Christina Board Member Sworn In & Resigns Minutes Later

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In the oddest move I’ve ever seen in Delaware education, Katie Hegedus was sworn in as a board member of the Christina School District Board of Education last night at their monthly board meeting and resigned minutes later.

Hegedus beat incumbent John Young two months ago in the school board election.  Her platform was basically that she would resign once she is sworn in.  This would force the current board to hand-pick a replacement.  They announced at their board meeting last night they would begin this task.

This ridiculous stunt was concocted by the Friends of Christina, a small but connected group of parents in the district who basically hated the fact John Young would call out the district on, well, anything.  Whether it was right or wrong.  Their mantra of go along to get along brought forth this latest oddity in Delaware school board race history.  One for the record books, that’s for sure!  This election meant so much to their de facto leader that she is currently trying to sell her house and move out of state.

While Young is no longer on the Christina Board of Education, he has come back and relaunched his blog as Transparent Christina 2.0.  I fully expect Young, who is now no longer beholden to certain bylaws of being a board member, to come out swinging on his blog!  While this very sad attempt at silencing Young may appear to be a win in some circles, I fear all they have done is awoken an already alert dragon.  With a tagline of “Because sometimes Exceptional needs some help“, Young has written several articles of late.  Speaking for Exceptional, I welcome any help in the Delaware education blogosphere!  Unless it is some urgent sounding blog…wink wink!

The board re-elected former President Meredith Griffith to another one-year term as President while Keeley Powell was elected to Vice-President of the board.

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Email The Christina Board of Education To Vote NO On Any Reduction In Force Of Teachers

After failing to pass their referendum last week, the Christina School District Board of Education will hold a board meeting tomorrow night.  The first action item?  A reduction in force.  This means they will vote to fire a ton of teachers.  It won’t be the first time their board voted on something like this but they can do something different this time.  They can vote a resounding NO for this action item.

Many will ask the same question: then where does the money come from?  Simply put, Christina School District is too big to fail.  Who is going to take them over?  The Delaware Department of Education?  They don’t have the capacity or the money to do the job.  The charter schools?  Hell no!  They are not one organization with a ton of umbrella schools under the same name.  Like the banks in 2008, the answer is simple- a state bailout of the district.  Force them into a bankruptcy type situation and let the legislators dole out the money to save them.

For far too long teachers in this district have been forced to sweat it out come referendum time.  Their jobs, along with their livelihoods, have been put on the firing line every single time a referendum comes along.  The madness has to end and has to end now.  If you agree, email the Christina Board of Education between now and tomorrow night (May 7th) at 7pm or show up to their meeting at Gauger-Cobbs Middle School, 50 Gender Road, in Newark, DE.  Give loud and proud public comment urging the board to vote NO on their latest gambit to fire teachers.  Their email is CSDBoardMembers@Christina.k12.de.us and I would strongly suggest emailing them NOW!  Then go a step further and sign THIS PETITION on Change.org.

Yes, this is a drastic step.  But it is time for the state of Delaware to stop with their silly education funding games and finally take education seriously.  It is time for the legislators to stop whining and be forced to do something.  The students and teachers of Delaware can not afford any more half measures.  It has to be go big or go home!

The Battle In Red Clay Over Charter School of Wilmington

On Wednesday evening, the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education will decide on Wilmington Charter School’s charter renewal.  While it is a certainty their charter will be renewed, an even bigger question is on the table. Continue reading

Red Clay Board Member Pokes The Bear With Sam Paoli From CSW!

The Red Clay Board of Education meeting the other night was one for the record books!  The highlight of the meeting was the Charter School of Wilmington renewal discussion.  Dr. Sam Paoli, the President of CSW, got drilled and grilled with a ton of questions about CSW’s demographics and recruitment efforts.

The absolute best part of the conversation was when Jose Matthews, the husband of Mike Matthews, the former President of the Delaware State Education Association, told Paoli the following: Continue reading

What Is Up With Superintendent Richard Gregg In Christina School District?

Something is up in the Christina School District involving Superintendent Richard Gregg.  The following appears on Board Docs for their next Board of Education meeting on July 10th: Continue reading

Absolute Insanity At DAPSS Board Meeting Right Now! Margie Screwed Up Big Time!

