Don Patton resigned from the Wilmington Learning Collaborative Monday.

Don Patton steps away from WLC, group seeks another extension 

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Don Patton resigned from the Wilmington Learning Collaborative Monday.

Don Patton resigned from the Wilmington Learning Collaborative Monday.

One of the champions of improving education in Delaware is resigning from the Wilmington Learning Collaborative’s governing council.

Don Patton, who started both positions in 2022, says he needs to focus on his elected position as president of the Christina School District Board.

Also Tuesday night, Laura Burgos, executive director of the collaborative, had some pointed  words about the state of education in Delaware’s largest city and the need for WLC’s work.

“Not many people have been unwilling to go on record to say it,” Burgos said. “I would like to publicly go on record as saying that we are in a state of emergency when it comes to Wilmington education.”

Too many children are being taught by uncertified and unprepared adults, vacancies persist, and there’s evidence of a lack of urgency in reversing this trend, Burgos said.

Safety issues persist, and Burgos said she’s heard of cases where multi-language learners are grouped with special education students, as well as students with Individualized Education Programs and 504 Plans have unmet needs and sometimes being reclassified, all due to staffing shortages. 

Patton resignation

Patton announced his resignation this week via a letter to the other members of the collaborative’s council.

He said being the president of Christina’s board, as well as other responsibilities, limits his time.

One of his focuses is improving the quality and abilities of school board members across the state.

Rep. Kim Williams, D-Marshallton, now has a bill going through the General Assembly that would require training on financial responsibility for new school board members. 

RELATED: School board members: Newly elected can have swift impact

Patton’s resignation comes the same night collaborative leaders reiterated that the council is seeking another extension on its WLC Goals, which requires an amendment to the signed memorandum of understanding. 

Patton said extensions and delays were not the reason he is resigning.

“It is because my plate is heavy with CSD and all the challenges we must fix if we are going to improve student outcomes, increase parent involvement and let principals, staff members and families make decisions for their students,” he said.

Patton was one of 12 members of the council. It’s the body that votes on policies, initiatives, job hires, next steps and more for the collaborative.

Patton was the single mayoral appointee on the board. Mayor Mike Purzycki will have to appoint another representative, whom the other council members will have to approve as well. 

Patton’s resignation was discussed in executive session and was not mentioned in the public meeting.

Burgos said in a statement Wednesday that she had not talked to Patton about his resignation.

Another extension

Members of the council have acknowledged that it takes time to change the paradigm of education in the city, especially while forming a brand new state agency from the ground up. They also say they know the public is anxious to see action and change.

“You can’t boil the ocean,” said councilman Dorrell Green, superintendent of Red Clay Consolidated School District, in a previous meeting. 

The memorandum of understanding signed by Red Clay, Brandywine and Christina school districts holds the WLC accountable for meeting goals set by all parties and helping the districts and schools meet their goals.

The deadline to do that was March 31, 2023, after an earlier amendment. 

The council wants to push it back to June 30. 

Brandywine’s board already voted to approve the amendment.

While many have said that the collaborative needs time and patience when trying to make large, systemic changes – especially since it’s a new entity and needs time to set its foundation – residents of Wilmington also are eager to see action. 

Here are some of the delays thus far:

May 2023: Learning Collab seeks permission to extend planning period

July 2023: Contract delays to Learning Collab’s exec. director Burgos

August 2023: WLC gets another planning year after Brandywine vote

February: WLC needs three more months to set performance reqs

The Wilmington Learning Collaborative is a partnership between Red Clay Consolidated, Brandywine and Christina school districts that was formed in November 2022.  

It consists of nine elementary schools in the city, and leaders hope change in policy and new programs will help systemic underachievement and improve the social and academic outcomes of students. 

Another key of the collaborative is involving students, educators and parents in decision making – there are three high school students (two non-voting members), three parents and one former teacher on the governing council.

It has requested $16 million in state funding for fiscal year 2025. About $6 million of that was allotted to this fiscal year, but was not spent.

Any amendment to the memorandum of understanding requires all three district boards to vote to approve it.

Moving forward

In spite of delays, the collaborative has moved forward in some ways:

  • Hiring and appointing executive director, operations director, educator pathways director, student and parent representatives.
  • Finishing initial assessments and reports of schools, which shows where each school is at and what each of their unique needs are, as well as staff surveys

READ: WLC hires 2, completes school assessments

READ: Meet the Learning Collab’s 3 parent representatives

  • Site visits to each school, receiving scorecards and published benchmark data to show where the nine schools currently are with various state tests.

READ: WLC leader details initial work, school reports

  • Completing the first cycle of  Innovation Project proposals, in which educator leader teams came up with creative solutions to improve specific outcomes. There are two more cycles expected to be completed this year.

READ: WLC building 9 community councils, strengthening partnerships

The WLC Council also is planning to contract with Children & Families First, a local nonprofit dedicated towards recognizing the impact of trauma on communities and coming up with solutions to help families.

The governing council will meet next on Tuesday, April 16 at 6 p.m. Watch the meeting here.

Share this Post