As Christina Passes MOU, Carney Wants Charter Students To Come Back To Christina

Last night the Christina Board of Education, in front of a packed house, passed the Memorandum of Understanding between the district, the Delaware Department of Education and Governor John Carney’s office with a 4-2-1 vote.  Board members John Young and Elizabeth Paige voted no while member Angela Mitchell abstained.  The tense meeting, which lasted over three hours, had Carney sitting in the audience the entire time.  While the News Journal, WHYY, and WDEL all came to the meeting, many parts of the meeting were not covered in their articles. Continue reading

Advertisements

Things To Know About Prestige Academy

prestigemarkell

As announced about an hour ago, the Board of Directors at Prestige Academy opted out of renewing their charter in a letter to the Delaware Department of Education.  While a specific reason was not given, my hunch is the decision was made due to low enrollment.  The letter was dated October 1st, the day after the September 30th count in Delaware which determines funding for all Delaware public schools.

The school has certainly gone through enrollment woes since they opened.  In the 2014-2015 school year, they had 246 students.  After going on formal review in the Spring of 2015 based on their April 1st count, they were put on probation.  Their enrollment for the 2015-2016 year fell to 224.  Last Winter, they submitted a major modification to lower their enrollment and drop 5th grade.  This modification was approved by the State Board of Education last March.  They were up for charter renewal this fall, but apparently the board made the decision for themselves.

The all-boys charter school opened in August of 2011.  The school had their fair share of discipline incidents as well as higher populations of African-Americans, low-income, and students with disabilities.  In January of 2015, Jack Perry resigned as the original Head of School.  He was replaced by Cordie Greenlea, a former Christina and New Castle County Vo-Tech employee.

The school never had any major scandals like some other charters in Wilmington, but based on their student population with high needs, the school never seemed to find its footing.  Sadly, this is happening more and more in Delaware.  The charters that service students with severe needs are the ones that shut down.  Pencader, Reach, Moyer, Delaware Met, and now, Prestige Academy.  Meanwhile, charters that get all the rewards and accolades that don’t have demographics anywhere close to the districts around them, continue to thrive.  It isn’t working.  For the students in Wilmington that are shuffled around city schools… it can’t be good for them.

The only heat I ever got from the school was based on an article I wrote from when Jack Perry resigned.  But for the most part, they were quiet and did their thing.  At the end of the day, they opened the school hoping to make a difference for minority city students.  For those in Delaware who think all schools should be charters, there is a lesson to be learned here.  If all schools were charters we would be seeing dozens of charters closing each year.  We have become so obsessed with test scores we have lost sight of what truly matters… the students.

I’m sorry this school closed.  I never like to see any school close because of the severe disruption it puts students and their families through.  While Wilmington still seems to have a charter moratorium for any new charters, it didn’t stop the State Board of Education from approving several charters in the area for major modifications which increased their student enrollments.  Perhaps Prestige Academy would’ve had a fighting chance had the State Board followed the spirit of the legislation behind the moratorium.

Delaware has to do better by its students, especially those in our city schools.  I don’t believe having an influx of community organizations coming into our schools is the answer.  We have to increase funding for the schools that need it the most.  We need to stop with the slush money, in both charters and districts.  The excuse of “grant money” being allowed for a specific purpose is losing its meaning.  That money would be better off going to schools that need it more.  I am wary of all that the Every Student Succeeds Act has to offer.  So much of it is more of the same, just with more outside organizations coming into schools and the promise of what amounts to an eventual digital education for all.  Something has to give.  But our State Board and the Delaware DOE has to take a lot of the blame for this.  I have no doubt they were following whatever Governor Markell told them.  They play games with children’s lives with their wax-on/wax-off charter school agendas.  It is killing Delaware education!

Delaware DOE Will Severely Punish More Brandywine, Christina & Red Clay Schools Based On Smarter Balanced Scores

Wilmington

As part of a Freedom of Information Act request, the Delaware Department of Education named several new schools that would have become Priority or Focus Schools in an email to the United States Department of Education if the Delaware School Success Framework (DSSF) went into full effect this year.  It won’t, but it gives a very good sign of the entire purpose of this “school report card” scheme: more inner-city schools getting false labels and “turnaround status” based on high-stakes standardized test scores.  One school, far away from Wilmington, which was highly praised by Governor Markell and the DOE a couple of years ago for their reduction of proficiency gaps would have been a Focus School this year because of the increase in their proficiency gap.  Another school that would have become a priority school is already slated to close at the end of this year.  Again, I will stress these schools (aside from the ones with an asterisk) have not been named but would have been if the DSSF went into effect this year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority1

Wow!  That is a lot of information from the former Director of Accountability at the Delaware DOE!  This was part of the Delaware DOE’s ESEA waiver request they sent to the US DOE at the end of November last year.  The State Board had just approved the participation rate penalty in the DSSF at their November meeting.  What wasn’t revealed was this list of schools that would have been named Focus or Priority…

ReynaPotlFocusPriority2

Four of the schools labeled as Priority are already Priority Schools.  I find it interesting the other two Red Clay Priority Schools are not on this list.  The Christina School District would have two more Priority Schools based on their DSSF score.  Delaware College Prep did not have their charter renewed and will close their doors forever at the end of this school year.

