Chaos Unleashed At Delaware Met Yesterday

Delaware-Met-2

Instead of students being somber about their charter revocation January 22nd, they decided to do something else yesterday.  This week, the Delaware Met received a new leader in the form of Denise Barnes, a former middle school assistant principal from Appoquinimink.  Yesterday, the students took full advantage of the recent decision by the State Board of Education to shut down the school by misbehaving and “jumping”, a slang term for causing fights.  The school had no clue how to handle the unruly students, so they shut down at noon.  This was not a planned and scheduled day.  They just said “School’s over, time to go home.”

Why would the charter, with a model that  focuses on personal relationships called “Big Picture Learning”, allow this behavior to continue.  And with all the problems, why would they hire a person from Appo to lead the school?  Appo and Delaware Met are two completely different worlds.  I’ve heard that even though the students had issues with former school Leader Tricia Hunter Crafton, she at least had their respect.  She knew how to connect with the students.  But as the school has gone through a few “leaders”, the students are running the school.

Delaware Met closes for Christmas break on December 22nd.  When they come back in January, they will have a few weeks before they close for good.  Who is monitoring what goes on there between now and then?  Is anyone?  It is painfully obvious that whoever the authority figures are now do not know what they are doing.  Are these students even learning anything these days?  And what about all their internships?  Is that even happening (which was the whole purpose of the school)?  The school bragged about their hiring of A.J. English and his mentoring team with English Mentoring.  What is going on with that?  What is their much vaunted “school climate team” even doing there?  The school has bragged about how things have turned around, but just this week alone there was an emergency room visit for a student who got stitches after a chair was thrown at his head, and then the mini-riot yesterday that forced the school to send everyone home without parental notification.  Apparently, the DOE was unaware of the stitches incident until well into the State Board of Education meeting the next day.  As if not telling the DOE about the stitches thing would have stopped the State Board from shutting them down!

As the Delaware Auditor of Account’s office investigates the school’s finances, many are wondering about what they will find.  I would assume they are looking at how funds were allocated, especially special education dollars.  Their budget submissions to the DOE during their formal review showed a lot of funds moving around.  And if there was any misappropriation of federal dollars, that’s big time!  I would also guess they are looking at Innovative Schools role in this unprecedented disaster.  How was money spent during the two-year planning period?  Did Innovative take advantage of the apparent inexperience of their board of directors?  And will we ever find out the mystery of the bleeding meat served at lunch to students?

Don’t get me wrong, I think the State Board of Education made the right decision in shutting them down.  But with that decision also comes the responsibility of making sure things run right until that closure.  By shutting them down, the State Board is saying they don’t trust the school to make the right decisions for their students.  So if they didn’t trust them before their decision, why would they trust them now to do the right thing?  With everything going on there, someone needs to look out for these kids.

 

28 thoughts on “Chaos Unleashed At Delaware Met Yesterday

  1. Kevin I sent an email to the charter office asking about a transition plan for Met. Mr. Carwell has promised to get back to me next week because I’m concerned about the students’ transition. This is most certainly going to be mess.

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  2. I gotta be honest here Kevin, and ask how the hell are those kids gonna know how to behave when they return to a traditional school? They will return to wherever, and let’s be honest, some will go to other charters but most will likely go to feeder schools, and they’ve spent half the year doing violent, insane, school-inappropriate, disruptive things. I shudder to think of my poor colleagues who will have to integrate these kids, especially if they go en masse to one or two schools and decide to try the same things.

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    • And chances are many of them will be in my building. Sigh.
      I hope that we can restore some order in their lives, but dumping them midyear into classes when they don’t have the background knowledge will most likely throw my building into turmoil. It’s unfair to everyone.
      I hope my district leadership reads my comment, and recognizes that we need a plan in place BEFORE this occurs. I know, I know, where do we get the funding for the extra help these kids need? Well, spending money now will pay off with well educated, well adjusted students in 3 years.

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  3. The parents of these students need to attend school with them for the entire day or until their kids behavior changes for the better. If the child misbehaves, call the parent(s) and have them picked up and removed from school. Do this often enough and parents will eventually ensure their child’s behavior changes. It’s a nightmare when teachers/Resource Officers become the disciplinarian and usually ends badly. Students who want to learn are penalized by the ones who are misbehaving. This creates an even wider divide between students and causes good students to eventually believe there’s no point in trying to get an education as lessons are constantly disrupted. Parents need to take responsibility for the discipline of their kids and stop considering teachers/schools as cheap week day baby sitters.

