WEIC Gets Stuck On A FOIA Technicality While Christina And Carney Scheme To Close Schools

I’d heard the rumor.  The five Wilmington schools serving Christina students would fold into two.  It was only a rumor until today when the News Journal published details of a confidential memorandum of understanding between the district and Governor Carney. Meanwhile, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, which has outlived its usefulness as of late, decided to hold an impromptu meeting while breaking state FOIA open meeting laws.

As per Jessica Bies’ News Journal article:

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, a state advisory committee formed by then-Gov. Jack Markell to come up with ideas to improve education in the city, was also scheduled to review Carney’s proposal Tuesday night. It did not publicly advertise the meeting in compliance with state law or post the agenda for the meeting until late Monday, after a News Journal reporter called and asked when it would be shared.

As per a source, this WEIC meeting was planned six weeks ago and the Mayor of Wilmington came to speak.  A technicality of not posting the agenda in the required seven day window occurred.  When Tony Allen arrived at the meeting, he advised the committee of the technicality and that no action would be taken at the meeting, including approving the minutes for the last meeting.  While I have seen time and time again in FOIA complaints that a party forgot to post an agenda, it is my belief, even if a meeting is planned and they decide to only hold it for informational purposes, they should delay the meeting for appearances sake.  How confidential is this memo if so many people had access to it before the Christina Board of Education even has it? Sounds like Carney and Christina want it to get out. I’ve heard people rambling for years that Christina needs to consolidate some of their schools but the way this happened is shady at best.

If Carney’s office released the document, it doesn’t sound like Superintendent Richard Gregg was too happy about it:

Superintendent Richard Gregg recommended removing the names of schools from the document before it came to the school board for the vote, and there was a discussion about having the governor refrain from using the schools’ names in public.

Who were the three school board members who met with district staff, Carney’s team, and the union representative? Why doesn’t the News Journal name those board members? And where is all the scoop on the Empowerment crap Carney is trying to foist upon the schools? More questions than answers. And the Delaware DOE is going to be the one to implement all these changes? Has Christina lost their ever-loving mind? But this is the part that scares the living hell out of me:

The memorandum says Carney and the state Education Department would ask the General Assembly for additional funding to renovate the schools, as well as provide trauma-informed training to principals and teachers. It also promises funding for a dual-generation education center, as well as “philanthropic monies to support all Wilmington schools,” starting with those in Christina.

Philanthropic monies… and what will they want in return? This is the beginning of the end of public education. Once you get foundations actually funding schools (they already help fund charter schools), these schools are no longer public. They become part of Carney’s “public-private partnerships” where FOIA and open meeting laws go out the window. You heard it here first. Carney is just continuing Markell’s agenda who was following all the corporate education reform crap. At this point, I can no longer refer to Carney as Markell 2.0. He is Carney, through and through. Selling out schools to corporations. This is so deliberate and in your face. He played Christina and their board like a fiddle. This is when we start to see social impact bonds hit Delaware. And Rodel is loving every second of it with their competency-based education and personalized digital learning crap. I won’t go so far as to say Carney is the devil, but he is certainly his willing accomplice and Secretary Bunting is just playing the part of the yes-woman and kissing King Carney’s ring he wears for whichever level of Dante’s Hell he serves. I can see why Carney picked her now. She will do whatever he wants.

When I attended the very first WEIC meeting, I advised them transparency is the glue to whatever they do.  While I recognize human error, there is also accountability for recognizing that and taking the appropriate action.  Not go ahead and hold the meeting anyway.  The only way we can stop people from violating FOIA law is to call them out on it.  I have made it my mission to do so for over three years now.  I will not hold back on that for any organization that is subject to FOIA law.

I hope Carney locked the General Assembly into funding this hot mess, otherwise it becomes yet another unfunded mandate in Delaware.  I’m sure deals have been made behind the scenes.  If not, the philanthropic foundations like Rodel and the other vultures waiting to pounce on public education will assuredly send their lobbyists to hound them for the next seven months.

Major FOIA Violations Found By Delaware DOJ At DelTech Community College Regarding Open Meetings & Transparency

I filed a Freedom of Information Act complaint against DelTech Community College on May 10th, 2017.  The Delaware Department of Justice issued their legal opinion on the FOIA complaint today.  They found that DelTech violated open meeting law with their College Educational Foundation and The Collegewide Criminal Justice Advisory Board.

First, the Attorney General had to determine if these two entities are public bodies.  They found both are.  Especially noteworthy is their Foundation.  Because their Foundation consists of seven members from the college’s Board of Trustees, and four board members represents a quorum, they are a public body that must make their meetings public and produce minutes from each meeting.

…any gathering of the Foundation that includes a quorum of the Board of Trustees, and during which public business is discussed, is considered a meeting of the Board of Trustees to which FOIA’s open meeting requirements are applicable.

I did name other groups at the school, specifically their Collegewide Safety/Security Committee, Ad Hoc President’s Council, President’s Council, and Learning Community Collegewide Steering Committee.  Because those groups are made up of staff members, they are not considered a public body thus they are immune to open meeting law.

It’s hard sometimes to win these things.  There are ambiguities in state code that can turn a predicted victory into a moment of defeat.  But I was very pleased with the outcome of this one and what it means for other such entities floating around Delaware.  Time to do some reaching out to other various foundations in the state.  For those who think this might apply to Delaware State University or University of Delaware, think again.  They are exempt from FOIA law in Delaware.

To read the full legal opinion issued by Deputy Attorney General Carla Jarosz, please read below:

FOIA Complaint From Newark Legislators Puts University Of Delaware In The Hot Seat

Several Newark, Delaware legislators submitted a Freedom of Information Act to the Delaware Attorney General’s office last Spring.  The response to the complaint came out today.

State Representatives Paul Baumbach, John Kowalko, and Ed Osienski, and State Senators Karen Peterson, David Sokola and Bryan Townsend felt the University of Delaware violated FOIA with the posting of an agenda about a change to their bylaws.  The Attorney General’s response opined the Board of Trustees at the University did violate FOIA by not posting a specific resolution they would be voting on in the agenda.  The AG’s office stated even if the public had some knowledge of what could be happening it still falls on a public board to give notice of the proposed action item on an agenda.

As a result of the FOIA complaint, the University Board of Trustees will vote again on the bylaws at their December board meeting.  The AG opinion wants the board to have an open and public discussion surrounding this vote.

I have been hard on Sokola in the past, for what I believe are good reasons.  I wish he would demand the same transparency from charter schools.  Have you ever seen some of their board agendas?  I hardly ever see any action items on them even though they constantly vote on items.

AFWG & Penalty For Participation Rates Still Alive While DOE Racks Up More FOIA Violations

Before you read this, you absolutely have to read State Rep. Kim Williams breakdown of their last meeting.  This is essential!

Okay, welcome back.  The Accountability Framework Working Group met last week for their second to last meeting.  Their next meeting will be on October 5th at 1:00pm.  I put all the notes from their first 11 meetings here and they have since updated the DOE website to include the notes from Meetings #12-14, and Agendas for #14 and #15.  Keep in mind the notes were written by the Delaware DOE.

Meeting #12 happened the same day I broke the news about this group and the whole participation rate thing.  I had not delved too deep into it at this point, and it would stand to reason the meeting happened around the same time as my article went up that day.  The key part from this meeting is this:

…as well as ensuring that schools with significant achievement gaps in ELA and Math proficiency and the four-year graduation rate do not receive the state’s highest rating.

Of particular interest is this part about what is required under ESEA and what constitutes a school getting the highest rating.  This will play a huge part later on in this article.  This meeting also had the first mention of Regulation 103 which had already been submitted to the Delaware Register of Regulations at this point.

Meeting #13 was held on September 2nd.  I don’t know how many members of the AFWG were aware of my articles on this group at this point, but I know for a fact at least three of them were.  Nothing was said about participation rate or Regulation 103 at this meeting as per the notes.

Now where things get really interesting, and nobody really knew, was the DOE all of a sudden put out an agenda for the next meeting of the AFWG on September 17th.  By state law, if you are putting out an agenda, it has to be done a week ahead of time if it is a public meeting.  This agenda was NOT on the DOE website as of 9/14/15 because I looked that day.  If you look on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar you can see this listed as a Public Meeting.  However, if you right click on the actual PDF created by Jennifer Roussell at the Delaware DOE on 9/16/15 at 8:36am in the morning, the Delaware Department of Education violated FOIA law by not announcing this a week earlier.

The proverbial stuff hit the fan at Meeting #14 on September 17th.  This was the same day as the State Board of Education meeting and news of Regulation 103 and its implications for Delaware schools spread like wildfire prior to this meeting.

Note that the group unanimously voted down the participation rate against proficiency.  But the AFWG does not have the final say on this.  That is the State Board of Education, who had quite a bit of discussion about this along with members of the public at their meeting that day.

But what the AFWG member who spoke at the State Board of Education meeting did not say was this:

The AFWG members present unanimously recommended removing Participation Rate for the Adjusted Proficiency calculation. Further discussion on the accountability consequence for schools missing the 95% target was requested. Initial feedback supported a rule that no school could receive the highest performance rating on DSSF if they missed the 95% threshold.

Since that meeting, I requested from Dr. Penny Schwinn and Ryan Reyna at the Delaware DOE the exact law, code, or regulation which states participation rate is required to be any part of a state’s accountability system.  As well, Schwinn said at the 9/17 State Board of Education meeting she was going to request this from US DOE.  To date, NOTHING has been presented.  I spent countless hours going through federal laws concerning this and ESEA waiver laws, rules and guidance, and there is absolutely NOTHING in Federal law that states this is a requirement.  NOTHING.  DOE knows this, but they are stalling.  AFWG needs to stop relying on the word of Penny Schwinn and actually research this for themselves.  But please keep in mind this is what the DOE wrote in the notes and may not actually be what was discussed.  If any member of the AFWG wants to contact me about this, please do so.

Last week, on 9/23/15, the AFWG held their 15th meeting.  Again, an agenda was put up, without 7 full days notice.  It is one again on the Public Meeting Calendar and this one even says there can be public comment at the meeting.  If you do the right-click thing again on this PDF and go to document properties, it was created on 9/17/15.  Two public meeting FOIA violations.

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams attended this meeting as I wrote earlier.

The group will meet again on 10/5/15, but you won’t find it on the DOE website.  You have to look in the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar again but at least they got the agenda out more than seven days before the public meeting.  Maybe they were thinking if you add up all the days together for the last three meetings that would be sufficient enough to get a total of twenty-one days.  But that is some fuzzy math, cause that would only be seventeen days…

This will (for now), be the last meeting of the AFWG.  Will you be there?  Of course, it’s on a Monday afternoon, during that oh-so-convenient time for working parents and teachers to come.  But we can’t interfere with the State Board of Education’s Grotto’s Smarter Balanced party at 4pm.  Or the Charter School public hearings beginning at 4pm.

But this has to be the last meeting because it needs to be presented to the Delaware Education Support System group the next day, also during the same hours between 1-4pm.  The group that has no agenda and does not take minutes for their meetings.  Because it is so important to present it to this clandestine group but not parents in a transparent way…

This whole thing has become the biggest debacle in DOE history.  They are breaking the law all over the place.  And yes, I have already submitted two more FOIA complaints for their latest public meeting decisions concerning the AFWG for a grand total of seven pending complaints with the Delaware Department of Justice and two with the federal US DOE.