Priority Schools: FOIAs, Injunctions, Meetings, Petitions, Legislators **UPDATED**

The priority school crisis in Delaware has reached a fever pitch this week.  Today, the Christina School District “Negotiation” team is making a last ditch effort to try to negotiate with the despotic Delaware Department of Education.  Most believe it is for naught, as the DOE and Governor Markell have already made up their mind and are gearing up to present this to the public.

There are still a few things that could stop or stall this authoritarian initiative.  Unreleased FOIAs could give insight to any irregularities or outright illegal actions on the part of the DOE.  The DOE could accept CSD’s new MOU (about the same time as North Korea becomes a free and open country).  Someone or a group could file an injunction which would buy some time for other alternatives.  A petition will be hand delivered to Mark Murphy’s office today with well over 600 signatures by Delaware Parents & Teachers For Public Education, maybe this will have some weight.  The 148th General Assembly will step in and put a stop to it.

This is what I think will happen: Meeting goes south today, Markell makes an announcement either on his weekly public address tomorrow or Monday, an injunction is filed, much awaited FOIAs get released Monday that will be so heavily redacted nothing will make sense, and this starts getting sold to the public the week after next if the injunction doesn’t prevent that.  And for those who think Red Clay is in the clear, think again.

Here’s the thing though: This violates Federal law.  There are many students with IEPs.  ANY change in placement is an IEP Team decision.  So unless every single student’s IEP Team had the opportunity to be given every single choice and decided on it, any priority school MOU is illegal.  We are dealing with least restrictive environment, FAPE, and educational placement here.  Any change, whether it is extending the school day, or Extended School Year summer classes, or a change from public school district to charter is something the IEP Team decides, not the Delaware DOE or Governor Markell.

So if Markell and the DOE want to go ahead with their plans, go right ahead.  But you will be facing the above.  And I will personally spearhead this special education initiative.  You always forget about the special needs students, don’t you?

UPDATED, 1/9/15: As of 1:00pm, the negotiations are still going on.  I will keep you updated if I hear anything!

The Backstabbing and Nefarious Penny Schwinn’s Email With The Original Timeline To Christina School District

 

This was sent to me anonymously via email just now.  I have no doubt this is real as it matches exactly with information I was given a week ago from the Friends Of Christina group.  Did Markell have a chat with Penny Schwinn to bump this up?  Why would the DOE all of a sudden change everything?  This is the evil tactics Schwinn and the DOE have been up to.  They play games constantly.  Don’t believe the spin the News Journal puts on this.  They toyed with Christina and the only reason for this change is to put the screws to them.

From: WILLIAMS FREEMAN
Sent: Friday, December 26, 2014 2:20:46 PM (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
To: CSD SchoolBoard; ZIMMERMAN FARA; RACCA KELLI; SILBER ROBERT; LEE JACQUELINE A
Subject: Fwd: Thank you for your submission

Fyi
Freeman

Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE smartphone

——– Original message ——–

From: Schwinn Penny
Date:12/26/2014 1:44 PM (GMT-05:00)
To: WILLIAMS FREEMAN
Subject: Thank you for your submission

Good afternoon,

Thank you for your recent submission of Priority School draft plans, the proposed MOU between the Department and the District, as well as the MOU between Christina School District and its collective bargaining agreement.

Please expect feedback to be returned to you within five (5) business days. For clarity, you should expect to receive feedback in the early afternoon of January 5th. (As a reminder, the State of Delaware granted 12/24, 12/25, 12/26, 1/1, and 1/2 as holidays/vacation days. The review days will therefore occur beginning at 12:30pm on 12/22 through 12:30pm on 1/5).

We recognize that the turnaround time for the District between 12:30pm on 1/5 to COB on 1/7 is likely too tight to be able to review, discuss, and implement the feedback that may be provided. As a result, the Department offers to do the following:

•        Further extend the initial plan deadline to 1/9/15 COB

•        The Department would conduct a review over five business days and provide the District with the plans status levels at that time

•        If the plans are “substantially approvable,” the Department would provide additional feedback to the schools

•        The Department would provide for a community engagement window to run through 1/21/15. This window would allow for a second opportunity for the community to provide feedback on the full plans and any revisions required

•        The final version of the plans would be due to the Department on 1/21/15 by COB (5:00pm)

•        The Department would review the final versions of the plans and provide a final announcement on or around 1/20/15.

We had also discussed the publication of manuals regarding “next steps.” Given the potentially extended timeline as well as our focus on reviewing your plans comprehensively over this condensed holiday season, we will also plan to publish the manuals shortly into the new year. We sincerely hope that this additional time, should you opt into accepting it, will allow for more community feedback in the month of January on the actual plans, should they be substantially approvable on January 9, 2015.

Thank you again for submitting drafts of your plans. We hope that the being able to provide feedback in advance of the final review will give the District every opportunity to solicit the feedback and make the revisions needed. Although the offers to meet in December were declined, the Department continues to offer the opportunity to meet to discuss the feedback and a list of the days and times available can be sent if CSD changes its mind and would like to meet to discuss any content regarding the Priority Schools.

Have a wonderful holiday and we look forward to connecting in the near future.

Regards,

Penny Schwinn
Chief Accountability and Performance Officer
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901-3639

Delaware DOE Extends Timeline For Priority Schools Deadline To Christina School District

The new tentative deadline for the Christina School District to submit their revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the three Priority Schools within their district is now January 23rd.  There is a catch here though.  Christina must submit the draft to date by January 9th, and the deadline will be extended if the DOE feels the draft is “substantially approvable”.  The Christina school board will have a meeting on Tuesday, January 20th to have a final vote on the MOU and their priority school plans and they must submit this by the next day, January 21st.  As well, the Delaware DOE will be giving their final comments on Friday, January 16th.

The Christina School Board will be having a meeting on January 7th to work on the priority schools plan some more at 7:00pm.  As well, the Christina Educators Association will be holding a press conference prior to the meeting at 6:30pm.

Other big meetings in January include the Delaware State Board of Education  meeting on January 15th.  This meeting could have a final decision on the fate of Family Foundations Academy in light of years of financial mismanagement and personal use of state funds, as highlighted this week in the well over 200 pages released by the Delaware DOE from the auditing firm of Auphsite Consulting.  The Delaware 148th Assembly begins their legislative year on January 13th, and there just may be some education fireworks that launch very quickly in the form of potential legislation submitted.

For those who haven’t signed the iPetition declaring their position against the priority schools initiative, please go to http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/lets-make-priority-schools-a-real-priority-2

State Rep John Kowalko and Kevin Ohlandt Statements To The Christina School Board At Their Meeting Tonight

The following is State Representative John Kowalko’s public comment, given tonight at the Christina School District Board of Education meeting.

So long as the following section stays in the draft MOU, the District, Superintendent and Board are abdicating substantial authority that they now legally own. It also is a betrayal of the current school leaders and the districts rights to choose those leaders. Allowing the State, and DOE to name a list of acceptable alternatives by signing this draft keeps intact every ambition that this Governor and DOE have for a takeover of the district’s and board’s responsibilities and lawful authority. Please seriously consider refusing to approve this MOU unless the language giving the State authority to unilaterally submit their approved list is removed entirely.

i. The State and District must agree on the selection of the School Leader
.
If not in agreement, the State will provide specific rationale in writing to the Superintendent and the process will begin again.
II. Final contract approval will be up to the Board of Education
ii. Should the District fail to produce an approved leader the State may provide a list of candidates from which the District may select and submit to the Board of Education for approval.

This section retained in the MOU draft that you will be considering is a total abdication of the Districts legal authority and responsibilities to its employees and usurps the power of the Superintendent to seek out and hire the most qualified leaders for these schools based on their experience and knowledge of these schools, the students, the communities and the teachers. Ceding this authority is tantamount to approval of the Governor and DOE’s bullying and coercive abuse of power that has dominated the entire “priority schools” dialogue.

There are many other serious issues with the entire “priority schools” process and I will highlight a few.

  1. The artificial time frame unilaterally imposed by Ms. Schwinn and DOE is an obvious attempt to deny an open and honest dialogue with the stakeholders and public involved. This is evident in Ms. Schwinn and DOE’s refusal to attend and join in the numerous meetings that were held to attempt to craft a legitimate plan although DOE was specifically invited. This arrogant attitude has become a hallmark of this Administration, Secretary Murphy and DOE obviously intended to intimidate and coerce you into forfeiting your rights.
  2. The designation and measurement techniques employed in identifying the six priority schools are irreparably flawed and have no standing of merit. A cursory reading of the emails that I received under FOIA and forwarded to you reveals a nefarious collusion that ignores and misrepresents facts and portends to evaluate success and failure with absolutely no statistically provable measure. In fact, the DOE and Governors assessment of the success of Eastside Charter used an incomprehensibly flawed measuring cohort to wit:
  3. Nelia Dolan, on December 27, 2014 at 12:37 pm said: The greatest proficiency gains made in East Side Charter that everyone is touting was carried by a single cohort of students that went from 62 students in the third grade (2010/2011) to 29 students in the 5th grade (2012/2013).
    Unless you can look at the gains of each individual student, then the possibility that the students who left the school were ones that did not perform well enough to meet standard is too great to ignore.
    What difference does it make if the student body engineering is happening on the front end or somewhere in-between?
  4. In addition the FOIA documents also show that there was a concerted effort to deliberately exclude charters from being considered as failing in a desperate attempt to ignore the truth and reality and to isolate the selected six schools and their staffs as beyond redemption under current district leadership and mandating a DOE assigned leadership change that totally ignores the independent findings in the DASL report that showed significant gains while these schools were led by the current principals. These principals, that Ms. Schwinn and DOE are so willing to exile and disparage are depending upon you to defend them and protect them from those who would falsely and maliciously distort their records and abilities.
  5. Finally, I know that there has been discussion about the expense of challenging this abuse of power in court and is it worthwhile. Everything is worthwhile when you are defending the rights of children against an intrusion of power brokers who see them as a product or marketing device. Everything is worthwhile when you are defending the rights of dedicated professionals who are more family and friend to these children then these corporatist could ever dream of being. Everything is worthwhile when you are defending the rights, responsibilities and authority granted to you by an electorate that deemed you worthy of caring for their children and their children’s teachers and friends.
  6. A legal challenge would only be necessary if this Governor decided to fulfill his own ego-driven agenda to wrest power from the duly elected board that you represent. It would be premature to consider legal action at this time but appropriate to refuse to sign this MOU. I urge you to consider all of these things and many more and reject this abuse of power which will irreparably harm the entire Delaware public school system and its children and not approve this MOU as drafted.

 Representative John Kowalko

And next up is public comment from Kevin Ohlandt, some blogger from Dover.  Since I was unable to make it up to Wilmington tonight, Mike Kempski, President of the Christina Education Association was gracious enough to read this in my absence:

Esteemed members of the Christina School District Board of Education,
My name is Kevin Ohlandt.  I spoke at another of your board meetings almost three months to the day.  Since then, the bullying and intimidation on the part of the Delaware DOE has increased dramatically.  As well, our own Governor used a Vision conference as his bully pulpit in regards to the priority schools.  While it is okay to feel fear, it is not always okay to act on it.  In this situation, the DOE and Governor Markell are using fear as their biggest weapon.  This is the time to be strong, and tell them no.  This is the time to tell Governor Markell the Christina School District will not sit back and watch him take over their schools.  Whether you sign a draft MOU or let Markell take them over, either way you are giving them what they want: surrender.  They will use this as precedence and make you do the same in the future.  They will use you and every single student, teacher, administrator and parent to get what they want.  The priority schools initiative has never been about the betterment of student’s education.  This is corporate education reform in it’s filthiest, dirtiest form.  The truth will come out about what has been going on behind the scenes.  Bits and pieces have already been exposed.  The state wanted these six specific schools.  They have manipulated data and used race, income status, and special needs as the impetus for their decision.  This is not good for Wilmington.  This is not good for Delaware.  And it is certainly not good for Christina School District.  Be stronger than the fear they want you to have.  You have more people in your corner than you realize, and we will continue to fight for all of you.  Thank you!

Christina School District Board of Education’s BIG Meeting Tonight!

The Christina Board of Education will be having a meeting starting soon, at 7pm.  The main part of the agenda: Priority Schools.  Will they sign a draft MOU?  Will the board even approve it?  Will their education association?  Whatever they decide tonight, there will be consequences on a major level.  I pray they make the right choices tonight and let wisdom guide them over fear.  Here is the agenda:

Priority School FOIAs Part 4

This part has actual DOE emails concerning the priority schools.  Interesting verbiage in these conversations….

July 18 Murphy Email about applicability to charter schools (partial)

 

Priority School FOIAs Part 3

Why does Markell’s office follow Rodel’s news blog so closely?  And did Mark Murphy write the script for the Wilmington City Council meeting on October 9th?  Judge for yourself!

The Priority Schools FOIAs Part 2

Part 2.  These are long reads, but there is a lot of information in these!

The Priority School FOIAs, Part 1

Holy Redaction Batman!  Did Markell’s office redact information that is NOT covered by FOIA law?  Read through these documents and you be the judge!

 

The Seizure @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @nannyfat @ecpaige @Roof_O #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

Last night the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board signed the Memorandum of Understanding for the three priority schools in their district.  They tweaked the original a bit, not allowing a superintendent  to make $160,000 a year, but rather the district salary for that position.  As well, it states these schools shall not become charter schools in the event of a takeover, but the loopholes in the MOU automatically revert back to the state code and regulation which would allow this anyways.  It was a punch in the gut for RCEA President Mike Matthews.

