DOE MOU response memo, red pen edition.

December 8, 2014

Dear Dr. Williams,

My team and I appreciate the commitment you have made to a process to improve opportunities for students at the Christina School District’s Priority Schools (Very unbelievable based on what follows).  As part of that process, I received draft Memorandums of Understanding at the District’s  planning meeting on Friday afternoon. At that meeting, you requested my feedback by the end of today to be able to provide revised MOUs to the School Board for tomorrow’s meeting. We did not have this for our meeting.

To date, you have declined our offers to meet with you and/or members of your team to specifically negotiate the terms of the MOUs (The DOE and almost 100 pols in DE from the Governor to City council and many other community stakeholders have been invited to this PLETHORA of meetings: http://christinak12.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=246303&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=484705 ,to make them negotiations all you have to do is 1) attend, and 2) ask.) but we continue to welcome the opportunity to speak with you after lying about being given opportunities, to discuss the broader Priority Schools process, and provide a more detailed response on each part of the MOUs. We remain committed to working with you to develop tailored tailored to whom? MOUs and plans that  by whom? for whom? to meet the specific needs of your students and schools. Given the short timeframe artificially imposed by you in an original ultimatum that remains unsigned and therefore non-binding, I am writing to provide initial feedback about the Department’s key areas of agreement and concern with the document in advance of this week’s Board Meeting. The draft MOU and guidance document that the Department released in September, as well as my comments at the District’s Priority School Meetings, have emphasized a core set of principles about the ways in which we can best serve the students in these schools. We focus on these areas because they have resulted in success for high-need students in Delaware; schools with similar student populations that have adhered to them have seen dramatic improvement in their students’ academic performance. These principles include:

 

 

  • Excellent school leaders
  • who have track records of working effectively with youth in high need schools, because principals play a vital role in improving opportunities for students in our Priority Schools.
  • Funding that is flexible at the school level  to ensure school leaders and the school community can allocate resources towards the most critical and prioritized areas for their individual  buildings, recognizing that these areas are likely to be different from schools that do not serve a high proportion of students from disadvantaged communities.
  • Principals who are empowered to make local, student-centered decisions about areas such as the curriculum, instructional practices, and the school schedule.
  •  School leaders need autonomy to build programs that address the specific needs of their students and communities and to ensure that the roles of teachers and other staff are effectively aligned with the schools’ needs

In reviewing the draft MOUs we received on Friday, we are pleased really? here it comes, the backhanded compliment follow by an evisceration to see that you have recognized some of these elements. For example, the MOUs appear to give Priority School principals some authority over some “programmatic inputs” like scheduling and curriculum, and they provide for the possibility of additional pay and benefits for teachers to compensate them for additional duties and time that may be necessary to execute the school plan. However here it comes, despite these provisions, the content of the MOUs does not reflect all of the core elements listed above. Rather, the MOUs dramatically limit the autonomy and authority of the principals to implement the changes necessary to help their students succeed

changes that could include: extending the school year with what monies? the ones you woefully undercommiteed to this behemoth of a project?, providing for robust define? after-school activities, and providing wrap-around social services in school buildings these are free, right?. These documents also do not provide the Priority Schools with adequate support and flexibility from the District. They require principals to take unnecessary steps and obtain District approval for making key changes this is bad because they work for you now in your brazen power grab from the district, while also failing to guarantee even the current level of District support for the schools you mean like the 500K less per year you are committing compared to the PZ, which by your own dysfunctional DOE definition is faiure (as we are here again). Specifically, after a preliminary review, we have the following concerns:

Language embedded throughout the MOUs limits the authority of the principal to implement the school plan, and requires District approval for decisions in running his or her school you mean there needs to be controls in place for the stewardship of public tax monies? that’s CRAZY. For example, while the MOUs purport inflammatory language to give principals authority over scheduling and program changes, the principals may only propose  deviation from any District requirements not mandated by law.” Do you want prinicpals to openly flout the law? I mean, I know you guys do it all the time, but that’s not how real public servants are supposed to act. Please forgive us for trying to honor the oaths we took: http://delcode.delaware.gov/title14/c010/sc03/index.shtml#1053

 

That could severely limit the principals’ autonomy you mean ability to break the law in implementing their visions for these schools. For example, a principal could only “propose” an extended school day, but that proposal could be rejected by the District.You mean like if the DOE didn’t give enough $$ to fund it because teachers do not and should not work for free?

