Campaign Craziness Hits Delaware!

In less than four weeks, Delawareans will hit the polls to vote in the primary election.  Meanwhile, candidates are starting to draw blood from their opponents.  The past week has seen more insanity than I’ve seen in, well, two years!

First off, the whole sign thing… don’t steal, mangle, or draw graffiti on campaign signs.  It is petty and stupid.  Is it really worth getting arrested if you don’t like someone?  If you want to, sure, do it.  But it can’t be worth the time and money.  Write a letter to the editor.  Rant on Facebook.  But don’t mess with campaign signs!  I saw someone’s sign the other day and it looked like it fell.  It was a big sign.  I could have fixed it but instead I called the candidate and let them know.  The last thing I need is a state trooper driving by as I’m trying to fix a sign.  Because it could easily look like I’m messing with it.

Don’t go looking on Delaware Court Connect to find old financial stuff on candidates.  Not everyone is wealthy.  Not everyone is immune to financial hardship in their lives.  And it may not always be accurate.  Or perhaps some disputed something at some point.  I don’t mind candidates having financial issues at some point in their lives.  It shows they understand the issues many Delawareans face!  Delaware State News did this with a candidate in Kent County the other day but when people cried foul they took it down.

In the coming days, you will hear people talking about the 30 day primary campaign finance reports.  These show how much the candidates have raised in donations and how much they have spent.  Some folks automatically assume that those with the most money will win.  That isn’t always the case.  Even if someone has over $100,000 in their war chest, it only means they know how to target people with money.  Money talks but so does qualifications.  I’m talking to you Mrs. Rehoboth!  A guy named Jesus didn’t get to be who he became by getting money from those who have it.  He hung out with the poor and downtrodden.  Now he is a household name!

These are the days where Facebook becomes a war of words.  Screenshots are gold for opponents!  You will see pictures of candidates doing selfies with babies and baby kangaroos!  Any shot of a candidate with another elected official seems to carry some kind of special meaning.  Once again, that doesn’t mean squat.  It means you are good at taking pictures.

Citizens of Delaware- know your candidates!  Seek them out!  Ask them questions!  Don’t believe everything their opponent says.  See their websites or Facebook pages.  But most important, vote on September 6th!  Vote with a clear conscience.  That is your constitutional right.  If they have a forum, go to it.

If you support a candidate, give them as much time and devotion that you have available.  Help them door-knock and canvas.  March with them in a parade.  Engage with them.  For incumbent legislators facing a primary vote, look at their FULL record.

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17 Who Made An Impact On 2017: Donald Trump

If there was one name I heard every single day, it was Donald Trump.  To the point of exhaustion.  No President in my lifetime has met with so much scorn and scrutiny.  Between his Tweets and his painful decisions, the guy was constantly in the news.  And on social media, folks weighed the pros and cons of his every move.

I grew up in New York in the 1980s.  The guy was in the news a lot then as well.  It usually wasn’t good.  How this guy managed to finagle himself into the Oval Office still shocks and bewilders me.  The fact that so many Republicans think he is the return of the Messiah does not give me hope in America.  It scares the crap out of me.  I don’t think Hilary would have been any better.  She would have been more overt and wouldn’t have shot her mouth off the way Donald has.

I shudder to think what America will be like by the end of his term (if he lasts that long).  We are already the laughingstock of the world these days because of him.  It’s like a cartoon character come to life.  And the cartoon never ends.  I can’t even put his picture up in this article because I can’t bear to see his face one more time.

The Optics Of Politics

I came back from Star Wars: The Last Jedi last Friday night and saw a post from Steve Newton on Facebook.  I always read his posts because I know they are going to be interesting.  Once I read the second sentence, I knew somehow I was going to be a part of this post.  Since Steve specifically said at the end of it not to reply with reasons or justifications, I gave a brief reply acknowledging he was talking about me and fully owning my posts about one of the two people he was talking about in his post.  Since then, Steve has taken it upon himself to wage some bizarre one-man crusade against the validity of this blog.  See the comments section over on Blue Delaware.  You can read Steve’s opening salvo he posted on Facebook in that article.  I also posted an article mainly in reply to Steve’s post.  It was already in my drafts folder but I added to it due to the nature of Steve’s post.

This is what I wrote in reply to Steve’s original post: Continue reading

17 Who Made An Impact In 2017: State Rep. Andria Bennett

One Democrat State Representative in Delaware turned the cart upside down in the late days of June when she voted no on tax hike legislation.  She also put forth legislation that mandates cursive be taught to Delaware students in their early elementary years.  Andria Bennett definitely had an impact in 2017. Continue reading

Dave Sokola & Greg Meece Played All Of Us And They Are Laughing Behind Your Back!

Suckers!  Governor Carney vetoed the 5 mile radius bill.  Big deal.  We all knew he didn’t really have a choice.  But don’t think for one second Senator David Sokola and Newark Charter School Head of School Greg Meece didn’t plan all of this the second the bill went into circulation.  Did any of you think for one second Meece would give up his beloved 5-mile radius for NCS?  Come on!  This is Delaware Politics 101 folks!

This was never about Wilmington students.  This was ALWAYS about Newark Charter School.  They do NOT want anyone outside of their 5-mile radius crossing that line.  Sokola knew the bill had legs so he found the perfect amendment to kill it: exclude the Wilmington portion of Christina.  It would get all the civil rights activists going off and it worked like a charm.  Lest we forget, this is the same State Senator who messed around with the opt out bill every single chance he could.  How many of us were there when he scheduled many bills during a Senate Education Committee meeting and the opt out bill, House Bill 50, was delayed for a week?  Remember the whole “Assessment Inventory Task Force” crap?  That was him.  Remember the charter school audit bill which was fantastic under State Rep. Kim Williams’ original incarnation until he got his charter-dirty hands on it.  And what about House Bill 399, the bill that would have given teachers a choice of using the Smarter Balanced Assessment or other tests for their evaluations?  He put so much crap in his amendment and watered it down to nothing.  This is classic Sokola.

Don’t believe for one second that NCS had issues with transportation logistics.  They didn’t want the 5-mile radius to go away.  Period.  That’s all this was ever about.  I have no doubt Sokola was cheering me on when I wrote about how his version of House Bill 85 would result in a massive lawsuit against the state.  This is what he does.  He turns gold into poison ivy.  But all the clowns up in Newark keep voting him back in over and over again.

As for Meece, he is never going to change.  He loves the fact that HIS school is the “best” in the state.  He loves the fact it’s the biggest as well.  And he has stacked the deck with the sibling enrollment preference.  That way all his favorite families can keep bringing their kids there.  He might throw a prize our way by taking in some special education kids.  Make it look like he is trying.  But he isn’t.  He’s just playing the game.  And with Sokola by his side, he always wins.

Everyone on social media is talking about Carney and Wilmington.  How Carney did or didn’t help Wilmington kids with his veto.  Do you really believe Carney didn’t know what Sokola and Meece were up to the entire time?  See the game for what it is folks.  It isn’t about change.  It’s about the status quo.

Lucky for Sokola, he got to go on a cross-country bike ride with former Governor and good buddy Jack Markell.  They are somewhere in middle America right now, sweating their hineys off in spandex.  I have no doubt Meece is thinking “Yes, we win again!” while wondering if he should go for a threepeat on Blue Ribbon status so he can brag that they are 1 in 5 trillion schools who ever got the hat trick.  They played all of us for suckers, again.  And they will do it again.  As long as Sokola has his little amendment followers and enough whine to go with his charter cheese, this scene will play out again.  And again.  And again.  I don’t have a doubt in my mind that Meece and Sokola ever worried about this bill at all.  Gravy!

 

In Defense Of Andria Bennett

I’ve seen a ton of hate pointed at State Rep. Andria Bennett since her momentous decision last Thursday night.  The whole House Bill 240 personal income tax vote.  She didn’t like what it would do to itemized deductions.  She heard from her constituents.  She did what a State Rep. is supposed to do: represent.  Let’s face it, it was a crappy bill in an even crappier situation.

It isn’t the Republicans who are trouncing her.  It is her own party.   Even some of her own colleagues in the House.  That is just wrong.  There is someone out there with a fake name called Delaware Way.  When I got the friend request, I thought it was Nancy Willing because her blog is called The Delaware Way.   But last night I defriended this anonymous troll who is NOT Nancy Willing.  This anonymous Facebook personality was bashing Bennett very hard with ugly words that are public.  This person told me to get off my high horse.  That’s fine, I own that.  I’ve been hard on many in Delaware politics at one point or another.  But I don’t bring out heavy curse words in my descriptions of elected officials.  I learned my lesson from doing that ONCE with DSEA over opt out.  And it hurt my reputation for a long time.  But I never went after someone personally and out of the realm of their lives as a public figure.  That is the key difference.

This is what I know about Rep. Bennett.  When the IEP Task Force was created back in 2014, I hounded the legislators to add parents to the task force.  I received responses from many that it was a done deal.  But Rep. Bennett, along with a few others, got the Delaware Senate to rescind their vote, add an amendment to add parents, and vote again on the concurrent resolution.  Last year, when I ran for the Capital School Board, she wrote a letter endorsing me.  This year, I watched her fight hard for a cursive bill that passed the House and Senate.  She voted against the budget back in 2015 along with five other legislators.  They were all branded by their own party as Benedict Arnolds but they all showed courage in the face of kicking the can.  That same can blew up all over the state budget this year.  She always says hi to me when I see her, unlike some down at Legislative Hall.  I am sure if I dug around a bit, there are votes she has cast that I would like and hate.  They all have those votes.

I have no doubt in the world she upset a lot of plans last Thursday night.  But the reality is simple: House Bill 240 was NEVER going to pass the Delaware Senate.  With 10 Republicans out of 21 Senators, on a vote that required a 3/5th vote?  It wasn’t going to happen.  If anything, Bennett saved the bill from an even bigger defeat.  There was NO door opening if it passed the House.  It was going to die no matter what.

The General Assembly is messed up.  The leadership is horrible.  If we don’t have legislators on the Right storming out instead of actually voting, we have certain Dems falling all over each other congratulating themselves on their monumental victory last night.  Schwartzkopf is not a good leader.  He is a great micro-manager though.  One of those bosses who is all over you if you do something he doesn’t like.  And he STILL hasn’t returned my email I sent to him a few weeks ago.  Bennett would within 24-48 hours, no questions asked.  And she isn’t even my State Representative!

Like every legislator, they wear different hats.  They have the face they put on in front of the public as an elected official.  But then they go home to their families and loved ones and they are just like anyone else.  So to trounce Bennett the way I’ve seen, calling her the things I’ve seen, that is despicable.  You didn’t like her vote?  That’s fine.  But don’t take it so personal.  She is a human being just like Pete and Val and John and Kim and Danny and Tim and all the rest of them.  She has a family and friends.  She had her reasons.  Get over it!

General Assembly Passes Budget But No Room For Congratulations

The Delaware General Assembly did what they could.  They did their best to ensure they wouldn’t spend their 4th of July week at the beck and call of Governor Carney.  They passed the budget, the bond bill, and Grant-In-Aid last night.  With no changes to personal income tax.  $190 million in cuts and $175 million in revenue.  Actions have consequences.  I have no doubt many of them will find that out in 2018 during the next election cycle.  By going after education and the elderly they have proven, once again, far too many of them are heartless bastards who exist to protect the rich more than supporting the poor.

The hand-slapping and high fives will continue.  I’ve seen it already on social media.  In many of their minds, the job is done and they saved the day.  Now they can enjoy the rest of the summer.  As an added bonus, they had the time to work a ton of bills so they can rest assured that when they come back in January their plate won’t be as full.

Now what?  We will see school districts lay off teachers.  The elderly, middle class, and poor will have less than they had before.  Smokers and drinkers will pay more beginning in September.  Any real estate transaction will fill the state coffers.  Charter schools will breath a sigh of relief they didn’t lose their transportation slush fund.  By the way, thank you to the 16 state representatives that voted for doing away with that monstrosity.  Hopefully next year we can abolish it for good.

This is not a victory by any means.  This was a bitter defeat.  It was a surrender, to all that is wrong with Delaware.  The oppressed will rise and make their voice heard in larger numbers.  You reap what you sow.  Shared sacrifice my ass.  This was a slaughter.

Delaware’s Tax Structure 20 Years Ago Was MUCH Higher Than Proposals Coming Out Now

Thank you to State Rep. Trey Paradee for posting this on Facebook.  I didn’t even live in Delaware back in the late 1990s.  Paradee also said Delaware was swimming in money back then.  We are not swimming in money now though.  We are drowning in debt.  We paid the piper and now our legislators are realizing far too much that overspending and not enough oversight has created one hell of a mess in The First State.

Many of us are extremely upset right now.  We see cuts and tax increases.  We hear joking around on the audio of the House.  We see the blame game going back and forth between Republicans and Democrats.  We see a perfectly good bill which would generate $43 million in revenue for the state just dying on the vine.  We see services our elderly and youth get being completely evaporated and diminished.  We are pissed.  We are tired.  We are Delaware.

For legislators who are seeing the back-and-forth on social media right now, they can see our anger.  They need to.  They need to know we the people are not happy on both sides of the aisle.  These are our children and grandparents.  Husbands and wives.  Families.  Schools.  The elderly.  The mentally ill.  The disabled.  The volunteers.  Where is this budget bill?  Let the people see it and weigh in.  Why are you so afraid of transparency?  Maybe, just maybe, one of us common people could propose ideas with a fresh outlook that none of you even thought about.  That is a true democracy.

Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum In Newark Taken Over By Students And Teachers

Delaware’s budget deficit hit a new stage last night when Christina School District students took over State Rep. Paul Baumbach’s Education Forum at Newark High School. As well, Senator David Sokola said the issue with the 5 mile radius bill was about transportation. It was an evening full of dodged questions and skirting around the issues.  It was a night when things were as confusing as Twin Peaks and the Mighty Thor put her hammer down! Continue reading

About That Administrator Count Article…

I am never writing an article about administrator cuts ever again!  But seriously, after getting thrown on the fire for my post yesterday about school administrator counts and my suggestion that some should be cut, I am going to take a different approach to on this.  I appreciate the feedback from dozens of you on here and on social media.  To that end, I spoke with Tammy Croce, the Executive Director of the Delaware School Administrators Association today down at Legislative Hall.  She indicated the information I got was not correct, nor is the Delaware DOE’s information.  She said there are inherent flaws in the data reporting system and there is bad data out there.  She gave me a very good suggestion which I plan to take her up on.

I don’t mind posting information I receive from others, but I will be doing more homework on it in the future prior to posting it.  Perhaps the answer to this is somewhere in the middle.  It was not my attempt to badmouth every single administrator and to indicate they all suck.  I know tons of admins and they work their butt off morning, noon, and sometimes evenings.  I do know of some who got there through the buddy system and they really shouldn’t be there.  It is a complicated issue.  But I heard you loud and clear on Facebook, and you know who you are.  But let’s try not to get insulting and attempting to make me look like an idiot.  I have never pretended to get everything right, and when it comes to education, the transparency needs to drastically improve.  If you want to raise taxes on citizens to pay for education, than we as taxpaying citizens deserve to know where that money is going.  That is the unstated contract when taxpayers pay for our schools.  I wish more people would demand to know where the money is going!

I wish there were NO public education cuts.  I wish we knew where every penny the existing money is going towards.  I wish every district would list their admins along with job descriptions on their website.  I wish a lot of things.  What I can’t stand though is advocates for one district assuming the article was solely about THEIR district.  It wasn’t.  But when those same advocates kept questioning me on social media, I asked specific questions about their district and they either didn’t know the answer or didn’t want to provide it.  If you are going to defend something, please be prepared to back up your defense, that’s all I’m asking.  And as much as I may want to, I can’t go to every Citizens Budget Oversight Committee meeting.  To be honest, I can’t really get to most education meetings like I used to.  If they are close to where I live, that is one thing.  But trekking up to Wilmington all the time?  Not an option for me.  Which is why I try to have a social media presence with this blog, which I do on my own time, unpaid.

This is the part about education that baffles me.  Our state and our schools demand full transparency regarding our children: health records, test scores, academic progress, where they live, who they live with, discipline records, etc.  But when it comes time to demand transparency surrounding the adults in education and where the money is going, we fall far short in this state.  If you want to get mad, get mad.  To be frank, I expected much more  public outcry over charter schools keeping their share of the educational sustainment fund.  To me, that is a much more important issue than all this admin count discussion going on.

If anyone would care to assist, please reach out to me and we can swap ideas.

Not A Good Day For Christina

In the “October Surprise” for the 2017 Delaware School Board Election season, Atnre Alleyne of DelawareCAN dropped a huge bomb all over Christina Board candidate Jeff Day’s campaign with less than a week before the election.  When a former News Journal reporter jumped in on the controversy, it fanned the flames… Continue reading

Delaware School Safety Report Shows Severe Limitations In Our Schools For Controlling Violence

If we are to have a chance to reduce and reverse this type of behavior, it is necessary to begin early and to start in the home. Efforts must be made to reach out students and to provide them with positive new directions in elementary school. Several committee members pointed out that “middle school is too late.”

“If joining a gang is the only way to survive, the kids will join gangs,” one committee member said, adding, “A lot of teachers don’t know who gang members are. You, as a teacher, should know how to interact with kids and parents because kids and parents may not have the ability to interact with us.”

The committee discussed the possibility of cell phone bans in schools, but public schools in Delaware have not done so because parents want to be able to reach their children by phone.

These were just a few of the topics discussed in the Special Committee on Public Safety.

School safety.  Two words that mean so many things to so many people.  To some, it means making sure every single student and staff member is protected from violence.  To some it means reporting requirements.  Many think of Sandy Hook or Columbine.  Others think of a mounting problem that can never be corrected.

Earlier this year, in the wake of two very violent deaths in Wilmington, a group was formed by Senator Robert Marshall.  Marshall is the Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee.  He formed a group that met twice to discuss school safety issues with various topics introduced.  Out of these meetings, Senate Concurrent Resolution #83 formed a Special Committee on School Safety.  The final report was given to the President Pro Tempore of the Delaware Senate and Governor Markell yesterday.

The below report has a great deal of information.  It is very long but it is worth the read.  Take the time to read it.  Every single word.  Whether you are for or against School Resource Officers or Constables in Delaware schools, it is important to know what is happening out there.  It affects every single citizen of this state.  Issues in schools can explode outside of schools often, but issues outside of schools are brought into schools all the time.

The one thing I took out of this report is there are no easy answers.  Issues around funding and legality are some of the biggest obstacles to making schools safer.  Trauma plays a huge role in our high-needs schools.  Family issues outside of school are one of the biggest obstacles to safe schools.

There was one recommendation coming out of the final report that I didn’t see discussed anywhere in the meeting minutes.

Provide funding for the Delaware Department of Education to conduct a voluntary, statewide survey among students, parents, and teachers to get their thoughts on improving the learning environment and ways to make our schools safer.

It can’t be a report on education in Delaware without the Delaware Dept. of Education inserting something they want, which usually involves them getting more money.  One important thing to take note of in this report is that Delaware Senator David Sokola and State Rep. Earl Jaques were both listed as members of this committee but neither went to any of the meetings on it or bothered to assign a designee to attend in their absence.

The parts about Senate Bill 207, which I also issued severe problems with, were echoed by many in regards to future under-reporting of incidents in schools.  I thank God the House added an amendment to the bill that still requires mandatory reporting to the Delaware DOE.  But there is one line about Senate Bill 207 in the final report which will give any Delaware citizen severe anxiety.

Who Was Pulling The Strings At Delaware DOE? It Wasn’t Godowsky. And A Message For NCS Parents.

Chartergate 2016 and the aftermath took over social media in Delaware yesterday.  When I searched “Secretary Godowsky” last night on Facebook I saw tons of posts.  Many people were outraged about Godowsky’s actions, but a fair number were upset about my comments concerning Mr. Greg Meece.  I won’t apologize for that.  Chances are probably pretty good I know a bit more about some behind the scenes stuff than you do.

Let me be perfectly clear on something.  I am not the News Journal.  First off, the News Journal wouldn’t write about most of the stuff I’ve figured out over the years.  Second, a blog is not true journalism.  That doesn’t mean the facts are wrong.  But bloggers do not have a journalistic credo they need to have like members of the Associated Press do.  I saw tons of posts about how I’m so wrong about things all the time.  I’ll own that up to a point.  Sometimes I am wrong.  And when I am called out on it, I will either correct it or write about how someone felt I was wrong.

I always use this as a classic example.  When the Family Foundations Academy fraud was going on at the school, I wrote about it before the mainstream media picked up on it.  One gentleman, and I know he won’t mind me saying this, blasted me for it.  How dare I disgrace the school and their leaders by writing about that.  Turns out I was right.  The same thing happened with Academy of Dover.   I wrote about the Smarter Balanced shenanigans, and still there were doubters, but it turned out I was right about everything.

I don’t mind people doubting my information.  I’ve received bad information in the past and ran with it, much to my chagrin.  Here’s the deal though: if our schools and the DOE were more transparent about things, I wouldn’t have to write at all.  But the hard truth some of you may not realize is this: there is a ton of shadiness that goes on in this state.  That’s what I write about.  I can’t just out sources all the time.  I can’t always produce a smoking gun.  But it’s out there.  Most of the time I turn out to be right.  And when I’m wrong and someone actually lets me know that, I’ll do what is right.  Let’s really be honest with ourselves.  With the stuff I find out, am I really going to get an honest answer?  If I emailed Godowsky about this before I published it, he would have ignored me.  I like Steve.  I think he has a very tough job, but at the end of the day, he answers to the Governor.  With what I do and what he does, there really isn’t a time where we can collaborate.  We have talked many times in person.  We’ve even joked around here and there.  But when it comes to the really tough questions I present to him… he can’t own up to them.  I get that.

Here are some facts for the whole mess.

Greg Meece, Joanne Schlossberg, and Stephen Dressel met with Delaware Associate Secretary of Education David Blowman and the director of the Finance area at DOE, Kim Wheatly, last April.  Meece wanted more money from Christina.  Somehow this evolved to all districts and charters.  Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky is telling people he didn’t know about this until August 19th.  I do know David Blowman was out of the office all last week because I received an out-of-office reply from him.  Blowman and Wheatly set this whole thing up.  Which means Godowsky didn’t know about the letter sent to all the districts on August 8th asking them to justify their restricted and non-restricted sections of their local funds.  I can say with certainty Godowsky was not on that letter.  But I don’t believe it was solely Blowman and Wheatly who knew about this.  Blowman’s boss is Karen Field Rogers, the Deputy Secretary of Education.  And I have always believed that State Board of Education Executive Director Donna Johnson makes it a point to know every single thing that goes on there.  Did it go up higher than that?  I would assume it did.  Education is Jack Markell’s baby, and nobody touches that baby without him knowing about it.

The charters have been holding meetings at the DOE, some public and some private, to change their organizational and financial framework sections of their budget.  They had representation on the Education Funding Task Force this year.  David Blowman was on that task force.  This issue, to the best of my knowledge, never came up during those meetings.

The change in the local pupil cost for charters and choice schools was all set to change.  I found out about this, ironically enough, when I was working on an article about charter school funding.  This news changed that whole article so you may not ever see it.  I heard from one person in one district, then another, and then another.  24 hours later I wrote the article and published it.  When it comes to stuff like this, I explained it the best way I could.  I’m sorry I didn’t pass the News Journal sniff test.  When I break big news, it isn’t going to be easily tied up like an episode of Murder She Wrote.  There isn’t going to be forensic evidence.  Sometimes I’m able to provide that.  But you need to understand that nothing in Delaware is neat and tidy.  We are a very non-transparent state.  There is a good reason we came in 49th place on a national state transparency ranking last year.  Trust me, I would love to have a smoking gun for everything I write.  I want that more than you do.

With stuff like this, you can either take my word for it or don’t and wait for it to be “officially verified”.  I can take the heat.  What I won’t take is someone trying to make an anonymous comment and attacking my son.  That is intolerable.  I’ve written over 2,800 articles on this blog and no one has ever done that until this article.  You don’t like me attacking your school?  I get that.  Blast me all you want.  But don’t you dare make an attempt to come after me through my son with false information.  There is a line, and you went way past it.  I never attack children on this unless they do something so heinous and it is already in the public spotlight, like the Howard High School of Technology murder.  I will write about adults, but attacking kids… no.  And if you disagree with me on something, that’s fine.  But I hope whoever this was realizes this.  You know who you are.

Today, Brian Stephan with Delaware Liberal wrote an excellent article going into the actual financial implications and what it all means.  Thank you Brian!  Brian has much more knowledge about education funding as a member of the Christina Citizens Budget Oversight Committee.  I appreciate him explaining this better than I ever could.  In the article, Brian wrote about what the charter schools seem to be looking for.  It is bogus, in my opinion.

This is my big question, especially for Newark Charter School.  If you have such a great school, great classrooms, great teachers, manageable classroom sizes, students behave better than traditional schools, and so forth, what do you need all this extra money for?  Many charters get extra money when their transportation budget is higher than what they actually spend.  Some charters, like Newark Charter School, get tons of money from this.  Probably more than they would have made had this gone through with Godowsky.  Newark Charter School got free money from the charter school performance fund last year.  $250,000.  They got money from various foundations.  Is it worth all this fuss, especially when they know districts aren’t exactly swimming in money.  Lets face it, all Delaware schools have some fat they can trim.  This isn’t a charter thing, this is a Delaware thing.  I saw many comments about how I am so biased against charters.  I’m not.  I’m biased against financial abuse, closed-door meetings, things done in secret, high-stakes testing, an out of control DOE and Governor, and some legislators who care more about profit and pleasing the rich than they do about kids.  I will fully admit I didn’t understand a ton of aspects with district financing until the past few months.  Charters are smaller so it is easier to find stuff.   I look at them as well now.  But this move that was going to happen until I wrote about it was shady beyond all belief.

Yesterday, the legislators swarmed Godowsky, and he backed down from doing it this year.  And it was a lot more than the four I saw on one legislator’s Facebook post.  But it is not over.  On Thursday morning, all the district business managers are having a meeting at the DOE.  This is a closed meeting.  The charter leaders aren’t backing down on this, and I’m sure the district leaders aren’t going to let this just happen.  This will get ugly.  The legislators are involved now, so a lot could happen either way.  Godowsky and Markell will be gone in January.  So if Markell wants this to happen, he would need to do something now or after the election.

In terms of charter funding overall, the way we are doing it does NOT work.  At all.  It sets up animosity between districts and charters.  We also need to get rid of the false competition which is based on standardized test scores.  And I’m going to say this NCS parents.  Constantly saying we are “jealous” or “his kid must not have gotten into the school” is elitist.  To be honest, I never heard of Newark Charter School until a few years ago.  Ask Greg Meece about me.  See what he says.  Ask him all the questions I’ve written about.  The only time he has ever reached out to me was last winter over a lottery issue with a parent of a disabled child.  Ask him the following:

Why doesn’t NCS show other bank accounts run through the school or school activities on their website?

Why did the board remove their May 2016 board minutes?  These minutes were put back on the NCS website at 5:17am this morning by NCS CFO Joanne Schlossberg, and does discuss the meeting with Blowman:

NCSMayBoardMinutes

New Question: Why were the board minutes modified this morning and put up without approval of the Board of Directors at NCS who has to approve the minutes as per your very own bylaws?

NCSBoardMinutesModified

Why does the school refuse to file a tax return based on very bogus reasons for not doing so in the first place?

Why did Greg Meece ignore the IRS Guidance letter stating charter schools really aren’t exempt from filing tax returns?

Did the school divert funds from allocations they weren’t allowed to in building their STEM lab and their new auditorium?

Why did the school accept a Title I award from the US DOE when they have one of the smallest Title I populations in the entire state?

Why did a teacher from the school publicly state yesterday on a Facebook post that in a year NCS will be over 50% minority?

How can NCS make a claim (from the same teacher) that they have more kids in Basic Special Education in K-5 than many Red Clay schools?

Why would Meece email all the teachers and parents to support the Christina referendum but wouldn’t do it publicly?

Why does Senator Sokola write so much legislation that benefits charters, especially NCS, but has no problem writing laws that make things harder for teachers and parents?  How much input does Greg Meece have on that legislation?

Why does Meece refuse to collaborate on his innovative discipline practices with other schools?

Which, if any, legislators knew about this change in the way districts pay charters before a week ago?  Did any help in the organizing or structure of these secret meetings?  Did any attend these meetings?

Why have I heard from so many teachers in this state that if they disagree with Meece on even the slightest thing they are fired?

And the most important.  Does he believe NCS is better than everyone else?

When he can answer all those questions, which I publicly ask him to do, then I may change my mind about him.  But until then, no, I don’t have a high opinion of him as the Head of School at Newark Charter School.  Sorry, but I have seen and heard far too much to think otherwise.  I understand that for the parents and teachers at NCS it is the greatest place on earth.  There is a reason for that.  And maybe you don’t want to face it, but NCS supposed success is based on very selective enrollment preferences.  Set up a long time ago, this prevents many at-risk kids from attending the school.  Sure, some get in, but not enough based on the demographics.  There are key parts set up which prevent the often-heard excuse of “it’s a lottery, anyone can get in”.  You need to understand that choice has consequences.  It may be great for your kid, but when people like Meece want more money, after he gets tons of it already from Christina and other districts, that takes from the very same at-risk kids who can’t get into that school.  Not in the numbers where it would be a true picture of the surrounding area.  And setting it up with a five-mile radius also prevents kids from not even being able to apply.  So when folks see Meece wanting more money, that is what they see.  They see your kid going to a school built on a façade while their kids will have less.  This isn’t all charters.  But enough.  And when the one that is very guilty of this modern-day social engineering is the genesis of this funding change, you shouldn’t be surprised when there is major blowback.  That’s not jealousy, that’s understanding the implications these actions have on the state.  You want equal funding?  You have to earn that.  Prove it by opening your doors to everyone.  Until then, you can say whatever you want, but we aren’t hearing it.  Not until your demographics show otherwise.

 

 

Amy, Skyline, Bomb Threats, Bus Issues, Fighting, Bullying, Inclusion, Zero Tolerance: How Do We Fix The Mess?

In the wake of what happened at Howard High School of Technology a week ago, many are questioning how to fix what is happening in our schools.  There are no easy answers.  I have not heard anyone defending the perpetrators of Amy’s murder.  But I have seen people describe students who exhibit behavior issues referred to as “animals” and “they should be sent to labor camps”.  While this is an extreme, I’ve heard these types of comments more than once, and I hear it more and more.  Once we go down that path we are essentially labeling these students as helpless and stating there is nothing we can do to help them.  And let’s face facts: when people say this there is a very racist undertone and they are referring to African-Americans.  I don’t agree with it on any level and every time I see it I want to ship the people who would say things like that out of our state.

Just this school year we have seen the following: a charter school that closed mid-year due to an uncontrollable environment, a change in feeder patterns resulting in many instances of bullying at a Red Clay middle school, a bizarre number of bomb threats resulting in many schools closing for the day, a child intimidated by a bus driver in Appoquinimink, a father suing Brandywine over what he alleges are due process violations and unsubstantiated searches, students sent to hospitals as a result of fighting that are never publicly acknowledged but whispered about on social media, inclusion practices that are not working, and a student who died from a brutal assault last week at Howard.

As our state grapples with these issues, we have not seen solutions put forth that look at the big picture.  Why are our students acting out?  Why are many of our schools attempting to hide many of these issues?  I have attended many State Board of Education meetings this year and I listen to their audio recordings.  We don’t hear them discussing these kinds of issues too much, if at all.  They seem to be more concerned with student outcomes based on standardized tests, Pathways programs, charter schools, accountability for schools, and celebrating the good things in our schools while giving short shrift to the issues that truly impact school climate.

It starts there.  To get to the heart of issues like this, you have to start at the top and have it trickle down to the Superintendents or Heads of School, to the building administrators, to the teachers, to the students and to the community.  If we have that massive disconnect at the top, the issues can never truly be addressed.  If our State Board and legislators can’t get these matters fixed, how can we expect our schools to do so?

To adequately blame one thing that started a lot of this, we can blame zero tolerance.  After the Columbine shootings in 1999, a massive wave of zero tolerance spread throughout America.  No school wanted to have a situation like that on their hands.  Students would be suspended for frivolous things.  It got to a point in Delaware where an African-American first grader was expelled in the Christina School District for having a cake knife.  As a result of that one bad judgment call, a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) resulted in the district entering an agreement with the OCR.  Because the OCR ruled too many minority student suspensions were happening, the district had to be very careful about how they were meting punishment to students.  Other districts saw what happened to Christina and didn’t want to suffer the same fate.

As a result, there was no consistency throughout the state on best practices.  For all the accountability and “standardization” of students based on very flawed state assessments, there has never been any definitive set of standards for school discipline and school climate.  There is no consistency with how schools report instances of bullying, offensive touching, and fighting.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn pointed this out many times but there has been no direct accountability to schools over these issues.  Part of the problem with discipline issues is the unique nature of them.  Because of student privacy and FERPA regulations, many situations can’t be discussed publicly.  There is no accurate tracking method to make sure our schools are recording these instances on the state reporting system, E-school, as required by state law within a set time period.  The result is very bad data in the one area we actually need it the most.  Add in special education issues and behaviors exhibited by students with disabilities.  Is it a result of their disability or is it everyday behavior?  Sometimes we just don’t know.

