How Are Delaware Students Benefitting From Superintendent Salaries?

It is not Mark Murphy.  This honor belongs to Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick.  According to a Delawareonline report issued today with a top ten list of the state’s highest paid employees, Holodick made $215,043.72 in 2014.  Even our own Governor Markell ranked at 85th on the list with his income of $171,000.03.  This seems like a very large salary for a district superintendent.

In 2014, Delaware Online listed all state employees making over $100,000.  This list can be found here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/04/05/data-top-state-salaries/7312283/

I went through the list for each charter and school district listed, and pulled out the following:

Noel Rodriguez, Academy of Dover, $119,432

Matthew Burrows, Appoquinimink, $152,660, 31 over $100k

Mark Holodick, Brandywine, $214,176, 71 over $100k

Kevin Fitzgerald, Caesar Rodney, $162,547, 26 over $100k

Robert Fulton, Cape Henlopen, $154,821, 32 over $100k

Michael Thomas, Capital, $199,564, 35 over $100k

Samuel Paoli, Charter School of Wilmington, $116,368, 3 over $100k

Freeman Williams, Christina, $192,088, 108 over $100k

Dorothy Linn, Colonial, $185,724, 54 over $100k

Charles Hughes, DE Academy of Public Safety, $129,433

Angela Dennis, Delaware College Prep, $115,448

Anthony Pullela, Delaware Military Academy, $111,777

David Ring, Delmar, $139,260, 3 over $100k

Mark Murphy, DOE, $160,144.92, 58 over $100k

Lamont Browne, EastSide Charter, $143,633

Tennell Brewington, Family Foundations Academy, $127,418, 2 over $100k

Susan Bunting, Indian River, $165,885, 21 over $100k

David Curry, Lake Forest, $147,374, 12 over $100k

John Ewald, Laurel, $138,660

Phyllis Koehl, Milford, $146,897, 14 over $100k

Linda Jennings, MOT Charter, $125,845, 3 over $100k

Victoria Gehrt, New Castle Co. Vo-Tech, $184,433, 43 over $100k

Greg Meece, Newark Charter School, $153,788, 4 over $100k

Nick Manolakos, Odyssey Charter, $115,423

Deborah Zych, Polytech, $152,365, 8 over $100k

Audrey Erschen, Providence Creek, $112,679

Mervin Daugherty, Red Clay, $174,931, 103 over $100k

Shawn Joseph, Seaford, $172,502.24, 12 over $100k

Deborah Wicks, Smyrna, $151,645, 17 over $100k

Allen Stafford, Sussex Academy, $106,604

Allen Lathbury, Sussex Tech, $164,361, 14 over $100k

Salome Thomas-EL, Thomas Edison Charter, $133,486

Heath Chasanov, Woodbridge, $135,544, 7 over $100k

It’s become obvious the number of districts and charter schools in Delaware has caused a great deal of money to go towards administrative positions.  For a state with three counties, we have 19 school districts, and many charters.  Even Matt Denn, now Attorney General, spoke out on this issue in 2012:

“A report issued by Lt. Gov. Matt Denn in 2012 found that if all school districts spent as much money on “direct educational services” as the top five, the state would free up an addition $2.1 million for classrooms.

“We’re still spending too much on administration versus classroom, both at the state level and at the district level,” said Denn, adding that districts should explore ways to share administrative functions.”

In my opinion, I completely agree with Denn’s position on this, as written by Matthew Albright for the News Journal in a link found here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/local/2014/04/05/state-employees-earned-k-last-year/7355333/

This state has an extreme amount of bloated salaries, but I don’t see the benefits for this money going to the students.  Perhaps it’s time for more than just a look at Wilmington’s school districts…

 

 

What’s Up With The IEP Task Force? Are Parents No Longer The Focus? @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @Apl_Jax @RCEAPrez @ecpaige @nannyfat #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

The IEP Task Force in Delaware has met five times.  The last session was very reminiscent of the second meeting.  Both of those meetings were very heavy on the side of the schools and not the parents.  The largest matter concern parents receiving a copy of the IEP draft prior to an IEP meeting.  There is also the matter of the group’s transparency.  Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn, the chair of the task force, always had the groups minutes and audio recordings up the next day.

The IEP draft was a hot topic the other night.  In prior meetings it had been discussed and most felt it was a good idea for parents to have a copy of the draft before a student’s IEP meeting.  But members were acting like it was a bad idea the other night.  Mary Ann Mieczkowski, the Director of the Exception Children Resources group at the Delaware Department of Education, said she worries about the legal implications of giving parents a copy of the draft.  Like parents don’t know what is a draft and what isn’t.  C’mon Mitch, I think parents can recognize what is and isn’t a draft.  I even overheard members, including a special education teacher, state parents get ten days after the IEP meeting to sign the document.  That is only if they choose to do so and aren’t pressured to sign the IEP right then and there.

There is also the matter of the group’s transparency.  Yes, the DOE pushed them out of their prior room and there were problems with the video conference “thingamajigger” as Denn put it, but Denn promised the public full transparency.  Here we are four days later, and nothing new is on the website.  Has anything happened between the fourth meeting and this one?  Something called an election?  Denn got the votes, and when asked if he would continue to chair the task force after his inauguration as attorney general, he didn’t answer.  Denn already suggested having the group continue after the report to Governor Markell.

The legislators come and go as they please.  Some arrive late, some leave early, some don’t even bother to show up.  In the beginning, most of them were very vocal during meetings, but now they barely say anything.

I had emailed Denn about including IEP denials as a topic in the next meeting.  I received a response from Kim Siegel indicating it would not happen, but the group does want to increase how the state audits IEPs and hold them more accountable.  To say I was disappointed is an understatement since I have been pushing for this since day one.  But yet things like vocational schools and services for the blind (mainly covered by the Department of Health and Social Services) are topics discussed at length during meetings.  What is the point of this task force anymore?

We will all know when the draft of the task force is released to the public what made the cut and what didn’t.  I sincerely hope the task force can bring it back yet again to the parents, but more importantly, the student with special needs.  They need to remember, as one task force member said, what got them there in the first place.  It wasn’t to discuss matters that did not put Delaware in hot water with the Feds and put the state on a “needs intervention” label.

