The Hidden Secrets Behind Providence Creek Academy’s Bomb Threat & Audit Investigation

It seems random events are not so random at Providence Creek Academy, the charter school in Clayton, DE. It now appears that the audit investigation into suspected fraud by a former employee was missing a lot of information. Two other employees were also taking funds meant for students for their own personal use. Head of School Charles “Chuck” Taylor covered it all up. Continue reading “The Hidden Secrets Behind Providence Creek Academy’s Bomb Threat & Audit Investigation”

Teachers And Staff At Providence Creek Academy Choose The Nuclear Option

The revolt at Providence Creek Academy is about to blow wide open.  And at the epicenter of this is Head of School, Chuck Taylor.

Tomorrow night, Providence Creek Academy is holding their July Board of Directors meeting.  I have no doubt one of the biggest items of discussion in their Executive Session will be how to handle the growing and mounting concerns of nearly half of their teachers and staff.  These employees of the Clayton, DE charter school are not happy.  Going by an anonymous group called “We’re Worried”, I’ve been in contact with this group for a month and a half.  I went so far as to contact Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting about their concerns.  I did so in the bounds of confidentiality and I did not name the school or the Head of School in the conversation.  Dr. Bunting stressed that if there is a hostile work environment, the Delaware DOE needs to know immediately so they can take immediate action. Continue reading “Teachers And Staff At Providence Creek Academy Choose The Nuclear Option”

Why Is Chuck Taylor Still The Head Of School At Providence Creek Academy?

For well over two years, Providence Creek Academy has been searching for a new Head of School.  Let me repeat that.  For over two years.  And guess who is on the committee to hire a new Head of School?  Chuck Taylor.  The not-so-interim and more like permanent Head of School.  How many interviews have they had?  What is the hold up?  If I were a betting man, Chuck is so glued to that school he weeds out anyone who could possibly replace him.  In reviewing their board minutes for the past nine months, there has not been one mention of this committee or any type of interviews for a candidate.

I’ve always been curious how a charter school leader can hold that position when they aren’t even certified to do so.  We hold that standard for traditional school districts, why not a charter school?  This came up with the Delaware DOE during the school’s renewal a year and a half ago but I haven’t heard squat about it since.  I would have to believe more than a handful of qualified candidates knocked on their door for this job.  I have a sneaky feeling there are some in the PCA community who are wondering the same thing.  How they aren’t exactly enamored with Chuck in this role.  That they may be questioning his ability to effectively govern the school with his qualifications.  I’ve also heard, and not just recently, that he rules over the school AND the board with an iron fist.  A season of discontent?  You better believe it!  Many feel Taylor abuses his position and he owns their Board of Directors.

When he isn’t busy with PCA, Chuck helps out with the Delaware Charter Schools Network as the President of their board.  He also serves on the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Department of Education.  How does a former shop teacher get so involved with charter school policy at the state level?  Which will be very busy in the fall with no less than five charter school renewals on their plate.

In 2013, Chuck Taylor left Providence Creek.  He “resigned”.  He resurfaced in the fall of 2014 after a brief stint as interim Head of School at Campus Community School in Dover.  The circumstances surrounding his sudden “resignation” are mysterious.  I’m sure the reasons are tied up in some type of non-disclosure agreement.  But when truly strange things started happening at the school in October of 2014 and many became worried about school safety and security, Taylor came back.  It was meant to be temporary, but two years and eight months later he is still there.  He guided the school through their renewal process last year but during all that one of their former employees was named in an audit investigation and alleged to have embezzled money from the school.

In April, the PCA Foundation was approved as a 501c3 non-profit.  Somehow, this will allow the school to get a loan from the USDA according to their April board minutes.  It also appears the Delaware Department of Finance approved the school for procurement cards with a maximum limit of $5000.  Their board minutes do not specify how many p-cards the school received and which staff will receive them.  The school was selected as one of two pilot schools for the changes to Delaware’s teacher evaluation system.  The changes, which came from House Bill 399 last year, were not implemented at PCA and they bowed out of the new alternative pilot.  They did, however, hire a non-educator to conduct their teacher evaluations at the school.  This DPAS-II coordinator’s education experience consists of summer camp counselor experience.  During the Spring, many parents became upset over a field trip waiver which parents felt did not adequately protect students.  Quite a few spoke out in public comment during their May Board of Directors meeting.

To those who want to say “Here he goes again, bashing on charter schools”, that is NOT the case here.  Aside from the ongoing Newark Charter School ruckus, I’ve probably been harder on districts than charters in the past six months.  But all I will say is there is legitimate cause for concern and I’ll leave it at that.  In this era of reduction in workforce notices and budget cuts, fear is a very powerful thing.  I would love it if educators at PCA went on the record with whatever is going on there, but I also understand a need for staying quiet in what could very easily be seen as a hostile work environment.  Delaware has fairly extensive Whistleblower laws on the books.

Beneath The Happy Face Of Providence Creek Academy…

ProvidenceCreekAcademy

On a Facebook page called The Unofficial PCA, about Providence Creek Academy, the host put up a post on Monday about a large exodus of teachers from the Kent County charter school.  The post disappeared, but a more watered down version of the question showed up Wednesday night on the page.  As well, students in Kindergarten to 2nd grade took a standardized test that actually caused some parents to pull their children out of the school.  Questions are beginning to mount concerning the “interim” Head of School, Chuck Taylor, who has filled this interim position for a year and nine months.

In terms of the teacher exodus, it was confirmed at PCA’s board meeting on Tuesday that twelve teachers left this year.  The average is three to five.  But the school insisted this is “in the norm” according to the new Facebook post on The Unofficial PCA.

Are Teachers Leaving PCA?

Notes from 7/26 board meeting.

I hadn’t planned to attend last night’s board meeting.  But the day before, I ran into another parent at the store asking if I had heard about the rumors.  People had been saying that a large portion of the teachers were leaving PCA out of frustration with Head of School Chuck Taylor and Principal Audrey Erschen.  My friend didn’t have much details so I canceled my plans and went to the meeting.  I was expecting a huge turnout from parents but there was only one other parent attending (other than the parent board member) and she hadn’t heard the rumors.

I relayed as much of the rumors as I could, without revealing names.  This year, there are about 60 on staff and about a dozen teachers left PCA; some to other positions, some for family, and a couple that were dissatisfied.  In an average year, 3-5 teachers leave PCA but this year is not too far out of the norm and certainly not as severe as the year in which 21 teachers left.  All but two of the teaching positions have been filled.  Ms Erschen assured us that they are in no rush to fill the position and are being very selective.  She is confident that the two positions will be filled well before school starts.

As far as any issues teachers may have had with Mr Taylor or Ms Erschen, they never were clearly defined.  Mr Taylor has been the interim Head of School longer than intended as that the last candidate selected was not able to take the position.  Another candidate is being considered and Mr Taylor is planning to go back to retirement in January.  On the couple of occasions that I have heard someone complaining about Mr Taylor, it usually stemmed from a misunderstanding.  I do not envy Ms Erschen for the balancing act she does every day.  She deals with a whole lot of problems and somebody being dissatisfied is inevitable but she always maintains professional composure.  Every morning, no matter the weather, they are out in front of the school to greet students and talk with parents.  I’ve always found them to be very approachable and the kids (including my daughter) think well of them.

Greater transparency and addressing issues before they become rumors would help to put parents at ease.  Board meetings include an “Opportunity to Address the Board” and it is a great opportunity for parents to ask questions and raise concerns.  PCA is considering putting the ‘Head of School’ and ‘Principal’ reports in the webpage ‘news’ in addition to already being in the ‘Board Minutes’.  They are also considering providing staff bios so that parents know more about the staff.

