Delaware Governor John Carney held a closed-door, non-public, secret meeting with two Christina Board of Education members yesterday. Which members? And what was the discussion? And which board member got shafted when they should have been there based on the discussion? Continue reading “Carney Has Closed-Door, Non-Public, Secret Meeting With Select Christina Board Members”
At the Christina School District Board of Education meeting last night, the board voted on the very controversial safety zone policy. This policy would not allow ICE officials to just enter a school to question or detain a student who is here illegally. They would first have to go through the Superintendent of the district. But board member Harrie Ellen Minnehan introduced a whopper of an amendment to the policy!
It seemed like a very Sokola moment. Her amendment was to have the Delaware Secretary of Education sign off on the safety zone policy in the event it should pass last night. Since when does ANY school district need the Secretary of Education to sign off on local policy? Yes, let’s completely evaporate local control and cede all district policy to the state! Thank God the amendment failed. The two supporters of the amendment were the same two board members that voted no on the policy: Minnehan and George Evans.
Evans and Minnehan’s line of thought was that the buildings are owned by the state. Okay. And do the schools not rent them out essentially? It would be like a landlord telling a convenience store they can’t sell soda or candy. Not to mention the fact that I don’t think a local school board can force the head of a Delaware state agency to do anything without state legislative changes. I have no doubt that when Dr. Susan Bunting sees this she is going to have a chuckle. For years, this district has desperately tried to hold onto local control and Minnehan was ready to give it away over a policy she didn’t seem to like.
Meanwhile, Republicans, Democrats, Greens, and Libertarians alike are battling it out over the approved policy over on my Facebook page. As I told one commenter, it’s like throwing a donut across a room, yelling “Food Fight!” and just standing back as chaos reigns. I love Delaware!
A Christina School District Board of Education member unexpectedly resigned from the board. Which one? Continue reading “Breaking News Shocker: Board Member Resigns From Christina Board of Education”
Yes, the words “chicken-fried awesome” were used by a Christina board member last night. But first they had to get through 45 excruciating minutes of approving their agenda. Board member Harrie-Ellen Minnehan introduced motions to remove three action items from the agenda and to table another item. That was just the beginning of a meeting that had topics as varied as car shopping to a very strong use of the word culpability. A member of the audience drew a great rendering of the meeting and asked me to put it in this article.
The four motions Minnehan put forth failed to move forward. Board member Shirley Saffer kept alleging Minnehan had a personal agenda going on. There was a ton of discussion about the motions and how it was unprecedented for one board member to attempt to remove action items like that. As a result of the motions, what should have been a 1-2 minutes process turned into a 45 minute ordeal for the audience. A lot of the audience had come for the presenting of the Honor Roll which is done right after the approval of the agenda and board minutes.
The charter settlement with Christina fell after a 3-4 vote by the board, exactly how the vote went when they voted for the settlement two weeks ago. Board member Fred Polaski tried to convince everyone that he believed the district would lose if it went to court with the charters. He offered no viable reason for why he felt they would lose. But it didn’t seem to matter because the board was clearly divided on many of the same action items with Polaski, Minnehan, George Evans and Meg Mason on one side. On the other were members John Young, Saffer, and President Elizabeth Paige. Young stated the minutes of the executive meeting would now become public since the need for the meeting was no longer valid and the settlement is public. He said he will be submitting updated minutes on that meeting. He also stated he had concerns about the culpability of the district in the matter. He also had grave concerns about the back and forth between the district and attorneys over Thanksgiving weekend and what amounted to a short time period of 90 minutes for the board to review the settlement. Young said that would make for a very interesting FOIA request. He had many concerns about the authority of charter leaders in signing the document, such as an Interim Principal, a Head of School, or a Board President. He reviewed many charter school bylaws and did not see that authority granted to those parties without permission from the entire board. He also did not special board meetings for the charter boards to vote on the settlement.
One of the shockers of the evening (and there were many), was the situation with the Montessori program in Christina. There was an action item to end the program. This became the controversy of the evening as parents and staff members gave public comment in support of the program. When it came time for the board to discuss the matter, Paige asked a question that solidified a crucial problem with the district, that of transparency. Delaware schools receive academic excellence units which they are free to cash in and do as they please. The Montessori program had three of those units. Paige asked about them and it was revealed by the district the Honors Academy would use three academic excellence units. While the district hemmed and hawed about the “coincidence”, Paige said the “optics” look very bad. In a rare moment of unity, the board voted 6-1 in favor of keeping the program with Polaski as the lone no vote. This prompted Young’s quote of the evening. He said the district believes competition is so “chicken-fried awesome” that they should be doing everything they can to get students who are a wait list at First Sstate Montessori Academy into Christina’s Montessori program. Board member Polaski suggested partnering up with the Wilmington charter school to have them open a satellite school in the Christina school district. No one even responded to this rather absurd notion. But it did point to what I see as a very charter friendly Polaski.
Once again, with a 3-4 vote, the board voted against annulling the Honors Academy vote from November with the same 3-4 blocks. Young pointed out that many of Christina’s existing Cambridge programs are disproportionate with the amount of minorities represented in them. The irony of the district wanting to close a program where there is equity (the Montessori program) in favor of moving forward with a program which has a strong potential of inequity (The Honors Academy) did not escape members of the audience. Concerns around placement tests, a parent letter, and standardized test scores were the chief reasons three of the board members wanted to annul the prior vote. There were also concerns around opt out and how the application for the academy could penalize those students who were opted out despite a board policy that explicitly forbids that.
The point of exhaustion for members of the audience surrounded the district’s Superintendent interviews. Yesterday, the Delaware Attorney General answered a FOIA complaint surrounding the board’s November executive meeting to formulate questions for the Superintendent candidate. Some board members refused to participate in the meeting since they had already figured out it would be a FOIA violation. This prompted the board to make public the questions for candidates. There was also a matter about interviewing the candidates the week before Christmas and a mad rush to get it done. As a result, the board voted in favor of naming an Interim Superintendent with Noreen LaSorsa taking on the role. It was agreed the board would conduct Superintendent interviews the first week of January. Saffer argued the board needed the public to see the candidates in the schools and interacting with students and staff as they had done in the past. Board member Evans said he would not participate in any of that. Young’s action item to begin the Superintendent search again to get a more diverse pool of candidates fell with a 2-5 vote with Saffer and Young as the two no votes.
This board is a house divided. Mostly between common sense and… I don’t know what. On the one side we have Young, Paige, and Saffer who seem to know the law and sees how decisions made today could cause problems in the future. On the other is the not-so Fantastic Four who always seem to be in this frantic hurry to get things done now without looking at all of the angles. They also seem to be easily intimidated by the district and outside forces. This shapes their votes. Minnehan took a pointed jab at Young as she said she would never want to go car-shopping with him because he takes too long to make a decision. I would rather have that than winding up with a lemon Mrs. Minnehan! As I drove down to Dover after this very long meeting which entered an actual new day, I saw a warrior district succumbing to the privatization movement that is paralyzing public education. I believed for a long time Christina was the last hold-out in Delaware, but after some of the votes last night, it was painfully obvious the last blockade fell. At this point, Delaware needs a hero. We need an Obi-Wan moment where someone answers the call of “you’re my only hope“. Will that person come from Christina or somewhere else?
I gave the following public comment to the board last night but despite my six minutes thanks to borrowed time, I was not able to get to the end of it which I will notate in the below comment.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the Christina School District Board of Education. It has been a long time since I came up to this podium to speak before this board. The last time I did so was seventeen months ago. I believe Ms. Minnehan was the Board President at that time. A lot happened at that meeting. I did want to offer an apology in regards to that. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to give public comment here.
I have a lot to talk about tonight, mostly in regards to the charter school shakedown, er, uhm, lawsuit.
First, can you please, for the love of all we hold sacred, fix the sound for the audio recordings on your website? It is a recurring issue and I’m certain it wouldn’t cost that much money to correct this.
Second, I am very curious why a FOIA request I sent to the district was never followed up on. I sent a FOIA request to the district asking for the past three years of all air quality inspections for every single one of the Christina schools. I received an email back that a cost estimate would be forthcoming. That was almost two months ago. I received nothing. As Delaware state code gives any public agency a period of 15 business days to respond to a FOIA request, the district has violated FOIA. Please remedy this by tomorrow so I do not have to file another FOIA complaint with the Delaware Attorney General’s office. Which I’m sure this district has had enough of. But I digress.
