Delaware Charter Schools Network Annual Award Winners

Last month, the Delaware Charter Schools Network celebrated their annual IDEA awards.  Not to be confused with the Federal IDEA program for special needs students, their IDEA stands for Innovation, Dedication, Education, and Admiration.  This years big winners were charter leaders, legislators, teachers, and even students.  Here is a list of the winners, direct from the Delaware Charter Schools Network website.  I know quite a few of the individuals on this list, either through writing on this blog or actually meeting them before.  Some I have never heard of, but congrats on your award.  While I have been a teeny tiny bit critical of charters on rare occasions (okay, a lot), at the end of the day, it is about the students.  And if the traditional school districts can have a teacher of the year and all that comes with that, the charters should be able to have their own shindig.  While I may not agree with many of the funding issues with charters, some of their enrollment practices, financial issues, and special education issues, they are still schools with children in them.

2015 IDEA AWARD WINNERS

COMMUNITY TIES AWARD

Charles S. McDowell, Esquire, EastSide Charter School

CORNERSTONE AWARD

Henry Clampitt, The Charter School of Wilmington

GIVING BACK AWARD

Caroline Dowd, Providence Creek Academy

Johnny Means, Delaware Military Academy

Jagger Peck, Gateway Lab School

Eric Long, The Charter School of Wilmington

Hannah Cote, Campus Community Charter School

IMPACT AWARD

Ed Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School

Sally Maldonado, Kuumba Academy

IMPACT AWARD TOO

Denise Parks & Kathryn Standish, Odyssey Charter School

INNOVATION AWARD

Elementary School

Kristen Egan, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy

Middle School

Kelly Hanson, Providence Creek Academy

High School

Robert Lingenfelter, Delaware Military Academy

DEDICATION AWARD

Elementary School

Trina Willey, Providence Creek Academy

Middle School

Great Oaks Charter School Wilmington Founding Tutor Corps, GOCS-W

High School

Cathie Kennedy, The Charter School of Wilmington

FOUNDERS AWARD

Kuumba Academy; Sally Maldonado, School Leader; Joan Coker, Board President

Newark Charter School; Greg Meece, School Leader; Stephen Dressel, Board President

STATE LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP AWARD

Senator Brian Bushweller

Representative Joseph Miro

FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP AWARD

Senator Tom Carper

Senator Chris Coons

Congressman John Carney

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All You Need To Know About Delaware Charter Schools, Rodel, and DE Charter Schools Network

If I’ve written an article about a Delaware Charter School, Rodel or the Delaware Charter Schools Network, you can now find all of it in one convenient place.  Most of the articles are on there, but I still have some to add.  The major stories are all there.  And each charter school has their own section from earliest to latest.  Eventually, I would like to add other blogs stories about Delaware charter schools.  But that is not today!  For now, you can go to the Delaware Charters/Rodel/Vision tab at the top of this page.  Going through this, I realized it is very hard for someone to get all the information about one school in one shot.  Now you can.  Unlike the DOE, I don’t mind putting everything in one easy to find spot!

For the naysayers who say I beat up on charters all the time, I think the ones with the most articles are the ones that have been in the hot seat in the past year for one reason or another.  Most of the time it is either financial or organizational reasons.  There are many I have never written anything bad about them.  Some of had some minor stuff.  I don’t write bad stuff about the kids who go to charter schools.  I write about the adults who can’t get their act together at the charters.  I think all public schools in Delaware, traditional and charter alike, are in a tough spot with Smarter Balanced and Common Core.  The accountability gurus over at Delaware DOE and the corporate education reformers at Rodel, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Longwood Foundation are a different story.  They are the ones putting all of Delaware’s public education students at a disadvantage with their false ideology.  At the end of the day, it comes back to two things: it’s not good for students and for them it’s all about the money.

How Much Influence On Education Policy Does Rodel, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the DE Business Roundtable Really Have?

“The Markell Administration and the Delaware Department of Education led a number of initiatives aligned with and supported by the Rodel Foundation and Vision Coalition.”

Melissa Hopkins with the Rodel Foundation wrote a very long article recently about the non-profit company’s outlook on the first half of the 148th General Assembly.  You can read Rodel’s Legislative Update article and see which bills they openly supported.  Aside from House Bill 50, which Executive Director Dr. Paul Herdman openly opposed, what other legislation did they fight?  By announcing in this article what legislation they supported, it is very easy to find out what legislation they opposed.  By going to the Public Integrity Commission website for Delaware, you can actually download all the lobbyist activity for all legislation.  I did just that and found all the bills Rodel has registered as a lobbyist for.

Rodel sees itself as some sort of policy-maker and thinks they have the ability to “align” the field with their own interests.  This is very dangerous in the education arena.  They are a non-profit designed to disrupt public education as we know it, and their ultimate goal, along with the other “reformers” is to create more and more charter schools.

