Breaking News: The Delaware Academy of Yachting Charter School

Yes, you heard it right.  The Delaware Academy of Yachting Charter School.  This is a hot topic today at the State Board of Education Retreat down at Dewey Beach.  Perhaps you never heard of this school before.  But it exists.  At least on paper (or pdf if you want to be technical).  Did a charter school change their name?  Is this a new charter school?  I would have to assume this school is down in Sussex County if it is a yachting school.  The Delaware DOE loves to abbreviate everything, so they call this the DAY School.

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It looks like Happy Days are here again!  The last time I did an article like this was a few weeks ago.  I wrote Governor Markell submitted a video application to become Hillary Clinton’s (if elected President) U.S. Secretary of Education.  It was a joke.  It was the Governor’s weekly address.  Many folks didn’t read the whole article.  Let’s see if that happens again.

But the document talking about the DAY School does exist, as seen here.  Sometimes you just have to lighten the mood a bit.  The State Board is discussing the charter renewal process for this year’s charter renewals.  To give an example for the presentation, the Charter School Office created this imaginary charter school.  But someone will think this is the real deal.  Don’t.  It’s fake.  And no, I don’t consider this a waste of taxpayer money.

Will Prestige Academy Survive Charter Renewal?

The outlook for Prestige Academy is not good in my opinion.  Like I just posted in the Academy of Dover charter renewal article, one of the biggest factors going against the school is the state assessment which is extremely dangerous to any public school in Delaware.  But the biggest danger this school faces is a case of Wilmingtonitis.  There are just too many charter schools in Wilmington and Prestige faces serious enrollment issues.

Despite their recent modification, Prestige still faces enrollment issues.  All Delaware charter schools are required to meet 80% of their enrollment by April 1st before the next academic year begins.  The school was placed on formal review along with two other Delaware charter schools last year.  They barely got their enrollment up by the time they were put on probation as recommended by then Secretary of Education Murphy and passed by the State Board of Education.  According to the Charter School update presented to the State Board of Education in April, Prestige Academy was at 76% of their enrollment for the 2016-2017 school year as of April 19th, with 182 students enrolled based on their approved charter enrollment of 240 students, thus putting them ten students shy of meeting the mark.

The most startling part from the Delaware Department of Education charter renewal report is the following:

Should Prestige Academy Charter School not make a deposit of funds sufficient to cover the school’s end of year expenditures in May, the Department of Education may take measures to freeze the school’s spending and establish payroll reserves.

That is NOT a good place for any school to be in.  It means there are very serious concerns about their financial viability.  In the below response to the DOE charter renewal report, the school does not even address their enrollment and financial issues.  That is not a good start to what will be a long seven months until the State Board of Education issues its final recommendation about Prestige Academy’s charter renewal on December 15th of this year.  With that being said, can Wilmington take yet another charter school closing down and the instability this causes for the students who have to transition to another school?  With no less than four charter schools closing down in upper New Castle County in the past three years (Pencader Business School, Moyer, Reach Academy for Girls, and Delaware Met), most of these schools serviced high populations of low-income and minority students.  While they obviously didn’t get a lot of things right, it still contributed to some of the current problems we are seeing in Wilmington education.

 

 

Will Academy Of Dover Survive Charter Renewal?

The Academy of Dover is going through the very laborious charter renewal process with the Delaware Department of Education.  On April 30th, the DOE gave the school their renewal report and AoD had 16 days to respond.  The school had a rough couple years.  Between a very damaging state auditor report on their former head of school embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars, low high-stakes testing scores, a very large settlement with a former management company, and compliance issues, they have had their hands full.  The former assistant principal now leads the school.  A former principal from Town Pointe Elementary School in Capital School District runs the curriculum now.  The board has shifted and received training in areas that caused some of the problems.  Will it be enough?

This charter renewal comes at an interesting time.  The 2014-2015 school year was the first year Smarter Balanced came into play.  As such, the scores from that year don’t really count, but the DOE is using the ratings from the Delaware School Success Framework as a substitute for their Academic Framework.  Let me say from the start, I feel bad for charter schools in the respect that the state assessment plays such a large part in anything going on with the DOE.  AoD has a large population of low-income and minority students who typically fare worse on these tests than other schools.

