Jason Casper Urges Calm Ahead Of Red Clay Board Meeting Tonight… Will Both Sides Listen?

Over the past couple of weeks, Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education member Jason Casper has been a lightning rod of controversy over Facebook posts supporting gun rights.  After the anti-gun group Moms Demand Action and others demanded Casper not run for President of the Red Clay board, he acquiesced and said he would not accept a nomination should it come up at their board meeting tonight.  But some groups, led by former Congressional candidate Kerri Harris, want Casper to resign from the board.  Meanwhile, the pro gun rights crowd plans to attend the meeting tonight to support Casper.  To that affect, Casper issued a statement on Facebook tonight urging both sides to let the Red Clay Board get back to issues about education.  It will also be his statement prior to public comment at the meeting tonight.  For my own personal thoughts on this, you can read my private Facebook page if I’m friends with you.  For the record, I hate what was done to Jason Casper.

Tonight, before I left for this meeting, I wanted to post a statement on Facebook. You might find that ironic, since it was a handful of Facebook posts that got me into this situation in the first place; but I wanted there to be a record of my words available after I spoke to you this evening.

So here goes:

I stepped forward to serve on this Board only after waiting to see if someone more qualified, someone whose leadership I would trust, would do so. When that didn’t happen, I thought, “I’m a teacher, and since Kenny Rivera left that perspective has been absent.” I’ve worked with students from the inner city, and that’s key to many of the kinds of challenges Red Clay is facing. I believe that we solve problems and educate kids not when we engage in ideological crusades, but when we sit down and do the thoughtful, detailed planning and support for our teachers, administrators, staff AND parents in the hard, day-to-day work of implementing those ideas.

No child has ever earned better math grades as the result of a fiery speech at a School Board meeting, or a cleverly worded meme on Facebook, which I think we all forget from time to time.

I know that I’m guilty of that.

As a leader, whether as a potential School Board President, or just as a Board member, I have been, and should have been held to a higher standard. I’m a conservative Catholic who believes in 2nd Amendment rights, and my posts did not do anything positive for those identities or for my district.

I should have known better. I should have known that in today’s world attempts at humor are always politically dangerous, and that I was setting a poor example for the kids I love.

So I am sorry for that, I apologize unequivocally, first and foremost to them. I don’t believe people who say, “For those whom I might have offended,” so I won’t say that.

It was inappropriate, and it has cost my family more dearly than you can imagine.

Yet, at the same time, this incident has told me more about the problems that keep us from coming together for our kids than I have otherwise learned in the past two decades.

As I look out into the audience tonight, I see the faces of those who have come here to protest against me as well as the faces of those who’ve turned out to support me.

And, you know what?

I don’t recognize most of you. I haven’t seen you at the committees that meet to pick next year’s elementary math textbooks, or at meetings brainstorming about how to better support our special needs population, or at public Board workshops. Even more to the point, the statistics—and just the fact that I’m sitting up here—tell me that the overwhelming majority of you do not turn out to vote in Red Clay School Board elections.

Yet people who have never met me, never spoken to me, and never stepped up to the plate here in the district feel empowered by my errors to condemn me as wanting to bring “racism, violence, and hate” into our schools. One person even posted half gleefully the rumor that I had been so struck down by their attacks that I visited the Emergency Room last week and died.

I tried reaching out to some of my most vocal critics. I wrote an extended response to one, laying out in full my thought processes, especially around the post I’d written about the student walk-out. She did not deign to reply, and after reading my words moved from calling for me not to run for President to inciting her followers to show up tonight to demand my resignation.

I saw public officials and want-to-be politicians jump on the bandwagon like sharks smelling blood in the water. I remember thinking that when I saw this happen last year to a very good man, and a very skilled teacher, with whom I share literally nothing in common in terms of political viewpoints, “Wow, now I know what a feeding frenzy looks like.”

Well, now I know what a feeding frenzy feels like.

I’d love to know if those of you who were convinced that you would come here tonight to see a rabid, white-robed fanatic carrying an AK-47 are wondering just what happened. All you got was an old driver education teacher and former funeral professional, who still digs graves from time to time.

As for my supporters tonight, aside from thanking you, I’d like to ask two favors.

The first is that if you signed up to speak, please don’t. Your presence, and the kind words you’ve offered to me and to my wife, Ami, over the past week have been a Godsend in a dark time, but tonight your presence is sufficient.

We don’t need to ratchet up the war of words and prove—unfortunately not for the first time—that this Board is more divided than it should be, and that in today’s rough world of politics good people of differing opinions find it more productive to trade insults than ideas.

The second thing I would ask you, from the Constitutional Republicans to Delaware Gun Rights, from Moms Demand Action to Sandy Hook Promise, is to remember that this district is not about your battles over the status of gun rights or free speech, but about the necessity of doing our very best for the children about to walk back into Warner, Heritage, Highlands, Linden Hill, Stanton, Richardson Park, Skyline, Dickinson, Cab, Conrad and all of our other schools.

So I’d ask you tonight, if you live in the district, to stop and find out how to sign up for a committee, or a working group, or your building’s PTA instead of letting this be your single visit to the process.

I will be working with you, if you do that, because I’m not going anywhere.

I will not be resigning my position on this Board.

I considered it, I really did. Would staying make me into the target of prolonged controversy that materially interfered with my ability to advance education? Would the cost of being publicly called—for the first time in my life—a violent, racist hate monger be too high a price for my family to bear?

But then I recalled that the teaching of my faith is that we are all, necessarily, flawed servants, but that it is our calling to emphasize the service and not use the flaws as an excuse.

So I will still be here. I pledge that I will be addressing my own flaws while working as tirelessly as possible for the children and families we are called to serve.

If you are moved to speak against me tonight, I will listen. Your passion is important, and your comments may move us further toward the district’s goals even when they are personally uncomfortable to me. More to the point, I believe in your right to speak and to criticize all public officials for any reason, and I will practice that belief.

In the next couple of weeks, we will have close to 17 THOUSAND students coming back to our schools, as well as hundreds of staff members from custodial staff and bus drivers, to teachers, counselors and administrators; all getting prepared for our Red Clay kids. We have a new superintendent that we need to support so that he can make 2019-2020 the best school year possible. We are ALL here for the kids.

Thank you, Madam President, for this opportunity to speak my piece.

Now let’s get back to work!

 

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State Board of Education Unanimously Votes To Put Odyssey Charter School On Probation

In a unanimous vote, the Delaware State Board of Education placed Odyssey Charter School on probation until June 30th, 2020.  The main takeaway of their probation conditions is removing AHEPA control of their Board of Directors.  This includes all organizations associated with AHEPA as outlined in the below Delaware Department of Education press release based on Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting’s recommendations.

State Board of Education Vice-President Dr. Audrey Noble gave an impassioned speech prior to the vote urging the entire Odyssey Community, including AHEPA, to come together and become unified for the benefit of the school.  She also said she read every single public comment and urged those who supported AHEPAn control of the board to realize their voice was heard but wants the community to come together whether AHEPA has control or not.

Head of School Denise Parks and Board President Josiah Wolcott gave public comment after the vote expressing their thoughts on what a fantastic school Odyssey is.  Wolcott said their board will put together a committee to review the probation clauses.  But the public comment by board member Tami Soltow expressed immense gratitude to the State Board for their decision.  She thanked the board for holding the board accountable and said the students of Odyssey are the most important.

Secretary of Education Susan Bunting today placed Odyssey Charter School on probation until June 30, 2020, allowing the school to remain open only if the school’s board makes changes and recovers funds spent inappropriately, among other changes.

Last month the Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) recommended placing Odyssey Charter School on probation, requiring conditions be met for the school to retain its charter. Bunting reviewed the committee’s reports, the school’s responses, transcripts of two public hearings and the submitted public comments before making her decision. The State Board of Education assented to her decision in a unanimous vote.

The school has until December to make substantial progress on the conditions, a timeline that is in line with the school’s charter renewal application that begins this fall. Conditions may be included as part of a charter renewal.

Odyssey Charter School was placed on formal review this spring due to governance issues. Tonight, Bunting placed the school’s charter on probation with the following conditions:

-Odyssey’s board revise its bylaws such that

o The majority of members are not members of the AHEPA Family organizations.

o A nominating committee consisting of only the non-AHEPA Family board members nominates potential future non-AHEPA Family board members for the non-AHEPA Family board member vacancies and appoints them through a fair and transparent nomination/selection process.

o AHEPA Family may select its members in its own process that may or may not be open to the public and may or may not include individuals who are not members of AHEPA Family organizations, but AHEPA Family members must be appointed by the AHEPA Family in a manner that provides gender balance among AHEPA Family members.

o Odyssey board officer positions will be annually nominated from the floor; any Odyssey board member will be eligible to be an officer, and each board member has the equal right to nominate and vote for officers unless recused due to conflict of interest.

o A process will be established to nominate and elect from the board each year a vice-president/president-elect who serves one year and serves automatically as president the next.

o The office of president will annually rotate between AHEPA Family and non-AHEPA Family.

o Committee members and committee chairs will be selected and approved by the board in a fair and transparent process, and members/chairs will be reconfirmed at least annually by the board.

o Any authority previously granted under current Article V (Contracts, Checks, Deposits and Funds) Section 1 (Contracts) will be revoked/nullified, and the reconstituted board may grant new authorization if needed.

o The procedure to amend the bylaws will contain a provision to introduce the amendment and vote on the amendment in two separate meetings of the board on different days at least 14 calendar days apart.

o Proposed amendments will be publicized among the Odyssey board, staff and families in writing at least seven days prior to introduction or voting.

o Out-of-state travel funded fully or partially using Odyssey funds, whether directly paid by Odyssey or reimbursed with funds under Odyssey control, will be approved by the board prior to travel.

o As a result of the conflict of interest provisions, AHEPA Family members will be explicitly required to recuse themselves from matters directly impacting AHEPA Family organizations.

-Odyssey Charter School shall recover the following sums spent in a manner inconsistent with the charter:

o $1,597.59 for the AHEPA Conference in Atlantic City, NJ paid out of Odyssey funds

o $91,487.69 used to establish and operate the Ithaka corporation from Odyssey funds

-Odyssey will undergo an investigatory audit with scope of work approved by the Delaware Department of Education and the Auditor of Accounts Office at Odyssey’s expense with any findings to be repaid as recommended by the Auditor of Accounts. The firm must be independent of the auditing firm that does the annual audit of the school and the audit must be complete by January 1, 2020.

-Odyssey will develop a plan for how to improve communication and trust between the board and the Odyssey community, including staff and families.

– Odyssey will develop a plan to strengthen the capacity of its Citizens’ Budget Oversight Committee and increase its access to information.

-Odyssey board representatives and DOE representatives will meet at least once a month to discuss
and evaluate progress toward meeting these conditions with jointly written reports sent to the Secretary and State Board.

Odyssey Charter School is a 1,800-student school that serves students in elementary through high school. It is located on Lancaster Pike in Wilmington.

Find more information, including all related documents, on Odyssey’s formal review here.

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006

Poll: What Will Happen With Odyssey Charter School Tonight?

Kim Williams Calls Out Earl Jaques For The Consummate Liar He Is

In an article on Delaware Public Media concerning the status of the charter school audit bills, State Rep. Earl Jaques spun a web of lies about State Rep. Kim Williams, the sponsor of the bill.  He gave a quote to reporter Sarah Mueller stating Rep. Williams never approached him about the bill.  But Williams didn’t take it lying down.  Nor should she. Continue reading

Delaware “Needs Assistance” For Special Education But Most Districts “Need Intervention” According to US DOE

The Office of Special Education Programs at the United States Department of Education released their annual state determinations for special education in public schools.  Their system of rating states and, by default, schools is problematic on its best day.  Far too much emphasis is placed on the state assessment.  In Delaware, that test is the Smarter Balanced Assessment for most students with disabilities.  We all know it is a horrible test but no one seems to want to change it anytime soon.  This is for the Part B determinations.  Part C is for children with disabilities aged 3-5 while Part B is for students in elementary up through 12th grade.

The letters to Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting can be found as follows:

Part B

Part C

You will notice some very distinct patterns in the below local education agency determinations for Delaware.  No traditional school district met requirements.  Those that were labeled as “Needs Intervention” tend to be the larger districts with high pockets of low-income students, minorities, and higher populations of special education students.  All the schools that met requirements only serve high school students.  I take these things with a grain of salt but it is not a state secret that Delaware special education needs a serious overhaul!  As usual, the state education agency, the Delaware Department of Education, is not judged under the same criteria as our districts and charters.  If they were, the Delaware DOE would assuredly need intervention.

