Jaques And Sokola Emails Actually Reveal Levels Of Collusion & Deception At High Levels…But From Who?

An email from Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques and State Senator David Sokola sheds new light on the district-charter funding debacle that has taken over Delaware education talk in the past week.  Meanwhile, the News Journal came out with another article on the issue that is sure to confuse everyone.

In the below email sent from Jaques to the House Education Committee, he gives a timeline of the events from the point in time he got involved in the issue and clarifies when Secretary of Education Dr. Stephen Godowsky found out about this.  He also put in a reply Sokola sent to a constituent regarding the issue which has some very accusatory statements toward Christina School District.

From: Jaques, Jr, Earl (LegHall) Sent: Thursday, September 1, 2016 2:41 PM To: Bentz, David (LegHall); Bolden, StephanieT (LegHall); Dukes, Timothy (LegHall); Heffernan, Debra (LegHall); Hensley, Kevin S (LegHall); Williams, Kimberly (LegHall); Kenton, Harvey (LegHall); Lynn, Sean M (LegHall); Matthews, Sean (LegHall); Miro,   Joseph (LegHall); Osienski, Edward (LegHall); Potter, Jr, Charles (LegHall); Ramone, Michael (LegHall) Cc: Schwartzkopf, Peter (LegHall); Sokola, David (LegHall)

Subject: School Funding Formula  

House Education Committee Members,   Late last week I received notice about  a formula change between Charter Schools and our traditional Public Schools. I immediately called and talked with Secretary Godowsky to see if what I heard was correct and if so why was this change being made.  I was told by him that yes a change was proposed and he wasn’t aware of this change until just the day before.  On a side note, I wasn’t very happy to hear about this – since I and Dr. Godowsky just had breakfast only a couple of days before this news broke and no mention of this was discussed by him to me!  I was told by Dr. Godowsky that he has put a hold on any possible changes to the funding formula until there are complete discussionswith all stakeholders.  I then called Governor Markell to voice both my concern and outrage   at how this proposed change was brought forward with no regards to public input, transparency or discussion with either myself or Senator Sokola. I then called Superintendent Burrows, this year’s head of the chiefs, and was assured by him that no discussions between the “chiefs” and DOE regarding this change had occurred.  Their only acknowledgement came when they starting receiving bills from the charter schools and subsequently called DOE to find out what was going on.  On the very next day I was at a public event with Governor Markell.  He reinstated to me that no actions regarding the funding formula will occur this year and any discussions on this subject will be transparent and inclusive. Again, I followed up with Secretary Godowsky, requesting  that any changes to the   formula would require an open, transparent and inclusive process involving all stakeholders and plenty of public input. Today, there was a story in the News Journal that you might want to read to gain more insight.   

In addition, I have attached below part of an email that Senator Sokola sent to one of his constituents which gives very good details and background on the formula mechanism.  Although, his email talks about the Christina School District, I want to remind   you that this formula applies to all public schools across our state.

“It turns out that the funding formula has not changed, and the Secretary does not have the authority to change the formula that is in the code. There have been times over the years when there have been disputes about how the formula works, and apparently   we have one now. The dispute relates to the part of the code that allows for certain exemptions from the money that “follows the child” to a Choice or Charter alternative. The code allows for 4 specific areas and then has some general language that allows   a district to petition the Secretary of Education to allow for additional exemptions of local operating funds, and to sign off on those itemized expenses. The Christina District increased that line from under $700 thousand to about $9.2 million since 2011,   and has not asked the Secretary for approval of the increased exemptions. No other district in NCC has had anything but nominal changes in that time frame. The money in question also has nothing to do with the Autism Program or the Program for the Hearing   Impaired that are managed by Christina. It is my understanding that any action from the Secretary at this time is on hold, however Christina still has a legal obligation to specify those expenses beyond the 4 that are in the code that should be exempt, and   to have a formal sign off by the Secretary. I have supported for quite some time a weighted student funding policy, and would hope that we could make more progress on such a funding system. The money needs to specifically follow a student to a school, which   is not done well in Delaware including in Christina. Dispute resolution should be done by some mutually agreed upon mechanism, or one established in the code. If there still is not agreement, we have constitutionally protected separation of powers, and the legal system would be the mechanism of last resort. That is generally not a win-win result for the parties who are in disagreement.

