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.

Is The DOE About To Dump 7 Christina Schools On Red Clay? Does WEIC Know About This?

Red Clay taxpayers beware: You might get a sticker shock on a future tax bill!  The Delaware Department of Education issued a Request For Proposal on November 28th for a “time sensitive” Facilities Condition Evaluation of all the Christina schools based in Wilmington.  While I initially thought this could have been related to Christina’s recent mold issues, I found this went much deeper than that.  Is this some type of surprise announcement that will come in John Carney’s State of the State address?

The schools that will be evaluated are Bancroft Elementary School, Bayard Middle School, Elbert Palmer Elementary School, Pulaski Elementary School, Stubbs Elementary School, Douglass School, and the Sarah Pyle Academy.  Even the district office at the Drew Education Support Center is on the list!  The smoking gun is this part:

Develop cost estimates to bring each of the above listed facilities to a similar state and with the same control systems such as building controls, camera systems, keysets, alarm, access control, phones, tech. infrastructure (switches), and wifi as Highlands Elementary School, 2100 Gilpin Avenue; Shortledge Elementary School, 100 West 18th Street; Lewis Dual Language Elementary School, 920 North Van Buren Street; Baltz Elementary School, 1500 Spruce Avenue; and DuPont Middle School, 3130 Kennett Pike.

Those are all Red Clay schools.  If this were just some random facilities evaluation, there is no way there would be something to bring Christina schools up to Red Clay specifications.  There is going to be a big move coming soon!

Identical to the process and methodology followed for typical school facilities assessment work, the assessment will identify any potential issues related to major building systems and building components such as the building envelope/structure, roofing, HVAC/mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, telecommunications, and security systems as well as any site improvements required to the immediate surrounding area for building access. Data generated from this effort will:

• Evaluate the above listed schools in 1. facility condition indices as compared to RCCSD facilities as listed in 2.

• Identify and prioritize required short and long term improvements

• Identify code compliance, accessibility and system coordination issues requiring immediate attention

• Identify potential energy conservation opportunities

But does the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission know about this?  They are having a regular commission meeting next Wednesday at Warner Elementary School.  If they don’t, boy are they in for a surprise!

As well, it looks like the Delaware Autism Program could be shifted to Red Clay as well:

Prepare a design analysis for the Christina Administrative space, Douglas Alternative School, Sarah Pyle Program and Delaware Autism Program as currently located in one of the buildings listed above.

Who is the driving force behind this?  If it is John Carney, he may want to open with a huge splash by finally giving the civil rights advocates in Wilmington their hearts desire.  But if this is his move, it would also be a huge smack in the face to the Red Clay taxpayers.  Carney was very wishey-washey during his campaign about what he would do with the WEIC redistricting plan.  He hinted at liking some of it but not all of it.  But WEIC Chair Tony Allen is on his transition team.  If Carney pulls this off without the General Assembly he risks alienating many of State Reps and Senators.  Which may not work out in his favor with the special election for Bethany Hall-Long’s seat.  That race will determine whether the Democrats or Republicans control the Delaware Senate.

Another option is Governor Jack Markell.  With the time sensitive status around this and a due date for bids of December 13th, could he have the gumption to stick it to Christina one last time before he leaves office?  While ticking off the taxpayers at the same time?

The RFP was authored by a Renee Harris.  The only thing I found on her while doing a Google search and a State of Delaware search was related to the Tobacco Settlement from the Delaware Attorney General’s office.

No matter what this is, it is going to be something that will change the Wilmington education landscape.  There is absolutely no way the DOE would issue an RFP like this without something waiting in the wings.  The WEIC redistricting plan was put on hold for a year.  The state isn’t overflowing in cash right now either.

**UPDATED** 12:35pm, 12/2/16: Senate Bill 300 with House Amendment 1 was what allowed the WEIC Redistricting Plan to survive.  But there is key language in the amendment put forth by State Rep. Kim Williams:

The amendment removes language obligating the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and affected school districts to develop, before February 2017, a detailed assessment of the impact of transitioning City of Wilmington Students from the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. Such detailed assessment would require development of school- and student-level changes that require public input and facility analysis that cannot be completed in the timeframes in the original bill. Instead, they should be undertaken as part of the planning phase for redistricting upon commitment of necessary and sufficient funding. The amendment preserves appropriation of $200,000 to continue the work related to the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, including analysis of fiscal impacts, and language clarifying and ensuring that any additional state funding requires further action of the General Assembly.

