As rumors circulate, some by an employee that was put on leave weeks ago, about what caused Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security to shut down, the truth is out there.
As much as I may have disagreed with Margie Lopez-Waite’s management style, the blame for this rests on the shoulders of one man- Herb Sheldon. For years he was counting students in the enrollment who never showed up. This was basically free money for the school and it allowed Sheldon to hold lavish holiday parties and treat the school’s petty cash account like it was a piggy bank. But the party can only last so long.
When Sheldon, along with his accomplice, Tara Williams, did the same thing this year eyes were watching. The school was on probation due to low enrollment. While Williams proudly boasted that every single enrollment was accurate, far too many students didn’t show up. When Lopez-Waite told the News Journal the school was $500,000 in the hole, it didn’t mean they were missing that money now. Part of it was for unpaid invoices but the bulk of it was based on anticipated funding based on their September 30th count. The school was expecting funding for 200+ students. When that didn’t happen and the enrollment dropped below that, the board and Lopez-Waite knew they were 1) violating the terms of their enrollment, 2) they were no longer financially viable, and 3) they would not be able to make up those missing students.
This left them with very few choices. So they shut down the school. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision. Parents, students and staff do have a right to be angry though. The “ghost student” enrollment should have been common knowledge to the powers that be. It wasn’t even a year ago the Delaware DOE swooped in unexpectedly to do their own count. That put the school under formal review. These facts should have been a part of that formal review. No questions asked. The fact it wasn’t speaks to the incompetence of the Delaware Department of Education. Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting should have known this was happening. If she didn’t, the blame for that falls on former Charter School Office leader Denise Stouffer. Ironically, Stouffer left the DOE in June to become the new Head of School at Providence Creek Academy. Sheldon should have been given his walking papers earlier this year. The fact that certain board members wanted to protect him for whatever reason is also what led to this downfall.
I have to believe the DOE and the current DAPSS leaders and governing body knew about the enrollment scams going on. But they continued to put blind trust in Sheldon again and he burned the school at the stake by his actions.
What is really ticking me off today though is the actions of Tara Williams. By trying to shift blame away from her and Sheldon’s actions, she is taking advantage of the very unfortunate circumstances. I thought I would redline her very public Facebook post:
Today is such a sad and heart breaking day.
It very much is. No student, parent, or teacher should EVER have to go through this.
The school that I truly believed in is CLOSING ITS DOORS. It hurts because we allowed a New Head of School sale us false hope.
Not as much as the bill of goods you and Sheldon sold the school with the fake students.
She knew that the school only needed 200 students to operate. Although I was not the recruiter for the school, I stepped in and had the school at 229.
That seems almost magical. Love how you openly admit you got the enrollment up to 229. But where were the students?
Before I knew it The Head of School had me releasing students if they did not attend the 1st day. Before I knew it by the 3rd day we was at 205.
Yeah, funny how that happened. Hard to count them as there when they AREN’T REAL!
She called for a meeting with me and the Ex Head of School to tell me that 12 students have not showed up to release them. (The rules are that if a student has not begin school by the 3rd day that’s when you need to notify the parent).
Those rules need to be changed. If students aren’t showing up at school, the parents should be notified the first day. I have no doubt that after the enrollment dropped from 229 to 205 that Margie was seeing a disturbing pattern. Especially since I wrote about the “ghost students” earlier in August.
She than told us she was meeting with the Secretary of State the next day and that after I take out the 12 we was going to be at 193. She said that means that they are going to close DAPSS. I looked at her because I was confused, if she knew this why would you be in a hurry to remove more students before we speak with their parents.
First off, I think you are talking about the Secretary of Education, not the Secretary of State. She was in a hurry to remove ghost students BECAUSE IT IS FRAUD.
The next day me and the Ex Head of school get suspended with pay she said for Falsifying Students. I was really miss confused to how is that. ( GUESS WHAT SHE DID AN INVESTIGATION AND CAME BACK WITH NOTHING, ALL STUDENTS WAS VERIFIED ACCURATE).
Yeah, I’ll get back to that “investigation” in a little bit. I would love to see your “confused” face Ms. Williams.
But ok i knew that wasnt true because i had and still have proof of every new and returning student was accurate in the system. See she thought up until this past Saturday that i had no proof.
How is it you were placed on leave from the school but able to access student information? Did someone let you into the building? Accurate in a system doesn’t mean they are a real human being. They kind of have to be a corporeal and present body to be counted as there. Did you bring school files and personal student data home with you? What’s the deal here Tara?
Needless to say yesterday it was clear to me why she had me removed because she knew i was capable of getting DAPSS 200 students.
Oh, so you aren’t a recruiter but you are giving yourself sole credit for recruiting every single student in the school. That capability doesn’t sound too promising when the STUDENTS NEVER SHOW UP!
The Board of Directors have 12 people. Only 7 Members showed up. Out of 7, 5 Board Members WALKED out after their meeting with her yesterday and wanted no parts of her mess. See they received information from me in what The Head of School had done.
