No sooner do I post an article about Odyssey than an email comes in from an Odyssey parent who is fed up with their Board! While this email has been circulating among Odyssey parents on social media today, this is the first time it has been open to the public like this. The parent gave me full permission to post this and considers it a public document! Continue reading
Events at Odyssey Charter School have been bubbling for some time now but they are coming to a boil in recent weeks. When the Odyssey Board of Directors chose not to renew Headmaster Nick Manolakos’ contract, they put forth Riccardo Stoeckicht as their new “Campus Operations Officer” and Denise Parks as their Head of School. Between these two hirings, the school is looking at over $300,000.00 for these two positions alone. But the shenanigans don’t stop there. Continue reading
With next to no input from parents, Red Clay Consolidated School District released information about bus schedules for elementary, middle school, and high school students earlier this week. Parents are NOT happy. The district says they are doing this to improve their bus issues. Which I get, but you don’t blindside parents with drastic changes. The next Red Clay board meeting should be VERY interesting!
2018-2019 Three-Tier School Schedule Information
In an effort to improve bus transportation service throughout Red Clay, the district will reorganize its bus routes and move to a three-tier school schedule in the fall of 2018.
Because high school and middle school students will no longer be picked up at the same time, a three-tier system reduces by more than 50 the number of drivers needed to cover all routes.
This will address a critical, nationwide bus driver shortage, reduce the amount of time many students spend on the bus (see charts below with sample times), and free up personnel to provide additional bus aides on routes.
In order to implement these service improvements, school start times will need to be shifted. Changes include:
- The high school instructional day will start approximately 5‐10 minutes earlier, at 7:25 a.m.
- The middle school instructional day will start approximately 30 minutes later, at 8:05 a.m.
- The elementary school instructional day will start approximately 10 minutes later, at 9 a.m.
Schools will make every effort to keep drop off and car rider lines times the same. The district will share additional details over the summer.
“Our transportation department worked very hard this past year to try and provide reliable bus service while facing the worst driver shortage in history,” said Superintendent Merv Daugherty. “Unfortunately, we don’t believe those efforts solved the problem. We are not happy with the status quo, so we are making some needed adjustments in school start times. The center of this plan will be the outstanding men and women driving our buses every day.”
Below are charts showing how the new system may impact the typical Red Clay student. Please look for the summer transportation letter for your child’s bus stop and time.
If you have any questions or concerns, you may call the Office of Communications at 302-552-3716.
|SAMPLE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT|
|School Year||Bus Stop Time||Bus Ride Length||School Arrival Time|
|2017-2018||6:30 a.m.||60 minutes||7:30 a.m.|
|2018-2019||6:30 a.m.||45 minutes||7:15 a.m.|
|SAMPLE MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENT|
|School Year||Bus Stop Time||Bus Ride Length||School Arrival Time|
|2017-2018||6:30 a.m.||60 minutes||7:30 a.m.|
|2018-2019||7:05 a.m.||45 minutes||7:50 a.m.|
|SAMPLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL STUDENT|
|School Year||Bus Stop Time||Bus Ride Length||School Arrival Time|
|2017-2018||7:45 a.m.||60 minutes||8:45 a.m.|
|2018-2019||8:05 a.m.||45 minutes||8:50 a.m.|
I just saw a video of the entire Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security board meeting from this evening. Since I’m the only blog (or media at this point) really writing about DAPSS these days, I feel it is safe to assume Board President Margie Lopez-Waite was talking about “the blog”. But an even bigger question is where the Delaware Charter School Network was? Isn’t their job to support charter schools? Where was Kendall Massett?
Margie did all the talking for the entire board. She played a game of bait and switch with the members of the audience. On one hand, she said she became the “scapegoat” for the slew of termination notices that went out Monday. She said Head of School Herb Sheldon played a direct role in that. She is trying to make it sound like those were his decisions to make and carry out. But then, on the other hand, she has the board pass a motion to revisit those terminations. She said, “A school can’t function if we don’t let the leaders lead”. But she is attempting to play to the crowd.
In terms of the DAPSS programs going away, Margie said emphatically they are not going away. But she said several times she wants to essentially marry DAPSS and her long-term goal of having an ASPIRA high school. That is her vision. No one else is screaming for that vision. Do not let her fool you. She saw an opportunity and struck.
“When I look in the mirror, I know who I am…And I hope that one day you guys learn the person I am. Cause I have no agenda here. I have no motivation other than helping children. So you can read all you want on the blog. You can get your information from those sources but they’re all completely wrong. That person doesn’t know me. They are just trying to feed you information. “
You are absolutely right Margie. I don’t know you. I’ve seen you a handful of times prior to your involvement in DAPSS. I’ve never written about anything big at ASPIRA as I have other Delaware charter schools. But what you seem to forget is the nature of this blog. I don’t pull stuff out of the air. It comes to me. From multiple sources. If I have nothing to write about, I don’t write. Plain and simple. And yes, I am trying to feed information. What is the purpose of this blog if it isn’t to inform? I don’t get paid. I could care less if 10 people read this or 5,000. I’m just getting it out there because once upon a time I needed information. Guess where I found a lot of it? Not in mainstream media articles. I found it on blogs. From people that were there. From comments on blogs. From what I heard, YOU didn’t know a lot of the staff that were fired the other day either. In fact, one staff member pointed out how you had never once said hello to him during your many visits to the school.
You said that less than 20% of the teachers were cut. But at the same time you said other teachers “resigned” because they weren’t able to take alternative positions. When you tell a full-time teacher they have to become a part-time teacher and they can’t afford that, you aren’t offering them an opportunity. You are basically saying “you mean nothing but I don’t have the guts to just come out and fire you so I’ll let you quit first.” Which, in my opinion, is extremely scummy. So if those people are getting the “demote or leave” slip, what does the percentage come out to factoring that in Margie? I get the financial perspective and sometimes there is fat to be trimmed. But we both know this was more than that. Don’t try to downplay it at a board meeting. Say those numbers in public including staff members.
You sit there and say you have no agenda or motivation while at the same time you are telling people who were just screaming at you that you want to merge DAPSS with your ASPIRA high school. You say you don’t want to interfere with the Head of School but you effectively took over the board, got folks who you KNOW will vote with you (hello Joanne Schlossberg from Newark Charter School), and all of a sudden pink slips are going out left and right. You talked about the Charter School Accountability Committee meetings and how you wished folks came down to Dover. I did. I was there. I heard you say you were going to make tough decisions people were not going to like. Not the board. Not the Head of School. But you. Not once did I hear a damn thing about your plan to merge DAPSS and this ASPIRA high school. I heard the rumors that you have always wanted that. Nor did you mention this HUGE need to have Spanish and Chinese programs at DAPSS. So don’t try to spin this as if you are some scapegoat. You initiated all of this. Like you are the damn superhero that “saved the school”. You didn’t save anything. You are an opportunist who saw a chance to get your precious dual language high school on the cheap without just doing it yourself. And you pissed off a ton of people along the way. I don’t need to know you. I need to listen, and hear, and report. You also don’t know me. Nor have you ever made a point to. And I’m okay with that.
As for the part where she started conversing with a parent DURING public comment IN SPANISH, that happened when the father stated he was Puerto Rican like her. She began speaking in Spanish to him but he shot her down and explained that even though he knows the language he speaks English in his house and his kids do as well. He said Spanish is NOT the most important language in the world. But when folks are complaining about having dual language programs at their school, that probably isn’t the best time to start talking in Spanish during a board meeting when someone else is giving public comment. The fact I have to point this out speaks volumes!
Lopez-Waite listened to what parents had to say. She took the jabs and expressed her opinions about them. But never once did she say anything about reconsidering HER vision for an ASPIRA high school. Even though the parents, former students, and current students loudly said they didn’t want the current programming diluted by HER vision. When you fail to truly listen and act on what you are hearing, by ignoring the will of the people (and that audience was the DAPSS family), you disrespect them.
Did DAPSS need changes? Well, yeah, they were under formal review and about to get shut down. The only thing that shocked me about all that is how long it took the Delaware DOE to initiate that formal review. But Lopez-Waite came in like a bear and wanted to tear the camp apart. And she did. Take responsibility for your actions. Own them. Be accountable. That’s what we want our students to learn. But when the adults can’t do it, how the hell do you think the students will?
When you have a “vision”, it is often a coin toss. If you fail to see the other side of the coin, you can’t be shocked when that coin comes up tails. That’s exactly what happened with Margie Lopez-Waite tonight. She underestimated parents, staff, and students. She assumed it was the same crowd she has at ASPIRA. It backfired big time! With this crowd, you wouldn’t dare pull your next move, which was to make yourself Head of School at DAPSS. They would have fileted you alive and you knew it. Which was why the board meeting was cut short before you could even get through the agenda.
And once more, for the record, where’s Kendall?
At the Delaware Academy of Safety & Security board meeting going on now, parents are screaming at Margie Lopez-Waite and students are crying. They are very upset with her about the mass termination of anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 of the staff on Monday. They are also very pissed at her about her plans to turns DAPSS into a type of ASPIRA High School. Continue reading
After weeks of work, all of the Delaware Public Education salaries over $100,000 have been posted with a few exceptions. Those are four charter schools who either did not respond or will in the next couple of days. But there is more than enough data to make some sense out of all this. Many asked why I was posting these. There were several reasons: requests, comparisons, money tracking, and general curiosity. But the main reason was to see if I could answer the age-old question- “Are there too many administrators?” Finally, I am prepared to answer that. Continue reading
The Delaware Department of Education has not released the state law required annual bullying report for the 2016-2017 school year. As per Title 14 of Delaware State Code:
(4) The Department of Education shall prepare an annual report, which must include a summary of all reported and all substantiated incidences of bullying, a summary of the information gathered under paragraph (b)(2)f. of this section, and the results of audits conducted under paragraph (d)(4) of this section. The Department shall post the report required by this subsection on its website.
I reached out to the Delaware DOE about this a month ago and received a response from the Public Information Officer, Alison May, that it “should be” released at the end of the month. Here we are, a month later, and no report. Which would have put this after the choice window closed in the beginning of January. How can parents make accurate and informed school choice decisions for their children without information like this? Bullying is a very big concern for many parents and it helps to know the numbers for these in Delaware schools. That is, assuming they are reported with fidelity. I recently heard a tale of a high school principal who took a stack of discipline referrals and put them in a shredder without acting on them.
I took a look at earlier years to see when those reports were released:
So why hasn’t the Delaware Dept. of Education released this report yet? Is there some type of issue? The year with a report issued at the latest date in the next school year was the 2015-2016 report. Here we are two and a half months after that date, in Mid-February, and no report.
I checked into other required reports that haven’t come out from the DOE yet. We have yet to see the annual report on Teen Dating Violence. I have to wonder what is going at the DOE under Secretary Bunting’s command. I know they are going through a “reorganization” but they are still required to comply with Delaware law. Annual reports need to be released in a timely fashion. I shouldn’t have to be some citizen watchdog writing about this stuff. I expect to be able to go to the DOE website and find what I’m looking for. I don’t mind doing that but I would rather they just do the right thing to begin with. I would prefer to write about a report instead of a lack of finding one. So what is the repercussion for the DOE not following state code on this? There is none. There is absolutely no accountability except for maybe the Governor calling Bunting and saying “Why am I reading about this on Kevin’s blog? Get the damn report out!” and Bunting saying “Yes sir”. There is no mechanism in Delaware to oversee these kind of things and alert the state agency about not following state law. When it comes to education, I guess that’s me. And people wonder why I seem upset sometimes and claim I never do some due diligence before I post stuff.
I’ve been looking for a common thread in everything I’ve written about what is taking place in Delaware education. One person, so deeply embedded in the forces that are privatizing public education before our very eyes. I believe I found it. A common link to the initiatives taking place. The Public/Private partnerships. Workforce Development. The Delaware Business Roundtable and the Delaware Chamber of Commerce. The Rodel/Vision Coalition. Personalized Learning. The philanthropic ventures into public education. Pathways to Prosperity. I believe I just found the most powerful person in Delaware who is calling ALL the shots. And most of you have probably never even heard the name. Continue reading
This situation at Thomas Edison Charter School is getting bigger by the day. Tomorrow night, at 6pm, parents and staff are holding a rally at the school demanding Principal EL be reinstated. It doesn’t mean he will. But parents and teachers have had enough and they aren’t afraid to use their voice.
Not helping matters was the closed-door board meeting today. There was no public notice of this meeting (required by state code, even if it is an emergency meeting). Even if there is not a quorum, any public board in this state has to follow certain protocol under open meeting laws. But it doesn’t sound like this board knows state code. Heck, I’m not even sure they know their own bylaws.
Parents were not happy about Board President Ron Pinkett’s comment on Delawareonline about “Have you seen this neighborhood?” Many parents have expressed outrage at what they are seeing as an out of touch comment.
Word on the street is that President Pinkett made his own decision to put Principal EL on leave. Sounds like this guy needs to take a walk.
Will Principal EL grace the halls of Thomas Edison tomorrow morning? The students won’t be there since it is an “in-service day”, just announced on Friday. The lack of transparency surrounding this whole thing is appalling.
The Head of School for Delaware Design-Lab High School, Joseph Mock, resigned after holding the position for less than six months. I saw no notification on their website or social media pages. This happened the same day Dr. Salome Thomas-EL was ousted from Thomas Edison Charter School.
Delaware Design-Lab has faced low enrollment woes since before they opened. Further complicating matters is the ongoing legal matter with the former Head of School, Christina Alvarez. They even have a new website. They do have a board meeting tomorrow night. They held an emergency session on September 13th to discuss “personnel and contract negotiations”.
Not much information to report, but this DID happen. That I can say with 100% certainty.
What in the world is going on with our charter schools in Delaware? It is not good for any school’s stability to play musical chairs with their leaders. It certainly isn’t good for students! I would think the school would make an announcement somewhere. At the very least, I hope parents received an email from the school. Or perhaps I am breaking this news to the public for the first time…
All the Design-Lab schools run out of Philadelphia. This is the first (and only to date) Design-Lab school in Delaware.
Updated, 2:53pm: The Delaware State Police cleared the bomb threat around 11am. But a student had to be taken by a medical helicopter due to injuries sustained by a “long fall” according to this article from First State Update.
The first day of school. A time for renewal and transition, not bomb threats. But that happened this morning at Appoquinimink High School. Parents were alerted right away by the district’s Public Information Officer, Lilian Miles. What the alert didn’t provide was information on where the student were evacuated too. This is no joking matter and I sincerely hope this was just a prank and not something more serious. If it was a prank, and the perp is caught, that is a federal crime. I also hope this isn’t a return to the national string of bomb threats America faced in 2015.
Updated with other information about what happened in the district today:
Every year, on June 13th, Exceptional Delaware celebrates its anniversary. This year is, pardon the pun, no exception. You won’t see what the mission is until you read about it. But it is definitely time to reboot the mission and go back to basics. It’s about the kids. It’s about families. It’s about what is covered up and hidden. In ALL facets of education, people want quiet. They didn’t want the dirty skeletons coming out of the closet. But they are there. Like an ostrich with a head buried in the sand, so it is with Delaware education. Continue reading
Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will talk to educators, parents, and citizens tonight about education funding and the state budget tonight at 7:45pm. To be included on the call, you had to sign up yesterday by 2pm. I signed up on Tuesday. I will be reporting live from the Town Hall. What concerns me the most is not what Carney is saying. It is what he isn’t talking about… Continue reading
Do you want some cheese with that wine Mark Murphy? That is the thrust of an online article from The Job in which Mark Murphy laments his time as the Delaware Secretary of Education. Murphy gets it wrong on so many levels it isn’t even funny.
Frankly, kids’ interests and adults’ interests don’t always align. Kids have no power, no say, no decision-making authority, no money — so nobody has a real reason to listen to kids. Go shadow a high-school kid for a day — good luck staying awake. You have to walk from class to class, with four minutes between each bell. You have to raise your hand to go to the bathroom. It is so disempowering and so boring.
Yes, he did use the word boring. Because we are desperately clamoring for high school students to do whatever they want in school. I’m terribly sorry Murphy had to exercise so much while shadowing a high school kid. He did always seem fit. Perhaps that is why. Let’s be very clear on something. Teenagers are trying to figure out who they are. They are going through puberty. I’m not saying their voice isn’t important, but adults often need to be the ones to make decisions for students. It isn’t because they are on a power trip, it is because they went through their teenage years and entered adulthood (well, most of them did). They went through it and came out on the other side and know what works and what doesn’t. But then a bunch of billionaires got together and decided they knew what was best for education. They used students and parents in their quest to get rid of teacher unions. That is whose side you were always on.
What would happen is, I would feel like I had reached an agreement with the union leadership, but then they came back a month or two later and that wasn’t how their membership felt. I should have spent more time meeting with local leadership. In hindsight, I would have done that differently.
Yes Mark, you should have. It sounds to me like the union leadership wasn’t also aware of what was happening at the ground level either or perhaps they were just placating you. The union leadership should reach out to their membership before making agreements on their behalf. If that is how it went down.
Each time you try to turn around a school, or you open or close a charter school, or disagree with the union, you punch another hole in the bucket and you start to drain out. You lose some political capital. Eventually, you’re out of water.
Mark, you became the Delaware Secretary of Education at the worst possible time in Delaware. Post Race to the Top and knee-deep in Markell’s very bad education policies. We are seeing a lot of those policies reversed throughout the country. Being a leader is allowing yourself to stand up to the criticism and not letting it get to you. If you ran out of water that’s because you kept listening to the same people over and over again and were not willing to hear what was happening at the grass-roots level.
If every kid had access to a middle-class lifestyle, the country would be a much better place, and people wouldn’t be so angry about all the immigrants.
The two don’t really intersect Mark. I know the goal is for every kid to be the same, but good luck with that. The bad education policies you pushed on Delaware at the behest of your education totalitarian boss, Jack Markell, failed because they did not look at the individual, only the collective. Not sure where your immigration comment comes in.
I am really nervous that really great people are going to stop being willing to pursue public office because you get publicly and professionally assassinated in these jobs.
Does this mean you see yourself as “really great people” Mark? Since I became involved in Delaware public education a few years ago, I have seen three Delaware Secretaries of Education: yourself, Dr. Steven Godowsky, and Dr. Susan Bunting. Both Godowsky and Bunting treated me with respect although we do not always agree on policy. When you were around, you didn’t give me the time of day. You treated opt out parents as if they were somehow beneath you and should be squashed like a bug. You didn’t even mention the Rodel Foundation in this article, but you listened to them far more than any educator, student, or parent. The priority schools initiative was the death knell of your time as the Delaware Secretary. The whole thing was a Delaware Dept. of Education public relations nightmare from the onset. It was shoddily planned and I would have to think you knew that.
If you’re a teacher in one of these schools, the new principal who comes into the school should decide whether you stay or whether you don’t stay. The teachers’ union was quite upset about that.
Of course they would be upset about it because the whole basis for this was standardized test scores. It failed to address issues such as trauma, special education, segregation, and the individual student. Who wants some corporate education reform Principal hand-picked by the Delaware DOE to come in and can a ton of teachers over Smarter Balanced scores? That’s why parents and citizens also objected to this plan. The biggest failure was your inability to predict the severity of the public backlash for this. I have to think you felt so empowered at the height of the corporate education reform movement that you felt infallible. No human being is infallible.
In retrospect Mark, this sounds like sour grapes on your part. You cast far too much blame on others while failing to address your own failures in your term. Playing around with the priority schools funding was the final straw. You can’t make promises and then back away from them. I’m not sure why you blame the unions for all that is wrong with public education. I know that is the corporate education reform mantra, but perhaps you should think of your own future and get off the shame and blame bus.
This article originally appeared on the McAndrews Law website. Attorney Caitlin McAndrews wrote this and it is very important! It has pivotal information that parents of students with disabilities need to know about during the IEP process. Parents, even with the best of intentions, can make mistakes during this process. I agree with the author: give as much information as you possibly can to help your special needs child succeed!
Parents sometimes withhold information from School Districts, worried that the District will find a way to “use it against them.” This can include privately obtained evaluations, information from outside therapists or medical providers, or changes in medication. Though the instinct to protect your child’s privacy is understandable, withholding this type of information from the educators who work with your student typically does more harm than good.
In the example of an independent evaluation, providing the report to the District only gives them more information about how your child learns, which they should use to appropriately program for the student. Hopefully, the District will use the evaluation to help provide appropriate supports and services; but even if they do not, the family can at least say they provided all available information to the District. If parents have to go to a hearing, and they withheld a private evaluation, a hearing officer may hold that against the parent, and may question why the parent withheld outside information about the child that could have helped the District understand and program for the child.
Additionally, the private evaluation might contain information that would trigger the District’s Child Find obligation – that is, by putting the District on notice that the child has certain needs/diagnoses, and might require special education support. If the District never saw the outside evaluation, it may be harder to prove that the District knew of the child’s disabilities.
Similarly, Districts often request permission to speak to outside providers, such as private speech/language or occupational therapists, treating psychologists, or pediatricians. This information could help the District program for your child, and withholding it can make a parent appear uncooperative in front of a hearing officer.
In general, the instinct to hold back can be a very natural and protective one, but ultimately, parents should ask themselves, “What am I afraid will happen if I share this information?” and “What good could potentially come from sharing?” In the vast majority of cases, the potential good will outweigh the potential harm.
By Caitlin McAndrews, Esq., McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.
Sometimes a landmark passes you by and you never take notice. As I looked at my blog earlier today, I saw I had written 2,999 posts. That is a heck of a lot of articles for a blog that isn’t even two and a half years old. So I thought I would do something special for the 3,000 mark. I want to talk about fear.
There is no crippling force greater than fear. It can turn the most well-intentioned person into a bowl of jello in a heartbeat. We have all been there. Some live in this state constantly. What is my greatest fear? Probably that my son will have a hard life. It is one of the reasons I fight. With every bone in my body. I see teacher fear constantly. Those who are afraid to speak because they can’t lose their job. Fear can paralyze you when you least expect it. It gnaws at you and turns conviction into uncertainty. Truth into doubt. But there are those who fight the fear and do something with it.
Do you want to know who doesn’t seem to have any fear? Rita Landgraf. The News Journal announced today she will take a job at the University of Delaware. The soon-to-be former Delaware Secretary of Health will have big things to do at the University of Delaware.
She will join UD’s College of Health Sciences as a professor of practice and distinguished health and social services administrator in residence. She also will direct the UD Partnership for Healthy Communities, a cross-state and college initiative that looks to address healthcare challenges in the community.
Landgraf has been fighting for those who aren’t able to fight for themselves for a long time now and I’m glad to see she will continue that tradition.
Sometimes fear means rising up out of your comfort chair and doing the right thing. Shelley Suckyj spoke out at a Christina Board of Education meeting on September 20th. This one action drew major attention to the mold issues plaguing Christina schools right now.
Then there is Kathleen DeNight. Last week, she received Autism Delaware’s Volunteer Of The Year. As a parent of a child with Autism, I have seen DeNight at meetings. She is not one to mince words and she will fight for her child.
Next is my wife. On Saturday, she participated in a 5k walk. In the pouring rain, she completed the whole thing and came in 11th place. She has worked very hard in the past year to get to this point and I am very proud of her.
We can’t forget Jerry Fickes and Chris Leach, the two Wilmington firefighters who sacrificed their own lives to save others last month.
Another is one of my sources who I can’t name because then they wouldn’t be a source. But sometimes sticking your own neck out in order to do good for others can be tough. But this source does it consistently, and has been doing this for years.
There is this guy at work. He says some of the most outlandish stuff I’ve ever heard in my life. But he always does it with a smile. He has absolutely no fear at all in this world and will say whatever is on his mind.
The Chicago Cubs may have a lot of fear going to the World Series, their first in 71 years. But fear doesn’t get a team that far. It is hard work and dedication. I’ll be rooting for the Cubs.
Take Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook. The two are running for the President and Vice-President of the Delaware State Education Association next year. But they are starting their grass-roots campaign now and have committed to holding 15 meetings throughout the state in the coming months to meet with teachers and hear their concerns. They have no fear whatsoever in speaking their mind for what they believe in.
Some take their fear from younger days and turn it into something good. Such is the case with the Dover High School Peer Group Connections members. These seniors help new freshmen transition to the high school.
I want to give a shout-out to some other bloggers out there in this country. Especially two of them who continue to astonish me with the level of investigative prowess they exhibit. They are heroes in my mind, and what these two blog about is very frightening stuff.
One of my favorite artists, a bloke by the name of Steve Dillon, passed away recently. He was one of the co-creators, along with Garth Ennis, of Preacher. Before that, they had a fantastic run on a comic called Hellblazer. Dillon lived life by his own terms, and he wasn’t afraid to stand by what he believed.
Or what about Scott Goward. A Dover resident running for Governor on a 3rd party ticket. I’m sure he knows he will most likely lose, but he runs anyway, announcing his candidacy long before candidates from the “major” parties did so.
Fear conquering is all around us. We see it every time a baby takes its first steps. When a dying person is finally ready to let go. When a student walks into a school for the first time. When a couple finds out they are expecting. People who struggle with addiction who take those tentative steps to ask for help. When someone goes into surgery not knowing what the outcome might be. When a parent attends a board meeting to give public comment about issues with their child. When an African-American tells the world no more. Or it could be a teenager who ignores a bully and walks right past them with their head held high. Or another teenager who tells his mother, “I did it”, knowing that confession is better than the guilt. Those who wake up in immense pain every single day but find the courage to get out of bed and face the day. The opposite of fear is courage. In big ways or small ways, courage is overcoming fear.
For those who have been along this journey from the very beginning, thank you for the road to 3,000. For those who came along in-between, thank you for sticking around. For those who just read occasional articles, that’s cool too.
Things are changing fast in education right now. It will take great courage to speak your truth. But it has to happen.
In the past week, a light bulb went off in my head. I’ve been to a lot of education meetings lately. State Board of Education, ESSA, Special Education Strategic Plan, district board meetings, and so forth. I’ve seen and met a lot of legislators and candidates. I’ve seen the old faces and the new. For the most part, we are all talking about the same thing: problems in education. Whether it is at a state level or on the ground floor. At an ESSA meeting, one of the participants at my table was Red Clay Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty.
He made a very valid point. We keep talking about education and how to make it better. We keep throwing ideas into the mix. We have meetings and task forces and committees and town halls and strategic plans. We talk ourselves to death. We don’t take action and we have gotten away from the basics. I agree with him.
There have been opportunities to act, but they pass by. Until the next idea comes along. I’ve met with parents, teachers, district administrators, board members, the DOE, advocates, disability groups, legislators and regular citizens. There are deep rifts between everyone. Hurts. Things happen. Perceptions are thrown out of whack. I have seen two of those groups talk about the exact same topic in separate meetings but the tone and feelings about it are wider than the Pacific Ocean.
As much as I rant about the DOE, I do like that they are having these town halls. I like that people are coming out to them. But it’s not enough. Not nearly enough. What is confusing me is why different states are taking advantage of different timelines for their draft plans. For example, Delaware wants to get their plan in by the end of March. In Florida, they are not submitting their plan until the end of July. The Delaware DOE wants to have their plan in place by the 2017-2018 school year. Florida’s wouldn’t fully kick in until 2018-2019. The Delaware DOE wants to have their first draft done by the end of October. In 37 days. While it is a draft and would most likely be amended based on public feedback, I don’t like that short of a time frame.
Is that enough time to heal the rifts between the adults involved in education? Is that enough time for us to decide, as a state, what is best for students? No. I don’t like the idea that we are rushing to get a basic plan done, with public comment to possibly tweak that plan, and then again after the end of the year. I would much rather see something more solid in the beginning and build from there. I want a foundation that is grounded in fixing the already existing problems with a definitive action plan and a path forward to fix them. While some may see ESSA as a grand opportunity to get things right, are we rushing to get certain plans that are representative of the more powerful at the expense of the majority? I believe we are. Delaware needs more time. With the vast amounts of money we spend on education, I would think there could and should be a way to get more voices involved.
When many education bills are submitted in the General Assembly, they are symptomatic of larger things that are broken. If we don’t fix those bigger things, the small solutions don’t always work. So, I guess, I’m putting this out there for the Delaware DOE, Secretary Godowsky, and the Governor to think about. What is the harm in waiting another four months to put forth our ESSA plan? Yes, it’s another year students may not have something. And many of those things they need now. But if we squander a gift of time and having true collaboration, at a state-wide level, to get things right, then all the plans in the world won’t help. It would also give the General Assembly more of a sense of what this will cost over the five and a half months they are in session. By submitting the plans by the end of March, it will force the General Assembly to most likely scramble to introduce legislation to make it all fit. Why not let the General Assembly have until the end of June to do their thing while the rest of us, and I mean ALL of us, do our thing? I have no doubt the DOE has a very good idea of what they would like to see. But I don’t think the rest of Delaware feels they have been given enough to do this. We need more time.
This isn’t a rant against the DOE. It is a heartfelt plea to all involved in education to use the time we could have. We need to come together, for the kids.
The Delaware Dept. of Education must think the sun rises and sets with the Rodel Foundation of Delaware. Today, at the State Board of Education meeting, an update was given on the Every Student Succeeds Act Stakeholder Consultation (ESSA). Many things in the below presentation and what were said sent major red flags up.
The biggest concerned Rodel. A question was asked about getting the Chamber of Commerce involved with ESSA. Susan Field-Rogers with the DOE stated that was brought up during consultation with Rodel. A couple of minutes later, Secretary Godowsky chimed in that was brought up during a Vision Advisory Committee meeting. Both of those meetings were closed to the public. And why is Rodel chiming in on other stakeholders to bring into the process? They have no authority over anything involved with ESSA. They are a non-profit foundation. But you would think they run the Delaware DOE.
State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray noticed that local boards were shown as groups the DOE had conversations with. She expressed how she heard from local board members with questions about ESSA and was happy to see that. But then the DOE clarified that local boards were included because they participated in the State Board Workshop on ESSA last month at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover. So they did NOT have one-on-one meetings with local boards but rather list them as participants from a workshop. But the charter leaders they DID meet with. And Rodel. If they are going to meet with charter leaders, who typically have 1-2 buildings to take care of, why aren’t they meeting one-on-one with every single school principal? This is beginning to smell really bad. As well, they said their meeting with the Delaware School Boards Association (DSBA) ties into meeting with local school boards. Huh? No it doesn’t. Not every single local school board belongs to DSBA. Many have opted out of paying the fees to be a part of them.
After it was pointed out at their board meeting last month that legislators need to be a group to consult with, they STILL weren’t listed on their “stakeholder slide”. At what point do they clue the legislators in on any of this? When the ink is dry on the plan?
The DOE made a big deal that no part of the plan has been written and that it will be shaped by all of these meetings. But they did inform the State Board that the US DOE did submit a “draft plan” to all the states. Not that they are required to follow it… Okay…
In terms of the ESSA discussion groups coming out, Field-Rogers said there will be two discussion groups with approximately 30 members in each group. 90 people were nominated. They are in the process of picking members and DSEA and the Charter Schools Network are helping to pick who will be in the groups. I’m seeing a lot of charter love in this process. But for schools that only represent up to 12% of Delaware students I’m not sure those scales are even. And nothing against both of those organizations, but they represent schools and teachers. They are, when it comes right down to it, lobbying organizations. I’m just not digging this process.
Want to know what else is missing on that slide? Parents. But I guess we have to go to the “Community Conversations” to make our voices heard. Aside from the Delaware PTA, there are no other parent groups. No PTOs, no advocacy groups like GACEC or Autism Delaware. There are also NO students. You would think the biggest federal education law to come since 1965 would have some student input. Nope. Not with our education overlords.
These community conversations start next week in Georgetown. I am sending out a plea to Delaware parents to get to these meetings and make your voice heard. Do not let the DOE hijack this process. Let them know what you want, not what they want. The DOE wants people to register for the meetings so they can get a headcount and how many facilitators they will need. I say fill the joint up with parents and those who care about saving public education from the poverty pimps and corporate pirates who want to permanently hijack our schools. Click on the date to register for the meeting(s) you want to go to.
Back in March on 2015, I made several predictions for Delaware education. I ran across this post yesterday while searching for another post. As I looked back on these predictions, I wondered if I was right or wrong. I would say I got about half right and half wrong. Some were dead on the nose while others I wasn’t even close!
Top Ten Exceptional Delaware Predictions for 2015
1. Mark Murphy is either terminated or resigns
Yes, I was absolutely right about this! By August 2015, Murphy did “resign”.
2. Mark Holodick takes his place
Nope, Dr. Steven Godowsky took his place.
3. Office of Civil Rights comes back with scathing report against Delaware
Nope, still working on it supposedly.
4. More charter schools get scrutiny over finances
Yes. Academy of Dover, Providence Creek Academy, Kuumba Academy, Delaware College Prep, whatever is in the unreleased petty cash audit, and Delaware Met.
5. At least 3 districts won’t meet the 95% benchmark for standardized test participation rates
Nope, more than 3 districts didn’t hit the 95% benchmark for the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
6. Delaware parents become a force to be reckoned with education conversation
Maybe. We did get House Bill 50 passed in the House and Senate but Governor Markell vetoed the bill. Parents of students with Autism did get Senate Bill 93 passed. There were other bills that went through, but parent advocacy wasn’t as big in the General Assembly after the veto override of HB50 didn’t go through.
7. Bullying and discrimination will become BIG issues
To me, this is always a big issue. I think more awareness of discrimination happened due to the situation with cops and African-Americans over the past year. For bullying, I will have to reserve judgment until I see the report for the 2015-2016 school year.
8. More bills will be introduced AND passed to limit the power of the Delaware DOE, Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education
Not really. If anything the DOE grew more bold after Mark Murphy left. Recent months have proved that more than any other time. But in terms of the legislators, the only thing I can think of which may limit power is placing the State Board of Education under Sunset review.
9. US DOE will approve extension for teacher accountability and the Smarter Balanced Assessment
The US DOE did approve this extension for the 2015-2016 school year, but as I wrote yesterday, this year is another matter.
10. The four Wilmington school districts will become two and Brandywine will cause major problems during the process
Absolutely not! I can’t recall if the WEAC recommendations came out when I wrote this, but nothing has happened at this point in terms of redistricting. Brandywine and Colonial did bow out of sending their Wilmington students to Red Clay though, so in a sense it was kind of/sort of right. But Brandywine didn’t really cause any problems. But Colonial bowing out was a point of contention for a time.
Today, Delaware Governor Markell signed an Executive Order which creates an Advisory n Committee for the Every Student Succeeds Act. As required by federal law, this group will convene to provide input (not make final decisions) on ESSA which was signed by President Obama last December. I am assuming this group will replace the DESS Advisory Committee which was required under the former federal education law, ESEA.
This group will have the usual slots: President of the State Board of Education, President of the Delaware State Education Association, and other education, business, and state associations. There are only two legislator slots, one from the Senate and one from the House. Usually, these kind of groups have representation of both parties in the House and the Senate. Only three teachers will be picked, and only four parents. On something this important, bigger is better. But lest we forget, these members will be picked by the Governor, so expect some controversy over those picks!
As well, there will be a series of “Community Conversations” coming up at the end of September. I pray this isn’t a one-sided show where select people are telling the audience what has to happen. It needs to be a true back and forth exchange to be a true conversation.
Below is Executive Order #62 and the press release from the Delaware DOE.
Markell Creates Group to Support Implementation of New Federal Education Law
Calling a new federal education law an opportunity for teachers, school leaders, parents, and others to build on record graduation rates and other progress happening in Delaware schools, Governor Jack Markell today signed Executive Order 62, which brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to provide input for the state plan required by the federal Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA). The plan, which the U.S. Department of Education is expected to require by sometime next year, will detail efforts to:
· Implement academic standards aligned with what students need to know stay on track for success in college and the workplace;
· Ensure students from all backgrounds have access to high-quality educational opportunities from pre-school through high school;
· Support training, retention, and professional advancement of great educators; and
· Track progress of schools across a variety of measures, not limited to test scores, and identify ways to offer additional support where students are struggling.
The Governor, who signed E.O. 62 at Lewis Elementary School, noted that improvements from the last major federal education law, No Child Left Behind, mean that states have more flexibility in ways to support students, including how to measure schools’ progress and new opportunities to focus on early childhood education, which has been a top priority of the Markell Administration.
“We should all be proud of the progress we have made over the last few years, when we have seen thousands more low-income families enroll children in high-quality early childhood programs, recorded the fastest-growing graduation rate in the country, offered thousands more students the chance to earn workplace experience and college credit while in high school, and given more students access to college,” said Markell.
“ESSA provides an exciting chance for us to build on that momentum – to better support and attract great teachers and ensure all of our students have access to the education they deserve, no matter their backgrounds. More flexibility in how states approach these issues means more responsibility for us to make sound decisions and as we develop our state’s plan under ESSA. The executive order I sign today will help engage our teachers, school leaders, parents, and other advocates to ensure a successful process.”
The Executive Order outlines the variety of education leaders and advocates who must be represented on the committee and provides the group with the opportunity to review drafts of the state plan and submit recommendations to the Secretary of Education. A chair will be announced in advance of the first meeting and the group will include representatives of:
· Parents in every county
· Educators from urban and rural communities
· The State Board of Education
· The Delaware State Education Association
· The Delaware Association of School Administrators
· The Delaware School Board’s Association
· The Delaware Charter School Network
· The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission
· The Early Childhood Council
· Delaware English Language Teachers and Advocates
· An organization advocating for students with disabilities
· Delaware’s business community
· Workforce development programs
· The General Assembly
“After engaging in initial discussions with a wide variety of education stakeholders on development of our ESSA plan, this advisory committee represents an important next step in supporting our communication with teachers, administrators, and parents who are working hard to support our students,” said Delaware Education Secretary Steve Godowsky. “This group will help ensure we fully consider a wide range of perspectives and set our state on a path of continued improvement.”
The department also will engage representatives of stakeholder groups in two discussion groups. The first group will focus discussions on technical topics related to Measures of School Success and Reporting. The second group will focus discussions on provisions for Student and School Supports. Participants for these topical discussion groups can be nominated on the department’s ESSA web site through September 9, 2016. The discussion groups will provide information to the Advisory group created by this Executive Order.
To further support engagement of the broader education community, the Department of Education has announced a series of Community Conversations later this month during which teachers, administrators, and others will offer input on specific questions that the state must address in its plan. These discussions will take place at the following times and locations:
Tuesday September 20 at 6:00 p.m. – Cheer Center, Georgetown
Saturday September 24 at 10:00 a.m. – Christina Cultural Arts Center, Wilmington
Tuesday September 27 at 6:00 p.m. – Bunker Hill Elementary School, Middletown
Thursday September 29 at 5:30 p.m. – Collette Education Center, Dover