State Solicitor Responds To FOIA Complaint Legal Opinion About Family Services Cabinet Council

That didn’t take long!  Yesterday, I received an email from the State Solicitor, Aaron Goldstein.  This was in response to my assertion the Family Services Cabinet Council is a public body, subject to public meetings and FOIA.  Which was based on research I did after the Attorney General’s office gave an opinion on my FOIA complaint to the Governor’s office about the council.

The heart of the issue stems around the disbursement of taxpayer funds.  I alleged the council did just that based on what is written in Delaware state code.  Specifically, §1605 of Title 14.  But the State Solicitor did reference that section in his letter to me:

So this round goes to Governor Carney and the AG’s office.  I still don’t agree with these glorified “staff meetings” being shut out of the public view, but until the laws surrounding Executive Privilege in Delaware change, the law is the law.  Doesn’t make it a good law by any stretch of the imagination!  I would think if you are going to all the trouble to make a “staff meeting” an actual council, you would look to see what is already in state code surrounding that very same council and solicit legislators to make changes around that language.  But I guess that’s just me.

Governor Carney’s Office Cites “Executive Privilege” With Family Services Cabinet Council FOIA Complaint

The Delaware Attorney General’s office released a Freedom of Information Act legal opinion today giving Delaware Governor Carney the right to use executive privilege for a council designed to improve family services in Delaware.  In other words, they are allowed to hold non-public meetings and invite whomever they choose with no one the wiser.  The Attorney General’s office agreed with Carney’s office because of a very bad “separation of powers” clause in state law. Continue reading “Governor Carney’s Office Cites “Executive Privilege” With Family Services Cabinet Council FOIA Complaint”

Rep Kim Williams Rips Into The Delaware DOE During Public Meeting

The Delaware Dept. of Education held the third meeting of the Strategic Plan for Specialized Education Opportunities in Delaware today.  I can’t even make an abbreviation out of that one.  Do not be confused with the Strategic Plan for Special Education that the DOE is also working on.  In any event, Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams was NOT a happy camper.  While she is not a member of this committee, she attended the meeting and had some words to say to the DOE.

Apparently this committee came about as a result of an amendment on House Bill #56, the Wilmington charter school moratorium legislation signed by Governor Markell in 2015.  The Dept. was tasked with reviewing all educational opportunities in the state including charter, district, and vo-tech.  The DOE contracted with Public Consulting Group (PCG) to write up the report which came out last December.  PCG continued to work on the strategic plan and came out with another report in October.  In the October report, PCG made a reference to a District-Charter Collaboration Task Force.  Which is ironic since they didn’t post minutes nor did they come out with a final report.

At one point during the meeting today, Delaware Senator David Sokola mentioned a need for low-income and special education information on school choice applications.  David Blowman from the Delaware DOE allowed me to speak and I mentioned how the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, of which Sokola was a member, voted in the majority that information like that should not be on choice applications.  I mentioned that it was recommendations from the task force but it showed a clear decision to not have those items on choice applications.  Blowman agreed with me and said those items should not be on applications.  This prompted Rep. Williams to speak…

In August, Rep. Williams contacted the DOE about this strategic plan.  She contacted PCG and discussed the Enrollment Preferences Task Force, which met for a year and a half, kept all their minutes, and came out with a mammoth-sized final report which was sent to the DOE and the General Assembly.  She emailed a link to PCG.  Nothing even mentioning the Enrollment Preferences Task Force made it into PCG’s October report.  Williams blasted the DOE for this by stating she failed to understand how this strategic plan is meant to provide opportunities for ALL students.  She was clearly (and understandably) upset the report gave no mention to a task force she devoted a year and a half to.  But the District-Charter Collaboration Task Force, which had severe issues with transparency and no final report.  It was obvious to many in the audience that this oversight was not simply a mistake on PCG’s report.  I know for a fact the Delaware DOE and State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson worked with PCG on their initial report which came out a few days before the final report for the Enrollment Preferences Task Force came out.

Senator Sokola asked Williams why she didn’t introduce legislation based on the recommendations of the task force during the last legislative session.  Williams explained that the legislation wouldn’t have come out until March of this year and everyone was very wrapped up in the WEIC redistricting plan.  Sokola said he can see that.  But Williams did say she will be introducing legislation based on those recommendations when the General Assembly comes back in January.  Williams argued that if she didn’t look at the October report from PCG and she didn’t attend this meeting, the DOE wouldn’t have even thought to mention the work 27 members of the task force worked on for a year and a half into this strategic plan.  There was no clear response from Blowman or Susan Haberstroh (also with the DOE).

