Delaware DOE Blows Off Legislator’s Request For Information

Looks like legislators don’t get anywhere with the Delaware Department of Education.  I’m sure if Rodel called, they would have any information for Dr. Herdman lickety-split.  A few days ago, I threw down the gauntlet for the DOE and Governor Markell, and State Rep. John Kowalko joined in!  The current row started when I asked for some information about the Smarter Balanced Asssessment and which Delaware teachers participated in the achievement level settings.  The DOE’s Public Information Officer, Alison May, treated it as if it were a FOIA request.  But she knows damn well if I want to submit a FOIA I will go through the actual form.  This set me off, and I included several people in an email response to Alison May.  As a result, State Rep. John Kowalko asked for the very information and said he expected it the next day.  What he received back, while not shocking, was certainly symptomatic of the arrogance and hubris those infected with temporary power have become at the DOE….

From: May Alison <>
Sent: Friday, October 9, 2015 11:06 AM
To: Kowalko, John (LegHall)
Subject: RE: Smarter Balanced Achievement Level Setting

Rep. Kowalko,

Thank you for your message.  I will be happy to include you as a recipient of  DOE’s response to Mr. Ohlandt’s request for information.


Note the key words in her email- DOE’s response.  She did not respond to my email at all.  Is that how we are operating now Alison?  Really?  You don’t have to like me and you don’t have to understand me.  But what I damn well expect is that you acknowledge my request with a real answer.  Not this farce of a response.  Like I said the other day, your days are numbered at DOE along with the other power-hungry denizens at the Townsend Building.  You may think you and your buddies hold all the cards, but mark my words, the day is coming when all your actions will be revealed.  I really hope you all have to stand before a grand jury and I can’t wait to see if you give the same cocky and smarmy answers then.  Your armor is rusting and falling apart over there DOE.  Your Emperor won’t be so quick to throw you a lifeline when he has to answer for his actions as well.  Remember these words, remember them wisely…

Is The Delaware DOE Evil, Or Just Extremely Misguided?


In the past year, with all the articles I’ve written about the Delaware Department of Education, I have never had anyone come up to me and say “The DOE is awesome, they’re doing a great job.”  They’ve had supporters, but even they say there are issues.  I’ve often wondered if the DOE, Governor Markell, the State Board, Rodel, and all the rest are truly evil.

I don’t think they are.  I think they are operating in a climate of fear where they buy into everything hook, line, and sinker.  But I also think they believe their mantra about teachers, and students needing to be assessed to “close the gaps”.  People can be easily swayed if they are only given one argument.  I’ve had quite a few DOE employees tell me offline “Don’t publish this, but the Smarter Balanced Assessment really sucks!”  But at heart, most of them are Kool-Aid drinkers.

I’m not saying they are all good people either.  I took a course in college called “The Problem of Evil”.  The professor posited that all people are neither inherently good or completely evil.  We all operate on “tainted decency”, which states that everything we do has some sort of selfish motivation for us.  We tried to come up with anything anyone in this world does without a self-interest clause, and the only thing we could come up with is volunteer fireman.

What we don’t know about the DOE is their innermost thoughts, their soul, their conscience.  We can’t even guess what they think about late at night.  They are people just like the rest of us.  I’m not defending them, but I think it’s important to separate the job from the person.  Everyone I’ve talked to at the DOE is very nice and cordial.  Now when I say “talked to”, there are some who won’t even glance in my direction.

For all the razzing bloggers give them in Delaware, they have some pretty thick skin.  Especially when it involves charter schools.  But to this date, with the numerous times I’ve seen him, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has only said two words to me, and those were “Thank you.”  This was on June 24th last year at Governor’s Café in Dover.  He was rushing out the door, and I held it open for him.  He has tried staring me down a few times, but I don’t let him.  I just keep staring back.

For some of these people, there is a factor I like to call greed.  They are making a lot of money, more than the average Delawarean.  They are young, and some of these employees are making over $100,000 to essentially destroy public education as we know it.  Wealth and an imagined power can make anyone submit to authority if it keeps the pipeline flowing.

What bothers me though, are the outright lies.  Lines like “Smarter Balanced is the best test this state ever made”, or “Were entitled to our opinions, but not facts” when those “facts” are very wrong.

The companies surrounding the DOE and whispering in their ear, along with the Governor’s office, I don’t think they are evil either.  Pretty close to it though.  They are a business.  Businesses make money.  And that’s what it’s all about!

But for the most part, many of the employees at the DOE are just more state worker bees.  I tend to focus on the big dogs there because they set the policies and guidelines.  When I go to the DOE, it is the hub I visit, not the kiosks with eight employees in a row.

The big question is how many of these chiefs for academic excellence down at the Townshend Building in Dover will still be there in two years?