17 Who Will Make An Impact In 2017: Kendall Massett

kendallm

Kendall Massett, the Executive Director of the Delaware Charter Schools Network, will soon be standing at a crossroads.  As someone who preaches district and charter collaboration on one hand, the other hand is busy trying to find ways to get more district money to follow students at Delaware charters.  This dichotomy is going to define the future of charter schools in Delaware.

As anyone breathing in Delaware is well aware, fifteen charter schools sued the Delaware Dept. of Education and the Christina School District over funds they felt should have been going to charter schools.  The defining moment in the lawsuit: when Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky reversed changes to the local funding formula for school choice payments after September 1st.  They could have been patient and allowed Godowsky or the next Delaware Secretary of Education and the General Assembly the opportunity to figure it out.  But instead, they took the legal route which was championed by Kendall Massett.  As a result, the law firm of Saul Ewing will get $300,000.  How many teachers could be hired with that kind of money?  How many students could have received a paraprofessional in a school room bursting with over 25 kids?

If the collaboration Massett truly desires took place, this lawsuit wouldn’t have happened in the first place.  If there is blame to be thrown around regarding who was at fault with the local funding formula, that blame lands solely at the feet of the Delaware Dept. of Education.  They should have been the ones answering the questions for the charters.  Christina performed their due diligence and submitted their exclusions to the Delaware DOE.  This originated last Winter, with Newark Charter School calling in the DOE who apparently “confessed” to the powers that be about the exclusions submitted by Christina.  The DOE had an opportunity right then and there to make good on this.  The charter schools could have gone public with this information and forced the DOE to do something about it.  And if that didn’t work, they could have brought in the General Assembly.  But instead, they kept this a secret for many months.  They had to know when the public found out about this they would be understandably upset.  These were huge funding changes with charter payments.  This was not a wise move for the charters involved.  By alleging that Christina was purposely withholding funds from these charters when the district did the same thing they had been doing for 12-13 years, which I might add was completely legal since the DOE approved them, the charters started a war.  It is not that difficult to see this was the original intent.  It boils down to Greg Meece having a hissy fit because his school wanted more money and if Christina wouldn’t willfully give it up, he was going to punish them and cast blame.

In an article on Delaware First Media, written by Meg Pauly on December 1st, Massett weighed in on the Christina Board of Education signing the settlement with the fifteen charters.  Massett, as the go-to spokeswoman for Delaware charter schools, seemed to have some very big misunderstandings about what this settlement really is.

She said the decision most likely won’t require a vote from each schools’ entire board of directors, which could make it easier to approve.

“Because there would not be any money going out – they’re not paying out a settlement, it would be money coming in – there’s not really a fiduciary responsibility that the board would have to approve,” Massett said.

There is certainly a fiduciary responsibility stemming from this settlement.  The charters, according to the settlement, would have to make sure the funds were allocated to certain functions similar to what those funds were used for in the Christina School District.  As well, the Pandora’s box called tuition tax funds were brought up in the settlement.  It states:

In the CSD settlement agreement, CSD has agreed to catalogue and describe, for DOE and CSD Charter Schools, those services provided by CSD to children with special needs (“Special Needs Services”) that are funded in whole, in whole or in part, with revenues generated by the levy of the so-called Tuition Tax by CSD.  The objective of this undertaking is to determine whether CSD shall be financially responsible under Section 509(f) for funding the same or similar Special Needs Services provided by CSD Charter Schools to their CSD resident students.  If requested, DOE will participate in the discussions and inquiry described in this subsection, and, where necessary, shall enforce this provision.

So what does Section 509(f) of Delaware State Code say?

For any student, who because of educational need requires services that are appropriately financed pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title, either at the outset or subsequent to a decision to enroll in a charter school, the student’s district of residence shall remain financially responsible for such student and the charter school shall receive from such district a payment determined in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 6 of this title.

Which brings us back to Chapter 6 of Title 14:

(a) If any pupil is counted in the preschool, intensive or complex unit and attends school in a program operated by a district other than that in which the pupil resides, by an agency of the Department of Education or is in an approved private placement pursuant to § 3124 of this title, the receiving district or the Department of Education shall collect a tuition charge for the nonresident pupil, provided approval for attendance has been granted by the sending district. Such tuition charge shall be paid by the school board of the reorganized school district in which the pupil is a resident from the proceeds of a local tax levied for this specific purpose, except that in the case of a district assigned by the Department with the approval of the State Board of Education to administer a school or program for children with disabilities, or special programs approved by the Department of Education for persons without disabilities such as programs for bilingual students or programs for pregnant students, the district so assigned shall be both the sending and receiving district in regard to that school or program and is authorized to collect tuition charges accordingly.

(b) In determining the tuition to be charged for a pupil counted in the preschool, intensive or complex units or for a person without disabilities attending approved special programs, such as bilingual programs or programs for pregnant students operated by a district other than that in which the student resides or by an agency of the State Department of Education, the receiving district or the State Department of Education shall compute the tuition by adding such receiving district’s share of educational related expenses as allowed by the Department of Education regulations. The sum so obtained shall be divided by the total number of pupils in the special program as of September 30 of the current school year. The resulting figure shall represent the amount of the “tuition charge” per pupil.

(c) In determining the tuition charged to the sending district in the case of private placement for children with disabilities, tuition will be defined as in § 3124 of this title and the sending district will be charged 30 percent of the total tuition cost. The remaining 70 percent will be covered through funding provided by the State Department of Education from the annual appropriation for this purpose.

The charter schools get IDEA Part B funding from the federal government.  They receive special education funding from the state for Basic Special Education for students in pre-school (if they have those programs) and students in 4th-12th grade.  They get intensive and complex funding for students in all grades.  Where the tuition tax gets very complex is how it is determined.  The local school board votes to set the current year’s tuition tax rate for taxpayers.  It is not something the district can change on a whim.  And state code is very specific about what those funds can be used for.  What makes Christina very unique is that they are the management district for several special needs programs.  Those are not funds the charter schools could touch based on this settlement unless they are providing comparable services.  Then we get into the definition of a comparable service.  Would Gateway Lab School be considered the same school as the special schools within Christina?

Where Kendall, as well as the entire settlement, performs a massive overreach is in this particular section.  It is tampering with state code in unbelievable ways.  State code does not legally have to honor a settlement stemming from a lawsuit between a school district and a group of charters.  As well, it can not, and should not, dictate what a state agency has to do.  That is what we have our General Assembly for, to create and amend laws.  We can certainly discuss the merit of some of those laws, but that is the very essence of the Constitution of Delaware.  A settlement should not create new contradictions that try to negate existing law.  Which is why Secretary Godowsky wanted the General Assembly to intervene in this entire funding process.  I am assuming the Delaware DOE signed their settlement agreement with the fifteen charters.  Which is even more concerning in my eyes.  The fact they would allow changes in Delaware law without approval of the legislative body charged with performing that task.  A settlement cannot create laws or regulations.

What this section does is change the duty of charter schools in regards to their adherence of special education law which they should already be doing to the best of their ability.  This settlement is much more than a “fiduciary responsibility” in nature, as Massett put it.  Something that magnanimous in scope should be approved by a charter school board, not a Head of School or even an interim principal in one case.  It is fiduciary in a sense that the charters would receive more money from a tuition tax, but it would require an oversight of the special education services within each of those charter schools to make sure they are performing at a comparable level to Christina.  That could involve extra resources and staff those charters may not have.  Could a charter hire that staff and pay for those resources and then submit for those tuition tax funds?  Or would those services and staff have to already be in place to be eligible for those funds?  The settlement does not define that.

If, for some odd reason, legislation is created out of this part of the settlement, it would require districts to collect even more tuition tax from taxpaying citizens within their district.  They would have to because more would be required to go out to charter schools for those students.  They should not be tasked with divvying up the existing tuition tax they receive for the students within their own district with those needs or funds they are already sending to special education schools outside of their district.  That would take away from those students.  But here is the major problem with this: the local boards have to determine the tuition tax rate in the summer before the school year starts.  They base this on projections within their own district.  How can they determine the needs of special education students who reside in their district but attend charter schools before the school year even starts?  For some they can, but special education can be very fluid, evolving from year to year.  It is hard enough for the districts to do this for their own students.

If Kendall Massett wants more collaboration between districts and charters going forward, she needs to stop drawing this line in the sand when it comes to money.  She is going to continue to piss off the districts and they will not want to collaborate with the charters who keep demanding more and more from them.  Districts can’t always get performance funds or donations from foundations.  They can’t always have silent auctions like many charter schools do.  All Delaware public schools have the capability of applying for grants from the state or the federal government, including charters.  Districts don’t get to keep their excess transportation spending if they set their budget higher than what they actually spend.  And charters are free to use this money as they please.  So please, tell me Kendall, if the charters are getting what you view as their “fair share“, will you promote removing those extra perks for the charters that districts don’t get?  When it comes to education funding, there is a crystal-clear difference between what a charter school needs and what an entire district needs.  In some ways, it is like comparing apples to oranges.  You can’t complain about charters not receiving capital funding.  That was the way the law for charters was set up.  It was the price of admission into Delaware public education.  So by default, on paper, it would appear charters get less than districts for that very reason.

Some could argue that this latest misstep by the charters is just more of an ongoing agenda to privatize public education.  Just one more chunk taken from school districts and flowing into the hands of charter schools which are actually non-profit corporations.  By state law, those corporations are required to file IRS tax returns.  But because of loopholes in IRS guidance, the one charter school who actually started this whole charter payment mess is the one school that does not file those tax returns.  The guiding force behind the lawsuit was Greg Meece and Newark Charter School.  They created the very conditions that led to the lawsuit.  The settlement promises severe disruption to all Delaware schools involving special education and funding.  But Newark Charter School is not transparent with their own finances the same way the rest of Delaware charters are.  I have grave issues with that.  And I have no doubt in my mind Kendall is aware of this.

In a News Journal article from December 5th discussing the settlement details, written by Adam Duvernay, Kendall states the following:

“I’m glad everyone will have a seat at the table, and that the process will be transparent, so we don’t find ourselves in this situation again where charter schools go for years without answers and feel like they need to resort to legal action to make their voices heard,” Massett said.

What about the questions many Delawareans have been asking the charter schools for years without any real answers?  Like how certain Delaware charter schools can cherry-pick students in defiance of state and federal law?  When does Newark Charter School, which created this whole mess, finally implement their plan to balance their demographics at their school?  When does Newark Charter School become fully transparent with their own money the way every other Delaware charter school is required by law to do?  Massett cherry-picks her statements.  She wants districts to answer any questions charters have, but when those answers are needed by others, she either deflects or states it just isn’t true.  And when people do take legal actions surrounding charter demographics?  Like when the Office of Civil Rights asked for all charter school applications a couple of years ago going back the two years before that request?  The Delaware Charter Schools Network became the organization tasked with collecting that information.  And what happened?  Massett informed the Office of Civil Rights the charters did not know they needed to keep that information.  And then there is the matter of the now two-year-old complaint from the Delaware ACLU against the State of Delaware and Red Clay regarding practices of segregation and discrimination from some Delaware charter schools.  Kendall called that “a myth.”  Two years later and that complaint has gone nowhere.  Forcing someone to sit at the table with a menu where there are two choices, our way or no way, is not collaboration.  It is not legal action.  It is manipulation that doesn’t belong in education.  With education, every decision eventually affects students in a good way or a bad way.  For far too long, those decisions have existed for the benefit of charter school students.

