The Odyssey Charter School Education Association declared a vote of no confidence in the school’s Board of Directors. As well, they asked four members of the board to resign. Continue reading
As rumors circulate, some by an employee that was put on leave weeks ago, about what caused Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security to shut down, the truth is out there. Continue reading
The Gateway Lab School Board of Directors went through a radical shift between their July and August board meetings. Four board members disappeared but nothing was found in the minutes or audio recordings stating those board members resigned. As well, changes to their by-laws might have been done illegally. Continue reading
No sooner do I post an article about Odyssey than an email comes in from an Odyssey parent who is fed up with their Board! While this email has been circulating among Odyssey parents on social media today, this is the first time it has been open to the public like this. The parent gave me full permission to post this and considers it a public document! Continue reading
Events at Odyssey Charter School have been bubbling for some time now but they are coming to a boil in recent weeks. When the Odyssey Board of Directors chose not to renew Headmaster Nick Manolakos’ contract, they put forth Riccardo Stoeckicht as their new “Campus Operations Officer” and Denise Parks as their Head of School. Between these two hirings, the school is looking at over $300,000.00 for these two positions alone. But the shenanigans don’t stop there. Continue reading
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
Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security made some substantial moves at an emergency board meeting Friday night. Including having an existing charter school leader become the President of their board! As well, the distressed charter school put a for lease sign up at their current property. Apparently they have an eye on another charter school’s vacant property.
Margie Lopez-Waite, the current head of school for Las Americas Aspiras Academy in New Castle, DE took over as Board President at their emergency board meeting Friday night. I can’t recall a time seeing an active charter school leader from one school become a board member on another. But this type of situation is not unprecedented. For a brief time, Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey serves on Aspiras’ Board of Directors.
On Tuesday, DAPSS will have their first formal review meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Dept. of Education in Dover. A growing discontent with the former President, Sherese Brewington-Carr, led to the changes. As well, a former board member named Dennis O’Brian went from Emeritus (on the board in honor but not active) to active. Some other new board members were added as well. Many folks have asked me if Sherese is related to Tennell Brewington from Family Foundations Academy and I have not been able to confirm any kinship. Some have speculated they are but Sherese has categorically denied this ever since Tennell’s financial fiasco a few years ago.
Meanwhile, the school put a for lease sign up at their school. They want to move into the old Family Foundations Academy property in New Castle. This is now an administration building for East Side Charter School and Charter School of New Castle (formerly Family Foundations). The first public hearing for DAPSS’ formal review will take place at this building on February 13th.
The Board of Directors at DAPSS has not put up any of their meeting minutes since their November meeting even though they have had three meetings since. They are also out of compliance with putting up their audio recordings of their board meetings as none have appeared since the November meeting as well.
Sources tell me Charlie Copeland has not been active with the school for a very long time and he actually wanted the school closed due to the dwindling enrollment two years ago.
The last time a charter school went through these kind of board member changes was Family Foundations Academy during their own formal review. However, even though FFA was going through a financial-fraudpalooza, they had the student count to justify staying open. DAPSS does not. This should be interesting!
Charter schools in Delaware- they are like a soap opera!
After a crucial Senate Executive Committee hearing, Wali Rushdan was given a unanimous Senate vote for the Delaware State Board of Education about an hour ago.
The Senate Executive Committee met with Rushdan right before the full Senate vote. I must give props to State Senator Nicole Poore for tackling the elephant in the room. She just came right out and asked Rushdan about his affiliation with the Family Foundations Academy Board of Directors. Continue reading
Wali Rushdan and Sean Moore. Friends. Members of the same fraternity. Moore, the former Head of School at Family Foundations Academy, convicted of theft and fraud. Rushdan, a former member of the board at FFA, now nominated for a seat on the State Board of Education. Moore, in prison. Rushdan, an attorney at Fox Rothschild. Moore and Rushdan. What did Rushdan know about the situation at FFA? Why has he erased his term on their board from his biography at Fox Rothschild? Why was his bio redone the SAME day he got the nod from Governor Carney for the board seat with the State Board? Did Governor Carney bother to check this matter out and ask the appropriate questions? Who brought forth this nomination to Governor Carney? Questions that need to be answered. Questions our Delaware Senate need to ask right away.
What? Who in the world is Herbert Sheldon? Who is the Board? While you may not know this name right now unless you are very involved in Delaware education, you soon will. Why? Continue reading
In 2016, the Delaware State Board of Education approved a major modification request to lower their enrollment. This year, they are supposed to be at 475 students based on that approval. Charter schools have to be at 80% enrollment to be financially viable. That number would be 380 for Delaware Design-Lab High School this year. They are below 300 students according to sources. Will Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting recommend formal review for the struggling charter school?
The dangling carrot for Design-Lab is their $10 million prize from XQ. The school is currently interviewing positions for their three deans. But those funds can only be used for very specific purposes. It is not meant for salary increases for teachers. But according to an anonymous source, the Interim Head of School (Rebecca Collins) is promising teachers increases. How can the school afford this with their low enrollment? Many teachers are fearing for their jobs due to the school’s low enrollment. Since the Board of Directors ousted Dr. Joseph Mock a couple of weeks ago, a wave of parents have pulled their kids out. Their enrollment tally was due to the Delaware Department of Education on Friday because of the annual September 30th enrollment count.
Historically, the Delaware State Board of Education has put charters on formal review for low enrollment because below 80% charters are not financially viable. Many charters (including Design-Lab) faced this review in 2015. They all squeaked by with higher enrollment by the time the State Board voted that July.
For a charter like Design-Lab, they had their enrollment lowered after that and still can’t get anywhere close to their approved numbers. Many parents don’t seem to be wowed by the XQ award. Three different leaders have been in charge in the past nine months with another new one coming on. I did find out Rebecca Collins did step down from the board to take the interim leader role and plans to go back on the board once the new leader is in place. But Joseph Mock was definitely fired from his position.
At the Delaware DOE, charters are overseen by the Charter School Office. Since Denise Stouffer replaced Jennifer Nagourney in July, 2016, no charter schools have been placed on formal review. Will Delaware Design-Lab High School be the first?
I knew I saw his name somewhere else. And not that long ago. His name rang a bell. Now I know. The same guy who caused all the hoopla at Thomas Edison Charter School in the past week is on two Delaware charter boards. The same guy that angry parents were telling to get off the board at a rally for Principal EL at Thomas Edison this evening. Just sayin’…
The Delaware Charter School Network became involved with the firestorm at Thomas Edison Charter School and that can only mean one thing: Kendall Massett is now in charge. The last time she entered the fray like this it resulted in Family Foundations Academy having their board completely gutted when the Eastside Charter School board took over back in January, 2015. I was able to find out a lot more about the school’s “foundation” account and that is the biggest farce of them all! Meanwhile, the school has violated FOIA many times through this and they are about to do the same tomorrow. Continue reading
The teachers at Wilmington’s Thomas Edison Charter School are NOT happy with the Board of Directors today. As I broke the news this morning, Head of School Salome Thomas-EL was removed from the school this morning by the police with the board present. What was the issue?
The school had a surplus of funds from their FY2017 budget to the tune of $534,000.00. The teachers were requesting a 1.5% increase in salary which Thomas-EL asked for from the board. The request was denied. What happened from there I do not know… yet. But to publicly shame a charter leader who is beloved by his staff and the community around him is in very bad taste. Not to mention the appearance this gives to students. This is a school with a low-income/poverty population hovering around 96%. The last thing they need is to see their school leader kicked out of school over what amounts to him fighting for higher teacher pay at a school that is known for having the lowest paid teaching staff in New Castle County. But they can afford to have lavish Christmas parties and send seven people to a charter school conference?
Thomas Edison’s teachers, like all Delaware public school teachers, received either a 1.5% salary increase or $750 (whichever is greater) last year. The board sent a letter to their educators a year ago advising them they would receive this increase but then backed out a couple of months later. The board’s response was that charter schools are not required to give those raises as approved by our state legislators in the annual budget. Based on their board approved budget for FY2017, the amount for salaries was $5,877,429.00. If they gave the 1.5% increase, that would have amounted to $88,161.43. With a surplus of $534,000 (or $588,000 according to their final June 2017 monthly financial statement), that would have been a drop in the bucket. My guess with the increase in local funds of over $176,000 is funds received from the settlement with the Christina School District over local funding. So where is that money going if it isn’t going to teachers? Where does their surplus money go to?
The answer to that is more frightening than the question itself. Thomas Edison has a foundation. The school transfers their surplus money into a foundation account. What happens from there is anybody’s guess. In looking at their July monthly financial position statement, it shows a board approved “transfer” budget which I can only assume is coming from their “foundation” account. In July it shows $25,000 transferred and in August another $25,000. But if the school has a $534,000 variance and they are transferring funds into the foundation account, what is being done with the rest of that money? In looking at their expenditures for May 2017 compared to June 2017, it looks like their expenses went up considerably in June considering school ended that month. And why isn’t the school posting financial statements for their foundation on their website? If I were the State Auditor, I would be looking into this as soon as possible.
This is not an attack on Salome Thomas-EL or the charter school. This is looking to be another round of what the hell is this charter board doing? The optics on this at the time of their charter renewal do not look good. Could this be Family Foundations Academy redux? I would LOVE to see their monthly foundation bank statements! If you have nothing to hide Board of Directors at Thomas Edison Charter School, I am asking that you make your bank statements from your foundation bank account available on your website immediately!
It looks like we need legislation around district and charter “foundation” accounts as well. You hear that legislators!
*To clarify, Salome Thomas-EL was NOT arrested this morning. Police were used to escort him off school premises.
Breaking news: The police just removed Thomas Edison Charter School Head of School Salome Thomas-El from the school. The Board of Directors was present for this. Details are sparse at the moment, but from what I’m hearing the board was not pleased about the direction Thomas-El wanted to take the school in. Apparently wanting more pay for staff and administration is a big no-no. The teachers are not pleased with the decision and there could be a walk-out. It looks like there is no such thing as due process at this Wilmington charter school. More details to come as this story develops…
Last night, parents of Providence Creek Academy students attended an open house at the Clayton charter school. Many were wondering where all the teachers from last year went. Many teachers quit due to the shenanigans involving management at the school. One parent said it looks like 90% of their former teaching staff is gone now. Many parents have wondered what is going on with the school since I wrote some pretty damaging articles last month. It has been very quiet, as if some type of gag order went out. It has become more than obvious that former teachers no longer wanted to put up with what is going on there and opted for better employment elsewhere. As for all these new teachers it is only a matter of time before they realize what they signed up for.
How the state of Delaware can turn a blind eye to this school is beyond me. Once again, I have nothing against the school but rather the leadership, the rubberstamp board, and those that follow the administration with their undying loyalty and subservience. There is something rotten in the foundation of this school but nobody wants to call Chuck and Audrey out on the carpet in full public view. Why? If you quit there is absolutely no reason not to go public. I want to believe former teachers feel PCA was a toxic work environment. That is NOT good for kids. Speak out. Let folks know what is really going on there. This is a school that has seen more turnovers than a Pepperidge Farm store. Parents want consistency at schools, not this. The former “We’re Worried” group appears to be defunct since most of them most likely said screw it and found jobs elsewhere. That doesn’t change the situation on the ground at PCA.
As for all the financial fraud and the cover-up that went on with it, I sincerely hope the State is looking into that. Cause the Delaware Department of Education certainly isn’t. Chuck is obviously good at covering his tracks but there are always bread crumbs. There has still be no formal announcement of formal charges against ex-employee Shanna Simmens. There has to be a reason for that. If it is a case where Chuck and Audrey have that much influence that they are just waiting for the statute of limitations to run out, that is a crying shame. That shows corruption unheard of in this state. I can’t for the life of me figure out why parents would willingly send their children to a school run by such devious and corrupt people.
For those who have reached out to me wanting to know more, I sincerely wish I had more to tell you. I wish our State would do more. But Delaware is proving to be as crooked as they come when it comes to protecting leaders who are in it more for themselves than for the benefit of children. Disgusting…
PCA is having a board meeting next Tuesday evening, August 29th, in their library at 7pm. If I were PCA parents, I would go and demand answers from this Board of Directors, especially Board President Amy Santos. Enough is enough.
The revolt at Providence Creek Academy is about to blow wide open. And at the epicenter of this is Head of School, Chuck Taylor.
Tomorrow night, Providence Creek Academy is holding their July Board of Directors meeting. I have no doubt one of the biggest items of discussion in their Executive Session will be how to handle the growing and mounting concerns of nearly half of their teachers and staff. These employees of the Clayton, DE charter school are not happy. Going by an anonymous group called “We’re Worried”, I’ve been in contact with this group for a month and a half. I went so far as to contact Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting about their concerns. I did so in the bounds of confidentiality and I did not name the school or the Head of School in the conversation. Dr. Bunting stressed that if there is a hostile work environment, the Delaware DOE needs to know immediately so they can take immediate action. Continue reading
Greg Meece didn’t wait long. We still don’t have verification that all the charter schools signed the settlement between the Christina School District and the 15 charter schools. But Meece took his opportunity to brag and he did so with arrogance and a pompous attitude. Yes, NCS parents, this is your not so humble leader. I have no doubt this was Greg Meece’s favorite moment of the year. But the big question surrounds the truth. It was under the assumption the charter schools and their attorneys over at Saul Ewing offered the settlement. Other sources have all parties working together over the Thanksgiving weekend to hammer it out. But what Greg Meece states is something completely new. And there is another downright dirty thing in this letter which was not written in the settlement the way Meece wrote it. To me, that kind of negates the spirit of the settlement. The settlement explicitly stated this was not a case of wrongdoing on Christina’s part, but Meece’s one sentence inclusion in here suggests otherwise. That line is bolded for emphasis below.
As I was working on my article this weekend about Greg Meece and Newark Charter School, I went over a lot of articles pertaining to the lawsuit. Why on earth would Christina offer to settle based on their own Legislative Briefing? Furthermore, I don’t recall their board ever voting on action pertaining to the lawsuit. I would imagine only the Christina board could direct their attorneys to negotiate a settlement. The only vote they held about the lawsuit was the one regarding the actual settlement. So someone is lying. Is it Christina or Greg Meece?
Dear NCS Parents and Staff:
This regards the lawsuit that Newark Charter School, in conjunction with 14 other charter schools and four parents, filed against the Christina School District (CSD) and Delaware’s Department of Education (DDOE). The general idea of Delaware’s school finance law is that the property taxes paid by residents, which are initially held by the local school districts, should follow the child when families choose to enroll their children to a public charter or choice school in Delaware. In the case of CSD that was not being done. Charter and choice school students were not getting their fair share. The DDOE performed a detailed analysis of this past year’s funding between districts and charter schools. It concluded that CSD had excluded from charter schools more funds than it was allowed to exclude. Delaware law requires that the Secretary of Education make the final determination regarding the allowable exclusions from districts. In August, the Secretary of Education made his decision. This decision would have provided charter and choice students who live in the CSD approximately $450 more per student. In early September, over the charter schools’ objections, the Secretary reversed his own decision, due to outside pressures being made on him. This is when the 15 charter schools decided to sue both CSD and DDOE.
Both CSD and DDOE offered to settle the lawsuit before it went before the courts and the charter schools agreed to the terms of the settlement. Among the details of the settlement:
* The CSD now agrees that $5.5 million in revenue that had been excluded from the pool of funds shared among all students in the district, including those who attend our school, will now be shared with all charter and choice schools serving Christina students.
* The DDOE agrees to bring greater transparency to the process through which it determines each district’s Local Cost Per Student. DDOE is obliged to share information and seek input from charter schools as part of this process.
* We will be working with the CSD to examine whether opportunities exist to share resources to serve special needs students.
* Both CSD and DDOE agreed to cover the cost of the charter schools’ legal costs.
* In return, the charter schools agreed to relinquish claims on funds that may have been inappropriately withheld in past years.
As a result, the tax dollars that should follow your children to Newark Charter School will arrive for this school year and in future years. These funds will be put to good use here, where they belong and where they are needed.
I would like to thank you for your support as we worked through this legal process, and I’m happy to answer any other questions you might have. If you would like to see a full copy of the settlement, we will be glad to send you an electronic copy.
Gregory Meece, School Director and the NCS Board of Directors
Excuse the hell out of me Greg Meece, but did you just write a letter to parents indicating that Christina broke the law even though the settlement you just signed clearly indicates otherwise? I have to ask, what the hell is wrong with you? You just violated your own settlement with this public letter.
Meanwhile, the Christina School District put out a press release on their own website today which doesn’t have a few of the things Meece mentioned in his letter:
Christina School District Signs Principled Settlement Agreement
The Christina School District has signed a principled settlement agreement to a Civil Action by 15 charter schools regarding the sharing of local property tax revenue.
- In the annual certification of Christina School District’s Local Cost Per Student pursuant to Section 509 (e), both the 2003 Referendum Revenue and CSD’s expenditures posted against those revenues will be ignored. In other words, such expenditures will be neither included in, nor excluded from, CSD’s Total Local Operating Expenditures. This is important because under the statutory formula for sharing local property tax revenue with charter schools, if such expenditures are included in CSD’s Total Local Operating Expenditures, the 2003 Referendum Revenue shared with the charter schools would not be subject to the restrictions imposed by the voters in 2003.
- Beginning with Fiscal Year 17, the revenue generated by the 10 cent levy shall be divided by the total number of students residing in CSD and attending public schools in order to determine the per student share of the 2003 Referendum Revenue.
- The parties agree that the dismissal shall include all claims that were brought or could have been brought, in the Lawsuit regarding FY’17 or any earlier fiscal year.
- DOE will recommend a process to be used by the DOE in the future for determining Local Cost Per Student. In this process:
- Districts will have the opportunity to request DOE approval for Exclusions from Total Local Operating Expenditures, with Districts providing justification for their request.
- DOE will make a tentative determination responding to each requested Exclusion, together with DOE’s reasoning
- Districts will have the opportunity to discuss with DOE its tentative determination before such determination is final and included within the annual certification
- Prior to the annual certification, DOE will provide all charter schools with its tentative determinations, along with District justifications, and will afford the charter schools an opportunity to discuss such determination
- DOE shall establish a schedule by which it proposes to meet each of the steps noted above.
22 months after serious allegations arose regarding theft of school funds, justice finally caught up with Sean Moore. The former Family Foundations Academy co-director faced a federal judge today and said he was guilty. When any public schools gets federal funds and some of those federal funds are stolen, the feds get first dibs on prosecution. But Moore made it easy for them by pleading guilty today. He faces sentencing on March 2nd, 2017.
The Family Foundations Academy was probably my first really big investigative piece. It began during their charter renewal process in December of 2014 and stretched out the next few months. I don’t know how much my initial reporting on Moore and fellow co-director Tennell Brewington’s activities led to what happened today. The feds rolled these charges down a couple of months ago. So why did it take so long for Moore to enter a plea? From what I’m hearing, they had to find him first. That took some doing.
Moore’s fellow co-director, Tennell Brewington, is gainfully employed in Delaware. She was terminated from Family Foundations Academy when Moore took over the school during his brief coup-detat but she too was found to have stolen money from the school. Initial reports indicated she did not take as much money as Moore, but if she used any federal funds she too would face a federal judge. If not, I’m still waiting on Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn to do something. And what about Noel Rodriguez from Academy of Dover? I guess these things take time.
From the United States Department of Justice:
WILMINGTON, Del. – Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced today that Sean Moore, age 43, of New Castle, Del., pleaded guilty to three counts of federal program theft before U.S. District Judge Richard G. Andrews. Moore is scheduled to be sentenced on March 2, 2017.
According to court records and statements made in open court, between July 1, 2011 and January 31, 2015, while serving as the Director of Finance and Operations for the Family Foundations Academy, a charter school in New Castle, Del., Moore embezzled $161,871 from the school.
Moore accomplished this embezzlement in a number of ways. First, Moore charged personal expenses to an unauthorized credit card he opened in the name of the school. Moore also abused the State of Delaware’s voucher program, by which charter schools are permitted to submit qualified expenses for reimbursement, and the State of Delaware’s procurement card system, by which the State of Delaware issues credit cards to charter school administrators to purchase necessary school supplies. In addition, Moore stole money from the school’s fundraising account, which consisted of money collected from parents of school students, local sponsors, and an after-school program. Moore also took money from the school’s construction loan account.
Moore used the embezzled money for personal expenses such as retail purchases, home improvement purchases, electronics, auto loan payments, auto services and accessories, federal tax payments, groceries, entertainment, food, gas, travel, gifts and collectibles, shoes, hotels, jewelry, train tickets, and video games.
During this time, the Family Foundations Academy received significant federal funding, which provides the basis for the federal program theft charges. The maximum penalty for each count is ten years in prison followed by a three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Education – Office of the Inspector General, and the Delaware Attorney General’s Office, with assistance from the Delaware Office of Auditor of Accounts. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth L. Van Pelt is prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States.
I would like to know how Moore could settle with the Board of Directors at FFA over stolen funds. If he stole $161k in funds and settled with them for $67k, as per WDEL, that is $94,000 in lost education funding for Delaware kids. That is some serious coin. And Moore only paid back $13k of that settlement amount. But he will face jail time. That is all but a guarantee.
Last Spring, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act complaint against Gateway Lab School, a Delaware charter school, to the Delaware Attorney General’s Office. As any regular reader of this blog is aware, I frequently review meeting minutes for charter schools and school districts. What I saw in the March minutes for Gateway Lab School shocked me. Not so much from what they did, but the fact our Attorney General’s office released similar opinions on these kind of matters in the seven months prior to this. I bear no ill will towards Gateway or their board. I have always commended this charter school for servicing students with disabilities as the bulk of their student population. I was among the majority who felt the Charter School Accountability Committee’s 2014 recommendation to shut the school down was absolutely ridiculous, especially when that decision was based on standardized test scores.
After I filed the complaint, myself and Gateway went back and forth via email on the complaint. During that time, I found another similar action by the Gateway board. While I had some pains submitting the original complaint because of my loyalty for a special needs school, I felt it was important for them to correct this action. Did they? And how did the Attorney General’s office rule on my complaint? Find out below!