The DOE Revolving Door Is Swinging In All Sorts Of Directions

You see this with state agencies about a year or so before a Governor moves on.  People coming and going.  But the latest batch of Personnel notes in the agenda for the State Board of Education next week as some things I already confirmed, one new hire, and one potential omission…

DOEPersonnel

 

I already advised everyone Penny Schwinn was leaving.  I found this out at the November State Board of Education meeting.  I had heard about Shana Young leaving, but wasn’t able to officially confirm this.  I also heard Ryan Reyna, who works under Penny Schwinn, was leaving as well but he is not on this list.  The surprise for me was Chantel Janiszewski who is coming back on a Casual/Seasonal basis.  I wrote about her exit last month from Academy of Dover and how it was because of Newark Charter School that it went down.  It looks like you can go back home again though!

Two Delaware Newspapers Show The Rift In Education And In The House Democrat Caucus

Holy smokes!  Not sure which one I was more surprised to see, the one about Valerie Longhurst or the one about the General Fund Race To The Top 8!

Starting with Longhurst, The News Journal covered a “scathing email” situation Longhurst sent out to a University of Delaware Professor when the U of D employee questioned the General Assembly about raises given to certain employees at Legislative Hall.  The employee, Ms. Fran Fletcher, is well-known in Delaware as a mediator.  I have seen her at the HB90 Enrollment Preference Task Force and found her to be a very reasonable woman.  She is frequently called on by the Delaware Department of Education to mediate IEP meetings when parents and schools cannot agree on IEP issues.  If the allegations surrounding Longhurst’s response to Ms. Fletcher are true, that goes way beyond a constructive response to a constituent.  I would say it was filled with veiled threats to someone who dared question a legislator over a controversial issue.

Meanwhile, The Delaware State News jumped on the eight Race To The Top positions that I wrote about on Monday but they even had a quote from one of the employees who should have been cut but now seems to be working in the Executive Branch.  Shana Young said:

“While it does not have the authority to create new positions, the Department of Education, like all state agencies, has the authority to reclassify vacant positions,” Ms. Young said. “So, in the case of these eight positions, they were reclassified into existing vacancies in the department.”

It seems members of the Delaware Joint Finance Committee were not too happy about this news either based on the article.  I really thought the DOE would be raked over the coals by the General Assembly during their last legislative session.  Perhaps we should gear up for an even bigger fight this year!  But the bigger fight may go down with the House Dems!

Who’s Who At The Delaware DOE?

I write about these people all the time, and I take for granted that most of you have no clue who some of the Secretary of Education’s underlings are!  So here is an organizational chart, taken from the DOE website, from August 2015.  Don’t be alarmed about the name at the top!  Mark Murphy’s last day is September 30th, 2015.

DOE

DOE Purposely Misleading Stakeholders On House Bill 50 & Parent Opt-Out With “Alternative” SJR #2

The Delaware Department of Education hates parent opt-out.  They can’t do anything about it.  They know this, yet they continually attempt to greatly exaggerate even the tiniest detail, blow it up, and then add layers to it.  Exceptional Delaware was able to get its hands on the actual document the DOE has been sending their “stakeholders” lately in regards to parent opt-out and House Bill 50.  What is very telling is the document doesn’t even have the DOE letterhead on it.  This is a Department that never misses a chance to spread their name, but on this document, it is oddly missing.  Notice how close some of the wording is to the recent Dover Post article on parent opt-out with Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s editorial.

You can see it in bold print: “There is an alternative- Senate Joint Resolution #2 has been introduced- looking at testing.”  Now if anyone doubts the validity of this document coming from the DOE since it doesn’t have their name on it, I would be more than happy to email it to you.  When you are in the PDF, and you click on file, go down to properties, and it shows you the author “Young Shana”.  Otherwise known as DOE employee Shana Young.  This was written by Young on May 22nd.  Now some of this may seem familiar.  That’s because we have heard it from the DOE numerous times.  What wasn’t included in this document was extra wording talking about the General Assembly not having “formal authority” over the assessment inventory with Senate Joint Resolution #2.

