Red Clay taxpayers beware: You might get a sticker shock on a future tax bill! The Delaware Department of Education issued a Request For Proposal on November 28th for a “time sensitive” Facilities Condition Evaluation of all the Christina schools based in Wilmington. While I initially thought this could have been related to Christina’s recent mold issues, I found this went much deeper than that. Is this some type of surprise announcement that will come in John Carney’s State of the State address?
The schools that will be evaluated are Bancroft Elementary School, Bayard Middle School, Elbert Palmer Elementary School, Pulaski Elementary School, Stubbs Elementary School, Douglass School, and the Sarah Pyle Academy. Even the district office at the Drew Education Support Center is on the list! The smoking gun is this part:
Develop cost estimates to bring each of the above listed facilities to a similar state and with the same control systems such as building controls, camera systems, keysets, alarm, access control, phones, tech. infrastructure (switches), and wifi as Highlands Elementary School, 2100 Gilpin Avenue; Shortledge Elementary School, 100 West 18th Street; Lewis Dual Language Elementary School, 920 North Van Buren Street; Baltz Elementary School, 1500 Spruce Avenue; and DuPont Middle School, 3130 Kennett Pike.
Those are all Red Clay schools. If this were just some random facilities evaluation, there is no way there would be something to bring Christina schools up to Red Clay specifications. There is going to be a big move coming soon!
Identical to the process and methodology followed for typical school facilities assessment work, the assessment will identify any potential issues related to major building systems and building components such as the building envelope/structure, roofing, HVAC/mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, telecommunications, and security systems as well as any site improvements required to the immediate surrounding area for building access. Data generated from this effort will:
• Evaluate the above listed schools in 1. facility condition indices as compared to RCCSD facilities as listed in 2.
• Identify and prioritize required short and long term improvements
• Identify code compliance, accessibility and system coordination issues requiring immediate attention
• Identify potential energy conservation opportunities
But does the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission know about this? They are having a regular commission meeting next Wednesday at Warner Elementary School. If they don’t, boy are they in for a surprise!
As well, it looks like the Delaware Autism Program could be shifted to Red Clay as well:
Prepare a design analysis for the Christina Administrative space, Douglas Alternative School, Sarah Pyle Program and Delaware Autism Program as currently located in one of the buildings listed above.
Who is the driving force behind this? If it is John Carney, he may want to open with a huge splash by finally giving the civil rights advocates in Wilmington their hearts desire. But if this is his move, it would also be a huge smack in the face to the Red Clay taxpayers. Carney was very wishey-washey during his campaign about what he would do with the WEIC redistricting plan. He hinted at liking some of it but not all of it. But WEIC Chair Tony Allen is on his transition team. If Carney pulls this off without the General Assembly he risks alienating many of State Reps and Senators. Which may not work out in his favor with the special election for Bethany Hall-Long’s seat. That race will determine whether the Democrats or Republicans control the Delaware Senate.
Another option is Governor Jack Markell. With the time sensitive status around this and a due date for bids of December 13th, could he have the gumption to stick it to Christina one last time before he leaves office? While ticking off the taxpayers at the same time?
The RFP was authored by a Renee Harris. The only thing I found on her while doing a Google search and a State of Delaware search was related to the Tobacco Settlement from the Delaware Attorney General’s office.
No matter what this is, it is going to be something that will change the Wilmington education landscape. There is absolutely no way the DOE would issue an RFP like this without something waiting in the wings. The WEIC redistricting plan was put on hold for a year. The state isn’t overflowing in cash right now either.
**UPDATED** 12:35pm, 12/2/16: Senate Bill 300 with House Amendment 1 was what allowed the WEIC Redistricting Plan to survive. But there is key language in the amendment put forth by State Rep. Kim Williams:
The amendment removes language obligating the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and affected school districts to develop, before February 2017, a detailed assessment of the impact of transitioning City of Wilmington Students from the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. Such detailed assessment would require development of school- and student-level changes that require public input and facility analysis that cannot be completed in the timeframes in the original bill. Instead, they should be undertaken as part of the planning phase for redistricting upon commitment of necessary and sufficient funding. The amendment preserves appropriation of $200,000 to continue the work related to the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, including analysis of fiscal impacts, and language clarifying and ensuring that any additional state funding requires further action of the General Assembly.
That date of February 2017 flies in the face of this RFP. I would strongly consider a “Facilities Evaluation” part of a “detailed assessment of the impact…” for the WEIC plan. The amendment does not include the Delaware DOE though. But the original WEIC bills from 2015 do not give the Delaware DOE to have this much involvement. Something is happening…
**UPDATED** 2:04pm, 12/2/16: If you read the fiscal note for Senate Bill 200, it states the following:
- This Act is effective upon signature of the Governor.
- This Act provides a supplemental appropriation of $200,000 to establish the Wilmington Redistricting Transition Fund to assess the fiscal impact of transitioning City of Wilmington students from the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. The funding is to be used by the Red Clay Consolidated School District, in consultation with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the Christina School District, for the assessment in which said assessment is to be substantially completed on or before January 31, 2017.
- This Act also establishes a working group to review the fiscal impact assessment that is prepared by the Red Clay Consolidated School District in consultation with the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the Christina School District. The Department of Education is to provide staff support to the working group, upon request, and it is assumed that the Department will provide this support within existing resources. The working group shall submit its review by March 31, 2017 to the Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives and President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
- Funding is set aside in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget process in the amount of $200,000.
But once again, that due date was changed based on House Amendment #1 to the bill. So, once again, why is the DOE issuing an RFP with a submission due date for bids of 12/13/16 and labeling this as “time sensitive”? The key words in the amendment are this- “commitment of necessary and sufficient” funding. The amendment states this work should not take place until a time when that commitment is assured. No budget proposal will come out until towards the end of January. And a budget proposal does nothing until the General Assembly approves it. So even if folks are saying this is part of the $200,000 allocated to WEIC as a result of SB300, it appears the amendment is being completely ignored. The bill was dead before the amendment. The amendment saved WEIC. I am not convinced of anything I am hearing at this point. Whomever is directing these actions is breaking the law.
**UPDATED** 2:16pm, 12/2/16: Upon further analysis of the above amendment, it states the type of work included in this RFP should be done during the “planning phase” of the redistricting plan. As per the plan approved by the State Board of Education, the timeline consists of the following:
• December 17, 2015 to June 30, 2016 Approval Stage
• July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 Planning Stage
• July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018 Transition Stage
• July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 Implementation Stage
But because the General Assembly did not pass the legislation that would make the redistricting plan happen, they instead bumped it up a year. So the Planning Stage of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 is no longer in place. The amendment is very clear about what should happen during this stage. That planning stage can’t begin again until July 1, 2017 if the General Assembly allows for that to happen based on signed legislation. I’m just a blogger without the legal expertise the WEIC and DOE attorneys would have. But if I can clearly see that the law is not being followed, they would assuredly know.
To read the RFP, please read below: