Greg Meece runs Newark Charter School. For 18 years, Newark Charter School is rated not only one of the top charter schools in Delaware but one of the top schools. There is a multitude of reasons for this but it boils down to diversity. At their public hearing for their charter renewal process, Meece made a comment that is sure to rile up the diversity crowd all over again. Meece openly lied about his own school. Continue reading
Families from Smyrna to Brandywine got the early morning robo-call today- Snow Day! Last night’s nor’easter hit New Castle County with anywhere from 1-3 inches of snow. Because of this, the legislators canceled any committee meetings scheduled for today. Meanwhile, all districts Capital and south have school! So… New Castle teachers and students… what are you doing today? Have fun!
I just received this email in regards to the School District Consolidation Task Force and where it will go from here:
School District Consolidation Task Force – HCR 39
A Letter from the Chair – Rep. Earl G. Jaques, Jr.
September 20, 2017
I have gotten a lot of questions from task force members and those who attended this week’s meeting about the path of this task force moving forward. Where are we going from here?
I thought it would be helpful to review what we have achieved so far as a task force and outline my goals for our future meetings.
Our first two meetings have been focused mainly on organizational matters. At the first meeting we elected the Task Force Chair as required by HCR 39. Then we established four sub-committees (Academics/Student Needs, Finance, Teachers/Staff, and Structure). These four sub-committees are being led by four outstanding individuals with extensive knowledge and experience in their fields. In order to include a diversity of opinions and perspectives, we added additional members to the original 22 members designated by HCR 39. At our second meeting, we approved these additional members to give us a group with backgrounds and experiences from across our state.
To ensure transparency, we have put all minutes, power point slides and other related material on our designated section on the legislative website; more materials will be uploaded to this site soon. To view the documents uploaded please scroll to the bottom of the page to “Minutes, Reports, and Information.” In addition, all materials have been sent to every member of the taskforce and those members of the public who asked to be included on the email lists. In cooperation with our statewide media partners we were able to get the citizens of Delaware to provide us with their ideas, suggestions and comments on what they would like to see happen with our school districts. We received 146 different written responses.
This past Monday we hosted a task force meeting in Sussex County to receive verbal comments from county residents. At this meeting David Blowman, from the Department of Education, presented an overview of our state’s districts, schools and students with some informative graphs and maps. The response to his presentation was overwhelmingly positive, so much so that members present expressed their wishes for residents in Kent and New Castle Counties to have the opportunity to view it as well.
In accordance with this feedback, we plan to hold the same meeting at William Penn High School (October 16th) for New Castle County residents and then shortly after that meeting to hold one again for Kent County residents. In order to give residents of each county the opportunity to view the presentation and share their thoughts we have decided to move the meeting schedule a bit.
Instead of waiting until November to meet as a full task force as was originally planned, the Kent County meeting will be moved to October 25th at Caesar Rodney High School. Then the full task force will meet in early November (details TBA) to vote on the various plans suggested so that the sub-committees can start their work. I envision this vote as being one where 2-3 proposals are chosen to be explored and modeled and compared with the current system. This is a very important topic and so our work cannot be rushed. I will ensure that sub-committees have adequate time to complete their work while also making sure that public submissions and comments are properly heard.
Once the sub-committees’ work is completed we will meet as a full task force to determine the feasibility of the various components and discuss recommendations to be included in our final report to the State Legislature.
I look forward to continue working with all of you on this very important issue area. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out to me or my legislative aide, Madinah Wilson-Anton.
27th Representative District
The Delaware School District Consolidation Task Force, as authorized by House Concurrent Resolution #39, is in full swing. Whatever that means! But below is a list of ALL the meetings scheduled to date. No sane person could possibly attend all of them. I’m sure someone will try though. Not this guy! The first sub-committee meeting for the Structure group met last Monday, August 28th. All meetings are open to the public and public comment will be allowed. Whether you agree or not with district consolidation, make your voice heard. I like that the main task force group is utilizing schools from each county. Below the schedule is information the task force wants from YOU!