Some schools are very faithful with recording issues, but far too many aren’t.  How do we know which schools need help with issues if they aren’t being 100% honest about what is going on in their halls?  What shape would that help even be?  If it is a punitive measure from the state, is that going to solve the problem or persuade schools to hide things better?  Non-profits and corporations are lining up to get into our schools to offer what amounts to for-profit assistance.  Under the guise of the Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a call for companies to come into our schools like never before to offer after-school programs and to turn our schools into all-day community centers.  As well, we are seeing some states allowing companies to essentially bet on student outcomes in return for financial profit through social impact bonds.  Many of these ideas are concerning to parents.  Should schools be a place where medical and therapeutic treatment for students occur?  For neglected and abused children, this could be a life-saving measure for those children.  But it also opens up more of our public education system to less control at the local level.  Many feel government should not even be allowed to write something like this into any law.  The Elementary/Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was designed to make sure minority students were given equal footing in schools and were not disadvantaged.  Written in 1965, its goal was actually simple: equal rights for all.  Fifty years later, we are still tackling many of the original issues.  But now we want to turn our schools into more than what they should be.

As far as this insane filming of fights in our schools, it is a new environment with no oversight.  Students want to become social media famous because people come to their profile to look at it.  Something needs to happen immediately.  It is fostering an environment that is not healthy and desensitizes kids to violence.  Even community Facebook pages that have nothing but street fights on them exist unchecked and unmonitored.  In some of these videos, you actually see people telling others how to evade the police and they give warnings when the police are in the area.  For some reason, students are fascinated by this.  But the effect is chilling.  As well, the role of technology in our schools and homes is greater than ever.  But why are we allowing students to carry iPhones around school?  How much of the violence from gaming is warping young minds?  For that matter, what is all this screen time doing to all our brains?

If Amy’s tragic death has shown us anything it is that something is very broken.  We have to fix it, no matter what.  Amy’s situation is by far the worst thing that could happen to a student in school.  But many students bare physical and emotional scars from this broken system.  They are the survivors of fights and bullying that cause trauma to the soul, if not the physical.  On the flip side, we have students like Patrick Wahl’s son Joseph who many view as a victim of very bizarre due process circumstances for a district that still follows zero tolerance tendencies.  There are good things happening in our schools.  Don’t get me wrong on that.  We see students participating in charity events and giving back to their community on many levels.  But that can’t be all the public sees.  We have to look at the bad too.  We can’t put a blanket over the violence in our schools and pretend it isn’t there.  Amy’s death shattered that illusion in our state.

In the shadow of all this is the other illusion the state has cast on parents.  Many parents judge schools based on their performance without realizing the measurement of that performance is fundamentally flawed.  To get a basic breakdown of how this works, many years ago corporations decided they could make money off education.  They tailored reports to give the illusion that “the sky is falling” and all students were in danger of falling behind other countries.  Politicians jumped on the bandwagon through concerted lobbying efforts on the part of these companies, and soon enough new laws came down from a federal level based on student outcomes from standardized tests.  No Child Left Behind opened the door but Race To The Top opened the floodgates for this corporate invasion.  As schools were labeled and shamed under “school turnaround” laws, the US DOE started their ESEA flexibility waiver scheme.  They bribed schools with money to further these agendas.  Our schools and districts took the money with immense pressure from state governments during a recession.  A dramatic shift in school climate happened.  As more and more teachers took part in professional development to train them on the Common Core and other company initiatives, something happened to students.  They were not supervised the way they were prior to all of this and they found new ways to usurp authority, especially in schools with large populations of high-needs students.  Add in the situation with the OCR in Christina, and it was a recipe for disaster.  Diane Ravitch wrote today about the fifteen years of “fake” reform and how the impetus behind it all, NAEP scores, show students who are now seniors more behind than they were compared to their counterparts in 1992.  Common Core doesn’t work.

What if what we are seeing with student behavior and the reasons behind it are all wrong?  What if those who come from poverty, special needs, and low-income minority populations isn’t just misbehavior but something else altogether?  What if it is a direct result of a system designed for conformity?  The supposed goal of the Common Core was to make all students get the same set of standards across the country.  I hear many consistent things from parents in Delaware.  For smarter kids, Common Core isn’t so tough once they get it.  But for struggling students, basically the ones from sub-groups that perform poorly on state assessments, it is much more difficult.  Perhaps what we are seeing with this absolute disregard of authority in schools is a natural defense mechanism kicking in.  A fight or flight mechanism when their way of living, of being, is attacked.  The natural instinct for teenagers is to rebel.  Compound that with an entire education system designed to make students question authority less and use “critical thinking” based on standards that actually give children less choices, and something will give.  We are seeing this now.  And if we continue on the same track, it will get far worse.  If a “smart” student gets it faster, it would naturally put other students behind.  This is the impossible bar the Common Core puts on students.  For the intelligent who come from wealthier and more cohesive home environments, this isn’t a problem.  But for students with disabilities who cannot always control their actions and minority students who do not have the environmental stability their more advantaged peers have, it will take a great deal of effort to catch up with their peers.  Add in the stress and anxiety they have from their environment outside of school to the pressure to perform in school, and the pressure gage gets higher.  Then add the explosive need every teenager has, to belong and have friends, and the gage gets closer to the point of no return.  Throw in a fixation on violence mixed with wanting to be accepted and the Pompeii of public education is set.  Last week we saw the volcanic eruption of rage unchecked and bystanders filming it and doing nothing.

The biggest victims of the education reform movement are inner-city African-American students.  While civil rights groups demanded more equity for these students they fell into the trap the corporate education reformers methodically laid out for them with financial enticements.  The reformers echoed their complaints and pitted parents against teachers.  The reformers used standardized test scores to give a false impression of schools and invented a whole new language based on the word “gap”: the equity gap, the proficiency gap, the honesty gap, and on and on and on.  Add in school choice, a growing charter school movement, forced busing based on a horrible Neighborhood Schools Act in Delaware, and the rise of Jack Markell as Governor wrapped in a corporate bow and the perfect storm began in our schools.

To ignore the plight of African-Americans in Delaware would be a gross injustice.  It goes way beyond apologizing for slavery.  A friend of mine sent me an article about the 1968 Occupation of Wilmington.  The article written by Will Bunch with philly.com talked about the nine-month Occupation of Wilmington by the National Guard following the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.  For the African-American community in Wilmington at the time, this was a grave injustice:

On the other hand, in a sign of some of the deep divide and mistrust in Delaware that lingers to this day, the white Democratic governor down in Dover decided to send in the National Guard – and then kept troops on the streets of Wilmington for nine long months, the longest military occupation of a U.S. city since the Civil War.

And this quote from former Wilmington Mayor James Baker:

But the memory still burns for those who lived through the occupation. “It sent a shock wave through the social-service agencies . . . and the city as a whole,” Baker recalled. “People said, ‘What are we doing?’ “

Many African-American communities in Wilmington are very distrustful of the government, and for very good reasons.  This belief gets handed down from generation to generation.  But when drugs enter a city like Wilmington, followed by violence and murders, that distrust can get out of control.  How do we tackle this?  How do we lift a whole city out of a problem of this magnitude?  When my friend sent me this article, it was a response to my question about why we don’t just send in tons of cops and clean it all up, all the drugs and gangs.  She informed me the last time this happened it didn’t work out too well.  It astonishes me that we are still dealing with issues of race in the 21st Century, but we are and we need to face it and deal with it, all of us.  But at the same time, we cannot ignore what individuals are doing in individual circumstances.

We need to be very careful on how we plan to deal with the situations in far too many of our schools.  Far too much is tied into the very bad education reforms that show, time and time again, how it just doesn’t work.  But our current system has been infiltrated with far too many people tied to these efforts.  I expected to see a late rush of legislation coming forth at Legislative Hall in the final days of June.  With very little community input and transparency, we need to watch our legislators like a hawk and make sure what they put forth is best for students and not the broken system some of them are trying desperately to make permanent.  The funding mechanisms for our schools are under the microscope, but if we squeeze the property assessment orange too fast, it could cause many to leave the state they moved to because of low taxes.  As well, we need to be mindful of laws Delaware could pass in anticipation of the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  The law is still being flushed out in a lot of areas and the DOE and Governor Markell WILL take full advantage of that to please the hedge funders and corporations.

If businesses want to come into our schools and turn them into community schools, they should pay rent to our schools.  If they want to turn education into a marketplace, like any other store they need to pay their rent.  Why are we giving them a free ride while they make millions and millions and our districts get less?  It makes no sense when you look at it like a business model.  But no, our state wants to give them tax discounts for doing business in our state.  We are giving them free reign to pump out the same products over and over again with no actual results.

