Charter School Salaries Over $100,000: MOT, Newark Charter, Odyssey, Providence Creek, & Sussex Academy

These five charter schools are very distinctive in one area: they all have low populations of special education students compared to their surrounding districts.  But those aren’t the only comparisons among them.  Two of them have school leaders that received salary bumps over $50,000 and then resigned or are set to retire.  Pension law in Delaware sets your pension based on your three highest years of salary.  Intentional?  You be the judge.

These five charters range from near the top of Delaware in New Castle County all the way to the heart of Sussex County with one right near the middle in Kent.  All of these charters have significant student enrollment and have taken many students from their surrounding school districts.  They are also in very populous, and in some cases, fast growing areas of the state.

Continue reading “Charter School Salaries Over $100,000: MOT, Newark Charter, Odyssey, Providence Creek, & Sussex Academy”


17 Who Made An Impact In 2017: The Providence Creek “We’re Worried” Crew

Last Spring, a bunch of teachers and staff at Providence Creek Academy assembled to voice concerns about working conditions at Providence Creek Academy. They had some definite beefs with the way things were run, especially with the Principal and the Head of School. Ultimately, they brought their concerns to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education. While the DOE was unable to substantiate their claims, they initiated an important question: should charter school teachers be unionized?

Over Labor Day, they contacted me indicating they had enough votes to be able to join the Delaware State Education Association. Last month, they emailed me they no longer had those votes. But I always saluted their courage and bravery in their attempt. They never contacted me individually, always as a group. To this day, I could not tell you one member of the group. They had a very legitimate fear that if they did announce their names they would have been terminated from the school. I can’t blame them one bit for feeling that way. Delaware is an at will state and without union representation, charter school teachers can be terminated for pretty much any reason. Whether it is justified or not. And speaking up about a hostile working environment can be very dangerous. I truly wish we lived in a world where any teacher could use their voice without that fear, but that is not the world we live in unfortunately.

At the very least, I hope some of those situations at Providence Creek Academy did change for the teachers and staff. Whether it is one voice or half their staff, no one should have to live with fear is as their top concern.

Hysterical Providence Creek Email Surfaces. Sad Part Is She Was Serious…

You gotta keep ’em separated. -The Offspring

I received the following email today.  This concerns the “solution” that Providence Creek Academy, a charter school in Clayton, DE, implemented when students weren’t getting along.  Yes, let’s punish whole grades of classes because of the actions of a few.  That is always a smart thing to do!  Especially on the playground.  Weird.  Just weird…

From: Messick Joan
Sent: Tuesday, September 6, 2016 1:15 PM

Subject: Lunch/Recess – Seventh and Eight Grade Students

Good Morning Upper School Team

First, I apologize for not getting this out sooner.

On Thursday, there were several students reporting issues between the seventh and  eighth grade students.  The issues, in my opinion, seem to be brought on by some students intentionally starting arguments between other student and there seem to be issues about who should be where during recess time.  Since seventh and eighth grade students must follow a similar schedule, there isn’t much we can do to separate them during lunch and recess.  This morning I went to all special classes and stem so that I could have the opportunity to talk to all students.  The conversation was pretty one sided and I asked them to listen.  I did ask that if they had any questions, comments, suggestions, complaints or just want to share, they should write it down and ask that a staff member put it in my mail box. 

Side bar, we did have students, a parent, staff members concerned that if we don’t try and do something to be proactive the issues would escalate and change the climate in the upper school for the worse.  At this point it is fair to say that the issues are disrupting recess/lunch, disrupting the educational environment AND students are using social media to make comments that could be considered threatening in nature and there are implications that they might harm another student at school.  We are going to try some things to see if we can calm the issues. 

Starting today, we painted a line on the upper school playground.   Please have the seventh grade on one side of the line and eighth grade on the other side of the line.  We put a path on one side so that when those students are entering the building they don’t have to cross path with the other grade level.  I would have one grade level go in and wait two minutes and have the other grade level go in allowing enough time for the first group to enter their classrooms.  I am in the process in meeting with staff to keep them informed about what is happening and I would appreciate your feedback and suggestions since we will probably meet to discuss what is working, what is not and see if we need to make any additional changes.  Recess is a privilege, not a right.  Please reply to me, not “reply all”. 