Getting real here, Kendall’s job is to promote charter schools and to serve as a buffer between them and the state in certain areas.  At heart, Kendall is a lobbyist, seeking to influence the General Assembly and the Delaware DOE in ways that will benefit charter schools in the state.  Charter schools pay dues to the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  In a sense, they are very similar to some of the roles the Delaware State Education Association plays in education politics.  But the difference is that DSEA represents the teachers in district schools.  They promote or oppose legislation that will benefit the teachers within their organization.  I have no doubt DSEA would love to have charter school teachers unionize.  But the Delaware Charter School Network exists for a niche within public education that almost serves as a parasite on the districts they feed from.  It takes from the host body and sucks the energy out of it.  That is the price of school choice that Kendall cannot seem to fathom.

In 2017, education will once again be front and center in Delaware.  The corporate education reform movement, led by the Rodel Foundation in Delaware, will become more pronounced with the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.  But in some ways, it almost seems like the charter movement in Delaware and those who advocate for them, seem to have become more emboldened with the election of Donald Trump as President of the USA.  He promised billions of dollars to charter schools.  To add salt to that wound, he appointed Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Secretary of Education.  A charter school lover if there ever was one.  I have no doubt charter advocates across the country are feeling almost empowered by these events.  Supporters of public education are very worried about what will happen to further erode an education system that has been in place long before the very idea of a charter school was introduced.

In Delaware, Kendall Massett will continue to have great relationships with the Dept. of Education and the State Board of Education.  She will exert her influence on the General Assembly.  If any bill is introduced that will negatively impact charter schools, she will wield her power and influence to put a stop to it.  She is backed by some very powerful forces in Delaware that will not be trifled with in any way.  But none of these forces see what their choices and decisions make to education as a whole.  If charters and districts were funded the same way as the vo-tech schools in Delaware, I don’t think the issues with charter schools in the state would be as big.  But this parasitic relationship between districts and charters is paralyzing to education in Delaware.  There are other things that perform the same damaging results,  but we can control how this particular relationship evolves.  Districts and charters aren’t going anywhere.  If charters want to co-exist with districts and have true and meaningful collaboration, they have to stop these games.  And Kendall Massett, as the spokeswoman for the charters, will have to take on a different mantra.  It isn’t a question of choice at this point, it is an answer that demands immediate implementation.  Fair goes both ways.

If I were Kendall Massett, I would actually recommend the Christina Board of Education rescinds their vote on the settlement.  Funding is important, but shaking down a district like this which will only tick off the other districts in the state, is not something to be proud of.  It is not a victory when students continue to pay the price.

Former Charter School Of Wilmington Board Member Finds New Home At Gateway Lab School

For Immediate Release:

Dover, DE

August 19th, 2016

Henry Clampitt, a Hockessin resident in the suburbs of Wilmington, DE, joined the Board of Directors at Gateway Lab School.  Clampitt previously served as a board member for the top-rated but controversial Charter School of Wilmington.  He is also a very vocal public speaker at Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education meetings.  In a sense, Clampitt has gone from one of the highest-rated (as measured by standardized test scores) schools in the state to one of the lowest.  While this hasn’t been officially announced by the charter school known for serving high populations of special needs students, he does appear on the list of their Board of Directors as shown in the below graphic.  It is unknown when he officially joined the board since their board meeting minutes have not been updated even though they have had two official board meetings since then.

As a boisterous supporter of Delaware charter schools, Clampitt served on the Enrollment Preference Task Force in Delaware and supported charter schools abilities to pre-test students prior to enrollment.  He also serves as a member of the Legislative Advisory Committee for the Delaware Charter Schools Network, a lobbyist organization that advocates and protects charter schools in Delaware.  He received a certification from the Delaware Department of Education for Citizens Budget Oversight Committee and Board Member Finance Training.  In addition, as per his LinkedIn account, Clampitt received his real estate certification from the Delaware Department of Professional Regulation.  In addition to his job at Strategy Services, Inc., Clampitt keeps himself very busy with his support of charter schools.

A source, who wished to remain anonymous but did allow me to use their alias “CherryPicker2016”, said the following about Clampitt’s new role:

I think Clampitt will be a wonderful addition to Gateway Lab School.  He has the charter school expertise and wherewithal to serve on a charter school board.  He knows his way around charter schools given his time at Charter School of Wilmington.  I believe any board member is a good thing, whether they are publicly elected or not.  Why wouldn’t Gateway want a fervent charter supporter like Clampitt?

