Last night the Christina Board of Education, in front of a packed house, passed the Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the Delaware Department of Education and Governor John Carney’s office with a 4-2-1 vote. Board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige voted no while member Angela Mitchell abstained. The tense meeting, which lasted over three hours, had Carney sitting in the audience the entire time. While the News Journal, WHYY, and WDEL all came to the meeting, many parts of the meeting were not covered in their articles. Continue reading
The Christina Board of Education will finally vote on the Memorandum of Understanding between Governor Carney’s office, the Delaware Department of education, the district and the Board of Education on Tuesday night at Sarah Pyle Academy. Their regular Board of Education meeting begins at 7pm. What’s at stake? Schools closing and consolidating into two schools. Governor Carney’s reputation. The Christina School District Wilmington students in Kindergarten to 8th grade.
Even if you don’t live in Christina, this will be something to watch. It isn’t every day a Governor proposes this kind of action. Some say it is needed while others say it is too much. Some say the Board should vote yes while others say mixing these student populations from different areas of the city is a powder keg waiting to explode. Some say forget the past and keep an open mind while others say Carney’s office doesn’t have the first clue as to what these kids need. We will find out what the Christina Board votes on Tuesday evening.
The below pictures were released by the Christina School District:
If I were Christina, I would want to see a big fat check hand-delivered by John Carney before I put ink to this. They are putting a lot of trust in a state that has continually targeted this one particular district if they vote yes. Sorry, I don’t trust Carney. He has yet to prove he can be trusted.
Over the past few years, I’ve made it a point to write an original Christmas story on here each holiday season. Some have been completely satirical while last year’s was a bit more serious. They usually star the Governor of Delaware at that time. Sometimes they even have Santa Claus as a main character! I thought I would put all of them together in one place. Next year I’ll do the same thing with this year’s stuff. This year’s story is coming! Just trying to find the right time and ideas to come together! Heck, in the spirit of Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate), let’s put all the festive stuff here!
A note to newer readers who haven’t been here since the beginning. Back in 2014, in the first six months or so of this blog, I picked up an idea from Kilroy’s Delaware to add Twitter hashtags to each title. I didn’t realize this was highly annoying to many readers until someone pointed it out to me. I’ve cleaned up some of those old stories and removed those hashtags, but I saw doing this a lot of the Christmas themed articles still have them. My apologies! Last year I took a long overdue vacation from the blog so only a couple of articles saw the light.
More Christmas Gifts For The Enemies Of Public Education Part 2 12/21/2014
The Other Christmas Gift 12/18/2015
The Sound Of Angels 5/7/2016 (Not really a Christmas related story but perfect for that holiday spirit!)
Santa And John 12/1/2016
If you liked the Jack and Paul Common Core birth story, I did write a sequel a year and a half later but it is not holiday themed:
The Delaware Education Posse Rides Again 5/15/2016
Last night, the Christina Board of Education voted 5-2 to push back Delaware Governor John Carney’s consolidation plan for Christina’s Wilmington students until the 2019-2020 school year. They felt the initiative would need more time. The no votes belonged to board members George Evans and Fred Polaski. State Rep. John Kowalko gave public comment concerning the plan. To say he was not in favor would be an understatement. Kowalko brought up many good points which the Governor and the Delaware DOE ought to consider.
I and 9 other legislators attended a meeting called by Governor Carney less than a week ago purportedly to discuss the proposed Wilmington school reform plan and MOU proposal. Since we weren’t given copies of the MOU and it doesn’t seem to be available any longer at the link the Administration provided I cannot offer or challenge some of the specifics. At this meeting the Governor suggested that the MOU draft submitted by DOE would be changed and this board is not bound by it and should draft its own MOU proposal. The deadlines for Board action that the Governor and DOE appear to be imposing are substantively unrealistic and impractical for such a complex consideration with so many unanswerable questions.
Having examined some of the initial proposal and the details and expectations it held has led me to conclude that this is not a well thought out plan, that raises more questions and challenges then it has answers for.
I distributed some of my points of concern to the Governor and DOE and have copies for you that I will distribute. Due to time constraints I will try to focus on only a few of my concerns that I hope you will consider at this time.
I find it particularly harmful and hurtful to the “Southbridge” community, families and children to propose closing Elbert Palmer, one of the true neighborhood schools in walking distance and accessible to this Wilmington community. I hope that this Board’s counter-proposal would support closing that tired old monolith known as Bancroft and refurbish Palmer, Pulaski and Bayard to use for the suggested K-8 reconfiguration.
I also implore this Board to pay heed to the massive costs (which the Governor personally refused to speculate on) in refurbishing or renovating in order to make these consolidations. You should be acutely aware that any promise of funding cannot be guaranteed. In fact I would urge you to recall this Administration’s recently passed budget with concurrence of this current General Assembly cut traditional public school revenues by more than $36 million. Restoring that $36 million in cuts and adding even a small percentage of the proposed renovation costs would be much more beneficial and effective for Wilmington students if allocated to create smaller classroom ratios and hire reading and math specialists.
As I’ve looked at this reform proposal and its details and drawing upon my 11 years of experience as a legislator I am forced to conclude that this is a no-win situation for Christina, this Board and the children of Wilmington. Its predisposition to fail will be used to scapegoat the district and further stifle opportunities for Wilmington students and their families.
Finally I would suggest that this Board consider that traditional public school funding has received reduced funding since 2009 now totaling over $65 million per year. Ask the DOE and Governor:
Who is going to pay for the renovations?
Who is paying for longer school days and school years?
Who is paying for vacation academies?
Who is paying for after-school programs?
And why aren’t Reading Specialists and funding for them part of this plan?
At this point, Kowalko had several questions for Governor Carney as well:
1) If CSD does not approve MOU, more money will be taken from the District further harming prospects of Wilmington students and families. (“If it rejects the plan and fails to come up with an acceptable alternative, the agreement would be terminated immediately, resulting in the loss of any additional financial support for the district”).
2) Bayard/Bancroft are not appropriate buildings for little children even if renovated. Bancroft too old to make usable with renovations.
3) Trauma Training not necessarily (research?) effective but investing/funding 1 to 15 class size ratios would effectively improve the learning environment and outcomes.
4) Palmer became the first equity lawsuit in Delaware when Christina District (at Lowery’s behest) tried to close it 10 years ago.
5) Leaves no “Neighborhood Schools” for city children and in fact may violate the “Neighborhood Schools Legislation”.
6) Bancroft is far away from Palmer and Southbridge children who now walk would be unable to continue that practice.
7) Distinguish more specifically between renovate, refurbish and reconfiguration.
8) Why don’t we do things like “successful” districts? The most successful programs such as in New York and Massachusetts fund “reading specialists” and lower class ratios.
9) When the plan refers to “potentially” establishing “early childhood education” and “centers for students and families learning English” at a vacated Palmer are the planners aware that there are no ESL students at Palmer?
10) Have you considered neighborhood “gangs” being integrated from across Wilmington into the same building?
11) The suggested “Co-leadership” model re: principals and assistant principals belies the reality that these two jobs have never had the same duties and have always had designated responsibilities and functions.
12) “Loan forgiveness stipend” to young and “inexperienced” teachers does not reflect any benefit to already established teachers who have devoted their careers to inner-city education and “Who” is paying for these loans?
13) “Who” is paying for “longer school days/year”?
14) “Who is paying for “vacation academies”?
15) “Who is paying for “after-school programing”?
16) Why aren’t reading specialists part of this plan and therefore WHO IS PAYING FOR “READING SPECIALISTS” SO THAT CHILDREN ACTUALLY LEARN TO READ?
These are all valid questions that deserve answers. One of my biggest questions is why the Delaware Department of Education did not include this in their presentation to the Office of Management and Budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget a couple of weeks ago. Where is all this money coming from? The Christina Board of Education will vote on the plan again next Tuesday at their monthly board meeting. Revisions will supposedly go back and forth until February of 2018 which is Governor Carney’s deadline for the decision.
I’d heard the rumor. The five Wilmington schools serving Christina students would fold into two. It was only a rumor until today when the News Journal published details of a confidential memorandum of understanding between the district and Governor Carney. Meanwhile, the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, which has outlived its usefulness as of late, decided to hold an impromptu meeting while breaking state FOIA open meeting laws.
As per Jessica Bies’ News Journal article:
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, a state advisory committee formed by then-Gov. Jack Markell to come up with ideas to improve education in the city, was also scheduled to review Carney’s proposal Tuesday night. It did not publicly advertise the meeting in compliance with state law or post the agenda for the meeting until late Monday, after a News Journal reporter called and asked when it would be shared.
As per a source, this WEIC meeting was planned six weeks ago and the Mayor of Wilmington came to speak. A technicality of not posting the agenda in the required seven day window occurred. When Tony Allen arrived at the meeting, he advised the committee of the technicality and that no action would be taken at the meeting, including approving the minutes for the last meeting. While I have seen time and time again in FOIA complaints that a party forgot to post an agenda, it is my belief, even if a meeting is planned and they decide to only hold it for informational purposes, they should delay the meeting for appearances sake. How confidential is this memo if so many people had access to it before the Christina Board of Education even has it? Sounds like Carney and Christina want it to get out. I’ve heard people rambling for years that Christina needs to consolidate some of their schools but the way this happened is shady at best.
If Carney’s office released the document, it doesn’t sound like Superintendent Richard Gregg was too happy about it:
Superintendent Richard Gregg recommended removing the names of schools from the document before it came to the school board for the vote, and there was a discussion about having the governor refrain from using the schools’ names in public.
Who were the three school board members who met with district staff, Carney’s team, and the union representative? Why doesn’t the News Journal name those board members? And where is all the scoop on the Empowerment crap Carney is trying to foist upon the schools? More questions than answers. And the Delaware DOE is going to be the one to implement all these changes? Has Christina lost their ever-loving mind? But this is the part that scares the living hell out of me:
The memorandum says Carney and the state Education Department would ask the General Assembly for additional funding to renovate the schools, as well as provide trauma-informed training to principals and teachers. It also promises funding for a dual-generation education center, as well as “philanthropic monies to support all Wilmington schools,” starting with those in Christina.