ReynaPotlFocusPriority3

Booker T. Washington Elementary School?  What?  Isn’t this the same school Governor Markell touted and praised for closing the gaps in 2014 and 2015?  Didn’t Delaware Today just do a big article about the school’s big turnaround?  I have to wonder if Capital School District is aware this school would have been punished again and put back in turnaround status.

Brandywine School District (district code 31) already had three designated Focus Schools this year, but four more would have joined that elite group.  Half of Delaware’s Focus Schools would have existed in the Brandywine School District!  Red Clay would have seen a middle school join while Christina would have another two schools in turnaround status.  Colonial and Delmar both would join the “Focus School Group” based on their proficiency gaps.

When you compare these schools with charter schools based on the actual Smarter Balanced scores last year, the fatal flaw in the Delaware School Success Framework becomes very clear.  Many charters such as EastSide, Family Foundations, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison had lower Smarter Balanced scores than some of the priority and focus schools above.  But because the DSSF is based not just on the overall scores but also the “growth to proficiency”, the system is rigged to punish schools in traditional school districts.  Why?  Because the Delaware DOE never did what they said they were going to do in their ESEA waiver application:

CharterPriorityRegulation

So even though they named Delaware College Prep as a priority school in their “DSSF” scenario, it wouldn’t happen because to this date the DOE has not submitted any regulations indicating what is in the picture above.  As well, this would account for Focus Schools as well, as seen here:

FocusCharterRegulation

And what is that Focus School Criteria?

FocusCriteria1617beyond

But here is where things get confusing:

TimelineTransitionDSSF

The above states no new Focus or Priority schools will be named in the next two years.  But they will name Reward and Recognition schools.  So that’s good, right?  Wrong.  The whole ballgame changes on August 1st, 2016.  That is when the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) goes into effect.  States will be given a “planning and implementation year” so to speak.  But the key will be in the regulations issued in the coming months.  That is where ALL OF THIS will come into play.  The Delaware DOE was probably about 95% certain the ESSA would pass at the time of this ESEA Waiver application on November 19th, 2015.  So what does this mean?

These are my predictions: The regulations coming out of ESSA will give the states the authority to determine “turnaround” schools based on US DOE “guidance”.  The Delaware DOE will take full advantage of this to keep the plans now in place but also to make things go into effect in the 2016-2017 school year.  Or possibly, they will stall this until the 2017-2018 school year.  They will support this with a re-designed Regulation 103 in Delaware based on the US DOE regulations.  If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) redistricting plan passes the General Assembly (which I now think will happen), Red Clay will have a lot of priority and focus schools.  And more to be named based on the Delaware School Success Framework and how they calculate things.  Most of them are schools in the city limits of Wilmington.  Around 2019 or 2020, the DOE will pounce on these schools with hardcore priority school MOUs.  If you thought the MOUs in 2014 were stringent, these will be even tougher for the Red Clay Board of Education to work around.  By this time, based on the Smarter Balanced scores (or whatever replaces it), all the Wilmington Red Clay schools will be in Priority School status.  Red Clay won’t close all the schools, so they will be forced to turn them over to the DOE, become charter schools, or be put into a management organization.  And that, my friends, is when we see Wilmington become an all-charter school district.  Over time this will engulf the Brandywine, Christina, Colonial, and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts.  Upper New Castle County will become ALL charter.

Think about the real estate deals that will come out of that.  Think about the collective bargaining rights that are marginalized when a school goes into priority school status.  Think about competency-based education and personalized learning and career pathways initiatives already in place in Delaware and other states.  Think about the huge amount of schools in the country that have already converted to charters, and the vast amounts of money hedge fund managers make off charters.  Think about all the foundations and non-profits that support charters.  Think about the fact that WEIC had to happen for all of this to come to fruition.  Think about how organizations like Teach For America and the Relay Graduate School for Education stand to benefit immensely from a scenario where teachers are no longer teachers but glorified moderators in a personalized learning environment.  Think about the long con and how this would eventually trickle down the state, past the canal, all the way down to Sussex County over the long run.  Think about all the tax break legislation that has gone through in Delaware that Markell has signed so fast.  There could be a lot of new business coming to Delaware.  But none of it will be good for students.

This is the game plan.  The one that Delaware Governor Jack Markell, the Rodel Foundation, and the Delaware Business Roundtable fervently support.  You won’t find any memos or emails about this.  You won’t find any hard or definitive proof either.  It will just happen.  And if you think John Carney will save the day as the new Governor of Delaware, think again…

Guess what the one mechanism is that stops all of this?

OPT OUT

If the state doesn’t have the data needed to carry out all of this, they can’t very well use the results to force all these changes.  This is why Governor Markell and the DOE and Rodel and all the organizations, foundations, and non-profits are against opt out.  Opt Out is the game-changer that disrupts ALL their plans.

WEIC Addendum Gives Red Clay Distinct Advantages Over All School Districts In Delaware

KeyserSoze

The State Board of Education will vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan on Thursday, February 18th.  What they are voting on will give Red Clay certain advantages over every other school district and charter school in the State of Delaware.  The plan calls for additional funding for Red Clay Consolidated and the Christina schools currently in Wilmington that would become part of Red Clay by Fiscal Year 2019.  This funding be based on a weighted funding formula to be approved by the Delaware General Assembly (of which there is no current legislation addressing this).  The weighted funding would give additional funding for English Language Learners, low-income students, and basic special education for children in Kindergarten to 3rd grade.  The money would come in FY2017.  This funding would spread out into FY2018 to the remaining schools in the Christina School District.  By FY2019, all city of Wilmington School districts and charter schools would receive this additional funding.

Hey Tony Allen and the WEIC gang: What about the rest of Delaware?  While I think it’s great you are recommending the entire state gets these funds as soon as possible, there is no crystal clear plan for that happening.  But there is certainly a plan for all of northern New Castle County.  In case you forgot, over half the students in the state exist outside this plan.  So what happens when Wilmington gets all this extra money, support and resources?  What happens to the almighty standardized test scores?  Will there be a curve for the rest of the state when Red Clay does better and then the rest of the Wilmington districts?  It will give those schools a disproportionate advantage over the rest of the state.  More funding means more teaching units in the classroom, whether it is more teachers or more paraprofessionals.  In case you haven’t checked, there are poor kids south of the Canal as well.  Kids with disabilities and many English Language Learners, especially in Sussex County.  I guess it’s okay to make them wait until FY2020 or never based on your plan.

But this goes beyond just funding, because all these organizations like the United Way of Delaware (not Wilmington) and other community service associations will be pouring support into Wilmington schools as well.  I’m not saying Wilmington doesn’t need all of this.  I’m saying ALL of Delaware does.  The problems in Wilmington schools are not necessarily unique to just Wilmington schools.  They are all over the state.  Wilmington doesn’t get to receive $22-26 million in additional funding on top of community organization support AND $3 million going to the University of Delaware over the next few years while the rest of the state watches AND pays for it.  It’s like going to a birthday party and watching someone open up all their presents.  But this birthday party will go on for three years.  And this party isn’t in Wilmington, it’s in the whole state of Delaware and we all have to pay the rent for the party while Wilmington gets all the presents.  Meanwhile, we won’t get any of those cool presents but we will be judged on the same level as if we got those presents.  And the result…

cliff_hanging

 

Tony Allen, I met with you last March.  I told you then about my concerns with Delaware special education.  I told you about the funding issues, the charter issues, and the district issues.  I told you if special education isn’t a major part of this, I can’t support it.  To date, I’m not seeing it.  I don’t see it in the plans for the next few years.  I don’t see a committee that is just about special education and how to improve it.  Even though you told me this would happen.  When Tony?  Next year?  The year after?  Or never?  That really pissed me off Tony.  You gave me your word.  That word doesn’t mean anything now.  Sorry to call you out like this, but I don’t appreciate being told something and then it doesn’t happen.

But I do see WEIC will take all the propaganda and corporate education reform lingo and throw it into their plans to appease the State Board of Education and the Governor.  WEIC swallowed the bait.  All this birth to eight crap, and birth to college.  Who do we think we’re fooling?  Wait until the Social Impact Bonds start coming out.  When students futures are hedged for the investors.  That’s what all this is about: Student Capital.

If the goal of all of this is to turn schools in Wilmington into community centers, I can’t back this.  At all.  That’s where we’re going with all this.  I feel for the kids up there.  I truly do.  My heart bleeds when I read about the murders and violence in Wilmington.  But pouring all this money into education doesn’t even address the problem.  Get the social workers out there, get the police to effectively put an end to the drug and gang problems, and get the Attorney General to clean up Wilmington.  Where are the jobs for the unemployed up there?  Where is the drive to end homelessness?  You are ignoring these crucial issues that impact education.  But what you are really doing is placing the burden on the whole state for Wilmington’s problems!  Who pays for this?  Every single taxpayer in the state.  All of us.  If it comes from the state budget, it comes from every single one of us.  But you want us to pour all this extra money into Wilmington schools while the rest of the state sits stagnant and waits?  So high-stakes testing scores can go up?  Really?  What happens if those test scores remain the same or actually go down?  Do we call all of this a failure?  What happens when the Red Clay schools show the coveted “growth” in test scores because they got more money.  It makes the schools and districts who don’t get this funding look worse.  More labeling.  More shaming.  We will prop Red Clay and the other Wilmington schools up at the expense of the rest of the state.

All of you involved with this who don’t have the guts to address the true issues here need to wake the hell up!  The biggest problem is the illusion of failure!  You are allowing the DOE and Markell to dictate the terms of success for this without realizing those terms consign every student in Delaware to their money-making Ponzi education reform buddies on Wall Street!  And those buddies are going to start betting on the outcomes.  That’s all a Social Impact Bond is: a bet.  Between a governmental unit and a company.  It’s a gamble.  Our children, all the children of Wilmington, all the children of Delaware, are pawns.  WEIC is just making sure it happens sooner than expected.

chess

Last month, WEIC got played by the State Board of Education.  It was out there for everyone to see it, in real-time.  But now WEIC is kissing the State Board’s ass!  Completely ignoring the fact they broke the law is one thing, but now you are going to play kissy-face with them?  It’s disgusting.  It’s appalling.  But I guess that’s the Delaware Way, hard at work again.  This whole thing kicked off because of two things: priority schools and charter schools.  Let’s not forget that.  Based on two things: standardized test scores and discrimination.  We can sit here and pretend it’s all about sixty years of Brown vs. the Board of Education, but the reality is simple.  It’s about the damn scores.  It’s what we measure success and failure by.  What the hell is WEIC doing to address those things?  You recommended a moratorium on new charter schools but many of them are increasing and decreasing their enrollment all over the place up there.  And nobody is saying boo about it.  Those charters are taking full advantage of this cause they know they have the full support of the State Board, DOE, and Governor Markell.  Wasn’t that the biggest thing to come out of WEAC?  And now you’re going to put all these students into a district that can’t even get an inclusion plan right?  While you ignore the cherry-picking and discrimination by two (possibly three) of the biggest offenders in the state, let alone America?  You have now become part of the problem WEIC.  My issue with WEIC isn’t that I underestimate them, it’s that I don’t trust them.  And please, change the name of your website.  These aren’t solutions for Delaware schools, these are solutions for Wilmington schools.  You aren’t fooling anyone.

To read all the latest on the WEIC plans, read below:

 

Delaware Met & DOE Holding Information Session For Parents Tonight

The Delaware Met and the Delaware Department of Education are having an information session for parents of Del Met students.  The purpose of this meeting is to give parents options after the charter school closes on January 22nd.  On December 17th, the State Board of Education revoked the charter of Delaware Met.  This was an unprecedented decision in Delaware to close a school down in the middle of the school year.  This is a very good idea, and I am glad to see the DOE and the school working together to make the best transitions possible for the students of Delaware Met.

DelMetDOEInfoSession

16 To Watch In 2016: Tony Allen

Wilmington_Delaware_skyline

Tony Allen wears a lot of hats these days.  First and foremost, he leads the Corporate Communications for Bank of America’s Consumer Banking.  He sits on the Board of Directors at the Rodel Foundation.  But his biggest role in 2015 was the Chairman of both the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee and the Wilmington Education Commission (WEIC).

Unless you’ve been living in a hole, the WEIC’s job is to formulate a redistricting plan to get the Wilmington schools in the Christina School District shifted to Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Originally, the Wilmington schools in the Colonial School District were to be a part of this initiative, but their board said no.  They are still a part of the commission, but the most recent draft isn’t calling for their less than 300 students to move over.

WEIC has been controversial since day one.  Their biggest hurdle will be how to fund this long-term plan.  Ideas have surfaced over the past few months regarding raising property assessments to current day levels over time.  Many in Delaware oppose this, especially those in Sussex County around the beach towns.  Property values have increased dramatically in this area, and any change in property assessments will hit those homeowners very hard.  Recently, WEIC called for $6 million from Delaware’s General Fund in the budget for Fiscal Year 2017.  Delaware Governor Jack Markell promised members of WEIC at their most recent full commission meeting that Red Clay citizens will not have to pay for this.  So who will?  This is the question on everybody’s mind.

WEIC will present their draft to the Delaware State Board of Education on 12/17, next Thursday.  At that point, it is expected the State Board will vote yes on it in January and it will go the Delaware General Assembly for a vote.  This is where WEIC will face its greatest challenge.  With Delaware projected to have anywhere from a $150-$200 million dollar deficit for FY2017, many are guessing WEIC and the redistricting will be dead in the water once it hits the House and Senate floors.

For Tony Allen, he sees this as a “once in a generation” action.  Others feel this is being rushed through for various reasons.  I have always been suspicious of the overall motivations of the redistricting.  Kilroy’s Delaware thinks it is revenge against the Christina School District.  But there is one thing Red Clay has which none of the other districts do: they are a charter school authorizer, the only one of its kind in the state aside from the Delaware Department of Education.

As recently as last summer, Governor Markell was overheard, when asked about where the Wilmington students would go to high school, as saying “The Community Education Building”.  If WEIC is not all it claims to be from its leaders, expect a lot of heat put on Tony Allen and Dan Rich.  There are many who would benefit from Wilmington eventually becoming an all-charter district.  I pray this isn’t the end result.  I sincerely hope this is not the intentions of Tony Allen.  But I often ask if he has been used in this initiative, if he is one of the chief architects, or if the fears of many are just that.

At the end of the day, it should always be about the students.  Will the students of Wilmington truly be better off under one banner so to speak?  This is the question that all decision-makers will face in the coming months.  These children are the most vulnerable of all Delaware’s children.  The bulk of them come from poverty and low-income, are minorities, and many students with disabilities.  They are the ones that matter.  They are trusting the adults are doing the right thing.  If that trust is broken, how many generations will it take for that trust to be restored?

