Monday, May 7, 2012

And tomorrow is school board election day . . .

. . . and I am apparently exceeding my elipsis count . . .

Ah, but anyway.

Here are my final thoughts going into Election Day:

First:  in Red Clay--Vote for Joanne Johansen.
Joanne Johansen
The BEST Choice for Red Clay

I know there's been controversy about Voices 4 DE Education, which has supported her, and even innuendo and outright assertions that Voices or Rodel or Satan recruited her to run in this race.

They didn't.  I was one of the people who helped talk Joanne into running--I've said so publicly, but I don't think very many people have been listening.  [Clarification, just for kilroy:  Joanne was interested but worried that the campaign might get as nasty as it did last year.  Like a fool, I told her it couldn't possibly be that bad two years in a row.]

To me, Joanne is the kind of involved multi-generation Red Clay product that we need on the School Board.  She attended Forest Oak, Stanton, and Dickinson; her son, daughter, and neices are all in or graduated from Red Clay schools.  She's been a Red Clay parent volunteer, PTO officer, fundraiser, etc. etc. for over a decade.  She knows inside and out what matters to parents in terms of district policy, and she will be another strong voice for parents on the board.

(Did I mention she's opinionated?  Yeah.  I tried to make one or two little suggestions about position responses to the WNJ questionnaire, and what did I get?  "Thanks, Steve, but that's not what I think, so I'm not saying it."  OK, so she's not perfect.)

Her opponent is a good man, and by all reports a great teacher.

Here's the difference:  Joanne's kids have prospered in Red Clay because they had informed, involved parents.  So do Kenny Rivera's kids.  So do mine, so do pandora's, so do a lot of kids.

But a lot of kids don't.  A lot of parents either are not equipped (financially or educationally) or do not have that overriding concern about their own children and education.  They take whatever they are given, and they don't realize that the choices they make, or do not make, as early as grades K-3 have a profound impact on the rest of their children's lives.

Those are the kids who need an advocate, long before even they meet that special teacher who can do so much to motivate a student to excel.

Joanne will be the parent on the board who never stops reaching out to all those other parents, and who never stops reminding the board that ALL our schools, especially ALL our elementary schools have to become good enough to make good that need for our most at-risk students.

Second:  if I lived in Christina (which I obviously don't), I would be voting for Shirley Saffer.

Before I resurrected this blog, I put up a guest post over at Kilroy's about the fact that nobody wants to talk about Christina being the poorest district in the State, and that pure economics is constantly threatening to strangle the schools there despite the best efforts of some really good people.
Shirley Saffer

In doing my due diligence, I conclude that Ms. Saffer has been one of those good people.  She took a lead role in the creation of the new Christina Early Learning Center.  It's easy to talk about the importance about investing in early childhood education, but it is something else to suffer the abuses while quietly working to make that happen.

Moreover, I do not find that Ms. Saffer in any way endangered, or intended to endanger $11 million in funding for CSD with her vote last spring to try to enforce the original MOU with DOE regarding the GHS PZ for RTTT (if you know all those acronyms you have been at this too long).  She voted with the rest of the board to make a point in defense of her district's teachers, her district's autonomy, and to try to get the other partner in the MOU to live up to their promises.

In other words, she took a stand for the students in her district.  You can agree or disagree with the wisdom of that stand, but of all the CSD board members she knew she'd be the next one up for re-election, and she knew she'd be painting a target on her own back.  She went with her convictions.  I want people with convictions on Delaware School Boards.  [And a nod to Anonymous:  I do prefer personal convictions to felony convictions here.]

In endorsing Ms. Saffer I am not finding fault with either of her opponents, but to me they'd have to show an overwhelming reason to replace her, and I haven't seen it.

Third:  the time to fix school board elections and election laws in Delaware begins on May 9.

This election is what it is, is what it has been.  Win, lose, or draw, the landscape has been changed just as thoroughly as DSEA changed it back in 2009.

I suspect it was inevitable, but I also don't think that technical fine-tuning the election laws is going to be the answer.  There will always be loopholes, and there will always be people interested in jumping through them.

I think I am (and this is a strange admission for me) with Barbara Finnan on this one, that we need to start fixing Delaware public education from the top down.

Here's my thought for the day:

1.  Move the Secretary of Ed position back out of the cabinet, and change it back into the State Superintendent of Education, appointed by the State Board of Education, and responsible to them.

2.  Change the way we select the State Board of Education.  Here's what I would do:

A.  One member appointed by the Governor.

B.  One member selected by a vote of the 19 school district superintendents.

C.  One member selected by a vote of the 19 school board presidents.

D.  Three members elected in non-partisan State-wide elections.

Got a better idea?

Let's hear it.


Anonymous said...

This has now topped my list for quotes to take out of context. "I want people with convictions on Delaware School Boards." :D

But, in a more serious vein, I'd like to see more activism on school boards by people you might not consider "stakeholders."

Your criteria selects people who have made the districts work for their kids, and MAYBE that expertise would extend to other kids. However, it seems likely that it would result in more of what the schools do already.

I'm a homeschooler. We homeschool for reasons related to my employment... not as a rejection of the schools. But I see a lot of kids the school system has utterly failed, and they wind up in my court. Their parents are activist, or they wouldn't homeschool, which requires enormous family resources. But their concern, their advocacy, fell on closed minds.

If you're selling a product (and public education, particularly in a state where sometimes a quarter of the students don't use it, is a product) you need to know who your buyers are, sure. But you need to know why people are NOT buying, too. If everyone is preaching to the choir, systems that have already fallen short still get reinforced. That's a problem.

pandora said...

Surprising post, but honest. Hats off to you!

Let me add one more thing to your list... (oops! Elipsis warning!)

Let's move the school board elections to November. Here's what would happen... ;-)

1. More voters, or... (I'm cracking myself up now)
2. School board elections would have to clean up their act for fear of being moved into the political arena.

Looks like............................ a win-win to me.

Why yes, I am a child.

Anonymous said...


pandora said...

LOL! Anonymous... for the win!

kavips said...

i remember when these dots ..... were owned by one blogger and only one....