Williams mentioned the glaring omission two times.  Eventually, Haberstroh assured the committee and Rep. Williams the Enrollment Preference Task Force report would be a part of the strategic plan.  This was supposed to be the last meeting of this committee but once the subject of enrollment barriers came up it was obvious the committee would need to meet again which all agreed to.

There is something about this committee that seems off.  Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques talked about the Christina School District a few times when talking about surplus school seats.  As well, the subject of empty buildings districts own came up.  I always find it to be odd when Sokola and Jaques, who are in their seats primarily because of voters from the Christina School District, tear into them.  I didn’t trust it when Sokola mentioned having information on choice applications he knew damn well shouldn’t be on there.

When Jeff Klein with the University of Delaware presented a report on choice applications by zip code, he did say there was a section in Maryland.  Sokola mentioned it could be a teacher sending their child to a Delaware school.  Which I assume to be Newark Charter School.  The DOE responded by saying it would be illegal for Delaware to pay for a Maryland student in a Delaware school.  Sokola had a puzzled look on his face…

Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network asked a question similar to one she asked at the meeting a few weeks ago.  She questioned why, as an example, if Woodbridge and Delmar school districts wanted a culinary program but didn’t have enough students to have a program, why they couldn’t push for opening a charter school to serve that need.  Heath Chasanov with Woodbridge explained they do have a program with Delmar that Del Tech coordinates.  I don’t fault Kendall for asking the question, but it would be more financially feasible for the districts to work together to offer programs in coordination as opposed to opening a brand new charter school that may or not fail.  This was echoed by David Blowman.

I did find out, 100%, that there are NO plans for Prestige Academy to merge into EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations.  Massett did explain that all the Wilmington charters are working with Prestige for a smooth transition for the students when the charter closes at the end of the year.

To read the reports PCG came out with in October, please see below.

Attorney General Opinion On Delaware Pathways Steering Committee Issued Today Is Sloppy, Inconsistent, & Incorrect

On October 7th, the Delaware Pathways Steering Committee held their first meeting with no public notice or an agenda put up 7 days prior to the meeting as required by Delaware state code.  In August, Delaware Governor Jack Markell issued an Executive Order creating this public body.  The only reason I found out about it was due to tweets from the Rodel Foundation and Mark Brainard of Delaware Tech.  I promptly filed a FOIA complaint on October 11th.  Seventeen days later, the Delaware Attorney General’s office has already responded to the FOIA complaint.  To put this in perspective, I filed a FOIA complaint last March which just had the Attorney General opinion issued last week.  BI submitted another FOIA complaint around that same time period and there has been no official opinion released from the Attorney General’s office.  But Alison May from the Delaware DOE did respond in record time with their side of the complaint, but she has before.  So why was this FOIA complaint rushed?

Below is my original request, the acknowledgment from the Attorney General’s office, the Delaware DOE’s response to the complaint, and the opinion on the FOIA complaint issued today.  As well, I am including an email that was still in draft form disputing the facts provided by Alison May in the Delaware DOE’s response.  I truly believed I had more time given the turnaround time on FOIA complaints coming out of the AG’s office but this one had a lightning fast response.  Given the below findings and other inconsistencies with their opinion, I believe this was a very rushed job they wanted to put to bed fast.  But that opens up a whole other can of worms…

Original FOIA Complaint, issued 10/11/16

From: Kevin Ohlandt [mailto:kevino3670@yahoo.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2016 9:23 AM
To: OpenGovernment (DOJ) <OpenGovernment@state.de.us>
Subject: FOIA Complaint

 

 Good morning,

I am submitting a FOIA complaint in regards to the newly created Pathways Steering Committee.  This body came out of Executive Order #61, issued by Governor Markell on Thursday, August 11th, 2016.  While there was nothing anywhere indicating they were holding a meeting, tweets appeared on October 7th suggesting the body met as a group.  This is a state group, created by an elected official.  Yet there was no posting of the meeting or an agenda.  Attached are screen shots of the tweets posted by Mark Brainard and the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  

I take this violation very seriously.  For a group that is supposed to be all about students, I find it ironic they would operate in secrecy with no ability for the public to attend.  This does not translate into anything close to an open government.  

