Delaware DOE’s Charter Diva Stouffer Replaces Chuck Taylor At Providence Creek Academy

I knew Providence Creek Academy had no choice but to finally find a new Head of School after their “three-year search”.  Chuck Taylor was never supposed to stay that long.  It was, after all, just a coincidence he stayed for three years at a greatly increased salary of $170,000.00.  It is also a coincidence he was able to get his pension based on that $170,000 figure because it goes by your three highest years of salaries as a state employee.  But hiring Denise Stouffer?  The lead from the Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Office?  Are you kidding me?

As always in Delaware education, it’s not what you know, it is WHO you know.  She and Chuck were buddy-buddy on the Charter School Accountability Committee ever since she came aboard in the lead position two years ago.  Denise Stouffer was ALSO who I talked to at the DOE last summer when the anonymous Providence Creek teacher and staff crowd had me post their complaints and their attempt to join the union.  Nothing came of that.  Hell, Denise Stouffer even told me her office did a thorough investigation and found none of their claims to be true.  Imagine that!  And now she is their Head of School!

I’ve talked to Stouffer a bit over the past couple years.  There is something off.  Something… I don’t know… call it… a trust issue.  I don’t always believe her.  I know, as the head of the Charter School Office at the DOE it was her job to oversee charters under the DOE’s authority.  She certainly wasn’t going to give me any more ammunition than I already had.  But I heard of too many folks going to her about things and then bad things happened.  Usually a termination at a charter school.  God forbid you go to the state agency overseeing many charter schools and actually lodge a beef against them.  But that was how it was.

I still smell a stink from PCA.  Something has NEVER felt right about that place.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Stouffer isn’t leading the Charter School Office anymore.  I’m also glad Chuck Taylor is retiring.  But this kind of thing doesn’t get PCA off my radar.  Not at all.  The fact that NO official charges ever came out against anyone at PCA with their own charter school money theft thing.  In the prosecutions that did occur, it wasn’t the school pressing charges.  That came from either the feds or Delaware’s Attorney General office.  Their was a whole damn audit report with tons of findings showing there was theft at PCA.  So how the hell did the statute of limitations run out on that?  Like I said, something smells like three-month old fish over there in Clayton.

While there is nothing in Delaware state code against a DOE employee taking a job at any Delaware school, this one seems off.  I probably wouldn’t care if this were any other school.  But Stouffer was the person who was supposed to conduct a proper investigation into PCA when the “We’re Worried” crew went to her and NOTHING happened from that tells me something was hushed.  And she had the unmitigated gall to act offended to me based on what I wrote about her role with things at PCA knowing she used her position at DOE to leverage herself to the top position at one of the charters she had to oversee really ticks me off.  This is a conflict of interest but of course nothing will happen because We Are Delaware!  Before the PCA parents start hammering me with the “she got the job because she was qualified” schtick, there were many qualified over the past three years to take that job.  This oh-so-convenient hiring leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.  But I really shouldn’t be surprised.

 

What Tom Wagner’s Retirement Means For The State Auditor’s Office

The loooooooong-time State Auditor, Tom Wagner, announced he was retiring last night at the annual Delaware GOP Lincoln Dinner.  He couldn’t think of a single Republican to take his place.  As many have suggested, the flip-flopper Kathy McGuiness should switch from Democrat to Republican since that is where her heart lies.  Which would leave Dennis Williams as the sole filed Democrat.  May I present a third option… Continue reading

Kuumba, DE College Prep, Academy of Dover, Family Foundations, Providence Creek, DE Military Academy, Pencader…When Do We Make It Stop?

Charter school financial abuse.  It happens.  All the time in Delaware.  It doesn’t matter what the amount is, despite what the News Journal writes.  These are adults, playing with taxpayer money meant for students, not their own pocket.  But our State Government allows this to happen.  Delaware has no Inspector General.  Legislation meant to curtail these types of activities and lend transparency is held in limbo or doesn’t pass.  And the Delaware Charter School Network lobbies against it.  State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 would allow more oversight of charters through more extensive audits.  Every single one of the House Republicans, along with the House Education Committee Chair Earl Jaques and the Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf voted no.  It passed the House on June 30th, but Senator David Sokola refused to let it be heard on the Senate floor unless it was heard in committee first.  Yet, numerous other bills had rules suspended that evening.

These schools are under the purveyance of the Delaware Department of Education and Red Clay Consolidated School District.  Why do these matters come out years after the fact after the damage is already done?  These are not elected board members at charters.  And their leaders are picked by these unelected board members.  Many of the charters websites are a joke.  Minutes aren’t always posted, agendas aren’t posted, sometimes even financial monthly statements aren’t put up.  No charter board records their meetings.  No purchase card activity is listed separately from their monthly financial statement, if it even includes that.  None of these so-called leaders have ever done jail time.  The average citizen would in a New York minute.  But we want to hold up these leaders as if they don’t walk on the same ground as the rest of us.  We don’t want to hold them accountable, but by God, we will get those traditional school districts in line.

Let me get one thing straight.  I like Jennifer Nagourney, the executive director of the Charter School Office at the DOE.  I think if she had her way, there would be many changes with charter schools.  I also believe her hands are tied by her bosses who look the other way over these kinds of offenses.  The school goes on formal review, we have the dog and pony show with the Charter School Accountability Committee, a public comment period, a formal Public Hearing, and then the State Board meets and says “Golly gee, how did this happen?” or “Why is this happening so much?”  But they put forth nothing to attempt to stop it.  But they will sneak in regulation after regulation to hold teachers and schools accountable based on a bogus assessment.  It has become a joke.  The State Board and the leaders at the DOE will kiss Rodel’s ass while they pay millions of dollars to consultants to “fix” our schools.  And the results of all these reports are always the same.

The Head of School at Kuumba Academy, named in the Delaware State Auditor’s report today sits on the Accountability Framework Working Group.  If you are not aware, this committee has the task of how to frame Delaware’s accountability school report card.  If Sally Maldonado can’t manage finances correctly and allows herself to be reimbursed for funds that are already included in her job function and her salary, can we trust her to help lead our public schools with decisions as big as this?

And then we have Delaware College Prep Board President Yardise Jones telling the State Auditor’s office “I am not following why DCPA needs to justify expenses incurred to run its business.”  While schools deal with business, the problem in Delaware is far too many “leaders” and “reformers” look at and treat schools like a business.  Children are not a profit center.  They go to school to learn.  They are not there for kickbacks into your piggy bank.  They are not there for the extra perks you get for your non-elected position on a board or your “entitlement” as a leader picked by a non-elected board.  If you want to steal from children (yes, it is stealing no matter how you slice that cake), get the hell out of education.  I have no sympathy for thieves who recklessly allow themselves to take funds that are not their own and then make excuses later.  And Delaware General Assembly legislators: you need to do something about this.  About all this education nonsense in our state.  You don’t answer to Rodel, or the Delaware Charter Schools Network, or even to Governor Markell.  You answer to the people that elected you.  The people are sick of the abuse and scandal.  And we are waking up.  Just because you get 200 emails from charter school parents after a p.r. blitz from Kendall Massett with a scripted response, that doesn’t mean passing a bill designed to fend off this kind of abuse is wrong.  It is the only right thing to do, so get off your buts and do something.  Pass House Bills 186 and 61 in January.  Stop the fraud playing out in our state.  Unless you want to join the unelected on some charter school board.

*This article has been corrected to state every single one of the House Republicans voted no on House Bill 186, not the House Democrats.   The only House Dems that voted no were Pete Schwartzkopf and Earl Jaques.