Live, From Delaware, It’s The Carney & Bunting Education Funding Tele-Town Hall

I will get the call at 7:45pm.

For those following, Mike Matthews is also going to live comment on his Facebook account.  I told him I was going to live blog.  He said to do it cause he won’t catch everything.  I told him that is okay because I can just screenshot everything he says.

It is 7:46pm and no call yet.  Mike Matthews hasn’t received one either.  A government function running late?  Say it isn’t so!

Out of ten people on Mike’s Facebook page, only one has gotten the call.  Just got the call!

Carney is on the line!  Thanking DASA and DSEA for getting the word out.  Vehicle he has been using since he was our lone Congressman.

Been travelling up and down the state and has participated in about a dozen town hall meetings.  Legislators helped to organize these.  Has heard from people we have a structural budget problem.  This should be a balanced solution.  People want us to run government more effectively and proficiently.  Thinks with “shared sacrifice” more people will chip in.

Most folks don’t want to see cuts in programs or tax increases. People want a balanced approach with shared sacrifice.

More kids with special needs.  Forced to deal with almost $400 million dollar shortfall.

Purpose of call is to talk about education cuts and way to bring this to General Assembly.  Thinks it will be $200 million in cuts and $200 million in new revenue.  Corporate franchise tax will give us some extra bling.

Cigarettes going up a $1.oo.

Education spending is flat.  Fund teacher units based on student growth, early childhood education, teacher step increases, professional development.  Education is $1.4 billion.  $1.2 billion goes to districts to pay for teacher salaries and other costs.  State pays about 60% of all education spending in our state.  Suggesting is an across the board cut of 1.5% and $22 million cut in educational sustainment fund.  Wants districts to cut $22 million.  When federal funds went away for math and reading specialists, state picked them up.  Doesn’t want to cut anything.  Need for Delaware to be more competitive in the long-term.

Talking about spending time at Red Clay school in 2nd grade class.  Skipped around on questions.  The moderator interrupted to hear my question.  My question surrounds tuition funding for special education.

Sandy from Newark was cut off.  Cindy from Dover asked if how long it could take the state to go from 19 school districts to 6 school districts and central supply ordering.  To cut down on everything.  Carney said the idea of district consolidation has been raised in the town halls.  He said you would have to look at actual cost saving as a result.  Was done in the 1960s down in Sussex County and in New Castle County under the desegregation order.  Difference in pay scales can result in a level-up effect.  Could be higher pay and larger cost to districts.  Looking at all expenses for state through state-wide committee.

Back to Sandy from Newark.  No Sandy.  Got my question (Wow).  Asked if they are going to look at tuition funding for special education students.  Said the numbers have grown as much as twice a regular student to eight times a regular student depending on challenges for student.  Making sure students meet that qualification is important.  Dr. Bunting got on.  If a student’s needs can’t be served in the district, tuition funding kicks in to make sure those funds are used for that child.  It is also used for gifted students in Sussex County.  There are specific allocations for those costs so they do look at them.

Carrie from Newark asked how budget cuts will affect related arts teachers.  Said a lot of the decisions will be made by local districts and school boards.  He would like to see administrative overhead cuts and not personnel cuts.  Said he would much rather see higher tax revenue than cuts.  $37 million in total cuts for education out of the total $200 million they are looking for.  More than he would prefer.

Mike from Middletown is asking about rainy day fund.  Carney said it is 5% and it is a one-time amount and if you built spending on it, it would be held inappropriated against that.  It is for downturn in middle of fiscal year.  Legislature can’t appropriate more than 98% of the budget.  Rainy day plus that 2% cushion would be against the law.  It is more for emergency situation.  Can’t use those funds from year to year.

Jerry from Cape Henlopen is on the line.  He is an ESL teacher.  Hasn’t received 2% increase in five years and has more students that don’t speak English.  Said he has no support.  They have higher special education funding but none for ESL students.  Very disappointed in Delaware with this.  Said he talked to teachers in Georgetown about their needs.  Wants more funds for these students.  Biggest problem we have is the difference in proficiency levels between lower advantaged students and those from higher income.  Wants ALL students to be able to read by 3rd grade.

Kurt from Dover asked about raising gas tax. Said we have the lowest gas in the area.  Everyone would pay equally.  Has heard this suggestion.  Said if we have two funds for budget and one is transportation trust fund.  Gas tax goes towards that.  Transportation should pay for itself.  Allows us to go to financial markets and get bonds.  Started under Governor Castle.  General Assembly refused to raise this under Governor Markell.  Said they are in good shape.   Secretary Cohen said doesn’t need a gas tax.  Deficit is in the General Fund.

Jennifer from Kent County asked about classroom sizes.  How can classroom ratios meet the needs of ALL our students.  He supports the lowest ratios the districts can provide based on their funding needs.  A lot of districts take waivers in K-3 for classroom ratios, allows 22 students to teacher.  They get these waivers to allow for other programs like art and music.  Budget would keep overall spending flat, would fund teachers, step increases, professional service days, discretionary funds like education sustainability funds.  In perfect world, would love to spend on positive things.

Cameron from Woodside.  Teacher at Poly-Tech High School.  Have the budget cuts proposed looked at how tech programs could be cut?  Looking at how student transportation funding works.  Doesn’t think is as cost-efficient as it could be.  Thinks we should consolidate in some way.  Said transportation for vo-techs is same proportionate to districts.  Asking districts to take on 5% more of those costs.

Andrea from Newark talked about school boards raising taxes without referendum.  Would what they are asking for be equal to what they are asking for in Colonial’s referendum?  Carney said $22 million is relatively small amount, would amount to $40-$50 increase.  Said we can pay for these services.  Said local district money that comes from property taxes is very low compared to New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.  He said that is important cause people move here based on those low property taxes.  He said that doesn’t mean people willingly want more property taxes.  Said this keeps Delaware competitive.

Bob from Wilmington asked about raising property assessment values.  They haven’t been raised in 30-40 years.  Carney said he was on the property reassessment task force under former Governor Carper.  Property assessments are not current.  State law said if reassessment is done, districts are required to lower tax rates.  That can change through legislation.  Can’t be done in five months to put together budget proposal in March and then approved by June.  Thinks it is something we need to look at.

Dawn from Delmar asked about lowering number of days state employees work.  Right now she works 188 days.  Said she would be willing to work 185.  Carney said his budget director proposed lowering professional development days but he doesn’t want actual paycheck cuts.  Believes that is counter-productive.  Said half the cuts he is proposing would be recoverable from the districts through higher taxes.

Ashley from Kent County asked about after-school programs.  If those programs are cut such as 21st Century, what are the plans to keep kids off the street and keep them away from legal issues.  What do we do with those students?  Carney said he supports partnering with non-profit agencies like Boys & Girls Club.  Supports grant-in-aid funding for those types of programs.  Wants sustainable budget to cover those programs and to make sure disadvantaged background students get those needs.  Said 21st Century is federal program.  His approach to budget is to maintain programs and funding we have.

Laurie from Wilmington thanked Carney for listening to teachers.  Said we spend a lot on micro-management.  Race To The Top gave us a very irresponsible and expensive accountability system.  Said we need an overhaul of this system.  Carney said he asked Secretary Bunting to reorganize the Dept. of Education be more of a resource department as opposed to an accountability machine.  Administrative overhead costs are huge according to Carney across the state.  Said this can be done with district administrative overhead.

In a poll, 68% of callers support paying higher property taxes to support education, 32% said no.

