Can Charlie Copeland’s First Responder School Knock My Socks Off?

I have never heard of a charter school basing their model solely on first responders.  I’ll just get that out in the open.  It is a rather unique model, but for a secondary school model?  I don’t know if I would choose to send my child there, even if he wanted to be a first responder.  Apparently, many parents agree as the school’s enrollment is precariously low.  Even though the Charter School Accountability Committee thinks things are on the upswing, it is based on estimates.  If their current trends continue, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security will be on life support very soon.  The DOE will be on them, STAT! (Sorry, had to do it!)

The Delaware GOP Chairman, Charlie Copeland, is also the President of DAPSS Board of Directors.  When I posted an article about the school’s low numbers the other day, Mike Matthews shared the article on Facebook which drew Copeland to the school’s defense.  He responded to my many questions about their enrollment issues and the timing of their modification request with the following:

Just simply call the school and take a tour. You can get answers to all your questions. Be prepared to have your socks knocked off. Life is so much simpler if you just do the right thing rather than join the wackos who make up conspiracies.

I may just take him up on it!  I’ve never had my socks knocked off!  In the meantime, take a look at the Charter School Accountability Committee’s initial report on their major modification request to officially lower their already low enrollment.

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.

PCASB171

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.

16 To Watch In 2016: Karen Field Rogers

KFR

After last week’s stunning news about Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman moving out of his position, I’m sure many of you are wondering who will take his place.  Look no further than the name in the title.  A long-time stalwart of the Delaware Department of Education, Field-Rogers served under Blowman as his Associate Secretary of Educational Supports and Innovative Practices.  From her bio on the DOE website:

Karen Field Rogers is the Delaware Department of Education’s Associate Secretary of Adult Education & School Supports. Ms. Rogers received her Master of Business Administration from George Washington University, Washington, D.C. and her Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the University of Delaware.  Prior to joining the Department, Ms. Rogers has nearly 22 years of state service working for the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Finance. Additionally, Karen worked for Perdue Farms, Inc. Salisbury, Maryland, and Arthur Young & Company, Washington, D.C.

The only times I’ve really seen Field Rogers has been at Charter School Accountability Committee meetings (as she is a member) and State Board of Education meetings.  In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever actually talked to her.  Maybe a hello here and there.  She has always struck me as a “take no prisoners type” of personality.  For someone to work for the State of Delaware in the positions she has been in, I guess you would have to be!

In terms of Blowman, he has not been fired from the DOE!  He is taking on a different position, but that has not been named as of yet.  I know some folks have strong opinions of David Blowman, but I always thought he was a nice guy.  From the times I saw him in action, mostly surrounding charter school formal reviews and renewals, he asked a lot of the right questions to different schools.  He has always been very pleasant to me.  I wish him luck in his new position, as well as Field Rogers.  I’m sure both of them will be seeing me around.  I wonder what other changes Delaware Secretary of Education will make to Jack Markell’s his house…

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/

Delaware Met’s Final Public Hearing Brings Out The Defenders

I received an email from someone who went to the Delaware Met public hearing tonight.  They wished to remain anonymous.  They sent me a very good indication of what the crowd was saying: Save our school!

I went to the MET school public hearing tonight.

All reports I’ve heard: from the News Journal and a student there, were horrible: one kid setting another’s hair on fire; one kid’s head banged into a wall and left a hole in the dry wall; frequent police calls; etc.  In response, the Head of School quit; the Board recommended closing, and then changed their minds;  and the DOE is recommending closing the school on 1-21-16.

But tonight was a love fest.  Only one person from the school’s board spoke; though the guy from the big conglomerate was in the audience.

I was at the hearing from 5:00 – 6:30 and they were still going strong when I left. I didn’t count the number of speakers — probably at least 20.  They were mostly students and  parents.  A couple of teachers spoke, one of whom started work 6 days ago.  Several of the girls were crying; the parents were praising the school, and angry with the State Board.  All thought the school was the best thing ever!  

Most commanding was Councilmember Hanifa Shabazz, who eloquently and angrily “demanded” that the DOE let them know where these 225 students were going to school in January. She and another parent asked to at least extend the closing till the end of the school year. 

A common theme was that the kids had grades of F till they came to this school, and now got Bs. There was also talk about good relationships between students and teachers at the school.  Some students said if they had to go back to a public school, they would probably fail or drop out, or get into trouble again.

None of this addressed the “crime in the school” issue, or the fact that there have already been so many transfers out that the head count is way down, and that could affect financial viability.

If the DOE can’t close a seriously struggling school like this – they can’t close anything.  

But those opposed to the closing have an excellent point – how could the school be approved and accept so many students, without the assurance from the State that it could function effectively?  Can remedial support solve these problems?  That is one of many  questions.

Thank you for sending this to me “anonymous”!  What frightens me the most about all this: no one is talking about special education and how students with disabilities are not having their Free Appropriate Public Education.  For those who don’t know, it’s called FAPE.  It means when you receive special education, you also get FAPE.  But if your IEP isn’t even done, or the school isn’t accommodating your IEP, you are not getting FAPE.  It’s very easy for a crowd to slam the DOE and State Board over “where is my child going to go now” and “this school is so much better”.  I encourage all these parents and community members to read about Delaware Met’s final meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee.  Seriously.  Read it.  These are some key things that make a school work, and Delaware Met isn’t even doing that.  I get the whole community thing and helping each other out.  But this school is dangerous to leave open.  We don’t even know who is running things there now.  Is it A.J. English and his mentoring company? Pritchett and Associates?  Innovative Schools?  Teachers are leaving, and there aren’t many certified teachers left in the building.  It also doesn’t make fiscal sense to send all that money to the school in February when the bulk of the staff aren’t even there anymore.

I completely understand parents being worried about what happens with their child.  I’ve been there, a few times.  And it sucks.  Bad.  But I would rather move my child than keep him in a school that is falling apart.  No matter how much he may love it, I know at the end of the day I have to look out for his best interests.  Delaware Met parents, I have written about MANY schools on this blog.  Many charters.  And trust me when I say that NONE have been anywhere close to the level this school is at.  This is a tragedy beyond measurement.  I blame the DOE and the State Board for many things that I feel are wrong in public education.  But this is one time where they actually got it right.

There is a serious conversation that needs to happen in regards to what oversight the DOE has over charter schools from the time they approve them and when the doors open.  But at the end of the day, the Delaware Met’s board and staff are the ones that failed this school.  Not the DOE, not the State Board, and not the students.  They had a job to do, and unfortunately, they didn’t do it.  You can’t put band aids on a gaping flesh wound.  It may stop the bleeding temporarily, but it doesn’t heal the wound.  Your children deserve much better than this.

Delaware Met Head Of School Quits

After last week’s recommendation by the Delaware Charter School Accountability Committee to revoke the Delaware Met’s charter effective January 22nd, 2016, the school’s leader has decided to resign.  Tricia Hunter Crafton submitted her resignation on December 3rd.  As well, the board appears to be in turmoil and an emergency board meeting was scheduled for 12/4/15.  Good luck finding this on their website though.  It doesn’t look like they have been doing much on there at all.  In fact, they didn’t even have a board meeting in November!  One of the board members reached out to me anonymously and explained how frustrated they are with everything going on.

This train is in motion, and barring a miracle, I don’t think anything will stop this school from closing down.  The decision will be made by the Delaware State Board of Education on December 17th.  Meanwhile, surrounding districts and charters are planning for an influx of new students.  Some schools are already balking at taking these  students, even though it is in the students’ local feeder pattern.  These students need to find a school fast, and any district or charter that receives them needs to do so with welcome arms and be very proactive in making sure these students needs are met.  For the special education students, these schools need to be on top of this.  These students have already missed a lot of time, and they need help.