At the Delaware Academy of Safety & Security board meeting going on now, parents are screaming at Margie Lopez-Waite and students are crying.  They are very upset with her about the mass termination of anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 of the staff on Monday.  They are also very pissed at her about her plans to turns DAPSS into a type of ASPIRA High School. Continue reading

Should Charter School Board Members Be Allowed To Manipulate Their Board To Allow Themselves To Lead A School?

Stack the deck towards a power play and you often get what you want.  That is the case with Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security.  Tomorrow night they will hold their monthly board meeting.  The rumor mill has it that Margie Lopez-Waite, the current President of their board, will resign as President and the board will vote her in as the Head of School.  With that will assuredly come some type of financial incentive for Margie’s undying loyalty to the school (insert sarcasm here).  Together with her salary at Las Americas ASPIRA, she will be making a pretty penny.  Oh yeah, Delaware state code dictates you can get your pension based on your three highest years of salary.  Something the soon to be departed Providence Creek Academy Head of School took full advantage of.

Here is the issue though.  From what I hear, Margie doesn’t spend enough time at her current school.  She has her trusted minions and followers who pretty much run the school.  By her cut throat first and answer questions later tactics yesterday, she is stacking the staff deck at DAPSS to do the same thing.  In essence, Margie Lopez-Waite is a power-hungry dictator who is completely running the school.  Unless there is a mutiny, the Delaware DOE will let it happen.  This is a classic power play on her part.  But she may have shown her cards too early.  I expect a huge crowd at their board meeting tomorrow night.  She pissed off a lot of people.  I would say I hope the Charter School Office at the Delaware DOE shows up, but their leader will be leaving them soon as she… wait for it… replaces Chuck Taylor at PCA.  Perhaps it is time Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting actually took the reins on this and stopped Margie’s power trip and exposes it for what it really is.

Margie’s bloody coup is not new.  We’ve seen other “leaders” throughout history do the same thing.  We call them dictators.  Tyrants.  They don’t last in the annals of history.  Eventually the people rise up and take back the power.  This is my big issue with some of our Delaware charters.  They are run by folks who tend to answer to the ruler of the school, not the other way around.  Far too many of their board members, which are appointed, not elected, are meant to curry favor with said ruler.  While commenters on my article from last night come to the plate in defense of Margie, I have yet to hear those commenters say anything about the lives Margie destroyed yesterday.  About teachers and staff who came to work yesterday with a job and are now wondering how they will feed their families after June 30th.  Even though Margie promised more training for them through Colonial.

Margie will take full advantage of Colonial’s relationship with Relay Graduate School and get cheap teachers for DAPSS.  Relay is just another teacher-prep fast track program.  They bounce around like kangaroos in the Outback, but they are fiercely loyal to their leaders.  In other words, they are cheap puppets.  Be careful what you wish for.  You may get exactly what you want.  It helps to have friends from high school help you get what you want, doesn’t it Margie?

Big Trouble At Gateway Charter! Executive Director Resigns At Board Meeting!

Tim Griffiths, the Executive Director of Gateway Lab School, resigned last Wednesday night at their board meeting.  The Wilmington charter school, which caters to students with disabilities and struggling students, has been up and down in terms of success over the years.

Griffiths’ resignation comes on the heels of their Board President, Nate Schwartz, resigning a few weeks ago.  The school is facing what many charters in New Castle County are going through these days- declining enrollment.  But Gateway is a school that has a particular niche.  Many parents chose Gateway because of that niche.  If enrollment is going down, that means a few things.  Either the districts and other charters are doing a better job with special education or Gateway is struggling in that area.

Because there was not a quorum of the board at their meeting last week, the board will meet this week to officially vote on accepting Griffiths’ resignation letter.

As of today, their board consists of Vice-President and Acting President Jon Fletcher, Treasurer Henry Clampitt, Community Director Geoff Grivner, Community Director Joyce Henderson, Teacher Director Drew Keohane, Parent Director Tina Horgan, and Community Director Kenyatta Austin.

Gateway made major news in Delaware in the Fall of 2014 when their charter renewal was in doubt.  Due to a groundswell of support from parents, legislators, and advocates for students with disabilities, their charter was renewed.  But enrollment was not an issue at that time.

The audio recording from their February 20th board meeting is not on their website as of this writing.

Christina Board Of Education To Vote On MOU Tuesday Night

The Christina Board of Education will finally vote on the Memorandum of Understanding between Governor Carney’s office, the Delaware Department of education, the district and the Board of Education on Tuesday night at Sarah Pyle Academy.  Their regular Board of Education meeting begins at 7pm.  What’s at stake?  Schools closing and consolidating into two schools.  Governor Carney’s reputation.  The Christina School District Wilmington students in Kindergarten to 8th grade.

Even if you don’t live in Christina, this will be something to watch.  It isn’t every day a Governor proposes this kind of action.  Some say it is needed while others say it is too much.  Some say the Board should vote yes while others say mixing these student populations from different areas of the city is a powder keg waiting to explode.  Some say forget the past and keep an open mind while others say Carney’s office doesn’t have the first clue as to what these kids need.  We will find out what the Christina Board votes on Tuesday evening.

The below pictures were released by the Christina School District:

If I were Christina, I would want to see a big fat check hand-delivered by John Carney before I put ink to this.  They are putting a lot of trust in a state that has continually targeted this one particular district if they vote yes.  Sorry, I don’t trust Carney.  He has yet to prove he can be trusted.

 

Smyrna School Board Welcomes J Back Into The Smyrna School District

Every once in a while, stories do get a happy ending. Continue reading

So Glad I Caught Your Attention!

It looks like the Smyrna School District Board of Education has been reading my series on the story of J and their harsh zero tolerance discipline tactics.  It turns out they are having a “special” board meeting dedicated solely to student discipline issues.  This comes right on the heels of my series about J.  Hey, Patrik Williams, you should give Dr. Mark Holodick up in Brandywine a call about this kind of stuff.  He is VERY familiar with these kind of issues.  So much so his district is taking a very good look at their own zero tolerance policies.

I haven’t heard from Patrik Williams since he emailed me a couple of weeks ago and I responded to him.  I am still working on the series about J.  To be honest, I’m trying to get a transcription of the hearing with the State Board of Education.  Going back and forth with that office on that issue.  And with a holiday coming up…  But if I don’t get it, I will come out with the next part with what information I do have.

If I were a parent in the Smyrna School District who has dealt with what you feel may be harsh discipline tactics, I would definitely attend this meeting.  The meeting notice doesn’t specify if they will have public comment or not.  Who knows, maybe I will show up!

New Christina Superintendent To Start In Mid-April While Board Passes First Read Of Safety Zone Policy

The Christina School District Board of Education had a big night last night!  They approved new Superintendent Richard Gregg’s contract which means he will begin his leadership of the district beginning April 18th.  Meanwhile, the board unanimously approved the first read of their safety zone policy which failed to get enough votes last month as a resolution.

The district put out a press release today with more information about Gregg:

The Christina School District Board of Education voted to approve the superintendent contract for Richard L. Gregg during its regular March Board meeting. Gregg’s effective start date will be April 18, 2017.

Richard L. Gregg most recently served as Assistant Superintendent for the Penn-Delco School District in Aston, Pennsylvania, a position he has held since 2015. In that position, he was responsible for district-wide curriculum and instruction, assessment, special education, professional development, and technology integration. He also oversaw the district budget and supervised administrative staff. His experience also includes serving as principal of Penncrest High School in Media, Pennsylvania, and as Director of Instruction for New Castle County Vocational Technical School District in Delaware. He has served as principal of Brandywine High School, and principal and assistant principal of Concord High School in the Brandywine School District. In the Christina School District, he served as assistant principal at Christiana High School.

His teaching experience includes a total of nine years’ experience as a high school social studies teacher. He holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Delaware, and a master’s degree in school leadership and instruction from Wilmington University. He is a graduate of Glasgow High School.

Gregg received the Pennsylvania School Principal of the Year Award in 2010, and was named Delaware Secondary Principal of the Year in 2000. He has held leadership roles with the Delaware Principals Academy, the Delaware Academy for School Leadership, and the Delaware Association of School Administrators. At the national level, he has served on the National Honor Society National Council, the National Association of State Student Councils and on the National Association of Secondary School Principals Leadership Award Selection Committee.

The safety zone policy drew a decent crowd, with members of the Delaware Green Party in attendance in support of board member John Young’s policy.  To read the full policy as approved in a first-read status by the Board last evening, please read below.  I do not view this as a “sanctuary” policy as that has an altogether different meaning than what this policy actually states.  The News Journal referred to the policy as a “sanctuary policy” in their article last night.  The board will vote on a 2nd read of the policy at their next meeting on April 11th, at the Sarah Pyle Academy in Wilmington.

Under this policy, the Christina School District reaffirms our commitment to a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for every student without regard to their race, religion, national origin or immigration status to provide enrolled, undocumented students their legal right to a public education.

 

Capital School District’s VERY BOLD Long-Term Plans

The Capital School District has mighty plans for the district!  As part of their ongoing strategic plan, the district will discuss potential building and grade configurations at their board meeting this evening, beginning at 7pm.

While these plans are not set in stone, there is serious discussion about what the district will physically look like in the long run.  Referendum haters may want to relax because the plans I am about to discuss are long-term and could take twenty years to reach the finale.  But current plans call for sweeping building changes, grade configurations, and a new way of looking at middle school.  The district began earnestly looking at these changes last fall and held staff and community forums earlier this month after a facility master plan was presented to the board.

With the proposed changes, two current elementary schools would disappear and another would be renovated. Fairview and Town Pointe Elementary Schools would be demolished and Dover East would get a new building.  Both plans call for a potential expansion at Dover North.  Where things get very interesting are the plans for the existing middle schools, William Henry and Central Middle.  Central Middle would become an elementary school.  Since William Henry is connected to Kent County Community School, the plan is to use room in William Henry to house a growing high-needs special needs population.  This does not mean all special education students in the district would be going to this potential facility!

For the middle schools, they would be two separate schools but joined by a common area.  Potential plans would called for shared resources between the two such as a cafeteria and large gym.  But it would also allow the district to have Career-Technical education programs in one school and arts programs in another.  But since the schools would be in the same location, it would be difficult for diversity issues to come up since they are both there.  The district is looking at potential magnet programs in the future.  The proposed site for the new middle schools would be on the property of the old Dover High School.

Those are the major changes.  Other options call for an early childhood center attached to Dover East and potentially one next to Booker T. Washington Elementary School.  Both of the potential options would call for what is known as a “Main Campus” which would house the expanded Kent County Community School, Booker T. Washington (which holds the district Delaware Autism Program inclusion program) and the proposed early childhood center.  As well, other space in William Henry could house the Transition program for students with high needs between the ages of 18-21.  The district now leases space in a building across from the Department of Education in Dover.

In terms of grade configurations, the plan is to have the following: early childhood centers would hold Pre-K to Kindergarten, elementary schools would hold 1st-5th grade, middle schools would have 6th-8th, and high school would be 9th-12th grades.

So how much is all of this going to cost?  Probably millions and millions of dollars.  But not all at once.  The goal is to look at the projected growth of the district based on a capacity of 600 students in each elementary school, 750 in the middle schools, and 1,800 for the high school.  Keep in mind, this is a twenty year plan.  Things could very well change during the next two decades.  Projections are good but you never know when a huge business could come to Dover or Kent County which could change all the numbers.  But I like this plan.  I like the idea of sharing resources at the middle school level.  Having the “Main Campus” could also allow for that which could save the district tons of money.  Of course, any new construction or renovation costs tons of money but everything old must one day become new!

OPTION A

option-a

OPTION B

option-b

As the above diagrams show, Hartly Elementary School, Dover South Elementary School and Dover North Elementary School would have the least amount of changes.  The revamped district would actually have one less elementary school than present, but the populations in each school would change based on removing Kindergarten and adding 5th grade.  As a citizen of Dover, this will definitely be one to watch!  When the strategic plan process began last year I strongly advocated for changing the middle school grade configuration to what they are now proposing.  To hear the plans in more detail, come on out to the board meeting at the district office!

Christina Board Meeting Agenda Has A Nuclear Action Item For Consideration Next Week

The Christina Board of Education voted last week to accept the settlement concerning the lawsuit filed by 15 charters against them and the Delaware DOE.  Next week, an action item submitted by a board member could cause a tsunami of controversy.  As well, there is another action item that will certainly cause another ordeal just by being there. Continue reading

Newark Charter School’s 16 Minute Board Meeting

I’ve listened to a few of the charter audio links.  But nothing was shorter than Newark Charter School’s 16 minute audio recording.  Their meeting, held on September 20th, didn’t discuss any aspect of the district-charter funding scuffle that monopolized Delaware education social media the first ten days of the month.  They didn’t really talk about much of anything, which is surprising given the school year started.  Their meeting minutes usually give an impression their meetings are longer than 16 minutes.  I hope we don’t run into a case where some charters go into executive session to discuss the big stuff.  Their audio gives no sign of how long they went into executive session to discuss “potential litigation”.  Unless they do have potential litigation.  It wasn’t on their agenda they put up September 9th but it was on September 16th.  When they came out of executive session, they did unanimously vote to move forward on the potential litigation.

