The Official DOE Response To The Delaware Met Closure

Alison May with the Delaware Department of Education release the following press announcement about the historic mid-year closure vote for Delaware Met.

For immediate release

Contact Alison May at (302) 735-4000

DELAWARE MET CHARTER REVOKED

DOE announces path forward for students and families with school closing on January 22

In response to the Delaware Department of Education and State Board of Education’s action today revoking the charter for the Delaware MET charter school in Wilmington at the end of the second marking period, the state announced that its staff will meet with MET students and families in the coming weeks to help them determine their best educational options for the second semester of the school year.

The school will close on January 22, 2016. The state will assist the school’s 206 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.

As they look toward next year, families also may fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school for 2016-17. The application deadline is January 13, 2016.

Families with questions should email Kamilah.Laws@doe.k12.de.us or call 302- 257-3635.

All documents related to the formal review, including committee reports and school responses, are available here.

Delaware Met Charter Revoked By State Board of Education in 4-1 Vote

Delaware Met is finally up, at 5:52pm.  Jennifer Nagourey with the Charter School Office is going over the reasons why they are on formal review.  Talking about staffing, school discipline, training for staff, criminal activity, lack of an organizational capability, financial viability, and so forth.

Secretary Godowsky said as he looked at the information presented.  Talking about special education, school culture, etc.  While he is encouraged by the school’s hope to improved, he is disappointed they didn’t use their two year planning period effectively.

Secretary Godowsky agrees with the Charter School Accountability Committee decision and requests assent of the State Board of Education to revoke Delaware Met’s charter and the school to be closed by the end of this marking period, January 22nd.

Dr. Gray is giving the motion.  First, Seconded.  Discussion.  Heffernan: “It’s a mess.  There is no excuse for not being ready.”
Dr. Gray is talking about a charter school closure in mid-January.  She is asking how it happens?  Nagourney is explaining the DOE reaches out to parents to explain the closure process.  Heffernan said the feeder schools have to take them back.  Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman (for now) is explaining January 22nd would be a natural break for the students since it is the end of the marking period.

Heffernan is asking why this happened.  He said in looking at their updates, they were more worried about recruiting students and he didn’t see any real planning for other stuff until this past August.  Blowman is saying it is very difficult to open a new school.  He thinks there needs to be another look at how they approve schools.

The question is being asked about if the funding will follow the students back to their feeder schools.  Blowman said it is the state’s intention to make that happen.  Blowman is talking about how 59 out of 59 IEPs were out of compliance.  The staffing levels at a maximum got to 3 1/2 to 4 even though they were eligible for 9 units based on the number of special education students on IEPs.  There wasn’t enough staff to cover their needs.  Blowman is saying an IEP isn’t just a document, it is a federally binding document that governs the services a student with a disability gets in the school.

Melendez is talking about the safety concerns and other students coming to the school.  Blowman said at the end of the day, the CSAC was not convinced the climate was getting better.  Coverdale is saying a Del Met student is not a Cab Calloway student and the starting point in building relationships with these students is harder when kids come from trauma.

Heffernan is saying this is a very severe action to take but what are the other options.  He said he could never figure out how many students left the school throughout this process.  Two members of the Del Met board are in the audience.  Coverdale is saying he isn’t convinced the kids will be better off in their feeder pattern schools.  Blowman said the final meeting with Del Met was 4 1/2 hours long and he is stressing their recommendation was the students will be safer in their feeder schools.  Those students would be better served for the remainder of the school year.  He said it was not an easy decision to make.

Godowsky said there will be discussions with charters in the area about students potentially choicing into them as well.  Heffernan can’t understand how Del Met miscalculated.  Heff is asking about how the funding issues even work.  He said the funding will be prorated.  Nobody knows how much staff is left that are certified teachers.  Gray is saying some students who were in alternative schools may not be able to go back to their feeder patterns.  Nagourney said Charter School Office is working to make sure no students fall through the cracks.  A member of the audience named CEO Hope said “I’ll take them, I’ll take them.”

