Beloved Padua Academy Head Of School Fired For Not Agreeing On Money Transfer To St. Anthony’s

The Padua Academy Head of School, Cindy Mann, was fired today.  A letter went out to parents from Father Nicholas Waseline.  Students and parents are furious.  A protest from students is taking place on Monday.  But the reason for her termination is more shocking than the actual firing.

According to sources, Waseline approached Mann about transferring money from Padua to St. Anthony’s.  While Padua has become a well respected school, St. Anthony’s is struggling.  Mann said no to the transfer and was fired for insubordination.  Padua is a part of St. Anthony’s parish, but it was created to run separately in administration.  Meaning Waseline, who oversees both, went against the organizational foundation Padua was built on.  The grade school, St. Anthony School, is grades K-8 while Padua Academy serves 9-12.

It is never a good idea, even in a private school setting, to get rid of those who make something great.  And when that termination reason is based on something unethical?  Definitely not a good idea!  But when it comes from a Catholic Priest.  Even worse!

Field Trip Funding Bill Would Give Relief To Low-Income Schools

Delaware State Representative Sean Matthews submitted House Bill #282 for pre-filing yesterday which would give $25 to each student for field trips in designated low-income schools across the state.

In order to support enrichment activities such as field trips for students at high-poverty schools, this bill would require the State to provide $25 per student to high poverty schools for the purpose of educational and enrichment field trips.
The bill is co-sponsored by State Senator Harris McDowell with additional sponsorship provided by Senators Brian Bushweller and David Sokola and State Reps. Paul Baumbach, Stephanie Bolden, Helene Keeley, and Trey Paradee.
Matthews sent a note to his colleagues in the General Assembly in asking for sponsorship:

Much of what makes a student successful in school is the background knowledge and outside experiences that a student gets from going on trips. Students that go on trips to museums, historical sites and parks are able to acquire knowledge and life experiences that help them do better in school. Field trips are predominately paid for by parents, so students from families of more financial means are typically able to go on more and better field trips. 

This bill will allow schools with a 50% or greater low-income student population to receive financial support to plan and run educational field trips. The identified schools (see list below…schools are in all 3 counties) would get $25/student and could use that money to plan field trip/s. The money could be combined with private funding (parents, PTA, grants, etc.) in any manner the school sees fit to maximize its use.  Please note that most schools already have policies and procedures to ensure that field trips are educational in nature. 

We’ve spent years trying to “fix” struggling schools with programs and money solely within the four walls of a school. Let’s try something new and get students from schools with large low-income populations out of the building on high quality field trips. I believe we will see real and lasting results. Note: The approximate cost to fund this bill Statewide based on the most recent data on low-income students, is $500,000.

Since this bill comes with a fiscal note, I would expect some resistance to it, especially coming from the Republican side.  As I see no sponsorship from either the Senate or House Republicans, it is hard to tell what will happen with this.  With that being said, I strongly support this bill.  It is a definitive and urgent need for high-need students.  And yes, low-income and poverty is very much a high need.  We have a large amount of students this would benefit which could give tangible and immediate results in their education.  Frankly, I’m disappointed no Republicans signed on as some of them represent districts where some of the below schools reside in.  I can think of a lot of wasteful spending in this state and this would NOT be one of them!

This is not limited to traditional school districts but also charter schools that qualify.  Please support this legislation!

The list of schools:

Elementary Schools: East Dover, South Dover, Booker T. Washington, Fairview, Towne Point, Lake Forest, North Laurel, Dunbar, Banneker, Mispillion, Blades, Frederick Douglas, Harlan, Highlands, Lewis Dual Language, Shortlidge, Baltz, Richardson Park, Mote, Warner, Brookside, Oberle, Bancroft, Elbert-Palmer, Pulaski, Stubbs, Eisenberg, Academy of Dover, East Side Charter, Thomas Edison Charter, Charter School of New Castle, Kuumba Academy, and Academia Antonia Alonso.

Middle Schools: Central Middle, Skyline, Stanton, Bayard, and McCullough

High Schools: Pyle Academy & Great Oaks

ILC Schools: Kent Elementary ILC & Kent County Alternative

Special Schools: First State School, Douglass School, & Carver Center

To read the full bill, please see below:

 

Wrecking Ball Ruszkowski At It Again… Merry Christmas Albuquerque!

Four schools.  Change or die.  That is the bully mantra coming out of Chris Ruszkowski’s mouth these days.  The former Delaware DOE employee who is now the New Mexico Secretary of Education seems to have taken the Wilmington Priority Schools guidebook and foisted it on New Mexico.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the four schools, three in Albuquerque, have until January 9th to make their decisions:

• Close the school and enroll students in other area schools that are higher performing.

• Relaunch the school under a charter school operator that has been selected through a rigorous state or local review process.

• “Champion” parents’ option to move their children into higher-performing charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning or homeschooling. This may also include the creation and expansion of state or local school voucher programs.

• Significantly restructure and redesign the school through steps like extending instructional time, changing the staff to include only top-rated educators or adopting state-selected curriculum approaches.

As usual, Ruszkowski fails to understand the reality of inner-city schools, just like he did in Wilmington, DE.

“For Albuquerque, this is a gut check moment,” Ruszkowski said. “Albuquerque talks a lot about equity and access, but when you have kids trapped in a failing school for six straight years, I don’t know what that means for equity and access.”

He questioned why APS hasn’t taken more action to improve these schools on its own, and said he expects the district will make excuses by citing the schools’ poverty rates and demographics.

Poverty is NOT an excuse.  It is a reality for these students.  Fat cats like Ruszkowski, who has never known poverty a day in his life, will never get that.  But this is just the beginning for New Mexico because there are 86 other schools that could be in this position next year.

New Mexico is a PARCC state.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment, the test used in Delaware, used to be the state assessment in NM but was changed to PARCC.  Same demon, different name.  This is like 2014 all over again, only it is in a different state.  Ruszkowski’s pals at the Delaware DOE targeted six schools in Wilmington, DE with pretty much the exact same threats.  Promised funding either never materialized or was drastically reduced.  The state did not live up to what it promised in their forced coercion scenario.

I always assumed Penny Schwinn, the former Delaware accountability chief (now making waves in Texas) was the ringleader behind the Delaware Priority Schools fiasco but it appears now Ruszkowski may have played a heavy hand in that debacle.  These fake, charter-loving “leaders” in public education are a destructive force, a wave of anti-matter ripping chaos through school buildings.  I’m sorry my state created so many monsters and let them loose on the rest of the country.

In Delaware, two of those priority schools are part of a horrible plan invented by Delaware Governor John Carney’s office and the Christina School District. The Governor wants those schools to consolidate with other schools in the area but he is rushing the district into a decision. Their board voted 5-2 to have the Governor slow his roll. Many in Delaware feel this plan by the Governor is a smoke and mirrors scenario where the district will fight the plan to the point where Carney pulls a fast one and charterizes the schools.

Say some prayers for New Mexico.  Putting a guy like Ruszkowski in the driver’s seat of education in a state is tantamount to giving a thief keys to your house.  He is a result of Race To The Top, the very worst kind of result.

School-Based Health Centers Proposal May Collide With Parental Authority… This Is A Game Changer In Schools!

I’ve heard constant echoes of one thing over the past year: we need more supports in our schools for our high-needs students.  But what happens when that call is heard but we may get far more than we ever bargained for?  What if the services provided become very invasive in scope?

