Are There Human Rights Violations Going On At Delaware Met? Parents Need To Speak Up NOW!!!!

I received an anonymous message this morning concerning Delaware Met.  We may be entering a new level of abuse inflicted by this school on their students.  As if everything already happening isn’t bad enough, I am now hearing about issues concerning the school hiring prison guards to “control kids”, multiple suspensions, and issues with confinement.  While these allegations have not been vetted, it follows the alarming trends with this school.  To that effect, I emailed the DOE, Governor Markell, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, and some legislators in regards to this.  I also called the Delaware DOE about this and left a message.  I did receive a return call just minutes ago from them and I advised the Charter School Office of the information conveyed to me.  Someone needs to do the right thing and get in there and shut this place down.  There are many students with disabilities in this school and not following, implementing, or creating an IEP for them is a recipe for disaster.  Below is the email I sent out not long ago:

From: Kevin Ohlandt <kevino3670@yahoo.com>
To:
Nagourney Jennifer <jennifer.nagourney@doe.k12.de.us>; Blowman David (K12) <david.blowman@doe.k12.de.us>; Godowsky Steven <steven.godowsky@doe.k12.de.us>; Markell Jack <jack.markell@state.de.us>; O’Mara Lindsay (Governor) <lindsay.omara@state.de.us>; Denn Matthew (DOJ) <matthew.denn@state.de.us>
Cc:
Williams Kimberly (LegHall) <kimberly.williams@state.de.us>; Kowalko John (LegHall) <john.kowalko@state.de.us>; Baumbach Paul (LegHall) <paul.baumbach@state.de.us>; Sean Matthews <sean.matthews@state.de.us>; Gray Teri (K12) <teri.gray@sbe.k12.de.us>
Sent:
Thursday, October 22, 2015 10:54 AM
Subject:
Delaware Met

Good morning all,
I received an anonymous and very troubling message this morning concerning the Delaware Met.  As I’m sure you all know, this school is under formal review.  But if this message is true, there could be human rights violations going on at this school, in current time.  I know most of us don’t see eye to eye on education policies, but I’m sure we can all agree that no student in Delaware should have any rights violated whatsoever. 
The message I received concerns many of the items already covered in Del Met’s formal review letter, but also issues concerning the hiring of prison guards, multiple suspensions and issues of “confinement”.  The last of these concerns me greatly.  Many of these students may have IEPs and Federal and State law clearly indicates matters of punishment for students with disabilities.  Confinement sounds very serious, and I fear for these students safety. 
I’m not sure who has to get in there, but something needs to be done.  This school is out of control and something beyond a formal review needs to take place immediately if these types of things are going on.
Thank you for your time, and I appreciate any response to this very disturbing situation.
Respectfully,
Kevin Ohlandt
I strongly urge parents of students in this school to go public with what they know.  Do not let this school intimidate you or your child.  If what I am hearing is true, I would highly recommend you do not send your child to this school.  Let the cards fall where they may, but if it is a matter of safety and human rights, please do the right thing for your child.  This is a wake-up call for all of us in Delaware, and I am letting you know I care about your kids.  I have never issued a message like this before, but look out for your kids.  I strongly commend the DOE for doing the right thing with putting this school on formal review, but this has now become a matter beyond them if these events are occurring.  We need to keep our children safe, first and foremost.
Who is actually running this school? Is it Innovative Schools? The Delaware Leadership Executive Director who stated he would farm out the “day-to-day” operations to an intern?  What is going on inside this place?
To that end, parents need to name names and let those with the ability to do something operate out of full transparency so they can get in there.  Schools need to be a safe haven for children, but this sounds more like prison conditions.  I won’t deny there are probably some bad behaviors going on with some teenagers in this school, but if the school is unable to adequately deal with this than the center will not hold.  I heard from another parent of severe bullying going on at this school and the administration not dealing with this properly.  Something needs to be done…NOW!!!!
UPDATED, 12:10pm: This developing situation is being looked at very seriously by the Delaware Department of Education.  As well, I am being told there are two rival gangs within this school and this seems to be the heart of the issues.  Someone is going to get killed in this school if something doesn’t change immediately.  We need all hands on deck here, and parents should be very concerned.  I am begging the school: If you cannot handle this, do not hide.  Don’t think you can wave a magical wand and fix this.  If it is beyond your ability to control, please, just shut it down.  The Delaware Met is not an alternative school.  You do not have the necessary supports to handle those students.  Do the right thing.

What Happened To Innovative Schools Operations Manager At Delaware Met?

It seems Jemeul Anderson is no longer the Operations Manager for The Delaware Met.  This role is through Innovative Schools.  As announced last night, The Delaware Met is up for formal review consideration at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting tomorrow.  According to Join Delaware Schools, a job posting went up yesterday for an Operations Manager at The Delaware Met.  Just click on all jobs, go to administrative, and then look at the last entry, posted 10/13/15.  Innovative School’s website still has Anderson listed as the operations manager for the school.

The tension concerning this school is way past the boiling point.  With Anderson already gone, who is overseeing the management and operations of this school?  The rumors coming out of this school are getting more bizarre by the day.  Delaware State Rep Kim Williams reported on Delaware First State about a letter coming from the school on September 29th concerning a student leaving, but they are now saying the student can’t leave because it was after the September 30th count.  I will continue to pray for these students…

On Monday evening, founding board members Adriane Anderson-Strange and Jillian Wattley resigned from the Delaware Met board.

Updated 12/16/15: The above crossed out part did not happen, I was given erroneous information.

Delaware Met Under Consideration For Formal Review At State Board Of Education Meeting This Week

The Delaware Met certainly got the Delaware Department of Education’s notice, and not in a good way.  This was just updated on the agenda for the State Board of Education meeting this Thursday.  Now how this works, this is just a recommendation.  It is presented to the State Board.  The Acting Secretary of Education (Dr. Steven Godowsky) and the State Board have to give assent.  I have a strong feeling this will happen.  Here we go again…

The DOE Charter School Office is seeking to submit  the charter of The Delaware Met to formal review to determine whether the school is violating the terms of its charter and whether to order remedial measures under the Delaware Code. 

 

The issues for formal review include, but are not limited to, concerns about the school’s compliance with its charter, financial viability, policies regarding student conduct and discipline, and appropriate strategies to accommodate the needs of at-risk students and those needing special education services.

 

In accordance with the requirements of 14 Del. C. . § 511(c), the Department is seeking the assent of the Acting Secretary and the State Board of Education to the formal review of The Delaware Met.

I’m hearing two founding members of The Delaware Met’s Board of Directors resigned from the board last night. As well, Innovative Schools is telling the board everything is going great, but the reality on the ground is vastly different. Parents want out, but they are being told the students can’t leave because it is after the September 30th date when schools in Delaware get their funding.

To anyone wishing to leave Delaware Met: You have something called “Good Cause”. If the school isn’t living up to their obligations in providing even a basic education and can’t get the school climate under control, you can present a case to the DOE. Call the Charter School Office tomorrow at phone number 302-735-4020. Let them know what is going on there and why you want to transfer your child out. This is a very unique situation with this school, and I can’t recall this happening before.

Delaware DOE: I’m not sure it is safe to keep this school open all year long. You may want to take a drastic step here for the benefit of all the students…

Will Delaware Met Get The Formal Review Recommendation On Thursday?

I’m hearing buzz that if it does happen, it could go down at the State Board of Education meeting on Thursday.  It has been very quiet and there hasn’t been much news coming out of this school since the explosive events of two weeks ago.  If they do go on formal review, it’s hard to say what it would be for.  Academic would be tough since they just opened.  Organizational or financial or both would have to be the reason.  Not much has changed on their website and they seem to have put a hush on information coming out of the school.  Meanwhile I’m hearing of a new issue but I’m not able to write about it just yet.  This school either needs to get it together yesterday or close today.

Is Delaware Met Just Making It Up As They Go Along?

The charter school website.  It can either be a treasure trove of information or the most God awful boring place in the universe.  Depends on the day and what you are looking for.  One Delaware charter school didn’t have much on their website.  That was a story in itself.  But granted, they are new.  And they have been in the news A LOT lately.  It’s been a few days since I posted anything on The Delaware Met.

I checked their website last night, and lo and behold, they have board meeting agendas and minutes up.  I always get suspicious when I see tons of board minutes posted all at once.   Especially when they go back a year.  Why are they just now putting them up?  Probably because they were told to.  I know there was some conversation about this after their last board meeting.  But let’s not get super excited.  They don’t have ANY Citizen’s Budget Oversight Committee agendas or minutes.  Some minutes say they need to get this going by August 2015 while others say September 2015.  And they only have their August 2015 financials up.  Nothing prior. Oddly enough, it let me download their financial statement, but not their board minutes.  Very odd.  But I took pictures of all of them!

delmetboardmeeting1

delmetboardmeeting2

delmetboardmeeting1 delmetboardmeeting3

And the financial statement which poses more questions…

delmetbudget

delmetbudget2

Now looking at this, I see a few things.  They have received 93% of their Federal funds.  Federal funds have something called IDEA-B which is designated for special education use.  Will they get more Federal funds?  Keep in mind, this was August 31st.  A month before the September 30th counts.  As well, they have NOT received their charter school performance award as of 8/31/15.  Why is that?

