Students and staff at Delcastle Technical High School in the New Castle County Vo-Tech School District have been sitting in classrooms with unbearable heat for over a week. But the district is refusing to fix the real problem. Continue reading
As I delve into year five on this blog, sometimes it is healthy to take a look back at my humble beginnings. From the crazy legislation I proposed in 2014 to my modern-day attempt to get a Secretary of Education removed from power, it has been a crazy four plus years! It started out with a plan and turned into so much more! Continue reading
I honestly didn’t think it would last this long. Here we are, June 13th 2018, and my screaming toddler is moving into the school years! It’s been a long journey filled with ups and downs, tosses and turns, and joy and anger.
As I head into Year 5 on here, I’m not going to make any promises. One, I never keep them, and two, why spoil the fun? I can’t commit to what I’m eating for breakfast tomorrow so why set myself up for failure?
I always get asked “why don’t you put more happy stuff on here”. I do, but it is few and far between. Whatever. I’ll put up what I see fit. And if I don’t think it is good for kids, you will probably see it. Since teachers are the caretakers of those kids in our schools, I’ll look out for you to the best of my ability. Deal?
Happy 4th Birthday Exceptional Delaware!
Project Veritas released a video on May 2nd about a teacher union president that clearly shows him admitting the union will lie and manipulate to protect a teacher in a student abuse situation. The responses from the union president are shocking. Even more shocking are the responses from the Delaware State Education Association and the National Education Association to help members deal with this video. I am putting the video up which you can see below. Continue reading
I just saw a video of the entire Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security board meeting from this evening. Since I’m the only blog (or media at this point) really writing about DAPSS these days, I feel it is safe to assume Board President Margie Lopez-Waite was talking about “the blog”. But an even bigger question is where the Delaware Charter School Network was? Isn’t their job to support charter schools? Where was Kendall Massett?
Margie did all the talking for the entire board. She played a game of bait and switch with the members of the audience. On one hand, she said she became the “scapegoat” for the slew of termination notices that went out Monday. She said Head of School Herb Sheldon played a direct role in that. She is trying to make it sound like those were his decisions to make and carry out. But then, on the other hand, she has the board pass a motion to revisit those terminations. She said, “A school can’t function if we don’t let the leaders lead”. But she is attempting to play to the crowd.
In terms of the DAPSS programs going away, Margie said emphatically they are not going away. But she said several times she wants to essentially marry DAPSS and her long-term goal of having an ASPIRA high school. That is her vision. No one else is screaming for that vision. Do not let her fool you. She saw an opportunity and struck.
“When I look in the mirror, I know who I am…And I hope that one day you guys learn the person I am. Cause I have no agenda here. I have no motivation other than helping children. So you can read all you want on the blog. You can get your information from those sources but they’re all completely wrong. That person doesn’t know me. They are just trying to feed you information. “
You are absolutely right Margie. I don’t know you. I’ve seen you a handful of times prior to your involvement in DAPSS. I’ve never written about anything big at ASPIRA as I have other Delaware charter schools. But what you seem to forget is the nature of this blog. I don’t pull stuff out of the air. It comes to me. From multiple sources. If I have nothing to write about, I don’t write. Plain and simple. And yes, I am trying to feed information. What is the purpose of this blog if it isn’t to inform? I don’t get paid. I could care less if 10 people read this or 5,000. I’m just getting it out there because once upon a time I needed information. Guess where I found a lot of it? Not in mainstream media articles. I found it on blogs. From people that were there. From comments on blogs. From what I heard, YOU didn’t know a lot of the staff that were fired the other day either. In fact, one staff member pointed out how you had never once said hello to him during your many visits to the school.
You said that less than 20% of the teachers were cut. But at the same time you said other teachers “resigned” because they weren’t able to take alternative positions. When you tell a full-time teacher they have to become a part-time teacher and they can’t afford that, you aren’t offering them an opportunity. You are basically saying “you mean nothing but I don’t have the guts to just come out and fire you so I’ll let you quit first.” Which, in my opinion, is extremely scummy. So if those people are getting the “demote or leave” slip, what does the percentage come out to factoring that in Margie? I get the financial perspective and sometimes there is fat to be trimmed. But we both know this was more than that. Don’t try to downplay it at a board meeting. Say those numbers in public including staff members.
You sit there and say you have no agenda or motivation while at the same time you are telling people who were just screaming at you that you want to merge DAPSS with your ASPIRA high school. You say you don’t want to interfere with the Head of School but you effectively took over the board, got folks who you KNOW will vote with you (hello Joanne Schlossberg from Newark Charter School), and all of a sudden pink slips are going out left and right. You talked about the Charter School Accountability Committee meetings and how you wished folks came down to Dover. I did. I was there. I heard you say you were going to make tough decisions people were not going to like. Not the board. Not the Head of School. But you. Not once did I hear a damn thing about your plan to merge DAPSS and this ASPIRA high school. I heard the rumors that you have always wanted that. Nor did you mention this HUGE need to have Spanish and Chinese programs at DAPSS. So don’t try to spin this as if you are some scapegoat. You initiated all of this. Like you are the damn superhero that “saved the school”. You didn’t save anything. You are an opportunist who saw a chance to get your precious dual language high school on the cheap without just doing it yourself. And you pissed off a ton of people along the way. I don’t need to know you. I need to listen, and hear, and report. You also don’t know me. Nor have you ever made a point to. And I’m okay with that.
As for the part where she started conversing with a parent DURING public comment IN SPANISH, that happened when the father stated he was Puerto Rican like her. She began speaking in Spanish to him but he shot her down and explained that even though he knows the language he speaks English in his house and his kids do as well. He said Spanish is NOT the most important language in the world. But when folks are complaining about having dual language programs at their school, that probably isn’t the best time to start talking in Spanish during a board meeting when someone else is giving public comment. The fact I have to point this out speaks volumes!
Lopez-Waite listened to what parents had to say. She took the jabs and expressed her opinions about them. But never once did she say anything about reconsidering HER vision for an ASPIRA high school. Even though the parents, former students, and current students loudly said they didn’t want the current programming diluted by HER vision. When you fail to truly listen and act on what you are hearing, by ignoring the will of the people (and that audience was the DAPSS family), you disrespect them.
Did DAPSS need changes? Well, yeah, they were under formal review and about to get shut down. The only thing that shocked me about all that is how long it took the Delaware DOE to initiate that formal review. But Lopez-Waite came in like a bear and wanted to tear the camp apart. And she did. Take responsibility for your actions. Own them. Be accountable. That’s what we want our students to learn. But when the adults can’t do it, how the hell do you think the students will?
When you have a “vision”, it is often a coin toss. If you fail to see the other side of the coin, you can’t be shocked when that coin comes up tails. That’s exactly what happened with Margie Lopez-Waite tonight. She underestimated parents, staff, and students. She assumed it was the same crowd she has at ASPIRA. It backfired big time! With this crowd, you wouldn’t dare pull your next move, which was to make yourself Head of School at DAPSS. They would have fileted you alive and you knew it. Which was why the board meeting was cut short before you could even get through the agenda.
And once more, for the record, where’s Kendall?
At the Delaware Academy of Safety & Security board meeting going on now, parents are screaming at Margie Lopez-Waite and students are crying. They are very upset with her about the mass termination of anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 of the staff on Monday. They are also very pissed at her about her plans to turns DAPSS into a type of ASPIRA High School. Continue reading
After weeks of work, all of the Delaware Public Education salaries over $100,000 have been posted with a few exceptions. Those are four charter schools who either did not respond or will in the next couple of days. But there is more than enough data to make some sense out of all this. Many asked why I was posting these. There were several reasons: requests, comparisons, money tracking, and general curiosity. But the main reason was to see if I could answer the age-old question- “Are there too many administrators?” Finally, I am prepared to answer that. Continue reading
The Head of School for Delaware Design-Lab High School, Joseph Mock, resigned after holding the position for less than six months. I saw no notification on their website or social media pages. This happened the same day Dr. Salome Thomas-EL was ousted from Thomas Edison Charter School.
Delaware Design-Lab has faced low enrollment woes since before they opened. Further complicating matters is the ongoing legal matter with the former Head of School, Christina Alvarez. They even have a new website. They do have a board meeting tomorrow night. They held an emergency session on September 13th to discuss “personnel and contract negotiations”.
Not much information to report, but this DID happen. That I can say with 100% certainty.
What in the world is going on with our charter schools in Delaware? It is not good for any school’s stability to play musical chairs with their leaders. It certainly isn’t good for students! I would think the school would make an announcement somewhere. At the very least, I hope parents received an email from the school. Or perhaps I am breaking this news to the public for the first time…
All the Design-Lab schools run out of Philadelphia. This is the first (and only to date) Design-Lab school in Delaware.
It seems random events are not so random at Providence Creek Academy, the charter school in Clayton, DE. It now appears that the audit investigation into suspected fraud by a former employee was missing a lot of information. Two other employees were also taking funds meant for students for their own personal use. Head of School Charles “Chuck” Taylor covered it all up. Continue reading
Every year, on June 13th, Exceptional Delaware celebrates its anniversary. This year is, pardon the pun, no exception. You won’t see what the mission is until you read about it. But it is definitely time to reboot the mission and go back to basics. It’s about the kids. It’s about families. It’s about what is covered up and hidden. In ALL facets of education, people want quiet. They didn’t want the dirty skeletons coming out of the closet. But they are there. Like an ostrich with a head buried in the sand, so it is with Delaware education. Continue reading
I am getting very sick of the political games in Dover. Very sick. We have the Joint Finance Committee cutting programs left and right, with House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle continuing to bicker over raising taxes or having more cuts. We elect these people to do what is right for Delaware, not to kick the can until the next election. They continue to use the most vulnerable citizens of Delaware in their political football games: the students, those who are sick or rely on state assistance, and those who live in poverty. Enough.
In a Delaware State news article, JFC Co-Chair Melanie Smith brags about needing only $60 million in “soft cuts” while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf says further cuts would be “drastic“. Do these two even talk to each other? They are in the same damn party. Meanwhile, we have Senator Greg Lavelle preaching from his pulpit wanting the state to have even more cuts. But both sides are not giving serious thought to State Rep. John Kowalko’s bills which would raise taxes on the wealthy of Delaware. Hell, they spit in our faces in the House by passing the very ridiculous estate tax appeal last month.
Delaware Republicans, let’s get one thing straight: prevailing wage will NEVER happen as long as the Democrats hold power in the House and Senate. It is a pipe dream. Delaware Democrats, the Republicans will NEVER allow you to raise taxes on the wealthy. Delaware citizens, we are screwed.
I believe they are making these “drastic” cuts in the JFC to cut to the heart of Delaware. By going after the most vulnerable of Delaware citizens, they are hoping the legislators will cave and come up with some sort of short-term compromise to fix the budget. Governor Markell left the station, but not without spending our way to prosperity. But guess what, the bill came in for that spending and we have treated the state wallet like an ATM without any limits.
In Delaware, we have this insane tendency to vote the SAME people into office every election. While there are some very good State Reps and Senators filling the halls in Dover, I fear we have reached a stalemate in Dover. For far too many of our legislators it is about one thing: holding on to power and the next election. The Delaware Way has become a steaming pile of horse manure.
Governor Carney and his office have shown no sign of getting rid of this stink in Delaware. My recent FOIA complaint against Carney’s office over the Family Services Cabinet Council generated a response from his office. Because the Attorney General’s office is still working on the legal opinion for this, all I can say is the response is one of the most insulting things I’ve read in my entire life. It reeks of corruption and deals made behind closed doors. The solution, which is Carney’s way of saying “Don’t mess with me Ohlandt, cause I will do what I want no matter what” screams of the very thing I have grown to expect in Delaware. It evaporates hope and replaces it with a bad taste that no mouthwash could replace. I can’t wait until this legal opinion comes out to the public so they can see firsthand what I am talking about.
Our children, poor, and sick should not be held hostage because these lawmakers think they can do what they want. In the State News article, Matt Bittle discussed the decision by the JFC to hold off on meeting until later in June. Bittle writes:
The move, an atypical one, minimizes public backlash and concern in response to spending reductions and gives the caucuses more time to come to an agreement on tax increases.
I disagree with this. The public backlash is just beginning. I see more discussion about what is going on with the budget this year than I’ve seen in years. The very ugly move by the JFC yesterday on not allowing the cut sheets from yesterday to be released to the media or the public is the shadiest thing I’ve seen in my entire time blogging. In response to cuts already made, I’m sure their phones and emails were lighting up like a Christmas tree. Get over it. It is your job to listen to your constituents, not to stifle their voices. When you play games with people, don’t get upset when they voice their concerns over it. Last I heard, freedom of speech was still a real thing. Last I heard, we elected you to balance the budget, not to keep it from us.
Because of loop holes in state code, there are no-brainer ways to raise revenue in this state that are impossible because of budget allocations. We could raise the gas tax but that would only go towards the transportation fund. How about shifting that in state code so it would go to the general fund? I would support a ten cent raise in the gas tax if it would dig us out of this mess that the General Assembly created in the first place. It is things like that which make it impossible for me to give the General Assembly more than a shrug when this time of year comes around. They need to think outside of their very small boxes and get creative. Because I am sure they will get the same salary, benefits, and pensions. Meanwhile, I know I am going to have to pay more for getting less in Delaware as will every single citizen in this state. Except some of those really rich people who will bully legislators into making sure their shared sacrifice is palatable to their over-stuffed bank accounts.
I believe in Delaware. I believe in the people of Delaware. I don’t believe in our very corrupt state government who throws away their conscience in favor of lobbyists and back-door deals. I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican. The very second you replace a moral with some incentive, you have failed in your duty as an elected official. That isn’t integrity. It isn’t honesty. It is the Delaware Way.
Do you want some cheese with that wine Mark Murphy? That is the thrust of an online article from The Job in which Mark Murphy laments his time as the Delaware Secretary of Education. Murphy gets it wrong on so many levels it isn’t even funny.
Frankly, kids’ interests and adults’ interests don’t always align. Kids have no power, no say, no decision-making authority, no money — so nobody has a real reason to listen to kids. Go shadow a high-school kid for a day — good luck staying awake. You have to walk from class to class, with four minutes between each bell. You have to raise your hand to go to the bathroom. It is so disempowering and so boring.
Yes, he did use the word boring. Because we are desperately clamoring for high school students to do whatever they want in school. I’m terribly sorry Murphy had to exercise so much while shadowing a high school kid. He did always seem fit. Perhaps that is why. Let’s be very clear on something. Teenagers are trying to figure out who they are. They are going through puberty. I’m not saying their voice isn’t important, but adults often need to be the ones to make decisions for students. It isn’t because they are on a power trip, it is because they went through their teenage years and entered adulthood (well, most of them did). They went through it and came out on the other side and know what works and what doesn’t. But then a bunch of billionaires got together and decided they knew what was best for education. They used students and parents in their quest to get rid of teacher unions. That is whose side you were always on.
What would happen is, I would feel like I had reached an agreement with the union leadership, but then they came back a month or two later and that wasn’t how their membership felt. I should have spent more time meeting with local leadership. In hindsight, I would have done that differently.
Yes Mark, you should have. It sounds to me like the union leadership wasn’t also aware of what was happening at the ground level either or perhaps they were just placating you. The union leadership should reach out to their membership before making agreements on their behalf. If that is how it went down.
Each time you try to turn around a school, or you open or close a charter school, or disagree with the union, you punch another hole in the bucket and you start to drain out. You lose some political capital. Eventually, you’re out of water.
Mark, you became the Delaware Secretary of Education at the worst possible time in Delaware. Post Race to the Top and knee-deep in Markell’s very bad education policies. We are seeing a lot of those policies reversed throughout the country. Being a leader is allowing yourself to stand up to the criticism and not letting it get to you. If you ran out of water that’s because you kept listening to the same people over and over again and were not willing to hear what was happening at the grass-roots level.
If every kid had access to a middle-class lifestyle, the country would be a much better place, and people wouldn’t be so angry about all the immigrants.
The two don’t really intersect Mark. I know the goal is for every kid to be the same, but good luck with that. The bad education policies you pushed on Delaware at the behest of your education totalitarian boss, Jack Markell, failed because they did not look at the individual, only the collective. Not sure where your immigration comment comes in.
I am really nervous that really great people are going to stop being willing to pursue public office because you get publicly and professionally assassinated in these jobs.
Does this mean you see yourself as “really great people” Mark? Since I became involved in Delaware public education a few years ago, I have seen three Delaware Secretaries of Education: yourself, Dr. Steven Godowsky, and Dr. Susan Bunting. Both Godowsky and Bunting treated me with respect although we do not always agree on policy. When you were around, you didn’t give me the time of day. You treated opt out parents as if they were somehow beneath you and should be squashed like a bug. You didn’t even mention the Rodel Foundation in this article, but you listened to them far more than any educator, student, or parent. The priority schools initiative was the death knell of your time as the Delaware Secretary. The whole thing was a Delaware Dept. of Education public relations nightmare from the onset. It was shoddily planned and I would have to think you knew that.
If you’re a teacher in one of these schools, the new principal who comes into the school should decide whether you stay or whether you don’t stay. The teachers’ union was quite upset about that.
Of course they would be upset about it because the whole basis for this was standardized test scores. It failed to address issues such as trauma, special education, segregation, and the individual student. Who wants some corporate education reform Principal hand-picked by the Delaware DOE to come in and can a ton of teachers over Smarter Balanced scores? That’s why parents and citizens also objected to this plan. The biggest failure was your inability to predict the severity of the public backlash for this. I have to think you felt so empowered at the height of the corporate education reform movement that you felt infallible. No human being is infallible.
In retrospect Mark, this sounds like sour grapes on your part. You cast far too much blame on others while failing to address your own failures in your term. Playing around with the priority schools funding was the final straw. You can’t make promises and then back away from them. I’m not sure why you blame the unions for all that is wrong with public education. I know that is the corporate education reform mantra, but perhaps you should think of your own future and get off the shame and blame bus.
Sometimes a landmark passes you by and you never take notice. As I looked at my blog earlier today, I saw I had written 2,999 posts. That is a heck of a lot of articles for a blog that isn’t even two and a half years old. So I thought I would do something special for the 3,000 mark. I want to talk about fear.
There is no crippling force greater than fear. It can turn the most well-intentioned person into a bowl of jello in a heartbeat. We have all been there. Some live in this state constantly. What is my greatest fear? Probably that my son will have a hard life. It is one of the reasons I fight. With every bone in my body. I see teacher fear constantly. Those who are afraid to speak because they can’t lose their job. Fear can paralyze you when you least expect it. It gnaws at you and turns conviction into uncertainty. Truth into doubt. But there are those who fight the fear and do something with it.
Do you want to know who doesn’t seem to have any fear? Rita Landgraf. The News Journal announced today she will take a job at the University of Delaware. The soon-to-be former Delaware Secretary of Health will have big things to do at the University of Delaware.
She will join UD’s College of Health Sciences as a professor of practice and distinguished health and social services administrator in residence. She also will direct the UD Partnership for Healthy Communities, a cross-state and college initiative that looks to address healthcare challenges in the community.
Landgraf has been fighting for those who aren’t able to fight for themselves for a long time now and I’m glad to see she will continue that tradition.
Sometimes fear means rising up out of your comfort chair and doing the right thing. Shelley Suckyj spoke out at a Christina Board of Education meeting on September 20th. This one action drew major attention to the mold issues plaguing Christina schools right now.
Then there is Kathleen DeNight. Last week, she received Autism Delaware’s Volunteer Of The Year. As a parent of a child with Autism, I have seen DeNight at meetings. She is not one to mince words and she will fight for her child.
Next is my wife. On Saturday, she participated in a 5k walk. In the pouring rain, she completed the whole thing and came in 11th place. She has worked very hard in the past year to get to this point and I am very proud of her.
We can’t forget Jerry Fickes and Chris Leach, the two Wilmington firefighters who sacrificed their own lives to save others last month.
Another is one of my sources who I can’t name because then they wouldn’t be a source. But sometimes sticking your own neck out in order to do good for others can be tough. But this source does it consistently, and has been doing this for years.
There is this guy at work. He says some of the most outlandish stuff I’ve ever heard in my life. But he always does it with a smile. He has absolutely no fear at all in this world and will say whatever is on his mind.
The Chicago Cubs may have a lot of fear going to the World Series, their first in 71 years. But fear doesn’t get a team that far. It is hard work and dedication. I’ll be rooting for the Cubs.
Take Mike Matthews and Jackie Kook. The two are running for the President and Vice-President of the Delaware State Education Association next year. But they are starting their grass-roots campaign now and have committed to holding 15 meetings throughout the state in the coming months to meet with teachers and hear their concerns. They have no fear whatsoever in speaking their mind for what they believe in.
Some take their fear from younger days and turn it into something good. Such is the case with the Dover High School Peer Group Connections members. These seniors help new freshmen transition to the high school.
I want to give a shout-out to some other bloggers out there in this country. Especially two of them who continue to astonish me with the level of investigative prowess they exhibit. They are heroes in my mind, and what these two blog about is very frightening stuff.
One of my favorite artists, a bloke by the name of Steve Dillon, passed away recently. He was one of the co-creators, along with Garth Ennis, of Preacher. Before that, they had a fantastic run on a comic called Hellblazer. Dillon lived life by his own terms, and he wasn’t afraid to stand by what he believed.
Or what about Scott Goward. A Dover resident running for Governor on a 3rd party ticket. I’m sure he knows he will most likely lose, but he runs anyway, announcing his candidacy long before candidates from the “major” parties did so.
Fear conquering is all around us. We see it every time a baby takes its first steps. When a dying person is finally ready to let go. When a student walks into a school for the first time. When a couple finds out they are expecting. People who struggle with addiction who take those tentative steps to ask for help. When someone goes into surgery not knowing what the outcome might be. When a parent attends a board meeting to give public comment about issues with their child. When an African-American tells the world no more. Or it could be a teenager who ignores a bully and walks right past them with their head held high. Or another teenager who tells his mother, “I did it”, knowing that confession is better than the guilt. Those who wake up in immense pain every single day but find the courage to get out of bed and face the day. The opposite of fear is courage. In big ways or small ways, courage is overcoming fear.
For those who have been along this journey from the very beginning, thank you for the road to 3,000. For those who came along in-between, thank you for sticking around. For those who just read occasional articles, that’s cool too.
Things are changing fast in education right now. It will take great courage to speak your truth. But it has to happen.
2016 has been a very interesting year in blogging. Some articles took off way beyond what I thought they would while others didn’t even hit the 1,000 mark. Such is life in Delaware education! The articles that get the most hits on this blog seem to take on a life of their own. It is very odd to watch as the writer of this blog. I think to myself, “this is Delaware, it can’t be that interesting!”
Without further ado, here are the top 2016 articles on Exceptional Delaware:
- Delaware Public Schools: You Have Until Thursday To Get Rid Of Your Data Walls Or I Start Filing FERPA Complaints 51,505 hits
- Her Name Is Amy 36,029 hits
- Holodick & Brandywine Named In Lawsuit As Father Seeks Justice From Year Long Nightmare 22,277 hits
- Tragedy Strikes Howard High School In Wilmington As Student Dies From Head Injuries In Fight 6,924 hits
- Niche.com Delaware School Rankings By High School, Middle School, Elementary School, Best Teachers, & More 3,098 hits
- Delaware Senate Passes The “No School After Labor Day” Bill With Close Vote 3,054 hits
- Delaware DOE Hits All-Time Low With Very Scummy Move Against Teachers… 1,993 hits
- ***UPDATED***Channel 6 ABC Action News Gives Updated Information About Details In Amy Joyner-Francis Case 1,823 hits
- Governor Markell Takes It To Facebook And Receives The Beat Down Of His Life! 1,783 hits
- Delaware’s Pee Problem 1,712 hits
Out of all the above articles, the one that was the hardest to write was Her Name Is Amy. It was the day after her murder at Howard High School of Technology, and the words just came out of me. The data walls article really took me by surprise. I wrote the whole article in about five minutes while at work one day in response to a Facebook post. When I checked my laptop a few hours later at my next break, it had over 3,000 hits. The whole Senate Labor Day bill was also a post I thought no one would really care about, but it clearly resonated with readers for some reason. A lot of these articles generated so many hits because they were either original topics that couldn’t really be found anywhere else or because they dealt with a tragedy on a scale we weren’t used to in Delaware. The fact that three of these articles dealt directly with Amy Joyner-Francis speaks volumes at the grief we felt (and still do) over her senseless death. There was a lot of misinformation about what happened that day. Some of it was discounted only to be later verified. In some instances, it was just bad information. When I was prepping the Brandywine lawsuit article, I had a feeling it would be big, but not that big. The Pee article was meant to be serious, and it was. But sometimes the title just jumps out and says “read me”.
For the data walls article, I will be keeping a close eye on this topic. I want to hear from any parent, teacher, or student who sees data walls in our schools that give out names and test scores and rankings of students. In the classroom or out, especially if it is in an area where anyone can see it. Many schools who practiced this last year got a reprieve from me because it was the end of the school year, but I will not be so kind this year.
Blogging is an odd thing. None of these posts were heavily linked to with the exception of Facebook in certain situations. Facebook, Twitter, and Google have always been my biggest “referrers”. What none of these hits include are hits to my “homepage” which received 93,065 hits so far this year. Each year, this blog gets bigger, and I am very grateful for that. When I began this little thing back in June of 2014, I didn’t foresee anything like this or what it became. I thank all my readers, near and far, for coming to visit. It’s been controversial, it’s been real, and it’s even been fun with some stuff. The people I’ve met since have left a very big impression on me. I am a better man for meeting a lot of you! And some, I won’t go there!
While I don’t always slow down in the summer, my readers do. I have noticed a crystal clear trend with this as my 3rd year of summer blogging comes to a finish. Things ramp up big time in late August/early September. That continues up until Christmas. Slows down for a few weeks, and then the General Assembly comes back. Things slow down around Easter for a week, and then back up again until June 30th. Slows to a crawl on 4th of July, and goes up or down all summer depending on how many people are around and not purposely checking out from “real life”. But summer is when the DOE is usually the most crafty, so I make it an extra point to monitor them closely then. Sometimes it takes a while to put the pieces together, but eventually a picture forms.
Funny story, the first time I wrote an article about Governor Markell in the title, I thought for sure the Delaware Secret Service would be collecting me at work. It never happened, and as time went on, I stopped worrying about stuff like that. It’s not that I’ve ever been about to destroy Jack Markell. I’ve always hoped he would wake up one day and do the right thing. But he is very predictable once you figure him out. He constantly disappoints me, but that feeling leads me to the truth every singe time. I’ve always made it a point to tell the truth on here. Some of that is perception, and some were gut reactions, borne out of frustration and anger. I’ve flip-flopped on a lot of things, but some things have stood the test of time: my stances on Smarter Balanced, Opt Out, personalized learning, Rodel, Markell, the Delaware DOE, and the Delaware State Board of Education. I still think special education needs vast improvement in Delaware. Following the money has taken more time and research the past few months, but I understand things so much more than I used to. It isn’t just a charter thing, it’s a Delaware public education thing.
I’ve written some things on here that some found reprehensible but I stand by those decisions. To my detractors, I ask this: if I am wrong about so many things, why do I get no response for those things from those who know the truth? They have the ability to reach me. They all know how. It has been a very rare event when I left a comment in moderation because of the nature of the comment. I can count those on one hand. I have never edited a comment. I’ve corrected articles many times. In Delaware education, transparency is not always there so you draw conclusions based on what you have and the information presented. I’ve even apologized if I was wrong in the past. Sometimes I hear that others are upset with me, but I never seem to hear from those “others”. To those “others”, you should not feel afraid to reach out to me. I may not agree with you, but I will certainly present your side of the story. As long as you don’t lie to me or intentionally try to mislead me. Cause if I find out, you can be pretty damn sure I will write about that.
At the end of the day, this isn’t my blog. It isn’t even about the people who read it. It’s about the Delaware kids in public education. It’s about my kid and yours. When politics gets involved, it can get ugly. I won’t endorse those who toe the party line or vote against something that could and should be in a student’s best interests. In Delaware, we have the capability of ushering in true change to education. We stand on the cusp of something better and different. But all of this depends on how you vote in the September primaries and on Election Day in November.
I urge all of you to do research into which legislators have stood up for public education. Who has supported the rights of teachers and parents? Who voted against the Smarter Balanced Assessment? Who has openly, even in the face of disdain from their peers in their own party, voted for what is right and not for what the Governor or the forces against public education want? Who goes to a lot of education meetings and serves the will of the people and not the Governor? This can be a very thin line at times. There are many parents who support charter schools and school choice in this state. I recognize that, and I accept that. Some assume certain politicians are out to destroy charters. They aren’t. They just want transparency and honesty, about their finances or their enrollment practices. They see and hear things you never hear a word about. They see the lobbyists in full swing at Legislative Hall and know who is zooming who.
I think most of us want something better for our kids than what we have. But if you want to live in a sheltered island where everything is safe for the few, and not the many, then that isn’t always the best thing. Parents are used when they exist in those kind of environments. They are more willing to believe certain things because it is all they know. But trust me when I say the reality is very different. There are people in this state who are all about themselves. They may smile and appear to be the nicest people in the world. They aren’t. They know who they are. They know what they do. I believe most, if not all of them, are fully cognizant of their actions. I’ve seen many of their faces when they aren’t in a crowd. They aren’t the same faces. It is truly horrifying to see sometimes. I can also see the weight of guilt on some of them. I see the stress on their face and the remorse in their eyes. But they feel powerless to do the right thing. This isn’t something I can fathom. I guess it just isn’t in my genetic makeup. I feel for them in the same respect I feel bad for anyone who does wrong and it eats at them. We have all been there at one point or another. It isn’t a fun feeling. But at the same time, I don’t feel any loyalty to these people. Everyone has the opportunity to tell the truth or live a better life. It might mean sacrificing something these people aren’t willing to do. I don’t think it’s a question of not being able to do so for any of them.
We all make choices, for good or bad. I believe we all face moments when we wrestle with those choices. Struggle with what to do. We may be protecting someone else, or just ourselves. But when it involves kids, there is no place for ego or greed or manipulation or lies or fraud or power. Because most of these kids, they don’t know how to do those kind of things. They are seeing the paths set for them by the adults. So for those who I am talking about here, and you know damn well who you are, are you okay with Delaware students being who you are when they are your age? Are you okay with them taking the same actions you have? Because that is what will happen. If it isn’t your own children or grandchildren, it will be someone else’s kid. Someone who will grow up and think the game is more important than life. Is that really what you want?
“With great power must also come great responsibility.”-Stan Lee
If you haven’t heard those exact words before, then you have been victim to one of the greatest butcherings of the past fifty years.
“With great power comes great responsibility.”
Now this you have heard.
in 1962, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced the world to the Amazing Spider-Man. We all know the story. Peter Parker gets bit by a radioactive spider which gave him the proportionate strength of a spider. An orphan who lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben. He learned an important lesson very fast when he became a superhero. At first, he used his powers for fortune and fame. One night, he failed to stop a robber. The same burglar later attempted to rob his house and shot and killed his uncle. When Peter, dressed up as Spider-Man, finally confronted the burglar, he saw the same face he failed to stop. As he walked off into the night, he remembered what his Uncle Ben always told him, “With great power must also come great responsibility.”
This is the problem with the Delaware State Board of Education. The initial phrase Stan Lee provided to readers shows that just because you have power doesn’t mean you already possess an inherent sense of responsibility. That is something you have to develop and learn. The rewording of the classic phrase, which appeared in the 2002 Spider-Man movie, changes the concept of the phrase. As if power and responsibility are there from the start. As Delaware plows into the upcoming Every Student Succeeds Act regulations, this will become very important. I don’t feel our State Board has developed the responsibility that comes with their power. In fact, they want to hijack this term in their meetings about the Every Student Succeeds Act.
Many of the decisions they have made since 2008 have not been in the best and long-term interest of children. They embraced the corporate education reform movement and haven’t looked back. They continue to listen to the Rodel Foundation more than the teachers, students and parents who are their primary stakeholders. As a result, they have allowed an environment of false labels against schools, demeaned teachers, created a false illusion of praise for rushed teacher and leader programs, subjected our students to three different high-stakes tests that have not created improvement for anyone, manipulated legislators into believing their mantras, approved charter schools without any consistent or necessary follow-up to ensure they will be successful upon opening, revoked five charter schools, and nearly destroyed a generation of students. They will never take responsibility for these actions or events or even state they had anything to do with it. They will sit there and say most of these events were based on federal mandate or existing state law.
They have an opportunity now to change that. With the Every Student Succeeds Act, the law states that the United States Department of Education cannot dictate what type of state standard any state chooses to have. It also deals with parent opt out of state assessments as a state’s decision. However, U.S. Secretary of Education John King seems to have some comprehension issues as the regulations coming out of the U.S. DOE contradict what the law states. Granted, the law is a confusing mess and there are parts that contradict each other. King knows this and he is taking FULL advantage of it. King will, in all likelihood, be gone by January next year, but he will be able to approve regulations and state plans based on forced dictates from his office. That is NOT responsibility either. That is power run amok.
As our State Board of Education prepares to deal with these regulations, they are having a workshop on ESSA before their regular State Board of Education meeting on July 21st. They will go over what many of the corporate education reform companies are translating the law into along with King’s regulations and accepting it as the Gospel truth. This is a critical time for Delaware education. A wrong move by our State Board and Delaware DOE will leave us in the same problems we have faced since No Child Left Behind came into law fifteen years ago. If you read the below presentation, you can clearly see their interpretation of the law based on the regulations and what the education companies want. Keep in mind, many of these “companies” have never taught in a classroom. But they have a vested interest in education. Actually, make that an invested interest in education.
There are others who have power in education: parents, teachers, administrators, unions, and even students. I urge all of you to watch our State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE like a hawk. Yes, it’s the summer and in a couple of months kids will be back in schools with all the business surrounding that. This is why they are choosing now to push regulations through when parents aren’t paying attention. Those who want to profit off education are already on this. They helped to create ESSA. They have power but no responsibility. They will control education if we let them. And our own Governor, Jack Markell, has been the largest cheerleaders for this movement. Power, with no responsibility, or even accountability.
We need parents, teachers, administrators, and students to take a role in this. Don’t rely on me as a mouthpiece. I’m a hot-tempered judgmental and pissed-off dad who has already been through many wars over this stuff. I will continue to fight the war, but I could hit by a truck tomorrow. Even if you are busy, you need to make the time to attend any meeting about ESSA in Delaware. You need to review what our state is proposing, carefully watch the public comment timeframes, and make your voice known. As well, contact your state legislators and Congressmen. Let them know how you feel. We have the opportunity and means to take back our children’s education. But not if we don’t become a part of it. This is our power. This is our responsibility. We have to use our power and become responsible. If you are relying on our policymakers and unelected State Board of Education to get it right, then you have already allowed them to shape education into what they want. They want to control the conversation and trick us. They are masters at it. They will smile and invite you to their events and give you real yummy eclairs and make you feel special and wanted. But they don’t want you, they want your child. Make no mistake about it.
To add insult to injury, Delaware is embarking on a “regulatory review”. So not only do we have federal education regulations under review, but also a statewide regulatory review which could easily cause mass confusion. I believe this is very intentional. So if you are reading up on regulations, make absolutely sure you know which ones are state and which ones are federal.
If you want to change the future, you have to act now. Don’t wait until it’s too late. I will do my best to inform you and give crucial dates and timeframes, but make sure you also do this.
In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd
We could shake this world
If you would only show us how
Your life is now
At the Capital School District Board of Education meeting tonight, the vendor for their Strategic Plan, Demosophia, presented a white paper on the plan. Their findings were based on forums held with the public as well as a series of one-on-one interviews and small group discussions with different stakeholders in the district: teachers, administrators, board members, students, parents, and citizens. The next part of the Strategic Plan is co-labs. With these, a diverse set of stakeholders will convene for all-day sessions on 4/28 and 4/29 to formulate a definitive plan for the district which will be presented to the Board of Education next month.
Below is the white paper. One thing to keep in mind is the data the Delaware Department of Education put together from the IDEA Parent Surveys sent out last year. Recently, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn encouraged all parents of students with an IEP to participate in the survey rather than the random number sent out by the DOE.
After 19 months and a couple of days of posting an article on this blog every single day, I broke that streak yesterday. It was intentional. First off, it got me out of that “have to post something every day” mindset. Second, what else is there to say? I’m not saying this to be obtuse, but there are several reasons why I am now limited in what I can do or say. Continue reading
Today is Leap Day. Every four years, except for a millennium, Earth adds an extra day to its calendar. Apparently, it takes 365.25 days for Earth to revolve around the sun. To make up for that .25, we get an extra day every four years. It is also Superman’s birthday. I remember four years ago, when my son attended a Delaware charter school, a classmate of his had a birthday on Leap Day. He was turning two that year since he only had two birthdays. The things kids believe!
My first Leap Year was 1972. I was two, so I don’t remember anything. In 1976, I was in Kindergarten in Syracuse, New York with Mr. McKinney. I wanted to be a detective when I was older. 1980 brought us the Lake Placid Winter Olympics when the USA beat Russia. I didn’t watch the final game because I was salivating over my Wacky Pack stickers. I wanted to be a doctor when I was older. In 1984, I was most likely not doing what I was supposed to be doing: homework, studying, chores. What can I say, I was a rebellious young teenager! My dreams of becoming a doctor went up in smoke when I saw an elderly man have a heart attack in Stop & Shop one day. 1988 was my Senior year of high school. It was a good year, but also full of angst wondering what the future was going to hold. I was going to major in business. In 1992, I was in my final year at community college looking forward to transferring to Cabrini College in the fall. I was going to finish college by 1994 with an English/Communications degree. In 1996, I had just moved to Sweden. Literally. I had sold most of my comic book collection and lived in a small town outside of Stockholm called Tullinge. I didn’t work the first couple months I lived there. There was no leap year in 2000 because it was a millennium year, but I was working at Chase Mortgage doing loss mitigation work. 2004’s Leap Day was definitely full of curiosity. My wife was due with our son in a month and I couldn’t wait to see him! Still at Chase. In 2008, I was unemployed on Leap Day. Luckily, it didn’t last long. 2012, the last Leap Day before this one, I was working two jobs and rarely had time for anything outside of work. I was at my current job and also working as a paraprofessional at Campus Community School. Which brings us to 2016 and today.
My point behind all of this, nobody knows for sure what they want to do with their life. Some do, those who have exceptional drive and motivation. Not everyone has that. But our Governor and the Delaware DOE seem to think every child should know what they are going to do when they are “career ready”. If not, the test scores will determine that and they will make sure you are put on a fast track to that career. It isn’t right. People need the freedom to stretch their own wings and figure things out for themselves.
The Class of 2017 at Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security are planning on buying a Fire Engine for their school. They are requesting help on their GoFundMe page. The total they are looking to receive is $5,000 and as of now they have collected $860. If you want your name on a plaque, please consider donating. The school already has a police car and an ambulance so a fire truck would complete the triumvirate of first responder vehicles. How many people can say their name is on a fire truck? I wish my school had this kind of stuff growing up!
Last Monday, December 7th, the Delaware Met had their final formal review public hearing. Numerous students spoke out in support of the school, along with teachers, board members, staff, and parents. Upon reading the transcript, I could not find one negative comment about the school. Every single speaker, and there were many, wanted the school to stay open. Many acknowledged the issues but said those situations are getting better. Do you think the Delaware Met should close or stay open?
The public comment period ending at 11:59pm last evening. To read through the entire 82 page transcript from the public hearing, please read below: