In the January minutes for the Family Foundations Academy Board of Directors, a notation was made about Chairman Charles McDowell having the board approve an invoice by for a report that was done. The invoice was provided by the Executive Director for both Family Foundations Academy and EastSide Charter School. The invoice, for $10,500.00, was for a report on an Early Learning Academy study. The board approved the payment. The minutes went on to talk about the feasibility of having an Early Learning Academy in New Castle, DE. Continue reading
On the agenda for Family Foundations Academy’s finance committee, there is a very odd item. Charles McDowell, also the President of FFA and East Side Charter School’s board, runs this committee. He is also an attorney and knows his stuff. So why would FFA potentially file a D&O Insurance Claim? What is a D&O?
It stands for Directors and Officers. There are several reasons why a non-profit corporation (which charter schools are) would file a D&O. From the Travelers Insurance website:
Coverage for defense costs and damages (awards and settlements) arising out of wrongful act allegations and lawsuits brought against an organizations board of directors and/or officers.
Wikipedia goes a bit deeper:
Directors and officers liability Insurance (often called D&O) is liability insurance payable to the directors and officers of a company, or to the organization(s) itself, as indemnification (reimbursement) for losses or advancement of defense costs in the event an insured suffers such a loss as a result of a legal action brought for alleged wrongful acts in their capacity as directors and officers. Such coverage can extend to defence costs arising out of criminal and regulatory investigations/trials as well; in fact, often civil and criminal actions are brought against directors/officers simultaneously. Intentional illegal acts, however, are typically not covered under D&O policies.
I am not aware of any current lawsuits against FFA, but I did go to the Delaware Court Connect website and there is nothing listed there. Just to be on the safe side, I checked the following individuals as well: Sean Moore, Tennell Brewington, and Charles McDowell. Nothing with them either. Which means something may be coming. So what could possibly cause McDowell and the school’s finance committee to consider filing this type of claim?
All charter schools, as corporations, are required to file an IRS Form 990. The last one FFA has on their website is from 2012, and it shows Brewington as the Principal Officer and Moore as the Co-Director. As everyone in Delaware surely knows, the two were alleged to have made out with hundreds of thousands of dollars from the school piggy bank…
Could it be… is it… are we finally going to know something on the fate of the former heads of school at FFA?
Here’s the agenda:
Last month, the Delaware Charter Schools Network celebrated their annual IDEA awards. Not to be confused with the Federal IDEA program for special needs students, their IDEA stands for Innovation, Dedication, Education, and Admiration. This years big winners were charter leaders, legislators, teachers, and even students. Here is a list of the winners, direct from the Delaware Charter Schools Network website. I know quite a few of the individuals on this list, either through writing on this blog or actually meeting them before. Some I have never heard of, but congrats on your award. While I have been a teeny tiny bit critical of charters on rare occasions (okay, a lot), at the end of the day, it is about the students. And if the traditional school districts can have a teacher of the year and all that comes with that, the charters should be able to have their own shindig. While I may not agree with many of the funding issues with charters, some of their enrollment practices, financial issues, and special education issues, they are still schools with children in them.
2015 IDEA AWARD WINNERS
COMMUNITY TIES AWARD
Charles S. McDowell, Esquire, EastSide Charter School
Henry Clampitt, The Charter School of Wilmington
GIVING BACK AWARD
Caroline Dowd, Providence Creek Academy
Johnny Means, Delaware Military Academy
Jagger Peck, Gateway Lab School
Eric Long, The Charter School of Wilmington
Hannah Cote, Campus Community Charter School
Ed Emmett, Positive Outcomes Charter School
Sally Maldonado, Kuumba Academy
IMPACT AWARD TOO
Denise Parks & Kathryn Standish, Odyssey Charter School
Kristen Egan, Las Americas ASPIRA Academy
Kelly Hanson, Providence Creek Academy
Robert Lingenfelter, Delaware Military Academy
Trina Willey, Providence Creek Academy
Great Oaks Charter School Wilmington Founding Tutor Corps, GOCS-W
Cathie Kennedy, The Charter School of Wilmington
Kuumba Academy; Sally Maldonado, School Leader; Joan Coker, Board President
Newark Charter School; Greg Meece, School Leader; Stephen Dressel, Board President
STATE LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP AWARD
Senator Brian Bushweller
Representative Joseph Miro
FEDERAL LEGISLATIVE LEADERSHIP AWARD
Senator Tom Carper
Senator Chris Coons
Congressman John Carney
Family Foundations Academy, a Delaware charter school in New Castle, DE, formally requested an end to their six-month probation. But their investigative audit may come out at the same time. Last December, Delawareans were treated to a month long ordeal surrounding Family Foundations Academy. During the school’s charter renewal, allegations came out against the co-leaders of the school for financial mismanagement. It was also revealed the State Auditor’s office was going to investigate the school’s finances. By the end of the month, Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington were out, and the board was radically changed in the first month of the year as members of EastSide Charter School took over.
The State Board renewed their charter but put FFA on formal review. In March, the State Board put the school on probation for six months. This will end later this month if the State Board agrees to it. But in the meantime, while on probation, the school submitted and was approved for a major modification concerning the location of their elementary and middle schools. And the Auditor’s report hasn’t even come out yet. When can we expect this? Given the timing for Academy of Dover’s similar situation, I would say sometime in the next month to month and a half. It took the State Auditor’s office about ten months to complete their investigation on Academy of Dover, and that report came out on 6/24/15. The State Auditor opened their investigation into FFA sometime in December, 2014, so we should expect the report this month or next month given the same trajectory.
Has FFA satisfied the terms of their probation? That will be up to the State Board of Education to decide, but the school seems to think so if you read the below letter. A frequent commenter on this blog raises a very serious question though about overall board membership at Delaware charter schools: Should board members reside in Delaware? This is mandatory for traditional school boards since they go through the election process. I would think it would be in our best interests to have the same for charter schools.
The Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee made it’s final recommendations in regards to Family Foundations Academy. Their decision: the charter school stays open with a probationary status for one year. I think that is more than fair given that the EastSide takeover is an untried experiment in Delaware.
This is a school that had it’s fair share of issues prior to the takeover. Ex Heads of School Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington collectively embezzled over $100,000 from the school and lest we forget, there were many cultural and academic events going on. The Delaware Department of Education and State Board of Education received many complaints about FFA, including special education issues, discipline problems, and staff complaints.
For it’s part, there are several board members at FFA who also serve on EastSide’s board, and many staff members serving dual roles, including the financial director and head of school. Running essentially three schools could be stretching anyone to the max, but EastSide does appear to walk on water.
Given the circumstances with an untested arrangement, what went down at FFA, and the fact that this school was very close to getting shut down, you would think Dr. Lamont Browne and Charles McDowell would be grateful for the reprieve. But no, they have to be arrogant about the whole thing. The fact they would have an issue with the CSAC requesting a different auditor at the end of this year is testament to this fact. The school hasn’t (as of this letter) even had a first meeting with their Citizen’s Budget Oversight Committee, and there is little proof FFA even had one prior to last fall. And given what I’m hearing is going on in charterville with money matters, they should count themselves lucky.
The letter also reported Moore and Brewington reached a settlement agreement. Who was this settlement with? Cause the last I heard the duo were heading to the Attorney General’s office! That would be a criminal matter. Browne and McDowell need to check their egos at the door when they go to the State Board of Education meeting this coming Thursday, March 19th. Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the State Board of Education will render their final decision on the long, bizarre FFA saga.
If East Side Charter School had no board meeting in December, and their January board meeting didn’t occur until January 28th, how in the world did their board approve the loaning out of four board members, their head of school, funds, and teachers to Family Foundations Academy? Why has nobody else even brought up this question? By the time the State Board of Education and Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy decided on the fate of FFA, the East Side board took over the FFA board and had their arrangement in place, with Dr. Lamont Browne serving as Executive Director of both schools. But if the Board never voted on it, who made the decision?
Charles McDowell is the Board President of East Side Charter. He is now the Board President of Family Foundations Academy. He is also on the board of Early College High School in Dover. That’s three charter boards he sits on. Is he the one calling the shots? If you read the last Early College High School board minutes (November 2014), it seems like he is in charge even though he isn’t the board president.
While the East Side/FFA arrangement is unprecedented in Delaware, I would think the East Side Board would have to approve a reallocation of funds of that magnitude and what amounts to a loan. But that is nowhere to be found. And how did the East Side board members take over? Was there a quorum of the old FFA members? Did they vote to add the new members and then resign? Don’t new board members have to wait a month to vote on new items? Hmm, more than meets the eye here. And lest we forget, Kendall Massett at the Delaware Charter Schools Network set up this deal…