It is also unclear how much funding flexibility the principals will have. The MOU states that “[t]he School  shall have the right to develop and implement its own school budget and expenditure plan with funding allocated by the State to support the Plan,” which implies that the principals will only have autonomy over the additional resources provided by the state,  but not any other parts of their building budgets. We should not have control of our own locally collected tax dollars? This is the crux of the power grab right here folks: reread this one a few times…let it sink in.

The MOUs give the principals the right to “participation  in the employment process for all staff . . . in accordance with … district policy,” but no authority to choose members of their team or shape the roles and responsibilities of their teachers Yes, we negotiate agreements, and unlike the morally bankrupt DEDOE, we are ethically challenged when being asked to switch from responsible employer to union busters. That’s your thing in carrying out the plans for improving outcomes for students. For example, it does not appear that principals would be able to ensure their teachers participate in executing strategies described in the school plan, like implementing a key curriculum change or providing additional one-on-one support to struggling students.This is just a made up talking point designed to stoke fears and denigrate our professionals by suggesting we would not support students

Although the legal status of each Priority School is different, based on when they were previously named a “Partnership Zone” or Priority School and whether they have met exit criteria, all of the MOUs the ones written by the state unilaterally with no district input state that the Department and District will “renegotiate aspects” of the original “Transformation Model” plans to create the new plan for the school.

The MOUs do not say what aspects will be renegotiated, so the language is open-ended about the details on which the District and the Department would agree. Also, the prior Priority/Partnership Zone school plans have not resulted in significant growth for students, and some of the schools are legally prohibited by the U.S. Department of Education from again choosing a “Transformation” model IT WAS NOT CHOSEN THE FIRST TIME, you need to read your own code: http://regulations.delaware.gov/AdminCode/title14/100/103.pdf(see 7.6.1.7 of Regulation 103 and the ESEA Waiver). Those issues are not addressed in the MOUs.

 

 

The District does not commit to providing each Priority School with its current level of funding and support, outside of the “unit funding” earned by each school and the resources sadly, we are not the U.S. mint and cannot authorize QE6 for CSD. Oh, and that pesky issue of 23 other school with students who happen to have needs too

 

The Plan is due January 7, 2015, which is an extension to the original date a date only agreed to and set by you: we did not sign the MOU. The MOUs provide that only “portions of the Plan” need to be submitted  by that time. Again really?, we welcome the opportunity to meet and collaborate with you on developing MOUs and school  plans that are tailored to individual school needs, while incorporating key elements, described above, that have proven you mean your non peer reviewed ideologically driven plans? to support students from disadvantaged communities. Although you have thus far declined multiple offers um, mirror check: that would be you sitting in the back row texting your boss during the VERY few meetings you have attended to review components of the MOUs and school plans over the past few months, we remain open to doing so not thinking this is true really, and are happy this either to meet or speak with you or members of your team at any time. We strongly encourage veiled threat you to meet with our team well in advance define? you have had months of unused opportunity DOE of the January 7th deadline to provide the  best chance to develop documents that can be approved by both the District and the State. In addition, while Christina has declined the offer of state funding to support the planning process LIE: state pass throiugh of a federal grant that requires application and has rules

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 $50,000 per school

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 the district remains eligible love this. There are no additional requirements tied to the funds other than that they must be used in the planning process not true. We encourage you to take advantage of these resources nice try. We all believe in the amazing potential of the children of our state who is we? If you did would we see collaboration and support instead of threats and no evidence plans and ideas from our DOE. Newsflash: you work for us, not the other way around: WE pay taxes., and are committed to providing them with a quality education to help them meet that potential. Please let me know of any questions that arise as we work to ensure that the best possible educational opportunities are available to all of the students at the Priority Schools.Again, who is we? #nolove

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