Campus Community Loses Appeal In Federal Court Over Special Education Lawsuit

McAndrews Law Firm, a special education law firm with offices in Delaware, recently won a special education lawsuit that went all the way up to federal court.  I imagine the price tag, once calculated, will be very steep for Campus Community School, a charter school in Dover. Continue reading

The Pizza

Sometimes one memory is all it takes to bring you to tears.

In the second half of the 2011-2012 school year, I was a paraprofessional for an 8th-9th grade Math class at Campus Community School.  It was the high school’s last full year as they were closing it and moving the elementary school to that location.  Mrs. Eldridge’s math class was different.  This was before Common Core really took off.  My job was to help students who were struggling with different concepts or problems.

In this capacity, I got to know many of these young teenage students.  One of them I will call A.  She was bubbly, energetic, and talkative.  I also helped to monitor the cafeteria while students were having lunch.  I would often joke around with A and her friends at their table.  They were always laughing and having fun.  In the Math class, A was having difficulty getting her grade up.  She was very intelligent, and capable of doing the work.  But focus seemed to be tough for her.  By the end of the year, A had to get some assignments completed or she wasn’t going to pass.  Mrs. Eldridge offered after-school help but by the end of the year many students were behind.  A asked if I could help her after school to complete her assignments.  Since I was a paraprofessional, my hours were limited and I wouldn’t get paid to help her after the school day ended.  But I offered to do it for free.  A told me she was going to order pizza.  I thought she was joking about that part!

As Mrs. Eldridge worked with other students, A and I churned through her assignments.  The pizza came and I was starving.  I believe it was a meat lovers pizza.  I had to redirect A a few times but she got it all done and passed the class.  I was very proud of her.  Sometimes a student just needs that extra little push to just get it done.  If it takes some volunteer time after school, bribed by a student with free pizza, why not!

Yesterday, A was tragically killed.  Shot in a Dover motel room by her fiancé.  Since her name hasn’t been officially released, I won’t say it here.  But everyone on Facebook knows at this point.  She was a good kid.  Like all teenagers, they have their moments.  But taking her life shouldn’t have been the way to work things out.  That kind of solution isn’t acceptable.

As messages and Facebook comments poured in, I began to get a clearer picture of what happened to A.  Her fiancé put a post up on Facebook not long ago about doing what he eventually did.  It looks like friends tried to warn her about him.  As he sits in a cell, A is gone from this world forever.  A young and beautiful soul, unable to complete what life was going to send her way.  I know God has a plan for everything.  I believe that.  But I will never understand this kind of cruelty.

A was one student of many I helped out in the math class.  I remember them all.  I saw several of them posting comments yesterday on her Facebook page.  Most of them either graduated last year or will this year.  A was graduating this year.  I only knew her for a very short period in her life.  But I cried for her nonetheless.  I pray for her family and friends during this time and hope they can eventually make sense of this one day.  Many of us are in shock today.  We will miss you A!

I have to believe something isn’t quite right when someone makes the decision her fiancé did.  The fact it happened the way it did shows some type of planning on his part.  After all, he did “predict” this with his Facebook post.  The heart is very forgiving when it wants to be but don’t ever let your mind ignore a threat.  Sometimes people say stupid things, but sometimes they don’t.  It is difficult to discern a thought from a planned action.  There are no easy answers…

DE Atty. General Matt Denn Files Brief For Special Education Supreme Court Case… What About My Kid Matt?

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, along with the AGs from Massachusetts and New Mexico, filed an amicus brief for the upcoming special education case which will be heard by the United States Supreme Court.  The Endrew F. v Douglas County School District is a case which can change the face of special education.  But what about my kid right here in Delaware Matt Denn?  The one who was kicked out of a special education program at a Delaware private school last Friday with no due process, no advance notification to the parents about the true purpose of the meeting, and no chance for my son’s voice to be heard?

For the most part, I like Matt Denn.  I think he can be an excellent advocate for students with disabilities.  But sadly, what he wants and what we have in Delaware are two very different things.  I wish Denn could help my own son the way he is helping this child in Colorado.  I understand the implications of this case and what it can do for special education if they rule in favor of the student.  That would be a very good thing.  But there are far too many students here in Delaware that are now suffering with special education.  My own son Jacob included.  If Delaware’s special education is supposed to be so great, why isn’t it Matt?  We both know the answer to that.  But why should my kid have to go through all venues of education in this state and still not have schools understand his needs?  Charter, district, private school, private school homeschool-coop program.  None have worked Matt.  None.  They may be great at other things, but they have all failed my son.  As one father to another father, I’m asking you to do something here, in Delaware.  In your state.  Not later, not down the road, but now.  I don’t know if I can get my son back on track.  There has been so much damage done to him.  By adults who think power is more important than what is right.  Maybe you don’t know what it’s like to watch your own child’s spirit break time and time again.  I truly hope you don’t.  But I’m just one of many parents who has to pick up the pieces of a child’s shattered life again and again while the system fails him time and time again.  It doesn’t matter what kind of school it is.  I don’t care about all this fancy legal stuff.  I just want consistency and best practices with my son, with all the special needs kids in this state.  We are destroying lives here Matt.  What are you going to do about that?

Talk is on thing but actions speak louder than words.  How many more Jacobs do we have to have in this state Matt?  How many more tears have to be shed before something is done?  How many families have to deal with turmoil you can’t even begin to imagine Matt?  How many more children have to be psychologically beaten down before you do something?

cropped-jacobandme.jpg

 

Delaware Files Amicus Brief Supporting a Colorado Student’s Claim on Behalf of Delaware, Massachusetts, and New Mexico.

Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn, joined by the Attorneys General of Massachusetts and New Mexico, filed a formal brief Monday with the United States Supreme Court supporting the appeal of a Colorado public school student with disabilities who claims that his school district has not complied with federal law in meeting his educational needs. The brief filed by Delaware urges the United States Supreme Court to adopt a higher national standard for the services that U.S. schools must provide, and articulates that the standard reflected in Delaware state law, rather than the lower standard used in Colorado and many other states, is the proper standard to measure the provision of such services.

The brief was written by Delaware State Solicitor Aaron Goldstein and Deputy Attorneys General Patricia Davis and Laura Makransky. The brief states that the three Attorneys General “implore this Court to find that the highest level of educational benefit for children with disabilities currently recognized by federal courts of appeal is the correct level for all of the nation’s children with disabilities in order to ensure that the [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act]’s ideals of equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency are fulfilled.”

Although Attorney General Denn has joined other briefs filed with the United States Supreme Court since taking office in January of 2015, this is the first United States Supreme Court brief that his office has authored since he took office. “We chose this issue to seek to be heard with the United States Supreme Court,” Denn said, “because it is fundamentally important to the future of every child with a disability in our nation’s public schools. We also sought to be heard because how the Supreme Court phrases its opinion could also have a direct impact on students with disabilities in Delaware public schools.”

 

 

 

Beneath The Happy Face Of Providence Creek Academy…

ProvidenceCreekAcademy

On a Facebook page called The Unofficial PCA, about Providence Creek Academy, the host put up a post on Monday about a large exodus of teachers from the Kent County charter school.  The post disappeared, but a more watered down version of the question showed up Wednesday night on the page.  As well, students in Kindergarten to 2nd grade took a standardized test that actually caused some parents to pull their children out of the school.  Questions are beginning to mount concerning the “interim” Head of School, Chuck Taylor, who has filled this interim position for a year and nine months.

In terms of the teacher exodus, it was confirmed at PCA’s board meeting on Tuesday that twelve teachers left this year.  The average is three to five.  But the school insisted this is “in the norm” according to the new Facebook post on The Unofficial PCA.

Are Teachers Leaving PCA?

Notes from 7/26 board meeting.

I hadn’t planned to attend last night’s board meeting.  But the day before, I ran into another parent at the store asking if I had heard about the rumors.  People had been saying that a large portion of the teachers were leaving PCA out of frustration with Head of School Chuck Taylor and Principal Audrey Erschen.  My friend didn’t have much details so I canceled my plans and went to the meeting.  I was expecting a huge turnout from parents but there was only one other parent attending (other than the parent board member) and she hadn’t heard the rumors.

I relayed as much of the rumors as I could, without revealing names.  This year, there are about 60 on staff and about a dozen teachers left PCA; some to other positions, some for family, and a couple that were dissatisfied.  In an average year, 3-5 teachers leave PCA but this year is not too far out of the norm and certainly not as severe as the year in which 21 teachers left.  All but two of the teaching positions have been filled.  Ms Erschen assured us that they are in no rush to fill the position and are being very selective.  She is confident that the two positions will be filled well before school starts.

As far as any issues teachers may have had with Mr Taylor or Ms Erschen, they never were clearly defined.  Mr Taylor has been the interim Head of School longer than intended as that the last candidate selected was not able to take the position.  Another candidate is being considered and Mr Taylor is planning to go back to retirement in January.  On the couple of occasions that I have heard someone complaining about Mr Taylor, it usually stemmed from a misunderstanding.  I do not envy Ms Erschen for the balancing act she does every day.  She deals with a whole lot of problems and somebody being dissatisfied is inevitable but she always maintains professional composure.  Every morning, no matter the weather, they are out in front of the school to greet students and talk with parents.  I’ve always found them to be very approachable and the kids (including my daughter) think well of them.

Greater transparency and addressing issues before they become rumors would help to put parents at ease.  Board meetings include an “Opportunity to Address the Board” and it is a great opportunity for parents to ask questions and raise concerns.  PCA is considering putting the ‘Head of School’ and ‘Principal’ reports in the webpage ‘news’ in addition to already being in the ‘Board Minutes’.  They are also considering providing staff bios so that parents know more about the staff.

I intend to follow up with any more details that I come across and certainly welcome any input.  Rather than passing along rumors, it’d be helpful to discuss these things in an open format (you can message me if you’d like to remain anonymous).  I requested a list of the teachers that left (elsewise, we could always figure it out through the process of elimination).  Arguing the validity of an individual complaint may not be as useful as keeping an open eye for trends.  PCA isn’t perfect (no school is) and we should all strive to make things better and that depends on parents being involved.

Other items:

-Director of Curriculum Danielle Moore wants to go back to the classroom and work with kids.  She has been replaced by John Epstein who had been working for the Delaware Board of Education.

-‘Special’ classes will no longer be on a six day rotation because the classes were too far apart. So this year, students will have two special classes each trimester with the same amount of time give to each class.

I would not say 12 teachers leaving out of a staff of 60 is “in the norm“.  That is 20% of their staff.  Charter schools do tend to have higher turnover than traditional public schools.  But that is an alarming number, in my opinion.  While it isn’t the exodus of 21 teachers that happened at one time, it should be a matter of concern for other teachers and parents.  My biggest questions would be how seasoned the departing teachers are.  Will their replacements be more experienced or less?  That could have a big impact!

In their latest posted board minutes, for their June 21st board meeting, I found several items that were somewhat odd which have my comments under each one.

Mrs. Erschen reviewed the placement of appropriate employees to be included in the Consolidated Grant FY 2016-2017.

What does “appropriate employees mean?

PCA will be the only charter school involved in a new DPAS study.

Which DPAS study is this?  The only public DPAS study I have seen is the pilot program which will come out of House Bill 399, which changes Component V for teacher evaluations.  Senator David Sokola was really promoting his “pilot program” amendment.  Sokola and Chuck Taylor worked together on the charter school audit bill.  But what makes this very interesting is House Bill 399 didn’t pass until July 1st.  Eleven days after this board meeting on June 21st.  So how could PCA have been picked for this program if this is the DPAS program they are talking about?  And Markell hasn’t even signed the bill yet.  Unless there is some other DPAS program that hasn’t been revealed.

