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Archive for October, 2013

Does your momma pick watermelons?

October 25, 2013 7 comments

:ast night the HB 90 task force began to sharpen its focus, taking a look at specific information charters and VoTechs request on their admission applications. Co-chair Kim Williams read out a list of questions she had gathered from actual applications.

When read out loud the whole list seemed to go on and on, with each question odder and more inappropriate than the last. Jaws dropped when she read: “has a parent or guardian worked on a farm, in the fields or in a factory with fruits, vegetables or animals; has the parent or guardian every worked with watermelons, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, apples, chicken, or shellfish,”. Remember, this is information parents must provide in order to be considered for admission. Here’s the whole list:

The questions that were asked on the applications: race of a student, specifically if the student was Hispanic/Latino, student’s social security number, photo id, IEP or 504 Plan, citizenship, what languages are spoken in the home, place of birth, place of parent’s employment, health problems, parents married, separated, has your child repeated a grade, where does the child live: with both parents, mother, father, grandmother; does your child receive services: inclusion, occupational therapy, hearing support, speech therapy, or counseling; does your child take medication, wear glasses or wear a hearing aid; has a parent or guardian worked on a farm, in the fields or in a factory with fruits, vegetables or animals; has the parent or guardian every worked with watermelons, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, applies, chicken, or shellfish; has your family changed homes in the last three years? Schools asking parents if they need transportation. Please check if your student has any area of interest in these sports. What ways do you feel that this school will serve your child?

Copies of the items requested on the application: birth certificate, copy of the parent or students social security card, medical records, proof of residence, most recent report card etc.

Once the discussion resumed, the charter and VoTech representatives were unfazed and were full of justifications why their school needed extra information. But then Rep. Williams asked “That’s fine, but why do you need that information BEFORE the admission decision has been made? Why can’t you collect it AFTER admission?” And the silence was deafening.

You might think that requiring a common application form would solve these kinds of issues. Kilroy has the form; go take a look.

The problem is although charters, VoTechs and magnet schools are required to use the common form, they are still allowed to ask whatever supplemental questions they want. All they have to do is staple the common form on the front of the supplemental questions, and they are compliant. Even on the online application, the supplemental information were just added “as is” with no questions asked. Nobody is checking to see if the supplemental questions are fair or even legal.

One of the dodges offered by the charter folks was “That information is not used in the admission decision,” and sometimes it says so right on the application. But I’m not impressed. As Rep. Williams noted, “Most applications state that you must return all items requested, if you do not, your application will not be processed.”

I say the surest way to make sure information isn’t misused is to not collect it in the first place.

The discussion went around for a while longer, but didn’t get much further, which is fine because the issue had at least been unmistakably laid on the table.

The problem is asking these questions will remain legal until some parent challenges them, which leaves enforcement up to parents, probably only after a denial. That is wrong. It is an opportunity for leadership from the Department of Education or our district leaders.

So as the task force moves toward its directive of producing recommendations this January, here’s an idea: An application should not contain any questions that exceed your charter (or whatever documented admission criteria they use). If it’s not in your charter, it’s not on your application. That would be a piece of real charter/VpTech reform that can be accomplished within the scope of the Enrollment Preferences task force.

HB 90 task force meeting tonight (Enrollment Preferences)

October 24, 2013 Comments off

Enrollment Preference Task Force Meeting #2

6:30 pm at Buena Vista Conference Center

Workshop on Red Clay feeder patterns tonight 5pm at McKean

October 22, 2013 Comments off

Red Clay will hold a workshop today on changes to feeder patterns which will be required when the new Cooke Elementary school opens on Graves Road. I’m not familiar with the Board Workshop format so I’m not sure how it will go down.

The devil will be in the details, folks – get in there and find him!

Board Workshop – Attendance Zones
October 22, 2013
McKean Culinary Cafe
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Take back RCPAC tonight at 6pm at Brandywine Springs

October 21, 2013 Comments off

Parents – come bear witness and lend your voice to take back RCPAC tonight at Brandywine Springs. Arrive a little before 6 if you want to get in some networking, because Lord knows nobody gets a chance to speak once the meeting begins.

The agenda has not been published as is normally done, and the meeting information page is showing information from 2011. But here are the highlights of tonight’s agenda:

Presentations tonight are Parent University pilot by Sarah Kashner-Schmittinger

Kickoff of planning for 2013 Family Resource Fair by Christine Miller

There will be suspense! Who will be named to the Bylaws Sub-committee, which will revise RCPAC bylaws for rubber-stamp approval by the whole body? Will I be shut out again? When will the revised draft be started?

Will there be a rescheduled discussion of the new Parent Involvement policy, which was on the agenda last month but was unilaterally “tabled” by the parent president with no second and no vote? Has anybody found any record of the policy being approved by the Board?

The immaculate approval

October 14, 2013 4 comments

I’m calling shenanigans on the recent batch of policy updates that were supposedly approved by the Red Clay board last summer. I wrote about this as the documents began their journey through the approval process: Massive document dump from Red Clay’s BPRC

Red Clay now has a published policy (9002 – Parental Involvement) which it firmly insists is approved, but which was partially updated AFTER its printed approval date, with:

NO record of first public reading
NO record of second public reading
NO record of a Board vote on the updates
NO record of the policy updates appearing on the Board agenda.

9002 in particular caught my eye, and that is the one I am tracking. But I believe there are other allegedly “approved” policies in the same undocumented limbo. 9002 currently states that it was last approved on 7/7/2010. However, the document’s internal properties show it had been edited on 7/25/2013, and there were some significant changes.

So I contacted the Red Clay office and asked when the changes to 9002 were approved. The first answer was that they were reviewed by the BPRC (Board Policy Review Committee), and Board-approved over the summer. So I dutifully pored over the minutes of the BPRC, and could not find a mention of 9002. Which was odd, because I had been tracking BPRC activities and had attended the meetings (I missed one though). The summer Board minutes also had no reference to 9002.

Puzzled, I contacted my Red Clay source again, who robustly insisted the Board had approved 9002 at its July 10 meeting. So I went to the minutes for July 10, and here were some policies approved, but no mention of 9002.

Now completely baffled, I asked my source about this. They doubled down and insisted 9002 was approved on July 10, but was on another list of policies that did not appear in the minutes.

Another list that didn’t appear in the minutes? Sorry, that’s a bridge too far. Bad recordkeeping, or shenanigans? I may have to invoke Gray’s Law on this one:

“Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.”

AG opinion on Governor’s charter group is here

October 1, 2013 9 comments

Delaware’s office of the Attorney General has issued its opinion on the Governor’s Working Group on Charters, in response to a FOIA petition filed by John Flaherty and others. Full text is here..

Basically, the opnion finds the group WAS a public body fully subject to FOIA, and was obliged to keep and publish minutes and to publish neeting times and agendas in advance. No violator was identified, and the opinion declined to suggest remediation.

The opinion directly contradicts assertions from the Governor’s office and from the Department of Education that the group was not a public body or subject to FOIA because it was informal and had no decision-making authority. Neither of those claims is a legitimate exemption from FOIA as found in the law.