Priority Schools BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!

Interesting e-mail.

The most important thing NOW, NOW, NOW, is to let parents and students and teachers KNOW what these 3 schools will look like for 15-16 school year. CBA based deadlines and personnel decisions are imminent and our schools need stability and information to make good decisions…not the DEM House Caucus pounding their chests.

Do. Your. Job.

Sent: Thursday, February 12, 2015 4:48 PM
Subject: Memo on Behalf of House Leadership regarding Christina School District


To:                  House Democratic Caucus Members


From:             Representative Pete Schwartzkopf

                        Representative Valerie Longhurst

                        Representative John Viola

Date:              2/12/2015

Re:                  Christina School District Priority Schools

During the past two days, several caucus members have contacted leadership expressing concerns about the Department of Education’s letter to the Christina School District (which is attached). Thank you for contacting us. We wanted to update you on what actions we took and where the situation currently is.

On Tuesday, Secretary of Education Mark Murphy sent a letter to Christina School District saying that the district’s Board of Education is not in compliance with the Priority School program. As a result, Secretary Murphy gave district leaders until February 27 to decide on one of following options for its three priority schools: closure or restructuring, either as a charter school or under an education management organization. The letter also detailed the Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s recommendation to redraw Christina’s school district lines and close the noncontiguous Wilmington portion of Christina’s district in the city. The suggestion was that doing so could have an effect on “the planning process for Christina’s Priority Schools moving forward.”

Caucus leadership held a conference call with staff to discuss this issue and the concerns that several of you raised about this letter. We had multiple conversations with the governor’s office about the issue and had decided to send a letter to the governor asking that the Department of Education to extend the fast-approaching February 27 deadline. In part, the letter would have noted that forcing a short turnaround for Christina to make a decision would not result in a productive outcome, and it could have a negative impact on school referendums that are taking place. We also planned to ask the governor to convene a group of district, DOE stakeholders to reach a decision on this issue. The letter would have requested that the Chairs of the House and Senate Education committees be included in the negotiations to help facilitate the discussion, and to ensure that each caucus received accurate accounts of the progress of the negotiations. 

Late Wednesday evening, we learned that the Christina School Board voted at its Tuesday meeting to support the Wilmington Education Advisory Group’s recommendation to close the Wilmington portion Christina’s district (a copy of that resolution is also attached). When they learned of this, the governor’s office told us that the February 27 deadline no longer applied because Christina had pledged to work with the state to implement the WEAC redistricting recommendation.

Currently, we are communicating with the governor’s office about what they foresee as the next steps. Here’s what we do know:

·         Any redistricting process will require action by the General Assembly.

·         Any redistricting process will take multiple years to implement.

·         Any redistricting process is a complicated process that will involve a lot of discussions about finances and revenue, and it may require a significant amount of state money to implement.

Most importantly, we need to recognize and remember that when we talk about redistricting these Christina School District schools, we are talking about not just the physical schools, but hundreds of teachers who will be unsure of their future, and thousands of students whose educational future is at stake. Whatever we do in the coming weeks and months, our focus must be on what’s best for all of them, as well as the state of Delaware.

Please do not hesitate to contact any of us in leadership if you have questions, concerns or suggestions.


37 thoughts on “Priority Schools BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!!

  1. WOW. I didn’t realize the vote was to support the redistricting. Guess I sort of thought it was to support the work they had done, whatever the outcome. Which may seem like a silly bit of verbiage to quibble over, but I recall the concerns that it seemed like we don’t care about the students in the city or that we want to dump these schools on another district. This is interesting. Thank you for the post!

      1. Too bad the legislators weren’t at our meeting. Except Sen Townsend, who supported the decision to work with DOE. Not that we weren’t already, but I guess in a different way…

    1. minnehanh

      The resolution could have been interpreted as a support for redistricting but I read it more as support for the bringing together of citizenry to focus on the problem. The report issued by WEAC is just an interim report, no final findings or proposals yet. I don’t like to think of an end result as “dumping”: kids anywhere but rather finding the best option for kids’ educational opportunities.

  2. elizabeth

    It seems to be that the dem caucus is doing their job – discovery phase of how to merge CSD city with Red Clay…

    1. John Young

      suggesting that Jaques and Sokola “facilitate” discussions is not doing their job. Also, what id needed now is to give the schools the playing field so they can make effective decisions for the 15-16 school year. WEAC is on point for the merger stuff. Leg Hall needs to stay in their lane.

      1. elizabeth

        Legislative hall has a clearly defined role here. The function of merging districts fully falls in their domain. Legislation made CSD, RCCSD, Colonial, Brandywine, etc. Legislation is required to “unmake” these districts. Whether you like it or not, the questions raised and comments offered by our legislators are as valued as those proffered our school board. I don’t care for Jaques or Sokola, but they are doing their elected duties – responding to their constituents with the prerequisite curiosity. Actually, by my standards their facilitation comes about much too late. But, they say, better late than never. And if CSD didn’t want the outside weighing in, why resolve to align to WEAC NOW? Why not wait until their final recommendation comes to light? Because, as I see it, giving the CSD city schools over to Red Clay is the cowards way out – if you are standing on principle and principle alone. These schools will simply be dragged right back down Priority row, and Red Clay will likely be more amicable to accept DOE’s overtures than CSD has been. And thus, by giving away the schools, the battle in CSD has been for naught…

      2. John Young

        My concern have nothing to do with whether or not if falls in their domain. It has to do with their persistent unwillingness to understand the first thing about the domain of public education. Also, you think this is them responding to constituents? Like booting fellow members off committees? They don’t give a rip about constituents here. At.All.

