McGuiness Isn’t Even Elected A Week And She’s Already Stirring Up Controversy

Last week, Delawareans decided to put Kathy McGuiness in the State Auditor position.  Not all Delawareans, that is, but enough for her to win.  It’s not like I didn’t warn you all for the past year.  According to the Cape Gazette, McGuiness hasn’t decided if she will vacate her position as Rehoboth Commissioner.  Hello Delaware, can you say conflict of interest? Continue reading

Fundraiser Fun At Fraziers!

Tonight I did something different.  I attended the Kent County Democrat fundraiser at Fraziers in Dover.  It was very last minute and I figured why the heck not.  I will get this off my chest first- I’m not a fundraiser kind of guy.  I went in shorts and a shirt.  I met a lot of candidates.  Some snubbed me.  Either they don’t know who I am or they do.  We all make choices.  Good luck getting my vote!  That’s all I’m going to say on that.  Okay, I’m lying.

For those who know me and where my passions lie, it begins with education.  First and foremost.  My thought has always been if you can’t make the right choices for kids, you shouldn’t be in office.  When I hit the voting booth, my vote is going to be for who I feel is the best candidate and will get the job done.  I’ll switch parties when I hit those buttons.  I don’t care.  So if I’m at a fundraiser, I’m not your money guy.  But I watch.  I listen.  I see who is talking to who.  Who is pandering and who is listening.

During Trump’s run for President, I switched to the Democrat party from Republican.  Neither Hillary or Trump were getting my vote.  Pure and simple.  I got some flack for that from some folks but that’s okay.  It’s my choice.  It is MY vote.  But it does not mean I always support what Democrats do.  The same philosophy applies to the Republicans as well.  Who and what am I?  I’m a wildcard.  I’m the guy you didn’t see coming.  I’m the guy who doesn’t care who I piss off on this blog if I think the decisions you make are bad for kids.  But that isn’t all politics is about.  For me it is, but for most education isn’t at the top of their thought process.  I do vote on other issues besides education.  But education is a HUGE factor.

Based on tonight, I know this blog will have tons of endorsements coming out in the next month or so.

Fundraisers are interesting events.  For the candidates, it is getting your name out there.  For the party or campaign team, it is about the money.  For people like me?  It is a blogger bonanza!  Showing up is the first thing.  But showing up and leaving before it is your chance to talk?  That is some bad mojo coming your way.  Giving me the evil eye when you were there.  Twice as bad.  It’s all good though.  I’m okay with knowing who doesn’t like me.  It just affirms what I may have written about you.  I’m not naming names but what is the abbreviation for microgram?  And for another candidate in that particular race, even if you KNOW I’m supporting your opposition for a three-way statewide primary, don’t just walk past me when I say hello to you because I will talk about it on here.  See what I did there guy with the same initials as Denzel Washington?

I’m babbling.  Far too many Swedish meatballs at the fundraiser.  And Fraziers makes the BEST Swedish meatballs!

If you had told me four years ago Donald Trump would be President I would have told you to lay off the peace pipe.  Even if I came around to that idea and you told me that same President Trump would snub our allies and shake hands with the little boy from North Korea the next day I would have said you were crazy.  But this is the reality we live in.  It’s like Twin Peaks and The Twilight Zone had a one-night stand and created the worst nightmare I’ve ever seen.  The oompa-loompa may be riding a red wave right now but what goes up must come down.

Some of my endorsements might surprise long-time readers of this blog.  It’s not personal.  It is politics.  Anyone coming into a race and expecting 100% of the vote is off their rocker!  That’s what makes America great.  It will be an interesting time between now and September, and then after the Primary heading into the General Election.

For candidates, I will be sending out surveys shortly.  Even if you don’t think I will support you, know that I have a vast readership who might.  I like to call it nearly every teacher in the state!  They are going to want to hear from you.  If there is one thing I’ve learned from teachers, it is this: they vote!

So here we are.  Four years ago today I made my first trip to Legislative Hall.  It was raining and I was carrying a sign outside in support of the school board audio recording legislation.  It was my way of thanking Kilroy’s Delaware for letting me write on his blog before I started this one.  That bill didn’t pass that session.  It did the next one.  Sometimes you just have to be patient.  A lot of the faces I met that day won’t be there next January.  The most important thing, no matter what political party you align with, is this: get your facts straight.  Do the research.  Who is doing it for the power and who wants to get in there and make change.  Vote with your conscience, not your allegiance.  Get involved.

