For a few months there, I had a great source at the Delaware Department of Education. When Delaware MET went down at the end of 2015, there was a lot I didn’t publish about what was going on there. You will find out why shortly. I’m glad I trusted my gut and didn’t send Wilmington into chaos mode. The below emails, between Dave Morgan and myself, not only shed a lot of light on Delaware MET, but also the Delaware DOE itself. Different names are thrown around in these emails. Going back and reading these is always fun! The last email between Dave Morgan and myself is particularly enlightening given that DAPSS is finally under formal review. The incompetence at the DOE is plain to see in these emails. I wish I could have met Dave in person. I probably did but didn’t know about their secret alias with me. I’ve had a few suspicions over the years, but have been unable to prove it. Some parts of these emails I redacted for a few reasons. That’s my business! Continue reading “Untold Tales: Delaware DOE, Dave Morgan, & Three Days That Scared The Hell Out Of Me”
In one of the most interesting pictures I’ve ever received, it made me question why we even have a Delaware Secretary of Education. On Tuesday, Atnre Alleyne (the former Delaware Department of Education employee, the co-founder of TeenSharp, and the Director of DelawareCAN) posted a Facebook memory from a year ago. The interesting part is the picture he put with it because that was NOT in the original post at all. Continue reading “What Is The Purpose Of A Delaware Secretary Of Education?”
Over the past few years, I’ve made it a point to write an original Christmas story on here each holiday season. Some have been completely satirical while last year’s was a bit more serious. They usually star the Governor of Delaware at that time. Sometimes they even have Santa Claus as a main character! I thought I would put all of them together in one place. Next year I’ll do the same thing with this year’s stuff. This year’s story is coming! Just trying to find the right time and ideas to come together! Heck, in the spirit of Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate), let’s put all the festive stuff here!
A note to newer readers who haven’t been here since the beginning. Back in 2014, in the first six months or so of this blog, I picked up an idea from Kilroy’s Delaware to add Twitter hashtags to each title. I didn’t realize this was highly annoying to many readers until someone pointed it out to me. I’ve cleaned up some of those old stories and removed those hashtags, but I saw doing this a lot of the Christmas themed articles still have them. My apologies! Last year I took a long overdue vacation from the blog so only a couple of articles saw the light.
More Christmas Gifts For The Enemies Of Public Education Part 2 12/21/2014
The Other Christmas Gift 12/18/2015
The Sound Of Angels 5/7/2016 (Not really a Christmas related story but perfect for that holiday spirit!)
Santa And John 12/1/2016
If you liked the Jack and Paul Common Core birth story, I did write a sequel a year and a half later but it is not holiday themed:
The Delaware Education Posse Rides Again 5/15/2016
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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***”
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…
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.
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”
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.
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.
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”
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”
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.
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.
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!
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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.
Kim Siegel, MPA
Legislative Affairs Manager
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.
So if I want to take this matter further, I have to file with the Superior Court. How much would that cost? According to the Superior Court website, it wouldn’t be cheap!
- $10.00 Court Security Assessment Fee
- $190.00 for the first 40 filings of an action
- $150.00 for request for a trial date which is non-refundable
- Fees do not include advertising costs which shall be billed directly to the filing party.
So right off the bat, filing an appeal against a FOIA response from Matt Denn’s office would cost me $350.00 which I would not get back no matter how the Superior Court ruled. I could do this without an attorney and most likely get chewed alive by the DOJ’s attorney. So I would probably have to get my attorney. That would cost well over $1,000.00. And that number would climb once it went to trial.
The transparency racket in Delaware is almost criminal. In essence, it is a money-maker for the state in many situations. I don’t have that kind of money. Most Delawareans don’t. Which is exactly what they count on. When you file a FOIA complaint against a state agency asking for emails, the state agency knows they can say they don’t have the emails. At that point, the state agency responds they don’t have them but the requesting party can file a $250.00 fee with the Department of Technology and Information to do a search for those emails. Most people don’t have $250.00 they can just fork over like that. And then the fees associated with reviewing the information. Depending on what the party is looking for, this can climb into the four figure amount quickly.
Here is the bottom line: people don’t file FOIA requests if they think everything is hunky-dory. They believe something illegal happened or is about to happen. While FOIA responses from the DOJ don’t always rule there was a FOIA violation in a complaint, at times their reasoning is subjective. The DOJ is not going to sue another state agency. So if a citizen wants to take that extra step, they have to pay. Even if the DOJ’s office gets information wrong, they appear to be above the law unless you take them to court.
It is the Department of Justice, not the Department of Covering Other State Agencies Asses. But transparency is a fickle beast depending on who you want it from. I guess us taxpaying citizens are not meant to know the truth about matters in Delaware. It is bad enough Governor Markell can evade transparency by including a member of the General Assembly on an email (no member of the General Assembly is subject to FOIA), but it appears FOIA in and of itself is not freedom of information. It should be called DOIA, the Denial of Information Act.
Last year, Delaware State Rep. Sean Lynn sponsored legislation which would have lifted the FOIA ban on the General Assembly. It went nowhere. Far too many of our legislators hide behind that privilege and are able to operate with no transparency. And our state leaders take full advantage of this when possible. The way Delaware code is set up it makes it impossible for a citizen to find out matters in the public interest. When a citizen files a FOIA complaint with the DOJ, that office makes it impossible for a citizen to appeal that decision unless they pay money to the state. Even if that citizen produces contradictory information which could easily give the matter further merit.
Until our legislators stop playing games with the truth, nothing will change with FOIA in Delaware. We are just the pawns too many of them suck up to when they need our vote. Once again, I say this with the caveat that there are some legislators who are good people. But it rests with the leadership of the House and Senate as well as the committee Chairs. If you have nothing to hide, there shouldn’t be a problem with making FOIA easier. But it is more clear that fraud and cover-up exists at the highest levels of Delaware. And when an education-sucking vampire like the Rodel Foundation gets thrown into the mix, all bets are off.
This is the email I sent to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn when I submitted a request for appeal on the FOIA response from October 28th:
From: Kevin Ohlandt <email@example.com>
To: Denn Matthew (DOJ) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Siegel Kim (DOJ) <email@example.com>; Gibbs Danielle (DOJ) <firstname.lastname@example.org>; OpenGovernment <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, October 28, 2016 4:47 PM
Subject: This FOIA Complaint legal opinion issued today is just wrong.
I am openly and publicly asking you to respond to this opinion issued from your office today acknowledging ALL the facts I presented in this article as well as the questions posed at the end of the article: