Yesterday, I wrote an article about some very concerning events at Delaware Met. I emailed the Delaware Department of Education about these concerns, along with legislators, Governor Markell, and Attorney General Matt Denn. State Rep. Paul Baumbach asked the DOE to look at the amount of in-school suspensions as well to which Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman responded today:
From: Blowman David <david.blowman@DOE.K12.DE.US>
To: Baumbach Paul <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Kevin Ohlandt <email@example.com>
Cc: Nagourney Jennifer <Jennifer.Nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven <Steven.Godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <firstname.lastname@example.org>; O’Mara Lindsay <email@example.com>; Denn Matthew <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Williams Kimberly <email@example.com>; Kowalko John <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Matthews Sean <email@example.com>; Gray Teri <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Haberstroh Susan Keene <email@example.com>; Young Shana <Shana.Young@doe.k12.de.us>; Carwell John <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Whalen Michelle <Michelle.Whalen@doe.k12.de.us>
Sent: Friday, October 23, 2015 2:32 PM
Subject: RE: Delaware Met
DOE staff visited Delaware Met yesterday afternoon to investigate the alleged violations of students rights. Below is a summary of their observations relative to the specific allegations reported by Mr. Ohlandt:
- Hiring prison guards – The school has hired four new support staff to help address the school’s climate issues. They began working at the school on Monday. Two of these individuals have backgrounds in juvenile corrections and currently serve a number of Delaware Met students in external community based programs.
- Multiple suspensions – It appears that the school is attempting to be more consistent with holding students accountable to the code of conduct which might explain a spike in suspensions. The exact number of suspensions will be verified.
- Inappropriate student confinements – There was no evidence of inappropriate student confinements. DDOE staff observed the In School Suspension (ISS) room. There were 2-3 students in the room.
DOE will continue to monitor the school and investigate potential violations of the school’s charter through the formal review process.
Many thanks, David
My biggest concern is how special education and IEPs are being implemented with fidelity at Delaware Met. And as I wrote earlier today, there seems to be confusion with their Code of Conduct, discipline efforts, and their Restorative Justice approach. In essence, I’m sure there is a lot we aren’t being told about what the exact nature is of the offenses students are committing that warrant suspension. From what I am hearing from Blowman, the school may be administering a type of zero-tolerance program in an attempt to instill order in the school. I do not think that is viable solution, nor is it a positive long-term action. It takes more students out of the classroom and away from education. I have not seen anything coming from this school to indicate they are making the best decisions or even know how to. But can parents of suspended students afford to wait until the State Board of Education makes a decision in mid-December? And even then, if they ultimately wind up deciding to revoke the school’s charter, it would not be until the end of the school year. How much damage can happen until then?
As well, I have heard numerous references to “gang-related” activity, both from third parties and the DOE’s own Formal Review notification letter. I don’t believe the DOE is equipped as a state agency to handle that type of thing and it may take the Delaware Attorney General’s office getting involved to gage what is truly going on with that aspect of events.
I also have to wonder how well the staff is at dealing with these types of matters. From what I am hearing, the bulk of the teachers are new. Do they have the necessary training and development to be able to deal with defiance from students? Does the administration? And for that matter, who is running the school? Is it Sean Gallagher who already has a full-time role as the Executive Director of Leadership at Innovative Schools for the Delaware Leadership Project? Or is it his intern who Gallagher stated at their 9/28 board meeting would run the “day-to-day” details of the school? And why has no one questioned the apparent conflict of interest with being paid by both Innovative Schools and the school that makes payments to Innovative Schools?
This culture of silence emanating from the school and their lack of transparency is highly troubling. Two board members left (which are not changed on their web site), no staff are listed on their website, and no board minutes have been released since their 9/23 meeting even though they have had three board meetings since then (their “special board meetings” on 9/28 and 10/12 and their regular monthly board meeting on 10/21). We don’t know what their current student enrollment is or even how many students have been suspended in the two months since the school opened. I’m sure answers will come at the November 4th meeting of the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for Delaware Met’s formal review, but that may be little comfort to students and their parents who want answers now.