Another source, who also wished to remain anonymous but also allowed me to use their alias of “Erece Desiul Blup” had this to say:

This guy talks and talks.  I hope Gateway invested in some good audio recording devices for their board meetings and have a lot of memory on their servers.  They are going to need it.  Perhaps this means he won’t be going to as many Red Clay board meetings.  That would be super!”

I did advise Mr. Blup that this blog will be very interested to hear what Mr. Clampitt has to say at future Gateway board meetings.

Rumors swirled months ago that Clampitt may be attempting to run against Red Clay Board Vice-President Kenneth Rivera next year, but nothing came of that.  Additional rumors, based on a fake Twitter account, suggested that Clampitt was using an alias to post on a local blog in support of charter schools, but that has never been 100% substantiated.  That particular anonymous commenter gave a farewell post on the local blog a while back indicating they would no longer be posting there, it was time to move on, and something to the effect of “the lawn sign is down”.  The commenter has not been back since.

Ironically enough, Clampitt served on the board at CSW during a tough time in the public spotlight.  In December of 2014, CSW was named in a complaint from the American Civil Liberties Union against the Red Clay Consolidated School District and the Delaware Dept. of Education.  The complaint alleged that CSW, along with other charter schools in the state, were furthering discrimination in the state by allowing charter schools to use selective enrollment preferences in their admissions processes.  The Red Clay Consolidated School District is Charter School of Wilmington’s authorizer.  At that time, Charter School of Wilmington had a .2% population of students with disabilities, 6% African-American students, 2.3% low-income students, and .1% English Language learners.  Since Clampitt left their board, CSW was able to raise those student populations.  As of the 2015-2016 school year, they jumped to .5% students with disabilities, 6.8% African-American students, 3.7% low-income students and .2% English Language learners.  At the same time as the ACLU complaint, Clampitt served on the board during an era of “non-transparency” as “Cherrypicker2016” put it, and the board was criticized by their authorizer for not putting board minutes and financial information on their board site as required by Delaware state code.

During this time, Gateway Lab School was in the midst of their own turmoil.  They were up for charter renewal with the Dept. of Education.  The initial recommendations coming out of the committee were to close the school over low standardized test scores, but a public outcry from parents of the school, other charter school supporters, legislators, and concerned citizens and organizations prompted the Delaware State Board of Education to put the charter school on probation.  This reporter did comb through the hundreds of pages of public comment during this process and was unable to find any letters of support for the school from Clampitt or Charter School of Wilmington.

In an October, 2015 Delaware Charter Schools Network newsletter, Clampitt was chosen as the “Parent Spotlight” recipient.  When discussing education politics, Clampitt did not recommend this for everyone.

Education politics is a challenging topic. I would say that parents should only get involved in educational politics if they can keep focused on the issues rather than on the people behind them.  The political process is not for the faint of heart.

When asked in the same newsletter what he would do if he had a million dollars, Clampitt responded with:

Well, let’s be clear that this would be “the million dollar windfall” I have been waiting for. When it arrives, I would like to use it to help endow a fund for the expansion of CSW so that more students could be enrolled and enjoy this excellent high school experience.

Clampitt did not elaborate if this imaginary CSW expansion would entail changing their enrollment preferences.  But after Clampitt left the board at CSW, their board did begin to talk about these topics in a new light.  When asked about this very topic during one of the Enrollment Preference Task Force meetings, their board minutes from October, 2014 reflect a response from Clampitt as:

Some students, possibly due to a bad day or other life experiences, do not make it to the specific interest through the rubric.

At the next meeting of the task force, Clampitt said:

Assessments are an important tool to gather necessary information on an applicant, using interest as an example.

In February of 2013, Clampitt volunteered his services to the now closed charter school, Pencader Business School.  He attempted to train their newly constructed board prior to their charter revocation by the State Board of Education.

