Christina Board Tables MOU Between District & Governor Carney With 5-2 Vote

The Christina School District Board of Education voted 5-2 to table the Memorandum of Understanding between the Christina School District and Delaware Governor John Carney’s office.  In a nutshell, this means it isn’t dead but will most likely come up at a future board meeting.  Carney’s office gave Christina a deadline of February 28th to approve the whole thing, even the portion which would consolidate five schools into two.  The two no votes belonged to board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige.

Carney is going to be one pissed off Governor tonight!  In my opinion, this MOU was a bait and switch to begin with.  Now that the Christina Board has essentially said “screw you and your MOU”, he can REALLY go after the district.  Which means he will bring out the big guns and threats of charter conversion.  These are predictions on my end with nothing to base them on.  Nothing but history.  To see the latest draft, please see below:

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Condoms, Chlamydia, Christina, Closures, Carney and the Council

The Christina Board of Education meeting last night was filled with some awesome discussion about what appears in the title of this article.  I painstakingly transcribed the part of the meeting with the Superintendent’s report to the Board and the crazy discussion after.  Board member John Young was on fire!!!!  The topics dealt with Governor Carney’s plans for Christina’s Wilmington schools.  There is A LOT of information in here.  A ton.  From venereal diseases to transparency to possible school closures and more!  I have a feeling things are going to look VERY different in Christina’s Wilmington schools a year from now.  And for the record, I agree with John Young on EVERYTHING he said! Continue reading “Condoms, Chlamydia, Christina, Closures, Carney and the Council”

Governor Carney’s Slimy Obsession With Public-Private Partnerships & The Erosion Of Public Trust With His Springfield Trip

Delaware Governor John Carney is throwing Delaware’s public school system under the bus and he will begin this transition with the Christina School District.  Yesterday, he sent an unannounced delegation to Springfield, Massachusetts that included far more than those on his public schedule.  This group included Assistant Superintendent Noreen LaSorsa, Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Chair Tony Allen (who received his invite on September 23rd), Christina Education Association President Darren Tyson, and an unnamed member of the Delaware State Education Association (which was their legislative liason, Kristin Dwyer).  I’m sure Carney’s Education Policy Advisor Jon Sheehan attended as well.

The News Journal covered the trip in an article by Jessica Bies:

Despite school board members asking to be equal partners in the effort, there were no members of that group on the trip.

Carney apparently seems to think Tony Allen is a better choice to bring on trips about Christina than the actual board members:

Tony Allen, chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, on the other hand, has known about the trip since at least Sept. 23, he confirmed Friday. He said he was invited sometime before that.

In the article, it said Board President George Evans received an invite “very recently” but was unable to attend.  Board Vice President Fred Polaski said he didn’t even know about it until a reporter called him.

Christina Board member John Young had plenty to say about this trip on his Facebook account this evening:

Delaware officials touring a Massachusetts effort run by an unelected governing board under a 501(c)-3, just like DE charters for possible use in Christina. On its face it certainly appears that Governor John Carney does not intend to partner with Christina, but deploy untested, unproven ideas on us. I honestly took him at his word Tuesday, now it seems like I may have been wrong to do so. Google Springfield Empowerment Zone if you want the 411 on this ed reform trainwreck that’s seemingly on the way. I am disappointed that mere days after agreeing to engage us within the rules that govern public meetings and board actions, a delegation was sent out of state to “research” a model to insert into CSD and usurp local control, possibly placing millions and millions of dollars into the hands of an appointed board without any elected representation from Christina.

Carney is playing the exact same kind of education games Jack Markell played.  I’m not sure which is worse at this point, but at the rate Carney is going I have to go with our latest corporate education reform Governor.  What makes Carney so dangerous is his throw it in your face backdoor dealings.  He doesn’t care who he pisses off.  As long as he has his select cabal to go along with his plans.  Transparency is a thing of the past with this Governor.  He is initiating very scumbag moves.