Other factors that could affect their renewal involve Noel Rodriguez, their local school district, and the scores from the 2015-2016 SBAC.  The former Head of School, Noel Rodriguez, will face charges at some point.  I know of at least one other Delaware charter where the Attorney General’s office recently issued subpoenas about their own similar issues.  Yet another Delaware charter had their board file for insurance claims due to embezzlement at their own school from former leaders.  So something is coming which will put the school in the spotlight when Rodriguez faces charges.  However, this issue already came up in their 2015 formal review and they were not shut down for it then so the DOE should not put them under the same scrutiny twice.

Capital School District, under the new leadership of Superintendent Dr. Dan Shelton, is looking at their own district with their Strategic Plan.  What comes out of that, to improve the district, could affect AoD in the long run in terms of enrollment.  But it should have no bearing on their renewal process.

The scores from the recent Smarter Balanced Assessment for the school will not play into their academic framework since it is not a part of the renewal report, but the impression could taint the process.  Once again, I will stress my opinion these should not even factor into their charter renewal, but the DOE and I do not agree on this point.

I will admit I have softened my stance on Delaware charter schools a bit.  My own experience with them tainted my view a bit.  I still don’t agree with some of their very discriminatory practices up in Wilmington and the only one in Sussex County.  But I believe they are just as much a victim as traditional school districts are with the DOE in terms of very bad regulations, mandates, and accountability.  Academy of Dover and I had a frosty relationship in the past, but that has warmed up a bit in recent months.  Many of the complaints against most charter schools are a result of politics and tainted legislation by people in Dover who should really know better.   I believe the Delaware Charter Schools Network adds immensely to the perceptions against charters.  With that caveat, Academy of Dover has a former State Representative on their board who does carry a bit of clout in Kent County so politics can play a part to help the school.

Many of the issues with Academy of Dover are well-known by the DOE and have come up before in formal reviews.  There really aren’t any new complaints which suggests the school has fixed many of the issues since Noel Rodriguez left.  No school is perfect, but Academy of Dover seems to have turned a lot around in the past year and a half.  Rodriguez controlled the school and left a considerable amount of damage in his wake.

My one concern in the below response from the school is this 11 week Smarter Balanced Boot Camp after school for struggling students.  In this era of high-stakes accountability, schools are under the gun for kids to do well on these tests.  But they can go overboard with this effort.  Calling anything a boot camp with education is a bad idea in my opinion.  It suggests a dire need for these kids to do well on these tests regardless of the cost.  The sooner we can get schools to stop giving in to this very bad proficiency environment, the better things will be in the long run.  It gives the Delaware DOE all the power.  But I also don’t run a school with that kind of pressure thrust upon me so it is easy for me to say that.

I know the school had special education issues in the past, but we won’t know until June how they may have improved.  That is when the DOE issues their special education compliance annual reports.  However, those are usually about three years behind and would reflect the height of the Noel Rodriguez era so that should be taken into consideration as well.  Special education is a hot mess in Delaware overall.  There seems to be a mass amount of confusion between Response to Intervention and true special education.  This is an ongoing issue that will only get worse if we stay in this high-stakes accountability environment.

Dr. Steven Godowsky, the Delaware Secretary of Education will issue his final recommendation to the State Board of Education at their December 15th board meeting where they will vote on Academy of Dover’s charter renewal.

Below is the charter renewal report from the Delaware DOE and Academy of Dover’s response:

 

 

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

Providence Creek Academy Knew About Their Financial Abuse & Still Backed Sokola’s Non-Transparency Audit Bill

As revealed just half an hour ago, Providence Creek Academy was the latest in the never-ending “Delaware Charter School Financial Abuse Scandals”.  They knew this report was coming out.  You would think they would have shut up about charter school audit bills given this information.  But no, they went on their Facebook page and encouraged parents of students to fight State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186, which would help prevent these scandals from happening.

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I heard Providence Creek Academy’s Head of School, Chuck Taylor, was in attendance at last week’s Senate Education Committee meeting, along with the Delaware Charter Schools Network, of which he serves as the President of their board. Unconfirmed, but on the rumor circuit is the PCA board voting to oust Chuck as soon as they get a new school leader because he is not qualified to run the school based on what they want in a school leader. The school has been without an official head of school since Chuck “resigned” back in 2013. The current principal, Audrey Erschen, has been around this whole time but the board at PCA seems to be very loyal to her, despite family members causing problems at the school in the Fall of 2014. The DOE and the State Board of Education, fully aware of some of these financial abuses and that the school was under investigation, renewed PCA’s charter last month. While the school told the Charter School Accountability Committee about how they have improved financial control through all of this, they were not exactly forthcoming about the nature of the abuses. I even congratulated them on their supposed transparency based on what I knew, which wasn’t even close to what was in this report.

Campus Community, MOT, and Providence Creek All Get Their Charters Renewed

Three Delaware charter schools were up for charter renewal: Campus Community School, MOT Charter School, and Providence Creek Academy.  The State Board of Education approved their charter renewals.  Nice and short article.  No drama.  Done.  Next up…Delaware Met…

No Charter Renewal For Delaware College Prep

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Last night, the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education voted unanimously not to renew the charter for Delaware College Preparatory Academy.  The Delaware charter school serves students from Kindergarten through 5th grade.  But they will be closing at the end of the year.  Will they go quietly into the night?  Or should we expect some pushback like Moyer and Reach attempted to do last year?  My guess is on the latter.  At the meeting, Delaware College Prep Head of School Angela Dennis gave public comment asking the board to keep the school open.  Another teacher gave a public comment as well.  The Board had no discussion before the vote.  Many folks in the audience came just for the Delaware College Prep decision, and they were not happy about the decision.

Rumors had been swirling over on Kilroy’s about this type of action as far back as last March.  I wrote about the Red Clay charter committee’s recommendation for non-renewal last month.  In October, the Delaware Auditor of Accounts found Delaware College Prep had some suspicious financial abuses regarding Board President Yardise Jones but nowhere near the level of abuse at Family Foundations Academy and Academy of Dover.

It looks like another Delaware charter is one for the books.  Tomorrow, we find out about Delaware Met.  Will any other charters get yanked this year?  With the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores not counting for last year, I would tend to doubt it unless something goes terribly awry at one of them in the next six months.

Red Clay’s board did renew the charter for Delaware Military Academy as well as approving their modification request to increase their enrollment.  But only after they made the head of school promise that this was contingent on funding to build additions to the school.  Commandant Anthony Pullella said yes.

Family Foundations Financial Fiasco Timeline

For those just now tuning in to the Family Foundations Academy story based on the Delaware Auditor of Accounts investigation released yesterday, I put together a chronological timeline of everything FFA related.  While the News Journal claims to be “following this story since January”, after their forensic audit was publicly released, myself, Avi Wolfman-Arent with WHYY/Newsworks and Kilroy’s Delaware were hammering this story out well before them.  Everything you need to know about the FFA story is in here, along with aspects not even touched on by the State Auditor’s inspection.  Kilroy first broke the news about stuff going on there!

12/12/14: Kilroy found it first while going through the DOE website! https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/something-for-delaware-state-representative-debbie-hudson-re-charter-school-transparency-arneduncan-washingtonpost-edude-netde-dedeptofed-destateboarded-usedgov-educationoig-huffingtonpost/

12/12/14: More complaints coming in for FFA’s charter renewal: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/tnj_malbright-more-family-foundations-complaints-sent-to-the-de-doe-charter-school-office-state-board-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-roof_o-netde-edude-de/

12/12/14: Kilroy finds the numerous attorney fees going out of FFA: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/delaware-charter-schools-are-a-bonanza-for-lawyers-omg-look-at-this/

