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State Employee Healthcare Should be a No Brainer

$1 Billion.
That's the estimated health care cost for Delaware's state employees by 2020.  (Remember when 2020 was just a tv show?  I'm definitely feeling my age.)

Our Gov. wants to balance his budget on the backs of state employees.  And he's got it wrong.  At least that's the opinion of the working poor, the non-unionized and unionized alike.

Yes, not all state employees belong to a union.  And some are paid just dreadful wages.  Single parent supports a family of four on $20,000?  Who does that these days?  Imagine all the two earners families who don't ever see the light of day over $45,000?  And Delaware has a ton of them, under-employed earners who have yet to make a post-recession comeback!

If you are non-union, why even work for the State?  For the health insurance.  I am a SME - Subject Matter Expert.  I have a special set of skills and knowledge that the state needs to fulfill its commitment to our jointly chosen field.

When I was stay-at-home wife and mother, my husband carried our health insurance at the cost of $12,000/year.  Twelve grand was our share, plus co-pays and deductibles.  Thank you, private sector.  It broke us, b/c after paying the premium we couldn't afford to go to the doctors or medical aid units. While we tried to keep up with our children's healthcare needs, they went years without visiting a dentist or eye doctor.  A two day stint in the hospital under my husband's insurance cost us more than $3,000.00.

My job was our savior. Although the pay is low, the affordable insurance means my children and I can see our doctors and specialists.  My husband, however, is still capitated to his employer's plan.

I can't tell you how insulted I was to read Ann Visalli's comments in the News Journal this morning:

Ann Visalli, Markell’s budget director, who announced her resignation Friday to take a job with St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, said changes to the health care plan would ask employees “to be good consumers and have a stake in how their healthcare dollars are spent.”
Come on, Ann.  You can't seriously think that state employees are abusing their healthcare benefits? That's what you are insinuating, whether you publicly admit it or not.  Healthcare dollars are spent on HEALTHCARE! We, the employees of the State, don't set the co-pays and fees. YOU, the State do, when you negotiate with the INSURANCE PROVIDERS!  Do YOUR job and negotiate for savings from THEM.  Not US!

(the no-brainer part - Graduated premiums.  Make the state's $100,000 + employees pay more for insurance.)

St. Andrew's can have you!  Insult them for a while.


Category: 1 comments

Jake's Take on DE's Pooch Patrol Problem. With a special Nod To Patricia Blevins!

Jake left a fascinating comment on yesterday's satyric post on an animal welfare and the SPCA's serving Delaware.  I don't usually wade into this type of manure. I just wanted to make a point - ALL of the agencies and organizations claiming to be serving our state's unwanted, lost, and sick animals are playing politics when they shouldn't be. They should be playing caregiver.  Except, that would require certain politicians to stop playing God.  And some just can't...stop. Like a trainwreck, Patti.

And be sure to follow the link below to Delaware SPCA's response to yesterday's NJ story.  Their director is far better spoken that First State's Director Usilton.  (And I still think that someone's contract should be euthanized.)

Here ya go, Jake.  And Happy Autism Awareness Day!

Jake has left a new comment on your post "Playing Politics with Innocent Animals - Not an Ed...": 

The director at Delaware SPCA provided an excellent response to the inflammatory nature of the article. Fortunately residents can see what is happening, and a state contractor trying to strong arm other shelters to force them to do their job is completely innapropriate.

Before dog control contracts, Kent County SPCA (now known as First State Animal Center) was a small shelter and built the larger facility to do their job as dog control. Needless to say, the majority of their funding was pulled due to politics by the State, and as a result their are limited funds to hold animals. 

Capacity care for animals is based on the number of personnel and health resources needed to care for those animals, and Kent County has the smallest population in the state with under 170,000 people and with lower per capita earnings, so clearly the donation pool is much smaller than the shelters in New Castle County. As a result, FSAC is using boarding and daycare in the second building to supplement their donations to still remain a larger number of animals than they handled before dog control. Unfortunately Mr. Lamb doesn't have the business sense to realize that a shelter with a donation base under half a million can't handle the same number of dogs as they were handling when their revenue was $4 million with the various contracts. 

Mr. Lamb wanted the contract and has aligned himself with the folks that have been trying to put FSAC out of business for years, but what I think is odd is that those complaining about the SPCA's never spoke up when Faithful Friends wasn't taking dogs from FSAC, and was also importing animals from other states. In fact, BVSPCA also still imports dogs into their shelter, and where is the shock and awe about the fact he wants other shelters to do his job while he brings animals into his shelter from the south?

Maybe folks need to accept the reality that a handful of folks plotted and planned to get FSAC out of dog control and those folks and their new contractor need to assume responsibility for those actions. 

-Original Message----- 
From: "Blevins Patricia (LegHall)" 
To: Anne Cavanaugh 
Cc: "Ranji Jennifer (Governor)" , "jane@faithfulfriends" , "bengal98@aol" 
Date: Wed, 23 Nov 2011 15:39:14 +0000 

Subject: RE: meeting tonight recap - confidential 
Maybe you could bid on Kent County at $3.52 per person, same as Wilmington. You would beat their bid. If they lost just one contract, they would be underwater for sure, because they are so drastically underbidding New Castle County.
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Christina School District's Other Route to Poverty

Wilmington is not the only place to find deep institutional poverty alive and well.

Route 40.  With some Northern New Castle County's last pastoral views sandwiched between shopping centers of various sizes and blight, where low-rise apartment buildings sprung up against the working class neighborhoods of the 1990s, before there was a mortgage crisis.

Where arsonists move faster than mobile home park managers when it comes to demolition...

Where residents fear retribution from their lot owners for speaking too loudly about the drugs, crime, homelessness, and the squatting that happens just next door, a few hundred feet from the Boys and Girls Club.

Further off the main Route, you can't miss the McMansions, where builders capitalized on cheap farmland.  But, most of us have to drive past at least one and often more than one trailer park to reach those well-manicured greenscapes. Those trailer parks and the older Section 8 neighborhoods that line the highway.

Where Brookmont Farms became Sparrow Run because sum years back some well-meaning political hack thought a new name might re-invigorate the suburbs version the projects.

And where Westside Family Healthcare led the charge into a poverty stricken corridor and opened the first clinic for un/under-insured residents.  Long before MedExpress put down roots or Glasgow Medical Aid grew its foot print.

The Route 40 Corridor is still a sleeper cell of poverty.  All the conversations in the world, and I am told there have been many, haven't made a dent.  The poor get poorer everyday.

Just Read This,

More importantly, look at the photos from the fire.  A picture tells a million stories.

Category: 1 comments

The Autism Post - World Autism Awareness Day!

It's World Autism Day! Shine Blue, Delaware.  

I want to depart some awesome and inspiring words to you today, tell you of a journey conquered, teach you something rare and humorous, move you to tears...

And Autism will do all of that. But, I am having trouble finding the words. Bear with Me.

Autism is Brutal.



Brutal.  Like the cat that shadows you wherever you roam. 

Get down, Brutal.  You may not climb the bookcases. They are not the ladder to the ceiling fan. No Ceiling Fans!

Oh! Brutal, please do not smother your baby brother in diaper cream and call him "snowman."

Brutal, please stop slamming your head into the stroller frame. 

No, Brutal.  The material inside the couch is NOT edible.

Stop, Brutal. You may not swing from the drapes in the living room. Nor may you use them to try to reach the ceiling fan. What have I told you about ceiling fans?

Please Stop Scratching Me, Brutal. Please stop Scratching Yourself!

Oh Brutal, (and then to the teenage store clerks) We will leave, Brutal, just as soon as you finish destroying the book section in Happy Harry's.  And you know what, Brute?  We won't ever come back. Promise.

Hands, Brutal? What is on your HANDS, BRUTAL?  (autism mom knows exactly what is on those hands)

Words, BRUTAL!  PECS? IPAD?  The last hour has been about a treat?  You want a TREAT? 

Yes, Brutal, you are a Treat.  Eat your perfectly white-yet-thoroughly-cooked pancake.

Autism is Brutal.  And you cling to the littlest things for longest times. 

