Markell’s Race To The Top Architect Dan Cruce Announces Bid For Lavelle’s Senate Seat In Delusionary Statement

Dan Cruce (D), long rumored to be in the running for the 4th Senate District seat currently held by Greg Lavelle (R), announced his candidacy this week with some rather surprising comments regarding the much-maligned Race to the Top program.

As the Deputy Secretary of Education under then Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery, Cruce was former Governor Jack Markell’s leading man for the Race to the Top application.  The federal program, which cemented Common Core and stringent standardized assessments in most states, was met with controversy in Delaware.  But Cruce praises his involvement with the program on his website:

Similarly, at the Department of Education, he collapsed the government bureaucracy while helping to bring in over $100M of new funding that created new jobs and supports for teachers and schools.

First of all, he did NOT collapse the government bureaucracy at the Delaware DOE.  He ensured it with Delaware’s Race to the Top application.  Race to the Top brought in names such as Penny Schwinn, Christopher Ruszkowski, Michael Watson and Atnre Alleyne into the DOE.  All of those have since left with the exception of Watson.  The Delaware DOE received $59 million of the $119 million Delaware received and used it to create longitudinal data systems and teacher evaluation programs that have been deemed by many educators in the First State to be burdensome and overly punitive.  In essence, Race to the Top brought an inordinately large amount of bureaucracy to Delaware.  Districts and charters had no choice but to follow the new guidelines under RTTT.  Companies such as the Vision Coalition, Achieve, American Institutes of Research and others made whirlwind profits from the program.  Very little went to the classroom where resources are needed the most in education.

There is no way in hell I could support Cruce for the Delaware Senate.  I fear what kind of mischief he could get into, especially paired with Senator David Sokola.  I would rather chew glass than see the architect for Delaware’s RTTT in the General Assembly (which I won’t actually do should he win).  He might be an okay candidate in some areas, but based on his education background he will NEVER get support from me.  NEVER.

Another Dem in the 4th District, Laura Sturgeon, will be running for the seat as well.

 

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Delaware State Board Of Education May Survive After All…

Last month, I reported the Delaware State Board of Education was done.  The Delaware Joint Finance Committee took their funding away from them.  Many assumed they were toast.  We were wrong.  It appears the Delaware Department of Education will pick up the tab.  So there will be more State Board of Education meetings in the future.  And there is big news on that front as well.  Starting in July, their meetings will begin at 5pm.  Which means, you know, teachers and educators and working parents can actually go to these meetings.  As well, they will have public comment before each action item (except those which have a formal public comment period, such as charter school stuff and regulations).  Unless the Joint Finance Committee or the legislators deny the funding to DOE to do this.

So what happened?  The changes to Delaware Title 14 would be monstrous.  They would have to change up a lot of things.  While some thought things could change in the epilogue language of the state budget (which I oppose in and of itself), it is not an option.  New laws would have to come out granting the authority to the Delaware DOE.  While those could happen, it would be a headache and a half to get them in play between now and June 30th.

There was talk during the Joint Sunset Review meetings about the State Board taking on one or two new members.  With that being said, and probably because of all the confusion surrounding if they should even exist, Delaware Governor John Carney never nominated anyone to take Jorge Melendez’ place on the board.  So there could be changes to the membership.  I am hoping for some folks with more resistance to the Rodel way of thinking.  I haven’t heard anything about Donna Johnson going anywhere.  The Executive Director role is chosen by the State Board of Education President which is currently Dr. Teri Quinn Gray.  She was appointed by former Governor Jack Markell.

The State Board of Education is still under Sunset Review by that legislative committee.  Prior to the announcement about their funding, the committee agreed to hold them over until next year.

No Shared Sacrifice For Delaware Charters! They Get To Keep Their Portion Of Educational Sustainment Fund!

The Delaware Education Hunger Games just went up a new level.  The shot heard round the Delaware Education world when Governor John Carney put out his FY2018 proposed budget shook up the school districts.  But the part no one is talking about is the Delaware charter schools get to keep their educational sustainment funds.

The total for the educational sustainment fund is $28.15 million dollars.  Carney wants to cut $21,974.40 of that fund.  That amount is what goes to the local school districts.  The rest goes to the charters and there is NO recommendation in Carney’s budget to cut those funds for the blessed ones.  The rationale is the charters aren’t covered by the Match Tax.  But I will get to that part later.  Governor Markell actually wanted to keep the fund in his proposed budget for FY2018.  This means the charters would get to keep over $6 million dollars.

Meanwhile, Carney suggested the school boards could raise those funds via a match tax without referendum.  For arguments sake, let’s say school boards decide to go that route.  That would mean the charters could get not only the educational sustainment fund but also their local share of those match tax funds.  Since no local school board seems to relish the idea of taking up Carney on his idea, they are forced to get the funds elsewhere.  In many districts, teachers and staff are getting reduction in force notices.

It is absolutely disgusting and abhorrent the charters are able to keep this money.  I thought the charter school transportation slush fund was disgusting enough, but this is obscene.  All the angst and distress in the districts while the charters merrily set their budgets without a care in the world.  Sure, they might have to make some sacrifices, but I’m sure they can make up for it with the above-mentioned slush fund.  Why do the charters get every perk in the world while districts are made to suffer?

So where did this educational sustainment fund even come from?  To find out the answer to that, you have to go way back to the Governor Mike Castle days.  This was during a time when Delaware didn’t have the budget problems we are plagued with today.  There was actually an idea thrown into the air to cut property taxes entirely.  As Delaware does so wonderfully, they put together a group to see if this was possible.  John Carney was actually on this working group and was one of the chief voices against cutting property taxes altogether.  And that is where the fund came into being, through this group.  And now Carney wants to get rid of it, but only for the districts, not the charters.  Originally, the amount was over $50 million dollars.  But it shrunk down over the years.  There used to be a list for its intended use, but now it states these funds can be used locally for whatever they want.  Which means Carney’s statement about how it shouldn’t have been used as a permanent fixture to support teacher salaries is hogwash.

If you aren’t pissed off enough about the shenanigans going on with this budget, this should set you into a tailspin.  Unless you are actually a parent of a student who would benefit from this perk for your child’s school (aka, a charter school).  All the business officers in the school districts know this, and Mike Jackson, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget definitely knows this.  But this has remained under the radar for months now.  Until I found out today.

Do charter schools have a right to the match tax proceeds collected from Delaware school districts?  This is where it becomes a somewhat thorny issue.  Technically, no.  But the Christina School District settlement with the 15 charter schools set up a potential upcoming conflict where they could argue the merit of getting those funds.  From the settlement:

In particular, Plaintiffs are free to contend for fiscal 2018 and thereafter that Match Tax Revenues should be included in the calculation of Local Cost Per Student pursuant to Section 509. CSD is free to condent for fiscal 2018 and thereafter that Match Tax Revenues should not be included in the calculation of Local Cost Per Student pursuant to Section 509.

Why would any discussion of match tax funds appear in this settlement?  Unless they KNEW Carney would be putting this in his proposed budget.  And we all know it isn’t actually Carney creating this.  Most likely Mike Jackson.  More boon for charters.  And I just heard the charter school transportation slush fund WILL stay in the budget.  Time to get your voices heard Delaware and call out the State of Delaware for succumbing to the incessant lobbying of the Delaware Charter School Network.  It is time to get people like Greg Meece from Newark Charter School to shut up about his school’s great test scores and how they are recipients of the Blue Ribbon Award twice.  It is all based on superficial bullshit.  Anyone can rig the game and charters have been very proficient at that.  It is time to stop the Delaware charters from deciding education funding and policy in Delaware.  It is time for our legislators to stop voting on the basis of less than 20% of Delaware’s public education population and look at the needs of ALL our students.  Enough.  Our children are more important than these showmanship games.  I am not directing this at every single charter school.  I am directing this towards the lobbyists for the charters and the charter school leaders who have been doing this for decades.  They weaseled their way into Carney’s office and I see no signs of them leaving.  Time to make that happen!

Editor’s note: I don’t swear on here that much.  When I do, that means I am pretty ticked off!

Updated, 8:41am: In paragraph 3, sentence 3, I changed the word “would” to “could”.  At present, the charters have no claim to the match tax in Delaware.  It is my contention they are gunning for it very soon.

Red Clay’s Super Merv Writes Letter To Community About Budget Cuts & Deficits

In a week of somber news around Delaware in the wake of pending teacher and educator layoffs, districts are scrambling to figure out their budgets for next year.  Through this blog and other social media sources, citizens of the state are growing concerned about teachers losing their jobs and classrooms becoming more bloated than they already are.  In response to this public outcry, Red Clay Consolidated Superintendent Dr. Mervin Daugherty wrote a letter to the community about what this means for the district and the community.

I’ve seen many Delawareans giving Governor John Carney a pass on this since he inherited most of this mess from former Governor Jack Markell.  But his almost boneheaded solutions could make the situation much worse for citizens across the state.  In the coming weeks, I will be going through last year’s budget as well as the proposed budget for FY2018.  I will also recommend areas across districts and charter schools where funding should be cut or consolidated without losing teachers.  I will present these recommendations and findings to the General Assembly and Governor Carney.  I am sure it won’t be in any official capacity, but I will do so all the same.  Any input or recommendations from the general public will be most welcome!

Mark Murphy Spews Sour Grapes About His Time As Delaware Secretary of Education

Do you want some cheese with that wine Mark Murphy?  That is the thrust of an online article from The Job in which Mark Murphy laments his time as the Delaware Secretary of Education.  Murphy gets it wrong on so many levels it isn’t even funny.

Frankly, kids’ interests and adults’ interests don’t always align. Kids have no power, no say, no decision-making authority, no money — so nobody has a real reason to listen to kids. Go shadow a high-school kid for a day — good luck staying awake. You have to walk from class to class, with four minutes between each bell. You have to raise your hand to go to the bathroom. It is so disempowering and so boring.

Yes, he did use the word boring.  Because we are desperately clamoring for high school students to do whatever they want in school.  I’m terribly sorry Murphy had to exercise so much while shadowing a high school kid.  He did always seem fit.  Perhaps that is why.  Let’s be very clear on something.  Teenagers are trying to figure out who they are.  They are going through puberty.  I’m not saying their voice isn’t important, but adults often need to be the ones to make decisions for students.  It isn’t because they are on a power trip, it is because they went through their teenage years and entered adulthood (well, most of them did).  They went through it and came out on the other side and know what works and what doesn’t.  But then a bunch of billionaires got together and decided they knew what was best for education.  They used students and parents in their quest to get rid of teacher unions.  That is whose side you were always on.

What would happen is, I would feel like I had reached an agreement with the union leadership, but then they came back a month or two later and that wasn’t how their membership felt. I should have spent more time meeting with local leadership. In hindsight, I would have done that differently.

Yes Mark, you should have.  It sounds to me like the union leadership wasn’t also aware of what was happening at the ground level either or perhaps they were just placating you.  The union leadership should reach out to their membership before making agreements on their behalf.  If that is how it went down.

Each time you try to turn around a school, or you open or close a charter school, or disagree with the union, you punch another hole in the bucket and you start to drain out. You lose some political capital. Eventually, you’re out of water.

Mark, you became the Delaware Secretary of Education at the worst possible time in Delaware.  Post Race to the Top and knee-deep in Markell’s very bad education policies.  We are seeing a lot of those policies reversed throughout the country.  Being a leader is allowing yourself to stand up to the criticism and not letting it get to you.  If you ran out of water that’s because you kept listening to the same people over and over again and were not willing to hear what was happening at the grass-roots level.

If every kid had access to a middle-class lifestyle, the country would be a much better place, and people wouldn’t be so angry about all the immigrants.

The two don’t really intersect Mark.  I know the goal is for every kid to be the same, but good luck with that.  The bad education policies you pushed on Delaware at the behest of your education totalitarian boss, Jack Markell, failed because they did not look at the individual, only the collective.  Not sure where your immigration comment comes in.

I am really nervous that really great people are going to stop being willing to pursue public office because you get publicly and professionally assassinated in these jobs.

Does this mean you see yourself as “really great people” Mark?  Since I became involved in Delaware public education a few years ago, I have seen three Delaware Secretaries of Education: yourself, Dr. Steven Godowsky, and Dr. Susan Bunting.  Both Godowsky and Bunting treated me with respect although we do not always agree on policy.  When you were around, you didn’t give me the time of day.  You treated opt out parents as if they were somehow beneath you and should be squashed like a bug.  You didn’t even mention the Rodel Foundation in this article, but you listened to them far more than any educator, student, or parent.  The priority schools initiative was the death knell of your time as the Delaware Secretary.  The whole thing was a Delaware Dept. of Education public relations nightmare from the onset.  It was shoddily planned and I would have to think you knew that.

If you’re a teacher in one of these schools, the new principal who comes into the school should decide whether you stay or whether you don’t stay. The teachers’ union was quite upset about that.

Of course they would be upset about it because the whole basis for this was standardized test scores.  It failed to address issues such as trauma, special education, segregation, and the individual student.  Who wants some corporate education reform Principal hand-picked by the Delaware DOE to come in and can a ton of teachers over Smarter Balanced scores?  That’s why parents and citizens also objected to this plan.  The biggest failure was your inability to predict the severity of the public backlash for this.  I have to think you felt so empowered at the height of the corporate education reform movement that you felt infallible.  No human being is infallible.

In retrospect Mark, this sounds like sour grapes on your part.  You cast far too much blame on others while failing to address your own failures in your term.  Playing around with the priority schools funding was the final straw.  You can’t make promises and then back away from them.  I’m not sure why you blame the unions for all that is wrong with public education.  I know that is the corporate education reform mantra, but perhaps you should think of your own future and get off the shame and blame bus.

Jack Markell Under Investigation By Ed Authorities ***Debunked***April Fool’s Day***

Well, that didn’t take long.  It turns out former Delaware Governor Jack Markell is under investigation.  I can’t say I’m surprised given some of his questionable activities concerning education during his term as Delaware Governor of the First State.  It’s like I’ve always said, Delaware is the first to sign the constitution but the last to follow it.  But what is he under investigation for? Continue reading “Jack Markell Under Investigation By Ed Authorities ***Debunked***April Fool’s Day***”

Opt Out Wins Big In Delaware

After more than two years of the Delaware Dept. of Education holding an opt out penalty against Delaware schools, the moment of victory for advocates of opting out of the state standardized test came in a big way last night.  Not with a bang, but what appeared to be a conciliatory moment for the Delaware DOE.

At the final meeting of the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee last evening, the group met for what appears to be the last time before the DOE submits their Consolidated State Plan to the United States Dept. of Education.  The DOE acknowledged they have no idea what to expect in regards to approval of their plan by the feds.  Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field Rogers stated they knew what to expect from the feds under the Obama Administration but under new U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos they are in unchartered territory.

For advocates of opt out, an unexpected but meaningful change to the Delaware School Success Framework, the Delaware accountability system, signaled a clear shift in thinking from the Department.  Under the former framework, if a school went below 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other state assessments, an opt-out penalty would kick in.  Schools could have their final accountability rating lowered if the opt out penalty kicked in.

The opt out penalty saga began over two years ago, under former Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  At that time, the very controversial House Bill 50 was raging through the Delaware legislature.  The bill would have codified a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment.  The bill passed in both houses of the General Assembly but the corporate education reform leaning Governor Jack Markell vetoed the bill.  Shortly after, the Accountability Framework Working Group recommended not going ahead with the opt out penalty in the framework but were overturned by Markell and the new Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky.  When Delaware began working on the state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the opt out penalty remained.  Even though advocates spoke out against it, many did not predict the Department would remove it.  But under Governor Carney and current Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting, there appears to be a change in thinking.

Field Rogers said the penalty is gone and they will be going with the recommendations from the AFWG, whereby a school must submit a letter to the Department on how they will work to get the participation rate back up to 95%.   She did mention that if they see the same schools with high opt out rates a few years in a row that they may seek “interventions” for those schools but nothing was specifically named.

To see the final Delaware ESSA plan, please see below.  There might be some tweaks here and there based on the final meeting last night, but for the most part, this is it.  I’ve heard quiet rumors concerning the Smarter Balanced Assessment in Delaware.  We could see a change in that area but nothing official has been announced.  We shall see…

 

Carney’s Budget Reset Will Put The Hurt On School Districts, Charters And Citizens Of Delaware

Delaware Governor John Carney released his FY2018 Budget “Reset”.  He is calling for a ton of cuts across Delaware programs as well as increase revenue by increasing taxes.  The extremely wealthy won’t get the tax increases many have been calling for in this proposed budget.  But property owners will feel it.  Here comes the Delaware sink hole!

In education, the match tax will switch over to the local side, to be raised by school boards without a referendum.  Which is all well and good if you don’t own property.  But if you do, expect to pay more in school taxes.  As well, $15 million will be cut from district and charter operation budgets doled out by the state.  I don’t see the funding for basic special education for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade but I see $4.7 million more for early childhood education.  We poured $18 million into that last year.  I don’t see any proposed cuts to the Department of Education even though Carney ran around during his campaign saying he was going to streamline the Department.  Carney is allowing for $25.1 million for new teachers and $1 million for his “opportunity grants”.  $22 million would be cut from the education sustainment fund (thus the district boards getting to get more school taxes without a referendum like they do with the tuition tax).

In the below document, we see absolutely nothing about marijuana revenue or an increase to the gax tax.  But smokers will be gouged another buck a pack.  The retirement age for additional personal credit will rise from 60 to 65 while all senior citizens will see their Senior Citizen Property Credit reduced by a hundred dollars.

I get that you have to make up for a $385 million dollar deficit by making cuts but it is important to know how we got there.  Former Governor Jack Markell came on board as the Great Recession of 2008 spread its wings.  After that, Markell just spent and spent and spent without really getting enough revenue to stick around in the state.  Our population grew as special education services grew at a much higher rate.  Something disability communities have been saying will happen for years.   I am not a big fan of this budget proposal.  Carney, like his predecessor, refuses to make the rich pay more.  I don’t see a lot of “shared sacrifice” going on here.  If it was truly shared, it would hurt everyone.  To someone making a million bucks a year, a nominal increase in taxes isn’t going to hurt them as much as it will to a family living off $30,000 a year.  Granted, this is assuming the General Assembly approves this and the budget deficit stays the same.  It could (and I predict it will) increase between now and June 30th.

I don’t envy Carney.  He inherited most of this from Markell.  But with all his “coffee klatches” as the folks over at Delaware Liberal call them, I would have expected something a lot more different than what Markell gave us back in January.  I’ve told Carney’s people exactly what he needs to do in terms of education funding.  The response from them?  Crickets.  They hear me out and then nothing.  Just because I haven’t written as much about district and charter funding shenanigans doesn’t mean it hasn’t been foremost in my mind.  I was counting on the new administration to do the right thing here.  Looks like I’m going to have to do this the hard way and start REALLY ticking people off.

High Noon For The Delaware State Board of Education On Tuesday

We can do it better ourselves but we won’t tell them that.

The Delaware State Board of Education could be shut down as of Tuesday.  They face the Delaware Joint Legislative Overview and Sunset Committee.  The State Board was put under review by the committee last year after some very rough years under former Governor Jack Markell.  Many of the complaints circulate around their Executive Director, Donna Johnson.  As well, many citizens and education organizations in the state feel the State Board has outlived their usefulness and just seem to perpetuate agendas brought forth by corporate education reform organizations such as the Rodel Foundation of Delaware and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  I wrote about their last meeting with the committee over a month ago.  But I was able to be the sole attendee at a meeting yesterday where the State Board discussed their final meeting with the Sunset Committee and boy was it a doozy! Continue reading “High Noon For The Delaware State Board of Education On Tuesday”

Delaware State Board of Education’s Wild Sunset Review & They Are Still Missing A Member

The State Board does not hear or receive official complaints.

As the Delaware State Board of Education goes through their sunset review with the Delaware Sunset Committee, it has become more clear than ever this is a state agency in need of massive change.

After board member Jorge Melendez resigned last fall, the Delaware State Board of Education still has six members on their seven seat roster.  Three weeks into Governor Carney’s four-year term, there has been no nomination for Melendez’ replacement.

My concern is what happens if the State Board of Education votes on an action item which results in a tie vote.  Who breaks that stalemate?  How long will Carney wait to choose a replacement?  As well, the Governor has the authority to replace the existing State Board of Education President with Senate confirmation.  Will Carney do this which has been a typical thing in the past?

At present, the Delaware State Board of Education is under Joint Sunset Review by Delaware legislators.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board, submitted a very lengthy questionnaire to the committee last October.  Johnson provided an extensive and very thorough history of the State Board of Education which included items I had no clue about.  Included in the document is a list of Delaware Attorney General opinions that affect the agency.  There have been 21 such opinions dating back to 1996 with an average of one per year.  Eight Executive Orders, all issued for former Delaware Governor Jack Markell, had an impact on the State Board as well.  There is one section that talks about bringing the former Delaware Teacher of the Year on the board as a non-voting member.  Donna Johnson’s role was changed in 2010 from Policy Analyst to Executive Director.  Aside from her, the only other staff is an administrative assistant through the Delaware Dept. of Education (awesome lady by the way, Dani Moore).  Donna Johnson’s performance review is also included in the below document, but there is no indication of who approved this review aside from the State Board of Education in 2015.  I do not recall seeing this performance review on a State Board of Education agenda, but that may not be required under Delaware code or perhaps I missed it.  The most shocking part of this document exists towards the end.  The State Board of Education does not receive or recognize complaints about their own agency.  Perhaps this is why they are often perceived as a state agency that acts with an air of impunity and infallibility.  I believe that needs to change.

 

It’s Baaaaaaack… Opt Out Redux! Kowalko Files New Opt Out Legislation In Delaware

On Thursday, we will see new opt out legislation from State Rep. John Kowalko.  It will be very similar to House Bill 50 but it will have a different number.  I thought they would retire that number after the last go-around with opt out.  Will House Bill #60something have a shot with Markell gone if the General Assembly passes it?  Would Governor Carney sign it?  Are parents still opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  It doesn’t begin again until March so if parents are thinking about it, we won’t hear much noise until February.  I still fervently support opt out as a parental choice and feel there should be legislation to codify that right.  I already have a few ideas for a potential amendment but I’m holding that one very close to see how the response to the bill goes.

I will support this bill in its entirety.  I will write about it and campaign for its passage.  I don’t know if I will be as heavily involved in it as I was two years ago.  But most of the legwork has already happened.  House Bill 50 brought opt out into daily language in the First State.  Markell fighting it most likely caused opt out numbers to increase.  Some have (I believe correctly) surmised that ed reformers wanted opt out at some levels.  Plans have been afoot to create stealth tests in a personalized learning environment.  These would most likely be in the form of end-of-unit tests but it would still be the state assessment, just taken throughout the year.  That could be a tough nut to crack.  But all nuts have some crackability.  You just have to find the right tool.

Farewell Markell

In less than 20 hours, Delaware’s new Governor will be sworn in.  Jack Markell’s eight-year term as the Governor of Delaware will end.  I’ve seen reviews of his term all over Delaware and social media in the past week or so.  I believe it is no secret that I view his education initiatives as an unmitigated disaster.  But were they? Continue reading “Farewell Markell”

John Carney Q&A Reveals Thoughts On Education In Delaware: Susan Bunting, Labor Day, and Test Scores

carneyshuckers

Delaware Governor-Elect John Carney and State Senator Brian Pettyjohn held a question and answer session at J.D. Shuckers in Georgetown this morning.  The packed restaurant submitted many questions.  A few of them dealt with Delaware education.  Carney’s answers provided some insight to one of his recent decisions. Continue reading “John Carney Q&A Reveals Thoughts On Education In Delaware: Susan Bunting, Labor Day, and Test Scores”

Delaware House Education Committee Gives Fond Farewell To Secretary Godowsky

As Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky spends his last two weeks in the role, the House Education Committee gave Godowsky a fond farewell at the end of their committee meeting today.  Together with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and House Majority Leader Val Longhurst, the committee brought Godowsky up to the podium and a few members gave eloquent praise to the Secretary of Education who could only be seen as an improvement over his predecessor, Mark Murphy.

State Rep. and House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques stated Godowsky became a dear friend which was echoed by State Rep. Kim Williams.  Williams thanked Godowsky for always being there to answer her many questions and said she would miss him.  Godowsky informed me his last day will be January 24th.  Governor-elect John Carney named Indian River Superintendent Dr. Susan Bunting as his choice for Delaware Secretary of Education.  Bunting will appear before the Delaware Senate on January 18th for her confirmation hearing.

I asked Godowsky if he was counting the days.  He stated he has mixed feelings about leaving.  He said he is sure on his last day he will be ready but he will miss working with the people.  But he is not done with education in Delaware.  While no formal announcement has been made about his post-Secretary plans, I have no doubt Godowsky will still be in the education arena.  He even joked at the tribute today that he will be “babysitting” education in the First State.

Despite my many articles about education policy and procedures, Godowsky was very much a sea change from Mark Murphy.  On a personal level, Godowsky was always approachable when I saw him and he would always say hello to me.  I can’t imagine leading the entire Delaware Dept. of Education.  The honest truth is I have no idea how Dr. Bunting will be as Secretary of Education.  So much of that will be based on the environment around her and what John Carney plans to do with that environment.  One issue she will face right off the bat is the education funding issue, especially in relation to Delaware’s projected $350 million dollar deficit heading into the FY2018 state budget talks.  I’ve been a bit rough on her on the Indian River audit investigation and the fallout from that scenario.  Time will tell.  In the meantime, best of luck to Secretary Godowsky and may good health and luck find you in your next plans.

godowskyhouseedcomm2

 

17 Who Will Make An Impact In 2017: Kevin Carson

kevincarson

The former Superintendent of Woodbridge and Cape Henlopen, as well as the very recent former Executive Director of the Delaware Association of School Administrators could have a very big 2017.  As well, he served as the interim Superintendent in the Woodbridge School District.  Kevin Carson could be handed a role that will define his legacy in Delaware.  This is a man who knows the ins and outs of Delaware education.

I’ve met Carson several times, usually at Legislative Hall.  As the head of DASA, Carson represented every single Delaware school administrator during one of Delaware’s most tumultuous times in education.  He challenged former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with a vote of no confidence, along with leaders from the two biggest local teacher unions in the state and the Delaware State Education Association.

If Carson is picked as John Carney’s Secretary of Education, he will have to juggle many balls all at once.  There is the mounting deficit in our state budget.  Delaware will be submitting it’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.  New charter school applications will begin pouring in.  A growing chorus of Delaware citizens are demanding more financial transparency with education.  The Rodel engine will want Carson on their side.  Education technology is poised to  dilute the teaching profession to something unrecognizable.  Education funding will continue to be a thorn in the side of Delaware students.

Carson would be in charge of a Delaware Department of Education that is ripe for change.  He has the logistic ability and intelligence to transform the Department into something that delivers on transparency and better communication.  As well, he would serve as the Secretary for the State Board of Education and would have valuable input on who would be good picks for future board members.  There is nothing in Delaware state code that would prevent Carney from picking an entirely new State Board of Education.  There is now one vacancy on the board and Carson’s opinion on who that replacement should be could be pivotal.

Carson would also have to deal with events transpiring at a federal level.  President Trump and his Cabinet of private sector billionaires will want to change education and privatize it.  As a blue state, Delaware will fight this tooth and nail.  But one compromise could threaten Delaware education in varying ways.  We need a Secretary that has vast amounts of experience in dealing with events at the local level.  Someone who sees the issues from a wide perspective.  Someone who would be the voice for Delaware students and educators, who understands the complexities that divide us.

I completely understand that any Delaware Secretary of Education would have to conform to Governor Carney’s platform.  With Jack Markell, he had a very clear agenda and God forbid if you disagreed with that agenda.  He micro-managed Delaware education to the point of absurdity.  But at the same time he let financial issues run amok in our schools.  While I don’t see Carney as well-versed in education matters as Markell was, I believe that will become a strength of a positive Secretary.  I would like to think Carney would give his Secretary more leeway in implementing education policy in Delaware.  Godowsky was a mixed bag.  Like I’ve said before, he would have been a great Secretary under a different Governor.

Nothing against the other potential choice for Carney’s Secretary of Education, but we need someone who has served as more than a leader of one district.  We need someone who has a multi-leveled array of experience in Delaware education leadership.  That man is Kevin Carson.

State Board Of Education Next Week: Academy Of Dover Renewal, WEIC, Priority & Focus Schools, ESSA, & Some Must-Read Educator Regulations

The Delaware State Board of Education meeting on Thursday, December 15th has some very interesting presentations and action items!  This could be Delaware Secretary of Education’s second to last meeting.  He announced today that the earliest he would leave his position would be January 18th.  More details on that, as well as his replacement, later in the article!

The most interesting presentation, in my opinion, will be the one about priority and focus schools.  Representatives from Red Clay, Christina, Capital and Laurel will give updates on how their “turnaround” schools are doing.  This includes the seven priority schools- three in Red Clay, three in Christina, and one in Laurel.  I pray this isn’t a repeat of the meeting last December when State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray had a meltdown over the Christina priority schools.  I would tend to doubt it since that all got sorted out in the middle of the WEIC/State Board fiasco last February.

Speaking of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, it looks like someone from WEIC will give a presentation on where their redistricting plan is six months after the Delaware General Assembly did not pass legislation to fund the plan but instead gave them an extra year in the process.  From what I’m hearing, there is some discontent on the main WEIC group and some tension is building.  I reported last week Christina was getting a facilities evaluation for all their buildings in Wilmington.  Tony Allen, the Chair of WEIC, did respond to me and stated this was part of the WEIC process from Senate Bill 300 but did not touch on the exact wording of the amendment on that bill.  This is a VERY gray legal area in terms of the wording for this facilities review to even happen, but once again, this is Delaware.

We will get the usual monthly update on how things are going with the Every Student Succeeds Act.  I expect a lot of head tilts from Gray as she tries to understand the new timeline.  I pray someone brings up Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education pick.  Please, make it happen!  I can say the ESSA Discussion Group will meet at the end of January but exact dates have not been determined yet.

Academy of Dover gets their charter renewal vote at this meeting.  I expect the State Board will approve it.  There will be some talk about getting their enrollment up, but it will pass.  Most likely a unanimous vote.  No drama here.

This meeting will be a Regulation bonanza though!  Regulations are a very tricky beast.  When you look at just the description for the changes on an agenda, the true meat is in the actual regulatory changes.  And there are tons and tons of changes for Regulations 1503 and 1510.  Teachers, especially new teachers, will want to read these!  But other staff in schools will also want to read these, especially counselors and nurses.  Other regulation action items deal with Secretary-only ones that actually repeal old regulations dealing with school nutrition.  A couple of regulations dealing with surrogates for IEP students above the age of 18 are also getting a State Board vote.

There are no major personnel changes.  Secretary Godowsky’s Associate Secretary, Candice Brooks, will be moving to the Title I Family and Community Engagement area as an Education Associate.  This signals a shift of employees coming at the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Secretary Godowsky WILL be leaving.  The question is when.  The new Secretary may not start right at the beginning of Carney’s administration if they have to facilitate an exit from their current Delaware job.  Yes, the new Secretary will be from Delaware.  Godowsky did confirm that today (not that anyone thought otherwise).  So Godowsky has publicly stated he will stick around during that transition.  The new Secretary of Education announcement could come as early as this weekend but most likely next week, along with all of Carney’s Secretary picks.  While this is not official, I am hearing the Secretary of Education pick is down to two people.  All I can say is that they were on my poll last week.  I will say no more!  But Carney could make other sweeping changes to the DOE besides the supreme leader.  The Governor picks the President of the State Board of Education, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, and pretty much all the leadership positions at the DOE.  Will Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Donna Johnson, and Michael Watson survive the new administration?

If you are in Dover next Thursday, and have some time to kill between 1pm to 5pm (or 7pm if Dan Rich gives the WEIC Presentation, just kidding Dan!), come on over to the Townsend Building and bring popcorn!  Maybe Governor Markell will pop over to give a farewell speech to the State Board!

 

Fraud & Cover-Up Evade Transparency Through Attorney General Matt Denn’s Office

defoiadeclaration

A pungent stench is coming from Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office when it comes to the Freedom of Information Act.  When the Delaware Attorney General’s office gets the facts wrong on a response to a FOIA complaint, the only way for a Delaware citizen to correct those errors is to file with the Superior Court.  Which costs money and fills the state coffers.  Can someone please remind me why I pay taxes for a state where our Governor feels “sunshine is the best disinfectant“?

The response I received two days ago from Matt Denn’s office stems from my FOIA complaint and the Delaware Dept. of Justice’s response to that FOIA which came out on October 28th.  The Delaware Pathways Steering Committee did not publish their first meeting anywhere and I filed a complaint.  Considering the DOJ is still working on a FOIA complaint I submitted last March, it seems there was a rush to put the matter concerning Governor Markell’s Executive Ordered Delaware Pathways Steering Committee to bed.

When I emailed Denn’s office to reevaluate the FOIA response the same day, I didn’t hear back from anyone.  On Tuesday I sent an email to Matt Denn asking for any type of response to my October 28th request.  On Wednesday, I received the below email from Kim Siegel, Denn’s FOIA Coordinator.  I did edit out part of the email which covered a separate matter I am working on with Denn’s office.

From: OpenGovernment (DOJ) <OpenGovernment@state.de.us>
To:
Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent:
Wednesday, December 7, 2016 4:04 PM
Subject:
October 28, 2016 determination

Dear Mr. Ohlandt, 

Attorney General Denn has asked me to respond to the issues raised in your December 6, 2016 e-mail.  Your e-mail makes reference to an October 28, 2016 determination by the Chief Deputy Attorney General in response to a FOIA petition regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee.  Under the Delaware Code, a petitioner who is dissatisfied with the outcome of a FOIA determination by the Chief Deputy Attorney General may “appeal the matter on the record to Superior Court.”  Therefore, if you wish to appeal the determination, that is the mechanism under Delaware law by which to do so.  

Sincerely,

Kim Siegel, MPA
Legislative Affairs Manager

FOIA Coordinator
Delaware Department of Justice

So if I am understanding this correctly, when a citizen alleges a public body has violated FOIA, which is the law, the public body can skirt around the law and give false information.  But when the citizen calls them out on it, through a request for appeal, suddenly the DOJ decides the law is important.  The mechanism for appeal is not fair at all to a citizen looking for transparency.

What is the point of a Freedom of Information Act request if the agency looking at it refuses to look at all the facts from both sides?  This is typically how it is done- a party files a complaint with the facts as they know them, the DOJ sends the complaint to the party that had the FOIA complaint filed against them, the defending party sends a response, the DOJ sends the defendant agency’s response to the accuser, and then the DOJ rules on the complaint.  I have had FOIA complaints in the past that dragged out because the DOJ wanted more information.  Apparently, that was not the case with this complaint.  The DOJ Chief Deputy Attorney General came out with this FOIA response in record time without any chance of obtaining more information on the matter.

governorsunshine

16 Who Defined 2016: Greg Meece & Newark Charter School

No one seemed to be the center of controversy in Delaware education more than Head of School Greg Meece, the face of Newark Charter School.  Greg Meece had a very busy year behind the scenes of many headlines.  It almost seemed like the ongoing district and charter school war centers around NCS and the Christina School District.  Here, in it’s entirety, is the story of Newark Charter School in 2016.  There are still 27 days left, so I may have to put some updates in before 11:59pm on December 31st!  If you see blue in the article, that is a link to an article I published on NCS or Greg Meece.

Before I get into the whole local funding formula fiasco, we need to look at other events Meece was involved in.  Prior to this year, I really didn’t write about NCS that much.  The school tends to keep things to themselves.  What happens at NCS stays at NCS.  That changed in February.  On February 5th, it was announced NCS would get a “distinguished Title I” designation for their students outstanding scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The only problem?  NCS isn’t really a Title I school.  The reward was based on the district surrounding them which has Title I schools all over the place.

The next day, I posted how a special needs girl was denied an opportunity to participate in NCS’ lottery.  This caused a massive outcry all over the state.  The NCS board, the previous fall, said any child who turned six after a certain date would not be able to participate in the lottery.  For children with developmental or other disabilities who may start school later, this would prevent those families for applying to NCS.  I had people email Greg Meece.  He responded to my email the next day.  and it eventually caused the school to change their mind.  The girl was let into the lottery but she did not win a placement.

A month later, I discovered NCS does not file IRS tax returns because of very vague loopholes from the IRS dating back to 1995.  I sent a tip to the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office on this.  As well, I submitted a FOIA to NCS to which they responded very fast.  Nearly ten months later and nothing has come of the tip to the auditor.  I know they were investigating this because I received a call from the state auditor’s office about this.  When I called over the summer to find out that status of the investigation, I never received a confirmation that it was being worked on.

Things stayed relatively quiet until shortly after the school year ended.  Delaware Senator David Sokola nuked a great bill dealing with teacher evaluations in Delaware.  House Bill 399 was meant to undo some of the very damaging practices thrust open teachers from the state.  Sokola got involved with the bill and put an amendment on it.  One of the aspects of the amendment, the addition of parent surveys at the pilot schools, is something  Meece implemented at Newark Charter School.  The ties between Sokola and NCS just kept opening up like a can of worms.

As folks were getting ready for the 4th of July, I thought out loud about NCS, Senator Sokola, and the missing Kathleen Davies.  I wonder if NCS had anything to do with that.  Davies disappearance from the Auditor’s office hit mainstream media with a lot of details missing.  While NCS and Meece were not mentioned in that article, that didn’t rule them out on my suspect list for what happened to Davies.  State Rep. Kim Williams broke the news in comments on Kavips blog about a petty cash audit Davies had been working on that disappeared as well.  I went into a lot of detail and started naming suspects.  A few months later the mystery deepened what the petty cash audit turned into petty cash warning letters but NCS wasn’t involved.

While the Kathleen Davies mystery was simmering, I discovered NCS did away with the age restriction for Kindergarten applicants but they came up with a new policy that students entering Kindergarten could only apply once.  So if a child with developmental or other disabilities did spend another year in pre-school, and the parents applied to NCS before that, they could not apply the next year.  It was the same discriminatory package decorated in different wrapping paper.

After I received detailed breakdowns of every school district and charter’s payment allocations for Fiscal Year 2016, I began to take a closer look at NCS payments.  I found they spent an exorbitant amount on student body activities.  Only one district was higher than them.  This raised my suspicions that something funky was going on which led me to examine the funding for their “cafetorium” addition along with a STEM laboratory.  I didn’t find anything conclusive, but it was very ironic how numbers matched with other things.

By the end of August, as the school year started off nice and quiet, all hell broke loose.  The local funding formula was changing so charter schools would get more from the local districts.  I immediately pegged Greg Meece as the catalyst for this and dumped my feelings about NCS throughout the article.  Less than 24 hours later, Secretary Godowsky changed his mind on the change to the charter payments.  The next day I posed my theories on who was responsible for this at the Delaware DOE and openly asked Meece many questions about NCS.  I never did get a response from him.  I can’t imagine he is my biggest fan.  This led to a resurfacing of Greg Meece’s famous crab bucket analogy.  While all this was going on, Senator Sokola wrote a letter to the News Journal on his latest “discovery” for education.  Speaking of the News Journal, they wrote a very misleading article on the whole thing which prompted me to do even more research.  The President of the Christina board gave me the official news there would be no changes to the formula the next day.  But apparently Meece and NCS Board President had their own thoughts on the matter and wrote their version of events in a letter to NCS parents.  The true shock came the next day when a Senator Sokola email defended NCS and cast blame on Christina but I debunked a lot of his theories.  Then Christina sent a letter to parents.  For a week, NCS parents were coming out to defend their school.  Some of them got very nasty which prompted this response from me.  After a long ten days, I had to recap the whole thing and give some new information about district exclusions.  On September 7th, Christina held an open to the public legislative briefing to explain their side of the story and how the funding works with payments to charters.  I attended the meeting and recorded it.  Transcribing it was a bitch but it gave a ton of key information (which still makes my head hurt when the final outcome of this reached its climax this week).  I’ll have to see if I still have the recording to transcribe Part 2 of this meeting.  I assumed Christina argued their case so well it caused Secretary Godowsky to issue a letter to the legislators calling off the whole thing for this year.  Many assumed nothing would happen on this until the legislators returned in January based on Godowsky’s letter.

In the Spring, the General Assembly finally passed the Kilroy-inspired “All school boards must record” legislation.  For Newark Charter School’s very first audio recording, it was a whopping 16 minutes.  You can’t make this stuff up.  The next week, they won the Blue Ribbon School status from the U.S. DOE for their “outstanding” test scores (smelling a theme here?).  Senator Sokola got the spotlight treatment based on his upcoming General Election contest against Meredith Chapman so I felt obliged to showcase his very sad charter school legacy.  Of course NCS got a nod.

One would think after such a crazy month, NCS would try to stay out of the news.  Not the case.  The school ended September with a student sit-in.  Inspired by the U.S. Congress, students staged a sit-in when a teacher was fired over an incident with a student.  Instead of getting barbecued by the parents, the students jumped in on the comment roasting of this blog.  I actually admired the students for what some called “The Slappening”.  The teacher got her job back a couple of weeks later as Earth started spinning on its axis again.

On October 5th, Delaware found out the charter school response to Secretary Godowsky not moving forward with the change in the charter school payments from Christina.  15 charters filed a lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE.  I got my hands on the actual filing which named all the schools and parties involved.  By this point, everyone knew it was NCS who started this whole thing which they confirmed in another letter to NCS parents.  I soon received the whole timeline for the shenanigans involving Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and Bill Manning.  This prompted me to look at some things that were very peculiar about this lawsuit.

A couple of weeks later, Delaware United made a three-part video series where they interviewed Senator Sokola.  Care to guess what the biggest topic was?  Education and Newark Charter School!

At the end of October, I found out that Newark Charter School was supposed to have an outreach plan to get more sub-groups in their school.  This was a condition of their major modification to start their new high school.  We are still waiting for this.

Last week, the Charter School lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE came back in a big way.  Christina’s board accepted a settlement with a 4-3 vote.  By the end of the week, the settlement leaked out before all the signatures were on paper.  Where did the leak come from?  Governor Markell’s office!

So there you have it: Greg Meece and Newark Charter School.  More controversy than Donald Trump at a rally for Democrats!  More scandalous than… I can’t think of anything…  I sure do hope 2017 is quieter for Newark Charter School.  They lost their isolationism label this year!

Mike Matthews Lampoons Governor Markell And Does A Damn Good Job!

The Delaware World Language Immersion program is in many of our school districts.  Students in Kindergarten start learning Spanish and Chinese (Mandarin) and continue through school learning one of the languages.  Spanish I can understand.  Chinese?  I know China is a major world power, but come on!  Okay, this is old news.  But what happened when Delaware Governor Markell sold the idea to Delaware Superintendents?  Mike Matthews has the scoop!

Gov. Markell (speaking to a roomful of superintendents): “OK folks, we’ve had so many education successes in my eight years. Race to the Top. Priority Schools. Educator Compensation. Lots of brand new successful charter schools. Smarter Balanced. Time for something new. I want you all to put language-immersion programs in your schools.”

Superintendent: “That’s a good idea, Governor, but how are we gonna do that?”

Gov. Markell: “Well I’ll leave all of that up to you, but I want Spanish and Chinese in our elementary, middle, and high schools, and I want them now.”

Superintendent: “Well, we don’t have enough Spanish- and Chinese-speaking educators in this state. Our Districts will have to bear great costs of not just the salaries of these folks, but the fees associated with getting them into the country and getting them work visas as well as the fees of the programs sponsoring them.”

Gov. Markell: “So…?

Superintendent: “And this will be very disruptive to our schools. At elementary levels, we will need to get rid of two teachers per grade level so we can bring in the Spanish- and Chinese-speaking teachers. And not to mention all the content-area teachers at the middle and high schools who will be impacted.”

Gov. Markell: “And the problem is…?”

Superintendent: “Well, Governor, have you actually thought any of this through? Are you going to be funding these positions above and beyond the unit count so the teachers with whom our students have built relationships won’t be impacted by this huge change?”

Gov. Markell: “Funding additional positions? No. But we do have a few thousand dollars in grant money your districts can fight over to get the ball rolling.”

Superintendents: (crickets)

Gov. Markell: “So who’s gonna go first?!?!?”

And fight they did for the paltry sums to get this program going.  This was actually a lampoon written by Mike Matthews on Facebook.  I have to imagine there have been many similar conversations with all of Governor Markell’s education programs.  This is Delaware.  If it sounds to good to be true, we throw caution to the wind and do it anyway!  I’m sure half of Delaware has seen this already since Mike seems to be friends with about half of the state.  But for the other half…

Did The Governor’s Office Just Scuttle The Charter Settlement With Christina In An Act Of Premature Celebration?

In their haste to get the settlement out, did Governor Markell’s office actually blow the whole thing?

Governor Markell’s office let the settlement between the 15 charter schools and Christina School District get out to the public before all parties signed the document.  Markell’s Chief Legal Counsel, Meredith Tweedie, sent an email to State Representative Paul Baumbach yesterday according to Christina School District board member John Young.  Young posted the following on Facebook this morning:

If you needed any proof that the Charter lawsuit against Christina (not against the Governor’s office) wasn’t a shakedown, ask your self this: Why is the Governor’s office, a non-party, disseminating the not-yet-final settlement to legislators before the actual parties that signed it? They are clearly invested in this, and it comes off rotten. Here’s the email (you can see the document on Delaware Liberal):

From: Tweedie, Meredith (Governor)
Sent: Friday, December 2, 2016 7:14:23 PM
To: Baumbach, Paul (LegHall)
Subject: Charter settlement agreement–with some signatures

Good evening Representative Baumbach,

Attached is a copy of the signed Settlement Agreement (actually two copies, but it’s the same document with different signature counter-parts). This will be fully “final” when all of the Charter signatures are acquired, which we anticipate will occur early next week.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email me. Otherwise, have a great weekend.

Best regards,
Meredith
2 Attachments

When Christina approved the settlement at their board meeting on 12/1/16, the motion included that the settlement would not be made public until it was final.  No legal settlement is final until ALL parties have signed.  In the settlement on Delaware Liberal the  parents representing the minor children had not signed and two of the charter schools didn’t either.  Even if they publicly stated they would approve the settlement this does not translate to the settlement being final.  Presumed approval is not the same as final approval.  Since this leak from Markell’s office broke the condition of the Christina board’s approval of the settlement, does that render the settlement null and void?

Why would Jack Markell’s office leak a legal settlement that had already caused a great deal of controversy in the state to begin with?  To what purpose?  Why was the Governor’s office even in possession of this document to begin with before all parties signed on?  And even some of those signatures are suspicious based on their authorization in some of those schools.  Last night, Delaware Liberal posted the entire settlement.  I knew this wasn’t leaked from the Christina board because it had the other signatures on it which would not have been on it before or even immediately after  Christina’s board meeting.

According to the above email from Tweedie, there were two attachments, one for Christina and one for the DOE.  What were the stipulations in the DOE settlement?

Markell and Christina… this chapter needs to close fast.  Watching Markell support Christina’s referendum in a video last Spring was like watching a root canal.  The man obviously has no love for the district which spread to his puppets in the DOE during his administration.  Should a Governor target an entire school district?  It almost seems personal for him.  Certain legislators who chair certain education committees in the General Assembly don’t really hide it either.  They are transparent as Saran wrap.  Will Carney carry on this very obvious disdain?  I certainly hope not.  It has been very damaging not only to Christina but the entire education system in the state.