12/13/14: FFA & DCSN Connections: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/13/de-charter-school-network-connections-with-family-foundations-academy-disaester-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-tnj_malbright-doverpost-thestatenews-destateboarded-dedeptofed-governormarkell-wsj-th/

12/14/14: Peyton Place & The Satisfaction Officer: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/peyton-place-at-family-foundations-academy-the-satisfaction-officer-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-roof_o-governormarkell-delawarebats-rodel-netde-edude-delaw/

12/16/14: FFA under investigation by Delaware State Auditor’s office: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/breaking-news-family-foundations-academy-under-financial-investigation-with-state-auditor-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-apl_jax-rceaprez-governormarkell-destateboarded-dedeptofed-tnj_malbright-de/

12/17/14: Sean Moore no longer on board at Delaware Charter School Network: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/family-foundations-acad-head-of-school-sean-moore-no-longer-treasurer-of-delaware-charter-school-network-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-tnj_markell-avi_wa-wboc-w/

12/18/14: FFA’s fate decided at State Board of Education meeting: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/live-from-delaware-state-board-of-education-meeting-charter-school-decisions-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-nannyfat-ecpaige-roof_o-destateboarded-dedeptofed-delawarebats-netde/

12/19/14: Avi with Newsworks covers the State Board of Education meeting: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/76455-delaware-shuts-one-charter-school-spares-another

12/19/14: FFA under scrutiny by State Board of Education: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/family-foundations-academy-potentially-serious-allegations-of-financial-mismanagement-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-rceaprez-apl_jax-ecpaige-nannyfat-avi_wa-tnj_malbright-delawarebats-netde/

12/21/14: Kilroy ponders on criminal charges for Family Foundations leaders: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/if-allegations-are-substantiated-against-family-foundation-will-their-be-criminal-charges-nope/

12/23/14: FFA Board Meeting: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/family-foundations-academy-board-meeting-tonight-kilroysdelaware-ed_in_de-avi_wa-tnj_malbright-netde-edude-edchat-delaware/

12/30/14: The full Auphsite Consulting Family Foundations forensic audit report: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/4423/

12/30/14: Avi with Newsworks covers the Forensic Audit: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/76803-audit-details-financial-impropriety-at-delaware-charter

1/1/15: Kilroy talks about their Citizens Budget Oversight Committee: https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/is-family-foundation-keeping-their-cboc-in-the-dark-including-the-de-doe-rep/https://kilroysdelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/is-family-foundation-keeping-their-cboc-in-the-dark-including-the-de-doe-rep/

1/2/15: Plea to parents and teachers at FFA to tell the truth: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/family-foundations-parents-and-teachers-its-time-to-tell-the-truth/

1/3/15: The stories pour in from parents and teachers: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/a-family-foundations-academy-blast-from-the-past-id-love-to-see-them-try-this-now/

1/4/15: What more could FFA do wrong? You would be surprised: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/uh-oh-looks-like-we-got-a-bleeder-here-what-has-family-foundations-academy-done-now/

1/4/15: FFA was looking for new board members, so….: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/both-moore-brewington-out-at-family-foundations-academy-looking-for-new-board-members-should-I/

1/5/15: Avi covers the “on-leave” status of Sean Moore at FFA: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/77006-embattled-charter-head-placed-on-leave

1/6/15: The Bizarro World at FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/06/more-truly-bizarre-family-foundations-academy-stories-surface/

1/8/15: Did something happen at FFA today?: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/08/what-happened-at-family-foundations-academy-today-reporters-doe-letters-oh-my/

1/11/15: My public comment for FFA’s formal review: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/state-rep-kim-williams-public-comment-on-family-foundations-academy-wow/

1/13/15: FFA leaders fired, big board changes: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/big-changes-at-family-foundations-academy-moore-brewington-terminated-with-cause-board-members-resign/

1/13/15: Avi covers the firing of Moore and Brewington: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/77260-major-leadership-shakeup-at-troubled-delaware-charter

1/13/15: Avi covers the EastSide Charter School rescue: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/delaware/77263-distressed-charter-cleans-house-enlists-help-of-eastside-charter

