DAPSS Qualified Curriculum Director Rips School Leadership In Public Hearing

I heard the Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security Public Hearing the other night was off the hook, but I had no idea!  Today, the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office released the transcript of the hearing.  Their Curriculum Director, Erica Thomas, went after school leadership over her many attempts to get a better curriculum going in the school but felt she was ultimately stymied in her efforts.

One criticism I received recently was that I am under-qualified to be the Director of Curriculum and Instruction — coming from someone who does not have a degree — a Doctorate in Educational Leadership and experience in various aspects above and beyond that within the educational community — I find this disrespectful because my efforts have been stymied by the lack of educational leadership at the Academy which before I arrived was filled with nepotism and cronyism.

Maybe if the Delaware DOE was paying attention they would have been able to catch that nepotism and cronyism.  It wasn’t exactly a state secret on how bad this school was doing for many years, but the Delaware DOE turned a blind eye until they couldn’t.  But I digress…

I came to this school and stepped up to the challenge to improve things for students. I was told I was going to be given autonomy to create changes. However, through Academy leadership, education best practices were secondary to maintaining personal relationships. Moreover, I was undermined and a culture of distrust and suspicion was created.

As mentioned in her testimony, Thomas came to the school in August of 2016.  This was way after the school had low enrollment and proficiency issues.  Any school turnaround takes time and doesn’t happen overnight.

I came in with a strategic plan implementing LF, Read 180, IXL, many other research-based practices that we’ve put in place, and we will give you in the CSAC rebuttal. I know the Academy is capable of doing a whole lot better than what the achievement scores show, but I was stymied in my implementation of a teaching/learning model through a series of professional development and professional learning communities.

It sounds to me like she was making a valiant effort to improve things.  I’m surprised the school didn’t already have some of these key programs in the school already!

I came to the Academy to raise expectations. I came to the Academy with all of the greatest intentions. I still believe in the school and its mission. The students and staff deserve a whole lot better, but that starts at the very top. It has been made very clear to me that I am not the top. I have taken directives. I have finished tasks and I did as a good soldier would. That’s it.

Wow!  Is that coming from new Board President Margie Lopez-Waite or the vastly under-qualified Head of School Herbert Sheldon?  Or both?  Lopez-Waite comes from the MBNA/Bank of America world.  While she may have performed miracles at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy (or did she just cheerlead the school while others did all the work?), it sounds like she came into DAPSS wanting to run the show.  She may be President of the Board but that does not give her the unilateral ability to do as she pleases.    It sounds like the school tried to make Thomas the sacrificial lamb in this process.  From everything I’ve seen and heard, it sounds like the biggest problem at the school is Sheldon himself!

I find it ironic that someone with an advanced degree in education with extensive knowledge of educational best practices is treated like this but their Head of School basically has a bookkeeping background at East Side Charter School.  It doesn’t seem right.  If charters are to ultimately survive, they need people with deep education backgrounds.  I’m not sure what happened as a result of Thomas’ comments, but she no longer appears on the school website.

Meanwhile, I did receive my FOIA request back from Sheldon.  All he sent was what already appears on the school’s website.  So their huge deficit will have to be discovered another way.

The rest of the Public Hearing is below.  Aside from Thomas’ controversial testimony (which also praised the school), the many public comments were in favor of the school and while many recognized the struggles of the school, it was also urged the State Board of Education keep them open.  Towards the end, the Colonial bomb is dropped by a teacher.  And a big thank you to the excellent transcriptionist at Wilcox & Fetzer who always do a great job with these Public Hearings!

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