IEP Task Force Meeting #5, Live From Dover & Wilmington @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @Roof_O @ecpaige @nannyfat @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

Here we are, in Dover at the John J. Collette Center in Dover.  The task force is meeting in a smaller room due to the Delaware Department of Education Town Hall meeting in an hour and a half.  We’re trying to get a videoconference connection.

Still having connectivity issues…with nine members of the task force here, this can’t be good!

A few minutes later…we have to have the meeting via speaker phone from Wilmington.  We may get the live video feed going, but I won’t hold my breath.

Still waiting…

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn can be heard coming from a cell phone speaker.  He just said they are going to try a different video conference “thingamajigger”.

Ruth Lavelle is talking about transition meetings.  Can’t hear her too well with the cell phone speaker…

Kim Siegel got the video conferencing going up in Wilmington.  Now the IEP Task Force up there has to walk four floors to get to the new meeting room!

Everyone approved the minutes from last month.  Ruth Lavelle talking about transition from secondary school to life after school for students with disabilities.  Talking about employment and life skills.  Shouldn’t wait until age of 18 to talk about it with these students.  DVR (Division of Vocational Rehabilitation) needs to come in earlier.  Dale Mitusevich from the DOE is stating they would need to double their number of counselors to meet this demand.  DOE is already looking at these issues.  Explained DVR wouldn’t take referrals until students’ senior year.  DVR gets Federal funding and very little state funding, so that is a huge issue.  The Division of Developmental Disability Services is working with Pathway to Employment, which starts in the 8th grade.  This program is for students who are more severely disabled.  Denn asked age range that DVR works with.  Mitusevich said it isn’t based on age.  Some counselors work with students in junior year, but most are waiting until senior year.  They work with students when they are employed for 90 days above minimum wage and working at least 20 hours a week.  Mary Ann Mieczkowski (Mitch) stated the DOE has a Memorandum of Understanding with DVR and DDS.  Needra Surratte from PIC suggested having someone from DVR attend the next meeting.  Mitch said we would probably need another task force to cover these issues with transition.  Joe Miro said it is a good idea to have someone come in for the next meeting (which is next week on November 20th).

I apologize, I have to confirm all these agencies and their abbreviations!

Division of Visually Impaired should also be invited to discuss these issues as per Senator Lawson.  Mitusevich agreed.  Denn asked who else we should invite to the meeting.  Marissa Band is talking about student-led IEPs to help students self advocate for themselves.  Laura Manges thinks it is an excellent suggestion for vocational schools in Delaware to establish teams to help with these services.  She said this helps to justify the tax dollars being sent to these districts.

Bill Doolittle talking about service providers being able to advocate for students during IEP meetings.  “Theoretically they are all supposed to be equal partners,” but this isn’t always the case Doolittle explained.  Band talking about 504 plans and how there is a prohibition against retaliations.  A teacher recently filed an OCR complaint and is going after her employer based on these guidelines.  Denn asked if copying the language out of the other statute would be advisable, Band agreed.  Doolittle said it is against the law for schools to do this.  Lavelle said it shouldn’t just protect teachers, Denn agreed.

Dafne Carnwright talking about progress reports to students with IEPs.  She said room for narrative should be added to IEP Plus.  Liz Toney also said a checklist of when students received services should be added as well.  Diane Eastburn bringing up section needing to be checked off if student met goal, didn’t meet goal or exceeded goal.  It needs to be more descriptive and consistent across the state.  Toney said it can be confusing for parents and needs to be simplified.  Surratte said a narrative is good, but parents mainly want to see their child’s progress on goals.  She said it could also be good to show examples of students work.  Mitch explaining how Present Level of Performance and Benchmark Goals explains this process to parents.  Tracey Bombarra said a lot of this can occur during parent-teacher conferences and this would be more work for the schools.  Surratte clarified this work should be available upon parent request, and not necessarily at a parent-teacher conference.  Everyone seems to be chiming in on this issue.  Denn said as a parent he isn’t satisfied with satisfactory or exceeds.  Everyone agrees there should be a narrative provided for children who are receiving related services to see when students had services and to ensure abbreviations are spelled out.

Senator Dave Lawson explaining to the group that members of the task force talking about what their school does isn’t helping.  He said what brought them here is that not all schools are consistent.  House Representative Miro stated fifteen minutes for Parent-Teacher Conference is way too short, responding to a comment made by Diane Eastburn.  Mitch clarified no changes should be made to IEP during Parent-Teacher Conference.  Miro keeps talking about this issue which really has nothing to do with any of this.  God bless him!

Denn asking for member of public Debbie Harrington for clarification on services for visually impaired students.  She said the bottom line is that educational services for visually impaired is too complex and it isn’t provided by the DOE.  She recommends another task force for education for these individuals.  There are way too many varying issues for what each and every student needs.  The greatest deficiency is two agencies providing these services.  Harrington said there is about 250+ students in the state that are visually impaired with only 8 teachers.  This is classroom sizes of 30+ students (which is typical for a lot of classes in Delaware).  Everyone seems to agree a separate task force should be made for this topic, which would of course be up to the legislators.

Denn going over proposed drafts with findings and recommendations that were emailed to members of the task force this morning.  Lavelle brought up issue of parental safeguards and clarification on this.  Band brought up this issue as well, and Lavelle said these are Federal requirements.  Carnwright said seeing the actual behavioral data for a functional behavioral analysis is not always honored by schools to parents.  Toney brought up issues of cancelled IEP meetings when the parents get there.  Denn said 3/4s of parental safeguards go over what happens when an IEP matter isn’t agreed upon, so unless it is in those documents it can’t really be changed too much.

Members going over draft notes, but I am unable to see those notes, so I’m kind of in the dark right now.  Sorry folks!  Due to the technical difficulties this meeting is running way over.  Lots of conversation about wisdom over giving parents a copy of the draft IEP ahead of time.  This is a HUGE issue with members having different sides of this battle.

Also big issues with IEP Plus coming up again.  Overheard one member of the task force indicating some previously discussed issues are not being put into the draft as originally discussed.

Public comment from parent of blind student.  Said waiting for legislators to get task force going and then implementing findings is at least six months out and these students need help now.

Votech special education teacher talking about transiton services and liked comments previously said about vocational schools helping out in the state.

