Tag Archives: Board of Education

LIVE from the Red Clay Board of Education Special Meeting on WEIC

(originally posted on delawareliberal.net)

Pinned: 7:08pm:  RCCSD Board Approves the District’s WEIC Plan/Draft/Outline 4-1 with 2 not present.  More details to come once I get home

Final Update:  Apologies for the complete discombobulation of a post, but here you go.  (Apparently I need to brush up on my live-blogging skills).

If you ask me, what I saw Red Clay’s board vote on tonight was accepting a plan with no source of funding that’s going to cost a lot of money, take 7 years minimum to implement, and affect thousands of children and hundreds of educators and support staff keeping them all in uncertainty until 2022.  Keep in mind the State is $130 million short already next year, and Dover has said any financial changes will be “revenue neutral”.  If that is true, ANY cost to get the WEIC plan moving must be offset by a reduction in spending somewhere else in the gov’t. Below are the paraphrased details that I could type up as the meeting went on.  They’re disorganized, but there’s some good information in there.

The Players: CT: Catherine Thompson, Board Member.

KR: Kenny Rivera, RCCSD Board President

TA: Ted Ammann, Assistant Superintendent RCCSD

Jill Floore – RCCSD Chief Financial Officer

How will we know what the funding for WEIC is going to look like?

– Governor’s budget comes out in Jan 2016, that will provide the first look at funding changes.

What about giving the Board of Ed power to adjust operating tax like they do Tuition Tax and Debt Service tax?

– RCCSD plan includes a provision to permit local school boards to adjust operating tax rate without referendum, until a rolling property reassessment takes over.

What’s the rolling property reassessment going to look like?

– 1/3 of the properties in the district’s tax base will be assessed at a time with an undetermined amount of time to complete each phase of the reassessment and this would be a statewide rolling reassessment process managed at the County level.

What about transportation for students who choice to schools outside their feeder patterns after the lines change? By law, students have the right to remain in the program/school they are in until graduation:
– Ted Ammann, Asst. Superintendent for Red Clay: “One of the early points we thought we’d get into an argument with Christina about but we didn’t” was over how to transport choice students.  If the program is in Christina, CSD will handle transport, if in RCCSD, Red Clay handles it.

But then Ted threw in the Sterck School:  “Not unlike how its done with the Sterck School, if a student attends there a Christina bus goes to their development to pick them up.”  While that is true, Sterck School for the Deaf is a statewide program, not a district program. Tuition tax paid in the student’s residential district pays for the student to attend the program.  So if a student who lives in Red Clay goes to Sterck (in Christina), a Christina bus does pick them up but Red Clay’s taxpayers are paying for that.  So no, Mr. Ammann it is not like how it’s done with the Delaware School for the Deaf.

Another point of confusion for me came up when Christina’s special programs in the city were mentioned:

CT: If a student likes the program they’re in, they’ll have the opportunity to stay in the program. So would we see overcrowded schools in RCCSD?

KR: That would be on Christina, example: if the student is in Glasgow, they’d choose to stay in Glasgow. Paid by Christina.  So we might see undercrowding in the first few years.

CT: What about Christina’s Special Ed programs: Pyle Academy, DAP, Douglass?

TA: If we get the buildings, we will only offer programs we decide we want to offer. If Douglass program building comes to RCC, CSD wouldn’t be able to host the program there. RCCSD is in no rush to take buildings, so they may permit CSD to use the building to phase out current students.

Delaware Autism Program (DAP), like the Delaware School for the Deaf is not a Christina program, it’s statewide, meaning that tuition taxes paid in the students resident district pay for attendance.  DAP also isn’t in the city.  Christina only pays for students who live in the Christina School District to attend these programs. Sarah Pyle Academy is also tuition funded. Whichever district the student lives in is the district paying for them to go there.

