Answers On Delaware Met Reveal More Questions

Today, on Town Square Delaware, members of The Delaware Met Board of Directors broke the public veil of silence and spoke out on the issues surrounding the school.  Based on this information and other information that has been sent my way, I have put a picture together of the events that happened last week at the embattled charter school

On Monday, a squirrel got into a transformer causing the power to go out at the school.  As a result, there was no school on 9/21.  On Tuesday, the students returned to school.  Where it gets a bit hazy is what happened next.  But what is certain there was no school from 9/23 to 9/25 due to emergency professional development for the teachers:

With the blessing of the Department of Education, we chose to give our teachers professional development time last week to assess these needs and make adjustment.

I believe the school, based on discussion from their Monday night board meeting, did attempt to reach out to parents to let them know about these unforeseen days off which were not on their website calendar.  On Wednesday 9/23, based on their agenda for their 9/28 meeting, the Board met in a Special Board meeting.  There was no agenda on their website, so it is difficult to surmise what was discussed at this board meeting.  On Friday, shortly before noon, I received two emails indicating the school was closing the next week due to violence, gang activity, fighting and Innovative Schools, the school’s management organization, severing ties.  I emailed the DOE and the school immediately for any type of confirmation.  To date, no one responded to any of my emails.  The school has this information, and chose to ignore me completely.

At the same time, we began to be made aware of whispers in our community and beyond that the school had already chosen to close. To answer these rumors, it was important for the Board to hold a special meeting.

This would have been the second special board meeting, so what was the reason for the first?  I knew of Delaware Met, but up until Friday I had never heard a peep about this school aside from an occasional article here and there.  The only time I wrote about them on here was for their performance award application and their award of $175,000.00.  The school had and still has every opportunity to contact me, and they know how to.  Back to Friday, a few other sources confirmed the earlier email I received.  To be honest, I thought the email was a joke, or someone trying to give me false information, which happens more than you think as a blogger.  I’m sure mainstream reporters can attest to this as well.  Other sources confirmed this information, except for one part: the part about Innovative Schools cutting ties with the school.  For someone to send that to me, it would have to be someone with inside information.  Since other sources were already vetting all the other information, I knew this story had legs so I published it.  While the DOE and I are battling on several issues, I sincerely reached out to them and the school.

Over the weekend, I did an extensive amount of research on the school, their student population, their application with the DOE, their finances, how they acquired the property at 920 N. French St, and other material on the property kept popping up as I was looking.  As I collected the information, it provided a wealth of articles.  In the meantime, the school put up their notice of the second special board meeting at some point over the weekend which I saw Sunday night.  As well, they put an announcement up on their Facebook page about an important announcement the next day and they hoped everyone would be there.  I’m not sure what their announcement was, but I responded to their post and addressed what I heard point blank.  To date, no one responded to my public plea for information.

On Monday, I focused on the history of the property.  Meanwhile, the school was giving information to the News Journal and alleging that the “rumors” were causing more harm than help.  Rumors which they knew came from this blog, they had my email address, they could have responded on Facebook, or even commented on the many articles that went up over four days.  Meanwhile, thousands of Delawareans were reading what I wrote with complete silence from the school aside from cryptic Facebook messages and even more cryptic board agenda announcements where they announced they were going to vote if they should keep their charter.  Without a charter, there is no school. No school would ever put up a notice like that over “rumors”.

On Monday evening, the board voted to keep the school open.  There was a great deal of discussion concerning enrollment, best practices for the teachers, financial viability, and school culture.  Many members of the community attended this board meeting that would not have normally if the “rumors” had not surfaced.  Serious questions arose out of this board meeting and deep concerns about the school’s ability to service and educate a very high population of special needs students.  Many of the teachers are not seasoned, and the school had (at that point) two special education teachers with a population of 60 IEPs, and more projected.  Legislators, reporters, and citizens attended this board meeting, and the bulk of them left feeling very perplexed at the administration of this school.

I’m not sure if Delaware charter schools have received a “don’t respond to the blogger” email.  But more often than not, no one from the charters respond after an inquiry before I publish or after I publish based on information that is already in the public domain.  I am open to communication.  If you disagree with something or find my information is not factual, please reach out to me.  I have fixed information based on a different perception or not being able to find information many times.  Most reporters have.  I don’t consider myself a “journalist” per se, but I do devote quite a bit of free time looking for answers and I write based on what I found.  I also offer my opinion which sets me apart from the typical newspaper or television reporter.