What I would like to know is who the DOE is sending these out to.  I put in a FOIA request for any emails from Shana Young from May 14th and May 15th to any superintendents in Delaware.  Because I know Miss Young knew about Senate Joint Resolution #2 at least five days before it was even introduced, and that would mean this information could have only come from the sponsors of the bill: either Earl Jaques or David Sokola.  I emailed Senator Sokola on Tuesday for more information on this mystery but he hasn’t responded at all.  I did get the FOIA going with the DOE, but I guess I’m not important enough for Senator Sokola.  But I’m sure if it was the DOE emailing him, he would come running.

This is the email I sent to Senator Sokola:

 

To
  • Sokola David

Dear Senator Sokola,

I’m just going to come right out and ask this.  Which legislation are you giving more weight to: House Bill 50 or Senate Joint Resolution #2?  I know your thoughts on parent opt-out based on your interview with Avi at WHYY, but this is not just about your opinion.  It’s about giving this legislation the forum it deserves.  The House passed this 36-3.  I know there is a lot on the Senate Education Committee’s agenda, and this is not the only education bill out there.  But it has been the most mentioned in media (and not just my blog).  We have never actually talked person to person, but I am not a lone wolf crying in the dark.  HB50 is supported by the vast majority of the public.  As parents, we already have the right to opt our kids out.  And we will continue to do so in growing numbers.  What we will not tolerate is the treatment parents have received from many of our schools in regards to opt-out.  As long as one parent is receiving heat from any one school, this matter will not die.

What concerns me the most though is SJR #2 and your history with Achieve Inc.  I know you have a long-standing association with Achieve Inc. and Michael Cohen, going back to 2008, if not longer.  Achieve is also the vendor on the assessment inventory the DOE is pushing so hard.  As well, I have seen a DOE email from the past couple weeks talking about SJR #2 to “stake-holders” stating that SJR #2 is an alternative to House Bill 50.  As well, this email from Shana Young stated that SJR #2 will give no “formal authority” to the results of the assessment inventory.  Since you and Jaques are the primary sponsors on SJR #2, it is obvious SJR #2 is more about killing HB50 than tackling assessment inventory.

You have the power to make sure HB50 is heard, and heard first in the Senate Education Committee meeting on 6/3.  Parents will show up, and it would be a tremendous disservice to make them wait, if it is even heard that day.  Parents are now part of the process on education in Delaware.  It would be a true shame to ignore them.

I think there needs to be an honest conversation about these backroom deals going on with the DOE and their contracted vendors.  It is getting out of hand, and these are funds that should be going to our children in the classroom. 

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt

Now since this email with no response went out, the agenda for the Senate Education Committee meeting on 6/3 has gone up, and it has both House Bill #50 and Senate Joint Resolution #2 on it, along with two major autism bills and a bill about identification of students with military connections.  There could be a chance HB 50 isn’t even heard that day and it is pushed back until the next week.  But I can promise you this: if Senate Joint Resolution #2 is heard, and not HB50, Sokola is going to generate a lot of heat and ire from ticked off parents.

In the meantime, I’m sure the DOE will be sending out more “talking points” filled with half-truths, outdated information, and outright lies.  Their high-stakes testing propaganda machine is running out of fuel, so they are obviously googling ANY editorials they can find from other states on civil rights groups opposition to opt-out.  And the 27 number they quote for national civil rights groups?  That changed to 12 last month.  So nice try DOE.  At least get something right!

And what does this line even mean: “Without assessment results that shows where these students need support, the support for these students disappears.” So the only support these children need is based off of Common Core standardized tests like the Smarter Balanced Assessment?  Okay!  Does that mean the DOE won’t give low-income, minority and special needs children support if they don’t take the standardized test?  Are you saying that no school or teacher gives these kids supports, ever?  This scare tactic doesn’t work cause it is based on a falsehood that Governor Markell and the DOE have promulgated onto the public.