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) put out a request for proposal (RFP) for all nineteen school districts in Delaware and the thirty-two high schools within them.  The goal of the vendor contracts would be to increase the role of wellness centers in schools.  The funding was already put in place in the FY2017 budget.  A few high schools wouldn’t begin these kind of contracts until FY2018 because they didn’t already have existing wellness centers in the schools.

I have grave concerns with how much DHSS wants to happen in our high schools.  I understand why the bid for this is coming out of DHSS, but this is an education matter.  I fully understand that some students may not have access to medical treatment so I am not explicitly against these types of centers in high-needs schools.  But the amount of private student data involved is astounding.  Under HIPAA, that is merely a consent for information to go out from a health provider to another entity.  Parents need to understand exactly what they are signing consent for.  Where this gets confusing is the differentiation between HIPAA and FERPA.  FERPA only applies to educational records.  The data from these health centers in our high schools would not fall under FERPA.  Or at least they shouldn’t.

sbhc1

There are several terms in the above picture that worry me.  “Prevention-oriented multidisciplinary health care”… I’m all for prevention, but prevention against what?  Where is the line drawn?  What if one of these multidisciplinary measures goes against a student’s religion?  What if the student is not aware of that but a parent becomes upset when they find out?  “Integration with primary care”… what does that even mean?  Integration would mean a data system cross-referencing the health information between a primary physician and the school-based health provider.  Does that information flow both ways?  Serious data privacy concerns here folks!

sbhc2

“The delivery of medical and mental health services”… If a student needs immediate treatment, is a school even equipped to act as a triage type unit?  Is that the eventual goal here?  In terms of mental health services, I have long thought it was a good idea for school districts to have psychiatrists or neurologists on hand for IEP meetings.  All too often, psychologists are used to determine “behavior” issues but a psychiatrist or neurologist would be able to give more explanation of what is going on neurologically when a student manifests disabilities.  A psychologist can’t prescribe medicine and as a result, they may not have up to date knowledge of what different medicines do and how they metabolize with the human body.

Students come into our schools with trauma.  Of that, no one seems to be in disagreement.  If families aren’t able to provide students with safe and supportive environments at home, then the school setting would be ideal for students to get the help they need to deal with those issues.  But my concern is this becoming available for ALL students eventually.  All too often parents are denied health information about their child on certain things when it comes to the existing wellness centers.  With this program increasing in scope like this, I can picture that becoming a much bigger issue.

In private practices, these types of services are not cheap.  But that is where the best in their fields tend to go.  With this plan, how many would leave existing private practices to come work in schools?  Not too many I am afraid.  As a result, we would most likely get younger, fresh out of college mental health providers without the experience.  They would get paid less and as a result an inequity would develop between students who come from stable and wealthier home environments and those who come from low-income or poverty families.  Those who come from the stable homes would most likely continue to go to private practices.

DPH is the Division of Public Health.  They would provide partial funding for this project.  But what happens when the project becomes mainstream?  All too often, our school districts become the financial bearer of state mandated programs.  Yes, the funding exists now, but what happens when it isn’t available?  Do they cut these programs out of schools entirely or do local school districts bear the financial burden for paying for these programs?

sbhc3

My first question: what is the School-Community Health of Michigan entity that appears to house school-based health information?  How secure is this data?  If one of the vendors chooses to implement the two years to develop their plan for data reporting, how safe is that data in the meantime?  Should all student risk assessments be standardized?  I would think students with disabilities, those coming from broken homes, or those dealing with poverty would tend to fall lower on a standardized scale as opposed to their peers.

sbhc4

I don’t mind a culture of health.  Lord knows we can be healthier in this country.  But when I see “How youth and parents would be involved in the “planning, operation, and promotion of the SBHC,” that seems like a lot of emphasis put on parents.  If these services are for high-needs students whose parents aren’t big on family engagement, this would result in parents of regular students doing the pushing for these programs.  Will they want to do that if it isn’t for their own child?  “Potential partners and key stakeholders”… as defined by who?  And as we all know, data flows to “partners” quite a bit with education records.  Would parents be given consent forms to send their child’s medical data to entities who really don’t need that information at all?  It mentions HIPAA here, but this is a very slippery slope.  I need a lot more information here.  What is a “diversified funding base”?  Since, invariably, all of this would be paid for by the taxpayers of Delaware, will they really want to pay for other students health services?  We already do, to some extent, but this would increase those costs.

sbhc5

I’m sorry, but did that really say “if the SBHC intends to be a Title X/family planning provider”?  For those who may not be familiar with Title X, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services describes this program on their website:

Family planning centers offer a broad range of FDA-approved contraceptive methods and related counseling; as well as breast and cervical cancer screening; pregnancy testing and counseling; screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs); HIV testing; and other patient education and referrals.

I hate to even bring this up, but if this could in any way lead to abortions being provided in schools that would cause a nuclear war between parents and schools.  No matter what your views on abortion might be, I would tend to think the school would be the last place anything like that should happen.  For that matter, the various “screenings” allowed under Title X could lead to serious contention as well.  For the “5 performance measures for the basis of evaluation”, based on federal guidance I imagine, does that mean every single school-based health center would be required to perform these five measures?  Chlamydia testing can be done by urine samples for both males and females, but sometimes they are performed for females as vaginal swabs.  I would hope that isn’t the method being proposed in this contract.  With all seriousness, I do know chlamydia is a very serious sexually transmitted disease and among the most common.  I don’t know if school-based health centers currently screen or test for chlamydia.  If anyone has information on this, please let me know.  I reached out to a few people who were shocked this would be included in this.

Once again, my biggest concerns with all this surround student data.  This goes way beyond my concerns with existing student data.  Parents should seek answers for this.  I know I will be!  Please read the entire RFP, seen below.  I need to know your thoughts on this.  This is very big and I don’t feel Delaware citizens are even aware of this going on without our knowledge.  The transparency on something of this scope has obviously not been present.  Please share this with everyone you know in Delaware.  Get feedback from your friends or those in the medial profession.  Is this too much?  I have seen a lot of “futurist” lingo talking about how our schools will become “community schools” in the truest sense of the word based on things like this coming to fruition.  Does the term “the whole child” include aspects that will eventually take authority away from parents when it comes to their children’s health?  How much will parents be able to opt out of these programs?

You Can’t Make Things Better Until You Fix What’s Broken

In the past week, a light bulb went off in my head.  I’ve been to a lot of education meetings lately.  State Board of Education, ESSA, Special Education Strategic Plan, district board meetings, and so forth.  I’ve seen and met a lot of legislators and candidates.  I’ve seen the old faces and the new.  For the most part, we are all talking about the same thing: problems in education.  Whether it is at a state level or on the ground floor.  At an ESSA meeting, one of the participants at my table was Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty.

He made a very valid point.  We keep talking about education and how to make it better.  We keep throwing ideas into the mix.  We have meetings and task forces and committees and town halls and strategic plans.  We talk ourselves to death.  We don’t take action and we have gotten away from the basics.  I agree with him.

There have been opportunities to act, but they pass by.  Until the next idea comes along.  I’ve met with parents, teachers, district administrators, board members, the DOE, advocates, disability groups, legislators and regular citizens.  There are deep rifts between everyone.  Hurts.  Things happen.  Perceptions are thrown out of whack.  I have seen two of those groups talk about the exact same topic in separate meetings but the tone and feelings about it are wider than the Pacific Ocean.

As much as I rant about the DOE, I do like that they are having these town halls.  I like that people are coming out to them.  But it’s not enough.  Not nearly enough.  What is confusing me is why different states are taking advantage of different timelines for their draft plans.  For example, Delaware wants to get their plan in by the end of March.  In Florida, they are not submitting their plan until the end of July.  The Delaware DOE wants to have their plan in place by the 2017-2018 school year.  Florida’s wouldn’t fully kick in until 2018-2019.  The Delaware DOE wants to have their first draft done by the end of October.  In 37 days.  While it is a draft and would most likely be amended based on public feedback, I don’t like that short of a time frame.