While these aren’t the solutions we need to make our schools safer, it is a big start.  Our district administrators are far too distracted with all of the nonsense around Common Core, state assessments, personalized learning, and career pathways when they should be focused on the more important things.  The first steps to ending violence in our schools are actually quite simple.  A rebellion like none seen before in public education.  A collective and concerted effort to rid ourselves of the catalysts that are stroking the flames in our children’s lives.  End Common Core.  End state assessments.  End the testing accountability machine that destroys morale in students, teachers, and schools.  End the corporate interference in education that perpetuates the false ideals that if students have more “rigor” and “grit” they can become college and career ready.  We are indoctrinating children at a very young age to be something they are not meant to be.  The human mind won’t allow it.  Some will conform.  But for the growing poor and disabled in our country, they will not be what the reformers want them to be.  You can’t guide a four-year old towards a certain career path based on data and scores.  You can’t say they don’t qualify for special education if a disability has not manifested itself yet.  End the abhorrent amount of data collection on our students for “educational research”.

This is the start.  Let’s get back to more human education.  Why are we doing this to our future?  No child should be a victim of a padded resume or a fattened wallet.  The majority of teachers will tell you privately what we are doing is not working.  Administrators will as well if you catch them on a good day.  But they feel threatened that if they don’t comply their profession will disappear.  They will fight for certain things but when they need to openly rebel against the system, it doesn’t happen.  It is their self-defense mechanism.  The closest we have come to ending this era of education reform is opt out.  But even that is in danger of disappearing if the education tech invaders get their way and have the state assessment embedded in small chunks instead of a once a year test.  The personalized learning and competency-based education models are already calling for this.

When I hear people say “all you do is complain, what are your solutions?”, I cringe.  The problem is so epic in scope, so large in diameter, that it will take a great deal of effort by many well-meaning people to find all the answers.  And when I say well-meaning, I don’t mean the Rodel Foundation or the Governor.  I mean the people who are not affected by corporate greed and a lust for power.  I’m talking about the people who truly want to save our children.

Why I Had To Kill Two Articles In One Day!

This is a first!  It is very rare that I remove an article.  Today, I had to do it twice.  The first concerned Delaware Met and closure information provided by the DOE.  They were still in the process of updating this information and wanted to make sure parents of the students there got accurate information.  The second article concerned State Board of Education member Dr. Terry Whittaker.  I was questioning why he has not been present at board meetings since September.  Shortly after I posted the article, I was informed his wife passed away last month.  This was announced publicly at the last State Board of Education meeting.  My sincerest condolences for Dr. Whittaker and his family…

Now if I have to kill a third article today, that hat trick will not be acceptable to me, so I am done writing for the night!  My apologies for those who saw these posts in their email, Facebook, or Twitter and wondered what the heck happened.  This is not something that usually happens.

Delaware State Rep. Tim Dukes (Laurel) Has A Video Message For Delaware

From the Republican House of Representatives Newsletter from this week.  Unfortunately, I was not able to get the video to link to WordPress, but I did copy and paste the transcript:

In this opinion video, State Rep. Tim Dukes, R-Laurel, discusses how citizens can gain a sense of control over their chaotic world by connecting with the people representing them in the General Assembly.
Video Transcript
 
Hi, I’m State Rep. Tim Dukes.
 
As we look forward to the start of a New Year, and reflect on the events of 2015, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed.
 
It seems that there are new stories of intractable problems almost daily.  Violent crime is prevalent in some parts of our state; we face troubling budgetary challenges; and the merger of Dupont threatens layoffs and a seismic shift in our business landscape.
 
The weight of this can seem crushing. 
 
One way of coping with the sense of anxiety is to stay informed.
 
Consumed with the demands of their families and occupations, most people, understandably, do not keep tabs on what is happening in our state capitol.  But they should.
 
It has never been easier to get timely government news.  There many tools available, especially on social media like Twitter and Facebook, that will give you an idea of what is occurring in government.  Some of that news will be good.  For the information that isn’t, the knowledge will provide an opportunity for action.
 
With fewer than one million citizens, Delaware is a small state.  That advantage amplifies the voice of the individual.  Speaking from firsthand experience, calls and e-mails from individual constituents do sway the positions of legislators and can result in changes to pending bills.
 
In some ways, Delaware is a throwback to how governance was once practiced throughout the nation.  Many of my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, hold regular coffee meetings with constituents.  Those that do not can usually be reached by phone and e-mail. 
 
Delaware is one of the few states in the nation where legislators publish their home phone numbers and addresses.  And, unlike states like Pennsylvania, you stand a pretty good chance of inadvertently crossing paths with your state representative or senator. 
 
Our problems can seem overwhelming.  The year ahead will be difficult.  But by reaching out; by making your voice heard; by working together; we can find a path forward. 
 
 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

An Open Letter To Governor Jack Markell

I have tried to stay on the sidelines in the Syrian refugee crisis.  It is a deep concern of mine in many aspects.  My reasons for not publicly commenting on this are very simple.  I don’t want my readers to get sidetracked from education issues I write about.  The extremes on this issue among Delaware citizens is very apparent.  I have seen people de-friend others on Facebook because they don’t agree with their point of view.  There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground on these issues.  I see very Liberal citizens completely blasting Democrat politicians because they don’t agree with Governor Markell or President Obama.  I see those on the far right continue to trash those who seek equity in our society.

The plain and simple fact is this: there is a very huge population of people in this world who have no choice but to leave their country for fear of their very lives.  This is the reality.  Unfortunately, there are those who take advantage of that and come to other countries to perpetuate terror.  We saw it in Boston and Paris in recent years.  When do the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many?  When does the safety and concern for a country’s current citizens become more paramount than those who are not even having their basic needs met?  This is the crux of these issues.  Both sides have valid points that warrant further discussion.  What drives me crazy is the polarizing effect this has on social media.  I see this with gay marriage and abortion as well.  I cringe when I see very blatant and racist comments when the News Journal posts anything directly related to race on Facebook.

In matters of education, I fully understand I am extremely polarizing on certain issues.  I have never de-friended someone on Facebook though if they don’t agree with my opinion.  I will argue it until the cows come home, but I won’t shut them out.  As a society, we have become very quick to draw that line in the sand.

With that being said, I am taking a stand on the refugee crisis.  I do not think Americans should be put in harms way for the sake of individuals from another country.  While I realize there is more chance of a plane crash happening than a terrorist attack on US soil, the implications and consequences of another event would be long-term and damaging.  I don’t believe the US Government can say with 100% certainty that the vetting process is reliable.  While there is a chance, I can’t support accepting refugees from Syria.  This will tick off many who believe I am a Progressive Liberal.  If anything I am a Progressive Conservative Independent Republican Democrat.  It really depends on the issues.  In a nutshell, I am in the middle.  On this issue, I don’t think the risk of American lives being lost and disrupted is worth it.  9/11 haunted me for many years.  To this day, I always cry on the anniversary.  I didn’t lose anyone that day, but it felt like America was ripped apart and we lost something that day.  It was our sense of safety and security.

Today I received an email as I do every day from various groups and organizations on both sides of the fence on numerous issues.  Upon reading the below letter, I felt it best exemplified my thoughts and concerns with the refugee crisis.  I am posting it here because it is an important issue and a well written letter that best shows where I stand on this issue.  This does not mean I agree with every single aspect of the groups who signed onto this letter.  But on this issue, I stand with their opinions.  I do not think it is a racism or discrimination issue but rather a safety issue.  There is a very clear distinction between the two.

An Open Letter to Governor Jack Markell,
 
In a unified and sincere concern for the safety and economic health of Delaware’s families, we urge you to reconsider your position to relocate “Syrian refugees” into Delaware communities. We ask that you join the 30 other state governors in placing the safety and reasonable concern of your constituents above any other consideration or agenda.  
 
We all share your compassion for those who are suffering and want those who truly need refuge to get it. Like you, we recognize that true Syrian refugees need a safe harbor. That safe harbor is best found in Middle Eastern countries near their homeland beyond the reach of the present violence. The first and most immediate safe place in the region meets their need for safety. Their need is not tax payer supplied housing and EBT cards in Dover, Newark or Seaford, in a culture completely foreign to their Islamic worldview, and 6000 miles from their known way of life. 
 
We know from the recent European experience that “Syrian refugees” comprise people from a dozen or so countries from Morocco to Afghanistan. Claims in Washington of a robust vetting procedure prior to entry to US are not credible. The FBI has reportedly said it is impossible to vet that many people before they come into our country.  Representative Carney and Senator Coons have both expressed their concerns in light of this information.
 
We are equally concerned that your support for President Obama’s planned action reflects a disconnect from those you serve in Delaware. Delaware families are being profoundly impacted by limited resources including a lack of care for our veterans, also a concern of yours. Heroin use is at an epidemic level in our state and destroying families and communities daily. Wilmington continues to suffer from uncontrolled crime and there is a growing racial discontent.  We still face inequalities and deficiencies in our state’s education system that may likely place added burdens on the state’s budget. The people of Delaware just cannot afford the cost, financial and otherwise, of your plan to add to those needing assistance in our state. 
 