But the most interesting part about all of this is when it was written.  It is their August 31st financials, right?  When you look at their revenue for state funds, you can see “Mentoring Pilot” and an amount budgeted of $6,000.00.  That’s fair.  That’s what they won in the CIP Competitive Grant from the DOE.  They just announced the winners the other day, on September 30th in the Delaware DOE newsletter called Take Note with a link to all the award winners.  But if they were just awarded those funds in September, how could they have budgeted $6,000 in August for the award they received in September when the application submitted to DOE was for $14,700?  And if their financials were written in September, who knows if the prior board minutes were as well…

I did see in prior minutes the Chair of their Board of Directors has been out sick for a while, so I sincerely wish him the best. Which also explains why I never heard back from the email I sent out on 9/23 to the leader of the Board and their Head of School who also went out on maternity leave as of 9/23.  But the DOE, who was included on that email, could have easily replied back.

Something just isn’t right with this school.  Something is very off.  Delaware DOE, this school needs to go on formal review yesterday!  And just to be on the safe side, in case anything changes, I went ahead and Scribd the financial documents:

Did you think I was done with Delaware Met?

Yesterday, the DOE released their Take Note newsletter.  In the middle of it was a section about CIP grants awarded to 14 different schools, both district and charter.  The grants were for “innovative induction models”.  Would you like to take a wild guess who got $6,000 from this grant?  None other than Delaware Met!  I guess they can write a good application, or did Innovative Schools write it?  It’s getting very hard to tell the difference anymore.  But you can be damn sure Innovative Schools wants a cut out of everything the school does!

Answers On Delaware Met Reveal More Questions

Today, on Town Square Delaware, members of The Delaware Met Board of Directors broke the public veil of silence and spoke out on the issues surrounding the school.  Based on this information and other information that has been sent my way, I have put a picture together of the events that happened last week at the embattled charter school

On Monday, a squirrel got into a transformer causing the power to go out at the school.  As a result, there was no school on 9/21.  On Tuesday, the students returned to school.  Where it gets a bit hazy is what happened next.  But what is certain there was no school from 9/23 to 9/25 due to emergency professional development for the teachers:

With the blessing of the Department of Education, we chose to give our teachers professional development time last week to assess these needs and make adjustment.

I believe the school, based on discussion from their Monday night board meeting, did attempt to reach out to parents to let them know about these unforeseen days off which were not on their website calendar.  On Wednesday 9/23, based on their agenda for their 9/28 meeting, the Board met in a Special Board meeting.  There was no agenda on their website, so it is difficult to surmise what was discussed at this board meeting.  On Friday, shortly before noon, I received two emails indicating the school was closing the next week due to violence, gang activity, fighting and Innovative Schools, the school’s management organization, severing ties.  I emailed the DOE and the school immediately for any type of confirmation.  To date, no one responded to any of my emails.  The school has this information, and chose to ignore me completely.

At the same time, we began to be made aware of whispers in our community and beyond that the school had already chosen to close. To answer these rumors, it was important for the Board to hold a special meeting.

This would have been the second special board meeting, so what was the reason for the first?  I knew of Delaware Met, but up until Friday I had never heard a peep about this school aside from an occasional article here and there.  The only time I wrote about them on here was for their performance award application and their award of $175,000.00.  The school had and still has every opportunity to contact me, and they know how to.  Back to Friday, a few other sources confirmed the earlier email I received.  To be honest, I thought the email was a joke, or someone trying to give me false information, which happens more than you think as a blogger.  I’m sure mainstream reporters can attest to this as well.  Other sources confirmed this information, except for one part: the part about Innovative Schools cutting ties with the school.  For someone to send that to me, it would have to be someone with inside information.  Since other sources were already vetting all the other information, I knew this story had legs so I published it.  While the DOE and I are battling on several issues, I sincerely reached out to them and the school.

Over the weekend, I did an extensive amount of research on the school, their student population, their application with the DOE, their finances, how they acquired the property at 920 N. French St, and other material on the property kept popping up as I was looking.  As I collected the information, it provided a wealth of articles.  In the meantime, the school put up their notice of the second special board meeting at some point over the weekend which I saw Sunday night.  As well, they put an announcement up on their Facebook page about an important announcement the next day and they hoped everyone would be there.  I’m not sure what their announcement was, but I responded to their post and addressed what I heard point blank.  To date, no one responded to my public plea for information.

