Exclusive: The Truth About Teachers At Charter School of Wilmington Joining DSEA & President Paoli

If you read the News Journal article on the Charter School of Wilmington teachers voting to unionize, it was filled with reasons why President Sam Paoli did not want the teachers to unionize. The article failed to capitalize on why the vote happened in the first place- CSW President Sam Paoli.

At this point it is unclear why the educators wanted to unionize or by how large a margin the vote was successful.

I have those answers. Continue reading

17 Who Made An Impact In 2017: The Providence Creek “We’re Worried” Crew

Last Spring, a bunch of teachers and staff at Providence Creek Academy assembled to voice concerns about working conditions at Providence Creek Academy. They had some definite beefs with the way things were run, especially with the Principal and the Head of School. Ultimately, they brought their concerns to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education. While the DOE was unable to substantiate their claims, they initiated an important question: should charter school teachers be unionized?

Over Labor Day, they contacted me indicating they had enough votes to be able to join the Delaware State Education Association. Last month, they emailed me they no longer had those votes. But I always saluted their courage and bravery in their attempt. They never contacted me individually, always as a group. To this day, I could not tell you one member of the group. They had a very legitimate fear that if they did announce their names they would have been terminated from the school. I can’t blame them one bit for feeling that way. Delaware is an at will state and without union representation, charter school teachers can be terminated for pretty much any reason. Whether it is justified or not. And speaking up about a hostile working environment can be very dangerous. I truly wish we lived in a world where any teacher could use their voice without that fear, but that is not the world we live in unfortunately.

At the very least, I hope some of those situations at Providence Creek Academy did change for the teachers and staff. Whether it is one voice or half their staff, no one should have to live with fear is as their top concern.

The Hidden Secrets Behind Providence Creek Academy’s Bomb Threat & Audit Investigation

It seems random events are not so random at Providence Creek Academy, the charter school in Clayton, DE. It now appears that the audit investigation into suspected fraud by a former employee was missing a lot of information. Two other employees were also taking funds meant for students for their own personal use. Head of School Charles “Chuck” Taylor covered it all up. Continue reading

Red Clay Schools Continue To Openly Defy Their Own Board of Education With Opt Out Threats

I sent the following email to the entire Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education and Dr. Merv Daugherty, the Superintendent of the district.  I am posting the email because I have heard similar complaints from parents several times since the Smarter Balanced Assessment came out in 2015.  What is the point of having a policy if the schools ignore it?

Mold Isn’t The Most Dangerous Enemy For The Children Of Pulaski

Jose went to school one day.  His grandma forgot to give him his medicine and he started acting out.  He was sent to the ISS Room.  The In-School Suspension Room.  He liked going there sometimes.  There was stuff he could play with.  They even had a carpet in there.  Not like the cold and hard floor in his regular classroom.  He went into the room and started playing with one of the yoga balls.  He had all this energy he had to get out.  Jose sniffed and smelled something really weird.  Like that time he went to his Uncle’s house.  Jose had gone into the basement to find the basketball.  It smelled like that.  Jose started coughing.  That happened a lot when he went to the ISS Room.  It was the same cough he had when he had to take that test on the computer.  But for some reason they got rid of all those computers.  Jose rolled on the floor with the ball, hacking away.  He wasn’t sure if he needed his inhaler or not.  He couldn’t remember if his grandma brought it to school that day.  Maybe his brother had it.  His chest felt like something was pressing on it.  He started to panic.  As he yelled out, another teacher came running in the room.  She was coughing too.

This is Pulaski Elementary School.  Not now.  Not a few days ago.  But how it was from August 29th until October 7th.  That was the day the students weren’t allowed to go in the basement rooms where all the computers were.  Or rooms 10 or 11.  The teachers believed the district when they said it was okay.  Even though a few of them went to the emergency room.  But what the district didn’t tell the staff, students, or parents was how dangerous it was there.  On August 29th, Pulaski was tested for air quality.  With these tests, they compare the air outside with the air inside.  Inside, Pulaski was 55,000 times greater with mold than it was outside.  The district did tell the teachers… six weeks later.  Students took tests on the computers.  Special education students went to one of the three therapists down there.  For six weeks, everyone was breathing contaminated air.

Yesterday, Acting Superintendent Dr. Robert Andrzejewski gave a press brief at Pulaski.  A reporter asked him if he would send his kids or grandchildren there.  He said yes.  But the reporter asked the wrong question.  She should have asked him if he would have sent them there three weeks ago.  I’m willing to bet his answer would have been much different.  So why didn’t this come out in the News Journal or WDEL?  They simply weren’t given the true situation.  The mold, as Dr. A explained, came from a busted water main.

By the time the school had an air quality test on August 29th, the custodians were told to clean it up.  Armed with nothing but rags and Clorox, they wiped it down.  Hispanic custodians, without gloves or air masks.  Who couldn’t speak English very well.  Perhaps Ed Mayfield, the Assistant to the Superintendent and the Director of Operations, thought the problem would go away soon.  Maybe he didn’t understand the danger.  But the bottom line is he saw the reports and did nothing.  Sure, he may have attempted to clean it up.  But he did not inform the school.  Not the Principal or the staff.  For six weeks.

When the teachers were told about the situation, it was after the Christina Board of Education held a special meeting on the issue.  That was on October 4th.  Mayfield was addressing the staff on October 7th at the school.  At the board meeting a few days before, one of the board members came down from the podium and handed the air quality reports to a staff member of Pulaski.  This staff member had requested this information for weeks.  The board member warned Mayfield about any retaliation to the staff.  Apparently that warning went unheeded.  Veiled threats came out.  The teachers were told if they went to the press it would be a violation of their contract.  Because when teachers signed their contracts with the Christina School District, part of that states they will not put the district in a negative light at all.  Sure, they could have talked to the press.  They also would have lost their job.  It was an impossible situation.

So here we are now.  October 15th.  The staff at Pulaski have been told the mold levels are down.  The Department of Health did a walk-thru yesterday.  All is right with the world.  But the Computer Lab, Room 10, and Room 11 are still closed.  Dehumidifiers are running in those rooms after a mold specialist came in to clean it up.  The origin of the mold was apparently found.  At least that’s what Dr. A is telling all of us.  But Dr. A will most likely be leaving the district soon.  He is only an Acting Superintendent.  The Board’s aim is to have a new Superintendent by January 1st.  Dr. A came in to help Christina win their referendum.  He succeeded on that part.  For the most part though, he hasn’t done a whole heck of a lot.  Most of the day-to-day stuff has been handled by Mayfield.  That doesn’t mean Dr. A wasn’t well aware of the situation at Pulaski.  Dr. A didn’t attend the special board meeting on October 4th.  Dr. A is also on a very short list for the next Delaware Secretary of Education if John Carney becomes the next Governor.

The Christina Board isn’t done with this issue.  It will be part of their next board meeting on October 18th, this coming Tuesday.  At their meeting on October 4th, board members wanted answers to questions about this.  They wanted to know what happened and when.  How much the mold remediation would cost the district.  Things like that.

They wanted to know what the next steps are after the clean-up…

Dr. A will talk about the district’s procedures for handling Indoor Air Quality issues….

But the board, upon hearing other teachers in the district making similar complaints as Pulaski, will review a resolution to have all the schools in the district tested.

At the October 4th board meeting, Ed Mayfield was offered $25,000 on the spot if he would fully test all the rooms at Pulaski.  All forty or so rooms.  He refused.  Mayfield knew it would cost around $500 to test each room for mold.  But he seemed very confident the situation would soon be gone.  Why burden the district with an expense they probably didn’t need to incur.  The 300 plus students and all those staff members would be okay.  They were taking care of it.  It’s not like they knew how bad it was, but they got those levels down thank goodness!  And even if they did know, they couldn’t talk about it.  Forget that it was a health crisis.  Forget some staff members had to go to the emergency room, one by ambulance.  They probably had pre-existing conditions anyways.  Even though he had been with the district for a long time, this was nothing compared to his time as a detective with the Delaware State Police.

Intimidation.

Retaliation.

Endangerment.

Suppression.

Contamination.

Children.

Teachers.

Staff.

I’ve seen a lot in Delaware education.  I’ve written about many things.  Never, in the almost 3,000 articles I’ve written in less than 2 1/2 years, have I been more disgusted and horrified at the same time.  Teachers knew.  They knew something wasn’t right.  They begged the district to do something.  The district knew how bad it was and did nothing until the board intervened.  We still don’t know if the building is completely safe.  They only treated the basement.  There are two floors above that.  Mold travels through the air.  They can be smaller than a micron.  It’s everywhere.  But at high levels, it can cause headaches, breathing problems, and memory loss.

The Pulaski Kennel Cough.  The cough that didn’t start this school year.  It started three years ago.  During another time when the computer lab was closed for many months.

Mr. Mayfield and Dr. Andrzejewski, it is not in the district’s best interest to force teachers to sign gag orders where they can’t talk about a health crisis that has the potential to do harm to the students and staff that the district is entrusted to protect.  Especially when the two of you failed to act as soon as you knew the danger at Pulaski Elementary School.  There is nothing you can do or say to justify that.  You put children in harms way.  The very kids you have been charged to educate.  The special needs children.  The English Language learners.  The poor.  The discriminated.  The ones you forgot about in your neglectful decisions.  Shame on you.  If anyone broke their contract, it is the two of you.  You put Christina in a negative light.

If you are concerned about numbers, try these on for size.

52.8% Hispanic/Latino

40% African-American

16.3% Special Education

29.3% English Language learners

76% Low-Income

These are the numbers you should have been looking at.  These vulnerable kids.  Betrayed by those who are supposed to put them first.  And one of you wants to be Secretary of Education?  How can we expect to trust you with 135,000 kids when you couldn’t provide safety for 300 of them?

What Matters If We Have Hate In Our Hearts?

When I was running for the Capital School Board, one of the questions my two other candidates and I received at a debate was “Do black lives matter.”  It threw me off.  I prepared myself for a lot of questions beforehand.  That one threw me for a loop.  My two opponents, who happened to be African-American, almost seemed offended at the question.  One of them said “Of course black lives matter.  All lives matter.”

This is how I answered.  It isn’t verbatim, but this is the essence of what I said.  I agreed with my opponents that all lives matter.  But we need to understand where those words are coming from.  I explained how there has been an inequity and disproportionality in respect to how African-Americans have been treated in this country for centuries.  I said we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.  We have a school to prison pipeline in many places in America.  Too many African-Americans don’t have the same opportunities white people do.  I concluded with the statement that the Capital Board would be remiss not to understand where those words are coming from.  I meant every single word of it.

Afterwards, a gentleman in the audience clapped.  He happened to be African-American.  I thought it was a bizarre question for a school board debate, but it was important to him.  I later found out he asked that question in an attempt to trip me up.  Why?  Would the wrong answer have given him the impression I would have been a bad school board candidate?  Did the answers my opponents gave matter?  Given what happened yesterday, I can no longer support the idea of black lives matter if it brings more death.

We are at a crossroads today.  The situation got very serious in Dallas when snipers decided to shoot eleven police officers, four of which have died at this time.  The police officers were assigned to a protest where people were speaking out against the police shootings of two black men on Wednesday, one in Louisiana and one in Minnesota.  I can’t process death well.  Especially deaths that don’t have to happen.  I don’t know enough about law enforcement procedures to say if what they did was within their authority.  I can’t even figure out my own state, Delaware, and events that have happened here.  Some believe that our cops have the authority to do whatever they want based on court rulings and attorney general opinions.  Some say the cops were justified with their actions.

This is what I do know.  I am seeing a lot of crazy talk on Facebook.  I’m seeing people talking about how they have their guns ready when “they” come for them.  I’m seeing a lot of sadness too.  From all sides of diversity.  The hopeful side of me wants to believe this is a wake-up moment for all of us.  The fearful side says this is just the beginning.  I want to believe we can find peace out of all this.  I really do.  But that is going to take a monumental shift in thinking.  It takes both sides to listen.

I was in McDonalds a couple months ago.  I had just gotten off work and I was starving.  I just wanted a quick bite to eat and go home.  I work long days at my job and it is very physically demanding.  As I sat there, peacefully eating a cheeseburger, I see two African-American teenagers laughing at me.  I asked if everything was alright.  They said I had food around my mouth.  I thanked them for letting me know.  They kept standing there, laughing at me, talking about the food around my mouth.  Meanwhile, an adult, who I presumed was their mother or caregiver watched them do this.  She didn’t say a single word.  I asked them to stop.  They kept laughing.  Finally, and with a bit more assertiveness in my voice, I asked them to show some respect.  Only at this point did the adult intervene by saying “Come on boys,” and she gave me a nasty look.  The boys walked out with their mother.  This wasn’t the first time this kind of situation has happened to me, and something similar happened another time since.  I can say I have never treated a human being like that before.  It made me angry.  Not because they were black.  But the fact that they felt they could treat another human being like that and think it was okay.  That an adult, someone who should be teaching these young men the difference between kindness and cruelty, stood there and did nothing.  I could let situations like these harden my soul.  I could let it change my thoughts and apply the actions of a few to an entire group of people.  I could make false labels about black people based on this.  But I choose not to.  I understand, at the end of the day, that for some reason they don’t trust me.  They don’t know who I am and by taking the offensive they are actually being defensive to whatever happened to them to make them think that was okay.  Discrimination and racism goes both ways.  We may not be allowed to talk about that, but I am talking about it.  It’s real, and it happens.  We all know it.

This is my plea to African-Americans like the two teenagers and their mother in McDonalds that day: stop blaming white people.  Stop thinking it is okay to taunt us, to intimidate us, to bully us.  Stop thinking we aren’t worthy of the same respect you want for yourselves.  Stop telling us there is no way we could possibly understand unless we’ve lived it.  Stop saying that’s just how we are when one on one you talk to me just fine but when you are around your friends it is something completely different.  You are whatever you choose to be.  It isn’t the situation that makes you who you are.  It’s how you deal with the situation.  And to the adults who are too wrapped in years of hatred over their own circumstances, you need to turn those bad memories into something positive.  Don’t let what hardened your soul mold the life of your children.  Teach your children right from wrong.  Let them know that whatever happened to you was horrible, but they have the power to embrace the future and practice forgiveness.

This is my plea to white people with obvious race issues: Stop thinking it is okay to refer to black people as animals when something bad happens.  Stop looking down on them as if they are from another planet.  Stop with the twitchy fingers if you are a cop and don’t fully understand a situation.  Stop  using black people for your own political ambition or warped sense of greed.  Stop thinking every time a killing happens it will be the advent of martial law in our country and President Obama will finally take away all our rights.  I’m pretty sure if this was Obama’s plan, he wouldn’t wait until his eighth and final year to get that going or he is paving the way for Hillary to do it.  Stop putting up pray for Dallas pictures on Facebook unless you are prepared to put up a “Pray for…” every single time someone dies in this world.  I will pray for Dallas along with every other city and town in America until this stops.

This my plea to all Americans: stop the hating.  Stop the killing.  Stop the labeling and false accusations and the paranoia.  Take responsibility for your own life, for your own actions.  Don’t put the weight of history on your shoulders and think you have to live it.  Be someone new.  Every day is a new day.  Every day is an opportunity to be better than the one before.  I’m not saying it’s easy.  I’m not saying it isn’t hard work.  What I am saying is this: if you don’t have love, for your neighbors, your co-workers, your classmates, your enemies, or anyone you encounter in life, but most of all yourself, you won’t ever be able to see the light in each and every heart.  Some shine bright while others are turned off.  But you can make a difference.  You can help others to turn their light on.  It may just be a smile, or a hello, or a helping hand, or saying “I care.  I understand.”  Teach your children.  Let them know that our differences are what makes us unique.  None of us are the same.  We all have one thing in common though.  We are all children of God.  In times like this, and in times of happiness, I pray.  I pray to God that we can do what He wants for us.  We can go through the Bible and pick apart this verse and that verse and apply it to every situation possible.  Many do.  But I believe the message is very simple.  Love each other.

It comes down to respect when you really think about it.  Respect for others.  For their circumstances, their situations.  Words have power.  But only as much power as we choose to give them.  But words really don’t mean anything if the tone behind it is hostile.  Which is ironic given the very nature of this blog and what I write about.  Something I have been guilty of on more occasions than I can think of.  I can sit here and say it is all out of love.  But I let my anger get the best of me.  We all do.  But I can change that, and so can you.  Before a hand-held device was smaller than our hands (they were bigger than a toddler’s head).  There were race issues, and most of them probably weren’t talked about the way they are today.  We glossed over them in the face of the Russian threat and the fear of nuclear war.  We honored Martin Luther King Jr. and made a national holiday.

Back in 1986, something called Hands Across America happened.  The goal was to create a line across America of people holding hands.  I don’t remember what is was for or if they accomplished the goal.  I would like to think it would have been impossible with the presence of rivers and high mountains and whatnot.  But the spirit was there.  We had issues back then, but not like today.  This was in the days before a gangster lifestyle was glorified in our culture.  Before the internet and social media took over our lives and gave us all transparency beyond what we could have dreamed of.  We need to somehow incorporate what we now know, what is talked about everyday with very real statistics, and stop talking about it and start acting.  We need to come together, lay down our walls of mistrust, hatred, fear, and suspicion, and work it out.  Our future, our children’s future, depends on it.

I’ve heard a lot about the Black Lives Matter movement over the past two years.  They are right.  Black Lives Matter.  White Lives Matter.  Hispanic Lives Matter.  Oriental Lives Matter.  Criminal Lives Matter.  Baby’s Lives Matter.  Children’s Lives Matter.  Muslim Lives Matter.  Christian Lives Matter.  Gay Lives Matter.  Lesbian Lives Matter.  Disabled Lives Matter.  Jewish Lives Matter.  Native American Lives Matter.  All Lives Matter.  Your life matters.  But do you want to know what doesn’t matter?  Hate doesn’t matter.  In the end, only love matters.

National PTA Forces Delaware PTA To Back Down From Honoring Parent’s Right To Opt-Out, Time To End That Relationship!!!!

Immediately cease advocacy efforts in support of the Delaware PTA Position Statement on Parent Opt Out HB50 including but not limited to website promotion, action alerts, e-newsletters, media interview and information flyers.

Per National PTA SOA Policy, if you are unable to comply with the SOA requirements by April 26, 2016 (60 days from this notification), a support team will be assigned to Delaware PTA to help create and implement a plan to move your PTA back into compliance.

Unbelievable!  It’s one thing to say you don’t agree with someone for doing something.  But then you force them to take a position on it? And if they don’t you will make sure they do?  I say the Delaware PTA renames itself and kicks National PTA to the curb!  Who do they think they are?  What a bunch of arrogant jerks!  It is the PARENT-Teacher Association.  Not the “we got more money from Bill Gates so we are going to force our state PTAs to shut up about opt-out” Association.  What a bunch of sell-outs!  What the hell kind of parent organization doesn’t honor parent’s rights?  Terri and Yvonne, do the right thing for the parents of Delaware, not this bureaucratic nightmare in Washington D.C.  Absolutely ridiculous!

And the Delaware PTA sent some questions to National PTA:

Yeah, they may not say places like the Gates Foundation won’t fund you if you support opt-out.  But guess what, they just won’t give you money in the future.  National PTA knows this.  Time for a clean break Delaware PTA!  Meanwhile, Delaware PTA President Terri Hodges sent this out to the Delaware PTA membership this afternoon:

PTA members and supporters,

            As you are aware, National PTA issued an updated position statement in January 2016 regarding state assessments. The position statement, developed by the National PTA Legislative Committee and approved by the National Board of Directors, also outlines National PTA’s opposition of the growing parent opt-out movement across the United States.

            When the position statement was released in January, we were initially informed that our advocacy of parental rights was not in conflict with the updated position statement, as Delaware PTA has never encouraged parents to opt of testing. However, upon further review National PTA has determined that our advocacy of parental rights is in fact in conflict with the updated position statement. As a result, Delaware PTA has received the attached DE Sanctions Letter from National PTA informing us that as a state association we are not in compliance with the Standards of Affiliation.

            As a state association, we are obligated to comply with the National PTA Standard of Affiliations which governs the relationship between National PTA and the state associations. Similarly, our bylaws define the relationship between the state association and our local units in that the local units may not collectively take up any position that contradicts the position of Delaware State PTA and by extension National PTA. As indicated in the letter, the position statement can only be amended /rescinded by the voting body. This will be an action item on the agenda for our upcoming Board of Managers meeting, where we will also accept a motion to amend the legislative priorities at the next state convention. In the interim, Delaware PTA is required to cease all advocacy related to parent opt out.

            We recognize that with the support of parents and teachers, several of our school districts have adopted policies, resolutions and/or procedures for honoring a parent’s request to opt out of the state assessment. National PTA’s prohibition on our advocacy only extends to the state association and thus the local units. This position does not have any impact on individual activity and advocacy.

            We want to ensure our members that we have done our due diligence in sharing our concerns with National PTA and requesting complete transparency around the new position statement via the Questions posed to National PTA(attached). Delaware PTA remains committed to our membership and advocating for the students of Delaware. PTA is a multi-issue advocacy organization. As such, we will continue our advocacy in the following key areas:

  • A reduction in testing across all grade levels
  • A reliable and valid state assessment that measures student growth
  • A fair and representative teacher evaluation system
  • Weighted funding
  • Anti-Bullying compliance

            We thank everyone for your continued support. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us at de_office@pta.org

 Delaware PTA

Are There Human Rights Violations Going On At Delaware Met? Parents Need To Speak Up NOW!!!!

I received an anonymous message this morning concerning Delaware Met.  We may be entering a new level of abuse inflicted by this school on their students.  As if everything already happening isn’t bad enough, I am now hearing about issues concerning the school hiring prison guards to “control kids”, multiple suspensions, and issues with confinement.  While these allegations have not been vetted, it follows the alarming trends with this school.  To that effect, I emailed the DOE, Governor Markell, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, and some legislators in regards to this.  I also called the Delaware DOE about this and left a message.  I did receive a return call just minutes ago from them and I advised the Charter School Office of the information conveyed to me.  Someone needs to do the right thing and get in there and shut this place down.  There are many students with disabilities in this school and not following, implementing, or creating an IEP for them is a recipe for disaster.  Below is the email I sent out not long ago:

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Nagourney Jennifer <jennifer.nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Blowman David (K12) <david.blowman@doe.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay (Governor) <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>; Denn Matthew (DOJ) <matthew.denn@state.de.us>
Cc:
Williams Kimberly (LegHall) <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Kowalko John (LegHall) <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Baumbach Paul (LegHall) <paul.baumbach@state.de.us>; Sean Matthews <sean.matthews@state.de.us>; Gray Teri (K12) <teri.gray@sbe.k12.de.us>
Sent:
Thursday, October 22, 2015 10:54 AM
Subject:
Delaware Met

Good morning all,
I received an anonymous and very troubling message this morning concerning the Delaware Met.  As I’m sure you all know, this school is under formal review.  But if this message is true, there could be human rights violations going on at this school, in current time.  I know most of us don’t see eye to eye on education policies, but I’m sure we can all agree that no student in Delaware should have any rights violated whatsoever. 
The message I received concerns many of the items already covered in Del Met’s formal review letter, but also issues concerning the hiring of prison guards, multiple suspensions and issues of “confinement”.  The last of these concerns me greatly.  Many of these students may have IEPs and Federal and State law clearly indicates matters of punishment for students with disabilities.  Confinement sounds very serious, and I fear for these students safety. 
I’m not sure who has to get in there, but something needs to be done.  This school is out of control and something beyond a formal review needs to take place immediately if these types of things are going on.
Thank you for your time, and I appreciate any response to this very disturbing situation.
Respectfully,
Kevin Ohlandt
I strongly urge parents of students in this school to go public with what they know.  Do not let this school intimidate you or your child.  If what I am hearing is true, I would highly recommend you do not send your child to this school.  Let the cards fall where they may, but if it is a matter of safety and human rights, please do the right thing for your child.  This is a wake-up call for all of us in Delaware, and I am letting you know I care about your kids.  I have never issued a message like this before, but look out for your kids.  I strongly commend the DOE for doing the right thing with putting this school on formal review, but this has now become a matter beyond them if these events are occurring.  We need to keep our children safe, first and foremost.
Who is actually running this school? Is it Innovative Schools? The Delaware Leadership Executive Director who stated he would farm out the “day-to-day” operations to an intern?  What is going on inside this place?
To that end, parents need to name names and let those with the ability to do something operate out of full transparency so they can get in there.  Schools need to be a safe haven for children, but this sounds more like prison conditions.  I won’t deny there are probably some bad behaviors going on with some teenagers in this school, but if the school is unable to adequately deal with this than the center will not hold.  I heard from another parent of severe bullying going on at this school and the administration not dealing with this properly.  Something needs to be done…NOW!!!!
UPDATED, 12:10pm: This developing situation is being looked at very seriously by the Delaware Department of Education.  As well, I am being told there are two rival gangs within this school and this seems to be the heart of the issues.  Someone is going to get killed in this school if something doesn’t change immediately.  We need all hands on deck here, and parents should be very concerned.  I am begging the school: If you cannot handle this, do not hide.  Don’t think you can wave a magical wand and fix this.  If it is beyond your ability to control, please, just shut it down.  The Delaware Met is not an alternative school.  You do not have the necessary supports to handle those students.  Do the right thing.

The Exceptional Delaware Reward, Recognition, Priority, Focus and Focus Plus Schools of 2015

For the first ever Exceptional Delaware Honor Roll, I would like to congratulate the schools and particular grades that went below the 95% “mandatory” participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. With that being said, there could be a multitude of reasons for that participation rate, and it may not necessarily be because of parent opt-out. It could be because of medical reasons, expulsions, or in extreme cases, maybe a touch of the Bubonic Plague. I noticed a large trend in many districts where the participation rate was higher for ELA than Math. Sometimes it was the reverse, but mostly that. I have to wonder how many parents opted out after their child took the first test. For some districts, they would not have been recognized if it weren’t for many of their juniors saying “See ya” to the Smarter Balanced Assessment. These are the students who are paving the way for the younger ones.  My biggest question is what in the world happened with 4th graders at East Side Charter School?

Christina… all I can say is WOW! You far surpassed my expectations with opt-out. With all the smears and bad looks this district gets from the DOE and whatnot, I am proud to announce Christina School District as the winner of the Opt-Out Performance Fund! They will receive a special gift at their next regular board meeting in recognition of this honor. And Red Clay’s Conrad! Fantastic! Below 50% for 11th graders! You are an inspiration to all!

Under the United States Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the fine folks at the US DOE like to throw things called flexibility waivers at the states.  Under No Child Left Behind, enacted during the second President Bush years, all schools in the country had to be proficient by 2014.  If they weren’t, all hell would break loose.  So under President Obama and his Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, they threw states a bone called Race To The Top: adapt our Common Core standards, and make a big test based on it, and we will let you slide from the whole No Child Left Behind thing.  Then they started throwing more bones called flexibility waivers.  Hey, do this, and you are safe from No Child Left Behind.  This is what created the most severe school labeling system ever created.  But I am turning it around.

REWARD & RECOGNITION SCHOOLS

All of these schools and grades… I am so proud of them. Parents made a choice, and it showed. While these aren’t anywhere close to New York numbers, it’s a very good start. The ones that are 90% or below get to be REWARD schools. Yeah, it’s one grade, but they went below 95%!  All the Reward Schools got a special prize. The ones between 91-94% are recognition schools for any grade that caused the participation rate to go below 95%. Great job everyone!

Appoquinimink School District:

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Appoquinimink High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Middletown High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Old State Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 94%

Waters Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Brandywine School District:

Brandywine High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Concord High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hanby Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

Harlan Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Campus Community School:

7th Grade Math: 93%

Cape Henlopen School District:

Shields Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 92%

Capital School District:

Central Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 94%

Dover High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

East Dover Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

East Dover Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 93%

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

Fairview Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Christina School District:

Bayard Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade ELA: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Bayard Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 92%

Brader Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 94%

Brader Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Brookside Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Brookside Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 79% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Christiana High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

Elbert-Palmer Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gallaher Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Gallaher Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 7th Grade Math: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 92%

Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade ELA: 82% 🙂 🙂

Glasgow High School, 11th Grade Math: 82% 🙂 🙂

Keene Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 92%

Keene Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Kirk Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Maclary Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Maclary Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Marshall Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 93%

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂

McVey Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 87% 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade ELA: 55% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Newark High School, 11th Grade Math: 56% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Shue-Medill Middle School, 6th Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 94%

West Park Place Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

West Park Place Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 83% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 89% 🙂 🙂

West Park Place Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Colonial School District:

Bedford Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Penn High School, 11th Grade ELA: 92%

Penn High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade ELA: 92%

Pleasantville Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 93%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 92%

Southern Elementary School, 4th Grade Math: 86% 🙂 🙂

Southern Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 93%

Delmar School District:

Delmar High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

East Side Charter School:

4th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

4th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Gateway Lab School:

3rd Grade Math: 90% 🙂

4th Grade ELA: 92%

4th Grade Math: 93%

7th Grade Math: 92%

Indian River School District:

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Sussex Central High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Laurel School District:

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Laurel Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 93%

Milford School District:

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂

Milford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 88% 🙂

Moyer:

7th Grade ELA: 88% 🙂 🙂

7th Grade Math: 88% 🙂 🙂

11th Grade ELA: 65% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

11th Grade Math: 69% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

New Castle County Vo-Tech School District:

Delcastle Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 94%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade ELA: 91%

Hodgson Vocational Technical H.S., 11th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

St. Georges Technical High School, 11th Grade Math: 87% 🙂 🙂

Polytech School District:

Polytech High School, 11th Grade ELA: 94%

Polytech High School, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Positive Outcomes Charter School:

7th Grade Math: 90% 🙂

Prestige Academy:

7th Grade Math: 94%

Reach Academy For Girls:

4th Grade ELA: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

4th Grade Math: 75% 🙂 🙂 🙂

6th Grade ELA: 92%

8th Grade ELA: 78% 🙂 🙂 🙂

Red Clay Consolidated School District:

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade ELA: 63% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont High School, 11th Grade Math: 64% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

A.I. DuPont Middle School, 8th Grade Math: 94%

Brandywine Springs School, 8th Grade Math: 93%

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade ELA: 84% 🙂 🙂

Cab Calloway School of the Arts, 11th Grade Math: 92%

Conrad Schools of Science, 8th Grade ELA: 94%

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 40% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Conrad Schools of Science, 11th Grade ELA: 47% 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade ELA: 90% 🙂

Heritage Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Seaford School District:

Seaford Central Elementary School, 3rd Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Central Elementary School, 5th Grade Math: 92%

Seaford Middle School, 6th Grade Math: 94%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade ELA: 93%

Seaford Senior High School, 11th Grade Math: 89% 🙂 🙂

Smyrna School District:

North Smyrna Elementary School, 4th Grade ELA: 94%

The below schools…they didn’t go below the 95% participation mark in any grade for either ELA or Math on the Smarter Balanced Assessment. But there were quite a few that were right at the 95% mark in some grades, and also at 96%. So we can tip the scales by getting the word out. These are the 2015-2016 schools where there are some opt-outs, but we need a lot more. Some of the charters may have only had one or two opt-outs in one grade. But that one opt-out parent can spread the word! But these schools are the 2015-2016 Focus Schools or Focus Districts. If they are a charter school, they did not dip below 95% in any grade. For school districts, I just picked certain schools who hovered around the 99% mark. For one school, it just can’t ever get out of being labeled no matter what it does! This is your chance Stubbs! If it’s in red, it’s a Focus Plus school. That means they had maybe a handful of kids opt-out. Which is good, but not earth-shattering. We need those handful of parents who opted their kids out to spread the word!

NEED TO GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT OPT-OUT FOR THESE FOCUS AND FOCUS PLUS SCHOOLS
 

Allen Frear Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Banneker Elementary School (Milford)

Bunker Hill Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Clayton Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

Delaware College Prep

Delaware Military Academy

Delmar Middle School (Delmar) (Focus Plus)

Family Foundations Academy

Hartly Elementary School (Capital) (Focus Plus)

Howard High School of Technology (New Castle County Vo-Tech)

Indian River High School (Indian River)

Kuumba Academy

Lake Forest School District

Lancashire Elementary School (Brandywine)

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (Focus Plus)

Lombardy Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

Long Neck Elementary School

Lord Baltimore Elementary School (Focus Plus)

Maple Lane Elementary School (Brandywine) (Focus Plus)

MOT Charter School (Focus Plus)

Mount Pleasant Elementary School (Brandywine)

Newark Charter School (Focus Plus)

New Castle Elementary School (Colonial) (Focus Plus)

Oberle Elementary School (Christina)

Odyssey Charter School (Focus Plus)

Providence Creek Academy

Pulaski Elementary School (Christina)

Showell Elementary School (Indian River) (Focus Plus)

Silver Lake Elementary School (Appoquinimink)

Smyrna Elementary School (Smyrna) (Focus Plus)

Stubbs Elementary School (Christina)

Sussex Academy (Focus Plus)

Sussex Technical School District

Thomas Edison Charter School (Focus Plus)

W.B. Simpson Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

W. Reily Brown Elementary School (Caesar Rodney) (Focus Plus)

Woodbridge School District

Below are the 2015-2016 Priority Schools. The three charters had NO opt-outs, along with the other schools. For the charters, one was on Formal Review and was probably scared that one opt-out would shut them down so they allegedly told parents it was not allowed. Another one has the lowest of minorities (aside from Asian), special education, and low-income students in the entire state. And the 3rd… their Head of School spoke out about opt-out at the House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 50 so this truly doesn’t shock me. Other Montessori schools I’ve spoken too were somewhat shocked and believe opposing parental rights like this goes against the whole Montessori model. If anyone from any of these schools did opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, please let me know cause that means something is seriously wrong. Because >99% is pretty damn close to 100%. And you can’t have 100% with one single opt-out.

If I had to guess, a lot of these schools are telling parents they can’t opt their kid out. Or the school has 100% drank the Kool-Aid the DOE gives them and gave it to all the parents. I know some of the leaders of these schools, and some are no-nonsense leaders. Some are known to be very tough. Don’t let them intimidate you. These are my extra special schools this year. Under priority status, they will be watched very closely. Unlike the DOE I won’t make them pick new leaders and fire half their teachers. And I won’t make them sign a Memorandum of Understanding that makes no sense whatsoever by a certain date. I won’t tell them comply or die either. But they are Priority Schools for opt-out, and this is a Code Red alert for Delaware! This is just plain unacceptable…  They get a very special label in recognition of two very special legislators who opposed House Bill 50 the loudest (and they were also the Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committee).

THE EARL JAQUES AND DAVE SOKOLA PRIORITY SCHOOLS OF DELAWARE

Academy of Dover 😦

Charter School of Wilmington 😦

First State Montessori Academy 😦

Lake Forest North Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Lake Forest South Elementary School (Lake Forest) 😦

Richardson Park (Elementary School) (Red Clay) 😦

Star Hill Elementary School (Caesar Rodney)  😦

South Dover Elementary School (Capital) 😦

Sussex Technical High School (Sussex Tech) 😦

For our school principals and superintendents and charter leaders: I’m watching you. I’ve been watching you. The DOE is on the stage, putting on their show. You are all in the audience, and you are literally paying for their performance. Rodel and Vision and the Delaware Business Roundtable are providing all the lighting and special effects, with equipment bought from all the corporate education reform companies around the country. I see the State Board providing the symphony. The legislators are paying all the bills and making sure everything is up to snuff (or in some situations allowing the audience to be robbed blind).  And the director, none other than Delaware Governor Jack Markell. His assistant went exit stage left, but we are waiting to see what his new guy does. And me, I’m the guy up on the catwalk watching the whole thing unfold. I see all of it. I had to get rid of some of the cobwebs up there to see better, but I can see things very clearly right now.  And guess what, I’m not alone.  I’m inviting parents all the time to watch too.  And more and more are watching the play.  They are telling me “hey, you see that guy over there, he told me I couldn’t opt-out my son” or “they told me I have to get a doctor’s note” or sometimes it’s a parent/teacher telling me “our superintendent says only he gets to decide who opts out.”

As of this very moment, I am giving you all amnesty. You are pardoned if I wrote negative things about you concerning opt-out last year.  Some of you actually came through in a big way on the Accountability Framework Working Group and turned the scales on the DOE.  We have a clean slate.  Don’t get all offended if your school is on this list.  The DOE has this information up too, but I’m just reversing the labels for true accountability purposes.  The good news: if your school is a Focus, Focus Plus, or Priority School, you can easily get out of it in the Spring.  All of you will be hearing from me very soon.  But just so you know, all of us on the catwalk are watching…

To all the very brave parents who opted their child out last Spring, I want to say Thank You. You made a very brave decision, and I salute you. Your job now is to do the same this year, no matter what threats or bullying gestures are thrown your way. Hopefully House Bill 50 will be vetoed by the time Smarter Balanced rolls around again next Spring, but if not do what you did this year. While some may have looked down on you for that decision, stand by your convictions. Even if it was in a “high-performing” school. And spread the word. The doors of conversation will start to open up in the coming week when parents get their kids results. You don’t have to worry about that. Cause your child is a not-having-to-take-the-test rock star, and you made the right decision.

If your school isn’t on this list, you can check it all out here:

http://www.doe.k12.de.us/cms/lib09/DE01922744/Centricity/Domain/111/Attachment3%20SchoolandCharterPerformanceParticipationUpdated0917.pdf

Delaware DOE Letter To Christina School District From December With Harsh Bullying Tactics

We all know the Delaware Department of Education can be bullies when it comes to getting what they want.  But this was never more true than when it came to the Christina School District and their three priority schools.  The extreme amount of pressure they placed on Christina was immense, but Christina stayed strong and stood up to the DOE.  This recently revealed letter from Penny Schwinn shows once more how the DOE would be all smiles in public, but in these letters they reserved the strongest language possible to intimidate the district.

Smyrna Parent Pulled Kid Out Of Public School Over Smarter Balanced Assessment

One of the more disturbing parts of the Senate Education testimony was when a citizen gave testimony on behalf of her friend.  What happened to her friend’s son was inexcusable and is just one more reason why House Bill 50 needs to become law!  Lorraine Gloede spoke at this meeting, and I can vouch for her friend as I have met him a few times now.  Keep in mind when reading this that Gloede was only the second public comment.  Her commentary ran from 29:06-30:21 on my recorder.

Uhm, (Sokola interrupts: “We’re trying to keep comments short, but, but, if you have something different to say, please…”) I’d just like to ask Mr. Murphy how he will know, with the Smarter Balanced Assessment, how the child is making progress, where improvement is needed.  Because from my understanding, all that is received is a score, that teachers don’t have access to the test itself and the answers.  But I am here, there was a gentleman sitting next to me, and he just asked me if I could relay what he was going to say.  He lives in Smyrna.  His next-door neighbor’s child opted out.  And they put him into a room where he had nothing to do.  It was just like detention.  And so he opted out even more.  He took his child out of school and is homeschooled now.  So I think that part of the reason for this bill is to show that there will be no repercussions, that everyone will understand that, which apparently is not the case now.  That’s all.

Charter School of Wilmington Leader Dr. Paoli Under Fire In Change.org Petition To Restore Dr. Fleetwood’s Contract

The ongoing story about Charter School of Wilmington’s leader, Dr. Sam Paoli, continues.  Last week, stories emerged about the leader and his bullying and intimidation towards students.  This caused a great deal of controversy.  Now it is revealed his attitudes are not just isolated to students.  A Change.org petition to renew a very beloved teacher’s contract is currently under way.  Dr. Thomas Fleetwood has been at the school since the beginning, and students are extremely offended his contract was not renewed.

Some students feel Paoli did not renew his contract because Fleetwood challenged Paoli on the bullying and intimidation we are now learning is directed towards anyone who disagrees with him.  I would have to ask this: why is Paoli the sole deciding factor on faculty?  Wouldn’t this be a board decision?  In most schools, it is the boards who make these types of decisions.  A school leader can make a recommendation, but it should be the board.  I don’t have an answer to this, and if anyone from the Charter School of Wilmington board wants to advise on this, please let me know.

In 2013, Dr. Fleetwood won an award from the Delaware Charter School Network called a “Dedication Award” for his achievements in teaching high school students.  The article on this quoted a parent as saying “he sets a high bar for all of his students, and provides real-world experience that inspires his students to pursue careers in the medical profession.”

The convergence of student and faculty issues with Paoli is something the CSW board should take an immediate look at.  Schools need leaders, not dictators.  In the comments on my articles last week about a discipline incident, as well as other exchanges outside my blog, it was overwhelmingly clear there are major issues with Paoli as the leader of CSW.  Most said he is not a fit leader and bullying and intimidation is common practice with him.  All eyes are on the board at CSW to see what happens next.

Brandywine’s Dr. Holodick Bullying Parents “I’m the only one who can say who does not have to take the test.”

I’m getting multiple reports from parents that Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick of Brandywine School District is handling all opt out requests.  Once a letter is received, he contacts the parent, asks to meet with them, and tells them he has sole authority on how a student is or is not opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  He tells them unless they have a medical condition that would allow them to be exempt, they must take the test.

Dr. Holodick, I spoke to you a few weeks ago in response to my article about Brandywine’s website and your letter to parents about opt out.  I can see my words did nothing to change your feelings on this, which is fine.  We are all entitled to our opinion.  However, you are misreading the facts.  Delaware state code states a school can only exempt a child under certain medical conditions.  There is nothing in state code at all about what conditions a parent can or can’t opt their child out.  These parents aren’t opting their children out asking for permission.  They are opting their kids out…period!  You have no jurisdiction telling parents they have to obtain medical documentation to opt their child out.

You need to stop this bullying atmosphere in your school district.  While we can all agree these matters should be handled in a civil manner, you are crossing the line with your intimidating behavior.  Brandywine parents who want to opt their child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, please go ahead and send in the letter.  If Dr. Holodick calls you, tell him “thank you for your opinion, but my child is not taking this test.”  If he continues to pressure you, tell him you REFUSE to have your child take this test and the discussion is over.  If he continues, tell him you will contact an attorney.

This is exactly why I have tried to give guidance to all superintendents and heads of school in Delaware, but obviously some feel they can interpret the state code however they want.  Fair warning to all of you.  If I hear about it, I publish it.

Updated with that little thing called THE LAW:  http://delcode.delaware.gov/title14/c001/sc04/index.shtml