What Is Going On With Gateway’s Board Of Directors? Did They Violate FOIA & Their Own By-Laws?

The Gateway Lab School Board of Directors went through a radical shift between their July and August board meetings.  Four board members disappeared but nothing was found in the minutes or audio recordings stating those board members resigned.  As well, changes to their by-laws might have been done illegally. Continue reading

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Breaking News: Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Final Report Released Today

Delaware State Representative and Chair of the Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force Earl Jaques released the final report of the school district consolidation task force today.  The report, seen below, does NOT recommend consolidating school districts based on “findings” that it would not save a substantial amount of money.  It does, however, give recommendations regarding shared services among school districts.  This report, in my opinion, is missing a TON of information! Continue reading

Proposal Floating To Have State Board Use Charter Performance Framework For Potential State Takeover Of School Districts

All hell broke loose at Smyrna High School’s auditorium tonight.  The Chair of the School District Consolidation Task Force talked about a recommendation for state takeover of struggling school districts. Continue reading

Will Stakeholders Be Able To Stop The Delaware DOE With ESSA? And What Delaware Entity Is Already Cashing In?

The Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Discussion Groups held their third meeting on October 17th.  Below are the minutes from those meetings.  The next meeting will be on November 7th at the Collette Center in Dover from 6pm to 8pm.  Big topics like Special Education, Opt Out, the infamous “n” number, and the “whole child”.  As well, a major Delaware entity is holding a non-transparent event with some mighty big players and charging for it to boot!

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The Student and School Supports group found the following items to be priorities in Delaware education:

  1. Schools are the hub of the community so they need more services brought to them.
  2. Schools need more psychologists as well as psychiatrists and neurologists on call to assist with special education.
  3. Schools need more realistic ratios of guidance counselors.
  4. More trauma-informed schools.
  5. Funding for the “whole child” approach.
  6. Greater funding for high-needs schools.
  7. Invest in Birth to 8 with weight put on social and emotional learning (this also included discussion around providing basic special education funding for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade).

This group is top-heavier than the other discussion group with folks from the services side of education, and it definitely showed.  I don’t mind more services in schools.  But the key is in the eagerness.  It was my perception that some were very pushy with what they would like to see.  These very same people would also benefit financially from more of the recommended services in schools.  Are they a stakeholder at that point or a benefactor?

 

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The most popular items brought for by this discussion group were as follows:

  1. Not having the 95% participation rate penalty in the Delaware School Success Framework.  Since participation rate in state assessments is beyond a school’s ability to control, it should not be used as a punishment.
  2. English Language Learners accountability needs to look at factors in access for these students, how much formal education they had prior to coming to Delaware schools, age, how proficient they are in their native language, if they live in a city or rural environment, and how well they are able to read in their own language.
  3. The “n” size, which is the lowest number a school can have for reporting populations of sub-groups so they are not easily identifiable, was 30

The “n” number is always a tricky beast to tackle.  I support a high n# for student data privacy.  But on the other side, schools with small populations in their subgroups (charter schools) aren’t obligated to provide information on those students and it can make them look better than they really are.  This helps to perpetuate the myth that certain charters provide a better education.  I think the notion of being able to easily recognize a student who has disabilities or is in a sub-group is somewhat ridiculous.  I have never believed special education should be a stigma.  I think schools should celebrate every single child’s uniqueness.  By not reporting the results of those students (even if they are based on very flawed state assessments) does those students a disservice.  It makes it look like they don’t matter when they most certainly do.  It doesn’t look like too many people in this group were in favor of keeping the opt out penalty in the state accountability system.  Obviously, I echo that sentiment!

Last week, the Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee held their first meeting.  You can read the highlights here.  As well, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams, who is also on the Advisory Committee, had some thoughts on the meeting, the US DOE’s pending regulations around Title I, and how they could affect Delaware schools.

The first draft of Delaware’s ESSA plan comes out at the end of this month.  From there, the discussion groups and Advisory Committee will reconvene.  As well, the Delaware DOE will be hosting more Community Conversations in each county.  Those groups will meet on the following dates from 6pm to 8pm:

11/16: Community Education Building, 1200 N. French St., Wilmington

11/21: Cape Henlopen High School, 1200 Kings Highway, Lewes

11/29: Seaford High School, 399 N. Market St., Seaford

12/1: John Collette Education Resource Center, 35 Commerce Way, Suite 1, Dover

12/8: Newark Charter School, 2001 Patriot Way, Newark

I find it VERY interesting they are holding the Wilmington meetings at charter schools.  The Community Education Building is the home of Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks.  Sussex County also gets two meetings while Kent County only gets one.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the general public, the University of Delaware Institute of Public Administration is holding a 5 1/2 hour event tomorrow at the Outlook at the Duncan Center in Dover.  This event is called the School Leader Professional Development Series: The Opportunities and Challenges of Implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act.  This event is NOT on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar nor was it mentioned at the discussion groups or the Advisory Committee.  I was able to get my hands on what is happening at this not-so-transparent event.  The event is described as the following:

This workshop is an additional forum for multi-stakeholder district teams to interact and discuss the opportunities and challenges introduced by this new legislation.

Major players are coming to Dover at 9am tomorrow morning.  Folks like the American Association of School Administrators, the National Association of Secondary-School Principals, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Education Association, and the National School Boards Association.

Presenting on Delaware’s ESSA plan will be Deb Stevens from DSEA, Dr. Terri Hodges from Delaware PTA, Executive Director from Delaware State Administrators Association Tammy Croce, Executive Director John Marinucci from Delaware School Boards Association, and a rep from the Delaware DOE.

Working groups will also be formed to discuss ESSA.  Another one of the workshops will focus on state accountability systems will be led by Robin Taylor with R²  Educational Consulting (never heard of them, time to start digging), one on school interventions led by Director of State Assessment and Accountability Joseph Jones from New Castle County Vo-Tech and Director of Elementary Schools Amy Grundy from Red Clay.  Finally, Laura Glass with the Delaware Center for Teacher Education and Jackie Wilson of the Delaware Academy for School Leadership/Professional Development Center for Education will lead a workshop on Teacher and Leader Training and Evaluation.

Will the Delaware DOE use what is said in this non-transparent event to help in the creation of their first draft?  Why is this event not public?  Shouldn’t those outside of education be able to hear what is being said about what could happen in their local schools based on this act?  One of the biggest challenges of ESSA is the perception that the Delaware DOE already knows what will be in their state plan and all of this is just details.  I suppose someone could crash this event if they registered, but they would have to fork over $85.00 to go.  But if you got in with a local school district or charter school with four or more members that price would jump way down from $85.00 to $75.00.  Cashing in on ESSA!  Gotta love the University of Delaware.

If you are not informed about the Every Student Succeeds Act and Delaware’s proposed plans, you won’t know the future of education in this state.  Period.  I have been imploring parents and citizens to get involved with this for a long time now.  I understand people are busy and they have their own lives.  But this one is really big.  It has not escaped my notice that they are doing all this during a major election cycle and around the holidays.  That is how the Delaware DOE rolls.  Either they plan stuff in the summer when no one can show up (or even knows about it) or they cram it in during very busy times for families, teachers, and citizens.

When the first draft comes out, I will be dissecting every single word and punctuation mark in the document.  I will break it down for you.  I will filter through what they think the public will see and what it really means.  That’s how I roll.  But it can’t stop there.  YOU must lend your voice.  Whether it is in person or email.  Keep a copy of what you say at all times.  Make sure your voice is not only heard but recorded as well.  We will get exactly what they submit.  If you don’t make your voice heard now (or when the drafts are released), it will be far too late.  It comes down to trust.  Do you really trust the Delaware DOE to do the right thing for students without selling them out to Education Inc.?  I don’t.  We need to upset the apple cart.  Are you in?  Or will you lament not speaking up later?

Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Discussion Group Minutes

The Every Student Succeeds Act state planning is in full swing in Delaware.  After having community conversations in each county, the Delaware Department of Education formed two discussion groups, one for Measures of School Success and Public Reporting and the other for Students and School Supports.  The groups met together for the first time on October 5th in a joint meeting for introduction purposes.  The first solo meetings for both groups was on October 10th.  The next meeting will be tonight at the Collette Center in Dover, at 6pm.

Below are the minutes for each meeting.  Full disclosure, I am on the Students and School Supports Discussion Group.  The Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee will meet Wednesday evening in the House Majority Hearing Room at Legislative Hall, from 6pm to 8pm.

 

 

 

Family Foundation’s Board Pays An Invoice With A HUGE Conflict Of Interest

In the January minutes for the Family Foundations Academy Board of Directors, a notation was made about Chairman Charles McDowell having the board approve an invoice by for a report that was done.  The invoice was provided by the Executive Director for both Family Foundations Academy and EastSide Charter School.  The invoice, for $10,500.00, was for a report on an Early Learning Academy study.  The board approved the payment.  The minutes went on to talk about the feasibility of having an Early Learning Academy in New Castle, DE.  Continue reading

Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens Website Is A Hot Mess! Transparency Non-Existent!

The Delaware Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens (GACEC) website appears to be in severe disarray.  The last agenda for one of their meetings is for their March 17th, 2015 meeting.  The last minutes are from their June 2015 meeting.  When does this group meet?  On the Delaware Public Meetings Calendar it shows their last meeting was November 17th, 2015.  No agenda was on the calendar either.  Are they even meeting anymore?