Donna Johnson is saying many students were misinformed and thought they would have to sit home until the end of the school year based on comments at the 2nd public hearing.  Dr. Gray is asking about the written response to the initial public hearing and who wrote that response.  Innovative Schools wrote the response.  She is asking where the official response is from the school’s board to address the deficiencies in the school.  Nagourney said she got something from the board today but it was after the official public comment period.  Godowsky is bringing it home and saying every single area of review was a serious problem.  He said he came to this conclusion in the best interest of the Delaware Met students.

The Delaware State Board of Education is getting ready to vote…

Gray reads the motion, four yes for revocation, one nay (Coverdale).  Delaware Met is done as of January 22nd.

*This article has been corrected to reflect the actual vote of 4-1, not 6-1.  Board member Whittaker was absent, and I want to say Melendez or Bunting were not there for the vote.

 

Campus Community, MOT, and Providence Creek All Get Their Charters Renewed

Three Delaware charter schools were up for charter renewal: Campus Community School, MOT Charter School, and Providence Creek Academy.  The State Board of Education approved their charter renewals.  Nice and short article.  No drama.  Done.  Next up…Delaware Met…

State Board President Questioning Why Christina Gets 2nd Year For Priority School Planning

“I’m totally confused!”

Dr. Teri Quinn Gray is freaking out at the State Board of Education meeting right now about the Christina School District getting a 2nd year of planning for their priority schools. Penny Schwinn explained to Dr. Gray how, because of the WEAC recommendations, a deal was basically cut with Christina to get additional time to plan.  Dr. Gray said WEIC just left and basically said they aren’t able to distribute education recommendations.  As Penny tried to explain this to Dr. Gray, she became more flustered.

“So this is a five year plan, until 2019.  Am I the only one hyperventilating here?  Excuse me.  I have to step out.”

And she did, looking like she hasn’t read anything about this in THE PAST 10 MONTHS!!!!

Penny is going over the options if Christina doesn’t get their plans in on time.  Here we go… and the war begins anew.  I hope everyone in Christina is reading this!

Melendez and Heffernan are talking about how Christina plays games.  “They did it with the Race To The Top money,” said Melendez.  “They’re getting hurt.”

Secretary Godowsky is talking about interventions Christina is implementing in the district.  He brought up the DASL reports!  He is reiterating the deal Christina made.  He is actually calming the conversation down…

Gray came back.  She asked Penny when their plans are due.  Penny said December 4th.  It is up to the Secretary’s discretion for any punitive action if it doesn’t happen.  Donna Johnson is saying the educators are great but she is laying the blame on the district and the board.  This got REAL tense.

Dr. Gray is visibly livid about this.  She wants follow-up on this…

UPDATED: WEIC Presenting Redistricting Plan To Delaware State Board of Education

Right now.  Live.  This is it.  Okay, instead of rehashing what the entire state knows, I would like to request the State Board of Education move their state board meetings to a venue where people can actually feel like they aren’t crammed into a sardine box.  Maybe instead of giving all that money to outside vendors they can actually invest in an air circulation program.  The DOE has a huge building off of Route 8 with a huge conference room that could easily fit all these people.  Just an FYI.

Anyways, Tony Allen is talking to the board.  If you want to read what they are talking about go here:

https://eboard.eboardsolutions.com/Meetings/ViewMeetingOrder.aspx?S=190001&MID=482

Go to Agenda Section V.A.1. and read all about it.  It really isn’t very different than the billion other WEIC documents I’ve put up…more funding, redistricting, charters, and so forth…

I did finally get a seat after sitting indian style, or criss-cross applesauce as the kids nowadays call it.  How is your day going?

The Delaware State Board of Education is grilling Tony Allen and Dan Rich about funding for this.  Dan Rich said the State Board is not responsible for funding allocations, their vote would be to reaffirm the redistricting.  Numbers are going back and forth but it looks like $7.5 million for the first year, which is being negotiated with Governor Markell.  This is an estimate Dan Rich is saying.  How the hell can they expect the State Board to pass something without a price tag?  This is backwards!

Brandywine is not involved in process at all.

State Board member Pat Heffernan is asking for clarification on the plan.  Dan Rich is getting a bit testy with the State Board.  Probably not a good idea.

