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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  Delaware didn't close schools and when districts did shutter outdated and excessed plants it happened over the summer ensuring the funds followed the children to their next district home.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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Christina Hires an Interim Super ...

I got nothin' on Bob A. He's got a history in education in Delaware which makes him... a Delawarean?  There are the usual detractors of character, character witnesses who love the man, and the public officials will forever be unhappy with the any choice that was or could have been made. 

And since I know little, I'm sending you to these legible sources:

Note: the online story has only garnered two comments as of 6 pm 9/5/15.

And Kilroy has the story:

Note: One of his commenters is super confused.  Conrad is not in Christina. 
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Christina's future: Waste land or Illusion?

If you live in Delaware, you have, without doubt, at least once crept your way of or down I 95 or Rt 1.  You white-knuckle it and try to avoid staring at the fiery accident that's closed one or two lanes of the highway.

But, what if the fiery accident wasn't really there? What if it was just an illusion? You can see it, you swear you could touch it if you tried?  But, when you do, it all just dissipates.

Some of the fires in the Christina School District are real.  Yes, without intervention they eventually will be unable to make payroll.  Yes, they are under-enrolled.  Yes, the board and administration are fractured.  Yes, the superintendent has taken leave.  Yes, the class sizes are going up.

But, there are also some folks who are fanning the flames that are just an illusion. 

Recently, the blogosphere erupted over whether or not CSD was having an illegal meeting when it attempted to meet in executive session for the superintendents evaluation.  Nothing makes the public hotter than being shut out of democracy. A FOIA has been filed by a sitting board member, as promised.  The results are likely months out. The public is angry about something that's always been routine.  And I contend it all about nothing. 

Following that meeting, the superintendent went on leave and another internal struggle convened - did the president have the authority to accept the leave? The reality is that the superintendent did not need to seek the presidents permission.  There are certain employment rights that a governed by bodies greater than the locally elected board or the governor-appointed bodies. 

And then the allegations online that two female board members went rogue, outed financial mismanagement to the State Board and the Auditor while keeping their peers in the dark b/c they couldn't trust them. 

(Let me pause to note that if any board member had gone rogue and reported financial malfeasance to the DOE, SBE, or the Auditor, I would have offered them hero worship status, not condemnation.)

And finally, the naming of names into the recorded mic at a public meeting. The alleged rogue - Saffer and Minnehan - vociferously denied the accusation.

These are the fires. And we now know that it is alleged that they were stoked by the Executive Director of the State Board of Education - whom I sent a email to last week and again today asking for clarification around the allegations against Minnehan and Saffer.  Still waiting on a response. However, blogger Kevin Olhandt has retracted his accusations against the two.  

Scorched earth.  And a public played.  Yet, that's the twist in the story that hasn't been vetted by the blogosphere.  No one is talking about how allegedly high ranking DOE officials and SBE went about manipulating public perception of our troubled district. There's been a small amount of condemnation of Kevin, a greater amount of validation of his character, but nothing about those who will bear the deepest scars.  Minnehan and Saffer, at least briefly, suffered tarnished reputations.  The weeks of hinting on the blogs likely fired up emotions between members of the CSD board itself - evident in the first five minutes of its recent meeting. It fueled the distrust.

But most importantly, these manipulations will add to the fire of considerations of the voting tax payers when the district goes next for referendum.  Illusions, not reality, designed to embarrass csd.

Go ahead, reach out and touch someone - 

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We are all greater people for having known and loved you!

This is not the blog post I had planned for today.  That was about imaginary fires and scorched earth.

In the midst of writing, I learned of the passing a truly great friend who leaves this world a little less bright with her absence.

This is my tribute:

She was a heart among hearts, a queen of hearts, who loved unconditionally. She looked upon families with autism and opened her home to them, made them her family.  Made my family hers, my children hers. She just gave goodness!  In her presence you knew you were valued, your child was valued!  

I am just heartbroken for those who will miss her and for those who will never know her light.

I just wish I get this song so loud it would drown out the cries of million broken hearts!  For surely, she had touched that many lives!
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Loaded Language or Legal Coverage?