Philanthropic monies… and what will they want in return? This is the beginning of the end of public education. Once you get foundations actually funding schools (they already help fund charter schools), these schools are no longer public. They become part of Carney’s “public-private partnerships” where FOIA and open meeting laws go out the window. You heard it here first. Carney is just continuing Markell’s agenda who was following all the corporate education reform crap. At this point, I can no longer refer to Carney as Markell 2.0. He is Carney, through and through. Selling out schools to corporations. This is so deliberate and in your face. He played Christina and their board like a fiddle. This is when we start to see social impact bonds hit Delaware. And Rodel is loving every second of it with their competency-based education and personalized digital learning crap. I won’t go so far as to say Carney is the devil, but he is certainly his willing accomplice and Secretary Bunting is just playing the part of the yes-woman and kissing King Carney’s ring he wears for whichever level of Dante’s Hell he serves. I can see why Carney picked her now. She will do whatever he wants.
When I attended the very first WEIC meeting, I advised them transparency is the glue to whatever they do. While I recognize human error, there is also accountability for recognizing that and taking the appropriate action. Not go ahead and hold the meeting anyway. The only way we can stop people from violating FOIA law is to call them out on it. I have made it my mission to do so for over three years now. I will not hold back on that for any organization that is subject to FOIA law.
I hope Carney locked the General Assembly into funding this hot mess, otherwise it becomes yet another unfunded mandate in Delaware. I’m sure deals have been made behind the scenes. If not, the philanthropic foundations like Rodel and the other vultures waiting to pounce on public education will assuredly send their lobbyists to hound them for the next seven months.
This is really cool! Apparently, Stubbs Elementary School in the Christina School District was very good this year. An anonymous donor paid off an outstanding debt the school had. Now being that this is a certain time of year, I can only assume it was Santa Claus. The guy took a recent ride through The First State!
But seriously, whoever did this, thank you! We need more of this in the world!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2016
Wendy Lapham, Public Information Officer, Christina School District, 302-552-2610
Anonymous Donor Pays off All Outstanding Meal Balances
at Stubbs Elementary School
Wilmington, DE – An anonymous donor has made the holiday season brighter for families at Frederick Douglass Stubbs Elementary School in Wilmington. The District’s Child Nutrition Services Department announced that an anonymous check in the amount of $1,283.07 has been sent on behalf of Stubbs, which is sufficient to clear all outstanding meal account balances at the school. The person or group responsible has chosen to remain anonymous, but that has not stopped Stubbs Elementary School’s staff and students from rejoicing over this welcome news.
“Our school community was thrilled to learn about this act of generosity,” said Stubbs principal Jeffers Brown. “We have families who struggle to pay their bills during the holidays, and this incredible gift provides welcome relief to many of our parents. Knowing their children’s outstanding meal balance has been paid will make the season a lot brighter for them. Whoever the anonymous donor or group of donors was, our students and families thank them sincerely for this donation.”
Frederick Douglass Stubbs Elementary School serves 344 students in preschool through Grade 5.
# # #
Did a principal of a Wilmington, Delaware elementary school participate in electioneering?
The below picture just showed up in my email inbox. The alleged letter is from the Principal of Stubbs Elementary School in the Christina School District. The picture would suggest Stubbs E.S. Principal Jeffers Brown fully endorses Delaware Senator Bryan Townsend for Congress. What’s the big deal? He is acting as an employee of the Christina School District. The title states “From the desk of Principal Jeffers Brown”. Not Jeffers Brown, taxpaying citizen, but Principal Jeffers Brown. I do not know how or if the below letter was sent out to the public. I don’t know who received the letter. I don’t know if it was placed in students’ backpacks to be sent home to parents. I don’t know if it was mailed. What I do know, if Principal Jeffers Brown did allegedly commit possible electioneering, that is explicitly against Christina School District Board of Education policy and Delaware election laws.
This matter has been brought to the attention of the Christina School District but no response has been released yet. I would have to wonder, personally, how this letter came about in the first place. The letter does not state it was paid for by “Friends of Bryan Townsend for Congress” or anything like that and I would hope the Townsend camp would know that is a possible violation of Delaware law and possibly Federal law as well because this is a federal office. Is this something Principal Jeffers Brown did on his own or was he asked to do it? Was he the only employee of the district who put pen to paper with his signature as a school employee? Is there similar campaign literature coming out of the Townsend camp with similar wording? If so, please send to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and all will be kept anonymous. While writing this article, I was informed there is an envelope with a P.O. Box on it but I have yet to receive a copy of such an envelope if it exists.
This article will most assuredly continue to receive updates as developments become more clear. If Principal Jeffers Brown wishes to contact me as well, I would be more than happy to hear his side of the story behind this letter. While I do not personally endorse Senator Townsend for Congress for reasons I have written about on this blog, I would be putting this article up no matter which candidate may have benefitted from a potential electioneering process as could be in the above letter.
Updated, 4:44pm: I received a copy of the envelope this was sent from. In the below picture it states “From the desk of Jeffers Brown” with an address of PO Box 1729. I did a quick search and found out where this address comes from:
But this… this is not good at all…