A Parent’s Horrifying Experience With Her Daughters’ First And Only Day At Delaware Design-Lab High School

Delaware Design-Lab High School

Someone once told me school choice is a roll of the dice.  For this parent and her two daughters, it was a one day nightmare that resulted in the parent pulling her children out of the Delaware public education system and homeschooling her daughters.  Delaware Design-Lab recently requested a major modification to reduce their enrollment (again), despite winning $10 million dollars from XQ Schools in the Fall of 2016.  The parent allowed me to publish an email she sent to the school with her reasons for taking her children out after one day in the school.  I did edit the email for grammatical purposes but none of the parent’s complaints were altered in any way.  As well, I did take out her daughters’ names and replaced them with Daughter A and Daughter J.

Hello Loretta,

There are numerous reasons that we did not stay with Delaware Design Lab.  I am not sure if you are aware how it is being run or what goes on in a normal day but I and the girls saw it.

I wound up in the office in the morning just to let everyone know we were there.  There were tons of students in the office arguing about dress code.  The secretary couldn’t get into her computer, there was tons of chaos. The substitutes didn’t even know where to go and Mr. Harris was nowhere to be found.  They had to have students escort the teachers.  The students were complaining they had no money and had to buy new pants for school and came in jogging pants and completely out of uniform standards.  This was something you and Mr. Harris had stressed on open house night.  There was confusion because the students that took us on tour were not in uniform either and did imply it wasn’t followed to the T at all.  Daughter A asked Mr. Harris and he said leggings were fine but Mrs. Hembree said leggings are not allowed at all.  There was confusion between Business Professional and Business Casual.  I remember both being said.  We went out and got stuff to meet the requirements while the current students are held to no standards or consequences.  That is minor but when you add it all together after the morning I had, and the day they had, it shows that there is no authority or administration adhering to their own guidelines.

The major things you said in the recruiting open house is almost opposite of our experience.  I know you followed through with my emails and we even came in on a Saturday to give you more paperwork.  School was pushed back to the 20th because they needed time to create a schedule for the girls.  I was more than understanding.  When we arrived Tuesday we sat for an hour and a half making schedules that should have already been done.  The counselor, Mr. Burke, was nice and I don’t know where the ball was dropped but it was.  He wasn’t well-informed with all the Design Lab offerings and the other younger gentleman, also a counselor, Mr. Sherodd, didn’t know the definition of some and didn’t seem to want to be bothered.  We were giving grace because we were so appreciative of being accepted late in the year.  It didn’t appear the paperwork I had brought in was even looked at.

So we ignored the fact their schedules should have been ready and the teachers weren’t aware of them coming.  We also gave grace when they received a new scheduling system and couldn’t figure it out or log in and needed to take training on it to be able to get into the system to make an official schedule.  This just added to the confusion and makes all the rumors I heard choosing this school true.

I sent several emails and told you in person the girls had to be withdrawn from Glasgow, and as far as I was told, by Christina School District, they never received it. They withdrew them by my email and acknowledgement of my home school being open.  That goes to show that there is no follow through with a simple request that is detrimental to my kids not receiving truancy.  I don’t even think Mrs. Hembree read the email about the request being emailed to the district office because I had to give her the email address again in person.  All while she is making the copies of my girls’ paperwork, the counselor Mr. Burke is in the office with small talk when he should have been working on the new scheduling system to get my girls a printed schedule instead of a hand written one. I then pick up the girls and they both burst into tears.  Each class they endured the students cussing, screaming, shouting out, didn’t raise hands, and they almost cried how the teachers were treated.  Most teachers didn’t even acknowledge the girls or talk to them.  In not one class, except for History, did they learn and they didn’t even learn that much.  I could see if this was the beginning of the year but not February.  The process should be seamless, the kids should be on point, and the teachers should be able to teach.  They couldn’t even talk because the kids just ran the show.  On top of that some classes were so full there weren’t enough desks.

My Daughter J broke her foot and was in a boot. Daughter A was helping her to gym and said oh now here we go to gym which most kids don’t enjoy anyway and the gym teacher comes up behind her and yells at her and Daughter J on their first day and says “go back to the counselor’s office. I don’t want you in my class you can’t do anything with a broken foot and since you don’t want to be here anyway you can go with her.”  Daugher A was trying to help Daughter J carry her stuff. She had been on her foot all day and was pushed and shoved up and down steps with the rude students.  My daughters were also told the gym teacher made the student who had a broken back last year run because he forgot his note.  That is serious.  My daughter did forget hers and I am so thankful they were sent to the counselor’s office because if she was made to run there would be a lawsuit and the school shut down.

Not being able to take Driver’s Ed was all a huge let down.

They were also called ho’s, bitches, and sluts throughout the day.  They were treated horribly by the majority of the student population.  Daughter J says one girl blurted out she lost her voice because she sucked so much D.  The students called the teachers the N word and were constantly causing chaos.  Where there is no order, chaos abounds.  I was feeling so down about my kids because home school didn’t align with public and it’s not supposed to.  My kids volunteer weekly, respect elders, read on their own, and have desires to become better than themselves every day.  The kids told Daugher J and Daughter A they were too smart for this school and had more potential than majority of the students.  They themselves want to leave Design Lab but can’t because the standards are so low they would be placed in a lower level class.

During the gym hour last period they were sent back to the counselor’s office to pick a new class because they were made aware they were not wanted in gym. While they are sitting there figuring out where they could be put, and the only option was Forensic Science, which neither of them wanted, they hear a student pouring her heart out to the younger gentleman, Mr. Sherodd.  She tells him that she is having some thoughts but wasn’t going to act on them but she was depressed and needed help.  He tells her he is not a counselor but that is how we were all introduced to him.  He said here is a list of therapists.  The student was still talking while he answers the phone and walks out the room.  The student comes over, tells the girls that the school doesn’t ever read their emails, her dad had a stroke a previous year and no one even knew nor were concerned.  She isn’t leaving because it’s her senior year.  When he comes back from his phone call, he sits down and looks at her and says why aren’t you back in class? She responds you didn’t really help or tell me what to do next. He responds I thought you were just going to talk to the student and she said what about these thoughts… should I receive medication, talk to my mom or get a therapist?  He says I am not qualified to tell you whether or not you need medicine but I have the list of therapists you can talk to.  She then stands up while he is talking to Mr. Burke and starts to walk back to class and says so once I start therapy will we be able to talk weekly and he says I am not a counselor and I don’t do weekly meetings.  The student was clearly distraught and going off about Mr. Reek and how he doesn’t teach and they need to hire better people.  Mr. Sherodd tells her to go to the office to complain about the teacher.  Right before she leaves she says he just pointed me to the office.  My girls were heartbroken for her especially after hearing about the shooting in Florida.  This kid is begging for help and no one is helping her.  People should drop what they are doing and help this girl out.

Daughter A also met with the Ashley Bystricki during the day and she didn’t say much whatsoever and nodded repeatedly and when discussing leaving two minutes before class she said that was fine but none of her teachers were made aware.

Mr. Spangler didn’t even acknowledge Daughter J in her math class. The aide gave her a worksheet that Daughter J had previously done the year prior.  They put her in IMP3 which she was the only sophomore and the aide asked Daughter J where she was and she said Algebra II and he said these kids are nowhere near Algebra II.

The only teacher they did like was Ms. Marvel.

The Spanish I teacher, for Daughter A, which was her last day, couldn’t get this one kid to settle, wound up slamming a metal yardstick to the desk scaring everyone and tried to use a pressure point technique on a kid and he just laughed at her.  Daughter A mouthed to her she was so sorry she was being treated like this and came over and offered help to Daughter A.  She was so thankful to be leaving for another school.

Ultimately, the teachers and the students don’t like being there and made it very well known.  There was no follow through on simple, standard requests.  There isn’t even an acting principal.  This environment is not conducive to learning.

This is probably why the school isn’t meeting enrollment and need to request a lower percentage through the DOE.

My kids are accomplishing way more at home with their curriculum, servicing the community, and their faith.  I truly believe homeschooling is the best option especially when this is what goes on in what is supposed to be a professional school setting.

