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 Department of Elections for each county are still counting a lot of the votes, but some unofficial results are in which are usually a good indicator for where things are going. Congrats to the victors and to those who didn’t make it, do not give up! If you can’t run again based on being in a district, either continue lending your voice or begin to if you haven’t already. Voter turnout for school board elections is abysmal in Delaware. For those who don’t know, this election is held EVERY SINGLE YEAR on the 2nd Tuesday in May.
Brandywine, District A: Shanika Perry 684, Reynaldo Epps 164
Caesar Rodney: P. Scott Wilson 403, William Victory 387, John Moore 318, and Tracey Miller 207
Christina, District C: Fred Polaski 411, Richard Jester 358 and VJ Leonard 357
Christina, District E: Keeley Powell 618, Christy Mannering 502
Colonial, District C: Ronnie Williams 237, Richard Schiller 141
Colonial, District G: Robin Crossan 221, Tanya Kerns 98, Ana Viscarra-Gikas 94
Indian River, District 3: Leolga Wright 349, Dana Probert 92
Indian River, District 5: Derek Cathell 95, Carla Ziegler 27
Lake Forest: John Moyer III 158, James Parsons 78
Red Clay District A: Jose Matthews 1,009, Joseph DiMichele 715
Smyrna: Kristi Lloyd 479, Gary Dodge 251
Woodbridge: Jeffrey Allen 167, Darrynn Harris 24
Smyrna and Clayton are very tight-knit communities. Many in the Smyrna area will tell you the Smyrna School District runs the town. Whether that is true or not, one thing is true: Superintendent Patrik Williams certainly runs his schools! By keeping administrative costs down, he runs a tight ship. While Smyrna is not the fastest growing area in the state, it is certainly growing. Smyrna’s biggest competition is local charter schools Providence Creek Academy and First State Military Academy, both in Clayton. The district has grown modestly by about 200 students in the past four years. Last year, former Superintendent Deborah Wicks retired. The one thing about Smyrna that troubles me to no end is their very high expulsion rates. They are the highest in the state. Last year they had 30 expulsions. To me, that is zero tolerance. Something we should be getting away from. It is rumored Smyrna does this so they can pay for pre-paid spots at Parkway Academy. While this hasn’t been made official, it makes sense in a bizarre way. The State Board of Education sees more expulsion appeals come from Smyrna over any other district or charter school. There is a reason for that. Williams is a pretty funny guy once you get to know him. Continue reading
Why did the Smyrna School District wait so long to release this information? Is it because of what happened in Florida two days ago with the school shooting that killed 17 students and staff? **UPDATED** I looked at the Smyrna website when I posted this and it did not have a date on the release but apparently their app on cell phones shows a date of February 6th. Any day longer than the day of the event is too long to release this information. I would think parents would want to know about this kind of stuff sooner! If I had to guess, they are being proactive while facing some type of lawsuit over what happened!
SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATION
On January 24, 2018, a gunman shot 16 people in a school in Kentucky. Two days later, the Administration of the Smyrna School District received a credible report that a named high school student had brought a handgun with him to school and also had a brother at the middle school. The report described the handgun in detail and alleged that the student in question maintained gang affiliations.
An enrollment check revealed that the identified subject had withdrawn from the Smyrna School District. However, the sibling was in school. Given the specificity of the report and its reference to the middle school sibling, Administration and law enforcement immediately initiated a response to protect the health, safety and welfare of all students and staff.
Fortunately, no weapon was found. The Administration contacted the parents of the student, and in concert with local law enforcement, closed the investigation before the end of the school day on January 26th.
It has been alleged that District Administration engaged in an act of racial discrimination by searching the middle school student. First, given the detailed threat that jeopardized lives, swift and discrete action that returned the student to class immediately was necessary. That the student happened to be of a certain race is of no consequence, as the Administration would have interviewed any student under the circumstances, given the exigency of the potential threat. Second, the student was not searched. Given that he was not attired such that he could conceal a weapon on his person, his voluntary turning out of his pockets satisfied staff that he did not present a threat.
SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT
82 Monrovia Ave.
Smyrna, Delaware 19977
(302) 653-8585 Fax (302) 653-3429
Patrik D. Williams, Superintendent
Karen Brooks, a former Smyrna Middle School Special Education Diagnostician, pled guilty to raping two underage students. Her sentence? Probation! They could have set a crystal-clear example with her and given her jail time, but no, they give her probation.
Out of all the articles I’ve written on this blog in three and a half years, none were more intense than the story about a student named J in the Smyrna School District. It took a considerable amount of time to write the ten part series about what happened to J in the district. But I wouldn’t trade that time away for a minute. While the story wound up having a happy ending, it caused a lot of folks in Delaware to take a very close look at student discipline, zero tolerance, and expulsions.
The Smyrna School district has been tough with discipline. In my opinion, they have used the heavy hand more often than not. Case in point: the State Board of Education has two more Smyrna appeals coming up. In looking at their history of appeals the past few years, Smyrna comes up A LOT! For J, he is doing well at Smyrna High School and is happy to be back in the district.
To read all about what happened with J in case you were living under a rock last summer, here it is:
It is time the people spoke up and emailed Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting!
The match tax saga continues! On August 4th, a bunch of Delaware legislators sent Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting a letter regarding the proposed plan for the match tax. Bunting’s response shows no sign of bending from the original plan. While Bunting believes this is a win-win for districts based on other exclusions to the local funding formula, only one district seems to make a windfall from them. And believe it or not, that district is Christina.
Below are the letter sent to legislators from Bunting, the new “procedure” for charter and choice payments, and a breakdown of the changes and how they financially impact the districts.
For Red Clay, they are taking a $124,000 loss based on this plan. I would love to know what the ten “newly approved categories” are for exclusions on the charter bill. It looks like the districts that are getting the biggest hits are Capital, Red Clay, and Smyrna. While some may laugh at those figures, remember, that could be an extra teacher. Or a paraprofessional. In your child’s class. Notice how Bunting did not provide a summary of how MUCH the charters are going to get from this. Add in their should be illegal charter school transportation slush fund, and it adds up to a lot of money! Cause that first number of $828,465.11? That will more than double in two years. So all those schools that currently show a surplus of funds will see that evaporate. Meanwhile, the charters will just get more and more money.
This is how the Delaware DOE works. They try to make crap look like gold. They compare things that aren’t always related and say “Look, it isn’t as bad as you thought!” They do the same thing with standardized test scores. I fail to see Bunting’s justification for doing this with the match tax. If you agree, please email her at email@example.com and let her know you do not support this match tax scheme. As pretty as that picture may look, it will be uglier next year and the year after when those first numbers go deeper in the red. The plan is to reduce the match tax exclusion to nothing by the 2019-2020 school year. Bunting has until September 1st to make a final decision on this. Let’s make some noise!
Some issues I see with the timetable on this stem around the budgetary process that goes down each year. School districts and charters are subject to the final passage of the budget bill. This doesn’t typically happen until June 30th/July 1st each year. At that point, all the business managers have to figure out what it all means. That is not an easy task, whether it is a district or charter. So for the DOE to say they want any meetings scheduled with them by June 15th is ludicrous in my opinion. They should wait until all the business managers have time to see what the final budget does to their own budget first.
In another Smyrna School District expulsion case, not related to that of Student J, the Delaware State Board of Education overturned that decision. The family filed an appeal earlier this Spring. The Hearing Officer recommended the State Board overturn the decision. They did so at their July 27th meeting last Thursday.
It is my most fervent hope that between this and Student J’s case, the district will take a very close look at their expulsion policies which are among the highest percentage in Delaware for school districts. I am not against expulsion if the violation is egregious. But any expulsion is a very serious thing and should not be taken lightly.
This issue is on my radar and it does not just apply to traditional school districts. I find “counseling out”, where some charter schools have “talked” a parent out of keeping their child in their school to be just as unfair as an unnecessary expulsion. I will be keeping a very close eye on these kind of situations in the upcoming school year. If any parent feels an expulsion was unjust, I encourage them to contact me. As J’s mother quickly became aware, I will quickly intervene and attempt to help.
To read the full story of Student J in Smyrna, click here.
Every once in a while, stories do get a happy ending. Continue reading
The Smyrna School District Board of Education is meeting tonight for what they are calling a “reorganization meeting”. Meanwhile, Superintendent Patrik Williams has flat-out responded to my two requests for the email addresses of the Smyrna board. I actually called most of the members earlier today, but none of them picked up. I did not leave messages.
What kind of school board, in this day and age, does not provide email addresses? Seriously? Patrik Williams seems to think he doesn’t have to provide those even though he is the secretary for their board. What is the point of having just phone numbers if no one picks up? Most Delaware school boards and even charter boards provide email addresses for their board members on their website. I know he saw my request for this because he responded to me on another matter.
At the board meeting tonight, I expect a decent crowd. The board may discuss discipline issues including votes on current issues, former students, and potential litigation according to their agenda. They do have other items on their agenda. Most school boards go into public session at the start of their meeting and then adjourn to go into Executive Session. Then they return and go through the public agenda. Time is allotted for public comment this evening. Bring tootsie rolls if you wish. The meeting will begin at 6pm at the district office in Smyrna at 82 Monrovia St.
J’s mother will be there along with others who are not happy with his situation and how the district handled it. I will be there. You should too.
We reach the end of our series. A new player joins the wide cast of characters with a very important role. And what is J’s final fate?
In the last chapter, J was getting pummeled by various state agencies: The Smyrna School District, The State Board of Education, The Delaware Department of Education, and The Delaware Department of Justice. For allegedly calling a girl a terrorist ten months earlier. He was up on truancy charges. The Delaware DOE rescinded the home school certificate four days after they approved one for her. Is this kid ever going to get a break? Continue reading
The State Board of Education had their next meeting on January 19th, 2017. The long-awaited answer to J’s appeal was set for a vote by the six-member board. Meanwhile, another growing threat was preparing to rear its head which would bear even more consequences for J and his mother. This is the time when other state agencies got involved at a lightning fast rate. Continue reading
It looks like the Smyrna School District Board of Education has been reading my series on the story of J and their harsh zero tolerance discipline tactics. It turns out they are having a “special” board meeting dedicated solely to student discipline issues. This comes right on the heels of my series about J. Hey, Patrik Williams, you should give Dr. Mark Holodick up in Brandywine a call about this kind of stuff. He is VERY familiar with these kind of issues. So much so his district is taking a very good look at their own zero tolerance policies.
I haven’t heard from Patrik Williams since he emailed me a couple of weeks ago and I responded to him. I am still working on the series about J. To be honest, I’m trying to get a transcription of the hearing with the State Board of Education. Going back and forth with that office on that issue. And with a holiday coming up… But if I don’t get it, I will come out with the next part with what information I do have.
If I were a parent in the Smyrna School District who has dealt with what you feel may be harsh discipline tactics, I would definitely attend this meeting. The meeting notice doesn’t specify if they will have public comment or not. Who knows, maybe I will show up!
J was officially expelled from the Smyrna School District on September 21st, 2016. But his mother was not giving up without a fight. She told the administration this very thing at the discipline hearing two weeks before this. So it wasn’t a shock when his mother filed an appeal with the State Board of Education. Something happened soon after that raised serious questions as to the true intent of J’s expulsion. Continue reading
Legislative Hall was a very odd place this afternoon around 4pm. Usually the place is bustling on a Wednesday afternoon, but since yesterday’s announcement by party leadership that no “controversial” bills would be heard until the budget is passed, it was eerily quiet. Of course the lobbyists were milling around, but the tone was very subdued.
The Delaware Joint Finance Committee met today and added $51 million in cuts to education and healthcare for a total of $88 million cuts. Rumors were swirling that Democrats in the House were turning on their own because they won’t vote for the budget if it includes House Bill 240, State Rep. Val Longhurst’s very weak revenue bill. Turns out the Democrat leadership sent those legislators to the Principal’s office (aka Governor Carney) over the past couple of days. Way to turn on your own! And they even got a few of the Delaware labor organizations (including DSEA) to rattle those legislators cages.
The Republicans introduced a resolution to extend state services for 30 days during July if the budget doesn’t pass. I saw Mike Jackson who runs the Office of Management and Budget briefly and asked if we had a budget. His response… “For now.” Which doesn’t mean much given no one has voted on it yet. But the epilogue language is being written. Grant-in-aid got slashed from $51 million to $8 million so good luck to those non-profits!
