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?
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.