        As for the fight you refer to, never a more skillful battle has been waged with this DOE. Cowards? More like Ninjas. LOL.

        On Fri, Feb 13, 2015 at 9:51 PM, Transparent Christina wrote:


      3. elizabeth

        Ninjas? Really. Maybe if you had shared that approach with more of the key players, things might not look as muddled to the outside as they do.

        It may feel like success because teachers can assume they will be employed by a district and their collective bargaining rights should be protected (and I fully support the union and any attempts it makes to engage charter employees – yeah, I take it one step further and believe that unions should be in all schools!) but, if the ninjas were more concerned with protecting the teachers than ensuring continuity of community for the children, the ninjas are still cowards.

        Teachers protected or not – how will CSD protect these three schools and their children from being dragged back down the Priority Road once under Red Clay? No one is answering this question. No one is trying to.

      4. Aactually, MANY of us are trying to, through challenging and invalidating the worthless tests used to identify schools and kids as failing. I’ve made numerous pleas since September to have the data come from another location and not force our kids to take these standardized assessments. I take extreme offense to the idea that we (educators, union leaders, district officials, board members, etc.) aren’t doing everything in our power to help the school communities.

      5. elizabeth

        Damn you, John Young, I had having to play the devils advocate! But, the general public, those who do bat an eye at education and don’t live in academia daily, are asking:What Next? And no one has offered a road map, not even you.

      6. John Young

        road map not offered?

        Not true.

        Willingness of others to see it, believe it, enact it? As always in this fiefdom of Delaware, not much.

      7. Elizabeth

        “Aactually, MANY of us are trying to, through challenging and invalidating the worthless tests used to identify schools and kids as failing.”

        Actually, I went down that road last year. John Young’s district tested my child despite “opting-out” and showing the district that no where in state code was the mandatory testing of 2nd graders ever mentioned and certainly not mandatory. The testing of 2nd graders is entirely arbitrary and falls solely on the districts to control – no DOE. Imagine my reaction when I received his scores in August. I watch as the movement finally starts to heat up and hope that those who have positions to truly influence on the ground behavior actually do.

        Jax, i never said you and others weren’t doing everything in your power to protect our children from the tests. I said that no one is trying to communicate to the public how becoming part of Red Clay will keep these school from Priority Road 2.0, borrow a number.

        The point is – the adults may have some protection in what happens next, but these children still don’t and for some, that’s not enough.

        I know that I will never again advocate the closing a school. I thought I had seen valid reasons to close a school up close and personal. After living through it as a parent, the price the child pays isn’t worth it. I fear it could happen again. I watched what it did to my children. Maybe that’s what DOE wants – me and others like me to fear it. But, there is no John Young fighting for charters. There is a charter network that advocates closing schools enrolled with children who don’t test well. There are few strong voices backing my kids. A choice? Yes, it was mine. The alternative? letting the district leave my daughter behind.

        Sadly, how the source of the ire is the same for all of us. The test. That damn test!

      8. The road map isn’t ours to make. Elected school board members and educators aren’t typically in positions of power. With all due respect, attend the meetings or listen to the audio from those that are recorded to receive communication. That is how I learn my information.

        As for opting out, my daughter did not have to take the 2nd grade “practice” test last year, and I’ll be damned if she’s taking the Smarter Balanced test this year. I sent a letter in, and if they contest it I will respond, and if they continue to tell me it is not an option we will keep her home and give her directions to sit and stare if they manage to force her in to the testing arena. I don’t play around. She is MY child and she will NOT be a pawn in this ridiculous game.

      9. John Young

        CSD is many things. It’s not “John Young’s District”

        On Sat, Feb 14, 2015 at 1:43 PM, Transparent Christina wrote:


      1. John Young

        Christina must strive to meet all needs. With limited resources and such profound need, we miss the mark sometimes. And once is once too many. In no way does that mean we should blindly support the siphoning off of massive amounts of money, combined with brain drain, to sabotage our most sacred social contract: a free, appropriate education.

        Choice is not a panacea, and in the 20 years since its inception, appears to look something more like cancer than anything else.

  3. Katie Hughes

    I think there have been many brave souls that have challenged the highers at be. It clearly shows me that their priority is the future educational rights of ALL children, which results in the future stability of our world. That should be the real focus of our people for the people in Dover should be focusing on right now. Not their political agendas. Thanks to ALL invested CSD leaders for all that you stand for our children.

  4. John Young


    Remember PZ and how the DOE and their oversight turned tail and ran? Get ready for 2.0 on that front…so staying in CSD, or moving to Red Clay is same…the only difference is CSD may get to KEEP the continuity of the community long enough for them to formally abdicate their throne (it’s how they do: Red Clay signed up for the disruption. CSD has resisted it.

    Yes, for the students.

  5. Elizabeth

    John, I remember. I remember how the entire process wreaked havoc on employees, kids, and families. I remember how two classes in the success academy were essentially written off; how it was decided that no one would care about those kids. Give their academy a fancy name, “Success” and no one will ask questions. And soon enough no one did.

    Red Clay signed up for the disruption, yep. But, what happens when these become Red Clay’s schools? I’ll go watch your video. I hope it’s worthwhile.

      1. Harrie, it wasn’t that you “worked” with DOE. There was a negotiation meeting. The board voted on it. It’s what came after that made folks very nervous. In hindsight though, no decision has been reached on the priority schools by the Rodel/Longwood Governor, so we shall see.

  6. minnehanh

    You’re essentially right. When we negotiated MOU language we were able to remove the parts (like reapplication) that were really toxic to teachers. In the end that was a plus. Why should an experienced, well thought-of, highly effective or effective teacher have to go through the humiliating process of reapplying for a job they are doing well. Makes no sense to me….

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