What always concerns me about Rodel, as well as the Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, is how much lobbying influence they have.  Yes, that is the whole point of being a lobbyist.  But it just seems whenever these three get going on certain legislation, there are always problems.  The biggest bills all three of these groups opposed this year were House Bill 50 (the parent opt-out bill) and House Bill 186 (the charter school post-audit accountability legislation).  The good part is these lobbyists have failed to sway enough legislators to prevent these bills from moving forward.  These groups are experience waning influence as the voices of  parents and educators are rising.  But they have certainly made their mark in providing disruption and getting parts they want added to bills.

Take the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  With Senate Bill 33, the IEP Task Force legislation, this bill was destined to make a clean sweep through the Senate and the House.  But once DCSN got their hooks in, the bill found itself tabled, with two amendments, later stricken, and a 3rd one added in.  You can also see what legislation they lobbied for here:

The very fact that the Executive Director of DCSN was able to get 600 emails sent to legislators to oppose House Bill 186 is very worrisome.  Did these 600 “opposers” get all the facts?  No, they received the very tainted and biased views from the same organization that made every attempt to gut this bill like a fish.  As charter school fraud and financial abuse spreads throughout the state, this bill is a no-brainer.  It passed the House of Representatives in Delaware, and will next go to the Senate Education Committee in January.  To openly oppose legislation like this does not seem like the best public relations move, especially knowing that even more reports like the recent Academy of Dover one are forthcoming.

It seems like every time I am at Legislative Hall, I see the same faces: the lobbyists from Rodel, Delaware Charter Schools Network and the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee.  The last of these is the most concerning to me.  The Delaware Business Roundtable is a group of businessmen in Delaware who meet to determine how education should be in Delaware.  They aren’t educators, they are big businessmen, with more accumulated wealth than the gap in Delaware’s anticipated FY 2017 budget.  They have no official website, and they are not a public entity.  So you can’t see minutes of their meetings or what they talk about behind closed doors.  In fact, on the Delaware lobbyist website, it shows this:

Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee, Inc.

c/o Rodel Foundation of DE
100 West 10th St., Suite 704
Wilmington, Delaware 19801

I reported last November, based on the Delaware Business Roundtable Education Committee’s non-profit tax forms, that Rodel runs the show for this organization.  They file the taxes for them, get the mail and act as a management company for this organization.  When I tried to find a listing of their current membership, a simple Google search yielded no results.  This is a level of non-transparency and secrecy beyond the realm of normalcy.  The Roundtable may be great at running their prospective businesses, but I don’t think they should be influencing State Departments and legislators for how education ought to be, especially when we don’t even know who they are.  But if I were a betting man, I would assume most of these companies have someone sitting on this “roundtable”.  But education is not King Arthur’s Camelot.  Big business getting involved in education led us to the creation of high-stakes assessments with funds flowing out of the classroom and into the waiting arms of “consultants” who will “fix” the problem.  But nothing ever gets fixed.

Their lobbyist firm is The Byrd Group.  With the Roundtable, it seems like they send the same three people in for a certain amount of legislation whenever they go to Legislative Hall.  Are they meeting with legislators all at once, or taking turns, picking and poking along the way?  Find out which bills they lobbied for!

Of particular concern to me is the amount of lobbying done on bills sponsored by State Rep. Earl Jaques and State Senator David Sokola.  As the Chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees, these two legislators have a tremendous amount of influence with education bills.  But how much of the direction of the bills under their jurisdiction are influenced by these three organizations?  And who is the fourth factor involved in all of this who is always at Legislative Hall but is not considered a lobbyist because she actually works for the State of Delaware?

Donna Johnson is the Executive Director of the State Board of Education.  Never mistake her for a Delaware Department of Education employee.  She doesn’t like that.  She is at Legislative Hall all the time.  When she isn’t in education committee meetings, she is hanging out with folks, talking away.  She speaks on almost every single education bill that comes before the House and Senate.  But what is very alarming is her very close connection with the three above lobbyist entities.  Is she influencing them or are they influencing her?  Or are they all in cahoots with each other?  I can’t recall too many bills this session that the four were in disagreement with each other over.  Which is very frightening that legislation is made or opposed based on the influence of three non-profits and the woman who runs the day -to-day operations of the State Board of Education.

The legislation that makes a lot of sense, bills that come from folks like State Reps. Kim Williams, John Kowalko, and others tend to be some of the bills that are opposed by the four.  Both Williams and Kowalko are tired of the lack of accountability and transparency by the DOE, and are very wary of the influence the three non-profits have on the state of education in Delaware.

To be fair, there are other lobbyists that hang out at Legislative Hall and do exert influence, most notably Kristin Dwyer with the Delaware State Educators Association.  The organization she works for is charged with looking out for the thousands upon thousands of teachers in our state.  Since so much legislation does revolve around education, and more specifically, the role teachers play in education, I would be shocked if she wasn’t there.  But even DSEA’s lobbying activity on education bills is much less than any of these three.  Other organizations such as the Delaware PTA and some of our universities make appearances.  But these three non-profits are always there.

Parents have no idea how much goes into legislation surround their children in schools, and it astonishes me how much public policy is based around three non-profits sticking their nose in areas where they have a clear conflict of interest.  Even more astounding is the role the State Board of Education and the Delaware DOE play in this quagmire.  Our Governor plays right along, helping to dictate policy and curriculum for our children, oblivious to what is going on in his own state.

An anonymous source, speaking out because they felt it was the right thing to do but was also afraid for their job, said “The News Journal plays right into their hands because if they don’t they lose valuable advertising dollars they desperately need.”

The education four will surely be around in January, fighting the bills that make the most sense, and cheerleading bills that serve their own agendas.  It’s the landscape of education in Delaware now, because we have allowed it to happen.  These are the forces that want Common Core State Standards, Smarter Balanced Assessment, Annual Yearly Progress, Personalized Learning, and Teacher Accountability based on High-Stakes Testing.  We have allowed this “breakfast of champions” to control our children’s lives.

edbuddies7115

Pictured are Kendall Massett (back left), Donna Johnson (back right), Rebecca Byrd (front right), and Melissa Hopkins (center front).  This picture was taken at 7:30 in the morning on July 1st, right after Governor Markell signed the FY2016 budget bills following the all-night legislative session.

Kendall Massett Teaches Parents How To Use Computers (and oppose legislation that makes DE charter schools accountable)

Wow Kendall.  Thank you for the computer lesson!  I had no idea how to navigate through a website until you taught me.  Notice on this very important “action alert” she doesn’t give any reasons why House Bill 186 is bad for charter schools, just that it’s “bad for our charters”.  For those who have never heard of Kendall Massett (which is most of the state), she is the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  Or, in another words, a cheerleader non-profit for Delaware charter schools, backed by other “non-profits” and “foundations”.  Aside from having an annual show called “The IDEA awards” (which has absolutely nothing to do with special education), nobody really knows what they do except show up to charter school open houses, hang out at the Delaware DOE and Legislative Hall, and make very strange videos.

So if you believe your voice matters, and you want our charter schools to stop stealing taxpayer funds, please email your legislator by 7:00pm on Tuesday evening and offer your support of House Bill which makes charter schools in Delaware get a post-audit by the State Auditor.  As the poster in Kendall’s office says, “Change the way you look at things.”  An email or phone call of support will allow you to change the way you look at charter school finances!

My Email To Kendall Massett With Delaware Charter Schools Network Over The Scandals & Fraud In Delaware Charter Schools

  • Today at 10:23 PM
To
  • kendallm@decharternetwork.org

Dear Kendall,

I am the writer of Exceptional Delaware, and I would like to know why your organization is objecting to House Bill 186 and other legislation that would provide the essential oversight Delaware charter schools so desperately need.  This isn’t about protecting the finances of these schools, it is about making sure the students in these schools get the best education possible. 

What is occurring in so many of our schools: Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Providence Creek Academy, Odyssey Charter, Thomas Edison and others is a direct result of financial mismanagement, boards not properly trained in oversight, and allowing administrators to cut the board out of important decisions.  It isn’t the boards that suffer or the admins.  It is the students and teachers. 

If your organization truly represents school choice, then you need to make sure the schools under your purveyance are effectively able to run those schools.  Because we both know the DOE isn’t able to.  You have the backing of millions of dollars and several huge companies, but at the end of the day none of that matters if the charters are involved in all these scandals.  I would ask that you allow transparency to rule the day and that your organization backs House Bill 186 and House Bill 61.  Parents should have choice, but only when everything is crystal clear and out in the open.  It is completely inappropriate for any school to conceal finances or other important matters that can impact children.

I’m sure you don’t like me, and I’m okay with that.  I don’t like a lot of the underhanded tactics I have seen your organization perform, like having parents mass email representatives to block a bill that would actually allow the charters to escape from the financial malfeasances and show why they can be just as good as traditional schools.  I don’t understand the need to protect them, because it always comes out.  If it isn’t me, it will be the next blogger or reporter.  Things are reaching a crisis point with education in Delaware, and serving the will of money over students is not going to help these kids. 

Many people say the entire goal of the education reform movement in the past 10 years has been about the eventual destruction of traditional school districts and the “privatization” of schools, making them all charter or private schools.  I believe this point of view is the goal, but I also know it is a system that will never work.  Because along with that comes the notion of power and people will abuse that.  If you truly want charter schools to survive in our state, than I would strongly consider a different approach.  Because this way, it doesn’t work.  Charters will never take over.  Now it needs to become a matter of co-existence.  The way our schools are funded, with funds coming out of local funds from the traditional school districts does not work.  Fighting for scraps will always cause fighting.  We all need to come up with a better way and stop the fraud, waste and abuse going on in our schools.  For schools that only represent a small percentage of our students, I have never seen such so much chaos and disruption coming from anything in education as I have with the charter school movement.

The next move is yours.  And since I am a firm believer in transparency, I will publish this email.

Thank you,

Kevin Ohlandt