Public Information Officer For Howard High School Of Technology Clears The Air On Board Meeting & Town Halls

I updated my last post yesterday with information from the New Castle County Vo-Tech District concerning the change of time and venue for their board meeting this month.  During my communication with the district, I asked them if they just wanted me to make the change or post their information verbatim.  I didn’t hear back from them until late last night but I already made the change earlier.  This was their communication to me:

From: Demarest Kathy <kathy.demarest@nccvt.k12.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2016 3:49 PM
Subject: Regarding your post to Exceptional Delaware

Hi, Kevin-

I am writing this email to you instead of using your blog as a forum.

On behalf of the NCC Vo-Tech school district, it is disappointing that you presumed that we decided to change the school board meeting time and location in order to prevent access to the public.  Nothing could be further from the truth.
As you can imagine, or perhaps you cannot, the first two days were spent doing everything that could be done to support Amy’s family, to provide supports for our Howard students and staff, and to communicate with students, parents, and the greater community the details as we knew them,  while this horrible tragedy was evolving.

We scheduled a Saturday morning conference call so we could schedule and plan Howard parent meetings as soon as possible. We knew we already had a regular monthly Board of Education meeting scheduled for Monday evening, and were already considering changing it so that Monday could be a parent meeting option.

We were informed late Friday by an elected city official that a Town Hall meeting for Howard parents and community had been scheduled for Monday night at Stubbs Elementary School. As we were unaware of that plan, and in order to accommodate that meeting, our Board of Education determined to move up their meeting Monday from 7 p.m. to 4 p.m., and to hold it at District Office.

We have scheduled to hold the Howard parent meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, both meetings beginning at 7 p.m., and both in the Howard auditorium.  We had to schedule two meetings in order to accommodate as many parents who may wish to attend. Howard has a student body of over 900.
The Tuesday meeting is for parents of 10th and 11th grade students; Wednesday is for parents of students in grades 9 and 12.

It was certainly disheartening to see your post, when all are trying to make the best decisions possible during this unspeakable and evolving personal crisis for the Joyner-Francis family, and a school-wide crisis for the Howard community.  Perhaps you should have asked before you presumed the worst.

Please keep Amy’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.  This will be a most difficult week for all. 

Kathy K. Demarest
Public Information Officer
NCC Vo-Tech School District

I responded with the following:

From: Kevin Ohlandt
Reply-To: Kevin Ohlandt
Date: Sunday, April 24, 2016 at 6:47 PM
To: Demarest Kathy
Subject: Re: Regarding your post to Exceptional Delaware

Kathy,

I do appreciate you reaching out to me. I apologize about not reaching out. I used to reach out, many times, and I am usually ignored. So I stopped doing so a while ago. I get information from a lot of people, and while you were disheartened with my article, that was the impression many folks had prior to my writing it. As well, many people, including staff in the district, were extremely upset that Dr. Gehrt referred to Howard as a safe school when an innocent girl was killed there. There was a whole other part to that article you didn’t address. I understand this is a very tough situation, but parents and community members are counting on all of you to change the environment there. The bottom line is Howard is not safe. It hasn’t been, and I know many of our schools aren’t either. Sadly, we learned what happens when things are sugar-coated and we hyper obsess over student outcomes.

I write what I do, not to be heartless, but to draw attention to what is really going on out there. I know that underneath the shiny veneer so many of our schools coat themselves with, that there are children suffering. I also know a lot of that suffering is due to events from outside our schools, but a lot of it does take place in schools. Let me be the first to tell you: I hate writing so much about our schools and DOE in Delaware. I truly do. There is no benefit to myself, and it takes a huge amount of time.

I will happily change the article with the information you provided to me. I can do so verbatim or just paraphrase. I will leave that up to you.

I know this is a horrifying time for the district, but as a parent myself, I would want to attend this board meeting if I were a Howard parent. Town Halls in this situation are absolutely necessary, but board meetings are too. I know many people don’t take advantage of them, but that is where things happen with our districts. I do apologize the way I wrote the article, and like I said, I am more than happy to change it.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

I received the following response late last night:

From: Demarest Kathy
To: Kevin Ohlandt
Sent: Sunday, April 24, 2016 10:27 PM
Subject: Re: Regarding your post to Exceptional Delaware

Hi Kevin,

Thank you for your apology and for the offer to post. I’d prefer you post my email in its entirety.

Regards,

Kathy

16 To Watch In 2016: Senator David McBride

Delaware Liberal wrote about this half an hour ago.  I woke up and wasn’t sure what to write about today (yes, there are days like that).  And then I read their article.  Senator David McBride has colorectal cancer.  This is a man who has faithfully served in the Delaware legislature since 1978.  Ever since he defeated former State Rep. Robert Byrd, McBride has represented Delaware.  To give some perspective here, I was eight years old when he was elected.  That was 37 years ago.

Senator McBride wrote a letter to his friends and constituents on his Facebook page about his diagnosis.  It was very intimate and personal, but he wants to get the word out.  I admire this long-standing Delaware State Senator for his conviction and courage in what will be a difficult time.  No matter what your politics are, we will all be praying and rooting for Senator McBride in the year ahead.

Friends and Colleagues,

“How are you doing?”

“I’m great, thanks.”

It’s a simple greeting and reply – so automatic it’s almost rhetorical.

And, if you’d asked me that two months ago, it’s exactly the reply you would have gotten. I was exercising, eating well and never felt better.

Then last month, came the words no one ever wants to hear: “Dave, you have cancer.”

Fortunately because my colorectal cancer was detected during a regular screening, I was able to receive prompt treatment. And there’s a road to recovery that my wonderful doctors have put in place. I just have to follow it.

And in some ways, that’s the biggest challenge – dealing with the mental and physical toll of cancer treatment. In part, that’s why I’m writing you today, to ask for your encouragement and your prayers.
Most of you know that I tend keep my private life just that – private – so getting to the point where I could tell you this has been tough. At the same time, I’ve spent my career being honest and forthright. It’s who I am as a Senator and as a man, and it quickly became apparent to me that I must be true to those values, even in the face of this new challenge.

You deserve the truth, but even more than that, you deserve to hear the truth from me.

The truth is, I can’t help but smile at what I see as some real irony in all of this. During my Senate career, I’ve been proud to count myself as a leader in Delaware’s war against cancer. I sponsored the indoor smoking ban and supported efforts to use money from our share of the national settlement with Big Tobacco to fund the state’s Health Fund. Among other things, that fund helps provide money to support cancer screenings for people who couldn’t afford them otherwise. I also sponsored the legislation setting up the Delaware Cancer Consortium, which helps coordinate and guide our state’s ongoing battle with cancer. I really believe those efforts have saved some lives here in Delaware.
And it’s my hope that sharing my story with you today might save some more.

Early on, the Cancer Consortium decided to make colorectal cancer a priority not only because it’s so prevalent, but also because if it’s caught soon enough, it’s treatable and beatable.
Like most of you who are old enough to start the screening process, it’s not something I look forward to. Anyone who has had to take those two doses of the laxative from hell before screenings can easily think of a thousand other things we’d rather do.

In my case, three years ago, it was determined I would undergo annual screenings.

That decision saved my life.

As many of you know all too well, cancer begins as a stealthy disease. Until I heard those words from my doctor, I had no clue I was ill. I thought I was in incredibly good health and was doing all the things I usually did.

Thank God I followed my doctor’s advice and had my screening. And in turn, I hope you’ll take my advice and do the same.

As I write this, I’ve had surgery to remove the cancer and am about to embark on a regimen of chemotherapy to ensure that the disease has been fully defeated. I know that means I’ve got a fight on my hands. It’s a fight I’m ready for now.

I wasn’t so sure just a few weeks ago. As many of you know from first-hand experience or by being at the side of a family member or friend who’s had cancer, the pain has been beyond description. And as upbeat as you all know me to be, the discomfort, coupled with the mental anguish of coming to terms with my experience had plunged me into some real despair.

But I’ve really turned the corner over the last several days, and it’s because of the outpouring of love and support I’ve received from so many.

My wife, Margaret, and my family have helped bolster my spirits, as have the amazing staff at Christiana Care. Words cannot begin to describe the care and support that everyone – from the doctors and nurses to the technicians (who always seem to be checking your vital statistics) and even the friendly cleaning staff – has offered.

Then, there’s all of you.

Serving you as your senator has been one of the great privileges and passions of my life. I care deeply for all of you and my desire to continue serving you and doing the important work that lies ahead has, more than anything, picked me up and pushed me forward.

To be sure, I have a journey ahead of me. There’s six months of chemotherapy to come. But, come Jan. 12, I’ll be on the Senate floor, ready to go to work. There are big challenges ahead of us and I want to be a part of the solution. I look forward to:

• Continue my work with Chief Justice Leo Strine to revise and modernize our criminal sentencing laws as we’ve done over the past couple of years with a wide range of environmental crimes;
• Continue my work as chairman of the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Control Committee to preserve and protect Delaware’s fragile and scarred environment;
• Lend my experience and leadership to our state’s efforts to create jobs and grow our economy, while overcoming some tough financial challenges;
• Continue my tireless and passionate advocacy for you, my friends and neighbors in the 13th Senatorial District.

While I intend to continue my record of perfect attendance at regular Senate sessions and to keep up my community involvement, there may be times when my treatment will necessitate sending a member of our amazing Senate staff out to community meetings in my stead. They’ll give me full reports and will be able to reach out to me electronically on the spot if there’s something they think demands my immediate attention. Be assured that my resolve to serve you and my energy are undiminished.

In closing, I want to thank my friends for their well wishes and prayers of support.

More than anything, your support will be the thing that helps me beat this. And down the road, we’ll all get together for one heck of a victory party when I beat this disease.

I may be an old Air Force guy, but I’ve always loved the Navy SEALS creed: “I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength…to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”

With gratitude,

David McBride