Governor Carney Shows His True Colors In A Dog And Pony Show For The Ages!

Delaware Governor John Carney released a statement about his meeting with the Christina School District Board of Education last evening.  I felt obligated to give it the TC Redline Edition.  In which I give a no-holds barred critique of Carney’s boneheaded idea.

Governor Carney to Christina Board: Let’s Partner to Improve Wilmington Schools

Date Posted: Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

WILMINGTON, Del. – Governor John Carney on Tuesday met with the Christina Board of Education during a study session at Bancroft Elementary School to discuss a proposed partnership between the state and Christina School District to more effectively serve educators and students in Christina schools in the City of Wilmington.

I have to give kudos to Carney for actually attending and meeting with the Board.  However, that does not excuse the backdoor closed meetings he had with two of their board members over the summer.

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Governor John Carney
Full remarks to Christina School District Board of Education – October 3, 2017
*As prepared for delivery

Thank Rick Gregg, members of the Board, Principals, teachers, parents and others present.

Proper thing to do when you are in their house so to speak.

I’m here with Secretary of Education Susan Bunting and Dorrell Green. I appreciate the opportunity to address the Board in this workshop format.

They would be the ones to also be there.  Was anyone else there?  Perhaps your Education Policy Advisor, Jon Sheehan?

I’ve lived in this city for 30 years. And it’s always been clear to me that as goes the City of Wilmington, so goes our state.

I respect that Wilmington is the biggest city in the state and it is essentially the gateway to the rest of it, but the rest of the state has a lot to offer.  Perhaps Wilmington wouldn’t be in the shape it is in if the state didn’t keep trying to put all its eggs in one basket when there are hundreds of others as well.  We get you’ve lived in this city for 30 years.  It’s all we heard from you when you were campaigning for Governor.  But you had many years at a Federal level to do more for Wilmington.  What did you do for Wilmington when you were in Congress?

Wilmington is our economic and cultural center. Its success in many ways will drive Delaware’s long-term success. And so we need a city that is safe, with strong neighborhoods and good schools. We’re working with Mayor Purzycki, legislators, members of city council, businesses and the community service agencies to achieve these goals.

And yet we continue to see murders and violent crimes constantly.  All we hear from political leaders is “we’re working with…”.  That doesn’t solve the problem.  Action does and I have yet to see true action being taken to reduce those crimes and rampant drug use.

Our efforts have to start with improving our schools, and doing a better job educating city children.

No, your efforts have to start with improving the climate of Wilmington. 

One of the first things I did when I took office was ask Secretary Bunting to visit Wilmington schools.

Which she did.

I joined her on some of these visits. And while we certainly saw dedicated teachers and principals, what we saw by and large was very discouraging.

Let me guess: you saw children with hygiene issues and worn clothing.  You saw a look in their eyes you couldn’t really understand.  It tugged at your heartstrings and thought, “I will be the one to fix this.”

And when the proficiency scores for these schools were released this summer, we saw that they fell well short of what’s acceptable.

Here we go… the test scores.  For a flawed test.  In most schools, anything below a 65% is failing.  For Smarter Balanced, the whole state is failing.  Is that the fault of teachers and students or the test itself.  Don’t answer, we already know.

All of us, together, are responsible for doing better.

We can always do better, but don’t put the blame on all of us Governor Carney.  The buck stops with you.  While you inherited many of these issues from your predecessors, you are falling into the same traps.

It was pretty clear to us that Christina’s portion of the City schools – Bayard, Stubbs, Bancroft, Palmer, and Pulaski – are in the most need of help.

Was it only a year ago that the state refused to step in when Pulaski had all the mold issues?  It is great that you visit these schools but what have you done to make life outside of these schools better?  These are the schools with the highest concentrations of low-income and poverty students.

Already we have taken steps that, I believe, will help our efforts in all city schools.

And how many of those were created by you with no public input.  How many of those efforts involved back-door secret meetings?  Once again, don’t answer.  We know the score.

We opened the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the Department of Education, to focus state energy on these and other high-needs schools.

Ah, yes.  Your attempt at “reducing” the Delaware DOE.  By making a satellite office in Wilmington. 

We created an Opportunity Grants program that, while not funded at the level that I want, will help identify proven practices for serving disadvantaged students.

Don’t even get me started on that failure of a FY2018 budget Carney.  You put aside a million bucks while cutting exponentially more.  That does not serve disadvantaged students.  It is a Band-Aid on an infected wound.

We put basic needs closets in Wilmington schools, so students can have access to hygiene products, school supplies, and winter clothing, in a dignified way.

Now this I do support and continue to do so.

We’ve reestablished the Family Services Cabinet Council to better coordinate services to families and children, and to address issues of poverty that are impeding the success of our city children.

Closed-door, non-public, back-door meetings.  We have no idea what this council discusses.  For something you like to scream from the rooftops about, we have no clue what they talk about.  Put your money where your mouth is and make these meetings public.  Otherwise, this is smoke and mirrors.

But we need to do much, much more, and that’s why I’m here today.

Every time the state tries to fix these issues, the problems get worse.  I have to wonder if that is intentional.

We didn’t get here over night. And we could spend all day debating the reasons for how we got here. I know a lot of that history through my father who worked in the old Wilmington Public School District and through my many years in state government.