Is that enough time to heal the rifts between the adults involved in education?  Is that enough time for us to decide, as a state, what is best for students?  No.  I don’t like the idea that we are rushing to get a basic plan done, with public comment to possibly tweak that plan, and then again after the end of the year.  I would much rather see something more solid in the beginning and build from there.  I want a foundation that is grounded in fixing the already existing problems with a definitive action plan and a path forward to fix them.  While some may see ESSA as a grand opportunity to get things right, are we rushing to get certain plans that are representative of the more powerful at the expense of the majority?  I believe we are.  Delaware needs more time.  With the vast amounts of money we spend on education, I would think there could and should be a way to get more voices involved.

When many education bills are submitted in the General Assembly, they are symptomatic of larger things that are broken.  If we don’t fix those bigger things, the small solutions don’t always work.  So, I guess, I’m putting this out there for the Delaware DOE, Secretary Godowsky, and the Governor to think about.  What is the harm in waiting another four months to put forth our ESSA plan?  Yes, it’s another year students may not have something.  And many of those things they need now.  But if we squander a gift of time and having true collaboration, at a state-wide level, to get things right, then all the plans in the world won’t help.  It would also give the General Assembly more of a sense of what this will cost over the five and a half months they are in session.  By submitting the plans by the end of March, it will force the General Assembly to most likely scramble to introduce legislation to make it all fit.  Why not let the General Assembly have until the end of June to do their thing while the rest of us, and I mean ALL of us, do our thing?  I have no doubt the DOE has a very good idea of what they would like to see.  But I don’t think the rest of Delaware feels they have been given enough to do this.  We need more time.

This isn’t a rant against the DOE.  It is a heartfelt plea to all involved in education to use the time we could have.  We need to come together, for the kids.

State Rep. Kim Williams Informed Closure Of Day Treatment Centers Will Happen

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams let me know she was informed the closure of out-patient intensive servicees, otherwise known as day treatment centers, will occur in the next sixty days.  This decision was made through the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health which is part of the Department of Services for Youth, Children and Their Families (DSCYF).  One parent found out that local school districts or charter schools will be expected to pick up the tab for these types of services in private settings.  Which is in sharp contrast to existing Delaware state code which indicates the state picks up 70% of these bills and the local districts pay 30%.  These placements are deciding by a group called the Interagency-Collaborative Team.

The ICT and what they do is this, from Title 14 of Delaware code:

(b) Before the Department of Education can authorize expenditures for new placements according to this section, the case must be reviewed by the Interagency Collaborative Team (ICT).

(1) The ICT shall consist of:

a. Division Director, Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services of the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF);

b. Division Director, Family Services of DSCYF;

c. Division Director, Division of Youth Rehabilitation Services of DSCYF;

d. Division Director, Division of Developmental Disabilities Services of the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS);

e. Division Director, Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health of DHSS;

f. Director of the Office of Management and Budget or designee;

g. The Controller General or designee;

h. Director, Exceptional Children’s Group, Department of Education (DOE), who will serve as Chair; and

i. Associate Secretary, Curriculum and Instructional Improvement, DOE.

(2) A director assigned to the ICT may designate staff to represent the director on the ICT only if these designated representatives are empowered to act on behalf of the division director, including commitment of division resources for a full fiscal year.

The Delaware Department of Education needs to share the blame for this.  They have set up a pressure cooker for students with disabilities.  While Autism rates have soared in the past decade, so has the test, label, shame, and punish atmosphere set up by the DOE.  While much of this was set up through federal mandate, Delaware has consistently failed in being able to “get” special education.  Inclusion does not work in the modern era of Common Core standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  When the DOE started setting up “standards-based IEPs” they missed the whole point of special education.  Is it any wonder students can’t function in these types of environments?  It is toxic to them. It is toxic to all students, but more for the most challenged.

Special education in Delaware is horrible.  I am not disparaging the teachers in the classroom who attempt to deal with these issues, but the psychological toll on these students is more clear than ever.  What we are doing now isn’t working.  What they are planning won’t work.  It is past time for parents to begin rising in protest like they never have before and demand change.

 

Red Clay & Christina Respond To General Assembly With Opposition To New Stall Tactic Legislation

The Red Clay and Christina School Districts responded quickly and definitively to the new legislation kicking the can down the road for the redistricting plan with no guarantees of funding and asking for more planning.

Some Are Pushing For The WEIC Redistricting For The WRONG Reasons

I’ve gone back and forth with the WEIC redistricting plan for a while now.  Some days I like it, others I don’t.  I tend to think of it from more of a statewide level because I live down in Dover.  But there are those who are in full support of the plan.  But some aren’t in it for the right reasons.  I recently heard a reference to “those kids”…those being the Wilmington Christina students.  While many of the main advocates want a better outcome for these students and think a population of city kids split up between four districts is bad, there are those who don’t want those kids in Christina anymore.  For the simple reason that they are a perceived burden and a problem that needs to go away.  I like to call this racism.  There are also some in Red Clay who don’t want more of “those kids”.  That is also racism when said in the same context.

I get the folks who are afraid of their taxes going up.  I understand that.  Especially older citizens on a fixed income.  But those who don’t want them because of their environment, or the color of their skin, or the issues they bring into schools… you need to get over it.  We live in the 21st Century.  The Jim Crow laws are gone.  Gay people can marry.  It’s a new way of looking at things.  I tend to believe, and this is only my opinion, most issues of racism are inherited.  Racism exists on both sides.  There are white people who hate black people and black people who hate white people.  I think it comes down to a matter of trust and dealing with fear.

Way back in the halcyon days of the mid 1990s, I worked in a comic book store in Trenton, NJ for a little while.  I was driving home from work one night, and I took a wrong turn.  I wound up in a bad neighborhood.  I was approaching a stop sign when a group of African-American men started walking towards my car with baseball bats.  It terrified me.  I ignored the stop sign and gunned it until I was in a safer area.  I didn’t report it.  I just made sure I was never in that area again.  Did I let that one bad situation define my views of African-Americans?  No.  I recognized there are good and bad people everywhere.  Is there really much difference between those men who were defending their turf and a fight at a school?  Probably not.  Was their intention to harm me or just scare me?  I may never know.  Perhaps they viewed me as a threat.

Back to WEIC, I just feel like the Christina Wilmington children could possibly be a political football.  I’ve discussed this with many people over the past year and a half or so.  I just don’t see how transferring them from Christina to Red Clay is really going to make such a huge difference for them.  They will still be in a school district.  Maybe they won’t be bused as far, but I remember it taking my bus an hour on some days to get to school.  If it was snowing, forget about it!  As an adult, I would kill for an hour in a vehicle I don’t have to drive!  To be alone with my thoughts, possibly someone to talk to.  Read, listen to music, stare at the scenery, I wouldn’t mind it at all.

I get that things need to change.  Personally, I think making Wilmington its own district isn’t such a bad idea.  I think a lot of the other districts should combine.  We really don’t need nineteen school districts in Delaware.  If those in power pushed this, it would happen.  But they are stuck in their ways and the way it is.  Change is very hard for Delaware.  I’ve realized that a lot lately.  But this whole “it has to happen now” thing is beginning to irritate me.  A lot.  If it has to happen now, why are there so many demanding conditions on the whole thing and timetables set up that almost seem to be a detriment rather than a help?