My Email To Matt Denn About The IEP Task Force, Denial Is Not Just A River In Egypt @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @roof_o #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

Tomorrow night, November 12th, is the 5th meeting of the IEP Task Force.  Lieutenant Governor/future Attorney General Matt Denn has indicated the task force will continue past the drafting of the Governor’s Report, due in January 2015.  But there is one major issue this task force has not discussed, and it was brought up in public comment by myself and others.

I wrote the following email to Matt Denn as a plea for the future of the students with disabilities in Delaware abused by this process.  Not only is it a Civil Rights violation, it is also against Federal Law.

Hi Matt,

Congratulations on your victory in the election for Attorney General.  I am confident you will do great things in this role. 

I had some concerns about the IEP Task Force.  My number one problem, and always has been, is the amount of IEP denials that occur.  This occurs often in charter schools.  I spoke with Mary Ann Mieczkowski last summer about this, and she informed me there is NO protocol for monitoring the amount of denials.  No audit takes place to suggest if a denial was warranted or not.  What tends to happen is the IEP is denied, and either a 504 plan might be given or nothing happens.  The amount of protection offered by a 504 is minimal compared to an IEP for a special needs student.  For children with behavior issues who are denied an IEP, they are often “counseled out” by a charter or expelled.  Their behavior is the catalyst for these actions, but with no special education accommodations given, these students don’t stand a chance.

I know I am not a member of the task force, but I am asking, no, begging, that this topic is introduced.  I’ve brought it up a few times in public comment, but it doesn’t even appear to be an issue amongst the task force.  I know charters were brought up at the last meeting, but this particular topic didn’t come up.  When a student “switches” to another school, long-term behaviors have become a part of this student’s thinking, and it is very difficult for the next school to get a student back on track.

I am proposing the Delaware Department of Education requires all schools in Delaware under their jurisdiction to have this information reported to them, and audited by them.  While the Federal government does not mandate this, there are specific laws written into IDEA that require the schools to do things which should prevent these issues from happening in the first place.  This is a major reason why there are so many special education lawsuits in this state. 

I know the IEP Task Force may be extended past the Governor’s report in January, but I feel this is the most important issue in the whole IEP process.  Every day when something is not done is another day when a Delaware student is suffering because they don’t have the supports in place to help them.  This is the ugly part of IEPs that the DOE and legislators don’t want to look at, but it is happening, right now, and parents and students with disabilities are paying the price.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to attending the meeting tomorrow night.

Sincerely,

Kevin Ohlandt

Delaware parents of special needs children.  If you have not already given public comment or emailed Matt Denn about your own situation where your child was denied an IEP at any school in the state that you feel was not justified, please attend the meeting tomorrow night in Dover or Wilmington.  Let this task force know what happened with your child and what the negative results may have been for them.  This is the time to bring this matter under the microscope so it can be eliminated from happening to any child.  I know it can be hard speaking in public about your child, but it is the right thing to do.  The system can’t change unless more parents speak up.

Many of you have shared your stories with me, whether it was email, talking, or on social media.  This is the same thing, but with the ability for great and lasting change.  I personally do not want any child in this state to suffer the way my own did, and I feel it is my responsibility and duty as a human being to make sure events like this never happen again.

The 4th IEP Task Force Meeting, Live From Dover & Wilmington @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @ecpaige @Apl_Jax #netde #eduDE

Tonight’s meeting is centrally located in Dover, with the teleconferencing from Wilmington. It looks like most of the task force is in Dover.

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn is asking for a roll call and intros.

Going over draft meetings from last two previous meetings. Denn is explaining how the audio recording gives much more information than draft minutes could, and the audio recordings are now available as a podcast on ITunes (Thanks Kilroy!).

The legislators on the task force seems a bit slim today. None of them are here, but Senator Lawson does have his Chief of Staff (will have to check on her official title!) Brian Touchette is not present. Otherwise it looks like most members are here.

Denn is going over the agenda items and matters that need to be discussed. He is please with the progress they have made. He wants to go over two items from the last meeting they did not get to. Technical Assistance, with an emphasis on charter schools, in preparing for IEP meetings is on the table. Marissa Band from Legal Aid is discussing concerns about charter schools not having resources, knowledge or skills to properly prepare IEPs. As a result the children tend to get pushed back into the local public school district. She indicated they need adequate support to be able to meet the needs of the children. Diane Eastburn, Kent County parent advocate, asked if charter school case managers get the same training as public school district case managers. Mary Ann Mieczkowski with the Delaware DOE Exceptional Children Group said they do give specific meetings and professional development with the charter schools several times a year. She acknowledged they do need more help. She also said she just completed a two-day professional development on standards-based IEPs. She said she has representatives from her workgroup that serve as a liason for each charter school in the state.

Laura Manges is speaking about a potential bill in legislation that would ensure charter school educators have the same credentials as public school educators. She said this is the way it used to be in the state. Denn is asking if “technical assistance” was a polite way of making sure they do it the right way. He asked if this is monitored. Mary Ann Mieczkowski said there is a monitoring system in place (compliance monitoring) on a 5 year cycle. She said on-sight monitoring occurs on Tier 2. She is going over several of the different indicators required by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). She said when they find an issue of non-compliance, they issue a letter to the charter or district indicating the area out of non-compliance. They have to correct the issue, which includes holding an IEP meeting to fix it. They must have a root cause analysis and professional development. After this is done, the DOE goes back in to look at different IEPs to make sure the problem is corrected. This must be done in a year to get out of non-compliance.

Denn asked about things that may not show up on a compliance audit. Mieczkowski indicated how due process works: complaint, mediation, due process hearing. Denn is asking if there is any contact with parents with a kind of “how’s it going” questionnaire. She answered this is required through OSEP for a parent engagement survey. They aren’t totally satisfied with this, but they are working with PIC and the Delaware PTA to make this a broader type of survey. Denn asked what happens when they get back a survey with bad marks. Mieczkowski said parents can always call their office but the surveys are anonymous.

Bill Doolittle is stating a charter school is equivalent to one school in a district. Mieczkowski advised charters go through a rigorous application process and all of this needs to be spelled out during that timeframe. If their application falls short it would be addressed right away. Doolittle advised the charters need a place to go to get resources. Tracy Bombarra asked what kind of questions are asked on the survey to which Mieczkowski explained questions appear like “Were you involved in the IEP process” or “How satisfied were you with the IEP process.” She admitted they have a positive response, but the number of responses is low, which they are working on with PIC and DE PTA.

