As I was combing through Title 14 this evening, I found something astonishing. I know of a Principal that changed a grade for a student. It looks like that Principal broke the law. I believe that Principal is retired now and who knows what the enforceability of this law is. What this means is only the very highest level in a district or charter school can change a teacher’s grade. Even on something as small as homework. The law is below. I have to wonder how much the Delaware Secretary of Education actually gets on this! Continue reading “Only District Superintendents Or Highest Authority In Charter Schools Can Change A Student’s Grade In Delaware”
Ian Gronau with the Delaware State News is reporting Assistant Superintendent Patrik Williams is the new Superintendent of the Smyrna School District as of June 1st. Current Superintendent Dr. Deborah Wicks gave her resignation notice to the board last year.
I’ve only written about Patrik Williams one time, and it was a very funny post! If there is one consistent thing in Delaware education, it is change. Replacing Williams as Assistant Superintendent is Summerside Elementary School Principal Debbie Judy according to the article.
In regards to the Delaware Education Hunger Games issue (budget deficit) for Smyrna, Williams said the following in the article about that:
It’s going to be a challenge but I will say that we are one of the few districts that are preserving all of our permanent staff. We’re conservative financially and that has put us in a really good spot. We are well prepared to make adjustments.
Good news for Smyrna teachers! Smyrna is a growing area in Delaware and Williams expressed excitement about that:
If you go down to Rabbit Chase and look at all those houses for instance — we have about 2,000 new housing permits in the district. It’s exciting to envision what that’ll mean for the district.
Congrats to Patrik Williams! I’m sure his letters regarding Delaware regulations will be more tame with his new role, but I hope he keeps that same fighting spirit!
The Christina School District Board of Education had a big night last night! They approved new Superintendent Richard Gregg’s contract which means he will begin his leadership of the district beginning April 18th. Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved the first read of their safety zone policy which failed to get enough votes last month as a resolution.
The district put out a press release today with more information about Gregg:
The Christina School District Board of Education voted to approve the superintendent contract for Richard L. Gregg during its regular March Board meeting. Gregg’s effective start date will be April 18, 2017.
Richard L. Gregg most recently served as Assistant Superintendent for the Penn-Delco School District in Aston, Pennsylvania, a position he has held since 2015. In that position, he was responsible for district-wide curriculum and instruction, assessment, special education, professional development, and technology integration. He also oversaw the district budget and supervised administrative staff. His experience also includes serving as principal of Penncrest High School in Media, Pennsylvania, and as Director of Instruction for New Castle County Vocational Technical School District in Delaware. He has served as principal of Brandywine High School, and principal and assistant principal of Concord High School in the Brandywine School District. In the Christina School District, he served as assistant principal at Christiana High School.
His teaching experience includes a total of nine years’ experience as a high school social studies teacher. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Delaware, and a master’s degree in school leadership and instruction from Wilmington University. He is a graduate of Glasgow High School.
Gregg received the Pennsylvania School Principal of the Year Award in 2010, and was named Delaware Secondary Principal of the Year in 2000. He has held leadership roles with the Delaware Principals Academy, the Delaware Academy for School Leadership, and the Delaware Association of School Administrators. At the national level, he has served on the National Honor Society National Council, the National Association of State Student Councils and on the National Association of Secondary School Principals Leadership Award Selection Committee.
The safety zone policy drew a decent crowd, with members of the Delaware Green Party in attendance in support of board member John Young’s policy. To read the full policy as approved in a first-read status by the Board last evening, please read below. I do not view this as a “sanctuary” policy as that has an altogether different meaning than what this policy actually states. The News Journal referred to the policy as a “sanctuary policy” in their article last night. The board will vote on a 2nd read of the policy at their next meeting on April 11th, at the Sarah Pyle Academy in Wilmington.
Under this policy, the Christina School District reaffirms our commitment to a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for every student without regard to their race, religion, national origin or immigration status to provide enrolled, undocumented students their legal right to a public education.