That date of February 2017 flies in the face of this RFP.  I would strongly consider a “Facilities Evaluation” part of a “detailed assessment of the impact…” for the WEIC plan.  The amendment does not include the Delaware DOE though.  But the original WEIC bills from 2015 do not give the Delaware DOE to have this much involvement.  Something is happening…

**UPDATED** 2:04pm, 12/2/16: If you read the fiscal note for Senate Bill 200, it states the following:

  1. This Act is effective upon signature of the Governor.
  2. This Act provides a supplemental appropriation of $200,000 to establish the Wilmington Redistricting Transition Fund to assess the fiscal impact of transitioning City of Wilmington students from the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. The funding is to be used by the Red Clay Consolidated School District, in consultation with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the Christina School District, for the assessment in which said assessment is to be substantially completed on or before January 31, 2017.
  3. This Act also establishes a working group to review the fiscal impact assessment that is prepared by the Red Clay Consolidated School District in consultation with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the Christina School District. The Department of Education is to provide staff support to the working group, upon request, and it is assumed that the Department will provide this support within existing resources. The working group shall submit its review by March 31, 2017 to the Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
  4. Funding is set aside in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget process in the amount of $200,000.

But once again, that due date was changed based on House Amendment #1 to the bill.  So, once again, why is the DOE issuing an RFP with a submission due date for bids of 12/13/16 and labeling this as “time sensitive”?  The key words in the amendment are this- “commitment of necessary and sufficient” funding.  The amendment states this work should not take place until a time when that commitment is assured.  No budget proposal will come out until towards the end of January.  And a budget proposal does nothing until the General Assembly approves it.  So even if folks are saying this is part of the $200,000 allocated to WEIC as a result of SB300, it appears the amendment is being completely ignored.  The bill was dead before the amendment.  The amendment saved WEIC.  I am not convinced of anything I am hearing at this point.  Whomever is directing these actions is breaking the law.

**UPDATED** 2:16pm, 12/2/16: Upon further analysis of the above amendment, it states the type of work included in this RFP should be done during the “planning phase” of the redistricting plan.  As per the plan approved by the State Board of Education, the timeline consists of the following:

December 17, 2015 to June 30, 2016 Approval Stage

July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 Planning Stage

July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 Transition Stage

July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 Implementation Stage

But because the General Assembly did not pass the legislation that would make the redistricting plan happen, they instead bumped it up a year.  So the Planning Stage of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 is no longer in place.  The amendment is very clear about what should happen during this stage.  That planning stage can’t begin again until July 1, 2017 if the General Assembly allows for that to happen based on signed legislation.  I’m just a blogger without the legal expertise the WEIC and DOE attorneys would have.  But if I can clearly see that the law is not being followed, they would assuredly know.

To read the RFP, please read below:

 

 

New Faces Enter The Mix For Delaware Secretary Of Education & A Message For John Carney

Who will be the Delaware Secretary of Education under Governor John Carney?  My moles and sources have given me new names in the hunt for the Education Czar of Delaware.  One of them I really, really like! Continue reading “New Faces Enter The Mix For Delaware Secretary Of Education & A Message For John Carney”

Did My Predictions Come True For The 16 To Watch In 2016?

In December of 2015, I posted 16 articles about who would make an impact on 2016.  Did they truly have an impact and did they fizzle out?  Many of them did have a huge impact, some fizzled out, and some didn’t do as much as I thought they might.  You be the judge!

State Rep. David Bentz: Bentz had a relatively low-key rookie year in the Delaware House.  He did get a bill passed and signed that bans the sale of Dextromethorphan to those under the age of 18.  He did sit on many committees including Health & Human Services and Education.  I expect Bentz will begin to rise in 2017 after running unopposed for his seat earlier this month.  He did vote in support of the suspension of rules on the override of the House Bill 50 veto which won him some fast points in my book.

