Every year, the Delaware State Board of Education gets to vote on charter school renewals. This year, there are seven charter schools up for renewal. I believe this is a record and will keep the Charter School Office busy from now until then. But this year could be different for these renewals because of events going on the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education that are beyond their control.
Which schools are up for renewal? Delaware Design-Lab High School, First State Military Academy, Freire, Great Oaks, Kuumba Academy, Newark Charter School, and Positive Outcomes. The first four are from the huge charter expansion in the fall of 2015. It would have been eight up for renewal this year but the Delaware MET shut down five months after they opened after some egregious activity caused the State Board to revoke their charter.
There are a couple of things which make this renewal marathon interesting. The head of the Charter School Office, Denise Stouffer, will be leaving her position as of June 30th as she heads to Providence Creek to become their Head of School. The State Board of Education is going through a transition (again) as their Executive Director resigned last month and their President resigned as well. Rumor has it another member will be resigning in the near future as well. On the State Board website, Donna Johnson has been removed. The DOE has put out a position to replace her but it does not bear the name “Executive Director” but rather that of “education associate”. Loftus is still there as President and there is nothing on the General Assembly website about Governor Carney nominating a replacement for him. Last week, the board had to start their meeting half an hour late because they didn’t have a quorum.
Like Sussex Academy last year, I will predict ahead of time Newark Charter School will get a ten-year renewal. The rest will most likely get five-year renewals. I’ll put up the preliminary renewal reports this weekend. Typically, the State Board’s final vote comes in December after the Charter School Accountability Committee meets with the schools two times in the fall.
Out of all these charter schools, I think the most controversial will be Delaware Design-Lab High School. Low enrollment and student and parent dissatisfaction have turned this charter into something it did not promise it would be. Even though they won a huge XQ Schools award, they can’t get their enrollment up if their life depended on it.