The Superintendent of the Smyrna School District, Deborah Wicks, is retiring at the end of June. As one of Delaware’s largest growing school districts, Wicks has Smyrna through a very huge growth spurt. Nineteen years is a long time as the leader of anything. I want to wish Mrs. Wicks all the best in her life after Smyrna. This district is one I really haven’t written much about over the past few years which is probably a good thing! Now the hunt will be on for her replacement.
The former Superintendent of Woodbridge and Cape Henlopen, as well as the very recent former Executive Director of the Delaware Association of School Administrators could have a very big 2017. As well, he served as the interim Superintendent in the Woodbridge School District. Kevin Carson could be handed a role that will define his legacy in Delaware. This is a man who knows the ins and outs of Delaware education.
I’ve met Carson several times, usually at Legislative Hall. As the head of DASA, Carson represented every single Delaware school administrator during one of Delaware’s most tumultuous times in education. He challenged former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with a vote of no confidence, along with leaders from the two biggest local teacher unions in the state and the Delaware State Education Association.
If Carson is picked as John Carney’s Secretary of Education, he will have to juggle many balls all at once. There is the mounting deficit in our state budget. Delaware will be submitting it’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan. New charter school applications will begin pouring in. A growing chorus of Delaware citizens are demanding more financial transparency with education. The Rodel engine will want Carson on their side. Education technology is poised to dilute the teaching profession to something unrecognizable. Education funding will continue to be a thorn in the side of Delaware students.
Carson would be in charge of a Delaware Department of Education that is ripe for change. He has the logistic ability and intelligence to transform the Department into something that delivers on transparency and better communication. As well, he would serve as the Secretary for the State Board of Education and would have valuable input on who would be good picks for future board members. There is nothing in Delaware state code that would prevent Carney from picking an entirely new State Board of Education. There is now one vacancy on the board and Carson’s opinion on who that replacement should be could be pivotal.
Carson would also have to deal with events transpiring at a federal level. President Trump and his Cabinet of private sector billionaires will want to change education and privatize it. As a blue state, Delaware will fight this tooth and nail. But one compromise could threaten Delaware education in varying ways. We need a Secretary that has vast amounts of experience in dealing with events at the local level. Someone who sees the issues from a wide perspective. Someone who would be the voice for Delaware students and educators, who understands the complexities that divide us.
I completely understand that any Delaware Secretary of Education would have to conform to Governor Carney’s platform. With Jack Markell, he had a very clear agenda and God forbid if you disagreed with that agenda. He micro-managed Delaware education to the point of absurdity. But at the same time he let financial issues run amok in our schools. While I don’t see Carney as well-versed in education matters as Markell was, I believe that will become a strength of a positive Secretary. I would like to think Carney would give his Secretary more leeway in implementing education policy in Delaware. Godowsky was a mixed bag. Like I’ve said before, he would have been a great Secretary under a different Governor.
Nothing against the other potential choice for Carney’s Secretary of Education, but we need someone who has served as more than a leader of one district. We need someone who has a multi-leveled array of experience in Delaware education leadership. That man is Kevin Carson.
It looks like New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Dr. Vicki Gehrt has renewed her contract for another two years. Last summer, Dr. Gehrt wanted to start the process early for her contract renewal, but the board didn’t really want to jump the gun. This reverberated into a tumultuous board meeting where the board was going in and out of executive session while Gehrt was visibly upset. But it appears whatever issues were going on have been ironed out and Gehrt will be sticking around the vocational New Castle school district.
I have to wonder who else may have had their eyes on the prize?
The Christina School District Board of Education will review the amount of spending their Superintendent can spend before they have to get board approval at their monthly meeting tonight. The current limit is $20,000. Previously, it had been $50,000 but after their second failed referendum attempt in 2015, the board lowered the amount.
$50,000 is a key figure with Delaware Superintendents. In Delaware code, any contract of $50,000 or more has to go through the request for proposal process in the state. Many school districts circumvent this by having contracts for $49,000-$49,999. These kind of budgets can be controversial. School boards lose some power when the districts write those kind of vendor contracts.
As well, the board is reviewing this type of spending for school principals with another proposal to raise that amount without a signature from $10,000 to $25,000.
With many citizens in Delaware demanding greater transparency of school district funding, this could be seen by those advocates as more continuous evaporation of schools and districts not giving crucial financial information to the public.
The board also has an item on their agenda, if approved, would give the board more ability to participate in legislation and regulations that could affect the school district. If implemented, this would give a board member the ability to go to Senate and House Education Committee meetings as well as State Board of Education meetings and give public comment on behalf of the board. The policy would also mandate that any board member speaking about education policy would have to state in public these are individual thoughts and not reflective of the Christina School District of Board of Education. For the past two years, the board has declined to join the Delaware School Boards Association which usually has their own representative at these types of meetings.
The board will also discuss the upcoming implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and what that could mean for the district. I highly recommend board members participate and comment on this confusing legislation and make sure their voice is heard.
The board meeting will be at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School beginning at 7pm this evening.
FISCAL MANAGEMENT POLICY
CONTRACTS & REAL ESTATE POLICY
At last month’s New Castle County V0-Tech’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Vicki Gehrt wanted to get the ball rolling early on her contract renewal. Her contract isn’t up for another six months, but apparently she felt the need to bring it up now. The board wasn’t too keen on that. Details are scarce, but it wound up with the non-elected board going in and out of executive session throughout the night. As Gehrt and friends stayed in one room with Gehrt visibly upset. Scuttlebutt has it that the board is not too enamored with Gehrt, especially after the Amy Joyner-Francis death at Howard High School of Technology as well as other issues.
Ultimately, the board decided to table any talk of Gehrt’s Superintendent renewal until it is actually up for renewal. But they do have a board meeting tomorrow night. Will Vo-Tech Vicki bring it up again? Will there be more drama with unannounced adventures in executive session? And will the board meeting be heard for all to hear? Last month, the board was prepping for the House Bill 61 all school boards must record bill which goes into effect in a couple of months. But no recording was put up on the website. This is definitely a to be continued story…
Four months ago I asked if it is possible for a district Superintendent to join a charter school board. Not only is the answer yes, but Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey was nominated for the board of Las Americas ASPIRAS and accepted the nomination back in March. This is something new in Delaware, to the best of my knowledge. Former Superintendents have joined charter boards, but never an acting Superintendent.
Technically, Blakey is already on a school board. All Delaware Superintendents serve as the Secretary of their district Board of Education. I can’t help but feel this could be a potential conflict of interest. But I would hope Blakey wouldn’t put himself in a position where anything could be misconstrued as a conflict of interest. This is one board membership I will be keeping a close eye on in years to come. Especially when the audio recordings start coming out in August or September.
There is no trace of Blakey informing the Colonial board of this decision. I would think this would be something they should know about. But there was no reflection of this in their March or April board minutes. Colonial is widely rumored to be facing a referendum in the next year or two and I would encourage Blakey to be very transparent about his extra-curricular board activities.
In the meantime, you can catch Blakey as a guest bartender…
I have actually heard this rumor the past few months. I haven’t written about it because I did not know if it was 100% true or not. I had a feeling it was. It turns out the Public Integrity Commission is very interested in this as well. So much so that it is on their agenda for their meeting on Tuesday, April 19th. Who is the board member and who is the Superintendent? Continue reading “A School Board Member, A Superintendent, And The Public Integrity Commission”
To my knowledge, this is a first. A New Castle County school district Superintendent has been nominated to join a charter school board. I know board members from a traditional school district are not able to join a charter school board, but I don’t believe there is anything in Delaware state code that would prevent a Superintendent from joining. With that being said, I believe this would be a HUGE conflict of interest for both the charter and the district. Continue reading “Can A Superintendent Of A School District Join A Charter School Board?”
If it is February, DOOM will strike Delaware again this year. It just so happens that I am declaring this month Parent Rights Month. This works out perfectly because it is also Delaware Opt-Out Month! This is the month where you should really opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. The test window begins at the beginning of March. Different schools will take the test at some point between March and the first week of June. These are the things you may hear. Ignore them…
- We will get our funding cut if you opt your child out.
- Our school will get a bad rating.
- Don’t listen to that blogger.
- But House Bill 50 got vetoed and never passed. You can’t opt out.
- It’s against the law to opt your child out.
- We should talk about this first. Can we arrange for a meeting?
- Why don’t you give the test a chance. It really isn’t that bad.
- Only I decide who opts out of the test.
- It is a civil rights violation to opt out.
Whatever the Principal or Superintendent says, ignore it. If your child is in the Capital, Christina, or Red Clay school districts, they shouldn’t be giving you any flack at all. Their boards already voted and said it is okay and they will not punish your child. You have every right to opt your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment. There is no law that says you can’t. It is not against the law for you to opt out!!!! Could the feds pull funding? It is remotely possible. But it is also an election year. The feds can threaten all they want, but I would love to actually see them play that card. It’s never happened before. And No Child Left Behind officially ends at the end of July. After that, states are allowed to determine their own opt out rules.
Tomorrow, I’m going to make a list of all the district and charter board meetings this month. If you haven’t opted your child out before, here is how you do it. Write a letter to the Principal of your child’s school. State you do not want your child taking the Smarter Balanced Assessment. As well, let the Principal know you want your child to receive instruction while the other kids are taking the test. Hand deliver a copy to the principal. As extra insurance, I would also write an acknowledgement letter and have the principal sign it. If you can, bring a witness. While these precautions may seem overboard, it is for your own protection as well as that of your child. If the principal or primary school leader refuses to accept your information, yells at you, or acts in a way that in any way appears to be intimidating, please let me know. My email is email@example.com or you can join the Refuse The Test Delaware page on Facebook.
Tomorrow, I will put down every single district or charter school board meeting for February. Others opted out at board meetings last year. It sends a clear message to the decision makers. These are public meetings. You can sign up for public comment when you get to the board meeting.
February is also Parent Rights month. Throughout the month, I will write articles on why your rights matter. In most situations, a parent knows what is best for their child. Our voices are ignored a lot when it comes to education. We are treated as “guests” at many of our schools and that is unacceptable. The Supreme Court recognized the rights of parents many times. It is YOUR child, not the school’s child. Some will tell you when your child walks into school, they are no longer your child but the school or the principal’s child. This is completely false, and actually very damaging. If you don’t want your child to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment, they can’t make your child take it.
I believe in my soul this test has no purpose other than to feed data to outside companies to which they will profit greatly off your child. It won’t help your child. It will cause them anxiety. Some schools are attempting to coerce kids into taking the test by offering some type of reward. A charter school is thinking of giving the top performers tickets to an amusement park. What kind of message does that send? Some children don’t do well on these types of tests no matter how smart they are. Some children have disabilities. How does that make a child feel? Some who take this test will try very hard and they still won’t be proficient. Do we reward the top and tell the others they have to watch as others get awards and rewards? That does far more damage than anything else. Don’t let your child be a pawn in these adult games. Let your child be child. Opt your child out as soon as possible.
*The above photograph was used on the Edubloggers.org website.
I am proud that my work in developing this system solicited the largest representative population of state stakeholders in the Department’s recent history, further providing for a product that held local ownership, recognizes and highlights the performance of each subgroup within the state from an absolute as well as growth mindset, and empowers parents and schools to best address each student’s needs.
In Florida, it is state law that anyone who applies for a Superintendent position gets to have their cover letter and resume posted publicly so everyone can see it. None other than Penny Schwinn, the recently departed DOE darling of accountability and assessment, applied for the Superintendent Position at Osceola County Public Schools. She actually applied for the job on September 22nd, so her departure was in the planning stages for some time. Let’s do the math: Schwinn applies in September, new Delaware Secretary of Education Godowsky comes aboard in October, word gets out about Schwinn’s departure in November, and she is gone from the DOE in early January. She only worked at the Delaware DOE for a year and a half folks!