WEIC Updates Their Draft Two Weeks After Public Comment Period Began, Major Additions Good & Bad

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission released their draft of the plan for redistricting students in the Wilmington portion of the Christina School District to the Red Clay Consolidated School District on 11/17.  Today, the draft is updated with a lot of new information, including the actual resolution the State Board of Education will vote on at their January board meeting.  The updated draft gives no indication of the authorship of that resolution.  As well, there is a whole section regarding school choice and how many disadvantaged students are unable to fully utilize the choice process at certain charter schools and magnet schools.  There are many funding recommendations that have been added as well.  What is deceptive about this updated draft is the highlighting of new material added.  Most folks will first look at the table of contents to determine any new changes.  Certain sections have been added and are highlighted in yellow.  What is bizarre is the existing chapters that have many new parts added into them are not highlighted in the table of contents, including the WEIC Resolution (which can be found on page 23 of the below Scribd document).  I would think the Resolution would have been in the initial draft but it was not.

I applaud the section on school choice and barriers to at-risk students, but there is so much added to this draft that completely changed my perception of this initiative.  I believe any public comment period should not have changes to a draft at all.  Many people may think the 11/17 draft was the final one and may not be aware of the changes.  This is a classic example of a lack of transparency on this plan which has been my concern all along.  I strongly encourage anyone who has already read the draft to do so again.  Yes, it is 191 pages, but there are many changes to this that folks need to be aware of.  Especially since 3 out of the 5 public hearings have already happened!!!!

 

The Draft Plan For Wilmington Redistricting Presented To State Board Of Education Yesterday

As this document put on a public website clearly says,

DRAFT: November 3, 2015, not reviewed in full or approved by Redistricting Committee or the Commission, not for dissemination or distribution

I will note, one more time, this is a draft, not approved yet.  I always have to crack up when I see things put on public websites that say “embargoed” or “not for distribution”.  The very act of putting it on a public website means it is now “out there” on the internet for anyone to see.  Granted, I don’t know how many dive into the agenda for a State Board of Education retreat, but I digress…

Here it is, but don’t stop reading after you finish that one, cause there is more

And once again, we have the same disclaimer on the appendices, which includes Red Clay and Christina’s plans with all of this and tons of funding resources.  The last few sections are blank because they have not happened yet.  Consider this a peak into the future taking place now sort of thing.  A paradox or will we see the same thing brought forward before the State Board of Education on 11/19?

So what is your take?  Will the State Board approve this as it is written now?  Would the General Assembly approve this?  If you had a vote, would you?

Will Red Clay Dump WEIC At Their Special Board Meeting? Will Brandywine? Should Christina Teachers Feel Insulted?

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the redistricting of Wilmington schools from Christina to Red Clay has been controversial on its best day.  Colonial is saying no, and it looks like Brandywine might as well.  Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams attended the redistricting committee meeting the other day, and all sorts of information came to light such as:

Red Clay School Board will be holding a Special Board Meeting on November 2, 2015 starting at 5:30 at Red Clay’s District Office. The board may be taking action with regards to WEIC.

But where is the agenda for this Special Board meeting? I can’t see it anywhere on their board docs.  The only notice of it is here.  How long has this been planned?  Next week begins budget discussions with state agencies.  With a very large looming budget deficit, more than the public really knows (more on that later), there will not be funding for this initiative without making huge cuts to something else.  Has the Red Clay board seen the light, or is this just another meeting to talk about things?

Brandywine School District would like to maintain the current school boundaries.

I’m not certain how much this will impact things as Brandywine has never been a big player in all of this, but with both of the “other” districts backing out it sends a clear message.

Brandywine School Board will bring forward a board resolution at their next school board meeting with regards to WEIC.

Sounds like Colonial and Brandywine are on the same page.

DSEA is very concerned about teachers losing their job because of this plan; district lines being redrawn.

As they should be.  Where would those teachers go?

Dr. Daugherty replied back to DSEA and said Red Clay is not going to guarantee that Red Clay will hire everyone from the Christina schools. Christina schools will become a part of the Red Clay School District.

This is just wrong in my opinion.  Unless it is a reduction in work force.  Red Clay already has some of the most bloated classrooms in the state.  If I were Christina, I would back out unless their teachers have a written and assured safety net.

A comment was made, if the plan is just to move district lines and rename schools and not provide any resources or funding; don’t bother moving any further with this plan.

I agree.  It sounds exactly what Delaware State Board of Education member Pat Heffernan said a couple weeks ago at their meeting.

My fear of Red Clay dumping WEIC is the aftermath.  Will Governor Markell step in and issue an executive order “for the kids”?  My gut tells me he will.  Which is also going to be the time we start hearing the words “impeachment” if he does.  That type of executive decision would certainly shed some light on this and would gel with everything that has been going on behind the scenes for years.  Or I could just be paranoid…

Delaware Today Article Has Overwhelming Bias For Wilmington Charter Schools

The November issue of Delaware Today hit the stands, and controversy surrounding an article on Wilmington charter schools is already beginning.  The article, written by Melissa Jacobs, does not even mention the four surrounding traditional school districts: Christina, Red Clay, Brandywine or Colonial.  It gives the illusion that these students would be complete failures unless they attend a charter with Teach For America corps members.  It is highly disrespectful of the hard work traditional school districts do for these students.

