I was wondering why Delaware Governor John Carney’s office resent the same media advisory today that they sent on Friday. I figured there had to be some change to the big shindig tomorrow at Legislative Hall. And there it was, staring at me like a full moon on a summer night, one addition to the number of attendees: Continue reading
The Red Clay Board of Education meeting the other night was one for the record books! The highlight of the meeting was the Charter School of Wilmington renewal discussion. Dr. Sam Paoli, the President of CSW, got drilled and grilled with a ton of questions about CSW’s demographics and recruitment efforts.
The absolute best part of the conversation was when Jose Matthews, the husband of Mike Matthews, the former President of the Delaware State Education Association, told Paoli the following: Continue reading
On Facebook tonight, former Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews talked about his resignation from DSEA in light of the “uncovering” of blog posts he made a decade ago. Matthews talks about who was behind it. Continue reading
It is the return of The Bygone Blogger! This blogger of old has some more stuff to say about the controversy surrounding Mike Matthews and his DSEA resignation based on old blog posts Mike wrote. In which we learn, once again, things are NOT always what they seem on the surface and some of the pitchfork throwers aren’t exactly innocent! Take it away (again) Bygone Blogger! Continue reading
I warned them. Many times. Sit at the table and you will be on the table. The Delaware State Education Association was swallowed whole. By who? Continue reading
I am more convinced than ever that there are people in Delaware who are hell-bent on demolishing the Delaware State Education Association. The resignation of Mike Matthews over old blog posts was just the opening salvo. This is an all-out war on the teachers union in Delaware.
Yesterday, I received a letter in the mail. The envelope was hand-written and the actual letter was typed. The bottom part of the page was cut off. There was no return address, just a Wilmington postmark. I do not know who sent it but it feels and smells like a campaign to go after DSEA. This is what the letter said: Continue reading
This guest post is brought to you by the handle of The Bygone Blogger. This blogger was one of those around back in the halcyon days of Delaware blogging- the time when the Iraq War commanded the headlines, America saw its first African-American President, and the Recession put America in severe dire straits. In Delaware, it was the days of Governor Ruth Minner and the “I still have some hair” Jack Markell. The Bygone Blogger covers the Mike Matthews situation and in the middle of it found some fairly recent material written by another Delaware blogger running for office! We learn very fast that context matters! This is something Atnre Alleyne, despite his vast amount of education, can’t seem to grasp. Take it away Bygone Blogger! Continue reading
Alleynegate continues! Hours after it was discovered DelawareCAN’s Atnre Alleyne decided to spam Delaware teachers with his “I hate Mike Matthews” blog post, many are wondering how the not so illustrious corporate education reformer got ahold of so many teacher’s personal emails. In a response to one teacher, Alleyne responded by saying this: Continue reading
Atnre Alleyne, the Executive Director of DelawareCAN, sent out an email blast to Delaware educators today. The email was unsolicited and left Delaware teachers wondering how Alleyne even got their email address in the first place. This pattern of abuse on Alleyne’s part ends a week filled with his mischief. Continue reading
I’ve seen Delaware divided over issues in my day but the social media comments about Mike Matthews old blog posts and his resignation from DSEA last night have lit Delaware up. Today, Matthews turned off his radio silence and gave, what I felt, was a very mature statement about his resignation and his old blog, Down With Absolutes.
Throughout my time as an educator, local union leader, and state union leader, I’ve prided myself on my attempts to be honest, transparent, and open when confronted with any issue. I like to think that no matter how difficult the topic, at times we need to set aside issues, sit down, and have the conversations that can help move any debate forward.
Now is one of those times where I need to be completely open, honest, and transparent with you, my Facebook friends.
Two days ago, I was contacted by a reporter who shared with me he had come into possession of some old posts from my blogging days. He shared with me that some individuals have concerns with the content, tone, and language used in the posts and he wanted for me to provide a comment on whether my words from 10-12 years ago match my representation of the organization I now lead, DSEA.
First, I will say that my conversation with the reporter was cordial. I’ve had a relationship with him over the last few years and he handled the interview with care and with the utmost respect. It is not a phone call that I expected to receive, considering I’ve been very open with my past in multiple venues since I became a teacher in 2009 after shutting the blog down several months before I started my job.
Second, as I shared with the reporter, I take full ownership of the comments I made on my blog from the period of about 2004-2009. I will not deflect. I will not blame. I will not obfuscate. I own the outlandish, insensitive, at times offensive, and inappropriate posts that I wrote mostly on topics of Delaware politics. I cannot recall every one of the thousands of posts that I authored in those five years…and it wouldn’t matter if I could. Because I wrote them. And I must own them. For any hurt, pain, or grief I caused individuals because of my words, I can only offer a full-throated, genuine apology without exception or qualification and hope that the work I’ve done since entering education and my role as a union leader can, in some minor way, redeem the words that are in no way a reflection of where I am today.
We are in very challenging times right now…a time where individuals are being scrutinized for actions they’ve taken in the past and how those actions should be weighed on their present and future. While I own and take responsibility for the words I published nearly a decade ago, I do not condone them nor are they words that would ever slip from my brain to my hands to the keyboard ever again. It is no defense to say that I was a rambunctious, wily twentysomething attempting to find his way in the world who had suddenly found an audience willing to receive the often thoughtless words I posted on the Internet.
Nearly a decade ago, I entered a fifth-grade classroom in Red Clay. Nothing excited me more than showing up to work every day to help guide the young minds of the students who entered room 210. Soon after I started teaching, I found that I still had a lot to say. I found that my role as classroom teacher had to extend beyond my classroom walls if the stories of my students and fellow educators were ever to be heard. I began to find ways to use my voice in a more measured way and soon began to engage elected officials in a more productive manner. I found a vehicle in both my local and state union as a way to communicate thoughts and feelings of myself and my fellow educators. Even in those years where I used my voice in a more productive manner, I acknowledged the blog and its contents and at no time have I attempted to hide my past or stray from the scrutiny that it has brought.
So where am I right now? As someone who has always believed that he should take responsibility for his actions, I stand ready to accept any responsibility or consequence that comes as a result of my words. Within hours of the article appearing online, I submitted my resignation to the Executive Board of DSEA; I will not allow my past transgressions to define the finest organization in Delaware advocating for Delaware’s educators and students. As I learned when I took office July 16, 2017, DSEA is a bigger organization than one man. And, regardless of my actions, I will honor this organization by doing what I feel and what I know is in its best interests.
In rendering a final judgment on who I am, I would hope that you, my Facebook friends, as well as the members of our organization, DSEA, would be willing to measure my work over the past five or six years and whether or not that should have some bearing considering the words I published long ago. Neither am I absolving myself of my actions nor am I seeking absolution from you, my friends. I am asking only that consideration be given to my record as a whole when you eventually read about the past that has come back. As I shared with the Executive Board on a conference call Tuesday night, I consider what I did with my blog as running up a large credit card tab. And now the bill has come due. And I am willing to accept any consequences that come with that.
To anyone in the past who has been harmed or offended by my words, please know it was never my intention to do so. Intentions don’t matter, though, when the actions and hurt are so explicitly clear. To those individuals, I can offer nothing more than a sincere apology and the promise that my personal and professional growth over the last few years is reflective of who I truly am today.
Thank you, everyone, for your support over the years. Thank you to DSEA and NEA for your counsel during this time and for the continued strength your organizations show on supporting students and educators. Good luck to my friend Stephanie Ingram, who is going to make an AMAZING DSEA president. I hope our members will show her the love that you’ve showered on me over the last year. Thank you to the dozens of DSEA members who’ve reached out in the last 24 hours with messages of support. Thank you to those who’ve reached out with thoughtfully constructive messages urging me to take ownership and make this a teachable moment. Thank you, most importantly, to my family, friends, and my husband Jose for helping me realize that this is now a period for growth and reflection. I intend to do just that.
Thank you, all.
Following an article by WHYY earlier today, Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews tendered his resignation tonight. Vice-President Stephanie Ingram will take over as President until the end of the three-year term in 2020.
DSEA sent the following email to its members this evening:
Dear DSEA members,
The educators who lead the Delaware State Education Association (DSEA) take seriously our responsibility to our members, their students and our community. The Delaware State Education Association’s Executive Board convened an meeting this evening to discuss the blog posts written by Mike Matthews from 2006-2009 . Regardless of the fact that these posts were created prior to Mr. Matthews becoming an educator and member of DSEA, they were completely inappropriate and contrary to the views or values of the educators who make up the DSEA.
Therefore, Mr. Matthews has resigned as President of DSEA. We thank him for his service to DSEA and its membership.
Per DSEA’s bylaws, as Vice President, I will now assume the position of President of DSEA for the remainder of the term, ending in July, 2020.
DSEA represents more than 12,000 classroom teachers, specialists, and education support professionals working in Delaware’s public schools. As educators we are dedicated to providing the best educational opportunities possible to all Delaware public school students.
Our members provide a wide range of services to the students and the communities they live in. They teach students in classrooms from early learning centers through high school. They counsel adolescents and help them build career aspirations. They deliver instructional assistance in every type of subject, prepare and serve nutritionally-balanced meals, provide needed transportation and ensure our schools and facilities are clean and safe. They supply the professional services which help our schools run efficiently.
Since 1919, the members of DSEA have dedicated their lives to supporting children and public education and we will never falter in that mission. I am committed to helping DSEA to continue moving forward, building on the important partnerships with parents, community leaders, and elected officials, and maintaining our focus on the goal of providing all Delaware children with a quality education.
If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email me at Stephanie.Ingram@dsea.org or call me at 302-734-5834.
Today, WHYY came out with a story about a former Delaware blogger named Mike Matthews. This same Mike Matthews happens to be the President of the Delaware State Education Association. It is no secret Mike wrote a blog back in 2004 to 2009 and it was nothing short of controversial. He wasn’t the only one. In all honesty, the first Delaware blog I read was Kilroy’s Delaware in 2013.
I met Mike Matthews at a State Board of Education meeting back in 2014. At this time, I believe Mike was the President of the Red Clay Education Association. He was cutting decorations for his classroom at Warner School. I met him again at a 22nd State Rep debate a few weeks later. And then Governor Markell announced the Priority School debacle in Red Clay and Christina and public education exploded in a day.
As a result of that, along with many other education matters, Mike and I became friends. We didn’t always agree but I knew his heart was in the right place. I read bits and pieces about what Mike wrote about in Down With Absolutes. Little pieces scattered around the internet. What I read in the WHYY article today was new to me. It was beyond inappropriate but shock blogging was the thing back then. Heck, if you look at many tv shows and movies around that time and even before then, they could never be made today.
Frankly, it shocked me it took nine years for this to come up. The fact that it came out now speaks more to those who wanted to bring Mike down. Let’s see- election season combined with someone who claims to be in it for the kids but runs the Delaware chapter of an organization that HATES public education? That math isn’t hard to add up. Especially since the former was quoted in the WHYY article.
I’m not condoning what Mike wrote. Mike certainly isn’t. He regrets it, no doubt. He isn’t hiding from it. The Mike from Down With Absolutes certainly isn’t the Mike I met in 2014. Far from it. I would have never dreamed Mike was capable of typing certain things like he did back then. I believe Mike when he says he was outrageous with what he wrote. Doesn’t make it right, but that’s how blogs were back then. And people didn’t care like they do now. It was a different time. I have been outrageous in my own way on this very blog at times. I once wrote a satirical article about Mark Murphy dressing up like a cross-dressing Kate Winslet. It was all in fun. That was in 2014. I wouldn’t dare write that today.
But this instant crucifixion fixation for the mistakes of the past is getting tiresome on Facebook. Even on my own Facebook post some folks commented with their pitchforks out who have said some pretty outrageous things on social media.
Since I wasn’t around in the “Golden Age” of Delaware blogging, I am copying what former blogger Steve Newton wrote on Facebook about the whole thing.
So let’s think about Mike Matthews for a few minutes. Not only is he my friend, I can say that I am one of the people currently around who knew him well “way back when” his blog “Down with Absolutes” was among the first half-dozen edgy political blogs in Delaware.
In publishing DWA Mike said things that nobody today would ever think about saying and expect to keep a job or a public position of trust, let alone leadership. As a 22-year-old radical literally blogging from his basement he was the enfant terrible of the blogging world.
I know better than almost anybody else (with the possible exceptions of the entire Delaware Liberal crew, Dave Huber, Dana Garrett, Dave Burris, Kilroy’s Slower Delaware, David Anderson, Nancy Willing, and the anonymous kavips) about what he published. I read it, laughed at some of it, winced at other parts, argued with segments, and even agreed with him at least in substance.
Blogging back then would have curled your hair today.
Flame wars filled with profanity and just plain disturbing images reigned supreme. Anybody remember the time Delaware Liberal gleefully published a picture of a Hillary Clinton nutcracker in 2008? I do. Anybody remember the blogger who called for all of his political opponents to be stood up against a wall and shot for treason? I do. Anybody remember the ones who ran obituaries for prominent people with tag lines like “I’m glad he’s dead,” or the prominent Delaware blogger who said all Catholics who didn’t leave the church had just admitted they were child abusers? I do.
(And a reasonably well-crafted Google search could find all of that–except that I didn’t give anybody but an old-timer quite enough information to do it.)
I’m not defending those times, I am remembering them. I ran a blog (with several partners on and off) in which the all-time most highly viewed posts were on Thai “ladyboys” and the civil liberties of the Missouri Militia. (I didn’t write the first one, which has to date 230,000 hits, but I did write the second one that actually ended up anthologized in a series of college Political Science readers.)
And then, one day, Mike decided to walk away from it.
He wanted to grow up and get a job. He wanted to teach kids, not just any kids, but special needs kids. He wanted to get out of the basement, lose a ton of weight, and get into the game of actually doing something positive for society instead of … whatever happens to people who blog too long.
His past was no secret. Red Clay was fully well aware of it when he got hired, and it is not especially confidential to say that a lot of people in power did not want Mike hired (his online faux-love-affair-from-afar with Christine O’Donell didn’t help), but his passion and his skills convinced them to give him a chance. That probably wouldn’t have happened today.
(Side note: Mike took down his blog not because it might harm the future of the political career he’d never thought of having by that point, but because it wasn’t something he ever wanted his students to stumble across. He was in deadly earnest from Day Zero that if he was going to teach kids, he had to become a role model for them. So he set about, systematically, becoming that person.)
Even Mike’s political enemies will have to admit he’s one helluva teacher. There are dozens if not hundreds of kids out there today (I know some of them personally) who are out there today in jobs (or went to college) who would never have made it to–let alone through–high school without having been in his class. Mike won’t tell you about them, even if that costs him everything, because it’s their lives and their privacy, and he wouldn’t compromise that to save himself from a lynching.
Down with Absolutes was never a secret as his career, first as a union grievance officer, then as RSEA President, took off. Anybody who was around back then who tells you they didn’t know about it is, frankly, either lying or at least suspiciously amnesiac. Having DWA in his past was, in fact, one of the reasons that he did not rise to prominence faster.
At every step of the way he had to prove himself, at each point he had to live down his irreverently misspent youth.
By the way, in case you doubt me, the bloggers who were trading insults with Mike back then today include senior Democratic and Republican Party officials; elected legislators and city council members (Dem and GOP) from around the State; and prominent attorneys.
At least two current bloggers who go back that far who seem to have mysteriously forgotten that they were not only there at the time, but that they participated avidly in the mudslinging of questionable taste. Both of them know exactly who I am talking about–I won’t “out” them because bloggers from that era never did that.
And he did. I am on record as not agreeing with a lot of Mike’s politics, but then I am the original iconoclast. But I cannot fault Mike for the courage of his convictions; his work ethic; his genuine concern for the welfare of everybody’s children; his push for good government; his outright advocacy of LGBTQ issues long before it was cool.
He has knocked on doors and carried signs. He has attended meetings and fundraisers, and gotten out his own checkbook time and again. He and his husband have dedicated their joint life to the causes they believe in.
Nope, he ain’t perfect. DWA aside, Mike can be pompous, overbearing, and self-righteous (sorry, guy, but we both know it’s true) and that makes him the kind of person that people want to go after.
They’ve tried it before.
Delaware’s right-wing social media attempted to crucify Mike as an enabler of child molesters (if not worse) over his stand for transgender rights for students.
One Delaware blogger (who’s at the movies) allowed himself to become the unwitting tool of a national right-wing smear campaign against unions to take some of Mike’s correspondence out of context.
There are certainly members of DSEA who resent the fact that he will not check his progressive credentials at the door, and continues to criticize President Trump, march for a $15 minimum wage, and stand up for LGBTQ rights.
He’s withstood that, and–as a person–he will withstand this, even if it costs him the DSEA presidency. Because you can’t really defeat a man like Mike Matthews, you can only kill him.
I will not stooge for forgiveness of his writings back then–I don’t think he wants that, and I think that to do so would disrespect both the young man he was, and the man he has become. He wrote some pretty horrific shit by today’s standards, and if you want to go back through all the blogs from the 2007-2010 period (that are mostly still actively archived) you can still find a lot of that, and a lot of responses in kind from many of our current political leaders.
(Is that the sound of scrubbing archives I hear? I truly hope not. I thought better of all of you.)
The difference between Mike Matthews and, say, a judge who now sits on the highest bench in the land, is that Mike has never lied about his youthful errors, and has lived a life that makes clear his atonement and growth.
So take your best shot at the man.
If you miss, you’ll probably hit me, because I will be standing beside him. I hope–and expect, damnit–to find a lot of other people who were part of that raucous conversation also willing to get into the line of fire.
Don’t make me have to go all Around-the-Horn on your asses to get you into the fight.
As I wrote on my own Facebook account earlier (before I went to the movies with my son), Mike is a friend first. And friends are there for each other when the chips are down. I remember a few nights where I needed a friend and Mike and others were there. They might not have been aware that I needed friends those nights, but they were there nonetheless. So Mike, if you need anything, I’m only a phone call away! Like Steve Newton said, if you take that best shot at Mike and miss him and Steve Newton as well, you might hit me cause I’ll be standing next to Mike as well.
For some of you throwing their dull darts at Mike, I would first look in the mirror and see what you have said on social media. I have some screenshots of some of it buried somewhere. Bottom line- what you write has a damn good shot of being saved somewhere by someone. It is very easy for someone to judge others but it is much harder to be accountable for your own actions. Mike Matthews did that today. But even in the midst of all this, I see many Democrats and Republicans alike sticking up for Mike. Even some of those who vehemently disagreed with Mike over the years. I respect the hell out of that!
For the kids in school these days- be careful! Always keep your eye on the future and don’t write words that may one day come back to haunt you.
It isn’t just Christina School District. The entire state of Delaware is facing a teacher shortage with schools starting as soon as tomorrow in some districts. Based on visits to school districts, DSEA President Mike Matthews said Delaware is short anywhere from 150 to 200 teachers. Continue reading
A month ago, I posted some articles about a far right-wing group called Project Veritas. I didn’t know much about them but their videos intrigued me. I gave the Delaware State Education Association a hard time and that may not have been very fair on my part. Today, when I read an article by Cris Barrish with WHYY, DSEA President Mike Matthews impressed me a lot! The article was about Senate Bill 234, which passed the Senate yesterday and will be heard in the House Education Committee in the next few weeks, if not sooner.
Mike Matthews, president of the Delaware State Education Association that represents teachers and other school employees, said crimes and violations like those cited in this article spurred his union’s lawyer to work with state education officials, attorneys and others to craft the legislation.
I remember talking to Mike about some of these horrific crimes that were making the media such as Karen Brooks in Smyrna. He was as disgusted as I was. A few years ago, Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf came out with a similar bill but this one was much better. I firmly believe DSEA’s role in the writing of Senate Bill #234 made it a much stronger bill.
Matthews said the DSEA “strongly supports” the bill because it could prevent the ability of child abusers to “bounce around’’ to different school districts with their teaching license intact while a serious allegation goes through a copious investigative process at the district level. The bill would also provide extensive due process to protect teachers who are unfairly accused by students, parents or other faculty, he said.
Amen Mike! We don’t want ANY teacher or educator milking the system when they are abusing kids. My take on teachers like this? They shouldn’t be anywhere near children or teenagers. But at the same time, we don’t want to necessarily punish the innocent. Unfortunately, there have been situations where teachers have been victim to false claims.
“It clarifies the process that I think maybe has been muddied for some time,” Matthews said. “It kind of separates this idea that the employer, the district and board, has to take action before [the state can take action] to revoke or suspend an educator’s license when there are allegations of a serious crime.”
My take on this? Most districts or charters don’t necessarily want the publicity when things go down. If there is an arrest, they can’t help it. What happens when an investigation is a stall tactic? Forcing the state to take action tells the district or charter- “we know this is going on and we will take action when you won’t!”
“The bill takes necessary steps to remove those educators if there is clear fear of harm coming or having come to a child. I like to believe that like any other profession we are always going to have those who do not represent our profession well and need to be exited when it comes to these allegations and potential crimes.”
A fast exit!
What I didn’t foresee with this bill was how it could affect special education. Barrish wrote about this aspect of the legislation when discussing the “letters of concern” portion of it.
The bill also has a provision that could apply when the state determines that no violation has occurred which warrants disciplinary action, but that “an act or omission” by the teacher is a “matter of concern.” Such a concern could be that the teacher creates inadequate Individualized Education Programs for students who are identified as in need of special education services.
