Family Foundations Academy Is Now Charter School Of New Castle

Blink and you miss it.  I blinked.  On January 5th, former Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky approved a minor modification request for Family Foundations Academy to change their name.  It is probably a good name.  Family Foundations Academy, when mentioned, brings Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington to mind.  The Charter School of New Castle sounds better.

The change won’t go into effect until July 1st of this year but it is already being used for marketing purposes.  Will we see other charter schools in Delaware change their name?

Meanwhile, I have been getting tons of hits on old Lamont Browne articles in the past couple of weeks.  Browne was the Executive Director of East Side Charter School and Family Foundations Academy before he resigned and moved to Colorado.  What is Browne up to in Colorado that is garnering this renewed interest in his time in Delaware?  Aaron Bass took over after Browne left.

It has been a fairly quiet school year for Delaware charter schools.  No outright scandals have come out.  None of them, as of this writing, went under formal review.  Academy of Dover passed their renewal.  Prestige Academy announced they will shut down, voluntarily, at the end of this school year.  I am sure the Delaware Dept. of Education is hoping this trend continues with a more calm year!

 

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Ex Delaware Charter Leader Sean Moore Facing 30 Years In Federal Prison For Stealing School Funds

22 months after serious allegations arose regarding theft of school funds, justice finally caught up with Sean Moore.  The former Family Foundations Academy co-director faced a federal judge today and said he was guilty.  When any public schools gets federal funds and some of those federal funds are stolen, the feds get first dibs on prosecution.  But Moore made it easy for them by pleading guilty today.  He faces sentencing on March 2nd, 2017.

The Family Foundations Academy was probably my first really big investigative piece.  It began during their charter renewal process in December of 2014 and stretched out the next few months.  I don’t know how much my initial reporting on Moore and fellow co-director Tennell Brewington’s activities led to what happened today.  The feds rolled these charges down a couple of months ago.  So why did it take so long for Moore to enter a plea?  From what I’m hearing, they had to find him first.  That took some doing.

Moore’s fellow co-director, Tennell Brewington, is gainfully employed in Delaware.  She was terminated from Family Foundations Academy when Moore took over the school during his brief coup-detat but she too was found to have stolen money from the school.  Initial reports indicated she did not take as much money as Moore, but if she used any federal funds she too would face a federal judge.  If not, I’m still waiting on Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn to do something.  And what about Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover?  I guess these things take time.

From the United States Department of Justice:

WILMINGTON, Del. – Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced today that Sean Moore, age 43, of New Castle, Del., pleaded guilty to three counts of federal program theft before U.S. District Judge Richard G. Andrews.  Moore is scheduled to be sentenced on March 2, 2017.

According to court records and statements made in open court, between July 1, 2011 and January 31, 2015, while serving as the Director of Finance and Operations for the Family Foundations Academy, a charter school in New Castle, Del., Moore embezzled $161,871 from the school. 

Moore accomplished this embezzlement in a number of ways.  First, Moore charged personal expenses to an unauthorized credit card he opened in the name of the school.  Moore also abused the State of Delaware’s voucher program, by which charter schools are permitted to submit qualified expenses for reimbursement, and the State of Delaware’s procurement card system, by which the State of Delaware issues credit cards to charter school administrators to purchase necessary school supplies.  In addition, Moore stole money from the school’s fundraising account, which consisted of money collected from parents of school students, local sponsors, and an after-school program.  Moore also took money from the school’s construction loan account.

Moore used the embezzled money for personal expenses such as retail purchases, home improvement purchases, electronics, auto loan payments, auto services and accessories, federal tax payments, groceries, entertainment, food, gas, travel, gifts and collectibles, shoes, hotels, jewelry, train tickets, and video games. 

During this time, the Family Foundations Academy received significant federal funding, which provides the basis for the federal program theft charges.  The maximum penalty for each count is ten years in prison followed by a three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Education – Office of the Inspector General, and the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, with assistance from the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth L. Van Pelt is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.

I would like to know how Moore could settle with the Board of Directors at FFA over stolen funds.  If he stole $161k in funds and settled with them for $67k, as per WDEL, that is $94,000 in lost education funding for Delaware kids.  That is some serious coin.  And Moore only paid back $13k of that settlement amount.  But he will face jail time.  That is all but a guarantee.

EastSide Charter & Family Foundations Academy Have No Child Left Behind Goals But Plan To Leave More Students Behind

Aaaron Bass, the new Executive Director of EastSide Charter School and Family Foundations Academy has some very lofty goals for students.  Mirroring the very controversial No Child Left Behind law enacted in 2002, Bass wants all students to be 100% proficient on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  The difference is Bass’ plans to determine how a child advances in grade levels.  And what method of teaching does Bass prefer? Continue reading “EastSide Charter & Family Foundations Academy Have No Child Left Behind Goals But Plan To Leave More Students Behind”

Former Family Foundations Academy Sean Moore FINALLY Gets Fed Charges!!!!

moorebrewington

It’s about time!  After almost two years of waiting for Sean Moore to get charged with something, information comes out that he is being charged by the feds for theft.  This very quick blurb in the News Journal states Moore has three federal counts against him.  As most folks in Delaware know, Moore, along with his co-charter leader/co-conspirator Dr. Tennell Brewington, both formerly with Family Foundations Academy in New Castle, DE, got busted after a forensic audit showed they spent over $150,000 in school funds for personal use.  They were terminated and the school could have closed if a nearby charter school didn’t essentially take them over.

I was curious why Moore was charged by the feds and not Brewington.  Either they haven’t announced anything for her yet or her theft of taxpayer money for personal use didn’t involve anything with federal dollars.

Now we just have to wait for the other former charter thieves, Noel Rodriguez of Academy of Dover and Shanna Simmens of Providence Creek Academy, to get their charges.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn hinted to me almost a year ago that “other parties” were looking at these situations.  As I waited and waited, with nothing coming out, I took it upon myself to contact the FBI about this earlier in the spring.  I imagine Denn’s hands were tied once the feds became involved and he obviously couldn’t say anything concrete about it.  I’m glad he was on the up and up about it though.

This is the only information I could find on these charges, but it looks like the Associated Press picked up on it because the same story appears in the Washington Post and many other media outlets.  There is an important lesson here: don’t steal from kids.  This is what happens when you get caught!  As more information on this becomes available I will certainly give updates.  I can’t find the actual court filing yet, but once information becomes available, you will know!

Family Foundation’s Board Pays An Invoice With A HUGE Conflict Of Interest

In the January minutes for the Family Foundations Academy Board of Directors, a notation was made about Chairman Charles McDowell having the board approve an invoice by for a report that was done.  The invoice was provided by the Executive Director for both Family Foundations Academy and EastSide Charter School.  The invoice, for $10,500.00, was for a report on an Early Learning Academy study.  The board approved the payment.  The minutes went on to talk about the feasibility of having an Early Learning Academy in New Castle, DE.  Continue reading “Family Foundation’s Board Pays An Invoice With A HUGE Conflict Of Interest”

Family Foundations Academy Considers Filing A D&O… Say What Now?

On the agenda for Family Foundations Academy’s finance committee, there is a very odd item.  Charles McDowell, also the President of FFA and East Side Charter School’s board, runs this committee.  He is also an attorney and knows his stuff.  So why would FFA potentially file a D&O Insurance Claim?  What is a D&O?

It stands for Directors and Officers.  There are several reasons why a non-profit corporation (which charter schools are) would file a D&O.  From the Travelers Insurance website:

Coverage for defense costs and damages (awards and settlements) arising out of wrongful act allegations and lawsuits brought against an organizations board of directors and/or officers.

Wikipedia goes a bit deeper:

Directors and officers liability Insurance (often called D&O) is liability insurance payable to the directors and officers of a company, or to the organization(s) itself, as indemnification (reimbursement) for losses or advancement of defense costs in the event an insured suffers such a loss as a result of a legal action brought for alleged wrongful acts in their capacity as directors and officers. Such coverage can extend to defence costs arising out of criminal and regulatory investigations/trials as well; in fact, often civil and criminal actions are brought against directors/officers simultaneously. Intentional illegal acts, however, are typically not covered under D&O policies.

I am not aware of any current lawsuits against FFA, but I did go to the Delaware Court Connect website and there is nothing listed there.  Just to be on the safe side, I checked the following individuals as well: Sean Moore, Tennell Brewington, and Charles McDowell.  Nothing with them either.  Which means something may be coming.  So what could possibly cause McDowell and the school’s finance committee to consider filing this type of claim?

All charter schools, as corporations, are required to file an IRS Form 990.  The last one FFA has on their website is from 2012, and it shows Brewington as the Principal Officer and Moore as the Co-Director.  As everyone in Delaware surely knows, the two were alleged to have made out with hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school piggy bank…

Could it be… is it… are we finally going to know something on the fate of the former heads of school at FFA?

Here’s the agenda:

FFAD&O

15 Who Made An Impact On 2015: The Charter Thieves

The biggest Delaware charter school news this year definitely belonged to the three charter bandits: Sean Moore, Tennell Brewington, and Noel Rodriguez.  The first two were the heads of school at Family Foundations Academy while Rodriguez belonged to Academy of Dover.  Altogether, the trio managed to abscond over $300,000 of school funds for personal purchases.  And that was just the verified amount.  Over $1.3 million could not be verified as school or personal purchases by the Auditor of Accounts in Delaware.  That is some serious coin!

Luckily, none of them are currently employed by the schools.  *Brewington surfaced at Christiana in the Emotional Therapeutic Support classroom as a one-on-one teacher.  Shortly before Thanksgiving she was no longer there.  Moore and Rodriguez have been very quiet.  Rodriguez was last seen at the Amazon Distribution Center in Middletown but he was let go around the same time the auditor investigation into Academy of Dover came out last June.

Many are wondering why the three are not in jail.  Delaware Senator Greg Lavelle, a huge supporter of charters in Delaware, was wondering the same thing.  Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn said his office is looking into the matter.  This is why State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 needs to pass, which would make all charter school audits go through Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office.  Resistance from the Delaware Charter Schools Network reached a fever pitch last Spring, even resulting in the non-profit recruiting parents to fill out an online form on their website which automatically went to the Delaware legislators.  The bill passed the House on June 30th, but every single House Republican voted no along with Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf and Chair of the House Education Committee Earl Jaques.  When the legislators return in January, this bill will be in the hands of the Senate Education Committee.

In October, Wagner’s office released a report that showed some other charter schools that had very suspect incidents of financial abuse.  Kuumba Academy and Delaware College Prep’s incidents were not as egregious as those of Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, but they are still a pattern that needs to change at Delaware charter schools.  In years past, Pencader Business School and Delaware Military Academy were also investigated for misuse of state funds.  While this is certainly not indicative of all charters in Delaware, it is far too many.  Education is about students, not a personal ATM machine!

*This article has been corrected to give a more accurate read on where Dr. Tennell Brewington wound up.  Apologies for the error!

Family Foundations Financial Fiasco Timeline

For those just now tuning in to the Family Foundations Academy story based on the Delaware Auditor of Accounts investigation released yesterday, I put together a chronological timeline of everything FFA related.  While the News Journal claims to be “following this story since January”, after their forensic audit was publicly released, myself, Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks and Kilroy’s Delaware were hammering this story out well before them.  Everything you need to know about the FFA story is in here, along with aspects not even touched on by the State Auditor’s inspection.  Kilroy first broke the news about stuff going on there!

12/12/14: Kilroy found it first while going through the DOE website! https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/something-for-delaware-state-representative-debbie-hudson-re-charter-school-transparency-arneduncan-washingtonpost-edude-netde-dedeptofed-destateboarded-usedgov-educationoig-huffingtonpost/

12/12/14: More complaints coming in for FFA’s charter renewal: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/tnj_malbright-more-family-foundations-complaints-sent-to-the-de-doe-charter-school-office-state-board-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-roof_o-netde-edude-de/

12/12/14: Kilroy finds the numerous attorney fees going out of FFA: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/delaware-charter-schools-are-a-bonanza-for-lawyers-omg-look-at-this/

12/13/14: FFA & DCSN Connections: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/de-charter-school-network-connections-with-family-foundations-academy-disaester-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-tnj_malbright-doverpost-thestatenews-destateboarded-dedeptofed-governormarkell-wsj-th/

12/14/14: Peyton Place & The Satisfaction Officer: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/peyton-place-at-family-foundations-academy-the-satisfaction-officer-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-roof_o-governormarkell-delawarebats-rodel-netde-edude-delaw/

12/16/14: FFA under investigation by Delaware State Auditor’s office: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/breaking-news-family-foundations-academy-under-financial-investigation-with-state-auditor-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-apl_jax-rceaprez-governormarkell-destateboarded-dedeptofed-tnj_malbright-de/

12/17/14: Sean Moore no longer on board at Delaware Charter School Network: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/family-foundations-acad-head-of-school-sean-moore-no-longer-treasurer-of-delaware-charter-school-network-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-tnj_markell-avi_wa-wboc-w/

12/18/14: FFA’s fate decided at State Board of Education meeting: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/live-from-delaware-state-board-of-education-meeting-charter-school-decisions-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-roof_o-destateboarded-dedeptofed-delawarebats-netde/

12/19/14: Avi with Newsworks covers the State Board of Education meeting: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/76455-delaware-shuts-one-charter-school-spares-another

12/19/14: FFA under scrutiny by State Board of Education: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/family-foundations-academy-potentially-serious-allegations-of-financial-mismanagement-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-avi_wa-tnj_malbright-delawarebats-netde/

12/21/14: Kilroy ponders on criminal charges for Family Foundations leaders: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/if-allegations-are-substantiated-against-family-foundation-will-their-be-criminal-charges-nope/

12/23/14: FFA Board Meeting: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/family-foundations-academy-board-meeting-tonight-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-avi_wa-tnj_malbright-netde-edude-edchat-delaware/

12/30/14: The full Auphsite Consulting Family Foundations forensic audit report: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/4423/

12/30/14: Avi with Newsworks covers the Forensic Audit: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/76803-audit-details-financial-impropriety-at-delaware-charter

1/1/15: Kilroy talks about their Citizens Budget Oversight Committee: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/is-family-foundation-keeping-their-cboc-in-the-dark-including-the-de-doe-rep/https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/is-family-foundation-keeping-their-cboc-in-the-dark-including-the-de-doe-rep/

1/2/15: Plea to parents and teachers at FFA to tell the truth: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/family-foundations-parents-and-teachers-its-time-to-tell-the-truth/

1/3/15: The stories pour in from parents and teachers: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/a-family-foundations-academy-blast-from-the-past-id-love-to-see-them-try-this-now/

1/4/15: What more could FFA do wrong? You would be surprised: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/uh-oh-looks-like-we-got-a-bleeder-here-what-has-family-foundations-academy-done-now/

1/4/15: FFA was looking for new board members, so….: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/both-moore-brewington-out-at-family-foundations-academy-looking-for-new-board-members-should-I/

1/5/15: Avi covers the “on-leave” status of Sean Moore at FFA: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/77006-embattled-charter-head-placed-on-leave

1/6/15: The Bizarro World at FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/more-truly-bizarre-family-foundations-academy-stories-surface/

1/8/15: Did something happen at FFA today?: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/what-happened-at-family-foundations-academy-today-reporters-doe-letters-oh-my/

1/11/15: My public comment for FFA’s formal review: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/state-rep-kim-williams-public-comment-on-family-foundations-academy-wow/

1/13/15: FFA leaders fired, big board changes: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/big-changes-at-family-foundations-academy-moore-brewington-terminated-with-cause-board-members-resign/

1/13/15: Avi covers the firing of Moore and Brewington: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/77260-major-leadership-shakeup-at-troubled-delaware-charter

1/13/15: Avi covers the EastSide Charter School rescue: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/77263-distressed-charter-cleans-house-enlists-help-of-eastside-charter

1/13/15: State Rep. Kim Williams Public Comment for FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/state-rep-kim-williams-public-comment-on-family-foundations-academy-wow/

1/14/15: Details on FFA/East Side agreement: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/has-family-foundations-academy-become-eastside-charter-2-sure-looks-like-it/

1/15/15: Secretary Murphy, State Board and East Side Charter School save FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/family-foundations-academy-fate-decided-handed-over-to-eastside-charter-placed-on-formal-review/

1/15/15: Avi covers the State Board meeting as well: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/77394-delaware-spares-troubled-charter-school

1/19/15: Unanswered questions about FFA and financial matters: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/family-foundations-academy-still-has-some-big-unanswered-questions/

2/7/15: Moore and Brewington and their future: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/next-stop-for-ex-family-foundations-head-brewington-moore-attorney-generals-office/

2/14/15: Moore and Brewington want their jobs back: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/say-what-sean-moore-and-dr-brewington-want-their-jobs-back-at-family-foundations-academy/

2/15/15: Questions about FFA & East Side arrangement: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/big-question-raised-regarding-east-side-charter-family-foundations-academy-arrangement/

3/16/15: Charter School Accountability Committee’s probation recommendation for FFA & new leaders getting snippy: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/eastside-and-family-foundations-overlords-getting-rather-snippy-with-doe-overreaching-a-bit/

3/22/15: Diane Ravitch jumps on the FFA story: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/family-foundations-academy-saved-by-state-board-as-they-get-ravitched/

4/7/15: FFA’s probation letter and news about Tennell Brewington: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/family-foundations-academy-their-conditions-for-probation-news-that-will-make-ja-flip-out/

7/17/15: FFA submits major modification to change locations for both schools: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/family-foundations-major-modification-to-move-buildings-to-reach-academy-plans-to-increase-enrollment/

8/22/15: FFA’s major modification approved by State Board of Education: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/family-foundations-major-modification-approved-by-state-board-of-education-potential-conflict-ahead/

9/6/15: Wondering when the State Audit investigation will be completed: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/family-foundations-academy-where-is-the-investigative-audit-are-they-still-on-probation/

9/9/15: FFA off probation status: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/family-foundations-academy-off-probation-status/

Family Foundations Investigation Released By State Auditor, The Damage: $141,000 Verified, $1.2 Million “Unverifiable”

Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office released the Family Foundation Academy full inspection report a year after it was revealed their office was investigating them.  The biggest finding: Ex Head of School leaders Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, as well as other employees of the school, racked up $141,000 in personal purchases with over $1.2 million unverifiable whether it was business or pleasure.  The report talks about the settlement agreement Moore and Brewington and the Board of Directors for a little over $85,000.  There is a mountain of abuse and violations in this report!  Even some that occurred well after East Side Charter essentially took over the school at the end of last year.  This is really, really bad.

AOA’s inspection revealed the administration at Family Foundations Academy  (the Academy) seemingly operated in its own universe during the period July 1, 2011 through January 31, 2015.

Updated, 3:45pm: with the press release from State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office:

FFA

Family Foundations Academy Off Probation Status

Yesterday, at the State Board of Education meeting in Dover, it was announced Family Foundations Academy met the conditions of their six month probation and are now released from that status.  Jennifer Nagourney with the Delaware Charter School Office did tell the state board that “we continue to be concerned about all the things we need to be concerned about and we are taking a heightened look at board governance and financial management.”

Family Foundations Academy terminated their former heads of school last winter after it was revealed they embezzled funds from the schools through use of procurement cards and other cards in the school’s name.  As a result, the school went on formal review during their charter school renewal process.  In March, the State Board put the school on probation when they emerged out of formal review status.  Members of the board from EastSide Charter School joined the remaining FFA board, and EastSide’s Director, Dr. Lamont Browne, took over as school leader for FFA.

The school was approved for a major modification to move into the former Reach Academy for Girls building, and will transition their middle school to the other portion of those buildings next year.  They were also approved for an alternate educator evaluation system, separate from the DPAS-II system.  If I had to guess, I would assume they joined the Delaware Charter Collaborative, comprised of EastSide, Prestige Academy, Kuumba Academy, and Thomas Edison Charter School.  But this has not been confirmed.

The last remaining business from the controversy caused by the former leaders will come in the form of the Delaware State Auditor’s report on the investigative audit that began last December.  The school’s forensic auditor determined Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington absconded approximately $90,000 in school funds, but what the State Auditor’s office finds is up in the air and until the report is released.

Family Foundations Academy: Where Is The Investigative Audit? Are They Still On Probation?

Family Foundations Academy, a Delaware charter school in New Castle, DE, formally requested an end to their six-month probation.  But their investigative audit may come out at the same time.  Last December, Delawareans were treated to a month long ordeal surrounding Family Foundations Academy.  During the school’s charter renewal, allegations came out against the co-leaders of the school for financial mismanagement.  It was also revealed the State Auditor’s office was going to investigate the school’s finances. By the end of the month, Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington were out, and the board was radically changed in the first month of the year as members of EastSide Charter School took over.

The State Board renewed their charter but put FFA on formal review.  In March, the State Board put the school on probation for six months.  This will end later this month if the State Board agrees to it.  But in the meantime, while on probation, the school submitted and was approved for a major modification concerning the location of their elementary and middle schools.  And the Auditor’s report hasn’t even come out yet.  When can we expect this?  Given the timing for Academy of Dover’s similar situation, I would say sometime in the next month to month and a half.  It took the State Auditor’s office about ten months to complete their investigation on Academy of Dover, and that report came out on 6/24/15.  The State Auditor opened their investigation into FFA sometime in December, 2014, so we should expect the report this month or next month given the same trajectory.

Has FFA satisfied the terms of their probation?  That will be up to the State Board of Education to decide, but the school seems to think so if you read the below letter.  A frequent commenter on this blog raises a very serious question though about overall board membership at Delaware charter schools: Should board members reside in Delaware?  This is mandatory for traditional school boards since they go through the election process.  I would think it would be in our best interests to have the same for charter schools.

Family Foundations Major Modification Approved By State Board of Education, Potential Conflict Ahead?

On Thursday, the Delaware State Board of Education approved the major modification Family Foundations Academy submitted on June 30th.  Following the Charter School Accountability Committee’s final meeting on August 7th, a public hearing occurred on August 10th.  On August 20th, the CSAC approved the major modification.

The modification was approved for FFA to move it’s elementary school from it’s present location at 1101 Delaware Street in New Castle to 170 Lukens Drive in New Castle.  The 170 Lukens Drive has been home to the recently closed Reach Academy for Girls as well as the Pencader Business School which was shut down by the state two and a half years ago.  In addition, they will move their middle school from their former location in Newport at 1 Fallon Avenue in Newport to the former FFA elementary school location.  In the 2016-2017 school year, FFA will move it’s middle school to 160 Lukens Drive, the  other building where Reach and Pencader used to be and will sell the 1101  Delaware St. building.  If they sell the building sooner, the middle school will move to 160 Lukens Drive shortly afterwards.

The goal of the modification is enrollment expansion.  Currently both schools have enrollment up to 800 students.  This would allow them to expand to 1100 students.  Where this gets somewhat sticky is House Bill 56, passed by the 148th General Assembly in April of this year, and signed by Governor Markell on May 5th.  While this law put a moratorium on any new charter schools until 2018, it does not specifically mention major modifications with existing charter schools.  If a charter school is expanding, it may go against the law because the law specifically states:

“There shall be a moratorium on all new charter schools opening until June 30, 2018 or until the State Board of Education develops a strategic plan for the number of charter, district, and vocational-technical schools in the State, whichever occurs first. The aforementioned strategic plan shall be based on a systematic evaluation of educational needs using national models and best practices that align with the public education system, such as the National Association of Charter School Authorizers guidelines.”

By expanding their enrollment, FFA is throwing off the dynamic of existing charter schools and traditional school districts enrollment figures during this crucial time of transition with the current redistricting effort in Wilmington.  If Red Clay Consolidated takes Christina’s City of Wilmington schools, those schools may suffer from a decreased enrollment based on the actions of FFA.  The current Statewide Review of Educational Opportunities initiative, suggested by Governor Jack Markell in March, is enacting the Strategic Plan called for in House Bill 56.  The Delaware Department of Education must submit this report to the Governor, and they are anticipating its completion in November.

It would not shock me to see more charters submitting major modification requests in an effort to increase their enrollment before all is said and done.  At Gateway Lab School, the new principal and interim head of schools is a former assistant principal from East Side Charter School, Rebecca Brookings.  When FFA was under formal review last winter, East Side essentially took over the school from its prior leadership team and board.  With one of their key employees overseeing Gateway, some have expressed concern about the East Side Board of Directors and Dr. Lamont Browne beginning a charter consortium in New Castle County.  East Side, Kuumba Academy, Prestige Academy and Thomas Edison are all part of what is known as the Delaware Charter Collaborative, a consortium of charters that have their own teacher evaluation method outside of the DPAS-II used by every other school in Delaware.  How long until FFA and Gateway become a part of this consortium?  And what does it all mean for WEAC’s recommendation of a group to help manage the Wilmington charters?  The mysteries continue….

Updated, 10:03pm, 8/22/15: This article has been corrected to clarify Family Foundations Academy is NOT selling their 1 Fallon Ave. location because they do not own it. This is owned by St. Matthew’s Church.  But they will be selling the 1101 Delaware St. location.  Sorry for any confusion folks!

Family Foundations Major Modification To Move Buildings To Reach Academy, Plans To Increase Enrollment

On June 29th, Family Foundations Academy, a Delaware charter school in New Castle, DE submitted a major modification request to move their elementary school this summer to one of the two buildings formerly occupied by Reach Academy for Girls and wants to move their middle school to the other building at Reach the following year.  They also plan to increase enrollment from 810 to 1100 in a potential modification request to be submitted in the fall.

I check the DOE website on a daily basis, especially the charter school section, and I must have missed this one.  Probably because it was listed under 2014-2015.  As well, I do check their calendar for meetings.  The Charter School Accountability Committee is required to give public notice for any of their meetings.  They held a meeting on Monday, July 13th, and while the information was on the Delaware Public Meeting calendar, my first place to look is the actual calendars on the DOE website, but as I originally wrote in this article there is not a case of non-transparency, just a blogger not looking in all the right places, so my apologies to the CSAC on this one!  My only beef with this is if the decision was going to be made in the 2015-2016 fiscal year, why would they put it under 2014-2015?  I’m sure the answer would be because it was submitted on June 29th, the second to last day of the fiscal year.  No big deal on that.

Below are the application and Charter School Accountability Committee initial meeting report.  Of note, former CSAC member Chuck Taylor is not listed, but  Deborah Wilson with the Wilmington Metropolitan Urban League is.  Jennifer Nagourney, Executive Director of the Charter School Office, did inform me Wilson has been a member of the committee for the past few months, and I do see her on some activity from February.  If that name sounds familiar, she was one of the chief civil rights group voices against the opt-out bill, House Bill 50.  I did make a request to Nagourney that the members of the Charter School Accountability Committee be listed on the DOE website with their dates of service.

Looks like there will be two new empty buildings for future charters in the upcoming year…

Family Foundations Academy Saved By State Board As They Get Ravitched

The Delaware State Board of Education renewed the charter of Family Foundations Academy at their board meeting on March 19th.  The school is under a probation clause for six months, and they must give paperwork to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education each month for half a year.  EastSide Charter essentially took over the school after Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington were terminated for stealing over $90,000 from one of the school’s accounts earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the famous education blogger Diane Ravitch picked up on the original story about Moore and Brewington yesterday.  Delaware doesn’t come up often on her blog, but she covers education on a national level.  Her blog gets 25,000 to 100,000 readers on a daily basis, so a lot of people read about FFA yesterday!  She did refer to Moore and Brewington as co-founders, but Moore came on the scene later.  To read the full Ravitchization of Family Foundations, please go here: http://dianeravitch.net/2015/03/21/delaware-charter-founders-fired-for-alleged-misuse-of-public-money/comment-page-1/#comment-2301018

Say What? Sean Moore and Dr. Brewington Want Their Jobs Back at Family Foundations Academy

In the initial formal review report for Family Foundations Academy, there was a brief notation on the former heads of school, Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington.  Despite allegations of fraud and embezzlement, as well as a report sent to the Attorney General’s office, they have appealed to get their jobs back.  Yes, you heard that right.  I’m sure it will happen, as sure as I am that Republicans will win every seat in the House and Senate in Delaware in the next election!

There are many very interesting tidbits to read in this report, but two notable absences not mentioned in the report are Monique Dolcy from FFA and Charter School Accountability Committee member Chuck Taylor.

 

Next Stop For Ex Family Foundations Heads Brewington & Moore: Attorney General’s Office

Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, the fired ex heads of school at Family Foundations Academy, a charter school in Delaware, will soon be facing potential criminal charges through the State Attorney General office.  According to an Update Report filed with the Delaware Department of Education on January 30th from the new Board of Directors at Family Foundations Academy, Brewington and Moore’s past actions have been sent to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office.

“All information concerning past possible criminal violations by FFA personnel has been referred to the Delaware Attorney General’s Office.”

In addition, five prior business contracts with Family Foundations Academy have been terminated, and three were modified.  All purchase cards have been taken away from employees with the exception of Dr. Lamont Browne and East Side Charter and Family Foundations Academy Director of Finance and Operations.  But these purchase cards may return at some point:

“although we are seeking to have that capability restored because it is very burdensome to conduct business without having the use of that facility, and we have full confidence in the appropriate use of the Pcard under Dr. Browne’s leadership and supervision.”

Family Foundations Academy was placed on Formal Review by Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the Delaware State Board of Education at their January meeting.  The formal review will be for 60 days after the January State Board of Education meeting, and a decision on the review will be rendered at the March State Board of Education meeting.  To read the full Update Report, please read the below file.

 

Family Foundations Academy Still Has Some Big Unanswered Questions

Yay! The school has been saved by the graciousness of the Delaware Charter Schools Network!  We can all go back to our regular business.  Except for this one little item:

ONLINE CHECKBOOK DETAIL TRANSACTIONS

Department: FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY – Vendor: FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP
for
Period: FY 2015 Period 1 thru 6

No. of Payments: Amount:
5 $214,730.93
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 11/5/2014 $8,367.50 374930
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 9/24/2014 $155,000.00 362670
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 12/8/2014 $18,107.93 385007
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 11/5/2014 $13,255.50 374930
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 8/28/2014 $20,000.00 354800

Department: FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY – Vendor: FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP
for
Period: FY 2014

No. of Payments: Amount:
12 $140,000.00
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 5/2/2014 $10,000.00 321286
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 9/9/2013 $10,000.00 255886
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 4/8/2014 $20,000.00 313887
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 2/11/2014 $20,000.00 297503
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 1/9/2014 $10,000.00 288236
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 8/8/2013 $10,000.00 248818
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 6/19/2014 $10,000.00 337991
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 12/5/2013 $10,000.00 280331
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 10/15/2013 $10,000.00 265941
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 4/11/2014 $10,000.00 315273
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 11/14/2013 $10,000.00 274705
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 6/13/2014 $10,000.00 335458

We know this isn’t for Auphsite.  They already got paid:

Department: FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY – Vendor: AUPHSITE HOLDING COMPANY
for
Period: FY 2015 Period 1 thru 6

No. of Payments: Amount:
22 $85,081.96

So how does a charter school of 800 students manage to accumulate $354,000 in attorney fees?  With one check alone being $155,000, this had to be something big.  Does this have anything to do with it?  From Avi Wolfman Arant’s Newsworks article last week:

The school’s lawyers recommended Family Foundations conceal that audit from the state, which did not become aware of the document until December.

Sorry, this school can pin everything on Moore and Brewington all they want, but there is something deeper at play here….

 

 

UPDATED! Family Foundations Academy Fate Decided: Handed Over To Eastside Charter, Placed On Formal Review

Today at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, it was decided the school would be handed over to Eastside Charter School.  The 6-1 vote by the Delaware State Board of Education renews the embattled school’s charter but does place them on formal review.

The room was packed with new board members and supporters of the school.  While the State Board did discuss many of the financial problems with the school, they did agree to give this new board a chance.  Board member Whittaker did not vote for the charter’s renewal.

The Formal Review is based on the charter’s Organizational and Financial parts of their framework.  State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office has not released their official audit at this point which could conceivably shed more light on the financial mismanagement at the Wilmington charter school while under the leadership of ex-heads of school Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington.

Updated: A lot more information behind the collaboration between the Delaware Charter Schools Network, Family Foundations Academy and Eastside Charter School can be seen here by the awesome WHYY/Newsworks education reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/item/77394-delaware-spares-troubled-charter-school?linktype=hp_topstory

I’m guessing the State Board of Education gave the charter a sixty day formal review for a couple reasons. 1) To see what may come out of Delaware State Auditor Tom Wagner’s office, and 2) To see if the Eastside crew can actually manage to do double the work for two schools.  None of the standardized test cheating I have written about, which has been reported to me by more than one source, was even touched upon by the State Board of Education.  Nor was the special education issues brought up by the prior board.  I guess since Markell’s Charter Love Child, Eastside Charter, swooped in and saved the day all is forgiven.  Don’t get me wrong, I would hate to see any child sent to a new school if they don’t have to.  But the charter system in Delaware has so much rot and corruption at so many of it’s schools, or just plain incompetence.  In FFA’s board minutes for 12/31/14, one of the board members actually asked about getting a Staples card to help with the technology to pay all the outstanding invoices.  It’s called a clue buddy…  I’m sure this Eastside board is much more experienced with these types of things, but I remain unconvinced that some of the administration will be able to carry the weight should Eastside ever exit this partnership.

Has Family Foundations Academy Become Eastside Charter 2? Sure Looks Like It!

Read this, and then read below for more!

I can’t wait to see the votes on this.  There would have to be a quorum of the board for each vote.  I hope the board minutes accurately reflect which of the previous board members were present, who voted on what, with all the yeas and nays, and how exactly four board members from another charter school essentially took over the school.  It looks like the last two members of the previous FFA board will resign as soon as replacements are found.

I’m sure Governor Markell will have no problem with this cause he loves Eastside Charter and their standardized test scores.  It sounds like some backroom deals were made for this to happen.  I wonder who initiated all of this.  Will Mark Murphy and the State Board base their decision for FFA’s charter renewal on the past or the future?

Updated, 9:20am: I just found this on the FFA website-

 

State Rep Kim Williams Public Comment On Family Foundations Academy, Wow!

Go Kim!  I’m glad to see a legislator getting involved in education matters like this.  She found this out in a few weeks.  Imagine if the DOE took that active a role in what goes on at these charters?