Charter School 5 Mile Radius Bill Gets Vote In Delaware Senate Today

The very controversial HS1 for House Bill 85 gets a full Senate vote today.  This is one of the thorniest education bills in the Delaware General Assembly this session.  It would remove the 5 mile radius enrollment preference for charter schools but there is a loophole.  For the Christina School District, which has a non-continguous section in Wilmington, those students would not get a preference to get into Newark Charter School.  That is Delaware’s largest charter school.

It was released from the Senate Education Committee two weeks ago but not without controversy.  In the House, it prompted a long debate over the issue last month.  Those who opposed the bill alleged it would cause even more de facto segregation of Wilmington students.

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Controversial 5 Mile Radius Bill To Be Heard In Senate Education Committee On Wednesday

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 is on the agenda for the Sokola Senate Education Committee on Wednesday, June 7th at 3:30pm.  State Senator David Sokola has stuffed the agenda with six bills, but in a half-hour time span.  Most of the other bills shouldn’t raise too many eyebrows though.  The House Education Committee canceled their meeting on Wednesday.  Even though most people have their eye on the budget, it is always a good idea to see what else is going on.  Between this bill, the Coastal Zone Act reorganization, legal marijuana, death penalty, and Lord knows what else will come up, we need eyes and ears more than ever down at Legislative Hall!

I will say upfront I oppose this bill because of the House Substitute that removes the Christina School District Wilmington students from this.  This added language (which was insisted on by Senator Sokola) only serves to benefit one school: Newark Charter School.

To see what is on tap for ALL the committee meetings, this week, please go here: http://legis.delaware.gov/CommitteeMeetings

Guest Post: Kim Williams Is The Good Guy Here. The Process…Not So Much.

Christina School District Board of Education member John Young asked if he could submit a guest post regarding the current Newark Charter School/5 Mile Radius/HS1 for House Bill #85 skirmish.  Young is writing this as a citizen and is not speaking for the Christina Board of Education.

There has been a ton of conjecture flying around about multiple legislators and their motives this past week centered around HB85 and its spawn: HS1 for HB85. The original bill sponsored by Reps. Williams, Kowalko, and Sen. Sokola et. al. The substitute only by Rep. Williams and Sen. Sokola, et.al. There has been extreme reaction to this bill here in Delaware with lots of people taking stark, sharp positions. Here’s the reality: 22 years of fighting against the wrongheaded approach with direct assaults has been essentially 100% ineffective.  Rep. Kim Williams has cobbled together a band of legislators willing to make a small inroad against the charter cabal, led by Senator David Sokola and his charter loving elitists. Would I, if asked, want to work with Senator David Sokola on education knowing his penchant for attacking traditional public education with a track record replete with defense of de facto segregation? Nope. I wouldn’t. I’ve heard too may stories of Senator Sokola treating colleagues poorly when his pet programs are threatened.

That said, Rep. Kim Williams is a different breed. Unlike many of her colleagues, she puts students first. Is this bill perfect? Heck no!  Who would be the first person to agree with that statement? Rep. Kim Williams! I suspect Rep. Williams has worked super hard to get multiple legislators to support HS1 for HB85, not based on their understanding of how this bill impacts kids, but based on their trust and respect for her. That’s how it works in Dover. That’s not an endorsement of how it ought to be, just an acknowledgement of how it is.  With that said, I think some of the rhetoric on this bill may jeopardize future successes on other bills if we’re not careful with our over-demonizing. Am I happy that an AG ruling is being sought? Sure.  Other than Rep. John Kowalko on that request, are those seeking the ruling leaders on education like Rep. Williams? Not even close.  We need to remember that.

I do not envy Rep. Williams position, but I admire her willingness to work within her own party to bridge the divides that SHOULD NOT EVEN EXIST, but because they do they must be confronted in a different way than if Mr. Sokola was in the party he acts like he belongs to on education, the GOP.

