Archive for the ‘Markell’ Category

After reading Matthew Albright’s article in the News Journal (“Virtually no Delaware Teachers Received Poor Evaluations”) those of us who are enthusiastic about improving the quality of education in Delaware had to stop and ask ourselves this question: Are there really no teachers in Delaware who are ineffective at teaching children?

We understand that ever-changing “standards” and severe fluctuations in education dollars for public schools makes teaching difficult for many who enter the profession. At the same time Delaware’s 51st overall ranking in SAT scores (mandatory testing was factored in and we are still last) should be considered unacceptable, despite whatever rankings the state was coming up with on the DCAS testing. The fact that two-thirds of all students, and four-fifths of low income, Black, and Hispanic students, cannot read or write at a grade level comparable to their peers in other states should be considered unacceptable.

There should be accountability for the two-grade gap between White students and Black and Hispanic students, particularly students in Wilmington and Dover. There should be accountability for why, despite the mediocre to poor results in Delaware’s public schools, the state has the fourth highest ratio of administrators to students and why Delaware employs as many “support staffers” as they do teachers in the public schools.

There should be accountability for why, out of $435,000 per classroom per year the state spends, 80 percent is not spent in the classroom.

Does anyone living in Delaware not think Wilmington has real problems? Wilmington and Dover, two areas with higher than average crime rates, would benefit from better education which will come only when there is a real movement for education reform.

Terri Hodges, president of the state PTA, was quoted as saying, “We support a fair evaluation system, but we can’t say that 99 percent of teachers are effective when we look at the number of student’s we’re seeing reaching proficiency or how we stack up to other states.”

We agree with Ms. Hodges on this statement. We would like to see a review of the Delaware Performance Appraisal System (DPAS) which is supposed to make sure ineffective teachers are removed from the classroom. Children are a nation’s most valuable asset and without well-educated children America will not be able to compete with children in other nations for jobs which offer good wages and a sense of security.

All of this starts with the Delaware Department of Education, the Delaware State Education Association, and the Markell Administration. Eventually the government and the public will have to acknowledge the poor service the state is providing education-wise to Delaware’s children. The first step will be to review this DPAS evaluation system to make sure it is there to protect students’ education and not teachers’ jobs. The second step will be to stop treating non-public schools as the enemy and instead welcome the opportunity to prove why public schools are a good option for parents and families through innovations where the student and parents are the VIPs and not the administrators in charge of collecting and disbursing funds. No child should be forced to play guinea-pig with her or his education experience to try out “standards” which have never been tested before. We at CRI hope the state and public will listen.

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DOVER, DE – Cause of Action, a Washington D.C.-based legal advocacy group, has filed suit today in US Federal Court, District of Delaware, against Governor Jack Markell and five members of the Delaware Public Service Commission.

The Caesar Rodney Institute (CRI), a Delaware-based non-partisan think tank, has challenged the merits of utilizing high-cost Solid Oxide Fuel Cells to produce electrical power for sale to ratepayers of Delmarva Power, Delaware’s largest energy utility provider.  CRI was the sole entity opposing the contract between Delmarva Power and Bloom Energy at the Delaware Public Service rate hearings in October of 2011, on the basis the economic impact on Delaware’s economy would be negative because of the contract.  CRI has been concerned about the constitutionality of the contract from the very beginning.

Since CRI and John Nichols, a citizen activist, were not able to convince the Public Service Commission to change its views on either the economic or environmental impact of the permit application, Mr. Nichols decided to take his case to the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board.  He challenged the permit application on whether Bloom Energy had the right to build its Solid Oxide Fuel Cell technology in lands that were considered protected for wildlife. CRI funded expert testimony as part of Mr. Nichols’ motion to appear the permit decision.

The Board voted to deny Mr. Nichols standing at the hearing, which allowed Bloom Energy to proceed with installation of its Solid Oxide Fuel Cell units in the Coastal Zone.  Mr. Nichols opted to file a lawsuit against Governor Markell and five members of the Public Service Commission, using information CRI provided during testimony.  He was joined by Fuel Cell Energy, Inc., a company which makes fuel cells, and which feels it was denied the opportunity to do business in Delaware because of the government’s decision to not open the bidding process to outside companies.

Caesar Rodney Institute 

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From the Governor’s office:

Markell Names Widener University Law School Dean Linda L. Ammons to Lead Independent Review of Delaware’s Statutory and Administrative Procedures Governing Child Abuse and Exploitation

Dover, DE – Governor Jack Markell announced today that he has named Widener University School of Law Associate Provost and Dean Linda L. Ammons, Esquire to lead an independent review into the State’s statutory and administrative procedures governing child abuse and exploitation, in the wake of the Lewes pediatrician being accused of sexually assaulting children in his care.

Markell was joined by Senator Brian Bushweller, Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and Representative Larry Mitchell, Chair of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee to call for the review to examine where critical improvements are necessary.

“The bottom line is that the system failed these children.  I am asking Dean Ammons to take an independent look at why this systemic failure occurred. I am asking that she make recommendations that will foster a child protection community of collaboration and accountability, so that we can make the necessary improvements to protect our children from predators,” Markell said. “This situation demands tough questions and real answers. Together, we intend to get them.”

Dean Ammons is expected to consult with the Attorney General, recognized experts in criminal justice, sexual assault and child protection to assist her in her review, as well as look at best practices in formulating her recommendations.

Dean Ammons is the seventh dean of Widener Law and the first woman and first African-American person to lead the state’s only law school. An accomplished lawyer, professor and administrator, she came to Widener in July 2006 from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland, Ohio, where she was associate dean and professor of law. Her primary area of expertise is administrative law, which involves the operation of government and regulatory agencies.

Dean Ammons has a wealth of administrative and state-agency experience. She served as executive assistant to former Ohio Gov. Richard F. Celeste from 1988 to 1991, a job in which she oversaw criminal justice policy for the governor and served as his point person on state-prison issues. She served on the Ohio Supreme Court Futures Commission, which worked to improve the court system, and co-chaired for two years the American Bar Association National Institute on Defending Battered Women in Criminal Cases.

“I have agreed to undertake this review at Gov. Markell’s request because it presents an opportunity to help improve a system that cannot leave its children – its most vulnerable citizens – without adequate protections,” Dean Ammons said. “This call to public service is in keeping with our core values at Widener, where students are encouraged to use their educations and talents in ways that contribute to the communities we serve, in order to make them better places. I appreciate the confidence Gov. Markell has shown by asking me to lead this review and I welcome the chance to help make the First State safer, particularly for children.”

Dean Ammons will undertake a comprehensive review of the State’s policies and procedures and make recommendations to improve the administrative handling of child abuse and sexual exploitation cases focused on reducing child trauma, enhancing the effectiveness of administrative action, and reforming state laws and regulations to meet these objectives.

Markell made clear that Dean Ammons’ review must not and will not jeopardize the current prosecution in the Lewes pediatrician case or the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation of whether anyone violated the current reporting requirements under the existing statutory scheme.

“Not only must we ensure a successful prosecution in this case, we must have, and Dean Ammons will help provide, real answers to how and why the system failed and a roadmap to protect our children going forward,” Markell said. “While the Attorney General will prosecute the laws that were broken, this independent review will help decide whether we have the right laws, processes and procedures in place for the handling of future child abuse and sexual exploitation cases.”

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden supports the State’s independent review.

“I support the Governor’s independent review.  In the meantime, my office will continue to pursue Dr. Bradley to the fullest extent of the law and get to the bottom of who may have violated Delaware’s current reporting requirements and take whatever action is necessary.  There must be accountability.”  Biden said.

Issues to be addressed in the independent review include but are not limited to:

  1. Professional reporting requirements for suspected incidents of misconduct and the enforcement thereof;
  2. Professional licensing requirements, procedures and enforcement, including comprehensive background checks and procedures for on-going review;
  3. Medical standards and protocols around proper pediatric care and the publication thereof to ensure that doctors, medical staff and parents have clear guidance;
  4. The sufficiency of outreach efforts regarding reporting requirements, so that those with legal obligations to report questionable behavior do so;
  5. Proper communication and coordination between law enforcement agencies, professional regulators and the medical community; and
  6. Ensuring that adequate services are provided for the protection and treatment of children suspected of being sexually abused in order to protect them from further harm.

At the conclusion of the independent review, Dean Ammons will issue a final report to the Governor’s Office, the Senate Public Safety Committee and the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.

