On October 15th, the Chairperson of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission gave a TedX presentation on poverty and education. I agree with Dr. Tony Allen on many of the things he said in this speech. But in my opinion, this was a very harsh attack against the Colonial School District. Whether Tony Allen was correct or not about Colonial’s standardized test claims, he used the argument to validate a district’s capabilities on a very flawed system. Standardized tests are not a true indicator of any school’s standing as an educational institution. There are many measurements and indicators of how good or bad a school district is and standardized testing should never be used as a measure of success or failure. While I don’t disagree with Tony that education needs to change, especially in our current environment, using a flawed system is dangerous and further perpetuates the perception of what a failing school is.
On Tuesday evening, the Colonial School District Board of Education passed a resolution with a vote of 4-2 to support the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission’s redistricting effort with the exception of the Colonial portion of Wilmington. If you listen to their audio recording from the 11/10/15 board meeting it was a very controversial decision.
Board member Melody Spotts questioned the board not even hearing the resolution until the actual board meeting. Most board resolutions are put out earlier so all board members can read it ahead of time.
Who on the board is seeing this for the first time tonight? Did you see this prior to today? No. I did not see this posted in Board Docs. You want us to vote on this today?
The resolution, presented by Board President Joseph Laws, would have Colonial support the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting effort to send the Christina School District Wilmington students to Red Clay. It would also allow Laws to remain on the Commission. What the resolution does not give is an okay by Colonial to send their estimated 150 students to Red Clay as well. They want to keep the current boundaries. Laws also mentioned that Brandywine School District feels the same way. Board member Richard Schiller was not happy with the WEIC response to the board’s October decision.
I don’t agree with the letter from Dr. Rich. It was very condescending to this board.
Spotts was very upset that Laws and Blakey met with the leadership of WEIC without notifying the rest of the board which Laws quickly deflected in the conversation by asking the board if they wanted to continue to have him represent the district on the commission. The board agreed but not if meetings are held the week before without the board being notified.
Laws left the door open for the Colonial students to possibly go to Red Clay with the resolution but not with an “11th hour commitment”. Spotts was adamant about Colonial not sending out a resolution that states Colonial should say how Red Clay spends their taxpayer dollars. She said their district would not be happy about another district doing the same for them. The district refuted the claim from WEIC members about a financial incentive for Colonial to back out of the redistricting effort based on the Port of Wilmington area in Colonial. The district explained this is a tax-exempt area and the district does not make additional money off this. The funding issue was brought up by Spotts as well:
Sure, we’re building a house, tell me how much it costs later.
Laws explained they are increasing their test scores while other districts in the effort are actually going down. Laws said he and Blakey met last week with Tony Allen, the chair of WEIC, Joe Pika, and Dan Rich to discuss Colonial’s backing out of the redistricting and said while it was civil it became very contentious. He told them the Colonial board would not be budging and backing off from their decision unless the board as a whole voted on it. The WEIC trio asked the board to pass a resolution in support of the recommendations which is where the trap was set for the Colonial board.
What this resolution does is tie the redistricting effort to what is already in paragraph 1026 of Title 14 by eliminating a referendum for the potential school districts:
(c) Subject to subsection (a) of this section, the State Board of Education may change or alter the boundaries of any reorganized school district without a referendum of the voters if the written consent of the owners of the real property to be transferred has been obtained and if also the school boards of the districts affected by such change or alteration have adopted resolutions favoring such change or alteration.
This is the legal loophole to all of this and the WEIC folks clearly know this. How they could have gotten this past Colonial with nobody questioning it at their board meeting clearly shows this. Which is why I can no longer support this initiative whatsoever. If the powers that be want to play dirty tricks, then the entire plan is corrupt in my opinion. While the resolution would allow for Colonial’s students to stay in the Colonial district, it is going to become a hot mess because Colonial’s board passed this resolution which is exactly what the WEIC trio wanted. The 4-2 vote had the following votes: Yes-Laws, Benjamin, Kennedy and Magee, No-Schiller and Spotts. Board member Tim Suber was not at the meeting. The resolution is not on Colonial’s board docs portion of their website and did not appear before the meeting as well.
Backdoor meetings on the whole WEIC/redistricting effort goes against the very spirit of this whole thing, and it was indicated this would not happen. Now it has, and nobody really knows what was said and if any side deals happened. I cannot, and will not support this initiative based on that unless a full audio recording of the meeting between Laws, Blakey, Allen, Rich and Pika surfaces with everything that was said at this meeting. This will not happen, therefore I can not support WEIC.
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?
The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is proposing a plan for funding of the redistricting effort currently in the planning stages. WEIC wants the state to look at increasing property assessments to raise more funding for our schools. How do you feel about this? With Wilmington schools as a test for a weighted formula funding, which would start there first, will Kent and Sussex counties support this without more funding going to their own schools? WEIC does not have any true stakeholder input from Kent or Sussex right now. I urge every Delaware citizen to read the below document and let WEIC know how you feel about this, as well as your state legislators. Because if the State Board of Education passes this plan, it will go to the 148th General Assembly for a vote.
The Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education had a special meeting tonight to discuss the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the redistricting of all Christina School District students into Red Clay. The biggest issue at this point is funding. The Board passed a resolution with a 4-1 vote to keep it going, but it was explicitly understood that if the funding is not available, it is dead. Superintendent Merv Daugherty said if the funding isn’t there by July 1st, 2016, Red Clay will not move forward.
I know many are cheering for this, but I say pull the plug now. With the budget and elections being the biggest issues in Delaware come January, the General Assembly will have a very hard time justifying the costs for this while making crucial cuts elsewhere. And there will be cuts without more revenue. And just wait until it becomes mainstream that the WEIC plan will most likely hinge on an increase in property assessments for the entire state. I don’t mind paying my fair share for schools, but when the anti-referendum crowd finds out, they will be incensed. If you thought the right and the left were at odds on some issues now, just wait until that topic becomes a part of social media. It will get ugly real fast!
I like Tony Allen and many folks on WEIC. I think their plans are based out of a concerted effort to do what they feel is the right thing for the students of Wilmington. But this is not the time, not with the monetary issues facing this state. For all the money all these education foundations and think tanks donate, have we heard any of them offering to pony up some cash? Hell no. Because it is a traditional school district thing. Bank of America is incorporated in Delaware. You would think they would have pride for not just charter schools but also our traditional schools. Where is their huge donation to all of this? They have a crucial player spearheading all this. Meanwhile, I am hearing more and more people accepting the Common Core but they still hate the Smarter Balanced Assessment. What many don’t realize is the two go hand in hand. The reason the test is so jacked up is because it is based on Common Core. But people are actually calling them “the standards” now. You can wrap a ribbon around crap, but it is still crap. Do not be lulled into acceptance folks.
Colonial backed out, and it looks like Brandywine may as well. Christina’s teachers have no assurances they will be able to keep their jobs if the redistricting goes through. Christina is going to be facing their own hefty financial issues by the end of this school year. Murders continue in Wilmington, and Dover is having its fair share of homicides as well. Drugs are rampant in this state. We have adults acting out against students, albeit rare, but it is happening. There is the elephant in the room called racism, and it exists in this state. It is real, and it is happening right now. By the time Delaware becomes a powder keg, Governor Jack Markell will exit stage left, leaving a legacy that future generations will come to hate him for. What will Rodel, the Delaware Department of Education, and the State Board of Education do without their leader once he is gone? The General Assembly is going to have their hands full, and I can guarantee you if they push the property assessment thing, the landscape of Legislative Hall will look very different come January 2017.
I read a lot of reports the Delaware Department of Education puts out. Probably more than is healthy for a normal human being. This one though…it got to me. The last two times I felt like this was when I read the reports from the last couple of years on the Inter-agency Collaborative Team. That group decides which students go to treatment centers, either in Delaware or out-of-state. This report on Physical Restraint of Students has been out since October 6th, and it represents the total number of physical restraints in Delaware schools for the 2014-2015 school year. The timing on this article could not be better given recent events that have occurred in Delaware and other states with adults acting very inappropriate to students.
In my eyes, physical restraint should be an absolute last resort with any student. Other categories, which by regulation are not allowed, can be used through a “waiver request” with the Delaware DOE.
While the regulations prohibit the use of chemical restraint, mechanical restraint, and seclusion, the latter two are subject to use if authorized through the Delaware Department of Education’s (DDOE) waiver granting process. In addition to permitting and prohibiting uses of restraint and seclusion, these regulations require training for public school, private program or alternative program personnel, documentation and reporting of incidents of restraint and seclusion, requirements of notification to parents, and waiver procedures for the use of mechanical restraint or seclusion. These regulations provide for the safety of all students in our public school system.
I would love to know who approves these at the DOE. Is it the head of their climate and discipline area? The head of the Exceptional Children Resources Group? The Secretary of Education?
The report goes on to talk about how no mechanical or seclusion waivers were accepted by the DOE.
Please note, no seclusion or mechanical restraint waivers were approved during the 2014-2015 school year. Although there were no approved waivers for mechanical restraint or seclusion, one LEA reported the use of mechanical restraint. The DDOE addressed the unauthorized use of the mechanical restraint with the LEA.
And why was this not made public? A school violates the law in a severe way, and we have no mention of how the DOE addressed the issue? Really?
And what does the DOE and Delaware law describe as chemical, mechanical, and physical restraints? And seclusion?
“Chemical restraint” means a drug or medication used on a student to control behavior or restrict freedom of movement that is either not medically prescribed for the standard treatment of a student’s medical or psychiatric condition or not administered as prescribed. (Authority: 14 Del.C. §4112F(a)(1)).
“Mechanical restraint” means the application of any device or object that restricts a student’s freedom of movement or normal access to a portion of the body that the student cannot easily remove.
“Physical restraint” means a restriction imposed by a person that immobilizes or reduces the ability of a student to freely move arms, legs, body, or head.
“Seclusion” means the involuntary confinement of a student alone in a room, enclosure, or space that is either locked or, while unlocked, physically disallows egress.
So how many times were students in Delaware physically restrained?
In total, 2,307 incidents of physical restraints were reported during the 2014-2015 school year to the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE).
And how many of these were students with disabilities?
For the 2014-2015 school year, districts and charter schools in Delaware restrained a disproportionate number of students with disabilities (77%) who qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
And how many were African-American?
The number of Black or African-American students restrained was also disproportionately high at 54%.
As I surmised, the amount of physical restraints was much higher for male students than female students.
More males than females – 77% vs. 23%, respectively – were restrained.
Out of these 2,307 incidents, we learn later on in the report that it was actually only 507 students who were physically restrained. Which means it happened multiple times to some students.
What kills me is the next part. The age group with the most amount of physical restraints was students aged 6-8 with 153 students. Then 9-11 with 128 students, and 12-14 with 121 students. 15 students aged 3-5 were physically restrained. Out of the 392 students with disabilities, 135 were students with Autism. 101 had an Emotional Disturbance classification, and 57 were considered “other-health impaired”. 115 regular students without special education status were physically restrained.
In Table 6 of the below document, the DOE makes a MAJOR error in their synopsis of their data. They indicate 1,022 students were physically restrained at five minutes or less for a total of 44%. 877 students at 6-9 minutes for 38%, and 408 students at 10 minutes or more for 18%. The DOE’s major blunder occurs in the part they write after this:
Table 6 displays the duration of all physical restraints. The majority of physical restraints were less than or equal to 5 minutes.
No they weren’t DOE. If you add 877 and 408, you get 1,285. Last time I checked, Common Core or not, 1,285 is more than 1,022. Therefore, the majority of students were physically restrained for more than five minutes. Imagine, if you will, you are wrestling with someone. They pin you down. To win the round, they have to hold you down for ten seconds. Imagine that for a minute. Then imagine five minutes. And if that is too much for you to stomach, imagine that happening for ten minutes. Or imagine you are really mad. Someone tells you to calm down. Someone bigger and stronger than you. How much time is excessive? How hard are they holding the student down? At what point does your body give up as well as your mind? If you have reached that point but they are still holding you down, what does that do to a person? To a child?
For the 2014-2015 school year, the month with the most physical restraints was October with 345. I found this to be particularly telling. Many students with IEPs have issues in a new school year. At what point does it get to be too much for some students? Looks like October. Things seem to calm down in November and the number decreased to 189. In December, there were 250. Keep in mind, schools are off for about 1/4 of the month, so on average, December isn’t much better than October.
The next part I want to talk about shows the special education limits on charter schools. Many charters won’t take Autism kids. With few exceptions, it is very hard to find ones that do aside from Gateway Lab School. Out of the 2,307 incidents, only 9 happened in Delaware charter schools. Some would take this is “Oh, charters in Delaware seem to handle things better, I should send my disabled child there.” No, you shouldn’t. Like I said, they don’t take many kids with severe disabilities.
The report next goes through each school district and the charters to show how many happened at each school. But this is one of the most insulting parts of the whole report, because the almighty “n” # of 15 rears its ugly head, and most schools don’t show the actual number because it is 15 or less. None of the school reports show the time the child was physically restrained either. Are there any particular schools or districts that are doing this for longer periods of time? That is something that should be reported and investigated to find out why. But we don’t know that because the DOE didn’t bother to put it in the report. What we do know is out of the 2,307 students, 1,589 were in New Castle County, 334 in Kent County, 392 in Sussex County, and 9 in charter schools.
When I first read this report, I assumed a lot of these incidents could occur at the residential treatment centers. Nope. Only 29 students who attended these facilities in Delaware or out-of-state were physically restrained a total of 187 times. Which means the other 2,120 happened in public schools.
The DOE states these situations happen when a student is a danger to themselves or others. But I also have to wonder how many times situations escalated because adults involved either were not properly trained or were just having a bad day and made a situation worse. To me, the most disturbing aspect of this whole report is the appendix B at the end which shows what kind of data the DOE collects for a mechanical restraint waiver. I’m glad they didn’t grant any of these, but it doesn’t show how many applications they received with a lot of personal data about a student. All of the data for this is stored on E-School Plus, which is run by a company called Sungard. They also run IEP Plus, with all of the special education data for every single student that has an IEP in the state. But the training for this is administered by another company called Schoology. Sorry, I just don’t trust the DOE and all this data running through their hands. I know, there are laws meant to protect this information but there are many loopholes in those very laws which can allow for other companies or vendors to obtain data for “educational instruction” and whatnot.
In terms of physical restraint, I had a long sidebar conversation with Kilroy tonight over these kinds of issues. We talked at length about the SRO in another state who threw a female student across the room. The girl wouldn’t leave the room, and apparently it was over a cell-phone. We can all argue about what happened with the desk, but the way he threw her after, that was abusive in my opinion. And I’m not sure how many of you have sat in those kinds of desks. It is very easy, if someone pushes you, to go down with the whole desk because your legs are somewhat pinned in them unless you go to get up. Kilroy posted a great article yesterday about the role of State Resource Officers in Delaware schools and a News Journal article on it. This needs to be part of the conversation as well. The physical restraint laws do not apply to police. If they see someone in danger to their self or others, they are obligated to act. Should schools have more SROs in them? Probably. The last thing we need is rent-a-cops. But what happens if an SRO goes over the line? What are parent’s choices then?
All I can say is this: if a school employee is laying their hand on a student, I would expect them to have done everything possible with the student’s IEP and behavior intervention plan and accommodated that student 100%. If they haven’t, that is a huge part of the problem. I do not have a child with Autism, and I understand there are instances where this could be needed with these students. But once again, if an educator or school staff is part of the problem, and not the solution, this could play a huge part in a student’s behavior.
Everyone wants to always blame a school or district for discipline issues. While it is certainly true they share some of the blame, there are outside factors that play huge parts in many districts. The Wilmington schools show this the most in Delaware. But we can also blame the DOE for many of their crippling policies and unreasonable mandates that do not allow for proper funding, their just-about crippling of teacher’s ability to provide a proper education to students (many do, but I think we can all agree many of them would like to do it different than what we currently have), and the DOE’s inability to understand special education.
My biggest concern out of all of this: are parents always notified when this happens?
You can read the full report below.
Our only role at this point is to save those babies from having to attend Red Clay because we’re already doing a great job…we need to prevent these children from going to this district. -Mel Spotts, Colonial Board of Education
I always knew some twist was going to come along in the whole Wilmington redistricting initiative. Something would happen during the process that would cause people to say “Where the hell did that come from?” That happened last night at the Colonial School District Board of Education meeting. To end the suspense, the Colonial board voted 7-0 to keep their Wilmington students. Let me repeat this, they do not want their Wilmington students leaving their school district and going to the Red Clay Consolidated School District. Approximately 350 students. You can listen to the audio recording here.
Unlike Christina and Red Clay, the Colonial board never passed a resolution in favor of the recommendations or findings from the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee. Existing Delaware law, in addition to the legislation from Senate Bill 122, allows for the bypass of a referendum if the school district boards involved in the redistricting effort passed a resolution in favor of it. Colonial, in researching their board minutes, never did. The only involvement with WEAC was a presentation to the school district on 2/23/15, but this was a workshop and just a presentation.
What this means for the whole Wilmington Education Improvement Commission is not known. This is the monkey wrench thrown into the gears of the entire plan. In my opinion, Colonial was underestimated and not given the proper attention they should have received. All of the focus seems to be on Red Clay and Christina. Colonial seems to be very concerned about the approximate 350 students that would be affected by the redistricting to Red Clay schools. In their audio recording from their board meeting last night, board member Mel Spotts stated:
I would like to make a motion, based on the data provided, that our students in the Colonial School District stay within our borderlines and are not a part of Wilmington reconfiguration.
The board then passed the motion on a unanimous 7-0 vote to let the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission know they are out of the redistricting process. What this will do the future of the WEIC/redistricting initiative is going to be a big question in the coming weeks. But I am fairly certain WEIC Chair Tony Allen and Governor Markell will not be happy about this. I’m sure the phone calls will be coming fast and furious to Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey very soon, if not already.
I’m also hearing implementation of the redistricting, if it even goes through at this point in time, won’t be until 2018.
*To clarify, if the Wilmington redistricting does go through it is understood that Brandywine School District would receive these students which Ms. Spotts understood later on in the WEIC portion of the board meeting. But the motion still passed.
*As well I reworded the portion with Senate Bill 122 to clarify what is in existing Delaware code prior to SB122 and what came as a result of it.
Since last Winter, the fate of the three Christina School District Priority Schools has been in limbo. While threats from the Delaware Department of Education and Governor Markell were thrown against the district if they did not comply with the Memorandum of Understanding, a last minute miracle seemed to rise in the form of the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee. Their suggestion of taking the Christina schools currently in Wilmington and transferring them to Red Clay put a freeze on the Christina Priority Schools. They are still priority schools, but the plans are not really moving forward as they are in the Red Clay Consolidated School District.
On Tuesday, at the Delaware Education Support System Advisory Council (DESS), Kristin Dwyer with the Delaware School Education Association (DSEA) posed a question to the Chief Officer of Accountability and Assessment at the Delaware DOE. To paraphrase: What happens if the redistricting effort doesn’t go through? Penny Schwinn said this is a question on many folks mind at the Delaware DOE. She said the schools are eligible to receive funding this year, but did not go into details about what the terms of that “eligibility” is. She said she felt uncomfortable giving a firm answer to this without the blessing of Interim Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky. But she did say this will be a topic of conversation between the two in the next couple weeks.
Dwyer indicated that the unique situation with the Christina Priority Schools does not match with the proposed language in Regulation 103 to which Schwinn nodded in agreement. While the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission continues to have meeting after meeting, time is rapidly running out for them to come up with a firm plan that will have adequate funding and resources for this initiative. There is a lot of talk, and some good ideas, but nothing is set in place at this point. If the redistricting effort falls apart, I can foresee a scenario where the DOE and Markell go back to their status quo before the WEAC recommendations and begin the bullying tactics again. In my opinion, Christina thwarted the DOE and Markell at their intimidation efforts and made the DOE and Markell look very bad in the process. The whole process created a fire in teachers, parents, and communities in Wilmington and they do not trust the DOE as a result.
Let the games begin! Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 122 and House Bill 148 into law today at the Hockessin Colored School. Joined by city and state leaders, these articles of legislation will allow for the creation of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission (WEIC) and the redistricting of Wilmington district lines by the State Board of Education. Any plans the State Board comes up with will be subject to approval by the 148th General Assembly.
Delawareonline, in an article written by their education reporter Matthew Albright, published the news and a video earlier today. Albright said WEIC will be chaired by Tony Allen, the Bank of America executive who also chaired the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee (WEAC), and will have assistant chairs consisting of Kenny Rivera, the President of the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education and Elizabeth Lockman, a parent advocate who also served on WEAC.
The plan will move the City of Wilmington schools out of the Christina School District into the hands of Red Clay Consolidated School District. Some, including myself, have wondered if there are ulterior motives at play from Governor Markell, city leaders, some state legislators, the Delaware Department of Education, and the State Board of Education. I’ve always hypothesized there is a secret plan to increase the number of charters in Wilmington or make it an all-charter district.
The bottom line is it will come down to funding. The state of Delaware is already projected to have a $160-$170 million dollar deficit in next year’s budget. So where will the money come from for this redistricting? I can picture corporations wanting to donate funds, or non-profits like Rodel or the Longwood Foundation. They will have stipulations for these funds, which could change the overall plan for the redistricting. Yes, it needs legislative approval, but what if there is already a consensus among our state legislators? This is conspiracy theory at it’s maximum for a state like Delaware, and I pray I’m wrong. But if the DOE is already reneging on the promised priority school amount for Red Clay, how can the state assure adequate and proper funding for this endeavor?
“As I have said many times, the only way this all works is if Red Clay has a seat at the table as decisions are being made, is properly funded for taking on greater responsibility and is given a reasonable timetable that we all agree to,” Allen said.
What will be important for Red Clay is to make sure they have a seat at the table and they are not what’s on the table!
Governor Markell has less than a year and a half left in his term as Delaware Governor, and he will want to leave his “legacy” on Delaware. The question looms over what that legacy will be, and if it will be for the people of Delaware or corporate interests and the privatization of our schools. I like Tony Allen, and I want to think he is being true to his word on all of this, but there is just way too much that hasn’t been planned or answered in regards to this. The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission will hopefully provide many of those answers.
Based on the video Delawareonline provided, in attendance were the following: Governor Markell, Tony Allen, WEAC Vice Chair Dan Rich, State Rep. Charles Potter, State Rep. Earl Jaques, State Senator Margaret Rose Henry, Kenny Rivera, Elizabeth Lockman, Kendall Massett (Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network), Karen Eller (Christina School District teacher and WEAC member), Delaware PTA Vice-President for Advocacy Yvonne Johnson, State Board of Education member Gregory Coverdale, Red Clay Consolidated Superintendent Merv Daugherty, WEAC member and legislative aide Meghan Wallace, legislative aide Mark Rucci, and many others. If anyone wants to add names that I missed or don’t know, feel free to comment or email me.