Capital School District Board To Vote On Contract For In-School Alternative Program

The Capital School District Board of Education will be holding a special board meeting on August 8th.  Among the few items for consideration is a contract with Pathways of Delaware to run an in-school alternative program in some of Capital’s schools.  The program is meant to prevent expulsions where students are sent to alternative schools.

Whenever I see outside contracts like this, my very first thought concerns students who have special education.  Any contractor would have to follow the student’s IEP just as any district employee would.  This program is not for every student.  It is for students who are simply unable to function within a school for very serious behavior issues.  Alternative placement is very expensive for any district or charter school.

What are your thoughts on this proposal?  In reading the proposal from Pathways of Delaware, they included endorsements from the Christina School District.  Do other districts have this program?

Which Delaware Charter School Leader Called Their Students Something From An Old Polish Proverb?

A Delaware charter school leader sent an email about student climate and discipline to their staff in April.  While I understood some of the leader’s concerns, referring to your students as monkeys in a circus is probably not the wisest thing to say in this day and age.  If you don’t believe me, ask Roseanne Barr.  Even if it could possibly be explained in any context,  (see “Not My Circus Not My Monkeys” for why this is crossed out) another email sent from a former staff member only cements the racist tone of the school leader given what the school has been doing gave me some heartburn because of what it suggests. Continue reading

President Obama’s Office Releases Massive “Rethinking Discipline” Report For Schools

Today, the White House released a very long report on school discipline entitled “The Continuing Need to Rethink Discipline”.  The report has a plethora of recommendations for public schools in America.  I agree with most of them based on a cursory glance, but like many reports of this nature that I write about, it fails to recognize the fact that Common Core State Standards or other similar standards along with the high-stakes testing environment accompanying those standards are causing more problems than they are worth in our schools.  I will write more about this as I go through the report in the coming days.

The Every Student Succeeds Act addresses school discipline and how our schools carry out punishment for negative behaviors.  On Monday evening, the ESSA Discussion Group I am a member of in Delaware addressed this very issue.  As well, a Delaware newspaper is working on an extensive article about bullying in Delaware and how our schools respond to bullying reporting.

It remains unclear how the incoming Trump administration will view this report.

For now, please read the below report.

Restraint & Seclusion Report For Delaware 15-16 Is Out… Numbers Rising…

The Delaware Department of Education released the Restraint & Seclusion report for the 2015-2016 school year.  The number of physical restraints this year were 2,695, up from 2,307 in 2014-2015.  That means there were 388 more physical restraints of students last year compared to the year before.  I have to ask why everything is increasing with discipline in our schools.  I can’t help but think that Common Core really isn’t working, especially for students with disabilities.  Like last year, most of these physical restraints are going to students with disabilities and over half of them were African-American students.  The highest age group was 9-11, and boys were more likely to be restrained than girls.  You can read the full report below.  I broke it down last year, but I really don’t have the stomach for that today.

16 Who Defined 2016: Amy Joyner-Francis

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April 21st was a very dark day for Delaware.  Amy Joyner-Francis was beaten in a bathroom at Howard Technical High School in Wilmington leading to her death shortly after.  Delaware didn’t have a death like this in one of our schools since 1973.  For weeks, Delaware citizens felt the impact of Amy’s death.

What happened to Amy that day led to much-needed discussion about school safety and climate in The First State.  The perpetrators of the incident, Trinity Carr, Zion Snow, and Chakeira Wright faced criminal charges.  Snow and Wright were charged as conspirators while primary charges were filed against Carr but a judge ruled she would be tried as a juvenile.  The trial will take place in April 2017.  Many Delaware citizens felt the charges against Carr should have been bigger.  At a maximum, if found guilty of criminally negligent homicide, Carr, 16, would face community service and therapy until the age of 19.

The cause of death ruled by the medical examiner kicked off controversy.  The examiner ruled that Amy had a pre-existing heart condition which led to her death, not the severe beating she received from Carr.  Many in the field disputed these findings.

The most disturbing part about Amy’s death was the fact that many students watched this go down in a high school bathroom and did nothing.  By the time a teacher got there, it was too late for Amy.  Not touched on by major media was the fact that school monitors did not respond to the situation fast enough (if at all) and that most teachers were involved in a training class at the time of the incident.  Governor Markell issued a brief response to the murder as he went on his “Common Core Tour” at a Delaware school far away from the crime.  The New Castle County Vo-Tech School District held a press conference hours after the death proclaiming that their schools were safe.

