Governor Markell Showing Clip From Warner Priority Schools Announcement In Extremely Bad Taste

In Delaware Governor Jack Markell’s weekly message to the citizens of Delaware for July 4th, he showed a series of video clips to highlight his bragging about how great education is in Delaware.  Included was a clip from the 9/4/14 priority schools announcement at Warner Elementary School in Wilmington.  I find this to be pretty disgusting and vile considering what that announcement meant to so many educators, students, parents, legislators, leaders in Wilmington, and the citizens of Delaware.  I wouldn’t consider that a proud moment Governor Markell.

To the above people, this was a shocking announcement, and this began the end of your reign as the supreme education watchdog in this state.  You showed the people of Delaware, that no matter who questioned your wisdom on this decision, you were going to be a bully about it. Until that moment you couldn’t anymore.  That day in January you and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy received two letters.  The first was the letter from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee asking you to hold off on any decision for the priority schools in the Christina School District.  The second was the letter and petition from Parents & Teachers for Public Education.  The one with well over 600 signatures protesting the priority schools initiative.

Everything changed after that.  The legislators started hammering out bills that would limit the power of the DOE.  Parents started opting their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment in force.  Charter schools lost their veil of secrecy as first Family Foundations Academy and then Academy of Dover had their dirty secrets brought to light.  Your appointed Secretary got multiple votes of no confidence and you actually kept him, weakening you from many citizen’s viewpoint.  Since then, a lot of your plans haven’t gone the way you wanted them to.

But one did, and we both know what that is.  The way those bills flew through the General Assembly you would think it was for the welfare and security of the state.  It will be very interesting to see how this all comes out in the end.  I have a very good idea, and I know you know that.  I foresee some radical power player changes in the next year and a half.  Yes Senator Sokola and Representative Jaques, I’m talking about you.  I will be keeping a very close eye on any who have engineered this redistricting of Wilmington and how they land when all is said and done.

What is even more puzzling is your choice of a weekly address.  Delaware balanced the budget, but not without a lot of consequences.  Instead of going into detail about that, you babbled on and on about education.  Like we haven’t heard it all a million times.  What I took extreme offense with was your statement about children with disabilities.  I think it’s great that you want to make sure they get jobs when they are adults, but I never hear you talk about special education in the schools.  I imagine your advisors would have a cow if you praised it because pretty much everyone in the state knows how bad it is for most special needs students.  There is so much more to these children’s lives than savings accounts and transition into the adult world.  They need that solid foundation.  Something your standards and assessments and rigor have prevented from happening.  I fear for these children every day.  I fear for their general well-being and their future.  It is YOU who allowed this to happen.

I would think you would have talked about the economy, and legislation that will make it better.  Wait, there wasn’t much of that during this legislative session.  Instead we saw deals and compromises made behind closed doors with no public transparency.  So much for letting the sun shine!

My best guess, and I have nothing to base this on, would be that you needed to get another pumped up message about Delaware’s education out there before you need to make a big decision this week.  Yes, House Bill 50.  Your decision is eagerly awaited by the parents and advocates who fought tooth and nail to get it passed by a majority in the House and Senate with lots of issues along the way.  We find out this week if you will honor us.  If you will let the voice of the constituents mean more to you than your glorified standardized assessment, the Smarter Balanced.  As I told you in my email to you, this is the KEY legislation of your tenure as Governor of Delaware.  This is the one you will be remembered by.  House Bill 50 is your legacy.  You may not even realize this yet, but it will determine how the people of Delaware remember you.  While other state governments are wisely questioning the usefulness of education reform that includes high-stakes assessments, you are actually going around saying “Smarter Balanced is the best test we ever made.”  Somewhere along the way I think you forgot the definition of “we”.  When you are a Governor, “we” is the people you serve, who voted you into power.  Not the corporate interests that have you in their back pocket.

If You Thought Mark Murphy Would Be Gone After Today, Think Again….

Well, well, well, looks like Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is here to stay.  At least until we get a new Governor.  Yesterday it was announced Murphy joined the Council of Chief State School Officers Board of Directors.  From the press release yesterday:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Delaware Chief Joins CCSSO Board of Directors

Contact:Melissa McGrathmelissa.mcgrath@ccsso.org202-336-7034

Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2015) — The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today announced Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will join its 2014-2015 Board of Directors.

CCSSO’s Board of Directors manages the overall business affairs of the Council and is the governing body of the organization. The board is composed of the president, the president-elect, the past president, and six directors elected by CCSSO members.

“Whether it’s through his work on educator preparation or college readiness for kids, Mark is dedicated to ensuring all students have access to a high-quality education. We are honored to have him join our Board of Directors,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO.”

I can tell you Delaware isn’t thrilled at this news.  We were hoping he would fade into the woodwork after today, which is the last day of our fiscal year.  But it sounds like Delaware Governor Markell has the utmost faith in the man who the Delaware State Educators Association, the two largest district education associations, the Delaware Association of School Administrators, and a legion of parents have publicly stated they have no confidence in the Secretary.

Rumors have been going around for years that Murphy would either resign or be removed from his position, but it never happens.  Most feel Markell holds on to Murphy at the risk of his own reputation, and the Secretary is an anchor on a ship that is no longer holding water.

This is not good news for folks who were hoping for change.  The Delaware DOE’s approval rating is at an all-time low, and with more charter scandals popping everyday under their watch, parents opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessments, and legislators wanting massive change in this Department, Murphy remains intact with even more power now.  Only in Delaware…

Vast Majority Of Delaware School Administrators Have No Confidence In Delaware DOE

 “We believe this lack of confidence is due to a failure to engage the education community in a shared decision-making process and the failure of the leadership of the Department to implement reform without creating trust.” -Kevin Carson, Executive Director of the Delaware Association of School Administrators (DASA)

In a Delaware News Journal article published last night, nine out of ten Delaware school administrators that voted on a survey showed no confidence in the Delaware Department of Education.  They join the Delaware State Educators Association and their local chapters in the Christina and Red Clay school districts, the Delaware PTA in regards to the Smarter Balanced Assessment, several legislators, and several parents in the state.

The DOE responded to the survey in a statement by their spokeswoman, Alison May:

“If we had to choose between making extraordinary progress together and avoiding controversy, we would choose progress for our students every time.”

It is the very nature of this progress that is the rudimentary question these days.  Many folks in Delaware do not see standardized assessments as a true measure of progress for students.  With the roll-out of Smarter Balanced this year, this feeling has only intensified as the test has not been validated nor does it offer an actual growth model.

As well, the DOE seems to thrive on controversy these days and are not engaging in true stakeholder input.  Perhaps they are just putting on a tin shell to defend themselves from all the potshots that are lobbed their way with statements like these, but it certainly doesn’t help their cause.

Another strong indictment against the DOE by DASA is the fact that the DOE has “flawed systems for evaluating teachers and schools and has stumbled to find a better way to pay educators,” according to the article written by Matthew Albright.

Relations between the DOE and the most essential stakeholders in the state have deteriorated to an all-time low.   When the most important groups in education have NO confidence in the rigorous work you are doing, at what point do the light bulbs finally turn on?  Will the entire state have to endure Secretary Mark Murphy until Governor Markell leaves office?

Rumors Abound About Mark Murphy’s Resignation & Governor Markell’s Response

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A couple months ago, the Delaware blogosphere lit up one Friday afternoon regarding a rumor that Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy was either going to resign or be terminated.  One blogger heard what they felt was a solid rumor that Murphy and Associate Secretary of Education David Blowman were terminated.  This rumor, squashed by Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, was put to rest.  However, many things have happened since then.

The Christina, Red Clay and Delaware State Educator Associations have all issued a no confidence press release regarding Mark Murphy.  I even denounced him at the Parent Press Conference last week (not that my voice carries that much clout in the First State).  Murphy appeared on The Delaware Way and said parents aren’t allowed to opt out.  Many seem shocked Governor Markell would continue to let Mark Murphy be the leader of education in Delaware.  But he is still here.

The latest rumor, which I’m hearing from a few sources, all unconnected, is that Murphy already gave Governor Markell his letter of resignation, but Markell won’t accept it.  While everyone is begging for the Secretary to be replaced, the Governor is holding onto him as if he is the lifeline of education in Delaware.  Others seem to be hearing about a July 1st resignation date, which would make more sense given the start of a new fiscal year, but we have all heard these rumors before.  As always with Delaware education, we shall see…