Capital School District WILL Have An Operating Referendum In 2019

Capital School District managed to hold off a referendum for the past eight years but that will change in 2019 as they will be going out for an operating referendum.

According to their Chief Financial Officer, Adewunmi Kuforiji, at their March board meeting, the district will hold this referendum next year.  The Capital Board of Education discussed placing school safety monitors (constables) in all of their elementary schools, their 5-6 middle school and hiring a Supervisor to oversee the 19 constables that will be in all their schools.  The price tag for adding these constables? Over $400,000.  Some of the funds would come from federal cafeteria funds.  Since the state does not give that specific funding, the rest would come out of the district’s local funds.  This would be in addition to the five constables in place now, three at Dover High School and two at Central Middle School which serves students in grades 7-8.  The board passed the resolution with three yes votes (two board members were absent).

Board President Sean Christensen asked Kuforiji several times if this action would push the district closer to an operating referendum.  Kuforiji responded it would not as they have room in their FY2018 budget for this along with their reserves.  But he did say, in no uncertain terms, more than once, the district would have an operating referendum in 2019.  He did not say when in 2019.

Nine years is a long time to go without a referendum.  Their last referendum helped to build the new Dover High School and the new district office.

Many in Delaware feel school referenda are outdated and refuse to support them.  Others feel they are a necessary beast in education funding.  Education funding has been a huge topic this year.  Property assessments in Delaware are severely outdated and based on formulas from the 1970s and 1980s.  The state’s education budget has grown over the years but it bounces from education cuts to new initiatives.  In my opinion, it is a very disproportionate system that does not focus on the students but rather the school staff and administrators.  With the exception of special education (and even that is messed up for students in Kindergarten to 3rd grade), no extra funding is given based on student needs (poverty, English language learners).  Some support a weighted funding formula while others support adding to the current unit-based system.  Some feel no extra money should go towards public education and actually support school vouchers where the money follows the student, even if it goes to a private school.  How will Dover residents vote next year when their district makes the ask for more taxpayer money?

 

Gang Issues At Dover High School Leads To Capital Board Approving Use Of Armed Constables

Last night, with a vote of 5-0, the Capital School Board voted to hire three armed constables at Dover High School.  Using a model currently in use by Indian River School District, the board discussed the issue with members of the community as well  as high school and district staff.  All supported the measure with one exception: the Senior Class President.  The pool of applicants would come from the Delaware State Police.  Because of insurance and pension issues, the pool was limited.  All were in agreement that hiring out-of-state would not be a wise decision.

One of the staff from the high school gave public comment indicating the current non-armed security guard company they utilize is highly ineffective and said it is like “throwing $40.000 off the roof”.  He cited the bomb threat incident a few months ago that led to a student’s arrest.  But he also indicated there was a huge fight on the football field as students were already trying to deal with the bomb threat.  He indicated there are gangs at Dover High School.  He said they are a small group of students who cause a lot of the problems.

The Senior Class President said many students were concerned with going from unarmed to armed persons in the school.  He felt like it was a drastic leap to go from one situation to what he felt was extreme.  He urged the board to find some middle ground.  Many students, he stated, felt it wasn’t fair to have this in their school when they weren’t the ones causing the problems.

In an attempt to allay the class president’s fears concerning the presence of armed constables at the high school, board member Ralph Taylor, also a retired Dover Police Officer of 20 years, said a gun is a very last resort.  He said the last thing an officer wants to do is use a gun, but it could mean a matter of many lives in a bad situation.  Board member Sean Christiansen said he reached out to different stakeholders in the Indian River School District including their own constables, parents, teachers, and students to get their thoughts on the matter.  All felt it improved school climate and led students to a feeling of safety within the district.  Dover High School Principal Courtney Voshell had a survey where parents could rate how safe they felt their children were at Dover H.S. and over 93% felt the school was not safe the way the current safety program was set up.

The school will also retain their School Resource Officer from the Dover Police and the constables will not have arrest authority.  They will be used to diffuse situations, but as it was explained, they will not punish students if they don’t have a bathroom pass.  The contract will cost the district an additional $75,000 out of their budget which will be used from carryover funds from fiscal year 2016.  Going forward, this would be a permanent part of the district budget.  The constables will be employees of the district.  They will receive professional development on all areas of school safety.  The details are not flush yet, but there was discussion if the training would come from the current Indian River Constables or the Dover Police Department.

I asked the board how the recently passed Senate Bill 207, which would not mandate schools to call the police every time a physical assault occurs unless it is considered to be a crime, could affect this decision from a financial perspective.  The bill, not yet signed by Delaware Governor Jack Markell, would give schools and parents discretion to contact law enforcement in those events.  Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton said the current school resource officer currently deals with crimes in the school so it would not change things.  Certain school crimes such as drugs or weapons, would still result in an arrest of a student.  Shelton said another bill (the restorative justice bill) didn’t pass but if it does in the future it would give the district additional funding to deal with school climate issues.   I also asked if the constables would receive special education training for students with disabilities.  Shelton said they would, but not on an individual basis.

The board was so impressed with the Senior Class President, board member John Martin invited him back up to the podium to discuss student concerns in greater detail.  Board member Christiansen invited him to come to every single board meeting.  It was also conveyed they wanted him to be a part of the hiring committee for the constables and Christiansen told Voshell he expected him to be excused from class those days.  Voshell jokingly answered that would be a summer school excuse which drew laughter from the audience.

The special board meeting, held just for the purpose of this decision, also had another activity.  Elected board member Dr. Chanda Jackson was sworn in by board President Matthew Lindell.

While I wrote some very negative things about the district almost half an hour prior to this board meeting yesterday, most of which concerned their Strategic Plan and joining the BRINC Consortium, I felt this board meeting was a very honest and open discussion about a very serious issue.  The district was honest about the issues happening at Dover High and didn’t try to whitewash the gang activity.  After the meeting, I happened to be speaking to a board member from another district that deals with similar issues as Dover H.S. but they said their district would never openly talk about these kinds of issues in their schools.  We both agreed that issues can’t be dealt with until they are acknowledged.  So I salute the Capital School District and Board for tackling this decision.

 

Capital School District Board of Education Chooses A New Superintendent

Late in the evening, the Capital School District Board of Education went into executive session to discuss the last item on their agenda, the selection of a new superintendent to replace Dr. Michael Thomas who will resign effect June 30th.  The board was in this executive session for 45 minutes.

When they came out, board member John Martin stated he was unequivocally against the choice selected.  He felt Capital had a bold opportunity here and suggested they go back to the drawing board and repost the position.  The motion was introduced and brought to a vote.  Martin voted no, “emphatically”, and members Kay Dietz-Sass, Matt Lindell and Sean Christiansen all voted yes.  The new Superintendent of Capital School District is… Candidate #216.  The official name will be revealed tomorrow afternoon according to Lindell.  They have to notify the other candidates first…

In Taylor vs. Paylor for Capital School Board, You Have To Vote For Taylor On May 12th!!!!

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The Capital School District Board of Education election is just three days from now, on May 12th.  For the three candidates running for the Capital School Board, I am officially endorsing Ralph Taylor.  The other two candidates, Sharese Paylor and Peter Servon, don’t hold a candle to Taylor.

There was a candidate forum a couple weeks ago in Dover, and for the Capital candidates, Taylor and Servon showed up.  Paylor didn’t attend this forum.  In an article by David Paulk with The Dover Post, Taylor said the following about Common Core:

No, I’m not in favor of Common Core. I believe that the standard itself, nobody’s really able to understand it, nobody’s able to articulate it to families. It was put in place so quickly. If you got something that so many people have so many questions about why don’t we review it a little bit more, why don’t we slow our roll a little bit. We have kids in classrooms that are week after week preparing for the standardized tests so we can show the world that we have standards. If we’re showing the world that we have standards, if we’re teaching the tests, are we educating? And I think that’s where the flaw is with this standard.

Servon, on the other hand, took a very casual stance with Common Core, as if everyone was okay with it and parents are just overreacting:

As I understand Common Core it’s a national level decision on what should be taught in the subject matter. In my belief it should be general topics, general ideas. The decision on how to teach those ideas and topics is made by the states and by the districts. It’s a minimal requirement that every kid should know in the country. I don’t see anything wrong with having those types of standards. As far as educating the parents I think it needs to be stated simply—it’s just a minimal standard parents need to understand what the school is requiring to implement those Common Core standards.

In another forum at Central Middle School last Tuesday, all three candidates showed up.  We were able to see a little more insight into Paylor.  At the January Capital board meeting, many citizens in the area demanded a reason for why Dover High School’s Principal Evelyn Edney did not have her contract renewed.  Many stated they were going to complain to Governor Markell and said the board had to reveal the reason.  The board has not given a reason since that meeting, nor should they in my opinion.  This is an employment decision, and the Board is not obligated to give reasons for not renewing a contract.  Some individuals, including Paylor, hinted at racial reasons for Edney’s departure.  I don’t buy this considering two other Capital principals I have met are African -American.  Shortly after this meeting, Paylor announced her intention to run for the board.

In an article in the The Delaware State News, reporter Eleanor LaPrade quoted Paylor from the Capital forum as saying “the board shouldn’t override Dr. Thomas, since he was the one who evaluated Dr. Edney’s performance.”  But there could be other factors nobody knows about except the board.  Employment decisions are done during a board’s executive session in Delaware, and are not subject to FOIA law.

I’ve met Taylor a couple times.  Once last summer at the 4th of July when he was running for State Representative.  He lost in a primary to Sean Lynn.  I saw him a couple months ago at a deli and congratulated him on running for the Capital board.  What I like about Taylor is his views on the Smarter Balanced Assessment, opt-out, Common Core and local control.  He told me last summer he is against the Federal intrusion in local education and supports opt-out.  He also doesn’t believe teacher evaluations should be done with standardized test scores.  Taylor believes in the community playing a larger part in Capital’s future.  Servon seems to be a Brandywine guy (where he teaches) based on his comments in both the articles, and Capital certainly doesn’t need that!  Paylor, in my opinion, has an agenda based on one board decision, and that should not be a determining factor is running for a school board.  Taylor would be a good fit with the board, and his many years in law enforcement could definitely give a unique perspective to the board.

With this election, the winner will replace outgoing President Kay Dietz-Sass.  The highlight of her tenure was the opening of the new Dover High School last year.  Another board member, Brian Lewis, resigned due to winning a councilman seat for the City of Dover in the May election where he ran unopposed.  There will be a special election, most likely in July, to fill Lewis’ seat.

Capital School District residents can vote at any of the three polling places from 10am to 8pm on Tuesday, May 12th: William Henry Middle School, East Dover Elementary and Hartly Elementary School.  Please remember, it’s Taylor, not Paylor, who should join Matthew Lindell, Sean Christiansen, and John Martin Jr. on the board!