Meanwhile, the House voted on House Joint Resolution #6, directing the DOE to come up with regulations surrounding gender identity issues in Delaware schools. Reps. Dukes and Smyk asked questions about it which basically meant they were opposed to the bills. As one observer put it, there was definitely some “transhomophobia” in the House chamber. The bill passed the House. Expect similar resistance in the Senate.
Two Senators were there today who hadn’t been in the latter part of last week. Senator Bryan Townsend’s wife had a baby boy last week. Meanwhile Senator Brian Pettyjohn had some other stuff to straighten out.
I had some good chats with some folks. Asked some pointed questions to a few so I am hoping to find out some answers on those in the next few days. One of them has to do with the series of articles I’ve been writing about Smyrna. It’s kind of putting a delay on Part 6. I am hoping the answer is positive.
Some of us talking were in agreement the State Board of Education isn’t going anywhere. The Delaware Dept. of Education will pick up the $213,000 tab for them. Today the Senate confirmed former Delaware Senator Liane Sorenson as an at-large member of the State Board of Education. I met her briefly and enjoyed our conversation. She did confirm she reads Exceptional Delaware so that is always a plus in my book!
The next two days are going to be absolutely crazy down there. If I’m not there tomorrow, I definitely will be on Friday. That is an education blogger MUST! I am hoping to get more of the Smyrna series up tomorrow. But it depends on that one answer on how I move forward with this.
Oh yeah, the Blockchain legislation, House Bill #226, passed the Delaware Senate. I anticipate Governor Carney will sign that faster than the Flash. And so it begins…
I can’t for the life of me figure out why they aren’t moving forward with State Rep. John Kowalko’s franchise tax for companies incorporated in Delaware. It would raise the fee from $300 to $325.00 and would raise $43 million in revenue. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? The last time that happened, there were 500,000 companies incorporated in Delaware when they raised it from $275 to $300. Opponents feared it would cause companies to leave Delaware. Now we have around 800,000 companies incorporated in Delaware. Bills that make common sense should sail through, but we aren’t dealing with common sense in leadership at Legislative Hall these days, so once again, I digress…
It is late June in Dover, Delaware. 62 elected officials will attempt to decide how our state is run. I trust a handful of them. Pray for us, rest of the United States of America. We need your prayers more than ever!
Updated with essential article from Delaware Public Media: http://delawarepublic.org/post/jfc-eliminates-grants-nonprofits-fire-companies-senior-centers-balance-budget
Updated again, 3:29pm, 6/29/2017: This article has been corrected to reflect that there were zero no votes for Liane Sorenson’s confirmation on the State Board of Education.
In Part 3, we heard the testimony of the alleged victim, P, and the School Resource Officer. Now let’s dive right into the testimony of the administrators. First up, Smyrna Middle School Associate Principal John Camponelli: Continue reading
J was arrested for the 2nd incident in the hallway of Smyrna Middle School. A discipline hearing was scheduled for September 7th, 2016. J did not start school with his peers because he was still “suspended” and was awaiting potential expulsion pending the results of the discipline hearing. After the meeting was rescheduled three times, the day of the discipline hearing came, almost four and half months after J was arrested for the 2nd incident with P.
Five and a half months went by after the incident in the home economics room. J took the Smarter Balanced Assessment along with the rest of his 7th grade peers at Smyrna Middle School. On April 20th, J and his friends were walking down the hall on their way to the school bus. Something happened that would alter the course of J’s future… Continue reading
Student J in the Smyrna School District was a victim of a bizarre scenario where he wound up expelled from the school district and arrested. Continue reading
Consider this a glimpse into the future. This picture won’t make any sense now, but it will later. This is an end result of a battle that has gone on for well over a year and a half between a student at Smyrna Middle School and the district, led by now Superintendent Patrik Williams, and their refusal to bow down from zero tolerance policies in the district. This is ugly, but it doesn’t stop at the Smyrna School District. It gets bigger from there and involves the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Department of Justice, the police, and the Justice of the Peace in Delaware. Continue reading