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

9 Crosley Court

Dover, DE 19904

On October 12th, the Delaware Attorney General acknowledged receipt of my FOIA Complaint

October 11, 2016 Correspondence Regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

VIA EMAIL

 

Mr. Kevin Ohlandt

9 Crosley Ct.
Dover, DE 19904
kevino@yahoo.com

RE:     October 11, 2016 Correspondence Regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

Dear Mr. Ohlandt:

            This will acknowledge receipt of your correspondence regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee (the “Committee”), received on October 11, 2016, alleging certain violations of the open meetings provisions of Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act, 29 Del. C. §§ 10001-10007 (“FOIA”). We treat your correspondence as a petition for determination pursuant to 29 Del. C. § 10005.  We are forwarding your correspondence to the Committee’s counsel, asking that they respond to your allegations by October 19, 2016.  When we have received the Committee’s response, we will determine whether additional information from either party is required and decide what further action, if any, is appropriate.

Very truly yours, 

                                                                        /s/ Kim Siegel

                                                                        Kim Siegel

                                                                        FOIA Coordinator

KS/ks

cc:        Danielle Gibbs, Chief Deputy Attorney General (via email)

            Michelle E. Whalen, Deputy Attorney General (via email)

            Meredith S. Tweedie, Esq. (via email)

The Delaware Department of Education’s Response to the FOIA Complaint, 10/19/16

Issued today was the official opinion from the Delaware Attorney General’s office:

16-IB23 10/28/2016 FOIA Opinion Letter to Mr. Kevin Ohlandt re: FOIA Complaint Concerning the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee

This is the draft I was working on to send to the Attorney General’s office that I believed I had more time to formulate:

October 26th, 2016

Good afternoon Ms. Siegel,

In reviewing Alison May from the Dept. of Education’s response to my FOIA complaint from October 11th, in the letter provided from her on October 19th, she states the following:

…and the draft minutes of the October 7th meeting (attached hereto, along with the other documents discussed at the meeting) will be posted online by the end of this week.
In doing an extensive search this afternoon, I have not been able to see anywhere in the State of Delaware, on the Delawarepathways.org website, or any such place on the World Wide Web where Alison May’s assurance of transparency actually took place.
This attempt at a good-faith effort on the Dept. of Education’s response to the complaint seems a bit odd considering this does not exist.  And while I know the Governor is not obligated to publicly report on where he speaks publicly, the fact that no documentation exists anywhere in regards to this meeting on the internet aside from I wrote about it on Exceptional Delaware and a few tweets from those associated with this group, I find that to be very suspect.  While Ms. May states “this was an oversight on the part of the involved State agencies and organizations and not an intentional effort to circumvent FOIA requirements” in her response, the very minutes she attached to the DOE’s response indicate Luke Rhine from the Department of Education would be in charge of coordinating staffing.  And since Alison May from the Dept. of Education was the responding party for the response to the complaint, that leads me to the belief that the Delaware Dept. of Education would have been the State Agency to fulfill FOIA requirements for a public body.  Since they did not, I take issue with Ms. May’s response about not coordinating with other state agencies and do not believe that to be a true statement. In regards to the reasoning for not making this meeting public to the citizens of Delaware, a statement of “oversight” bears little meaning in the contextual framework of following state code.
In a prior FOIA complaint of mine against the Delaware Dept. of Education, #15-IB12, Danielle Gibbs, the Chief Deputy Attorney General wrote:
The DOE provided no explanation as to why the notices and agendas were posted less than seven days in advance of the meetings, and it concedes that the postings did not comply with FOIA.  The DOE also explained that no action was taken by the AFWG at either meeting.  The DOE apologized and said it would “endeavor to determine the agenda of any future AFWG meetings as of the time of any required public notice of them, and include the agenda in any such required notice.
The notices and agendas for the AFWG meetings held in September violated FOIA because they were not posted at least seven days in advance of the meeting as required by 29 Del. C. §10004(e)(2).  We find that these errors were technical violations that did not negatively affect substantial public rights.[17]  Therefore, we find that no remediation is required.”
Given that the words “substantial public rights” means no action was taken at those meetings, it was during a regulatory process for Regulation 103 where key issues concerning that regulation would have been discussed at the AFWG meetings.  So in a finding that “substantial public rights” did not apply in that situation with pending legislative action, I take issue with that.  As well, in the attached minutes from the minutes for the Pathways Steering Committee, there is talk of legislative action and a discussion with the Delaware General Assembly.
In FOIA Complaint #13-IB05, issued October 1st, 2013, citizens filed a complaint against the Charter School Reform Working Group in regards to having closed-door meetings not open to the public.  In that Attorney General opinion, it states the following:
By letters dated July 31 and August 1, 2012, the Governor extended invitations to a number of individuals to participate in the Working Group as representatives of several public bodies, including the General Assembly, the Department of Education and the State Board of Education, and various private stakeholder groups (the “Invitations”).
While that opinion was an appeal to an earlier complaint, it states the following:
On June 10, 2013, you filed this appeal seeking access to the Working Group’s meeting minutes.  We received a response on July 11, 2013.  The response indicates that the Working Group did not consider itself to be a “public body” within the meaning of section 10002(h), due primarily to the informal nature of the Working Group.