Yes, I had a bad response with a charter once upon a time.  Yes, I don’t like the idea of unelected boards.  No, I don’t hate charters.  I hate what many of the adults do at charters.  I get charter parents going ballistic on me cause I dare to write about “their” school.  If they want to give me facts, I am up for that.  But one commenter seemed offended that I dared to question what she wrote.  It’s a free world.  And while I respect anonymity, understand that I have no idea who you are.  I don’t know if you are the school, the DOE, or a parent.  I was taught by a college professor that they key to life is not in the answers, but in the questions.  I will always ask the questions based on the facts that are presented to me or that I find.

With that being said, these are my biggest questions concerning The Delaware Met AND the property:

  1. When did the school know they had a large population of special needs students coming and what did they do to prepare for it?
  2. Who is their special education coordinator?
  3. Why do they have no financial information on their website?
  4. What does Innovative Schools do for $380,000 in two plus years?
  5. Why did Innovative Schools pay $1 million to the Charter School Development Corporation who in turn bought 920 N. French St from the State of Delaware for an undisclosed and not in the public domain amount?
  6. Why does The Delaware Met need Innovative Schools?
  7. Why does one of their board members allow the school to pay the company he is a chair of?
  8. Why does another board member work for the same company that handles the school’s finances?
  9. Did the school reach out to other charters or districts for help with their student population?
  10. Did a student bring a gun to the school on the very first day?
  11. What was the purpose of the board’s special board meeting on 9/23?
  12. What was the big announcement revealed to students on Monday 9/28?
  13. How is a student with an IEP accommodated while at an internship?
  14. Does any member of the board benefit in any way from an internship by a student?
  15. Has the school considered hiring a School Resource Officer?
  16. Where is their student handbook?
  17. What is their enrollment as of 11:59pm this evening, including basic, moderate, complex and intensive subgroups for their large special education population?
  18. Are their teachers adequately trained to determine what is behavior and what may be a manifestation of a student’s disability?
  19. Do they have the staff to complete IEP meetings since so many of the IEPs may need to be relooked at based on their curriculum?
  20. How much did the State of Delaware sell 920 N. French St. to Charter School Development Corporation and why is this not on any public website?
  21. Where did the State of Delaware put this revenue?
  22. Is there any immediate danger to staff or students at the school due to its Brownfield Site designation?
  23. What was the nature of the work Duffield Associates did for the school last year?
  24. What is the DOE’s duty to ensure new charter schools are ready from day one to run a school?
  25. What are the DOE’s next steps in terms of this school?

While I understand the school can’t answer all these questions, I welcome Innovative Schools or the State of Delaware to answer them as well if it applies to them.  You may not feel like you have to answer them, but I’m like a dog without a bone sometimes…

In Honor Of His Last Day, It’s “Murphy’s Greatest Hits”

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Today is Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s last day as the leader of education in Delaware.  What a long strange trip it’s been Mark!  And I’ve only been doing this for 15 1/2 months!  In honor of your long-awaited farewell, I went back and looked for the articles I’ve written that really capture the essence of you.  Best of luck on your future endeavors.  Just do us a favor, can you go out of state to do them?

The Very Disturbing Mark Murphy Video

Murphy Rubs Salt In A Festering Wound

Murphy Channels Puff The Magic Dragon

Merry Christmas Mark!

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How To Discriminate Against 5 Different Groups In One Shot

The Gum On The Shoe Paradox

Why Murphy Got Fired

Murphy Lies On Public TV, Assures House Bill 50 Victory

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Calling Mark Murphy & The State Board A Joke!

What Should Have Ended A Year Ago

Transcript From The Delaware Way

Mark Murphy and the horrible, terrible, no good day

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Mike Matthews Emails Murphy Over Stupid Survey

Mark Gets Grilled By Wilmington City Council

Mark Heckled At Wilmington City Council Meeting

The Cringe-Worthy Newsworks Interview

Mark Bo Peep

The Anti-Mark Murphy Bill

The Mark Murphy-Kate Winslet Story

Two Biggest Education Associations Say No More Mark

Bye Mark! It’s been real, it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun!

Kuumba, DE College Prep, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations, Providence Creek, DE Military Academy, Pencader…When Do We Make It Stop?

Charter school financial abuse.  It happens.  All the time in Delaware.  It doesn’t matter what the amount is, despite what the News Journal writes.  These are adults, playing with taxpayer money meant for students, not their own pocket.  But our State Government allows this to happen.  Delaware has no Inspector General.  Legislation meant to curtail these types of activities and lend transparency is held in limbo or doesn’t pass.  And the Delaware Charter School Network lobbies against it.  State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 would allow more oversight of charters through more extensive audits.  Every single one of the House Republicans, along with the House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques and the Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voted no.  It passed the House on June 30th, but Senator David Sokola refused to let it be heard on the Senate floor unless it was heard in committee first.  Yet, numerous other bills had rules suspended that evening.

These schools are under the purveyance of the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Why do these matters come out years after the fact after the damage is already done?  These are not elected board members at charters.  And their leaders are picked by these unelected board members.  Many of the charters websites are a joke.  Minutes aren’t always posted, agendas aren’t posted, sometimes even financial monthly statements aren’t put up.  No charter board records their meetings.  No purchase card activity is listed separately from their monthly financial statement, if it even includes that.  None of these so-called leaders have ever done jail time.  The average citizen would in a New York minute.  But we want to hold up these leaders as if they don’t walk on the same ground as the rest of us.  We don’t want to hold them accountable, but by God, we will get those traditional school districts in line.

Let me get one thing straight.  I like Jennifer Nagourney, the executive director of the Charter School Office at the DOE.  I think if she had her way, there would be many changes with charter schools.  I also believe her hands are tied by her bosses who look the other way over these kinds of offenses.  The school goes on formal review, we have the dog and pony show with the Charter School Accountability Committee, a public comment period, a formal Public Hearing, and then the State Board meets and says “Golly gee, how did this happen?” or “Why is this happening so much?”  But they put forth nothing to attempt to stop it.  But they will sneak in regulation after regulation to hold teachers and schools accountable based on a bogus assessment.  It has become a joke.  The State Board and the leaders at the DOE will kiss Rodel’s ass while they pay millions of dollars to consultants to “fix” our schools.  And the results of all these reports are always the same.

The Head of School at Kuumba Academy, named in the Delaware State Auditor’s report today sits on the Accountability Framework Working Group.  If you are not aware, this committee has the task of how to frame Delaware’s accountability school report card.  If Sally Maldonado can’t manage finances correctly and allows herself to be reimbursed for funds that are already included in her job function and her salary, can we trust her to help lead our public schools with decisions as big as this?

And then we have Delaware College Prep Board President Yardise Jones telling the State Auditor’s office “I am not following why DCPA needs to justify expenses incurred to run its business.”  While schools deal with business, the problem in Delaware is far too many “leaders” and “reformers” look at and treat schools like a business.  Children are not a profit center.  They go to school to learn.  They are not there for kickbacks into your piggy bank.  They are not there for the extra perks you get for your non-elected position on a board or your “entitlement” as a leader picked by a non-elected board.  If you want to steal from children (yes, it is stealing no matter how you slice that cake), get the hell out of education.  I have no sympathy for thieves who recklessly allow themselves to take funds that are not their own and then make excuses later.  And Delaware General Assembly legislators: you need to do something about this.  About all this education nonsense in our state.  You don’t answer to Rodel, or the Delaware Charter Schools Network, or even to Governor Markell.  You answer to the people that elected you.  The people are sick of the abuse and scandal.  And we are waking up.  Just because you get 200 emails from charter school parents after a p.r. blitz from Kendall Massett with a scripted response, that doesn’t mean passing a bill designed to fend off this kind of abuse is wrong.  It is the only right thing to do, so get off your buts and do something.  Pass House Bills 186 and 61 in January.  Stop the fraud playing out in our state.  Unless you want to join the unelected on some charter school board.

*This article has been corrected to state every single one of the House Republicans voted no on House Bill 186, not the House Democrats.   The only House Dems that voted no were Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques.

Kuumba Academy & Delaware College Prep Leaders Busted In State Auditor’s Report, Thomas Edison & MOT Pass

Delaware State Auditor Thomas Wagner released a report today and Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy showed significant discrepancies regarding reimbursement of funds to school leaders.  Thomas Edison Charter School and MOT Charter School, also included in the inspection, came through with flying colors.  For Delaware College Prep, there was a “party loan” over $11,000.00 involving the Board President.  For Kuumba, the Head of School, Assistant Head of School and a custodian were overpaid and the report alleges violations of state code in procuring contracts without any bidding process.

This tells us the seven charters that were under investigation by Wagner’s office.  Family Foundations Academy, Academy of Dover, Providence Creek Academy, Thomas Edison Charter School, MOT Charter School, Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy.  I have a sneaky feeling Delaware Met could fit into this category in the future based on events currently happening there.

More to come on this unexpected development.  Congrats to Thomas Edison and MOT for doing the right thing.  Kuumba and Delaware College Prep… there are no words!  To the members of the General Assembly: House Bill 186 needs to pass first thing in January 2016.  The charter financial fraud in our state must pass.  All Delaware Republicans need to open their eyes to this mismanagement and outright theft of state funds and do the right thing.