You will recall the Tsarnaev family; taken in by the state of Massachusetts under condition of asylum.  The cost to the taxpayer of their direct and indirect benefits exceeded one million dollars. No one in that family ever became self-sufficient or safely acclimated in the U.S.
 
As you know the two sons of that family killed 3 innocent people with a homemade bomb at the Boston Marathon. Over 200 other innocent people were seriously wounded in the blast.  After years in this country they acted with deadly violence as they believed their faith dictates. 
 
Finally, the Tsarnaev family was fully and completely vetted by our Federal immigration authorities as applicants of asylum. 
 
Ultimately, this “compassionate gesture” is estimated to cost the state over 100 million dollars. This cost extended beyond the social benefits taken by the family. It ultimately included, police operations and manhunt, emergency care for the survivors, hospitalization of the wounded, reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation and prostheses needs, business disruption, criminal investigation, state prosecution and public defender costs, and forward projected prison costs; all paid by Massachusetts tax payers.
 
We are faced with new and uncertain dangers that can only increase as we neglect to control those who gain access to our country.  We ask that you block state funding of any sort that would be needed and allocated to resettle this population in Delaware.  Importing persons from a vastly different culture and trying to integrate them is exorbitantly expensive and the unpredictable results can be devastating.
 
Our groups collectively represent many thousands of Delawareans who are passionate, engaged, and aware of the realities of recent events in this world conducted by a few Islamic radicals.  As Governor, your heaviest burden and first concern must be for the safety and common well-being of the people in Delaware.  We ask that you recognize the proven risk associated with similar relocation programs. We further request that you use your authority, in the best interest and public safety of Delaware families and communities, to obstruct President Obama’s ill-considered relocation plan. 
 
Respectfully,
912 Delaware Patriots
Faith and Freedom Coalition Delaware
Central Delaware NAACP
Rev. Dr. Shawn Greener
Frederick Douglass Foundation of Delaware – Sussex County
Institute on the Constitution

Parent Strike: What Is It? How Can I Help? What If I Can’t Come?

These are the questions Delaware parents have been asking me for the past five days, and it is time for some answers.  Parent Strike is a national effort on September 17th, coordinated with Constitution Day, whereby parents across America attempt to stop the insanity that has become public education.

What Is So Bad About Public Education?

  • The high-stakes testing environment which has culminated in the Smarter Balanced Assessment
  • The lost school-time based on test prep and interim assessments
  • The penalties to schools and teachers over low-scores in our high-needs schools
  • The hundreds of millions of dollars that have gone to outside companies instead of into our schools
  • The extreme amount of interference from companies without educators who think they know how to “fix” education
  • The lack of transparency from the State of Delaware with the Smarter Balanced Assessment
  • Regulations inserted into code without any legislative input by the State Board of Education
  • The very structure of the Smarter Balanced Assessment
  • American Institutes for Research as the testing vendor for Smarter Balanced
  • Classroom sizes that are way too big and even the most advantaged children are not able to learn
  • Schools with low demographics of sub-groups being labeled as “Recognition” or “Reward” schools
  • Schools with high demographics of sub-groups being labeled as “Focus” or “Priority” schools
  • The lack of true stakeholder input in the creation of standardized assessments
  • The complete and utter disregard by Governor Markell in failing to listen to parents and the legislators of Delaware with his veto of House Bill 50
  • The continued bullying and intimidation of parents by districts or charter schools when they give an opt-out letter
  • The charter schools even giving a hint that students may not get a spot or won’t be able to keep their spot over opt-out
  • The Common Core implementation and many disturbing aspects in it that have nothing to do with education
  • The lack of oversight over special education in our schools and listening to parents
  • Regulation 103 and it’s punitive measures against students, teachers, schools, and communities

How Can I Help?

  • Write a Refuse The Test letter to your child’s school advising them your child will not take the Smarter Balanced Assessment during this school year and you expect your child to have an education while other students are testing and hand it to the administrator of the school first thing in the morning
  • Attend a press conference outside Legislative Hall in Dover at 12:30 pm and go to the State Board of Education meeting at 1pm and give public comment about your opposition to Regulation 103
  • Talk with other parents at your child’s school about opt-out if they are not aware of it
  • Wear a red shirt as a symbol of protest for Parent Strike
  • Drop off flyers everywhere you go with a print-out of these bullet points
  • Paint REFUSE THE TEST on your car (with temporary paint)
  • Use stealth guerilla tactics: Put sticky notes everywhere (bathroom stalls, school supplies, in cereal and toy aisles at stores, anywhere you can think of) with REFUSE THE TEST written on it
  • Thank your child’s teacher for all they do and that you are willing to fight for them
  • Help a parent write a REFUSE THE TEST letter
  • On the night before, use sidewalk chalk on pathways parents use to walk their children to school
  • Whatever you can think of to legally spread the message

What If I Can’t Come To Dover?

  • You aren’t required to come, but all are welcome and a larger crowd always sends a larger message
  • You can write letters to the editor of your local paper
  • You can go to your local board meeting and give public comment about opt-out and your thoughts about what is going on with education
  • Plan an event for a future date to gather parents in your district to discuss what is going on with pubic education
  • Email your State Representative, State Senator, Congressmen, Governor Markell, the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education
  • You can read all about it with hashtag #parentstrike on Twitter and the Parent Strike Facebook page and see what others in Delaware and the USA are doing

I’m going to tell a story.  The first time I went to a public meeting knowing I would give public comment, I was scared out of my mind.  I didn’t believe my voice could make a difference.  It was the State Board of Education meeting in April 2014.  Since then, I have spoken at several events.  I’ve reached out to fellow citizens across the state, from Wilmington to Rehoboth, and answered questions to the best of my ability.  I’ve educated, informed, and spent a great deal of time helping other parents.  But I won’t ever forget that first time, the hardest time.

The power of voice is one of the most amazing things in creation.  I encourage anyone speaking publicly on something they believe in for their children to reach back to the moment your child was born.  When you first looked into their eyes and vowed you would do whatever you can to protect them.  Over the years, we lose some of that.  It gets lost in all the noise.  We may know something could be bad for our child, but other factors get in the way.  We worry about the implications and overthink things to the point where we are unable to act.  Many have asked me how I can do all I do.  I don’t have an easy answer for that.  But I always remember that initial promise to my son.  The one moment that matters most of all, born out of unconditional love.

It’s not an easy thing, being brave.  It takes courage you may not think you have.  It means taking yourself out of your usual comfort zone.  Any advocate or activist started out this way.  It’s not a matter of being practical, it’s about being radical.  Too many of us see “radicals” as sign-carrying flower children from the 1960s yelling and screaming all the time or protests getting arrested.  Being radical means going against the viewpoint of those you think are wrong.  That’s it.  There is no formula to it.  I can promise you, once you start, it gets easier.  I won’t say the words get easier, but it gets easier to speak them.  The very best public comments I’ve ever heard are those initial ones, because they come from the heart and usually carry a great deal of emotion.

You need to ask yourself: who is going to speak for my child?  Teachers can’t.  Not when it comes to standardized testing and opt-out.  Your friend can’t, your neighbor can’t and your child can’t.  Only YOU can.

These are the groups or people that talk a lot about education and what’s best for your child but they also brought us to this point and you should take what they say with a grain of salt: Governor Markell, the Delaware Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, the Vision Coalition, the Delaware Business Roundtable, and the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  As well, for parents of minority children, I implore you to do research.  There are many civil rights groups who speak the same kind of language as the above entities.  Always find the connections.  For example, the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League spoke out against opt-out claiming it would put at-risk children even further behind.  As we have seen from the initial results of Smarter Balanced, the gaps widened even further than they did last year.  I like to think these groups go with the governmental flow and take things at face value without doing their own research.

People will tell you that you are wrong.  They will argue your points until you are blue in the face.  That’s alright.  Ask them how they know they are right and you are wrong.  Ask them for research to support their points of view.  But never, ever, just give up and throw your hands up in the air.  Don’t let Governor Markell tell you what you speak out about is a recipe for the status quo.  Don’t let Rodel tell you what your child needs to succeed.  Listen to your heart and your own convictions.

Some will tell you I am just a rebel rouser, or a fire-starter, just looking to cause chaos due to injustices inflicted on my son in the past.  They couldn’t be further from the truth.  I have no vested interest whether your child is opted out or not.  I don’t get paid one single solitary cent for what I do.  Blog stats are just numbers that mean nothing to anyone.  I believe.  I believe education can and should be more than what it has become.  There are far too many in power dictating every single move, and the result is a generation that will suffer immensely.  Unless we stop it, and we stop it now.

Please share this post on your Facebook page, or your Twitter account, or Instagram.  Email it to friends.  If you believe, don’t be afraid to let others know.  Any movement starts with a few voices but it can rise to a legion more powerful than anything.

Transparency Allows History To Rewrite Itself On A Daily Basis

Transparency.  We hear that word so much these days.  It is real, it is a force, and it is changing our view on every subject matter in seconds.  In the pre-internet days, we relied on word of mouth as well as what was shown in print media.  As students, we read the history books and we accepted whatever we read at face value.  But now the rules have changed, and with this comes more enlightenment than Voltaire ever counted on.

I was watching an episode of Sleepy Hollow yesterday, and someone said something to Ichabod Crane about freedom of the press.  Crane, trapped in the year 2015, after magic put him in a dark sleep in the ground for over two centuries, responds with “I don’t think the forefathers counted on a 24-hour news cycle.”  They certainly did not.  No one could have predicted that.

A state Department comes up with an idea.  They work feverishly for months to plan it.  The day comes when they announce their agenda to the world.  They put it on their website, send press releases to the major print media, and it is out there.  Someone shares the Facebook post, it spreads, and the next thing you know some blogger is tearing it apart.  Within hours, the blog post spreads.  People don’t know what to think.

Meanwhile, the blogger found out about this agenda months before, and has been planting seeds for readers warning them about the latest doom and gloom coming from this Department.  The pony express is dead.  Long live the digital age.

I was wrong.  I fully admit it, and I laugh about it to this day.  Twenty years ago, at Thanksgiving dinner, I was having a discussion with my eldest brother about this new internet thing.  He was telling me how it would change the world and open people up to things never before seen.  I told him it would be an invasion of privacy and would take away from what we already had.  I proved myself wrong on that nearly every day since.

We do everything on the Internet anymore, whether it is on a secured or unsecured network.  We interface with people thousands of times a day, and don’t even realize it.  We have become a nation glued to a screen, and we see the world.  The key to all of this is understanding what is real and what isn’t.  As a blogger, I focus on Delaware education for the most part.  I see what goes on backstage curtain while the audience is enamored with the play unfolding before their eyes.  I find out, and I publish.  It’s that simple.

We have never had more power in America as we do right now.  Our opinions and views on issues can be relayed to the world in an instant.  We publish, we comment, we react and we punish.  We tell people when they’re wrong or allow others to go back and forth while we sit back and watch the show.

On the flip side of this, we take away.  We delete.  I have seen, just in my fourteen months of blogging, quite a few bloggers come on the scene and disappear months later.  All that hard work, all the research and care, gone with a push of a button.  When things get to hot or the pressure starts bearing on us like a freight train barreling at us, some of us make it disappear, forever.  But we always leave a thumbprint.  Someone does a copy and paste, or a screen shot, or takes a picture on their phone.  Nothing is buried forever anymore.  If it is, nobody ever saw it.

This is our world, and until the great worm comes and unleashes a virus that destroys all, it will stay that way.  Public policy is weaved into a web that spreads until nobody knows what to think of it anymore.  The haves and have nots go at it until they are digitally black and blue in the face.  Welcome to transparency.  Chaos and order, both sides win.

The Monstrous Ego Of Exceptional Delaware

As the opt-out movement is increasing in Delaware and charters are held to the fire, I’ve noticed the comments on here are getting more hostile and opponents of my views are not shying away from expressing their views.  Good, I want you to feel free to state your opinion.

Someone wrote the other day “I get that your blog exists only to stroke your own ego, and not to report responsibly about anything going on in the state…”  This commenter went on to talk about how I have the whole Academy of Dover and the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee mess wrong.  I don’t mind someone pointing out when they feel I am wrong, but please back it up with facts on how you think I’m wrong.  Otherwise I can only view it as opinion.

I’m quite sure I’m getting a lot of heat over my articles on disability organizations in the state.  That’s fine.  I’m not the only one expressing their views on their uneducated opposition of parent opt-out.  I have no qualms doing this either.  Many citizens in the state rely on their “expert” opinions and I have just as much right to challenge them than anyone else.  Some see this as a hostile stance, but I believe their initial actions are very hostile.

As far as my ego running amok, I don’t see it that way.  I see it as someone not operating out of fear or any restrictions to what I report.  Do I get everything right 100% of the time? No.  Sometimes I am fed false information, or complicated data can be misinterpreted based on the wording surrounding it.  It doesn’t mean I am completely wrong in my assertions, but it may not be as bad.  To the commenter who said I don’t report responsibly, how would you rate the media in Delaware in terms of responsible reporting?  Would you say they are 100% unbiased and follow every edict of professional journalism?  Is there such a thing as investigative journalism in Delaware education aside from bloggers?  Because the way I see it, most of the articles in mainstream media on education in Delaware come from the Delaware DOE, Governor Markell’s office, Legislative Hall, or local school stories.  Or the lobbyist organizations in the state who want to promote their views on education.

I remember when I first started digging into Family Foundations Academy last December, and I received many emails from angry parents telling me how wrong I was about Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington.  How dare I state they are stealing from the school.  Well they were, and when it came out in the News Journal a month later, it was the gospel truth.  I don’t mind taking the heat for articles like that because I know the truth will prevail eventually and if I can stir the pot, I will.

Because I dare to go against the highest powers in the state, I must operate out of a feeling of bravery.  I can’t cower to their intimidation or strong attempts to dissuade the public from pursuing issues that go against them.  That would not be responsible of me.  I don’t do this for me.  I do this for the 133,000 public school students who have no voice.  I do it for their parents.  I do it because my own son was a victim of so many egregious events in Delaware schools and this caused me to start digging for the truth.  I do it because our Governor and the DOE run around like every decision they make is right and they are infallible.  I do it because very few will and I have a moral responsibility to do so.

I will fully admit I drop easter eggs into articles all the time, hints of future articles.  For those who are well-informed of things, they see it.  There are some I have inserted into articles that nobody gets but make sense later on when I do post an article concerning that hint.  I get information all the time from several sources, some that nobody knows about.  Some of them turn out to be nothing, but some lead me in a certain direction only to have it turn out to be something completely different but even bigger than the lead.  And some, these poor desperate souls, try to give me blatantly false information in an attempt to diminish what I do.  And some think their lead is a big story, but it falls apart.

I don’t reveal these sources, and I’ve had to kill some stories because the very act of publishing the article would reveal that source in such a way they would be greatly impacted if I did so.  Usually I find a way around it and the story is slightly less than what it was meant to be, but there are some articles that will never see the light of day.  But if someone makes a public comment, anywhere, than I believe that is fair game.  If they contradict themselves publicly, and I find it, and it could change conversation, I’ll do it.  There are some stories I stumble on through sheer luck, and this happens more than anyone would think.  I do tons of research, sometimes keeping me up until the times when most sane people have long since gone to bed.

As an example of the leads I get, Kilroy wrote last night about how Moyer is having a lot of 1/2 days for professional development and he questioned the authenticity of this.  Someone emailed me how East Side Charter has 1/2 days every single Friday.  I immediately went to their website, verified my source was correct, but I checked to see what their hours of operation are: 8-4 Monday to Thursday and 8 to 12:30 on Fridays.  Most schools operate on a 7 hour day Monday to Friday, but East Side does it a little bit differently but the hours of instruction are actually a little bit more than most schools.  I am sure the person who sent me this information would not mind my writing about this to prove my point.

I find it ironic that those who accuse me the most of having this monstrous ego are usually anonymous but want to take potshots at me to think they are bashing me while under the guise of anonymity thinking they will persuade the entire readership of this blog that I am nothing.  I know I’m not going to change education in Delaware to my way of thinking.  But I do know many things I’ve written about have gotten conversations going.  And I’ve done this without joining one single group that would cause me to stifle my actions.  If that’s ego, I will gladly accept the accusation.  I do this for free, with no rewards or benefit.  And I happily accept this odd fate life has given me.  At the end of the day it’s about transparency and looking out for students in Delaware.  I don’t see them complaining, it’s the adults who are afraid to speak out because they are in positions where doing so would cause them problems.

I would challenge all Delaware parents of students to actively go to board meetings of your schools and state organizations.  Check out their websites.  Does what appears on there match what they are saying in meetings?  Are they being completely honest with the public?  Check out their finances and what is reported on the state websites about contracts and money going out.  Make Google your best friend.  After you have done all that, come back with information about why I am so wrong all the time.