I intend to follow up with any more details that I come across and certainly welcome any input.  Rather than passing along rumors, it’d be helpful to discuss these things in an open format (you can message me if you’d like to remain anonymous).  I requested a list of the teachers that left (elsewise, we could always figure it out through the process of elimination).  Arguing the validity of an individual complaint may not be as useful as keeping an open eye for trends.  PCA isn’t perfect (no school is) and we should all strive to make things better and that depends on parents being involved.

Other items:

-Director of Curriculum Danielle Moore wants to go back to the classroom and work with kids.  She has been replaced by John Epstein who had been working for the Delaware Board of Education.

-‘Special’ classes will no longer be on a six day rotation because the classes were too far apart. So this year, students will have two special classes each trimester with the same amount of time give to each class.

I would not say 12 teachers leaving out of a staff of 60 is “in the norm“.  That is 20% of their staff.  Charter schools do tend to have higher turnover than traditional public schools.  But that is an alarming number, in my opinion.  While it isn’t the exodus of 21 teachers that happened at one time, it should be a matter of concern for other teachers and parents.  My biggest questions would be how seasoned the departing teachers are.  Will their replacements be more experienced or less?  That could have a big impact!

In their latest posted board minutes, for their June 21st board meeting, I found several items that were somewhat odd which have my comments under each one.

Mrs. Erschen reviewed the placement of appropriate employees to be included in the Consolidated Grant FY 2016-2017.

What does “appropriate employees mean?

PCA will be the only charter school involved in a new DPAS study.

Which DPAS study is this?  The only public DPAS study I have seen is the pilot program which will come out of House Bill 399, which changes Component V for teacher evaluations.  Senator David Sokola was really promoting his “pilot program” amendment.  Sokola and Chuck Taylor worked together on the charter school audit bill.  But what makes this very interesting is House Bill 399 didn’t pass until July 1st.  Eleven days after this board meeting on June 21st.  So how could PCA have been picked for this program if this is the DPAS program they are talking about?  And Markell hasn’t even signed the bill yet.  Unless there is some other DPAS program that hasn’t been revealed.

There were some issues with the implementation of the new grading policy for grades K-2. This new policy created some confusion with parents. With help from Mrs. Erschen and Mr. Taylor the concerns were addressed and professional development will be provided to the teachers at the beginning of the school year to ensure that there is consistency among teachers.

What is this new grading policy?  How did it create confusion for parents?  If professional development is needed so teachers can understand a grading system in the next school year, there is something not right about this.  More on this later.

Approval of Employee Bonuses: Lisa Moore made the motion, Chris Craig seconded. All in favor? Motion passed.

PCA consistently gives out “academic excellence” payouts every single month.  But are all teachers getting them?  The average monthly employee bonus is $466.

And from their May 24th Board minutes:

Head of School Search Committee: One candidate was interviewed. Board of Directors are still narrowing candidate pool for more candidate interviews.

Can someone please tell me why the Interim Head of School, who has been in this “interim” status for 21 months, is on the search committee for this new head of school?  How many candidates have interviewed?  It looks to me like Chuck Taylor is using his position on this committee to secure continued employment for himself.  Because this is how I see it.  He left PCA under very vague circumstances in the Spring of 2013.  He wound up at Campus Community School where he became their interim Head of School after Trish Hermance resigned in the Summer of 2013.  In September of 2013, their board voted unanimously to keep him on as the permanent Head of School.  By December, they hired a new Head of School.  Chuck joined their board and six months later, he resigned from their board.  In October of 2014, Chuck came back to PCA during the Audrey Erschen odd relative/employee shenanigans going on at the school.  As the interim Head of School.  A few months later, the Tatnall leader who was supposed to become the new Head of School was poisoned in the Caribbean.  That was over a year and a half ago.  What qualifications does a leader need to become their Head of School?  This looks like a lot of stall tactics by Chuck Taylor.  I don’t buy him wanting to retire.

For a guy who wants to fade into obscurity, he sure does place himself in very important charter school positions.  As well as his “interim” duties at PCA, he also has a slot on the Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) at the Delaware DOE and is the President of the board for the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  He was present at the Senate Education Committee for legislation surrounding charter school audits.  While this may not seem to be a big deal, it is important to know that PCA used the same auditor for their annual audit as Family Foundations Academy for many years.  Both PCA and FFA had major investigations from the State Auditor of Accounts that led to findings of severe financial abuse and theft.  During FFA’s charter renewal, Taylor served on CSAC.  When questions arose among the committee about FFA having a bizarre number of fraternity brothers on their board, Taylor actually defended the FFA board even though it was painfully obvious there was a major conflict of interest at play.  During this time, FFA’s leader, Sean Moore, was the Treasurer for the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  Moore embezzled over $100,000 from FFA according to the inspection report that came out last December.  The State Board of Education placed FFA on probation when it became public about the financial fraud.  Moore was terminated by the re-structured board which eventually removed the fraternity brothers.

All K-2 end of year assessments were created and given to the teachers who are working on administering them to the students. After all tests are complete teachers will submit them to so that data can be gathered on the assessments and determine if any changes need to be made for next school year.

PCA created assessments for Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd year students?  Yes, they did.  Who created these assessments?  And if a child failed these tests, the parents were told the student had to go to summer school for a fee of $350.00.  It didn’t seem to matter what their classroom grades were.  Six different parents of first graders received a letter the second week of June indicating their child had failed the reading assessment part of this assessment.  PCA highly recommended sending these kids to summer school.  This is actually a step up for the school, because the original intention was to keep the kids in the same grade if they did poorly on this self-created assessment.  At least two parents pulled their children out as a result.  Was this the intention?  Let’s see: students do bad on an assessment, school tells parents they want the kids to go to summer school for a rather steep fee (told to parents days before this summer school was supposed to start), and parents pull kids out.  I see it as a way to get rid of low-scoring assessment takers without regard to their actual capabilities.

For the Smarter Balanced Assessment results, PCA did rather well on their scores compared to the state average.  They went from 66% proficiency in English/Language Arts to 74%.  In Math, they went from 43% to 55%.  Those are huge gains which will cause the Delaware DOE to award the charter school the token “reward school” status next fall.  I have to wonder how much of these gains and “growth” are engineered by the school in advance.  For the surrounding districts where PCA draws its student base from, the Smyrna School District went from 59% to 66% proficiency in ELA and 45 to 46% in Math.  Capital went from 48% to 50% in ELA and 32% to 36% in Math.  Campus Community School went from 62% to 60% in ELA and 37% to 40% in Math.

A few years ago, one parent pulled her child out of PCA.  Her child, according to the mom, was brilliant.  This student had some minor attention deficits, but was able to get straight As at the school.  PCA insisted on placing the child into a lower-tiered classroom as a 4th grader.  At that time, there were three levels in classrooms: lower, middle, and high.  I would have to assume this was due to Response to Intervention (RtI) strategies for lower grade students when they attended those grades.  But placement in RtI groups usually isn’t based on actual classroom grades.  It is based on how they do on standardized tests.  For this child, being placed in a lower-tier was not a good thing.  The child did not feel challenged.  Many children who are very smart put in this position will tend to act out.  As a result, the school started putting the “bad behavior” label on the student.  Teachers agreed with the mom that the student should not have been at that level.  By the time the school finally put him into the higher level, it was so late in the school year (and after the 2nd wave of DCAS testing) the mother had already decided her child would not attend the school the next year.  The mother stated that the new school had none of these issues and her child has thrived ever since.

Last weekend, I posted an article about Newark Charter School and what I see as “social engineering” to drive up their test scores.  Many of the most fervent charter school supporters are parents of children who do well on these types of tests.  In my opinion, far too many Delaware charters drive their enrollment based on this flawed idea.  When you compare PCA’s demographics to surrounding districts and their closest competition with an area charter school, we see startling changes.

PROVIDENCE CREEK ACADEMY

PCA15-16demographics

SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT

Smyrna1516Demographics

CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Capital1516Demographics

CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL

CampusCommunity1516Demographics

The students who score the lowest on the state assessment are special education students.  This has always been the case.  By driving out students with special needs, the overall scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment will automatically go up.  If you have a low population of these students to begin with, which is the case with PCA, it is a guarantee.  Many Delaware charter schools that begin with Kindergarten have screenings with potential applicants.  These screenings, which are meant to show a school where a student is at, can also serve as a way for schools to look for characteristics which could ultimately lead to perceived lower state assessment scores.  I have no doubt this practice takes place at some Delaware charter schools, and I believe PCA does this.  To further muddy the waters of this social engineering practice, PCA came up with some type of assessment for students in K-2 (who do not take the state assessment) to see how they may do on Smarter Balanced, and came up with a way to tick parents off enough they would pull their child out of the school.  Whether by design or unintentional, this is a discriminatory recipe for disaster.  Any school is only as good as the populations it serves.  We know this.  We know the Smarter Balanced Assessment changes constantly and the cut scores change from year to year.  The test is not designed to have a great majority of students showing proficiency.

In a charter school that bases everything on state assessment scores, it can become a pressure cooker for students, parents, and teachers.  This drive to perform on a once-a-year test is everything that is wrong about Delaware education.  And it is becoming clear that this is the environment at PCA.  I have no doubt they have many very positive attributes.  I am sure they do a lot of good things for their students and have a very welcoming community.  But that is the surface.  Underneath is a testing regimen that overshadows everything else.  If you are a smart kid, you will do great.  If you struggle, in any way, there will be issues.  When you look at the school’s Facebook reviews on their page, you see many 5 star designations.  Many of these reviews are from teachers and even the Principal, Audrey Erschen.  Even board members review this school.  When any rating system is purposely stacked toward a certain goal, the perception is deceptive.

While the school appears to be doing better financially, nothing happened with the terminated employee who embezzled large amounts from the school.  The Delaware Attorney General’s office has yet to file charges against this perpetrator.  But that might change.  Earlier in the Spring, state agents were in the school issuing subpoenas for financial records.  Will they find anything more than what already came out from the State Auditor of Account’s inspection released earlier this year?  Time will tell. Providence Creek Academy is the 7th largest charter school in Delaware out of 27 charter schools.  But for their expenditures divided by the number of students, they come in at 26th place.  We know they don’t pay their teachers huge amounts as well compared to surrounding districts.  So where is all their money going?

These are my biggest concerns with this school, and for perspective parents looking at this Delaware charter school, they should be seen as potential red flags.  For those who want to claim I hate charter schools, I don’t.  I think some of our charters do a great job.  I recognize no school is perfect.  But far too many use tactics like this which lead to a type of discrimination, particularly against students with disabilities.  That is intolerable.  But because our state DOE and Governor base everything on test scores on high-stakes tests driven by corporate education reformers, they look the other way.

To view past articles on Providence Creek Academy on this blog, please go here.  To view their board minutes, please go here.  The picture of the Providence Creek Academy campus came from a website belonging to Nickle Electrical Properties who renovated the school six years ago.

Providence Creek Academy’s Official Response To The Auditor’s Report

Providence Creek Academy wrote an official response to the Delaware Auditor of Account’s investigative report on their school finances which showed outright theft of school funds through purchase cards and the payroll system.  This appeared on the Providence Creek Academy Facebook page today at 7:32pm.

The Board of Providence Creek Academy Charter School wishes to address the January 27, 2016 Inspection Report issued by the State of Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts, and to clarify information misstated in media accounts of the Inspection Report. At the end of 2014, the Board became aware of potential financial improprieties during the process of terminating an employee in charge of finances for Providence Creek Academy. The Board promptly engaged its outside auditor to evaluate the matter. The Board also self-reported its concerns to the State for it to conduct an independent audit. To the extent media reports suggest the Board was not proactive in addressing these issues once they came to the Board’s attention, or that such issues were only brought to the State’s attention through an anonymous tipster, that is inaccurate. At all times, the Board fully cooperated and worked with the auditors to identify problem areas so that appropriate remedial measures and safeguards could be enacted. The Inspection Report identifies no concerns after December 2014, which makes evident the Board’s commitment to having in place the right personnel, policies, and procedures for handling the finances of Providence Creek Academy.

The comments after this, including ones from myself, are going unanswered… for now…

*Updated 1/28/16: I took out the picture in this post.  I understand the “duct tape the teacher to the wall” picture stemmed from a charity event at the school.  I think it is hysterical and it is a classic picture!  As well, I am also taking out other posts from their Facebook page since they don’t really relate to the auditor matter.  I apologize for any staff members who may have been offended at the school.  My intention was not to offend.

Providence Creek Academy Knew About Their Financial Abuse & Still Backed Sokola’s Non-Transparency Audit Bill

As revealed just half an hour ago, Providence Creek Academy was the latest in the never-ending “Delaware Charter School Financial Abuse Scandals”.  They knew this report was coming out.  You would think they would have shut up about charter school audit bills given this information.  But no, they went on their Facebook page and encouraged parents of students to fight State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186, which would help prevent these scandals from happening.

PCASB171

I heard Providence Creek Academy’s Head of School, Chuck Taylor, was in attendance at last week’s Senate Education Committee meeting, along with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, of which he serves as the President of their board. Unconfirmed, but on the rumor circuit is the PCA board voting to oust Chuck as soon as they get a new school leader because he is not qualified to run the school based on what they want in a school leader. The school has been without an official head of school since Chuck “resigned” back in 2013. The current principal, Audrey Erschen, has been around this whole time but the board at PCA seems to be very loyal to her, despite family members causing problems at the school in the Fall of 2014. The DOE and the State Board of Education, fully aware of some of these financial abuses and that the school was under investigation, renewed PCA’s charter last month. While the school told the Charter School Accountability Committee about how they have improved financial control through all of this, they were not exactly forthcoming about the nature of the abuses. I even congratulated them on their supposed transparency based on what I knew, which wasn’t even close to what was in this report.

Providence Creek Academy State Audit Inspection Released: Rehab Costs, Las Vegas Trip, & P-Card Abuses

The Delaware Auditor of Accounts just released an inspection report on Providence Creek Academy showing many violations in procurement card spending and very questionable payroll expenses.  The office was tipped off over a year ago, around the same time as Family Foundations Academy, about alleged financial improprieties at the school, as well as the Delaware Department of Education.  Abuses revolved around personal purchases through the State of Delaware p-card, payroll expenses that were not justified, and even a conference in Las Vegas in the Summer of 2014 that four employees of the school attended (as did representatives from Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy).  The school’s auditor from 2012 to 2014 found none of this in their annual audits of the school.

While the abuses were not in the scope of Academy of Dover or Family Foundations Academy, they are still illegal and against the law.  Please support State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 to help prevent these abuses from being missed by the charter school auditors and to bring transparency to light before these investigative inspections even have to occur.  Senator David Sokola’s Senate Bill 171 does nothing to stop these events from happening.

Campus Community, MOT, and Providence Creek All Get Their Charters Renewed

Three Delaware charter schools were up for charter renewal: Campus Community School, MOT Charter School, and Providence Creek Academy.  The State Board of Education approved their charter renewals.  Nice and short article.  No drama.  Done.  Next up…Delaware Met…

Three Delaware Charters Cleared For Charter Renewal By DOE

Yesterday, the Charter School Accountability Committee convened for a trio of Delaware charter schools up for charter renewal.  The three schools: Campus Community School, MOT Charter School, and Providence Creek Academy all received a recommendation to have their charters renewed with no conditions by the committee.  The next step is the Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, and the State Board of Education agreeing.  Their decision will occur at the December State Board of Education meeting.

This doesn’t always happen like this with Delaware charters.  Providence Creek Academy had some organizational and financial issues in the past year, but the school proactively recognized and fixed the problems.  With all the other charter news, it is good to see schools getting a green light at times.  Some of the senior members of the committee and the Charter School Office looked visibly worn down and tired.  While I am against many things at the Delaware Department of Education, we do need to remember these people are human and they do work hard.  Many want them to work hard at other things though, and not necessarily on the accountability machine they have become under Governor Markell’s administration.

Congratulations to Campus, MOT and PCA on their own hard work at getting through this stage of their charter renewals.  This is a far cry from last year when Reach Academy had their charter revoked, Gateway Lab School received the recommendation for revocation which was turned down by then Secretary Mark Murphy and the State Board of Education, and Family Foundations Academy emerged as a hot mess weeks before the State Board’s decision to place them on formal review for financial mismanagement by their former heads of school.

Providence Creek Academy & Campus Community Public Hearing Transcripts

Last Monday evening, the night before the initial meetings with the Charter School Accountability Committee for their charter renewals, Providence Creek Academy and Campus Community School had their first public hearings.  Nobody spoke out against either school.  Instead it was stacked with board members, administration, and parents for PCA, and administration and teachers for Campus Community.  Parts of this are very humorous in the attempts to describe students to diamonds and whatnot.  With that being said, I did appreciate a lot of Campus Community’s efforts to help the low-income kids in their school, especially with the weekend backpacks.  That is a great service for kids!  See for yourself:

Campus Community School, Providence Creek Academy, & MOT Charter School: Charter Renewal Initial Reports

Last Tuesday, the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Department of Education held their initial charter renewal meetings with Campus Community School, Providence Creek Academy, and MOT Charter School.  Included below are the initial reports for each school.  The other day I wrote about Response To Intervention (RTI) and how it is frequently used for special education identification purposes.  Pay close attention to the following reports in regards to RTI and when it is used.

Organizationally and financially, Campus Community looks to be in good shape.  Academically, they clearly have some things to work on, based on DOE standards.  Especially with science, according to them.  I find it interesting they are moving to “standards-based” grading.

How can you have a meeting like this and not once mention the fact that you are being investigated by the state auditor?  Yes, they did the right thing with it, but I’m shocked no one at the DOE actually brought it up.  Something seemed really off with what PCA was saying in regards to their academics.  And what was Chuck Taylor talking about with the whole “we have a pond” thing at the end?  And make a mental note on when PCA said most students get an IEP and the fact that students from Kindergarten to 3rd grade do not get basic special education funding…

Like I said last Spring, MOT’s charter renewal looks to be a slam dunk.  The fact that they were investigated by the State Auditor and cleared of any wrongdoing will only support this.

My prediction with all three: all three will be renewed with PCA possibly going on probationary status because of the State Auditor thing, but I doubt that will happen.  Unless something comes out of the woodwork like Family Foundations Academy did last year, this will be an easy process.  Besides, DOE is going to have their hands full with The Delaware Met!

Providence Creek Academy’s P-Card Misappropriation Of Funds But How They Took Quick Action

When I see the words “p-card” and “misappropriation of funds”, I am usually pretty hard on charters.  The reason for that is because I don’t see a great deal of action taken on it.  All too often, I see excuses and “reasons”.  Providence Creek Academy seems to be the exception to the rule.  They found an issue, reported themselves to the auditor’s office, and took the necessary steps to ensure it would not happen again.  The employee is no longer at the school and the charter has set up necessary controls to make sure one person is not able to ever abuse a p-card or school finances again.  I am impressed!  See the below audit report, included with the school’s charter renewal documents.

Interim Head of School Chuck Taylor, Principal Audrey Erschen, and Board President Amy Santos are to be commended for taking very fast action AND correcting the process by which this could happen.  While the amounts are not shown or who the employee was, the school did do something about it.  I imagine more will come out when the State Auditor’s report comes out, but this is a sea change from what I’ve been seeing with other charters.  I still support House Bill 186, and believe this could stop a lot of these things from happening, but what PCA did to fix their issue should be used by ALL charter schools.

Providence Creek Academy Singing The P-Card Blues During State Auditor Visits!!!!

Providence Creek Academy’s board minutes for June confirm explicitly why the Delaware State Auditor is investigating them.  Once again, it is for unauthorized use of a state-issued purchase card.  But whodunit?

I can say one thing for sure: it’s not Chuck Taylor.  I’ve heard who it was, but all I can say is the person no longer works there.  But what I can give credit to Chuck for is the quote in the article I posted earlier this morning:

“Head of School Report: School is completed for this year.  This year should go down in the history books as gone for good and never have history repeat itself.  We need to learn from the past.”

Providence Creek did have one hell of a year.  Between janitors with guns on the property, an administrator’s son getting canned for inappropriate internet use (and he was the tech guy), an outgoing employee allegedly threatening to “blow up the school” most likely in jest but still deemed enough of a credible threat to have Delaware Homeland Security come in, and then the craziest part: they hire a head of school who gets deathly ill from some weird bug poisoning in the Bahamas.

I have to admit, when I read what Chuck wrote up above, I cracked up.  Oh, and we can’t forget the bizarre Facebook posts stemming from the first three incidents, the whole Chuck-Delaware Charter Schools Network-Charter School Accountability Committee controversy, and the whole reveal of the school being investigated by the State Auditor, revealed nowhere else but the school’s own board minutes!  This is why they got an A+ for transparency.  And just to top all of this off, they are up for charter renewal this fall!  Below are the board minutes with the purchase card stuff:

Providence Creek Academy Also Under Review By Delaware State Auditor

As highlighted in the below letter, Providence Creek Academy is also having the State Auditor’s office looking into their finances. This would be the third charter school in Delaware to have this publicly announced in less than six months. I posted an article not even two weeks ago where the State Auditor’s office did confirm they are reviewing other charters aside from the publicly known Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy. Now we have a third. How many more are there and why isn’t this public knowledge?

Of particular interest in this school is the fact they switched to the same independent auditor that Family Foundations Academy used for their annual audit last year. I pointed it out back in December, and it looks like Tom Wagner’s office noticed it too. Providence Creek Academy, along with Campus Community School and MOT Charter are up for charter renewal in the 2015-2016 school year.

It has become obvious the Delaware Department of Education knows what schools are under review by the State Auditor’s office. They need to disclose all of this information to the public instead of releasing this information piecemeal. It’s not just certain Delaware charter schools with issues of transparency, it’s also the Delaware DOE Charter School Office.

