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
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:
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.
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
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
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
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!!!!
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…
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!
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.
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.
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 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 <email@example.com>
Date: Sun, Jun 30, 2019 at 11:10 PM
Subject: CALL TO ACTION/PLEASE READ CAREFULLY/AND EMAIL IMMEDIATELY!
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
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!!!
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 < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: July 7, 2019 at 1:44:14 PM EDT
Subject: Fwd: CALL TO ACTION/PLEASE READ CAREFULLY/AND EMAIL IMMEDIATELY!
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?
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).
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…
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
Glad to see this blog back!
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:
Here’s the letter I sent when it was introduced:
YOUNG JOHN Fri 5/3/2019 10:11 AMTo:
- Baumbach, Paul
- 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;
- 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 <email@example.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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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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
When the Odyssey Charter School debacle that made Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness look like she was in cahoots with her Greek friends on the Odyssey board became public, it was obvious a change needed to happen. State Reps. Kim Williams and John Kowalko introduced a new bill today that would give the General Assembly, the Governor, the state Attorney General, or the Secretary of Education more power to force the Auditor of Accounts Office to do audits for charter schools:
(4)a. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly, may request the Auditor of Accounts conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if 1 of the following applies:
1. The Public Integrity Commission makes an advisory finding under § 5807(c) of Title 29 or final finding under § 5810 of Title 29 that a violation of § 5805 or § 5806 of Title 29 has occurred.
2. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly has evidence of a violation of State law or regulation or the misuse of State money.
b. The Auditor of Accounts shall conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if requested under paragraph (d)(4)a. of this section.
c. The audit the Auditor of Accounts conducts or contracts for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section must comply with generally accepted accounting principles.
d. When an audit is conducted or contracted for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section, the Auditor of Accounts shall file a written report containing the information under § 2909(b) of Title 29 with the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall distribute the report to the members of the General Assembly and the Controller General and Director of the Division of Research.
The bill’s Senate Prime is Jack Walsh, along with co-sponsors including Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Brady, Longhurst, Matthews, Mitchell, Osienski, Smith, and Viola along with Senators Delcollo, Pettyjohn, Poore, Sokola and Wilson. Some of these names are very interesting, including Smith and Sokola who have long been champions for charter schools. But perhaps they are realizing that Delaware can no longer tolerate the financial malfeasance going on at Delaware’s charters.
The next step for this bill will be the House Education Committee. It remains to be seen if Chair of the committee, Rep. Earl Jaques, will let it be heard before June 30th. If not, it would carry over into the second leg of the 150th General Assembly which begins in January, 2020.
On June 5th, McGuiness wrote a long letter to members of the General Assembly about why she is choosing not to have her office begin an investigative audit into Odyssey Charter School. I don’t agree with her reasoning whatsoever and no one has ever done this before in the Auditor’s office when it comes to a charter school audit.
Shocking documents, never seen before by the public, give a shocking look at what led to the closure of Design Thinking Academy. As usual, it is not based on academics but adult decisions and a corrupt board of directors. Continue reading
On April 2nd, the Delaware Public Integrity Commission wrote a letter to the Odyssey Charter School Board of Directors which showcased a plethora of financial improprieties, conflicts of interest, and co-mingled interests involving their board and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA). The Odyssey Board of Directors has nine members, five of which belong to AHEPA. Currently, Odyssey is beginning a formal review by the Delaware Department of Education after the State Board of Education voted to place the charter school under review last week.
The letter concludes with the following: Continue reading