Meanwhile, in Dover, my 13 year old dog Dixxie had a seizure.  We aren’t sure what’s wrong with her, but we are waiting on blood work to come back to figure out our next step.  This event, in addition to the fact that I’ve been under the weather the past couple days, has distracted me from writing a lot about these events happening with the priority schools.  Family first!  This caused a lot of stress for my son.  Dixxie has been around longer than he has, so she is just as much a part of his family as Mom and Dad.  It was touch and go for a little while there, and trying to keep the dog calm and my son was tough.  But we all made it through, and spirits are back up today.

I am very concerned about the precedent the Red Clay decision sets for all public school districts in Delaware.  It allows them to be bullied into submission.  I still fear there will come a day when priority school districts happen, which will allow for full takeover by more charter schools.

I really wanted to go to the state board of education meeting today, but it doesn’t look like an option right now.  I will certainly keep you up to date when I find out more information throughout the day.  In the meantime, please say a prayer for Dixxie!

Will Red Clay Throw Their Priority School Teachers Under The Bus?

 

In reading Matthew Albright’s News Journal article on the Priority Schools from Thanksgiving, it’s very clear there are some “read between the lines” parts of the article.  The most glaring is the parts by Deputy Superintendent Hugh Broomall:

“We’ve been able to work collaboratively with the Department of Education and our school communities to come up with a plan that we think is in the best interest of these schools and their students,” Deputy Superintendent Hugh Broomall said.

This sounds good, right?  The key words are “school communities”.  This does not show the overall community.  Part of the whole reason for needing more time was to work with the overall community.  Something Christina School District has done.  But Albright goes on to say this:

Broomall encouraged anyone in the affected schools’ communities to read the plan and reach out to the district if they have concerns.

So Red Clay is going to write their plan without any input from parents and members of the community?  This sounds absurd!  It tells me they are going to comply with the Delaware DOE as much as humanly possible.  I think Markell would relax a bit on the $160,000 requirement for a school leader but I highly doubt he is going to allow these schools to keep their complete staff.  It is my opinion that unless these schools comply with the original Memorandum of Understanding, Markell is going to take all six schools as soon as possible after December 31st.

If I were a teacher at any single one of these priority schools, especially in Red Clay, I would be very worried.  I have to believe Red Clay Educators Association President Mike Matthews would absolutely refuse to sign onto anything that would involve teachers losing their jobs or even reapplying for their jobs.  But are Markell’s demands, based on Federal ESEA regulations, a union-busting move?  Markell, despite what I think of him, is a very shrewd and calculating man.  I doubt he would go into this without thinking he has all his bases covered.  Adding to that notion is something else Albright wrote based on Broomall’s words:

Broomall said the district needs to iron out an agreement with the union that would determine what happens if a teacher wants to stay at one of the Priority Schools but the school leader or district doesn’t think they would be a good fit.

No matter what Red Clay decides, it sounds like authority would be given primarily to the school leader.  Depending on who this leader is, if they are like most of the DOE “leaders”, it will be someone from the charter school industry or the fast-track teacher companies the DOE is obsessed with these days.  If Red Clay’s agreement agrees to cede all the power to this school leader, it will be very harmful to the existing teachers.

We will find out in the next month what the fates of these schools might be.  I sincerely hope something happens in the meantime that prevents any action Markell may take.  Mike Matthews did a public FOIA request for any email containing the names of the priority schools, turnaround school, parternership zone school, and more a couple weeks ago at the DOE State Board of Education meeting.  He received a response from the DOE indicating an overwhelming amount of money to comply, with a $300 start-up fee.  Matthews is looking at another source to help cover funding for this.

Should the DOE, Markell, and Murphy take all six priority schools AND Gateway Lab School, expect a public outcry like this administration has never seen.  Other school districts in the state will be even more untrusting of this cabal of terror.  Parents will know without any doubt no school is safe, and it is all a power grab.

John Young Speaks From The Heart In Letter To Wilmington City Council Re: Priority Schools

President Gregory and Committee Members,

I hope this note finds you well. I write to you to express my regret at being unable to attend the meeting tomorrow night. I am very glad to know that Wilmington City Council had reached out to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy to provide testimony before your council on the recently announced priority schools initiative by Governor Markell. I write this as an individual public official who serves on a board. This e-mail, in no way, is designed to be or is necessarily reflective of the board’s quorum opinion.

The concepts of this state takeover have long been known to school boards and districts who have paid attention to the landscape of education policy since our state decided to apply for, and win, the Race to the Top grant in 2009-2010. The State Board of Education passed multiple administrative code changes in 2010 to set the stage for this momentous moment we now share: the complete takeover of 6 city schools. I realize this sounds like a hyperbolic statement, and that many people would contend that the state has no such right, but regardless of any legal wrangling that is currently or may soon take place, the state clearly believes it does have this right and the Priority Schools initiative is the opening salvo.  I further recognize that there is significant and justified frustration with the self-determination rights of city residents with regards to the education of its own citizens that has been impeded relentlessly since 1978 by multiple court orders, the Charter Schools act of 1995 and the Neighborhood Schools Act of 2001 and all of the cumulative, resultant political fighting that has been waged and that still permeates the landscape of public education in Delaware today.

I write to you as an unpaid elected public official that collects votes district-wide which includes voters from the sections of the Wilmington that Christina serves in order to provide a very basic primer. Attached are 3 documents: a blank MOU, a copy of the Turnaround/Priority Schools guide, and the most recent CSD press release:

1) The MOU: unilaterally written by the DOE and presented to the districts with a demand to sign and enter into said understanding. Christina decided to ignore this document primarily due to specific language demanding the districts cede control of buildings, fire the entire staff (with a maximum of only 50% rehire), replace school leaders with a DOE only criteria. CSD undertook the decision to ignore the MOU as direct result of the passionate testimony of our community and our teachers. I would like to note and thank both Mr. Chukwuocha and Sherry Dorsey Walker for attending and Mr. Chukwuocha for speaking. I was particularly impressed with Mr. Chukwuocha’s desire to use this process as a starting point. I fully concur, but with significant admonitions about the parameters set forth by the DOE MOU. If we can work together with the DOE to get past some of the tenets being mandated by the MOU that have no evidence of working beyond an anecdote from a charter school (which bears no meaningful resemblance to a feeder pattern school) or some far away city, then I feel that Mr. Chukwuocha’s position to have great merit. My experience with our DOE unfortunately does not lend itself to implicit trust but rather one of careful caution.  I trust Mr. Chukwuocha and Ms. Dorsey Walker can effectively inform the committee of their experience at our BOE meeting from 9/30/14. Again, thanks for attending!

2) The Turnaround Guide: it is 156 pages long and was presented to the districts, sight unseen, devoid of community input or peer reviewed evidence of working. Read at your own peril, it’s a difficult piece of work to understand for schools and education wonks. Lots of catch phrases and jargon, light on both substance and efficacy.

3) Our recent press release. I offer this to gently counter the emerging DOE messaging that Christina is being obstinate. We are not. We welcome the DOE’s “all ears” approach and are hopeful that they will cease the inflammatory language designed to convince local officials that we are acting as a roadblock to helping our students and join us in working for our students.

The problems in education are too deep and complex to cover in an email like this. We struggle ever day to maximize the effort and efficacy of our educators in an environment that does not provide equitable resource allocation to children in high needs schools here in Delaware. Resource allocation and weighted funding are simply not addressed by this initiative.

After a careful and deliberate reading are two things I can say with absolute certainty about this plan:

*   Labeling our schools with a fancy name will not fix them
*   Adding a paltry sum as proposed is an absolute insult to the intelligence of your committee and will in no way fix our schools

I do realize that this is a major moment. We must all remain laser focused on what works and not simply disruption for the purpose of making the adults feel better about themselves. I give the DOE a measure of credit for acknowledging that not all of their turnaround plans have worked. I wish they had taken some of  those lessons and applied them here. This Priority Schools initiative takes from the worst of the practices: disruption and unfettered autonomy both created by fiat. The funds they have to offer to buy this model is a pittance compared to the needs of our kids, and they are counting on us focusing on some money being better than no money.

As a U.S. History major I urge you all to be measured and critical of that proposition. Schools have faced similar reforms being offered by the Delaware DOE before in Philly, D.C, Chicago, L.A., NYC, Atlanta, Kansas City, Denver, Seattle, Miami, Milwaukee and New Orleans to name just a few. Their failures are simply too long to list. The hallmark trait of all of them: a dearth of community involvement.

History demands we pay attention and seek to learn from them.

Thank you for reading and good luck tomorrow, Mr. Murphy deserves to be both heard and questioned by your committee.

John M. Young
Member – Christina School Board

 

 

Christina and Red Clay Reject MOU Deadline, My Public Comment at Christina, DOE Board Members Leave In Disgust @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat @delawareonline @TheStateNews @DoverPost @CapeGazette @WBOC #netde #eduDE

Tonight at the Christina Board meeting in Wilmington, the board unanimously voted to essentially ignore the MOU.  Instead, they have decided to look at board member John Young’s resolution to craft an MOU that would involve all stakeholders involved.  Meanwhile, Red Clay wrote up their own MOU which would require no outside agencies or companies to take over the priority schools and to eliminate the caveat that a new school leader would be paid $160,000.00 and would instead be paid at the district level.

Parents, teachers, and legislators filled a packed house tonight at the Christina board meeting.  The board quickly waived the 3 minute limit for public comment.  Legislators such as Senator Brian Townsend and State Representative John Kowalko voiced their opposition to the MOU as it is currently written.  Several teachers commented as well.  Jackie Kook, a teacher in the district, kept referring to the Delaware DOE’s usage of the words “Human Capital” when referring to teachers in the priority schools and how degrading was.

The bulk of the audience did not support the MOU.  Some community leaders spoke in support of the MOU, even suggesting the priority schools have corporate sponsors to help lift them out of the DOE designated “failing” status.  Two members of the Delaware DOE Board Of Education made public comment, Dr. Terry Gray and Gregory Coverdale.  Both used other schools in Delaware as example of what they can do for the low income schools such as Booker T. Washington Elementary School and Positive Outcomes Charter School in Kent County.  Comparing those two schools to the six priority schools is night and day in many respects.

I gave public comment, which is below.  Driving up from Dover during rush hour was well worth it.  All board meetings need to be this exciting!

My name is Kevin Ohlandt.   Thank you for letting me speak tonight.  I’m here to talk about the special education issue in the priority schools. I live in Dover, but the issues here are just as important as they are in Capital School District. What happens with these priority schools will affect every single public school district in the state. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere in the state.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment is coming, and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has ALREADY indicated he expects 70% of students to fail the test. But if this is what we base proficiency on, and the test has already been determined to be a failure (not the students), how can we blame the schools, teachers and students for this? If a test is that bad, how can the fate of our public school system rest on bad judgement thrust upon us by a Governor who listens to the will of Rodel more than his own citizens?

As you are well aware, there are over 300 students with disabilities with active IEPs in the priority schools. First of all, the formula designated for the priority schools is based on data that is over three years old. It is designed to specifically target these six schools that are all within a mile of a charter school building in Rodney Square. I don’t think this was an accident. In point of fact, I believe this is something Governor Markell and the DE Department of Education want to happen. Are we really going to send these children back to the hell some of them already escaped from? Sure, the charters will say they “just didn’t fit” or “we weren’t able to offer them services”, but the DOE has allowed this to happen. The DOE Board, not publicly elected, sit there in Dover and praise the charters without ever addressing the true problems. The charters specified enrollment preference caters to the charters needs and not the will of the public. So if you take all these children with disabilities, and reject them because they don’t “fit your mold”, and deny them entry or counsel them out, the result is why we are here tonight. This is triple segregation: they have disabilities, they are low income, and they are minorities. Let those words pause in the air for a moment. Triple segregation.

But what will happen with these children who have disabilities they neither asked for nor want? Will their IEPs be adjusted for the upcoming changes? Has anyone in the DOE mentioned this in the MOU or the Turnaround Guide? What IS happening is the DOE seems to be circumventing federal law with IDEA code. This is something the US Department of Education is already being investigated on by members of the Education Committee in the US Senate.

Say Christina and Red Clay agree to the MOU.  The DOE has already indicated increased school hours and additional tutoring for the students of these schools. Has this been covered in these students IEPs? I don’t think so.  Does state law trump federal law? I don’t think so. Say the districts don’t agree to the MOU. When will the great takeover begin? Any parent of a special needs child needs to understand how dangerous this situation is for special needs students and special education teachers. It’s bad enough the DOE wants to insert Common Core into IEPs in their Standards-Based IEP agenda. But now they want to completely change the most important parts of IEPs where choice is taken away from parents, and things like Least Restricted Environment and Free Appropriate Public Education are turned into a joke under Mark Murphy’s reign in Dover.

The DOE has already put their chess pieces on the board. They hired a charter school transplant from California to add to the madness in Dover. Mrs. Schwinn, in the August Delaware Board of Education meeting, when asked about crime and murder in Wilmington affecting the classroom by Mr. Coverdale, said “That’s not necessarily a hurdle to overcome.” Really, in this city?

This needs to end, and it starts here, tonight. This board, along with Red Clay, can stop the madness coming from Dover. We can stop this state and federal intrusion on our public school districts. They want to dismantle the freedom we have and turn our children into common core zombies, without any regard for their individual minds. We will not stand for this. From the top of the state to the bottom, every single student in a public school district is threatened by the likes of the Delaware DOE, Mark Murphy, Governor Markell, Rodel, Arne Duncan, Vision whatever the damn year is, and yes, the Delaware Charter School Network. Follow the money and see where it goes, cause it is not going to the children of Delaware. It is going to data coaches, and companies that are making great profit at the expense of the children of Delaware. Earlier, a gentleman spoke of corporate entities sponsoring our most needed schools. This is wrong, and we’ve already seen what happens when corporations get involved in schools. Common Core, RTI, Smarter Balanced Assessment. And the list goes on and on. My suggestion is simple: How about we stop teaching to the test and judge our schools, teachers and students on actual grades based on summative and formative assessments in the classroom, and stop this insanity.

It was a good night to be a citizen of Delaware and see the people decide their own fate.  This decision will have ramifications, but they already know what will happen.  As John Young also said during the meeting, it’s a game of chess with the DOE, and the next move is up to them.  But what will the districts next move be?  A source outside of the DOE has informed me the DOE has already rejected Red Clay’s revised MOU.  Tomorrow may be a very interesting day.

Kilroy Asked Me What I Think Of Delaware Secretary Of Education Mark Murphy! Well… @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @BadassTeachersA @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE

What do I think of Secretary of Education Mark Murphy?  This question of me in a sidebar conversation by the famous Delaware blogger, Kilroy, of Kilroy’s Delaware fame.  This is a pretty loaded question, because I have several opinions.

Personally, I don’t know the man.  Nor would I want to.  We don’t travel in the same circles, and for better or worse (go with the latter), he is the executive director of my son’s education in Delaware.  With that being said…

He is extremely incompetent.  I’ve been to a few Delaware Board of Education meetings, and when he talks, I want to laugh.  For the most part, he plays up the parts of education that I abhor the most.  Charter Schools, Common Core and the Smarter Balanced Assessment are his babies, and when he talks about them, it’s like watching a kid play on Xbox for the first time.  The glee, the sickening joy in his eyes, the elfish smile on his face…

I have seen him get upset once at a Board of Ed meeting.  That was the last one, when the results of the Delaware teacher effectiveness ratings came out.  And no Delaware teachers were rated ineffective.  0%!  Man, did that piss off Murphy!  He looked like someone took away that Xbox!  He was visibly angry, and it was obvious he was going to have none of that!

I view his climb to the top of education in our state with shock and no awe.  Everyone continues this sentence with “He started out as a gym teacher.”  And that isn’t true.  Before that, he worked at a residential treatment center.  I have no idea which one, or what he did there.  These treatment centers are where students with disabilities get sent when the school and the home have run out of options.  I would think Murphy would have a pretty good understanding of what these students need if he decided to work at one.  I couldn’t be more wrong.

What has become of special education under Murphy’s watch is a nightmare of epic proportions.  What he has done to education in general is even worse.  He is Governor Jack Markell’s golden boy to implement whatever Jack wants.  And as a result, Murphy has become a charter loving Common Core high-stakes test worshipping special education hating maniac.  But when the going gets tough, like yesterday at the big meeting between the DOE and the superintendents of the low-income priority schools, Murphy was nowhere to be found.  He’s the Secretary of friggin’ Education for the state and he was a no-show!  What could be more important than this meeting?  As I commented on Kavips blog, maybe he got confused between priority and priory schools!  When I see him at Board meetings, he rarely speaks.  He’s constantly looking at what appears to be a cell phone and adjusting his glasses.  It looks like the last place he wants to be.

Under Murphy’s watch, we have seen Common Core suck the life out of teachers, students and parents.  We’ve seen special education go from something halfway between okay and sucks to really sucks. We’ve seen charter school applications increase rapidly.  We’ve seen half of Delaware’s race to the top money get kept by the Delaware DOE.  We’ve seen the first sign of the Apocalypse, the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  We’ve seen him hire 29 year olds to become the new Chief Of Accountability for the DOE.  We’ve seen a non-elected state Board of Education do nothing that would contradict Murphy or Jack.  We’ve seen him support the destruction of the public school system by getting jacked-up legislation passed that will judge teachers on how a student tests one time a year on The Clockwork Orange Smarter Balanced Test.  We’ve seen him not give appropriate funding to schools who need it the most and then support the utter insanity of having the state take those schools back to turn them into charter schools.  We’ve seen him support breaking up teacher’s unions by coming out with a Memorandum Of Understanding to two school districts that appears to be plagiarized from other states’ similar edicts (Thanks for that one JY!).  We’ve seen tens of millions of dollars go out of state to residential treatment centers because Murphy can’t run the ball on special education right and God knows what else he has cooking with that!  We’ve seen him bow to the “masters of education” in Rodel and the Vision year crap, which are just more fronts for the Common Core agenda.

So do I have a high opinion of the guy?  Hell no!  If I could sum it up in a few sentences, it would be this.  You have only one pair of shoes.  You step in gum.  The gum won’t get off your shoe no matter how hard you try.  It annoys the hell out of you, and it affects you every time you put your damn shoes on.  And you can’t buy new shoes, so you are stuck with this crap on your shoes, all the time.  Mark Murphy is the gum on my shoe that just won’t go away.  And he has played this role for every public school student, teacher and parent.

Update on the Super Secret Meeting w/DE DOE & Christina & Red Clay Supers @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de #netde #eduDE

I will be updating this as I get new information, on a constant basis.  The latest (and it’s been very quiet all day, not sure if that’s good or bad) is from Kavips, where House Representative John Kowalko commented:

Actually it would have been slightly more legitimate if the Boards were included,(they were not) considering that they are the Superintendents bosses. I brought that up again today and in a phone conversation yesterday and no one dared disagree with that as an accurate statement. CSD Board president was there because Supt. Williams sacrificed one of his two staff position invites. The failure of DOE and this administration to learn from previous experience that you don’t put an artificial timeline on a complex issue of high importance by engaging stakeholders and their reps in separate dialogues (easier to befuddle, confuse and mislead you grandma) and present what they call an MOU (contrived unilaterally behind closed doors) which is in fact an ultimatum demanding unconditional surrender or we’ll nuke you as any type of legitimate attempt at reform.

John Kowalko

What The Hell Markell? DE DOE To Meet In Secret Meeting With Red Clay & Christina Supers, Board and Elected Officials Banned From Attending! #netde #eduDE @BadassTeachersA @delawareonline

Later today, the superintendents are having a top-secret, non-public meeting at the Delaware DOE.  This is in regards to the priority schools in the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts.  Board members of both districts do not appear to be happy about this at all.  The MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) concerning these schools is due by September 30th.

Six elementary schools from the districts were picked by Governor Markell last week to receive about $6 million over five years.  The problem is additional administrators will be forced upon the schools at a price tag of $160,000 each, which is above the average administrator price tag in Delaware.  When all is said and done, this really isn’t leaving the schools with much left over money each year to get the services they desperately need.

The boards of the school have been discussing what to do.  If they say no to the MOU, then there is a chance the state could take over the schools.  And many have guessed they would then become charter schools.  But who owns the buildings?  The districts.  So would the state have to buy the buildings or rent them from the districts?  And what happens with the teachers.   They have union representation, and contracts to uphold with the districts.

What becomes of the students?  These are already low income Title 1 schools.  They also have high populations of special education students.  That much chaos and upheaval is never good for a normal student, much less students with disabilities.

It remains to be seen what this meeting will be about, but some legislators aren’t happy.  From Delaware House Representative John Kowalko on Kilroy’s Delaware last night:

Although I never received an answer to the email request I made to DOE seeking an invite i will be going to this meeting tomorrow at the Carvel bldg. Despite a phone conversation I had with a DOE top staffer who had the audacity to say my attendance would be inappropriate I will be attending. Although it was difficult to suppress my anger at the thought that an “appointed” staffer would presume to tell a duly “elected” official what was appropriate or inappropriate about his or her responsibilities I will be attending. Because I represent thousands of households with thousands of children in the CSD and because I have served for eight years on the House Education committee and witnessed first-hand the debacle of the previous MOU re partnership zone schools and the Glasgow outrage, I will be attending. My obligation to all children in the state public school system, to the taxpaying families that support the school system, to my constituents, to the educators who daily fight to fulfill the needs of the children (while money has been taken and not returned to the public school system) is all of the justification I’ll ever need to know it is appropriate for me to attend. It is my sworn duty and obligation to question and challenge the non-educator salesmen who contrive solutions that have no basis in data accumulated effectiveness and fail to address the obvious needs of an impoverished America forced to live on handouts rather than face the reality of poverty driven failures in public education. It is my sworn obligation to look into the eyes of the RODELS and VISION 2015…2021 et.al. and their solicitors and messengers who would rather control the dialogue and set the stage and sell the tickets to an audience that is best kept in the dark. Yes I will attend and it is absolutely appropriate that I do.
State Representative John Kowalko (25th District)

Damn!  That is one pissed off elected official.  And he has every right to be.  This situation is escalating very fast, and it sounds like the districts are being pitted with the boards on one side and the superintendents on the other.  The boards do have other options, and this could become very ugly.

Nancy Willing of Delaware Way blog fame has an excellent post on this: http://delawareway.blogspot.com/2014/09/are-markell-and-ddoe-holding-up-our.html

Extra! Extra! The Delaware State Takeover MOU has a companion guide: Turnaround and Priority School Guide! Read all about it! #netDE #eduDE

This is being forced on both Christina and Red School Consolidated School Districts in Delaware. The state DOE allowed this to happen with these schools by turning a blind eye to re-segregation that occurred from charter schools in the area and their enrollment preferences. Now they want to punish the schools by essentially taking them over. They may become charter schools in the near future. Read the Scribd document and judge for yourself. This has been a well-planned, long-term intentional hostile takeover.