What Is Up With Prestige Academy?

A few weeks ago, I put up an article about Prestige Academy folding into EastSide Charter School’s mini-empire.  I received this information from someone who has always been a very reliable source of information.  This person earned their stripes.  Since then, I have heard nothing on this.  Not one peep.  Today, at the Delaware State Board of Education meeting, the Charter School Office will give their monthly charter school update.  According to this update, Prestige Academy will still close this year.  At the beginning of October, I broke the news that Prestige’s Board of Directors wrote a letter to the Delaware Dept. of Education which stated they would not pursue the renewal of their charter and would close at the end of this school year.

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So what happened?  Got me!  Many things could have happened: the original plan of the school closing (which looks reasonable at this point) will go through, my source got really bad information, or this merger with EastSide could still go through but they are holding their cards at this point in time.  EastSide swooped in at the last-minute and probably saved Family Foundations Academy from closing down at the beginning of 2015.  When it comes to Delaware charter schools and the Delaware DOE, you never know what deals are cooking behind closed doors.  I welcome any confirmation on what could be going on here or if, indeed, my source got bad information.  Like I said, this source is very reliable.

Breaking News: Prestige Academy To Become A Part Of The EastSide Charter Empire

Move over bacon!  Here comes something meatier!  It looks like we have a charter school “district” coming in Wilmington.  How very interesting.  Word on the street is Prestige Academy has been invited to become a part of the EastSide Charter “district”.  We will now have three charter schools in this “district”: EastSide, Family Foundations Academy, and now Prestige Academy.  Add in the very big connections between EastSide and Gateway, and we are seeing a budding school district within already existing school districts.

This is NOT a joke.  But questions are rising up faster than Buccini-Pollen apartment buildings in Wilmington!  Last month, the Board of Directors at Prestige Academy wrote a letter to the Delaware Dept. of Education indicating they would be surrendering their charter at the end of this school year and would not be attempting to renew their charter.  They based their decision on low enrollment.  So if they wrote this letter and did NOT have their initial Charter School Accountability Committee meeting, how can this even happen?  Whether they join or not, they still have to go through the charter renewal process and deal with their very low enrollment.  But once again, the word on the street is the DOE will let this go through.  Even though they haven’t changed anything on the charter renewal part of their website for the 2016-2017 year for Prestige’s renewal.  But still, Secretary Godowsky would have to give his assent to the State Board of Education who would have to vote as a majority.  I really shouldn’t predict what they are going to do.  They have their own minds.

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I have a novel idea.  Maybe the enrollment would go up if they changed locations.  Being across from a men’s prison for an all boys school with a huge African-American population isn’t the wisest idea.  It didn’t work out for Marion T. Charter School either (they went down years ago).  But it looks like we could have a Wilmington School District in the future, just not the kind any of us expected (actually, Kavips did when the whole priority schools thing went down).  I’m sure some will say “You’ve got this all wrong”.  We will see what comes out in the wash!  How ironic that the charter school lawsuit against Christina would also coincidentally come out at the same time, which all three schools in the EastSide Empire are a part of…

Things To Know About Prestige Academy

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As announced about an hour ago, the Board of Directors at Prestige Academy opted out of renewing their charter in a letter to the Delaware Department of Education.  While a specific reason was not given, my hunch is the decision was made due to low enrollment.  The letter was dated October 1st, the day after the September 30th count in Delaware which determines funding for all Delaware public schools.

The school has certainly gone through enrollment woes since they opened.  In the 2014-2015 school year, they had 246 students.  After going on formal review in the Spring of 2015 based on their April 1st count, they were put on probation.  Their enrollment for the 2015-2016 year fell to 224.  Last Winter, they submitted a major modification to lower their enrollment and drop 5th grade.  This modification was approved by the State Board of Education last March.  They were up for charter renewal this fall, but apparently the board made the decision for themselves.

The all-boys charter school opened in August of 2011.  The school had their fair share of discipline incidents as well as higher populations of African-Americans, low-income, and students with disabilities.  In January of 2015, Jack Perry resigned as the original Head of School.  He was replaced by Cordie Greenlea, a former Christina and New Castle County Vo-Tech employee.

