we can stop people from violating FOIA law is to call them out on it. I have made it my mission to do so for over three years now. I will not hold back on that for any organization that is subject to FOIA law.
I hope Carney locked the General Assembly into funding this hot mess, otherwise it becomes yet another unfunded mandate in Delaware. I’m sure deals have been made behind the scenes. If not, the philanthropic foundations like Rodel and the other vultures waiting to pounce on public education will assuredly send their lobbyists to hound them for the next seven months.
I filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint against DelTech Community College on May 10th, 2017. The Delaware Department of Justice issued their legal opinion on the FOIA complaint today. They found that DelTech violated open meeting law with their College Educational Foundation and The Collegewide Criminal Justice Advisory Board.
First, the Attorney General had to determine if these two entities are public bodies. They found both are. Especially noteworthy is their Foundation. Because their Foundation consists of seven members from the college’s Board of Trustees, and four board members represents a quorum, they are a public body that must make their meetings public and produce minutes from each meeting.
…any gathering of the Foundation that includes a quorum of the Board of Trustees, and during which public business is discussed, is considered a meeting of the Board of Trustees to which FOIA’s open meeting requirements are applicable.
I did name other groups at the school, specifically their Collegewide Safety/Security Committee, Ad Hoc President’s Council, President’s Council, and Learning Community Collegewide Steering Committee. Because those groups are made up of staff members, they are not considered a public body thus they are immune to open meeting law.
It’s hard sometimes to win these things. There are ambiguities in state code that can turn a predicted victory into a moment of defeat. But I was very pleased with the outcome of this one and what it means for other such entities floating around Delaware. Time to do some reaching out to other various foundations in the state. For those who think this might apply to Delaware State University or University of Delaware, think again. They are exempt from FOIA law in Delaware.
To read the full legal opinion issued by Deputy Attorney General Carla Jarosz, please read below:
The Delaware Charter School Network became involved with the firestorm at Thomas Edison Charter School and that can only mean one thing: Kendall Massett is now in charge. The last time she entered the fray like this it resulted in Family Foundations Academy having their board completely gutted when the Eastside Charter School board took over back in January, 2015. I was able to find out a lot more about the school’s “foundation” account and that is the biggest farce of them all! Meanwhile, the school has violated FOIA many times through this and they are about to do the same tomorrow. Continue reading
Imagine a division of state government that no longer reports to the Governor. It reports to the Secretary of State. But this division will have a director from the private sector. This director will not have to make their financial information public. The activities of this division will be considered a non-profit agency deliberately removing itself from Freedom of Information Act requests. Welcome to Governor John Carney’s non-transparent public/private partnership where anything can happen behind closed doors and the public will never know about it.
Christina School District is about to get screwed again! But not by the charters this time. This time it is districts who should be their allies!
Okay, time to let the cat out of the bag. A month ago, and if you blinked you missed it, the Christina Board of Education discussed and voted no on the Chief Financial Officer of their district negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding between Christina, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Brandywine. The MOU would have given authority to the CFO of Christina to send those local funds to the three other districts for students that choice to those districts out of Christina. The board said no. Look for a special board meeting sometime next week. From what I’m hearing, now the Superintendents of the districts (all four) want to have the MOU between them. Welcome to Christina Richard Gregg!
That’s what happens when you open Pandora’s Box like that with that stupid settlement between Christina and the charters. I’m talking to you four Christina board members who voted FOR the settlement and then voted against rescinding the settlement a week later. Did I not distinctly hear that it would set a precedent? That it would come back to bite them in the ass? I know I said it. I believe a few others did as well. Karma truly is a vengeful and mean bitch.
Do I have anything against Brandywine, Appo, or Red Clay for going after these funds? I don’t know. The timing sucks. And how soon until Colonial jumps on the train? All this happened because, supposedly, according to some commenter named Elizabeth, Jack Markell had some secret deal with Lillian Lowery and Christina when she became Secretary of Education. The way I’ve heard it, Lowery was involved in a lawsuit when she became Secretary and Captain Jack wanted it all hush-hush so all sorts of crazy crap happened. I heard that from someone who used to be on the board who hasn’t been too quiet about it over the past year or so. Funny how stuff gets out in The First State.