FOIA, with certain exceptions not relevant here, establishes a public right to inspect all “public records” and requires that all meetings of public bodies be open to the public.4   FOIA’s “open meeting” provisions call for advance notice to the public of all public meetings and require public bodies to prepare and make available to the public agendas for and minutes of their public meetings.5

Section 10002(h) provides substantial guidance as to the types of entities and bodies encompassed within the phrase “body of the State.”  That concept, as used in FOIA, includes, among other things, any “group . . . appointed by any . . . public official of the State” that was “impliedly or specifically charged” with making recommendations.9   The Working Group was a “body of the State” within the meaning of section 10002(h).

But the key part from this opinion rests on the following and is key to my own FOIA complaint:

First, this Office consistently has rejected arguments that FOIA’s applicability hinges on adherence to formalities in the creation of a public body, lest FOIA’s goals of openness and government accountability be subverted.14

This was where my draft ended which I fully intended on doing further research on in the next week.

Now here are my issues with the Attorney General’s response to the FOIA complaint.  First off, in Alison May’s response from the Delaware DOE, she said it was under the Delaware Dept. of Education’s control to issue the agenda.  However, in the link on the FOIA complaint, we see an Agenda created on 10/17/16, ten days after the meeting, and it was issued from Governor Markell’s office, not the Delaware DOE.  Furthermore, if this was indeed a public body, why was there no agenda item for public comment?  As well, the minutes submitted by Alison May in the DOE’s response to the FOIA complaint are actually different than those that appear on the Googledrive website.

In the original minutes, submitted with Alison May in the Delaware DOE response to my FOIA complaint, it states the following:

Dr. Brainard charged Mr. Rhine to conduct outreach to Steering Committee members to review the draft strategic plan and collect additional input;

Dr. Brainard charged Mr. Rhine to develop a transition report for partnering state agencies to be used as a transitional tool in planning for the next executive administration;

But in the minutes on the Googledrive for the steering committee, it said this:
Mr. Rhine will conduct outreach to Steering Committee members to review the draft strategic plan and collect additional input;
Mr. Rhine will develop a transition report for partnering state agencies to be used as a transitional tool in planning for the next executive administration;
While the two items look very similar on the surface, the action of taking out Dr. Brainard from the updated minutes which were created on October 24th by Luke Rhine, which the Googledrive suggests that no action was directed to Luke Rhine, the main Delaware Dept. of Education representative, when in reality it was.  This change is substantial.  The opinion issued today states that no action was taken at this meeting so the perception that no “substantial public rights” violations occurred by not making a public body meeting public is visibly changed between the two meeting minutes.  As well, if the Delaware DOE is the state entity that answered the FOIA complaint and is in charge of posting information about it, why is there absolutely nothing on the Career and Technical Education portion of their website?
We are also expected to believe the minutes and agenda they presented are accurate when they were created at the earliest, six days after the meeting, and at the latest, seventeen days after the meeting:
dtccgoogledrivepathways
As well, the response from the Attorney General’s response today shows a link to a website that was not included in the original DOE response to the complaint which means there was further communication between the Attorney General’s office and the parties to which I issued the FOIA complaint against.  In all other FOIA complaints I have submitted, I have been a party to those communications every single step of the way but not with this one.
The Deputy Attorney General who wrote this opinion, Danielle Gibbs, handled a FOIA opinion from a complaint I submitted in 2015.  She made sure I received all communication from the Delaware DOE on that every single step of the way.  But this time I guess I wasn’t so blessed.  She actually wrote in the FOIA opinion issued today:

Moreover, as you note in your Petition, certain members of the Committee published photographs of its meeting on social media either, contemporaneously or immediately following the meeting. We find this to be inconsistent with an intentional failure to adhere to FOIA’s open meetings provisions. We see no evidence of an intent – by the Governor or any other Committee member – to circumvent FOIA. Nor do we see an ongoing pattern of FOIA non-compliance which might warrant extreme remedy.