I have very mixed thoughts on this. A teacher could write a draft IEP before the IEP team convenes to discuss it. Putting the onus on a teacher for what could be team decisions is very dangerous. Yes, the teacher is the one that writes the draft, but the team decides what is final. Any IEP team should include an administrator (usually the Principal or an Associate Principal), the school psychologist, the school special education coordinator (also called an Educational Diagnostician), the school nurse (unless the parent says it is okay for them not to attend), a special education teacher, and a primary teacher. And of course the parent or parents. When students reach 8th grade, they typically attend the IEP meetings as well. Is one teacher out of a whole IEP team the only one that should get a “letter of concern” if the school winds up getting sued for not following an IEP? Or writing a bad one? This could open a huge can of worms. I have always told parents, do not sign an IEP unless you are satisfied with it. There is nothing preventing you from doing so. And if you find the IEP isn’t working, you can always request another IEP meeting to revise it.
Now when it comes to teachers not following very specific parts of an IEP, such as not having the student do every other math problem as an example, that is a different matter. If a teacher willfully doesn’t follow what is written in an IEP, I can’t defend that. I may need to see more on this part. The big question would be what happens if a parent sues a charter or district over special education matters. Would those “letters of concern” become discoverable evidence? Would the district or charter put themselves in a position of legal vulnerability? Or would the special education law firm have to subpoena the Delaware DOE to get those letters?
I’m going to take this time and publicly apologize to Mike Matthews for my Project Veritas articles. A DSEA email was provided to me the same day I saw Veritas’ videos. I published it without reaching out to Mike for more information. I regret that. While the email didn’t condone the actions of the subject of a Veritas video it didn’t defend it either. It was simply an internal email warning of potential Veritas spies hoping to entrap teacher union members. I was harsh on DSEA and I acknowledge that. Legislation doesn’t happen overnight and I will assume DSEA was working with the Delaware DOE on what became Senate Bill #234 long before the Veritas videos came out in May. I had no idea Veritas was going to jump on my article and put Mike in the spotlight the way they did. I remember seeing that video and gasping. Yes, I published it, but the more I found out about Veritas the more something didn’t seem quite right.
I look forward to Senate Bill #234 becoming the law of the land in Delaware! And I would hope James O’Keefe who seems to have made it a crusade to go after teacher unions can provide “fair and balanced” coverage to show the good things they are doing. But knowing O’Keefe, he would probably take the credit for it himself. That seems to be how he rolls! He can say what he will about some rogue union leaders out there, but here in Delaware, our union looks out for students as well as teachers!
A few days ago, I published an article about a Project Veritas sting with a New Jersey Education Association local leader. Part of my article was an email sent to local Delaware presidents about how to deal with potential sting operations. That email did not include a public whipping of the NJ local president and I called them out for it.
Today, Project Veritas picked up on my post on their own website. First and foremost, I am not a former teacher as Veritas suggested in the video their leader put up today. At one point, I was a paraprofessional for a few months and I substituted for a couple of years. Yes, I was very disgusted by the Veritas video and the email from DSEA which had another email from NEA as part of it. With that being said, I want to point out a few things about Mike Matthews, the President of DSEA.
Mike is a good guy. He truly wants the best for Delaware students. He went from a shock blogger to teaching to becoming involved in his local union. After he was President of the Red Clay EA he was elected to DSEA President last year. I am friends with Mike. From the moment he told me he was going to run for DSEA President he was very clear that he knew at times I would write about DSEA and himself. I also know Mike would be the very first to say “this guy in NJ acted horrible and he should have been fired”. That’s just who he is.
I don’t tend to give a heads up to folks who are the subjects of my posts. Maybe I should, but I don’t. The reasons for that are two-fold. First, they may tell me NOT to do so. Or worse, they may try to sugarcoat the purpose of the article and attempt to water it down or whitewash it. This blog has always been about getting information out. And yes, that comes with my opinions more often than not. It is up to the reader to agree or disagree with those opinions. Either way, I will keep blogging truth in education even if it is ugly at times. With that being said, if information comes out after an article that may explain things, I will post that as well. There are gray areas in situations and I recognize that. Or I may have information but it isn’t the entire picture. Folks are always welcome to come to me before I post stuff and give me a heads up. Chances are pretty good I have some basic knowledge of a situation already so some proactive work on their end is a good thing.
I do not think the teacher unions are bad. I believe they serve a necessary purpose for teachers. We have all seen in Delaware what can happen when teachers are not unionized. Charter school teachers have zero protection when it comes to terminations. I have suggested many times charter school teachers should unionize. The majority of their membership are just ordinary teachers, doing their jobs.
Where I take issue with the teacher unions are the public persona they give off. And that usually comes from leadership. All day on Friday I was blasted on Facebook threads about how unreliable Project Veritas can be in their investigations. But I do not believe this video of the NJ union leader was doctored. Could Veritas have cut out some stuff? I have no idea. But the guy said what he said, multiple times. Unless Veritas paid him to torpedo his career and face the possibility of investigations from his district, I would say the guy was telling the (horrible) truth.
I made no secret a few years ago about my frustration with DSEA over the opt out bill in Delaware, House Bill 50. I wanted them to support it the same way so many of our Delaware teachers did. They could have had a huge influence with our General Assembly overriding Governor Markell’s veto but they sat on the fence. As well, when Democrat Senator Sokola and Democrat State Rep. Jaques introduced the testing inventory resolution, DSEA backed it publicly to the hilt. Even though I told them it was a smokescreen and it was an anti-opt out measure. In time, I was proven right as the Assessment Inventory Committee was so much smoke and mirrors and absolutely nothing came of it aside from a fancy report with information everyone already knew. When the same Senator Sokola was up for re-election in 2016, DSEA endorsed him through their PAC and I called them out for it. This was the same Senator who killed a teacher evaluation bill with horrible amendments and did an extreme disservice to public education teachers in Delaware. The reason for endorsing him? They didn’t want the Delaware Senate to flip to Republican and have Delaware become a Right To Work state. Even though there was zero danger of that because the Democrat Governor and the Democrat House had no danger of losing their power. Sokola wound up winning that election by a couple of percentage points.
I have publicly saluted DSEA many times. Their support of the diploma bill this year amazed me. I know they have been pushing for funding for basic special education students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade as long as I have. They are always present at Legislative Hall and lobbying for common sense education legislation. I could write a lot about the good DSEA does for our schools, students, and teachers. But that means I also have to write about the bad.
I wish DSEA and the NEA, instead of worrying about infiltrations, recognized the legitimacy of the Veritas investigation and publicly slammed the NJ leader. We can argue all day long about Veritas but the facts are real: this guy would have done anything to protect a teacher. And I don’t believe that is one teacher union leader operating in a silo. Instead of trying to play duck and cover, the teacher unions should be rooting out people like Perry and doing thorough investigations into these practices. When ANY student is subject to abuse of any sort by an adult, it is incumbent upon those who know to expose it. I believe NEA, DSEA, and Mike Matthews know this. But yes, that email did want to make me vomit. I do recognize it was an internal email meant for local Delaware education association leaders and as such, an omission of what the NJ guy did was not the purpose of the email.
Mike was one of the first I met on this blogging journey four years ago. We share many of the same ideologies and thoughts on corporate education reform policy. But he is also the leader of the Delaware State Education Association. Which puts him in a position where, given what I write about, that organization gets on my radar. I still believe Mike Matthews is the best President for DSEA right now. I just want to see more of the spitfire Mike we used to see. When I say spitfire, I don’t mean the anti-Trump stuff but the railing against horrible education policy. That was what elevated him to where he is now. When everything becomes anti-Trump, it becomes complicated. Because many of the horrible education policies our country faces were created by President Obama and Arne Duncan, both Democrats. The party doesn’t matter. It is the corporate machine that keeps those wheels greased. Throwing grenades at Trump does NOTHING to change the very dangerous course public education is on. We need the teacher unions standing up to bad policy. They are silent on the overwhelming amount of digital technology in our classrooms. Student privacy is going the way of the dinosaur and we all know it. Where is DSEA and the NEA on that? The problem is when NEA leadership creates NEA foundations that support the work of Bill Gates and the corporate education reformers in privatizing public education. They are helping to buy the rope that is putting their own organization in a noose.
Someone once told me the teacher unions are about the teachers first. Everything else is secondary. And I get that. But because teachers are a part of education, which is primarily about educating students, the students should be just as important to the teacher unions as the teachers. If that were the case, we would NEVER hear about any situation where a teacher who commits a wrong gets to keep their job. Until they do that, teacher unions are signing their own death warrant. It is not indicative of all teacher unions, but it is a very ugly truth and instead of hiding from it, NEA and AFT need to root out the evils within their associations.
**UPDATED, 1:15pm: I do not have “access” to either DSEA or NEA emails. This email came to me. I have absolutely no ability to get into any DSEA or NEA servers nor would I want to.
Project Veritas released a video on May 2nd about a teacher union president that clearly shows him admitting the union will lie and manipulate to protect a teacher in a student abuse situation. The responses from the union president are shocking. Even more shocking are the responses from the Delaware State Education Association and the National Education Association to help members deal with this video. I am putting the video up which you can see below. Continue reading
Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education voted to forgive one snow day this year. For Delaware public school teachers, they are required to work 188 days a year. With the forgiveness of one day, that number comes down to 187. But many schools had at least five snow days or more this year due to the winter storms. Even though two of those snow days were State of Emergency issued by Governor John Carney, Secretary Bunting only put forth one forgiveness day to the State Board.
As a result, teachers could have extra days after the school year. There are other ways teachers could make up that time according to DSEA President Mike Matthews:
How snow buyback works is if a district needs to make up 21 hours (or three days) then the District can choose how that’s done (usually in consult with their local union and School board). Maybe they will add one day to the teacher year and have the staff make up 14 hours of APPROVED outside-the-regular-school day activities like staying after to volunteer at a family literacy night or maybe they will count that IEP meeting that happened before or after school as make up time. The state requires that every employee keep a log of their time to show they worked to make up those days lost.
Depending on contracts, some teachers could use personal hours to make up for that lost time according to Matthews.
For Delaware public school students, most districts and charters exceed the 1,060 hours students must attend school for each year. Some have already canceled a day off meant for professional development for teachers to make up for that lost time. So it is not anticipated that students will have their school year extended.
This past weekend, the Delaware State Education Association held their annual Representative Assembly. President Mike Matthews gave the following speech to the DSEA delegates on Saturday, March 17th. While I’ve been writing a ton about administrators and their salaries, it is important to recognize the issues many of our teachers are facing. I felt Matthews did a good job highlighting those things and painted a clear picture of a huge danger coming to the teacher unions across our country.
My speech to the delegates of the 2018 Representative Assembly.
Time. As I travel up and down the state to talk with our members, I’m reminded of what is most valuable to them. Time. Planning time. Time with friends and family. Time to meet the needs of all students. Time to grade papers. Time to relax. Time to watch a movie. Time to exercise. Time. Time. Time.
And as we sit here today at our annual Representative Assembly, I know that the time you all have taken to do the business of our Association is valuable time. And, to that end, I’d like you to know that it’s my goal to respect your time and keep it short because, as a half-Irishman myself, this is indeed a day to celebrate. So, to those who do, I offer you a hearty Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaoibh!: Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
I want to say thank you for spending your time today with some of our Association’s most active union members. Since I started in this new role eight months ago, I’ve been bowled over by the support from our wonderful staff here at DSEA as well as the 13,000 members we represent. And time seems to be an issue for everyone. In my 50+ school visits since the beginning of the school year, time is all I hear about.
From the AP Language and Composition teacher at Mt. Pleasant High School who’s always looking for more time to share great works of literature with her students to the special education teacher from West Seaford Elementary who’d like more time to complete her required IEP paperwork. From the paraprofessional at Love Creek Elementary who wants her students to have more one-on-one time and resources to the music teacher at Elbert-Palmer who wishes his students could have more time playing instruments as opposed to taking standardized tests. From the food service worker at Old State Elementary who wants more time to share union information with her 10 coworkers to the secretaries across the state who want to make sure they’ve got the time during the day to simply stop and breathe. From the bus drivers and bus aides for whom TIME is certainly most important to ensure their students arrive on time to the custodians who make the best use of their time to get everything done that needs doing to keep our buildings looking great for staff and students.
Time. It matters. And, while we are always at a deficit of time to get done everything that needs doing, our members do their best to maximize the time they have to ensure our students get what they need to succeed.
However, friends, I’m here to tell you that time is not on our side, regardless of what the Rolling Stones may have told you. Last year, my predecessor, Frederika Jenner, told you the wolf was at the door in regards to policies coming down from the frightening administration of Betsy DeVos at the US Department of Education. Frederika urged us all to pay attention and be vigilant. Well, I’m here to share with you that we will have to be vigilant in the coming months as the greatest threat to our Association is handed down by the United States Supreme Court in the form of the Janus case.
Now, I will not bore you all with the details of this case. You all are among the most active members of our Association and my guess is most of you have found the time to learn more about this case. In short, the current make-up of the Supreme Court will likely chip further away at the rights of public-sector unions. Have no doubt – this will impact our membership and could very well impact how we deliver service to our members.
This Supreme Court case is called Janus, named after the plaintiff, Mark Janus, a home health care worker in Illinois. Mr. Janus believes that if you don’t want to pay fair share fees to your union, you shouldn’t have to, EVEN IF you benefit from the work the union does. In essence, when this Supreme Court decision comes down, it could create a new generation of worker that expects and demands union representation and benefits, but will refuse to pay for them.
But Janus also means something else. Several months ago, while toying around on the Internet, I Googled “Janus.” Did you know that Janus is the Roman god of endings, new beginnings, transitions, and, most appropriately, time? Janus is often depicted in mythology as having two faces. I equate these two faces to the two choices we have as an Association.
Do we twiddle our thumbs, look backwards, complain, and cry when the Supreme Court hands down a decision that, in the long run, could cost DSEA thousands of members?
Or – do we look forward? Do we pick ourselves up and fight back and show our members who we really are here at DSEA? That we are going to work harder than ever to ensure they see the value in the work we do? That we are going to continue to drive the narrative that our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions? That we are going to continue to fight for more resources for our most impoverished students – for our students with disabilities – for our English language learners? That we are going to continue to push back against bad education policies that focus more time on testing and less time on authentic learning?
It’s when we show our members as well as the public that EDUCATORS are the best advocates for students that we win the narrative. And when we win that narrative, we will never have to worry about members leaving us – because they will see themselves in the work we do.
So – I have several requests for you when you leave today. In the coming weeks and months, I need you all to be ambassadors for our Association. I need you to go back to your locals. I need you to engage all of our members – AND NON-MEMBERS. This is our greatest organizing moment and I know that we can accomplish so much and maintain the strength of our membership if we focus on several things:
Have as many meaningful one-on-one conversations with members as you can. Get them to realize that their voices are amplified in environments where collaboration is fostered and open dialogue is promoted and that our union is a critical driver in those conversations.
If you’re a local that has faculty meetings in your buildings every month, check your contract to see if the Association is given five or ten minutes of each faculty meeting to share updates. And use that time at EVERY faculty meeting to share with members – and non-members – how critical union membership is with the wolf constantly knocking on our doors.
Go to the Dollar Store. Get a 20-pack of generic greeting cards. Write notes to your elected officials and school board members thanking them for their support of public education and sharing with them how and why unions ARE always a great partner in moving education forward here in Delaware.
Finally, and most importantly, share your story. Share it with friends. Share it with family. Share vignettes on social media of why we do what we do in public education. Share your story like the story featured in this post.
There’s a lot going on in this image. I was visiting a high school in New Castle County and walked into an English teacher’s classroom. This image immediately caught my eyes. And the story behind it will stick with me forever.