When I hear about Red Clay’s nightmare of an inclusion plan, I worry about the Christina Wilmington special needs kids who may be headed into a district that, on the surface, claims they are a success.  When I hear from parents that the flaws and issues facing that inclusion plan haven’t been solved and that the administration keeps canceling the Red Clay Inclusion Committee meetings for no reason at all, I worry we are sending them to a district that just doesn’t get it.  But once you start digging a bit, you find out Red Clay really isn’t that different from Christina in a lot of respects.  But what they do have is power.  They have very affluent suburbs.  Red Clay and Colonial own the Data Service Center.  They have the ability to authorize their own charter schools.  While it hasn’t been done in a long time, the option is there.  Christina has this option as well, but no one has utilized it.  Christina doesn’t have a Charter School of Wilmington or a Conrad to brighten their reputation (and test scores).  One of them is the most discriminatory institutes of learning I have ever seen in my life while calling themselves a public school.  But no one acts on this.  I have to wonder why that is?  We talk all the time about how we need to make life better for kids.  But we allow discrimination factories in our state that the citizens of the state pay taxes to fund.  What does that say about who we are as Delaware?  We can say we hate it, but when the time comes to push on these issues, and I mean really push, it gets very quiet.

If WEIC truly wants to make things equitable for the children of Wilmington, they need to stop doing it under this illusion of instant change or it is gone forever.  I would love instant change as well, but that doesn’t mean it is always good.  The redistricting plan, if it becomes law, is going to pump tons of money into Red Clay.  But it won’t last forever.  What happens when that money is gone four, five years down the road?  All these programs will happen based on that money.  When it disappears, what happens then?  Is Red Clay going to ask their citizens to pay for it?  Do we truly think the state will keep paying?  And why aren’t Brandywine and Colonial participating in this?  That was the original plan.  Do they not want “those kids” as well?  I know Colonial want to keep the ones they already have, but why did they never offer to take more?

If you are robbing Peter to pay Paul, you better be damn sure you are doing it for the best of all possible reasons.  If you are sending kids into a transition just for the sake of getting rid of them, you might want to take a good look in the mirror and think how it would feel if you were being tossed around like that.  If you’re doing this to gain power, or an illusion power, remember this is not a game.  These are children.  If you truly believe their lives will be better, than go with that feeling.  If you want a legacy, make sure it is a legacy for kids and not your name.  Names are only as important as how things are perceived in the long run.  If this ends bad, your name will be attached to it.

I know there are legislators who have or will vote yes for this because it is the political thing to do.  I know some of them really haven’t researched it enough to know what they are actually voting on.  I have to say, I respect the hell out of State Rep. Kim Williams.  Out of all the House Democrats, she was the only one to vote no.  Not because she doesn’t want a better life for these kids.  Not because she thinks Red Clay isn’t as good as Christina.  She voted no because she is deeply concerned about the funding for all this and what it will eventually mean for the constituents in her district.  To vote against party lines like that, especially when you are the last Democrat on the roll call and you know every single other Democrat in that room already voted yes, that takes courage and strength.

I know some Senators will fight this.  Even a Democrat or two.  I recently heard something about a tooth and a nail.  I heard about another one who is opposed to it but the power players feel they can handle this Senator.  Excuse me?  Handle?  Is this the FBI?  I didn’t know Delaware Senators had handlers.  I spent a lot of time in Legislative Hall this week.  I saw and heard a lot.  More this week alone than I think I have the entire time I’ve gone there during the 148th General Assembly.  While I’m not naming names here, I think some of the Delaware “elite” may want to put themselves in check.  You only have as much power as you think you have.  It can be taken away in an instant.  For those who think they are above the will of the people and all that, think twice.  I’m not the only one who talks, and I don’t talk as much as I could.  The “elite” would most likely have something to really fear if others did.  I would worry more about the things people say about you that you can’t hear.  That puts a chink in your armor and you don’t even know it’s happening.

I fear this will all end badly for these kids.  I agree with what some of the legislators said the other day.  This is a hope bill.  A hope bill with a hell of a lot of money, but even more important, children’s lives on the line.  We still have the Smarter Balanced Assessment which will be the measurement of how successful this thing is.  Success based on a failure of a test.  I have to ask… what the hell are we really thinking this will accomplish if it based on the very flawed measurement that will define this?  The same test that is making a complete mockery out of special education in our state?  If this thing is so important, so “has to happen now”, I would encourage all those who have children or grandchildren that could attend Red Clay district schools send their children there.  Choice them into Warner, or Bancroft, or Stubbs.  Only then will the words I hear so many of you saying actually mean you truly believe this.

What Happened AFTER The WEIC Vote

Immediately after the Wilmington redistricting bills passed the House, local and state media interviewed State Rep. Charles Potter and Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Chair Tony Allen.  Both stated this is a positive step forward.  Allen reiterated that if the funding isn’t there, the plan will be suspended by the commission.  He stressed the funding is critical at this point.

TonyAllenAfterHouseWEICVote

Afterwards, Delaware Governor Jack Markell came down from his Legislative Hall office and offered congratulations to Jea Street, Tony Allen, and Senator Margaret Rose-Henry.  After that, Markell, Allen, Dan Rich, Senator Henry and the Governor’s Education Policy Advisor, Meghan Wallace all went up to Markell’s office for a closed-door discussion.

JeaStreet

Rumors are swirling that New Castle County will be giving money towards the redistricting plan.  There has been no verification of this, how much money, or what the source of the money would be.

The redistricting resolution heads to the Senate now.  I’m hearing the full Senate vote will be much harder than the House.  Which means it may not have 100% Democrat Senate support either.  No one is offering names in the leaky corridors of Legislative Hall.

Delaware DOE Finds More Creative Ways To Screw Over Schools And Students With Disabilities

The federal government issues special education funds to states through IDEA.  The state issues them based on the federal funds available, as well as their own share of state funds.  In Delaware, this is the unit-count process.  Under federal law, they are beholden to use the laws in IDEA to issue these funds.  But now the Delaware Department of Education is looking at Smarter Balanced Assessment results in funding to local education agencies (schools).  The Exceptional Children Resources Group is looking to do this based on no state or federal laws.  Once again, the Delaware DOE, even under the leadership of Dr. Steven Godowsky, is creating their own rules and accountability scare tactics.

Could the DOE find more ways to screw over students with disabilities?  This is obviously tied to opt-out.  After high school juniors, the highest population of opt-outs was students with disabilities in Delaware.  By tying funding to SBAC performance, the DOE is trying to test schools and parents.  I can’t say I’m surprised.  When Acting US Secretary of Education John King is holding onto state assessments as “excellence in education” and views opt-out as unacceptable, the Markell flavored Delaware DOE is sure to follow suit.  When is this going to end?  When will we stop relying on high-stakes tests to determine students and schools worthiness?  This changes nothing.  Continue to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Delaware parents.  The testing window starts Wednesday.  Opt-out and refuse the test now!

Red Clay’s Merv Daugherty Stands Firm On Funding For WEIC

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Red Clay Consolidated School District Superintendent Merv Daugherty released a statement this morning about the State Board of Education’s very odd vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan last Thursday.  I talked with Merv yesterday at the Pathways To Prosperity conference and he told me the exact same thing!

I want to take this opportunity to reiterate and explain Red Clay School District’s position on the State Board of Education’s conditional rejection of the WEIC plan. From the beginning of this process, we have been clear that a guarantee of the plan would be supported with adequate and sufficient funding has been a critical non-negotiable item for our District. This is no mere parochial concern- we believe that it is crucial for the success of this endeavor. The plan submitted to the State Board of Education reflected the collaborative efforts of many stakeholders. Regrettably, the State Board of Education, rather than approving the plan as submitted, has attached two new conditions to it. One of these, the replacement of the word “shall” with “may” in item #2 of the resolution within the plan, is unacceptable to Red Clay. The distinction is not one of mere semantics- “may” and “shall” simply do not mean the same thing. “Shall” secures the adequate and sufficient funding the successful implementation of the plan requires; “may” throws it into doubt. Our concern was explained to the State Board of Education at their recent meeting. Indeed, they were explicitly told that their proposal “could be a deal-breaker.” Unfortunately, they failed to heed this warning. The possibility that the plan’s implementation could continue absent adequate and sufficient funding poses an unacceptable risk to Red Clay and does a disservice to the families and students involved. For these reasons, Red Clay cannot support the change submitted by the State Board last week.

Respectfully,
Merv

WEIC meets tonight to make some decisions about the State Board’s idiot vote.  At the Christina Board meeting last night it was revealed State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and Delaware Secretary of Education will appear at the meeting.  Well said Merv!

Why Should Red Clay Get $6 Million In Funding For Things All Delaware Schools Need & Deserve?

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It struck me last night that if the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting plan does pass the State Board of Education, the 148th General Assembly and the Governor that Red Clay will benefit immensely while every other district and charter school in the state will suffer.  The plan calls for Red Clay to get all these perks starting out.  I’ve heard Tony Allen say the redistricting is the “price for admission” to all the great things WEIC will offer.  But why in the world should Delaware taxpayers pay for one district to receive $6 million while the others have to wait?  We hear a lot of talk about how Wilmington needs less governance.  Allen and Dan Rich talk constantly about how there are 17 governing education bodies in Wilmington between the districts and charters.  So going down to 16 is the answer?

I was unable to attend the WEIC meeting last night, but I did communicate with some of the members through Facebook during the meeting.  My whole beef with this initiative is the lack of basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  For these students, this is their foundation, the building blocks of their future education in Delaware.  These students cannot afford to wait through the Response To Intervention process to “determine” if they should get special education services or not.  You can’t fix disabilities.  While Tony Allen did say he is working on getting this implemented into the state budget, I commented on this Facebook post that it should have ALWAYS been there.  The WEIC plan calls for this to start in Red Clay.  Sorry Mr. Allen, but what about all the other students with disabilities in the state?  Why should all those students be slighted so one district can get millions of dollars for taking $2500 more students, on top of the large increase in regular school funding they will get anyways just by having those 2500 students come into their district?

The biggest disappointment in WEIC for me thus far is their complete and utter failure to look at the elephant in the room: standardized testing.  This has done far more damage to Wilmington schools than anything else since The Neighborhood Schools Act.  And as we have advocates like Dr. Michael Lomax from the United Negro College Fund playing the civil rights and race cards to make sure Wilmington citizens continue to believe the lies about education in our state through the News Journal, the rest of the state has to wonder how much we can afford to “fix” the problems in education while ignoring the biggest problem of them all.  We have a gushing wound here folks, bleeding out faster than we can stop it.  Putting a Band-Aid on part of the wound while the rest bleeds out is not going to do anything.  Nobody wants to make the head-on charge against Governor Markell.  They believe he is infallible.  This ignorance is killing us in Delaware.  This blind loyalty to a man who continues to lead our children into menial jobs with their Common Core foundation is a disaster in the making.  There would be no need for opt-out at all if we can make the changes our state needs in education.

The fact WEIC is even considering making changes to their “final” draft based on the State Board’s cowardly no action is an injustice.  The State Board is going way beyond the scope of the legislation surrounding this, and there are a considerable amount of legal questions surrounding their vote of nothingness.  Forgive me for saying this, but Dan Rich’s voice in Delaware education for well over fifteen years is enough.  What has he done to improve education?  Who is he loyal to?  University of Delaware or Rodel or WEIC or Tony Allen or Wilmington or Governor Markell or the DOE?  See what I’m saying here?  So WEIC changes their “final” draft again, do they allow the local school boards a chance to vote on it or do they just say “Here you go State Board, this is what we came up with.”  Having one member of the Wilmington school boards on the commission does not give those people the power to speak on the board’s behalf with constantly changing plans.  Or maybe this has been the plan all along and we will see the true motivation behind WEIC in these new “final” plans.

If we want to fix Wilmington schools, this is how we do it.  About 8% of Delaware’s education funding comes from Federal dollars.   But 100% of the current problems are coming from their mandates.  Let’s dump the federal funding.  Completely.  Say bye-bye to it and all the poison and vitriol that comes with it.  We are talking about $80 million dollars we just don’t give to our schools.  In return, we also say goodbye to state mandated high-stakes assessments.  That will save us well over $20 million a year.  Since the DOE makes everything about the results of this testing, we would also no longer have a need for all these outside companies coming into Delaware to do their expensive research that tells us nothing new or twists data to make it look like our schools are worse than they already are.  This includes many programs through the University of Delaware.  This saves us another $30 million or more.  The DOE needs some massive trimming.  Since there are so many positions there tied to assessments, teacher evaluations, and professional development, we can easily save about $10 million right there alone.  Since we don’t have this fed money anymore, we get rid of the labels: priority, focus, focus plan, reward, recognition, etc.  All the money that the state ends up paying for that: $2.5 million a year.  The next part is a bit trickier and more complicated.  We need to recognize which legislators are riding Markell’s gravy train to destroy public education in Delaware.  We label them and do everything in our power to make sure they are NOT elected again next November.  Many of these legislators allow all the loopholes in the state budget that benefit charter schools and education reform companies.  We don’t need Longhurst’s ridiculous SAIL program for our kids after school.  We don’t need $11 million going to Delaware STARS for the early childhood education scams.  No more charter school transportation slush funds.  No more charter school “performance” awards.  No more minor capital funding for charter schools.  We rewrite the laws and get all this pork out of our state budget.  Now we have a surplus from this loss of federal funds.  We have more money.  This is where we reallocate this money to all our schools.  We write our own state standards, as far away from Common Core as we can get, and have true stakeholder input to determine what our children need to know.  We find ways to strengthen our teachers by giving them the resources they need: smaller classroom sizes, more support for special education students, and less administrative oversight.  We eliminate the biases for charters and get rid of enrollment preferences.  We take a strong look at our district formation in Delaware and consolidate many of them.  We redraw lines all over the state, not just in Wilmington.  We trash the current concept of school choice and disallow students from travelling out of district to go to different schools.  We find the flaws in our special education and we plug those holes.  We get rid of the cash going to all these administrators whose very jobs were created so students in their districts do better on the state test.  Teachers get to actually engage more with their students.  Students will care more about their education when true equity is realized.  Students who care more will know more and will do better.  That is the goal, not forcing them to care.

If companies like Rodel don’t want to play ball with the way things are done, we just don’t listen to them anymore.  We bite the bullet and call their bluff and say no to the privatization of our schools.  Because that is the end result.  All privatization does is give us more charters who perform the same as the deceased traditional school districts, or ones that are essentially free private schools who cherry-pick their way to the top of the school rankings.  Kind of like the class system in our country: the lower class, the middle class, and the wealthy class.  A lot in the bottom, some in the middle, and very few at the top.  This is the end goal with everything going on in education.  And as that middle class of education shrinks away, we are left with many at the bottom and a small percentage at the top.  This is playing out all over our country, in every single state.  The likelihood of your child getting a good education from the way things are now is getting slimmer by the day.  It isn’t just African-Americans.  It is whites, Hispanics, students with disabilities, low-income/poverty students, all of them.