No, they probably walked out because to stay would have been a violation of Delaware public meeting law. Anytime a quorum of a board is present, that is a public meeting that has to be publicly announced. Because the meeting last night was a “special meeting” for parents.
Now I leave this for you guys to answer: Why did The Head of School put in a modification to Department of Education to start a High School for a continuation of the other school where she is also Head of School?
That is a good question. I filed a FOIA request with the Department of Education today to see if such a modification request was received. Whether she did or didn’t is immaterial to why the school closed.
Guess What? SHE WAS DENIED..SHE HAS TO WAIT AT LEAST 2 YEARS. SORRY ASPIRA HIGH SCHOOL!!!!!!
Even if she was denied, it doesn’t take away what you and Sheldon did. And here is where your credibility is shrinking. No matter what, the Delaware DOE would have been done with DAPSS by June 30th of this year. Either way DAPSS would have had to surrender their charter to DOE. So if the reason for denial was this 2 year wait, that raises a red flag right there.
Now we need the Governor to step in…DOE, THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS FOR DAPSS AND CHARTER SCHOOL NETWORK WERE ALL NOTIFIED. DOE HAS THE PROOF THEY HAVE ACCESS TO THE SYSTEM. MRS. MARGIE LOPEZ-WAITE NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE THIS WAS HER PLOT!!!!
I’m a little more concerned about your own plot here Ms. Williams. Because you and Sheldon were the culprits behind the closure. For all I’ve written about Lopez-Waite, I’m pretty sure she was onto you and realized what you and Sheldon’s actions meant. You are alleging that she purposely tanked the school because this modification request wasn’t approved. I find that laughable given how much Margie put in to keep the school open.
But Williams didn’t stop on Facebook. She went on Diane Ravitch’s article about DAPSS closure and commented on there! Not only did she repeat her Facebook rant but she also violated FERPA rules by naming a student in her comment! As well, she tried to guess about who my source was at the school in some vain attempt to prove her own innocence. That one gave me a chuckle!
Back to Williams talk of an “investigation”. I find it ironic that the person they brought in to conduct this investigation was the same person who started the ghost student enrollment scam at the school. Debbie Delledonne conducted that “investigation” so I give that as much weight as I would a feather falling from the sky.
I do want to salute Red Clay Superintendent Merv Daugherty. It was his idea to allow all DAPSS seniors to choice to A.I. DuPont High School. While I don’t know if those students made that choice, Merv is a stand-up guy for making the offer. This would allow a graduating class to stick together and graduate as one.
Our Delaware media sources can do more. I’m just a blog with a healthy amount of readers. The News Journal sees my stuff. Heck, I post it on their Education Delaware page. They need to jump on this stuff faster. While I feel they have a “special relationship” with the state, they also need to be holding them accountable much more than they have. I miss the days when true investigative journalism took place.
DAPSS did offer many new administrator jobs this year. How do those contracts work? Are those administrators paid through the end of the school year? I did see the bit about uniforms and other fees students paid not being refunded to them. I would hope the school could work off some of its debt and allow those funds to be returned to the families of students. It is the right thing to do. I’ve heard teachers are only getting paid through this Friday. I sincerely hope they all find jobs as soon as possible.
The DAPSS saga is now at an end. It has been going on for a long time. There will be ramifications from this and hopefully much needed change to not only charter school oversight but education funding as well. We simply can’t have this happen again. Do heads need to roll? Will Sheldon and Williams see the inside of a courtroom over this? I don’t know. All I know is we can’t lose sight of the sense of loss many people associated with the school felt today. I felt bad even though I’ve written extensively about them over the past year. It is never my intention for any school to shut down. I will always expose wrong-doing and fraud though. It is just who I am. This is a novel idea- don’t give me something to write about! Things only stay hidden for so long. There are honest mistakes and then there is downright fraud. I do recognize the difference.
Now is the time for the people of Delaware to get mad and demand change. It isn’t a Republican or a Democrat thing. It’s a kid thing. It is the kids that suffer the most when adults make bad decisions. And we have made plenty of those bad decisions in Delaware. It is time to peel the onion and get back to the core of education. Everything else is just detail. Once you make education political, you lose the meaning of it. Email your legislators. Demand more transparency of education funding. Attend the DOE Community Conversations about education funding transparency. Tell them nothing they do will make you happy until every single penny of tax-payer dollars for education is laid bare for the whole world to see. Every individual transaction down to the penny, coded correctly in a uniform system. We spend a billion dollars just from state funding for public education. Even more when you count property assessments and federal funding. This is a no-brainer that shouldn’t even be questioned. If there are folks against it they need to check themselves and remember how they got where they are. This is something that should just be. We shouldn’t need legislation and community conversations to get transparency. It should already be there.
This is the absolute worst I’ve seen with “school choice”. That choice was torn apart last night for many. There is nothing any of those affected could have done about this. That is the saddest and the most maddening aspect of all this. While it is not a usual circumstance, we’ve had enough of these kind of shenanigans in Delaware. Cover-up of any sorts leads to exposure which leads to something bad happening to kids. Enough already!