I used to get emails from this group when I was on their distribution list.  But once I blasted them for their opposition of the parent opt-out legislation, House Bill 50, I was banned from this email list.  My guess, this is now an “inclusive club” in Delaware that doesn’t have to follow state law for public meetings or transparency.  As a group that is supposed to represent the disabled of Delaware, this is very disheartening to see.  I expect more out of any state agency or council, but I expect much more out of this group.  Is Wendy Strauss still the Executive Director?  Is Robert Overmiller still the Chair of GACEC?  When are their meetings?  They do have a calendar of their meetings for the year, but that isn’t saying much without the other necessary state law compliance in effect.

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Why does this group think they don’t have to be visible with their activities?

Final Minutes From AFWG Meeting Illuminates Controversy Over Opt-Out Penalties

When you have many district superintendents and administrators saying “Don’t do it!”, you would think the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, and Secretary Godowsky would listen.  If you heard folks saying “opt-out is only going to get bigger,” you would think a voice of reason would go off in their heads.  But no, this is Delaware.  The state where King Markell reigns on high, telling all the little minions what they must do.  Below are the minutes from the final (for now) Accountability Framework Working Group meeting last week.  Interesting news about Jeff Klein from Appoquinimink buried in here as well….

Delaware House Education Committee: Wilmington Education Advisory Committee Presentation, Read Before You Go To Imagine Delaware

From the 1/28/15 House Education Committee meeting.  Tony Allen, the chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, gave a presentation to the Senate and the House on the recommendations from WEAC.  This has some really good information, and consider it a primer before the big event tomorrow night at the Chase Waterfront Center.  That’s right, tomorrow is the huge Imagine Delaware forum.  You should really go, it will affect education in all of Delaware!

Why Am I Always Picking On Delaware Charter Schools?

The obvious answer to my title would be “because it’s easy”.  It’s not like I create these stories.  They do it themselves.  I just bring them to light for all of Delaware to see.  Take Prestige Academy, and their board meeting at a tavern where they didn’t have a quorum and voted on stuff anyways.  I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.  I knew Jack Perry was “resigning”, so I thought I would see what their board minutes say.  I wasn’t looking for anything sinister.  By the time I got to their board minutes, and I saw what I saw, it was just another example of a Delaware charter school doing whatever the hell they want, regardless of the law.

I get a great deal of flack on Kilroy’s Delaware in the comments section when I say something negative about charters.  There’s one guy named Publius.  You would think the charters could no wrong, and because the ability for “choice” is out there, it is the charters God-given right for any type of pre-assessment before a prospective student is selected.  Another guy, named lastDEconservative, will side with Publius every chance he gets.  They have their opinion, and I have mine.  But because I want to try to help people, I have a big head and I won’t agree with anyone’s opinion but my own.  Or so they say.  I think they are hoping I will just go away, but that just encourages me to fight harder. Continue reading

Vice President Biden Wants Body Cameras For Police, Why Can’t We Get Charter Boards To Record Their Meetings?

Vice President Joe Biden said he wants body cameras for police so they can record everything.  I don’t mind this idea at all.  It would avoid any questions that may arise during a confrontation, like Ferguson.  We need more transparency in another big area in Delaware as well: charter school board meetings!

Last year, State Rep Deb Hudson sponsored House Bill 23, and nothing came of it.  It sat there, waiting for Delaware Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf to release it and put it on the ready list.  The Speaker did nothing with it.  The bill would have to be written again and go through the whole process all over again, but it would be worth it.  I’m sure many parents from charter schools like Academy of Dover, Providence Creek, Moyer, Family Foundations Academy and Academia Antonia Alonso wish they knew what was said at different times in the past year.  This would be the best time for a legislator to introduce this type of legislation!

Which legislator would do it?  Will Hudson pick up the baton again or should it be handed off to someone else?  Someone with more influence on Schwartzkopf preferably.  I know Kilroy would have a parade if this passed!  Publius would have a heart attack!  About 6-7 public school districts do this already in the state, along with the Delaware State Board of Education.  Our children deserve more than board minutes that don’t give much information.  We want and need more!

Uh-oh! Looks like we got a bleeder here! What has Family Foundations Academy done now?

Yes, I know.  Not another Family Foundations article.  When’s he going to do the long-awaited Rodel follow-up?  As my friend Wilson Jomama once said about another recent charter scandal, it’s like staring at the sun.

