The Guy The US Senate Will Never Confirm (aka John King) Is Visiting Delaware On Friday

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That didn’t take long.  The former New York City superintendent of schools, who is now the Acting US Secretary of Education is coming to Wilmington on Friday.  Have any Secretaries of Education ever bothered to check out our schools outside Wilmington?  Anyways, John King is coming to Kuumba Academy this Friday, and afterwards he is having a chat with civil rights leaders.  Probably about opt-out and how we can fix the low-income, poverty-stricken schools with more corporate education reform, personalized learning, less assessments that actually help, and more Smarter Balanced type tests to keep the hedge funders nice and rich.  Throw in some competency-based education for good measure…  I’m sure the Governor will be in attendance as well.

And once again, only “credentialed” journalists are allowed.  For God’s sake, keep the damn bloggers away!

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John King is Acting Secretary because the US Senate will never confirm the guy.  Talk to New Yorkers who are against education reform and they will tell you stories all night long!  Of course he is going to Kuumba Academy in the Community Education Building.  Maybe he would have gone to Delaware Met had they not shut down three days early.  That would have been an eye-opener!

Here is the official press release from Alison May down at the DOE:

ACTING U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION KING TO VISIT DELAWARE FRIDAY

Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John King will visit Wilmington Friday as part of his Opportunity Across America tour to discuss the state’s efforts to improve and reduce testing.

King will visit a classroom at Kuumba Academy Charter School prior to joining two roundtable discussions at the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The roundtables will include an assessment discussion with district and state leaders and legislators as well as a second meeting with civil rights advocates.

Credentialed journalists are invited to join King for the following:

9:20 a.m.                                           Classroom visit (Kuumba Academy)

9:30 a.m.                                           Hour-long roundtable discussion about better assessments

10:40 a.m.                                         Press availability

10:55 a.m.                                         Hour-long roundtable discussion with civil rights advocates

Members of the media who would like to join the visit should RSVP to Alison.May@doe.k12.de.us by noon on Thursday, Jan. 21.

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African-American Opt-Out In Delaware, Part 1: The Lomax Factor

The next time you see a civil rights organization or leader trotting out the “Testing Is A Civil Right” rhetoric, check them out at the Gates Foundation website and see just how much payola they’re taking.

Over the past year, the question of opting your child out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment has been one of the biggest issues in Delaware.  Many parents have made the choice, despite the Governor, the Delaware Department of Education, and certain school districts and charters resisting the movement.  One group in Delaware has not made a lot of noise about opt-out though.  The African-American community.  I have often wondered why this is.  After all, history has shown a clear pattern on standardized assessments of African-Americans not performing as well as their peers.

For many, this is the heart of the problem.  Some, such as Governor Markell, feel that all children can perform well on these tests if given the right amount of rigor, instruction, and leadership in our schools.  Others feel as though the issues facing many of the children in the African-American community in our cities like Wilmington and Dover, such as crime and poverty, are harmful and transparent factors in preventing a student’s educational success.  The Governor will not accept the “status quo” but really doesn’t do much to change the environment many of these students live in.  I believe the Governor thinks education can overcome the obstacles these children face at home, but when you talk to the teachers in many of these schools they don’t see it.

When opt-out was reaching its height in the 2014-2015 school year, civil rights groups voiced strong objection to the opt-out movement.  They felt it would cause African-American students to become further behind.  Despite laws preventing schools and teachers from opting kids out, these groups were very public about their point of view.  Leading these voices was Michael Lomax, the President of the United Negro College Fund.  As opt-out becomes a major issue again with the potential override of Governor Markell’s veto of House Bill 50, the Rodel Foundation and civil rights groups in Wilmington are bringing Lomax to town to speak about education for African-Americans.

Lomax

On January 14th, from 6pm-8pm, Lomax will speak to citizens of Delaware at the Christina Cultural Arts Center (CCAC) in Wilmington.  The event is sponsored by the Parents Advocacy Council for Education, a program from the CCAC, The Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League (MWUL), and the Wilmington Education Strategies Think Tank (WESTT).  But the real kicker is the next entity behind this event, which comes directly from the flyer for it: “Made possible in part by the Rodel Foundation of Delaware”.  All of these groups were very vocal with their opposition to the opt-out movement last spring, and some even took out an ad in the News Journal right before critical Senate votes on House Bill 50.

How does Michael Lomax, the President of the United Negro Fund, feel about opt-out?  He is dead set in his beliefs this is not the right path for African-American students.  Even though several civil rights groups joined in unison last year in support of the movement, others are sticking with their guns and fighting the movement.  What is causing this radical shift in thought among different groups?

Some, such as the popular blog called Perido Street School, believe there is a direct correlation between civil rights groups fighting opt-out and how much money they receive from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  The Gates Foundation has long been a proponent for the Common Core, standardized testing, teacher reform, and charter schools.  In fact, Lomax has written about how his grandchildren attend a charter school in Louisiana.  Last April, Lomax wrote an editorial in the New York Daily News about opt-out.

By opting out, parents do a disservice to all children, not just their own. Without an ample number of test takers, we will lose perspective on how our children are truly doing against the higher bar. This is especially important for students who need a better education the most: children of color, children from low-income families and those who require special education services or are learning English.

On its face, Lomax is absolutely right on several of his points in the article.  African-American students do have a history of not receiving equitable services compared to their Caucasian peers.  But the problem becomes what happens when those very same issues are continually brought up again and again so education consultants and vendors can profit off of the need to fix these problems.  Setting a higher bar all but ensures that there will always be proficiency gaps and attempts needed to get children to the point where they can reach this mythical end point.  The bar will always change to allow for more Wall Street intervention in our schools.

At the forefront of the civil rights groups is Michael Lomax.  He has spouted the same rhetoric about African-American students ever since he became the President of the United Negro College Fund in 2004.  In 2009, Lomax took part in a large education debate sponsored by the Philanthropy Roundtable in New York City.  Lomax made his feelings about teachers and unions very clear during his part in the debate:

The unions, superintendents, and school boards make up hundreds of hunkered-down intransigent, vigilant, resistant, inert status quo guardians guarding these gates.

He refuses to accept the possibility that the problems facing so many African-American students come from outside of the school.  He actually thinks education will bring African-American students out of poverty, as he wrote in a joint letter to the editor in the Washington Post:

Apologists for our educational failure say that we will never fix education in America until we eradicate poverty.  They have it exactly backward: We will never eradicate poverty until we fix education.  The question is whether we have the political courage to take on those who defend a status quo that serves many adults but fails many children.

For Lomax, the status quo has served him very well.  In Delaware, the figure for low-income status varies, but depending on family size, the average could be anywhere between $20-$25,000.00.  If you added the figures for 22 families at $25,000 for their annual income, Lomax would still make more.  According to that link, Lomax made $458,000 in 2014.  In 2013, with bonuses, he made $700,000.  The event in Wilmington, made possible in part by the Rodel Foundation, has their CEO making $343,000 a year.  It is very easy for these groups and “education leaders” to tell people how bad education is because it is obvious they get paid handsomely for doing so.

The United Negro College Fund received many donations from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation over the past seven years.  Over $1.5 billion dollars in donations.  As Perido Street School wrote in the top quote in this article, it would not be good for folks like Lomax to support opt-out at the risk of losing such generous sums of money.

Now it’s possible that Michael Lomax, CEO of the United Negro College Fund, would love testing and Common Core without the billion and a half+ in cash his organization has received from the Gates Foundation to fund scholarships.  But getting that kind of help from Gates sure does cut down on the time the organization has to spend fundraising and you can bet neither Lomax nor the United Negro College Fund want to lose that source of funding.  Now I dunno if somebody at the Gates Foundation called in a chit and “suggested” Lomax write his pro-testing screed or if Lomax just decided to be pro-active on his own and do it himself.  But you can bet it’s not an accident that a national civil rights organization that is receiving over a billion and a half dollars in cash from the Gates Foundation is pushing an education reform agenda that makes the Gates Foundation happy.

I have no doubt it is integral to Lomax’ financial wealth to continue to perpetuate the beliefs of the corporate education reformers.  He hangs out with some of the most vocal proponents of those who profit off the backs of students, teachers, and schools.  They are given the ability to raid state and local funding for their agendas and are given full support and approval by the United States Department of Education.  Folks like Joel Klein from Amplify, who was also brought in by Rodel to speak about education at $100 a seat last September.  The two of them helped to write the Washington Post editorial linked above.  In February, Lomax wrote an editorial for a website called Real Clear Education about the upcoming ESEA reauthorization.  This letter was written with Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff for President Obama and the current Mayor of Chicago, who is also a lightning rod for controversy these days.  In fact, Lomax is cited as one of the key people involved in the creation of state longitudinal data systems (SLDS) which are collecting a massive amount of data and personal information on students according to this article in the  Huffington Post.  These SLDS initiatives, with federal funding and massive amounts of money from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation circumvent around appropriate laws to protect student data by allowing education vendors and outside companies to see much of this data.

Does Wilmington really need another supposed trumpeter of civil rights coming to town to tell us how bad African-American students are doing in our schools and how much our teachers need to change?  If you are the Rodel Foundation and Governor Markell, the timing could not be more advantageous.  Rodel and Markell are fierce opponents of parental rights when it comes to the opt-out movement.  They do not believe parents have any rights when it comes to testing.  They would rather see parents lose sleep over making the opt-out choice and have them fight with difficult charter schools and districts than allow a law to pass that would give them protection when making a fundamental and Constitutional supported decision.  When the arguments heat up over opt-out, Rodel decides to bring a very big weapon to town.  I do not believe it is mere coincidence Lomax will be speaking on the very same day the Delaware PTA is having an opt-out rally outside Legislative Hall and State Rep. John Kowalko may bring up the override question to the Delaware House of Representatives.  This is how Rodel operates, in my opinion.  This event was just announced yesterday, the day after a very controversial article about opt-out in the News Journal.

I will be exploring the issue of opt-out, especially for African-American students in Delaware, at greater length.  But for the people going to see Mr. Lomax speak next week, I would urge all to question a few things: “Why now?”, “How much is he getting paid to speak”, “Would he feel the same way if he was making the same amount of money as the students’ families he claims to want to lift up out of poverty?”, and “Would he be willing to go to the roughest neighborhoods in Wilmington after his speech tonight and hang out with the folks on the street for a few hours?”

State Board of Education Having “Workshop” On WEIC Ten Days Before They Vote On The Plan

The Delaware State Board of Education is having a workshop at 9am on January 11th concerning the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan.  The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and review the WEIC Final Proposal.  This is a public meeting as it appeared on the Delaware Public Meeting calendar.  It does not state whether public comment is allowed or not.  There is not an end time for the meeting either, but the final proposal is very long.  At the December State Board of Education meeting, WEIC leaders Tony Allen, Dan Rich and Elizabeth Lockman, along with Joe Pika, presented the proposal to the State Board.  There was a lot of discussion during the meeting about whether or not moving the Christina School District schools in Wilmington to Red Clay was the best for students.  Later on in their board meeting, President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray was visibly upset about the Christina Priority Schools getting another planning year based on the recommendations of WEIC’s predecessor, the Wilmington Education Advisory Committee.  This will definitely be an interesting conversation on the 11th.  The State Board of Education will officially vote on the plan at their January 21st regular meeting.

In the plan, WEIC is asking for the state to chip in $6 million to fund the plan, which would bring the Christina students to Red Clay during the 2018-2019 school year.  Typically, the Governor of Delaware does not release the following Fiscal Year’s budget until the final days of January.  With the board voting on the plan on 1/21 and the budget not being publicly released until most likely a week later, how can the State Board of Education vote on this if they don’t know where the funding will come from?  I would not assume the $8 million Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn is asking for from the foreclosure crisis settlement fund, which he would like to see go towards Delaware’s 16 schools with the highest populations of low-income students, would be allocated for the WEIC initiative.  Though the funds Denn is asking for are similar in scope to what WEIC would like to see for this new Red Clay Consolidated district map, there are schools outside of that potential new district that would be included in the 16 schools he is requesting funds for.

On December 9th, Governor Markell appeared at the regular meeting of WEIC and announced Red Clay taxpayers would not have to pay for this.  If the receiving district of the Christina students (Red Clay) taxpayers aren’t paying for it, then who is?  The logical answer would be the taxpayers of Delaware, which by default would include the Red Clay taxpayers.

Oddly enough, this meeting does not appear on the State Board of Education website.  Any state board meetings usually appear on there in advance, but it is not known when this meeting was scheduled.  Delaware state law does call for any public meeting to have seven-day notification, and by it appearing on the public meeting calendar it did fulfill that requirement.

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16 To Watch In 2016: Tony Allen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEIC Public Hearing At Brandywine Springs Brings A Different Crowd

The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission held their fourth public hearing concerning the draft plan for the redistricting of Wilmington schools last night at Brandywine Elementary School.  Shana O’Malley with WDEL wrote about the WEIC draft concerns earlier today.

Something’s broken in the school system and no amount of money is going to fix that.

Many attendees expressed concern with the funding for this initiative in Wilmington Schools and how it will not only affect citizens in the Red Clay Consolidated School District, but the entire state.

“If it’s socioeconomic, something going on in the house, that belongs to social services,” said one parent. “The school district is not in the business of taking care of the mental health aspects of these kids, providing for them. Where are the parents at?”

With the Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a section on “Community Schools” where many of these services would be provided.  It is a very fine line in my opinion.  There is a huge difference between the population at Brandywine Springs Elementary and Warner Elementary.  One is out in the suburbs and the other is in the middle of the city.  Is it fair for a more affluent population to protest funding for the low-income populations?  This is the age-old question.  It also gets into the whole school choice issue in Delaware as well, especially up in Wilmington.  Some folks would love nothing more than “government schooling”, the public school system, to go away.  This crowd favors school vouchers to have funding diverted to private schools.  But then on the other end of the spectrum, we have students in Wilmington, usually African-American, who don’t have a complete family unit and live in neighborhoods filled with crime and drug use.  These are two completely different worlds, however, the first world inadvertently helped create the second world through “white flight”.

The speaker asked where the parents are at.  They could both be working.  It could be a single-parent home.  A parent could be in prison or deceased.  But chances are, a parent in Hockessin makes a lot more money than the parent of a child at these Wilmington schools.  If parents are unable to set up mental health services for children, when does the city, county or state need to step in?  It comes down to the haves and the have-nots.  The haves want to keep what they have but the have-nots see what the haves have and want that but are unable to get it themselves.  But here is the key issue: these are children who didn’t write the script here.  This is the world they were born into.  Should inner-city students be denied the things folks in the suburbs take for granted?  This became very evident at Skyline Middle School in Red Clay this fall.  Due to a change in feeder patterns, Skyline took in many students who are considered disadvantaged.  As a result, school bullying increased causing parent outcry at their past couple board meetings.

These are the modern issues of the day.  We have come a long way since the first half of the 20th century when blacks were separated from whites.  We are, and should be, past that.  But economic levers still dictate these kinds of situations from happening in many cities in America.  For any issues like WEIC to work, it is going to take a lot of listening, convincing, and patience.  It will take compromise, from all sides of the issues.  But the big problem here is the timing.  Some of the people behind WEIC are afraid that if the moment passes it will be lost for a generation.  So in a sense, it is being rushed.  During an election year, and even during a gubernatorial election year.  If it comes down to the rich wanting separation and the poor wanting equity, with the dwindling middle class straddling both sides of the issues, we will get nowhere.  And in all of this, are those with disabilities.  Students from low-income, a minority and a disability.  If we keep these children “out” of the public school system in our affluent areas, is that not a form of triple segregation?  We can’t just rely on the status quo in Delaware.  These are deep concerns that affect the viability of our state.  Compared to many other states, we are woefully behind not only in education but also moving away from the past.  In this “me” versus “society as a whole”, I personally choose society.  Because if society isn’t right, I don’t feel I can be in my head knowing I’m not contributing to society.  I know, we all pay taxes.  Some pay more, some pay less.  Nothing in life is free.  We pay for products that constantly go up in price, but complain when taxes go up.  Why?

Generous Delaware Family Donates $4 Million For Autism Program At Nemours/A.I. duPont

The News Journal just reported that the Katzin family of Greenville donated $4 million to enhance an autism section of the Nemours/A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington.  This is incredibly awesome!

Although Nemours has treated children with autism for decades, the Katzins hope their gift will serve as seed money to make the hospital and Delaware a major center for the understanding and treatment of autism. Their son Jack was diagnosed in 2002.

The donation will help neurologists and doctors better understand how autism works in the human mind and will allow them to research more effective treatments for the disability that has seen a spike in diagnosed cases in the past twenty years.

“We have a chance to put together something unique to better understand the scientific causes of autism and to work toward better treatments and better support,” said Diane Chugani, who has been director of the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Autism Center.

Any additional funding for disabilities is great.  This could certainly help Senate Bills 92 and 93 in Delaware which face a steep price tag in a coming fiscal year budget deficit battle where everyone will be fighting for funding.

Delaware Met Moms, Dads, Students, & Teachers: Make Your Voice Heard!

Monday night is the Formal Review Public Hearing for the Delaware Met.  It starts at 5pm at the Carvel State Building, on the 2nd floor.  It should be easy to get to because it is right next to the school, across the street to the right of the school.  This is the time to let the Delaware Department of Education and the world know what is really happening there.  If you have been bullied, or your kid is not getting the special education they rightfully deserve, or you have not been given due process, or you just have some thoughts to get out, THIS IS THE TIME!!!!  Do not let this opportunity go to waste!

Special Education Law Firm McAndrews Opens Office In Georgetown, IEP Clinic On 11/16

The special education law firm of McAndrews Law Offices, P.C. is opening a new office in Georgetown, Delaware in an effort to more adequately serve parents in lower Delaware.  Prior to this, their only office in Delaware was in Wilmington.  This will be a big help to parents.  If you are having special education issues with your child’s school and you are not able to resolve them, I would reach out to McAndrews.

On Monday, November 16th, they are having two education clinics in Georgetown in conjunctions with Delaware Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.  Here is a flyer:

Flyer - November 16th Education Clinics

While some schools can’t stand McAndrews because of lawsuits, they provide an essential service in Delaware and surrounding states by holding schools accountable for violations of special education law.  If our special education system in Delaware did the right thing there would be no need for McAndrews, but until then they are desperately needed.  It sounds like business is thriving in Delaware if they are opening a second office.  Which means kids are not getting the services they legally deserve.  Which also means schools are in violation.  Any reader of this blog knows I am a huge advocate for special education rights and I will always advise parents to do what is best for their child, not the school.  I do recommend trying to work things out with a school, but when you hit that wall (any parents who have been through this know exactly what I’m talking about) you need to advocate for your child and if you have to go that next step, McAndrews is ready to help and evaluate the situation.

As part of their advocacy, McAndrews goes a step further and holds these clinics throughout the year to educate parents about their rights.  This is something the firm’s founder and managing partner Dennis McAndrews wants all his attorneys to do with these clinics and through community outreach.  I attended one of these clinics a year and a half ago and it was well attended and parents learned many things they were not aware of.

For any parents in Kent County or Sussex County who may be in need of legal advice for special education matters, I would give them a call today!

Anani Maas Returns And Looks At The Big Picture At Delaware Met

This is the second guest article by Anani Maas in a week, and I have to say I am very impressed! Thank you Anani!

By Anani Maas
Delaware Educator
In response to the discussion on the Delaware MET and the interest in their model, here are some things that I know about Big Picture Learning:
1. It is a charter chain with over 60 schools nationwide.  The first school was opened in Rhode Island in 1995.  They are non-profit, but that doesn’t mean the founders aren’t bringing in big bucks.  If I were a teacher there and I was making peanuts while the leaders are pulling big $$, I’d be pretty mad.
2. It sounds good. From their website: “In the schools that Big Picture Learning envisioned, students would take responsibility for their own education. They would spend considerable time doing real work in the community under the tutelage of volunteer mentors and they would not be evaluated solely on the basis of standardized tests. Instead, students would be assessed on their performance, on exhibitions and demonstrations of achievement, on motivation, and on the habits of mind, hand, heart, and behavior that they display – reflecting the real world evaluations and assessments that all of us face in our everyday lives.” – See more at: http://www.bigpicture.org/big-picture-history/#sthash.ecQGJHsw.dpuf
The problem with good theories is that they are hard to replicate, and hard to meld with DE state requirements.   Delaware requires charter school students to take standardized tests and those tests determine their funding and charter renewal, no matter what their model describes. So, the charter will have to decide to trust their model and risk reduction in funding and difficulty in renewal, OR, teach to the test anyway and attempt to do both.  This almost always means that the model cannot be followed with fidelity.
I personally agree with the model IN THEORY, but as an educator, I know that educational theories and educational realities are usually not the same thing!  For example, their model says students SHOULD take responsibility for their learning.  So, what is their plan if a student doesn’t?  They also say that students will be assessed on their habits of mind, hands, heart, etc.  Again, I ask, what is the plan if students come with horrible attitudes, bad habits, poor motivation, low skill levels, and etc.  What if they won’t or can’t find mentors?  What if the students use their freedom to do nothing at all, or worse, to harm and take advantage of others?
We don’t live in utopia, we live in a real city with students with real problems.  Having good intentions and great ideas isn’t enough to help students who are at-risk!  They need resources, wrap-around services, guidance counseling, qualified educators, etc.  If the school isn’t providing these things, then all the theories and research in the world won’t help them.  In fact, removing them from a school that has those services could actually be hurting them.  Why would you choose to put children who need the MOST resources in a school with the LEAST?
3. They exist through grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as well as others.  Because Big Picture Learning is promoting “individual” learning, each student needs a computer, and Gates supports those kinds of charter schools.
4. Their website does not offer any independent research that has been done on the model outside of that performed by the founders themselves.  This sounds like more radical changes to education not based on research.

Parents Of Delaware Met Students: If You Are Having Issues, The DOE Wants To Hear From You

As most readers of this blog know, the Delaware Met is on formal review.  And the Delaware Department of Education wants to hear from you!  When a charter school in Delaware goes on formal review, there are two opportunities to be heard: a public hearing or leaving public comment on their website.  The public hearings will be November 16th and December 7th, both at 5pm, at the Carvel Building in Wilmington on the 2nd floor auditorium.  As well, you can give public comment here: https://form.jotform.com/52888685884178?

To give your public comment the weight it deserves, I highly recommend using your real name.  This is your chance to tell your story about your child’s experience with this school.  The DOE needs to hear from every single parent who is not happy with the Delaware Met.

Another Lewis With Fake Credentials Destroys Something Good

Fake Credentials.  It’s a stupid thing to do in this day and age.  And you will get caught.  Putting a fake college name on your resume or LinkedIn is just asking for trouble.  For one special education advocate, this is exactly what happened.  But this isn’t just any special education advocate, this one the CEO of a major advocacy company called National Special Education Advocacy Institute.  I just wrote about this company a month ago when I received notice they were having certified special education advocacy courses in Wilmington at $195 a class.  Someone tipped off Fox29 in Philadelphia because they did a huge investigation into Marie Lewis, the CEO of this company.  The video and article make it crystal clear why I can not and will not endorse this company.  Fraud is fraud and it absolutely disgusts me someone with fake credentials would try to profit off students with disabilities and parents trying to help.

Where she’d go to school? It just says “R.U.”

“Where’s your Ph.D. from?” Cole asked.

“From Rockville University,” Lewis said.

“Where’s that, ma’am?” Cole followed-up.

“And so, why are you asking that question?” Lewis asked.

We wanted to know where it is.

“Well, Rockville used to be in Maryland, and they moved, and they actually were absorbed by another school,” Lewis told us.

We checked with Maryland’s Higher Education Commission. No college or university may operate in the state without commission approval, and it has no record of a “Rockville University” when Lewis claims she got her Ph.D. in 2008.

There are also huge issues with their IRS certification as well with questions if they are a for profit or non-profit business.  In the title to this I mentioned another Lewis with fake credentials.  This distinction belongs to Ann Lewis, the former Head of School of the now closed Pencader Business School in New Castle, DE.

State Board of Education: “Poverty Is Not An Excuse…It Is Not Destiny”

The Delaware State Board of Education continues to ignore the effect Poverty has on students in high needs schools in our state.  As part of their presentation on the Smarter Balanced Assessment at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover, the State Board presented a slide that said:

Poverty Is Not An Excuse…It Is Not Destiny

Once again, the State Board is using the data that helps to further their cause of convincing the state the Smarter Balanced Assessment is necessary for our children to succeed.  The biggest challenge for the State Board and the Delaware DOE is the issue of low-income and poverty.  To fight this, they are hand selecting schools that fared well on Smarter Balanced.  But do some of these schools already have extra programs that could warrant higher Smarter Balanced scores?  Yes they do.

Lewis Dual Language Elementary School (Red Clay), South Dover Elementary School (Capital), and John M. Clayton Elementary School (Indian River) are all part of Governor Markell’s World Language Immersion program for Spanish.  Booker T. Washington (Capital) houses the district’s gifted and talented program for their elementary schools.  As well, Capital only has 3rd and 4th grade in their elementary schools and no 5th grade.  Other schools cited by the DOE as “beating the odds” (my words) are Long Neck Elementary School and Georgetown Elementary School (Indian River), Town Pointe Elementary School and North Dover Elementary School (Capital), Lake Forest South and Lake Forest East Elementary Schools (Lake Forest), Banneker Elementary School (Milford), Kuumba Academy and Thomas Edison Charter School.

An important distinction to make with all of these schools is that they are elementary schools.  The DOE did not praise any middle schools in this presentation.  The tests 3rd graders take are very different than those for 8th graders.  Comparing the two is not a true indicator for why 3rd graders did better on the Smarter Balanced Assessment than their peers in 8th grade.  As well, this ignorance of poverty does not take a large portion of the poverty issue to task: the very real part that deals with addiction, violence and crime in many of these students’ homes.  All of the schools the DOE talks about are in lower Delaware with the exception of two charter schools in Wilmington.  There are no Red Clay, Christina, Colonial or Brandywine schools “beating the odds”.

As well, the State Board emphasized the Smarter Balanced Assessment is just one indicator of how our schools are doing.  Then why are measurements from the Smarter Balanced Assessment going to account for 90% of elementary and middle schools accountability ratings and 70% for high schools in the upcoming accountability system called the Delaware School Success Framework?  All the other indicators the State Board talks about, growth and resources, are tied to students doing better on this test.  Education in Delaware is now based on performance on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.

Poverty DOES matter, and there are facets of poverty Governor Markell said last March “that you and I can’t imagine“.  But it sounds like Governor Markell, the DOE, and the State Board of Education are unable to not just imagine it, they don’t have the first clue how to understand it.  Below is the entire presentation Donna Johnson, Executive Director of the State Board of Education, presented to a group comprised of mostly educators and very few parents last night.  If any of you have more knowledge about what these schools may possess that other schools don’t, please share this information in the comments section.

Is There Toxic Ground At The Delaware Met Or Just A Huge Conflict Of Interest?

The address of 920 N. French St. in Wilmington, DE is listed as a “Brownfield Site”.  This is also the home of the Delaware Met.  What is a Brownfield Site? The Environmental Protection Agency defines a Brownfield Site as:

With certain legal exclusions and additions, the term “brownfield site” means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

On September 11th, 2002, 920 N. French St. was designated a Brownfield Site by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC).  In the below report, a plan was put forth and finalized in order to clean up the site to allow for commercial development of the property.  Duffield Associates was the company that formulated the plan to clean up the site and remove any contaminants from the soil.

Not long after, MBNA bought the property.  When MBNA was bought by Bank Of America, the company soon sold their former employee training center to the State of Delaware for $6.5 million dollars.  The State of Delaware bought the property on October 12, 2007.  However, the appropriation allowing for the purchase of this building was not approved until the 144th General Assembly on July 1st, 2008, as part of House Bill 525.

Section 31. State Employee Workforce, Education and Training Center. The Section 1 Addendum

14 to this Act contains an appropriation of $6,500,000 for the State Employee Workforce, Education and

15 Training Center, currently owned by the Bank of America. These certain tracts of land are located in the

16 vicinity of 920 N. French Street in the City of Wilmington, New Castle County, and the State of Delaware,

17 being known as New Castle County Tax Parcel numbers 2603520172, 2603520255, 2603520185,

18 2603520190 and 2603520195. For the acquisition of this property, the real property procurement

19 procedures in 29 Del. C. §9505 shall not apply.

For the entire time the State of Delaware owned the building, the property was vacant.  Why would a State purchase a property and never use it?  In March of 2014, the State of Delaware issued a public notice to any interested buyers of the property.  Both The Delaware Met and Freire Charter School were actively seeking the property, and eventually the property was sold to Charter School Development Corporation, under the official company name of CDSCPC 920 French LLC.  The address for this company is 6731 COLUMBIA GATEWAY DRIVE, SUITE 220, COLUMBIA, MD 21046.  But Charter School Development Corporation is a non-profit company based out of Arizona.  The sale occurred on November 14th, 2014, which set into motion a great deal of controversy for Freire Charter School of Wilmington and the Midtown Brandywine Neighborhood Association when Freire was forced to find a new location for their school.  There is no public record of how much the State of Delaware sold the building to Charter School Development Corporation.  In Fiscal Year 2012, Innovative Schools donated $1 million dollars to Charter School Development Corporation.  In FY2014, the company bought 920 N. French St. and leased it to Innovative Schools who is subleasing the property to The Delaware Met.

In Fiscal Year 2015, the Delaware Met paid a considerable sum of money to Duffield & Associates to do work at the property, the very same company that was contracted in 2002 to clean up the soil at the site.  From the Delaware Online Checkbook:

DelmetDuff

All told, Delaware Met paid Duffield Associates $37,654.83 in a seven month period.  On The Delaware Met’s original application, Jeff Bross is listed as the Chairman of Duffield Associates and was also listed as a board member of Delaware Met.  Interestingly enough, while searching for information about Delaware Met and Duffield, this link came up: http://dedoe.schoolwires.net/Errors/AccessDenied.aspx with a message stating the page was inactive or protected and to contact Alison May at the Delaware DOE if you don’t have an account or have any questions.  Jeff Bross is still listed as a Board Member at Delaware Met and is still the Chairman of Duffield Associates.  2014 was a busy year for Duffield and Bross as they were also contracted to help with the I-495 Bridge Debacle.  So is there a clear conflict of interest with having the Chair of Duffield on the Board at the school while also hiring his company to do an extensive amount of work?  Duffield’s expertise seems to be in fixing structural issues at sites where there could be large problems.  What was the problem with 920 N. French St.?  In the school’s only board minutes posted on their website from October 8th, 2014 there is no mention of pending work with Duffield Associates or a vote to retain their services.  Bross attended the meeting.  As well, another board member named Richelle Talbert sits on the board at Delaware Met and is also an employee of the school’s charter management organization, Innovative Schools.  Surely that is a conflict of interest as well.

These are questions that need to be asked by our legislators and the Delaware Department of Education in determining what in the world happened with this charter school.

The Delaware Met Down For The Count A Month Into The School Year

Today, I got an email from someone about The Delaware Met closing next week.  Usually, I want to get more information on something like this, so I reached out to the Delaware Department of Education and the leaders at the school.  Not one response.  I put out some more feelers, and it looks like this story has some weight to it.  I don’t have specifics, but I’m hearing about multiple incidents of violence at the school, a student brought a gun to the school on the very first day, and students leaving the school in mass quantities.  The school just opened a month ago.

This school is being touted as a “Big Picture Learning School”, whatever that means.  But it looks like families aren’t buying it.  Is this a sign of things to come for Delaware charters?  I’ve heard that many of the new charters are not prepared for their students this year, despite what the DOE is saying.  I’ve heard of multiple special education issues going on at many charters this fall.

Back to The Delaware Met, I’m hearing their relationship with Innovative Schools has soured to the point of breaking.  This is not a situation where the DOE will be closing the school, but The Delaware Met will be voluntarily closing down.  Has that ever happened before in Delaware?  This is a charter school that met their enrollment figures last Spring when many other charters were struggling.  So what happened?  I’m hearing many of the students were at-risk students who were facing issues at other schools including potential expulsion and suspension issues.  I have no idea how many students at this school are students with disabilities.  But how prepared was the school to handle these issues?  If the allegations are true, not prepared at all.  It’s one thing to apply to open a charter and get through the DOE.  It is quite another to actually implement all the talk and ideas once the school opens.

The other night at the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission committee meeting on Charter-District Collaboration, a Red Clay principal actually advised the committee he is getting a lot of students transferring back to traditional schools from charter schools.  The charter movement in Delaware may be hitting the brakes folks.  Is the party over?  Between financial concerns, funding issues, transportation problems (more last year), special education, and Smarter Balanced results showing the most at-risk students in charters are no different than traditional schools, I think it is past time the Delaware DOE ended their love affair with the charter movement.

If the school were to voluntarily close next week, it would make sense because the school would receive funding based on their September 30th count.  Better to do it now than to wait until after they get funding…

Updated, 5:44pm: This story is gaining traction by the minute.  Multiple sources are confirming, but no official word from DOE or the school.  The only question is exactly when and how many students are actually left at the school….

Updated, 5:47pm: Other sources are telling me this school received a significant student population from Moyer, which was shut down by the state a year ago and closed it’s doors for good on June 30th, 2015.

Is The DuPont Hay Road Dioxin Pile Already Leaking? All Delaware Citizens Need To Read This!

The below information was forwarded to me today.  It is an email from John Kearney with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families to Delaware State Representative John Kowalko.  Yesterday, Kowalko started a petition for the removal of a dangerous toxic pile of waste at the former DuPont currently Chemours site at 1201 Hays Road in Wilmington, DE.  The petition stated the following:
Protect the health of Delaware’s residents by mandating the total removal of the hazardous waste pile built from 1997-2001 by DuPont at its Edge Moor facility, containing titanium dioxide, benzene and other life-threatening toxins and carcinogens.
Governor Markell, we the undersigned demand that you protect the health and welfare of Delaware’s residents by mandating the total removal of the hazardous waste pile containing titanium dioxide, benzene, and a host of other life-threatening toxins at the Edge Moor facility, holding both DuPont and Chemours fully liable (jointly and severally) for any costs borne by taxpayers for cleanup.
This caught the eye of John Kearney with the Department of Children and Families over in New Jersey who did some rather clever detective work on this issue, and the below results are startling.  If I were a family living in this area, and you are facing any potential health issues, I would seek advice immediately.
Is DuPont’s Hay Road dioxin Pile already leaking?  I’m unsure whether DuPont passed this liability off via its recently conceived Chemours entity, but that veil can be legally pierced to hold DuPont responsible for this location; therefore I am going to continue to refer to this as the DuPont Dioxin Pile.
Wasn’t this supposed to be a lifetime cap solution?  Is their lifetime solution already starting to wear down?
Earlier today I read Jeff Montgomery’s New Journal story about the closing of the Chemours Facility on Hay Road and then I went to Google Maps to look at satellite images of the caped Dioxin Pile.  While looking at the Google images of the Dioxin pile on Hay Road, I noticed something interesting.  It looks like the pile has already been leaking and that they have patched it.  Grey material can been seen in the recent pictures of the location that is not shown in older pictures.   This grey material clearly looks like a patch that has been added by DuPont.
This first set of pictures was from the satellite pictures included with the August 21, 2015, News Journal story  regarding  the closing of the Chemours,  Edgemoor facility.    From these pictures, it looks like some green runoff has pooled in the south east corner of  the capped DuPont Edgemoor site (see below).  If you look close, it looks like the green material goes all the way up to the base of the cap.  See the next set of pictures below.  I have marked the locations with red arrows and labels.  The patch is not in the picture included with the  August 21, 2015, News Journal story.    
The pictures and News Journal story can be found here:
This is the picture included with the August 21, 2015, News Journal story: 
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image001.png@01D0E180.6950F080
Close up showing that the green wastewater extends all the way up to the edge of the pile:
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image002.png@01D0E182.28BAC030
The red arrows show what looks like could be the source of the leak because the green color can been seen all the way up here, the furthest west that this material can be seen.
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image003.png@01D0E182.28BAC030
Now, if you go to the current pictures on Google Maps.  There is a cap in this exact location.  The cap appears to be made of the same material that they have placed around the edge of the pile and the same material as a patch on top of the pile.  This ridge of material around the edge of the pile, almost looks like a bad caulking job in an old bathtub.  The patch in the latest Google pictures is clearly made of the same material.  Again, this patch is not present in the pictures included with the News Journal Edgemoor closing story.   There also appears to be less standing green wastewater in the more recent pictures.  See below. 
Another close up showing this cap is not present in the older Google Maps pictures:
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image004.png@01D0E182.99862D90
This series of pictures is taken from the current Google Maps pictures.  You can follow this link and see for yourself:
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image005.png@01D0E182.F04D72F0
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image008.png@01D0E186.85487550
Here is a close up of that same location shown above near the source of the leak.   A comparison between the picture included in the August 21, 2015, News Journal story and the current pictures found at the Google Maps website on August 28, 2015, indicates that this is a recent patch.  Current Google Maps images in use on the Google website can be anywhere from a few months old to, approximately, two years old. 
This is a closeup of the patch.  The grey material can be seen covering the entire area, where in the older pictures, no grey material can be seen at this location.
Conspicuous black line and current leak without the red markup.  This line also was not in the August 21, 2015  New Journal article about the closing of the Edge Moor facility:
Description: Description: Description: Description: Description: cid:image011.png@01D0E185.CBE66B80
Why would this patch be there, if the pile wasn’t leaking?  Did DuPont report this leak to DNREC?  What is in this green wastewater runoff?  What toxins are contained in the runoff?  I sure would like to know.
Please see this recent story from the Huffington Post regarding DuPont and C8 as an example of how honest DuPont has been with these types of leaks:
John Kearney
Yesterday, James Dawson with WDDE/Delaware Public Media published an article about the toxic pile.  In this article, he wrote:

The nearly 23-acre site sits next to the Delaware River, east of I-495 and within a mile of surrounding neighborhoods and other waterways. Earlier this spring, Dupont installed more than 4,000 solar panels on part of the encapsulated pile that generate enough electricity to power nearly 150 homes for a year, on average.

Kowalko proposed legislation in 2007 and 2009 that would have forced companies to safely treat, store or dispose of hazardous waste they generate in Delaware according to federal standards.

“Once we allow these things to accumulate, eventually, we’re looking tragedy in the eye,” said Kowalko. “I think that we have to be more respectful of what we are using, what we are making, what we are distributing and how we are storing it in between distribution.”

The legislation did not pass.  While I don’t normally write about matters outside of the education/disabilities realm, this concerns me.  The Delaware DOE and their standardized testing vendor, American Institutes for Research questioned the overdiagnosing of special education needs for students with disabilities and openly stated Delaware’s percentage of students with IEPs was too high compared to most states.  I took great offense to this.  Delaware is known to be one of the most polluted states in the country.  Disabilities are on the rise across America, especially in Delaware.  The Autism Task Force stated they expect the number of Autism cases in this state to rise significantly in the future.  Is there a connection between the rise of disabilities in Delaware and situations like these that happen right before our very eyes while the Delaware government looks the other way?  In addition, how many cases of cancer and dangerous diseases could be attributed to these man-made environmental poisons?  Questions to ponder as this “capped” pile of toxic waste continues to pose a grave danger for all around it.

My Favorite Blog in Delaware

Most would assume it is Kilroy’s Delaware, but they would be wrong.  It isn’t even a blog about education.  It is the most brutally honest words I’ve ever read.  It is the truth far too many want to ignore or pretend it will just go away.  To truly understand the plight of the homeless in Delaware, you have to read Homeless In Wilmington.

The author used to be homeless, and this is all he writes about.  He understands their perspective and shares it with us all.  His cry should be a cry we all feel.  I want to share one of his more recent posts.

I Wept For You Today

July 14th, 2015

i wept for you today. when i saw the group of you standing in the rain, waiting for the doors to open so you could go inside in the early morning darkness. when i saw the number of you and the blank expressions on your face as you waited, i wept.

when i passed the mother with her young child in a stroller, i wept. my heart went out to her as she passed me on the sidewalk and i glanced at the young child. my eyes went back to the mother who looked at me and half smiled, hiding the pain, the anxiety and the weariness that only a mother could know as she tries to keep her child at her side. i thought of where she slept last nite and the fear that must have crept around her as the darkness sank in and she was alone in the abandoned building that i know she sleeps in. i thought of the relief that the early sunrise must have brought her, only to be quickly replaced by the burden that the same sunrise brings.

i passed the elderly gentleman with mental illness wandering down market street. as i passed he paused and began to speak as he always does when i see him. his greeting was familiar but his conversation after that was sprinkled with reality and the bizarre ramblings of dementia and paranoia that fills his world. i looked more intently at him this morning as i listened to him speak in the world that he is trapped inside. when i began to move on and glanced back i thought of him and the many times i’ve seen him wandering the streets of my city going to a destination that only he is aware of. in the rain, the snow, the darkness and the heat of the summer he shuffles down the same streets every day, content in the world that only he knows. as i looked ahead again, i wept because i know he will not make it thru another winter on the streets.

i passed the single young woman whom i see often in my travels among the homeless. when i first saw her she was pretty, young and physically fit. this morning she was a shell of herself and her eyes seemed to be dimming with each meeting. her once physically fit body was now thin, worn and bore the marks that heroin addicts wear. she was weathered and street hard. when i thought of the moment that the needle will enter her arm and as surely as i was standing before her today, it will take her life…i wept.

i learned of a young woman’s death this morning that i haven’t seen in awhile. i inquired about her to her once boyfriend who had just relapsed and was beginning again to attempt to kick the drugs that have had a reign over him since the first day i met him. his response that she died 7 months ago hit me particularly hard this morning when he told me she overdosed. i wept as i thought of the last time i saw her, drug free, eyes clear and a bright smile. i wept for a life cut short in what should have been her prime. 

every time i passed a homeless person today and saw the backpack on their back or duffel bag at their side i wept for them.  i wept because i know the struggle, the weariness and the anxiety that comes with that backpack and worn sneakers. i know the look on their face and the feelings inside them despite the smile on their face. i wept for them because i know the inner sadness and feeling of being alone that eventually comes to them whether it be late at nite, early in the morning or all during the day. i wept for them because i know that the chances of ending their homelessness soon is small and that their struggle is ongoing. i know the heavy burden they bear. i wept as i passed the ones that were drunk, high or somewhere in between.  i know they carry a death sentence with them and every time they smoke, drink or stick a needle in their arm they are quickening that sentence and shortening that green mile.

at the end of the day when i saw the homeless finally at their destination, i wept, i know that they will sleep on a bed that isn’t theirs, in a building that houses sadness and desperation. i know they will sleep tonite and wake to the thought that soon another day of walking the streets of my city will begin. another day of surviving and living with the thought that tomorrow will bring another day…just like today. 

i wept for my city today as i wondered how it could allow this day after day after day and year after year. i cried as i wondered how my city could allow men, women and children to be homeless, alone and often hungry and fearful for their own survival. i wept when i thought of you allowing this to begin, grow and continue in your community being fully aware that the homeless are among you.

i wept for all of you today, but you did not know it. i shed not one tear down my cheek and i did not wipe my eyes as the pain of your homelessness sifted thru me. as you keep your pain inside of you, so i kept the tears inside of me as assuredly as the woman at your place of employment keeps her homelessness inside of her. i kept it inside of me just as sure as the homeless child who shares your son or daughter’s classroom keeps their secret inside. i kept my tears inside of me just as intently as the elderly woman you pass on the sidewalk as you scurry to work or lunch or on your way home keeps her fear and pain inside. 

i wept for you today…all of you…in my soul. i wept for my city.

see you around town

Many of the homeless children go to school with our kids.  You may not even know it.  When my son is hungry, I give him food.  When he is cold, I give him a blanket.  But these children don’t have the luxury over going to the latest Disney movie when it comes out.  For them, the only game they play is the constant “when will it end”.

I live in Dover, and there are homeless here as well.  Every once in a while you will hear about one of them freezing to death in the winter.  One day I was walking on a path near Silver Lake, near the park, and I found what appeared to be a small homeless town, with tents and grocery carts.  Nobody was there, but it was obvious I have it much better than these people.  Most of us do.

The homeless are people, just like us.  Circumstances brought them to their current situation, but they bleed the same blood, and feel the same pains we all do.  But they feel it every day.

Some of these homeless children are the ones we so desperately want to fix at school.  The ones that can perform the same as their peers with the right amount of rigor.  As if this can cure their current plight.  If our Governor and DOE truly want to “fix” these children, no amount of high-stakes standardized tests is ever going to change their reality.

As campaign season kicks in during the next few months, and the rich gladly pay $100 a plate at a dinner, remember what those funds could really do to those who need it more than any person running for public office.  Maybe buy some sleeping bags.  My favorite blogger is stockpiling them now for those who will need them.

Delaware MET Charter School Performance Fund Application

I love when schools that aren’t even open yet apply for a performance fund!  Because they have so much data to show they can even perform…

The Delaware MET is scheduled to open August 2015.  So I’m guessing they need more money…

While I don’t really have a problem with what Delaware MET is asking for, why would they wait until a few months before they open to institute such a high-caliber part of their curriculum as part of a performance fund they may or may not receive?  If they don’t get this funding, what happens to this program? No internships for these kids?

What Is The New Castle County Education Project? Find Out Here!

Recently, a report for the New Castle County Education Project completed.  This is another report centered on students in Wilmington.  It covers school busing, drop-outs, and charter schools.  Commissioned by Wilmington Mayor Denis Williams and New Castle County Executive Thomas Gordon, this report seems like it is very pro-charter school.  Is something in the air?  Might we expect to see something happening outside of our knowledge?

Final Public Hearings For Freire, Prestige Academy and DE Design Lab Tonight At 5pm, Academy of Dover Tomorrow At 6pm

The Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Department of Education is holding the final Public Hearings for Freire Charter School, Prestige Academy and Delaware Design Lab High School tonight in the 2nd floor auditorium at the Carvel Building in Wilmington at 5pm.  Academy of Dover will have their final public hearing tomorrow night at the main Delaware DOE building across from Legislative Hall at 5pm tomorrow in the 2nd floor Cabinet Room.

These are not public hearings where the schools are on trial.  Rather, it gives the public time to give comment on these schools official formal review proceedings.  There is a transcript which is put on the DOE website a couple days after.

I anticipate quite a few of the community members near the new Freire sight to protest this school’s location again.  For Academy of Dover, God only knows what will come out at this hearing!

Christina School District Should Apply For A Grant From The Longwood Foundation

Why not?  They already give millions of dollars to Delaware charter schools.  Is it even legal for a traditional public school district to do this?  I have no idea.  But I think the very nature of a referendum should not be legal.  Yesterday’s vote on the Christina referendum shows a clear disparity between traditional public schools and charters.  When a charter needs funds fast, there are many organizations willing to donate funds.  But when a district like Christina needs money, they have to beg for it.  The charters will say they need to beg, but when they get extra funds from transportation funds, non-profits, and even DOE awards, you never hear them offering solutions for the districts that give them their main source of funding.  Nearly 6,000 votes should not decide a source of funding for over 21,000 students and cause the termination of 200 teachers and support staff.

Legislators are already calling for change.  Delaware State Rep. John Kowalko sent out an email this morning in response to very concerned constituents in the Christina District:

I do not pretend to offer lip-service or support from a distance. I will meet with a House lawyer this Friday and plan to compose and consider legislation that may be offered immediately to help and legislation to create a task-force with a reporting requirement no later than Jan. 1 2016 to offer a plan to change Delaware public education funding structures and eliminate the referendum process. I am open and willing to hear any and all suggestions to accomplish that and will meet with your group at your convenience to discuss this. I want to thank you for all of your hard work in trying to secure a favorable outcome on the referendum and to specifically applaud all of your group’s efforts to dispel the lie and the implication that some unidentifiable flaw in Christina Board/Administration/educators should cause voters to pause before casting a ballot in support of the referendum. These types of references did much more damage and influenced many, many more negative votes than the weak whispers of support voiced by some leaders with the caveat that the district was corrupt, misusing funds or populated with malcontents. Once again thank you all for your reasonable and intellectually honest assessment of the needs of our public school children.

Respectfully,

Representative John Kowalko

With the topic of school funding already a hot topic in Dover, yesterday’s vote is just going to add fuel to a raging inferno.  Add standardized testing, opt-out, redistricting of Wilmington schools, special education funding, Autism, charter school audits, teacher evaluations, change in the Department of Education and Secretary’s roles, and how to protect our schools.  It is more than obvious that the biggest concerns in Delaware right now are around education.  Should the General Assembly extend their legislative session to deal with these crucial issues?  They essentially have five weeks left.  Three days a week.  With education committees meeting once a week for an hour or two.  They need to do more and act quicker.