Band said she is concerned about charters not having access to programs like the Delaware Autism Program (DAP) or programs for hearing-impaired students. Josette Threats asked if there is a place where a parent can go to do a survey. She said she has never seen any type of survey. Mieczkowski said currently it’s a pencil and paper survey but they are looking at different methods. Eastburn asked if it could be done at the annual IEP meeting? Liz Toney with the Delaware PTA was at a meeting with the DOE and said this is in the beginning stages and an online survey has been discussed. She said the data she has seen indicates it shows parents are too happy with the IEP process.

Denn is asking if “technical assistance” needs to be clarified for actual technical issues or everything that has been discussed. Band said the training should be required, and not voluntary. She said they need to be using the technical assistance provided by the state. Mieczkowski said the training they give them is not only based on regulatory requirements but social skills training, parental safeguards, positive behavioral supports and other areas. She said based on some data, some of the charters are required to attend these trainings. Toney asked what representative from the charters attends the meeting. Mieczkowski (I’m going to refer to her as Mitch from here on out cause, God bless her, I can’t keep typing her last name) said it depends on the type of training. She also said there is a problem with the charter schools in regards to their “n” size which can impact when they are flagged.

Eastburn is talking about charter schools not always reporting issues of suspensions. She and Mitch are going back and forth about who the DOE, schools and parents answer to. Denn advised most parents aren’t very knowledgeable about these types of matters. Denn said there is an advantage to this for parents, not in terms of statistics, but in schools knowing they need to be more aware of parent issues with schools. He brought up random bullying audits he has been involved with. He brought up a parent comment from the last meeting with charter school issues. Mike Hoffman, special education teacher, asked who would handle this? Denn advised the schools would not be a fair and biased party to do this. Doolittle said there needs to be more auditing and the state doesn’t have good data. He is aware there is a cost for this but it is worth looking at. Mitch indicated they do get data from PIC, DAP, GACEC and other sources to help improve the system. She said they need all data, including Diane Eastburn data. Tracy Bombarra asked about provider data. She asked that they be randomly surveyed as well to which Mitch said sure. Manges said there was a time where DOE would go to districts and do a comprehensive review at different schools within the district and would send out teams over a day or two to do this. She asked if the DOE has expanded to allow for the growth of all these charters. Mitch indicated it has not.

Denn is bringing up the topic of “jargon” on IEPs. Toney said she thinks taking the jargon out of the IEPs entirely would be good. She said she has been involved in this process a long time and she still doesn’t understand all of the acronyms. Mitch asked what the jargon is in IEPs? Toney explained things like WISC and other terms can be very confusing to parents. Dafne Carnright said additional training should be given, like a type of customer service, that school members in the IEP meetings should avoid using acronyms or technical jargon. Denn and Threats are talking about providing a glossary for parents. Denn reminded the task force this report will go to legislators to provide actual laws to change things, and the advice needs to be very precise in terms of getting things passed or not passed into law.

(side note: Very glad to see all the charters getting this “special” attention!)

Denn is going over the list of other items he wants to make sure is in the report to Governor Markell. He is talking specifically about transition services for older students and the ability of providers responding without a fear of repercussions down the road. He is asking the task force if there are matters they feel should be on the priority list. Eastburn said the benchmarks need to be addressed at some point consistently throughout the state so parents aren’t just given a copy of an IEP. Bombarra said there is a narrative box on IEP Plus where the schools are supposed to give that data. She said people either aren’t doing it, and they should. She said it takes her two days to complete the process for the three schools she works with. She said the system is set up to do this. Tricia Dallas, another special education teacher, said she isn’t sure how much parents are getting from the form sent home with report cards. Carnright agreed with what Dallas said and this needs to be looked at. Denn said is putting it down as “better way to communicate IEP goals to parents” and will make it more specific about what is should look like.

Denn brought up unique problems with visually-impaired students in the IEP process and is strongly hinting this becomes a priority issue without saying it needs to be. Senator Nicole Poore said she thinks this is very important to add to the list of priority issues. Denn agrees. He reiterated this group should continue and will advise the legislature this group should go on after this. Denn said he will go over empowering advocates and providers to better educate for students and the visually impaired issues will be brought up the next meeting. Someone in Wilmington said this is done through the Department of Health and Human Services, to which Denn said this issue will be looked at.

Ruth Lavelle, New Castle County parent rep, said she was in a meeting last week and said IEP Plus is not user-friendly and questioned whether it is less of a band-width issue but the system itself. Denn said this is a major issue on the list. Carnright and Toney talked about the Wellington System that Eastburn brought up at the last meeting. Denn said how other states do things will come up when they work on the drafts for the legislature, which could help answer the IEP Plus question. Bombarra asked about how anything the legislature passes will be funded. Denn said anything over $50,000.00 gets a fiscal note, otherwise the districts or charters get the bill for that. Denn did say other bills do provide funding, such as the summer reading coding amendment from Senate Bill 229 which was sponsored by Senator Nicole Poore and passed in the 147th Assembly. Denn said it is fortunate many of the legislators on the task force sit on the financial committee in the legislature. Denn explained he knows not every single member on the task force will agree on the final resolutions they will submit, so he is opening up the floor to anyone who has issues with what has been discussed. Lawson’s rep said he wants to make sure the Delaware laws are consistent with Federal law for special education.

I briefly gave public comment where I stated the biggest problems I see with the charter schools are them not understanding other-health impaired and what disabilities are listed under that and using a child being “too smart” as a reason to not give an IEP even though a disability or behavior issues affect a child’s educational outcome.

Meeting adjourned!

Don’t Forget, IEP Task Force Meeting on Thursday, October 23rd @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog netde #eduDE

The 4th IEP Task Force meeting will be this Thursday, October 23rd from 4:30 to 6:30.  The “main” action will be in Dover at the Collette Resource Center, while the videoconferencing will be in Wilmington.  I will, of course, be there doing my live blogging.  I’m not sure if I will do a public comment or not.  I would love for more parents to show up and comment.

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn stated at the last meeting this task force may have to extend into next year.  I have no problem with that.  But my big question is what happens to Matt Denn if he becomes Attorney General after the upcoming election on November 4th.  Chances are he will win, but would that pose any problems for him being the chair of this task force?

