Questions About Due Process Surround AI duPont Basketball Team Suspension

A group of parents demanded answers today from Red Clay Consolidated School District officials regarding the suspension of the basketball team from their last game and the playoffs.  As I wrote yesterday, the team was suspended when they got off their bench at the end of a game after they were told not to.  Allegations of racial slurs have been central to this matter but neither Red Clay or Delaware Military Academy have said anything in an official capacity that these epithets came out despite numerous witnesses coming forward on Facebook, comments on Delaware Online, and witnesses that have come forward to Red Clay officials.  Now those parents are demanding the suspension decision be rescinded based on what they are perceiving to be a lack of due process based on policies within Red Clay.  The following letter was sent to the district today.  As well, Red Clay board member Adriana Bohm asked the district to rescind their decision.

**Updated, 4:25pm: According to The News Journal, the district may reconsider the team’s suspension for their remaining game and the playoffs.  Still no response from Commandant Pullella at Delaware Military Academy.

https://www.scribd.com/document/340126552/Appeal

Governor Markell Loses His Voice Tonight. Now Is The Time To Seize The Moment.

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At some point later this evening, Delaware will have a newly elected Governor. No matter who it is, they can’t be worse than Governor Jack Markell. I truly hope I don’t eat those words, but I can’t think of any Delaware politician who has sold out Delaware children to corporations more than Jack. Well, there is one, but I’m really hoping he gets ousted in the 8th Senate District today. If not, I expect some very frosty stares between the two of us come 2017.  But it is also my fervent hope that this particular Senator, no matter what the outcome is today, begins to see deep inside his soul what certain viewpoints on education can have on the state as a whole.  But Jack Markell…

I never gave Delaware politics much thought before 2013. I was just one of those guys who stayed in his own neighborhood and didn’t truly care about the state politics. I couldn’t even tell you who my State Rep was before that year. Or my State Senator. But then things changed in my life and I reached a point where I couldn’t live in my insular little bubble anymore. Circumstances demanded I get involved. When things happen to your child, beyond the point of a parent to control it, something happens. A shifting of thoughts begins and a need for understanding takes over. I may have gone way past the point of sanity most parents do when faced with this reality, but I felt it was my obligation to do all this.   I have regrets, but I also know everyone makes mistakes.  But no one, not even Senator Sokola or Mark Murphy, has ticked me off over education more than Jack Markell.

I quickly learned Jack cares more about corporations and their profits than Delaware students. Sadly, he found a way to combine the two and turned Delaware schools into profit centers for companies that could give two craps about student outcomes. Jack knows this. He knows the only way those companies will continue to flourish is with a steady stream of data and fix-it schemes. I suppose most states have a Jack Markell. How else can we explain the onslaught of Common Core and crappy tests like Smarter Balanced? I also learned Markell and Rodel are two sides of the same coin. They feed off each other, like twin parasites infecting their host.

My worst fear is having to continue beating up on Jack Markell. That would only happen if he were put in a more dangerous position than he is now. I see two potential Cabinet positions he could be placed in if the “nasty woman” wins. I’m hoping a rumor I heard long ago about him taking a Cyber Security position in Israel comes true. I would have loved to sit in a debate with him for a few hours and blown apart his theories and thoughts on education.

The most dangerous thing Jack Markell did with education in Delaware happened before he even became Governor. He did the interview for a man from the Massachusetts Department of Education, in their charter school office. A guy named Dr. Paul Herdman. This set up 12 years of education policy in this state that very closely aligned with what was going on across the country. And those plans aren’t done yet. Both of these men are actually very brilliant. They are strategists of the highest measure. They are futurists who plant seeds that bloom years in the future. I actually find them to be very worthy opponents in that respect. But one half of that equation is coming to an end in this state. And hopefully his replacement will be able to sever that cord.

It will be up to our next Governor to see through all the smoke and mirrors involved with the Every Student Succeeds Act. Whoever our new Governor is, I will attempt to meet with him. I intend to have a very long conversation with him, if he will let me, and let him know what I know. Maybe he already knows it already. Maybe he doesn’t. But I truly don’t want to fight him. I will give him a fresh and clean slate from day one, regardless of whatever policies he may have come out with during his campaign. I will also give every single member of the General Assembly that same respect, regardless of what may have happened pre-January 2017. They can choose to hang on to the past and hold a grudge against me.  I haven’t been easy on many.  But whether they are new or old, it is a new day. This also goes for the Department of Education and the State Board of Education. That doesn’t mean I won’t continue to expose what I find out, or file FOIA requests or complaints if something happens. Everything I have fought for will continue. But I won’t do it alone.

There are many who are on my side of things on many issues. There are some who are just now beginning to see the big picture. There are those who can’t see the forest through the trees. There are so many moving parts to education and understanding the full scope of it all takes time and patience. But I refuse to allow any child to be a guinea pig or a pawn for profit. I refuse to let their personal data go out to anyone who makes one penny off it. I refuse to let our Department of Education get away with what they have been doing.

January won’t just see new leaders in politics. We will also have new leadership in the Delaware State Education Association. Knowing what little I know about potential leaders and conversation that has taken place in the last week based on a few of my posts, I firmly believe that change in leadership can’t come quick enough. But we also need changes in the charter school landscape. For far too long, advocates for charters have ignored the elephant in the room. I am not saying it is all of them, but those with the loudest voices tend to get what they want. The funding and equity issues involved are killing us as a state. I personally believe there is enough funding in our state budget as it currently stands to have every child get the resources they need. There is a ton of wasted money being spent. We just have to convince the 149th Delaware General Assembly of this fact despite what will be a tsunami of opposition from districts and charter schools alike. I am leaning towards a weighted funding system more and more but not before we make sure every single district and charter schools is held fully accountable for the funds they already have.

The next six months are going to be very slippery in Delaware. One wrong move could send Delaware education sliding off the cliff. Now will be the time for voices like never before. Opt out was a drop in the bucket. But I don’t see those voices. Not front and center. Parents need to speak up like they never have before. They need to be louder than the state, louder than the administrators, and louder than our legislators. We need to become a force to be reckoned with. We need to organize and band together. We won’t agree on everything, but I think the majority of parents in this state can agree that what we have now is not working. We need to make sure Rodel is reduced to a low decibel noise that doesn’t hold the weight it used to. We need to make sure Delaware education is what we want, not what corporations want. This does not mean increased membership in the Delaware PTA either, but they will play a role. You will be hearing from me on this more in the next few weeks. Eyes will open to things that have happened right underneath all our noses with no one the wiser.

I need you. Our children need you. We are Delaware, not them. We need to finally make sure that is understood. We need to end the discrimination and segregation in this state. We need to end the racism that is underneath it all. We need to end the hate and make peace with the past. It is the only way we can truly move forward. I won’t have all the answers. You won’t. But maybe together, we can figure it out.

Parents Told They Can’t Record Board Meeting Tonight At Academia Antonia Alonso

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Tonight, a Delaware charter school refused parents the ability to record their board meeting.  A group of parents attended the Academia Antonia Alonso Board of Directors meeting to give public comment about what they felt was unfair termination of many teachers at the school.  They wanted to record the meeting but were told they could not.  Even though charter schools are technically corporations, they still have to abide by public meeting laws in Delaware.  And in Delaware, all you have to do is advise someone you are recording a meeting.  You do not need their consent.

Charter schools in Delaware are not unionized, therefore they can hire and fire at will without any protection whatsoever for the teachers.  While one would hope charter administrators use a common sense approach in making these decisions, some charters have been known for running their schools like a dictatorship.  Some charters have fired a teacher over something as small as questioning a policy.  When this happens as often as it has at Academia Antonia Alonso this school year, sooner or later parents will begin to notice and question it themselves.  What charter boards fail to understand is they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a parent’s ability to make a choice.  What kind of message does that send when a parent is denied the simple freedom of recording a meeting when they don’t even need their consent?

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House Bill 61, the school board recording bill, is awaiting a full vote by the Delaware Senate.  It passed the Delaware House last year.  Since then, many reports have come out about charter school fraud.  The bill is a no-brainer!  This is just another reason why this bill needs to pass.  Denying a parent of a choice is never a smart thing to do, especially when it comes to education.  For a parent to even attend a board meeting is a feat in itself.  They should be happy they have parent engagement.  I can only think of one reason a board wouldn’t want a public meeting to be heard.  And it isn’t because they don’t want parents to hear a great meeting.  They don’t want something getting out.  While the school did allow the parents to give public comment at two minutes each, will their concerns be put in the board minutes for the meeting?

What makes this more interesting is the amount of parent input they had for their recent major modification that passed the Delaware State Board of Education last week.  They had to solicit parents to comment on that publicly.  But when the parent’s want to talk about something the school doesn’t want out there, they don’t want the public to hear that.

Academia Antonia Alonso currently resides in the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The State Board of Education approved their major modification request to move to one of the buildings owned by Odyssey Charter School at Barley Mill Plaza.  The charter school has gone through three heads of school since they opened in August of 2014, in less than two years.  They were placed on formal review before they even opened based on low enrollment.  They got out of formal review with a probation and got their enrollment up to what their charter was approved for.  In the 2014-2015 Charter School Performance Framework, the school met the standard for their financial framework but was labeled as does not meet standard for their organizational framework.

When our schools going to learn that if you try to silence parents in any way, sooner or later they will organize.  Teachers in traditional school districts already have the capability to organize through their unions.  Perhaps charter school teachers should as well to avoid these administrators who seem to think ruling with an iron fist is the right thing to do.

September 17 is REFUSE THE TEST PARENT STRIKE in Delaware! Press Conference at 12:30pm!

Parent Strike is a coordinated effort across America to take back public education from the corporate education reformers and those who would do our children irreparable harm with state standardized assessments.  In Delaware, we will be celebrating this momentous day, September 17th, with other states across our country.  I invite all parents and press to attend a press conference outside Legislative Hall in Dover at 12:30pm, where I will announce the violations and complaints against Governor Markell, the Delaware Department of Education, the Delaware State Board of Education, and other entities within Delaware that have contributed to this toxic environment against our children.

If you want to make a statement during the press conference, please let me know ahead of time.  I will also help parents coordinate opt-out/refuse the test for their local schools.

Following this, at 1pm, is the Delaware State Board of Education meeting across the street at the Townshend Building.  I invite every single parent to attend this meeting, at least for the first half hour to forty-five minutes.  After they do their roll call and approval of minutes, it opens up to Public Comment.  Each speaker gets three minutes to speak on a topic.  Those who give public comment are not allowed to speak on an item that is up for action that day, but there is nothing in their agenda covering standardized testing or parent opt-out or Refusing The Test.

During the State Board of Education meeting, they will announce the results of the Smarter Balanced Assessment for the different sub-groups: low-income, English language learners, students with disabilities, African-American students, Hispanic Students and Asian students.  This is where we will see the very real impact of the Smarter Balanced Assessment on the most vulnerable of students.  They could have announced this information last week, but they chose to hold off on it.  Parents will also begin to receive their children’s official report on the test that week.

Please join in and let the unelected State Board of Education know your child is more than endless data.  Let them know your child is more than a pawn in their attempts to “fix” education.  Let them know their vain attempts at stifling parents is not allowed.  Be loud, be a parent, and let them know you will not tolerate this madness one more minute.  This is Parent Strike Delaware!

Opt-Out Obliterates The Rigor Imposed On Our Kids, Is It Enough To Change Education In Delaware?

Will the eight members of the Senate Education Committee vote yes or no for House Bill 50 tomorrow?  My gut tells me yes.  It’s what happens afterwards that concerns me.  The legislation needs to move to a full Senate vote as soon as humanly possible after tomorrows vote.  The Delaware General Assembly has numerous bills in front of them.  Due to the Beau Biden viewing at Legislative Hall on Thursday, there is now one less day for legislative action this month before it comes to an end on June 30th.  And say it passes the Senate.  Will Governor Markell pass it, veto it, or sit on it?

Meanwhile, the News Journal is giving full court to parent opt-out and House Bill 50 opinions.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko and I wrote a piece which will appear in tomorrow’s newspaper (oddly enough, only I got credit for it but it was a co-authorship).  You can read this here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2015/06/02/parents-know-smarter-balance-test-bad-kids/28383361/

I really wanted to delve into the Smarter Balanced field test scores.  I always knew they were much lower than even I expected for the children in sub-groups of low-income, African-American and students with disabilities.  But actually studying them, and comparing them to DCAS scores was very revealing.  It really drove home the realization this test is designed for nothing more than failure, especially for these three sub-groups.  Which is also why I can’t believe any civil rights group would stick up for the effectiveness of this test.  This test is not about reaching that “higher bar”.  It’s about one thing, and one thing only: money.  Not money that will ever reach the classroom, but money that goes straight into investor pockets.  It’s the greatest scam of our generation: using education “need and necessity” to basically steal taxpayer money to get rich.  I can’t even keep track of all these education reform companies out there anymore.  But when all this is said and done, watch  them fold up their tents like a cheap carnival trying to get out of town as fast as they can.

What comes after?  Is there an easy solution?  I’m already hearing rising talk about school vouchers and more “personalized learning” on computers.  Meanwhile, district funding and how schools use their money is coming up more and more.  Apparently, it’s not even just charters being investigated in the State Auditor’s office, it’s also some school districts.  Education is reaching a boiling point in Delaware.  Radical ideas will come up.  It’s going to take a revolution to fix all this.  But I can promise you one thing, parents WILL be a part of whatever comes next.

We will not allow the future of our children to be tied into corporate money-making schemes ever again.  We closed our eyes when this all started, but our eyes are wide open now.  We won’t be fooled twice.  The DOE may or may not realize this false ideology is falling apart.  If I were a DOE employee, I would be getting my resume together fast.  When it does collapse, and all stands revealed, I would not want my name associated with any of it.

The more these civil rights groups and Delaware business leaders push this damaging test, the more citizens will being to wonder why they are advocating for such an irresponsible and short-sighted test.  If any of these businesses or groups are concerned about public perception, they might want to reconsider their DOE/Markell tainted stance.  Will the “Delaware Way” be enough to stop the wave of parents demanding accountability and transparency for the funds involved in this education craziness?  I doubt it.  If opt-out has proven anything, it’s that parents do have a very loud voice, and the more you fight us, the louder we get!

Where Do We Go From Here? The State of Education in Delaware @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @Roof_O @DelawareBats #netde #eduDE #Delaware #edchat

The last major education meeting of 2014 happened yesterday, and it was a doozy!  As I look back at all the events of 2014 in our 1st state with regards to education, I have to wonder about the future.  There are several things going on simultaneously.  Something happened yesterday at the DE State Board of Education meeting that can change everything.

The board voted 4-3 to renew the charter for Gateway Lab School.  Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s comment about why he chose to renew their charter stemmed from about a month of the public pounding on the choice not to renew.  This means the public does have a voice and is able to influence education in Delaware.  The problem is not enough of us have been using that voice.  If the groundswell of support for Gateway happened with things like the removal of Common Core and parental opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, just think what could happen.

Over half of the Delaware General Assembly wrote to renew Gateway’s charter.  Some of them were ones who already speak out about the changes in education and the priority schools.  But many of them are ones nobody ever affiliates with education.  The Gateway crisis actually opened a lot of ears to education in Delaware.  It also exposed the DOE as being to beholden to test scores.  This is a good thing.

Our next moment of direct attention needs to be towards the priority schools initiative.  While I’m not an expert on state code and the Delaware Constitution, I can see things are manipulated and twisted in order to allow the priority schools demands.  Governor Markell and Mark Murphy have looked for the most miniscule of loopholes to do this, but did they find them all?  Some, like State Representative John Kowalko, do not think they did and he has a strong case for the legality of the initiative.

Common Core and Smarter Balanced Assessment will be a hot button of talk in the coming months.  More and more parents are waking up to the reality of this, and anyone who finds out what the true purpose of it all is wants it to be gone.  A message for those parents: spread the message fast and furious and do it yesterday.  Because everything the DOE and Markell have done, want to do and will do ties directly to standardized test scores.  It is their sole focus.  We are no longer a state where true education, occurring everyday in our schools, is a concern.  It’s about a once a year test that will judge teachers, principals and students.  And by a large default, parents as well.

I firmly believe the purpose of these “initiatives” is not for the betterment of our children’s education but the creation of more and more charter schools.  Some may ask, “Then why are they closing charter schools?”  Because even Super Bowl winners need to cut the weak links on a team.  This becomes a reverse choice option for parents.  They’re forced to make a choice against their original choice.

For the charter supporting parents out there: I know you will defend these schools and I support you for doing that.  But do not be blind to the realities behind charter schools.  They have boards that are not publicly elected, they have budget committees (or don’t in some cases) that do not have the proper representation, and their version of transparency is very clouded.  Nobody was talking about Family Foundations a month ago, but in the past week it is all anybody is talking about.  Years of financial mismanagement and allegations of outright theft at that school will hopefully lead to a careful examination of all the charter schools and how they spend their money.  I am not saying all the charters do this, but it is more than you think.  And I will expose them if the state doesn’t.

We need to do what is best for our children.  Every single one of us.  Far too many of us disagree on what the best course is, but we all need to come together one way or another, before any choice is gone forever.