I will get an insane amount of grief for this next line, but let’s make America centrist again!  We need balance.  One-party rule is not good for this country at all.  It isn’t always good for Delaware either.  We live in interesting times.

P.S.: To the candidate who had the conversation with me about FOIA- that was fun!

Catching Up On Delaware Education And Politics

It’s been a while.  At least for me.

I haven’t been blogging as much.  Like I’ve said before, sometimes you have to take a break and recharge your batteries.  But it doesn’t mean things aren’t happening offline or in sidebar conversations.  These are just some of the things I’ve seen and heard the past few weeks: Continue reading

Origins: Bugarach & Bayhealth

The definitive seeds for this blog bloomed in late 2013 and early 2014. But what if I said the germination of those seeds began years before?

In 2009, I met someone who was making some very poor choices with their life.  They told me they had a child with a lot of problems.  One night, that person had to take their son to the hospital.  I thought about meeting the person to talk to them about those very poor choices, but the son’s problems took front and center.  I went to Bayhealth in Dover that night after thinking about it for a couple of hours.  As I walked in, the person didn’t see me.  I saw them rocking this teenage boy child in their arms, back and forth, back and forth.  While I didn’t agree with this person’s life choices, I understood how broken they were.  Their entire life was devoted to helping this child.  I could tell they didn’t have a support system that allowed them to get the help they truly needed.  I walked out of the emergency room waiting area and drove home.  It was about 2am in the morning.  I talked to the person briefly a couple of days later but I lost track of the person and I have never seen or heard from them again.  I’ve always wondered how that person and the boy were doing.  I’ve never shared this with anyone until now, not even those closest to me.  But it stuck with me for some reason.  While I’ve been blessed in many ways to be able to give my own special needs child the most basic of comforts, there are others who are unable to.

Almost two years later, I had a dream one night. It was the most bizarre dream of my life and I remember every single detail of it.  Terrorists were launching a full-scale attack on the airport in San Diego airport.  I was on a plane attempting to take off in the midst of fire and carnage.  I looked out the window of the plane to see  fire and death on the ground.  People were dying before my eyes as I flew off into the sun setting over the Pacific.  As dreams go, moments shift in the blink of an eye.  The plane was flying towards a mountain.  There was a flat area so the plane could land.  There were not that many people on the plane.  We got off after a bumpy landing to find soldiers escorting us to a door in the mountain.

We walked into the mountain and I quickly realized the world was ending. Inside the mountain was an entire city.  It was built like a mall with different stores and what I could only call processing centers.  I walked into an auditorium and saw children and teenagers.  All of them seemed like there was something unique about them.  While I didn’t realize this in the dream, I believe they were special needs children.  Those with Autism, Aspergers, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and the different.  The separated.  The cast out.  They were told to listen and behave.  I knew instantly that something was very wrong with this whole scene.  For some reason, I got a job at the mountain as a guard of some sort.  I walked around this mountain mall for a while.  People were walking around and seemed happy, but I noticed I didn’t see any of the children that were in the auditorium.  All the people walking around were grown-ups.  What happened to the children?

I found out the answer to that question. Soldiers were placing corpses on a conveyor belt which went through a door to the outside.  I got close enough to take a peek out the door and what I saw horrified me.  Children were being sent into an outside furnace.  Some of the children were still alive as they were led to the slaughter.  A guard motioned towards me and I woke up from my dream.

