The Sun Rises For The Delaware State Board of Education

The Delaware Joint Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee voted today not to Sunset the Delaware State Board of Education.  Sunset would have shut down the board.  I will write more details later since I arrived late for the meeting due to a prior commitment.  As for the State Board’s Executive Director, Donna Johnson, the board voted for option one in regards to her role: The Board will present to the Committee a revised Executive Director job description to better align with the Board’s duties.

Issues surrounding public comment got a bit of discussion.  The JLOSC voted unanimously that the State Board of Education shall allow public comment before each action item but with an amendment.  Public comment may not be allowed during action items that have a pre-established and finite public comment period, such as regulations and charter school issues.  The reason for this is because state code allows for this.  Newly christened Senator Stephanie Hansen said during county council meetings in Sussex and New Castle Counties they allow for this because sometimes the public comment could affect a decision by the Council.  State Board member Pat Heffernan said they are bound by the Delaware State Code.  In my eyes, that is legislation begging for change as soon as humanly possible.  The Committee agreed that information shall be sent to public libraries and schools with meeting information about the State Board of Education.  A matter surrounding charter school approval and local impact was tabled so the State Board of Ed can give more clarifying information about their role on this matter.

I did not anticipate the JLOSC would shut down the State Board of Education.  I surmised some items would pass and some wouldn’t.  Without an apparatus in place to replace them it would be tough to figure out who should pass regulations.  Once again, legislation could take care of a lot of the issues surrounding them.  In a poll I put up the other day, over 70% of readers felt the State Board should shut down permanently.  I write this with the caveat that my readership tends to align with what I believe more and the poll only had over a 100 voters.

High Noon For The Delaware State Board of Education On Tuesday

We can do it better ourselves but we won’t tell them that.

The Delaware State Board of Education could be shut down as of Tuesday.  They face the Delaware Joint Legislative Overview and Sunset Committee.  The State Board was put under review by the committee last year after some very rough years under former Governor Jack Markell.  Many of the complaints circulate around their Executive Director, Donna Johnson.  As well, many citizens and education organizations in the state feel the State Board has outlived their usefulness and just seem to perpetuate agendas brought forth by corporate education reform organizations such as the Rodel Foundation of Delaware and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  I wrote about their last meeting with the committee over a month ago.  But I was able to be the sole attendee at a meeting yesterday where the State Board discussed their final meeting with the Sunset Committee and boy was it a doozy! Continue reading “High Noon For The Delaware State Board of Education On Tuesday”

When You Can’t Give Public Comment About A Change In Public Comment

The Delaware State Board of Education has always been ridiculous with their public comment policy.  You cannot give public comment on any action item on their agenda.  Further complicating this absolutely ludicrous scenario is a proposed change which will be up for action at their next meeting, on Thursday March 23rd.  The State Board of Education will take action on moving public comment from the beginning of the meeting until towards the end.  Thereby ensuring that the public is put on the bottom of the list.  There are certain groups that put public comment at the end of meetings, but the State Board of Education needs to hear from the public prior to voting or discussing items.  The very nature of attempting to contact a member of the State Board of Education is futile.  Everything goes through the Executive Director, Donna Johnson.  The State Board of Education will be having a meeting tomorrow at 12 noon to discuss the policy recommendations from the Joint Sunset Committee, a group of legislators who are taking a hard look at the State Board of Education.

As far as this latest action item, I am vehemently against this.  The State Board meetings are very long at times and to make members of the public sit through the whole thing just to give public comment is absurd.  I hope the State Board votes no on this insane idea.

Governor Carney & Secretary Bunting Will Be At Big WEIC Meeting Next Week

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission will hold their next meeting on Tuesday, February 28th.  On the agenda is an appearance by none other than Delaware Governor John Carney and Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting.  This will be interesting!

weicagenda22817

This week, Carney gutted a proposed weighted funding formula for the FY2018 state budget stating there is no money for it.  WEIC doesn’t work at all if the money isn’t in that budget either.  The state is facing a $350-$400 million dollar budget deficit.  In November, WEIC Chair Tony Allen publicly announced that if WEIC doesn’t go through he can foresee some type of legal action against the State of Delaware.  Interestingly enough, WEIC member Meredith Griffin filed today to run for the Christina School District Board of Education for the election in May.  That sets up that election for a four-person race with still another week to file for potential candidates.  This week, issues of race and due process came up in Red Clay stemming from an incident at a basketball game between A.I. DuPont High School and Delaware Military Academy.  Carney and Bunting are getting an hour to talk.  That is actually a long time.  I can’t say if I’ve ever heard Carney talk about education that long.  I don’t know if all of these issues will come up at the meeting, but this meeting comes at a very interesting time.  This will also be a big moment for Secretary Bunting as she is new in office and will be tasked with restricting the Delaware Dept. of Education.

WEIC and it’s earlier incarnation, WEAC, have been around for two and a half years.  Eventually, WEIC presented a plan to send Christina Wilmington students to Red Clay along with several other initiatives throughout the state to improve education for high-needs students.  After a long and drawn-out battle with the State Board of Education, WEIC’s plan turned into legislation.  That legislation failed to pass in the Delaware Senate.  New legislation extended the planning period for another year.  But with this year’s budget deficit looking dismal, will WEIC get the bypass again?  If it does, what will folks like Tony Allen and Jea Street’s next move be?

This could be a crowded meeting.  Get there early.  And what is up with five minutes of public comment?  They may want to stretch that out!

Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan Nears Completion

facilitatedworkgroup

After some starts and stops, the Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan is almost finished.  The plan has been underway since 2014 when Governor Jack Markell inserted the creation of the strategic plan in the FY2015 epilogue language of the state budget.  Matthew Korobkin, the Special Education Officer through the Secretary of Education’s office at the Delaware Dept. of Education, will give a status update on the plan to the State Board of Education at their meeting on January 19th.  This is not to be confused with the State of Delaware Strategic Plan for Specialized Education Opportunities.

Last fall, the Special Education Strategic Plan was retooled after disability advocates viewed an initial draft.  As a result of that, along with a very big push from State Rep. Kim Williams, a Facilitated Workgroup came into formation to fine tune the plan and make sure all voices were heard.  In mid-December, the newly created group had a public two-day retreat to decide what should be in the plan.  From there, sub-groups worked on different parts of the plan.  It is expected to be released for public comment at some point in February, shortly after the State Board of Education meeting next week.  From there, at some point in March, a presentation will be given to the State of Delaware Oversight Group for the Special Education Strategic Plan which includes members of the Delaware Interagency Resource Committee, a representative from Governor Carney’s office, and the Chairs of the Senate and House Joint Finance Committee.

The stakeholder workgroup has seven goals for development of the strategic plan which include the following: Students, Parents & Families, Community, Staff/Partners, Resources, Policies & Regulations, and Delivery/Structure/Systems.  Like most Strategic Plans, this one will be not be set in stone and will be considered a fluid document whereby changes and tweaks can be added as needed.  But every plan needs a foundation and what we will soon see are the building blocks for this plan.  Things can happen which could substantially change the plan including the Delaware state budget and the upcoming ruling on the United States Supreme Court special education case of Endrew v. Douglas County School District.

Various groups and committees revolving around special education have occurred in Delaware over the past decade, but this is the first time I have seen such a huge mix of school districts, parents, and advocacy groups.  The last group to form policy around special education was the IEP Task Force from 2014 which led to a large number of changes to state law and regulations.  No education plan will ever please everyone and there will be parts people love and some others disapprove of.  If there is one thing I have learned in education, it is constantly evolving and nothing will ever be perfect.  But I would encourage any and all persons who care about special education to give this plan a very careful read when it comes out and let your thoughts be known with a goal of improving education for special needs kids.

The members of the Facilitated Workgroup consist of the following:

Michele Marinucci, Woodbridge School District

Daphne Cartright, Autism Delaware

Edward Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School

Katheryn Herel, PIC of Delaware

Jon Cooper, Colonial School District

Kendall Massett, Delaware Charter Schools Network

State Representative Kim Williams, Legislator

Kristin Dwyer, DSEA

Kristin Pidgeon, Down Syndrome Association

Lisa Lawson, Brandywine School District

Mary Ann Mieczkowski, Delaware Dept. of Education

Elisha Jenkins, Division for the Visually Impaired

Bill Doolittle, Parent Advocate

Sarah Celestin, Red Clay Consolidated School District

Vincent Winterling, Delaware Autism Program

Wendy Strauss, Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens

Annalisa Ekbladh, University of Delaware Center for Disability Studies

John Marinucci, Delaware School Boards Association

Sonya Lawrence, Parent Advocate

Teresa Avery, Autism Delaware

Laurie Kettle-Rivera, Delaware School for the Deaf

Mark Campano, Delaware Statewide Programs

Josette McCullough, Appoquinimink School District

Mondaria Batchelor, Woodbridge School District

*above photo courtesy of State Rep. Kim Williams, photographed by yours truly at the 12/9 retreat

 

Christina. Tuesday. 7pm. Gauger-Cobbs. Board. Meeting. Popcorn. Bring It.

Holy stacked agenda!  Could they squeeze anything else into this agenda?  Some more hot-button district issues?  I doubt it!

On Tuesday night, the Christina Board of Education will hold their board meeting at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School.  The fun starts at 7pm.  Bring food, and, just in case, you may want to bring a sleeping bag.  This is going to be a late meeting!

So what’s on tap?  The question is more like what isn’t on this agenda!  This is NOT the order for the meeting, but it IS the controversy order!

rescindbaby

Now the cat is out of the bag.  In the absolute shocker of the year, board member John Young was the one to submit the action item to rescind the vote on the charter settlement.  John is always so quiet and compliant.  This is NOT like him at all to do something like this.  Okay, sorry, got hit in the head for a second there.  But seriously, I give John major props for having the guts to get this out there.  I truly hope one of the four board members who voted yes can see this settlement sham for what it really is.  If not, I hope many public comments can nudge them along.

annulbaby

Board member Shirley Saffer introduced this action item.  After last month’s vote to create the “Honors Academy” at Christiana High School, there is an action item to annul that vote.  Saffer voted yes for the program last month, but it appears she had a change of heart.  The board voted 5-1 the first time.  Will the districts new charter magnet NCS wannabe Honors Academy survive this time?  Expect a lot of pissed off parents for this one!

repostbaby

While I haven’t written too much about Christina’s Superintendent search, there has been a ton of drama surrounding it.  Which will apparently culminate in many action items surrounding this.  First item on the agenda is to approve an interim Superintendent.  Which is basically what Dr. Robert Andrzejewski has been for the past 15 months.  I really don’t know the difference between Interim and Acting, nor do I truly care.   But “Bob A” is leaving on December 31st, come hell or high water.  Even if the board does approve a new Superintendent by the end of the year, that person will most likely have to give notice at their current job.  Unless it is Jack Markell.  I heard he is going to be VERY available pretty soon.  Just kidding on that one.  I do NOT want to be responsible for that rumor starting.

Action Item #8 is the Superintendent Interview Questions.  Which the board is making public.  Because they HAVE TO.  After that there will be discussion on the final interviews for the candidates.  After the board gets through that, there is another John Young submitted action item to start the Superintendent search over.  Like I said, this meeting is going to be crazy!

moldbaby

We will also get a discussion on mold air quality at Christina schools.  This should be the lighter side of the evening!  Add in all the other normal stuff school boards do: honor roll, budget stuff, contracts, and so on and so forth.  For those keeping track, the rescind the settlement vote and annul the Honors Academy are the last two items on the action item agenda.

If you want to sign up for public comment, I would get there early.  You have to sign up to talk.  I plan on being there.  I plan on talking.  It will be marvelous, just wait!  I wonder if any legislators will show up at this meeting.  I wonder if they will attempt to talk to board out of NOT rescinding the vote on the settlement.  I dare Senator Sokola to try this!  Triple dog dare!

These are some fun predictions.  People from the audience will yell at least eight times to speak up because they can’t hear them.  President Paige will bring the gavel down at least 13 times.  George Evans will ridicule John Young at least four times.  The audience will laugh at least four times.  Someone will leave their lights on in the parking lot.  Someone in the audience will have a very brilliant idea of ordering pizza (bring cash in case this does happen and you plan to stick around for the whole shebang).  At least five people will wear ugly Christmas shirts and/or sweaters.  And last, but certainly not least, I predict at least three things will come out that the general public has no clue about.

Christina Board Meeting Agenda Has A Nuclear Action Item For Consideration Next Week

The Christina Board of Education voted last week to accept the settlement concerning the lawsuit filed by 15 charters against them and the Delaware DOE.  Next week, an action item submitted by a board member could cause a tsunami of controversy.  As well, there is another action item that will certainly cause another ordeal just by being there. Continue reading “Christina Board Meeting Agenda Has A Nuclear Action Item For Consideration Next Week”

Delaware DOE Postpones Submission Of State ESSA Plan By One Month

As predicted, the Delaware Dept. of Education is delaying the final sending of their state Every Student Succeeds Plan to the United States Dept. of Education by one month.  Last week, the U.S. DOE released the final regulations for the accountability portion of the new federal education law.  As a result, they are giving states more time to submit their state plans.

For Delaware, this means the State Board of Education will vote on the final plan at their March, 2017 board meeting.  On April 3rd, Delaware will send the plan to the U.S. DOE.  This changes many of the public comment periods for the Delaware plan as well.  Here is the press release from the Delaware DOE from yesterday:

The U.S. Department of Education has extended its submission deadline for states’ Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plans, allowing Delaware to adjust its plan submission schedule and provide more time for public input and plan development.

Delaware now will submit its final plan on April 3. Other dates leading up to that submission also have been adjusted and are reflected below:

 

·         January 11: Release of second draft of plan

·         February 28: Release of final draft of plan

·         April 3: Submission of final plan to U.S. Department of Education for approval

 

The public has several on-going opportunities to provide input on the plan:

 

·         Community conversations: Three of the seven sessions of this second round of public input sessions remain. The next is Thursday night in Newark followed by two sessions for Spanish-speaking community members in Georgetown and Wilmington on December 14 and December 20, respectively. Find more information on these and the previous sessions here.

·         Online surveys: Members of the public also may submit their feedback via three online surveys available here. This is the second round of online surveys.

·         Discussion groups: Stakeholders are serving on two on-going discussion groups, one focusing on school supports and the second on measures and reporting. These are public meetings, and public comment is available at each session. The next session is tonight. Find more information, including minutes from past meetings here.

·         Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee: Governor Jack Markell’s advisory committee also continues to meeting. These public sessions also include public comment. The next session is Jan. 11.

·         Feedback also can be submitted via a designated email address, ESSAStatePlan@doe.k12.de.us.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006
Last night, the ESSA discussion groups held a meeting.  As a result of the changes, the schedules for the discussion groups are as follows:
Student and school supports will meet at some point in January, date to be determined.
Measuring student success will hold their next meeting, as scheduled, on December 12th from 6pm-8pm at the Collette Resource Center in Dover, DE.
The Community Conversation meeting held on Thursday evening will be at Newark Charter School.

When ESSA Advisory Committee Members Attack!

I’ve given a ton of public comments in the past two and a half years.  100?  200?  I can’t keep track.  Tonight, I got yelled at for my public comment.  By a member of the Delaware ESSA Advisory Committee.  It got ugly.  I’m not one to just let someone yell at me like that.

A member of the committee asked the Delaware Dept. of Education how much the committee’s input really means.  She asked the DOE, on a scale of 1-10, how much that input means.  It was a very fair and valid question.  I have seen the woman before.  Maria Matos.  I knew she was on a charter school board and involved with the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington.  But I have never had a conversation with her.  I don’t think she has ever said hello to me or if I’ve been in a position to introduce myself.  I meet a lot of people in Delaware education.  I tend to disagree with many, but I make it a point to show respect face to face.  In a public meeting, there is an understood rule that you don’t devolve to a level of hostility.  Have I always subscribed to that rule?  No, I haven’t.

At a State Board of Education meeting in July of 2015, the Governor had just vetoed House Bill 50.  I had to hear former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy talk about it and how it was a good thing.  He was going on and on about it.  Was he rubbing my face in it?  Perhaps.  I yelled from the back something about how wrong they were and stormed out.  Not a moment I was proud of.  Even though I didn’t agree with what they were saying, I felt bad about it.  I emailed the entire board and Mark Murphy and apologized for my behavior.  I did tell the entire Christina board I was going to FOIA them one night, but I did raise my hand to speak and they allowed me to speak.  So that doesn’t really count.  I’ve yelled at Mark Murphy a couple of times and Senator David Sokola once at Legislative Hall during the House Bill 50 opt out days when the bill was still in play.  But I digress.

So tonight, Karen Field-Rogers with the Delaware DOE responds to Ms. Matos’ question.  She tells her this committee, the ESSA Advisory Committee, has deeper connections with education and she said they would have about 80% input on the Delaware ESSA state plan which will be submitted to the U.S. Dept. of Education.  That led to a whole other conversation about federal control, state control, and local control.  The time came for public comment.  I had something all typed out and ready to go, but upon hearing Field-Rogers response to Matos, I felt the need to ad lib my comment.

I basically said it was very disheartening to hear that this group was given an 8 out of 10 priority for input on the plan.  It felt like the ESSA Discussion Groups and the Community Conversation Groups were all of a sudden less important, that their voice didn’t matter as much.  That was the bulk of my public comment, short and sweet.  There has already been a huge question in the air about if the Delaware DOE already has the plan written and the stakeholder input is being used for show.  At the very least, the kind of questions the DOE are asking participants in any ESSA meeting are very narrow in scope.  Many questions are asked in such a way that someone answering could only give answers that would lean toward pre-conceived notions of what the DOE may put in the final plan.  The fact that the ESSA Advisory Committee was given six different questions tonight, one for each table, and the DOE representative at each table gave the report of each group’s discussion shows far too much DOE control than I am comfortable with.  And those DOE reps will be writing reports to the DOE based on how they interpret the findings of each group.

Usually, public comment ends and the group adjourns and everyone goes home.  But not tonight.  Matos yells at me.  She yells that the DOE just said it was an 8.  I went to respond and she continued.  I asked her why she was yelling at me and let her know I didn’t even know her.  She continued to yell about the same thing.  I told her this was public comment and she needed to step off.  I literally said those words.  She said something about not stepping up, but at the point the moderator intervened and adjourned the meeting.  Usually I stick around and say goodbye to folks, but not tonight.  I was pretty hot and I knew staying in that room would not be a wise idea.  I wish Matos would have used that same restraint a few minutes earlier…

So Ms. Matos, allow me to introduce myself.  I’m the member of the public you yelled at tonight.  And I will tell you straight up, that doesn’t fly with me.  You want to disagree with me, that’s fine.  People disagree with me all the time.  You want to yell at me after a public meeting or in the parking lot, have at it.  But you will not disrespect me in front of an audience with something you didn’t even hear right to begin with.  Maybe people allow you to do that at other meetings, but when someone gives a public comment at a public meeting, you respect that.  I’m sure you have done many wonderful things for Delaware education.  But that does not make you better than me or gives you the justification to do that.   I don’t care how many boards or committees you may be on.  And just because you are on the “8” committee, doesn’t mean your voice weighs more than anyone else.

One final thought Ms. Matos, if you have to ask the question about how much stakeholder input in matters of education with the Delaware DOE count, you’ve probably already answered your own question.

The Unholy Matrimony Of Education And Corporation

Last night at the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Governor’s Advisory Committee meeting, audience members were given a chance to give public comment.  I gave the following public comment, with the exception of a couple of sentences because that was covered during the meeting.  I will put an asterisk between those sentences.

Good evening members of the ESSA Advisory Committee. My name is Kevin Ohlandt.  Congratulations on your selection for this very important group.  This is a mammoth undertaking, this new federal law.  I will be completely frank: I do not trust this law.  I do not trust our Delaware Dept. of Education.  I believe ESSA is an unholy matrimony between education and corporations.  You can consider me the friend of the bride, education, warning about the potential husband who will not be good for her.  I have seen and heard far too much to suggest otherwise.  I believe this matrimony will eventually result in a messy divorce.  The custody battle for the students will be huge, and I fear the groom, the companies, will eventually win custody of the kids. 

I urge this committee to give an immediate recommendation of postponing Delaware’s submission of their state plan to the US DOE. There are far too many moving parts.  *States were given two dates to submit their final plan: March 31st or July 31st.  Our Dept. of Education chose March 31st without any true consultation with the citizens of our state.*  We were not given a choice as a state or allowed to be part of that decision-making process.  Certain parties were given a much greater weight in consultation with the DOE before any public gathering took place.

As a member of the Student and School Supports discussion group, I see far too many members of that group who would financially benefit from the Every Student Succeeds Act. When that happens, I don’t see them as a stakeholder, but a benefactor.  That is not what the term stakeholder means.  I believe some good can come out of this law.   I have seen many great ideas come forth in the meetings.  But until we can weed out what is good or bad for students, we need to “slow our roll”.  There are far too many conflicts of interest involved with this plan.

With that being said, the issues facing education in Delaware are at a crisis point. Whether it is mold in schools that is making people sick, or drugs and gangs reaching into elementary schools, or a teenager murdered in a bathroom stall, or the very fast implementation of educational technology in our classrooms with no research on the long-term psychological effects on children, or student’s personal data being given to parties that truly do not need that information, or lawsuits concerning school funding or segregation of minority students, or FOIA complaints against the DOE for continually failing to make certain public body meetings transparent and available to the public, we need to slow down. 

Education should always be about the kids. Some in this world have already determined what their future should be and I find that to be an immoral and grave injustice. 

The ESSA Advisory Committee Pre-Game Show

I like coming to Legislative Hall when the General Assembly isn’t in session.  It is very quiet and peaceful.  It is 5:28pm and the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Governor’s Advisory Committee’s first meeting will begin at 6pm.  DE Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, DOE Deputy Secretary Karen Field-Rogers, Alex Paolano, a teacher at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, and myself are the only ones here so far.  The House Majority Hearing Room is nice and cool.  23 chairs are set up around a bunch of tables, a screen is up to show what will most likely be the 5 billionth presentation on ESSA I’ve heard, and more people are coming in.  Deb Stevens with DSEA just walked in.  A couple of people I’ve never seen before came in as well.  I have my public comment all written out.  I plan on saying exactly what I wrote with a calm and level-headed delivery.  Hopefully the committee won’t provide any information that shocks me, but this is Delaware education!

I may just ramble on here until I stop.  I will be live blogging during the meeting unless they kick me out.  But public comment isn’t until the end of the meeting so I should be good.  There are no microphones hanging from the ceiling like there are at the ESSA Discussion Groups.  I have a feeling this meeting will be recorded though…

Governor Markell just launched the Delaware Open Data Portal up at some tech company in Wilmington.  Unless he is taking a helicopter, I don’t anticipate him coming to give opening remarks.  Unless his driver goes really fast.

Okay, been chatting with people coming in.  The room is filling up.  Lots of new and old faces.  This is getting boring.  Be back in a few when the show starts!

 

My Headache And Nasal Drip Are Gone!

This morning I followed-up on plans to observe a talented and gifted program in one of our Delaware schools.  It was great seeing the kids interacting with their teacher.  I arrived at Pulaski Elementary School at about 9:45am and stayed until shortly before noon.  I got a tour of the building.  I haven’t been in too many inner-city schools that are older, so it was great to see the design of the building and the different levels.

About fifteen minutes after arrival, I developed a nasal drip.  Which was very strange because I wasn’t congested prior to getting there.  About ten minutes later I began to have a headache.  I ate a full breakfast this morning and took my vitamins.  Most headaches I get require me to take some type of medicine like Motrin or Tylenol.  Alas, I didn’t have any with me.  The headache went away about 45 minutes after I left Pulaski.

I saw the rooms where the mold remediation took place.  They were sealed off with plastic zipper doors, like what we saw in E.T. back in 1982.  I asked if the carpeting was the same in the one room to which my guide said yes.  Other areas that were not remediated had a musty, damp kind of smell.  Not the whole building, but areas near the remediated rooms and above them.  Even the front office had a peculiar smell.

I met the principal.  A very nice woman.  I met quite a few teachers, most of them in passing.  All were very polite and doing what they do best, teaching kids.  There were a few times I had to ask my guide to repeat herself.  Unfortunately, under doctor orders, she had to wear an air filter mask because of lingering health issues.

By the way, the Christina Board of Education will meet tonight at the Sarah Pyle Academy in Wilmington.  The meeting opens to the public at 7pm and public comment is always welcome.  I know they will be discussing the mold issues as well as the charter school lawsuit against them and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  Last night, the board held an Executive Meeting to discuss the litigation.  I anticipate a very large crowd in attendance this evening, so you may want to think about arriving early.  Meanwhile, the Delaware Division of Public Health is set to release a report on their walk-through of the school last Friday.

 

Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Discussion Group Minutes

The Every Student Succeeds Act state planning is in full swing in Delaware.  After having community conversations in each county, the Delaware Department of Education formed two discussion groups, one for Measures of School Success and Public Reporting and the other for Students and School Supports.  The groups met together for the first time on October 5th in a joint meeting for introduction purposes.  The first solo meetings for both groups was on October 10th.  The next meeting will be tonight at the Collette Center in Dover, at 6pm.

Below are the minutes for each meeting.  Full disclosure, I am on the Students and School Supports Discussion Group.  The Governor’s ESSA Advisory Committee will meet Wednesday evening in the House Majority Hearing Room at Legislative Hall, from 6pm to 8pm.

 

 

 

Delaware Charters & Delaware DOE Looking To Make Changes Against Delaware Law! And Who Is “The Author”?

Incompetence seems to rule the Delaware DOE these days.

The Delaware Department of Education, Delaware Charter Schools, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network have been holding meetings this year to look at changing two areas of their annual Performance Framework.  The Financial and Organizational Frameworks are two sections that have been controversial for charter schools in the first state.  Some of the proposed changes are minor but some are very big.  One statement from the proposed draft for the organizational framework probably sums up what many of the charter schools feel when these things roll out each year:

In order to avoid penalizing charter schools for anything less than perfection, the authorizer will apply a reasonable interpretation of sufficiency that acknowledges attentiveness, prudent compliance, and generally sound stewardship.

Let’s get real here Delaware!  Unless a charter school falls apart like Delaware Met, Moyer, and Pencader, you aren’t going to see the DOE or even Red Clay doing a lot in terms of compliance on some of these issues.  Especially website maintenance.  Far too many charters have been raked over the coals by bloggers such as myself for not adhering to the law on tons of the requirements.  But when it comes time for the charter to renew or get a modification, or even get a formal review, those things are rarely mentioned in the conversation.  The State Board of Education rarely talks about any of that stuff.  But in my eye, they need to be perfect with those things.  The districts do as well (see: Indian River).

One of the biggest flaws in this new system pertains to board membership.  Delaware law clearly states:

At the time at which the school commences its instructional program and at all times thereafter, the board of directors must include a teacher from at least 1 of the charter schools operated by the board and at least 1 parent of a student enrolled in a charter school operated by the board;

With this new organizational framework, they are proposing to change Delaware code, without any regulation or legislation, by giving charters a 90 day window to fill the parent and teacher slot for their board membership.  This label in the framework would give the charter a “partially meets standard”.  You can’t partially follow the law.  You either do it or you don’t.  In this area, you are either “meets standard” or “does not meet standard”.  As well, they want to do the same thing with not posting minutes and financial information on their website, but this would have a 60 day window.  You can’t cherry-pick through state law.  If the law needs to change, lobby legislators to change it.  But you can’t do it through the Delaware DOE and the State Board of Education.  This Department continues to defy Delaware legislators.  It is the legislators duty to write the laws of this state, not the Charter School Office at the DOE.

The proposed financial framework would give charters some leeway when it comes to reporting requirements or how they submit financial information with the state.  Let me be the first to say ALL Delaware schools need to get some serious training on this.  The training exists, but everyone seems to do what they want with limited to no oversight.  There have to be uniform procedures and policies across the board for every charter and district in the state with absolutely no excuses.  Once again, it comes down to partially breaking the law.  A misnomer if I’ve ever heard one.  But even more important, there have to be very real consequences for those who violate financial laws in our state.  This is something I hope and pray the 149th General Assembly tackles when they come back in January.  Because right now, it’s a train wreck.

I will fully admit I sometimes feel bad for the charters.  Especially when it comes to the DOE’s constant nitpicking about things.  An organization filled with more non-educators in leadership roles that doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a right and left hand most of the time.

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But the most egregious thing out of all this: the window for public comment begins on September 1st.  But try finding them anywhere.  Good luck with that!  I happened to find the below documents in the DOE search engine.  How can you say this is an open, transparent, and collaborative method when the public can’t even comment on what you are proposing?  Even worse, the State Board of Education won’t let you comment on any action item on their agenda.  This won’t come up for final action at a State Board of Education meeting until their October 20th meeting, but if these documents are never released to the public it will be highly illegal for the State Board to take action.

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The Delaware DOE Charter School Office needs to release these drafts to the public and let them comment on it.  These documents have not been posted on the DOE website.  Care to take a wild guess who is running the show on this?  If you said David Blowman, that would be correct on the surface.  Until they find a replacement for Jennifer Nagourney, who left the DOE on July 1st, Blowman is the guy in charge.  But in a very odd find, well, you’ll get the picture…

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How can Jennifer Nagourney be the author of the below documents when she is no longer an employee at the Delaware DOE?  Doesn’t she work in the Charter School Office at the New York City DOE now?  What in God’s name is David Blowman doing?  This is the same guy who has run the non-transparent local cost per pupil scam that has caused a “firestorm” in Delaware.  The same guy who went ahead and sent out changes to school districts and charter schools without the old Secretary of Education Seal of Approval?  And he is in charge of this hot mess?  Where charters seem to think it will be okay to partially follow the law?  With a guy like Blowman running the show no wonder they think they can do as they please!  And, it goes without saying, I’m sure the Sisters of Sin, Donna Johnson and Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network have their hands involved in this.  But Nagourney?  Unless you are getting paid for this work when you are no longer employed by the State of Delaware, why are you even involved at this point?  It’s not like I haven’t written about the old PDF right-click trick.  And you guys keep forgetting that essential thing!

