There are always gems to be found when you comb through district and charter board minutes, agendas, and websites. I did that last night and found a ton of stuff! Instead of coming out with a dozen or more articles about it, I thought I would just combine all of it one fell swoop! There is A LOT of material in here so dig in! Continue reading
The Seaford School District lies on the western edge of Sussex County. The district hovers around the just below 3,500 mark most of the time. Even though their enrollment is the same, they have two more administrators making over $100,000 than they did four years ago. Like their neighbor to the south, Laurel, they have a high percentage of low-income students and English Language learners. The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission brought up both of these districts many times in their reports on Delaware public schools. Seaford reminds me of the school district I grew up in with its make-up four elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school. But that’s where the similarities end. My school district was about 3/5ths the size of Seaford. Which means they have a lot of kids in their buildings. Continue reading
Tonight, Rob Petree with 105.9 wrote an article about a Seaford School District parent who is claiming a teacher took unnecessary physical measures against her child with Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum. The mother explained what happened. When the student was told he could not go to the office when he became upset over not finding his writing journal, the mother claims the teacher took things a bit too far:
“My son said the teacher went so far as to stand in front of the door and block the door and not let him out. The teacher told him to get back in his seat, and he said ‘no I want to go to the office,’ and the teacher told him ‘no get in your seat or I’m going to put you in your seat,’ and Landon once again said no he wanted to go to the office, so the teacher grabbed him by his arm, picked him up, carried him across the room and slammed him down in his chair. Landon said he then got back up out of his chair and tried to go out the door again and the teacher wouldn’t let him out of the door. So he went over and sat down in the chair at the round table near the door, and the teacher again was telling him to get up and go get back in his seat and Landon refused. The teacher went over to try to grab ahold of Landon and Landon got upset, jumped up out of the chair, and grabbed the back of the chair and slammed the chair into the floor, trying to get around the teacher to get out the door. He said at that point the teacher said ‘I’ve had enough of this,’ and grabbed him up by his arm and physically carried him out of the door of the classroom, banging his forehead into the metal door facing in the process, and Landon said at that point as soon as the teacher sat him down in the hallway he ran straight to the office, and that’s when he called me.”
Even more alarming is the Seaford Middle School Principal’s response to her when she asked to see the video of the incident:
Today, I had a meeting with the Middle School Principal and basically what they told me today was that the teacher said that he asked Landon to leave several times and Landon wouldn’t leave the room, and that Landon was throwing pens, pencils, chairs and desks, and that they seen this on video; however, no one was able to produce any video to me showing my son behaving the way they said he behaved. I honestly, truly believe my son, and I believe this teacher is doing nothing but trying to protect himself and the school the same way. I cleaned my son’s locker out today, and he’s not going back to that school as long as that teacher is there.
This is unacceptable. I found out today the same thing happened to the parents of the child who was assaulted last week at Caesar Rodney High School. The district refused to release surveillance footage that captured the incident (and I will have more to say on that whole thing that hasn’t been made public yet). I tagged tons of our state legislators on my Facebook page with a link to the 105.9 article asking for legislation that would demand schools release video to parents whenever their child is harmed in any possible way.
The district will not respond to any of this. They will shut up unless they have to fire the teacher. People ask me why I write so much about bad stuff happening in our schools instead of the good. Sorry, this kind of crap outrages me. You can have many great things happening in schools, but this is what folks remember and talk about. This is a travesty. Even if this teacher used proper restraint and seclusion practices as dictated by state law, the district should still release the video to the parent. Instead, they are covering their asses.
A former board member for a district did tell me that video like this is released to the police department. They will review it and eventually it would be shared with the parent(s). I explained that the video could help a parent understand what happened. It could be necessary for them to see it so the parent can seek sufficient medical or counseling treatment for their child.
I wrote an article last year on the Delaware Dept. of Education’s annual Restraint & Seclusion report. Seaford Middle School had 13 incidents of restraint in the 2015-2016 school year. Compared to Milford’s middle school which had 1. In Seaford, they had 38 incidents of restraint affecting 21 students. But if this situation played out anywhere close to what the mother is claiming, this was no ordinary restraint. If it went down how she said it did, this teacher should face criminal charges for assault. Dealing with special education students can be challenging for teachers and parents. But if you don’t have the proper training required to take action like this, you should do nothing and contact someone who can help. Sadly, for this student, it will be a day he will never forget.