Yes, why debate how we got there.  Because until you take a deep dive at those reasons, you will never understand.  You can’t ignore things that come into schools.  But I digress…

Some blame a lack of resources. Dysfunctional families. Inexperienced teachers. Weak leadership. Busing. Trauma in the home. Segregated neighborhoods. Too much testing. Not enough testing. Bad parenting. Education bureaucracy. Violence in the city.

I agree with some of these: a lack of resources, dysfunctional families, weak leadership (some from CSD in the past and definitely from the state), busing, trauma in the home, segregated neighborhoods, too much testing, bad parenting, education bureaucracy, violence in the city.  I don’t see the inexperienced teachers (except for the TFAers who get their rush-job credentials in a matter of months) and not enough testing.

Over the last few years the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) did a comprehensive study of the challenges, and came up with a plan to make changes. We’ve incorporated many of their recommendations into what I’m about to discuss.

In other words, you are copying the work done from others for your own political benefit. 

It’s clear to me that the most important thing we should do now is focus on making changes that will raise achievement levels for city children. That’s part of my responsibility as Governor, Dr. Bunting’s job as Secretary of Education and your jobs as school leaders and Christina Board members. We’re in this together.

Together?  Are you kidding me?  For months you’ve been circling the wagons and cherry-picking people to talk to about the “Christina problem”.  Divide and conquer.  That’s what I see.  Not getting that warm and fuzzy feeling I felt at your inauguration Carney…

I’m here today, at the invitation of your Superintendent, because I want to partner with you to say “enough.” I believe it’s time to begin intensive efforts to get our teachers, principals and students what they need in the classroom.

Knowing Rick Gregg like I do, I believe he invited you because he was getting tired of your secret meetings and wanted to make it a public event so people can see what the hell you are up to.  I think it’s high time Christina said “enough” with the endless interventions from the state that have been compete and utter failures.

To that end, I’m proposing that the State, Christina School District, and Christina Education Association form a partnership that focuses exclusively on Christina’s city schools.

You and your damn partnerships.  Let’s be partners.  Public-private partnerships.  In other words, let’s do as much as we can behind closed doors and throw transparency out the window.

My vision is to spend the next few months talking as a group about what this partnership would look like, so that by the end of this calendar year we can sign a memorandum of understanding to work together to improve these city schools and the proficiency of the students. I want to be ready to put our new plans into effect by the start of the 2018 school year. This aligns with your Superintendent’s timetable for implementing change as well.

When I hear Memorandum of Understanding, I hear priority schools all over again.  Who is your Penny Schwinn that is facilitating this?  How much state money will be spent trying to craft this MOU for months?  Cause I published all the emails where Schwinn painstakingly tried to make the MOU from the Fall of 2014.  And that was based on Delaware’s clueless interpretation of their own ESEA Flexibility Waivers.  Schwinn did everything she could to make sure it was six Wilmington schools within Christina and Red Clay.  Definitely Markell’s biggest failure.

I think our partnership should address five main issues that I’ve heard over and over again as I’ve toured schools in Wilmington.

Who is telling you these things you’ve heard “over and over”?  Let me guess: Senator Sokola, Rep. Jaques, Rodel, Atrne Alleyne, Michael Watson, Donna Johnson, Jon Sheehan, Kendall Massett, Greg Meece, etc.

First, principals need more control over key decisions in their schools. I would like to work with you to give principals the leadership tools they need and the flexibility and autonomy over structural areas such as staffing/hiring, school schedules, and programs. To give them the resources to implement extended learning time, and to create other school conditions necessary to best meet student needs. As part of this partnership, the Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with principals and our institutions of higher education to provide principals with high quality professional learning, coaching, and support. The Department of Education, using state resources, would assist Christina School District in training principals to better use observations to provide effective feedback that will elevate instruction.

Gee, that sounds an awful lot like the “empowerment zones” in Springfield, MA.

Second, educators in high-needs schools need more say in how resources are used. I plan to engage Christina’s city educators to ensure we are working in partnership with them, as they are on the ground every day working to improve student outcomes. I would like to work with you to empower teacher-leader teams at each school to partner with school administration on key decisions like working conditions, resource use, and school culture. The Office of Innovation and Improvement would work with our institutions of higher education and use the full expertise of the Department of Education to provide educators with professional learning that is relevant, consistent, and meaningful.

In other words, more useless programs through TFA, The Leader In Me, and other cash-cow Crackerjack box outfits that will happily take state money to “fix” the problems.  And that “full expertise of the Department of Education”… are you serious?  How many of these “experts” at the DOE have actually taught in these classrooms?  How many came up the ranks from TFA or the charter world?

Third, we need to address the fact that student achievement rates at Christina’s Wilmington schools are among the lowest in the state. In partnership with DSEA and CEA, I want to create more flexibility for these schools to provide students with additional learning time, including vacation and weekend academies. Teachers would receive stipends for additional hours worked, supported by state funds and the redeployment of district resources. I would argue serious conversations, in partnership with the Christina Wilmington community, need to take place around building use. We are doing our students, educators, and taxpayers a disservice when we have half-empty school buildings — needlessly spreading resources thin.

Maybe if the state stopped intervening in Christina, stopped pumping up charter schools like they are the greatest thing since sliced bread, and stopped calling Christina a failure, those buildings wouldn’t be half full.  The state created most of this mess by authorizing so many damn charters up there.  This is where you are assuming DSEA and CEA are on board with your half-cocked plan.  You are seriously messing with collective bargaining agreements here.  Vacation and weekend academies?  When do these kids get a break?  Are you going to churn and burn them until they score proficient on the useless Smarter Balanced Assessment?

Fourth, we need a plan to address the significant trauma students in Wilmington experience outside the classroom. I’m proud of the work already underway between the Office of Innovation and Improvement, DSEA, the Office of the Child Advocate, and community leaders to train staff to create trauma-informed classrooms. We need to double down on those efforts. I have already directed the Family Services Cabinet Council to work with City leaders to implement the CDC report, including finding a way to share data across state agencies about students in need. That work is under way.

How about thanking the Christina teachers who spend every single day dealing with trauma first-hand?  The ones who wash kids clothes, make sure they have food for the weekend, and help students deal with the latest murder that happened in their neighborhood?  You are all about the kudos before anything happens while failing to properly thank those on the ground floor.  And what will the closed-door Family Services Cabinet Council do with all this data that tells us what we have always known?  Let’s get real Carney: until you fix the crime, violence, and rampant drug use in Wilmington, these problems will always exist.  Until you find a way to desegregate the charter schools that cherry-pick students and put every single Delaware school back in balance with their local neighborhoods, these efforts will fail.

Finally, we need to build systems to create meaningful, sustained change in Christina’s Wilmington schools. As part of a partnership with you, the Family Services Cabinet Council would launch a two-generation network to support infants, toddlers and adults, with the goal of breaking the cycle of generational poverty. Additionally, we ought to convene higher education institutions and create a pipeline to develop teachers and leaders ready to enter into our Wilmington schools. These efforts cannot be a flash in the pan. We need to methodically build systems that will endure.

Are you saying the teachers in these schools aren’t ready?  That they can’t handle the trauma they deal with every single day?  There is nothing any higher education institution can do to adequately deal with these issues until the state takes an active hand in dealing with the issues coming into the classroom.  And Wilmington City Council needs to get their heads out of their ass and deal with the corruption going on there before they enter into any “partnership”.  Once again, make your beloved Family Services Cabinet Council public.  This whole thing reeks of non-transparency and I’m getting sick of that. 

Give principals a bigger say. Trust and support our teachers. Tackle low proficiency rates. Address trauma. Build systems. That’s what I propose we work on together.

You will never trust and support our teachers while they are under local control.  Never.  You want to mold them and cherry-pick them to serve the latest corporate education reform scheme.  The best way to tackle low proficiency rates is to get rid of Smarter Balanced and stop judging schools, teachers, and districts based on meaningless and useless test scores.  These misused and abused scores are just one of the reasons why I advocate parents opting their kids out of the state assessments.  Addressing trauma is one thing but finding a way to actively eliminate it is the true hurdle and I don’t think you have the money, resources, or guts to do that.  Working together doesn’t require a contract like an MOU.  That is a gun to the head and we all know it.  You are seriously overreaching here with your executive power here Carney and you need to slow your roll.

The partnership I’m proposing isn’t flashy. It’s not an education fad or sound bite. It’s about the nuts and bolts of educating children. It is a simple but intense effort to put the focus where I think it belongs — in the classroom.

This isn’t about kids at all.  It’s about different ed reform companies lobbying through Jon Sheehan to get their latest programs or technology into the classroom.  And you fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Frederick Douglass said that “it’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” And that’s the choice we’re facing. We all have dreams for our children. But right now, we’re consigning far too many of our students to a life that no parent wants for their child. Every student we graduate who can’t do basic math or who can’t read or write, we’re sending into the world knowing he or she doesn’t have the tools to succeed. Doors are closing for these children before they even leave the third grade.

For the most part, the state created the conditions which led to these broken men.  Through very racist laws and credos.  The state allowed this to happen and now they want to rush in and save the day by fixing the schools.  What about all these broken men?  What are you doing to make restitution for the state’s absolute failure with them?

I believe, and I know you do too, that it would be immoral to let this situation continue this way.

Don’t speak for the Christina Board of Education Carney!  It would be immoral for this board to give up local control so you can make education companies happy.  How about you let Christina School District, under the leadership of Superintendent Rick Gregg and their elected Board of Education, do their thing.  I like Gregg.  I think he is the leader Christina needs.  But your swooping in and undermining the hard work he has done is an insult at best.

So I’m asking you to form this partnership with us. Let’s take the next few months and work out the details. I’d like to hear your thoughts on what I’ve laid out, and on how you think we can work together.​


I have to listen to the audio when it comes out today, but based upon reading the News Journal article on this last night by Jessica Bies, board member Liz Paige said it best:

Elizabeth Paige said the plan lacked specificity, but that she was willing to talk more as long as the state could guarantee they weren’t going to pull the infamous Charlie Brown football gag on Christina.

“We’re Charlie Brown and the football,” she said. “He has to prove he’s not Lucy.”

Don’t be fooled Mrs. Paige.  He is most definitely Lucy!

Board member John Young gave Carney’s remarks at B+.  I think he was being nice.

Harrie-Ellen Minnehan spoke the hard truth:

Harrie Ellen Minnehan said that students are often used as “political pawns” and that the plan sounded too much like just another in a long string of political solutions imposed on the education system but that have resulted in no gain whatsoever for students caught in a downward academic spiral.

The Christina Board of Education is at their best when they are fighting the latest state method of eroding local control.  I saw this firsthand at the first Christina board meeting I went to in September of 2014.  When they stood together and gave Markell’s priority schools idea a collective no thank you.  I am hoping they do the same with this latest Markellian effort by Carney.

As for Dorrell Green, his quote in the News Journal is very concerning because it gives a good deal of insight into Carney’s plan:

“Do you feel you have the bandwidth or the internal capacity to see that plan through without our support?”

This was in response to Superintendent Gregg’s own plan to build up Christina.  It as if Green was saying “You can’t do anything without the state helping out.”  Which is exactly what the problem is here.  The state interferes so much that it paralyzes the district.  The state needs to do more on the side of fixing the crime and poverty in Wilmington.  Let Christina deal with Christina.  If the state wants to “partner” under forced coercion, that is bullying.  Christina needs to enact a zero tolerance policy on state bullying.  And just by using the word “bandwidth”, Green may have overplayed his hand.  By using that particular word, he is suggesting Christina will get better by more corporate education reform double-speak education technology.

I have to give it to Carney.  He has successfully learned how to play the field like Jack Markell did.  He certainly has been busy trying to hand-select his pawns with this attempt.  And yet he gave the farm away when he announced his trip to Springfield, MA on his public schedule.  I didn’t see any of that in your speech.  It’s like a super villain in a comic announcing their intentions before they even implement them.  Look what I’m about to do.  We see through you Carney.  Stop listening to those around you who truly don’t have a clue about what is really going on.  Otherwise you are just another Jack Markell.  Be your own man, not a carbon-copy.

Don’t think for one minute that I don’t understand you Carney.  I know about some of your antics with things lately.  I know you hate my blog and will cast out those who support it.  We both know exactly what I’m talking about.  We know you have heard objections to this Christina scheme and totally ignored them.  In fact, you punish those who don’t agree with you.  You aren’t the person you put in front of the media.  Who is the real John Carney?  Time to take off the mask and reveal the true John Carney.  We both know when this plan fails (and it will if implemented), the state will continue to blame Christina for their own failure and will embark on another scheme to “fix” the problem they create in the first place.

State Rep. Charles Potter Undermines Deal That Could Have Turned Baynard Stadium Into Something Wilmington Can Be Proud Of

A Potter’s field is a graveyard for the unwanted and the indigent.  It is the final resting place for the unwanted of society.  Delaware State Rep. Charles Potter thwarted a deal that could have renovated Baynard Stadium into something children could really enjoy.  Instead, he convinced Wilmington City Council to stop a deal with Salesianum, a Delaware private school, into donating $20 million dollars to make the Wilmington municipal recreational area into a state of the art facility.  Why?

The Delaware News Journal wrote an editorial on this very odd move of a State Representative yesterday.

In the “Save Baynard Stadium” email sent Nov. 11, Potter rallied constituents to oppose the Salesianum offer, saying “To give control of the stadium to a private school, which would then control and determine the athletic playing schedule for field use could place public school children, youth groups and community groups at a disadvantage, for a minimum of 50 years. I do not believe that it is in the best interests of the children in the city of Wilmington to have their future athletic extracurricular options determined by a private school.”

However, as the News Journal pointed out, this was already part of the proposal by Salesianum.  They would have accounted for all of Potter’s concerns in the plan he should have actually read and understood.  Wilmington needs a lot of help, so why kill a deal that would have benefited the city immensely?  While boasting about securing $200,000 for new bleachers at the stadium, he undermined a deal that would have given the park $20 million dollars.  Why?

There is no question that any deal between Salesianum and the city would have had to clearly state usage parameters that were beneficial for all parties. And we firmly believe such parameters were already on paper. But then Mr. Potter fumbled the $20 million ball.

I hope Potter’s fumble didn’t ruin any chance Baynard Stadium has of getting a deal like this in the future.  As someone who writes all the time about the dangers of corporate interference in education, this deal was harmless.  It would have benefited the City of Wilmington and the children who use this park.  In reading the editorial, it seems more a matter of ego for Potter instead of doing the right thing for kids.  And yet I don’t see Potter doing much to stop real corporate interference in education.  I just don’t get it.  How is saving a municipal park that is already rundown and turning it into something better justifiable in any possible way?

That’s what Salesianum School was planning to spend on renovating the stadium. That’s $20 million in private donations.

Not user fees.

Not tax increases.

Just private donations.

Thumbs down of the week to Rep. Potter… bad form…

Does The New Charter School Moratorium In Wilmington Still Exist?

inequity

Last year, the Delaware General Assembly passed House Bill 56 which created a moratorium on new charter school applications in the City of Wilmington until June 30th, 2018 or until the State Board of Education came up with a strategic plan to deal with charter schools in the city.  This was signed by Governor Markell on May 5th, 2015.  As of today, no strategic plan has come forth.

This bill provides a moratorium on all new charter schools in Delaware until June 30, 2018 or until the State Board of Education develops a strategic plan for the number of charter, district, and vocational-technical schools in the State. Also, the bill requires review and comment from Wilmington’s Mayor and City Council before either a local school district or the Department of Education approves a charter in the City of Wilmington. Lastly, the bill requires the local school board’s approval for a charter school in the City of Wilmington before the Department of Education can approve the charter school.

An amendment was placed on the bill:

The amendment clarifies that the Mayor and the City Council of Wilmington may review and provide comment on applications by charter schools seeking to locate in the City of Wilmington before the school is authorized by the relevant approving authority. It also clarifies that no new charter schools will be authorized to open in the City of Wilmington prior to June 30, 2018 or the development of a statewide strategic plan for specialized public educational opportunities; those charter schools already authorized will be able to open as planned.

While this bill was desperately needed at the time, one of the major failings of the bill was not addressing enrollment issues at already existing Wilmington charter schools.  Several new charter schools opened in Wilmington over a two year time span in years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.  Other charters closed down.  Meanwhile, other charters submitted modifications to increase or decrease their enrollment.  This causes havoc with education funding which is already a beast.

Yesterday, I broke the news that Prestige Academy is slated to become a part of the EastSide empire.  But given that the board of Prestige already wrote a letter indicating they would not seek charter renewal for next year and no part of the renewal process has gone forth since that letter, wouldn’t the school becoming a part of EastSide technically be a new charter school?  Whatever the intention with Prestige Academy might be, it needs to be publicly addressed now.  When Family Foundations Academy became a part of EastSide, it was done with no public ability to comment on the move and was announced at a State Board of Education meeting.  Negotiations took place behind the scenes with no transparency whatsoever.  By adding a sole-standing charter school into a conglomerate of other charter schools, it essentially changes the entire corporate make-up of a charter school.  And for those who aren’t aware, charter schools are considered to be corporations in Delaware.

Charter school modifications have a ripple effect not only on traditional school districts in the area, but also other charter schools.  We saw this play into the fates of the Delaware Met, Delaware STEM Academy, Prestige Academy, Delaware Design-Lab High School, and Freire Charter School of Wilmington.  All faced enrollment issues which resulted in either closure or a formal review for those enrollment issues with the exception of Delaware Met.  For Delaware Met, they were woefully unprepared to open the school and students suffered as a result.  There is certainly a correlation between the charters that received approval for larger enrollments and other charters who had less students this year.

I would like to see our 149th General Assembly continue this moratorium on new charter schools in Wilmington but add a few more items to it.  Any charter school modification needs to be given the same weight in terms of approval by Wilmington City Council and the local school district.  On November 1st, the Delaware Department of Education will begin accepting applications for new charter schools to open in the 2018-2019 school year.  These issues need to be addressed by our legislators before the State Board of Education may begin approving more charter schools next April, not only in Wilmington, but the entire state.

I also urge the 149th General Assembly to firmly address the issues of inequity at Newark Charter School, Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Military Academy, Odyssey Charter School, and Sussex Academy.  As well as some of the magnet schools and vo-tech schools in the state.  We can no longer move forward in the 21st Century with the severe inequities across our schools that represent a face of discrimination and de-facto segregation.  Delaware needs to be better than that.  We are still waiting on the Office of Civil Rights to address these issues based on the complaint from the Delaware American Civil Liberties Union and Delaware Community Legal Aid.  The OCR has been sitting on this since it went to them in December of 2014, almost two years ago.  The reliance of standardized test scores on all Delaware schools has been extremely punitive to schools that have much larger populations of high-needs students, especially in the City of Wilmington and the greater Newark area.

Wilmington Advocate CEO Hope Cries Out For Help With People Dying In Wilmington

At the Wilmington City Council meeting last night, advocate CEO Hope gave a very passionate speech about the crime and murder in Wilmington.  He begged the City Council to get out on the streets and see the dead and to do something before these kids go to prison.  Things are getting very tense up in Wilmington, and education will not solve all of the issues going on there.  We can redistrict and “close the gaps” until our eyes fall out, but that is not going to solve the problems.  I’m not going to pretend to have the answers, because I simply don’t.  But what we are doing now?  It isn’t working.  I live in Dover, and it is getting bad here too.  Not Wilmington proportions, but we are already over last year’s homicide rate down here.

I would start listening to this video at the 28:00 mark to see what happens before CEO’s speech, the speech, and after.

I think, if anything, these people need hope.  They need to know that their leaders want to make changes that will last and not just put band-aids on the problems.  Kicking the can does not work, and more children will die or go to prison if something doesn’t change.

Message From The DE ACLU In Wake Of Wilmington City Council Vote To Ban New Charter Schools

The Delaware American Civil Liberties Union has put out a message to all citizens of Delaware following the vote by the Wilmington City Council to ban all new charter schools in the City of Wilmington last Thursday night.  Nancy Willing, of Delaware Way, has written the following:

Any parent in the state of Delaware who has experienced problems getting their child into a charter school or keeping a child in a charter school should contact the ACLU of Delaware! http://www.aclu-de.org/. The ACLU’s resegregation lawsuit is focusing on the actionable classes of either special needs or minority children but I would think they’d be interested in the testimony of any parent whose child was denied admission to a public charter school.

Sad to say, I know far too many people who should probably check this out if they haven’t already…

Wilmington City Council Votes For Moratorium On New Charter Schools In The City

Tonight, the Wilmington City Council voted for a moratorium on any new charter school applications for the city of Wilmington in the state of Delaware.  While this council does not have jurisdiction over state law, this is seen as a symbolic gesture to the Delaware Legislature to act on what many see as abusive powers granted to the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education.  More information as it materializes!

Priority School FOIAs Part 3

Why does Markell’s office follow Rodel’s news blog so closely?  And did Mark Murphy write the script for the Wilmington City Council meeting on October 9th?  Judge for yourself!

The Priority Schools FOIAs Part 2

Part 2.  These are long reads, but there is a lot of information in these!

The Priority School FOIAs, Part 1

Holy Redaction Batman!  Did Markell’s office redact information that is NOT covered by FOIA law?  Read through these documents and you be the judge!

 

Wilmington City Council Meeting re: Priority Schools Part 2: “Schwinn”dler’s List, The Heckling of Mark Murphy, & DOE Denial @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @TNJ_malbright #netde #eduDE

 

Part 1 of the Wilmington City Council meeting recording transcribed by me, from the October 9th council meeting discussing the priority school plan, with guests Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and Dr. Penny Schwinn, is  found here: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/wilmington-city-council-vs-the-de-doe-murphy-schwinn-the-qa-part-1/

Gregory: Could you dispel the rumor, there’s a strong rumor there’s a federal list of school leaders that would be picked from and brought into Wilmington to head the schools.

Murphy: The school leaders are picked locally, the school communities choose the school leader. We will approve the school leader to ensure that that person meets the quality bar. But that person comes from the district.

Gregory: So you set the rubrics, and then you accept the school leader, and if the school doesn’t perform as you think they should, based on the standards, they will be closed, charterized, or given to a management company? Continue reading

Wilmington City Council vs. The DE DOE, Murphy & Schwinn, The Q&A, Part 1

I’ve watched the Wilmington City Council meeting from October 9th a couple of times.  But I got that insane idea in my head (again) to transcribe the question and answer part of it.  This was when the councilmen asked Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and Dr. Penny Schwinn questions about the Priority Schools designation for six “failing” schools in Wilmington.  This q & a lasted about 45 minutes, so I’m breaking it up into two parts.

Doing this allowed me to see how many times Murphy or Schwinn never really answered certain questions or danced around them with their very wordy answers.  If you are a stakeholder in the priority schools, I would highly recommend reading this.  Watching Mark Murphy try to sell this insane idea is actually kind of fun.  Even more fun is watching Murphy stumble through certain answers, or he would just start mumbling incoherent parts of sentences until he could collect his thoughts.  Without further ado, here is the cast, followed by Part 1.

Wilmington City Council Members: Theopalis Gregory (President), Nnamdi Chukwuocha (1st District), Ernest Congo II (2nd District), Darius Brown (3rd District), Hanifa Shabazz (4th District), Samuel Prado (5th District), Sherry Dorsey Walker (6th District), Robert Williams (7th District), Charles Freel (8th District), Michael Brown Sr. (Council Member At-Large), Maria Cabrera (Council Member At-Large), Loretta Walsh (Council Member At-Large), Justen Wright (Council Member At-Large)

Questions Presented to Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and Proficiency Officer Dr. Penny Schwinn by the Wilmington City Council. Continue reading

Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy Manages To Discriminate Against 5 Different Groups In One Shot @CapeGazette @delawareonline @DoverPost @TheStateNews @NYTimes @washingtonpost @WSJ @ChicagoTribune @LATimes

I called for Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s ouster yesterday.  And that was before I even knew about his latest stunt.  At the Wilmington City Council meeting on Thursday night, Murphy had a flyer printed up to show reasons why the State of Delaware wanted to implement the Priority Schools initiative against the six Wilmington schools.  These schools are low income with heavy populations of African-Americans and students with disabilities.  I spoke at the Christina Board of Education meeting a couple weeks ago how the state’s programs have led to a bizarre type of triple segregation with these schools.  Murphy managed to top that with his comments about a school in the Indian River school district in Sussex County, Delaware.

In the flyer, entitled “Priority Schools: An Opportunity To Improve Our City’s Schools Together”, handed out to the public, part of it said the following:

A great Delaware example is Indian River’s Clayton Elementary, located in a rural area of Sussex County with many parents working for the poultry factories.  When Sharon Brittingham took over as principal in 1997, she found a staff that didn’t expect much of it’s low-income, black, Hispanic students.  The teachers commonly used the phrase, “You can’t make chicken salad from chicken shit.”  Brittingham found “teachers didn’t just need to believe in the ability of children to learn but also their ability to teach.”  She helped educators improve their instruction, providing high quality professional development with aid from the district and state.  She also added intensive intervention for struggling students.  And she found teachers needed help with inclusive classrooms, which include students with disabilities alongside their peers.  By the time she retired in 2006, her school was one of the top in the state with proficiency rates of 100 percent in some grades and subjects.  The school faltered a bit when some teachers did away with some of the changes she had put in place.  But the school now is doing well again after it’s current principal returned to some of Brittingham’s successful strategies.

So let’s see here, how many groups can you treat badly with discriminatory statements in one paragraph?  How about low-income, African-Americans, Hispanics, farmers and teachers.  Great job Murphy!  I’m sure this flyer really resonated with the folks up in Wilmington, but not in the way you expected.  It showed a DOE that is clueless about the realities these schools face, and showed their true colors.