There were some issues with the implementation of the new grading policy for grades K-2. This new policy created some confusion with parents. With help from Mrs. Erschen and Mr. Taylor the concerns were addressed and professional development will be provided to the teachers at the beginning of the school year to ensure that there is consistency among teachers.

What is this new grading policy?  How did it create confusion for parents?  If professional development is needed so teachers can understand a grading system in the next school year, there is something not right about this.  More on this later.

Approval of Employee Bonuses: Lisa Moore made the motion, Chris Craig seconded. All in favor? Motion passed.

PCA consistently gives out “academic excellence” payouts every single month.  But are all teachers getting them?  The average monthly employee bonus is $466.

And from their May 24th Board minutes:

Head of School Search Committee: One candidate was interviewed. Board of Directors are still narrowing candidate pool for more candidate interviews.

Can someone please tell me why the Interim Head of School, who has been in this “interim” status for 21 months, is on the search committee for this new head of school?  How many candidates have interviewed?  It looks to me like Chuck Taylor is using his position on this committee to secure continued employment for himself.  Because this is how I see it.  He left PCA under very vague circumstances in the Spring of 2013.  He wound up at Campus Community School where he became their interim Head of School after Trish Hermance resigned in the Summer of 2013.  In September of 2013, their board voted unanimously to keep him on as the permanent Head of School.  By December, they hired a new Head of School.  Chuck joined their board and six months later, he resigned from their board.  In October of 2014, Chuck came back to PCA during the Audrey Erschen odd relative/employee shenanigans going on at the school.  As the interim Head of School.  A few months later, the Tatnall leader who was supposed to become the new Head of School was poisoned in the Caribbean.  That was over a year and a half ago.  What qualifications does a leader need to become their Head of School?  This looks like a lot of stall tactics by Chuck Taylor.  I don’t buy him wanting to retire.

For a guy who wants to fade into obscurity, he sure does place himself in very important charter school positions.  As well as his “interim” duties at PCA, he also has a slot on the Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC) at the Delaware DOE and is the President of the board for the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  He was present at the Senate Education Committee for legislation surrounding charter school audits.  While this may not seem to be a big deal, it is important to know that PCA used the same auditor for their annual audit as Family Foundations Academy for many years.  Both PCA and FFA had major investigations from the State Auditor of Accounts that led to findings of severe financial abuse and theft.  During FFA’s charter renewal, Taylor served on CSAC.  When questions arose among the committee about FFA having a bizarre number of fraternity brothers on their board, Taylor actually defended the FFA board even though it was painfully obvious there was a major conflict of interest at play.  During this time, FFA’s leader, Sean Moore, was the Treasurer for the Delaware Charter Schools Network.  Moore embezzled over $100,000 from FFA according to the inspection report that came out last December.  The State Board of Education placed FFA on probation when it became public about the financial fraud.  Moore was terminated by the re-structured board which eventually removed the fraternity brothers.

All K-2 end of year assessments were created and given to the teachers who are working on administering them to the students. After all tests are complete teachers will submit them to so that data can be gathered on the assessments and determine if any changes need to be made for next school year.

PCA created assessments for Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd year students?  Yes, they did.  Who created these assessments?  And if a child failed these tests, the parents were told the student had to go to summer school for a fee of $350.00.  It didn’t seem to matter what their classroom grades were.  Six different parents of first graders received a letter the second week of June indicating their child had failed the reading assessment part of this assessment.  PCA highly recommended sending these kids to summer school.  This is actually a step up for the school, because the original intention was to keep the kids in the same grade if they did poorly on this self-created assessment.  At least two parents pulled their children out as a result.  Was this the intention?  Let’s see: students do bad on an assessment, school tells parents they want the kids to go to summer school for a rather steep fee (told to parents days before this summer school was supposed to start), and parents pull kids out.  I see it as a way to get rid of low-scoring assessment takers without regard to their actual capabilities.

For the Smarter Balanced Assessment results, PCA did rather well on their scores compared to the state average.  They went from 66% proficiency in English/Language Arts to 74%.  In Math, they went from 43% to 55%.  Those are huge gains which will cause the Delaware DOE to award the charter school the token “reward school” status next fall.  I have to wonder how much of these gains and “growth” are engineered by the school in advance.  For the surrounding districts where PCA draws its student base from, the Smyrna School District went from 59% to 66% proficiency in ELA and 45 to 46% in Math.  Capital went from 48% to 50% in ELA and 32% to 36% in Math.  Campus Community School went from 62% to 60% in ELA and 37% to 40% in Math.

A few years ago, one parent pulled her child out of PCA.  Her child, according to the mom, was brilliant.  This student had some minor attention deficits, but was able to get straight As at the school.  PCA insisted on placing the child into a lower-tiered classroom as a 4th grader.  At that time, there were three levels in classrooms: lower, middle, and high.  I would have to assume this was due to Response to Intervention (RtI) strategies for lower grade students when they attended those grades.  But placement in RtI groups usually isn’t based on actual classroom grades.  It is based on how they do on standardized tests.  For this child, being placed in a lower-tier was not a good thing.  The child did not feel challenged.  Many children who are very smart put in this position will tend to act out.  As a result, the school started putting the “bad behavior” label on the student.  Teachers agreed with the mom that the student should not have been at that level.  By the time the school finally put him into the higher level, it was so late in the school year (and after the 2nd wave of DCAS testing) the mother had already decided her child would not attend the school the next year.  The mother stated that the new school had none of these issues and her child has thrived ever since.

Last weekend, I posted an article about Newark Charter School and what I see as “social engineering” to drive up their test scores.  Many of the most fervent charter school supporters are parents of children who do well on these types of tests.  In my opinion, far too many Delaware charters drive their enrollment based on this flawed idea.  When you compare PCA’s demographics to surrounding districts and their closest competition with an area charter school, we see startling changes.

PROVIDENCE CREEK ACADEMY

PCA15-16demographics

SMYRNA SCHOOL DISTRICT

Smyrna1516Demographics

CAPITAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

Capital1516Demographics

CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL

CampusCommunity1516Demographics

The students who score the lowest on the state assessment are special education students.  This has always been the case.  By driving out students with special needs, the overall scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment will automatically go up.  If you have a low population of these students to begin with, which is the case with PCA, it is a guarantee.  Many Delaware charter schools that begin with Kindergarten have screenings with potential applicants.  These screenings, which are meant to show a school where a student is at, can also serve as a way for schools to look for characteristics which could ultimately lead to perceived lower state assessment scores.  I have no doubt this practice takes place at some Delaware charter schools, and I believe PCA does this.  To further muddy the waters of this social engineering practice, PCA came up with some type of assessment for students in K-2 (who do not take the state assessment) to see how they may do on Smarter Balanced, and came up with a way to tick parents off enough they would pull their child out of the school.  Whether by design or unintentional, this is a discriminatory recipe for disaster.  Any school is only as good as the populations it serves.  We know this.  We know the Smarter Balanced Assessment changes constantly and the cut scores change from year to year.  The test is not designed to have a great majority of students showing proficiency.

In a charter school that bases everything on state assessment scores, it can become a pressure cooker for students, parents, and teachers.  This drive to perform on a once-a-year test is everything that is wrong about Delaware education.  And it is becoming clear that this is the environment at PCA.  I have no doubt they have many very positive attributes.  I am sure they do a lot of good things for their students and have a very welcoming community.  But that is the surface.  Underneath is a testing regimen that overshadows everything else.  If you are a smart kid, you will do great.  If you struggle, in any way, there will be issues.  When you look at the school’s Facebook reviews on their page, you see many 5 star designations.  Many of these reviews are from teachers and even the Principal, Audrey Erschen.  Even board members review this school.  When any rating system is purposely stacked toward a certain goal, the perception is deceptive.

While the school appears to be doing better financially, nothing happened with the terminated employee who embezzled large amounts from the school.  The Delaware Attorney General’s office has yet to file charges against this perpetrator.  But that might change.  Earlier in the Spring, state agents were in the school issuing subpoenas for financial records.  Will they find anything more than what already came out from the State Auditor of Account’s inspection released earlier this year?  Time will tell. Providence Creek Academy is the 7th largest charter school in Delaware out of 27 charter schools.  But for their expenditures divided by the number of students, they come in at 26th place.  We know they don’t pay their teachers huge amounts as well compared to surrounding districts.  So where is all their money going?

These are my biggest concerns with this school, and for perspective parents looking at this Delaware charter school, they should be seen as potential red flags.  For those who want to claim I hate charter schools, I don’t.  I think some of our charters do a great job.  I recognize no school is perfect.  But far too many use tactics like this which lead to a type of discrimination, particularly against students with disabilities.  That is intolerable.  But because our state DOE and Governor base everything on test scores on high-stakes tests driven by corporate education reformers, they look the other way.

To view past articles on Providence Creek Academy on this blog, please go here.  To view their board minutes, please go here.  The picture of the Providence Creek Academy campus came from a website belonging to Nickle Electrical Properties who renovated the school six years ago.

Campus Community Loses Two Special Education Due Process Hearings, First Victories For Parents In 4 Years

Campus Community School, a Delaware charter school, recently lost two special education due process hearings.  These were the first due process hearings in Delaware since 2013, and the first time parents won cases in Delaware since 2011.  In both cases, the school was ordered to pay substantial compensatory damages.  Both cases were represented by McAndrews Law Firm, P.C.  In an article the law firm put out today, attorney Lauren O’Connell-Mahler wrote:

The school was further ordered to review and revise the child’s IEP to address absences due to illness, and to provide remedial education to its staff regarding their obligations to identify all children with disabilities. The panel found that the school’s record-keeping was inadequate, and determined that the Delaware Department of Education should conduct oversight of the school’s record-keeping until meaningful improvements were in place. Finally, the school was ordered to provide additional information to parents of children with disabilities concerning the educational rights of children so that those rights could be preserved and protected.

Both of the cases are below.  Campus Community received their charter renewal from the Delaware State Board of Education in December of 2015.  Neither of these cases came up at all during any of the formal proceedings for the charter school.  The school did have a comprehensive review of their special education in May of 2014.  This was something their board requested according to board minutes around that time.  The report was included as part of the record for their charter renewal.

Due Process Hearing 16-01

Due Process Hearing 16-05

Is The Former Executive Director From Delaware Schools Boards Association Going To Join A Charter School Board?

20051022203016!Question_mark_alternate

Sue Francis recently retired as the Executive Director of the Delaware School Boards Association.  She held the title for many years.  So what are her plans for her retirement?  Apparently she has expressed a desire to join another school board!  But not just any school board, a charter school board!  As most know, charter school board members are not publicly elected, so the board would have to vote themselves on whether or not she can join.  So which charter school is it? Continue reading

Three Delaware Charters Cleared For Charter Renewal By DOE

Yesterday, the Charter School Accountability Committee convened for a trio of Delaware charter schools up for charter renewal.  The three schools: Campus Community School, MOT Charter School, and Providence Creek Academy all received a recommendation to have their charters renewed with no conditions by the committee.  The next step is the Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, and the State Board of Education agreeing.  Their decision will occur at the December State Board of Education meeting.

