Get Ready For A War Between Governor Carney & Democrat Legislators!

When the Delaware Democrat leadership in the House and Senate decided not to bring House Bill 460, the budget smoothing bill, up for a vote, Governor Carney was NOT happy.  As a result, he decided to go ahead and do it anyway.  With an Executive Order!  Well, not yet.  That will go down at 4:30pm today.  This will not go down smoothly with the Democrats in the General Assembly!  Get ready to rumble!  This all but assures Carney will get a Primary in 2020!

 

Delaware Governor John Carney

MEDIA ADVISORY

TODAY: Governor Carney To Sign Executive Order on Budget Smoothing

 

DOVER, Del. – At 4:30 p.m. today at Legislative Hall, Governor John Carney will sign an Executive Order to implement recommendations of the DEFAC Advisory Committee on budget smoothing. Following the signing, Governor Carney will be available for media to answer questions on the final day of the 149th General Assembly. 

 

WHAT:          Governor Carney will sign an Executive Order on budget smoothing, and hold media availability on the final day of the 149th General Assembly. 

 

WHO:             Governor John Carney

     Mike Jackson, Director, Office of Management and Budget

     Rick Geisenberger, Secretary, Department of Finance

     Jeff Bullock, Secretary of State

     Michael Houghton, Chair, Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council

 

WHEN:          Saturday, June 30       

4:30 p.m.

 

WHERE:        Governor’s Office

                        Legislative Hall

                        411 Legislative Avenue

                        Dover, DE 19901

 

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** UPDATED ** Governor Carney Put Forth New Nomination For State Board of Education President

Last weekend, I reported Governor Carney nominated three new State Board of Education members and also nominated existing member Dr. Audrey Noble for President of the board.  Due to health reason, Noble asked to be withdrawn from consideration.  Instead, one of the three new State Board members Carney nominated was confirmed as the President yesterday.

Whitney Townsend Sweeney is the new President of the State Board of Education.  As I reported the other day, Sweeney is an Investment Director at Schroders.  She is a University of Delaware graduate and served on the Delaware Financial Literacy Institute.  I don’t see much in terms of education background with Sweeney based on her LinkedIn profile.  This will be interesting to see.

She will replace outgoing State Board President Dr. Dennis Loftus who resigned this month.  As well, the two other nominees were confirmed by the Delaware Senate yesterday.  They are former State Rep. Vincent Lofink and Candice Fifer.  I look forward to meeting all three.

The General Assembly website does not indicate when Noble’s nomination for State Board President was withdrawn but shows it was introduced on 6/22/2018.

Teacher License Suspension and Pay For Success Bills Pass General Assembly

Two bills closely tied with public education passed in the Delaware House of Representatives today which clears them through the General Assembly and await Governor Carney’s signature.  Another bill passed but goes back to the Senate due to an amendment.

Senate Bill #234, which gives the Delaware Secretary of Education the ability to suspend a teacher’s credentials due to an arrest from abuse or other egregious crimes, passed the House with a 41-0 vote.  As written in the synopsis of the bill, this will… “include situations involving felony crimes against children or where there is a clear and immediate danger to student safety or welfare“.

Senate Bill #242, which will establish Pay for Success programs in Delaware passed with 39 yes, 1 no, and 1 absent.  The sole no vote belonged to State Rep. Rich Collins.  An amendment placed on the bill in the Delaware Senate would create a working group to explore how Pay For Success would be implemented in public education, both early childhood education and K-12 education.  I am still torn on Pay For Success but this would allow some time for the Working Group to really take a look at how this would work to make sure it didn’t conflict with existing federal laws (such as IDEA) and to set up parameters.  Pay For Success is where an outside investor would come in, pitch a program with measurable outcomes, and if approved, would set out on this program.  If the program works with those outcomes, the State would pay the company back.  If it doesn’t, they wouldn’t.  The bill sets up Pay For Success for all state agencies.

Senate Bill #172, which is meant to increase the transparency of education funds, passed the House but an amendment clarifying some language on the bill which causes it to go back to the Senate for a final vote (provided they don’t put any amendments on it).  That bill passed in the House with 41 yes votes.

On the Senate side, they passed House Bill #268 which deals with Senior property tax credits, but due to an amendment placed on the bill in the Senate, it will go back to the House.

Finally, Delaware Governor John Carney signed both the budget bill and a bill giving one-time bonuses to state employees and retirees.  Both the Bond bill and the Grant-In-Aid bill will come up for a vote on the last day of the Delaware General Assembly, Saturday June 30th.

Governor Carney’s Three Nominations For State Board of Education & Who Will Become President?

Governor Carney presented three nominations for the State Board of Education on Friday.  And another State Board member has been nominated to replace Dr. Dennis Loftus as the President of the board.  Who are the nominees?  One of them is a former legislator! Continue reading

**UPDATED**The Clock Is Ticking For The State Board Of Education

The State Board of Education still has four members.  Which is their quorum amount.  Governor Carney, with ten days left in the 149th General Assembly, has not put forth ANY nominations for replacements.  Delaware State Code mandates four members on the State Board.  If Carney does not put forth nominations until after the General Assembly goes into recess from July 1st until mid-January 2019, he could order the Delaware Senate back into session to confirm nominations.  That isn’t unusual but typically doesn’t happen until October when it does occur.  Which means our State Board of Education is operating at a bare minimum for the next four months.  Which means if just one member doesn’t attend a meeting they can not take action on any item, even approving their minutes.

I have an extreme issue with keeping this body at four members.  Any regulation or appeal the State Board hears would only have four members voting.  One no-show could shut something down very fast.  It is a recipe for disaster.  Simply put, they cannot operate the way they are supposed to.  As an example, what happens if Secretary of Education Susan Bunting decided to put a charter school on formal review for some reason?  The State Board would have to vote on that.  Is four members enough to give that conversation the full weight for a matter that serious?  There is a reason there are seven members.

I was told by Jon Sheehan, Governor Carney’s Education Policy Advisor, the State Board of Education would be restored by June 30th.  So where are the nominations?  Since there are none today, that leaves one last Senate Executive Committee meeting to do this, which would be next Wednesday.  At that point it is the last week of the General Assembly.  I would worry about the quality of the nominations if it is rushed at the last-minute.

Two weeks ago, the Joint Sunset Committee released the State Board of Education from Sunset review.  The only unanswered question is who the State Board’s Executive Director will report to- the State Board, the Delaware Department of Education, or a hybrid of both.  Meanwhile, the deadline for applicants to replace Donna Johnson expired June 9th.  Which means someone will most likely get that job soon.  But will there even be a functional State Board of Education for them to direct?

I still feel as though the State Board of Education should be elected by the people.  Having a Governor hand-pick who he wants on the State Board of Education all but ensures people will get picked who would follow his agendas.  It is something our legislators could change but nobody wants to tick off the Governor.  Many of them agree but lack the stones to actually do it.  I say have an elected State Board of Education and get rid of “Secretary-only Regulations”.  Those are the ones, like Regulation 225, that the State Board of Education does not vote on.  Which is preposterous in my opinion.

Updated, 3:37pm: I spoke with Jon Sheehan a short time ago who assured me that three nominations will be introduced next week and he anticipates a full State Board of Education by June 30th.

We Are So Bad At Predicting The Future!

I was looking at various polls I’ve put on here over the past couple of years and I was astonished at some of the results of them!  In some cases we were completely wrong!  These were basically straw polls I conducted over the past year or two.  Continue reading

Bump Stock Legislation House Bill #300 Goes To Governor Carney For Signature

After months of debate, House Bill #300 with its many amendments passed the House today and will go to Delaware Governor John Carney for signature.  I expect he will waste no time signing this huge legislation.

This bill makes it a crime to sell, transfer, buy, receive or possess a trigger crank or bump-fire device designed to accelerate the rate of fire of a semiautomatic rifle, making such weapon function more like an automatic weapon. A bump stock was used by the gunman in Las Vegas in October 2017. Violation of this provision is a Class E felony.

To see the final engrossment with all the amendments included, go here: House Bill #300

Updated: Only two State Representatives voted no- Richard Collins and Michael Mulrooney.  Representative Charles Postles did not vote and Reps. David Bentz and Deb Heffernan were absent.

Update #2: It looks like Senate Bill #163, the assault weapons ban, will get a full Senate Vote.  Blue Delaware is reporting he will ask for this to be heard in the Delaware Senate on Tuesday which would require a suspension of rules.  Last week, the bill was not released from committee.

DSEA Needs To Push For Amendments In Pay For Success Bill Lightning Fast! This Bill Is Being Rushed At The 11th Hour!

The Delaware State Education Association needs to keep a very close watch on a bill flying through the Delaware General Assembly!  Scratch that.  They need to be all over Senate Bill #242 like white on rice!  They have the political muscle to get some fast changes on this bill and they need to flex it yesterday!  This bill has more head-scratching sponsors on it who should know better! Continue reading

Governor Carney Profits Off Legislation

Who would have thunk it?  Delaware Governor John Carney managed to turn a tidy little profit from recent legislation he signed. Continue reading

And Then There Were Four… State Board of Education Down Three Members

It appears former State Rep. Liane Sorenson and longstanding State Board member Barbara Rutt have resigned from the Delaware State Board of Education leaving four members left.  Delaware Governor John Carney has not put forth any nominations for any replacements of the vacant positions, including that of former State Board President Dr. Dennis Loftus who resigned last month as well.

A quorum for the State Board of Education is four members.  If any of the existing members do not show up to a State Board of Education meeting the board could take no action on any item at their meetings.  That would mean no regulations, no appeals, nothing.  This is who we are left with:

The Delaware General Assembly has one month left for the 149th General Assembly.  It actually ends on June 29th since the 30th is on a Saturday.  As well, the Delaware Department of Education is on the hunt for an “education associate” to replace former Executive Director Donna Johnson who resigned early last month.  The deadline for that application is June 9th.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting is the Executive Secretary of the State Board of Education but she is not considered a member of the board and has no voting privileges.  This is not good at all for the State Board.

Breaking News: State Board of Education President Dr. Dennis Loftus Resigning After A Year Of Service

A year ago, Governor Carney nominated Dr. Dennis Loftus to take over as State Board of Education President.  Replacing Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Loftus served in the role for a year.  At the end of this month, sources tell me Dr. Loftus is resigning from the position.

No nomination for his replacement has been announced at this point.  As well, even though Donna Johnson officially resigned a couple of weeks ago, no replacement has been announced for the Executive Director role for the State Board of Education.  The State Board is still going through sunset review with that committee at Legislative Hall.

The State Board underwent many changes in the past year with four new members (including Loftus) and a now vacant role of Executive Director.  It doesn’t look like that facelift is going to stop any time soon with the resignations of their Board President and their Executive Director.  The State Board of Education is a different entity than the Delaware Department of Education.  Any State Board members would be nominated by the Governor and then have to go through a confirmation process with the Delaware Senate.  The only exception to that rule is the President which is picked solely by the Governor but there is no designated term for that role and serves at the pleasure of the Governor.  In addition, the State Board themselves would pick a new Executive Director.

What is the reason for this massive amount of turnover?  In January long-time board member Pat Heffernan resigned unexpectedly after an explosive board meeting about the diploma bill.  Heffernan was deeply opposed to the legislation which would do away with certificates of performance or attendance for the most severe cognitively-challenged students.  Governor Carney signed the bill last month.  Other new members came about through prior board members ending their term.  But to have the President of the State Board resign after less than a year says something!

Governor Carney Signs Diploma Bill In Heartfelt Ceremony

Delaware Governor John Carney’s office was packed at 1:30pm today when parents, students, school employees, and advocates came to watch him sign HS1 for House Bill #287, the diploma bill.

State Rep. Kim Williams and Senator Nicole Poore thanked everyone for all their hard work on the bill.  Both were close to crying with joy as they explained how much this bill will mean to this special class of exceptional students.  Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting thanked everyone for their contributions to the bill.  State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson and DSEA Legislative Liason Kristin Dwyer talked about how they approached Williams and Poore about the bill.  Woodbridge Special Education Director and Special Education Strategic Plan Advisory Group Chair Michele Marinucci said she has waited twenty years for this bill to become law.

But the best part was listening to the students who will benefit from this bill.  Hearing the joy in their hearts as they thanked the room for their chance to get a diploma made all the battles with this bill worth it.  One of Carney’s aides said there hasn’t been this many people in his office since the budget bill passed last July!  Even Carney was very moved about the response to his signing the bill.  He even joked that he wants the ability of the Spec Ed Strategic Plan’s Advisory Committee to get along to come to Legislative Hall!

I’ve been to a few bill signings in my day but this was easily the best!  Good things do happen in education.  I was happy to fight for this bill and report on it as much as I did.  No students will work harder than these awesome kids and they deserve it!  Today was a great example of the a wrong being fixed for the benefit of all- students, schools, and businesses.  Today, I was proud to be a Delawarean and even prouder to see this bill become law.

The bill will allow students with the most extreme disabilities to earn a diploma with modified standards in lieu of a certificate of attendance.  This became a huge issue when some of these students would fill out job applications and couldn’t check the box about having a diploma.  Many businesses in Delaware lost the chance to hire these hard workers because of that.  But more important, it was missed opportunities for these students.  Truly a blessed day at Legislative Hall!

Carney & Bunting Announce Teacher Advisory Council But Violate FOIA With First Meeting Today

**UPDATED**, 4:36pm: I was informed by the Governor’s Office this is a public meeting.  With that being said, they are in open violation of Delaware law.

It wouldn’t be Delaware without yet another council.  But this one takes the cake because no sooner does Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting announce this but the first meeting is today.  To assume this decision was made today would be foolhardy because the teachers would have been given advance notice to attend this meeting.  I don’t know when the teachers were given their notice, but I can tell you it did not appear on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar until 3/23.  Today is 3/27.  Delaware FOIA law states all public notices of meetings must be up seven days prior to that public meeting.  I don’t look at that calendar every day.  The last time I looked at it was on 3/22 and I did not see it on there.

The below picture is from the posted agenda:

This is my issue with this.  There is a reason we have that seven-day law.  Not a rule, a law.  Every other state agency who had meetings or committee meetings postponed due to last week’s snowstorm reposted agendas.  But four days, for something brand new, is not acceptable.  The DOE and Carney’s Office could have rescheduled this first meeting.  But no, they announce it the day of with little to no disregard they are violating state law.  Had I known this was an actual public meeting (which was not announced in the DOE’s below press release), I would have gone to it.  But instead, I see an email from the Governor’s Office stating it is.

What was the criteria for the selection of teachers?  Does DSEA know about this?  While I always feel teachers having a louder voice is important, I do NOT like the fact this was just announced today (or on Friday if you want to be technical).  And where is the Parent Advisory Council?  How come parents are always left out of important education policy decisions?  I guess our voices don’t matter as much.  We just have to deal with the results of these education policy decisions…

I would file a FOIA complaint about this meeting with no agenda just being announced today, but it is a backdoor meeting and not open to the public.  FOIA only applies to public meetings.  Which Bunting and Carney don’t seem to want… 

Maybe I should file a FOIA complaint.  Since the meeting is going on, let’s see, NOW.

Council will gather feedback from educators statewide, increase the voice of teachers in policy decisions

DOVER, Del. – Governor John Carney and Dr. Susan Bunting, Secretary of the Delaware Department of Education, announced on Tuesday the establishment of a new Teachers Advisory Council to gather the feedback of educators from across the state.

Secretary Bunting invited two teachers from each of the state’s 19 school districts and six charter school educators to join the group, which will facilitate communication, contribute to solutions, and help increase the voice of teachers in policy decisions. The group will meet bi-monthly to discuss a variety of issues affecting teachers.

“Educators work on the front lines helping prepare Delaware’s children for the future,” said Governor Carney. “We are committed to transforming the Department into a true support agency to help schools and educators better serve their students. This new advisory council will help ensure that we are listening to educators every step of the way as we make policy decisions that affect the classroom. Thank you to the educators who are participating, and Dr. Bunting and our team at the Department of Education for convening this group.”

“This is an opportunity for me to hear directly from those who work closest with our children and often feel the most direct effects of our policy decisions,” said Secretary Bunting.

Teachers participating on the new advisory council were recommended by their superintendents or the Delaware Charter School Network for the voluntary role. Secretary Bunting has asked each to share his or her personal feelings as an individual rather than serve as a representative of a district or charter school’s position on an issue.

This group is in addition to the Teacher of the Year Advisory Council, which Secretary Bunting also meets with bi-monthly.

 

Educators participating in the new advisory council include:
  • Kristyn Bradford of Lake Forest North Elementary in Lake Forest School District
  • Seth Buford of Milford High School in Milford School District
    Shorel Clark of Brittingham Elementary School in Cape Henlopen School District
  • Marisa Clarke of Central Elementary in Seaford School District
  • Guy Cooper of Providence Creek Academy charter school
  • Luke Crossan of Waters Middle School in Appoquinimink School District
  • Todd Cushman of Delmar Middle School in Delmar School District
  • Chelsea Darczuk of East Side Charter School
  • Robert Edmondson of Seaford Middle School in Seaford School District
  • Catherine (Katy) Evans of Sunnyside Elementary School in the Smyrna School District
  • Christina Gallo of Lake Forest High School in Lake Forest School District
  • Shelby Gordon of Bunker Hill Elementary School in Appoquinimink School District
  • Emily Green of Caesar Rodney High School in Caesar Rodney School District
  • Robert Harrod of Cape Henlopen High School in Cape Henlopen School District
  • Matt Hoopes of Concord High School in Brandywine School District
  • Shelley Hovanec of Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center in Woodbridge School District
  • Michelle Howard of Delmar High School in Delmar School District
  • Lesley Louder of Dover High School in Capital School District
  • Tina Lykens of POLYTECH High School in POLYTECH School District
  • Jennifer MacDonald of Smyrna High School in Smyrna School District
  • Nathalie Melvin of South Dover Elementary School in Capital School District
  • Phyllis Mobley of Harlan Elementary School in Brandywine School District
  • Elaine Norris of Mispillion Elementary School in Milford School District
  • Petra Palmer of Delcastle High School in New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
  • Michael Paoli of Hodgson High School in New Castle County Vo-Tech School District
  • Sarah Polaski of Christiana Middle School Academy in Christina School District
  • Moraima Reardon of Woodbridge High School in Woodbridge School District
  • Lisa Richardson of Millsboro Middle School in Indian River School District
  • Matthew Sabol of William Penn High School in Colonial School District
  • Dara Savage of Early College High School charter school
  • Cameron Sweeney of POLYTECH High School in POLYTECH School District
  • Crystal Thawley of Sussex Technical High School in Sussex Technical School District
  • Elizabeth Van Aulen of Wilson Elementary School in Christina School District
  • Anthony Varrato of Sussex Technical High School of Sussex Technical School District
  • Kim Weber of Welch Elementary in Caesar Rodney School District
  • Leigh Weldin of Conrad School of Sciences in Red Clay Consolidated School District
  • Karen Willey of Sussex Academy charter school
  • Jill Young of Lord Baltimore Elementary in Indian River School District
  • Stacie Zdrojewski of Red Clay Consolidated School District Office

The Teacher Advisory Council will meet on Tuesday, March 27th from 4:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. at the Collette Education Resource Center Conference Room, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover.

My Email To Schwartzkopf To Remove Jaques As Chair Of School Consolidation Task Force

Following the crazy events at tonight’s School District Consolidation Task Force meeting, I emailed Speaker of the House, Pete Schwartzkopf.  I wrote about what transpired at the meeting as well as some other concerns.  I asked him to remove State Rep. Earl Jaques as Chair of the task force.

Good evening Speaker Schwartzkopf,

I wanted to let you know of some disturbing events that came up during the School District Consolidation Task Force meeting held at Smyrna High School. 

As the Chair of the task force, State Rep. Earl Jaques brought up proposals stemming out of the Structures Subcommittee.  One of those proposals, according to Rep. Jaques, was a mechanism by which the State Board of Education could used the Charter School Performance Framework for traditional school districts.  This proposal went on to say the State Board could then use the results of that framework to decide whether a state takeover of a district was warranted.  Another thing would be to force that district to merge with another district.

Multiple members of the regular task force, who attended those Structure subcommittee meetings, were unable to remember any circumstance where that option was even discussed.  When asked for clarification on this issue, Rep. Jaques was unable to clearly remember which meeting it was at, jumping from Seaford to Cape Henlopen.  He settled on a Cape Henlopen meeting.  Upon review of the agendas for that subcommittee, none were held in Cape Henlopen.

The members of the task force were in complete shock over the very discussion of an idea like this.  Rep. Jaques did say, when asked, the full task force would be able to vote on each proposal prior to the final report coming out.

As well, Rep. Jaques has commissioned reports for the task force without bringing it to a full task force vote.  He has openly, and publicly, admitted to conversations with the Governor about having these reports done.

I believe, along with other task force members, that Rep. Jaques has overstepped the legislative intent of this task force and is holding non-public meetings for proposals that are outside the scope of the task force.

I would like you to look into this, and if warranted, have Rep. Jaques removed as Chair of the Task Force.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

I would hope Schwartzkopf at least gives the courtesy of a reply on this matter.

Proposal Floating To Have State Board Use Charter Performance Framework For Potential State Takeover Of School Districts

All hell broke loose at Smyrna High School’s auditorium tonight.  The Chair of the School District Consolidation Task Force talked about a recommendation for state takeover of struggling school districts. Continue reading

State Board of Education Has A New Member

Either I fell asleep at the wheel or this happened very fast, but the Delaware State Board of Education has a new board member.  This new person replaces State Board member Patrick Heffernan. Continue reading

Guest Post: Redlining Atnre Alleyne’s News Journal Letter To The Editor

Elizabeth Scheinberg, a former Christina Board of Education member, wrote a “redline” response to Atnre Alleyne’s letter to the editor in the News Journal that appeared last week.

It’s time to redline. The following opinion was published by the News Journal on 2/28. It was authored by education advocate Atnre Alleyne. Alleyne is the founder and executive director of an education advocacy organization, DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now.

As a Christina parent and former Christina Board Member, I am compelled to set right the history that Alleyne has twisted to fit his vision an education crisis in Christina. Though I do not always agree with Christina, it’s still mine, it owns me as much as I own it. I live within it, advocate for students and parents in its schools and advise any members of the Christina leadership team who seeks my sentiments or strategies for improving our school system.

The Christina school board has perfected the art of pushing paperwork that produces little progress for Wilmington kids. Mr. Alleyne provides a beautiful set-up for an us verses them conversation. However, despite the highway between Newark and Wilmington the onerous paper-pushing affects every child, teacher, leader in the district. Much of it is the direct result of the same MOUs that Alleyne refers to below.  

Its members recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Gov. Carney’s office designed to take a bolder approach to education in a district whose graduation rate has dropped each of the last three years and is the lowest in the state (69 percent). Gov. Carney’s approach is no bolder than the deeply flawed Race to the Top, a program that several school boards across the state adopted under the duress of the Delaware Department of Education. I clearly remember the night when former Sec. of Education Lillian Lowery told our board that should we not approve her MOU and join, the changes set forth in the MOU would become law and Christina would have to fund them locally. Did they become law? Some. Did they improve education statewide? No. The longitudinal data is in – as Alleyne cites above – turning education into a competition was not a sustainable model nor did the interventions result in sustained improvements in the graduation rate.

Yet, as interesting as some of the details of the MOU may sound, experience tells us they are sure to fail. With a school board that has failed to follow through on previous reforms, Christina School District’s kids will not see change until we address the deep dysfunction of its school board. We agree that these new reforms will fail. Few have yet to unlock the wardrobe door to Narnia of education. I don’t believe that Carney has the key. These previous MOUS failed because Christina properly identified schools in crisis in both the city and suburbs, BUT has been unable to fund the treatment of the needs and ails of the children served within. When we look upon our lowest performing students, we find children who live in dire poverty among violence with little access to critical nutrition and often credible adult guidance needed to navigate their personal world. These children carry their heavy burdens to school where they act out, not because they want to misbehave but because they’ve been taught that even negative attention is better than no attention at all. Of course, Christina’s board could throw every penny of local education dollars at these societal concerns, but without the other administrative agencies who are far more competent to combat the socio-emotional-economic inflictions putting their own boots on the ground, Christina will still fail.

First, we blamed the teachers. Now, we blame the board.

You know you are dealing with a school board that is committed to inaction when the governor needs to attend Christina’s board meetings to plead and prod them to do what a high-functioning board would do without prompting. Nearly half of the state’s bottom 5 percent schools are in the Christina School District, 38 percent of kids from Christina now attend non-district schools and the district is wasting taxpayer dollars with most of their schools currently less than half full.

Alleyne, you don’t know the half of it. But, first, to address the falsehoods. Because a board of individually publicly elected members parse and due diligence does not make that board low-functioning. Christina is constantly being bombarded by the state and the department of education with mandates to implement as part of whatever the latest MOU demands. These MOUs come with strings attached, prescribed funding, and allow for little local control. To keep all the parts moving is a juggling act for which few would apply. One need only look at CSD’s vacant Director of Special Education position to understand exactly what is being asked of the individuals we hire. Christina expects them to perform to the best of their abilities and invests in their development. Carney and his private department of education, like those before him, demand that these individuals play god. That is the essence of test-fail-punish. I sat on the dais when Christina’s Board finally stood up to its bully, Jack Markell, and said no more to Race to the Top. I believe we saved our district millions of dollars in doing so while defunding mandates that provided no sustainable change. I believe we were taking steps to re-stabilize our students in schools that the MOU had blown off their foundation. Race to the Top took the last good thing our desperate children had – it took away the one final constant – the security of school. It took away teachers who knew them and loved them and reinvigorated the “voluntary transfer” process as teachers fled the strings of RTTT demands that did not comport with their education and teaching preparations. And for all that RTTT money we spent, each and every dollar we received was accounted for and dispersed for the benefit of the children as prescribed by the MOU. Christina didn’t push papers. We did get thwacked by Lillian Lowery in a closed meeting for openly challenging the process and progress that was occurring. We were admonished for the sincere scrutiny of some of the more active board members. The DOE literally went on the attack with no respect for the fact that we were legally elected unpaid servants who provided our own professional development often at our own cost, and that we represented not one interest, but the interest of every child and tax payer in our district. That is the balancing act before the board. How far can you push the tax payers to support the kids before the tax payers start saying no. In Christina there has been a resounding no to referendums. It’s nearly impossible to pass one on the first try and that means no more MOUs that come without the necessary funding to be sustainable in the long term. Not four years, not eight, but in perpetuity because what is most likely to be successful is a rather expensive proposition.

As to your half empty buildings. Roughly 20 years ago, under Lillian Lowery, Christina attempted to close several city schools to address the very concerns listed while also becoming more in line with the Neighborhood Schools Act. The rubber stamping school board of those times blindly followed Lowery’ s lead. However, the City of Wilmington sued and won and Christina was required to continue operating aging, under-utilized facilities without additional income to ensure their maintenance. It has been openly accepted since then, that the only way a city school will be closed is by the Governor himself. The City of Wilmington shoulders the full fault of these cash-draining buildings and the effects on the district, the board, the kids, and their communities. And true to form, what has always been predicted has come true. City closures by the Governor himself.

Christina does have several other unnecessary assets. The park across from Drew perceived to be a city park, is owned by Christina. Each overdose, each injury, each gun shot, each condom, each knife, each addict that calls that park home creates more liability for the district. Sell the park. It truly belongs to the City and Wilmington should invest in purchasing it. If the city declines, sell it for construction or turn it into a pay lot. It’s proximity to the heart of the business district lends it some real value.

Move on to Eden. Eden, though utilized by some departments, needs to be levelled. It sits on several desirable acres in a growing commercial region. The district could orchestrate a buy-out that would divide the parcel and provide for a new Eden built to suit the needs of the district. Or sell it entirely and renovate another underused asset to house the department currently homed there.

Yet Gov. Carney (and Gov. Jack Markell before him) have had to expend significant energy and political capital just to get the district to sign a piece of paper committing to real action. Seriously? Expend political capital? Did they really need to call in all the favors due them to get Christina to sign a piece of paper? Are Christina’s School Board members that influential that Carney spent political capital to compel Christina to following his plan? No. It took one Governor, Carney, to write a meaningful figure on that piece of paper as proof to a board that has been hosed by DOE for years, one signature that ensures enough money will in fact follow the plans on the paper. The only significant expense of energy has been what DOE put into desecrating Christina’s reputation.

That it takes ultimatums, lawsuits, federal investigations and hand-holding from the highest levels of our state government. It would not be so bad if the district actually had a track record of delivering on their commitments. They don’t. Christina delivers on commitments every day. Ask the children that leave its schools, what did you learn today? You might be surprised what they tell you.

Just two years ago, on March 4, 2016, the Christina School District signed a similar agreement with the Delaware Department of Education by which it committed to implementing reforms that would dramatically improve their lowest-performing schools.

Yet Christina school board member Harrie Ellen Minnehan remarked: “None of the actions designated in the doc were put into place as stated but the monies did go to the Wilmington city schools. I believe (Secretary) Godowsky wanted it signed strictly for audit purposes.” When and where is this remark? A statement out of context is just a statement out of context.

With no intention to deliver and no true accountability from the state, Christina School District has mastered this game of sign and switch.  Cute, “sign and switch.” I feel like you’ve just inked an MOU on a new board game. Having had to live with those MOUs, I can tell you that I felt accountability every day and I believe that our current board members do the same. They don’t all agree on how to do it, but they all have one commitment, to see that children like mine and yours receive a good education. Mine is receiving a fantastic education in a new program that has a waiting list of students who want to be there. This is Christina going to back to its roots and implementing innovation to bring back those students you’ve already mentioned as having fled. They fled for lack of choice, not for lack of faith.

In 2014, the Christina school board released a three-year strategic plan that took a school year to develop. They called it “Imagining the Future for Christina” and, like the MOUs, it addressed the essentials for creating a high-performing district.

But in The News Journal last September, Vice President Fred Polaski said the plan was never put into action. Instead, it was “put on the shelf” and none of the goals in the plan were met before it expired in 2017. Please let me provide the context of Polaski’s comment:

” Conversations about priority schools, state takeovers and redistricting have distracted from the real issues, the school board’s vice president Fred Polaski said, leaving little energy or appetite to focus on anything else. 

The district’s most recent strategic plan, which took an entire school year to put together, was basically “put on a shelf,” he said. 

“There was so much in it, you couldn’t get it all done in the timeframes we hoped for,” he said. “We never sat down and said ‘OK, we can’t do all of it. What can we do?'”  -The News Journal, Sept. 22, 2017.

These comments ran beneath a headline that proclaimed “CHRISTINA EMBARKS ON MASSIVE TURNAROUND TO HELP WILMINGTON STUDENTS.” Clearly, these comments, in context, do not satisfy the paper-pushing assertion. There has been no “Sign and Switch” here.

 

With Polaski’s comment in full context, I think many “interventions” perpetrated on the district by our government and DOE prevented the full implementation of that strategic plan. RTTT consumed one, leaving no funds left to implement a separate plan. In my opinion our strategic plan at the time was utter obfuscation to the extent that some members wanted their names removed, including mine. The next plan was being conceived when I retired my board service. That plan was interrupted by Markell and the DOE and their aspirations for those schools that fell in the bottom 5% of the state and the fate of the Wilmington schools. Now, Christina is again back to the drawing board. This time under the weight of the unknown – what will happen to our Wilmington children? What will be our financial obligation when all the schools are retrofitted and when new busing patterns are designed and implemented? Who will sit in the dual generational academy and provide services to our Wilmington children? How will CSD pass a referendum to continue adding new choice options? What will happen to the excessed buildings? Carney has already promised to exclude them from Charters seeking to lease them. But, who else wants a school building? Will they be mothballed? Will we continue to pay utilities there? What will be the cost of new curriculum that is sensitive to the needs of these students? What teachers will want to VT in or out of the schools? It is almost impossible to bear forward an amazing actionable plan when you have so many unknowns with which to bear. And no one has said a single word about the carve-out MOU that must be approved by the Christina’s unions as Carney’s interventions require work that is currently outside the scope of the current union contract.

In 2013, the state withheld $2.3 million of the Christina School District’s funds for failing to deliver on its commitments. In 2011, the state was close to withholding $11 million from the Christina School District for reneging on a previous agreement. I absolutely support the 2013 board action that resulted in the state withholding of $2.3 million in Race to the Top Funds. Christina did not want them. The prevailing board members believe that our students would be better off if we ceased to operate the failing interventions tied to those funds. In 2011, Christina made the final payment on its $20 million loan from the state – one year early. My board then jeopardized the district allotment of $11 million in RTTT. Why? As was widely reported, our human resources department in conjunction with our former superintendent strayed from the plan regarding the evaluation and hiring of teachers in our Partnership Zone Schools. Christina did not act to refuse the funds. The board wanted the hiring process repeated with fidelity. What we learned from our lawyer, after the fact, was that fidelity is not a legal measure. Compliance is. What our HR and Super had done technically fell within the bounds of Substantial Compliance and our board was forced to revote the issue, after which the State pushed the funds into the district to begin turnaround. We took fire from every direction because we wanted to do RTTT right, sticking to the measure we had agreed to with the state and while also holding the state accountable on their end. To that extent, the board had an independent leader review the RTTT monthly efforts and outcomes in the partnership zone schools and report to us directly to ensure we were receiving true information and not the sugar-coated kind. This is leadership. Seven members, each elected, with seven different experience and interpretations of the job before them. Of course, there is going to be debate, intense, thoughtful, sometimes painful and intense debate. But, when you are looking at the large sums of money and the strings attached, a board member must advocate and compromise their positions. What lies before them must be thoroughly vetted before we subject students, staff, parents, and tax payers to what we’ve been required to transform.

This pattern of ineffective leadership is bad for taxpayers. It is even worse for the many students and families who desperately need Christina’s schools to be of the highest quality. The leadership, though at time troubled, is similar to the leadership of many other boards in our state. A down state board member is lighting up the press today. None of us have lost sight, even those who have come and gone, of the need for CSD to be of high quality. I can honestly say that I believe my son is receiving a comparable education in his CSD choice program to that of our effective local charter schools. I also believe that the Strategic Plan should capitalize on the success of this first ,agnet endeavor. I urge our school board to keep pushing forward despite the changing landscape as DOE demands.

But because this year’s Christina School District drama features a new governor, a new secretary of education, a new Christina School District superintendent and a few new players, we are expected to act like we have not seen how this script ends. We are expected to be comfortable with handing over an additional $15 million to a district that has not been asked to account for how it spent previous dollars designated for improving its schools.  Christina has absolutely accounted for the spending of every dollar. Read the online check book. Visit the P-Card page. Ask questions of the financial director. Go to a CBOC meeting. This information is transparent and available for free to all.

How can we be excited about the promises of the latest MOU when the district has failed to honor its longstanding IOU to our kids? This district has been constrained from being creative and expanding its offerings because of the RTTT/Partnership Zone, bottom 5% school mandates, Smarter Balance, etc. Christina spent so much time and money providing exactly what the MOUs said, despite the pain of knowing that the interventions when observed from a longitudinal lens were going to fail as they failed everywhere else. The question that should be asked is, how is Carney going to ensure the interventions he’s directed are going to succeed. What data can he provide? As I can surely show you mine.

In 2020, my daughter will be starting kindergarten and her current feeder pattern would have her headed to Stubbs Elementary. If we continue our current path, 2020 will bring yet another year in which fewer than 10 Stubbs students are proficient in math and fewer than 20 are proficient in reading. Your daughter is fortunate. Her father is a well-read, though deceptive, educated advocate. Based on the most recent plan I’ve read, your daughter will first go to Stubbs as she would if she were old enough to attend kindergarten now. She will spend a year there before she grows her wings and attends one of the two 1-8 schools. That is exactly what you should want for your child. And her success will depend on how you invest in her. Parental involvement does not need to take place within the bounds of building. It happens in homes far more frequently than educators recognize.

That is not the future I want for my child or any of the children of the Christina School District.  Again, I am beyond satisfied in the education my son is receiving in CSD. I have lived with one foot in each a traditional district and the other in various charters. I have transferred my children, at times, to have access to better special education service providers, to allow my children to attend the same school at the same time for at least part of their young lives, and even for familial convenience. I currently have one child bused curb to curb and another requires a carpool due to a lack of busing.

So state leaders should definitely provide the students and educators in Christina’s Wilmington schools the additional investment and support needed. Wait, are we back to Wilmington-specific education again? You slip and slide with all the facts you’ve mangled. But only after they find a way to give our community a school board that represents us and can deliver the results our kids deserve. Alleyne, I am not your enemy. In fact, I think that Wilmington should have an ad-hoc committee of education experts overseeing these funds. I also think that the success and/or failure should lie on their shoulders and not that of the current board. I would support CSD in creating a committee of education leaders from within our city district’s boundaries to oversee the application of the funds.

I look forward to the day I see Mr. Alleyne run for school board member. He just may find that the map to success is far more complex that he current credits.

Atnre Alleyne is the founder and executive director of an education advocacy organization, DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now.

Elizabeth Scheinberg is the co-founder of a community partnership that provides children with autism and their families free recreation designed to address sensory and social needs in a safe environment. Her daughter was also the inspiration between Glasgow Park’s Hi5 Park for children with autism. Before writing this redline, she has slain 8 dragons before breakfast and thought of 8 more absolutely impossible things to overcome.

 

 

Governor Carney’s “Invest In Public Education” Tour At Delaware Schools This Week

Governor Carney is hitting the road this week up and down the state to different schools to drum up support for some of his proposed education initiatives in the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.  Each school he visits will have a different focus.  Those areas are Opportunity Grants, Investing In Educators, Better Schools, Math Coaches, and Early Education & The Delaware STARS program.  As well, Carney and Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a Facebook Live event on Tuesday, February 27th.  Which schools is he going to?  Find out here! Continue reading

Who’s Who Of Ex-Governors Team Up With Ridge-Lane For Non-Transparent Education Social Impact Bond Invasion

A few days ago, Kilroy’s Slower Delaware posited Jack Markell could run for U.S. Senator Tom Carper’s seat.  I commented I thought he should stay out of politics altogether.  I’ve always known he would hobnob around the corporate education arena.  Today, an announcement came out that Ridge-Lane Limited Partners is going to expand their social-impact merchant bank.  When I saw who else is a part of this, it made my head throb. Continue reading

As Christina Passes MOU, Carney Wants Charter Students To Come Back To Christina

Last night the Christina Board of Education, in front of a packed house, passed the Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the Delaware Department of Education and Governor John Carney’s office with a 4-2-1 vote.  Board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige voted no while member Angela Mitchell abstained.  The tense meeting, which lasted over three hours, had Carney sitting in the audience the entire time.  While the News Journal, WHYY, and WDEL all came to the meeting, many parts of the meeting were not covered in their articles. Continue reading