New Castle County Councilman Jea Street ignores key facts, again.

Today’s Delaware Voice, with commentary in RED:

With mixed emotion I read last Friday’s letter to Dr. Freeman Williams, superintendent of Christina School District, from the Office of Civil Rights and the agreement with the district that was approved by the Christina Board on Dec. 11. While it confirmed some of the allegations in my November 2005 federal complaint against the district and my November 2009 state complaint against the district, I find no joy in confirmation of the harm done to African-American children. This, I truly believe.

Worse, based on the actions and inactions of this board of education over a disappointing 30 year period, I have absolutely no confidence that the district will act in good faith and adhere to the spirit and intention of the agreement. Councilman Street often expresses lack of faith in us without regard to individuals, he harbors clear prejudice against us, which is his right, but terribly ironic The district has established a dismal record in the recent past. That includes the disappearance of $20 million that required a state bailout it was only 15 million; four superintendents and an interim superintendent in seven years yes, boards that did not include me hired three straight superintendents from the unaccredited Broad Superintendent’s Academy; litigation to assure the board included a city of Wilmington resident who ardently supported the policies you are so pained by in this Delaware Voice, oh the amazing irony; 17,000 suspensions in the 2008-2009 school year along with poor academic performance in the predominance of district schools yes the year before I joined the board, I notice you don’t bother to mention the precipitous fall off after certain members joined and others were un-elected.

And now, the district has been found guilty of discrimination in discipline practices at all school levels. To date, no member of the Christina Board or any district official expressed any regret for the discriminatory policies, practices and acts I agree with Councilman Street here, those responsible ought to express remorse and those that are not should not offer false remorse to placate Councilman Street, he deserves better. The agreement with the OCR was made for the sole purpose of compliance. I voted to enter in the agreement to to comply and did so with greater concern and commitment than has been shown by Wilmington’s civic leaders in allowing the state to march in with RTTT and destabilize Wilmington schools and to bamboozle and disenfranchise parents. All done by Wilmington civic leaders while ignoring board members who have repeatedly brought the pernicious aspects of said program to their attention: for shame on Councilman Street and the civic leaders who have sat on their hands and caused many of the problems they now complain about in earnest.  What is and has been lacking is concern and commitment. I, unlike Jea, cannot question what is in the hearts and minds of my peers who voted TO JOIN THE AGREEMENT TO FIX THE PROBLEM.

Page 17 of the OCR’s findings states: “[T]he evidence further revealed that schools located in the city of Wilmington, (Bancroft ES, Elbert Palmer ES, Stubbs ES, Pulaski ES and Bayard MS) accounted for a significant portion of the harsher penalty assignments made for the highly subjective categories of inappropriate behavior and disruption of the educational process.” Councilman Street, then I suggest you should hold a public inquiry into the African American leaders in each of our city schools and the past three CSD Superintendents, all African American, and responsible for the entire period the OCR review. We will embrace the agreement with the OCR to remediate the situation,a s we have promised.

The harsh fact is that from 1994 until now, Christina has gone from being considered one of the state’s best districts to its current worst in-state ranking. In federal court in 1994 the four New Castle County districts relied on the testimony of Christina’s former superintendent and deputy superintendent to showcase the district’s records and to have all four districts removed from court-ordered supervision. Most detrimentally, the schools in northern New Castle County have reverted to being among the most segregated in the nation after being among the most desegregated. All under your watch too, selectively fighting against some things and watching others, like RTTT and charters come on in with nary a glance. In fact, you came to CSD to tell us NOT to fight for Wilmington children in the NCS debate because you said is was a white suburban complaint issue and this was less than a month after the Delaware Black Caucus decried the impact of charters in Delaware. What gives?

n 2000, the General Assembly created the Neighborhood School Committee, which made recommendations to Wilmington and the legislature in January 2001. The General Assembly also created the Wilmington Education Task Force which produced recommendations in April 2008. The committee and the task force made two important recommendations: a weighted funding formula for high poverty schools and that two districts – Red Clay and Brandywine – serve Wilmington students as opposed to four. To date, no action has been taken in response to the recommendations.

The findings of discrimination, now assigned Christina, is just one of the pathologies that exist in our segregated charter and traditional public schools. Today, no child from outside Wilmington has to go to school in the city and Wilmington officials have no authority over educational funding or the education destiny of its own children. State and school officials have promoted these outcomes since the 1996 after the lifting of the court ordered desegregation. No arguments here.

The findings against Christina likely will require individual and class action litigation so that justice can be achieved. We now look on to see how the governor and the Department of Education will respond to Christina’s malfeasance. What should they do Councilman Street, rub our noses in it? The feds are all over us, the agency you sought relief from…are you unwilling to allow them to hold us accountable? Your call for Governor Markell and the DOE to come in is honestly laughable.  I foresee the state’s inactivity will produce the prospect of again making ignoble litigation history, which is unbecoming of the First State. So again, the Feds are not enough for you. It appears nothing pleases you, but also nothing gets you to fully commit to the mission you opine on. You confuse me sir.

My hope is state and school officials combine and implement the recommendations of the Neighborhood School Committee and the Wilmington Education Task Force and move forward. These initiatives combined with our Race to the Top initiatives – including the Early Childhood Education Initiative – have the potential to achieve great success and make Delaware a leader in educational reform. Your last sentence is an embarrassment. Really. A complete embarrassment.

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