I don’t care where a video is: cafeteria, classroom, bus, hallway or anywhere on school property. If a parent asks to see it, you show it to them, no questions asked. The act of withholding something like that immediately sends red flags up with parents. Or saying you have it but then you don’t. You reap what you sow with that kind of logic. In the case of the Family Educational Records Protection Act (FERPA), that applies to educational records. If a parent requests records on their child, the school is obligated to produce it. But is surveillance video considered an educational record? That will be the argument here. But I don’t care. If a kid gets hurt, you do the right thing and show the parent. Cause it could mean the difference between a parent deciding whether or not to sue the district.
This should NOT happen in our schools. Tonight, I am very pissed off. At this. At Caesar Rodney. At other districts where I am trying to help parents navigate through special education issues with schools. So much of what I help parents with are things every school should know by now. Districts and charters complain all the time about getting sued so much and the “predatory” law firms. Guess what? The very act of protecting yourself is usually what gets you sued. How does that work out for you?
Updated, 9:50pm: A big thank you to special education advocate Devon Hynson for providing a link to what FERPA says about surveillance videos-
Schools are increasingly using security cameras as a tool to monitor and improve student safety. Images of students captured on security videotapes that are maintained by the school’s law enforcement unit are not considered education records under FERPA. Accordingly, these videotapes may be shared with parents of students whose images are on the video and with outside law enforcement authorities, as appropriate. Schools that do not have a designated law enforcement unit might consider designating an employee to serve as the “law enforcement unit” in order to maintain the security camera and determine the appropriate circumstances in which the school would disclose recorded images.
Now that all the surveys are up, it is time for endorsements! I’ve known who I was going to endorse in a few elections for some time. Some I changed my mind on. Some I have always known who I would NOT endorse. Some I wavered back and forth on. Some races won’t get an endorsement from me at all. I don’t always go with the “popular” candidate. I look, as best I can, at the issues facing education and which candidate is willing to stick their neck out and do what is best for students. The biggest thing is if the candidate knows what the issues are. Without further ado, here come the endorsements: Continue reading
In this last of the School Board candidate surveys, we have Seaford School District Board of Education candidates. Actually, make that just one! Even though there is a race, with John Hanenfeld facing Michael Kraft, only one of the candidates responded. I appreciate all the work the candidates took to fill out these surveys. Life is busy, whether you are running for a school board or not. With that being said, I will be coming out with an article later tonight with my endorsements for many races. This respondent will NOT receive an endorsement from me. Why? Read the answers to the survey questions. I don’t expect people to agree with me. In fact, it would make this blog useless if everyone did because there would be no need for it. But everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions. Continue reading
The Delaware Department of Education received one application for a new charter school in the 2018-2019 school year: Sussex Montessori School. For the parents of students in Kindergarten to 6th grade who are interested in the “Montessori Approach”, this potential second charter school in Sussex County, Delaware could change the face of many surrounding districts, including Laurel, Seaford, and even Indian River. By putting an enrollment preference of wanting a Montessori approach, this school could already filter out some of the surrounding students due to a lack of understanding of Montessori methods. Many feel First State Montessori Academy, which has a top priority preference for those interested in Montessori despite having a five-mile radius, is not balanced well with high-needs students in the area.
Where this application loses me is quoting the Rodel Foundation and Vision 2025, as well as using standardized test scores as a barometer for student achievement. The application was submitted by Montessori Works, a non-profit 501c3 corporation. They have received initial funding from the Longwood Foundation, the Welfare Foundation, and Discover Bank. If approved, the plans call for a $4.4 million dollar 32,000 square foot facility on ten acres of land between Bridgeville and Laurel which the group expects funding by the above three entities or a financial institution.