Michelle from Dover is up next.  She asked if the solutions on the table are going to fix the structural problems.  She said another place to look at is our income taxes.  She said by raising income taxes a full 1% instead of 2/10th of a percent, it would raise $160 million dollars.  Surrounding states are about 3% higher in overall taxes.  Carney said PA and MD have sales tax.  He thinks Trump’s decline in taxes announced this week is a bad idea.  He said our tax bracket is low at $60,000.  Seven states have flat rates and no brackets, like PA.  He said one of the goals is to reduce the top marginal tax rates when our top rate was 19%.  Today it is at 6.6% and he is proposing it go up to 6.8%.  Wants to get rid of itemized deductions.  Said this benefits higher income households.  Said increasing the standardized deduction helps lower-income families.  Said it is a shared sacrifice.

Jill from Smyrna asked why step raises always occur for teachers.  He said they are contractual.  They could suspend those but it is a relationship between teachers and school districts.  He said there are other groups of employees that get steps as well, can’t recall what they were.  He said it is unusual to do due to contractual obligations.

Last question is from Devon from Wilmington.  I know that guy!  He asked about assurances that shared sacrifice won’t disproportionately affect disadvantaged students.  Carney said he thinks students will get what they need with his balanced approach.  He said the WEIC group has worked on these issues for a number of years.  He wants Bunting to take a hard look at this.  He does have a million in education opportunity grants in his proposed budget.  We still get federal Title I funding for these supports.

Governor Carney thanked everyone for being on the call.  5,000 people were on the call according to Carney.  Appreciates the dialogue we’ve had.  Encourage people to talk to their legislators about the revenue package.  To all the teachers, thank you for all the great work you do every day.  Thank you, and God Bless everyone.

With that, the Education Funding Tele-Town Hall is over.  Thanks for following along!

 

 

 

 

 

The Bizarre Love Triangle Between Publius, Minnehan, and Clampitt **UPDATED**

All relationships have their ups and downs.  Such is the case between former Kilroy’s Delaware commenter Publius e decere and former Pencader board member and current Christina board member Harrie Ellen Minnehan.  Throw in a wild card like Henry Clampitt, former board member of Charter School of Wilmington, current board member at Gateway Lab School, and also a candidate for the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education, and you have what I like to call a bizarre love triangle (which just so happens to be an awesome tune by New Order).  But what I found this morning… that brings this triangle to a whole new level… Continue reading “The Bizarre Love Triangle Between Publius, Minnehan, and Clampitt **UPDATED**”

Breaking News: Mike Matthews Is The New DSEA President

Mike Matthews just put the following post out on Facebook.  Congrats to Mike for his victory.  This was a long and hard fight, but he finally did it.  Look for a different kind of DSEA in the future!

An email has just been sent to all DSEA members. Results were shared this morning and I won the run off election for DSEA president. I’m thrilled and so happy for this. Thank you to all my supporters and thank you to my three opponents, Karen Crouse, Dom Zaffora, and Danny Rufo, who ran really great, issues-based campaigns.

Biggest thank you to my best friend and always-running mate Jackie Kook. This win is bittersweet for me, but I know she will always be there to support me and this organization.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone, and I hope that you have a great weekend.

Breaking News: DSEA To Hold Run-Off Election To Commence On February 27th

The Delaware State Education Association made a very smart move last night at their Executive Board meeting last night.  Due to the overwhelming amount of concerns expressed as a result of their January election which ended in a tie for the President role, the Delaware educator’s union is holding a run-off election to determine who will become the next DSEA President.

Voting will begin on February 27th and will last until March 13th.  I sincerely hope more than 20% of Delaware’s educators actually vote this go-around!

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Crickets From Water Street

The Delaware State Education Association held an executive board meeting last night.  On the agenda was determining what to do about the tie in the election for a new DSEA President.  As of this writing, nothing has come out regarding the outcome.  Their main office, located on Water St. in Dover, has been exceptionally quiet.  No leaks are coming out and nobody seems to know what is going on.

Mike Matthews, one of the candidates running for President who received an unprecedented tie vote against Karen Crouse, reported on Facebook this morning that he hasn’t heard anything about the results of the meeting.  Kilroy’s Delaware keeps asking teachers on Facebook if DSEA has a new King or Queen.  We will have to wait a little bit longer fair readers to see if there is a new leader or if DSEA will hold a run-off election to break the tie.  This wait and see is like waiting on a new Pope!  If you see white smoke coming from the vicinity of Water Street, I guess that means they have a new leader!

My Take On The Bizarre DSEA Election Results. Did Two Wrongs Make A Right?

In the shot heard round Delaware teachers email yesterday around 4:00pm, the Delaware State Education Association election results came in for President and Vice-President.  Shock followed shock.  Mike Matthews and Karen Crouse tied for President at 862 votes each.  Stephanie Ingram (not Ingraham) won the Vice-President position.  Some (including myself) are crying foul.  Matthews and Kook ran as a ticket as did Crouse and Ingram.  Logic would dictate that Matthews and Kook’s votes would align more with Matthew’s total.  But this was NOT the case.  Ingram won with 400 something votes while Kook had 300 plus.

First off, with 12,000 teachers in Delaware, why did only 2,100+ vote in this election?  That is my biggest concern.  Second, how the actual hell do you get a tie?  Off the record, I have heard DSEA did not want the powerhouse of Matthews/Kook ruling the teacher union halls in Delaware.  Did things happen?  Of that I am certain.  When an obvious fake Facebook account with the not-so-genius name of Sam Muskrat showed up at the same time as the election went into full swing, I paid very close attention to the writing style of the you really aren’t fooling anyone Mr. Muskrat.  I’ve seen that style before.  With another anonymous commenter somewhere else.  I won’t out the person, but I can promise you it is NOT Publius from Kilroy’s Delaware.  That guy is probably sucking down some Shirley Temple’s in his batcave.

The next big question surrounds the ballots.  There were mentions on social media of teacher’s getting the ballots in their spam folders.  While the plausibility of that is suspect if it was coming from DSEA (do all DSEA emails go to spam?).  If it was an outside company, such as Intelliscan, based out of Phoenixville, PA, I could somehow see that.  Some teachers reported not receiving any ballots.  Some did not know who was running, or actually know some of  the people running (to them I would say “Hello!  This is the future of your teaching profession calling, wake up!”).

I’ve heard that campaign literature was suspect in certain situations.  While there is nothing against the DSEA rules about the President endorsing a candidate, Frederika Jenner made it transparently obvious who she wanted.  And that person wound up tying and is not a man.  And her VP choice won as well.  Crouse would not have won if it weren’t for Kent County.  Which I find ironic considering her popularity in certain places.  I don’t mean to bash her.  I’m sure she is a fine person.  But there is something VERY shady with this election.  I’m sure the current DSEA crew will get offended I posted this.  First off, too bad.  Second, you can sit there and say it isn’t my business but I choose to make it my business and you can’t stop me.  We live in a country where Donald Trump is President so I think any rules went out the window last November!

So what happens next?  Some more ballots could come trickling in by Monday (since it is soooooo possible for something postmarked 1/23/17 or earlier to take a week to get to Dover in our huge state).  There could be a run-off election if it remains a tie, in which case Presidential candidates Danny Rufo and Dom Zaffora’s votes would go to either Matthews or Crouse.  Or another option could be the tie remains and the Executive Board at DSEA would vote on a winner.  Which would, in all likelihood, be Crouse.  Since these election results are not part of an official state or county election, DSEA is under no obligation to release the full results to the public.  A teacher’s union is a private organization.  If I were Matthews or Kook, I would be issuing a challenge right away.  Something doesn’t smell right.  I could, of course, be wrong.  But I would err on the side of caution in just blindly accepting these results.

While this potential mystery starts to get some heat, feast on the famous Samuel Muskrat posts, from an anonymous person whose Facebook account was created the VERY same day Matthews and Kook had a live Facebook feed answering questions.  And disappeared the next day.

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Yes, I am the Kevin this Samuel Muskrat is referring to.  This kind of makes it my business now!  I will fully admit I am not the most popular person in the executive offices of DSEA.  Once upon a time the stars were in alignment around the time I wrote a huge article on the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, but I burned that bridge with them during the whole House Bill 50 veto override fiasco when I called out DSEA (very strongly I might add) with a twinge of regret.  I don’t regret calling them out on their non-support of the override but rather how I did it.  I apologized, but while some accepted that apology, some were less than cordial with me.  In fact, one of them decided to viciously attack me many times somewhere else.  That person knew I knew that when I commented on the above Facebook comment bringing me into it.  I dropped a couple of words in my comment which vanished as soon as it appeared.  Muskrat knew I had them and ran for the hills.  Muskrat seemed to know a lot of things about Mr. Matthews.  Things your average teacher would not know unless they were really involved with DSEA.  But the tone and attitude, and especially the reference to me, shows a personal beef.  Trolling is one thing.  Going on  Facebook during a candidate forum and disguising yourself when they are potentially a staff member of DSEA is another thing entirely.  Like I said yesterday, shenanigans with this election.

Both Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook are well-known in Delaware as teachers who will really fight for their causes.  This doesn’t mean they won’t sit down with you, but it also doesn’t mean they will swallow the Kool-Aid which happened so many times in teacher matters involving the Delaware Dept. of Education, the General Assembly, and yes, even DSEA.  Most recently, Kook ruffled feathers with the teacher evaluation bill last Spring.  It wound up getting Senator Sokola amendments attached to it.  A large part of that was the insertion into the process of former DOE employee Atnre Alleyne, now promoting his role as Executive Director of DelawareCAN which is an offshoot of the corporate education reform company 50CAN.  Another big part was a letter from the DPAS-II Advisory Committee Chair Dr. Susan Bunting.  Bunting was confirmed by the Delaware Senate three days ago as the new Delaware Secretary of Education.  But neither of them are Sam Muskrat.  In Delaware, if you aren’t calling out legislators here and there, than democracy really isn’t taking place.  And some really shouldn’t throw stones like that because the hypocrisy involved is astounding!  But I guess many wrongs make a right?

Only One More Day To Vote In DSEA Election For President and Vice-President

The voting for the Delaware State Education Association leadership officially ends tomorrow, January 23rd.  All ballots must be in as per the DSEA election website.  Initial results will be shared with the Executive Director and Business Manager of DSEA on Thursday, and preliminary results will be announced on January 27th.  If there is a challenge based on the preliminary results, that would have to be in by February 3rd.  At the DSEA Executive Board meeting on February 16th, the results will be officially ratified.

There are four races for the President slot and two for the Vice-President.  For President, there is Karen Crouse, Mike Matthews, Danny Rufo, and Dom Zaffora.  For Vice-President, there is Jackie Kook and Stephanie Ingraham.  Two are running on a “ticket” per se, but that ticket could be divided pending the results.  Those “tickets” are Matthews/Kook and Crouse/Ingraham.

What is at stake with this election?  The teacher’s union in Delaware would have a lot to contend with in the coming years.  The three-year terms would usher in the new Every Student Succeeds Act in Delaware along with mounting budget issues that will almost assuredly result in education cuts along the way.  Add on the new Carney administration and a promise from Governor John Carney to make the Delaware Department of Education less of an accountability factory and more of a resource center for districts and charters.  However, much of that will depend on the final approved ESSA state plan.  Even though ESSA was meant to eliminate a lot of the federal oversight, accountability regulations won’t change things that much.  And if history is an indicator, the Delaware DOE loves accountability.  The role of teacher evaluations will always be a major issue with DSEA.  Other potential factors affecting them, depending on the state budget, could be the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan or the possibility of consolidating districts around the state becoming more than a discussion point.

Vote Mike Matthews & Jackie Kook For President And Vice-President Of DSEA

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I hereby endorse Mike Matthews as President for the Delaware State Education Association.

I hereby endorse Jackie Kook as Vice-President for the Delaware State Education Association.

I’m not a teacher.  Just a parent.  But I have been very aware of DSEA the past few years and their role in education.  To say that relationship has been frosty at times would be an understatement.  I do not always agree with DSEA on issues.  But when I heard Mike and Jackie were running a joint ticket for DSEA leadership, I immediately rooted for them.  And then Danny Rufo announced his candidacy as President.  So I was torn for a long time.  I’ve known all three of these educators since shortly after I started blogging in 2014.  Danny is awesome.  But Mike and Jackie bring many battle scars to these roles.  Battles fought at the Delaware DOE and Legislative Hall.  Fought in front of cameras as they loudly advocated for teacher, student, and parent rights.  To me, they are more of a voice for teachers than the current leadership at DSEA.  They know the players and they know who to watch out for.

I get that these leadership roles change people.  You can’t just say whatever you want.  I don’t know Frederika Jenner very well at all.  But I do know Mike and Jackie.  I know Danny.  Crouse and Ingraham, endorsed by Jenner, just seem to be missing something.  I can’t pinpoint it.  Maybe it’s the fact that I have never seen them before.  Maybe it’s because when I asked three of the candidates their thoughts about student data privacy, the Matthews/Kook team and Rufo genuinely and thoughtfully answered.  Crouse and Ingraham gave some robotic Facebook response.  When I asked for more, they endorsed not getting into Facebook “battles” and having off-line conversations.  Sorry, Delaware has suffered immensely from those kind of talks.  The fourth candidate, Dom, I couldn’t pick out of a line-up.  No offense Dom!

What the package of Mike and Jackie could bring to Delaware education is a dream team beyond compare.  They know the issues.  They have great ideas on how to address those issues.  I’ve heard some say they are worried about Mike’s ability to “go along to get along”.  I firmly believe Mike will bring his A-game to the role and not put aside the issues he has fought for much longer than I have.  If there were a way to have co-Presidents AND a vice-president, I would say throw Rufo on that triumvirate!  But with the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act and some crazy stuff coming up in education, Delaware’s largest teacher association needs people who will look at every angle.  Who aren’t afraid to go outside of the box for help.  Who will fight not just for teachers, but also what our students need.  The symbiotic relationship between teacher and student is a relationship like no other.  Teachers have had it rough.  But I think because of that fight, many in DSEA leadership have capitulated towards those in favor of corporate education reform to the detriment of that symbiotic relationship.

Between vouchers, personalized learning in a digital environment (which is the gravest threat to teachers in my opinion), and more charter school enrollment going up, the teacher unions have never been more vulnerable than they are right now.  They need a very strong shield, and Mike and Jackie are it!  So I urge every single member of DSEA to vote for Mike and Jackie on January 9th.  Don’t wait, vote that day.  Some will say a non-DSEA person should mind their own business and not get involved.  Too bad.  Freedom of the press baby!  Don’t like it?  Too bad.  At least I’m not making fake Facebook accounts trying to start trouble.  I will leave that right there.

Some will say I am only endorsing Mike and Jackie because I’m friends with them.  I’m friends with Danny too.  And do you want to know what drew me to all three of them in the first place?   Education.  If I never started blogging I wouldn’t know the first thing about any of this.  But this is the world I live in.

Kilroy, Stop The Union-Bashing! You Have MUCH Bigger Fish To Fry!

Every once in a while, Kilroy posts something about me.  It is usually in regards to some comment someone made over on his blog.  But lately, especially on social media, I see Kilroy taking potshots at DSEA and a couple of members in particular.  This led to a dust-up on Kilroy’s Facebook page tonight, over all things, social justice.

It appears Kilroy didn’t understand the context and went into a tirade over it.  This led to other commenters talking about the validity of unions and how the dues work.  Steve Newton completely evaporated the opposition and proved conclusively that union dues come with the application for a teaching job in Delaware school districts.  It isn’t a question of right or wrong, it is just the way it is.

Kilroy needs to stop trying to poke holes into DSEA and their upcoming elections and really focus on the things that are happening outside of teacher unions.  Like the complete and utter privatization of public education if certain parties get their way.  Like the Rodel-led hijacking of Delaware’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan.  Like the Christina-charter school settlement that will take away funds from every single school district in the state for things that are rightfully excluded from charter payments.  Like an incoming Governor who has not announced any leadership positions for Delaware education with a little over a month before his inauguration.  Like the swarm of education technology in our classrooms that is collecting a plethora of private student information with algorithms we will never know about.  Like how it doesn’t matter who won President of the country, that march to privatization continues.  Like the “Bad News Betsy” that will make Arne Duncan and John King look like rank amateurs.  Like the stealth tests coming our way sooner than we think in Rodel’s when you wish upon a star personalized learning and competency-based education environment.

For someone who claims to support teacher unions, he sure does talk about them a lot.  Especially their role in Race To The Top.  Six years ago.  Which, I might add, all nineteen school districts signed up for, along with the Delaware PTA and every other education organization in the state.  To say DSEA was the only party that led RTTT into Delaware is very misleading.  Being real here, I wasn’t involved in all of this when RTTT came out.  So my window on this is seen in perceptions of that time from others after the fact in the past few years.  But there comes a time when beating it over us is not productive.  Who is still in DSEA leadership from that time?  I don’t think anyone running for DSEA leadership was instrumental in the decisions from six years ago.  But if Kilroy has a grandchild in Red Clay, he needs to get up to speed with what is going on in education.  Cause it is not pretty and he needs to be on the right side of things.  I admire the hell out of Kilroy.  He got me my start in the Delaware blogosphere.  And I want him to focus on more because he has a great deal of influence on education.

In terms of social justice, I’m not sure what context Kilroy took it in, but as a result of Kilroy’s post, Mike Matthews updated his status to show what his definition of social justice is:

Social justice means to me…

…standing at a school board meeting begging for more supports for special needs students.

…going to Dover and speaking in support of the Opt Out movement before the House education committee.

…reading a book to kindergarteners on why sharing and respect are key values.

…protesting the State’s attempts to shut down community schools because of test scores.

…letting a Black student know that when all around them they feel like the world hates them, that their life DOES matter.

…demanding that Delaware get off the list of four states that doesn’t fund ELL students.

…ensuring that ALL students know that a classroom is a place where they can be themselves — no matter how different — and be accepted.

…organizing educators to make sure they understand their rights to speak up and ADVOCATE for their students when the time comes.

Social Justice, to me, is about education and NEVER indoctrination. Social justice is about respect. Kindness. Acceptance. Organizing. Advocating. Speaking up. Believing in who you are as a human being and being able to take action to fight for the most vulnerable.

That’s what social justice is. While that phrase may be dangerous to some, I will always wear it like a badge of honor.

Besides, it’s too much fun being an outspoken pain in the ass sometimes.

 

Well said Mr. Matthews.  That is some social justice I can get behind.  While I have been critical of DSEA leadership in the past, I have always seen the potential of what a united and strong DSEA could become in this state.  A DSEA that will have to align with parents in the coming years if they want to save public education.  Perhaps that is why I have been critical of DSEA at times because I have high expectations for them to be the voice that has the power to influence public education in this state, not be an observer while others feast on the scraps.

We ALL need to be concerned about Donald Trump and his very poor selection of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education.  Trump really doesn’t have a clue about education.  But he will surround himself with people who do.  And what they know and what they have planned is not good.

 

Mike Matthews Lampoons Governor Markell And Does A Damn Good Job!

The Delaware World Language Immersion program is in many of our school districts.  Students in Kindergarten start learning Spanish and Chinese (Mandarin) and continue through school learning one of the languages.  Spanish I can understand.  Chinese?  I know China is a major world power, but come on!  Okay, this is old news.  But what happened when Delaware Governor Markell sold the idea to Delaware Superintendents?  Mike Matthews has the scoop!

Gov. Markell (speaking to a roomful of superintendents): “OK folks, we’ve had so many education successes in my eight years. Race to the Top. Priority Schools. Educator Compensation. Lots of brand new successful charter schools. Smarter Balanced. Time for something new. I want you all to put language-immersion programs in your schools.”

Superintendent: “That’s a good idea, Governor, but how are we gonna do that?”

Gov. Markell: “Well I’ll leave all of that up to you, but I want Spanish and Chinese in our elementary, middle, and high schools, and I want them now.”

Superintendent: “Well, we don’t have enough Spanish- and Chinese-speaking educators in this state. Our Districts will have to bear great costs of not just the salaries of these folks, but the fees associated with getting them into the country and getting them work visas as well as the fees of the programs sponsoring them.”

Gov. Markell: “So…?

Superintendent: “And this will be very disruptive to our schools. At elementary levels, we will need to get rid of two teachers per grade level so we can bring in the Spanish- and Chinese-speaking teachers. And not to mention all the content-area teachers at the middle and high schools who will be impacted.”

Gov. Markell: “And the problem is…?”

Superintendent: “Well, Governor, have you actually thought any of this through? Are you going to be funding these positions above and beyond the unit count so the teachers with whom our students have built relationships won’t be impacted by this huge change?”

Gov. Markell: “Funding additional positions? No. But we do have a few thousand dollars in grant money your districts can fight over to get the ball rolling.”

Superintendents: (crickets)

Gov. Markell: “So who’s gonna go first?!?!?”

And fight they did for the paltry sums to get this program going.  This was actually a lampoon written by Mike Matthews on Facebook.  I have to imagine there have been many similar conversations with all of Governor Markell’s education programs.  This is Delaware.  If it sounds to good to be true, we throw caution to the wind and do it anyway!  I’m sure half of Delaware has seen this already since Mike seems to be friends with about half of the state.  But for the other half…

Sokola Ebola Vs. Right To Work: Which Is The Bigger Danger To Education?

Sunday evening I put up a post about a political ad for Delaware Senator David Sokola.  You would have thought I sent a cannonball into a church picnic with the reaction this post got.  In a nutshell, the Delaware State Education Association did not endorse the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, David Sokola.  He has been the chair of this committee for decades.  This was a very clear statement that DSEA no longer has faith in Senator David Sokola when it comes to education.  But unbeknownst to many, DSEA is also part of a PAC with various other Delaware unions that paid for an advertisement for Sokola’s 8th District Senate campaign.  I wasn’t happy to see this and many others weren’t as well.  I linked Frederika Jenner, the President of DSEA, to this PAC because her name appears on their website.

Before I knew it, teachers who are very supportive of DSEA jumped to their defense.  One of them, Mike Matthews, who used to be President of the Red Clay Educations Association and is currently campaigning for Jenner’s spot next January, wrote a very long comment about why Right To Work is dangerous in the current Delaware political landscape.

Before I get to Matthews’ comment, I want to briefly explain what Right To Work is.  Basically, it would prevent a worker from paying union dues but they would get the union benefits.  This has been implemented in some states but the Delaware General Assembly has thwarted this from happening here.  Delaware Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle has been very supportive of Right To Work in Delaware.  Not every Delaware Republican is 100% behind a complete Right To Work state, much less with DSEA.  Matthews’ comment suggests that Right To Work is a bigger danger than very bad Dave Sokola education policy.