Here is a newsflash for the Attorney General’s office: having a non-profit foundation and a member of the committee post tweets about a non-transparent meeting of a public body issued by a Governor’s Executive Order, does not point either way towards an intentional failure to adhere to FOIA’s open meetings provisions.  What it shows is someone tweeting.  So to give this extra bearing in a legal opinion about something that was already established to be under the Delaware Dept. of Education’s responsibility is misleading at best.

When you go to this website, there are also extensive plans and reports, involving millions upon millions of dollars of funding.  I would think that would be crucial for the public to see.
pathwaysstrategicplan
To see these large amounts of funds being talked about over the next three fiscal years, please go here: DE Pathways Priority 4 Funding Plan 10/6/16.  Feast your eyes on this document, created on October 6th, one day prior to the Steering Committee meeting.  Furthermore, the two entities planning this funding are not even state agencies, they are 3rd party non-profit companies: United Way of Delaware and the Rodel Foundation.
We have three entities involved with this FOIA complaint: the Delaware Dept. of Education, Governor Markell’s office, and Delaware Technical Community College.  How did the college get involved?  If you look at the Googledrive, the website is listed as:
This is a Del Tech website.  Why is Del Tech storing the minutes for this when it is supposed to be under the authority of the DOE?  And why is Markell’s office issuing the agenda (ten days after the fact)?  When I do a Google search for the past month using “pathways” “steering committee” “dtcc” and “minutes”, nothing comes up on the search.  So how would anyone be able to find these minutes without seeing them in a response to a FOIA complaint?  Even if I take out “dtcc” and replace it with “Delaware” nothing comes up.  Furthermore, there is nothing in the meeting minutes even discussing minutes or where these minutes were to be stored for public consumption.  I believe this to be a very sloppy response from all parties involved and further contend this Pathways Steering Committee is not making a good faith effort with transparency.  By allowing this public body to be open to the public, all three parties involved seemed to have communicated extensively with each other after I filed a FOIA complaint.  I will also add that additional communication provided by the other parties to the Delaware Attorney General’s office needs to be provided to me by the Delaware Attorney General’s office post haste.  The Attorney General opinion states it reviewed the website of the Steering Committee but the only way they would have been able to review that was by getting a link for it.  Since there is no viable way to search for this Steering Committee through internet search engines, I contend they were given this website by someone involved with it.
This Pathways Steering Committee, that is making gigantic decisions about students, in secondary and post-secondary setting, with plans for huge amounts of money at state and local levels, is all about substantial public rights.  When the General Assembly decided not to move forward with the Pathways Steering Committee as sponsored by Senator David Sokola with Senate Bill 277, Governor Markell took it upon himself to issue an Executive Order to create this committee.  When our Governor doesn’t get his way with the General Assembly, it seems he has the authority to bypass that with Executive Orders.
What is the point of a FOIA complaint if the Delaware Department of Justice, under the control of the Delaware Attorney General, has no ability to do anything substantial or with any consequences in regards to a FOIA complaint?  Why did they rush through the opinion on this FOIA Complaint without really checking into everything?  Why was there (in my view) an intentional attempt to lock me out of communication concerning this FOIA complaint when that has not happened in the past?  These are the things I want answers for, as well as Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn himself to issue a statement that this public body has to reconvene their October 7th meeting so the public is well aware of this Steering Committee that is deciding the future of thousands of Delaware students with significant amounts of taxpayer funds.
Updated, 4:53pm, 10/28/16: Since I finished this article, I can now see on the Delaware DOE website where they did a link to this on their website.  But it is filled with completely wrong information, as seen below.  First off, this is not a “task force”, it is a “steering committee”.  Second, it was not passed into law on June 14th, 2016 through Senate Bill 277.  It became law through Governor Markell’s Executive Order #61, issued on August 11th, 2016.  Senate Bill 277 was released from the Senate Education Committee on June 15th, 2016, but it never came up for a vote with the full Senate and the bill died as of the end of the 148th General Assembly on July 1st, 2016.
dedoetaskforces

FOIA Complaint: Delaware Pathways To Prosperity Steering Committee Holds Back-Door Meeting With Governor Markell

rodelpathwaystweet

I have no doubt they are working together.  But the sad part is no one else seems to be invited to the party…