That dream haunted me for months. One day at work during a break I happened to see a newspaper headline about a mountain in France that was attracting New Age followers.  December 12, 2012 was fast approaching and they believed this mountain in the Pyrenes chain would save them from the upcoming apocalypse.  They call Bugarach the “upside-down” mountain based on its geographical structure.  That apocalyptic moment never came in 2012.  UFOs did not take the New Age followers away to some interstellar promised land.  But when I read the online article about this bizarre mountain in France, they showed a picture of it.  It was the exact same mountain as the one in my dream.   Granted, there was no revelation about a mountain mall at Bugarach.  I began to do tons of research on Bugarach and found some bizarre stuff.

pech_de_bugarach_27072014_02

It was more the dream that stuck with me.  When I began this blog, I did a couple of articles on treatment of those with disabilities in history.  It really isn’t until the past fifty years that those with disabilities began to gain the rights they should have always had.  I even incorporated Bugarach in a never-finished series called “Delaware Horror Story”.  Maybe one day I will pick that up and give the history of what happened to Mike Matthews and Paul Herdman when Sussex County was wiped out due to melting glaciers.  But not today.  For me my dream about Bugarach and the dark horrors within represented a potential future to avoid at all costs.

So why am I just now revealing these what could only be viewed as crazy moments in my life now?  First off, the topic of that person I met with the child at Bayhealth recently came up.  I didn’t realize what an impression that made on me over the years.  I didn’t know the first thing about special needs, how to advocate for rights, or certainly any knowledge of how to help a child who was clearly suffering.  As far as the dream, I have tried to get back to that dream in the six years since with no luck whatsoever.  It was the worst possible future for these kids.  Do I think that could really happen?  I pray to God not.  But if you asked someone if the Holocaust or the wholesale slaughter in Rwanda in the 1990s if they could have foreseen those moments, perhaps not.  History is filled with such atrocities going back tens of thousands of years.  Like I said, history is filled with very bad treatment of anyone different.  As I said in the intro for this, these were just seed germinations.  The simple truth is this blog would have never happened if not for the very difficult birth of those seeds bursting to life all those years ago.  For some, it seems like just yesterday that late 2013 and early 2014 happened.  For me, it feels like a lifetime ago.  Along with all that came before that.

I see what is going on now in our world.  In America, we seem more divided than ever.  I don’t see the “growth” happening for students with disabilities that all the faux Common Core believers profess they are having.  I see people at each other’s throats over party lines.  I believe we are fast approaching a tipping point in society.  A line will be crossed and there will be no looking back.  But I also have hope.  Hope that we can overcome our differences and unite to help all people.

Last Friday night, I attended a candle-light vigil for Lieutenant Steven Floyd in Dover.  For those around the country who read this blog, Lt. Floyd was the correctional officer tragically murdered in last week’s prison siege at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, DE.  I saw hundreds of people paying tribute to a man that saved others with his actions.  He was and is a true hero.  Everyone who attended this vigil, along with the accompanying tribute in Smyrna, was there to pay tribute and to mourn.  As we held our candles up high for Lt. Floyd, I remembered another evening where many of us lit candles to remember.

It was after 9/11.  I lived in California at the time.  Word was going around on the internet that everyone should hold a candle-light vigil one Friday evening.  I went outside and found people just coming over.  Some I had never met before.  I became the de facto leader of this group and started to speak.  This was something I never did before.  I thought, “Why me?”  But I got through it.  After everyone left I felt a feeling of peace.  In the midst of unspeakable tragedy, people could still unite for something bigger than themselves.

In the span of my life, my advocacy for special needs, opt out, and getting rid of corporate education reform is still in its infancy.  I truly don’t know what will happen next.  Things are moving very fast and there are many things I need to put in the “unable to control” box.  While I was blogging, life continued to move forward.  I’m at a crossroads with many things in my life right now but I know I have a few things in my corner: friends, hope, and love.  Will the dreams of yesterday and missed opportunities create change in the future?  Time will tell.  But my days of living in darkness, of drowning in it, will not define who I am.  It will not shape my world any longer.  I refuse to let it.

At the vigil last Friday evening, a Reverend spoke to the crowd.  His final words resonated with me like no other words in a long time.  I can’t remember it verbatim, but he was talking about how much people need help from others.  How so many of us just walk right past them.  He said we should only be looking down unless it is to lift another person up.

When we are fighting on Facebook about politics, are we really contributing anything worthwhile to the world?  Do we really believe a local fight on Facebook is going to change the shape of a nation?  Are we that self-absorbed to think that?  I am not bemoaning standing up for rights or what you believe.  What I am criticizing is the way so many of us are going about how they convey their beliefs.  If making a point hurts someone to a level where the words “I’m sorry” are said, it has gone too far.  If friendships die forever over this stuff, that is the truest shame in the world.

The driving force for this blog has evolved in the past couple of months.  I felt I said all I needed to say about certain subjects.  I was no longer in a place to do vast amounts of research and spend so much time on it.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  I still am in some respects, but I’ve also experienced a reawakening I never expected.  Here comes the future.

 

WEIC Needs To Be Transparent With Colonial

Side Deals.  Secret Phone Calls.  Backroom Meetings.  This is the stuff Delaware is made of.  By the time the public finds out about something, the script has already been written and the public part is just semantics and window dressing.  This is politics, not just in Delaware, but everywhere.  It is not something I believe in.  Neither does Christina board member John Young, who wrote the following on Facebook this morning:

All eyes will be on the WEIC with the Colonial declaration of retaining their students. If WEIC buckles, the premise for the WEAC recommendations and the subsequent, successful legislation is irrevocably damaged and a Pandora’s box of permutations will flood the marketplace surrounding the entire redistricting process. I do not envy Dr. Allen and the commission co-chairs right now. WEIC just got punched in the nose, so to speak, and their response is going to be scrutinized. This cannot be a series of private phone calls, this is the moment where transparency must shine. If this Colonial issue is negotiated in darkness, WEIC loses.

Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants

I have been chosen.  Along with Mike Matthews, President of the Red Clay Educators Association, John Young, Christina School District Board Member, and Tizzy Lockman, Wilmington Education Advisory Committee member and fierce advocate for civil rights in Wilmington schools.  I just see myself as a blogger on education matters in Delaware.  Those other three, they have a lot of skin in the game and have been around a lot longer than myself.  But I am honored to be listed among these giants in the below announcement.  I didn’t think Exceptional Delaware would reach as many as it has, but if I am the proudest of anything it’s that more parents are finding this blog and finding out what is really going on out there.  At the end of the day, I’m still just a Dad to an awesome kid who happens to have disabilities and my fight has always been so he can have a better future.

July 14, 2015

Kevin Ohlandt

Exceptional Delaware Blog

Dear Kevin,

I am proud to announce today, as President of the Progressive Democrats for Delaware, that you are a 2015 PDD Education Hero Award winner!

PDD voted to recognize four Education Heroes for your work in bringing education reform issues to the public’s attention this year: Mike Matthews, Kevin Ohlandt, John Young and Elizabeth Lockman.

We’re also recognizing the House Democratic Caucus Six (Paul Baumbach, Kim Williams, Sean Lynn, Andria Bennett, Sean Matthews and John Kowalko) with this group award for standing up to their caucus with the courage of their convictions and voting against the budget this year [Why we voted against the state budget].

The formal announcement of our PDD honorees will take place at our July 22nd Progressive Democrats for Delaware Summer Social!, 7-9 at the FireStone Roasting House on the Riverfront.

This event serves as a fundraiser for our PAC for progressive candidates but you’ll be our guest for the evening – no charge – and we would love it if you can join us in celebration. We’ll be soliciting additional nominations  for Progressive Community Heroes at the event so come prepared to offer an outstanding individual of your choice for recognition at the PDD Awards Ceremony in September.

The award ceremony itself will be at our September 2nd General Meeting (7PM DEM HQ in New Castle) where we’ve invited the DEM Caucus Six to speak as panelists. Save the date!

PDD will be coordinating with the Delaware Americans for Democratic Action to rally the public over the next year with informational events through the fall and implementation events through the next session of the Assembly. PDD hopes to excite Delaware’s progressive voters and get them to the polls in 2016!

I hope to see you Wednesday night!

Nancy Willing, President

Progressive Democrats for Delaware

PDD Summer Social

7-9 Wednesday July 22nd

FireStone Roasting House 

110 S West St 

Wilmington, DE 19801

For the six Democrat State Reps that voted against the budget, I was there during their moment of courage.  If I were in their shoes, I would have done the exact same thing.  Now before everyone starts saying I am a Progressive Democrat, I can be.  I can also be a moderate Republican depending on the issue.  I don’t talk about my own personal politics too often.  I don’t think it matters as long as I fight the good fight out there.  But having worked with several of these legislators on education issues, I’ve found they are the most informed about the realities and not the smoke and mirrors we hear about from so many others at Legislative Hall.  There are some great legislators there, but they aren’t all education legislators, so our paths don’t tend to cross.

