Today, the Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education released the final report for the formal review of Odyssey Charter School. While Delaware media covered a good deal of this, there is some new information. In addition, the Odyssey Board of Directors sent out two letters to the Odyssey Community from the Wilmington Chapter of the AHEPA organization regarding their role with the Ithaka Learning Center that has been the center of a lot of allegations of financial shenanigans at Odyssey. Continue reading
The funny thing about facts, my friends, is that despite the attempts of the board, they cannot be interpreted. They cannot be changed, and they cannot be maligned for they are facts. And the facts are that this Board violated state laws, DOE rules and regulations and maybe even criminal code laws.
So yes, our books are pristine. Every dollar is accounted for. The problem is the dollars and where they went. Where they buried those invoices under what budget lines. Because it’s there. And if the State Auditor would do her job we could actually find that out.
Odyssey Charter School is in trouble. Big trouble. On the dawn of their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting for their formal review this Monday, an article by Delaware Public Media came out showing even more financial abuse going on at the Greek-themed charter school. Meanwhile, the CSAS initial report came out along with the transcript for their public hearing and they are explosive! The transcript reveals what has been going on with teachers at the school and what led to the eventual decision to unionize. Continue reading
After the News Journal reported yesterday that Design Thinking Academy was closing a week earlier than expected, new documents showcase the amount of cover-up that was going on at the Delaware charter school that won $10 million dollars from the XQ Institute. The cover-up concerned a federal grant for funding that allegedly involved fraud by at least four employees who were terminated for their actions. Continue reading
Yesterday, the Delaware State Board of Education voted in the majority to put Odyssey Charter School under formal review for six violations of Delaware state code. Continue reading
Rumors began circulating in the fall that Las Americas ASPIRA Academy would be submitting a major modification request to add high school grades. What I didn’t count on were the huge amount of fallacies and grandiose boasting within the application itself. Continue reading
We can’t celebrate successful schools that don’t celebrate diversity, period.
During the State Board of Education meeting tonight, a fascinating conversation took place concerning diversity at Newark Charter School. While Delaware Charter Schools Network Executive Director Kendall Massett did not say a word during the talk, she did something that exhibited a distinct brand of white privilege that had to be seen to be believed. Lucky for me, I saw it. Continue reading
On December 20th, the State Board of Education will decide on seven charter school renewals at their monthly meeting after hearing the decision by Delaware Secretary of Education Dr. Susan Bunting. Meanwhile, the Red Clay Consolidated School District Board of Education will decide on Charter School of Wilmington’s charter renewal. Two charters want a ten-year renewal. Two have submitted minor modification requests to decrease enrollment. Yesterday, the Delaware DOE’s Charter School Office released the final reports for all seven charters up for renewal through their office. Continue reading
When you don’t have a leader going on a fifth month is it any wonder the Charter School Office is going to Hell in a hand basket? As the authorizer for seven charter schools under renewal this year, the Delaware Department of Education can’t even follow their own timeline. It seems like things are going on behind the scenes with Newark Charter School during all this. Continue reading
Typically after a blogger posts something about the Delaware Department of Education they act pretty fast in trying to get something website related fixed. Not the case with their Charter School Renewal section of their website. I had to hunt last month’s State Board of Education agenda to find a document showing when the Charter School Accountability Committee meetings and public hearing will be held.
Last night I put up a screenshot of their charter renewal web page. It was blank. It looks like they did go into it today to modify the already blank page. How does a blank page get modified?
So like I said, I did find a timeline somewhere else.
Let’s see…today is October 15th. Looks like there are two public hearings tonight. There are three tomorrow night. Two last week. But what the heck is the public supposed to comment on when there are no renewal documents available? Are they supposed to say “I’m drawing a blank on why I love/hate this charter school?” This is an insult to the charter school crowd. I believe this is also a violation of State Code, Title 14. But what do I know? (more than the DOE these days)
Get with the program DOE! You are growing more incompetent by the day! If you are having technical issues, put a note on the page. We know you went on that page today! Did DelawareCAN/Atnre Alleyne hack into the DOE’s website last week too? And why are they having public hearings before the first CSAC meetings? Typically it is the other way around. Secretary Bunting, it is time to wake up now! This shouldn’t be THIS easy for me!
I will update this if the DOE gets around to updating their non-transparent website or they modify the blank page again.
Good luck finding out any information on the many Delaware charter schools that are up for renewal this December. Turns out the Charter School Office scrubbed that part of their website on Thursday. This same office has also gone without a leader since July 1st, three and a half months after Denise Stouffer left the role for Providence Creek Academy.
While I’m sure the DOE will call this a simple technical error, that is one big error! How do you empty a whole webpage?
I checked this page today because I knew the Charter School Accountability Committee would be holding their first meetings with the many charter schools under renewal this month. The last thing I wanted to see was a blank page.
So which charter schools are up for renewal?
Delaware Design-Lab Design Thinking Academy, First State Military Academy, Freire, Greak Oaks, Kuumba, Newark Charter School, and Positive Outcomes. Maybe when the Charter School Office gets the email tomorrow morning about me writing this blog post they will restore the page.
The Charter School Office leader position has been posted twice for recruitment. Does nobody want this job or is the DOE looking for someone in particular? My bet would go to the former. I’m sure any applicant would know that just having the role would put them in my crosshairs. Which is fine as long as you are transparent and aren’t doing the shady charter school cover-up stuff that would cause me to write something bad about you.
We saw a charter school collapse this fall while the Charter School Office remained without a leader. And now we should expect that office to deal with seven charter renewals? Sounds like Secretary of Education Susan Bunting’s idea of the DOE as a support organization is a bit of a misnomer. I see it as not-so-organized chaos.
A Delaware charter school leader sent an email about student climate and discipline to their staff in April. While I understood some of the leader’s concerns,
referring to your students as monkeys in a circus is probably not the wisest thing to say in this day and age. If you don’t believe me, ask Roseanne Barr. Even if it could possibly be explained in any context, (see “Not My Circus Not My Monkeys” for why this is crossed out) another email sent from a former staff member only cements the racist tone of the school leader given what the school has been doing gave me some heartburn because of what it suggests. Continue reading
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