District Consolidation Task Force
Monday, September 18th, 6:30pm, Woodbridge High School, Bridgeville, DE
Monday, October 16th, 6:30pm, William Penn High School, New Castle, DE
Thursday, November 16th, 6:30pm, Caesar Rodney High School, Camden, DE
Academic & Children Needs Sub-Committee
Wednesday, September 13th, 6:30-8:30pm, Library Conference Room, Dept. of Education, Townsend Bldg., Dover, DE
Monday, October 2nd, 6:30-8:30pm, Georgetown Middle School, Georgetown, DE
Tuesday, November 7th, 6:30-8:30pm, Independence Conference Room, Carvel Bldg., N. French St., Wilmington, DE
Monday, December 4th, 6:30-8:30pm, Cabinet Room, Delaware Dept. of Education, Townsend Bldg., Dover, DE
Thursday, September 7th, 9:00-11:00am, Government Center, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE
Thursday, October 5th, 9:00-11:00am, Office of Management and Budget, Haslet Armory, 3rd Floor, Dover, DE
Thursday, November 9th, 4:30-6:30pm, Government Center, 87 Reads Way, New Castle, DE
Thursday, December 7th, 4:30-6:30pm, Office of Management and Budget, Haslet Armory, 3rd Floor, Dover, DE
Met on August 28th
Wednesday, September 27th, 6:30-8:30pm, St. George’s Technical High School, Middletown, DE
Teachers & Staff Sub-Committee
Monday, September 11th, 5:00-7:00pm, Colonial School District offices, 318 E. Basin Rd., New Castle, DE
no other future meetings known as of yet
I will pin this article to the top of the blog and will update meetings as the information becomes available.
As well, State Rep. Earl Jaques is looking for YOUR suggestions on how a district consolidation would take place. Below is a Suggestion Graphic which, should you choose to participate, would need to be sent back by September 11th. This would be up for discussion at the next regular Task Force meeting, on September 18th.
Feel free to slice and dice the State of Delaware any way you want for this. But take it seriously. You never know… your suggestion could become the final outcome! I am a member of the Finance Sub-Committee but will be paying attention to every meeting taking place. Sorry I missed the first Structure Sub-Committee meeting! To find out more information about the Task Force, please go here.
House Concurrent Resolution #39 would create a School District Consolidation Task Force. Yes, another task force in Delaware. Because we must always have a group of people sitting around a table before we can do anything. This task force would study if it is worth consolidating school districts in Delaware. This is something I actually favor. Nineteen school districts in little old Delaware? There are school districts in other states with more students than the entire student population of Delaware. I believe it will happen, but the question is how many? I don’t think there should be more than five. Expect a lot of battles on this one. I am fairly sure nineteen superintendents won’t want to give up their titles. Some would have to if this went through. This will be one of the hottest topics in the second leg of the 149th General Assembly beginning in January, 2018. I’m calling it now!
Where it goes from here is the House Education Committee. It is on the agenda for the meeting tomorrow (must be nice to be the Sponsor of the bill AND the Chair of the Committee). But tomorrow is the last day of committee meetings before the General Assembly closes up shop this year so this is my guestimation on what will happen: clears House Education Committee, gets a House vote in the affirmative, gets sent to Senate Education Committee, a suspension of rules allows it to bypass the committee, Senate votes yes, and the task force gets going late summer/early fall.
The News Journal just reported that a group of Delaware charter schools are suing Christina School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education over the charter school funding issue that I broke at the end of August. This is unbelievable! I can’t believe they have the unmitigated gall to go behind the districts’ backs all Spring, have the DOE issue “updated” funding formulas in August, and then sue Christina and the DOE after Secretary Godowsky reversed course on the plan.
And who does the News Journal have as a fresh picture, taken two days ago? None other than Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network. When Newark Charter School’s Head of School Greg Meece and Kendall Massett get together, we should expect nothing but trouble. For all of Massett’s talk about wanting district and charter collaboration, she sure has a funny way of showing it.
Fifteen charter schools have filed suit against the state Department of Education and Christina School District to get what they claim is their fair share of funding. Christina has been withholding millions of dollars in local tax revenue from charter schools for years and the Department of Education has been complicit, according to the lawsuit.
Their fair share of funding is what they already get. I actually can’t wait to see this go to court. I will say it here and now… the charter schools will lose! Who is paying for their attorney fees?
Under the adjusted formula, Christina School District would have had to pay about $3 million more this year than it had been planning. For Newark Charter School, one of the chief beneficiaries of those funds, that would have meant an additional $1 million in revenue.
I said it before, and I’ll say it again… this amounts to Greg Meece going for an unprecedented money grab for Christina after they won their referendum last Spring. And I also have a pretty good idea why he thinks the charters will win. But I will hold that close to the vest for now. But that one goes all the way to the top of Delaware, right Jack? So how far back does this lawsuit go? How about 2008!
The lawsuit aims at reinstating the adjustments made to the statewide formula and forcing Christina to pay back what it has withheld since 2008.
Newark Charter knows that if they win this would bankrupt Christina which I have no doubt is their overall plan. And what then? All of Christina goes back to the state and would most likely convert to charters. Is Meece going to lead his long dreamed of Newark Charter School Network and take all those kids he didn’t want for the past 15 years? I know what happened in 2008 when a former Christina Board member told Meece they would get additional funds from their referendum but the board member spoke out of turn. Ever since, Meece has been gunning for Christina because of bad information. I also have a pretty good idea of where Meece got certain information from that is making him think he has a case. That will be the true revelation when all is revealed!
I would have to assume these fifteen charters are the ones that get funding from Christina School District, which is most likely every one in New Castle County.
Kevin Dombrowski wants the Charter School of Wilmington model to expand around New Castle County according to an article by the Delaware Business Times yesterday. Dombrowski works in Wilmington as the Senior Vice President of Global Business Development for Morningstar Inc. The article was about his selection as an honoree of the DBT40, which are 40 emerging Delaware businesss leaders and innovators. Dombrowski has also been heavily involved with the KIPP charter school chain. He currently serves on the Leadership Council for KIPP Philadelphia Schools and was a board member at KIPP Chicago for three years from 2009-2011 according to his LinkedIn account.
I would work to remove the barriers in place to practical educational reform in Delaware. Specifically, I would remove restrictions on new charter school developments and build out a plan to launch several new versions of the Charter School of Wilmington throughout New Castle County to meet the excess student demand and to provide more exceptional public school options for families in the area.
Now I’m not sure how much Mr. Dombrowski follows education in Delaware. I’m not sure if he is aware CSW has long been mentioned as a very controversial school based on their selective enrollment preferences. I don’t know if he knows even the Delaware Dept. of Education will not consider CSW as a reward school based on those preferences (something that seems to have escaped their notice with Newark Charter School, but I digress). I don’t think New Castle County could survive replication of Charter School of Wilmington as a chain of sorts. Unless, of course, they did away with those selective enrollment preferences that result in very low numbers of minorities (except Asians), students with disabilities, and low-income students. Then, and only then, would we be able to measure the true success of CSW. Mr. Dombrowski, were you aware that CSW was one of the named schools in the American Civil Liberties Union complaint filed with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights?
What would you do with an extra $22 million dollars? I would ask the public school children of New Castle County because right now they are short $22 million bucks. The below picture shows the massive delinquency status of Delaware property taxes for New Castle County. Aside from a bill that passed that says you won’t get your tax refund if you owe back taxes, what is being done to collect on this debt? If you own a home, you have to pay taxes. Like it or not, it comes with owning a home. Or a business. I’m talking to you golf course in Appoquinimink! One question I have (cause I don’t have the time to look it up) is who gets the interest an penalties? Do the school districts get them or just the county?
I had a sneaky feeling this was going to be the outcome on this bill. While Senate Bill 161, sponsored by State Senator Gerald Hocker, passed the Delaware Senate last week, it did not have the required votes to get out of the House Education Committee. Since the bill passed last week in the Senate, a growing chorus of opponents to the bill reached out and feel this kind of decision should be made by local school district boards of education. They did not feel this should be a statewide decision. Currently, some districts in Sussex County already begin school after Labor Day. Once the official details on the vote count in the House Education Committee come out, I will update this article. It appears only 3 or 4 of the legislators in the committee were in support of the bill which is far short of the But for now, it appears there will be no more action on this controversial legislation.
Senate Bill 161 had a good ride, and I thought it may have a shot. But many of the members of the House Education Committee are fervent supporters of local control as opposed to state control. We can consider this matter closed. Until the 149th General Assembly that is!
Almost two weeks after the Delaware Senate narrowly passed a bill which would mandate all Delaware schools would begin after Labor Day, the bill is heading to the House Education Committee on Wednesday, June 28th. The underdog of the 148th General Assembly received a boost of life when the Senate passed the bill with an 11-10 vote. The majority of the votes were not split between party, but rather location in Delaware. Most of the New Castle County Senators voted no while their counterparts in the Kent and Sussex counties voted yes. If we see a similar pattern with the House, this bill is going to Governor Markell’s desk by July 1st at the latest! It will be interesting to hear the state union’s (DSEA) take on the bill since they will have to represent each school district. Out of Delaware’s 19 school districts, only 6 reside in New Castle County.
Other bills that will be heard are House Bill 374 which would limit the term of school board seats to four years instead of five and Senate Bill 199 dealing with educator licensure and certification.
Immediately after the Wilmington redistricting bills passed the House, local and state media interviewed State Rep. Charles Potter and Wilmington Education Improvement Commission Chair Tony Allen. Both stated this is a positive step forward. Allen reiterated that if the funding isn’t there, the plan will be suspended by the commission. He stressed the funding is critical at this point.
Afterwards, Delaware Governor Jack Markell came down from his Legislative Hall office and offered congratulations to Jea Street, Tony Allen, and Senator Margaret Rose-Henry. After that, Markell, Allen, Dan Rich, Senator Henry and the Governor’s Education Policy Advisor, Meghan Wallace all went up to Markell’s office for a closed-door discussion.
Rumors are swirling that New Castle County will be giving money towards the redistricting plan. There has been no verification of this, how much money, or what the source of the money would be.
The redistricting resolution heads to the Senate now. I’m hearing the full Senate vote will be much harder than the House. Which means it may not have 100% Democrat Senate support either. No one is offering names in the leaky corridors of Legislative Hall.
The Delaware Senate passed State Senator Gerald Hocker’s Senate Bill 161, which would prevent Delaware public schools from opening before Labor Day. It barely passed though. 11 voted yes while 10 voted no. Many of the no votes were from Senators who live in New Castle County, while most of the yes votes live in Kent or Sussex County. It can be rare to see a Delaware bill split based on the location of the legislators, but this one definitely fits that scenario.
The bill will now make a trip to the House Education Committee. If it is released from committee, it will be interesting to see how the vote splits in the House. But they better hurry as the legislative session ends on June 30th!
My number one question for the folks at First State Liberty: Do you pay the same amount for guns that you did twenty years ago? I’m not asking this to be smart. My reasoning is very simple: you pay for things every single day that cost more than it did five years ago, ten years ago, and twenty years ago. Education is no different. Perhaps you don’t have children in the Christina School District. Perhaps you don’t want to pay taxes for schools your children don’t go to. I can see your point with that. But here’s the thing. You pay taxes every single time you work. You pay for programs that don’t affect anyone in your household. Your state and federal taxes, which go up and down, go towards things I’m sure you don’t agree with. But yet, you still pay them. If not, you would go to jail.
You have a choice with a referendum. You can say no. That is certainly your right. But I also have to believe that you care about children. All children. I’ve been to your website and how you completely blast the district as if it is your moral obligation to deny children the services they need. I do take offense to that. But you would also be surprised at something we agree on. I know First State Liberty is against Common Core. I know you didn’t support the opt out bill, House Bill 50, because parents already own that right. What parents don’t own the right to, no matter how we may wish otherwise, is how to run a school district. We can get involved, and do our best. We can go to meetings (not just one or two before a referendum) and make our voices heard. We can run for the district school board. There are many ways to get involved. I encourage all citizens to do that.
With Common Core and Race To The Top forced on every single Delaware school district and all charter schools, things changed in education. Basically, Delaware took a $119 million dollar bribe from the US Government. In exchange for a financial gift equal to approximately 3% of our education budget spread out over three years, offered to us during a recession, our Governor sold out Delaware education. But the true crime didn’t stop there, because he allowed the Department of Education to keep half of it. Meanwhile, he cut out reading programs that were actually working for our kids. The results were disastrous. Especially for a district like Christina. When Christina did the same thing First State Liberty is doing now, speaking up about what has come to be seen as a failed program called the Delaware Talent Cooperative, the Delaware Department of Education took Christina’s Race To The Top money away. For the sole reason that they dared to challenge big government. Something your group has as their central theme.
As I’m sure you know, urban districts like Christina don’t tend to fare well overall on standardized tests. These are not truly tests of a student’s achievement. They are set up for children to do poorly on them. They set the achievement levels at a point where it would be impossible for all students to score proficient. As a result, Christina and Red Clay got the test, label and shame status thrown on them in the guise of “priority schools”. Here is a newsflash for you: all school districts have high administrative costs. Because of Race To The Top, districts had to hire people to oversee all of these programs that were forced on them. As a result of Common Core implementation and changes to teacher evaluations, the pressure put on districts was greater than ever. This happened with charter schools as well. Some schools overcame these challenges. They also tended to be schools that didn’t have as many low-income students, minority students, or students with disabilities. These schools were given the spotlight while whole districts like Christina and Red Clay were given the “we are going to fix your horrible schools even if we have to take them over” treatment. And all of this was based on the standardized test scores. The ones that are now fully aligned with the same Common Core your group loathes.
But are you aware, or willing to share with your entire membership and on your robo-calls about the referendum, that the ratio of administrators to students results in Christina administrators overseeing more students than any other district in New Castle County? These jobs you so desperately want to be gone or have their salaries shrunk, that are necessary based on the very mandates forced on them by the Delaware Department of Education…
From the CSD Paving The Way website:
Please note (as stated in the fine print on this image) this graph does NOT include student enrollment and administrator totals for the Delaware Autism Program or the Delaware School for the Deaf which would elevate those numbers.
Christina has cut admins and several teachers. They are on bare bones. If this referendum doesn’t pass, it has the potential of getting very ugly, very fast. More cuts, more jobs gone. And next year, you will be looking at the same thing only they will have to ask for MORE money in their referendum to make up for what they didn’t get from this one. Guess what happens to all of you who live in the Christina School District? Higher unemployment, your neighbor’s children not getting what they need to survive (yes, survive) in public education. People won’t want to move to the Christina School District. They will look on the Delaware DOE’s really horrible school report card and say “we shouldn’t move there”. Without new people moving into the district, your property values will go down. The equity you have built up over the years will slowly vanish. Perhaps one of you will come to a new opportunity or crisis point in your life. You may want to sell that home with the reduced equity. How did that work out for you?
If you think Delaware school taxes are high, have you talked to anyone in Pennsylvania? I’m pretty sure anyone in Chester, Montgomery, or Delaware County in Pennsylvania would laugh when you told them how much your school taxes are going up by. Many folks in Maryland might say the same. And both of those states have sales tax, something you have never paid in Delaware.
If we are going to go by figures from 2014, let’s take a look at these, from the Zero Hedge website:
What these figures don’t include are the portion of property tax that goes towards school taxes. All are much higher in those states. With this information clearly visible, I really have a hard time with your group’s efforts to squash referendums in our state. But yet I don’t hear boo from First State Liberty about Markell giving more tax breaks to corporations while every single citizen in the state pays for it. I didn’t hear anything from any of you when it was announced yesterday that Title I funding, which is supposed to help districts with low-income students, is going to wind up giving more for the state (aka, the DOE) to keep than the school districts will receive.
I think you have the right idea, wanting to curb expenses for citizens. I have no problem with that. But you have the wrong target. Why isn’t the State of Delaware in your crosshairs? Why aren’t you sending robo-calls to every Delawarean about the absolute corruption and fraud going on before our very eyes? Is Christina just an easy target? Step up your game. Come to Legislative Hall when they are doing these corporate gift bills (and I’m sure there will be more by the time June 30th rolls around) and protest that. But all you are doing now is hurting students. Your numbers don’t add up and all the information is available to you if you really look for it. But telling your followers that Christina is non-transparent is completely false. The referendum has been talked about on the radio, in the News Journal, and in the local newspaper for well over a month.
I would seriously question where you are getting your information from and what the true motivations are here. It’s very easy to rile up a crowd. What isn’t easy is admitting you were wrong. I saw the kind-of sort-of owning up to that on your website, but it was followed by “give us information now”. My advice to you: if you really want to know what is happening with district funds, go to all their Citizen Budget Oversight Committee meetings. Not just the one a week before a referendum. Going to one meeting a year and complaining about transparency isn’t exactly what I would call a marketing strategy for your cause. It’s like arriving late at a dinner party and getting upset all the food is gone. But then you tell everyone there was no food! Go to all their board meetings. Find out what is going on. Look at all their monthly financial reports. If you are relying on Delaware DOE data, don’t be shocked if it isn’t exactly accurate.
In terms of the comparison between Christina to Smyrna School District letter, Christina gets more federal funds because there are more at-risk students. Whoever read that financial document admits they don’t know the difference between local, state, and federal funds. If a district has more at-risk students, they get more federal money. The bigger a district is, the more admins you have. As well, their properties are assessed at a higher rate in Smyrna than in Christina. So that 2/3rds number? It doesn’t exactly mesh with reality and solid math. This isn’t rocket science.
You want to blame a district for what is clearly the state’s fault. But in the end, all you are really doing is making it worse for the kids. The future of Delaware. The future of America. Your kids. Your grandkids. If Christina loses with the referendum, the charters in the district lose as well. They get their proportion of the local tax based on students in the district that go to their schools. All you are doing is hurting the whole education system. Who wins when we all lose?
I encourage all of you to look into your hearts and ask yourselves “What exactly are we fighting here? Why are we going after David when Goliath is the one doing all this?” These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. First State Liberty and recipients of your robo-calls: Vote YES for the Christina referendum!
On Saturday, I put up a post about my thoughts on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan as it stands right now. I was very strong with my thoughts about the whole thing and I didn’t mince any words. I received quite a few messages about those thoughts, some positive and some negative. One of them was very shocking to me and made me wonder what the whole purpose of this whole thing is. While I won’t reveal who said it, I think it is important to get this out there. This person IS a member of the actual commission, the member body of over twenty people.
Like I said, I am not revealing who this person is on the actual commission. I responded to the person that I felt children aren’t an experiment and they have been experimented on enough in the past twenty years, especially in Wilmington. The person responded in kind and was very heartfelt with what they said, but it doesn’t take back the original words. I do not think every member of the commission is the best that could have come up with a plan like what came out. I still don’t believe it is right to give some resources and funding and not all. It puts some at a distinct advantage and leaves others behind. For a group that is about equity, it sure is funny how they are setting Red Clay up to have more advantage than others. As well, I have serious issues with this being just a New Castle County thing when the whole state will pay for it. I told WEIC this from the very beginning.
Among the other controversial and disturbing events at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting yesterday, there was a presentation by the Public Consulting Group (PCG) on the Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities (SREO) for Delaware Schools. This was a review requested by Governor Jack Markell last March to figure out which schools are getting it right. When it comes right down to it, this report was a series of graphs showing demographics of school districts and charters and which schools have things like AP classes and Career-Technical education opportunities. All of this is based in 2014-2015 data. This report cost Delaware taxpayers $70,000.00.
Last September, I worked with Delaware Liberal and Delaware First State in creating graphs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment results and how low-income, minorities, and students with disabilities fared poorly on the controversial test. It also showed how schools with low populations of these sub-groups did really good on the test.
The below PCG reports clearly show the divide in Delaware, especially with certain charters in our state: Charter School of Wilmington, Newark Charter School, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy. The result: complete chaos in Delaware. While the effect of this is not as clearly felt in Kent County, it has created havoc in Wilmington and lower Sussex County. If anyone actually believes the lotteries in these schools are random and fair, take a close look at the graphs in these reports. They select, hand-pick and cherry-pick. They cream from the top applicants. And many charters in our state weed out the “bad” students by using their “counseling out” technique. To some extent, the magnet schools in Red Clay and Indian River do this as well.
The reports give a well-crafted illusion that we have too many schools in Delaware. This foregone conclusion is, in my opinion, trying to please the charter supporters in our state. It talks about high demand and wait lists at certain charters and indicates there are too many “empty seats” in Delaware traditional schools. Do not be fooled by this illusion. Yes, some charters are in high demand because of the illusions cast by the State and the charter community on their perceived success based on standardized test scores. I’m going to call this the “smart flight” as many parents pulled their kids out of traditional and even private schools over the past twenty years and sent their kids to charters. This resulted in funds pouring out of the traditional districts while the state was slowly decreasing the amount they gave schools in the state. This increased the amount of local dollars the districts had to use to run their schools. Meanwhile, Common Core, Race To The Top, DSPT, DCAS, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment wormed their way into our lives causing even more funding to be siphoned from the classroom. All of this created a perfect storm in Delaware culminating into a hurricane of inequity, discrimination, and segregation. While Governor Markell did not influence these events twenty years ago, he certainly has been a major part of it for well over ten years, even before he became Governor.
This report could be read in many ways, but if I were reading as an outside observer looking into Delaware, I would be highly concerned. We have charters with hardly any African-Americans and students with disabilities. We have other charters with very high populations of the two. We have a Department of Education, State Board of Education, and a General Assembly who allowed this to happen by falling asleep at the wheel. We have the highly controversial Wilmington Education Improvement Commission attempting to redraw Wilmington school districts without guaranteed funding to support it. We have companies like Rodel, the Longwood Foundation, and the Welfare Foundation pouring money into charters and influencing events behind the scenes and right in our faces. We have key people in our state who are part of national education cabals molding education policy with the public oblivious to all of this. We have outside companies coming into our state, taking our money, and creating reports on things we either already know or creating illusions designed to brainwash the populace. This is Delaware education.
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission released their draft of the plan for redistricting students in the Wilmington portion of the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District on 11/17. Today, the draft is updated with a lot of new information, including the actual resolution the State Board of Education will vote on at their January board meeting. The updated draft gives no indication of the authorship of that resolution. As well, there is a whole section regarding school choice and how many disadvantaged students are unable to fully utilize the choice process at certain charter schools and magnet schools. There are many funding recommendations that have been added as well. What is deceptive about this updated draft is the highlighting of new material added. Most folks will first look at the table of contents to determine any new changes. Certain sections have been added and are highlighted in yellow. What is bizarre is the existing chapters that have many new parts added into them are not highlighted in the table of contents, including the WEIC Resolution (which can be found on page 23 of the below Scribd document). I would think the Resolution would have been in the initial draft but it was not.
I applaud the section on school choice and barriers to at-risk students, but there is so much added to this draft that completely changed my perception of this initiative. I believe any public comment period should not have changes to a draft at all. Many people may think the 11/17 draft was the final one and may not be aware of the changes. This is a classic example of a lack of transparency on this plan which has been my concern all along. I strongly encourage anyone who has already read the draft to do so again. Yes, it is 191 pages, but there are many changes to this that folks need to be aware of. Especially since 3 out of the 5 public hearings have already happened!!!!
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is proposing a plan for funding of the redistricting effort currently in the planning stages. WEIC wants the state to look at increasing property assessments to raise more funding for our schools. How do you feel about this? With Wilmington schools as a test for a weighted formula funding, which would start there first, will Kent and Sussex counties support this without more funding going to their own schools? WEIC does not have any true stakeholder input from Kent or Sussex right now. I urge every Delaware citizen to read the below document and let WEIC know how you feel about this, as well as your state legislators. Because if the State Board of Education passes this plan, it will go to the 148th General Assembly for a vote.
The address of 920 N. French St. in Wilmington, DE is listed as a “Brownfield Site”. This is also the home of the Delaware Met. What is a Brownfield Site? The Environmental Protection Agency defines a Brownfield Site as:
With certain legal exclusions and additions, the term “brownfield site” means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.
On September 11th, 2002, 920 N. French St. was designated a Brownfield Site by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC). In the below report, a plan was put forth and finalized in order to clean up the site to allow for commercial development of the property. Duffield Associates was the company that formulated the plan to clean up the site and remove any contaminants from the soil.
Not long after, MBNA bought the property. When MBNA was bought by Bank Of America, the company soon sold their former employee training center to the State of Delaware for $6.5 million dollars. The State of Delaware bought the property on October 12, 2007. However, the appropriation allowing for the purchase of this building was not approved until the 144th General Assembly on July 1st, 2008, as part of House Bill 525.
Section 31. State Employee Workforce, Education and Training Center. The Section 1 Addendum
14 to this Act contains an appropriation of $6,500,000 for the State Employee Workforce, Education and
15 Training Center, currently owned by the Bank of America. These certain tracts of land are located in the
16 vicinity of 920 N. French Street in the City of Wilmington, New Castle County, and the State of Delaware,
17 being known as New Castle County Tax Parcel numbers 2603520172, 2603520255, 2603520185,
18 2603520190 and 2603520195. For the acquisition of this property, the real property procurement
19 procedures in 29 Del. C. §9505 shall not apply.
For the entire time the State of Delaware owned the building, the property was vacant. Why would a State purchase a property and never use it? In March of 2014, the State of Delaware issued a public notice to any interested buyers of the property. Both The Delaware Met and Freire Charter School were actively seeking the property, and eventually the property was sold to Charter School Development Corporation, under the official company name of CDSCPC 920 French LLC. The address for this company is 6731 COLUMBIA GATEWAY DRIVE, SUITE 220, COLUMBIA, MD 21046. But Charter School Development Corporation is a non-profit company based out of Arizona. The sale occurred on November 14th, 2014, which set into motion a great deal of controversy for Freire Charter School of Wilmington and the Midtown Brandywine Neighborhood Association when Freire was forced to find a new location for their school. There is no public record of how much the State of Delaware sold the building to Charter School Development Corporation. In Fiscal Year 2012, Innovative Schools donated $1 million dollars to Charter School Development Corporation. In FY2014, the company bought 920 N. French St. and leased it to Innovative Schools who is subleasing the property to The Delaware Met.
In Fiscal Year 2015, the Delaware Met paid a considerable sum of money to Duffield & Associates to do work at the property, the very same company that was contracted in 2002 to clean up the soil at the site. From the Delaware Online Checkbook:
All told, Delaware Met paid Duffield Associates $37,654.83 in a seven month period. On The Delaware Met’s original application, Jeff Bross is listed as the Chairman of Duffield Associates and was also listed as a board member of Delaware Met. Interestingly enough, while searching for information about Delaware Met and Duffield, this link came up: http://dedoe.schoolwires.net/Errors/AccessDenied.aspx with a message stating the page was inactive or protected and to contact Alison May at the Delaware DOE if you don’t have an account or have any questions. Jeff Bross is still listed as a Board Member at Delaware Met and is still the Chairman of Duffield Associates. 2014 was a busy year for Duffield and Bross as they were also contracted to help with the I-495 Bridge Debacle. So is there a clear conflict of interest with having the Chair of Duffield on the Board at the school while also hiring his company to do an extensive amount of work? Duffield’s expertise seems to be in fixing structural issues at sites where there could be large problems. What was the problem with 920 N. French St.? In the school’s only board minutes posted on their website from October 8th, 2014 there is no mention of pending work with Duffield Associates or a vote to retain their services. Bross attended the meeting. As well, another board member named Richelle Talbert sits on the board at Delaware Met and is also an employee of the school’s charter management organization, Innovative Schools. Surely that is a conflict of interest as well.
These are questions that need to be asked by our legislators and the Delaware Department of Education in determining what in the world happened with this charter school.
Last March, Larry Nagengast with WDDE wrote a very good article on Innovative Schools. It is no longer on the WDDE website, but a pdf of it is floating around on the internet. In this article, which delved into many things with Innovative Schools, Nagengast wrote:
But Delaware Met, like many charters, did not have the funds to purchase the building outright.
According to Swanson and Childs, Innovative Schools approached the Charter Schools Development Corporation (CSDC), a nonprofit based in the Washington, D.C., area that finance and develops charter school sites and had an interest in entering the Delaware market. Innovative Schools contributed $1 million to CSDC, which then purchased the building from the state. (The actual purchase price was not given on New Castle County property records.) CSDC is leasing the building back to Innovative Schools, which is subleasing it to Delaware Met.
The leasing arrangement, Swanson says, provides a measure of protection for CSDC in the event Delaware Met does not succeed because Innovative Schools, as a charter manager, would be in a position to secure another school as a tenant to use the space.
The New Castle County property records shows it purchased the building from the state for $10.00. But this website says that for all the sales of this building, so that can’t be correct. Why would Innovative Schools “contribute” $1 million in 2012 to a company that then bought the building for Delaware Met, and then Innovative Schools subleases it to Delaware Met? Looks like that leasing arrangement was a good idea for CSDC. Too bad there is a moratorium on any new charters until 2017 or so. This is going to be VERY interesting to watch. More to come, and I’m pretty sure there may be some more mainstream coverage of this in the next day or two… Meanwhile, I just hope all of this is not too toxic for these students who have been shuffled around Wilmington charters…
According to Delaware Governor Jack Markell, throwing our hands up with poverty is a recipe for the status quo. As we can see in the above chart, poverty had a tremendous impact in Delaware charter schools. The higher the low-income status, the lower the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores. There is no hiding this. Even the highly-praised EastSide Charter School was not immune to the wrath of the high-stakes test. Below is part of Governor Markell’s speech he gave at the Imagine Delaware Forum in March of this year:
One of the reasons that we often hear for the struggle of our kids in the inner-city schools is poverty. And it is absolutely true that poverty presents enormous, enormous challenges for many children across our state. They face barriers to learning that the rest of us can’t imagine. And that’s why we need to do everything in our power to lift our children and our families out of poverty and to reach these children from the beginning of their lives, to counter the effects of growing up poor. And we are committed to addressing the root causes of poverty, by increasing access to the best early-learning programs, by investing in economic development and reducing crime and battling the addiction epidemic, and more. But as we pursue these goals we can’t delay improvements to the education kids in these communities receive. I, and I know that many of you, refuse to throw up our hands and say that we can’t truly improve education in these schools as long as poverty exists. That’s a recipe for the status quo, a recipe for fewer of our most vulnerable children to get the skills they need to escape poverty.
What Governor Markell seems to lack insight into or just plain ignores is the impact of poverty on children’s education. It isn’t something “rigor” and “grit” can fix. It’s a matter of increasing the funding to these schools, and not under the guise of priority schools or focus schools. It means lowering the size of classrooms, increasing special education funding, and judging children based on a once a year test the clearly shows how much poverty does matter. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is not improving education. It is making it more difficult for schools to get the true reform they need. The Delaware Department of Education will be releasing their school report cards with the Smarter Balanced Assessment carrying most of the weight for school grades. This is highly destructive to schools that do not do well on this test. With the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education pushing Regulation 103 into state code, we need parents to see how that will affect all school districts in Delaware.
This is just the first of many articles based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment and how it affects students of low-income status, students with disabilities, and the most vulnerable minorities in our state. In conjunction with Delaware Liberal, Exceptional Delaware will be publishing articles in the coming week on this high-stakes testing epidemic that is destroying schools in our state. This very unique “blog crossover” will paint the picture the Delaware Department of Education doesn’t want the public to see. But numbers don’t lie. They present facts that cannot be disputed. Please come to Delaware Liberal and here to see further articles “Poverty Matters! The Smarter Balanced Impact”. Delaware Liberal will be covering New Castle County while Exceptional Delaware will be covering Kent and Sussex Counties. We may cross reference each other here and there, and I highly recommend reading what they have to write, especially with all the potential redistricting in Wilmington and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.
A very special thanks to the always awesome Pandora and LiberalGeek from Delaware Liberal, Brian Stephan of the excellent blog Those In Favor, and Delaware State Representative Kim Williams for their assistance in the data collection and formation of the graphs in this series. This is truly a collaborative effort on all ends, and Delaware is a better place for it!