And then, like a breath of fresh air, you realize and appreciate Awesome and Amazing! 

Mom, want to watch the Fault in our Stars?


Mom, will it make you cry again?

Hopefully not.  We've seen it 50 million times.

Mom, are you crying yet?  


5 minutes later and every five minutes thereafter,

Mom, Are you Tears?  Are you Crying? 

And sometimes,

     You just can't tell Brutal from Amazing or Awesome from Brutal.

Celebrate World Autism Day!

Category: 0 comments

Playing Politics with Innocent Animals - Not an Edu-Topic

When your state's two largest Animal Shelters refuse Stray Animals, you should start to worry and wonder,  

The reality is that most of us like sweet little animals, if only in pictures. 

So, what evil illness is spreading so quickly that these vicious animals can't dare to be mixed with the cute and cuddly ones?

Has it been a super-human spring where the world is suddenly overpopulated by billions of baby furry things?  

Are the shelters teaming with animals clawing at the windows for a fresh breath and a new home?

No? What, then?  Political Infighting.  It goes something like this:

Brandywine Valley SPCA won the state's animal control contract and opened a new facility right here in Delaware. Only, their inn isn't big enough for all the animals. 

Note: They've moved as many vetted guests as feasible to temporary mangers in other states, but it's just a short-term solution. 

Then Brandywine did the next reasonable things to do - the center reached out it's brethren Delaware SPCAs asking 1st State Animal Center and SPCA and the Delaware SPCA for help.

And got smacked down. 

I'm told it went something like this (fictionalized personification of email/text/phone calls between 1st State and B-wine):
"Yo, Kenny U., 1st State Got Space?
"Yep, I got, Lambchops.  But, I ain't sharing wit u."
"Ken, man, we gonna have to take Fido out if we don't get no help."
"Take out Fido, dude.  We in the doggie daycare bid-ness now."

Yes, you may vent the obligatory WTF now.

It didn't go much better with Delaware SPCA, they didn't respond, leaving B-wine and Lambchops hanging in the wind and animals lining up for Euthanasia.

So, here is the crazy - Despite sharing a name, SPCA, most of these organizations are not truly networked or even patchworked together.  There is no ladder to climb, no mother ship to beam up to when you have a complaint, concern, or compliment.  Yes, there is an ASPCA (A=American) but they literally have nothing to do with the little "chapters" that spring up in the states or elsewhere. 

Got Money? Got Space? U2 could open your own SPCA.

It all boils down to this (hold your Easter Bunnies close):

They have similar names and equivocal missions, with open cages and capacity; Yet, Delaware's SPCA's behave like politicians.  It's a pretty pathetic state of affairs when they'd rather see animals put to death even though they have mission statements that read like this:

The mission of the First State Animal Center and SPCA is twofold:
by prevention of cruelty and suffering, rescue of the trapped or injured, emergency medical treatment, temporary housing for homeless animals and the reduction of homeless pet overpopulation through targeted spay/neuter and education programs.
through our serious commitment in placing only stable, safe and well-adjusted animals into homes where they will thrive while simultaneously educating the public about responsible pet guardianship.  -

Let us all bow our heads and pray now that 1st State's board euthanizes  Director Ken Usilton's Contract for direct violation of the organization's mission.

Category: 7 comments

More on CSD's School Board Races, And a Conspiracy Theory, Hah!

The Newark Post is on top of the CSD BOE race.  This article recaps interviews with all four candidates:

It's worth reading, especially if no group steps up to hold a candidates forum.  In past years, the Downes Elementary School PTA has organized an event to provide access to candidates. As of now, The PTA facebook pages notes an upcoming "Meet the Candidate" opportunity. Stay Tuned.

Now, let's address the BIG election rumor:  It's been alleged that the two candidates were recruited to solidify a Board voting block.  Now, I haven't spoken to either candidate as of writing this. But, I have a hard time assigning Mason that profile.  As far back as my election, I can remember Meg talking about running.  The big hurdle: CSD employees cannot also be CSD BOE members.  There's a law against that. Meg wasn't in a hurry to retire, she was dedicated to developing Maclary post-NCS elementary school expansion.  More than that, she had certain respect for Dave Resler, the incumbent.  And it was rumor for much of the last year that Resler, having graduated all of his children from Newark High School was ready to retire from his seat.  It could be argued that Meg put-in even after Resler registered his run, and that somehow denotes a conspiracy.  But I would argue that this is just Mason moving onto the next phase in her life and in her devotion to the district.

