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.