Today, Delaware Governor-elect John Carney picked Indian River Superintendent Susan Bunting as the Delaware Secretary of Education when his term begins in January, 2017. This is probably the worst choice he could make and it has the potential to become ripe with scandal. Continue reading Carney’s Pick Of Susan Bunting For DE Secretary Of Education May Not Be The Wisest Choice
I see the world through new eyes tonight. I lift the veil and look to the stars. Continue reading Change Of Time
The Delaware State Board of Education renewed the charter for Academy of Dover. This will give the school a period of five years, as every established Delaware charter gets, until their next renewal. But there were some concerns from the State Board of Education.
The topic of Academy of Dover’s enrollment was the talking point for the State Board in discussing their charter renewal. Their numbers, as I reported a couple of months ago, have been declining. If those numbers don’t start increasing, they could face the unfortunate prospect of dipping below the state required 80% of their enrollment. By state law, all charters must be at 80% of their approved enrollment by April 1st for the next school year. If a Delaware charter does not meet their numbers, they are placed under formal review with the Delaware State Board of Education. That process is somewhat similar to the charter renewal process but focuses more on the subject that places them under that review. But it is still a daunting task.
For now, I’m sure Academy of Dover is celebrating their renewal but with a bit of apprehension. As Capital expands their programming, which is the main feeder pattern for Academy of Dover, the charter school will have to step up their game to compete with Capital and Campus Community School, their main charter school competition in Dover. Time will tell!
Yes, Rodel has some competition coming to town! My fervent hope is that they compete with each other so much they just cancel each other out. Has Rodel’s time come and gone? Or is there more to this new corporate education reform company setting up shop in Delaware? Continue reading 17 Who Will Make An Impact On 2017: Rodel’s Competition
Sussex County in Delaware could have their second charter school in the coming years in the form of another Delaware Montessori charter. This hint was given at, of all places, a Christina School District Board of Education meeting.
Timing is everything as they say and part of that is being at the right place at the right time. During public comment at the Christina board meeting yesterday, a gentleman with what appeared to be a national Montessori movement (my apologies for not having the exact information on his role) spoke in support of Christina’s Montessori program. An action item on the board’s agenda, which failed to pass, could have closed the program in the district. But during the man’s public comment, he talked about Montessori programs in Delaware. He indicated if Christina did not renew the program, Delaware would be the first state in the country to see a failed Montessori program. He spoke about the popularity of First State Montessori Academy, a charter school in downtown Wilmington. He also said the Christina program serves students in the Newark area. But he also said there is an application in the works for a Sussex County Montessori charter school.
Nothing is showing up on the Delaware Dept. of Education’s website for ANY submitted charter school applications. The deadline for new charter applications for the 2018-2019 school year is January 3rd, 2017. I will certainly keep checking to see if any applications do show up.
Several Newark, Delaware legislators submitted a Freedom of Information Act to the Delaware Attorney General’s office last Spring. The response to the complaint came out today.
State Representatives Paul Baumbach, John Kowalko, and Ed Osienski, and State Senators Karen Peterson, David Sokola and Bryan Townsend felt the University of Delaware violated FOIA with the posting of an agenda about a change to their bylaws. The Attorney General’s response opined the Board of Trustees at the University did violate FOIA by not posting a specific resolution they would be voting on in the agenda. The AG’s office stated even if the public had some knowledge of what could be happening it still falls on a public board to give notice of the proposed action item on an agenda.
As a result of the FOIA complaint, the University Board of Trustees will vote again on the bylaws at their December board meeting. The AG opinion wants the board to have an open and public discussion surrounding this vote.
I have been hard on Sokola in the past, for what I believe are good reasons. I wish he would demand the same transparency from charter schools. Have you ever seen some of their board agendas? I hardly ever see any action items on them even though they constantly vote on items.
Yes, the words “chicken-fried awesome” were used by a Christina board member last night. But first they had to get through 45 excruciating minutes of approving their agenda. Board member Harrie-Ellen Minnehan introduced motions to remove three action items from the agenda and to table another item. That was just the beginning of a meeting that had topics as varied as car shopping to a very strong use of the word culpability. A member of the audience drew a great rendering of the meeting and asked me to put it in this article.
The four motions Minnehan put forth failed to move forward. Board member Shirley Saffer kept alleging Minnehan had a personal agenda going on. There was a ton of discussion about the motions and how it was unprecedented for one board member to attempt to remove action items like that. As a result of the motions, what should have been a 1-2 minutes process turned into a 45 minute ordeal for the audience. A lot of the audience had come for the presenting of the Honor Roll which is done right after the approval of the agenda and board minutes.
The charter settlement with Christina fell after a 3-4 vote by the board, exactly how the vote went when they voted for the settlement two weeks ago. Board member Fred Polaski tried to convince everyone that he believed the district would lose if it went to court with the charters. He offered no viable reason for why he felt they would lose. But it didn’t seem to matter because the board was clearly divided on many of the same action items with Polaski, Minnehan, George Evans and Meg Mason on one side. On the other were members John Young, Saffer, and President Elizabeth Paige. Young stated the minutes of the executive meeting would now become public since the need for the meeting was no longer valid and the settlement is public. He said he will be submitting updated minutes on that meeting. He also stated he had concerns about the culpability of the district in the matter. He also had grave concerns about the back and forth between the district and attorneys over Thanksgiving weekend and what amounted to a short time period of 90 minutes for the board to review the settlement. Young said that would make for a very interesting FOIA request. He had many concerns about the authority of charter leaders in signing the document, such as an Interim Principal, a Head of School, or a Board President. He reviewed many charter school bylaws and did not see that authority granted to those parties without permission from the entire board. He also did not special board meetings for the charter boards to vote on the settlement.
One of the shockers of the evening (and there were many), was the situation with the Montessori program in Christina. There was an action item to end the program. This became the controversy of the evening as parents and staff members gave public comment in support of the program. When it came time for the board to discuss the matter, Paige asked a question that solidified a crucial problem with the district, that of transparency. Delaware schools receive academic excellence units which they are free to cash in and do as they please. The Montessori program had three of those units. Paige asked about them and it was revealed by the district the Honors Academy would use three academic excellence units. While the district hemmed and hawed about the “coincidence”, Paige said the “optics” look very bad. In a rare moment of unity, the board voted 6-1 in favor of keeping the program with Polaski as the lone no vote. This prompted Young’s quote of the evening. He said the district believes competition is so “chicken-fried awesome” that they should be doing everything they can to get students who are a wait list at First Sstate Montessori Academy into Christina’s Montessori program. Board member Polaski suggested partnering up with the Wilmington charter school to have them open a satellite school in the Christina school district. No one even responded to this rather absurd notion. But it did point to what I see as a very charter friendly Polaski.
Once again, with a 3-4 vote, the board voted against annulling the Honors Academy vote from November with the same 3-4 blocks. Young pointed out that many of Christina’s existing Cambridge programs are disproportionate with the amount of minorities represented in them. The irony of the district wanting to close a program where there is equity (the Montessori program) in favor of moving forward with a program which has a strong potential of inequity (The Honors Academy) did not escape members of the audience. Concerns around placement tests, a parent letter, and standardized test scores were the chief reasons three of the board members wanted to annul the prior vote. There were also concerns around opt out and how the application for the academy could penalize those students who were opted out despite a board policy that explicitly forbids that.
The point of exhaustion for members of the audience surrounded the district’s Superintendent interviews. Yesterday, the Delaware Attorney General answered a FOIA complaint surrounding the board’s November executive meeting to formulate questions for the Superintendent candidate. Some board members refused to participate in the meeting since they had already figured out it would be a FOIA violation. This prompted the board to make public the questions for candidates. There was also a matter about interviewing the candidates the week before Christmas and a mad rush to get it done. As a result, the board voted in favor of naming an Interim Superintendent with Noreen LaSorsa taking on the role. It was agreed the board would conduct Superintendent interviews the first week of January. Saffer argued the board needed the public to see the candidates in the schools and interacting with students and staff as they had done in the past. Board member Evans said he would not participate in any of that. Young’s action item to begin the Superintendent search again to get a more diverse pool of candidates fell with a 2-5 vote with Saffer and Young as the two no votes.
This board is a house divided. Mostly between common sense and… I don’t know what. On the one side we have Young, Paige, and Saffer who seem to know the law and sees how decisions made today could cause problems in the future. On the other is the not-so Fantastic Four who always seem to be in this frantic hurry to get things done now without looking at all of the angles. They also seem to be easily intimidated by the district and outside forces. This shapes their votes. Minnehan took a pointed jab at Young as she said she would never want to go car-shopping with him because he takes too long to make a decision. I would rather have that than winding up with a lemon Mrs. Minnehan! As I drove down to Dover after this very long meeting which entered an actual new day, I saw a warrior district succumbing to the privatization movement that is paralyzing public education. I believed for a long time Christina was the last hold-out in Delaware, but after some of the votes last night, it was painfully obvious the last blockade fell. At this point, Delaware needs a hero. We need an Obi-Wan moment where someone answers the call of “you’re my only hope“. Will that person come from Christina or somewhere else?
I gave the following public comment to the board last night but despite my six minutes thanks to borrowed time, I was not able to get to the end of it which I will notate in the below comment.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen of the Christina School District Board of Education. It has been a long time since I came up to this podium to speak before this board. The last time I did so was seventeen months ago. I believe Ms. Minnehan was the Board President at that time. A lot happened at that meeting. I did want to offer an apology in regards to that. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to give public comment here.
I have a lot to talk about tonight, mostly in regards to the charter school shakedown, er, uhm, lawsuit.
First, can you please, for the love of all we hold sacred, fix the sound for the audio recordings on your website? It is a recurring issue and I’m certain it wouldn’t cost that much money to correct this.
Second, I am very curious why a FOIA request I sent to the district was never followed up on. I sent a FOIA request to the district asking for the past three years of all air quality inspections for every single one of the Christina schools. I received an email back that a cost estimate would be forthcoming. That was almost two months ago. I received nothing. As Delaware state code gives any public agency a period of 15 business days to respond to a FOIA request, the district has violated FOIA. Please remedy this by tomorrow so I do not have to file another FOIA complaint with the Delaware Attorney General’s office. Which I’m sure this district has had enough of. But I digress.
I do not believe the board should even entertain not voting on the rescission of the settlement. I am glad that motion failed. (I adlibbed the last sentence because of the board not passing Minnehan’s motion but I am not entirely sure on the wording). I believe it is very important you vote in the majority to vote yes on rescinding the settlement. As we all know, this was brought forth by Greg Meece over at Newark Charter School. What has never been answered is HOW Greg Meece suddenly, last winter, decided to get a meeting with the fine people at the Delaware DOE. How, all of a sudden, Meece knew EXACTLY what to look for. According to a letter Meece wrote last week to the parents of NCS students, Secretary Godowsky never knew about the change to the local funding formula. So Godowsky reversing a decision he never made, which was cited in the lawsuit and settlement, is frivolous at best. This entire shenanigan was meant to intimidate Christina, and sadly, the district took the bait. They didn’t just take the bait, they swallowed it and regurgitated it to four board members who voted out of fear rather than common sense. That is something that needs to be reversed tonight. I would rather see this district take this ALL THE WAY than see one more penny going out of this district to certain charters who want for nothing. If anything, the DOE should be the entity paying for this year’s charter share of the 2003 referendum and all future costs due to their colossal screw-up, not just getting off the hook by paying for half the attorney fees. But more than that, what may not have come out of all this, is the role the Office of Management and Budget played. As Brian Stephan wrote in a recent article on Delaware Liberal, something happened in 2014 that changed everything with the local funding formula. What he didn’t write, which he may not have been aware of, was why everything changed that year. The Office of Management and Budget, a section of Governor Jack Markell’s office, took over the responsibility from Mark Murphy to oversee this aspect of Delaware education financing. Oh so coincidentally, that was the same year the Delaware DOE launched the priority schools debacle and launched a coordinated attack against Christina when this board would not cower and buckle to Governor Markell’s shameful education agendas. While I am not an attorney or an accountant, I am just a blogger. According to Newark Charter School parents, I’m a sneaky snake blogger. But it is my belief this omission of paying the charter schools their portion of the 2003 referendum was, at best, an egregious error that the State of Delaware should pay moving forward. If that were not enough, the fact that tuition and match taxes were brought up in the settlement is very troubling. The charters have no right to those funds so why it was brought up in a settlement is beyond me. I certainly hope none of that nonsense was the district’s idea. That just opens the door for future siphoning of district funds the local taxpayers entrusted to the district, not to fifteen charter schools. If I’m not mistaken, Christina does not get large donations from the Longwood Foundation, they don’t get a larger proportion of minor capital funds based on their student populations like the charters do, and they certainly don’t get to keep excess transportation funds under their “budgeted” amount.
While we can sit here and pretend the charter cabal, led by Saul Ewing LLC, is a force to be reckoned with, the simple fact is they made unprecedented money grab. This could have been done a dozen different ways, but they chose threats and intimidation, with support from certain legislators in both the House and the Senate, to get what they wanted. As a result, if this board does NOT rescind the settlement, it will continue to give away funds this district desperately needs to 15 charter schools who have more than enough money already. And if you are going to put your trust in the Delaware Dept. of Education to do the right thing, you have already put one more nail in the coffin of this district.
At this point my time ran out, but this is how I planned to finish my public comment:
I strongly urge this board to continue to keep CSD moving forward. That does not mean responding to bullying threats by what amounts to non-profit corporations in Delaware. That means fighting for what is yours. As your CFO, Bob Silber, rightly argued, this district did what they were supposed to do. It was the State that screwed up. If this board is truly supposed to represent this district, and not Saul Ewing, Greg Meece, and the charters that have taken more funding from this district than any other force in this state, they will need to do the right thing and rescind this farce of a settlement that will allow charter schools to plunder funds not just from Christina, but would set a precedent for every district in this state.
I love the fact that the anonymous donation to Stubbs was highlighted by so much media in this state. But those students deserve more than having additional funds taken from them that would put the lunch balance to shame.
Thank you, and I do want to wish all of you a great holiday. Bob A, thank you for the Frozen memory. Good luck in your future endeavors.
