At 5pm, Delaware Governor Jack Markell will give the opening remarks at Freire Charter School of Wilmington’s ribbon-cutting ceremony. Freire, who last year submitted a modification request to take away their specific interest clause in their enrollment preferences, was known for their “zero tolerance” policy. Of course, zero tolerance didn’t seem to matter to the former Head of School named Bill Porter who was arrested after assaulting a female protester last March. Members of the Midtown Brandywine Neighborhoods Association protested the school moving in the middle of their neighborhood due to changes in traffic patterns.
It is widely rumored that Markell was instrumental in bringing Freire to town. Freire has a few charter schools in Philadelphia, but they are known for counseling out students. At Freire’s formal review last Spring, due to low enrollment, special education was a main concern of the Delaware Department of Education. Freire had a plan for getting out of state services for its students with disabilities. The DOE said nope. As well, Freire never hired a new head of school. Instead the school is run by their academic heads, Paul Ramirez and Felecia Wennell.
Out of all the education events going on this week, Markell picks a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a charter school. Lame-duck indeed…
According to Jenna Pizzi with the Delaware News Journal, the Midtown Brandywine Neighborhood Association in Wilmington is ready to do battle with Freire Charter School. Concerned with the amount of traffic coming into their neighborhood, many residents have formally hired an attorney and sent a letter to the Wilmington Department of Licenses and Inspection based on a lack of parking spaces for the school, scheduled to open in the upcoming school year. The group has also stated if their official letter does not receive a response in their favor, they will vote whether to file for an injunction against the charter school, on formal review with the Delaware Department of Education before it even opened.
At the Charter School Accountability Committee meeting last week, the school announced it has met its enrollment targets as of May 2015. State law requires any charter school to have 80% of its enrollment by April 1st before the new school year starts. Freire missed that number, but has since gone over it. The State Board of Education and Secretary of Education Mark Murphy will make a decision about the school’s formal review on June 18th. Some members of the Neighborhood Association have already filed charges against the school stemming from an incident in March, and association member Lyn Doto publicly acknowledged this a few days ago.
Last night, at the public hearing for Freire Charter School in Wilmington, several citizens from the Midtown Brandywine neighborhood in Wilmington spoke in opposition to the school’s move to the middle of their neighborhood. This group has been protesting since last fall when the school announced the change in location. It was announced by the Assistant Head of Academics last night that Bill Porter, the Head of School for Freire, was removed last week as head of school. This was also talked about at the Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) for Freire’s initial formal review meeting last week.
No reasons were cited for Porter’s removal, but at the CSAC meeting, representatives from the school did say he is still with the Freire organization. Two months ago, there was a very awkward conflict with the school’s neighbors in this situation. The police were called, but no charges were pressed.
The controversy concerning Freire doesn’t stop with concerned neighbors. The school’s zero tolerance policy is cited as a specific interest for choice applicants, but in March the school was approved by the State Board of Education to have this removed from their enrollment preference. Up until recently, the school had a “10 Things To Know” page on their website which had the zero tolerance policy and a statement telling parents if their child is not going to college to take them to a different school.
During the CSAC meeting last week, a representative from the school told the committee about their plans for students with disabilities. One of the attendees wrote on their Facebook page:
The CSAC notes are basically correct, though sketchy. They leave out things like, Ms. Davenport’s telephone response re: Freire’s plan for Intense and Complex students was, “We see nothing wrong with sending them over the State line into Chester Couny” to a private special needs school, as is their practice in Philadelphia. Mr. Blowman, wisely, stopped that conversation; and I presume a new, more-informed response will come forward from this ill-prepared school.
I’m not sure sure why this school thinks they could have circumvented around Delaware law with regards to special education, but I certainly hope the CSAC and the Delaware DOE take this arrogance into account when they make their decision.
Good old Freire. Not even open yet, and just look at the issues. I love how this formal review notification doesn’t even mention the fact they just had a major modification approval for lowing their enrollment from 336 to 224 the month before…