Charter School of Wilmington Leader Dr. Paoli Under Fire In Petition To Restore Dr. Fleetwood’s Contract

Charter School of Wilmington

The ongoing story about Charter School of Wilmington’s leader, Dr. Sam Paoli, continues.  Last week, stories emerged about the leader and his bullying and intimidation towards students.  This caused a great deal of controversy.  Now it is revealed his attitudes are not just isolated to students.  A petition to renew a very beloved teacher’s contract is currently under way.  Dr. Thomas Fleetwood has been at the school since the beginning, and students are extremely offended his contract was not renewed.

Some students feel Paoli did not renew his contract because Fleetwood challenged Paoli on the bullying and intimidation we are now learning is directed towards anyone who disagrees with him.  I would have to ask this: why is Paoli the sole deciding factor on faculty?  Wouldn’t this be a board decision?  In most schools, it is the boards who make these types of decisions.  A school leader can make a recommendation, but it should be the board.  I don’t have an answer to this, and if anyone from the Charter School of Wilmington board wants to advise on this, please let me know.

In 2013, Dr. Fleetwood won an award from the Delaware Charter School Network called a “Dedication Award” for his achievements in teaching high school students.  The article on this quoted a parent as saying “he sets a high bar for all of his students, and provides real-world experience that inspires his students to pursue careers in the medical profession.”

The convergence of student and faculty issues with Paoli is something the CSW board should take an immediate look at.  Schools need leaders, not dictators.  In the comments on my articles last week about a discipline incident, as well as other exchanges outside my blog, it was overwhelmingly clear there are major issues with Paoli as the leader of CSW.  Most said he is not a fit leader and bullying and intimidation is common practice with him.  All eyes are on the board at CSW to see what happens next.

12 thoughts on “Charter School of Wilmington Leader Dr. Paoli Under Fire In Petition To Restore Dr. Fleetwood’s Contract

  1. My own experience with one other highly esteemed charter school says, “No, the board is not involved in contract decisions.”
    Additionally, the manner in which board members were elected was highly suspect. Students brought their parents’ votes in and all were submitted to the school director, who announced the “winners”.
    Contracts were not renewed on the sole basis of speaking out, disagreeing with, the school director. AND, being seen speaking to such persons was a matter to be raised in summative evaluations.


  2. Are you saying that the board should be part of the decision to not renew a contract or in all hiring decisions? Honestly, the board should have an HR committee to establish policy and provide oversight of processes, but you can’t manage the entire hiring process by committee. A building administrator needs to have direct say into who is best to deliver that school’s education mission. If that administrator has issues that cloud judgment, that’s a whole other problem.


    1. Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying. It’s how every traditional public school district board does it. I believe a school leader can make a recommendation, but this would prevent a perversion of leaders like Paoli who lets his personal feelings of self-worth cloud his judgment.


      1. Does the entire board interview every candidate? What is their process for deciding upon one vs. another? Not being contradictory. Trying to learn.


        1. I can’t say. I would ask a board member those questions. I know in my district, along with Christina and Red Clay, cause I actively look at their agendas and board minutes, the board has final say on approval of employee hirings and firings.


          1. Not always. For example, Capital’s superintendent recommended the district keep the Dover High School principal, but their board voted 4-1 to not renew her contract. While that’s a whole other story, it is probably a very good example of the opposite happening.


  3. seems charter world is finally being exposed for what it is……a way to segregate students, bully both employees and students, use public funds for private gain (can we say Family Foundations?) and all this with little or no oversight from DOE. Charters do not have to go through referendum, yet my taxes support these schools. Have we finally reached the breaking point for traditional public education here in Delaware??? I can only hope!


  4. Hi Kevin – I have been reading your blog regularly for the last 6 months, and largely support your point of view as a child advocate, but this time I would urge you and your readers to be cautious in rushing to judgement about the current leader of CSW.

    As a former parent at CSW, we saw three different administrators in 4 years, all had very distinctive personalities. We had to call for a conference regarding negative interaction with a teacher who is now retired. We were immediately scheduled with Dr. Paoli, the guidance counselor, the department head as well as the teacher in question. Dr. Paoli was very supportive of the teacher and respectful of our concerns as well. The teacher never behaved in the same negative manner after that conference. We found Dr. Paoli to be very approachable, genuinely concerned and sincere in his efforts to mediate the discussion.

    I do not know the details of the non-renewal of the teacher’s contract, but there may be more to that story than we are aware of. I believe that teachers at charter schools like CSW are not held to the same standard, nor scrutinized in the way that public school teachers are. We were greatly impressed by many of the hard working students, but less so with the teaching methods, or lack of methods.

    As a public school teacher, I often thought to myself, I would never get away with such behavior. So again, not sure of all the details, but I think we need to look at all the facts before rushing to judgment.


    1. If this was just some fly-by-night thing someone sent to me about Paoli, I really wouldn’t care. But since my story on CSW a week and a half ago, I have been inundated with messages all stating the same thing: Sam Paoli intimidates people. I’m sure they all would like to see the Sam Paoli you met. But that is far from the case based on what I’ve been hearing. And if you think that is isolated to disgruntled students, it’s not. This is also a teacher that is loved by students at this school. Not every school has these kinds of teachers, and they are not easily replaced.


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