The Behind The Scene Plans To Save DAPSS & What The DOE Isn’t Telling Us

On the surface, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is toast.  But many key players in the Delaware education world are busy making plans to make sure that outcome does not happen.  How do you get a school way below enrollment to survive?  You partner up and you do it fast!

Colonial School District is considering becoming DAPSS charter school authorizer: consider the fact that Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey was on the Board of Directors at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy.  Factor in that their Head of School is now the President of DAPSS’ Board of Directors.  Add all that up and throw in Blakey going everywhere promoting partnerships for Colonial and you have a very strong possibility of Colonial becoming the second school district after Red Clay to become a charter authorizer.

Other charter schools have wait lists: Look at the basic premise of DAPSS- public safety and security.  Look at two other charters who have somewhat similar methodologies- Delaware Military Academy and First State Military Academy.  DMA is authorized by Red Clay and they always have a wait list.  First State Military Academy also has a wait list and they receive many applicants from New Castle County.  There could very well be plans afoot to get students on First State’s wait list to apply to DAPSS.

The Charter School of New Castle connection: Spearheaded by CSNC’s Board President, Charles McDowell, they want DAPSS to purchase their extra building, the former site of Family Foundations Academy.  Right now it serves as an administration building for East Side and CSNC.  Two schools don’t need an entire school building for administration.  But get another charter in there, which could also join their Vision Academies consortium, and you have a win-win situation.

The Margie Lopez-Waite gambit: By becoming the President of DAPSS’ Board, Lopez-Waite can get the programs in place at Las Americas into a high school.  This is something she has wanted for a long time.  And the opportunity just presented itself.  As well, having more power would fulfill her dream of having… more power!

The Monkey Wrench: money.  At the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting last week, the leader of the school (Herbert Sheldon) dropped a bomb that did NOT appear in the Charter School Accountability Committee’s report: the school is in the hole somewhere between $500,000-$800,000.00.  You won’t find this in their monthly financial reports which begs the question why.  By Delaware law, districts and charters are required to put their monthly financial information up.  If DAPSS is cooking their books to make the picture look pretty when it really isn’t this is very disturbing.  Also more disturbing is the fact that the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE did NOT put this in the report.  Why are they withholding information that is a key part of why the school is on formal review to begin with?  Is Secretary Bunting aware of this?  And why is Denise Stouffer who runs the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE now the “appointed” chair of the Charter School Accountability Committee?  I will get answers on this.  To that extent, I submitted a FOIA request to Herbert Sheldon yesterday for a line-by-line budget for the past two fiscal years.  I have yet to receive a response from him.  The FOIA clock has been ticking for over 24 hours Mr. Sheldon…

Why is there so much effort to save this charter school and not others: Three recent charter school closures suggest the Delaware DOE wanted them gone.  Several new charters opened and those students had to go somewhere.  Delaware College Prep, Delaware MET, and Prestige Academy all closed their doors in the past couple years.  There have been no new charter schools in New Castle County since the 2015-2016 school year.  So for the charter community to potentially lose even 200 students could lower their growth trends.  Another draw is this charter was founded by a key player in Delaware politics: Charlie Copeland.  The former head of the Delaware Republican party has a ton of pull.  DAPSS was his baby.  To see it go down in flame reflects poorly on him.

My prediction: DAPSS will get a one-year lease on life to allow all these changes to happen.  All the partners and DAPSS will pat themselves on the back for working together and saving a school.  Colonial looks like a big hero and allows for them to continue more public-private partnerships in Delaware thus cementing Governor Carney’s #1 agenda.  Vision Academies takes ASPIRA under their wing as well and grows in power as a charter school conglomerate in New Castle conglomerate.

My crazy theory: The fact that Colonial is even considering charter authorization could lead to a bigger issue about to face New Castle County schools.  A few weeks ago, I predicted the end of Christina School District.  If Colonial absorbed many of those students and took over as a charter school authorizer for many of the charter schools within Christina schools in the Newark area they would become a powerhouse in Delaware public education.  If Colonial were to become DAPPS’ authorizer, it would show they are capable of handling more.  My fear is this could lead to higher charter growth in what was formerly Christina.  Modifications from existing schools for increases in enrollment would run wild with Colonial as the authorizer.  Real estate activity with the buildings in Christina would go insane.

5 thoughts on “The Behind The Scene Plans To Save DAPSS & What The DOE Isn’t Telling Us

  1. I see one potential problem with the “crazy theory.” You wrote “If Colonial absorbed many of those students and took over as a charter school authorizer for many of the charter schools within Christina schools in the Newark area they would become a powerhouse in Delaware public education.” It is my understanding that a district can’t issue a charter to school outside the district’s geological boundaries. This came into play when Odyssey, chartered by Red Clay, wanted to move to a building outside of Red Clay’s physical limits. They couldn’t. So Odyssey applied to transfer their charter to DOE which permitted the location change. Colonial can’t seed charters in Christina. Only Christina and DOE can do that. And while there are waiting lists at some charters in Delaware, there are also school that are so grossly underpopulated they cannot properly fund the needs of the student body.

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      • Indeed, we would.
        Would you like to know how to cook the books? Why is that debt not showing in the finances? The following explanation is the reason we needed board meetings recorded and published. Albeit most boards tackle their deficits with a bit of discretion, it’s there to be found. Example: Fiscal year Y preliminary budget shows a deficit of $170,000. Through cutting costs and renegotiating contracts, laying off staff, re-allocating resources, said school reduced that deficit to $75,000 by the time the Final Budget is due to the state. In our example school, there is a desire to show a positive or neutral net flow of receipts and expenditures. Who wants to go into a charter renewal in deficit spending? Easy peasy. Create a new line item in the revenue stream. Title it along the lines of “one time $75,000 savings.” Poof, the budget is balanced. Where did that $75,000 come from? Oh, it doesn’t exist. It’s kind of like kiting checks. Let’s just mint money. Where is the school going find that $75,000? 1) Hope there was an over-budget on one or more items that will reveal itself at the close of the fiscal year. 2)Direct your school leadership team to find $75,000 more to cut (remember the initial deficit was $150,000.) You have until the to the end of the year to churn out those funds. Do not pass go, do not collect $100.00 3) Don’t fund the step increases. Yes, the state will onboard you with the step increase funds that your teachers earned via their years in the system, but don’t allocate those funds to your staff. Save them. Contingency is $75,000 low. Eventually, the state will find your lie. What happens next is up to them. They may accept a Mea Culpa. “Let us explain…blah blah-blah. Does the DOE want your charter to continue to exist? Does it want you closed? As the DAPSS data shows, the state wants that school open, so it whitewashed the deficit spending. Now, the killer question! Does the state want our example school to remain open or do they plan to close it. Good thing it’s only hypothetical. Or is it?

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