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Thinking about driving? Stay Home!

I left this comment on Kilroy's this morning,, in response the story of neighborhood kid who was getting a guilt trip from her boss about coming to work in a Level 1 State of Emergency. 

I tell this story every year. No, I don't want pity.  I want to know that at the end of the day, however many hours that day may be, that my husband will make it safely home to our family.  There are countless families like mine.  Please, think first, drive last.

"I guess being on hand to tell the customers who didn't prepare that the store is all sold out of ice melt and shovels is essential business... Stay home, honey. 
My husband is a true essential employee.  He directs environmental services in a nursing home - a care facility that must run 24/7/365.  He drove up to Wilmington two days ago to drop off our little car and borrow his father's 30 year old suburban.  Then he hit the grocery stores, BJ's, the Tractor Supply store, checked the snow blower, ran the generator, and surprised me with a little electric heater to plug into the generator should we loose heat. This morning he packed up the shovels and melt into the suburban and by 6 am was making the slow trek into work where he'll run the laundry and address the snow/ice/salt being trekked into the building by other essential personnel.  He'll probably stay the night b/c the City of Wilmington is notorious for its failure to plow their own roads keeping his small team of employees from being able to make it into the facility. (Actually, the City's weather response failures hurt every department in the facility ensuring that nurses, dietary, and maintenance work forces are understaffed during every snow/ice event.)

Yep, stay home, kid.  Stay off the roads!  Keep them clear for DelDot, for first responders, and for essential employees who have to travel them. 

Stay Home! Sleep in. Go sledding.  Be a kid."
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Dear Rep. Jaques, You're Wrong... But, it's not too late to change

Dear Earl,

Your're wrong:

Jaques was one of five representatives who voted against House Bill 50. He says parents already have the right to opt out, so he doesn't understand the need for a new law.
"It doesn't accomplish anything that can't already be done," he said.    -The News Journal

About parents having the right to opt out. Let me tell you a story.  A long time ago, (three years back) my son was in second grade.  I took readers on my journey to opt my child out of the practice year of standardized testing.  I sent the letters to the district who bumped me to the DOE who pushed me back on our district.  I said I opting to use my right to direct my child's education as case law currently permits.  Yes, yes.  No test.  That was the final verbal edict from my district before they completely stopped talking to me about the test at all.  I made the mistake of assuming my wishes were being honored.  Imagine my surprise come summer when I received his testing scores.  I was floored.  Not by the scores (he's one smart cookie) but that he'd been tested at all. 

But, it's not too late to change:

There has been no substantial change in testing regulations during the last three years, other than to usher out one test and replace it with another.   

"It doesn't accomplish anything that can't already be done." Yes. it does.  It gives back to parents the right to opt out - a right that has been taken from us by the shading dealings of the DOE and our various districts.  

And, yes, that is a good enough reason to override the Governor. B/c at the end of the day, it's not about making friends. I didn't elect you to make friends.  I elected YOU to make good policy.

Let's make good policy!


Elizabeth Scheinberg
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Mayor Williams - It's NOT Wilmington's $. Ante Up or Get Out!

It's hard to have compassion for Wilmington's Mayor Williams.  Especially when you know he doesn't want it. But, we can't ignore the plight of poverty and violence that has ensnared Delaware's largest city. I swell with empathy for the children of Wilmington, the innocents in the game of politics that threatens their safety.

And, so, on this last day of 2015, I think it's only fitting to remind Mayor Williams that the money being offered by A.G. Matt Denn is a gift.  It's not his money to turn down.  It's not his money to place conditions upon. It's not his money whine or cry about.  It was earned by the economic casualties of bad mortgages who lost their homes and haven't seen a penny for their pain.

This money was stolen out from under innocent families across this state who will never benefit from the settlement that brought these funds here. It's there money.  And you spit at them every time you complain about the one restriction that the AG and Dover has placed upon this money.  
In particular, Williams is worried about a sentence in the summary of the committee’s vote that says once it has reviewed a report by a public safety consultant, “the Joint Finance Committee will determine whether it should recommend to the full General Assembly any changes to the City of Wilmington’s unilateral authority to oversee police operations within the City of Wilmington or any such other measures as it deems appropriate.”
Mayor Williams, Wilmington's children (young and old) are dying.  The State is offering you additional funds and foot patrols and an analysis of policing in the city.  Yes, that analysis could spur the legislature to make changes to Wilmington's policing authority, but really, does that matter when your city is dying.

Give Denn the Data!  
 or Forgo all State funds that support policing. 
All of them. 
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Gov' Markell's Legacy - A Failed DuPont and a Broken Education System

Can Delawareans Survive One More Year Under Markell's Leadership?

A Broken School System, A panicked State Board of Education, A weak Economy, Failure to invest in BioTechnology. Fiskar, Bloom Boxes and now... The Dismantling of DuPont...