I don't have time for this blogging thing anymore. While I like to read blogs, I seldom visit my own. It's not that I have run out of ideas, it's that I have run out of time.  Most days, I haven't a minute to give to a blog as I promised my almost every free moment to my children and husband when I retired my board service.  Not that there are many as I replaced boardsmanship with paid employment.  As I write this my nine-year-old is holding a light saber to my throat.

There's been a swift shift in the paradigm thanks to a collection of recent Attorney General FOIA findings.  No one loves FOIA more than I do.  It's the most powerful tool a citizen has.  It's living, breathing democracy at work.

Here we go:

It has been standard practice to conduct the annual evaluation of this state's superintendents in executive session.  Delaware law provides for this. It states that these personal actions can only occur in public session at the request of the personnel.

Notwithstanding contracts themselves - contracts belong in the public domain.

Privacy is something else.

In fact, we love our employment privacy so much, that's its often an employers obligation.  And contractual.  The boilerplate contract that governs many of our supers in our district contain clauses like this one:

"The evaluation of the Superintendent shall at all times be conducted in closed session, and the evaluation and information concerning the evaluation, of whatever nature, shalle be considered confidential as provided by law."

The time debate the clause occurred three years ago.  When the clause was consistent with the law. In fact, it's still consistent with the law. It's not consistent with the latest opinion of the Attorney General And that's the dichotomy.

So, what happens when the A.G. opinion contravenes the existing laws that govern employment practices?  Furthermore, how does a public body respond when that contravention extends to contracts that when authored were consistent with prevailing labor law?

I don't know.  But, I see a lot of wordsmything going on, especially in the posting for the upcoming BOE meeting.  For example:

B. PERSONNEL MATTERS 1. Personnel Matters Include a Discussion of the Superintendent’s Competencies and Abilities [See 29 Del C 10004 (b)(9)]  (from the BOE Posting)

These words are divergent from past years.  So why? Well, if you've been following the drama unfolding at Kilroys and Execeptional Delaware, these words should sound familiar. They originate in the AG's APPO Opinion:
While it is true that FOIA permits a public body to discuss personnel matters in executive session, “a public body must establish that the private discussion directly involved the consideration of an individual employee’s competency and abilities.” Del. Op. Att’y Gen. 13-IB01, 2013 WL 2477025, at *17 (Mar. 26, 2013)

Compentency and Ability
Yes, the AG still affords that a public body can discuss personnel matters in executive session when the matter is consistent with evaluating an individual's competency and abilities.

 Moreover, we have previously determined that a superintendent is not the “typical employee with potentially legitimate privacy concerns about his work performance” and that the public has a substantial interest in a superintendent’s job performance. Id., at *18. 
Not the "typical employee" 
This throws a wrench in the works.  This is the new paradigm.  This is where the questions begin.  First and foremont, a pre-emptive request to the AG requesting an opinion given current contractual obligations.  To be clear - noticing a meeting as has occurred does not mean that the BOE is attempting to contravene the AG's APPO opinion,  In fact, the opinion goes on to state:

we find that members of the public were entitled to monitor and observe the Board member’s discussion of the renewal of Mr. Burrow’s Contract, even if a portion of that discussion touched on his competency and abilities as superintendent. Id.

The Contract
In the APPO opinion, a FOIA was raised when the board appeared to have discussed the issuing or renewing of the super's contract during executive session.  Contracts are always a no-no and the AG provided richer guidance as to when the public should be able to witness the board perform its work. 
However, the BOE in this case has not noticed any discussion regarding the issuing of new or renewal of the existing contract.  Thus, it is assumable that the BOE is within its rights and constraint of the law, the opinion, and the contract.

Let's discern a couple things - I am not a lawyer, this isn't a legal opinion. I am a FOIA junkie.  You don't have to agree with my opinion, just like I don't agree with the interpretation over at Kilroys.  But, you do need to know THREE things:

1) Yes, you can file for a preemptive finding when you think a violation is about to occur, and
2) AG opinions are NOT law.  Should the AG find this meeting a violation of law at some point down the road, the Opinion can be appealed to both the Chancery Court and Superior Court. And, finally, 
3) If you are an elected board member in the State of Delaware and you are about undertake your super's eval, I'd keep your attorney handy in the board room.

And we're having hamburgers for dinner tonight.

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Life Support for the Delaware School Board Association?

We are not going to say anything bad here about the folks that run and work for the Delaware School Board Association. However, as an organization, it is woefully inadequate and out-of-touch with the real needs of the traditional public school boards it seeks to serve.  It doesn't entirely mean that the entity is irrelevant. But, it is alarming when our legislators are called to the mic and asked what contribution they believe DSBA has provided and their answer is nada.

So, a few years back, while RTTT was being shoved down our throats, a couple Christina board members started saying No to membership.  Membership is not free.  For CSD, the cost runs just North of $20.000/year.  Eventually, the No voters gained a quorum and CSD said goodbye to DSBA. (Excellent ROI decision.)

What I didn't know until recently was the prevalence of districts who were "opting out" of DSBA.
Each district listed below has already withdrawn membership or has messaged to DSBA their strong desire to leave the organization:

Christina School Board
Milford School Board
Indian River School Board
Delmar School Board
Caesar Rodney School Board

DSBA is at a crux.  These five districts represent at least $60,000 of lost revenue for the organization. (But, it is a gain for the districts that these boards represent. CSD could buy a para with their savings.)  Knowing that its reputation as an advocate "for equity of thought" is waning, the question is out there -

Will DSBA, first assembled in 1946 and chaptered in 1952, be able to adapt to survive the education reform/deform movement of this century?

Should it? 

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1.77 Miles

The distance between Sarah Pyle Academy and the Westin Wilmington.
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The Narcissistic Personality Test: Don't We All Know One?

Expanding on this core definition of narcissistic functioing as a difficulty in listening, here’s six signs for sizing up narcissism.  Score each dimension from 0 to 10.  Zero is not at all. Ten is all the time. 
First assess yourself.  Then circle back to score someone in your life who is difficult to deal with.
The goal: See your and others' patterns clearly.  Clarity is a strong first step toward being able to make changes for the better.
Sign #1:  Unilateral listening. 
What I want and what I have to say are all that matters when we talk together.  When we make decisions what you want, your concerns, your feelings..these are mere whispers, inconveniences and irrelevancies.  So when we discuss issues, my opinions are right.  Yours are wrong or else of minimal importance.  If you expect to have input, you are undermining me.                                             
Narcissistic listening often dismisses, negates, ignores, minimizes, denigrates or otherwise renders irrelevant other people’s concerns and comments.  
One sign of narcissistic non-listening: a tone of contempt instead of interest.
Another: frequent responses that begin with "But....", which is a backspace-delete key that negates whatever came before, in this case, what someone else has said.  
Yet another: because 'I'm right and you're wrong,' I tend to listen for what I don't like in what you say so that I can respond by telling you how what you have said is wrong.
Score:  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
SIgn #2  It’s all about me. 
I know more, I know better, I’m more interesting,  When we talk, it’s mostly about me.  In conversations, I take up most of the air time. Almost all of my chatter is about what I have done, what I am thinking about.  
If you begin to talk about yourself, I link back to something in my life so that the focus of the discussion again turns onto me.  Maybe that's why people say I suck up all the air in a room.
When I want something, I need to have it. Never mind how you feel about it; it’s all about me.  I’m big and important and you are merely also here, mostly to do things for me, like a third arm. 
Score:  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Sign #3:  The rules don’t apply to me. 
I can have affairs, cut into a line where others are waiting, cheat on my taxes, and ignore rules that get in the way of my doing what I want..  Rules are for other people to follow.
Narcissists suffer from what I call Tall Man Syndrome.  They experience themselves as above others, so the rules don't apply to them.
Score:  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Sign #4:  Your concerns are really criticisms of me, and I hate being criticized.
If you insist on my listening and taking your concerns seriously I’m likely to get mad.  Criticism hurts.  I can criticize others, and often do, but if you criticize me you’re hurting my feelings so I’ll hurt you back.  And if you say you are at all unhappy, that's a way of indirectly criticizing me. Since "it's all about me" your feelings must be about what I have been doing.
Narcissists paradoxically manifest both an inflated idea of their own importance and quickness to feel deflated by negative feedback. 
In addition, because they think everything is about them, they hear others’ attempts to talk about personal feelings as veiled criticisms of themselves. 
The clinical term for taking others' concerns as personal criticism is personalizing.  E.g., If she says "I'm feeling lonely,"  her narcissistic friend will hear the self-statement as an acusation, "You don't spend enough time with me."
Score:  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Sign #5:  When things go wrong between us, it’s always your fault.
I can’t be expected to apologize or to admit blame.  I’m above others and above reproach. You shouldn’t have… . Don’t threaten me with expecting me to say how I’ve contributed to a problem or I’ll get mad at you.  
Unwillingness to take responsibility for mistakes goes hand-in-hand with quickness to blame.  This trait may come from confusing the part with the whole. "If I've done one thing that's not right, then I must be all bad."  That's also all-or-nothing thinking.    
Whatever the source of the sensitivity to criticism and difficulty admitting mistakes, the upshot is a tendency to blame others when anything has gone wrong.  Blaming and fault-finding in others feel safer to narcissists than looking to discover, learn and grow from their own part in difficulties.       
While narcissists are quick to blame, they may be slow to appreciate.  Appreciation andgratitude require listening.                     
Score:  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10           
Sign #6:  If I’m angry, it’s your fault. 
You made me mad. You didn’t listen to me.  You criticized me.  You’re trying to control me.  Your view is wrong.   So you need to apologize, not me. 
I’m not responsible either for my anger.  If I’m mad, it's because I'm frustrated by what you are doing.  My anger is your fault. I'm only made because you ... "
Some narcissists show major charm and social agility.  At the same time, these seemintly super-confident folks also can be quick to anger.  When they do become inflamed, they then immediately blame their anger on others.  
What are typical anger triggers for people with narcissistic tendencies? 
Critical comments will do it.  As I said above, as much as narcissisitc folks see themselves as special, they also can be remarkably thin-skinned.  Any feedback that punctures their belief in total specialness can feel quite threatening. The immediate response will be to issue blame.
Telling anyone what to do, or sounding even somewhat like you are telling them what to do, also is likely to provoke irritation.  Pretty much everyone prefers autonomy (unless the two people have an agreed-upon boss-worker or similar relationship).  Narcissists however tend to be hyper-sensitive about feeling controlled.  Any request therefore to a narcissist is at risk for sounding to them like a demand and therefore triggering irritation. 
Asking someone who is narcissistic to do something your way rather than theirs is particularly likely to sound to them like you are telling them what to do.   Their anger in response, of course, is your fault.
Score: 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

TOTAL SCORE: ___   What does this score indicate?
The interpretations below are based on my clinical hunches, not any scientific testing.  They're meant just to give you a general indicate of what your quiz suggests.
Scores that total 5-10 probably indicate normal human fallibilities with room for improvement. No one is perfect.  If you think you are perfect, and scored therefore below 5, you might check again. Be sure your scores do not indicate a narcissism of excessive belief that you are perfect, another potential sign of narcissism
Too much narcissism in your habits would be indicated by a total score of 10 to 30.  Pay attention to your "narcissism lite" and you may fairly easily be able to lower that score considerably.
A total score of 30 or higher spells significant narcissistic habits that probably do not serve you well. Time to make some serious habit changes!
40 to 60 or higher would indicate to me severe problems with narcissism.  With thisunderstanding of why your relationships become distressed, hopefully you will commit yourself to some serious personal growth.
Again, note that these score interpretations are based on hunches, not an experimentally validated scoring system.  They are meant as a personal heads-up, not a clinical diagnosis.
What are your options if you are uncomfortable with the score?
The bottom line is that "narcissism" is basically habit-patterns, and habits can be changed. Awareness of your narcissistic tendencies is a strong first step that can empower you to notice and fix slippages.
You also might want to check out my blogpost on overcoming narcissism and borderline personality habits.
What if you are using this checklist to score how narcissistic someone you know may be?
If someone you interact with regularly shows narcissistic patterns, it's not up to you to change them.  Better for you to focus on how you yourself can change the dance you do with that person. 
For instance, you can choose that you will no longer let yourself be intimidated or controlled by fear of anger.  Just gracefully leave the situation for a cool down period (“I need to get a drink of water.”), and then return for a calmer second-go at the conversation. 
When you have something important to communicate with a narcissistic loved one, what can help?  Be sure to follow the rule of talking about yourself, not about the other person.  See my post on 6 sentence starters for sensitive discussions for illustrations of how to follow this rule to more effectively be past the deafness wall.
Having trouble getting your views heard?  You can choose to speak up a second or third time about your concerns to increase the odds that your concerns or viewpoint will eventually get heard. 
You can ask, after sharing a concern, “So what made sense to you in what I said?” 
You can digest aloud what makes sense in what your partner said, and then make a second attempt to say your viewpoint.  Once your partner feels heard, the odds go up that he or she will mirror your good hearing habits.
And becoming a master at win-win problem-solving can put you in a leadership role for situations in which you need to make a decision together so that your eventual plan of action heeds both of your concerns.  This earlier post on win-win decision-making may help so that your partner feels that s/he has gotten what s/he wants even though your concerns also have been responded to in your plan of action.
Almost everyone tends to behave less narcissistically when they are happy.  Most of us tend to become increasingly narcissistic as anxieties prime the pump of anger. 
Anger promotes the sense that “What I want is holy, and what you want is irrelevant.”  That's why it's so vital that in important conversations you stay calm.  Talking about sensitive issues in calm good-humored ways without arguing (link is external)has the highest odds of leading to mutual understandings instead of the narcissism trap.
The bottom line?  For a happier life and more gratifing relationships,(link is external) especially if your scores indicated some narcissistic tendencies, tame these trends with better skills. Narcissism is not like height or eye color.  It's a behavior problem.  Upgrading your listening and shared-decision-making skills can make a huge difference!The N
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Earlier this week, two Christina Board Members returned their district issued IPads in favor of using their own personal technology for board business.  Others are considering purchasing their IPads from the district, a show of solidarity, since the IPads do not have a monthly re-occuring cost like cell phones do.

