Disgusting Lunch At Brennen School For Children With Autism Has Parents Fuming

This is just foul!  The Brennen School in the Christina School District is serving kids lunch that I wouldn’t feed to my dog!  A parent sent me a picture of their child’s lunch at the school that serves children with Autism as part of the Delaware Autism Program.  I know Christina is having money woes but come on people!!!!

Brennen Hot Dog

Aside from this shriveled up hot dog, students were served a clementine along with it that day.  Sources tell me teachers are bringing in food for the kids the food is so atrocious.  Hey Christina, just because students have disabilities doesn’t mean you have to serve them sub-standard food.  I have to wonder what year this hot dog was cooked…

Advertisements

Ron Russo’s BOLD Plan Regurgitates Old Plans And The Worst Ideas Ever In Delaware Education

Ron Russo, the former Head of School at the Charter School of Wilmington, launched The BOLD Plan today on Facebook.  Using the tag “Education is a business”, Russo managed to take the most horrible ideas ever from the past three decades and put them into a single pile of absolute garbage.  While I don’t think this plan will go anywhere, it is symptomatic of the very same corporate education reform think tank crap that has proliferated American public education and turned Delaware’s school system into a very bad joke. The whole plan can be read below. Continue reading

The Melting Students And Teachers Of Delcastle Technical High School

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

From “Jon’s Loving Father” To Absolute Insanity: The Exceptional Delaware Story

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

Exclusive: Odyssey Parent’s Email To Board About Unethical Board Practices & Conflicts Of Interest

No sooner do I post an article about Odyssey than an email comes in from an Odyssey parent who is fed up with their Board!  While this email has been circulating among Odyssey parents on social media today, this is the first time it has been open to the public like this.  The parent gave me full permission to post this and considers it a public document! Continue reading

Teachers & Parents Are NOT Happy With Odyssey’s Lack Of Transparency With New Leadership

Events at Odyssey Charter School have been bubbling for some time now but they are coming to a boil in recent weeks.  When the Odyssey Board of Directors chose not to renew Headmaster Nick Manolakos’ contract, they put forth Riccardo Stoeckicht as their new “Campus Operations Officer” and Denise Parks as their Head of School.  Between these two hirings, the school is looking at over $300,000.00 for these two positions alone.  But the shenanigans don’t stop there. Continue reading

Happy Birthday Exceptional Delaware! Moving Into Season 5!

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!

 

Charter School of Wilmington Teachers Vote To Unionize And Join DSEA

Last night, Charter School of Wilmington teachers made a huge vote.  They became the only current charter school in Delaware to join the Delaware State Education Association.  As such, they will be a part of the National Education Association as well.  This opens the door for other charter schools to unionize in the future.  Often, when one domino falls…

The vote was not won by an overwhelming majority but enough for it to pass.  I’ve been hard on DSEA and NEA recently but that was because of very unique and limited circumstances.  That was a case of bad apples in the bunch and perception.  Even with that, I do support the unions and see them as a last defense against education reform that is bad for schools.  This CSW vote changes the landscape in Delaware.

I’ve heard rumblings about severe dissatisfaction with CSW leader Sam Paoli for months now.  Nobody wanted to go on the record though.  A teacher was terminated in the Winter over a minor disagreement with Paoli.  Many claim he rules the school with an iron fist and teachers, parents, and students are against this dictatorship.  By unionizing, these teachers regain some sense of control over their job security.  The CSW board is not elected so it allowed Paoli to run around unchecked.

There have been other charter schools in Delaware that have looked into unionizing but this is the first to actually do it.  Last summer, teachers at Providence Creek Academy wanted to but you must have at least 50% of the vote in favor of it.

More information as it becomes available.

Updated, 10:50am: This is not the first time a Delaware charter school joined DSEA.  Positive Outcomes did many years ago but it only lasted a year.

Where’s Kendall? And Margie, I Don’t Have To Know You But I Do Know A Scam When I See One!

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?

