Christina Teachers Don’t Like That MOU! Will The Board Agree?

I put up the new Christina MOU the other day.  Since then I have heard nothing but outrage from Christina teachers.  Everything from pay to a change in seniority.  Veteran Christina teachers in the ‘burbs certainly don’t like the fact they could get rif’d over newer teachers in the city who sign a commitment letter.

The Christina Board will vote on this mess Tuesday night.  I would lay odds the board will vote in the affirmative on it.  But the members of the Christina Education Association will vote to ratify this a couple days later.  If they vote no on the MOU it is back to the drawing board.  What will that mean for the whole consolidation of the Christina Wilmington schools?

Christina Education Association Develops New Memorandum of Understanding Along With New Demands

It has almost been a year since Delaware Governor John Carney announced his intention to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Christina Wilmington Schools.  This partnership between his office, the Christina School District, the Christina Board of Education, and the Delaware Department of Education has been missing one key ingredient.  Until today.  The Christina Education Association came up with a new MOU which was publicly released today.  If this passes, the stage is set for the consolidation of the Christina Wilmington schools. Continue reading

Guest Post: Redlining Atnre Alleyne’s News Journal Letter To The Editor

Elizabeth Scheinberg, a former Christina Board of Education member, wrote a “redline” response to Atnre Alleyne’s letter to the editor in the News Journal that appeared last week.

It’s time to redline. The following opinion was published by the News Journal on 2/28. It was authored by education advocate Atnre Alleyne. Alleyne is the founder and executive director of an education advocacy organization, DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now.

As a Christina parent and former Christina Board Member, I am compelled to set right the history that Alleyne has twisted to fit his vision an education crisis in Christina. Though I do not always agree with Christina, it’s still mine, it owns me as much as I own it. I live within it, advocate for students and parents in its schools and advise any members of the Christina leadership team who seeks my sentiments or strategies for improving our school system.

The Christina school board has perfected the art of pushing paperwork that produces little progress for Wilmington kids. Mr. Alleyne provides a beautiful set-up for an us verses them conversation. However, despite the highway between Newark and Wilmington the onerous paper-pushing affects every child, teacher, leader in the district. Much of it is the direct result of the same MOUs that Alleyne refers to below.  

Its members recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Gov. Carney’s office designed to take a bolder approach to education in a district whose graduation rate has dropped each of the last three years and is the lowest in the state (69 percent). Gov. Carney’s approach is no bolder than the deeply flawed Race to the Top, a program that several school boards across the state adopted under the duress of the Delaware Department of Education. I clearly remember the night when former Sec. of Education Lillian Lowery told our board that should we not approve her MOU and join, the changes set forth in the MOU would become law and Christina would have to fund them locally. Did they become law? Some. Did they improve education statewide? No. The longitudinal data is in – as Alleyne cites above – turning education into a competition was not a sustainable model nor did the interventions result in sustained improvements in the graduation rate.

Yet, as interesting as some of the details of the MOU may sound, experience tells us they are sure to fail. With a school board that has failed to follow through on previous reforms, Christina School District’s kids will not see change until we address the deep dysfunction of its school board. We agree that these new reforms will fail. Few have yet to unlock the wardrobe door to Narnia of education. I don’t believe that Carney has the key. These previous MOUS failed because Christina properly identified schools in crisis in both the city and suburbs, BUT has been unable to fund the treatment of the needs and ails of the children served within. When we look upon our lowest performing students, we find children who live in dire poverty among violence with little access to critical nutrition and often credible adult guidance needed to navigate their personal world. These children carry their heavy burdens to school where they act out, not because they want to misbehave but because they’ve been taught that even negative attention is better than no attention at all. Of course, Christina’s board could throw every penny of local education dollars at these societal concerns, but without the other administrative agencies who are far more competent to combat the socio-emotional-economic inflictions putting their own boots on the ground, Christina will still fail.

First, we blamed the teachers. Now, we blame the board.

You know you are dealing with a school board that is committed to inaction when the governor needs to attend Christina’s board meetings to plead and prod them to do what a high-functioning board would do without prompting. Nearly half of the state’s bottom 5 percent schools are in the Christina School District, 38 percent of kids from Christina now attend non-district schools and the district is wasting taxpayer dollars with most of their schools currently less than half full.

Alleyne, you don’t know the half of it. But, first, to address the falsehoods. Because a board of individually publicly elected members parse and due diligence does not make that board low-functioning. Christina is constantly being bombarded by the state and the department of education with mandates to implement as part of whatever the latest MOU demands. These MOUs come with strings attached, prescribed funding, and allow for little local control. To keep all the parts moving is a juggling act for which few would apply. One need only look at CSD’s vacant Director of Special Education position to understand exactly what is being asked of the individuals we hire. Christina expects them to perform to the best of their abilities and invests in their development. Carney and his private department of education, like those before him, demand that these individuals play god. That is the essence of test-fail-punish. I sat on the dais when Christina’s Board finally stood up to its bully, Jack Markell, and said no more to Race to the Top. I believe we saved our district millions of dollars in doing so while defunding mandates that provided no sustainable change. I believe we were taking steps to re-stabilize our students in schools that the MOU had blown off their foundation. Race to the Top took the last good thing our desperate children had – it took away the one final constant – the security of school. It took away teachers who knew them and loved them and reinvigorated the “voluntary transfer” process as teachers fled the strings of RTTT demands that did not comport with their education and teaching preparations. And for all that RTTT money we spent, each and every dollar we received was accounted for and dispersed for the benefit of the children as prescribed by the MOU. Christina didn’t push papers. We did get thwacked by Lillian Lowery in a closed meeting for openly challenging the process and progress that was occurring. We were admonished for the sincere scrutiny of some of the more active board members. The DOE literally went on the attack with no respect for the fact that we were legally elected unpaid servants who provided our own professional development often at our own cost, and that we represented not one interest, but the interest of every child and tax payer in our district. That is the balancing act before the board. How far can you push the tax payers to support the kids before the tax payers start saying no. In Christina there has been a resounding no to referendums. It’s nearly impossible to pass one on the first try and that means no more MOUs that come without the necessary funding to be sustainable in the long term. Not four years, not eight, but in perpetuity because what is most likely to be successful is a rather expensive proposition.

As to your half empty buildings. Roughly 20 years ago, under Lillian Lowery, Christina attempted to close several city schools to address the very concerns listed while also becoming more in line with the Neighborhood Schools Act. The rubber stamping school board of those times blindly followed Lowery’ s lead. However, the City of Wilmington sued and won and Christina was required to continue operating aging, under-utilized facilities without additional income to ensure their maintenance. It has been openly accepted since then, that the only way a city school will be closed is by the Governor himself. The City of Wilmington shoulders the full fault of these cash-draining buildings and the effects on the district, the board, the kids, and their communities. And true to form, what has always been predicted has come true. City closures by the Governor himself.

Christina does have several other unnecessary assets. The park across from Drew perceived to be a city park, is owned by Christina. Each overdose, each injury, each gun shot, each condom, each knife, each addict that calls that park home creates more liability for the district. Sell the park. It truly belongs to the City and Wilmington should invest in purchasing it. If the city declines, sell it for construction or turn it into a pay lot. It’s proximity to the heart of the business district lends it some real value.

Move on to Eden. Eden, though utilized by some departments, needs to be levelled. It sits on several desirable acres in a growing commercial region. The district could orchestrate a buy-out that would divide the parcel and provide for a new Eden built to suit the needs of the district. Or sell it entirely and renovate another underused asset to house the department currently homed there.

Yet Gov. Carney (and Gov. Jack Markell before him) have had to expend significant energy and political capital just to get the district to sign a piece of paper committing to real action. Seriously? Expend political capital? Did they really need to call in all the favors due them to get Christina to sign a piece of paper? Are Christina’s School Board members that influential that Carney spent political capital to compel Christina to following his plan? No. It took one Governor, Carney, to write a meaningful figure on that piece of paper as proof to a board that has been hosed by DOE for years, one signature that ensures enough money will in fact follow the plans on the paper. The only significant expense of energy has been what DOE put into desecrating Christina’s reputation.

That it takes ultimatums, lawsuits, federal investigations and hand-holding from the highest levels of our state government. It would not be so bad if the district actually had a track record of delivering on their commitments. They don’t. Christina delivers on commitments every day. Ask the children that leave its schools, what did you learn today? You might be surprised what they tell you.

Just two years ago, on March 4, 2016, the Christina School District signed a similar agreement with the Delaware Department of Education by which it committed to implementing reforms that would dramatically improve their lowest-performing schools.

Yet Christina school board member Harrie Ellen Minnehan remarked: “None of the actions designated in the doc were put into place as stated but the monies did go to the Wilmington city schools. I believe (Secretary) Godowsky wanted it signed strictly for audit purposes.” When and where is this remark? A statement out of context is just a statement out of context.

With no intention to deliver and no true accountability from the state, Christina School District has mastered this game of sign and switch.  Cute, “sign and switch.” I feel like you’ve just inked an MOU on a new board game. Having had to live with those MOUs, I can tell you that I felt accountability every day and I believe that our current board members do the same. They don’t all agree on how to do it, but they all have one commitment, to see that children like mine and yours receive a good education. Mine is receiving a fantastic education in a new program that has a waiting list of students who want to be there. This is Christina going to back to its roots and implementing innovation to bring back those students you’ve already mentioned as having fled. They fled for lack of choice, not for lack of faith.

In 2014, the Christina school board released a three-year strategic plan that took a school year to develop. They called it “Imagining the Future for Christina” and, like the MOUs, it addressed the essentials for creating a high-performing district.

But in The News Journal last September, Vice President Fred Polaski said the plan was never put into action. Instead, it was “put on the shelf” and none of the goals in the plan were met before it expired in 2017. Please let me provide the context of Polaski’s comment:

” Conversations about priority schools, state takeovers and redistricting have distracted from the real issues, the school board’s vice president Fred Polaski said, leaving little energy or appetite to focus on anything else. 

The district’s most recent strategic plan, which took an entire school year to put together, was basically “put on a shelf,” he said. 

“There was so much in it, you couldn’t get it all done in the timeframes we hoped for,” he said. “We never sat down and said ‘OK, we can’t do all of it. What can we do?'”  -The News Journal, Sept. 22, 2017.

These comments ran beneath a headline that proclaimed “CHRISTINA EMBARKS ON MASSIVE TURNAROUND TO HELP WILMINGTON STUDENTS.” Clearly, these comments, in context, do not satisfy the paper-pushing assertion. There has been no “Sign and Switch” here.

 

With Polaski’s comment in full context, I think many “interventions” perpetrated on the district by our government and DOE prevented the full implementation of that strategic plan. RTTT consumed one, leaving no funds left to implement a separate plan. In my opinion our strategic plan at the time was utter obfuscation to the extent that some members wanted their names removed, including mine. The next plan was being conceived when I retired my board service. That plan was interrupted by Markell and the DOE and their aspirations for those schools that fell in the bottom 5% of the state and the fate of the Wilmington schools. Now, Christina is again back to the drawing board. This time under the weight of the unknown – what will happen to our Wilmington children? What will be our financial obligation when all the schools are retrofitted and when new busing patterns are designed and implemented? Who will sit in the dual generational academy and provide services to our Wilmington children? How will CSD pass a referendum to continue adding new choice options? What will happen to the excessed buildings? Carney has already promised to exclude them from Charters seeking to lease them. But, who else wants a school building? Will they be mothballed? Will we continue to pay utilities there? What will be the cost of new curriculum that is sensitive to the needs of these students? What teachers will want to VT in or out of the schools? It is almost impossible to bear forward an amazing actionable plan when you have so many unknowns with which to bear. And no one has said a single word about the carve-out MOU that must be approved by the Christina’s unions as Carney’s interventions require work that is currently outside the scope of the current union contract.

In 2013, the state withheld $2.3 million of the Christina School District’s funds for failing to deliver on its commitments. In 2011, the state was close to withholding $11 million from the Christina School District for reneging on a previous agreement. I absolutely support the 2013 board action that resulted in the state withholding of $2.3 million in Race to the Top Funds. Christina did not want them. The prevailing board members believe that our students would be better off if we ceased to operate the failing interventions tied to those funds. In 2011, Christina made the final payment on its $20 million loan from the state – one year early. My board then jeopardized the district allotment of $11 million in RTTT. Why? As was widely reported, our human resources department in conjunction with our former superintendent strayed from the plan regarding the evaluation and hiring of teachers in our Partnership Zone Schools. Christina did not act to refuse the funds. The board wanted the hiring process repeated with fidelity. What we learned from our lawyer, after the fact, was that fidelity is not a legal measure. Compliance is. What our HR and Super had done technically fell within the bounds of Substantial Compliance and our board was forced to revote the issue, after which the State pushed the funds into the district to begin turnaround. We took fire from every direction because we wanted to do RTTT right, sticking to the measure we had agreed to with the state and while also holding the state accountable on their end. To that extent, the board had an independent leader review the RTTT monthly efforts and outcomes in the partnership zone schools and report to us directly to ensure we were receiving true information and not the sugar-coated kind. This is leadership. Seven members, each elected, with seven different experience and interpretations of the job before them. Of course, there is going to be debate, intense, thoughtful, sometimes painful and intense debate. But, when you are looking at the large sums of money and the strings attached, a board member must advocate and compromise their positions. What lies before them must be thoroughly vetted before we subject students, staff, parents, and tax payers to what we’ve been required to transform.

This pattern of ineffective leadership is bad for taxpayers. It is even worse for the many students and families who desperately need Christina’s schools to be of the highest quality. The leadership, though at time troubled, is similar to the leadership of many other boards in our state. A down state board member is lighting up the press today. None of us have lost sight, even those who have come and gone, of the need for CSD to be of high quality. I can honestly say that I believe my son is receiving a comparable education in his CSD choice program to that of our effective local charter schools. I also believe that the Strategic Plan should capitalize on the success of this first ,agnet endeavor. I urge our school board to keep pushing forward despite the changing landscape as DOE demands.

But because this year’s Christina School District drama features a new governor, a new secretary of education, a new Christina School District superintendent and a few new players, we are expected to act like we have not seen how this script ends. We are expected to be comfortable with handing over an additional $15 million to a district that has not been asked to account for how it spent previous dollars designated for improving its schools.  Christina has absolutely accounted for the spending of every dollar. Read the online check book. Visit the P-Card page. Ask questions of the financial director. Go to a CBOC meeting. This information is transparent and available for free to all.