Matt Denn continues to impress me.  I think he’s starting to see some of the big picture in terms of IEPs in Delaware.  It will be very interesting to see what comes out of this task force…

Matt’s website of the IEP Task Force is awesome!  It has all the digital recordings, many links to various articles, and meetings and agendas.  It’s everything you could ask for from a charter school, but will never get!  Matt’s done a great job on the website.  Check it out here: http://ltgov.delaware.gov/taskforces/ieptf/

My Public Comment at the 3rd IEP Task Force Meeting and my Message for Governor Markell, the Delaware DOE and Arne Duncan @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat @ecpaige @DeDeptofEd @DeStateBoardEd @TNJ-malbright @ArneDuncan @usedgov

 

 

At the third IEP Task Force meeting, I followed tradition and gave the following public comment:

This is the 3rd time I have spoken at the IEP Task Force, I’ve spoken in front of the Delaware Department of Education 3 times, I’ve spoken in front of the Capital School District Board 2 times, and last week I spoke in front of the Christina school board. Every single time I have spoken, it has been with the problems of my son at the forefront of my mind. Behind him are the over 18,000 children with disabilities in this state. This task force has been given a great responsibility. In your hands are the abilities to change over 18,000 lives.

Let me say once again: these children have disabilities they neither asked for nor want. They didn’t choose to have them. They weren’t cursed with them. Most of them were born with them. It was locked into their DNA for whatever reason, and this was how their life had to be. As parents or guardians, it is our job to protect them and make sure they have the best life possible. As educators, teachers, counselors of all shapes and colors, providers and administrators, it is your job to educate them. So my question is this: why do so many of you treat their disabilities as something they are intentionally trying to do? Why do so many teachers think that if you yell at a child or speak down to them that this behavior will change? Why do so many of you think you can sit in an IEP meeting and tell parents “Your child may have a disability but I think they know what they are doing” or “Part of it is their age”. These are children with extremely difficult neurological disabilities. Their brains are not wired the same as you or I. So why would you try to rewire them into a shape that just doesn’t fit? The discipline problems these children face in schools can and should be prevented. Placing any child with disabilities in a class of 30? You’re asking for trouble. Inclusion is required, but that does not mean you put them anywhere. The Least Restrictive Environment is required by IDEA law. It means the child is put into the least restrictive place to obtain a proper education. And in Delaware, that doesn’t mean a Chevrolet, it means a Cadillac. Teachers: Please understand, I know the problems you are facing. I know your evaluations,  as well as your jobs,  are tied to student performance on a once a year test. There are a growing number of regular parents and citizens who recognize and empathize with you. And we are trying to help you as well as our children. But please recognize that we will do anything we can to protect our children, and if that means calling anyone out at a school, teachers included, we will do that.

I think we talk and talk about special education in Delaware, but when it comes time to truly do the right thing for these students, a lot of us drop the ball. It’s not about common core, it’s not about college, it’s not about China, it’s not even about the teachers, or the principals, or even the parents. It’s about them. These precious gifts have been given to us and they have a lot to teach us, but we don’t want to learn. We need to learn to accept them for who they are. Not what we want them to be, but what they are.

In conclusion Lieutenant Governor Denn, if you could please pass the following on to the Delaware Legislature and Governor Markell. We will not accept or allow anyone to change our children into something they are not meant to be. Please tell the Delaware DOE they we don’t want the standards-based IEPs and please ship them back to Arne Duncan at the United States DOE and to leave Delaware’s special needs students alone. It is past time Delaware became its own state and stopped being the education lap dog of the federal government. It is way past time that we stopped letting corporations and education reformers intruding on our children’s lives so they can fill their pockets with profits. There is a lot of that going on and nobody on this task force is talking about that on this task force, and that’s impacting teachers, and how they teach, and how they’re able to deal with these children. That’s a huge aspect and I’m shocked nobody on the task force has brought it up. Thank you.

 

Save The Date: October 9th, Delaware IEP Task Force Meeting #3 @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de #netde #edude #edchat

On Thursday, October 9th, the IEP Task Force will reconvene for their 3rd meeting.  This meeting will be VERY interesting.  The first meeting was geared towards parents concerns, and the second was extremely heavy with school members complaining about logistic parts of the IEP process.  The third time is the charm as they say, and I am getting advanced word about a particular guest who may show up.  Some people will NOT be happy about this individual daring to show their face.  But many people will be ecstatic.  Trust me when I say any parent of a special needs child will want to show up for this one!

This will be the meeting where Lieutenant Matt Denn makes his mark, one way or the other.  He will be confronted with the absolute reality behind the IEP process and how he runs with it will define this task force.  Another wild card will be if Governor Markell’s designee deigns to show up.  Brian Touchette is the testing guru at the Delaware Department of Education, the wizard behind the curtain for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The only person who has brought up standards-based IEPs at this point is myself in public comment.  I’ve heard from another source that all the school districts in Delaware are being told to start them immediately, without any type of transition period like the four pilot districts received.  Once again the DOE is inserting itself into matters that are controversial at best.  Will Touchette bother to show up for the third meeting?

The meeting is at 4:30 pm, at the Collette Center in Dover and the Carvel Building in Wilmington.  The center of the action will be in Wilmington for this round, and with this potential surprise guest, you may want to venture up to Wilmington for this one if you don’t live in the area.  Trust me when I say you will want to see this one live.

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn Launches New Website Called Front Of The Class @Matt_Denn @AutismDelaware @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @delawareonline @CapeGazette @WBOC @wdel @TheStateNews @DoverPost #netde #eduDE

denn-article-delaware-law-weekly-300x181

Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn has launched a new website called Front Of The Class: Helping Teachers Succeed In The Inclusive Classroom.  This is an excellent resource guide for teachers and special education teachers in Delaware’s schools in accommodating children on the Autism spectrum or even students with other disorders and disabilities as well.

The website has received articles and videos from contributors such as the Centreville Layton School, the Christina School District, the Delaware Autism Program, Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, The Pilot School, and Red Clay Consolidated School District, with added support from Autism Delaware.  Please check out the website at: http://frontoftheclassde.com/

Articles already released on the website cover such topics as “The Sensory Friendly Classroom”, “Classroom Management for Elementary School Students” and “What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder”.

Denn is the active Lieutenant Governor of Delaware, but is running for Delaware Attorney General due to current Attorney General Beau Biden’s resignation.  Denn has been very busy advocating for students with disabilities in the past few months as he is also the Chair for the IEP Task Force, which meets twice a month until December.

 

Live, From The IEP Task Force Meeting in Dover, Delaware

It’s 4:21 pm and folks are coming in.  I see quite a few familiar faces.  Many people I don’t know…yet.  I will be updating throughout the meeting….stay tuned!

It looks like most of the people are here.  It’s a packed house here at the Collette Education Resource Center.  Many citizens of the state have come out to see what will happen here.  Quite a few parents.  There’s even a couple kids here!

Matt Denn is starting the meeting and greeting everyone.  Introductions are happening.  We have videoconferencing from Wilmington, sound quality is low.  They just turned it up.  No members of the public in Wilmington.    Four people will be giving public comment at the end of the meeting.

Matt Denn is going through Senate Concurring Resolution 63 which created the IEP task force.  Matt is citing the task force’s main goal as “difficult for parents to understand and navigate, and at worst in some instances, unfair and intimidating to parents.”

Denn said “Our challenge is figuring out how to protect those parents and those kids without negatively impacting the districts and parents.”

Delaware passed a statute in DE four years ago that gave a standard stating special education services need to be better.  Quoted statement from 1975 that “children with disabilities are entitled to a Cadillac education, not a serviceable Chevrolet.”  The statute indicated Delaware students do deserve a quality special education above and beyond, not just the most basic.  Denn expressed the following:  It’s complicated for families to work through an appeal financially for families.  Appeals are expensive due to expert witnesses.  Schools have that paid for already, but parents don’t.  Delaware changed the law a couple years ago.  If you win an appeal the attorney fees are paid by the school district.  Other attorneys take cases on contingency.

Eight meetings over next four months.  Last four will be for drafting report to Governor Markell.  Second to last meeting will be votes on recommendations.  Meetings will end by 6:30pm to allow all parents on task force and in audience to take care of children, especially those who are extending their work day.  Task force will take written comments and will be distributed to members of task force.

Matt Denn said “This is the place to tell your personal story.” Denn wants the task force can get a good idea of what is going on in our state with special education.  He express that this isn’t the place for pending issues with IEPs to get worked out.  Matt Denn said he will shut up soon!  Now we will get to the heart of this!

Kim Siegel from Denn’s office is talking about special education practices in other states.  13 out of 25 states provide parent guides.  Some were over 200 pages while one was only 5 pages.  Common parts of these include glossaries of terms and acronyms (of which there are many in this world), listings of community resources, explanations of legal rights, sample forms, and methods of dispute resolutions.  Massachusetts has it’s own Bureau of Special Education Appeals to help parents with dispute hearings.  Some states have several different options for parents knowing goals.  A lot of states are dealing with behavior issues in classrooms and committing to looking at it within the IEP.  Indiana actually has sections for the primary disability and secondary disabilities on their IEPs.

Denn talked about PIC (Parent Information Center) and how they are there to help with IEP meetings.  He is now talking about attorney situations that are unavoidable.  Delaware wants to do something in between, including supporting advocates attending IEP meetings.  He said lawyering up is not always the best solution.

Liz Toney from Delaware PTA gets IEP questionnaire in Brandywine School District in DE, asks for parent goals and thoughts.  She feels this is an excellent way to relieve tension prior to meeting.  Toney will provide copy of questionnaire, many feel it is a great idea.  This blogger agrees!

Doing second round of introductions due to some latecomers on the task force.

A member asked Siegel if information from other states was beneficial to parents, but Siegel said she was not able to dig that deep on it.  PIC rep Meedra Surratte advised they let parents know to think about what their goals are.  Mary Ann Mieczkowski from the Exceptional Children Group at DOE said PIC wrote a book on assisting parents through the IEP process.  Surratte said it was revised last year and is not too comprehensive and long.  PIC rep said reading level of book may go beyond some families reading capabilities.

Diane Eastburn, the Kent County parent representative, stated she likes parents to see copy of IEP prior to IEP meetings to add to parental clarity to event.  Surratte said good idea, but needs to be stressed to parent that it is only a draft, not a final.  Mieczkowski asking about how much is written beforehand, Eastburn answered she sees many situations where IEP is just read.  Dafne Carnwright from the Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) said any IEP meeting is overwhelming, so parents having the IEP draft beforehand can relieve some of that tension.  Bill Doolittle from GACEC agreed with this.

Senator Nicole Poore said she toured ten schools throughout Delaware and said there is no consistency.  Her own son has had differing IEP goals and problems in the process.  Eastburn said it would be easier to do IEPs by birthdate instead of cramming so many in during certain times of the school year, which causes severe burden on IEP teams.  She cited one example where she saw the wrong child’s name on an IEP report.

Teacher on task force in Wilmington talking about how time is very limited for IEP development due to time constraints during the school day.  Stating problems with IEP Plus (system Delaware uses for IEPs) often crashes.  Another teacher is talking about how during IEP meetings staff picked to substitute aren’t always qualified for servicing certain special needs students.  Doolittle stated we need to start thinking outside the box, and do we always need to be pulling special education classes out of their classes?

Tracy Bombarra, a school service provider, said sometimes administrator’s often tell teachers just to read the report in the IEP meeting and then leave (against IDEA law).  She said she could be sued for not being there and taking minutes.  Said it is a no-win situation.  There was a question about service days, and Tricia Dallas, the administrator member of the task force from the Charleton School, said that could be looked at but service days are for professional development.  Denn said more professional development needs to be done overall.

Denn said there needs to be more school willingness to engage parents prior to IEP meetings.  Seth Kopp, a special education teacher member of task force, said parents just don’t understand the IEP process.  Denn said even the most knowledgeable, sophisticated parent can see an IEP meeting fall apart over disagreement with just one service not being provided.  He felt this creates an adversarial relationship with administrations, teachers, and service providers (ex. Occupational Therapist).

Senator Dave Larson talked about all the acronyms involved and how they can be very cumbersome .  He said plain English is the way to go.  Bombarra said interpreters are needed for uncommon languages for parents who may not speak English, Spanish or French Creole.  She has run against problems with Vietnamese and other languages where services were not available.