Update On Providence Creek Academy’s Week From Hell

Providence Creek Academy had what many parents will say is their worst week ever in their 12 years of operation.  After the first article about the bizarre issues with security at the school and then very concerned parents on their Facebook page and then the very strange defense of the school from some parents the school appears to be calming down.  The following letter was sent home to  parents on Thursday indicating the changes that took place:

November 6, 2014

Dear Parents,

As follow up to the parent forums that were held on Monday, I am writing to inform you of the status of security items mentioned at that meeting.

  • Identification will be requested from adults upon entrance to both the lower and upper school during morning drop off. Please have ID available for staff.
  • All exterior door locks have been changed. The new locks are keyed for security reproduction only and can’t be reproduced at a local key cutting vendor.  Distribution of these keys is limited.
  • Repair of current cameras is in progress and additional cameras are being installed.
  • All exterior lighting is functioning and additional lighting is in the process of being installed.
  • Clayton Police Department has had an officer on campus daily. Our School Resource Officer will continue to be in attendance on his scheduled days.
  • A Safety Committee has been formed. If you are interested in participating on this committee please contact Mr. Chuck Taylor at  taylor@pca.k12.de.us

As other measures are instituted, information will be shared with our families.  If you have specific questions regarding any of the above, please feel free to contact Mr. Taylor or myself.

Thank you for your input and I look forward to continuing to make PCA an even better school.

Thank you,

 Audrey M. Erschen

Head of School/Principal

Hopefully these changes can soothe the troubled hearts many parents had a week ago.  However, a few parents I spoke to since these changes took place indicate the new security measures are more cumbersome than helpful.  One parent likened it to a police state.  Another stated the police presence has increased dramatically.  This parent said a police care is waiting at the school every morning now (which would be on 11/6 and 11/7).

It also appears Chuck Taylor is taking a much more active role in the school.  It was announced he was coming back on a transitional basis until a new head of school is picked to help the school with their declining standardized test scores.  But he has been an active participant during the school’s crisis, attending the parent forums and heading up their safety committee.  The only official school notes about his abrupt exit our notes in their board minutes from May 2013 indicating they received a request for his retirement.  Circumstances regarding his exit are as shrouded in mystery as whatever the recent threat to the school was.  As many know, Taylor serves as President of the Delaware Charter School Network.

I have since learned many parents actually requested the school closed on 11/5 at their parent forum on 11/3 due to worries about the threat on that day.  The school did honor that request.  No official word has come out about the exact nature of the threat.

Parents have stopped commenting on the school’s Facebook page which became very heated at times in the past week.

PCA did celebrate their Spirit Day on Friday, 11/7.

 

Parent At Providence Creek Academy Requested Positive Comments! @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @RCEAPrez @ecpaige @Apl_Jax @nannyfat @DelawareBats #Delaware #edchat #netDE #eduDE

A parent on the Providence Creek Academy Facebook page requested I put the positive comments about the school on my blog.  Request honored!  But I will also put many other types of comments on here.  Folks can judge for themselves!

Here is the official request:

Who do you think you are to post a blog like this about a school you have absolutely nothing to do with? Sir, I was raised to treat other’s with respect and kindness, to get all the facts before developing a firm conviction, and to stand up for what I believe in.   I’m sure you think you have the best interest, but you’re only adding fuel to an unnecessary fire. I read your blog. The quotes you’re using are those of ignorance. All I see, actually, are negative parent quotes —- what is it exactly that you trying to pull with this blog of yours anyway? And the facts used are a bit off from actual reality. Are you a credentialed journalist?

PCA Parent, I am giving you what you want: I’m posting positive comments on here.  But I’m also posting the negative ones.  Be careful what you wish for!  And because I was raised with respect, I am not putting the parents names.  I will fully admit (as anyone who reads this blog regularly would already know), some of these comments are mine.  I couldn’t stand by and listen to some of these parents bad-mouth the well-intentioned concerns other parents had.  So I joined the fray.

Tired of the smokescreen They need to come out and say what really is happening at the school

At this point if you do not like the choices the board, school, or police are making then take your kids out of the school. You chose to put your kids in a charter, put them in the feeder school if you’re so unhappy. If not, let them do what they need to do to fix it. I’m beyond tired of the parents trying to create more drama then needed. Half of you crave conspiracy. It’s an unfortunate situation but it did shed light on areas that need to be fixed and fortunately no one was hurt in the process.

“hurt in the process” BiG DeaL!!

When schools are closed and children are not being educated with MY TAX DOLLARS children are being hurt! You need to realize this is a public school and if you think test scores below 70% for several years is shedding new light you are the most uninformed parent with a bold opinion. They are Failing to provide your child with educational needs over MANY years and in your mind that is not hurting children. This is why yet another charter school needs to close – to stop throwing away my money.

You are on a completely different topic from what this status was even about and should probably mind your business instead of trolling a schools facebook page when you don’t even have children that attend there. My children are EXTREMELY well educated and test way above average. You are not a part of the PCA family and your opinion means nothing.

Your tax dollars are also supporting the low life, unemployed garbage in this state who take advantage of the system. You must be extremely busy, having to argue where your tax dollars are going. It has to be exhausting! Society today is all about, “me, me, me” and this is just another example of that.  my son, also a proud PCA student, is also getting an amazing education with this school – I will continue to support them…but please let us know how you make out with protesting how your tax dollars are spent…

Very well said!

if you think standardized testing shows how educated a student is, you are sadly mistaken. This is a public page, and anyone has the right to be on here. It doesn’t say “for PCA parents only”. As my tax dollars and the other commenter’s tax dollars help to pay for PCA, we have every constitutional right to be here. It’s obvious your a part of the problem and not the solution for what’s wrong in the state of Delaware. I have seen more elitist remarks on this page about people outside of PCA and within the PCA family. When you come out of your charter school bubble, maybe you will realize some of the “garbage” you refer to may just be parents who have children in your school. PCA has nearly a 1/4 of it’s students as low income. Since the Recession, many Delawareans have been unable to regain employment or get back to the financial level they were once at. I’m beginning to see what the true problems at PCA are…

 I appreciate everyone’s feelings too. My feeling is that there is/was a communication breakdown, not a security problem. I feel that those who felt their child was not safe were always keeping their children home. Not happy that my child will not be in school tomorrow

Oh my can the school and the board please anyone anymore. Cut them a break they are getting this sorted out. Stop complaining all the time and let them do their job.

I cannot believe how many people are expressing such negativity toward PCA via social media…..we should be coming together as a community to support the school our children attend & love. If you have an issue, the proper way to handle the situation is to address it with the school directly. If that doesn’t resolve your issues, then remove your child and yourself from the situation altogether. Some of us didn’t decided to jump on the “gossip loop” bandwagon; & while you all deserve the opportunity to express your feelings/concerns, good or bad, the internet isn’t the place to do it. I feel the board expressed sincere concern for the parent’s & teacher’s feelings. They assured us “the situation” is being handled accordingly and confirmed our children are, in fact, safe. They took accountability for the lack of communication to the parent’s & staff, causing some spiral-out-of-control-type rumors.. yet, even after telling us the most they possibly could from a legal standpoint, it just isn’t good enough? … Facts? Answers? … I’m sorry, but if a situation doesn’t concern ME OR MY CHILD directly, why would I expect to receive detailed information on the topic? The board told us at the forum that they’re taking steps in the right direction to improve this school. Now is when we should stand behind our school & show our support. As a parent of a PCA student, I also felt immediate concern when I first heard the rumors; but my concerns have been put to rest. I know my child is safe & I am certain that if there were any serious risk pertaining to the school/our children, the parent’s would have been notified. As human beings, we should be showing compassion and support for a school we love while they work hard to improve in areas lacking. Otherwise, there are plenty of public schools nearby.

Amen!

Wow thank you so much!!!!

Very well said!!!!

Those of us who know better than to believe the non-sense need to come together and support PCA. We can’t allow this negativity and b/s ruin the school that we & our children love.

I couldn’t have said it better

Yes, there are plenty of public schools nearby. Question: Why does Providence Creek only have 4.4% of their population as special ed when Smyrna and Capital have 14.4% and 17.8%? You want to sit there and say to concerned parents “There’s always the public schools” while your school uses application enrollment preferences to pick and choose who they want at their school? Really? Could you be more elitist? You look down on the public schools while your board and administration can’t figure out a proper way to tell parents about issues going on there so they have to have a parent forum to get some of the facts out? Wake up people!

How can you feel that your child is safe when the person who made the threats lives under the same roof as a member of the administration? Some people are just way too naive.

Some people are just way too dramatic.

“Your only as strong strong as your weakest link”

Well, what. a. shame.
… ok whatever you say!
PCA still has my support.

As I sat back and listened at the forum the other night I felt the issues were and are being handled. The communication was lacking but that should be a problem of the past. Some of the parents could have shown a little more respect and self control during the forum. I have openly talked with my 11 year old daughter about what she thinks and her concerns, apparently I must of done a good job as a parent in teaching her not to feed into rumor mills and try to only make decisions on facts. She told me she is fine with going and being in school without fear.
Thank you for your post that I fully stand behind

The unfortunate fact surrounding the PCA administration is that they openly admitted to major security deficiencies on the campus. This, following the firing of the person in charge of IT for inappropriate use of the internet, and the facilities director for having “firearms” on a school campus, does not spell out automatic renewal of the school’s charter. And BTW, before anyone wants to take me to task on the term “firearm” being an overly dramatic representation of what amounts to BB guns, the State of Delaware obviously sees, and classifies this differently, because the facilities director was charged with two felonies. Over exaggerated charges? Not for me to determine. Obviously State lawmakers passed a bill on this issue, and that bill says it’s a felony. Felonious actions related to weapons on a K-8 school campus, don’t exactly paint the school in the best light. In fact, this past week’s happenings are actually a culmination of several months worth of problems that probably have resulted in the school’s darkest day(s). You can classify everything “dramatic” all you want. The facts are the facts. The school admitted to security issues and the incorrect handling of communications surrounding the issue at hand. In addition to everything that has transpired this past week, the student test scores at PCA have apparently declined year over year, and in a year that the school is up for renewal of its charter, that’s just one more chink in the armor. Then, there’s the unrelated situation (maybe not really unrelated) surrounding the resignation of two board members. Again, not exactly a gold star in the eyes of the DOE people that will be determining whether or not PCA’s charter is renewed. This has turned into a Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events routine. And not one single parent voicing their concerns over all of these issues, is the cause of any of it coming to light. We’ve had children in this school for 6 years now, and have been very happy with the consistency and continuity that an education at PCA brings. But, the current issues are disappointing to say the least, and if the school loses its charter, it will be because of the administrative issues that have festered, and not because of “too dramatic” opinions or a perceived witch hunt by some on this board. I hope the school can get its at together, but I’m not going to sit back and will myself, or anyone else, into thinking that everything is coming up roses…..because it’s not.

are you claiming the school deliberately chooses not to pick special ed children or grant rights to those in need? I understand you have a child with special needs and obviously feel stongly about that subject, but please know that is not the case. I have two children who attend PCA, one who came in with an IEP (because he was identified early) and one who got one after starting. You have to take into consideration that the majority of their openings in the lottery are for Kindergarten. If the signs are apparent and you have proactive parents some of those kids may get identified early but most not until the Kindergarten screening or later like my one child. The choice application process is standard across all school districts and that is what is used for the lottery. Their numbers could also be lower because for those parents who do have children that are identified prior to starting school may have chosen to send or keep (if they received early interventions) in their reg public school. There are many factors surrounding those numbers and a parents choice also plays a part.

you lost me with “Kindergarten screening”. Charters have been cherry-picking for years, and that’s why there is currently a task force in DE addressing this very issue, and why the Office of Civil Rights is investigating ALL the charter schools in DE over this very issue.

How is this relevant?

What does it matter who the new board members are? I don’t see how that’s relevant. As far as kindergarten screening it’s called child find and ALL schools perform them. Daina is telling you majority of the kids that have IEP’s or special needs aren’t identified until after school has been going on for several weeks. So you saying PCA is selective in special needs/IEP’s are total false. Maybe you should try to talk to parents that have been with the school for sometime or know how PCA operates.

Child Find assessments is what I was referring to and that is fine that they have a task force and that they are being investigated. I am just clarifying that PCA did not and in our opinion does not discriminate against those with disabilities…as our child who was diagnosed on the spectrum with an IEP was accepted without prejudice. I am sorry if the same did not happen for you. As it seems to me, by all of your anomosity, that you feel like you have been discriminated against by a charter school by not being granted acceptance.

That wasn’t the case exactly, but that’s a story you can certainly find access to through my blog or Kilroys Delaware. Here’s my question though. Most kids who go to charters in Kent County start in Kindergarten or 1st grade depending on the charter. On average, 13.5% (based on last year’s DOE figures) of students in DE have special education. The averages for ALL the public schools in the surrounding area of PCA are considerably higher, even the elementary schools. I’m not saying they have NO special ed. Of course they do. What I am saying though is Child Find goes way beyond Kindergarten screening, and many charters do not realize this. Part of childfind is the obligation on the school’s part that if they even suspect a child may be in need of special ed to evaluate them. I also have to wonder why, as of last year, there were 0 students on the low-functioning part of the spectrum at PCA or many other charters in the area. Charters want the public school money, but they don’t want to play by the same rules as the publics, and that includes issues of transparency. Charters ARE public schools. They get the same funding any other public school does.

you definitely mention a few great points!

With regard to the pellet gun found/felony charges – it is against the law to have any type of weapon on school grounds. The words ‘common sense’ come to mind again, but people continue proving they lack having any. Because words like “weapon” and “firearm” are being thrown around so freely without clearly clarifying the situation, parent’s are carrying on (and onnnn) about non-sense they know absolutely nothing about, continuously spreading false information. Now the situation has gone from “employee stored pellet gun for pest control” to “WEAPON FOUND ON SCHOOL GROUNDS – CHILDREN IN DANGER!” So, “too dramatic” is an overstatement? I don’t think so. I feel the felony charges, in my opinion, are justified – when anyone breaks a law, they deserve punishment.

The board advised the parent’s of the circumstances with charter renewal & the decrease in test scores – now, we need to stand together and offer our support while they do everything they can to improve our school. With the newest board members joining, I feel….no, I know they can turn this around – but it’s going to be a struggle if people continue going on and on about something they know absolutely nothing about.
I love Providence Creek. I love the teachers and their staff. My child is so happy to go to school every day. I have referred parent’s to send their children to the school – and they love it. I trust the school to tell me what I need to know on a need-to-know basis. And I know that our current board members, if given the chance, can and will ‘show & prove’ – I am confident in saying so.

I am relieved to hear I wasn’t the only person listening at the forum 😉
I agree, a majority of the parent’s were (and continue to be) disrespectful and should have displayed better self-control. Those parent’s are partially responsible for why this has turned into an over-exaggerated circumstance.
Thank you for standing behind my post & for your support! I know PCA appreciates those of us who are standing behind them.

So who are the new board members?

you lost me with “Kindergarten screening”. Charters have been cherry-picking for years, and that’s why there is currently a task force in DE addressing this very issue, and why the Office of Civil Rights is investigating ALL the charter schools in DE over this very issue.

I think it is time for Amy and the rest of the board to step down and we need to hold a election. It very obvious the only thing they are good at is inciting fear and concern in the staff and parentsDE over this very issue.

I pulled my daughter out last year because, the administration there is horrible… I constantly was there. When you are a principal it is your job to protect your students, not trying to build your own personal empire! That place has been lost for years due to poor leadership. That is why so many teachers have left. .. get rid of her!

Ok, it appears to me that the parents are making the situation much worse by the gossip and rumors. I’ve see parents blogging with incorrect information that is causing more hysteria. What more information do you need?? They had to let a couple employees go and one was disgruntled and made threats. They have police force on school property to assure the safety of our kids. I did not even want to go to the meeting Mon night since I heard the am meeting was pretty much a bitch fest. Be part of the solution..and NOT the problem. Stop making things worse. I had one son graduate 8th grade years ago and another is in 8th grade and has been there since K-5. I still stand behind the school. Could some things have been handled a little better by the Administration and board members…YES..but I still believe in the teachers at PCA so back them up and stop making things worse for them and the students.

Hi, I’m the parent blogger, and I am not a parent of a PCA child. What information is incorrect? If you can show me tangible evidence of anything I’ve written that is incorrect aside from the “missing post”, I will happily correct it.

For one the employee was NOT a computer teacher. He was the person who fixed computers for the school. I don’t want parents to think a teacher was threatening students or making them feel unsafe since I highly respect the teachers at PCA. Although i beleive in freedom of speech..I am not sure what you hope to gain from the blog. I AM a parent there and don’t appreciate the hysteria that some are causing in this situation. I just feel it has made things worse.

I got more information from his blog than at the forum. The teachers aren’t the issue anyway its the administration.

Thanks for that info, I’m correcting it now.

That was my only real concern cause as a parent I would be more concerned thinking it was a teacher who had access to my kids rather than a disgruntled IT guy who got fired for the misuse of a state computer (which happens often when you give anyone too much time with a computer).

Done!

the problem is that you just gave ten times more information in two FB posts, than the parents have gotten from the school in all of their letters and emails!!! THAT is what has us upset.

I understand that. I have been involved with the school for years and worked there for two so I can connect the dots a little easier so that is my advantage. I was trying to make a point that as parents of students there we need to support the teachers and students by not believing all the gossip that has been circulating and going to the school in anger. That does not solve anything. I understand being concerned because our kids are the most important thing to us. I am sure they closed today to regroup from everything that has transpired in a short period of time. They are taking measures to ensure the safety of our kids.

The problem is WE don’t know what’s gossip and what’s not because we’re depending on the school to keep us informed, and they aren’t! There wouldn’t have been rumors flying around if PCA had – from the beginning – been open, clear, and transparent with the parents.

The same people posting about allowing the board to “do their jobs”, accusing parents of bitching about what’s going on at the school are the same ones that seem to have all the information that the rest of us do not. There is gossip and rumors because the majority of parents (including myself) do not know what is going on. My daughter went to school all last week while one her friends stayed home the majority of the week because of something her parents heard. I went to the meeting and learned nothing, I read an article in the paper that told me more. If YOU HAVE ALL THE FACTS SHARE THEM WITH ALL THE PARENTS.

 I completely agree with you Rasheeda! The only reason we are all turning to social media is it seems to be the only place to learn what is going on. It’s unfortunate.

AGREED. I’ve learned everything from the discussion in this thread, and that is NOT how it should be. The school needed to directly address what had happened with facts, not vague nonsense that had nothing to do with anything, and was just a poor way of trying to distract from the real issues. Just say “this is what happened, this is what’s being done about it, this is what you might hear from your children, this is what’s true and not true”. But nope, all we hear is that the school will be closed for a “day of reflection” because of “tensions between personnel”. I would not call someone threatening violence against a school full of children “tensions”; parents had every right to know that a threat had been made, and we were simply NOT told. And that’s not OK>

I agree. I choose to stand behind PCA and am still an advocate of Charter schools.

Police at the school is common. They are there regularly. I like this school and WANT to believe in the administration. We need clarity. I attended last nights meeting and found it mildly informative. Lots of repeat complaints from parents. I’m totally at a loss as to why school is being closed tomorrow. Website says Day of Reflection, check news page. Then there is nothing on the news page! Please PCA, give us some more info and make me believe you have a clear plan!

Neither my husband or I were able to make either meeting yesterday, so we’re still in the dark so to speak. All we know from a few emails is that there was an apparent threat made to the school, but we don’t exactly know what “kind” of threat & by whom they were made by. What is one day off of school going to do for pissed off parents when #1: the threat was made how long ago? #2: our kids haven’t missed school b/c of this yet so why start now? If parents choose to keep their kids out , then so beit, but don’t make it a blanket decision all the way across the board. Without knowing all the facts, it’s quite difficult to know where we need to stand on this one other than the obvious: our kids welfare & safety should always come first & foremost.
P.S. Can someone pls PM me to tell me what’s really going on and fill us in?!? No bashing; we just want the facts. We’d appreciate it!!

Only believe 1/2 of whatever you’ve been told.

does that mean we should only believe 1/2 of whatever you say?

What have I said that I didn’t obtain from the school directly? I’m not giving out untrue information. Not sure that I asked for your input but thanks for putting your two sense in, again, where it need not be.

I don’t have two senses, I have five. I can give you my two cents though: I believe you aren’t giving ALL the information and I would have to wonder why that is…

I want to know why your making a decision on feeling and not to the fire threat? My child is not there today because there is a wall up to hide what y’all got going on. When it should be a wall of protection for students and staff . If the principle is the one being threatened then why is she still there? She should leave till her legal stuff is finished and someone else step up to the plate for now. I usually don’t say much but this has gone way to far. I have never had this much trouble with P.C.A. I have had four other kids go through here. In all them year did not have a1/4 of the trouble we are having this year. I will be praying about this and for all the staff to make the right decisions.

An important question for PCA parents… Had the board digitally recorded their board meetings and put them up on the website, as many public school districts in our state (Capital, Red Clay, Christina, many others) and the Board of Education already do, do you think some of the confusion amongst parents could have been alleviated?

The minutes are published one month after the meeting on the website, the agendas are posted several days before. They also are open to the public with the exception of the executive session when dealing with students or staff in compliance with FOIA rules.

Minutes don’t say a lot from board meetings. I could type three pages worth of information transcribing three minutes of audio.

Well it’s obvious that you have your mind made up. I was just answering your question

How many parents attend these board meetings? I’ve seen the minutes. Not a heck of a lot. I’m just saying. If parents have concerns with the board and administration being transparent, maybe parents should push for the board meetings being recorded.

The calendar of when the meeting is on the website for the whole year plus about a week or so a sign is posted on the doors. Honestly not a whole lot of parents come so, you can’t complain if you are given the opportunity to be there and participate. People also don’t understand what the job of the board is or understand it. There are by laws people need to read them and show up to the meetings before complaining about them. They are trying to help the school in this trying time.

Here’s the deal though, charters don’t publicly elect their boards. They pick and choose them. How many disgruntled parents sit on your board? Charters are known to pick parents who will agree with what they want. And that’s exactly how situations advance to the degree where parents are coming at the school because of the lack of transparency.

