As the News Journal reported the other day, the Delaware House and Senate met tonight to choose the leadership for each caucus. This was met with scrutiny by some because this is normally done a week after the election. But both parties want to get the ball rolling early for the 150th General Assembly. Who is in? Continue reading
Kenny Rivera, an Assistant Principal at Brandywine High School, recently embarked on an incredible journey to India to explore different schools and systems in education. I interviewed Kenny this week. While he was in India, I saw his Facebook posts filled with pictures of schools and students. Kenny has graciously allowed me to use those pictures in this article. Continue reading
While the Delaware Department of Education has not formally announced Chuck Longfellow as their new Associate Secretary of Operations, it looks like his former home, the Appoquinimink School District, let the cat out of the bag on their website. No start date has been announced yet and Longfellow still appears on the Appo website as their Finance Director. Continue reading
Academy of Dover is up for charter renewal this fall. The Secretary of Education will announce his recommendation at the December State Board of Education meeting and then the State Board will vote on it. The school has a gigantic hurdle to overcome: their enrollment.
Today, the Charter School Accountability Committee released the report from their initial meeting with Academy of Dover on October 10th.
Mr. Blowman noted that the school’s enrollment has declined steadily over the years, from 308 students in school year 2013-14 to 247 students this school year.
That is a very serious drop! Their approved charter enrollment is 300 students. Charters can’t go below 80% of that, so their magic number is 240. How bad is it? To put things in perspective, they decreased their Kindergarten classes from 3 to 2 this year because of lower enrollment. That is their bread and butter for future growth.
Ms. Johnson stated that if the current 2016-17 enrollment is projected out based on the trends to date, the school would be at 46% enrollment in four years, well below the required 80%. She added that this trend is occurring at every grade level versus one particular cohort. She reiterated that the school must provide a strong plan to mitigate this year’s reduced kindergarten enrollment and the low year-to-year retention rates.
Teacher retention was also an issue, but Academy of Dover is not immune to this issue. Many charters and districts regularly suffer through this process each year.
This is my problem with charter school renewals. So much of it is based on standardized test scores. Far too much of it. I can’t sit here and mock charters about low test scores while demonizing them in traditional schools. This very huge flaw in education is universal. For any school to feel they have to create a “Smarter Balanced Boot Camp” to drive up scores shows exactly what is wrong with the system to begin with. This school already has a long day, from 7:45 to 3:30. By keeping struggling students until 5pm and factoring in transportation, that is half of a student’s day. Gone.
One thing I was very happy to see was a minor modification request submitted by Academy of Dover to reduce their number of school days from 200 to 180. Citing a lot of absenteeism of students the first two weeks of school and the last two weeks, the school said they are listening to parents. But of course the DOE has to pick that apart as well.
I believe the DOE needs to take a strong look at their Charter School Accountability Committee. The non-voting members, at least two of them, had a lot to say during this meeting. More than I’ve seen in a long time. But when one of the voting members could potentially stand to gain if the school shut down… that I have a huge problem with.
The next Charter School Accountability Committee meeting, where the committee will give their final recommendation, will occur in late November or early December. I think the school has come a long way since the Noel Rodriguez days. I think they realize what their major mistakes were and have attempted to take swift action. The addition of Gene Capers, a former Principal from Capital School District, as a curriculum director, was a stroke of genius. Cheri Marshall has come a long way. While she was thrust into a position of leadership based on another person’s wrong actions, she has grown in that role. I saw a confidence in her at the renewal meeting last week that I didn’t see during their formal review a year and a half ago. While this may seem to be too little too late for those who are no longer at the school, no human being can change the past but they can try to make a better future.
I gave this school a very hard time the past couple of years. So much of that surrounded a central theme: transparency. I think the combination of Rodriguez’ shenanigans, special education issues, and their start and stop time of the school year are playing a major part in their current enrollment woes. My recommendation: approve their minor modification and let them stay open. See what happens in the fall. If their enrollment falls below 80%, the DOE will be forced to follow the law. But give them a chance. We have had far too many charter schools close that serve minority and low-income populations the past few years. It is not good. They have to get special education right, but they are not the only school in this state struggling with that. We must, as a state, clearly define a better strategy for special education and make sure all schools are consistent with that path.
