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Delaware Plans to Freeze District's Race to the Top Funds

The Delaware secretary of education said that the state will withhold more than $11 million in Race to the Top dollars slated to go to the 17,000-student Christina School District, after its board voted Tuesday against a plan that would move 19 educators out of two low-performing schools.

The state's chief education officer, Lillian Lowery, said that the district was reneging on a previous agreement.

"The staffing process in dispute was outlined in an agreement that Christina's leadership crafted, signed off on, and was charged with implementing," she said in a statement. "After implementing the process they agreed to, the Christina School Board now wants to change those rules. That's not fair to anyone, particularly the students who could lose out."

In September, two low-performing schools in the district were singled out for additional financial resources and technical assistance. The district chose a reform model that required the teachers at those schools to re-interview for positions. Those not invited back would be moved to a position in another school, but would not be fired or lose any benefits or seniority.

An article in the Delaware News-Journal says the decision, with five board members voting against moving the teachers and two abstaining, was made 20 minutes before midnight. During a lengthy meeting, the board heard from teachers who said that the interview process was confusing, and that they were not told that one interview would determine if they could stay at their school or be moved. Katherine Schaen, a Glasgow teacher who was asked to transfer to a new school, told the board that "no one knew what they were looking for," according to the newspaper's account.

This discord obviously puts a crimp in Delaware's reputation as a state united behind Race to the Top. The state, one of the first two to win the Race to the Top competition, was praised for its application, which included broad support from teachers, administrators, politicians and the community.

Not so much any more, though. From the article:

"We are absolutely concerned that if the district is not going to abide by an agreed-upon memorandum of understanding -- that has all the significant signatories signed on to it, has been vetted, discussed, agreed upon and signed onto -- absolutely we are not going to spend this valuable opportunity of funding in a place where we do not think we can get this work done," [the education secretary] said.

"Where there are 18 other districts, and there are 18 charters, and I am sure they would be more than pleased to have additional funds to move their plans forward."

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