So what happens if Christina’s board says no again? Will the big three (and possibly Colonial) get their feathers in a twist and file a lawsuit against Christina as well? My gut tells me Christina’s board will be forced to vote yes because of the precedent set in the charter settlement. So last week, the board announced they will be laying off 44 or so teachers. Will this cause that number to rise? And how the hell does their CFO Robert Silber still have a job there?
How much money are we talking? I don’t think it would be as much as the cha-ching the charters got, but it will leave a mark on their budget. At this point, anything more is suck city. Here’s a novel idea… how about going after Jack Markell and Lillian Lowery for their side deals that went on. Better catch Jack quick before he goes on his Forrest Gump tour of America! Yeah, like that will ever happen. Captain Jack seems to have some special immunity shield around him. It’s a special kind, where you screw things up for eight years and you get to go biking into the
Education never gets boring in this state. But this will not be a joking matter for the teachers and staff in Christina School District. These are good people who have been the victim of these education funding games for many years now. Throw in priority schools and the constant labeling and shaming of the district. I feel bad for all the districts right now. Students and teachers should not be the sacrificial targets because the adults in charge can’t get their shit together. Sorry to be so blunt, but I’m really getting sick of it.
Here’s the kicker! I submitted a FOIA to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office a couple of weeks ago. This is what I asked for:
Please provide, in PDF format, all reports, letters, guidance, or inspections for any Delaware school district, vocational school district, or charter school generated by the Office of the Auditor of Accounts that is not listed on the Auditor of Accounts website for fiscal years 2014, 2015, and 2016. This would include any of the above listed documents sent to members of the General Assembly, the Delaware Department of Education, the Office of Management and Budget, Office of the Controller General, or the Office of Management and Budget that would be considered a public document 29 Del. C. Paragraph 10002(1).
Wanna know what I got? Bupkis, that’s what! I got the petty cash letters sent to a handful of charters last year along with the letters about that specific situation sent to various state agencies. For three fiscal years!
Wanna know what that means? The Auditor of Accounts office is NOT auditing ANY school district unless it is an investigation based on something submitted on their tip line. Which means that office is breaking the law. But the General Assembly won’t give them the funds to do their job as required by Delaware State Law (which the General Assembly does: create laws). So who do we take to court? The Auditor of Accounts office or the General Assembly? Who is tracking where the hell education funds actually go? NO ONE! Except myself and Jack Wells it looks like. But yeah, let’s layoff teachers and make classrooms into sardine cans while people in district offices are making over $100,000 in salary. Cause that makes a lot of fucking sense! Let’s keep paying for state testing and all these one-to-on devices so we can just weed out teachers and turn education into a reformer wonderland! as I said, I’m getting tired of all this nonsense. And if I were a teacher, I would be too! If I were a parent (which I am) I would be shouting this from the rooftops: Stop screwing over our schools! And when I say schools, that primarily means the students and teachers. That is the heart of it all.
Delaware Governor John Carney is embarking down a very dangerous path. I assume this is in response to my article last month about how the first meeting of the Family Services Cabinet Council was closed to the public. Governor Carney rescinded his Executive Order #5 to create Executive Order #9 which established new wording in recreation of the Family Services Cabinet Council:
In accordance with the common law privilege protecting executive communications concerning the deliberative and policy-making processes, the records, investigations, internal communications, deliberations and draft work product of the Council shall be confidential and may be disclosed only at the direction of the Governor.
What kind of nonsense is this John Carney? A Cabinet-level council, and you deliberately shut any discussion this group has out of the public eye? The very term “deliberative and policy-making processes” demands it be open to the public. You are full of it Governor Carney. Your campaign promise and the part on your inaugural address about an open state government was a complete and utter lie. We both know what will happen in these meetings. Stop pretending you are a Governor and not a corporate puppet to the special interests that want to turn education and the workforce into their own molding. I am done listening to anything you have to say. With the stroke of a pen, in response to my article about transparency in your office, you have shown your true colors once and for all. Shame on you Governor Carney. You have destroyed FOIA in Delaware with this action by essentially excluding any of your Cabinet members on this charade of a Family Services Cabinet Council. They can cite executive privilege in any FOIA request by stating it is tied to the activities of this council. And with one line on this, you have made damn sure you can invite anyone to the party and protect them as well with no oversight or transparency whatsoever: “…and such others as the Governor shall invite.” But we will NEVER know who those others are, will we. Open government my ass. Dictatorship is more like it.