At this point in time, our General Assembly needs to meet for emergency hearings and subpoena the hell out of the entire Delaware Department of Education.  Every single document in their system.  Every nook and cranny, from top to bottom.  The more than obvious fraud and lies coming out of this Department is readily available for anyone to see.  I’ve proved it over and over again.  But no one does anything about it.  It’s time.  You know it and I know it.  So stop making postures and just do it!

Below are the two proposed frameworks.  These are not approved, just in draft form.

Proposed Financial Framework

Proposed Organizational Framework

You Go Frederika!

I have not always agreed with Frederika Jenner, the President of the Delaware State Education Association.  But on this, we solidly agree!  Frederika submitted a very awesome public comment on the proposed regulations for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  Thank you for calling out the Delaware Department of Education for pretending this law doesn’t change anything.  It does, and the more people that become aware of this, the more we can expect true change in public education!  Please click on the picture to enlarge!

FrederikaESSAPublicCommentESSARegulations

 

Charter Schools & ESSA Regulations: “We Are Not The Same”

We strongly oppose the inclusion of this requirement, which is not authorized by the statute. The Department bases this proposal on a desire “to provide transparency.” (No further justification is provided in the NPRM.) We, too, support greater transparency, regarding both charter and non-charter schools, but this requirement would result in the reporting of misleading data. Moreover, the proposed requirement appears to be based on the premise that charter schools should look the “same” as district public schools in close proximity, when by definition charter schools are open enrollment. Lastly, the proposed requirement that is not in the statute, and would not equally apply to all public schools – only charter schools would be included.

The National Association for Public Charter Schools gave a very long public comment for the draft regulations put forth by the United States Department of Education and Secretary John King.  Even they aren’t happy with parts of these regulations.  Many felt the Every Student Succeeds Act gave gifts to the charters, but apparently the charters do not like some of these regulations.

The most important question is not who is enrolled in a charter school; it is whether all students and families who may wish to enroll have the opportunity to enroll – only then is the parent’s choice a meaningful one. The comparison data that the Department is asking for would not reflect this factor because the data would confuse and conflate the decision to enroll with the opportunity to enroll. As such, comparison data may be one indicator of meaningful access but comparison data are not the correct, best or only frame with which to evaluate equity.

I find some of their statements very ironic.  Especially for some charter schools in Delaware where the opportunity to enroll is buried in selective enrollment preferences and factors that lead to very low populations of at-risk students: African-Americans, students with disabilities, and English Language learners.  So much so that the American Civil Liberties Union filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in December, 2014.

Like some charters in Delaware, this collection of America’s largest charter school organizations and franchises want to cherry-pick through the regulations to insert additional language in the Every Student Succeeds Act.  This is the one that disturbs me the most:

We recommend that the Department revise proposed section 200.24(d)(2), by adding a new clause (iii) reading as follows:

“(iii) Using funds that it reserves under section 1003(a), directly provide for the creation of new, replicated, or expanded charter schools to serve students enrolled in schools identified for comprehensive support and improvement, and other students in the local community, provided that:

“(A) The SEA has the authority to take such an action under State law or, if the SEA does not have that authority, the SEA has the LEA’s approval to use the funds in this manner; and

“(B) Such charter schools will be established and operated by non-profit entities with a demonstrated record of success (particularly in serving students from communities similar to those that would be served by the new charter schools), which the State shall determine through a rigorous review process.”

This language would be consistent with other provisions of the proposed regulations that support the concept of making charter school options available to students who would otherwise be enrolled in low-performing schools. It would take a different approach than just authorizing conversions, by making it possible for students enrolled in comprehensive support and improvement schools (as well as other students in the neighborhood or local community) to have the opportunity to transfer to a charter school run by a highly successful operator. We emphasize that the language would allow an SEA to use section 1003 funds for this purpose with the approval of the affected LEA, unless state law gives the SEA the authority to take such an action without LEA approval. (It would thus be somewhat parallel to the language currently in section 200.24(d)(2) allowing the SEA, with the LEA’s concurrence to provide school improvement activities through external partners). We strongly recommend that the Department adopt this recommendation.

I have no doubt you strongly recommend the Department inserts this into the law.  We have yet to see, based on equal demographics, that charter schools do better than traditional public school districts.  There are many charter schools that seem to work merely as rigor universities for high achievement on state assessments, but that is not a true barometer for student success which has been proven time and time again.

To read the rest about what the charters want and ALL the organizations and charters that signed this comment, read the entire document below:
 

Katonah-Lewisboro School District’s Very Awesome Resolution On John King’s ESSA Draft Regulations

…provisions in the US Department of Education (DOE) draft regulations would perpetuate federal overreach in areas that ESSA specifically delegates to the states and to local school districts.

Last night, I remembered where I came from.  In 1988, I graduated from John Jay High School in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District in Cross River, New York.

While looking at public comments on the Every Student Succeeds Act draft regulations put forth by the United States Department of Education, I actually found a comment submitted by the Board of Education at my old school district.  They basically told John King to shove it and to keep his nose out of state and local education matters.  I agree wholeheartedly.  I truly wish any of the districts in Delaware, where I now live, took similar actions with these horrible regulations.  They say you can’t go home again, but you can certainly look back with pride!

What I was also shocked to see was an item on their Board Docs, which they have at every single board meeting.  Something I would urge all Delaware Boards of Education, Boards of Directors, the State Board of Education, task forces, committees, or any public body that meets and allows public comment to have, this:

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Public comment is a must. But seeing a board taking the time to discuss the concerns or matters brought up during public comment is something we just don’t see in Delaware. All too often, we bring something up during public comment and it isn’t referred to again. Although, being fair, Capital School District (where I live) does discuss many items brought up in public comment. Frequently, I am the only one giving public comment at board meetings and I am very open about items on their agenda and how they pertain to special education. But could you imagine how different our State Board of Education would be if they adopted this amazing philosophy? If there was actually some type of conversation between the public and themselves? Or going a leap further, what if our Senate or House Education Committees took these steps? They could understand things so much more.  Bottom line is this: Delaware, as a whole, needs to speak up with a very loud voice and have more engagement with ALL stakeholders!

So much of who I am comes from the spirit of the school district I grew up in. I’ve taken this for granted over the years, but this makes me really happy to see. But one thing I do want to know: when did my high school get an Ice Hockey team? That is really awesome!  I wish they had that when I grew up!

Red Clay Parent Ashley Sabo Speaks Out In Support Of Inclusion

Red Clay parent Ashley Sabo, who I’ve written about a few times on here, just gave a stirring public comment at the Red Clay board meeting.  While I wasn’t there, Ashley was kind enough to share it with me.

As an involved parent and inclusion advocate, the magnitude of inclusion did not become real until my daughter started kindergarten last year.  It was with great trepidation, major anxiety and a lot of prayer that we put her in full inclusion at Forest Oak.  We met with her teacher soon into the school year and we continued the constant communication throughout the year.  It did not take long at all to know that not only did we make the right decision putting her in full inclusion, but when it came to Kindergarten teachers we hit the jackpot.

Jackie Gallagher worked with our daughter, Anna, to meet her where she was then pushed her forward to develop new skills and abilities and onward to success. When one method or plan didn’t work for Anna, she would alter things. If equipment or modifications were needed she worked tirelessly to get them.  She reached out to other staff who had different knowledge and experience to create new ways for Anna to learn.  She approached each day with understanding and patience and behind her was an administration who listened not only to the teacher but to us as parents – fully respecting our expertise when it comes to our daughter and was committed to the mindset that Anna was just as much a Forest Oak student as any other student without special needs.

We often hear about needing to close the achievement gap and more rigor, rigor, rigor.  I can assure you it was not the rigorous worksheets and overwhelming curriculum thrown at kindergarteners these days which made Anna’s year successful.  It was the open communication between parent, teacher and administration. It was the willingness to be flexible and make adjustments. It was the collaboration between colleagues to develop plans and find the right resources which made Anna’s kindergarten year so successful.

Growth and success will never be from a standardized test or learning at a computer. Closing the achievement gap is not something that can be done through legislation.

Successful inclusion happens when the line of communication between parent, teacher and administrator is always open. When requests for resources and equipment are met in a timely manner.  When teachers are flexible and willing to make changes to meet the needs of their students.

Seeing the joy as my daughter received a birthday invitation to her classmate’s party is the outcome of inclusion and is proof inclusion can be a wonderfully, beautiful thing.

If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well. And Inclusion is worth doing so we need to make sure it stays as a top priority and that changes take place so that we can look back and say Red Clay has done well.

You Have Until Monday To Submit Public Comment On Damaging Regulations Put Out By Corporate Education Dictator John King

You have until Monday, August 1st to submit public comment on the proposed regulations and rule-making put out by U.S. Secretary of Education John King on May 29th.  After that, no more public comment will be accepted.  You need to go to the Federal Register website, which can be found here.  Read through the regulations.  It is in-depth and monstrous.  But the future of the children of America is at stake here.  If you have been a big fan of the high-stakes testing anti-parental rights shame and label schools, teachers, and students era of education, then sit at home and watch the future of America crumble before your very eyes.  If you want to prevent John King from furthering the bad policies and agendas, first laid out by No Child Left Behind and then magnified a hundred fold under Race To The Top, then please leave public comment.

This was my public comment:

I do not agree with most of these proposed regulations. It is a further attempt to exert federal control over state decisions. Furthermore, many of those in power at the state level have eroded local control to the point of absurdity. It is a parent’s fundamental and constitutional right to opt their child out of the state assessment. Any regulation proposing to punish schools for a parent’s decision is illegal. The ESEA regulations state that all schools must make sure children take the assessment, not that all students MUST participate in the state assessment. That regulation has been perverted over the years to take away parental rights. No state should have to follow regulations formed to serve testing companies and their profits more than the rights of parents, students, teachers, and schools. Education has become a for-profit center at the expense of children and those who truly serve them.

Since the advent of charter schools, the rate of high-stakes associated with testing has increased dramatically. Charter schools have led to more discrimination and segregation of at-risk children while our government has mostly turned a blind eye to these practices while allowing to flourish, multiply, and take away necessary funding from traditional public schools. Too many states have tampered with existing law and regulations so charter schools benefit, whether through artificial n#s leaving out many charter students from accountability rankings, or shifting funding to charter schools without giving those same funds to traditional school districts.

As a result of all of this federal intrusion, students with disabilities have lost. They have lost instruction, time, and accommodations in the name of the almighty state assessment. Common Core IS a curriculum and it has become so embedded into state education structure that getting it out will be a mammoth task. Common Core does not work, will not work, and never has worked.

In states like my own, Delaware, we have a corrupt Governor who has made it his mission to demean teachers and punish schools all in the guise of students becoming “college and career ready”. It is a complete farce and a lie. It is for companies to profit, not students. I will make it my mission in life to overturn every single regulation that this heavily lobbied Department makes under the illusion of “student success” that benefits others over children. I will fight competency-based education through digital personalized learning that sends data out to “research” companies like American Institutes for Research who benefit immensely as the essential creators of the Smarter Balanced Assessment and also serve as the vendor for the very same test in Delaware and others.

We have sold out our children to companies, and these proposed regulations will only further solidify the stranglehold they have on our students, teachers, and schools. Say NO to these regulations and give our children the capability to receive the true education they deserve, not this bastardized corporate version of education. Let’s let students with disabilities get the rights they deserve. Let’s let minority students not be subject to rigor in an attempt to “close the achievement gaps” that were created by corporations with tests designed for the upper-class. Let’s let parents decide (and they already do) if their child should or should not take the state assessment.

How dare this Department try to impose into law, with haste and desperation, the same type of regulatory schemes the Every Student Succeeds Act was supposed to get rid of before the lobbyists twisted the original intent of the law and Congress passed, very quickly I might add, a completely different law in a matter of weeks with little to no room for public comment or oversight. I expect our the United States of America government to immediately halt these regulations and to strip away the power of U.S. Secretary of Education John King so I no longer have to write comments like this in a Federal Register, as well as any future U.S. Secretary of Education.

Thank you.

 

With Great Power… The Perception Problem Of The State Board of Education

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“With great power must also come great responsibility.”-Stan Lee

If you haven’t heard those exact words before, then you have been victim to one of the greatest butcherings of the past fifty years.

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Now this you have heard.

in 1962, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced the world to the Amazing Spider-Man.  We all know the story.  Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider which gave him the proportionate strength of a spider.  An orphan who lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben.  He learned an important lesson very fast when he became a superhero.  At first, he used his powers for fortune and fame.  One night, he failed to stop a robber.  The same burglar later attempted to rob his house and shot and killed his uncle.  When Peter, dressed up as Spider-Man, finally confronted the burglar, he saw the same face he failed to stop.  As he walked off into the night, he remembered what his Uncle Ben always told him, “With great power must also come great responsibility.”

This is the problem with the Delaware State Board of Education.  The initial phrase Stan Lee provided to readers shows that just because you have power doesn’t mean you already possess an inherent sense of responsibility.  That is something you have to develop and learn.  The rewording of the classic phrase, which appeared in the 2002 Spider-Man movie, changes the concept of the phrase.  As if power and responsibility are there from the start.  As Delaware plows into the upcoming Every Student Succeeds Act regulations, this will become very important.  I don’t feel our State Board has developed the responsibility that comes with their power.  In fact, they want to hijack this term in their meetings about the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Many of the decisions they have made since 2008 have not been in the best and long-term interest of children.  They embraced the corporate education reform movement and haven’t looked back.  They continue to listen to the Rodel Foundation more than the teachers, students and parents who are their primary stakeholders.  As a result, they have allowed an environment of false labels against schools, demeaned teachers, created a false illusion of praise for rushed teacher and leader programs, subjected our students to three different high-stakes tests that have not created improvement for anyone, manipulated legislators into believing their mantras, approved charter schools without any consistent or necessary follow-up to ensure they will be successful upon opening, revoked five charter schools, and nearly destroyed a generation of students.  They will never take responsibility for these actions or events or even state they had anything to do with it.  They will sit there and say most of these events were based on federal mandate or existing state law.

They have an opportunity now to change that.  With the Every Student Succeeds Act, the law states that the United States Department of Education cannot dictate what type of state standard any state chooses to have.  It also deals with parent opt out of state assessments as a state’s decision.  However, U.S. Secretary of Education John King seems to have some comprehension issues as the regulations coming out of the U.S. DOE contradict what the law states.  Granted, the law is a confusing mess and there are parts that contradict each other.  King knows this and he is taking FULL advantage of it.  King will, in all likelihood, be gone by January next year, but he will be able to approve regulations and state plans based on forced dictates from his office.  That is NOT responsibility either.  That is power run amok.

As our State Board of Education prepares to deal with these regulations, they are having a workshop on ESSA before their regular State Board of Education meeting on July 21st.  They will go over what many of the corporate education reform companies are translating the law into along with King’s regulations and accepting it as the Gospel truth.  This is a critical time for Delaware education.  A wrong move by our State Board and Delaware DOE will leave us in the same problems we have faced since No Child Left Behind came into law fifteen years ago.  If you read the below presentation, you can clearly see their interpretation of the law based on the regulations and what the education companies want.  Keep in mind, many of these “companies” have never taught in a classroom.  But they have a vested interest in education.  Actually, make that an invested interest in education.

There are others who have power in education: parents, teachers, administrators, unions, and even students.  I urge all of you to watch our State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE like a hawk.  Yes, it’s the summer and in a couple of months kids will be back in schools with all the business surrounding that.  This is why they are choosing now to push regulations through when parents aren’t paying attention.  Those who want to profit off education are already on this.  They helped to create ESSA.  They have power but no responsibility.  They will control education if we let them.  And our own Governor, Jack Markell, has been the largest cheerleaders for this movement.  Power, with no responsibility, or even accountability.

We need parents, teachers, administrators, and students to take a role in this.  Don’t rely on me as a mouthpiece.  I’m a hot-tempered judgmental and pissed-off dad who has already been through many wars over this stuff.  I will continue to fight the war, but I could hit by a truck tomorrow.  Even if you are busy, you need to make the time to attend any meeting about ESSA in Delaware.  You need to review what our state is proposing, carefully watch the public comment timeframes, and make your voice known.  As well, contact your state legislators and Congressmen.  Let them know how you feel.  We have the opportunity and means to take back our children’s education.  But not if we don’t become a part of it.  This is our power.  This is our responsibility.  We have to use our power and become responsible.  If you are relying on our policymakers and unelected State Board of Education to get it right, then you have already allowed them to shape education into what they want.  They want to control the conversation and trick us.  They are masters at it.  They will smile and invite you to their events and give you real yummy eclairs and make you feel special and wanted.  But they don’t want you, they want your child.  Make no mistake about it.

To add insult to injury, Delaware is embarking on a “regulatory review”.  So not only do we have federal education regulations under review, but also a statewide regulatory review which could easily cause mass confusion.  I believe this is very intentional.  So if you are reading up on regulations, make absolutely sure you know which ones are state and which ones are federal.

If you want to change the future, you have to act now.  Don’t wait until it’s too late.  I will do my best to inform you and give crucial dates and timeframes, but make sure you also do this.

In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd
We could shake this world
If you would only show us how
Your life is now

-John Mellancamp