I didn’t recognize many of the names with the founding group of this school, but a couple stuck out. Trish Hermance was the Head of School for Campus Community until 2013. Brett Taylor was involved with the Delaware STEM Academy which failed to open due to low enrollment and charter revocation by the State Board of Education. But you can read the resumes of all the founding group and support. Their feasibility study shows an initial student population of 300 students in the first year (2018) and 450 students by 2023.
Last month, the Christina Board of Education voted 6-1 to keep the Montessori program in their district despite shrinking enrollment due to First State Montessori Academy in Wilmington a couple of years ago. There are currently no Montessori programs in Kent County but the Jefferson School in Georgetown exists. With that being said, the class size once children get out of pre-school and Kindergarten is only six to eight students per class. It is not considered a good school by many parents in the area according to an anonymous source. Typically, as in years past, the State Board of Education would vote on final approval at their April board meeting.
This is an important message for ALL Seaford School District parents: You need to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. If they started already, do not let them take one more second of this test. Refuse The Test! The Network of Public Education is calling for a National Opt Out of these high-stakes tests. They aren’t effective at all, and everyone knows it. These tests are being used for nefarious purposes. Do not believe the lies coming out of Governor Markell and the Delaware Department of Education. They care more about corporate profit than your child. It doesn’t matter if your kid is smart. It doesn’t matter if you are Democrat or Republican. What matters is your child, and their education. This is not education. It is a mockery of education.
Please give the principal of your child’s school a letter on Monday morning indicating you are opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Let the school know you want your child to receive academic instruction while the other kids are taking the test. If they tell you that you can’t opt your child out, look them in the eye and say “Yes I can, and if you make my child take this test I will call the police.” To get support from other parents, please join the Opt Out Seaford Facebook page.
Sussex Academy, the only Delaware charter school in Sussex County, was one of the best Smarter Balanced scoring schools in the entire county. This is not an accident, nor is it an indication they are the “best” school in the county. Like the Charter School of Wilmington, Sussex Academy was named in the ACLU lawsuit against the State of Delaware last December for discrimination against minority and special needs students. Or what the blogosphere collectively calls “cherry-picking”. The school is smack dab in the middle of Sussex County.
On the Delaware Department of Education school profiles part of their website, it shows the school’s demographics. Sussex County has a very large population of Hispanics. Western Sussex County is considered one of the poorest sections of the state and that trend is expected to increase over time.
In previous articles, this blog and Delaware Liberal have focused on New Castle County, Capital School District, and all the Delaware charters. Our graphs have shown the effect low-income and poverty has on Smarter Balanced performance. Unfortunately, this trend continues in Sussex County as seen below. Since Sussex Academy is primarily a middle school (although their high school is increasing, with 9th grade added two years ago, 10th grade last year, and 11th grade this year), I ran the graph with just the middle schools surrounding the school. Sussex Academy appears to be siphoning away the “better” students from their surrounding districts.
To put this in perspective, Laurel Intermediate School is currently a Priority School in Delaware, which slipped under the radar of most bloggers until recently. Meanwhile, Sussex Academy is praised by Governor Markell and the Delaware DOE as a great success. All schools would be considered awesome if they were allowed to do what Sussex Academy does with their application process and mythical “lottery”. Like Charter School of Wilmington and Newark Charter School to some extent, the veil has been lifted and these schools are not superior schools. They have merely placed themselves on that stage by picking who they want, and more importantly, who they don’t want.
While their Hispanic population seems high, 9.6%, compared to many of the other schools, it is very low. Sussex Academy is in Georgetown, the same as Georgetown Middle School. Watch what happens…
In theory then, does the same hold true for the percentage of English Language Learners in Sussex County? Not exactly. Even though a few schools have less Hispanic students, Sussex Academy has the lowest percentage of English Language Learners.
How does Sussex Academy compare to the other schools with special education? I’m sure you know the answer already, but there is a very wide margin between the school and the others.
In fact, they are in the low single-digits compared to the schools surrounding them. When I see this, it always reminds me of the scene in Forrest Gump, when young Forrest tries to find a seat on the bus and the one kids says to him “Can’t sit here.” This is what Sussex Academy does with their blatant discrimination against low-income students, Hispanics, and students with disabilities. But I’m sure they will be recognized as a “reward” or “recognition” school for their exemplary performance…