Exclusive: The Truth Behind The Closure Of Design Thinking Academy

Urban

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?

5-12-19 XQ FUNDS-1

***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.

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13 thoughts on “Exclusive: The Truth Behind The Closure Of Design Thinking Academy

    • Here too…I am also glad Stephanie Silverman did the right thing by exposing this. I am thankful my student also was able to graduate. My heart goes out to all the rest of the students that have to scramble to find a school…especially the up coming seniors… Shame on these people for doing this to our students! They need to be prosecuted,and accountable for their horrific actions!!! Also, a Mom of a Senior Graduate…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I am wondering where is the accountability? Where are the consequences for their actions? If you recall a few years ago when Family Foundations Academy Directors were slapped on the wrist and jail time for misappropriation of funds? Why are none of DTA people being held to the same standards with the same consequences? They need consequences or else they will continue to operate in the same manner elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Closing! Delaware Charter that Won $10 Million XQ Award | Diane Ravitch's blog

  3. Is there any way to sort out accountability…if any…for, Obama, Clinton, Arne Duncan, Trump, Devos, Bill Gates? Additionally are there insights to learned about presidential candidates Warren, Harris, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden….Are all those people without relevance to this?

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  4. Ive always said – if you want to run for office get on a public school board. if you want to make money get on a charter school board

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  5. The richest 0.1% aren’t limiting themselves to projects like XQ. Bill Gates funds SETDA, an association of public employees. Delaware, like the other states, has representatives from its state department of ed who make up and, who in title, govern SETDA. The public employees’ names are listed by state at the site. The Gates-funded association of state education technology directors promotes digital learning and public -private partnerships, conducts programs in scaling up for tech firms and, hosts high energy pitch fests for ed tech products.
    The public employees association has “Gold, Silver, Event and Strategic Partners” presumably from the private sector. What benefits do the government employees and vendors(?) receive from the partnership? Does the “partnership” advantage some businesses and disadvantage others? How is it affecting the government purchasing process?
    A former SETDA director identified one of the association’s functions as lobbying at the federal level. So, who does SETDA lobby for, its funder, the Gates Foundation, for SETDA’s partners or, for the public-paid ed tech directors? And, by what authority, if any, are state citizens’ opinions being represented by public employees’ lobbying?

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    • I concur. Where the hell was DOE and CSAC? Why were they not protecting these children? Notice that DT decided to close after the choice period had ended, limiting what schools students may apply to – while I am confident each will be welcomed back by their feeder high schools – the right has been denied. While I am a choice supporter, Charter after Charter has fallen for the last 10 years. Most of those charters where issued by the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education. When will we hold them accountable? When will they accept that in most cases the charter experience is a failing one. When will we turn the way we look at it, factor in over-saturation, lack of DOE oversite, failure to be transparent with parents and students and the public in whole? It’s time to evaluate the data from the charter experiment and extract out what works and what doesn’t. That was supposed to be the plan…

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  6. As a student who want to this school, none of this was ever made public to us. Thank you for sharing this. As a student, Ms. Silverman was not someone I thought gave a damn about the school.

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  7. Pingback: Laurene Powell Jobs: Another $10 Million XQ School Fails | Diane Ravitch's blog

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