All You Need To Know About Delaware Charter Schools, Rodel, and DE Charter Schools Network

If I’ve written an article about a Delaware Charter School, Rodel or the Delaware Charter Schools Network, you can now find all of it in one convenient place.  Most of the articles are on there, but I still have some to add.  The major stories are all there.  And each charter school has their own section from earliest to latest.  Eventually, I would like to add other blogs stories about Delaware charter schools.  But that is not today!  For now, you can go to the Delaware Charters/Rodel/Vision tab at the top of this page.  Going through this, I realized it is very hard for someone to get all the information about one school in one shot.  Now you can.  Unlike the DOE, I don’t mind putting everything in one easy to find spot!

For the naysayers who say I beat up on charters all the time, I think the ones with the most articles are the ones that have been in the hot seat in the past year for one reason or another.  Most of the time it is either financial or organizational reasons.  There are many I have never written anything bad about them.  Some of had some minor stuff.  I don’t write bad stuff about the kids who go to charter schools.  I write about the adults who can’t get their act together at the charters.  I think all public schools in Delaware, traditional and charter alike, are in a tough spot with Smarter Balanced and Common Core.  The accountability gurus over at Delaware DOE and the corporate education reformers at Rodel, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Longwood Foundation are a different story.  They are the ones putting all of Delaware’s public education students at a disadvantage with their false ideology.  At the end of the day, it comes back to two things: it’s not good for students and for them it’s all about the money.

Guest Post: Deb Herbage on American Institutes for Research (AIR)

deutsch29: Mercedes Schneider's Blog

deb herbage  Deb Herbage

Deb Herbage (@DebHerbage) was born and raised in Massachusetts and worked for a Fortune 100 company for 20 years as a business analyst.  She relocated to Trinity, Florida in 2007 with her husband and daughter. Deb is an outspoken advocate and active member of the Opt Out Florida Network and over 50 Opt Out groups across the country.

The following is a guest post by Herbage, who has been investigating American Institutes for Research (AIR).

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Who is Really Benefiting from the State Assessment Contracts?

by Deb Herbage

With its inception in 1946, the American Institutes for Research is world famous for their social science and behavioral and psychological research.  Partnering with the US DOD (Department of Defense), the US DOH (Department of Health), the US COC (Chamber of Commerce), and the US DOE (Department of Education), AIR is a non-profit company based in…

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Will The DOE Put Delaware Met On Formal Review?

Judging by the below email sent to legislators and the State Board of Education, they might:

DOEResponseToDelMet

US DOE Issues Letter To Charter Schools Regarding Spending Of Federal Funds

The United States Department of Education released a “Dear Colleague” letter to charter schools and State DOEs in regards to charter school responsibility for spending of Federal funds issued to them.  It also warns about board oversight and conflicts of interest.  Something that never happens in Delaware, right?  This page on my blog is in the process of being updated in the next few days, and it is huge!

This letter goes out on the same day the US DOE gave away $157 million to US charter schools.  But read the letter.  Count the many ways in which Delaware charter schools are out of compliance with this guidance:

Delaware Doesn’t Get Any Money From Huge US DOE Charter School Grant Award of $157 Million

The US Department of Education announced a huge $157 million grant to “improve the charter sector”.  Delaware received nothing.  I wonder why that is with all of Governor Markell’s big connections…

From the US DOE Press Release:

U.S. Department of Education Contributes to an Improving Charter Schools Sector 

September 28, 2015
 
 

The U.S. Department of Education announced today new grants totaling more than $157 million through its Charter Schools Program (CSP), which funds the creation and expansion of public charter schools across the nation.

Since the program’s inception, the Department has invested over $3 billion in the charter school sector, and worked to strengthen accountability and quality of charter schools that are creating opportunities for students facing challenging circumstances.

These grants have had a major impact on the nation’s charter school sector. During the 2013–14 school year, for example, nearly half of the nation’s public charter schools benefited from CSP investments. Today’s announcement follows a period of significant growth, as well as academic and operational improvement, within the charter sector. Educators are leading innovative, community-based public charter schools that educate almost 3 million students across the country. The Department is proud to support high-quality public charter schools, especially those that are creating pathways to college, credentials and careers for low-income students and first-generation college-goers.

“All students have the right to an education that prepares them for college and their careers, and we’re thrilled that a growing number of charter schools create opportunities for students to achieve just that,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “In particular, we are excited to see so many high-quality charter management organizations focused on replicating successful models in high-needs communities. As we celebrate charter schools that help children from disadvantaged backgrounds, we must continue empowering educators to create great schools while holding ourselves to the highest possible standards of excellence.”

This year’s state grant program awarded $125 million in new grants to eight states. The funding will enable them to run state-level grant competitions to support approximately 400 new and expanded public charter schools.

This year’s CSP replication and expansion program will invest more than $32 million in 12 high-quality charter management organizations (CMOs) that serve students from low-income families. These organizations have a history of effectively serving high-need students, and will use these funds to replicate their successful programming for more than 40,000 additional students. Most of this year’s grantees are newer CMOs who are receiving their first charter grant. They are particularly focused on educating students who would otherwise be enrolled in low-performing schools and on encouraging diversity within their student populations. Prior to today’s announcement, the CMO program had previously invested over $230 million in planning and implementing more than 400 high-quality public charter schools and opening over 250 public charter schools across 20 states.

Many public charter schools, especially those serving students in high-poverty, urban areas, have seen promising improvements in student achievement. According to a 2013 study by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), the relative performance of charter schools compared to traditional schools has improved each year. The most recent CREDO study showed that charter school students in urban areas gain roughly 40 days of additional learning per year in math and 28 additional days of learning per year in reading.

The Department is committed to working with its partners at the state and local level to hold charter schools and their operators to high expectations for academic and operational excellence. While the charter schools sector has improved quality and oversight in recent years, the Department continues to be concerned about charter schools’ impact on student learning and about proper financial management of scarce public dollars. As part of this effort, the Department asked this year’s state grantees to focus on establishing rigorous performance expectations for all public charter schools, including ensuring equity for all students.

To help bring more clarity to states’ responsibility when it comes to fiscal oversight of charter schools, the Department is releasing a Dear Colleague Letter to states today emphasizing the importance of financial accountability for charter schools receiving federal grant funds. And as part of its commitment to transparency, the Department is also planning on releasing initial data on the more than 4,000 charter schools funded under CSP since its inception.

In my opinion, this is just more “cash in the trash”.  It’s a waste of money to an industry that hit its peak, but desperation leads to desperate measures.  As more US citizens wise up to the corporate education reform, look for more funds thrown charter schools way…

Three Delaware Schools Awarded Blue Ribbon Award, No Charters

And the winners are:

Cape Henlopen High School (Cape Henlopen School District)

Lake Forest East Elementary School (Lake Forest School District)

W.B. Simpson Elementary School (Caesar Rodney School District)

No New Castle County schools got the award this year.  Congrats to these three schools in traditional public school districts for this honor.  While I am not always a fan of the Blue Ribbon Awards, I know some of these schools are in some tough areas.  From the U.S. DOE Press Release sent out today:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recognized 335 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2015 based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. These schools demonstrate that all students can achieve to high levels. The schools represent public and non-public elementary, middle and high schools, including traditional, charter, magnet schools, parochial and independent schools in 45 States, and Department of Defense Education Activity schools in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Germany and Korea. The Department will honor all 285 public and 50 private schools at a recognition ceremony on Nov. 9-10 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Each school will receive an award plaque and a flag as symbols of their accomplishments. In its 33-year history, more than 8,000 of America’s schools have received the coveted National Blue Ribbon Schools award.

Many Concerns with Delaware Met Charter School

Thank you Rep. Williams, for getting in there and seeing what is really going on there.

DelawareFirstState

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I have many concerns about tonight’s Special Board meeting at Delaware Met Charter School. The impression I got from tonight’s meeting is chaos at the school. I am concerned about the principal being out and I did not hear if she was coming back; they just opened and no leader. The board spoke about clarity is needed around behavior issues and the need for accountability among students and teachers. They spoke about how the student population was challenging. A board member did state that the issues they are having are normal for any new school opening, I do not necessarily agree with that comment.

I spoke to someone after the meeting from Innovative Schools and asked why their financial reports were not posted online, they told me because they just started receiving money in July 2015. When I go to Delaware’s Online Checkbook, DE Met Charter School has been receiving funds for a…

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Youtube Video Of Delaware Met Board Meeting Part 2

Youtube Video Of Delaware Met Special Board Meeting Tonight

Comment Rescue: The Truth About Charter Schools

Thanks to commenter Lori Michelle for putting into words what the heart of the problem is with far too many charter schools.

Charter schools, most of the time, are started by people who have read about this cool educational theory or idea that is working somewhere else (sometimes even an exclusive private school who aren’t beholden to state tests and CCSS and who can pick and choose their students and expel whoever they want…) and think it would be great to get an awful lot of grants and tax money to create a “public school” in the same model. These people are usually not educators who know better and who actually have experience with real live students. Even if these charter school founders aren’t corporate reformers trying to line their pockets with tax dollars, it takes more than good intentions and a good idea to run a school. I feel sorry, first, for the students, and second for those poor teachers who are trying to teach and earn a living under an unprepared and probably unqualified administration. Been there, done that…won’t ever do it again.