The specific funding issues you mentioned can certainly be submitted to the Secretary and the district needs to be open, transparent and detailed with the financial records to make their case. The Secretary will be willing to consider the specific lines   of exemption that CSD has the legal obligation to propose. He would be negligent if he did not follow his statutory authority to review any specific exemptions proposed by CSD, and CSD would be negligent by not specifically submitting line items of proposed   exemptions to the formula that is in the code. If CSD does not make specific proposals, the district is at risk of legal action that the legislature and the Secretary are constitutionally barred from intervening in. My hope and advice to the Secretary has   been to give broad discretion to the specifics identified by Christina, and that we could have that open, transparent and inclusive process involving all stakeholders to clarify the financial obligations of a sending district to the various choice options   made by students and families.”  

As I receive additional information regarding this subject I will keep you informed…  

Earl Jaques

Chair, House Education Committee

So how is that Sokola tells a constituent that Christina performed this horrible deed but the News Journal doesn’t mention it once?  Sokola is saying Christina purposely withheld submitting their exclusions from the Delaware DOE.  Jaques states Appoquinimink Superintendent Matt Burrows didn’t know about this situation unfolding since last April until recently.  So how is it that the DOE asked the districts for this information in April as suggested by Saranac Spencer, the author of the News Journal article?  Actually, it was in May based on the below timeline.

In order to try to unify the system, the department began considering adjustments to the formula in April, when it asked districts across the state for an inventory of the exclusions they claim.

The actual timeline of events is as follows:

March 11th: Newark Charter School Head of School Greg Meece meets with Acting Christina Superintendent Bob Andrzjewski to discuss the upcoming Christina referendum and payments from Christina to NCS. (source: Newark Charter School March 2016 Board Minutes)

Early April 2016: NCS representatives Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, and Stephen Dressel meet with Associate Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman to discuss exclusions in the funds Christina sends to NCS.  The DOE indicates all exclusions will require approval from the Secretary of Education. (Source NCS April and May Board minutes)

April 8th: DOE holds District Business Manager’s meeting where the subject of district exclusions is brought up with District Chief Financial Officers.

May 2016: DOE sends out notices to District CFOs to send lists of their exclusion items in their local school budgets.

Mid-May: Kathleen Davies put on leave as Auditor of Accounts at Delaware State Auditor’s office.

August 8th: DOE sends out letters to District CFOs stating what exclusions are allowable and which aren’t.

Week of August 16th: Districts start receiving bills from charter schools for projected students choicing to charters from their districts.

August 19th: Secretary Godowsky finds out about situation going on with charter school payments from districts.

Week of Augusts 23rd: Word on situation slowly trickles out to school administration and some boards.

August 27th: Exceptional Delaware breaks news of a coming change in the way districts pay charters based on an approval from Secretary Godowsky, blogger was given information from various sources about changes regarding restricted funds being moved to non-restricted funds, no information given to blogger about specific exclusions.

August 28th: Legislators pound Godowsky who informs them there will be no change in the funding structure this year.

August 31st: News Journal covers story and states districts may have to adhere to the exemption list from the August 8th letter.

September 1st: NCS Board President Stephen Dressel writes letter to NCS parents alleging wrongdoing from Christina and a “few other districts”, states this isn’t a change in the formula for local cost per student but a correction, commenter on Facebook alleges parents from Las Americas ASPIRA also received a similar letter.

September 1st: Another News Journal article quotes DOE Spokeswoman Alison May as stating they may not be able to change this because bills already went out from charters to districts.

September 1st: Email from Earl Jaques to House Education Committee references a change in the formula, not a correction, email also has Sokola accusing Christina of not sending approval for exclusions to Secretary since 2011 for what was a $700,000 amount then which is now $9.2 million.