As for Brady, she's the mother of two CSD students.  And works with hundreds more at the Boys and Girls Club.  Could she have been recruited to run against Paige? Sure, why not?  But, again I have hard time with the profile.  She's a working mom, like Paige, who was appointed and then elected - and neither of those actions had anything to do with a voting block.  In fact, it's tremendously hard to generate candidates for school boards.  In the last 10 years, CSD has seen far more candidates from the Tea Party than it has viable opposition to sitting members.  Many elections haven't been contested at all.  And as for Brady, just as it did for Paige, there comes a time for some when you are inspired to take on more in your life and deepen your commitment to your district and community. When all the stars align in your own personal star chamber. Moreover, I would like to suggest what Brady may bring to the table something that has been sorely missing for several years - a certain connection to the poverty that plagues the Route 40 corridor, to the suburbs.  And we are talking poverty pockets so deep that they echo the City of Wilmington and everything that the WEIC has been assigned to address.  While all of our attention has been diverted to Wilmington, Route 40 schools are at capacity and growing and serving children that are coming to school tremendously less prepared than their Downes Elementary counterparts.

Yes, it's said, when it comes to School Board candidates, whoever wins Downes wins the district. But, I wouldn't be surprised if this contest was truly run and lost right at home in District F.

Category: 3 comments

CSD's Other School Board Race

Nominating District "F" - Term expires June 30, 2021
Elizabeth C. Paige (2-25-16)
Desiree Brady (3-4-16)

I am not going to speak nearly as passionately on this blogpost as I did the last. Back in 2011, incumbent board member, Gina Backus, won her seat by just 2 votes over Joe O'Leary Jr.  Three years later, Gina had relocated out of Delaware and CSD picked up Appointee Elizabeth Paige who went onto win the seat, unopposed, for the duration of Backus' term ending in June 30, 2016.  I'm not richly involved in Paige's politics. But, from my parental vantage point, she often seems on point and well-researched. 
This time around, Paige as an opponent, Desiree Brady. The internet is weak on Brady's background. In fact, I could learn a helluva lot more about Gayle George than I could Desiree Brady.  But, that might bode well for Brady.  I've read enough to know that she's an early childhood educator from outside the district.  If she can create a public profile that appeals to voters and if she has that secret sauce that the more socially adept enjoy (I'm not sauced), she just might find herself cutting into Paige's lead which includes the respect of several well-liked local legislators. 
This will be an interesting race to watch.  Will Brady mount a campaign? or will she become another name only candidate who graces the ballot but not the dais? As have so many who've come before her.  
Category: 0 comments

Holy Smokes! Christina's Got a Race!

"Holy Smokes" was a colloquialism of my Grandfather's day.  Given the news that serial board member David Resler will field opponent retired educator and principal Meg Mason for his seat, it felt appropriate. You see, I spoke my last words to my grandfather "Dad" Phelps while at Back-To-School Night at Meg's last school, Maclary Elementary. His decline was sudden and he had slipped into a coma by the time I got the call.  I was standing in front of the school when I said Goodbye (via cell phone) to one of the most marvelous men to have ever lived. I wasn't a board member then.  I was a new hybrid parent with a daughter about to enter Maclary for kindergarten under the umbrella of the Delaware Autism Program. In the midst of grief, I did what every special needs parent does - I went into overdrive. Though I was falling apart on the insides, I was steely and hyper-viligint on the out. Until, of course, I felt the love that Maclary would have for my child.  In the two years that we were Maclary, (not b/c we left Maclary, but b/c Christina historical shifted DAP and other SPED classrooms around the district to adjust for increases in feeder pattern students) I would find myself in Meg's office often - seeking guidance in how to navigate and advocate for both my daughter and my district.)