Rep. Kim Williams is not the problem here folks, she’s the solution. Keep up the good work. To those that joined her on this vote: I understand and I thank you.​
I agree with John and accept that my original post on this painted Kim and other legislators in a certain light based on their vote.  In hindsight, they tried to make the best of the situation.  Senator Sokola IS the problem here folks.  Always has been.  This was one of the main reasons I wanted Meredith Chapman to beat him last year in the election and she came damn close!  This, my friends, is the result.  I’ve talked to Dave Sokola since, and I advised him I would be gentler on him.  But this bill reeks of favoritism with the “Sokola language”.  And the fact he even attempted to hold the bill hostage unless it had his wording as part of it shows the worst of Delaware politics.
Shameless plug: Exceptional Delaware always accepts guest posts as long as they make a modicum of sense!

Potter, Bolden, & Kowalko Seek Legal Opinion From Attorney General Matt Denn For HS1 For House Bill #85

Yesterday, three Delaware State Representatives sent a letter to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn.  They are asking him for an Attorney General Opinion on HS1 for House Bill 85.  Things just got very real with this legislation.  If Reps. Potter, Bolden, and Kowalko didn’t do it, I would have suggested it.  The five mile radius was bad enough.  But then to purposefully select certain students from not being allowed to apply to a charter school in their own school district, that puts a very clear mark on this.  It isn’t too late though.  Delaware Senator David Sokola can choose to get on the right side of history and change the bill so Newark Charter School does take the Christina Wilmington students.  Because anything else, under his prime directive, is outright discrimination and segregation.  We all know it.

I will not bend to any political request on this legislation.  I will not back away from what I originally published.  To me, I could really care less about the politics.  I don’t care if you are blue or red or purple.  If folks want to put their name on this legislation, go right ahead.  But I will not change my stance on this.  Even if I admire and respect the hell out of some of you for various reasons and would fight like hell for bills that we do agree on, on this bill I will not budge.  It is about doing what is right, for ALL students.  Yes, the bill is progress, but not enough.  We can agree to disagree on that.  But I will not be party to political games and not publishing what I know in my heart to be true. It isn’t personal.  It wouldn’t matter who sponsored this bill, I would feel the same way and I would have published the exact same article.  Yes, I am aware some of the legislators flipped their vote because of how it would make them look.  I am aware there was political fighting going on with this legislation.  I was there for the whole thing.  I opposed the bill when the House Substitute came in, and I made that very clear at the House Education Committee meeting when the bill was released.  It isn’t a Democrat thing and it isn’t a Republican thing.  It is a student thing.  It is an equity thing.  It is the right thing.

Taking A Deep Dive At Newark Charter School & Christina School District: 5 Mile Radius, Greater Newark Area, & District (Including Wilmington)

Ask, and ye shall receive!  Whenever I put up an article about Newark Charter School and what I view as their low sub-group population percentages compared to Christina School District, I am asked to do closer comparisons.  That is absolutely fair and something I should have done a long time ago.  So I plead guilty on that score.  But sometimes wanting to know that information to shut me up isn’t always the best idea.  Especially when the proof is in the pudding.  Continue reading “Taking A Deep Dive At Newark Charter School & Christina School District: 5 Mile Radius, Greater Newark Area, & District (Including Wilmington)”

Newark Charter School Doesn’t Want Wilmington Black Kids Or Wilmington Special Needs Kids Going To Their Private School

Earlier this afternoon, State Rep. Rich Collins led the Delaware House of Representatives in prayer and asked them, no matter what, to put children first in their mind when they are voting on legislation.  Two and a half hours later, Collins along with 26 other state reps both Republican and Democrat, voted to keep Newark Charter School first.

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 passed the House today with 27 yes, 13 no, and 1 absent.  The bill removes the 5 mile radius enrollment preference for Delaware charter schools with one exception.  Since Christina School District has a portion of their district in Wilmington, that is not landlocked with the rest of the district, those Wilmington children will not be allowed to choice to Newark Charter School.  Even though the Wilmington students from Red Clay and Colonial can choice to other charter schools, those Christina Wilmington students can’t choice to that one school.  They can still choice to other charters within the district or even outside of the district, but not NCS.

The bill still has to go through the Senate.  By primary sponsor State Rep. Kim Williams’ own admission, if the bill did not have that provision it wouldn’t have moved forward in the Senate.  The Chair of the Senate Education Committee, Senator David Sokola, used to be on the board of Newark Charter School.  It isn’t really a state secret that State Rep. Melanie Smith bought a house in that area so her child can go to Newark Charter School.  Why does it always come back to Newark Charter School?