Here is the question no one seems to be addressing though.  What is the amount in that discretionary budget was approved once and didn’t have to be again?  When a district goes out for a referendum, it asks taxpayers to help the district pay for certain things.  What if Christina had a referendum at one point in time, designated a specific amount for what would become an exclusion in their local budget, and the DOE approved it.  Say that was 10 cents for every $100 of assessed property value.  As Sokola alleges, Christina kept shoving money into this fund causing it to rise over $8 million dollars.  But that 10 cents from a referendum, which becomes a part of the district’s local funds would certainly grow over time.  In 2010, Christina narrowly won a referendum.  But it stands to reason some of those designated funds could go into this “discretionary” bucket in their budget.  Which would certainly build up over time.  If the DOE approved this in July 2010, which would have been Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery, then that exclusion would not have to be approved every year.  That portion of the tax payments sent in from residents would just keep building in that bucket.  So Sokola’s allegation that Christina was willfully withholding payments from the charters by shoving money in this hidden bucket is blatantly false.

Now the big question is what started this runaway train.  Yes, charters have lobbied for more money from districts for years.  No one is arguing that.  But they were not going after these discretionary amounts approved by the Secretary of Education.  They wanted a share of the food services revenue the districts received, which is explicitly exempt from being a part of the payments made to charter schools since they have their own food programs which they get funds from at a federal, state, and local level.  So how would Greg Meece know to look for this one specific thing and start a chain of events that led up to now?  I’m working on that answer as we speak and I expect I will know the answer to that one in the next couple of weeks.

What leads me to believe Christina wasn’t “stuffing” money away into this secret account is also the reaction of one man to all of this.  If the DOE sent out these notices about the exclusion items last May, Christina CFO Bob Silber would have been freaking out back then about it.  If he knew the direction this was heading, he would have planned for it in their FY2017 budget, which he clearly did not.  From many people I’ve talked to in the district, Silber didn’t start freaking out until the district received the DOE letter stating what the new exclusions were and when the charter bills started rolling in.  Which leads me to think he wouldn’t have had to keep getting approval for the exclusions he put in this bucket based on a referendum allocation, approved by then Secretary Lowery, which would, over the years, increase this bucket.

In the meantime, I have to wonder why Sokola would specifically mention the year 2011 to this constituent he replied to.  That is crucial to all of this under my theory.  It makes Christina look really guilty.  Why would Sokola make Christina appear to be guilty?  I think we all know the answer to that one.  Which confirms my suspicion about his involvement in all of this.  His incessant talk in this email about legal action if Christina doesn’t comply and who can do what and when and where shows he is been looking into this for much longer than anyone else has.  Sokola is not an attorney.  He worked at DuPont for many years.  Is he smart though?  Yes.  Devious?  Hell yes.  Would he be able to paint a picture showing Christina as a district that was denying money to charter schools, especially Newark Charter School, who was “denied” one million dollars this year if this “finding” doesn’t work out in their favor?  He did in his email to the constituent.

I would go so far as to say there is an integrity issue with Sokola at this point.  The ethics involved with this whole mess certainly lend a certain weight to Sokola and Meece being the brains behind all of this.  Jaques wasn’t involved in this based on what he wrote in his email.  But he made it a point to include what Sokola wrote as part of his email which lended considerable weight to perception of this issue.  For that, I have to wonder what Jaques knew and when he knew it.

Is this the end of this?  Probably not.  Someone will come on here and say I have it backwards and I’m theorizing all of  this.  That’s certainly an option.  But at the very least, this opens the door to careful inspection about what the Secretary of Education approves and if it is for exclusions in the local restricted budgets for districts based on referendum amounts, does that item need continuous approval from the Secretary.  I don’t believe it does.

 

 

Charter Bias, Bad Math & Lack Of Integrity Shine In News Journal Article About District-Charter Funding War

The News Journal just put up an article on the charter school funding scam and their bias towards charters is painfully clear.

Saranac Spencer has just proven herself as one of the worst education reporters in the history of Delaware.  First off, I know you reached out to more people than Alison May, Bob Silber, Greg Meece, Kendall Massett, and two legislators for this article.  Second of all, you didn’t research the facts behind this story at all.  If the charter supporters were so shocked by the reversal of the Delaware DOE’s decision because they planned for it in their budgets, didn’t that throw up a major red flag for you?  The districts didn’t know about this at all until last week.  Charters planned their budgets months ago.  Doesn’t that point you in a direction of collusion Ms. Spencer?  Do you even know how to investigate an issue?  I know you read my blog post.  You completely ignored the fact this was done in closed-door meetings at the DOE by a rogue Associate Secretary of Education and Secretary Godowsky didn’t even know about this until last week.  That was the true story here.  But you used the word transparency once in the article.

Furthermore, the DOE didn’t “begin looking into this in April”.  It was brought to them by Greg Meece and his merry band of firestarters over at Newark Charter School.  Or, as you put it, the beneficiary of $1 million dollars in this debacle.  The fact that the DOE is in negotiations on this matter after Secretary Godowsky told legislators this would NOT happen this year shows them to be proven liars, yet again.

May said Wednesday night that the department was in discussions with district and charter leaders that would determine which formula would ultimately be used this year.

And what you didn’t even touch on is the fact that the DOE (or is it?) is eliminating the match tax allocations from a restricted status.  Yeah, you forgot that VERY big part.

For the 2016 fiscal year, the district had excluded $9.3 million. Under the adjusted formula for the 2017 fiscal year, it would only be able to exclude about $650,000.

Actually publishing this elusive formula would help.  Did you even bother to look at Christina’s budget to see what that means?  What programs and district services would have to be cut for Christina students?  Take away from poor students so the more affluent students at Newark Charter can get more “cafetoriums” and Title I awards when they aren’t even a Title I school?  And before some NCS parent or teacher says “that is federal money”, you’re missing my point.  No.  Not one mention of that.  It’s all about what the poor charters aren’t getting.  Poor Greg Meece.  Boo-Hoo.  Poor Kendall Massett.  Boo-friggin-Hoo.  Ms. Spencer didn’t even bother to see what those cuts are and what they will mean.  She took the side of the charter advocates and didn’t even ask the districts what their opinion was.  That is bad journalism and in very poor taste on a controversial issue.  I  got lambasted by those “charter school supporters” because my article wasn’t “true journalism”.  Guess what, your article was not true journalism.  Not even close.  I have a good excuse.  This is a blog.  But you, you represent the largest newspaper in the state.  And your taking sides is not a good work ethic or even close to journalistic integrity.  How about the News Journal starts to really investigate what goes on in this state instead of being a public relations vessel for the DOE and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  It is getting really old.

But the worst bit of sloppiness in the article is the fact that THE NUMBERS DON’T ADD UP!  If you look at Christina’s preliminary FY2017 budget, there is something very wrong with her figures.  To anyone who decides to look up their budget, it shows over $49 million in Christina’s local restricted budget.  Now I can figure out where she got her $9.3 million figure from very clearly.  But to the readers of the News Journal who don’t happen to venture over here or bother to look up their budget, it paints a picture that Christina is skewing their numbers by 94%.  That is just bad journalism.  When the true story, based on what the charters are claiming to be true, is a very different percentage.  That comes out to 17.8% if  you take the TOTAL restricted funds they have of $48,389,296 by the very disputable $8.6 million the charters are claiming to be shortchanged from.  See what they did there?  Painting a picture like that on an already controversial issue is very deceptive.  It makes me wonder who in editorial is doing the fact-checking and let’s this hack work through to the printing press.

FY2016&2017CSD

If you subtract $650,000 from $9.3 million, you get $8,650,000.  Which number in this scenario shows $9,306,899?  That would be salary and wages.  But what the News Journal seems to forget is the fact that this district had a referendum last year.  And certain funds were earmarked out of the referendum revenue they will get to support the promises from that referendum.  Like restoring positions they cut when they lost their referendum attempts last year.  Which they have to do.  But the News Journal Lois Lane wannabe doesn’t bother to look into that important detail.

State Rep. Paul Baumbach plays the wishy-washy side here.

“The main concern is not that we are looking at the formula,” said state Rep. Paul Baumbach, D-Newark. “The main concern is that too few eyes were looking at the formula.”