You can listen to the very short meeting here.

 

2016 Delaware Charter School Inspection Shows Severe Lack Of Transparency

MOTCharterSchool

Many Delaware charter schools failed a recent inspection on financial, organizational, and governance transparency.  No charter school received a perfect score on this inspection.  The ones who failed did so miserably.

Delaware law is very clear about what charter schools are required to do.  Other public meeting laws in Delaware, which have been supported through legal opinions on FOIA complaints, are very clear as well.  Last night, I went through every single charter school website to look for eight things: Their monthly financial information was up to date (July 2016), they posted their last annual audit (2015), they posted their IRS 990 Tax Form (as a non-profit), they posted their board agenda for their most recent meeting, they posted their board minutes (based on when they had their last meeting and were able to approve those minutes), they put an agenda up for their Citizens Budget Oversight Committee, they put up the minutes for their CBOC meetings, and a Delaware Department of Education representative was present at those CBOC meetings.

Most of the Delaware charter schools failed this inspection.  One of them (considered to be a very successful charter school) didn’t pass any category.  Some charter schools feel as though they don’t have to meet during the summer and prepare for the new school year.  There was no charter school that received a perfect score.  I understand things slow down in the summer, but not meeting is inexcusable in my book.  Some charters need to do a lot of work on their websites.  Hunting and pecking to find information is not in the vein of transparency.

The most disturbing aspect is the apparent lack of oversight coming from the Delaware Department of Education.  More specifically, the Charter School Office.  They may monitor the charters, and I’m glad a DOE representative is attending most of their CBOC meetings, but where is the public transparency of that monitoring?  Jennifer Nagourney worked very hard to get this aspect turned around with charters.  I would hate to see her hard work disappear.

The way CBOC laws are written, quarterly meetings are okay.  But some charters meet monthly.  I’m not going to dink you if you don’t meet every single month.  I think districts and charters should have monthly CBOC meetings.  A quick note about IRS 990 tax filings: these can vary on the tax year.  If a school had their 2014 return on there, I counted them as being in compliance.  If it was older or they didn’t have any tax filings on their website, they got hit.  This is required by law.  Only one charter school in Delaware is not required to file a 990: Newark Charter School.  I don’t agree with it.

*This article has been updated to include Great Oaks Wilmington which was inadvertently left out of the original article.

Academia Antonia Alonso

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2012

Board Agenda: 7/27/16

Board Minutes: June 2016

CBOC Agenda: June 2016

CBOC Minutes: June 2016

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Academy of Dover

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2014

Board Agenda: 8/25/16

Board Minutes: June 2016

CBOC Agenda: 8/25/16

CBOC Minutes: June 2016

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Campus Community School

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None (searched, said “access denied”)

Board Agenda: 8/30/16

Board Minutes: June 2016

CBOC Agenda: 8/30/2016

CBOC Minutes: 5/5/2016

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Charter School of Wilmington

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/16/16

Board Minutes: June 2016 (no meeting in July)

CBOC Agenda: 5/18/16

CBOC Minutes: 5/18/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: none (has standard agenda)

Board Minutes: June 2016 (no meetings in July or August)

CBOC Agenda: May 2016

CBOC Minutes: April 2016

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Delaware Design-Lab High School

Financials: May 2016

Yearly Audit: n/a

990: n/a

Board Agenda: 8/22/16

Board Minutes: 5/26/16

CBOC Agenda: None

CBOC Meeting: 4/25/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Delaware Military Academy

Financials: 6/30/16

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None (no search button on website)

Board Agenda: 6/27/16

Board Minutes: 5/23/16 (states no meetings in July or August)

CBOC Agenda: None (has standing agenda)

CBOC Minutes: June 2016

DOE Rep: No

 

Early College High School

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2014

Board Agenda: 8/25/16

Board Minutes: 4/28/16      

CBOC Agenda: 7/21/16

CBOC Minutes: 4/28/16 (states no quorum at May & June Mtgs)

DOE Rep: Yes

 

EastSide Charter School

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/17/16

Board Minutes: 6/16/16

CBOC Agenda: 7/26/16

CBOC Minutes: 7/26/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Family Foundations Academy

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2012

Board Agenda: 7/27/16

Board Minutes: 6/16/16

CBOC Agenda: 7/25/16

CBOC Minutes: 4/26/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

First State Military Academy

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: n/a

990: n/a

Board Agenda: 8/23/16

Board Minutes: 7/26/16

CBOC Agenda: 6/24/16

CBOC Minutes: 6/24/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

First State Montessori Academy

Financials: 2/29/16

Yearly Audit: None

990: None

Board Agenda: 9/1/16

Board Minutes: 5/26/16

CBOC Agenda: None (Standard Agenda)

CBOC Minutes: 5/19/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Freire Charter School of Wilmington

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: n/a

990: n/a

Board Agenda: 8/17/16

Board Minutes: 6/16/16

CBOC Agenda: 6/20/16 (noted August mtg canceled)

CBOC Minutes: 6/20/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Gateway Lab School

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2014

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/16/16

Board Minutes: 5/24/16

CBOC Agenda: 7/19/16

CBOC Minutes: 2/16/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Great Oaks Wilmington

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: n/a

990: n/a

Board Agenda: 7/27/16 (schedule shows 8/22 board meeting, no agenda)

Board Minutes: 7/27/16

CBOC Agenda: None (shows area for this but none listed)

CBOC Minutes: None (shows area for this but no minutes listed)

DOE Rep: None

 

Kuumba Academy

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2014

990: None

Board Agenda: 5/12/16

Board Minutes: 5/12/16 (states no meeting held in June)

CBOC Agenda: 7/12/16

CBOC Minutes: 7/12/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Las Americas Aspiras Academy

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2014

Board Agenda: 8/25/16

Board Minutes: 5/26/16

CBOC Agenda: 8/22/16

CBOC Minutes: 6/20/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

MOT Charter School

Financials: None

Yearly Audit: None

990: None

Board Agenda: 6/14/16

Board Minutes: 5/25/16 (June Mtg. Canceled)

CBOC Agenda: None

CBOC Minutes: None

DOE Rep: None

*website states for further information to call the business office

 

Newark Charter School

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: not required

Board Agenda: 8/16/16

Board Minutes: 7/19/16

CBOC Agenda: 5/17/16

CBOC Minutes: 5/17/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Odyssey Charter School

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2011

Board Agenda: 8/17/16

Board Minutes: 6/21/16

CBOC Agenda: 7/20/16

CBOC Minutes: 6/26/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Positive Outcomes

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2014

Board Agenda: 7/20/16

Board Minutes: 5/18/16 (no meeting in June)

CBOC Agenda: 7/20/16

CBOC Minutes: 7/20/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Prestige Academy

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/16/16

Board Minutes: 7/19/16

CBOC Agenda: 8/16/16

CBOC Minutes: 2/16/16

DOE Rep: None

 

Providence Creek Academy

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/23/16

Board Minutes: 7/26/16

CBOC Agenda: 8/18/2016

CBOC Minutes: 8/18/2016

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Sussex Academy

Financials: June 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: FY2014

Board Agenda: 7/27/16

Board Minutes: 6/15/16 (no August meeting)

CBOC Agenda: 5/17/16

CBOC Minutes: 5/17/16 (says next meeting won’t be until October)

DOE Rep: None

 

Thomas Edison Charter School

Financials: July 2016

Yearly Audit: FY2015

990: None

Board Agenda: 8/15/16

Board Minutes: 7/18/16

CBOC Agenda: 9/14/16

CBOC Minutes: 3/2/16

DOE Rep: Yes

 

Charter schools are public schools.  You set some autonomy based on how the laws are written.  But you still have to adhere to the law.  You don’t live in a separate bubble in Delaware.  On one hand, charters beg to be treated the same, and on the other, they beg to be treated different because of that “autonomy”.  I don’t buy the excuse that any single charter school in this state doesn’t know about these requirements.  If you open a bank, you better believe that bank looks into all of the operating laws they have to adhere to.

