Breaking News: Mike Piccio Resigns From Red Clay Board of Education

Effective August 28th, Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education President Mike Piccio resigned from the board.  Sources within the district have confirmed there is no controversy, just a citizen moving out of the district at some point.  But what makes this interesting will be the makeup of the board going forward.  The current Vice-President Martin Wilson, in most situations, would just slide into the President role.  But knowing Red Clay, I am sure other members will want to vote on changes to the board.  Not to mention the whole special election for his seat on the board.  Interesting times up in Red Clay…

Red Clay Board of Education Votes Unanimously For Equity Plan

Last night, the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education voted unanimously for the district to develop an Equity Plan through their long-standing Diversity Committee.  The resolution, written by board member Adriana Bohm, would charge the committee to develop the Equity Plan, which will be presented to the board by April of 2018.  Many community members came out to give public comment in support of plan.

Where this gets a bit sticky is the two charter schools Red Clay authorizes, Charter School of Wilmington and Delaware Military Academy.  As their authorizing agent, Red Clay can conduct their charter renewal process along with formal reviews, modifications, and other such matters.  But they cannot dictate district policy to those schools and make them follow it.  Both schools have substantially lower populations of racial groups the Diversity Committee would talk about.  Failure to address this huge gap between the districts and those charters would ignore the inherent and not-to-be ignored problems of race in the district.  Based on enrollment preferences, those schools have the tendency to pick and choose who they want based on “specific interest”.

I definitely think Bohm’s resolution is a good one.  Red Clay had mixed results with their Inclusion Plan over the past few years which has prompted significant changes in the way the district handles special education.  Based on 2016-2017 data, Red Clay has more minorities than white students, with the largest of those minorities being Hispanic students at around 30%.  But what I don’t want to see this committee doing is basing student success on Smarter Balanced Assessment scores.  I do not believe these are a valid measurement of student success in any possible way.  Many in the African-American community feel these are a valid measurement since they include all students, but when the test is flawed it is not a good measurement.

To read the entire plan, please see below.

Kenny Rivera’s Farewell Speech To The Red Clay School Board

Last evening was Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education’s last meeting for long-time member Kenny Rivera.  A social studies teacher in the Brandywine School District, Rivera spent some crucial years on the board.  He served as President and later Vice-President during his last two years on the board.  He gave a farewell speech to the board and the attendees.  Rivera’s seat is going to the amazing Ashley Sabo.  Sabo won the seat last month in a three-way race, beating Henry Clampitt and Thomas Pappenhagen.  Here is Rivera’s speech:

I would like to take just one minute a bid you a farewell from this seat. Throughout our progress and turmoil, from the discussions to the battles, I have found great joy in this opportunity to serve the Red Clay community. I will miss serving, but I cannot be any more thrilled to have Ashley Sabo join our board.

I have seen, experience, and learned a lot over the past 5 years, and I think we should be proud. There is something unique about Red Clay, and I think it has a lot to do with the culture our staff sets. My daily interactions with educators, administrators, and parents in Red Clay revealed to me a group of people who are true professionals, go way beyond the call of duty, and look to do what is best for students. And yes there have been our share of debates, but the majority of the people come to the table open minded, willing to listen and share their perspective, seeking to do what is best for our kids. I think this culture starts at the top. Attitude reflects leadership. We always need to remember that our heart of service, our motives, and our discourse is being emulated by those around us. I see this in the zeal from each of our board members, in the compassionate heart for all children from Superintendent Mervin Daugherty, and in some of the most talented people I have ever met – our district Cabinet. I have worked closely with Jill Floore, Ted Ammann, Hugh Broomall, and Sam Golder over the years, and they are some of our real unsung heros.

I hope that you take encouragement from our progress, continue to build strong relationships, and choose your battles carefully to win the wars that really make a difference. We must stand firm, continue to advocate, and work to find common ground to ensure that we provide an equitable and personalized education to every child. I look to continue our fight together for some needed reforms in education, especially our funding system.

I cannot leave without saying a few thank yous. Thank you to the board members, district and building staff, and parents who have taken the time to work together to ensure a better education for our children. I want to thank Leah Davis for her mentorship over the past 5 years, and to Rep. Kim Williams and Mike Matthews for their passionate involvement and ability to sharpen me. Lastly and most importantly to my wife Kelley who has fully supported my passion and calling to serve and for stepping up at home without one complaint.

I pray that I served and provided you the support that you needed to do your job. May God Bless you, and have a good night. This meeting is now adjourned.

Kenny also shared this on his Facebook account with the following news about his immediate future plans with Delaware education:

Last night was the completion of my 5 year term serving on the Red Clay School Board. I promise to remain active, as today I will speak to a UD program about education advocacy, tomorrow morning I will meet with Gov. Carney over the planned education cuts, and at night I will be featured on WHYY’s Delaware First program for needed school funding reform.

I met Kenny two years ago when Red Clay was voting on their opt out resolution, and later, their opt out policy.  He is a good guy and I wish him luck in his future Delaware education activities.  I have no doubt Kenny and I will cross paths in the coming months or years.

Ashley Sabo’s Must Read Public Comment To Red Clay’s Board About Kindergarten

Ashley Sabo addressed the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education tonight about a topic that is rising with grave concern to parents and educators all over the country.  Rigor and kindergarten are like oil and water.  They don’t belong together at all.  She should run for public office!

In the essay, “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten” the author writes about how all the things we need to know for living life are learned in kindergarten, not in graduate level classes or adulthood, but in that primary year of our schooling. The things he says we learn are: share everything, play fair, don’t hit, put things back where you found them, clean up your mess, say sorry when you hurt someone, live a balanced life – learn some, think some, draw and paint, sing and dance, and play and work every day.  And wonder, never lose your sense of wonder.

As a parent of a kindergartner I have watched the joy of learning fade from her – a child who once happily grabbed her backpack and headed to the car for school now is reluctant to go and would prefer a nap on the couch despite it being 8:15 in the morning. The joy of learning is fading for the sake of rit and rigor and supposed success, when we’re really losing the success of learned social skills and dynamic imaginative play. 

Our students are no longer taught to live a balanced life with both play and work. Rather they are pushed to the limit each day with more testing and more worksheets and more rigorous academia.  Despite studies that show children who are allowed to play have higher language skills, both receptive and expressive, and better problem solving skills, school leadership continues to add on to the curriculum requirements. 

In addition to language and problem solving skills, learning through play helps children increase cognitive development, increase self-confidence, reduce anxiety, learn basic social development skills such as cooperation, sharing, and conflict resolution – all skills and traits that are necessary and critical to navigating adulthood.

I would wager a guess that a number of you, if not the majority of you, had the old-fashion type of kindergarten that allowed for naps, extra recess, more imaginative play and less seat work – and look at you all, I think you turned out pretty well, after all you are overseeing the education of thousands of children.

I implore you, the school board and district leaders, to reconsider the kindergarten curriculum and the proposed increase of scope and sequence being piloted this year. Our kids deserve to be kids and learn the best way kids do – through play!

Thank you

No, thank you Ashley Sabo for having the heart and the guts to stand before a school board and telling them basic truths.  I joked years ago that Governor Markell would set up a Smarter Balanced In Utero Assessment.  With all the Kindergarten and pre-school push lately, I may not be too far off!  But seriously, Ashley Sabo should run for office.  We need more common sense in Legislative Hall.  And any public comment that quotes Robert Fulghum is great!

No Charter Renewal For Delaware College Prep

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Last night, the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education voted unanimously not to renew the charter for Delaware College Preparatory Academy.  The Delaware charter school serves students from Kindergarten through 5th grade.  But they will be closing at the end of the year.  Will they go quietly into the night?  Or should we expect some pushback like Moyer and Reach attempted to do last year?  My guess is on the latter.  At the meeting, Delaware College Prep Head of School Angela Dennis gave public comment asking the board to keep the school open.  Another teacher gave a public comment as well.  The Board had no discussion before the vote.  Many folks in the audience came just for the Delaware College Prep decision, and they were not happy about the decision.

Rumors had been swirling over on Kilroy’s about this type of action as far back as last March.  I wrote about the Red Clay charter committee’s recommendation for non-renewal last month.  In October, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts found Delaware College Prep had some suspicious financial abuses regarding Board President Yardise Jones but nowhere near the level of abuse at Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover.

It looks like another Delaware charter is one for the books.  Tomorrow, we find out about Delaware Met.  Will any other charters get yanked this year?  With the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores not counting for last year, I would tend to doubt it unless something goes terribly awry at one of them in the next six months.

Red Clay’s board did renew the charter for Delaware Military Academy as well as approving their modification request to increase their enrollment.  But only after they made the head of school promise that this was contingent on funding to build additions to the school.  Commandant Anthony Pullella said yes.

Red Clay’s Conrad In Violation Of Board Resolution On Parent Opt-Out of Smarter Balanced Assessment

The Conrad Schools of Science just came out with their 2016 Choice Application, and sure enough, it has a twelve point rubric.  Two of the points are based on the student’s Smarter Balanced Assessment math score.  If a student was opted out by his parents, what happens with this rubric?  And so it begins.  Expect to see more of this from certain Delaware schools.  Didn’t the Red Clay board pass an opt-out resolution last Spring indicating no student would be penalized for opting out?  I believe they did.  Sounds like Superintendent Merv Daugherty needs to have a talk with this magnet school…

Delaware Opt-Out Update: Red Clay Board Needs To Pass Opt-Out Resolution Tomorrow Night, Show Your Support

Tomorrow night is the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting.  One of the action items is a parent opt out resolution introduced by board member Adriana Bohm last month.  All Red Clay parents who have either opted their children out or are planning to, need to go to this meeting and give public comment and support this measure.  If you are unable to attend, please email the board:

Kenneth Rivera, President: Kenneth.Rivera@redclay.k12.de.us

Michael Piccio, Vice-President: Mike.Piccio@redclay.k12.de.us

Adriana Bohm: Adriana.Bohm@redclay.k12.de.us

Faith Newton: Faith.Newton@redclay.k12.de.us

Catherine Thompson: Cathy.Thompson@redclay.k12.de.us

Martin Wilson: Martin.Wilson@redclay.k12.de.us

Kenneth Woods: Kenneth.Woods@redclay.k12.de.us

If Red Clay follows suit with Capital and Christina on these types of opt out resolutions, it will be very huge.  Three of the biggest school districts in the state all honoring a parents right to opt their child out of standardized testing without penalty to the student.  Do not follow Markell’s agendas about reducing “other” tests or his ploy today about remedial college class waivers for students scoring well on the Smarter Balanced.  He is doing this because the opt out numbers are growing by the day.  And when a legislator publicly announced they were opting their high school junior out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, look what Jack did a week and a half later.

Red Clay Board and Parents: Delaware education needs you.  Our 148th General Assembly needs you (even though some of them don’t know it yet).  But most important, our children need you.  Do the right thing!