1/13/15: State Rep. Kim Williams Public Comment for FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/state-rep-kim-williams-public-comment-on-family-foundations-academy-wow/

1/14/15: Details on FFA/East Side agreement: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/has-family-foundations-academy-become-eastside-charter-2-sure-looks-like-it/

1/15/15: Secretary Murphy, State Board and East Side Charter School save FFA: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/family-foundations-academy-fate-decided-handed-over-to-eastside-charter-placed-on-formal-review/

1/15/15: Avi covers the State Board meeting as well: http://www.newsworks.org/index.php/local/the-latest/77394-delaware-spares-troubled-charter-school

1/19/15: Unanswered questions about FFA and financial matters: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/family-foundations-academy-still-has-some-big-unanswered-questions/

2/7/15: Moore and Brewington and their future: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/next-stop-for-ex-family-foundations-head-brewington-moore-attorney-generals-office/

2/14/15: Moore and Brewington want their jobs back: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/say-what-sean-moore-and-dr-brewington-want-their-jobs-back-at-family-foundations-academy/

2/15/15: Questions about FFA & East Side arrangement: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/big-question-raised-regarding-east-side-charter-family-foundations-academy-arrangement/

3/16/15: Charter School Accountability Committee’s probation recommendation for FFA & new leaders getting snippy: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/eastside-and-family-foundations-overlords-getting-rather-snippy-with-doe-overreaching-a-bit/

3/22/15: Diane Ravitch jumps on the FFA story: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/03/22/family-foundations-academy-saved-by-state-board-as-they-get-ravitched/

4/7/15: FFA’s probation letter and news about Tennell Brewington: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/family-foundations-academy-their-conditions-for-probation-news-that-will-make-ja-flip-out/

7/17/15: FFA submits major modification to change locations for both schools: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/family-foundations-major-modification-to-move-buildings-to-reach-academy-plans-to-increase-enrollment/

8/22/15: FFA’s major modification approved by State Board of Education: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/family-foundations-major-modification-approved-by-state-board-of-education-potential-conflict-ahead/

9/6/15: Wondering when the State Audit investigation will be completed: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/family-foundations-academy-where-is-the-investigative-audit-are-they-still-on-probation/

9/9/15: FFA off probation status: https://exceptionaldelaware.wordpress.com/2015/09/19/family-foundations-academy-off-probation-status/

MOT Charter School’s Linda Jennings Resigns As Head Of School

In MOT Charter School’s September 23rd Board of Directors meeting, Head of School Linda Jennings announced she was leaving her position at the end of this school year.

Mrs. Jennings also provided the Board with her letter of resignation; for which the Board was disheartened to hear.  She will continue to serve as Head of School through the 2015-2016 school year and will further remain as a member of the Board of Directors.  The Board will set up a Search Committee immediately and a plan for disseminating this news into the school community was discussed.

This comes at a crucial time for MOT as they are going through their charter renewal and they just opened up their high school.  In terms of their renewal, the Charter School Accountability Committee had their initial meeting with MOT last week, and in a rare moment, the committee stated they did not need any additional information from MOT to proceed with the renewal process.  MOT was recently cleared of any wrongdoing in an investigation from the Delaware State Auditor’s office.  Linda Jennings has been with MOT since they opened in 2002, and has been the Head of School since the 2004-2005 school year.

Delaware College Prep & Delaware Military Academy Also Up For Charter Renewal…Will Delaware College Prep Survive?