Seventh and Eighth Grade students can take turns using each side.  I understand there is a upper school team meeting today after school, please decide as a team how you would like to rotate the grades by day or by week and please let me know.  We think that day on day off would be better because some students might have basketball withdrawalJ. Honestly, I feel sad that we have to do this since SO MANY of our students love recess and are using that time to get some energy out and relax with friends….

Thank you for your consideration and help.  Please keep me informed if there is anything you need and I would really appreciate it if you would send me an e-mail so that I have something that I can use as a resource with names, times and some basic information; And it will help to keep track in case I need to.  I am required to report documented reports of bullying and your e-mails help me with that.  More to follow….Take care.

Lastly, I have already gotten feedback from students and those that have responded think that this is a good solution. 



While I salute Ms. Messick for attempting a solution, does she understand that sometimes kids will be kids?  I understand schools sometimes have to think of creative solutions to problems, but what if some of these 7th and 8th graders actually enjoyed each other and had friendships? If some students are causing issues, deal with those students.  With that being said, I do think it’s great 7th and 8th graders get to enjoy recess.  This email is over a year old so hopefully it all got straightened out.  Any PCA associated people know if this playground line is still in existence?

In other PCA news, many have reached out to me privately to find out how the We’re Worried group is doing.  I have not heard a peep since their Labor Day email when they announced their intent to join DSEA (the state teacher association).  All in good time!


Providence Creek Educators Drop Labor Day E-Mail Bomb On Their Own School Board

One Hundred and Twenty-Three Years ago, the United States Congress passed a law which made Labor Day a national holiday in America.  Last evening, over half the Providence Creek Academy educators sent an email to their board which could not only have long-lasting ramifications for the Clayton charter school, but all Delaware charter schools. Continue reading “Providence Creek Educators Drop Labor Day E-Mail Bomb On Their Own School Board”


Massive Teacher Exodus At Providence Creek Leaves Parents Shaking Their Heads

Last night, parents of Providence Creek Academy students attended an open house at the Clayton charter school.  Many were wondering where all the teachers from last year went.  Many teachers quit due to the shenanigans involving management at the school.  One parent said it looks like 90% of their former teaching staff is gone now.  Many parents have wondered what is going on with the school since I wrote some pretty damaging articles last month.  It has been very quiet, as if some type of gag order went out.  It has become more than obvious that former teachers no longer wanted to put up with what is going on there and opted for better employment elsewhere.  As for all these new teachers it is only a matter of time before they realize what they signed up for.

How the state of Delaware can turn a blind eye to this school is beyond me.  Once again, I have nothing against the school but rather the leadership, the rubberstamp board, and those that follow the administration with their undying loyalty and subservience.  There is something rotten in the foundation of this school but nobody wants to call Chuck and Audrey out on the carpet in full public view.  Why?  If you quit there is absolutely no reason not to go public.  I want to believe former teachers feel PCA was a toxic work environment.  That is NOT good for kids.  Speak out.  Let folks know what is really going on there.  This is a school that has seen more turnovers than a Pepperidge Farm store.  Parents want consistency at schools, not this.  The former “We’re Worried” group appears to be defunct since most of them most likely said screw it and found jobs elsewhere.  That doesn’t change the situation on the ground at PCA.

As for all the financial fraud and the cover-up that went on with it, I sincerely hope the State is looking into that.  Cause the Delaware Department of Education certainly isn’t.  Chuck is obviously good at covering his tracks but there are always bread crumbs.  There has still be no formal announcement of formal charges against ex-employee Shanna Simmens.  There has to be a reason for that.  If it is a case where Chuck and Audrey have that much influence that they are just waiting for the statute of limitations to run out, that is a crying shame.  That shows corruption unheard of in this state.  I can’t for the life of me figure out why parents would willingly send their children to a school run by such devious and corrupt people.

For those who have reached out to me wanting to know more, I sincerely wish I had more to tell you.  I wish our State would do more.  But Delaware is proving to be as crooked as they come when it comes to protecting leaders who are in it more for themselves than for the  benefit of children.  Disgusting…

PCA is having a board meeting next Tuesday evening, August 29th, in their library at 7pm.  If I were PCA parents, I would go and demand answers from this Board of Directors, especially Board President Amy Santos.  Enough is enough.


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…


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.









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.


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

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.