How can we be excited about the promises of the latest MOU when the district has failed to honor its longstanding IOU to our kids? This district has been constrained from being creative and expanding its offerings because of the RTTT/Partnership Zone, bottom 5% school mandates, Smarter Balance, etc. Christina spent so much time and money providing exactly what the MOUs said, despite the pain of knowing that the interventions when observed from a longitudinal lens were going to fail as they failed everywhere else. The question that should be asked is, how is Carney going to ensure the interventions he’s directed are going to succeed. What data can he provide? As I can surely show you mine.

In 2020, my daughter will be starting kindergarten and her current feeder pattern would have her headed to Stubbs Elementary. If we continue our current path, 2020 will bring yet another year in which fewer than 10 Stubbs students are proficient in math and fewer than 20 are proficient in reading. Your daughter is fortunate. Her father is a well-read, though deceptive, educated advocate. Based on the most recent plan I’ve read, your daughter will first go to Stubbs as she would if she were old enough to attend kindergarten now. She will spend a year there before she grows her wings and attends one of the two 1-8 schools. That is exactly what you should want for your child. And her success will depend on how you invest in her. Parental involvement does not need to take place within the bounds of building. It happens in homes far more frequently than educators recognize.

That is not the future I want for my child or any of the children of the Christina School District.  Again, I am beyond satisfied in the education my son is receiving in CSD. I have lived with one foot in each a traditional district and the other in various charters. I have transferred my children, at times, to have access to better special education service providers, to allow my children to attend the same school at the same time for at least part of their young lives, and even for familial convenience. I currently have one child bused curb to curb and another requires a carpool due to a lack of busing.

So state leaders should definitely provide the students and educators in Christina’s Wilmington schools the additional investment and support needed. Wait, are we back to Wilmington-specific education again? You slip and slide with all the facts you’ve mangled. But only after they find a way to give our community a school board that represents us and can deliver the results our kids deserve. Alleyne, I am not your enemy. In fact, I think that Wilmington should have an ad-hoc committee of education experts overseeing these funds. I also think that the success and/or failure should lie on their shoulders and not that of the current board. I would support CSD in creating a committee of education leaders from within our city district’s boundaries to oversee the application of the funds.

I look forward to the day I see Mr. Alleyne run for school board member. He just may find that the map to success is far more complex that he current credits.

Atnre Alleyne is the founder and executive director of an education advocacy organization, DelawareCAN: The Delaware Campaign for Achievement Now.

Elizabeth Scheinberg is the co-founder of a community partnership that provides children with autism and their families free recreation designed to address sensory and social needs in a safe environment. Her daughter was also the inspiration between Glasgow Park’s Hi5 Park for children with autism. Before writing this redline, she has slain 8 dragons before breakfast and thought of 8 more absolutely impossible things to overcome.

 

 

Who’s Who Of Ex-Governors Team Up With Ridge-Lane For Non-Transparent Education Social Impact Bond Invasion

A few days ago, Kilroy’s Slower Delaware posited Jack Markell could run for U.S. Senator Tom Carper’s seat.  I commented I thought he should stay out of politics altogether.  I’ve always known he would hobnob around the corporate education arena.  Today, an announcement came out that Ridge-Lane Limited Partners is going to expand their social-impact merchant bank.  When I saw who else is a part of this, it made my head throb. Continue reading

As Christina Passes MOU, Carney Wants Charter Students To Come Back To Christina

Last night the Christina Board of Education, in front of a packed house, passed the Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the Delaware Department of Education and Governor John Carney’s office with a 4-2-1 vote.  Board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige voted no while member Angela Mitchell abstained.  The tense meeting, which lasted over three hours, had Carney sitting in the audience the entire time.  While the News Journal, WHYY, and WDEL all came to the meeting, many parts of the meeting were not covered in their articles. Continue reading

Breaking News: State Bullies Christina Into MOU That Breaks The Law!

Governor Carney and the Delaware Department of Education almost had us.  They were THIS close.  In another 24 hours or so they could have gotten away with it.  Their plan to completely evaporate the Christina School District Wilmington student population will depend on the vote at the Christina Board meeting tomorrow night.  But they NEVER told us about the loophole.  Does a Memorandum of Understanding give a state Governor the power to “waive” a law?  I think not! Continue reading

Christina Board Of Education To Vote On MOU Tuesday Night

The Christina Board of Education will finally vote on the Memorandum of Understanding between Governor Carney’s office, the Delaware Department of education, the district and the Board of Education on Tuesday night at Sarah Pyle Academy.  Their regular Board of Education meeting begins at 7pm.  What’s at stake?  Schools closing and consolidating into two schools.  Governor Carney’s reputation.  The Christina School District Wilmington students in Kindergarten to 8th grade.

Even if you don’t live in Christina, this will be something to watch.  It isn’t every day a Governor proposes this kind of action.  Some say it is needed while others say it is too much.  Some say the Board should vote yes while others say mixing these student populations from different areas of the city is a powder keg waiting to explode.  Some say forget the past and keep an open mind while others say Carney’s office doesn’t have the first clue as to what these kids need.  We will find out what the Christina Board votes on Tuesday evening.

The below pictures were released by the Christina School District:

If I were Christina, I would want to see a big fat check hand-delivered by John Carney before I put ink to this.  They are putting a lot of trust in a state that has continually targeted this one particular district if they vote yes.  Sorry, I don’t trust Carney.  He has yet to prove he can be trusted.

 

Christina Tables MOU Again But Does Pass Their Final FY2018 Budget

Last evening, the Christina School District Board of Education held their second board meeting of the month.  There were only two items on the agenda: a recommendation to approve the Memorandum of Understanding between the district and Governor Carney’s office and approval of their final Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

The board punted on the MOU vote again, choosing to table a vote until their February 6th board meeting.  All five board members in attendance voted yes on tabling the vote.  They were George Evans, Fred Polaski, Meredith Griffin, Harrie Ellen Minnehan, and John Young.  Board members Elizabeth Paige and Angela Mitchell did not attend the meeting.  The board has voted to table this vote several times now which must assuredly be frustrating Carney’s office.  When it came time to vote on their final budget for this fiscal year, all board members in attendance voted yes with the exception of Young.  The board voted on the same recommendation last week, but that failed with a 3-2 vote.

Governor John Carney’s office mentioned the proposed MOU in Carney’s proposed Annual Appropriations bill yesterday.  They have 15 million in capital funds earmarked for the district and 1.5 million in opportunity grants.  The capital funds would be used for construction costs for some of their Wilmington schools as the MOU calls for consolidation of Christina’s Wilmington schools from five to two.  Carney also mentioned Christina in his State of the State address last week.

The next day I posted a bold prediction for Christina.  I received no response from Carney’s office or Christina School District about those predictions.  I heard this information from various sources in Delaware.  The odd part is NO ONE has been talking about it aside from some messages I received from some curious and very worried district teachers.  I was not able to reveal my sources to those individuals.

As the district in Delaware that sends the most in local payments to Delaware charter schools, they face a potential financial hit with Carney recommending another 2% goes to charters in FY2019 due to “inflation”.

 

 

 

John Young Takes On John Carney Over Christina MOU Vote

Last night, the Christina School District Board of Education voted again to table a vote on the Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the Delaware Dept. of Education, and Governor Carney’s office.  From the sounds of it, Carney is getting very impatient with Christina.  Board member John Young included a quote from Carney and his response to it on a Facebook post today.