There has been a board since the school started in 2002. One issue in that long. The board does a lot of good thing no one ever knows about. No one is perfect and they are trying to fix it give them the chance. It’s very easy after the fact to say you would have handled it differently. Just like all of the people running for public office lol

They are required to have a board. And trust me, this is NOT the only issue this school has had.

So everyone is perfect? Just wondering? All I am saying give them time to fix it when all the remaining board can be there

while I’m sure we can all agree you give great suggestions for the future, and I bet the board will take those ideas into consideration moving forward. But who are you exactly? I mean no disrespect in asking, but I notice you talk about the school as an outsider, yet you have a blog and a big opinion. With new members of the board, you have to allow time for change & improvements. You’re bashing them before giving them a chance to prove themselves. Great suggestion, though.
Also, you question parent’s involved in the board meetings. Do you know realize that if parents were more involved in the school, they would probably feel the same way I, and many other supportive parent’s, feel about the current situation. I am appalled by the amount of parent’s demanding an explanation & apology, and a future promise — if they were listening word for word at the forum(s) they would have heard all 3 of their demands fulfilled. People hear what they want to hear, sadly, my 8 year old listens better than most adults. I think we can all agree mistakes have been made. The board hasn’t denied they’ve made mistakes along the way. How else do you expect to learn and grow. However, PCA is an amazing school and I will not give up on them.
Society is so quick to point a finger and turn their back in any situation. I don’t know why I’m so shocked in this case. Some people should find a hobby.

They always post a public announcement of the board meetings near main office and always welcome parents to join. They also have someone taking meeting minutes as well. Nothing digital as far as I know

Thank you Kim, a lot of people/parents don’t really understand the boards role in the school. Give them time to do what they need too!!

Here’s the bottom line. A very unfortunate incident occurred, and parents were not given information on a timely basis. It sounds like some parents were while others were not based on what I’m hearing on this very comment forum. As a result of the past month or so and what has gone on, two members of the board have resigned or are getting ready to resign. This is not a normal circumstance. Yes, I am an outsider, but when things like this start happening, it’s BAD. For many parents, myself included, just stating you will fix things is not good enough. They want to hear exactly what happened to allow this to begin with, what the current assessment of the situation is, and what exactly they are going to do to fix it. Parents are not guests at schools, they have just as much say as a board or administration. The sooner charters realize that, things like this won’t happen. Society is very quick to point the finger, and when it comes to our children, that’s a good thing. Look at it this way, they want our children and teachers to be accountable for everything, but when the finger is pointing at them, they give a day off, forcing parents to stay home from work, unplanned, or pay for daycare for their children. The “feelings” day wasn’t about the parents, it was about the school or board saying this will happen if you complain too much. I’m NOT saying to give up on your school. What I am saying is THEIR actions created this, not the parents.

You asked who I am, and I’m just a concerned parent. I’ve seen this story play out a few times in Delaware where charter school boards, for one reason or another, lose control in some way. Invariably, it leads to the school closing, as this is what happened with Pencader and will happen with Moyer. My huge concern is the students in these situations, as they are the ones who suffer the most. My biggest concern, as I advocate through my blog, is special needs children. It’s one thing for a parent to hear about a cop coming into the school to investigate something. But for a special needs child, can you imagine the fear that came with that, much less a regular student? Kids get scared very easily, and they bring that fear home. And parents react based on that fear. That’s when a regular parent turns into a helicopter parent, especially if communication is lacking. I certainly hope the board can fix what happened, but never underestimate or diminish feelings a parent has, whether you feel that way or not. When parents want more answers, it is to protect their children, not to be malicious. Who am I? I’m the other side of the equation with charter schools. I’m the one who will ask the questions when parents don’t even know that was an option. I won’t even get into Common Core and standardized testing, but if any parent at PCA thinks this isn’t a part of these issues, they are mistaken.

As a parent with an IEP you really have no idea about how much PCA does for all of it’s students. Thank you for your concern but you have no idea what you are talking about if you are ready to put out ALL of the facts and not just what the school is doing wrong. I also have to wonder if the “parent” who started this is the same one who after being called out by other parents at the meeting apologized. Just saying you have the right to your opinion but, you need to hear both sides and the facts before you start speaking about things you know NOTHING about

Also if they didn’t cancel school I’m sure everyone would be complaining about that.

Wow………..You have it all figured out.

And at Monday’s forum, the PARENT’S requested the school be closed 11/5. The board said they would consider it. Be sure to add that to your blog.

Did you write about this in your blog? Or do you only write about charter schools? Smyrna student files sex suit against ex-teacher, district
www.delawareonline.com/…/smyrna-stud
May 21, 2014 – delawareonline ….. A 16-year-old Smyrna High School student, who had an ongoing sexual …

there is nothing at that link, and I just started my blog in June, so no I didn’t write about it. I don’t tend to write about students, but the adults at a school.  But I did look up the information, and yes, I probably would have written about it had I been writing my blog at the time.

Then please answer this, why would any parent request the school be closed? Was there a specific threat given for that day? I’ll lay all the cards on the table: Was there a threat that someone would blow up the school on November 5th, because that’s what parents heard. Did a parent state they made up that rumor and apologize for that? Because talking in cryptic sentences or not giving all the information just makes people more confused. I will happily post both sides, but I need more information. If this is a case of a parent going AWOL and spreading rumors without any facts, then please share that information. If the threat was real, then I don’t care how any parent reacts, it’s justified.

There was so many rumors going around about different things that were going to happen on that day. A lot of parents and some teachers thought it would be wise not because there was a for sure threat as there were various rumors to what was “supposed” to happen. The board thought is was better to just not have school. I would have sent my child to school on that day if they had school. There were several parents who said things and after the forums changed their minds. Several parents talked to me about it. One parent who I am not sure if by accident or on purpose send a letter to everyone that was CC’ed on an ema from the PTO about the parent forum. During the meetings when parents said that parent started a lot of drama revolving this issue then had a very different opinion after parents talking about him

Whoa! Blow up the school? Are you kidding me. For an outsider, you sure seem to know it all, don’t you? You think you got it all figured out any way. Please stop spreading non-sense.

I’m only going by what I heard. And yet you still haven’t answered my question: What was the exact threat that caused police to come to the school? If you know this, and you aren’t saying, then how can you justify anything?

When did Police come? We always have police during the Halloween parade. And we have an SRO like all the public schools in the Smyrna/Clayton district

I am not in the “gossip loop” of PCA apparently, because I still have no idea what’s going on. The vaguely worded letters sent home haven’t told parents a THING about what’s actually happening at the school. My child comes home and is hearing terrifying rumors about weapons on campus and bomb threats; what are the parents supposed to do? Why isn’t PCA directly addressing what’s happening? Giving us some facts? Like “this is what started it, this is what happened, these are the facts”? My son has been at PCA since kindergarten, but I’m honestly somewhat relieved that he’s getting out next year and moving onto high school. I don’t know what all the drama is about, and it seems I never will because there’s no transparency.

My step children still attend the school, prior to the principal leaving earlier in the week, my step daughter caught her smoke on property. Nothing to be proud of, when the principal is caught for smoking on school premises… it is shameful! The administration and teachers are responsible for following ALL safety rules that effect ALL the student.

The one parent who constantly defended the school seemed to know a lot of information, but even when one parent mentioned a bomb threat and earlier posts definitely show there was a police presence there, some of the school’s biggest defenders questioned that or didn’t even seem to realize police were even there.  I also have to wonder if one of the defenders was offered a seat on the board since two members resigned.  If that’s the case I wonder how the Board would feel about this parent getting on Facebook with some of their comments…  Social media…