In the first week of the incident, conflicting reports about what happened flooded online media, including this blog.  Debates over what happened, and some tried to profit off Amy’s death.  As her family and friends struggled to deal with her death, the media onslaught continued.  News quickly came out that the beating was filmed by students along with pictures taken on cell phones.  An entire state grieved for Amy.  For Amy, her life was tragically cut short in an environment where this should have never happened.  Over seven months later, her death still makes no sense…

I ask that all continue to pray for Amy’s family and friends as they face the holidays, especially her parents.  No parent should outlive their child and it is a weight that will never leave them.

Dramatic Rise in Expulsions, Weapons, Fighting, Pornography, and Drug Use At Delaware Schools

The Delaware Dept. of Education released figures on School Conduct for the 2015-2016 school year.  In nearly every category there was an increase over the 2014-2015 school year.  One notable exception is a decrease in bullying reporting.  I contribute that not to a real decrease in bullying but schools not reporting incidents as bullying.  That has been an ongoing trend in Delaware.  Offensive touching and fighting/disorderly conduct went up dramatically over the year before.  Pornography and Production more than doubled.  These are very disturbing trends.  What is going on in our schools and districts?  What is happening to students that these numbers keep going up and up?  It will be interesting to see these numbers in a year now that legislation passed where schools don’t have to call the police for many incidents such as fighting/disorderly conduct.

I will attempt to break this down by district and charter schools, and then each school.  That is a lot of hours to do, so please be patient.  None of these reports break down sub-groups or demographics in these offenses and incidents.  So we are unable to see the race or ethnic breakdowns for these or if the students were special education or English Language learners.  The first numbers are for the 2015-2016 year followed by numbers from the 2014-2015 year.

SCHOOL CRIMES

Violent Felonies: 137 (138)

Gun-Free School Offenses- Handgun, Rifle, Shotgun, Starter Gun, Explosives/Incendiary Device: 16 (8)

Weapons Offense: Destructive Weapon, Dangerous Weapon, Dangerous Instrument, Pellet Gun, BB Gun, Knife, Razor Blade/Box Cutter, Brass Knuckles, Bat, Club, Martial Arts Throwing Star: 238 (196)

Drug Offenses: 582 (556)

Assault III: 373 (264)

Unlawful Sexual Contact: 56 (26)

Terroristic Threatening Employee Victim: 0 (0)

School Offenses: 0 (0)

 

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION OFFENSES

Pornography- Possession and Production: 50 (22)

Criminal Mischief (Vandalism): 434 (316)

Alcohol, Possession and Use: 88 (80)

Drug Use/Influence: 320 (294)

Felony Theft ($1,500 or more): 2 (4)

Bullying: 1,260 (1,320)

Offensive Touching of a Student: 8,156 (6,134)

Terroristic Threatening of a Student: 752 (560)

Sexual Harassment: 272 (246)

Fighting/Disorderly Conduct: 10,450 (8,680)

Inhalants: 10 (2)

Drug Paraphernalia: 176 (148)

Tobacco Possession and/or use: 686 (782)

Medications- Inappropriate Possession and/or use: 58 (56)

Under 12- Assault III Student Victim: 66 (22)

Under 12- Assault III Employee Victim: 22 (22)

Under 12- Unlawful Sexual Contact III Student Victim: 18 (6)

Under 12- Unlawful Sexual Contact III Employee Victim: 2 (0)

Offensive Touching Employee Victim: 1,217 (808)

Terroristic Threatening Employee Victim: 324 (188)

Teen Dating Violence: 6 (8)

Tampering With Public Records: 0 (0)

 

SUSPENSIONS/EXPULSIONS:

Suspensions (Out of School and In School): 49,629 (47,473)

Expulsions: 123 (95)

Days Suspended/Expelled: 114,666 (98,020)

Unduplicated Students Suspended/Expelled: 17,258 (16,852)

Student Enrollment (9/30/15): 136,027 (134,932)

Percent of Students Suspended/Expelled (Out of School and In School): 13% (12%)

Suspensions (Out of School): 27,372 (25,151)

Days Out of School for Suspension and Expulsion (one day or more): 89,983 (72,848)

Unduplicated Students Suspended (one day or more) or Expelled: 12,063 (11,557)

Percent of Students Suspended (out of school) or Expelled: 9% (9%)

 

SUSPENSIONS/EXPULSIONS BY CATEGORY:

Department of Education Offenses: 10,359 (8,623)

School Violations: 38,651 (38,292)

School Crimes: 739 (653)

 

EXPULSIONS BY SERVICES PROVIDED:

Expulsion with CDAP placement: 54 (44)

Expulsion with services: 45 (31)

Expulsion without services: 24 (20)

 

My Thoughts On The Charges Against Amy’s Murderer And The Accomplices

As I’m sure most of America has heard, the Delaware Department of Justice filed charges against three teenagers involved in Amy Joyner-Francis’ murder two and a half weeks ago at Howard High School of Technology.  There is absolutely no mention of Amy’s head being slammed into the bathroom sink even though some reports stated that at the onset.  Only one girl, Trinity Carr, actually hit Amy.  She has been charged with criminally-negligent homicide.  The other two helped plan the assault up to twenty hours earlier.  But the true shocker was that Amy had a pre-existing heart condition.

According to the News Journal article linked above:

Investigators determined that the fight was a planned confrontation in the girl’s bathroom, but only one girl – 16-year-old Trinity Carr – actually hit Amy that day, according to a statement by the DOJ. The fight was filmed, according to court documents, and shows Carr hitting Amy repeatedly in the head and torso area with “what what appears to be a closed fist.”

The video then shows Carr leave and Amy attempt to stand up from the floor, according to court documents. Amy then appears disoriented, court papers say, and collapses back to the floor. When paramedics found her, she was unresponsive and went into cardiac arrest shortly after.

Knowing what really happened won’t take away the pain and sadness surrounding all this.  It won’t bring back Amy who apparently didn’t know this was coming.  Just a sweet, innocent teenage girl going to school one day.  The question is how many others knew about it.  I am still upset no one else in that bathroom intervened.  I’m assuming her heart condition was private as that has never been mentioned before.  If the intent was there to do bodily harm to Amy, what did Carr think would happen?  While they may not have planned actual murder, how is this “criminally negligent”?  Our justice systems works in funny ways.  Why did it take two and a half weeks when the police had the video the entire time to arrest Carr?  At the very least, the evidence clearly shows an assault.

Trinity Carr, Zion Snow, and Chakeira Wright will have to live with what they did every single day for the rest of their life.  Carr will most likely spend what should be some of the best years of her life in prison.  Snow and Wright will probably be in juvenile detention while their classmates are going to the prom and graduating.  But no amount of justice will ever make any of this alright.  Amy will never have the opportunity for any of those things.  I really hope this is a wake-up call for all of us in Delaware.  We need to make sure this never happens again, and that includes the adults.

Tim Furlong with NBC Philadelphia gave a bit more detail about what happened after the fight:

After the fight, Joyner-Francis complained about head and chest pain. A school resource officer called 911 and Joyner-Francis lost consciousness before medics arrived. CPR was performed as she was flown to a nearby children’s hospital. She later died at the hospital.

Where was this school resource officer during the fight?  I understand fights can happen fast, but where were any adults during this assault?  That is the question no one is asking.  I challenged the district about this a couple of weeks ago.  It was important to clarify their board meeting change, but in regards to my other concerns, they completely ignored them.  Last week I saw the Superintendent of the district for Howard High School, Dr. Gehrt.  She knows who I am cause I’ve seen her at many meetings where I gave public comment.  I saw her at the assessment inventory meeting at the Delaware DOE.  Usually she gives me a smile.  At this meeting, she could only scowl at me.  I’ll take my lumps where I get them.  But at least own up to… something.

Amy’s death affected me immensely, and I didn’t even know the poor girl.  She is a memorial to what we need to fix in our schools.  We can’t stop what happens outside of school, but we can make sure Amy’s death is a living testament to change.  I haven’t heard one word about school climate from those in power.  We have seen plenty in social media comments, but once again it is an empty echo chamber from the decision-makers in our state.  Our legislators have been strangely quiet on the issue.  The Delaware DOE, the State Board of Education, and Governor Markell have been eerily quiet about the situation.  Perhaps things will start to happen now that the investigation is over and charges have been filed.  All I know is something has to happen.  We can’t have another Amy, or all the many living victims of bullying and assault in our schools.  It has to stop.

Statewide Code Of Conduct For Delaware? Journey Back 24 Years Ago To The Report On It

School climate is becoming an issue again.  We have a couple bills pending in the Delaware General Assembly.  We had a brutal murder at one of our high schools two and a half weeks ago.  What if we all got together and really took a look at all of this?  We did that 24 years ago in Delaware.  There are some interesting suggestions in here.  If you are confused about the Department of Public Instruction, don’t worry.  This is the former Delaware Department of Education.

Why I Want Your Vote For The Capital School Board

TwitterAnnouncement

For those who haven’t heard, I am jumping into the fire!  Anyone reading this blog knows my stances on education.  Is it enough though?  We need change and we need it now.

These are the reasons I am running.  I will tackle each reason below.

  1. Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District.
  2. Every student needs to be treated as an individual and not a test score.
  3. Our middle schools need a lot of help.
  4. We need more fiscal transparency and accountability.
  5. Low-Income Students.
  6. The Every Student Succeeds Act.
  7. Student Data.
  8. More participation from parents in the district.
  9. Special Education.
  10. More participation in state legislative matters.
  11. Charter schools within our district.
  12. Kindergarten.
  13. Support for our teachers.
  14. Ensuring opt out of standardized testing is honored as a parental right.
  15. More focus on the arts.
  16. Perception of the district.
  17. Perception of Dover as a result of the district.
  18. Oversight of the Delaware Department of Education and the United States Department of Education.
  19. Leadership

CapitalSchoolBoardPoster

“Far too many Dover residents don’t want to send their child to Capital School District” Continue reading

Delaware DOE Responds To Current Discipline Issues At Delaware Met

Yesterday, I wrote an article about some very concerning events at Delaware Met.  I emailed the Delaware Department of Education about these concerns, along with legislators, Governor Markell, and Attorney General Matt Denn.  State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked the DOE to look at the amount of in-school suspensions as well to which Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman responded today:


From: Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
To:
Baumbach Paul <paul.baumbach@state.de.us>; Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
Cc:
Nagourney Jennifer <Jennifer.Nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>; Denn Matthew <matthew.denn@state.de.us>; Williams Kimberly <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Kowalko John <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Matthews Sean <sean.matthews@state.de.us>; Gray Teri <teri.gray@sbe.k12.de.us>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <susan.haberstroh@doe.k12.de.us>; Young Shana <Shana.Young@doe.k12.de.us>; Carwell John <john.carwell@doe.k12.de.us>; Whalen Michelle <Michelle.Whalen@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent:
Friday, October 23, 2015 2:32 PM
Subject:
RE: Delaware Met

Representative Baumbach,

DOE staff visited Delaware Met yesterday afternoon to investigate the alleged violations of students rights.  Below is a summary of their observations relative to the specific allegations reported by Mr. Ohlandt:

  • Hiring prison guards – The school has hired four new support staff to help address the school’s climate issues.  They began working at the school on Monday. Two of these individuals have backgrounds in juvenile corrections and currently serve a number of Delaware Met students in external community based programs. 
  • Multiple suspensions – It appears that the school is attempting to be more consistent with holding students accountable to the code of conduct which might explain a spike in suspensions. The exact number of suspensions will be verified.
  • Inappropriate student confinements – There was no evidence of inappropriate student confinements. DDOE staff observed the In School Suspension (ISS) room.   There were 2-3 students in the room. 

DOE will continue to monitor the school and investigate potential violations of the school’s charter through the formal review process. 

Many thanks, David



My biggest concern is how special education and IEPs are being implemented with fidelity at Delaware Met.  And as I wrote earlier today, there seems to be confusion with their Code of Conduct, discipline efforts, and their Restorative Justice approach.  In essence, I’m sure there is a lot we aren’t being told about what the exact nature is of the offenses students are committing that warrant suspension.  From what I am hearing from Blowman, the school may be administering a type of zero-tolerance program in an attempt to instill order in the school.  I do not think that is viable solution, nor is it a positive long-term action.  It takes more students out of the classroom and away from education.  I have not seen anything coming from this school to indicate they are making the best decisions or even know how to.  But can parents of suspended students afford to wait until the State Board of Education makes a decision in mid-December?  And even then, if they ultimately wind up deciding to revoke the school’s charter, it would not be until the end of the school year.  How much damage can happen until then?

As well, I have heard numerous references to “gang-related” activity, both from third parties and the DOE’s own Formal Review notification letter.  I don’t believe the DOE is equipped as a state agency to handle that type of thing and it may take the Delaware Attorney General’s office getting involved to gage what is truly going on with that aspect of events.