For those who haven’t heard, I am jumping into the fire! Anyone reading this blog knows my stances on education. Is it enough though? We need change and we need it now.
These are the reasons I am running. I will tackle each reason below.
- Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District.
- Every student needs to be treated as an individual and not a test score.
- Our middle schools need a lot of help.
- We need more fiscal transparency and accountability.
- Low-Income Students.
- The Every Student Succeeds Act.
- Student Data.
- More participation from parents in the district.
- Special Education.
- More participation in state legislative matters.
- Charter schools within our district.
- Support for our teachers.
- Ensuring opt out of standardized testing is honored as a parental right.
- More focus on the arts.
- Perception of the district.
- Perception of Dover as a result of the district.
- Oversight of the Delaware Department of Education and the United States Department of Education.
“Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District” Continue reading
The Delaware General Assembly House of Representatives leadership has issued a statement to all members of the House concerning the Delaware Department of Education letter to the Christina School District about their priority schools.
Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2015 4:48 PM
To: Finnigan, Sean (LegHall)
Subject: Memo on Behalf of House Leadership regarding Christina School District
To: House Democratic Caucus Members
From: Representative Pete Schwartzkopf
Representative Valerie Longhurst
Representative John Viola
Re: Christina School District Priority Schools
During the past two days, several caucus members have contacted leadership expressing concerns about the Department of Education’s letter to the Christina School District (which is attached). Thank you for contacting us. We wanted to update you on what actions we took and where the situation currently is.
On Tuesday, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy sent a letter to Christina School District saying that the district’s Board of Education is not in compliance with the Priority School program. As a result, Secretary Murphy gave district leaders until February 27 to decide on one of following options for its three priority schools: closure or restructuring, either as a charter school or under an education management organization. The letter also detailed the Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s recommendation to redraw Christina’s school district lines and close the noncontiguous Wilmington portion of Christina’s district in the city. The suggestion was that doing so could have an effect on “the planning process for Christina’s Priority Schools moving forward.”
Caucus leadership held a conference call with staff to discuss this issue and the concerns that several of you raised about this letter. We had multiple conversations with the governor’s office about the issue and had decided to send a letter to the governor asking that the Department of Education to extend the fast-approaching February 27 deadline. In part, the letter would have noted that forcing a short turnaround for Christina to make a decision would not result in a productive outcome, and it could have a negative impact on school referendums that are taking place. We also planned to ask the governor to convene a group of district, DOE stakeholders to reach a decision on this issue. The letter would have requested that the Chairs of the House and Senate Education committees be included in the negotiations to help facilitate the discussion, and to ensure that each caucus received accurate accounts of the progress of the negotiations.
Late Wednesday evening, we learned that the Christina School Board voted at its Tuesday meeting to support the Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s recommendation to close the Wilmington portion Christina’s district (a copy of that resolution is also attached). When they learned of this, the governor’s office told us that the February 27 deadline no longer applied because Christina had pledged to work with the state to implement the WEAC redistricting recommendation.
Currently, we are communicating with the governor’s office about what they foresee as the next steps. Here’s what we do know:
· Any redistricting process will require action by the General Assembly.
· Any redistricting process will take multiple years to implement.
· Any redistricting process is a complicated process that will involve a lot of discussions about finances and revenue, and it may require a significant amount of state money to implement.
Most importantly, we need to recognize and remember that when we talk about redistricting these Christina School District schools, we are talking about not just the physical schools, but hundreds of teachers who will be unsure of their future, and thousands of students whose educational future is at stake. Whatever we do in the coming weeks and months, our focus must be on what’s best for all of them, as well as the state of Delaware.
Please do not hesitate to contact any of us in leadership if you have questions, concerns or suggestions.