The Bizarre Love Triangle Between Publius, Minnehan, and Clampitt **UPDATED**

All relationships have their ups and downs.  Such is the case between former Kilroy’s Delaware commenter Publius e decere and former Pencader board member and current Christina board member Harrie Ellen Minnehan.  Throw in a wild card like Henry Clampitt, former board member of Charter School of Wilmington, current board member at Gateway Lab School, and also a candidate for the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education, and you have what I like to call a bizarre love triangle (which just so happens to be an awesome tune by New Order).  But what I found this morning… that brings this triangle to a whole new level… Continue reading “The Bizarre Love Triangle Between Publius, Minnehan, and Clampitt **UPDATED**”

Breaking News Shocker: Board Member Resigns From Christina Board of Education

A Christina School District Board of Education member unexpectedly resigned from the board.  Which one? Continue reading “Breaking News Shocker: Board Member Resigns From Christina Board of Education”

Christina School Board Tackles Student Immigrant Status Round Two With Proposed Board Policy

Last month, the Christina School District Board of Education failed to pass a resolution regarding safe harbor for students in the district who could be targeted by ICE officials.  Never one to quit, board member John Young wrote a policy for the board to look at for their next meeting.  I like this policy.  It is very thorough and states explicitly what can and should happen.  I would be shocked if the board didn’t pass this one.  I hope the discussion has the same harmony the above picture of the board has!

John Young Takes On Donald Trump!!!! Resolution On Safe Zones For Christina Schools Pending!

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young is going head to toe with President Donald Trump in what could be a first for Delaware!  In response to what many are viewing as President Trump’s very heavy-handed immigration tactics initiated shortly after his inauguration, Young crafted a brilliant resolution declaring the district a safe zone for any student within its property.

The resolution would make it so any United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement official would have to get permission from the district Superintendent and coördinate any activities before entering any of the buildings of the district.  When asked what prompted the decision for the resolution, Young stated the following:

This resolution is in response to current political environment which was spurred on by a presidential immigration ban but it was not designed to be a reaction to it but an act to protect our students and our schools as the learning environments that they were and are designed to beBasically students should not fear coming to school for any reason and no student should be subjected to being a witness to a federal immigration and customs enforcement action.
There should be no reason any logical board member would not say yes to this resolution.  All students deserve to have schools be a safe haven!  If approved, this would be the first Delaware school district to institute this type of resolution.  The Christina Board of Education will vote on the resolution at their board meeting this evening.  The meeting will take place at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School and will begin at 7pm.
*Updated, 9:45pm: The resolution failed to pass with a vote of 3 yes and 4 no.

The Chicken-Fried Awesome Christina Fails To Rescind Settlement Vote

Yes, the words “chicken-fried awesome” were used by a Christina board member last night.  But first they had to get through 45 excruciating minutes of approving their agenda.  Board member Harrie-Ellen Minnehan introduced motions to remove three action items from the agenda and to table another item.  That was just the beginning of a meeting that had topics as varied as car shopping to a very strong use of the word culpability.  A member of the audience drew a great rendering of the meeting and asked me to put it in this article.

The four motions Minnehan put forth failed to move forward.  Board member Shirley Saffer kept alleging Minnehan had a personal agenda going on.  There was a ton of discussion about the motions and how it was unprecedented for one board member to attempt to remove action items like that.  As a result of the motions, what should have been a 1-2 minutes process turned into a 45 minute ordeal for the audience.  A lot of the audience had come for the presenting of the Honor Roll which is done right after the approval of the agenda and board minutes.

The charter settlement with Christina fell after a 3-4 vote by the board, exactly how the vote went when they voted for the settlement two weeks ago.  Board member Fred Polaski tried to convince everyone that he believed the district would lose if it went to court with the charters.  He offered no viable reason for why he felt they would lose.  But it didn’t seem to matter because the board was clearly divided on many of the same action items with Polaski, Minnehan, George Evans and Meg Mason on one side.  On the other were members John Young, Saffer, and President Elizabeth Paige.  Young stated the minutes of the executive meeting would now become public since the need for the meeting was no longer valid and the settlement is public.  He said he will be submitting updated minutes on that meeting.  He also stated he had concerns about the culpability of the district in the matter.  He also had grave concerns about the back and forth between the district and attorneys over Thanksgiving weekend and what amounted to a short time period of 90 minutes for the board to review the settlement.  Young said that would make for a very interesting FOIA request.  He had many concerns about the authority of charter leaders in signing the document, such as an Interim Principal, a Head of School, or a Board President.  He reviewed many charter school bylaws and did not see that authority granted to those parties without permission from the entire board.  He also did not special board meetings for the charter boards to vote on the settlement.

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One of the shockers of the evening (and there were many), was the situation with the Montessori program in Christina.  There was an action item to end the program.  This became the controversy of the evening as parents and staff members gave public comment in support of the program.  When it came time for the board to discuss the matter, Paige asked a question that solidified a crucial problem with the district, that of transparency.  Delaware schools receive academic excellence units which they are free to cash in and do as they please.  The Montessori program had three of those units.  Paige asked about them and it was revealed by the district the Honors Academy would use three academic excellence units.  While the district hemmed and hawed about the “coincidence”, Paige said the “optics” look very bad.  In a rare moment of unity, the board voted 6-1 in favor of keeping the program with Polaski as the lone no vote.  This prompted Young’s quote of the evening.  He said the district believes competition is so “chicken-fried awesome” that they should be doing everything they can to get students who are a wait list at First Sstate Montessori Academy into Christina’s Montessori program.  Board member Polaski suggested partnering up with the Wilmington charter school to have them open a satellite school in the Christina school district.  No one even responded to this rather absurd notion.  But it did point to what I see as a very charter friendly Polaski.

Once again, with a 3-4 vote, the board voted against annulling the Honors Academy vote from November with the same 3-4 blocks.  Young pointed out that many of Christina’s existing Cambridge programs are disproportionate with the amount of minorities represented in them.  The irony of the district wanting to close a program where there is equity (the Montessori program) in favor of moving forward with a program which has a strong potential of inequity (The Honors Academy) did not escape members of the audience.  Concerns around placement tests, a parent letter, and standardized test scores were the chief reasons three of the board members wanted to annul the prior vote.  There were also concerns around opt out and how the application for the academy could penalize those students who were opted out despite a board policy that explicitly forbids that.

The point of exhaustion for members of the audience surrounded the district’s Superintendent interviews.  Yesterday, the Delaware Attorney General answered a FOIA complaint surrounding the board’s November executive meeting to formulate questions for the Superintendent candidate.  Some board members refused to participate in the meeting since they had already figured out it would be a FOIA violation.  This prompted the board to make public the questions for candidates.  There was also a matter about interviewing the candidates the week before Christmas and a mad rush to get it done.  As a result, the board voted in favor of naming an Interim Superintendent with Noreen LaSorsa taking on the role.  It was agreed the board would conduct Superintendent interviews the first week of January.  Saffer argued the board needed the public to see the candidates in the schools and interacting with students and staff as they had done in the past.  Board member Evans said he would not participate in any of that.  Young’s action item to begin the Superintendent search again to get a more diverse pool of candidates fell with a 2-5 vote with Saffer and Young as the two no votes.

This board is a house divided.  Mostly between common sense and… I don’t know what.  On the one side we have Young, Paige, and Saffer who seem to know the law and sees how decisions made today could cause problems in the future.  On the other is the not-so Fantastic Four who always seem to be in this frantic hurry to get things done now without looking at all of the angles.  They also seem to be easily intimidated by the district and outside forces.  This shapes their votes.  Minnehan took a pointed jab at Young as she said she would never want to go car-shopping with him because he takes too long to make a decision.  I would rather have that than winding up with a lemon Mrs. Minnehan!  As I drove down to Dover after this very long meeting which entered an actual new day, I saw a warrior district succumbing to the privatization movement that is paralyzing public education.  I believed for a long time Christina was the last hold-out in Delaware, but after some of the votes last night, it was painfully obvious the last blockade fell.  At this point, Delaware needs a hero.  We need an Obi-Wan moment where someone answers the call of “you’re my only hope“.  Will that person come from Christina or somewhere else?

I gave the following public comment to the board last night but despite my six minutes thanks to borrowed time, I was not able to get to the end of it which I will notate in the below comment.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the Christina School District Board of Education. It has been a long time since I came up to this podium to speak before this board.  The last time I did so was seventeen months ago.  I believe Ms. Minnehan was the Board President at that time.  A lot happened at that meeting.  I did want to offer an apology in regards to that.  I’m sorry it has taken me so long to give public comment here.

I have a lot to talk about tonight, mostly in regards to the charter school shakedown, er, uhm, lawsuit.

First, can you please, for the love of all we hold sacred, fix the sound for the audio recordings on your website? It is a recurring issue and I’m certain it wouldn’t cost that much money to correct this.

Second, I am very curious why a FOIA request I sent to the district was never followed up on. I sent a FOIA request to the district asking for the past three years of all air quality inspections for every single one of the Christina schools.  I received an email back that a cost estimate would be forthcoming.  That was almost two months ago.  I received nothing.  As Delaware state code gives any public agency a period of 15 business days to respond to a FOIA request, the district has violated FOIA.  Please remedy this by tomorrow so I do not have to file another FOIA complaint with the Delaware Attorney General’s office.  Which I’m sure this district has had enough of.  But I digress.

I do not believe the board should even entertain not voting on the rescission of the settlement.  I am glad that motion failed. (I adlibbed the last sentence because of the board not passing Minnehan’s motion but I am not entirely sure on the wording).  I believe it is very important you vote in the majority to vote yes on rescinding the settlement.  As we all know, this was brought forth by Greg Meece over at Newark Charter School.  What has never been answered is HOW Greg Meece suddenly, last winter, decided to get a meeting with the fine people at the Delaware DOE.  How, all of a sudden, Meece knew EXACTLY what to look for.  According to a letter Meece wrote last week to the parents of NCS students, Secretary Godowsky never knew about the change to the local funding formula.  So Godowsky reversing a decision he never made, which was cited in the lawsuit and settlement, is frivolous at best.  This entire shenanigan was meant to intimidate Christina, and sadly, the district took the bait.  They didn’t just take the bait, they swallowed it and regurgitated it to four board members who voted out of fear rather than common sense.  That is something that needs to be reversed tonight.  I would rather see this district take this ALL THE WAY than see one more penny going out of this district to certain charters who want for nothing.  If anything, the DOE should be the entity paying for this year’s charter share of the 2003 referendum and all future costs due to their colossal screw-up, not just getting off the hook by paying for half the attorney fees.  But more than that, what may not have come out of all this, is the role the Office of Management and Budget played.  As Brian Stephan wrote in a recent article on Delaware Liberal, something happened in 2014 that changed everything with the local funding formula.  What he didn’t write, which he may not have been aware of, was why everything changed that year.  The Office of Management and Budget, a section of Governor Jack Markell’s office, took over the responsibility from Mark Murphy to oversee this aspect of Delaware education financing.  Oh so coincidentally, that was the same year the Delaware DOE launched the priority schools debacle and launched a coordinated attack against Christina when this board would not cower and buckle to Governor Markell’s shameful education agendas.  While I am not an attorney or an accountant, I am just a blogger.  According to Newark Charter School parents, I’m a sneaky snake blogger.  But it is my belief this omission of paying the charter schools their portion of the 2003 referendum was, at best, an egregious error that the State of Delaware should pay moving forward.  If that were not enough, the fact that tuition and match taxes were brought up in the settlement is very troubling.  The charters have no right to those funds so why it was brought up in a settlement is beyond me.  I certainly hope none of that nonsense was the district’s idea.  That just opens the door for future siphoning of district funds the local taxpayers entrusted to the district, not to fifteen charter schools.  If I’m not mistaken, Christina does not get large donations from the Longwood Foundation, they don’t get a larger proportion of minor capital funds based on their student populations like the charters do, and they certainly don’t get to keep excess transportation funds under their “budgeted” amount.

While we can sit here and pretend the charter cabal, led by Saul Ewing LLC, is a force to be reckoned with, the simple fact is they made unprecedented money grab. This could have been done a dozen different ways, but they chose threats and intimidation, with support from certain legislators in both the House and the Senate, to get what they wanted.  As a result, if this board does NOT rescind the settlement, it will continue to give away funds this district desperately needs to 15 charter schools who have more than enough money already.  And if you are going to put your trust in the Delaware Dept. of Education to do the right thing, you have already put one more nail in the coffin of this district.

At this point my time ran out, but this is how I planned to finish my public comment:

I strongly urge this board to continue to keep CSD moving forward. That does not mean responding to bullying threats by what amounts to non-profit corporations in Delaware.  That means fighting for what is yours.  As your CFO, Bob Silber, rightly argued, this district did what they were supposed to do.  It was the State that screwed up.  If this board is truly supposed to represent this district, and not Saul Ewing, Greg Meece, and the charters that have taken more funding from this district than any other force in this state, they will need to do the right thing and rescind this farce of a settlement that will allow charter schools to plunder funds not just from Christina, but would set a precedent for every district in this state.

I love the fact that the anonymous donation to Stubbs was highlighted by so much media in this state. But those students deserve more than having additional funds taken from them that would put the lunch balance to shame.

Thank you, and I do want to wish all of you a great holiday.  Bob A, thank you for the Frozen memory.  Good luck in your future endeavors.

To read the response to the FOIA complaint from the Delaware Attorney General’s office, please read below:

Christina. Tuesday. 7pm. Gauger-Cobbs. Board. Meeting. Popcorn. Bring It.

Holy stacked agenda!  Could they squeeze anything else into this agenda?  Some more hot-button district issues?  I doubt it!

On Tuesday night, the Christina Board of Education will hold their board meeting at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School.  The fun starts at 7pm.  Bring food, and, just in case, you may want to bring a sleeping bag.  This is going to be a late meeting!

So what’s on tap?  The question is more like what isn’t on this agenda!  This is NOT the order for the meeting, but it IS the controversy order!

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Now the cat is out of the bag.  In the absolute shocker of the year, board member John Young was the one to submit the action item to rescind the vote on the charter settlement.  John is always so quiet and compliant.  This is NOT like him at all to do something like this.  Okay, sorry, got hit in the head for a second there.  But seriously, I give John major props for having the guts to get this out there.  I truly hope one of the four board members who voted yes can see this settlement sham for what it really is.  If not, I hope many public comments can nudge them along.

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Board member Shirley Saffer introduced this action item.  After last month’s vote to create the “Honors Academy” at Christiana High School, there is an action item to annul that vote.  Saffer voted yes for the program last month, but it appears she had a change of heart.  The board voted 5-1 the first time.  Will the districts new charter magnet NCS wannabe Honors Academy survive this time?  Expect a lot of pissed off parents for this one!

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While I haven’t written too much about Christina’s Superintendent search, there has been a ton of drama surrounding it.  Which will apparently culminate in many action items surrounding this.  First item on the agenda is to approve an interim Superintendent.  Which is basically what Dr. Robert Andrzejewski has been for the past 15 months.  I really don’t know the difference between Interim and Acting, nor do I truly care.   But “Bob A” is leaving on December 31st, come hell or high water.  Even if the board does approve a new Superintendent by the end of the year, that person will most likely have to give notice at their current job.  Unless it is Jack Markell.  I heard he is going to be VERY available pretty soon.  Just kidding on that one.  I do NOT want to be responsible for that rumor starting.

Action Item #8 is the Superintendent Interview Questions.  Which the board is making public.  Because they HAVE TO.  After that there will be discussion on the final interviews for the candidates.  After the board gets through that, there is another John Young submitted action item to start the Superintendent search over.  Like I said, this meeting is going to be crazy!

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We will also get a discussion on mold air quality at Christina schools.  This should be the lighter side of the evening!  Add in all the other normal stuff school boards do: honor roll, budget stuff, contracts, and so on and so forth.  For those keeping track, the rescind the settlement vote and annul the Honors Academy are the last two items on the action item agenda.

If you want to sign up for public comment, I would get there early.  You have to sign up to talk.  I plan on being there.  I plan on talking.  It will be marvelous, just wait!  I wonder if any legislators will show up at this meeting.  I wonder if they will attempt to talk to board out of NOT rescinding the vote on the settlement.  I dare Senator Sokola to try this!  Triple dog dare!

These are some fun predictions.  People from the audience will yell at least eight times to speak up because they can’t hear them.  President Paige will bring the gavel down at least 13 times.  George Evans will ridicule John Young at least four times.  The audience will laugh at least four times.  Someone will leave their lights on in the parking lot.  Someone in the audience will have a very brilliant idea of ordering pizza (bring cash in case this does happen and you plan to stick around for the whole shebang).  At least five people will wear ugly Christmas shirts and/or sweaters.  And last, but certainly not least, I predict at least three things will come out that the general public has no clue about.

The Christina Superintendent Search: What Is A SME And Why You Should Care

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young posted this publicly on Facebook about the Christina Superintendent search.  I am posting it on here to get this to a wider audience.  For clarification purposes, SME stands for “Subject Matter Expert” and James Flynn is running the Superintendent search for Christina through the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration (IPA).  I don’t know how many districts have used IPA in the past.  I do know Capital used them last year for their new Superintendent which led to Dan Shelton getting the post.  And I want to say Colonial did as well which led to Dusty Blakey, but don’t quote me on that.  I’ll let Mr. Young’s Facebook post take it from here.

Some public information on the CSD Super search. Started with a few questions and since I will not be able to attend the 11.9.16 meeting as I will be out of town, and because Mr. Polaski raised the concern below I wanted to get this out there as I would have discussed all of this in person anyway, as those that know me know I would. Also, Note Dr. Flynn’s comments regarding direction given on 10.24 does not comport with the timing of the contract which Mr. Polaski references in points 1 indirectly and 2 directly…meaning I remain confused on the issue.

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Today, 8:08 AM

YOUNG JOHN;PAIGE ELIZABETH;EVANS GEORGE;Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; SAFFER SHIRLEY

Subject: Re: Task Force Update
Inbox
Two reactions to Mr. Young’s requests:
1. The process being implemented by Dr. Flynn and IPA at the U of D was approved by the CSD Board at a BOE public meeting. Any changes to the process or contract MUST be approved by the Board after discussion at a public meeting, not by any one or more Board members by email.
2. The Board approved use of IPA to facilitate the process to select a new superintendent and directed the CSD Administration to negotiate the contract with IPA, which Mr. Silber did as the CFO of CSD.

Any further discussion of this topic, or any proposals for changes, must only be done at CSD board meetings in public, the next one being Nov. 9. I would hope to not see any more emails between 7 board members on this subject as that could be determined to constitute a Board meeting, subject to FOIA.
Fred Polaski


From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 10:28:23 PM
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH; EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY
Subject: Re: Task Force Update

Obviously I speak only for myself on this: without the names of the SMEs, I am unable to support any recommendation whatsoever.

As for the one candidate: the advantage is CLEARLY the ability to prepare answers with additional time not supplied to other candidates. I am disappointed Dr. Flynn cannot see this plainly. Another reason to be very suspect of the process thus far. Is Mr Silber in charge of the board process? This confuses me.


From: PAIGE ELIZABETH
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 10:19:33 PM
To: EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY; YOUNG JOHN
Subject: Fwd: Task Force Update

ECP
Sent from my iPhone

Begin forwarded message:

From: James Flynn <jflynn@udel.edu<mailto:jflynn@udel.edu>>
Date: October 31, 2016 at 4:52:23 PM EDT
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH <elizabeth.paige@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:elizabeth.paige@christina.k12.de.us>>
Cc: ROBERT.SILBER@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:ROBERT.SILBER@christina.k12.de.us>, LAPHAM WENDY WENDY.LAPHAM@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:wendy.lapham@christina.k12.de.us>>
Subject: Re: Fw: Task Force Update

Ms. Paige: Hi. I’ll try to respond to Mr. Young’s questions in the order posed.

SMEs – As I’ve said at our public presentations, selection of the number and designation of SMEs is determined by the IPA as one of the steps to insure impartiality and confidentiality. Our goal is to select highly qualified individuals for the applicant screening process who are familiar with Delaware districts and Delaware education issues. For the Christina search, we identified three SMEs – two retired Delaware superintendents and a senior administrator with more than 30 years experience serving several Wilmington area districts (the contract obligates us to two SMEs). Our usual practice is not to share the names of the SMEs to further fortify confidentiality in future searches with other districts. If the CSD Board feels strongly that knowing the names of the SMEs is a critical point, I’d be willing to contact them (the SMEs) for their approval. Please remember, the SMEs review all of the applications independently first and the applicant names have been redacted. When the SMEs come together to discuss the applicants, their references are to ‘Applicant A’ and ‘Applicant B’, etc.

Impact of Extra Time for one Candidate – This applicant e-mailed me just before the midnight deadline on Friday, Sept 23. I replied to her on the morning of Monday, Sept 26 and had all her materials e-mailed to me by early that afternoon. Remember, she claimed she had everything ready for submission on 9/23, but the site was closed before midnight. I’m not sure how this may have created an ‘advantage’ since we didn’t start processing any of the applications until after 9/26.

Task Force Reporting – The instructions from Mr. Silber on 10/24 said to prepare a report of the Task Force proceedings on 11/1 directly to the Board. Changing those instructions by having the Task Force report back to the full Search Committee in a confidential setting (i.e. Task Force and Board) is your choice.

Sub-Par Candidates – I would do all in my power to dissuade the Task Force from recommending a sub-par candidate(s) to the Board. In my opinion, this Task Force has worked too long and too diligently to submit the names of candidates who wouldn’t meet the needs of the CSD.

Board Members and Applicants – I’m not sure what this statement refers to, and don’t feel competent to respond.

Please let me know if I can provide any further information or if wish to alter the Task Force reporting process going forward.

Jim Flynn


On Mon, Oct 31, 2016 at 1:20 PM, PAIGE ELIZABETH

Elizabeth.Paige@christina.k12.de.us<mailto:Elizabeth.Paige@christina.k12.de.us>> wrote:

Dr. Flynn,

See below for questions that I told Mr. Young I do not have answers to and provide a response that I can share with the Board.

Thanks!
Liz


From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Monday, October 31, 2016 12:48 PM
To: PAIGE ELIZABETH; EVANS GEORGE; Meg Mason; MINNEHAN HARRIE E; POLASKI FRED; SAFFER SHIRLEY
Subject: Re: Task Force Update

I am still unsure of process. Jim has not revealed the names of the SMEs used to go through the applications.

What impact did the extra time given one candidate have on creating an advantage?

Aren’t the task force members reporting back to the committee as a whole rather than putting name(s) directly to the board?
Also, if no one stands out, does the task force know to recommend going back out rather than sending us a subpar candidate (if applicable)?

Lastly, I have a deep concern that individual board members are creating an advantage or perception of one by being seen in public with certain applicants, but not others


Hmm… sounds like something is going on up there… and in Christina… they are usually so quiet…

The Real Story About What Happened At The Christina Board Meeting Last Night…

Last night, Christina Board of Education member Elizabeth Paige was elected by her peers to be the next President of the board.  With a 4-3 vote, she took the post over from Harrie Ellen Minnehan.  What happened next was very surreal.  Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski was going through different contract amounts which the board had to take action on.  When one of them came up, I was absolutely shocked and horrified.  It wasn’t even on the agenda.  Their Chief Financial Officer, Bob Silber, disappeared shortly before this.  I think he knew what was coming.  Everyone was there: Acting Superintendent Robert “Bob A” Andrzejewski, Board members John Young, Fred Polaski, George Evans, Harrie Ellen Minnehan, Shirley Saffer, Elizabeth Paige, and newly elected board member Meg Mason.  There were some people I knew in the audience as well.  I don’t know if I’m supposed to be writing about this, so I will show you…

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Librarian-Gate In Christina Heats Up: Sophie’s Choice or Misinformation? You Decide!

I wrote a post yesterday about the Christina School District choosing not to rehire librarians that were cut as a result of their 2nd failed referendum last year.  Many have gone on the attack against the district and many have jumped to their defense.  One clear and obvious thing is Delaware needs to change their antiquated unit-based funding system to some extent.  I don’t think anyone is arguing that point.  But a lot of accusations were thrown out as a result of my article and I wanted to point out some of them.

During Christina’s 3rd referendum attempt, the situation was dire.  As a result of the last two failed referenda, they had to make some major cuts.  Teachers, para-professionals, specialists, and yes, including librarians.  In several places, whether in writing or spoken word, the district mentioned they wanted to hire back the positions they cut and reduce classroom sizes.  This year, there were anywhere between 35-45 kids in some classrooms.  That isn’t good for any student, much less some of the high-need populations in the district.  One of the members of Christina’s Citizen Budget Oversight Committee, Brian Stephan, also writes for Delaware Liberal.

Let me point out this simple fact: I like Brian.  I think he is a good guy and a very involved parent.  I wish more parents were as involved as Brian and his wife in public education (and on a volunteer basis at that).  I have no doubt in the world he is very well-versed in school financing.  But just as I get my readers stuck in the weeds on issues such as special education or regulations for example, I think that may happen to Brian when he is explaining district financing.  Like any television show, there is frequently a “previously on…” before the show starts.  The brains of everyday citizens don’t remember everything, so they need a constant refresh.  I have to reiterate things on this blog constantly, not only to refresh existing readers, but also for my new readers.  I don’t always succeed with this.  But I would never complain to my readers that I have to explain it again.  That would be an insult to my readers.  I believe this happens in education a lot.  I see it all the time in parent complaints about educators and administrators.  They perceive them as being arrogant, but the reality is they may know more about situations and assume you do to.  When they realize you aren’t aware, the communication style is perceived as condescending or arrogant.  It may be, or it may not be.  There isn’t always an easy answer.  But when both parties are equally aware of a situation, and they dance around it with bad communication, that can be very dangerous.  But I digress…

I like to refer to education funding as a Rubik’s Cube with 64 sides.  It is a beast!  God bless any average parent who has a firm grasp on it, because I know I don’t.  Charters I’m pretty good at breaking down, but that is not the case with school districts.  But I do look at what people write and things they say.  That is the anecdotal evidence I look for in most situations.

Back in March, a week before the referendum, Brian wrote:

What’s the District asking for? An additional $0.30 per $100 of assessed property value that would generate an additional $16.2 million per year. What would that do? $4 million would go toward bringing back the teachers and staff we had to cut (yes, including librarians), and reduce our class sizes. $4 million would go toward the operating fund to keep the district functioning at pre-budget cut staffing levels for the next 2 years.

Note the word “and” when talking about restoring the positions cut AND reducing the classroom size in the above statement.  On Facebook yesterday, Brian was telling folks the current situation with librarians was spelled out succinctly and clearly, but I could not find anything in writing stating that it was an “or” situation.  Currently, defenders of the district are stating it is a building leader’s (principal) choice to either fund a librarian with an earned teaching unit or hire a regular classroom teacher.  In the event that a board doesn’t like that decision, they could force a principal to hire the librarian.  In effect, this comes down to a gut-wrenching choice of either keeping classroom sizes bigger or having a librarian.  Brian alleges this situation plays out in many of our school districts.  I have no doubt he is correct about this, but does the average taxpayer know this?  I doubt it.  This situation wouldn’t have become as intense as it has had this been spelled out during the weeks before the referendum.  Had something been put in writing to the effect of “It is our desire to hire back what we lost but we may not be able to get back every single position”, I would have no issue with any of this.

In response to the firestorm that went down on social media yesterday, Brian wrote a response on Delaware Liberal last night.  In the comments for this, he writes:

I can say that we described the referendum as restoring what was lost. And there’s a reason I didn’t say “Restoring ALL that was lost” because if I could have said *that*, I would have without a doubt.

This is the heart of the matter, in my opinion.  As I wrote in my response to his comment, there isn’t any transparent difference between “restoring what was lost” and “restoring ALL that was lost”.  I completely believe that Brian understands the current situation, but it was not clearly pointed out to taxpayers that their vote would mean one or the other.  That is why I was upset about what is happening with the district not restoring the librarians.  I backed this referendum 100% and fought for the district.  Now I feel like I’m eating crow.  It’s very easy to come back afterwards and explain this in writing.  I called that Monday morning quarterbacking yesterday.  I became very confused when things were written on social media and Delaware Liberal yesterday where defenders of the district wrote the funding is there to restore librarians.  Many commenters were.  But to write things to the effect of “let me explain this again” is not in the best interest of trying to win a point.  Most people feel like they are being talked down to.  But if that is the flavor of Brian’s writing style, that is his choice.

But here is the million dollar question.  If the assumption is that building principals in schools that had librarians cut are not restoring those positions in favor of keeping classroom sizes smaller, will the district take the classroom size waivers next fiscal year?  These are waivers the districts request that actually keep classrooms bigger.  They are usually granted.  Most districts do this, including Christina.  But in doing so, should Christina choose to go that route in December, they are actually breaking another referendum campaign promise, that of reducing classroom size.  Technically, one could say all districts do it and if they are out of compliance in one school they have to do it based on the populations in the school.  But it has also kept classroom sizes at increased levels in many districts and has not made the problem any better.  I could not tell you, based on my limited knowledge of this aspect, how to fix that or who exactly controls that aspect.

But back to Christina.  To make matters even worse, several sources have informed me that Acting Superintendent Robert Andrzejewski told many students the librarian positions would be restored.  These were children who were upset their librarians were no longer there.  Perhaps he spoke out of turn in saying this, but the students are probably the most important stakeholders in any education decision.  Imagine if a librarian was a student’s favorite teacher.  That librarian got cut.  The student was very upset.  They go home after the Acting Superintendent says the librarians will be back.  The student is happy, the parents are hopeful, and the district can count on a yes vote from those parents.  Those kind of events can seriously impact referendum results.  That is a huge issue and could easily be seen, and justifiably so, as a broken promise.

To truly understand what happened here, we do have to look at Delaware’s unit-based funding system.  This is based on the September 30th count for each school in a district or a charter school.  The number of students in the school determines how much state funding the district or charter school gets from the state.  Schools also get funds from federal dollars and local dollars.  What a school can’t pay for from state or federal money, comes out of local dollars which is where taxpayers come in.  A district receives x amount of units based on the population of the district.  With this, there are all sorts of conditions, especially with special education.  Based on a student’s disabilities, the formula changes.

Looking at Christina’s 2015-2016 unit allotment based on their September 30th count, they received the following: based on 15,553 students, they received 1,236.40 units.  This does not mean every unit goes towards one teaching position.  For example, a CTE teacher counts as half a unit, or .5.  Based on the amount of units a district receives, the district determines how many units each building gets based on their student count.  Certain units, such as special education, have to go towards those services (or they are supposed to).  But a building leader, or principal, does have some discretion for how the funds generated from that unit-count are allocated.  They can’t make wild decisions.  If a school’s Smarter Balanced scores are low, they can’t hire 50 math teachers and only 3 English/Language Arts teachers.  But out of that pool of funds is how decisions are made.  The district’s Chief Financial Officer guides the schools with those decisions.  If enrollment is down, based on school choice or students moving from the district, a principal may face some difficult decisions.  I don’t envy a principal making decisions like this, but I also believe they should look at things like what was told to taxpayers in the latest referendum campaign.  Such as the case with Christina now.  Unfortunately, Christina loses a lot of students to charters and this has been going on for the past ten plus years.

So then a district is faced with difficult decisions.  They could either stay on the road they are on, or make changes.  In Christina’s case, they are wisely looking at school climate and discipline as one of the key issues which results in students leaving the district.  I have no issue with this as it is the number one complaint I see for Christina.  Part of their referendum promises was to take a “deep dive” at the situation, come up with a plan, and make changes.  That is completely acceptable in my opinion.  But what Christina also didn’t point out was the fact they would hire an outside vendor to help form this “strategic plan” who also happened to also work for the district in the past.  To the tune of almost $50,000 without a formal bid process.  These are the types of things that need to be spelled out to taxpayers during a referendum attempt.

One of the questions posed on the CSD Paving the Way referendum website concerned school resource officers and if the $1 million the district would use out of the funds generated out of the referendum would go towards bringing those positions back which were cut.  It was clearly spelled out that this decision was not going to be immediately made and that an action committee would form to determine how to handle this issue.  While it doesn’t look like anyone directly asked if all cut positions, such as librarians, would be restored, that would have been the place it would have most likely appeared.  In the absence of that question, many assumed all cut positions would come back.  Not to put the entire blame for this on a referendum website or a well-read blog in Delaware, but it is part of the issues.  As well, Andrzejewski’s comments to students played a factor.  As well, I had grave issues with the district spending $181,200 on what I initially viewed as more assessments for students when a state focus has been to reduce the amount of assessments.  I have since been informed this contract would replace two assessments at less of the cost of the other two assessments, which seems to be a prudent move on the district’s part.  Furthermore, you can’t just rob Peter to pay Paul.  Just because that $181,200 was available for assessments does not necessarily mean you can pay $181,200 in librarians in lieu of those funds.  There are different buckets for different aspects of education, as Brian has explained many times to people.

I received this information from an anonymous commenter named “John Doe”, seen below, but I felt the need to put it in the heart of the article:

Sir, I would please ask that you correct some misinformation included in this blog. It was made clear at the Christina SD Board of Ed. meeting that the district was consolidating, not simply adding, assessments. Yes, a new assessment will be purchased, but it is replacing two existing assessments which together cost the district more money than will be spent on the new assessment next school year. The district is indeed cutting assessments back in a number of sensible ways, and the district will benefit from cost savings as well as savings in instructional time because of these decisions. Teachers and administrators, like carpenters, need good tools to help them do high quality work. For a district the size of Christina SD, the assessment costs the author quoted are very reasonable.

In the past, districts and charters lave gotten themselves in trouble with misappropriated funds in the wrong bucket.  For example, last year Capital School District was warned by the State Auditor’s office they can’t use a Superintendent’s discretionary fund to help pay for band field trips.  That is just one of countless examples where districts did the wrong thing.  Intent plays a big part in that.  Was it an honest mistake or done on purpose?  In the case of some charter schools in Delaware in the past few years, taking school funds and using them for personal use is a big no-no.  But this hasn’t just happened in charters, but also public school districts as well.  But charters are held under more scrutiny than traditional school districts so it could be easier to find.  But by the same token, some of the charter employees who did abuse these funds had not been involved in public education to the extent others in traditional school districts have and were not as well-versed with the law.  This does not excuse their actions.  In fact, it makes the problem more acute and laws should reflect this troubling aspect.

As I learn more about district and charter funding, I am also looking towards the future in regards to corporate interference in education.  Out of the funds schools do receive, what funds are being wasted on assessment and useless programs?  How much is going towards outside vendors who have limited experience in an actual classroom but come out with reports that are utilized by those who support these agendas?  Are districts and charters riding the latest wave that has no factual research to back up the effectiveness of these programs, such as personalized learning in a digital environment?  Are funds being allocated based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and how to increase scores while keeping bloated classroom sizes and not addressing the true needs of students?  These are the things that matter to me.  So when I see librarian positions not being restored (as of now), I have a major beef with that.  That is happening right now, in Christina.  If I am made aware of similar situations playing out in other districts, I will call them out on it.  Which is something, based on this current situation, I am going to be looking for.

Christina has a pocket of folks who do not enjoy any controversy based on decisions made coming out of that pocket, in my opinion.  And when they are called out on it, the fingers point to those casting the blame and not addressing the real issue.  This has landed me in a tough spot with the district in the past and in the present.  If information is not readily transparent, I go by what I do know.  And yes, I am opinionated and I am quick to reach judgment based on what I know, or believe I know.  I’m not denying this.  There are also other factors that play into how I write articles, such as sidebar conversations or issues I am unable to write about to protect others.  But those aspects definitely influence my opinion.  Do I get everything right?  Nope.  I’ll be the first to admit that, and when I don’t, I’ll fix it or write a follow-article.  But if you come on here and comment that I am wrong without explaining how I’m wrong, that I can’t do anything about.  I was accused of starting fires and then saying “I didn’t know” and trying to back out of my original post under that excuse.  Sure, that happens.  I write based on what information I do know and go from there.  Do I always seek clarification from other parties?  I don’t.  Here’s why: I am not a mainstream journalist.  I am a blogger.  The journalistic etiquette for mainstream journalism does not apply to bloggers.  Do I go for the “shock and awe” at times?  Absolutely.  And sometimes I just don’t feel like reaching out will serve a purpose.  All too often, I get no response, I’m attacked, or I get bad information.  That happens more often than not.  As well, the person who accused me of this, I have reached out to in the past over certain things but lately I had not been getting much response.  Until I posted about this latest librarian thing.

This is one of the reasons I admire and respect Christina board member John Young so much.  He is constantly attacked for attacking, or the perception of attacking.  John and I are very much alike in that aspect.  But it gets people talking and I would say it brings more transparency to issues facing public education.  The more people talk about education, the better.  We live in a state where a certain group of people tend to make ALL the decisions and that isn’t good for kids.  Period.  End of story.  If I can shock people out of an education awareness slumber, I certainly will.  This is how John operates, it is how Kilroy operates, and it is how Kavips operates.  It is the heart of Delaware education bloggers mindset, especially those who fight against the insane practices of the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell.  Most of the information we post (or used to in John’s case) is not information that is picked up on by the News Journal or other media outlets.  I don’t believe John’s goal, or my goal, is to intentionally divide, but to bring light to situations people may not be aware of.  But we are attacked for attacking.  If we don’t do these things, how the hell are people going to know these things?  Could we be more temperate in how we do this?  Sure, but would folks listen?  I can say I have defended Christina much more than I have “attacked” them, as some have said.

My intention is not to make things up in order to start a fire.  Unless it is one of my “fan fiction” posts, which are easily recognizable (such as Markell, Herdman, Godowsky, Jaques and Sokola going on a midnight horse ride in Dover), I am basing my information on something real.  If there is more information along the way, it’s going to come out.  If not from me, than in the comments or somewhere else.  Without going into a lot of details, there are some VERY strange things that go on behind the scenes with blogging.  Eventually, all truths are known or they are buried forever.

Updated, 9:32pm: This article has been updated to reflect the discussion about the assessments the district purchased.  I previously wrote these were more assessments, when the reality is they were to replace two other assessments to save instructional time and the district money.  While this is certainly a good thing, it does not change my issues with the librarian issue.

 

Christina Board Member Rallies For Elizabeth Paige While Discussing Some Pretty Massive Problems With The District & Board

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young posted this tonight on his Facebook account.  I agree with a lot of what he said.  I haven’t written a lot about the divisiveness I believe is going on up there.  In my opinion, it is corruption at its finest.  Yes, I have my own election to worry about tomorrow.  But I’m glad John put into words what he has been feeling, as have many others.  It concerns me because I can see some parallels in Capital School District.  While the board doesn’t seem to have these kind of issues and the level of manipulation isn’t as high, it is, to some degree, present.  This is a long post from John Young, but it is well worth the read.  If you live up in Christina, please vote for Elizabeth Paige.  She earned her stripes a long time ago and Christina would not be the same without her.  It would be much worse…

Well, here we are: tomorrow is the day. Christina faces an election for one seat as we already prepare to welcome Meg Mason in July to replace the outgoing Dave Resler. CSD voters have a pretty stark choice in my opinion. Unbeknownst to many voters, there is a distinctly unique tone to this year’s school board race between Desiree Brady and Elizabeth Paige and for the most part it’s not being created by the candidates themselves. There is a disturbing set of forces in play, in my opinion. I am well aware that what I type next will have people confirming either their love for my willingness to speak the truth of the situation or their hatred of the same thing. I can live with both.

Our district has been in crisis for quite some time now and the processes that have yielded several key results have caused irreparable harm to the ability of our board and district to function well. Please note my very specific use of the word “processes”. Some of the processes that have created deep concern include: the hiring of the acting Superintendent, the referendum campaign, the hiring of a parent engagement coordinator, the hiring of a consultant on climate and discipline issues and most recently the unfinished process of selecting HOW to select the new permanent superintendent. This list is not inclusive of all concerns.

The yield of these processes are not as universally concerning as the actual processes themselves. During each of these processes, the board was controlled by one person and the information shared to the board from both her and the administration has been extremely restrictive and in my opinion damaging to the rights of our taxpayers to have board members make informed decisions. During this period, a minority of board members have asked for more information and sought to push through these political barriers. At almost every turn, these behaviors have been supported by key stakeholders, while in the minority, have chosen to ignore the greater good often to continue parochial support of programs and people they like, need, and desire to see remain in power. Meanwhile, real questions about real issues are not only being ignored, they are being hidden and in some cases the public is being lied to about how the district works. A perfect example is my recent questioning of the contract for school climate and discipline. No one I know in CSD feels we don’t have major opportunity for improvement here; however, I also don’t know anyone that feels the district should just hand over a $49,250 no-bid contract with no public notice or input. Except for the 4 board members that did just that in support of the acting superintendent and the extremely public acknowledgement of previous employment and friendship with the vendor. TO be clear, this is not an indictment of the vendor whatsoever, only the broken process that yielded the result.

The same forces that seek to keep CSD board members in the dark on issues and prevent board members from making informed votes are now seeking to remove one of the three members willing to stand up and actually ask questions in support of CSD not their own agendas. They are aligned to drive out Elizabeth Paige. The planted questions, the stolen signs, the opponent’s campaign, up to and including the obvious employment at the workplace of one of the referendum’s biggest supporters who is close friends with the acting superintendent is simply too much to ignore.

One of this groups most concerning tactics is the one where they distract people by making allegations of failing to collaborate or not being civil. The truth is, to them collaboration is only labeled as such if you agree with them, and their role as civility police is undermined by their own off stage hypocrisy on the same subject. Both are morally bankrupt offerings in the face of board members just trying to actually be stewards of our students, parents, and taxes. It is repulsive to me to watch our district fall prey to these petty and unbecoming tactics. I am well aware that some feel I am a divisive force on the board. I can totally see why. When I ask questions and I don’t get answers, I get mad. Guilty as charged. I would ask those that feel I am the problem to try, if only for a moment, to ask yourself how you would react if you were elected by the public to do a job and other public officials got in your way, on purpose. I can accept criticism on my tactics and can fully admit that my seemingly righteous anger, on stage at times, can be both interpreted and misinterpreted as counterproductive. However, what you get from me is the same, all the time. I am not a chameleon. I was elected to do right by our students and until I am voted off I will not shrink from that responsibility. Not. One. Inch. I only speak of myself in this endorsement letter to paint the picture that a vote for Elizabeth is not a vote for me. She does not act or react the way I do even if she sometimes is just as mad or concerned about Christina processes. A vote for Elizabeth is a vote for the same passion, brought in a different and perhaps much better way. Don’t be fooled by some of the terrible tactics being used to convince you that any sympathy to a cause that happens to be supported by anyone not seeking to remove her means she is in some sort of policy silo.

Elizabeth Paige and I do not agree on everything, but we do agree on this: our students and our taxpayers deserve a responsive school district befitting the trust and respect owed to its students, parents, educators, administrators and taxpayers alike. She also is an elected official who does not stop in the quest to bring those basic yet quintessential aspects to Christina.

If you value transparency, intellectual curiosity, courage, independent thinking and a reasoned, systemic, analytical approach to policy then please vote tomorrow for Elizabeth Paige. If you don’t value those qualities, please Vote May 11th.

Christina Board Member Opts His Son Out Of DCAS-Alt1

Christina Board of Education member John Young just forwarded me an email he sent to the administrators at his son’s school in the district.

All,
 
Please be advised that Evan Young is being opted out of DCAS-Alt1. DCAS-Alt1 is a painful, inappropriate, and worthless exercise designed to cause pain to the student and educator alike. It provides no useful data and as such is, as is SBAC, irredeemably valueless.
 
Under no circumstance is he permitted to take DCAS-Alt1. This is in addition to the Opt Out demand for SBAC.
 
Please provide Evan academic opportunities pursuant to established CSD board policy permitting parental opt out devoid of retaliation and penalty of any kind during the sadly allotted time of the administration of this inappropriate measure.
 
Thanks,
 
John Young

Christina, along with Red Clay, has opt-out policies passed by their board.  The only other board in Delaware that has an opt-out resolution is the Capital board.  There are sixteen other districts in Delaware.  What are they waiting for?  Please keep in mind parents, you don’t need a board resolution or policy, or even legislation to opt your child out.  While House Bill 50 (which sits on the Pete Schwartzkopf “ready list”, meaning it sits there until he realizes he is wrong or until the end of the legislative session where the bill dies) would certainly add extra protection for parents, students, and schools, it does not “allow” you to opt your child out the Smarter Balanced Assessment or any standardized assessment.  YOU already own that right!

Once again, the Smarter Balanced Assessment starts Wednesday in a lot of districts.  Opt your child out tomorrow!  Once they log in, the data collection begins!

Top 16 Things We Won’t Hear In Governor Markell’s Last State Of The State Address Today

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At 2pm, Delaware Governor Jack Markell will give his last State of the State address to the General Assembly.  Judging by his seven press releases over the past few days, it is fairly predictable to guess what he is going to talk about.  But the things he won’t talk about are what I’m more curious about…

These are the things I cannot picture Governor Markell saying: Continue reading “Top 16 Things We Won’t Hear In Governor Markell’s Last State Of The State Address Today”

Contrary To Popular Belief: FOIA’s Are NOT Free

Elizabeth Scheinberg with Children & Educators First asked me to repost an article she wrote yesterday.  This is in response to Transparent Christina’s post last week about John Young’s FOIA petition.

Red Font/bolding is for emphasis.

TransparentChristina has shared some posts about a recent CSD FOIA with no comment mechanism.  It’s a tactic we often see associated with political bullies, a markellian method to stifle public discourse.
  
So, let’s have at it: FOIA is NOT Free. I disagree with TC.  I wasn’t present at the meeting and didn’t hear the public comment.  However, I can offer a rebuttal on generalities:

FOIA is a fantastic tenet of our democracy. With little exclusion, FOIA creates a lens for the public to look through and evaluate the performance of both elected and appointed officials. It is invaluable. But, it does come with a price tag. 

A recent CSD FOIA ran the district upwards of $3000.00.  Not a lot when compared to the budget of that beast, but significant enough to those who care.  I care. CSD is in a financial crisis.  And while I love FOIA (and I really, really do) I can’t justify what my district was forced to expend to satisfy a malicious and mostly frivolous FOIA. (Already noted in a previous post that 1 facet of the FOIA was conceded to by CSD; as for the other two issues, the DOJ found for the board, not the complainant.)

Forced to respond?

Yes, TC contends that “the public body has to DECIDE whether to respond via counsel to the allegation.”  That’s true on face value. But, only on face value. The body could choose to ignore that notification and request for evidence sent by the Department of Justice.  This will produce two outcomes, neither preferable to the engaged constituent:

  1. First, the body runs the risk of creating a public perception that it is above the law, above even the Department of Justice.  This route will tarnish the body’s public perception = a public less willing to support it.
  2. The body run the risk the FOIA opinion will be founded on whatever evidence the complainant provides – legitimate or fraudulent. I had the pleasure of communicating with the Department of Justice this past week. The department was most helpful in explaining what happens when the subject of FOIA does not respond to the DOJ’s inquiry.
    DOJ’s explanation:

     “opinions will be based on the evidence available.”

    Refusal of the body to participate = radical neglect that defeats the entire judicial process around FOIA.  It impugns the SPIRIT of FOIA! And leaves it open for manipulation because the only “evidence” provided will be that of the complainant.   

The COST of FOIA:
 
Moreover, regardless of the body’s decision to respond or not, the FOIA has already begun to cost tax payers’ dollars. How? When the FOIA petition reaches the DOJ, the department is obligated to assign an attorney to investigate the allegations. The hours consumed by the investigation of the petition and research into both the application of the law in the past and present and the evidence presented drain resources (financial and manpower) that could be dedicated to a host of other investigations occurring within the department. While the DOJ may budget funds to a FOIA department, the absences of a current petition does not mean that department personnel are idle.  It is fair to say their talents are used elsewhere within the department. The cost clock is ticking.  

Thus, the Outcome of the body not responding does not mean FOIA is FREE.  There is still a cost born by the tax payers – the cost of DOJ’s investigation is supported by tax payer provided funds!

Superfluous FIOA and Malicious Intent:

I’ve written my fair share of FOIA over the years.  It’s a necessary process and a right guaranteed by our democracy.  It holds public bodies accountable for their collective and individual actions.  However, it can also be abused. In the case of the Christina FOIA, there has been a limited dialogue and deep misunderstanding propagated by those who wish to claim winner-ship of the FOIA.

The petition stated 

Based on these 2 concerns in combination, I am asking for clarification of the previous FOIA opinion in order to ensure the CSD BOE acted properly. It is my ardent hope that we did so, but I feel we need to confirm this in light of the Appoquinimink FOIA opinion. https://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/my-foia-complaint-filed-in-response-to-the-8415-csd-boe-meeting/

It appears the petitioner is acting in the best interest of the pubic body. However, in the comment section of this post, the petitioner goes on to make this accusation:

…Board members need to understand their roles and those that withhold information from others simply impede the governance necessary to help children. Worse, others don’t seem to take past experience in governance and apply the positive parts while discarding the negative. I’m not speaking of any single member, but some about all.
It’s a disease, and I think I know how you feel about those that flout the FOIA statute and act to secretly traffic information that board members need to make informed decisions. https://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/my-foia-complaint-filed-in-response-to-the-8415-csd-boe-meeting/

And there you have it: That this petition provided clarification to the petitioner on several fairly recent FOIA opinions issued by the DOJ was secondary to the petitioner’s assertation that his fellow board members failed to learn from past experience and more importantly that they “secretly traffic information” to eachother. The DOJ opinion essential deems this malicious accusation to be unfounded.  It did not opine of any secret or otherwise information trafficked between the body’s members.

This was a superfluous and malicious filing. Had the body voted to ignore the Department of Justice’s communication, the body would have lost its opportunity to provide widely important exculpatory evidence and the finding might have been radically erroneous. 

FOIA IS NOT FREE.  And while it is open for abuse, the thoughtful and correct course is for a body to respond always.  It is only way to reach a unbiased finding based on evidence and law.

And if someone is telling you otherwise, they probably have oceanfront property in Tennessee to sell you too.

What I’m Truly Thankful For On This Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all the readers of Exceptional Delaware.  It’s been a crazy year, and we all know what the issues are.  But today, I want to give thanks for what we do have and some of the accomplishments brought forth by others this year.

Thank you to State Rep. John Kowalko and Senator Dave Lawson for listening to parents of Delaware and introducing House Bill 50!

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Thank you to John Young for his passion and words of wisdom!

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Thank you to the victories! Like when House Bill 50 cleared the House by a 36-3 margin!

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Thank you to State Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf for letting my son Jacob play with your gavel!

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Thank you to Delaware Governor Jack Markell for signing House Concurrent Resolution #36 recognizing “Tourette Syndrome Awareness Month” in Delaware!

Governor Markell, Kevin Ohlandt and Jacob Ohlandt, 5/14/15
Governor Markell, Kevin Ohlandt and Jacob Ohlandt, 5/14/15

Thank you to beautiful summer days and the beach!

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Thank you to the Progressive Democrats of Delaware for an honor!

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Thank you to the friends I’ve made along the way during my sojourn into Delaware education!

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Thank you to the world for reading my crazy blog!

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Thank you the legislators and stakeholders who fight for our kids and schools!

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Thank you to my dog Bella who helped take care of me after my hernia operation!

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Thank you to my son Jacob who is the inspiration for all I do!  He is becoming an amazing young man who, despite everything, has a heart of gold!  As well, thank you to my awesome wife who puts up with more than anyone I know!

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Thank you once again, to all my readers and those who are allies and enemies, and those in-between!  We will prevail, somehow, someway!

Bourbon, Boone’s Farm, Tony Allen & The Chicken or The Egg: The Great Facebook WEIC Debate!

The true conversations about WEIC don’t happen at all those committee meetings, they happen on Facebook.  Tonight, we got the rare privilege of having the Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission join the fray!  I’m not sure where to start, but since I started the WEIC debates today with my Colonial School District article, I guess we can start there.

Kevin Ohlandt Why I refuse to support WEIC going forward…

Tony Allen Kevin,
As always, I am happy to talk with you directly. You make several claims in here that are not substantiated.
We did meet with Ted and Dusty. I don’t consider that a “back door” meeting. They were both clear in the board’s desire to maintain the current boundaries. And yes, I disagree with their decision as I (not Dr. Rich) noted in a letter to them. However, we do want them to continue to be engaged in the overall work of the Commission which, as you know, involves much more than redrawing lines and is consistent with the FIVE YEAR charge of the Commission’s work.
Continue reading “Bourbon, Boone’s Farm, Tony Allen & The Chicken or The Egg: The Great Facebook WEIC Debate!”

Earl Jaques Tries To Silence And Censor John Kowalko On Email Chain

Earlier this evening, Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko sent an email to over a hundred people about his thoughts on the latest round of NAEP scores, which are showing a downward trend.  Several folks responded, including State Rep. Earl Jaques.  What Jaques did is symptomatic of what is wrong in Delaware politics.  Follow the email chain, and let me know if you agree or disagree with Jaques.


From: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:06 PM
To: Bennett, Andria (LegHall); acherry@wdel.com; aloudell@dbcmedia.com; al@wdel.com; Bohm, Adriana L (K12); albydm@aol.com; “alan@greendel.org”; Alyssa Van Stan; amywroe@gmail.com; Volturo, Andrew (LegHall); Bradley, Juanita V (K12); Short, Bryon (LegHall); Baumbach, Paul (LegHall); Townsend, Bryan (LegHall); Hall-Long, Bethany (LegHall); Mike Begatto; Bentz, David (LegHall); Torbert, Betty (K12); “Graves, Bianca”; Bolden, StephanieT (LegHall); Bush, William (LegHall); Potter, Jr, Charles (LegHall); cciferni1972@gmail.com; Thompson, Cathy (K12); Carson, William (LegHall); Collins, Richard G (LegHall); Yvonne; downwithabsolutes@gmail.com; Rufo, Donato (K12); “dresler@verizon.net”; Sokola, David (LegHall); Lawson, Dave (LegHall); Wilson, David L (LegHall); “delawaregrapevine@comcast.net”; Hudson, Deborah (LegHall); Nelia Dolan; john_allison@comcast.net; Mitchell, John L (LegHall); Viola, John (LegHall); kevino3670@yahoo.com; Keeley, Helene (LegHall); kempskim@comcast.net; kenhaas@udel.edu; Osienski, Edward (LegHall); eve.buckley@gmail.com; Minnehan, Harrie E (K12); Paige, Elizabeth (K12); Henry, Margaret Rose (LegHall); hegedusfamily@comcast.net; frederika.jenner@dsea.org; Polaski, Fred (K12); Newton, Faith (K12); “flally@council81.org”; Frank Sims; Katie Gifford; Brady, Gerald (LegHall); gerri.coble@dsea.org; george.evans@christina.k12.de.us; Godowsky, Steven (K12); hegedusfamily@comcast.net; McDowell, Harris (LegHall); Kenton, Harvey (LegHall); Jackie Hilderbrand Kook; Hudson, Deborah (LegHall); jdf0000@aol.com; jyd1988@gmail.com; james.dawson@wdde.org; Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall); Spiegelman, Jeff (LegHall); Bradley, Juanita V (K12); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Peterson, Karen (LegHall); kavips2006@yahoo.com; kempskim@comcast.net; Lynn, Sean M (LegHall); lehman@bgisolutions.com; lpkaplan@comcast.net; Lindell, Matt (K12); Lawson, Dave (LegHall); lewis@udel.edu; Lindell, Matt (K12); Longhurst, Valerie (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); Matthews, Michael J (K12); malbright@delawareonline.com; Nancyvwilling@yahoo.com; Tyler Nixon; Braddock, Nicole (K12); Marshall, Jayne O (K12); Piccio, Mike (K12); Sedacca, Paul A (K12); Paradee, Trey (LegHall); Puffer, Richard (LegHall); Johnson, Quinton (LegHall); rick@wdel.com; Marshall, Robert (LegHall); Ramone, Michael (LegHall); Zoe Read; Rivera, Brie E.; robgiff@gmail.com; BriggsKing, Ruth (LegHall); Thompson, Seth (LegHall); Frank Sims; tbarchak@nea.org; tobinpolitics@yahoo.com; “terri.hodges@delawarepta.org”; Williams, Freeman (K12); Walsh, Lynn (NBCUniversal); andy@pasenate.com; Yearick, Lyndon D (LegHall); Young, John (K12); Yvonne
Subject: Reflections on NAEP score declines and who’s/what’s responsible

 Dear all please read and seriously consider the harmful effects foisted on our children by these “education reform” salesmen. The NAEP test is one of the most widely used, highly respected and proven (over decades) accurate assessments of education results. If this latest development doesn’t strike a warning chord in any of you that consider themselves as advocates for children and public education than I’m afraid it’s time for an introspective look we all should take.

Representative John Kowalko

Here is part of my response to a media interview regarding my feelings as to why NAEP scores went down and my conclusion why that occurred.

Very simply put Markell’s, Arnie’s, RODEL’s, Gates’, and all of the other (for personal profit) “education reformists” have foisted a failed system on our children with a horribly harmful result under the guise of a “common core” system that is ruining America’s and Delaware’s public education structure and willfully hurting children. Brief statement follows:

Scores down for NAEP
They’ve changed the curriculum. When they are now teaching algebra and geometry (under common core) in 3rd grade what are they not teaching or no longer teaching. If kids don’t truly understand and know multiplication, how are they going to perform the higher level skills required?
The NAEP is a generalized test given to kids all over the world. It is a consistent and reliable measure of comparison. You can’t “study” for it. So when we look at countries that do well (i.e. Finland/New Zealand) and see that their curriculums are nothing like what we have just adopted/imposed we should ask “what are we doing”?
Common Core is not a curriculum but it is so specific in its standards that it becomes a de-facto curriculum. Covering those prescribed “standards” forces teachers to teach only those skills. This presents two significant problems. There is no time for anything else and teachers are being handed a curriculum and much like the “Balanced Assessment Test”, it is being written (and profited from) by the same people who wrote common core who are (in most cases) not qualified teachers in these fields.


Editor’s note: to save space, I’m not going to keep copying the to: part of the email.


From: Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall) <Earl.Jaques@state.de.us>
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:39 PM

John,

Your personal views shouldn’t be part of our email system.  Your email isn’t based on any facts but filled with innuendoes and bias against people you dislike.  Please take your postings to the blogs – not on the state email system!!

Earl Jaques


On Oct 28, 2015, at 6:58 PM, Rufo Donato wrote:

Hey earl
I like john and what he is doing…. He cares… Seems like your email is the snippy one….
When your in politics you have to learn how to deal with things….

Perhaps you should start to blog…. Maybe then people will know who’s side your on….

Donato C. Rufo

Social Studies Teacher

NCCVTEA President

From: Matthews Michael <michael.matthews@redclay.k12.de.us>

I have no problem with Rep. Kowalko’s email because, in essence, it directly calls out the leaders of the failed, multi-billion dollar policies at the state and national level that have most assuredly contributed to the embarrassing drop in NAEP scores.
We’ve had 15 years of education reform policies under Bush/Obama/Markell.  Those policies have includes — but are not limited to — more charter schools, more testing, most consultants, RttT, fewer reading and math specialists, more bloated bureaucracy at the Department of Education, more threatened school closures and turnaround, PLCs, “deep data dives,” “rigor,” “grit,” Teach for America, priority schools, focus schools, focus plus schools, Charter School Performance Fund monies for schools who a) don’t show a financial need for it or b) have shown no track record to deserve it, data coaches from FOX News’ Wireless Generation…need I go on?
The same policies and ideologies towards which millions of dollars have been ostensibly wasted all in the name of student achievement and heightened teacher accountability that could have been used to provide immediate supports to our neediest of schools. These are the policies of the last 15 years that have attempted to corporatized and privatize our schools.
And you know what? They’ve failed. Miserably. The gold standard of assessment — the NAEP — tells us we’ve failed. And you know who takes this stuff the hardest? The classroom teachers and specialists who’ve been saying for years that failed policies under two presidential administrations and this governor have given many cause to quit well before they’ve hit their peak.
It’s too late for the kids who’ve already gone through the system these last 15 years. Will we have the courage to stop the insanity NOW so we don’t risk the future of the next generation of kids?
Mike Matthews

From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Wednesday, October 28, 2015 7:45 PM

Earl,

Your email epitomizes the problem. The state system is the peoples’ system. Why are you so concerned with stifling it? Why do you deign to denigrate John’s email as if it not informed by taxpaying constituents? Who are you to silence opinion and debate? Who elected you Governor? Our tax dollars pay for this, so you should probably consider it an EXPEDITED FOIA request.

I echo Mike Matthews sentiment completely.

Why don’t you show up to another CEA meeting and berate them over Opt Out again after it passed out of your committee and overwhelmingly by your colleagues after you declared the possibility of such as ZERO.  This is the peoples’ bully pulpit and I am deeply offended that an elected official, fresh off of calling my son a quitter over his parents’ reasoned decision to opt him out of high stakes tests would dare stifle dissent in such a brazen, callous manner. Tests imposed by this Governor, with your overt, glowing approval that have clearly been ineffective by the way. That was John’s point, and it is not only true, it resonates.

Why don’t you go read the Race to the Top Grant Application: https://transparentchristina.wordpress.com/delawares-race-to-the-top-grant-application/and check the goals with the results. Get back to me when you realize the depth of failure you have chosen to embrace.

We need more John Kowalko’s and less Earl Jaques’. We need elected representative who actually understand representative republics and know that the House they do their work in is only on a visitor’s pass and at the exclusive behest of the people they represent.

Lastly, you are free to denigrate the blogs, but know this: we are the last line of truth in a free society, free from corporate influence.  Feel free to attack bloggers all you want, but we are not going away. We live to hold ill informed, power hungry, tin-eared politicians like yourself accountable.

John, thank you for speaking truth to power. Everyone does not have to, nor should agree with you at times, but they should never ignore you or denigrate your motives.

Earl, thanks for confirming what we already knew about your iron-fisted, bullying and intimidating style. It went out of fashion in 1985, but thanks for keeping it alive. (sarcasm intended)

John Young


Editor’s note: I sent a reply but I couldn’t reply to all with Yahoo, so I asked Rep. Kowalko to forward it to the recipients.


From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent:
Wednesday, October 28, 2015 6:57 PM
To:
Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall)
Cc:
Kowalko, John (LegHall); Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall)
Subject: Re: Reflections on NAEP score declines and who’s/what’s responsible

Earl,
I applaud Rep. Kowalko for getting the word out on these matters.  It shows courage and conviction that some legislators won’t dare to show for fear of opposing Governor Markell.  The only reason I am not including everyone on this email is because my yahoo Email won’t allow me to respond to that many people.  Just my two cents: I would listen to John.  I’m sorry you don’t see the inherent danger with what Governor Markell and others have done to education, but this path is clearly not good for Delaware students.  My best suggestion for you Rep. Jaques: You can either sink with the ship or grab ahold of a life-jacket as soon as possible.
Furthermore, by not personally sending John a reply with just him, you are using the very same email system you don’t want him using.  That seems odd, but putting a fellow State Rep. down over something and accusing him of bias without any facts is completely false.  I believe he is showing facts based on data from the NAEP scores that education reform isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I saw you battle John during the House Education Committee meeting over House Bill 50, and it was almost like you had a personal grudge against him.  There is no place in Delaware politics for that and I hope we don’t see that kind of behavior again come January.
Thank you,
Kevin Ohlandt

Earl, Earl, Earl, when are you ever going to learn?  You can’t silence people like that.  You need to let the people speak, whether it’s through opt-out or public comment.  Legislators are not exempt from public comment.

Everything Comes Full Circle…

I’ve always had this dream of a huge debate with Markell, Murphy and Herdman on one side, and John Young, Mike Matthews and Diane Ravitch on the other.  That will never happen, but it could have…

From: YOUNG JOHN <JOHN.YOUNG@christina.k12.de.us>
To: Murphy Mark <Mark.Murphy@DOE.K12.DE.US>
Sent: Thursday, October 1, 2015 12:00 AM
Subject: Re: Welcome aboard

Secretary Murphy,

Sorry it didn’t work out like we both wanted. Good luck in the future.

John


From: Murphy Mark
Sent: Monday, May 14, 2012 9:35 PM
To: YOUNG JOHN
Subject: RE: Welcome aboard

Hello John,
I just learned that the staff already set up my state email… and I log on to find a few messages.  I was pleasantly surprised to see and read your note.  Thanks for the supportive words.  I am eager to start, and to work with all around the state who value the quality of the education our children receive. 
Yes, I have read and listened to many of your critiques.  And often, I believe that I understand them (there are those who say we share some ideas and orientations).  Certainly, I may not always agree with your ideas, tone, or the strategy you use.  But, I also believe that people – like you – who invest huge amounts of their time reading, learning, thinking, and contributing are people who approach our educational challenges with the goal of making a positive impact.  So I assume positive intentions.
I hope we have the opportunity to meet sometime soon.
All the best,
Mark

From: YOUNG JOHN
Sent: Thu 5/10/2012 7:37 PM
To: Murphy Mark
Subject: Welcome aboard

Mr. Murphy, 

 
Welcome to your new role. You may be aware, I am one of the fiercest critics of DE policy. Sometimes this leads people to believe I am against them, personally. This is not the case, ever. Should you ever be interested in how or why I am reacting to policy, feel free to call or e-mail, anytime. I am open to return criticism and challenge since I am willing to offer it into the public arena, I have to take it too. My criticisms are specifically and almost always based on the efficacious aspect of policy, followed closely by sustainability.
 
I wish you the best of luck and success in your new and critical job, for our kids: the thing we have most in common.
 
Sincerely,

John M. Young
Member – Christina School Board

World War III Erupts In Christina With Hiring Of Andrzejewski As Interim Superintendent

Last night, the Christina School District Board of Education voted 4-3 to hire former Red Clay Superintendent Robert Andrzejewski become the Interim Superintendent.  Last month, Superintendent Freeman Williams left on a leave of absence.  Apparently, allegations are already making the rounds on social media that this was just one board member’s pick.  No interview was held by anyone in the district and a motion was made to vote on Andrzejewski.  Another board member introduced an amendment to this and was pushed to the side.

From Facebook: Continue reading “World War III Erupts In Christina With Hiring Of Andrzejewski As Interim Superintendent”

Interesting Agenda For The Next Christina Board Meeting… **UPDATED**

On September 8th, the Christina School District Board of Education has their next regular public meeting and the agenda released looks mighty interesting.  There are two policy statement proposals up for first reading that look to address issues on the actual Board.

5. Board Policy Manual: Proposed Revision Policy Section #01.07–Policy Statement on Board Meetings–First Read

6. Board Policy Manual: Proposed New Policy Section #01.18–Policy Statement on the Responsibilities of Members of the Board–First Read

To say there have been issues on this board would be an understatement.  But are these potential policies designed to correct those issues or to single out members individually through policy?  As Christina struggles to meet a budget deficit, other items include potential actions to mitigate those losses.  As well, the board could vote on a new opt-out policy for the district which had a first reading at the regular August board meeting. Also on the agenda is an item about an acting superintendent…

UPDATED, 10:50am, 9/1/15: I have heard the two policies concerning the board are by two different members: President Harrie Ellen Minnehan and Board Member John Young (also the Transparent Christina blogger). This will be very interesting indeed!

Why It Is Necessary To Reveal A High-Profile Source….

I sent the below email earlier today to an employee of the State of Delaware.  They are a source, and I am outing them as that source, as well as multiple pseudonyms used on my blog, and possibly others.  Sometimes there is a higher call of duty than blogger honor, and this gross negligence of right and wrong called for this.  This is an extreme situation, affecting multiple people, but most of all, the students of Delaware.  Especially in the Christina School District.  Below is the full email I sent to Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the Delaware State Board of Education.  As well, I blind cc:ed several persons on this email, so no one will be able to say “I didn’t know about this.”

Re: State Board Meeting The Other Day  

To
  • Donna Johnson
BCC
  • John Young
  • Kevin Ohlandt
  • Mike Matthews
  • Jackie H. Kook
  • Eve Buckley
  • Nancy Willing
  • Kowalko John (LegHall)
  • Kavips World Press Blog
  • Williams Kimberly (LegHall)
  • Pandora DeLib
  • Matthews Sean (LegHall)
  • Kilroy’s Delaware
  • Baumbach Paul (LegHall)
  • Terri Hodges
  • Lawson Dave (LegHall)
  • Paige Elizabeth (K12)
  • John Young
  • Minnehan Harrie E (K12)
  • shirley.saffer@christina.k12.de.us
  • montagnebeau@aol.com
  • Natalie Ganc
  • Yvonne Johnson
  • Markell Jack
  • Murphy Mark
  • Denn Matthew (DOJ)
  • Townsend Bryan (LegHall)
  • Blowman David (K12)
  • acherry@wdel.com
  • Avi Wolfman-Arent
  • Matthew Albright
  • rick@wdel.com
  • Lindell Matt (K12)
  • Gray Teri
 
Donna,