Even though I’ve done my fair share of beating up on the Delaware Department of Education, I felt they were transparent in a few ways. Most specifically on their website. But now I am finding that transparency is evaporating fast. There are three examples of this, most of which would not be caught by most people. For a blogger like myself, those three areas contained a lot of information.
The first is their special education section. For years I would look at their Due Process Hearing and Administrative Complaint decisions. Each report would name the specific school district or charter school. Since last Spring, they stopped doing that. Now it just says “______ school district” or _____ charter school”. What is the big deal? Don’t parents of students with disabilities have a right to know what kind of special education complaints are happening at certain schools?
In looking at the above two screenshots from the DOE website, a pattern begins to form. Last school year, there were three administrative complaints against charter schools in Delaware. None of them are named. I don’t need to be a forensic scientist to figure this one out.
The second area involves Department of Education personnel. As long as I can remember, the Delaware State Board of Education would list changes to DOE personnel on their website as part of their agenda for each meeting. That stopped a few months ago. I did reach out to Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education. She said the State Board does not control personnel at the DOE and they were the only state agency that listed personnel changes. So it was a matter of consistency. I get that, but it was also what made the DOE stand out above those other state agencies. Not to belittle other state agencies, but the DOE is an important one and citizens have a right to know who is leaving or who is hired there.
The third area, which absolutely no one in their right mind would find is a bit tricky. It involves their search engine. I learned a few years ago that if you type “PDF” in their search bar it will bring up all PDF documents. You can even tweak it so the results come up with the most recent documents. I relied on this to see what was going on at the DOE. The last PDF document that comes up on the search of most recent is from 5/2/2017. I highly doubt the DOE is not creating PDF documents anymore. I know that is the case because I’ve seen them. But they somehow found a way to eliminate it from their search bar. Maybe they figured out some crazed blogger from a specific IP address was always using it and disabled it.
It doesn’t shock me that these transparency issues coincide with the new Carney administration. I, as well as others, have written about a continual lack of transparency coming from the state since Governor John Carney took office. I guess the people no longer have a right to know.