According to Senator Bushweller, “Protecting children, and indeed all patients, needs to be our first priority and I support the Governor’s decision to review this matter.  We need a broad-based review of all facets of this horrendous situation. I look forward to considering the results and recommendations of Dean Ammons’ independent review.”

Representative Mitchell stated, “It is imperative that we take a top-down and independent look at where the system failed these children, and make the necessary improvements to ensure that something like this never happens again.  Dean Ammons is an accomplished individual who is well-suited to undertake such an important review.”

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Delaware joins 10 other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states in pact to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels

DOVER – Gov. Jack Markell joined the governors of 10 other Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states today in announcing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among the states that underscores their commitment toward developing a regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard in a regional effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fuels for vehicles and other uses.

“We need to address the challenges we are facing with solutions that improve our environment and create jobs,” said Gov. Markell. “I am pleased that Delaware has again joined other states in addressing air quality and carbon emissions. This program will spark investment and innovation in alternative fuels and electric cars like those that Fisker Automotive plans to make in Wilmington.”

A Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program is a market-based, fuel-neutral program that would apply to the transportation sector, and potentially apply to fuels used for heating buildings. A regional standard is expected to spur economic growth related to development of advanced technologies and green energy jobs. A low carbon standard also has the potential to reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions, which represent approximately 30 percent of emissions in the region; reduce regional vulnerability to petroleum price volatility; and facilitate the long-term transition from petroleum-based fuels in the transportation sector.

“Transportation fuels account for a significant portion of Delaware’s air pollution and 25 percent of our state’s and our nation’s carbon dioxide emissions,” said Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara. “A low carbon fuel standard is an innovative market-based approach that will find low-cost solutions to lowering carbon emissions and spurring local investments, and we’re pleased to be working once again on a regional level to address this important issue.”

Signing the Memorandum of Understanding along with Gov. Markell were: Gov. Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Gov. John Baldacci of Maine, Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire, Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, Gov. David Paterson of New York, Gov. Edward Rendell of Pennsylvania, Gov. Donald Carcieri of Rhode Island and Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the states agree to analyze low carbon fuel supply options, determine the feasibility of achieving a range of reduction goals, including a 10-percent reduction in carbon intensity of fuels, and develop a framework for a regional Low Carbon Fuel Standard to ensure sustainable use of renewable fuels in the region. The Memorandum of Understanding also calls for a study to examine the potential economic impacts of any program moving forward.

The states have already demonstrated the success of regional emissions reduction programs with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which covers greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. A regional program to address transportation and other fuels is considered prudent and efficient among the signatories given the interconnected nature of the fuel distribution system in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region.

More information on the LCFS work in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region is available at:  http://www.nescaum.org/topics/low-carbon-fuels

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A fine example of what has become of the watchdog role of the state’s traditional media can be seen here.

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Here they are without fanfare: the good, the bad and the funny.

10. Markell’s First Governor’s Prayer Breakfast Highlights “Service Beyond Self”

9. Markell Encourages Delawareans to Provide Accurate Census Data

8. Governor, First Lady break ground on vegetable garden at Woodburn

7. Delaware Named One of the Nation’s Top 10 States for Cyclists

6. Markell Praises Announcement of DSU-UD Football Series

5. Delaware Department of Correction Announces New Bid for Prison Medical Contract

4. Governor Markell signs bill promoting plastic bag recycling

3. Markell Encourages Delawareans to Eat Locally Grown Fruit and Vegetables

2. Delaware ‘Should Have Its Day in Court’

1. ‘We Thought That The State Should Have A Chance To Make Its Case At Trial’

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In an untitled e-mail sent Thursday afternoon, Joe Rogalsky announced he is resigning his staff position as Gov. Jack Markell’s communications director.

Rogalsky, who joined Markell’s gubernatorial campaign as spokesman in December 2007, did not return calls seeking comment for this story.

“The Governor is and remains a public servant with bold ideas and vision, who is happy to take the opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives,” Rogalsky is quoted as saying in the e-mail. “Recently I decided it was time to make a difference in my own life.”

Before joining Markell’s team, Rogalsky worked as a reporter at the Washington Examiner and the The State News.

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Dave Burris has published an interesting article in the current issue of Coastal Sussex Weekly Magazine, which was written by Michael Short.

The piece examines the profession of river pilot, and includes the pilots’ take on dredging.

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Attorney General Beau Biden watched the proceedings from the audience Tuesday, but did not argue the case.

By Lee Williams

(Note: this story can also be found in CRI’s Special Reports section.)

The State of Delaware asked District Court Judge Sue Robinson Tuesday for an injunction that would halt the Army Corps of Engineers’ controversial plan to deepen the Delaware River from 40 to 45 feet.

Delaware Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Oliva presented the state’s case before a packed courtroom, which included several longshoremen from the Port of Wilmington who had ball caps that said “Dredge Now!”

Oliva castigated the Corps of Engineers for its decision to move forward with the plan without obtaining Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) permits, calling it a “surprise” and a “unilateral decision,” until Judge Robinson interrupted.

“I am taken aback by the State of Delaware’s constant use of ‘surprise’ and ‘unilateral decision,’” Robinson said. “The process has been going on for years, and it’s striking to me that the State of Delaware has sat on its hands for years. Am I supposed to set that aside and start my history in 2009?”

Congress authorized the dredging plan in 1992. The Corps first applied for state permits in 2001. Two years later, a DNREC hearing officer recommended rejecting the plan. It wasn’t until July 2009 that DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara formally denied the Corps’ dredging proposal.

After the denial, the Corps took steps to move the plan forward until Attorney General Biden’s office filed suit to stop the plan. The State of New Jersey and five environmental groups quickly joined the suit.

“It is true that from 2003 until the secretary ruled recently in July, Delaware didn’t formally address the permits,” Oliva said.

This delay by the state was noted by Judge Robinson and Kent Hanson, a U.S. Justice Department attorney representing the Corps of Engineers.

“The Corps has never said that the hurdle to comply with state law is way too high,” Hanson said. “In this case it’s way too long.”

Robinson peppered Oliva with questions about the steps needed to implement the dredging plan.

“It’s obvious Congress wants this proposal to go forward, and whenever you dredge a riverbed you have consequences. The question is, what obstacles does the Corps need to get through to implement Congress’ directive?” the judge asked Oliva. “My real question is how do we move this project forward? What is left to be done?”

Oliva pointed out that both the federal Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act require the Corps to coordinate with the states involved.

“The Corps hasn’t said one reason which precludes them from complying with state law,” Oliva said.

During his presentation, Hanson acknowledged the legal requirement to comply with state water quality regulations.

“But there is a ‘but’ which Delaware wants to leave out of the statute: unless the state action effects or impairs the Army’s authority to maintain navigation.”

Oliva added that the Corps’ responsibility to maintain a navigable waterway also did not apply, as the river hosts much traffic already, at the 40 feet depth.

“The Secretary of the Army has a duty to maintain navigation, not enhance,” Oliva said. “Navigation on this river up to the Port of Philadelphia is robust. They’ve bragged about it.”

Hanson said the Corps has the authority to move forward without the permits. However, he said, they will still seek DNREC permits, even though they do not feel bound to obtain them.

He chided the state for claiming the dredging would stir loose harmful contaminants without offering any proof.

“The evidence, in terms of data and expert testimony, is all on this side, and there will be no irreparable harm,” he said, adding that that the state’s claims had neither evidence nor causal links.

“It is a kind of fear mongering,” he said.

Oliva did not fully address the economic impact that could occur if the channel is not deepened, and larger vessels bypass the local ports in favor of those with deeper shipping channels.

Hanson said delaying or denying the proposal would produce harm.

“We’re not talking about economic harm to the government. We’re talking about economic harm to people,” he said. “In the public interest, we can’t ignore the environment, but we have to look at much more.”

Robinson will entertain additional written briefs for two weeks before ruling on the state’s request.

Contact investigative reporter Lee Williams at (302) 242-9272 or lee@caesarrodney.org

The Caesar Rodney Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-partisan research and educational organization and is committed to being a catalyst for improved performance, accountability, and efficiency in Delaware government.

© Copyright Dec.8, 2009 by the Caesar Rodney Institute.

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Pressure is mounting on Gov. Jack Markell to find a way out of the dredging controversy, as observed today in a story by Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer Linda Lloyd.

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