I have come to miss Maclary for the Christina gem that it was - inclusive, demanding, dedicated - characteristics I attribute to a good, strong, dedicated principal.  Meg would teach me so much of what I needed to know to be a knowledgeable board member. And she would confirm to me what the research showed when it came to the roll of principals in schools and reform and meaningful change. 

Meg is no spring chicken to education.  She's traveled Christina and it's clearly her family.  Though we haven't spoken in years - my life post-school board has taken me away from Christina, though never far from education - I hear she's shared her children with the district, another generation of educators developing our children into bright minds and helping them navigate an increasingly demanding and complicated academic and social world. 

Sitting board member, Dave Resler, should not sit pretty during this election cycle. He's being called on the carpet by CSD's educators and parents.  And our tax payers, they've already spoken, twice, the district's leadership and financial affairs. 

Dave's been a part of board leadership for 10 years when's he's supported zero tolerance, Race to the Top, and Common Core.  While he has a sharp financial mind, he's decidedly not an educator, though he is a CSD dad (proud father of 5 Newark High grads) and husband to a school nurse.  I had the pleasure of serving Christina with Dave during my term.  Though we frequently butted heads, he was always remarkably calm and an excellent orator.  On most occasions.  The exceptions were those meetings when I feared he and board member Saffer where going down fighting. And I would discreetly push my chair away from the dais and ease back from between the two. 

Dave tows a line in his education governance - he will not get down "in the weeds" - a concept brought to CSD by former superintendent and financial disaster Joseph Wise. I never had the pleasure of meeting the lunatic that duped and poisoned Christina. Wise was the Broad Academy's first Delaware Superintendent, installed in the district in 2003.  In three short years, he crippled the district.  Dave was on-boarded as Wise exited and audits discovered a huge financial deficit.  He was a member of the board who brought in education darling Lillian Lowery who is credited with governing with a tight financial fist that led the district to repay a state loan years early.  He later played a roll in hiring CSD's third Broadie, Marcia Lyles, reknown for her divisive leadership strategies.  

I came into CSD after my election win in the same month that Dr. Lyles took the helm.  I was never impressed with the hand-ringing, gum-chewing, New Yorker and she clearly would not have been my choice.  But, you can't please all the people all the time.  And in CSD, there are days you clearly can't please anyone. or even yourself.

So, CSD needs another educator to help steer the ship.  For too long, it has gone the way of the national deform movements and marginalized the teacher's voice, the parent's voice, and the student's voice. The two voices we have heard belong to the tax payers - who punished CSD for the work of the other voice - Gov. Jack Markell's.

We need another fighter, Meg, we need you!

Category: 1 comments

O'Mara-Markell-Coach-QuinnGrey-Godowski Scandal

Earlier this week, C&E 1st posed the question:  What's Lindsey O'Mara got to do with it? Regarding the WEIC Commission, the State Board of Education, Priority Plans, and the Christina School District.

To get to the answer, I've scribed together several posts from Exceptional Delaware by Kevin Ohlandt. I give full credit to Kevin for ferreting out and documenting meeting after meeting related to the Gov and all his pawns.  What I have tried to do is give the reader a sense that not one event is singular to the WEIC drama, not one event is special, and not one is organic.  These meetings, who had what info, who stumbled, this was all pre-ordained by our self-aggrandizing Gov. Markell and his entitled political hacks.

Here's your answer:

The Deal -
According to Fred Polaski, the Christina Board of Education President, he and Superintendent Freeman Williams met with Lindsey O’Mara, the education advisor for Governor Markell, in hashing out an agreement over the three priority schools in their district.  The Delaware Department of Education was there at the beginning of the meeting, and left soon after.  More details as they emerge…
I’m not sure if this was at this meeting, before, or after, but apparently DOE Officer of Accountability Penny Schwinn told Christina she already has three assistant principals already in mind for the three priority schools during the “transition”.
The Christina Board is getting ready to vote on the decision to follow this plan, developed not by Christina and the DOE, but Christina and Governor Markell’s office.
The Christina Board passed the Markell/DOE plan (still waiting to find out whose plan it was), by a 4-1-2 vote.  For those keeping track, the yes votes belonged to John Young, Elizabeth Paige, David Ressler and Fred Polaski.  Harrie Minnehan voted no, and George Evans and Shirley Saffer abstained.  The board also voted unanimously for a second referendum on May 27th.

This was buried in a blogpost last March on ExceptionalDelaware - a post that garnered no comments (rare!) However, this meeting has a far reaching impact. Let's start with the attendees - O'Mara, representing the Governor, Penny Schwinn, on behalf of DOE, Superintendent Williams and Board Member Fred Polaski, for the Christina School District.  Notably, Coach Murphy was absent.  It's been rumored that the Gov. ordered Murphy to stand down and lay low. You can find the plans that this covert team hammered out here:,

We know that the Christina Board of Education passed the plans and sent them on to Delaware's appointed Secretary of Education Coach Murphy where they languished for almost a year, unsigned, unfunded, and unimplemented. And while those plans gathered dust, Murphy got the Markell shuffle, out in August, replaced by the new Sec. of Education, Steve Godowsky, confirmed in October - who was shortly notified thereafter of the Priority School Plans that Christina had submitted months previous. And from October to February, those plans lay dormant in the bowels of the Townsend Building.

Until last week's State Board of Education Meeting when Godowsky shakily admitted that he had the plans in his possession. It went down something like this: (Transcription by ExceptionalDelaware)

Heffernan: I just want to add that, you know, the approval of the priority schools plan by Christina is, is it months or years late? So I have very little patience for Christina for semantics on that.  They literally refused to approve plans to help the kids and honestly, I think got us to this table where we are today.
Secretary of Education Dr. Steve Godowsky: I just want to make this clear. On January 22nd of 2016, I sent Christina’s Acting Superintendent a letter indicating that either the board or the Acting Superintendent can submit and activate the, uhm, the original application for the priority, or the MOU that they submitted a year ago.

See that underlined part:  That's Godowsky admitting that the DOE has been in receipt of the OMara-Markell negotiated MOU "that they (CSDBOE) submitted a year ago" last March. Watch him ho-hum his way through this while carefully not correcting State Board Member Heffernan who for some reason knows nothing about the year-old document now in Godowsky's back pocket. 

Godowsky: Uhm, so that is what you are suggesting.  It may not require a vote from the Board but we wanted to make sure which plan they want to move forward and if it was the MOU plan, and I have talked to the Board President.   Then that will be acceptable to us going forward.
Indeed, he had talked to the Board President, as I confirmed with Harrie Ellen Minnehan.  Godowsky was talking with the district as far back as his Confirmation in October 2015. And more recently, on Minnehan's drive from New Castle to Kent County for this very meeting. If only, he had just cut Hef off...His aha moment wasn't far behind.
Heffernan: One thing that really troubles me about this is if the Christina Board doesn’t fully support these plans then, you know, we’re back to where we always were. And this is, so I, I, we can’t make, we have no authority to make any local boards approve anything, I totally get that, but I’m just very disappointed that this continues to be hard to get them to agree to help the priority schools.  That’s all I’m saying.
Godowsky: And the Christina Board did sign off on their plan about a year ago with one day difference so I think they did support that plan. And now that we know that’s the plan on the table then we can move forward, I believe we can do our due diligence and be in a position to review that plan and make modifications.
Heffernan: So they approved this a year ago?
Godowsky: As part of, uhm, the Memorandum of Understanding, between the district and others that negotiated that alternative to the original plan, as I understand it. I was…
Thank God for Tony Allen!
Allen: As I understand that, the impasse was between Christina and their approved plans and the former Secretary (Mark Murphy), not that they didn’t approve the priority school plans. That is my understanding.
Heffernan: But the Department didn’t approve the plans?
Allen: Correct
Heffernan: So we’re going to take the same plans that the Department didn’t approve…
Godowsky:  I don’t want to speak for Christina, and I don’t have all the history that they were the stumbling block, but later on there was an MOU submitted that never got signed off on at the Department level.  I don’t know the reasons in detail.  But I just know what I’ve looked at, in terms of the MOU, it’s consistent with much of what we want to do with those three schools, instructionally, which we’ve talked about since October, that I’ve been here.  And, given some modifications, I’m ready to move forward.
Followed by this gem:
Godowsky: I’m in receipt of those plans. I just needed, in a sense I have those plans.
He had the OMara/Markell Plan! Signed by CSDBOE.  And yet, when the State Board plays into a political trap, they really fall all over themselves. Because this drama just kept playing out - even Tuesday night as the WEIC convened to discuss the action of the State Board on its submitted PLAN - New and Improved with contingencies.

