Every once in a while, stories do get a happy ending. Continue reading “Smyrna School Board Welcomes J Back Into The Smyrna School District”
The Smyrna School District Board of Education is meeting tonight for what they are calling a “reorganization meeting”. Meanwhile, Superintendent Patrik Williams has flat-out responded to my two requests for the email addresses of the Smyrna board. I actually called most of the members earlier today, but none of them picked up. I did not leave messages.
What kind of school board, in this day and age, does not provide email addresses? Seriously? Patrik Williams seems to think he doesn’t have to provide those even though he is the secretary for their board. What is the point of having just phone numbers if no one picks up? Most Delaware school boards and even charter boards provide email addresses for their board members on their website. I know he saw my request for this because he responded to me on another matter.
At the board meeting tonight, I expect a decent crowd. The board may discuss discipline issues including votes on current issues, former students, and potential litigation according to their agenda. They do have other items on their agenda. Most school boards go into public session at the start of their meeting and then adjourn to go into Executive Session. Then they return and go through the public agenda. Time is allotted for public comment this evening. Bring tootsie rolls if you wish. The meeting will begin at 6pm at the district office in Smyrna at 82 Monrovia St.
J’s mother will be there along with others who are not happy with his situation and how the district handled it. I will be there. You should too.
It looks like the Smyrna School District Board of Education has been reading my series on the story of J and their harsh zero tolerance discipline tactics. It turns out they are having a “special” board meeting dedicated solely to student discipline issues. This comes right on the heels of my series about J. Hey, Patrik Williams, you should give Dr. Mark Holodick up in Brandywine a call about this kind of stuff. He is VERY familiar with these kind of issues. So much so his district is taking a very good look at their own zero tolerance policies.
I haven’t heard from Patrik Williams since he emailed me a couple of weeks ago and I responded to him. I am still working on the series about J. To be honest, I’m trying to get a transcription of the hearing with the State Board of Education. Going back and forth with that office on that issue. And with a holiday coming up… But if I don’t get it, I will come out with the next part with what information I do have.
If I were a parent in the Smyrna School District who has dealt with what you feel may be harsh discipline tactics, I would definitely attend this meeting. The meeting notice doesn’t specify if they will have public comment or not. Who knows, maybe I will show up!
The Christina School District Board of Education passed a controversial motion to send the same funds going to charter schools (from the infamous settlement) to all traditional New Castle County School Districts (except for NCC Vo-Tech). The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would bind Christina School District to sending the same funds they agreed upon in the charter school settlement to Red Clay Consolidated, Brandywine, Colonial, Appoquinimink, and Smyrna School Districts. The price tag for this year will be $350,000 but this is a “forever” contract so those funds will go to those districts for students choicing out of Christina to those districts forever. But another motion, that would have allowed for public comment on the issue, failed. Board member John Young summed up the meeting in three paragraphs earlier this morning on Facebook. Newly sworn-in board member Angela Mitchell abstained from both votes.
Last night, Christina School District BOE motioned to settle with Red Clay, Brandywine, Appoquinimink, Smryna and Colonial for $350K + this year and each year in the future forever pursuant to the charter school settlement. The meeting was at Sarah Pyle Academy at 7PM.
It was moved to approve the settlement MOU. Then it was moved to be voted on at the 6.13.17 meeting so the public could comment more fully. There was debate. Board members indicated that public opinion would have NO SWAY in their vote. The vote to vote on 6.13.17 was defeated 2 YES, 4 NO, 1 Abstention. Then the vote to approve handing over CSD monies without input from the public was approved 5 YES, 1 NO, 1 abstention. Of course all votes were public, but if you want details feel free to PM me. I am reeling from shock that board members and key employee(s) deliberately and intentionally told the taxpayers to go to hell with regards to their input. My disappointment extends beyond the board and includes CSD employees and the Supers of all NCC schools and Smyrna SD. An unreal night, I assure you.
I hope there is VOCIFEROUS public comment on 6.13.17 to protest the way the board operated tonight.
I always hated the settlement with the charters. But, let us all hope this is the last song on this record…
The Delaware Department of Education released (finally) the Delaware Special Education Strategic Plan. It will be available for public comment until June 5th. I strongly encourage all parents of special needs children in Delaware to very carefully go through every single line of this plan. I will be doing the same on this blog from now until then and I will be putting my breakdown into public comment form for the plan as well. I do want to thank the very hard work of the Special Education Strategic Planning Group who spent many hours and days, volunteer I may add, to work on this plan. The group consisted of 24 Delawareans, a moderator, and various employees of the Delaware Dept. of Education. As well, former Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky as well as current Secretary, Dr. Susan Bunting, provided support for the plan. I would especially like to thank State Rep. Kim Williams and Dr. Michele Marinucci, the Special Education Coordinator for the Woodbridge School District, for getting this large group of people together during a time when it could have been completely different (and not to the benefit of students with disabilities).
At first glance, I see both positive and negative things in the plan. It isn’t going to please everyone. But it is a start and more than we had before. This isn’t a time to throw stones, but it is a time to let your thoughts be known. Public comment for this plan is as follows, as per the Delaware DOE:
I don’t normally take down blog posts. I have sometimes done so in the past, but it is not the norm. I have received information in the past that I have never written about since it was a matter best dealt with by the authorities. Given that the matter I wrote about in this article is potentially a part of a current police investigation, I have chosen to take the post down. If I feel the situation bears putting it up again, I will certainly do so. Thank you for understanding.
At this present moment, 5:46pm, the Early College High School in Dover, Delaware is holding their monthly board of directors meeting. But the charter school has NO sign-in sheet for public comment, the front door is locked, and a receptionist at the school told a parent there would be no ability for the public to speak at the meeting this evening. Hello FOIA, meet Early College High School.
I’m a HUGE fan of transparency. Real big fan. I don’t like it when parents are denied the ability to speak at a public meeting. Nothing gets my education flames going more than that. Especially when it is planned in advance. How fortunate for myself that I was able to catch this in real-time! That takes some major chutzpah to do that. But not only is all this going on, but they started the meeting early thus denying the public the ability to even hear everything that was discussed if they were able to get through their locked doors.
It makes me wonder why the Board of Directors wouldn’t allow public comment at this meeting. When I went to check their website to see what is on the agenda, I found it very difficult to ascertain anything since NO AGENDA WAS POSTED!!!! But during the meeting, there was discussion ABOUT public comment and that anyone wishing to speak has to meet certain conditions first. Too bad the public didn’t have the opportunity to hear this discussion about their public comment procedures. One parent went and had something to say, but she never had the opportunity so she left. Meanwhile, the front doors are still locked.
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.
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”
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.
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!
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!
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
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.