To read the response to the FOIA complaint from the Delaware Attorney General’s office, please read below:
The former Superintendent of Woodbridge and Cape Henlopen, as well as the very recent former Executive Director of the Delaware Association of School Administrators could have a very big 2017. As well, he served as the interim Superintendent in the Woodbridge School District. Kevin Carson could be handed a role that will define his legacy in Delaware. This is a man who knows the ins and outs of Delaware education.
I’ve met Carson several times, usually at Legislative Hall. As the head of DASA, Carson represented every single Delaware school administrator during one of Delaware’s most tumultuous times in education. He challenged former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy with a vote of no confidence, along with leaders from the two biggest local teacher unions in the state and the Delaware State Education Association.
If Carson is picked as John Carney’s Secretary of Education, he will have to juggle many balls all at once. There is the mounting deficit in our state budget. Delaware will be submitting it’s Every Student Succeeds Act state plan. New charter school applications will begin pouring in. A growing chorus of Delaware citizens are demanding more financial transparency with education. The Rodel engine will want Carson on their side. Education technology is poised to dilute the teaching profession to something unrecognizable. Education funding will continue to be a thorn in the side of Delaware students.
Carson would be in charge of a Delaware Department of Education that is ripe for change. He has the logistic ability and intelligence to transform the Department into something that delivers on transparency and better communication. As well, he would serve as the Secretary for the State Board of Education and would have valuable input on who would be good picks for future board members. There is nothing in Delaware state code that would prevent Carney from picking an entirely new State Board of Education. There is now one vacancy on the board and Carson’s opinion on who that replacement should be could be pivotal.
Carson would also have to deal with events transpiring at a federal level. President Trump and his Cabinet of private sector billionaires will want to change education and privatize it. As a blue state, Delaware will fight this tooth and nail. But one compromise could threaten Delaware education in varying ways. We need a Secretary that has vast amounts of experience in dealing with events at the local level. Someone who sees the issues from a wide perspective. Someone who would be the voice for Delaware students and educators, who understands the complexities that divide us.
I completely understand that any Delaware Secretary of Education would have to conform to Governor Carney’s platform. With Jack Markell, he had a very clear agenda and God forbid if you disagreed with that agenda. He micro-managed Delaware education to the point of absurdity. But at the same time he let financial issues run amok in our schools. While I don’t see Carney as well-versed in education matters as Markell was, I believe that will become a strength of a positive Secretary. I would like to think Carney would give his Secretary more leeway in implementing education policy in Delaware. Godowsky was a mixed bag. Like I’ve said before, he would have been a great Secretary under a different Governor.
Nothing against the other potential choice for Carney’s Secretary of Education, but we need someone who has served as more than a leader of one district. We need someone who has a multi-leveled array of experience in Delaware education leadership. That man is Kevin Carson.
The 10th Senate District will have a vacancy when Senator Bethany Hall-Long officially steps down when she becomes the next Delaware Lieutenant Governor. As many predicted, the Delaware GOP chose John Marino as the Republican candidate. Who will the Dems pick? Whoever it is, this will be a hot race. The winner determines which party controls the Delaware Senate. Many felt State Rep. Earl Jaques would run, but he informed me two weeks ago he is NOT running for this Senate seat. Here is the official release from the Delaware GOP:
Republicans Choose Marino for Upcoming Special Election:
Middletown Republican Won 49% Of The Vote in 2014
Newark, DE: The Republican Party of Delaware announced today that they have selected John Marino of Middletown as the party’s candidate for the upcoming special election to replace Lt. Gov.-elect Bethany Hall-Long in the State Senate.
John Marino is a highly-decorated retired police officer, and is currently President of J & J Homes, LLC and a top-producing Realtor®. John has been an active volunteer in the New Castle County community for many years: as the former President of Lea Eara Farms/Summit Farms Maintenance Corporation, a volunteer position which he held for ten years; as a longtime volunteer at a horse rescue; as a Little League Coach at MOT Little League, winning the State tournament and taking his team to the regional championship; as well as a past volunteer for the Appoquinimink Sports Boosters.
Marino has lived for the last 20 years in the Middletown area with JoiAnn, his wife of 25 years, and their three children.
“I am honored that the Republican Party has selected our team for this important challenge,” said Marino. “I look forward to spreading my message of reforming and improving our government to the great people of the 10th District. Delaware deserves much better than we’ve been getting from our state government, and I have a plan to get the results Delawareans deserve.”
State GOP Chairman Charlie Copeland noted Marino’s campaign experience, in particular his 2014 campaign against Hall-Long, where Marino earned 49% of the vote and fell short by a narrow margin.
“John Marino knows how to run a top-flight campaign and earn the votes of the people of the 10th District,” said Delaware GOP Chairman Charlie Copeland. “And the people of the 10th District can see that one-party rule has failed our schools, our government and our economy. We look forward to a fantastic campaign.”
Should Marino be successful, the Delaware Senate would change power for the first time in over 40 years. The Senate will be evenly split between the Democrats and the Republicans following Hall-Long’s inauguration.
“The Senate Republicans have been offering consistent solutions for years, only to be shut down entirely by the ruling Democrats,” said Senate Minority Whip Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley). “We’re ready to win this race and show Delaware that balanced government can make a lasting difference for them. John Marino is exactly the right person to win this race and serve the people of the 10th District in the State Senate.”
Had Hillary Clinton become President, this election would not mean as much. It still would have been big, but now that we live in Trumplandia and all that will come from that, this should add some extra oomph to this election.
Tom Wagner is going to have a VERY busy 2017. Why? Because I’m going to make sure he does. Everyone and their mother is talking about education funding and how to change it. But all of these funding advocates aren’t bringing up in the elephant in the room. Do our districts and charters in Delaware spend the money they already have for the benefit of children? Is that foremost in their minds when they spend their money?
Indian River School District, Family Foundations Academy, Delaware Military Academy, Academy of Dover, Providence Creek Academy, Odyssey Charter School, Sussex Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Prep, Kuumba Academy, and Pencader Business School have all been investigated by the auditor’s office and found to have some pretty major financial issues. The extremes, outright theft of tens, if not hundreds, of dollars which should be going toward the kids. And they were the ones that got caught.
I believe, no, make that KNOW there are others. I’ve been investigating an educational establishment the past few weeks. You can ask, but I won’t tell you who. There are not enough flags that would trigger an audit by Wagner’s office. So I will create those flags and I will plant right in the middle of Wagner’s office. The days of playing with school funds are over. And if anyone should start to feel bold, I’ve made arrangements to make sure information gets out no matter what.
We live in complicated times with no clear direction of what is up and what is down. This is the world we have created. We can sit and talk about education until the cows come home but we have already slaughtered those cows and served them for dinner. Everyone wants to feast on the scraps. Tom Wagner’s office is, by law, supposed to audit every single school district in Delaware. But he can’t. Because our General Assembly won’t fund his office to do the work needed to hold our districts accountable for how they spend money. Which is why I find it VERY ironic that certain charters and districts want to go after certain things in their quest for more money. I find that to be completely despicable and if it continues I will not rest until that conversation ends. Because NOTHING would tick me off more than something going forward with one particular certain thing. If you thought I was a pain in the ass about opt out, that will be an episode of Romper Room compared to THAT. Out of respect, I am not going to make that public at this point but it is a fair warning. And I will say it is not even remotely connected with the charter school lawsuit against Christina and the Delaware DOE.
So, Tom Wagner, my plan is to keep you so busy that you will have no other option than begging the General Assembly to beef up your staff. And I will have an apparatus so this won’t just be talk coming from you. Our General Assembly will be VERY aware why you are so busy.
Someone has to get in the dirty and ugly trenches and dig around. That’s me. If you don’t like it, too bad. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about. If it isn’t good for kids it isn’t right. As for Wagner, there is one thing you need to resolve once and for all. We both know what it is. I’ve dug around in that abyss as well. And it reeks of corruption. The tide is high.
New details emerged in the never-ending Christina-Delaware Department of Education-15 Charter Schools lawsuit/settlement thanks to Newark Charter School leader Greg Meece. I guess now that the ink is dry on the settlement, people can say whatever they want, right Greg? We shall see!
From the Weekly Bulletin sent to Newark Charter School parents yesterday afternoon:
Follow-up on the settlement letter
This will provide additional information and clarification about the recent settlement of the lawsuit filed by NCS and 14 other charter schools over what we considered to be funding errors which cost charter schools – and their students – a fair amount over the years. Because we are satisfied with the agreement reached over local funds and pleased with the new level of transparency created by the agreement, we are happy to offer the following clarifications:
– We stated that the general idea is that the property taxes paid by residents, which are initially held by the local school districts, should follow the child when families choose to enroll their children to a public charter or choice school in Delaware. We believe that, for whatever reasons, in the case of Christina School District (CSD) that was not being done. But we also concede that, as in most settlements, the district admitted no wrongdoing.
– We stated that the August decision was made by the Secretary of Education. Actually, the August decision was made by other Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) executives and Secretary Godowsky was not involved until later. In September, he reversed his Department’s earlier decision and we sued.
– Finally, we said that “both CSD and DDOE agreed to cover the cost of the charter schools’ legal costs.” Let us clarify. In the complaint filed in court, we demanded an award of attorneys’ fees. During the negotiations, we pressed that same demand. The resulting agreement, while not mentioning the subject of attorneys’ fees, provides for a one-time payment of $150k from each defendant. Naturally, the plaintiffs are free to spend that one-time payment as they see fit and have decided to pay their legal fees with it, and we have been told that both DDOE and CSD are paying that amount directly to the charter schools’ attorneys. We are told, in CSD’s case, that payment is funded from “true-up” funds created by a switch in the method of calculating the share going to charter schools.
We hope these clarifications resolve any confusion about the settlement and want to reiterate its essence: both sides agreed to a sharing of local revenues that each believes represents fair compromise and charters will now be given the information in coming years to assure that fairness continues. We are pleased that the Department and CSD have approved the settlement and look forward to working with each in the future.
Ah, Greg Meece, you are crafty. That is for sure! So if I understand this correctly (as well as the thousands of readers who are probably sitting with a dropped jaw right about now), Secretary Godowsky did NOT know about the changes to the local funding formula. Which is one of his job duties, to approve that formula by September 1st. But one could presume, if no changes were presented to him, there would be nothing to approve if the old formula was used. So can someone please tell me why the 15 charters named Godowsky personally in the lawsuit if they knew he did nothing wrong? And it’s not like this is new news. State Rep. Earl Jaques confirmed this in an email I published three months ago.
Greg Meece, are you telling me your attorneys willfully put something in a lawsuit they KNEW wasn’t true? Or was this oh-so-little detail discovered after the lawsuit was filed? Either way, it would have come up before the settlement was written. But the settlement specifically gives details about Godowsky back-tracking on his decision. But it was never a decision he made to begin with. So this ENTIRE mess went down because Delaware Dept. of Education officials neglected to give their State Cabinet-level superior information that IS IN STATE CODE and they only have to pay $150,000 to the charters for “whatever they choose but we planned it ahead of time to pay the attorney fees“. This seems VERY convenient. Too convenient. If this is not the very definition of a shakedown, I don’t know what is. Maybe Secretary Godowsky should sue the fifteen charter schools for a frivolous lawsuit. And Bob Silber. And the Christina School District. The only way Meece can say this wasn’t Christina’s fault is because of the nature of settlements. People try to tell me what a great guy Meece is. I don’t see it. Someone who is okay with playing games with tens of thousands of student lives, staff members, educators, and taxpaying citizens is not in my definition of a good guy.
So we have Greg Meece, the same guy who got this snowball rolling down the hill to begin with, openly admitting this was all the DOE’s fault, but he is glad Christina and the charters could come up with a mutual agreement? Are you out of your damn mind Meece? So why was Christina even named in the lawsuit to begin with if this was all a colossal screw-up by the DOE? IF I were the attorney for this, the only legal option would be to go after the DOE. UNLESS I was already planning on a settlement. With some other easter eggs thrown in for good measure. Things like the tuition and match taxes. Opening the door for them. Very smart. Very shady. Very Delaware. And 4 out of 7 Christina board members fell for it. For now. There is still some information that hasn’t come out yet Greg. But I know it. And it will. Good luck with THAT weekly bulletin Greg! But I do want to thank you for reading my article I put out last Monday based on your last missive to the NCS parents. Had I not put that article up, would you be bending over backwards trying to “clarify” things with NCS parents? I tend to doubt it.
To read the FULL NCS Weekly Bulletin, and learn all about the have to see it to believe it “Hour Of Code”, see below.
Holy stacked agenda! Could they squeeze anything else into this agenda? Some more hot-button district issues? I doubt it!
On Tuesday night, the Christina Board of Education will hold their board meeting at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School. The fun starts at 7pm. Bring food, and, just in case, you may want to bring a sleeping bag. This is going to be a late meeting!
So what’s on tap? The question is more like what isn’t on this agenda! This is NOT the order for the meeting, but it IS the controversy order!
Now the cat is out of the bag. In the absolute shocker of the year, board member John Young was the one to submit the action item to rescind the vote on the charter settlement. John is always so quiet and compliant. This is NOT like him at all to do something like this. Okay, sorry, got hit in the head for a second there. But seriously, I give John major props for having the guts to get this out there. I truly hope one of the four board members who voted yes can see this settlement sham for what it really is. If not, I hope many public comments can nudge them along.
Board member Shirley Saffer introduced this action item. After last month’s vote to create the “Honors Academy” at Christiana High School, there is an action item to annul that vote. Saffer voted yes for the program last month, but it appears she had a change of heart. The board voted 5-1 the first time. Will the districts new
charter magnet NCS wannabe Honors Academy survive this time? Expect a lot of pissed off parents for this one!
While I haven’t written too much about Christina’s Superintendent search, there has been a ton of drama surrounding it. Which will apparently culminate in many action items surrounding this. First item on the agenda is to approve an interim Superintendent. Which is basically what Dr. Robert Andrzejewski has been for the past 15 months. I really don’t know the difference between Interim and Acting, nor do I truly care. But “Bob A” is leaving on December 31st, come hell or high water. Even if the board does approve a new Superintendent by the end of the year, that person will most likely have to give notice at their current job. Unless it is Jack Markell. I heard he is going to be VERY available pretty soon. Just kidding on that one. I do NOT want to be responsible for that rumor starting.