Delaware Governor Jack Markell created a Delaware Pathways To Prosperity Steering Committee on August 11th of this year.  On Friday, October 7th, the steering committee convened with no notice to the public.  As well, there is no announcement of the membership of this committee.  I was only able to find out about this non-transparent meeting by sheer luck in looking at Rodel’s tweets yesterday.  What kind of steering committee, charged with decisions on how to help students become “career-ready”, operates in secret?

brainardtweet

The road to this steering committee was controversial to begin with.  Delaware Senator David Sokola created legislation to begin this committee in the form of Senate Bill 277, but it never made it to a full Senate vote.  Governor Markell went ahead anyway and created this steering committee after objections from Delaware legislators.  And now they are violating FOIA by holding back-door and closed to the public meetings.  Even Governor Markell attended the first meeting but you won’t find notice of this on his public schedule.  Why would he when the group didn’t seem to care if the public went.

brainardtweet2

I filed a FOIA complaint with the Department of Justice ten minutes ago.  Why do these things happen whenever Rodel gets involved?  The same thing happened with the Rodel initiated Competency-Based Learning Guiding Coalition which operated in secret two years ago.  Can we expect this same type of secrecy with our next Governor?  What gives this group the right to discuss student and education matters with no involvement from the public?  What gives them the right to make decisions on what is best for children and teenagers without the ability for the public to view and give public comment about their ideas?  This is not open government.  This is a cabal of people with their own agendas, guiding society towards what they want, not the will of the people.  This nonsense needs to stop immediately.  People in this state actually wonder why I find it so hard to trust.  This is a classic example of why I find it impossible to trust anything associated with Governor Markell and Rodel.

In the above picture, I see Dr. Paul Herdman with Rodel, State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Director of Career & Technical Education STEM Initiatives Luke Rhine, Del-Tech President Dr. Mark Brainard, and New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Victoria Gehrt.  I’ve seen some of the other faces before but if anyone else can fill in the blanks that would be most appreciated.  Feel free to leave the names in the comments.

Parents Told They Can’t Record Board Meeting Tonight At Academia Antonia Alonso

NoAudioOrVideoRecordingAllowed

Tonight, a Delaware charter school refused parents the ability to record their board meeting.  A group of parents attended the Academia Antonia Alonso Board of Directors meeting to give public comment about what they felt was unfair termination of many teachers at the school.  They wanted to record the meeting but were told they could not.  Even though charter schools are technically corporations, they still have to abide by public meeting laws in Delaware.  And in Delaware, all you have to do is advise someone you are recording a meeting.  You do not need their consent.

Charter schools in Delaware are not unionized, therefore they can hire and fire at will without any protection whatsoever for the teachers.  While one would hope charter administrators use a common sense approach in making these decisions, some charters have been known for running their schools like a dictatorship.  Some charters have fired a teacher over something as small as questioning a policy.  When this happens as often as it has at Academia Antonia Alonso this school year, sooner or later parents will begin to notice and question it themselves.  What charter boards fail to understand is they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a parent’s ability to make a choice.  What kind of message does that send when a parent is denied the simple freedom of recording a meeting when they don’t even need their consent?

Censored

House Bill 61, the school board recording bill, is awaiting a full vote by the Delaware Senate.  It passed the Delaware House last year.  Since then, many reports have come out about charter school fraud.  The bill is a no-brainer!  This is just another reason why this bill needs to pass.  Denying a parent of a choice is never a smart thing to do, especially when it comes to education.  For a parent to even attend a board meeting is a feat in itself.  They should be happy they have parent engagement.  I can only think of one reason a board wouldn’t want a public meeting to be heard.  And it isn’t because they don’t want parents to hear a great meeting.  They don’t want something getting out.  While the school did allow the parents to give public comment at two minutes each, will their concerns be put in the board minutes for the meeting?

What makes this more interesting is the amount of parent input they had for their recent major modification that passed the Delaware State Board of Education last week.  They had to solicit parents to comment on that publicly.  But when the parent’s want to talk about something the school doesn’t want out there, they don’t want the public to hear that.

Academia Antonia Alonso currently resides in the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The State Board of Education approved their major modification request to move to one of the buildings owned by Odyssey Charter School at Barley Mill Plaza.  The charter school has gone through three heads of school since they opened in August of 2014, in less than two years.  They were placed on formal review before they even opened based on low enrollment.  They got out of formal review with a probation and got their enrollment up to what their charter was approved for.  In the 2014-2015 Charter School Performance Framework, the school met the standard for their financial framework but was labeled as does not meet standard for their organizational framework.

When our schools going to learn that if you try to silence parents in any way, sooner or later they will organize.  Teachers in traditional school districts already have the capability to organize through their unions.  Perhaps charter school teachers should as well to avoid these administrators who seem to think ruling with an iron fist is the right thing to do.

Delaware Cyber Security Advisory Council Violates FOIA In Their First Meeting

As reported by Randall Chase with the Associated Press yesterday, Delaware’s Cyber Security Advisory Council kicked off their first meeting with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) violation.  But what the article didn’t cover was how the state tried to cover its tracks after the meeting.

James Collins, the state’s chief information officer and head of the council, then said the panel would meet in executive session, even though Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act requires that such closed-door meetings be noticed ahead of time.

But do they have the ability to time travel into the future to give that notice?  Apparently, they do!

This is the agenda for the first meeting as shown on Delaware’s Public Meeting Calendar website.

Cyber Security Real Agenda on DE Public Calendar

It looks like they have everything covered, right?  Including a FOIA Exemption Proposal because they know they are violating FOIA.  Here is the page from the Public Meeting Calendar website:

DEPublMtgCalDECybSecAdvCoun

Looks okay to me, right?

ChangeDate

In the above picture, taken from the bottom left-hand corner of the Public Meeting Calendar notice, it shows three change dates.  3/3/2016 was the original posting of the meeting, 3/22/2016 I would assume had the addition of the FBI Agent giving the briefing on the unclassified threat, and the 3/23/2016 change was to give notice about the group going into executive session to discuss the unclassified threat.  So maybe Randall Chase got it all wrong, right?

Cyber Security Agenda

Nope.  This picture is the properties of the PDF.  If you right-click with your mouse on a PDF, it tells you when a PDF was created and modified.  This PDF was actually created yesterday, 3/23/2016 at 3:17:16pm.  It was a brand new agenda.  The part blacked out is my own personal location for my computer which I didn’t think was necessary to throw out there so I will fully admit I blacked it out in the picture.

Someone should really file a FOIA complaint on this one to the Delaware Department of Justice!  Oh wait, I already did…

 

 

House Bill 279 Would Allow For Public Comment At Any Public Meeting

State Rep. Kim Williams submitted another awesome bill today in the Delaware General Assembly.  House Bill 279 would allow for public comment at any public meeting.  It’s that easy!  I have seen, in the past, where some charters want you to let them know what they are saying ahead of time.  That defeats the whole purpose of public comment!  As well, the State Board of Education doesn’t allow for public comment on action items at their board meetings.  Which is ridiculous.  It’s not like the general public knows where to look for these things.  They don’t get the registrar of regulations mailed to them for Pete-not-Schwartzkopf’s sake!

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State Board of Education Grills WEIC At Public Meeting W/Them Present But Doesn’t Engage Them…

Last Monday, the Delaware State Board of Education had a workshop to discuss the Wilmington Education Improvement Plan.  Even though some of the higher-up members of the Commission were actually there, the State Board refused to directly ask any of them questions.  There was no public comment at this public meeting.  Instead they crafted a very long letter to WEIC.  Below are the questions, some of which I view to be valid, but others are clearly written into the plan.  As well, their responses are below.  The State Board of Education will vote on the redistricting plan on Thursday, January 21st.  The meeting starts at 9am, which is earlier than usual due to Governor Markell’s State of the State Address.  No public comment can be given at their meeting due to it being an action item based on their rules.

 

State Board of Education Having “Workshop” On WEIC Ten Days Before They Vote On The Plan

The Delaware State Board of Education is having a workshop at 9am on January 11th concerning the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan.  The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and review the WEIC Final Proposal.  This is a public meeting as it appeared on the Delaware Public Meeting calendar.  It does not state whether public comment is allowed or not.  There is not an end time for the meeting either, but the final proposal is very long.  At the December State Board of Education meeting, WEIC leaders Tony Allen, Dan Rich and Elizabeth Lockman, along with Joe Pika, presented the proposal to the State Board.  There was a lot of discussion during the meeting about whether or not moving the Christina School District schools in Wilmington to Red Clay was the best for students.  Later on in their board meeting, President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray was visibly upset about the Christina Priority Schools getting another planning year based on the recommendations of WEIC’s predecessor, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  This will definitely be an interesting conversation on the 11th.  The State Board of Education will officially vote on the plan at their January 21st regular meeting.