Here’s where I stand on this and, as always, I thank Kevin for providing the forum to discuss!

DSEA did not vote to endorse Sen. Sokola for his re-election campaign. As someone who has consistently received DSEA’s endorsement in years’ past, this is obviously big news. I have had many concerns — and shared them publicly — with Sen. Sokola’s positions on education. I think many others have, as well. And that’s why DSEA chose the route it did during the election season this year.

But — and this really is a big BUT — folks need to realize that we are a union whose main goal is to activate and organize its membership. We have seen union membership in many states decrease dramatically because of nasty Right to Work laws. These laws severely weaken the ability of local unions to do the work they need to do — advocate for members and students.

The threat of Right to Work is very much real here in Delaware. If the Democrats lose just two seats in the Senate, then it’s very likely that Republicans will demand legislation that could repress labor rights in exchange for getting YES votes on the budget. If the Republican Senate REFUSES to pass a budget because they are demanding more restrictions on organized labor, then my guess is the Democrats in the House will cave so they can get a budget passed. That’s the reality of the situation that we’re dealing with.

DSEA’s membership in the Delawareans First PAC is borne out of the need to fight back any effort for Right to Work to land in Delaware. DSEA’s participation in this PAC is very much about ensuring our own survival SO WE CAN continue to advocate for our members, students, and schools.

And there are some very clear differences between the two major-party candidates in the 8th Senate District when it comes to labor rights. Sen. Sokola is vehemently anti-Right to Work. Meredith Chapman has stated her support of the collective bargaining process, but can’t say unequivocally that she would be anti-Right to Work. And, as I’ve said to her, should she get elected and the GOP take the Senate, her ability to negotiate with a newly-emboldened GOP leadership will be severely diminished and she will have to walk lock-step with the caucus on these issues.

So, while many of our members — and myself included — have serious issues with Sen. Sokola’s education positions, we have to realize that we are still a union. And it’s our business to maintain our membership and attempt to stave off any threats to that membership. I am completely able to see both sides here and while Sen. Sokola hasn’t been the best friend on education issues, he’s unwaveringly a friend on the topic of Right to Work. To condemn him from all angles because of his education positions (no matter how large those issues are) would be unfair.

DSEA’s membership in this PAC is voluntary, of course, but in the interest of solidarity, it’s imperative that we union brothers and sisters come together and support candidates who will repel Right to Work — even if it means supporting a candidate we oppose on other issues. Because if Right to Work comes to Delaware — which could happen if the Senate swings GOP — then our ability to be an effective agent for change will be severely dampened. And that could have consequences that hasten all the negative things we know have been coming down the education pike for years that you have thankfully been reporting on with such fervor.

I just think it’s important to realize that I think it’s completely within bounds to have severe disagreements with candidates on certain issues, but to find common ground on others, especially issues that relate to the survival of organizations that I would hope are seen as positive players in the education arena like DSEA.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to share my thoughts here.

So suppose the Republicans gain control of the Delaware Senate and there is a budget impasse next year (as there seems to be almost every year).  Does that automatically make Delaware a Right To Work state?  We just don’t know.  I can picture a scenario where, if it were that bad, certain concessions could take place.  Last week at the Carney-Bonini debate, the subject of Right To Work zones was brought up.  That would not make the whole state a Right To Work place, but for certain companies.  Auto manufacturing was brought up as an example.  But I personally don’t believe the General Assembly would make DSEA a Right To Work organization.  If they did gain control of the Senate, that would last as long as one General Assembly if they did that.  The General Assembly is always on a cycle of campaigning every two years.  Any legislator who voted for Right To Work would automatically lose any future endorsement from DSEA.  Many do not want to face that prospect in the coming years.  Delaware is a small state and its citizens have more access to their Senators and State Representatives than they do in other states.  A Republican controlled Senate would also have to contend with a Democrat controlled House and, by all indications, Democrat Governor John Carney.  Would the Republicans wait around all summer in an attempt to get Right To Work passed if a budget was held up?  I highly doubt it.  Most legislators are at the point of collapse after an all-night session bridging June 30th to July 1st.

While I will certainly say I do not know how many teacher jobs DSEA has actively protected over the years, I imagine it is quite a bit.  Charter school teachers, which are supported heavily by Delaware Republicans, do not presently have teacher unions.  But I firmly believe Senator Sokola is, at a much greater degree, a bigger threat to Delaware teachers than a potential Right To Work law in Delaware.  He has 25 years of experience showing exactly what he has done to Delaware education and the teaching profession.  And judging by the first draft of Delaware’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, I don’t see that situation changing any time soon.

I firmly believe Sokola serves interests much bigger than any Democrat platform.  He serves those who profit immensely off students and teachers.  He represents the corporations who want to reform education so they can make more money.  But more dangerous, is the very real threat of how these changes in education will eventually transform society as a whole.  It is my contention that whether Right To Work happened or not, the teaching profession union members across the country fight for every day will be gone one day.  At the rate where are going, everything will be online instruction and teachers will just be glorified moderators if those classrooms are even in brick and mortar schools.  The more we let outside organizations into our schools, the ability for decisions to be decided at a local level diminishes greatly.  That is what Sokola represents.  He takes the side of a particular charter school in his district and he will do whatever is necessary to make sure they look good at the expense of the district around him.  If he didn’t have the power he currently has as the Chair of the Senate Education Committee, that would be one thing.  But that taint in his decision-making policy affects every single public school in the state.

In my eyes, as a parent and a Delaware citizen, David Sokola needs to go.  By any means necessary.  I fully endorse Meredith Chapman for the 8th Senate District.  Even if I was a die-hard Democrat and never voted out of party lines, I would make this one exception.  He is that bad.  Do I trust David Sokola to be anti-Right To Work because he truly believes it would be bad for unions or because he knows if he isn’t he would have a hard time getting re-elected in his district with various unions supporting him?  I would go with the latter.  But there comes a time when you have to weed out the rot.  That time is now.  We have had enough Sokola Ebola in Delaware education.  This is a guy who lied in a debate last week.  How can anyone trust him to do the right thing when he lies when the truth would be far better for him?  That is how desperate he has become.  For the first time in 25 years, he knows he may not enter Legislative Hall as a FOIA-protected legislator.  He is scared.  In a microscopic way, down to the molecular level, I feel bad for him in that respect.  But it stops there.  In politics, you reap what you sow.  And what David Sokola has sown over a quarter of a century is dangerous for every single citizen of Delaware.

As I am writing this, the AFLCIO President, James Maravelias just wrote a comment supporting Matthews’ stance on this issue.  To this I can only reply with the following: by allowing Right To Work in Delaware, the unions believe they will lose all their collective bargaining rights.  As a parent, we didn’t seem to have a choice when Senator Sokola, the corporate education reformer led Delaware DOE, and Governor Markell brought Common Core to Delaware.  When a once a year test became the measurement for all Delaware schools.  When our General Assembly passed laws allowing for more charter schools in the state which drained resources out of many school districts.  When special education took a back-seat to standards.  When teachers spent an exorbitant amount of time on professional development during school days.  When our collective voice said “We don’t want our children to take this test”, the DSEA supported an assessment inventory that ultimately led to no real change.  Even when I begged them not to and that it would weaken the parent voice for opt out legislation.  And it worked.  DSEA sheepishly and almost after the fact supported an override of the Governor’s veto but not without my having a tirade of epic proportions that actually caused me to burn some bridges.  I didn’t see DSEA’s collective bargaining power at play when disaster happened at the hands of David Sokola with their own teacher evaluation bill.  One man was able to turn the wishes of the entire DSEA into his playground and he got what he wanted.

