In March, the Red Clay and Christina Education Associations passed a resolution announcing a vote of no confidence in Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy, the Delaware Department of Education and the Delaware State Board of Education. The resolution, announced at a press conference on March 12th, 2015, was widely cheered as a strong statement against the education policies and agendas of both the DOE and Governor Markell.
Their resolution was the first of a series of blows against the Department and Murphy in response to the DOE’s atrocious handling of the six priority schools in Wilmington. Teachers in the two districts had enough with the standardized testing parts of their teacher evaluations. RCEA and CEA, led by the Mikes, Matthews and Kempski, with support from CEA Vice-President Jackie Kook, brought the resolution up for a vote to their union members. In addition, both educator associations supported the opt-out legislation, House Bill 50. Over the coming months after their announcement, both the Delaware State Education Association and the Delaware Association of School Administrators echoed their calls of no confidence in Mark Murphy.
As 2015 draws to a close, we can’t forget the impact these three had on education this year. House Bill 50 passed the House and Senate. Mark Murphy is gone. The new Every Student Succeeds Act calls for an elimination of standardized test scores as part of teacher evaluations. In a very big way, the two largest districts in our state received the most press this year, in large part due to the Wilmington redistricting plan.
Christina had a very rough year. It started off with the priority schools debacle which led to a memorandum of understanding with the DOE to grant the district a second planning year in response to the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s recommendations. After that, they lost two referendums which caused a reduction in work force of 99 educators. Dr. Freeman Williams, the Superintendent for the district, went on leave in August. Their board narrowly passed a vote to bring in Bob Andrzejewski as the Acting Superintendent a few months ago. Budget forecasts for the district look ominous as the district faces a third referendum attempt this year. The redistricting effort in Wilmington, now awaiting a vote by the State Board of Education in January, will certainly change the makeup of the district if passed.
Meanwhile, Red Clay passed their referendum, but not without consequences. A lawsuit filed by a family in the district in regards to operating procedures for the referendum could change the entire referendum landscape in Delaware. While Christina received an extra year of planning for priority schools, Red Clay moved forward but not without severe issues with promised funding from the DOE. New feeder patters led to a series of issues at Skyline Middle School as new students coming to the school literally changed the school culture of the building, resulting in a huge rise in bullying incidents. The district’s inclusion initiative is now the hotbed issue in the district due to a severe lack of resources and staff to handle the complex and intensive needs of many of the students with disabilities.
Matthews, Kempski, and Kook will certainly have their hands full in 2016. But as three of the strongest leaders not only in their district, but in the entire state, all three will be front and center in the debates and conversations surrounding education in Delaware.