As well, I am very curious what happens with the building.  Delaware Met sub-leases the school from Innovative School Development Corporation who leases it from a company called Charter School Development Corporation.  That company bought the building from the State of Delaware who had bought the building from Bank of America who acquired the building in the MBNA merger back in 2006.  This is prime real estate.  First State Montessori Academy is right next to it, and down the street is the Community Education Building, which currently houses three charter schools.  This is all in downtown Wilmington.  In fact, the building is right next door to Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn’s office!  The bizarre part with this whole funky real estate deal was that Innovate Schools donated $1 million dollars to the Charter School Development Corporation prior to leasing the 920 N. French St. location from them for Delaware Met.

Hunter Crafton joined the Delaware Met last Spring.  In the third week of September, she went out on maternity leave and returned in mid-November.  She was only back at the school for a few weeks before quitting.  While she is leaving, I am hearing some of the board members are gearing for a fight of some sort.  I don’t think this is going to be as easy as the Delaware DOE seems to think.

CraftonHunter

 

Delaware Met’s SHOCKING Final Meeting With DOE Is FILLED With VERY EGREGIOUS SCHOOL CRIMES!!!!!!

I knew things were bad at Delaware Met.  I knew things I was unable to confirm officially.  But the reality, and other things I didn’t know about…

Below are just a few of the things said during Delaware Met’s final formal review meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee on 12/1/15.  This is a must-read!  If you ever want to open a school, I would highly recommend doing the opposite of what Delaware Met did, and you should do great!  Below these quotes is the full meeting notes.

Ms. Ogden also noted that the school was not prepared for the unannounced monitoring visit, as there were active files on the table and a flash drive was lost in the first room the DDOE staff monitored. She also added that, during the DDOE monitoring visit, an event occurred which set off the fire alarm and resulted in evacuation from the building and no access to the special education resource room on the second floor where the active special education files were stored. Ms. Ogden stated that “the second floor was condemned.”

 

She added that the lessons plans are for middle school, more specifically early middle school, although The Delaware Met is a high school.

 

 

Mr. Blowman commented that the School Leader should be able to go out on maternity leave without the school falling apart. He noted that these issues point to massive weaknesses in the school’s organizational model.

 

Ms. Nagourney requested clarification whether the Board took action during meetings that were not publicly noticed.

 

Ms. Massett said that wanted the record to reflect that the school did not reach out to the charter community for assistance.

 

She specifically noted that the list stated that a bullet was found in one of the classrooms and asked the school why it did not contact the police in that instance.

 

She indicated that she was fearful about safety in the school when reading about BB guns and tasers.

 

However, she expressed disappointment that the school listed two calls for severe student disruption despite seven different instances leading to nine arrests being listed in the information provided by WPD.

 

She identified several incidents, including a student’s hair being set on fire, an assault, weapons being brought to the school, near riots, and threats toward staff members as severe disruptions.

 

And when a school fails to meet multiple standards and fails to create a safe and appropriate environment in which students can thrive, it warrants serious action.

 

The motion carried unanimously.

 

 

Kendall Massett And I Agree On Something!!!! Del Met & Other Charter News

Just kidding Kendall!  But seriously, the more I am hearing about this Delaware Met meeting, the more I can’t wait to see the transcript!  Meanwhile, both Avi with Newsworks and Matt Albright with the News Journal covered this big news today as well.  One clarification which I am now hearing about.  The school did not have most of their population as Moyer students.  There were about ten of them I am now hearing.  According to Avi’s article, if Godowsky and the State Board shut it down, the students will have the choice to go back to their district feeder schools or other charters.  But back to Kendall, from Avi’s article:

School safety also emerged as a major theme. Wilmington police have visited Delaware Met 24 times since the school year began and made nine arrests, according to the testimony of state officials at Tuesday’s meeting. Last month, in response to a CSAC request for information, school officials said local police had only visited Delaware Met six times.

That discrepency irked Kendall Massett, executive director of the Delaware Charter School Network and a non-voting member of CSAC.

“It’s not the number of times the police came, it’s that they need to be honest about it,” Massett said.

Massett said she “absolutely support[ed]” the committee’s recommendation to shutter Delaware Met.

I supported this recommendation before it was even made!  One important thing to take note of is the timing.  The way charter school funding works, they get their next big chunk of funding in February.  By shutting the school down in January, this would prevent them from getting those funds and squandering them if they knew the school was going to shut down at the end of the year. Even the DOE issued a press release on this:

The Delaware Department of Education’s Charter School Accountability Committee today recommended the revocation of Delaware MET’s charter in January because of academic, operational, governance and financial problems at the Wilmington school.

A public hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Carvel State Office Building at the corner of 9th and French streets in Wilmington. Public comment will be accepted through December 11. After reviewing the full record, Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky will present his decision regarding the school’s future to the State Board of Education for its assent at the board’s December 17 meeting.

Issues considered by the committee include:

Educational program, specifically:

o    Fidelity to the school’s approved curriculum and instructional program, including the Big Picture Learning instructional model, use of technology, participation in various coalitions, and implementation status of project-based learning. Lessons plans submitted to CSAC also were found to be out of alignment with the state’s academic standards.

o    Special education services, including the results of a recent monitoring visit by the Department of Education’s Exceptional Children Resources staff that found the school was out of compliance with all 59 of its students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

School culture, specifically safety and discipline concerns
Governing board and leadership capacity, specifically lack of compliance with open meeting laws
Financial viability, specifically due both to decreased student enrollment and the school’s budget not reflecting full compliance with programmatic requirements, including special education

Delaware MET, which opened this fall, was placed on formal review by the State Board of Education on October 15.

Should Secretary Godowsky and the State Board follow the committee’s recommendation to revoke the charter, the school would close on January 22, the end of the second marking period. The state would assist the school’s 210 students and their families in moving to other schools for the rest of the academic year. The children may return to the district schools in their home feeder patterns or choice into another district or charter school that is accepting students. The receiving schools would receive prorated funding for the returning students.

As they look toward next year, families also may fill out the state’s School Choice application for another district or charter school for 2016-17. The application deadline is January 13, 2016.

I feel bad for these kids.  I truly do.  It is one thing to have a school not service you and give you a proper education.  Delaware Met is another thing altogether!  I really hope the State Board of Education and Godowsky do the right thing here.  Perhaps the State Board won’t be so quick to approve so many charter schools all at once and will really look at the wisdom of that decision.  Perhaps it is time to take a fresh new look at the whole charter school application process.  Because it isn’t just Delaware Met.  Yes, the spotlight is on them, and they made the most unwise decisions.  But other new charters are experiencing severe growing pains.  First State Military Academy is now going on their third special education coordinator.  I’m not sure if they made their IEP compliance deadline as a new school, but I don’t like what I’m hearing in terms of the school’s issues with understanding the IEP process and what they feel are appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.

One thing that will become a huge problem in the future for all schools is the concept of personalized learning.  If you have a personalized learning program at your school, the IEP is covered under a federal program called IDEA.  For those who may not know this, the decisions of an IEP team, covered by federal law, trumps the online learning system.  As an example, if a student is required to do 15 out of 20 math problems based on their IEP, than the school needs to honor that.  You can’t say the computer score is right and you have to go by that.  Unfortunately, the state standardized assessment is another issue.  But for unit tests and quizzes, and even homework done on the computer, these schools need to contact these companies like Schoology and learn how THEIR system can accommodate students with IEPs, not the other way around.