MEETS REQUIREMENTS:

Charter School of Wilmington: Meets Requirements

Delaware Military Academy: Meets Requirements

First State Military Academy: Meets Requirements

New Castle County Vo-Tech: Meets Requirements

Sussex Tech: Meets Requirements

 

NEEDS ASSISTANCE:

Academia Antonia Alonso: Needs Assistance

Academy of Dover: Needs Assistance

Campus Community: Needs Assistance

EastSide Charter School: Needs Assistance

First State Montessori Academy: Needs Assistance

Great Oaks Charter School: Needs Assistance

Lake Forest: Needs Assistance

Las Americas ASPIRAS: Needs Assistance

MOT Charter School: Needs Assistance

Newark Charter School: Needs Assistance

Polytech: Needs Assistance

Positive Outcomes: Needs Assistance

Providence Creek: Needs Assistance

Seaford: Needs Assistance

Sussex Academy: Needs Assistance

Thomas Edison: Needs Assistance

 

NEEDS INTERVENTION:

Appoquinimink: Needs Intervention

Brandywine: Needs Intervention

Caesar Rodney: Needs Intervention

Cape Henlopen: Needs Intervention

Capital: Needs intervention

Charter School of New Castle: Needs Intervention

Christina: Needs Intervention

Colonial:  Needs Intervention

Delaware Design Thinking Academy: Needs Intervention

Delmar: Needs Intervention

DSCYF: Needs Intervention

Early College High School: error on web page for letter

Friere Charter School: Needs Intervention

Gateway Lab School: Needs Intervention

Indian River: Needs Intervention

Kuumba Academy: Needs Intervention

Laurel: Needs Intervention

Milford: Needs Intervention

Odyssey Charter School: Needs Intervention

Red Clay: Needs Intervention

Smyrna: Needs Intervention

Woodbridge: Needs Intervention

Disgusting Lunch At Brennen School For Children With Autism Has Parents Fuming

This is just foul!  The Brennen School in the Christina School District is serving kids lunch that I wouldn’t feed to my dog!  A parent sent me a picture of their child’s lunch at the school that serves children with Autism as part of the Delaware Autism Program.  I know Christina is having money woes but come on people!!!!

Brennen Hot Dog

Aside from this shriveled up hot dog, students were served a clementine along with it that day.  Sources tell me teachers are bringing in food for the kids the food is so atrocious.  Hey Christina, just because students have disabilities doesn’t mean you have to serve them sub-standard food.  I have to wonder what year this hot dog was cooked…

AHEPA Member Harasses Odyssey Whistle Blower Over Formal Review, Today Last Day For Public Comment

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At the final Public Hearing for Odyssey Charter School’s formal review, public comment was given by Jennifer Ballas indicating a prominent member of the AHEPA organization publicly harassed her at Odyssey’s last public board meeting after she spoke out against AHEPA.

After I spoke at the last public board meeting, I was attacked by AHEPA member who threatened and tried to intimidate me, and things that Mr. Manny Kanas, who used to be AHEPA Board President, said, I was a loud mouth, disrespectful, rude piece of useless flesh that is a total puppet to Dr. Nick.  He told me I was stupid.  And he wanted me to go away.  And that the cat had my tongue, even though I did not have the time to quickly respond to him.  And that scorned women are the worst.

It can be tough to be a whistle blower.  You put yourself in the direct path of those who don’t like change.  Who don’t like the truth coming out.  This Manny Kanas person who used his bully pulpit in an attempt to humiliate and intimidate a woman who is devoted to the success of children at Odyssey, is a coward.  A pathetic man who is clearly all about control and holding onto a relic of the past that is not welcome in the 21st Century.  I have nothing against the concept of AHEPA.  I don’t have any issue with any group or culture formed to promote education.  What I do take issue is what the Wilmington chapter of this organization has become.  And their treatment of women is deplorable.

Even former DSEA President Mike Matthews gave public comment at the public hearing.

And the fact that so many have gotten up here tonight and said without the AHEPA majority, the school will fail, you just told those hundreds of teachers at that school they are failing.  And I reject that on its face.  This is arrogance and hubris that has led us to the point where we are today.