Later on in the guide, it states the following hypocritical statement:

DOE has communicated the expectation to the participating districts that engagement of families and the community will be meaningful and genuine.

This one sentence is a summary of what the Delaware DOE has become, a manipulative back-stabbing entity that thrives on bullying school districts to do their bidding.  The DOE forced their Memorandum of Understanding on both Christina and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts, and aside from Governor Markell and Murphy’s impromptu press conference at Warner Elementary School, where the school districts first learned of the blitzkrieg plan, they have done nothing to try to bring the community and parents into their diabolical agenda.  In fact, Christina’s Board of Education chose to ignore the MOU so they could write their own to bring more stakeholders into it, including, you guessed it: families and the community.  If this flyer is any indication of how the Delaware DOE intends to engage with families and communities, someone might want to remind them this isn’t 1860.

Yesterday, Red Clay Education Association President Mike Matthews emailed both Markell and Murphy about how he and many other teachers were extremely offended by the flyer.  Apparently Murphy fanned the flames even more by sending a personal apology to Matthews and other union members, but not to the entire state in a public forum.  Murphy needs to go.  Period.

Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy Needs To Be Fired! What Has To Happen! @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat @ecpaige @TNJ_malbright #netde #eduDE

murphy

Last night, the Wilmington City Council saw the true colors of Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy.  He went to the council meeting to present the priority schools plan to the council, and they were not impressed.  Murphy actually stated that the DCAS standardized testing system was ineffective, yet this was the overall criteria for judging the 6 Wilmington schools as failing.

When City Council member Nnamdi Chukwuocha tried to present the priority schools as a good thing, Council President Theo Gregory said, about Chukwuocha, “He’s young, he trusts.  I don’t trust.”  This comment said a lot about the events that occurred last night.  Since the onset of the priority schools announcement, it seemed like the momentum was on the side of the Delaware DOE.  But ever since last week, when both Red Clay and Christina refused to sign the Memorandum of Understanding behind the priority schools, citizens of Delaware have started to realize this may not be a good thing after all.  Gregory’s statement is made from years of Wilmington being promised certain things that never materialized.  Events from the City Council meeting last night will resonate with the public of Delaware for a long time.  The trust the city showed in the DOE and Murphy is beginning to evaporate.

Last night, at the priority schools conversation in Wilmington, Mark Murphy was invited to answer more questions and he declined and stated he wanted to give his closing statement.  In my opinion, this shows a man who has a specific agenda, and once he is done with presenting his part of it, he either wasn’t able or refused to answer questions that could have helped a city understand his agenda better.  My guess would be the answers would not have helped the DOE’s cause.

Murphy has been controversial from the start.  He was picked by Governor Jack Markell when former Secretary Lillian Lowery resigned.   Formerly, Murphy had served as the Executive Director of a non-profit in Delaware called Rodel.  Rodel is stacked with a board of millionaires who stand to gain from the education reform movement.  This was Governor Markell’s #1 pick for the position, and the Delaware Senate approved this.

As Common Core has rolled out, and Delaware signed on for the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the Delaware Department of Education, under Murphy’s leadership, has gone from one controversial event to another.  They have taken over charter schools (Pencader, Reach and Moyer) and the results have been highly ineffective.  They have judged schools based on a testing system they have done away with.  They have treated public school district teachers like they are a nuisance to be done away with, and many public school district teachers feel demoralized and degraded by the DOE.  They have pumped money into charter schools while ignoring the plight of public school districts that feed even more money into the charter schools.  They have played games with Title I funding to allow the charter schools to benefit.  Special Education has been tampered with to such an effect that Delaware was deemed as “needing intervention” by the US DOE’s Office of Special Education Programs.  The list goes on and on, but many feel Murphy should be removed from power.

State Representative John Kowalko said today “Maybe it is time for you to move on Mr. Murphy for the good of “our children.”  Delaware blogger Kilroy has called for Murphy’s removal on many occasions.  This blogger has said it.  Some feel they will just ride with the wave until Markell and Murphy are gone in a couple years.  But the problem remains, and with his track record, things will only get worse.

But how does a Delaware Secretary of Education get fired?  Who would have to do the job?  From the Delaware Code, I found this, under the code for the State Governor:

Section 13. The Governor may for any reasonable cause remove any officer, except the Lieutenant-Governor and members of the General Assembly, upon the address of two-thirds of all the members elected to each House of the General Assembly. Whenever the General Assembly shall so address the Governor, the cause of removal shall be entered on the journals of each House. The person against whom the General Assembly may be about to proceed shall receive notice thereof, accompanied with the cause alleged for his or her removal, at least ten days before the day on which either House of the General Assembly shall act thereon.

 

John Young Speaks From The Heart In Letter To Wilmington City Council Re: Priority Schools

President Gregory and Committee Members,

I hope this note finds you well. I write to you to express my regret at being unable to attend the meeting tomorrow night. I am very glad to know that Wilmington City Council had reached out to Secretary of Education Mark Murphy to provide testimony before your council on the recently announced priority schools initiative by Governor Markell. I write this as an individual public official who serves on a board. This e-mail, in no way, is designed to be or is necessarily reflective of the board’s quorum opinion.

