Christina School Board Approves MOU. Now What?

Via delawareonline:

The Christina School Board on Tuesday approved a partnership agreement that calls for consolidating five Wilmington schools into two, shifting students from Pulaski, Stubbs and Elbert-Palmer elementary schools to Bancroft Elementary and Bayard Middle School by fall 2019.

Elizabeth Paige and John Young both voted against the memorandum of understanding. Angela Mitchell abstained from voting, while Harrie Ellen Minnehan, Fred Polaski, Meredith Griffin and George Evans voted in favor of moving forward with the reconfiguration plan.

I’m still confused when it comes to funding. Let’s break it down.

  • A total of $1.5 million, to increase by 2 percent every year, will fund new efforts at the two K-8 schools and be provided in the form of so-called Opportunity Grants.
  • An additional $2 million will be used to create a dual-generation education center, to be at least partially operational by 2018-19.
  • 15 million to renovate Bancroft and Bayard – 80% of which would be funded by the state, which still needs approval from the General Assembly.  20% (3 million) would be funded by Christina residents. We’re probably talking referendum. I’m not seeing that passing.
  • Approximately $200,000 a piece to build science labs
  • 200k to transform Sterck to CEEC in Newark
  • 100k/unit for 8 additional teachers to implement smaller class sizes
  • After school programs and summer extended year program funding may be reallocated from the school improvement fund. Will something else be cut from the school improvement fund? If so, what?

Am I missing anything? Besides the capital money needed, is there enough money for operational costs? If not, are we looking at two referendums?

What happens if General Assembly (GA) doesn’t vote to fund this? What happens if Christina can’t come up with the 3 million? I have questions. Lots of questions.

Moving on…

The new K-8 schools will first open as such in fall 2019, according to preliminary plans. The dual-generation center will be phased in over three years and will likely be located at Stubbs Elementary.

And of course, Elbert-Palmer and Pulaski elementary schools will close as a result of the plan.

Closing schools is the only thing that was ever carved in stone. Dancing around that fact is what has caused suspicion.

School Board members weighed in:

“I say that we cannot afford to wait,” said Evans, who in the past has used the metaphor of a burning building to describe low achievement rates at the district’s Wilmington schools. “Our children need our effort now.”

“We owe them something,” Minnehan said of the city’s students. “What we’ve done so far hasn’t worked.”

Paige, Young and Mitchell, on the other hand, expressed concerns about the lack of community and parent engagement around the plan.

“This is another example of an extremely well-intentioned effort that does not, for the most part, take into account what is best for our children,” Young said.

And Paige, once again, said she just couldn’t shake the feeling that the agreement itself was too focused on buildings and adults and not on children.

She had more to say about the MOU, but was later cut off by board president Evans.

Can’t afford to wait and we owe them something only makes sense if the plan, as proposed, is guaranteed full implementation. Rushing to do “something” – even with the best intentions – rarely turns out well – especially since funding these plans is a big question mark. Does anyone know if the votes to pass this exist in the GA?

Also, it’s never good to “cut off” someone disagreeing with you. I’d like to hear the rest of her statement.

Community members speak:

Mary Pickering, with the Parent Advocacy Council for Education (PACE), said she was troubled by the process used to come up with the plan and said parents should have been included in conversations about closing schools.


“These changes will significantly impact the lives of community members,” Pickering said, pointing out that low-income families in Wilmington may be some of the least able to cope with such drastic change.

Coping with these changes need to be addressed. Will transportation be provided for children who use to walk to school? Many parents rely on family and friends to watch their children after school, in locations close to the school. Those plans will change. There should probably be a budget line for this.

Michelle Taylor, president and CEO of the United Way of Delaware, said drastic changes were needed to improve academic outcomes in Wilmington. At some schools in the city, proficiency rates are in the single digits.

She was in favor of the plan and urged the school board to set aside politics and do what’s right for kids.

I sincerely hope Ms. Taylor’s quote was taken out of context, because chalking opposition up to politics is extremely dishonest.

I guess where at the “wait and see” point. I’d love for this to be a success, but I fear that the only part of the plan fully implemented will be the closing of schools.

21 comments on “Christina School Board Approves MOU. Now What?

  1. cassandram

    So once again, both the Christina School Board and Delaware’s Governor fail the kids who need their help the most. The work, I think, is to routinely ask the Governor where the improvements are on a routine basis from here on out.

    • True. These plans tend to fall off the radar. What happened with the last MOU?

  2. john kowalko

    Now what? Now we wait until all of these young children are comfortably/uncomfortably crammed into these two aged, monolithic, barracks-like structures far from their current walking distance homes, immersed in an antagonistic culture of neighborhood allegiances and conflicts, forced to confront the social challenges of substantial age differences and still without any reduction in class-size, lacking any Reading or Math specialists and then have RODEL, Carney, DOE and the Chamber of Commerce proudly pronounce “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED”.
    Here is the statement of opposition to the MOU that I made at the CSD board meeting last night.

    In anticipation of your vote tonight on the DOE/Governor proposed MOU I felt it was my responsibility as a State Legislator to thoroughly study the proposal and make my opinion public. Drawing on my twelve years as a State Representative, nearly a decade serving on the House Education committee and almost 30 years of attending hundreds of board meetings I feel fairly comfortable in my ability to judge this proposal for what it may or may not be worth to the educational opportunities of the Wilmington school children and their parents.
    Unfortunately I’ve been unable to discern practical and provable advantages for students or educators in this MOU. I find it frighteningly sparse on monetary investment going directly into the classrooms and more likely to disrupt the lives and community of the Wilmington students and their families.
    Ripping young children from the smaller and more welcoming neighborhood schools and herding them into two monolithic structures better suited as barracks can hardly contribute to a welcoming atmosphere for young students and integrating them with older and unfamiliar classmates would probably be an intimidating experience. This sleight of hand portion of the MOU has been portrayed as a $15 million injection of funds into Wilmington schools and while not even guaranteed has been viewed as such even by the News Journal’s editorial board and other inexperienced and naïve members of the business community.
    The case is often presented as “we have to do or try something” and I take offense at that cynical approach. Do we propose that the kids in Wilmington see $15 million unnecessarily flushed down the drain while they are forced to endure unwieldy and over-crowded classrooms with no money for more teachers and smaller classrooms or Reading specialists or Math specialists?
    If this MOU is not hocus-pocus or a hoax about to be perpetrated on the children of Wilmington than I would expect that some proof, any proof, that removing these kids from their local and easily accessible schools and warehousing them in these two unattractive and formidable appearing buildings has a record of improving educational opportunities or student proficiencies for any students anywhere.
    I can show you proven and indisputable evidence that smaller classroom ratios and Reading and Math specialists assigned to schools positively impact students and achieve significant proficiency improvements in all children’s’ performances.
    If this board wants to partner with DOE and the Administration to honestly improve educational opportunities for inner-city public schools than I suggest that you counter with an MOU proposal that would take that $15 million and spend it in the classrooms. Hire more teachers and aides to reduce classroom sizes, hire Reading specialists and Math specialists and invest in necessary structural improvements in the more welcoming neighborhood schools that are being threatened with closure.
    No gimmicks, no propaganda for media to chew on just plain and simple better education for the children of Wilmington.

  3. Kevin Ohlandt of Exceptional Delaware also covered the meeting. I found these paragraphs noteworty:

    State Rep. John Kowalko gave public comment opposing the plan. As well, State Rep. Kim Williams came. She said she wants to know more about it because she will be voting on it (during the FY2019 budget vote). None of the other Christina legislators bothered to attend. Those are Reps. Paul Baumbach, Earl Jaques, Ed Osienski, John Viola, Charles Potter, and Stephanie Bolden. Senators David Sokola and Bryan Townsend did not attend either….The fact that aside from Kowalko, no Christina legislators bothered to show up for such an important vote troubled me immensely. It shows a clear lack of commitment to their constituents, especially the Wilmington legislators. I understand they have their own lives but dammit, this is about the kids in their district.”