This doesn’t always happen like this with Delaware charters.  Providence Creek Academy had some organizational and financial issues in the past year, but the school proactively recognized and fixed the problems.  With all the other charter news, it is good to see schools getting a green light at times.  Some of the senior members of the committee and the Charter School Office looked visibly worn down and tired.  While I am against many things at the Delaware Department of Education, we do need to remember these people are human and they do work hard.  Many want them to work hard at other things though, and not necessarily on the accountability machine they have become under Governor Markell’s administration.

Congratulations to Campus, MOT and PCA on their own hard work at getting through this stage of their charter renewals.  This is a far cry from last year when Reach Academy had their charter revoked, Gateway Lab School received the recommendation for revocation which was turned down by then Secretary Mark Murphy and the State Board of Education, and Family Foundations Academy emerged as a hot mess weeks before the State Board’s decision to place them on formal review for financial mismanagement by their former heads of school.

Campus Community School, Providence Creek Academy, & MOT Charter School: Charter Renewal Initial Reports

Last Tuesday, the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Department of Education held their initial charter renewal meetings with Campus Community School, Providence Creek Academy, and MOT Charter School.  Included below are the initial reports for each school.  The other day I wrote about Response To Intervention (RTI) and how it is frequently used for special education identification purposes.  Pay close attention to the following reports in regards to RTI and when it is used.

Organizationally and financially, Campus Community looks to be in good shape.  Academically, they clearly have some things to work on, based on DOE standards.  Especially with science, according to them.  I find it interesting they are moving to “standards-based” grading.

How can you have a meeting like this and not once mention the fact that you are being investigated by the state auditor?  Yes, they did the right thing with it, but I’m shocked no one at the DOE actually brought it up.  Something seemed really off with what PCA was saying in regards to their academics.  And what was Chuck Taylor talking about with the whole “we have a pond” thing at the end?  And make a mental note on when PCA said most students get an IEP and the fact that students from Kindergarten to 3rd grade do not get basic special education funding…

Like I said last Spring, MOT’s charter renewal looks to be a slam dunk.  The fact that they were investigated by the State Auditor and cleared of any wrongdoing will only support this.

My prediction with all three: all three will be renewed with PCA possibly going on probationary status because of the State Auditor thing, but I doubt that will happen.  Unless something comes out of the woodwork like Family Foundations Academy did last year, this will be an easy process.  Besides, DOE is going to have their hands full with The Delaware Met!

Campus Community School Lays Down The Law On Opt-Out & States All Kids Must Participate In Standardized Testing

It is the height of arrogance to come up with a board policy that strikes at the heart of parental rights.  Especially for a school that goes by “choice theory”.  Campus Community School, a charter school in Dover, wrote a policy which explicitly states all students must participate in the Delaware State Standardized Assessment.  Currently, this is the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  I know Campus Community had one opt-out.  What this policy does not explicitly state is what happens if a student does not participate.  To me, that is just bullying and intimidation if you are going to throw that out there like that.  I heard from people that it would be a bad time to opt their kid out because of their charter renewal.  I don’t have much sympathy for that statement.

When are these schools going to learn that if a parent does not want their child taking this test, and they have the courage and strength to opt their child out, no matter what, there is nothing they can do to stop them.  If people in Delaware thought opt-out was big last year, just wait and see what happens next Spring.  You can’t imagine…

In the meantime, take a look at the anti-opt-out measure this school has taken.  All I can say is good luck with that!  Later today, this school faces the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware DOE for their charter renewal.  I’m sure they will get kudos from them for their strong stance against parent opt-out…

MUST READ! Fascinating Look At Special Education At A Delaware Charter School

As part of a Delaware charter school’s charter renewal, schools provide a vast amount of information in regards to efforts they have made to improve their school.  Campus Community School, located in Dover, is up for their charter renewal this year.  A year and a half ago, the school realized they were having special education issues and sought the services of a consultant to see what was and wasn’t working.  The below document is a very interesting read.  It really goes into issues between general education teachers, special education teachers, administration, and special education coordinators.  These are not issues that are foreign to traditional district schools either.  Delaware public schools, as a whole, have a lot of work to do with special education.  My fear, and I have always said this, is that as long as success is based on once a year high-stakes assessments, students with disabilities will always be marginalized and not given the attention they truly deserve.  With the release of Smarter Balanced the stakes have risen even higher and these children will be forever lost unless there is a change now.

I would strongly recommend the Delaware Department of Education thoroughly read this document if they haven’t already.  What is detailed in this document is going on in a lot of Delaware schools.  These students do not have the true supports they need.  Far too many incidents with “behavior” are manifestations of children’s disabilities and if they don’t have the proper support and services, this cycle will continue.  Perhaps with his massive amount of special education background, Interim Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky will be able to change this.

Capital School District Loses $330,000 In Title I Funding

David Paulk, with the Dover Post, wrote an article in their newspaper today about how Capital School District is adjusting to the enormous $330,000 in Title I funding cuts.  The article, which does not appear on their online edition, states:

Capital School District officials are dealing with a significant cut in Title IA funding.  The cuts, highlighted in the preliminary budget in June, surprised some educators.

That is a huge amount of money in cuts, and it will affect a great deal of students.  What is the reason for this drastic cut?  It is NOT due to parent opt-outs of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  It has to do with the poverty rates set up by the United States Department of Education.  According to DOE spokesperson Alison May in the article:

“The change is mainly due to the starting allocations the districts receive for the geographic districts from the United States Department of Education, which is based on their area poverty rate,” May said. “In other words, Capital saw such a big difference because it had a lower poverty rate this year so it received fewer funds accordingly.”

I reached out to May to get more information about why Capital lost so much and if other districts were affected.  She clarified that Caesar Rodney lost a little bit as well, which the article suggested:

Capital’s allocation this year is down about $343,000; Caesar Rodney’s is down about $48,000 from last year.  Capital’s this year: $3,057,381; CR’s this year: $2,496,552. Will have to check on if any other districts had changes and get back to you on that as I don’t have those figures myself.