This blog would like to congratulate Mr. Clampitt for furthering his voluntary efforts on charter school boards.  While this blog may not always agree with charter schools, this blog does feel it is important for certain charter school board members to serve on charter school boards.  Charter schools are autonomous of many rules and regulations traditional school districts are subjected to, so this blog feels it is necessary to point out the difference between non-elected charter school board members and publicly elected district board members.  Mr. Clampitt has a very fine and distinguished career serving on charter school boards.

GatewayClampitt

 

15 Months Later: No Answers From Office of Civil Rights On ACLU Complaint About Segregation In Delaware Schools

In December of 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware and the Delaware Community Legal Aid filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights at the United States Department of Education.  The complaint was against the State of Delaware and the Red Clay Consolidated School District.  The allegations in the complaint were around how the state and Red Clay, as charter school authorizers, allowed charters to develop segregation and discriminatory practices in their enrollment.  Almost three months later, after the ACLU gathered information from people around the state, they submitted the information to the Office of Civil Rights in their regional Philadelphia office.  Since then, their has been no official resolution on the matter.

Back in February, the Racial Justice Program of the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation based out of New York reached out to the Office of Civil Rights for a status update.  This is what they received back:

OCRLetter21916

None of the charter schools listed in the complaint officially changed any of their admissions policies as a result of this.  The Delaware Enrollment Preferences Task Force submitted their final report to the General Assembly shortly before the holidays last year, and not one piece of legislation has come out to address the issues.  There is still a great amount of inequity in some Delaware charters compared to their neighboring school districts.  I find it ironic both the Delaware DOE and the US DOE are so concerned about civil rights groups when it comes to high-stakes testing and how opt out could bring us back to “dark days” as some have put it.  But when it comes to visible and transparent discrimination and segregation, the one office in the federal Government who could actually do something about it is sitting on it.

In looking at the OCR website at ed.gov there have been OCR complaints filed and resolved after the Delaware ACLU and Delaware Community Legal Aid filed their complaint.  One was filed in September of 2015 and received a resolution in February of this year.  The only cases showing from Delaware involved ones with Colonial School District, PolyTech and Family Foundations Academy from 2014.  The longstanding Christina OCR resolution doesn’t show on the list because it only counts resolutions from 2013 and up.

I don’t see civil rights groups in Wilmington screaming about this.  Why is that?  When it comes to education and segregation, this is a shining example.  Why are they so quiet on this issue but will say they know Smarter Balanced is a bad test but it is the only measurement for minority students to know if they are succeeding or not compared to their peers?  I have to wonder how much influence the Delaware DOE and Governor Markell may have in making this drag out.  Or possibly even higher up than them.  Are any of our Delaware congressmen following up on this?  John Carney?  Tom Carper?  Chris Coons?  Or how about even Delaware’s own Vice-President Joe Biden?  I’m certain this isn’t a resolution the Delaware Charter Schools Network wants to come out any time soon.

We need to rally civil rights groups on issues like this and not ones about opposition of parent opt out of high-stakes tests.  I am calling on ALL Civil Rights groups to hammer the Office of Civil Rights office in Philadelphia, phone number (215) 656-8541, to make sure they are not stalling on this very important case.

Thank you to Richard Morse, Esq. for the Delaware ACLU in responding to my request to his office for information and allowing me to publish the response from the Office of Civil Rights.

If You Thought The First Delaware PTA Letter Sent To The House Was Great, Wait Until You See This One! Slam Dunk!

I have to say I am extremely impressed!  Delaware PTA made a very wise choice when they chose Laurie Howard to represent them with the House of Representatives on tomorrow’s House Bill 50 vote.  She tackles the very controversial issues of parent opt-out affecting federal funding and the implications of standardized testing for urban minority kids.  What she essentially did was take all the crap the DOE, Markell, Rodel, and civil rights groups have been throwing our way, put them in a blender, and made some delicious opt-out soup!

This says submission 2 of 3.  What is #3 going to say?  I can’t wait for this!