As for Delaware Met, they had plenty of time to get it right and it comes down to very bad choices.  I’m sure they knew their head of school was pregnant when she got the job last March.  Knowing that, why would you not plan for the eventual maternity leave?  Sorry, I’m just getting really tired of hearing that excuse.  I have to wonder how much training and professional development teachers really got at this school.  Positive Outcomes has the same Big Picture Learning program, and they haven’t had the issues Delaware Met is experiencing.  And they are a school with about 60% of their population having IEPs.  I’m sure the school will play the blame game on the districts and other charters for failing to send them information about the students.  But given the issues with the staff and Innovative Schools, I have to wonder how much effort was put into actually requesting those records.  We can’t assume everything coming from the school is the Gospel truth.  I caught Innovative Schools in at least three lies at their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.

At the end of the day, it is about doing the right thing, and Delaware Met failed.  I have no doubt the intention was there with many of their board members, but this needs to be a lesson learned for those wanting to start a school without the experience to back it up.  First State Military Academy and many other schools are using models that are strongly suggested by Innovative Schools.  Perhaps it is past time Innovative Schools has a state investigation and audit to see how useful the services they are offering Delaware charters truly are and how much is wasteful.

Breaking News on Delaware Met: Charter Revocation Recommendation By End Of Next Marking Period

The Delaware Met had their final formal review meeting with the Charter School Accountability Committee this morning.  The group’s final recommendation: charter revocation by the end of the next marking period! Which would bring this school to a close by January 22nd.  Of course, the Delaware State Board of Education has to also vote on this, which they will at their meeting on 12/17.  Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the meeting, but I will report details once I receive them.

The group said the Delaware Met violated the terms of their charter.  The school opened in August after a one-year delay approved by the DOE.  Charter closures are serious business.  I feel bad for all the students and parents who made a choice to go to this school.  It looks like they will need to start searching again.  I didn’t wish for this school to close.  I really hope any school can do the right thing for their students.  In this case, I don’t think the school had the capability and the means to effectively run this school.

A great deal of the student population at Delaware Met came from Moyer, which also had its charter revoked during the last school year.  As well, the school has over a quarter of their population as special education students with IEPs.

Delaware Met’s Appalling Response To The DOE Raises Even More Questions

In spite of a very intensive hiring process, we were unable to find many teachers with urban experience or a familiarity with the local community and those that we did hire were from charter schools that had closed such as Moyer Academy. Those teachers brought with them the “alternative school” mentality, along with lingering conflicts from the past years, which perpetuated the punitive, authoritarian mindset, which is the antithesis of the BPL design. We had hoped that the past relationships with the students would have a positive effect on their relationships with students, though this was not the case.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse with Delaware Met, I ran across many updated documents on the Delaware Department of Education Charter School website regarding their formal review.  The number one issue at this point seems to be their enrollment.  If they were approved for 260 students, and they must maintain 80% of that as required by Delaware law, that would be 208 students.  As of their September 30th count, they had 215 students.  In these documents, they announced four more students have withdrawn since 9/30, and six more will withdraw from the school very soon.  This puts their enrollment at 205.  They are now completely out of compliance with their charter.

The letter from the Delaware DOE’s Exceptional Children’s Resources Group is very telling.  59 IEPs were looked at by the DOE, and ALL 59 are out of compliance.  Delaware Met’s Special Education coordinator, Sue Ogden, used to work in the Delaware prison system as a special education coordinator, so she should be well aware of DOE timelines and what is needed in student’s IEPs.  While the below documents give many reasons for the school challenges, I still can’t help but think many of the events at this school could have been avoided.  It is now near the end of November, and NONE of the IEPs are in compliance as of November 25th.  This does not bode well for students with disabilities at this school which now represent over 28% of the school population.  Furthermore, in the narrative in the documents below, there is talk about going through 80 IEPs.  Have 21 students with disabilities who had IEPs left the school?

For their in-school suspension, students are required to write the following:

DelMetBehaviorLesson

And another “behaviour lesson”:

DelMetThinkingAboutBehavior

Now, with a school filled with at a minimum, 59 IEPs, and admitted issues on teacher parts where they treated a school like an “alternative” school, are the in-school suspensions warranted?  I can’t answer that, but I do know in-school suspension does not count towards a manifestation determination hearing.  Only out-of-school suspensions or expulsion.  And is it just me, and I get the whole concept of restorative justice, but isn’t the point of school discipline already a punishment?  What could a student do to “make up to the school” for their behavior?  What if they have a disability and it was a manifestation of their disability and they don’t even realize it was a “behavior”?

This “in-school suspension room”.  I have some big issues with it.  It seems like an easy solution to stop discipline problems.  Student gets in trouble, send them to the ISS room.  The below documents also state their special education coordinator, Sue Ogden, will make sure accommodations are being followed while students are in there.  But is one of their accommodations to be sent to an ISS room if they get in trouble?  There are more questions than answers here.  Sue Ogden, as I stated earlier, used to work in the prison system.  Even with all its issues and students with potential legal issues, the Delaware Met is not a prison.

The Charter School Accountability Committee will meet with Delaware Met for their final formal review meeting next Tuesday, from 8:30-10:00am.  At this point, the committee will determine their recommendation for the school.  The Secretary of Education and the State Board of Education will decide the school’s fate at the December State Board of Education meeting on December 17th.  In the meantime, read the below documents to find out the school’s interpretation of events.  I still have this nagging feeling there is much more going on at this school…

Delaware Met response to Charter School Accountability Committee

Specific Information requested by the Charter School Accountability Committee

Exceptional Children Resources Group monitoring and letter sent to Delaware Met

Teachers Emails regarding Science and Social Studies Curriculum

Board of Directors questions to Innovative Schools with response from them

 

 

The Truth Is Out There With Delaware Met: Public Hearing Transcript Sheds Some Light

The Delaware Met had their public hearing for their formal review on 11/16/15.  Yesterday, the Delaware Department of Education released the transcript.  One thing is for sure: the words “blogs”, “blogger”, or “bloggers” were mentioned 8 times in the transcript.  I was glad to see two members of the Delaware State Board of Education attended this event.  Instead of writing about the public hearing, I’m going to let the people speak.

I feel like three months of my son’s education has been wasted because he hasn’t done much work, not many projects

I’ve tried to contact teachers with no response

…when we hear some of the horror stories that are going on with these kids, a lot of times, schoolwork might be the last thing on their mind, because a sibling was just killed three months ago, or they’re dealing with being displaced, you know, homeless.

For whatever reason, they opened the doors up and let a lot of kids in that probably didn’t fit the model and didn’t really understand what the model was.

Whatever bugs you all didn’t iron out first, go back to the drawing board, fix it.  As they say, you got a hole, plug it.

But we don’t get the connection from the people who are in charge, the charter school or whoever is in charge of the charter school, and the parents, there’s no connection.

…the biggest question is who is this management organization, Innovative Schools, and why does it seem that they have been an impediment to this process?  We know that starting something new often is a rocky start, but it seems like the people who are supposed to know about education in this case don’t know anything about education.

It is disturbing that some of the things that should have been in place from the first day still aren’t in place, and we’re still struggling to try to get some open communication.  I think it’s interesting that a lot of parents are here, but I don’t see too many of the administrators.

So I think we need to look into it further versus basing it upon opinions of bloggers and individuals who have not been to the school to visit firsthand to see exactly what’s going on versus reading the emails that are being sent.

I don’t know who blogs.  It has to be somebody in the school.  It has to be somebody in the schools that’s giving out certain information that, you know, that I know some of the students is not giving out, I’m thinking it’s probably one of the teachers that don’t like and are trying to sabotage the whole school.

And whoever the blogger is, they need to mind their own business.  We already know there’s an issue.

Do you all understand how bad that sounds to a kid when they go to school, the teacher says we don’t have to learn because they’re closing the school next year.

Help us out.  Give the school some funding.  You all keep talking about you don’t have money, or whoever, they don’t have money to put this in, put that in.

When you open something up, if you put a different animals in one cage, you’re going to have problems until you get somebody in there that knows how to train everybody.

And again, the story writers, the bloggers, whoever is doing this, saying what they want to say to make it, solidify what you’re trying to do, if you’re trying to close the school down, I mean, of course.

What kind of school around here has a mentoring program?

And I went to Mr. A.J. and he told me that, you know, I can guarantee you the school is not going to shut down and everything like that.

I got at least three trays in one day for lunch, and all the meat was bleeding, but I couldn’t get nothing brown bag.  I don’t understand.  These teachers going out, buying McDonald’s and all that, but we can’t do that because of other stuff.

And we have some teachers that don’t even come to school, and I don’t even know how my report card going to look.  I’m not a bad kid.  I know my report card going to look okay in other schools, but this school, I don’t know.

Okay, what is up with the “blame the blogger” game for a school going on formal review?  Trust me, the Delaware Department of Education is not going to put a school on formal review because of information I write about.  By the time I’m writing stuff, they most likely already know a great deal of the information.  The things I’ve heard coming from this brand new school, that had two years to work out all the kinks, disturb me on many levels.  This is a school that stated their budget for food is going to be over-budget.  If they aren’t cooking the meat correctly and students keep going back for non-carcinogenic food that is actually cooked all the way through, I can see why that would be.  If teachers aren’t showing up or they don’t know how to teach the curriculum, that is troubling.  What kind of school lets other students show up to the school without any type of security system to prevent that?  This school has already received plenty of funding, from the state and from the Longwood Foundation.  Throwing more money at it isn’t going to solve anything.  They will find some way to squander those funds.  Plenty of schools have mentoring programs, and A.J. English knows that.  I am always suspicious of anyone that may have a financial motive to keep a school open.  The school may know about the issues, but parents and the public may not.  That is why I blog.  Do you want to know the words I was looking for the most in this transcript and I didn’t see mentioned anywhere? Special Education, IEP, and disability.  How can you defend a school and not even talk about their biggest problem?  Innovative Schools is in way over their head across the entire state.  Other new charter schools that relied on them are having issues as well.  I don’t want any school to shut down unless it is bad for students in the short-term and the long-term.  I believe Delaware Met fits in both of those categories.

I know some people think I just write whatever I want and call it a day.  That is not the case.  There are things I could write about this school but haven’t yet.  The assumption that I haven’t been in the school must mean I don’t know anything about it.  Wrong.  I know plenty.  I went to their first Charter School Accountability Committee meeting.  I heard the many questions Delaware Met and Innovative Schools couldn’t answer.  These are key and essential questions that need to be answered AND fixed, or they should close.  But let’s get one thing straight, unless the school is posing an immediate health risk or students are in danger, the DOE and State Board of Education don’t just shut a school down.  They go through the process, and the likely options are: probation, revocation of their charter at the end of the year, or they rule the school is doing just fine.  I’ve taken other steps as well in light of things I’ve heard about this school.  It is obvious Delaware Met has sent information out saying “Don’t believe the blogger.”  That is their prerogative.  I just ask folks to keep an open mind and ask the questions.

To read the entire transcript, please read below.

Charter Update To State Board of Education Puts 8 Charters At “Tier 3” Status

The Charter School Office at the Delaware Department of Education will give a presentation to the State Board of Education on Thursday, November 19th.  Among other things, they have rated charters on a scale of 1-3.  These tiers will have 1 being good, 2 some issues, and 3…not so good.  The charters at the Tier 3 status are Academia Antonio Alonso, Academy of Dover, Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security, Delaware College Prep, Family Foundations Academy, Gateway Lab School, Odyssey Charter School, and Prestige Academy.  This list does not include the charters that opened this year because there is nothing to compare their organizational and financial frameworks to.  But even though Delaware Met and Delaware Design Lab are not on this list this does not mean they aren’t in trouble.

Delaware Design Lab High School is on probation following their formal review last year for low enrollment before they opened.  The school did get their enrollment up, but according to this report the Charter School Office is reviewing their budget and enrollment and are on some type of corrective action.  Delaware Met is on formal review for pretty much everything not even three months after they opened.  One interesting observation was their final Charter School Accountability Committee meeting has been changed from November 30th to December 1st.  I would imagine this is because the DOE has to face the Joint Finance Committee over at Legislative Hall on the 30th.    It looks like the Charter School Office will be pushing more involvement with parents at the charters with Parent Teacher Organizations.  Parent involvement is never a bad thing!

Three Delaware Charters Cleared For Charter Renewal By DOE

Yesterday, the Charter School Accountability Committee convened for a trio of Delaware charter schools up for charter renewal.  The three schools: Campus Community School, MOT Charter School, and Providence Creek Academy all received a recommendation to have their charters renewed with no conditions by the committee.  The next step is the Secretary of Education, Dr. Steven Godowsky, and the State Board of Education agreeing.  Their decision will occur at the December State Board of Education meeting.

This doesn’t always happen like this with Delaware charters.  Providence Creek Academy had some organizational and financial issues in the past year, but the school proactively recognized and fixed the problems.  With all the other charter news, it is good to see schools getting a green light at times.  Some of the senior members of the committee and the Charter School Office looked visibly worn down and tired.  While I am against many things at the Delaware Department of Education, we do need to remember these people are human and they do work hard.  Many want them to work hard at other things though, and not necessarily on the accountability machine they have become under Governor Markell’s administration.

Congratulations to Campus, MOT and PCA on their own hard work at getting through this stage of their charter renewals.  This is a far cry from last year when Reach Academy had their charter revoked, Gateway Lab School received the recommendation for revocation which was turned down by then Secretary Mark Murphy and the State Board of Education, and Family Foundations Academy emerged as a hot mess weeks before the State Board’s decision to place them on formal review for financial mismanagement by their former heads of school.

The Official Delaware Met Formal Review Meeting Report

The Delaware DOE Charter School Accountability Committee released the initial report of their formal review.  This meeting took place last Wednesday, 11/4/15.  It is a long read but chock full of information.  I do see areas where I was not able to get everything when I wrote my article based on the meeting.  As well, there are some items I may need to clarify a bit from my article, but I’m tired and I’m going to bed!

Delaware Met And Their Train Wreck Of A Formal Review Meeting At The DOE Today

The Delaware Met is drowning.  I don’t know any other way to put it.  If this school is open for the 2016-2017 school year, I will be completely shocked.  The Delaware charter school had their first Formal Review meeting today at the Delaware Department of Education, where they faced nearly two hours of questions from the Charter School Accountability Committee.  The answers, when they provided them, caused great concern with the members of the committee, members of the audience, and myself.

To start, let me name all the players in today’s meeting, because there were many.

