When you have 24 charter schools in a state, 22 of which are authorized by the state Department of Education, there are going to be years where the amount of charter renewals are going to go up. This fall, the Delaware DOE Charter School Office and the Charter School Accountability Committee are going to have their hands full as seven charter schools go through their renewal process. Continue reading
Every year, the Delaware State Board of Education gets to vote on charter school renewals. This year, there are seven charter schools up for renewal. I believe this is a record and will keep the Charter School Office busy from now until then. But this year could be different for these renewals because of events going on the Delaware Department of Education and the State Board of Education that are beyond their control. Continue reading
Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security will have a new Director of Instruction as of July 1st. Deborah Panchisin resigned as an Executive Director of Instruction at Appoquinimink School District last month, effective July 1st. Greg Panchisin is the Chief Operating Officer at Las Americas ASPIRA Academy. Greg and Deborah Panchisin are married. Margie Lopez-Waite is the Head of School at Las Americas ASPIRA. Margie Lopez-Waite is the current President of DAPSS’ board. Margie Lopez-Waite is slated to be the next Head of School at Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security. Margie Lopez-Waite proudly boasted of having someone lined up to take over the position of Director of Instruction a few months ago at a Charter School Accountability Committee meeting when DAPSS was under formal review.
This is what happens when anyone is allowed to insert themselves into a leadership role at a charter school. They cause chaos and use personal connections to hire who they want and who cares if it is a very personal connection. Because they are two different schools, it is not against the law. But it is certainly a manipulative and scummy move. Please continue to tell me this is “for the students”. Margie Lopez-Waite played the Charter School Accountability Committee and the State Board of Education. And Secretary Bunting. And they fell for it hook, line and sinker.
The Panchisins make a combined income of $245,000 in their current roles. Deborah Panchisin makes $136k at Appoquinimink. Greg Panchisin makes $109k at ASPIRA. Say she gets a pay cut for her role at DAPSS. They would still most likely be making a combined income well over $200k. I imagine that handling instruction for 200 students as opposed to many more at Appo would be less work. Less stress.
This is Delaware…
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.
At the Delaware Department of Education building in Dover, the Charter School Accountability Committee recommended Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security stay open for another school year with very stringent conditions. At that point, Colonial’s Board of Education could very well decide to take over their charter. Queen Margie once again made it all about her. But the discussion that reached this point was very intense. Much more information here than you will find in the Delaware DOE press release. Continue reading
I’ve seen some arrogant stuff from charter schools in my day but this one takes the cake! Separating herself from the rest of the Board of Directors, Margie Lopez-Waite must be thinking her name adds extra oomph to the struggling Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security. Yes, being a Chairperson or President of any school board does give you a certain amount of power and responsibilities, but to distance yourself from the other equal board members is not a good idea. It makes the rest of the Board look weak in comparison. I’ve seen many charters where the head of the Board calls the shots. The rest of the Board winds up becoming a rubber stamp.
For Queen Margie, she has gained absolute control at the school. Obviously they need something since they are on formal review but I would prefer like-minded people working together as opposed to this self-created hierarchy.
Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security came out with their response to the initial Charter School Accountability Committee meeting. We learned Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting turned down the school’s request to submit a major modification to reduce their numbers. That makes sense since you can’t do that when you are on formal review. The school also made an attempt to compare their test scores to area high schools and show they really aren’t that bad when you compare them like this.
Since their modification won’t happen, that means they can’t switch their location for this school year or even next school year if they remain open by that time. That means they have to renew their lease with Fatima, the church that holds the lease on their building. Given that the school is at least $184,000 in the hole, this spells trouble. My sense is they are deeper in the hole than suggested but they found a way to hide it. Even though THIS WAS DISCUSSED AT THEIR FIRST MEETING WITH CSAC.
We also learned their teaching staff has some glaring holes in it. Out of their eight core teachers, three are on emergency certificates, two are vacant positions, and one has an initial license. What does that mean? This school’s teaching population is not up to snuff. 75% of them are not fully certified teachers.
Does Herb Sheldon make $185,000 as Principal of this school? According to their proposed budget for the 2018-2019 school year, that’s what it looks like. I hardly think a school of 200 students needs a Principal making THAT much money. Especially since he has NO academic background aside from human resources at another charter school.
What disturbed me the most about this school was their attrition rate with special education students. If you look at the below graph, you can see the number of students with disabilities dropping considerably each year as they go on to their next grade. What happens to these students? Are they counseled out? Expelled? Or do parents just say enough is enough and pull them out? Where are these students going when they leave DAPSS? To other charters or back to their regular feeder pattern? For their Grade 9 that started last year, they were at 32.9% special education. This year, those students in 10th grade are at 0% special education. What happened to those 25 students on an IEP? Same with the 9th graders that started in 2014-2015. In two years, they went from 27 IEPs to 16 to none. For a school that boasts about being able to handle high-needs students, I’m not seeing it! To begin training on special education law at a state and federal level before the 2018-2019 school year does NOT show a commitment to these students. That training should be going on NOW!