Board Member Barbara Rutt asked WEIC if things go south midstream is there any way to stop the process, Tony Allen said there is a mechanism in the draft where the State Board could suspend the time-stream of implementation.  Dan Rich is reading from the resolution, if everything isn’t given (funding, resources), by 7/1/18 it would halt the process.

If I had to guess, State Board members Heffernan and Gregory Coverdale are very perplexed by all of this.  Can’t say I blame them.  There are WAY too many variables in this.  How about they just get a new method of funding for schools, get the resources and staffing high-needs schools have, and then look at redistricting.  I really can’t support this anymore.

I had to move seats to get near a plug.  They are still talking about funding…one-time costs, recurring costs…

Board Member Nina Lou Bunting just raised a very good point.  She said isn’t this the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission?  Where is the talk about students and teachers?  Where is the talk about improving education she asked.  Dan Rich is explaining how the various components come together and if it doesn’t happen it can’t continue.  Bunting is explaining that, as a teacher, this is an integral part of the plan.

Tony Allen is explaining that the kids of Wilmington need to be under one governance system, under one district.  My big question is if this goes south, all those children in Wilmington are then in a failing district.  Is it worth taking the risk for these kids?  What happens then?  Convert them all to charters?

WEIC sub-committee member Henry Harper is talking about how education has become schools competing with each other over their name in the newspaper.  Joe Pika is telling the board this plan is only focused on one aspect: redistricting.  But it is essential, and as Tony Allen called it “the price of admission” for the rest of the five year plan.  I still don’t get it.  In my opinion, get the funding then worry about redistricting later.  Cause maybe all our schools can do better with more funding and more resources.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  Tony Allen is basically saying “Pass the redistricting if you want all our recommendations.”  Sorry Tony, I’m not buying it.  There should be no “price for admission”.  Get the DOE to stop paying millions of taxpayer funds on crap like the Smarter Balanced Assessment and all their vendor corporate education reformer crap and actually get to the heart of it.  Get more funding, get more resources in our classrooms: more paraprofessionals, more support.  But most important of all: get a firm grip on special education Delaware.  This is your number one problem.  What went down at the Red Clay board meeting last night with their inclusion plan is an indication of how bad it is in our state.  Instead of focusing on proficiency and growth and rigor, get the resources we need.

Board Member Melendez is basically asking WEIC why are we doing this if Brandywine and Colonial aren’t giving up any students?  He is right.  Maybe Kilroy is right.  Maybe this is all about revenge on Christina.  I don’t know what to think anymore.  This is how it goes with live blogging.  Sorry folks.  I can’t keep my mouth shut!

Rutt is asking about the Red Clay board.  What if they change their vote as their board shifts over the years?  My theory: plans are in the works for this very eventuality.  If their board gets more, shall we say, charter friendly, this gets jacked up very fast.

Dan Rich is basically saying “Approve this commitment without a firm price tag and a billion uncertainties”.  He didn’t say that, but that is what I’m getting out of this whole presentation.

To get a good idea of this LONG conversation (so much for a limit of 15 minutes!), please listen to the state board audio recording which will come out in the next week.  And with that, the presentation is over.

DOE Recognizes MOT Charter & Sussex Academy As “Reward Schools” While Low-Income Title I Schools Are Labeled

The top recognition by the Delaware Department of Education for schools that do awesome on standardized assessments are two charter schools.  One is in a district that has a low population of low-income students and is in a more affluent area of the state, and the other has been named in a lawsuit by the ACLU for selective enrollment preferences in their application process that results in discrimination.  MOT Charter School and Sussex Academy are the two reward schools.  The recognition schools are as follows:

Distinguished Title I/Recognition Schools:

Thurgood Marshall Elementary School and Newark Charter School

Recognition Schools:

Brick Mill E.S., Dover Air Force Base M.S., Lake Forest North E.S., Lake Forest South E.S., Lancanshire E.S., Olive B. Loss E.S., Southern Delaware School of the Arts, Kathleen H. Wilbur E.S.

School of Continued Excellence 2015:

Howard High School

This is a new process for the Department as approved in their ESEA waiver submitted earlier this year.

Meanwhile, in the low-income Title I schools that have high populations of low-income, minority students, and students with disabilities, these schools have been labeled as Focus, Focus Plus and Priority Schools.  There are 10 Focus Schools, 4 Focus Plus, and 7 Priority Schools listed in the below report.  None of them are charter schools…no magnets…no vo-techs…just traditional school districts struggling to receive the resources and staffing they deserve.  They are not allowed to pick and choose who goes to their schools.  They take everyone.

Delaware DOJ Responds To My FOIA Petitions Against Delaware DOE

Back in September, I filed three Freedom of Information Act petitions with the Delaware Department of Justice against the Delaware Department of Education.  This was shortly after I found out about the opt-out penalties in the Delaware School Success Framework.

To give some background on this, the September 10th petition was in regards to the publication of Regulation 103 in the monthly Registrar of Regulations.  State law dictates any items for publication must be submitted 15 days prior.  I found out who the Regulation would go at the registrar’s office and requested a FOIA based on who I thought may send this to them from the DOE.  I immediately received a response from Alison May, the public information officer at the DOE, that none of the individuals had an email of this sort in their system but if I paid $300 to DTI (the state data office) they could do a more exhaustive search.

The September 17th request was around the State Board of Education Retreat and my assumption information was withheld due to my being the only member of the public in attendance and their full knowledge of my blog.

The September 28th petition concerned the posting of meetings for the Accountability Framework Working Group, their agendas, and the timing associated with them.  Please read the below opinion issued by the DOJ and weigh in with your thoughts!

 

Delaware Education Funding: Can The Mess Created By Governor Markell Even Be Fixed?

Someone asked if public comment (can) be received by the committee?  We will need to look at how we collect public/stakeholder input.

The above quote will be explained later, but it is very indicative of what happens in Delaware.

DarrylScott

One of the biggest topics in Delaware these days is funding for education.  It is everywhere.  The Wilmington Education Improvement Commission wants to completely revamp how we fund our schools and included this in their redistricting plan which will be presented to the Delaware State Board of Education later today.  The Vision Coalition has this as one of their six areas to get to the “North Star” of educational excellence in Delaware.  But there is an even bigger group meeting these days to tackle this elephant in the room.

The Senate Joint Resolution #4 Education Funding Improvement Commission has been meeting since early November.  I was able to obtain the minutes from their first meeting and I had some very deep concerns about some of the things I saw in there.  But before I get to that, there are a lot of interesting names on this committee.  The legislation called for 19 members but there are 24 on this committee.  How does that even happen?

Chair: Former State Representative Darryl Scott

State Rep. Earl Jaques

State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King

State Senator David Sokola

State Senator Gary Simpson

Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov

*Delaware Association of School Administrators Kevin Carson

Delaware PTA Vice-President Ashley Dalzell-Gray

Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing Kristin Dwyer

New Castle County Vo-Tech Superintendent Vicki Gehrt

Woodbridge Board Member Walter Gilefski

State of Delaware Deputy Controller General Mike Jackson

State of Delaware Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Brian Maxwell

Office of the Governor Education Policy Adviser Lindsay O’Mara

Governor’s Advisory Council for Exceptional Citizens Chairperson Robert Overmiller

*University of Delaware Center for Applied Demography & Survey Research Director Ed Ratledge

*Delaware Technical & Community College Chairman of the Board Mark Stellini

Delaware State Board of Education Member Barbara Rutt

Christina Cultural Arts Center Executive Director Raye Jones Avery

Kuumba Academy Head of School Sally Maldonado

Corporation Service Company President Rodman Ward III

Latin American Community Center Vice President of Development Claudia Pena Porretti

*Rodel Foundation of Delaware Vice President for Policy & Practice Madeleine Bayard

Support Staff for the Committee: Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson and Secretary of Education Office Policy Advisor Tina Shockley

I have seen many of these names on various DOE working groups, legislative task forces and committees, and so forth.  Some are new to me.  Some of these are very affiliated with Rodel and the Delaware Business Roundtable.  Some are very charter affiliated.  But as usual, aside from one representative from the Delaware PTA, parents get the shaft.  We are always shut out of groups like this.  To answer my earlier question about how this group has more members than what the legislation called for, the answer was found here:

Three community members with special knowledge of education finance or special ability to contribute to discussion, appointed by Governor: Ed Ratledge, Madeleine Bayard, Mark Stellini, Kevin Carson

Whoever put this up on the DOE website must be using some odd form of Common Core math because I see four names there, not three…

Darryl Scott was the former Chair of the House Education Committee.  He served three terms as State Representative from 2009-2015.  I am very curious how a retired State Rep becomes not only the Chair of an education funding task force but also serves on the Southern Regional Education Board.

Why is the information for these meetings buried on the DOE website and not put on the General Assembly page for SJR #4?  This is a legislative task force.

What concerns me the most about the below minutes is the quote at the top of this article.  This is a public committee which is allowed to have public comment, no questions asked.  The fact that a group like this isn’t sure how that will work stinks of non-transparency.  These minutes were not found on the Delaware General Assembly Website.  But when you look at the minutes, we see who decides how public comment can be given and viewed:

Donna Johnson advised that we will set up a website where all materials will be posted.  An email address will be set up to receive public comment.

I’m sorry, but Donna Johnson is support staff, not a voting member of this committee.  Why is she calling the shots on transparency?  She is not a member of the General Assembly who enacted this legislation.  As for the topics for upcoming meetings, who sets that up?

Chairman Scott noted that the next meeting will be held the week after Thanksgiving and that Tina Shockley will initiate a Doodle poll for the next meeting.

Who decides what is put on this Doodle poll?  Another Department of Education employee.  Who is running the show here?  Of course we know anything education related that happens in Delaware is run by Governor Markell.  And once again he is using the DOE to call the shots.  So much for transparency and an open and democratic commission…

At their December 9th meeting, a presentation was given by Mike Griffiths, the School Finance Strategist with a company called Education Commission of the States.  This is yet another think tank type of company in America dealing with how to “fix” education.  Each state has a group of Commissioners.  For Delaware, the Commissioners are Governor Jack Markell, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky, Lindsay O’ Mara (Markell’s Education Policy Advisor), Senator David Sokola, and… Madeleine Bayard, Vice-President of Policy and Practice for the Rodel Foundation of Delaware.  Senator Sokola is on the Steering Committee for this organization.  Griffith’s presentation is here:

As well, Michael Morton from the Office of the Comptroller General’s office gave a very good presentation on Delaware School Finances.  These are always tricky waters to navigate through for the average citizen, but I found this guide helped me to understand it better:

This is going to be a very interesting commission to keep track of.  And once again, we have three different “coalitions” tackling school funding: WEIC, Vision Coalition, and this group…

We are seeing education funding play out in every single public school in the state.  Schools are lacking resources and staff while the bloated Department of Education continues to shell out millions upon millions of dollars to corporate education reform companies.  If Delaware wants to truly get more funding into our schools, this is the first place where funds can be reallocated.  There should be no discussions about property tax re-assessments or weighted funding until the excess fat is trimmed out of the DOE.  But look who is controlling this behind the scenes…  This is Jack Markell’s mess.  He will slide out of the Governor’s seat and leave the wreckage for Delaware to clean up.  Thanks for that Governor…

 

 

 

 

 

Our Comments from Last Night’s Red Clay Board Meeting on Inclusion

Kim, Ashley and Mike are truly awesome for tackling this issue head on. Everyone knows I have a soft spot for special education. When I first heard about this issue, I will admit I was upset. I feel inclusion should be a must whenever possible. However, the more I learned about this situation and the severe lack of resources, staff, and funding for these children with intense and complex disabilities, the more I agree with everything this trio are saying. I will have more on this later, but this is a MUST READ!!!!

DelawareFirstState

Last night, Mike Matthews RCEA President, Ashley Sabo Red Clay parent and co-chair of Red Clay’s Inclusion Committee and I addressed the Red Clay School Board in regards to their Inclusion Plan. We are very concerned about the implementation of the plan and the necessary resources that are needed at our schools. Below are our comments.

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16 To Watch In 2016: The Delaware Bloggers

We strike first.  We don’t have to wait for a copy editor or an all-clear from the publisher.  We are the copy editor.  We are the publisher.  You love us.  You hate us.  We show up at meetings when you least expect us.  Some of you get nervous when you see us typing feverishly.  We don’t get paid.  We do it for the kids.  We find you.  We are opinionated and headstrong.  We have allies and enemies.  We know who has been naughty and nice.  We are the tired.  We are the alert.  We don’t cut corners.  We don’t aim to please.  Election Season is coming.  Fear Us.  This is gonna be fun!

KilroyKev

As The Violence Continues At Delaware Met More Questions Surface

You would think, facing the State Board of Education this week and hoping for a miracle that your charter may not get revoked in the middle of the school year, that you would do everything possible to stop the cycle of violence at your school.  This is obviously not the case with the Delaware Met.  But then again, this is a school like no other because no charters in Delaware have ever had their charter revoked mid-year.  This will most likely happen tomorrow.  But I’m sure this is small comfort for the student who had a chair thrown at his head on Tuesday.  This resulted in a trip to the emergency room and stitches.  With all the additional support this school has put in place: a new principal, school climate officers, discipline staff, and mentors, you would think someone would be able to prevent this pattern of behavior.  But no, not at the Delaware Met.  I don’t know if these students can afford to wait until January 22nd for this school to close.

It is becoming painfully obvious that this school does need to close.  As I’ve said numerous times, you can’t put a Band-Aid on a wound that needs a tourniquet.  I am changing this article to reflect that Kendall Massett and the Delaware Charter Schools Network did actually encourage the school to reach out to other charters.  As well, DCSN did contact other charters in an attempt to help Delaware Met.  I truly don’t know what happened from there, but we are where we are now.  I can say this though, there will be no situation where Kendall negotiates a deal where another charter essentially takes over the school.  I would have to assume that with Innovative Schools huge role in this school (more so than any other charter they have provided support for in the past), that could get VERY complicated.  My apologies to Kendall for my earlier comments!

Another Ouster At Delaware DOE Leaves Godowsky Without Deputy Dave!

Dblowman

The Delaware Deputy Secretary of Education is out!  Some very strong rumors coming my way surrounding David Blowman are all navigating towards the same place: He is no longer the Deputy Secretary of Education.  Nothing is official yet, but look for news surrounding this very soon.

While the Deputy Secretary really doesn’t get mentioned a lot, the position oversees many offices at the Delaware DOE: Adult Education & School Supports, Adult & Prison Education, Finance, Human Resources, and the Charter School Office.  With issues surrounding Delaware charters the past couple years, as well as the very controversial Race To The Top positions that were supposed to be eliminated after the federal program ended, is this what resulted in this change?

It is not known if there will be a new Deputy Secretary named or if the position will be eliminated altogether.  Prior to his Deputy position, Blowman was the Chief Financial Officer for the Brandywine School District for ten years.  Will there be more changes at the Delaware DOE?  In the past month, we have seen big resignations in the form of Penny Schwinn, Ryan Reyna and Shana Young.  I know many Delaware teachers are praying for one particular change…

No Charter Renewal For Delaware College Prep

logo

Last night, the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education voted unanimously not to renew the charter for Delaware College Preparatory Academy.  The Delaware charter school serves students from Kindergarten through 5th grade.  But they will be closing at the end of the year.  Will they go quietly into the night?  Or should we expect some pushback like Moyer and Reach attempted to do last year?  My guess is on the latter.  At the meeting, Delaware College Prep Head of School Angela Dennis gave public comment asking the board to keep the school open.  Another teacher gave a public comment as well.  The Board had no discussion before the vote.  Many folks in the audience came just for the Delaware College Prep decision, and they were not happy about the decision.

Rumors had been swirling over on Kilroy’s about this type of action as far back as last March.  I wrote about the Red Clay charter committee’s recommendation for non-renewal last month.  In October, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts found Delaware College Prep had some suspicious financial abuses regarding Board President Yardise Jones but nowhere near the level of abuse at Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover.

It looks like another Delaware charter is one for the books.  Tomorrow, we find out about Delaware Met.  Will any other charters get yanked this year?  With the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores not counting for last year, I would tend to doubt it unless something goes terribly awry at one of them in the next six months.

Red Clay’s board did renew the charter for Delaware Military Academy as well as approving their modification request to increase their enrollment.  But only after they made the head of school promise that this was contingent on funding to build additions to the school.  Commandant Anthony Pullella said yes.