As for the other three Education Heroes, I’ve known John Young the longest.  As the Transparent Christina blogger and a board member at Christina, he has always inspired me to get the truth out there.  Along with Kilroy and Kavips, John Young showed me the news the mainstream media doesn’t cover.  As a board member, my admiration for John grew immensely during the Priority Schools showdown at their board meeting in September.  He stood up to the DOE, and two State Board members angrily walked out.

I met Mike Matthews at a State Board of Education meeting a year ago.  We had commented on stuff over on Facebook, but when I met him he was cutting out material for his classroom.  Someone that bold is someone to watch.  I’ve seen Mike speak out several times in support of many of the same beliefs I have.  His most memorable speaking moment came at the Imagine Delaware forum last March.  This one has no fear and we need more of that!

Tizzy Lockman.  I never really heard of her until the whole ACLU lawsuit announcement last December.  But she is everywhere, on WEAC, the Enrollment Preference Task Force, and she is always advocating for students with the greatest needs.  I don’t know her as well as John and Mike, but I can say the Delaware education landscape is better with her being in it!

Any award for me is dedicated to all the parents of special needs kids and the parent supporters of opt-out.  Hopefully we changed the conversation, and I know we can’t stop now!

Brandywine Superintendent Holodick Says Parents Can’t Opt Out, Not Your Choice Buddy

 “I am uninterested in a game of political chess that uses our kids as pawns.”

Brandywine School District Superintendent Mark Holodick came out with a message on the district website stating parents can only opt out under certain medical circumstances and with approval from the district.  But what he fails to realize is this is not his choice.  It is a parents choice.  Nice intimidation there Mr. Holodick, but parents are savvier then these bullying tactics.  If you were truly against increased assessments in Delaware, you would be much more public with this internal policy in your mind.  This is not some political thing.  It is parents speaking up for their children and saying “STOP”.  The very fact that you would see this as a political thing speaks volumes about what is on your mind.  Your arrogance in presuming to know what parents’ motivations are for opting their child out is a disgrace, and you need to offer a public apology.  No wonder the Delaware DOE loves you!

Read Holodick’s entire statement below:

Message from Superintendent Holodick
March 2015

Dear BSD Community,
Over the past several weeks, there has been some discussion about the new state assessment, Smarter, and many people have been asking for BSD’s position on testing.  As a former principal and now as Superintendent, I have always supported state assessments.  They provide information on what students know and can do, and test reports enable teachers and administrators to deepen their understanding of student progress and identify gaps to help students succeed from grade to grade.  I understand that not all parents agree on the value of state assessments and that this issue is becoming increasingly political.  That being said, I also understand that some students have legitimate issues that may necessitate an exemption from high stakes testing.  We have always reviewed those exemption requests, and this year will be no different. 
The process for requesting an exemption from the Smarter assessment will be the same as it always has been in BSD.  Parents who wish to request an exemption for a medical issue should submit a letter to the school their child attends.  The letter should include any relevant documentation, where applicable.  Once the letter has been received by the school, the principal will review it and forward it to District Office for final approval by me or my designee as appropriate.  As in years past, the exemption request must cover the entire testing window.  For students in grades 3-8, the window is March 10 through June 4.  For students in grade 11, the window is April 13 to June 4.  
This process, which has been our standard for at least the five+ years I have been Superintendent, is fair and impartial.  Legitimate concerns will be addressed as they always have been; however, I am uninterested in a game of political chess that uses kids as pawns.  While I support state assessments in principle, I do believe we have entered an era of over-assessment.  I too am a parent of children who will be taking assessments this spring.  In my role as Superintendent, I have been proud to serve as a representative of our district and lobby for our parents and students – with DOE, state legislators, and even the federal government.  I will continue to advocate for our parents, teachers, and of course students to try to strike a healthier balance between teaching/learning and testing.   I hope that we can all put politics aside and work together so that we can best support the people who matter most – our children.  
Sincerely,
Mark A. Holodick, Ed.D.
Superintendent
I have just emailed Dr. Holodick with the following message:
To

  • mark.holodick@bsd.k12.de.us