I love how the school talks about all the programs brought about by their former Curriculum Director, Erica Thomas, who is no longer with the school. Way to take someone else’s work and make it your own!
To read the pitiful response from the school, please see below. To read the appendices mentioned in the report, please go here.
For a few months there, I had a great source at the Delaware Department of Education. When Delaware MET went down at the end of 2015, there was a lot I didn’t publish about what was going on there. You will find out why shortly. I’m glad I trusted my gut and didn’t send Wilmington into chaos mode. The below emails, between Dave Morgan and myself, not only shed a lot of light on Delaware MET, but also the Delaware DOE itself. Different names are thrown around in these emails. Going back and reading these is always fun! The last email between Dave Morgan and myself is particularly enlightening given that DAPSS is finally under formal review. The incompetence at the DOE is plain to see in these emails. I wish I could have met Dave in person. I probably did but didn’t know about their secret alias with me. I’ve had a few suspicions over the years, but have been unable to prove it. Some parts of these emails I redacted for a few reasons. That’s my business! Continue reading
Sussex Montessori School went through their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting in their application process. I thought for sure, given this was their second attempt to apply for a charter, they would get it right and everything would be smooth sailing. Instead, their application is missing a lot of information. The committee smacked them up and down the court.
These are my favorite quotes from the report: Continue reading
On the surface, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security is toast. But many key players in the Delaware education world are busy making plans to make sure that outcome does not happen. How do you get a school way below enrollment to survive? You partner up and you do it fast! Continue reading
Providence Creek Academy has been around well over a decade. Aside from a year off, Chuck Taylor has been the Head of School at PCA. This school year will be his last according to a letter he sent to PCA parents last week. Taylor will officially retire at the end of this school year.
In 2014, Taylor returned to the school after he “resigned” the year before. When he returned, his salary increased dramatically. In Delaware, your pension is based on your three highest years of salary. Coincidence? I think not.
In any event, as far as I’ve heard, Taylor will continue to serve on the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware DOE. As well, he is also President of the Board at the Delaware Charter School Network.
In her resignation letter, former Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security Board of Directors President Sherese Brewington-Carr expressed a desire for the charter school to close. As well, she opened a can of extreme whoop-ass on Delaware Charter School Network Executive Director Kendall Massett. Five days later, the school and board went through their first meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee and went through a very intense meeting. Las Americas Aspiras Academy Head of School Margie Lopez-Waite lambasted the school in the meeting while begging CSAC to keep the school open another year. Continue reading
Delaware Academy of Public Safety and Security made some substantial moves at an emergency board meeting Friday night. Including having an existing charter school leader become the President of their board! As well, the distressed charter school put a for lease sign up at their current property. Apparently they have an eye on another charter school’s vacant property.
Margie Lopez-Waite, the current head of school for Las Americas Aspiras Academy in New Castle, DE took over as Board President at their emergency board meeting Friday night. I can’t recall a time seeing an active charter school leader from one school become a board member on another. But this type of situation is not unprecedented. For a brief time, Colonial Superintendent Dusty Blakey serves on Aspiras’ Board of Directors.
On Tuesday, DAPSS will have their first formal review meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Dept. of Education in Dover. A growing discontent with the former President, Sherese Brewington-Carr, led to the changes. As well, a former board member named Dennis O’Brian went from Emeritus (on the board in honor but not active) to active. Some other new board members were added as well. Many folks have asked me if Sherese is related to Tennell Brewington from Family Foundations Academy and I have not been able to confirm any kinship. Some have speculated they are but Sherese has categorically denied this ever since Tennell’s financial fiasco a few years ago.
Meanwhile, the school put a for lease sign up at their school. They want to move into the old Family Foundations Academy property in New Castle. This is now an administration building for East Side Charter School and Charter School of New Castle (formerly Family Foundations). The first public hearing for DAPSS’ formal review will take place at this building on February 13th.
The Board of Directors at DAPSS has not put up any of their meeting minutes since their November meeting even though they have had three meetings since. They are also out of compliance with putting up their audio recordings of their board meetings as none have appeared since the November meeting as well.
Sources tell me Charlie Copeland has not been active with the school for a very long time and he actually wanted the school closed due to the dwindling enrollment two years ago.
The last time a charter school went through these kind of board member changes was Family Foundations Academy during their own formal review. However, even though FFA was going through a financial-fraudpalooza, they had the student count to justify staying open. DAPSS does not. This should be interesting!
Charter schools in Delaware- they are like a soap opera!