I checked on the Delaware DOE profiles section of their website, and statewide, low-income numbers for the state went from 37.8% in FY2014 to 35% in FY2015 which somewhat correlates to Capital’s over 10% in funding cuts.  When I looked at their specific low-income numbers, they went from 52.5% in FY14 to 48.6% in FY15.  For their enrollment figures overall, Capital went from 6,526 in FY13 to 6,695.

So what is going on in Capital?  By looking at their enrollment figures by grade from one year to the next, Capital lost a ton of students at the high school level.  In FY14, they had 601 students in 9th grade.  In FY15, they lost 157 students, cause their low-income rate to drop from 52.6% to 40.3% for those two school years.  It is customary that some students will choice out of district and go to other districts or charter schools in the area.  But there are only two charter high schools in Kent County, Positive Outcomes and Early College High School.

Positive Outcomes has been around for almost twenty years, and they have a fixed amount of seats available.  They also start in 7th grade, and most students tend to finish there once they get into high school.  But Early College High School just opened last fall, so this could account for a massive change in numbers.  Oddly enough, Capital’s special education numbers for students with disabilities from 9th grade to 10th grade went from 23.3% in FY14 to 17.9% for FY15, which is a massive change as well.  The DOE website does not show Early College High School’s enrollment figures on their website in the school profiles section.  However, their September 30th count report, which I posted last November, shows 126 students enrolled at Early College High School in 9th grade last year.  But, Early College High School shows only 9th grade for FY15, and Capital actually increased in student enrollment for 8th graders in FY14 of 475 students to 640 9th graders in FY15.  This can definitely be impacted by Campus Community School only going to 8th grade..

Title I funding is a tricky beast as I am now learning.  What could be happening is Early College High School is getting a lot of Title I students from both Capital and Campus Community while Capital retains more non Title I students.  Holy Cross, a Catholic school in Dover, only goes to 8th grade as well.  Holy Cross is tuition-based, so I would tend to doubt there would be that many Title I students in their enrollment.  Poly-tech actually lost a great deal of low-income students as well.  If anyone else can figure this out, let me know!

Delaware Charter School Compliance and Transparency Report 2015

“Head of School Report: School is completed for this year.  This year should go down in the history books as gone for good and never have history repeat itself.  We need to learn from the past.”

The above quote was found in a Delaware charter school’s board minute notes recently.  About a year ago, I went through all the charters websites and graded them on certain things: board minutes up to date, agendas for next board meetings posted, and monthly financial information posted.  I will be grading each charter based on this information again this year, but I am adding in Citizens Budget Oversight Committee (CBOC) notifications and minutes.  I’m not including charters that haven’t opened yet or charters who got shut down this year cause really, what’s the point?

I can say a lot of the charters have become more compliant and transparent with these in the past year.  But some have not.  I gave a little bit of slack on the board minutes.  A lot of them had a meeting in the past week, so I don’t expect them to get the June minutes up right away.  If you see red, it’s not a major thing, but they need to fix it.  If it’s in BOLD red, they are majorly breaking the law and they need to fix that ASAP!  State law mandates charters put up their monthly financial info up within 15 days of their last board meeting.  As well, you have to have a CBOC committee and meetings.  Two of the charters on here with some big dinks are on probation already so they need to get on that.  Two others are up for charter renewal, so they definitely need to jam on it!

Academia Antonia AlonsoAgenda: no (only has two agendas for two board meetings in past year listed), Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: has meetings listed through end of 2015, Grade: C-

Academy of Dover– Agenda: Yes, Board minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: July 30th, Grade: B

Campus Community School– Agenda: July 2015, Board minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: March 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, Grade: D

Charter School of Wilmington– Agenda: Yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: not listed, but does indicate no July meeting, Grade: B

Delaware Academy of Public Safety & SecurityAgenda: no, website gives generic agenda for every meeting, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade: F

Delaware College PrepAgenda: no, Board Minutes: April 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: April 2014, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: none listed, last shows June 2015, Grade F- for Formal Review

Delaware Military Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: Yes, CBOC Minutes: January 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Monday of the month, Grade: D

Early College High SchoolAgenda: no, Board Minutes: May 2015 (states June meeting had no quorum which is majority of board members present to approve items up for action), CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: no, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed but states meets 4th Thursday of the month, Grade: F

Eastside Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: Shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A

Family Foundations Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 26th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A

First State Montessori AcademyAgenda: no, Board Minutes: February 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 4th Thursday of the month, Weird Fact: Uses WordPress as their website, the same as Exceptional Delaware…, Grade: D+

Gateway Lab School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: shows anticipated board meeting dates thru June, 2016, Grade: A+

Kuumba Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: B

Las Americas Aspiras Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: yes*, next board meeting: none listed, states meets 4th Thursday of each month, *Superstar: Monthly Financial report is excellent, shows both what the DOE wants AND what state appropriations and codes are needed!!!!, Grade: A+

MOT Charter SchoolAgenda: no, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: not sure, shows agenda for June 2015 meeting but last meeting was in May 2013, CBOC Minutes: May 2013, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: none listed, Grade: F

Newark Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 18th, Bonus: board meetings listed through June, 2016, Grade: A+

Odyssey Charter School– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: May 2015, next board meeting: August 12th, Grade: A-

Positive Outcomes– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 19th, Bonus: board meetings AND CBOC meetings listed through June 2016, Grade: A+

Prestige Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: no, CBOC Minutes: none listed, website only shows members of CBOC, Monthly Financials: April 2015, next board meeting: none listed, shows meets 3rd Tuesday of each month, Grade: F

Providence Creek Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: April 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 25th, Bonus: does have all future board meetings through June 2016 on school calendar, Grade: A+

Sussex Academy– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: May 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: May 2015, Monthly Financials: February 2015, next board meeting: September 16th (no meetings in July or August), Grade: C

Thomas Edison Charter– Agenda: yes, Board Minutes: June 2015, CBOC Meetings: yes, CBOC Minutes: June 2015, Monthly Financials: June 2015, next board meeting: August 17th, Bonus: Has all board meetings listed through June 2016, Grade A+

There you have it.  The Exceptional Delaware July 2015 Charter School Compliance and Transparency Report.  8 out of 22 need to do some serious damage control quick.  Because once DOE Jenny (as Kilroy calls her) reads this report, she’s going to have some serious questions for some of you!

Oh, I forgot one thing.  The quote up above will be shown later today as part of another article.  Because even though that school wants to forget about the past year, the past is knocking on their door!  More later!

Campus Community School Charter School Performance Fund Application

The Delaware DOE, in conjunction with the Charter School Office, offers eligible charter schools in the state to apply for the Charter School Performance Fund.  The DOE is stating this is allocated at $1.5 million to divvy up between the charters, but state lawmakers put $1 million in the budget for it.  We will find out tomorrow or Wednesday what the true amount is.  With that being said, ten charter schools have applied.

What they are applying for will be covered.  We are starting with Campus Community School in Dover, DE, and this will include their written narrative as well as their budget:

Campus Community School has some good ideas.  They want to launch “Project Inspire” to help at-risk kids.  They want to make their library more digital, and hire someone to staff that.  A Saturday initiative sounds promising.  They want to add Communities In Schools full-time for a mentoring program at $43,000.  Wait a minute…

If Communities In Schools was part-time this year, and they want this for full-time, why have they paid them $61,000 for the first eleven months of this fiscal year?  I’m a little bit confused here…

COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS

CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 11/25/2014 $13,750.00 0000890314
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 10/28/2014 $13,750.00 0000873161
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 1/13/2015 $3,000.00 0000911629
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 1/13/2015 $13,750.00 0000911629
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 9/26/2014 $3,000.00 0000856654
COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS CAMPUS COMMUNITY SCHOOL 3/13/2015 $13,750.00 0000940811

There is some very fuzzy math going on there. Unless Communities In Schools is providing some other type of program for the school that we aren’t aware of here…

If I were the Charter School Office, I would want this very important question answered before I approve this application.

While traditional public school districts are being forced to cut library specialists, charters can just apply for one through this performance fund.  No bias there!  As well, let it be known Campus Community School received over $300,000 the past two fiscal years in what I call the “Charter School Transportation Slush Fund” where Delaware charters get to keep the extra money from their transportation budget if their bus bids are below budget…

Campus Community Looking Good For Charter Renewal!

The Delaware Department of Education issued a charter renewal report to Campus Community School on 4/30/15, and the school responded yesterday.  While many know I’ve had issues with this school in the past, I also recognize any school that makes important changes and stays on course can be a good, or even great school.  Campus made many of those changes the past couple of years.

The only hurdle Campus is experiencing with the DOE is the same problem many schools in Delaware with a high population of low-income students are having: scores on standardized tests.  This is an ongoing systemic issue with the state in my opinion.  The demands placed on these schools is insane in my opinion, and there are many ways to determine effectiveness in a school.  I do not believe standardized test scores are a good measurement at all.  The fact that Campus had near identical rates with their home district, Capital, shows progress IF you believe this is a quality tool of measurement, which I don’t.

Documented research, proven time and time again, has shown students from low-income or poverty in urban schools do not perform as well as their peers.  But the Delaware DOE and the US DOE continue to believe all performance gaps should be closed, even as this methodology is falling apart at the seams.

I had to laugh that the DOE measured Campus Community on high school graduation rates since they closed their high school in 2012.  I’m sure it was a technical error, however it’s probably not so funny to the school when they get these reports for charter renewal and they see these kinds of flaws.

While I may have some issues with some of the things I’ve heard in regards to parent opt-out responses, overall Campus has come a long way.  In comparison to Academy of Dover and Providence Creek Academy, I would say they are far superior.  They certainly have not had any of the financial issues those schools have, and glaring “situations” do not appear to be going on.  Great job Campus!

Campus Community Charter School Expelling Students At Record Rates @KilroysDelaware @ed_in_de @dwablog @Apl_Jax @ecpaige @nannyfat @DoverPost @DeDeptofEd #netde #eduDE #edchat #Delaware

 

It appears public schools aren’t the only ones in Delaware with unruly students.  Campus Community School, a charter school in Dover, has expelled students very fast this school year in what appears to be a renewed zero tolerance for bad behavior.  Actions range from fighting down to shooting a piece of paper from a rubber band.  This new get tough program comes at a very interesting time.

As a former parent who had a child attend this school, I find this very puzzling.  They do have a new head of school as of last January as well as a new student handbook that was approved by their Board of Directors in August.  Their board minutes from the same month do speak of a new tiered behavior policy.  But charter schools are supposed to save society from all of this, aren’t they?

I have to wonder why this is happening now.  My questions are threefold.  How many expelled students were or should have been special education and were there any manifestation determination hearings that are legally entitled by law?  What were the students DCAS scores last year?  How many of these expulsions occurred after the September 30th count and what happens to the funding in these situations?

This is a school that lives by something called Choice Theory.  This means every student has the capability of making choices.  Under this theory, every single adult also has that ability as well.  So I would have to ask what kind of environment fosters a situation where there are so many “disruptive students”?  From their website, this is their basic belief:

“We believe that all children can learn, but all learners have different needs, experiences, and ways of learning. We believe that children will rise to expectations if effectively engaged in learning tasks that are meaningful to them. We believe excellent teaching is reflected in high levels of student achievement and positive attitudes.”   

For the estimated 12 students who have been expelled, what choices were they given in this process?  I first heard this news from a student, which I didn’t see as fact until another independent parent verified this information.  I was wondering why they hadn’t posted their board meeting minutes from September even though their websites states they will be available on October 24th.  Their new student handbook which would show what their new behavior policies are isn’t even up on their website either.  If any parent of these expelled students wants to reach out to me, feel free.  I am very curious about what infractions these students committed and if they had previous offenses.

For any school, getting rid of students with low performing expectations could certainly help to close any proficiency gaps.  I would hope no school would ever result to mass expulsions to reach these levels.

Is the Delaware Department of Education aware of these expulsions?  Is this isolated to just Campus Community or are other charters in Delaware doing this?  If that’s the case, John Sadowski down at the DOE must be clocking in a lot of extra hours lately!

You’ll Never Guess What My Son Got In The Mail Yesterday!!! Will He Go? Hell No!!!

So I get home from work yesterday, go to the mailbox, and I see this in there:

e5b00f_56e64e0170bb45d7a7716fafc10b272e_png_srz_351_137_75_22_0_50_1_20_0

For those unfamiliar with this story, please read this: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/disability-discrimination-local-church-youth-leader-assaults-my-son/

and this: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/eagles-wings-ministries-started-their-bible-school-this-week-parents-beware/

and this: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/the-eagles-wings-ministries-and-pizza-google-search/

Okay, now that you know the lowdown, I will address the rest of this post to Eagles Wings Ministries. before you go, please don’t go to this bizarre Lion King Pride Rock thing. A guy named Jim Jones had some church thing with Kool-Aid once. Stay home, watch Shark Week. It’s free, and your children won’t be emotionally scarred. But if you do go, watch your kids, especially if they don’t go on the slip and slide! Back to the church that may have named themselves after a Bette Midler song.

Are you out of your friggin’ mind? You knew my son lived in this neighborhood. You couldn’t have done just a tiny bit of research to know which mailbox NOT to put your Lion King Thing inside of? Really? Do you honestly think for one second I would bring my child back to your Child Abuse-Denial Church? The odds of me ever bringing him back to your little safari adventure are about as great as me bringing him to special education night at Campus Community School with Janet Asay Miller and Chuck Taylor. My bad, Chuck isn’t there anymore. He’s too busy blowing the Charter School Network trumpet. Or is that Kendall? You can never tell these days. Hey Readers, did you check this out: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/the-charter-school-network-wants-you-to-comment-cmon-special-needs-parents-lets-comment-netde-edude-delaware_gov/ or this: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/08/01/googling-delaware-charter-schools-network-special-education-netde-edude-delawarebats/

Whoa, got off track there. Too busy shameless plugging when I was talking about your cult, er, uhm, AHEM, Church! You see, this almost went away. Right after (and I mean literally, right after, I posted the Eagles Wings and Pizza Google thing, I saw an article from the News Journal which prompted this: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/breaking-news-feds-want-to-intervene-in-delaware-special-education/ and I that got me upset too. But that was a good thing, cause I’ve done a bit of investigating to find out what was up with that: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/delaware-doe-the-eye-of-the-hurricane-in-special-education-netde-edude-del_gov-destateboarded-usedgov/ and https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/delaware-doe-the-eye-of-the-hurricane-in-special-education-part-2-netde-edude-usedgov-delaware_gov/ and https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/part-3-of-the-delaware-doe-the-eye-of-the-hurricane-in-special-education-netde-edude-usedgov-delaware_gov/ All those stories totally kicked your ass in terms of readers. But up until my last story about your bird church, the story of how your Youth Group Leader assaulted my son got the most readers. And people still read it, just about every day since.

But I’m sure you don’t want to hear about blog statistics. Let’s get back to disability discrimination! I never heard back from you guys at all. We left a message with your “district” headquarters, but they never called. Maybe they were feeding kids at summer camp like it’s ration night in London during the Blitz in World War II. Just because I got distracted on my special education blog with, you know, special education, doesn’t mean I forgot about you. I drive past your church all the time. And instead of what I used to think before my son went to your famine dinner youth group, “Wow, that church is empty all the time”, I now think “That’s where Stacie Bohannon told my son to consider his ways before and after she kicked, tripped, and pushed him to the ground.”

In any event, just between us, you may want to keep the kids away from Miss You-Know-Who. I understand this event will have trips through the Amazon Rainforest, the African Savannah and The Australian Plains (which most people call “The Outback” by the way, they even named a steak house after it. Oh wait, don’t want families to think they are getting steak. Gotcha!). Kids might get pushed into quicksand, thrown off a cliff, or kicked by a kangaroo if Miss You-Know-Who has her way. Just sayin’. Since your going with The Lion King theme, you might want to have parents stay away from Miss Scar.

imagesE1AY5YI2

I have to ask. Why the whole Lion King theme? That would have been cool if it was, I don’t know, 1994! Kids these days aren’t into Lion King that much. Their more into The Lego Movie and the other 50 movies Disney has released since the Simba Death movie. Whatever floats your boat. Speaking of boats, did you check this out dear readers: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/indian-river-student-injured-in-classroom-titanic-experiment/ Dammit, I strayed again. Sorry Eagles Wings. I keep doing that, don’t I? What was I saying? Oh yeah, your theme. If your going to go for an older movie theme, might I suggest this:

untitled

But I do see you have more food bait for families to attend your event. More pizza slices cut into four pieces for kids? Or are you going to try new stuff, like rotisserie chicken and the kids get to eat the skin? Or maybe it will be spaghetti night, and each child will get three strands of spaghetti with ketchup! Will drinks be provided or will they have to drink from that nasty water fountain again?

Good luck with the rumble through the jungle Eagles Wings. If I hear any police sirens this week, Monday to Friday, August 11th to the 15th, from 6pm to 9pm, it won’t be hard to guess where they are going! Hakuna Matata!