Christina Board Passes MOU With New Castle County School Districts With No Public Input

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…

Delaware Parents Of Students With Disabilities: Your Immediate Input Is Essential!!!!!

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:

Public comment for this document can be sent to matthew.korobkin@doe.k12.de.us. Public comments can also be mailed to: 
Matthew Korobkin 
Special Education Officer for Strategic Planning and Evaluation 
Delaware Department of Education 
401 Federal Street Suite 2 
Dover, Delaware 19901 

 

**UPDATED**Christina Public Comment By Board Member Alleges Involvement Of Other Board Members In Hate Emails

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.

 

 

FOIApalooza At Early College High School Board Meeting Going On Right Now!!!!

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 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.

charterframeworkrevisionstimeline

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.

charterframeworktimeline2

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…

de-proposed-fincl-framework-authorship

de-proposed-organ-framework-authorship

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: