Shocking documents, never seen before by the public, give a shocking look at what led to the closure of Design Thinking Academy. As usual, it is not based on academics but adult decisions and a corrupt board of directors.
When a charter school closes, students are affected the most. But when that closure comes about due to adult decisions that wind up shutting the school down, it is cause for alarm. When students set to be a senior in high school have to uproot and find a new school for their final year, parents should be screaming from the rafters demanding accountability. Unfortunately, prior to this article, the blame was shifted to “low enrollment” for Design Thinking Academy. While that may have been part of the decision, it was also due to financial fraud, federal grant fraud, workplace harassment, conflicts of interest, and the removal of the school’s coveted grant from XQ Institute. The most egregious, in my opinion, is the actions of their board member and former Board President, Matt Urban. He had the school enter into a no-bid contract of $100,000.00 for his own company, as seen in the below letters.
In the below documents, a disturbing picture emerges regarding the circumstances that led to the school’s demise. Once again, adults on a charter school board took it upon themselves to profit at the expense of children. We have an inherent conflict of interest that would never see the light of day until now. The Delaware Department of Education knew about these issues but never placed Design Thinking Academy on formal review. Ultimately, the school decided to close on May 12th.
Design Thinking Academy is broke. In the below picture, taken from a financial document sent anonymously (along with all the other documents presented here), there are several concerns with who is getting paid out from this final bit of funding from XQ. Why would Rebecca Collins, who allegedly (based on the above attorney letter) wrote a false grant for federal funds, get $30,000? Why is the Delaware Charter Schools Network getting $10,000? Don’t Delaware charter schools pay dues to DCSN to pay for their lobbying efforts on their behalf? Why does the school need two accounting firms (Michelle Lambert CPA and Maille LLP) for accountant purposes? Are they conducting a forensic audit? Who are all the other individuals getting paid for a charter school to shut down? Did the Delaware Department of Education report this information to the Auditor of Accounts Office? And the biggest question, will Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness actually have the Auditor of Accounts Office conduct a full-scale audit of the school? Or will she shove it back onto the Delaware DOE to pay for it like she did with Odyssey Charter School?
***Updated, 6:32pm: The above screenshot, of the remaining funds from the XQ grant, is not an official document. As it says on the top of the page, it is an analysis, not an approved budget. As per a source, this was a proposed budget for funds to be used for the closure of the school. Given that students are either done or will soon be done with this school year, based on the grant from XQ, the XQ funds could not be used for some of the purposes listed in the screenshot anyway. The main purpose of the XQ grant was for programming based on the approved application for the award to XQ. Furthermore, these would not have been state or local funds used to assist in the closure.