Parents are consistently left out of the equation when it comes to education.  Sure, we get our placards on this committee or that task force, but we don’t have the ability to collectively bargain our way out of things we know are bad for our kids.  The majority of the decisions are made those who represent some type of profession in education or a company that will somehow profit off it.  I’m not saying this to bash unions, but to illustrate a point.  Any union is, on its face, going to have a priority of protecting their membership.  I get that.  Just as a baked bean company would be all about making great baked beans.  But when one guy wants to branch off and make different kind of baked bean products that diminish the entire line, that is a big problem.  Even when the research comes back that fully states: this new product isn’t worth a hill of beans, the one guy makes it happen.  That is Senator Sokola in Delaware.

As a final thought, in June of 2015, a Delaware parent openly questioned and challenged Sokola during a Senate Education Committee meeting on opt out.  When Sokola lost his cool and showed the true David Sokola, he told the parent that if she thought she could do a better job herself to run for office.  While this citizen was not able to run for Sokola’s seat, another citizen rose up to the challenge.  Would she have run if Sokola didn’t make a mockery out of parents over opt out?  We will never know.  But perhaps it planted a seed that could begin to bloom next week.  We may not know what kind of plant will grow next year, but it has to be better than the out of control and choking poison ivy that tarnishes every facet of education Sokola touches.  This is why I can’t personally stomach the thought of Sokola sitting in Legislative Hall in 2017.  And nothing, not even a potential threat of Right To Work, could get me to change my mind on that.  Perhaps Frederika Jenner wasn’t fully supportive of paying for a Sokola political ad as a member of the board of Delawarean’s First PAC.  But attaching her name to it sent ripple effects throughout the state in the past 44 hours.  Delaware education won’t change for the better until David Sokola is gone.

As a parent, my top priority is to make sure my child gets the best education possible.  As a parent, I can clearly see how Sokola policy has affected my child and 133,000 other children in Delaware.  I don’t see how a threat of Right To Work has affected these kids.  Perhaps it could become a future danger, but the Defcon-4 danger to education that is happening right now, in real-time, is David Sokola.  He must go.  I understand Mike Matthews and his perception of a Republican Senate as a danger.  But it is not something that would automatically come to pass.  We have years and years of watching Sokola operate.  I’m not running out telling every Delaware citizen to vote Republican in the Senate.  Nor am I doing that for any election this year.  But I would be remiss as a parent, a father, a husband, a supporter of public education, a supporter of teachers, a supporter of transparency, and a supporter of hope by thinking it is okay to give Sokola any possible edge in this election.  I can’t support the triumvirate of Democrat control in Delaware if it means keeping a guy like David Sokola in power.  I will support DSEA and other unions in a lot of areas, but not on David Sokola.  There is no balance in education as long as he retains his Senate seat.

3000

Sometimes a landmark passes you by and you never take notice.  As I looked at my blog earlier today, I saw I had written 2,999 posts.  That is a heck of a lot of articles for a blog that isn’t even two and a half years old.  So I thought I would do something special for the 3,000 mark.  I want to talk about fear.

There is no crippling force greater than fear.  It can turn the most well-intentioned person into a bowl of jello in a heartbeat.  We have all been there.  Some live in this state constantly.  What is my greatest fear?  Probably that my son will have a hard life.  It is one of the reasons I fight.  With every bone in my body.  I see teacher fear constantly.  Those who are afraid to speak because they can’t lose their job.  Fear can paralyze you when you least expect it.  It gnaws at you and turns conviction into uncertainty.  Truth into doubt.  But there are those who fight the fear and do something with it.

Do you want to know who doesn’t seem to have any fear?  Rita Landgraf.  The News Journal announced today she will take a job at the University of Delaware.  The soon-to-be former Delaware Secretary of Health will have big things to do at the University of Delaware.

She will join UD’s College of Health Sciences as a professor of practice and distinguished health and social services administrator in residence. She also will direct the UD Partnership for Healthy Communities, a cross-state and college initiative that looks to address healthcare challenges in the community.

Landgraf has been fighting for those who aren’t able to fight for themselves for a long time now and I’m glad to see she will continue that tradition.

Sometimes fear means rising up out of your comfort chair and doing the right thing.  Shelley Suckyj spoke out at a Christina Board of Education meeting on September 20th.  This one action drew major attention to the mold issues plaguing Christina schools right now.

Then there is Kathleen DeNight.  Last week, she received Autism Delaware’s Volunteer Of The Year.  As a parent of a child with Autism, I have seen DeNight at meetings.  She is not one to mince words and she will fight for her child.

Next is my wife.  On Saturday, she participated in a 5k walk.  In the pouring rain, she completed the whole thing and came in 11th place.  She has worked very hard in the past year to get to this point and I am very proud of her.

We can’t forget Jerry Fickes and Chris Leach, the two Wilmington firefighters who sacrificed their own lives to save others last month.

Another is one of my sources who I can’t name because then they wouldn’t be a source.  But sometimes sticking your own neck out in order to do good for others can be tough.  But this source does it consistently, and has been doing this for years.

There is this guy at work.  He says some of the most outlandish stuff I’ve ever heard in my life.  But he always does it with a smile.  He has absolutely no fear at all in this world and will say whatever is on his mind.

The Chicago Cubs may have a lot of fear going to the World Series, their first in 71 years.  But fear doesn’t get a team that far.  It is hard work and dedication.  I’ll be rooting for the Cubs.

Take Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook.  The two are running for the President and Vice-President of the Delaware State Education Association next year.  But they are starting their grass-roots campaign now and have committed to holding 15 meetings throughout the state in the coming months to meet with teachers and hear their concerns.  They have no fear whatsoever in speaking their mind for what they believe in.

Some take their fear from younger days and turn it into something good.  Such is the case with the Dover High School Peer Group Connections members.  These seniors help new freshmen transition to the high school.

I want to give a shout-out to some other bloggers out there in this country.  Especially two of them who continue to astonish me with the level of investigative prowess they exhibit.  They are heroes in my mind, and what these two blog about is very frightening stuff.

One of my favorite artists, a bloke by the name of Steve Dillon, passed away recently.  He was one of the co-creators, along with Garth Ennis, of Preacher.  Before that, they had a fantastic run on a comic called Hellblazer.  Dillon lived life by his own terms, and he wasn’t afraid to stand by what he believed.

Or what about Scott Goward.  A Dover resident running for Governor on a 3rd party ticket.  I’m sure he knows he will most likely lose, but he runs anyway, announcing his candidacy long before candidates from the “major” parties did so.

Fear conquering is all around us.  We see it every time a baby takes its first steps.  When a dying person is finally ready to let go.  When a student walks into a school for the first time.  When a couple finds out they are expecting.  People who struggle with addiction who take those tentative steps to ask for help.  When someone goes into surgery not knowing what the outcome might be.  When a parent attends a board meeting to give public comment about issues with their child.  When an African-American tells the world no more.  Or it could be a teenager who ignores a bully and walks right past them with their head held high.  Or another teenager who tells his mother, “I did it”, knowing that confession is better than the guilt.  Those who wake up in immense pain every single day but find the courage to get out of bed and face the day.  The opposite of fear is courage.  In big ways or small ways, courage is overcoming fear.

For those who have been along this journey from the very beginning, thank you for the road to 3,000.  For those who came along in-between, thank you for sticking around.  For those who just read occasional articles, that’s cool too.

Things are changing fast in education right now.  It will take great courage to speak your truth.  But it has to happen.

Kevin, 10/24/16

 

 

 

Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook Announce Run For DSEA President & VP

mikejackie

Delaware teachers Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook announced they will run as a team for President and Vice-President the Delaware State Education Association.  These leadership positions are currently held by Frederika Jenner and Karen Crouse.  Their terms end on July 17th, 2017.

Mike Matthews was the most recent past President of the Red Clay Education Association while Jackie Kook currently serves as the Vice-President of the Christina Education Association.  Both are widely known throughout Delaware as advocates against many of the destructive and disparaging policies coming out of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  The educators spoke in favor of better teacher evaluation in the DPAS-II system.  They both support a parent’s right to opt their child out of the state assessment and spoke in support of House Bill 50.  As members of their district unions, they both publicly denounced former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and called for him to step down, which was echoed by DSEA at their next representative assembly.  Both were highly involved in fighting for their teachers, students and districts during the troubling priority school fiasco initiated by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE.

Matthews and Kook have launched a Facebook page for their candidacy here.  DSEA members will be able to cast votes by paper or electronically between January 9th and January 23rd, 2017.  Please support Mike and Jackie.  I can’t imagine Delaware education without them.

 

 

The More Money For Delaware Charters Appears To Be Dead Thanks To Delaware Legislators

Mike Matthews, a teacher in the Red Clay Consolidated School District just updated his Facebook page with the following information:

UPDATE: I’ve heard from a very good source that since our swarm this morning, legislators have made this a priority and that they were livid this was even being considered. The Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, was communicated to multiple times today and told this was unacceptable — the reshuffling of District funds to go to charters. I am told that this plan is now dead and that Dr. Godowsky is backing down.

I’d love to see the mainstream media cover this from beginning to end. And even though this seems to be dead at this point, I think people deserve to see how our Department of Education continues to act under Gov. Jack Markell and his parade to privatize our schools.

Thank you first and foremost to Kevin Ohlandt for writing the article that got it all started. And thanks to all of you for sharing it hundreds of times on your walls and commenting up a firestorm. Legislators listened today and we got the action and outcome we desired.

Now, we have to CONTINUE to fight for a better school funding system that provides MORE for our neediest learners and gives them the opportunities they need to succeed!

No thanks are necessary.  I do something like this quite a bit.  But this was a really big deal that would have affect a lot of people.  This was the kind of article I hate to write.  Because it means it will seriously affect students.  I’m not saying Delaware education is perfect.  Far from it.  All our schools need help.  But this… this wasn’t fair and it wasn’t honest.  I’m glad our legislators did the right thing here and fought for the kids of Delaware.  This fight would have gotten really ugly.  But I will reserve victory until it is official.  I hate to blast on Godowsky so much, but he went back on his word about the opt out penalty last year.  One week he said he didn’t foresee a scenario where it would move forward and a week later, after he was confirmed by the Senate, he did a complete turnaround.  And we all know Jack Markell won’t take this sitting down.  But for now, this is great news.

State Board of Education ESSA Meeting: 60 Pictures & Flipping The Narrative

At Grotto’s Pizza in Dover, DE, the State Board of Education held a workshop on the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The Capitol Room at Grotto’s was jam-packed with administrators, teachers, advocates, Delaware DOE employees, State Board members, a Congressman, education company employees, and even a blogger or two.  Sadly, there were not that many parents there.  Yes, many of these people play that role as well as their other jobs, but for a meeting the Delaware DOE will say is a true “stakeholder” meeting, this key group was missing.  I recognized a lot of the faces, but there were some I didn’t.  Some I was able to put together based on conversations I overheard.  This was the State Board of Education Workshop on ESSA.  Notice some of the tables where certain people are sitting together.  Especially the one Secretary Godowsky was sitting at…

I did not take these 60 pictures.  They were taken by an employee of Secretary of Education Dr. Godowsky’s office and put on the Delaware DOE Facebook page this morning.  Which means they are part of a state agency which puts them in the public domain!  Thank you DOE Photographer!

ESSAMtg1

State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson at the microphone, Deputy Secretary of Education Karen Field-Rogers in the pink jacket with striped shirt in the back, Susan Haberstroh with the DOE with the mid-length brown hair and glasses, Governor Markell’s Education Policy Advisor Meghan Wallace with the ponytail and glasses, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky to the right near the screen. Continue reading “State Board of Education ESSA Meeting: 60 Pictures & Flipping The Narrative”

Delaware Teacher Mike Matthews Reply To Delaware “Education” Governor Jack Markell

Former Red Clay Education Association and current Red Clay teacher Mike Matthews replied to Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s controversial email to Delaware teachers with the words only a teacher can say.  If any other teachers or Delaware citizens want me to publish their reply to our “education” Governor, let me know!

Gov. Markell:

Thank you for the email, but I feel I can’t accept your praise. First, the growth you’re praising is about as much as a margin of error in any political poll, so I’ll take said growth with a grain of salt. Second, you continue prop up this Smarter Balanced Assessment and the standards they are evaluating while failing to admit that this test provides virtually no diagnostic or beneficial material to educators in any timely fashion.

I’m going to keep this email short and say that while I respect you as a person and I respect many of the progressive stances you’ve taken during your nearly eight years in office, I continue to be disturbed by your tone and agenda when it comes to education matters. I would have thought you’d lighten up in your final year after the debacle that was Priority Schools. After mounting evidence has revealed that judging schools, teachers, and students on test scores is statistically unreliable and morally bankrupt. After charter after charter around Delaware continues to fail and close. After overwhelming majorities in the House and Senate vote to uphold a parents’ right to opt their children out of toxic standardized tests that do little to help their progress in school or out. After educators across the State vote unanimously no confidence in your corporate education reform Secretary of Education, Mark Murphy.

What other messages need to be sent to you, Governor, that your business-minded approach to education is not the way to go when we are working with students of varying needs and abilities. Using your business-model approach to education, Governor, who will get left behind when we close all those “poor-performing” schools because of a silly test score? Will it be the student with severe emotional needs that breaks down at the sight of a computerized test? Will it be the student who came to school on test day in soiled clothes after having eaten nothing the weekend before? Will it be the student who witnessed his brother get shot on the streets of Wilmington the night before?

While the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission has done a great job approaching many of the education issues your administration ignored during the first seven years of your administration (remember: the people you put in charge at DoE explicitly believe that poverty is NEVER a barrier to success. One Penny Schwinn actually stated that violence in Wilmington is never a challenge to a student’s success in school), it’s too little too late for your education legacy.

I wish this could have been different. I wish my outsized support for you in 2008 had been a little more probing when it came to education issues. As it stands, I regret the unequivocal support I offered you then both personally and by way of my blog, which no doubt contributed much to your narrow primary victory.

That being said, I genuinely wish you the best once you leave office and I hope someday you’ll realize the damage your education policies caused in this state and that you’ll have a change of heart in the coming years. 

One suggestion: At the conclusion of your term, I’d ask you to please spend a week with Warner teacher Monique Taylor-Gibbs to see what’s it’s like working at one of those “failing” schools. Your opinions will change and I guarantee you’ll realize the damage your administration did to our schools with the neverending “test and punish” schemes hoisted upon them.

All the best,

Mike

Sent from my iPhone

House Bill 399 Senate Transcript Part 1: Sokola Gets His Pinocchio On

Senator David Sokola did not present the entire truth to the Delaware Senate last night when he gave his introductory remarks to House Bill 399 and introduced an amendment to the bill.  I immediately saw what he was doing and it worked because the amendment which completely changed the original bill overwhelmingly passed the Senate.  I find this legislative process, with no one able to rebut or correct Sokola’s statements a serious flaw in our law-making process.

His remarks concerned the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee, forged out of legislation last year.  The group met last fall and this winter to come up with new recommendations in the DPAS-II evaluation system for Delaware teachers.  The group had many recommendations, but the sticking point with the Delaware Department of Education was an administrator not having the final say for which assessment to use in the Component V of DPAS-II.  They didn’t feel as though teachers and an administrator should have an adult conversation and be able to mutually agree on this.  I wrote extensively about what happened during the last few sub-committee meetings and it completely contradicts the version Sokola gave his peers in the Delaware Senate.  As well, in reaction to comments given by ex-Delaware DOE employee Atnre Alleyne at the Senate Education Committee meeting on Wednesday, one of the chairs of the sub-committee gave her version of other events transpiring out of those meetings.  In return, Atnre had many things to say about House Bill 399 in the past week.  He was absolutely right on one point:

But if anyone is paying attention, this is the week when powerful interest groups take the unsuspecting masses to school. It is the last week of Delaware’s legislative session and while most are ruminating on 4th of July plans, pressure groups are seeing their bills breeze by on their way to becoming law.

What he fails to distinguish is how he himself represents several public interest groups which I have referred to numerous times as corporate education reform.  Stacked to the brim with flawed research and reports, they manipulate the masses into thinking teachers are bad and the unions will make sure they stay in schools no matter how bad they are.  I may have had issues with the Delaware State Education Association over opt out last winter (to which I admittedly overreacted), but I think most can agree that if a teacher is really bad, they most likely aren’t going to be around for too long.  Is there such a thing as a perfect teacher?  Probably not.  We are, after all, only human.  No one is perfect.  But I will stress, once again, that anything using a monstrosity like the Smarter Balanced Assessment as an indicator of a student or a teacher’s performance is the high point of insanity.  But Senator David Sokola doesn’t seem to care about that aspect, as indicated by the below remarks he gave the Delaware Senate last night:

Sokola: Thank you Madam President. I’m going to talk very briefly about House Bill 399 before going to the amendment.  It was, the process of the DPAS II Advisory Committee was to, uhm, set up, uh, in the past from House Joint Resolution #6.  And we had various stakeholders who, uhm, met quite a few times, as well as a sub-committee, uh, to this group to look at the evaluation of, uhm, teachers.  Uhm, that, uhm, process got a little discombobulated towards the end of the process, and uhm, there were a number of versions of a bill drafter over a period of a few weeks.  And I was not satisfied at, at that.  Various groups were continuing to meet, and discuss, to try to come to a consensus on the issues. So, uh, with that in mind I would like to ask that Senate Amendment #1 to House Bill #399 be read and brought to the Senate.

Senator Patti Blevins: Senate Amendment #1 is before the Senate. Senator Sokola…

Sokola: Thank you Madam President. This amendment actually does a few things.  The one that it does is it does give the administrator final say on components, the components of the teacher evaluation process.  Dr. Susan Bunting (Superintendent of Indian River School District and Chair of the DPAS-II Advisory Committee) had, uh, sent a letter to the education committee for the last meeting.  That was very important.  It turned out a number of the proponents in the bill as it was indicated that they thought, uhm, uh, that was the intent of the bill anyhow.  I made a suggestion that we make that very clear in the amendment.  This amendment does clarify that the administrator does maintain the final say or discretion to determine whether the state standardized assessment should be used as part of the educator’s evaluation.  It also clarifies proposed changes to DPAS-II evaluation system as recommended, uhm, intended to be piloted in three education institutions over a work period of two years.  It has an input, information and deletes section 7 of the bill in its entirety.  Are there, uhm, any questions?  I’ll attempt to answer them.  Otherwise I’d like to ask for a roll call on Senate Amendment 1.

Roll call on Senate Amendment #1: 18 yes, 2 no, 1 absent

Sokola makes it sound like the consensus issues were within the DPAS-II Advisory Sub-Committee.  They were not.  It was between the group’s recommendation and outside groups, like PACE, which was meeting with Alleyne and former Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit Chief Chris Ruszkowski in the weeks prior to their engagement with the committee.  To say Alleyne had a bias would be an understatement.  He and Ruszkowski were the two main guys at the DOE for the DPAS-II having Component V in it to begin with.

What Sokola never mentioned in his remarks and with little time for every Senator on the floor to read the full and lengthy amendment while discussion was also going on about the amendment, was a brand-new insertion into the legislation.  This insertion was to include student and parent surveys in the pilot program.  This drew the ire of teachers all across the state today if social media is any indication.  This idea came from Atnre Alleyne in his many comments and blog posts about this bill.  But Sokola took all the credit for it on Mike Matthews Facebook page today:

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To be continued in Part 2 dealing with a 2nd amendment, heartburn, and more!

 

Secretary Godowsky Walks Out Of Back Door To Governor’s Offices At Leg. Hall As Native Americans Wait To Meet The Governor

The Senate Education Committee just ended their 2:30 meeting about half an hour ago.  House Bill 399 was discussed with many proponents and a few opponents.  The opponents were Secretary Godowsky, Donna Johnson, and Atnre Alleyne (former DOE employee who has become very active in trying to stop meaningful teacher evaluation reform).  Senator David Sokola expressed more than once his feelings of “heartburn” with the bill.  I recorded the whole thing.  Excellent comments were provided by Mike Matthews, Kristen Dwyer with DSEA, Jackie Kook, a teacher from Caesar Rodney (I will have to get his name later), and others.  Hopefully the other members of the Senate Education Committee will see through the obvious smoke and mirrors.  But a few thoughts here.  Godowsky and Johnson were not this vocal during the House Education Committee.  Judging by the fact Godowsky just left from meeting with Governor Markell’s office in conjunction with Godowsky’s adamant opposition of the bill, I think we can all safely assume who is calling the shots here.

As the lead Senate Sponsor, I felt Senator Bryan Townsend could have supported the bill more than he did.  I have found he tends to play to both sides on education issues.  During his second “round” so to speak on the bill, he did defend Delaware teachers and appeared to be more on their side.  As usual, Sokola played it up for the audience.  At one point he made a comment about how there is good news in education and something to the effect of not being able to see that on the blogs.  So I made a point in my public comment, as well as supporting the bill, to point out the DOE can get the “good” news out and I’ll do my thing.  Perhaps he didn’t like that but I truly don’t care.  He can stare daggers into me until the general election if he wants.

I don’t know if it will be released from the committee.  I hope it will.  New York is already getting out of the kind of teacher evaluations Delaware’s DPAS-II is similar to.  In regards to my comment about the Native Americans waiting to meet the Governor, Governor Markell literally just walked past me and we greeted each other.  I am assuming the Governor was out of the building.  I don’t see the Native Americans now, but the Delaware House did pass House Concurrent Resolution #97 recognizing November, 2016 as “Native American Heritage Month” in Delaware.  Yes, it is going to be one of those days!  Or possibly one of those lifetimes!

Why Did Mike Matthews Bill The General Assembly For Almost $250,000?

Earlier this week, Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews sent the Delaware General Assembly an invoice for $235,000.  What was the reason for this?  You didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?  I am putting in the read more tag so you can, you know, read more!  There is a very good reason why he billed our legislators. Continue reading “Why Did Mike Matthews Bill The General Assembly For Almost $250,000?”

Mike Matthews & Frederika Jenner Get The Spotlight In Vision Coalition Video

Mike Matthews, the President of the Red Clay Education Association, and Frederika Jenner, the President of the Delaware State Education Association, were both featured prominently in a video of the Vision Coalition’s recent coffee meeting. Watch the video below!