Delaware Design-Lab Is Below 65% Enrollment… Time For Formal Review?

In 2016, the Delaware State Board of Education approved a major modification request to lower their enrollment.  This year, they are supposed to be at 475 students based on that approval.  Charter schools have to be at 80% enrollment to be financially viable.  That number would be 380 for Delaware Design-Lab High School this year.  They are below 300 students according to sources.  Will Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting recommend formal review for the struggling charter school?

The dangling carrot for Design-Lab is their $10 million prize from XQ.  The school is currently interviewing positions for their three deans.  But those funds can only be used for very specific purposes.  It is not meant for salary increases for teachers.  But according to an anonymous source, the Interim Head of School (Rebecca Collins) is promising teachers increases.  How can the school afford this with their low enrollment?  Many teachers are fearing for their jobs due to the school’s low enrollment.  Since the Board of Directors ousted Dr. Joseph Mock a couple of weeks ago, a wave of parents have pulled their kids out.  Their enrollment tally was due to the Delaware Department of Education on Friday because of the annual September 30th enrollment count.

Historically, the Delaware State Board of Education has put charters on formal review for low enrollment because below 80% charters are not financially viable.  Many charters (including Design-Lab) faced this review in 2015.  They all squeaked by with higher enrollment by the time the State Board voted that July.

For a charter like Design-Lab, they had their enrollment lowered after that and still can’t get anywhere close to their approved numbers.  Many parents don’t seem to be wowed by the XQ award.  Three different leaders have been in charge in the past nine months with another new one coming on.  I did find out Rebecca Collins did step down from the board to take the interim leader role and plans to go back on the board once the new leader is in place.  But Joseph Mock was definitely fired from his position.

At the Delaware DOE, charters are overseen by the Charter School Office.  Since Denise Stouffer replaced Jennifer Nagourney in July, 2016, no charter schools have been placed on formal review.  Will Delaware Design-Lab High School be the first?

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Delaware Design-Lab’s Head Of School Position Was Eliminated. But They Will Be Hiring A “Dean Of Academic Intensity”

The Board at Delaware Design-Lab High School sent parents an email on September 15th letting them know about Head of School Joseph Mock’s removal from the school.  I though he resigned, but this email confirms he was ousted!  Given that they had an emergency board meeting on September 13th, it sounds like this board did follow proper channels with all this (looking at you Ronald Pinkett over at Edison).  Last year, the school won a ton of money in the XQ Super School competition.  They won $10 million from this grant and it looks like they will be branding themselves as an “XQ Super School” next year.  I had to read the email a few times just so I clearly understood (and stopped laughing) what these new administrative positions are.

From: Design-Lab High School

Sent: Friday, September 15, 5:20 PM

Subject: Important Message from the DDLHS Board

Dear DDLHS Families,

On behalf of the Board of Directors, we would like to bring you up to date on changes inside school administration as we prepare for the next phase in the process of becoming an XQ Super School in August 2018.

The Board will begin interviews next week for the position of XQ Project Manager and, shortly thereafter, will begin the search for the school’s XQ Dean of Academic Intensity. These leaders, together with a Dean of Engagement and Dean of College and Career Readiness, will guide us through the XQ process and prepare us for the opening of our XQ Super School next fall.

As we shift our administrative structure to help us succeed as a Super School, the Board has decided to eliminate the position of Head of School effective Friday, September 15, 2017. As a result of these changes, we are sad to announce that Mr. Mock will be pursuing other opportunities at this time. Mr. Mock has been an invaluable asset to our school since he joined us as Vice Principal/Special Education Coordinator in 2015. Through his tenure as Principal and Head of School, he has navigated some of the most challenging waters a school can face with grace and commitment. We thank Mr. Mock for all he’s done preparing DDLHS to move into this next phase in our school’s history, and wish him well in his new endeavors.

Mrs. Rebecca Collins will serve as our Interim Executive Director until such time as the new XQ administrative team can be brought on board and up to speed. Mrs. Collins has served as a member of our Board of Directors since early 2016, and she brings a wealth of experience in teaching, law, and school guidance to this evolution. We are confident that this transition will be seamless to our families, staff, and students. If you have not had the opportunity to meet Mrs. Collins, the Board encourages you to say hello the next time you are in the building!

As we move into the next phase of our school’s growth, we look forward to engaging with each DDLHS family to ensure that we faithfully support our mission and provide the best education possible for each student we serve.

Thank you,

Paul Miller

Board Chairman

Rebecca Collins is the Vice-President of the Board.  Is it even legal to be on the board AND lead the school?  Hmm… calling foul on that decision!  And what are all these administrative positions for?  I hope that gets paid out of their XQ grant cause the school doesn’t have enough students to have that many administrators.  Dean of Academic Intensity.  It sounds like a labor camp.  Yes, let’s make school sound as grueling as they want it to be.  Dean of College & Career Readiness.  Hey, I know a guy who would be all over that.  He’s bald and he used to be our Governor.  He just loves college and career readiness!

I would have to imagine with all these changes that could constitute changes in their curriculum as well as their actual charter.  Have they submitted a modification request to the Delaware Department of Education?

The XQ Institute is brought to you by Laurene Powell Jobs and the Emerson Collective.  They LOVE personalized learning and seem to be big players in corporate education reform where we can just solve all the problems in education with some ed tech and less teacher interface with students.

Delaware Design-Lab High School Also Lost Their Leader This Week!

The Head of School for Delaware Design-Lab High School, Joseph Mock, resigned after holding the position for less than six months.  I saw no notification on their website or social media pages.  This happened the same day Dr. Salome Thomas-EL was ousted from Thomas Edison Charter School.

Delaware Design-Lab has faced low enrollment woes since before they opened.  Further complicating matters is the ongoing legal matter with the former Head of School, Christina Alvarez.  They even have a new website.  They do have a board meeting tomorrow night.  They held an emergency session on September 13th to discuss “personnel and contract negotiations”.

Not much information to report, but this DID happen.  That I can say with 100% certainty.

What in the world is going on with our charter schools in Delaware?  It is not good for any school’s stability to play musical chairs with their leaders.  It certainly isn’t good for students!  I would think the school would make an announcement somewhere.  At the very least, I hope parents received an email from the school.  Or perhaps I am breaking this news to the public for the first time…

All the Design-Lab schools run out of Philadelphia.  This is the first (and only to date) Design-Lab school in Delaware.

Bunting Sends DE Design-Lab H.S. Minor Modification Request To Full Charter School Accountability Committee Review! Big Issues!

Just when things were getting quiet in Delaware Charterville, it looks like Delaware Design-Lab is having some very big organizational issues.  The school submitted a minor modification request that has to be seen to be believed.  The Head of School quit in February and there are all sorts of financial issues going on surrounding their LLC status and even the name of the school!  Given that the school did not meet their April 1st required numbers of 80% enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year and the bombshells in this application, I don’t blame Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting for referring this to the Charter School Accountability Committee.  The situation looks rather complicated and it needs a set of eyes to get more information on this developing situation over at what could soon be called DDLHS.  I had a feeling something was going on with this school.

 

No Formal Review For DE Academy Of Public Safety & Security Or Delaware Design-Lab? What’s Up With That?

Two Delaware charter schools are in violation of Delaware state law.  The Delaware Department of Education is not putting them under formal review as they did two years ago when a few charter schools did not have 80% of their student enrollment for the next school year by April 1st of that calendar year.  Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security and Delaware Design-Lab High School are under the 80% enrollment.  Why no formal review?  The Delaware State Code, under Title 14, is very clear about this type of situation:

(c)(1) On or before April 1 of each school year, a charter school shall have enrolled, at a minimum, 80% of its total authorized number of students, and the administrator of each charter school shall, pursuant to the requirements below, provide a written certification of that enrollment to the Department of Education and to the superintendent of each public school district in which 1 or more of the charter school’s students reside.

So what gives?  The answer can be found in the State Board of Education agenda for their meeting today.  The Charter School Office gives a monthly presentation to the State Board on all matters surrounding charter schools.

The law is the law.  If they did the same to other charter schools, why are these two not going under the same scrutiny with their enrollment numbers?  Is that fair to the charters that had to go through the formal review process two years ago?  DAPSS numbers have been down for years.  Had they not submitted a modification last year to decrease their enrollment numbers (which passed), they would have gone under formal review last year.  Delaware Design-Lab was one of the schools under formal review two years ago for low enrollment numbers.  Fair is fair, no matter what.  While these numbers are not a train-wreck, they are in violation of what our legislators passed and was written into the state code.