Charter School Accountability Committee: Deputy Secretary of Education David Blowman, Exceptional Children Resources Group DOE Employee Barbara Mazza, Associate Secretary of Adult Education & School Supports Karen Field-Rogers, Educator Effectiveness & Talent Management Atnre Alleyne, Community Representative & Former DOE Employee Paul Harrell, Education Associate at DOE for Science Assessment and STEM April McRae

Staff To The Committee: Charter School Office Director Jennifer Nagourney, Deputy Attorney General & Consul to the Committee Catherine Hickey, Executive Director of the State Board of Education Donna Johnson, from the Charter School Office: John Carwell, Michelle Whalen, & Sheila Kay Lawrence, from the DOE Finance Office: Brook Hughes

Delaware Met Representation: Innovative Schools Chief School Officer Teresa Gerchman, Delaware Met Board President Nash Childs, & Innovative Schools Financial Services School Support employee Karen Thorpe

The meeting began at 1:30pm with a roll call of the participants.  While the exact wording may not be exact in all conversation, I did my best to type notes as fast as I could.  If there is a specific quote, I will highlight that.

Blowman: purpose of meeting is to discuss and review relevant material to see if remedial measures against the school need to be taken, there will be no specific recommendations coming out of this meeting.  This is a preliminary discussion.  The initial report will be out by November 9th and Delaware Met has 15 days to review and comment on the report.  The grounds for formal review were outlined in the letter sent to the school, including potential violations of the school’s charter in respect to the school’s educational program, school culture, board and leadership capabilities, and financial viability.  On November 1st, the Delaware Met submitted documents to the DOE and the committee will consider any documents and discussion at the meeting to determine if charter holder is compliant in these areas and the committee will let the school know if they need additional information.

There was some initial confusion right off the bat as Blowman wanted to discuss the educational program, and Gerchman mentioned something about the Code of Conduct being included in the formal review, to which Blowman responded he was more concerned if the procedures were followed with fidelity.

The first conversation surrounded the technology and computers at the school:

Teresa Gerchman: In addressing computers at the school, she said the school has a firmer grip on what is needed and the school is having meetings with parents so students and parent can understand the computer policy.  The school is working with Positive Outcomes which has the similar Go Guardian software which tracks the computers students have, websites students visit, and any connections for safety of students.  They will be handing out computers on 11/12, will be used starting in the 2nd quarter.

Jennifer Nagourney: At the 10/12 Del Met board meeting, it was discussed there was damage to the computer lab.

Gerchman: The school had a brownout but it was not the one-on-one technology the students will be using

David Blowman: Was the plan for computers to hand them out in mid-November or was that reflective of enrollment?

Gerchman: It was planned for 1st quarter but discipline issues came up and wanted to make sure parents understood the computer policies.

Donna Johnson: How can students check out computers each morning in a personalized learning environment?

Gerchman: Advisors help with that.

Johnson: (Asks same question again, Gerchman interrupts Johnson as she is asking her question)

Gerchman: We will be using the computers to set up internships and to do blended learning in the classroom.

Johnson: How will the computers be used outside of the school?

Gerchman: Students will be using other materials for outside work and by the 3rd quarter students will be able to take computers outside of school.

Johnson: What about teacher training for the technology (for some reason it was difficult to hear this part)

Gerchman: Training was done last summer.

Johnson: Is there after school or extended day to use computers?

Gerchman: Not now but the school will be able to do that.  Basketball starts soon so students involved will have 4-5pm study hall but right now there is no afterschool transportation.

Atnre Allyne: What determines readiness (for computers)?

Gerchman: It is intership readiness.

Johnson: What type of digital citizenship are students taking?

Gerchman: Not sure.  That is with Big Picture (model for school).

Johnson: How long is advisory each day?

Gerchman: 90 minutes.  Charly Adler with Big Picture Learning is involved.  He is providing training and hands on coaching for teachers and for advisory curriculum.

April McRae: What is the ratio of advisors to students?

Gerchman: 17:1

McRae: If advisors are also teachers, liaisons, and internship counselors how does that work?

Gerchman: They work with students during advisory period to go over personalized learning.

McRae: How long was training over the summer?

Gerchman: One month.  Charly was there to help there to help trouble shoot.

Blowman: Was there an awareness teachers weren’t ready?

Gerchman: No, teachers felt like they were prepared.  What they were not prepared for was what it took to engage students in advisory.  They thought the kids would be ready to jump in and they were not prepared for what happened.  Many kids were not engaged in the Big Picture Model.

Karen Field-Rogers: Was there something else that could have helped?

Gerchman: The Summer Institute was not required but going forward they will make it required.  Less than 50% of the students participated.

Blowman: Is there a difference in retention performance for students that went through the Summer Institute?

Gerchman: Yes.  The advisors are determining which students are internship ready but they do not have a percentage calculation.

Blowman: The model was always Big Picture.  The school had four years from the beginning of the application process.  I’m wondering how much planning and implementation was done by the ??? (couldn’t understand)

Gerchman: No.  We clearly stated what it was.  The majority of students who applied or went to open house knew it was clearly defined.  I don’t know if application fully embraced the model when students applied.  Big Picture was not (created?) for an urban setting.  We did not have right connection with the right school models (named schools from California)

McRae: That surprises me because the whole model is based on an urban setting.  I would have assumed Charly and his trainers would have based it on that.  This is a big disconnect.

Gerchman: The Providence schools were the foundation for this.

McRae: I have great concern.

Gerchman: We never heard this till after they opened.

At this point, DOE employees were passing out Halloween candy in Carmike Cinemas popcorn bucket

Gerchman: We are about to start matching potential careers in advisory.  We are having parent meetings and both parents and students will sign off on those.

Blowman: When does the internship program start?

Gerchman: It will vary by student.  Every student will be in one by the 3rd quarter.  The plan was never for 9th graders to start on 9/1.

Blowman: There is a big gap between 9/1 and the 3rd quarter.

Gerchman: It was always the plan to have 10th graders start within 10 weeks.  Not all students are ready.  We will be doing internal internships instead of external for kids with a disciplinary record.  They will stay at school to learn expectations for the workplace.

Alleyne: How do you know they are all going to be ready?

Gerchman: When we say internship ready we mean external.  We have a lot of resources coming into the school to help out, and the internal students can do IT at school.

Barbara Mazza: What training have you given teachers for students with IEPs (Individualized Education Programs)?

Gerchman: We are having meetings with parents for one hour instead of a half hour.  All teachers have been given student goals and have a spreadsheet with all the goals.  Sue Ogden, the head of Special Education, is driving those meetings and she has worked w/teachers.

Mazza: Is she working with teachers on professional development for instruction?

Gerchman: Sue Ogden was not there during the summer.

Blowman: Do all eligible students have approved IEPs?

Gerchman: I can’t answer that.  I don’t know.  We are having meetings and they all have to do with transitional (not sure of next word after that)

Mazza: It has to be done within 60 calendar days of the schools opening date.  When did the school open?

German: 8/24.  Sue Ogden has a chart she is following closely.

Blowman: How many are handling special education?

Gerchman: 62.

Blowman: No, teachers.

Gerchman: We have Sue Ogden and two paraprofessionals and outside services for counseling, occupational therapy.

Blowman: That is equivalent to 4 units.

Mazza: How many unit counts did you estimate based on 9/30 student counts?

Karen Thorpe: 4 complex, 39 basic, 17 intensive.

Mazza: That is more than 4 units.  We want assurances every student had an IEP meeting before the 60 day mark.

Editor’s note: It got very quiet at this point.

Gerchman: Do you want a breakdown of service related hours?

Mazza: Not just that.  Also any behavioral needs being met.

Gerchman: We have social workers.

Mazza: You have 8 students identified with a disability?

Gerchman: That is where the mentoring team comes in.  We have a social worker, a psychologist to do the functional behavioral analysis and create the BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan).  Sue is involved in deciding if the behavior was a manifestation of the disability.  When a student brought a weapon to the school, we did a full manifestation determination hearing with the psychologist.

Blowman: Are you pushing inclusion?

Gerchman: Yes, and pull-out groups.  Classes are co-taught with special education teachers and there is time allotted  for pull-out services.

Blowman: How are you implementing RTI (Response to Intervention)?

Gerchman: We are utilizing intervention blocks of times. Students will be pulled for 45 minute times based on tier 1 or tier 2 services.  We are using pevious years of DCAS and Smarter Balanced scores and looking for kids that were consistently low.  Sue did additional testing to get to current levels.  Students get those additional services in addition to special education.

Johnson: Funds generated for special education students must be used for those students. I want a follow-up on how much money is being spent on special education currently and how much is for unit counts and staffing.

April: Science & Social Studies.  I have questions.  The school provided a curriculum outline, but I have concerns.  You also provided 1st quarter objectives and they not in compliance with the science coalition that was provided.  It is not compliant, and it almost feels like you will join the social studies and science coalitions but the application stated the school would be members of that coalition before the school opened and the school year started.

Gerchman: In my role now I can’t explain what happened.  When we saw we were put on formal review we reached out to those coalitions.

Nagourney: Is there anyone in this room that can explain this? Any board members?

Gerchman: I can’t explain it.

Nagourney: Is there anyone here that can answer this?

NO ONE IN ROOM THAT CAN ANSWER!!!

Johnson: Delaware Met had an additional year of planning to get ready.  The charter was approved by the Secretary and the Board (State Board) did not go through the exact science and social studies curriculum because they were joining that coalition.  I see them joining now because they are on formal review. I don’t see this matching to state standards and don’t see teachers have already gone through training to understand current state standards.

Nagourney: Who was responsible for overseeing this process?

Johnson: I don’t care who was responsible.  I want to know what happened and why because they had an additional year.  Those are basics and that’s very concerning.

McRae: Kind of what Donna (Johnson) said but since you are not currently members of the coalition we would like to see lessons aligned to state standard to see students are getting that curriculum.

Blowman: How long into the school year before that impacts students?  A lot of what should have been done over the past two years is being done once the school opened.  It is sacrificing instruction.  You had two years. (Blowman goes over everything discussed up to this point)

Johnson: I have a question about the 1st week of school plan.  Was that week considered an on-ramp to high school or are those hours including instructional hours for the school year?

Gerchman: It was considered on-ramp for Big Picture Learning.  It was also an on-ramp to high school but more Big Picture.

Johnson: That does not count towards instructional hours.

Gerchman: We will subtract them out.

McRae: What does it mean to be intern ready?

Gerchman: Charly has worked with advisors to understand this.  It means the student is ready to go external: they will be ready with how to dress, language, behavior and expectations.  For students we feel are not ready to go external we will give internal (internships).

Paul Harrell: How often does the school psychologist visit the school?  3, 4 days a week?

Gerchman: I’m not sure.  I don’t have that information.

Harrell: The mentoring program, who does it?

Gerchman: It is run by AJ English, it is called English Lessons.  He has two other people for three total.

Harell: Are they local?

Gerchman: It is a local mentoring business, one is a licensed social worker.

Harrell: Does anyone else in Delaware use AJ English?

Gerchman: I’m not sure.

Nagourney: We would like a list of external internship partners.

Gerchman: We don’t have that because no one is in an internship yet but we do have have interested parties.

At this point, the CSAC dove into what everyone wanted to hear: School Culture!

Gerchman: My assessment on the school culture is it is not what is was supposed to be.  This is not a surprise to anyone walking through the door.  AJ English was supposed to be an after school program but we saw the need for additional support for students, a need to understand what is triggering behavior and not just punishing behavior.  They have a rubric.  Some mentors know students.  We added a school climate officer who was hired before the start of the school year.  I was not part of the process for hiring him.  I’m not sure why he wasn’t there the first week of school.  He was given additional support and we brought people in: An In-School suspension person with experience at that to make it more effective- consequences when they are there, doing school work.  He worked in the Philadelphia school system (Note to self: but is he credentialed in Delaware?).  We brought in Rob Moore who works in the community and runs a basketball program and knows students and families.  He is a climate monitor and he can remove students from class with a goal of getting them back into class.  Mr. Wilson has enough people on his team, a one-person team can not handle it.

Blowman: How is the current climate?

Gerchman: Not where it needs to be.  Teachers need to do a better job of fully engaging all the students with instruction and professional development, and using the Teaching for Excellence framework.  I just got to the school on 10/27.  That was always the plan and teachers trained on this in August.  With Tricia Hunter (the official Head of School, out on maternity leave until mid-November) going out on maternity leave those were not fully taking place but since she came on they are.  When my kids are better engaged they are learning.  When we determined the 4-5% of students causing problems, we do check-in and check-out with their advisor or mentor, we are using behavior intervention plans, and we are trying to stop what is going on outside of school from coming into school.  The school is implementing Teaching for Excellence and teachers got training over the summer.

Johnson: That was a minor modification and that didn’t happen until after school year started.

Gerchman: I was mistaken.

Mazza: How is ISS (In-School Suspension) handled?

Gerchman: Sue Ogden administers that.

Nagourney: When was the last time a police officer was called to the school?

Gerchman: The Mayor (of Wilmington, Dennis Williams) came last week.  We have a police officer there every day for 2 hours at dismissal.  Kids come from other high schools to meet friends or for other reasons.  Yesterday we had a student that was suspended come back to school to start a fight with another student.

Blowman: How many times have the police been called in?

Gerchman: I don’t know.

Nagourney: Are those incidents being recorded?

Gerchman: Yes.

Harrell: When was the code of conduct issued?

Gerchman: The beginning of school.

Harrell: Wouldn’t it have been better to send during summer given the population at the school?

Gerchman: We wanted to review it with the students instead of just giving them a document.

Blowman: What plans do faculty have in place to engage students? Are teachers fully able to get engaged with students?

Gerchman: They have lessons plans and they are giving feedback on lesson plans.  We are making sure teachers know who to put out and we are working with those teachers first.  This is not a kid issue, it’s an adult issue.  We need to help teachers get stronger with that, have better relationships with the students.

Harrell: How is the morale of the teachers?

Gerchman: Not great.

McRae: It sounds like you are having an issue with fighting.  A student came back to finish fighting…

Gerchman: We suspended the student for a vocal altercation.

McRae: Have adults been trained to handle physical altercations?

Gerchman: No, not all

McRae: You have 62 IEP students, THAT IS AN ABSOLUTE MUST,  AN ABSOLUTE IMPERATIVE

Gerchman: I just found out AJ English has programs in two other schools.

Johnson: Can you provide an outline of how school board and staff used the additional year to plan?

Nash Childs: It was difficult since we didn’t have a building.  We acquired the MBNA building bought by the state.  It took a long time.  We didn’t know we had the building until before the school year started (Innovative Schools officially purchased the building in November 2014).  We had to get a certificate of occupancy for the building.  The board was so focused on facilities and student recruitment that they lost valuable time working on the educational program and the code of conduct.  We had a school leader acquired but didn’t have the  money to pay her.  We had all these financial issues come together.

Johnson: What was relegated to the CMO (Charter Management Organization, in this case Innovative Schools)?  It seems to me they should have been working on those aspects.

Childs: As far as facilities that was the board.

Johnson: That makes sense.  How did the board hold the CMO accountable?

Editor’s note: No one answered this question.  I am guessing here, but I believe at least two board members were sitting in front of me but they were not a part of the response team. There was quite a bit of whispering between the two women at this point.

Childs: We work as a team.  I’m not an educator, but we have a lot of passionate volunteers on the board that love this model.  We thought this was perfect for downtown Wilmington but it is obvious we could have spent more time on the education program and climate.  The board didn’t know they were going to be faced with these issues.

Johnson: What are the current responsibilities the board is putting on Innovative Schools?

Childs: They have been a great partnership and the board is not throwing blame.

Johnson: What role is the board having on Innovative Schools?

Childs: We gave them a list in September 2015.  Our contractual agreement was not 100% implemented until after May of 2015.  They were doing work and not getting paid a dime for a while.

Gerchman: We are currently in the school and not charging the school for that.  Hodges (another Innovative Schools employee) is in the school and we are not charging for that.  We are working on filling gaps with no additional charge.

Blowman: Is that a deferral, cause we had that situation last year…. (I would love to hear more about that one!)

Gershman: It is not a deferral, when we looked at the numbers we rearranged their plan and how we could support them.

Johnson: In response towards the school leader, it says Innovative Schools additional roles would incur greater expense. Is the school having additional costs to cover your (Teresa Gerchman’s) primary duties?

Gerchman: I am working nights and weekends, no.

Johnson: Are you still CSO of Innovative Schools?

Gerchman: Yes.

Blowman: I am concerned about the capacity to serve all these schools.

Johnson: You are serving more schools now.  That was a concern last year and it is now.  I have questions around board governance training, due process training, and financial training.

Childs: We had training that started over a year ago. I can’t say who got what but I can get that list.

Johnson: How many board members have been on the board since you started the training process?

Childs: The majority.

Johnson: For new board members training?

Childs: Yes.

Gerchman: The entire board received DANA training and repeated this in September.

Kendall Massett: I was there and everyone did.

Gerchman: Not everyone got budget training.

Blowman: Financial Viability…

Thorpe: The current student count is 215. We have contractors in place for services, transportation, staffing in budget, our financial goals were not to draw any outside credit, to be able to reserve summer pay as required, as well as instructional goals to provide one on one technology.  The budget you received  was for 218 enrollment.

Nagourney: They submitted a new budget two hours ago.

Thorpe: We submitted a budget before the 9/30 count, but since we have had additional special education and what services are needed, and trying to get all the right people together for the budget.

Field Rogers: The budget submitted did not show funding streams.

Thorpe: It does now.

Gerchman: I was on leave when the letter came out so that is why we didn’t submit a budget.

Field-Rogers: The summer pay is part of a budget.

Thorpe: Those are in-school expenses

Field-Rogers: It shows a surplus of $10,000. Is this through 6/30?

Thorpe: It is a 12 month budget. This is before encumbrances, expenses from encumbrances are in current year budget.

Field-Rogers: This says there was a $65,000 line of credit was drawn in June.

Thorpe: Some bills did not get paid until July.

Field-Rogers: Are there any outside bank accounts?

Thorpe: None.

Field-Rogers: There were 215 students by 9/30. Have any students left since then?

Gerchman: Yes.

Blowman: How many students left since 9/30?

Gerchman: I am not sure. We sent four students back to Red Clay. (Discussion around working plan out with Red Clay to send the funding for those students to Red Clay)

Blowman: Were they special education?

Gerchman: No.

Nagourney: We received complaints as of this morning that students were not released for good cause.

Blowman: How is the school providing related arts: phys ed, fine arts, drivers ed, health? Cause you have a budget of that for $35,000.

Gerchman: We have a person doing phys ed and health, and some drivers ed.

Field Rogers: I’m confused cause revenues received doesn’t match the budget recieved, as well as transportation eligible students.

Thorpe: The local revenue matches what is on the DOE website. The state revenue is a little bit higher because we  have some teachers that will be credentialed.

Blowman: Page 3 says Academia. Is that correct?

Thorpe: That is correct. I will be more careful of that in the future.

Field-Rogers: Cafeteria funds of $189,000 seems really high…

Thorpe: That is correct, but that is what we are trending at.

Field-Rogers: Special Education is nine units and I see two teachers (paras) and one coordinator.

Mazza: Is Sue Ogden the Educational Diagnostician?

Gerchman: She is the Special Education Coordinator. (believe this to be the title that was said)

Nagourney: Are you planning for next year yet?

Gerchman: I don’t think my being the actual leader is effective. We are waiting on the school leader (Tricia) to come back on 11/19.

Massett: I want to point out this isn’t required.

Nagourney: We are looking at long-term financial viability.

McRae: I’m concerned with students leaving the school because of bullying, seven students left with good cause, police reports… do you feel students are safe on your campus?

Gerchman: More students feel safe now. Four bullied students left but one parent has expressed interest in returning.  The parents are concerned about retaliation for coming forward about bullying.  We have lots of students where that level of chaos is comfortable for them but for students not from those environments it is very hard.

Blowman: Do you believe students are safe in the school (looked directly at Gerchman)?

Gerchman: Yes. (long pause) We are reviewing applications for special education staff and having interviews tomorrow.  Sue is the specialist and we want to make sure she is comfortable.

Johnson: Can we get detail around engagement of parents and students with addressing culture, when the application was in process and when the school opened, with other Met schools, and the steps taken to engage parents and plans to move forward?

Nobody answered.

Blowman went around the committee asking members and staff to state what information was needed from Delaware Met.

McRae: Calendar of instructional hours and social studies and science lesson plans, units, and alignment to standards.

Mazza: We need confirmation they have reached out to John Sadowsky (Climate and Discipline Director at DOE, who did attend the meeting but left early, was not announced) for physical restraint training.  We want a list of IEPs and the 60 days, we aren’t seeing it in the system.

Gerchman: We got some expired IEPs, and we had problems with IEP Plus since 10/1.

Michelle Whalen: Please make sure all private information is redacted.

Mazza: If we find services were not being met what is the plan for making up time so services are met? And for the internships, we want to make sure these don’t provide barriers for students with disabilities.

Gerchman: We are using Positive Outcomes as a resource.

Harell: I want to know what other schools AJ English has a mentoring relationship with. Two teachers have left, I want to know of any other teachers leaving.

Johnson: I’ve asked for a lot. I’m asking for Schoology training, prior training, current use, additional follow-up on training for teachers, the training teachers got for social studies and science, the units are aligned to state standards, specific financial information about how much money receied for special education and how funds are being used and special education units staffed with  those funds, documentation on board docs to CMO, board training, detailed information on how board and staff utilized the additional planning year, and board engagements with parents and family members for school culture before school opened and after.  How many times have police been called?  Are there costs for Wilmington police to provide services?

Gerchman :Yes, $100 for two hours. This just started yesterday.

Field-Rogers: This isn’t budgeted.

Gerchman: We gave all the discipline information to John Sadowsky and the charter school office.

Johnson: (directed to DOE). I would like that information provided to our office (State Board of Education).

Blowman: The goal today is to assess where the school is today with concerns and to determine if there are still areas of concern. Meeting adjourned.

Delaware Met To Face Delaware DOE Tomorrow…A Sneak Peak At Their Response

At 1:30pm tomorrow, the Delaware Met will appear before the Charter School Accountability Committee to answer questions surrounding their Formal Review.  At the October Delaware State Board of Education meeting, the board unanimously agreed to placing the brand new charter school on formal review two months after they opened.  The school wrote a response to the allegations surrounding the Formal Review.

