Last evening, the Christina School District Board of Education held their second board meeting of the month. There were only two items on the agenda: a recommendation to approve the Memorandum of Understanding between the district and Governor Carney’s office and approval of their final Fiscal Year 2018 budget.
The board punted on the MOU vote again, choosing to table a vote until their February 6th board meeting. All five board members in attendance voted yes on tabling the vote. They were George Evans, Fred Polaski, Meredith Griffin, Harrie Ellen Minnehan, and John Young. Board members Elizabeth Paige and Angela Mitchell did not attend the meeting. The board has voted to table this vote several times now which must assuredly be frustrating Carney’s office. When it came time to vote on their final budget for this fiscal year, all board members in attendance voted yes with the exception of Young. The board voted on the same recommendation last week, but that failed with a 3-2 vote.
Governor John Carney’s office mentioned the proposed MOU in Carney’s proposed Annual Appropriations bill yesterday. They have 15 million in capital funds earmarked for the district and 1.5 million in opportunity grants. The capital funds would be used for construction costs for some of their Wilmington schools as the MOU calls for consolidation of Christina’s Wilmington schools from five to two. Carney also mentioned Christina in his State of the State address last week.
The next day I posted a bold prediction for Christina. I received no response from Carney’s office or Christina School District about those predictions. I heard this information from various sources in Delaware. The odd part is NO ONE has been talking about it aside from some messages I received from some curious and very worried district teachers. I was not able to reveal my sources to those individuals.
Last night, the Christina School District Board of Education voted again to table a vote on the Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the Delaware Dept. of Education, and Governor Carney’s office. From the sounds of it, Carney is getting very impatient with Christina. Board member John Young included a quote from Carney and his response to it on a Facebook post today.
“I’m disappointed that the board did not act tonight to address the serious challenges facing students in these Wilmington schools. We have made it a priority to work in collaboration with Christina to do right by these students. We have offered significant new resources to support educators and students in Wilmington. We can’t afford to wait and delay on this issue any longer.” – John Carney
Well, we do share an emotion: It’s so disappointing to have a partner at the table use this situation for political gain. Not surprising, just disappointing. The MOU currently on the table is the Governor’s version. It makes barely a fraction of the commitment necessary to help our students, is the furthest thing from “significant resources”, and seems to be hyper-focused on only getting one thing done: a dual-generation center. This leaves all our K-8 students in the rain holding a wet bag of nothing, Governor John Carney. Your charged declaration proves what I have sadly suspected: this plan isn’t about helping our students at all. The board, while tabling this terribly lopsided version, ardently pledged to stay at the table and work. I know that’s what I’m committed to doing. I’d really rather not spend much effort like this responding to divisive nonsense like your declaration; however, I will not sit idly by as you disparage the process and hard work of all partners, including your own staff. Let’s get to work instead of name calling and finger pointing, Governor.
As always, I’m right here.
Young gave his cell phone number after the last sentence but I do not feel comfortable providing that on a blog. When Young addressed him as Governor John Carney, that was linked to his Facebook profile.
I think things are about to get very interesting in Christina. As I’ve written before, Carney does NOT like anyone challenging him. He takes that very seriously. Will Carney try to pull some type of “priority schools” stunt on Christina if they do not act on the MOU? I would be willing to bet he will. Something will happen. I have no idea what that is.
As well, the Christina board voted NO on their final Fiscal Year 2018 budget. While this does not mean the state will stop disbursing funds to the district, it could affect their local payments. It certainly did not make Christina Chief Financial Officer Robert Silber or Superintendent Richard Gregg have a good night. Things are getting interesting up there.
Led by Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, a total of thirteen Delaware legislators wrote a letter to Delaware Secretary of Education about the recently announced match tax giveaway to Delaware charter schools. I wholeheartedly agree. FY2018 budgets have already been approved by local school boards, tax warrants have gone out to the three counties, and districts are still hurting from the budget cuts when Governor Carney signed the budget on July 3rd. I hope Secretary Bunting ends this ridiculous farce. Watch the charters try to sue the state if Bunting decides to drop it because THEY based their budgets on it. Sometimes I just want to scream at the money grabs going on in Delaware…
The voting for the Delaware State Education Association leadership officially ends tomorrow, January 23rd. All ballots must be in as per the DSEA election website. Initial results will be shared with the Executive Director and Business Manager of DSEA on Thursday, and preliminary results will be announced on January 27th. If there is a challenge based on the preliminary results, that would have to be in by February 3rd. At the DSEA Executive Board meeting on February 16th, the results will be officially ratified.
There are four races for the President slot and two for the Vice-President. For President, there is Karen Crouse, Mike Matthews, Danny Rufo, and Dom Zaffora. For Vice-President, there is Jackie Kook and Stephanie Ingraham. Two are running on a “ticket” per se, but that ticket could be divided pending the results. Those “tickets” are Matthews/Kook and Crouse/Ingraham.
What is at stake with this election? The teacher’s union in Delaware would have a lot to contend with in the coming years. The three-year terms would usher in the new Every Student Succeeds Act in Delaware along with mounting budget issues that will almost assuredly result in education cuts along the way. Add on the new Carney administration and a promise from Governor John Carney to make the Delaware Department of Education less of an accountability factory and more of a resource center for districts and charters. However, much of that will depend on the final approved ESSA state plan. Even though ESSA was meant to eliminate a lot of the federal oversight, accountability regulations won’t change things that much. And if history is an indicator, the Delaware DOE loves accountability. The role of teacher evaluations will always be a major issue with DSEA. Other potential factors affecting them, depending on the state budget, could be the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan or the possibility of consolidating districts around the state becoming more than a discussion point.
Eight days after the 2016 elections are over (Thank God!) the Delaware Department of Education will discuss their FY2018 budget with the Office of Management and Budget. This is open to the public, but I recommend getting there early so you can get a seat. The budget for the next fiscal year is going to get crazy. First off, we have the Every Student Succeeds Act. In Delaware’s first draft plan, you can see that a lot of areas in the law will be depending on state funding. Which means the feds will have to decide on our state plan assuming these items would pass in our budget. Delaware is submitting their final plan to the U.S. Dept. of Education on March 6th. That is 116 days before the Delaware General Assembly would even pass the FY2018 budget. So what happens if the feds approve our plan but we don’t have the necessary funding allocations for our plan? The feds would presumably pass (or reject) our plan within 120 days of submission. That puts Delaware in the position of getting the approval after the end of legislative session. Not to mention the fact we will have a new Governor (presumably John Carney) with his own ideas on education. By the time this hearing comes, the next Governor will have been elected. But further complicating matters is the exiting Governor, Jack Markell. His administration will work up the proposed budget which won’t be released until January 2017. And if I know Jack Jack, he will attempt to get all his friends some last-minute goodies! Add in the fact that pretty much everyone in the state wants to trim down the Delaware Dept. of Education and make it less of a bureaucratic nightmare. This will be a must-attend meeting if you can make it. But, of course, it is at 10am in the morning when the true stakeholders in education… students, parents and teachers… are busy doing what they do best.