State Rep. John Kowalko put an amendment on the bill that would have removed that provision, but it failed to pass the House.  25 state reps voted no on the amendment.

I know State Rep. Kim Williams very well.  I know her intent with this bill was to get a start on changing this process.  It is better than what we had before.  But it really isn’t.  Yes, there will be a greater number of Christina School District students who will have the option of choicing into Newark Charter School.  That is true, provided the bill passes and gets signed by Governor Carney.  But it also sends a clear statement about Delaware as a state: we will allow de facto segregation.  Any time we are disallowing students from having a free and appropriate public education, we are not moving forward as a state, we are moving horribly backwards.

State Reps Charles Potter, Stephanie Bolden, and J.J. Johnson, all African-American, voiced strong opposition to the bill for the same things I am writing.  Bolden said it best.  What does it say about Delaware as a state when legislation like this comes up?  She couldn’t say this, so I will.  It shows what a discriminatory state we are to the rest of the country.  It says city kids aren’t good enough for a charter in the suburbs.  It says we vote in legislators who would rather keep one charter school from opening up to ALL students than making Delaware, the first state to sign the U.S. Constitution, a fair and equitable state for all children.

Let’s be honest here, the only reason for this legislation in the first place is because of Newark Charter School.  Taking what could be a good portion of their student population out of the picture in the coming years defeats the whole intent of the bill in the first place.

Which State Reps voted to keep de facto segregation going in Delaware today?

Bryon Short (D)

Paul Baumbach (D)

David Bentz (D)

Gerald Brady (D)

William Carson (D)

Rich Collins (R)

Danny Short (R)

Tim Dukes (R)

Ronald Gray (R)

Kevin Hensley (R)

Deb Hudson (R)

Earl Jaques (D)

Quinton Johnson (D)

Harvey Kenton (R)

Ed Osienski (D)

William Outten (R)

Trey Paradee (D)

Charles Postles (R)

Melanie Smith (D)

Joe Miro (R)

Mike Ramone (R)

Steven Smyk (R)

Jeff Spiegelman (R)

John Viola (D)

Kim Williams (D)

David Wilson (R)

Lyndon Yearick (R)

Only one Republican voted no on the bill, State Rep. Ruth Briggs-King.  I find it ironic that many of the Dems who have part of their district in the 5 mile radius for Newark Charter School voted yes.  A couple of the no votes surprised me, but I will take it.  For those who aren’t familiar with what our state legislators look like, there are no black Republicans in the Delaware House or Senate.  All of the above legislators are white.

No offense to Kim Williams, and I get her intent behind this bill, but I can’t support this bill.  I vehemently oppose it.  Any legislation that restricts a child from doing anything will never be a bill I can get behind.  Any bill that gives Delaware an ugly stain on our perception is one I can not support.  This is not progress.  This is very sad.

We need elected officials in our state who won’t follow the whims of Newark Charter School.  We need legislators who will look out for ALL students.  We need lawmakers who won’t bow to the Delaware Charter Schools Network and do what is right.  We need legislators who realize collaboration when it comes to education is NOT always a good thing.  Today was no victory by any means.  It was a horrible step backwards in Delaware.  We might as well paint a sign on Newark Charter School that says Wilmington students not allowed.  The original five mile radius for NCS was bad enough, but this… this is blatant discrimination by a public school that gets funding from taxpayers around the state.

Newark Charter School is one of the best schools in Delaware.  It is because of laws like this that have allowed them to cherry-pick their students and take advantage of the law so they give a façade of excellence.  If they truly let in any student, they would be no better or worse than the schools around them.  But they would be equal.  I would never let my child go to a school like that.  What kind of lesson would that teach him?  If he were picked in their lottery, I would tell him he won because so many kids could not.  If I lived in Wilmington, would I really want my child going to a school that practiced discrimination and segregation for over 15 years?

I would tell you to voice your opposition to the Delaware Senate on this bill.  But it really doesn’t matter.  If it passes as is, it is the same story.  If it fails, Newark Charter School still has their 5 mile radius and still keeps kids from the Christina School District out of their prestigious public school.  Any attempt at amending the bill will fail.  But the truest failure is how Delaware looks to the entire country with this one bill.

Updated, 6:52pm: I want to add one thing.  My thoughts on this bill are not a knock on all Delaware charter schools.  There are many charter schools in Wilmington who would be more than happy to take the students Newark Charter School doesn’t want.  And they do.  My main issues with charter schools in Delaware have been the very inequity I am writing about here.

 

 

 

Kowalko Amendment Would Remove Newark Charter School Boon In House Bill 85

The saga of the 5-mile radius legislation beats on in Delaware!  Today, State Rep. John Kowalko introduced an amendment to the bill which would remove the language concerning the Wilmington students in the Christina School District not a part of the enrollment preference for charter schools within the non-Wilmington portion of the district.

Yesterday, at the House Education Committee meeting, legislators and speakers alike shared concerns with that portion of the bill.  House Substitute 1 for House Bill #85 would remove any 5-mile radius enrollment preferences in Delaware charter schools.  At present, only two charters have the 5-mile radius, Newark Charter School and First State Montessori Academy.  But Newark Charter School exists in a district where the Wilmington part of their district is not land-locked and is actually an island in the middle of the city.  One State Representative, Joe Miro, said he will not vote yes for the bill if it has the amendment on it.

Enrollment Preferences Bill Released From Committee But Newark Charter School Exclusion Remains Controversial

House Substitute 1 for House Bill 85 was released from the Delaware House Education Committee today.  There are very serious concerns due to a “compromise” brought forth by the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  The bone of contention surrounds the Christina School District and Newark Charter School.  Since a portion of Christina exists in Wilmington, those students would not be considered in the enrollment preference which includes all students in a choice school’s district.  The line of thinking appears to be the district section of Wilmington is not connected to the rest of the district.  However, those who oppose this section of the bill feel it is a barrier for Wilmington students who are part of the Christina School District.

Today, State Rep. John Kowalko is bringing forth an amendment but no one on the committee knew specifically what the amendment was.  State Rep. Kim Williams, the primary sponsor of the bill, stated she assumes it would be to remove lines 7-9 of the bill which would give Newark Charter School their Wilmington exclusion.  Williams said she would not support the amendment because she gave her word to Senator David Sokola.  This, apparently, was an addition to the bill from Senator Sokola which caused the House Substitute bill from the original House Bill 85.  State Rep. Joe Miro said he would not support the bill if the amendment passed.

State Rep. Sean Matthews said he is in support of the bill but does not feel the bill serves all students in the Christina School District.  He felt the bill does not allow for Wilmington students to go to Newark Charter School and the exclusion for NCS was put in so it can pass the Delaware Senate.

If Newark Charter School is so good, they should take all students. -State Rep. Sean Matthews

State Rep. Deb Heffernan agreed with Matthews.  The bill was released with 11 votes in favor of the bill.

Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting said the Delaware Department of Education is taking a neutral stance on the bill.  Donna Johnson, the Executive Director of the State Board of Education, said former State Board member R.L. Hughes was on the Enrollment Preferences Task Force and voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius. Kristin Dwyer, the Delaware State Education Association Director of Legislation and Political Organizing,  said she is happy the conversation is opened with this bill but DSEA does not feel the bill goes far enough.  DSEA feels the 5-mile radius should be completely removed.

My concerns with this bill are the very nature of Newark Charter School to begin with.  Even with their 5-mile radius, their student populations do not reflect that of the Greater Newark area.  This is the public comment I gave to the committee and my idea for a potential amendment.

While I am very happy to see this bill, I have concerns around Newark Charter School. When the charter school had their major modification approved to build their high school, they were instructed with formulating a plan to allow for more diversity in their district.  I have yet to see that materialize, even within their current 5 mile radius.  While their special education numbers have increased, they are still woefully under what the state average is, much less the Christina School District.  In the school profile for this school year, African-Americans represent 10.7% of their student population compared to 39.4% of Christina.  While factoring in the African-American population of the Wilmington contingent of Christina student population, the greater Newark area has a much higher population of African-Americans compared to NCS.  I would recommend an amendment be placed on this bill for a weighted lottery for charter schools, magnets, and any choice school where the demographics are disproportionately lower than that of the surrounding district to allow populations that do not seem to be getting access to certain charter school even footing and representation within those schools.  Enrollment preferences are meant to allow the most disadvantaged students into choice schools, not to keep them out. Thank you.