Someone in Wilmington talked about how we may want to look at more student-led IEPs.  LRE (least restrictive environment) was brought up by another Wilmington member, and said you can have the best IEP in the classroom in the world, but if it isn’t implemented in the classroom, it’s a waste.  Doolittle said he has run into situations where schools don’t know how to implement certain services.

Mike Hoffman, the Delaware State Education Association member, said as a paraprofessional he is not shown the IEP which makes his problems much more difficult.  Surratte said PIC recommends any paraprofessional attends IEP meetings.  Senator Poore strongly agreed with having the paraprofessional be a part of the process since they are the ones making sure certain services are attended to.  Hoffman said he asks IEP teams all the time “How in the world do you have stuff on the IEP without asking me?” since he provides so many essential services for students.   Eastburn said this can impact the data for the IEP goals and this can greatly affect whether students meet goals or not.  Carnwright said she often gets calls from parents who state that IEP goals can completely disappear from one year to the next, and the parents are confused about that.  They aren’t sure if their child met the goal or if it was left out.  Laura Manges, the task force member with the Delaware Association of School Administrators, stated children are served with the best of intentions.  She said many changes will require time commitment and additional funding.  She said teachers are still responsible for teaching special ed students Common Core standards and teachers are overwhelmed with what she labeled as “double duty”.  Bombarra talked about a need for more information on the IEP form for services and less for testing accommodations.

Denn stated certain things in IEP meetings are mandated by federal law under IDEA, but some things don’t have to be there.  He said he  wants to look at what the state has discretion over and what they don’t.  Denn wrapped up the discussion and said many topics have come up.  He said when the task force compiles the report that not everyone will agree on the report.  But he did clarify that any member is welcome to tack something on to end of report indicating why they don’t agree, which the Governor and the legislators will see.  (Really liking Matt Denn even more right now!)

Public Comment time!  This blogger made public comment which I’ll put up later.  Wendy Strauss with GACEC talked about Disability Hub, a new informational website for children 14 years or older and adults with disabilities who are in transition post high school.  She said the IEP process is very emotional and that my comments were very emotional.  She believes teachers and parents need to know what is in the IEP, and it needs to be reread it throughout the year.  She said several teachers, when asked, are not able to say what exactly is in the IEP.

Sonja Lawrence commented and said she assumes the IEP team has children’s best intentions at heart.  She said her child is visually impaired, and braille instruction is an accommodation but it isn’t provided in the classroom and parents are asked by administration to make a choice at that point in time which is difficult.  That choice is the braille service or classroom inclusion, but parents want both, according to Lawrence.  She talked about the many problems with visually impaired programs in Delaware.  She had concerns about large classrooms and 28:1 student teacher ratios.  She said teachers are beholden to cases across the state and they are unable to service all those children.  She had three recommendations:  1) Let’s put something in place that allows teachers to put services in as a whole, 2) Braille instruction is required by law, 3) Student services are under resourced and under funded.  Debbie Harrington spoke next, and she has a daughter in high school, who is also visually impaired.  Like Lawrence, she also wants more representation in Delaware for the visually impaired.  She said there are too many inconsistencies in the process for the state.

The final public comment came from Greg Mazotta, who he was very surprised there were no school psychologists on the team, but believes the group has many strong members and thinks it is a good start.  He said there needs to be more sustainability in the IEP process.  He wants to volunteer his services for the taskforce to help improve quality services.  He said there are several places to go to find workable services and best practices.  He said strategic plans in school districts for continuous improvement don’t always include ancillary services.

Denn concluded the meeting, and said several things were brought up today that are very important.  He asked if there were any other concerns, and a member of the Wilmington task force said health education is not being serviced to children with IEPs and they are most vulnerable in terms of sex education.  Doolittle said he also wants to hear positive examples of how the process works.  September 30th at 4:30 pm is next meeting.  Nothing said about subgroups yet.  Meeting adjourned.

Notes: It was very difficult to know who was speaking in Wilmington, so I apologize if I misrepresented anyone there.  I will write more later, but I thought it was a great meeting.  So many topics were introduced, including my own which I will post about later.  This is going to be one busy task force.  I really like that Matt Denn was making it very informal, and invited public response so graciously.  I apologize if I raised fears in folks that this would be all about Common Core.  Based on what I was hearing, as little as two days ago from an absent member of the legislative side of the task force, indications were pointing that way.  It is not DOE focused as I also feared, and I believe good things can come from this.  For the first time in a long time, I feel hopeful about special education in Delaware.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things To Know About Special Needs Families #netde #eduDE

With the release of the IEP Task Force membership, I’ve been hearing a lot of controversy about the membership.  I have stayed out of it, for the sole reason that many of these members have children with special needs.  They may belong to this group or that group, but we are all the same.  There are certainly people with influence, but I can’t think of any special needs parent who would sell the needs of their child down the river for the sake of another agenda.  To do so would be a mockery of everything this task force is about.  I believe, based on what I am hearing, that this task force will get to the real reasons why special education in our state is struggling so much.  But one thing I will never do is rip on families, no matter what is going on.  I post about a lot of things, but in my heart I am a parent first, and my son needs me.  He may not understand why I write a blog, but every word I write is for him and all the children in Delaware who are struggling with this.  Every investigation, every plea for help, is for all of them.   I would throw myself under a bus for my son if it meant he could have a better life.  That’s all any of us want.  So while this IEP Task Force is in session, please try to understand this.  Let’s face it, as things stand now, Delaware needs help.  Matt Denn has been a huge advocate for children with disabilities, and he is the best choice to lead this group.  Many of these children are unable to speak with their own voice, so that’s where the parents come in.  We can be loud, and forceful, and mad as hell.  But at the same time, if you have our back, you have a friend for life.   And no matter what our political or education beliefs are, we all have an unspoken bond that says we are there for each other because at the end of the day, it’s family first.

Bullying Against Students With Disabilities in Delaware #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @DEStateBoardEd

In a study done in 2011 by the Delaware Developmental Disabilities Council on bullying, the council found that 3.2 million students are bullied every year on a national level, and 3.7 million students engage in bullying behavior. As well, each school day it is estimated that 160,000 students miss school because of bullying. These are alarming statistics, and unfortunately students with disabilities are often the victims of bullying. The report states “The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees all students and adults have access to a “free and appropriate” public education. If “peer-on-peer” harassment infringes on this right, then schools, parents and state entities must be prepared to advocate and intercede on behalf of bullying victims. This position statement outlines the DDC’s stance on bullying students with developmental disabilities and possible courses of action to limit further bullying.”