Henry Clampitt: Clampitt became very quiet about halfway through the year.  He did help out the Delaware Charter Schools Network with some key legislation surrounding charter school audits.  Over the summer he joined the board of Gateway Lab School.  I am still predicting he will make a run for Red Clay’s board next year!  Clampitt curtailed some of his online activity as well this year.  Clampitt can usually be found at the occasional Red Clay board meeting cavorting with some of his friends.

Dr. Robert Andrzejewski: The Acting Superintendent of Christina had a huge year!  And not all of it was good.  He did help the cash-poor district in winning their referendum but that only introduced other problems.  The fifteen charter schools that feed off of Christina students complained they weren’t getting enough money from Christina.  After it became public and legislators were swarmed with complaints from parents and citizens, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky backed off the changes that would have given more to the charters.  In October, the charters filed a lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE.  Now news comes of a possible settlement.  Bob A also had to contend with mold issues at Pulaski Elementary School and soon reports came in of other schools having mold issues as well.  He set up an “Academy” at Christiana High School with very poor communication and transparency which led to all sorts of controversy.  Bob A also introduced many “cash in the trash” contracts for vendors which the Christina board approved nearly every single time.  Rumors continue to swirl about the potential of Bob A getting the Secretary of Education role under John Carney.  It could happen which would make a lot of Bob A’s activities make an odd sort of sense.  Fattening up his resume or being Bob A?  Time will tell.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell: Jack always makes an impact.  Whenever I see that smiling face, I know he is up to something.  He successfully influenced enough Delaware House reps to vote no on a suspension of rules to override his veto of House Bill 50.  But then many of those same legislators voted yes on a suspension of rules for a corporate tax bill.  This rightfully earned Markell the wrath of many parents in Delaware.  In fact, many of us beat the hell out of him over opt out on his own Facebook page before the vote.  Instead of going up to Howard High School and dealing with the death of Amy Joyner Francis, Markell issued a brief statement and merrily went on his Common Core tour at Delaware schools.  He pimped the Delaware Pathways to Prosperity program every single chance he could.  He spoke at a conference on Blockchain technology and announced Delaware would get legislation going so Blockchain firms could incorporate in Delaware.  He created the Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee while issuing another executive order to create a Pathways Steering Committee that had its first meeting with no public notice.  The “Education” Governor won some fancy-schmancy award from the National Association of State Boards of Education.  Despite rumors, Markell firmly stated he was never a consideration for a Cabinet post in a Hillary Clinton administration (easy to say after the shocking upset when Donald Trump won the presidency).  He continued to appear at press conferences and letters to the editor promoting corporate education reform which pretty much landed with a resounding thud in the minds of Delawareans.  As Jack enters his final days as Delaware Governor, I don’t think history will be very kind to his legacy of putting corporations over people.  But I will ask one boon of Jack Markell before he leaves his post: a chance to meet with him, do an interview, and get his side of the story on Delaware education.  What do you say Jack?  One for the road?

Delaware Governor John Carney: Unless you’ve been living in a hole the past few weeks, John Carney won the Governor’s seat by a landslide.  Everyone is waiting with bated breath to see who Carney picks for his administration.  He has been very quiet (as he was during the election) about what he is going to do.  He came out with platforms on various subjects, but they were somewhat vague.  As of today, he has only announced two members of his administration.  This blogger has reached out to Carney many times with zero success, as recently as yesterday.  I don’t want Carney and I to be at odds with each other.  We will assuredly disagree on many things, but if he isn’t willing to sit down with me then I fear this will be the case.  In education, Carney will have his hands full between whomever he picks for his next Secretary, education funding, ESSA implementation, and a budget deficit which will force the state to begin cutting items from the state budget.  I expect Carney will be more low-key on many issues facing Delaware, but he should not be underestimated at all.

Delaware Senator David McBride: McBride was relatively low-key this year, but he did become the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate when Senator Patti Blevins suffered a shocking loss earlier this month to Anthony Delcollo.  But this title will not have as much importance since Delaware has a Lieutenant Governor again in the form of Bethany Hall-Long who will preside over the Delaware Senate.