What will the longitudinal data tell us when the full depths of destruction by this governor has been brought to bare? How many McMansions will be in foreclosure? How many Delawareans will slide backward? How many career-ready adults will find themselves career-less? 

This is your legacy, Jack Markell.  It is your burden to bear.  Will you even remember us, the homeless, the hungry, the underemployed, after your snazzy political appointment comes through?  

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Dear State Board, Please Read the News Journal

Christina district gets reprieve on Priority Schools

The Christina School District's three Priority Schools in inner-city Wilmington can keep their principals and teachers next year while state leaders grapple with a redistricting plan that would hand over all of the district's schools in the city limits to the Red Clay School District...

Dear State Board, please read Delaware's premier rag mag. Sometimes, the news is good.
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Celebrate the PTA - OPT OUT! Join the rally for the Override!

Delaware PTA To Host Override House Bill 50 Veto Rally At Legislative Hall On January 12th


Delaware PTA

Override House Bill 50 Veto Rally

January 12th, 2016

2:00 PM

Legislative Hall

Dover, DE

from Exceptional Delaware!
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Contrary to Popular Beilief : FOIAs Are NOT Free

Red Font/bolding is for emphasis.

TransparentChristina has shared some posts about a recent CSD FOIA with no comment mechanism.  It's a tactic we often see associated with political bullies, a markellian method to stifle public discourse.
So, let's have at it: FOIA is NOT Free. I disagree with TC.  I wasn't present at the meeting and didn't hear the public comment.  However, I can offer a rebuttal on generalities:

FOIA is a fantastic tenet of our democracy. With little exclusion, FOIA creates a lens for the public to look through and evaluate the performance of both elected and appointed officials. It is invaluable. But, it does come with a price tag. 

A recent CSD FOIA ran the district upwards of $3000.00.  Not a lot when compared to the budget of that beast, but significant enough to those who care.  I care. CSD is in a financial crisis.  And while I love FOIA (and I really, really do) I can't justify what my district was forced to expend to satisfy a malicious and mostly frivolous FOIA. (Already noted in a previous post that 1 facet of the FOIA was conceded to by CSD; as for the other two issues, the DOJ found for the board, not the complainant.)

Forced to respond?

Yes, TC contends that "the public body has to DECIDE whether to respond via counsel to the allegation."  That's true on face value. But, only on face value. The body could choose to ignore that notification and request for evidence sent by the Department of Justice.  This will produce two outcomes, neither preferable to the engaged constituent:
  1. First, the body runs the risk of creating a public perception that it is above the law, above even the Department of Justice.  This route will tarnish the body's public perception = a public less willing to support it.
  2. The body run the risk the FOIA opinion will be founded on whatever evidence the complainant provides - legitimate or fraudulent. I had the pleasure of communicating with the Department of Justice this past week. The department was most helpful in explaining what happens when the subject of FOIA does not respond to the DOJ's inquiry.
    DOJ's explanation:

     "opinions will be based on the evidence available."
    Refusal of the body to participate = radical neglect that defeats the entire judicial process around FOIA.  It impugns the SPIRIT of FOIA! And leaves it open for manipulation because the only "evidence" provided will be that of the complainant.   

Moreover, regardless of the body's decision to respond or not, the FOIA has already begun to cost tax payers' dollars. How? When the FOIA petition reaches the DOJ, the department is obligated to assign an attorney to investigate the allegations. The hours consumed by the investigation of the petition and research into both the application of the law in the past and present and the evidence presented drain resources (financial and manpower) that could be dedicated to a host of other investigations occurring within the department. While the DOJ may budget funds to a FOIA department, the absences of a current petition does not mean that department personnel are idle.  It is fair to say their talents are used elsewhere within the department. The cost clock is ticking.  

Thus, the Outcome of the body not responding does not mean FOIA is FREE.  There is still a cost born by the tax payers - the cost of DOJ's investigation is supported by tax payer provided funds!

Superfluous FIOA and Malicious Intent:

I've written my fair share of FOIA over the years.  It's a necessary process and a right guaranteed by our democracy.  It holds public bodies accountable for their collective and individual actions.  However, it can also be abused. In the case of the Christina FOIA, there has been a limited dialogue and deep misunderstanding propagated by those who wish to claim winner-ship of the FOIA.

The petition stated 
Based on these 2 concerns in combination, I am asking for clarification of the previous FOIA opinion in order to ensure the CSD BOE acted properly. It is my ardent hope that we did so, but I feel we need to confirm this in light of the Appoquinimink FOIA opinion.
It appears the petitioner is acting in the best interest of the pubic body. However, in the comment section of this post, the petitioner goes on to make this accusation:

...Board members need to understand their roles and those that withhold information from others simply impede the governance necessary to help children. Worse, others don’t seem to take past experience in governance and apply the positive parts while discarding the negative. I’m not speaking of any single member, but some about all.
It’s a disease, and I think I know how you feel about those that flout the FOIA statute and act to secretly traffic information that board members need to make informed decisions.
And there you have it: That this petition provided clarification to the petitioner on several fairly recent FOIA opinions issued by the DOJ was secondary to the petitioner's assertation that his fellow board members failed to learn from past experience and more importantly that they "secretly traffic information" to eachother. The DOJ opinion essential deems this malicious accusation to be unfounded.  It did not opine of any secret or otherwise information trafficked between the body's members.

