Today, the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education released the final report for the formal review of Odyssey Charter School. While Delaware media covered a good deal of this, there is some new information. In addition, the Odyssey Board of Directors sent out two letters to the Odyssey Community from the Wilmington Chapter of the AHEPA organization regarding their role with the Ithaka Learning Center that has been the center of a lot of allegations of financial shenanigans at Odyssey. Continue reading
Glad to see this blog back!
So, Paul is trying to modify school board members’ terms from 5 to 3 years and pay them $100 per meeting.
Yeah, that didn’t go so well, check out these two amendments:
Here’s the letter I sent when it was introduced:
YOUNG JOHN Fri 5/3/2019 10:11 AMTo:
- Baumbach, Paul
- Viola, John;
- Sokola, David;
- Townsend, Bryan;
- Jaques, Jr, Earl;
- Williams, Kimberly;
- CSD Board Members;
- Bolden, Stephaniet;
- Lynn, Sean M;
- Matthews, Sean;
- Heffernan, Debra;
- Kowalko, John;
- Osienski, Edward;
- Johnson, Kendra;
- Briggsking, Ruth;
- Chukwuocha, Nnamdi;
- Hensley, Kevin S;
- Collins, Rich G;
- Postles, Charles;
- Ramone, Michael;
- Shupe, Bryan;
- Smith, Michael;
- Bunting Susan;
- John Marinucci <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Honorable Paul S. Baumbach,
I have read with great interest your bill (HB134) filed 2 May 2019. I have some comments, concerns, and suggestions.
First, on the issue of three year terms I fully agree that 5 is too long; however, I…
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Another year, another Charter school transportation slush fund discussion. Given Odyssey Charter School’s misappropriation of funds, followed by a plethora of other charter schools over the past ten years, why is this state continuing to give taxpayer money away with no oversight?
In a blatant disregard for fiscal responsibility and Delaware law, for almost a decade, the Joint Finance Committee has inserted language into the annual budget bill to remove oversight and protections from the use of taxpayer money to fund charter schools. One charter school that is under investigation for financial mismanagement has received millions in unaccountable funding, including over $750,000 in the past year. I have consistently opposed this use of taxpayer money with no accountability or understanding for how it is spent. This year, I filed an amendment to remove this language from our budget, but it was shot down by the House at the request of the Democratic leadership and the Republican caucus. Delaware deserves better than this.
The charter school transportation slush fund has been inserted into the budget “epilogue language” for the past nine years by the head of the Joint Finance Committee, originally by former Representative Melanie George Smith. This year, the language was added at the last minute without any public discussion by current JFC chair Quinn Johnson. This addition into the back pages of the budget explicitly ignores current Delaware law that requires schools to return any additional money allocated to them for transportation costs. Instead, charter schools (and only charter schools) are allowed to keep any “extra” money given to them by the state. They get to keep that money and use it with no oversight and no accountability to the taxpayers or anyone else.
Our state should not be operated with a disregard to fiscal responsibility. The amount of unregulated money not subject to any accountability or legislative oversight has reached staggering proportions in recent years. In 2016, $898,026 was kept by charter schools in excess of their transportation costs. In 2017, that unregulated surplus grew to $1,262,930, and in 2018, it swelled to $1,418,707 in taxpayer money. Odyssey Charter, which is now under intense scrutiny for its spending and management performance, kept an excess of $299,001 in 2016, $598,405 in 2017, and a staggering $764,053 in 2018. Each year, the JFC has exempted this funding from the ordinary fiscal controls that would prevent this type of unaccounted taxpayer money.
My amendment to restore oversight and legislative fiscal responsibility on behalf of Delaware families and taxpayers failed this year in a shocking display of disregard for taxpayer money. The only members of the House who joined me were Representatives Kim Williams, David Bentz, and Andria Bennett. Please drop them a note of appreciation applauding their integrity and responsible judgment, and notify the dissenting House members of your disappointment in their failure to care about how your money is spent.
Representative John Kowalko
The most shocking thing about all this is how many members of the House voted no on Kowalko’s amendment. Only four members, including Kowalko, voted yes for it. Over half the amount of the total funds used in the charter school transportation slush fund in 2018 went to Odyssey Charter School. How was that money spent?
The organization that ran a ton of back-end business operations for many Delaware charter schools is kaput. Their website is unavailable and their Facebook page hasn’t been updated since 2015. While details are few about when and why they shut down, I will write more details as they emerge.
I’ve written about Innovative Schools many times on this blog. They have been involved in the financial aspect of schools such as The Delaware Met and the Academy of Dover when they had their fraud there with Noel Rodriguez. I did call their phone number which still answers as Innovative Schools but no one picks up. You can leave a message. Not sure what is going on there.
The company was founded in 2008 by former Christina School District Director Debbie Doordan. Another noteworthy past President of the company was Riccardo Stoeckicht who now works at Odyssey Charter School in the position of “Global Education Campus Operations Officer”. His name has been affiliated with recent financial misdoings at the school. As part of a long list of reasons, Odyssey is under formal review with the Delaware Department of Education.
The funny thing about facts, my friends, is that despite the attempts of the board, they cannot be interpreted. They cannot be changed, and they cannot be maligned for they are facts. And the facts are that this Board violated state laws, DOE rules and regulations and maybe even criminal code laws.
So yes, our books are pristine. Every dollar is accounted for. The problem is the dollars and where they went. Where they buried those invoices under what budget lines. Because it’s there. And if the State Auditor would do her job we could actually find that out.
Odyssey Charter School is in trouble. Big trouble. On the dawn of their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for their formal review this Monday, an article by Delaware Public Media came out showing even more financial abuse going on at the Greek-themed charter school. Meanwhile, the CSAS initial report came out along with the transcript for their public hearing and they are explosive! The transcript reveals what has been going on with teachers at the school and what led to the eventual decision to unionize. Continue reading
Earl Jaques is abusing his position as Chair of the House Education Committee while Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf sits back and lets it all go down. But Schwartzkopf will protect his buddy Kathy McGuiness at any cost. Continue reading
After the News Journal reported yesterday that Design Thinking Academy was closing a week earlier than expected, new documents showcase the amount of cover-up that was going on at the Delaware charter school that won $10 million dollars from the XQ Institute. The cover-up concerned a federal grant for funding that allegedly involved fraud by at least four employees who were terminated for their actions. Continue reading
State Rep. Kim Williams is on a roll today! House Bill #182 would get rid of foreign languages as a requirement for a high school diploma in Delaware.
122. Rules and regulations [Effective Aug. 1, 2019]
(b) The Department shall prescribe rules and regulations:
(3) Governing the issuance of certificates and diplomas for the public schools of the State. Rules and regulations on this subject shall be proposed by the Secretary subject to approval by the State Board of Education and may not require world language credit ;
I don’t have an issue with this. If a student plans on going to college they should certainly take a language. But if they have other plans post high school, why should they take courses that will not do anything to help them in the future? I approve!
The bill’s Senate primes are Nicole Poore and Jack Walsh while the co-sponsors are Reps. K. Johnson, Kowalko and Osienski with Senators Paradee and Sturgeon.
When the Odyssey Charter School debacle that made Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness look like she was in cahoots with her Greek friends on the Odyssey board became public, it was obvious a change needed to happen. State Reps. Kim Williams and John Kowalko introduced a new bill today that would give the General Assembly, the Governor, the state Attorney General, or the Secretary of Education more power to force the Auditor of Accounts Office to do audits for charter schools:
(4)a. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly, may request the Auditor of Accounts conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if 1 of the following applies:
1. The Public Integrity Commission makes an advisory finding under § 5807(c) of Title 29 or final finding under § 5810 of Title 29 that a violation of § 5805 or § 5806 of Title 29 has occurred.
2. The Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, or General Assembly, including a house, joint committee, committee, or member of the General Assembly has evidence of a violation of State law or regulation or the misuse of State money.
b. The Auditor of Accounts shall conduct or contract for an audit of a charter school’s business and financial transactions, records, and accounts if requested under paragraph (d)(4)a. of this section.
c. The audit the Auditor of Accounts conducts or contracts for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section must comply with generally accepted accounting principles.
d. When an audit is conducted or contracted for under this paragraph (d)(4) of this section, the Auditor of Accounts shall file a written report containing the information under § 2909(b) of Title 29 with the Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of the Department, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives who shall distribute the report to the members of the General Assembly and the Controller General and Director of the Division of Research.
The bill’s Senate Prime is Jack Walsh, along with co-sponsors including Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, Brady, Longhurst, Matthews, Mitchell, Osienski, Smith, and Viola along with Senators Delcollo, Pettyjohn, Poore, Sokola and Wilson. Some of these names are very interesting, including Smith and Sokola who have long been champions for charter schools. But perhaps they are realizing that Delaware can no longer tolerate the financial malfeasance going on at Delaware’s charters.
The next step for this bill will be the House Education Committee. It remains to be seen if Chair of the committee, Rep. Earl Jaques, will let it be heard before June 30th. If not, it would carry over into the second leg of the 150th General Assembly which begins in January, 2020.
On June 5th, McGuiness wrote a long letter to members of the General Assembly about why she is choosing not to have her office begin an investigative audit into Odyssey Charter School. I don’t agree with her reasoning whatsoever and no one has ever done this before in the Auditor’s office when it comes to a charter school audit.
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. Continue reading
On April 2nd, the Delaware Public Integrity Commission wrote a letter to the Odyssey Charter School Board of Directors which showcased a plethora of financial improprieties, conflicts of interest, and co-mingled interests involving their board and the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA). The Odyssey Board of Directors has nine members, five of which belong to AHEPA. Currently, Odyssey is beginning a formal review by the Delaware Department of Education after the State Board of Education voted to place the charter school under review last week.
The letter concludes with the following: Continue reading
After the State Board of Education put Odyssey Charter School under formal review last night, school leaders wrote a letter to the Odyssey community with a response. In addition, I got my hands on the school’s response to Leroy Travers, the leader of the Charter School Office over at the Department of Education!
Yesterday, the Delaware State Board of Education voted in the majority to put Odyssey Charter School under formal review for six violations of Delaware state code. Continue reading
While it doesn’t appear on the agenda for their meeting this Thursday, it is expected the Delaware State Board of Education will vote if Odyssey Charter School will get a formal review. This gained a lot more traction based on an email that went out from school leadership to interested parties last Thursday. Continue reading
A school board campaign in Delaware could be breaking the law and they are turning what should be a fair election into a disgrace. And how could a member of this campaign benefit should her ghost candidate win? And which legislator is foolishly endorsing a candidate that won’t serve if elected? Continue reading
Another Delaware charter school is shutting down at the end of the 2018-2019 school year as Design Thinking Academy will close. Despite receiving a $10 million dollar grant from XQ schools and changing their name last fall from Delaware Design-Lab High School to Design Thinking Academy the five-year old charter school could not retain and recruit new students.
On the charter school’s website the following announcement appeared tonight:
Design Thinking Academy Community, it is with a heavy heart that I write tonight to inform you that Design Thinking Academy will close its doors at the end of this school year. On Thursday night, the school’s board of directors voted to relinquish our charter to the state.
This is a decision we did not take lightly. Frankly, it was not unanimous. But the simple truth is this: We have been unable to attract the number of students needed to keep our school financially viable.
For the past two years, we have worked to reverse our declining enrollment numbers, but those efforts have not resulted in the applications we need to be viable. We fell below the minimum enrollment mandated by our charter as of May 1. Due to this, we will not be able to run this school with the excellence that your children deserve.
I want to make one point very clear: We will finish this school year. Our seniors will graduate, our students will continue to attend classes, and our doors will remain open. A few school days at the end of the school year calendar may not be needed to meet state requirements. If the decision is made to cancel school on any specific days, an updated calendar will be sent out as soon as possible.
It is important that you immediately start thinking about what school your students will attend next year. We hope to provide the resources you need to find the right school for your student. Starting tonight, you can go to bit.ly/DEPublicSchools for information about Delaware public schools. Lists of schools with openings and dates for school Open Houses will be on our website and sent home with students tomorrow. In addition, the Delaware Charter Schools Network will host a school fair on campus in late May, where representatives from Delaware schools with openings for the 2019-20 school year will be available to help you through the application process. As soon as we confirm a date, we will let you know.
I understand this will be a difficult time for everyone involved – students, staff, and teachers alike. If you have any questions about the process or the reason why this decision was made, please feel free to reach out to me at dtaboardofdirectors.com or the school at 302- 292-5450.
On behalf of the board, administration, and staff of Design Thinking Academy, I want you to know that it has been our honor to educate your students over the past four years. To our students, I wish this story could have a different ending, but as this chapter closes, another begins for you, and I have no doubt you will design a great future.
While the charter school didn’t receive the entire $10 million dollar grant from XQ it begs the question of how well they spent the money they did receive. To see a list of the issues that plagued the school from the get-go, please go here: Delaware Design-Lab
In a school year where Delaware got a federal grant to expand charter schools this is a clear sign that being overzealous with charter school openings is never a good thing. Following charter closures such as Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Prestige Academy, Delaware Met, and others, Design Thinking Academy follows the disturbing trend of charter closures in Delaware.
After failing to pass their referendum last week, the Christina School District Board of Education will hold a board meeting tomorrow night. The first action item? A reduction in force. This means they will vote to fire a ton of teachers. It won’t be the first time their board voted on something like this but they can do something different this time. They can vote a resounding NO for this action item.
Many will ask the same question: then where does the money come from? Simply put, Christina School District is too big to fail. Who is going to take them over? The Delaware Department of Education? They don’t have the capacity or the money to do the job. The charter schools? Hell no! They are not one organization with a ton of umbrella schools under the same name. Like the banks in 2008, the answer is simple- a state bailout of the district. Force them into a bankruptcy type situation and let the legislators dole out the money to save them.
For far too long teachers in this district have been forced to sweat it out come referendum time. Their jobs, along with their livelihoods, have been put on the firing line every single time a referendum comes along. The madness has to end and has to end now. If you agree, email the Christina Board of Education between now and tomorrow night (May 7th) at 7pm or show up to their meeting at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 50 Gender Road, in Newark, DE. Give loud and proud public comment urging the board to vote NO on their latest gambit to fire teachers. Their email is CSDBoardMembers@Christina.k12.de.us and I would strongly suggest emailing them NOW! Then go a step further and sign THIS PETITION on Change.org.
Yes, this is a drastic step. But it is time for the state of Delaware to stop with their silly education funding games and finally take education seriously. It is time for the legislators to stop whining and be forced to do something. The students and teachers of Delaware can not afford any more half measures. It has to be go big or go home!
It wouldn’t be a school board election season without some controversy springing out of the Christina School District. Hot on the heels of the district’s crushing loss in their referendum last week, Christina voters will head to the polls again on May 14th to elect the District D candidate. Many are trying to make sure two-time board member John Young does NOT get re-elected. But the biggest threat to the district does not exist with Young. It lies within. Continue reading
Remember last year when Kathy McGuiness won the election for State Auditor? Remember all the public smearing of Kathleen Davies that the News Journal unabashedly did? Remember WHERE they got all that information? Remember McGuiness won the primary against Davies and Dennis Williams but probably wouldn’t have without the tarnishing of Davies? Who was the primary force behind Davies ousting? None other than Andrena Burd. She was the one who was instrumental in Davies very long leave of absence and subsequent unemployment hearings. Eventually, Davies was reinstated at the Auditor of Accounts where she currently works.
Not long after the primary, Burd managed to find herself at a cushy auditing job over at Delaware State University where McGuiness just happened to be on their board at the time. It turns out loyalty is very rewarding for Andrena Burd. One former employee had A LOT to say about her recent re-hiring at the Auditor of Accounts office. And for the record, why does Kathleen McGuiness have to make such a big deal with these swearing-in ceremonies? Is this just practice for her dream to become the Governor of Delaware? Or does she have her eyes set on an even bigger prize? In any event, let’s hear what the former AOA employee has to say!
Well, it seems Ms. Burd has landed back in the AOA and with a promotion at that. All the other folks have left because of the stuff that went down. But Burd stayed out of the fray till it was over and now McGuiness has hired her back. Hmm… Probably to work on getting Davies fired again. Burd is bagging and boasting.
Burd, who was discredited by the Unemployment Insurance officer and the MERB did not seem to faze McGimick too much. After her testimony that she thought Davies violated standards it turned out as a complete embarrassment for Burd as she did not know as much as she portrayed. She has no morals or ethics.
How much does McGimick owe Burd for getting her elected to the AOA? A new position? A promotion? And this happened after Tammy Smith left the office. Burd would probably have not gotten that position if Smith did not leave. Burd set up Smith, Tatman, Judy, and others. Glad I got out in time!!! She got promoted while all others left. A pretty good assessment of the situation.
How many individuals have left since McGuiness took over? Quite a few and more to follow.
As for McGuiness’ campaign promise of more transparency coming from the Auditor of Accounts office, it seems she is the sole force on the office’s website. Even under former State Auditor Tom Wagner you could see other names on there. But this is McG’s show and it always has been. I have yet to see ANY investigative audits coming out of the office but this doesn’t shock me. I’ve heard tales of some crazy stuff going on there that would make the office seem as corrupt as ever but that is a story for another day.