I always wondered why the Delaware Department of Education went into Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security last December to do an emergency student count. It turns out the DOE found out they were fooled and were not happy about it. You see, DAPSS didn’t lose a lot of students. They were counting ones they never had.
We can thank one person for this racket at a Delaware charter school. Heck, you can even go to the school and thank him personally because he is still there. Good old Herb Sheldon. The former Head of School, now the Director of Operations. Handles all the finance stuff. He’s good with numbers. Good at hiding things too.
So how the heck did he do it? You would think something would come up and alarm bells would ring somewhere. It all revolves around one word. DELSIS. For those who don’t know, DELSIS stands for Delaware Student Information System. It is what it says it is. It houses student information. Including student enrollments for schools. You can’t have a student at two schools, right? That would be cheating! But you can have more than 30 students on the books that never set foot into the building!
Here is the special sauce Sheldon used. Ready? Wait for it. He enrolled students who were out of the system. Students who were in private schools that wouldn’t show up on DELSIS. Students that dropped out of school and never came back. Students who didn’t re-enroll. Possibly out of state ghost students. Hell, maybe some of them were even Russian students! Some were even special education. Yeah, that’s right. Ghost students with disabilities. It didn’t matter. Keep them on the books as long as humanly possible! What’s a little fraud with state and federal dollars if it means keeping the lights on at a little charter school?
How would he get the information for students that never went to the school? That is the million dollar question. Some would come to an open house. And viola! They become a student. It’s actually quite simple if you have the means and motive. I wonder where he learned that trick?
I imagine Sheldon chuckled when he got the letter from State Auditor Tom Wagner back in 2016 warning about using petty cash funds against state rules. Cause Herb, he kept doing it. Up until the end of the last school year.
One would think a guy like Herb might have felt the breeze from the axe when Margie started swinging last Spring. But nope, he got to stay! He even got to sit on the “Who should stay and who should go now” committee! How awesome for Herb!
Even more awesome was the Delaware DOE! They got to do their student count and keep it all under wraps. It never came out during DAPSS’ formal review. Phew! That would have been a major bummer to recommend the State Board of Education shut down yet another charter school in Delaware. Being honest stinks, right DOE? Honesty has consequences that might make DOE look like idiots for not knowing what a small charter school was doing. Especially when DAPSS pulled a Sixth Sense Bruce Willis on them! How high up the chain did this go at DOE? I would imagine the Charter School Office had to know. Did Secretary Bunting know about all this? Surely Dr. Susan didn’t know. That could NEVER happen!
It looks like DAPSS has exorcised their ghost students after the close call last school year. So let’s give homage to the Ghost Students of DAPSS. They are the last responders at a first responder charter school.