Today is the final day to submit public comment for Odyssey Charter School.  All comments must be received by the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education before 4pm est today.  Public comment can be emailed to infocso@doe.k12.de.us and MUST be done today.  If you are against the practices of an outside AND private organization controlling a tax-payer paid public school, please let your voice be heard urging Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting and the State Board of Education to reject outside control of a public school board.  I’ll be submitting mine!

In the meantime, all the public comments from the meeting Monday night are below.  It is very easy to see who is cheer-leading for AHEPA and who is speaking out for the truth.

The final decision regarding the formal review for Odyssey Charter School will be at the July 18th State Board of Education meeting at the Townsend Building in Dover at 5pm.  It will be a very interesting decision!

Christina Board Member Sworn In & Resigns Minutes Later

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In the oddest move I’ve ever seen in Delaware education, Katie Hegedus was sworn in as a board member of the Christina School District Board of Education last night at their monthly board meeting and resigned minutes later.

Hegedus beat incumbent John Young two months ago in the school board election.  Her platform was basically that she would resign once she is sworn in.  This would force the current board to hand-pick a replacement.  They announced at their board meeting last night they would begin this task.

This ridiculous stunt was concocted by the Friends of Christina, a small but connected group of parents in the district who basically hated the fact John Young would call out the district on, well, anything.  Whether it was right or wrong.  Their mantra of go along to get along brought forth this latest oddity in Delaware school board race history.  One for the record books, that’s for sure!  This election meant so much to their de facto leader that she is currently trying to sell her house and move out of state.

While Young is no longer on the Christina Board of Education, he has come back and relaunched his blog as Transparent Christina 2.0.  I fully expect Young, who is now no longer beholden to certain bylaws of being a board member, to come out swinging on his blog!  While this very sad attempt at silencing Young may appear to be a win in some circles, I fear all they have done is awoken an already alert dragon.  With a tagline of “Because sometimes Exceptional needs some help“, Young has written several articles of late.  Speaking for Exceptional, I welcome any help in the Delaware education blogosphere!  Unless it is some urgent sounding blog…wink wink!

The board re-elected former President Meredith Griffith to another one-year term as President while Keeley Powell was elected to Vice-President of the board.

EastSide Charter School & Charter School of New Castle Break Up Partnership

Last month, the boards of EastSide Charter School and Charter School of New Castle decided to break up the unique partnership between the two schools that had been in existence for nearly five years.

In late 2015, when Family Foundations Academy was under formal review for financial and governance reasons, the Board of Directors at EastSide Charter School stepped in and essentially took over the school.  EastSide Head of School Director, Dr. Lamont Browne, took over as leader of both schools.  The former Heads of School at FFA were charged with theft of school funds.  Sean Moore served time in federal prison for his role in the crimes.

In 2016, Browne left for a position in Denver, Colorado and Aaron Bass took over the role as the leader for Vision Academies (the name of the partnership between EastSide and FFA).

In 2017, Family Foundations Academy changed their name to Charter School of New Castle.

Bass will continue as the Head of School for EastSide Charter School while Charter School of New Castle will continue to have LaRetha Odumosu as Principal of their middle school and Rachel Valentin as Principal of their elementary school.

DelawareCAN policy intern takes on DE School Board elections, and it’s a cliched take at best. #netDE #eduDE

Transparent Christina 2.0

The article: https://www.delawareonline.com/story/opinion/contributors/2019/07/05/why-did-firefly-draw-more-people-than-delaware-school-board-elections/1638930001/

Alphina Kamara takes on DE school board elections by sharing her take on voter apathy by revealing exactly how spectacularly unsuccessful DelawareCAN’s unfortunately named “Who Runs Delaware’s Schools” campaign (School boards do not run schools, they govern. Also, individual board members are functionally powerless by design) has been. In her article she trots out Rep. Baumbach’s terrible bill, that even when modified got exactly zero votes on the floor (it was such a bad bill it didn’t even get run by the Speaker). She neglected to address the bill’s design to pay board members, throwing their independence into play, and only focused on the term reduction aspect claiming, without proof, that it gives voters more choice. She then accuses Paul’s fellow legislators are apathetic (“his efforts have gotten a weak response”) public servants who are embracing the status quo.

Ah, the old status quo argument…that the same…

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As Odyssey Gets Ready For 2nd Public Hearing, AHEPA Emails Sound Like The Handmaid’s Tale…Blessed Be The Fruit!!!

As the clock ticks for a decision on Odyssey Charter School’s formal review, the final public hearing will be tonight.  Meanwhile, the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), which is the primary reason the school went under formal review in the first place, is begging their membership to come out in support of AHEPAn control of the school’s Board of Directors.  So much so they are beginning to sound very desperate.  I would urge the Delaware Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education to use a grain of salt when they read the public comments submitted to them.


From: AHEPA Wilmington Chapter 95 Office of the President <ahepawilm@gmail.com>
Date: Sun, Jun 30, 2019 at 11:10 PM
Subject: CALL TO ACTION/PLEASE READ CAREFULLY/AND EMAIL IMMEDIATELY!
To:

image.png
Good evening Brothers,

We need to FLOOD the DOE with emails regarding the AHEPA Family’s involvement with the Odyssey Charter School.  We MUST retain control for the school to continue to grow with the mission and vision of its pioneering creators!  Below, please find instructions on what should be done IMMEDIATELY.  In addition to yourself, share with family members and friends so that we inundate the DOE email box with supporting emails.

Click on this link:   https://delaware.gov/help/degov-contact.shtml
Enter your name, email, etc.
In the drop down for Category, enter Education
Subject: I support the AHEPA Family majority on the Odyssey Board…..or pick your own subject.  But make it stand out that you support the AHEPA Family
Enter your information in the body information
Submit

Share this with your friends and relatives.  Have your spouse do it too!  We need to impact their inbox!

And don’t forget!  We need you AND your VOICE and the Carvel State Office Building in downtown Wilmington next Monday, July 8th at 5pm.  You must sign up to speak, so please be there before 5!!!

Fraternally,
Michael Klezaras III

President


That was solicitation for the public comment.  Notice the use of the word “brothers” in the above email.  I guess “sisters” don’t get this email.  But I digress…

The following email was sent out yesterday to AHEPANs for public comment at the public hearing tonight at 5pm.


From: Michael Kirifides < mkirifides@gmail.com>
Date: July 7, 2019 at 1:44:14 PM EDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Fwd: CALL TO ACTION/PLEASE READ CAREFULLY/AND EMAIL IMMEDIATELY!

Dear Friend of AHEPA,
I would like to extend this invitation with urgency to support the local Chapter #95 of AHEPA in governing the Odyssey Charter School. There have been unsubstantiated allegations from a few individuals whose complaints have triggered the Delaware Department of Education to request that AHEPA cede its governing authority over the Odyssey Charter School. Without question, in time, the allegations will be disproved, yet the DoE has been pressuring the local AHEPA to relinquishing its governing majority to the few who are in hostile opposition to AHEPA. As a community, we are coordinating a grass roots response to the Charter School Accountability Committee during the public hearing on Monday July 8th at 5 pm being held at the Carvel State Office Building, 820 N. French Street, Wilmington, DE 19801.
Thank you in advance,
Michael Kirifides

 

From a “few individuals”.  Those “few individuals” sure put the spotlight on a lot of individuals, didn’t they Mr. Kirifides!  Is that spotlight “hostile” or just making sure the school board follows the laws of the state?  Didn’t know it was hostile to point out financial fraud!  I hope this formal review puts the AHEPA brotherhood in their place!  “May the Lord be!”

***Editor’s note: If you haven’t read or watched “The Handmaid’s Tale”, the references to the religious quotes will be lost on you. For those who do, doesn’t AHEPA sound very much like Gilead?

Christina School District Changes School Start & End Times Without Board Approval Or Letting Parents Know

Ah, it must be summer in the Christina School District.  The days when district leadership make changes to how the district operates without board approval.  In the latest round of “how can we make the district look bad”, the district has now changed start and end times for the schools in the district.  Some are good and some are bad but the fact it was a unilateral decision by the Superintendent (Richard Gregg, who the board hired) is a smack in the face to the governing authority of the district (the board).

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How this district leadership can be so infantile in its arrogant way of thinking is beyond me.  I guess they don’t have to care how these changes could affect the schedules of working parents, teachers, and extracurricular activities students might do outside of school.  And I guess they still haven’t gotten the memo that 7:05 is way too early for teenagers to go to school in the morning!!!!  Tsk, tsk…

Delaware DOE Releases Final Odyssey Formal Review Report

Today, the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education released the final report for the formal review of Odyssey Charter School.  While Delaware media covered a good deal of this, there is some new information.  In addition, the Odyssey Board of Directors sent out two letters to the Odyssey Community from the Wilmington Chapter of the AHEPA organization regarding their role with the Ithaka Learning Center that has been the center of a lot of allegations of financial shenanigans at Odyssey. Continue reading

Rep. Paul Baumbach’s HB 134: Neutered AND Spayed.

Glad to see this blog back!

Transparent Christina 2.0

So, Paul is trying to modify school board members’ terms from 5 to 3 years and pay them $100 per meeting.

Yeah, that didn’t go so well, check out these two amendments:

https://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?legislationId=47785 https://legis.delaware.gov/BillDetail?legislationId=47783

Here’s the letter I sent when it was introduced:

YOUNG JOHN Fri 5/3/2019 10:11 AMTo:

  • Baumbach, Paul

Cc:

  • Viola, John;
  • Sokola, David;
  • Townsend, Bryan;
  • Jaques, Jr, Earl;
  • Williams, Kimberly;
  • CSD Board Members;
  • Bolden, Stephaniet;
  • Lynn, Sean M;
  • Matthews, Sean;
  • Heffernan, Debra;
  • Kowalko, John;
  • Melisa.Minor-Brown@state.de.us;
  • Osienski, Edward;
  • Johnson, Kendra;
  • Briggsking, Ruth;
  • Chukwuocha, Nnamdi;
  • Hensley, Kevin S;
  • Collins, Rich G;
  • Postles, Charles;
  • Ramone, Michael;
  • Shupe, Bryan;
  • Smith, Michael;
  • Bunting Susan;
  • John Marinucci <delawaresba@gmail.com>

Honorable Paul S. Baumbach,
I have read with great interest your bill (HB134) filed 2 May 2019. I have some comments, concerns, and suggestions.
First, on the issue of three year terms I fully agree that 5 is too long; however, I…

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Kowalko Blasts JFC For Charter School Transportation Slush Fund In Light Of Odyssey Debacle

Another year, another Charter school transportation slush fund discussion. Given Odyssey Charter School’s misappropriation of funds, followed by a plethora of other charter schools over the past ten years, why is this state continuing to give taxpayer money away with no oversight?

In a blatant disregard for fiscal responsibility and Delaware law, for almost a decade, the Joint Finance Committee has inserted language into the annual budget bill to remove oversight and protections from the use of taxpayer money to fund charter schools. One charter school that is under investigation for financial mismanagement has received millions in unaccountable funding, including over $750,000 in the past year. I have consistently opposed this use of taxpayer money with no accountability or understanding for how it is spent. This year, I filed an amendment to remove this language from our budget, but it was shot down by the House at the request of the Democratic leadership and the Republican caucus. Delaware deserves better than this.

The charter school transportation slush fund has been inserted into the budget “epilogue language” for the past nine years by the head of the Joint Finance Committee, originally by former Representative Melanie George Smith. This year, the language was added at the last minute without any public discussion by current JFC chair Quinn Johnson. This addition into the back pages of the budget explicitly ignores current Delaware law that requires schools to return any additional money allocated to them for transportation costs. Instead, charter schools (and only charter schools) are allowed to keep any “extra” money given to them by the state. They get to keep that money and use it with no oversight and no accountability to the taxpayers or anyone else.

Our state should not be operated with a disregard to fiscal responsibility. The amount of unregulated money not subject to any accountability or legislative oversight has reached staggering proportions in recent years. In 2016, $898,026 was kept by charter schools in excess of their transportation costs. In 2017, that unregulated surplus grew to $1,262,930, and in 2018, it swelled to $1,418,707 in taxpayer money. Odyssey Charter, which is now under intense scrutiny for its spending and management performance, kept an excess of $299,001 in 2016, $598,405 in 2017, and a staggering $764,053 in 2018. Each year, the JFC has exempted this funding from the ordinary fiscal controls that would prevent this type of unaccounted taxpayer money.

My amendment to restore oversight and legislative fiscal responsibility on behalf of Delaware families and taxpayers failed this year in a shocking display of disregard for taxpayer money. The only members of the House who joined me were Representatives Kim Williams, David Bentz, and Andria Bennett. Please drop them a note of appreciation applauding their integrity and responsible judgment, and notify the dissenting House members of your disappointment in their failure to care about how your money is spent.

Representative John Kowalko

The most shocking thing about all this is how many members of the House voted no on Kowalko’s amendment.  Only four members, including Kowalko, voted yes for it.  Over half the amount of the total funds used in the charter school transportation slush fund in 2018 went to Odyssey Charter School.  How was that money spent?

 

Innovative Schools Innovatively Closed

 

Screenshot_2019-06-24 Site Unavailable

The organization that ran a ton of back-end business operations for many Delaware charter schools is kaput.  Their website is unavailable and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated since 2015.  While details are few about when and why they shut down, I will write more details as they emerge.

 

I’ve written about Innovative Schools many times on this blog.  They have been involved in the financial aspect of schools such as The Delaware Met and the Academy of Dover when they had their fraud there with Noel Rodriguez.  I did call their phone number which still answers as Innovative Schools but no one picks up.  You can leave a message.  Not sure what is going on there.

The company was founded in 2008 by former Christina School District Director Debbie Doordan.  Another noteworthy past President of the company was Riccardo Stoeckicht who now works at Odyssey Charter School in the position of “Global Education Campus Operations Officer”.  His name has been affiliated with recent financial misdoings at the school.  As part of a long list of reasons, Odyssey is under formal review with the Delaware Department of Education.

 

 

New Odyssey Financial Abuse Uncovered While Two Brave Women Give Powerful Testimony

The funny thing about facts, my friends, is that despite the attempts of the board, they cannot be interpreted.  They cannot be changed, and they cannot be maligned for they are facts.  And the facts are that this Board violated state laws, DOE rules and regulations and maybe even criminal code laws.

 

So yes, our books are pristine.  Every dollar is accounted for.  The problem is the dollars and where they went.  Where they buried those invoices under what budget lines.  Because it’s there.  And if the State Auditor would do her job we could actually find that out.

Odyssey Charter School is in trouble.  Big trouble.  On the dawn of their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for their formal review this Monday, an article by Delaware Public Media came out showing even more financial abuse going on at the Greek-themed charter school.  Meanwhile, the CSAS initial report came out along with the transcript for their public hearing and they are explosive!  The transcript reveals what has been going on with teachers at the school and what led to the eventual decision to unionize. Continue reading

Jaques Is Playing Tricks With 2% School Board Tax Bill While McGuiness and Schwartzkopf Conspire Against Charter School Audit Bill

l2schwartzkopf (2)

Earl Jaques is abusing his position as Chair of the House Education Committee while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf sits back and lets it all go down.  But Schwartzkopf will protect his buddy Kathy McGuiness at any cost. Continue reading

Bombshell Email Chain Exposes Design Thinking Academy’s Board For Failure To Report A Crime & Kendall Massett’s Involvement In The Cover-Up

After the News Journal reported yesterday that Design Thinking Academy was closing a week earlier than expected, new documents showcase the amount of cover-up that was going on at the Delaware charter school that won $10 million dollars from the XQ Institute.  The cover-up concerned a federal grant for funding that allegedly involved fraud by at least four employees who were terminated for their actions. Continue reading

New Legislation Would Remove Foreign Language As Requirement For Delaware Diploma

State Rep. Kim Williams is on a roll today!  House Bill #182 would get rid of foreign languages as a requirement for a high school diploma in Delaware.

This Act eliminates a barrier that prevents students from graduating from high school by prohibiting the Department of Education from requiring world language credits to receive a State of Delaware Diploma. Many students struggle to pass language classes and while language classes are often necessary for college admission, language classes are not necessary for entry into trades.
The proposed changes to state code are underlined:

122. Rules and regulations [Effective Aug. 1, 2019]

(b) The Department shall prescribe rules and regulations:

(3) Governing the issuance of certificates and diplomas for the public schools of the State. Rules and regulations on this subject shall be proposed by the Secretary subject to approval by the State Board of Education and may not require world language credit ;

I don’t have an issue with this.  If a student plans on going to college they should certainly take a language.  But if they have other plans post high school, why should they take courses that will not do anything to help them in the future?  I approve!

The bill’s Senate primes are Nicole Poore and Jack Walsh while the co-sponsors are Reps. K. Johnson, Kowalko and Osienski with Senators Paradee and Sturgeon.