Ex-Family Foundations Academy Leader Sean Moore Gets 18 Months In Federal Prison

Finally! I’ve been waiting for this news for a long time. The News Journal reported earlier today that the former Family Foundations Academy Head of School was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison for embezzlement.

According to the article, Moore had a bizarre confession to the court:

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Moore claimed “he was suffering from a ‘severe level of sexual addiction and shopping addiction.'”

Alrighty then! Finally this shameful chapter in Delaware public education can come to a close. I highly doubt the school will ever see the return of these funds, but justice has finally been served for this man.

It was three years ago that Kilroy’s Delaware and this blog began to look into the crazy happenings at this school. I spent hours going over their expenses and knew right away something was way off. So did the Delaware Auditor of Accounts office and the Delaware Dept. of Education. It nearly shut the New Castle charter school down. Because Moore used federal funds in his embezzlement, he was brought up on federal charges. The other Head of School, Dr. Tennell Brewington, took state funds so her punishment was not as severe. Last year, Family Foundations Academy changed their name to Charter School of New Castle, perhaps in an attempt to get rid of this dark part of their history.

The Exceptional Delaware Hero Of The Year 2017: Laurie Howard

I normally wait to release this until the last day of the year, but this year’s hero demanded the honor sooner.  You see, Laurie Howard passed away.  Surrounded by her loved ones, she left us far too soon.  Laurie was many things: a mother, a wife, a teacher, and a friend.

I’ve known Laurie for almost three years.  I met her through this blog.  A teacher in Caesar Rodney School District, Laurie and I were in fierce agreement on many things.  That standardized testing in the form of the Smarter Balanced Assessment is wrong.  That every single parent has a fundamental right to opt their child out of that test.  That corporations are slowly taking over public schools and school districts are powerless to stop it.

Laurie even had her own short-lived blog but only a select few were aware it was her.  Back in 2015, Laurie launched a blog where she challenged the Delaware State Education Association to fervently support House Bill 50.  She called out DSEA leadership for their sheepish support of the legislation.  The blog did not last long as Laurie was terrified of being found out and terminated from her job as a teacher.  But it had an impact.  From accounts I heard, Jenner was very upset about Laurie’s blog posts.  But Laurie felt strongly the teacher’s union was in bed with the privateers in public education.  At least their leadership was. I loved that blog and I wish Laurie had been able to continue it but I completely understand her reasoning to end it abruptly.  Many assumed they knew who wrote that blog but they were wrong. It was a secret that I carried to her grave. But I know she would not mind having this knowledge out now. To me, it was one of her many legacies. My only regret is not saving her articles for posterity and remembrance.  When Laurie shut down the blog she deleted all of the posts.

Laurie joined the Delaware Parent Teacher Association in 2015 so she could be in a position to advocate to a wider audience. She was well aware and did research on the corporate education reform movement and the dangers it posed in our public schools.  One of her articles focused on how PISA was a misused test. One of her biggest worries was the growing amount of tracking going on with students.  She felt, and I agree, that schools have become more about diagnosing students than educating them.  She did not like the feds controlling education and thought they should stick their noses out of local control.

In 2016, Laurie started another blog in an attempt to save the Schwartz Center for the arts in Dover.  She was a fervent supporter of theater and the arts.  I wished she had won that fight as well.

Last Spring, Laurie was diagnosed with lung cancer.  She was already set to retire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.  I had the honor of attending her retirement party at the Schwartz Center in Dover.  She was happy and humbled by so many of her peers and friends celebrating her time as a Delaware educator.

I talked to Laurie over the summer, mostly on social media.  She was scared.  She didn’t want to leave.  But she didn’t want the world to see this.  I did my best to not talk about education matters because I wanted the borrowed time I spent with her to be about her and to see if she needed anything.  On her Facebook page, she talked about how beautiful this world is and she put on a brave face.  In the past few weeks, Laurie put this up on her account:

Okay, time is getting mighty precious lately. I’ve been brought to the Delaware Hospice Center in Milford. My hope is that the awesome care I’ve received the past two days here will provide for extended life opportunities with my friends and family! I was asked to help my friends figure out what to say or do as a result of this stay. Just know if I’m your FB friend, we are friends. I love you, I care about you and your family. You don’t have to send expressions of love and longtime friendships (unless you want too). My love and best wishes for a long and healthy life are sent without question. Love to all!

Laurie’s post was just who she was.  A couple of years ago, Laurie was able to answer a question for me.  One that haunted my soul for a long time.  It was purely coincidental, and while I won’t get into the question, it did give me understanding and comfort about someone.  For the longest time, I thought this person was evil incarnate but Laurie urged me to forgive this person.  And I did.  That’s who she was.

Together with our friend Natalie, we would haunt meetings in Dover.  Especially the Assessment Inventory Committee and meetings about the opt out bill.  We would give public comment about how bad the testing was and how it wasn’t right for Delaware children.  Laurie’s struggles with students in the classroom over this test are very similar throughout the state.  My only wish was that Laurie would have been able to use her voice at its full force because it was a voice worth hearing. I will miss you Laurie Howard. I find comfort that you are watching over all of us and I pray that you can impart your wisdom to those who think education is a financial playground. I know Laurie would want me to keep fighting the fight, and I will, the best I can.  May you rest in peace my sweet friend.

Wrecking Ball Ruszkowski At It Again… Merry Christmas Albuquerque!

Four schools.  Change or die.  That is the bully mantra coming out of Chris Ruszkowski’s mouth these days.  The former Delaware DOE employee who is now the New Mexico Secretary of Education seems to have taken the Wilmington Priority Schools guidebook and foisted it on New Mexico.

According to the Albuquerque Journal, the four schools, three in Albuquerque, have until January 9th to make their decisions:

• Close the school and enroll students in other area schools that are higher performing.

• Relaunch the school under a charter school operator that has been selected through a rigorous state or local review process.

• “Champion” parents’ option to move their children into higher-performing charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning or homeschooling. This may also include the creation and expansion of state or local school voucher programs.

• Significantly restructure and redesign the school through steps like extending instructional time, changing the staff to include only top-rated educators or adopting state-selected curriculum approaches.

As usual, Ruszkowski fails to understand the reality of inner-city schools, just like he did in Wilmington, DE.

“For Albuquerque, this is a gut check moment,” Ruszkowski said. “Albuquerque talks a lot about equity and access, but when you have kids trapped in a failing school for six straight years, I don’t know what that means for equity and access.”

He questioned why APS hasn’t taken more action to improve these schools on its own, and said he expects the district will make excuses by citing the schools’ poverty rates and demographics.

Poverty is NOT an excuse.  It is a reality for these students.  Fat cats like Ruszkowski, who has never known poverty a day in his life, will never get that.  But this is just the beginning for New Mexico because there are 86 other schools that could be in this position next year.

New Mexico is a PARCC state.  The Smarter Balanced Assessment, the test used in Delaware, used to be the state assessment in NM but was changed to PARCC.  Same demon, different name.  This is like 2014 all over again, only it is in a different state.  Ruszkowski’s pals at the Delaware DOE targeted six schools in Wilmington, DE with pretty much the exact same threats.  Promised funding either never materialized or was drastically reduced.  The state did not live up to what it promised in their forced coercion scenario.

I always assumed Penny Schwinn, the former Delaware accountability chief (now making waves in Texas) was the ringleader behind the Delaware Priority Schools fiasco but it appears now Ruszkowski may have played a heavy hand in that debacle.  These fake, charter-loving “leaders” in public education are a destructive force, a wave of anti-matter ripping chaos through school buildings.  I’m sorry my state created so many monsters and let them loose on the rest of the country.

In Delaware, two of those priority schools are part of a horrible plan invented by Delaware Governor John Carney’s office and the Christina School District. The Governor wants those schools to consolidate with other schools in the area but he is rushing the district into a decision. Their board voted 5-2 to have the Governor slow his roll. Many in Delaware feel this plan by the Governor is a smoke and mirrors scenario where the district will fight the plan to the point where Carney pulls a fast one and charterizes the schools.

Say some prayers for New Mexico.  Putting a guy like Ruszkowski in the driver’s seat of education in a state is tantamount to giving a thief keys to your house.  He is a result of Race To The Top, the very worst kind of result.