Please enjoy the theme music while we look at yet another big oops at this Wilmington charter school.  As mentioned initially on Kilroy’s first FFA Explosion article by a parent, their December 2nd Board meeting had a rather public situation involving a special needs student.  Please read the minutes from this meeting.  While this school has clear transparency issues, this outing of a student was about as transparent as Saran Wrap!

So what did they do wrong?  They looked like pretty concise board minutes to me.  But there’s just that tiny, little baby of a hiccup called student privacy.  I was shocked when I saw a parent commenting on this on Kilroy’s, but to actually see it in their board minutes was shocking!

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Yes, they fully revealed a student discipline problem of a student on a 504 plan.  While they didn’t reveal the name of the student, which they proudly boasted in their meeting minutes, unless they have multiple students who bite, kick and hit teachers, this student is easily identifiable.  Not only is this a violation of FERPA, but also Section 504 which is protected by the Office of Civil Rights.  Why the hell would they discuss a discipline issue with a particular student in a public forum like that?  And one with special needs?

It looks like this may have been a cover.  Not that the student wasn’t experiencing those issues (Lord only knows what fresh hell that poor kid was going through at this school), but it was also an impetus for a spotlight to be shown on Dr. Tennell Brewington.  In the minutes there is a whole part about her not using the Child Study Team and the Climate Team to help this student.  Here’s a novel idea, maybe they should have used an IEP Team!!!!  Sorry, no matter what this student may have done as a manifestation of their disability, this public roasting of this student has many violations.  If I were the parent of this student, I would not only be contacting the FERPA department at the US DOE, but also the OCR Office as well.

By the end of the meeting, after executive session, it was announced Dr. Brew was going on a 90 day paid leave of absence.  No explanation was given, but that’s none of our damn business when you read the harsh notes at the end when a member of the public DARED to ask about it.  I wonder what could have caused such a rift between Brewmoore?  Could it…no…maybe…possibly have been a… sorry folks, this isn’t Soap Opera Digest!

Staring at the sun indeed!  If that other recent charter school scandal caused some sun glare, this one is a Super Nova!

If you are sad the holidays are over, do not lament, because Family Foundations Academy is like the gift that keeps on giving…and giving…and giving…and giving!

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governor Markell Appoints Brian “Smarter Balanced” Touchette as his designee on IEP Task Force #netde #eduDE #specialeducation @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @DianeRavitch @hanna

In looking at http://ltgov.delaware.gov/taskforces/ieptf/ I noticed a very minor change.  It appears Brian Touchette, the high-stakes testing guru over at the Delaware DOE, has been appointed as Governor Markell’s designee on the task force.  Here’s where Smarter Balanced Assessment and Common Core get pushed on the task force.  Brilliant move DOE!  Get the task force going, have all the members talk about the reasons IEPs are suffering in Delaware, and then insert the testing guy.  The one who serves on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium as the K-12 State Lead.   My suspicions had gone away, but now I am very suspicious, more than ever before.  This father did not pour his heart out in public only for this to happen.  I was wondering why Secretary of Education Murphy’s designee didn’t have a lot to say.  Now I know why.

I’ve been saying for months that special needs parents need to unite.  Now it is imperative!  We have been marginalized and pushed to the side too many times.  This isn’t right, and we all know it.  I know some of you will be covered with Senate Bill 229, which prevents the most severely cognitive disabled children from taking the damn test.  But how does that help the rest of us?  When the schools can barely accommodate our kids in many situations?  You want them to be proficient on a stupid test they take once a year?  The test that only one member of our legislature took, and basically said it sucked?  What kind of messed up cruel game are you playing here Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE?  Some of us know the game, and we know why you are doing it.  We know the end plan, and it doesn’t bode well for special needs children, minorities, and public school teachers.

So when people comment on me being too hard on people at the DOE, this is why!  Things need to change, and if the people making all the changes won’t do anything, then maybe we need to.

The next meeting has been changed to Tuesday, September 23rd.  We need parents there.  We need A LOT of parents.  We need them to open up the other room in the Collette Building (Michelle, you may need to get more chairs).  We need to speak, and we need to stop this.

Poll: Should School Boards Digitally Record Their Meetings? #netde #eduDE @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de

A hot topic of late has been if school boards should digitally record their board meetings.  In Delaware, the Board Of Education, as well as several school districts, including Christina, Red Clay and Capital record their meetings and put them on their websites.  None of the charter schools do.  This is under the caveat that the executive sessions where individual private matters of discipline or legal matters are not recorded, which is the norm for those that do this already.

Proponents say it is a matter of transparency and the public has a right to know since most minutes are not an accurate assessment of what really goes on in board meetings, while opponents say it is a waste and that nobody will ever listen to them.  What do you think?  I want this to be impartial, and to avoid people going with the flow, I’m not showing the results until a week from now.  You will not be able to vote more than once!