These inspections didn’t even get into the meat of your board minutes.  A lot of you feel you don’t really have to give any detail.  Some of your CBOC meetings don’t list which members are community representatives.  I gave many of you bad scores if you haven’t had a CBOC meeting in over three months.  Even if you don’t have a quorum, you still have to post minutes.  And MOT… really?  Call the business office to get more information?  Just because you do great on Smarter Balanced doesn’t mean you are immune from transparency.  Last year, the Charter School Accountability Committee found nothing wrong in MOT’s charter renewal process.  They were approved unanimously for renewal without this subject EVER coming up.

I could file a ton of FOIA complaints today.  I’m not going to.  I’m going to give you until September 30th to correct these things.  If I don’t see any improvement or very little, I start filing.

There were five charter schools who I felt, even though they got hit on one thing, have made a sincere effort to be transparent: Academy of Dover, Campus Community School, First State Military Academy, Las Americas Aspiras, and Providence Creek Academy.  Honorary mentions go to Newark Charter School, Positive Outcomes, Sussex Academy, and Thomas Edison.  But the rest of you need  a lot of work.  Sadly, some of you haven’t come far when I did this two years ago and a Valentines Day blitz inspection in 2015 and then another inspection in July 2015.  Some actually did worse.  Out of all the charters that did well on these inspections, they included most of the Kent and Sussex County charters but only two New Castle County charters.  That I don’t get.  I beat up on charters a lot.  But I am getting around to beating up on districts more as well.  I will give all of you a very fair warning: record your meetings and put the recordings up in seven business days.  Kilroy may be quiet now, but he didn’t fight for the “all boards must record” legislation for kicks.  He will monitor if you are doing this, and if you aren’t… watch out!

Perhaps Kendall Massett with the Delaware Charter Schools Network will agree or not agree with me on these transparency issues.  But I believe, as a non-profit that supports charter schools, this should be their fight as well.  Charter schools are at a crossroads right now.  Many states are issuing moratoriums on charter schools.  Delaware did this a year and a half ago.  They can either operate as public schools or face the wrath of public perception.  I don’t believe ALL charters are like the ones depicted on the John Oliver Show last weekend.  But we all know Delaware could have easily been portrayed on that episode with some things that have happened here.  Some of the charter schools in this inspection: don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because of this article.  Know that I know things and you are on my radar.

Academy On The Cliffs Of Dover Money Woes… Again…

I’m pretty sure a lot of readers won’t get my tongue in cheek title to this article unless you happen to like the Righteous Brothers. And not just the song from “Ghost”. What is going on at Academy of Dover now? In their most recent board minutes, from 6/23/16, there were several items that raised red flags.  To a casual observer, it probably wouldn’t have been a big deal.  But knowing their history, it spoke volumes.

There are financial issues going on. There was discussion about the settlement with Mosaica, their former management company.  Last year, the school was ordered to pay on a judgment by the Superior Court for an amount over a million dollars.  Along with some academic issues, this caused them to go under formal review with the Delaware Department of Education.  The eventual outcome was probation until 6/30/16.

Academy of Dover reached a $650,000 settlement with Mosaica, of which $500,000 has been verified as paid. The remaining $150,000 due to Mosaica was broken up in three payments of $50,000 due by the end of July for the next three years.  A payment of $50,000, based on the original settlement, was due to Mosaica by 7/31/16.  At their June board meeting though, there was discussion about settling again with Mosaica.  There was talk about “the monetary issues dealing with the Mosaica issue”. The board voted on a motion regarding this “monetary issue” with a bizarre footnote that one of their board members, Dr. Charles Fletcher, had voted no on the Mosaica settlement.

Further adding to the financial mystery, the board announced they had a silent auction for “items sitting in the shed for two years” on June 16th.  They didn’t reveal how much revenue they received from this endeavor nor why it was held.  There was talk during a board meeting some months ago about trying to sell items former Principal Noel Rodriguez purchased illegally with school funds.  Rodriguez returned many of the items to the school.

While not completely verified, the school is having some staffing issues.  Rumor has it they got rid of their entire special education staff and will have about nine new teachers this year.  While they showed increases in their Smarter Balanced scores across the board, that doesn’t always translate into more students.  They appear to be down in enrollment but not to the level where their charter would be affected.  But they are up for charter renewal this fall, so expect to hear a lot more about this.