I do not believe the board should even entertain not voting on the rescission of the settlement. I am glad that motion failed. (I adlibbed the last sentence because of the board not passing Minnehan’s motion but I am not entirely sure on the wording). I believe it is very important you vote in the majority to vote yes on rescinding the settlement. As we all know, this was brought forth by Greg Meece over at Newark Charter School. What has never been answered is HOW Greg Meece suddenly, last winter, decided to get a meeting with the fine people at the Delaware DOE. How, all of a sudden, Meece knew EXACTLY what to look for. According to a letter Meece wrote last week to the parents of NCS students, Secretary Godowsky never knew about the change to the local funding formula. So Godowsky reversing a decision he never made, which was cited in the lawsuit and settlement, is frivolous at best. This entire shenanigan was meant to intimidate Christina, and sadly, the district took the bait. They didn’t just take the bait, they swallowed it and regurgitated it to four board members who voted out of fear rather than common sense. That is something that needs to be reversed tonight. I would rather see this district take this ALL THE WAY than see one more penny going out of this district to certain charters who want for nothing. If anything, the DOE should be the entity paying for this year’s charter share of the 2003 referendum and all future costs due to their colossal screw-up, not just getting off the hook by paying for half the attorney fees. But more than that, what may not have come out of all this, is the role the Office of Management and Budget played. As Brian Stephan wrote in a recent article on Delaware Liberal, something happened in 2014 that changed everything with the local funding formula. What he didn’t write, which he may not have been aware of, was why everything changed that year. The Office of Management and Budget, a section of Governor Jack Markell’s office, took over the responsibility from Mark Murphy to oversee this aspect of Delaware education financing. Oh so coincidentally, that was the same year the Delaware DOE launched the priority schools debacle and launched a coordinated attack against Christina when this board would not cower and buckle to Governor Markell’s shameful education agendas. While I am not an attorney or an accountant, I am just a blogger. According to Newark Charter School parents, I’m a sneaky snake blogger. But it is my belief this omission of paying the charter schools their portion of the 2003 referendum was, at best, an egregious error that the State of Delaware should pay moving forward. If that were not enough, the fact that tuition and match taxes were brought up in the settlement is very troubling. The charters have no right to those funds so why it was brought up in a settlement is beyond me. I certainly hope none of that nonsense was the district’s idea. That just opens the door for future siphoning of district funds the local taxpayers entrusted to the district, not to fifteen charter schools. If I’m not mistaken, Christina does not get large donations from the Longwood Foundation, they don’t get a larger proportion of minor capital funds based on their student populations like the charters do, and they certainly don’t get to keep excess transportation funds under their “budgeted” amount.
While we can sit here and pretend the charter cabal, led by Saul Ewing LLC, is a force to be reckoned with, the simple fact is they made unprecedented money grab. This could have been done a dozen different ways, but they chose threats and intimidation, with support from certain legislators in both the House and the Senate, to get what they wanted. As a result, if this board does NOT rescind the settlement, it will continue to give away funds this district desperately needs to 15 charter schools who have more than enough money already. And if you are going to put your trust in the Delaware Dept. of Education to do the right thing, you have already put one more nail in the coffin of this district.
At this point my time ran out, but this is how I planned to finish my public comment:
I strongly urge this board to continue to keep CSD moving forward. That does not mean responding to bullying threats by what amounts to non-profit corporations in Delaware. That means fighting for what is yours. As your CFO, Bob Silber, rightly argued, this district did what they were supposed to do. It was the State that screwed up. If this board is truly supposed to represent this district, and not Saul Ewing, Greg Meece, and the charters that have taken more funding from this district than any other force in this state, they will need to do the right thing and rescind this farce of a settlement that will allow charter schools to plunder funds not just from Christina, but would set a precedent for every district in this state.
I love the fact that the anonymous donation to Stubbs was highlighted by so much media in this state. But those students deserve more than having additional funds taken from them that would put the lunch balance to shame.
Thank you, and I do want to wish all of you a great holiday. Bob A, thank you for the Frozen memory. Good luck in your future endeavors.
To read the response to the FOIA complaint from the Delaware Attorney General’s office, please read below:
Holy stacked agenda! Could they squeeze anything else into this agenda? Some more hot-button district issues? I doubt it!
On Tuesday night, the Christina Board of Education will hold their board meeting at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School. The fun starts at 7pm. Bring food, and, just in case, you may want to bring a sleeping bag. This is going to be a late meeting!
So what’s on tap? The question is more like what isn’t on this agenda! This is NOT the order for the meeting, but it IS the controversy order!
Now the cat is out of the bag. In the absolute shocker of the year, board member John Young was the one to submit the action item to rescind the vote on the charter settlement. John is always so quiet and compliant. This is NOT like him at all to do something like this. Okay, sorry, got hit in the head for a second there. But seriously, I give John major props for having the guts to get this out there. I truly hope one of the four board members who voted yes can see this settlement sham for what it really is. If not, I hope many public comments can nudge them along.
Board member Shirley Saffer introduced this action item. After last month’s vote to create the “Honors Academy” at Christiana High School, there is an action item to annul that vote. Saffer voted yes for the program last month, but it appears she had a change of heart. The board voted 5-1 the first time. Will the districts new
charter magnet NCS wannabe Honors Academy survive this time? Expect a lot of pissed off parents for this one!
While I haven’t written too much about Christina’s Superintendent search, there has been a ton of drama surrounding it. Which will apparently culminate in many action items surrounding this. First item on the agenda is to approve an interim Superintendent. Which is basically what Dr. Robert Andrzejewski has been for the past 15 months. I really don’t know the difference between Interim and Acting, nor do I truly care. But “Bob A” is leaving on December 31st, come hell or high water. Even if the board does approve a new Superintendent by the end of the year, that person will most likely have to give notice at their current job. Unless it is Jack Markell. I heard he is going to be VERY available pretty soon. Just kidding on that one. I do NOT want to be responsible for that rumor starting.
Action Item #8 is the Superintendent Interview Questions. Which the board is making public. Because they HAVE TO. After that there will be discussion on the final interviews for the candidates. After the board gets through that, there is another John Young submitted action item to start the Superintendent search over. Like I said, this meeting is going to be crazy!
We will also get a discussion on
mold air quality at Christina schools. This should be the lighter side of the evening! Add in all the other normal stuff school boards do: honor roll, budget stuff, contracts, and so on and so forth. For those keeping track, the rescind the settlement vote and annul the Honors Academy are the last two items on the action item agenda.
If you want to sign up for public comment, I would get there early. You have to sign up to talk. I plan on being there. I plan on talking. It will be marvelous, just wait! I wonder if any legislators will show up at this meeting. I wonder if they will attempt to talk to board out of NOT rescinding the vote on the settlement. I dare Senator Sokola to try this! Triple dog dare!
These are some fun predictions. People from the audience will yell at least eight times to speak up because they can’t hear them. President Paige will bring the gavel down at least 13 times. George Evans will ridicule John Young at least four times. The audience will laugh at least four times. Someone will leave their lights on in the parking lot. Someone in the audience will have a very brilliant idea of ordering pizza (bring cash in case this does happen and you plan to stick around for the whole shebang). At least five people will wear ugly Christmas shirts and/or sweaters. And last, but certainly not least, I predict at least three things will come out that the general public has no clue about.
Christina School District Board of Education member John Young posted this publicly on Facebook about the Christina Superintendent search. I am posting it on here to get this to a wider audience. For clarification purposes, SME stands for “Subject Matter Expert” and James Flynn is running the Superintendent search for Christina through the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration (IPA). I don’t know how many districts have used IPA in the past. I do know Capital used them last year for their new Superintendent which led to Dan Shelton getting the post. And I want to say Colonial did as well which led to Dusty Blakey, but don’t quote me on that. I’ll let Mr. Young’s Facebook post take it from here.
Some public information on the CSD Super search. Started with a few questions and since I will not be able to attend the 11.9.16 meeting as I will be out of town, and because Mr. Polaski raised the concern below I wanted to get this out there as I would have discussed all of this in person anyway, as those that know me know I would. Also, Note Dr. Flynn’s comments regarding direction given on 10.24 does not comport with the timing of the contract which Mr. Polaski references in points 1 indirectly and 2 directly…meaning I remain confused on the issue.
Today, 8:08 AM
YOUNG JOHN;PAIGE ELIZABETH;EVANS GEORGE;Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; SAFFER SHIRLEY
Subject: Re: Task Force Update
Two reactions to Mr. Young’s requests:
1. The process being implemented by Dr. Flynn and IPA at the U of D was approved by the CSD Board at a BOE public meeting. Any changes to the process or contract MUST be approved by the Board after discussion at a public meeting, not by any one or more Board members by email.
2. The Board approved use of IPA to facilitate the process to select a new superintendent and directed the CSD Administration to negotiate the contract with IPA, which Mr. Silber did as the CFO of CSD.
Any further discussion of this topic, or any proposals for changes, must only be done at CSD board meetings in public, the next one being Nov. 9. I would hope to not see any more emails between 7 board members on this subject as that could be determined to constitute a Board meeting, subject to FOIA.
From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 10:28:23 PM
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH; EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY
Subject: Re: Task Force Update
Obviously I speak only for myself on this: without the names of the SMEs, I am unable to support any recommendation whatsoever.
As for the one candidate: the advantage is CLEARLY the ability to prepare answers with additional time not supplied to other candidates. I am disappointed Dr. Flynn cannot see this plainly. Another reason to be very suspect of the process thus far. Is Mr Silber in charge of the board process? This confuses me.
From: PAIGE ELIZABETH
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 10:19:33 PM
To: EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY; YOUNG JOHN
Subject: Fwd: Task Force Update
Sent from my iPhone
Begin forwarded message:
From: James Flynn <email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>>
Date: October 31, 2016 at 4:52:23 PM EDT
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH <email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>>
Cc: ROBERT.SILBER@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:ROBERT.SILBER@christina.k12.de.us>, LAPHAM WENDY WENDY.LAPHAM@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:email@example.com>>
Subject: Re: Fw: Task Force Update
Ms. Paige: Hi. I’ll try to respond to Mr. Young’s questions in the order posed.
SMEs – As I’ve said at our public presentations, selection of the number and designation of SMEs is determined by the IPA as one of the steps to insure impartiality and confidentiality. Our goal is to select highly qualified individuals for the applicant screening process who are familiar with Delaware districts and Delaware education issues. For the Christina search, we identified three SMEs – two retired Delaware superintendents and a senior administrator with more than 30 years experience serving several Wilmington area districts (the contract obligates us to two SMEs). Our usual practice is not to share the names of the SMEs to further fortify confidentiality in future searches with other districts. If the CSD Board feels strongly that knowing the names of the SMEs is a critical point, I’d be willing to contact them (the SMEs) for their approval. Please remember, the SMEs review all of the applications independently first and the applicant names have been redacted. When the SMEs come together to discuss the applicants, their references are to ‘Applicant A’ and ‘Applicant B’, etc.
Impact of Extra Time for one Candidate – This applicant e-mailed me just before the midnight deadline on Friday, Sept 23. I replied to her on the morning of Monday, Sept 26 and had all her materials e-mailed to me by early that afternoon. Remember, she claimed she had everything ready for submission on 9/23, but the site was closed before midnight. I’m not sure how this may have created an ‘advantage’ since we didn’t start processing any of the applications until after 9/26.
Task Force Reporting – The instructions from Mr. Silber on 10/24 said to prepare a report of the Task Force proceedings on 11/1 directly to the Board. Changing those instructions by having the Task Force report back to the full Search Committee in a confidential setting (i.e. Task Force and Board) is your choice.
Sub-Par Candidates – I would do all in my power to dissuade the Task Force from recommending a sub-par candidate(s) to the Board. In my opinion, this Task Force has worked too long and too diligently to submit the names of candidates who wouldn’t meet the needs of the CSD.
Board Members and Applicants – I’m not sure what this statement refers to, and don’t feel competent to respond.
Please let me know if I can provide any further information or if wish to alter the Task Force reporting process going forward.
On Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 1:20 PM, PAIGE ELIZABETH
See below for questions that I told Mr. Young I do not have answers to and provide a response that I can share with the Board.