The first time I saw her in action was at a State Board of Education meeting in August, 2014. When asked by an African-American State Board member about the impact of violence and local murders in the classroom, she responded by saying she didn’t think that was a hurdle to overcome. By the time Schwinn really got rolling, she became public enemy number one when she ran the “Priority Schools” initiative, a turnaround effort to force two school districts to kiss the DOE’s ass over six schools in downtown Wilmington, DE. Her communication style, when you really need information from her, is not one of her strong points.
Let’s not even get into her “largest representative population of state stakeholders in the Department’s recent history” victory lap. The highlight of that was her screwing over every single person on the Accountability Framework Working Group by convincing the Governor and Secretary Godowsky that harsh opt-out penalties should be used as a multiplier against a school’s proficiency ratings. She obviously knew this would cement her unpopularity in Delaware into iconic status, so she left Delaware after her hurricane of a year and a half. She was a wrecking ball, hired specifically to put things in place that made the Delaware DOE more nefarious than they already are.
Schwinn didn’t get the job, so Osceola County Public Schools can breathe a sigh of relief. But I have no idea who Deborah Pace is. From her experience, it looks she is homegrown but has a touch of education reform in her. In the meantime, please look at Schwinn’s cover letter, resume, and her responses to questions. Does this match with the Schwinn Delaware experienced for 18 months?
Teachers at Kirk Middle School in the Christina School District were not happy last June. They were losing their beloved principal, Dr. Dan Shelton. In June, the Capital Board of Education picked Shelton as their newest superintendent after a more than four-month search. Shelton, who took the reigns from the retiring Dr. Michael Thomas, began the role in July. Not only was Thomas leaving, but so was Assistant Superintendent Sandra Spangler and Director of Human Resources David Vaughn.
Shelton and the Board quickly found replacements and set out for the tasks at hand. Christina’s loss was Capital’s gain. From all I have heard, Shelton is doing a fantastic job at Capital. I have heard nothing negative about him at all. In a recent article in the Dover Post, Shelton weighed in on the Every Student Succeeds Act. He explained to reporter David Paulk that he was concerned about the “lump” funding for grants but he was glad the federal government was “stepping back”. While this remains to be seen with the feds based on their recent threats about funding cuts with opt-outs, I am confident Capital will handle this appropriately.
Meanwhile, Shelton will oversee the ten schools under the Capital umbrella and will bring a fresh and innovate look to the district.
Mark Holodick had a very busy year in 2015. I wrote about him quite a bit last March. When the opt-out movement in Delaware took off, many schools and districts started offering resistance. Dr. Holodick, the Superintendent of the Brandywine School District, published a very public letter regarding opt-out on the school website. He indicated only he could decide who opts out and who doesn’t. Parents, myself included, rebelled against his very authoritative comments. I’ve met Dr. Holodick a couple times, and he is a nice guy. I think his heart is in the right place, but he makes the same mistakes those in charge do. They think because of their title they know what is best for all kids and they should be the ones making the crucial decisions. Unfortunately for him and the other school leaders in Delaware, this is not the case.
Dr. Holodick was very involved in the Vision Coalition’s Student Success 2025 this year. As one of the founding members of the BRINC Consortium and their blended/personalized learning initiative, Holodick stood front and center for this latest “10 year vision”. As well, he was on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission even though his district was not a part of the redistricting plan in Wilmington. He remains the highest paid Superintendent in the state. Many were predicting that if former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy ever quit or resigned, Holodick would take his place. This was also true when Lillian Lowery held the title and resigned.
I am really hoping Holodick treats opt-out differently this year and he understands it is a parent’s decision, not his. This is my wish for all school leaders and political figures who disrespect parents by not honoring their fundamental rights. It doesn’t matter whether you agree with their decision or not, it matters if you honor it.
The on-leave Superintendent of the Christina School District, Freeman Williams, submitted a retirement letter to the district effective February, 2016. In August, Williams went on a leave status which prompted the Christina Board of Education to hire an Acting Superintendent. Former Red Clay Superintendent Bob Andrzejewski is the current Acting Superintendent, but Christina’s Board must now look for a new and permanent Superintendent.
The first time I met Freeman was 13 months ago at a special board meeting at Christina surrounding the priority schools. I found him to be very cordial and respectful, and he was greatly concerned about the priority status designated to the three Christina schools. I attended quite a few Christina board meetings in the next five months and watched them systematically and efficiently hold back the Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell from making rash and hasty decisions over the Christina priority schools.
The last time I saw Freeman was at the Imagine Delaware Forum back in March. I had a very pleasant discussion with him concerning House Bill 50 and parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, which he supported. Whatever his reason for retirement, I wish him the best and I hope he enjoys his time away from the crazy education environment we live in.
As Christina will assuredly attempt another referendum in 2016 amidst severe financial issues, the search will be on for a new Superintendent. This district needs a very strong leader who can rally the people in favor of Christina. While some think Christina may wind up in receivership by the end of the year, I would prefer to have hope. The long-term impact of charters has definitely siphoned off a great deal of local funding due to many of the students in Christina’s feeder pattern choicing out to charters, and the emergence of so many new charters in Wilmington this school year alone has definitely had a negative effect. Now is the time for Christina to strongly promote their strengths and eliminate their weaknesses. What many don’t realize is Christina also holds the Delaware Autism Program and the Delaware School for the Deaf. That could cause tremendous problems for the students involved if they have to transition out of the existing programs.
Referendum. Many school districts in Delaware fear this word. It can make or break a district. No where has this been more evident than the Christina School District. After two failed referendums last year, the district has been forced to make painful cuts to their schools and services. Now the virus has infected Milford School District. Like Christina, they experienced two referendums that did not pass. In the midst of this, their Superintendent Phyllis Kohel announced her retirement at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.
According to the Milford Beacon, Kohel announced her intention to retire at the Milford School District board meeting Monday night.
“This is my 32nd year and it’s a very difficult position,” she said. “I like to think that I have, but I don’t know if I’ve ever worked so hard in my life as I have with this position.
“It’s very demanding and can be very disappointing at times, particularly when you’re in referendum mode as we’ve been in for the past two years.”
Mike Finney, the writer of the article, explained how Kohel served the school district for the past 31 years, and has been Superintendent since 2012. As the second district this school year facing Superintendent and referendum woes, this could be a sign of things to come with Delaware’s antiquated funding system. Meanwhile, in Wilmington, a commission of 23 will attempt to tackle this issue head-on and devise a new way of funding our schools. This school year will be one of massive change in Delaware, between a new Secretary, Smarter Balanced results, parent opt-out, redistricting, WEIC, and an upcoming budget battle in the General Assembly that promises to be controversial.
According to the Dover Post, the new superintendent of the Capital School District is Dan Shelton. Shelton served as the Principal at Smith Elementary School in the Christina School District. More details can be found in the article by Dover Post’s David Paulk:
Late in the evening, the Capital School District Board of Education went into executive session to discuss the last item on their agenda, the selection of a new superintendent to replace Dr. Michael Thomas who will resign effect June 30th. The board was in this executive session for 45 minutes.
When they came out, board member John Martin stated he was unequivocally against the choice selected. He felt Capital had a bold opportunity here and suggested they go back to the drawing board and repost the position. The motion was introduced and brought to a vote. Martin voted no, “emphatically”, and members Kay Dietz-Sass, Matt Lindell and Sean Christiansen all voted yes. The new Superintendent of Capital School District is… Candidate #216. The official name will be revealed tomorrow afternoon according to Lindell. They have to notify the other candidates first…