“I’m disappointed that the board did not act tonight to address the serious challenges facing students in these Wilmington schools. We have made it a priority to work in collaboration with Christina to do right by these students. We have offered significant new resources to support educators and students in Wilmington. We can’t afford to wait and delay on this issue any longer.” – John Carney

Well, we do share an emotion: It’s so disappointing to have a partner at the table use this situation for political gain. Not surprising, just disappointing. The MOU currently on the table is the Governor’s version. It makes barely a fraction of the commitment necessary to help our students, is the furthest thing from “significant resources”, and seems to be hyper-focused on only getting one thing done: a dual-generation center. This leaves all our K-8 students in the rain holding a wet bag of nothing, Governor John Carney. Your charged declaration proves what I have sadly suspected: this plan isn’t about helping our students at all. The board, while tabling this terribly lopsided version, ardently pledged to stay at the table and work. I know that’s what I’m committed to doing. I’d really rather not spend much effort like this responding to divisive nonsense like your declaration; however, I will not sit idly by as you disparage the process and hard work of all partners, including your own staff. Let’s get to work instead of name calling and finger pointing, Governor.

As always, I’m right here.

Young gave his cell phone number after the last sentence but I do not feel comfortable providing that on a blog.  When Young addressed him as Governor John Carney, that was linked to his Facebook profile.

I think things are about to get very interesting in Christina.  As I’ve written before, Carney does NOT like anyone challenging him.  He takes that very seriously.  Will Carney try to pull some type of “priority schools” stunt on Christina if they do not act on the MOU?  I would be willing to bet he will.  Something will happen.  I have no idea what that is.

As well, the Christina board voted NO on their final Fiscal Year 2018 budget.  While this does not mean the state will stop disbursing funds to the district, it could affect their local payments.  It certainly did not make Christina Chief Financial Officer Robert Silber or Superintendent Richard Gregg have a good night.  Things are getting interesting up there.

Christina Board Tables MOU Between District & Governor Carney With 5-2 Vote

The Christina School District Board of Education voted 5-2 to table the Memorandum of Understanding between the Christina School District and Delaware Governor John Carney’s office.  In a nutshell, this means it isn’t dead but will most likely come up at a future board meeting.  Carney’s office gave Christina a deadline of February 28th to approve the whole thing, even the portion which would consolidate five schools into two.  The two no votes belonged to board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige.

Carney is going to be one pissed off Governor tonight!  In my opinion, this MOU was a bait and switch to begin with.  Now that the Christina Board has essentially said “screw you and your MOU”, he can REALLY go after the district.  Which means he will bring out the big guns and threats of charter conversion.  These are predictions on my end with nothing to base them on.  Nothing but history.  To see the latest draft, please see below:

Condoms, Chlamydia, Christina, Closures, Carney and the Council

The Christina Board of Education meeting last night was filled with some awesome discussion about what appears in the title of this article.  I painstakingly transcribed the part of the meeting with the Superintendent’s report to the Board and the crazy discussion after.  Board member John Young was on fire!!!!  The topics dealt with Governor Carney’s plans for Christina’s Wilmington schools.  There is A LOT of information in here.  A ton.  From venereal diseases to transparency to possible school closures and more!  I have a feeling things are going to look VERY different in Christina’s Wilmington schools a year from now.  And for the record, I agree with John Young on EVERYTHING he said! Continue reading

State Board & WEIC Transcription: FOIA Violation, Priority Schools, And Funding

The State Board of Education audio recordings from their very long meeting yesterday are now up on the State Board website.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission portions of the meeting take up a collective two hours and twenty minutes of the meeting.  Not included are the breaks, legal or illegal, during the meeting with respect to the WEIC discussion.

As I insanely do once in a while, during contentious board meetings, I transcribed part of the WEIC conversations.  The three areas I focused on were the FOIA violation I believe the State Board committed by pausing the meeting to convene with legal counsel without calling for an executive session, the Christina priority school plans, and the funding/pause conversation surrounding the words “shall” and “may”.  The key players in most of this are State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray and WEIC Chair Tony Allen.  Others are State Board members Pat Heffernan, Barbara Rutt, and Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson.  While I would have loved to get the whole thing transcribed, there isn’t enough time in the day.  And as I’ve said before, you can only replay some of these voices so many times without wanting to jump off a bridge.  Key parts or words are bolded for emphasis.

 

The FOIA Violation

There has been well over an hour of conversation at this point about the plan and a lot of back and forth between the State Board and Tony Allen.  This occurs at the end of Part 5 in the audio recordings from the meeting yesterday.

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: So, I just gotta check out the procedural piece of that with the attorney…do you mind? Cause I’m not sure about, uhm, the timing…

Tony Allen: Could I add, offer something, Could you make a motion to approve it with the new caveats, approval contingent upon…

Gray: Yeah, that’s why I need to make sure we get all the right pieces around that. I think I heard a little bit of that. So, let me ask for, uhm, a 15 minute break to consult with counsel and get the options around that.  Do you mind?

Allen: No

Gray: Miss Rutt, can she come with me, with you, the attorney? It’s 3:46.  We’ll be back at 4.

31 minutes later, beginning of Part 6 of the audio recording…

Gray: It’s 4:17 and we’re back in session. So why we left and the whole purpose of stepping away is we had , uhm,  a proposal to table the current motion to approve the plan as presented.  But, ugh, we brought forth an amendment motion that actually puts forth a conditional approval based on the conditions of changing the “shall” to “may” in the proposed resolution.  And also having a wait for the Christina School District to act on the action item on February 23rd which involves submission of grant applications to the Department of Education for priority schools.  And also contingent upon approval of the Department of Education of that plan, of that grant application.  Right, so that’s the discussion that has been happening for the past thirty minutes or so and the expectation around that, uhm, if the board accepts that amended motion and vote accordingly, or affirmative in that, that we would ask that we take those two conditions and act accordingly however we see fit, we would be able to close that item before us.  There is no need to bring this back to the table or as an agenda item for the board.  We would be able to settle that based on those conditions being met.

Pat Heffernan: And if they’re not met?

Gray: And if they’re not met then the approval is, there is no conditional approval and we do not approve it.

Allen: Can I add two things?

Gray: Sure

Allen: I’ve consulted with many of the commissioners here on both the conditions. On condition one, back to Christina and the priority school plans, I think that, I appreciate, making sure that the condition is with respect to the Department of Education approving the plan as opposed to the Christina School Board being made, maybe that’s how I was interpreting it, made to approve their priority schools plan is a better way to get that.  I think the Christina School District has every intention to approve the plan but I don’t think they take kindly to the State Board as making them so that’s…

Barbara Rutt: Sure

Allen: The second issue, with respect to “shall” and “may” is, I just want to reiterate, and you will act I know, I want to reiterate that on the board level, the commission level, the word “shall” was about making sure this wasn’t becoming an unfunded mandate. We talked about that at length during our discussion.  I think that would be a significant hurdle for us.  The district leaders have continued to express that if the resources aren’t provided they could not go forward.  And it’s my suspicion is that they will see that change from “shall” to “may” as a potential for an unfunded mandate with a cause of concern for their districts.  I will take that back to the commission, but I wanted you to know that as you make your decision, that could be a deal-breaker.  While I would not speak for the commission at this moment, I can guarantee you that if it does not happen, you will not see the commission resubmit a plan. 

 

Christina Priority Schools

Heffernan: I just want to add that, you know, the approval of the priority schools plan by Christina is, is it months or years late? So I have very little patience for Christina for semantics on that.  They literally refused to approve plans to help the kids and honestly, I think got us to this table where we are today.

Secretary of Education Dr. Steve Godowsky: I just want to make this clear. On January 22nd of 2016, I sent Christina’s Acting Superintendent a letter indicating that either the board or the Acting Superintendent can submit and activate the, uhm, the original application for the priority, or the MOU that they submitted a year ago.  Uhm, so that is what you are suggesting.  It may not require a vote from the Board but we wanted to make sure which plan they want to move forward and if it was the MOU plan, and I have talked to the Board President.   Then that will be acceptable to us going forward.

Heffernan: One thing that really troubles me about this is if the Christina Board doesn’t fully support these plans then, you know, we’re back to where we always were. And this is, so I, I, we can’t make, we have no authority to make any local boards approve anything, I totally get that, but I’m just very disappointed that this continues to be hard to get them to agree to help the priority schools.  That’s all I’m saying.

Godowsky: And the Christina Board did sign off on their plan about a year ago with one day difference so I think they did support that plan. And now that we know that’s the plan on the table then we can move forward, I believe we can do our due diligence and be in a position to review that plan and make modifications.

Heffernan: So they approved this a year ago?

Godowsky: As part of, uhm, the Memorandum of Understanding, between the district and others that negotiated that alternative to the original plan, as I understand it. I was…

Allen: As I understand that, the impasse was between Christina and their approved plans and the former Secretary (Mark Murphy), not that they didn’t approve the priority school plans. That is my understanding.

Heffernan: But the Department didn’t approve the plans?

Allen: Correct

Heffernan: So we’re going to take the same plans that the Department didn’t approve…

Godowsky: No, no. I don’t know the history of why it wasn’t signed off.  There were a number of contingencies on that which required the principal, replacing the principal, interviewing, or reapplying teachers for their positions, and management company that, ugh, that, those requirements have changed and we’re not in a position to impose those regulations.  So I think that was the stumbling block.  I don’t want to speak for Christina, and I don’t have all the history that they were the stumbling block, but later on there was an MOU submitted that never got signed off on at the Department level.  I don’t know the reasons in detail.  But I just know what I’ve looked at, in terms of the MOU, it’s consistent with much of what we want to do with those three schools, instructionally, which we’ve talked about since October, that I’ve been here.  And, given some modifications, I’m ready to move forward.

Gray reiterates much of the conversation of what just went on…

Godowsky: I’m in receipt of those plans. I just needed, in a sense I have those plans.

 

“Shall” and “May”

Heffernan: I guess I’m trying to understand where the unfunded mandate is coming from. The redistricting portion of the plan is going to be unfunded or…

Allen: Remember, we arranged this for resources for English Language Learners, special education, and high concentrations of poverty. Every outline of current funding, none of that has been allocated yet, say, for the Governor’s commitment for the four to six million, right, so what we’re suggesting is each year, going through these two budget cycles, everything has to show up and if it that money doesn’t show up all the districts have particular issues with having Red Clay taking on these kids, and by the way this is not just a Red Clay issue, all the districts talk about this, taking on these kids with no changes in the funding formula for how they are going to help those kids.

Gray: And we’re committed to that same delivery around, particularly to support low-income and English Language Learners so we are… (note: Gray did not say special education)

Allen: And I agree. The question is about you all interpreting, and again, this might be an (inaudible) on our part, you all interpreting “shall” as required without deliberation.

Gray: That’s right.

Allen: We don’t interpret it that way. It was meant to be deliberation in consultation with the effected districts…

Gray: Right, so let’s just make it the “may”, and if we need to, we’ll do it, right? Because without this level of conversation and intimacy that we have now, whenever this may come forward a few years from now that “shall” is a… (very, very hard to understand what she said here but I did hear the word legal.  Whether that was “legal” or “illegal” I was unable to tell)

Allen: I agree, and I do not give this short shrift, if you in fact approve it this way, it will require, I believe, a full-throated (inaudible) analysis that you will give in writing and in person to the commission, so…

Gray: Absolutely. We’re committed to that.  The Board is committed to that for sure.

At this point, Dan Rich (another WEIC commissioner) says something to Tony Allen. Tony asks for five minutes, and then Kenny Rivera (President of the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education and a commissioner on WEIC) says something.  I think I heard the word “non-negotiable” but it is very hard to hear.  The State Board grants the WEIC folks a five minute break.  This is the end of Part 6 of the audio recordings.

The break ends, and the State Board is back in session in Part 7 of the audio recordings.

Gray: So Dr. Allen, did you want to add something before we go forward?

Allen: I consulted with many of the Commissioners here and I think there is general agreement that we could, and we would like you to consider, taking out all the provisions outlined in the resolution that we take back to the commission so that it does not come back to the State Board. But in general, but moving forward, it will be contingent upon sufficient funding.  Effectively, that takes you out of the process at the final implementation stage.

Gray: So you’re saying?

Allen: What we’re saying disregard all the remaining “shalls”, make it all contingent upon the necessary and sufficient funding and resources and take it off of the State Board with respect to their responsibility for this board and to future State Boards.

Gray: So is that effectively removing the resolution?

Allen: It’s more changing the resolution but excluding State Board having ongoing responsibility for suspension of the timetable.

Gray: Could I ask the process specialist?

Donna Johnson: With process of approval of the redistricting process in and of itself, and there is the caveat there that the plan would become essentially non-void if necessary and sufficient funding were not available, what safeguards would be in place if those necessary sufficient funding and supports were not at each of the milestones? Where would there be a pause that takes place at that point?

Allen: Do you mean who would authorize that pause?

Johnson: Yes.

Allen: The authorization would come from the commission and the effected districts. So we’d take it out of the State Board’s hands.  There is nothing in Senate Bill 122 that prohibits this.

After much back and forth, the State Board voted on the redistricting plan and the addendums as of 2/11/16 with no amendments which failed 3-4.  The State Board then voted on the plan with the amendments about the Christina priority schools plan approval and the changing of “shall” to “may” on page 10 of the official plan.  The motion passed with a 4-3 vote.

 

Live At The State Board of Education: The WEIC Vote…

2:38pm…back in session….

Tony Allen takes the stand.  Actually, it’s a chair… He will answer questions for the State Board of Education.

Dr. Gray is asking about Question #2: concerning commitments to evidence-based practices for students from now until implementation of redistricting plan…How would these best practices and services be available to all children?

Tony Allen is answering.  Said the principals are dedicated to all students of Wilmington.

Dr. Gray is asking about a commitment from the Christina School District.  Said due to a weather delay they can’t vote on the commitment until their next meeting on February 23rd.  He is now talking about the priority schools in Christina.  He said he expects the Christina board to take that action on 2/23.

Dr. Gray is talking about the $1.3 million grant application from Christina School District for their priority schools.  Said that doesn’t have a lot to do with this right now.

Gray wants to talk about the graduation rates and student outcomes for the students of Wilmington.  Brought up the Delaware School Success Framework (yawn)…

Tony Allen said WEIC is committed to an annual qualitative review of all the Wilmington schools, not just Red Clay.  He said the plan will progress every year with these enhanced services.

State Board member Gregory Coverdale is asking about the Colonia back-out from the plan.  Tony is explaining they were not willing to commit to sending their students to Red Clay but are committed to the WEIC plan.

Board member Pat Heffernan is talking about teaching and learning.  He said what they got is a summary if they didn’t have WEIC.  Tony said WEIC may not have happened if it weren’t for the priority schools.  Said that was an impasse in all of this.  Said he is not an expert on education but there are several members on the commission who are.  Tony just announced University of Delaware will be acting as a partner to help the districts, along with the United Way who will be bringing in other non-profits who have relationships with the schools.  They are committed to helping students with trauma.

Board member Nina Lou Bunting just said we are the State Board of Education, not the State Board of Redistricting.  Said the reason they have asked so many questions because the plan is going to give all this to Red Clay to get best practices and what will be coming into the state.  She said she doesn’t know everything about the plan, but is asking if it is a living and ongoing thing…

Bunting is saying “Yearly, we’re going to get a report with what worked.”  In her view it is not complete in terms of telling the State Board of Education what educational initiatives are going to be adapted with the redistricting plan.  Allen responded that the priority schools were announced by the Governor and the DOE in September, 2014.  He said Red Clay did a lot of community outreach in coming up with their plans.  He said on the Christina side, they are going through this now. (editor’s note: Christina got a lot of community input at the same time Red Clay did)

Bunting said she is hearing from several districts that they want to know where their piece of the pie is.  Said this is going to cost a lot of money and it has to be right.  Heffernan said there is a belief that they (the State Board) are adversaries.  (why would he ever think that?)  Tony said they are not adversaries and this has been an intense debate.  Board member Whittaker said he sees this as a five year plan to let other districts copy on the success of the plan.  Tony is stressing that it has always been the recommendation of the commission that all areas of intense poverty, ELL, and students with disabilities need support and funding right away.  He understands the state doesn’t have enough money for that.  He mentioned Dover as one of these areas and not just Wilmington.

Gray is saying they didn’t get an educational prong in the plan.  She said the measures and impacts are going to be what’s important.  She said the redistricting isn’t as difficult.  It is sweat equity to get it done.  She said district’s accountability or level of blame and accountability needs to start at day one.  She said they shouldn’t be having a conversation at a special board meeting to make this work.  We should be doing it anyways.  Gray is getting huffy again…  She said the odds on this are 50-50.

Tony is saying you can’t find a more dedicated coalition of educators as the ones involved in this initiative.  He never said this is the final plan and he never said this will fix everything.  He said this is building and not an end result.

Board member Barbara Rutt is asking if there is sufficient funding but no change in academics, what happens then?  Tony said they don’t want an unfunded mandate.  Rutt is asking if it could be rephrased.  Tony said sure, but the resolution is more about a set of safeguards (missed part of this, will update based on the audio recording when it’s released).  Rutt doesn’t feel it is appropriate to tie the hands of the future board (State Board).

Rutt said the letters of commitment from the districts could be tough in the future.  Allen said this is a citizen led group.  He said the results will be at the discretion of the schools.  They (WEIC) don’t have the authority to enforce this.

Gray said their initial reaction was of great concern.  She wanted to make sure they have the funding.  She wants to know what “transition supports” are in the funding.  Tony gave an example of United Way as a partner in this which gives them the ability to be an “engine” to move this forward.

Gray keeps going on about student outcomes (based on the very faulty Smarter Balanced Assessment… when is this unelected State Board going to get it?  Sorry, had to go there!).  She is saying something about July of 2017, and that is when they will see a lot of activity around the parent collaboration and engagement.  Tony agreed, as well as meeting the needs of students in poverty.

Gray is saying they won’t see a lot of convergence until that date.  Not to be disrespectful to the huge effort that has already taken place.  All the things will start to go at the same time.  Tony said right.

Quiet moment.

Heffernan wants to switch gears.  Bringing up funding.  Talking about the Governor’s budget.  Asking about local funds being collected without a referendum.  Tony is saying the General Assembly will be coming out with recommendations around this.  What they have heard from the districts is these would be operating funds, not capital funds.  He said those recommendations could render this moot, but their intention is to have the Education Funding Task Force make necessary recommendations to make this work.  Gray is concerned about distribution of funds between Red Clay and Christina.  Red Clay will get the bulk of those dollars in the initial years.   Tony is indicating this would be expanded to all of Christina in the second year and all the city kids in the third year.  Tony said all low-income kids will get these funds.  Rutt wants to know more about transition administrative funds.  Tony said the Governor put in $2 million in the budget for this purpose but it could be held in the Office of Management and Budget.  $7.5 million is needed for this, but $3 million would be transition funds.  Planning year first year, transition second year and implementation third year.  Tony said they are trying to get spec ed funding statewide before this.

Bunting is saying she wants all these programs to be going on right now while they transition.  Tony agrees.  Brought up CEO Hope and the Wilmington Education Strategic Think Tank.

Heffernan is very much in alignment with everything they have talked about.  But he is concerned about question #1 in the State Board’s questions: how will shifting district boundary lines change student outcomes?  He can’t wrap his head around it and doesn’t understand why district lines need to change.  Tony said students vacillate between Christina and Red Clay every year, around 20-30%.  What he is saying is students need district stability.  A student shouldn’t move in with his grandmother across the street and all of a sudden be in a different district.  They need to be in the same construct.

Rutt isn’t satisfied with this answer.  Said she was naïve in thinking she would get answers based on the questions the State Board asked of WEIC.  She gets the part about students and stability but said it isn’t as big a number of students as they thought.  Tony and Heffernan states these issues keep them up at night.

Conversation going back and forth but difficult to hear.  Board member Jorge Melendez said this is the first step in a long journey.  He said that everyone who is here cares.  If the State Board passes this they need to take this back to their community and be in this 100%.

Gray is saying this is a risk.  The measures of success for the State Board are less of the redistricting facets and more on the educational outcome.  They aren’t expecting graduation rates to go up 3% in a year, but does want to see progress.  They all want to serve the students in Wilmington.  She is stating they can’t have full district support without the Christina commitment.

Motion on the table is to approve with addendum to take out “shall” in terms of ??.  Rutt put a motion out to table it again.  Gray said the first motion is to approve the plan and it has been seconded.  Rutt is saying it is important to have the Christina action.  Gray is asking the legal counsel.  She is asking for a fifteen minute break to convene with counsel.

One of the WEIC members stated anyone who came down on the WEIC bus has to leave now because the bus will be coming in fifteen minutes.

Many folks in the room are talking about how the State Board can’t do this outside of public session.  Many feel this is a violation of FOIA law.

State Board is still on break consulting with their legal counsel.  Meanwhile, some of us have figured out the Christina thing.  Thanks to Avi Wolfman-Arent with Newsworks who pointed out an action item on Christina’s board meeting on 2/23.  Basically it is the district’s approval of the grant application for their priority schools.  The “shall” item is in regards to the funding for WEIC.  Red Clay is insisting it “shall” be given, not “may”, and that isn’t optional.

Okay, Tony Allen just came out of a door with Secretary Godowsky and the State Board.  Lowered and angry faces.  WEIC left the room for a quick meeting.  Gray is explaining what I just wrote about the “shall” thing and the Christina action item on 2/23.

The State Board is going to vote based on those two conditions having been met.  If the conditions aren’t met their vote doesn’t mean anything.  Tony Allen is saying the Commission leadership met just now.  He said there is a better way of doing this.  He said he expects Christina to pass their plans.  He said the “shall” thing is a significant curve for them.  He said that change from “shall” has the capability of an unfunded mandate.

