On January 15th, the Delaware State Board of Education rendered it’s decision for Family Foundations Academy. The vote was 6-1. The sole “nay” vote came from Dr. Terry Whittaker. I arrived as the vote was rendered, so I was unable to hear the earlier discussion. I was very curious why Whittaker would have voted no, so I listened to the digital audio recording provided here, and the discussion around Family Foundations charter renewal starts about ten minutes into the recording here:
A couple minutes into it, I noticed some back and forth between Whittaker and State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray in regards to people sitting on multiple boards. Here is a transcription of this part:
*Prior discussion about Eastside Charter board members coming to Family Foundations Academy to also serve as board members there.
Dr. Terry Whittaker: So they’re considered from two different charter boards?
Jennifer Nagourney: Yes
Patrick Heffernan: How many members are on the board?
Nagourney: At this point there are 7
Heffernan: Cause that’s usually in the bylaws, right?
Nagourney: In the bylaws, yes.
Gregory Coverdale: January 30th is the date the financial manager will be appointed?
Nagourney: That is the date we will need information about who that person is, yes. As described in the January 12th letter the board is already kind of at work at identifying a transition plan, and obviously bringing the financial (Gray cuts her off)
Dr. Teri Quinn Gray: Was that the letter from Mr. (couldn’t understand name)
Nagourney: And bringing the finances into compliance is Priority 1
Whittaker: I still don’t understand the dual boardmanship role (Gray cuts him off)
Gray: So Miss Kershon, could you explain if there are any specific restrictions or… (Whittaker cuts her off)
Whittaker: Seems like it’s a conflict of interest (Gray continues not even acknowledging Whittaker’s statement)
Gray: …around any individuals serving on multiple or more than one charter boards?
Woman speaking: Under the charter school law a board member can not also be an elected board official in a local school district but there’s no prohibition about sitting on two charter school boards.
Coverdale: I guess it would be similar if someone sat on a bunch of non-profit boards.
Gray: So are we clear about the distinction?
Whittaker: I’m just trying to figure out possibilities of conflicts of interest. That’s my concern.
Donna Johnson: It’s my understanding, if you could clarify Miss Kershon, that that does alread happen, that there are board members who sit on various charter boards?
Miss Kershon: I believe that there are. There’s no apparent conflict of interest here because the school’s aren’t competing or purchasing from each other or there’s not that kind of fiduciary relationship. It’s an independent board so there doesn’t appear to be a conflict unless identified by someone. The law doesn’t prohibit it.
Now where this gets very interesting, and you wouldn’t even make this catch unless you knew about a post by Transparent Christina on December 28th, 2014. This article revealed that State Board of Education President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray sits on the board of the U.S. Education Delivery Institute. Not a big deal, right? However, this company received over $250,000.00 from the Delaware Department of Education as a result of Race To The Top funding. It would seem to me that as State Board of Education President sitting on another board that DID have a fiduciary interest with the organization she supports as President of the State Board overseeing that department would count unequivocally as a very clear conflict of interest. Did Whittaker catch this and without saying it outright, advise Gray he knew about this and he was letting her know that he knows? She cut him off two times, and he made sure he got the words “conflict of interest” in there.
As if this isn’t enough of a coincidence, at the end of the meeting, Dr. Gray seemed very upset and almost stormed out of the room, looking visibly upset about something. This could just be conjecture on my part, and I’m sure neither would confirm this, but it makes you think… And it also makes me wonder how many board members benefitted from Race To The Top as a whole. We all know Paul Herdman sits on various boards of the companies that got a lot of money from Race To The Top…
I can not wait for the February 18th House Education Committee meeting to go over exactly how Race To The Top funding was spent!