They also wrote “Testing, without over-testing, is valuable and provides us important information for our students and schools.”  Who is the “us” Miss Young refers to?  And this line shows this testing is important for the DOE, but not the students and the schools.  They want this information so they can USE the student data so they can PUNISH the schools.

“Under current Delaware law, all students are required to take statewide assessments.”  No, they are not.  The schools are required to administer the tests, but children are NOT required to take them.  Nice play on words there.

And then we have the (yawn) whole Federal Funding cut threats (getting sleepy) and how Delaware can stand to lose $42 million on one page, and $44 on another, but all coming from the same source.  But it never comes right out (zzzzzzzzzzzz…Sorry!) and says it, but there is a “risk”.  Sorry DOE, if the Feds are going to cut Title I funding to schools, they aren’t going to start with Delaware.  They would start with New York or New Jersey, and they would have done it by now.  The only reason they haven’t is because they can’t.  So once again, thanks for the empty threats.

Here is my biggest question though: How can the Delaware DOE already know the Fiscal Year 2016 allocation for Title I funds?  What if a student switches schools?  I truly don’t know the answer to this one so if anyone does, please advise me!

Oh yeah, one other big thing… why is Shana Young, who works in the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the DOE, writing opt-out talking points to stakeholders?  Wouldn’t something of that sort be covered under Penny Schwinn’s area, Office of Accountability, which has Assessment under that umbrella?  Could it be that standardized testing is more about Teacher and Leader Effectiveness than Accountability?  I’ll let you draw your own conclusion on that one dear readers!

For parents and citizens who are supportive of House Bill 50 and parent opt-out, but against Senate Joint Resolution #2 and assessment inventory, please email the legislators and let them know.  For quick reference, just copy and paste the below information:

Harris.McDowell@state.de.us MargaretRose.Henry@state.de.us robert.marshall@state.de.us greg.lavelle@state.de.us catherine.cloutier@state.de.us Ernesto.Lopez@state.de.us Patricia.Blevins@state.de.us David.Sokola@state.de.us Karen.Peterson@state.de.us bethany.hall-long@state.de.us Bryan.Townsend@state.de.us Nicole.Poore@state.de.us David.McBride@state.de.us bruce.ennis@state.de.us Dave.Lawson@state.de.us senator-colin@prodigy.net brian.bushweller@state.de.us gsimpson@udel.edu Brian.Pettyjohn@state.de.us Gerald.Hocker@state.de.us Bryant.Richardson@state.de.us Charles.Potter@state.de.us StephanieT.Bolden@state.de.us helene.keeley@state.de.us gerald.brady@state.de.us melanie.g.smith@state.de.us debra.heffernan@state.de.us Bryon.Short@state.de.us Quinton.Johnson@state.de.us Kevin.Hensley@state.de.us sean.matthews@state.de.us jeff.speigelman@state.de.us Deborah.Hudson@state.de.us john.l.mitchell@state.de.us Peter.Schwartzkopf@state.de.us Valerie.Longhurst@state.de.us jj.johnson@state.de.us Michael.Mulrooney@state.de.us michael.barbieri@state.de.us kimberly.williams@state.de.us Steve.Smyk@state.de.us Michael.Ramone@state.de.us joseph.miro@state.de.us paul.baumbach@state.de.us Edward.Osienski@state.de.us john.kowalko@state.de.us John.Viola@state.de.us Earl.Jaques@state.de.us william.carson@state.de.us trey.paradee@state.de.us bobby.outten@state.de.us Sean.Lynn@state.de.us andria.bennett@state.de.us jack.peterman@state.de.us Lyndon.Yearick@state.de.us David.L.Wilson@state.de.us Harvey.Kenton@state.de.us Ruth.BriggsKing@state.de.us Ronald.Gray@state.de.us Daniel.Short@state.de.us Timothy.Dukes@state.de.us Richard.G.Collins@state.de.us

Earl Jaques and the DOE: A Match Made In Hell or The Love Affair of the Year?