The bill, if passed, would take place immediately.  However, it would not be able to kick in until the 2018-2019 school year since the school choice calendar for the 2017-2018 school year closed in January.  During the House Bill 90 Enrollment Preferences Task Force, the majority of the members voted in favor of removing the 5-mile radius as an enrollment preference for choice schools.  Williams said she does not necessarily agree with the Newark Charter School exclusion, but felt compromise was necessary.  If the bill didn’t move forward, she would not be able to help any students.

Once Kowalko’s amendment is public, I will add it to this article.

Newark Charter School: Where Is Your Outreach Plan? We Have Been Waiting Four Years…

When Newark Charter School had its major modification for their high school approved in 2012, then Secretary of Education Lillian Lowery gave very specific conditions for the approval.  One of them was to offer free and reduced lunch for the students of NCS.  Another was to develop an outreach plan so their demographics were more consistent with that of the 5 mile radius they draw students from.  The below letter from Lillian Lowery was written about a month before she resigned as the Secretary.  But this was their approval.  Some have referred to this as “The Lowery Doctrine”.

It is obvious the Board of Directors at Newark Charter School have ignored this condition to their modification.  Four years later and a Delaware Secretary of Education has yet to see their Outreach Plan.  Lowery never got it.  Murphy never got it.  Godowsky never got it.  But here was are, as Newark Charter School has its first graduating class, and NO Outreach Plan.  As of their September 30th count by last school year, they had less African-American students than the year before.  They did go up in students with disabilities from 5.6% to 6.5%.  And their Hispanic population went up a little bit.  But that is not the same as an actual Outreach plan.  Where is this NCS Head of School Greg Meece?  For all the talk and bluster coming out of this school, no one at the top of this school has delivered what they were supposed to.  I’ve heard parents say they are attempting to rectify their demographic situation, but when they were given a direct order by the Dept. of Education, they blew it off.  For a school that seems to want others to follow their perceived notion of “the letter of the law” they sure do cherry-pick what to follow…

A Delaware State Rep Told A Reporter To Look In Her Underwear Drawer

I’ve seen a lot of interesting comments from Delaware legislators appear in print.  But this one really made my jaw drop.  James Dawson, a reporter with Delaware Public Media was asking State Rep. Melanie George Smith about a home she purchased in Newark:

Public records filed with New Castle County Recorder of Deeds show Smith took out a $417,000 mortgage Aug. 19 on a nearly 4,000 square foot house on Amaranth Drive north of Newark – about 11 miles outside of her representative district.

When Dawson asked her why, this was her response:

“You can step inside and look at my underwear drawer to see that all the ducks are in a row,” she said in an interview with Delaware Public Media.

Yes, she really said that.  While Dawson was not able to obtain the reason why she may have purchased a home in Newark, I may know.  While I won’t specifically name the reason, I will give a few hints.

 

It’s not to run against Meredith Chapman one day.

Did she win the lottery to get her new home?

I wonder what might be in a 5 mile radius of her new home.

 

But wait, you must be thinking… “That’s not a guarantee”…”the process still has to be followed”…

Yeah, okay.  Funny how those things work out.  It’s not like this would be the first time.  All I’m going to say is 329…

Ah Delaware, you never stop amusing me…

 

Two Maps, Same Result

The two maps shown below both have much of the same area in them.  The area around Newark Charter School.  More specifically, their five-mile radius.  They use that map as a base for their student enrollment.  As you can see, Delaware’s 8th Senate District uses much of this same area.

District8

Delaware Senator David Sokola is the current Senator from the 8th District.  Since 1990.  26 years.  Too long.  We need a change.

NCS 5 Mile

Newark Charter School was very careful in selecting their five-mile radius.  It touches upon some of the more affluent areas of New Castle County.  Notice how more than a third of that radius doesn’t even exist since it is in other states?  So their circle of love is more a circle of influence.  Senator Sokola,  who helped develop Newark Charter School and served on their board, has certainly benefited from this map.  Once again, we need a change.  If you live in the 8th Senate District, please consider running and making a much-needed change.  26 years is far too much.

Newark Charter School Recognized As A “Distinguished Title I School”… But They Aren’t A Title I School

The_original_Newark_Charter_School_building,_now_used_as_the_intermediate_school_2014-08-18_20-46

The National Title I Association recently selected 57 schools in the USA to be “Distinguished Title I Schools”.  That’s awesome, helping out the poor kids.  In Delaware, Newark Charter School got the honor.  And what an honor it is!  But there is just one little catch… Newark Charter School is NOT a Title I school.  To be a Title I school you have to have a certain percentage of low-income students.  Newark Charter School has 7%.  But the catch is because they are located in the Christina School District.  The feds go by the geographic area.  So while Christina has 35% low-income in that geographic area because Newark Charter is “on the map”, they qualify for this award.  The feds use some ridiculous census data to determine this, with our Delaware Department of Education providing the data to them.  To receive the award you have to be really good at closing those achievement gaps based on standardized testing.  And guess who Delaware’s Title I State Leader is?  The recently departed from the Delaware DOE diva of destruction: Penny Schwinn.

Funny how the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores don’t count for anything negative but they sure have been a boon to certain DOE ass-kissers when it comes to “Reward” and “Recognition” schools.  And no one takes the ass-kissing award more than NCS!  And leading that pack is their school leader: Gregory Meece.  This is the guy who went insane when the Smarter Balanced scores came out and “his” school’s scores weren’t included in the article.  He was ticked cause he wanted bragging rights over their great scores.

Newark Charter School has a 5 mile radius for applicants.  Within that 5 mile radius is the 35% low-income student population.  How the hell do you have a “random” lottery, year after year, with a huge wait list, and only wind up with 1/5th of that population?  “Random” indeed…  This award means about as much as the stupid “Blue Ribbon Award” as well (which NCS has also received back in 2010).  Another Delaware school, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, also in the Christina School District, was given the “Distinguished Title I” school as well.  They have 20% low-income.  It’s one thing for Newark Charter School to cherry-pick their way to the top, but quite another to get an award for convoluted data that makes absolutely no sense.  But of course the praise will be thrown at them in this never-ending saga of charter love in Delaware.

cherrypicking

First State Montessori Academy Enrollment Preference Arguments Heat Up

 

fsma-icons

On Saturday, I published an article concerning First State Montessori Academy’s major modification request to increase their enrollment and add middle school grades.  To say this has been controversial would be an understatement.  Public Comment, whether it was on this blog or through the official public comment channel on the DOE Charter School Office website.  Last night, the Public Hearing for First State Montessori’s major modification request was held.  When the transcript from the hearing becomes available I will put it up here.

At their December 2nd board meeting, First State Montessori talked about forming a committee to explore the option of increasing their enrollment and adding extra grades.  The board passed a motion to increase their enrollment by 5-15%.  School leader Courtney Fox said they would have to get a major modification request to the DOE by 12/31/15.  What is very interesting here is the school leader’s mention of the Delaware Met building next to them, at 920 N. French St.  While she doesn’t come out and say it, it is obvious the school is assuming Delaware Met would be closed.  The board doesn’t even mention the possibility of adding middle school grades at this point in time either, only adding more Kindergarten and 1st grade classrooms.  As well, Fox, who is NOT a member of the board, announces a future meeting to discuss the possibility of the modification request and increasing their enrollment.  Why did the board not vote on this?  Does Fox run the board as well as the school?

On December 19th, an agenda for a 12/28/15 board meeting was put up on their website.  It indicated their would be an update on the Exploring Expansion Committee.  One would assume the board voted at that meeting on their major modification request and to add middle school grades.  By this time, the announcement by the State Board of Education over Del Met’s closure was old news.  Three days after Christmas is a very odd time to have a board meeting.  While the board did do the right thing in putting up the agenda at least a week prior to the meeting, how much ability was there for members of the public to know about this meeting and potentially weigh in on the topic?  On the flip side, the State Board voted on the charter revocation for Del Met on 12/16 so the school had to see what would happen with that decision before moving forward.  But I still find it ironic there is no definitive plan set in motion earlier in December to add middle school grades to the school and all of a sudden it materializes in their major modification request submitted on 12/30/15.

This is merely conjecture on my part, but we already know the DOE suggested DAPSS submit a major modification request instead of a minor modification request.  How much input should the DOE have in suggesting modification requests to Delaware charter schools?  And what of Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network who seems to be a intermediary between charter schools and the Delaware DOE?  I will be very upfront and say something really doesn’t smell right here.  And with all these modification requests coming from charter schools how can we be sure this could not somehow influence the State Board of Education’s vote on the Wilmington Education Improvement Commission redistricting plan?

In the meantime, check out what folks had to say about this hot topic:

“J” said:

Kevin, the interest in Montessori thing is as easy as taking a tour or even talking for a moment to someone from the school in the community. They are at the expo and other events. Have held info sessions at local libraries, etc. It’s easy. The Montessori model is very different. There are mixed grade classrooms, no traditional desks, no traditional homework packets. Very different and something that families and students should be aware of. “Interest” in this case is awareness of the differences, that’s all.
Ask about it – learn about it. Heck, e mail me. This doesn’t cherry pick anything.

Eve Buckley said:

The questions raised in the final comment have been asked since FSMA opened. According to DOE’s “school profiles” for this school year, FSMA students are 65% white and 8% low-income. The two districts surrounding it are 44% white, 35% low-income (Red Clay) and 32% white, 41% low-income (Christina); those figures include suburban regions with less poverty than the city. So FSMA could clearly be doing more to attract and retain a student population more reflective of its surrounding communities (or even of the countywide student population). No pressure in that direction from its authorizer?
Note that Cab and Newark Charter, also very popular “choice” options, also have low-income % around 8. That seems to be the sweet spot for appealing to middle class public school consumers in the area (if you can’t achieve the 2% attained via testing by CSW).

Mike O said:

For families who “choose not to apply” to charters such as NCS or Montessori, I am sure many don’t even realize those are public schools their child is eligible for. Which is how you get to 8% low income without testing

jane s said:

it’s especially sad to see this happening at an elementary school. the goal should be to give children the best start possible regardless of their background. this could be a place that helps children enter middle school and high school on equal ground, but instead it’s just adding to the divide. nothing will change if people don’t speak out.

Eve Buckley said:

I agree! It is really sad–waste of an opportunity.

jenn said:

hi. i think the practices of fsma are fair and comprehensive. interest becomes a priority only because the montessori method is not of interest to everyone, much like a dual-language school like aspira is not of high-priority to many families. if you are to apply to fsma, because it’s a school in your neighborhood, without carrying any interest in montessori principles, then how detrimental will that student be in the classroom? (in terms of congruence, not as a human!) i do not know why the five-mile radius is not ‘more of a priority’, but i believe the admissions process does indeed actively reach out to all areas throughout delaware. it just depends on who researches montessori/has experience with it, and who thinks it is an important addition to the learning process. shown by the small number of montessori schools across the country, and the small classroom size within those schools, one can only surmise that is it not a hot topic among majority of families in delaware or beyond, regardleses of SES, ethnicity or neighborhood. we are ultimately creatures of comfort, and stick to the path most traveled. a school like this, or any other magnet, charter, votech, etc has enrollment because of interest and the desire to trek the brambly, gravel path. please see the good nature of such schools. i know it doesn’t sell like trash-talking does, but in a society deprived of an identity, the journey to recreating one for delaware schools could stand to be a lot less hotheaded. thank you.

John Young said:

No idea who Jenn is, but maybe she should join that sorry CSAC team which appears to olnly authorize losing propositions in DE Charterland. Bet it would be a great fit for a truly dysfunctional organization.

Natalie Ganc said:

I think that a stipulation should be put on all of these charter schools claiming that their school panders to their geographical radius: They should have to go pound-the-pavement (pamphlet in hand) to educate their neighbors to inform them of all of the benefits their child will receive if they choose to enroll. I say this, because I am quite certain that the folks living in the high-poverty areas have no idea what some charter schools are all about.

And from the official public comment section on the DOE website:

 

Newark Charter School’s Greg Meece Boasting About High “Smarter” Scores After Meltdown Over News Journal Exclusion

cherrypicking

No less than five people sent me this email yesterday.  Apparently, Newark Charter School Head Greg Meece had a hissy-fit of epic proportions that NCS wasn’t included in the original News Journal story about the Smarter Balanced Assessment results.  As a result, he got this email out to parents yesterday:

From: Newark Charter School <notifications@schoolconnectsweb.com>
Date: Thu, Sep 3, 2015 at 12:00 PM
Subject: NCS Smarter Balanced Test Scores
To:

Dear NCS Families,

Yesterday the Delaware Department of Education released all public schools’ Smarter Balanced test results for the 2014-2015 school year. The News Journal printed a three page report of these scores in this morning’s paper. Unfortunately, for some reason they omitted all of Newark Charter School’s data. I understand they will print a correction in tomorrow’s paper. Also, the correct information is included on delawareonline.

Because of the omission in the newspaper I am sending you all of Newark Charter School’s Smarter Balanced test results in this attachment. It includes comparisons to the State of Delaware results. The wonderful news is that Newark Charter School’s average proficiency rates across all grades are the highest in Delaware!  Our students’ math scores are 116.8% higher than the state average and their English Language Arts scores are 79.4% higher than the state average.

WE are so proud of our students’ performance and very grateful to our teachers for all their hard work in preparing our kids to do their best.

Thank you for all you do to support this great school.

With much appreciation,

Greg Meece

I guess I would be upset too if my school got great results and wasn’t included. But you have to be careful what you ask for, because while his school did great, we have to add the charter school “special sauce” to the stew. On the DOE website, they list the school profiles for each school or district. This is Newark Charter School’s demographics. Compared to most Wilmington schools, these are very low percentages. With the exception being certain other charter schools and magnets in the area.

Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity
2013-14 2014-15
African American 11.0% 11.4%
American Indian 0.2% 0.3%
Asian 13.4% 12.9%
Hispanic/Latino 4.0% 4.4%
White 65.8% 65.2%
Multi-Racial 5.6% 5.6
Other Student Characteristics
2013-14 2014-15
English Language Learner 2.7% 2.5%
Low Income 8.4% 7.2%
Special Education 5.7% 5.6%
Enrolled for Full Year 100.0% N/A

I guess we could all do awesome on high-stakes testing with these kinds of students! And lest we forget, this school has a “lottery”. And I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’m willing to sell at a cheap price…

Say, isn’t the Enrollment Preference Task Force report coming out at the end of the month?

UPDATED, 2:23pm, 9/4/15: A commenter suggested I use Christina School District as comparison data, which is an excellent idea!  Keep in mind, most students who don’t go to Newark Charter School or other charters in the area would go to their feeder pattern in the Christina School District, which has their demographics below.

Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity
2013-14 2014-15
African American 40.6% 39.8%
American Indian 0.3% 0.2%
Asian 4.4% 4.4%
Hawaiian 0.1% 0.1%
Hispanic/Latino 18.8% 20.4%
White 32.8% 31.7%
Multi-Racial 2.9% 3.4%
Other Student Characteristics
2013-14 2014-15
English Language Learner 8.5% 8.3%
Low Income 43.6% 41.0%
Special Education 17.0% 17.9%
Enrolled for Full Year 100.0% N/A

Mark Murphy’s Authority, Charter Schools, Immunizations, and Suicide Prevention Legislation Introduced in Delaware House of Representatives

When the Delaware 148th General Assembly returns from recess on April 21st, five new education legislation submissions will be on their plate.  These bills cover the authority of the Delaware Secretary of Education (currently Mark Murphy) and Labor Relations, the charter school enrollment radius, charter school applications being approved by the local school board before the Delaware State Board of Education, suicide prevention training for Delaware teachers, and immunization requirements in the event of an epidemic and how this would impact students who do not get immunized based on religious beliefs.  All the legislation introduced can be seen below.  The Mark Murphy Authority bill is sponsored by State Rep. Sean Lynn, the charter bills by State Rep. John Kowalko, the Suicide Prevention bill by State Rep. Valerie Longhurst and Senator Nicole Poore, and the immunizations bill by State Rep. Sean Matthews and Senator Bethany Hall-Long.