Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey Joins Board of Las Americas ASPIRAS Charter School

Four months ago I asked if it is possible for a district Superintendent to join a charter school board.  Not only is the answer yes, but Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey was nominated for the board of Las Americas ASPIRAS and accepted the nomination back in March.  This is something new in Delaware, to the best of my knowledge.  Former Superintendents have joined charter boards, but never an acting Superintendent.

LAAABoardMinutesApril2016

Technically, Blakey is already on a school board.  All Delaware Superintendents serve as the Secretary of their district Board of Education.  I can’t help but feel this could be a potential conflict of interest.  But I would hope Blakey wouldn’t put himself in a position where anything could be misconstrued as a conflict of interest.  This is one board membership I will be keeping a close eye on in years to come.  Especially when the audio recordings start coming out in August or September.

There is no trace of Blakey informing the Colonial board of this decision.  I would think this would be something they should know about.  But there was no reflection of this in their March or April board minutes.  Colonial is widely rumored to be facing a referendum in the next year or two and I would encourage Blakey to be very transparent about his extra-curricular board activities.

In the meantime, you can catch Blakey as a guest bartender…

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Secretary Godowsky Had No Choice With Opt-Out Penalties

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With the release of the US DOE letter to the Delaware DOE about participation rates, we are getting a better picture of what happened the first week of November on the participation rate multiplier in the Delaware School Success Framework.  On October 21st, the soon to be confirmed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky appeared before the New Castle County combined school boards at a breakfast.  He announced to the board members and superintendents of the districts that the harsh opt-out penalties most likely would not see the light of day.

The Delaware State Education Association, Delaware Association of School Administrators, Delaware Chief School Officers Association and Delaware School Boards Association all publicly endorsed Godowsky for his Delaware Senate confirmation in a News Journal letter to the editor on October 26th.  Two days later, Godowsky was confirmed by the Senate with only two no votes.  Delaware State Senator Nicole Poore referred to Godowsky as “a breath of fresh air“.  On November 5th, two weeks after his breakfast announcement, Godowsky flipped on his recommendation about opt-out penalties at the Delaware State Board of Education retreat.

Yesterday we found out the US DOE letter to the Delaware DOE was dated 11/2/15.  The timing makes perfect sense.  Perhaps Markell did have a change of heart but was forced to flip back once the US DOE announced their opt-out mandates.  Who am I kidding!  Jack probably gave the US DOE the idea!  It does have his manipulative stench all over it.  I now understand why Godowsky looked like Judas Iscariot at the last Accountability Framework Working Group meeting and the State Board of Education meeting two days after.  His words said one thing, but the look in his eyes said something very different.

This may also shed some light on the bizarre Las Americas Aspiras Academy PTO email about opt-out.  Were they aware of this letter the day it was released?  I question the validity of this since their PTO leader stated ALL federal funding would be cut if 6% of their students were opted out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But given the nature of federal funding I can see how someone could misconstrue that.  I’m sure the Delaware DOE sent the letter out to all school leaders and Superintendents in Delaware the first chance they got.

I am seriously questioning why the letters to the twelve states who went below the 95% threshold and the letter sent to all the states announcing definitive cuts if participation rates went below 95% two years in a row were just released to the public yesterday, on December 23rd.  It was weeks after the final Every Student Succeeds Act votes and President Obama signing the legislation.  I have to believe some of these legislators in Congress knew about these letters.  How could they not.  No one can keep a secret that long.  Not in politics.

The smart thing the Delaware DOE and Godowsky could have done was simply tell the public on November 2nd they received these letters.  By doing this they could have taken some of the heat off themselves and shifted it to the US DOE.  Instead, they hid it from the public for over a month and a half.  They duped the public, along with the US DOE and every other state DOE, into thinking the Every Student Succeeds Act and the clauses about opt-out would allow states to decide how to handle opt-out.  They could have said they weren’t sure what they meant, but they had to reconsider the opt-out penalties.  Maybe through collaboration they could have come up with something different.  But this is not how the most unpopular state Department in Delaware operates.  Sunshine is not the best disinfectant at our DOE.  I think we need some good old-fashioned bleach to wipe the slate clean and start over.  We have far too many people involved in education who people like, and believe they have the best intentions.  But when it comes time for them to do the right thing all we hear is “I serve at the pleasure of the Governor,” or “It’s the feds.  We can’t do anything about it.”  For a Department that demands accountability from schools, teachers and students, they sure are hypocritical when it comes to themselves… And the duplicity continues…

Las Americas Aspiras Lies To Parents About Opt-Out & Federal Funding Cuts

Unbelievable.  Just when I thought I had seen it all.  Las Americas Aspiras has never been on my radar for anything.  Tonight I learned their Head of School, Margie Lopez Waite, is telling parents through their PTO organization the school would lose ALL federal funding if they don’t hit the 95% participation rate for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  This is a complete lie, and she knows it.  Need proof?  Here it is:

lasamericasaspiras

For parents of children who go to this school.  If you want to opt your child out, go ahead and opt them out.  200,000 students opted out in New York last Spring.  Do you know  how much Federal funding got cut from those schools? Zero.  Not one penny.  Schools are obligated to make sure THEY do not opt kids out.  There is absolutely nothing in the law that states parents cannot opt their child out.  It is your Constitutional right.  This is a bullying tactic by charter schools and certain school districts in Delaware.  The DOE tried this last Spring, and I called them out on it.  Governor Markell has tried this as well.  Didn’t work then either.  Now what a charter may lose if too many students opt-out is bragging rights.  That’s right, your child has become not only a victim of standardized testing madness, but also bragging rights. Newark Charter School sent out an email within a day after the Smarter Balanced results came out about how great they are.

Delaware parents, especially those who have students in charters, a school cannot kick your child out if you opt them out.  They cannot make your child take the test.  Anything they do as a result is retaliation.  Which you have many legal rights to protect you and your child.  Let them say no.  Let them tell you why you can’t opt your child out.  But if you want your child to be opted out, do it.  Stand your ground and educate other parents about their rights.  As well, contact your legislators to override Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50 so our schools don’t spread lies like this and bully parents into having their kids take a test they don’t want their child taking.

This test has NO bearing whatsoever on your child.  It is not counted for retention.  A school cannot legally make your child go to summer school if you opt them out or your child does bad on it.  They cannot make your child spend Spring Break on test prep.  If they are telling you this, they are way out of line.  Let your child be a child.  Not a guinea pig.  Let them enjoy their summer and Spring Break.  They were designed for that purpose!  But whatever you do, do not let ignorant school leaders tell you what you can and cannot do for your own child.  Shame on them!  They can and should know better.  What message is that sending about your school leadership capabilities if you are blatantly lying to parents?  REFUSE THE TEST!

Updated, 8:51pm: I just sent the following email to Margie Lopez-Waite at Las Americas Aspiras-

Opt-Out and Truth

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
“margie.lopezwaite@laaa.k12.de.us” <margie.lopezwaite@laaa.k12.de.us>
Sent:
Tuesday, November 3, 2015 8:40 PM
Subject:
Opt-Out and Truth

Good evening Miss Lopez-Waite,
I wanted to contact you in regards to the horrible lies parents of children who attend your school are being told in regards to opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  As you know, Federal funding threats have NEVER been used against schools for not meeting the 95% participation rate for state assessments.  The law is written so that schools do not opt-out kids, not parents. 
Please contact all your parents and let them know the truth about this so they can make informed decisions without complete falsehoods.  I have already written about this tonight on Exceptional Delaware, but to ensure all parents know the truth, please send out a reply to the school’s PTO generated email that went out to all parents.  Thank you.
Respectfully,
Kevin Ohlandt
Exceptional Delaware