Last night, the Delaware State Board of Education unanimously put Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security on formal review for academic and financial reasons. The 6-0 vote puts the New Castle charter school through a two-month review period where they have to meet with the Charter School Accountability Committee and go through public hearings. The placement of a charter school to formal review status does not mean they are being shut down. Putting a school under formal review is the process. Any decision to leave a school open or shut it down takes place after a formal review and the findings that come out of that.
I knew their enrollment was low but that isn’t the only reason they went under the formal review knife. Academics played a big part. This is always tough for me to support because I loathe the use of standardized testing in punishing any school. With DAPSS, they went from Smarter Balanced to the SAT in a two-year period. In 2015, the SAT was remade to include Common Core.
Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting will make her recommendation to the State Board of Education at their March 15th meeting and then the State Board votes on that recommendation. The letter from Secretary Bunting notifying the school of their formal review status, the timeline, and their performance matrices for each category are included below.
Either the Charter School Office was ready for the State Board to vote for the formal review or they are able to predict the future, because the below PDF was created at 1pm yesterday, four hours before the State Board of Education began their meeting! I would have to say the school’s founder, Charlie Copeland, is not happy about this!
Only one application came in for a new charter school this year in Delaware. It is the same one that applied last year but that school withdrew their application shortly after. Sussex Montessori School is going for it again this year.
The proposed school is looking for 260 students in grades K-3 and by year four they are hoping to have 455 students in K-6. There is only one charter school in Sussex County, Sussex Academy. There are some very familiar names in their founders list and interested parties with a board consisting of nine people. It sounds like they have their ducks in a row with this application.
What bothered me about their Executive Summary was this line:
It is clear that the traditional public schools are not working well for many children in Sussex County.
They based this on… what else… standardized test scores. We will NEVER learn, will we? This charter school isn’t even open and they are already assuming they can drive those Smarter Balanced test scores up. I know, whether you agree with this or not, you have to kiss the ring of the Delaware DOE by promising higher achievement on the not-so-Smarter Balanced Assessment. Shouldn’t there be more to education than this horrible measurement?
Sussex Montessori School does have three enrollment preferences in their application: siblings of students already enrolled, children of staff members, and children of the school’s founders.
The school is projecting a little less than 22% of their funding will come from local school districts for each year they are open.
To read the entire application and all the attachments, please go here. The leadership team of Sussex Montessori School will have their first meeting with the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee on January 24th.
All five of the Delaware charter schools have received renewal recommendations from the Charter School Accountability Committee (CSAC). The State Board of Education will decide if they agree at their December 14th meeting. Anyone wishing to submit formal public comment must do so by December 8th. Everything looks good for these charters except for one of them. Which one? Continue reading
What? Who in the world is Herbert Sheldon? Who is the Board? While you may not know this name right now unless you are very involved in Delaware education, you soon will. Why? Continue reading
What would you do with $145,000? Apparently, for Noel Rodriguez, it was whatever he wanted to do. But the money wasn’t his. Today, the former Principal of Academy of Dover pled guilty in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington according to Cris Barrish with WHYY.
Noel Rodriguez, 56, admitted in U.S. District Court in Wilmington that he stole in a number of ways, including charging personal expenses to four unauthorized school credit cards and a state credit card. He spent the money on electronics, travel, car expenses, gardening and camping equipment, home improvement items and a dog house.
According to the article, the newly christened U.S. Attorney, David Weiss, is in charge of Delaware when it comes to federal matters in court. Rodriguez got a $250,000 fine and will assuredly be facing jail time at his sentencing, up to ten years. What I would like to know is if part of that $250,000 fine goes back to Academy of Dover. I think it should. Taxpayers were robbed by Rodriguez, they deserve to have their tax money go back to what it was allocated for.
The article referenced the State Auditor of Accounts report, conducted by Kathleen Davies in 2014 and 2015.
“A major concern regarding the situation at the [school] is the length of time that passed without any intervention from oversight parties” the school board of directors and auditors, the Department of Education and the Charter School Accountability Committee, the report said.
It is my most fervent hope that all four of those entities know better now and this never happens again in Delaware.
Say, what about Providence Creek Academy? What is going on with their theft of school funds? Sean Moore and Tennell Brewington of Family Foundations Academy and now Rodriguez all pled guilty. What about PCA’s shenanigans? And the fact that one of the entities Davies slammed in her audit investigation just so happens to have PCA’s Head of School on it? The good old Charter School Accountability Committee. Word on the street is Chuck Taylor will be resigning soon and collecting that nice increased pension based on the past three years of service when he came back to rescue the school during the fall of 2014. Say, is that matter still under investigation?
For Rodriguez, this puts a capper on that shenanigan. As the article mentioned, Academy of Dover is still open and they actually increased their enrollment this year.
