Colonial School District Board Swindled By WEIC Leaders With Legal Loophole And Backdoor Meetings

On Tuesday evening, the Colonial School District Board of Education passed a resolution with a vote of 4-2 to support the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting effort with the exception of the Colonial portion of Wilmington.  If you listen to their audio recording from the 11/10/15 board meeting it was a very controversial decision.

Board member Melody Spotts questioned the board not even hearing the resolution until the actual board meeting.  Most board resolutions are put out earlier so all board members can read it ahead of time.

Who on the board is seeing this for the first time tonight?  Did you see this prior to today? No. I did not see this posted in Board Docs.  You want us to vote on this today?

The resolution, presented by Board President Joseph Laws, would have Colonial support the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting effort to send the Christina School District Wilmington students to Red Clay.  It would also allow Laws to remain on the Commission.  What the resolution does not give is an okay by Colonial to send their estimated 150 students to Red Clay as well.  They want to keep the current boundaries.  Laws also mentioned that Brandywine School District feels the same way.  Board member Richard Schiller was not happy with the WEIC response to the board’s October decision.

I don’t agree with the letter from Dr. Rich.  It was very condescending to this board.

Spotts was very upset that Laws and Blakey met with the leadership of WEIC without notifying the rest of the board which Laws quickly deflected in the conversation by asking the board if they wanted to continue to have him represent the district on the commission.  The board agreed but not if meetings are held the week before without the board being notified.

Laws left the door open for the Colonial students to possibly go to Red Clay with the resolution but not with an “11th hour commitment”.  Spotts was adamant about Colonial not sending out a resolution that states Colonial should say how Red Clay spends their taxpayer dollars.  She said their district would not be happy about another district doing the same for them.  The district refuted the claim from WEIC members about a financial incentive for Colonial to back out of the redistricting effort based on the Port of Wilmington area in Colonial.  The district explained this is a tax-exempt area and the district does not make additional money off this.  The funding issue was brought up by Spotts as well:

Sure, we’re building a house, tell me how much it costs later.

Laws explained they are increasing their test scores while other districts in the effort are actually going down.  Laws said he and Blakey met last week with Tony Allen, the chair of WEIC, Joe Pika, and Dan Rich to discuss Colonial’s backing out of the redistricting and said while it was civil it became very contentious.  He told them the Colonial board would not be budging and backing off from their decision unless the board as a whole voted on it.  The WEIC trio asked the board to pass a resolution in support of the recommendations which is where the trap was set for the Colonial board.

What this resolution does is tie the redistricting effort to what is already in paragraph 1026 of Title 14 by eliminating a referendum for the potential school districts:

(c) Subject to subsection (a) of this section, the State Board of Education may change or alter the boundaries of any reorganized school district without a referendum of the voters if the written consent of the owners of the real property to be transferred has been obtained and if also the school boards of the districts affected by such change or alteration have adopted resolutions favoring such change or alteration.

This is the legal loophole to all of this and the WEIC folks clearly know this.  How they could have gotten this past Colonial with nobody questioning it at their board meeting clearly shows this.  Which is why I can no longer support this initiative whatsoever. If the powers that be want to play dirty tricks, then the entire plan is corrupt in my opinion.  While the resolution would allow for Colonial’s students to stay in the Colonial district, it is going to become a hot mess because Colonial’s board passed this resolution which is exactly what the WEIC trio wanted.  The 4-2 vote had the following votes: Yes-Laws, Benjamin, Kennedy and Magee, No-Schiller and Spotts.  Board member Tim Suber was not at the meeting.  The resolution is not on Colonial’s board docs portion of their website and did not appear before the meeting as well.

Backdoor meetings on the whole WEIC/redistricting effort goes against the very spirit of this whole thing, and it was indicated this would not happen.  Now it has, and nobody really knows what was said and if any side deals happened.  I cannot, and will not support this initiative based on that unless a full audio recording of the meeting between Laws, Blakey, Allen, Rich and Pika surfaces with everything that was said at this meeting.  This will not happen, therefore I can not support WEIC.

Colonial To WEIC: We Don’t Want Our Wilmington Students Going To Red Clay Schools

Our only role at this point is to save those babies from having to attend Red Clay because we’re already doing a great job…we need to prevent these children from going to this district. -Mel Spotts, Colonial Board of Education

I always knew some twist was going to come along in the whole Wilmington redistricting initiative.  Something would happen during the process that would cause people to say “Where the hell did that come from?”  That happened last night at the Colonial School District Board of Education meeting.  To end the suspense, the Colonial board voted 7-0 to keep their Wilmington students.  Let me repeat this, they do not want their Wilmington students leaving their school district and going to the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Approximately 350 students.  You can listen to the audio recording here.

Unlike Christina and Red Clay, the Colonial board never passed a resolution in favor of the recommendations or findings from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  Existing Delaware law, in addition to the legislation from Senate Bill 122, allows for the bypass of a referendum if the school district boards involved in the redistricting effort passed a resolution in favor of it.  Colonial, in researching their board minutes, never did.  The only involvement with WEAC was a presentation to the school district on 2/23/15, but this was a workshop and just a presentation.

What this means for the whole Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is not known.  This is the monkey wrench thrown into the gears of the entire plan.  In my opinion, Colonial was underestimated and not given the proper attention they should have received.  All of the focus seems to be on Red Clay and Christina.  Colonial seems to be very concerned about the approximate 350 students that would be affected by the redistricting to Red Clay schools.  In their audio recording from their board meeting last night, board member Mel Spotts stated:

I would like to make a motion, based on the data provided, that our students in the Colonial School District stay within our borderlines and are not a part of Wilmington reconfiguration.

The board then passed the motion on a unanimous 7-0 vote to let the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission know they are out of the redistricting process.  What this will do the future of the WEIC/redistricting initiative is going to be a big question in the coming weeks.  But I am fairly certain WEIC Chair Tony Allen and Governor Markell will not be happy about this.  I’m sure the phone calls will be coming fast and furious to Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey very soon, if not already.

I’m also hearing implementation of the redistricting, if it even goes through at this point in time, won’t be until 2018.

*To clarify, if the Wilmington redistricting does go through it is understood that Brandywine School District would receive these students which Ms. Spotts understood later on in the WEIC portion of the board meeting.  But the motion still passed.

*As well I reworded the portion with Senate Bill 122 to clarify what is in existing Delaware code prior to SB122 and what came as a result of it.