Any article that props up the Charter School of Wilmington as the greatest school in Delaware is going to immediately be on my radar.

Other kids find it in other charters. Three of them—Academia Antonia Alonso, Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks—are housed in the Community Education Building on French Street. Delaware Met just opened its doors nearby. All-boys Prestige Academy is older. It’s true that some of the city’s charter schools have stumbled. But others have excelled, like the Charter School of Wilmington, which was ranked No. 15 in Newsweek’s 2015 list of America’s top high schools.

The reporter failed to even mention CSW’s enrollment practices and specific interest clause which results in a very skewed population of students in a Wilmington School.  As of their 2014-2015 school profile, CSW had 6% African-American, 3.3% Hispanic-Latino, and .2% students with disabilities.  Meanwhile, far surpassing any school in the state, they had a population of 26.4% Asian students.  Their demographics do not even come close to matching the surrounding schools in Wilmington.

Aside from Howard High School in the New Castle County Vocational District, no other traditional Wilmington schools are mentioned.  This is a puff piece on charters and I have to wonder why that is.  I am usually suspicious when Dr. Paul Herdman of the Rodel Foundation is quoted in an article:

“We are at a juncture of potentially profound hope for Wilmington’s schools,” says Paul Herdman, president and CEO of the Rodel Foundation of Delaware, a nonprofit committed to creating a first-class educational system in the state by 2020.

Last Winter, I wrote an article concerning potential preferential treatment given to charter school teachers and the development of the Market Street Village apartments.  While Governor Markell’s office quickly debunked this theory, the article in the News Journal mentioned the Buccini/Pollin Group as providing this effort to attract teachers:

The new units will add to the 800 units Buccini/Pollin has already built in Wilmington, including 116 at The Residences of Harlan Flats, a luxury apartment property that opened last month along the Riverfront.

The Delaware Today article references the very same group as working with Great Oaks Charter School to attract certain kinds of teachers to Wilmington:

 With an ancillary mission of improving the community, Great Oaks worked with local developers Buccini/Pollin Group to find or create housing for its 37 AmeriCorps-funded tutors. Those now housed in various BPG apartment buildings on Market Street drive a need for restaurants and nightlife. And if the record from other cities with Great Oaks schools holds, a third of each year’s cohort will find permanent jobs and remain in the city after their year of service.

What concerned me the most about the article is the following part which flies in the face of the charter school moratorium in place with House Bill 56 w/Amendment #1 passed last Spring by the 148th General Assembly and signed by Governor Markell.

In the 2014-15 school year, 2,475 of the 11,575 students in Wilmington attended charter schools. That’s more than a fifth of the city’s school-aged children. And in two years, with the planned openings of new schools, charters will provide capacity for half of the city’s school-aged children. Six of the current charters call downtown home.

There is only one charter scheduled to open up next year in Wilmington, and that is the Delaware STEM Academy.  No applications for new charters were approved by the Delaware DOE last year, so where are all these new charters coming from?  Where do the estimated 3,300 students not currently attending charters currently go to school?  This makes me highly suspicious of a foul stench surrounding this article and plans in place that are not fully transparent to the public.  I have a strong suspicious many legislators in Delaware are not aware of these plans either as those who oppose the massive charter school push in Delaware would have surely mentioned this by now.  This article completely contradicts the view that there are already way too many charter schools in Wilmington and the reporter needs to reveal who told her about these new charters scheduled to open which will more than double the amount of Wilmington students attending charters.

As well, Paul Herdman talks about the role charter high schools play in Wilmington, and he made a completely false statement:

Though critics of public education in Wilmington make much of the fact that there is no traditional public school in the city, Herdman notes that there are three, each with a specific educational emphasis.

I’m not sure if Rodel and Herdman are aware, but charter schools are not traditional public schools.   They are uniquely different and it was specifically written into the original Delaware charter bill that these are not the same as traditional public schools.  Charter School of Wilmington, Freire and Delaware Met are not traditional public schools and the last of them may not even survive past the current school year.

This article poses a great deal of questions that deserve immediate answers.

Updated, 11:17am: Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, the Vice Chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wrote the following on my Facebook page:

In defense of the article’s participants, Laurisa Schutt (TFA) referred the Philly-based author to Tony (Allen)/WEIC, assuming they might be interested in a broader vision for Wilmington’s ed landscape. Needless to say, the author made it fairly clear she was not.

I did a quick check on the author, Melissa Jacobs, and could not find any real connections with charter schools but I did find one where she promotes education reform and the charter movement in the same article.  Her LinkedIn profile doesn’t even show her as a writer for Delaware Today, but does show her as an Associate Editor at Main Line Today out of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and a freelance writer for the Pennsylvania Gazette, an alumni magazine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Power Women Today 2013

This gets more bizarre by the minute…

Christina Superintendent Freeman Williams Submits Retirement Letter

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.

