The Dream Becomes A Reality: Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students

It all starts with an idea.  But ideas that roll around in your mind will always be just that.  It is now time for action!  Therefore, this is the birth of Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students.

For almost four years I’ve been writing about education in good old Delaware.  It’s taken me from the bottom of Sussex all the way to the tip-top parts of the state.  I’ve been to Legislative Hall and the Delaware DOE building more times than I can count.  And nothing has changed.  In fact, I’m going to say it is getting worse.  Especially with special education.  But it isn’t just that.  It is also issues dealing with school discipline, race, gender, bullying, classroom management, class sizes, safety, and trauma coming into our schools in ways our educators are just now starting to fathom and understand.

To that end, I am taking my email/Facebook/social media/cell phone advocacy out of the digital world and into the schools.  This will be a huge task and I need your help!

These are the issues I am willing to advocate for students:

Special Education: whether it is IEPs or 504 plans, it is important to know your child’s rights, the parental rights, and the rights of the school.  Many parents feel overwhelmed in IEP meetings.  Trying to learn about federal IDEA law, Delaware State Code, and all the pending special education legislation is a task in itself.  Do you have a child with a unique disability that may warrant very specific goals or accommodations in their IEP?

School Discipline: does the punishment fit the crime?  Does the punishment meet the criteria of the school student code of conduct?  Does it follow state law?  If a student has an IEP or 504 plan was it a manifestation of their disability or just poor choices?  What are the rights of students when there are School Resource Officers, constables, or armed security?  When is physical restraint warranted?  How does it work with transportation and busing when a discipline issue comes up?

Trauma: Is your child going through a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder based on violence in their neighborhood?  Or in their own home?  Are their grades falling behind as a result of this?  Are they acting out?  These are students that may not be special education but need an advocate to help schools and teachers sift through these issues so they can give your child the best education possible.

Bullying: Is your child being bullied?  Are you finding the school isn’t doing everything they can to put a stop to it?  What steps can you take to make sure they do?

These are my goals:

To serve any of the above needs or potential conflict a parent may have with a school.

To guide parents on the appropriate ways to deal with the folks in the schools.  This isn’t as simple as it looks, and when things escalate, there is a proper chain of steps to go through.

To work with every school district and charter school in the state to make sure Parent Council Groups for special education are up and running.

To advocate meaningful dialogue between parents and schools.  This is crucial.  But it is also important to make sure there is one adult in the room who can be unbiased and impartial.  Screaming heads don’t get you far.  It might feel good in the short-term, but it is not conducive to the best interests of the one person who matters the most- your child!

To inform parents of their child’s rights and how that applies to the school setting.  To inform parents of the differences between legislation and regulation and what is enforceable and what is not.

To make sure due process rights are followed to the letter of the law in discipline situations.

I am not an attorney nor do I pretend to be.  I am just a parent with my own special needs child who has run the gauntlet with Delaware schools.  If your child’s school building doesn’t know me directly, they know of me.  All the district and charter leaders know me as well as the legislators.  I have contacts all over the place and know exactly who to go to when things need to happen.  I’ve helped parents out for years but it is time to take it to the next level.

I will be doing this work at no cost.  But any organization or business (whatever this turns out to be based on demand) needs funding.  Pure and simple.  So I am asking for donations from folks in Delaware who see this growing need in our state.  Whether it is a dollar or more, every bit counts.  I am willing to go up and down our state to help our kids.  I am centrally located in Dover so my door is open for all!

If you are of mind to help get this going and help sustain this, any contributions are certainly welcome!  Please go to the Exceptional Advocacy for Delaware Students page here: https://www.gofundme.com/exceptional-advocacy-for-delaware

If you are a parent who needs help in dealing with a situation involving your child at a Delaware school, please contact me as soon as possible.  My email is kjohlandt70@gmail.com and we can exchange phone numbers from there.

Delaware Students Want To Buy A Fire Engine!!!

DAPSSFiretruckGoFundMePic

The Class of 2017 at Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security are planning on buying a Fire Engine for their school.  They are requesting help on their GoFundMe page.  The total they are looking to receive is $5,000 and as of now they have collected $860.  If you want your name on a plaque, please consider donating.  The school already has a police car and an ambulance so a fire truck would complete the triumvirate of first responder vehicles.  How many people can say their name is on a fire truck?  I wish my school had this kind of stuff growing up!

 

 

Urgent! Funds Needed For DOE FOIA On Smarter Balanced & Vendor Contracts ASAP!

Delaware DOE Smarter Balanced & Vendor Contracts & Emails FOIA GoFundMe Page

Exceptional Delaware needs your help, and it needs it yesterday!  Back in March I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Delaware Department of Education for the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), American Institutes for Research (AIR), and Data Recognition Corporation contracts and any emails sent from the DOE to these entities.  The DOE responded with an original $6,500 quote and then, to add “recently found” contracts, the estimate surged to over $8,500.  After filing a petition against the DOE with the Delaware Department of Justice, the DOJ responsed a few months later with an estimate of $1,725.10.  I started a GoFundMe donation to raise the costs for this FOIA and the costs associated with GoFundMe with a goal of $1,875.00.  To date, $775 has been raised, but we are still short of the goal by $1,100.

As the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores are slowly being released around the country, and cut stores are being changed, it is more imperative than ever that the people of Delaware see what this state paid for, any communications surrounding this, and how truthful the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell were with what they told the public and legislators when it became law in Delaware last year.

I will be submitting an initial check to the Delaware DOE next week to get the process going based on funds that have already been donated, but the request will not be completed until ALL funds are given to the DOE.  This is top priority folks because we need the truth, once and for all!

In the spirit of transparency, this is the activity that has already happened on this GoFundMe account:

Donations already made:

$50, Kris Chalfant, 4 Days ago
$25, Anonymous, 14 days ago
$100, John Kowalko, 14 days ago 
$50, Anonymous, 14 days ago
$50, Paul Baumbach, 14 days ago 
$50, Ellen McConachie, 25 days ago
$10, David Anderson, 1 month ago
$40, Mary Schorse, 1 month ago 
$10, Anonymous, 1 month ago
$50, Cassandra Marshall, 1 month ago
$25, Anonymous, 1 month ago
$25, Anonymous, 1 month ago
$50, Al Mascitti, 1 month ago
$30, Anonymous, 1 month ago
$200, Anonymous, 1 month ago
$10, Dee August, 1 month ago
Total: $775.00, Goal $1875.00, Needed: $1100.00
Account Activity to date:

$663.24

Total amount that has been withdrawn
 
$45.75
Withdrawals that have begun
 
$0.00
*Pending balance that will be available soon
 
*Pending balances are normal and will be available in 1 – 5 days.

SCHEDULED WITHDRAWALS

Will Arrive By Aug 31
$45.75
Check will be sent on Aug 10, 2015

RECENT WITHDRAWALS

Delivered By Aug 8

$663.24
Check sent on Jul 27, 2015
Total Online Raised $775.00
Total Offline Raised $0.00
Total Amount Raised $775.00
GoFundMe (5%) $38.75
WePay (2.9% + 0.30)

per transaction
$27.26
Total Fees $66.01
Remaining Total $708.99

I received the first check today, and I will be starting a separate checking account to cover this FOIA and any other future FOIAs. I appreciate any help you can offer with this mammoth endeavor. Once the request is completed, I will be making all the documents public on Exceptional Delaware.

A Night Of Celebration, Reflection, Laughter, & Recognition

Firestone2

Last night the Progressive Democrats of Delaware held their annual Firestone Restaurant celebration, and this year myself, as well as John Young, Mike Matthews and Tizzy Lockman were recognized as education heroes of Delaware.  This is an award I’m fairly certain I will never get from Governor Markell or the State Board of Education!

Firestone1

It was great to see so many friends, advocates and legislators in a non-formal location.  John Young talked about how we all owe Kilroy a debt of gratitude as he is the godfather of Delaware education blogging.  I spoke about my outstanding FOIA request with the DOE and how much help I need to raise the funds to cover the rest of it.  Tizzy Lockman thanked everyone for their support with the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee and the upcoming Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and how much work they have before them.  Mike Matthews spoke about the dangerous influences outside forces, like Rodel and Delaware Charter Schools Network, can have on candidates and asked that the party not support candidates who are aligned with theses types of corporate education reform companies.

Delaware State Reps. John Kowalko, Kim Williams, Paul Baumbach & Sean Lynn

Delaware State Reps. John Kowalko, Kim Williams, Paul Baumbach & Sean Lynn

The six Progressive State Representatives who voted no on the state budget on July 1st were honored as well with the PDD Bob Stachnik award.  State Rep. Sean Lynn explained why they voted no as they couldn’t sit by and watch funding be cut for those who need it the most without having any revenue coming in.  He also talked about the extreme difficulty the state will face next year with predicted budget deficits between $160-$180 million.  Reps. Paul Baumbach, John Kowalko and Kim Williams also spoke about the budget.  Kowalko said it was his proudest moment in his many years of serving the people of Delaware.

It was a great evening with perfect weather on the riverfront in Wilmington.  The food was excellent, and the atmosphere was festive.  It was great to talk with others about our kids, hysterical moments in the past year (Schwartzkopf’s Gavel, Christina Board meetings, Burger Girl, a certain video released last week by one of the education heroes) while new memories were created (“Vera”, the armpit –don’t ask–, the coffee mug).

Mike O from the seventh type was there, and we spoke for quite a while about blogging, House Bill 165, and charter schools.  I had never officially met him, so it was great to get a different perspective on blogging and whatnot.  I was given an excellent source for my charter school series of articles which I plan on using immediately!

There is a lot of interesting stuff coming up in the next few months with education in Delaware, and you can read all about it on the Delaware blogs!  I would like to thank President of the PDD, Nancy Willing, and all the members of the party for their recognition of myself and the three others.  It was quite an honor!

If you would like to donate for the Smarter Balanced FOIA request, please go to this link and help us find out what is really going on with these high-stakes tests and their vendors! http://www.gofundme.com/x6mb3j8

As Priority Schools Receive Extension, Gateway Parents Speak Up Tonight

The Delaware Department of Education pulled off a sneaky move today in regards to the Gateway Public Comment session. They were scheduled to speak first at the meeting in Wilmington, and then Reach Academy For Girls. Both were recommended for closure by the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware DOE. Their fate will be decided at the State Board of Education meeting on December 18th. Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will announce his decision, and then the board will vote on it.

Many Gateway parents decided to take a bus to avoid traffic, and planned for a certain time and arranged babysitting for their special needs children. The DOE called late in the afternoon and announced Gateway would be speaking after Reach. Gateway has received a lot of media exposure with the announcement, and many parents planned on speaking. One anonymous parent saw the DOE’s move as a stealth tactic to get less parents there. One report from the location states that there are hundreds of people there, but the room only holds 180 people. One would have to wonder if the DOE plans things like this.

Many politicians from the House and Senate signed a letter of support for Gateway, but many people are wondering if they will do the same for the Priority Schools. And speaking of the Priority Schools, Transparent Christina posted a response from the school district today indicating their proposed MOU to the DOE just wasn’t good enough and to keep working at it, but that’s okay, cause they got an extension until January 7th. I guess Markell doesn’t want to make a big public announcement on New Years Day. Penny Schwinn signed the letter which can be read here: http://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/ddoe-mou-draft-response-just-in-case-you-need-additional-evidence-of-our-obstinate-lying-doe/

In other news, Mike Matthews and I reached our preliminary goal of $500 for our GoFundMe FOIA Request to the DOE and Markell’s office after an anonymous donor named F*ckJack donated $170. Thank you F*ckJack!

Over on Kilroys, I battled with the infamous lastDEconservative for half the day after going a few rounds with Pencadermom and Greg (no last name) yesterday. My opponent for today, while not belittling me, was off to Twitter to check out the Shakira feeds. Which was okay with me as I was sawing wood for my son’s catapult he is making for a science project. Yes folks, it’s been that kind of day!
Public Comment can be made on the DOE website at