All of this takes ignoring what those in power are telling us.  Those with money and influence.  If we want education to survive in Delaware and make it more of an equitable chance for our children, now is the time to institute radical change.  Not at the November elections.  Not when Jack Markell leaves office in January of 2017.  Now.  Now is the time.  These are my solutions for Delaware schools.  Not solutions for Red Clay schools with an expectation that the rest will get those solutions down the road.  That is cherry-picking, district style.  We are above that as a state.  Our children deserve better than that.  All students deserve the best education, despite what color or disability or economic background they are from.  So let’s stop using the students who are most at risk and start looking at ALL children as unique and finding out what their individual needs are.  We can’t lump children into a group and say this is what they need.  They are not they.  One student.  One set of needs.  One student at a time.

Key Audio Recording Links From State Board of Education Meeting Yesterday

Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Redistricting Plan.  Christina Priority Schools.  Delaware Met.  All are here.  Please listen.  Please pay attention.  Listen to the words that are said by our unelected Governor appointed State Board of Education.  This meeting touched on most of the hot education issues of our state in one form or another.  Then email your state legislator politely requesting legislation for our State Board of Education to be elected officials.

WEIC Public Comment: Part 2

Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities: Part 3

WEIC Presentation to State Board: Part 5

Christina Priority Schools (about 1/3rd of the way in), Update on Opt-Out Penalties via ESEA Waiver Request with US DOE: Part 6

Delaware Met (starts about 1/3rd of the way in for Del Met) and Charter Renewals: Part 7

 

15 Who Made An Impact In 2015: Penny Schwinn

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A year ago, if you asked anyone on the Christina School District Board of Education to name one person at the Delaware Department of Education, the first name that would have popped up was Penny Schwinn.  Penny was the DOE face behind the priority schools in Red Clay and Christina.  Penny is currently the Chief of Accountability and Performance at the DOE.  When the Christina board had to pick two members to meet with the DOE, it was to meet Schwinn.  After the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee announced their recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington, the DOE and Governor Markell backed off on Christina’s opposition to the priority schools.  The Christina board passed a resolution supporting the recommendations of WEAC.

Schwinn fell off my radar until a couple months later when she announced to the State Board of Education the SAT was being aligned to the Common Core.  I immediately jumped to the conclusion the SAT was being replaced by the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Many disagreed with me and told me I was wrong.  But essentially, that is what they are doing.  It won’t be the same test, but it will be more like SBAC than the previous SAT.  As well, the talk concerning the Assessment Inventory project showed the DOE was already planning this long before Governor Markell first mentioned it in March.

In May, I was given several emails from a FOIA concerning the priority schools which showed Schwinn’s role in the whole planning stage.  This gave a lot of insight into the whole debacle and how the DOE really didn’t know what the heck they were doing.

The subject of funding for the priority schools in Red Clay came up in a big way over the summer, as the DOE wasn’t giving the district their promised funding.  While never confirmed, this led directly to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s ouster at the Delaware DOE.

In September, after months of waiting, Schwinn’s group released the Smarter Balanced Assessment results to Delaware.  They had the results for quite a while before they were released which led to a lot of concern and speculation on my part as to why.  The results really didn’t show any earth-shattering increases for Delaware students, but overall, most students did worse on SBAC than they had on DCAS>

While all of this was going on, Schwinn was meeting with several superintendents, district admins, a rep from DSEA and a rep from the Delaware PTA on the Delaware School Success Framework.  The Accountability Framework Working Group was under the radar for most Delawareans until I accidentally found all their meeting notes and found the participation rate opt-out penalty.  This led to feverish and frantic emails to Schwinn and several complaints I filed with the US DOE and the Delaware DOJ.  As part of the US DOE mandated “school report card”, the US DOE gave “guidance” on the state’s new accountability systems.

Schwinn watched as the group unanimously voted to get rid of the participation rate penalty as a multiplier that would punish schools with high opt-out rates.  Eventually, newly christened Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky blew off the group’s recommendations and the DOE submitted the harsh opt-out penalty to the US DOE as part of their ESEA Flexibility Waiver.  Schwinn recommended, at the behest of Governor Markell, one of the toughest accountability systems for any state in the country.

As this was all coming to a head, Schwinn resigned from the Delaware DOE and is expected to leave by the end of this year.  Schwinn’s year and a half tenure at the Department was certainly full of controversy and angst for many school districts.  I am very curious where she will end up next…

Governor Markell Tells WEIC Funding Will Not Come From Red Clay Residents

At the WEIC meeting tonight, the surprise visit from Governor Markell had a big surprise!  The Governor told WEIC and the crowd that the funding for redistricting WILL NOT COME FROM RED CLAY RESIDENTS.  The commission previously said they were going to ask the Governor for $6 million in the Fiscal Year 2017 which the Governor will unleash at the end of January.  I’m already wondering where this magical $6 million is going to come from when we are already facing a potential budget deficit north of $200 million.  Just getting this out there.  Remember this, bookmark this.

Washington Supreme Court Ruling On Charters Not Being Public Schools: Could This Happen In Delaware?

The news broke tonight and all over the country folks are having a collective gasp and bewilderment at the Washington Supreme Court ruling on charter schools being unconstitutional in Washington.  Could this happen in Delaware?  There are some very strong arguments for this.  Given the nature of referendums in Delaware, and how charter schools get local funding, it could if there was strong support for it.  Do we have that in Delaware?

State Rep. Kim Williams really drove it home on social media tonight:

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I’ve always felt if charters want to be called public schools than they need to behave like public schools.  I’m not saying they all go against this grain, but enough of them do that it causes huge issues with feeder patterns.  I’m talking about you Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy and Sussex Academy.  But even more than that, the funding issues with Delaware charters cause more problems than they are worth.  Christina School District is definitely feeling the brunt of this right now, but what happens once the charter moratorium is lifted and more begin to open up across the state?  I just heard today that First State Montessori is looking to open a second charter in Sussex County.  And what about when schools like Family Foundations Academy get modifications approved to increase their enrollment?  MOT Charter School just opened a high school in Middletown/Odessa and that will surely affect enrollment in the Appoquinimink School District.

The way charters are funded in Delaware just doesn’t work.  There is only so much money to spread around, and funds getting squeezed out of the traditional school districts isn’t working.  It is creating chaos, and this will only increase.  Vo-techs are funded by line item on the budget.  Why aren’t we doing this with charter schools?

The political capital to do away with charters as public schools does not exist in Delaware right now.  There is far too much public support for them.  Some key differences between Washington and Delaware spotlight this.  Washington just began their journey with charters in the past few years.  Delaware’s began twenty years ago.  Teachers are allowed to strike in Washington (as they are doing in Seattle right now) and Delaware’s can not.  Despite Bill Gates coming from Washington, this state sure knows how to challenge the reformers in Education.  Between high opt-out numbers, dropping out of Common Core, and now this, they are the state to watch!

Back To School Message For Students, Parents, Teachers & Schools

In Delaware, all public school students are back in school.  This will be a very interesting year ahead for all of us.  The invasion of corporate education reform will be felt the strongest this year.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment results will be released on a statewide level in a couple days and the results will go to parents in a few weeks.  Priority and focus schools will feel the pain of submitting plans to the Delaware Department of Education.  Opt-out will become bigger and more complicated.  Schools will lose essential funding due to budget issues in our state government that will continue to go unaddressed.  Reports will come out showing how some charters in this state should practice certain application tactics.  Parents and teachers will complain about things.  The DOE will make it look like everything is awesome when they come out with press releases.  Governor Markell will most likely have about 20 weekly messages and 30 public comments about how great education is but how much we need to do to make Delaware the best state in the country for education.  A new Secretary of Education will decide if the DOE should stay on course or course-correct.  The 148th General Assembly will debate education issues for our children and the DOE and their reform buddies will lobby the legislators for their own agendas.  Parents will become increasingly vocal about hotbed education issues in our state.  Common Core will be a common pain for students and parents.  Wilmington schools will be the front page headline for most schools in the state.  Vouchers won’t go anywhere.  Most of the people in the state will still have no clue who Rodel is.  I will keep blogging about all of this.  But at the end of the day, it’s about our children.  We all need to keep them safe and keep them learning.  The rest is just detail.  Best of luck to all involved in any way with education this year!

Wilmington Education Improvement Commission First Meeting Notes

I attended the first meeting of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission this evening.  It was held at the Red Clay Consolidated School District office in Wilmington.  The meeting was very informal, and non-commission members of the audience were able to ask questions outside of the “formal” public comment period.  It was more of a Town Hall atmosphere.

As Kilroy’s Delaware pointed out earlier this evening, this is in sharp contrast to the town hall meeting WEIC had in Red Clay last night, where the comments from the audience were not as reserved at the main meeting tonight.  I strongly encourage all the parents who are attending these town halls to go to the regular meetings.  First off, most of the WEIC members will be there, and two, this is where questions may have answers.  Not that the town halls aren’t important.

Tonight’s meeting did answer some questions of my own.  During my public comment, I asked the members of WEIC why this was going on, the DOE’s Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) and the Rodel/Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025.  I advised they could all start bumping into each other.  Dan Rich, the WEIC Policy Advisor, advised the SREO sprung out of the charter school moratorium legislation, House Bill 56.  He said Governor Markell saw it and ran with it.  For the Rodel thing, he stated there group is more for actual education in the classroom as opposed to redistricting and funding our schools.  I then asked why, if there is a charter school moratorium, why are schools like Family Foundations Academy allowed to submit a major modification request to increase enrollment.  He said that was done prior to the law being enacted.  WEIC member Chandra Pitts made a point to reinforce WEIC is not against charter schools, and neither was WEAC.  So yes, this was intentional in some respects, but not overtly planned.

WEIC member Vicki Seifred said she is hearing all the right things, but there is skepticism that this will be the group to fix everything.  She also pointed out that even though WEIC wants more district and charter collaboration, there is a lot of animosity, especially between some of the Wilmington districts and the more “high-performing” charters and this needs to be addressed.  (Editor’s note: I think the upcoming final report coming from the Enrollment Preference Task Force will provide some type of resolution to these types of situations.)

Yvonne Johnson brought up the million-dollar question about funding, and she stated even though she has chaired a referendum and been very involved in education matters for 20+ years, the whole funding issues facing WEIC and the redistricting are new to her.  She asked if members can be brought up to speed on how to explain this at the Town Hall meetings at the four Wilmington school districts going forward.  Red Clay Chief Financial Officer Jill Flores advised she may be able to come up with some type of presentation for this as questions come up.

Basically, the first meeting was introductions, even with members of the public (which I thought gave it a very personal touch: kudos to Tony Allen for this), and going over the basic layout of the whole thing.  The committee chairs will be able to pick their own members on those groups, but of course the WEIC leaders do have some “suggested” members on these groups.  Tony Allen did say he expects every WEIC member to be on one of the committees.

Jackie Kook, a teacher in Christina as well as the Vice-President of the Christina Educators Association, said she is really hoping all this works out for the best of Wilmington students.  A sentiment echoed by State Rep. Kim Williams.

The incoming Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Sodowsky, was in attendance.  He seemed more personable in two hours than Mark Murphy did in three years!  Tony Allen did mention several times that WEIC does not answer to the DOE or Governor Markell.  While I want to believe this, I don’t trust the DOE or Markell, and for good reason.  We really have no clue about Sodowsky yet, but I’m glad he felt it was necessary to show up here.  He did say he would have probably been involved with this Commission through his work at University of Delaware, but something else came up…

At first I didn’t get why this group has to act so fast with their implementation plan to the State Board of Education.  WEIC has until 12/31/15 to get the State Board their plans, the State Board has until 3/31/16, and then the General Assembly takes the ball with it from there and if they pass a joint resolution, it goes to Governor Markell.  I think this last part is the reason for the tight time-frame.  This will essentially be the last General Assembly Governor Markell deals with.  After 6/30/16, they will be gone until the same time Governor Markell leaves office.  And with upcoming elections, the next General Assembly could look radically different than the one we have now.  Plus, I’m sure Jack Markell will be using this on his resume for the next fifty years…if it works.

Aside from State Rep. Kim Williams, the only other legislators in attendance were the two on WEIC, State Rep. Charles Potter and Senator David Sokola.  Allen wanted to give a shout-out to Williams who attended every single meeting of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee last fall and winter.

No questions were asked about a Wilmington all-charter school district, and even if Governor Markell may want that, I don’t think it would fly with this group’s make-up.  Yes, there are some very pro-charter folks on it, but there is also a balance with many representing traditional school districts.  Very smart move for whoever came up with this!

News Journal Editorial Fails To Mention “Funding” In WEIC Opinion Piece

The Delaware News Journal is an interesting newspaper.  Read by about 300,000 citizens of Delaware, they are always quick to write an editorial about anything education related very soon after it happens.  This week it was the announcement of who was on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and what the committees are.

This “Our View” opinion piece raised some interesting points, but it failed to mention the critical part about redistricting any Christina schools to Red Clay- funding.  This is the biggest challenge facing this whole issue, and it seems like nobody really wants to talk about it at this point.  I know, the group doesn’t even start meeting until next week.  But if the funding questions aren’t answered very fast, this will never happen.

There is already serious talk about changing the way homes are assessed in Delaware.  Most agree it is too low.  But if you thought folks were screaming at everyone over two failed referendums in Christina, wait until any type of legislation is introduced to tackle that one!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for it.  My home is assessed at 1/3rd or less of it’s market value.  Property assessments are always lower than the market value, but not that much!  But there are many in the state who don’t want to pay one penny more for education.  Some just don’t want to pay more, or they feel the districts and charters have too much wasteful spending, or they think the State of Delaware should cut a lot of their education reforms and give more to the districts.  While that would certainly help, would it be enough for 133,000 public school students in the state?

The editorial does talk about “a sluggish economy that limits choices” and “revenue shortfalls“, but nothing about the very large elephant in the room over where the hell funding comes in for this.  As we are seeing with the Red Clay priority schools, funding has already come up as a huge issue.  What makes anyone think the state can handle something more immense?

But the editorial did mention the parent opt-out issue, but not as something parents wanted, but this:

“And in June, some legislators led a rebellion against the governor on mandatory state testing.  Now they are threatening to override the Governor’s veto.”

First off, it wasn’t “some” legislators.  It was almost 3/4 of them.  This is where the News Journal editorial crowd always loses me.  It makes the legislators look like a bunch of rowdy cowboys who only passed the bill to tick off Jack.  It was more like this: they heard the voices of their constituents and acted.  Just because it goes against the almighty Jack Markell doesn’t make it a rebellion.  If anything, it signaled the first sign of Spring in Delaware education legislation after a very long Winter.

Delaware DOE’s Out Of Control Spending Spree In July

The Delaware Department of Education is a cash-cow bonanza for education reform companies! Delaware Online Checkbook came out with the July 2015 numbers on the 15th, and the Delaware Department of Education looks like they don’t have any controls on their spending.  All told, they spent $13,103,296.36 for the month of July.  This is not unusual, but it’s WHAT they are spending the money on.  A lot of these are standard services, food for schools, salaries, operational costs and so on.  But the amounts they are spending on outside consultants and vendors is very high.  I went through, one by one, and looked into each company.  Some of them I was unable to figure out what kind of service they could be providing for the DOE.  The first figure is the amount DOE sent payment to in July 2015.  Then I went through and figured out how much the DOE spent with these companies and consultants over the past five fiscal years, from 2011-2015.  Delaware Online Checkbook only goes back to 2011, so the amounts could be higher in some cases…

Achievement Network Ltd. (helps schools “boost” student learning): $17,500, previous five fiscal years (hard to tell, many companies with words “achieve” in them, mostly providing “material” to school districts): $0.00

American Institutes for Research  (assessment vendor for Smarter Balanced Assessment, was also vendor for DCAS):  $1,933,989, previous five years: $36,652,681.87, it is hard to say what the budgeted amount is for the contracts with this “non-profit” because the DOE doesn’t list the awarded contracts anywhere!

Amplify Education Inc.  (previously Wireless Generation Inc., built data longitudinal system for DOE, provides “education material” aka Common Core for DE schools): $60,115.00, previous five fiscal years (including Wireless Generation): $10,461,101.00, as contracted vendor w/DOE under Amplify from 9/25/14-6/30/15: $725,980.00, actual money spent: $1,947,733.00, money spent over agreed-upon contract amount: $1,221,753.00

Department of Education (Indirect Cost, DOE claimed to the Joint Finance Committee and the General Assembly these are salary costs stemming from Race To The Top): $55,322.41, previous five fiscal years: $1,069,287.66

Derek J. Nino (Consultant w/Relay Graduate School): $9,940.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

Double Line Inc. (education data management): $30,126.75, previous five fiscal years: $88.042.25

Education First Consulting (just another corporate education reform company to help “fix” education): $12,000, previous five fiscal years: $349,423.45

ESP Solutions Group (another education data company): $15,830, previous five fiscal years: $2,395,932.50

Evergreen Evaluation & Consulting (evaluation education data): $3,900.00, previous five fiscal years: $192,200.00

Federal Education Group PLLC (help clients understand Federal education rules) $14,975.00, previous five fiscal years: $136,775.00

Greatschools (online school search website): $15,000, previous five fiscal years: $1,090,749.50

Hendy Avenue Consulting LLC (teacher evaluation company): $21,950.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

iAssessment (help clients develop iPad programs for students): $49,999.00, previous five fiscal years: $229,771.30

KSA Plus Communications Inc. (an “improving schools” communication company): $16,105.00, previous five fiscal years: $52,261.00

Marshall Consulting Company (not sure, many companies w/same name): $8,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

MBO Partners (a consultant “head-hunter” company):  $7,500.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

MH Miles Company CPA PC (do accounting and consulting services): $16,700.00, previous five fiscal years: $229,150.00

Middlebury Interactive Languages (digital language learning company): $26,146.00, previous five fiscal years: $646,406.50

Myriam Met (consultant for foreign languages): $14,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $51,900.00

National Louis University (offers services for “reaching students” and “strengthening teachers”, contract w/DOE for “early learning” online professional development for educators): $7,700.08, previous five fiscal years: $656,630.59, contracted amount through 12/15: $714,978.10

NCS Pearson Inc. (yes, it is THAT Pearson): $19,000.00, previous five fiscal years for DOE: $3,648,335.65, for all of Delaware: $8,057,105.63

New Teacher Center (another making great students by “accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers and leaders” company): $29,962.00, previous five fiscal years: $158,425.00

Nicole Klues (a “blended learning” or “personalized learning” consultant): $9,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $34,500.00

Partnership To Advance Learning (a Microsoft “partnership” w/Lamar University, more digital language stuff): $26,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $48,000.00

Piper Riddle (independent consultant to help teachers with Common Core):  $4,080.00, previous five fiscal years: $0.00

Rand Corporation (contractor for Delaware STARS program): $52,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $1,535,681.58, contracted amount until 12/15: $1,900,000.00

Research In Action Inc. (contractor for DPAS-II evaluation): $6,402.45, previous five fiscal years: $1,712,902.44

Richard Colvin (contractor for Delaware DOE communications strategies): $18,240.00, previous five fiscal years (2015 only): $136,880.00

Rodel Charitable Foundation-DE (no contract w/them right now):  $133,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $387,454.60

Ronald Berry (recruitment manager for DE Talent Cooperative): $14,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $57,540.00

Schoology Inc. (“learning management” system, currently in many DE schools): $264,588.48, previous five fiscal years: $0.00 (many school districts use them)

Teach For America (fast-track teacher prep program): $3,634.92, previous five fiscal years: $799,389.85

Teaching Strategies LLC (early childhood “support for active learning”): $112,508.00, previous five fiscal years: $677,662.29

The Hanover Research Council LLC (does consultancy work regarding grants): $33,000.00, previous five fiscal years: $30,000.00

The New Teacher Project Inc. (another “great” teacher training company):  $20,000.00, past five fiscal years: $465,646.65

Thomas Sauer (consultant on World Language Immersion for DOE):  $6,000.00, past five fiscal years: $16,000.00

U.S. Education Delivery Institute (Dr. Gray on DE State Board of Education sits on the board of this company that helps education leaders work “smarter”): $30,293.25, past five fiscal years: $290,342.00

University of Delaware (not sure what the exact nature of work is, DOE has numerous projects going on with them): $545,081.01, not doing previous years because it is next to impossible to get this one right.

University of Wisconsin-Madison (this one was a bit tricky, but the consultant is actually a company called Education Analytics, usual education reform company who will “help”): $110,492.00, past five fiscal years including Education Analytics: $1,004,462.00

If you add up all the funds spent for these companies, consultants, and “non-profits”, the grand total just for July 2015 is $3,195,999.34.  What I find very interesting is the amounts going to iAssessment.  The DOE has no contract with this company, but the threshold for contract requirements is $50,000 in a fiscal year.  For the past two years, the DOE has spent exactly $49,999.00 in each year to avoid having to sign a contract.  And what has Rodel been doing for the DOE that would warrant a $133,000.00 check going out to them?  I haven’t seen ANY contract with them.  As money pours out of the DOE like a leaking pipe, with NO accountability or controls in place, how can the DOE judge school districts and charters on their own spending when they can’t even control themselves?

One thing is for sure, the DOE will certainly be focusing on the “World Immersion” program and personalized learning in the future.  They are spending a large portion of funds on consultants to get more information on this.  Why don’t they just use Google like I do to get information?  It’s free and it’s probably more reliable!

Even more curious is the fact that NO funds have gone out to Data Recognition Corporation, ever!  This is the scoring vendor for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  At the Delaware PTA Kent County Parent Town Hall on opt-out, a representative from the Delaware State Board of Education specifically said this was the vendor for scoring the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  We know the DOE has the results, and testing ended for some schools in March/early April, so why aren’t we paying this company?  Or is it rolled into the contract with American Institutes for Research? The DOE actually confirmed this company is the hand scorer in this link:

Click to access Mar%202015%20Newsletter.pdf

There are many other companies and consultants the DOE works with.  This is just a snapshot of one month’s spending by the runaway train called DOE money.  Will the legislators start to reign them in?  They need to because when school districts such as Christina are literally starving for funds and the DOE drops $3 million in one month for a lot of unnecessary spending, we have to wonder what this is all for.