House Joint Resolution #7 Passes, Allows For Continuing Committee To Advance Educator Compensation

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams is on a roll tonight! First her House Bill 186 passes the House (on the way to the Senate), and now her House Joint Resolution #7 just passed the Senate an hour and a half ago.  This resolution will continue the Committee To Advance Educator Compensation, which many teachers had continuing issues with last year.

This allows the committee to take a further look at how Delaware’s educators are compensated and the final report will be due to Governor Markell by March 31st, 2016.

Delaware Senate Agenda Experiencing Technical Difficulties But Agenda Is Up For Today, Ignore The Date

After tweeting the Delaware Senate about their agenda not being up on the website while they are in session, this happened:

You can view the agenda for today, despite the date, here: http://legis.delaware.gov/legislature.nsf/FSMain?OpenFrameset&Frame=right&src=/LIS/lis148.nsf/senateagenda

UPDATED, 11:34pm: I had to run out for a bit, but it’s all good now. Agenda is up with the correct date!  And this fun little tweet happened earlier but I forgot to put it up:

House Bill 186, Charter School Post-Audit With State Auditor Legislation, Passes Delaware House!

Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams just presented House Bill 186 to the full Delaware House of Representatives, and it passed the House in a 23-17-1 vote.  Every single Delaware House Republican voted no on the bill, along with Earl Jaques.

Rep. Daniel Short brought Academy of Dover’s independent auditor Ms. Baker to testify against the bill, but she gave no compelling reason why the bill shouldn’t pass.  When Rep. Williams asked her how long she has audited Academy of Dover, she couldn’t answer.  Williams asked: one, two, three years?  She still couldn’t answer.

After some back and forth about “interrogating” the witness, backed up by Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, the bill went to a roll call.  All the Republicans voted no, along with Democrats Earl Jaques and Schwartzkopf.  The bill still has to go through the Senate Education Committee, unless the rules are suspended, and it is allowed to go to a vote with the Senate tonight.  The Senate has yet to put their agenda up for tonight’s last day in this legislative session…

I guess Republicans are dead set against charter schools being held accountable.  Not sure why they are on the side of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  This will be very interesting going forward…

Whats Up With The Delaware Senate Not Putting Their Agenda Up? They Have Been In Session For An Hour!

So much for transparency in Delaware!  The Delaware Senate still hasn’t put up their agenda for the last day of legislative session, and they have been on the floor for an hour!  Is that even legal?  It has to make me wonder what bills they might be trying to pass without anyone the wiser.  Yes, you can listen online, but that’s not the same thing.  For a legislative body that makes transparency laws, this is very disturbing.  The Delaware House of Representatives had their agenda up yesterday afternoon…

This is all that shows up on their website: http://legis.delaware.gov/legislature.nsf/FSMain?OpenFrameset&Frame=right&src=/LIS/lis148.nsf/senateagenda

If You Thought Mark Murphy Would Be Gone After Today, Think Again….

Well, well, well, looks like Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy is here to stay.  At least until we get a new Governor.  Yesterday it was announced Murphy joined the Council of Chief State School Officers Board of Directors.  From the press release yesterday:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Delaware Chief Joins CCSSO Board of Directors

Contact:Melissa McGrathmelissa.mcgrath@ccsso.org202-336-7034

Washington, D.C. (June 29, 2015) — The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) today announced Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will join its 2014-2015 Board of Directors.

CCSSO’s Board of Directors manages the overall business affairs of the Council and is the governing body of the organization. The board is composed of the president, the president-elect, the past president, and six directors elected by CCSSO members.

“Whether it’s through his work on educator preparation or college readiness for kids, Mark is dedicated to ensuring all students have access to a high-quality education. We are honored to have him join our Board of Directors,” said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO.”

I can tell you Delaware isn’t thrilled at this news.  We were hoping he would fade into the woodwork after today, which is the last day of our fiscal year.  But it sounds like Delaware Governor Markell has the utmost faith in the man who the Delaware State Educators Association, the two largest district education associations, the Delaware Association of School Administrators, and a legion of parents have publicly stated they have no confidence in the Secretary.

Rumors have been going around for years that Murphy would either resign or be removed from his position, but it never happens.  Most feel Markell holds on to Murphy at the risk of his own reputation, and the Secretary is an anchor on a ship that is no longer holding water.