Tony Allen: Allen was all over the place in 2016.  State Board of Education meetings, ESSA Advisory Committees, Legislative Hall, and forums kept the Bank of America executive very busy.  Allen stood his ground with the Delaware State Board of Education when they kept trying to change the redistricting language.  When the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting bill failed to pass the Delaware General Assembly, Allen did save the plan by extending the timeline.  It remains to be seen what Carney will do with the plan, especially given that deficit I told you about.  Allen is serving on the transition team for Governor Carney.  Earlier this month, Allen predicted another segregation lawsuit against the state based on Delaware schools, especially those in Wilmington.  Allen did admit one of WEIC’s weaknesses was not including Kent and Sussex County representatives on the plan.

Ashley Sabo: The Red Clay mom of a special needs child had a very busy year.  While she continued to fight for inclusion in Red Clay, she also held the district accountable for the lack of communication surrounding the plan.  Sabo also adopted a foster child and became a Court Appointed Special Advocate as well as becoming the Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Orphan Care Coalition.  I am very optimistic about Sabo’s future in Delaware and I see her as a rising young star who will become a very important voice for not only students with disabilities and foster children, but all citizens of The First State.

The Delaware Bloggers: It was an interesting year.  Three longtime Delaware bloggers closed up shop this year: Transparent Christina, Kavips, and the Delaware Grapevine.  The first two dealt with many education issues.  For Transparent Christina, the beginning of the end came when the author of that blog discovered Facebook and all the fun he could have on there.  Kavips ended his blog earlier this month capping off a ten-year run of what he viewed as “The Progressive Era” of Delaware politics.  I suspect we haven’t heard the last of the enigmatic one and he will pop up somewhere once he/she gets his/her groove back once Donald Trump is inaugurated.  Kilroy’s Delaware slowed down this year but that had more to do with fixing up his house at the beach than a lack of interest.  Delaware Liberal provided a healthy dose of election news and dealt with the epic defeat of Hillary Clinton and bemoaned to rise of Donald Trump.  A new blog by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne called The Urgency of Now stirred up tons of controversy this year as teachers were blasted constantly on his blog.  Another longtime blog, The Colossus of Rhodey, also ended.  As for this blogger, now almost halfway through his third year, who knows what the future will bring.  One sure thing is that change is inevitable but things stay the same in too many of the wrong places.

The Parents of Delaware Students: The parents of Delaware received a fatal blow when the Delaware House refused to suspend the rules to allow for an override of Markell’s House Bill 50 veto.  The Delaware PTA received a hush order on opt-out from their National headquarters.  Parents still opted their kids out, but it was comparable to 2015.  The Delaware DOE has attempted to corral parents into their Every Student Succeeds Act Community Conversations, but I really hoped more parents would attend to lend their voices in opposition to the DOE’s crazy plans.  Many parents attended referenda this year as Christina, Brandywine, and Cape Henlopen referendums passed.  Not enough Indian River parents supported their referendum when it failed to pass last week.  By and large, Delaware parents continue to get the shaft in education policy.  I predict the voice of parents will rise in 2017 to unheard of levels.  With national and state politics the way they are now, many parents will be pitched against each other with various events.  One appointment of U.S. Secretary of Education for Betsy DeVos has already renewed a lot of debate about school choice, charter schools, and school vouchers.  These arguments will heat up in 2017.  Many parents of students with disabilities (as well as advocates) successfully thwarted an attempt at a very bad special education strategic plan at the Delaware DOE.  Parents of special needs children are quickly learning that banding together in unison across various groups is more important than debating their differences.  So much so that a two-day planning session for a new special education strategic plan will take place on December 8th and 9th.

Karen Field Rogers: While the first half of the year started very slow for the promotion of Field Rogers as the new Delaware Deputy Secretary of Education, she certainly made her mark in the second half as the Delaware DOE spokesperson at many ESSA meetings.  The jury is still out on what Delaware’s ESSA plan will be.  I can picture her still working at the Townsend Building under Governor John Carney.  She is not really a subject of controversy down there.

Delaware Senator Colin Bonini: Bonini lost his bid for Delaware Governor as many predicted.  But he did not do himself any favors by publicly announcing he would lose and continuing to call Carney his friend.  Even if you think you are going to lose, you don’t make a spectacle of it.  But he did answer a very long survey I gave all the candidates for Governor.  Only Carney failed to respond to the survey, and I unintentionally left out Green Party candidate Andrew Groff.  Bonini will still be in the Delaware Senate doing his thing, unless he gets a new job in the Carney administration.  Whatever happened with Bonini’s recommendation for a Civil Rights Committee in the Delaware Senate?

