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2016

June 26, 2013 7 comments

After this latest round of inexplicable charter wins for cash and deregulation, districts will hopefully now be galvanized into action. But even as we try to rally our forces (85% of student population!) around badly needed local actions, we must also prepare for 2016.

It used to be a no-brainer to support Matt Denn for governor in 2016, assuming he runs. But after this round of baffling legislation, no matter who runs he or she will have to be carefully vetted on charters. Not only will the candidate have to demonstrate he will not assist the charter lobby in running roughshod over public schools, he will have to explain how he will reverse or mitigate the damage done by HB 165 and the other bills. It is not at all a sure thing that either the Republican or the Democrat will pass this kind of vetting.

I hope Republicans will put up a credible candidate who will force the Democrat into the PTA meetings and boards to explain his position on charters. Candidates, keep in mind that charters still represent 15% of the school population while public schools represent 85%.

Candidates should remember though that HB 165 was passed over the objections of the elected boards of our most populous districts.

Teachers will get a warmup run in 2014 when they choose new DSEA leadership. I think “Time for a change” might be a winning campaign slogan, with a goal of “no endorsement” in 2016 unless specific commitments are made in support of public schools.

The list of dirty deeds and mass betrayals is long, but none is darker than DSEA support for HB 165. The motives for this endorsement are pretty clearly understood, but only time can give us confirmation. And not that much time either.

It’s in your hands, teachers. At least change your bylaws to require a vote of the rank and file for major legislative endorsements. Please take away the governor’s power to buy and misuse your good name in some back room deal without your vote.

After your pathetic organizational response to HB 165, you collectively need to win back our trust. It is going to be a long time before parents are again willing to charge into the breach for public schools if teachers don’t have our backs. Hold your leadership and your politicians accountable so we don’t have to go through this again.

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Letter to my senator

June 24, 2013 1 comment

Point out the school board resolutions opposing HB 165 (Red Clay, Christina, Capital). Charter lobbyists HATE facing local voters; that is why they are working so hard to avoid it.

From: “Mike Oboryshko”
Subject: Red Clay opposes HB 165 and so do I
Date: Sun, June 23, 2013 4:11 pm
To: greg.lavelle@state.de.us

Greetings Senator Lavelle,

The Red Clay School Board opposes HB 165 and so do I.

Dr. Daugherty’s letter specifically cites impact on district schools, and
calls for the return of funding that has been cut from district schools.
Please support Red Clay and do not vote against the interests of your
district.

The bill promises to trade funding for accountability but it does not
deliver accountability for diversity, accountability for local control,
accountability for impact, or accountability for transparency. The
Performance Framework is a weak peg to hang accountability on.

I am not interested in amendments. As your constituent I ask you to oppose
this bill or at least facilitate its tabling.

Regards,

Mike Oboryshko
Red Clay parent

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The most unsurprising revelation of HB 165 (UPDATED)

June 22, 2013 5 comments

Of all the odd moments of the HB 165 campaign, one of the oddest was the announcement of the Chief School Officers’ oppposition to the bill on the morning of the House vote, amd then five hours later the reversal of that opposition. It happened behind closed doors, and while even the less astute among us could immediately see what happened, the cover is now being torn off this story.

There are no surprises here. It was the Governor and the Secretary of Education, of course, but just how it went down shows just how hard these two men were willing to work the supers in pursuit of this legislation.

Dr. Thomas sent out his letter of opposition at 10:21 on June 11. According to a credible source, it wasn’t long before his phone was ringing. It was Secretary Murphy, followed shortly by a call from the Governor himself. The gist of these calls was their contention that not all the supers felt the same way about the bill when they had spoken to them (!), without naming the ones that did not agree. They also pointed out that there had been some supers on the Charter Working Group,(namely Holodick, Bunting, and Gehrt), and that their requests had been addressed by including additional technology funding.

Dr. Thomas replied that there was a consensus among the chiefs on the opposition, but no formal vote had been taken.

Nonetheless, after the calls Dr. Thomas felt compelled to email all the supers and poll them on their position. The wording and the results of that poll are not known, except that due to the timeframe not all had responded. But the responses led to Dr. Thomas’s new email retracting the organization’s opposition the same afternoon.

Remember the Governor and the Secretary had been working these supers on the phone.

So did Dr. Thomas jump the gun in issuing the opposition? Maybe, maybe not.

UPDATE 6/23: I received a clarification that Dr. Thomas’s had in fact circulated the wording of his original letter of opposition, and that no super had responded with objections. Support for the second email came only after the supers had heard the Governor’s assurances that their concerns would be dealt with by the HB 90 task force.

