I am truly proud to serve with Elizabeth Scheinberg, her analysis of our good faith vote is spot on.
Another day, another misinformed opinion… |
Children & Educators First
Here we go again. More propaganda and rhetoric designed to distract Delawareans from the issue at hand: a state’s over-reaction to an appropriate step to remediate a lack of fidelity to process. My comments, of course, are in red. Let the dissection begin:
Christina board chair burns bridges in Race to the Top
8:36 PM, Apr. 28, 2011
Written by PAUL A. HERDMAN
Opinion, Delaware Voice
In his comments at the April 19 meeting of the Christina School District, board chairman John Young made some colorful points. Absolutely. Importantly, shared by many who harbor deep concerns about the RTTT reform models.
Yet, his remarks only served to shortchange the future of the district’s 17,000 students and to disrupt the productive relationship that had been built over the past year as the state and the district worked collaboratively to develop a plan to turn around two chronically low-performing schools. Actually, Paul, it was the state’s premature and uneducated response to an issue that they had stipulated was one of local control that has “shortchange(d) the future of the district’s 17,000 students” (including my own). Did the state truly expect that Christina would defile teachers and affirm a corrupted process? Perhaps, the business community did. But, five board members were willing stand and support teachers, as the front line educators who are challenged daily by a herd of problems in their classrooms.
Everyone agrees that Glasgow High School and Stubbs Elementary School need help. Everyone also agrees that bringing great teachers and leaders into the “turnaround” process is essential. The district also saw that there is great potential in many of our teachers and that there is merit in retaining these teachers and offering intense professional development to improve their skills to meet the challenge. That PD is written into the plan that DOE, CEA, and CSD have all approved.
In fact, the district worked with its local teachers union to determine how the process would proceed, which then was approved by the state. The current controversy appears to stem from the board’s interpretation that the interview process to determine which teachers would stay in the two “Partnership Zone” schools and which would be transferred to other schools in the district was somehow unfair. Paul, as Rodel’s voice, you above all should recognize that accountability does not exist in a vacuum. Let’s start with the fact that three separate entities weighed in on the plan and MOU and not one of them caught the incongruities between the two documents. It was at the behest of students, parents, alumni, and teachers that the board delved into the process for a thorough review. Christina’s Board did not simply venture down this path because we yearned to dilute the reform process. Our resolution to rectify missteps actually resulted in an increased scrutiny that will better serve Christina’s students. How can one expect accountability if we fail to ensure fidelity?
Mr. Young brought this problem to the board meeting on April 19. Yet, rather than proposing a resolution, he chose to insult each of the partners who has been working to help his district: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who awarded Delaware $119 million; Delaware’s governor and secretary of education, who secured this grant for the state; Vision 2015, in which his own district participates; the Rodel Foundation and its founder, William Budinger; and Delaware’s businesses leaders, who have collectively contributed millions of dollars in direct investments, scholarships and mentoring to his district. Really, Paul? Really? Did you bother to listen to the audio recording? The proposed motion was set forth by Mrs. Saffer. Mr. Young actually interjected that he believed the CEA President and the Superintendent should meet to attempt to reach an amicable agreement. However, by this point in the night, the CEA president had left the meeting. The board, after more intense conversation, then affirmed the motion on the table by a vote of 5 yes and 2 abstentions. If Mr. Young had not cast his ballot in the affirmative, this action would have still carried by a majority of four. I suppose that means you should be mis-representing the positions of all five of us. Should I expect my castigation in tomorrow’s paper?
This week, the board now claims that the controversy was simply a “process issue” and that the district had never stepped back from “Race to the Top” or its commitment to reform. Some board members publicly affirmed its commitment to the plans last week. I know you read the blogs, you’ve referenced them in your visits to Norm Oliver’s tv show. Our weakness was our failure to publicly issue a collective statement on behalf of the district due to the start of the spring break and absence of staff. This has always been a process issue. A board’s most common functionality is to set policy and ensure fidelity to process.
If this were the case, why didn’t Mr. Young simply state those things on April 19? Moreover, what message was the full board trying to send with the president’s 15 minutes of angry rhetoric if the district is still on board with reform. The board suspended several rules during the April 19th public comment. Mr. Young may have spoken for 15 minutes, but the board actually suspended time limits for all speakers. Each and every constituent who wished to address the board did so without limit because we value the opinions of all stakeholders. However, you and many others, have seized upon Mr. Young’s comments to deflect from the issue at hand: a wholly-local problem that required relief and that five independent board members reviewed the information provided to us and arrived at similar conclusions.
Mr. Young’s speech was unfortunate and his comments about our foundation and founder were disrespectful and ill-informed. Let’s agree to disagree.
Bill Budinger is one of the nation’s most thoughtful, entrepreneurial and generous contributors to public education and other societally pressing problems. He built a technology business, Rodel Inc., from scratch and employed thousands of Delawareans for over 30 years at his plant in Newark (part of the Christina School District).
When he sold his business in 1999, he set aside over $40 million to help Delaware improve its schools. You know, no one spoke to Mr. Budinger’s intent. I believe he thinks that the fruits of his funding are helping Delaware’s students. But, the fact remains that at least two of the Vision Schools, despite years of investment by Vision 2015, were named to the Partnership Zone by Delaware’s Secretary of Education. Some might construe that to be an indictment of Visions’ effectiveness.
Over the last decade, his generosity has benefitted thousands of children through investments in early childhood education, parent engagement, district and charter school improvements, and the development of Vision 2015, which brought together hundreds of Delaware’s teachers, administrators and business, union and community leaders to develop a nationally recognized strategy for reform. “Teachers, administrators, and business, union, and community leaders.” What’s missing? Parents and their elected school board members. School boards and parents were strong-armed into this reform process. In my opinion, that most boards voted unanimously to sign the RTTT MOU was more reflective of our Governor’s efforts to decrease education spending via Delaware’s dollars and backfill it with one-time federal funds.
Yes, our foundation has a point of view: excellence in education for every Delaware student. Yet for more than four decades, Rodel Inc. and its successor foundation have attempted to interact with respect and humility with educational and community leaders throughout this state to improve the lives of Delaware’s students and citizens.
Turning around our lowest-performing schools will be incredibly challenging. I couldn’t agree more. That’s why chosing models that are supported by longitudinal data, implementation with fidelity, and the flexibility to tweak and re-tweak when evaluations point to failure are absolutely necessary to ensure any chance of success for our students. FIDELITY. This is what this board has attempted to interject into the reform plans. Yes, we individually harbour concerns about these reform efforts; however, we have never voted, nor even offered a motion, to exit RTTT or PZ. We have instead interjected a heightened level of scrutiny into the process and asked for and not received the SUPPORT of the DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION nor the GOVERNOR of DELAWARE.
The good news is that Delaware is a place where people have a long history of working together to make amazing things happen.
Unfortunately, the comments made by the Christina School District board president last week burned more bridges than they built. I will assert and re-assert that it was the state’s over-reaction that has damaged relations between these parties. The state, without any notification to the board, went to the press to announce plans to freeze the RTTT and PZ funding. It is the state, as the purse string holder, that is denying Christina the funding to robustly implement the plans they have approved.
Going forward, we hope there is a civil exchange of ideas and that real change happens. We remain committed to helping where we can. Our children can’t wait. I can offer only you one question: Do want reform done right…or do you want reform done fast?