Gray is saying the commitment here cannot have the State Board’s hands tied.  The State Board shares the concern about an unfunded mandate.  Tony is saying there is a concern with WEIC for the State Board to mandate Christina approve the priority school plan.  Heffernan said Christina refused to approve plans (last year) and that is what got us to this point in time.

Secretary Godowsky said he submitted a letter to Acting Christina Superintendent Robert Andrzejewski on January 21st indicating if Christina submitted the Memorandum of Understanding plan that would be acceptable.  Godowsky said they aren’t changing the rules midstream.  He said if the Acting Superintendent submits the grant application and the Department approves it.  Heffernan said if Christina doesn’t approve their plans they are back where they started from.  Godowsky said they don’t authority over a local board.  Godowsky said if they submit their plans they can do their due diligence and move forward.  Godowsky is referring to the MOU alternative plan passed in March.  Godowsky said he doesn’t know the full history but it was around replacing principals and a potential management company.  He doesn’t want to speak for Christina and say they were the stumbling block.  He doesn’t know the details around the alternative MOU.  He said much of what WEIC wants to do is what they want to do for the Christina priority schools.

And of course my battery is going to run out and I’m not near a plug…

Secretary Godowsky said he is in receipt of those plans.  Tony Allen said it is a formal response to the commitment from Christina (the letter Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan wrote WITHOUT board approval in the WEIC addendum to the State Board questions).  How can Godowsky be in receipt of plans that weren’t voted on by the Christina Board of Education?

Red Clay Board President Kenny Rivera is talking about the unfunded mandate.  WEIC is asking for a five minute consultation.

There was talk from WEIC about removing the State Board’s role in this until July of 2018 pending passage of the redistricting plan by the State Board.  This was not an acceptable proposal to the State Board of Education.

Okay, got plugged in.  About twenty minutes ago, the State Board of Education voted on a motion to approve the WEIC plan without any addendums.  It did not pass.  Roll Call- Yes: Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Dr. Whittaker, Jorge Melendez, Nay: Pat Heffernan, Nina Lou Bunting, Barbara Rutt, Gregory Coverdale.  Then they made a motion to approve the WEIC plan based on DOE approval of the submitted Christina priority school plans and the changing of “shall” to “may” in regards to the funding.  Roll Call- Yes: Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Barbara Rutt, Jorge Melendez, Dr. Whittaker, Nay: Pat Heffernan, Nina Lou Bunting, Gregory Coverdale.  The plan passed the State Board with the amendments.  But this is a deal breaker because the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education voted in November that if the funding was not guaranteed, they would not move forward.  So the WEIC redistricting plan appears to be dead.  But this is Delaware.

 

 

 

 

Christina Priority Schools & The Weird Behavior Of The DOE & State Board

On Christmas Eve, Avi with Newsworks/WHYY published an article called “A year later, still no money for three Delaware ‘priority’ schools”.  I found this article to be fascinating and revealing.  Especially since it gave information that, apparently, the Christina Board of Education wasn’t even aware of.  One thing is for certain: the Delaware Department of Education is gunning for the Christina School District and they don’t care who knows anymore.

Last year, the DOE labeled six Wilmington schools as priority schools based on standardized test scores.  Three in Christina, and three in Red Clay.  Red Clay submitted their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), their plans for the schools, and received funds from the state for the initiative.  Christina fought it tooth and nail in many intense board meetings.  Finally, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee released their recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington.  The Christina Board signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the DOE giving a one-year pause on their priority schools and granting them a second planning year.

The Christina priority schools seemed like a dead issue until October of this year.  At the Delaware Education State Support (DESS) meeting, a DSEA representative asked Penny Schwinn (Chief of Accountability at the DOE) what would happen to the three Christina priority schools if the redistricting effort fell through.  Schwinn responded that had been a recent topic of conversation at the DOE.  But as per several members of the Christina board of education, nobody from the DOE contacted them about the priority schools or even mentioned them until the State Board of Education meeting on December 17th.

Both Avi and I were present at this meeting and we both saw State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray’s very bizarre behavior.  Avi described it well in his article:

The issue surfaced publicly during last Thursday’s State Board of Education Meeting. In the middle of a presentation, board president Terri Quinn Gray grew so upset she rose from her chair and blurted, “I need to take a break.”  She meant it literally. Gray grimaced, clutched her stomach, and walked out of the board meeting.  The source of Gray’s discontent wasn’t charter schools or testing or redistricting in Wilmington. It was priority schools.

There were several contentious moments at this board meeting.  But for Dr. Gray it was something that should have been a throwaway line during a presentation from Penny Schwinn’s Accountability department.  The second Penny Schwinn mentioned Christina was on their 2nd planning year for their priority schools, Gray either was truly surprised or she was putting on a show for everyone to see and hear.

The State Board is presented with information for their meetings from Executive Director Donna Johnson.  Most of the time, the information can be seen by the public on the State Board website.  But sometimes, information isn’t seen until the day of the meeting.  I truly don’t know if this applies to the actual State Board members or not.  But based on attending one of their State Board retreats, I did see the information was available to them and not the public when it came to a presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  Now whether they actually read this information or not ahead of time, or any of the information presented to them, cannot be determined.

During a late September 2014 Christina board meeting, Dr. Gray and fellow State Board member Gregory Coverdale gave public comment and pleaded with Christina to sign their MOU.  The audience was filled with Christina board members, and Gray and Coverdale were booed and left when board member John Young was talking about how the DOE needs great leaders.  As revealed in a FOIA of DOE emails a year ago, Donna Johnson accused Christina Board member John Young of giving a speech that was most likely written by State Rep. John Kowalko or State Senator Bryan Townsend.  Both Gray and Johnson were hammering Christina at the State Board of Education.  And we can’t forget Donna Johnson’s very bizarre and strange accusation leveled at the Christina School District last summer.

Based on the last link, I filed a complaint with the Delaware Department of Justice’s office of Civil Rights & Public Trust against Johnson.  Over three and a half months later and I have not received an answer to that complaint.  No one has contacted me to clarify any of the information about it.  I did speak with Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn a week ago about the status of these complaints.  He explained to me that the new office in the DOJ is still in the planning stages and they are still sorting out what they can and cannot do based on state code.  He also said someone from that office would be contacting me in a few days.  That never happened.

In my perception, this is a very personal amount of contention against Christina between Gray and Johnson.  I do not think the State Board will approve the WEIC plan for the redistricting of Christina’s Wilmington Schools into Red Clay.  I think they are reintroducing the Christina priority schools conversation to put us back to the exact same moment we were at a year ago where the State wants to take those schools and convert them into charter schools.  The Delaware Met building is in the Christina School District.  There is room in the Community Education building for another school, which is also in the current Christina School District.

The true disconnect here seems to also be taking place within the Christina School District itself.  Acting Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski admitted to having conversation with the DOE about Christina priority schools earlier this month.

Andrzejewski, who started as acting superintendent on October 1, told NewsWorks/WHYY he didn’t know money was available for the three priority schools until early December. He said the district will submit sub-grant applications for each of the three school before the month ends.  “It kind of surprised all of us when we heard come December that there was money available,” Andrzejewski said.

But this is something the Christina Board had no idea even came up until the State Board meeting on 12/17.  And it doesn’t stop there, because Andrzejewski submitted an application for a grant without anyone on the Christina Board even knowing about it.

State and district officials say they’re working together and that both want the schools to receive money as soon as possible. As this article was being reported, a Christina spokesperson told NewsWorks/WHYY that grant applications for each of the three schools were sent to the Department of Education on December 23.

It sounds to me like Andrzejewski needs to get it together and actually speak with his board.  The board hired him so he is beholden to informing them before anything like this is submitted to the DOE.  Beyond that though, this shouldn’t even be a topic of conversation.  The DOE should have given those funds to Christina once they had them available.  Instead, they are pretending this is a big deal to give it a media push.  Behind the scenes, they are just biding their time and waiting for the pushback from Christina so they can take the schools.  And lest we forget, Schwinn herself said one of the consequences of Christina not agreeing to the DOE’s terms on the priority schools is making Christina a “high-risk district”.  Imagine if the DOE could somehow take the whole district lock, stock and barrel?

Key Audio Recording Links From State Board of Education Meeting Yesterday

Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities.  Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Redistricting Plan.  Christina Priority Schools.  Delaware Met.  All are here.  Please listen.  Please pay attention.  Listen to the words that are said by our unelected Governor appointed State Board of Education.  This meeting touched on most of the hot education issues of our state in one form or another.  Then email your state legislator politely requesting legislation for our State Board of Education to be elected officials.

WEIC Public Comment: Part 2

Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities: Part 3

WEIC Presentation to State Board: Part 5

Christina Priority Schools (about 1/3rd of the way in), Update on Opt-Out Penalties via ESEA Waiver Request with US DOE: Part 6

Delaware Met (starts about 1/3rd of the way in for Del Met) and Charter Renewals: Part 7

 

Read The Memorandum of Understanding Between UCLA & Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium

Who owns the rights to the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  If you thought it was the governing states, you are wrong.  They belong to a university, UCLA.  Read the MOU between California, UCLA, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium.  I would assume every state involved in Smarter Balanced has a similar MOU with UCLA.

Governor Jack Markell, Are You Going To Bust A Union?

My oh my, what a tangled web we weave.  The Christina Board adjourned their board meeting with NO Christina Educators Association Memorandum of Understanding negotiated in regards to the Priority Schools.  What will Governor Markell do now?  Will he actually bust a teachers union?  And what will the legislators do if he does?  This will certainly be an interesting next few days.

In the meantime, the Delaware Department of Education has not done anything with the approved MOUs the Christina Board gave them two weeks ago.  Either they were holding out for the CEA MOUs, or they really don’t care at this point.  This has dragged out much longer than most people thought.  Maybe the public pressure is getting to the DOE and they are in stall mode.  However this works out, short of the DOE and Markell ditching the priority plans altogether, it will be a public relations nightmare for both of them.

If you read my last post, with the live Twitter feeds from the board meeting, it looks like the board is more unified than they were at their meeting two weeks ago.  What happens next will be anyone’s guess!

Hear The Fatal Four On The Christina Board Pass The Priority MOUs!

From the Christina Board meeting last night.  Listen to every single word!  Hear how four members of the board handed their schools over to the DOE.

http://www.ChristinaK12.org/apps/video/watch.jsp?v=54446

Brainwashed Fatal Four on Christina Board Pass Priority School MOUs, Kowalko Storms Out, My FOIA Request, & Very Mad Teachers

I attended the Christina Board of Education meeting tonight.  To say it was chaos would be an understatement.  Picture watching France capitulate to Germany in 1940, and that was the Fatal Four on the Christina Board tonight.  Enough to get the damn MOUs passed.  The Delaware DOE is now clear to reject this MOU and give the district their three options: close, convert to charter, or hand over the schools to a management organization.

The board I saw two weeks ago was vastly different.  Tonight there were two clear sides: one that seems to have been brainwashed by the DOE during the non-public and non-recorded negotiation meeting on 1/9, and the other three members of the board who were not given all the pertinent information from the other.

The vote for the priority schools MOUs passed 4-3.  But not before board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige attempted to add amendments to the previously approved MOU and modified by the superintendent and the other four board members.  Every amendment Young and Paige offered was turned down, with the exception being Paige’s very wise suggestion of deleting the comment “Any other documents are secondary to this document”.  That passed 4-3 after teachers in the audience almost had an open revolt over that line which would make their teacher contracts null and void.

Delaware State Representative John Kowalko stormed out when he realized this board was going to pass the MOUs as written.  By this time I suspected the four board members had changed the past couple weeks, and the superintendent as well.  I asked to give public comment and openly told the four members of the board and the superintendent I didn’t trust them and I requested a FOIA for all board members emails between themselves and the DOE going back to January 1st of this year. I told the Fatal Four they weren’t looking at the audience the way the other two were (from my vantage point, I couldn’t see if board member Ressler was or not, but he was one of the good guys tonight, so I didn’t care).

Red Clay teacher Mike Matthews told board member George Evans he has been on the board 35 years in response to Evan’s comment to Christina teacher Jackie Kook about this “putting the kids first”.  Matthews is now campaigning for anyone to run against Evans in the upcoming board seat election.

The Fatal Four who voted Yes for the MOUs were President Fred Polaski, George Evans, Shirley Sutton Saffer, and the one board member I never thought would do anything with an MOU but tear it up, Harrie Ellen Minnehan.  The heroes of the night were Young, Paige and Ressler.  It seemed obvious an alliance had developed amongst the Fatal Four and Superintendent Dr. Freeman Williams.  This cabal, in my opinion, purposely didn’t tell the other board members key information, which was the reason for my FOIA request.  If the DOE’s goal was to split the board and turn them against each other, they succeeded.

This was a board divided, and the Fatal Four discounted anything the other three had to say.  And it’s not like the other three were just talking about nothing.  All of the amendments and their discussion made sense.  The Heroic Three were blindsided by the Fatal Four.  The Fatal Four should have just told the audience at the beginning of the night they were going to vote yes for the mass destruction of public education in Delaware and saved us all a miserable three and a half hours of sheer hell with their crossed arms and smug angry faces.  By the time I requested my FOIA, I felt like I was going to vomit in my mouth if Polaski said “The DOE wants…” one more time.

Live, Via Twitter, It’s Mike Matthews At The Christina Board of Education Meeting!!!

Gonna try and live tweet the @ChristinaK12 board meeting. @ecpaige @ED_IN_DE @Apl_Jax — Mike Matthews (@RCEAPrez) January 14, 2015

Public comment starting @ChristinaK12 meeting.— Mike Matthews (@RCEAPrez) January 14, 2015

Staff member asks for @ED_IN_DE‘s autograph!! Wowsa, big guy! :-)— Mike Matthews (@RCEAPrez) January 14, 2015

Two public comments so far @ChristinaK12 board meeting related to School for the Deaf and other needs to hearing-impaired students.
— Mike Matthews (@RCEAPrez) January 14, 2015

Oh my. Looking at agenda @ChristinaK12 meeting — already a resolution to TABLE the MOUs! pic.twitter.com/LUG0papEcS
— Mike Matthews (@RCEAPrez) January 14, 2015

CEA president Mike Kempski says he appreciated process to negotiate first MOU and is hopeful future negotiations are as positive. — Mike Matthews (@RCEAPrez) January 14, 2015

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