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      • Maybe so, but you need a parent to apply for enrollment into a charter. Therefore, these parents are probably more involved than most, or at the minimum think enough to try and get a better education for them. It’s a shame they were sold a crappy product. Now, as always, the public schools have to find the solution.
        Some parents are at their wits end with their children, and to make generalizations is unfair.

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  4. Generalizations unfair? Educators/administrators have been imposing generalized courses and tests on students expecting them to students perform at a specific level. Research shows teens do not assimilate information as adults do, as described in the following article:
    A collaboration of Cornell University, University of Rochester, and the NYS Center for School Safety Article – May 2002, excerpt:

    “Recent research by scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has found that the teen brain is not a finished product, but is a work in progress. New findings show that the greatest changes to the parts of the brain that are responsible for functions such as self-control, judgment, emotions, and organization occur between puberty and adulthood. Boston’s McLean Hospital, psychologist Deborah Yurgelun-Todd and colleagues showed pictures of people wearing fearful expressions to teenagers between the ages of 11 and 17 while the teens had their brains scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). She found that compared to adults the teens’ frontal lobes (the seat of goal-oriented rational thinking, self-control, judgment, emotional regulation, restructured in teen years) are less active and their amygdala (a structure in the temporal lobe that is involved in discriminating fear and other emotions still developing after age 16 is more active. The corpus callosum controls intelligence, consciousness and self-awareness; reaches full maturity in 20’s. Parietal lobes control auditory, visual, and tactile signals are immature until age 16. Teens just process information differently from adults. (Yurgelun-Todd, 2002)”

    These findings add new dimensions to issues facing young people, as well as their parents and teachers, and they pose a challenge to policy makers (NIH, 2000). If the choices adolescents make about using drugs and alcohol and engaging in or avoiding challenging learning tasks have long-term and irreversible consequences for the development of their brains, then discouraging harmful choices and encouraging healthy ones is all the more urgent.”

    The current educational programs are not interesting to a child who wants to be a basketball or football or golfer and has no interest in biology, history, or math. Sitting in class for 6 hours bored with the teacher and subject being taught, will result in a child that acts out their frustration.

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    • My comment was in response to the remark that the parents would be “right beside their kid, throwing the next right hook”. Generalizing about the type of parents that have children that resort to fighting is unfair.

      And teachers are not the ones writing legislation to require testing at every milestone of a child’s educational career.

      Trust me, I am quite aware of how disinterested adolescents are about the material we are required to teach.

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  5. Speaking from the inside: Please used fact based data to classify the students attending the Met that will return to your district school. Using Eschool their discipline records are clearly available. There are lots of different kids at the Met. On Friday there were a group that decided “all hell should break loose” and they went bonkers. All of the ladies and gentlemen that went bonkers have incident reports 25-50 items long beginning in Elementary School. There was not a single student that went bonkers or has rioted at the Met that does not have prior incident reports at least a full page and often two pages long. Trust me, I print them and have them in a binder so I know- “oh that is what you do when you are acting out.” There was another group of one gentlemen and three ladies who spent the whole day doing their school work, quietly around a round table in their “pull out” room with a wonderful, professional, dedicated para-professional, who also bought them lunch. You could hear a pin drop in that room. There were other groups of students in classrooms with teachers who just wanted to “get their work done” including several young ladies that are always quiet and finish all assignments without being pulled out.

    Look- if we got their records in June and July- you know who they are. One student had records that had to fit into an old fashioned blue Rubbermaid with the lid pressed down so it should be no surprise when he returns. The idea that the children were angels until they hit the Met is almost laughable. Yes, we took darling children that perform at performance level 3 with Lexiles over 1100 and put them into a new environment on French street and their Lexile dropped below 500 from breathing the smog. Get real. Ya all know we took (120) 9th and 10 grade students who had been performing at performance level 1 for most of the testing years- aprox 50% of the students were at the 4th grade level and below according to the 2014 DCAS. You know we took a dozen or so that slipped through the cracks from an alternative school.

    We also took some really smart kids who just needed a smaller environment who have zero incidents prior to coming to the Met and are wonderful students and not a bit of trouble.

    This is a tragic, sad moment for all the kids, the tough ones as well as the really well behaved ones. My worry is that they will not all come back to school and I will see them on the corner and my heart with break that they dropped out. I would like everyone to think of these kids fist, put the swords away and remember why we all got involved in teaching in the first place and open our schools to them and say ” how can I help.” You can count on some parents but not all. There are parents that just got out of jail themselves and do not drive; there are three homeless children who’s families are overwhelmed by meeting their own basic needs; there is a mom that put her son out at night with no transportation and said she wished she never had him and he is still homeless; there is a mom that said I am done with her, call her probation officer and there are families with a mom, dad and a beautiful 3,000 square foot mini-mansion in the suburbs.

    Every single kid in that school- and I mean everyone including the one that lit the girls hair on fire, the ones that ran out into the street and scared the bejesus out of the law firms, the ones that hit the pregnant principal and sent her to the hospital, the one that brought the bb gun to school, the ones that throw food in the cafeteria- they are all still children that have a chance to finish High School and increase their chances of leading productive lives if we show them as a community that teachers are the adults that you can trust to do the right thing for you.

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    • That is a really sobering response and I’m adult enough to admit I’m embarrassed to have categorized the students the way I did on my initial comment. Thank you for reminding us why we do this. It IS about the kids.

      That said, the adults involved with this charter need to accept responsibility for the situation. These children were not helped by losing their school mid year, losing the supports that had been put into place, and having to return to other schools. In many cases the same students who have those long sheets of behavior and discipline issues should have more stability than a school that clearly cannot handle their needs.

      I wish you, the staff, and the students all the best as this gets sorted out.

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      • And this is the kind of attitude too many black and brown children must work against every day! And you’re a TEACHER? SMH. You judge books by their covers and you should know better. At least you are able to own up to your transgression. I can only imagine all of your colleagues that do not. And people wonder why teachers are no longer considered partners in the students educational experience. Sad. It’s all so very, very sad.

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        • Leala, trust me when I say that many of these teachers do have some justification to be concerned. The reports about what have been going on at Delaware Met have been very public, if not through here then through the DOE. Like Sue said earlier, some of these students have very thick files. It will be a transition period for these kids and they will need extra support I’m sure. I don’t think it is a generalization against “black and brown children” in this case. As for jax, she is a stand-up person and I know she is a very strong advocate for both student equity and teacher’s rights. Many teachers are in Delaware. Many in Wilmington give up their own personal time and money to better serve the students there with limited resources from their district and the state.

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          • I have no idea how my comment that the kids need more support and stability is taken as an indictment against children of color. I’ve made the point to be adult, civil, and direct in my concerns, and they are valid.

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      • I agree the adults need to take responsibility- however the focus needs to be 100% on making sure kids that came to the Met with achievement and other emotional issues come first.

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      • Jax- that is where we disagree. Many of the kids arrived in the summer and they had their pants hanging down, ear buds in their ears and they made little eye contact with the adults that corrected them. They were called the “tough 7.” After summer camp, we had a list of “problem kids.” They assigned the problem kids for me to chaperone to Old Swedes Graveyard. I will write a book so people have to pay me to find out what happened at the Graveyard- now that I will be out of work, I will have time. All but one of the students that went to the Graveyard, when they came back, became engaged and pulls their pants up when they see me. I don’t have to ask. They needed relationships with adults that cared and could make instruction relevant. They need relationships with authentic certified teachers that can translate the relationship into instruction that is aligned to the standards- and then achievement improves. A student can tell when another adult respects and celebrates them as a human being- and then they start to learn.

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          • Jax: you are right. I was not clear. I was reacting to this sentence: “In many cases the same students who have those long sheets of behavior and discipline issues should have more stability than a school that clearly cannot handle their needs.” You are right, closing the school mid year for this group of students will have a horrible impact because they need stability and routines the most. I was reacting on a more micro-level thinking about the Advisory at the end of the first hall on the first floor that started off with lots of challenges and by the time we were in trouble in Dover, the Teacher had hung in with lots of tough kids and had built a community where real authentic “grade level” appropriated learning was happening.. but it was too late. I would walk by this room and see this group of kids that had meshed. I am not sure how to post a picture- but I will send one to Kevin to show what I am talking about. This breaks your heart.