In the plan, WEIC is asking for the state to chip in $6 million to fund the plan, which would bring the Christina students to Red Clay during the 2018-2019 school year.  Typically, the Governor of Delaware does not release the following Fiscal Year’s budget until the final days of January.  With the board voting on the plan on 1/21 and the budget not being publicly released until most likely a week later, how can the State Board of Education vote on this if they don’t know where the funding will come from?  I would not assume the $8 million Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn is asking for from the foreclosure crisis settlement fund, which he would like to see go towards Delaware’s 16 schools with the highest populations of low-income students, would be allocated for the WEIC initiative.  Though the funds Denn is asking for are similar in scope to what WEIC would like to see for this new Red Clay Consolidated district map, there are schools outside of that potential new district that would be included in the 16 schools he is requesting funds for.

On December 9th, Governor Markell appeared at the regular meeting of WEIC and announced Red Clay taxpayers would not have to pay for this.  If the receiving district of the Christina students (Red Clay) taxpayers aren’t paying for it, then who is?  The logical answer would be the taxpayers of Delaware, which by default would include the Red Clay taxpayers.

Oddly enough, this meeting does not appear on the State Board of Education website.  Any state board meetings usually appear on there in advance, but it is not known when this meeting was scheduled.  Delaware state law does call for any public meeting to have seven-day notification, and by it appearing on the public meeting calendar it did fulfill that requirement.

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Exceptional Delaware Apologizes To The DOE

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the Senate Joint Resolution #2 Assessment Inventory Committee.  I wrote how they did not give sufficient public notice for their meeting last night.  Delaware law demands all public meetings be given a week notice with a posted agenda.  The DOE did get this out there on November 3rd, and I must have missed it somehow.  The DOE did act in full transparency in this situation.  This does not mean I am a DOE cheerleader, but I will point out when I make a mistake.  I emailed the powers that be over there just now about this with a heartfelt apology.

**UPDATED**DOE Has Meeting For Assessment Inventory Committee

It turns out there is a Senate Joint Resolution #2 Committee meeting tonight at the Delaware Department of Education in Dover.  When was this announced?  Not a week ago which is required by Delaware law.  As well, who is on the Committee?  We know who the legislators are, but not the rest.  This was announced on the Delaware Public Meeting Calendar on 11/3/15, so I was mistaken about the DOE not giving the required 7 day notice for public meetings, to which I apologized to the DOE in an email this morning.

 

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Breaking News: AFWG To Have Encore Meeting On Tuesday 11/17, Open To The Public

After the stunning news last week the Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky was blowing off the Accountability Framework Working Group’s recommendation of lighter opt-out penalties for the Delaware School Success Framework, the group is meeting for an encore on Tuesday morning, 11/17, at 10am.  This is two days before the State Board of Education will make their final decision on the ESEA waiver.  Interestingly enough, Regulation 103 (which ties the school report card mess into state code) is not up for a vote at this meeting, which means December will most likely be the vote for that.

Somewhat related to this, I’m hearing the DOE employee named Ryan Reyna who works in the accountability area and was one of the controversial Race to the Top positions that should have been cut from the DOE is in all likelihood leaving the DOE very soon.  Reyna was one of the key DOE employees involved in the AFWG group.

If you are available on Tuesday morning, this meeting will be open to the public and will have public comment.  I strongly suggest attending this meeting and making your voice known on this subject!!!!!

Here is the agenda for this meeting:

Delaware Met Special Board Meeting Tomorrow Night, May Take Action On School’s Charter

Delaware Charter Schools don’t tend to have special board meetings for good reasons.  Yes, the Head of School went out on maternity leave, but I’m sure that was expected to happen as it usually does when someone, you know, has a baby.  But if they may need to take action on their charter and to discuss personnel in executive session…that’s something different.  It’s all in there:

This is following their special board meeting on 9/23 of which they did not post an agenda (violating Delaware Public Meeting laws), nor did they post an agenda for this meeting, but it is a special board meeting.  As well, their Facebook page has the following message this evening:

We’ve had a few days off, but we’re excited to see all of our students at school tomorrow! Make sure you’re there! It’s a super important day!

 What were they off a few days for?  Their school calendar shows no days off last week.  Why would students not be there?  It’s school!  What is super important?  Or maybe I’m just talking to aliens Kilroy….