This was a superfluous and malicious filing. Had the body voted to ignore the Department of Justice's communication, the body would have lost its opportunity to provide widely important exculpatory evidence and the finding might have been radically erroneous. 

FOIA IS NOT FREE.  And while it is open for abuse, the thoughtful and correct course is for a body to respond always.  It is only way to reach a unbiased finding based on evidence and law.

And if someone is telling you otherwise, they probably have oceanfront property in Tennessee to sell you too.

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Delaware MET And Innovative Schools

Three Letters: OMG

The Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education have collectively abdicated their responsibilities regarding the chartering authority as evidenced by the CSAC's Formal Review/Final Report of the Delaware Met:

Truly a sad story.  

Will Innovative be held accountable for its role?
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Cause for Debate? Board members violating executive privelege?

It's been a busy week for me and that's delayed my dissection of the latest Department of Justice FOIA on education issues:

But, here are my first thoughts: Red is direct quotations from non-CE&1st sources.

From: John Young's FOIA to the DOJ regarding the 8/4/15 board meeting:

Additionally, it has come to my attention (I was unable to attend this meeting due to a work meeting out of state) that the Board held a vote in executive session to prevent a board member from making and audio recording of the meeting (not sure that practice is permitted/not permitted). I believe that all votes must occur in public and not in an executive session. I am seeking to determine if this was a FOIA violation with the expectation that a determination as such would likely not yield a remediation beyond a response indicating the BOE will not hold any votes in executive session.
 And the FOIA Found:

...we find that the CSB violated FOIA when it “recommended that [the] Executive Session meeting not be recorded” while in executive session.  Pursuant to 29 Del. C. §10004(c), “all voting on public business must take place at a public meeting and the results of the vote made public” (emphasis supplied).

Clearly, there is no debate that the CSD board erred. And DOJ considers this error so minute that it has not recommended compensatory measures.
The CSB conceded that it voted on the recording issue during executive session and agreed to refrain from taking any votes in executive session in the future...
However, we find that the executive session vote did not affect substantial public rights because no law requires executive sessions to be audio recorded.  Therefore, no remediation is required.
The DOJ finding does, however, raise another question.  Mr. Young stipulated that he was not present at the meeting. How then did Mr. Young come to know that a vote was taken during this executive session? And if a fellow board member felt that a violation occurred, why didn't he/she file the foia?

And the deeper question - Where does executive privilege begin and end? Do individual board members hold an executive authority that allows them discuss the content of executive session outside of the session?

Remember that the content is highly confidential regarding legal or personnel and that executive privilege can only be waived by the subject of the personnel inquiry.  

While the vote in question was not personnel,  Mr. Young's petition does raise an important legal question: Can the body refuse the right of a member to record in executive? Does the concept fall within the legal realm? Was the discussion legal and just the vote a violation? If so, was privilege violated when a discussion occurred outside of executive about this particular content?

The DOJ has found that "the executive session vote did not affect substantial public rights because no law requires executive sessions to be audio recorded." And the CSB was fortunate in that regard.  

But, the question that remains to be answered, and sadly DOJ did not opine on it - Where does privilege begin and end?

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When we are all French...

In Support of France
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The Upside of a Potential Hoax?

Exceptional Delaware lit up blogoland on Friday when he published a post about the possible closing of Delaware Met.  He believes his sources are legit (I asked about his tip and no I do not know who his sources are) and he has continued to dig into the story. Word on the street - He scooped the Journal, Jack didn't like it and kiboshed the story, and now there's a covert operation in play to save the Met.

Whether the story is a hoax or not, Kevin's piece raised a serious and important question.  One I can't answer, but would love to know the answer to:

If a school closes after Sept. 30, does that school receive the funds they earned up to September 30? Is the end game to collect, close and exit Delaware as an entity still afloat financially?

More importantly, is there a mechanism in place in current code and law to force a charter to return its funding so that those funds can follow the affected students to their next school?

This is the conversation about our ancient school funding formula that will never see the light of day. Yet, all those Dover legislative aides who got awesome raises this year ought to be delving into code as we write and read this weekend. Before charter schools, this idea would never have risen to the collective mind of the public.  Delaware didn't close schools and when districts did shutter outdated and excessed plants it happened over the summer ensuring the funds followed the children to their next district home. And then we found the charter oasis.  Where the state does step in and shutdowns charter schools.  When the state does threaten to shutter district schools.

What happens next?

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