From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 12:48 PM
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH; EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY
Subject: Re: Task Force Update
I am still unsure of process. Jim has not revealed the names of the SMEs used to go through the applications.
What impact did the extra time given one candidate have on creating an advantage?
Aren’t the task force members reporting back to the committee as a whole rather than putting name(s) directly to the board?
Also, if no one stands out, does the task force know to recommend going back out rather than sending us a subpar candidate (if applicable)?
Lastly, I have a deep concern that individual board members are creating an advantage or perception of one by being seen in public with certain applicants, but not others
Hmm… sounds like something is going on up there… and in Christina… they are usually so quiet…
Last night, Christina Board of Education member Elizabeth Paige was elected by her peers to be the next President of the board. With a 4-3 vote, she took the post over from Harrie Ellen Minnehan. What happened next was very surreal. Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski was going through different contract amounts which the board had to take action on. When one of them came up, I was absolutely shocked and horrified. It wasn’t even on the agenda. Their Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, disappeared shortly before this. I think he knew what was coming. Everyone was there: Acting Superintendent Robert “Bob A” Andrzejewski, Board members John Young, Fred Polaski, George Evans, Harrie Ellen Minnehan, Shirley Saffer, Elizabeth Paige, and newly elected board member Meg Mason. There were some people I knew in the audience as well. I don’t know if I’m supposed to be writing about this, so I will show you…
At the Christina School District Board of Education meeting tonight, the board passed their opt-out policy in a 6-1 vote. This policy closely mirrors House Bill 50, the vetoed but still on life support parent opt-out legislation that Delaware Governor Jack Markell kicked to the curb in July. The same board passed a resolution earlier in the year, but this now makes opt-out a policy in the district. I sincerely hope George Evans takes some time to assess his decision not once, but twice this year, to disrespect parents this way. Hopefully he can come to terms with this before he loses his next school board election and enjoys his last term on this board.
Congratulations to Christina School District for becoming the first district in the First State to have an official opt-out policy! Perhaps others will join in and stop fretting over what the DOE will do. The worst they can do is knock your school down on their ridiculous school report card a grade or two. This is great news is for parents, who should care far more about opt-out then some silly little crappy and hastily designed report card they get from the DOE.
I’m sure this will give the DOE and Markell one more reason to hate the Christina School District, but for parents across the state who are going “Why the hell doesn’t my school district do this”, they will be very envious. Christina needed a big win, and this is it! Stew on that Jack!
The true financial impact at Christina School District was revealed for all last night, and the most troublesome of these numbers was the bleeding out of students from Christina to charters. It is a requirement that any district in Delaware be able to meet the first month’s payroll prior to the school year starting, and CFO Bob Silba announced this may not be a possibility in a year’s time. Board member John Young commented that the district needs to face the reality they could be down from three high schools to two in a couple years. Projected numbers show over 900 students leaving Christina but their Title I funding basically remains the same and their IDEA funding which comes from students with disabilities will actually go up.
This shows the students leaving the district are not necessarily those in most need: low-income and special needs. As Christina hemorrhages students, they are left with financial numbers that are in dire straits. School resource officers are being spread out among schools instead of one located at each, extra pay for extra responsibilities (EPER) has been drastically reduced, and classroom materials has been reduced by over 50%.
Discussion surrounding an interim superintenedent was chaotic at best, with Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan starting the meeting with a very long monologue about how the board was unified, but the meeting showed they are anything but. Minnehan referred to herself as “I” several times, much to the chagrin of other board members who felt out of the loop. As the meeting stretched into the wee hours of the morning today, several board members actually left the board table for long stretches. Minnehan, unsure of what the board had just voted for, actually said at one point “I guess we just passed a motion.”
Apparently, even public comment was in disarray with Minnehan cutting off a speaker and having the microphone turned off after the 3:00 minute mark for another. Challenges of board policy went back and forth between Minnehan, Young and George Evans. This board needs to unify once and for all before it is too late. This district will be gone in two years time unless they are able to retain students and increase enrollment.
There was much discussion about the district’s agreement with the Office of Civil Rights over discipline of minorities, which is now two years running. From the agreement, the district has to have a vendor to oversee it, but the board was very concerned about the costs associated with this and the revelation that the main staff member who was overseeing much of this was placed in a different school.
Current Superintendent Dr. Freeman Williams, who announced he was going on personal leave last week, will be out at least another 11 weeks. Prior to the meeting, rumors circulated that former Red Clay Consolidated School District Bob Andrzejewski would be appointed interim Superintendent, but members of the board felt they should not rush into a rash decision. Discussion around qualifications of principals within the district and timing of the temporary hire took center stage. The board will meet in a special meeting on August 20th to go over the qualifications and will plan from there.
A proposed board policy on parent opt-out passed it’s first read with six “yeas” and one abstention (George Evans, who was the sole no vote on the board’s opt-out resolution earlier in the year).
“If this board can’t stand for parents, what the hell can it stand for?” -John Young
After fiery debate by board member George Evans, the Christina Board of Education passed a parent opt out resolution by a vote of 5-2. The no votes came from President Fred Polaski and eternal board member George Evans. The amended resolution was scaled back to focus on parental right to opt out of the standardized assessment, which in Delaware is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Christina School District Board of Education Resolution on Parent Opt-Out of Standardized Testing
Be it resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education will support a parent’s decision to opt their child(ren) out of standardized state testing without any repercussions from the Christina School District; and, therefore,
Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education will support the Superintendent to provide direction to all affected schools to provide meaningful, educational activities to replace testing time for those students who will not be participating in standardized testing.
I attended the Christina Board of Education meeting tonight. To say it was chaos would be an understatement. Picture watching France capitulate to Germany in 1940, and that was the Fatal Four on the Christina Board tonight. Enough to get the damn MOUs passed. The Delaware DOE is now clear to reject this MOU and give the district their three options: close, convert to charter, or hand over the schools to a management organization.
The board I saw two weeks ago was vastly different. Tonight there were two clear sides: one that seems to have been brainwashed by the DOE during the non-public and non-recorded negotiation meeting on 1/9, and the other three members of the board who were not given all the pertinent information from the other.
The vote for the priority schools MOUs passed 4-3. But not before board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige attempted to add amendments to the previously approved MOU and modified by the superintendent and the other four board members. Every amendment Young and Paige offered was turned down, with the exception being Paige’s very wise suggestion of deleting the comment “Any other documents are secondary to this document”. That passed 4-3 after teachers in the audience almost had an open revolt over that line which would make their teacher contracts null and void.
Delaware State Representative John Kowalko stormed out when he realized this board was going to pass the MOUs as written. By this time I suspected the four board members had changed the past couple weeks, and the superintendent as well. I asked to give public comment and openly told the four members of the board and the superintendent I didn’t trust them and I requested a FOIA for all board members emails between themselves and the DOE going back to January 1st of this year. I told the Fatal Four they weren’t looking at the audience the way the other two were (from my vantage point, I couldn’t see if board member Ressler was or not, but he was one of the good guys tonight, so I didn’t care).
Red Clay teacher Mike Matthews told board member George Evans he has been on the board 35 years in response to Evan’s comment to Christina teacher Jackie Kook about this “putting the kids first”. Matthews is now campaigning for anyone to run against Evans in the upcoming board seat election.
The Fatal Four who voted Yes for the MOUs were President Fred Polaski, George Evans, Shirley Sutton Saffer, and the one board member I never thought would do anything with an MOU but tear it up, Harrie Ellen Minnehan. The heroes of the night were Young, Paige and Ressler. It seemed obvious an alliance had developed amongst the Fatal Four and Superintendent Dr. Freeman Williams. This cabal, in my opinion, purposely didn’t tell the other board members key information, which was the reason for my FOIA request. If the DOE’s goal was to split the board and turn them against each other, they succeeded.
This was a board divided, and the Fatal Four discounted anything the other three had to say. And it’s not like the other three were just talking about nothing. All of the amendments and their discussion made sense. The Heroic Three were blindsided by the Fatal Four. The Fatal Four should have just told the audience at the beginning of the night they were going to vote yes for the mass destruction of public education in Delaware and saved us all a miserable three and a half hours of sheer hell with their crossed arms and smug angry faces. By the time I requested my FOIA, I felt like I was going to vomit in my mouth if Polaski said “The DOE wants…” one more time.