Transparency & Kuumba Academy Need To Get Together And Hang Out Sometime

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At the May 2016 Board of Directors meeting for Academia Antonia Alonso, there is a reference to a shooting threat at Kuumba Academy.  Their meeting was on May 23rd.  But from Kuumba Academy, there is complete silence on the issue.  Why am I reading about this on another charter school’s board minutes?  Maybe because Kuumba has not posted any board minutes since early May.  In researching this situation, the News Journal did cover this threat on May 18th.

A text message sent to parents Tuesday said there was a threat of a potential shooting at the building posted on social media.

In the 2015-2016 school year, there were three charter schools in the Community Education Building in downtown Wilmington: Academia Antonia Alonso, Kuumba Academy, and Great Oaks.  Why did the News Journal only mention Kuumba Academy in the article when three schools occupy the building?  But an even bigger question is this: was texting the only form of communication given to parents?  What if a parent doesn’t have a cell phone?  I know, the odds of that are somewhat slim these days, but it is a very real possibility.

I’m sure this is old news to many, especially in Wilmington, but I saw nothing on Kuumba Academy’s website addressing this.  As I mentioned, their board minutes haven’t been updated since May.  They are in violation of Delaware law.  They haven’t put their financial audit up since 2014.  They are in violation of Delaware law.  They have not put their monthly financial information up since June.  They are in violation of Delaware law.  They are required, as a 501c3 non-profit corporation, to put their IRS Form 990 on their website.  No 990s exist on their website.  They are in violation of Delaware law.  I can go on Guidestar.org and see those 990s, but that isn’t the legal requirement in Delaware.  While their Citizens Budget Oversight Committee has met regularly and minutes are posted for that, within the minutes there are questions from the Delaware Department of Education’s required member (also required by Delaware law for every single charter school CBOC), but the answer wasn’t submitted in the minutes.

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I do not understand why Delaware charter schools are not required to follow the law.  The law may say it, but if no one enforces it, what is the point?  Charters in Delaware are now required, as of today, to record all board meetings and post them on their website within seven business days.  Two charter schools, Early College High School and Academy of Dover, had board meetings tonight.  I fully expect to see their audio recordings up by September 6th.  But for Kuumba Academy, they are missing a lot of the requirements in Delaware code.  I plan on going through all the charter school websites tonight to see who is in compliance and who is not.

In terms of the Community Education Building, I can understand why Academia Antonia Alonso left the building.  They begin their 2016-2017 at Barley Mill Plaza.

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

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

Kuumba Academy Blasts State Auditor Over Findings From Investigation

A few months ago, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts found some red flags with Kuumba Academy in regards to misuse of financial funds with their overpayments to their Head of School, Assistant Head of School, and their Custodian.  There wasn’t much that came of it, but upon looking at Kuumba’s October board minutes, I found a very interesting section dealing with this audit.

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Raye Jones Avery is the Vice-President of Governance for the board, Sally Maldonado is the Head of School, and Ken Brown is the Vice-President of Facilities for the board.  What is so suspicious about the “timing and tone of the report”?  Given the splurges at Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover, it would stand to reason the State Auditor would want to look at charter school spending of procurement cards.  I’m not sure what the DSCN is, but I am assuming it was a misspelling of the Delaware Charter Schools Network based on a Google search and seeing several others misspell this abbreviation.  This non-profit vehemently opposed Delaware State Rep. Kim Williams charter school audit legislation, House Bill 186.  As well, even if the findings were “out of scope”, of course the auditor’s office is going to do a “scope” around the school’s finances given what has gone on at several Delaware charters.  I love the arrogance of some of these charter leaders and board members.  They will do anything to escape accountability!  They make it seem like this was all some witch hunt.  The Auditor’s office found something, and it wasn’t good.  Instead of taking your lumps, especially the Head of School who seems to have escaped unscathed from all this, they sit around at a board meeting talking about it.  In sharp contrast to this was Providence Creek Academy, who proactively found an issue, reported it to the Auditor’s office, and fixed the problem so it wouldn’t happen again!

And I apologize if I am going “out of scope” on this article, but I couldn’t help but notice the Teach For America and Relay Graduate School love going on at this school in the very same board minutes…

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I have to say it is very sad when I see a school debating which teachers are better, TFA or Relay.  I will just leave it at that…

Kuumba Academy & Delaware College Prep Leaders Busted In State Auditor’s Report, Thomas Edison & MOT Pass

Delaware State Auditor Thomas Wagner released a report today and Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy showed significant discrepancies regarding reimbursement of funds to school leaders.  Thomas Edison Charter School and MOT Charter School, also included in the inspection, came through with flying colors.  For Delaware College Prep, there was a “party loan” over $11,000.00 involving the Board President.  For Kuumba, the Head of School, Assistant Head of School and a custodian were overpaid and the report alleges violations of state code in procuring contracts without any bidding process.

This tells us the seven charters that were under investigation by Wagner’s office.  Family Foundations Academy, Academy of Dover, Providence Creek Academy, Thomas Edison Charter School, MOT Charter School, Delaware College Prep and Kuumba Academy.  I have a sneaky feeling Delaware Met could fit into this category in the future based on events currently happening there.

More to come on this unexpected development.  Congrats to Thomas Edison and MOT for doing the right thing.  Kuumba and Delaware College Prep… there are no words!  To the members of the General Assembly: House Bill 186 needs to pass first thing in January 2016.  The charter financial fraud in our state must pass.  All Delaware Republicans need to open their eyes to this mismanagement and outright theft of state funds and do the right thing.

Kuumba Academy Manipulating Low Income Data in Application For Charter School Performance Fund Award @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @nannyfat @delawareonline @TNJ

In their application for their request for $469,000 from the charter school performance fund, Kuumba Academy states their low-income population at Kuumba is 84%.  But the Delaware Department of Education school profiles page shows Kuumba at 63.1% low income.  When you go to the details page it shows the same amount.  Even more interesting, when you convert the document to PDF format, which you are able to do on the website, the Low Income section is completely taken out.

From their application for the charter school performance award, taken from this DOE website: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/senate148/files/dcspfg/KuumbaAcadmyPerfFund.pdf

As a recipient of Title I funding, 84% of the student body at Kuumba qualifies for federally free and reduced meals based on their family income. Additionally, approximately 10% of Kuumba students are classified as special needs and have an Individualized Educational Program. The expansion plan outlined in Section A will benefit all students in grades K7. For the 20142015 school year, this is estimated to be 467 students. These initiatives would benefit approximately 392 lowincome students in grades K7, or 84% of the student body in these grades.

This is the second area of completely different data being skewed on their application as opposed to what appears on the DOE website.  Yesterday I noticed a large change in their special education numbers between the application and the DOE School Profiles page.

The DOE has indicated on a Twitter conversation that the low-income numbers were formulated differently and Matthew Albright with the Delaware News Journal has already reported this.  I did a search for this article, but if they are talking about this link: http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20130919/NEWS03/309190036/Too-many-kids-capable-college-never-even-apply-?gcheck=1 nothing comes up for it.  To be on the safe side I’ve made a request with Matthew Albright to provide a link to this story.

But this doesn’t change the fact that the Delaware DOE was caught red-handed yesterday by MULTIPLE witnesses changing low-income numbers on their system in real-time.  The truth will come out when the 2014-2015 September 30th numbers are reported by the Delaware DOE in November.  All eyes will be on those reports!

FOIA Update To Kuumba and their $425,000 Charter Performance Fund Award & How Charters Can Commit Fraud

After I posted my article about Kuumba’s money problems and the rewarding of $425,000 from the Charter School Performance Fund, I started to wonder what they put in their application for that much money.  I couldn’t find anything on the DOE website, so I submitted a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request.  I got my answer emailed to me this morning.  Apparently, all the charter school performance funds are on the DOE website.  How you get to them is a mystery that needs to be solved.  But what is very interesting is the actual web address that was given to me: http://www.doe.k12.de.us/senate148/dcpspfg.shtml

Now what’s interesting is the part that says senate148.  Is this only available to members of the Delaware Senate?  Like I said, I searched everywhere for this link on the DOE website and it was nowhere to be found.  Once again, charter school transparency is very hard to come by in Delaware.  But why senate148?  The 148th General Assembly hasn’t even been fully elected or even assembled.  So who can see this data without submitting a FOIA request?

The actual application from Kuumba has lots of data about achievement gaps and minority and low income status, something that should be of considerable interest given what Kilroy came out with today!

Of particular interest to this special education blogger was Kuumba’s claim in the application that 10% of their student body were special needs with IEPs.  For the 2013-2014 school profiles on the DOE website, Kuumba had 298 students.  10% would be 29 students with IEPs, right.  But no, Kuumba had 5.7% as their special eduction population, or 17 students.  So which is it Kuumba?  Say you gained 12 more IEPs in the next 8 months and you were at 10%.  This means 10% of your students grades didn’t count for DCAS because your special ed population was too low to count in the proficiency ratings.  How very convenient for you when you are applying for a $464,000 grant because you have such great proficiency gaps.  This means that the greatest proficiency gap when it comes to standardized testing, that of students with disabilities, was not a big deal to you cause you knew the scores wouldn’t count anyways.

And that is how charter schools in Delaware are able to make themselves greater than they are.  The DOE knows it, Markell knows it, and now everyone knows it!  Does anyone have any confirmation on what that emergency charter school and DOE meeting was about a couple weeks ago?

Did Kuumba Academy Get Their Money Problems Solved? @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @delawareonline #netde #eduDE

According to Kuumba Academy’s June School Board minutes, they were facing a possible loan default from their bank.  It appeared the school was in some dire straits based on the minutes.  Take a look:

Lynne inquired if the Charter Performance fund is in danger of being reduced further- will follow-up with Kendall Massett to see if she has any additional information

Financial Update, Bernard granted permission to post

DCIC bank consortium- some of the banks may not want to consider a modification of the loan- interest only for the next 12 months with a brief description of the scenario requiring the loan modification 

Notifying There if DLHS defaults on July 1 payment

Bernard reviewed the Engagement letter for the FY14 audit and also provided a summary of the conversation with Ed regarding the possibility of a going concern due to the DLHS possible loan default.  Audit due to state by 9/30. Board hopes to have this resolved by mid-September.  We will also need to articulate the ways that we made reductions to trim down our budget.  We need to confirm with Michelle the required reserve amount possible (to cover salary and benefits).

Language to lenders:

Unfavorable circumstances, tenants have defaulted on their loan. Track record, transition, workable solution. . . (lynne will work with Sally to draft)

Sally to follow-up with DCIC to respond in writing to the Line of Credit request so that we have the documentation for our records. We need to outline also that our ask lined up with the DLHS decision to postpone enrollment

Lynne recommends we push TD Bank to see what they can do

There was no July Board meeting, but it looks like things improved in August:

-Awarded $425,000 from the Charter Performance Fund

Financial Update

-Proposed amended budget—rent is significantly higher (1,051,164) due to having rent at CEB and 519

-ending fund balance is $593,275 on proposed budget

Sally makes a motion to approve the July financials for posting, Dr. Coker seconds, all approved

So let me get this straight.  The State of Delaware is going to give six priority schools $5.8 million over four years, but after $160,000 (minimum) salary for a new school leader and $50,000 a year for someone to organize the whole thing for each school, that leaves $31,666 a year for each school.  This is not including any other financial demands the state would impose upon each school.  $31,666 for the six schools in Delaware with very high populations of low income, minorities, and special education students.  And they get $31,666 a year.  But Kuumba Academy, a charter school, gets $425,000 to essentially save them from a loan default.  From the blessed Charter School Performance Fund.  It’s obvious which way the wind blows from Dover.  Ridiculous!  Just call charter school diva Kendall Massett at the Delaware Charter School Network and she will fix all your problems.  I didn’t know the “Performance” Fund was a bail-out fund!  Hey Kendall, I need a new fridge, can you hook me up?

And to add insult to injury, the July financials they speak of aren’t even listed on their website, and they haven’t had a Citizen Budget Oversight Committee meeting since May of this year.  Or at least it isn’t listed on their website.  But the beautiful part is they actually list the Delaware state code that requires them to update this information MONTHLY!!!!