Harrie Ellen Minnehan: She started the year as the Christina Board of Education President, but lost her gavel over the summer to the re-elected Elizabeth Paige.  Minnehan overtly supported Paige’s opponent in the spring school board election.  When board member David Resler announced he would not run again, Meg Mason won the election.  Mason voted for Paige’s appointment as board president.  The Christina board seems to still be at odds over many things but they will have to get it together soon for the sake of the district.  I miss the fiery board that stood in unison against the Priority Schools debacle in the fall of 2015.  Nothing against Minnehan, but the board lost a bit of that during her Presidency.  Paige brings that temperament back to the board and they (along with every other board in the state) need to start speaking up now to fight for what is theirs.  I must say, my favorite “HEM” moment in 2016 was when Minnehan blasted State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray during a WEIC meeting in Wilmington.  I have no doubt her words were bubbling under the surface for a long time, going back to her days as the President of the Pencader charter school board.

The Delaware Met Kids: After causing a lot of concern in the fall of 2015, the students at Delaware Met said goodbye to the not even five-month old charter school in mid-January.  The students went to various school districts and charter schools.  But not until they caused enough chaos at the school to get an extra couple of days off.

The Seans: Sean Lynn gave a very stirring speech when the death penalty repeal bill hit the floor of the Delaware House.  Ultimately, the House voted against the repeal, but federal rulings rendered the point moot for Delaware executions.  Lynn was instrumental in crafting legislation for the WEIC redistricting bills, but the controversial redistricting effort did not pass the General Assembly.  He did get several bills through dealing with courts and animal fighting.  After a landmark first year in the House where six bills became law, Sean Matthews did not have any legislation signed by Governor Markell this year.  But this didn’t stop Matthews from using his voice in support or opposition to many bills.  Both Sean Lynn and Sean Matthews won their seats back for a 2nd term in the General Election after facing opposition.  This will give them more of an entrenched status in the House.  Both had a relatively quiet year, but I expect they will be re-energized and ready to go in January!

Braeden Mannering: The kid who melted Delaware hearts the past few years continued his 3B: Brae’s Brown Bags movement with growing success.  In January, Braeden was invited to and attended President Obama’s State of the Union address.  Later in the year, he was one of the speakers at a TedX conference in Wilmington.  Braeden’s future is bright!

I will be doing this for 2017 beginning in December with those I think will make an impact in 2017.  Some will be names seen on this list but others will be new faces.

 

Governor Carney, Ignore The Rodel Board Member And Listen To Those Who Don’t Profit Off Education

One of the key Rodel Foundation of Delaware board members wrote a letter to the Editor in the News Journal last weekend.  As usual, we see these letters in the News Journal right before some big Vision Coalition Hocus-Pocus.  Of course, this letter appeared two days before the annual Vision Coalition conference.

Rodman Ward III urged newly-elected Governor John Carney to put forth the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025 plans in his education policy.  And to pick a Secretary of Education that will incorporate that vision.  Governor Markell has followed the Rodel script for the past eight years.  The only vision provided by this outfit is one that is in desperate need of glasses.  It is corporate education reform at its worst.  Designed to produce magic but we have yet to see the rabbit come out of the hat.  Carney needs to listen to the rest of Delaware.  Rodel didn’t get him elected, the people did.  Rodel isn’t the master of education in Delaware.  They are pretenders, along with the rest of the cash in the trash companies that want to fix education by continually breaking it so they can make more money.  Snake-oil salesmen from the days of old but with a nicer suit and tie.

Dr. Paul Herdman, the CEO of Rodel, makes $350,000.00.  That’s more than anyone in Delaware public education makes.  More than Carney, more than Godowsky, even more than the highest-paid figure: Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.  Why are we fattening the coffers of the likes of Rodel and their Bill Gates funded buddies across the country?  Isn’t it time to finally put this absolute bullshit to bed once and for all?  Governor Carney: Are you a Rodel Man or a Delaware Man?  You can’t be both.  You need to decide.  The future of Delaware students as well as the future direction of this blog will be determined by your decision.  I have a vision for education: stop having corporations profit off bad education policy that they initiate.