I also have to wonder how well the staff is at dealing with these types of matters.  From what I am hearing, the bulk of the teachers are new.  Do they have the necessary training and development to be able to deal with defiance from students?  Does the administration?  And for that matter, who is running the school?  Is it Sean Gallagher who already has a full-time role as the Executive Director of Leadership at Innovative Schools for the Delaware Leadership Project?  Or is it his intern who Gallagher stated at their 9/28 board meeting would run the “day-to-day” details of the school?  And why has no one questioned the apparent conflict of interest with being paid by both Innovative Schools and the school that makes payments to Innovative Schools?

This culture of silence emanating from the school and their lack of transparency is highly troubling.  Two board members left (which are not changed on their web site), no staff are listed on their website, and no board minutes have been released since their 9/23 meeting even though they have had three board meetings since then (their “special board meetings” on 9/28 and 10/12 and their regular monthly board meeting on 10/21).  We don’t know what their current student enrollment is or even how many students have been suspended in the two months since the school opened.  I’m sure answers will come at the November 4th meeting of the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for Delaware Met’s formal review, but that may be little comfort to students and their parents who want answers now.

Red Clay’s Skyline Middle School Parents Want Change In School Climate, Release Youtube Video

At the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meeting on Wednesday night, several parents of students who attend Skyline Middle School spoke before the board about school climate.  The school has several new students from the City of Wilmington attending the school and parents are very concerned about the 500% increase in suspension rates and a rapid increase in bullying.  Sounds like Skyline needs to be looked at as well as The Delaware Met.  I’m glad the board at Red Clay is taking quick and decisive action on this, but these things just shouldn’t happen under any circumstances.

I just posted the following on Facebook:

The bullying has got to stop. No more excuses. Schools need to be a safe haven for ALL students. Matt Denn, please look into this in ALL Delaware schools. We need to make sure special education is being implemented and done right. We also need to put an end to violence being inflicted on students. No child should ever come home crying and tell his parents he is too scared to go to school. No parent should ever have to stand before a school board and demand change. It just shouldn’t happen.

News Journal Jumps On The Delaware Met Story

Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal finally jumped on the Delaware Met story three days after this blog broke the news about it’s pending closure.  The article does not state the school is closing because the board is meeting tonight to decide if they should hand in their charter.  I would fully expect a mainstream media source to take this route.  However, I do take offense to this part:

Rumors circulated through the weekend that Delaware Met had already made the decision to close. Students did not attend school Friday – Harrington said the school scheduled professional development for teachers – but kids were back Monday.

“We’ve been trying to get the message out to parents that no decision has been made, but they keep hearing people saying it’s already happened,” Harrington said. “It isn’t helping.”

Why would Albright only contact the school about this?  There was no mention of the Delaware Department of Education who I’m sure would have been notified.  As well, he knew what the source of the “rumors” was and I never heard from him.  But he was up in Philly for the Papal Visit.  Mr. Harrington, you could have easily contacted me as well, but the school did not respond to my two emails on Friday.  Nor did the Department of Education.

Is this school a special education school?  Calling it a “Big Picture School” is not indicative of what has been going on there.

Second, the board will decide whether the school can get a handle on problems with school climate. Harrington said there have been fights and incidents in which students have been disrespectful towards school staff.

“We’re talking about kids acting out,” Harrington said. “Our board’s and leadership’s priority is making sure we can provide a safe environment for our students.”

Part of providing a safe environment for students is having a firm handle on student’s Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) prior to the start of school.  Being that there was no board meeting in August, I would really have to wonder how prepared this school was for opening day.  I do have a lot of respect for Ed Emmett from Positive Outcomes, and he could be a valuable source for helping the school understand special education issues.  But I think their financial issues may be beyond just an enrollment issue.  How much are they paying to Innovative Schools for rent?  Since they have NO financial information on their website (which they are required to do monthly as per Delaware law), how could anyone ascertain what their financial picture is?

I also have to question the role Innovative Schools plays in Delaware education.  Their name has been attached to far too many charters that close or have huge financial issues at some point.  Is it time to reel them in for a serious investigation?  And of course Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network is riding in for the rescue.  But is it too late?  Given everything I have written about this school in the past few days I would be very concerned as a parent of a teenager attending this school.  Conflicts of Interest are as transparent as Saran Wrap and this school has red flags all over it.