The school never had any major scandals like some other charters in Wilmington, but based on their student population with high needs, the school never seemed to find its footing.  Sadly, this is happening more and more in Delaware.  The charters that service students with severe needs are the ones that shut down.  Pencader, Reach, Moyer, Delaware Met, and now, Prestige Academy.  Meanwhile, charters that get all the rewards and accolades that don’t have demographics anywhere close to the districts around them, continue to thrive.  It isn’t working.  For the students in Wilmington that are shuffled around city schools… it can’t be good for them.

The only heat I ever got from the school was based on an article I wrote from when Jack Perry resigned.  But for the most part, they were quiet and did their thing.  At the end of the day, they opened the school hoping to make a difference for minority city students.  For those in Delaware who think all schools should be charters, there is a lesson to be learned here.  If all schools were charters we would be seeing dozens of charters closing each year.  We have become so obsessed with test scores we have lost sight of what truly matters… the students.

I’m sorry this school closed.  I never like to see any school close because of the severe disruption it puts students and their families through.  While Wilmington still seems to have a charter moratorium for any new charters, it didn’t stop the State Board of Education from approving several charters in the area for major modifications which increased their student enrollments.  Perhaps Prestige Academy would’ve had a fighting chance had the State Board followed the spirit of the legislation behind the moratorium.

Delaware has to do better by its students, especially those in our city schools.  I don’t believe having an influx of community organizations coming into our schools is the answer.  We have to increase funding for the schools that need it the most.  We need to stop with the slush money, in both charters and districts.  The excuse of “grant money” being allowed for a specific purpose is losing its meaning.  That money would be better off going to schools that need it more.  I am wary of all that the Every Student Succeeds Act has to offer.  So much of it is more of the same, just with more outside organizations coming into schools and the promise of what amounts to an eventual digital education for all.  Something has to give.  But our State Board and the Delaware DOE has to take a lot of the blame for this.  I have no doubt they were following whatever Governor Markell told them.  They play games with children’s lives with their wax-on/wax-off charter school agendas.  It is killing Delaware education!

Breaking News: Prestige Academy Decides Not To Renew Their Charter, Will Close At The End Of This School Year

The Delaware Dept. of Education posted a letter from Prestige Academy on the charter school renewal portion of their website.  The Board of Directors has chosen not to renew their charter!  Read the letter!

Will Prestige Academy Survive Charter Renewal?

The outlook for Prestige Academy is not good in my opinion.  Like I just posted in the Academy of Dover charter renewal article, one of the biggest factors going against the school is the state assessment which is extremely dangerous to any public school in Delaware.  But the biggest danger this school faces is a case of Wilmingtonitis.  There are just too many charter schools in Wilmington and Prestige faces serious enrollment issues.

Despite their recent modification, Prestige still faces enrollment issues.  All Delaware charter schools are required to meet 80% of their enrollment by April 1st before the next academic year begins.  The school was placed on formal review along with two other Delaware charter schools last year.  They barely got their enrollment up by the time they were put on probation as recommended by then Secretary of Education Murphy and passed by the State Board of Education.  According to the Charter School update presented to the State Board of Education in April, Prestige Academy was at 76% of their enrollment for the 2016-2017 school year as of April 19th, with 182 students enrolled based on their approved charter enrollment of 240 students, thus putting them ten students shy of meeting the mark.

The most startling part from the Delaware Department of Education charter renewal report is the following:

Should Prestige Academy Charter School not make a deposit of funds sufficient to cover the school’s end of year expenditures in May, the Department of Education may take measures to freeze the school’s spending and establish payroll reserves.

That is NOT a good place for any school to be in.  It means there are very serious concerns about their financial viability.  In the below response to the DOE charter renewal report, the school does not even address their enrollment and financial issues.  That is not a good start to what will be a long seven months until the State Board of Education issues its final recommendation about Prestige Academy’s charter renewal on December 15th of this year.  With that being said, can Wilmington take yet another charter school closing down and the instability this causes for the students who have to transition to another school?  With no less than four charter schools closing down in upper New Castle County in the past three years (Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, and Delaware Met), most of these schools serviced high populations of low-income and minority students.  While they obviously didn’t get a lot of things right, it still contributed to some of the current problems we are seeing in Wilmington education.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did Prestige Academy Lie In Their Major Modification Request?

It is modification mania at the Delaware DOE this month!  Prestige Academy submitted a major modification request to reduce their enrollment to 240 students, and two minor modification requests: one to drop 5th grade and the other to decrease their instructional days from 194 to 184.  In the Charter School Accountability Committee initial report, the DOE flat-out says information they provided in their major modification request is not true.  Also included are parent complaints.  There aren’t as many as Delaware Met 2.0 Delaware Design-Lab High School, but the main one troubles me quite a bit.  Where is the due process for suspended students at Delaware charter schools?  Does it even exist?  Students should not have to face over a month of suspension.  That is ridiculous!

 

Downtown First State Montessori & Great Oaks Look To Expand While DAPSS & Prestige Academy Look To Shrink

Four charter schools in New Castle County submitted requests for modifications last month.  Two are looking to get bigger while two want to get smaller.  The two that want to expand are in the heart of downtown Wilmington while the two that want to shrink do not have the benefit of having the key downtown locations.

FIRST STATE MONTESSORI ACADEMY

First State Montessori Academy wants to become a K-8 school in 2016-2017.  The shocking news in all this?  They wrote about their intention to use the building Delaware Met resides in until January 22nd.  The location is actually perfect if their modification request is approved.  Aside from boiler issues, the building is already conducive to older students.  The school is currently K-8, but they found they were losing a lot of 5th grade students so they could acclimate to the middle school environment.  By going through 8th grade, this would eliminate that problem.

GREAT OAKS CHARTER SCHOOL

Great Oaks submitted a minor modification request to increase their enrollment by 25 students for the 2016-2017 school year.  Their request shows that interim Smarter Balanced Assessments given to students are showing modest gains for students.  The school is reporting NO violent incidents at the school whatsoever.  In their application, Great Oaks indicated they are only using half of their designated space in the Community Education Building in downtown Wilmington.

DELAWARE ACADEMY OF PUBLIC SAFETY & SECURITY (DAPSS)

The Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security submitted a major modification request to the Delaware Department of Education Charter School Office on December 10th.  They want to decrease their enrollment from their charter approved 480 students to 375 students, a reduction of 22%.  What makes this very interesting is the fact other charter schools in Delaware have been placed on formal review for not having 80% of their approved enrollment in their charter. DAPSS has not met their approved enrollment figures for the past two years.  The DOE looks at formal review status for charters if they fall below 80% of their approved enrollment based on the financial viability of the school.

According to the information submitted by DAPSS to the Charter School Office, their enrollment last year was 363, which put them at 76% of their approved enrollment.  This year, the school lost 60 students and currently stand at 303 students.  This is less than 64% of their approved enrollment.  My biggest question would be why they were not put on formal review last year or this year based on this information.

For their performance framework, the school was labeled as “Does Not Meet Standard” for their organizational framework three out of the last four academic years, in 11-12, 12-13, and 14-15.  For their financial framework, they were labeled as “Falls Far Below Standard” in 11-12, 13-14, and 14-15 and “Does Not Meet Standard” in 12-13.  Once again, they have not been placed on formal review for their very negative ratings on the State Board of Education approved Charter School Performance Framework.

PRESTIGE ACADEMY

Like DAPSS, Prestige Academy wants to lower their enrollment, but they were put on formal review for this last spring along with academic concerns.  As the only all-boys charter school in Delaware, Prestige Academy appears to be have been held under the microscope by the DOE quite a bit compared to DAPSS.  The charter school is looking to drop 5th grade and would be middle school only, serving students in 6th-8th grade.

IMPACTS

All of this charter shuffling, if approved by Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky and the State Board of Education at their March meeting, comes at a curious time.  With the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission and the redistricting of all Wilmington students (aside from Colonial) into Red Clay, this is a lot of movement for one city’s students.  While House Bill 56 put a freeze on new charter applications in Wilmington for a few years or until the state can come up with a plan for all the charters in Wilmington, the existing ones look to capitalize on this and change their enrollment numbers to maximize the benefits for their growth (or shrinkage in two of these situations).  It is actually very strategic on their part.

The downside to this would be the effect it has on the surrounding school districts, especially in the case of First State Montessori Academy.  As a school that gets the bulk of their students from Christina School District, this could have a very debilitating effect on the already struggling school district.  It is my contention House Bill 56 should have put a freeze on modifications like this as well, but at the same time preventing any charter school from going on formal review for low enrollment due to so many changes going on in Wilmington education.

The 920 N. French Street building is certainly up for grabs.  I wrote a post last month that Las Americas ASPIRA Academy was looking at the location last month as well.  First State Montessori would be using part of the building next year.  Innovative Schools would be in some deep financial straits if they didn’t line up a tenant for this property right away.  I have to wonder how that works with rent for Delaware Met.  I assume they signed their sub-lease with Innovative Schools for a designated time period.  Will that contract cease as of January 22nd or in the weeks afterwards as the school closes down operations or are they on the hook until June 30th?

Only one new approved charter school will open up in the 2016-2017 school year, Delaware STEM Academy.  They will begin with 150 9th grade students, hoping to reach 600 students a few years after that.  I am not aware of their current enrollment figures for their first year.  The school choice window closes tomorrow.  As required by state law, the school will need to be at 80% of their enrollment by April 1st to prevent a formal review for financial viability.  While they escaped from formal review status last Spring, Delaware Design-Lab High School and Freire Charter School had major issues with their enrollment figures.  They eventually met the 80% figures but not without some major angst along the way.  Wilmington is a hot mess with far too many schools, in my humble opinion.  I would have to think this was not State Rep. Charles Potter’s intention when he submitted the legislation for the charter school application freeze…

Rumors Swirling About Prestige Academy Closing In January 2016

I had heard a few rumors that Prestige Academy wouldn’t make it past this school year based on their academics and enrollment, but could it be even sooner than that?  Tonight, a commenter posted the following on my “Ask Dr. Godowsky a question post” from a few weeks ago:

Good evening sir, My son is in the eight grade at Prestige Academy and I look forward to him graduating from there. He’s been there since five grade. I feel if the State wants to close at school they should at least wait til the end of the school year instead of the middle. Think about the students that have worked hard to achieve their goals and look forward to graduating from a school they been at since 5th grade. This is the only all boy school in DE. Mr. Greenlea didn’t even get a chance to prove what he can do because of factors that have spread structured before he even came there. So as a parent that works with children as well, I say to you sir please look at the situation and over turn the matter of closing Prestige Academy at the end of year and give Prestige Academy the same time as Academy of Dover til next year. I welcome you and I thank you for listening.(REMEMBER ITS ABOUT THE CHILDREN)

I am very curious about this.  Will the next State Board of Education meeting have some type of announcement?  For their Smarter Balanced scores, the top proficiency ratings were both in 5th grade with 21% for ELA and 18% for math.  But the DOE has already stated they won’t judge schools based on the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores from the 2014-2015 school year.  So what could possibly cause them to shut down in January?  It could be their enrollment.  If the numbers are below 80% they will go on formal review very fast.  They are already on probation.  If they closed in the middle of the school year that would have to be a decision by the school board unless something very serious is going on there.

If anyone knows anything about this, or if any letter has gone home to parents, please let me know!  All the Delaware charters should have their performance frameworks coming out in the next couple weeks as well so perhaps something came up with that.  This school fell off my radar, but it looks like something could be going on there.

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

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

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

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

Prestige Academy Formal Review Notification & Timeline

Prestige Academy needs to get their enrollment up very fast!  No excuses.  This school has been open for a while now.  Whatever issues they are having, they need to fix them if they want to stay open!

 

Holy Freire Batman! Prestige Academy & Moyer Had Highest Charter Suspension Rates, Over 60% of Students!!!!

With an astonishing 653 suspensions, Prestige Academy had the highest suspension rate out of any Delaware charter school.  176 out of the school’s 287 enrolled students for the 2013-2014 school year were suspended, for a 61.3% rating.  That means over 3/5ths of the school was suspended at one point in time during this school year.  That is insanely high!

Moyer came in second, with a 60.97% suspension rate, 138 out of 227 students, with a total of 338 suspensions.  The Delaware Department of Education ordered Moyer to close at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, despite a lawsuit by the City of Wilmington that was dismissed.

This makes the new Freire charter coming to town look like a mere detention!  I’m sorry, if you are suspending that many kids at a charter school, maybe the problem isn’t the kids!  Sounds like zero tolerance at Prestige and Moyer.  Freire is the new charter opening up in the 2015-2016 year that will actually expel kids for bad behavior right off the bat.  I’m sure a lot of kids will want to go to that school!

Jack Perry to Resign as Executive Director at Prestige Academy

Jack Perry, the original founder and executive director of Prestige Academy has, ahem, chosen to resign at the end of this school year according to a letter from the board of directors addressed to parents of students.

This has nothing to do with my story from earlier today since this letter is dated January 28th.  I would have no way to explain how this out of nowhere news would happen the day after I wrote another article about a Delaware charter leader being let go.  Charter leaders never resign, unless they embezzled tons of money from the school.  Wait, that’s not always the case.  But that is not the case here!

To date this year, heads of school have resigned or been terminated at Academy of Dover, Family Foundations Academy, Academia Antonia Alonso, and now Prestige Academy.  I’m not sure what the current status is concerning Odyssey Head of School Nick Manalakos, but I did post an article last December indicating he may be making a switch to a Kent County charter.

I would have to assume Mr. Perry wants to resign, for whatever reason.  I do find it interesting the board said his tenure was “beyond the typical duration for a founding leader”.

In other news, the question of the day will be “Can you read between the lines?”

Let’s Play A Game, It’s Called “Find The Current Prestige Academy Board Minutes”

Based on my earlier article today about the infamous Prestige Academy December board meeting, I thought I would challenge my readers.  You have to go to the Prestige Academy website, here: http://www.prestigeacademycs.org/

And then you have to find their current board minutes.  Time yourself, and then comment on here with how long it took for you to find them.  They are there, you just have to find them.  Good luck, and please don’t throw your computer at the wall in frustration!

Prestige Academy Violates It’s Own Charter At December Board Meeting At A Tavern

I had to do a double-take when I read this, but yeah, this happened!  Only five members of the Prestige Academy 12 person school board were present at their December 15th, 2014 meeting.  In order to have a quorum to vote on anything at a board meeting, a majority of board members have to be present.

According to their own bylaws:

ARTICLE VI: MEETINGS OF THE BOARD

Section 1. Compliance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Board shall conduct its meetings as if it were a “public body” as defined in 29 Del. Code § 10002(a), and according to the requirements of Chapter 100 of said Title 29 (the “Act”). In addition to the published notices required by the Act, notices of each meeting of the Board shall be forwarded to its members by any method that preserves proof of such notice.

Section 2. Quorum.

A quorum for the transaction of business at any meeting of the Board shall consist of at least one-half the voting Directors then serving, except as may otherwise be required by law.

*Bolded for emphasis on my part

So there you have it, as per their own by-laws.  So what happened at their December 15th board meeting? Aside from the fact that it was at a bar (which was in the agenda believe it or not), Buckley’s Tavern, they did indeed vote on items as per their own board minutes.  But what if a student wanted to come to give public comment?  Would they be able to do that without a parent present at a bar?  This didn’t happen, but I just have a thing about board meetings occurring at a place that serves liquor.  Yes, this is also a restaurant, but I didn’t know school boards can have meetings at places that aren’t available to every member of the public.  Did the board have their 45 minute meeting and then get drinks after?  I would certainly hope so!

I have a feeling more Prestige news may be coming out very soon…

In the meantime for Prestige Academy, you may want to update your website.  Having to click on 2012 links for your board minutes, and then going through a couple more links, is not really showing how transparent your school is.  Many people would just assume you haven’t updated your website since 2012!