Mother of Child With Autism Stands Up For Her Son At Academy of Dover Public Hearing

Yesterday, at the Delaware Department of Education, a public hearing was held for Academy of Dover, a charter school in Dover now under formal review.  The only members of the public to show up were a Miss Sabine Neal and myself.  Representing the school were Principal Cheri Marshall, Board member Nancy Wagner, and a member of the administrative staff.  The purpose of this public hearing was for any member of the public to give comment about Academy of Dover.  Neal gave public comment, and what she said is disturbing, but necessary for parents and members of the community to know.  Miss Neal gave me permission to tell this story, and it is very similar to what so many parents in Delaware have gone through at the hands of our schools.

Hi, my name is Sabine Neal.  I’m a parent at Academy of Dover.  My two children, two of my children go there.  I’m here today, sorry I’m kind of nervous.  I’m here today to stand up for my son.  He was the child that was abused at the Academy of Dover.  He is a six-year old kindergarten special needs student who I asked for an evaluation for in August from the school.  I did not receive any evaluations until November, and I was not notified he was going to be evaluated.  I found out because he came home nervous.  I submitted an Autism diagnosis, I submitted an ADHD diagnosis.  I was told they could not do anything with the ADHD diagnosis until he had been in the school six months.  The Autism diagnosis, I was told since he was only two and a half, it was too old and I needed a new one.  They knew he had issues, I asked for help, and problems escalated throughout the year.  He’s autistic, he doesn’t deal well with change.  Issues occurred and arose throughout the year.  He’s been suspended multiple times, but he’s not a bad child.  He is six.  I tried everything with the school.  I set up to get him reevaluated.  Getting into a neurologist takes a lot of time.  I went to a neurologist, my insurance dropped that neurologist, so I had to go to Delaware Autism Program as the school suggested.  I got him re-diagnosed again, again, he’s not eligible.  I never had a meeting, they never said anything.  I was just told by the Behavior Interventionist he is not eligible.  Continue reading

Academy of Dover Confirms Teacher Struck Student And Did Not Call The Police or Attorney General Office

Today at the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting at the Delaware Department of Education, Academy of Dover confirmed the “incident” alluded to in the letter the DOE sent them last week. A teacher struck a student but no details were given about the nature of the assault. Academy of Dover Head of School Cheri Marshall did state the teacher was immediately suspended without pay, and then terminated with board approval. But then it was said the teacher resigned, so the details are a little fuzzy. This is the same school that insisted former Head of School Noel Rodriguez “resigned”, but it was confirmed today by board member Nancy Wagner that Rodriguez was physically removed from the building. This completely contradicts Marshall’s firm “he resigned” to me when I called the school for confirmation on Rodriguez’s termination last fall. I guess when an employee is terminated at the school, the official stance is “they resigned”.

Marshall did say it was a student they had issues with all year long and numerous calls were made to the child’s mother. The mother was immediately called when the incident happened. The mother declined to press charges. However, there was no mention by Marshall or any member of the board about contacting either the police or the Attorney General’s office to report the crime. It is required by Delaware state law to report all incidents of this nature. When asked again if there was any other part of this investigation, Marshall said no. The DOE informed Academy of Dover the mother contacted them about the incident.

In regards to Noel Rodriguez, it was confirmed by Wagner that Rodriguez and several staff members had tumultuous encounters. But this did not come out until after Rodriguez left, as Wagner stated staff were too scared to come to the board. The suspicious purchase card transactions were described as a very stealth-like operation by Rodriguez in setting up different accounts. The board were not even aware of these many purchases until last fall when their annual auditor notified them of several red flags coming up. Wagner also reported the former board members all had very close ties with Rodriguez, much like Family Foundations Academy’s former board was set up during the Moore/Brewington era.

The Mosaica $2 million judgment came up, and the school stated they were not ignoring the judgment and tried for many years to work things out with Mosaica. It surprised the school when the court overruled on a previous ruling and the judgment was enforced last month. The judge involved in that ruling will be hearing arguments against his ruling on June 22nd. The State Board of Education and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will make their decision on June 18th. Academy of Dover’s attorney did state an agreement could be worked out between the two parties prior to that court date, but nothing is firm or in writing. When asked how long the new court ruling could take, their attorney said it could be the same day or it could take weeks.

In my opinion, even with all the changes the board may have made, it is obvious there were and continue to be serious issues with the school’s ability to effectively educate its 300 students. With financial judgments and past mismanagement, employee theft of state funds, a teacher striking a student, and the board’s inability to realize what is going on until after the fact, I fear for the students at this school. If I were their parents, I know what my choice would be. A board should be more aware of what is going on at a school, and the fact the teachers and staff were afraid of the head of school speaks volumes about the board’s decision making ability.

Academy of Dover… Stop Hiding Things, There Are No Words…

Kilroy’s Delaware published an article tonight with information I heard about last week.  Go ahead and read what Kilroy wrote, but make sure you click on the link to read the letter the Delaware DOE just sent the school last Thursday.

I’m not going to distribute the details about what I heard about the “incident”.  If it happened the way I heard it happen, it should have been all over the news.  Why isn’t it Academy of Dover?  Too worried about your school getting shut down?  Parents put a level of trust in a school when they choose to send their child there.  You have squandered that privilege time and time again.  This latest thing is not even comprehensible.  You need to go public and let the community know about the act of violence against a student by a teacher.  You need to let people know what the consequences were for the teacher and let us know why the police were not notified.  I remember a time when my family considered applying there.  I thank God we never did.  Because I can think of a few things that would cause me to be full of rage.  What happened there is one of them.

Academy of Dover’s Formal Review Documents & Timeline

There are two things that are officially confirmed with this letter.  Someone at the school was using purchase cards unethically since July of 2012.  The second thing is the lawsuit between Academy of Dover and Mosaica is finally talked about by the Delaware DOE.

Academy of Dover In Serious Trouble Over Noel Rodriguez’ P-Card Splurges & The Schools $2 Million Dollar+ Judgment

Academy of Dover was placed on Formal Review by the Delaware State Board of Education last Thursday, April 16th.  According to the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee, the reasons for the request were in regards to potential financial mismanagement and academic performance.  It was added the school is in the process of ongoing litigation, which they would not reveal in the meeting nor in a group with the media afterwards what this litigation was in regards to.  However, after some digging, I have found out the reason why.

But first, let’s take a look at the transcription from the State Board of Education’s decision last week: Continue reading

What’s Going On With $$$ At Academy of Dover?

The Charter School Performance Framework was published by the Delaware Department of Education in September, 2014.  In a couple days it will be March, 2015.  Six months later.  Guess who still doesn’t have their financial information listed on the DOE website concerning this?

http://www.doe.k12.de.us//site/Default.aspx?PageID=1731

Academy of Dover and money seem to be issues this school has been plagued with.  There is the unconfirmed by the school or the DOE that a former head of school who resigned had some purchase card issues.  Earlier this month I presented some board minutes where the school refused to pay paraprofessionals more money when they served as substitute teachers for the entire class.  And now this.  No entry in the DOE’s annual report on ALL the charter schools.  Any response to this DOE or Academy of Dover?

Academy of Dover Won’t Reimburse Paraprofessionals When They Are Substitute Teachers

I remember when I worked at Campus Community School a few years ago, they were very good at paying me when I worked as a substitute teacher.  When I transitioned to a paraprofessional role for about five months, I was paid a little bit less.  If I was ever shifted to a substitute role, they would adjust my pay based on that.  Apparently another charter school in Dover doesn’t seem to want to follow that type of decency.  In their December board minutes, Academy of Dover wrote:

“Para’s are subbing for teachers – wanted to know if they will be reimbursed for subbing for teachers. Para’s will not be reimbursed for their time subbing.”

Not a good way to take care of your personnel!  I would have loved to hear a digital recording of that conversation!  Oh wait, charters don’t have to record their board meetings cause they are afraid of what we might find out!  Maybe if they actually hired a Head of School, instead of having an interim one for the past five months it would soothe things over.  Don’t believe me on this pay issue?  Read it here:

 

Updated: Academy of Dover Principal Noel Rodriguez “Resigned” @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de #netde #eduDE

Update, 10/9/14: I spoke with the acting principal, Cheri Marshall, yesterday and she informed me that Noel Rodriguez resigned.  No other official response was given by Marshall.  There is innuendo and allegations around the internet, but nothing official has come out at this time from Academy of Dover or the Delaware Department of Education in regards to these rumors.  Marshall served as the assistant principal prior to Rodriguez’ departure.

A few weeks ago, staff at Academy of Dover were summoned to an emergency meeting and were told Principal Noel Rodriguez was gone.  The assistant principal, Cheri Marshall, is the acting principal.  Nobody knows the details, but apparently Noel Rodriguez has been fired from his position as Principal of Academy of Dover.  Rodriguez has been plagued with controversy during his tenure at the Dover charter school.  Issues with transparency, financial issues, teacher turnaround, special education and a school that Rodriguez ruled like a dictator.  Nobody is talking about him, and it is like he never existed at the school.

In an earlier article today, it was announced Academy of Dover had received the Blue Ribbon award from the US DOE for their achievement in closing proficiency gaps, but when you look at the data on their proficiency, it is obvious there have been a huge amount of issues with the scores at Academy of Dover.  Could this have had something to do with Rodriguez’ ouster?  Last week ALL the Delaware charters were called to a non-public, secretive emergency meeting.  Could Academy of Dover’s proficiency scores been a topic?  Kilroy reported the US DOE was not happy about something with the Delaware charters in regards to their academic framework.  Nobody is talking yet, but if and when the news comes out, it will be just another example of a Delaware charter school leader thinking they can do what they want.