On Monday, I focused on the history of the property.  Meanwhile, the school was giving information to the News Journal and alleging that the “rumors” were causing more harm than help.  Rumors which they knew came from this blog, they had my email address, they could have responded on Facebook, or even commented on the many articles that went up over four days.  Meanwhile, thousands of Delawareans were reading what I wrote with complete silence from the school aside from cryptic Facebook messages and even more cryptic board agenda announcements where they announced they were going to vote if they should keep their charter.  Without a charter, there is no school. No school would ever put up a notice like that over “rumors”.

On Monday evening, the board voted to keep the school open.  There was a great deal of discussion concerning enrollment, best practices for the teachers, financial viability, and school culture.  Many members of the community attended this board meeting that would not have normally if the “rumors” had not surfaced.  Serious questions arose out of this board meeting and deep concerns about the school’s ability to service and educate a very high population of special needs students.  Many of the teachers are not seasoned, and the school had (at that point) two special education teachers with a population of 60 IEPs, and more projected.  Legislators, reporters, and citizens attended this board meeting, and the bulk of them left feeling very perplexed at the administration of this school.

I’m not sure if Delaware charter schools have received a “don’t respond to the blogger” email.  But more often than not, no one from the charters respond after an inquiry before I publish or after I publish based on information that is already in the public domain.  I am open to communication.  If you disagree with something or find my information is not factual, please reach out to me.  I have fixed information based on a different perception or not being able to find information many times.  Most reporters have.  I don’t consider myself a “journalist” per se, but I do devote quite a bit of free time looking for answers and I write based on what I found.  I also offer my opinion which sets me apart from the typical newspaper or television reporter.

Yes, I had a bad response with a charter once upon a time.  Yes, I don’t like the idea of unelected boards.  No, I don’t hate charters.  I hate what many of the adults do at charters.  I get charter parents going ballistic on me cause I dare to write about “their” school.  If they want to give me facts, I am up for that.  But one commenter seemed offended that I dared to question what she wrote.  It’s a free world.  And while I respect anonymity, understand that I have no idea who you are.  I don’t know if you are the school, the DOE, or a parent.  I was taught by a college professor that they key to life is not in the answers, but in the questions.  I will always ask the questions based on the facts that are presented to me or that I find.

With that being said, these are my biggest questions concerning The Delaware Met AND the property:

  1. When did the school know they had a large population of special needs students coming and what did they do to prepare for it?
  2. Who is their special education coordinator?
  3. Why do they have no financial information on their website?
  4. What does Innovative Schools do for $380,000 in two plus years?
  5. Why did Innovative Schools pay $1 million to the Charter School Development Corporation who in turn bought 920 N. French St from the State of Delaware for an undisclosed and not in the public domain amount?
  6. Why does The Delaware Met need Innovative Schools?
  7. Why does one of their board members allow the school to pay the company he is a chair of?
  8. Why does another board member work for the same company that handles the school’s finances?
  9. Did the school reach out to other charters or districts for help with their student population?
  10. Did a student bring a gun to the school on the very first day?
  11. What was the purpose of the board’s special board meeting on 9/23?
  12. What was the big announcement revealed to students on Monday 9/28?
  13. How is a student with an IEP accommodated while at an internship?
  14. Does any member of the board benefit in any way from an internship by a student?
  15. Has the school considered hiring a School Resource Officer?
  16. Where is their student handbook?
  17. What is their enrollment as of 11:59pm this evening, including basic, moderate, complex and intensive subgroups for their large special education population?
  18. Are their teachers adequately trained to determine what is behavior and what may be a manifestation of a student’s disability?
  19. Do they have the staff to complete IEP meetings since so many of the IEPs may need to be relooked at based on their curriculum?
  20. How much did the State of Delaware sell 920 N. French St. to Charter School Development Corporation and why is this not on any public website?
  21. Where did the State of Delaware put this revenue?
  22. Is there any immediate danger to staff or students at the school due to its Brownfield Site designation?
  23. What was the nature of the work Duffield Associates did for the school last year?
  24. What is the DOE’s duty to ensure new charter schools are ready from day one to run a school?
  25. What are the DOE’s next steps in terms of this school?

While I understand the school can’t answer all these questions, I welcome Innovative Schools or the State of Delaware to answer them as well if it applies to them.  You may not feel like you have to answer them, but I’m like a dog without a bone sometimes…

Will The DOE Put Delaware Met On Formal Review?

Judging by the below email sent to legislators and the State Board of Education, they might:

DOEResponseToDelMet

Youtube Video Of Delaware Met Board Meeting Part 2

Youtube Video Of Delaware Met Special Board Meeting Tonight

Comment Rescue: The Truth About Charter Schools

Thanks to commenter Lori Michelle for putting into words what the heart of the problem is with far too many charter schools.

Charter schools, most of the time, are started by people who have read about this cool educational theory or idea that is working somewhere else (sometimes even an exclusive private school who aren’t beholden to state tests and CCSS and who can pick and choose their students and expel whoever they want…) and think it would be great to get an awful lot of grants and tax money to create a “public school” in the same model. These people are usually not educators who know better and who actually have experience with real live students. Even if these charter school founders aren’t corporate reformers trying to line their pockets with tax dollars, it takes more than good intentions and a good idea to run a school. I feel sorry, first, for the students, and second for those poor teachers who are trying to teach and earn a living under an unprepared and probably unqualified administration. Been there, done that…won’t ever do it again.

Kendall Massett Thinks Del Met Team Should Get More Time. The Students Can’t Afford That.

Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, gave the News Journal a quote tonight about the Delaware Met story playing out before our very eyes.

“The process for getting a charter is extremely rigorous,” Massett said. “Look, it’s difficult to open up a new school. The team here just needs more time to get things to where they need to be. I’m glad to see this board asking hard questions, though.”

What she, and obviously the rest of the board at this school don’t seem to get is these students can’t wait around for the school to figure it out.  They aren’t an experiment.  This school should have been ready from day one.  They knew they had a large population of special education students coming.  They met their 80% enrollment last Spring, otherwise they would have gone on formal review like the two other charters at the time.  All they are doing now is making excuses.  The fact they started the year with two special education teachers with a population of 60 students with disabilities is preposterous.  And the Delaware DOE let this happen.  But thank God we have legislators like State Rep. Sean Matthews who understands the reality behind the pipe dreams these charter schools live in.

 If the state is going to approve charters, they should be under enough scrutiny from the state that they don’t encounter problems like this, he said.

Amen Rep. Matthews!

Delaware Met NOT Closing Says Matt Albright With The News Journal

This story WILL be updated, but Delaware Met is not closing for now as per Matthew Albright with the News Journal who tweeted the following 45 minutes ago:

This news is coming from their board meeting where at least two legislators attended.  One was State Rep. John Kowalko because he asked the board how many of them have educational experience.  The board canceled the executive session to discuss personnel.  But there are a multitude of unanswered questions here.  How are they going to be able to adequately service the students?  If the bulk of their students have internships, how does that work with a special education student who needs supervision? (These questions were not mine but were brought up to me today which raises a very good point).  What about all the conflicts of interest on the board?  What exactly happened for them to suddenly close the school last Thursday?  Who is the individual who originally emailed me on this?  Will the Delaware DOE, who notified the school they are concerned with their “financial viability” (which usually leads to a formal review), place the school on formal review? As soon as I know more, so will you!

Updated, 6:52pm: Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams tweeted the board voted to keep the school open.

Updated, 7:20pm: Delaware Met has 223 students, of which 60 are special education which gives them a 26.9% special education population.  They have 2 special education teachers and are looking to hire two paraprofessionals.  The school was actually closed for three days last week for professional development for teachers who seemed to be as lost as the students.  A former Moyer employee told the board he heard the Delaware Department of Education expected the board to close up shop tonight and that was what they wanted.  Innovative Schools said the school has a lot of money and they are good financially.  When it came time to vote if the school should stay open, the Board President looked at the Innovative Schools rep for approval, who nodded yes.  One member of the board kept referring to the students as her “babies”.  State Rep. John Kowalko barraged the board with questions.  Public comment was not given at the advice of the school’s attorneys (yes, at a public meeting).  One observer said there was gang symbol graffiti all over the cafeteria.  The board spent a significant amount of time discussing the school’s cell phone policy.  Yes, you heard that right.  Sounds like this school doesn’t have the first clue about what the hell they are doing.

News Journal Jumps On The Delaware Met Story

Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal finally jumped on the Delaware Met story three days after this blog broke the news about it’s pending closure.  The article does not state the school is closing because the board is meeting tonight to decide if they should hand in their charter.  I would fully expect a mainstream media source to take this route.  However, I do take offense to this part:

Rumors circulated through the weekend that Delaware Met had already made the decision to close. Students did not attend school Friday – Harrington said the school scheduled professional development for teachers – but kids were back Monday.

“We’ve been trying to get the message out to parents that no decision has been made, but they keep hearing people saying it’s already happened,” Harrington said. “It isn’t helping.”

Why would Albright only contact the school about this?  There was no mention of the Delaware Department of Education who I’m sure would have been notified.  As well, he knew what the source of the “rumors” was and I never heard from him.  But he was up in Philly for the Papal Visit.  Mr. Harrington, you could have easily contacted me as well, but the school did not respond to my two emails on Friday.  Nor did the Department of Education.

Is this school a special education school?  Calling it a “Big Picture School” is not indicative of what has been going on there.

Second, the board will decide whether the school can get a handle on problems with school climate. Harrington said there have been fights and incidents in which students have been disrespectful towards school staff.

“We’re talking about kids acting out,” Harrington said. “Our board’s and leadership’s priority is making sure we can provide a safe environment for our students.”

Part of providing a safe environment for students is having a firm handle on student’s Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) prior to the start of school.  Being that there was no board meeting in August, I would really have to wonder how prepared this school was for opening day.  I do have a lot of respect for Ed Emmett from Positive Outcomes, and he could be a valuable source for helping the school understand special education issues.  But I think their financial issues may be beyond just an enrollment issue.  How much are they paying to Innovative Schools for rent?  Since they have NO financial information on their website (which they are required to do monthly as per Delaware law), how could anyone ascertain what their financial picture is?

I also have to question the role Innovative Schools plays in Delaware education.  Their name has been attached to far too many charters that close or have huge financial issues at some point.  Is it time to reel them in for a serious investigation?  And of course Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network is riding in for the rescue.  But is it too late?  Given everything I have written about this school in the past few days I would be very concerned as a parent of a teenager attending this school.  Conflicts of Interest are as transparent as Saran Wrap and this school has red flags all over it.

Is There Toxic Ground At The Delaware Met Or Just A Huge Conflict Of Interest?

The address of 920 N. French St. in Wilmington, DE is listed as a “Brownfield Site”.  This is also the home of the Delaware Met.  What is a Brownfield Site? The Environmental Protection Agency defines a Brownfield Site as:

With certain legal exclusions and additions, the term “brownfield site” means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

On September 11th, 2002, 920 N. French St. was designated a Brownfield Site by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (DNREC).  In the below report, a plan was put forth and finalized in order to clean up the site to allow for commercial development of the property.  Duffield Associates was the company that formulated the plan to clean up the site and remove any contaminants from the soil.

Not long after, MBNA bought the property.  When MBNA was bought by Bank Of America, the company soon sold their former employee training center to the State of Delaware for $6.5 million dollars.  The State of Delaware bought the property on October 12, 2007.  However, the appropriation allowing for the purchase of this building was not approved until the 144th General Assembly on July 1st, 2008, as part of House Bill 525.

Section 31. State Employee Workforce, Education and Training Center. The Section 1 Addendum

14 to this Act contains an appropriation of $6,500,000 for the State Employee Workforce, Education and

15 Training Center, currently owned by the Bank of America. These certain tracts of land are located in the

16 vicinity of 920 N. French Street in the City of Wilmington, New Castle County, and the State of Delaware,

17 being known as New Castle County Tax Parcel numbers 2603520172, 2603520255, 2603520185,

18 2603520190 and 2603520195. For the acquisition of this property, the real property procurement

19 procedures in 29 Del. C. §9505 shall not apply.

For the entire time the State of Delaware owned the building, the property was vacant.  Why would a State purchase a property and never use it?  In March of 2014, the State of Delaware issued a public notice to any interested buyers of the property.  Both The Delaware Met and Freire Charter School were actively seeking the property, and eventually the property was sold to Charter School Development Corporation, under the official company name of CDSCPC 920 French LLC.  The address for this company is 6731 COLUMBIA GATEWAY DRIVE, SUITE 220, COLUMBIA, MD 21046.  But Charter School Development Corporation is a non-profit company based out of Arizona.  The sale occurred on November 14th, 2014, which set into motion a great deal of controversy for Freire Charter School of Wilmington and the Midtown Brandywine Neighborhood Association when Freire was forced to find a new location for their school.  There is no public record of how much the State of Delaware sold the building to Charter School Development Corporation.  In Fiscal Year 2012, Innovative Schools donated $1 million dollars to Charter School Development Corporation.  In FY2014, the company bought 920 N. French St. and leased it to Innovative Schools who is subleasing the property to The Delaware Met.

In Fiscal Year 2015, the Delaware Met paid a considerable sum of money to Duffield & Associates to do work at the property, the very same company that was contracted in 2002 to clean up the soil at the site.  From the Delaware Online Checkbook:

DelmetDuff

All told, Delaware Met paid Duffield Associates $37,654.83 in a seven month period.  On The Delaware Met’s original application, Jeff Bross is listed as the Chairman of Duffield Associates and was also listed as a board member of Delaware Met.  Interestingly enough, while searching for information about Delaware Met and Duffield, this link came up: http://dedoe.schoolwires.net/Errors/AccessDenied.aspx with a message stating the page was inactive or protected and to contact Alison May at the Delaware DOE if you don’t have an account or have any questions.  Jeff Bross is still listed as a Board Member at Delaware Met and is still the Chairman of Duffield Associates.  2014 was a busy year for Duffield and Bross as they were also contracted to help with the I-495 Bridge Debacle.  So is there a clear conflict of interest with having the Chair of Duffield on the Board at the school while also hiring his company to do an extensive amount of work?  Duffield’s expertise seems to be in fixing structural issues at sites where there could be large problems.  What was the problem with 920 N. French St.?  In the school’s only board minutes posted on their website from October 8th, 2014 there is no mention of pending work with Duffield Associates or a vote to retain their services.  Bross attended the meeting.  As well, another board member named Richelle Talbert sits on the board at Delaware Met and is also an employee of the school’s charter management organization, Innovative Schools.  Surely that is a conflict of interest as well.

These are questions that need to be asked by our legislators and the Delaware Department of Education in determining what in the world happened with this charter school.

What Happened At The Delaware Met Last Week?

Sources are telling me there was no school at Delaware Met on Thursday or Friday.  Kids got on the bus Thursday morning and arrived at the school.  When they got there, someone came on the bus and stated the school was having “electrical” problems and students were sent home.  That night, the school had a special board meeting.  Tonight they are having another with one to possibly take action on their charter.  On Friday, news started trickling about the school closing this week.

Now imagine, if you will, what happens with this.  You get up, send your kid to school, and get ready for work or a doctor appointment.  Your child comes back home and you aren’t there.  Granted, these are 9th and 10th graders, but what if they don’t have a key?  Or what if they may have disabilities and need some extra help during a normal day?  These are young teenagers, given two days off in the city of Wilmington and surrounding areas.  Free to possibly wander off and potentially get in trouble.  A school is like a contract.  If you send your child to school, you expect your child to be at school.  Did the school notify the parents right away of this sudden closure?  I’ve heard many parents were not too happy with this stunt.  There was nothing on their website or their Facebook page about this at all.  There was nothing scheduled on the school calendar for in-service days or anything like that.  Christina School District had a small fire at one of their schools and it was all over social media and the news.  With Delaware Met, not a peep.

All new schools have growing pains, but let’s look at the big picture.  If you aren’t ready to service students the day you open your doors, maybe you should close.  Why do charter schools insist on operating out of secrecy rather than transparency?  Don’t they realize that if they are open and honest and transparent it goes so much better for them?  In the past year alone we have seen situations develop at Family Foundations Academy, Charter School of Wilmington, Academy of Dover, Freire (before they even opened), Providence Creek Academy, and  now The Delaware Met.  While some events are more egregious than others, they all showed a simple lack of confidence and trust to handle a situation the right way.  Yesterday, another national blogger wrote about the number of charter schools that closed between 2001-2013.  While the list was not entirely accurate for Delaware (can’t speak for other states), it showed about 2,500 charter schools around America closed during this timeframe.  All too often, as is the case in Wilmington, these students just get tossed around from school to school to school.  That isn’t right.  Kids need consistency in their lives.  If some adults don’t know how to play in the sandbox that is public education, maybe they shouldn’t enter it.  It may look great to have on your resume “School Board Member”, or “Charter School Founder”, but if you don’t know what you’re doing it has a huge impact on kid’s lives.

As well, our very own Department of Education tries to make charter schools appear as if everything is awesome until they have no choice but to put a school on formal review.  But they are aware of the issues.  They need to take a direct hand in matters and be public about it way before the point of no return.

The Funky Real Estate Deals For 920 N. French St., Home of Delaware Met

Last March, Larry Nagengast with WDDE wrote a very good article on Innovative Schools.  It is no longer on the WDDE website, but a pdf of it is floating around on the internet.  In this article, which delved into many things with Innovative Schools, Nagengast wrote:

But Delaware Met, like many charters, did not have the funds to purchase the building outright.

According to Swanson and Childs, Innovative Schools approached the Charter Schools Development Corporation (CSDC), a nonprofit based in the Washington, D.C., area that finance and develops charter school sites and had an interest in entering the Delaware market. Innovative Schools contributed $1 million to CSDC, which then purchased the building from the state. (The actual purchase price was not given on New Castle County property records.) CSDC is leasing the building back to Innovative Schools, which is subleasing it to Delaware Met.

The leasing arrangement, Swanson says, provides a measure of protection for CSDC in the event Delaware Met does not succeed because Innovative Schools, as a charter manager, would be in a position to secure another school as a tenant to use the space.

The New Castle County property records shows it purchased the building from the state for $10.00.  But this website says that for all the sales of this building, so that can’t be correct.  Why would Innovative Schools “contribute” $1 million in 2012 to a company that then bought the building for Delaware Met, and then Innovative Schools subleases it to Delaware Met?  Looks like that leasing arrangement was a good idea for CSDC.  Too bad there is a moratorium on any new charters until 2017 or so.  This is going to be VERY interesting to watch.  More to come, and I’m pretty sure there may be some more mainstream coverage of this in the next day or two…  Meanwhile, I just hope all of this is not too toxic for these students who have been shuffled around Wilmington charters…

Delaware Met Special Board Meeting Tomorrow Night, May Take Action On School’s Charter

Delaware Charter Schools don’t tend to have special board meetings for good reasons.  Yes, the Head of School went out on maternity leave, but I’m sure that was expected to happen as it usually does when someone, you know, has a baby.  But if they may need to take action on their charter and to discuss personnel in executive session…that’s something different.  It’s all in there:

This is following their special board meeting on 9/23 of which they did not post an agenda (violating Delaware Public Meeting laws), nor did they post an agenda for this meeting, but it is a special board meeting.  As well, their Facebook page has the following message this evening:

We’ve had a few days off, but we’re excited to see all of our students at school tomorrow! Make sure you’re there! It’s a super important day!

 What were they off a few days for?  Their school calendar shows no days off last week.  Why would students not be there?  It’s school!  What is super important?  Or maybe I’m just talking to aliens Kilroy….

So Much Can Change In A Week For The Delaware Met!

Delaware MET Needs To Return Their $175,000 Charter School Performance Fund

First off, I don’t think any charter school that has not even opened should be getting a “performance award”.  They haven’t done anything yet.  Second of all, it is obvious their “long-term” strategy for this school didn’t work as they are closing a little over a month after they opened.  Third, if they don’t, I know at least two legislators who will be screaming foul on this.  And rightly so.  Finally, they should openly, honestly, and with great transparency return ALL unused funds immediately.

The Delaware
Met
$250,000 $175,000 High-quality plans for start-up or expansion; AND Serve high-need students Start-Up Costs Funds may not be used for marketing materials or mentor appreciation/exhibition events No

In the above chart, it was taken straight from the 2015-2016 list of Charter School Performance Award winners.  They requested $250,000 for “start-up” costs, even though they already received $250,000 from the Longwood Foundation in 2014.  They won the $175,000 out of the $250k requested.  In their application for the performance fund the school stated they needed a special education coordinator in the amount of $46,000.00 to “ensure we can meet the needs of our high IEP student population“.  Don’t federal funds coming under the IDEA-B allocation already cover that need based on how many special education students they already have?  This means the school already knew they would be having a lot of students with disabilities and they had not even hired a coordinator as of July 7th of this year, a month and a half before they opened.

The big question is where these funds even come from.  Do they come from the DOE, or somewhere else in the Delaware Government?  If you look at Delaware Online Checkbook, it shows them receiving $39.83 in revenue this year. These are funds that have already been sent to these schools. So where is the money and where did it go to? Why isn’t it being reported by the state?

To be on the safe side, I checked Kuumba Academy who received $425,000 last year as their charter school performance fund. This was announced after Fiscal Year 2015 started.  Even though the budget states the charter school performance fund comes from the General Fund, since the funds are allocated to a specific purpose (i.e. a special education coordinator), it would then go the Special Fund once the General Fund sends funds to that allocation. In the bill for Fiscal Year 2015, on page 59 of this pdf: Senate Bill 225 Final FY2015 Budget it shows $1.5 million allocated to the charter school performance fund, coming out of the General Fund.  But Kuumba shows no revenue in their General Fund for FY2015 on Delaware Online Checkbook.  So it had to come out of what is called the special fund. But the only special fund items listed with an amount higher than $425,000 are “Donation Contributions” of which Kuumba received $1,671,735.39. $500,000 of that was a donation from the Longwood Foundation at the beginning of Fiscal Year 2015. And in their May 2015 board meeting minutes, Kuumba’s board announced they were getting another $1 Million from them as well. So that is $1.5 million alone in their “Donation Contributions” section which is the only place $425,000 could have possibly gone. But it doesn’t fit with $1.5 million being donated by Longwood, so where is it?

Even though the Delaware MET is showing less than $40.00 in revenue, that doesn’t mean the $175,000 wasn’t sent to them. It’s just a question of where, in the maze that is Delaware funding, the hell it is.  This charter school performance fund is one of the abominations that sprang out of House Bill 165 during the first half of the 147th General Assembly back in 2013.  Maybe the 2nd half of the 148th General Assembly can get rid of this monstrous waste in taxpayer funds by next June, and save the state some semblance of money.