For well over two years, Providence Creek Academy has been searching for a new Head of School. Let me repeat that. For over two years. And guess who is on the committee to hire a new Head of School? Chuck Taylor. The not-so-interim and more like permanent Head of School. How many interviews have they had? What is the hold up? If I were a betting man, Chuck is so glued to that school he weeds out anyone who could possibly replace him. In reviewing their board minutes for the past nine months, there has not been one mention of this committee or any type of interviews for a candidate.
I’ve always been curious how a charter school leader can hold that position when they aren’t even certified to do so. We hold that standard for traditional school districts, why not a charter school? This came up with the Delaware DOE during the school’s renewal a year and a half ago but I haven’t heard squat about it since. I would have to believe more than a handful of qualified candidates knocked on their door for this job. I have a sneaky feeling there are some in the PCA community who are wondering the same thing. How they aren’t exactly enamored with Chuck in this role. That they may be questioning his ability to effectively govern the school with his qualifications. I’ve also heard, and not just recently, that he rules over the school AND the board with an iron fist. A season of discontent? You better believe it! Many feel Taylor abuses his position and he owns their Board of Directors.
When he isn’t busy with PCA, Chuck helps out with the Delaware Charter Schools Network as the President of their board. He also serves on the Charter School Accountability Committee at the Delaware Department of Education. How does a former shop teacher get so involved with charter school policy at the state level? Which will be very busy in the fall with no less than five charter school renewals on their plate.
In 2013, Chuck Taylor left Providence Creek. He “resigned”. He resurfaced in the fall of 2014 after a brief stint as interim Head of School at Campus Community School in Dover. The circumstances surrounding his sudden “resignation” are mysterious. I’m sure the reasons are tied up in some type of non-disclosure agreement. But when truly strange things started happening at the school in October of 2014 and many became worried about school safety and security, Taylor came back. It was meant to be temporary, but two years and eight months later he is still there. He guided the school through their renewal process last year but during all that one of their former employees was named in an audit investigation and alleged to have embezzled money from the school.
In April, the PCA Foundation was approved as a 501c3 non-profit. Somehow, this will allow the school to get a loan from the USDA according to their April board minutes. It also appears the Delaware Department of Finance approved the school for procurement cards with a maximum limit of $5000. Their board minutes do not specify how many p-cards the school received and which staff will receive them. The school was selected as one of two pilot schools for the changes to Delaware’s teacher evaluation system. The changes, which came from House Bill 399 last year, were not implemented at PCA and they bowed out of the new alternative pilot. They did, however, hire a non-educator to conduct their teacher evaluations at the school. This DPAS-II coordinator’s education experience consists of summer camp counselor experience. During the Spring, many parents became upset over a field trip waiver which parents felt did not adequately protect students. Quite a few spoke out in public comment during their May Board of Directors meeting.
To those who want to say “Here he goes again, bashing on charter schools”, that is NOT the case here. Aside from the ongoing Newark Charter School ruckus, I’ve probably been harder on districts than charters in the past six months. But all I will say is there is legitimate cause for concern and I’ll leave it at that. In this era of reduction in workforce notices and budget cuts, fear is a very powerful thing. I would love it if educators at PCA went on the record with whatever is going on there, but I also understand a need for staying quiet in what could very easily be seen as a hostile work environment. Delaware has fairly extensive Whistleblower laws on the books.
Just when things were getting quiet in Delaware Charterville, it looks like Delaware Design-Lab is having some very big organizational issues. The school submitted a minor modification request that has to be seen to be believed. The Head of School quit in February and there are all sorts of financial issues going on surrounding their LLC status and even the name of the school! Given that the school did not meet their April 1st required numbers of 80% enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year and the bombshells in this application, I don’t blame Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting for referring this to the Charter School Accountability Committee. The situation looks rather complicated and it needs a set of eyes to get more information on this developing situation over at what could soon be called DDLHS. I had a feeling something was going on with this school.
This will be short and sweet, but the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee voted on Monday to recommend the Academy of Dover for charter renewal with no conditions. The committee, created through the Delaware Dept. of Education Charter School Office, will issue their final report next week. In December, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky will make his recommendation to the State Board of Education at their monthly meeting. The State Board will then have a vote on Academy of Dover’s charter renewal.
One major thing that came up at their initial committee meeting last month was their enrollment. It dipped this year and has been on that trend. The committee advised Academy of Dover that if this trend continues they could face major obstacles in the future which could put them in a very precarious financial position. Charter schools in Delaware are required to be at 80% of their approved enrollment by April 1st before the next school year. If they don’t, they go on formal review. This will be something Academy of Dover will have to deal with going forward until they get their numbers back up.
I think the closure of any school is a very serious decision and if it has to happen, it better be for some damn good reasons. Academy of Dover is not anywhere close to that level. I will do a follow-up on this when the report comes out next week.