There can never be public trust with John Carney.  Never.  He has proven that multiple times.  He is getting our legislators to think his hocus-pocus public-private partnership scams are perfectly okay.  There is no collaboration with Carney.  If you don’t go along with his vision, he will go ahead and do it anyway.  The very fact that Carney wants to emulate a flash-in-the-pan scam like this where the “partnership” creates a board to oversee these schools separate from the local education agency board of education where the state picks the four board members and the district the other three shows an immediate state control of Christina’s Wilmington schools.  But his contempt for local authority was not missed by Young in the News Journal article:

It has become clear the trip was planned in advance of that meeting, school board member John Young said, which concerns him because if the Springfield model ends up being the basis for the Christina partnership, it would suggest the outcome was predetermined and the school board didn’t actually have any say in the matter.

That’s right Mr. Young.  Carney doesn’t want the Christina board to have any say because he knows they would say no.  This is priority schools all over again except this time Carney is very upfront about selling these schools off to a corporate entity.  Call it a non-profit all you want.  I’m sure the overlords of this non-profit would exact their pound of flesh from the district in the form of certain salaries and operating expenses.

Where is DSEA President Mike Matthew on this?  He has been very quiet about all this since it came out in the past week.  I would think, given his resistance to the priority schools fiasco, he would oppose this.  But he has been silent and I would like to know why.  Especially given what Bies said in the article:

Legislators in Massachusetts say the program is “compelling” and has made it possible for the state to effect educational change without seizing local control from school districts. Yet, teachers unions have complained that it removes control of schools from local officials and puts it more in the hands of the state.

What is to stop this from spreading out from Christina?  I have no doubt Carney will push this on other districts as well.  Especially when their Smarter Balanced Assessment scores don’t meet his fake standards.  Once again, the Christina Board of Education will have to stand up against the evil empire (the state) to prevent further erosion in local control even though Carney’s crappy vision ridiculously suggests it would give more local control.

I  have no doubt Carney will sell more of his public-private partnership encyclopedia salesman malarkey throughout his term as Governor (a one-term Governor I hope and pray).  But what he is really doing is selling his state away.  He is evaporating transparency with his Family Services Cabinet Council and the non-public board meetings of his public-private partnership board at a state level.  The Delaware Department of Education seems to be okay with this and I have never been more annoyed with Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting for going along with this dog and pony show.  But I suppose that’s why Carney picked her for this post.  She has become Carney’s yes woman.  But what should I expect from the Rodel-Vision circle of followers?  This is not the change promised by Carney in terms of the Delaware DOE.  They aren’t a support network for schools.  He has found a way for them to micro-manage our schools more than ever with this nonsense.  But he wraps it in his public-private partnership bow.

As for Tony Allen, he is being used in a big way for the second time by a Delaware Governor.  Markell used him and threw him out with the whole WEIC plan.  Now Carney is sucking him in with his big vision for Christina.  I would think Allen would be too busy with his new Del State job, but I guess not.  Not listed in the article is another attendee, Nnamdi Chukwuocha.  This Wilmington City Councilman actually thought it was a good idea for corporations to take over public schools in the infamous Christina priority schools board meeting when he gave his public comment back in September, 2014.  More of Carney surrounding himself with those who will suck up to him, allow themselves to be used, or whatever empty promise or vapor he whispered in their ears.

The Delaware DOE, State Board of Education, and our past two Governors have had a consistent hard-on for the Christina School District.  Once they get their hooks into them it is only a matter of time until the infection spreads.  Delaware is a small state so it would not come as a shock to me that we are a model state to completely destroy the word public in public education.

This whole thing stinks like hell and I hope Delawareans who do care about public education wise up and stand up fast to this fake Governor and his shallow followers.  If Mike Matthews is the man I believe him to be, he will fight this tooth and nail.  If he even entertains this notion, I will publicly shame him and my support for DSEA will be done.  If he does not publicly go against this, it will prove he ran for President of DSEA for the power.

The Springfield model is a fake.  It is just another way for Carney and other corporate education reform politicians to erode local control away and give power to states who in turn give out taxpayer money to idiotic companies who have taken more money away from the classroom than anything else since public education was first invented.

I am beginning to doubt any sincerity from John Carney.  This whole district consolidation task force seems to be the big distraction.  “Look here and pay attention to that while I spin my web of lies somewhere else in places you would never think to look.”  The problem with Carney is his ego.  He really is as transparent as Saran Wrap.  I don’t look at him and think, “what a great politician I can trust”.  I think, “That guy can’t be trusted at all.  He’s up to something.”  We all know the type.  But that seems to be okay for over half of Delaware who put the guy in power with an empty campaign that essentially had no platform we hadn’t heard before.  This is what happens when you reward a false sense of entitlement Delaware voters.