Anonymous sources are telling me about the latest rumors coming out of Dover.  Apparently the DOE is hot to trot on some House Joint Resolution making the rounds.  This resolution would have the General Assembly recognize the assessment inventory initiative going on in Delaware.  This message was shown to me today in an email sent to all the Delaware district and charter chiefs.  Included in this were several anti-parent opt-out talking points.  All of which Delaware State Rep. Earl Jaques gave as reasons in opposition of opt-out last month at the House Education Committee meeting.  These talking points included the usual federal funding threats, too many assessments, important data, yada yada yada…  But the interesting part of this communication was the part where the DOE representative talks about how some legislators will have a say in the assessment inventory but they won’t have any authority or oversight over the initiative.  That’s like giving a kid Pringles, but you can only eat one.  “We have legislators in on this but we retain the power!”

Jaques needs to separate from a Department that is using him because they are running out of life-lines.  Take today for example.  I stopped by the State Board of Education meeting to hear the tail end of the Teacher Leader and Effectiveness Unit give a big speech on  their Educator Equity Plan.  They talked about all these stakeholder groups they used for their plan and called this a “root cause analysis”.  I had to crack up when even the President of the State Board, Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, said this is not a true root cause analysis with scientific-driven data.  You can read the nonsense here by Chris Ruszkowski and the Gang, but really, it’s just more education reform drivel coming out of this department.  But when the State Board is questioning how effective your data really is, the train has already left the station.

I have no doubt Earl Jaques has the best of intentions with education, but he’s listening to the wrong people.  He came up to me before the House vote on House Bill 50, the parent opt-out bill.  He explained how he wanted to get my son included on Senate Bill 229.  This was a bill passed last June by the 147th General Assembly which exempts the “state’s most severely cognitively impaired students” from taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment or regular state standardized test.  I explained to Jaques my son doesn’t qualify and he has Tourette Syndrome, but he is very smart.  As he was walking away he said “I’m going to fix that.”  I blew it off, but I received an email from him a few days later asking me to send him a list of 6-7 disabilities to add to the legislation.  As if just adding these would change the Federal requirements SB 229 was based on.  It shows a huge disconnect between the actual reality we all live in and how powerful Jaques seems to think he is as Chair of the House Education Committee.

I saw him last week at Legislative Hall and I explained to him, again, that you can’t just add disabilities to a law like that.  He looked at me and said “We can’t?  Oh well, I tried.”  So not only did Jaques not understand the original legislation, but he didn’t understand the Federal law it is tied to.  But this is a man the DOE whispers to with all these anti-opt-out sweet nothings and he takes it as the Gospel truth.  This is classic political maneuvering on the DOE’s part, and they think they have their man with Earl Jaques.  But nobody is drinking the Kool-Aid anymore.  At least not in the General Assembly.  When you have a House of Representatives that had a large majority pass legislation for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, and then not even a year later, pass opt-out legislation with a 36-3 vote, then obviously they aren’t drinking the assessment Kool-Aid anymore.

Even Governor Markell has backed away from Jaques a bit.  I haven’t seen Jaques appearing in any huge education announcements or cheerleader speeches with Jack in a couple months.

As House Bill 50 winds it’s way through the General Assembly, with it’s next stop at the Senate Education Committee on June 3rd, does Jaques still think he really has the ammunition to stop a bullet-train heading for the Governor’s desk?  If anything, Jaques helped the parent opt-out movement with his vocal and stubborn opposition of it.  In some respects, I hope Jaques keeps talking about it!

As I walked out of the State Board of Education meeting, Ruszkowski was asking Shana Young how it went with Jaques.  I missed the answer, but it is important to note the email sent to the Delaware superintendents was written by the DOE’s own Shana Young.  Were they talking about this superstar joint resolution or do they have something else cooking?  Will anyone care?