From Ms. Minnehan's Facebook:

On Tuesday, at our regularly scheduled board meeting, myself and Harrie Ellen Minnehan turned in our district issued iPads and have opted to use personally owned devices in our capacity as elected officials. If we are going to ask the district to cut, we must cut too.

The IPads are partly my legacy.  The move to this technology reduced district paper consumption and courier costs by $20,000/year.  (Goodness, I hope I remember that number correctly...)While the couriers were lovely and did their job well, I didn't need them delivering confidential documents to my home, where they waited on front stoop until I found them. Not very secure in my opinion. Technology allowed us to move information faster through the system with more security than ever before. 

When I left board service, I purchased my IPad from the district. (I paid current market value in 2011 for a used 2nd generation device.)  Sadly, I didn't know enough about my own technology to ensure the dedicated email address was transferred into my name for my personal access.  In the weeks that followed my very saavy children purchased $1000.00 worth of games and ITunes on my credit card.  I did not receive the receipts b/c they were sent to a dormant district email.  I found the purchases by opening my monthly statement. I felt my stomach fall into my knees. 

Yep.  Talk about a learning experience.  Eventually, after a lot of tears, Apple granted us a one-time forgiveness after figuring out that the device had not been reconfigured from its previous owner for use by me, it current owner.  Live and learn baby and be incredibly thankful when common sense abounds.

What amazes me is just how far technology has come in the last few years.  IPads were new, the holy grail of technology when the CSD BOE bought into the information management system.  It also set the tone for creating more opportunity for technology use in the district. Early on, we had to configure wireless internet connections in several schools to allow these devices to function.  But, it was progress.

Back to the show of solidarity -
CSD has had to make many painful budget cuts.  Some find the actions of these board members futile and short-sighted.  I see it as something else. It's a sign of the times.  Many folks, especially the technologically-saavy or financially-gifted, are already personally invested in technology. These devices, a cell phone or tablet, are an extension of their human brains.  For them, technology is seamlessly integrated into their every function.  This is the direction of our future. 

As for the others, I urge you to Buy Into the BYO Device Movement.  CSD wouldn't be the first in Delaware to try it.  I actually know of one school that has implemented the program seamlessly into its daily delivery of curriculum with solid results - it frees up school-owned technology so that it finds its way into the hands of students of lesser means whose families just can't afford to invest in technology at home. (Yes, a school where technology is valued and utilized on a daily basis across multiple domains.)

Yes, today is a good day for the CSD BOE to set the tone for what happens next in school-based technology use. BYO Device CSD, Bring your own device!

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