It was there that the CSD President brought it home to the State Board President:
The best moment of the evening, which drew a huge round of applause, was when Christina Board President Harrie Ellen Minnehan informed Dr. Gray about how former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy never signed their memorandum of understanding developed with their board, the DOE, and representatives from Governor Markell’s office. Dr. Gray actually said she wasn’t aware of that even though she was told this at the December State Board meeting.  She told Minnehan she misread the addendum to the WEIC plan, even though it was very clearly spelled out.

Thank you Ms. Minnehan! For setting the record straight.  The State Board of Education has been dabbling in libel against CSD for all too long.  Quinn Grey admits that she got it wrong, all wrong.  She might have well come out and told us all that state board members in general don't bother to read the information that comes before them. And that makes TWO or Heffernan wouldn't have felt so comfortable assailing the CSDBOE just a week earlier, and at every opportunity he can when there is press in the room.  

The question is: Why is the State Board hellbent on tainting the CSDBOE?  It couldn't be just a coincidence that the same week the the State BOE assaulted CSD for the umpteenth time, the district rolled out a new referendum strategy.  I mean, don't all students benefit from a successful referendum, especially the children served in the priority schools?  What is the State Board's Motivation?

I said it at the beginning of this post - Nothing is organic.  These events didn't just happen naturally.  Just as Lindsey O'Mara's sudden departure this month didn't happen naturally. She's off to Washington D.C.  and soon Jack Markell will join her there. But, not before he single-handedly blows up the Christina School District.  

It's always about the man behind the curtain. 

Category: 2 comments

What does Lindsey O'Mara have to do with it? SBE/WEIC/CSD

Gov. Jack Markell's Education Policy Advisor has a lot of explaining to do...

Lindsey Crawford O'Mara has been holding out on the WEIC and State Board of Education. 
     And why was Sec. of Ed. Godowski a literal stumbling block at the Thursday's board meeting, sputtering out "half truths" to the appointed-yet-poorly-informed state board?

The answers are often found in those little-commented posts from the most well-read of blogs.  If only we could get those SB members to do a little leisure reading, too.

Category: 2 comments

Courtyard Offers a Safe Haven for Children with Autism, a tribute.

Sharing a recent Newark Post article:

Last August, the Delaware's autism community lost a great friend, Tracy Holmes. My family was heartbroken. Tracy had been the driving force behind our MarriOtters Community Partnership. Her loss was felt amongst the whole of the Otter community. Recently, the Newark Post interviewed our Delia and published a story written to highlight the challenges autism families face and how one small hotel with a big heart opened its arms to our community and our children.  This is our tribute to Tracy.