State Board of Education Approved Modifications For DAPSS, DE Design-Lab, First State Montessori, & Prestige Academy

The Delaware State Board of Education approved all the major modifications that came across their table last Thursday. The charter schools involved either raised or lowered their enrollment numbers with their modification applications.

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security got rid of 8th grade and lowered their enrollment numbers to 330 for the 2016-2017 school year with increased enrollment of 375 by the 2020-2021 school year to keep them as a 9th to 12th grade school.

Delaware Design-Lab High School also lowered their enrollment, but they will be adding 11th grade next year as per their original charter application. Their growth is a bit more aggressive with 350 students in 9th-11th grade for 2016-2017, 475 for 2017-2018 when they add 12th grade, and up to 600 by 2019-2020.

First State Montessori Academy, who will be taking over the former Delaware Met building next door to them, was approved to add a middle school with students in 6th to 8th grade. Their enrollment for 2016-2017 must be 430 students in Kindergarten to 6th grade and by 2021-2022 they must have 654 students in K-8.

Prestige Academy is now a 6th to 8th grade school instead of a 5th to 8th middle school, and their enrollment has been lowered to 240 from the 2016-2017 school year and every year proceeding that.

Odyssey Charter School had a modification approved without the consent of the State Board of Education since it was considered a minor modifications. Their modification surrounded enrollment with increases less than 15%. Odyssey’s approved enrollment includes their high school which will make them a K-12 school by the 2019-2020 year. Both Kuumba Academy and Great Oaks Charter School had similar minor modifications approved in February by Secretary Godowsky with no grade level changes.

With the charter moratorium for Wilmington still in effect from House Bill 56, no new charter schools can apply for a Wilmington location. But that doesn’t seem to stop the existing schools from tweaking their numbers. Many First State Montessori parents wanted the change, but some folks submitted public comment around their enrollment preferences and were worried this could create more bias in the school. Prestige and Delaware Design-Lab were both on probation due to low enrollment figures last year. Their will still be many charter school enrollment changes next school year based on these approvals. More students in flux around Wilmington is not, in my opinion, a way to stabilize the situation with constant student movement in the city. If the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan is approved by the 148 General Assembly, it will create even more flux with students as Christina’s Wilmington schools become a part of the Red Clay Consolidated School District.

Charter Modification Update: DAPSS, DE Design-Lab & First State Montessori Get Thumbs Up From DOE

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Three of the five charters that submitted major modification requests to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education got the green light today.  The Charter School Accountability Committee held their final meetings with the three schools today.  All three received a recommendation of approval from the committee.  The State Board of Education will make the final decision at their March meeting.

Two other schools that submitted major mods have meetings tomorrow with the CSAC.  Prestige Academy has their last meeting and Academia Antonia Alonso has their first.  Another school, Odyssey Charter School, submitted a minor modification for enrollment changes but Secretary of Education Godowsky exercised his authority to give them the CSAC treatment.  They also meet with the CSAC tomorrow.

Should the State Board approve all these modifications, many students will be in flux next year.  First State Montessori will increase their enrollment significantly.  Two other charters submitted minor modifications for up to 15% increases: Great Oaks and Kuumba Academy.  They only need Secretary approval and not the State Board.  Prestige, Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, and Delaware Design-Lab will decrease their enrollment.  Academia Antonia Alonso will actually move their location from the Community Education Building.  This is on top of Delaware Met closing in January and Delaware College Prep closing at the end of this school year.  In December, Red Clay’s board approved a modification for Delaware Military Academy to start increasing their enrollment in the 2017-2018 school year.  Who needs a freeze on new charter applications when the Delaware DOE becomes Grand Central Station for Wilmington charter school students?

Delaware Design-Lab High School Parent Complaints Show Disturbing Patterns

On Saturday, after I posted an article on Delaware Design-Lab High School’s major modification request, the Delaware DOE asked me to remove the  parent complaints because of some student identifying information that was in that section of the article.  The DOE has revised the complaints, so I am giving this its own article.  Like I said in the original article, it is very disturbing to see this go on in any of our Delaware schools.  It is more than obvious our new charters need much more training in discipline and due process…

Is Delaware Design-Lab High School Del Met 2.0?

Delaware Design-Lab High School is having some major issues.  While they are struggling with enrollment, it appears their school model isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Parents and students saw right through this based on some of the parent complaints below.  One parent went so far as to say they weren’t releasing her child from the one-year contract until after the September 30th counts.  Citing a lack of supplies, and even cafeteria food by one parent, this brand new charter school looks to be having some of the same issues as the recently closed Delaware Met.  While it doesn’t appear to be having the extent of the issues Del Met had, there is a pretty clear and consistent pattern here.  Their enrollment is so bad they want to decrease it.  Below is the Charter School Accountability Committee report from last week, along with information the school provided and parent complaints that came into the DOE.

 

State Board Of Education Preview: WEIC, Assessments, Teacher Evaluations, Charter Modifications, And Maybe One Illegal Request

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At 9am this morning, the Delaware State Board of Education will have their first meeting of 2016.  Normally these meetings are at 1pm, but since Governor Markell has to give his big speech across the street at 2pm, they are having it earlier.  I thought they would make it a light schedule for this meeting because of the time change and the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission vote, but I was very wrong.  There is a lot going on at this meeting.  So being the good little blogger I am, I thought I would just go ahead and put up everything going on!  To get to the potentially illegal thing, you have to go all the way to the bottom… Continue reading “State Board Of Education Preview: WEIC, Assessments, Teacher Evaluations, Charter Modifications, And Maybe One Illegal Request”

Official: Probation Recommendations for Academy of Dover, Freire, Prestige Academy and DE Design Lab

The Charter School Accountability Committee recommended probation for all four of the Delaware charter schools currently under formal review.  The State Board of Education and Secretary Mark Murphy will make their final decision at the State Board of Education meeting on June 18th.

For Academy of Dover, their probation will be for a year, whereas the other three schools have until the end of this year to get out of probation.  Read the following documents for all four schools.  And I also want to thank the DOE’s Exceptional Children Resources Group for grilling these schools on special education issues!

I will be writing more as I digest all of these documents. The DOE certainly gives us bloggers lots to read!

Delaware Design Lab Formal Review Notification & Timeline

Delaware Design Lab is under formal review.  For this school, there are no more chances for another one-year extension.  I met the Head of School, Christina Alaverez, at the Imagine Delaware Expo and had a very nice chat with her.  She explained the school’s philosophy and academics, and I thought it was pretty cool.  I asked how students with disabilities could adapt to that curriculum, and she gave me a very straightforward and honest answer.  I saw her again after the Formal Review announcements and I told her I was sorry about the designation and I hoped it worked out.  I’m actually rooting for this school!

Delaware Design-Lab High School Moving Out of Wilmington. Will They Make Their 80% Enrollment?

Another Delaware charter school scheduled to open in August 2015 could be in danger before they even open.  Delaware Design-Lab High School applied for a major modification request to change it’s location from the City of Wilmington to Newark, DE.  Housed in the same area as Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security, the charter school is struggling to reach it’s enrollment requirement.

As of April 2nd, the school has 119 students enrolled.  It’s charter requires 240 students, and the school had to meet that figure by April 1st.  Based on the above figures, the school is short 73 students.

Apparently, many of the prospective students come from the Bear-Newark area and parents were concerned about a city location.  From the major modification request submitted to the Delaware DOE Charter School Office:

Now since the request was only for a change in location, the request was approved by the Charter School Accountability Committee, as you can see here:

But the major problem appears to be the required enrollment which they did not make by April 1st.  Based on the report, it looks like the Charter School Accountability Committee was okay with the school getting a month extension until May 1st to “recruit another 75-100 students”.

At the State Board of Education meeting on April 16th, Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the State Board will reach a decision on Design-Lab High School’s major modification request.  With that being said, I would also expect them to hold the school accountable for its enrollment as of that date.

I did have the pleasure of meeting the Chief Executive Officer of the school, Cristina Alvarez, at the Imagine Delaware forum at the beginning of last month, and I think this school has some great concepts, but I worry about the academic challenges and potential specific interest conflicts.