Action Item #8 is the Superintendent Interview Questions. Which the board is making public. Because they HAVE TO. After that there will be discussion on the final interviews for the candidates. After the board gets through that, there is another John Young submitted action item to start the Superintendent search over. Like I said, this meeting is going to be crazy!
We will also get a discussion on
mold air quality at Christina schools. This should be the lighter side of the evening! Add in all the other normal stuff school boards do: honor roll, budget stuff, contracts, and so on and so forth. For those keeping track, the rescind the settlement vote and annul the Honors Academy are the last two items on the action item agenda.
If you want to sign up for public comment, I would get there early. You have to sign up to talk. I plan on being there. I plan on talking. It will be marvelous, just wait! I wonder if any legislators will show up at this meeting. I wonder if they will attempt to talk to board out of NOT rescinding the vote on the settlement. I dare Senator Sokola to try this! Triple dog dare!
These are some fun predictions. People from the audience will yell at least eight times to speak up because they can’t hear them. President Paige will bring the gavel down at least 13 times. George Evans will ridicule John Young at least four times. The audience will laugh at least four times. Someone will leave their lights on in the parking lot. Someone in the audience will have a very brilliant idea of ordering pizza (bring cash in case this does happen and you plan to stick around for the whole shebang). At least five people will wear ugly Christmas shirts and/or sweaters. And last, but certainly not least, I predict at least three things will come out that the general public has no clue about.
The Delaware State Board of Education meeting on Thursday, December 15th has some very interesting presentations and action items! This could be Delaware Secretary of Education’s second to last meeting. He announced today that the earliest he would leave his position would be January 18th. More details on that, as well as his replacement, later in the article!
The most interesting presentation, in my opinion, will be the one about priority and focus schools. Representatives from Red Clay, Christina, Capital and Laurel will give updates on how their “turnaround” schools are doing. This includes the seven priority schools- three in Red Clay, three in Christina, and one in Laurel. I pray this isn’t a repeat of the meeting last December when State Board President Dr. Teri Quinn Gray had a meltdown over the Christina priority schools. I would tend to doubt it since that all got sorted out in the middle of the WEIC/State Board fiasco last February.
Speaking of the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission, it looks like someone from WEIC will give a presentation on where their redistricting plan is six months after the Delaware General Assembly did not pass legislation to fund the plan but instead gave them an extra year in the process. From what I’m hearing, there is some discontent on the main WEIC group and some tension is building. I reported last week Christina was getting a facilities evaluation for all their buildings in Wilmington. Tony Allen, the Chair of WEIC, did respond to me and stated this was part of the WEIC process from Senate Bill 300 but did not touch on the exact wording of the amendment on that bill. This is a VERY gray legal area in terms of the wording for this facilities review to even happen, but once again, this is Delaware.
We will get the usual monthly update on how things are going with the Every Student Succeeds Act. I expect a lot of head tilts from Gray as she tries to understand the new timeline. I pray someone brings up Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education pick. Please, make it happen! I can say the ESSA Discussion Group will meet at the end of January but exact dates have not been determined yet.
Academy of Dover gets their charter renewal vote at this meeting. I expect the State Board will approve it. There will be some talk about getting their enrollment up, but it will pass. Most likely a unanimous vote. No drama here.
This meeting will be a Regulation bonanza though! Regulations are a very tricky beast. When you look at just the description for the changes on an agenda, the true meat is in the actual regulatory changes. And there are tons and tons of changes for Regulations 1503 and 1510. Teachers, especially new teachers, will want to read these! But other staff in schools will also want to read these, especially counselors and nurses. Other regulation action items deal with Secretary-only ones that actually repeal old regulations dealing with school nutrition. A couple of regulations dealing with surrogates for IEP students above the age of 18 are also getting a State Board vote.
There are no major personnel changes. Secretary Godowsky’s Associate Secretary, Candice Brooks, will be moving to the Title I Family and Community Engagement area as an Education Associate. This signals a shift of employees coming at the Delaware Dept. of Education. Secretary Godowsky WILL be leaving. The question is when. The new Secretary may not start right at the beginning of Carney’s administration if they have to facilitate an exit from their current Delaware job. Yes, the new Secretary will be from Delaware. Godowsky did confirm that today (not that anyone thought otherwise). So Godowsky has publicly stated he will stick around during that transition. The new Secretary of Education announcement could come as early as this weekend but most likely next week, along with all of Carney’s Secretary picks. While this is not official, I am hearing the Secretary of Education pick is down to two people. All I can say is that they were on my poll last week. I will say no more! But Carney could make other sweeping changes to the DOE besides the supreme leader. The Governor picks the President of the State Board of Education, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, and pretty much all the leadership positions at the DOE. Will Dr. Teri Quinn Gray, Donna Johnson, and Michael Watson survive the new administration?
If you are in Dover next Thursday, and have some time to kill between 1pm to 5pm (or 7pm if Dan Rich gives the WEIC Presentation, just kidding Dan!), come on over to the Townsend Building and bring popcorn! Maybe Governor Markell will pop over to give a farewell speech to the State Board!
Today, the White House released a very long report on school discipline entitled “The Continuing Need to Rethink Discipline”. The report has a plethora of recommendations for public schools in America. I agree with most of them based on a cursory glance, but like many reports of this nature that I write about, it fails to recognize the fact that Common Core State Standards or other similar standards along with the high-stakes testing environment accompanying those standards are causing more problems than they are worth in our schools. I will write more about this as I go through the report in the coming days.
The Every Student Succeeds Act addresses school discipline and how our schools carry out punishment for negative behaviors. On Monday evening, the ESSA Discussion Group I am a member of in Delaware addressed this very issue. As well, a Delaware newspaper is working on an extensive article about bullying in Delaware and how our schools respond to bullying reporting.
It remains unclear how the incoming Trump administration will view this report.
For now, please read the below report.
A pungent stench is coming from Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office when it comes to the Freedom of Information Act. When the Delaware Attorney General’s office gets the facts wrong on a response to a FOIA complaint, the only way for a Delaware citizen to correct those errors is to file with the Superior Court. Which costs money and fills the state coffers. Can someone please remind me why I pay taxes for a state where our Governor feels “sunshine is the best disinfectant“?
The response I received two days ago from Matt Denn’s office stems from my FOIA complaint and the Delaware Dept. of Justice’s response to that FOIA which came out on October 28th. The Delaware Pathways Steering Committee did not publish their first meeting anywhere and I filed a complaint. Considering the DOJ is still working on a FOIA complaint I submitted last March, it seems there was a rush to put the matter concerning Governor Markell’s Executive Ordered Delaware Pathways Steering Committee to bed.
When I emailed Denn’s office to reevaluate the FOIA response the same day, I didn’t hear back from anyone. On Tuesday I sent an email to Matt Denn asking for any type of response to my October 28th request. On Wednesday, I received the below email from Kim Siegel, Denn’s FOIA Coordinator. I did edit out part of the email which covered a separate matter I am working on with Denn’s office.
From: OpenGovernment (DOJ) <OpenGovernment@state.de.us>
To: Kevin Ohlandt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Wednesday, December 7, 2016 4:04 PM
Subject: October 28, 2016 determination
Dear Mr. Ohlandt,
Attorney General Denn has asked me to respond to the issues raised in your December 6, 2016 e-mail. Your e-mail makes reference to an October 28, 2016 determination by the Chief Deputy Attorney General in response to a FOIA petition regarding the Pathways to Prosperity Steering Committee. Under the Delaware Code, a petitioner who is dissatisfied with the outcome of a FOIA determination by the Chief Deputy Attorney General may “appeal the matter on the record to Superior Court.” Therefore, if you wish to appeal the determination, that is the mechanism under Delaware law by which to do so.
Kim Siegel, MPA
Legislative Affairs Manager
Delaware Department of Justice
So if I am understanding this correctly, when a citizen alleges a public body has violated FOIA, which is the law, the public body can skirt around the law and give false information. But when the citizen calls them out on it, through a request for appeal, suddenly the DOJ decides the law is important. The mechanism for appeal is not fair at all to a citizen looking for transparency.
What is the point of a Freedom of Information Act request if the agency looking at it refuses to look at all the facts from both sides? This is typically how it is done- a party files a complaint with the facts as they know them, the DOJ sends the complaint to the party that had the FOIA complaint filed against them, the defending party sends a response, the DOJ sends the defendant agency’s response to the accuser, and then the DOJ rules on the complaint. I have had FOIA complaints in the past that dragged out because the DOJ wanted more information. Apparently, that was not the case with this complaint. The DOJ Chief Deputy Attorney General came out with this FOIA response in record time without any chance of obtaining more information on the matter.
So if I want to take this matter further, I have to file with the Superior Court. How much would that cost? According to the Superior Court website, it wouldn’t be cheap!
- $10.00 Court Security Assessment Fee
- $190.00 for the first 40 filings of an action
- $150.00 for request for a trial date which is non-refundable
- Fees do not include advertising costs which shall be billed directly to the filing party.
So right off the bat, filing an appeal against a FOIA response from Matt Denn’s office would cost me $350.00 which I would not get back no matter how the Superior Court ruled. I could do this without an attorney and most likely get chewed alive by the DOJ’s attorney. So I would probably have to get my attorney. That would cost well over $1,000.00. And that number would climb once it went to trial.
The transparency racket in Delaware is almost criminal. In essence, it is a money-maker for the state in many situations. I don’t have that kind of money. Most Delawareans don’t. Which is exactly what they count on. When you file a FOIA complaint against a state agency asking for emails, the state agency knows they can say they don’t have the emails. At that point, the state agency responds they don’t have them but the requesting party can file a $250.00 fee with the Department of Technology and Information to do a search for those emails. Most people don’t have $250.00 they can just fork over like that. And then the fees associated with reviewing the information. Depending on what the party is looking for, this can climb into the four figure amount quickly.
Here is the bottom line: people don’t file FOIA requests if they think everything is hunky-dory. They believe something illegal happened or is about to happen. While FOIA responses from the DOJ don’t always rule there was a FOIA violation in a complaint, at times their reasoning is subjective. The DOJ is not going to sue another state agency. So if a citizen wants to take that extra step, they have to pay. Even if the DOJ’s office gets information wrong, they appear to be above the law unless you take them to court.
It is the Department of Justice, not the Department of Covering Other State Agencies Asses. But transparency is a fickle beast depending on who you want it from. I guess us taxpaying citizens are not meant to know the truth about matters in Delaware. It is bad enough Governor Markell can evade transparency by including a member of the General Assembly on an email (no member of the General Assembly is subject to FOIA), but it appears FOIA in and of itself is not freedom of information. It should be called DOIA, the Denial of Information Act.
Last year, Delaware State Rep. Sean Lynn sponsored legislation which would have lifted the FOIA ban on the General Assembly. It went nowhere. Far too many of our legislators hide behind that privilege and are able to operate with no transparency. And our state leaders take full advantage of this when possible. The way Delaware code is set up it makes it impossible for a citizen to find out matters in the public interest. When a citizen files a FOIA complaint with the DOJ, that office makes it impossible for a citizen to appeal that decision unless they pay money to the state. Even if that citizen produces contradictory information which could easily give the matter further merit.
Until our legislators stop playing games with the truth, nothing will change with FOIA in Delaware. We are just the pawns too many of them suck up to when they need our vote. Once again, I say this with the caveat that there are some legislators who are good people. But it rests with the leadership of the House and Senate as well as the committee Chairs. If you have nothing to hide, there shouldn’t be a problem with making FOIA easier. But it is more clear that fraud and cover-up exists at the highest levels of Delaware. And when an education-sucking vampire like the Rodel Foundation gets thrown into the mix, all bets are off.
This is the email I sent to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn when I submitted a request for appeal on the FOIA response from October 28th:
From: Kevin Ohlandt <email@example.com>
To: Denn Matthew (DOJ) <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc: Siegel Kim (DOJ) <email@example.com>; Gibbs Danielle (DOJ) <firstname.lastname@example.org>; OpenGovernment <email@example.com>
Sent: Friday, October 28, 2016 4:47 PM
Subject: This FOIA Complaint legal opinion issued today is just wrong.
I am openly and publicly asking you to respond to this opinion issued from your office today acknowledging ALL the facts I presented in this article as well as the questions posed at the end of the article:
This is really cool! Apparently, Stubbs Elementary School in the Christina School District was very good this year. An anonymous donor paid off an outstanding debt the school had. Now being that this is a certain time of year, I can only assume it was Santa Claus. The guy took a recent ride through The First State!
But seriously, whoever did this, thank you! We need more of this in the world!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2016
Wendy Lapham, Public Information Officer, Christina School District, 302-552-2610
Anonymous Donor Pays off All Outstanding Meal Balances
at Stubbs Elementary School
Wilmington, DE – An anonymous donor has made the holiday season brighter for families at Frederick Douglass Stubbs Elementary School in Wilmington. The District’s Child Nutrition Services Department announced that an anonymous check in the amount of $1,283.07 has been sent on behalf of Stubbs, which is sufficient to clear all outstanding meal account balances at the school. The person or group responsible has chosen to remain anonymous, but that has not stopped Stubbs Elementary School’s staff and students from rejoicing over this welcome news.
“Our school community was thrilled to learn about this act of generosity,” said Stubbs principal Jeffers Brown. “We have families who struggle to pay their bills during the holidays, and this incredible gift provides welcome relief to many of our parents. Knowing their children’s outstanding meal balance has been paid will make the season a lot brighter for them. Whoever the anonymous donor or group of donors was, our students and families thank them sincerely for this donation.”
Frederick Douglass Stubbs Elementary School serves 344 students in preschool through Grade 5.
# # #
Dr. Steven Godowsky had quite a year as the Delaware Secretary of Education! As he sails off to distant shores (across the canal), away from the Townsend Building in Dover, Delaware, let’s look back on 2016. And stay tuned for the end of this article where I may or may not reveal a VERY BIG secret about Godowsky.
The New Castle County Data Service Center compiled a report on school choice applications by the residing district for the Fiscal Year 2017 school year. These are applications parents sent out to choice schools for the school year that began this year. So these applications went out during the school choice calendar from November, 2015-January, 2016. At least the bulk of them. These are applications only, not actual acceptances in choice schools. A student could have applied to five different choice schools so that would count as five different applications. There are many districts that do not send this information through the system the Data Service Center provides. Most of them are in Sussex County, including their largest district, Indian River.
While this is missing a lot of information, especially in Southern Delaware, it does give a good indication of which districts have a lot of choice activity going on and where students are applying. This is very apparent in Christina.
Last week at the Strategic Plan for Specialized Educational Opportunities meeting at the Delaware DOE, Jeff Klein gave a presentation on this report. Senator David Sokola asked why the applications don’t address low-income or disabilities. I responded (as a member of the public) that wasn’t a good idea, especially since the Enrollment Preference Task Force (of which Sokola was on) recommended NOT having those items on choice applications.
Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, will soon be standing at a crossroads. As someone who preaches district and charter collaboration on one hand, the other hand is busy trying to find ways to get more district money to follow students at Delaware charters. This dichotomy is going to define the future of charter schools in Delaware.
As anyone breathing in Delaware is well aware, fifteen charter schools sued the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Christina School District over funds they felt should have been going to charter schools. The defining moment in the lawsuit: when Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky reversed changes to the local funding formula for school choice payments after September 1st. They could have been patient and allowed Godowsky or the next Delaware Secretary of Education and the General Assembly the opportunity to figure it out. But instead, they took the legal route which was championed by Kendall Massett. As a result, the law firm of Saul Ewing will get $300,000. How many teachers could be hired with that kind of money? How many students could have received a paraprofessional in a school room bursting with over 25 kids?
If the collaboration Massett truly desires took place, this lawsuit wouldn’t have happened in the first place. If there is blame to be thrown around regarding who was at fault with the local funding formula, that blame lands solely at the feet of the Delaware Dept. of Education. They should have been the ones answering the questions for the charters. Christina performed their due diligence and submitted their exclusions to the Delaware DOE. This originated last Winter, with Newark Charter School calling in the DOE who apparently “confessed” to the powers that be about the exclusions submitted by Christina. The DOE had an opportunity right then and there to make good on this. The charter schools could have gone public with this information and forced the DOE to do something about it. And if that didn’t work, they could have brought in the General Assembly. But instead, they kept this a secret for many months. They had to know when the public found out about this they would be understandably upset. These were huge funding changes with charter payments. This was not a wise move for the charters involved. By alleging that Christina was purposely withholding funds from these charters when the district did the same thing they had been doing for 12-13 years, which I might add was completely legal since the DOE approved them, the charters started a war. It is not that difficult to see this was the original intent. It boils down to Greg Meece having a hissy fit because his school wanted more money and if Christina wouldn’t willfully give it up, he was going to punish them and cast blame.
In an article on Delaware First Media, written by Meg Pauly on December 1st, Massett weighed in on the Christina Board of Education signing the settlement with the fifteen charters. Massett, as the go-to spokeswoman for Delaware charter schools, seemed to have some very big misunderstandings about what this settlement really is.
She said the decision most likely won’t require a vote from each schools’ entire board of directors, which could make it easier to approve.
“Because there would not be any money going out – they’re not paying out a settlement, it would be money coming in – there’s not really a fiduciary responsibility that the board would have to approve,” Massett said.
There is certainly a fiduciary responsibility stemming from this settlement. The charters, according to the settlement, would have to make sure the funds were allocated to certain functions similar to what those funds were used for in the Christina School District. As well, the Pandora’s box called tuition tax funds were brought up in the settlement. It states:
In the CSD settlement agreement, CSD has agreed to catalogue and describe, for DOE and CSD Charter Schools, those services provided by CSD to children with special needs (“Special Needs Services”) that are funded in whole, in whole or in part, with revenues generated by the levy of the so-called Tuition Tax by CSD. The objective of this undertaking is to determine whether CSD shall be financially responsible under Section 509(f) for funding the same or similar Special Needs Services provided by CSD Charter Schools to their CSD resident students. If requested, DOE will participate in the discussions and inquiry described in this subsection, and, where necessary, shall enforce this provision.
So what does Section 509(f) of Delaware State Code say?
For any student, who because of educational need requires services that are appropriately financed pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title, either at the outset or subsequent to a decision to enroll in a charter school, the student’s district of residence shall remain financially responsible for such student and the charter school shall receive from such district a payment determined in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title.
Which brings us back to Chapter 6 of Title 14:
§ 604 Special programs.
(a) If any pupil is counted in the preschool, intensive or complex unit and attends school in a program operated by a district other than that in which the pupil resides, by an agency of the Department of Education or is in an approved private placement pursuant to § 3124 of this title, the receiving district or the Department of Education shall collect a tuition charge for the nonresident pupil, provided approval for attendance has been granted by the sending district. Such tuition charge shall be paid by the school board of the reorganized school district in which the pupil is a resident from the proceeds of a local tax levied for this specific purpose, except that in the case of a district assigned by the Department with the approval of the State Board of Education to administer a school or program for children with disabilities, or special programs approved by the Department of Education for persons without disabilities such as programs for bilingual students or programs for pregnant students, the district so assigned shall be both the sending and receiving district in regard to that school or program and is authorized to collect tuition charges accordingly.
(b) In determining the tuition to be charged for a pupil counted in the preschool, intensive or complex units or for a person without disabilities attending approved special programs, such as bilingual programs or programs for pregnant students operated by a district other than that in which the student resides or by an agency of the State Department of Education, the receiving district or the State Department of Education shall compute the tuition by adding such receiving district’s share of educational related expenses as allowed by the Department of Education regulations. The sum so obtained shall be divided by the total number of pupils in the special program as of September 30 of the current school year. The resulting figure shall represent the amount of the “tuition charge” per pupil.
(c) In determining the tuition charged to the sending district in the case of private placement for children with disabilities, tuition will be defined as in § 3124 of this title and the sending district will be charged 30 percent of the total tuition cost. The remaining 70 percent will be covered through funding provided by the State Department of Education from the annual appropriation for this purpose.
The charter schools get IDEA Part B funding from the federal government. They receive special education funding from the state for Basic Special Education for students in pre-school (if they have those programs) and students in 4th-12th grade. They get intensive and complex funding for students in all grades. Where the tuition tax gets very complex is how it is determined. The local school board votes to set the current year’s tuition tax rate for taxpayers. It is not something the district can change on a whim. And state code is very specific about what those funds can be used for. What makes Christina very unique is that they are the management district for several special needs programs. Those are not funds the charter schools could touch based on this settlement unless they are providing comparable services. Then we get into the definition of a comparable service. Would Gateway Lab School be considered the same school as the special schools within Christina?
Where Kendall, as well as the entire settlement, performs a massive overreach is in this particular section. It is tampering with state code in unbelievable ways. State code does not legally have to honor a settlement stemming from a lawsuit between a school district and a group of charters. As well, it can not, and should not, dictate what a state agency has to do. That is what we have our General Assembly for, to create and amend laws. We can certainly discuss the merit of some of those laws, but that is the very essence of the Constitution of Delaware. A settlement should not create new contradictions that try to negate existing law. Which is why Secretary Godowsky wanted the General Assembly to intervene in this entire funding process. I am assuming the Delaware DOE signed their settlement agreement with the fifteen charters. Which is even more concerning in my eyes. The fact they would allow changes in Delaware law without approval of the legislative body charged with performing that task. A settlement cannot create laws or regulations.
What this section does is change the duty of charter schools in regards to their adherence of special education law which they should already be doing to the best of their ability. This settlement is much more than a “fiduciary responsibility” in nature, as Massett put it. Something that magnanimous in scope should be approved by a charter school board, not a Head of School or even an interim principal in one case. It is fiduciary in a sense that the charters would receive more money from a tuition tax, but it would require an oversight of the special education services within each of those charter schools to make sure they are performing at a comparable level to Christina. That could involve extra resources and staff those charters may not have. Could a charter hire that staff and pay for those resources and then submit for those tuition tax funds? Or would those services and staff have to already be in place to be eligible for those funds? The settlement does not define that.
If, for some odd reason, legislation is created out of this part of the settlement, it would require districts to collect even more tuition tax from taxpaying citizens within their district. They would have to because more would be required to go out to charter schools for those students. They should not be tasked with divvying up the existing tuition tax they receive for the students within their own district with those needs or funds they are already sending to special education schools outside of their district. That would take away from those students. But here is the major problem with this: the local boards have to determine the tuition tax rate in the summer before the school year starts. They base this on projections within their own district. How can they determine the needs of special education students who reside in their district but attend charter schools before the school year even starts? For some they can, but special education can be very fluid, evolving from year to year. It is hard enough for the districts to do this for their own students.
If Kendall Massett wants more collaboration between districts and charters going forward, she needs to stop drawing this line in the sand when it comes to money. She is going to continue to piss off the districts and they will not want to collaborate with the charters who keep demanding more and more from them. Districts can’t always get performance funds or donations from foundations. They can’t always have silent auctions like many charter schools do. All Delaware public schools have the capability of applying for grants from the state or the federal government, including charters. Districts don’t get to keep their excess transportation spending if they set their budget higher than what they actually spend. And charters are free to use this money as they please. So please, tell me Kendall, if the charters are getting what you view as their “fair share“, will you promote removing those extra perks for the charters that districts don’t get? When it comes to education funding, there is a crystal-clear difference between what a charter school needs and what an entire district needs. In some ways, it is like comparing apples to oranges. You can’t complain about charters not receiving capital funding. That was the way the law for charters was set up. It was the price of admission into Delaware public education. So by default, on paper, it would appear charters get less than districts for that very reason.
Some could argue that this latest misstep by the charters is just more of an ongoing agenda to privatize public education. Just one more chunk taken from school districts and flowing into the hands of charter schools which are actually non-profit corporations. By state law, those corporations are required to file IRS tax returns. But because of loopholes in IRS guidance, the one charter school who actually started this whole charter payment mess is the one school that does not file those tax returns. The guiding force behind the lawsuit was Greg Meece and Newark Charter School. They created the very conditions that led to the lawsuit. The settlement promises severe disruption to all Delaware schools involving special education and funding. But Newark Charter School is not transparent with their own finances the same way the rest of Delaware charters are. I have grave issues with that. And I have no doubt in my mind Kendall is aware of this.
In a News Journal article from December 5th discussing the settlement details, written by Adam Duvernay, Kendall states the following:
“I’m glad everyone will have a seat at the table, and that the process will be transparent, so we don’t find ourselves in this situation again where charter schools go for years without answers and feel like they need to resort to legal action to make their voices heard,” Massett said.
What about the questions many Delawareans have been asking the charter schools for years without any real answers? Like how certain Delaware charter schools can cherry-pick students in defiance of state and federal law? When does Newark Charter School, which created this whole mess, finally implement their plan to balance their demographics at their school? When does Newark Charter School become fully transparent with their own money the way every other Delaware charter school is required by law to do? Massett cherry-picks her statements. She wants districts to answer any questions charters have, but when those answers are needed by others, she either deflects or states it just isn’t true. And when people do take legal actions surrounding charter demographics? Like when the Office of Civil Rights asked for all charter school applications a couple of years ago going back the two years before that request? The Delaware Charter Schools Network became the organization tasked with collecting that information. And what happened? Massett informed the Office of Civil Rights the charters did not know they needed to keep that information. And then there is the matter of the now two-year-old complaint from the Delaware ACLU against the State of Delaware and Red Clay regarding practices of segregation and discrimination from some Delaware charter schools. Kendall called that “a myth.” Two years later and that complaint has gone nowhere. Forcing someone to sit at the table with a menu where there are two choices, our way or no way, is not collaboration. It is not legal action. It is manipulation that doesn’t belong in education. With education, every decision eventually affects students in a good way or a bad way. For far too long, those decisions have existed for the benefit of charter school students.
Getting real here, Kendall’s job is to promote charter schools and to serve as a buffer between them and the state in certain areas. At heart, Kendall is a lobbyist, seeking to influence the General Assembly and the Delaware DOE in ways that will benefit charter schools in the state. Charter schools pay dues to the Delaware Charter Schools Network. In a sense, they are very similar to some of the roles the Delaware State Education Association plays in education politics. But the difference is that DSEA represents the teachers in district schools. They promote or oppose legislation that will benefit the teachers within their organization. I have no doubt DSEA would love to have charter school teachers unionize. But the Delaware Charter School Network exists for a niche within public education that almost serves as a parasite on the districts they feed from. It takes from the host body and sucks the energy out of it. That is the price of school choice that Kendall cannot seem to fathom.
In 2017, education will once again be front and center in Delaware. The corporate education reform movement, led by the Rodel Foundation in Delaware, will become more pronounced with the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. But in some ways, it almost seems like the charter movement in Delaware and those who advocate for them, seem to have become more emboldened with the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA. He promised billions of dollars to charter schools. To add salt to that wound, he appointed Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Secretary of Education. A charter school lover if there ever was one. I have no doubt charter advocates across the country are feeling almost empowered by these events. Supporters of public education are very worried about what will happen to further erode an education system that has been in place long before the very idea of a charter school was introduced.
In Delaware, Kendall Massett will continue to have great relationships with the Dept. of Education and the State Board of Education. She will exert her influence on the General Assembly. If any bill is introduced that will negatively impact charter schools, she will wield her power and influence to put a stop to it. She is backed by some very powerful forces in Delaware that will not be trifled with in any way. But none of these forces see what their choices and decisions make to education as a whole. If charters and districts were funded the same way as the vo-tech schools in Delaware, I don’t think the issues with charter schools in the state would be as big. But this parasitic relationship between districts and charters is paralyzing to education in Delaware. There are other things that perform the same damaging results, but we can control how this particular relationship evolves. Districts and charters aren’t going anywhere. If charters want to co-exist with districts and have true and meaningful collaboration, they have to stop these games. And Kendall Massett, as the spokeswoman for the charters, will have to take on a different mantra. It isn’t a question of choice at this point, it is an answer that demands immediate implementation. Fair goes both ways.
If I were Kendall Massett, I would actually recommend the Christina Board of Education rescinds their vote on the settlement. Funding is important, but shaking down a district like this which will only tick off the other districts in the state, is not something to be proud of. It is not a victory when students continue to pay the price.