Charter Schools authorized by the Red Clay Consolidated School District go through charter renewals, modifications, and formal reviews through Red Clay, not the Delaware Department of Education.  Both Delaware Military Academy and Delaware College Prep are up for charter renewal this year.  Delaware College Prep was in the news very recently when the State Auditor found some financial abuse going on by the school leader.  Kilroy’s Delaware has raised several red flags about this school in the past six months.  They are also on probation status based on their formal review last year for academic performance.  Here is their charter renewal application:

And the exhibits and other information that are mentioned in the application can be found here:

Interesting that they have no parent representative on their school board as of October 1st, but they are “actively looking”.  Here is the agenda for this portion of the Red Clay Consolidated Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, 10/21/15:

Last year, we saw Moyer and Reach Academy close.  Two years before that, Pencader Business School closed.  Will we have two more Delaware charters close this  year?  Delaware College Prep and The Delaware Met?  And what will fill the void?  New charter applications in Wilmington have a moratorium until at least 2017.  What I can see is more charters submitting modification requests to increase their enrollment.  In the meantime, keep an eye out on Delaware College Prep.  Just because the DOE doesn’t cover this is not an indicator that Red Clay won’t hold them accountable.  I would love to see their reaction to the State Auditor report!

Providence Creek Academy & Campus Community Public Hearing Transcripts

Last Monday evening, the night before the initial meetings with the Charter School Accountability Committee for their charter renewals, Providence Creek Academy and Campus Community School had their first public hearings.  Nobody spoke out against either school.  Instead it was stacked with board members, administration, and parents for PCA, and administration and teachers for Campus Community.  Parts of this are very humorous in the attempts to describe students to diamonds and whatnot.  With that being said, I did appreciate a lot of Campus Community’s efforts to help the low-income kids in their school, especially with the weekend backpacks.  That is a great service for kids!  See for yourself:

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…

MOT Charter Renewal Appears To Be A Slam Dunk!

MOT Charter School responded to the Delaware DOE Charter School Office Charter Renewal report today, and like my earlier report on Campus Community School in Dover, I would have to guess things are looking good for MOT’s charter renewal as well.

This is a school that meets standards on everything and has the past few years as well.  Nothing to report here.  The only negative thing I’ve ever heard about this school, which I’ve heard about pretty much all the charters, is their responses to parent opt-out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment.  But I can’t even say it’s a charter thing, cause many districts have been pretty bad in this area as well.  This charter renewal should be a slam dunk for them though.

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!

Providence Creek Academy Also Under Review By Delaware State Auditor

As highlighted in the below letter, Providence Creek Academy is also having the State Auditor’s office looking into their finances. This would be the third charter school in Delaware to have this publicly announced in less than six months. I posted an article not even two weeks ago where the State Auditor’s office did confirm they are reviewing other charters aside from the publicly known Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy. Now we have a third. How many more are there and why isn’t this public knowledge?

Of particular interest in this school is the fact they switched to the same independent auditor that Family Foundations Academy used for their annual audit last year. I pointed it out back in December, and it looks like Tom Wagner’s office noticed it too. Providence Creek Academy, along with Campus Community School and MOT Charter are up for charter renewal in the 2015-2016 school year.

It has become obvious the Delaware Department of Education knows what schools are under review by the State Auditor’s office. They need to disclose all of this information to the public instead of releasing this information piecemeal. It’s not just certain Delaware charter schools with issues of transparency, it’s also the Delaware DOE Charter School Office.

Campus Community & Providence Creek Begging Parents Not To Opt Out Cause Of “Charter Renewal”

Both Campus Community School and Providence Creek Academy have been telling parents they really shouldn’t opt their kids out because their charters are up for renewal next fall.  Even though the Smarter Balanced Assessment scores will not count against their school’s accountability for this school year.  I’ve even heard Campus is telling parents who do opt their child out not to bring the child to school during testing.

Parents, please don’t be fooled by this latest excuse schools are giving.  While it is true both schools are up for charter renewal, the Delaware Department of Education will most likely go by the MAP scores or some equivalent assessment to determine school accountability.  I can picture parents succumbing to these threats.  “Where will I send my child to if this great school closes?  Oh my!”  House Bill 50 can’t pass fast enough!  All these schools that are still acting like this are merely arranging deck chairs on the Titanic AS the ship is sinking…

Family Foundations Academy Saved By State Board As They Get Ravitched

The Delaware State Board of Education renewed the charter of Family Foundations Academy at their board meeting on March 19th.  The school is under a probation clause for six months, and they must give paperwork to the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education each month for half a year.  EastSide Charter essentially took over the school after Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington were terminated for stealing over $90,000 from one of the school’s accounts earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the famous education blogger Diane Ravitch picked up on the original story about Moore and Brewington yesterday.  Delaware doesn’t come up often on her blog, but she covers education on a national level.  Her blog gets 25,000 to 100,000 readers on a daily basis, so a lot of people read about FFA yesterday!  She did refer to Moore and Brewington as co-founders, but Moore came on the scene later.  To read the full Ravitchization of Family Foundations, please go here: http://dianeravitch.net/2015/03/21/delaware-charter-founders-fired-for-alleged-misuse-of-public-money/comment-page-1/#comment-2301018

Family Foundations Academy Still Has Some Big Unanswered Questions

Yay! The school has been saved by the graciousness of the Delaware Charter Schools Network!  We can all go back to our regular business.  Except for this one little item:

ONLINE CHECKBOOK DETAIL TRANSACTIONS

Department: FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY – Vendor: FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP
for
Period: FY 2015 Period 1 thru 6

No. of Payments: Amount:
5 $214,730.93
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 11/5/2014 $8,367.50 374930
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 9/24/2014 $155,000.00 362670
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 12/8/2014 $18,107.93 385007
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 11/5/2014 $13,255.50 374930
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 8/28/2014 $20,000.00 354800

Department: FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY – Vendor: FOX ROTHSCHILD LLP
for
Period: FY 2014

No. of Payments: Amount:
12 $140,000.00
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 5/2/2014 $10,000.00 321286
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 9/9/2013 $10,000.00 255886
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 4/8/2014 $20,000.00 313887
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 2/11/2014 $20,000.00 297503
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 1/9/2014 $10,000.00 288236
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 8/8/2013 $10,000.00 248818
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 6/19/2014 $10,000.00 337991
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 12/5/2013 $10,000.00 280331
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 10/15/2013 $10,000.00 265941
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 4/11/2014 $10,000.00 315273
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 11/14/2013 $10,000.00 274705
FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY LEGAL SERVICES 6/13/2014 $10,000.00 335458

We know this isn’t for Auphsite.  They already got paid:

Department: FAMILY FOUNDATIONS ACADEMY – Vendor: AUPHSITE HOLDING COMPANY
for
Period: FY 2015 Period 1 thru 6

No. of Payments: Amount:
22 $85,081.96

So how does a charter school of 800 students manage to accumulate $354,000 in attorney fees?  With one check alone being $155,000, this had to be something big.  Does this have anything to do with it?  From Avi Wolfman Arant’s Newsworks article last week:

The school’s lawyers recommended Family Foundations conceal that audit from the state, which did not become aware of the document until December.

Sorry, this school can pin everything on Moore and Brewington all they want, but there is something deeper at play here….

 

 

Big Changes At Family Foundations Academy: Moore & Brewington Terminated With Cause, Board Members Resign

At the Family Foundations Academy Board meeting last night, Sean Moore and Dr. Tennell Brewington, previously suspended with leave, were terminated by the board.  This ends their long tenure with the school amidst allegations of financial impropriety and mismanagement.

Two other board members, Byron Brooks and Gregory Smith resigned.  Out of the original board, only Monnica May and Rayne Fletcher remain.  There were five new additions to the board: Jocelyn Stewart, Faculty member Jason Casper, and three Eastside Charter Board members are coming over to the FFA board- Charlie McDowell, Thomas Humphrey and Charles Tolliver.  Sadly, I was not given any consideration in my bid for a board seat.  I think I’ll be okay.

With the new board, there is much more diversity.  Previously, the board had been all mostly all male African-Americans, but now there are four Caucasian and three African-American members with two of them being female and five male.  Dr. Lamont Browne from Eastside Charter will be supervising the situation at Family Foundations for the foreseeable future.

The big question will be if these changes are enough for the Delaware Department of Education, who will decide on the embattled school’s charter renewal this Thursday, January 15th, at the State Board of Education meeting.  Delaware Secretary of Education Mark Murphy and the State Board will determine if the school will remain open after the end of this school year.