So whose responsibility is that?  What Rep. Baumbach fails to mention here is who has determined the formula for many years.  It is not the Delaware Department of Education.  It is the Office of Management and Budget, which comes out of the Governor’s office.  I pointed out in an article last night there was something very wrong with Christina jumping from $2.4 million to $7.3 million in payments to Newark Charter School over a three-year time span.  Especially when Newark Charter’s students that choiced from Christina only went from 1200 to 2000 in the same timeframe.  For a formula that hasn’t changed in well over a decade, except for minor inflation costs, that sure is one hell of a leap.  What has the Office of Management and Budget been doing with this formula?  Was this the same Office of Management and Budget that forced the Delaware Auditor of Accounts Office that forced Kathleen Davies to be put on leave?  The Auditor of Accounts for Delaware who was investigating charter schools in various inspections at the time?  One of which just so happened to be Newark Charter School?  I know that is a fact because I gave them the tip!  It looks to me like Newark Charter School has benefitted from this elusive formula for years!  Betcha didn’t know that very important fact Ms. Spencer!

The News Journal only mentions Baumbach and State Rep. Kim Williams as the legislators who reached out to Godowsky last Sunday.  There were many more.

But the topping on this farce of an article was the quote from Kendall Massett, of the lobbyist Delaware Charter Schools Network.

“This should not be a district-charter fight,” Massett said. “It’s about equity.”

Equity?  Coming from a paid lobbyist?  This woman has the unmitigated gall to bring up equity?  When she knows exactly what Newark Charter School does?  My God Kendall, please, just stop.  Equity and equality are too very different things.  Equity in this conversation would be closing down Newark Charter School based on their 21st Century racism, discrimination, and social engineering.  It is RACISM folks.  They can say they are coming around to it now, but the way their school is structured now with their demographics, it would take years for them to turn this discrimination factory around.  It is the affluent keeping out the unwanted.  It is segregation.  The very same school that will get more money and wants to cry poor?  When they just spent over $1.4 million dollars on a STEM lab and a performing arts center (or cafetorium as some may want to call it), when they refused to let a disabled six year old girl apply for their precious lottery until we beat them up over that?  Or when they get Federal money designed for Title I schools and they aren’t EVEN A TITLE I SCHOOL?  And our Delaware DOE was the one that submitted them for the award?  And they only qualified because the surrounding district was Title I?  The fact that this school applied for grant money, DOE performance funds, and a minor modification for a “performing arts center” that is actually a cafeteria and an auditorium already shows their inability to tell the truth.  And people just keep handing them dollar after dollar, and they want more.  Wake up!  Don’t you see what is going on here?

If this goes through tomorrow, Secretary Godowsky will have gone back on his word to the General Assembly legislators.  When he knew about this is immaterial at this point.  He knows about it now.  And if he does go through with it, we all know it isn’t even him making this decision.  It is Governor Jack Markell.  If this doesn’t go through, and things stay on course with our largest media outlet in the state heavily slanted on the charter side of the equation, it will happen eventually.  For a state that wants to do soooo much to help our kids in poverty and who are considered at-risk, we sure have a funny way of showing it.

WEIC Needs To Make Sure Current Education Funding Is Legit First & A Message For Candidates

As I plow head-first into Delaware education funding, I am finding inconsistencies galore!  Now that the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission has “officially” voted to suspend the timeline based on the Delaware General Assembly crafting legislation which essentially kicks the can for just another year, they have also been charged with taking another look at the fiscal impact.  The News Journal came out with an article on this today.  My advice to WEIC: make sure the education funding we already have is being used properly before you dive into weighted funding formulas for Delaware at-risk students.

Dan Rich, the policy advisor for WEIC from the University of Delaware, had this to say about weighted funding:

“That’s a key piece,” Rich said. “The top priority for funding is not for redistricting, per se, but for providing funding for the kids at greatest risk.”

It is a key piece of a puzzle that has thousands of pieces and no one has made sure the pieces fit together.  Some districts and charters are not spending money wisely, or even ethically.  We all know this, but in Delaware we have become a “hear nothing, do nothing” state.  With the simple art of just not listening and ignoring the people of the state, our leaders in Government look the other way.  They don’t want to deal with the corruption and fraud, and not just in education.

But according to Rich, he wants to bring outside organizations into this convoluted mess in our schools.  Saranac Hale Spencer from the News Journal wrote:

While the commission examines the fiscal impact of the plan in the coming months, it will also be working on other things, Rich said, explaining that it has begun mapping out the kinds of educational services offered by Wilmington institutions. A number of organizations offer resources to students and schools, but they aren’t necessarily in communication with each other.

It will also be looking to other communities to see how they have connected those assets to support schools and, in a similar project, it will be looking at the various state and local policies that affect poor families and children to see how they align and how they are funded.

Let me be crystal clear: I am all for better schools.  I think every student deserves a chance at success, even the most at-risk students.  But when the system is already broken, through federal, state and district mandates, and a funding system that has no checks and balances already, why the hell would we try something new and unproven (for Delaware)?  If we can’t control education funding now with proper oversight and audits of our districts and charters, why would we add to the existing mess?  We can’t guarantee funding is going to the right places now.  And some (many in power) want to add more funding to that?

This is the biggest problem in Delaware.  Everyone always has a solution to move forward, but they leave the old wreckage behind and try to cover it up.  It’s still there, rotting under the surface.  If the foundation is rotten, nothing anyone says or does will fix anything.  We all know this, but nothing changes.  Until we take the current system apart and find the cracks in the foundations and fix them, no new funding mechanism is going to change anything.  I know what it means if this happened.  It takes courage for this to happen.  It takes courage for enough of us to step up and demand this from our state.  Sending emails with everyone and their mother cc’ed on it doesn’t work.  We know this.  We need to take this to the next level.  Some of us are taking those next steps.  But if you are reading this, comment.  Come up with ideas.  Beyond the “request a meeting and talk about it behind closed doors when nothing ever gets accomplished”.  Beyond the next task force that will come up empty-handed.  We need to start asking the big questions, but more importantly, the right questions.  This is not a teacher issue.  This is not a student issue.  These are administration issues.  Financial issues.  That go way beyond a miscoding here and there.  We can pretend this isn’t really going on, but it is.  Our state knows about it.  The DOE knows a lot of this.  And our State Auditor most certainly knows about it.  It isn’t just a district or a charter thing.  It is all of it.  It is time to rip the Band-Aides off the rotting flesh and expose.  Who is in?

In the meantime, John Carney weighed in on the whole WEIC thing with what amounts to his usual hum-drum responses with absolutely no backbone behind anything.

His likely successor, U.S. Rep. John Carney, who is running on the Democratic ticket for governor, hasn’t committed to keeping that money in the budget.

He said in a prepared statement, “I am, however, committed to doing whatever is necessary to give every child the quality education they deserve, particularly those facing the kinds of obstacles WEIC is most concerned about.”

I’m sorry Mr. Carney, but at this point in the game, you should be coming up with ideas of your own and not relying on others to come up with them.  You are running for Governor!  Not the school student council.

So with that being said, I am offering an invitation to all the candidates running for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Congress.  I am inviting you all to an education forum on The Green, in front of Legislative Hall.  There will be no admission for the public.  Please commit a few hours for this.  I’ll do the legwork and get the people there.  We need to hear from all of you about what your plans are for education in our state.  My email address is kevino3670@yahoo.com.  Let’s all coordinate a date so ALL of you can make it, before the primary.  And let’s do this soon.  Let’s also do this before school starts.  Do your homework, formulate your positions.  And know that we are going to ask the tough questions without any easy answers.  You won’t know what they are beforehand.  Education is too important to have your staff come up with the answers for you.  If you want to lead, then know what you are leading.  If any of you email me and say “I can’t make it but I would love to sit down with you and discuss education with you”, then in my mind you aren’t willing to go that extra step for the people of this state.

So if the following candidates could email me with five possible dates, in the early evening, between now and August 19th.  Yes, time is short.  It is less than two months before the primaries.  And less than four months until the General Election.  But I want to hear from ALL of you.  The people do as well.  And Mr. Carney, please do not ignore this.  As the front-runner for Governor, you are who I want to hear from the most.  We need to know you won’t be a rubber stamp for Jack Markell’s very damaging policies.  We also don’t want you thinking this is going to be an easy ride for you.  And Jack Markell, I would respectfully ask you to please stay out of this.  You had your time.  It’s ending.  It is time for new and better ideas.

John Carney

Colin Bonini

Lacey Lafferty

Sean Goward

Lisa Blunt Rochester

Mike Miller

Bryan Townsend

Elias Weir

Hans Reigle

Scott Gesty

Sherry Dorsey-Walker

Brad Eaby

Greg Fuller

Bethany Hall-Long

Kathleen McGuiness

Ciro Poppiti

La Mar Gunn

I can tell you right now, weekends and Mondays are out.  This could be your chance to truly leave a mark on this election.  Your audience will want to hear what you are going to do, not what you have done.  Yes, your many accomplishments are important.  But we need a change for the future.  This is your chance to shine.  Not in front of a group of wealthy people who can afford an expensive plate.  This is you getting real, with real people.  This debate is not sponsored by anyone.  It is a grassroots gathering, outside.  No microphones.  Just people talking.  I encourage as many Delaware residents who can make it to attend.

I won’t assume all of you read this article, so I will be emailing you and contacting all of you tomorrow.

 

An Open Letter To Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick

Yesterday, Saranac Spencer with the News Journal posted an article about the ongoing litigation against the Brandywine School District.  Patrick Wahl, the father of a son in the district, filed a lawsuit against the district earlier this year based on due process issues arising from a school suspension and what Wahl believes was a violation of due process rights regarding a search and seizure. This is the first time, to my knowledge, Brandywine Superintendent Dr. Mark Holodick has publicly commented on the matter.  Today, Patrick Wahl issued a response to Holodick’s challenge to Wahl.

The News Journal reported this exchange at the end of their article:

So far, Wahl has spent nearly $50,000 on attorney fees, he said, and he is seeking to recover that money through the lawsuit. He is also seeking damages.

“The district questions Mr. Wahl’s motives as he continues to pursue this issue,” Holodick said in his statement. “He has stated in social media venues that he is concerned for the taxpayer as this lawsuit could result in the district spending money on attorneys, a possible settlement or damages.  If that is indeed the case, the district hopes that Mr. Wahl will sign a binding agreement to donate any monetary rewards gained from this lawsuit to a local, deserving non-profit organization, such as the Brandywine Education Foundation, which provides students scholarships and teacher grants.”

Wahl responded that he is eager to talk to the district about what he is looking for – ultimately, he said, he wants to see changes in policy regarding reasonable searches of students.

“They could have ended this a year ago,” Wahl said. “They could end it today.”

Wahl’s rebuttal to Holodick’s challenge appeared on his Facebook account today.  I did ask Mr. Wahl if it was okay to publish this along with the personal information included.  He said it was all public.

AN OPEN LETTER TO BRANDYWINE SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT DR. MARK HOLODICK

Please LIKE and SHARE so this message FINDS ITS WAY to Dr. Holodick!!!

Dear Dr. Holodick,

I read with interest your confusing comments to the News Journal, linked below.

You say, on the one hand, that you are “confident that upon the examination of the accurate record through the litigation, Mr. Wahl’s claims will be disproven.”

But on the other hand, you hope that I will sign “a binding agreement to donate any monetary rewards gained from this lawsuit to a local, deserving non-profit organization, such as the Brandywine Education Foundation, which provides students scholarships and teacher grants.”

Which is it? You’re confident that my claims will be disproven? Or you fear I’ll be awarded monetary damages? Make up your mind.

This confidence that you have — it’s the same confidence you had before the State Board hearing, right?

Dr. Holodick, you lost at the State Board. Do you remember why?

The State Board decided against you because, despite their repeated requests, you produced NO RECORDS.

Now, you say you in fact have an “accurate record” that you’ve been saving, apparently, for the courts.

Your assertion begs the question:

IF YOU HAVE THESE RECORDS, WHY DID YOU NOT PRODUCE THEM FOR THE STATE BOARD?

Did you not have a fiduciary duty to the taxpayer to produce them then upon the repeated requests of the State Board? And if you did not have them then, why did you instead use district funds to pay district counsel to argue the case you knew you would lose? Why did you not simply expunge the record, which is all we were asking for at that time? Were you just trying to exhaust and bankrupt me, hoping I would go away? Did you think the State Board was in the tank for you? Why does a parent have to go to court to see these records?

Do you understand that when the State Board said that the Brandywine School Board violated the law, they mean that YOU violated the law, Dr. Holodick? Aren’t you the Brandywine School Board’s EXECUTIVE SECRETARY? What’s going on with your board, Dr. Holodick?

Taxpayers deserve your explanation TODAY. What kind of records have you suddenly come up with, and why did you withhold them from the State Board? Are you really going to make me produce witnesses who you already know will disprove your claims? As you wish.

You made me prove that you broke the law at the State Board hearing, forcing me to hire a lawyer to get the due process to which I was entitled. So I did. I was right. You violated the law. So now the question is, how do I get those attorney fees covered which I should never have had to pay in the first place? Dr. Holodick? Hello? Are you still there?

I am EAGER to meet with you, WITH OR WITHOUT OUR LAWYERS, to discuss this BINDING AGREEMENT you suggest. My email address is pat@officemagic.com and my cell phone is (302) 229-9520. I’m waiting to hear from you for this meeting that so far, you’ve refused me — in violation of your own Code of Conduct.

You circumvented the “Grievance Procedures When a Suspension Has Occurred” on page 65 when you sicced your lawyer on me instead. See that part where you were supposed to schedule a conference with me? You know, right before the “stay-put” provision stuff which allowed Joseph to stay in school, but which you also ignored? Oddly, hearing from district counsel Mr. McMackin as I did is never mentioned in these grievance procedures.

I am happy to discuss this binding agreement in which monetary awards will go to charity, but perhaps to the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit which provides legal services at no charge to students whose constitutional rights have been violated. I’m sure you understand that while I indeed have donated to the Brandywine Education Foundation in the past, I will never, ever do so again. I noticed that Mr. John Skrobot, President of the Brandywine School Board, is on the Board of Directors of the Brandywine Education Foundation. So you are asking that the money I’m awarded be donated to the very lawbreakers I’m suing. I’m going to pass.

But you know what else, Dr. Holodick? I’ve already thought about the taxpayer. That’s why I’m suing you personally, and not just in your official capacity. Did you notice that part of the complaint? I agree with you — damages should be paid by you, Mr. Rolph, and Mr. Simmons, and not by the taxpayer. After all, as Delaware’s #1 highest paid state employee, you take home a quarter million dollars a year. Will you sign a binding agreement that any damages I’m awarded will be paid by you personally and not by the taxpayer? Hey, no worries, right? After all, you are “confident that upon the examination of the accurate record through the litigation, Mr. Wahl’s claims will be disproven.”

Now, I do want to be accurate. Your actual pay is just under a quarter million a year — $246,071.52, to be exact. Mr. Rolph and Mr. Simmons make six figures as well, just like EVERY OTHER administrator in the entire Brandywine School District. I understand there are nearly 100 such six-figure administrators in the Brandywine School District.

Are you a good risk manager? Are you aware of the district’s exposure in this case? Was it a good use of taxpayer money when you fought all the way through the State Board? Did you receive competent counsel advising you simply to expunge the record instead as I had requested and as they eventually ordered anyway? Did you reject and overrule that counsel?

You’ve already wasted a great deal of taxpayer money fighting your losing case at the State Board, and you’re going to spend exponentially more taxpayer money fighting in court. That’s what’s costing the taxpayers, not the damages you’ll pay personally.

You also know this case has little or nothing to do with your zero tolerance policy for “knives of any sort,” and everything to do with the court’s zero tolerance policy, as each and every American should have, for violations of the Constitution and of due process.

You say you want to keep the school safe. The school was not made any safer when my son was banned from its premises for a full week. If you want to keep the school safe, as we all do, I have an idea. How about the administrators know the students? Why did Mr. Rolph not know the student he was looking for? Why did Mr. Rolph not know the student he found? Does that trouble you? What are you doing about it?

I look forward to hearing from you. Let’s both put our personal differences aside and do what’s best to fix what’s wrong in the school district and resolve this case. If you will treat me with respect rather than with the contempt you’ve shown me, I will reciprocate. Again, my email is pat@officemagic.com and my cell phone is (302) 229-9520. I will be letting everyone know whether your suggestion of a binding agreement between us was sincere or was merely empty posturing in which you “question the motives” of a parent of a student whose civil rights you violated, and whose right to due process you systematically suppressed.

All I can say is “Wow!”  I can’t wait to see Dr. Holodick’s response.  I would just like to extend an invitation that if Dr. Holodick wants to channel a response through this blog, I would be more than happy to give him the chance to air his side of the story.