            The real story may be bigger than all of us. We brought 261 kids on to French Street. Imagine if you worked in the law firm across the street or in the State Building to the left and you saw 261 kids exiting the MBNA Building. That is a lot of kids on that street. Lots of the kids walked home so they would hang out and meet up with local kids gathering on the corner. All of a sudden a street that was defined by the grand MBNA Buildings and their previous classy inhabitants has transformed into a mass of kids that are just hanging around.

            Those HS kids did not previously hang on French Street – they hung around Walnut Street and over towards East Side and got shipped to Newark, Glasgow and Ogletown during the day. I think the Law Firms were scared to death of these kids hanging around their building, their cars and I heard one law firm even called the police to stand outside their door when school got out. Not all the kids “looked tough” but many of the kids that “looked tough” actually “were tough” and I think folks who live in the suburbs and work in the city had enough with the typical way kids exit school and get on the bus.

            The day the two girls were on French Street fighting over some little punk from Middle School I think was the defining moment. I was in the middle of the street grabbing one then the other, two hundred kids ran out to see the fight- and how many of the people looking out the window of the State Building and the Law Firms said “get this mess cleaned up!!!!!”

            We know this will be tragic for the kids and all the staff at the feeder schools- and tragic for those of us who are out of work and did the best we could- but the best we can do now is to “stay in the solution” for the kids and then worry about the folks that caused this later.

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  6. What I observed working for 8 years at a Charter school with 90% Free and Reduced Lunch that was Superior for Two Years: The staff that signs up to work at a Charter School in the city looks the problems right in the eye and says ” this is what I want to do.” “I want to help THESE kids.” I worked at Ursuline. For me, and many of the “birds of a feather”, it was more rewarding to help “tough kids” take ownership of their own learning than to help girls that were supported by families and would succeed no matter what.

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    • I think the charter school experience is a bit different. They tend to have lower class sizes, which makes a world of difference. As well, they can and many do, counsel kids out if they don’t conform. Traditional schools don’t have that luxury.

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  7. It is encouraging that so many people responded to Kevin’s blog on this issue. The comments show a deep concern for at risk students but it must be realized that these problems cannot be exclusively attributed to poor school curriculums and/or a teacher’s application of lesson plans. Some student’s behavioral problems are directly related to being exposed to drugs. Children who demonstrate destructive behavior to themselves or their social group, such as family, friends, teachers, or co-workers are universally accepted as exhibiting abnormal mental or behavior states. Babies born to mothers who use drugs often have problems later in life, including learning and behavior problems. They cannot be repaired by parent(s), teachers, or legislators. These students need more than a structured educational program and a teacher that sees them maybe 1 hour a day 4 or 5 days a week. They also need one-on-one counseling with a mental health professional.

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    • Ginny: You are 100% right. The handful of children you described above can derail an entire school. They exhaust the teachers who can never do enough and you are spot on that they need one-on-one counseling with a mental health professional. The teachers need to be debriefed by the mental health staff.

      I saw them when I was teaching at Gander Hill and they were locked into solitary confinement and nothing corrections tried worked.

      Several students with disabilities were pepper sprayed several times a month.

      They would settle down with a teacher if the teacher was bringing a great book or articles they were interested in but as soon as they finished the book – they could not control themselves and they would act up on the weekend kicking the door and flooding their cell.

      It was really sad when I worked with the inmate in Gander when he was in elementary school at Edison and I remember he was a child that you described above. We have several at the Met now and I am scared to death for them.

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  8. I’m a teacher at the Delaware Met. I’ve been here from the beginning. I work with a building full of people, like Sue, who are scary talented and even more passionate about this work. Up until it became clear that our school was closing, I was turning down better paying jobs in great districts. Like my esteemed colleagues, this is the kind of work I want to be doing. THESE are the kids I want to work with. Our school started out with a very special potential and its heartbreaking to see it collapse. But for those who have enjoyed the satisfaction of tisking at “the staff” and calling for the school to close, I believe the sin of failing these students is more on your heads than mine or Sue’s or any other of the dedicated people who came to work everyday and put their heart and soul into a terribly difficult calling. I certainly made mistakes. Every good teacher I know fails daily. It might be the only job were success requires frequent failure. But too often, and from the earliest days of the schools conception, there were those who were criticizing and condemning anything they could find. I don’t think their criticism was meant to help the kids, or move the school forward, but to stoke their own egos and personal agendas. Every school struggles. Every first year charter struggles. Any school playing our cards would have struggled. And this isn’t meant to shirk responsibility- some of our failure was due to pure incompetence and it is unforgivable. And yet even that happens at every school at some point. But what I noticed most about the response to our struggles was the lack of support or good will. I found myself wondering early on if anyone out there wanted this school to work besides us. I found myself asking why people would take such solace in our struggles and failures when we were a school that arose to address the disparities in education head-on. I recognize and accept my short comings as a teacher and human being, and I wish I did more to meet the needs of my students. I can’t help but wonder how different there lives might have become if we were able to get our school to a point of stability. I also wonder if those who seized opportunities to criticize and cast dispersions all along the way had instead bent their talents and energies towards supporting the school and helping solve the very serious challenges we faced, how different things might have been for those kids who really needed something different.

    Mr Teacher

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    • Mr. Teacher: What a great summary. Thanks for the post. I am proud to have been on the same team as you and the other Met Teachers. We will take the lessons we learned about “what does not work” and add it to our “toolbox” to work smarter not harder in the future. Hopefully your heartfelt commitment to the environment and self-sufficient living will have an impact on some of the kids. The evidence will be seeing some tomato plants in their front yards!

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  9. I was a student at the Delaware Met. The accusations about the school are unfair. It was located in Wilmington, a very troubled part of Delaware. There are going to be a lot of troubled kids that go there. It’s easy for people to sit back and judge when they know nothing of who we are. Speaking of my peers and teachers as if they’re uncultured, almost dehumanizing us in a way. We were closed because nobody but our teachers cared for us. The board wanted something perfect but didn’t want to put in the work to reach perfection. The students at that school were great people,the only problem is nobody wanted to give us a chance because of where we’re from and what we look like. Our teachers were phenomenal people and cared for us deeply. I never had a bond with my teachers like I did at that school. They may not have been through the same struggles as us but they listened. They loved us all. Why is it that the schools that always get shut down are the ones where the students are the happiest? Of course they’ve decided to replace it with a new school which will most likely fail due to the location and the type of people that will attend our school. Our needs were not recognized by the DOE. We’re people too and no,we won’t come and “destroy your building”. Society has taught us how to act in a place that doesn’t want us around. We have manners and we are smart. Of course there were some bad eggs but what school doesn’t have them? The Delaware Met will ALWAYS be my favorite school and I am eternally grateful for the teachers who actually cared for our well being and didn’t quit on us.

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    • Maya, I really appreciate you reaching out like this. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take too many “bad eggs” to cast anything in a negative light. I don’t like to see any school close. I think it is great the teachers were connected with the students. Unfortunately all the factors combined didn’t help this school. You mentioned another school was replacing it. From what I understood, First State Montessori was planning to take over part of the building. Do you have any other information on that? It would be very helpful to know if any other schools may be taking up part of the building. I certainly wish you the best with your transition to your new school. I think ALL Delaware children should have the best education possible, but there is a lot of disagreement in Delaware about what that education should look like.

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    • Maya: Please know that I will share this response with all of the teachers that loved working with you. I hope you grow up to be a teacher, a principal and eventually a Superintendent who know that a great education begins with a great relationship. I believe you will be able to help students one day when you are in a position of power and authority and you are able to sift through all the noise and know what is truly important. The people in the Department of Education responsible for the oversight of charters have lost their way. They have carved out jobs they can do in the quiet and safety of a nice office and type, print and staple papers into nice piles instead of rolling up their sleeves and finding out what wonderful students like yourself need to be successful. They intentionally create paperwork that is so tedious, they can justify staying at their desk all day. It is easy to sit at a desk and type papers that document student failure. It is much harder to sit with students and deal directly with their struggles. They don’t get it. They don’t understand students and the definitely do not understand the kind of student that left the District to enroll in a charter. This experience has been a great learning experience for you. You will carry the lesson with you the rest of your life that all children matter and YOU will be able to make a difference because of the way the adults responsible for education in Delaware have failed you. Please keep in touch: susiemurphyogden at yahoo dot com. I will share with the teachers that were crying all week. Take care.

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