The school has also submitted many documents, which can be found here.  But I thought a peak at the financial information they submitted to the DOE is warranted for this article.  These documents confirm their current enrollment at 218 students.

DelMetFinancial2016

DelMetFinancial2016_2

DelMetFinancial2016_3

DelMetFinancial2016_4

Also in these documents are charts showing which traditional school districts their students are coming from along with their estimated unit counts for funding from Delaware:

DelMetEnrollment1

DelMetEnrollment2

DelMetEnrollment3

Last week, Wilmington Mayor Williams and the police went to the school to address matters as well.  An advocate well known in Wilmington by the name of CEO Hope attended as well.  This will be a very interesting meeting tomorrow as a formal review this early in a charter school’s history is unprecedented.  Note to attendees: there is no public comment at these meetings.  That will occur on November 16th, and this is listed on this blog’s Education Meetings and Events page:

11/16: Delaware Met Formal Review Public Hearing, 5pm, Carvel State Office Bldg., Auditorium, 820 N. French St., 2nd Floor, Wilmington

The final recommendation by the Charter School Accountability Committee will not happen until their 11/30 meeting.  After that, Secretary of Education Dr. Steven Godowsky will submit his final decision to the State Board of Education at their December 17th meeting where the board will vote for final action.

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!

Mapleton Charter School A No-Show At Their Own Major Modification Meeting Today

When you submit a major modification to the Delaware DOE, you would think you would have the good sense to show up at your own Charter School Accountability Committee meeting to present your case.  This was not the case for Mapleton Charter School of Whitehall.  They sent an Innovative Schools representative to read a brief statement.  The rep asked for a continuance which the CSAC granted.

Last month, Mapleton submitted an application for a Major Modification to change their name to Discovery Charter School and move their school location to Dover.  They had a huge application for the modification, and over the summer they had a very large and extensive community survey they sent to numerous residents, churches and organizations in the area where they want to move.  Why in the world they would drop the ball and not show up to one of the most important meetings for their cause is beyond me.

It seems to me like charters are relying on Innovative Schools to run everything.  Innovative Schools is just a management organization.  They are NOT the actual school.  This school knew about this meeting for weeks.  I would have not granted a continuance to them.

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…

Seven Delaware Charters Bow Out of DPAS-II Teacher Evaluation System

Last month at the State Board of Education meeting, former Secretary of Education Mark Murphy announced he approved many charter schools for a minor modification involving their Teacher Evaluation system.  The schools are Positive Outcomes Charter School, Family Foundations Academy, Las Americas ASPIRA, Academia Antonia Alsonso, Early College High School, First State Military Academy, and The Delaware Met.  Oddly enough, the only school I knew that applied for this does not have anything listed on the Delaware DOE website about this.  But Freire Charter School of Wilmington is still on probation status.  Family Foundations Academy had their probation lifted at the same State Board of Education meeting. Family Foundation’s alternate teacher evaluation system will fall under the Delaware Charter Collaborative system that already includes East Side, Prestige Academy, Kuumba, and Thomas Edison.

By Delaware law, the Secretary of Education does not need the assent of the State Board of Education to approve a minor modification, nor are formal meetings of the Charter School Accountability Committee or formal Public Hearings.  But here’s my thing with all this.  One of the questions on the application for a minor modification request is this:

The authorizer will review your most recent Performance Review Reports as part of your application. Discuss the school’s academic performance, compliance with the terms of its charter, and financial viability as measured by the Performance Framework.

Four of these charters have NEVER had a Performance Review since they either opened last year (Academia Antonia Alonso and Early College High School) or this year (First State Military Academy and The Delaware Met).  Granted, the first two charters will have a performance review in the next month or so, but my point is this- should we be changing an established system in favor of an alternate system for charters that have never been put through a performance review?  In my opinion, this should be reserved for schools that have some data behind them to back this up.  One only has to look at the horror show of the past month and a half with The Delaware Met to know they should not be approved for an alternate system for teacher evaluation when they can’t even prove they know how to run a school!  Below are all the school’s applications and the section of Delaware code that allows for this.

9.9 Minor modifications

9.9.1 A minor modification is any proposed change to a charter, including proposed changes to any condition placed on the charter, which is not a major modification. Minor modifications include, but are not limited to:

9.9.1.1 Changes to the name of either the charter school or charter holder; or

9.9.1.2 The first extension of any deadline imposed on the charter school or charter holder by thirty (30) working days or less (or by 15 calendar days in the case of the First Instructional Day); or

9.9.1.3 In the case of a charter school which is open with students in attendance, offering educational services at a site other than, or in addition to, the site approved as part of the school’s charter, when use of the approved site has unavoidably been lost by reason of fire or other casualty as that term is defined in Black’s Law Dictionary; or

9.9.1.4 An increase or decrease in the school’s total authorized enrollment of more than 5%, but not more than 15%, provided further the minor modification request must be filed between November 1st and December 31st and, if approved, shall be effective the following school year; or

9.9.1.5 Alter, expand or enhance existing or planned school facilities or structures, including any plan to use temporary or modular structures, provided that the applicant demonstrates that the school will maintain the health and safety of the students and staff and remain economically viable as provided in 4.4 above; or

9.9.1.6 Any change in the school’s agreement with an educational management organization other than as set forth in 9.4.3 and 9.8.1.1 above; or

9.9.1.7 A change to the current authorized number of hours, either daily or annually, devoted to actual school sessions. Regardless of any proposed change, the school shall maintain the minimum instructional hours required by Title 14 of the Delaware Code; or

9.9.1.8 A change in the terms of the current site facilities arrangements including, but not limited to, a lease to a purchase or a purchase to a lease arrangement; or

9.9.2 The Secretary may decide the minor modification application based on the supporting documents supplied with the application unless the Secretary finds that additional information is needed from the applicant.

9.9.3 The Secretary may refer a minor modification request to the Accountability Committee for review if the Secretary determines, in her/his sole discretion, that such review would be helpful in her/his consideration of the application. If the Secretary refers a minor modification application to the Accountability Committee, she/he may decide the application based on any report from the Committee and the supporting documents related to the application. The applicant for a minor modification shall be notified if the minor modification request has been forwarded to the Accountability Committee. The applicant may be asked to provide additional supporting documentation.

9.9.4 The Secretary may deny a minor modification request if the supporting documentation is incomplete or insufficient provided the applicant has been advised additional information was needed

9.9.5 Upon receiving an application for a minor modification, the Secretary shall notify the State Board of the application and her/his decision on whether to refer the application to the Accountability Committee.

9.9.6 The meeting and hearing process provided for in Section 511(h), (i) and (j) of the Charter School Law shall not apply to a minor modification application even where the Secretary refers the application to the Accountability Committee.

9.9.7 Decisions for minor modifications to a charter may be decided by the Secretary within 30 working days from the date the application was filed, unless the timeline is waived by mutual agreement of the Secretary and the applicant, or in any case where the Secretary, in the sole discretion of the Secretary, deems that it would be beneficial to either refer the matter to the Accountability Committee or to seek advice from the State Board prior to deciding the matter.

Nowhere in this part of Delaware code is there anything about teacher evaluation systems.  But that is covered under the very loose “Minor modifications include, but are not limited to” part of this in 9.9.1.  That is a very major change to a school’s operations, and should be a major modification.  When these schools apply, the applications go to the Teacher Leader Effectiveness Unit at the Delaware DOE, led by Chris Ruszkowski.  Once they approve it, it goes to the Secretary of Education.  But I’m not surprised the DOE and Secretary Murphy would play fast and loose with state code to get what they want with charters…