Delaware Public Education Salaries Over $100,000: Rankings, Student Cost, Ratios, $$$ Totals, & Synopsis

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

Governor Carney’s “Invest In Public Education” Tour At Delaware Schools This Week

Governor Carney is hitting the road this week up and down the state to different schools to drum up support for some of his proposed education initiatives in the Fiscal Year 2019 state budget.  Each school he visits will have a different focus.  Those areas are Opportunity Grants, Investing In Educators, Better Schools, Math Coaches, and Early Education & The Delaware STARS program.  As well, Carney and Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will hold a Facebook Live event on Tuesday, February 27th.  Which schools is he going to?  Find out here! Continue reading

Sussex Montessori Appears To Be Clueless On Special Education & Basic Charter Formation

Sussex Montessori School went through their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting in their application process.  I thought for sure, given this was their second attempt to apply for a charter, they would get it right and everything would be smooth sailing.  Instead, their application is missing a lot of information.  The committee smacked them up and down the court.

These are my favorite quotes from the report: Continue reading

Is Regulation 225 A Union-Busting Measure? Know When You Are Being Used!

Ever since Regulation 225 hit the Delaware Registrar of Regulations, I’ve been scratching my head over it. I’ve gone back and forth on it a few dozen times. To be crystal clear, I support any anti-discrimination measure for ANY student. No questions asked. Some of the Facebook comments I’ve seen from some who oppose the bill are filled with hate and misunderstanding. I’ve wondered what the purpose behind all this was, and today I may have received an answer. Continue reading

For The Love Of Special Education

Yesterday morning, I read a Facebook post on a friend’s feed.  She didn’t write it.  It is one of those “copy and paste” things on Facebook.  I usually tend to ignore them, but this one tugged at my heartstrings.  I felt obligated to put it down here, on this blog.  Because this teacher reminded anyone who read this what is truly special about special education.

I don’t remember the exact moment my life was changed by someone with a disability. The memories seem far away, blurry, as if they don’t belong to me. But this is what happens after you’ve been working with people with disabilities for years. You change.
They don’t tell you that when you’re filling out your application. Instead, they tell you about the hours, the health benefits, the 401(k) plan, the programs and the strategies. But they don’t tell you about the fact if you do it right, you’ll never be the same.
They don’t tell you it will be the most amazing job you’ve ever had. On other days, it can be the worst. They can’t describe on paper the emotional toll it will take on you. They can’t tell you there may come a time where you find you’re more comfortable surrounded by people with developmental disabilities than you are with the general population. They don’t tell you you’ll come to love them, and there will be days when you feel more at home when you’re at work than when you’re at home, sitting on your couch. But it happens.
They don’t tell you about the negative reactions you may face when you’re out in the community with someone with a disability. That there are people on this earth who still think it’s OK to say the R-word. That people stare. Adults will stare. You will want to say something, anything, to these people to make them see. But at the end of the day, your hands will be tied because some things, as you learn quickly, can’t be explained with something as simple as words. They can only be felt. And most of the time, until someone has had their own experience with someone with a developmental disability, they just won’t understand.
They train you in CPR and first aid, but they can’t tell you what it feels like to have to use it. They don’t tell you what it is like to learn someone is sick and nothing can be done. They can’t explain the way it feels when you work with someone for years and then one day they die.
They can’t explain the bond direct service personnel develop with the people they are supporting. I know what it’s like to have a conversation with someone who has been labeled non-verbal or low-functioning. After working with someone for awhile, you develop a bond so strong they can just give you a look and you know exactly what it means, what they want and what they’re feeling. And most of the time, all it boils down to is they want to be heard, listened to and included. Loved.
When you apply for this job, they do tell you you’ll be working to teach life skills. But what they don’t tell you is while you’re teaching someone, they’ll also be teaching you. They have taught me it’s OK to forgive myself when I have a bad day. There’s always tomorrow and a mess-up here and there doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. They have taught me to slow down, to ponder, to take the time to just look around and take in this beautiful world and all of the simple joys we are blessed to encounter every day.
So when did I change? I realize now there wasn’t one pivotal moment. Instead, it was a million little moments, each important in their own way, that when added together changed me. And I’m grateful for each one.

I would love to know who the original author is.  I would shake their hand in a heartbeat!

Hysterical Providence Creek Email Surfaces. Sad Part Is She Was Serious…

You gotta keep ’em separated. -The Offspring

I received the following email today.  This concerns the “solution” that Providence Creek Academy, a charter school in Clayton, DE, implemented when students weren’t getting along.  Yes, let’s punish whole grades of classes because of the actions of a few.  That is always a smart thing to do!  Especially on the playground.  Weird.  Just weird…

From: Messick Joan
Sent: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 1:15 PM

Subject: Lunch/Recess – Seventh and Eight Grade Students

Good Morning Upper School Team

First, I apologize for not getting this out sooner.

On Thursday, there were several students reporting issues between the seventh and  eighth grade students.  The issues, in my opinion, seem to be brought on by some students intentionally starting arguments between other student and there seem to be issues about who should be where during recess time.  Since seventh and eighth grade students must follow a similar schedule, there isn’t much we can do to separate them during lunch and recess.  This morning I went to all special classes and stem so that I could have the opportunity to talk to all students.  The conversation was pretty one sided and I asked them to listen.  I did ask that if they had any questions, comments, suggestions, complaints or just want to share, they should write it down and ask that a staff member put it in my mail box. 

Side bar, we did have students, a parent, staff members concerned that if we don’t try and do something to be proactive the issues would escalate and change the climate in the upper school for the worse.  At this point it is fair to say that the issues are disrupting recess/lunch, disrupting the educational environment AND students are using social media to make comments that could be considered threatening in nature and there are implications that they might harm another student at school.  We are going to try some things to see if we can calm the issues. 

Starting today, we painted a line on the upper school playground.   Please have the seventh grade on one side of the line and eighth grade on the other side of the line.  We put a path on one side so that when those students are entering the building they don’t have to cross path with the other grade level.  I would have one grade level go in and wait two minutes and have the other grade level go in allowing enough time for the first group to enter their classrooms.  I am in the process in meeting with staff to keep them informed about what is happening and I would appreciate your feedback and suggestions since we will probably meet to discuss what is working, what is not and see if we need to make any additional changes.  Recess is a privilege, not a right.  Please reply to me, not “reply all”. 

Seventh and Eighth Grade students can take turns using each side.  I understand there is a upper school team meeting today after school, please decide as a team how you would like to rotate the grades by day or by week and please let me know.  We think that day on day off would be better because some students might have basketball withdrawalJ. Honestly, I feel sad that we have to do this since SO MANY of our students love recess and are using that time to get some energy out and relax with friends….

Thank you for your consideration and help.  Please keep me informed if there is anything you need and I would really appreciate it if you would send me an e-mail so that I have something that I can use as a resource with names, times and some basic information; And it will help to keep track in case I need to.  I am required to report documented reports of bullying and your e-mails help me with that.  More to follow….Take care.

Lastly, I have already gotten feedback from students and those that have responded think that this is a good solution. 

Joan

 

While I salute Ms. Messick for attempting a solution, does she understand that sometimes kids will be kids?  I understand schools sometimes have to think of creative solutions to problems, but what if some of these 7th and 8th graders actually enjoyed each other and had friendships? If some students are causing issues, deal with those students.  With that being said, I do think it’s great 7th and 8th graders get to enjoy recess.  This email is over a year old so hopefully it all got straightened out.  Any PCA associated people know if this playground line is still in existence?

In other PCA news, many have reached out to me privately to find out how the We’re Worried group is doing.  I have not heard a peep since their Labor Day email when they announced their intent to join DSEA (the state teacher association).  All in good time!

Developing Story: Thomas Edison Leader Salome Thomas-El Removed From School By Police This Morning

Breaking news: The police just removed Thomas Edison Charter School Head of School Salome Thomas-El from the school.  The Board of Directors was present for this.  Details are sparse at the moment, but from what I’m hearing the board was not pleased about the direction Thomas-El wanted to take the school in.  Apparently wanting more pay for staff and administration is a big no-no.  The teachers are not pleased with the decision and there could be a walk-out.  It looks like there is no such thing as due process at this Wilmington charter school.  More details to come as this story develops…

 

Guest Post By John Young: Christina Breaks Out!

Former Transparent Christina blogger and current Christina Board of Education member John Young wrote the following guest post based on an event held yesterday at the Chase Riverfront in Wilmington.  All Christina School District administrators, teachers, and staff members attended the event.

On Tuesday, August 22nd I had the distinct pleasure of attending our district-wide kickoff event. As most people who follow education know, Christina has faced many challenges in the last decade, many of which continue today: poverty, leadership, choice laws that do not put children first, policy, and politics to name a few of the big ones. We meet these challenges every day, across a 2000+ employee base that is dedicated, professional, and truly amazing!

I was struck by the enormity of having the entire district in the same place at the same time. We had done a similar event in the past broken into two sessions at Glasgow High School due to capacity issues, but our new Superintendent, Richard Gregg, was able to negotiate a single venue with capacity because he wanted to set our district upon this year with a distinct theme and direction: One District, One Vision, One Voice.  After 8+ years on the Board, it was so refreshing to have a message that resonated in a single setting, one that could be heard by all.  For me, one of the KEY takeaways is that each of those three prongs of the message will be uniquely and specifically fueled by a calculus with children at the center.

I know that’s what school districts claim to do, and pledge to do, but we in Christina have been led very erratically for such a long time (well over a decade now), we lost our way somewhere in there. I know each district leader before Mr. Gregg did their level best, but sometimes there was a lack of relation between intent and execution of the vision and direction which has fueled divisiveness at every level of the district, including our board.

I felt like so much of that began to thaw, even melt, in 4 short hours yesterday. I’ve been involved in countless issues over my tenure on the board many of which are not always about the students: contracts, consultants, ideology around destructive policies put for by the state, etc. etc.  Yesterday, it became clear to me that some of those things don’t deserve another moment of my time. They are worthless endeavors that do not serve children. We have new leadership and a new focus for our service model which requires the removal of “awfulizers” from our midst, and replace them with “awesomeizers”.

Christina planted a flag in the ground yesterday. I feel like it was our own metaphorical Gadsden Flag. Our referendum rally cry of a “New Christina”, an amorphous, unclear, and frankly controversial concept for some was jettisoned yesterday, not because it was bad, but because it took life. It’s beating in our core, and breathing on its own…

…and it had 2000+ parents and guardians present for the delivery. Quite a welcome sight to behold and an honor to witness.

The Hidden Secrets Behind Providence Creek Academy’s Bomb Threat & Audit Investigation

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

Mike Matthews’ First Day As DSEA President

Mike Matthews became the next President of the Delaware State Education Association today.  Taking over from outgoing President, Frederika Jenner, Matthews will undoubtedly generate news over the next few years.  After an actual tie in the election last January, Matthews won in a run-off election two months later.

With the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act in our schools, more personalized learning/competency-based education crap, the usual teacher evaluation based on Smarter Balanced, and all the budgetary/legislative stuff going on, look for Matthews to have his hands full the next few years.  Today, he sent out a letter to Delaware DSEA educators:

A Message from DSEA President Mike Matthews


Dear Fellow Educator:

Today I begin a new journey as DSEA President. Throughout my career as an educator, DSEA has been the strongest voice to ensure our members and students have what they need to succeed. I look forward to continuing this strong tradition of advocacy, but will need your help to be successful. Stay informed by reading our e-newsletters Professionally Speaking, which covers all manner of education policy news, as well as Legislative Matters, which provides comprehensive coverage of the legislative developments impacting public education and educators.  Also, DSEA maintains active social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, and publishes an all-member newspaper, ACTION, on a quarterly basis.  These are just a few of the many ways in which you can stay informed and continue to advocate for your students.


Over the next few years, working with our network of strong local leaders, I hope you will share your stories with me about what’s going on in your school. Share with me the good… Share with me the not-so-good.  I intend for open and honest communication to be an important piece of my time as DSEA President.  To that end, please feel free to contact me to share those stories.  My email is Mike.Matthews@dsea.org.


Together, our unified, collective voice can speak up on behalf of our colleagues and the students we advocate for every day. I hope you are enjoying your summer and I look forward to working with you in the near future. Thank you for all that you do.

In Solidarity,
Mike

Season Four On Exceptional Delaware Just Got Very Interesting, Time To Reboot The Mission

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