This is not good news for folks who were hoping for change.  The Delaware DOE’s approval rating is at an all-time low, and with more charter scandals popping everyday under their watch, parents opting out of the Smarter Balanced Assessments, and legislators wanting massive change in this Department, Murphy remains intact with even more power now.  Only in Delaware…

Where Are The Special Education Ratings For Each State? US DOE & OSEP Dropping The Ball!

Nothing has been released for the 2015 Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) annual report for how the states are doing with special education.  Why is this?  Last year, this information was released on June 23rd.  They did switch how they do things, so this could play a factor.  It used to be a Results Driven Accountability rating, and now it is called the State Systemic Improvement Plan.  So perhaps they are extending the timeline for this.

Last year, California, Texas, Delaware, and Washington D.C. were rated as needs intervention in special education.  For Delaware, this was their 2nd year in a row, and if they hit this mark for a third year, it could have serious consequences for the First State.  From what I could see from Delaware’s submission to OSEP, things aren’t looking much better for special education in Delaware.  With the rise of Smarter Balanced Assessment and Standards-Based IEPs, I can’t see a lot of room for improvement.  As usual, the students suffer…

Meanwhile, the US DOE and OSEP shouldn’t wait too much longer.  States need to plan for school starting in a couple months, and if they don’t know how they might need to improve, it’s like cutting them off at the knees.  Or perhaps the Feds want that.  It’s no wonder so many parents of students with disabilities are saying enough is enough and opting their kids out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment or the PARCC…

Timecapsule edition: An Open Letter to Jack Markell, our Governor. #SignHB50NOW

Kilroy Is Going To Go On The Warpath Over The Hat Trick…Hide Schwartzkopf and Hudson, Hide Well!!!!

I warned them, numerous times.  Get House Bill 61 to a vote.  Allow school board meetings to be recorded and put them on public web sites 7 business days after.  I told them this was the third year in a row it was on the ready list but never got to a vote.  Do they listen to me? Hell no!

In hockey, if someone gets three goals, they call it a hat trick.  Well, State Rep. Schwartzkopf and State Rep. Hudson are both the hat trick recipients for NOT getting Kilroy’s bill to a vote.  For three years in a row.  And he is NOT happy!  Hudson sponsored the bill three years in a row, and Speaker of the House Schwartzkopf let it sit there,  gathering dust, three years in a row.

I would not want to be on the receiving end of whatever comes next.  And I’m guessing he will leave no stone unturned.  I get a lot of information from people and I’ve only been doing this for a little over a year.  Kilroy has been doing this for 10 years…fair warning once again…watch out!

House Bill 186 Is #1 With A Bullet, Aimed Directly At Charter School Accountability

The Delaware House of Representatives released their House Agenda for their last day of legislative session until January 2016.  The first item on the agenda is State Rep. Kim William’s House Bill 186.  These are the reasons this bill needs to pass:

1) Noel Rodriguez & Academy of Dover- $127,000 in personal spending and another $129,000 the State Auditor isn’t sure was used for school or personal spending.  As well, an anonymous source informed me two other staff members at the school were also pilfering funds, and this was reported to the FBI, but nothing has come from any of that…

2) Family Foundations Academy, Sean Moore & Tennell Brewington- over $90,000 in person spending between this dynamic duo, with hundreds of thousands of dollars in other questionable spending performed by this school during their reign.  The State Auditor’s report hasn’t come out yet on this one, but it will be a doozy that may make Academy of Dover look weak in comparison.

3) Delaware Military Academy & Jack Wintermantel- while out of the news, this 2013 State Auditor investigation found numerous financial violations at this school.  Source: http://auditor.delaware.gov/Reports/FY2013/DMA%20Investigative%20Report.pdf

4) The seeming inability for many charter schools to accurately code items correctly on the state financing website, as indicated by what is shown on Delaware Online Checkbook.  In some situations, funds are allocated in areas that have absolutely nothing to do with why the funds were spent, i.e. Academy of Dover putting a payment for an out of state residential treatment center under “Employee Recognition”.  Furthermore, putting students names in a special education settlement transaction on Delaware Online Checkbook is a clear violation of FERPA legislation but schools continue to do this.

5) Section 347 of Paragraph 508 of Title 14: This special designation for charter schools allows them to keep the unused portion of their transportation funds for “educational purposes”, but there is no clear mention of what those “educational purposes” can be, or where the funds should be directed on an accounting level.  In the past two fiscal years, over $2.4 million dollars was kept by Delaware charter schools, with Family Foundations Academy and Newark Charter School each keeping over $400,000 EACH from this caveat.

6) As indicated by the ten charter school performance fund applications I just posted, most schools don’t have a clue about finances and what funds can go to which allotment.

7) The Delaware Charter School Network is vehemently opposed to this bill- while they have a right to be concerned about the cost of audits, the cost to taxpayers over the complete and utter disregard of how taxpayer funds are spent as well as the strain and disruption this places on all education in Delaware makes it very clear more oversight is needed over the Wild West of Finances occurring in our charter schools.  As well, at least two of the current or former members of their governing board are/were heads of school at two of the charter schools that are being investigated, and one of them sits on the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware DOE

8) The DOE is not in a position to do anything about this: through a complete lack of oversight over the charter schools they authorize, the DOE has never caught fraud in the act.  They do not monitor they money flowing in and out of these schools

9) Lack of oversight at the charter schools themselves- many charter schools just started having a Citizens Budget Oversight Committee this year.  This has been in state code for years.  As well, a DOE representative is supposed to be at each meeting for each school.  If some of these schools that have operated for years never had a DOE rep at their non-existent CBOC meetings, than the DOE fell asleep at the wheel but they are never held accountable.

10) In discussing House Bill 186, the State Auditor’s office said seven charter schools are under investigation.  We know Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, and Providence Creek Academy are three, but who are the other four?  Judging by their board minutes, Thomas Edison Charter School may be one, but who are the other three and why are they being investigated?

Kendall Massett at the Delaware Charter Schools Network is fighting like a House Bill 50 parent proponent, but she is against this bill.  She has emails going out every day begging parents to email legislators to stop this bill.  Should what is essentially a lobbyist firm receive that much free reign to stop a bill?  What is Kendall so afraid of?  Is there something much, much bigger yet to be discovered?  That wouldn’t shock me at all.

Odyssey Charter School Applies For Performance Fund $$$ They Don’t Even Qualify For!!!!

Last, but not least (well, it is in terms of the odds of them getting a penny from the Charter School Performance Fund), is Odyssey Charter School.  They don’t qualify for this because they were on probation during this fiscal year.  But that doesn’t stop them from applying anyway!  So let’s see what they wanted to get with this phantom money:

And we can’t forget the phantom budget!

So let me get this straight, they have a $500,000 shortfall in their capital budget for this building, they are already overbudget by $700,000 in their regular expenses (see last week’s Odyssey article), and whoever wrote this application doesn’t seem to be aware DCAS is no longer the state standardized assessment.  One word: INTERVENTION!

Newark Charter School Performance Fund Application

This one is VERY interesting!  The top prize allocated to any recipient of this performance award is $250,000, but Newark Charter School is asking for $400,000 to support the construction of their STEM labs and Fine Performing Arts Center.  Which is good, you can use this fund for capital costs.  And they are already getting funds from The Longwood Foundation for this:

The Longwood Foundation has agreed to assist the school in the renovations to the JR/SR High School for STEM and Fine & Performing Arts.

It’s not every school that gets Theire DuPont to come check you out!

Source: http://ncs.charter.k12.de.us/files/_FRAup_/2a0a2af04ad981653745a49013852ec4/Board_Minutes_May_19_2015.pdf

But let’s see what their application says:

And did they already get those funds?  What are “expense recoveries”?  It’s hard to say cause this doesn’t say where the funds are coming from….

NEWARK CHARTER SCHOOL – NEWARK CHARTER SCHOOL for FY 2015 Period 1 thru 11

Amount:
$1,711,393.56
Back to Search
Category General Fund Federal Fund Capital Fund Special Fund
FEDERAL REIMBURSEMENT $0.00 $436,118.73 $0.00 $0.00
INTEREST ON DEPOSITS $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $51,445.35
USDA DOE MEAL REIMBURSEMENT $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $107,661.92
EXPENSE RECOVERIES $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $1,116,167.56

And like their brethren school located in the Christina School District, Newark Charter School got to keep over $400,000 from the Charter School Transportation Slush Fund from the past two fiscal years…

Mapleton Charter School At Whitehall Performance Award Application

Have I ever written about this school?  I don’t think so.  It sounds like a private school for really rich kids with that name! Another charter scheduled to open up in 2016, looking to fund their head of school positions through a performance fund, but only for one year!  I really need to open up a charter school.  I’ll call it the Exceptional Delaware Institute for Easy Money!

I get the whole concept of start-up costs, but to rely on those funds coming out of a free program from the state is not wise for any business, much less a school.  With ten applicants, nine of which have a shot (more on that later), those aren’t the greatest odds to pay for salaries.  But what do I know?  I’m just a blogger…

Las Americas ASPIRA Academy Charter School Performance Award Application

The LAAA school as they are commonly known (okay, I’m just too lazy to type it again) wants $250,000 to hire special education teachers for a “co-teaching” environment.  While I love any school beefing up their special education department, I have to ask why they haven’t had them for six years, and how will they budget this in other years?  And don’t schools get IDEA-B funding for this very purpose?  If they have 100 students on IEPs, where is the portion of that allocated to those teachers going?  Hmm…paging the Exceptional Children Resources Group at the DOE….

So they want $235,795 for four special education teachers which amounts to an average salary of $58,948.75.  And what is the going rate for special education teachers in Delaware?  The median range is $55k, so they are close to the target, but I would have to think the funds for that would come from other funds already allocated to the school when it comes to special education.

And here we have another charter school that made $283,000 from the charter school transportation slush fund over a two year period!

Great Oaks Charter School Performance Award Application

Great Oaks!  Another Community Education Building tenant starting in August.  Yes, let’s get a high school in there!  Because mixing kindergartners through 12th grade is always such a good idea!  They won’t be in the same classrooms cause of the different schools, but…

Anyway, Great Oaks is saying Show Me The Money with their performance fund application.  Specifically, they want to use $250,000 for salaries between July 1st and September 30th of this year!!!  Even though the DOE doesn’t announce the performance fund award winners until July 6th, I would have to think these positions are already in the FY2016 budget for this school.  And we approve these things…why?

And I am very curious about this entrance in the Delaware Online Checkbook:

DOE Payment to Great Oaks???

GREAT OAKS FOUNDATION INC GREAT OAKS CHARTER SCHOOL 5/29/2015 $100,783.00 439088

First State Military Academy Charter School Performance Award Application

Another school that hasn’t even opened yet applying for more money! Based on performance! Yay!  Another school promoting this New Tech Network system.  The other one was Delaware STEM Academy.  Okay, they are on my radar now..  And we have more salaries as part of this application…

So if they want to enroll in this network their curriculum is essentially based on, but this would only cover the first year,  what happens next year?  Cause you can’t get this award two years in a row…

I would think a military-based school would have already bought a $2000 sound system to bark orders at kids, but no, that’s included in here as well…

UPDATED, 7/1/15, 1:19pm: I took out the part in my write-up concerning the change in location of this school to Camden, Delaware.  This was a technical error on the applicant’s part, and the school is in Clayton, at the same location it has always been.  My apologies for any concerns about this!

Early College High School Charter School Performance Award Application

Another performance award application.  This school has been open for one year and they are applying for a performance award with no data on academic performance…  As well I have grave concerns with forcing 9th and 10th graders to take summer classes the school should be providing as part of their regular academic year curriculum…

In my eyes, this school is still very much an experiment in Delaware.  They have already gone through one principal and significant board member changes.  The jury is still out on this application.  What do you think DOE?  I’m sure you’ll love it with the whole college and career ready lingo and the Smarter Balanced goals of 60% will close the gaps.

Delaware STEM Academy Charter School Performance Fund Application

I’m just going to say this right off the bat.  I take great issue with this school being eligible for the Charter School Performance Fund when they aren’t even scheduled to open until August 2016!  The best part: they want this award so they can pay their Chief Academic Officer and Executive Director their first year!  Doesn’t that already come out of state-allocated funds?  As well, how can they select all staff by May 2016 if they don’t hit their enrollment figures by June 2016?  And don’t they have to be at their enrollment figures by April 1st, 2016?

This one just has a big huge question mark all over it.  I would deny this one DOE…

Delaware MET Charter School Performance Fund Application

I love when schools that aren’t even open yet apply for a performance fund!  Because they have so much data to show they can even perform…

The Delaware MET is scheduled to open August 2015.  So I’m guessing they need more money…

While I don’t really have a problem with what Delaware MET is asking for, why would they wait until a few months before they open to institute such a high-caliber part of their curriculum as part of a performance fund they may or may not receive?  If they don’t get this funding, what happens to this program? No internships for these kids?

Campus Community School Charter School Performance Fund Application

The Delaware DOE, in conjunction with the Charter School Office, offers eligible charter schools in the state to apply for the Charter School Performance Fund.  The DOE is stating this is allocated at $1.5 million to divvy up between the charters, but state lawmakers put $1 million in the budget for it.  We will find out tomorrow or Wednesday what the true amount is.  With that being said, ten charter schools have applied.

What they are applying for will be covered.  We are starting with Campus Community School in Dover, DE, and this will include their written narrative as well as their budget:

Campus Community School has some good ideas.  They want to launch “Project Inspire” to help at-risk kids.  They want to make their library more digital, and hire someone to staff that.  A Saturday initiative sounds promising.  They want to add Communities In Schools full-time for a mentoring program at $43,000.  Wait a minute…

If Communities In Schools was part-time this year, and they want this for full-time, why have they paid them $61,000 for the first eleven months of this fiscal year?  I’m a little bit confused here…

COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS

CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 11/25/2014 $13,750.00 0000890314
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 10/28/2014 $13,750.00 0000873161
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 1/13/2015 $3,000.00 0000911629
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 1/13/2015 $13,750.00 0000911629
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 9/26/2014 $3,000.00 0000856654
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 3/13/2015 $13,750.00 0000940811

There is some very fuzzy math going on there. Unless Communities In Schools is providing some other type of program for the school that we aren’t aware of here…

If I were the Charter School Office, I would want this very important question answered before I approve this application.

While traditional public school districts are being forced to cut library specialists, charters can just apply for one through this performance fund.  No bias there!  As well, let it be known Campus Community School received over $300,000 the past two fiscal years in what I call the “Charter School Transportation Slush Fund” where Delaware charters get to keep the extra money from their transportation budget if their bus bids are below budget…

Is The Delaware DOE Evil, Or Just Extremely Misguided?

000Gollum_glare

In the past year, with all the articles I’ve written about the Delaware Department of Education, I have never had anyone come up to me and say “The DOE is awesome, they’re doing a great job.”  They’ve had supporters, but even they say there are issues.  I’ve often wondered if the DOE, Governor Markell, the State Board, Rodel, and all the rest are truly evil.

I don’t think they are.  I think they are operating in a climate of fear where they buy into everything hook, line, and sinker.  But I also think they believe their mantra about teachers, and students needing to be assessed to “close the gaps”.  People can be easily swayed if they are only given one argument.  I’ve had quite a few DOE employees tell me offline “Don’t publish this, but the Smarter Balanced Assessment really sucks!”  But at heart, most of them are Kool-Aid drinkers.

I’m not saying they are all good people either.  I took a course in college called “The Problem of Evil”.  The professor posited that all people are neither inherently good or completely evil.  We all operate on “tainted decency”, which states that everything we do has some sort of selfish motivation for us.  We tried to come up with anything anyone in this world does without a self-interest clause, and the only thing we could come up with is volunteer fireman.

What we don’t know about the DOE is their innermost thoughts, their soul, their conscience.  We can’t even guess what they think about late at night.  They are people just like the rest of us.  I’m not defending them, but I think it’s important to separate the job from the person.  Everyone I’ve talked to at the DOE is very nice and cordial.  Now when I say “talked to”, there are some who won’t even glance in my direction.

For all the razzing bloggers give them in Delaware, they have some pretty thick skin.  Especially when it involves charter schools.  But to this date, with the numerous times I’ve seen him, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy has only said two words to me, and those were “Thank you.”  This was on June 24th last year at Governor’s Café in Dover.  He was rushing out the door, and I held it open for him.  He has tried staring me down a few times, but I don’t let him.  I just keep staring back.

For some of these people, there is a factor I like to call greed.  They are making a lot of money, more than the average Delawarean.  They are young, and some of these employees are making over $100,000 to essentially destroy public education as we know it.  Wealth and an imagined power can make anyone submit to authority if it keeps the pipeline flowing.

What bothers me though, are the outright lies.  Lines like “Smarter Balanced is the best test this state ever made”, or “Were entitled to our opinions, but not facts” when those “facts” are very wrong.

The companies surrounding the DOE and whispering in their ear, along with the Governor’s office, I don’t think they are evil either.  Pretty close to it though.  They are a business.  Businesses make money.  And that’s what it’s all about!

But for the most part, many of the employees at the DOE are just more state worker bees.  I tend to focus on the big dogs there because they set the policies and guidelines.  When I go to the DOE, it is the hub I visit, not the kiosks with eight employees in a row.

The big question is how many of these chiefs for academic excellence down at the Townshend Building in Dover will still be there in two years?