In the 2011-2012 school year, there were 549 substantiated (determined to be bullying by administration) incidents of bullying and 662 “substantiated” incidents. This report was made available to the public on 9/18/12. For the 2012-2013 school year, there were 713 substantiated incidents. That school year was the first where schools were obligated to report the number of alleged incidents, which was 2,446. While I’m sure there are some reports that may either be false accusations or not actual bullying, that still seems like a very huge amount of alleged bullying incidents not counting as substantiated bullying. The percentage rate between alleged reports and substantiated reports is a little over 29%. The 2013 report does show a breakdown, and out of the 713 incidents, it showed 32 were due to disability bullying.

But on February 19th, 2014, Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn and Attorney General Joseph Biden, III issued a report entitled Unfinished Business: Implementation by Delaware Public Schools of the State’s 2012 Anti-Bullying Laws. The report indicated most public schools were in compliance in regards to listing information about the state ombudsman of bullying, through the Attorney General office, on their websites. Most charter schools were not in compliance. The report stated “The most prevalent reported causes of bullying in Delaware public schools are students’ physical appearance, student disability, and student gender identity.”

The report cited a study done by the National Center for Education Statitistics which estimated 28% of middle school students are bullied. It went into more detail about the disability status, which showed 10% of the 713 reported bullying incidents in Delaware during the 2012-2013 school year were against a student with a disability which starkly contradicts the 4.48% reported by the DOE.

What none of these reports cover is the unspoken bullying. The students who are too afraid of retailiation and say nothing. This goes on every single day in schools. Students who would rather be mocked and ridiculed at a lower level than “snitch” and be retailiated against. Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Centers cited on their website that 64% of bullying goes unreported.

For students with disabilities, this is immensely cruel. These students have a hard enough time with their disabilities, and then to have students tease them because of it? And to be so afraid to speak up about it? Unacceptable. They already know they are different, and then they feel like they are being punished for it. Pacer had some very shocking statistics in their reports. Among them were the following:

Statistics about bullying of students with disabilities

Only 10 U.S. studies have been conducted on the connection between bullying and developmental disabilities, but all of these studies found that children with disabilities were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers. (Marshall, Kendall, Banks & Gover (Eds.), 2009).

Researchers discovered that students with disabilities were more worried about school safety and being injured or harassed by other peers compared to students without a disability (Saylor & Leach, 2009).

The National Autistic Society reports that 40 percent of children with autism and 60 percent of children with Asperger’s syndrome have experienced bullying.

When reporting bullying youth in special education were told not to tattle almost twice as often as youth not in special education (Davis and Nixon, 2010)

I went through many of the school district and charter school websites, and I found that the vast majority of them do have a list of potential reasons for the bullying, but many don’t show a section for disabilities.   So Delaware’s reporting of 10% of the bullying being against students with disabilities is most likely a much lower percentage than reality.  So it can be very difficult to understand why there are the two major discrepancies between the two reports.  I question the validity of any report of bullying against children with disabilities within the state of Delaware because of these factors.

Something needs to change. I have heard from many parents who report that schools are very resistant for education of a class in regards to a physical manifestation of a child’s disabilities. As a father of a son who has been bullied, it breaks my heart. Schools need to be aware that repeated offenses against children with disabilities can lead to civil rights investigations.

My advice to special needs parents of students with disabilities, do not wait one second when your child reports a bullying incident. Report it right away, in writing, and if the school’s form doesn’t include a “disability” section or any suspected reason checklist, write it down, apart from everything else so it stands out. If you don’t hear back from the school within 48 hours, go to the school with a pen and paper and ask to see the principal.  Write everything down!  The Delaware DOE is required to receive any bullying report from local school districts or charter schools within 5 business days (not school days) of any bullying incident (alleged or substantiated) so parents can certainly check with them to see if the school has been in compliance.

This is just one more thing children with special needs have to deal with on any given school day. The bullying needs to stop and teachers and school staff need to be watching and paying attention much more than they have been.

 

The IEP Task Force: Who Is In Charge? The Legislators or the DOE? #netde #eduDE @DEStateBoard @Matt_Denn

The IEP Task Force begins next week.  In nine days.  With no public notice of a location and who the members on the task force even are.  I do know the following: Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn is the Task Force Chair, and Senators Poore and Lawson and House Representative Heffernan (whose husband is on the Delaware Board of Education and was the chair for the DOE Advisory Council for Special Education Improvement) are the designated members from Legislative Hall.  I’m not sure who the minority Republican House Rep will be, but it is required in the legislation.  I am hearing many differing reports on if the task force is fully staffed yet.  According to the DOE, it is. See page 49 on this PDF from the DOE’s “Advisory Council” on improving the IEP process (same wording as the legislation, even though this advisory council has been meeting since earlier in the year): https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/Attachment.aspx?S=190001&AID=7329&MID=339

According to someone in the know in Legislative Hall, it isn’t.  So who is right?  Or is the DOE just taking over the whole thing even though Senate Concurring Resolution 63 creating the IEP Task Force explicitly states who picks the members in designated areas?  Because Michelle Rush at the DOE has been designated as the coordinator for the task force.  No locations have even been announced, and no public notice has gone out.  It is scheduled at 4:30pm, virtually ensuring many working parents won’t be able to attend.  Public comment has been reserved for the end of the meeting, when focus will be dwindling amongst the members.

If this IEP Task Force is anything like the above link, then it will be all about aligning special education students with Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment (with faulty accommodations for special ed students and no form to even go into IEPs yet).  I pray it isn’t about that, and it will address the true problems with special education.  I pray the task force chair, Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn, has the sense of purpose that these students need an individualized education plan, not making them more similar with other students and forcing them to adapt to the “rigor” of Common Core.  This was exactly why I insisted parents be added to the task force, to prevent this from happening.  But if the DOE has the final say on the task force, then the IEP process will not be improved, it will be diluted.  The Delaware DOE needs to understand this IEP Task Force was not created as their task force.  It was written by legislators, serving the will of the people who pay for your jobs.