I am reporting the school to the charter board and sending an email to a blogger who holds charter schools accountable.  I also shared it with everyone who wants to hear.  There needs to be better options than public.  This should have been the answer not equal to what the public is.  Most kids said that Design Lab is worse than their feeder Glasgow which isn’t an option either.

Thank you and God Bless,

Parent C


These kind of issues are going on in many of our public schools in Delaware.  For parents and students like this, public schools have become a living nightmare.  I recently had a discussion with someone about how public education turned into this, especially in high-needs schools.  When did students rule the roost?  When did some adults become almost numb and uncaring?  I am not saying this is all of our schools.  But it is one too many.  I’ve been in schools that do not have these issues.  But I’ve been in others that do.  It is not a charter school problem, it is a Delaware problem.  Perhaps I am “old school”, but this kind of conduct in our schools is unacceptable.  When there is no authority in schools, students will do whatever they want.  Is it the fault of the students in these situations or the administration?  Or both?

During my recent conversation mentioned above, I explained that education has turned into a business enterprise.  Despite many saying they represent students, that is not always the reality.  I’ve learned to know the difference.  For far too many, it is about the money involved first and students last.  It isn’t the teachers (in most cases), it is the administrators and boards that are responsible for making sure our schools are student first.  In this situation with Delaware Design-Lab, it is obvious, based on this experience, there are serious issues with teacher recruitment.  The environment at this school is NOT conducive to student learning.  Based on the parent’s email, she also had issues in the Christina School District at Glasgow High School.  For any parent to have to run from public education like this is a true shame.

I won’t pretend to have the answers.  I don’t know the solutions.  I can grapple with these issues and write about them, and in my heart I can cry for students that go through bullying and horrible education experiences.  I can write about situations like this.  I ask myself every single day what will be the catalyst for things to truly change.  While a ton of talk is going on about school safety, situations like this are the norm in far too many of our schools, whether they are traditional schools or charter schools.  School safety is paramount but that also includes addressing situations like this.

When I received the email from this parent, I shook my head.  I reached out to the parent again and she agreed I could publish it and added this:

The only good thing I could say about it is it was clean and nice looking.  The kids shared with my girls that most of the time the classes are so full there isn’t a desk for them to sit at.  The teachers are afraid to teach and from what I heard and could tell no acting Principal.  The Open House is very enticing and we thought this was an answer to our prayers.  Unfortunately not at all.  The one catch that is really sad that most don’t know about that Christina District office told us was once you register for a Charter in Delaware you have to complete a full year grade in it to be able to switch back to a public.  So this year wouldn’t have counted they would have had to complete 11th to switch back to a public.  Their public being Glasgow is even worse.  I don’t think parents know when they go to charter if they pull them out they have to go to private, parochial or home school like we are.  

In my own opinion I see a lot more deciding to home school in the years to come.  I don’t know if you write about public but Glasgow High was much worse than Design Lab.  I was there two days trying to register and I cried leaving.  It is so sad our youth have to endure this to get an education.  


13 thoughts on “A Parent’s Horrifying Experience With Her Daughters’ First And Only Day At Delaware Design-Lab High School

  1. I’m confused about the pulling the kids out and not being allowed to enroll in the public school. As a public school educator, I know we received students from charters partway through the year. What makes this situation different? Genuine question.


  2. Wow! I have taught in many schools and I have never heard or seen this. I have met the founder of that school many times. Many people said I should go work there. I love traditional public schools! I really love the Capital School District!!! Go Senators! No school is perfect, but no school should ever be like that one.


  3. Absolutely heartbreaking to read this letter. No child, ever, should have had to endure this from any school, be it public or private. And, these girls are the fortunate ones – ones who have a mom that is involved and willing to sacrifice for her children. It is horrible to know that there are many children who are stuck in this and similar situations and will never be able to get out of them.


  4. This very reason and and others is why the MONEY should FOLLOW the CHILD. The Gov gives the school districts a set amount of money per student, that’s why the Sept 30th count is so important to school districts. The Gov money is given to that school for that student. If the student leaves and goes to a different school/state the money allotted for that student stays at the school the student was at on Sept 30th. This is also why some schools don’t want to accept students after the school year has started (they don’t get money for that student). It would be BETTER if the money allotted for each student followed the student. This would be helpful to parents that want to send their child to private school but cant afford the tuition. This would be helpful for parents who home school or want to home school. It would ease the financial burden some may have by choosing to home school. Parents could coordinate and form home school groups. By doing this, there would be money to buy supplies, programs, and even pay the teacher teaching in a home school group. Something definitely has to change the way public schools operate. Sadly, since public schools have become a Gov run institution along with the Unions, I see this problem continuing to get worse. However, if the Gov allotted money followed the student perhaps more students could begin getting a proper education and parents would feel safe sending their children to school, which ever school is chosen (public, private, home, etc).


  5. Delaware Design Lab does not have a “Principal” it has an Executive Director who was out of town on 2/20… aka the girls 1st day. The Executive Director is Rebecca Collins. I’m sorry you feel your daughters had this experience but since I have talked to several students in there classes they did Biology Labs, Daughter A worked on Quadratic Equations and other things were taught. I’m sure there was cursing (it’s a high school) is it wrong? Yes, but you cannot control what everyone is taught at home. Many student’s in that school are very interested in learning, others are not. For the student’s who are not instead of suspending them and letting them go home (like they want) they force the kids to stay and learn. I personally admire this position. Most teachers do very well at controlling their classes. Delaware Design Lab has it’s faults but it’s a lot better than any public feeder and it is a lot better than people are saying. They did win the XQ Grant but it is given to the school in stipend amounts over the next 5 years and it is for education ONLY and does not pay teachers and they did not start receiving money until this year. Lastly, about the enrollment issue. I have no idea what the original founders and the DOE were thinking when they came up with the original enrollment numbers. Anyone who has been to that school would wonder how in the world would they be able to legally fit that many student’s in that school. This is why they asked for a lower enrollment number. The new number is what the Fire Department states can be within the building. I believe the original founders were thinking of once this school moved in 5 or 6 years without thinking about how to make due with the school they are currently within.

    I’ll also apologize for the gym teacher. She can have a rough demeanor and is very strict with her policy of student’s attending gym. They must have a doctor’s note and take that note to the school nurse for the nurse to excuse them from class. If you are not feeling well, you can leave and go to the nurse to get an excusal as well. I doubt she didn’t want the girls but instead was thinking the girls would fail the marking period. Delaware Design Lab has a very accelerated gym class in which (in accordance to the State) if a student misses 5 days of gym in 1 marking period, they fail that marking period.

    Everyone is judging this school too harshly without truly knowing the facts. All high schools can be rough for teachers and students alike. Most teachers will tell you if they hear you complaining about not wanting to be in their class to go to the counselor and get it changed. The guidence counselor at Delaware Design Lab is Mr. Sherrod, Mr. Burke is the College and Career Readiness Counselor.

    The “arguing” about uniforms in the office was student’s from the Making Changes club, which those Administrators are a part of, discussing ideas and changes to bring up. The school is Business Casual\Professional and are allowed black and tan pants and with white or black polo shirts. Stretch pants are not allowed, what Mr. Harris was saying was they were ok for the day she wore them. He gives a warning to student’s and then gives demerits. Also, Mr. Harris is extremely busy and cannot be everywhere, especially when Mrs. Collins is out of the office.

    I’m sorry this was their experience. I know many successful students who do very well at Delaware Design Lab and their cirruculum is above standard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So according to you, it’s perfectly OK for a gym teacher to force a badly injured child (broken back) to run because he forgot his doctor’s note, and it’s perfectly OK to harass a child who has a broken foot and is in a therapeutic boot and her sister, who is trying to help, as well. Throw them out, that’s how we treat injured kids! That will show them! The gym teacher just has a “rough demeanor.” I’m so glad I don’t have children at this school.


  6. As a student from Delaware Design Lab High School since the day these doors opened, I would like to be the first to tell you that this was a complete and utter misrepresentation of our school. Reading through this, I almost laughed at how ignorant and slanderous that this entire disaster of a review this was.
    First of all, Delaware Design Lab is nothing like how this described it. Let me tell you about our true school environment. Our school is rather small, we don’t have a very large student roaster. Most people in this school know each other, and we are like a big family. That’s something I have been saying since day one. I love this school and the people here.
    I start my day with spanish, where we have one of the nicest teachers who always makes a joke to brighten our mornings. I move on to english, where I have a teacher as equally dorky as me and makes learning about people who died years ago fun. Then I have my entrepreneurship class, where I have found my passion for learning. I get to work daily on my dream of making a game that helps people, where I am surrounded by people who are equally passionate about their businesses. Then I have history, with probably my favorite teacher ever who makes what could easily classify as the most boring subject imaginable fun and makes me excited to learn more.
    When I came into this school, I had a dream of being a game designer. Now, I am constantly working towards that dream, and seemingly run into another amazing opportunity to better my future each week.
    I can assure you, our school is nothing like this inaccuracy that was presented to you

    Michael Shumate, STUDENT of Delaware Design Lab
    (By the way, you can’t join drivers ed in the middle of the semester, that is completely unfair to the students who had to do all the work before you came.)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. As a student of Design Lab High School, I can say that this review is a very inaccurate portrayal of our school and how we function. Personally, I find it unfair to judge a school so harshly after attending for one day. This is my third year attending and although not everything is perfect (no high school is perfect) I wouldn’t want to spend my high school years anywhere else. We have a staff of passionate teachers who do their best to connect with each student and teach the best they can. Every teacher I’ve had in this school has put forth effort to make our learning experience more fun and creative. We’ve done amazing projects, we have programs such as the Entrepreneurship program thriving, a variety of sports with talented players, a fantastic drama club, student government, and endless other opportunities. Of course not every student is going to be a perfect example, but I believe the majority of our students care about their education as well as their fellow students.
    Just wanted to set some things straight, since this review seemed, to me at least, wrong. I’m sorry if these girls had a bad day at our school, but if they’d watched it grow as much as I and many of the other students have over just the last three years maybe they wouldn’t be quite as judgmental.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. As another student at Delaware Design Lab, I too can show examples as to how our school is not as bad as it has been made out to be. This is my second year attending Design Lab. My freshman year I attended a private, Christian institution. Due to family issues I was forced to look for a new school. The school I had originally planned to attend ended up deciding not to open its doors less than a month before the start of the school year, leaving me high and dry and in desperate need of another option. My mom went online and discovered Design Lab and immediately contacted them. They set up a meeting for us two days later, even though they were in mad rush with the new school year quickly approaching. It was going to be my first time in a public school and I was so nervous. I had no clue what to expect. But when the school year started, my fears quickly washed away. The teachers were fantastic, very friendly. The students, except for select few (but every school has those kinds of students) were very welcoming. Now I am in my second year here at Design Lab, and yes, things have been difficult. Yet, here we are, standing tall and proud of who we are as a family. This year, though it has had its complications, has brought us all so much closer. We have made so many changes to our school, all for the better. Our students have become more involved with our school then ever before. Our Entrepreneurship program is prospering more than any of us had ever imagined. I myself have even co-founded a small business.

    I would have never created my business if I had not come to Design Lab. I would never have become the person I am now- a stronger and more confident person- if I had gone to another school. We are a small school, but that’s one of our strengths.

    I’m sorry your daughters had a bad experience at our school, but I think we deserved more of a chance. It’s not fair to judge something when you don’t know all that facts or have not even truly experienced what it is like in full.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. There are things behind door to this school that prevent the productivities of the school abilities. We took our son out and cease our involvements due to lack of respect, consideration, and professionalism. The straw that broke the camel’s back was by Rebbeca Collins and Mrs. Hembree. Those who are in 11 an 12 should know who we are. This school haven’t been focusing on the children potentials since Mr. Mock was push out of the office. Furthermore, hiring a a grades school teacher without credentials or experience to be a principal doesn’t work well for such a school. To put it blunt, its all about adult power pulling and flexing muscles with one another, then push blame. The people there missed the agenda to the school. My husband and I are glad and happy that we are no longer involved and our son been out.

    Liked by 1 person

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