State Board of Education Overturns Smyrna Expulsion

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.

Smyrna School Board Welcomes J Back Into The Smyrna School District

Every once in a while, stories do get a happy ending. Continue reading “Smyrna School Board Welcomes J Back Into The Smyrna School District”

Smyrna Update: Board Meeting Tonight & Patrik Williams Evades Transparency

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.

 

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 9: Criminal Contempt & Finale

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 Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 9: Criminal Contempt & Finale”

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 8: The Delaware DOE Gets Nasty & A Game Of Quash

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 “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 8: The Delaware DOE Gets Nasty & A Game Of Quash”

So Glad I Caught Your Attention!

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!

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 6: The HUGE Conflict Of Interest & Things Escalate

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 “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 6: The HUGE Conflict Of Interest & Things Escalate”

Chaos At Legislative Hall In Dover

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.

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 4: The Discipline Hearing- The Testimony Of Smyrna Middle School Administrators

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 “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 4: The Discipline Hearing- The Testimony Of Smyrna Middle School Administrators”

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 3: The Discipline Hearing- The Testimony of The Alleged Victim and the School Resource Officer

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.

Continue reading “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 3: The Discipline Hearing- The Testimony of The Alleged Victim and the School Resource Officer”

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 2: The Arrest

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 “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 2: The Arrest”

The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 1: The First Incident

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 “The Smyrna School District Zero Tolerance Pipeline Part 1: The First Incident”

Prelude: Patrik Williams & Smyrna School District’s Egregious Zero Tolerance Railroading Of Middle School Student

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 “Prelude: Patrik Williams & Smyrna School District’s Egregious Zero Tolerance Railroading Of Middle School Student”

Smyrna Middle School Education Diagnostician Arrested For Having Sex With A Student

On the website for Smyrna Middle School, they list their core values: compassion, integrity, perseverance, respect, and responsibility.  For Education Diagnostician Karen Brooks, those values didn’t seem to stop her from what led to her arrest Wednesday evening.  The charges: two counts of 4th degree rape.  In other words, sex with a minor.  The student attended Smyrna Middle School but now goes to Smyrna High School.  Brooks was suspended from the school recently.

I have to ask: What in God’s name possesses someone to do this?  I know, innocent before guilty.  But one thing I do want to say, while this is not the first time this happened, it should not put a spotlight on ALL teachers.  As in any profession, people do bad things.  In this case, a very bad thing.  But it doesn’t mean ALL teachers are bad.  This was a person in a position of trust for this student and she should not have abused that position.  She did, and she will pay a price for that.  But it should never shine a negative light on the entirety of the teaching profession.

This isn’t the first time this happened in Smyrna School District, but for every one teacher that does this, there are hundreds of awesome teachers out there.  I pray the student is able to get past this and move on with their life.

 

Christina Board Passes MOU With New Castle County School Districts With No Public Input

The Christina School District Board of Education passed a controversial motion to send the same funds going to charter schools (from the infamous settlement) to all traditional New Castle County School Districts (except for NCC Vo-Tech).  The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) would bind Christina School District to sending the same funds they agreed upon in the charter school settlement to Red Clay Consolidated, Brandywine, Colonial, Appoquinimink, and Smyrna School Districts.  The price tag for this year will be $350,000 but this is a “forever” contract so those funds will go to those districts for students choicing out of Christina to those districts forever.  But another motion, that would have allowed for public comment on the issue, failed.  Board member John Young summed up the meeting in three paragraphs earlier this morning on Facebook.  Newly sworn-in board member Angela Mitchell abstained from both votes.

Last night, Christina School District BOE motioned to settle with Red Clay, Brandywine, Appoquinimink, Smryna and Colonial for $350K + this year and each year in the future forever pursuant to the charter school settlement. The meeting was at Sarah Pyle Academy at 7PM.

It was moved to approve the settlement MOU. Then it was moved to be voted on at the 6.13.17 meeting so the public could comment more fully. There was debate. Board members indicated that public opinion would have NO SWAY in their vote. The vote to vote on 6.13.17 was defeated 2 YES, 4 NO, 1 Abstention. Then the vote to approve handing over CSD monies without input from the public was approved 5 YES, 1 NO, 1 abstention. Of course all votes were public, but if you want details feel free to PM me. I am reeling from shock that board members and key employee(s) deliberately and intentionally told the taxpayers to go to hell with regards to their input. My disappointment extends beyond the board and includes CSD employees and the Supers of all NCC schools and Smyrna SD. An unreal night, I assure you.

I hope there is VOCIFEROUS public comment on 6.13.17 to protest the way the board operated tonight.

I always hated the settlement with the charters.  But, let us all hope this is the last song on this record…

Patrik Williams Promoted To Smyrna Superintendent To Replace Outgoing Deborah Wicks

Ian Gronau with the Delaware State News is reporting Assistant Superintendent Patrik Williams is the new Superintendent of the Smyrna School District as of June 1st.  Current Superintendent Dr. Deborah Wicks gave her resignation notice to the board last year.

I’ve only written about Patrik Williams one time, and it was a very funny post!  If there is one consistent thing in Delaware education, it is change.  Replacing Williams as Assistant Superintendent is Summerside Elementary School Principal Debbie Judy according to the article.

In regards to the Delaware Education Hunger Games issue (budget deficit) for Smyrna, Williams said the following in the article about that:

It’s going to be a challenge but I will say that we are one of the few districts that are preserving all of our permanent staff. We’re conservative financially and that has put us in a really good spot. We are well prepared to make adjustments.

Good news for Smyrna teachers!  Smyrna is a growing area in Delaware and Williams expressed excitement about that:

If you go down to Rabbit Chase and look at all those houses for instance — we have about 2,000 new housing permits in the district. It’s exciting to envision what that’ll mean for the district.

Congrats to Patrik Williams!  I’m sure his letters regarding Delaware regulations will be more tame with his new role, but I hope he keeps that same fighting spirit!

Proposed MOU Between Christina and Red Clay, Appo, Brandywine, Colonial, and Smyrna Over Referendum Funds From 2003

As I wrote the other night, Red Clay, Appoquinimink and Brandywine want their share of the local funds for choice students from Christina stemming from the charter school settlement with Christina last fall.  It looks like Colonial and Smyrna have now jumped in as well.  The Christina Board of Education will hold a special board meeting on May 24th to discuss this issue.  The below document shows how much it would cost Christina if approved.

Exceptional Delaware Endorsements For 2017 School Board Candidates

Now that all the surveys are up, it is time for endorsements!  I’ve known who I was going to endorse in a few elections for some time.  Some I changed my mind on.  Some I have always known who I would NOT endorse.  Some I wavered back and forth on.  Some races won’t get an endorsement from me at all.  I don’t always go with the “popular” candidate.  I look, as best I can, at the issues facing education and which candidate is willing to stick their neck out and do what is best for students.  The biggest thing is if the candidate knows what the issues are.  Without further ado, here come the endorsements: Continue reading “Exceptional Delaware Endorsements For 2017 School Board Candidates”

Delaware School Board Election 2017: Brandywine, Caesar Rodney, Capital, Smyrna, & Woodbridge School Districts

May 9th is in five days!  Big school board elections are taking place that day!

In the Brandywine School District, John Skrobot Jr. will face Alma Ginnis.  For Capital School District, Andy Ortiz and Joan Lowenstein-Engel are vying for the at-large seat.  Caesar Rodney has a three-way race with Alan Claycomb, Tawanna Prophet-Brinkley, and David Failing running against each other.  Smyrna will see Vetra Evans-Gunter facing Karin Sweeney.  Finally, Woodbridge will have a face-off between Paul Breeding and Darrynn Harris for their at-large seat.

I sent surveys to all the candidates who had viable contact information through either the Department of Elections contact information on their website or through Facebook.  Don’t forget to vote on May 9th!

These are the responses I received from the candidates in these five districts: Continue reading “Delaware School Board Election 2017: Brandywine, Caesar Rodney, Capital, Smyrna, & Woodbridge School Districts”

Smyrna Superintendent Deborah Wicks Retiring This Year

The Superintendent of the Smyrna School District, Deborah Wicks, is retiring at the end of June.  As one of Delaware’s largest growing school districts, Wicks has Smyrna through a very huge growth spurt.  Nineteen years is a long time as the leader of anything.  I want to wish Mrs. Wicks all the best in her life after Smyrna.  This district is one I really haven’t written much about over the past few years which is probably a good thing!  Now the hunt will be on for her replacement.

deborahwicksretiring