 

 

 

 

Governor Carney Shows His True Colors In A Dog And Pony Show For The Ages!

Delaware Governor John Carney released a statement about his meeting with the Christina School District Board of Education last evening.  I felt obligated to give it the TC Redline Edition.  In which I give a no-holds barred critique of Carney’s boneheaded idea.

Governor Carney to Christina Board: Let’s Partner to Improve Wilmington Schools

Date Posted: Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday met with the Christina Board of Education during a study session at Bancroft Elementary School to discuss a proposed partnership between the state and Christina School District to more effectively serve educators and students in Christina schools in the City of Wilmington.

I have to give kudos to Carney for actually attending and meeting with the Board.  However, that does not excuse the backdoor closed meetings he had with two of their board members over the summer.

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Governor John Carney
Full remarks to Christina School District Board of Education – October 3, 2017
*As prepared for delivery

Thank Rick Gregg, members of the Board, Principals, teachers, parents and others present.

Proper thing to do when you are in their house so to speak.

I’m here with Secretary of Education Susan Bunting and Dorrell Green. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Board in this workshop format.

They would be the ones to also be there.  Was anyone else there?  Perhaps your Education Policy Advisor, Jon Sheehan?

I’ve lived in this city for 30 years. And it’s always been clear to me that as goes the City of Wilmington, so goes our state.

I respect that Wilmington is the biggest city in the state and it is essentially the gateway to the rest of it, but the rest of the state has a lot to offer.  Perhaps Wilmington wouldn’t be in the shape it is in if the state didn’t keep trying to put all its eggs in one basket when there are hundreds of others as well.  We get you’ve lived in this city for 30 years.  It’s all we heard from you when you were campaigning for Governor.  But you had many years at a Federal level to do more for Wilmington.  What did you do for Wilmington when you were in Congress?

Wilmington is our economic and cultural center. Its success in many ways will drive Delaware’s long-term success. And so we need a city that is safe, with strong neighborhoods and good schools. We’re working with Mayor Purzycki, legislators, members of city council, businesses and the community service agencies to achieve these goals.

And yet we continue to see murders and violent crimes constantly.  All we hear from political leaders is “we’re working with…”.  That doesn’t solve the problem.  Action does and I have yet to see true action being taken to reduce those crimes and rampant drug use.

Our efforts have to start with improving our schools, and doing a better job educating city children.

No, your efforts have to start with improving the climate of Wilmington. 

One of the first things I did when I took office was ask Secretary Bunting to visit Wilmington schools.

Which she did.

I joined her on some of these visits. And while we certainly saw dedicated teachers and principals, what we saw by and large was very discouraging.

Let me guess: you saw children with hygiene issues and worn clothing.  You saw a look in their eyes you couldn’t really understand.  It tugged at your heartstrings and thought, “I will be the one to fix this.”

And when the proficiency scores for these schools were released this summer, we saw that they fell well short of what’s acceptable.

Here we go… the test scores.  For a flawed test.  In most schools, anything below a 65% is failing.  For Smarter Balanced, the whole state is failing.  Is that the fault of teachers and students or the test itself.  Don’t answer, we already know.

All of us, together, are responsible for doing better.

We can always do better, but don’t put the blame on all of us Governor Carney.  The buck stops with you.  While you inherited many of these issues from your predecessors, you are falling into the same traps.

It was pretty clear to us that Christina’s portion of the City schools – Bayard, Stubbs, Bancroft, Palmer, and Pulaski – are in the most need of help.

Was it only a year ago that the state refused to step in when Pulaski had all the mold issues?  It is great that you visit these schools but what have you done to make life outside of these schools better?  These are the schools with the highest concentrations of low-income and poverty students.

Already we have taken steps that, I believe, will help our efforts in all city schools.

And how many of those were created by you with no public input.  How many of those efforts involved back-door secret meetings?  Once again, don’t answer.  We know the score.

We opened the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the Department of Education, to focus state energy on these and other high-needs schools.

Ah, yes.  Your attempt at “reducing” the Delaware DOE.  By making a satellite office in Wilmington. 

We created an Opportunity Grants program that, while not funded at the level that I want, will help identify proven practices for serving disadvantaged students.