Courtyard Marriott pool a safe haven for children with autism

By Karie Simmons | Posted: Wednesday, January 20, 2016 1:00 am
For Elizabeth and Rob Scheinberg, finding a safe haven for their family — a place where they felt welcome with their autistic daughter — all started with a letter to Santa Claus.
Delia was 6 years old when she placed a letter in “Santa’s Mailbox” outside the Courtyard Marriott hotel on the University of Delaware’s Laird Campus. Hotel directors had put up the mailbox in order to connect with the Newark community during the holiday season, not knowing then that the connection they would make would ultimately change the lives of local autistic children and their families.
The following year, Delia wrote another letter to Santa, this time for her 2-year-old brother, Harry. However, when she arrived at the hotel to mail the envelope, the mailbox was gone, which made Delia upset.
“When you have autism, you’re used to the way things are and you can’t break from that,” Rob Scheinberg said last week.
Bill Sullivan, Courtyard Marriott director, said he and his staff didn’t realize the impact of the mailbox and put it back up after learning of Delia’s emotional attachment. The Scheinbergs came back a few days later to mail the letter and were introduced to Tracy Holmes, director of operations, who apologized and invited them all to go swimming in the hotel’s indoor pool.
Elizabeth Scheinberg said she and her husband didn’t take Holmes up on the offer, shrugging it off as nothing but a nice gesture. A few months later, Holmes reached out to the Scheinbergs and again invited them to swim in the pool, this time telling them to also bring along other families with children who have autism.
“I thought to myself, ‘This woman is crazy,’” Elizabeth Scheinberg said. “You want me to bring my child into your beautiful hotel? She obviously doesn’t understand autism.”
“When you have a child with autism, you can’t really bring them anywhere because they don’t know how to act in public,” Rob Scheinberg added. “We were used to being rejected places. I can’t tell you how huge it is to actually be welcome.”
In April 2008, the Scheinbergs brought 25 families to swim at the Courtyard Marriott pool and, to their surprise, Holmes invited them back. After a few more swims, Elizabeth said Delia began referring to the hotel as “Tracy’s house.”
Elizabeth said the pool quickly became a safe haven for families and a place where their kids could play, interact and be themselves “without bothering other people.” It also served a sensory function, as children with autism typically have a dysfunctional sensory system, meaning that sometimes one or more senses are either over- or under-reactive to stimulation such as light, touch and sound.
“That’s what being in the water did. It fulfilled a sensory need for the children and it calmed them,” she said.
For Kim Herbert-Cheeseman, of Hockessin, the pool was an “oasis.” She was able to get out of the house and relax in the enclosed space without fear of her autistic twin boys, William and Andrew, running away.
“As parents, we utilize those lounge chairs for sure,” she said.
The pool also created a comfortable, judgment-free environment for William and Andrew to interact with other kids and practice making eye contact — an ability which many children with autism lack. Plus, she said, swimming is a good way for them to get some exercise.
“The more and more we went, the more and more they loved it,” she said.
After a while, the Scheinbergs and Holmes decided it was time to brand their little group and give the kids an identity to hold onto, so they called themselves the MarriOtters — a play on both the name of the hotel and the group’s love for the swimming pool.
But the MarriOtters did more than just swim. Under Holmes’ leadership and with help from Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management students at the University of Delaware, the hotel hosted Halloween parties, brunches, movie nights and other social gatherings for the children and their families.
Sullivan said it’s been their goal since day one to make the hotel a strong part of the local community, and with the HRIM students just down the street, hosting the MarriOtters seemed like a win-win for everyone.
“It was part of their education and part of our education and it helps us better care for the families that come in here,” he said.
Delia, now 14 years old and a student at Gateway Lab School in Wilmington, said she still loves the MarriOtters and the Courtyard Marriott is pretty much her second home.
“We get to hang out,” she said.
She’s grown out of swimming and said now her favorite event is brunch. She said she likes the breakfast foods at the hotel, especially the oatmeal, and feels comfortable there, like she can be herself.
“I can’t stress how important that is,” her mother said.
Today, the MarriOtters is more of a free-swim format. Instead of organized meet-ups, families are welcome to come to the hotel whenever they want and just have to ask the front desk for a key to the pool.
Herbert-Cheeseman said her boys, now 13 years old, still beg her to take them to the pool, and she is grateful the hotel has continued the program after all these years.
“It is one of our escapes and our go-to for some sanity, and growing and social interaction for our children,” she said. “I just can’t say enough about it.”
The group hasn’t got together in a while, but Elizabeth said members are planning an event in April for Autism Awareness Month. However, it’s been hard to carry on the group without Holmes, who died after her battle with cancer in August.
“We used to say Tracy was larger than life and she really was,” Rob said.
Elizabeth said all of the children in the group loved Holmes, but she had a special bond with Delia.
“It was like she adopted our daughter,” she said. “She was really special to our family. None of this would have happened without her.”
Families interested in joining the MarriOtters can contact Elizabeth Scheinberg by email at
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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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