    • cassandram

      One of the things that I’ve been really amazed at has been the lack of engagement by some of the local legislators. Outside of promoting (and going to) the Governor’s meeting at Stubbs, City Council members who have constituents here have been MIA on this as well. Do they have any say in the outcome here? Mainly no. But they could be cheerleaders and help amplify these parents’ voices. There is a portion if the City’s problems that is wrapped up in schools that don’t adequately serve all of these kids. Even if you don’t have a direct vote on it, show up for your constituents. Be a part of the solution. Help spread the message and get parents to school board meetings where people are deciding the fate of your kids.

      Senator Marshall also has constituents in this District, as does Rep. Keeley. Not sure Rep. Potter’s district is in Christina though.

  4. Well done Christina. Now to start closing down the underutilized buildings in the rest of the district.

    • I’m not convinced you understand why the buildings are “underutilized.” Do you?

      • Enlighten us please, Alby

        • That’s just it, moron: It’s not my job. Go look it up, lazy bastard.

        • Look at the rest of the thread, asswipe: People discussing these policies in detail. But the conservamorons like you an xyz have nothing to add but childish snark. Get a job or a hobby or a wife — whatever, just take your stupidity and ignorance somewhere where they’ll be better appreciated.

          • As usual, make personal attacks. If I could take a quote from Amy L Wax, from the University of Pennsylvania Law School; “Of course one has the right to hurl labels like “racist,” “sexist,” and “xenophobic” without good reason-but that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Hurling such labels doesn’t enlighten, inform, edify, or educate. Indeed, it undermines these goals by discouraging or stifling dissent.”

      • There’s nothing more fluid than school capacity numbers. 🙂

  5. John Young

    It was very disappointing to hear from parents and teachers again about how little they were engaged. Artificial deadlines force decisions like these to be made without the breadth of needed considerations. Examples would include: consulting with Wilmington police regarding the potential impact of mixing neighborhoods (not to guide a decision but inform it), does 1-8 (NOT K-8) make a difference in outcomes, how will a dual generation impact outcomes (never described to the BOE after the Governor was directly asked to make this case), why did CSD and the state deliberately pitch the MOU to the community and not use closure in those discussions which numbered far fewer than needed, I’m sure there’s more lurking details that need to be addresses as CSD and the state pivot to planning, but the Teacher’s Union now has sole power to undo what has been done and they need to demand the information the board failed to get.

  6. I hope it works. The status quo isn’t serving any of these kids. At least the Governor is trying something which is more than I can say for Christina. People have been waiting for the legislature and Christina to solve these problems and nothing happens. If Carney is being a bully about this, then so be it. At least he’s being a bully for those communities. It’s laughable that anyone who has sat by and watched these same kids get bussed to Newark for high school has the audacity to show fake dismay at them going from Pulaski to Bayard. That’s ridiculous. Most of those kids would be going to Bayard by middle school anyway. This is just people who like the status quo. It’s no surprise that Kim Williams and Kowalko were there to be against this…. It’s their constituents who don’t want to pay for poor schools in Wilmington. Are you kidding me?

  7. cassandram

    It’s laughable that anyone who has sat by and watched these same kids get bussed to Newark for high school has the audacity to show fake dismay at them going from Pulaski to Bayard.

    It’s not laughable. I talked to a first responder the other day who notes that on some days Bayard has more response activity than real city sectors. Bayard is an older and very challenged population and no one knows whether you can adequately address those challenges with a 1-8 school. And if you were at the meeting at Stubbs, you heard from a great many Pulaski parents on exactly this issue.

    At the end of the day, there’s very little in this *solution* that will better much of anything for the kids here. Getting teachers training in trauma informed practices is definitely a great step. But can you honestly say you would send your children to these schools before or after?

  8. Great writing. Share your concerns about this, especially with the lack of parental and community input and the funding. Was funding not tied to the MOU in any way?

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