Back to their finances, what is interesting is their final FY2016 budget.  It appears the school overestimated on a lot of their expenditures.  As a result, they will have to base their FY2017 budget on those final expenditure amounts based on Delaware state law.  This could be causing some of their financial issues as well.

I got the above part wrong folks!  Sorry about that!

And then there is always the looming shadow about Noel Rodriguez.  Will Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn ever press charges against him?  As always, we wait… and wait… and wait…

 

Vaya Con Dios Vo-Tech Vicki?

At last month’s New Castle County V0-Tech’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Vicki Gehrt wanted to get the ball rolling early on her contract renewal.  Her contract isn’t up for another six months, but apparently she felt the need to bring it up now.  The board wasn’t too keen on that.  Details are scarce, but it wound up with the non-elected board going in and out of executive session throughout the night.  As Gehrt and friends stayed in one room with Gehrt visibly upset.  Scuttlebutt has it that the board is not too enamored with Gehrt, especially after the Amy Joyner-Francis death at Howard High School of Technology as well as other issues.

Ultimately, the board decided to table any talk of Gehrt’s Superintendent renewal until it is actually up for renewal.  But they do have a board meeting tomorrow night.  Will Vo-Tech Vicki bring it up again?  Will there be more drama with unannounced adventures in executive session?  And will the board meeting be heard for all to hear?  Last month, the board was prepping for the House Bill 61 all school boards must record bill which goes into effect in a couple of months.  But no recording was put up on the website.  This is definitely a to be continued story…

Parents Told They Can’t Record Board Meeting Tonight At Academia Antonia Alonso

NoAudioOrVideoRecordingAllowed

Tonight, a Delaware charter school refused parents the ability to record their board meeting.  A group of parents attended the Academia Antonia Alonso Board of Directors meeting to give public comment about what they felt was unfair termination of many teachers at the school.  They wanted to record the meeting but were told they could not.  Even though charter schools are technically corporations, they still have to abide by public meeting laws in Delaware.  And in Delaware, all you have to do is advise someone you are recording a meeting.  You do not need their consent.

Charter schools in Delaware are not unionized, therefore they can hire and fire at will without any protection whatsoever for the teachers.  While one would hope charter administrators use a common sense approach in making these decisions, some charters have been known for running their schools like a dictatorship.  Some charters have fired a teacher over something as small as questioning a policy.  When this happens as often as it has at Academia Antonia Alonso this school year, sooner or later parents will begin to notice and question it themselves.  What charter boards fail to understand is they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for a parent’s ability to make a choice.  What kind of message does that send when a parent is denied the simple freedom of recording a meeting when they don’t even need their consent?

Censored

House Bill 61, the school board recording bill, is awaiting a full vote by the Delaware Senate.  It passed the Delaware House last year.  Since then, many reports have come out about charter school fraud.  The bill is a no-brainer!  This is just another reason why this bill needs to pass.  Denying a parent of a choice is never a smart thing to do, especially when it comes to education.  For a parent to even attend a board meeting is a feat in itself.  They should be happy they have parent engagement.  I can only think of one reason a board wouldn’t want a public meeting to be heard.  And it isn’t because they don’t want parents to hear a great meeting.  They don’t want something getting out.  While the school did allow the parents to give public comment at two minutes each, will their concerns be put in the board minutes for the meeting?

What makes this more interesting is the amount of parent input they had for their recent major modification that passed the Delaware State Board of Education last week.  They had to solicit parents to comment on that publicly.  But when the parent’s want to talk about something the school doesn’t want out there, they don’t want the public to hear that.

Academia Antonia Alonso currently resides in the Community Education Building in Wilmington.  The State Board of Education approved their major modification request to move to one of the buildings owned by Odyssey Charter School at Barley Mill Plaza.  The charter school has gone through three heads of school since they opened in August of 2014, in less than two years.  They were placed on formal review before they even opened based on low enrollment.  They got out of formal review with a probation and got their enrollment up to what their charter was approved for.  In the 2014-2015 Charter School Performance Framework, the school met the standard for their financial framework but was labeled as does not meet standard for their organizational framework.

When our schools going to learn that if you try to silence parents in any way, sooner or later they will organize.  Teachers in traditional school districts already have the capability to organize through their unions.  Perhaps charter school teachers should as well to avoid these administrators who seem to think ruling with an iron fist is the right thing to do.