Three more charter schools. Two in New Castle County, one in Kent. One centers around Spanish language skills. Another is a special education theme. One originally began with a theme of zero tolerance with school discipline but changed its tune. One had a ruckus last fall when their school leader was placed on leave because he wanted more pay for teachers. Continue reading
Get off the board!
Remember where you came from.
Enough is enough.
The same day Thomas Edison Charter School Principal Salome Thomas-EL was reinstated as the school leader, parents rallied outside the school demanding a new board. Parents were very angry about what happened since Thursday morning. They said they were a part of the charter’s family and they want more say and more transparency. Parents angrily yelled for board President Ronald Pinkett to quit.
This issue became more than the suspension of Thomas-EL. When Pinkett responded to reporters on Friday he told them to “Look at this neighborhood.” This angered already upset parents even more and saw it as an egregious insult on their homes and community.
On the school’s website, both Principal EL and the Board issued statements today:
If this was never a police matter, why were the police there? From what I’ve heard, the police haven’t come to the school at all in years. So why would they be there on the same exact day EL was suspended? Why don’t you just come out and say Exceptional Delaware. It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback when you lost the game. At the end of the day, this was some bizarre power play that blew up in Pinkett’s face. I hope he does resign and does it yesterday.
Who wrote this statement? Because it say’s “Let me reiterate”. If it is from Pinkett, he is once again acting unilaterally the same way he did by creating this mess in the first place. Even Delawareonline wrote about this one-man pony show tonight:
Board member Mikkel Christie said the decision was a “subset” of the board, not done during the board’s monthly meeting and declined further elaboration. After the rally, Pinkett declined comment on questions about authority and public notice.
A subset of the board? The same 3-4 members who attended a lot of these back-door and secret meetings? They don’t deserve to be board members, at any school. They operate with impunity and do whatever they damn well please. They created chaos and now they are trying to backpedal. They are the embodiment of what no school board, be it district or charter school, should ever have.
But they did get me sniffing into their Thomas Edison Board of Directors Foundation Account. And I will have MUCH more to say about that. This part is not over by a long shot. I’m glad Principal EL got his job back. For once, the voice of the people mattered more than a few egos. This board did more damage in a matter of days than anything anybody else could have done. If I were a betting man, I would say this will come up again in a big way during their charter renewal process in the coming months. The Delaware Dept. of Education does not like this kind of stuff. If they don’t bring it up I would be shocked. Not under Bunting’s watch!
This situation at Thomas Edison Charter School is getting bigger by the day. Tomorrow night, at 6pm, parents and staff are holding a rally at the school demanding Principal EL be reinstated. It doesn’t mean he will. But parents and teachers have had enough and they aren’t afraid to use their voice.
Not helping matters was the closed-door board meeting today. There was no public notice of this meeting (required by state code, even if it is an emergency meeting). Even if there is not a quorum, any public board in this state has to follow certain protocol under open meeting laws. But it doesn’t sound like this board knows state code. Heck, I’m not even sure they know their own bylaws.
Parents were not happy about Board President Ron Pinkett’s comment on Delawareonline about “Have you seen this neighborhood?” Many parents have expressed outrage at what they are seeing as an out of touch comment.
Word on the street is that President Pinkett made his own decision to put Principal EL on leave. Sounds like this guy needs to take a walk.
Will Principal EL grace the halls of Thomas Edison tomorrow morning? The students won’t be there since it is an “in-service day”, just announced on Friday. The lack of transparency surrounding this whole thing is appalling.
The Delaware Charter School Network became involved with the firestorm at Thomas Edison Charter School and that can only mean one thing: Kendall Massett is now in charge. The last time she entered the fray like this it resulted in Family Foundations Academy having their board completely gutted when the Eastside Charter School board took over back in January, 2015. I was able to find out a lot more about the school’s “foundation” account and that is the biggest farce of them all! Meanwhile, the school has violated FOIA many times through this and they are about to do the same tomorrow. Continue reading
The Board of Directors at Thomas Edison Charter School are facing a head-on karma collision today. At least 20 teachers called out sick today forcing the school to close for the day in early dismissal. Dr. Salome Thomas-EL has been placed on indefinite leave by the board. Parents don’t know what is going on due to the lack of transparency coming from the board.
Yesterday afternoon, members of the board met with teachers after school. Note to self: find out if there was a quorum because there was no agenda posted for this meeting. Several teachers walked out of this meeting.
I did find out their “Foundation” account is due to the school owning the building. That account is meant for lease and renovation payments to which they receive payments from the state. Whether it is used for that purpose, I cannot say. But it is my hope someone in the state looks into that. My question would be why they need a separate bank account and why those bank statements aren’t available to the public since it is fueled by taxpayer funds.
At this point it is a no-brainer that the Delaware Dept. of Education has gotten involved. Far too much has happened since yesterday morning. I have not found out whether or not a charter school board has the authority to deny teachers a state approved increase in pay. My sense is that they do not have this authority. And is Thomas Edison the only charter denying these increases to their teachers?
The teachers at Wilmington’s Thomas Edison Charter School are NOT happy with the Board of Directors today. As I broke the news this morning, Head of School Salome Thomas-EL was removed from the school this morning by the police with the board present. What was the issue?
The school had a surplus of funds from their FY2017 budget to the tune of $534,000.00. The teachers were requesting a 1.5% increase in salary which Thomas-EL asked for from the board. The request was denied. What happened from there I do not know… yet. But to publicly shame a charter leader who is beloved by his staff and the community around him is in very bad taste. Not to mention the appearance this gives to students. This is a school with a low-income/poverty population hovering around 96%. The last thing they need is to see their school leader kicked out of school over what amounts to him fighting for higher teacher pay at a school that is known for having the lowest paid teaching staff in New Castle County. But they can afford to have lavish Christmas parties and send seven people to a charter school conference?
Thomas Edison’s teachers, like all Delaware public school teachers, received either a 1.5% salary increase or $750 (whichever is greater) last year. The board sent a letter to their educators a year ago advising them they would receive this increase but then backed out a couple of months later. The board’s response was that charter schools are not required to give those raises as approved by our state legislators in the annual budget. Based on their board approved budget for FY2017, the amount for salaries was $5,877,429.00. If they gave the 1.5% increase, that would have amounted to $88,161.43. With a surplus of $534,000 (or $588,000 according to their final June 2017 monthly financial statement), that would have been a drop in the bucket. My guess with the increase in local funds of over $176,000 is funds received from the settlement with the Christina School District over local funding. So where is that money going if it isn’t going to teachers? Where does their surplus money go to?
The answer to that is more frightening than the question itself. Thomas Edison has a foundation. The school transfers their surplus money into a foundation account. What happens from there is anybody’s guess. In looking at their July monthly financial position statement, it shows a board approved “transfer” budget which I can only assume is coming from their “foundation” account. In July it shows $25,000 transferred and in August another $25,000. But if the school has a $534,000 variance and they are transferring funds into the foundation account, what is being done with the rest of that money? In looking at their expenditures for May 2017 compared to June 2017, it looks like their expenses went up considerably in June considering school ended that month. And why isn’t the school posting financial statements for their foundation on their website? If I were the State Auditor, I would be looking into this as soon as possible.
This is not an attack on Salome Thomas-EL or the charter school. This is looking to be another round of what the hell is this charter board doing? The optics on this at the time of their charter renewal do not look good. Could this be Family Foundations Academy redux? I would LOVE to see their monthly foundation bank statements! If you have nothing to hide Board of Directors at Thomas Edison Charter School, I am asking that you make your bank statements from your foundation bank account available on your website immediately!
It looks like we need legislation around district and charter “foundation” accounts as well. You hear that legislators!
*To clarify, Salome Thomas-EL was NOT arrested this morning. Police were used to escort him off school premises.
Breaking news: The police just removed Thomas Edison Charter School Head of School Salome Thomas-El from the school. The Board of Directors was present for this. Details are sparse at the moment, but from what I’m hearing the board was not pleased about the direction Thomas-El wanted to take the school in. Apparently wanting more pay for staff and administration is a big no-no. The teachers are not pleased with the decision and there could be a walk-out. It looks like there is no such thing as due process at this Wilmington charter school. More details to come as this story develops…
As I trolled through charter school minutes throughout the day, in-between working on another project, and reading with my son, I got to the last one, Thomas Edison Charter School. Lo and behold, Thomas Edison is under investigation by the Delaware State Auditor. While it doesn’t give specifics and why they are being investigated, their July 2015 board minutes give no illusion about this matter. I first reported this in the Spring, and some folks said I am reading too much into it. Thank you, I know the difference between an investigative audit and a regular audit.
State Audit Update
Auditors are coming to the school during the week of 07/27/15 to begin the audit. The auditors are requesting the Board meeting be moved back one week to allow them to meet State deadlines and to report findings to the Board. The Board did not have an objection to the request.
Back in May, the State Auditor’s office revealed during a House Education Committee meeting on House Bill 186 that seven Delaware charters were under investigation, and they were not light matters. We already knew about Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover. I soon found out, once again based on board minutes, that Providence Creek Academy was another. And then in June, I discovered two possible other schools: Thomas Edison and Odyssey Charter School. The State Auditor’s office isn’t able to verify this information. While I still haven’t been able to confirm Odyssey, Thomas Edison is definitely number four. The first three were for financial abuse, involving procurement (purchase) cards and actually opening accounts under the school’s name for personal use. What has Thomas Edison done to incur this inspection? I’m sure we will find out soon enough.
Once again, what is the DOE doing about this? I have yet to hear of any action being taken on Providence Creek Academy and Thomas Edison, even though it is now public knowledge. Both Academy of Dover and FFA were put on formal review in part due to these kinds of things. And who are the other three charters? The wheels on the bus go round and round…
To read the actual board minutes from Thomas Edison’s July meeting, look below:
In their April 27th board minutes, Thomas Edison revealed they have been in communication with the Delaware State Auditor’s office. While it doesn’t go into specifics, there is a lot of discussion about how to reveal contingency items and how to hide them…
“Mr. Christie stated that to Mr. Velasquez point we have a total of $104,250.00, that we’re saying we have spent this on contingency, but we haven’t really. Mr. Blocksom asked if this makes us look bad and how would the auditors look at this. Mrs. Winder stated that our external auditors wouldn’t recognize it, but not quite sure how the State would react.”
As well, the school absolutely kills it in discussion about the Smarter Balanced Assessment which they only refer to as “the test”. Every Delaware Senator needs to read this report before the vote tomorrow.
The Delaware House of Representatives also need to read this and Pete Schwartzkopf needs to get House Bill 186 on the agenda tomorrow, the Senate needs to suspend Senate rules and skip the Senate Education Committee meeting for this bill, and get House Bill 186 passed before midnight June 30th. This is a shining examples of how Delaware charter schools openly flaunt their disdain for state code and regulation in terms of financial matters. They also need to do the same for House Bill 61 and get these charter schools recording all their board minutes and place them on their websites within seven business days. The days of Delaware charters making their own rules are coming to an end. And nothing Kendall Massett and the Delaware Charter Schools Network or all the backers, investors, and “non-profit” foundations do is going to stop this.