State Representative Earl Jaques has some mighty bold plans in the 150th General Assembly. The biggest and most controversial will be a bill that would have the state takeover the Christina School District. It is in the works and he is looking for sponsors. Continue reading
The start of a school year is always going to have issues. But when those issues could potentially have a health impact on students and staff, citizens are left wondering why these issues aren’t taken care of during the summer months when students are not in the buildings. For Christina, several schools are having problems with their buildings. Continue reading
I’ve heard some spin in my day, but this one takes the moldy cake! Remember Moldgate at Pulaski Elementary School in the Christina School District back in the Fall of 2016? They cleaned it all out and everything was back to normal. Right? Not so fast.
Apparently, the mold is back in the basement of Pulaski Elementary. So the school closed it off to students. But they aren’t telling students and parents that. No, they are basing the basement closure on ghosts. The
Hispanic Spanish students won’t go down in the basement because it is haunted. The Pulaski Legend has it the school was built on a burial ground and those spirits are rising up causing mischief in the Pulaski basement. Why these ghosts would confine their activities to a basement when they could just as easily float up to the rest of the school is beyond me. I didn’t see a Paranormal Director on the Christina organizational chart. But they must be pretty smart to be able to confine these spirits to one very specific area at the school that just so happened to be the epicenter of a major mold issue at the school.
I truly wish I was making this up. I wish this wasn’t a real post. I wish administrators were not THIS dumb. But it appears they are. Who you gonna call?
Holy stacked agenda! Could they squeeze anything else into this agenda? Some more hot-button district issues? I doubt it!
On Tuesday night, the Christina Board of Education will hold their board meeting at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School. The fun starts at 7pm. Bring food, and, just in case, you may want to bring a sleeping bag. This is going to be a late meeting!
So what’s on tap? The question is more like what isn’t on this agenda! This is NOT the order for the meeting, but it IS the controversy order!
Now the cat is out of the bag. In the absolute shocker of the year, board member John Young was the one to submit the action item to rescind the vote on the charter settlement. John is always so quiet and compliant. This is NOT like him at all to do something like this. Okay, sorry, got hit in the head for a second there. But seriously, I give John major props for having the guts to get this out there. I truly hope one of the four board members who voted yes can see this settlement sham for what it really is. If not, I hope many public comments can nudge them along.
Board member Shirley Saffer introduced this action item. After last month’s vote to create the “Honors Academy” at Christiana High School, there is an action item to annul that vote. Saffer voted yes for the program last month, but it appears she had a change of heart. The board voted 5-1 the first time. Will the districts new
charter magnet NCS wannabe Honors Academy survive this time? Expect a lot of pissed off parents for this one!
While I haven’t written too much about Christina’s Superintendent search, there has been a ton of drama surrounding it. Which will apparently culminate in many action items surrounding this. First item on the agenda is to approve an interim Superintendent. Which is basically what Dr. Robert Andrzejewski has been for the past 15 months. I really don’t know the difference between Interim and Acting, nor do I truly care. But “Bob A” is leaving on December 31st, come hell or high water. Even if the board does approve a new Superintendent by the end of the year, that person will most likely have to give notice at their current job. Unless it is Jack Markell. I heard he is going to be VERY available pretty soon. Just kidding on that one. I do NOT want to be responsible for that rumor starting.
Action Item #8 is the Superintendent Interview Questions. Which the board is making public. Because they HAVE TO. After that there will be discussion on the final interviews for the candidates. After the board gets through that, there is another John Young submitted action item to start the Superintendent search over. Like I said, this meeting is going to be crazy!
We will also get a discussion on
mold air quality at Christina schools. This should be the lighter side of the evening! Add in all the other normal stuff school boards do: honor roll, budget stuff, contracts, and so on and so forth. For those keeping track, the rescind the settlement vote and annul the Honors Academy are the last two items on the action item agenda.
If you want to sign up for public comment, I would get there early. You have to sign up to talk. I plan on being there. I plan on talking. It will be marvelous, just wait! I wonder if any legislators will show up at this meeting. I wonder if they will attempt to talk to board out of NOT rescinding the vote on the settlement. I dare Senator Sokola to try this! Triple dog dare!
These are some fun predictions. People from the audience will yell at least eight times to speak up because they can’t hear them. President Paige will bring the gavel down at least 13 times. George Evans will ridicule John Young at least four times. The audience will laugh at least four times. Someone will leave their lights on in the parking lot. Someone in the audience will have a very brilliant idea of ordering pizza (bring cash in case this does happen and you plan to stick around for the whole shebang). At least five people will wear ugly Christmas shirts and/or sweaters. And last, but certainly not least, I predict at least three things will come out that the general public has no clue about.
If the Christina School Board does not vote to close Pulaski for at least two weeks, I will lose all faith in their ability as a governing board. How many more cover-ups do they need to see? How many more teachers have to get sick? If they vote no, I challenge them to spend 48 hours straight in that building. If the rooms that are being cleaned are still closed off, just stay in the rooms above them. See what they vote then…
They didn’t pull the carpet up from the ISS room. Let me reiterate… they did not pull the carpet up in one of the rooms they cleaned. Carpets are made of fibers. Pull up that carpet. See what is underneath it. I don’t care if they carpet cleaned it. There is mold in that school. It is not in those three rooms alone at high levels. I know you want rock-solid proof on this. But how many more people have to get sick or worse before you get that rock-solid proof? You have enough now. Act. Do not wait.
Can someone please tell me what level of incompetence we are dealing with here? It is OBVIOUS Pulaski is fast becoming a potential health crisis. We have sick teachers, it’s raining maggots during IEP meetings, dead mice, and lots and lots of mold. And NOT in the computer lab and the two other rooms. And knowing the issues, why would they replace an air filter BUT NOT CLEAN THE DAMN COVER TO THE UNIT? Look at all that mold on there. Come on. What do we need to do here? THEY ARE COVERING IT UP! I saw brand new fresh tiles and white paint on ceiling tiles. To see the pictures, see below… Continue reading
Thanks to Newsworks for getting this video up on Youtube.
This morning I followed-up on plans to observe a talented and gifted program in one of our Delaware schools. It was great seeing the kids interacting with their teacher. I arrived at Pulaski Elementary School at about 9:45am and stayed until shortly before noon. I got a tour of the building. I haven’t been in too many inner-city schools that are older, so it was great to see the design of the building and the different levels.
About fifteen minutes after arrival, I developed a nasal drip. Which was very strange because I wasn’t congested prior to getting there. About ten minutes later I began to have a headache. I ate a full breakfast this morning and took my vitamins. Most headaches I get require me to take some type of medicine like Motrin or Tylenol. Alas, I didn’t have any with me. The headache went away about 45 minutes after I left Pulaski.
I saw the rooms where the mold remediation took place. They were sealed off with plastic zipper doors, like what we saw in E.T. back in 1982. I asked if the carpeting was the same in the one room to which my guide said yes. Other areas that were not remediated had a musty, damp kind of smell. Not the whole building, but areas near the remediated rooms and above them. Even the front office had a peculiar smell.
I met the principal. A very nice woman. I met quite a few teachers, most of them in passing. All were very polite and doing what they do best, teaching kids. There were a few times I had to ask my guide to repeat herself. Unfortunately, under doctor orders, she had to wear an air filter mask because of lingering health issues.
By the way, the Christina Board of Education will meet tonight at the Sarah Pyle Academy in Wilmington. The meeting opens to the public at 7pm and public comment is always welcome. I know they will be discussing the mold issues as well as the charter school lawsuit against them and the Delaware Dept. of Education. Last night, the board held an Executive Meeting to discuss the litigation. I anticipate a very large crowd in attendance this evening, so you may want to think about arriving early. Meanwhile, the Delaware Division of Public Health is set to release a report on their walk-through of the school last Friday.
Adam Duvernay with the News Journal wrote on article for today’s newspaper. It was the same article that appeared on Delawareonline last evening, but it had a very shocking addition at the end of it.
I apologize for the fuzziness of the picture. But that is very serious. Why should a teacher have to sue a school district when they were poisoned by conditions at the workplace? Is that really what this boils down to for the district? A profit/loss statement? Why wouldn’t they have just offered to pay for her treatment? I have no doubt this won’t be the last I hear about something like this in Christina, much less Delaware. There is something seriously jacked up when our schools can’t provide a healthy environment for our students and teachers.
Pulaski. Downes. Glasgow. Newark H.S. Kirk. Gallaher. Brennan. Gauger-Cobbs. How many more schools are going to come out in this mess? How far back do those go? How big is the cover-ups surrounding Christina’s toxic schools? This is going to be one hell of a board meeting on Tuesday night!
Jose went to school one day. His grandma forgot to give him his medicine and he started acting out. He was sent to the ISS Room. The In-School Suspension Room. He liked going there sometimes. There was stuff he could play with. They even had a carpet in there. Not like the cold and hard floor in his regular classroom. He went into the room and started playing with one of the yoga balls. He had all this energy he had to get out. Jose sniffed and smelled something really weird. Like that time he went to his Uncle’s house. Jose had gone into the basement to find the basketball. It smelled like that. Jose started coughing. That happened a lot when he went to the ISS Room. It was the same cough he had when he had to take that test on the computer. But for some reason they got rid of all those computers. Jose rolled on the floor with the ball, hacking away. He wasn’t sure if he needed his inhaler or not. He couldn’t remember if his grandma brought it to school that day. Maybe his brother had it. His chest felt like something was pressing on it. He started to panic. As he yelled out, another teacher came running in the room. She was coughing too.
This is Pulaski Elementary School. Not now. Not a few days ago. But how it was from August 29th until October 7th. That was the day the students weren’t allowed to go in the basement rooms where all the computers were. Or rooms 10 or 11. The teachers believed the district when they said it was okay. Even though a few of them went to the emergency room. But what the district didn’t tell the staff, students, or parents was how dangerous it was there. On August 29th, Pulaski was tested for air quality. With these tests, they compare the air outside with the air inside. Inside, Pulaski was 55,000 times greater with mold than it was outside. The district did tell the teachers… six weeks later. Students took tests on the computers. Special education students went to one of the three therapists down there. For six weeks, everyone was breathing contaminated air.
Yesterday, Acting Superintendent Dr. Robert Andrzejewski gave a press brief at Pulaski. A reporter asked him if he would send his kids or grandchildren there. He said yes. But the reporter asked the wrong question. She should have asked him if he would have sent them there three weeks ago. I’m willing to bet his answer would have been much different. So why didn’t this come out in the News Journal or WDEL? They simply weren’t given the true situation. The mold, as Dr. A explained, came from a busted water main.
By the time the school had an air quality test on August 29th, the custodians were told to clean it up. Armed with nothing but rags and Clorox, they wiped it down. Hispanic custodians, without gloves or air masks. Who couldn’t speak English very well. Perhaps Ed Mayfield, the Assistant to the Superintendent and the Director of Operations, thought the problem would go away soon. Maybe he didn’t understand the danger. But the bottom line is he saw the reports and did nothing. Sure, he may have attempted to clean it up. But he did not inform the school. Not the Principal or the staff. For six weeks.
When the teachers were told about the situation, it was after the Christina Board of Education held a special meeting on the issue. That was on October 4th. Mayfield was addressing the staff on October 7th at the school. At the board meeting a few days before, one of the board members came down from the podium and handed the air quality reports to a staff member of Pulaski. This staff member had requested this information for weeks. The board member warned Mayfield about any retaliation to the staff. Apparently that warning went unheeded. Veiled threats came out. The teachers were told if they went to the press it would be a violation of their contract. Because when teachers signed their contracts with the Christina School District, part of that states they will not put the district in a negative light at all. Sure, they could have talked to the press. They also would have lost their job. It was an impossible situation.
So here we are now. October 15th. The staff at Pulaski have been told the mold levels are down. The Department of Health did a walk-thru yesterday. All is right with the world. But the Computer Lab, Room 10, and Room 11 are still closed. Dehumidifiers are running in those rooms after a mold specialist came in to clean it up. The origin of the mold was apparently found. At least that’s what Dr. A is telling all of us. But Dr. A will most likely be leaving the district soon. He is only an Acting Superintendent. The Board’s aim is to have a new Superintendent by January 1st. Dr. A came in to help Christina win their referendum. He succeeded on that part. For the most part though, he hasn’t done a whole heck of a lot. Most of the day-to-day stuff has been handled by Mayfield. That doesn’t mean Dr. A wasn’t well aware of the situation at Pulaski. Dr. A didn’t attend the special board meeting on October 4th. Dr. A is also on a very short list for the next Delaware Secretary of Education if John Carney becomes the next Governor.
The Christina Board isn’t done with this issue. It will be part of their next board meeting on October 18th, this coming Tuesday. At their meeting on October 4th, board members wanted answers to questions about this. They wanted to know what happened and when. How much the mold remediation would cost the district. Things like that.
They wanted to know what the next steps are after the clean-up…
Dr. A will talk about the district’s procedures for handling Indoor Air Quality issues….
But the board, upon hearing other teachers in the district making similar complaints as Pulaski, will review a resolution to have all the schools in the district tested.
At the October 4th board meeting, Ed Mayfield was offered $25,000 on the spot if he would fully test all the rooms at Pulaski. All forty or so rooms. He refused. Mayfield knew it would cost around $500 to test each room for mold. But he seemed very confident the situation would soon be gone. Why burden the district with an expense they probably didn’t need to incur. The 300 plus students and all those staff members would be okay. They were taking care of it. It’s not like they knew how bad it was, but they got those levels down thank goodness! And even if they did know, they couldn’t talk about it. Forget that it was a health crisis. Forget some staff members had to go to the emergency room, one by ambulance. They probably had pre-existing conditions anyways. Even though he had been with the district for a long time, this was nothing compared to his time as a detective with the Delaware State Police.
I’ve seen a lot in Delaware education. I’ve written about many things. Never, in the almost 3,000 articles I’ve written in less than 2 1/2 years, have I been more disgusted and horrified at the same time. Teachers knew. They knew something wasn’t right. They begged the district to do something. The district knew how bad it was and did nothing until the board intervened. We still don’t know if the building is completely safe. They only treated the basement. There are two floors above that. Mold travels through the air. They can be smaller than a micron. It’s everywhere. But at high levels, it can cause headaches, breathing problems, and memory loss.
The Pulaski Kennel Cough. The cough that didn’t start this school year. It started three years ago. During another time when the computer lab was closed for many months.
Mr. Mayfield and Dr. Andrzejewski, it is not in the district’s best interest to force teachers to sign gag orders where they can’t talk about a health crisis that has the potential to do harm to the students and staff that the district is entrusted to protect. Especially when the two of you failed to act as soon as you knew the danger at Pulaski Elementary School. There is nothing you can do or say to justify that. You put children in harms way. The very kids you have been charged to educate. The special needs children. The English Language learners. The poor. The discriminated. The ones you forgot about in your neglectful decisions. Shame on you. If anyone broke their contract, it is the two of you. You put Christina in a negative light.
If you are concerned about numbers, try these on for size.
16.3% Special Education
29.3% English Language learners
These are the numbers you should have been looking at. These vulnerable kids. Betrayed by those who are supposed to put them first. And one of you wants to be Secretary of Education? How can we expect to trust you with 135,000 kids when you couldn’t provide safety for 300 of them?
Within two days after I broke the story about the Pulaski Kennel Cough, WDEL and The News Journal jumped on the story. The quid pro quo in Delaware media doesn’t seem to apply for the “mainstream” journalists who pick up news from the bloggers. I always link to their information, but apparently that fair play doesn’t go both ways, but I digress.
This morning, the Delaware Division of Public Health is performing a walk-through at Pulaski Elementary School. This will be followed by a 12 noon press conference at Pulaski with Christina Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski, Wilmington 6th District City Councilwoman Sherry Dorsey-Walker, and a representative from the Delaware ’87ers. The purpose of the press conference will be to discuss the mold issue in the school.
For those who are downplaying this issue, it is VERY serious. And I am just putting this out there again… NO TEACHER WILL BE IN ANY WAY PENALIZED OR HAVE RAMIFICATIONS FOR TALKING ABOUT THESE ISSUES. I will expose it more than I just did on the Susan Monday show on WDEL this morning. Don’t even think I’m kidding! This doesn’t just apply to Pulaski or Christina, but any Delaware school. If you wish to remain anonymous, I will protect that right. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk or send pictures. These teachers speaking out about these issues are heroes and deserve whistleblower protection. They are sticking their necks out to reveal this information and if anyone gets ready to sharpen the axe, think twice…
On the Pulaski Elementary School website, a letter from Assistant to the Superintendent Ed Mayfield from yesterday fully states what the Christina School District is doing in regards to the mold issue at the school. Meanwhile, I submitted a FOIA request to the Christina School District for the BATTA reports for all of their schools for FY2015, 2016, and 2017.
October 11, 2016
Dear Pulaski Elementary School Parents/Guardians:
Christina School District officials and facilities staff are in the process of addressing an issue of mold being present in three school classrooms. These classrooms, Room 10, Room 11, and the computer room, are not being used by students or staff, and will be off-limits until the issue has been thoroughly addressed.
Between Friday, October 7 and Sunday, October 9, the three rooms were isolated and all exposed surfaces were vacuumed using special filters that trap harmful particles, and were wiped down using an antibacterial solution. Filtration devices were also placed in the rooms and were left in place for a period of 72 hours.
An environmental company will be conducting air-quality tests of the entire building beginning on Wednesday, October 12 and continuing on Thursday, October 13, and Friday, October 14. A representative of the Department of Public Health will also do a walk-through of the building on Friday, October 14. The test results will help us determine if problems exist in any other part of the building. If air-quality issues are identified in other parts of our building, district protocols will continue to be implemented, and, if necessary, we will put additional action plans in place.
We will communicate any updates to you as soon as they are available. If you have questions or need additional information, please direct them to Mr. Ed Mayfield, Assistant to the Superintendent, email@example.com; 552-2601.
Assistant to the Superintendent Christina School District
Last week, the Christina Board of Education met to discuss a lingering problem at one of their schools: mold and health issues reported by staff. Teachers have brought in notes with medical issues stemming from the presence of mold at Pulaski Elementary School, in Wilmington. While issues of mold in schools are not new in Delaware schools, exposure can cause serious health issues among students and staff.
The issue came up when a teacher at Pulaski gave public comment at the district’s September 20th board meeting about mold at Pulaski Elementary School. Unfortunately, the audio recording part of the public comment was not audible. Based on the public comment, the district acted to investigate the issue. I did listen to the October 4th board meeting audio. During public comment, the Christina Educator’s Association representative for Pulaski, Leslie Footman, stated she had letters from staff about issues of asthma, air quality, and headaches.
When people go home or go away for the summer, they don’t have these symptoms. We call this the Pulaski Kennel Cough because the time you come in the first two weeks of school, people are developing symptoms.
The teacher explained how she took pictures of a classroom. On a Thursday night, a picture was taken of one dot. The next day, it grew to several dots. Other pictures showed pictures of mold appearing on bulletin boards, closets, and poles. Mold is created from water that is allowed to remain stagnant. Christina is not the only Delaware district or charter school plagued by issues of mold.
Another teacher said this has been an ongoing issue at the school for three years when giving public comment at the October 4th board meeting. This teacher was a testing coördinator at the school. She mentioned the computer lab was closed for four weeks. She claimed there was mold all over the building and the blame of a broken water main that weekend was not the cause of the ongoing issue.
Christina teacher Jackie Kook spoke about issues with mold at Newark High School and Kirk Middle School as well over the 15 years since she has taught for the district.
Caring isn’t enough. Our students deserve better than to breathe asbestos and mold…
Christina’s Assistant to the Superintendent, Director of Operations Ed Mayfield addressed the board about the issue at the same meeting on October 4th. Along with a representative from BATTA, Mayfield indicated that when mold is present, it needs to be addressed. The BATTA representative explicitly stated that he is not a doctor and would be unable to diagnose health issues. He said his job is to diagnose mold issues and to remediate it. Mayfield said the custodial staff cleaned the school. Board member Fred Polaski asked if the mold found after the cleaning was mold that already existent or if it was a new development. No clear answer was given to this question. Board member Shirley Saffer was very upset about the issue. She said to just throw out items that have had mold present, regardless of the costs. She said she would gladly have her mortgage payment raised $50 a month if it meant their schools were free of mold. She stated far too many students in Christina have issues with asthma and health issues and they deserve better than this.
Mayfield said not every room was tested for mold, but observed in a walk-through. He said no black mold was visible upon that inspection. The board disputed these findings based on the pictures presented by teachers during the public comment section of the board meeting. Board member John Young said some of the pictures appear to be garden-variety roof leaks but they are pervasive.
Board President Elizabeth Paige asked what the fiscal impact for the district has been for this year. Mayfield told her it would be difficult to pinpoint a fixed number. Paige said she wants that type of information at their next board meeting. Fred Polaski said they need to pinpoint how mold is getting into Pulaski and questioned the ventilation systems in the building. Paige said this is present in more than one building based on walking into them. Saffer asked if the state would be able to assist if this turns out to be a district-wide issue. Mayfield said there is no line item in the budget for mold issues or the treatment of mold remediation. Mayfield said the report fails to give the proper context of the issue, but common sense prevails when issues of mold are present and they need to be addressed. Young stressed the need for teachers to be able to communicate and share information surrounding this issue.
If we can’t provide a safe and healthy environment, we’re not doing our jobs.
The BATTA representative, when asked by Paige how to stop mold from even appearing in the schools, said directives were given to staff on what to look for. If mold spores are present, the school needs to get rid of things like books (of which mold spores were found). He insisted old cardboard boxes should be disposed of over time. Once they get wet, it could be a magnet for mold. He stressed they didn’t see any fuzzy mold or black mold. Young said he doesn’t care about the numbers except zero people coming to the microphone to address mold issues. He pondered if the custodial staff had become desensitized to these issues over time.
On Friday, October 7th, a staff meeting was held at Pulaski to talk about the issue. In attendance were Board of Education members Paige, Polaski, and Young. An independent inspector gave some very concerning advice to the participants, which she wrote about on her Facebook account that afternoon:
When asked, the mold specialist said he would not send his own child to the school based on what he saw.
Since then, the district has hired another company to get a second opinion. I would have to assume if their findings are different than those of BATTA, the district will have to act for the health and safety of students and staff. This could mean temporarily closing the school until any potential mold was completely treated. Black mold can not be simply washed off or cleaned up as it gets into the very fibers of building materials.
While the term “toxic mold” is ripe with controversy, the Centers for Disease Control issued findings which indicate the issues staff members at Pulaski Elementary School are facing could indeed be caused by the presence of mold:
In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition. The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children. In 2009, the World Health Organization issued additional guidance, the WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Dampness and Mould. Other recent studies have suggested a potential link of early mold exposure to development of asthma in some children, particularly among children who may be genetically susceptible to asthma development, and that selected interventions that improve housing conditions can reduce morbidity from asthma and respiratory allergies, but more research is needed in this regard.
The Christina Board of Education will address the matter again at their board meeting next Tuesday, October 18th.
The document provided to the Board by the district can be seen below. Readers can hear the board audio recording from the October 4th board meeting here. To read the guidance issued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008 for mold remediation in schools, please go here.
If, based on reading about mold and what it looks like, do not hesitate to reach out to your building administrator. If you find the building administrator is not acting appropriately about the issue, go to the Superintendent. If, yet again, you aren’t getting satisfaction, go to the school board and give public comment. If nothing happens then, contact me. I will make sure the public becomes well aware of the issue. Nothing is worth more than the safety of children and the educators tasked with giving them an education.