Kendall Massett Thinks Del Met Team Should Get More Time. The Students Can’t Afford That.

Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, gave the News Journal a quote tonight about the Delaware Met story playing out before our very eyes.

“The process for getting a charter is extremely rigorous,” Massett said. “Look, it’s difficult to open up a new school. The team here just needs more time to get things to where they need to be. I’m glad to see this board asking hard questions, though.”

What she, and obviously the rest of the board at this school don’t seem to get is these students can’t wait around for the school to figure it out.  They aren’t an experiment.  This school should have been ready from day one.  They knew they had a large population of special education students coming.  They met their 80% enrollment last Spring, otherwise they would have gone on formal review like the two other charters at the time.  All they are doing now is making excuses.  The fact they started the year with two special education teachers with a population of 60 students with disabilities is preposterous.  And the Delaware DOE let this happen.  But thank God we have legislators like State Rep. Sean Matthews who understands the reality behind the pipe dreams these charter schools live in.

 If the state is going to approve charters, they should be under enough scrutiny from the state that they don’t encounter problems like this, he said.

Amen Rep. Matthews!

Delaware Met NOT Closing Says Matt Albright With The News Journal

This story WILL be updated, but Delaware Met is not closing for now as per Matthew Albright with the News Journal who tweeted the following 45 minutes ago:

This news is coming from their board meeting where at least two legislators attended.  One was State Rep. John Kowalko because he asked the board how many of them have educational experience.  The board canceled the executive session to discuss personnel.  But there are a multitude of unanswered questions here.  How are they going to be able to adequately service the students?  If the bulk of their students have internships, how does that work with a special education student who needs supervision? (These questions were not mine but were brought up to me today which raises a very good point).  What about all the conflicts of interest on the board?  What exactly happened for them to suddenly close the school last Thursday?  Who is the individual who originally emailed me on this?  Will the Delaware DOE, who notified the school they are concerned with their “financial viability” (which usually leads to a formal review), place the school on formal review? As soon as I know more, so will you!

Updated, 6:52pm: Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams tweeted the board voted to keep the school open.

Updated, 7:20pm: Delaware Met has 223 students, of which 60 are special education which gives them a 26.9% special education population.  They have 2 special education teachers and are looking to hire two paraprofessionals.  The school was actually closed for three days last week for professional development for teachers who seemed to be as lost as the students.  A former Moyer employee told the board he heard the Delaware Department of Education expected the board to close up shop tonight and that was what they wanted.  Innovative Schools said the school has a lot of money and they are good financially.  When it came time to vote if the school should stay open, the Board President looked at the Innovative Schools rep for approval, who nodded yes.  One member of the board kept referring to the students as her “babies”.  State Rep. John Kowalko barraged the board with questions.  Public comment was not given at the advice of the school’s attorneys (yes, at a public meeting).  One observer said there was gang symbol graffiti all over the cafeteria.  The board spent a significant amount of time discussing the school’s cell phone policy.  Yes, you heard that right.  Sounds like this school doesn’t have the first clue about what the hell they are doing.

News Journal Jumps On The Delaware Met Story

Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal finally jumped on the Delaware Met story three days after this blog broke the news about it’s pending closure.  The article does not state the school is closing because the board is meeting tonight to decide if they should hand in their charter.  I would fully expect a mainstream media source to take this route.  However, I do take offense to this part:

Rumors circulated through the weekend that Delaware Met had already made the decision to close. Students did not attend school Friday – Harrington said the school scheduled professional development for teachers – but kids were back Monday.

“We’ve been trying to get the message out to parents that no decision has been made, but they keep hearing people saying it’s already happened,” Harrington said. “It isn’t helping.”

Why would Albright only contact the school about this?  There was no mention of the Delaware Department of Education who I’m sure would have been notified.  As well, he knew what the source of the “rumors” was and I never heard from him.  But he was up in Philly for the Papal Visit.  Mr. Harrington, you could have easily contacted me as well, but the school did not respond to my two emails on Friday.  Nor did the Department of Education.

Is this school a special education school?  Calling it a “Big Picture School” is not indicative of what has been going on there.

Second, the board will decide whether the school can get a handle on problems with school climate. Harrington said there have been fights and incidents in which students have been disrespectful towards school staff.

“We’re talking about kids acting out,” Harrington said. “Our board’s and leadership’s priority is making sure we can provide a safe environment for our students.”

Part of providing a safe environment for students is having a firm handle on student’s Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) prior to the start of school.  Being that there was no board meeting in August, I would really have to wonder how prepared this school was for opening day.  I do have a lot of respect for Ed Emmett from Positive Outcomes, and he could be a valuable source for helping the school understand special education issues.  But I think their financial issues may be beyond just an enrollment issue.  How much are they paying to Innovative Schools for rent?  Since they have NO financial information on their website (which they are required to do monthly as per Delaware law), how could anyone ascertain what their financial picture is?

I also have to question the role Innovative Schools plays in Delaware education.  Their name has been attached to far too many charters that close or have huge financial issues at some point.  Is it time to reel them in for a serious investigation?  And of course Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network is riding in for the rescue.  But is it too late?  Given everything I have written about this school in the past few days I would be very concerned as a parent of a teenager attending this school.  Conflicts of Interest are as transparent as Saran Wrap and this school has red flags all over it.

Is There Toxic Ground At The Delaware Met Or Just A Huge Conflict Of Interest?

The address of 920 N. French St. in Wilmington, DE is listed as a “Brownfield Site”.  This is also the home of the Delaware Met.  What is a Brownfield Site? The Environmental Protection Agency defines a Brownfield Site as:

With certain legal exclusions and additions, the term “brownfield site” means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

On September 11th, 2002, 920 N. French St. was designated a Brownfield Site by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC).  In the below report, a plan was put forth and finalized in order to clean up the site to allow for commercial development of the property.  Duffield Associates was the company that formulated the plan to clean up the site and remove any contaminants from the soil.

Not long after, MBNA bought the property.  When MBNA was bought by Bank Of America, the company soon sold their former employee training center to the State of Delaware for $6.5 million dollars.  The State of Delaware bought the property on October 12, 2007.  However, the appropriation allowing for the purchase of this building was not approved until the 144th General Assembly on July 1st, 2008, as part of House Bill 525.

Section 31. State Employee Workforce, Education and Training Center. The Section 1 Addendum

14 to this Act contains an appropriation of $6,500,000 for the State Employee Workforce, Education and

15 Training Center, currently owned by the Bank of America. These certain tracts of land are located in the

16 vicinity of 920 N. French Street in the City of Wilmington, New Castle County, and the State of Delaware,

17 being known as New Castle County Tax Parcel numbers 2603520172, 2603520255, 2603520185,

18 2603520190 and 2603520195. For the acquisition of this property, the real property procurement

19 procedures in 29 Del. C. §9505 shall not apply.

For the entire time the State of Delaware owned the building, the property was vacant.  Why would a State purchase a property and never use it?  In March of 2014, the State of Delaware issued a public notice to any interested buyers of the property.  Both The Delaware Met and Freire Charter School were actively seeking the property, and eventually the property was sold to Charter School Development Corporation, under the official company name of CDSCPC 920 French LLC.  The address for this company is 6731 COLUMBIA GATEWAY DRIVE, SUITE 220, COLUMBIA, MD 21046.  But Charter School Development Corporation is a non-profit company based out of Arizona.  The sale occurred on November 14th, 2014, which set into motion a great deal of controversy for Freire Charter School of Wilmington and the Midtown Brandywine Neighborhood Association when Freire was forced to find a new location for their school.  There is no public record of how much the State of Delaware sold the building to Charter School Development Corporation.  In Fiscal Year 2012, Innovative Schools donated $1 million dollars to Charter School Development Corporation.  In FY2014, the company bought 920 N. French St. and leased it to Innovative Schools who is subleasing the property to The Delaware Met.

In Fiscal Year 2015, the Delaware Met paid a considerable sum of money to Duffield & Associates to do work at the property, the very same company that was contracted in 2002 to clean up the soil at the site.  From the Delaware Online Checkbook:

DelmetDuff

All told, Delaware Met paid Duffield Associates $37,654.83 in a seven month period.  On The Delaware Met’s original application, Jeff Bross is listed as the Chairman of Duffield Associates and was also listed as a board member of Delaware Met.  Interestingly enough, while searching for information about Delaware Met and Duffield, this link came up: http://dedoe.schoolwires.net/Errors/AccessDenied.aspx with a message stating the page was inactive or protected and to contact Alison May at the Delaware DOE if you don’t have an account or have any questions.  Jeff Bross is still listed as a Board Member at Delaware Met and is still the Chairman of Duffield Associates.  2014 was a busy year for Duffield and Bross as they were also contracted to help with the I-495 Bridge Debacle.  So is there a clear conflict of interest with having the Chair of Duffield on the Board at the school while also hiring his company to do an extensive amount of work?  Duffield’s expertise seems to be in fixing structural issues at sites where there could be large problems.  What was the problem with 920 N. French St.?  In the school’s only board minutes posted on their website from October 8th, 2014 there is no mention of pending work with Duffield Associates or a vote to retain their services.  Bross attended the meeting.  As well, another board member named Richelle Talbert sits on the board at Delaware Met and is also an employee of the school’s charter management organization, Innovative Schools.  Surely that is a conflict of interest as well.

These are questions that need to be asked by our legislators and the Delaware Department of Education in determining what in the world happened with this charter school.

What Happened At The Delaware Met Last Week?

Sources are telling me there was no school at Delaware Met on Thursday or Friday.  Kids got on the bus Thursday morning and arrived at the school.  When they got there, someone came on the bus and stated the school was having “electrical” problems and students were sent home.  That night, the school had a special board meeting.  Tonight they are having another with one to possibly take action on their charter.  On Friday, news started trickling about the school closing this week.

Now imagine, if you will, what happens with this.  You get up, send your kid to school, and get ready for work or a doctor appointment.  Your child comes back home and you aren’t there.  Granted, these are 9th and 10th graders, but what if they don’t have a key?  Or what if they may have disabilities and need some extra help during a normal day?  These are young teenagers, given two days off in the city of Wilmington and surrounding areas.  Free to possibly wander off and potentially get in trouble.  A school is like a contract.  If you send your child to school, you expect your child to be at school.  Did the school notify the parents right away of this sudden closure?  I’ve heard many parents were not too happy with this stunt.  There was nothing on their website or their Facebook page about this at all.  There was nothing scheduled on the school calendar for in-service days or anything like that.  Christina School District had a small fire at one of their schools and it was all over social media and the news.  With Delaware Met, not a peep.

All new schools have growing pains, but let’s look at the big picture.  If you aren’t ready to service students the day you open your doors, maybe you should close.  Why do charter schools insist on operating out of secrecy rather than transparency?  Don’t they realize that if they are open and honest and transparent it goes so much better for them?  In the past year alone we have seen situations develop at Family Foundations Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Academy of Dover, Freire (before they even opened), Providence Creek Academy, and  now The Delaware Met.  While some events are more egregious than others, they all showed a simple lack of confidence and trust to handle a situation the right way.  Yesterday, another national blogger wrote about the number of charter schools that closed between 2001-2013.  While the list was not entirely accurate for Delaware (can’t speak for other states), it showed about 2,500 charter schools around America closed during this timeframe.  All too often, as is the case in Wilmington, these students just get tossed around from school to school to school.  That isn’t right.  Kids need consistency in their lives.  If some adults don’t know how to play in the sandbox that is public education, maybe they shouldn’t enter it.  It may look great to have on your resume “School Board Member”, or “Charter School Founder”, but if you don’t know what you’re doing it has a huge impact on kid’s lives.

As well, our very own Department of Education tries to make charter schools appear as if everything is awesome until they have no choice but to put a school on formal review.  But they are aware of the issues.  They need to take a direct hand in matters and be public about it way before the point of no return.

The Funky Real Estate Deals For 920 N. French St., Home of Delaware Met

Last March, Larry Nagengast with WDDE wrote a very good article on Innovative Schools.  It is no longer on the WDDE website, but a pdf of it is floating around on the internet.  In this article, which delved into many things with Innovative Schools, Nagengast wrote:

But Delaware Met, like many charters, did not have the funds to purchase the building outright.

According to Swanson and Childs, Innovative Schools approached the Charter Schools Development Corporation (CSDC), a nonprofit based in the Washington, D.C., area that finance and develops charter school sites and had an interest in entering the Delaware market. Innovative Schools contributed $1 million to CSDC, which then purchased the building from the state. (The actual purchase price was not given on New Castle County property records.) CSDC is leasing the building back to Innovative Schools, which is subleasing it to Delaware Met.

The leasing arrangement, Swanson says, provides a measure of protection for CSDC in the event Delaware Met does not succeed because Innovative Schools, as a charter manager, would be in a position to secure another school as a tenant to use the space.

The New Castle County property records shows it purchased the building from the state for $10.00.  But this website says that for all the sales of this building, so that can’t be correct.  Why would Innovative Schools “contribute” $1 million in 2012 to a company that then bought the building for Delaware Met, and then Innovative Schools subleases it to Delaware Met?  Looks like that leasing arrangement was a good idea for CSDC.  Too bad there is a moratorium on any new charters until 2017 or so.  This is going to be VERY interesting to watch.  More to come, and I’m pretty sure there may be some more mainstream coverage of this in the next day or two…  Meanwhile, I just hope all of this is not too toxic for these students who have been shuffled around Wilmington charters…