Ted Ammann also stated that Red Clay, rightly so, will need to do a full assessment of the Christina city buildings to figure out what needs to be done to them to get them up (or down) to Red Clay’s specifications at a cost of 8 cents per square foot. This would also be included in the “Transition Funds” requested by Red Clay to come from the State.

Red Clay also plans to have a 1:1 technology program fully implemented by 2022, when the WEIC transition will be completed.

The idea of creating a Wilmington City “sub-district” of the Red Clay Consolidated District was brought up along with what modifications to Board representation and governance would have to be made as the transition moves forward.

Board President Kenny Rivera believes that the WEIC plan will generate the additional resources needed to move education forward in Delaware.

As I said above, the Board approved a plan with very little detail to it and no clear picture of costs associated with it, on the premises that “the State will give us the money” and it’ll be figured out by July 2016.

Merv Daughtery, Red Clay’s Superintendent said if July 2016 gets here and there’s no funding, then there’s no plan.

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5:43pm – Support resources for Low-Income and ELL: Jill Floore, CFO – multiple models have been discussed but there are no final details.

ELL: One specific weight for weighted funding?  Or sliding scale depending on English proficiency?

Committee unanimously endorsed property reassessment. Long discussion on equalization funding formula, frozen since 2009.

In 2015 dollars, less per pupil state funding than in 2008.  Extra time programming, SROs, ELL ‘discretionary funds’ were the most frequently cut.

5:39pm

Revised WEIC Timeline:

Approval Phase – First half 2016
Planning Phase – July 2016-June2017
Transition Phase – July 2017 – 6/18
Implementation Phase – 7/18 – 6/22

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Red Clay’s Board of Education has called a special session public meeting this evening.  The lone topic on the agenda is WEIC.

This will be my attempt at live blogging the meeting, start to finish. You can check out the agenda and related documents from Red Clay’s BoardDocs site: http://www.boarddocs.com/de/rccsd/Board.nsf/Public

Meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30pm.

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Credit Where It’s Due

Last night 6 of Christina’s Board of Education members did something extremely unsavory yet equally necessary.  The preliminary budget for 2015-16 was approved with all proposed reductions, some of which are shown here.  In what undoubtedly be one of the most challenging years in this District’s history, the Board did make the call when they had to and for that, I thank them.

Notable reductions, as mentioned by CFO Silber last night, School resource officers utilization will take the form of 1 officer in each high school, 1 officer within the City of Wilmington to be shared by Bayard Middle and Sarah Pyle, and 1 officer to be shared by the 4 middle schools in the Newark area.

Elementary counselors will have their utilization changed as well.   Each elementary school will have a counselor, but the days and hours the counselor is present will change from full-day and full-week hours.

EPER pay: the same number and type of EPER positions will be available in the District. The amount of funding to fill them will be reduced by $629,000 leaving around $900,000 to be allocated to the schools for use in filling some of the positions. The decisions on what positions will be filled is up to the each school’s leader.

As I mentioned previously, building discretionary budgets are reduced by approximately $800,000

Management and payment of all leases for multi-function copier machines has now been taken off the schools and will be paid and managed by the District business office.  Previously each school made payments for their copiers out of their building budgets.  That will not be the case this year.  Speaking of which, if you or anyone you know works in a CSD building with a leased Canon copier/printer, tell them to send all their print jobs to and do all their copying on those machines.  The lease agreements & payments with Canon cover all expenses associated with those machines except paper.  Any other printer, the District is responsible for toner, maintenance/replacement, paper, ink, etc.  Seems silly at first but toner and printers are expensive and that adds up quickly in schools.

Anyway, the analysis and breakdowns will continue.  Right now I’m trying to find someone to start an IV drip of caffeine for me.

eper_2016

supplies_materials_red ContractedSvcs_red

Declining CSD Enrollment

Comparing last year and this coming school year as far as enrollment and discretionary building budgets, the overall picture gets gloomier.  It is important to remember that projected enrollments are always lower than what the actual numbers will be come Sept. 30.  How much lower is what we really need to look at.   In this table (color scale is mine) we’re looking at decimated discretionary building budgets from 2014-15 to 2015-16.  Enrollment numbers are very surprising as well.

We’re looking at a preliminary reduction of almost $750,000 and a loss of 708 students.

Discretionary_Budg_Change_FY16
Discretionary budget and enrollment changes 2014-15 to 2015-16

If we’re looking at just actual and projected enrollment numbers over the last 3 years, it’s not any better:

Actual-Proj_Enrollments
Enrollment changes 2013-2015

I know looking at tables and colors and numbers everywhere is confusing as all hell.  I’ll try to help.

From 2013-14 to 2014-15 the District initially was projected to lose about 798 students, they actually lost 530. (Shown as Student Recovery: 268).  From 2014-15 to 2015-16 CSD projects a loss of 976 students.  Obviously we’re not at September 30 yet, so we don’t know what the actual numbers will be.  But assuming CSD recovers the same number of students, it’s still down around 700 students.

You can see the District consistently projects losses greater than what they actually turn out to be which, for budgeting purposes, makes some sense.  But the hard truth of the matter is that CSD continues to hemorrhage students and continues to operate the same number of buildings.  Some big, drastic changes are in order.

The final piece of the financial mess is factoring in the Charter growth and cost.  I’m writing that now.

Please keep in mind, all of this is preliminary.  We have no idea what things will look like in September.  And the budget is still a proposal at this point in time, subject to CSD Board of Ed approval tomorrow night at August General Business meeting.

Budget Me Some of Your Time

By now, everyone knows of the failed second attempt at a referendum by the Christina School District and its supporters.  In the last 6 months we have had many, many more residents beginning to look into the way our public schools are funded.  Even with the referendum failures, one silver lining is the renewed public interest in public school finances.  On a personal note, I am absolutely thrilled that anyone is taking even 5 minutes to look at a financial report for the District because that is 5 minutes more than they were spending on it prior to the referenda.

What I’d like to do going forward is use this blog (and anyone who might share my posts) as a platform to start bringing public school financing, particularly CSD’s, in to the spotlight and transforming it into “the real world”.  Let’s be honest, a 25 page financial report is going make 90% of the people who read it go cross-eyed.  It is chock full of numbers and terms many do not understand and does not really contain the level of description and clarity members of the public want and need to see.  I’d like to begin changing that right now.

Let’s start off by explaining what the Final Budget reports you can find on Christina’s website are not.  They are not low level, highly descriptive, line item lists of what is being spent where and why.  They are not intended to give anyone reading it information on “how much money goes to textbooks?” or “how much money is going to classroom supplies like pencils and paper” or any specific line item expense information.  They are not intended to give anyone reading it an understanding of exactly where the final destinations of all funds are.  They are not, by nature, able to be easily understood by anyone who has not committed some amount of time to learning about the processes that go into creating the document itself.

Then, what ARE the final budgets? The final budget report is intended as a decision making tool to help the Board of Education identify the main sources of revenue for the District, how much revenue is projected to come in, why, and how it will be allocated to the departments/areas within the District and whether the revenue is sufficient to cover all projected costs and if not, what is causing the revenue deficiency.  Its second major purpose is to identify any external or internal factors that will significantly impact the revenue streams or expenses of the District.   A third major purpose is to give the Board of Education an early picture of what District finances will look like at the conclusion of the next fiscal year.  All of this is for the Board’s decision making process about what changes may need to be made to revenue and/or expenses.  The final budget is voted on by the Board of Education as the District’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year.  Any expense the District Administration makes that is contained in the budget after receiving final approval from the Board of Education is considered “authorized and appropriate”.

You may be thinking, well where do I go to find out specific information about exactly what the money is being spent on?  Great question.  Stay tuned.

Big Hero Six(teen)

What started out as a typical meeting of 5 CBOC members quickly swelled to a very crowded 16 person meeting.  In the year and a half I’ve served on CBOC, this was the first time we’ve had more than 6 people in the room for a meeting, the first time we’ve had more than one teacher (3 this time!), parents, several retired persons who have grown children that went through the district and want to help make things better, two professors, and a parent who has children in the Charter system and an aunt who wants to see CSD get better because her niece is in the district.  All crammed into a room that was too small with a 52 page financial report and dozens of questions.

We had questions about what our taxes do for the district, how charters get funded, how much we’re spending (or not spending, as is the case) on purchasing new supplies for common core curricula, State of Delaware negotiated pizza contracts, how teachers are simply overwhelmed by the amount of testing and data entry they are required to do and how the district “suddenly” developed a $9 million budget shortfall (Hint: it wasn’t sudden) and exactly what our property taxes fund and do not fund.

Most importantly, we talked about buckets of money.  Yes, I said buckets.  When you have a 52 page financial report in front of you with hundreds of line items under dozens of categories, the best way to make sense of it is to imagine that each bucket has a category label on it.  And the monies that go into each bucket can only be taken out and spent on whatever the label on the bucket says.  That’s how it works in public school financial operations.  I can explain it way more in depth, but you should really come out to our April Citizen’s Budget Oversight Committee meeting to learn more!

The bottom line is, we have interest now.  320% more interest if my memory is serving me up the correct number of guests we had last Wednesday.

There’s a steep uphill climb that we are about to embark on.  The climb begins this Thursday at 6:00pm when the referendum steering committee has its first meeting.  Word is, I have an “in” with one of the co-chairs of the committee. Looking forward to getting to work!

3 Months Later

Hey, where did those last 3 months go?  Let’s see, what’s transpired since my last post.  Red Clay and Christina went out for referendums in February.  Red Clay’s passed, Christina’s was mauled by a bear.  Red Clay did a FANTASTIC job of marketing, advertising and selling their referendum to their residents, students and staff.  Christina…did not.  Red Clay celebrated on Feb 24th.  Christina did not. Christina inked a deal with DDoE to retain control of their three “priority” schools through 2015-16 keeping all staff and leadership but adding assistant principals to each school who will *not* report to the principal they work under.  Instead they will report directly to DDoE.  Can’t see that causing any problems.  Plans to redistrict Christina out of Wilmington are moving forward but they still hinge on the General Assembly to rewrite the laws.  If that does happen, Red Clay gets 3 new inner-city schools from Christina.  Get your popcorn, I’m sure this is far from done.

Christina’s Board of Education passed a resolution submitted by Board Member Paige last night (5-2) protecting students from “retaliation” if their parents opt them out of State assessments.  Colonial’s Board followed suit, too.  From Exceptional Delaware:

“If this board can’t stand for parents, what the hell can it stand for?” -John Young
After fiery debate by board member George Evans, the Christina Board of Education passed a parent opt out resolution by a vote of 5-2.  The no votes came from President Fred Polaski and eternal board member George Evans.  The amended resolution was scaled back to focus on parental right to opt out of the standardized assessment, which in Delaware is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
Christina School District Board of Education Resolution on Parent Opt-Out of Standardized Testing
Be it resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education will support a parent’s decision to opt their child(ren) out of standardized state testing without any repercussions from the ChristinaSchool District; and, therefore,
Be it further resolved that the Christina School District Board of Education will support the Superintendent to provide direction to all affected schools to provide meaningful, educational activities to replace testing time for those students who will not be participating in standardized testing.

Christina’s Board of Ed also approved May 27th as the next try for an operating referendum and let me tell you the proverbial mud is already being slung on social media by residents of the district who appear to be less than informed about how a public school district operates and is financed.  During “Referendum: Part I” in February, I spent a LOT of time on social media trying to share information about this very subject.  Some welcomed that effort.  Others did…not.   I’m at it again though, with Part II.  I refuse to sit down and shut up because people don’t know what they’re talking about.  I’m not a teacher but I’m gonna play one for this referendum.

Other news about the referendum: CSD is asking for volunteers to be part of committees that will be formed to work on the referendum process.  If you are interested and want to volunteer some time, from CSD’s Facebook post:

 CHRISTINA SEEKS VOLUNTEERS TO SERVE ON REFERENDUM COMMITTEE AND SUBCOMMITTEES
The Christina School District seeks volunteers to serve on a Referendum Committee for the District’s Operating Referendum scheduled for Wednesday, May 27. The Operating Referendum seeks funding to support increased costs and to help the District address an anticipated $9 million budget deficit.
All are welcome to serve on the Referendum Committee, and there are no requirements for serving other than an interest in contributing to a successful campaign. Interested individuals are asked to send an email with name, address, phone number, and email address to: info@christina.k12.de.us, or to call 302-552-2610. Information may also be faxed to 302-429-5857 or mailed to Christina School District Referendum Committee, C/O Public Information Office, 600 North Lombard Street, Wilmington, DE 19801.
Please send information by March 23 in order to receive all future notifications. A Kick-Off meeting of the Referendum Committee is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, March 26 at 6:00 p.m. at the Eden Support Services Center in Bear.

I’m in.  Are you?

Next CBOC meeting is March 18.  6:30pm at Gauger-Cobbs Middle in the professional library.  I can say we’ll have some new attendees for this one.  It’ll be good to (finally) see some new faces!

What’s The Priority?

In the ongoing battle between Governor Markell and his Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with the Christina and Red Clay Consolidated School Districts over the 6 “priority schools”, an Op Ed surfaced on delawareonline.com last weekend written by Secretary Murphy.  The synopsis is that he and the Department of Education know exactly what’s needed to turn around the 6 ‘priority’ schools without sharing very many details other than the provision of throwing $6 million at the schools over 4 years (with $160,000k/year earmarked for new principals at each school) to help pay for whatever they have in mind.

Without going through the entire Op Ed, let me just say this.  The Christina community, administration and Board of Education have been working tirelessly to create plans for all 3 of our “priority” schools.  Emphasis on Christina community (which includes parents, teachers, building leaders, citizens, etc).  The plan isn’t done yet, but it’s closer now than it was 2 months ago.  All we’re hearing out of Dover is barking about meeting the arbitrary January 7 deadline to have the final plan submitted for review.  There haven’t been any constructive contributions from DOE, the Secretary or the Governor all of whom have been repeatedly asked to participate in the development of the plans for Stubbs, Bancroft and Bayard.  If you say you want to help then decline each opportunity to do so, are you sure you actually want to help?

In other news, last night Red Clay’s Board voted 6-1 to approve DOE’s MOU before actually having a plan for their “priority” schools in place, and before actually engaging their residents, teachers, parents, or anyone else.  That seems backwards to me.  Contrast with what Christina is doing before accepting the MOU:  bringing parents, teachers, principals, district administration, citizens and the Board of Education together to develop plans for each school, and really focusing on finalizing the plan and then submitting it to DOE for review and future collaborative efforts.  Plans are coming together, but Dover is hammering on the January 7th deadline for having the plans submitted.  The CSD Board of Education is of the opinion that we should take our time to make sure we prepare absolute best of the best for these school turnaround plan and if that means we go past January 7th, so be it.  The kids deserve it.

What I’m getting out of this as a resident of the Christina School District with 2 kids currently in the district and as someone who serves on Christina’s CBOC is DOE, Governor Markell and Secretary Murphy want you to agree to their nonspecific terms before they’re willing to engage and participate.  Should we all be working together?  Yes.  If you agree to someone’s ultimatum before getting to work, are you really working together?  I don’t typically sign a contract until I know exactly what’s written in it and I’m not sure why Dover is asking our district to do just that.

So what is DOE’s priority here?  Working with the districts and communities to do what’s best for these kids?  Or just getting the districts to agree and go along with what they have in mind?