Since then, three districts have backed up Dr. Thomas by going on the record opposing HB 165, all citing different concerns, but on the whole illustrating that the bill is not ready for the floor.

The districts included some of our largest districts and those who expect the most impact from HB 165:

The Board of the Capital School District (Thomas’s own) passed a resolution opposing HB 165.

The Board of the Christina School District also passed a resolution opposing HB 165.

The Red Clay Board also passed a resolution in opposition, and Superintendent Merv Daugherty issued a letter opposing HB 165, specifically citing impact on his district.

There is nearly a week for more school districts to weigh in. It looks like the wheels are coming off the Governor’s contention that the chiefs are not largely behind Dr. Thomas’s letter of opposition. Apparently it is much easier to sway the superintendents than their boards.

Remember that the superintendents do not work for the Governor or the Secretary of Education – their responsibility is to their independently elected Boards. I can imagine the Governor and Secretary were mindful of this and the conversations were somewhat restrained.

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Today is payday for charter lobbyists

June 20, 2013 4 comments

**Update: Put the champagne back on ice!! SB 165 has been pulled from the Senate Ready List, and a new Education Committee meeting has been scheduled for Wed. June 26. There is still time to call your Senator and oppose.***

Not only will the HB 165 charter funding/deregulation likely be passed, but the State Board of Education is poised to approve hundreds of new charter seats. Time for charter lobbyists to pop the champagne corks, light a few cigars with $100 bills, and celebrate the kickoff of the long-sought uncontrolled charter expansion!

Also, by the end of June, the next cohort of CEB schools will be selected by a committee of out-of-town carpetbaggers.

Don’t be distracted by the Senate; keep your eye on the SBE too (1:00 pm). The SBE meeting in particular has a buffet of important information (agenda). If you are at all able to attend, please do. Otherwise you will have to wait for the audio, and for the documents to be posted on the web.

Here is an excerpt from the massive agenda:

B. Department of Education

1. Charter Schools
a. Reconsideration of Application for Major Modification of an Existing Charter:
Academy of Dover (For Action)
b. Decision on an Application to Open a New Charter School:
Delaware Design Lab High School (For Action)
c. Decision on an Application to Open a New Charter School:
First State Military Academy (For Action)
d. Decision on an Application to Open a New Charter:
The Delaware MET (For Action)
e. Decision on an Application to Open a New Charter:
Pike Creek Charter School (For Action)
f. Application to Modify an Existing Charter:
Kuumba Academy (For Action)
g. Application to Modify an Existing Charter: MOT Academy (For Action)
h. Update Regarding Development of New Performance Agreements (For Discussion)
i. Update on Closure Preparations for Pencader Charter School (For Information)
j. Update on Status and Progress of New Moyer Academy
(For Information/Discussion)
k. Annual Charter School Report (For Information)
l. Monthly Charter Schools Update (For Information)

2. IDEA Annual Performance Report

3. Update on Common Core State Standards Implementation Initiatives
4. Department of Education Regulations
a. 106 Teacher Appraisal Process Delaware Performance Appraisal System
(DPAS II) – For Discussion
b. 107 Specialist Appraisal Process Delaware Performance Appraisal System
(DPAS II) – For Discussion
c. 108 Administrator Appraisal Process Delaware Performance Appraisal System
(DPAS II) – For Discussion
d. 106A Teacher Appraisal Process Delaware Performance Appraisal System
(DPAS II) Revised – For Discussion
e. 107A Specialist Appraisal Process Delaware Performance Appraisal System
(DPAS II) Revised – For Discussion

C. Professional Standards Board
1. 1502 Professional Growth Salary Increments (For Action)

D. Other

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A few words on advocating for public schools

June 19, 2013 2 comments

If we want to advocate for public schools, we need to take better control of our language. We have conceded too much vocabulary to the charter lobby already.

1. There are public schools, and there are charter schools. I wasn’t born yesterday and I know a public school when I see one, and charter schools are not public schools. Charter lobbyists point to the legal definition like Al Gore screaming “There was no controlling legal authority!!” I’m not playing that anymore. I might be willing to compromise on “public charter schools.”

2. Traditional Public Schools is right out. Public schools ARE traditional. Use “public schools” instead.

3. When speaking in the political context it’s charter lobbyists, not “charter advocates” or “charter supporters” or “charter movement.” And they really are lobbyists: real registered, paid lobbyists. With 15% charter and 85% public school students, the charter lobby is the definition of a special interest and a vocal minority.

4. Charter reform. They keep using that word. I do not think it means what they think it means. In the context of HB 165, speak of charter deregulation, unless someone has a better word.

5. Accountability. They keep using that word, etc etc… I would also use deregulation.

6. Autonomy – once again, deregulation.

7. Crippling regulations – use oversight.

Any others? Please post your suggestions in the comments section.

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Happy Bloomsday!

June 16, 2013 1 comment

The events of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses took place entirely on June 16, 1904, when the novel’s (hero?) Leopold Bloom took a walk around Dublin, henceforth known as Bloomsday.

I celebrated by taking a walk around the neighborhood. How did you ladies celebrate?

The art of persuasion

June 16, 2013 5 comments

At 10:23 on the morning of the House vote on HB 165, Dr. Michael Thomas, President of the Delaware Chief School Officers Association (superintendents), announced the superintendents’ opposition to HB 165. It was a good letter of opposition, voicing many of the objections other public-school advocates would have voiced, had they been permitted to attend the meetings of the Governor’s Working Group on Charter Schools. Despite denials, this charter group was where the outline of the bill was developed.

Here’s an excerpt from Dr. Thomas’s letter of opposition:

The establishment of a charter school performance fund of $2 million is misguided and one of which the Chiefs Association is in direct opposition. We do not believe this fund is appropriate given the fact that many charter schools are selecting students and creating very much a form of re-segregation.

I had been wondering when public education was going to speak up for itself and its silent majority, after the abdication of DSEA. Dr. Thomas’s letter was like rain after a dry season. It was like seeing the cavalry coming over the hill. It was like watching Rocky get up off the mat.

But at around 4:00 pm the same day, apparently nursing a pair of freshly broken thumbs, Dr. Thomas sent another message reversing the supers’ opposition to the bill. Notwithstanding the retraction, this one was also a good message:

From: Thomas Michael
Date: June 11, 2013, 3:51:08 PM EDT
To: McDowell Harris , Henry Margaret Rose , Marshall Robert , Lavelle Greg , Cloutier Catherine , Lopez Ernesto B , Blevins Patricia , Sokola David , Peterson Karen , Hall-Long Bethany , Townsend Bryan , Poore Nicole , McBride David , Ennis Bruce , “Lawson Dave” , “senator-colin@prodigy.net” , Bushweller Brian , “gsimpson@udel.edu” , Pettyjohn Brian , Hocker Gerald , Venables Robert
Subject: HB 165 Charter Legislation

Dear Legislator:

I forwarded to you earlier today concerns and subsequent position of the School Chiefs regarding House Bill 165. This bill possesses some components which address concerns regarding the current legislation and regulation of charter schools. Some of these components will serve to produce better clarity and accountability for the development and operation of charter schools. The particular issues that were defined in my earlier email were:
1. The $2 million performance fund
2. DOE authority to transfer funds from public school districts to charter schools
3. The extension of a renewal term for a charter school for ten years

In voicing these concerns, this was not to assert that the bill is without merit, but was to emphasize the concern of the School Chiefs on the matters cited above. Certainly we believe parts of the bill are a step forward and hopefully can be a platform for subsequent changes in the future. Further, we believe the establishment of the proposed task force can address not only concerns with admission preferences, but also a number of other critical items that deserve consideration. There has been a commitment provided and reinforced in conversation today that the matters cited above will be looked at in a critical analysis along with the impact on a community and its public schools for future charter approvals. Therefore, based on these conversations and commitments, the School Chiefs Association will support the charter legislation and work diligently with appropriate agency designees for continued improvements and refinements.

Respectfully submitted,
Michael D. Thomas, Ed. D.
President, Delaware Chief School Officers Association

Reading behind the lines, this letter is telling us HB 165 is probably inevitable because the backroom forces behind it are too strong and will lie, cheat, or steamroll anything or anyone in their way. Instead, we should fall back on organizing to influence the HB 90 task force, which will meet to advise on reforming choice admissions including charters and TPS, and which the charter lobbyists want almost as badly.

Charter lobbyists are no doubt counting on this task force producing another victory that will further enable the oncoming uncontrolled charter expansion, which again might have something to do with CEB. How do you reconcile 4 charters in 1 building with potentially different admission preferences?

The retraction is not credible and reeks of coercion. I am certain it was meant to be taken that way. Dr. Thomas is practically blinking S-O-S with his eyelids as he sends the retraction.

And if you think about it, after you charge the charter schools with resegregation, how do you take back something like that? You can’t. The original criticism stands.

There was apparently some deal struck or at least some assurances given to Dr Thomas regarding the choice task force. I wish Dr. Thomas had stood his ground, but then again I’m not the one between the hammer and the anvil. And I wouldn’t trust any deal offered by the mysterious broker in this case.

Don’t worry Dr. Thomas; I am sure your dog will be released in good health just as soon as HB 165 passes the Senate.

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