I asked the teacher where this huge drawing on a whiteboard had come from. He shared with me that it was about two years old. A former student of his — a withdrawn senior who rarely ever spoke to the teacher — did it. The teacher said it was near the end of the year, the student had shown little effort, and at a certain point, there seemed to be a level of tension the teacher wished could be resolved. Eventually, the teacher said to the student “I’ve failed you. You’ve gotten through this entire school year and you’ve barely said two words to me. I’ve failed you and for that I am sorry.” The teacher left the room, upset, not knowing what to do for this student who had been withdrawn for so much of the year. Come to find out, the student had some language barriers as well as some issues at home that were causing her to withdraw.
The teacher was out of the room for a period of time and when he came back, this beautiful drawing — representing all of the pieces of literature covered in senior year — was on his whiteboard. The teacher became so overwhelmed and emotional at this display. He told me that the young lady — though barely communicative — was obviously absorbing the literature the class was reading that year.
The teacher memorialized this art by spreading a thin film over the drawing to protect it and it remains in his classroom to this day — a testament and clear sign that he, in fact — was not a failure to this particular student.
How many stories like this are waiting to be told around Delaware?
It’s stories like this that explain why we as educators do what we do. And, based on the schools I’ve visited up and down the state, this story isn’t the only one out there. You must be prepared to share your story. You must be prepared to defend the work of our union to ensure better wages, benefits, and working conditions for our members and their families. Because we must never go back to the time cited in the classic labor hymn “Which Side Are You On?” – authored in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer for the United Mine Workers in Harlan County, Kentucky. Following a night of being terrorized by Sheriff J.H. Blair and men hired by the mining company to bully mine workers and prevent them from unionizing, Reece wrote this poem on a calendar that hung on the wall in her kitchen:
“Come all you good workers
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven’t got a chance
Unless we organize
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on, boys?
Which side are you on?”
Now I’m not saying things are anywhere near as dire here as they were in Mrs. Reece’s world, but just know that long ago the rights we take for granted today were hard fought by someone else, and it’s up to us to find the time and ensure we protect those rights.
So, with what limited time we all have, be sure and find the time to do what will keep you strong, your families strong, your students strong, and our union forever strong. Because, as Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not.”
Thank you, delegates, and remember: Solidarity Now and Solidarity Forever.
House Concurrent Resolution #34, introduced on June 29th last year, will be on the agenda for the House Education Committee meeting tomorrow. One line in the legislation offended many, including myself, when it was brought to my attention.
WHEREAS, special education represents a growing financial burden on school districts as the need for services increases.
I can pretty much guarantee any parent of a student with disabilities would take offense to that wording. While it is true that special education costs have risen over the past decade, referring to those costs as a “financial burden” is not a wise choice of words. Schools have an obligation, under both state and federal law, to provide those services regardless of cost. Which is exactly how folks took it on social media last night. I do not think that was the intent of the legislators who sponsored the bill.
As well, parents took offense to there only being one slot on this task force for a parent. That seat would be determined by the Delaware PTA. The bill has an odd mix of sponsors. With the majority of the sponsors as Republicans, some wondered why Democrat State Senator Nicole Poore would sign on as the prime Senate sponsor. In addition, Democrat State Rep. Ed Osienski also signed on as a co-sponsor.
State Senator Brian Pettyjohn joined in on the conversation and doubted the resolution would appear in the Delaware Senate.
Last week, news from Texas regarding allegations against the Texas Education Agency shocked Americans everywhere. A report said the TEA was limiting the number of special education students in The Lonestar State since 2004. Their special education population dropped from 11% to 8% over a seven-year period even though most states saw dramatic increases in those student populations. Many blame caps instituted by the Texas legislature on special education funding. Which is eerily similar to the recommendations a task force like this could come out with.
While I don’t believe there was ill intent with this legislation, the optics on it could not be worse. In conjunction with the news from Texas, a lawsuit filed by the Delaware ACLU today against the state has special education funding as part of the overall complaint with education funding.
I have been saying for years that Delaware needs to revamp how they submit payments in their state financial system. No one follows the recommended spending codes so it is impossible to track how money is being spent. Especially with special education. That should be an easy problem for our legislators to fix but no one wants to take up the baton. Not sure why. It isn’t a change to the Delaware Constitution. It would be a simple bill mandating our school districts and charter schools accurately code expenditures in a uniform process. And the Delaware Department of Education would have to oversee this and implement regulations in regards to Delaware state code. Any task force, committee, workgroup or other such thing looking at any facet of education spending is useless until this is done first. Which legislator wants to twirl a baton? Anyone?
Meanwhile, HCR #34 is on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting. Delaware State Education Association President Mike Matthews said DSEA does not support the legislation on one of the Facebook posts that came out last night. I would hope that when legislation like this comes out that our state legislators would look at the wording of their bills or resolutions. The people are watching them.
I came back from Star Wars: The Last Jedi last Friday night and saw a post from Steve Newton on Facebook. I always read his posts because I know they are going to be interesting. Once I read the second sentence, I knew somehow I was going to be a part of this post. Since Steve specifically said at the end of it not to reply with reasons or justifications, I gave a brief reply acknowledging he was talking about me and fully owning my posts about one of the two people he was talking about in his post. Since then, Steve has taken it upon himself to wage some bizarre one-man crusade against the validity of this blog. See the comments section over on Blue Delaware. You can read Steve’s opening salvo he posted on Facebook in that article. I also posted an article mainly in reply to Steve’s post. It was already in my drafts folder but I added to it due to the nature of Steve’s post.
This is what I wrote in reply to Steve’s original post: Continue reading