A Day Like No Other And Why Governor Markell Should Not Be Trusted

Seven weeks ago, the Democrats in the Delaware House of Representatives were in caucus discussing the Wilmington education bill which would allow the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission to draft up plans which would in turn authorize the State Board of Education to redraw district lines.  After that, as the plan goes, the schools in the city of Wilmington that belong to the Christina School District would convert over to Red Clay Consolidated School District.  But something went awry.

I have heard this story, from both sides, and the truth is most likely somewhere in the middle.  I will not name legislators in this story, but Senate Bill 122 almost died that day.  Two problems arose during their caucus.  One was the issue with Brandywine.  Did they not want to be a part of the redistricting or were they not included in it on purpose.  Of note is the fact that Brandywine School District has no charter schools in their district.  The second, and even bigger problem, was something Governor Markell may or may not have said.  I am inclined to believe he did say it based on history surrounding what was said.

A discussion came up with the Governor surrounding a traditional high school in Wilmington, which there is none of right now belonging to any district within the city limits.  When asked where high school students will go after the redistricting, Markell was overheard to say they would go to the Community Education Building.  This is the property donated by Bank of America and the Longwood Foundation to run charter schools.  There are currently two charters in the building with another set to open later this month, Great Oaks.

When this came up in caucus, the whole group of representatives charged into Governor Markell’s office in Legislative Hall to demand the truth.  Imagine, if you will, multiple elected officials bursting into a Governor’s office to find out if a rumor was true.  This would never happen on a Federal level, but this is Delaware.  Tony Allen, the Bank of America executive, chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee and the just announced chair of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, who was with Markell in his office, said if this was true he would pull out of the whole initiative.  Markell denied ever saying anything of the sort and after the legislators calmed down and came out of caucus, they assembled in their legislative session and passed Senate Bill 122 with a vote of 36 Yes, 3 Not Voting, and 2 Absent.  The bill had already passed the Senate on 6/11/15.

Yesterday, Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 122 into law, along with House Bill 148, which creates WEIC.  The glaring elephant in the room with all of this comes down to funding.  I would find it very hard to believe a Governor as on top of things as Jack Markell would not see the funding just plain doesn’t exist for this redistricting of Wilmington schools.  The projected deficit of $160-170 million next year will not allow for this to happen.  If it did, funds would need to be taken from many other demanded services in our state.  The DOE can’t even afford to keep to their promised allocated amount with Red Clay’s three priority schools.  Which is seriously ticking off Red Clay.  Their board president, Kenny Rivera, will be one of the vice-chairs on WEIC, so he will be very close to any discussion at the planning and meetings for all of this.

So if the funding doesn’t exist for this on a state level, where would the millions upon millions of dollars to make this happen come from?  It would be quite logical for corporations to “donate” funds for this.  It would also be logical for them to want their own stipulations for this as well, such as making the schools in Wilmington a charter district.

None of this exists in Senate Bill 122.  To prevent a referendum, the affected school districts would have to agree to the transfer of property to the receiving district and their boards would have to pass a resolution in support of this.  The trick will be in the timing.  Say WEIC makes their plans, and all the schools in Christina go to Red Clay.  The State Board does the redistricting, and it happens as written.  This is the crucial moment: funding.  WEIC is required to determine this in their report.  The State Board has until March 31st next year to complete this or their authority goes away.  Shortly after the General Assembly returns in January, Governor Markell will release the FY2017 proposed budget.  If WEIC completes their report prior to this, Markell will have to plan the budget around that.  Otherwise the legislators will have to see where these puzzle pieces would fit into a picture that may not allow this to happen.

Why would Tony Allen, a very high-functioning and brilliant executive at Bank of America, one of the largest financial institutions in the world, agree to chair not one but two committees when issues of funding would be paramount to the whole thing?  I can’t help but remember the Christina Board of Education meeting at the Sarah Pyle Academy last September.  Nnamdi Chukwuocha, the 1st District Council Member for the Wilmington City Council and also the chair of their Education Committee, spoke during public comment about funding for Wilmington Schools.

We talk so much about the quality and what is happening at some of our charter schools.  We often mention East Side Charter School, but one thing that’s not ever mentioned about East Side Charter School is the relationship that they have with Barclay’s Bank, and Barclay’s Bank supporting that initiative.  You want to do something for me, do something for my children in the City of Wilmington, I want all these institutions, let’s take JP Morgan Chase, let’s take DuPont, take Bank One, all of these banks, and let each one of them adopt one of these six schools and then let’s talk about this initiative. To me that’s what we need, we need these priority schools to be supported.

If I were a betting man, I would guess this is already in play and has been for years.

House Bill 148 Creates Wilmington Education Improvement Commission

That certainly didn’t take long.  Tony Allen, the Chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, hand delivered a letter to both the Delaware House of Representatives and Senate to create a Wilmington Education Improvement Commission.  The very next day, yesterday, State Rep. Helene Keeley sponsored House Bill 148, which would create this entity.

This is a very interesting bill.  It would allow a group not associated with the State government to implement changes through legislation.  I am very reluctant to any legislation that gives any type of authority to the unelected State Board of Education, especially for a redistricting plan.  I completely agree that many Wilmington schools desperately need help, along with many other Delaware schools.  But having a Wilmington-based group like this advising strategy for the rest of the state is a slippery slope.  I am intensely curious how this will all come out in the wash, over the long-term.  I agree with Tony Allen, the time to act is now, but it should not be designed to give short-term fixes to long-term problems.

I’m going to go on record here and say that 50% of the problems in Wilmington can be traced back to special education.  If this group does not tackle this issue, it will be destined for failure.  I don’t know who would be on this group, but it would have to be many people with a true understanding of children with disabilities.

This bill’s next destination will be the House Education Committee, which will not meet again until June 3rd after the General Assembly has a two week recess.  No agenda for that meeting has come out yet.

Charter School Teachers Getting Preferential Treatment at Market Street Village, Discrimination Against Public School Teachers

In the Delaware News Journal today one of the articles was about luxury apartments in development for the new “millennials” to spice up the downtown district in Wilmington.  The article announced the 77 unit Market Street Village will give “below-market rates” to charter school teachers.  Jeff Mordock with the News Journal wrote:

“One of the projects, Market Street Village, will include 77 residential units that will be offered to charter school teachers at below-market rates.  Hare said tax credits and funding from the state’s Downtown Development District programs will help the units be priced at a discount.”

This was Governor Markell’s big announcement right before his State of the State address a couple weeks ago.  Locations were chosen in Wilmington, Dover and Seaford.  Markell, why don’t you just come out with a press release that says “I hate public school district teachers, and I will not rest until they are wiped off the map in Delaware.”  This is discrimination, pure and simple.  I suppose there aren’t any Millennials among the very large teacher pool in the local public school districts?  Or is this indicative of something bigger?  Because the New York Times also had an article about this on February 5th, but they said something a little bit different.  NY Times reporter Mark Makela wrote:

“The former bank building is part of the Market Street Village development that will create 77 residential units at three locations for the city’s growing number of charter school teachers, who will be offered the apartments at below-market rates.”

In the 2015-2016 school year there will be a total of six new charter schools in Delaware, five of which will be in New Castle County.  Two are already scheduled to open within Wilmington.  But on the other hand, two established charter schools will close, Reach Academy for Girls and Moyer.  So that’s 1,290 approved seats for the five new charter schools, and based on the DOE school profiles website, 573 students currently enrolled this year (I didn’t count the 12 seniors at Moyer) will be forced to find a new school next year.  So this will create a huge amount of available teachers.  What it won’t do is put the local school districts in a good position.  Already under the knife’s edge with the priority schools, more local funding will be taken out of these school districts.  This is assuming all these new charters fill all their seats.

While the fate of the priority schools is in your hands with Christina School District, or your lapdog Murphy, we all know most of these teachers will be forced to reapply for their jobs.  Do you honestly think they would accept being terminated and then taking a job at a charter school?  So where will all these new teachers come from?  Perhaps Teach For America or Relay Graduate School?  Younger people, perfect for your little downtown agenda.

It’s bad enough with all the Common Core, standardized testing and teacher evaluations, but now Markell has to push the knife in the back even deeper by allowing this 21st century discrimination by excluding public school district teachers out of a major state “revitalization” project.  He isn’t even trying to hide it anymore..  I’m sure you figure “I’ve got two years left, and I’ll do whatever I damn well please.”  Why anyone in this state would think Markell is an honorable man is beyond me.  His obsession with Rodel and all the little side deals he made has turned Delaware education into a disgrace.  It was one thing when he kept his obvious disdain of public school district education in the schools and the education landscape.  Now he has crossed a very big line into actual incentives for some he feels are “worthy” and nothing for those that are not.  I thought a Governor was supposed to be a voice for all people Governor Markell, but it’s obvious you are only there for some.

Now I understand why you have not said one word about the ACLU lawsuit against the State of Delaware and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  You would be a hypocrite.  Equity for all aren’t even words in your vocabulary.

Wilmington Education Advisory Committee Wants Christina and Colonial Out Of Wilmington

The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, which came about due to an executive order by Delaware Governor Markell, issued their executive summary today.  As expected, the issue of Wilmington having four school districts within it’s boundaries was a major topic of discussion and recommendations.  Before the committee gives their final report, they want public input from all citizens of Delaware, but most importantly, those already residing within Wilmington.

The biggest change the committee is suggesting is taking Christina and Colonial School Districts out of Wilmington.  This would leave Red Clay Consolidated, Brandywine, and New Castle County Vo-Tech as the sole school districts in Wilmington, aside from the numerous charter schools already there.  The report recommends Red Clay take over all of Christina’s schools in Wilmington.  It doesn’t say anything about Colonial.

The charters in Wilmington should strategize together and work together with best practices from each school.  The report also agrees with the Wilmington City Council and their moratorium on new charter school applications.

I’m not sure how I feel about this report yet.  Something has to be done, but I don’t like how they are so quick to throw Christina out.  Red Clay gave in to the priority schools much quicker than Christina.  Hell, Christina’s union hasn’t even signed off on the MOUs at this point, if they will at all.

The full report can be read here.  Please note this is NOT the final report: