Senate Bill 122 Passes, Allows State Board of Education To Redraw District Lines For Wilmington, House Bill 148 Should Pass Next Week, Creating Wilmington Education Improvement Commission

For legislation introduced last week, these two sure flew through the Delaware House and Senate. I know this is a dream of many in Wilmington, and most especially Tony Allen. So congrats Tony!  Senate Bill 122 passed with a 36 Yes, 3 Not Voting and 2 Absent.  House Bill 148 passed the Senate today but an amendment was added which will kick it back to the House.  Tonight, Allen issued a statement on the passage of Senate Bill 122 and the eventual passage of House Bill 148:

The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee was created last fall out of an executive order issued by Governor Jack Markell. At the same time, the priority schools announcement was just made weeks before, and Wilmington education was a very hot topic. The Committee met for a few months and issued their report in March which gave recommendations to have all Wilmington schools convert to Red Clay Consolidated and Brandywine School Districts. This meant Christina would hand over their schools which they agreed to as a sort of impasse on the priority schools in their district. The WEAC recommendations prevented the priority school deadlines from falling into the DOE and Markell’s hands. It was a moment of conversation that is continuing to this day. I eagerly await what happens next with these two bills. I have no doubt Markell will sign both of them as soon as possible.

Wilmington Education Advisory Commitee Wants Action From General Assembly!!!

The Chair of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee, Tony Allen, sent a legislative priorities letter to the Delaware General Assembly today. While praising State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 30 (special education funding for K-3 students), State Rep. Debra Heffernan’s House Bill 117 (funding for schools w/low-income students), and State Rep. Charles Potter’s House Bill 56 (charter school moratorium), Allen is looking for the General Assembly to put forth two additional pieces of legislation. And these are big! Here they are:

Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s Tony Allen Responds To Red Clay Resolution

The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s Chair, Tony Allen, responsed to the recently passed Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education Resolution in regards to the committee’s recommendations for redistricting in Wilmington.  The below document has Allen’s response, and the actual resolution passed by the board on 4/15/15.

My Thoughts On The WEAC Report: Charter Love & Not Enough For Special Needs Students

Having read the entire Wilmington Education Advisory Committee’s Final Report, I’m left with more questions than answers.  Going into this, I did not expect the report to solve all the education problems in Delaware, let alone Wilmington.  The report has lots of data and many letters from the usual groups involved in education in Delaware.

My first impression: This report fails to recognize the damaging effect charter schools have on traditional school districts.  Funding has been stripped from school districts while charters have mostly been allowed to flourish not only with state and local funds, but also numerous donations by companies such as The Longwood Foundation and Innovative Schools.

One thing I was happy to see was this:

“Converting all Wilmington schools to charter schools authorized by a newly created Wilmington Charter District is neither desirable on educational grounds nor practical on political grounds.  Charter schools are playing a central and growing role in Wilmington public education.  However, Wilmington children require the full array of educational options that is possible only with a continued reliance on district, charter, and vo-tech schools.”

Amen!  I know Tony Allen and many members of WEAC have a deep and abiding love of all things charter, but to have them take over would be tantamount to a disaster of epic proportions.  But there is quite a bit in the report showing why charters will continue to grow in Wilmington with no anecdotal proof of how they came about these figures other than growing trends.  If the charter school moratorium for new charter applications becomes law, how are they basing the 2017 numbers and beyond?

Another example of a misleading report comes from the section showcasing a report by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.  This group attended the last Enrollment Preference Task Force meeting and advised the committee that charter schools should not have specific interest as an enrollment preference unless it serves students who need it the most: Title I, low-income, minority, students with disabilities, ELL, and others in those groups.  The WEAC report did not mention this very specific item which helped widen many of the gaps between schools in Wilmington and parts of Sussex County.  It did touch on certain “enrollment preferences” and recommends this be adapted to best national practices.

What this report fails to do is to bolster traditional school districts.  It seems geared towards getting more kids into charters but at the same time calling for more collaboration between the traditional school districts, charters and vo-techs.  This is dangerous territory to plant your flag in.

There is very little about students with disabilities in the report as well.  There are a few mentions, but absolutely nothing about what will be a growing trend and how to account for this.  I imagine groups and committees will spin out of this report, but it is a large enough issue that I feel it should have been addressed in this report because it is a priority in our state.

The report calls for a Charter Consortium, with more power than the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  This consortium would include all Wilmington charters to share best practices and have one organization perform financial and management duties.  While this would not be a KIPP-like takeover as I have predicted in the past, it could grant charters in the state even more power than they have now, which is very extensive and carries a lot of political muscle among our legislators.

I do have reservations concerning Red Clay being the sole district with Wilmington local schools.  I have not seen any indication that Brandywine would take any of these schools, so I have to assume Red Clay would bear the brunt of the consolidation.  Christina and Colonial would be out, and Red Clay would be the sole traditional school district.  My thought is this: they don’t do a good job with the three charters in their district so how can they add on a large number of  schools and be able to effectively run all these schools?

The devil is in the details, as they say, and I expected more in the details in this report.  What comes of this will be the key, and I anxiously await what happens next.  But the mystery behind all of this is the national issue of ESEA authorization.  If something changes on a Federal level in regards to curriculum and standardized testing, it could change many aspects of this report and what comes next.  I would urge the legislators in Delaware to show restraint until what happens on a national level is determined first.

Wilmington Education Advisory Committee Final Report

After months of hard work, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee issued its final report today.  This mammoth 204 page report has many suggestions based on interviews, research and community input.  Please read the below report.  I will post my own thoughts in an update on this article after I have read through the entire report.

 

WEAC’s Tony Allen Is The Busiest Man in Delaware!

The Wilmington Education Advisory Committee is completely transparent with their meetings with individuals outside the committee.  I applaud this level of transparency!  Tony Allen, the Chair of WEAC, has been extremely busy.  When does this man sleep?

Breaking News: Priority Schools in Christina Will Convert To Red Clay in 2016

According to a VERY anonymous source in the Delaware Department of Education, this is the plan with the three priority schools in the Christina School District:   Next year, Stubbs, Bancroft and Bayard will remain in Christina as they currently are but they will be given to Red Clay Consolidated School District in the 2016-2017 academic year.  Apparently a very small team from the Christina School Board came to the DOE for a meeting.  This meeting was hinted at in the 2/27 deadline letter in regards to the WEAC recommendations.

After everything, Christina still loses the three schools, but under their own terms.  It is unknown at this point if the schools will still have priority status by then because no one knows what will happen with the reauthorization of ESEA.  In my opinion, Christina successfully thwarted the DOE at nearly every level.  They never outright caved in to the demands inflicted upon them and said “okay, take our schools.”  This is usually what happens to priority schools in other states.  Red Clay signed their memorandum of understanding last year.

Teachers will not be forced to reapply for their jobs and the principals will get to stay.  At least or the 2015-2016 year, according to my DOE source.  What many people don’t see is how very powerful Red Clay Consolidated School District will become as a result of this.  They will become the biggest school district in the state.  While they have not authorized any charter schools in the last six years because of their own moratorium, do not forget they are indeed a charter school authorizer.  The only other entity in the state for this is the DOE.

Recent events on Red Clay’s own board suggest a power play is in the offing.  There has been a jockeying of power going on, and the attempted coup d’état Kilroy spoke of yesterday is just the beginning.  The charter players in Wilmington want in on the Red Clay board because they are an authorizer.  These schools would have become Red Clay schools anyways due to the upcoming legislative push to implement the recommendations of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  The status quo in Delaware has always been charter boards on one side and traditional boards on the other.  The moratorium on charter schools in Wilmington is a smokescreen to let the dust settle.  I predict many more charters in Red Clay Consolidated in the next few years.

Was the priority schools initiative a smoke and mirrors power play brought on by Governor Markell and the Wilmington power brokers?  Given the events brought on by the announcement and what came immediately after would give weight to this theory.  Many answers for this can be found here: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/the-priority-schools-foias-part-2-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-roof_o-delawarebats-netde-edude-delaware-edchat/

The pieces have been in play for years, and Red Clay could become a charter-wide district in the next few years.  But would it be individual charters as they operate now, or could we see a large charter chain such as KIPP swoop in and slowly wrest control from the original charter operators?  I’ve touched on this topic before.  The recent takeover of Family Foundations Academy from the East Side Charter School gives weight to this theory.  The Charter Collaborative in Wilmington, which includes East Side, Kuumba, Thomas Edison and Prestige gives even more weight.  Alignments such as these, on their own, do not amount to much.  But when looking down on the entire Wilmington landscape and the events that have been allowed to happen, everything has a purpose.  And even though they have been very quiet lately, do not count out Rodel.  They may appear to be out of the picture, but make no mistake, they framed it.

Governor Markell Letter Praises Wilmington Education Advisory Committee Recommendations

On February 11th, Delaware Governor Jack Markell wrote a letter praising the efforts put forth by the members of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.

 

Live From Legislative Hall, the Wilmington Education Committee Presentation to Joint Education Committees

Both the House and the Senate are here for a joint committee meeting to hear Dr. Tony Allen present the recommendations of the Wilmington Education Committee.

Dr. Tony Allen is explaining how Wilmington Education Committee came about and recent developments such as Governor Markell issued priority school directives, the ACLU Complaint, and the closure of Reach and Moyer charter schools.

“It is the time to act.  It is time to set Wilmington education on a new and different path…anything less will continue to compromise the lives of our children…we don’t enter this situation lightly.”

Allen explained how a week after the priority schools announcement, Markell reached out to him to begin the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  Educators, parents, community leaders, and members of University of Delaware teams are members of the team.  They reviewed 117 years of Wilmington education.  “It has been fraught with many challenges.”  Brown vs. Board of Education was ruled on in 1954, but Delaware didn’t act on it for many years later.  Talking about the Neighborhood Schools Act, the recommendations from all those committees have not been acted on.  “The confluence of events with education give us this window of opportunity to act.” Continue reading

Wilmington Education Advisory Committee Letter To Governor Markell re: Priority Schools

It is really great to see all the support coming to the priority schools in Christina School District and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  We need more support to sway the Governor from making a rash and lasting decision that will affect thousands of students and educators in Delaware.