The concepts of this state takeover have long been known to school boards and districts who have paid attention to the landscape of education policy since our state decided to apply for, and win, the Race to the Top grant in 2009-2010. The State Board of Education passed multiple administrative code changes in 2010 to set the stage for this momentous moment we now share: the complete takeover of 6 city schools. I realize this sounds like a hyperbolic statement, and that many people would contend that the state has no such right, but regardless of any legal wrangling that is currently or may soon take place, the state clearly believes it does have this right and the Priority Schools initiative is the opening salvo.  I further recognize that there is significant and justified frustration with the self-determination rights of city residents with regards to the education of its own citizens that has been impeded relentlessly since 1978 by multiple court orders, the Charter Schools act of 1995 and the Neighborhood Schools Act of 2001 and all of the cumulative, resultant political fighting that has been waged and that still permeates the landscape of public education in Delaware today.

I write to you as an unpaid elected public official that collects votes district-wide which includes voters from the sections of the Wilmington that Christina serves in order to provide a very basic primer. Attached are 3 documents: a blank MOU, a copy of the Turnaround/Priority Schools guide, and the most recent CSD press release:

1) The MOU: unilaterally written by the DOE and presented to the districts with a demand to sign and enter into said understanding. Christina decided to ignore this document primarily due to specific language demanding the districts cede control of buildings, fire the entire staff (with a maximum of only 50% rehire), replace school leaders with a DOE only criteria. CSD undertook the decision to ignore the MOU as direct result of the passionate testimony of our community and our teachers. I would like to note and thank both Mr. Chukwuocha and Sherry Dorsey Walker for attending and Mr. Chukwuocha for speaking. I was particularly impressed with Mr. Chukwuocha’s desire to use this process as a starting point. I fully concur, but with significant admonitions about the parameters set forth by the DOE MOU. If we can work together with the DOE to get past some of the tenets being mandated by the MOU that have no evidence of working beyond an anecdote from a charter school (which bears no meaningful resemblance to a feeder pattern school) or some far away city, then I feel that Mr. Chukwuocha’s position to have great merit. My experience with our DOE unfortunately does not lend itself to implicit trust but rather one of careful caution.  I trust Mr. Chukwuocha and Ms. Dorsey Walker can effectively inform the committee of their experience at our BOE meeting from 9/30/14. Again, thanks for attending!

2) The Turnaround Guide: it is 156 pages long and was presented to the districts, sight unseen, devoid of community input or peer reviewed evidence of working. Read at your own peril, it’s a difficult piece of work to understand for schools and education wonks. Lots of catch phrases and jargon, light on both substance and efficacy.

3) Our recent press release. I offer this to gently counter the emerging DOE messaging that Christina is being obstinate. We are not. We welcome the DOE’s “all ears” approach and are hopeful that they will cease the inflammatory language designed to convince local officials that we are acting as a roadblock to helping our students and join us in working for our students.

The problems in education are too deep and complex to cover in an email like this. We struggle ever day to maximize the effort and efficacy of our educators in an environment that does not provide equitable resource allocation to children in high needs schools here in Delaware. Resource allocation and weighted funding are simply not addressed by this initiative.

After a careful and deliberate reading are two things I can say with absolute certainty about this plan:

*   Labeling our schools with a fancy name will not fix them
*   Adding a paltry sum as proposed is an absolute insult to the intelligence of your committee and will in no way fix our schools

I do realize that this is a major moment. We must all remain laser focused on what works and not simply disruption for the purpose of making the adults feel better about themselves. I give the DOE a measure of credit for acknowledging that not all of their turnaround plans have worked. I wish they had taken some of  those lessons and applied them here. This Priority Schools initiative takes from the worst of the practices: disruption and unfettered autonomy both created by fiat. The funds they have to offer to buy this model is a pittance compared to the needs of our kids, and they are counting on us focusing on some money being better than no money.

As a U.S. History major I urge you all to be measured and critical of that proposition. Schools have faced similar reforms being offered by the Delaware DOE before in Philly, D.C, Chicago, L.A., NYC, Atlanta, Kansas City, Denver, Seattle, Miami, Milwaukee and New Orleans to name just a few. Their failures are simply too long to list. The hallmark trait of all of them: a dearth of community involvement.

History demands we pay attention and seek to learn from them.

Thank you for reading and good luck tomorrow, Mr. Murphy deserves to be both heard and questioned by your committee.

John M. Young
Member – Christina School Board

 

 

Wilmington City Council Member Darius Brown Invites Many To Discuss Priority Schools, But Not The Districts They Reside In, Not Cool @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de #netde #eduDE

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Now why would Wilmington City Council Member Darius Brown neglect to invite the Red Clay Consolidated and Christina school districts to this “Wilmington’s Struggling Schools” meeting?  But of course the DOE, who is getting hammered left and right over this state takeover will be on hand to pass out their propaganda.  Why would they invite Rodel and the Delaware Charter School Network?  What are the “plans to improve our schools”?  Let me guess, someone will say “Why don’t we make them charter schools”, and Governor Markell or Secretary of Education Murphy will say “Hmm, that’s a good idea.”  Twitter tags can say A LOT folks, so who is the Wilmington City Council in bed with?

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