Don’t even get me started on that failure of a FY2018 budget Carney.  You put aside a million bucks while cutting exponentially more.  That does not serve disadvantaged students.  It is a Band-Aid on an infected wound.

We put basic needs closets in Wilmington schools, so students can have access to hygiene products, school supplies, and winter clothing, in a dignified way.

Now this I do support and continue to do so.

We’ve reestablished the Family Services Cabinet Council to better coordinate services to families and children, and to address issues of poverty that are impeding the success of our city children.

Closed-door, non-public, back-door meetings.  We have no idea what this council discusses.  For something you like to scream from the rooftops about, we have no clue what they talk about.  Put your money where your mouth is and make these meetings public.  Otherwise, this is smoke and mirrors.

But we need to do much, much more, and that’s why I’m here today.

Every time the state tries to fix these issues, the problems get worse.  I have to wonder if that is intentional.

We didn’t get here over night. And we could spend all day debating the reasons for how we got here. I know a lot of that history through my father who worked in the old Wilmington Public School District and through my many years in state government.

Yes, why debate how we got there.  Because until you take a deep dive at those reasons, you will never understand.  You can’t ignore things that come into schools.  But I digress…

Some blame a lack of resources. Dysfunctional families. Inexperienced teachers. Weak leadership. Busing. Trauma in the home. Segregated neighborhoods. Too much testing. Not enough testing. Bad parenting. Education bureaucracy. Violence in the city.

I agree with some of these: a lack of resources, dysfunctional families, weak leadership (some from CSD in the past and definitely from the state), busing, trauma in the home, segregated neighborhoods, too much testing, bad parenting, education bureaucracy, violence in the city.  I don’t see the inexperienced teachers (except for the TFAers who get their rush-job credentials in a matter of months) and not enough testing.

Over the last few years the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) did a comprehensive study of the challenges, and came up with a plan to make changes. We’ve incorporated many of their recommendations into what I’m about to discuss.

In other words, you are copying the work done from others for your own political benefit. 

It’s clear to me that the most important thing we should do now is focus on making changes that will raise achievement levels for city children. That’s part of my responsibility as Governor, Dr. Bunting’s job as Secretary of Education and your jobs as school leaders and Christina Board members. We’re in this together.

Together?  Are you kidding me?  For months you’ve been circling the wagons and cherry-picking people to talk to about the “Christina problem”.  Divide and conquer.  That’s what I see.  Not getting that warm and fuzzy feeling I felt at your inauguration Carney…

I’m here today, at the invitation of your Superintendent, because I want to partner with you to say “enough.” I believe it’s time to begin intensive efforts to get our teachers, principals and students what they need in the classroom.

Knowing Rick Gregg like I do, I believe he invited you because he was getting tired of your secret meetings and wanted to make it a public event so people can see what the hell you are up to.  I think it’s high time Christina said “enough” with the endless interventions from the state that have been compete and utter failures.

To that end, I’m proposing that the State, Christina School District, and Christina Education Association form a partnership that focuses exclusively on Christina’s city schools.

You and your damn partnerships.  Let’s be partners.  Public-private partnerships.  In other words, let’s do as much as we can behind closed doors and throw transparency out the window.

My vision is to spend the next few months talking as a group about what this partnership would look like, so that by the end of this calendar year we can sign a memorandum of understanding to work together to improve these city schools and the proficiency of the students. I want to be ready to put our new plans into effect by the start of the 2018 school year. This aligns with your Superintendent’s timetable for implementing change as well.

When I hear Memorandum of Understanding, I hear priority schools all over again.  Who is your Penny Schwinn that is facilitating this?  How much state money will be spent trying to craft this MOU for months?  Cause I published all the emails where Schwinn painstakingly tried to make the MOU from the Fall of 2014.  And that was based on Delaware’s clueless interpretation of their own ESEA Flexibility Waivers.  Schwinn did everything she could to make sure it was six Wilmington schools within Christina and Red Clay.  Definitely Markell’s biggest failure.

I think our partnership should address five main issues that I’ve heard over and over again as I’ve toured schools in Wilmington.

Who is telling you these things you’ve heard “over and over”?  Let me guess: Senator Sokola, Rep. Jaques, Rodel, Atrne Alleyne, Michael Watson, Donna Johnson, Jon Sheehan, Kendall Massett, Greg Meece, etc.

First, principals need more control over key decisions in their schools. I would like to work with you to give principals the leadership tools they need and the flexibility and autonomy over structural areas such as staffing/hiring, school schedules, and programs. To give them the resources to implement extended learning time, and to create other school conditions necessary to best meet student needs. As part of this partnership, the Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with principals and our institutions of higher education to provide principals with high quality professional learning, coaching, and support. The Department of Education, using state resources, would assist Christina School District in training principals to better use observations to provide effective feedback that will elevate instruction.

Gee, that sounds an awful lot like the “empowerment zones” in Springfield, MA.

Second, educators in high-needs schools need more say in how resources are used. I plan to engage Christina’s city educators to ensure we are working in partnership with them, as they are on the ground every day working to improve student outcomes. I would like to work with you to empower teacher-leader teams at each school to partner with school administration on key decisions like working conditions, resource use, and school culture. The Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with our institutions of higher education and use the full expertise of the Department of Education to provide educators with professional learning that is relevant, consistent, and meaningful.

In other words, more useless programs through TFA, The Leader In Me, and other cash-cow Crackerjack box outfits that will happily take state money to “fix” the problems.  And that “full expertise of the Department of Education”… are you serious?  How many of these “experts” at the DOE have actually taught in these classrooms?  How many came up the ranks from TFA or the charter world?

Third, we need to address the fact that student achievement rates at Christina’s Wilmington schools are among the lowest in the state. In partnership with DSEA and CEA, I want to create more flexibility for these schools to provide students with additional learning time, including vacation and weekend academies. Teachers would receive stipends for additional hours worked, supported by state funds and the redeployment of district resources. I would argue serious conversations, in partnership with the Christina Wilmington community, need to take place around building use. We are doing our students, educators, and taxpayers a disservice when we have half-empty school buildings — needlessly spreading resources thin.

Maybe if the state stopped intervening in Christina, stopped pumping up charter schools like they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, and stopped calling Christina a failure, those buildings wouldn’t be half full.  The state created most of this mess by authorizing so many damn charters up there.  This is where you are assuming DSEA and CEA are on board with your half-cocked plan.  You are seriously messing with collective bargaining agreements here.  Vacation and weekend academies?  When do these kids get a break?  Are you going to churn and burn them until they score proficient on the useless Smarter Balanced Assessment?

Fourth, we need a plan to address the significant trauma students in Wilmington experience outside the classroom. I’m proud of the work already underway between the Office of Innovation and Improvement, DSEA, the Office of the Child Advocate, and community leaders to train staff to create trauma-informed classrooms. We need to double down on those efforts. I have already directed the Family Services Cabinet Council to work with City leaders to implement the CDC report, including finding a way to share data across state agencies about students in need. That work is under way.

How about thanking the Christina teachers who spend every single day dealing with trauma first-hand?  The ones who wash kids clothes, make sure they have food for the weekend, and help students deal with the latest murder that happened in their neighborhood?  You are all about the kudos before anything happens while failing to properly thank those on the ground floor.  And what will the closed-door Family Services Cabinet Council do with all this data that tells us what we have always known?  Let’s get real Carney: until you fix the crime, violence, and rampant drug use in Wilmington, these problems will always exist.  Until you find a way to desegregate the charter schools that cherry-pick students and put every single Delaware school back in balance with their local neighborhoods, these efforts will fail.

Finally, we need to build systems to create meaningful, sustained change in Christina’s Wilmington schools. As part of a partnership with you, the Family Services Cabinet Council would launch a two-generation network to support infants, toddlers and adults, with the goal of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Additionally, we ought to convene higher education institutions and create a pipeline to develop teachers and leaders ready to enter into our Wilmington schools. These efforts cannot be a flash in the pan. We need to methodically build systems that will endure.

Are you saying the teachers in these schools aren’t ready?  That they can’t handle the trauma they deal with every single day?  There is nothing any higher education institution can do to adequately deal with these issues until the state takes an active hand in dealing with the issues coming into the classroom.  And Wilmington City Council needs to get their heads out of their ass and deal with the corruption going on there before they enter into any “partnership”.  Once again, make your beloved Family Services Cabinet Council public.  This whole thing reeks of non-transparency and I’m getting sick of that. 

Give principals a bigger say. Trust and support our teachers. Tackle low proficiency rates. Address trauma. Build systems. That’s what I propose we work on together.

You will never trust and support our teachers while they are under local control.  Never.  You want to mold them and cherry-pick them to serve the latest corporate education reform scheme.  The best way to tackle low proficiency rates is to get rid of Smarter Balanced and stop judging schools, teachers, and districts based on meaningless and useless test scores.  These misused and abused scores are just one of the reasons why I advocate parents opting their kids out of the state assessments.  Addressing trauma is one thing but finding a way to actively eliminate it is the true hurdle and I don’t think you have the money, resources, or guts to do that.  Working together doesn’t require a contract like an MOU.  That is a gun to the head and we all know it.  You are seriously overreaching here with your executive power here Carney and you need to slow your roll.

The partnership I’m proposing isn’t flashy. It’s not an education fad or sound bite. It’s about the nuts and bolts of educating children. It is a simple but intense effort to put the focus where I think it belongs — in the classroom.

This isn’t about kids at all.  It’s about different ed reform companies lobbying through Jon Sheehan to get their latest programs or technology into the classroom.  And you fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Frederick Douglass said that “it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And that’s the choice we’re facing. We all have dreams for our children. But right now, we’re consigning far too many of our students to a life that no parent wants for their child. Every student we graduate who can’t do basic math or who can’t read or write, we’re sending into the world knowing he or she doesn’t have the tools to succeed. Doors are closing for these children before they even leave the third grade.

For the most part, the state created the conditions which led to these broken men.  Through very racist laws and credos.  The state allowed this to happen and now they want to rush in and save the day by fixing the schools.  What about all these broken men?  What are you doing to make restitution for the state’s absolute failure with them?

I believe, and I know you do too, that it would be immoral to let this situation continue this way.

Don’t speak for the Christina Board of Education Carney!  It would be immoral for this board to give up local control so you can make education companies happy.  How about you let Christina School District, under the leadership of Superintendent Rick Gregg and their elected Board of Education, do their thing.  I like Gregg.  I think he is the leader Christina needs.  But your swooping in and undermining the hard work he has done is an insult at best.

So I’m asking you to form this partnership with us. Let’s take the next few months and work out the details. I’d like to hear your thoughts on what I’ve laid out, and on how you think we can work together.​


I have to listen to the audio when it comes out today, but based upon reading the News Journal article on this last night by Jessica Bies, board member Liz Paige said it best:

Elizabeth Paige said the plan lacked specificity, but that she was willing to talk more as long as the state could guarantee they weren’t going to pull the infamous Charlie Brown football gag on Christina.

“We’re Charlie Brown and the football,” she said. “He has to prove he’s not Lucy.”

Don’t be fooled Mrs. Paige.  He is most definitely Lucy!

Board member John Young gave Carney’s remarks at B+.  I think he was being nice.

Harrie-Ellen Minnehan spoke the hard truth:

Harrie Ellen Minnehan said that students are often used as “political pawns” and that the plan sounded too much like just another in a long string of political solutions imposed on the education system but that have resulted in no gain whatsoever for students caught in a downward academic spiral.

The Christina Board of Education is at their best when they are fighting the latest state method of eroding local control.  I saw this firsthand at the first Christina board meeting I went to in September of 2014.  When they stood together and gave Markell’s priority schools idea a collective no thank you.  I am hoping they do the same with this latest Markellian effort by Carney.

As for Dorrell Green, his quote in the News Journal is very concerning because it gives a good deal of insight into Carney’s plan:

“Do you feel you have the bandwidth or the internal capacity to see that plan through without our support?”

This was in response to Superintendent Gregg’s own plan to build up Christina.  It as if Green was saying “You can’t do anything without the state helping out.”  Which is exactly what the problem is here.  The state interferes so much that it paralyzes the district.  The state needs to do more on the side of fixing the crime and poverty in Wilmington.  Let Christina deal with Christina.  If the state wants to “partner” under forced coercion, that is bullying.  Christina needs to enact a zero tolerance policy on state bullying.  And just by using the word “bandwidth”, Green may have overplayed his hand.  By using that particular word, he is suggesting Christina will get better by more corporate education reform double-speak education technology.

I have to give it to Carney.  He has successfully learned how to play the field like Jack Markell did.  He certainly has been busy trying to hand-select his pawns with this attempt.  And yet he gave the farm away when he announced his trip to Springfield, MA on his public schedule.  I didn’t see any of that in your speech.  It’s like a super villain in a comic announcing their intentions before they even implement them.  Look what I’m about to do.  We see through you Carney.  Stop listening to those around you who truly don’t have a clue about what is really going on.  Otherwise you are just another Jack Markell.  Be your own man, not a carbon-copy.

Don’t think for one minute that I don’t understand you Carney.  I know about some of your antics with things lately.  I know you hate my blog and will cast out those who support it.  We both know exactly what I’m talking about.  We know you have heard objections to this Christina scheme and totally ignored them.  In fact, you punish those who don’t agree with you.  You aren’t the person you put in front of the media.  Who is the real John Carney?  Time to take off the mask and reveal the true John Carney.  We both know when this plan fails (and it will if implemented), the state will continue to blame Christina for their own failure and will embark on another scheme to “fix” the problem they create in the first place.

Guest Post By John Young: Christina Breaks Out!

Former Transparent Christina blogger and current Christina Board of Education member John Young wrote the following guest post based on an event held yesterday at the Chase Riverfront in Wilmington.  All Christina School District administrators, teachers, and staff members attended the event.

On Tuesday, August 22nd I had the distinct pleasure of attending our district-wide kickoff event. As most people who follow education know, Christina has faced many challenges in the last decade, many of which continue today: poverty, leadership, choice laws that do not put children first, policy, and politics to name a few of the big ones. We meet these challenges every day, across a 2000+ employee base that is dedicated, professional, and truly amazing!

I was struck by the enormity of having the entire district in the same place at the same time. We had done a similar event in the past broken into two sessions at Glasgow High School due to capacity issues, but our new Superintendent, Richard Gregg, was able to negotiate a single venue with capacity because he wanted to set our district upon this year with a distinct theme and direction: One District, One Vision, One Voice.  After 8+ years on the Board, it was so refreshing to have a message that resonated in a single setting, one that could be heard by all.  For me, one of the KEY takeaways is that each of those three prongs of the message will be uniquely and specifically fueled by a calculus with children at the center.

I know that’s what school districts claim to do, and pledge to do, but we in Christina have been led very erratically for such a long time (well over a decade now), we lost our way somewhere in there. I know each district leader before Mr. Gregg did their level best, but sometimes there was a lack of relation between intent and execution of the vision and direction which has fueled divisiveness at every level of the district, including our board.

I felt like so much of that began to thaw, even melt, in 4 short hours yesterday. I’ve been involved in countless issues over my tenure on the board many of which are not always about the students: contracts, consultants, ideology around destructive policies put for by the state, etc. etc.  Yesterday, it became clear to me that some of those things don’t deserve another moment of my time. They are worthless endeavors that do not serve children. We have new leadership and a new focus for our service model which requires the removal of “awfulizers” from our midst, and replace them with “awesomeizers”.

Christina planted a flag in the ground yesterday. I feel like it was our own metaphorical Gadsden Flag. Our referendum rally cry of a “New Christina”, an amorphous, unclear, and frankly controversial concept for some was jettisoned yesterday, not because it was bad, but because it took life. It’s beating in our core, and breathing on its own…

…and it had 2000+ parents and guardians present for the delivery. Quite a welcome sight to behold and an honor to witness.

Christina Board Passes MOU With New Castle County School Districts With No Public Input

The Christina School District Board of Education passed a controversial motion to send the same funds going to charter schools (from the infamous settlement) to all traditional New Castle County School Districts (except for NCC Vo-Tech).  The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would bind Christina School District to sending the same funds they agreed upon in the charter school settlement to Red Clay Consolidated, Brandywine, Colonial, Appoquinimink, and Smyrna School Districts.  The price tag for this year will be $350,000 but this is a “forever” contract so those funds will go to those districts for students choicing out of Christina to those districts forever.  But another motion, that would have allowed for public comment on the issue, failed.  Board member John Young summed up the meeting in three paragraphs earlier this morning on Facebook.  Newly sworn-in board member Angela Mitchell abstained from both votes.

Last night, Christina School District BOE motioned to settle with Red Clay, Brandywine, Appoquinimink, Smryna and Colonial for $350K + this year and each year in the future forever pursuant to the charter school settlement. The meeting was at Sarah Pyle Academy at 7PM.

It was moved to approve the settlement MOU. Then it was moved to be voted on at the 6.13.17 meeting so the public could comment more fully. There was debate. Board members indicated that public opinion would have NO SWAY in their vote. The vote to vote on 6.13.17 was defeated 2 YES, 4 NO, 1 Abstention. Then the vote to approve handing over CSD monies without input from the public was approved 5 YES, 1 NO, 1 abstention. Of course all votes were public, but if you want details feel free to PM me. I am reeling from shock that board members and key employee(s) deliberately and intentionally told the taxpayers to go to hell with regards to their input. My disappointment extends beyond the board and includes CSD employees and the Supers of all NCC schools and Smyrna SD. An unreal night, I assure you.

I hope there is VOCIFEROUS public comment on 6.13.17 to protest the way the board operated tonight.

I always hated the settlement with the charters.  But, let us all hope this is the last song on this record…

Guest Post: Kim Williams Is The Good Guy Here. The Process…Not So Much.

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young asked if he could submit a guest post regarding the current Newark Charter School/5 Mile Radius/HS1 for House Bill #85 skirmish.  Young is writing this as a citizen and is not speaking for the Christina Board of Education.

There has been a ton of conjecture flying around about multiple legislators and their motives this past week centered around HB85 and its spawn: HS1 for HB85. The original bill sponsored by Reps. Williams, Kowalko, and Sen. Sokola et. al. The substitute only by Rep. Williams and Sen. Sokola, et.al. There has been extreme reaction to this bill here in Delaware with lots of people taking stark, sharp positions. Here’s the reality: 22 years of fighting against the wrongheaded approach with direct assaults has been essentially 100% ineffective.  Rep. Kim Williams has cobbled together a band of legislators willing to make a small inroad against the charter cabal, led by Senator David Sokola and his charter loving elitists. Would I, if asked, want to work with Senator David Sokola on education knowing his penchant for attacking traditional public education with a track record replete with defense of de facto segregation? Nope. I wouldn’t. I’ve heard too may stories of Senator Sokola treating colleagues poorly when his pet programs are threatened.

That said, Rep. Kim Williams is a different breed. Unlike many of her colleagues, she puts students first. Is this bill perfect? Heck no!  Who would be the first person to agree with that statement? Rep. Kim Williams! I suspect Rep. Williams has worked super hard to get multiple legislators to support HS1 for HB85, not based on their understanding of how this bill impacts kids, but based on their trust and respect for her. That’s how it works in Dover. That’s not an endorsement of how it ought to be, just an acknowledgement of how it is.  With that said, I think some of the rhetoric on this bill may jeopardize future successes on other bills if we’re not careful with our over-demonizing. Am I happy that an AG ruling is being sought? Sure.  Other than Rep. John Kowalko on that request, are those seeking the ruling leaders on education like Rep. Williams? Not even close.  We need to remember that.

I do not envy Rep. Williams position, but I admire her willingness to work within her own party to bridge the divides that SHOULD NOT EVEN EXIST, but because they do they must be confronted in a different way than if Mr. Sokola was in the party he acts like he belongs to on education, the GOP.

Rep. Kim Williams is not the problem here folks, she’s the solution. Keep up the good work. To those that joined her on this vote: I understand and I thank you.​
I agree with John and accept that my original post on this painted Kim and other legislators in a certain light based on their vote.  In hindsight, they tried to make the best of the situation.  Senator Sokola IS the problem here folks.  Always has been.  This was one of the main reasons I wanted Meredith Chapman to beat him last year in the election and she came damn close!  This, my friends, is the result.  I’ve talked to Dave Sokola since, and I advised him I would be gentler on him.  But this bill reeks of favoritism with the “Sokola language”.  And the fact he even attempted to hold the bill hostage unless it had his wording as part of it shows the worst of Delaware politics.
Shameless plug: Exceptional Delaware always accepts guest posts as long as they make a modicum of sense!

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.

csdboardatmtg

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!

rescindbaby

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!

repostbaby

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!

moldbaby

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.

POLASKI FRED
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.