The Unholy Matrimony Of Education And Corporation

Last night at the Delaware Every Student Succeeds Act Governor’s Advisory Committee meeting, audience members were given a chance to give public comment.  I gave the following public comment, with the exception of a couple of sentences because that was covered during the meeting.  I will put an asterisk between those sentences.

Good evening members of the ESSA Advisory Committee. My name is Kevin Ohlandt.  Congratulations on your selection for this very important group.  This is a mammoth undertaking, this new federal law.  I will be completely frank: I do not trust this law.  I do not trust our Delaware Dept. of Education.  I believe ESSA is an unholy matrimony between education and corporations.  You can consider me the friend of the bride, education, warning about the potential husband who will not be good for her.  I have seen and heard far too much to suggest otherwise.  I believe this matrimony will eventually result in a messy divorce.  The custody battle for the students will be huge, and I fear the groom, the companies, will eventually win custody of the kids. 

I urge this committee to give an immediate recommendation of postponing Delaware’s submission of their state plan to the US DOE. There are far too many moving parts.  *States were given two dates to submit their final plan: March 31st or July 31st.  Our Dept. of Education chose March 31st without any true consultation with the citizens of our state.*  We were not given a choice as a state or allowed to be part of that decision-making process.  Certain parties were given a much greater weight in consultation with the DOE before any public gathering took place.

As a member of the Student and School Supports discussion group, I see far too many members of that group who would financially benefit from the Every Student Succeeds Act. When that happens, I don’t see them as a stakeholder, but a benefactor.  That is not what the term stakeholder means.  I believe some good can come out of this law.   I have seen many great ideas come forth in the meetings.  But until we can weed out what is good or bad for students, we need to “slow our roll”.  There are far too many conflicts of interest involved with this plan.

With that being said, the issues facing education in Delaware are at a crisis point. Whether it is mold in schools that is making people sick, or drugs and gangs reaching into elementary schools, or a teenager murdered in a bathroom stall, or the very fast implementation of educational technology in our classrooms with no research on the long-term psychological effects on children, or student’s personal data being given to parties that truly do not need that information, or lawsuits concerning school funding or segregation of minority students, or FOIA complaints against the DOE for continually failing to make certain public body meetings transparent and available to the public, we need to slow down. 

Education should always be about the kids. Some in this world have already determined what their future should be and I find that to be an immoral and grave injustice. 

As The Violence Continues At Delaware Met More Questions Surface

You would think, facing the State Board of Education this week and hoping for a miracle that your charter may not get revoked in the middle of the school year, that you would do everything possible to stop the cycle of violence at your school.  This is obviously not the case with the Delaware Met.  But then again, this is a school like no other because no charters in Delaware have ever had their charter revoked mid-year.  This will most likely happen tomorrow.  But I’m sure this is small comfort for the student who had a chair thrown at his head on Tuesday.  This resulted in a trip to the emergency room and stitches.  With all the additional support this school has put in place: a new principal, school climate officers, discipline staff, and mentors, you would think someone would be able to prevent this pattern of behavior.  But no, not at the Delaware Met.  I don’t know if these students can afford to wait until January 22nd for this school to close.

It is becoming painfully obvious that this school does need to close.  As I’ve said numerous times, you can’t put a Band-Aid on a wound that needs a tourniquet.  I am changing this article to reflect that Kendall Massett and the Delaware Charter Schools Network did actually encourage the school to reach out to other charters.  As well, DCSN did contact other charters in an attempt to help Delaware Met.  I truly don’t know what happened from there, but we are where we are now.  I can say this though, there will be no situation where Kendall negotiates a deal where another charter essentially takes over the school.  I would have to assume that with Innovative Schools huge role in this school (more so than any other charter they have provided support for in the past), that could get VERY complicated.  My apologies to Kendall for my earlier comments!

The Delaware Met Down For The Count A Month Into The School Year

Today, I got an email from someone about The Delaware Met closing next week.  Usually, I want to get more information on something like this, so I reached out to the Delaware Department of Education and the leaders at the school.  Not one response.  I put out some more feelers, and it looks like this story has some weight to it.  I don’t have specifics, but I’m hearing about multiple incidents of violence at the school, a student brought a gun to the school on the very first day, and students leaving the school in mass quantities.  The school just opened a month ago.

This school is being touted as a “Big Picture Learning School”, whatever that means.  But it looks like families aren’t buying it.  Is this a sign of things to come for Delaware charters?  I’ve heard that many of the new charters are not prepared for their students this year, despite what the DOE is saying.  I’ve heard of multiple special education issues going on at many charters this fall.

Back to The Delaware Met, I’m hearing their relationship with Innovative Schools has soured to the point of breaking.  This is not a situation where the DOE will be closing the school, but The Delaware Met will be voluntarily closing down.  Has that ever happened before in Delaware?  This is a charter school that met their enrollment figures last Spring when many other charters were struggling.  So what happened?  I’m hearing many of the students were at-risk students who were facing issues at other schools including potential expulsion and suspension issues.  I have no idea how many students at this school are students with disabilities.  But how prepared was the school to handle these issues?  If the allegations are true, not prepared at all.  It’s one thing to apply to open a charter and get through the DOE.  It is quite another to actually implement all the talk and ideas once the school opens.

The other night at the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission committee meeting on Charter-District Collaboration, a Red Clay principal actually advised the committee he is getting a lot of students transferring back to traditional schools from charter schools.  The charter movement in Delaware may be hitting the brakes folks.  Is the party over?  Between financial concerns, funding issues, transportation problems (more last year), special education, and Smarter Balanced results showing the most at-risk students in charters are no different than traditional schools, I think it is past time the Delaware DOE ended their love affair with the charter movement.

If the school were to voluntarily close next week, it would make sense because the school would receive funding based on their September 30th count.  Better to do it now than to wait until after they get funding…

Updated, 5:44pm: This story is gaining traction by the minute.  Multiple sources are confirming, but no official word from DOE or the school.  The only question is exactly when and how many students are actually left at the school….

Updated, 5:47pm: Other sources are telling me this school received a significant student population from Moyer, which was shut down by the state a year ago and closed it’s doors for good on June 30th, 2015.